Behind his back, the two man patrol party continued their vigil. The two men were responsible for keeping an eye on almost whole of the sandy beach. Although some new lights had been installed, a large area was still without light coverage. Their patrol area thus consisted of irregular patches of light in a mostly dark beach being pounded by powerful waves. Walking slowly the team reached the last light pole and halted for rest. One of the soldiers took told his companion to wait while he went slightly ahead behind the rocks for a much needed leak. Standing besides a large rock, he unzipped his pants and started the work. He was at it for a few seconds when he noticed a slight movement at the edge of his eyes. If he wasn’t tied up at that time, he would have probably investigated the incident. But as it happened, he ignored it and it’d have been only a matter of debate if the outcome would’ve been any different even if he had gone on to investigate.
Just a moment after he was finished there was a small whooshing sound and an arrow pierced his neck from behind. The startled soldier dropped on wet ground gurgling his own blood. His companion met the same fate seconds later. Four men in black clothes and masks slithered out of the darkness and quickly cut the throats of dying soldiers. Each soldier was carried by two men each and their bodies were dumped carefully out of sight. Once the work was finished, one of the attackers spoke in to his communications device in heavily accented English, “Otter 1 reporting to Crocodile. Beach is clear. “
Reply in not so accented English came in immediately, “Roger that Otter 1. Good work. Rendezvous with Otter 2 and 3 at Waypoint Charlie in 14 minutes.”
The men switched on their night-vision devices and started to sprint towards heart of the base nearly a KM away. Although the route was longer, they kept to a path that kept them away from the lights.
Lt. Col Peng was nursing his third drink of the night in his bed. Despite his misgivings, the liquor was genuine and had given him a good deal of buzz. Coming after the highly stressful day he intended to enjoy each sip of the expensive whiskey. The stash of bootleg DVDs that was seized from the same smugglers was proving to be a good source of entertainment. Grasping the glass in his hand he leaned against the pillows and closed his eyes listening to the soundtrack of one of the Chinese movies. He was feeling far too drunk to actually watch it. In spite of all the crap he had to go trough, life was not that bad after all. Sighing contently, he finished his drink and slipped even more in to his bed. His first clue of the fact that something was wrong came when things suddenly went very dark and at the same time he started having difficulty breathing. He struggled desperately to get his bearings and fought against the alcohol induced stupor made even more strong by his fatigue. A sudden hit on kidneys, almost made him puke, also made him fight off the effects of alcohol on his brain. He realised that his hands and feet were bound tightly and his face covered in some kind of dark cloth. He tried to scream but a gag prevented that. Another hit in same area made him bend over himself in agony and his scream was again muffled by the gag. Rough and firm hands dragged him to his feet and started to drag him somewhere. He tried to resist and was rewarded by another vicious hit that knocked him out.
When he came to his senses, he found himself in the same predicament, his face was still covered by a thick mask and his legs and arms tightly bound. His first instinct was to shout . His throat was parched and he needed water immediately. But almost immediately he remembered his roughing up from the last night checked himself. The self restraint was largely unnecessary as his mouth was still gagged. One thing that he sensed soon enough was that he was not on solid ground anymore. By slow rhythmic bobbing of the hard metallic floor underneath, he realised that he was a prisoner on a ship. Trying desperately to get out of his restraints he started to twist and turn which resulted in him bumping in to another person. He froze immediately, fearing that it was one of his captors. Lying still, he cringed waiting for the hard hitting blow and was more surprised than relieved when none came. Instead, a set of fingers frantically poked and groped him. Feeling bewildered he turned and tried to touch the unknown hand with his. It was soon established that the man was not an enemy and both immediately set about to loosen each other’s bonds. The task was not easy and it took them almost a hour to finally break free. At last, with impatient and trembling hands Lt Col Peng tore off the mask from his face and turned to face his helper. It turned out to be one of the men from his base, Xia Shi Gila.. The junior ranked soldier immediately tried to stand up and salute his senior but Lt Col waved him to relax. Sitting cross legged on the hard floor he croaked, “What the hell happened ?”
Gila was feeling dizzy from his earlier attempt to jump to attention and he plopped down on the hard metal floor. “We were attacked last night. Many of our men killed and the rest dumped on this boat. It all happened in minutes. We don’t know what hit us. ”
Peng rubbed his forehead and looked around. He realized that he had been dumped inside the engine room of Chinese patrol vessel with damaged rudder. As his junior spoke he tried to take stock of his surroundings. The port holes had been covered and only a trickle of light came through. He could see somebody moving in the feeble light. Ordering the young soldier to keep quiet, he slowly moved towards the moving man and found another of his soldiers bound and tied in similar way as they were. Working feverishly they managed to unshackle the man and then found another tied in similar way. All the men had similar stories to tell. Numerous masked men in dark clothes had appeared out of nowhere and had killed or captured all the Chinese personnel on island. Some of them had been placed on to the patrol vessel which had been towed in roughly southern direction away from the usual shipping lanes. They had heard loud explosions just minutes
after leaving the island.
Cursing loudly, Peng stumbled towards the portholes and tried to look outside. The glass had been painted black and windows sealed from outside. Ordering his juniors to find and open the door he tried to assimilate the situation. No matter which way he looked at it, he was screwed royally. His seniors will certainly take a very dim view of the incident if he ever survived the ordeal. At minimum they would just fire him. But a very long trip to a re-education camp or death by a firing squad seemed more plausible.
Few minutes later, he was out of the engine room on to the deck lost in gloomy thoughts oblivious to what was going on around him. 70 more Chinese were found bound and gagged on various parts of the ship, all repeating the same story with only minor variations. There was not a clue of the attackers though. It was like they were ghosts. He listened to them absently while looking at the night sky. Day break was still hours away and he could virtually see his life and career disappear along with the night.