Atlantic Bridge – 20 –
The Presse shop, Ambialet
In the bedroom down in the village, Akbar was readying the fourth grenade. He had barely put his eye to the viewfinder when a single high velocity round exploded through the lens and buried itself in his brain, causing immediate and catastrophic damage before exiting in a pink cloud of matter and bone debris. Already dead, Akbar’s body crumpled to the floor, in a grotesque parody of a pilgrim at prayer.
Back in the devastated monastery, Ben Tobias was marshalling his men.
“Okay, the RPG’s neutralised, but we don’t have much time. A small task force has made cover beneath the Monastery and will be seeking incursion to mop up any survivors. There are at least five of them.” He turned to Henri, who had jumped down from the table and was shouldering his weapon.
“Henri, I think you should get your people out the way we came in. We’ve two inflatables hidden beyond the tree line by the river fifty meters upstream. You can use them to get out of the immediate area. My men and I will try and neutralise this invading force. You can’t be caught. You need to get out and regroup.”
“Non!” Henri was indignant. “We will not run and leave you to fight our battles, Lieutenant!”
“Henri!” said Ben desperately, “You have intel that these people will extract from you, one way or another. If we’re captured, we can’t tell what we don’t know. It’s better that way,” he said, his face an unreadable mask. Henri thought for a moment.
“An honour, Lieutenant” he said, extending his hand. The men held a firm grip for a few moments.
“Now go, Henri, get to safety, and send a transmission to British Army HQ when you’re secure.”
Henri ushered Marie-Christine and the others into the passageway Ben and his men had used earlier. He turned and called over his shoulder as he was disappearing into the darkness within the great stone fireplace.
“Live to fight another day, Englishman, and we will endeavour to do the same”. He raised his hand, and was gone.
Ben spun round, all business now. “Corporal Vann, take Bryan and Thompson with you and cover the lower levels. We need to try and contain them down there. We can’t be sure how many of them there are, and I don’t want them having the run of the place.”
“Sir” replied Vann, as the three men took off down the relatively undamaged staircase.
Bakti had watched the devastation wrought upon the Monastery with satisfaction. The incursion team were all pressed up against the face of the rock, covered in the dust and debris that had showered down following the attack. They prepared to crouch and run zigzag up the exposed path leading to the Monastery entrance. Bakti checked his watch. Why hadn’t Akbar fired the fourth grenade? He activated his comm. link. “Akbar? Come in. Fire the fourth grenade! Repeat, fire the fourth grenade!” Static was his only reply.
“The infidels have neutralised the RPG. There will be no cover fire for our assault on the entrance. Allah will protect us. Mustafa, return to the bridge and maintain position in case we need cover fire for our departure. Anwar, hold a position at the base of the path, count off thirty seconds then follow. We will zigzag in two pairs, thirty seconds apart. Iqbal, you’re with me, we’ll lead off. Go!”
Henri and his ragged band made their way slowly through the tunnel, reaching the steep gradient that would take them beneath the River Tarn to safety. The further they went, the more they could taste the dust in the air, irritating their eyes, sticking in their throats. Suddenly, in the darkness, they saw it. A huge rock fall had collapsed the tunnel dead ahead. There was nothing for it. They would have to dig through with their bare hands.
“The torches, Dryden, bring them here, we have work to do!”
© Kev Moore 2008 All Rights Reserved
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