current mood: geeky
On June 26, 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") remains unavailable.
Time: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 (wee hours).
Place: Jungle somewhere in Myanmar.
Last Event: A nasty, close-range night fight.
In the aftermath of the night's brief-but-intense clash – and life-saving surgery, in Vinnie's case – Paul and Zhang make sure that the six surviving enemies are disarmed and bound, and then strip the four dead ones and drag the corpses to the edge of the camp. The conscious, mobile Agents appropriate their prisoners' carbines, pistols, and knives. There's plenty to go around, especially given that Lev and Vinnie are in no shape to fight, and Qoqa is effectively one-handed. The attackers' night-vision gear suffered badly in the struggle, but two sets are operating condition; these are earmarked for use by the team's sentries. Jili and Paul take the middle watch, and then Klas and Zhang keep an eye out until morning.
Come daylight, Vinnie is still unconscious, which worries Qoqa. Qoqa works on Vinnie some more, this time with Klas and Chaturvedi's help, and eventually revives him; Vinnie's only words are variations on "Ouch!" Qoqa reports that it would be unwise to move Vinnie more than a short distance, and indicates that even that would have to be done slowly. Thus, the Agents elect to dig in. This means finding supplies, the best bet for which would be the bivouac or cache where the group's attackers must have left the bulk of their gear. Klas, Wen, and Zhang are dispatched to locate this.
While those three are out searching, Anabel and Paul get the job of taking stock of what the prisoners brought with them, besides knives, pistols, suppressed carbines, ammo, and night-vision gear. They turn up nothing else but insect repellent, muddy jungle boots, dirty clothes in a jungle camouflage pattern, and Burmese cigarettes. Just as important, they don't find dog tags, insignia, or maps with military grid references on them. These men appear to be operating either independently or off the record.
Once Paul and Anabel have finished their task, Qoqa takes charge of the prisoners. She and Anabel try to interrogate them at first, but it soon becomes apparent that they have no language in common with the Agents. Anabel and Chaturvedi both suspect that the captives speak Burmese, Thai, or maybe Khmer. Eventually, everyone at the camp decides that it's time to let Qoqa practice her other skills involving medical equipment. This doesn't extract any useful intelligence, but it makes Qoqa feel better about the situation.
Meanwhile, Wen leads Klas and Zhang through the brush, following the attackers' trail away from the camp. She knows she's getting close to something important when she spots a Chinese Type 66 mine (essentially a Claymore) hidden up ahead, rigged with a barely visible tripwire. She disarms and buries this, and marks the spot for good measure. Peering ahead, she sees signs of a camp and realizes that it's laid out in the fashion of Chinese-trained and some North Korean-trained jungle operators. This information helps her quickly locate and disarm other mines, and identify where to search for gear.
Before long, Klas and Zhang find a camouflaged stash of supplies. The spoils include ammunition, batteries, food, and medical gear enough for 10 men to operate for close to a week in the jungle, as well as flares, insect netting, a large radio, eight more Type 66 mines, and some cheap liquor. Zhang, Wen, and Klas realize that it will take them three trips to drag all this back to the camp. After a final check for booby traps, they get cracking.
By early afternoon, the prisoners are all quite dead and their equipment has been thoroughly inventoried. Fortunately, nearly all of the gear is of Chinese manufacture, and merely stickered in Burmese. This makes identifying everything a simple matter of removing the stickers so that the team's Chinese-readers can look at the original labeling. Hamid and Jili are given the radio, broken night-vision gear, and batteries, and asked to see what they can do. While those two tinker, Klas takes charge of getting the camp in order.
It takes most of the afternoon for the able-bodied Agents to drag the dead prisoners a safe distance from the camp and bury them (along with the team's bloody dressings and gauze), for Wen to set up the captured mines in a perimeter around the site, and for Klas, Qoqa, and Wen to camouflage the works. Toward early evening, everybody washes up in the nearby spring, taking advantage of soap found in the captured supplies. Qoqa scrubs Vinnie and Lev clean, and sets up netting over them. Then everybody sits down to eat.
Over dinner, Hamid and Jili report on the electronics. Hamid says that by swapping parts and making minor repairs, he has managed to get seven sets of night-vision gear in working condition. Jili explains that the radio is an old, clunky thing, but fairly powerful; she has rigged an improvised long-range antenna, and feels that if somebody could get it up a tall tree, she could boost the broadcast output enough to get a signal into Thailand. She hastens to add that doing so would eat up a lot of battery life and almost certainly alert any hostiles who might happen to be listening.
After some discussion, the Agents agree that staying put and signaling for help is their most logical option. With that decision made, Zhang is sent up a tree to position the antenna. This goes well, and before long Jili is ready to broadcast. To save power, she transmits in Morse, tapping out SOS, the plane's registration number, and then a brief message in English: "Plane crash. Respond on this frequency."
It isn't long before Jili gets a voice response, initially in Thai and then in halting English. It's the Royal Thai Air Force! Jili grabs Anabel, explains that she can't talk for long without chewing up the batteries, and then boosts the power. Anabel gets on the horn and requests assistance. As Anabel speaks, Jili signals that she's fighting jamming, and that Anabel had better hurry. However, it's soon clear that the RTAF man is neither inclined nor cleared to leap into action whenever he hears a random voice broadcasting from inside Myanmar; he eventually says "Please monitor this frequency" and signs off. Jili warns that the jamming indicates that someone was almost certainly listening, which means that there may be trouble while waiting for the RTAF to pass Anabel's request up the ladder.
Thus, the Agents go on high alert, moving the wounded to the center of the camp and setting up watches around the perimeter. All the guns are loaded, and the spares are set near Klas, Paul, and Wen so that they can lay down fire uninterrupted, if necessary. Only Jili gets out of watch duty, as she must monitor the radio. The night passes slowly – and for Vinnie, painfully – but no trouble emerges from the jungle.
Toward dawn, Jili receives a signal. The new broadcaster gives only a codeword by way of identification, and then requests confirmation of the plane's registration number with the flight number and pilot's license number. Vinnie manages to scratch these out for Anabel, who transmits the information. There's a brief delay, and then the voice says, "ETA your location two hours. Mark LZ with red flares." Anabel tries to get more details, but the mysterious voice simply says its message again and then signs off.
The Agents aren't sure what to make of this, but without any proof that they aren't being duped, they decide to play things safe. Wen takes a moment to check on her mines, while Klas hands out flares to those who can walk. After that, just about everybody who has two working hands grabs a carbine and takes up a camouflaged shooting position. The exception is Jili, who once again stays with the radio.
After a wait of just under two hours, Jili receives a strong signal: "Give us a brief pulse to aid triangulation." She repeats this to her allies, who signal for her to go ahead. About a minute after Jili transmits, Anabel and Wen can hear helicopters – and moments later, two unmarked choppers zoom past overhead, coming in low from the west. Once everybody is armed and ready, Klas and Wen run to a nearby clearing and pop the flares. This brings the helicopters swooping back in from the east. They slow to a hover overhead and drop lines, allowing armed men to zip to the ground.
Initial contact is cautious, but there's no shooting. It soon becomes apparent that these men aren't from Myanmar or Thailand, but India – they're some sort of naval commandos, probably MARCOS from Port Blair, flying off a vessel in the Andaman Sea. They appear to be genuinely concerned for the group's wellbeing, and under the distinct impression that they're extracting Indian citizens. This is doubtless due to the Indian passports Chaturvedi somehow procured (bolstered by a cryptic "That's money well-spent!" on his part).
The Indian soldiers immediately start winching the Agents out four at a time, taking special care with the wounded. Throughout all this, the commandos say little beyond what's needed to pull off the extraction, although they do throw in the occasional, polite "Please hurry – company is coming." Klas, Paul, Wen, and Zhang are the last aboard. As the helicopters streak westward out of Myanmar, moving low and fast, Wen just manages to glimpse movement in the jungle below. It looks like rescue arrived just in time.