Camilla quietly arrived at the hotel at 530 to find Alpha Force largely still in bed. The only person who seemed unable to sleep and who was up and about, was Hex.
The London teen sat out on the balcony of the hotel overlooking the ancient city and was relieved to see the sun disappearing on the horizon. His eyes drifted back down his prized palmtop and the email he was in the middle of reading. It was from a shady friend of his the NiteWatcher, who had always been a reliable source of information regarding anything illegal or dodgy that was happening around the world.
Hex's email from NiteWatcher was describing the violence that was occurring in Solambia and the problems aid agencies were having gaining access to the largely rural population.
The army, as NiteWatcher described it, was predominantly a ground force of poorly trained conscripts from the former states that separated to form Solambia.
They were adequately armed, self-proclaimed freedom fighters that had followed their leader Lomada in a coup against the government forces. It ended in the taking of a sizable area of land to claim as their new independent nation of which, Lomada was now the unanimous president of.
Hex was quite shocked by the descriptions of the graphic atrocities committed by Lomada's troops in the name of maintaining sovereignty. He became quite engrossed in the somber email and almost jumped out of his skin moments later when Camilla, who had quietly let herself in, sat down in the chair beside him.
"Jeez Camilla you scared the hell out of me" Hex whispered darkly, annoyed at having been caught by surprise.
The honey blonde smiled brightly unfazed and made herself comfortable in the seat. As usual the young women was modestly dressed in simple worn blue jeans and a tan long sleeve shirt, with the sleeves rolled up. Her dusty pair of brown hiking boots tapped the ground in a relaxed beat, completing the outdoors working look she always had. Hiding a smile, at her stealth, she turned her bright blue eyes on the hacker.
"Someone is awfully jumpy this evening! Don't tell me you got spooked from the morning we spent in the pyramids." She teased in a light South African accent.
Hex bared a small grin "Na.. I was more scared of losing circulation in my arm because of how hard someone was gripping it, as we walked past the tombs."
Camilla caught the look in his eye and the quick glance he made over his shoulder when he said it and she smiled.
Behind his false bravado Hex winced. He had actually found it quite difficult to remain calm in the confines of the maze that ran beneath the pyramid they had entered.
There seemed like such little room to move and he couldn't help but think about how old all the supporting structures must be. Flashbacks from Belize haunted his whole journey through the catacombs and he was actually quietly reassured by Amber's hand squeezing his the whole way.
Needless to say he breathed a sigh of relief when the emerged out the other side into the Egyptian sun, the others thought it was a blast though and he was reluctant to ruin the experience for them.
Camilla giggled, her tanned face crinkling, eyes set in remembering the good times at the ancient tombs.
"I thought Li and her were going to kill Paulo when he jumped out of that tomb at them."
Hex couldn't help but chuckle too; remembering the look on Amber's' face when she had screamed before realizing it was Paulo and rushing over to assist Li, who was delivering a few good punches to the offender's shoulder.
A bang and a crash behind them caused them both to remember the other people staying in the room and turn in time to see Paulo sprawled on the floor, a chair snaked around his legs.
"Dios" He cursed, "I was trying to sneak over to wake up Alex. I didn't realize he would leave booby traps out."
"The SAS special" Alex quipped sleepily, before winking at Paulo and the whole room dissolved in laughter for the second time in a day.
As the mirth diminished, Camilla raised her voice to be heard by the group.
"Now we are all awake and together we can head over to the airport. I've got a vehicle waiting downstairs, get dressed and I'll meet you in the lobby."
A quickly dressed Alpha force was downstairs five minutes later (A.N. - that's pretty quick for a group with two girls in it :p) and piled into the minivan. Camilla was already sitting behind the wheel and she nodded in approval at the choice of clothes that the group had gotten into.
Alex climbing in the front caught her look and explained " You mentioned that it gets pretty cold here at night time so I figured we should aim for warmer clothes."
" Hmmm you were listening weren't you?" she mused with a smile "You are dead right it cools down into almost the negative figures in the deserts here at night time, making it essential to wrap up warm."
Li whispered to Paulo, Hex and Amber with a grin. "Is there such thing as a wedding in the middle of the bush for survival junkies?"
The back of the minivan hissed with barely suppressed laughter, as the oblivious front seat continued discussing the weather for the remainder of the short journey to Cairo Airport.
Five minutes later the group stepped out onto a large, weathered runway that twisted away behind the main terminal like a black snake. Floodlights illuminated several large aircraft hangers and a single enormous Hercules; C-130 cargo plane with its cargo door opened. Camilla indicated the remaining supplies that needed stacking onto pallets before being loaded into the large plane.
"This is the last of it, we've just got to get these supplies stowed and we will be ready to drop in tomorrow" She explained to the group.
"I can't stay and help sorry" she added guiltily "I've got to head across to the terminal to check our flight clearance."
As Camilla walked off to the terminal, Paulo smiled at the bright yellow forklift parked up by the plane "Alright let's get to work then."
Amber sighed, she Hex and Alex were busy loading bags of food, medicine and water onto a pallet beside an enormous cargo plane. She glared angrily across at the far hanger full of cargo planes like the one they were loading, these ones were surrounded by various men and woman smoking or drinking coffee.
"Don't offer to help or anything," she growled under her breath, breathing hard from lifting the heavy sack and containers.
Leaning back casually at the wheel of the forklift Paulo stared at the moonlight on the pyramids with a relaxed look on his face. Him and Li had gotten the easy jobs; Li, with her knowledge of ropes and knots, was on securing the supplies to the pallets while he used the forklift to put the pallets on the plane.
Li was leaning against the pallet they had just secured and loaded, feeling cheeky she called over to her friends.
"Hey can't you guys load those pallets any quicker? We've still got to put them on the plane you know."
Dirty looks flew her way instantly and she was saved a harsh comment from Amber or Hex by the appearance of a tall African man who wandered towards the group, eyeing the plane with interest.
He was a tall, strong looking man who carried himself with a slow steady gait, his dark skin accentuated in the spreading darkness. As he came closer Hex noticed that something was wrong with his appearance somehow. He couldn't put his finger on it until the man turned to face Paulo and Hex noticed in horror that he was missing his left ear.
Amber gasped and put her hand over her mouth, she couldn't help but stare at the small grisly lump, which was all that remained.
The man spoke in broken, accented English.
"This the Aid Planes? Red Cross, UN yes?"
Paulo who was closest nodded.
The mans brow furrowed
"Just one plane?" He inquired.
Amber didn't hesitate to reply "No there are three more already loaded to go, this is the last one now. The others are parked safely in the hanger"
The mysterious One-Ear grunted then smiled a wide smile exposing yellow and brown stained teeth.
"I go see, go check." he stated and walked off towards the hanger.
Suddenly 'Party Rock Anthem' by LMFAO started playing from somewhere and the group turned to stare at Paulo as he fumbled to answer his phone.
"Man did you see his freaking ear?" Li blurted out no sooner had the man left.
"No kidding that was so gross" Amber shuddered.
"I wonder how he lost it?" Alex pondered.
Hex could already feel his fingers itching to get on his palmtop and do some digging into the matter, it can wait though he told himself, we have got to finish up here first.
Paulo waved to get everyone's attention and put down his phone.
"That was Camilla, she said the guys here will finish loading and that we should get back to the hotel and pack up our stuff for tomorrow."
Pleased for the reprieve, the five friends started walking back to the minivan parked at the edge of the runway.
"I dunno did old Stumpy back there seem suspicious to you guys?" Hex asked finally, speaking his mind.
"Hmm he was just loitering around the planes right? That is a bit odd." Alex admitted.
"Why don't we- Li started.
Suddenly Alpha force was blown off their feet by the concussive blast as the plane behind to them disappeared in an explosion of heat and shrapnel that light up the night sky.