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Chapter Forty-Two

"Vanner, what's the status on the primary?" Mike asked as the helicopter banked around a hill; the highly paid Russian pilots were earning their pay.


"Temporarily sort of secure," Vanner said.


"And what in the hell does that mean, exactly?" Mike snapped.


"You want the whole story, sir?" Vanner asked. "It's a long one. She is out of the box. She is currently unthreatened. She and Katya are colocated. I am attempting pick-up at this time. It got very hairy, but the situation is stabilized, I think. You want more?"


"Negative," Mike said.


"The bad news is that the club has been kicked over like an anthill," Vanner continued. "We've had a three hundred percent increase in external guards and the full force appears to be up at this time. You want to abort?"


"Negative," Mike said after a moment. "We'll continue the mission. Support force?"


"Still moving, still out of the box," Vanner said. "Boss, you do not, say again, do not have the element of surprise at the club. I've managed to insert some new surprises, but you are going in hot."


"Understood," Mike said, looking across the cargo hold at Creata. She was the youngest of the intelligence specialists, a tiny girl with birdlike bones and a narrow face framed by dark brown hair. She was so small and delicate that everyone in the Keldara called her "Mouse." She was also surprisingly adept with mechanical devices and had tested out to be the fastest and most knowledgeable in opening safes. She was sitting very calmly, holding a bag of tools that appeared to be at least two thirds of her body weight in her lap with her eyes closed and seemed to be either praying or going over the steps to crack the safe. Call it a mantra. "We'll still handle it. Out here."


Mike reached down and changed his radio to the setting for "all force."


"Listen up, troops," Mike said. "Primary is out of the box. They know we're coming. There is a heavy force coming in from the east. All the guards are up. We're going in anyway. The FAAP team is going to delay the heavy force. Primary recovery team now is added to front door. Entry and mission as planned. But it's going to be hot. Do the job and we'll get the hell out of dodge. That is all, Kildar out."


"Are you sure about this, boss?" Adams asked.


"I'm sure," Mike said. "We're going to get those DVDs and along the way we're going to fuck them all."


* * *

The fleet of birds banked over the last hill and then split, half the echelon heading down the main boulevard and the other half to the smaller rear street.


As they split, four Allouette helicopters increased speed and pulled away from the formation. Two braked to an out-of-ground hover five hundred meters from the club and pivoted sideways so that their troop doors pointed towards the club.


As soon as they were pointed, the two machine gunners in each of their doors opened fire.


The MG-240 was capable of spitting out over 1200 rounds per minute on continuous fire, but the machine gunners were, while newly trained, quite expert and held them to precise three- and five-round bursts. The combined fire tossed the guards on the front door of the club to their face, littering the sidewalk with bodies. This late at night, the only people on the street were the few remaining guards on the club so there were no complications from ladies of the evening.


The lead Allouette paused for a moment in an out of ground hover then, as the guards on the doors were reduced, slid forward in a deadly precise maneuver and paused opposite the club.


Intelligence had determined that the majority of the guards were barracked on the third floor. In each of the Allouettes were two RPG gunners, two assistant gunners and a sniper. As the Allouette slowly slid down the now nearly empty street, the RPG gunners began firing round after round into the barred windows of the third floor, filling the upper stories with deadly shrapnel. The backblast was directed out the other door of the stripped helicopter. In a few of the second and third storey windows, figures briefly appeared. Those that were not currently being targeted by the RPG gunners were engaged by the Keldara sniper, whose precise rounds removed the majority of the threats.


As the helicopter working the front of the building was just about done with its run, one guard got smart enough to hurry to an upper floor and open fire on the helicopter with his AK-47. The majority of the 7.62x39 rounds flew wide, but two cracked into the turbine housing of the French chopper.


The Russian pilot saw about half of his lights go red in less than a second


"Yob Tvoyu mat" he shouted, killing the engine and dropping the hovering helicopter like a stone. "We're going in!"


* * *

"Where's Tanya?" Vanner asked.


"Second floor," Lydia answered, calmly. "Room Seven. It's interior."


"Tell Team Sawn when they clear the second floor to find her and extract," Patrick replied.


"We have response coming down Ordur Street," Greznya said.


"Got it," Vanner said, switching screens. "Blow det zones nine and nineteen ..."


* * *

Yevgenii Kulcyanov grasped the fast-rope and slid down, hitting hard and then bounding to the back door of the club.


"Rig it," he said, not even looking over his shoulder to make sure Bran was behind him.


"Got it," the Keldara demo specialist said, slapping the charge on the heavy door. "Clear," he yelled, sliding down the wall to the side and then triggering the kilo of Semtek.


The remainder of the Keldara entry team had paused out of the blast zone, hunkering down to take the blast on their armor. As soon as it went off, Yevgenii tossed a frag through the door, waited for it to detonate and then plunged into the smoke.


"Clear right!"


* * *

Padrek drifted through the dust from the destroyed main door and took up a position to the right of the door, sweeping around the mostly abandoned main club area. Abandoned by clientele, that is. There was heavy fire coming from the far side of the bar.


Padrek Ferani at 5' 9'' was shorter than the average Keldara and darker as well, with brown hair and eyes that had a slight epicanthic fold, probably the result of a Mongol warrior passing through the area. But his frame was compactly muscled from years of farm work and the training the Keldara took for the tests of Ondah. That muscle had been further honed by the training regime of the Western instructors, as had an already fast mind.


Choosing the militia teams had, in the end, come down to something like choosing teams for ball in school. To an extent, the instructors had made sure that certain skills were passed around, but the team leaders had final call on who was in "their" team. And they'd tended to choose like-minded individuals.


Oleg was a born warrior, a true Viking descendent who tended to feel that peace could best be served by superior firepower. When he saw an obstacle, his choice was to smash it down. Vil was more subtle, preferring deception and quick movement, the rapier to the broadsword.


Padrek was one of the best Keldara at mechanisms, one of the kids who had spent his whole life keeping the few bits of technology the Keldara posessed alive and kicking. He had the mind of an engineer, so when he saw a problem he tried to work it, to think "outside the box." As he surveyed the destruction, he was automatically processing actions both near and far in terms of combat time. And he sure as hell wasn't planning on a frontal assault.


Oleg would have tried to overwhelm with firepower. Vil would have tried a ruse.


Padrek tended to prefer technology.


One of the Keldara was down in the doorway and a blood trail denoted another that had been dragged out of the line of fire. The rest were hunkered down behind a barricade of tables, trading shots with the Albanians on the far side of the room. More of whom were pouring through a doorway that was just out of the Keldara's line of fire.


"Tch, tch," Padrek said, shaking his head. Team Padrek's primary instructor had been McKenzie, the Scottish former SAS NCO, and some of his manner had rubbed off. "This simply won't do, what? Krasa?"


"Go Padrek," the intel specialist replied. She was hunkered down outside the building, waiting for the club level to be cleared.


"You've got the detonation codes that Vanner sent, yes?" Padrek asked, consulting a piece of paper. "Could you give me a hit on number six and ... eight?"


* * *

Creata waited as the eight members of the side entry team slid to the ground then stepped to the door. She looked over her shoulder and wasn't surprised to see the Kildar giving her a thumb's up signal. She grinned at him, grabbed the fast-rope and slid into the alleyway.


As planned, she stepped to the far side from the door and huddled to the ground as Ivan and Mikhail squeezed her from either side, covering her from stray fire and random fragments.


"You don't have to lean in that hard," she muttered, barely able to breathe from the weight of the two. Oh, well, it was probably something like sex. Maybe some day she'd find out.


There was an explosion and then a series of shots, then Ivan stood up and yanked her to her feet.


"Stay between us, Mouse," he growled, running hard for the door.


"Tango down right." "Down left. Left clear." "Hallway clear." Another blast. "Door open. Descending." "Check fire, hallway. Main entry team in place." "Basement ..."


Creata didn't stop in time and bounced off of Ivan's armor before being yanked to the ground by Ivan.


"What's happening?" she asked. She had been instructed to keep her radio off unless she absolutely had to use it.


"Too many guards in the basement," Mikhail muttered. "Secondary team going in." As he told her there was a massive explosion from the level above.


"What was that?" Creata yelled.


"Padrek having fun," Mihail replied, grinning.


* * *

"Up and at 'em!" Padrek shouted, standing up over the barricade and firing the MG-240 from the hip.


The detonation of the two IEDs the hooker had secreted in the staircase had blown the reinforcing guards out of the doorway like so much mangled meat. It had also seriously eroded the morale of the guards that had, successfully, bottled up the Keldara entry team. They stopped firing and turned to look at what had happened, giving Padrek the moment's respite he'd needed. Now the Albanians were suppressed as his fire, and the fire of the two SAW gunners on the team, filled the area around the bar with lead.


"Grenades," he yelled, continuing to snap out three- and five-round bursts, working back and forth along the top of the bar, sending the few remaining intact bottles up in an explosion of glass and liquor. "Now!"


As the grenades reached the end of their apogee he stopped firing and ducked; frags had no concept of who was friend or foe. There was a series of "cracks" and screams, then he was back on his feet.


"Follow me!"


* * *

Gregorii leapt over the black-clad body of a Keldara at the base of the stairs and took cover on the far side of the hallway as rounds cracked down the long gallery.


"Four, maybe more, on the south end," he said. "Twenty meters down."


"I'll cover," Yevgenii said, leaning around the corner of the stairs and spraying fire from his Squad Automatic Weapon down the length of the corridor.


Gregorii got down and low-crawled forward to the next doorway, reaching up and trying the door. Locked.


"Fuck," he muttered.


"Reloading!" Yevgenii called as the fire died.


Gregorii pulled his SPR around and began sending three-round bursts down the hallway, trying to keep the defenders at the far end suppressed. An AK was stuck around the corner and the trigger yanked, filling the corridor with bullets, one of which hit him on the armor.


"I need more cover than this!" Gregorii sang out.


Suddenly more than just the SAW was firing down the hallway and the AK was quickly yanked back.


"Thank you," he muttered, putting the barrel of the SPR against the lock and blowing it away with a couple of bursts. He pushed the door open with the barrel and then peeked around the corner. The room appeared to be clear so he slid through the door, tracking around for threats.


Well, not entirely clear. There was a girl huddled in one corner, chained to the wall. She looked as if she'd been beaten rather hard recently. And a nick on her leg was probably from a bouncer.


"Just stay there and be quiet," he said in Russian, gesturing her down. He leaned out again, carefully, given the amount of lead being thrown around, and checked the doorway at the end. Close enough. He pulled out a fragmentation grenade, pulled the pin and tossed it as hard as he could down the corridor.


Unfortunately, his aim was off and the grenade bounced off the edge of the doorway. He'd wondered why the instructors had been so insistent on accuracy and as he ducked back in the room he decided that now he knew.


"Fucker!" Yevgenii snapped as he jumped through the door. "You could have called grenade!"


"I figured you were hiding on the stairs," Gregorii replied, grinning.


"Just shut up and hand me a frag," Yevgenii said. "Grenade!"


* * *

"Grenades here, here and here," Anton said, pointing at the map as the Hip helicopter lifted off the road and into the darkness. "Run tripwires across the road. We'll drop trees from here to here. Then lay claymores as we retreat."


"We don't have any axes," Gena pointed out.


"Who needs axes," Anton scoffed, pulling a roll of det-cord out of his pack. "We've got demo!"


* * *

"Get them out of there," Mike said, tapping two of the Keldara reserve and pointing to the downed Alloutte as he stepped off the Hip. "Clearing status?"


"Ground floor clear," Adams said. "Two Keldara wounded, one dead. Clearing upper floors. Entry team has opened the basement, clearing at this time. Some resistance but they're handling it. More casualties."


"Oleg?" Mike said as he walked through the smoking entrance of the club.


"Reaction from all four directions," the security team leader replied. "Uncoordinate. Maintaining position. We're getting good reads from Vanner."


"Sawn?"


"Third floor ..." There was a burst of fire in the background, then an explosion and the Keldara team leader grunted. "Second and third floor clear. We've picked up a primary per Vanner. Secure and pulling out. IEDs laid to cover."


"When you pull back, check with the basement team and see if they need any help," Mike said. "If not, go reinforce Oleg."


* * *

"Oleg! There are more coming down Dutris Street! We need help here!"


"How many?" Oleg asked, waving at the team with him and hurrying to the defense point on Dutro.


"At least twenty," Dmitri answered. "And they are giving each other covering fire now. A car tried to get past us as well."


Oleg turned the corner and hunkered down behind a stairway, peering over the top, then looking across the street at the defense team.


"We have them in a crossfire, now," Oleg said as he spotted figures moving down the far side of the street. "Juris, see if you can get onto one of the upper floors and give us cover fire. Jitka, set up your SAW and get ready for fun ..."


* * *

"Make enough of a mess?" Creata asked, stepping over the body in the threshod of the room and looking around. The basement office's computers had been shredded by more than one grenade, but the safe on the far wall was impervious to fragments.


"More or less," Yevgenii said, grinning. "A little Mouses' nest, yes?"


"Genrich, Steppas," Gregorii said. "Start pulling out EEI. Mouse, we don't have much time."


"Got it," the girl said, hurrying over to the safe. "I'm going to be at least ten minutes," she added as she began pulling tools out of her bag.


"Understood," Gregorii said. "Safe room secure. Working on the safe ..."


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