A year later, Hannah and her team were in a dark briefing room in their base in Lybia. As their commanding officer entered, they all stood at attention.
“At ease,” he ordered.
“As of last night,” he began, “we lost contact with a convoy we sent out. Your mission is to investigate and report. In the event of a confrontation, a team of SEAL operators will be deployed to assist, callsign Reaper. Any questions?”
“How soon do we leave?” Asked Sean, a seasoned operator who was taking charge of the three new recruits sent with him: Hannah, Shadow, and Blade.
“In five minutes,” he answered. “Anything else?”
“Rules of Engagement, sir?” Blade asked.
“Do not engage unless fired upon.”
Hannah frowned, but said nothing, pushing down the queasy feeling in her stomach.
“Move out,” the commander said, standing. The team stood and saluted before filing out.
In the green hue of their night-vision goggles, the dunes looked like mountains in the deep ocean. Spots like seashells reflected the moonlight, parts where the sand had almost melted in the day's desert heat.
Hannah grimaced. “Damn bright spots,” she muttered. “They'll blind us, next thing.”
“Stay focused, Rosie,” Sean ordered. “We need to find that convoy.”
“Relax, Sean,” Blade grunted. “You need to learn to loosen up.”
“Shut it, newbie,” Sean answered shortly. “Reaper 01, this is Razor 01, Radio check,” he said into his comms.
“Razor 01, this is Reaper 01, we read you. We are en route to target. Will contact when at objective,” the SEAL commander said.
“Roger,” Sean answered. “Razor 01 out.” He turned to his team. “Let's pick this up, people.”
Hannah followed her team silently, every muscle in her body tense and ready. There was something wrong, she could feel it in the air; it was far too silent, even for the desert. Something was out there, and it was trying its very best to not be heard.
Hannah caught up to her leader. “Sean, this is a trap. Something's out there.”
"Rosie, if we wanted a psychic, we would have hired madame Cleo, not you. Knock it off," Sean said.
Hannah took a deep breath. God grant me patience, she thought, pressing on.
They arrived at the target and were greeted by the sight of the burnt husks of vehicles. Shadow posted on top of one of he hummers to provide sniper cover. Blade set up his matching gun on the hood of another vehicle. Hannah and Sean secured the wrecks.
“The trap wasn't for us,” Sean said.
Hannah didn't answer, all senses on high alert.
It wasn't long before they heard a whooshing sound beside them. Something landed a few yards away from them with a thud, then promptly exploded.
"RPG!" Blade shouted as he returned fire in the direction of the smoke trail.
An explosion directly next to Hannah and Sean sent them both reeling for cover. Shadow joined them for backup. Hannah fired a grenade from her rifle that impacted and killed two insurgents.
"This is fucked up," Sean muttered.
"Umm, boss, we've got a tank," Shadow said, gesturing to the hulking shape through the smoke.
With the added firepower of the tank, the insurgents effectively pinned down the Rangers. They stayed well-hidden, but knew that there was only so much time before their attackers got bored and shelled the whole area.
"Reaper 01, this is Razor 01, we are pinned down, requesting backup," Sean called into his mic.
"Roger that, we are en route and ready to bring the pain. Hold on," the SEAL commander said.
"Be advised, enemy backed up by armor," Sean added.
"Roger that. We'll handle it."
Hannah groaned. “I warned you,” she muttered, ducking for cover behind what used to be a Hummer, “I warned you, but you didn't listen!”
“Shut it, Rosie!”
Hannah snarled at him and pressed her back to the vehicle, staying out of sight.
“Where's Blade?” Hannah asked Shadow.
Hannah frowned. “We need to get that tank down,” she said. “Copperhead-7?”
Shadow shook his head. “Not enough time. Eight.”
She looked over at him sceptically. “Bit daring, no?”
“Rosie, New Guy, what are you two talking about?” Sean asked, exasperated.
“No time,” Hannah answered. “Just trust us. Shadow, Copperhead-8. Cover me.” with that, she rolled away and vanished into the smoke, invisible.
“Shadow, what the hell is she doing?” Sean snarled.
“It's an old plan we came up with a while ago. Just make sure they keep shooting at us, give her time to work.”
“We want them to keep shooting at us?”
“What's she even doing?”
“Vanishing. She's good at that. Trust her; she knows how to do this.”
The four-man SEAL team arrived after a few more moments, and engaged the insurgents. Now sufficiently backed up, Shadow, Sean, and Blade fought back with a vengeance.
Unfortunately, the tank stalled their efforts. They ducked behind cover to avoid another shell, when Shadow let out a snarling roar, vaulted over a hummer, and ran straight at the tank, taking it head on. For a moment, all fighting ceased as everybody stared in absolute shock at the crazed and shouting Ranger.
Suddenly, a small, blurred figure appeared atop the tank and opened the hatch. The figure vanished behind a sheet of flame that exploded from the tank, making all the men shout in pain and pull their Night-Optics off. The explosion obliterated all the remaining insurgents.
“Who the hell was that?” one of the SEALs asked, rubbing his eyes.
"That was Solomon," Shadow said as he returned to his team, grinning.
"She's new," Sean said, still looking shocked. “And what the Hell was that tactic?”
Shadow grinned. “We came up with the copperhead lines after the first time we dealt with a tank. There's twenty in all.”
“Well,” another SEAL said, “Your newbies are better than ours, I'll tell you that. Damn, that was a good shot. We didn't even see him, where did he come in from?”
“Rosie's a she,” Shadow said irritably.
The man stopped short, jaw working for a second before he spluttered: “That was a woman?”
He grinned. “No guy would ever think of throwing a grenade into a tank.”
“How'd she do that?” The man continued.
“No idea,” Sean muttered, looking peeved.
“She got out of range and came in straight to the right, stayed close to the treads and used them to climb up from the back,” Shadow said promptly.
"Effective. She's good," the first SEAL said.
“She is,” Blade said, arriving, “She's also very prompt, and should be back by now. Shadow, did she tell you where she'd hide out?”
“She was supposed to come back here. What, you haven't seen her?”
“If I had, would I be asking? I didn't see her come off the tank before the explosion.”
Shadow frowned. “Rosie?” he asked into his mic. “Rosie? Solomon, you out there?”
“Rosie, this isn't funny,” Shadow tried, sounding uneasy.
“Shit,” he muttered. “Come on, we have to find her. She'll be close to the tank, or we would have seen her leave.”
They all started searching the area around the wreckage of the tank in increasing desperation. There were several corpses, smoking remains of insurgents, but they finally came upon her.
She was sprawled out on top of a piece of wreckage. The blast from the explosion had ripped off a good part of her Kevlar, revealing a deep slash in her side, where blood oozed slowly from sickly pink flesh. Her NODs had been knocked off, and her angelic face was slack, eyes closed as though she were asleep.
“Is she okay?” Blade asked quietly.
“Just knocked out, I think,” the SEAL said. “See? She's coming around already.”
Sure enough, her eyes slowly slid open, her hands closing into fists before she even became aware of the world around her.
She caught sight of the unfamiliar faces around her and vanished. She blurred for a moment, falling off the edge of her piece of wreckage. When the men looked to the side she'd fallen on, she was already gone.
They blinked a few times. “Where'd she go?” one asked, confused.
Shadow grinned. “She's good at vanishing,” he said. “She'll turn up, relax.”
“Hey, Aedan, watch out!” one of the men called, spotting Hannah behind his teammate, knife raised and aimed for his neck.
“Who are you and what do you want?” she asked harshly as he turned to her.
“It's okay, Rosie,” Sean said. “They're our backup. Relax.”
Hannah nodded, still looking suspicious, and lowered the knife slowly. “Names,” she ordered.
Aedan spoke again, his voice low with a deep southern accent. “I'm Aedan, these are my teammates, Wraith, Blackburn, and Blank.”
Hannah didn't seem to hear him. “Blade, where's your brother?” she asked sharply.
Blade jerked his head towards Shadow, who looked confused at her hostile tone.
Hannah headed for him, cornering him against a pile of wreckage. “Shadow,” she said, deceptively sweet considering the knife still held in her fist, “Do you have a hearing problem?”
“No,” he said, “What is it?”
“Because I distinctly recall telling you to initiate Copperhead-8.”
“I did,” he said uncertainly.
“No,” she said, “I initiated Copperhead-8. I walked around the tank, came in at ninety degrees, rounded the back, and was just about to sneak under the tank, when I see your retarded ass running straight at a T-90, screaming like some kind of a beserker, just begging to get your legs blown off!”
“No,” Shadow said, “twelve is the one where you go underbelly. Eight is the grenade one.”
“No, you idiot!” she snarled. “Tactics one through ten all involve stealth, eleven through fourteen involve explosions, fifteen through twenty involve attacking the driver! Now, since I had to save you from getting what was left of you sent home in a matchbox, I had to throw a grenade in too soon, and was inches away from blowing my own head off!” She gestured to the wound in her side; the bleeding had slowed, but it still looked mangled and messy. “I'm damn well lucky to have gotten off with this! What would your mother say if you got killed on my watch, huh? You complete imbecile! She'd eviscerate me before I could even tell her the only reason you were dead was because of your own stupidity!”
"You leave my mother out of this!” Shadow answered shortly. “At least we took it down!”
"Fine," Hannah said. “But next time, focus.”
Blade approached her, much quieter. “You all right?” he asked, grasping her shoulder and forcing her to sit.
She rolled her eyes, but didn't get up. “I'm fine,” she muttered, pressing her hand on the wound to staunch the bleeding. “Just a bit of shrapnel. It's deep, but it's clean. A few stitches and I'll be fine. Don't mother me like that.”
“I'm not mothering you,” he said. “You're injured.”
“Am not,” she answered. “If I were dying, it wouldn't hurt this much. You don't feel the blow that kills you. Now, go worry about someone else.” She stood. “Well,” she said, “It's been a long night, I'm tired, covered in sand and blood, and I've got a second degree burn on my hand. I don't know about you guys, but I'm out of here.”
Sean nodded, shooting her a genuine grin for the first time. “Come on, Rosie,” he said, moving to her side to let her lean on him, a new respect for her on his face. “Let's get you home.”