Counter Revolutionary Warfare …. (Espionage 8)

1630HRS GMT – THE SAVOY HOTEL, STRAND, LONDON. 51.5101° N, 0.1205° W

2 Hours before the V-Day Attack.

Sergeant Will Anderson shifted in the seat of the blacked out Range Rover that held his fellow squadmates. As he looked out the window at the masses of people that were celebrating Valentine’s Day, he was reminded of the view he took in, from the helicopter as it inserted them into the capital city of England.

Flying through the darkness of dawn in a large CH-47 Chinook helicopter, Anderson watched as the green hills of Hereford slowly faded before the onslaught of civilization and roads began to appear more in earnest. His body was tired from the endless contact drills they had performed in the Kill House the day before, but his mind was still sharp.

The 50 man chalk in the Chinook were armed with a large variety of weapons, most of them sporting the iconic MP5 submachine gun sexier, newer replacement; the Sig Sauer MPX. Other members of the squad were using heavier, longer Sig Sauer MCX rifles and just a designated few, were armed with HK417 DMRs that were going to be crucial to preventing any escapees.

What was strange though, was their civilian clothes. Instead of battle dress uniforms, every single trooper was in casual clothing, with tactical vests, headphones and thigh-rigs strapped over a variety of jeans, cargo pants, hoodies, polo shirts and windbreakers. One man even wore a pair of chinos, a particular source of amusement amongst the lads, as they ribbed him endlessly about it.

Whilst some of the men chose to wear baseball caps, many preferred to strap their trusted bump helmets to their vests and backpacks and go without headwear.

However, despite the fashion differences, every single SAS trooper was heavily tattooed, and had on their person, a balaclava to conceal their identity and an IR Union Jack patch that could slapped on their vest to be identified as a friendly.

Anderson, looking out the window, beheld the familiar skyline of London. He felt a vague surge of anger at the idea that someone was going to conduct a terrorist attack on home soil, and looked around the helicopter to see that the men had gone silent, their thoughts preoccupied with the job ahead.

Landing at a private airfield nearby, 50 of the most lethal soldiers on Her Majesty’s payroll strolled off the ramp of the Chinook casually, to split into 4 man teams. A CO and his 2IC peeled off into a fast Jaguar sedan that would take them to the control centre at the SIS HQ.

Anderson looked at his team, Bravo 2 to 4 and they quickly checked their personal radios so that they could hear each other on their discreet earpiece.

Bravo 2. Check.

Bravo 3. Check.

Bravo 4. Check.

Bravo 1. Copy all.

Anderson climbed into his car and stowed his MPX beside his leg, before shimmying in his seat, in a vain attempt to get comfortable.

7 Range Rovers peeled off to their respective target areas, with the remaining 5 cars behaving like a QRF to wait in-between targets, ready to assist in any direction.

As Bravo 3 drove Bravo Squad to their target, the Savoy Hotel, Bravo 2 was busy in the rear, checking the squad radio that would allow them to coordinate with the SIS HQ, local Police and the EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) teams waiting on standby for their signal.

It’s going to be a long wait, thought Anderson as they arrived at their spot early, parking the Rover in the best surveillance spot possible.

Nodding at the men, Anderson and his squad stripped off their vests, clipped their radios to their belts and buried their sidearms under shoulders or belts.

Piling out of the car in unison, Bravo 2 and 4 walked out, disappearing instantly into the crowd that would only build to a feverish pitch by 1830HRS.

Anderson pulled out a tablet and patched himself into the myriad of surveillance options that covered the surrounding 5 blocks. Meanwhile, Bravo 3 began to drum his fingers on the wheel, anxiously scanning the crowd around them, a rhythm that would slowly grate on Anderson’s patience, but he was too busy to tell him to shut it.

The tablet flickered constantly, as it flicked through hundreds of footage, little squares appearing over people’s faces as it scanned them for any distinguishing features.

Thanks to the Prince’s intelligence, the SAS kill-teams had memorised the faces of every single terrorist member that threatened to wreak havoc. Bravo squad’s particular terror cell, comprised solely of 2 men, Abdul Hussain, an Saudi national and Yusuf Amin, a devout Pakistani. Whilst Abdul was tall, handsome and lithe, with a trendy haircut, Yusuf was stockier and quiet, and walked with a limp, the result of a brush with a landmine as a child.

It was thanks to the Prince, that the SAS teams knew the timing and location of all the attacks. They were even aware of the vans that had been loaded with high explosives, the fact that both men would be armed with AK-47s and suicide vests and the exact timing of when it would all occur. For the SAS kill-teams, this was intelligence of the highest order, the critical difference between mission failure and success.

The only thing now, was to wait for the van to appear.

What made their job highly difficult, was the van. Whilst the terrorists had to get to a safe distance before detonating, buying the team precious time to defuse, Woods had been unable to ascertain the type of bomb that had been placed inside.

Which meant that EOD teams had to work fast. It would not take long for the terrorists to get clear, before remote detonating the bomb. Even then, there was a possibility that it was on a timer and the bastards were just going to run clear and then start shooting everyone on sight.

Anderson didn’t like any of this. His team could handle 2 trigger-happy ragheads, but the van was the real problem. They needed that intelligence on the bomb, but there was no real way to figure it out. The poor EOD boys would have their work cut out for them. There was every chance that they weren’t going to make it.

~

Anderson and his squad rotated throughout the day, as they watched the entrance of the Savoy through various “eyes”, around the area, drones, CCTV and actual eyes on the site. Then, as Anderson’s tactical watch ticked over to 1840, shit got real very fast.

A white Ford Transit Van, one of the common vans in the world, appeared out of traffic like a slow-moving spectre. Bravo 4 clocked it instantly and whispered into his throat mike.

Bravo 4, to all elements. Target Van in sight. Approaching AO from South side.

Bravo 1 copy all. Anderson looked over at Bravo 3 and they both slipped on their tactical vests. Things were happening fast now.

Bravo 4, tracking the van now. It’s driving really slow.

What the fuck?! came the voice of Bravo 2 from the other side. All elements, there’s another van! West junction.

Sergeant Will Anderson’s blood ran cold at the message. He flicked on the surveillance footage from his tablet and audibly gasped. Nearby, Bravo 3’s finger drumming got even more intense as he realised the situation.

There were 4 vans, all converging slowly towards the Savoy Hotel, from all the major compass points. North, East, West and South.

How the fuck are they doing this? screamed Anderson internally. Did we really get bad intel?

It was then, the calm, stern voice of James Ashford came over all of the SAS troopers’ microphones.

All UK elements, we’ve only just received new intelligence from the Prince. The terror cells are using drones to guide their vans to the target area. Remote detonation has been confirmed, as has the type of bomb kit they are using. Schmatics are being uploaded to your tablets now. Hurry lads, you’ve got 10 minutes before these vans detonate. As for the whereabouts to the terror cell, assume they are in the immediate vicinity, using remotes to control the vans.

Anderson watched as his tablet flickered to show the blueprint of the bomb. As it flickered, both men in the Range Rover began setting timers on their watches.

All Bravo Elements, we have 4 vans, 4 bombs. We need to split up and get each one. We now have 9 mikes to defuse. Get aboard that van and get those bombs. Once we get those bombs, rallypoint Charlie. Final things lads, the detonator is your standard IED electronic fuse. Cut Red, Green, Yellow in that order.

Bravo 2, Red, Green, Yellow. Copy all.

Bravo 4 copy. Boarding vehicle now.

Anderson made a call to the control centre.

Control, this is Bravo 1, I need a tech on hand to guide my lads through everything.

Bravo 1, Control. Affirm. Oscar 1 through 4 shall guide Bravo 1 through 4.

Bravo 1, Oscar 1 to 4. Affirm. Out.

Beside him, Bravo 3 gave a final nod to Anderson and dashed out, making his way to the North van. Anderson, clambered out of the Range Rover and yanked his MPX submachine gun around his neck, before he began sprinting for the East van, his breath roaring harshly as he yelled at people to get out of the way.

Move! Police coming through. Move! Move!

A feminine voice came crackling through his mike, the tone serious and emotionless.

Bravo 1, this is Oscar 1. Continue for another 100 metres then turn right, suspect van will be directly at 12.

Anderson didn’t waste his breath, instead pressing a button on his microphone to confirm the message.

Seconds later, the SAS trooper had rounded the corner, and he beheld the van, which was now idly in traffic, ignoring the chorus of horns that were blaring behind it. Time was running out.

In normal circumstances, Anderson would have gaped at the sight of a driver-less van, powered by an intricate remote steering mechanism. But his training had taken over. This was the key difference between an ordinary soldier and special forces. The indoctrination and intense training in the SAS, had created an Anderson that could rationalise, identify and assess situations in a split second and perform fine motor skills without hesitation or fear.

Anderson didn’t stop at anything. Without pausing he ran around the back of the van, and unclipped his multitool from his tactical vest.

Using the windowbreaker, he smashed open the back windows and roughly brushed aside the shattered glass with a gloved hand, reaching in to open the door latch.

As the door swung open, Anderson caught it before it opened too wide, swearing in a monotone as he noted the wire that was attached to the door to the bomb. Had he not caught it, it would gone off prematurely.

Bravo 1 to all elements. Watch for booby traps. My door was rigged to explode if opened too far. Proceed with caution for defusal.

Bravo 2 copy.

Bravo 3 affirm.

Bravo 4, understood.

As Anderson jumped into the back of the van, shutting the door behind him, he snipped the wire that linked the bomb to his only exit and as he crouched before it, he felt fear and nervousness began to course through his body.

Every single SAS trooper had done the same course. But back then, the lads were fucking around and knew that the detonator wasn’t wired up to real explosives. Many guys mimed being blown apart, and the insane number of yelling “BOOM!” as a newbie tried to defuse one was too many to count.

That was in the safety of Hereford. However, the moment when a trooper had to defuse an IED in the real world, nothing felt funny anymore. With each year into the Afghan war, and with more IEDs claiming the lives of Blades, the jokes soon disappeared and the course became more and more extensive, and realistic, to the point where the “bomb” would actually create a wisp of smoke and enter the final phases of detonation to hammer in the stress.

It was this training and constant repetition and quashing of nerves and fear, that ensured Anderson’s gloved hands were steady, as they touched the huge bomb inside of the van.

Occupying the entire back wall of the van, the bomb was crudely but ingeniously designed. There were a dozen cheap blue barrels of stolen ammonium nitrate that lined the walls of the bomb, and were clustered in the centre of the cargo hold. Whilst he couldn’t see inside the barrels, experience warned him that they were doubtless packed with sewage, ball bearings, nails, marbles and glass, to ensure maximum damage and carnage.

After all, the initial blast was small for what it was, because the van’s shell would take a lot of the initial blast within itself. But the millions of frag (fragmentation) was the true destructive force. Dirty shards of glass and metal would fly everywhere, piercing skin at the speed of a bullet, horribly infecting the wound and thus leave any survivors with less chances to survive.

Anderson, like many of his fellow troopers, took some small consolation that if the bomb was to go off, their end would be instantaneous.

Peering at the bomb’s primary unit, and it masses of wire behind it, Anderson silently thanked the Prince for his timely intelligence, as even an EOD team would struggle to defuse the bomb. A part of him wondered how the intelligence asset managed to obtain such intel, but that wasn’t the priority now. All he had to do, was cut the wires, Red, Green and Yellow.

As he snipped the first red wire that led into the primary detonator, a triangular unit that held the two primary fuses together, he felt his heart accelerate as the small digital readout went from a solid “ARMED” to blinking rapidly.

Then to his shock, the van began to roll forwards, throwing him back into door of the van. The terrorist, aware of his plans, and eager to put a stop to it, was now sending the vehicle straight towards the Savoy.

Diving forwards and swiftly cutting the green wire, then the yellow one, Anderson heaved a huge sight of relief when the blinding readout cut out and went completely black. Gingerly pulling the fuse out, Anderson slowly backed out of the van and shut the door behind him, as uniformed police officers came running up, the infamous SCO19.

Anderson pointed at the van and his IR UK patch, emblazoned across his tactical vest, before remembering that he still had 2 murderous terrorists in the immediate area. He yelled at the officers that the bomb was defused, and the van was inert. Despite the van rolling forward momentum, Anderson took off, ignoring the confused cries of the officers behind him, and the fact that one brave SCO19 officer, threw his rifle to the ground and running along the van, had smashed the window with his elbow and stomped on the brakes, by throwing his body half in the van’s cabin.

Sprinting back to the car, which was designated rallypoint Charlie, Anderson keyed in his throat mike.

Oscar 1, sitrep.

All Bravo elements have defused their bomb. Bravo 2 is already back at rallypoint Charlie, Bravo 3 & 4 are on track to meet you there at the same time. When you are at the rallypoint, check West, we’ve traced the signal from the vans to a building there. Wait, is that you running, no, no, no … Bravo 1, STOP!

Sergeant Will Anderson, Bravo 1, SAS soldier and decorated veteran, heard the warning of his SIS handler, and immediately dove behind a car, as he saw one of his team members, Bravo 2, take a fusillade of bullets that caused explosions of blood to erupt all over his body.

His tactical watch ticked over to 1900HRS.

The attack on London had begun.

Enraged that their initial attack had failed, the terror cell poured out of the building that they were hiding in and immediately located the SAS team that had foiled their plans. Seeing one of the members alone, Abdul Hussain tapped Yusuf Amin on the shoulder and together they racked their AK-47s’ charging handles.

Whilst Hussain’s eyes were wide with an incredible narcotic injection of opium and PCP, all designed so that he could fight longer, Yusuf’s religious zeal was more than enough to sustain him through pain, violence and death. With their bomb vests strapped around their chests, and approximately 540 rounds of ammunition on each of their bodies, they were a formidable force to be reckoned with. The Sphinx had even provided the men with primitive ballistic face masks, to ensure that headshots were even more difficult for Coalition forces.

The AK-47s that the Sphinx had smuggled in for them, were also heavily customised. The barrels were skeletal, and the traditionally heavy wooden stock was replaced by a sleeker, folding butt stock. Foregrips enabled the two men better accuracy and the weapons were personally cleaned by the Sphinx to ensure that they could chew through all 540 rounds in a matter of minutes.

Even their initial magazines had been modified, with three of the curved banana mags taped together, to ensure that the Saudi and the Pakistani had 90 rounds ready to go straight away, with reloads being a snap of the finger to perform.

In short, the weapons were lighter, harder to fuck-up under stress and more accurate.

It was this army of two that now opened fired on London and Bravo squad.

Anderson roared in anger, as he watched Bravo 2 get ripped apart, under the combined weight of sixty 7.62mm bullets. He danced gruesomely, in a horrible version of a marionette, as round after round tore through his body, before landing with a wet splat on the concrete pavement, unrecognisable.

Anderson looked in the direction of the terrorists who, in under a second, had already finished reloading. Hussain, spotting Anderson from behind a shiny black BMW sedan, grinned manically and began to unload a torrent of bullets towards him.

Yusuf, ignoring his crazy partner, calmly began to fire in punctuated bursts, at innocent civilians. A woman in her mid thirties, spun around, as a round entered her pelvis and came out through her friend’s knee. A man, shielding his son, gasped as a round went through his shoulder and he fell forward, determined to protect his son from more incoming fire.

A boyfriend stood frozen, unsure what to do as his girlfriend laid flat on the floor, her hands over her head. A bullet nearly entered his chest, but was saved when his girlfriend yanked on his pants leg, causing him to trip and fall on the ground. Elsewhere, a couple showed their true colours when the the boyfriend immediately let go of his girl’s hand and sprinted for his car, only to get shot in the back for his trouble.

Valentine’s Day … acts of love, acts of courage … acts of cowardice. All was revealed before the face of death.

People ran every which way. It was pandemonium. Streets away, people heard the gunfire and froze. Worldly restaurants immediately announced that evacuation procedures, scars by attacks that happened years before, now saving lives in the present. Police officers controlled crowds and desperately sought to help their much more lethal SAS brothers restore safety and order.

A poor couple ran from the ugly scene at Bravo’s squad, only to venture into a bigger firefight that had Charlie squad pinned and wounded. One of the SAS troopers saw them, and despite the wound in his leg, sprinted towards them and crash-tackled both, before bullets could find them. He stayed atop the terrified couple, his blood dripping onto the girl’s pretty white dress, shielding them from harm.

Gunfire echoed everywhere. Screams rose above them, as blood, fire and metal merged into the urban jungle, to create a terrifying environment of endless white noise that battered the senses.

London, within the space of 3 minutes had turned into a hellish nightmare that was more commonly associated with Afghanistan.

The war had come home.

~

Anderson was yelling into his microphone.

Bravo 1 to all elements, Bravo 2 is down, KIA. Under heavy suppressing fire. Need assistance now!

Bravo 3, engaging now. said the trooper, his voice strained but professional.

Bravo 4, flanking. replied the Blade, cold and emotionless. There was an edge to this soldier’s voice. Anderson was pleased to hear it.

As he remained crouched behind a car, Anderson waited until he heard Bravo 3’s suppressed MPX whir to life.

The tch, tch, tch sounds of the MPX could barely be heard above the thud of the AKs, but it was enough. Hussain, hit twice in the shoulder, spun around angrily at Bravo 3 who was behind him and began firing in earnest, as the SAS trooper swore and ducked behind a large Mercedes sedan.

All elements, be aware, tangos are heavily armoured. Multiple headshots are required to take them down! My rounds just bounced off their face masks!

Anderson cursed loudly, as he realised that the Sphinx had performed his research. Technology in ballistic face masks offered limited protection, mostly only against 9mm rounds. Using anything higher, was guaranteed to penetrate through.

However, 9mm were the exact type of bullets that the SAS teams were currently rocking in their MPXs, to ensure that their rounds did not over-penetrate and go beyond their targets, as personally experienced by the woman and her friend who got shot by the much more powerful 7.62mm, clutching their hip and knee in agony.

Simply put, the Sphinx had covered for a lot of the SAS’s capabilities.

However, these men were not one of the most feared and deadly units in the world for all their gear and equipment. They were the best in the world, the ultimate fighting man in mankind’s short history, because of their ingenuity, tenacity, unique training and pedigree.

Their ancestors held back the Romans. Men by their age, had created an island stronghold that have never been invaded since Hastings. Their forefathers established an Empire and could find no equal anywhere on Earth or Water. Their grandfathers played major roles in every single conflict across the globe since the 20th Century.

These fighting men came from the finest fighting stock and regiments in the world.

The turn-around in the flow of the combat, was swift, efficient and terrifying.

Who Dares Wins.

At first, it was Hussain who dominated the streets of London. Pivoting constantly to suppress Bravo 1 and 3, whilst Yusuf was slowly leading the pair through the streets, gunning down civilians, behind cars, shops and street-lights, it came to a point where he had to drop the three taped magazines to reach for a fresh one on his chest.

As the three taped magazines fell, Bravo 1 and 3 whipped their guns up, moving fast, and sprayed their MPXs at his legs.

Hussain’s knees exploded simultaneously, and the Saudi roared in pain, the intensity even punching through the protective mental layer PCP had created in his mind.

As the Saudi dropped like a stone, Yusuf spun around, astonished by the new tactics. He yelled in Arabic as bursts blasted through his thighs and he joined his fellow terrorist on the ground, his legs mangled beyond recognition.

Hussain and Yusuf looked at each other and desperately sprayed their guns in unison at Bravo 1 and 3, keen to hold the two troopers off, so that they could reach in and detonate their vests.

As they fired at opposite ends, they failed to see Bravo 4 appear in between them, a big Sig Sauer P320 pistol in his right hand and a serrated tanto knife in the other.

Swiftly walking up to the pair of terrorists, Bravo 4 assessed the pair in a nanosecond and noted the intensity of Yusuf. As he made his decision, Yusuf turned around and gasped at the sight of the blacked out SAS trooper wearing a balaclava and a baseball cap, with a pistol and knife in each hand.

He tried to turn his AK-47 around with his one hand, whilst the other fumbled for the detonator.

Bravo 4, moving coldly and quickly, kicked the AK-47 away, before firing his Sig at point blank into the terrorist’s fumbling arm. Yusuf wailed as over seventeen 9mm rounds tore his arm to shreds, but the scream was quickly extinguished by a gurgling noise as Bravo 4’s tanto knife ripped through the exposed throat, underneath the ballistic mask.

The move was so savage and heavy, that Yusuf’s neck actually tilted backwards and the two folds of skin flapped gruesomely in the open air, as blood sprayed outwards.

Hussain, entirely focused on his target, Anderson, and hopped on battle rage and PCP, never noticed Bravo 4 reloading his pistol in a single second, rack the slide back and without hesitation, flipping the ballistic mask off Hussain’s face.

Hussain paused and looked behind him. His handsome face registered shock before it melted under the weight of all the firepower Bravo 4 could muster.

By the time the final shot finished echoing loudly off the corridors of London, Hussain’s head was essentially mush. There was nothing left facially, to identify the two men. The SAS trooper had remembered the Prince’s warning.

Gun them down in the head before they blow yours off.

The attack on the Savoy had been stopped.

Anderson and Bravo 3 ran up to Bravo 4 and they assisted each other in disarming the suicide vests. These were much less complex than the bombs in the van, just your standard issue s-vests seen everywhere in the Middle East. Bravo 3 spiked the AK-47s and threw all the spare magazines in a dump bag. Overall, the attack saw nearly 700 rounds expended in a matter of terrifying minutes.

Then leaving the bodies to rot on the street, the SAS kill-team walked over to their fallen comrade, Bravo 2 and respectfully covered him up with a sheet from their damaged Range Rover, now pockmarked with bullets.

Anderson called in the paramedics and trauma crew, and the team set about rendering first aid, tending to the numerous wounded. They soon ran out of tourniquets, bandages and gauze, and were relieved when the first paramedics arrived on scene, only seconds after they used up all their medical equipment.

Whilst the terror cell had only managed to walk 100 metres, the carnage they had wreaked was awful. Over 70 people had been shot and wounded, with 34 more dead. Anderson waited with baited breath, as he heard the echos of gunfire slowly dissipated after his own gun battle.

As he applied pressure to a wounded father’s shoulder, he looked over at the small boy, whose face was covered in blood. Smiling kindly at the lad, Anderson took the boy by the hand, as a paramedic took over, and fussed over the father. No-one this young deserved to see this.

Reaching into his tactical vest, Anderson cracked an green chem-light and handed it to the boy, watching as the glow of the light slowly removed the shock from the boy’s brown eyes and replaced them with wonder and awe.

Tousling the boy’s head gently, Anderson looked over at Bravo 4 who nodded and took the boy over to the trauma crew, who were dealing with a mass of hysterical people.

Oscar 1, Bravo 1. Sitrep. barked Anderson harshly as he beheld the damage around him.

Bravo 1, situation has now been contained. All terror cells have been eliminated. Estimated death toll, 154, casualties approximately 357. UKSF casualty report is looking like 5 wounded and 1 KIA. It would have been a lot worse if you guys weren’t here.

What happened to the other squads?

Alpha team managed to kill their cell before it got out of hand. Because yours was the first attack, I was able to relay intel to Alpha, whose cell was the last to attack. Alpha 3 got shot in the shoulder, but no-one else was injured.

Charlie squad needed assistance from the QRF, Charlie 1, 3 and 4 all got wounded in their firefight. It turned out, that once they found out about us knowing the van trick, the Charlie, Delta and Echo cells regrouped together to fight. That’s where the bulk of the civilians casualties were inflicted. Echo 4 was also wounded in the fight but they’re all looking stable.

Foxtrot actually found their cell, before the vans. So they nailed the two guys and then disarmed the vans remotely. They got extremely lucky and then went to help the Charlie, Delta and Echo squads.

Golf had a similar story to yours, they got the vans, but had a long fight with their cells. A lot of casualties there too, because their cell fired into restaurants.

I’m sorry Bravo 1.

Anderson stayed silent, his mind trying to comprehend the enormity of what had just happened. The SAS were not used to failure. Whilst this would be touted as some kind of victory by Downing Street, the men would know better … it was their job to make sure the war never touched down home. Innocents had died and now, the SAS would go on the offensive. Someone had to pay for the blood spilled today. Already, Anderson was considering what gear he needed for a return tour to ‘Stan.

Anderson’s mind remembered the question he had posed for himself about the intelligence that had saved London from a more devastating attack. If it wasn’t for the Prince’s intel on the van bombs …

Oscar 1, Bravo 1 … thank the Prince for us. Let us know when he’s hunting. We’ll get evil with him. Bravo 1 out.

~

In the hours leading up to the attack, Gabriel Woods was also riding in a helicopter, like the SAS kill-teams. However instead of a powerful Chinook CH-47, his ride was much smaller, nimble and fast. The dark grey sleek outline of the Bell 407 helicopter, melded into the night sky of England, and its rotors had been dampened for sound, giving it a stealthy signature.

A common sight across skyscrapers and civilian utility, the Bell 407 was often used to assist in search and rescue operations or ferrying CEOs from airports to offices. What was uncommon about this Bell 407 was the spindly arm that jutted out from the right cargo door, just underneath the rotors.

Woods looked over at the skyline of London and recalled his prerogative. His job was to discover exactly what type of bomb the Sphinx had equipped his men with. To do so, meant going straight to the source, a close associate of the Sphinx, and local bomb-maker, a nasty piece of work, who went by the name Ryan “Jacket” Malik.

Jacket had earned his epithet as an amusing play on “bomber jacket” and his habit of wearing his own custom one everywhere. A garish red, cream and purple combination, the jacket had his name emblazoned across the back, along with a huge explosion going off with an evil smiley face in the centre.

Tasteless and tacky, were just two words that could describe Malik’s brand of humour and style.

Raised in the badlands of New Delhi, Malik’s obsession with explosive started early when he first set off a firework that blew open an ex-girlfriend’s toilet. It grew to letter-bombs, then finally her car exploded one day, causing Malik to go underground with his new skill-set.

Owning to his extraordinary skill in sourcing explosive materials and placing them together, Malik soon relocated to Londonistan where his talent was soon put to work across Europe, under the Sphinx’s guidance and recognised for the genius he was.

But like most geniuses, his life was going to be short-lived.

As the Bell 407 crested past the London Eye, gunning for Croydon, Gabriel looked down at his armament. He was dressed like a terrorist. There was no mistaking the dark jeans, the black combat boots, a black v-neck t-shirt and red & white checkered plaid shirt. It was the universal, functional uniform of military men off-duty everywhere. But instead of rocking the Westernised approved baseball cap, Woods had covered his head with a red/white shemagh, the traditional headscarf worn by men across the Middle Eastern region.

Tying it in a turban style, that covered his entire face, barring his eyes, Woods was comfortable operating in this outfit, owning to his numerous Afghanistan tours. What was surprising though, was him wearing this kit in London. But Woods wanted nothing to be traced back, hence the generic terrorist garb.

It also gave him no small amusement that Malik was about to get a visit from one of his customers.

In addition to this kit, Woods was armed with his trusted Glock 19 on a right thigh holster and a high-tech suppressed MP7A1 personal defence weapon (PDW) with an EOTech sight and PEQ-15 laser designator.

Woods felt, rather than saw the Bell 407 begin its descent, as they neared the target apartment. With his immense resources and connections, Jacket had managed to convert the northwest corner of a poor apartment block into his own personal bomb-making workshop.

According to the SIS, he had gutted three floors, to carve out his own twisted version of a penthouse amongst the boroughs in Croydon. The top floor featured his apartment, where a staircase lead down to the living area and kitchen, before featuring the bomb workshop itself, and a huge safe/escape room where Malik kept most of his treasures out of reach from his greedy lieutenants.

Woods would be entering from the roof and snaking his way down, floor by floor.

The pilot held up 2 fingers. 2 minutes to drop.

Putting on fast-rope gloves, Woods checked the coil of rope by his feet and tugged the two guns on his twin thigh holsters. Woods was light. There wasn’t even a tactical vest on him to cover his vitals. This was an old-school hit and run affair. The only piece of kit to slow him down was a warbelt that had 3 flashbang grenades, 2 spare magazines for his pistol and 3 spare for his PDW, cable ties, a multitool and a rudimentary first aid kit.

The Bell 407 swooped down to the rooftop of the Jacket’s apartment and moving quickly, Woods kicked the rope out of the door and watched as the spindly arm went taunt.

Leaping out of the helicopter cargo door, Woods fast roped down to the building, wrapping his legs around the rope, and maintaining a gentle pressure with his hands.

As he neared the building, a man opened the door to the rooftop recess, pistol in hand.

Without pausing, Woods slowed his descent with his right hand, whipped the MP7A1 from his thigh holster with his left and zipped him with three rounds.

The scout dropped like a sack of shit.

Landing lightly on the roof, he waved off the pilot, who let the rope tumble away from the helicopter before powering up and away. Woods watched the Bell 407 go, before walking slowly over to the corpse.

It was one of Malik’s underlings. His unseeing brown eyes stared at nothing and Woods kicked away his pistol, before venturing into the dark recess of the Jacket’s workshop.

~

The fight for Jacket’s workshop was slow, intense and fierce. Woods was methodical in his approach, using all his senses to detect enemies before they found him. He was so quiet, and smooth, that often Jacket’s men were unable to get a single shot off before they died with 4.6mm rounds in their hearts and minds.

However, by the time Woods had cleared the second floor, Jacket was now all too aware of the bodies that were dropping with loud thuds above him. He only had 3 men left and owning to the timing of the attack, he was in the middle of constructing a bomb, that he was unable to take his eyes off.

Sweat poured down his fat face, as his pudgy but nimble fingers tried to make the bomb inert before the Prince arrived. He eyed the open door of the safe room to his left, but the process was too delicate now.

Seconds passed and the 3 men aiming their machine guns at the door were breathing heavily. An assassin to their front and a live bomb behind them. They had nothing to lose.

Malik whelped with delight as he was just about to put the finishing touches to the bomb. All he had to do was secure the detonator and all would be well.

It was then, the Prince struck.

The front door to the workshop creaked open, a pair of weakened cable ties popping off their link to swing it outwards.

The entryway was blasted to shit, by the three goons. As they reloaded and exchanged nervous smiles when nothing happened, it was then, the window behind them and in front of Malik’s shocked face, was blasted open and a pair of flashbangs sailed through.

BANG! BANG!

With a deafening roar and blinding light, the three henchmen staggered around, as Woods came crashing through the window, having used the rope from the Bell 407 to abseil down the side of the building and make a breach point right in front of the stunned Jacket!

Woods kicked Malik square in the face and using his momentum, unhooked himself over the bomb table and before he landed properly, shot all three henchmen in the head with precise bursts. Before the bodies had even slumped to the floor, Woods spun around and cracked the collapsible stock of the MP7 across Malik’s nose, breaking it instantaneously. The man screamed, both in despair and in a weird action, grabbed at the air, towards the bomb, as he fell backwards.

Looking at the bomb and exposed door to the safe room, Woods acted fast and threw the entire package in, before rushing to the door and sealing it shut.

3, 2, 1 … BEEP!

A muffled WHUMP resounded through the entire apartment block, the safe room shuddering as the bomb went off inside its steel construction, incinerating all of Malik’s precious stolen goods in an instant.

Malik stared in horror at the green eyes that stared out angrily at him from beyond the shemagh. He began to back up slowly, as the Prince approached him slowly, his MP7 held lazily in his hands.

He had only heard rumours, but never put any trust in them.

He was a believer now.

The Prince was real.

With his back pressed up against the wall, and his right hand cuffed to a table, Malik broke down immediately and told Woods everything he needed to know about defusing the bombs that were about the scorch London.

As Malik grovelled before Woods, his left hand very surreptitiously crept to the small pistol he held in the back of his pants.

Come on man, I told you what you wanted to know. Just let me go. What are you waiting for? I told you everything you needed to know about the Sphinx. I just made bombs for him. I swear by it, I did nothing else. I’m just a bomb-maker … come on bro, let me go.

Woods, inspecting the bombs-in-progress around the workshop and taking photos to send to the SIS, did not see the movement. Malik continued to blab to keep his attention occupied.

Wait, I know why you haven’t let me go, it’s because I’m still valuable to your bosses aren’t I? You can’t touch me, because I got information they need to know right? Well, come on then, take me in, big man. I’m worth a lot right?

Malik, smiling at his own cleverness, whipped his hand around the gun and bought it to bear at Wood’s chest.

To his shock, Woods, had already clocked the move, and as fast as a rattlesnake, drew his Glock 19 and hip-fired once, drilling a neat hole in Malik’s forehead.

Looking at the fat, dead bomb-maker’s shocked expression and glazed over eyes, Woods holstered his pistol and said softly to himself.

Yes, considerably.

Ignoring the corpse, the Prince turned around and continued his search for clues left behind by the Sphinx.

Author’s Note:

This one was in the works for a very long time. I knew that I liked this series enough to continue it, (unlike my poor Sol series, which I will try to revive one day to complete) but I was struggling on where to go with it.

Enter Matthew Reilly, whose book One Impossible Labyrinth was just released this year and is the epic conclusion to his Jack West Jr. series.

I had waited patiently for nearly 7 years for this extraordinary author to finally pen the series, so that I can continue where I left off, The Four Legendary Kingdoms and then blitz through all of his books down to the last one.

Ever since I was young, I have loved Matthew Reilly’s imagination, pace and language to showcase his incredible action set pieces. They’ve never really been topped either, on the big screen or otherwise, simply because my imagination and mental film I conjure up of his action have been impossible to recreate anywhere else.

It was his books that I’ve been reading through that gave me the mojo to finish this chapter in my espionage series. If you found any of the violence excessive, I pin the blame entirely on one of my favourite authors of all time. I am weirdly proud of how I describe and italic certain words to give them more oomph, a technique that Reilly has done for many of his books now.

This is the longest chapter in the series thus far. I actually considered splitting the segment where Woods go on a solo CQB mission into another chapter, but I was already so amped up from the SAS kill-team part, I just decided to add it on anyway, just to contrast and showcase how Woods is another level above, the already elite SAS.

A lot of this chapter was dedicated to my favourite special forces unit in the world, the SAS, because I wanted a break from writing from Woods’ perspective and showcase how he is such an invaluable intelligence asset that can turn the tide in a war. This is also the most violent aspect of the series so far, with heavy inspiration taken from the Piccadilly Circus mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019).

However, I didn’t want too many of my favourite fighting men to die, so I made sure that the attack was horrible (but not awful), and at least one of them paid the ultimate sacrifice in a big way. After all, I can’t write a story where everyone makes it out, it’s no fun that way.

Lastly, as an Easter Egg, the final line of this chapter was a call back to the cold line that Daniel Craig delivers in Casino Royale (2006) one of my favourite movies. In fact, that how quick draw set up was a homage to the gun-barrel sequence.

I hope I don’t take too long to write the next chapter of this series. Nearly at the end!

~ Damocles.

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