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Murmansk is part of The Adventures Of Gabriel Celtic
December 16, 2000
The man rode the black motorcycle with his lights off, holding back while keeping the taillights of the vehicles ahead of him just in sight.
Moving his free hand to his throat, he mouthed his words into a subvocalized microphone strapped around his neck.
“Everyplace looks the same in this damnable country, but I think we’ve just arrived in Luostari. Enemy transport moving off the highway…looks like it might be a private drive.”
“Roger that,” Snake’s digitized voice answered. “If you’re relatively sure they are landing, hold back at the road…we should be there in five.”
Josh nodded to himself in reply, pulling the motorcycle to the side of the road as he watched the small convoy’s brake lights brighten up the night. Within seconds the night darkened once again as the lights of all of the trucks went out completely.
Josh kept the motor idling as he watched, ready to beat a hasty retreat if needed. Looking back over his shoulder to make sure that no one else was approaching; he dismounted the bike and walked it closer to the private road.
Although it was probably close to four in the morning, he knew that the early shifts of various factories could start leaving for work at any time. Seeing a man dressed head-to-toe in black with a rifle slung over his shoulder might raise an eyebrow or two…and maybe get the authorities alerted.
Looking back down the private roadway, he saw that there were now a few windows lit from within the structure that the trucks had parked around. Unable to tell what kind of building it was, Josh could nevertheless see that it must be massive due to the spacing of the glowing windowpanes across the front of it.
Taking in the massive building and thinking about the well-armed manpower he had observed, a shiver ran down through his body.
“I sure hope we know what we’re doing,” Josh mumbled to himself nervously.
“What is it you’re thinking we will find when our buddy finally stops driving?” Preacher queried me suddenly.
Lost in my own thoughts to that point, I glanced toward my friend in the seat beside me.
“Ivan’s boss for one,” I said with a shrug, “And if we’re lucky, maybe Abby. We were also hired to bring back the little girl that had been kidnapped.”
I shook my head in sudden disbelief and shame. “That poor girl, I haven’t given her a thought in days…and now I can’t even remember her name.”
“Juliana,” Preacher nodded solemnly, “I know the feeling. These assholes already have a lot to answer for, but if they’ve hurt a little girl…”
I placed my hand on Preacher’s shoulder. “We can’t think like that my friend. We are going to find Juliana…and we are going to find Abby. After that, we’ll turn the rogue operatives over to the authorities and get the hell out of this objectionable country.”
Preacher sneered at my comment. “Come on Gabe…you don’t actually believe that do you…the part about turning them over to the authorities?”
I shrugged, “It would be the correct thing to do.”
“Maybe,” Preacher responded with contempt, “In a perfect world. But I don’t think we’ll ever see these people willingly give themselves up.”
I sighed, shrugging at Preacher’s acerbic response. “You know I’ll do what I need to do to get those girls back Preacher…I only mentioned the other option…”
“The car she is turning off motorway,” Nick called back over his shoulder at that moment, “West we go now.”
“Any idea where he is heading?” I asked.
Nick shrugged, “I know not this area, it is much kilometers from the city.”
“Wherever he’s going, I got a feeling we’ll be getting there pretty quick,” Preacher responded excitedly, his good eye alight in anticipation.
I turned away from him and glanced out the window at the dark scenery flowing by the cab. Preacher’s confidence notwithstanding, I could only hope we were ready for whatever… or whoever we were about to tangle with.
“We should hit Luostari in fifteen,” Joe called out from the front seat.
Abby nodded absently, glancing forward and watching Beth and Joe go about their preparations…they were in their element.
Abby found she really admired these two, and marveled at their concentration on the task ahead. Glancing out the back window, Abby also noted the car following them carrying Patrick and Michael Montana, two more professional operatives that she admired.
Sighing silently, she turned forward once again and pushed herself further down in her seat.
She was unable to concentrate on the mission ahead.
Yesterday she would have been just as organized…just as centered on the task ahead as the rest of them. After all, the focus of every breath since she had awakened in the dingy bar days before had been to find Gabe and Preacher.
But today, she couldn’t concentrate…today she could only think about the book and the predictions it wrought.
Not that she thought that she really understood all of them…not even close!
But even the small amount of knowledge that she thought she had interpreted scared the shit out of her!
She knew in her head she was overreacting. She knew that it could actually take weeks or even months to fully understand the tome.
Covering her face with her hands, she tried to slow her breathing and get her mind back on the task at hand. She owed Gabe and Preacher her best efforts…she owed herself her best efforts!
Why had she ever started trying to decipher that damned book?
The page she had been working on right before they left seemed to have affected her more than any of the rest, although she had no idea why. One minute she had been trying to translate, and the next they had been walking out the door.
But something about the page had struck her as ominous…even though it wasn’t anything she had consciously translated.
She could only think it was something that her unconscious mind had seen…but what?
Dropping her hands, she noticed that Beth was staring at her from the front seat with a worried look on her face.
“We’ll understand if you’re not up for this Abby…there’s no shame in sitting out an operation…especially if it involves a personal attachment.
Abby sat up quickly, her thoughts moving instantly to the coming confrontation.
“Not a problem,” Abby replied determinedly, “You couldn’t hold me here if my life depended on it.”
Beth smiled sadly, “You looked a little distracted before. Forgive me for saying so…but you looked a little…scared.”
Abby shook her head adamantly. “I was thinking about the book…and there is some scary shit in there, but I’m ok.”
“Good!” Beth responded, “Hopefully it’ll all be over soon.”
Abby grinned. “God I hope so! I’m way past getting home and seeing the rest of my family…especially my daughter!”
Beth had never given a thought to having a child of her own, thinking it detrimental to her chosen profession. She was however, intrigued by Abby’s ability to have both.
Opening her mouth, she was about to ask Abby about her child when Joe’s sudden declaration interrupted everyone’s thoughts.
“What the fuck?”
December 16. 2000
Snake led the way through the high weeds and up the small rise toward the glowing building. Once at the top of the rise Snake laid prone in the snow, his rifle aimed at the building as the others fanned out behind him.
While everyone else positioned themselves, Snake worked at identifying any guards that might be deployed on the perimeter of the building through the night vision scope. While he worked the optics, he also worried about their chances.
Their plan was simple, developed just a few minutes ago in the cab of the darkened truck now parked on the road below them.
Only slightly outnumbered by an enemy ensconced within a solid-looking building, they nevertheless had a vast array of armament at their disposal, hoping to use that to their advantage.
A sound plan for a highly trained military unit…which they weren’t!
“One sentry to the right of the door,” Snake mouthed into the subvocalized mic.
“I’ve got him in my sights,” Raven responded after a few seconds.
Snake nodded to himself as he went through the plan in his head one more time.
Fanning out around three sides of the building, the four of them would initially take out any sentries, followed closely by destroying the four vehicles now parked in front of the house. Raven and May would then keep watch over the two far sides of the building, forcing back anyone trying to exit that way. In the meantime, Snake and Josh would hold back anyone trying to leave from the front. The fourth side had no windows or doors so they were leaving it unguarded.
It was hoped that by pinning them down, they could effectively force the release of any hostages held within the building.
It was a crapshoot for sure, but everyone was on board with the plan. For one thing, they knew that even in this remote part of the country a prolonged firefight would eventually attract the authorities. Snake and the others were counting on the fear of discovery hastening the quick release of the prisoners.
But it was only a theory.
Taking a deep breath to calm his nerves, Snake then spoke again into the mic. “Ok Raven, in thirty seconds take out the guard. Josh, be ready to take out the first two vehicles as soon as you hear her shot. I’ll concentrate on the second two…May, you keep watch on the back.
Everyone responded positively before it grew deathly silent.
After another few seconds however, the world around them filled with more explosions than had been seen in these parts since the end of the last World War.
“Svyatoye der’mo !” Ivan gasped as he pulled to the side of the road. (Holy shit!)
Staring unbelievingly from a hundred yards away, Ivan watched as someone attacked Noon’s compound with rifle fire and RPG’s. (Rocket Propelled Grenades)
Watching the attack unfolding from his car, he quickly determined the size of the attacking force. He had seen muzzle flash from only three or four locations!
“Idiots,” he thought as s smile grew on his lips.
Pulling the Makarov out of his shoulder harness, he quickly pulled the door handle and pushed out of the car. Taking off immediately up the darkened road, he aimed for the location of the farthest and most remote muzzle flash.
If he played his cards right, he could singlehandedly take out the attackers, saving the bitch’s ass and more than compensating for his unplanned absence.
A sneer formed on his lips as he ran.
“Skit!” Noon exclaimed as she shot out of her bed at the sound of the first explosion.
Having only just lain down on the bed to think, she was fully dressed as she ran out of her bedroom.
“Sir! We are under attack!” One of the uniformed commandos yelled toward her when she entered the common room.
“Idiot!” she seethed at the man’s keen sense of the obvious.
“How many?” she called out as she leaned against the wall and glanced around the nearest window frame.
“Unknown,” the leader of her men called back from the next window. “Every time we get close to a window they shoot it out!”
As if on cue, the glass beside Noon’s face exploded, the bullet narrowly missing her as a piece of the glass sliced open her cheek.
Enraged at the attack, Noon screamed out in fury.
“Get those lights out!” she commanded, not believing that no one had thought of that before.
Glancing at one of her men, “Get me the girl, snabbt!” (quickly)
Still seething, she knew that the certainty of the Federal Militsiya showing up and taking over the situation increased with every minute that passed.
This she could not have!
If they happened across her here, she would spend the rest of her life in prison!
At that moment, the man she had sent for the girl returned with her in tow. Pulling the squirming child to her, Noon then stepped in front of the window.
“I have the little girl! Hold your fire!”
Ivan slowed to a walk as the firing suddenly stopped. From his position on the back side of the house, he could make out Noon’s voice from the front.
Thinking she must be negotiating with her attackers, the sneer widened on his face.
Even better if he could take out the attackers after she had given up all hope!
Crouching to the ground, he continued to advance on his first target at a crawl. Working his way around the shooter, he rose to his feet when he calculated that he was directly behind them.
Squinting in the darkness, he could just make out the prone figure below him.
Raising his gun, he grinned when he cocked the hammer, the click of the action causing the shooter below to suddenly look in his direction.
As he started to squeeze the trigger, the realization that it was a woman caused his smile to widen even further.
The sudden boom caused everyone around to look toward the sound as the blinding flash temporarily blinded them.
May felt the weight of the man tumble onto her, knocking the air from her lungs. Trembling from fear, the onset of shock and nearly unconscious from lack of oxygen, May desperately tried to push the heavy man off of her. Finally however, she succumbed to her body’s demands and passed out.
May looked up at me with no recognition.
“May?” I whispered with confusion. “May…it’s me!”
“Gabe?” she replied groggily at first before pulling herself suddenly off of the snow and enveloping me in a hug.
“Gabe!” she nearly screamed then.
“Shhh,” I shushed her as I pushed her down again, afraid we might be in somebody’s sights.
Her arms around me tightened again, squeezing me harder than she ever had. “I was so worried about you!”
“What the hell are you doing here?” I whispered, “Who all is with you?”
Instead of answering me, her hand went to her throat before she whispered, “This is May, Gabe’s here!”
Looking back at me, “Is Preacher with you?”
I grinned, “Right behind you, manning your rifle.”
“Glancing over her shoulder to confirm this, Preacher offered a “hello,” before she once again clasped her throat and whispered, “Preacher’s here too!”
“Who the hell is she talking to?” Preacher grumbled from beside her.
May grinned, “Raven is here…Snake and Josh too!”
“How the hell did you guys get here?” I questioned, confused beyond all reason.
“When McGruder reported you were missing, we all flew over here to find you!” she responded before hugging me again. “I wasn’t sure I’d ever see you again!”
Her face was now on my shoulder, and I felt a couple of sobs before she pulled back and wiped her nose with her gloved hand.
Glancing around again, she then looked back at me with concern on her face. “Where’s Abby?”
“I need transportation,” Noon yelled through the window, “Allow us to leave and you can have the girl!”
Pulling back away from the window again, she smiled at herself.
“Take her!” She ordered to one of her men as she pushed the child toward him. “The rest of you get ready to fire.”
“But sir…” the leader of her men started.
“Do it! Wait for my signal!”
Nodding in acceptance, the man then motioned his men into place.
In the meantime, Noon went to her quarters and donned her white parka before moving across the room and picking up a wallet stuffed with cash. Pocketing this, she then opened a drawer and chose one passport from the dozen she had…a new identity that she’d never used before. Pocketing this and the driver’s license and credit card that came with it, she shut the drawer and turned back toward the door.
There was only one outcome that satisfied her needs now…that was to escape and leave everyone else here to face the Militsiya’s scrutiny.
She could get more men…and she could find more hostages if needed…but she couldn’t do anything if she were in prison!
Striding back into the common room, Noon immediately yelled “Fire!”
The house once again filled with noise as the unseen attackers also returned fire.
Smiling, Noon backed out of the room before turning and running to the side of the house closest to the road. She assumed that side would be left unguarded because it looked like a solid wall. Noon smiled at the thought, because they couldn’t have known of the secret escape hatch that she had installed years before.
Approaching the unused fireplace in the center of the wall, Noon reached up and pulled the handle that would normally control the damper on a normal fireplace. As she pulled, she watched the floor of the fireplace drop away, revealing the open ground below. Jumping through the opening, she heard the doorway above her close after she was through.
Having situated her escape hatch opening behind thick, evergreen hedges, Noon then looked out through the branches and watched the firefight for a few seconds before lying flat and crawling out between two of the bushes.
Once through, she continued crawling toward the road, her white clothes effectively shielding her from observation in the darkness and snow.
Reaching the road, Noon pulled herself up and started running toward the shadow of a large truck parked along the side of the road.
She would live to fight another day! She thought to herself giddily while reaching for the handle of the truck’s door.
December 16, 2000
Joe and Beth stared openmouthed at the firefight before them.
“Well this is a ball of shit wrapped in a taco shell,” Joe mumbled while killing his lights and pulling to the side of the road.
Abby absently noticed a darkened taxi pulled off the road ahead of them before her eyes moved once more back to the battle.
“Who’s fighting who?” she questioned.
Beth turned to face her. “I have no idea,” she admitted solemnly. “The house would be Noon’s, but I have no idea who could be attacking it.”
“I might have a thought or two on that subject,” Joe grumbled, “Fucking amateurs.”
“I find your theory hard to fathom,” McGruder stated quietly toward Joe.
Abby, Joe and Beth had only moments before ran back to the second car and piled into the back seat.
Michael Montana shrugged. “I have to agree with Joe on this one Patrick. We had discussed the possibility the other night when you guys couldn’t get in touch with them.”
Abby was in shock at their theory…that May and the others had come over to
Russia on their own accord.
“Then we need to go help them!” Abby exclaimed suddenly while reaching for the door handle.
Beth reached out and caught her hand before she could open the door. “What if it isn’t them?”
“What do you mean?” Abby replied in frustration. “Michael just said…”
“He said it’s one possibility Abby. It could also very well be some other enemy of Noon’s…which wouldn’t necessarily make them allies.”
“Shit,” Abby exclaimed while sitting back in her seat defeatedly, “What do we do now?”
Michael pulled his weapon out of his shoulder holster. “Two-man teams, we make our way around the outliers from both directions and try to identify them from the rear. We keep from being seen, and we keep in touch with the com sets. If we can identify them we join the fray…if not we make our way back here and wait.”
Falling silent, Michael looked from face to face of those in the back seat. “Sound like a plan?”
“Yippidy do dah,” Joe grumbled flatly while pushing open the door, “I’ll take Bethy.”
“Abby, you’re with me,” Michael smiled while opening his own door. “Patrick…”
“I guard the cars,” Patrick interrupted with a smile, “I know the drill.”
Nodding, Michael pushed himself out of the seat and closed the door, facing the others in the darkened roadway. “Abby and I will take the right.”
Nodding, Beth and Joe turned and quietly slipped into the darkness while Abby followed Michael up the right fork in the road.
Keeping to the roadway, they made great time, their actions hidden by the overpowering light and noise of the attack on their left. In fact, Abby’s attention was so focused on the battle that she literally ran into a car!
Banging her knee, she inadvertently let out a yell. Covering her mouth with her hand while dropping to her good knee, she brought her gun up quickly, ready to deal with anyone that may have heard her and decided to investigate.
“You ok?” Michael asked as he fell back and kneeled beside her.
“Yeah,” Abby groaned, “I wasn’t expecting another parked car.”
“Does seem kind of crowded around here for such a little road,” Michael agreed while glancing inside to make sure it was empty. “You ready to roll?”
“Yeah,” Abby said while painfully pushing herself up. “One of the attackers is right up on the crest of that rise,” she said, pointing out the location. “Luckily they can’t see us. If we move up the road another fifty yards, we should be able to circle back and set up right behind them.”
Agreed,” Michael responded before turning away from her and starting up the road.
“Starting in off the road,” They heard Beth’s voice in their earwig. “Approximately two minutes to contact.”
“Roger that,” Michael replied softly into his sleeve mic. “Our timing sounds synchronous to yours…sound off when you are in position.”
Once again Abby marveled at Michael and his team’s professionalism as they pulled up on the road and started moving toward the wooded area beside them.
Although it was pitch black, the light from the attack ahead was reflecting through the trees, making their trek through the wooded area fairly easy to traverse with no lights.
Michael suddenly stopped and turned, making hand signals that they were right below the attackers. Nodding in response, Abby followed behind Michael as he scaled the rise. Seeing him drop to his belly in front of her, Abby immediately dropped down and crawled up beside him.
“In position,” Beth’s voice spoke in their ears.
“Ditto,” Michael whispered back, “Hold position.”
Turning toward Abby, “You recognize anyone?” he whispered.
Abby scanned the participants below her, noticing that there were four people in close proximity below her, and what looked like three more combatants spread along a low rise around the house.
Shaking her head in frustration, her eyes returned to the four people nearest her, only then noticing that the fourth person was somewhat away from the others and lying in what could be a pool of blood.
“Is that one dead?” Abby whispered.
“Looks like,” Michael said in a quiet but clipped voice. “Abby, we need to know if you recognize anyone!”
Frustrated, Abby looked closer at the shooters below her, trying to determine the impossible…identifying someone facing away from her and lying in the snow in baggy winter gear.
“I truthfully can’t tell,” She finally admitted in a whisper, “I’m sorry Michael.”
“No worries,” Michael replied while pulling his sleeve to his mouth.
“Pull back, pull back,” Michael spoke into his transmitter. “No identification possible…we’ll let them duke it out.”
Michael immediately crab-walked backwards and started to make his way down the slope.
Abby took one more look before she too made her way down. Unfortunately, before she could turn away, she witnessed one of the shooters below get hit.
The man moaned loudly as he rolled onto his back. “Praise be to God,” he uttered under his breath. “Mother fucker that hurts!”
“Preacher?” Abby uttered unbelievingly as she stood up on the top of the rise.
“Preacher? Is that you?”
Copyright 2015 J.T. Lewis