“Team Bravo, come in. Over.”
The was silence, except for the sound of crackling fire eating up the plastic tent that team Bravo had worked under just moments ago.
“I repeat, team Bravo, come in. Over.”
A few metres away from the radio, a man named Nichkhun, fondly known as Khun was struggling to get back on his feet. He managed to do so albeit clumsily, and kneeled in front of now on the ground radio receiver.
Nichkhun huffed into the receiver, “Team Bravo, copy.”
“Identify and report position, over.”
“Roger that. Codename, Gecko. Golf-Echo-Charlie-Kilo-Oscar. Team Bravo’s assigned combat medic reporting. We were ambushed by unknown enemy squads in black choppers. Heavy gunfire rained down on us, we were overwhelmed.”
“Requesting Team Bravo’s commander to report immediately, over.”
Nichkhun looks around and realizes that amidst the injured squad members, the team commander, fellow Echelon operative Choi Siwon was nowhere to be found.
“Negative. I don’t know where he went.”
“Team commander presumed KIA. Remain in your position, we will send a bird to pick you up. Over.”
Choi Siwon was Nichkhun best friend, they went to the same high school together, courted pretty girls together and joined the Echelon together. While Nichkhun received combat medical training in addition to the regular training, Choi Siwon chose to receive in-depth tactical training in the Echelon. Even so, they remained steadfast friends.
Nichkhun was not going to leave Choi Siwon behind.
Nichkhun, flared up by the Echelon headquarters decision to leave Choi Siwon, countered the person at the other end of the line, “What?! KIA? As far as I know, a missing operative can only be tagged as MIA, and if you have not realized already, I implanted a tracking device on Choi Siwon’s uniform, tune in to the signal and send a chopper to pick us up 200 metres southwest from the enemy’s camp by 0300 hours, or you can choose to lose us, Gecko, out.”
“Gecko! Do you hear me! Retain position!”
Nichkhun ignored the noise from the radio. He proceeded to check out all the injured squad members before getting their reassurance that they will be fine waiting for the Echelon’s chopper to come. He hastily equipped himself with a sniper rifle, a silencer-equipped pistol and a backpack containing a first aid kit. He was getting ready to walk to the location shown on his GPS tracker in the wilderness, he knew where the enemy’s camp was, he just didn’t know who they were, before a fellow operative stopped him in his tracks.
“Khun, let me go too.”
“Chansung, no, you stay here with the others. It will be better if I go alone. There’s no way I’m gonna go in guns blazing, there’s too many of them. I’m going to go stealth all the way and hopefully gets out with Siwon undetected. Besides, I’m not gonna get you in trouble with the Echelon.”
“It doesn’t matter. Choi Siwon is MY commander too you know. Co-op is always better than single. I’ll grab my things.”
Nichkhun and Chansung successfully infiltrated the enemy’s camp. They managed to stay in the shadows most of the time, and avoided detection by the enemy’s operatives. Chansung, took position on a tree with a sniper rifle and managed to snipe out a few operatives who happened to stumble across his line of sight. Meanwhile Nichkhun, crawled around and finally followed an enemy’s officer who was going into the tent where they were holding Siwon. He held his breath outside the tent and tried to listen in on what they were saying. What he heard were Siwon’s muffled groans as they tortured him. And bits and pieces of whatever they were saying.
Nichkhun waited outside until all of the officers left the tent and slipped into the tent and found Siwon, tied to a chair, battered, and unconscious with blood trickling down from his forehead.
An officer who left the tent before remembered his forgotten keys and turned back to retrieve them from the tent.
Nichkhun who was busy cutting the ropes that bounded Siwon heard footsteps, froze, and realized that the dimly lit tent had nothing but a chair with Siwon on it and a table, worst still, the only way out was the way in. As the footsteps neared the tent, Nichkhun leaned himself against the wall of the tent near the entrance and was prepared to put a bullet into anyone’s head that happened to pass through the entrance.
As the man stepped into the tent, Nichkhun pointed and pressed the killing end of a silenced pistol to that man’s head.
“God! Khun! It’s me!” The man turned out to be Chansung. Nichkhun immediately kept his pistol away. “What are you doing down here?”
Dragging an unconscious enemy’s operative into the tent, Chansung pointed to the man and answered, “This. I saw him walking back to the tent, if he sees you, he’s going to remotely sound the camp’s alarm, and we’re done for.”
“Thanks Chansung. Now help me move Siwon.” Glancing at his watch Nichkhun added, “It’s gonna be 0300 hours soon, let’s go.”
“Do you think the Echelon will pick us up?”
“I don’t know for sure. Perhaps yes, perhaps no. We gotta try our luck.”
“What if they don’t? What are we going to do?”
“Come on Chansung, we have no time to think about that, get moving.”
200 metres southwest from the enemy’s camp, Nichkhun and Chansung saw an Echelon chopper coming to pick them up.
“Khun! They came back for us.”
Nichkhun said nothing and just smiled.
With the help of an Echelon’s operative, they loaded the injured Siwon into the chopper before climbing into the chopper themselves.
At a hospital in Seoul, Nichkhun paced back and forth in front of the operating theatre. Getting disciplinary action was the least of his worries now. He had sent Chansung downstairs to the hospital’s canteen to buy food.
A doctor came out of the operating theatre and informed Nichkhun that Siwon was going to be placed in a critical care unit for the time being, as he had suffered from a severe blunt force trauma to his head and parts of his brain might be damaged. In other words, Siwon will most likely be in a coma for the rest of his life, even if he recovered, he will lose functions of his body, like being unable to walk, talk, or even think for himself.
Nichkhun could not believe his ears. “But doctor, there’s surely something that you can do right? He, he’s got a family to support!”
“I’m sorry, there’s nothing that I can do.”
As the doctor walked away, Nichkhun felt his knees grow weak and sat down on the bench beside the operating theatre.
Just then, a certain Mr. Kang sat down beside him.
“Don’t be too sad Mr. Horvejkul. Siwon has been a good agent to the Echelon.”
“Mr. Kang? I-“
Just then, Nichkhun remembered what he did, he defied the orders of the Echelon’s headquarters, and immediately stood up and apologized to Mr. Kang. “I’m sorry, Mr. Kang. I know what I did was wrong. But, I just couldn’t leave a good friend behind, he’s like my brother. I am prepared to face any disciplinary actions that will be taken against me.”
“Who said that I was going to penalise you for your actions? What you did was courageous and very honourable. You have the spirit that many Echelons have forgotten, the spirit of brotherhood. Back when I was your age, we had this policy among ourselves called ‘no one gets left behind’. It’s a shame that many of the Echelon agents nowadays have become individualistic in pursuing their own personal goals.”
“But I was too late Mr. Kang. Maybe, if I had acted faster, Siwon would not end up like this.”
“Stop blaming yourself. You did good. I am setting up an elite unit in the Echelon, called The Supreme Echelon, and I need the best agents I can find, and I think I found one today. You. Your courageous act deserves credit and acknowledgement, plus your experience as a combat medic will be a useful addition to the team.”
“But Mr. Kang, Chansung was with me too.”
“It’s undeniable that Chansung is one of the best marksman in the Echelon, however, I have chosen another agent who’s just as good, maybe better. Certainly, I won’t forget what Chansung have done for us and will reward him accordingly. From now on, you are not just an Echelon, but a Supreme Echelon.”