The Singaporeans checked their kit for the last time, ensuring that everything was in order. The ten of them checked the crates of equipment they had taken into (and were now taking out of) Britain, assisting the loadies (loadmasters).
Team Rainbow pitched in, checking that the crates were properly secured. A Singaporean C-130 Hercules, piloted by a crew of ignorant Air Force personnel who knew better than to ask, waited patiently on the runway.
Domingo Chavez looked around. In the pre-morning gloom, a thick layer of fog had settled across the base, with dewdrops marking cooler areas. The darkness hindered the men only as long as it took for them to 'borrow' some flashlights and chemlights. The Singaporeans were going through their crates, checking that the equipment inside corresponded with copies of the nonexistent load manifest Wong, Tay, Lee, Imran, and the chief loadie were holding in clipboards procured from somewhere. The NATO troopers knew better than to assist.
A Team-1 operator, for want of activity, was driving a forklift to haul crates from the collection area to the side of the runway to the cargo hold of the Herky Bird. Some volunteers from Team-1 and Team-2 were inspecting the airstrip, removing anything not bolted down to prevent foreign object damage.
Chavez exhaled, his breath condensing in the cool air. He'd miss the Singaporeans, like the way he found himself wishing that he could have spent more time with the Spetsnaz teams they had trained some time ago. It had been a long time since they had met operatives of their caliber, and even longer since they had seen people that committed to their duty, and country. It was a shame that John Clark had to meet the Minister of Defence in an 'urgent' meeting; it would have been more appropriate for him to see the Singaporeans off.
Then again, it's probably because it had been a long time since they had met people from conventional military units.
Chavez suppressed a chuckle.
"Good morning," a strangely accented voice greeted, next to him.
"Mornin'," Chavez replied, almost automatically.
He was slow today. It took his brain a second or two to figure out that there was only one person he knew that spoke with a mixture of English accents…and that he wasn't supposed to be here.
"Cheah? What the hell are you doing here!" he exclaimed, turning.
The writer shook his head. "I don't have to explain it to you all over again, do I?" he half-whined.
"No, not really…but why are you here?"
"They're my men, my compatriots…do I need any other reason?"
The Singaporeans had inspected the last of their cargo, and were now letting the loadies do their bit. Dressed in Smart No. 4 uniforms, the men headed for their NATO counterparts. Team-1 and Team-2 assembled at the collection area.
Wong walked up to Chavez.
"It's been an honor to train with you, with Team Rainbow," he said.
"Same here," Chavez agreed.
Walking forward, Wong silently reached his hand out.
Chavez took it, and shook Wong's hand. The Singaporean had a firm grip, and shook Chavez's hand, his right hand oscillating once. The rest of the Singaporeans and Team Rainbow shook each other's hands, offering well wishes and good luck.
As the Singaporeans turned to head for the Hercules, they stopped, and turned around. As though by unspoken command, as one, the Singaporeans stood-to, and crisply saluted the NATO troopers. Rainbow reciprocated, their salutes as sharp as any honor guard's.
A moment passed in silence. Time stood still. The world melted away as the soldiers from East and West locked each other's gaze. Several SAS passers-by stopped to watch, but the soldiers didn't care. The men's breath became visible, little puffs of white in the morning chill. The Singaporeans' Airborne and marksmanship badges caught the glow off the runway beacons, glistening in the dark. The men wore commando shoulder flashes on their sleeves and the distinctive red berets of SAF commandos, the only identification badges the Singaporeans would ever wear, and only for formal occasions.
Rainbow was wearing featureless black base fatigues. Apart from ranks, nothing else adorned their uniforms. Chavez mused that both the organizations had temporarily swapped identities.
Cheah stood at the sidelines, standing at attention. Like the Singaporeans, he was dressed in uniform, only that his was designed for the youth of the National Cadet Corps. The NCC crest mounted on his green beret, above his left eye, shone dully in the dark. A row of four badges, signifying his proficiency in drills, orienteering, swimming, and showing his physical fitness state, was pinned above his left breast pocket. Another badge, pinned higher up, was proof that he had passed the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association's tests. Yet another badge, pinned just under and next to his left collar, indicated that he had achieved the Gold Total Defence badge. A final badge, made of cloth, was attached to a circular patch of Velcro sewn high on his left shoulder. It was the prestigious Army-NCC badge, awarded only to cadets who had attained a specialist rank and higher.
First Sergeant (NCC) B Cheah K W briefly noted that he had to be one of the least-decorated sergeants in his company…but what the hell. He had earned the right to be here. This was his men, his creation, his story, and he'll be damned if he didn't see it through to the end.
After an eternity, the SpecOps men lowered their hands.
"Well, goodbye," Chavez said to the Singaporeans. Farewells weren't his specialty…and right now, he had no idea what to do.
"Goodbye," Wong replied.
The Singaporeans turned, and walked towards the bird out.
Cheah returned to parade rest, seeing the black ops men enter the cargo hold. Taking a few steps forward, he entered Chavez's view. At this point in time, Chavez finally remembered that Cheah was still around.
"Hey, Cheah!" he called.
The cargo door closed.
"Yeah?" Cheah answered, turning to face Chavez.
The Hercules taxied into position.
"Aren't you going with them?"
The transport plane's massive engines screamed, powering up.
"No! I'm catching another flight!" Cheah shouted above the engine noise.
The engines produced a strong backwash, sweeping across the length of the airstrip and engulfing Team Rainbow. Cheah's uniform shirt fluttered in the powerful wind.
The Hercules started down the runway.
"A goodbye isn't forever!"
Cheah turned around, facing the C-130, now accelerating down the airstrip.
"Wait!" Chavez called.
Cheah turned around.
"What's the name of the Singaporeans' unit? They didn't tell me what it was!"
Cheah's mouth moved, but his one-word reply was lost in the noise.
"What?" Chavez screamed.
The Hercules took off.
Before Chavez could ask, a piece of grit flew into his eyes. Looking away, he rubbed them, forcing the dirt out. When he was fairly sure that it was gone, he looked up, turning to Cheah.
But he was gone.The End
Final Author's Note: I couldn't stop myself from describing myself, before you ask. My name is something I don't release to just anybody for personal reasons. Anyway, this miniseries owes its creation to Typewriter King, who suggested that I write a subreality to 'disguise' my military guide. Shame I couldn't find the opportunity to put in some more details, due to time constraints. In addition, I'd like to thank domingochavez, for information regarding the use of NVGs in close quarters (and some more). Now, I'll have to study…