"Hold it right there, sir," the man ordered, snapping his .45 automatic out of its side holster and aiming it at Mack Bolan.
"Easy, son," Bolan said from behind the wheel of the jeep. He kept his hands firmly planted on the steering wheel.
"May I see your identification, sir?"
"Sure thing, Corporal. Okay if I reach into my shirt?"
"Yes, sir," the young man said evenly. "But slowly, sir."
In the darkness, Bolan noted the other soldier standing inside the bulletproof checkpoint booth behind the corporal, grimly watching the action. The soldier's hands were below the booth's window. Without a doubt they were wrapped around an M3AI submachine gun. Bolan pulled a laminated slip of plastic from his pocket and handed it over. The corporal glanced back and forth between the photo on the card and Bolan's face several times before handing the card back. "Sorry, Sergeant. Thank you for cooperating."
Bolan smiled. "What the hell's going on here tonight? You fell as are edgier than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs."
The corporal shrugged. He returned his .45 to his holster, but left it unsnapped. "All I can tell you, Sergeant, is what they told us. That all guards are to be doubled until further notice. No one got in or out without a thorough check of ID, no matter how well we know them. Even General Wilson." The corporal motioned to his partner in the booth.
The metal guardrail in front of the jeep rose automatically and Bolan drove through with a wave of thanks.
Immediately he pulled the jeep around the corner of an old barracks building and parked in the dark shadows. "It's all clear," he whispered, quickly flipping back the rear seat. Tanya Morganslicht took a deep breath, shook her long black hair over her shoulders, climbed out of the hidden compartment of Sergeant Grendal's jeep.
"I heard what that soldier was saying to you." Tanya climbed into the front seat, her thigh brushing against Bolan's shoulder. Once seated, she turned to face him with an intense expression of controlled anxiety. "It is never wise for me to come here, you understand that," she said.
Bolan shrugged. "Suit yourself, lady. I can take you out again right now, same way we came in. But this is where I keep my goodies stored and I ain't risking sneaking them all out of here on your maybe. If you want to buy them sight unseen, that's okay by me, too. But make up your mind."
Tanya's face twitched angrily. Bolan was out of the jeep before she could say anything. "This way," he whispered, motioning with his head. She stayed close to him in commando formation, creeping forward or flattening herself against a wall at the instant that he did. She was good, he realized, maybe too good to make this next part work. He shook the thought from his mind and continued forward. It had to work.
Everything depended on it.
"It's huge," she said at last, looking up at the massive metal building at the back of the army compound.
"It used to be an airplane hangar," Bolan told her, whispering in the darkness as she marvelled at the shadowy form that they approached. "But it was converted into a storage building about five years ago. I have my own private little corner in there that no one else even knows about. Come on." They jogged quickly across the paved street, Bolan in military uniform, Tanya in black jeans and sweater, then they crept toward the armed guard who stood semialert in front of the entrance. As the guard saw them he swung his rifle and took aim.
"Relax, Bendix, it's me."
"Who else?" Bolan looked around. "I heard the guards had been doubled, where's your shadow?"
Bendix pointed with his rifle. "Leadline's over there someplace taking a leak. Jeez, Sarge, I don't know, when Cottonwood offered a cut of this action, I had no idea what I was getting myself into."
Bolan took a step toward him, his Beretta gripped firmly at his side. "Now you know, wise guy. Any problems?"
Bendix swallowed hard and shook his head. "No problems, Sarge. None at all."
Bolan smiled menacingly at the stranger.
"I'm sure Cottonwood filled you in on the whole operation, right?"
"No, sir. He just told me I was to let you in."
Bolan lifted the Beretta and tapped the soldier on the chest. "Good. That was the right answer, son. You don't need to know anything more. Now let's get moving."
"Right, Sarge." PFC Bendix unlocked the small metal door inset into the main hangar doors and let Bolan and Tanya enter. He closed and locked the door behind them.
"Over here," Bolan said, aiming a small pocket flashlight, leading the way down huge aisles of stacked goods.
"My God," Tanya whispered, "this building must have everything. The things we could do with such equipment."
They came to a dark corner piled high with hundred-pound bags of what the powerful odor indicated to be fertilizer.
"Right here," said Mack Bolan.
"Here?" She surveyed the stacks of bags, piled to a height of fifteen feet on pallets.
She guessed there were at least ten wooden pallets up to the back wall.
""Watch." Bolan grabbed a hand-operated dolly, slipped the metal prongs into the slots of one of the pallets, then dragged the wooden platform back. Behind it was pitch blackness.
"Generally the smell keeps most people away," Bolan told her as he started into the entrance.
Inside was wooden bracing separating and supporting walls made up of hundreds of bags of fertilizer. The stench was staggering.
"It ain't much," Bolan said, "but I call it home."
She sighed wearily. "Can we get to business, Sergeant Grendal?"
Bolan handed the woman the flashlight, then hefted a crowbar and pried off the lid of a nearby crate. He reached in, pushed aside some packing material, pulled out a .45 MW submachine gun. He held it at chest level for a second, smiled, then tossed it across the space at her. She caught it with one hand, nearly dropped it, regained her grip with both hands and examined it.
"This is different than the ones we have," she said, fumbling with the flashlight.
Bolan shrugged. "You might have some of the old M3's. The MW is an upgraded version. It's a superior weapon."
She looked up from the gun and stared at Bolan in tire fragmented gloom. "How so?"
He had a feeling she damn well knew the difference, was just testing him out. "First you'll notice the larger ejection port here. The old retracting handle's been eliminated. Also, this piece has got a finger hole for cocking and a larger oil can inside the grip. It's got a stronger cover spring, a guard added for the magazine catch, a stock plate and magazine filler added to the stock. She weighs eight pounds but can fire three-fifty to four-fifty rounds permin was ute at approximately nine hundred and twenty feet per second. Quite a handful. In the right hands."
"It's nice," she said simply, laying the gun aside on top of a crate."
"Nice? You have a flair for understatement, lady."
"What else do you have?"
"Pretty much what I told you before. Two crates of these M3Als, a couple of the M1911AI.45 pistols. I can get you grenade launchers within the week and probably some 7.62mm NATO machine guns by the end of the month."
She shook her head impatiently.
"Let's just talk about what you have right now, Sergeant. Here and now."
"Well, I do have one particular item you might like." He disappeared behind two monolithic crate's and came up with what looked like a laser gun out of some science fiction epic.
"Yeah, I knew you'd feel that way," he nodded, stroking the weapon. "It's a Heckler and Koch G-11 Caseless assault gun. This smooth exterior is a very tough plastic with the one scope mount an integral part of the receiving molding. That makes the scope available as a carrying handle. And this little switch here allows you to go automatic to semiautomatic to single-shot."
"It looks like something out of the future."
"Yes, it does. But don't let its streamfined looks fool you. This baby can deliver. Its magazine holds fifty in-line caseless cartridges, mounted right here in a horizontal bar along the barrel, extending all the way back to the receiver. There's no recoil and no bullet casings flying all over the place. Its caliber is four-point-seven times twenty-one millimeters and, in full automatic, it fires around one thousand rounds per minute."
"Nice," commented Tanya distantly.
"The ammunition has a muzzle velocity approximately three thousand one hundred feet per second. And its ammunition uses a propellant whose cook-off point is one hundred degrees higher than the standard nitrocellulose powders which."
She waved a dismissing hand. "Yes, yes, Sergeant. I am convinced of its usefulness. You may stop your sales pitch."
"The base has a consignment of one dozen of these, but this is the only one that's gotten 'lost" so far..."
Tanya Morganslicht glanced at Bolan with a special curiosity. "You look and sound like a man who understands killing well," she said. Then her voice became hard again. "We'll take it, plus the rest. How much?"
All talk of prices was interrupted by the clatter of heavy combat boots, echoing under the metal roof. The shout of military commands fissured the still air.
"This is Major Thompson, Grendal," a deep voice hollered. "We know you're in here and we know what you've been up to. I have Cottonwood in my custody."
"Son of a bitch," Bolan muttered, extinguishing the small flashlight. Lights beyond their hiding place flashed all over the interior of the big building.
"What's happening?" Tanya whispered, her voice and features almost psychopathically calm.
"Oh, nothing, just that they know about us and what we're doing here and they're going to arrest us. You'll probably get thirty years in prison and I'll be shot sometime next week while trying to escape. That clarify the situation for you?"
"I must not be caught," she said urgently.
"Hey, I'm with you, lady. Now tell it to those bozos. They get all mushy inside when they hear a sad story." Bolan poked his head through the doorway, saw the men taking positions, ducked back in. "There's only one way out of this." He went back to the crates and picked up the Heckler and Koch G-11. He slapped in a magazine, then grabbed four square magazines'and stuffed them into his pockets. "Here," he said, handing Tanya his Beretta pistol. "You use this."
"Why not give me one of the submachine guns? I can give better cover with one of them."
"Because I'm the one giving cover. You're the one running. The only chance we have is to blast a hole through them just big enough for us to make a break. Now let's go!"
The major's voice boomed again. "We know you're in that shithole. So come out here with your hands up. Now, soldier!"
Bolan stuck his head through the doorway again, the H and K clutched to his chest, the setting on full automatic.
A single shot echoed through the building and a bag of fertilizer two feet from Bolan tore open and spilled its contents onto the floor.
Bolan ducked back in, took a deep breath, then ran through the doorway, his finger squeezing the trigger. The H and K sent forth a thunderous symphony of explosions as it chewed up wooden crates and popped fluorescent lights.
Tanya Morganslicht did not have to be told what to do. She hunched low and dashed down the narrow alley of stacked crates. Bolan followed ten feet behind, spraying an arc of bullets to cut their way through.
A burst from a submachine gun kicked up wood and dust in their trail, but nothing came too close to them.
Until the exit door. Two guards stood side by side with .45's blasting at Tanya and Bolan. Tanya dropped to the ground, rolled once, and fired the Beretta twice. The soldier on the left threw up his rifle and sprawled forward onto his face. Tanya fired twice again from her prone position and the other soldier spun around and tumbled over a small hand truck. Bolan dragged her to her feet as he ran by her. They came through the door, guns ready, but no one was waiting.
"This way." Bolan bolted across the street to the three parked jeeps that had brought the soldiers. Over his shoulder he heard men at the door of the building. Bolan swung around and blasted ten rounds at the doorway. There were cries of pain.
"Start it up," he commanded as the woman terrorist clambered into the lead jeep. Bolan fired more rounds at the door. He jumped into the jeep as it roared to life and lurched down the road toward the checkpoint booth.
He reached over and grabbed his Beretta from Tanya. "We'll need the silencer for this next part."
"Isn't it a bit late for stealth now, Sergeant?" she gasped in desperation. It took the squealing jeep less than a minute to make it back to the checkpoint, the tires smoking the whole way.
The two men inside the booth jumped out at the sound of the tires, one with a .45 drawn and the other with his M3A1 at the ready position. They both took aim at the approaching jeep as it screamed to a halt twenty feet in front of them, the jeep's headlights shining in their eyes.
"Listen here, you men," Bolan shouted. "We're after two terrorists, two live ones. This is for real. One's a woman, the other's a man in a sergeant's uniform."
"Yes, sir!" one of them shouted back, his hand shielding his eyes from the lights. "We got the call."
"Okay, so watch it," Bolan said.
The two guards lowered their weapons. Bolan's Beretta hissed. He squeezed the trigger four times. Both guards collapsed on the road. Bolan jumped from the jeep and ran into the booth, raised the metal gate, and leaped back into the jeep as it sped by. "Just keep following this road," he told Tanya. "We're about to steal home base."