Kaalkut. Chapter 23

South-West Tibet

Rinchen crawled slowly on his knees and elbows and stopped just short of the edge of cliff. He was wearing three layers of insulated clothing under his special snow and ice camouflage, yet icy wind still managed to chill his bones. The fact that he was lying on an ice cold rocky surface didn’t help either. He cleared his throat softly and wiped his nose under the mask. 

“So tell me once again Pema, why are we freezing our ass off here on this icy cliff for two days in such suicidal conditions when the same job can be done by UAVs and satellites.”

“If you manage to not get us killed in next 4-5 hours, you’ll see for yourself.” 

“Oh believe me you jerk. I certainly don’t wish to die here on this cold as fuck mountain. I do have a girlfriend I’d like to see again back home.”

“Yeah and maybe lose your virginity too.”

“I lost that with your girlfriend. Didn’t she tell you?”

“I’ve only had a boyfriend, that’s you.”

The idle chatter of two SFF soldiers was broken by sight of a small dust cloud in the distance. 

“Target in sight.” The attitude of two soldiers changed instantly to mission mode. Pema adjusted the focus of his high power binoculars to get a better look while Rinchen reported the update via a secure communications console. Feed from Pema’s binoculars was being fed to the communications console and streamed to Indian intelligence centre hundreds of kilometers away. They watched the convoy come closer over the mountainous roads and stop at an open flat spot in between the mountain peaks. 

“4 launchers, 5 what seem like radar vehicles, 14 supply trucks, 3 troop transports, 6 mounted ack-acks, (slang for anti-aircraft guns) and they are all stopping in the reported coordinates. So one whole S-400 battery to defend just this sector.” Pema spoke softly.

“I hope that they don’t ask us to go and destroy all that stuff there now.” Rinchen put gloves back on his hands and rubbed them to get them to warm up again. It was difficult handling the small buttons with thick gloves, so he had taken them off. 

“Well, if we want to stop Chinese supply lines and hit them where it matters, SAM batteries like these need to go. By the way, did you notice that they have a full company worth of soldiers deployed just for perimeter defence? I can see a few RPGs too. They’re not taking any chances. ”

“Yeah, let’s just hope that they don’t feel like coming in our direction or deploy their UAVs over us.” 

A handful of Indian reconnaissance teams like them had placed a few cleverly hidden sensors on  surrounding peaks over the last few days. Many years back, CIA had employed Tibetans to deploy sensors to spy on Chinese nuclear weapons program. “Somethings really don’t change much.” Rinchen thought to himself and switched on the console again after observing completion of radar deployment process by the Chinese crew. The sensors collected whatever radio frequencies Chinese were using for radars and communications and sent it to the console operated by Rinchen. The data was then encrypted, compressed and transmitted via satellite to Indian control center at random intervals. Whole thing had been planned carefully over months to prevent the enemy from detecting the transmission and it’s source. Even if they managed to detect the radio traffic by some blind luck, they were more likely to dismiss it as some normal radio interference or reflections rather than a spying device. Indian familiarity with this series of missiles helped a lot. 

With tensions rising everyday both India and China were doing their best to be prepared for war. This reconnaissance mission was just one of many such similar ones under progress of being planned by both sides. Indian police in Sikkim had arrested three men a few days back under suspicion of being Chinese spies.Chinese too had arrested a number of people in Tibet as well as a few other provinces under charges of spying. Some of the arrested people were spies indeed, but most were not. In China, with no proper justice system, it didn’t matter much. Suspicion and circumstantial evidence was more than enough for years in a jail or even execution. The best the two men could hope in case of capture was a firing squad. 

It had been made very clear to all the recruits on their first day of training. Out of forty volunteers and after a year of training, only eight had been chosen for cross-border operations inside Chinese held territories. Each one of them had accepted the mission knowing very well that their chances of dying were much higher than that of survival. Pema and Rinchen had been operating in Tibet for two weeks and expected to stay for perhaps four more. 

This mission of monitoring Chinese anti-air assets was one of many in their list. Now that they had completed it, they were free to move on to the next one. The two man team would leave the equipment behind to let it operate for six to seven months before it needed a new battery.

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