Hetman: Hard Kil
County Armagh, Northern Ireland. November 1994
    As Aidan Snow and Paddy Fox entered ‘Bandit Country’, Snow felt reassuringly for his SIG-Sauer. He had no illusions, IRA ceasefire notwithstanding; if the local unit got their hands on him it wouldn’t be pleasant.
    During the course of ‘the troubles’ the South Armagh Brigade had claimed responsibility for the deaths of more than one hundred and sixty members of the British security forces and seventy five civilians. Their reach had been so wide that the army brass mandated the safest way for the British military to travel across South Armagh was inside Chinook helos. Snow was travelling in a second hand Opel Vectra.
    A further two SAS men, Dave Napp and Steve Gord were trailing them half a mile back in a battered looking Ford Sierra. Far from being aging run-a-bouts, the vehicles were in fact ‘Q cars’. They looked ‘stock’ on the outside but had been heavily modified beneath their mundane skins. This included Kevlar plating under the body panels, larger engines and uprated suspension to carry the extra weight. Both had hidden compartments containing a pair of assault rifles and grenades (fragmentation & flash-bang). The most impressive modification however was to the Vectra. It had a flash-bang dispenser secreted beneath the car which when triggered by a foot switch launched multiple grenades in multiple directions. This was a last resort counter measure to evade ambushes; Snow hoped they wouldn’t need it but was itching to stamp on the button.
    Seconded to the secretive 14 Field Security and Intelligence Company, aka ‘the Det’, Snow had been in Northern Ireland for less than a fortnight as a replacement for an injured member of Mobility troop. Snow’s partner, Paddy Fox, was a ten year veteran of the SAS. A Glaswegian mother and a father from Armagh had resulted in Fox spending much of his youth in the local area. His thick Glaswegian accent could flip for an Armagh brogue at the drop of a hat. He was a perfect fit for the Det. Acting on Intel from an informer; their task tonight was to recce a suspected weapons cache believed to be located at a farmhouse in use by Jimmy McCracken and Marin Grew, two big players in the South Armagh Brigade. Outraged that Sinn Féin was in negotiations with Westminster, the duo had formed a breakaway group intent on ending the two month old ceasefire and stalling the peace process. Originally formed as a surveillance and intelligence gathering unit, the Det’s covert mandate had now expanded to include the occasional ‘operational tasking’. In short the Det’s duty was to stop McCracken’s faction.
    “Are you married?” Fox asked.
    “Too young.”
    “I got married too young, and she wasn’t even up the spout. Silly bugger, I joined the army to impress her.”
    “And did it?”
    “My Sargent Major impressed her. Our marriage lasted six years.”
    “I’m sorry.”
    “Why? It wasn’t you humping her.”
    They drove on in silence for a couple more miles before Snow spoke. “You grew up around here, right?”
    “In part, summer holidays as a kid. I could have gone either way, if I hadn’t got out. Y’know?” And you?”
    “All over the place.”
    Fox nodded. “Army kid?”
    “Embassy brat, Moscow mainly.”
    “Posh boy then, you should be a Rupert.”
    “You can salute me if you like.”
    “Piss off.”
    They lapsed into silence again. In the fading light the Irish countryside was foreboding, the dark wintery trees towered above black hedgerows and clawed at them. As they crested a hill, several hundred yards ahead of them a saloon car appeared from the hedgerows on the right and stopped abruptly in the middle of the road. The driver got out and hurried into cover on the opposite side.
    “Shit.” Fox slammed on the breaks and then thumbed his radio. “Possible IVCP. Over.”
    “Have that. Will check. Out.” Napp replied from the Sierra as he slowed to hang back and check the road behind. If this

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