Two flashes from a signal mirror, Scope's way of telling him the convoy was close. Gunner lay in the cover of the line of bushes overlooking the seldom-used country road. He flashed a thumbs-up to Lurch and Smith, his ad-hoc weapons team. Armed with a PKM and an RPG respectively, they were the brunt of his firepower. And even though he couldn't see them, he knew Boomer, Sarge and Beth were just inside the wood line on the other side, waiting for their cue. Several minutes passed before the five vehicle Soviet convoy was in the proper position. Gunner triggered the charge in the drainage culvert just as the lead vehicle, a BMP, drove over it. The charges tore open the 'soft' underbelly of the APC, eviscerating the crew and most of the passengers. At the same moment, Smith fired the RPG, striking the rear vehicle, a BRDM, just below the turret, nearly blowing it in half. All that were left were three cargo trucks. Now it was Boomer's turn. He hit the clicker, detonating the half-dozen claymores set in the trees, thousands of steel balls tearing into the soft-sided trucks. Lurch fired off a fifty round belt into the remains of the vehicles, signaling for the final phase to begin. Beth, Boomer, and Sarge left the cover of the wood line, quickly dispatching any survivors with shotgun blasts or bison bursts. Boomer blew a short blast from a whistle, the all clear signal. Gunner, Smith, and Lurch with his reloaded PKM came down the hill as Sarge turned and flashed four times with his signal mirror, the signal for Scope to regroup with them. The six quickly searched through the wreckage, though there was little undamaged gear. Boomer stopped and took the time to spray paint the white skull and crossbones that had become the group's signature on the canvas of one of the trucks.
"Hey Gunner, com'ere!" Boomer yelled from the remains of the last truck, the one that had been carrying about a dozen soldiers.
"What?" he said, moving towards Boomer, Beth passing him at a run.
Gunner walked around the truck, and saw what Beth and Boomer were clustered around. A Soviet soldier lay on the ground, missing his left leg just above the knee. Gunner pulled his pistol and leveled it at the man's face, just as he noticed the man's rank insignia.
"A major." he said as he holstered his pistol and threw a mock salute.
The graying man just groaned as Beth began tourniqueting his leg before Gunner motioned for her to stop, as well as for Boomer to take her around the truck.
"We're gonna play a little game called 'Tell the Truth'. It's a real easy game. I ask you a question, and you tell me the truth, or I hurt you. A lot. Comprende?" he said, pulling out his leatherman.
"First question. Why is a major tagging along with a supply convoy"
"I will never tell you American pigs anything"
Gunner shook his head and pulled out the tool's pliers.
"Oooh, wrong answer"
He stabbed the jaws of the pliers into the stump and fished around, finally finding the bone, giving it a good yank. The enemy officer turned even paler and stifled a scream.
"Again. Why are you with a supply convoy?" he asked idly, poking the stump with the tip of his kukri.
"I'm arggh...I'm an aeronautical engineer! They were taking me to-aahhh-to a lab, with some equipment." he said, gesturing to the second truck.
" I don't know why"
"Thank you." Gunner said, drawing his pistol and drilling the officer dead center in his forehead, splattering the asphalt w chunks of grey, red and pink.
"Beth! Boomer! Check out the second truck! Pull anything that doesn't belong! Smith! Lurch! Sarge! Pull security!" Gunner yelled, jumping into the back of the first truck.
Gunner searched through the boxes, managing to find a bottle of vodka and two undamaged ration packs, which he quickly stuffed into his backpack.
"Gunner!" Beth yelled, her softer voice contrasting the deeper and harsher tones of the others.
Gunner jumped from the back of the truck and sprinted over to where Boomer and Beth were standing in the back of the hole-ridden truck and looked at them expectantly.
"Check this out." Boomer said, grunting as he pulled a small safe up to the tailgate.
"Crack it." Gunner said.
Boomer grinned and fished around in his pack for a minute, pulling out a small wad of plastique, a blasting cap with about a foot of det-cord attached, and an igniter. He used his knife to force the explosives as far into the keyhole as he could before detonating it, destroying the lock and blowing open the lid. Boomer reached in and pulled out the first sheet of paper he laid hands on, a set of electronics schematics. He and Gunner starred at them for several seconds.
"What the hell is this?" Boomer whispered.
"Dunno, but we've been here too long." Gunner said as he grabbed all the papers from the safe, rolled them up, and stuck them in Boomer's pack.
"Let's go!" he yelled, as the seven partisans melted into the wood line.
Gunner, Boomer, and Sparks clustered around Spark's 'plottin' table', now devoid of everything except the captured plans and blueprints.
"See, me and Boomer were lookin' at this, and this shit is WAY above our level." Gunner said, still starring at the papers.
"Yeah." Boomer agreed.
Sparks pulled out his glasses and set them on his face.
"Aight, I'll check this stuff over. I should have an answer for ya in the morning." he said, pulling out a pad and pencil, beginning to take his own notes.
Gunner and Boomer walked away, leaving Sparks to work his magic in peace and quiet.
"Think he'll figure it out?" Boomer asked.
"He always does." Gunner replied.
"Hey Beth, did ya read any of the shipping tags on those boxes? Anything that'd tell us where they're going?" Gunner asked her as he walked by.
"Uh, yeah. Their new lab on the outskirts. The one just off I-10." she said, looking up from wiping-down her bison SMG with a rag.
"Aight. You mind helpin' Sparks with translating the stuff we pulled outta that truck"
"Sure, no prob." she said as she gathered up the pieces of her weapon, walked across the room, and plopped down on the floor next to Sparks' M-1 Garand.
"You could have her anytime you wanted." Boomer muttered.
"This is hardly the time, Boomer"
Boomer shook his head. Gunner had been one of his best pals since a couple years before the invasion, along with Sarge. And during that whole time, Gunner had been unable to get a girlfriend, much less get laid, and now he had a chick practically falling all over and he didn't want to make a move. Sometimes he just didn't understand the guy.
"Scope! Sarge! As soon as y'all are done with cleaning and refit, I want you two to go scout out this lab, just in case"
The two looked over at him, Scopes nodded, his painted face bobbing up and down, while Sarge just flashed a thumbs-up with a carbon-stained hand.
"Hey Gunner!" Fingers repeated excitedly, the short teen running up to him.
"Huh?" Gunner said.
"Word just came down the pipe about a guy in NYC. He's really stickin' it to the reds! They're callin' him 'The Freedom Phantom'! He's blown up bridges, helipads, even freed that anti-commie activist chick Isabella Angelina from a detention center!" he said, jumping up and down like a hyper-active twelve-year old.
Gunner smirked slightly. It was somewhat reassuring to know he wasn't fighting alone.
"That's good ta know, Fingers. Just remember, NYC is a ways away from her, I wouldn't expect much help from them. Tomorrow's gonna be crazy, so I'm gonna rack out, see ya tomorrow."
Gunner poured himself a cup of something vaguely resembling coffee. He REALLY needed to get Beth to start making coffee again, Boomer was terrible at it.
"Thank God he's got other uses." he muttered as he walked over to where Sparks had fallen asleep at his desk.
"Sparks, Sparks..." he said gently shaking him.
Sparks sprang up as if he had only laid his head down seconds ago, seeming completely refreshed, something that Gunner envied.
"I assume you wanna know about the plans." he said with a grin as he adjusted his glasses.
Gunner opened his mouth to affirm, but Sparks cut him off with a single word just as Boomer came up behind him.
"Satellite." Sparks said proudly.
Gunner and Boomer looked at each other, then back at Sparks.
"Wha?" Boomer said.
"The plans are for a modified version of the Soviet TZ-83 commercial telecommunications satellite, a very popular design due to it's modular payload abilities"
"Alright, but cut to the part where it matters to us." Gunner said.
Sparks turned deadly serious.
"This appears to be a prototype. It's purpose is to jam all transmissions lacking a proper encoded prefix"
"All transmissions?" Gunner asked, the gravity of the situation beginning to set in.
"Everything. That means no Resistance TV, no Radio Free America, probably no walkies even. Hell, they might even be able to block wireless 'net access"
"Great. We need to nail this and fast. Scope, whatcha get for recon?" he asked as the marksman walked up behind him.
"I'll have it sand tabled in a few, but I think this one's beyond us. Lotsa guards, I counted 34, total estimate is closer to fifty, a high concrete wall around the perimeter, a pillbox at the gate a pair of BRDMs on patrol. Scope also spotted a mortar team in overwatch.
"Mortars are bad news. Lemme know when the sand table's up." he said.
Scope nodded and called Sarge over to help him with the set-up.
Gunner checked his personal ammo supply while they worked. About 200 rounds of .45 ACP, he was good on pistol ammo. But he was down to six mags and change of 5.56, he'd probably need to switch to an AK after this mission until they got more. Gunner sighed. He hated AKs, not accurate enough for him.
"Gunner!" Boomer yelled, waving him over to the sand table, a six by four foot table filled with 3 inches of sand in which Sarge and Scope had crafted with legos, string and paper markers, a more-or-less accurate layout of the facility.
The two stood off to the side as Gunner examined the target.
"And what's in that pillbox"
"Looked like a Dash-k and probably a rifle or two"
Gunner nodded. That was about what he had expected.
"This wall. How tall and how thick"
"'Bout ten feet tall and eight inches thick." Scopes said.
"Blowin' a man-sized hole would take damn near my whole stash." Boomer added in from behind Gunner.
"Plus they topped the wall. Angled barbed wire wrapped in concertina. No up'n over"
Gunner starred at the layout for several minutes, rubbing his chin.
"What's this?" he asked, pointing to the eastern edge.
"Railroad tracks. We think they use it to bring in large components"
"Boys, I think we just found our way in. Boomer, you know how to rob a train"
"Boomer grinned. Gunner turned his attention back to Sparks.
"Plan us a train schedule, Sparks." he said before returning to Boomer.
"We're gonna need a diversion. Boomer, call your girlfriend. Gunner said with a sigh.
Boomer glared at him.
"Susan is NOT my girlfriend. Unfortunately"
"Whatever. Tell her to get here ASAP"
Boomer threw a mock salute and ran off.
"Sarge, we're gonna need to hit this from three sides. I want you to lead a team to take out the mortar...here." he said, pointing on the sand table.
"You gotta do this QUIET. I don't have team assignments yet, but you're gettin' Beth since she's the only one of us who speaks Russian and we might need to report on their radio. Boomer'll be with me on the assault element, as will Sparks. The last element'll be Susan's people staging a diversion. As soon as we get more info you guys'll know."
"Twelve to fifteen outta do it, preferably with vehicle support. Got any technicals with heavies available? We need y'all to act as a distraction, and there's a lot of reds out there." Gunner said.
"Maybe. It all depends on who I can call up. How long do I have to get this together?" Susan asked.
"The night after next. Get'em up here so we can give the briefing. By the way, trans is on you. Remember, 1400 on the fourth"
"Alright, I'll have everybody here. Don't start the fun without me"
Gunner rolled his eyes.
"Indeed. Just make sure to bring some big guns. You got a lot to deal with out there. Anyway, see yourself out. I wanna get some sleep while I can."
Gunner allowed himself to wake slowly, he was seldom allowed to sleep in, much less with a full night's sleep behind it. He yawned, stretched and then sat up on his cot. He looked at the cot next to him, Beth's cot. She lay sprawled on her cot, one arm hanging over the side.
'Even like this, she looks so'
Gunner started to reach over.
'No. This isn't the time. Someday, maybe. But not now'
Gunner got up, still half dressed and pulled on his boots and a shirt before grabbing a Soviet ration pack for breakfast and walking out of the office.
"Yo Gunner! I got you an angle on your ride in." Sparks called.
Sparks motioned him over as he pulled up a map on one of his computers.
"Alright. Now, this train leaves the station at the 'Corpus docks and doesn't stop until it hits the labs"
"Not seein' how this helps..." Gunner interrupted.
"Shut-up. Anyway, right here." he said, pointing to a spot on his map.
"There's a bridge over the tracks. You could, in theory, jump onto the train from there"
"Lemme get this straight. You want me to jump onto a moving train, right"
"Yeah, that's pretty much it"
"And you're sure it'll work"
"Good, 'cause, you, Boomer and Lurch are comin' with me"
"You know those plans better than any of us. You're with the infil team. By the way, what's the time table for this trip look like"
"We catch the train at about 2215 give or take about 15. Train arrives at destination about 2310 or so"
"Alright. I'll pass out the info. Have your stuff ready to go by 1800 tomorrow"
Sparks responded with a thumbs-up.
Boomer stuck his head in the office door.
"Hey, Susan and her people just showed up." he said.
Gunner stuck his head out the door. A crowd of about a dozen people, most ranging from high teens to early twenties in age, stood around in the bay. Many were dressed club-wear, and all but four have hair ranging from pink to light blue in color. "What in God's name! Did a rave take a dump in there!" he yelled after pulling his head back in.
"Are we sure about these guys? Look at the guy at the end. He's walkin' around with his bayonet fixed. He won't hit shit!" Gunner said as he walked to the door.
"He's got an AK, he won't hit shit anyway. besides, they don't gotta do well, they gotta take a while to die, right?" Boomer said.
"That's true for all of us." Gunner muttered as he walked out.
He looked out over the small crowd.
"Alright everybody, listen up! Here's how tonight's mission is gonna go down...!" he began.