The Mercenary: : Kazakhstan | Uranium | Unrest

The Mercenary :: Kazakhstan

Keith awoke the next morning at 10:00. He wasn’t the type to lie in bed for another hour, so he dressed and got a bit to eat. After a few minutes, he started going through the papers he had taken from the communications room in Brazil. Most of them were uninteresting, patrol routines, radio frequencies, and mess problems. However one caught his eye. It mentioned a facility in Kazakhstan. Didn’t say what, but Keith had a feeling it was important. So he got his computer up and started talking the SAD station. They’d noticed the mention as well, and had determined its location based on radio transmissions on ULA frequencies. They didn’t know what it was either, so they asked Keith investigate. Keith wanted to do exactly that, so he packed up and left Brazil. When Keith arrived in Kazakhstan, SAD directed him to an operations base about fifty miles from the target facility. They provided him with an ATV so he could get as close to the target as possible before dismounting and proceeding on foot. The facility was in the mountains and there was a snowstorm in progress. Keith drove up unfazed. He liked the cold. His fur kept him warm, and he only needed to wear a light winter camouflage jacket. Since this was a reconnaissance trip, Keith had affixed his sound suppressor to his Sig 552 and despite the storm and low visibility, a rifle scope as well. No one was around for miles, so he made no effort to conceal his weapon as he drove up the mountainside. He stopped his ATV about three miles from the facility, unslung his 552, and checked his GPS. As he did Keith suddenly remembered a story he'd once read. Three years after the USSR came crashing down; the US Department of Energy had run a black op in Kazakhstan. While the cold war was at its peak, a secret town in the mountains of Kazakhstan refined uranium and shipped it to Semipalatinsk for Soviet nuclear weapons tests. When the USSR fell, the town was abandoned and forgotten. Two years later, the Department of Energy found out about this small town and sent a team to investigate. What they found terrified them. The uranium shipment was just sitting there, with no one guarding it. They immediately sent for a recovery team and hauled it off back to the US, but there was no record of how much had been there originally and they had no way of knowing if someone had taken any. The ULA facility was ten miles from the abandoned town. Keith had an unpleasant feeling that they might be connected so he went back down the mountain and returned with a Geiger counter. As he advanced on the facility he dodged a few patrols, but the storm and limited visibility made this quite easy. He came up on a chain link fence topped with barbed wire and scaled over it, vaulting the wire. As he pressed on, the storm seemed to slacken in an apparent lull so Keith waited until visibility improved before

continuing. Five minutes later, he spotted his objective and looked though his rifle scope for a better view. There was a large building with three floors, topped with a large number of radio antennas. To the left of this was a tunnel going back into the mountain. Keith decided to investigate the tunnel first, then the building. He also determined not to kill anyone in case he had to come back later. The lull in the storm was passing, so Keith waited until the snow diminished visibility before moving in. He jumped another fence and was inside. The poor visibility helped Keith remain undetected in another way. His eyes were much sharper than a human’s so he was able to see the guards patrolling the compound well before they could see him. He slipped past them and crossed the facility to the tunnel entrance. There were two guards at a barricade here, but after a minute or so, they went into the small guardhouse and Keith jumped over the sandbags barricading the tunnel entrance, and moved as fast as stealth would allow into the tunnel. It wasn’t very long, and he found the end after less than a minute. The only thing there was a door with no window, so Keith picked the lock and went inside, closing it behind him. Inside he found a small room, not unlike an airlock, with another door identical to the one he had just entered. This one was not locked and Keith opened it quietly and went into the room. It was pitch dark inside. Keith could hear that it was a massive room with a high ceiling, but even his eyes couldn’t see anything. His Geiger counter was ticking. After fumbling around the door for a few seconds he found a switch and turned on the lights. Keith caught his breath. Before him were rows of barrel after barrel stacked three high, filling the room. His Geiger counter and the story left no doubt as to their contents. Keith left that room in a hurry. He went back into the tunnel, relocking the door. As he made his way out, he waited until the guards were not paying attention, then leapt over the barricade and slunk up to the building. He found a door and went inside. At first, Keith had thought it was a communications outpost, but now he feared that is was something much worse: a laboratory. As he crept around the halls and up stairs, his fear was realized. On the second floor, he saw scientists working with a bunch of wires and other equipment. Keith had no idea how nuclear bombs were made, but he assumed that they were making one. He turned and went straight out of the building and left the facility. As he passed out of sight, he ran full speed to his ATV and sped back to the CIA operations base. They were greatly alarmed at his report and immediately sent word to the operations center. The operation commander responded, telling them to hold fast while they sent a squadron to secure the facility and a cleanup unit for the barrels.

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The force arrived 16 hours later. Keith briefed the two teams of operatives on the target and they made their plan of assault. Team one would secure the lab and team two would take the storage tunnel. Keith would accompany the team one. They would all use suppressed weapons in the assault. SAD had tapped a fighter wing from an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf which would be standing by to support the operation. The teams were visibly uneasy at the prospect of being led by a mercenary, and showed signs of resentment, but they were professionals. As soon as they'd geared up, they boarded a pair of Lynx helicopters that would take them within two miles of the facility and took off. The cleanup unit got into trucks and drove their convoy up the mountain. The operatives reached the LZ, jumped out of the helicopters and set off at once. The two miles took them 20 minutes to cover and they ambushed a patrol on the way. The teams cut the fence and split up. Team one made haste for the laboratory and kicked in the door. They cleared the building room by room and burst into the bomb lab. There was nothing there. Keith turned to the team leader, “They must have moved it.” “Agreed, you stay here and find out where they took it. We’ll finish clearing the building,” replied the team leader, and they both got to their tasks. Keith could hear them firing in the adjacent rooms as he rifled through stacks of paper and filing cabinets trying to find any clue as to where the bomb had been sent. After a frustrating minute, he found a communication transcript telling the facility to move “object” to “facility B5.” Keith had no idea what or where facility B5 was, but he did not doubt that “object” referred to the bomb. Meanwhile, the team had finished clearing the building and returned. Keith met them at the door and exhibited the paper, “Found this. Let’s go,” and without further talk they left the building. At the entrance, they went into a holding pattern and the team leader called team two, “Team two, status.” “Tunnel secure. Coming out.” “Affirmative, rendezvous at east lab entrance.” A few seconds later team two came dashing out of the snowstorm and joined team one’s holding pattern. The team one leader called the convoy to advance on

the facility and they arrived thirty minutes later. The cleanup unit’s security team took over and the operatives and Keith high-tailed it back to the LZ. As they ran the snowstorm slackened, and by the time they got to the LZ it had passed altogether. Once there, they called the helicopters and the Lynx’s came roaring in. The rotor wash nearly knocked them off their feet and stung their faces with snow. They gathered themselves, piled into the helicopters, and took off back to the SAD base by a different route. Not sixty seconds later, Keith spotted a surface to air missile battery as it fired two missiles at them. He shouted to the pilot, but he couldn’t see either of them. The first missile struck the other lynx just aft of the cargo bay and destroyed it in a spectacular and terrible fireball. The second cut the tail boom off of Keith’s lynx. The helicopter plummeted to earth in a spiral and smashed into the mountainside nose first. Fortunately, they hadn't been far off the ground and the impact was further lessened by the snow. Still it wasn’t enough. The pilots were killed, along with three of the operatives. Keith and the surviving operator were both wounded, but could walk. They’d been sitting in the crew chief’s seats which had shock absorbers. They stumbled out of the lynx and collapsed into the snow outside. Keith noticed that his ear was bleeding, and the operator had a piece of metal lodged in his left shoulder. Keith looked at the operator, “We have to take that SAM battery out or we're walking home. You have a radio?” Keith asked. “Yeah,” the operative replied rather faintly. Keith dug his GPS out of its pouch, only to discover that it had been smashed. He looked over at the operative, “My GPS is busted, you have a target designator?” “No. But I have a compass.” The operative said, displaying it. “And I’ve got a map, we’ll do it the old way.” Keith said, a little pleased at the notion. With that they staggered to their feet, collected their weapons, and plodded slowly up the mountain. At the summit, they could clearly see the SAM battery, so they sat down. Keith got out his map and the operator used his compass to locate the battery. He called back to the SAD base, “Command, this is whiskey 24, the helo’s are down. We have KIA. Requesting airstike from Hecate 1-2 at the following coordinates, and relayed the SAM’s location.”

The SAD coordinator got on the line with the aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. They tasked an F-18, but it was going to be a long flight. Keith and the operator dug a small trench in the snow and waited. It was two hours before the F-18 was on station and they could guide it onto the target. The run was beautiful. The pilot came roaring out of the clouds at 175 meters and put his ordinance right on the SAM battery, which vanished into an awesome explosion. The operator conveyed his thanks and wished the pilot a nice trip home before he left. Keith and the operator returned to the wreckage of their lynx and triangulated their location from nearby mountains and the SAM battery. Once they were sure of where they were, they called the base for a SAR team to retrieve them and the remains of their lynx and its passengers. One team arrived one hour later and took them back to the base. Another team had already located the wreckage of the first lynx spread out over about a mile and the cleanup force diverted to it on the way down from the lab. No survivors.

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Keith gave the station chief the communication and they set to work finding out what “facility B5” was. They expressed their gratitude for Keith’s and the operators work, along with their sympathy for the loss of the rest of the squadron. They treated Keith and the operator’s injuries. The operator had caught a decently sized piece of metal in his shoulder which was carefully removed and bandaged. Keith’s ear had been clipped by something and he had a small chunk of metal embedded in his back. His ear would heal without any help, but it would bear a small notch for the rest of his life. The shrapnel in his back was removed and they bandaged the area. Keith and the operator sat in the ready room silently; both lost in thought. The operator was reflecting on the times he had had with his seven teammates for the last four years. They had been together since selection and shared that bond that exists only between comrades who have been through combat together. Today he had seen them all die in less than two minutes. He was shaken and on the edge of tears. Keith was sullen for the same reason, but he thought that maybe if he’d made the assault himself when he was first at the lab, none of this would have happened and seven good men would still be alive. He slightly doubted that he could have done it, but he wished he'd taken his chances in hindsight. He also worried that a nuclear bomb might be missing, and he currently had no idea where it was. They spent the rest of the day in this manner before they went to sleep, not knowing what the next day would bring.

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