Updated: Jan 30
Gemini grumbled under his voice, "Ya shoulda let me bring the damn chainsaw."
"You're wearing a throat mic, bro," Joker's laugh was apparent in everyone's earpieces.
"Stow it," Flintstone's unofficial catch-phrase came through the channel with some apparent irritation. The trailer was supposed to have a single, sleeping occupant. Now there was a party. Perhaps a literal party from the ongoing descriptions from the team's drone operator.
Roundtable relayed information as he saw it happening. "Alright boys, we're looking at four vics, one confirmed the license plate of Target Redwood. Next, a regular cab truck, a four door sedan, and a two seater convertible. All targets appear to be inside... wait, the door is opening." Zooming in, he could make out three individuals exiting the trailer. One of them carried a burlap sack. Its carrier hunched to one side as he walked. The sack had considerable heft. Runes were heavy... and expensive. Roundtable estimated at least a 25lb load. He communicated every observation in short bursts as a sportscaster would cover a basketball game. The first string of silence only came when the realization hit: They had to drive out right past him.
Roundtable couldn't hide the concern in his voice, so he didn't try to, "Flint, we've got three pax exiting the trailer. Looks like two are entering the vic closest to the joint. Red, looks like a Ford Explorer, old body. They'll have to peel out right by me. I don't think I can hide the Toyota fast enough." The inside corners of Flintsone's eyebrows furrowed hard and cemented themselves there. He was already developing wrinkles beyond his years, and the ones from this expression were the worst. They were still about 250 meters away from the trailer. Their progress was slow due to the caution they were taking upon approach. He rubbed his gloved hands across the stubble on his chin and grunted quickly in frustration. They were going to have to rush in a way that he did not like, not one bit.
"If one's hand must be forced," he whispered some old advice to himself, "use that hand forcefully." He cleared his throat before taking over the net to ensure the confidence in his voice would translate to his men. "Time is up. This operation is going loud. We get to the edge of the clearing and no further. Shoot anything that moves. Do not, I say again, DO NOT, advance beyond the clearing. Roundtable shooting north along the road is the new L shape. Round, if you see headlights, shoot the driver first. If you do shoot, let me know, we'll peel someone off to you. If we can get there fast enough, shoot out their tires. The dog stays with Joker until I say otherwise." He took a moment to savor a long inhale. "Now MOVE." The team leader didn't wait for any suggested modifications to the plan. Getting to a place to lay down the fire they needed was simply all there was left to do. Flint dug in hard with his planted right foot and sprung towards the trailer, throwing any hesitance for traps to the wind. Joker and Gemini saw their lead's purposeful bound and followed suit. During their sprint they were breaking a lot of branches and displacing a lot of vegetation. The ruckus being raised was a large one. Luckily the volume of the music emanating from the trailer was enough to mask it. Joker ducked around every branch he could make out with varying degrees of success. He shrugged off the assault of branches in his sprint.
The trio hit the wood-line with sufficient effort that none of them were able to speak clearly between heavy breathes. Not much needed said, however. The sudden thrashing in the trees had caught the attention of the man standing outside the open passenger door of the vehicle he was perched next to. The portly man in a ragged denim jacket opened his mouth to say something to his friend, the driver, but the words never got out. He felt the thump of a 7.62x51mm round in his sternum. All systems went black. He didn't have time to even register the rifle's report, the bullet had ended him before the sound of the could have reached across the clearing. He doubled over and bounced his head off the door before swiftly crumpling to the dirt. Drowned out in the music and the crack of the large M110's report were the rounds exiting the suppressed barrels of Gemini and Joker. Joker took his time to sail his shots into the tires of all four vehicles in the clearing, while Gemini dumped a small handful into the cabin of the Explorer and turned his attention towards the third target now sprawling back towards the trailer. The second shot of the controlled pair launched from his short BCM rifle caught the fleeing man in the left foot, causing him to collapse. That made the cleanup shots easy. Fogged breath came from all three operatives in the trees as a new silence hit the woods. The music and lights in the trailer were both swiftly cut, and the volume of their labored breathing became deafening in comparison to the deathly quiet of the forest around. Three men were deceased, and no one was sure how many were yet alive inside the thin, remote structure. Thus began their standoff.
Flintstone's brain switched back into production mode. There was no sense in rushed action now. A group like this certainly wouldn't call the cops and they were too far out to get backup in a timely manner. Flint's plan came together real time. He radioed to Roundtable to bring the 4runner closer, and then for Gemini to peel off a hundred meters or so down the trail to meet him. There, they drug as much large deadfall as the pair could into the road in a crisscross pattern that would give a tank a hard time, much less the aging vehicles the trailer inhabitants owned. Gemini took overwatch on the road while Roundtable spooled the drone up once again.
"Alright," Roundtable began, "I'm just clearing the trees. Just a minute... okay. I'm over the target area. I'm not seeing any movement." He held slight pressure against the controls to keep the drone steady in the gusts off Lake Michigan. "Do you have any thermal activity?" The team leader knew the drone wouldn't see anything outside, he was already there. What he wanted to know was if the drone's camera could punch through the ceiling of the trailer well enough to count the warm bodies inside. "I'm really only seeing one large heat signature. It's in the center of the trailer and it's... fluctuating? I'm getting a temperature reading of 140F from outside, that thing inside must be at least double that temperature." Joker and Flint looked at one another. Even with night vision over their eyes they could read each other's expressions. They both were thinking, "bomb." On the road, Gemini called back to Roundtable, "Yo, did we have anything on this guy about being a pyro?" Of course, the team's medic didn't mean your typical fireworks enthusiast. His teammate knew he had meant pyromancer, a classification of magicked person with several categories of thermal or combustible abilities. "No, but..." Round looked at the temperature reading again. The signature grew much larger very rapidly. "Hey boss, the temperature spiked hard to 630F. That's gotta be over 800F inside the trailer. That's enough to melt the thing... and it's still climbing!" Just as the temperature began to build exponentially, the reading dropped immediately from 890F to just 100F. Roundtable was astonished. After some silence, Flint asked for an update. "Talk to me. What's going on? We could feel the heat off that thing and took cover. The whole trailer was fucking glowing." "I'm not sure, boss. The readings just dropped off. It just went cold."
Flint wondered if they were attempting to scuttle their whole operation and then fizzled out, or perhaps they couldn't stand the heat? As much as he didn't want to, he knew they had to check it out. Flint hated dealing with pyros. He waved at Joker to get his attention. Waving the muzzle of his rifle twice towards the trailer, he began to walk out into the clearing. Joker and Knight begrudgingly followed suit.
They made quick progress through the open area. Joker favored the front side so he could see the vehicles. The driver of the Explorer was missing the top part of his skull. The volley Gemini had thrown into the vehicle did the trick as was evidenced by the brain matter covering the dash. The silence was eerie, as if they were traversing a battlefield that has been quiet for a century already.
The pair of operators went into autopilot as they hit the door of the trailer. They followed their procedures for trap checking and stacking up. Flint, after giving it quick consideration, reached into his pocket and retrieved his multitool. Extending the pliers, he grabbed the skinny part of the door handle. The heat the brass knob sizzled against the relatively cold Leatherman. Joker was happy at the forethought, and to still have the skin on his hands as a result. The door swung slowly open. Joker could see inside, but only a sliver. The trailer was up on blocks and the bottom of the doorframe was about the height of both men's' waists. Flint grabbed underneath the scorched door and swung it the rest of the way. They observed two crossing angles with their rifles and pulled towards the center. The trailer was small, and they had cleared all but the corners. Stepping in swiftly, those became clear as well. Immediately the men were assaulted with the smell of cooked hair and flesh. The inside of the structure was marred black and utterly destroyed. Flint gagged for a moment, remembering exactly why he hated pyros. Looking around, they found two incredibly peculiar things. First, a pair of bodies entirely succumbed as if they'd been in an oven; and second, a perfect hole bored out the bottom of the trailer and into the ground.
The pair, confronted with a bizarre, 4ft wide smoking crevice, wrestled to comprehend what they had discovered. There were reflections at the top where the sandstone rock layer had melted into glass. It seemed almost like peering into the largest beer bottle on earth. Joker cracked a chemlight and dropped it in. He counted until he could hear it hit rock. After just over 3 seconds of freefall the IR chemicals illuminated the bottom of the hole. "No fucking way," Joker murmured, eyes glued to the hole in amazement. "Stow it," Flint interrupted. "Roundtable. I need a map of the cave systems and mines for this entire area, and I need it NOW."