Sting of the Scorpion Part 4 'The long March'
The story continues
The 'White knuckle' ride continues as we move with Scorpion team towards their objective. Deep in enemy territory they're carrying out a dangerous method of getting 'Inserted' into the enemies lair by performing a H.A.L.O (High Altitude Low Opening) Jump into Northern Iran.
Will they make it?
Into the breach
In case you missed the others
- Sting of the Scorpion Part 3
When the Drug lords and the Terrorists come together there's only one unit capable of taking the fight to the enemy right in their own 'backyard' Team Scorpion is enroute to take them on!
From the last episode
“Five minutes” the voice came again, “open the cargo door.” The loadmaster did one last check of the straps holding the pallets in place and then hooked his harness to the special seat he had and waited for the final thumbs up from Jacko.
They clipped their oxygen masks into place and gave the thumbs up to Jacko gave the signal to the loadmaster, he pressed the button and the back of the plane lowered revealing a cloudless sky thirty five thousand feet over Iran, it was awesome, and scary for anyone who doesn’t like heights.
“Don’t look down’ It was Joey’s voice she heard in her headset, “Just look straight ahead and follow exactly what I say” for some reason right now she was glad for this big dumb Northerner who was actually taking the time to talk her through the jump, she’d never said anything about ‘not liking heights’ so there was nothing ‘on file’ yet he’d sensed it and stepped in.
“If we hold hands when we jump” he continued, “No one will notice, or care”
“Cheeky sod” She thought, “Is he trying it on, for God’s sake!”
“Don’t get the wrong idea!” he gently reminded her, apparently only the two of them were talking on this channel, “I’m trying to get you down in one piece, that’s all”
H.A.L.O stands for High Altitude Low Opening and it’s a specialty of the Military! Skydivers start freefall parachuting at 3,000 feet and go up as high as 12,000 normally because any higher and you need oxygen, but Special Forces often have to jump from high enough to pass off as civilian planes. They start training at 12,000 feet and keep going! 35,000 feet is a ‘walk in the park’ for them and shit scary for anyone else as they see the clouds literally miles below them!
“DZ in one minute” the voice came over. “Stand by!”
The red light by the door came on, it was activated by GPS telling them they were less than five miles from the target or Drop Zone (DZ) from now on everything was computer controlled and there was no turning back. The whole plane darkened as they approached the final point. Oxygen masks were turned on and visors lowered, each one reached round the back of the helmets and clicked a small switch that activated the night vision visors, everything turned green. The light turned amber but all they could see was that it was the second light in the panel, the last of the checks were carried out, they all stood Jacko and Mac first, Smithy next then came Joey with Sandy who was gripping so tight Joey thought he was losing circulation in his fingers!
The last light came on, it was Green for the loadmaster, but he was the only one could see it, he screamed “Green, Go, Go, Go” and they were away, stepping out into the night.
The freefall took fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of brutal temperatures (minus fifty with wind-chill taking it down to minus sixty or more). Fifteen terrifying yet exhilarating minutes. Sandy was scared out of her wits, yet at the same time loving every minute of it!
She knew that if she hit the ground without the ‘chute’ she would be killed so quickly that she probably wouldn’t feel a thing, yet she’d be conscious all the way down and certain of the outcome. Yet from so far up it was like floating in a starlit sky, literally ‘falling from the heavens’
“Keep your arms out like in the surrender position” It was Joey’s voice over the radio, they had a channel for him to talk her down as none of the others were monitoring this frequency. He was frustrating at times, and talked as if she was some little schoolgirl who knew nothing, but at the same time she was kind of getting used to the ‘big oaf’ with his ‘big brother’ attitude.
“Keep the arms in that position” Joey was saying, “That’ll keep you balanced and stop you spiralling all over the sky, we pull the chord at five thousand!”
‘Roger that big brother’ she felt like saying, but what came out was “OK got that” he was only a couple of months older than her, and she’d done a skydive before, but this was nuts, diving from thirty three thousand feet into mountains AT NIGHT with no Landing zone marked on the ground, she’d heard that to be a paratrooper you had to have a lobotomy, now she believed it!
They had altimeters fitted to the suits that worked off air pressure, they’d been set for sea level to give an accurate reading of the altitude so that they knew when to pull the chords, the ground was at four thousand feet so pulling at five thousand would give a couple of minutes to slow the descent and get their bearings.
The ‘rip chord’ was on her right hand side so as she passed eleven hundred feet she extended her right arm above her head and reached across with the left, taking hold of the chord she gave it a hard tug and for the first second nothing happened.
Terror struck, ‘the damn thing’s not working, ROMAN CANDLE’ was the immediate thought she opened her mouth to scream but it was cut short as she was slammed into the harness with such force it took her breath away, decelerating from 120 feet per second to five feet per second almost instantly does that to you! The relief was amazing. Reaching up for the controls she began to manoeuvre the parachute so that she was following the others.
Joey’ chute opened next, then Smithy, Mac and finally Jacko pulled his chord as he passed eight hundred feet, it wasn’t bravado that made him pull so late, but needing to clear the other chutes first, besides in an operational HALO they often get as low as four hundred feet first, it’s just that in the mountains they’d erred on the side of caution.
This one actually happened
“Landing Zone’s on our left” Jacko advised through the headset, “Follow me” and with that he started drifting into a wide turn and lining up with the only level piece of ground they could see.
The Night vision visors they were using allowed for full 180 degree vision and were capable of making a starlit night look like broad daylight, they worked by taking the starlight and magnifying it so that you could see everything, only trouble was they chewed up battery power and would need recharging during the day as the solar batteries only lasted a few hours.
Reaching back across with her left hand she disconnected her oxygen supply and opened the valve that allowed her to breathe normally while still wearing the mask, Joey wanted the oxygen tanks with as much oxygen in he’d told them and she could only guess why, she chose not to!
Just before his feet touched ‘terra firma’ she saw Jacko ‘flare the chute’ and literally just begin walking, he literally walked to his landing! She saw each of the team do the same thing and it was stunning, she did the same and apart from a bit of a heavy landing she came down totally in control of the descent and was stunned to realize she was still upright!
The moment they were down the team took the chutes off and deployed into a defensive position, they’d parachuted with magazines on the weapons but nothing in the chamber, all that changed as each one silently cocked their weapons, safeties stayed firmly on though!
“All yours Joey” was all Jacko said and Joey immediately moved out of the perimeter and began working packing the chutes away, Jacko powered down his Night vision visor and waited. “Sandy” he spoke softly over the headset, “Help Joey”
It takes twenty minutes for the human eye to adjust to the dark, take that time without any light and you’d be stunned at what you can see! As her eyes adjusted it was as if she’d never seen the sky so clear before, every star was so bright, even trees in the distance could be seen, she could see the outline of each of the four men with her and what they were doing, apart from Joey’ they were all silently watching, totally motionless blending in with the background, waiting to see what shouldn’t be there.
The chutes were packed away, Joey gave each chute back to its owner, nothing could be left behind, there had to be no trace they’d ever been here. Joey and Sandy rejoined the team in the perimeter, they’d powered down their visors as well.
“Three hours to sunrise” Jacko whispered, “twenty five miles to the target, we’ll make ten before sunrise and wait out the day.” The plan had been for a three day hike to the fortress, it was still the plan! Rising from his kneel he whispered “Let’s move”
A Civilian version
Slowly each of the team rose and set off, Smithy, as the keenest eyes and the team sniper had ‘point’ and the responsibility of watching the arc ahead of them to make sure they didn’t get any nasty surprises coming from the 11 o’clock to 2 o’clock position. Jacko was next, they’d agreed before setting out where the first ‘RV’ was, it was a mountain ridge they could see in the moonlight, Jacko was about three metres behind and to two to the right of Smithy, he had the 8 o’clock to 11 o’clock to watch.
Behind and to the left was Mac with the 2 o’clock to 5 o’clock to watch, finally Joey had the ‘tail end Charlie’ job of watching everyone’s backs, he spent most of the time actually walking backwards making sure no one gave them any nasty surprises from behind, Sandy was given the job of walking level with Joey but off to one side and making sure there was nothing he was going to trip over when walking backwards.
Ten miles in three hours would be easy during daylight on a level road, but it wasn’t daytime and where they were wasn’t flat! The patch of ground was flat, but in the direction they were heading the mountains rose up either side as they walked along the floor of a small valley. Just to the right they could hear flowing water that seemed to be getting louder every few hundred metres, clearly the river cut across their path at some point.
Smithy stopped dead and slowly descended to the kneeling position, clearly he’d seen something or someone. In total silence the team all did the same, everyone watching their designated ‘arc’ and keeping an eye on Smithy for his next move.
No hand signals were given, yet each of the team knew exactly what to do next, it came from many months working together, learning how each member of the team thinks. Smithy was fully prone now and extending the bipod on the sniper rifle, clearly watching for trouble. Jacko had moved forward and was scanning the area with Binoculars; it was a red light he’d seen, probably from a cigarette about two hundred metres away, straight ahead.
Whoever it was wasn’t going to be friendly, ‘Could be Shepherds’ they pretty much all thought, but then where were the sheep? ‘More likely smugglers of some kind’ was the next thought; the team had no intention of finding out!
Jacko signalled the rest of the team to head off on a tangent, Mac, Joey and Sandy headed that direction, as soon as they got level with the man smoking they stopped, went to ground, there were three of them, but far enough away that the team could move carefully without being seen, one quick click of the mike told Jacko and Smithy to join them, everyone watched their arc’s despite the temptation to all watch the drowsy men who eventually stubbed out their cigarette and went off the sleep blissfully unaware of how close to a silent but violent end they’d come!