Authors: James Rouch
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Men's Adventure
“Not our doing.”
“Never mind them. We keep moving.”
Dashing to the next staircase, Revell sent a blast from his shotgun straight up it, then stepped aside. Other members of the team fired baton rounds against the wall at its top.
The cylinders of plastic deformed on impact and whirled away to right and left. For a few precious seconds, anyone who waited up there in ambush for them would be either flat on the floor taking cover, or knocked down and in no state to fight.
Flanked by submachine gunners, Revell went up two steps at a time. As he reached the top, a bullet smacked plaster from the wall beside him. He turned to see a Russian paratrooper being hurled backwards by the impact of the contents of a magazine.
Revell stripped the body of three fragmentation and one stun grenade, even as it made its last twitching movements.
Through fire doors at the far end of a corridor another figure appeared. A Kalashnikov was levelled and already spitting bullets.
Shotguns and automatics blazed a return fire, and the Russian was almost torn apart by the multiple impacts. He crashed to the floor, flailing in his death throes.
Darting in to retrieve another stun bomb clipped to the dying man's webbing, Revell found himself at the foot of yet another set of stairs. He noticed them at the same instant he saw a grenade tumbling down towards him.
Lunging forward, he caught it before its final impact, and thrust it under the partially dismembered body beside him. Throwing himself aside, he was only a couple of meters away when it detonated.
The corpse was lifted by the blast. Blood and intestines spattered the walls and ceiling. Revell felt himself being shoved sideways by the shock wave. His respirator was torn from his face. He wasn't aware of any noise, and thought for an instant his eardrums had been burst. Then he was helped to his feet, and knew that wasn't the case when their machine roared into action beside him.
Firing a fifty-round belt from the hip, in precise ten-round bursts, Dooley sent ball- and armour-piercing rounds through the walls flanking the head of the stairs. A paratrooper clutching an AK47 staggered into view. Blood streamed from his face. Taking a grenade from his still-dazed officer, Hyde lobbed it to land beside the man.
Pulling his mask back on, Revell felt the wall against which he leant jolt hard against him. He was aware of men rushing past, of the sound of intensive exchanges of fire. Then there came the concussion of two more grenade explosions.
Retrieving his shotgun from the floor, Revell found he still had the use of all his limbs, though his wrist was numb where he'd jarred it on his heavy landing. Apart from general bruising and a ringing in his ears, he appeared to have suffered no injury.
The pieces of flesh littering the corridor told him how very different it could have been.
On the floor above, the firing had ceased. He made his way to that level. It was to find a scene of far worse carnage than that he'd left.
Component parts of several bodies were scattered about. Blood drenched every surface and ran in sluggish rivulets across the polished tile floor. Lumps of tissue slid slowly down every wall and adhered to the cracked plaster overhead. There was an appalling stench from the spilled contents of several stomachs and bowels.
One of his own men lay dead, shot through the chest. A high velocity bullet had penetrated his flak vest, passed clean through, and exited below his neck. The collar of his body armour had been ripped off. Another man was having a rough splint bound about a shattered arm. He smiled vaguely through a morphia-induced haze.
“That seems to have accounted for them all, Major.” Hyde indicated a makeshift barricade.
A severed arm lay across the top of a shrapnel-holed filing cabinet. From beneath a collapsed pile of word processors, projected a pair of legs, incongruously naked except for their paratrooper boots. It would have taken more than that to add humour to the scene.
“Just the two casualties?”
“If you're okay, yes, Major.” Hyde had been taking in the officer's torn and blood-soaked battle dress.
This isn't mine, I'm happy to say. Have the building searched from top to bottom, every room. I don't think it's likely, but one of them might just be holed up, waiting for us to drop our guard.”
“Something you should see in here, Major.” Ripper came out of a side room. Revell noticed the look on his face and asked no questions, going to see for himself.
There were about thirty bodies in the little office. Most were in police uniform, several women among them. They showed clear evidence of having been mown down by automatic fire from the doorway.
Burke trudged up the stairs as they came out of the room. “Just checked the cell block, Major. Five dead police down there. The prisoners are all okay. Still locked up tight.”
“Find the keys. Get them up here.” Revell looked about at the mess. “They can clear the place up. Well have to leave a defending force here. No reason why they should have to walk back and forth through this. Now let's find that armoury.”
Hyde followed. “I hope it's well stocked. This was only the start.”
The first light of dawn was in the sky as the hunting team left police headquarters. There was no shortage of weapons now, nor of ammunition.
In the armoury they had discovered an Aladdin's cave, containing every infantry weapon that had for so long been in short supply in the Zone itself. Rack after rack had been filled with small arms. Also there had been several cases of assorted grenades and a batch of antitank rockets.
Revell had spent some minutes musing over what those last items had been doing there. They were hardly standard issue to any police force, not even SWAT teams. He could only think they were there in case the police found themselves having to put down a revolt by army units. It was not a nice thought, that such things had to be planned for, but he knew it to be necessary. It had happened in Hanover once. Only quick action by the police had stopped a rebellion by a French infantry unit.
He'd insisted that all the men rearm with Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine guns, to replace the assorted armament they had obtained from the transport police. Their greater accuracy at their maximum effective range would be a useful asset in the wide streets and broad plazas of the city.
So too would its thirty-percent faster rate of fire, when it came to close quarters engagements. And the high capacity magazine was another point in the weapon's favour.
Intending to leave only a couple of sections to hold the police HQ, Revell had been less than happy to be ordered to leave most of his force there. He wasn't told as much, but it appeared likely that everyone would be transferring from the bunker as soon as conditions permitted. They wanted to be quite certain it would stay in their hands until the switch was made.
There was no way Revell was about to accept a garrison roll for himself. He intended to lead the two sections he'd been able to detach to assist in the clearing- up operation. That was how he found himself with them as they made for their first objective.
The target was a building close by the Theatiner Church near Odeons Platz. From it snipers were dominating the road junction and the entrances to a dozen large shelters.
“You think they know what they're doing?” Hyde maintained his position a few paces behind the officer as they hugged the storefronts.
“What I think is that the generals are interfering, trying to run the operation by committee.” Moving quickly from cover to cover, Revell had no intention of giving any sniper a clear shot or the time to take it.
“Should be exciting then, when those special forces units arrive.” Hyde shrank back into a doorway as the scouts signalled a warning. “At the moment when quick thinking will be called for, they'll be going into a huddle and voting on motions and amendments.”
There was the sound of breaking glass further along the road. Then there came an indistinct crunching noise, like someone was walking on broken glass. For a brief while there came a scuffling, rummaging sound, and then the rapid patter of running feet.
“Looters. Let them go. The police can have them, we're not here for that.” Two young men in trainers and tracksuits came sprinting down the sidewalk. Trying to keep up with them was a girl. All of them had their arms full of small electrical goods.
Seeing the patrol ahead of them, the men hesitated, turned, and went to cut across the road. The girl followed, losing more ground as she was slowed by having to zigzag between parked cars.
Both men were hit by a burst of fire. They threw their arms in the air, scattering their goods, and were spun around by the impacts of the soft-nosed Soviet bullets. Expanding, dumdum fashion, they had an explosive effect, tearing flesh open and destroying the tissue beneath.
Neither was killed outright. While one of them kicked wildly, threshing about in his extreme agony, the other lay paralyzed. A fountain of blood spouted from his mouth, to splash audibly on the wheel of a Volkswagen.
“Keep down.” Revell shouted to the girl. In her unreasoning fear at the shock of what she was witnessing, she had stopped. Unable to take her eyes off the horrific sights in the road, she froze.
She was too far away. Revell knew he could never reach her in time.
The reality of the situation appeared to strike her, and she threw down the loot. Revell was sure she was going to turn and run, but she didn't. In a trancelike state, visibly shaking, she started towards the sniper's victims.
Scanning, the buildings opposite, Revell calculated that the origin of the fire had to be one of the second-floor windows of a small hotel. To an inch he could estimate when she would be within the sniper's field of fire.
“All weapons. The hotel, second floor. Fire.” As an example, Revell blasted off a whole magazine. He had to fight to keep the tip of the muzzle down, as the escaping gasses forced it to climb away from the aiming point.
Twenty other submachine guns and two rocket launchers unleashed a storm of steel and high explosive. Two hundred meters off, the facade of the hotel seemed to dissolve in a cloud of dust and fragments of brickwork.
The first of the larger projectiles struck immediately below a window. Vivid red and yellow flame climbed in a bubble up the front of the structure.
Soaring in through the smoke created by the first, the second rocket detonated in the heart of the building. A blow torch of flame jetted across the street.
Heedless of what was happening about her, the girl reached the men. One of them had died, but the other still moved convulsively. She bent towards him, her hand reaching out hesitantly.
A single shot punched into her hip, and she collapsed with a cry of pain and distress. Her fingers ran down her side until they encountered the deep hole created, and the pulped flesh within it. Her screams went so high as to almost go off the audible scale.
Under covering fire, Sampson scrambled low behind the parked vehicles, until he could reach the closest gap and dash out through it to reach her.
As he grabbed her by the collar of her jacket, another shot was aimed at them. It struck the road a little short and ricocheted up underneath the girl. She bucked at the impact and then writhed, making it hard for him to keep his grip.
Another single round drilled through the skull of the wounded man, and he was suddenly still.
Fire from the MP5s continued to drench the suspected building in a hail of lead. By sheer volume alone it was successful in suppressing the enemy attention.
No more bullets came their way, as Sampson dragged the girl to cover. “Shit. How am I supposed to put a dressing down there?” Cutting away the girl's jeans, Sampson examined the damage created by the second shot.
“You better do something. She's bleeding real bad.” Ripper looked at the nearest of the stores. “I've got an idea.”
He tackled the plate glass of a drapers with the butt of his submachine gun. It finally shattered, and he was able to reach into the display. Selecting a pack of bed sheets, he tossed them to the medic.
“Here, try these.”
“Too late to be any help. We lost her. Don't think there was anything we could have done.” Sampson sat back on his heels beside the body.
“I hope the police roadblocks keep the tourists and opportunists out of the city.” Hyde covered the staring face. “If they don't, there are going to be a lot more like her.”
“There's still an air raid warning in force.” Garrett avoided looking at the girl's torn and mangled lower torso. “No one is going to be so stupid as to try and come in before the all-clear, are they?”
“A lot will have been on their way here overnight by road.” That was a point worrying Revell no less than Stadler. “They'll be coming in by all the back routes to avoid the expected traffic. There's no obvious signs of damage to warn them off.”
Hyde watched Sampson draw a sheet over the body. It was instantly drenched in blood. “If they haven't heard anything on the radio, and manage to avoid all the checkpoints, there'll be nothing to stop them.”
“Maybe this is the first.” Dooley pointed to the far end of the street. A BMW coupe, headlamps blazing, was accelerating fast towards them. Straight into the sniper's killing ground.
A glance at the hotel from which the fire had come reassured Revell. It was well alight. Flames sprouted from several windows, and the canopies above were flaring brightly in the early morning light. The sniper must have been driven out.
The BMW did not check its speed as it closed on the rolling bank of smoke coming from the side street. Revell sent Dooley forward to flag it down, but even as he stepped off the curb, a weapon was aimed from a rear window and a wild burst was sprayed in his direction.
Dooley threw himself behind the parked cars, looking back to the major to see if he should return the fire. Before Revell could make that decision, the BMW was almost level with them.
Hyde had noted the inexperienced way in which the coupe was handled, was ready to fire, anticipating the command, but it didn't come. It wasn't needed.