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Sting of the Scorpion part 6 Preparation. "Stomclouds gather"

Updated on March 19, 2016
lawrence01 profile image

I am an ex soldier and I spent time in the Middle East among the Kurds. I loved writing this story as I could tell part of my story.

First a word from the author

I just want to take a few lines to thank you for following this series and for the encouragement you've given in supporting so far in the series. The team are closing in on the fortress and things are about to get interesting so hold on tight as we begin preperations.

For those who're new to this series here are links to the previous parts of the series.

From before "Alamut"

The first glimpse of the fortress was when they exited the cave, in the twilight they could see lights high on the mountains to the East, too high up for it to be a village, it had to be Alamut. The light was like a beacon calling to them ‘come closer’ and like moths to a flame they were drawn towards that light.

Just before the dawn began to break Jacko called a halt in a small wood half way up the mountain, there was a small dried up river bed running into the wood from the left, it seemed to originate further up near the other peak, “If we head up the river bed we should be able to stay out of sight of the fortress” he spoke quietly, “That way hopefully we’re not seen”

“What about villagers?” Sandy asked, none of them wanted to be detected so close to the target, the last thing they needed was some villager strolling into their camp and setting off the alarm!

“We’re pretty close to the snow line” Jacko replied, “any shepherds or other people with the right to be out will be further down the mountain.

“Don’t forget smugglers!” Sandy replied. “What about them?”

“We’re off the main smuggling route here” it was Joey who replied, kind of surprising Sandy a bit, “and it’s unlikely they’ll want smugglers so close to their own base, there might be a patrol, but even that’s unlikely”

Being such a remote location can have its advantages and one of them is it’s easy to keep an eye on what’s going on around you. Putting checkpoints out on the roads and the occasional patrol through the valley would be enough to deter the villagers from prying too much, anything else and if the Iranians found out about armed guards patrolling mountains could cause more trouble than it’s worth.

“They’ll be pretty vigilant in the fortress” Mac spoke up, “with sentries etc, but probably confident they can stop anything without needing to blanket the bloody place!”

Smithy was the first to go, he advanced about a hundred meters then went to ground and called the next forward. At all times one was moving, but the other four were watching ready to let hell itself loose if they were seen. The going was slow, but by two hours after dawn they were close to where they wanted to be for the observation point, there they’d be able to watch the fortress for the next thirty six hours.

Target

The team are getting close
The team are getting close | Source

Continuing

In any engagement or fire fight the key is always how good your intelligence is. Get that wrong and you could go thinking you’re facing a ‘washed up bunch of old farts and schoolboys’ but end up staring down two divisions of the best the enemy has to offer, most of the team were from the Parachute regiment and the lessons of Arnhem have not been forgotten! Intel would be the key here too, especially when they’d no idea how many were in the fortress.

Sandy also had a Sat phone (Satellite phone) that didn’t need a mobile network as it transmitted direct to satellites overhead and could send and receive encrypted messages, they’d been careful not to use it as they knew the Iranians and the Americans would pick up the signal, but the agreement was one message when they got into position, a short ‘microburst’ lasting about one hundredth of a second that would tell London all they need to know, then 24 hours later they’d get one back with the latest intelligence reports on the fortress and Phoenix they might need to know. She took the phone out of her pack, pulled out the antennae and punched in a four digit code. Joey watched and took note of the code. As soon as the code was punched in she put the antennae down.

“Don’t you need to report in?” Joey asked.

“Just did” Sandy replied, “All they need to know is we’re here and the missions on schedule!”

“Don’t they need to know how or anything?”

“The less London knows about how the better it is for us.” She replied, clearly there was stuff London wasn’t telling the team, and maybe stuff Sir Michael wasn’t telling London! “Besides, we don’t need to report in again for another 24 hours, and then we’ll get what London knows about the inhabitants”

The Observation Post or ‘O.P.’ was a couple of boulders that had fallen down the slope in a landslide at some time in the past, just behind the rocks there was a slight ledge and a path leading away round the side of the mountain. The path lead to a small clump of trees hidden from the fortress, the trees had wild berries growing along with what looked like a couple of apple trees and a walnut tree, there were apples on the trees but it didn’t look as if they were tended. Joey started to forage a little round the clearing for whatever he could find.

Smithy had the job of building a shelter at the ‘O.P.’. As the unit sniper he was the one going to be manning this place during the assault, giving cover and support to the rest of the unit, so he was put in charge of building the shelter and making sure it couldn’t be seen.

The two boulders had a small opening at the base that one man could just crawl through; the ledge was about a foot in front of that. Taking out his groundsheet he laid it out flat at the front of the boulders.

The sheet had metal rings at the edges; the rings themselves were painted matt green just like the rest of the sheet. He took out a couple of plastic tent pegs and drove them into the ground, they were pretty strong so he didn’t need to be gentle, and being so remote he took the risk and using a couple of rocks he drove the pegs hard into the ground.

Next he lifted the groundsheet using a few sticks he’d found in the clearing, using two sticks at the front and two at the back about three feet apart he was able to raise the groundsheet and give clearance enough for two to fit comfortably in the position, he’d need the extra room for his kit once the rest of the team moved out ready for the assault.

The art of good camouflage is blending in with your surroundings, using the groundsheet meant that he could deploy the rifle and the telescopic sights without fear of being seen, the key to that was that the sight itself would be at least a foot back out of the sun, the worst thing they could have now would be the inhabitants of the fortress realizing they were being watched by seeing the sun reflecting off a gun sight! Setting the sights back in the shade avoided that possibility.

When everything was set up he got a couple of reasonable sized rocks and put them at the near the front of the shelter, but far enough back that nothing would be seen ‘protruding’ from the front, not even the muzzle of the rifle. Nothing gives away a position more than a straight line where they shouldn’t be, and there are no straight lines in nature! A straight stick protruding from a rock just screams ‘SNIPER’ and when that happens you can guarantee the only one dying that day is the sniper and not the target!

Now it was time to settle in for the watching, he took a notebook and pencil out of his pocket and set them down, from now on everything coming and going from the fortress would be noted on one page while at the same time on one of the others he’d draw out a rough sketch of the fortress with the positions of each and every person noted.

Two vehicles moved up the mountain, from the way they moved Smithy could tell they were armoured, the extra weight and noise of the engine was the giveaway! Two Toyota Landcruisers with 4.5 litre engines, good four wheel drive vehicles almost as robust as the Humvee loved so much by the US military, over here the Landcruiser was so common that virtually everyone had them, they were also ideal for the terrain.

Sentries patrolled the top of the ramparts, he could make out at least five sentries at the front with another half dozen or so scattered round the perimeter of the fortress, each one seemed to have their own area to patrol, he was particularly interested in the Western side.

The fortress itself sits on a rock outcrop, with the ridge running south before climbing to their position, on the West the ground drops sharply away from the road so that by the time you get to the North wall you’ve got a fifteen hundred foot sheer drop that gets even further as you get to the Eastern side, right at the Northeast corner it’s actually more like two thousand feet straight down.

Coming further round the rock quickly comes back up to meet the road, though the whole ridge is actually a ledge with the last part a six hundred foot climb straight up a sheer rock face. “Not an easy climb” was his words, but thinking, ‘Thank God I don’t have to!’

Towards the back of the compound he could see radio antennae indicating where the command post was, it had a flat roof that looked like it had a ‘H’ painted there, just as he noted it he heard the familiar sound of rotors approaching.

“Smithy” a voice spoke up from behind the rocks, it was Jacko coming for a look himself, “what’s approaching?” he was worried what the approaching sound meant, air support for the fortress!

“You’re not going to like this boss” Smithy’s reply was quiet but to the point, “A bleedin’ Hind A just showed up!! It’s in Gazprom markings too!!”

“SHIT! You got to be kidding me!” Jacko’s frustration was obvious. The Hind A is one of the deadliest Helicopters ever to take to the skies! Carrying a thirty millimetre cannon in the nose, two side mounted machine guns and when the rocket pods are fitted over a hundred and sixty ‘fire and forget’ rockets that can open a Tank like a tin opener opens a tin of beans, then there’s the eight fully armed troops it can carry at the same time! Not a beast you want to argue with. Even the Apaches can’t match that firepower, and one was landing at Alamut!!

“Keep an eye on it” Jacko spoke as much to regain control as anything else, “If it’s still there when we go in we’ll just have to deal with it, and can’t have them using that in a pursuit!”

“Will do boss”

Jacko turned to Sandy who was not far behind, “What the hell are Gazprom doing here? And what the bloody hell are they doing with a flamin’ Hind? I thought they didn’t sell to civilian outfits!”

“They have a pipeline into Central Asia not too far away, it goes all the way out from here and into Eastern Turkey” She replied, “They’re also building a pipeline all the way down to the Persian gulf so they can ship out through there too! In case we try and impose sanctions again! And just because the paintwork says ‘civilian doesn’t mean a thing! Question is how much are the Iranians in on it?”

“And Phoenix just happen to be their ‘security people’?” he asked with a note of sarcasm “Would have been nice to know before” he wasn’t angry, not with Sandy at least, but frustrated would be too mild a way of saying it!

“Didn’t know until the ‘Hind’ showed up” Sandy replied, and it was partly true, she didn’t know, but she couldn’t answer for all MI6

"Tank of the sky"

Imagine one of these showing up at the wrong time!
Imagine one of these showing up at the wrong time!

The deadliest helicopter ever to take to the skies

Planning

The rest of the day was spent either eating or sleeping, if you weren’t on duty that was. Joey and Sandy had foraged some food, wild carrots and onions that Joey had managed to turn into a ‘passable’ soup of some kind, then again after nearly two days without much food even boiled veggies can feel like a ‘Gourmet meal’

As soon as the food was eaten everyone went to sleep except the one manning the O.P. which was changed every three hours so that everyone got a decent rest, they’d need it for the task ahead.

The Hind was at the fortress for most of the day but left about two hours before the twilight, she was last seen climbing and heading for Tehran, the team were still none the wiser how Gazprom was tied to this whole mess! The Hind herself didn’t seem to be carrying rocket pods but they couldn’t be sure about the Cannon!

By late afternoon everyone was rested, at least as rested as could be, Jacko sent Sandy to man the O.P. for the last couple of hours while the last preparations for the final ascent and assault on the fortress were made.

The plan had a simple beginning, but having to take Sandy along to gather intelligence had complicated matters somewhat. Sandy was pretty tough, and the lads all appreciated her, but she was no soldier and the next part demanded not just fitness but ruthlessness that civilians seldom possess! They needed to plan it out down to the last detail.

“What’s the latest from the fortress?” Jacko began the ‘open forum’ type briefing, they were sitting around in a semi circle at the back of the makeshift camp, even though Sandy wasn’t there she was within hearing distance and could hear everything they were saying, but that was OK with everyone as they weren’t trying to hide anything, it was just they needed to plan everything down to the last detail. They’d each spent some time at the O.P. but it was Smithy had the notebook, he took over.

“Looks like we’re up against between forty to forty five hostiles” Smithy began, “That’s what we’ve seen on the battlements, then we’ve got possibly ten or so running their coms centre!” he looked round the group expecting questions, “That’s on site, off site we’ve got the Hind and however many she can bring, possibly about eight at a time”

Jacko interrupted there with news about the Hind, “Apparently she’s a military surplus buy from the Russian military about three years ago, they bought four of them to patrol the pipeline they’re building from Siberia through to Turkey, the other three are deployed further up the line near the Chinese border” he shifted slightly, stretching his legs out a little, “The pipeline’s about a thousand miles long and the other three are stationed and pretty equal distances, the nearest other is two hundred miles away”

“Where’s this one based?” Mac asked the obvious question everyone wanted to know and hoped it was as far away as possible.

“Nearest airfield capable of handling the Hind is ‘Khomeini international’ just outside Tehran” Jacko replied. “Gazprom has a hangar there in the industrial part”

“So they’re about half an hour away from air support?” it was Mac who asked the question.

“Seems that way” Jacko replied, “Smithy, lay out the fortress for us” he looked directly at Smithy bringing the briefing back to its primary task and handing it over the Smithy.

“Four sentry posts at the front of the fortress” he began, “all manned twenty four seven with at least one man” he took his notebook out of his pocket and began drawing a rough diagram in the dirt with a stick, “Here, here, here and here. The rest of the fortress is patrolled by roving guards, they’re meant to be random but seem to be lazy and follow a pattern, here it is” he drew the diagram showing the patrol pattern. “Roughly five minutes between patrols”

“So, we’ve got lazy guards round the back,” Joey spoke up. “Probably confident they’re so remote there’s no chance of any nasty surprises; what about the front, how often are they swapped in the guard towers?”

“From what we saw” Smithy came back with a reply “Every three hours they change and the guards doing the patrolling go into the towers while the guards in the towers patrol the rest of the grounds. Every twelve hours there’s a complete change of the guards”

“What about the helicopter?” Mac asked, “How does that fit in the picture?”

“As far as I can see” Smithy replied “They’re using it to rotate the guard units, a new one every day is my guess”

“Which means they’ve got backup at Khomeini international” Joey interrupted. “An hour away”

“Yep, but they can only get a team of eight here each time! And that takes about 45 minutes flying time”

“What about vehicles?” Jacko asked.

“Six counted” Smithy replied, “five look like Landcruisers and one Eva truck, ex East German Army!”

The briefing continued as the team discussed the entry point and how they were going to get out of the fortress.

Truth was Jacko wasn’t all that happy with one piece of news that he had to give, disturbing news that London had delivered. GCHQ had picked up ‘chatter’ on the networks, phoenix was making promises that meant only one thing, they were ‘moving the heavies in’ and it had to be tonight!

“We go tonight boys” Jacko said, “We’ve two hours to sunset, we move out in half an hour”

The story continues

I hope you're enjoying the story as much as I am in writing it. The team are making their final preperations to go up against pretty impossible odds and somehow I've got a feeling that all hell is about to break loose, but we'll have to wait and see what happens in the next episode.

If you're liking the story then leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Blessings

Lawrence

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    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 18 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Robert

      The Hind is one mean gunship! It just seemed right to have at least one show up.

      Lawrence

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 18 months ago

      Great detail. The introduction of a Hind is definitely some added suspense.

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Nell

      Glad you could join us! It's been a great ride so far but we're just about to get to the 'interesting part' as we ratchet things up a bit. I'm just about to post the next part so hang in there, it should be up in the next hour or so!

      Lawrence

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 21 months ago from England

      Hiya took me a while to catch up, but so far got me hooked! now we wait...lol!

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Deb

      Billybuc suggested we keep the valium handy, it could get 'interesting'

      Glad you're enjoying it.

      Lawrence

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 21 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      I'm ready for the fireworks!

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      Thank you for the compliment. Well, we've still got to rescue Steve, and get the intelligence out, then we've got a couple of hundred miles to get across with a hostile population and a few enemies chasing, so not much really! :-)

      Part 7 will be out soon.

      Lawrence

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 21 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi Lawrence,

      You keep bringing the best. Wonder what's going to happen next! I think in this installment, for me anyway, was the descriptive paintings of what was happening. The description of the fortress is so clear in my mind. Thanks for another awesome read!

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Will do Michael, will do. I wouldn't dare stop now!

      Lawrence

    • profile image

      Michael 21 months ago

      Story building up for showdown now geting slightly tence Keep on wrighting Lawrence !

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      John

      I've just put an answer to a question that someone asked on part 5 as to how I came across some of these things. you might find it interesting to look at!

      We're progressing in the mission and there'll be a few more, hopefully things will get a little more 'hairy' as the team makes their presence felt and they get 'Chambers' out of the fortress! I'm enjoying it but usually exhausted just thinking about what they're dealing with!

      Next week we assault the fortress and we'll see what happens!

      Thanks for reading and for the encouragement.

      Lawrence

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 21 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Each episode leaves us hanging out for the next Lawrence. This is an excellent series. Keep,it coming.

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      And I thought this week was a quiet one :-) Have to admit that looking forward to what my characters are going to tell me what happened next has helped with getting up in the morning!

      Glad that you're enjoying the story, strap in 'cos its about to get 'hairy'

      Lawrence

    • lawrence01 profile image
      Author

      Lawrence Hebb 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Eric

      You just never know (in these situations) what might happen, that's why the military follow the doctrine "Hope for the best, plan for the worst situation, and fight all the way!"

      Thanks for the visit, now hold on tight!

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 21 months ago from Olympia, WA

      For the weak of heart, it is advised that you take a Valium before reading any of this series. :) It is that action-packed and filled with adrenaline rushes.

      Keep them coming, my friend

      bill

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Great stuff, I am ready for the assault. I hope that Hind is far away when they start.