The Bureau 101 team left the village in their three vehicles and three pickup trucks fitted with machine guns were with them. Two vehicles were in front and one behind, with the three Ford Raptors in the middle. This was the advantage of paying them - Kabir and his men were acting the roles of guide and bodyguard. Their price was high, of course.
They passed through several White Rock Tribe armed checkpoints on their way. The crossings were smooth and Kabir just had to swipe his card to clear them. The convoy travelled quickly through the White Rock Tribe territory but they slowed in the afternoon after passing through the territory.
The convoy entered a canyon a hundred kilometres further down the road. The two front cars went at a speed of 25 km/h on the twisting, winding mountain road, and this speed was disconcerting.
“The road will get better after we cross this canyon. We will get to Bamiyan Valley after nightfall.” Kabir’s voice came from the communication device.
“Can we go faster?” said Tang Yu-Yan.
“No. This is Islamic militant territory. It’ll be big trouble if we get discovered by them,” said Kabir.
“You can’t get them to let us go?” said Tang Yu-Yan.
Kabir let out a laugh. “You know them - the whole world is their enemy.”
Their conversation was all in Pashto and Xia Lei knew several words already but it was still difficult for him to make sense of it. He was in a Pashto-language environment and the relevant information would surface in his head whenever he heard Pashto words, including grammar and pronunciation. These bits of information had been ‘downloaded’ from books but it was fairly helpful for his language learning. His Pashtun-learning speed was ungodly.
Xia Lei kept his eyes on the mountains around the valley as Tang Yu-Yan drove and talked to Kabir. The mountains here were steep and they were also at least 2,000 metres above sea level. They looked dangerous and they blocked out the sunlight, clouding the canyon in gloom.
Xia Lei swept his gaze over their 10 o’clock position and a headscarf-wearing man with black cloth covering his face suddenly appeared in his field of vision. He could seen him clearly. The man had a pair of binoculars in his hand and was looking in their direction. He had an AK47 across his shoulder.
Xia Lei looked at the man’s headscarf again and the green writing on it ‘clicked’ in his head. He shouted, “Islamic militants! Stop!”
He’d spoken in Pashto and did not need Tang Yu-Yan to translate; Kabir and his men understood.
“Where?” Tang Yu-Yan asked tightly. She grew nervous.
Xia Lei quickly put the binoculars before his eyes. “Ten o’clock.”
Only a blurry figure could be seen with the binoculars and it was a far cry from what he had seen with his own eye.
The two armed pickup trucks in front came to a stop. Kabir and his men alighted. Tang Yu-Yan also gave the order to stop and all the Bureau 101 agents alighted and went into combat-mode.
Tang Yu-Yan and Xia Lei walked to Kabir’s side. Kabir had just lowered his binoculars from his eyes, his brows knitted. He pointed at the two o’clock position on the right side and said heavily, “They’re there too.”
Tang Yu-Yan took the binoculars from Xia Lei’s hand and took a look. Xia Lei turned and walked towards the Ford Raptor behind him. He’d actually already spotted the Islamic militant at the two o’clock position and that militant was cutting off the only passage to the canyon. Their stance was clear.
Xia Lei collected the sniper rifle he had modified from the back of the Ford Raptor, and a big box of bullets. He had made the most brutal decision.
Kabir gave Xia Lei a look. “No need. They didn’t attack us. We may be able to pass unscathed. I’ll send someone to talk with them.”
Tang Yu-Yan translated Kabir’s words for Xia Lei.
“Will those people let us pass?” said Xia Lei.
“I don’t know. Let’s let Kabir handle this. Don’t make any moves for now,” said Tang Yu-Yan.
Xia Lei nodded. His eyes were already searching left and right, looking for a suitable sniping point.
Kabir sent one of his men over to the other side. Some warhorses appeared on the mountain road a kilometre ahead - Islamic militants rode on the backs of those horses.
Kabir’s man walked closer and closer; the Islamic militants did not attack.
“I’m guessing that they’ll ask for money. I’ve already told my man to tell them that we are willing to pay 10,000 US dollars for some peace. You people should be willing to pay this amount, yes?” said Kabir with a smile.
Tang Yu-Yan cursed internally but said, “No problem.” She would definitely bring cash with her on a mission. Though the amount of one million US dollars Kabir had asked for earlier was impossible for her, 10,000 was no problem.
“Good.” Kabir looked even more relaxed. “Here, money solves everything.”
Xia Lei walked towards the hill on the right, carrying the sniper rifle and the big box of sniper rifle bullets.
“Where are you going? What are you planning to do?” said Tang Yu-Yan.
Xia Lei did not look back. “I’m going to relieve myself. Want to come with me?”
Tang Yu-Yan was speechless.
Xia Lei was able to joke with Tang Yu-Yan after spending more time with her. Besides, he was her ‘husband’ now.
The Islamic militants on horseback lost their patience. They galloped forward on their horses to Kabir’s man. Two of the Islamic militants jumped down from their horses and the first thing they did before even saying a word was to strip the White Rock tribesman of weapons.
Kabir spoke into the communications device, “Tell them our identity. We are White Rock tribesmen. We do not want to fight. We’re willing to pay them 10,000 US dollars to let us pass.”
On the road, Kabir’s man handed the communications device to an Islamic militant.
The militant took the communications device but did not speak. He kicked Kabir’s man in his lower abdomen, making him fall to the ground. Another Islamic militant grabbed Kabir’s man by the hair and pulled him off the ground, then drew a blade two feet long from the belt on his waist.
The blade-wielding Islamic militant slashed at the neck of Kabir’s man without hesitation.
Blood spurted and the head of Kabir’s man slid from his neck and fell to the ground.
“Shit!” Kabir clenched his fist and roared angrily, “Do you know what you’ve done? HUH?!”
The voice of the Islamic militant who had done the beheading came from over the communications device. “Listen, White Rock Tribe. You cavort with infidels. You will be punished by Allah. You, and all your men will die here today with these pagans!”
“Prepare for combat!” Tang Yu-Yan and Kabir issued orders at almost the same time, in different languages.
The beheader raised a hand, showing them a thumbs-up. He then turned his hand down so his thumbs-up became a thumbs-down. This meant death.
BANG! A gunshot rang out.
The beheader-militant who had given them a thumbs-down now had a gaping hole in his chest. A sniper bullet had blasted his heart away. He had killed someone and now he was dead; the cycle of cause and effect. Human lives were of the least monetary value in this land.
The shot angered the Islamic militants. One of the militants on horseback let out a roar and the armed Islamic militants on both sides of the hills came charging crazily over. No one fired because they were about 1,500 metres away but at least seventy Islamic militants had popped up on the hills. They were familiar with the terrain and swift in their charge. Based on their speed, gunshots would ring out in a few minutes.
The ones in the lead were, of course, the initial group of Islamic militants. They came galloping towards them on horseback, shouting and making strange screams as they waved AK47s in their hands; they were not afraid of death.
Bang! The head of one of the Islamic militants at the forefront exploded, hit by a sniper rifle bullet. The headless corpse swayed on the horse’s back, then slid off and under the horse’s belly to get dragged along with the horse.
A second later, another shot rang out and yet another horseback Islamic militant became a headless corpse. The warhorses galloped wildly, dragging the corpses with them. The blood from the corpses stained the ground bright red.
One second later, the third Islamic militant fell from his horse.
The remaining two horseback militants reined their horses in in panic, and turned around to flee.
Even terrorists trembled with fear at death’s door.
Bang! Bang! Two shots rang out and the remaining two horseback Islamic militants fell from their horses.
“Your friend is amazing!” Kabir was excited and he asked probingly, “Is he a professional sniper?”
“He’s actually my husband,” said Tang Yu-Yan.
“Huh?” Kabir looked fairly surprised.
Bang, bang, bang! A series of gunshots interrupted their conversation. The gunners on the armed pickup trucks pointed their machine guns at the three horses charging towards them with corpses in tow. The heavy artillery shells tore the warhorses apart. Pieces of man and horse littered the mountain roads.
The gunners aimed their guns at the hillsides after shooting down the horses. The machine guns shook and the long shells of the bullets leapt to the ground with a jingle-jangle.
The range of the machine guns was further than the range of the sniper rifle, and much more powerful too. The gunners were the first to go to battle before the enemy even got close.
The gunner had fired madly for less than a minute when a bullet flew out of nowhere and exploded his head.
“They have a sniper!” Tang Yu-Yan called out in alarm. She bent over and took cover behind a rock by the roadside.
The Bureau 101 agents quickly found a bunker. A White Rock tribesman was just a beat too late and a bullet struck him in the heart; he fell to the ground, never to rise again.
The Bureau 101 agents were levels more well-versed in combat than the White Rock tribesman were.
“Lei, find that sniper and take him out!” said Tang Yu-Yan into the communications device.
Xia Lei’s voice came over the communications device, “Give me one minute.”
One minute? He needed just one minute to find the enemy sniper and take him out? Tang Yu-Yan was amazed. Was he a sniper-god?Previous Chapter Next Chapter