“El Camandante,” a powerful man in the Bolivian military, had been torturing our newly-freed prisoner for months, trying to learn weaknesses in the cartel’s infrastructure, organization, and procedures. By his accounts it seemed like Unidad was trying to work out the best time and ways to strike decisively against the cartel, should their cozy relationship ever turn sour. With the political landscape as explosive as we had seen it to be, there was no doubt a double-cross could be triggered by any hint of cartel weakness – such as two American operatives making them look like idiots.
We well-knew which villages were still soundly under cartel control, and released the captive just outside one where we knew some mid-level goons made their home. “Tell them everything Unidad did to you,” Gaz told him, leaving no room to question her orders. “Do this, and you’ll never see us, or these rifles, again.” I’ve always said she had a way with words, haven’t I?
Returning to base, our chopper still remarkably undamaged, we were pleased to hear that our side-channel attack had been a success – simultaneous reports came through that the cartel was planning a major first-strike operation against a Unidad military barracks, the supposed home of “El Camandante.”
A word of advice to freedom fighters and government agents alike – cut it out with the cheesy aliases. Really, the leader of a military unit calls himself “El Camadante?” The cartel’s chief religious advisor was “El Cardenal?” Next thing you know we’ll be meeting with the true head of the populist uprising and he’ll call himself “El Rebelde” or something. Yeah, I realize coming from a pair called “Nomad” and “Gazelle” this advice may ring hollow, but we aren’t the ones trying to be publicly-renowned figures on an (inter-)national scale. Just something to think about, guys.
We now had a time and location of a major cartel-military conflict, which would be a great time to get eyes on major players on both sides – certainly at least anyone who moved up the cartel ranks since we so thoroughly beheaded their leadership over the past two months. Gaz and I were ordered to do a “recon-only,” infiltration mission in order to gain intel the higher-ups could use. We picked up some new gadgets from the boys at the tech bench and we started the long trek to an overwhelmingly-defended military base.
Our new toys would, once properly installed, let us listen in on the military radio chatter that the firefight would undoubtedly generate. Between the shouts of panic and orders for deployment, our handlers figured we may be able to pick out a few key names that would be important to follow up on later. With Gaz covering me with her favorite rifle, I made the slow creep toward, and through, their perimeter fence. I never claimed to be any sort of technological genius, so I was glad to see the techs had made the transmitter as easy as possible to install – some stripped wire and carefully-placed alligator clips later, the sounds of military lingo, identifiable even if I didn’t speak Spanish, made their way into our earbuds.
They had no idea what kind of unholy hell was about to rain down on them, but from our vantage point we could see the long convoy of cartel thugs speeding down the dusty road, toward the base’s front gate.
Gaz and I saluted each other with imaginary beers and sat back to watch the fireworks.