Andy McNab: Agressor

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Andy McNab Agressor
  • Название:
    Agressor
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    Триллер / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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Andy McNab


Agressor

PART ONE


1

Monday, 5 April 1993

The three of us clung to the top of the Bradley armoured fighting vehicle as it bucked and lurched over the churned-up ground. Exhaust fumes streamed from its rear grille and made us choke, but at least they were warm. The days out here might be hot, but the nights were freezing.

My right hand was clenched round an ice-cold grab handle near the turret. My left gripped the shoulder strap of my day sack. We'd flown three thousand miles to use this gear, and there was nothing to replace it if it got damaged. The whole job would have to be aborted and I would be severely in the shit.

Nightsun searchlights mounted on the four AFVs strafed the front of the target buildings. The other three were decoys; ours was the only one transporting a three-man SAS team. That was if we could all keep a grip on the thing.

As our driver took a sharp left towards the rear of the target, our Nightsun sliced a path across the night sky like a scene from the Blitz.

Charlie was team leader on this one, and wore a headset and boom mike to prove it. Connected to the comms box outside the AFV, it meant he could talk to the crew. His mouth was moving but I didn't have a clue what he was saying. The roar of the engine and the clatter of the tracks put paid to that. He finished, pulled off the headset, and lobbed it onto the grille. He gave Half Arse and me a slap and the shout to stand by.

Seconds later, the AFV slowed, then came to a halt: our cue to jump. We scrambled down the sides, taking care our day sacks didn't strike anything on the way.

The vehicle swivelled on its own axis, mud cascading from its tracks, then headed back the way we'd come.

I joined Charlie and Half Arse behind a couple of cars. They were obvious cover, but we'd only be here a few seconds, and if the Nightsuns had done their job, anybody watching from the building would have lost their night vision anyway.

We hugged the ground, looking, listening, tuning in.

Our AFV was now grinding along the other side of the building with its mates, Nightsuns working the front of the target. And now that they were a safe distance from our eardrums, the loudspeakers mounted on each vehicle began to broadcast a horrible, high-pitched noise like baby rabbits being slaughtered. They'd been doing that for days. I didn't know how it was affecting the people inside the target, but it certainly made me crazy.

We were about fifty metres from the rear of the target. I checked Baby-G: about six hours till first light. I checked the gaffer tape holding my earpiece, and that the two throat-mike sensors were still in place.

Charlie was sorting out his own comms. When he'd finished taping his earpiece, he thumbed the pressle hanging from a wire attached to the lapel of his black corduroy bomber jacket, and spoke low and slow. 'This is Team Alpha. We clear to move yet? Over.' Brits found his thick Yorkshire accent hard enough to understand; fuck knows what the Americans at the other end would make of it.

He was talking to a P3 aircraft circling some twenty-five thousand feet above our heads. Bristling with thermal imaging equipment to warn us of any impending threat while we were on the job, it also carried an immensely powerful infrared torch. I checked that my one-inch square of luminous tape was still stuck on my shoulder. The aircraft's IR beam was invisible to the naked eye, but the reflections off our squares would stick out like sore thumbs on their camera. If we were compromised and bodies poured out of the target to take us on, at least P3 would be able to direct the QRF [quick reaction force] to the right place.

The reply from the P3 came to my earpiece too. 'Yep, that's a free zone, Team Alpha, free zone.'

Charlie didn't bother to voice a reply; he just gave two clicks on the pressle. Then he came alongside me and put his mouth right against my ear. 'If I don't make it, will you do something for me?'

I looked at him and nodded, then mouthed the question, 'What?'

I felt the warmth of his breath on the side of my face. 'Make sure Hazel gets that three quid you owe me. It's part of my estate.'

He gave me the kind of grin that would have won him an audition with the Black and White Minstrels. It had been years since he'd subbed me for that fucking bacon sandwich, but the way he went on about it you'd have thought he'd paid off my mortgage.

He rolled away and began to crawl. He'd know that I was second in line, with Half Arse bringing up the rear. Half Arse also had personal comms, but his earpiece was just shoved into his jacket pocket. He was going to be the eyes and ears while Charlie and I worked on target.

The crawl was wet and muddy and my jeans and fleece were quickly soaked. I was beginning to wish I'd worn gloves and a couple of extra layers.

Like the other two, I kept my eyes on those parts of the target behind which the P3 couldn't penetrate: the windows. The rabbit noise and searchlights should keep the occupants' attention on the front of the target until we were done, but we'd freeze at the slightest movement, and hope we hadn't been seen or heard.

'You've got thirty to target, Team Alpha.' P3 were trying to be helpful.

Torchlight flickered behind a curtain on the first-floor window. It was directed inwards, not out at us. It wasn't a threat.

We carried on, and six minutes of slow crawling later we were where we needed to be.

2

The flaky white, weatherboarded exterior was only the first of three layers. The building plans showed there were likely to be another two behind it. One was tarpaper to prevent damp and help with insulation, and then there'd be the interior stud wall, which would have a finishing coat of either paint or paper, or both. None of which should be a problem for the sophisticated gear we were carrying.

As planned, we'd crawled to a point between two ground-floor windows. A utility box the size of a coal bunker was set against the wall. It was an ideal location for the stuff we were going to leave behind.

Fingers shielding the lens of his mini-Maglite, Charlie opened the utility box with a square lug key and had a quick look inside.

Half Arse had his pistol out; he kept his eyes on the windows and his ears everywhere else. He'd had a buttock shot away during an op a few years back, and right now I wondered if it meant his arse was only half as cold as mine. His wife wanted him to have an implant so he didn't scare the kids when he took them swimming, but they weren't available on the NHS, and he refused to go private. 'I'm too tight-arsed' was his standard joke. 'Or rather, tight half-arsed…' Nobody ever laughed. It wasn't very funny, and nor was he.

We knew that everyone in the various Pods [tactical operations] would be watching the thermal and IR imagery of us at work, beamed down to them by the P3. We wanted to make sure it was a job well done; don't mess with the best was the message we wanted to transmit – though right now it was the last thing any of us was worried about; personally, I just wanted to do the business and get away alive. This was my last job before I left the Regiment. It would be the mother of all ironies if I got dropped or injured now.

I eased my day sack off my back. A distant voice inside the building shouted out something but we ignored him. We'd only react if someone was actually shouting that they'd spotted us; otherwise, we'd be stopping and starting every five minutes. You just have to get on with it until you know there is a definite drama. That was what Half Arse was here for.

Charlie had worked out where he wanted to fix the device. He pressed a thumbnail into the wood at almost ground level and gave me a nod. I brought out a pyramid from my day sack, seven inches high and made of alloy. Instead of a peak, it had a hole, and at each of the four corners was a fixing lug.

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