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'Two each, and some tear-gas grenades. We'll go in with masks on. Now, the actual tactics, and here we're going to have to guess a lot. We have to ask where we would put people on that ship to keep watch. I know the girl in charge, and she's no fool. But she'll probably act predictably.'
'Then she'll let some of the girls rest for pan of the time,' the SBS officer ssu'd.
'Maybe. They'll be highly stressed, whatever, and, therefore, more dangerous. I'd say she'd only let three of the girls rest at one time. That gives her eleven - twelve with Mr Speaker, and 1 really don't know how good he'll be in a tangle.'
'She'll stay on duty all the time?' the US Marine Corps officer asked.
Bond nodded, with a smile, 'Clover is probably able to keep going without sleep for another forty-eight hours. So, if you were her, where would you put your troops?"
They talked it out carefully, using logic, then going back and looking at it in the most perverse manner. In the end, they decided that Bond had been right about the psycho being with the VIPs, plus a guard outside. They put two more on the main deck, one patrolling for'ard and one aft. Two on the bridge, probably armed with sub-machine-guns, and two, similarly armed, in Flight Operations. This way they would have the whole main deck covered, fore and aft.
There were a total of five companionways leading down from the island to the first deck, where they thought the VIPs were being held. 'One at the foot of each companionway?' Bond asked.
'Either at the foot or nearby.' the SBS officer agreed. The USMC Major nodded.
'We can probably pinpoint what kind of defence they've got on the main deck, even, possibly in the island and down on the first level.' They all looked up as Mike Carter suddenly revealed this information.
Bond saw it at once. The base, he suspected, was now used for major intelligence gathering: the electronics and the ma.s.sive golf-b.a.l.l.s had told him that. 'You can scan the ship for us?'
'We can try.' Carter tapped a pencil against the table. 'We've got several nice four-fanned P36s here stuffed full of the latest reconnaissance hardware. We can do a recce about an hour before you go in. They can see through any thing-and it's going to be dark tonight: low cloud. We should at least get a clear idea of where the sentries are posted on deck, and who's in the island.'
'I wish you'd said that before,' Bond snapped. 'What'll you do? Overfly and then do a square to cover all sides'.''
'Something like that. ! need to know a time."
'Quarter to four in the morning, 03.45. Nice and dark. Time for births and deaths. Lowest ebb for those under stress. Okay?'
They all nodded.
'See whal I can do, then.' Carter left and they began getting down 10 details. Bond asked if they slill had the companionway down to a boat deck, at sea level.
They took it up after clearing the mess off the main deck,' the USMC man said. 'That Harrier pilot knew what he was doing. They said fireworks and he gave us the Fourth of July.'
'Or Guy Fawkes day,' the SBS officer added, not wanting the Brits to be left out.
*Well, he won't do it again,' Bond said, a shade huffily. 'Now. down to cases,'
They went into the operalion in great detail, covering all conlingencies: agreeing, disagreeing and finally compromising on one or two matters. When they had the whole business sorted out, Beatrice asked why she had been left out.
'You'll be in Gibraltar, my dear.' Bond gave her a long look. 'When we've done the daring rescue bit, if we succeed, I'm coming to join you - providing I'm still alive. Then, together we're going to finish the job and take Baradj in.'
'Dead or alive?'
'Alive if possible. Enough folk will die tonight, and I am slowly coming to (he conclusion that too much killing is bad for the health.'
'If you say so. James. But I bel Baradj isn't one who'll give in easily.'
'Let's get this little show out of the way first.' Ignoring the others, he leaned over and kissed her on each cheek, then on her lips.
The P36 had brought back some very pretty pictures with its sophisticated equipment, a lot of which relied on infra-red which picked up the heat of human bodies.
They had been almost right. There were three guards on the main deck, one for'ard. one aft, and a third amidships. They also knew that there were three, not two. people on the bridge, and two in Flight Operations, and at least one in Communications. They agreed that they had been blind to that one. There had to be someone in Communications.
'Clover'11 be the third bod on the bridge,' Bond thought. It was three o'clock in the morning, and they were all galhered by two mall black inflatables. One for the USMC contingenl and one for the SBS. Bond would travel with the SBS, and they had arranged some distractions to go down at zero hour, 03.45. All were dressed in black and with blackened faces, the weaponry slung about them from black webbing harnesses.
They made their approach on the ship's relatively blind side, the porl quarter. It took half an hour of steady, quiet paddling to bring them under the darkness of the ship's hull, keeping close together, only parting company, moving fore and aft once they reached the ship.
The men in both inflatables now put on their respirators, and readied the other equipment, waiting, glancing at their luminous watches, for the distraction to start. The first huge flash and thump came right on time from about half a mile away, in the direction of the other members of the Task Force. The explosions were made to cause maximum glare and minimum noise. They were very bright, and a lot of magnesium was being used up. The US marines and SBS people kept their eyes down, but reckoned that n.o.body either on the open deck, bridge, or Flight Ops of Invincible eould possibly keep their eyes off the flashes.
There was hardly any sound from the spring-loaded launchers which fired a total of four grappling hooks, each wrapped and swaddled in sacking, from the inflatabies. Each hook had heavy knotted rope attached, and the irons thudded up onto the guard rails with little or no noise. It was merely luck which caused the irons to be fired at the same time as another of the explosions out at sea.
Bond was the first tip the for'ard rope. He knew the whole invading parly could make it to the main deck in less than three minutes, so he moved, at speed, but silenlly, keeping low. seeing the girl on watch near the bows, outlined againsi ihe sky. There was no time for sentiment. The girl would kill him as soon as look at him, so Bond put her down fast and efficiently, using the blade of a Sykcs-Fairbairn knife, taking her in a choke hold and letting the blade slice through the side of her neck, at the prescribed place. She went down without a sound.
At Ihe same moment, the other two girls on deck watch went down - one by knife, the other by a vicious karate chop that broke her neck.
Bond joined two of the SBS men who were standing on either side of the Crew Room bulkhead. He entered first, the other two covering him, and moved through into the pa.s.sageway, deep inside the island, turning left to take the companionway up past Flight Operations, then along the catwalk leading to the bridge.
They reached the top of the companionway, and were about to move on to the catwalk when quick clicking footsteps came from their right. All three men sank into the darkness as a Wren hurried past ihem. obviously on her way to the bridge.
Bond motioned them follow him and they moved, like silent shadows behind the hurrying Wren. By (he main bulkhead to Ihe bridge, they paused.
'They've really agreed?' It was Clover Pennington's voice, 'The message says Scratch, Ma'am. You said that was agreement, and that we should stand by- If they try anything funny when Viper moves in, we'll get Desecrate, and. once he's picked up the money, it'll be Off Caps, which means we get out as planned.'
'Well . . .' Clover began. Then Bond nodded, tossed a stun grenade onto the bridge, waited for its disorientating, but non-lethal flash and bang, and then sprang in, the two SBS men at his heels.
The girls over by one of the open screens, covering the deck below, whirled around, their machine-pistols coming up, as though, in spite of the flash-bang, they had reacted automatically. There were four phud-phud sounds, and both girls dropped their weapons reeling back against the screen before falling heavily on the deck.
The Wren from Communications took two bullets in the neck, and Bond was on Clover, spinning her around and jamming his pistol in her side. 'Right. Clover. You take us lo them, or you're meat, like the others. The whole ship's covered. We're everywhere.' He pushed her towards the bulkhead, catehing the glint of sudden fear in her eyes as she nodded, and, al that moment, all h.e.l.l broke loose.
The tear-gas grenades had gone down the companionways as they had arranged, and the remaining members of the a.s.sault force were sweeping the pa.s.sageways clear. Bond pushed Clover along the calwalk. There was a US marine standing by the Flight Ops bulkhead, and you could glimpse a body on the deck. The marine nodded and followed up Bond's party.
'You lead. Tell me where they are,' Bond muttered as they went down the companion-way.
'Probably dead,' Clover choked. 'My orders to Deeley were to chop them if anything happened.'
'Well get a move on.'
At the bottom of the companionway, an SBS man loomed out of the tear-gas, motioning Ihem to avoid the body that lay sprawled across the narrow pa.s.sageway. Bond had to push Clover on as she was righting for air in (he stinging choking tear-gas, but there was no doubt of their destination. They were heading for the Briefing Room in which the secrel summit had been held.
'Watch for the next corner!' Bond shouted, knowing it would angle around into the area which led to the Briefing Room. There would be at least one girl on watch there.
One of the SBS men leaped forward, and fired twice with a silenced H & K. They followed to see that another Wren had gone down, directly in front of the Briefing Room bulkhead.
They were half-way down the pa.s.sage when there came a crack and thump from the far end. One of the SBS men was flung against the metal wall, along which he seemed to spin three times before sprawling on his back. Bul before the casualty even hit the deck, the American Marine fired, four times in quick succession. Peering through the smoke. Bond saw that the unspeakable Donald Speaker had said his last word.
They were at the Briefing Room bulkhead door now and Bond signalled a cover from both sides. Then, his hand slammed down on the heavy door handle and. as Ihe metal swung back, so he pushed Clover inside.
*No! Sarah! No, it's . . .' She was thrown back by a burst of fire from inside, then the marine leaped forward and aimed two precise shots.
Bond came from behind him. just in lime to see Sarah Deeley catapull back against the metal wall, hitting it with a thump which must have broken bones, and sliding down it. taking a smear of blood with her.
Lying on camp beds, set in a neat row in front of where Deeley had been standing, were the silent, still figures of President Bush, Chairman Gorbachev, and Prime Minister Thatcher.
Bond moved forward, and fell each neck in turn. They were alive, and, it seemed, unharmed. M S Gorbachev was actually snoring.
The US Marine Corps Major came into the room. 'We have control of the ship, Caplain Bond.' he reported.
*Well, you'd best wake up Rear-Admiral Sir John Walmslcy, and organise some way of getting these rather important hostages off the ship and back to their own countries without any Press interference. I've got a date in Gibraltar.'
Tunnels of Love?
Ba.s.sam Baradj had not slept well. The telephone call had come in at around three in the morning, and he had gone out onto the balcony, feeling elated.
For the first time since the operation started he broke radio silence with his wonderful girls on Invincible. Even then, he did it by tape on the short-wave, high-frequency transceiver which had stood by his bed since his arrival at The Rock Motel, He tuned to the correct frequency, and then chose the righl tape. The Scratch tape, which would tell them that the three countries had accepted his terms and ultimatum. The girls would still listen out. and remain very alert, for had he not (old the Americans, Russians, and British, that, should he be double-crossed, or if anyone showed themselves near to him, he would have Bush, Gorbachev and Thatcher exterminated with exceptionally extreme prejudice immediately.
He stood on the chill balcony, repeating the tiny signal. Scratch-Scralch-Scratch-Scratc.h again and again. They would have it by now, so he went back inside, closed the balcony windows, pulled the curtains, destroyed the Scratch tape, and put the little transceiver into its imitation-leather case, then made certain (he other two tapes were there, ready for use.
He placed the machine back on his bedside table, then changed his mind, opened it all up again and inserted the Desecrate tape, just to be on the safe side. If they did double-cross him, make an attempt on his life, try to arrest him on the way to the airport, or come thundering down on him with jets as he picked up (he money, he would at least have time to press the b.u.t.ton. This was a very high quality machine, and, if anything went wrong - even though the thought was remote - he would be able to see things through to the end.
But how could anything go wrong? They had agreed. These people did not normally agree, but, in these special circ.u.mstances, it was the only thing they could do - give in lo his demands. He lay down on the bed, but only dozed, waking again at six in such a state of elation that he might as well have been high on some drug.
He calmed down, drifting into a light sleep, waking again at seven-thirty. Outside, the sun was shining. An omen, he thought.
Baradj rang down for breakfast, which came within twenty minutes. He ale heartily: grapefruit juice, toast, bread rolls, preserves and coffee. Then he showered, towelled himself off and looked at himself in trie mirror, turning this way and that to admire his physique. He was not a vain man, nor a stupid man. Far from it. But he had come a long way, and part of his success had been to keep fit. He might lack a six-foot stature, but his muscle tone, and high degree of fitness made up for that. n.o.body could deny that Ba.s.sam Baradj - who. by tonight. would have the name and ident.i.ty of someone else - was very fit for his age.
He sat, naked, ii the bed and put a call through to Switzerland. At the clinic, high in the mountains above Zurich, they confirmed his booking. Even the timing had been immaculate. He began to dress, thinking he had been foolish and paranoid yesterday.
Yesterday, when he had gone out for his walk, he thought they were watching him. There was a man in the foyer who followed him a little way, then another, different man appeared behind him. When he got back to the hotel there had been a woman, who seemed to be observing him with almost nonchalant care. Or had he imagined it?
He dressed, the light-weight beige suit made for him in Savile Row: the cream shirt, from Jermyn Street; and the gold cufflinks he had bought in Asprey's; the British Royal Marine tie. He laughed as he knotted the tie. This was the supreme two-fingered gesture.
Last, he took the soft pigskin shoulder-holster out of the drawer, and strapped it on, adjusting it so that it lay comfortably just under his left arm. He put on his jacket and picked up the 9mm Beretta 93A. slammed a magazine into the b.u.t.t and worked the slide mechanism. He did not leave it on safety. Baradj had more than a pa.s.sing acquaintance with pistols and he knew that, as long as you were safe, careful and practised often, there was no point in putting the weapon on safety. A man could lose precious seconds by using the safety catch. He was wrong, of course, according to the manuals and instructors, but he always played things his way.
The Beretta was comfortable under his shoulder, and he hummed a phrase from 'My Way" as he slipped three spare magazines into the specially built pockets in the jacket. He picked up his wallet and credit-card folder, dumping them in the pockets he always used for them, then slung the transceiver's thin strap over one shoulder, and his camera over the other. He was ready. The maid could keep the pyjamas, and there was nothing to incriminate him. Another pigskin shaving-bag would cost him a great deal less than the hotel bill, so why pay the hotel bill?
It was hard to believe this was February. The sun shone and the sky was blue. A faint brce/.e stirred the flowers. But all was well with the world, and he had spotted no familiar figures in the hotel foyer. It must have been his imagination. So. he could walk. Walking was good. and. in the end. faster than facing the crammed Gibraltar traffic.
He started away from the hotel, with the sheer rock face on his right. Ba.s.sam Baradj was less than three minutes into his stride when the hair at the nape of his neck began to p.r.i.c.kle. There were steady footsteps behind him. Not just the footsteps of idle tourists, but official footsteps.
He glanced over his shoulder and saw them: a man and a woman in jeans about ten paces from him. The man wore a leather bomber-jacket, the woman had a short canvas jacket. Then he made eye contact with the man. it was a face he knew. A face from the files. He had ordered this man dead on at least three occasions. The man was James Bond.
Bond saw that Baradj had made him so he acted quickly, his hand going for the Browning behind his right hip, covered by the bomber-jacket, his legs moving apart to take up the shooting stance. But he was not quick enough. By the time the pistol was out, Baradj had leaped up the low rock face and clambered out of sight.
If I am to lake this man. Baradj thought, then I shall do it on my own terms.
Back on the narrow road, Beatrice also had a pistol out and was speaking rapidly into a walkie-talkie, calling up the police and SAS reserves. Bond had insisted on going in alone. 'I want to bring this guy back alive,' he had said.
'Careful, James!' Beatrice called as he jumped from the road into the rocks. Boulders like sculpture, huge and rough, were strewn everywhere up the slope, bui he could see no sign of Baradj.
Beatrice joined him and they fanned out, watching each other's backs. In this terrain it would be relatively simple for Baradj to outflank them and take a shot from behind. But, when the shot came, it was from high up. and nothing thumped or ricocheted near either Bond or Beatrice.
Still spread out, they moved forward until they came to a wide-arched opening, like a man-made cave in the face of the rock. It had been barred by a large iron gate, fastened with a padlock. The padlock had been shot away, and one of the gates was half open.
'The tunnels!1 Beatrice whispered, and Bond nodded, 'Yes, the tunnels, and we have no idea how well he knows them.'
"What about you?'
Bond shook his head, whispering, Tve only ever been in the galleries open to the public. But. where he goes we'll have to follow.'
The phrase 'As Solid as the Rock of Gibraltar' is a misnomer, for the great Rock is, in reality, like a huge, giant ants' nest of tunnels. All of them were military in nature, and the public were allowed to see the first Irue feats of engineering - the Upper and Middle Galleries, built under the instruction of Sergeant Major Ince of the Sappers in the 178(>s. These faced Spain, were installed with cannon, and were largely responsible for holding the Rock during the Great Siege. Bul thai was far from the end of the story. Later tunnelling played a key role during World War Two. and sections of the tunnels were still very much in use now. Unless you knew the way, you could get lost very easily inside the Rock of Gibraltar.
Bond and Beatrice edged their way in. trying not to allow their bodies to be highlighted against the exterior.
Inside, the lights, drilled into the ceiling, were on, and they found themselves in a high, curved vault, big enough to take a Ihree-lane highway.
They spread out. one taking each side of the rough-chiselled wall, their eyes straining ahead for any sign of movement. There was none, and [he lights seemed lo go on lor ever.
They stopped beside two curved nissen huts, built into a cavern carved from the rock-face. Bul they were locked and empty, so they continued, moving slowly, very aware of the fact that, should Baradj find a hiding-place - some dug-out in the rock - he could pick them off as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
The lunnel branched off, and within a hundred yards Bond and Beatrice found themselves in the remains of what had once been a field hospital. Parts of tiled operating theatres remained, the sluices and lavatories were intact. Bul ihe hospilal led nowhere and. in minutes, they were back in the wide main route.
Bond remembered now. that these tunnels were once full of men. tanks, lorries, field guns, and jeeps. Indeed, they had been used as one of the main staging posts for Operation Torch. the allied invasion of French North Africa in 1942. the force commanded by Eisenhower. way back when he was still only a Lieutenant-Genera]. There were many ghosts in this dank and cold place, and Bond could feel them all closing in on him now as water dripped from the roof of this incredible stone highway.
'Over here." Beairice whispered, and he saw that there was another lunnel leading off, only large enough to drive a jeep into, and possibly reverse out again. They stopped, listened and wem down the branch lunnel. The far end was blanked off by a high metal wall, into which a door had been set. Bond tried the door and it swung open easily. Beatrice covered him while he leaped inside and was mel by such an incredible sight that he almost forgot to follow the routine. He heard Beatrice gasp as she pa.s.sed through the door, then the shot, echoing through this incredible place, and the bullet shattering only inches from Beatrice. They both dived for cover, and there was plenty of that.
They appeared to be in natural light, on what could have been a large film set, only the place as it appeared was so real it would be easy lo imagine you were dreaming. There were streets, houses, shops, even a church in the distance.
It took Bond a few moments to realise what it was. for he had heard of this place, though never seen it before. Graffiti was daubed on walls. Jibes at the police and military.
It was all so real that it took time for the truth to sink in. This was a training ground for troops resting in Gibraltar. A place where they could practise street righting; the kind of work lhat was so often required in times of civil unrest. He had heard a rumour that some members of the quick-response teams, police and army, were sometimes flown here for training.
They were lying on a pavement, sheltering behind a wall which was part of The King's Head, a pub that looked so real you could almost smell the beer.
Bond tried to a.s.sess where the shot had come from. 'You work left.' he whispered. Til cross the street and go right. Yell if you see him, or if he fires at you. Give it ten minutes.' He held up his watch. 'Then we meet back here.'
She nodded, and crouching low, scuttled along the wall, while Bond readied himself and made a crouching run for it, across the street to the far side, along the blank wall of Jack Berry, Family Butcher. The shop front, in the main street, was decorated with meat, carca.s.ses hanging inside. He was almost at the angle of the wall on the tar side, when two bullets came down, flinging shards off the pavement. He thought he saw the muzzle flash, from a doorway, three houses up the cramped, terraced street, and. still running, he fired, two lots of two shots, from the hip. Bond was sure he had seen a figure duck back into the doorway.
He was panting, his back fiat against the wall, working out the next move. If he went behind the butcher's shop he should be able to make his way down the back of the parallel street. and head for the rear door opposite the house from which he thought Baradj had last fired.