Aid Conflict

Checking out

The door to the hotel room smashed open with a resounding crash, as three menacing looking men burst in screaming and armed with pistols. The sleeping friends were taken completely by surprise and only had time to yell in alarm and fear, as they were dragged from their beds and ushered into the large on-suite bathroom.

The four friends each took the situation differently.

As usual Hex became even more introverted and stony, the only indication of any distress being the unnatural pale color his face had went. His mind speeding like the bullets housed in the weapon at his head, he realized with a grim swallow that these men meant business and probably intended to kill them. Frustrated, his mind churned out possible ideas and rejected them just as quickly and recognizing how much of a predicament they were in, he tried to subtly move himself between Amber and the gunmen.

Alex's mind was drawing similar morbid conclusions noting the lack of disguise, the aggressive nature of the assault and finally the weapons they were holding. His recent summer of research into the types of firearms commonly used worldwide was put to good use, as Alex identified the plain looking pistol as the Browning high power. A reliable pistol that had been around for almost eighty years, Alex knew the pistol was widely used by the SAS for many of those eighty due to its reliability, stopping power and ease in concealment.

Despite himself and the hostile scenario, he couldn't help but get a kick out of seeing the legendary weapon in real life. He felt an almost detached fascination with what was unfolding and he hoped the calm look on his face would help his friends stay strong.

The weapon had a different effect on Paulo altogether and he stood stock-still, paralyzed by the memory of being shot.

The pain had been like nothing he had ever felt, he thought that maybe he would die from pain alone. The crude device of metal pointed at his friends scarred him more then he ever thought possible, he thought of Li and how much he cared for her. His thoughts of her or any of the others in that kind of pain felt like a cement block on his chest crushing the air out of him.

This block got heavier as he opened his eyes to look at his friends and realised that Li was not with them.

Li had turned at the sudden crash as the door to the room imploded, concealed by the curtains, she had resisted the impulse to run into the room as she saw the guns in the men's hands. Peeking through the gap in the curtains, she watched in horror as her friends were torn from their beds and roughly pushed into the bathroom.

Li considered her options and with an impending sense of dread decided to wait and see if she would be discovered.

Amber was frantically trying to keep up with the gunmen s conversation; it was a dialect similar to Swahili and she could understand most of it because of the extensive language study she had been doing over the past few years. It was made all the more difficult by the bounding in her chest, as she tried to fight her fear.

The man who appeared to be in charge was snapping at the other two as he waved his gun over the teens huddled together on the floor.

While she may have not understood the meaning of every word the intention was clear; this was an organised death squad and they intended to kill the five teens.

"Please we don't know what you want, can you just let us go?" Amber pleaded in their language, finally recognising it and remembering that it was one of the main dialects of Solambia.

The smaller of the three, a wiry, wild looking man turned to her in fury, shouting and roughly slapping her to the ground with his free hand.

Ambers face stung and she felt tears flowing, as Hex pulled her in close and she once again tried to focus on the argument that was happening in front of them. She was confused; the leader kept saying something about four not five but the rest of the conversation was lost on her.

Suddenly something in her head clicked and she realised they were talking about the absence of Li from the room. They hadn't executed the friends yet because they couldn't find the last member of their group. Li had been out on the balcony when Amber had gotten into bed; maybe she was still there now. She hazarded a glance in that direction and thought she saw a shimmer of movement through the gap in the curtains.

Her heart leaped in her chest, but was promptly stomped flat again when she translated the lead gunman's order to search their room.

Li saw the largest of the three thugs leave the bathroom and close the door, he proceeded to search the cupboards before heading towards the balcony. Li froze in her hiding place on the ledge to the right of the door, she would remain unseen if the man just looked out the door, but if he actually came out then she was history. She jerked back involuntarily, as the man drew the curtains and knocked against the ceramic hanging basket of dead flowers by her head.

Li held her breath as the movement went unnoticed and the man moved to the door handle, sliding the glass door open with ease.

She was moments from being spotted and knew she had to act, so thinking quickly, she unhitched the ceramic pot plant from its hook on the ceiling. Swinging it single-handed like a flail she connected solidly with her opponents gun hand, the pot shattering, causing the man to grunt and knocking the weapon from his grasp.

Moving quickly, Li shot out a lightning quick sucker punch directly into her opponents throat, making him gag and clutch at his neck. It gave Li the opening she needed to charge in close.

Instinctively Li's hand closed around the collar of his jacket at the same time her other grabbed the now empty arm. Utilising all the momentum she could, she swung into his body sliding her arm across from his collar around to his shoulder, as she turned into him. Dropping to her knees she finished the execution of a perfect Ippon Seio Nage shoulder throw.

The killers weight rolled across Li's shoulders and for a moment he seemed suspended horizontally in midair, before time speed up and he was thrown from his feet over the edge of the balcony. His muted scream of terror was only just audible to Li standing on the balcony, as was the muffled thump his body made upon impact.

Li's breath caught in her throat as she realised what she had just done. She sat down hard against the low wall, trying to start breathing again and forget the horrible scream that signalled the abrupt end of a man's life.

Back in the bathroom Hex noticed the remaining two men becoming more and more agitated until finally one of them opened the door, poked his head out and yelled something loudly at the third. Through the momentary open door Hex noticed two things on the ground at the edge of the balcony; the first was a broken flowerpot that he recognised from earlier, the second was the ugly black pistol the searching man had carried. Instantly comprehending what must have happened, he nudged Alex and whispered to the group.

"Li has taken out one of the men. We need to do something soon before they find out."

Alex nodded and hissed to the group "You're right Hex. She might not get lucky twice if they decide to investigate their friends absence. We have to stop them."

"But what can we do? They are armed Alex and look like they mean business." Paulo moaned desperately.

"If I distract them, do you think we can take them out?" Amber asked her friends.

"We've got to try" Hex nodded resolutely. "The odds are as even as they will get."

"Okay then, on my signal" Alex muttered sounding braver then he felt.

Amber edged her way to the other side of the bathroom and took a steadying breath.

"Hey, I need to use the toilet" She loudly moaned to the two men.

Both men whirled in fury to face Amber, exposing their backs to Hex, Paulo and Alex.

"Now!" Alex shouted and the boys surged forward at their distracted assailants, while Amber dived for the safety of the bathtub.

Hex and Alex caught the leader unprepared; Hex crash tackled him in around the legs rugby style, bringing him to the ground and Alex reached for the weapon. The pistol went off in his hand and Alex was deafened by the noise and shock of it in such close confines, but hung on to the gun arm trying desperately to steer it away from his friends.

As the other boys attacked their man, Paulo screwed up his face in concentration and threw every ounce of his strength into a punch aimed at the small wild gunman. His fist connected with the side of his opponents' head as he had whirled to face Amber and caused him to stumble to his knee. Ignoring the pain that lanced through his hand and the hammering in his chest, Paulo pressed his advantage following up with another punch, this time to the wrist of the hand holding the gun. The man cried out and opened his hand in reflex to the blow, Paulo kicked the gun out of his reach and roughly shoved the small man forward off balance onto his face.

Things were not going so well for Hex and Alex.

The angry leader had swung back hard with an elbow that connected with Hex's nose, knocking the boy off of his opponent with a shout. Alex heard Hex cry out just as he swung the leaders hand down on the corner of the washbasin as hard as he could, busting the gun from his grip with a sickening crunch.

Hex stumbled back and dropped to a knee, his vision blurred and blood streaming from his nose, trying to clear his reeling head enough to get back into the fight. With an angry howl the gunman managed to push Alex away from him and stand up clutching his injured hand.

His cold eyes glared at Alex as the teen leapt to his feet, to face the dangerous man.

Paulo sat heavily astride the fuming ex-gunman, tying his hands together behind his back with his own belt. Suddenly the pinned man bucked wildly, causing him to spill forward onto the ground, hitting his head on the wall. Drawing an evil looking blade from his boot, the little man smiled a wicked smile and pounced towards a dazed Paulo.

The knife swung backwards in an arch above his head before he began to plunge it down towards Paulo's chest.

Paulo closed his eyes in horror.

The blades progress was interrupted, as the assailant was violently knocked sideways from Paulo and crumpled in a heap.

"That's what he gets for hitting a woman" Amber exclaimed sassily, one hand on her hip the other holding the now unconscious man's fallen pistol, which she used to club him with.

"Thanks" Paulo said shakily, as she helped him to his feet and they turned to see Alex duck a swing from his opponent and retaliate with a sharp stomp-kick to the leaders knee. His opponent screamed in rage and pain as his knee buckled underneath him and resulted in his next blow catching Alex in the stomach with a lot less strength then was intended.

The blow was still enough to knock the wind from the boy, who staggered back from his opponent gasping, which allowed Hex enough space to close the distance instead.

With blood still steadily dripping from his nose, Hex lunged forward and struck out with swift elbow, putting all his power into the shot, his vision a red haze of anger. The blow connected with his opponents jaw, Hex felt the jarring impact turn the man's head to a side and watched the eyes lose focus, as the leader was finally put out for the count.

Li came sprinting into the bathroom to see her battered and bruised friends standing in the aftermath of what had been an epic battle that had left the bathroom completely destroyed.

Blood stained the cracked tiles and a shattered mirror hung crookedly on one wall, devastated by the earlier gunshot. A slow, gurgling, snore was coming from the man that Amber had dropped and the opponent Hex had just hit lay unnaturally, slumped face first against the wall.

Alex wheezing "We've got to get out of here now" cut the emotional reunion of the five friends short. Alpha force leapt into action, packed their bags in record speed and two minutes later were all in the hallway heading for the elevators.

"Wait" Li realised "We can't leave out the front there might be more people waiting there and the man who fell might have caused a bit of a commotion."

"Was that what happened to the man you fought, Li?" Paulo softly asked her, as the group climbed down the fire escape at the back of the old building.

"He fell. Lets just leave it at that okay Paulo." Li whispered guardedly, hiding her eyes from his.

Paula gave her a hand a little squeeze and they dropped down into the alley by the hotel.

"Where do we go now?" Amber scowled, looking at the rest of the bedraggled group. "We can't stay here that's for sure."

Hex stared back at her intently, having just finished wiping dried blood from swollen nose. "Isn't it obvious?" he drawled.

"Camilla" Alex whispered

Amber rolled her eyes, but then turned to the others seriously

"Wait, are we going to be putting her in danger by going to her?"

"No Alex is right" Paula affirmed, "She may already be in danger. If they came after us, they almost certainly went for her too."

"That means she may be in danger right now then" Li quickly blurted out.

"What are we waiting for then?" Alex demanded, "Lets get a cab."

Amber flagged down a dusty looking Egyptian taxi.

"Ok where does Camilla live then?" she asked climbing in the back.

Alex flushed red, "Well she might have told me about her place here in Cairo once or twice" he muttered, "I think I can remember the street."

"Told you about her place or invited you to her place amigo?" Paulo teased with a massive grin on his face, wondering if being so close to death made you giddy.

The cab was rocked with joyous laughter as five friends, happy to be alive, took off down the twisting streets of Cairo.

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