island Hopping
The handover ceremony was thankfully short. I just stood way off at the back and kept out of the way. The Army bods must have kept quiet
about the alleged SAS presence and that suited me down to the ground. Not so much that I wasn't actually serving; more for the fact that as
a reservist, my going with the BSAA would have been blocked should my existence come to the attention of the powers that be in UK
government circles. Not what I had in mind so that was that.

The suits and speeches ended and we broke up to get things taken care of. I was sad to have to leave the Mastiff. I'd grown quite fond of
that big old monster and as a last thing; I scrawled 'ZOMBIE CRUNCHERS INC.' on the side door with that black marker I'd forgotten to give back.
I made sure that we got a picture of the assembled Black Team in front of it.

Last job was to crate up the weapons and associated gear and get it loaded. It took a little while to ship everything out but the six
Chinooks the RAF and Army Air Corps had loaned the services of, certainly helped. Personnel were the last to go. I waved a farewell to
London as we lifted from the compound.

We went via Brize Norton and flew out on an RAF C-17 bound for the United States. Glad I remembered to bring my passport. It wasn't the most
entertaining of trips but that's nothing unusual. My girl and I managed to get some shuteye, stretched out along the side seating.
We arrived at Quonset State airport for the usual processing for entry to the United States and from there by Chinooks to Block Island.
The BSAA had been granted a small patch of land on the north point of the island, about 200 yards south of the north lighthouse.

The island sat in Block Island sound almost ten miles off the coast of the US mainland though it was considered part of the State of Rhode Island.
Almost pear shaped and measuring some 6 miles long by about three and a half miles at the widest point in the south.

Dotted with an abundance of natural pools, ponds and encompassed by sandy beaches, this place is home to just over a thousand people.
The island is quite popular as a tourist spot for walking, bicycling and more water sports than you can shake a sea anchor at.
The part of the island our base was on formed a narrow triangular point that started from Sachem Pond and Logwood Cove just over three quarters
of a mile south of the sharp point of north beach where it met the Block Island Sound.

It was considered a non-permanent base so that got around the ecological objections and after being here for the better part of five years,
almost everyone outside of the island forgot about its presence. This suited the powers that be as the only folks to see it on a regular basis
were those who manned the lighthouse and they had grown accustomed to it pretty quick.

The only other inhabitants were migratory birds as the dunes surrounding the area are classified as a nature reserve, though that happened after
the BSAA got its feet on the ground here.

All the gear was eventually got in and we settled down to life here such as it was. The layout consisted of six small buildings; compact but
neatly done and all looking like they had been built with the same footprint. They had a six foot high chain-link fence surrounding it.
The accommodation blocks were the biggest ones here, two simple cinder block construction places which didn't stick out too much from the
surrounding environment and all single level. They were placed side by side.

Room here for about 60 or so people so they weren't packed out as we didn't have that many. A couple of rooms had been placed aside for the Black
Team exclusively. The beds were of the steel framed bunk type so that would do. Sadly they are not designed for someone of my bulk exactly so my
lady and I in one would have run the risk of one of us falling out or her getting crushed by yours truly, not good either way so I just said I'd
take care of that and her smile implied some confidence in my abilities.
The shower blocks in here were spacious enough and I cheekily made mention that one of the larger stalls was hereby reserved for me and my plus one.

There was an admin and commissary area in another building, the fourth building right behind that housed stores and a gymnasium. The fifth was
the motor pool and mechanics, servicing a small lot of Hummers, tastefully painted in light grey with BSAA markings. Last place was the
comms/technical centre and medical. They were arranged in a square fashion so that would make navigation easier.

To the south was a small helo pad but this was currently unoccupied. The base personnel took care of shifting stuff away so we made ourselves at
home and left them to it. It was about 8am locally by the time we were as squared away as could be and I felt the need for food which came as
no surprise to Joanna. We stepped out of the block and looked about; the way people were gravitating toward a single building was a bit of a
giveaway so we followed. I had barely made it two steps before I heard a voice call my name.

I turned as did Joanna to see Martha waving from across the open space. She ran over and I scooped her up in my arms with a gently crushing big hug,
she was all smiles and gave Joanna a hug and peck. It turns out she had decided to join up with the BSAA as the medical side at the evac camp had
everything under control and her skills could be of great use to them. I was glad to see the BSAA knew talent when they saw it.

This lady would make a top notch addition to the medical side of things and I was very glad to see her. She mentioned that Laura had also come
along as she wasn't getting anywhere back home. They had tried to pigeon hole her back in to admin and that she was having nothing of.
Martha also mentioned that someone else was here and she would be happy to see me.

My gut sank at that, I was hoping the Max hadn't changed her mind and done something silly like signing up.

I couldn't have been more wrong as my attention was caught by a sharp bark and a fuzzy, four pawed missile was homing in on my location
at no small rate of knots.

Molly practically jumped in to my arms and I had to sink to my knees to avoid dropping the wriggling and highly excited ball of fur and tongue
I was now holding. I was very happy to see my furry sidekick and she apparently felt the same. Much fussing, stroking and my face getting a
good licking occurred. I stood and Molly came up on her back legs with front paws on my waist so the stroking continued and Joanna helped out
which only made the situation better from the fuzzy ones point of view I'm sure.

"What happened at the evac site then Martha?" I asked.

We talked for a while and she told me that after we had split up, Max got a flight back home which pleased her parents no end. That made me feel
better that she was safe and sound. Martha said that Katya, the little girl had gone back to Russia as some relatives had been found that would
take her in so two up for our side.

Reg was doing the copper bit with relish and proving to be very useful, especially with a woman he'd met called Sophie. That got raised eyebrows
and smirks from me and Joanna; Martha just said it goes to show you never can tell with some folks. Sam and Kevin were happy flying duties for
the relief effort but sadly no news on Sam's family, she said that from what she had heard it wasn't looking good. I wished the bloke all the
luck that he would find them alive and well but that realistic side of me was thinking otherwise.

As for Molly, they couldn't send her to Russia and trying to find her owners would have been next to impossible.
She said that as far as she was concerned, Molly was my dog so that was pretty much that. She couldn't be certain but she reckoned Molly was
missing me going by how down and lethargic she was acting at the evac site.

I gave Molly a good fur mussing and a peck on the nose which got a lick in return. We all went off to the commissary together with the furry one
hopping about and getting attention from everyone which never seemed to bother her.

Breakfast was being served, I noticed that Molly ignored the bowl that had been set out for her and stuck to me like glue which I minded not one bit.
We bellied up to the counter and Martha introduced me to the ladies that ran this establishment.

Jolene J. who preferred to be called J.J. cheerful faced, slim and about mid-twenties. A dark eyed brunette with a friendly way about her and a
ready smile at seemingly all times. Sylvie S. who was happy being called by her first name. Early thirties, blond and straddled that line between
cute and lovely quite well. They kept the horde fed and watered and from the looks of things, knew exactly what they were doing.

They didn't skimp on the portions of food either and my plate got loaded with more than most there did, which was seriously appreciated and
I told them so. That got a broad smile from both so I was well set in the future grub dept.

We sat, talked and ate with the occasional slip of a piece of bacon under the table which vanished speedily. The rest of that day was just a
settling in period so I made myself familiar with where everything was while Joanna got to her work. Our furry lass stuck with me and seemed to
be enjoying the walk and attention from everyone we met, no surprises there.

Security for the area was in good hands, the fellas handling that knew their job. A twenty body security cadre run by Don G. A wiry middle aged
English bloke, coming up to just below five and half foot tall with a serious military manner. Turns out he was another refugee from the
sandy beret brigade like me so we got on immediately.

His partner in crime was Rico D. Don gave me the nod that his real first name was Cedric but no-one with any sense called him that.
Rico was almost as broad and only an inch or so shorter than yours truly, bald as a coot with a huge moustache and a definite west coast
American accent. Had the sort of physical presence that wouldn't look out of place in a wrestling ring or one of the better bar fights I'd participated in.

The armourer was a short, rotund and middle aged fellow by the name of William B. He stood about the same height as Don but somewhat broader in
the beam and preferred Bill as only his old mum called him William. A born and bred, no nonsense Londoner so it was nice to know the English
contingent was well represented.

I went back to our room afterward and finally set about charging my satellite phone, my travel bag from my place still had all my overseas gear
packed in it so a bit of sorting out with adapters and all was well. Just hope it worked ok. That led me to another thought or two, both of which
would have to wait until I could get some phone comms up and running.

Everyone met up for lunch and talk was of what's next to be done and scuttlebutt had it that the intelligence that the tech team had acquired,
was now being collated and gone over by head office, how long that may take is anyone's guess so we had a wait and see time ahead of us.
The afternoon was still my own so I grabbed some info on the island and signed out a vehicle. The phone did indeed work and after making a
few calls, I took a trip with my furry sidekick as Joanna still had some work to do.

I drove south enjoying the island and costal views, the long dry-stone walls reminded me of places in Cornwall.
Eventually I arrived in the township of New Shoreham.

It immediately made me think of an English seaside town, touristy true enough but the kind of place I like with a multitude of small
shops and apparently friendly people.

The banking mobs I had called up assured me that my accounts were all current and good to go, which was nice as the plastic was about to get a
bit of a hammering. A stop at one place, the appropriately named 'Blocks of Fudge' got some chocolate goodies for my lady and me to enjoy,
another place made sure Molly was well supplied with the same doggy appropriate choc treats.

A fair amount of purchasing later had me loaded and on my way back, I had got a fairly decent lay of the place and the local eateries for
certain. An evening out with my girl was in order as soon as could be arranged for no other reason than she deserved it.

Over the next few days while the BSAA head shed were doing their bit, life settled in to a bit of a routine. The only breakups to that was
the planned evening out at a place called the Albion Pub which Joanna and I very much enjoyed.
The evening made even more so by the arrival of the double bed mattress earlier in the day that had to be shipped in from the mainland.
Two bed bases got welded together with some borrowed kit, I showed it to Joanna and noticing it was two bases modified and welded together,
she did ask if there was any likelihood of falling through the middle.

I assured her there was none and she tested that by taking a running dive on to the bed. My welding skills held up and so did the rest of the
bed so that was a bonus. Said mattress got a severe testing out later and was found to be a goodly thing.

Some extended walks meant plenty of exercise for me, Joanna and the furry one along the beach. Molly just didn't know what to do with herself
at first; all the wide open spaces caused a bit of confusion but a paddle in the sea, a few throw the ball and fetch games and the furry one
was well away with it. Also she seemed to be taking to the good wash down and coat brush up sessions quite well.

The morning of the fourth day, I saw my girl off to work, engaged in a couple of hours grunt and sweat effort in the gym. A shower and walk
with the furry one later found me waiting out for lunchtime and sipping a cuppa in the commissary. The odd scratch between the ears of my
Molly as she rested her chin on my knee and all was well. Chris came in and after getting his usual large mug of coffee, he came over.

"Good morning Ben, settling in ok?"

I felt this was just the opener as he would be well aware of everyone's status on the base but said everything was just fine and
decided to get to the point.

"So, what's on your mind Chris? I get the feeling you didn't just wander in by chance."

He smiled and conceded I was correct.

"We have several options Ben; I just wanted to get some opinion from you on those when we have a meeting later with the Black Team."

Likely as not, I was the last person he had spoken to about this. He'd already done the round of almost everyone involved that was actually in the
BSAA and now wanted to hear the outsiders perspective.

I didn't mind that at all. I'm nothing special but my experience and viewpoint was slightly different to most here I'd imagine, Chris was the kind
of fellow who would get all the options he could before deciding what action to take and that sat well with me.

"Well as far as info goes Chris, I wouldn't mind if you could pass some my way."

I asked him to tell me about Wesker. Chris related that he was a head of the Special Tactics and Rescue Service, otherwise known as S.T.A.R.S.
Sort of like the American police SWAT units but with a slightly different edge to them.

Later it was found that he was simply undercover and was the head honcho in his own organisation, apparently taking his orders from one
Oswell E. Spencer himself but nothing had been found to confirm this. Lord Spencer was an English aristocrat and one of the founders of
Umbrella Pharmaceuticals in the late 1960's.

Short story being that over the years, the other two founders, Edward Ashford and James Marcus died nowhere near as old as they would have
liked to have been. It was suspected that Spencer was believed to be responsible but no evidence ever came to light.
He said that Wesker assigned and led a team of six on a rescue and fact finding mission but disappeared during it. It was to do with an
incident at the Spencer Estate in the Arklay Mountains, North West of Raccoon City itself.

After what had happened there with the results of T Virus and the first B.O.W.'s encountered, the involvement of the Umbrella Corp. and
STARS being disbanded, the old members formed the BSAA and since that time have been keeping very close tabs on what Umbrella has been up to.

He said that Wesker was not exactly an outstanding individual but certainly had a high opinion of himself. He was believed to be MIA after
that operation and nothing had been heard for years. This all took place back in 1998. Then about three years or so later, it came to light
that Wesker was someone very high up in Umbrella and Spencer was nowhere to be seen.

Due to the nature of the corporation and how powerful they were, nothing official was said about him and any past dealings were ignored by
those in power due to how much political and economic clout Umbrella had worldwide. He never saw anything in Wesker that could fully explain
why he is the person he appeared to be now apart from a somewhat inflated ego. I said that whoever he is now is the primary concern and past
associations are a side issue.

He's now someone to be targeted and relived of his breathing privileges as soon as possible.

Chris couldn't explain it, he looked almost the same but the person was someone he didn't know. He had faced him twice before now and
somehow, he was stronger and faster than anything Chris had ever seen. Wesker appeared to be using his own product and somehow had managed
to make it work for him.

Later it was found that Wesker was thought to have been raised by a foundation started by Spencer, said foundation was started to
'Raise children of high intelligence and allow then to achieve their full potential for the benefit of mankind', but it was suspected in later
years that the true nature of the foundation should have added the words 'whether mankind likes it or not because the children will be superior
to anyone else in every way'
. Wesker was fast enough to almost dodge bullets and fists with equal ease, the ability to absorb huge amounts of damage.
I put my thoughts in to words after mulling over all this.

"So he's abnormally strong and fast, that I can accept but he's still a man. Subject to both human failings and the laws of physics,
and believe it or not that works in our favour. Whatever he's done to himself is something we can beat. Nothing is unbeatable if you can
bring it round to fighting on your terms."

He considered this for a few seconds then asked what I thought was the best way to go.

"Well we are going to win this, but to do so we'll have to make him play our game. The first tenement of battle is that you choose the
Time and placed, not your opponent. We have to remove everything he needs to function. Every bolt hole and hideaway taken and or destroyed."

He nodded in agreement and I continued.

"We whittle away at his resources and leave him only one place to hide, we'll have him. With nowhere to go, except to face us at a time of our
choosing then his head will be mine. I get the feeling he's a bit full of himself and that can work to our advantage."

He looked at me questioningly.

"Not meaning play hero or anything like that here Chris but I'm going to set myself up as the biggest pain in the arse that bloke will
ever have had. To make myself a target that he can't ignore. While he's focused on one thing, namely me, that will blunt his edge for anything else.
I want to get this blokes full and undivided attention."

Chris looked at me oddly.

"Ben, he's a one man juggernaut. Whole teams have been put out of action or killed by him alone."

It was my turn to nod.

"That's because you have been fighting him as you would a man. Guns and all that martial arts Jackie Chan bollocks is not going to get it
done with Wesker. He's expecting that and knows how to counter it. Someone my size isn't quite fast enough for that anyway but let me get my
hands on him physically and then we'll see what happens."

Chris was starting to get my drift here by the look on his face. I continued as he seemed to be looking for a bit more confirmation.

"I've seen blokes with enough strength to pull trucks. What good is that when you're holding them up off the ground and they can't
get traction? Unless he's as heavy as me and I very much doubt it, I have the advantage and intend to use it. I'm fully aware it won't be a
cakewalk but I intend to kill him and I'm not going to go blundering in without a bit of planning."

Chris nodded. "So what do you think would be a good way to get the ball rolling?"

I simply raised my mug to him and answered.

"With speed my friend, we hit wherever we can, as fast as we can and leave a hell of a mess in our wake if appropriate. Keep him guessing
and on the back foot, focused on what we're larking about at so he's not looking anywhere else and getting up to no good."

Chris seemed to like the sound of this; he mentioned that for some years now the BSAA had simply been reacting to incidents.
I said that maybe it was time to go on the offensive for a change.

"Ben, I may have a place for us to start there. I'll get to it and sort a briefing out for the team. Speak to you later."

He nodded at me, and then left with mug of coffee in hand. I gave Molly a good stroking and we waited for lunchtime.

My girl and I got to spend lunchtime together along with the ever present Molly but neither of us minded that. Joanna knew that something
was cooking and told me that Chris had been in and gathered up all the data on Umbrella installations we knew about. I acknowledged this and
said that something was in the works. Speed was the key and once we start, we couldn't let up for long. Bless my darling lady;
I could see she was concerned. Granted for me but everyone else as well, she was one of those very rare people that not only possessed
physical beauty in no small measure and yes, I'm biased, but her beauty went right to her core.
She cared in every sense of the word and I felt privileged to know her.

After lunch, a briefing was called and the Black Team and tech people were present.

Mentions had been made in the files, of some old uranium mine on the island of Ostrov Rudolfa, or Prince Rudolf Island in the Barents Sea,
almost 600 miles north from the nearest part of the Russian coast. The island was part of an island cluster known as Franz Josef Land.
Our target was the northern most one of the group. This mine had been supposedly shut down for almost five years but information about material
shipments going to the island over that five year period had come to light.

The gear was some heavy duty excavation stuff required in a hurry some three years ago and only used for a short period. After that time,
all activity stopped. No mention of it anywhere else in their records.

The bastards were up to something.

The mine was first opened some 90 or so years ago by persons unknown and by all appearances was supposed to be in almost constant use. The records
were sketchy so could not really be taken at face value. The Intel showed the place had a very small village on the surface with no more than
six or seven occupants. Two of them were locals, employed by Tricell who had been tied quite conclusively to Umbrella, to keep the pumps running
and make sure the mine did not flood. There was a larger settlement to house the miners but that closed up when the mine was decommissioned
and said miners departed to pastures new.

Tricell had ownership of the mine from the late 1980's onward but there was still no concrete evidence as to who had owned it before.

From what Umbrella information the BSAA had managed to get hold of via the UN and ripped off from their computers so far, this site was mentioned
and considered to be of some importance. How important and why were questions without answers as yet. It was decided to go pay this place a visit.
The Black Team would be first in to assess the situation, the tech and medical would wait until called in depending on what was found.

Over the next 24hrs, data would be gathered and the teams would make ready.

The BSAA head shed at the UN was in contact with the Russian Government to see if some logistical assistance could be rendered but precise details
were being kept under wraps for now. Getting there would only be half the fun and we would be out on a limb for certain.

Chris told all that with the evidence collected so far and distributed to those governments that needed to know, which meant all the major ones
on the UN Security Council, Umbrella/Tricell had been effectively shut down for now while authorities launched their own investigations.
That at least put the brakes on the public side of things.

The US and European offices had been seized and all senior executives taken in for questioning. I felt that this would keep the public face
and activities hemmed in for now; it was the covert stuff we would have to deal with.

While Raccoon City had been laid waste, an underground facility called The Hive was still there and possibly operational.

Rain said she had been with the security there for a short while and knew about the three upper levels, the rest below were unknown to her
as few were allowed access to those areas.

They had installations on Alboran Island in the Alboran Sea, the opening to the Mediterranean Sea and lies some 140 miles east of the
Strait of Gibraltar.

Another known but cleared base was in Chad in North Africa. The African Team under Sheva A. had taken care of that installation.
Not without problems but that was now secured. Records pointed to at least one other but the location was proving difficult to nail down.

The meeting broke up after an hour with information packs being distributed to all members, much reading and head scratching ahead so we got to it.
From the packs we worked out the lay of what would be snowbound land where we were off to. The village such as it was, consisted of about six buildings.

Three of these were the housing that the few occupants lived in. The rest consisted of some form of meeting place, a generator shack and the
largest one serving as a garage for vehicles and the lift to access the mine. A single road made the only ground route in and out.
An even elliptical shape to the building set up so covering it from any angle would not prove a problem.
Cold weather gear all round would be the order of the day here.

I suggested the usual weapon load outs and this was agreed to. The consensus was that we would go in first, secure the surface installations and
then call in the tech and biomedical teams. From there, we would go in and secure the mine and when done, the goodly folks in the white coats would
come in and have a good play with whatever we find.

The Russian troops would be constant surface cover to watch our backs, not the most ideal solution but the best we could do under the circumstances.

Later that day, Chris informed us that wheels were in motion and transport was agreed to. The BSAA top bods and selected persons from the Russian Govt.
had been in continual talks and tentative agreement had been reached. Final responsibility for anything going wrong would sit with the BSAA but
that came as no surprise to anyone.

The day passed and the next morning got us some fairly welcome news just after breakfast. Someone in the top mob had been doing some arm twisting of
a kind I'd rather not know about. For their part, the Russians had ponied up three Mil-26 heavy lift choppers, a mob of about 20 troops and a
Krivak-class frigate of the Russian Border guard.

They had got the agreement of the Norwegian government to fly the choppers to the island of Spitsbergen/Svalbard which lay some 500 miles north of
the Norwegian coast, nestled nicely in between the Greenland and Barents seas. The Svalbard airport will be our staging point. That lay just outside
the town of Longyearbyen, noted as the most northern settlement/town there is with a population of over 1000. Current lists made it at a
smidgen over 2000 residents.

This placed us some 550 miles southwest of Ostrov Rudolfa, it was the closest place we could get, The nearest Russian airbase would have placed us
just over a thousand miles away, the top most range of the Mil-26 choppers. It would take about four hours from Svalbard to the island so plenty
of time for a nap. Final plan at the end of that day was to fly out from Quonset in a 'borrowed' C-17, a refuelling stop or two before we make it
to Spitsbergen. From there in the choppers and the Frigate, the 'Vorovskiy' should be on station by the time we arrive as a support ship.

The Black Team would go in one helo, the tech and biomed with security in the second and the Russian troops and support gear in the third.
That meant us, Joanna as the tech nerd, Diane with her second Dr Cillian M. and Martha. It turns out Laura had been given the job of bodyguard
for the tech/biomed types with a team of four backing her up drawn from the base security personnel.

All in all, we were going in mob handed and the only get out would be by helicopter, treading carefully would be the order of the day.

Kit and weapons were drawn and packed, I made sure we would have all the cold weather gear we'd need and likewise for the tech and medical mob.
Chris assured me this would be waiting at Quonset on the C-17. He laid it out that Carlos and I would take the lead in this with deference
to me for the initial surface and mine sweep.

Just after lunch that day, a drive down to the local airport to be flown out to Quonset and within two hours, we were off to Spitsbergen.

A long flight with a refuelling stop in Greenland saw us arriving at 10am the next morning in an only slightly snowy Svalbard airport.
After a goodly bit of bend and stretch to shake the cramp out, we boarded the three Mil-26 helos for the flight.

The Russian troop contingent was led by a bloke almost exactly the same size as me. His uniform bore no markings, at least not on
the snow camouflage gear.
He was introduced as Boris Y. of the Russian Army but he just oozed Spetsnaz to me. That said, he seemed an affable guy and had a
more than professional enough air about him. The handshake was both genuine and solid, his English was pretty good and he spoke in a
friendly manner so that kept things moving along nicely. Completely bald with a strong chiselled face that held confidence and warmth
but I sensed that could change if it needed to in an instant.

His dark brown eyes were bright, quick to notice details and while dealing with the obvious civilian contingent, his manner and
smile were easy going. He was somewhat older than I expected so a career soldier for certain, his manner showed an officer bearing when
dealing with everyone with a solid leadership stance.

I think Joanna took a shine to him and he likewise so that was a good enough indicator to me. He did notice how Joanna and I were with
each other and spoke to me privately. "She is your moyah dzyevooshka, um...how you say...girlfriend! yes?"

I confirmed it was so; he smiled and responded with genuine concern.

"Not worry Tovarisch, I will watch over lovely lady for you and all will be well so you can do job with no worrying, yes?"

I thanked him for that.

We spoke further and I ran him through the plan as everything was getting loaded. He appeared genuinely enthusiastic and confided in me
that it was a pleasure to "Get hell out from behind desk once and not push paper around!" and his men were eager to get on with the job.
All of his team had that calm, professional air about them so I had immediate faith in their capabilities.

We left the airport at just after midday. The helos were certainly military so lacking in all but the most basic of comforts. The line for the toilets
at Svalbard airport before we left were quite long as it would be the last rest stop for the next 500 miles.

Boris was well on the ball and food was supplied for all during the flight, by the time we arrived it was likely to be just past sundown so
grabbing sleep and food where we could. It was far from the most comfortable ride ever had by many but all aboard my helo took the experience
in good humour, mainly as there was no other choice.

We went over the plan once more an hour before arrival talking by radio to the rest of the teams in the flight.
Everyone was in cautiously optimistic mood.

The wheels of our helo crunched in to the snow at just after four in the afternoon and the sun was already below the horizon. A dim afterglow
filled the skies through broken cloud as a light snowfall blew about courtesy of a slight easterly wind which was ably assisted by the rotors
of our ride. I judged the temperature to be heading for sub zero and not hanging about in getting there.

Our chopper was down about a mile from the village, the two others were a few hundred yards north of our position and we got word the troops
had deployed to cover. After the Black Team were in position lined in front of the helo and at the ready, it took off and pulled back to
where the rest had landed.

We waited until it had cleared and surveyed the surroundings.

An almost flat and featureless expanse of snow and ice greeted our eyes in the half light, the ground rose slightly in the direction we had
to go so after a radio check, we got moving. Topping the low rise, we could see the village less than half a mile ahead.
The Intel pack had mapped out things correctly and dim glowing spots from overhead lamps atop what appeared to be stripped tree trunks,
showed the area within the perimeter. We could see by the lamplight, the snowfall was increasing.

I could feel the chill on my face as the wind gusted and blew the fresh flakes of snow around but the wind was the only accompaniment
to our crunching foot falls and breathing.
We kept single file until some 300 yards out then split in to two groups to flank left and right. Nicholai and Thomas went with me to the
left and we made a wide circle to cover the outside of the village. We closed the circle to 100 yards and met up with the second group on
the opposite side to the south of the buildings.

Nothing appeared to be moving though light could be seen from the windows of the large building at the north of the village. Still no
sound from anywhere to be heard and the snow was starting to fall quite heavily. The building that information had told us housed vehicles
and the lift gear for mine access was conspicuous as it certainly looked like a modern construction opposed to the rest which appeared to
be wood plank built.

We had all noticed the satellite dish installed at the back of the larger building at the northern edge of the village that seemed to be
occupied and smoke definitely coming from a chimney. We formed up in an arrowhead formation with me on point and we slowly moved toward the village.

We had passed the silent vehicle and lift building and were just about to step in to the village proper when some movement ahead showed in
the overhead lighting. A small figure was moving in our direction, I signalled halt and indicated toward the advancing person.
At least I hoped it was a person.

The team broke and spread to both sides, Rain, Carlos and Nicholai took up position against the wall of the vehicle place, Thomas and Yuri
to the right in the snow. I held my ground and waited with weapon at the ready, in kneeling position.

The figure seemed to be heading slightly to the right instead of coming directly toward me.

I could make out more through the falling snow now. If it was a person, it wasn't a tall one. I judged to be no more than three or
four feet tall at maximum. The shape was indistinct due to the bulky clothing it was wearing.

It was about 15 yards from me when it stopped and I could see the deep hood looking my direction.

I could see no face in the low light and what there was, was casting harsh shadows. The figure stood for a few seconds then began
to slowly walk toward me; I thumbed the firing selector on the shotgun and prepared to pull it in to my shoulder.

The figure raised a mitten wrapped hand and spoke.

"Preevyet...Menya zavut Tasha...Kto ty?"

It was the voice of a young girl; she stopped only a couple of yards from me and showed no sign of having noticed the others. I knew no
Russian but the tone of the voice gave me a clue. I pulled the part of the wrap covering my face down and lifted my goggles.

"My name is Ben my little one, you are Tasha yes?"

It turned out I was spot on when she replied.

"Yes I am. Do you know me?"

Her voice was clear and the English only slightly faltering. I smiled and shook my head.

"No, but it's nice to meet you Tasha."

She seemed to accept this and stepped right up to me. I could see her face clearly now. I estimated somewhere between eight to ten
years old, dark eyes that held a certain curiosity about the large visitor and a few wisps of black hair coming from under the hood of her coat.
She seemed in deep thought for a few moments.

"Mamma is at the shop, did you want to buy something?"

I said I may want to and could she show me where the shop is, she nodded and offered her hand to me. I knew the rest had heard this over the radio;
I took her hand and asked if my friends could come along. She looked around as I called the team in and I told her not to be worried.
She stated that she was not with a fair degree of certainty.

She led me to the large building with the lit windows at the northern edge of the village with the team in tow.

It was agreed to that Thomas and Rain would stand guard outside while the situation in the village was evaluated. We entered the place and I was glad
of the wash of warm air that met my face. The inside was well lit and the smell of cooking hit my nostrils. The inside was on a par with some of
the old western frontier trading posts I'd seen in history books.

Rough wood panelling adorned with all manner of outdoor gear and basic shelving stuffed with clothing and miscellaneous items. A long bar
occupied almost one entire side of the main area with partition walls at one end. The opposite end held a large stone fireplace that seemed
to adequately heat the whole building.

Basic table and chairs set out in here in no particular fashion. Very few items of furniture matched and all had a well-used appearance,
though the large flat screen TV on one wall looked a bit out of place.

Four people inhabited this place and the little girl went straight to a woman seated at the bar, all the people were regarding us new arrivals
with a mix of curiosity and wonder. I could only assume that they didn't get many visitors but I felt no fear or animosity from them regardless
of the obvious weapon loads we were carrying.

Tasha began speaking to the woman and pointing to us, I looked to Yuri who listened but said it's a slightly off version of Russian, more like
old style speech of a century or so ago English would be to someone like me for example and I got the gist.

The woman came over and Tasha did a sterling job of translating while Yuri and Nicholai got a handle of the version of Russian being spoken.
The woman introduced herself as Tanya W. Tasha's mother. Some 30 years old with a face of plain features but with a certain angular strength
to them, more handsome than beautiful one might say. Physically she was a just shy of six foot tall, her shape and hands spoke of someone
who wasn't afraid to get stuck in to some hard work.

Of the others, Tanta and Anya were the husband and wife team that ran the bar/shop and worked the mine as technicians, keeping the pumps
operational. Tanya likewise and this seemed to be the place to be when not working or in their own homes. All of them greeted us without
fanfare or fuss which suited the situation.

Who I thought was the last occupant was introduced as Vasily D. An old fellow with a face to match the harshness of the surrounding island this
place sat on but he had eyes as bright and keen of someone half his age. He had a grandfatherly air about him when regarding little Tasha and
smiled at her a lot, though his smile was as short on teeth as it was long on affection for the little girl.

Despite his age, he appeared very firm in both mind and body, showing no frailty of stiffness when he rose and happily shook hands with us all.
I would have tagged him as mid to late eighties but he certainly appeared very sprightly for his years. His hands though gnarled from age and hard
use still bore a firm grip.

The same could well be said for the woman who came through from a curtained off area toward the back when he called. She was introduced as his
wife Mira and though he had about the same dwindling amount of teeth and advanced years as he, showed little sign in her movement which was
just as solid as his. Yuri had the measure of the language now so I left him and Carlos to get to the nub of the matter with the locals.

After about 15 mins the general idea was got across to the inhabitants and it was decided to first scout out the truck parking and lift
area to make sure it was secure. Whatever was in the mine, it was best to make sure it stayed there until the morning when we would make
our decent and see what we had here.

As it turned out, all of the technicians were given orders to maintain the pumps, ventilation and the power to the mine to prevent flooding
but were told that under no circumstances were they to go any further than the pump and power rooms which lay about 300 yards from the mine head.
The lift shaft was some two hundred feet straight down to a platform where a small electric train was set up for carrying miners but that had
only been kept running by the techs and never run further in to the mine than their orders stated so they had no idea about what truly lay beyond.

The power for the lift could only be engaged from the surface but once on, it did have twin control setups from both the surface
and the bottom of the shaft.

Tanta happily provided all the information he could, including plans of the mine which were quite old but all correct as far as he knew.
The question of when anyone from Tricell last visited the village about the mine was met with a bit of chin scratching but not evasion.
Between the locals, they came up with 'About three years ago'. and they spoke of some heavy equipment that had been flown in and
taken down to the mine so that tallied with what we had so far.

After some talk back and forth, I was fairly happy with the situation and that these people were of no threat and in fact quite affable
in assisting us, Carlos was of the same opinion so it was decided to pull the teams and troops in. Boris was happy to hear that all
was well; he informed us he had contacted the 'Vorovskiy' to confirm their status and they were standing by to assist. He and the teams moved
in on the helos and we set up in the bar/store and the truck garage became the domain of the troops.

The building there had heaters of a fashion and that made it a bit more comfortable for Boris and his boys. They made up a guard rota and
had more than enough boots on deck to cover so everyone else could rest up. Suffice to say we took up a fair bit of space in the bar/store
building though Yuri, Rain and the medical team agreed when the offer of bedding down in Tanya and Tasha’s house was made.

Joanna stayed with me and seemed quite happy about sharing my sleeping bag, she and Tasha got on like a house on fire when the little
one brought out her Playstation and hooked it up, apparently the satellite comms were working well here so a bit of patching gave us a
line back to Block Island which made Chris a happy chap after he was brought up to speed.

Mira seemed to switch in to mother/hostess mode without fuss and we were all well fed that evening while we relaxed and went over the plans.
After which Joanna and I just sat and talked while watching to going on with our genial hosts, she smiled as I did when Vasily had to go
and check on the generator building and gave his wife a peck and a hug from behind before he left and she made a false show of
irritation and embarrassment with a broad smile and batting him away.

"Just think babe, that could be us in about 40 odd years time"

The contented smile on her face and the squeeze said it all for me. Even though it crossed my mind, I didn't add;
"But hopefully with more teeth."

After a few hours the trip was beginning to wear on us so we called it a day and bedded down for the night. I did notice the smile on Miras'
face when she noticed Joanna snuggling up with me; I just returned the smile and nodded.

We were up and ready as the dull dawn came over the horizon casting a weak grey light across the frigid landscape. As per the plan,
we assembled in the truck garage next to the lift housing. The medical and tech personnel along with most of the troops were with the
helos ready to cut and run if required while we made our first foray down below.

The lift was little more than a steel cage affair, total practicality with no frills but this was as expected. It could take twelve people
at a time so the six of us in the black team wouldn't be taxing the mechanics which had been kept in top order by the locals.
The plans for the mine had noted the layout for the main mine head. From the lift, the train went along its track for 30 yards before
gently swinging ninety degrees right and then straight toward the generator and pumping control rooms which sat opposite each other
straddling the track.

A small service tunnel ran from the bottom of the shaft to the pump/genmerator station, just wide and high enough for a single person to
walk down.

From the two stations, the line went for almost three miles to what was the face of the mine workings. Plan as gone over to make sure things
were running properly with the electricity and the pumps then investigate what was or what had been going on down here. It all looked a
straight forward plan on paper but then so did the Titanic.

A team of eight troops stood by on the surface and we made our way in to the lift. A simple enough deal, just throw the lever from neutral
to down and we were off on our merry journey. While the bearings on the running gear were all in good condition it did kick up a noisy
rattle factor as we descended, arriving with any manner of stealth was out the window so locked, loaded and well frosty was the order of
the day as we approached the bottom.

The shaft was well lit and we could see the bottom of the shaft through the cage floor, no night vision gear required which made things a
bit easier. Yuri cranked open the gates of the lift almost as soon as it hit the stops and we deployed in a very sharpish fashion.
A clear air stillness punctuated by the occasional drop of moisture falling in to unseen puddles greeted our arrival. Even our most gentle
steps of the steel tread plate of the decking sounded unnaturally loud.

Rain and Thomas did a check of the train and announced it clear of any surprises, Thomas did mention it looked easy to handle.
Nothing advanced about it, just forward/back/brake levers so simple enough.

As per the plan, Yuri and Thomas started down the service tunnel and the rest of us began to work our way down the main tunnel. We discarded
using the train to keep the noise down and so we didn't run in to any unpleasantness before we saw it coming. Carlos and I took the
lead to the left and right respectively with Rain and Nicholai on our rear.

We could all feel a very slight movement in the air, clean atmosphere being drawn in to the mine constantly kept the temperature even but
not freezing, comfortable as long we weren't going to be down here for an extended period.
We had already discarded our cold weather gear at the surface for ease of movement.
The track was well kept and the dim lights on the walls reflected off the clean steel top surface of the rails. Said rails were supported
by what appeared to be concrete pilings that held the track about two feet from the tunnel floor. The tunnel itself was no more than seven
feet wide, its walls curving smoothly to an apex some ten feet above the floor.

The surface was only broken up by the curving flanges of metal support arches bolted together Moving with care, our eyes became accustomed
to the low light. A radio check with Yuri and Thomas came back ok so we had decent comms, we continued on our way.

After about fifteen minutes we had rounded the curve in the tunnel and could see the straight run of the track to the pump and generator stations.
The light up ahead was quite bright and clear.

Something moved in the light.

Carlos must have seen it too; he motioned to halt the same instant I did.

It was still a couple of hundred yards ahead but there was movement and it was regular.
Not like something rotating or the like in front of a light source, much slower.

I pulled my binoculars out and steadied them by leaning against the rail.

A figure resolved in to sharpness as I shifted the focus wheel. Human shaped for certain, clad in black or at least a very dark grey from head to foot.
No exposed flesh that I could see.

From what I could tell, he, she or it was holding some form of weapon I didn't recognize and doing a rather mechanical in fashion guard duty.
Walking to far end of the short platform and looking down the track, waiting a few seconds and then repeating at our end.
I counted off the movement and it was precise almost to the second.
I could tell Carlos was doing the same as me. He radioed Yuri and Thomas to hold and relayed what we had seen in low voice. He looked at me
and I signalled Nicholai and Rain forward to us and then in hand gestures, made out to move up in two by two cover 10 yard stagger.
They all got the picture so Rain and I moved off first. Ten yards down and stop, Carlos and Nicholai moved past to their stop and so on.

We all knew the rooms to each side contained rather important equipment so lobbing a grenade at the interlopers,
while preferable, was not an option. We would need to get as close as we could to get clear shots in. Cover was not in much evidence so
the first shots would have to count.

We were down to about 70 yards when the fun started.

The one I and everyone else in the group could see took a second longer in his wait time while looking our way, I was leading so wasted no
time in pulling up the G-36 and taking aim. Thinking alike, the person in black did the same with theirs and we fired simultaneously.
The report from my weapon on three round burst hammered down the tunnel, his shots went high, mine did not. My short burst hit him dead
centre of the chest, he fell back and crumpled to the deck,
then got up.

That was unsettling as the others opened up.

A combined burst of 5.56mm from three G-36's did the trick again and this time he didn't rise. The individual we just dropped had backup and
the two who appeared from the rooms on either side of the track added to the unfolding fun and games. Fire came our way in an instant and
we hunkered down.

The reports from their weapons were extremely quiet, the bullets impacting the walls and steel parts of the track and tunnel made more noise.

No muzzle flashes either that I could see as we exchanged fire, funny thing was, they just stood. No movement or taking cover which was odd
but meant that they were taken down fairly quickly. Also, they were not that good in the accurate shooting dept. for which I was thankful
and I suspect my compatriots were too.

A furious clicking and clacking as magazines were exchanged echoed around the walls as the weapon fire sounds echoed back and forth along the
track, slowly dying away. So far that made three down but we advanced cautiously.

Rain climbed up on the rails to cover both doors as we arrived and clambered on to the platforms that ran a few yards to the doors of the
pump and generator rooms. Carlos advised Yuri and Thomas to move up to the entrance to the pump room and hold which they acknowledged.
The door to the pump room was closed but the one to the generator room was open wide.

Rain hopped up on to the opposite side of the platform to cover the door as I made my way to cover the open door while Carlos and Nicholai
clambered up on to the same platform as Rain. The doors were set back some ten feet from the platform edge so that gave us some manueuvring room.

I was about to advance toward the open door when the closed one to the pump room opened and another one of our friends in black
stepped out as calm as you please.

He was about three feet from Rain started to raise his weapon just as she, with incredibly fast reactions, landed a solid side kick straight to his
chest with no small amount of force. This knocked him back against the still opening steel door and it was almost like someone had just nudged him
by the way he came back with equal speed and tried to raise his weapon again.

He got a small amount of the way there when my and Rain's G-36 put him down for good.

A second to collect ourselves then took on clearing the rooms which proved to be absent of black clothed individuals. This was nice to find.

Carlos called Yuri and Thomas to get in to the pump room and join us, they did that in short order and seeing no further threats in either room,
decided to take a look at what we had here with the mystery individual.

Certainly man shaped anyway, the clothing was indeed black but it had a weave that reminded me of the pattern you see in carbon fibre bits on cars
and the like. Parts of the suits like the legs and chest had what seemed to be reinforced pads or covered plating. Looking at what damage had been done,
the armour piercing rounds had only just penetrated the heavy areas and seemed to have gone through the fabric layers but that had shown little signs
of stopping them or at least giving them cause for concern as it certainly would have yours truly.

Rain removed one of what appeared to be masks with some form of goggles attached from the head of one of the deceased. She dropped it and stepped back,
instinctively raising her weapon.

"What the fuck is this thing man!?"

In the more than adequate light, I could see the reason for her dismay.

The skin such as it was, appeared to be almost translucent in a very unnerving way. An off white with no hair whatsoever. There was definite sheen to
the skin as well which did nothing to improve its looks. The eyes were black with no discernible iris or pupil. The lower part of its face was coverer
by some form of mask with grilles mounted around where the mouth and nose should be, a close inspection showed this was fused to the skin.

The body was indeed fully covered by the black garments with no visible breaks or seams, almost like a jumpsuit. It was like they were sewn in to them.

The waist area had some pouches attached and all but one were uniform size and contained what appeared to be magazines for their strange weapons that
Yuri was examining closely. We all looked at it, apparently electrically powered or some exotic version of the same, a tiny box magazine with 20
small calibre rounds but caseless and made from some form of ceramic that more resembled a dart.

The weapon itself was little more than a plastic stick with a rudimentary butt and pistol grip, the whole thing was about 30 inches long and weighed no
more than a few pounds. A small lit readout seemed to indicate power level and magazine capacity. No safety or fire selector that I could discern with
no sights as such and the only marking was the familiar Umbrella symbol.

Back to our deceased friends, one pouch was significantly larger but it had no opening I could see. I got the Gerber to work on that and it was not easy.
The material took a fair while to cut through and when I did, it revealed two metal cylindrical containers with some flexible piping attached that ran
directly in to the body of one of these, well, things.

Back to weirdness pile up in short order again.

Time to get sorted so I advised that we get the tech person down to go over the pump and generator rooms and get these individuals top side so medical
could get their surgically gloved mitts on them. Our radios couldn't get past the couple of hundred feet of rock reliably so Thomas and Yuri went back to
get things rolling while we held position.

Things got moving and with Thomas now playing train driver, my lovely lady arrived to do her techno thing while we got the bodies loaded up and sent
back for the gang in lab coats to pore over. Boris sent a couple of his blokes down with Laura and her four to hold the fort and watch over Joanna
while she did her stuff while we made moves to push on. Little time to chat but a peck and smile from my lady who looking a bit relived and apprehensive at
the same time, we were off for the next bout.

All six of the black team on foot again for the three mile slog to the mine face. At least that what it said on the plans but I was beginning to think
this may not turn out as we envisaged. I was not wrong in this instance sadly.

It took almost two and a half hours of careful walking to arrive at the tunnel end. Along the tunnel, we could see where old shafts had been and then filled
in but this didn't look the same as the rest of the tunnel. The fill in jobs appeared fairly recent in comparison to the rest of the surfaces in here.
Joanna had managed to patch in a radio to the cabling running along the tunnel as a signal carrier so comms and those with the surface could be made with
ease. We did encounter two more of the black clad brigade at the tunnel end and during the fire fight; we saw one of the bastards literally jump like
a cat, from a standing start and landing some fifteen feet from where he began.

Their speed, agility and ability to absorb damage without a faltering step I found impressive in a worrying way and my compatriots were in full agreement
on that. But sorted out they were as they might move fast but fire tactics and seeking cover did not appear to be their strong suit which was helpful for us.
We reached the end of the track and looked what we had.

A short platform at each side looked like it had not seen activity for a while. To the left end appeared to be another lift that dropped about thirty feet to
the floor of an open cavern area. A good three quarters of this was flooded almost to the lift. The walls looked rough-hewn and there was a strange
odour in the air.

The roof was some fifty or so feet above our heads and dim lights gave the place a slightly unearthly glow.

The walls narrowed to a corridor that went below water level to our right, the left side seemed to open out in to a larger area we couldn't see but a
slight blue glow emanated from that area. I got on the comms and Joanna told me she had the systems figured out and I gave her a run-down of what we could see.
She said the pumps to the flooded area were functional so I gave the word to crank them up.
I also passed word to get the train running and could a few of well-armed types ride it down this way to hold the area. I didn't like the idea of a fighting
retreat three miles back up the tunnel on foot if it all went tits up.

After about 30 minutes, said train arrived with Boris and four men in tow. Seems the big bloke had got one of our spare Minimi's as an accessory to his own
weaponry, which I considered a wise move. He also appeared to have been given the same headsets as us which would make comms easier.
He had his men spread out to cover the area from the platform.
I just looked at him and grinned as he hefted the machine gun with ease, one handed.

"Is me, do you not think Tovarisch?"

I laughed and had to agree, then thanked him for coming along personally. He made simple mention of not wishing to miss out the interesting stuff which I could
understand and I was more than happy for him and his boys to be along for the ride. The water level had dropped a fair few feet and showed the ground sloped
gently down toward the corridor so we agreed they would cover while we went down for a look about.

Getting to the bottom in the lift was no sweat and here the odour was stronger, a sweet scent sort of like roses but not quite. The source of this was
found shortly after.

The dim but evenly lit cavern area to the left housed the sort of thing that would make the members of the Royal Horticultural Society start frothing at
the mouth with excitement and the Royal Gardens at Kew would kill to have.

A circular stone base about fifty feet wide that rose in cone shaped structure but with steps up its side that made up flower beds. But for the circular
construction, it looked almost Aztec or Incan in design. A set of stairs that seemed to be built in to the sides allowed access to each level, placed at
the cardinal points of the compass. The beds were richly filled to almost overflowing with a flower that while not unlike a rose in some respects,
they had sky blue coloured petals. Instead of thorns, small blue coloured pods sprang from the stalks.

In the depths of an abandoned mine on a Russian island, it was a very surreal but captivating sight.
The bio-med people were going to have a field day here.

We all shook off the sight of this and turned our attentions to the job at hand, the water level was dropping fast and we should have kept an eye on it.


We all turned and reflexively brought our weapons up as four Hunters charged from the lowering water.
They were less than 30 yards away and coming on at speed.

We all fired as one but with our G-36's instead of the AA-12's and these buggers had got the drop on us. We had gotten distracted and it may cost us dearly.

The bullet impacts started to erupt on the fast approaching Hunters but that kind of bulk does not get stopped with ease at full tilt which
these bastards were moving at.

Our fire slowed them a bit and I managed to get a free hand off the forward grip of the G-36 and around my AA-12, Boris and his boys had already opened up
from their vantage point above us and that served as a momentary distraction for a couple of the scaly backed bastards at least.
Luck was on our side for the most part, the fire from above took care of or at least slowed down a couple of them but as it turned out, Rain's G-36
went dry as one leapt at her.

I had got the AA-12 up and banging which brought the one to my front to a stop with extreme prejudice as my G-36 went dry.

The one who leapt at Rain swung its large clawed mitt her way and her swift reflexes saved her life as she ducked just low enough to avoid the impact but
her pack caught it all. The contents exploded in a spray as the Hunters talons shredded it completely before it crashed to the ground in a lifeless
heap and Rain was sent sprawling.

It was over as quickly as it had begun with the last few rounds from me and the rest getting their AA-12's in to the deal finished them off.

Too fuckin' close for comfort.

We recovered quickly; Yuri, Nicholai and I reloaded fast and watched our front while Thomas and Carlos checked Rain. Winded and a bit scratched up but otherwise
still in one piece, her pack was the only casualty. We took some time to get our breath and answer the radio calls to assure everyone that all was well and no
one injured except for some possibly dented pride and equipment loss.

Boris and one of his gang came down to survey the damage and seemed quite relived Rain was ok if a little dented. He looked with both fascination and
revulsion at the Hunter corpses.

"You have met these things before my friend?"

I nodded.

"We have and the same result occurred but they almost got the drop on us this time, never knew the buggers could breathe underwater.
That wasn't in the fuckin' literature."

I made a mental note to get that updated soonest.

The drainage finally finished off to reveal a rough cut corridor leading off, lighting kicked in from sealed lamps in the walls so we could at least see
something coming this time. Rain would hear nothing of pulling back to rest up so we made our way forward as one down the corridor, Boris said he would
hold here and be ready if needed. I thanked him for that as we got underway.

As we moved, my Joanna came on the line and told us she had found a covered panel in the generator room that held CCTV controls and what appeared to
be a slaved unit to some systems deeper in the mine but she could not work out what they did as yet. I adopted a cheery tone.

"Well you know what you're doing there babe, just keep us updated if you come across anything, okedoke there me sweetheart?"

I got back a slightly less than completely confident sounding 'Ok' and felt like she was going to add something more but wisely kept it to
herself for now considering the situation. I anticipated a bit of a stern look and slightly terse words from her in the near future and a hug of the
rib breaking variety.

The corridor was fairly straight for about 100 yards or so, the flooring was some form of metal grating here and there with what I assumed was connections
to the pumping gear. I hoped no one fiddled with the reverse switch. Arriving at the end, it appeared to be a pressure door of some kind but with no
hinges so either it slid or moved aside in some weird way. I relayed this to Joanna and she was on the ball. She passed the feed from the CCTV to
the monocles on our headsets.

It showed some form of flooding airlock and as far as she could tell, it was on the other side of the door from where we were.

We all heard that so backed up some ten yards and took up firing positions with AA-12's at the ready this time. Carlos called for Joanna to open it
if possible and she reckoned she had the system figured out. A few seconds passed and with a clunk and hiss, the door slid to one side.

"Ah've got access to some more cameras, piping it through."

The lock had another door 90 degrees to the left where that opened in to another corridor about 50 yards long with a junction in the middle turning right.
The camera feed showed all of this in stages and it went as far as another pressure door up the corridor to the right. All the surfaces were lined with
metal and well lit from the ceilings. I nodded at Carlos and spoke.

"Ok babe. One door at a time on my word, ready?"

She acknowledged and the team nodded, I gave the word to open the first door to our front left. With the same clunk/hiss performance,
it did exactly that.

We held our position and watched the camera feed that was cycling through the views.

No movement so we advanced in twos slowly. Exactly as the cameras had shown, all was clear to the next door. Yuri and Thomas held at the lock and
the rest of us moved up to within 10 yards of the next door. I asked if she had any feeds from the other side of this camera wise.
She sadly reported she had not.

Shit or bust time then. "Open it then please me darlin' if you would."

The same clunk and hiss, it slid aside to show an empty corridor with a right turn at the end. The lighting was bright here and we could
all detect a low humming sound. The air was clean to the point of being antiseptic. Advancing slowly with Thomas and Yuri bringing up the
rear and holding at the junction, we continued to the corner. Rounding that corner and continuing on led us to a most curious sight.

Through an area that looked like a wet room/shower area, a small flight of steps led down to a very large open room with featureless
walls apart from a heavy glass fronted area with a pressure door at the far end. It appeared to be some form of control or monitoring room
judging by the banks of lights and screens in there but no one was at home. We halted at the top of the steps.

It must have measured some 70 feet long and almost the same width with solid overhead lighting. The floor was less than featureless though.

It was broken up in to a stark hexagonal pattern, laid out in a seven by eight grid that was only broken by a large Umbrella logo in the centre
making it 48 of the hexagon shaped tiles and immediately put us on even more of a twitchy footing. Some of the hexagons were raised off the floor
and made up the tops of what appeared to be tubes of some clear material.

All of them unoccupied thankfully but it didn't take a genius to work out that we had faced ten bad guys and there were ten raised tubes in here.

I asked if Joanna could see this through the cameras in our headsets, she said she was receiving the feed from mine so I panned slowly around.

"Can you tell if any of these tubes not raised are active or will be soon babe?"

Rain was resting one hand on a frag grenade pouch and I didn't blame her in the slightest.

"Ben, Ah can't tell exactly from here, I think they are but ah am not seeing anything to indicate they are going to do anything."

I asked her to take her time and see if anything in here was about to perform a nasty jack-in-the-box thing and if possible, stop it from doing so.
We held for a few minutes and Joanna confirmed that she could not see anything to indicate this would happen. In fact if anything, all the rest
were in a locked down or on hold status.

"Oh don't worry, nothing like that is going to happen...at least not unless I wish it."

The voice wasn't coming from Joanna, or indeed from my headset, a single speaker embedded in the wall to our right appeared to be
the source of the sound. The voice was somewhat familiar. Carlos looked at me and mouthed the word "Wesker."

I responded in the only way that seemed appropriate considering the circumstances and adopted my best phone voice.

"Albert! So nice to hear from you. How are you old bean?"

He responded in kind but I could sense the malevolence thinly masked by the genial tone.

"Oh just fine Mr. Hawk, thank you for asking. I see you have encountered my creations and emerged victorious, bravo."

I smiled for what I assumed was as yet, unseen cameras and continued as if talking about the weather.

"Oh they weren't that much a problem mate. Some of them are going to make me a really good wallet and set of matching luggage,
once I've skinned 'em properly of course."

"...Quite..." Was the only response from our unseen antagonist.

The team moved around the walls of the room keeping careful eyes open.

"So then Al, to what do we owe the honour of this communication? Wouldn't it be better to speak in person fella, I'd really
like to shake you warmly by the throat."

A slightly forced laugh came from the speaker.

"Oh I have no doubt you would like to try. And you would fail my large friend but your bravado and overconfidence in your
abilities is amusing to me none the less."

Joanna's voice came on in my headset. "He's stallin' for some reason, hold on..."

I spoke up.

"C'mon Al, this isn't just a courtesy call and times-a-wasting, so what's on your mind fella?"

The response was to come in an airy and slightly bored fashion.

"I just wanted to say hello and goodbye in a polite fashion, we can be civilized about this can we not?"

I grinned. "Yeah, I suppose we can at a distance though you will have to excuse me if I'm not so polite when we meet face to face."

"I think not Mr. Hawk, You and I meeting? That is something that will never happen, which in some ways, I will regret."

He was good at expressing patently fake emotion, I'll give him that. Joanna came back on.

"It's ok now Ben, He had a nasty surprise he was ready to throw the switch on, Ah've shut the self-destruct down and he can't detonate it."

I looked at the speaker for want of somewhere to look as I addressed him.

"Sorry to disappoint you Al, I'll be breathing for some time yet. Not going to be a boom from this location."

The disappointment in his voice was masked but not by much.

"Oh dear, that is most tiresome. Well Mr. Hawk it seems I am to be amused by you and the BSAA's pathetic attempts to impede my progress
for a while then. But I trust I have that rather talented young lady...Joanna is it?...To thank for keeping you and your
band alive for a while longer?"

Acknowledgement seemed only polite and to take a little bit of pride in my lady.

"You do indeed my friend but it's not just that..."

It was my turn to put on a serious slant to my voice even though it would probably be lost on this fellas ego.

"I fully intend to see this through. First we will take your kingdom piece by piece, and then I will have the kings' head on a pike like the
traitors of old, to adorn London Bridge."

His response was simple.

"Very poetic Mr. Hawk, I commend you."
I answered likewise.

"Oh not poetic Albert...A promise."

Joanna told me she had isolated the incoming communication lines and can cut them, I told her to wait until I gave her the go on that.
Time to wind this up, but I couldn't resist one last dig.

"By the way Al, before you go, got a question for you mate."

His tone was one of someone growing impatient/bored with the game but he kept it going and asked what that question was.

"What's six feet seven inches tall...and hangs up?"

Like the rest of the team, Rain looked to me in a questioning fashion. I just looked at her and winked. There were several seconds
of silence then Wesker let out a patently fake weary sigh.

"I do not know Mr Hawk..."

I simply grinned and gave the nod to cut comms. "What is si-"

Once the giggling had died down we got on with the job. One of the handy dandy breaching charges got the pressure door open as Joanna couldn't access that
from where she was. We did uncover a little bolt-hole as such, a panel in the control room was removed and that revealed a tunnel which ran along t
a large flooded cavern a bit like a moon pool.

A makeshift dock indicated a submersible of moderate size had been at work here so that explained the continuing getting up to no good that Wesker and co.
had been doing without showing their ugly mugs on the surface. Said tunnel got collapsed at the pool end to prevent any unwanted visitors from just
waltzing straight in. My girl had done a bang up job of blocking the incoming comms from Wesker and he just hadn't considered the need to wipe the
data storage due to the fact he'd planned to blow us all straight to hell and a few other places I'd rather not go.

Over the course of the rest of that day, I got the remaining hexagonal tube tops spot welded shut just in case except for two of them.

There was a mountain of data to rip off and one of the last CCTV records in here showed Wesker and a woman, who I was informed, was one Excella Gionne.
I had to admit she was a damn hot looking woman with no shortage on style but what happened in the footage propelled her straight to number two on my
personal shit list of 'People this world could seriously do without'.

She and Wesker seemed more than just a little bit friendly by the way she was pawing him and his demeanour showed he seemed to like it.
The camera angle showed a bunch of technicians working on two young Asian women, they appeared to be almost identical in looks and dress apart from
one had pink hair and the other, blue.

By the looks of it, they were not willing subjects.

They were being prepared to be placed in those tube things for reasons I'd rather not speculate upon. The way Excella and Wesker found some amusement in
this only served to stiffen everyone's resolve that these people needed to be buried and quickly.

Diane and Cillian had their work cut out and some waffle with the mob back on Block Island ended with the opinion the two girls should be got out of those
tubes as soon as possible. Joanna took a while to get the gist of how it all worked and then she and the med mob got to it. I nodded to Rain in the direction
of her sidearm; she got the message and did the same as I.

Weapons drawn and rounds chambered, we stood by and let the people work. The tubes were raised one at a time, the liquid they were suspended in was drained
and the docs did their bit.

The ladies were alive but neither Diane or Cillian had any idea of what was being done to them, best thing that could be done was to get them away from here
and in the sick bay onboard the 'Vorovskiy' This was agreed to and the Russian troops helped transfer them in short order. Cillian went along to assist
the Doctors onboard the frigate and would get back to Block Island as soon as the girls were in a medical facility on dry land.

That bit was in the domain of the political/medical types now so we left that stuff to them, samples of the plants were collected but in all, our job here
was a done thing and now it was the turn of the Russian government to take control here. I suspect the usual promises of information sharing were made by the
head honchos of all parties but that was beyond my interest. We said our goodbyes to the troops and I thanked Boris and his men for their help in this.

Boris for his part was happy to help and if needs be, give him a call if more were required. We parted as friends and comrades in arms and I was happy
that he had our backs in this.

And I did get that bone crushing hug from my lady just before we left for Block Island.