The Policewoman

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Chapter 8: The Killing House

11:48 GMT

Wednesday July 29, 2026

Pontrilas Army Training Area

Pontrilas, Herefordshire, England

They head towards the cookhouse near the front gate and across the football field. The food, provided by a private contractor, is quite delicious. Sarah helps herself to sirloin steak plus curry and rice, and she unashamedly takes as much food as the other troopers.

After lunch, they head towards the Killing House, officially called the Close Quarters Battle Building, a building used for Close Quarters Battle (CQB) training. PATA is home to several Killing Houses, including a number of underground facilities. Sarah and the troopers are heading towards the main Killing House, usually reserved for beginners. Before reaching the three-storey building on the northernmost part of the training area, they pass a football field, an indoor swimming area, several outdoor firing ranges, an EOD training area, a replica of a Boeing 747, and abseil training walls. From inside the lorry, Sarah watches the facilities pass by with mouth open in awe. She’s especially impressed by the 747 replica. There’s no way the Densus-88 training facility in Megamendung, Bogor could compete with PATA. What’s surprising is the number of sheep, probably owned by citizens from the immediate area, grazing inside the military training area.

After they debus, Michael whispers to Sarah. “Just switch on, keep your trap shut, listen and do what Al says, and you’ll be all right.”

Michael enters the Killing House and leaves Sarah with Al and his squadron. Inside the three-storey Killing House, the walls are covered with ballistic rubber to absorb the bullets and prevent them from ricocheting. All training uses live rounds and each scenario is developed to be as close to reality as possible. Although they use live rounds, accidents during CQB training seldom happen.

Inside are rooms decked out to resemble a typical domestic residence, with furniture, toilets, TVs, lamps, beds, and the like. But each room has exhaust fans to clear out the smoke and CCTV cameras to record every move they make. The walls and partitions can be easily rearranged. They use steel targets, some of which are put on a special platform that can move around randomly and is programmed to stop once the target’s hit.

Al gives Sarah a full CQB kit, starting with a black uniform called black kit, tactical gear including a respirator, a couple of flashbangs, and a set of plasticuffs. After she puts everything on, Al hands her a Sig Sauer P226 and a couple of mags. Upon receiving the pistol, Sarah checks the chamber, the most basic of firearms safety procedures, earning her a nod and a smile of approval from Al.

After everything’s ready, Al gives her the mission. “Roight! Inside this unlocked room we have an X-Ray with a hostile High Value Target. Here’s the photo of the HVT. This is a one-up snatch operation. You will shoot the X-Ray, snatch the HVT, and extract him outside. I say again, you will shoot the X-Ray, snatch the HVT, and extract him outside. Just remember the principles of CQB, which are speed, aggression, and surprise, and you’ll be fine.”

Al shows Sarah a picture of the HVT and she smiles when she sees that the High Value Target is Michael. One-up means that Sarah has to do this solo and X-Ray is the British Army term for terrorists. This is one way the British differ from the US and Indonesia, who prefer to use the term Tango. The SAS talk about utilizing speed, aggression, and surprise, a minor variation on the US’s ‘speed, surprise, and violence of action’, although both mean the same. In this mission, Sarah must shoot an X-Ray and extract the HVT from a room. She’s done this sort of training hundreds of times before so she doesn’t feel anxious.

“Do remember that you’re using live ammo and we would prefer our squadron commander in one piece, please,” reminds Al seriously.

“Copy,” says Sarah, also seriously.

“You may start when ready.”

Sarah sees that the door handle is on the right side and the hinges are hidden from view, meaning that the door opens inwards. After she enters, she’ll have to sweep left while clearing all the X-Rays inside the room. Al said that there was only one X-Ray, but he could easily be lying. She’s used to these kinds of tricks during CQB training and even likes to do the same to her men. After all the X-Rays have been dispatched, she can finally handle the HVT.

Sarah first checks that the door is really unlocked, which it is. She stacks up by herself on the left side of the door while preparing her flashbang. She holds the lever with her right to prevent it from detonating and pulls out the pin with her left hand. As per SOP, she keeps the pin in one of the pockets of her black kit. She opens the door with her left hand and rolls the flashbang inside. She immediately closes the door and reaches with her right hand for the Sig Sauer, holstered on her right thigh.

After hearing the flashbang explode, Sarah makes her entry and everything seems to go in super-slow motion. SCAN. With a CQB move called ‘slicing the pie’, she clears the right-front area before sweeping left. She sees a target on the right-back side of the room. ACQUIRE. Sarah aims her Sig Sauer towards the centre mass of the target. SHOOT. SHOOT. Sarah fires twice. ACQUIRE. Sarah makes sure her two shots hit the target. SCAN. Sarah keeps sweeping left. She sees that the HVT is stunned by the flashbang but since he’s not holding a weapon, she ignores him for the moment and keeps sweeping left. There’s another target to the left of the HVT, which she also shoots twice. Sarah keeps sweeping left to clear the left-front side of the room, but sees no more targets. She does all of this while moving forward towards the HVT, who is already starting to react. All of this happened in only four seconds, from the time Sarah pulled out the pin of her flashbang to this very moment.

Sarah sees the HVT start to reach for his pistol. Quick as lightning, Sarah gives him a left hook to his jaw, flooring him down on his arse. With her pistol pointed at his face, she pulls on his hair with her left hand until he’s face down on the floor and handcuffs him with the plasticuffs. She frisks him thoroughly and takes the pistol in his waist, a small pistol by his groin, and another on his right ankle. She must clear all the weapons she finds before storing them in her black kit. Then she pulls on his hair with her right hand and his arms with her left and drags him outside. She throws him face-first on the ground in front of Al and B Squadron.

“Two Tangos… I mean, two X-Rays down, HVT in custody,” says Sarah, removing her respirator. “All clear and mission accomplished!”

Everything Sarah did had been taught by her instructors at Densus and it took her just thirty-two seconds, from pulling the pin of her flashbang until ‘mission accomplished’.

Al stops his stopwatch and everyone seems impressed. She’s done a flawless job, although the CQB tactics she used were outdated.

“Well done, Sarah!” says Al, cutting off the plasticuffs from Michael’s hands. “You already have excellent CQB skills. You responded to the poor intel perfectly and handled the HVT extremely well.”

Sarah smiles proudly at being praised by the CQB expert.

“Let’s study the footage, shall we?” invites Michael, standing up. His right jaw is red from Sarah’s punch, his face and lips are dirty and bloody from being thrown to the floor, and his hair is a mess.

Sarah doesn’t feel remotely guilty because she was often treated the same way when she played the HVT role. She would even get angry if her men hesitated handling her or frisking her. She once had to recommend one of her men be kicked out of Densus because he absolutely refused to search her chest and crotch, citing religious grounds. Although Sarah respected his religious belief, there’s no room for religion in the middle of an operation. That sort of behaviour could get him killed and endanger his teammates in a real operation.

Everyone goes up to the second floor, which makes Sarah feel like she’s again climbing Jacob’s Ladder. Behind them she sees a team of people in civilian uniforms, the word ‘QinetiQ’ emblazoned on their backs, rearranging the Killing House for the next round. On the observation floor, they all look at the footage, first in real time and then in slow motion. Sarah laughs when all of B Squadron shout and cheer each time they see the footage of Sarah flooring their commander with a left hook.

Al frequently stops the footage to give comments. “First, as you can see, the HVT is already reacting against you once you cleared the second target. Sometimes, it would already be too late for the assault team. That’s why during overt entry, you should enter with the flashbang rather than enter after it explodes. The respirator you were using can significantly reduce the effects of the flash and sound released by the flashbang.”

Sarah thinks hard for a moment. A flashbang grenade is designed to produce a blinding flash of light and an intensely loud ‘bang’ without causing permanent injury. The light and sound temporarily incapacitates the enemy so the assault force can dispatch them without much drama. The CQB instructors of Densus taught Sarah to throw the flashbang into the room and wait until it detonates before entering the room. Al’s teaching her to enter with the flashbang. Sarah wonders how accurately one could shoot with a flashbang detonating next to them in an enclosed space, even when wearing a respirator.

“Copy,” says Sarah, nodding even though she doesn’t entirely agree with Al.

“Your aim was perfect. However, it’s better to use controlled pairs and headshots instead of hammer pairs to the centre mass. Do you know the difference between controlled pairs and hammer pairs?”

“Indeed. Controlled pairs are ‘Acquire, Shoot, Acquire, Shoot, Acquire’, and hammer pairs are ‘Acquire, Shoot, Shoot, Acquire’,” answers Sarah.

“Precisely! Remember that most criminals and terrorists today use body armour and the 9mm doesn’t have much stopping power compared to higher calibre bullets.”

Sarah again thinks hard for a moment. The two shooting methods Al’s described are both called double tap. The methods are a little different, but both have the same deadly purpose. Sarah has always been taught to use hammer pairs and aim for the centre mass. Controlled pairs are a bit slower (though much more accurate) than hammer pairs, and headshots are much more difficult than shots to the centre mass of the body. The purpose of the double tap is to have two bullets enter almost at the same place, killing the enemy as quickly as possible. This is because the 9mm bullet is not as powerful as higher calibre bullets. For the SAS, Sarah recognizes the problems with double taps to the centre mass, as sophisticated criminals and terrorists in Europe often wear body armour. However, for the INP, the Indonesian Human Rights Commission forbids Indonesian policemen from shooting criminals or terrorists in the head, even when they’re armed. Sarah sometimes feels that KOMNAS HAM defends criminals or terrorists better than it does law-enforcement personnel.

Sarah then notices that all of B Squadron is also listening intently to Al, although she’s sure they must have heard this many times before. She then decides to keep her opinions to herself. She’s here to learn, not to debate tactics with the instructor from the most experienced counterterrorist unit in the world.

“Copy,” says Sarah, nodding.

“Your handling of the HVT was also superb, though we prefer to force him to the ground than knock him out. Why drag or carry him when he can walk out on his own two feet?” explains Al, smiling.

“Copy,” says Sarah, returning his smile.

“Roight, overall it was an excellent job and expertly executed. Now, let us show you how we would clear a two-storey building. Could you please choose any four of us for the 4-man team?” orders Al.

In the SAS, the smallest unit consists of four men including the team leader and it’s called a 4-man team or 4-man patrol. Sarah looks over B Squadron and smiles when they all raise their hands, eager to show off their skills to her. In a 4-man team, the pointman and the number two should be the most experienced in CQB, number three should be the leader, and number four the rear guard and Method of Entry (MOE) specialist, assigned to provide access into the stronghold for the others.

Now it’s Sarah’s turn to give them a hard time. “Right, the pointman is George, two is Dave, three is Robert, and four is Al,” she says, smiling wickedly.

Al and Michael look at each other. Sarah has given them a less-than-ideal stack. George is absolutely huge and the pointman should ideally have a small frame so that the number two has a good view in front of them. Number three should be an experienced leader, something that the enormous Robert seems to lack. Dave, as number two, is going to look like a burger sandwiched between those two huge men. And Al, the most experienced operative, is in a position reserved for beginners. Sarah tried to choose the most hopeless team possible. However, she doesn’t know that three of the four men she’s picked are the most experienced operatives in B Squadron.

“Roight then! You can watch us live here on the telly,” says Al calmly.

The four men go downstairs and prepare themselves. A few minutes later, Sarah sees them stack up in their black kit, heavily armed. George, Dave and Robert, in front, carry MP5s while Al is holding a Remington 870 shotgun. Michael counts the men behind him to make sure everyone is accounted for.

“Killing House ready and I have control,” says Michael into a microphone. “Standby… Standby… Go!”

The 4-man team start their assault. They enter randomly, which is quite different to Sarah’s Densus training. She can’t discern the pattern between the pointman and the number two. As pointman, George sometimes makes a move called a crisscross and sometimes makes a move called a buttonhook. A crisscross is when an operative crosses the entrance upon entering the doorway, moving diagonally and ending up opposite his original position during the stack. A buttonhook is when an operative steps around the doorframe to clear the front corner of the room. Dave, as number two in the stack, seems able to adapt to George’s movement without hesitation and without George having to say anything. All four men move as if the assault was perfectly choreographed.

Just as Al had said, they enter the rooms with the flashbang, thrown by Dave. The flashbang detonates while they’re entering the room and it doesn’t seem to affect the accuracy of their controlled pairs. Sarah also observes that the SAS grip the MP5 differently to the way she was taught at Densus. Robert’s voice is calm leading them, but Sarah doesn’t understand some of the Voice Procedures (VP), like ‘carry on to Green-9-0’ or ‘stand firm and cover Red-3-0 hallway’. Robert’s codes remind Sarah of Michael when they both fought off The Cartel at Carluccio’s.

The 4-man team reaches the base of the stairs and starts to ascend according to CQB procedures. Their feet go up sideways and raised high to prevent tripping on the stairs. Sarah doesn’t see any difference between the SAS and Densus on the stair-clearing procedure and the team has executed it perfectly. They then start clearing the rooms on the first floor without any problems.

After the last room is cleared, Robert’s distinctive Birmingham accent is heard on the speaker. “Stronghold secured!”

“Well? What do you think?” asks Michael.

Dios mío!” exclaims Sarah, thoroughly impressed. “It’s like watching poetry in motion!”

Michael smiles. “Any questions?”

“Your room-clearing procedures… I can’t seem to find a pattern to them. We were taught that the first shooter should always do a buttonhook or a crisscross, depending on the layout of the room.”

“That’s an excellent observation, Sarah!” says Michael, giving her a wide smile. “In essence, the pointman’s TAOR, Tactical Area of Responsibility, is not fixed, but based on the first threat they see. The pointman goes to the corner where he first sees the threat and then dominates it. The second shooter has to react to the movement of the pointman and then goes the opposite direction. The main principle is that the pointman’s movement is never wrong. If the stack is on the left and he crisscrosses to the right, the second shooter should react and do a buttonhook to the left. If the pointman does a buttonhook to the left, the second shooter should react and crisscross to the right. The shooters behind them must react to the shooters in front of them. It’s highly flexible and it’s based on the Initiative-Based Tactics. So far, we think this is the best method for Immediate Actions with zero INT like the one you just witnessed, and also perfect against armed and dedicated X-Rays like the ones we are currently facing.”

“Copy,” says Sarah, nodding enthusiastically.

Densus-88 almost never conduct Immediate Actions. Almost all their assaults are meticulously choreographed beforehand. This is because law enforcement doctrine differs from military doctrine and Densus-88 is a police unit. Law enforcement doctrine dictates that they try to apprehend suspects to bring them to justice, not to kill them.

“What else did you notice?” asks Michael.

“Robert kept calling out colours and numbers. What is ‘White-6-0’, ‘Green-9-1’ and ‘Red-3-0’? I didn’t understand any of that.”

“We call it the SAS Colour Clock Code,” answers Michael, opening a file on one of the laptops.

On the large screen above them, Sarah sees a square divided into four, triangular segments. The upper segment is coloured black, the right red, the bottom white, and the left green. Outside the square, there are numbers from one to twelve like a normal clock.

Michael gives her the explanation. “Imagine the White side is the front side of any stronghold no matter which direction of the compass it is facing. It could be the front of any building, car, aeroplane, boat, et cetera. Black side would be the back side, Red would be the right side, and Green would be the left side. The clock is used for more accurate positioning. The second number indicates which floor unless the stronghold has only one floor. So when a couple of days ago I said to you ‘four X-Rays from Green-10’, it meant that there were four X-Rays coming in from the back-left side of the kitchen. This method is especially useful for snipers calling out positions of sighted X-Rays or Yankees. Let me give you an example; if you hear one of your snipers say ‘X-Ray sighted, Red-4-0 window’, what does that mean, Sarah?”

Sarah thinks hard for a moment while looking at the picture. “Does that mean that there is an X-Ray sighted on the right side of the building… towards the front of the stronghold… on the ground floor window?”

“Precisely! That’s very good, Sarah!” says Michael. He then tosses his men a dirty look and some of the troopers get sheepish because they hadn’t caught on as quickly as Sarah when they’d first learned about the colour clock code.

“But why do you need the colours? Why not just use the clock for positioning?” asks Sarah.

“That’s a very good question, Sarah!” says Michael. “Sometimes there’s confusion if you call out just the clock for positioning. If I say ‘four X-Rays at ten o’clock’, does that mean my ten o’clock? Your ten o’clock? Or the stronghold’s ten o’clock? The colour makes it much easier. If someone says the word ‘Green’, you will automatically think about the left side of the stronghold no matter which way you are facing. This method is particularly useful during Immediate Actions where sometimes you don’t have time to study the blueprints of the stronghold or rehearse the assault. Once you’ve cleared a room, for example on the back-left side on the first floor of the stronghold, all you have to say is ‘Room cleared, Black-11-1’ and everyone will know which room you meant.”

“Copy,” says Sarah, nodding enthusiastically.

“Let me show you another building,” invites Michael.

Michael goes down the stairs and Sarah follows him. They see Al giving Robert, Dave, and George a debriefing on the ground floor. Hidden from Sarah’s view, Al and the others smile and nod at Michael when he passes them. Michael returns their smiles and winks.

Michael and Sarah go to another building across the street. The small building only has two storeys and the upper floor is used for observation. In the middle of the room, there are two tables full of mags for the Sig Sauer pistol and the HK MP5A2 submachine gun. The room is surrounded by steel, head-sized targets, positioned according to the colour clock code. Sarah can immediately figure out the function of this building.

“This is the Colour Clock Building and we use it to practice the colour clock code,” explains Michael. “Take all the mags for both weapons, wear your respirator, strap on the MP5 and sidearm, and ready your weapons. After you’re ready, a recording calls out the colour clock code. Your job is to shoot according to the commands from the recording. So if you hear the words ‘Red-2’, give headshots using controlled pairs only at the Red-2 target. Is that clear?”

“Copy,” says Sarah, picking up the mags.

Michael goes to the upper floor to observe her training.

Sarah readies her MP5 and puts it in the low ready position. “Ready!”

A voice recording says ‘Black-12’. ACQUIRE. Sarah aims her weapon toward the target, dead ahead of her. SHOOT. Sarah fires her weapon. ACQUIRE. The MP5 has almost no recoil and Sarah immediately reacquires her target. SHOOT. Sarah fires again at the same target. ACQUIRE. Sarah confirms that both shots hit the target.

“White-6,” says the recording.

Sarah turns around. SCAN. ACQUIRE. SHOOT. ACQUIRE. SHOOT. ACQUIRE. At first, the recording only calls out the primary positions, Black-12, Red-3, White-6, and Green-9. After a few hundred shots, the recording starts calling out the secondary positions, which are Black-11, Black-1, Red-2, Red-4, White-5, White-7, Green-8, and Green-10. Everything becomes doubly difficult when the recording starts alternating between the primary and secondary positions.

In the middle of Sarah’s training, the CO of the 22nd Regiment suddenly joins Michael on the upper floor.

“How is she?” asks Cormac.

“She’s fulfilling all my fantasies, mate,” teases Michael, giving his CO a cheeky grin.

Cormac’s eyes briefly become unfocused, but soon return to normal. “You know what I mean, you cheeky bastard!”

Michael lets out a satisfying laugh. “She’s switched-on, a fast learner, and extremely fit. She’s just as smart and tough as any rupert in The Regiment, Mac.”

“Would you have her as a member of your patrol?”

Michael gives him an incredulous look. “A member of my patrol? Didn’t you hear what I just said? She’s a born leader and commander, Mac. She has what it takes to command one of my troops. Right here and right now.”

“Bollocks!” says Cormac, sceptically.

“She asks excellent questions and knows when to keep her gob shut. Everyone is impressed with her, including Al. And you know how hard it is to impress Al! Physically, she’s in excellent condition. You saw for yourself that she almost kept up with us during the Fan Dance and we smashed the bloody regimental team record!”

“What about her aggressiveness and combat skills?” asks Cormac, still sceptical.

Michael gives his CO another incredulous look. “What kind of a bone question is that, you bloody wanker? I’ve already told you and the Director that I saw her slot fourteen fucking players without the slightest fucking hesitation! She even slotted a couple of them in unarmed combat, one with a knife and Tiny fucking Mullins, who was once a member of the Army Ranger Wing, with just a fucking pen! Don’t you realize how hard it is to do that?”

“How about her ability to adapt and learn?” asks Cormac, visibly wavering.

“See for yourself!”

They observe Sarah enthusiastically fire controlled pairs towards the targets according to the instructions of the recording. She’s holding the MP5 with the butt high on her shoulders, both elbows downwards, and her left hand on the magazine well. This grip is called the magwell grip, mostly used by the US Special Forces. Once she’s exhausted all the ammo for the MP5, Sarah switches to the Sig Sauer. Cormac can see how she switches weapons and she executes the switch perfectly. He can also see Sarah change mags without even looking at her weapon. With the pistol, Sarah uses the Isosceles Stance, different to the SAS’s Weaver Stance.

“Just send the Director the recording of her one-up snatch, you’ll be surprised at how well she did it,” suggests Michael, rubbing his sore jaw. Sarah almost knocked him out as he hadn’t expected her to hit him. And it was one hell of a punch too.

“I’ll do that,” says Cormac. “Tell Al to teach her the Weaver Stance and our standard grip. Let’s see how well she can adapt herself to new techniques. Then teach her our various entry methods. Give her the The Test and let’s see how well she does.”

“I’ll wager you a hundred quid she’ll do better than you,” challenges Michael.

“You’re on.”

They keep watching Sarah train for a couple more minutes.

“So… you really think the Director’s plan is all right?” asks Cormac.

“I’ve already told you a million fucking times that we’ll need them in the squadrons for future operations, you bloody wanker,” says Michael firmly.

“Fine,” says Cormac, sighing.

Michael has frequently debated the Director’s plans with Cormac, but Cormac always comes to the same conclusion. Thanks to Sarah, though, Michael can see that Cormac is finally starting to be convinced the Director’s plan will work.

After observing Sarah for a few more minutes, Cormac seems to struggle with something. “Which fantasies?” he blurts out.

Michael smirks. “Yesterday morning, it was the handcuffs. Last night, she did a bellydance in her bra and panties. I plan on taking her to Soho after her training to shop for some costumes.”

Cormac can see that Michael is telling the truth. He leaves the room, his eyes unfocused. A few minutes later, Sarah has spent all the ammo.

“All weapons unloaded,” says Sarah.

Michael goes down to meet her. “All right, mo ghile mear?”

Oui. Merci pour les cours, mon amour!” answers Sarah, her eyes gleaming.

“Let’s continue tomorrow, shall we?”

“There are more lessons?” asks Sarah, enthusiastically.

“Of course,” says Michael, giving her a water bottle. “We start tomorrow morning at eight.”

Sarah puts her arm through his while draining the water. They exit the building and see Cormac from behind, briefing the rest of B Squadron.

“... and those who did not continue taking their NAPS pills after their recent deployment from Syria are obliged to continue taking them for a month after deployment. Those who fail to comply will be RTU’d,” says the SAS commander in his Scottish burr.

All the troopers complain.

“Are you still taking those pills, Mac?” asks George, giving his CO a hostile look.

“Of course I am,” answers Cormac.

“They’ll make you impotent, you know,” says Dave, matter-of-factly.

“I’ve heard about those rumours and they are simply not true,” assures Cormac, both hands in front of him. “I had a major stonker only a few minutes ago.”

Sarah chokes on her drink as B Squadron collapses in laughter. On the ground, Michael is laughing so hard that no sound comes out of his mouth. Cormac finally realizes that Sarah is behind him and becomes extremely red-faced. He calmly goes to his Range Rover and exits the area while B Squadron is still on the ground, holding their stomachs. Only Sarah is still on her feet, coughing and laughing as hard as the others.

07:56 GMT

Thursday July 30, 2026

Pontrilas Army Training Area

Pontrilas, Herefordshire, England

The next morning, they arrive on schedule at PATA. Sarah looks fresh and beautiful in a plain white shirt and the green camouflage pants of Brimob. Al takes Sarah to the short range and teaches her the Weaver Stance for the pistol and the standard grip for the MP5. As expected, Sarah feels awkward at first, but everyone is impressed with how quickly she can adapt herself to the new shooting styles.

After Al’s sure that Sarah has mastered the new styles, they go to the main Killing House again. They teach Sarah how they conduct the Overt Entry. First, Al introduces her to various Method of Entry (MOE) tools used by the SAS. The dynamic hammer, the Halligan bar, the hydraulic spreader-cutter, the Remington 870 shotgun with Hatton bullets made of hard plastic, and various frame charges used for blowing up windows, doors, and even walls. The frame charge can be used to make a hole the size of George in a wall so that the assault force needn’t enter through a door or window, making their entry much more unpredictable. Sarah is already familiar with everything but doesn’t mind the refresher training. They teach her everything about everything, from how to make a charge, how to detonate a charge, and how to disarm and dispose of a charge.

The SAS can easily acquire ammo and PE4 at PATA. This makes it easier for them during training. In fact, during the six months a squadron is ‘On The Team’, a single SAS Trooper can spend up to 100,000 rounds and hundreds of pounds of explosives. Even with rigorous supply checks, it’s no wonder The Cartel can easily smuggle PE4s out from this place, especially if they have people in the UKSF Group on their payroll.

The next lesson is Covert Entry, in which Sarah must check the other side of the door before picking it. To do this, they use an endoscope camera inserted under the door. They can also use a thermographic camera to determine the location of someone by their body heat. Sarah must report her findings to her team by hand signals or by whispering through her headset. If she receives a signal to conduct a Covert Entry from the leader, she must conduct the entry stealthily. Sarah must lockpick the locked door without any sound, but since she’s trained in lockpicking, this is no problem for Sarah.

Once Sarah has mastered her role as rear guard and MOE specialist, Al moves her to the role of pointman. Al emphasizes that Sarah must never stop for any reason and concentrate fully on dominating her Tactical Area of Responsibility based on the first immediate threat she sees. Sarah manages perfectly, although she’s still more familiar with US Voice Procedures and still needs to get used to British Army VP. Sarah’s also not yet used to the term ‘X-Ray’ and keeps saying ‘Tango’, although Al tells her not to worry about it because it’s not important. Al tells her that the SAS use the term ‘X-Ray’ because they like to put an ‘X’ through pictures of all the terrorists they’ve killed.

Towards lunchtime, Al puts Sarah on the number two position. He emphasizes that Sarah must react to two things, the pointman and the layout of the room. The number two also has responsibility for throwing the flashbang inside the room during Overt Entry. Al reminds her that if the pointman crisscrosses, Sarah should buttonhook, and vice versa. She should do this automatically because the pointman won’t give her verbal instructions. The number two and three must be extra careful because any mistakes from them can hurt the trooper in front of them.

After Al’s happy that Sarah’s mastered both positions, he turns off all the lights and gives her the latest Ground Panoramic Night Vision Goggles (GPNVG). Sarah’s eyes go wide when Al gives her the state-of-the-art goggles. Unlike the NVG that Densus uses, which only has two tubes, the GPNVG has four tubes, doubling Sarah’s field of view by up to 120 degrees. They then train in the Killing House in total darkness using the GPNVG. By lunch time, Sarah has mastered the art of assaulting a stronghold in total darkness and now she’s absolutely starving.

All six of them go to the PATA cookhouse for lunch and Sarah sees four other women already there. Although her friends seem to know the women, they only glance at each other without exchanging greetings. The women, who are roughly Sarah’s age, are wearing green sports bras, MTP pants, and army boots. One of them is extremely beautiful and all four are just as athletic as Sarah is. Three of the women have dyed their hair blonde, but the roots have started to grow back black. The last woman, the most beautiful, has long, red hair that looks natural.

Just like the other SAS troopers, those women seem to recognize Sarah when she passes their table. They don’t greet her, but lean in close and whisper among themselves. Sarah hears one of them say ‘Tony’s sister’, and without thinking she rolls her eyes.

Sarah suspects the women must come from the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), known as The Det. Basically, the role of the SRR is to seek and observe the target, laying out the groundwork before an assault by the SAS or SBS. To this day, SRR is the only unit in the UKSF Group that accepts women.

Sarah and the other five take their food and sit down. Robert, Dave, and George, who are still single, position themselves facing the table with the four women.

“Do you have any questions so far?” asks Michael.

“Indeed. Your training methods are different from what I’m used to. It doesn’t feel like the military.”

“What kind of training methods are you familiar with?” asks Michael, a satisfied smile on his face. He can see that Sarah is curious about those four women, but smart enough to keep her questions to herself.

“Our instructors usually give us a hard time if we don’t learn fast enough or make too many mistakes. They give us punishments, yell at us, and even slap us around, especially if we repeat the exact same mistakes. You know, like drill sergeants,” explains Sarah.

Sarah does the same to the policemen under her command. She treats the men of her unit very hard, especially those who are slow in learning. She has no qualms in slapping or even punching them for repeatedly messing up. She often curses at them, although they sometimes look baffled as she often curses in Dutch. This leadership style was taught to her by her instructors at Brimob, Gegana, and Densus-88. Tony used to have the same leadership style, but changed it after returning from England.

In stark contrast, during Sarah’s training at PATA, Michael and Al have trained her patiently and praised her when she follows their instructions to the letter. If Sarah makes a mistake, and even if she makes the same mistake again, they patiently give her feedback and correct her without the need for yelling or punishing. Besides telling her how to do something correctly, they also explain why they do it that way. During training, they repeatedly had to stop when Sarah unconsciously reverted to the Isosceles Stance when using the pistol and the magwell grip when holding the MP5. They immediately corrected her and reminded her why they have to do it that way. They are patient with her because they know it takes time to change old habits.

This is 180 degrees different to her experience in Brimob, Gegana, and Densus-88. When she first joined those units, she was often yelled at, punished, and even slapped around by her instructors and senior officers. She expected that kind of treatment before she joined so she didn’t mind being treated that way and has never taken it personally. But here, now, she’s appreciating the SAS way.

“It still happens in the green army, but not in The Regiment anymore. The Brigade of Gurkhas is a lot like us also,” explains Al. “Basically, why give a trooper a hard time if he’s slower than the others? It’ll just make him feel bad about himself and it won’t help him learn faster.”

“All the really slow ones get binned during Selection, but if someone needs extra training, well, we just give it to him. We encourage the other men in his troop to give him the extra training as well,” explains Michael. “Anyhow, punishment is never a good reinforcement, especially in training. It’s always better to have troopers seek rewards from instructors than have them only looking to avoid punishments. Right?”

Sarah thinks hard for a few moments. The people around her are recognized by the special forces community as the masters of CQB and this makes Sarah both happy and flattered every time they praise her skills. As a result, she’s been trying hard to follow their instructions, to keep earning their praise. They don’t need to yell or punish her because Sarah is already highly motivated to learn from them. Sarah now feels guilty about how hard she’s been on her men at Densus and the security guards of her housing complex. In almost all cases, she realizes that she hadn’t needed to treat them that way. Sarah feels that now is the time to change her leadership style.

“Copy,” says Sarah, smiling. “In Indonesia, the tougher the unit, the tougher the atmosphere. Here, it’s the exact opposite and your regiment is the toughest in the UK.”

They only smile faintly upon hearing Sarah’s praise.

“Unfortunately, that’s not really true,” says George.

“It’s not?” asks Sarah.

The five SAS men shake their heads and look a bit deflated, intriguing Sarah.

“Then who do you, as members of the SAS, think is the toughest unit in the British Army?” she asks.

“That would be the Brigade of Gurkhas,” answers Al. The others nod in agreement.

“The Brigade of Gurkhas is tougher than the 22nd Regiment?” asks Sarah, incredulously.

“Every single bloody Gurkha in the whole bloody brigade can do the bloody Fan Dance in under four hours,” explains George. Sarah suddenly remembers the Interpol team teasing Michael about this. “They’ve all done it in full kit with fifty-pound bergens whilst also carrying the SA80A3 rifle and that even includes all the bloody female Gurkhas. All the bloody Gurkhas from the Royal Gurkha Rifles did the bloody thing in under three and a half hours. Physically, we’re bags of shit compared to the Gurkhas of the RGR.”

Sarah’s jaw drops. “All soldiers of the Royal Gurkha Rifles did the Fan Dance in under three hours and thirty minutes in full kit plus rifle? How the devil did they manage to do that?”

“They ran every single step of the way and stopped only to give their names to the DS at Pen y Fan and Torpantau. Then they ran all the way back without taking a rest,” says Dave. “They ran up and down Jacob’s Ladder as if they were mountain lions. You wouldn’t believe how tough they really are until you’ve seen them yourself. They really motored, especially on the uphill and downhill sections. They’re so used to running up and down the mountains that they had trouble running on the flat terrain of the Roman Road. They’re better at running up and down the bloody Brecon Beacons than running the bloody London Marathon.”

Michael continues. “We only do the Fan Dance and the Long Drag twice a year. They probably do something like that in Nepal every day of their lives. One of the recipients of the Victoria Cross, Lachhiman Gurung, who lost an eye and an arm in World War II, had to walk three days up and down the mountains of the Himalayas just to collect his monthly pension. He then had to return back home the same way. He did it every month until he was seventy years old or so. When he couldn’t make the trip anymore, one of his sons carried him on his back, just so he could sign the papers to release his pension.”

Sarah can only listen to those stories with awe. The toughness of the Gurkhas is legendary and they’re widely considered as the best infantrymen in the world. But Sarah didn’t realize how tough they really were until she compared her timing at the Fan Dance with theirs. Sarah’s proud of her fitness level, but it turns out to be nowhere near the level of the SAS. And the fitness level of the SAS in turn is nowhere near the level of the Gurkhas.

“So… the toughest unit of the entire British Army is the Brigade of Gurkhas, who are from Nepal?” teases Sarah.

The SAS men nod and look even more deflated.

“Well then, if that’s the case,” says Sarah, pretending to snort, “could you please remove my bikini photos from the SAS Barracks and have them posted instead in the RGR’s Interest Room?”

The five SAS men laugh out loud.

“Good one, Sarah!” says Dave.

“Why aren’t there any Gurkhas in the UKSF?” asks Sarah, still curious.

“The Gurkhas are the ultimate infantrymen, but not the roight personality for the UKSF,” explains Al.

“How so?” asks Sarah.

“Well, the Gurkhas have a somewhat fatalistic attitude towards life and this doesn’t fit with the UKSF mentality,” explains Al.

“Fatalistic?”

“In Nepal, they have nothing because it’s one of the world’s poorest countries,” explains Michael. “In the British Army, we give them food, clothes, money, a career, and a chance to become British citizens. In return, they’re willing to give their lives for our King and Country. A Gurkha will do anything an officer orders them to do without question. Whilst in the UKSF Group, we prefer blokes who can show initiative, think on their own, and have a strong will to survive.”

“They are absolutely fearless though,” continues Al. “They have such a fearsome reputation that during the Falklands War, the Argies abandoned a strong defensive position on Mount William when they learned the Gurkhas were the ones going to attack them. The Gurkhas were disappointed because they took their objective unopposed as the Argies had already retreated.”

“I’ve heard about their reputation, but are they really that good in battle?” asks Sarah, still curious.

“Well, during the War in Afghanistan in 2010, thirty or so Taliban fighters attacked a checkpoint post in the Helmand province that was being checked by Corporal Dipprasad Pun from the 1st Battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles,” says Michael. “Corporal Pun found himself surrounded by the Taliban fighters armed with AK-47s and RPGs. Corporal Pun, alone and believing he was about to die, decided to slot as many of the enemy as possible. During the engagement, he reportedly spent all his ammunition, which was more than 400 rounds, used seventeen hand grenades, and a Claymore mine before battering a couple of Taliban fighters with the tripod of his machine gun. Queen Elizabeth awarded him the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, which is the second highest medal for valour after the Victoria Cross.”

“The thirty-to-one engagement wasn’t considered a fair fight… for the Taliban, of course,” says Dave. “A British Army general even commented that any battlefield commander who thinks he can take one Gurkha down with just thirty men is foolish.”

“And that’s not the only time a lone Gurkha defeated an overwhelming enemy force,” continues George. “On a train ride from India, a retired Gurkha named Bishnu Shrestha, armed with only his khukuri knife, defeated around forty train robbers armed with pistols, swords, and knives when he saw that they had started raping a girl. Just like the Battle of Agincourt, in the narrow aisle of the train, a highly trained fighter like Shrestha had the advantage. Although some of the bandits had pistols, they were either fake or handled by someone who didn’t want to get too close to an angry Gurkha armed with his fearsome khukuri knife. After about ten minutes of fighting in the train aisles, three bandits were dead and twenty or so of them were wounded. The rest had wisely decided to drop their loot and flee.”

“That’s incredible!” says Sarah, thoroughly impressed.

“But that’s nothing, Sarah. We once saw a bloke successfully defend an Observation Point from an attack by 113 insurgents with just a machine gun in an open field,” says Dave, grinning.

“How did you know there were exactly 113 insurgents?” asks Sarah, sceptically. “Did you take the time to count them when they attacked?”

“The same bloke then led the counterattack that slotted every single one of them and left exactly 113 dead bodies,” says Dave. His grin turns into a wince when someone kicks his leg under the table.

“Wow! I’d really love to hear that story,” says Sarah.

“You like to hear war stories?” asks Michael, seriously.

“Oh, indeed! It really turns me on,” says Sarah, giving him a naughty wink.

“Then in that case, I’m sure one of us blokes will tell you about it someday,” says George, grinning.

Everyone laughs except George, who gets his own leg kicked under the table and winces. Sarah hears the women behind her stand up. Three of them leave the cookhouse, but one comes up to their table.

“Hi, fellas! I noticed you have a new trooper today,” says the beautiful red-head with her posh accent. She thrusts her hand towards Sarah. “Hi, I’m Sheila Neeson.”

Sarah stands up to shake her hand. “I’m Sarah Dharmawan from the INP. Would you like to join us, Sheila?”

“I’m all right, thanks,” says Sheila, still standing. She’s the same height as Sarah.

Sheila looks even prettier up close, but has hard features and piercing green eyes. Her body is lean and shredded like Sarah’s. Sarah sits down again, which brings her face to the same level as Sheila’s stomach. Sarah’s jealous of her six-pack, which looks like it could take repeated blows from a ballistic hammer. Sheila’s perfect abs are adorned with an outie bellybutton, which makes her stomach look even sexier. Sarah glances at the others and sees that George, Dave, and Robert are looking at Sheila like she’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World, making Sarah even more jealous of her.

“We missed you at the Fan Dance yesterday,” says George, eyes gleaming.

“We planned to join, but we just got back from Brize Norton for our parachute wings,” says Sheila. “Anyway, me and the girls plan on trying the Long Drag this time. Any of you coming?”

“We plan to do it also. We’ll see you at the barracks beforehand,” says Michael with a forced smile.

“Great! So how is Tony, Sarah? I absolutely loved him. Did he finally marry that gorgeous girlfriend of his?”

“Indeed. He got married soon after he got back from England. He has a son now.”

“Oh, well, I guess the good fellas are always taken,” says Sheila, glancing at Michael, who immediately looks away.

For some reason, Sarah feels even more jealous of her.

“There are still a lot of single, strapping blokes in The Regiment, you know… and some of them are right in front of you,” says Dave, giving her a leery smile.

Sheila laughs, making her six-pack even more pronounced. “I think I’ve dated one too many Regiment blokes. Tony would’ve been perfect for me. It’s too bad he’s married. Anyway, I can’t stay any longer and have to catch up with the other girls. Right then, see you during afternoon tea,” she says, waving goodbye.

They return her wave and watch her all the way out the door.

“Wow, she looks really tough,” comments Sarah.

“I’m pretty sure you can take her down. My money would definitely be on you,” comments George, grinning.

“I would give up a month’s pay to watch that fight,” mumbles Dave as he drinks some water, his eyes unfocused.

Sarah can guess what he’s thinking. “Especially if we took each other on in a gladiator arena wearing our bikini armour, right?” she teases, winking at him.

Dave chokes on his drink, making the others laugh.

13:03 GMT

Thursday July 30, 2026

Pontrilas Army Training Area

Pontrilas, Herefordshire, England

After lunch, Al places Sarah in the number three position, reserved for the team leader. Sarah has to implement everything she’s been taught these past couple of days to lead Al, Dave, and George in assaulting a stronghold. At first, they do a simulation to see if Sarah has mastered the British Army’s Voice Procedures. It’s easier for her during Covert Entry because the hand signals are the same. After each simulation, Al gives Sarah a debriefing and feedback on her performance. While they conduct the debriefing, the civilian workers from QinetiQ rearrange the layout of the Killing House for the next round. Every time they enter the Killing House, the layout and furniture are entirely different.

After a few simulations, Al finally gives them live rounds. This is the last training for Sarah before they head for afternoon tea.

“Roight, Sarah, standby for Immediate Action. Inside this one-storey warehouse with an unknown layout, there is a Yankee with an unknown number of X-Rays. The X-Rays have threatened to slot the Yankee if they think they’re being assaulted. Your mission is to secure the Yankee. I say again, your mission is to secure the Yankee. How will you do this, Sarah?”

Sarah observes the entry point. The door is now on the furthest right of the Killing House, opens outwards, and the handle is on the left side.

“We’ll use Covert Entry. The stack will be on the left side of the entrance as follows; Al is number one as Alpha, George is number two as Bravo, I will be number three as Charlie, and Dave will be number four as Delta. All call signs, Charlie is in control. Please parade all equipment,” orders Sarah.

Everyone checks their own kit. It turns out the batteries of her headset are almost depleted so she changes them and takes some more as spares. She then checks everyone’s kit and their weapons. It turns out the batteries of their GPNVG and Dave’s endoscope camera are also almost depleted so she asks them to change batteries and bring some extras for spares. After checking Dave’s frame charges, Sarah notices that the wirings are wrong so she asks him to fix them. Once everything has been checked, Sarah checks everyone’s kit once again.

“Make ready and stack up,” orders Sarah when everyone is finally ready.

All four stack according to Sarah’s instructions. At the rear of the stack, Dave squeezes Sarah’s left shoulder, signalling that he’s ready. Sarah immediately squeezes George’s left shoulder, signalling to him that she and Dave are ready. A couple of seconds later, Sarah sees George give an exaggerated nod, so she knows that everyone in front of her is ready. Sarah then signals the MOE specialist to move forward to check behind the door.

Dave inserts his endoscope camera from underneath. After a few seconds, he signals that the door is unlocked, it’s pitch black inside, there’s no sign of X-Rays, and there’s a hallway that turns to the left. Sarah signals that she copies and Dave returns to his original position.

“All call signs, use GPNVGs. We will enter and stack before the next hallway. We execute the entry in five,” whispers Sarah through her headset.

All weapons are in a low ready position and Semi-Automatic Fire mode.

“Four.”

“Three.” Dave goes forward and stands on the right side of the door.

“Two.”

“One.” Dave starts turning the handle.

“Execute!” whispers Sarah.

Dave opens the door and lets the others enter the stronghold. As the MOE specialist and rear guard, his job is to give access to the others and guard the rear of the assault force. As instructed by Sarah, Al stops at the corner. They have to clear the next hallway before they can proceed. Sarah gives Dave the signal and he moves to the front to check on the hallway with a rod that has a mirror on its tip. Dave signals that no X-Rays are sighted and that there are six doors on the right side of the hallway. Sarah signals that she copies and Dave returns to his position.

“All call signs, standby to stack up on the first door. Standby… Go!” whispers Sarah.

With a move called ‘slicing the pie’ or ‘pie’ for short, they move forward as one towards the first door and stack up beside it. Sarah can see that, just as Dave described, there are six doors on the right side of the hallway. Sarah again orders Dave forward. He checks the door and inserts his endoscope camera underneath it. He gives the signal that the room is locked and completely empty. Sarah signals that she copies and Dave returns to his position.

“All call signs; standby to stack up on the second door. Standby… Go!” whispers Sarah.

Everyone moves at the same time and Sarah repeats the same procedure on the next three doors, which are also empty. On the fifth door, Dave signals that the room is a toilet with two stalls on the left side of the room, no signs of X-Rays, and that the door is unlocked. Sarah signals that she copies and Dave returns to his position. Even though Dave said the toilet is empty, Sarah knows that the toilet stalls still have to be cleared.

“Alpha and Bravo, bypass the door and cover Green side. Delta and Charlie will stack up and clear the fifth room. Acknowledge!” whispers Sarah.

Al and George signal that they copy and move forward past the door to cover the hallway in front of them. Now there’s only Sarah and Dave stacking in front of the door.

“Delta, after opening the door, I will clear the second stall and you will clear the first. Acknowledge!” whispers Sarah.

Dave signals that he copies.

“Execute the entry in five,” whispers Sarah.

“Four.”

“Three.” Dave goes forward and stands on the left of the door.

“Two.”

“One.” Dave starts to turn the handle.

“Execute!” whispers Sarah.

Dave opens the door and Sarah enters and immediately heads toward the second stall with Dave only half a step behind her. Dave’s job is to clear the first stall while Sarah clears the second. Once they’re in position, they simultaneously open the stall doors and Sarah sees an X-Ray on top of the toilet. She shoots a controlled pair to the head of the X-Ray with her HK MP5SD3. Her weapon has a built-in suppressor which is effective in suppressing the gunshots, meaning the sound of the bullets’ impact is much louder than the sound of the gunshots themselves.

“Clear,” whispers Dave.

“X-Ray down, fifth room clear,” whispers Sarah, signalling Dave to exit.

“Delta coming out,” whispers Dave.

“Charlie coming out,” whispers Sarah. True to CQB doctrine, they have to report every move they make to prevent any blue-on-blue.

Sarah makes sure Dave turns left to cover the rear. She then exits the toilet and turns right to stack behind Al and George, still covering the hallway.

“All call signs, standby to stack up on the sixth door. Standby… Go!” whispers Sarah.

Everyone moves forward and stacks up on the final door. Once again, Sarah orders Dave to move forward to check the door and what’s behind it with his endoscope camera. After a few seconds, Dave gives the signal that the door is locked, opens to the middle of the room, and is heavily mined. A Yankee is sitting behind a desk at the back of the room and there are six X-Rays moving around. Dave also gives the sign that the room is shaped like an inverted ‘L’, doglegging to the right. This means that there must be another room at the back-right side of the main room. After Sarah signals that she copies, Dave goes back to his original position.

Sarah thinks hard for a few seconds before making a decision. “All call signs, standby to go noisy. Delta, prepare frame charge,” she whispers.

Everyone switches their weapons to full-auto while Dave places the frame charge on the door. After it’s ready, he gives the signal and returns to his original position. Once he’s in position behind Sarah, he squeezes her left shoulder. Sarah then squeezes George’s left shoulder, indicating that the people behind him are ready. George prepares a flashbang and shows the pin to Al, indicating to him that everyone behind George is ready. Al exaggeratedly nods and George does the same, signalling Sarah that everyone is ready. This takes less than ten seconds, from Sarah giving Dave the order to prepare his frame charge to George nodding.

“Execute the entry in five,” whispers Sarah into her comm headset.

“Four.”

“Three.”

“Two.” Al turns his body to shield himself from the blast of the frame charge.

“One.” Dave flips off the safety and his thumb is on the detonator.

“Execute!”

What happens next is controlled chaos! Dave detonates the frame charge and George immediately throws the flashbang inside the room while Al enters. Al sees an immediate threat on the Green side so he crisscrosses to the left, shooting his weapon just as the flashbang goes off a couple of metres away from him. George notices Al crisscross to the left so he automatically buttonhooks to the right, also while firing his weapon. Sarah makes her entry and sees that the Green side of the room is clear. She buttonhooks and takes the right-middle to support George, who is shooting controlled bursts to multiple targets in his Tactical Area Of Responsibility (TAOR). At the same time, Sarah notices Dave take left-middle to support Al. The shouts of ‘X-Ray down’ are heard repeatedly, adding to the chaos.

SCAN. Sarah sees the Yankee, who turns out to be Michael, sitting behind a desk at the back of the room, which turns right into another room. A target moves inside her TAOR. ACQUIRE. Sarah aims toward the head of the target. SHOOT. Sarah squeezes off a round. ACQUIRE. Sarah recovers from the slight recoil and aims again toward the head. SHOOT. Sarah squeezes off another round to the target that has already stopped moving. ACQUIRE. Sarah reacquires her target to make sure both her shots hit the target.

“X-Ray down!” shouts Sarah, moving forward and making sure all targets are taken care of. “Alpha and Delta, stand firm and cover Yankee on Black-12.”

“Roger that,” reply Al and Dave.

“Bravo, standby to stun and clear Red-2 corner room, Charlie will Run the Rabbit,” orders Sarah.

“Roger that,” answers George.

Sarah notices Al and Dave have stopped and are pointing their weapons towards the Yankee and then she follows George towards the right corner to the next room. Sarah immediately stacks behind him.

“Charlie ready,” says Sarah, slapping George’s shoulder.

“Bravo ready,” answers George.

“Execute!” shouts Sarah.

George throws a flashbang with his left hand to the back-right of the next room at the same time Sarah moves to the back and then to the right. She does this to draw away opposition fire so George can easily dispatch the X-Rays from cover. This CQB tactic is called ‘Running the Rabbit’ and perfect for an ‘L’ shaped room during Overt Entry. With his left knee on the floor, George fires his weapon at the same time the flashbang goes off. The flashbang explodes less than a metre from Sarah, but her respirator takes the brunt of it so she can clearly see two static targets in front of her, untouched by George. Robert is right between the two static targets and looks dazed by the flashbang. Sarah’s briefly surprised to realize that George has missed all his targets. Moving forward, Sarah shoots the two targets with controlled bursts, making up for George’s mistake.

“You! Get the fuck down on your face! Now! Move it!” shouts Sarah, pointing her weapon at Robert. “Alpha and Delta, secure Black-12 Yankee.”

Robert follows her orders and drops to the ground and Sarah hears a ‘roger that’ from Al and Dave.

“Bravo, secure Red-2 Yankee,” orders Sarah, keeping her weapon pointed at Robert.

“Roger that,” says George, moving forward to follow her orders.

“Black-12 Yankee secured!” exclaims Al from behind her.

“Red-2 Yankee secured!” exclaims George after frisking Robert and cuffing him with a plasticuff.

“Stronghold secured!” exclaims Sarah, feeling relieved. “All call signs, unload and make safe all weapons.”

Sarah turns around and sees Michael facedown with his hands plasticuffed behind him.

“Lights on!” shouts Al as he cuts off Michael’s plasticuffs. George does the same for Robert.

The lights suddenly come on and they all turn off their GPNVGs. Sarah takes off her respirator and makes sure all weapons are on safe.

“Nice shooting, George,” she says, her lips pouting.

George only gives her a sheepish smile.

“That was really fast, Al!” comments Michael, standing up.

They then wait for Al’s debrief. Al looks as if he wants to say something, but then he shuts his mouth. He looks confounded.

“Congratulations, Sarah, you’ve managed to shut his gob!” says Dave, laughing.

The others laugh also, except for Al, who is red-faced.

“Al, are you all right?” asks Sarah. She’s suddenly worried because Al still hasn’t started his debriefing yet.

“I’m fine,” says Al, waving her concern away. “It’s just that you’ve done a textbook assault. For once, I have absolutely nothing to criticize.”

“We deliberately sabotaged your comm headset, our GPNVGs and Dave’s endoscope and frame charge to see how you’d react when things went wrong, but you managed to spot them before the assault. There aren’t many ruperts as thorough as you, you know,” says George.

Sarah’s embarrassed being praised by George, but it turns out they’re not finished with her yet.

“Too right! Almost all the blokes put too much trust in the MOE specialist. Most blokes would just take the specialist’s word that there are no X-Rays in the fifth room and carry on. Even though I told you there were no X-Rays, you realized that the toilet stalls still had to be cleared. That was very well done!” says Dave.

“Your Running the Rabbit tactic was spot on. Even though most of the blokes would do the same thing, a lot of them would forget to order the other team to stand firm, and to use flashbangs,” praises George once again.

“From my perspective, you were absolutely terrifying, Sarah,” says Robert. “Anyone would’ve been shitting themselves if they’d seen you like that. You handled the second Yankee effectively even though Al told you there was only one.”

Sarah is no longer surprised that Robert was in there also.

“Your aim was perfect, though I can’t say the same to everybody,” continues Robert, giving George a dirty look.

George grins sheepishly while Al finally finds his voice.

“Although we’ve shown you only a tiny fraction of our CQB methods, you’ve managed to excel in everything we taught you. One day, you could make an excellent troop commander in The Regiment, Sarah, and we would follow you anywhere,” says Al firmly, closing the exercise.

“I second that,” says George seriously.

“Too right,” says Dave, also seriously.

Everyone gives her a round of applause, which makes Sarah even more embarrassed but also flattered.

“Right lads, let’s bin it and head for afternoon tea, shall we?” invites Michael, his eyes gleaming with pride.

They all leave. Unbeknown to Sarah, Cormac has been in the observation room on the second floor the whole time and he saw and heard the entire thing. Without a word, he takes the recording of Sarah’s exercise and slips it into his pocket.

16:06 GMT

Thursday July 30, 2026

Cookhouse, Pontrilas Army Training Area

Pontrilas, Herefordshire, England

The cookhouse is already full, mostly of B Squadron, but Sheila and her friends are nowhere to be seen. Sarah’s group take their food and sit at the same table they sat at previously. They’ve just sat down when Michael’s smartphone rings. It’s from Broussard.

“Yes, Chief?” answers Michael. He’s set his smartphone to speaker so Sarah can also tune in.

“Michael, my apologies but I have to cut short your vacation. There have been some developments and we need you here. Could you please return to the office tomorrow morning?” orders Broussard.

“Sure thing. Do you need both of us tomorrow?”

“Indeed. I’ll call Sarah after this,” answers Broussard.

“No need for that, Chief. She’s here with me.”

Broussard doesn’t answer for a few seconds. “Have you two spent your vacation together?”

“Indeed, Chief,” answers Michael, his signature cheeky grin on his face.

Broussard doesn’t answer, but is heard letting out a long sigh.

“Don’t get jealous, Chief,” teases Michael. “You’re married.”

Sarah laughs.

“Fuck off, you bastard! You two better be here by 09:00 tomorrow morning,” orders their commander curtly. “And wipe that stupid grin off your face!” He hangs up.

George suddenly waves his hand, grinning from ear to ear. “Hey, Sin! Over here!”

Someone tall and extremely skinny comes to their table and George introduces him to Sarah. It turns out to be St John Williams, the former Goat Major of the Royal Welsh infantry regiment. Sarah almost laughs out loud when she’s shaking his hand because she suddenly remembers Michael’s story about St John and the goat he takes care of, William Windsor III. St John has a silly looking face, sillier even than Dave’s, and an odd figure, meaning he’s easily recognized by everyone even from afar. St John looks embarrassed when he’s introduced to Sarah, earning him an immediate slagging from his mates.

“What have you been up to, you old goat?” asks George, grinning broadly at his close friend.

“Just brushing up on my EOD, I am,” answers St John with his Welsh accent and way of speaking. “And don’t call me that!” He starts to pout, making him look even more ridiculous.

“I thought the head shed sent you here to take care of those goats outside, Goat Major,” says Dave, trying hard to keep a straight face.

“Those aren’t goats out there, you dickhead. Those are sheep!” says St John, looking exasperated. “And quit calling me ‘Goat Major’!” His pout gets bigger, making the others start sniggering.

“Just grab a seat and join us, Williams,” invites Michael.

“Thanks, but I gotta go back to my table,” says St John. “And don’t call me that either!”

“But your name is Williams, you muppet!” says Michael, giving him an incredulous look.

St John is taken aback and thinks a second. ‘Oh… that’s right, isn’t it?’ is written all over his face, making the others roll in laughter. Still pouting, St John returns to his table. Better that than to be ridiculed all throughout afternoon tea. A few seconds later, Robert, George, and Dave’s faces suddenly light up at the same time. Sarah turns around and sees Sheila walk towards their table. She’s wearing a black kit and her lovely hair is all a mess.

“Hi again, fellas! Michael, may I see you for a minute?” asks Sheila with her hand on his shoulder.

Michael looks extremely reluctant when he gets up from his seat. They go to a corner near the entrance so no one can hear what they are saying.

“This I gotta see,” says Al, grinning broadly. He turns his chair so he can watch the unfolding drama.

Sarah sees everyone in the cookhouse do the same thing so she takes her chair and puts it next to Dave, who has already taken out his smartphone to record them. They all watch the drama unfold. Sheila is the one doing most of the talking while Michael’s mostly keeping his mouth shut. Even from afar, Sarah can see that Sheila looks sad and her eyes are moist. Sarah is extremely jealous, but she doesn’t show it.

“What’s the story on those two?” asks Sarah, with a voice that sounds just a bit too cheerful for the occasion.

“They dated each other after Michael returned from… some place. It was more than a couple of years ago,” says Dave, “but then they broke up.”

“The blokes from her unit said that she took it really hard. A few times she dated blokes from B Squadron just to annoy him. I don’t think it worked, but none of us minded being used like that, though,” says George, giving her a cheeky grin and a wink.

Sarah guessed that George was one of the men Sheila had gone out with, which makes her laugh.

“It’s a sin for Michael to date her anyway,” says Al dryly, making George and Dave laugh out loud.

Sarah doesn’t understand why it’s considered a sin so she doesn’t join in the laughter.

“What about Tony?” asks Sarah.

“Oh, she came on to him very strongly, but he didn’t take the bait. He was always nice and polite to her though, which made her want him even more,” says Dave, still recording the drama with his smartphone. “Anyway, Tony showed us a photo of his girlfriend at that time and his girlfriend was much better looking, so we couldn’t blame him for turning her down.”

“Lydia is his wife now,” says Sarah.

“Lucky bastard,” mumbles Dave.

“Tony’s wife is much better looking than Sheila?” asks Robert. He can’t imagine anyone prettier than Sheila… except for Sarah, of course.

Everyone at the table nods in agreement. Sarah suddenly remembers her dad, who was immediately smitten with Lydia, the former Miss Indonesia, when Tony introduced her to him.

Sheila starts crying, but she and Michael keep talking for a while. After a couple of minutes, Sheila takes hold of Michael’s hands and comes forward to give him a kiss on his lips. Michael suddenly turns his face, evading Sheila’s kiss and making her lips land on his cheek. Sheila’s taken aback by Michael’s sudden move. She then gets so angry that she gives Michael a spectacular slap across his face!

Everyone in the cookhouse, mostly men from B Squadron, cheers out loud! They all give a standing ovation as if appreciating the drama being played out in front of them. Sheila quickly shoots everyone an evil eye and storms out of the cookhouse. Michael is stunned and can only stand there for a while before walking, like a man about to be hanged, back to his table. As he passes some of the tables, his men shake his hand and give him a pat on his back, all the while laughing their arses off. Michael sits down at the table, the left side of his lip bleeding.

“Right, lads, let me have it,” says Michael, accepting his fate.

They all start slagging him mercilessly.

“Now that’s what I call an ‘eppie scoppie’!” says Sarah, laughing. “Or is it called an ’eppie slappie’ in this case?”

“Yesterday, you took a left hook from Sarah. Today, you took a right slap from your old girlfriend,” says Al. “What the fuck will you be getting tomorrow?”

“I can see the headlines in the next edition of Soldier Magazine: squadron commander of the famed 22nd Regiment slapped around stupid by a couple of his girlfriends,” says George. “What the fuck would the other regiments think about us then?”

“I think this deserves to be replayed in The Kremlin’s Interest Room, eh?” says Dave, grinning from ear to ear as he shows them his video. He managed to record Sheila’s spectacular slap in close-up, and has already edited it to loop and keep replaying. Michael looks as if he’s being slapped over and over again by Sheila.

They all have to stop taking the piss out of Michael for a few minutes because they can’t stop laughing after seeing Dave’s super-silly video. Once they’re able to control themselves, though, they go right back to making fun of Michael and he can only accept his fate, his ears turning red from all the slagging. Some people from other tables go over to their table just to join in the slagging, including St John, who looks absolutely delighted. Sarah can only collapse in laughter until her stomach hurts and tears stream from her eyes seeing Michael’s deflated expression when St John makes full use of this golden opportunity to give his boss the most severe slagging ever! Only Robert doesn’t join in the piss taking, but laughs just as hard as the others. Towards the end of afternoon tea, Michael’s smartphone rings.

“Yes, Derek?” Michael listens for a few seconds. “Right, we’ll see him at The Kremlin at 20:00, thanks!” He disconnects the call and says to the others. “The Director wants to see us all at 20:00. We should bin it and RTB.”

They try to finish their cakes and tea, but keep choking on their food. Dave can’t stop replaying his video and the others can’t stop laughing at it. In the car, they keep taking the piss out of Michael all the way to Hereford.

19:59 GMT

Thursday July 30, 2026

Regimental Headquarters, SAS Barracks

Credenhill, Herefordshire, England

After taking a shower together and packing for their return trip to Manchester, Michael and Sarah are now waiting with everybody else in the Interest Room at the RHQ. Everyone has dressed smartly for their meeting with Sir Charles. Sarah’s wearing an elegant black dress and the others are in jacket and tie. Right on time, Lance-Corporal Derek Sinclair enters the Interest Room, also in jacket and tie.

“The Director will see you now, please,” says Derek formally, his eyes gleaming on seeing Sarah.

Derek escorts them into a meeting room. Sir Charles Mountbatten and Cormac are already inside, also in jacket and tie. Derek, for some reason, takes out his smartphone and starts recording.

“Good evening, Sarah, how has your training been?” asks the Director warmly.

“It was extremely insightful, Director. But I would like your permission to pass on what I learned at PATA to my unit in Indonesia.”

“You don’t need my permission for that, Sarah, but thank you for confirming it with me anyhow,” says Sir Charles. “Actually, I would be disappointed if you didn’t pass on the knowledge. The UK, like the rest of the world, is now at war with narcoterrorists. We would like as many allies from around the world as we can get in the fight against them.”

“On behalf of my government, I thank you very much for this, Director. The lessons I’ve learned will be invaluable in our country’s war against narcoterrorists. I would also like this opportunity to thank you for letting me use your facility at Pontrilas and B Squadron for training me. It was an honour being trained by the SAS, Director,” says Sarah.

What Al taught her was only a small fraction of CQB, but what she has learned was insightful, especially for Immediate Actions. However, no one in the room could ever imagine that within the next couple of months, Sarah would need to implement everything she’s learned these past couple of days when she fights against The Cartel.

“It’s the least we could do for you, Sarah,” says Sir Charles, accepting a parchment from Cormac.

Sarah looks happy because it appears to her that the Director is going to give her some sort of CQB certificate.

Sir Charles reads the parchment. “Inspector Sarah Michelle Dharmawan of the Indonesian National Police,

“On Monday July 27, 2026, Inspector Sarah Michelle Dharmawan along with an officer from the British Army, who were both on secondment to Interpol Manchester, were assaulted by armed members of the Irish Drug Cartel at the Carluccio’s Restaurant at 3 Hardman Square, Spinningfields, Manchester. She identified the threats when the first fireteam entered the premises and immediately alerted her teammate, who in turn noticed another fireteam. With excellent coordination and teamwork, both Sarah and her teammate eliminated the first wave of the assault, in which eight narcoterrorists tried to ambush them from two flanks. Both Sarah and her teammate then retreated into the kitchen area, where Sarah identified two more narcoterrorists and immediately dispatched them, undoubtedly saving the lives of the kitchen staff of Carluccio’s in the process.”

“In the kitchen area of the restaurant, both Sarah and her teammate were once again assaulted from two flanks. Thanks to their superior tactics, skill, and determination, they repelled the assault and killed almost all the attackers. It was during this stage when, without any thought for her own safety, Inspector Dharmawan saved the life of the British Army officer, not once but twice, in the process sustaining a wound to her left arm. Disregarding her wound, she killed two more narcoterrorists in hand-to-hand combat. A total of twenty-three members of the Irish Drug Cartel were killed that day, with an incredible fourteen kills attributed to Inspector Dharmawan.”

“It was probably to no small extent due to her combat skills and determination in holding an unfavourable position under adverse conditions that the rest of the criminals, after taking heavy casualties, were soon forced to withdraw. Her actions that day dealt a severe blow to the Irish Drug Cartel, an enemy of both the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Indonesia.”

“Inspector Sarah Michelle Dharmawan of the Indonesian National Police, for exemplary gallantry in saving the life of a highly decorated British Army officer during active operations, His Majesty King William the Fifth is graciously pleased to approve the award of… the Military Cross,” says Major-General Sir Charles Mountbatten.

The Director is investing her with a medal! Sarah’s jaw drops when she receives her citation and medal in a blue box, to the cheerful applause of everyone in the meeting room.

“Congratulations, Sarah,” says Sir Charles, shaking her hand warmly.

“I… thank you very much for this, Director,” says Sarah. She really wants to say something else, but wonders whether it would be appropriate.

“Do you have anything you wish to express, Sarah?” asks Sir Charles, smiling.

“Well, Director, it’s just that Michael… Major Adrian… was with me the whole time and he was the one who led me through the ambush. He was in command at that time, Director, and he deserves this medal just as much.”

The Director smiles even wider. “What you just said speaks volumes about your character, Sarah, and I expected no less from you. But rest assured that Major Adrian has more than enough medals to ensure an excellent career in the British Army. He will be well taken care of.”

“So long as he doesn’t step on his own bloody Hampton on his way up the career ladder,” comments Dave dryly, to the sniggering of the others in the room.

“Thank you, Dave,” says Sir Charles without looking at him. “Very well, you may carry on then. I’m sure you have things to sort out before you return to Manchester. Once again, Sarah, I thank you for saving the life of one of my squadron commanders.”

“Thank you for everything, Director,” says Sarah.

Sarah snaps to attention in the INP manner, which Sir Charles returns in the manner of the British Army. Sarah really wants to salute him, but she’s afraid he won’t return it because she’s a civilian. Sir Charles is prohibited from returning it anyway, because he’s not wearing any sort of headdress. British Army regulations prohibit its members to give or return a salute if they’re not wearing a headdress.

After Sarah is congratulated by everyone present, Michael invites them all to celebrate. “I guess it’s time for a piss-up. The Nag’s Head, shall we?”

“Hear, hear!” says Dave happily.

Michael takes some notes from Cormac as he leaves the room. The DSF and Cormac stay behind while the others take the Range Rover to head towards The Nag’s Head, a restaurant in the north of Hereford. This time, Michael is driving and Sarah is riding shotgun. Michael explains that Sarah is now entitled to have the letters ‘MC’ as post-nominal letters, indicating to other people that she has been invested with the Military Cross and recognized as a certified British hero. All the way to the restaurant, it’s Sarah’s turn to be slagged off by her friends. George teases her that her name now sounds much cooler, Inspector Incontinentia Buttocks, MC.

Michael parks the car and they all debus. Robert, George, Dave, Derek, and Al enter the restaurant first, while Sarah waits for Michael. Michael opens the door for Sarah so he’s the last person entering.

Once inside, Sarah sees a fight between sixteen people in the pub area. A couple of them are moaning and writhing on the floor, and the barman is crouching behind the bar, looking terrified. No weapons are seen but plates, glasses, and furniture are flying around. Sarah glances at Michael, but he only grins with gleaming eyes looking at the chaos in front of him. The other men only stand there, watching the fight without any expression.

“Squad, squaaad ’shun!” orders Michael suddenly, his thunderous command voice echoing throughout the pub.

Just like Pavlov’s dogs, Sarah unconsciously stands to attention in the INP manner. She senses her friends do the same, but in the manner of the British Army, in which they raise their left leg and then strike it to the ground, both feet forming a ‘V’, and both hands clenched.

Sarah is surprised that the fight suddenly stops and they all immediately stand to attention, including the two men who were writhing on the ground. The sound of dozens of feet striking the floor echoes throughout the pub. Sarah glances toward her friends and they are all giving Michael an incredulous look.

With a satisfied smile, having seen his order executed by everyone, Michael leads the others to the dining area. He opens the double door to the dining area and lets the others go in first. A waiter escorts them to a table and they immediately order food from the menu. Sarah’s heart is still beating hard, not because of the fight, but because Michael’s command voice is still ringing in her ears. She has never heard a command voice that powerful before!

“Who were those men?” asks Sarah.

“Fucking Mobility Troop from A Squadron. They just got back from… abroad,” answers Al, frowning. “They’re always fighting each other.”

“One time, they fought each other just before a big football match just because they couldn’t agree on who should go get the bloody football,” says Derek, laughing.

After a few minutes, their food arrives and it’s quite delicious. The waiter leaves and returns again, bringing them a nice bottle of red wine.

“Compliments of the owner, Major Adrian,” says the waiter, pouring the wine into their wine glasses.

“Please send our thanks to Fred for us, Blake,” says Michael, giving him a friendly smile.

“Of course, Major,” says the waiter, bowing.

Michael stands and raises his glass, followed by everyone else.

“My lady and gentlemen! The King!” says Michael.

“The King!” say the others, including Sarah.

Everyone seems appreciative of Sarah for participating in the Loyal Toast, even though King William V is not her king. They then take a sip of wine.

“Fallen comrades!” says Al, a new toast.

“Fallen comrades!” says the others.

They again sip their wine, remembering their fallen friends.

“And finally, to Sarah,” says Dave, grinning. “If it weren’t for you, we would probably have to break in a new OC by now.”

Everyone laughs, especially Michael, who then orders multiple pitchers of beer, which are drained in minutes. As the most junior among them, Robert is appointed as designated driver.

Sarah pays for everyone’s dinner, subsidized £100 by Michael, who got it from Cormac for winning a wager between them. They then stagger towards their car. Robert takes them to Hereford Railway Station and they all help Michael and Sarah with their luggage. Before they part, Derek has some surprises for Sarah.

“Sarah, we have some things for you. These two are for you and the other is for Tony. I hope you don’t mind taking it to him,” says Derek, giving her three wrapped gifts.

“Why, thank you, Derek,” she says, hugging and kissing him on his cheek.

Sarah does the same to the other SAS men and they all look happy. They exchange e-mail addresses and smartphone numbers.

“Do keep in touch, Sarah,” says Dave, waving goodbye to her.

“Of course I will. Thanks again for everything!” says Sarah, returning their wave. Her eyes are moist because she will miss her new friends.

Sarah can’t know that, during her days in Herefordshire, she has already met The Cartel’s British Army contact.

And just before she returns to Indonesia, Sarah will have to attend the military funeral of a member of the UKSF Group…

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