After a fairly quiet dinner, the group broke up and went separate ways. Bekka was moving a bit stiffly when she thought no one was looking. She took a large mug of mulled wine and retired to the hot tub to soak her bones and think. Garen went to the basement and was working at building ammo push packs for resupply. Allyson was sitting with a book. Angelique, the youngest by far and with the most energy, volunteered to do a short walk-about out around the upper bit of property. This would, she said, give her some more time to get used to working with the night vision gear.
Garen was using the repetitive physical work to let his mind coast onto other topics. A couple of hours tomorrow would be good for teaching some longer blade work with shorts sword and machete. Anything bigger than that was impractical and counterproductive to bring with them. Besides, he had plenty of machetes. That surplus site had them five for 25 dollars for a while and he had ordered a set a couple of times. They were light, fast, and cheap and you didn’t cry if you happened to lose it. If they went with the eighteen inch ones, they wouldn’t be too bulky to strap to a small pack. Maybe. He had to be careful about the just a small item added to the kit concept. Before you know it, you’re a turtle trying to run down a street, too bulky to maneuver. He had heard it enough, and said it as well; a hundred pounds of lightweight crap is still a hundred pounds of crap. He would need to get Bekka’s brain in on the plot as far as how many back up/ bug points for operations down in the city. He was half considering using the Center as one of the locations. They had the legal right to it and to be there and defend it and therefore would not have any legal ramification for dumping hate and discontent on any and all who might come to take them out there. The problem there was it made them stationary. It also tied them to a name. They really didn’t want to leave any trail. They really needed more reconnaissance to get a better picture. Where the hell is Kara?
Allyson tried to put her brain in neutral to some extent. She knew from experience that she had to give her brain time to put things into order rather than keep cramming the more on top of it. She was looking through some books from the bookshelf. They were on topic but she wasn’t trying for deep knowledge. One book was an old text on medieval swordplay. The other book was an anatomy text. She was just trying to tie the words with the movements she was learning earlier in the day. She honestly hoped it didn’t come to any sort of hand to hand engagements. She had laid on hands enough as a cop to know she would much rather keep things at a distance.
As I sat in the hot tub, sipping my warm mulled wine, I could feel the aches and pains of all the practice we did today. It’s been years since I trained so much, so often. Like the movie said, I’m getting too old for this. I now know what my teachers so long ago meant when they said to substitute hard thinking for hard work. They used their experience to overcome some of their body’s limitations. I remember going to the gym and playing racquetball. There was an old guy, at least 75 that I would sometimes play. He would spent 20 minutes strapping on his knee braces, and swing a few times to warm up. I would then get on the court with him and he would kick my butt for the next hour and a half. He wouldn’t move more than a few steps at a time during each point, meanwhile, I’m running all over corner to corner back to front for every shot. This happened time and time again, day after day. This went on and on. I got better and finally got more points against him, and more importantly learned the other lessons he was teaching me. He was able to see two to three shots ahead, and be there to meet the shot rather than chase the shot. That came from watching and hitting hundreds of thousands of balls. He could see the geometry better and farther in advance than his opponent. That’s the point I am now in. I need to see the geometry farther in the future than the opponent so I can be ready and force them to react to me rather than me chasing the ball. I’m part of a great, fairly well rounded team. I know they look to Garen and I to do the planning, and Garen uses me to make sure it’s a solid plan rather than one of his half cooked off the cuff schemes. We can plan more once we have more data. We will have to do a recon into the city. I don’t know if we should go in force and figure to do a short recon and stay for the strikes or will it be best to recon, return, plan and then go back to the city. Time and Kara’s data will tell. I wish she would get back soon. I’m starting to worry.
Angelique was moving through the trees and meadows of the grounds when she heard a splashing sound over near the pond. She moved cautiously that way. As she got nearer, she saw a glow coming from the bank with her NVGs. She was able to pick out a fairly bright object sitting on one of the big slabs of rock on the shore. There was a pile of something near it. The splashing was soft, but she still heard it. It was coming from the pond. She saw a tall, lithe form emerge from the water and walk up to the glowing spot on the rock. The form picked up what had to be a towel since they were going through motions that looked like drying off. She couldn’t see detail well, so she slid the goggles off. The red light of the goggles gave way to the soft starlight and sliver of moonlight. It took a bit for her eyes to adjust. Once they did, she saw the person laying down on a towel or blanket on the rock. She crept a little closer to try and see more detail. It was Kara.
Kara was laying on some sort of cloth or tarp spread out on the rock. The glowing thing was a small stove with a steel cup warming on it. Angelique was confused. When did Kara get back? Why was Kara out here instead of in the house? Why was she swimming? And why was she laying here naked! Kara was obviously naked as she lay here on the rock. Not that this was the first time she had seen her naked. Not that she hadn’t seen other girls naked before, either. This was, however, the first time she had stood and looked at another naked girl (actually, woman) without it being just a glance or while busy with getting dressed in the gym or during a shower at school or while changing clothes in a dressing room. She just stood there and tried to make some sort of honest observation of Kara. She was always so guarded, or cynical or …..focused, that’s what she was trying to think of, focused. Angelique was somewhat surprised at what she saw. Kara looked calm, almost at peace but not necessarily asleep. She reminded her of one of the yoga instructors down at the climbing gym. A calm focus. She wasn’t sure how she did it though. Here she was, laying naked out in the forest, exposed to any and all. Angelique was far too shy about exposing herself like that. She had been in too much shock of being shot and seeing Logan blasted to smithereens to really react to getting half naked in front of Kara at the Center. When she thought back to it later, she was both embarrassed and slightly horrified at the same time. And here Kara was laying naked on the rocks over there. She knew she was really naked because she saw too many details for her to be wearing some sort of swimwear. For one, she could tell Kara had pierced nipples because the barbells were glinting in the weak light from the stove. God! That had to hurt! She thought to herself. She was startled out of her thoughts by Kara’s voice.
“If you are done staring at me or want a better look, you could just come over here and join me. If you brought your own cup, I’ll share my hot chocolate.”
Angelique was glad it was so dark, otherwise Kara could see how bright red she was with embarrassment. She almost pissed herself when Kara first spoke. She sheepishly came forward to the rock where Kara was sitting.
“Angelique, you can come sit down. I promise, I won’t bite, unless we are having sex.” Her voice had a light chuckle to it to soften her comment.
Angelique moved up closer and sat down. She was still having a hard time finding her voice.
“What’s up? Why are you wandering loose?”
After a few squeaking sounds, Angelique finally was able to answer her.
“Why are YOU out here and not in the house?”
“I wasn’t sure who would be up and didn’t want to surprise anyone and get myself shot. How about you?”
“I’m out here getting more practice with the night vision goggles. Everyone else is worn out with the hand to hand practice we did all day.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“Oh, it was all kinds of fun!” Angelique went into a full run down of the last few days training. As she went through this, Kara poured some hot chocolate for the both of them, then scooped up some water from the pond and put it back on the small stove to boil. All the while Angelique kept talking. As she wound down from the descriptions from this evening, Angelique realized she had been alternating between looking at Kara’s face and her breasts at the end of her talking. She then noticed that Kara had noticed as well. Angelique turned twelve shades of red again. Kara spoke up.
“Go ahead, ask your questions.” She smirked as she said it.
“That had to hurt. Why would you do that?” she pointed at the barbells.
“I did it many years ago. I was quite stoned at the time it was done, so I felt nothing until I came back down.” She toyed with and twisted one as she was talking.
“But why did you do it?”
“I was trying to feel something, and at the time I was equating ‘sex’ with ‘feeling’. The crowd I was with had many tattoos and piercings and convinced me it was a great sexual enhancement. Thank goodness I didn’t listen to them and get my tongue done! They do feel ‘interesting’ however. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it. I keep them open because they remind me of how far I went in the wrong direction and how far I have come toward the right direction. I normally have just little pins in them but I was wanting to act the wayward hippy if I got caught, so I kinda dressed the part.”
It kinda made sense to Angelique. It went from something kinky, to something symbolic. She found with these guys, nothing was ever what it first looked like. She only had one more, unasked question. Kara could see it in her face.
“Yes, you can touch them.”
Angelique felt them and gave a tiny tug. It sent a weird shiver up her spine, like squeaking Styrofoam. She could only imagine what it must feel like to Kara. She didn’t think she would like it herself.
“Since they know you are out here, we shouldn’t get shot going into the house. Let’s go in. The pond made me clean, but not warm.”
They gathered up Kara’s stuff and she got dressed. They went up the path towards the house. Angelique felt a sense of relief she was sure the rest of the crew would feel as well. Kara was home.
As dawn broke, the house veritably hummed with the frantic activity. The cats all went to the two bedrooms to escape the activity disrupting their napping. Bekka was cataloging all the faces from the memory cards Kara brought back, trying to get an accurate headcount of the hostiles. Garen had been printing out maps of the park structures so they could drop all the data onto the outlines. He was now working on blowups of the city areas, focusing on the sections surrounding where Bekka and Kara saw the glow when they were on the roof of the Center. Allyson and Angelique were at the training building doing a few different training elements.
Since Allyson had done SWAT, and Angelique was a rock climber, if only at the gym, they were assembling the ropes, harnesses, pulleys and other gear. Allyson was also getting breaching gear pulled. They were looking at things such as cutting through walls and locks, securing doors from entry and a whole host of mechanical elements.
They pulled cordless drivers and sawzalls with plenty of batteries chargers, and spare blades. Self-tapping screws for metal and wood were gathered in decent quantity. Allyson tested the noise levels of them, then getting a pillow to wrap around them to muffle the noise. This would work as long as they didn’t work them too hard, since this blocked the cooling vents.
Allyson was figuring they would do all the prep and move up, recon and stay for the mission rather than coming back to the house first. Kara had made it clear that time was people. Besides, every trip back to the house risked bringing something home they didn’t want.
Kara was translating and organizing all her notes from her trip. She was also working with Bekka developing more of the plan. They all knew it would change at least some once they got to town.
There were two trains of thought. The first was to work out of the Center as far as sleep, eat and operate. This had some serious advantages and disadvantages. It would probably be the fallback location instead of the primary as they kept working though the plans. The alternate idea, the one gaining more traction, was to find a building with overwatch close in to the main compound the badguys were working out of. If they could find an office building to work from, even better. Offices compared to apartments or hotels, would have less people. Less people meant less reason for sweeps through the building by the bad guys. They might even be able to get direct observation of the badguys staging area in addition to the mass of people they were holding. They then could confirm the numbers and develop a concrete next step instead of the notional plan they had so far. The one thing they had not been able to find was an accurate map of the sewer and storm drain tunnels. Garen figured they would be a good way to move around, and most if not all the sewage should be cleared out with the serious flushing it got draining off the water from the tsunami.
Kara was throwing out some unconventional psychological warfare stuff. She had a list of stuff to bring. Garen wasn’t sure what all the stuff was for so he had to ask.
“Why a bucket of golf balls, Kara? And if your bringing golf balls, why no putter?”
‘I figure we take the surgical tubing and make a crew-served water balloon slingshot, like you had when we were in Salt Lake. We were able to get 250-200 meters with a baseball, so I figure we could clear 300 with a golf ball. If we crank out a few from the roof at night, they won’t see them flying, no launch signature, and they will get bangs, thumps and other such noise off in a different direction from where we are. If they ignore, we have just determined their radius of response. If they keep investigating, we can get them split up, moving around and all worn out with the continuous response. And all we are out is some golf balls. We can also use the sling shot to launch other things as needed. A pouch full of the little IR strobes that fit on the 9 volts are my plan if they actually have night vision gear. We can sling a half a dozen at them, the strobing will shut down the intensifiers, making them blind, yet won’t be visible to the naked eye, then we shoot them. The cartons of BBs are to toss down a hallway to cut down on speed of running towards us in a building. I also saw a few things on your list though.”
“Well, the self-tapping screws are so we can secure the fire doors and such to deny access to stairwells and the upper floors quickly. I even think I have a roll or two of concertina to pitch in the stairwells. I have a bushel basket of those motion sensitive lights and alarms as well. I figure if we put some of the lights set to react, their night vision will be toast and any light or noise would give us a heads up on inbounds. Bekka has a stack of the ‘high school paintball team’ peel and sticks to make them think they are up against kids. I have a pile of treble hooks and fishing line to string from ceiling tiles and all kinds of places for trip lines, wait-a-minutes and such. I haven’t seen Bekka’s nasty list but I’m sure there’s some stuff we would never think of.”
After Angelique finished with the ropes and harnesses, she began clearing out Terry’s SUV. It was large enough to haul all of them and most of the gear. It was also one of the most expendable. They were hoping the building Garen was thinking of was in the right place and they could get in unobserved. It was a mutual fund company building that was up for lease the last eight months. It had a couple parking levels, which was one of the big attractions. They could roll up to the second or third floor to avoid leaving the SUV on the street to be noticed. Once it was in and parked, it shouldn’t attract too much attention on a casual sweep, if it was seen at all. They could then get in and go up several floors, set up shop, and make their final observations and plans. She was humming as she worked. It took a minute for Allyson to catch the tune she was humming.
I cringed when I reviewed the pictures from Kara’s surveillance. Kara gave a running commentary as we pulled up the pictures so we could put them into appropriate folders. Bad guys were sorted, cropped down to headshots so we could build some recognition flip books. With the pictures printed on one side, we could fill notes on the back of each one. Such things might be ‘walks with a limp’, appears to be a leader of sorts’, 'seen to have a boot knife' and so forth. As our mission goes along, we can compare and update each other’s books so we are all working from the most up to date info.
Another electronic folder was all the faces of the suspected trafficked people. These we will send to the Interpol tip line set up for such things. Most importantly, by getting the info that these individuals were seen alive over a week after the quake and tsunami, being driven away by kidnappers, proof of survival after the event is out there.
The adults in camp were a tough thing to review, but even worse was the images Kara caught of the one being made an example of. Of anything, these were the ones I didn’t need to look at, but, I will just add them to the rolodex of horrific images burned into my brain. I made sure to match the one in charge of that detail and the one doing the actions to some of the clearer shots she got. Those pics will be labeled appropriately. They for sure should be planted at the first opportunity.
Make no mistake, this isn’t some movie style vengeance ride. We aren’t going to stake them out in some prolonged torture ‘eye for an eye’ style. That’s how you get sloppy, make mistakes and more importantly, become a little more like them every day. Do I want them dead? Yes. Do I want them to suffer? Not my call. If they are to suffer, it shall be, either in this life or the next one. That is God’s call, not mine. As Garen often misquotes, “If God is to make me a tool of providence, who am I to argue with the will of God?”
Bekka turned the files over to Garen to review. She had an idea for the plan, but they worked better when Garen threw out a framework and she filled in all the pieces and between the two, polished it into a good solid plan. It was a back and forth process. They complemented each other well. When they both thought outside the box, the results were spectacular.
While Garen was focusing brainpower, Bekka began gathering some more elements for the trip downtown. First she checked with Kara to find out what had already been pulled, then they started pulling the resources for Bekka’s concepts. She walked Kara through them as they went.
“Alright, Bekka, why a dent puller?”
“Think slide hammer. You can use it to defeat door locks. Screw it into the key hole, and a few pulls will pop the core, if not the knob assembly. It doesn’t always work, but in the office building, we aren’t talking pin push skiff locks we might be defeating. The less noise we make, the better. Same thing with the drywall saws. They are small and cheap enough we have a bucket of them for hand saws during the snare building classes John had up here. All we have to do is defeat one lock, then we can cut acessways through the adjoining walls to move office to office without being in the hallways.”
“Ok, what else are you thinking?”
“Did you guys grab BBs?”
“Yeah, 5 cartons. That should be enough for five floors since they are the big boxes of 10,000.”
“And you know how many BBs that is and how long it takes to pick that many up.” Bekka barely got the rest out she was laughing so hard.
“Why, yes, yes I do, you bitch!” her laughing tone belied the nasty words. Kara still shuddered remembering the day she had spilled a carton of them back at one of the units as a junior troop. Bekka had noticed some still laying around when she walked into the vehicle bay next to the equipment room. When confronted, Kara admitted to spilling them and said she thought she had cleaned them all up. Bekka told her she should have made sure. She next directed Kara to count all the ones in the carton, then find all the rest and return them to the carton., followed by a recount to confirm 10,000 meant 10,000. Oh, Kara hated Bekka that day and for quite some time after that. Later, she realized the intent of the lesson and forgave her for what at the time seemed like hazing. In reality, it was a deeper life lesson. She still didn’t like BBs.
“How about glass etching bits for the drills? We can make some small holes instead of taking out a whole window. Clear masking tape to go with them. I love your ideas with the slingshot. Too bad we don’t have a dozen or so lawn darts. A pound of finned metal coming down from several hundred feet would put quite a dent in someone’s attitude.”
Kara was silent for a few moments after Bekka’s comment. Her brain was brewing something. Bekka had seen that look before and just waited as she continued to pack stuff and rummage. Kara finally spoke up.
“Hey, do you guys still have some of those leftover pickle jars? You know, the medium ones like from relish and stuff?”
“Yeah, whatcha thinking?” Bekka’s worried mom voice came out.
“We have those pool chlorine pucks we brought back, and the liquid to put in the jars so we tape the puck to the bottom and….”
Bekka finished the thought with her, “delayed Firestarter that won’t leave a launch signature like a flaming bottle of gas will. I’ll go up to the house and grab about ten here in a few..”
This went on for a while until they had exhausted their immediate ideas. They went back and reexamined the ideas and supplies, culling some, and adding others as they fed off of each other’s concepts. One of their biggest worries was burdening themselves with too much stuff. They wanted enough to work the issues and plans, but not so much it took two moving trucks to accomplish. When they felt they had a good mix and proper balance, they moved back to the workroom in the main house to see how far Garen had come with the plan.
Angelique was looking around the training building bay as they finished with Terry’s SUV preparation, or at least as far as they could till the more solid parts of the plan emerged. Her eyes found the pile of old green bicycles on a wooden pallet in one corner.
“Hey Allyson, if we used bicycles to move around in town, they won’t make noise and we can move quicker, like you did dumping the vehicles when we left the Center.”
“You know, that’s a great idea. I don’t know if they are thinking that, but we could start working some stuff for that. Those old military bikes can hold a lot. Let’s see if we can get a few of them up and working.”
They were in luck. Garen had left a few boxes of parts such as tubes for the tires and such on the pallet with them. There was also a makeshift bicycle repair stand and bike tools there as well. It seemed this was where they worked on all their bicycles. The fancy cassette hubs and such were useless but a chain breaker and other tools still applied. The bike stand was nothing more than a padded large vice grip clamp attached to some iron pipe with hose clamps and then screwed to a moving dolly. This got the bike up to chest level so they could work on them. This occupied them for quite some time.
All the prep was done that they could think of. Anything more would just take too long and cost too many more abducted. They rolled out in the dead of night, their goal to creep into town through some back roads and alleys to avoid being seen on the approach. The big SUV was loaded to the gills with all sorts of supplies, equipment and tools of mayhem. The final planning will be done on site after they had eyes on the town activities.
One of their fears was the use of NVGs and baby drones by the enemy. To combat the first, they were ruthless in blacking out everything that emanated light or was shiny. They even used dulling spray on the windshield. Allyson was in the driver’s seat, Bekka next to her navigating. The middle seat was occupied with Kara and Angelique plus a crap load of gear. The third row seating area was filled with the rest of their equipment in addition to Garen perched on a case facing the open rear window.
Their path tool them down some old closed roads high up on the hills and down between the older houses in some of the small canyons. The big engine was barely above idle as the SUV went downhill through and around in their approach. One of the big things they wanted to avoid was coming from a discernible direction to keep their secret.
Higher up and farther out, they were seeing some signs of life; a flickering candle here, some smoke from a chimney there. When they came to a vantage point to see a larger swath of the city, however, a great deal of the city was dark. This was also around the time they saw the first flyers stapled up telephone poles and signs.
Tsunami Relief Effort
Food, Water, Shelter, Medical Assistance Available
Report to the Stadium
No weapons allowed. This is to be a safe space.
Tsunami Relief Effort
These were everywhere. It was calling everyone who needed help to one location. If this was the ruse being used by the badguys, it was brilliant if it’s organized right. This would enable them to focus their manpower in one location and cull their choice picks. This also brings up the troubling concern for those that are not picked. This could be the tip of a very horrific nightmare. The mood and discussion in the vehicle was somber as they realized the implications. Maybe they were wrong in their assumptions. Maybe a group really was here helping people.
As they crept lower and lower, moving down towards the city center and the stadium, they worked hard at observation and sneaking around. Everybody’s head was constantly moving, searching for threats, searching for more data, and making note of things if they had to suddenly change all their plans and try to escape and evade.
Bekka and Garen had plotted a route towards the stadium with an eye towards no straight lines of sight to them from the stadium. They had remembered sitting on rooftops in Iraq and their eye being drawn to movement crossing a street hundreds of meters away. They did not want to risk it here.
The intended building for their operations was an older building that had seen many lives in town. It was a multi-story dry goods store that transformed into a general store or department store in the 40’s and 50’s. By the late 70’s or early 80’s, it was losing too much money and closed. Successive attempts to use the spaces or parts of the space were done, but the traffic wasn’t enough for it to survive. This left a rat’s warren of partially built offices and cubicles on some of the floors in addition to the original off the floor storerooms, administrative spaces and support structures. It had been up for lease for a couple of years.
Next to this building was an older shuttered movie theater. Built in the 1920’s, it started out as a true theater and was later converted to movies to keep the doors open, unsuccessfully in later years. There were plans by the college to buy and transform the theater back to its former vaudeville glory days and use it for all their dramas and productions. It still had all the theater trapping such as the dressing rooms, orchestra pit, trap doors in the stage, and most important to them, a mostly concealed roll up door for their loading dock.
Both of these buildings were not currently in use, nor did they have people living in them. Both of these were big pluses. There was no logical reason for either of these to be looted or searched, either by residents or by the Badguys. The department store building had a line of sight to the stadium from one side but wasn’t in their faces. The theater was as well. Both of these views was of the front, while leaving the back and sides out of view. The two buildings shared a common wall in the front, but had no official crossovers that they knew about. Thy may be able to change that, or go out a window that was higher than the roof of the theater. They couldn’t quite tell from the overheads off the web.
There was another glass monstrosity nearby that belonged to a brokerage company or some other financial group. They also wouldn’t have much the average person would want to loot. The big thing was their altitude and proximity. With the huge glass windows, they could observe the stadium from there, but the modern building was built without a way to open the windows to shoot from. It would be just for observations and maybe the slingshot and golf balls from the roof. The biggest concerns were having safe lanes to fall back through to lose pursuit if they screwed up and were being tracked or chased. They would set up fall backs and hole ups for sleeping and eating in several places.
Step one was getting in a building and getting their vehicle under cover.