The forest was silent and deserted. All local animal inhabitants were safely hidden in their burrows, after unusual noise started nearby, and intensified.
Distant gunfire could be heard. Endless staccato of automatic cannons and machine guns, explosions of tank grenades, rockets and RPGs. Heavy black smoke from napalm canisters, destroyed tanks and APCs covered the sky.
Suddenly, a shade occured between trees. Another followed, one by one. Dressed in black combat uniforms, in full gear, with their faces covered with balaclavas, the soldiers moved through the wood silently, like ghosts.
A curious squirrel watched them carefully with her small attentive eyes, from her safe haven in the trees.
The animal noticed something strange. On a place, which was empty before, another black shade was present suddenly.
It was Catherine, a journalist, dressed in the battledress of the enemy, inserted here for an Intelligence mission by The Device. It was allegedly a time displacement machine, or a dream machine – you could never tell, what is the truth. The people, who manufactured it, were masters in deception. They could sell you your own dreams. In any case, no training could prepare you for a mission like this: into the past.
Several seconds before, she was still standing under the black obelisk arms of that ultimate technological invention – and now, she was here, in the forest, close to Lhota village, where the last defenders were just showered with napalm, during heavy airstrike of the enemy.
The guide didn’t lie – she felt no conseuqences of the transmission. She could control her body immediately. Her legs were firmly on the ground, her muscles allowed her to hold a heavy assault rifle in her hands. It was completely unbelievable – she had no military training, still, they sent her here, and she was so foolish to agree with this idea.
She noticed, that another soldiers in black are going in front of her. She remembered the basic instruction she received: to follow them, to do the same as they do.
So she started walking forward slowly. Like if she would be just walking during Sunday afternoon. But the vicious gunfire could be heard closer and closer.
Suddenly, a long burst of red tracers flew high between the trees. All soldiers stopped and kneeled on one leg, and their new friend followed them. In her transmitter, she could hear a cracking noise, followed by a clear male voice. She could understand the foreign speech – the transmitter was altered.
“Razor Alfa, this is Razor Eleven. Watch your fire. We are approaching grid 27 from 8 o’clock.”
“Razor Eleven, this is Razor Alfa. One of the mosquitos is escaping in your direction.”
“Roger. We will eliminate him. Razor Eleven out.”
The soldiers then continued. The tree line was close, and when they reached it, all lied down. Catherine followed them again.
On the horizon, they could see a burning village, and several airplanes were just throwing rockets against some unseen targets.
Smoke grenades obstacled vision on nearby field. But they could see several black painted tanks and APCs, standing, with many movement of their colleagues in similar dresses.
“Eagle Seven, this is Razor Alfa. Requesting support at grid 29. The target is marked.”
“Razor Alfa, this is Eagle Seven. Target confirmed. Clear grid 29.”
And then, Catherine saw her: The Asset.
A small figure, dressed in a green uniform, was running zig zag, and poisonous tracers from gun towers were following her.
The figure couldn’t see an enemy airplane, which separated from others around the village, and took her direction from behind, in low altitude, preparing for a strafing run with its 20mm cannons.
The barrels released complete hell of projectiles, directed at only one fragile body.
When the fountains of explosions cleared, the field was empty. The green figure disappeared.
“Razor Eleven, this is Razor Alfa. Can you see the mosquito?”
“Negative, Razor Alfa.”
“Roger, Razor Eleven. Move forward and try to find the mosquito.”
“All Razor units, cease fire. Grids 20 to 30 clear. Be advised, Razor Eleven is approaching from 8 o’clock.”
All soldiers stood up, and continued walking. Catherine followed them with bad feelings. Now, out of the cover of trees and bushes, she will be exposed.
Denise couldn’t see that big black bird behind her, but she felt its shadow and heard the approaching sound of jet engine. She knew, what will be next, and her eyes tried to find some cover during her fast sprint, while she inserted a fresh clip into her M4 assault rifle, and reloaded the attached grenade launcher. But everywhere around, there was just a field, flat, without any natural obstacle.
She changed direction to the left, and she noticed a hole. Inside it, there was an old drain pipe. Maybe a creek ran here in the past and was dried by the farmers. But the pipe remained here.
She jumped down, and quickly crawled inside the confined space. The long burst of cannon grenades was already close to her.
When the aircraft missed her and flew away, she tried to get out of her cover. But she was stuck: her bulky tactical vest, full of extra magazines and equipment, made her body too thick and ungainly, and the pipe was too tight. She tried to release her, but without much success.
She noticed, that gunfire suddenly stopped. Maybe she could wait here, until the enemy will leave, thinking, that she was eliminated.
She waited several minutes, and managed to get out finally.
When she raised her head, she saw a muzzle of an assault rifle.
One of the enemy soldiers hit her with the butt of a weapon, and her stomach exploded in pain.
They dragged her outside the hole, took her rifle from her, removed the vest from her, to disarm her.
The enemy was known to not take any prisoners. So the officer took his pistol out of holster, and reported. “Razor Alfa, this is Razor Eleven. We caught the mosquito alive. We will finish work and continue towards your position.”
“Negative, Razor Eleven. New orders. Secure the mosquito and deliver him to grid 35. Bring all his equpiment. Check the location, if nothing is remaining after him.”
The commander was surprised, but he issued the proper orders. Soldiers picked up Denise’s equipment and weapon, and they also checked the drain pipe.
Two of the enemy APCs came, and the enemy unit started embarking. Catherine followed again, like in a dream. How long can her cover hold? In that moment, she stopped thinking about Denise. Now, it was her life in stake!
The commander was saying something to the soldiers. She couldn’t understand, if he didn’t use the transmitter, improved to translate his speech.
She hesitated too long. He turned to her and told her something with anger in his voice, and pointed at the doors of a nearby APC. So she jumped in quickly.
To her surprise, they threw Denise, firmly cuffed, into the same vehicle, close to her. But Catherine remembered, not to interfere, otherwise she would be accused of high treason, so she made no suspicious move, and just sat on a bench inside.
The vehicles started moving. Fortunately for Catherine, it was too noisy inside, so no one tried to talk to her. But the transmitter was not silent for too long.
“Razor Eleven, this is Razor Alfa. Clear the grids 28 and 29. A bird is coming with shower of flame.”
“Razor Alfa, this is Razor Eleven. Say again. All enemy activity was suppressed there. Not necessary to shower the place.”
“Razor Eleven, I am repeating order. Clear the location. Bird is coming from 10 o’clock.”
Catherine couldn’t understand the sense of this conversation at first, but eventually she did.
When she had a look at her wrist watch, she found, that 42 minutes passed after the insertion. And they promised her to get her out of here after half hour.
Either something was terribly wrong, or they couldn’t get her back, because The Device issued one-way tickets only. Or they never intended to get her back.
Somebody was covering traces here, she knew that for sure. Otherwise, why would the enemy throw napalm on a location, where no opposition is present? Only The Asset was present there: and somebody wanted to make the world think, that she disappeared in flames. So, was the enemy connected with The Corporation somehow? Or was it just a coincidence? Who could tell? The Asset? That woman, who was lying on the floor of the APC?
But Catherine had no time to think about a conspiracy. She was stuck here, in an enemy vehicle, full of enemy soldiers, who spoke foreign language she couldn’t understand. What will they do to her, if they will find, that she is not one of them? Something really bad, no doubt about it.
Her nightmare was starting. She closed her eyes, like if she wanted to wake up from this nasty dream.
But somebody poked her at her hip with elbow. She woke up, to find, that she was still there.
A soldier beside her offered her a bottle of water and he started talking. She looked into his eyes, with face hidden behind a balaclava, and her body was completely frozen.
(Continuation: Inside The Facility – The Security Incident)