Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer

The bricks are antique but the ferropoxy used as mortar is a giveaway, after you scrape the film of cement coloured paint mixed with sand off.

“This is the place. Gird your loins, kids. Jig is on in three, two, one – strike!”

The doors are blackened oak. Their laminate armour cores fail to negate the demolition charges, but the military-grade shrapnel produced costs me three ops.

First wave goes in hard, ignoring my orders. The pit is classic trap-tech and I am surprised I hear no swearing from it until I peer in and see the bloody threads of asymmetrical monofilament. That’s just plain nasty. I’m seven ops down for two metres travel.

“Listen up! We’re seven-nil and not even in the bloody hallway! Sharpen your game or we’re offal. Clear?”

Twelve snappy assents and we’re back on. Bridging the pit with c-tube ladders takes time we don’t have. Forced to double-time, we avoid trip beams, pressure plates and searguns with microns to spare. Crashing through the door into the back room, I hear a metallic twang and drop as I shout a warning. Too late. I roll over and see four ops down with half-metre barbed bolts through them.

As I stand up, the timed charge triggered by the arbalest firing turns the room into a momentary inferno laced with bits of giant crossbow. Fortunately I have my back to the blast and my impact-absorbing backplate gets a workout. Doesn’t help the scorching to my butt or the backs of my thighs, but it’s better than the chest and gut shrapnel wounds sustained by three ops.

I’m face down in a corner and take my time getting up. Four ops left. This place is a death-trap! And with that, it dawns on me. This place is only that. Nobody would stuff their headquarters with this much lethality.

“Abort sortie. Out the way we came.”

Ten minutes of careful retreat later, we find a single sheet of steel blocking the hallway. Assessment reveals its set between runners made from old dockyard crane H-beams.

“Suggestions?”

There are none. The building is alight and our only known exit is gone. The ferropoxy mortar work makes this place a Faraday cage: reinforcements are out.

“Stairway or cellar?”

The ‘up’ vote is unanimous. Less chance of structural unpleasantness.

Fifteen minutes later we’re at the roof hatch; bloody, rattled but still five up. The hatch is wired but defusing primitive detonator traps is my speciality. My legs about the ladder, I check the charge on my sidearm, wave everyone out of potential lines of fire and slam the hatch open with everything I’ve got.

The rumbling below starts as the hatch lands above. I’m looking for the cause when the floor falls away, taking the rest of my team with it into the basement along with the building interior.

I hang there, listening to the now-unsupported roof creak. The rusted ladder sways as I breathe, but at least I have a signal.

“Tiger One, respond.” Urgency in the words.

“Tiger One is down.”

“Mackie. Anyone else?”

“No, ma’am.”

“She said she’d make you pay for her husband’s death.”

“It seems that the Mad Trapper is actually the Mad Trapette.”

“We have your location. The lifter will drop you a line.”

Nineteen crems to attend after skin regen and psych eval. Rebuild the team in a month, up and running two months after that. Shite. She’ll have three months to prepare because she knows I’ll be coming for her. Next time, only one of us walks away.

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