CHAPTER TWENTY-TWOThe Barents Sea
2027 Hours Zulu
Killing the engines and leaving the seiner to drift, the members of Team Two shrugged into their dry suits and rebreather units. In swim-buddy pairs, they checked over each other’s equipment to make sure everything was mounted and configured properly for the dive. The COBRA base was still maybe a hundred kilometers away but the boat made for a larger target, so instead it came down to a long, frigid swim. At least they had the scooters.
Heaving the scooters overboard, they sank several meters into the water then stayed neutrally buoyant as the team dove in after them. Visibility wasn’t great in the murky depths but following the tracking beacon would keep them on course. Starting up the scooters, they fell into a ragged formation and began churning steadily towards their objective.
Forty-five minutes later, they abandoned the scooters and continued forward under their own power. If the base were equipped with sonar or hydrophones, they probably would have picked up the engine noise – an unacceptable risk. Individual divers would be much harder to spot.
Just under half an hour after that, something loomed in the water up ahead of them, dark and solid. As they neared, multiple domed hulls slid lazily into focus, looking like a cluster of giant metal mushrooms connected together by lattices of tunnels. Interior lights spilling out of portholes dotted the surface of each dome and they dove deeper to avoid them. Passing under the structures to look for a way in, they found a moon pool opening under one of the outlying structures and swam towards it.
* * *Location Unknown
What felt like days of continuous brutal beatings without sleep or food was taking its toll on Hauser. He was suffering from the onset of the crazies, where delirium threatened to overwhelm his grasp of reality. As it was, he had taken to bursting loudly into song whenever his interrogators asked him a question.
“Oh, they’ve got no time for glory in the Infantry,” he intoned in a rich tenor. “Oh, they’ve got no use for praises loudly sung!” How ironic!
“But in every soldier’s heart in all the Infantry, shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young!”
A vicious right hook to the mouth only tripped him up for a second.
“Shines the name! Rodger Young!” He belted on, “Fought and died for the men he marched among! In the everlasting annals of the Infantry glows the last deed of Private Rodger Young!”
An alarmed pounding at the door didn’t faze him either and he kept singing as the hooded man opened the hatch and had a harried conversation with the man outside.
“We’ve got trouble,” the hooded man told the other trooper as he came back, shouting to be heard over Hauser’s racket. “You stay here and watch him. Anyone comes through that door, kill them!”
With that, the hooded man slipped out and shut the hatch behind him. The remaining man grabbed a greasy rag and stuffed it in Hauser’s mouth, succeeding only in muffling, but not stopping, the sound.
* * *
The reports of gunfire were deafening in the sealed metal corridors of the base as O’Hara traded fire with a pair of COBRA troopers. Hunkered down behind a ninety-degree bend at the other end of the hall, the troopers had a perfect kill zone since the path O’Hara had planned to take offered no cover. The walls were arched at the top, unbroken by doorways or any outcroppings that she could hide behind. As long as those troopers held their position, they could easily take her down if she tried to move from where she was. Wilkinson, Kibbey and Snake-Eyes, kneeling directly across from her, weren’t faring much better and behind her, Hinton’s heavy machine gun was too large to be practical in such close quarters, so that didn’t help.
Complicating matters further, since their ammo was limited, they had to make every shot count but the COBRAs, presumably much better equipped, were under no such restrictions. They liberally hosed Element Black’s positions with fire, forcing them to keep their heads down.
“We could really use a grenade right about now,” O’Hara muttered.
No sooner had the words left her mouth did a small metal cylinder the size of a beer can come bouncing down the hall, rolling to a stop beside her. Stunned, she stared at it dumbly for a split second before her brain registered the threat.
Snake-Eyes, on the other hand, didn’t hesitate and with lightning fast reflexes, scooped up the grenade and flung it back in the COBRAs’ direction where it detonated. O’Hara winced as the pressure wave smashed into her eardrums, her hearing abruptly reduced to a high-pitched ringing noise that slowly faded to reveal wet, dying sounds coming from the COBRA position.
They advanced cautiously, weapons up and scanning through the acrid smoke until the bloodied remains of the COBRA troopers came into view, their weapons mangled, pieces strewn about the slick, gore-splattered corridor. Pushing on, they descended deeper into the complex, checking each door as they went.
* * *
Element Gold had run into a small snag. As they were clearing a section of rooms that appeared to be living suites, they had discovered one housing a terrified young girl who had been hiding as they entered but then flung herself at them with blinding ferocity as soon as they pulled back the shower curtain in the bathroom.
LaFitte, on point, had reflexively loosed a shot but fortunately hadn’t managed to raise his weapon fully from its low-ready position. As Sergeant Collins tended to her wounded leg, they found out she was Doctor Sinnesbieger’s daughter and had thought they’d come to kill her. After reassuring her of their good-guy status and administering some morphine for the pain came the moment of truth – deciding what to do with her.
Their mission brief had not specifically covered hostages other than Hauser, since no others had been confirmed to have been taken. All they had was the Doctor’s panicked rumor from St. Petersburg and his refusal to elaborate, but then his involvement in the Paris heist had called his true motives into question. On the one hand, bringing the girl with them would be quite dangerous for all of them. With her wound slowing her down and all the bullets flying, that was a colossally bad idea. But to leave her here was an open invitation for any COBRA troopers to come in and shoot her. They mulled it over, losing precious time, until LaFitte solved the problem by moving the girl to a different room, then stripping off his ballistic vest and giving it to her.
“I can’t give you a gun,” he told her, catching her gaze lingering on his sidearm. “But if you stay out of sight, you should be okay. Wait here and one of us will be back for you.”
“Wait!” She called after him as he turned to leave. “Promise me you won’t hurt my father!”
He shook his head. “Don’t worry, that’s not why we’re here.”
Rejoining his team in the corridor, they set off to find the Marburg.
* * *
And since this chapter was late today, here's a COBRA advertisement poster for you. I'm sorry!