The sound of swishing blades cut through the town. A highly classified stealth helicopter with a full suite of features to minimize visual, radar and acoustic signatures swooped over its destination. Despite the stealthy features of the helicopter, it still made enough noise to rouse a few citizens from their beds but not enough to entice them to enter the dense, cold fog outside.
Over a small courtyard near the rear of the sleepy village, the pilot expertly held the humming helicopter two stories off the ground. Had any of the villagers still been paying attention, they would have seen six dark and mysterious men drop down coiled ropes and roll into crouched positions.
"Alpha team in position, move out on my signal," whispered the CPC commando’s leader, Major Dirk Handley. The fog, Dirk thought, would provide the perfect cover as they crept toward this nest of terrorists. He watched as the helicopter pilot pulled away, glad to be done with his part of the mission and eager to down a few pints back at base.
“They’re a well-oiled machine,” assured Dirk's commander, a General Maximilian Karneas, when the major had first met his new command. “The best of the best.” Prior to being folded into the CPC special reaction force known as Javelin, some of Major Handley’s team members had performed these actions a thousand times before as Special Air Service commandos in service to the Queen. From the dust of Iraq to the scrub of Africa, they had seen it all. But that was a different time. The team was no longer made up of English officers. Instead it was a multinational force. Cobbled together from various nationalities, the Javelin squad had been in operation just a few scant months, and their training had been fraught with misunderstandings and a realization that their capabilities were widely disparate. But a few of Handley’s SAS men were with him. It was strange to be seemingly at home but still under threat. His men were on edge, but they reached their target swiftly and began to take up attack positions.
A local suddenly opened the back door to a pub, spilling golden light and noise out into the street. "Is that you, Har-" There was a quiet crack.
"Bollocks!" yelled Dirk into his headset. "That was a friendly!" The nearest CPC man, an Indonesian by the name of Soweto, pulled the body into the shadows.
A louder crack resonated from nearby. A CPC commando dropped with a thud to the cobblestones.
“Sniper! Get down!”
There was a burst of automatic gunfire, and another CPC man hit the floor. The rest of the commandos ran for cover, returning fire, still unsure where the sniper was hiding. The placid village then erupted with the sounds of a raging firefight as the CPC commandoes proceeded to unload their weapons at anything that moved.
Dirk was out of his element. While his experienced SAS comrades showed their mettle, the rest of his untrained men were panicking. He had to bring them back into control. "Bravo lead, take point behind the fountain, get our sniper into position! Alpha team, maintain cover fire!" Handley screamed into his headset. He wondered how this simple operation had lost two of his best men and the life of an innocent in the flash of a moment. As if in a dream, he saw one of the silenced bullets from his C8 Carbine put an end to an enemy wearing a thick trench coat and carrying a KRISS Vector submachine gun. Two of his men gained flanking positions and crept into the house.
Six of my best men, thousands of hours of training, and here they were, to die in the middle of nowhere in the Scottish highlands? There had better be a bloody good reason. As soon as we've dealt with this, I'll make whoever's responsible spill the beans.
From above, DeGroot watched the battle with the air of an ancient Roman tactician. He knew it wouldn't take long for the Javelin operators to find him here despite Cromwell's best efforts. People were so predictable, especially hunters. He heard the front door open, then close quietly behind two enemy commandos. DeGroot pulled a grenade from a deep pocket. With a yank, he removed the pin and casually dropped it over the side of the balcony into the room below. He could hear the panic in the frantic muffled voices downstairs as he stepped into a decrepit bedroom and shut the door firmly behind him.
The explosion shook the frame, and a grim look crossed DeGroot's face as he thought of the confusion that was happening below in the mind of the leader of this ill-fated attack. “Probably didn't expect a fight, did he?” he mused as the dust from the explosion filtered under the mahogany door. "Ah well, time to end this." DeGroot reached for the Vector SMG hanging around his neck, opened a window and began firing at the two remaining targets in the courtyard area.
Dirk hissed orders into his headset. Four men down and only one poor bodyguard to show for it. There was nothing Dirk wanted more than to eliminate this terrorist, this man about to turn their hard-fought order on its head. "Bravo lead, rocket fire, top floor, second window." A raised arm signaled the order had been received, and two seconds later an enormous roar echoed across the cobbles. The rocket raced towards the house.
Seeing the rocket, DeGroot had already hit the floor. The missile blew the back bedroom to shards of stone, covering him in dust and rubble.
Cromwell appeared, seemingly oblivious to the chaos and disorder around him. DeGroot looked through a hole that had opened into the room where Cromwell had been working. A twisted piece of metal had pierced the decrepit old chair that Cromwell had been sitting on, but the slender Brit was nonplussed. In Cromwell’s hand he held the small blue box still pulsing with light.
"Distributed transactions are secure. The network is stable. Let's go, if you please."
"Why the two-dollar words all the time?” DeGroot muttered. “Can't he just say what he means?" The South African frowned at Cromwell, but at this point he was used to the unusual mannerisms of his companion. DeGroot reached for his headset call button. "Return to the dinghy, heading back to Arkangel." Still hidden but his cover blown, the sniper picked up his Accuracy International AX338 sniper rifle and began to make his way towards the inflatable dinghy moored along the harbor wall.
Major Dirk Handley took a deep breath. Time was running out, and Dirk feared that the mission had failed. The lull in the fighting allowed him to hear the waves in the harbor lapping gently in the darkness, and the CPC commando took a risk and peered out over the water. He saw a rubber dinghy, moored to a harbor pier. At that moment, he knew what the terrorist’s next move would be. Dirk took the chance to sprint towards the dingy. His footsteps echoed loudly in the cold air, one knock on the cobblestones after the next. At that moment, DeGroot and Cromwell began their dash to freedom across the road. The cobbles shined faintly in the light of the few street lamps that dotted the harbor's edge. DeGroot and Cromwell both jumped into the dinghy, joined soon after by DeGroot’s sniper, making for three substantial men in this small watercraft. Degroot untied the vessel and threw the rope to shore. DeGroot spotted a figure dashing towards them, his outline nothing more than a dark shadow. DeGroot quickly pulled his firearm and opened fire on the soldier, shells from his automatic weapons splashing faintly as they were consumed by the harbor's waves, swept away and never to be seen again. The warrior fell backward, maimed or dead.
While DeGroot was emptying rounds at the CPC commando, the Ghanan sniper took the wheel. He turned the key in the dinghy's ignition and the watercraft roared to life, its motor roaring in the dark night.
All were grateful for DeGroot's experienced eye and sharp aim, but the Liberari men wondered and feared whether they would fall victim to the perils of the night or make it back home safely. The Liberari soldier turned the wheel sharply and sent the dinghy speeding out into the harbor. As waves splashed up and over the dinghy's walls, DeGroot looked out across the harbor. The waters weren't as calm as he'd hoped. A monumental destroyer rounded a bend into the harbor. A top of the line Type 45 British destroyer, its angular stealth hull loomed above the water, its engine churning the water frothy in its wake. Two searchlights suddenly fired up, each a glaring beacon in the Scottish night. The beams swept from one side of the ship to the other, carefully scouring the waves. DeGroot acknowledged the hulking destroyer with a slow whistle. He looked at his companions and shook his head solemnly. "This will be tight," he said to his comrades, who nodded in affirmation. Cromwell continued with his nonplussed attitude, but the younger, greener sniper was unused to watercraft and promptly tossed his cookies into the waves. Suddenly, the destroyer opened fire. An enormous flash of light that outshone even the searchlights emitted from one of the destroyer's massive cannons. A sound loud enough to match the brightness of the flash erupted from the ship, and the commandos all tensed in the small dinghy. A large plume of water jetted up into the air.
“Warning shots. They need us alive,” Cromwell declared, unmoved, standing forward and erect like some sort of heroic British general in a World War II film. The dinghy began to make evasive maneuvers as more rounds fired from the destroyer's main gun, each shot accompanied by some harrowing near-misses. Freezing water splashed the commandos as they gritted their teeth and continued their evasive maneuvers. Without warning, a massive submarine breached directly in front of them. The massive ship splashed down like an enormous killer whale, making for an impressive display. The Arkangel, their avenger, lived up to its name. Gargantuan clamshell doors opened just aft of its conning tower, and the rubber dinghy steered itself to slide directly into the Arkangel's retrieval bay.

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