Authors: Joe Nobody
Holding Their Own V: The Alpha Chronicles
Copyright © 2013-2014
Kemah Bay Marketing, LLC
All rights reserved.
E. T. Ivester
D. A. L. H.
This is a work of fiction. Characters and events are products of the author’s imagination, and no relationship to any living person is implied. The locations, facilities, and geographical references are set in a fictional environment.
Other Books by Joe Nobody:
- Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart
- The TEOTWAWKI Tuxedo: Formal Survival Attire
- Without Rule of Law: Advanced Skill
s to Help You Survive
- Holding Their Own: A Story of Survival
- Holding Their Own II: The Independents
- Holding Their Own III: Pedestals of Ash
- Holding Their Own IV: The Ascent
- The Home Schooled Shootist: Training to Fight with a Carbine
- Apocalypse Drift
Nine years before the collapse…
A shudder traveled through the airframe, a sure prediction of the pain to come. Despite 90 pounds of kit, ammunition, and weaponry, Bishop felt his backside lift off the inflexible, aluminum bench, the ascent partially restrained by the straps crisscrossing his chest. Gravity regained control as the wings found air, promptly slamming him back down with spine-compressing force.
That wasn’t as bad as the last two
, he thought.
Things are looking up.
Across the aisle, Spider began rubbing his jaw, a grimace on his face. “I think that one knocked a filling loose,” he shouted over the steady drone of the engines.
“Bullshit,” Bishop grinned, “You don’t
His friend never managed a comeback - the effort interrupted by another shudder, freefall, and kinetic re-acquaintance with the bench. Spider remained
silent, evidently deciding it wasn’t worth the effort.
The ancient, rattletrap Lockheed L-100 cargo plane had achieved wheels-up three hours ago, the two South African pilots’ sobriety as questionable as the airworthiness of the craft. Somehow, the four-fan trashcan had managed to stay airborne – so far.
They were four days behind schedule, and Bishop wondered if that hadn’t affected the decision to fly. Wave after wave of monsoon thunderheads were pounding Central Africa, the weather unconcerned with the urgency of their mission. A short time ago, a gap appeared – a break in the pattern that management deemed wide enough to attempt flight. The order to mount up given, the 11-man team had boarded the plane, most of them happy to just be doing
Now, Bishop was questioning the wisdom of the decision. While he had been as bored as anyone at the remote
airfield, becoming a bloody splat on some remote jungle floor didn’t seem like the better option. Shudder… freefall… pain.
He didn’t like the helpless feeling. The dark, coffin-like interior of the cargo hold was cramped, windowless, and smelled of old oil and nervous sweat. Fighting down a welling sense of claustrophobia, he forced his mind to review the pre-mission briefing held seven days ago.
The Colonel had begun by addressing a large team of personnel, hastily gathered at the HBR security center in Houston. Providing the background first, he informed the group that HBR had contracted to explore for oil and natural gas in central Africa. The company had shipped newly developed, top secret, seismic technology for the job. A screw-up in scheduling allowed the equipment to arrive in country before the Colonel’s security forces, and the extremely valuable machinery had disappeared.
Three days later, word had spread throughout the energy community that the hijacked merchandise was for sale to the highest bidder. HBR had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on research and development of the new toys, and desperately wanted the property back.
“There’s no local government functioning in the area,” briefed the Colonel. “The region has been in absolute chaos for 25 years. Coups, civil war, corruption, and organized crime have dominated the local politics. A man named Ditto Ombomtu has surfaced as the ringleader. Mr. Ombomtu is quite the colorful figure.”
The Colonel lifted a sheet of paper from the conference table and began reading. “International wire fraud, embezzlement, prostitution, blackmail, narcotics, kidnapping, slavery, extortion - the list goes on and on. Clearly, our friend Ditto is an active local
businessman. He is wanted by our FBI, Interpol, and numerous other law enforcement agencies around the globe.”
During the Colonel’s pause, Bishop lifted his hand for a question. The Colonel acknowledged the gesture with a nod. “Sir, does the charge of international wire fraud mean this is the guy filling up my inbox with all of those emails claiming to be from the Nigerian Central Bank, or an African prince or whatever?”
The Colonel grinned at Bishop’s question, “Why yes, it does, Bishop. I see here on this report that Mr. Ombomtu runs one of the largest internet spamming sites in the world. I’m sure we’ve all received solicitations from this man.”
“I want the kill shot, sir,” Bishop retorted, his tone indicating the request was only partially tongue-in-cheek.
The roomful of operators erupted in laughter, which was quickly followed by others competing for the privilege of ensuring Mr. Ombomtu’s demise, some of the men being very creative how the criminal should die.
The Colonel was a wise and experienced leader, allowing the interruption and follow-on banter to continue for a short period before clearing his throat. The room immediately fell silent.
“While I know you weren’t completely serious, Bishop, I want to make it clear that there will be
kill shot. HBR needs Mr. Ombomtu alive and talking. He’s probably the only person who knows where our equipment is located, and management wants that technology back. Your mission is a snatch-and-grab only. Do I make myself understood?”
Every man acknowledged with a crisp, “Yes, sir.”
The Colonel surveyed the room, making eye contact with each individual. “The reason why I’m sending so many men on this mission is because we need this man alive and chirping like a bird. Unless you come across our goods, bring him back breathing. I’ll take care of his debriefing,
. I promise everyone here that Mr. Ombomtu
enjoy my interview.”
Shudder… freefall… pain. Bishop shivered, recalling the Colonel’s tone of voice. He wouldn’t want to be in Mr. Ombomtu’s skin if the team took him alive.
Movement at the front of the plane drew Bishop’s attention. Sitting directly behind the pilots, he observed the team’s leader speaking with the aviators in the cockpit. Word quickly passed down the line – 10 minutes.
The man running the show was a large British chap who everyone called Stoke - the name derived from the fellow’s unwavering loyalty to the Stoke City football club back home in England. Ex-British Special Air Services and HBR’s expert on the Dark Continent, Stoke was both well-liked and respected by everyone at the company. There were even rumors that he would take the Colonel’s position, should the current head honcho ever decide to retire.
The plane began executing a gut-scrambling descent through a narrowing gap, the reforming monsoon closing in rapidly on all sides. Every man aboard believed he was going to die. When the plane finally came to rest on terra-firma, Bishop disembarked on shaky legs and immediately turned to study the undercarriage.
“What’s the matter?” Spider asked.
“I can’t believe this bitch still has wheels after that landing. I think the captain should change his name to Hop-along Cassidy,” Bishop replied, shaking his head.
The cloudburst resumed exactly three minutes after boots were on the ground.
Within an hour of their arrival, the absolute best technology available to the modern light-fighter
was rendered ineffective by the jungle, at least in regards to foul weather gear. Synthetic wicking materials were overwhelmed first, quickly followed by rivulets of rain discovering every conceivable nook, seam, and opening in the team’s ponchos, load vests, and packs. Waterproof boots quickly became buckets, filled from the top by the constant flow of rain seeping in from the top. Before they could even form up to move out, the operators fell victim to a two-dimensional soak, outside from precipitation and inside by perspiration.
It wasn’t long before the equipment began to fail as well. Fog-proof optics, watertight battery compartments, and all-weather electronics
had evidently never been tested in environments such as the central African jungle, especially during monsoon season. About the only thing that functioned normally was the constant stream of creative cursing spouted by the frustrated team. The eruption of vile language mimicked the dialect of the rain – steady and unrelenting.
Two days later, tucked in a shadowy nook of heavy foliage and shrouded by drooping ferns, only the whites of Bishop’s eyes were visible. The carefully applied layer of brown and green camouflage face paint was redundant now, completely covered by 48 hours’ worth of mud and grime. The soaked brim of his bush hat sagged from the weight of precipitation, a condition due to Bishop’s sweat and the never-ending inundation from the sky.
He was studying what was essentially a trail - a path that had transformed into a muddy creek. In its current, semi-submerged state, it was practically impossible to determine if
the route was used by two or four-legged animals. The operator was only interested in the former.
Bishop was as miserable as he could ever remember. Every inch of his body hurt, itched, ached, or
had been chaffed raw from the constant exposure to water and salt. His feet and hands were crinkly like a kid playing in the bathtub for too long. His skin was peeling off in large chunks, leaving red, irritated flesh beneath. Even breathing was difficult, every inhalation of the heavy air requiring twice the normal effort.
Sensing his partner’s presence behind him and convinced the trail was unoccupied, Bishop turned to Spider and whispered, “I’m thinking of a number.”
Spider’s brow furled, the movement of skin causing small flecks of filth to run down his cheeks. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I’m thinking of a number. Guess what it is.”
“Now how the fuck should I know what number you’re thinking of? Do I look clairvoyant or some shit?”
Bishop grunted and shook his head. “You shouldn’t use words like that, Spider. It’ll ruin your carefully crafted warrior image.”
“How ‘bout I enhance my image by issuing you a fully crafted ass whooping when we get back to civilization and dry clothes?”
Bishop ignored the threat and continued. “The number 100 keeps flashing through my head. One hundred degrees. One hundred percent humidity. One hundred percent fucked up place to be, and I’m one hundred percent sure this is the right trail.”
Spider’s eyes widened, and then he moved to spy over Bishop’s shoulder at the muddy path beyond. After a minute of study, he turned and inquired, “What’s so different about this one compared to the last three? They all look the same to me.”
Bishop extended his shotgun, the condom tipped barrel slowly lowering a stem so both men could see the trail. “Look there…
at the edge… six inches from the rock. Do you see that oddly shaped impression?”
Spider studied the area for a moment and finally nodded. “So? That could be anything. I don’t get it.”
Bishop scanned up and down the trail, making sure the route was still unoccupied. Using slow, deliberate body movements, he stood and ventured closer to the track. He removed the shotgun’s sling from his shoulder and grasped the weapon by the barrel, holding the stock above the muddy indention. The hole was a perfect fit for the butt of a weapon. He smiled at a surprised Spider before returning to his concealment.
“That don’t mean shit. That hole could’ve been made by anything.”
Spider threw his friend a questioning glance, which
was quickly answered by Bishop pointing with his head and mouthing the words, “Go on.”
Spider moved to Bishop’s side and then crawled a few feet through the mud to study the impression. When he was close enough, he could see the rainbow colors of an oil slick residing on the surface of the puddled water inside.
Sliding back to their hide, Spider glared at Bishop and hissed, “So?”
Bishop rolled his eyes, his partner’s stubbornness grating on his nerves. He took the stock of his shotgun and pushed the butt into the ground between the two men. Reaching to a nearby palm, he pulled the branch downward until the water beading on the surface ran into the newly created impression. A clearly visible oil slick appeared on the surface.
Spider’s eyes grew wide with disbelief. “What the fuck,” he whispered.
“Anybody who carries a weapon in this weather has to coat it with a gallon of oil. Hell, we’re practically giving our own blasters a lube-bath every few hours. Besides, picture yourself trudging down that path.”
Bishop paused and pointed to the slowly flowing water. Using the scattergun’s barrel, he indicated a disturbance on the surface. “There’s probably a big rock or submerged branch causing that ripple. If you were wandering along, carrying your rifle and tripped right there, that imprint is right where you would have used the weapon to prevent your fall. A rifle-cane. Now, de-fuck that pessimistic bullshit, and let’s get back and tell the others – I’m sure.”
Spider checked the scene one more time and shook his head before turning to follow his friend back to their camp.
The two scouts approached carefully, signaling the sentry that they were friendlies. After clearing a small rise in the jungle floor, Bishop and Spider entered the temporary bivouac.
A small cluster of HBR personnel huddled under a makeshift tarp, the mud-splattered group making a futile attempt to stay dry. There wasn’t any fire, a consequence of every burnable molecule of fuel for 100 miles being soaked to the core. The men were using the brief rest to clean equipment, partake of the gourmet MRE, and wring out wet socks - anything to make their soggy existence more palatable.