Old Ventures 2, Ch. 20

Twenty, Baghdad

“Ready to roll out the welcome mat?” Jack asked into his headset.

“They fired a volley of poorly aimed rockets over a civilian population,” Hugh said over comms, “I’m eager to return the remaining shrapnel to them.”

“Please remember this is a hostage situation, so not everyone inside is a combatant,” Ian said into his radio.

“Please,” Hugh said. “I’ve got thermal scans of the building. Your entrance will be on the opposite side of the building. See you on the south side.”

Jack watched the flare from Hugh’s engines as he descended from a holding pattern above them into a parabolic curve, before flying just a few feet overhead, and crashing through the warehouse wall. Hugh landed in a crouch, and was almost immediately hit with gunfire. “Really?” Hugh’s voice roared over a speaker. “I wasn’t angry enough with you?”

He stood, planting his feet, and raised his hands. The stabilizing engines on his palms fired once, knocking the gunmen off their feet.

“Suppressing fire,” Jack called as he ran past Hugh. Return fire from Ian and Jalal crackled off from behind them, keeping the gunmen down.

“Do yourselves a favor,” Jack said, not slowing down as he knocked their weapons away, “and stay down.”

“Or don’t,” Jalal said, slamming a new box magazine into an M249 SAW.

“You got them?” Ian asked.

“They’re gotten.”

“Good.” Ian paused and used a knife to cut open a plastic bag full of zip ties, before scattering them on the floor. “Cuff yourselves and help each other tighten them. When I get back, anyone whose cuffs aren’t tight loses a thumb. Anyone not cuffed at all loses both.”

Hugh followed him after Jack, and once they were around the corner asked, “You wouldn’t really take their thumbs, right?” Ian raised an eyebrow. “You have a thumb collection, don’t you?”

“Not one anyone will ever find,” Ian said.

“You scare me enough sometimes I’m never sure if you’re kidding.”

“That uncertainty is my fish and chips,” Ian said, “though I’m sure you know, if the queen asked, there isn’t a set of thumbs I would not collect on this entire planet.”

“That’s a weak bluff,” Hugh said. “Angela? Laney.”

“She wouldn’t ask it if weren’t necessary, and if it was, I would do it, however reluctantly.”

“You two planning on helping?” Jack grunted over his headset.

“Sitrep,” Ian barked.

“Pinned in the hallway. They’re-”

“In the room at the end, far right,” Hugh interrupted. He held out his arm, and projected a schematic of the buiding onto the wall, and overlaid a heatmap over top of it. “We’re still in my satellite’s footprint for another minute or so.”

“I’ll take up a position here,” Ian said, pointing at a window in the exterior of the building, opposite Jack, “see if I can’t relieve the pressure.” 

“This wall,” Hugh said, tapping the far wall on the map, “is weak, especially for an exterior. Records show it was once a receiving bay. They didn’t bother to reconfigure, put more supports in it, they just boarded it up.”

“Kool-Aid Man?”

“I really hate when you call it that.”

“You are going to walk through a wall,” Jack said. “It would only be more appropriate if you said, ‘Oh Yeah’” when you did- ah!”

“I hope that hurt,” Hugh said.

“Just hit the door jam. But on that subject, I’d appreciate help sooner, rather than later.”

“Could I get a hand through this window?” Ian asked, stretching towards an outward-opening window some eight feet in the air.

“You shouldn’t need one; you’ve got hundreds of thumbs stashed away,” Hugh said, stepping into the hall and kicking his engines on. He roared down the hall, towards the hole he’d torn in the side of the building.

“I think we upset him,” Jack said.


“I didn’t say we upset him equally.”

Ian dragged a chair towards the window. “You’re lucky there’s plenty of lightweight furniture left in this place,” he jumped, catching the windowsill with his fingers, “and that,” he grunted loudly as he pulled himself up to the window, “I can still do a proper pull up at my age.”

“Yes, we’re so fortunate that you can still, ahem, get it up,” Hugh said, over the crackle of his engines.

“Why are you counter-punching me?” Ian asked, rolling sideways through the window, onto the ground.

“You were just hanging there, like a punching bag,” Jack offered.

“I changed my mind,” Ian said, prone at a window, aiming his shot. “I don’t owe Jalal enough to put up with this. Let’s just leave Jack here, go get milkshakes. My treat.”

“Have to pass,” Hugh said. “That much dairy does bad things, especially when I’m stuck in the suit.”

Ian saw one of the kidnappers raise an MP9 in Jack’s direction. He exhaled, and put a bullet through his arm.

“Ingress in two, one,” Hugh’s suit stepped through the wall, sending a cloud of drywall dust and chunks of wood sweeping through the room like fog on a light wind. Ian glanced away from his sight towards Jack, but he was already gone.

Ian swore, and turned on the thermal scope on his rifle. He saw Jack and Hugh wade through the remaining kidnappers as big red blobs. One of them tried to hide behind two people sitting in chairs. Ian watched as he raised a gun- though the gun was a cold spot in front of him. “Naughty,” Ian said, before drilling a shot through the kidnapper’s thigh.

The dust was already beginning to settle. Hugh flicked one kidnapper in the head with enough force that it knocked him unconscious. Ian fired dead center into a kidnapper trying to sneak a knife between Jack’s ribs from behind. “Thanks,” Jack said, as he threw a haymaker into the jaw of the last of the kidnappers.

“How are our prisoners?” Ian asked over the headset.

“Seem preoccupied over the prospect of losing their thumbs,” Jalal replied.

“That’s a good answer. Tell them to lay on their chests and not to move. I’ll be there in ten seconds or so. Go down the long hall. Jack will meet you. There are two lovely young women eager to remake your acquaintance.”

Jalal sighed, “Allah be praised. No thanks will ever be enough.”

“If you hadn’t saved me, I wouldn’t have been here to return the favor.”

“Then we’re square.”

“Of course not. We’re friends; we don’t keep score anymore. And if we just leave you here, we’ll be back in another week rescuing you all over again. Now stop talking to me and go see your wife and daughter.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *