Originally written in 2005 and inspired by a simple computer game, gamers of a certain age and disposition will no doubt spot its origins. Are you in the know?
I’m alone now. I’m possibly the only one left. My scanner shows no friendlies in range at all. I know there’s at least three left, and one of them has got to be carrying. It’s up to me. Crouched behind the crates, I pause to reload and take a drag of my cigarette. Some of the ash trickles down my front as I inhale and I replace it in the overflowing ashtray – I’ll need both hands and a clear vision to move forward.
I check my weapon, the Bullpup is loaded and a quick view through zoomed lens over the bridge reveals nothing. Silence. No radio chatter, just a soft hiss of the falling rain. Their target is no more than a few seconds sprint, but without a positive sighting it may as well be miles away. With a tense sigh, I stand up and sprint towards the stone room on the other side of the bridge.
I am exposed, with every running step convinced I am feeling the burn of crosshairs on my back. The only sound now is my sturdy boots on the weak wooden supports, frantic, fast and focussed. I pull the weapon to firing position and use the bullpup’s zoom to focus on the wall as I try and make the distance. At that very second, a face, obscured by balaclava, runs into the crosshairs from the door on my right, and, clearly stunned by my appearance, hesitates before raising his weapon. It’s too late, I have already leant heavily on the trigger and several repeated rounds tear into his body, and he falls like a crumpled rag doll in a split second, dropping his AK, and splashing deep crimson onto the stone wall behind him.
I tear into the room, diving into a vertical foetal position behind one of the stone blocks, breathing heavily. A quick glance confirms my opponent is dead. Although armed, he is clearly carrying no explosive. The threat remains.
I’ve only fired five or six shots, but take the time to regroup and reload with one of my remaining magazines. The click of the unit sliding home echoes off the walls. The gun shots would have given away my position, and I’m worried this noise will lead them to me. But noone comes and the rain continues to hiss on the glistening wet cross planks of the bridge I have just crossed.
There’s just minutes left now and I don’t have time to hold the position. I must move on and locate my enemy. Intelligence previously indicated that they are likely to be in position beyond the archway leading back into the open and into the rain. The heavy wooden door is open slightly, but I can’t see beyond it. I’ll have to move forward, possibly exposing myself as I do so.
I can hear my breaths tensing as I lean out of the door and look down a long stone courtyard, flanked by high walls on my right and low wall on my left. It seems clear. I notice a gap in the wall to my left with a staircase going down to the river – it’s clear, yet I feel uncomfortable at the silence.
I emerge cautiously, weapon first, aiming and looking forward and to the left and the right in quick, jagged movements. My instincts are right – no more than one step forward and a loud boom cracks the silence, then another, then another followed by the sound of bullets whistling past my head and burying themselves in the wall. But where is he? Panicked, I turn quickly and discover my attacker perched on a stone block directly behind the door from which I emerged, sidearm poised and aimed, him crouched and prone, coolly taking aim for his next and, presumably, final shot. As I lift my weapon to return fire – no time for scope or aim – I see the muzzle flash and red blur appears from my right side. On instinct, I hold down the trigger, now set to automatic fire, and let loose an entire magazine in his direction, until the firing pin clicks repeatedly with an empty tinny sound. He slumps backwards, his weapon slipping to ground with a clatter. He’s wearing no body armour – my rounds have been lethal at this range.
With my back against the wall, I reload again. The odds are even. I am dismayed to discover, once again, that he carries no explosive. There’s only one left, and he knows where I am. I’ve taken a hit, and although my Kevlar has absorbed most of the impact, I’m now weaker than my opponent.
Suddenly, there’s a crackle as my radio earpiece spits into life – the bomb has been planted. There’s seconds now. But there’s also only one place it can be. I sprint back through the stone room, past the stone cold eyes of the body on the floor, across the bridge and arrive, now with extreme caution, into another courtyard, more exposed than the last and the known target. From the relative safety of the archway, I can see the device, not more than a few feet away, and hear the click of its countdown.
I search the area with my scope. To my left is a huddled figure, almost completely hidden in the shadows of the corner, with his weapon trained on the device, offering cold calculating protection. His focus has meant he hasn’t seen me.
There’s a second door from the stone room, I glance through and realise it joins the courtyard at ninety degrees past the bomber’s location. If I’m silent, I can run through and take his life without his even seeing me. It’s too late for him to run now, he cannot make safe distance with the time left. He clearly intends to die defending his bomb. It’s too late for me too. If the device is not neutralised, my efforts will be in vain.
I shoulder my weapon as I run, pulling out my knife as I do so. There’s no time for a stealth approach so I will rely on the shortness of the distance between the doorway and him to finish the job. I sprint, he hears me, and, surprised, he fires immediately, the distinctive boom of the AWP filling our ears. He misses, and he will not have time to reload the chamber before I am upon him. He knows this and throws the weapon done and goes to pull his knife. Realising he is too late, he raises his hands as thrust the blade forwards, but he is awkward and off guard and the steel point makes its mark.
As he crumples and falls, I am already reaching for my defuse kit. I’ve had the training, I have the skills, I have the time, I must stay focussed …
I crack the cover plate in one move
I pull apart and separate the ground from the live wires
I grab my cutters, but they catch in my webbing
I position them carefully, selecting the ground wire and neatly place it between the blades
There’s relief. There’s cheering, radio chatter recommences. An electronic voice announces ‘Counter-Terrorists win’
I reach for my cigarette, now no more than a filter with a long, slightly angled line of ash.
It’s all for this moment, the effort, the training and the focus, as the letters drift into view across the top left of the screen: PLD