Liberators
Author: Godfrey Raphael

Chapter 7
Friend or Foe?

Chapter Seven: Friend or Foe?

 

Renechev, Rivymiyitevko

October 4, 2008 1715 Rivymiyitevko time (1315 Krakozhian time)

 

"Is there any reason why you brought us out here, Mr. Kostelnikov?"

 

"I am sorry if my actions have been questionable," replied Yuri Ivanovich Kostelnikov, "but if Krakozhia is to take this town, a few obstacles must be cleared."

 

Kostelnikov, who was being escorted by Lieutenant Lev Arigov, who in turn was accompanied by Lieutenant Maria Atolova, was walking down a dirt road which led from the local harbor to the town of Renechev. A few hours ago, after being guarded closely for two days, he approached Arigov with an offer to remove what he called "obstacles," which Lev and Maria had taken to mean mines and booby traps. Why they had to take the dirt road towards the town instead of Highway Two, they didn’t know, but they did know that they had to keep a wary eye on Kostelnikov.

 

“I believe that you are thinking of asking me why we didn’t take Highway Two to Renechev,” said Kostelnikov. “That is because—stop!”

 

Arigov and Atolova stopped, weapons held ready. Before they could say anything, Kostelnikov said, “Now, if someone could trust me with a knife…”

 

Arigov hesitated, and then he reached into his pistol belt and retrieved a hunting knife, which he handed over to the Rivymiyitevko sub-colonel. He took a few steps back just in case the man had second thoughts, but he need not have worried about that, because Kostelnikov was already kneeling down on the ground, carving a line across the dirt. And then, taking a big step, he did the same a few inches in front of the first line. He then divided it into four segments. He carefully brushed off the dirt from the first segment, revealing what looked like an explosive with a pressure-sensitive trigger.

 

“One one-pound block of C4 explosive,” said Kostelnikov, “attached to a pressure-sensitive trigger by duct tape. A clever design, but easy to disarm once you cut the tape keeping the trigger and explosive attached.” He immediately cut the tape. “Once the tape has been removed, you can now extract the trigger.” This he did, revealing a short, black tube protruding from the below the trigger. “This is the blasting cap,” he said, pointing at the tube. “Once pressure is applied to the trigger, a current will begin flowing towards the blasting cap. When the pressure is lifted, the current breaks, and the mine explodes.”

 

Kostelnikov did the same to the other mines, and then he threw the pressure triggers away. Only then did the Krakozhian soldiers notice that they were standing on a bridge spanning a small but deep gully. “Ah, yes, you see it now,” said Kostelnikov. “The idea was that a column of tanks and men would pass over the mines and trigger them. The resulting explosions would destroy the bridge, forcing the invaders—that would be you people—to reroute to either Dosservich or Ibrotich, where the real defense of Rivymiyitevko would begin.”

 

Kostelnikov piled the C4 blocks into a neat stack, which he placed on the side of the road. He then waved for the two to follow him into the town, where the dirt road finally became a paved one. They entered a building on the intersection of the road and Highway Two, and they went up to the third floor, where the Rivymiyitevko officer stopped in front of a writing desk, complete with a lamp, paper, and a pen. “Many a soldier had stopped and written letters to their loved ones once given the chance,” he said, toying with the pen. “Safe or unsafe? A soldier should always ask that whenever he is inside a building once occupied by the enemy. For instance, is this pen safe or unsafe?” The two couldn’t think of what to say.

 

“Of course, Lieutenants. Unsafe!” Kostelnikov threw the pen at Arigov and Atolova, who ducked down to avoid the explosive. Despite the confusion, they could see the man’s legs as they ran into an adjacent room.

 

“I can’t believe I fell for that,” said Arigov. He stood up and fired ten rounds from his UMP-45 at the door. He was preparing to fire again when the doors opened and Kostelnikov stepped out.

 

“Please forgive my actions,” he said. “I had to see if you were properly trained for such an event, and as I have seen, it seems that you both are. I am sorry, but I had to do it.”

 

“No more surprises?” asked Arigov.

 

Nyet.”

 

“Lead the way, then.”

 

The room was spacious, enough for three to five people, as well as the huge machine located on the rear wall. “This is the communications room,” said Kostelnikov. “Would you like to take a guess where the booby trap is?”

 

“The codebooks,” said Arigov.

 

“The equipment,” said Atolova.

 

“Close, but both of you are wrong,” said Kostelnikov. He went to the wall and removed a panel, revealing a plain white box. “That is the booby trap. That ticking that you hear is not the timer of a bomb, but the power source of this particular explosive. I don’t know how they accomplished it, and so all I can mention is a tension wire and a spring. Any more and I would have to use complicated words. Once again, ingenious, but easy to defeat.”

 

He pulled back the sliding cover of the box, which was, unfortunately, located at the back. Kostelnikov borrowed Arigov’s knife once again, and then he took a pair of wire cutters from his pocket. He used the knife as a sort of mirror, but when the two were not looking, he ran his hand across the blade of the knife.

 

“Damn!” he said. “I sliced my hand on the clock face.” The wound was only deep enough to break the skin, with only a little blood being spilled.

 

"This was the hand I used to defuse complex bomb mechanisms. I am afraid that I would have to ask for your help. Do you have small hands, Lieutenant?" he asked Atolova.

 

As Kostelnikov stepped away to make room for her, he felt the muzzle of Arigov's UMP on his back. "If this bomb goes off, we all die."

 

"That is far enough," he said. "Now, Lieutenant, I want you to follow my instructions precisely. Tell me what you see on the knife."

 

Atolova picked up the knife. "I see a wall clock, along with a green wire, a yellow wire, and an unsheathed wire."

 

"Do not touch the unsheathed wire!" said Kostelnikov. "That is the current for the trigger. If you cut the loop, the trigger will release. The same applies for the green wire. It is the yellow wire that must be cut, but we will get to that later. Now, follow those wires."

 

Atolova moved the knife to the left, where the wires look like they went into the wall. "I think they're attached to something outside this compartment," she said.

 

"Lieutenant, check if there are any more hidden panels," Kostelnikov told Arigov. He tapped the wall beside the compartment with the timer. It sounded hollow. "I think there's something inside," said Arigov. He took hold of the panel and removed it, revealing another secret compartment.

 

"For blocks of one-pound C4," said Kostelnikov. "Enough to destroy the communications room, along with anyone else unlucky enough to be inside. Now, Lieutenant, we can get to defusing the bomb. Take the yellow wire and—"

 

"Wouldn't it be easier to remove the trigger before cutting the wires?" asked Atolova.

 

Kostelnikov froze. "Correct, Lieutenant. I have been testing you two to see if you had a rudimentary knowledge of bomb disposal."

 

"Why, thank you."

 

"Now, kindly remove the trigger, Mr. Kostelnikov," said Arigov.

 

"Yes. May I borrow the knife?" Atolova handed it over to him. "We are very lucky that this is not a pressure-sensitive trigger, because if that was the case, we could die any second. I cannot put much weight on my injured hand." Nevertheless, he was able to cut through the four strips of tape keeping the trigger in place. He extracted the trigger's blasting cap carefully, trying not to get entangled in the wires.

 

"Please remove the explosives, Lieutenant," he told Arigov. When that was done, he turned to Atolova and said, "Cut the unsheathed wire. The pliers are on top of the box. Remember; do not touch the wire, for it has an active current flowing through it."

 

She took the pliers and then cut the unsheathed wire. Suddenly, the trigger on Kostelnikov's uninjured hand sparked. "That was the blasting cap being triggered," he said. "Now it is safe to cut the other wires."

 

After that was done, Kostelnikov placed the trigger inside its secret compartment. "Two down, three to go," he said. "The next one is in the hotel down the street." The three stepped out into the dusk, and were about to head for a small building when Atolova noticed two people behind them. "Why don't you two go ahead and defuse the bomb? I have something to look at here." Arigov shrugged and waved the Rivymiyitevko officer onwards.

 

"Hello, comrade," she said. One of the men waved and replied, "Hello, Comrade Soldier."

 

"How is the town?"

 

"Very quiet, Comrade Soldier. There is almost no RIM presence in the town. Most have fled to the southern foothills, where they seem to have established a formidable defense."

 

"You look like a partisan, Comrade," said Atolova, pointing at the man's Mosin-Nagant rifle.

 

"That I am," he replied. "So is my son. He is inside, doing who knows what."

 

"Father!" The shout came from inside the building the partisan fighter had mentioned earlier. Out came a young man, maybe eighteen, but certainly not much younger or older than that. He was holding up a wine bottle. "I saw this along with the other bottles of wine, but it's too heavy to be holding wine." With that, he took hold of the cork and began to pull.

 

"Stop!" said Atolova suddenly. She remembered that Kostelnikov said that there were five booby traps in the town. "Give me that!" She snatched the bottle before one of them was able to reply. There was something opaque on the bottom of the bottle, as well as a rod that looked very much like a blasting cap that reached up to the neck of the bottle. The air inside was probably a gas that could corrode metal once exposed to oxygen, or even the air itself. She had come across this bomb during the latter stages of the Civil War, borne out of desperation of the rebel leaders. The only way to defuse this bomb was to throw it away; very, very far away. This she did, using all of her strength.

 

The bottle landed not far from where they were, just where the dirt road ended and the paved road began. As the glass shattered, air began to combine with the gas inside the bottle, producing a highly corrosive acid, which ate through the steel blasting cap like it was nothing. Soon, it came in contact with the high-tension wire that kept the trigger away from the primer. When the acid ate through the wire, there was nothing to hold back the trigger from the primer.

 

The explosion was not a big one, although it would have been lethal to anyone standing nearby. The more immediate danger was the shrapnel from the shattered wine bottle, which could travel for a few meters. Nevertheless, it still managed to knock down the three.

 

"What happened?" shouted Arigov. He and Kostelnikov had come out of the building they were in when they heard the explosion. Arigov, a trained medical officer, immediately began checking the trio for injuries.

 

"I'm fine, I'm fine," said Atolova, letting Arigov help her up. "That was a wine bomb right there. The bastards were copying our bombs!"

 

"That was the fourth booby trap, Lieutenants," said Kostelnikov. "Lieutenant Arigov had taken care of the third one."

 

"Really?" asked Atolova. "What was it?"

 

"A mine underneath a mattress; can you believe it?" said Arigov.

 

"Since the fourth booby trap appears to have been taken care of, we might as well go on to the fifth and final bomb. You need not do anything; I can do it myself."

 

The three soldiers went on, leaving behind two stunned partisans. They found themselves on a bridge spanning a creek, and Kostelnikov went underneath the bridge, took a black box attached underneath and pulled out a wire. He then threw the entire contraption into a creek. “That’s it,” he muttered. “I have just given Krakozhia the key to Rivymiyitevko. You might as well take Renechev and reinforce your foothold, as well as recognize the fact that there are many people on this island that want Benin gone. It’s time for this wayward child to return to its home.”

 

Yerotsk Airport

2306 Yerotsk time (1906 Krakozhian time)

 

“I want to sleep, Comrade Lieutenant.”

 

“Then you should have joined the Red Army Air Corps,” replied Lieutenant Yuri Bonk. “The Air Force is the primary defense arm of our nation, and is always ready to meet the threat in the skies. The enemy comes when he wants, not when we want, and therefore we must always be ready to meet him. Am I understood, Private?”

 

“Yes, Comrade Lieutenant,” replied Private Kolya Nemenov. “But, just so I know, how long do we have to be the interceptors?”

 

“Maybe up to oh-six hundred hours. Fine, oh-five hundred hours,” Bonk added upon seeing his wingman’s downcast face. “If this becomes a busy day, who knows how long we’ll have to stay in the air?”


Suddenly, the alarm klaxon blared, and Bonk and Nemenov ran out of their quarters and jumped into their aircraft. Within minutes, they were both in the air. “Beast Control, this is Prutavy flight of two, passing one thousand feet.”

 

“Two.”

 

“Prutavy Flight, Beast Control reads you loud and clear,” replied the air traffic controller. “Switch to frequency nine-one-point-zero, now, now, now.”

 

“Roger, Beast, switching to frequency nine-one-point-zero,” said Bonk.

 

“Two,” added Nemenov.

 

“Outpost, this is Prutavy Flight, please respond, over,” said Bonk on the new frequency.

 

“Prutavy Flight, this is Outpost One-Five, reading you loud and clear. Say position from Fly.”

 

Bonk consulted his navigation map for waypoint Fly, an imaginary point in space which he could use to provide position updates without compromising his actual location. “Prutavy Flight is bearing oh-one-nine and three-six kilometers west of Fly.”

 

“Roger, Prutavy Flight. Take up position on bearing one-five-five and three clicks west of Shape.”

 

“Roger, Outpost. Proceeding to orbit now.”

 

“Two.”

 

The two aircraft soon settled into a racetrack pattern around their position, where they basically went around and around for a few minutes before Nemenov’s IRSTS detected something on the edge of its range. Slowly, but surely, it built up into a firm contact, with two blips of infrared heat turning into a peanut-like shape. “Tally ho, tally ho,” he said. “Prutavy Four has a contact on bearing two-seven-eight and five clicks north of our position.”

 

“Roger that, Prutavy Four,’ replied the communications officer onboard the Beriev AWACS. “That’s your bogey. You have permission to intercept the bogey and if possible, force him to land on Yerotsk. Use your weapons only when absolutely necessary.”

 

“Roger, Outpost.”

 

“Two.”

 

Bonk’s mission was simple: intercept and identify the aircraft and, if possible, force it to land on Yerotsk Airport. If that wasn’t possible, or if the aircraft began to act in a hostile manner against him or any other Krakozhian assets in the area, he would have no choice but to blow him out of the sky. He had his choice of weapons for that, from his guns to a Sunbeam air-to-air missile. But, he prayed for both his and the bogey’s sake that he wouldn’t have to use them.

 

“Kolya, form up beside me. You don’t want to get lost by this time.”

 

“Two.”

 

The aircraft was an old piston-driven one, either a Douglas DC-3 or its military version, the C-47. The two were so similar that the only way to know which was which was to check for weapons. Bonk took his position to the left of the plane, while Nemenov went to the right. Yuri switched on his fighter-intercept identification light, useful for identifying anyone inside an aircraft cockpit. Kolya did the same, but he used his lights to examine the wings.

 

“Three, I see two external stores on the aircraft,” said Nemenov, “one on each wingtip. They look like torpedoes.”

 

“What kind, Kolya? If you want to be a pilot, you must be more specific with your IDs.”

 

“I think it’s a British Mark 8 torpedo.”

 

“Copy that, Kolya. Outpost, this is Prutavy Flight. We have a positive ID on the bogey. It’s a Douglas C-47 with two British Mark 8 torpedoes on the wingtips. We will try to establish contact now.”

 

Using his light as a signal, he ordered the aircraft to switch to frequency 121.5, the international GUARD frequency. Keying his microphone, Bonk said, “Unidentified aircraft, you are entering restricted airspace. Proceed to course one-seven-three and follow my instructions.”

 

Through his lights, Bonk could see someone in the cockpit move, and then someone replied on the radio, “This is Russian Cargo flight 1297 from Rivymiyitevko to Dikson. We know of no restricted airspace in the area.”

 

“Russian Cargo, you are not a civilian flight. We see torpedoes on your wingtips. Now, do as I say or I will be forced to shoot!”

 

“Yes, yes, we will comply,” replied a newer, more panicky voice a few seconds later.

 

“Good. Now turn to bearing one-seven-three, and maintain your present speed and altitude until I say so. Do not jettison your weapons or else…” He let it hang in the air.

 

Finally, the aircraft turned as desired. Bonk and Nemenov kept their fighters beside the C-47 until they were within sight of Yerotsk. As if on cue, the runway lights went on, running contrary to wartime policy of military blackouts.

 

“Now,” Bonk told the pilot, “align to the runway and land. In fact, lower your landing gear now or you may be mistaken for a hostile. Do it, I’m watching.” Sure enough, the landing wheels of the C-47 went down. The plane finally landed with a soft thump, and then it disappeared into the darkness as the runway lights were extinguished.

 

“Congratulations, Kolya,” said Bonk. “You handled your first intercept well. Now, remember what I have said on the radio to those guys. Pressure them, gently but firmly, to do what you want them to do, and never be complacent. Always be vigilant, and do not hesitate to fire when something goes wrong. Remember all of that, and you will become a good pilot someday. You could even become a flight leader.”

 

“Yes, Comrade Lieutenant.”

 

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