The heavy snowfall was a double-edged sword. The snowfall masked the sounds of their footsteps as they neared the cave but it also covered up any tracks that might have given them a clue about how many were inside, how much opposition they faced. It was exceedingly rare for the enemy they were after to have confederates, but not totally unheard of.
An unexpected problem was the patchy cloud cover, especially considering how hard it was snowing. The full moon was peeking through and the glare off the snow was wreaking havoc on their low light visors, washing an already surreal scene away in flares of light so bright they were painful.
She gripped her rifle just a little tighter, her heart rate creeping upwards a bit as she contemplated the coming battle. She had been waiting for this day for a long, long time. It had taken all these years to get in a position where she could act decisively, and even then it had also taken the death of a politician’s relative to get funding!
Though she trusted her teammates with her life, they had proved themselves worthy in a thousand ways on a hundred battlefields over the years; she still turned her head to visually verify their positions. This was too important to her, both professionally and personally, to allow even the tiniest chance that the bastard in that cave could escape.
Holding up her left hand in a fist, she signaled the advance to halt. Each of the troops under her command knew exactly what to do and disguised themselves as part of a tree, or a rock, hugging the ground and pretending to be invisible. Some turned outward to watch for trouble and some turned inward, to guard their leader.
With a flick of her fingers, she signaled her lead scout to release one of the tiny, fly-sized drones he carried. It hovered for a second, a momentary break in the cloud cover causing it to sparkle like a tiny jewel. Then, with what she knew was a tinny, almost inaudible buzz, though she was too far away to hear it, it darted forward and was lost from sight.
With a touch to her forearm controls, she had one lens of her goggles go to a 60/40 split view with the take from the drone occupying the smaller portion. She watched as it entered the cave and, just around the first bend, it saw a carefully concealed interior wall that kept the heat in and scavengers out.
The interior wall was crudely built, as would be expected given who erected the barrier, and the tiny drone had no problem sneaking through one of the myriad small gaps formed where the wood met the stone of the cave wall and ceiling.
Inside the barrier, the cave was a charnel pit. Bones littered the floor leaving only a slim path that wandered deeper into the cave. The drone advanced slowly, hovering close to the ceiling and dodging stalactites, it’s buzz was a concern for the commander and her team, given that their prey had hearing more acute that what their technology could provide.
Still, it was a calculated risk. She would not let her team enter a situation like this without knowing what they were getting in to, the risk was too great.
The cave was actually a series of small caves, wending through the hill like a string of beads. There were multiple paths and it took the drone a surprisingly long time to find the target. When it did though, the scene it transmitted back to its masters was horrific. Their target was crouched on a small projection, like a shelf or a bed but out of living rock. In his hands he held what looked to be ... an arm!
He was gnawing on whatever it was, worrying the flesh that was close to the bone free from where it clung. When he opened his mouth wide and put the broken end of the bone inside, sucking on the marrow, she heard one of her squad losing his last meal.
Quietly, of course, they were professionals, but sometimes even the battle hardened Special Action Teams let it get to them.
She sub-vocalized so that her microphone would pick up her words but no sound would escape her lips.
“Keep it going, don’t get hung up. Find out if there is a back door. This fucker does not escape, got it?”
“Yes Ma’am.” came the terse reply and the view in her goggles changed again, the drone zipping along in search of other passages, other exits.
It took forty long minutes, but the team was satisfied that there were none. There was one way in for them and only one way out for the target. He was not sneaking away this time! The drone software provided the shortest and fastest route from the cave entrance to the chamber where the target was and the team took a moment to memorize the route.