current mood: geeky
On April 17, we had Bonnie ("Xiang Wen," a.k.a. "Wu Xie Zhi" and "Dot"), Marc ("Anabel Windsor," a.k.a. "Abigail Wilson" and "Vicky"), Mike ("Vincenzo Calliente," of many aliases), and Torsten ("Qoqa Ramazanov," a.k.a. "Zoya Petrovna Sidorov"). Martin ("Zhang Zhu," a.k.a. "Harry") continued to be unavailable owing to schedule conflicts.
Time: Friday, March 16, 2012 (pre-dawn hours).
Place: Ski chalet in B.C.
Last Event: A series of nasty, close-range gunfights.
Once the chalet is quiet and the Agents who defeated the raiders have swept the premises, Wen shouts the all-clear to Anabel, who in turn dashes to the wine cellar and updates Hamid and Qoqa. Anabel also asks Arnaud, "Bruce," and Zulfiqar to stay put for the time being, just in case. After that, Qoqa, Vinnie, and Wen grab fire extinguishers and put out the fires set by the attackers' flash-bangs. Everybody stays indoors and avoids the broken windows, because if Wen's earlier observations were accurate, there are snipers on the hill overlooking the building. The group's next move requires some planning and a way to deal with the snipers; a mad scramble for the vehicles is out of the question.
While her associates fight fires, Anabel tackles the unpleasant job of searching the fallen intruders. Mostly, she finds ammunition, batteries, grenades, and first-aid gear – consumable supplies for a raid. However, a few of the attackers also have what appear to be small tablet computers. Anabel collects these and brings them to Jili for examination.
Jili discovers that these devices have fingerprint readers, and warns that it's possible that any tampering to get around this might irrecoverably scramble the data as a security measure. When Qoqa overhears this, she asks Anabel where she got the tablet that Jili is fiddling with. Anabel points to a bleeding intruder lying motionless on the floor. Qoqa examines him and says, "This one isn't dead yet." Jili takes the cue and presses the man's thumb to the tablet's screen, unlocking it.
It doesn't take Jili long to get the tablet working. Her first discovery is that the files it holds are entirely in English, which may or may not be a clue. Far more disturbing are the numerous images of the Agents, their weapons, and their gear, all of them taken here in the chalet. The group's photos are annotated with their current cover names. Given these details, Anabel and Jili are certain that Adnan snapped the pictures during his stay with the team. There are also shots of Arnaud, "Bruce," and Zulfiqar, although these were taken elsewhere.
Along with the images, Jili manages to call up text records, some of them attached to specific photos. Information includes the Agents' known skill sets and suspected former affiliations, details of the guard rotation here at the chalet, a floor plan of the place, observations on the generator and power lines, and the technical specs of the group's wireless security gear. Other notes indicate that "Bruce" and Zulfiqar's weapons have been sabotaged. This material has the character of a professional intelligence workup on the team and the men they were assigned to protect. The files do contain some inaccurate guesswork, but even the speculation is surprisingly close to the truth. None of these data offer any clues about who the attackers or Adnan work for, but the use of the word "terrorist" to describe the Agents suggests a national power.
Peering over Jili's shoulder, Paul remarks that based on his own experience doing similar work-ups, he would venture to say that Adnan was the only person in a position to have collected these details. He adds that it's relatively raw intelligence, not something pulled from some kind of agency dossier, suggesting to him that Adnan was the advance scout of the team who assaulted the chalet. Jili comments that Adnan was probably reporting in by phone. This modus operandi implies that these people were operating with a high degree of autonomy – handling reconnaissance and technical support as well as the sharp end of the stick – meaning that their boss considered deniability a priority.
Hamid and Jili agree that given the sophistication of the enemy's equipment, planning, and tactics, any of these tablets might be listening or broadcasting a location. Thus, they make a point of collecting all the electronic devices carried by the defeated gunmen and Adnan, removing the batteries, and shutting them inside the microwave oven. The plan is to destroy them once the team gets the power back on.
Meanwhile, outdoors, Zhang follows the footprints that the two men he shot left in the snow as they were moving into position. These lead back down the narrow, wooded lane running from the chalet to the highway. Zhang moves stealthily, staying behind trees, boulders, and snow banks. After cresting the small rise that conceals the lodge from the main road, he glimpses a vehicle. He belly-crawls forward to take a closer look, approaching slowly and remaining off to one side of the driveway.
Eventually, Zhang comes upon three SUVs – civilian HMMWVs of some kind – all of them black, all with heavily tinted glass. Peering through the scope of his captured sniper rifle, Zhang spots a low, flat sensor pod of some sort mounted on the roof of each vehicle. He also notices that the utes are staggered left-right-left and parked pointing down the lane, away from the chalet, ready for a speedy escape. This raises the possibility that there are drivers on standby. Ultimately, Zhang decides that taking on at least three and perhaps more enemies by himself, when they may well be able to detect him with electronic assistance, would be ill-advised. He opts to sneak back to the lodge for reinforcements.
Zhang arrives at around the same time that Jili finishes her examination of the tablet computers and Vinnie extinguishes the last of the fires. His associates are relieved to see that he's alive. Zhang quickly explains what he saw down the road, and then Jili tells Zhang what she discovered. The Agents decide that the best course of action would be to deal with the vehicles and then double back on the snipers, hopefully cutting them off from escape. Being the group's primary shooters, Klas, Lev, and Wen are given this job, with Hamid for technical support in case there's equipment of interest in the SUVs.
As for how to take out the vehicles, Wen suggests explosives. She shows the others an armload of concussion grenades that she collected off the defeated attackers – nine in all. After a quick discussion with Vinnie, Wen explains that given a few minutes, she and Vinnie could cluster these in groups of three with a single fuze, creating three fairly serious bombs for use against three SUVs. The others agree, and Vinnie and Wen get to work. Qoqa uses this time to tape up Klas' ribs, which took some serious cracking when his vest stopped several bullets earlier on.
Once everybody is ready, Klas and Lev arm themselves with captured carbines (which they recognize as atypical FN SCAR-L variants) and load up on extra ammunition, while Wen grabs the sniper rifle that Zhang brought back (which she immediately identifies as an Accuracy International AW). Each of the three takes one of the improvised bombs, too. Hamid shoulders a carbine but otherwise goes relatively light. Then the four of them head out, following Zhang's instructions on how to leave the chalet and circle down the hill out of view of possible snipers.
When Lev sees the SUVs up ahead, he gestures for Hamid to fall back and get out of sight, which Hamid does. Then Wen, Lev, and Klas cross the lane and start crawling forward, using concealment as best as they are able. If there are enemies in the area, they don't react to this. After several tense minutes, Klas, Lev, and Wen are in place, each lurking within easy throwing distance of one of the parked utes. Both Klas and Wen can see Lev, and follow his lead when he takes out and prepares his bomb. On his signal, all three arm their explosives, toss them beneath parked vehicles, and dive for cover.
A few seconds later, all three bombs explode. With their blasts partially confined under the vehicles, the devices are especially destructive. It's evident from the resulting damage that these SUVs were entirely unarmored civilian models. Nobody gets out or shoots back – there's just silence. Wen dashes to higher ground and sets up her AW, Klas rushes forward and positions himself where he can see all three vehicles, and then Lev moves in to examine the wreckage.
A look inside each of the three vehicles reveals a driver. The middle SUV also has a second man and several cases full of electronics. Lev doesn't think that anybody is alive, but he isn't one to take chances; he shoots these four in the head just to be sure. Once Lev is fairly sure that the area is secure, he shouts for Hamid to come take a look at things.
Hamid does a quick assessment of the technical situation. Pulling out his phone, he confirms that blowing up the SUVs shut down the jamming. Looking into the middle vehicle, he states that the electronics cases contained a jammer and some sort of tactical base station – both of which are thoroughly destroyed. Then glancing around the site, he points up at a lamppost and the power line dangling from it, and notes that the power was cut right here, in a way that means he won't be able to restore it easily. While Hamid analyzes the situation, Klas gets the grim job of crawling around the carnage, collecting tablet computers and phones off the dead. With that done, the four Agents decide to head back to update their allies and deal with the snipers.
Near the chalet, Hamid takes the captured electronics and sneaks back indoors. He finds the others waiting, Qoqa treating Zulfiqar's wounds. Hamid updates everyone on the situation: the power won't be coming back on, the jamming has stopped, and Wen, Lev, and Klas are going to eliminate the snipers on the hill. Jili tosses the additional phones and tablets into the microwave oven.
Outside, Klas, Lev, and Wen move behind concealment – hard cover, where available – and make their way toward the hill at the edge of the property, staying as far from the chalet as they can so as to stay out of the snipers' sight. Peering up the slope, it isn't obvious that there's anybody up there. However, between scrub, rocks, and snow, there's plenty to hide behind. The challenge here is approaching close enough to get a shot without getting shot. Thus, the three initially privilege stealth over speed in their advance.
The people inside the chalet decide that it would be helpful to their allies outdoors if they were to distract the snipers somewhat. To this end, Qoqa, Vinnie, Zhang, and Zulfiqar gather all the remaining carbines, remove the suppressors, and scrounge together as many magazines as they can find on the dead men. Then they edge over near a window, using the lodge's substantial stone hearth for cover, and start blazing away at the hilltop. Qoqa, Zhang, and Zulfiqar take turns at this, keeping up a constant stream of fire, while Vinnie reloads as quickly as he can.
This ruse seems to have an effect: Within a heartbeat of the first shot fired, there's return fire from the hill. It's quite clearly aimed at the muzzle flashes from the chalet. Fortunately, the Agents anticipated this, and are exposing their weapons, not their heads. But a couple of bullets whizz distressingly close. This doesn't discourage anyone, and they continue the exercise.
As soon as Wen, Lev, and Klas hear and see the gunfire from the chalet, and the muffled booms of someone up the hill returning fire, they pick up the pace. They soon come across a pair of men in winter camouflage, set up behind a large boulder. One is watching the lodge through a spotting scope, the other is blasting away with a huge, scoped rifle, and neither is watching the immediate area as closely as he should. With bullets hitting all over the place due to the wild fire from the building, the three Agents on the hill decide to keep their distance and take aim.
At Lev's signal, all three Agents shoot. Lev focuses mostly on signaling, and his shots serve largely as a starting gun. Wen, however, scores a perfect headshot on the enemy sniper, dropping him instantly. Klas puts a short burst into the spotter's head, with similar results. As soon as the team's victims stop twitching, Wen whips out her now-functional phone and lets her associates know that they can stop shooting at her.
Once again, Klas moves up and gets the fun job of searching dead men for electronics. Wen and Lev also look around. Wen has some regrets about leaving behind her victim's tricked-out Barrett M107. However, the Agents' next move involves getting out of here and returning to civilization, not shooting at vehicles and buildings, so she leaves the weapon alone. Once Klas has what he wants from the dead men, he, Lev, and Wen scrambled back down the hill to join the others.
Meanwhile, as soon as Wen phones in that all is clear, the Agents in the chalet get to work. Hamid runs outside to start the generator, Vinnie goes to warm up the group's cars, and the others start gathering personal possessions and preparing to leave. Vinnie is the only one who encounters difficulties: He reflexively checks the vehicles and finds that each one has had a mine half-hidden under a wheel. It's a different corner of the vehicle in each case, and whoever did the job must have deformed a tire to get the mine in place where it would be hard to see. Examining the mines carefully, he concludes that taking pressure off – say, by driving the vehicle away – would trigger them.
When Klas, Lev, and Wen return, Vinnie summons Wen – the only team member with much experience with mines – and has her take a look at the vehicles. She thinks that she can use discarded grenade pins as improvised replacement pins for the mines, and goes off in search of such. She turns up more pins than she needs, and gets to work bending the wire into the correct shape. Then, waving the others to a safe distance, she begins the tricky job of disarming the mines. Fortunately for everyone, especially Wen, this goes well.
While Wen risks her life outside, Jili rounds up the last of the phones and tablet computers collected by her associates and sticks these in the microwave oven with the rest. Once Hamid has the jenny running, she sets the oven to "high" and zaps the electronics until everything catches fire and burns out. Qoqa systematically collects spent casings inside the chalet, and then polices up all the guns and starts wiping them down thoroughly. Everybody else rounds up the last of the personal belongings and gets ready to leave.
Once Wen is done and the mines are safely set aside, everybody but Vinnie starts loading the vehicles. Then they drag out their attackers' dead bodies, and all of the weapons, ammo, mines, and grenades, and leave them on the snow for the police to find. The hope is that the Canadian authorities will investigate the scene and ultimately bring political pressure down on their unknown enemy. Qoqa makes a point of wiping down anything her teammates might have touched, however – there's no point in giving the Canadians solid evidence of the group's presence. Vinnie doesn't participate in this because he's too busy rigging the chalet to burn down.
After the cars are loaded and the evidence is neatly arranged in the snow for the RCMP to find, it's time to head out. Zhang takes the wheel of the lead vehicle, with Klas, Lev, and Hamid aboard. Vinnie chauffeurs Arnaud, "Bruce" and Zulfiqar in the middle vehicle. Paul drives the rear vehicle, with Anabel, Jili, Qoqa, and Wen crammed in. Nobody brings anything illegal – just in case the police are already on the way and decide to show an interest in travelers in the area. As the last car pulls out, Vinnie's firebomb goes off, setting fire to the multimillion-dollar ski lodge even as the sun rises behind it.