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A short story 3-Aug-2004 At 10:42:45 AM Damietta
I had fallen at least 20 metres. I fingered for the personal tracking device (PTD) located under my harness. A black hawk with a special ops team would be scrambled and be here within minutes. It would be the end of the mission as far as I was concerned. I would almost surely be pulled. Whisked back to Melbourne and then posted to the other side of the world until the dust settled.

A few wires and shards of broken plastic were all that remained of the beacon.

I could see that I had knocked him upside down and he was desperately trying to right himself but he had become tangled in the rope. That’s what had saved me from an extra 30 metres of freefall that more than likely would have ended with me smeared over the first pitch and surrounds. Using my damaged limbs as best as I could I climbed up to the belay ledge. I was face to face with him as I mantled onto the ledge. I was greeted by the good news - a blow square in the nose that felt like I had been hit with a hammer. Blood started pouring from my nose almost immediately. Despite the shock of the less than pleasant welcome back to the ledge, I managed to cling like a cat desperately clawing to stay upright after being kicked and I was able to block the blow that soon followed.

The situation was not a good one. Unarmed except for a small knife, 30 metres off the deck, injured and up against an SAS-trained soldier with a fearsome reputation for eliminating anyone that got in his way - often using imaginative and always horrific methods. I had read Alex’s file from front to back numerous times, seen the photos of unfortunate victims and hoped that I would never end up in this situation.

Relax. Don’t show any fear. This is what you’re trained for.

>> Train hard, fight easy. Train easy, fight hard – and die.

“Who the f--- are you and what do you want?” He screamed at me as another fist was thrown in my direction, luckily this time I was just out of reach.

“That doesn’t matter, all that matters is we need each other to get down” I countered as I rigged up another anchor for myself on the ledge and clipped in. Try to calm him down and talk my way out of it. I was seriously outclassed in the physical confrontation.

“Bollocks, I’m going to break your neck and rap off here and there is nothing you can do about it”.

I pulled the knife from my pocket and grabbed the rope and prepared to cut through it.

“Don’t be doing that” he replied icily. He had now extricated himself from the rope and was again standing on the belay ledge.

“Look all I want to do is talk, Alex”

He cringed as I spoke his name. “How the f--- do you know my name?” I figured the only way out of this was to come clean, at least partly. This guy was far too smart and would see through any bullshit story I could turn out on the spot.

I told him how the government had made it top priority to reel in this ex SAS golden boy turned bad. It had been an embarrassment to the Australian Government that one of our own boys was now an international mercenary, freelance hit man and drug runner to Sydney for the Hong Kong syndicate. The aliases he had used were well known to us, I told him, and it was only a matter of time before he went down. I had been trailing him all summer as he had made his way down the east coast of Australia on his annual climbing tour, beginning in Frog, taking in the Blue Mountains and Point Perpendicular, until we had officially crossed paths at the Victoria Ranges climbing gym.

I told him that I had activated a PTD and that any moment we would be surrounded by special ops. As I was talking something caught my eye. A wedge-tailed eagle flew down central gully and out over the plains.

In an instant I felt a clamp around my neck and the knife had been knocked from my hand. It followed the pistol down the cliff. My breathing was compromised immediately. “Bullshit” he laughed, “I know you’re bluffing. You seem to forget that I’ve been trained just like you. I’ve read all the same books. That shit just doesn’t work in real life”.

I tried to counter with a jab to his groin, but this was deflected with his other hand. I motioned to kick and this gave me just enough time to make a blow to his head with the screw gate carabiner I had removed from a gear loop on my harness. The blow took him by surprise and as he fell back, his face showed hurt and strangely enough, a note of respect that I had managed to get in another shot.

>> A worthy adversary

The admiration was temporary and he came back strongly, throwing himself at me. This was not the position I wanted to be in, because he was much heavier than me, my only advantage being my fitness, agility and reflexes. The sling connecting me to the wall restricted any movement and we became interlocked in a bizarre embrace. But there was no love to be had today.

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