Posted: 2008-06-06 02:58pm
Incident Command Centre, Sheffield Airport, United Kingdom.
“I think me may have a little bit of a problem, Sir.” Colonel Mace said as he stepped back into the command trailer. “I’ve just been speaking to the Chief Constable and it seems that two of his officers along with their vehicle have gone missing.”
“The situation in the city is pretty confused, Colonel.” Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart replied. “I’ve been led to believe that the network that supports the emergency service’s radio network has been damaged, so it is hardly a surprise that officers may be out of contact.”
“Ordinarily that fact would not worry me, or the Chief Constable, Sir, but witnesses some of our men rescued in the city a short time ago have reported that the officers ejected them from their vehicle and placed a baldrick inside. Now no baldrick prisoner has been reported as being taken so…”
“Something was badly wrong.” Lethbridge-Stewart finished the sentence. “Intelligence does say that some baldricks may be able to exercise mind control by injecting their victims with some kind of poison. We’re overstretched as we are, but we better find this baldrick before it does any more damage. Put together a unit to go and hunt it down, I’ll ask Midlands Command if they can send us some Paras, or Marines to act as a hunter unit if necessary.”
“I’ll command it myself if I have to, Sir.” Mace replied.
The Brigadier turned slightly as Keavy McManus stepped into the Command Trailer.
“Ah, Doctor, how can I help?”
“It’s just Mrs McManus, Brigadier.” The vulcanologist corrected him.
“My apologies, Mrs McManus, a habit from a previous posting.” Lethbridge-Stewart replied. “How is your survey team getting on?”
“Apology accepted, Brigadier.
“I just wanted to thank you for your assistance. I understand that you are very busy with rescue and recovery duties, not to mention Law and Order and providing a cordon, yet you have managed to spare manpower and vehicles to escort my team.” Keavy McManus told him.
“Always nice to be appreciated by the best in their business, Mrs McManus.” The Brigadier told her. “Your work is extremely important; we need to learn how to deal with events like this. I Think you must have heard the news from Detroit, we can be sure that it won’t be the last attack of its kind.”
Western Sheffield, United Kingdom.
The convoy transporting the survey team halted as it prepared to take more readings of the lava that covered much of the city. The army had managed to provide a rather eclectic group of vehicles from those it had assembled at the airport. Leading the group was a Land Rover SNATCH 2, carrying some of the RMP escort, which was followed by two Saxon Patrol APCs, which carried the personnel and equipment of the survey team; various aerials and sensors now poked out from the roof hatches; and a Fuchs Reconnaissance Vehicle, its NBC sensors adapted to detect the various products the portal was spewing out, the rest of the RMP escort was carried in a Vector armored patrol vehicle. Bringing up the rear was a Trojan Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers, the engineer variant of the Challenger 2. It was there in case anything large and heavy needed to be moved out of the way, it also had a GPMG mounted in a Remote Weapons Station which might come in handy.
Staff Sergeant John Mann, Royal Military Police, was not in a particularly good mood as he watched the survey team, who were all wearing protective suits, dismount from the two Saxons and start taking readings, assisted by some members of 1st Royal Tank Regiment, who manned the Fuchs, from the Land Rover. Mann was a senior member of a Special Investigation Branch (known in the RMP as the ‘Branch’, and in the wider army as ‘Shit In Bulk’) team based in Midlands Command and felt that he should not be here; his job was to catch criminals in uniform, not shepherd civilian scientists. However he had been available and many of his team had been dispatched to the city to reinforce members of a Territorial Army Provost Company. What Mann had seen today reminded him of something out of a disaster movie, or one of those nuclear war docudramas that had been popular during the Cold War. One image that had stayed with him was the sight of a Traffic Warden cradling an old SLR as he guarded a group of looters Were they really so short of manpower that somebody had decided to arm the Traffic Wardens?
Mann put on his mask and stepped out of the Land Rover, intending to check on the troops under his command. He trusted his fellow SIB and RMP soldiers, but he was not sure about the men from the Military Provost Guard Service sent to bolster the escort. Although they were exclusively recruited from ex-servicemen they usually spent their days guarding base entrances and patrolling perimeters. He leaned back into the Land Rover and grabbed his L1A2 battle rifle; the TA and MPGS members of the escort still had L85A2s, L86A2s and Light Machine Guns, all 5.56mm weapons, but as regulars Mann and his team were entitled to the latest small arms.
“Anything interesting happening, Sergeant?” Mann asked one of the senior NCOs manning the defensive perimeter.
“Not a thing, Staff, apart from some poor moggy that must have been killed by something.” Sergeant Jo McDonagh, a fellow member of Mann’s investigation team, replied.
“I reckon everyone must have self-evacuated out of here long ago; it was a pretty well to do area so I hope nobody has been stupid enough to… Hey you three! Yes you, halt!”
Sergeant McDonagh flinched as Mann suddenly yelled at full volume. His was a voice feared throughout the whole of the SIB. She spotted that he was yelling at three youths who had emerged from a house just beyond the perimeter carrying some plastic bags, they looked over their shoulders, saw the soldiers and started to run.
Mann and McDonagh brought up their rifles, as did the other Red Caps present.
“Halt, or I fire!” Mann yelled.
The Emergency Powers only required that a member of the Security Forces give one warning before opening fire, and in extreme circumstances they could fire without a warning. Mann technically obeyed the instructions, his shot coincided with the implied exclamation mark at the end of his shout. The .338 Lapua Magnum round inflicted terrible damage on the body of the looter. He was dead before he hit the ground. The other two stopped in their tracks, dropped what they were carrying and put their hands up. Mann strode up to them and delivered a swift smack in the small of their backs with his rifle butt, knocking them to the ground.
“Do you two idiots know the penalty for looting then?” He snarled to the two terrified survivors. “Search and cuff them.” He ordered the other Redcaps. “Sergeant, search the house in case there are more of them in there.”
“Yes, Staff.” McDonagh replied.
Sergeant McDonagh led half a dozen Redcaps into the semi-detached house. With the power cut it was eerily quiet, though there was the distant sound of dripping water.
“Clear!” Each soldier shouted as he, or she cleared a room.
“There’s a door here, Sarge.” A corporal said to McDonagh. “I reckon it leads to a basement.”
“Right, Corporal, you go first. I’ll cover you.” McDonagh ordered, turning on the torch attached to her L1A2.
The Corporal kicked in the door.
“On the floor! Nobody move!” He yelled as he charged through the door, Sergeant McDonagh close behind him.
He swung his L85A2 around the room until the torch tapped to it illuminated the body of a middle aged man. His head had been caved in.
“Oh shit!” The Corporal breathed.
“Maybe later, Corporal, but now I think we’d better tell the Staff about this.”
“There were three bodies, Staff.” McDonagh said to Mann a few minutes later. “They’d been sheltering in their basement, who knows why. There was a middle aged man and woman, I presume husband and wife; they’d both had their heads caved in; and an old woman, looked like she was in her late seventies, or early eighties.”
“Had they killed her too?” Mann asked, the disgust dripping from his voice.
“There were no signs of violence, it looks like a heart attack.”
Mann kicked the nearest of the two looters savagely, hard enough to break his ribs.
“Is this your handiwork, you scum?”
“No, they were already like that when we got here!” The looter with broken ribs said through clenched teeth.
“It were ‘im!” The other looter protested, indicating the dead man.
“Get these two pricks out of here before I do something they regret.” Mann snarled at the other Redcaps, before storming back to his wagon.
“You heard the Staff, get them moving.” McDonagh ordered. “And don’t forget to bring the evidence.”
One of the MPGS soldiers searched through the plastic carriers. Rather surprisingly one of them was filled with food rather than valuables.
“There’s a packet of crisps in here.” He said to his ‘oppo’, holding up the bag.
“They would be, I hate prawn cocktail.
“We’d better get a shift on before Mr Nasty notices we’re dawdling.”
“Did you get their names?” Mann asked McDonagh a few minutes later. “The stiffs, I mean?”
The sergeant reached into the pocket of her DPM jacket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper.
“I found a gas bill by the door, it seems that they were a Mr and Mrs Beckett.”
“Well hopefully that should help us to locate next of kin; as for the bodies, we’ll just have to let command deal with that.”
Sixth ring of Hell.
Corporal Louis Hoffman paused as he spotted some movement ahead, dropping to the ground and signalling the rest of the patrol to halt and take cover. In this part of Hell is was probably a baldrick patrol and while the patrol from Air Troop, G Squadron, 22 SAS, had enough strength and firepower to deal with any isolated group of baldricks they did not want to draw attention to themselves, at least not yet anyway.
Hoffman carefully swung his L1A2 battle rifle from left to right, scanning the ground ahead. Neither his eyes, nor the Combined Weapon Sight fitted to the rifle revealed anything.
“What is it, Louie?” The voice of Captain Patrick Fleming, the patrol commander, said in his headset.
“Thought I saw some movement ahead, Boss.” Hoffman replied. “I’m not sure now.”
“Seeing things now are we, Louie?” The voice of Staff Sergeant Henry ‘Don’t call me Henno’ Garvie remarked. “Better safe than sorry, though.
“Dave, go forward and support Louis. See if you can spot what’s up there.”
Now that the forces of Satan were on the back-foot, Hell was crawling with human Special Forces, and Britain was one of the major providers. Patrols from both the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service were roaming the areas of Hell assigned to the UK, gathering intelligence and rescuing inmates where ever possible. The Special Reconnaissance Regiment had established a number of Observation Posts from where they could watch the comings and goings of Hell’s military forces, and direct attacks when necessary, while the Paras, Marines and RAF Regiment Gunners of the UK Special Forces Support Group were on stand-by to support any patrol that got into difficulty, or add extra muscle to any attack.
The various UK Special Forces patrols had already managed to rescue quite a few former military personnel, who had been marked down as a priority for recovery. These deceased personnel had then been transferred via portal to a safe area near the Hellmouth for rehabilitation. Encouragingly many, mainly amongst the more recently arrived, had volunteered their services.
The Staff & Personnel Support Branch of the Adjutant General's Corps now had the headache of working out the back-pay and allowances of these deceased soldiers. There had also been suggestions that it might be possible to use some of these troops as battle casualty replacements for units deployed in Hell, or to form new units. That didn’t solve the legal problems of course, after all, how does one pay the dead for their services and what were the limits on service terms? Technically, those who were being found in Hell hadn’t yet fulfilled the terms of their enlistments and that raised even more legal questions. It was reputed that several members of the Pay Corps and Legal branch had already gone mad trying to think out the implications.
Corporal David ‘Dave’ Woolston carefully made his way forward. He was a large, powerfully built man of Afro-Caribbean extraction, and thus was one of the two members of the patrol carrying a GPMG, in this case the new L7A3 variant, which was chambered for the same 8.58mm round as the L1A2.
“Spread out, but be careful, we don’t know what we are dealing with.” Captain Fleming ordered.
“Wait, I see something.” The patrol’s sniper, Corporal Finn Younger reported.
Corporal Younger normally carried an L115A1 Long Range Rifle, though for the deployment to Hell he had decided to draw an AW50F from the armory at Credenhill. It gave him an extra reach and the 12.7x99 Raufoss Mk.211 rounds it fired were extremely powerful.
Younger lined his weapon up on the target, preparing to fire if necessary. However to his surprise the figure in the sight resolved itself into a human shape rather than a baldrick. Even more surprisingly the figure seemed to be moving tactically rather than in the way a civilian might cross a piece of terrain.
“I think we have possible friendly forces ahead, Boss.” Younger reported.
“Right everybody, carefully stand-up, its time to reveal ourselves.” Fleming ordered. “Staff, Fin, Dave, Pete, you stay down for now to give us covering fire.”
The rest of the patrol slowly got to their feet to discover that they were being observed by two figures that were definitely human.
“Who are you?” Captain Fleming called out.
“Sergeant Tony Stevens, 2nd Royal Irish Rangers! Who are you?”
“Captain Patrick Fleming, Special…I mean 1st Scots Guards.”
“You’re one of THEM, eh, Sir.” The filthy bedraggled figure replied. “Don’t worry I have heard of you, I died back in 1978, an IRA sniper.
“This is Corporal James Beveridge of the Royal Engineers.”
The other figure nodded.
“If you want any tunnelling done, I’m your man.” The engineer said. “Still that’s what did for me in the end, bloody Bosche heard us coming and blew up ma tunnel.”
“How many of there are you?” Fleming asked.
“About twenty in this group, Sir.” Sergeant Stevens asked. “I think you’d better come and meet our Senior Officer.”
Sergeant Stevens led Captain Fleming and Staff Sergeant Garvie into a poorly lit cave. They could see that someone was sitting at the far end hunched over what looked like a table, though it was probably a large stone. Stevens saluted smartly and introduced the new comers.
“Sir, this is Captain Fleming and Staff Sergeant Garvie of 22 SAS.”
“Which squadron?” The Senior Officer asked.
“G Squadron, Sir, Air Troop.” Fleming replied, saying ‘sir’ because the voice sounded like someone senior in rank to him.
The figure, a veritable giant of a man at just less than two meters in height, stood up and stepped forward into the light, Fleming and Garvie recognised him at one. After all they had seen his photograph often enough.
“A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Captain Fleming, Staff Sergeant Garvie.” Colonel Sir Archibald David Stirling, formerly of the Scots Guards, 8 Commando and Special Air Service, said stretching out his right hand. “I take it you have orders to extract groups like mine?”
Fleming and Garvie had never shaken hand with a corpse, or was he a soul, and it was a rather strange experience, yet Stirling seemed as alive as they did.
“Yes, Sir I have. Our orders are to gather intelligence and evacuate as many military personnel as possible.
“Can I ask how many of there are you?”
“Twenty three, some British, there are a few Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians, Indians, South Africans and what not. We’ve got a Zulu here who died at Rorke’s Drift and his stories are going to change the history books. I think I can speak for everyone but we are pretty keen to do what we can to liberate this place, just give us the tools. I for one have been waiting for eighteen years to give something back to the demons.”
“We’ll get evacuation laid on as soon as we can, Sir.” Fleming said. “Do you know of any other groups near-by?”
“There are small groups scattered all over now. Mostly, we’ve been keeping our heads down and trying not to get found but the war’s changed all that. You know there’s a liberated area up in the Fifth Circle?”
“Free Hell Sir. Run by the People’s Front For The Liberation of Hell. That’s mostly a Yank operation but we’re all involved in getting people out.”
“Well, Yanks or not, you better get word to them, they’re in trouble. Our OPs have spotted a big force of demons converging on the river bank opposite the area they’re holding. About 30,000 foot sloggers and 1,300 fliers. No cavalry that we can see.”
Fleming and Garvie exchanged glances. Even with the influx of deceased volunteers and the support of special forces units from Earth, a force over 30,000 baldricks was too much even for modern weaponry to cope with. If that attack got launched, it was going to overrun Free Hell. “Thank you Sir. We’ll get word straight through and see what can be done.”
DIMO(N) Transit Facility, Fort Bragg
“Colonel Aidan Dempsey, Sir, a pleasure to meet you.” The current commander of 22 SAS said once Stirling, who was the last man through, stepped into the transit facility.
“Likewise, Colonel.” Dempsey’s predecessor replied. “I can’t say I feel too clever though.”
“I’m afraid you can’t stay here too long, Sir. We haven’t solved the problem of bring people back from Hell to Earth yet, but we’ll transfer you and your men to an area of Hell we control. I understand you wish to offer us your services?”
“Of course, Colonel. Both myself and my men have been waiting for revenge for a long time, and I think we can help you locate more groups like us. Just give us the appropriate equipment and training and we’ll do the job.”
“It will be a pleasure to have you in this fight, Sir. If you’ll just follow me I’ll take you to Camp Brimstone.”