Chapter 13: Hostage Rescue
Saturday September 26, 2026
Nether Alderley, Cheshire, England
Sarah enters the room and sees Sheila cowering in the corner, her head in her arms. She hasn’t put on a shirt and doesn’t seem to have realised there’s someone else in the room. Sarah clears her throat and Sheila finally raises her head. She doesn’t seem too surprised by Sarah’s presence.
“Dios mío, Sheila! Why the devil would you do something like that?” says Sarah, as if she already knows what Sheila has done.
“Put that thing away,” says Sheila in her posh accent. “If you were going to shoot me, you would have done so already.”
“I have to apprehend you for what you’ve done,” says Sarah, throwing her handcuffs in Sheila’s direction. “Put these on!”
“What makes you think I’ll go quietly?” says Sheila, standing up unevenly.
Sarah sees that the stains on Sheila’s jeans are indeed blood stains. Probably Michael’s blood. Sarah can’t shoot her as the noise would certainly invite her friends upstairs. If she takes her down, it will have to be some other way. Sheila looks intoxicated and Sarah’s confident she can overwhelm her easily, although she knows not to underestimate a UKSF operative.
“We’ve captured Steve Dunbar and he told us everything,” says Sarah.
Sheila doesn’t say anything.
“He admitted your house is The Cartel’s HQ. Your choice is simple. You can confirm that and make up some story about what you’re doing here, or you can admit that you’re also a member of The Cartel. We’ll consider your cooperation during your trial. What do you say?” offers Sarah.
An experienced interrogator will often offer a suspect the choice of two incriminating options. Choosing one automatically admits guilt. It’s a trick, but an effective one for getting a confession out of a suspect. Normally, Sarah would have saved this kind of tactic for the end of an interrogation session, but she doesn’t have much time. Though she’s intoxicated, Sheila’s still sharp enough to recognize the trap and throws Sarah a sharp look.
“Do you think I’m that stupid?” she says, curtly.
“Your HQ and warehouse have been decommissioned. B Squadron is here and everyone downstairs and in the Summer House is dead. You’re in enough trouble already so don’t make things more difficult. Surrender yourself!” orders Sarah.
“Sounds like I don’t have anything else to live for, do I?” says Sheila, eyes starting to moisten as she walks slowly, unevenly towards Sarah. “Go ahead and shoot me!”
Sheila hasn’t admitted that her house is the Cartel’s HQ, but nor has she denied it. Sarah imagines the SAS have more than enough evidence to assault this place and kill everyone inside. Now she must force Sheila to reveal Michael’s whereabouts.
“I won’t shoot you, but I will give you the same amount of pain you have given Michael,” she says, holstering her pistol and taking out her knife.
Sheila stops some three metres from Sarah and Sarah can see a glint of anxiety in her eyes. Sarah’s knife only has a three-inch blade, but that’s more than enough to puncture all major organs. Sheila looks sad hearing Michael’s name spoken aloud, which makes Sarah even more worried for him. And angrier, too.
“I thought you loved him, Sheila?”
Sheila doesn’t answer.
“How the devil could you do something like that to someone you love?” asks Sarah, as if she already knows what’s happened to him.
Sheila keeps silent and only looks down sadly.
“You do realise that you can’t snatch an SAS squadron commander and torture him without dire consequences, don’t you?” says Sarah.
“We had planned to snatch you, but that stupid bastard was there instead!” says Sheila angrily.
She’s just admitted to snatching Michael! Now it’s Sarah turn to stay quiet and let Sheila continue.
“Niall and I were disappointed to snatch him instead of you,” says Sheila.
Sarah stays silent.
“I would’ve enjoyed watching Niall disembowel you,” says Sheila, giving her a look of utter hatred.
Sarah is still silent.
“But that dickhead wouldn’t give us your fucking phone number!” says Sheila.
Sarah keeps a straight face. She’s getting even more worried, but she’s also touched. Michael is protecting her.
“How do you plan on getting rid of him?” asks Sarah, deciding now’s the time to talk.
“There’s a pig farm in Dudley, West Midlands,” answers Sheila.
Sarah suddenly feels weak in the legs, knowing they plan on feeding her fiancé to the pigs. “Where is he now?”
“At my warehouse,” answers Sheila without thinking. She then frowns because Sarah’s question sounds odd. Hadn’t Sarah said they’d already taken the warehouse?
“Right, we have more than enough for a confession. Good job, Sarah!” says James’s voice from her smartphone, accidentally set to speaker.
Sarah’s stunned! She can’t believe she’s made such a stupid mistake and hurriedly tries to reset her smartphone back to Bluetooth.
“We are ETA two mikes and will immediately set up OPs for B Squadron’s assault,” says Al.
“B Squadron and I will deploy within five mikes,” says Cormac, just before Sarah manages to reset her smartphone.
Sheila finally realises she’s been tricked. “You fucking bitch!”
Sheila rushes forward and tries to kick Sarah’s knife from her hand. Sarah moves her hand just before Sheila kicks it, but Sheila immediately does a roundhouse kick with her other leg straight to Sarah’s abdomen. Sheila’s boot hits the target, but Sarah clenches her abs so Sheila’s boot merely bounces off. Sarah goes forward, stabbing her knife towards Sheila’s stomach, but she manages to catch Sarah’s hand. Sarah’s momentum pushes Sheila back. Sarah trips Sheila’s feet and she falls on her back with Sarah landing on top of her. Sheila successfully prevents the knife from entering her body, but Sarah can now use her body weight to push the blade down.
While this is going on, Sarah hears Cormac frantically ordering Al to immediately conduct an assault. He’s sure Sarah can easily defeat Sheila, but he’s extremely worried that Sheila’s friends will go to her room to find out what all the ruckus is about. Al tells Cormac that they can’t assault the main house until they’ve first secured the summer house and garage. Even after that, they’ll still have to secure the ground floor and basement before he can send someone to help Sarah. James wants to go in to help them out, but Cormac orders him to stand down to prevent blue-on-blue. Al hangs up his phone and switches to his comm headset to lead his team.
The tip of the knife is pointed towards Sheila’s abdomen, just above her navel. Sarah uses all her strength and the tip finally starts piercing Sheila’s stomach. Sheila clenches her muscles and Sarah struggles to push the knife through her incredibly tough abdominal muscles. As the blade slowly goes in, Sarah feels her opponent getting weaker by the second. Sheila suddenly gasps when the knife pierces her intestines! Sarah pushes the knife all the way in and Sheila finally lets go of Sarah’s hands when the knife is up to its hilt. Sarah releases her knife and leaves it embedded deeply in Sheila’s stomach.
Both women are panting and for a moment do nothing but lie on top of each other like that. Sarah stands up and takes out her pistol. She moves to a position where she can cover the door and Sheila. As she’s looking towards her opponent, Sarah’s distracted by the hypnotic movement of the knife going up and down in time with Sheila’s breathing. Not much blood comes out, but Sarah wonders why Sheila doesn’t appear to be in any pain.
Sarah’s jaw drops when Sheila stands up and slowly, calmly heads toward a mirror. Sheila smiles seeing the knife embedded deeply in the middle of her six-pack, making Sarah astonished and at the same time, terrified. Sheila then turns to face Sarah, both hands on her waist.
“I never would have thought I’d be bested by an Indonesian policewoman,” says Sheila, smiling at her. “Congratulations, Sarah. It seems ye’ve succeeded in slotting me.”
Sarah is too surprised to say anything. Sheila has dropped her posh accent and is now sounding Irish. She’s now an entirely different person. Sarah finally understands what Michael meant when he said that Sheila is artificial.
“My daidí always said that we would most certainly die by the sword. It looks like I’ll die by yer knife today,” says Sheila, still smiling.
She looks back towards the mirror, as if she’s admiring the knife embedded deep in the middle of her abdomen. Blackish blood slowly oozes out, indicating her liver’s punctured. Blood also starts coming out of her mouth.
“Your father said that to you? I thought he left you when you were little?” asks Sarah.
“Neeson is my mum’s surname. My daidí is Paddy Dunbar. Daidí recruited me into The Cartel when he became the leader,” says Sheila calmly. Blood slowly flows from her mouth as she talks, looking like something from a horror movie. “Michael and the SAS slotted my stepmother and now ye have slotted me. Mark my words, Sarah. Once daidí finds out that ye did this, he’ll take his revenge on ye and yer family in Indonesia.”
“It doesn’t have to end this way, Sheila. You could still survive this. Give yourself up and let us take you to a hospital,” pleads Sarah.
“Would ye surrender?” asks Sheila with a raised eyebrow.
Sarah doesn’t answer.
“I thought so,” says Sheila, giving her a smile and a wink.
Sheila holds her breath and grabs the hilt of the knife with both hands. As she pulls it out, her face hardens and her lips go tight, finally revealing some pain. Once the knife is out, Sheila’s intestines start peeking out, as if trying to force their way out of the small opening in her abdomen.
Sarah’s paying attention to the hole in Sheila’s stomach and not to the rest of Sheila. She suddenly snaps out of it when Sheila kicks her pistol out of her hand, sending it flying across the room. Sheila rushes her, holding the knife in a reverse grip, aiming to stab Sarah in the face. Sarah evades to the right and sends a punch into Sheila’s stomach with her left fist. Sheila gasps in pain when the hard punch catches her right on the knife wound. The jab opens the wound a little wider and a stretch of Sheila’s intestines bursts out. They’re dangling from the wound and more blood is spurting from her mouth and stomach. Even so, Sheila keeps on fighting. She tries to slash and stab at Sarah, who manages to evade all her thrusts. Sarah is sure she can defeat Sheila, so long as no one comes into the room to help.
The two tough women start circling each other. Sarah can’t help herself getting distracted by Sheila’s hanging intestines and Sheila takes a chance to throw herself at Sarah, slamming her to the wall behind her. Sheila uses both hands to try to stab Sarah in the face, but Sarah grabs a hold of Sheila’s wrists, the tip of the blade literally millimetres from her left eye! Sheila’s putting all her effort into pushing the knife further and the strain pushes her intestines spilling out even more, until they finally slap on the floor.
Sarah knees Sheila in the lower belly, making her gasp in pain. Sheila retreats a few steps and finally drops to one knee. Sarah takes the opportunity to take out her backup pistol from her ankle holster, her HK P2000, even though she still daren’t fire. At some point during the struggle, her Bluetooth earset has fallen out and she has no idea what’s happening with Al and his team.
Sheila’s eyes never once leave Sarah. Even down on one knee with bits of her insides dragging on the ground, she still looks hell-bent on killing. Sheila starts moving towards Sarah to attack her again, but suddenly stops with a loud gasp as more blood gushes out of her mouth. Both women look down and see that Sheila has accidentally stepped on her own intestines! Sheila calmly moves her foot away and starts inching towards Sarah again. Sarah’s so shocked that for a second she forgets to do anything. Sheila finally sees an opportunity to kill her.
The door suddenly flies open! Sarah snaps out of it and points her pistol towards the person entering the room. George comes through the door and points his own pistol towards Sarah. They recognize each other at the same time and then point their pistols towards Sheila, who is already facing George.
“George…” gasps Sheila.
George hesitates aiming his pistol at his friend’s face. But then his face hardens and he fires a controlled pair. One round enters Sheila’s left cheekbone and the other enters her left eyebrow, the thickest part of the skull. Sheila drops on her back and starts convulsing. Both her eyes are still open and blood is gushing from her mouth and nose. George and Sarah move forward as one and empty their pistols in Sheila’s face. The ex-UKSF member’s beautiful face is now a complete mess. She’ll need a closed casket at her funeral.
George and Sarah change magazines. When Sarah sees George’s face, it’s cold, expressionless, and frightening to look at. Sarah doesn’t realise it, but she always displays the exact same expression during an operation.
“All right?” asks George.
Through her ringing ears, Sarah can still hear the ice in his voice. “I’m all right. Could you please clear both bathrooms? They haven’t been cleared yet.”
Although both bathrooms are most certainly empty, they still have to clear them. Without answering, George does as he’s ordered while Sarah takes her knife from Sheila’s hand and wipes the blood off on Sheila’s jeans. Sarah finds and holsters her Glock. She also finds and puts in her Bluetooth earset.
“X-Ray down, master bedroom cleared, Red-3-1,” says George to his headset. He listens for a couple of seconds. “Al said ‘stronghold secured’, Sarah.”
“Mac, James, the stronghold is secured,” says Sarah through her earset. “James, please update the Chief and have him send the rest of the team over here. After that, could you please get over here to assist me with the SSE?”
“I’ll do that,” answers James, sounding relieved. He hangs up.
“Good job, Sarah! We’re standing down and I’m going to brief the Director,” says Cormac. He too hangs up.
“George, could you please ask Al to meet me at the Entrance Hall?” orders Sarah as she exits the room, followed by George, who forwards her order to Al though his headset.
Sarah is down the stairs in no time and when Al shows up, she asks him to debrief her.
“Roight,” says Al, “we entered the premises at approximately 00:03…”
Sarah listens intently. Al led the assault, even though Robert outranks him. This is quite normal in the SAS, where new officers are required to learn from their men, not lead them. The 4-man team was led by Al in the number three position, with Dave as pointman, George as number two, and Robert as MOE specialist.
They parked outside the complex and first secured the Summer House and garage. The Summer House turned out to be a warehouse with ten men inside, whom they dispatched without any problems. They entered the house with the same password James had given them and secured the ground floor. They killed six people watching telly in the family room. The drawing room and study room had been converted into living quarters, and they took out a dozen people sleeping there. The whole basement had been converted into a drug factory and the team shot around twenty people where they stood. Inside the plant room, they found various assault rifles, ammo, explosives, and Claymore mines. While the others were finishing off the X-Rays, Al sent George to the first floor to help Sarah.
The 4-man team of the SAS successfully killed more than fifty narcoterorrists of the Irish Drug Cartel! Unlike their assault on Swan’s Mill, none of the X-Rays were armed and most were shot while sleeping or resting. The 4-man team used the HK MP5SD3, which has a built-in sound suppressor, meaning the enemy didn’t realise they were being assaulted. Solid proof that speed, aggression, and surprise from a special forces unit can defeat a much larger force, so long as they can keep their momentum.
Al ends his report. “Assault rifles were kept near the X-Rays, but none of them managed to grab them, much less fire them.”
“Proper job, Al! Please place the men on stag covering all the entrances to the stronghold. There’s a friendly on the way here - James Hicks from our Interpol Incident Response Team. Please send him upstairs to assist me with the SSE. The rest of the Interpol team is on the way here and they’ll probably arrive within the next forty mikes. Carry on,” orders Sarah.
Sarah must now concentrate on finding Sheila’s warehouse. She goes into Sheila’s room again and frisks her dead body. The left pocket of her jeans holds a plastic bag half full of ecstasy and Sarah suspects this helped Sheila ignore the pain and continue fighting with her insides out. A smartphone peeks out the pocket of Sheila’s jeans, but Sarah has to move aside the intestines covering the pocket before she can retrieve it. Sarah sees the wallpaper on the smartphone and is taken aback - it’s a picture of Michael hugging Sheila from behind. They look happy and Sarah briefly feels jealous until she sees again what Sheila looks like now. But Sarah is suddenly saddened when she realises she has no photo of herself together with Michael. Sheila’s smartphone has a password so she’ll need James’s help to open it. Sarah doesn’t find anything else in her pocket with any significance so she starts searching the closets in her bedroom. James walks into the room and steps back again when he sees Sheila’s dead body.
“Bloody hell,” he mumbles. Sheila’s messy face and sprawling intestines turn him pale and nauseous.
“I’ll exploit this room for intel on Michael’s location. Could you please do the same for Steve’s room?”
James nods and hurriedly leaves to look through Steve’s room. Sarah searches behind the paintings on the wall and finds nothing hidden behind them. She’s growing frustrated – there’s nothing here! Barely a minute passes by before James calls her and asks her to come into Steve’s room. Inside, Sarah sees stack upon stack of documents and she suddenly feels incredibly stupid!
‘Steve’s in charge of accounting and administration. What the fuck was I doing wasting my time in Sheila’s room?’ thinks Sarah, extremely angry at herself.
Sarah hands Sheila’s smartphone over to James and starts studying the documents. James calls his teammate at MI5 to help him hack into the smartphone, but he keeps getting distracted. Steve’s lying there, looking more asleep than dead, and James can’t shake the feeling he’s going to wake up any second. Paul calls Sarah and says that the NCA have found a warehouse in Liverpool under Sheila’s name. Sarah must confirm it’s the right place with the documents in front of her before SAS can carry out an assault.
James gets into Sheila’s smartphone at the same time Sarah finds the deeds and blueprints to her warehouse, at 63 Kempston Street, Liverpool. There’s a phone number on the deed and James finds the same number in Sheila’s smartphone. They agree that that warehouse is the place they’re looking for.
“Right, let me brief the team downstairs,” says Sarah, taking the documents with her.
“I’ll continue the SSE here,” says James.
Sarah meets with Al, on stag in the drawing room. He’s facing the door, accompanied by the dead bodies of the narcoterrorists they’d killed a few minutes ago.
Sarah calls Cormac and sets her smartphone to speaker so Al can tune in. “Mac, Sheila’s warehouse is in Liverpool. We’ve found the deeds and blueprints to her warehouse and it’s under her name. The telephone number for the warehouse is one of the contact numbers in her smartphone. You also heard her say that Michael is being held there. Do you think this is sufficient evidence for another direct action?”
“Indeed it is,” answers Cormac. “Send me the address and blueprints so B Squadron and I can study it. We’ll deploy in the next two hours.”
Sarah winces and Al shakes his head in frustration. Cormac would need two hours to plan and prepare for the assault. Although they can deploy by heli, that doesn’t mean they’ll go directly to the warehouse and make entry from the roof. It’ll probably take them at least three hours to finally secure the warehouse. Michael is in the hands of Niall Schroeder and Sarah can’t imagine what her fiancé will endure in three hours. They must save him now, before Niall starts hitting him with his board.
Before Sarah can answer him, Al angrily interjects. “Bollocks, Mac! Five of us can get there within the next forty mikes! We don’t have two hours, for fuck’s sake!”
“Negative! This is not an Immediate Action and I won’t let you conduct a fucking rescue on a stronghold like a fucking warehouse with just five men!” says Cormac.
“We’ve just assaulted their fucking HQ and slotted more than fifty of them!” says Al.
“Slotting fifty players while they’re sleeping and assaulting a fucking warehouse while it’s active are entirely different scenarios! You’re experienced enough to know that!” retorts Cormac.
“You heard Sheila, eikel, they‘re torturing him!” snaps Sarah. “We can’t wait another two hours!”
“Negative, Sarah! I can’t risk you or the team,” says Cormac firmly. “Stand down and send me the address so I can plan the fucking rescue!”
Sarah is silent and shares a look with Al. Cormac has made the right decision and they both know it.
“Wait one, Mac,” says Sarah. She hangs up. “Al, could you please call the others to the Entrance Hall for a head shed meeting?”
Al calls the others to the entrance hall with his headset. George is on stag there. While waiting for Robert and Dave, Sarah notices George’s thousand-yard stare and he’s shaking. Sarah knows that he’s experiencing combat stress. George has killed someone close to him, someone he even dated for a while, and Sarah understands the negative impact this is having on him. As his commander, Sarah must keep an eye on him, especially since they’ll have to work together again shortly.
After everyone is gathered, Sarah briefs them. “Sheila’s warehouse is in Liverpool and we can get there within forty mikes, but your CO has ordered us to stand down. Our choice is simple; we can try to save Michael ourselves and risk a court-martial for disobeying a direct order, or we can stand down and have your CO and the rest of B Squadron try to rescue him which will take at least three hours, which may or may not be too late for him. I know what I think we should do, but I want to hear what you think.”
The three SAS men look at Al, their Squadron Sergeant Major, who gives them an almost imperceptible nod.
Dave breaks the silence. “Let’s go and save him!”
“Yeah!” says George. “Let’s fucking do it!”
“We’re wasting time here. Let’s go now, damn it!” says Robert. He looks at Sarah. “Give us an order, Boss!”
Everyone looks at Sarah, who is somewhat taken aback by Robert calling her ‘Boss’. They’re all waiting for her to give them an order.
“Right, standby for Immediate Action,” orders Sarah. “Here are the blueprints for the warehouse. Let’s study them en route and plan for the rescue. Let me brief James before we deploy and I’ll meet you in the car. Carry on!”
Sarah gives the blueprints to Al and goes upstairs to meet James. She briefs him.
“Are ye out of yer fucking mind?” yells James, eyes as wide as saucers.
“Do you have any other suggestions?” asks Sarah, trying to be patient.
James goes silent. He’s extremely worried for Michael, but also for Sarah if she has to go to lead the assault. “No, but ye can’t just leave me here all alone. What if someone else comes home?”
It’s Sarah’s turn to be silent because James is right. He won’t be able to confront a Cartel member if one of them turns up. “What’s the ETA on the rest of the team?”
James glances at his watch. “About twenty minutes.”
“How about you call Paul and have him send the Cheshire Constabulary over here right away? At this hour, they should be able to get here within five minutes.”
James thinks for a second and nods. He calls Paul to have the Cheshire Constabulary send every copper on hand to the crime scene. Sarah boards the Q car, the Range Rover the SAS men came over with. Robert is driving and the others are in the back. Al, Dave, and George study the blueprints and discuss how to conduct the assault. This is called a Chinese parliament, in which everyone can give input and ideas on the best way to conduct the assault. Their leader, in this case Sarah, provides input of her own and agrees or disagrees with their plan.
Without hesitation, Sarah removes her clothes and puts on the black kit the SAS provided for her. She then puts on her body armour, ceramic plates, tactical holster, and belt kit. Sarah’s friends don’t even glance at her when she’s stripped to her bra and panties, so focused are they on the job at hand. Once she’s ready, Sarah finally accepts Cormac’s call, who’s been ringing her all the way from Sandalwood Farm. She sets her smartphone to speaker so everyone can tune in.
“Goddamn it, Sarah!” yells Cormac.
“Mac, you are on speaker. We are mobile to Sheila’s warehouse in Liverpool, ETA twenty mikes,” says Sarah.
“Sarah, you are taking too many risks! We must assume the worst - that the X-Rays at the warehouse already know you assaulted their HQ and they will be ready for you! You do not have the manpower or firepower to do this properly! Please stand down!” orders Cormac.
“Negative, Mac,” answers Sarah.
“This is my team you are risking and I’m giving you a direct fucking order! Stand down and let the rest of B Squadron take care of this! Stand down… now!”
“Negative, Mac,” answers Sarah once again.
“Al! Stand down, goddamn it! That’s a direct fucking order!”
“Negative, Mac,” answers Al.
“Stand down now or I guarantee all four of your arses will be RTU’d by the end of next week! I’ll also fucking court-martial the lot of you for disobeying a direct order if you’re still alive after all of this!” shouts Cormac, barely in control of himself.
“Sarah’s in command of this fucking operation and you’re being a dickhead! We’re just following her orders like you ordered us to,” answers Al curtly.
Cormac’s lost for words.
“You gave her a mission to do whatever it takes to save Michael. Now let her finish it, goddamn it!” yells Al.
Cormac is still silent so Sarah continues. “I’ll send you the address, Mac, but I would like you to send us the 3D rendering of the stronghold. Either you support us on this and send us the information we need within the next five mikes… or you can have us go in half-blind for the assault. Your call, Mac.”
Cormac has been cornered. Sarah can ignore his orders because she’s not under his command. She’s not even a member of His Majesty’s Armed Forces and can’t be threatened with a court martial for disobeying a direct order. The four men with her can also evade him because he himself has placed them under Sarah’s command. The CO of the SAS suddenly realises that he doesn’t have any choice but to support their incredibly reckless plan.
“Fucking shit! Very well… send me the address and I’ll send you the 3D rendering. But brief me on your assault plan beforehand. Are we fucking clear on this?” orders Cormac, curtly.
“Clear, Mac, I’ll text you the address right away,” says Sarah, relieved.
“I owe you one, Al!”
“You already owe me a lot,” says Al, a look of satisfaction on his face.
Cormac is heard cursing loudly before hanging up, making everyone in the car smirk. Sarah immediately sends Cormac the address and blueprints. She then looks at the blueprint, while the others study images of the building from Google Street View and Google Earth. In a matter of minutes, they receive the 3D rendering from Cormac. The CO of the SAS also sends the address to Simon and orders him to fly the UAV there.
Sheila’s warehouse is located on the corner of Kempston Street and Gildart Street. It has three storeys and each floor is five by forty metres. There are three entrances on the ground floor; the main entrance at White-6, a delivery entrance at Green-10, and a corner entrance at Black-11. There’s a lift at Black-12 and a wooden stairway at White-5. There’s an office area on the White side of the second floor, facing Kempston Street. There’s a complete bathroom at Green-8 on each floor.
Sarah will have to lead the assault because she’s the most secure, meaning that she can’t be court-martialed for disobeying a direct order from Cormac. The four SAS men absolutely don’t mind being under Sarah’s command, as they’ve long considered her as smart and tough as their commander. This says a lot, considering that Michael is one of the best OCs to ever command B Squadron. Sarah has shown them incredible courage by conducting a one-up recce and infiltrating a Cartel stronghold, killing two members with her knife, including Steve Dunbar. George told Al that Sarah deserves credit for slotting Sheila since all he did was deliver a coup de grâce. If George hadn’t entered, Sheila would’ve died by Sarah’s hands.
Unlike all the other times she’s killed people, Sarah doesn’t feel anything and this worries her. Is it because they’re responsible for Michael’s abduction? Is it because today she’s a soldier, not a law enforcement officer? Is it because she’s killed so many people that now she’s numb to it? Sarah tries to ignore these thoughts and concentrates on her next mission.
Sarah appoints Al as Alpha and pointman, George as Bravo and number two, herself as Charlie and team leader, Robert as Delta and 2 i/c, and Dave as Echo and MOE specialist. The stack is similar to the stack Sarah used in The Test, back at PATA a lifetime ago. The only difference is placing Robert as Delta and 2 i/c. Once Cormac has arrived, his call sign will be Zero. Call signs are supposed to be random, but Sarah wants to avoid confusion.
An assault by a special forces unit usually involves an assault from the roof because that’s the most unpredictable entry. With no heli, they could climb up the other rooftops and walk stealthily towards the roof of the target and abseil into the windows of the second floor. But as with the assault on Swan’s Mill, they must assume that Tiny Mullins has designed the defensive measures for the warehouse, so they have to plan an assault that’s the opposite of their standard practice.
They’ll park the Q car in front of the door at Green-10 and conduct their Covert Entry on the door at Black-11. After securing the ground floor, they’ll have to ascend the stairs at White-5 to secure the upper floors. They’ll need more firepower than the HK MP5SD3 can offer so they all switch to the Colt Canada C8 CQB with sound suppressor. Just as Robert suggested during the debriefing of Operation Crankshaft, all assault rifles will be set to semi-auto and they’ll aim for headshots with controlled pairs. The use of assault rifles in a hostage rescue operation is rare because it could endanger the Yankee with secondary penetration. They must be extra careful on the second floor, which is where they assume Michael is being held. They present their plans to Cormac and he agrees to everything. Cormac will arrive by Chinook with the rest of B Squadron and he will send reinforcements from the ground floor.
Sarah orders her men to parade all kit and weapons. All their kit and weapons are at optimum state, but they still recheck them anyway. Grinning, George reminds Sarah to reset her smartphone to silent. Sarah answers by giving him her middle finger. The others laugh and briefly forget the anxiety they’re all feeling. Sarah can see that George’s eyes are focused again and she knows she needn’t worry about him anymore. She’s confident that she can fully rely on him in their next mission.
Sunday September 27, 2026
Islington, Liverpool, England
The area looks completely deserted. As planned, they park right in front of the door at Green-10-0. A CCTV camera is on top of the door and they can only hope that no one is watching. Dave debusses accompanied by Al while the others cover them from inside the Q car.
Dave checks behind the door with his endoscope camera. Seeing no one, he disarms the alarm and picks the lock. Once the door is safe for entry, the others debus and stack behind Al on the left side of the door. They already have their respirators on, their GPNVGs turned on, and weapons at ‘low ready’.
“All call signs, this is Charlie and I have control. Standby… Go!” whispers Sarah.
Dave opens the door and lets the others enter the stronghold. Because the ground floor is completely empty, Al buttonhooks and takes the left wall. George reacts to Al’s movement and takes the right wall, heading towards White-7-0. Sarah goes left as she enters and then turns right towards White-6-0 and Robert goes slightly further than Sarah before turning right towards White-5-0. Dave is the last to enter and covers their rear.
Once on the White side, Al secures the bathroom. After it’s secure, they head towards the stairs at White-5-0 and stack behind Al. They start to ascend the wooden stairs according to CQB procedures. Their feet go up sideways and raised high to prevent tripping on the stairs. They must go slowly because the wooden stairs make a creaking sound whenever they step. When Al has almost reached the next floor, he suddenly fires his rifle!
“Contact front!” shouts Al.
“Go noisy!” shouts Sarah.
They hurriedly climb the stairs, no longer mindful of the noise they’re making to reach the next floor. Sarah’s worried because they’ve now lost the element of surprise and the X-Rays must surely outnumber them many times over. Cormac’s words about their lack of manpower and firepower are ringing in her ears.
“Dios nos ayude,” thinks Sarah.
Sunday September 27, 2026
Islington, Liverpool, England
On the second floor of the warehouse, Carraig and Gwilliam are doing some dirty work when they hear gunshots on the first floor. Gwilliam runs to get his assault rifle and Carraig sends a Cartel member down to investigate.
Sunday September 27, 2026
Islington, Liverpool, England
On reaching the next floor, Sarah sees Al’s rifle take three X-Rays down and George’s take two more. However, three X-Rays take cover behind bags upon bags of goods. While her teammates are handling the X-Rays, Sarah fires her rifle at the lights, darkening the whole floor. Pistol shots from the X-Rays sound deafening in the enclosed space, but then fall silent when her teammates’ rounds go through whatever they’re hiding behind. Even after the X-Rays are down, her team still have to move forward to finish them off and clear the rest of the area. From behind her, Sarah hears Dave shoot his rifle. Once they’ve cleared the area, they turn around and head back towards the stairs. Sarah sees two X-Rays down with their heads blown off, one near the stairs and one just coming out from the now-empty bathroom. They stack and run upstairs towards the second floor. Since they’ve ‘gone noisy’, they don’t care what kind of racket they make. As they’re running up the stairs, Sarah’s worst nightmare suddenly rolls towards them…
“Grenaaade!” screams Al, panicking.
Sunday September 27, 2026
Islington, Liverpool, England
Several seconds earlier…
Carraig hears the distinct not-really-silent sounds of suppressed rifle shots. He waits until he hears them on the stairs and pulls the pin from his fragmentation grenade. If the blast doesn’t immediately kill whoever’s assaulting them, the wooden stairway will surely collapse all the way to the ground floor, killing them anyway.
He peeks down the stairway and rolls the grenade he’s been carrying since his IRA days…
Sunday September 27, 2026
Islington, Liverpool, England
Al gives the X-Ray a long burst from his rifle, blowing his head into a million pieces. George tries to kick the grenade downstairs, but misses and falls down instead. The grenade finally comes to rest less than a metre from George’s head. George can only close his eyes and wait for the inevitable…
Sarah knows what she must do. She jumps over George and throws herself on top of the grenade. “Man down, White-5 stairway!”
“Delta in control! All call signs, go!” screams Robert, falling over himself to help George stand up and jump over Sarah.
Her teammates all start running upstairs without hesitation. Sarah realises she won’t survive this explosion. She closes her eyes and accepts her fate, even though her heart is pounding like a jackhammer, as if realizing that these are the last beats it will ever make. Sarah has never been this scared before in her life, but at least she will die saving her fiancé and her teammates. She can’t even think of a better reason to die than this.
Sarah’s been on the grenade for two seconds and knows that most grenades explode within five. Even though she’s wearing body armour and has a ceramic plate covering her torso, Sarah knows that they won’t stop a grenade blast at point blank range. The ceramic plate will probably even prolong her misery. Her body will shatter, but the explosion probably won’t immediately kill her. The blast will sever her arms and legs, unprotected by body armour, and she’ll probably die from blood loss. Even if she does survive, SAS CQB doctrine means her teammates won’t be able to immediately help her and must first secure the stronghold. Meanwhile, the wooden staircase will collapse, finally finishing off whatever little’s left of her. Sarah glances up in time to see Dave reach the next floor. She’s relieved to know all her teammates have made it, but unsuppressed rifle shots are heard from the second floor, giving her fresh cause to worry. Flashbangs are going off repeatedly, making her flinch every single time.
With these thoughts, Sarah suddenly realises that she’s still alive, even after ten seconds. Cautiously, she starts to get up, trying hard not to move the unexploded grenade that looks like a steel pineapple. Still carefully, she makes her way up to the second floor. Sarah can finally breathe again when she’s almost reached the second floor.
“B-B-Blue-on-b-blue!” she shouts, her voice shaking.
“Boss?” asks Dave, guarding the rear.
“Affirmative! Check fire, g-g-godverdomme!” orders Sarah, still finding it hard to believe she’s alive.
“Checking fire, Boss,” says Dave, relieved.
Through her GPNVG, Sarah sees pill-making machines and chemical reactors on the second floor. X-Rays are taking cover behind barrels of chemicals on the Black side of the warehouse, firing their M16A2 blindly towards the office area, which her teammates have just finished securing.
“Yankee secured, White office area c-c-cleared!” says Robert.
“Charlie roger,” says Sarah. “All call signs, this is Ch-Ch-Charlie and I have c-c-control!”
“Roger that,” answer her teammates, also with shaking voices.
Although she’s completely shaken by the experience, she’s also relieved her team have secured Michael. As per SAS CQB doctrine, they’ll have to secure the stronghold before helping him. The faster they secure the building, the faster they can help Michael. Her teammates exit the office area and take cover behind some pill-making machines. They look towards Sarah for her next order. Sarah hopes her men still believe in her leadership as they can clearly see that she is badly shaken. She needs to calm herself down, and fast.
Sarah glances towards the Black side and thinks hard for a moment before issuing some orders. “All call signs, standby to pepper-pott. Alpha and Bravo will assault, Charlie and Delta will go firm, Echo will stand firm and cover White-5-2 stairway. Acknowledge!”
Her men are stunned by her orders. From behind their respirators, they can only look at Sarah with wide eyes and open mouths. They are frozen.
“All call signs, acknowledge!” orders Sarah with a stronger voice.
They finally snap out of it and set their assault rifles to full-auto.
“Let’s fucking do it!” shouts Al.
“Fuck! Yeah!” shouts George.
“Let’s do it!” shouts Robert. “Let’s do it!”
Pepper-potting, officially called fire and manoeuvre, requires a lot of aggression and the men are psyching themselves up.
“Delta, suppress fire! Alpha and Bravo, go!” shouts Sarah.
Sarah and Robert empty their mags in the direction of the X-Rays, forcing them to take cover while Al and George rush forward as fast as they can for about ten metres. Al and George take cover on the left side of the floor while Sarah and Robert change mags. Al and George give a sign that they’ve ‘gone firm’ and are ready to cover Robert and Sarah. On her command, Al and George provide suppressing fire as Robert and Sarah rush forward.
“Coming through! Coming through!” shout Robert and Sarah as they pass through Al and George’s position.
Robert is on Sarah’s left and because he can run faster than her, Sarah falls half a step behind him. Sarah suddenly sees an X-Ray on her front-right, aiming his rifle straight at Robert’s head. Robert doesn’t seem to realise the immediate threat facing him!
Sunday September 27, 2026
Islington, Liverpool, England
Gwilliam readies his M16A2 and aims at the head of the tall lead man. He starts to pull the trigger…
Sunday September 27, 2026
Islington, Liverpool, England
“Contact right!” yells Sarah as she deliberately trips Robert’s feet and floors him face first.
The X-Ray fires at the same time Robert collapses. Sarah doesn’t know if Robert’s hit or not. She goes to one knee and fires a burst at the X-Ray, who’s also firing his rifle at her. Sarah can feel the air pressure from the bullets on her head and shoulders, meaning that the rounds have missed her by mere centimetres. All her rounds, though, hit the X-Ray right in his throat, severing his neck and making his head roll horrifically towards her. On pure instinct, Sarah empties her mag into the rolling head, making it literally explode!
All the while, Al and George keep screaming at them to take cover. Sarah drags Robert’s huge body towards some cover. Sarah counts at least eight X-Rays on the Black side, still firing blindly at them.
“Are you hit?” asks Sarah worriedly.
“N-N-Negative,” says Robert, shaking badly, finally realizing how close his head came to being blown off.
“Ready frags!” orders Sarah.
Robert nods and they both pull the pin from a fragmentation grenade.
“Alpha and Bravo, suppress fire!” shouts Sarah.
Sarah and Robert throw their grenades towards the X-Rays while Al and George provide suppressing fire from behind them.
“Frag out!” yell Sarah and Robert as they take cover.
Both grenades detonate almost simultaneously and they can hear the screams of the X-Rays amid the blasts. Less than a second after both grenades detonate, Sarah and Robert rush forward, firing their rifles to finish off the X-Rays. As she does this, Sarah has to remind herself that today she’s a soldier, not a law enforcement officer. She’s sure no one has managed to escape from the lift as it was open on the second floor the whole time.
“Black side clear,” says Robert.
“Stronghold secured,” says Sarah, sounding relieved.
After catching their breath for a few seconds, Sarah and Robert start walking towards the White side and remove their GPNVGs and respirators. Through her ringing ears, Sarah can hear someone’s smartphone ringing.
“How’s Michael, R-R-Robert?” she asks as they walk towards the office area.
Robert doesn’t answer and Sarah can clearly see that he’s also shaking. This is the second time this evening he’s almost been killed.
“Robert?” asks Sarah once again.
Robert doesn’t say a word and only looks down.
“Answer me, klootzak!” yells Sarah as she gives him a hard cuff on his head.
Robert looks shocked being hit by Sarah! He can only look at her with his mouth open, but no words come out. Sarah briefly feels remorse for striking an officer in front of the other ranks, but her worry for her fiancé has reached its peak.
“He’s in the White-7-2 office, Boss,” says George, almost inaudibly.
Sarah immediately heads there, but Al grabs her arm.
“Please don’t go in there, Sarah,” he says, softly.
“Take your fucking hands off me, Al!” yells Sarah, giving the SSM of B Squadron a frightening look.
Al’s taken aback and immediately lets go of her arm. Even during his basic training, he’s never been yelled at like that before. Sarah finally goes into the office room where her fiancé’s being held.
Michael is still handcuffed to his chair. He is recognizable only by the clothes he was wearing when she last saw him. His face looks as if it was clawed off by a large animal… almost all the bones in his body are shattered… and both of his legs have been hacked off… a wood-saw is embedded halfway into his left shoulder… and two small gunshot wounds are barely visible in the middle of his forehead.
She has failed.