Part XXII: Eagle's Nest
The the resort provided lodging for the staff, and Katia had packed and was waiting for a taxi. She would have preferred to simply slip away, but that wasn't possible. Quitting without notice drew more attention to her while she was still there than she would have liked, but her cover was that she had just received bad news from home of a parent with cancer, so she hoped that would deflect any further scrutiny. The night manager was taken off-guard, and busied himself with making phone calls to fill the gaps that her departure would leave in the work schedule. In twenty minutes the taxi arrived and her role as Anette the French girl would come to an end. She would wait in the airport until Matt's destination was certain and take the next flight there herself.
On the plane Matt had decided that thinking about the upcoming operation was the worst thing he could do. He hadn't really anticipated the Waterstone's incident where others had said he handled himself well. Nor had he prepared himself for the fight at Great Zimbabwe. He felt he could have been a lot more effective, but thanks to Shaka and the Yehudit Unit they carried the day. What was worrisome was that now the whole operation depended on him and the mysterious new sonic weapon. The training sessions with the SHOFAR had given him a familiarity with its use, but also raised doubts aboutits untried capabilites and his own performance in battle. The tests on structures and points of ingress demonstrated the awe inspiring power. And in training on the non-lethal mode the simulated targets simply fell over when the sonic beam made contact. But when he tested what he had come to think of as the "piledriver" mode he had a moment of terrible clarity. Despite being crudely painted to resemble menacing stormtroopers, the torn canvas and shattered timbers of the wooden silouettes was a grisly pantomine of ruined flesh and bone. If this was considered a morally appropriate use of the weapon, he shuddered at the professor's warning about it's unauthorized use. His trainers didn't help his qualms, they emphasied the lethal beam exercises, and they were particularly adamant about the disarming of the weapon when the operation was finished. They attacked his tendency to want to set the weapon down without activating the disarming mechanism, drilling him until it became reflective. They impressed on him that he didn't want to know what would happen if he forgot to disarm and picked the disrupter up again himself.
Most of the rest of the team was asleep. In the group training they had had the elite troops all answered to code names. Their identities were sanitized and all understood this could be a suicide mission with no guarantee of extraction if they failed. The team was picked for their ethnic diversity to make it more difficult to trace the origin of the mission. Still, Matt was able to make some educated guesses about his team members. Lincoln was African American, everything about him said Special Forces or Delta. While his favorite phrase with Matt was,"You the quarterback.", he was clearly senior in rank to everyone. Mat of course was Mustang. Jetta was most likely Thai or Vietnamese, he was quiet and dedicated. Edsel could have been a young playboy sheikh making the circuit of London nightclubs on weeknights, Matt guessed he was Druze or Bedouin. Zil was an urbane Slav,most likely Russian or Ukrainian. He was the oldest of the team and interspersed literary allusions with dirty jokes. He was always in high spirits, as if this was a dream vacation that he won in a contest. Chevy was Latino and he slept through the whole flight. In the training missions he was the most agile member of the team. During the short breaks when he wasn't napping he was picking out fandango riffs from a guitar borrowed from Yossi, whose call sign was Delorian.
Yossi was the only member whose identity was discussed in detail. Unlike the others, he was not a professional soldier. Uncle
Allen had told him, "You bring our Yossi back safe. If not for all the secrets in his head, do it for his 5 kids." Yossi was indispensible because he was the only one with the chops to break into the Nazi network once they were inside the compound. With the information they could not only roll up the entire ODESSA infrastructure and round up the last surviving war criminals, but also remove the Nazi threat to Israel permanently.
"Won't they all just die out in a few years?" He had asked.
"Matt, soon you'll understand better, but there is a lot more here than a few old men"
Uncle Allen also suggested that under Brunner's guidance, the Nazis may have already recovered other stones than what was found in the safe in Salonika.
Yossi was now picking out a JB Hutto tune on his guitar. Matt sensed that Yossi may have similar jitters before the operation and he wished now that he had spent more time getting to know him. It may have been helpful to have someone in whom he could confide his doubts among these professional soldiers. But for now he took his cue from them, it seemed that this was a time when men drew into themselves, balanced accounts and stockpiled strength and resolve in an economy of words and all but the most focused actions.
Two empty SUVs were waiting for them on the tarmac at the small regional airport, gas tanks full, engines running. No one was there to greet them. They had maps but the drivers had memorized videotapes taken of the journal and could navigate by sight if they had to. Matt reviewed the plan of attack as they drove. The assault was to be launched in two places simultaneously. Matt was to use the sonic weapon in a frontal attack on the main gate. While that was underway, A small insertion team of Lincoln Jetta and Yossi would use a large sapper charge to create an opening in the side of a storage building that formed part of the outer wall. Israeli intelligence suggested that this was a weak point in the compound's defenses and it was hoped that in the shock and awe of the frontal assault and its demonstration of the power of the disruptor, the defenders would instinctively rally to the main gate and the insertion team would only encounter light resistance, if any at all. It was only then that it dawned on Matt that his role was merely that of a massive diversion.
But before the operation could begin, there was a significant obstacle to be neutralized. Thermal satelite imaging had pinpointed the two hidden positions flanking the approach to the compound that served both as bunkers and forward observation posts. They were at the last natural ridge on the only road approaching the compound. The vehicles and their uniforms had infrared shielding. The SUV would be able to approach within half a mile in the dark. While the insertion team circled the compound to position themselves, a strike team of Zil and Edsel would take out the bunkers. Mustang and Chevy would then race for the gate, picking up the strike team as they approached. Zil would take over at the wheel of Mustang's vehicle. A coaxial mount on the roof of one of the vehicles had been created for the SHOFAR and Matt was to engage the two facing guard towers and then demolish the main gate.
As they left for the first phase, Zil seemed elated. "Let's kill some Nazis! This will be for Meyer Kaufman." It had been mentioned in their briefing that Meyer was a graduate student in journalism at Columbia who disappeared while hiking in the region on vacation. A journal that was found among his effect in the nearby youth hostel that suggested that he was intrigued by the reputation of the colony and may have gotten it into his head to investigate. A defector from the compound later charged the leaders with the torture and murder of Meyer because they believed he was a Mossad spy. No charges were ever officially made. During the briefing, Zil made a comment that made Matt wonder if they were aquainted.
They sped off as soon as they heard the signal that the bunkers were neutralized, barely slowing down to pick up Zil and Edsel. They had only had time for two dry runs of the mission, they warned him that the model of the compound wasn't to scale, now that it loomed in the haze of a few sodium lights Matt's heart sank at the way it seemed to dwarf his team. Chevy was on the radio with Lincoln, letting him know they had started their final run to the gate. Matt had set the SHOFAR in its pintel on the roof. He had sighted the guard tower on the right waiting until it was in range. There was a blast behind him that seemed to lift the SUV off the road, but it settled back on its suspension. Apparently it had been manually triggered but the defender miscalculated their position. That was a risk they considered but the decision had been made to stick to the road for the sake of speed and better aim. Now that was not an option and the vehicles veered off the road in opposite directions. Separate points of muzzle flash appeared from the two towers, Matt sighted on one of them, but the shot went high as the four by four bounced over the rough terrain. They would have to halt in the open under fire from both towers. Chevy slewed his vehicle and Edsel popped up with what looked like a smaller version of a Dragon shoulder fired missile. A trail of flame sought out the left tower and shattered its crown. Matt fired again. A faint outline of a figure with windmilling arms fell back from one of the firing positions of his tower. Now that his eyeballs weren't being jostled, his vision had become more acute. When he had run through the training exercises he made a point of using the non-lethal mode to prevent what he thought would be unnecessary carnage. Since the roadmine exploded behind him and the bullets thudded into the chassis of the SUV, all thought of such gallantry left his mind. There were God knows how many real Nazis in this huge fortress and they were all trying to kill him. The other guard had momentarily froze in shock at seeing his comrade's terrible death rumba and Matt took advantage of this spell of stalled time to sight on the exposed head. Matt heard the wasp-whine of the disruptors piledriver mode and the head snapped back before it disapppeared. He switched to demolition mode, noting mentally as he was trained that the weapon was properly braced in its mount. "Head for the gate!" Soon they would be close enough to fire on the fly and they would let their momentum carry them through the entrance. In this mode, the spooling up sound was more like the distant squeal of a giant conveyer belt starting up. This signaled that the elements were properly charged and the weapon was ready to fire. The trigger had the resistance of a lightswitch. The mount was designed to flex but the recoil still rocked the moving vehicle back on its springs. The heavy steel door peeled back on its hinges first in strips and then shards that seemed to curl in on themselves as they fell back in a metallic shower. Where they not armored, the tires would have been shredded as they rolled over the sharp coils of metal. More of the guards were running frantically around a small square looking for cover. Matt swung the weapon around to pick off as many as he could while they were out in the open. Edsel's SAW chattered and Matt found that piledriver mode was still effective enough to knock the defenders out from behind most light barriers where the fire of the others could pick them off or he could hammer them like stunned roaches. The SHOFAR had devastated the first wave of guards but the attackers had the element of surprise and the defenders would soon realize the buildings surrounding the square were the best cover. His team was still completely exposed in the square. Rather than take cover themselves, Matt told Zil to circle the square and he started to demolish the buildings in turn.
In his fight to stay focused Yossi's greatest opponent was not fear or even the thoughts of his family that were always with him when he was away, but the sense of unreality. He skills were so specific and his cover was so deep that it was rare that we was called up once more than once a year. Often his assignments didn't require travel, like the time he was able to pluck shipping schedules and manifests out of a supposedly secure wireless connection remotely. The information had lead to the capture of a freighter laden with weapons, and the paper trail was the demise of a certain terrorist organization's pretensions to peaceful statecraft. Although he had been well trained in the paramilitary aspects of his secret service to Israel, his life in the United States with his wife and five children, his job as a head of a major professional services practice of a leading systems integrator for the telecommunications industry, and his standing as a member of his thriving Orthodox shul all stood out in stark relief to his present crouching and scuttling through a strange terrain to the walls of an ominous citadel.
Although the suspension of disbelief was foreign to him, the focus needed to stay present wasn't. Concentration was part of his stock in trade and was the cornerstone to his gift for visualizing all dimensions of a complex information system including the joints and seams of which the designers were only vaguely aware. The terrible secret of software was that typical projects in their earliest stages soon became too complex for the creators to account for all the ways in which they could behave, such that extensive testing is needed to ensure the the most of the basic functionality is present when the customer takes delivery. Yossi had the ability to envision all the details of a system like a detailed schematic in his minds eye and soon it gave up its flaws and weaknesses.
Jetta, whose secondary specialty was demolition, had done a similar analysis of the fortifications and was ready to breach the wall where they felt it was most vulnerable. But first one of the rear guardtowers had to be taken out. Lincoln had been weighing the different options available, and now that he had a firsthand view of the the situation, he chose the weapon for which he was famous in his small community of peers. The M-79 was relatively low tech compared to modern weapons systems. The 40mm grenade launcher had been used extensively in Vietnam. Even then many prefered the combination of their M-16 with M-203 which mounted under the assault rifle's barrel. But Lincoln was never a big fan of the .223 poodle-shooter as a primary weapon and he found the M-203 awkward to reload and fire rapidly. The M-79 on the other hand was just like a short barrelled shotgun. He kept the 40mm grenades in a memorized sequency in a bandolier, high explosive, airburst, incineary, which he lobbed with uncanny accuracy on enemy positions. He also kept a nummber of anti-personel rounds available for tight spots, mostly flechette and buckshot. Conventional military doctrine requires that the M-79 be fired like a rifle, braced against the shoulder to absorb recoil and maintain accuracy. Lincoln had perfected a firing position that was like a modified Weaver stance. He would brace the forward grip on his forearm and fire the grenade launcher like a pistol. This allowed him to carry a small machine gun. This was the new Heckler & Koch MP7. There was concern that the Nazi guards would be wearing body armor. The MP7 was roughly the size of its predessor, the MP5 but instead of pistol rounds that could be stopped by Kevlar, it fired steel jacketed rifle rounds specifically designed for this model. After months of training to control the heavier recoil of the MP7, he was now able to bring the machine gun into play before and after firing the grenade launcher. This only left him vulnerable when he was reloading either weapon.
They had found a small bit of defilade to hide in and when the first explosion occurred, they quickly scrambled in the dark to the closest point in range of the tower, counting on the sounds of the frontal assault to briefly draw the attention of the guards. Lincoln dropped to one knee and leaving his machine pistol slung across his back for the moment. This first shot was a true three pointer, so he used the standard two handed position. The high explosive grenade sailed through a firing aperture and the top of the tower blew apart, part of the roof arcing through the sky on a bent column of smoke and flame. In a reflexive set of movements that no untrained eye could follow, the barrel was broken open, the shell casing ejected, an airburst round seated and locked into the chamber. It blossomed directly over the ruined tower, raining shrapnel on whatever was left of the defenders.
After the first explosion Jetta sprinted to the wall to set his charge. The builders had thoughtfully left small length of loadbearing wall that jutted out at a right angle to the outside wall for about a foot or so. This would act not only as a fulcrum for the blast, but would also deflect it enough that Jetta would be able set of the charge much closer. Lincoln had reloaded with a custom round he rationed from a small lot he reserved for special occasions, and now had the MP7 in his left hand. Yossi had been instructed to lie flat through this first part of the assault in case they drew fire, but instead he crouched close to Lincoln to guard him from ambush. Soon Jetta yelled, "Fire in the hole!" and they ran for the wall after the shock of the blast passed.
The blast had not only breach the outer wall, but had also collapsed part of of the ajoining building. Dim figures rose from inside and Lincoln fired the M-79 directly into the mass of them. The custom shell was a Burma load, double-ought buckshot with 4 steel balls of a similar diameter to a .38 round. The flash frozed half-clad figures in an agonized danse macabre like some kind of Third Reich rave. Lincoln sprayed quick burst with the MP7 and then Jetta tossed in a hand grenade as they dashed across a small courtyard. Their next objective was a small service door in the rear of the Keep, the castle-like structure that was the last defense of the compound. As the footfalls faded and a smoky silence fell on the demolished barracks, a large thatched head rose cautiously from behind one of the beds. The biggest challenge for his officers, coaches and trainers was waking Hans Jurge up in the morning. His gymnastics coach said he slept like a tranquilized ox. The first blast barely roused him. The second blast sent an alarm through his sleep-addled mind but he leapt out of bed in the wrong direction and slid down the wall, momentarily stunned. This saved him from spray of bullets that followed. Looking around, he only felt the slightest twinge of sympathy. He hadn't been trained for that emotional pattern. He rose to his full height and pulled on a pair of fatigue pants that had, like himself, been specially tailored. He then set off at a run to at least warn his superiors, possibly even save them from this long awaited attack by the Jews. Then they would be very pleased with Hans Jurge.
Matt's new strategy was yielding mixed results. Hitting the buildings several times with the demolition beam would cause them to finally collapse, but they left large piles of rubble. THe remaining guards (who mercifully, appeared to be few at this point) were trying to use the mounds of debris as cover. Matt continued to employ what he had mentally dubbed "the croquet shot" to dislodge the defenders by battering them with their own shields. He was now playing the equivalent of whack-a-mole with defenders in the various windows and firing ports of the Keep itself. Matt knew that it was time to try to charge the gate of the Keep. At that instant the gate flew open. A fast moving column of uniformed troops rushed out. A number also dropped in quick succession from hatches in the ceilings of the broken down guardhouses while others jumped from second story windows of the Keep rolling as the hit the ground to leap up running. Matt was engaging as many as he could, but the well timed rush presented too many targets at once, but that wasn't the greatest threat. His own mind was on the verge of some kind of overload, some critical process was rapidly failing and re-starting but each time some aspect of the data wasn't being accepted, because what Matt's senses were telling him wasn't possible. Unlike the guards almost comical rent-a-cop uniforms, these troops were decked out in full SS regalia. But it was the soldiers themselves that were most problematic. In most cases, their skin was a sallow yellow and sagged and seemed to melt off skulls and bones. Yet the limbs were remarkably well muscled and movement weres cobra quick. Some with the bearing of officers and aristocrats seemed to have had cosmetic enhancements, faces stretched like canvas into sardonic masks but all had the same jaundiced dead mackeral eyes. Even as he brought down one target after another he watched in a disembodied horror as half of the counter-attack dropped into firing positions to cover the advance of the rest. After extending their line, they did the same as those behind them surged forward. Bullets now sought him, zipping and pinging all around him with increasing frequency as the line advanced.
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