Raph al Guul
“Hawk Two to Command; we are Oscar Mike. Over.”
“Copy that, Hawk Two. Report when you are in position. Over and out.”
Listening to the radio transmissions, Ian was crouching at the concrete wall behind Private Gates. Neither of them had ever been on an operation like this and Ian knew that Gates was just as excited as he was. It was like they were part of a legally sanctioned heist, gears in a carefully constructed clockwork. Ian liked the sense of responsibility – everybody was depending on them. They had already broken open the little fuse box on the wall. Now it was all about the right timing.
“Jesus, I could go for a smoke right now,” Gates said, adjusting his ballistic vest in the dark.
“Yeah, me too. Fucking cold out here.”
They both knew that this wasn’t the time to have a smoke. They were behind enemy lines; anything could happen any second. They needed to keep a low profile, so they remained crouched at the wall silently, listening to the radio’s occasional crackle. The digital display of Ian’s watch read “03:12”. Breach, according to plan, would happen at a quarter past three, so it wouldn’t be long now. And then the reports started coming in:
“Hawk Two in position.”
“Hawk One in position.”
And after a short delay: “Hawk Three in position.”
All entries were covered now and they were all waiting for the order to breach. 03:16.
“All units stand by,” it was their commander’s voice, Captain Poole.
Gates turned around: “What the hell are they waiting for?”
“Don’t know,” Ian shrugged, “maybe they haven’t filled out all the paperwork, yet.”
Gates gave a short laugh. The radio remained silent. 03:18. Ian looked at the weapon he was holding. Standard-issue M16A2 – the same rifle he had been using since recruitment. He would have to cover Gates in case of an unforeseen ambush. Like that was gonna happen. They had not been dispatched as a full fireteam, which was indicative of how little danger Command attributed to their particular task; but if they were wrong, Ian would have to give one hell of a performance. He wasn’t sure if he was looking forward to that or scared shitless.
“All units, get ready to breach. Hawk Four, kill the power on my command, do you copy?”
Ian answered: “Hawk Four to Command, copy that.”
“Alright then, look alive, men. Weapons free. Hawk Four, do it now!”
Ian didn’t need to tell Gates, he had heard it, too. Immediately, he switched on the flash light attached to his helmet and pulled the breaker. There was no noticeable reaction, no corresponding sound, but Ian knew that this was the crucial moment. Whoever was in that building had just lost all electricity – and that could potentially make their current position more dangerous, since someone could come looking for the problem here. He felt the reassuring presence of the weapon in his hands as Gates turned off the light again.
Ian reported: “Power is out.”
“Hawk One and Hawk Two, breach now!”
Ian sat in the silence, waiting. 03:20. They couldn’t see or hear the two fireteams moving into the main building and there were no shots fired. He and Gates peered into the darkness. These helmets aren’t built well for listening, he thought. If someone was sneaking up on them, they would have a hard time seeing it coming. They should have been equipped with night vision goggles, too. It took almost two minutes until the radio hissed again.
“Hawk Two to Command, all clear here. No tangos.”
“Copy that, Hawk Two. Stand by.”
After another short break, the first fireteam reported the same: “Hawk One to Command, area is clear.”
“Copy. Hold your position. Hawk Three, breach.”
Private Gates, still leaning against the wall, asked: “There’s no one in there? What’s-”
The radio interrupted him: “Hawk Three to Command, all clear in the back, too.”
“Copy that, Hawk Three. Hawk One, Two, and Three, proceed according to plan and report.”
The three teams copied. Gates nudged Ian: “Great. We’re infiltrating an empty building. Good thing we cut the power first.”
“Well, they haven’t cleared the building, yet. Maybe someone’s on the John or something.”
“Just makes it all a little less exciting…”
“At least it’s safer.”
Gates grunted. Ian wondered if there was no one there because they had already left to check the fuse box. Maybe they were on the way here right now. He had to admit that the adventurous enthusiasm had vanished. Now that there was nothing to do for the two, their initial excitement gave way to listless waiting for the operation to be concluded without any unforeseen problems. Just take down whoever is in that building, acquire the intel, and get the hell out of there.
“Hawk One to Command. Ground level is clear.”
“Copy that. Cover the exit and stand by. Over.”
03:32. Ian found himself staring at his watch. But digital watches didn’t really offer much to stare at, he thought. There were certain advantages to old-fashioned analogue watches – waiting was more pleasant. He fixed the dark void of the night again. It seemed like shadows were dancing all around him; but he had been trained for this – he knew that it was an illusion. At night, shadows hardly ever actually moved. But when they did…
“Hawk Two to Command. All clear on the first floor.”
“Good, any sign of the objective?”
Ian looked over to his companion, half-expecting him to comment on the chatter. He was not disappointed: “Eugh, what a drag. We’re gonna be here all morning, aren’t we?”
The last fireteam reported: “Top floor is clear, no tangos, no objective.”
“Copy that, Hawk Three,” Captain Poole paused for a moment, “Okay, Hawk One, Two, Three: search your perimeter once more and confirm that the objective is not there.”
The others copied; Ian and Gates sat.
“Shouldn’t we turn the lights back on,” asked Gates, “searching while wearing night vision goggles has got to be a bitch.”
Ian didn’t answer. He figured they’d have gotten the order if this was an option. 03:39. One by one, the fireteams started confirming that they hadn’t found anything. The Captain’s voice assumed a tone of resignation every time he copied a report and told the men to stand by. Gates continued to grunt. Ian continued to scan the dark for movement. 03:44. 03:45.
“Alright, Command to all units: we are terminating this operation. The extraction team is on the way. Hawk Four, put the fuse back in and close it up.”
“Copy that,” Ian said and nodded towards Gates who had already turned the flash light back on.
“Hawk One, Two, Three: retreat and report when you’re back at the rendezvous point.”
They copied and the Captain continued: “Hawk Four, when you’re done, you’re going back as well.”
Ian copied and he and Gates got up. 03:49. Crouched, they moved into the darkness. There was no one there.