Friday, December 23, 2011

Chapter 9

A test of rebirth – A test of time
Chapter 9 by Tobias Nixon

Blue Tiger Headquarters, 12:00:21, Hong Kong, China (P.R.C.)
The Ninja Master is sitting silently, apparently meditating, in the stone alcove of the small temple that is part of this fortress. Built into the side of a mountain, it had originally been a Buddhist temple that taught gung fu to the locals. His gaze is fixed on a large wooden carving of an encircled hexagram. Yellow smoke pours from a candle lit directly below the wall piece.

His mind is blank the spirit on his shoulder taps him lightly and he feels the touch like a man standing at the centre of an earthquake. The touch is heavy, the reverberations almost too much to control. As they settle his mind follows the powerful spirit. A silver trail like a cord of thick rope chases away in the distance. It is the way he imagines himself when travelling in his spirit body.

He meets the ancient master at the place they always do, atop Hung Kwong Hai mountain in central china. Amongst these mountains there is a hidden temple, the final earthly abode of Blue Tiger’s ancient master. Both men now sit opposite each other, choosing to float cross legged one metre in the air. Red light leaked from the Ninja Master’s eyes, a similar purple glow from the ancient ones.

The two of them spirit talk.

“How will you get this LU-bomb into America?” The ancient one enquired.

“Where they least suspect it, through legitimate shipping channels. Crate it up in a standard shipping container. Refrigerated so the uranium in the bomb doesn’t show up with an unusual thermal signature. We’ll leverage contacts in the North-West so we expedite its movement through customs and onto a truck. From there it’s a couple of hours drive to a disused garage in lower Manhattan.  Ground zero will be the yard out the front of the shop.” Said the Ninja Master.

“Aren’t you worried that customs will open the shipping container at some point?”

“It’s a risk, but the reality is that they only open one in ten.  Of course you’re right in that they are the biggest risk to this operation. That’s why we have invested significantly in insuring there are plenty of officials on the take. It wasn’t hard, the usual approaches were made; money first, dirty secrets second, family if they turned out to be a fucking priest.”

“When does it arrive?”

“It arrives on the 27th of June, and should have cleared customs and be in place by the 4th of July. Two days from now.”

“Good. Good. As I have asked you before though, do you want to poke the most powerful tiger in the world, straight in the eyeball? Make sure you understand the consequences of each action exactly. You must now realise they will come after you with everything. What are you going to do then?”

“And if they do? Blue Tiger are ninjas; we will just blend back into the shadows, waiting for the shit storm to fly right by us. The best they can do is wipe out all numerous front operations; delink us from our local markets in HK, Singapore and Taiwan. Our “puppets of state” strategy from three years ago worked out well. Spies in the US state department have discovered they still think our head quarters are at the old location. Lok Fung Ng, and his second man, Shi Te Tang do a convincing job of issuing our instructions.”

“So we have a proxy to bear the brunt of the inevitable attack that will follow. Of course you do not honestly believe that the US will not go after us because we are located inside China? They will hunt down and destroy everything they can find. You are talking about civilian casualties on a massive scale. If they want they could even use it as an excuse to start a war with China. A war that neither of country wants, and which America cannot afford.”

“Of course, all those things are possible, but then this was never about trying to blow up America. This is about an insurance policy. This is about our endgame for the people of Somalia. This is the last piece of the puzzle to gaining the political power and legitimacy that our clan craves.”

“Hmmm, as you say an insurance policy then. So explain to me again, in what way can alerting the Americans to the existence of a nuclear bomb on their doorstep, possibly achieve that?”

“We are going to tell them there is one. We’ll even hang the customs guys out to dry for proof. We won’t tell them where its located. Just show them some video of the bomb, and a video of the good scientist that made it talking about how it could wipe out half their eastern seaboard cities.”

“The Americans will be hamstrung initially. In the short-term they will be unable to act against us. This will certainly up the ante, and of course you must also realise that there will be no hiding once this starts? They will not stop, day and night until they believe that every last Blue Tiger clan member is wiped out. We must act swiftly and leverage the power of the situation that is presented to us.”

“Exactly! In reality the bomb will be a dud. The “LU” crystal will never leave Somalia. Construction of a massive power station capable of supplying all their needs, will give Blue Tiger social legitimacy in this country. We cannot exist within China alone. The party is deluded each year they grow bolder with radical elements. The socially progressive faction that has driven China to greatness is now subservient to factions that are driven by a level of greed that will see the country returned to the twisted oligopolies of the past.”

“So why not go build this somewhere else where a government can soak up the massive capital expenditure? Why Somalia? It’s a war zone and a famine state.”

“That’s exactly why we chose Somalia. The mood of public opinion. By the time the world see’s the “good” we are doing, the Americans will be unable to act. Until then we need the L-Bomb as insurance.”

Level 2 of the Power Station, 20:00:02, Northern Mogadishu.

Much later, several floors higher, and one hundred bombs later our intrepid adventurers were gliding in to the main turbine room number two. This was the last of the rooms on this level with a significant heat signature. Beyond was the main entrance to the building, a complex corridor of mesh wiring, barbed wire wrapped around large stakes, five inch steel blast doors and enough semtex to blow the shit out of half the city.

The message was clear enough, the place was booby trapped to the hilt. The only question was what message? The chances of anything recognisable being left within the blast zone was remote at best. It almost seemed to the men that the terrorists were testing them. The only viable entrance was the one they had chosen, the one that they had found out about.

What if they hadn’t found out about it at all? What if the bastards wanted them to find the tunnel, take the route less trodden, to what purpose?  If they had gone for a full frontal assault there would have been no bodies to hold triumphantly in front of the screaming masses. No evidence of American interference. No the options were limited at best; provide a suitable explanation to the government forces in control of the city, or if things went to plan...

No time to think the team were moving within the final room now. The devices instantly seemed more sophisticated. At a command from Aimee both men froze. One of the Americans had spotted a tell on the far wall that strangely was not registering with the suits analysis. A small dark protrusion now un-mistakable, had earlier escaped detection in the field sweep performed with an extended robotic arm prior to entering the room. Suddenly red laser light filled the room. A grid erupted silently in the air. The two men stood helplessly as the lasers crisscrossed their position. Oddly none of the neon tripwires intersected the men’s positions, coincidence or not? Or not thought Dusty.

“Commander” Dusty eye texted to Aimee, “We appear to be in a spot of bother. Nothing to worry about should be out of it in a Jiffy.”

“Don’t move a muscle, either of you.” Aimee looked worriedly back at the Captain of the SAS who was sitting cross-legged next to her right shoulder on the flat blue roof. “They won’t do anything stupid will they Captain?”

“Not on your life Commander” the Captain replied formally. “What do you suggest we do next?”

“I don’t like it, but I think we have very few choices at this point. I want you to lead the rest of the SAS into position outside the door to the second turbine room. We need to disable that sensor, whatever it is, and clear that room. Analysis seems to indicate that the LU crystal is coming from the centre of the room at best twenty metres from their current position. We cannot risk allowing it to slip through our fingers.”

“I understand Ma’am. Ghost squad, get ready.” He said it more for the benefit of the Americans that were not currently looking over their ePads.

On each device the SAS suits were showing a computer generated assault plan. The descent time, position of entry (via the hole that Easy-E had cut earlier) landing spot, and path to door were all shown in exacting detail. Total time for fast descent entry eight seconds. The first SAS soldier had already deployed a grapple next to the manhole cut by Easy. He didn’t check, he just latched a rope with a self locking carabineer and jumped through the hole. The next man followed so closely he looked like he was jumping on the head of his colleague. The captain went last stepping gracefully from the ledge, into the abyss below.

The team landed and deployed in seven and half seconds, simulation be damned. Once in position they waited for the order to begin disabling the room, starting with the strange black sensor. There Captain calmly ducked low then sprang at the open doorway. He executed two perfect somersaults, and then to his credit nailed an Olympic level landing to finish in the square of laser trip lights that surrounded the section of wall with the embedded device. He rose and immediately deployed the XO series arm given to him as squad leader. The arm extended over the device, active micro probes extended further if by mere fractions of an inch. Each probe transmitted live imaging data in a relay program. That program contacted a controller algorithm which in turn loaded a deactivation search protocol. Six seconds later the probes retreated having found a way to turn this thing off. Five multi jointed fingers replaced them, in appearance each was like a tiny blue metal rod, while in behaviour giving much the same appearance as a human hand.

The arm expertly tweaked what resembled on closer inspection a matchbox size spetnatz era space craft capsule. The jet black surface suddenly shined silver, and the arm beeped audibly.

“Fuck!” screeched the Captain softly.

At that very moment the four walls of the room began to split cleanly apart at the four corners. Less than a second later they came crashing down to the ground. The noise they made was ear shattering. The suits filtered it out without missing a beat. As the dust rose, the squad reacted quickly performing a broad spectrum scan and moving to form a defensive position behind the two still unmoving recon members.

The lasers that had previously shot out from the walls now crisscrossed the entire room. The ghost squad was now trapped in their entirety. Invisible suits mattered not in this labyrinthine maze of glistening ruby fractals.

A slight mist slowly surfaced the entire room. Rising to obscure ground level, troop without field scanners would have been blind. Instead each SAS trooper saw the scenery changing, as machine bays rose from the ground.

With no pause for good theatrics the complex web of red lasers began to shift in seemingly random patterns. Estimated time to hitting a “ghost”? One to two seconds at best. Aimee blanched her silent observation up until now bowling along nice with the tension. Now however things were starting to look somewhat grimmer.

The Captain must have caught her mood, for smiling to himself, he eye texted into the ePad general band chat room –                Never fear, the SAS are here.

With anyone else it would have read cheeserly. With the good Captain it was matter a fact. SAS never backed down.

Arms deployed from each suit once more. This time the fingers of each hand were loaded with special mirrors. The suit computers had calculated a group defence using just the outer three members to reflect up all the beams intersecting the group and their path forward to the device.

Well this was true to an extent. The computer couldn’t account for additional traps. The Captain was slowly moving his way towards the remaining members. The two recon members plus another joined him. Together they made their way toward what was the centre of the room.

No sooner had they progressed passed the area that was free of the deflected laser tripwires, than three small black cylinders rose from the ground. Each advancing trooper had his robot arm already deployed with the laser reflector attachment. It was probably all that saved them.

With a hiss and an explosion of hot gas from the base of each cylinder the weapons roared to life. They each shot out beams of blue laser light, each beam was designed not to provide a low energy tripwire, but as a high intensity stream that could cut through five inch steel plate armour. The beams were an array of vicious photons emitting extreme heat and light. The gases forced from the base filled the room with a bass like rumble, which echoed out towards the buildings walls.

The men were beaten back noticeably by the onslaught. Only the captain, being untargeted by the blue lasers was able to continue. The others duck or dodge as they might, were barely able to lose the tracking signature of the lasers. They could not continue any closer due to the power of the laser cutters. In fact two of the three were being gradually forced back. The third foolishly advanced closer, and was cut nearly in half as the laser first overloaded the arm’s reflection mechanism then proceeded straight down the middle of trooper’s body. The result was not pleasant. Each half fell down to the side, the men to either side of their downed buddy yelling, “NO!!”

The laser immediately continued its deadly arc, ignoring the advancing captain, and ganging up on the one of the two remaining members of the recon squad. The captain looked back on his under siege unit, the man being targeted suit would overload in seconds with the combined power of the two laser towers.

The Captain made a decision, the mission objective was worthless if he lost his squad achieving it. He stopped moving carefully forward, with his active field scanner, and pivoted hard to his left towards the nearest laser tower. The arm over his right shoulder became a crude yet effective battering ram,  as his spin ended it spun out like a spinning back fist that had somehow started from the middle of the back. The force of the metal hand hitting the electronic tower was ear piercing. The metal tore apart with the first blow, the electronics inside were shredded apart by a fist free now to tear it apart. The innards were soon scattered in a loose wreckage around the base of the device.

The two remaining lasers must have been co-ordinated by a CPU somewhere with multiple sensor types. The Captain had gone invisible as he destroyed the first laser tower, but the remaining two instantly locked onto him and began the attack. The Captain should have been destroyed. However as the “suit” overloaded and the invisibility failed what appeared when the invisibility faltered was not the Captain but a small device on the ground that resembled a small turtle with metallic spider legs. Atop its back was the Captains invisibility component, reconfigured to output the heat signature of a human. It advanced impotently on the laser’s and was quickly cut to pieces.

Even as the lasers attacked the turtle-spider drone, the Captain calmly marched towards the rear of second tower. The two members of the recon squad similarly attacked the final tower. Even as their metal fists descended on the electronic sentinels to wreck with vengeance these killing things, each tower made desperate counter measures. The two teams ducked quickly as a wide arc sprayed from the top of each tower in a semi circular arc. The beams missed and the towers were quickly destroyed.

The three men advanced on the centre of the room. A raised dais of metal plates folding in towards the centre sat right in the middle. Around it cables snaked over and into the middle of it. Three leather couches decorated the outside of the large raised circle. In the middle of the dais a red triangle vibrated. On closer inspection the leather couches were actually computer server bays sitting horizontally and covered with leather rugs. A icey breeze blew up from below the red triangular hatch.

The captain advanced towards the dais. “Commander Blackbear, I assume you would like me to investigate the hatch?”

“Yes. But get a trooper to connect up to the nearest server rack, I want to know what sort of information we can retrieve.”

  “Excellent! Dusty deploy your electronic scavenging. Go!”

Dusty moved up next to the nearest server rack and several cables that looked like small harpoons shot out of his arms punching through the walls of the server rack and injecting smaller cables that raced among the motherboard architecture looking for ports and slots to connect to.

Data began to stream back to Aimee from the suit. The LU Crystal appeared to be housed below the red triangular hatch. At least the servers were programmed to protect an object with the same dimensions. As Aimee continued to examine the data streaming past on her ePad an un-easy feeling began to rise in the pit of her stomach. She changed the filter on the search program to provide a report of the power output from the now defunct laser stations and the supply of energy coming from the hidden recess below the dais.

As she suspected the energy readings were not consistent with a super powerful source such as the LU crystal, but rather a more modest set of diesel generators that appeared to be located at the rear of the building.

“Sarge! Send one of the men over the side and take out those two generators around the back, the rest of you haul ass downstairs to the ground level and wait outside the entrance, for further orders.”

“Yes ma’am.” The SEAL members clipped onto a metal rappelling hook that had been driven into the roof of the building hours earlier by Easy-E. Sarge led the men over the edge two stories down to the ground, each man rappelling face first at break neck speed.

Easy-E went over the opposite edge landing to one side of the generators. Two casual shots through the sides of each metal container disabled the machines. The hum of the engines and thick acrid smell of burning diesel, was replaced with silence and thick oily smoke plumes. Having completed his objective, Easy-E began to move around the perimeter of the building looking for signs of any enemy stationed on overwatch.

The SAS inside the building were trapped. As soon as the generators cut out, what appeared to be an emergency routine suddenly activated. The room went pitch black then red lights came on. A siren started to whirl noisily somewhere far from there.

The SAS were unaffected by the dark, HD night vision was just an integrated subroutine in their suits. But what their suits were reporting was much worse than the dark. Each member’s feet were snagged in solid steel rings, which had clicked into place in sync with the confusion. Additional layers of rings had engaged soon after leaving team members stuck to the floor. The armour plates on the leg seemed to shield them, but several suits were reporting elevated levels of integral damage.

Aimee looked down at a near holographic layout design of the building below. Each floor was mapped in detail from the suit recon. Surprisingly the main generators taken out by Easy, were not the most predictable place to put them. Now that she thought about it that meant they probably weren’t the main generators.

Aimee looked up at the night sky. As she had turned her head the rush of events in this deadly battle had turned south, now looking down again the way forward felt clearer. Thoughts gradually started to unwind in time to the battle. They would get something back, if that was they got out of this mess.

“Sarge. You still at the front entrance?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I’m sending you co-ords for a blue beta attack.”

She looked below to the ground beyond the front of the building, but heard rather than saw the massive blast erupt from inside. It was a pinpoint rail strike by four warriors in perfect harmony. The shots so closely circled that you couldn’t tell fire patterns even with the US military grade image analysis package that displayed in their visors. The result was that the ground just below the Dias seemed to sink and four floors below, a massive fuel generator exploded.

The various traps disabled the SAS began to roam about looking for a control box, and a controller. Although they suspected remote control offsite, this level of sophistication may have required onsite interference. The US team below had already started smashing their way in past the dormant traps on the ground floor. Someone gave a shout from the far corner, however by the time everyone arrived all they had was the fleeting image of a set of legs disappearing down a sloping metal hatchway on the side of the building. Easy-E was dispatched to investigate the area, and recorded further footage of someone running, quickly consumed by the night and the buildings.

Buildings and Alleys, 24:00:00, Northern Mogadishu

God! Allah! Praise is to him. But still, how did he just escape those men? The insanity of this rush through madness was not lost on him. He knew he must have been given some kind blessings, and he now knew his enemies strengths. Truly today was a great day if only he could survive it. His rush took place through a thoroughfare of various shops that seemed to spill out from small multi storey terraces.
Through side streets and back streets, across a narrow dirt covered strip between two buildings, now he knew little by little he was home free. For starters he’d been moving for the last five minutes through terrain that no spy satellite could track. On top of that the area was controlled by loyal gangsters who would fold in around his entry, making pursuit next to impossible. That was unless you could withstand point blank attacks from RPGs.
In this lawless zone, he was as much a commander now as a man of science. As the scientist entered a nearby alcove a burly man, wearing a full length robes waited for him to pass and then stepped in front of the door blocking the passage. The scientist continued down a flight of steps inside the small building, down into a basement section. Here he was met by a secure vault door, with iris and fingerprint sensors embedded on the door panel. He entered a pass code on the num pad then titled forward to complete eye and finger authentication.

As soon as the door opened up the Guards on the other side stepped aside to allow him access to the narrow passage way. Once inside he would continue his work on the LU crystal. According to applications that he knew blue tiger had installed on the LU crystal field detection servers he was making good progress towards a connecting the LU as a power source to the grid. He wondered though if they knew how good that progress really was. He estimated he would have a window of two to three weeks before they realised the project was complete. More than enough time.

Chapter 8

A test of traps – A test of time
Chapter 8 by Tobias Nixon

Outskirts of Mogadishu Refugee camp, 18:35:25, Beyond the city walls of Mogadishu.
Aimee realised they had made good time, when she looked at her watch. Twenty eight minutes to the edge of the huge camp site that sprawled alongside the city proper. As with all such impoverished arrangements, the majority of living quarters were in various states of disrepair. The people of this place walked slowly, their old clothes belying a down trodden existence, of daily subsistence living.

They didn’t look out of place. Minutes earlier each team member had donned extra layers of “urban camouflage”. Old clothes placed strategically gave a gun toting bad boy the look of a chubby farmer. Head clothes and arm wraps disguised tight fitting helmets and comms bracelets.

The rendezvous point was at the other end of the camp. A contact would be waiting with two cars.

As they walked amongst the squalid conditions of the camp, they could not help but notice the shambolic state of its inhabitants. Poor farmers from the south, driven wild by the desperations of living under a nihilist movement. Al Shabab made you give your heart to god, and your gold to them. Like cutthroats throughout history they hid behind whatever social truths were available, in this case religion. The reality, that hundreds of thousands of subsistence farmers were now starving.

One in two of the population. An awful statistic, until you saw the awfully awfuller truth in front of you. Truth lay somewhere out there in the great camp. Amongst the people with their skin hanging and their bones weakened. The hollow looks and desperate gazes looking in vain for salvation. That silent plea, for something, anything. The burden of a generation born unto abject poverty.

These are a people who are refugees in their own country, too hungry to feed their own children, thought Aimee. Sadness flooded her mind. She was a professional and held to the objectives and parameters of her mission plan. Still she was a human and the unbearable pain of these times made their mark on her.

A small Somalian women hobbled up to them, she wouldn’t have been more than twenty eight, already driven old by hard living, “Are you the one I pray for every night? Help me! Save me!”

She tried to push closer, noticing the rigid looks of the soldiers for the first time. Each having been trained, they looked straight ahead rather than engage her eyesight. It was left to Aimee to push the women to the side of their path. Pressing a small bundle of food into her hands, she whispered, “May god heal your pain sister.” [In Somalian]

The lady gave up with a sullen disgruntled look at her new found source of food, wandering back towards the line of tents.

The two man squad of SAS, codenamed “Tunnel Rats”, jumped in one car with the contact, they would be driven past checkpoints stationed with friendly guards to the start of the entrance to the tunnel. The rest of the team, codenamed “Death Angels”, moved into the second car and sped off in another direction, towards the north east of the city.

Old Power Station Sub-basement 2, 15:30:30, City of Mogadishu.

The scientist carefully pulled back the stick of explosives, wrapping the wire tightly around the detonator, before pushing it very firmly back into the Plastique. He moved with the experience of someone for whom the deadly secrets of chemical engineering were second nature. The scientist was a man of true intelligence if somewhat lacking in a corresponding degree of ethical behaviour to control his fertile mind.  Once when he was five he had almost destroyed the family home mixing a couple of household cleaning agents. Ever since then his parents and insisted he pursue a career in science. Looking back now it seemed almost as though fate had had a guiding hand in ensuring a once in a generational mind was put to good use.

The lack of clear specific goal early in his life, and a desire to do more than just write research papers, had once again conspired to point his younger self down roads less travelled. In fact it was while studying abroad for his 3rd PhD in as many years that the scientist met the first of a group of radicals that would guide his path for the next twenty years to come. His good friend through college Hasseem Al Haqua had introduced him to a Mullah who believed in true freedom for North Africans.

Always there was one more mission to complete for Al Qaeda, for the Turkish underground, the Syrian brotherhood, the Muslim brotherhood, Hamas, Al Aqsa brigade. A never ending pipeline of desperate cells all needing the genius of a man who had no scruples. Or so they had all thought. Some bombs didn’t explode, other exploded early, but always in a way that left his masters in no uncertain terms that those carrying the weapon had been at fault. Of course there was never going to be much evidence, or if there was it would usually end up in the hands of the authorities.

The scientist knew his one true shield was his anonymity. He had used all of his impress brain power to construct an elaborate scheme of proxies both physical and web based. The channels for communicating with him were complicated indeed. After every job he naturally assumed his existing network was completely compromised and rebuilt it from scratch. The efforts were not cheap but the results spoke for themselves. The authorities weren’t even sure if he was African. No name, no details, no birth of origin, no list of friends (he had none), no family or political allegiances. He was a ghost in the machine of life.

Getting up from a crouch he mentally checked his preparations. Everything was in readiness. The strange Chinese in his black ninja garb had been very specific. At seven o’clock all hell would break loose.   The foreigners wanted their LU crystal back. It was not possible. It was a gift from Allah to his people. After a lifetime of carrying out other people’s orders, the Scientist had been given the ultimate means of saving Somalia from the crippling effects of starvation and civil war.

He just needed the time to design and build. For now he had to collaborate with the Chinese. They were a necessary partner. Al Shabab however was a necessary evil, the sooner they were destroyed the better he thought. The government were no better. The forces would feud and meld. Ultimately a solution would emerge for a united Somalia, one with the economic power to rise above the quagmire of challenges that held it back.

The Scientist moved on throughout the sub basements looking at each trap. Checking each tripwire, the power circuits, the position of the device. Nothing escaped his attention; his hallmark was the meticulous nature of his planning. He had never failed.

Checkpoint Alpha, 18:35:25, Inside the city walls of Mogadishu.

The two SAS soldiers began removing the outer layer of rags almost as soon as they entered the car. Disguises would be useless. If the guards at each checkpoint weren’t paid off, a careful visual inspection would quickly reveal they were not African or starving. It mattered not.

Through each checkpoint they breezed, never stopping for a soldiers head through the door, just the lining of pockets and the slack style of talk that preceded such bribery. Soon the car was in position to unload its cargo. The two SAS warriors running as soon as their feet hit the ground, moving swiftly through a nearby back alley to stand at the start of a rough concrete hold that formed the entrance to the tunnel.

The smell of the brackish water and associated filth would have been considered overpowering to most. Each step taken was a step into an ever rising stench of shit. Two steps would, or rather should have induced a near fatal reaction. Certainly the human nostril was not designed for an assault of this degree. For the two SAS it was barely worthy of any attention other than as a guide to the age of the tunnel, or their relative location to sources of danger.

Their suits were already performing spectral analysis of the various chemicals in the tunnel. Nothing came up dangerous. Next the suits combined their full spectrum sweep coverage to work over half the tunnel each. Each member of the SAS team was able to review the results of the completed analysis in real time. The suits internal LED retina displays, revealed what they had collectively suspected, that a multitude of traps existed even in the tunnel leading up to the entrance of sub basement level 2. Each source of explosives was marked by a small red circle, a rotating internal arrow indicating the direction of the electronic detonator.

Working forward carefully and efficiently the two man team approached each trap meticulously. They were all the same. Laser tripwires acted as the trigger points, while semtex provided the disincentive. The suits were pretty cool, having detected the lasers; they were capable of feeding in a dummy signal to prevent the device triggering. This then allowed the team valuable time to disarm the device. Each suit had a mini-robotic arm that popped from the left shoulder blade area. The tiny tri fingered maniples made small delicate movements such as disabling a bomb much easier, whilst the inbuilt laser cutter made pinpoint destruction of the internal electronics a snap.

At the entrance they looked back, the LED displays registering 10 laser triggered bombs disabled. There was little hope of most people getting through ok. The bombs had been placed in the obscurity of darkness, triggered from ten feet out by a multitude of laser lines. Even the dude from mission impossible would have struggled without one of these suits. Which led to an interesting point. Did they know about this latest tech? Surely not, so that meant they really did have something worth protecting up top. Each man came to the conclusion at the same time Aimee said to them over the encrypted comms link, “Gamma Foxtrot, you are clear to engage with primary objective, proceed with caution. These guys are serious about keeping their secrets, go smoke ‘em out!”

“Yes, ma’am” they repeated in unison.

Gary “Dusty” Tikehurst and Paul “Lion Tamer” Laverty, adjusted their assault rifles, the inbuilt laser targeting giving instant feedback to the right eye retina display of Dusty, and the left eye of the lefty lion tamer. Each man approached the large metal door cautiously. Doors were by virtue of their nature, the perfect place to booby trap, necessitating as they did an enemy to open them. The suits reported heat sensors deployed along the door handle, no doubt with a failsafe pressure gauge placed under the foot of the door itself.

A metallic arm extended out and grasped the door handle, tugging it gently open. The other man was already on his knees in front of the opening. Sure enough electric wires ran from a hidden pressure plate up the inside frame to a narrow hole halfway up the door hinge. The wires were intercepted by the second arm, which first held the cabling aloft then clamped and sutured it with the laser cutter. Finally a new dummy emitter was soldered onto the “live end” of the wire. The entire operation to disable the device had taken less than ten seconds.

Each man stepped through the gap carefully, already dialling up the spectral analysis within the sub basement. The team perched above on the enchanted blue roof of the power station, pooled their collective skills now to provide distributed analysis of the best way to deal with each individual bomb. The other SAS suits now acted as localised data processing units. The suits found only devices on this level similar to those found in the tunnel. Each was easily dismantled in rapid succession. The two man team proceeded rapidly through the sub basement to a grubby shadowed set of stairs that ran one flight up to the upper basement level. Before proceeding further analysis was completed.

Dusty muttered, “Just as well Mr Lion Tamer”
His LED retina display showed more lasers on the upper part of the stairwell. At least two more bombs with pressure pads placed on different steps.

Paul smiled back at his mate Dusty. It was a running joke that the largest most formidable hand to hand fighter in the squad had once come face to face with a lion in the mountains of Syria and lived to tell the tale. To this day he kept the skin on display but refused to say, how, armed only with a knife he had bested it. Only a deep scar that cut across his upper chest bore any testimony to that day of life and death.

The lion tamer pushed down onto his belly and slithered forward. Using elbows and knees he got to within a short distance of the first laser tripwire, and deployed the robotic arm. Dusty watched from below monitoring the activity of the first bomb. Suddenly he detected a change. Another type of sensor they had missed? There was no time! Immediately he deployed his own arm albeit in a somewhat different configuration. The arm extended... with a small mace looking attachment in place of the three fingered hand. Then at full extension, the arm released the mace weapon which shot out towards the position of the first bomb, trailing a small metal chain linked cord as it did so.

The small device with the club like design hit the part of the wall that was partially hiding the bomb. Plasterboard and wood had been partially torn out just enough to hide what was inside. It didn’t matter. Anyone sent to investigate would have been long dead before they got anywhere near that section of the wall. As soon as the device made impact it seemed to pop up three small metallic nodules from around the circumference of its head. Each one glowed blue, then the device released a strange whirring noise. Like a mini-turbine, this was the crucial pre-load stage, the electricity from the suits invisibility generator re-routed along the metal cord to the device. Less than half a second later the device emitted an ear piercing whine! A tiny localised EMP field was the result. Too small to effect either man’s suit it was nether the less powerful enough to knock out both of the bombs on the stairwell and the surrounding lighting.

The pitch blackness was soothing to the small squad. They trooped up the stairs in the quiet darkness, eyes long since taking in the view from their passive field scanners. It was bizarre, but SAS had consistently found during testing that night ops made the suits easier to handle, primarily because the volume of retina based information did not have to be reconciled with a naked interpretation of reality. Everything was soo much clearer in shades of green when you were British.

The second basement level was the same as the first. The only difference was they now had to work their way back in the opposite direction to the main stairwell on the other side of the floor. They moved forward, starting to listen to any tell tale signs of other humans. Breathing, talk or footsteps; the audio analysis was running constant background checks that could do pickups from two hundred metres away. Dusty looked over at his mate. This was going to be a long slow day, with more surprises than a nasty day in hell fooken guaranteed.

The Kimberly Ranges, Midday, Far North Western Australia

Cub stares over at Bear... woo00oo wooah!
Bear just stares back. Wtf is Cub doing?
Cub gets up and looks around.
“Yarnyum Gianarma tribe land. This is a sacred site. We are the first white people to see it.”
Cub smiled secretively to himself, while Bear sniggered at him and said.
“Is that what your Aussie spirit tells you Cub? That we are in some super remote fucking part of Western Australia? I’ll tell you exactly where we are, without any GPS wristwatch.”

Cub smiled back at him, “Where?”

“The middle of the fucking Kimberly Cub. We are as far from civilisation as it is possible to be and remain on dry land. Luckily for us, it’s not the wet season. We may still have a chance of survival.”
Cub began to shiver uncontrollably. Immediately Bear hugged his brother, as he too was overtaken by wracking shakes. Both look past the others right shoulder, catching glints of shadow in the dawn.
Each man knew the reality. This place, because of its remoteness and the in hospitability of terrain, was completely unsurvivable.
They had been trained by some of Australia’s greatest trackers to survive. They would need all their skills. The first one was energy conversation and getting better. There were plants; they also needed meat quickly to avoid toxicification from the nanites that were now circulating through their blood streams.
When they had been re-corporealerised, the physical forms required the briefest contact with the other realm. At transfer the exposure tarnished them, causing the weakness. It would pass, but each knew that could be measured in years. There was one catch though, as surely as there always was in life. If you could flush the nanites quickly enough they wouldn’t get a hold and do as much damage. Recovery then could be in days, as the body fought of the vestiges of what had already been done.

Flushing nanites required consuming roughly a third of your bodyweight in protein, and the quickest way to do that in the wild was, hunting and eating animals. But first they needed energy. It was no good tracking if you couldn’t move properly. They were like recently arrived astronauts. Weak from space, desperate to renormalise to earth’s conditions.
Each moved off after a further minute, in exactly opposite directions from the cave mouth, having decided that this would be their base camp. The men soon found loose branches and bent to making a sharpened leading edge. No second was spared for fashion, only killing potential was considered. Each knew that any attempt at this point to use chi for pyrokenesis or what the westerners called using your mind-force-chi-spirit to control the elementals such as fire. Any attempt could or at least would eventually lead to permanent death.
They had been lucky, it was best not to push it, when you got your life’s back.

The two ninja adepts, stepped through the portal of darkness. Night descended into that pit, sharp noises and howls of ghoulish proportion roamed and echoed. Each ninja dressed head to foot in black wraps, most of which concealed ancient and modern weapons.

Both were fully grown cold eyed fellows. Each carried a large blade in hand. One was slightly and an inch or two shorter, seemed to move with the grace of a women. The adepts leaned into the black sphere’s entrance chancing forward to the void.

The edges of the sphere collapsed crackling with arcane purple lightning bolts. This was the magic of the Ancient Master. His wizened wizardly form appeared even now urging them on through the portal. They quickly made landfall, hurling themselves from the crackling-frozen surface of clouds back into reality. Immediately the portal winked out of existence.

Landfall was a set of bushes deep in the vast jungle of... the Kimberley Ranges in far north W.A. So said the device on the left arms of each adept. The female adept stepped forward silently looking back at her male companion. Each had deployed non reflective silver wraparound shades.

The male adept suddenly hold out his left hand in a complex triangle symbol. A faint red glow emanated. A fine mist formed rushing outwards from his palm. The female blew on to it, and another red mist shot out creating two dots on across a large topographical map. The map features seemed to shift and alter like those in a dream. They are near that cave, it was a gesture that conveyed a statement from the male to the female. Two sets of eyes when red with power chi. Each adept was now measuring the distance to the kill sight in physical kilometres, preparing their bodies to unleash the devastating psi attacks they had been taught, as well as a vast array of standard weaponry should such an attack vector prove necessary.

The adepts ran with smooth efficiency. Each strode in close fitting but comfortable black mesh. The ninja blades were retained in micro sheaths on their backs. The secret of their clan was stamina. They could run for days if necessary. One of the secrets. Now that most of the other clans were broken or missing they carried many secrets. Like how to get a man to vault over ten feet, keep warm in a blizzard or see long distances underwater.

As they closed on the two targets they formed a mental bond wall, and reviewed strategy. Each posted ideas for potentially improving the odds on killing one target by effectively favouring the other thus causing that target to act overly offensively. Ultimately though the o.g. strategy of simply going one on one, and trying to use the element of assassination if possible was key. In fact you could say the ancient master almost didn’t want his targets to be potentially taken out early by crafty ninjas in the night. He wanted these two humiliated, after the triumph they had endured in forcing him into seclusion in the mountains in china.

In addition to run power-chi circuits every forty seconds to keep muscles on standby, each adept fed chi into an active psi trap relay on their blades. This “red energy” accumulated slowly and let them deliver deadly psi chain attacks that could knock out victims, making them easy prey.

Cub and Bear come back in to the sacred site. They are deep in the Kimberley, thousands of kilometres from anyone. Wet season or no, even so it will take all their tracking skills just to survive. And they are weak from their journey. They know what is coming. They have seen the adepts that were sent to kill them. Being pure spiritual beings they can see their karma.
Each is currently gorging on the last edible piece of a massive wild boar. The gods have been kind. A plentiful sacrifice for coming back. A gift from god, fate, destiny, or good luck. They had expected nothing and had twin boars present from the first thicket. Sensing closure Cub had grabbed Bears spear from his left carrying hand and hurled it right handed at the left board. Then seeing the wild rush of the escape, he made the judgement to chance his left arm, hurling his own homemade spear at the beast on the right.

They have finished eating the cooked insides of the second carcass, feeling fat and bloated from so much red meat. The nanites are sated. Now it was as though chains had loosened and they could... React! Quickly each man hurled himself from the scene of wanton gluttony. No sooner were they each combat rolling in opposite directions than black blades burning with red mist slashed through the spaces they had been.

An oddity then that saved them. Cub had heard a faint twitch in the darkness. Not an adept crunching leaf underfoot, but that of a wombat bashing through the foliage. Whatever saves you was meant to be. Cub was coming out of the roll jumping into the air seeming to almost fly; the female adept followed.

Bear stood from his roll, roaring defiantly with his voice. The male adept leaned back as though temporarily overcome, then walked forward swinging his blade from side to side. The swirling motion of the tip made tiny circles from the red the mist. The eyes of the ninja were now leaking with a faint red glow that seemed to trail for several inches behind him. The adept twirled on the spot swinging his blade out wide. It made a wicked arc out in front. Having brought his body into a tightly heeled circle, the adept now stepped onto his right leg and chopped down from the three hundred sixty degree circle toward Bear’s knees. He stepped back nimbly.

Bear roared a second time. The adept was frozen, as he stepped inside the blade’s range, delivering closed fists directly to the side of the ninja’s body. Whack, whack, smack. The blows fell like the blows, of a particularly nasty and vicious claw hammer.

The adept was knocked back, recovering straight away, he advanced once more. Bear felt the first moment of wonder. Back in the day when he had been Davis’s age, that punch would have knocked Mohammed Ali into next week, now it barely kept him in the fight.

The sword was cutting through the end at Cub once more. He rolled backwards into a defensive crouch. Without taking her burning red eyes from him, the ninja pulled a brace of shuriken from her vest and threw them at him. Her arm shot forward from two metres away, Cub jumped, just, gracefully into the air, somersaulting over the top of her attack.

More shuriken followed, now Cub was running. In a circle trying to outflank her. She twisted in time to everything he did. The small barbed pieces of steel barely missed him now. Speed is not your ally anymore my friend, Cub said to himself. The adept stepped in cutting downwards with the blade. He dodged to the left and the blade instead cut down the middle of a tree trunk, treating it like soft butter. He waited till the adept was just about to pull free of the trunk, then kicked out with all his might. As he thought even though the weapon was like a turkey carver for trees and humans, it still got stuck in the base of the tree. He followed up with a second snap kick to the adepts hand and then to her shoulder.

He reached inside the void, pooled all his strength, and it was like a baby lifting itself to stand. Like the tiniest speck of power had decided to flow. He knew what he wanted to do, but the days of meditation required to regain control of that flow were currently beyond him. Even so the barest skerrick of power existed. Just for that second it seemed.

As the saying goes it’s not how much you have its how you use it. Cub was doing just that. He used his tiny connection to bend the thread that curled air around the female adept’s right foot. Samsara enforced the intent of the universe via the laws of physics. Cub changed that instance to enforce the laws of Cub. Tiny wisps of air became steel, for a bare half second, but it was enough. The foot tripped, the adept fell forward off balance.

Cub knew now that a crucial junction had been reached. Both adepts were instantly aware of the use of power on the local threads of samsara. How could they not?

Everything in the universe was connected. There are not those things now that reflect what I want but those things that matter more now that they are gone? What do you want Davis? What for you is still permanent in this place of non-existence? – Cub questioning Davis, 5 seconds before his initiation began.

The female adept’s loss of balance was all he needed. Stepping in he grabbed her neck, breaking it swiftly in hands that were even in this weakened state still strong than most forms of steel. In such life and death battles there was no extended fight sequence. Just a loss of advantage, followed most usually by a swift and brutal ending.

Cub rounded on the fighters in front of him, advancing swiftly to within striking range. A furious exchange of punch, chop, and block was going on, and his brother was starting to flag badly. A peerless fighter in his own right, Bear was however slower and more vulnerable in his current physical state. The adept was holding nothing back. Using mind power to focus his attacks, he launched punches that could tear through brick walls, and blocks that must have felt like iron bars.

Still Bear fought on through gritted teeth. His pain was obvious, but then again so was his courage. Like drops of water, the blood from his many wounds now dropped freely towards the ground.  Beaten back by an advancing enemy, Bear suddenly stiffened, even as a fatal blow descended. The ninja adept had unleashed a cruelling blow, using a chi push to temporarily block Bear upper vertebrae, an instant cause of body paralysis.

Cub screamed forward, jumping onto the back of the remaining adept. His body was locked like a lover on the adept from behind, moving his arms up and in front of the adepts body, holding him in a full nelson. The ninja strained clearly not used to having to fight off such a wiry yet impossibly strong man as Cub. Like a UFC fighter at the top of his BJJ prowess, Cub twisted and turned to counter everything the other fighter had. Bear looked on silently fighting the paralysis, willing his body to get back into the fight. What should of taken seconds to recover from, what should not have even been possibly to inflict in the first place was in fact an attack for which to Bear had almost proven fatal.

I believe I will conqueror fear. You will fear the thing you come to like the most, yourself. Then you will grow to distrust your own shadow, and when you at last become that shadow? Cub hummed in the ninja’s ear, and as he had predicted the adept thrashed to the other side with his head... straight into Cub’s upraised elbow smashing back in the other direction. Knocked by the blow but not unconscious Cub quickly used the advantage to once again snap the neck of his opponent.

He let the body drop to the ground, and walked over to his brother. Blood streamed from his wounds as Cub grabbed his arms and gently pressed subtle chi energies along the spine every few inches. The key to quickly restoring the body for one untrained or unable to wield their own chi, was to use small pushes that gradually brought the chi to the surface of the main channel letting it flow again. Everything was just blocks and flow. Press in the right place and you could kill a man in less than ten seconds.

Cub caught Bear as his body suddenly went limb and slumped.. some seconds later Bear was groggily raising himself. He looked disbelieving at his younger brother.

“You saved me brother! My little brother saved my life! How will I ever live down the embarrassment?” Bear said still disbelieving. He felt keenly the humiliation of allowing the adept to paralyse him.

Cub just smiled warmly at his brother. They had been through too much, put up with too much, done everything together, to worry too much about Bear’s emotional state. Besides they were baby boomers, life wasn’t fucken fair, you worked hard, then maybe if you were lucky you got to go on holidays before you died. What his brother felt now, was his own way of saying thank you, in a way that neither of them could or would ever tacitly acknowledge. Such was the way of men, to share without talking, to say through action what was only confused in the tongue of man.

I am the alpha, I am the omega. Hadn’t god said that? Yes but man had never realised quite where things really began. One day Cub had been curious and asked Bear to come along on a trip to Thailand. It was a journey that would, some twenty years later lead here. I have seen the end thought Cub,  I know where I will return. It filled him with an amazing sense of purpose. The energy of that place was something unto which there was nothing similar at all on the earth. The land of the living dead, the place that souls go to wait.

Cub nodded slowly at Bear. Bear nodded back. It was going to be a long trek, perhaps in a few days they would be strong enough to tele-link with one of the tribal elders of the far north, to ask for a pickup. First they had to get stronger, and even then there were not many of the old ones left. Western ways had cut and insidious path through the culture of this countries proud guardians. The young had lost interest in the ways  of their fathers. The great dream, that held Australia in its midst. The spirit which without most people’s knowledge gave it the true moniker of “the lucky country” was slowly fading.

Cub looked back around at the bodies of the two adepts thinking they could scavenge clothes and perhaps some food. Instead he instantly went into a defensive crouch. Bear was soon in front of him, hurling forwards at the two re-animated puppets in front of them. Each moved more rigidly as if pulled by a master puppeteer, yet each still just as deadly. The chi enhanced swords swung in deadly precise arcs towards each man. Now loosened from the restriction of pain the adepts became deadly whirlwinds of non-stop attack and destruction. Cub ducked picking up two heavy stones and handed one to Bear. Raising their right hands each man threw the heavy stone with all his might. Cub’s one skimmed past the male adepts blade landing a blow smack into the bridge of the nose, cracking the head back. The adept stepped forward its head rolled back at an obscene angle. Bear’s one was deadly accurate from less than one metre it crashed into the shoulder of the female adept causing a compound fracture that left the collarbone hanging loosely.

The adepts seemed to cackle madly! If this was fun, I’d hate to think what they didn’t like, thought Cub even as he knew that they must be already dead. This was all part of the sinister ancient master’s bag of tricks. How he would be furious that he had failed to kill them. Cub was suddenly worried, he thought he had seen this trap before. He grabbed Bear and began to run away into the bush beyond. They had made perhaps two or three hundred metres on the slow moving puppet adepts, when suddenly a wild and unholy roar ripped through the jungle. A massive fireball had erupted behind them, but for them it seemed the first sign were intense waves of heat burning down their backs.

A second later and they were hurled forward by a blast wave. Close enough to feel the rush of compressed air forced out from ground zero. Close enough to stand amongst the crashing trees as the whole jungle floor was desiccated by the explosion. Singed now, burnt and weary from the fight of a life just after a journey back from the beyond the grave, each man lay down to sleep the sleep of the dead. No dreaming for a long time, this time, it would be a small time still each thought before either of the two dreamers dreamed again.