Somebody had heard something. I heard a voice speaking Mandarin on the other side of the door. And he didn’t sound like he was unconcerned.

After all, a garage door isn’t silent when it goes up. They had to know that somebody had just broken in. The question was, how ready were they?

The door ahead of me opened, and the light flashed on. Fortunately, while I’d been keeping to the shadows as much as possible, my night adaptation hadn’t kicked in all the way, thanks to the porch lights, so I wasn’t blinded, as the short Chinese man with a Glock in his hand peered out through the door.

The pistol was all I needed. His eyes widened as he took in the three figures moving toward him with purpose, and he hesitated for just a second before lifting the gun.

He should have dropped it and run. In that split second of hesitation, I already had my sights on him and my finger tightening on the trigger.

The gun barked in my fist, and his head snapped back a little as my 9mm hollowpoint punched a puckered hole in his forehead. He stiffened, then fell down the steps at my feet with a crash.

I was already going over his body, stepping on his back with Jake right behind me, his hand on my shoulder, his Glock elevated since I was blocking his shot.

Plunging through the doorway, I checked my immediate front and found myself briefly face to face with a second man, who was still staring in shock at the guy I’d domed, though when he looked up, I could tell that the shock was wearing off fast.

The PLA might not have much in the way of current combat experience, but if these fuckers had come up through Central America and Mexico, they had probably seen some shit.

We were in the kitchen, and as I stepped through the doorway, this guy lunged for the small dining room next door. I let him go, since he didn’t have a weapon in his hands at the moment, and cleared my corner before turning back toward the rest of the house.

Maybe it wouldn’t have any legal standing, but a part of me was still reluctant to just gun people down stateside. I needed a justification.

Never mind that we’d still probably get buried for breaking and entering, if this ever got to the cops. Which it probably wouldn’t, since this was a high-crime neighborhood, and the PLA wasn’t going to call the cops to support a team they brought across the border illegally.

Not that we were going to get sloppy here. We’d learned the hard way that these bastards had the highest of top cover.

The kitchen was empty, but voices were raised frantically out in the living room. With Jake covering the hallway that led toward the back, and presumably the bedrooms, I began to pie off the opening to the living room.

I wasn’t under any illusions that that wall was going to give me any actual cover. Drywall doesn’t stop bullets. But concealment can be almost as good in a situation like this, and I wasn’t going to give them more to shoot at than I absolutely had to.

The man who’d run out of the kitchen was bent over the couch, pulling a shotgun out of a duffel bag. That was enough, and Jake and I shot him at the same time, the twin barks of our pistols almost deafeningly loud in the small kitchen. He sat down hard, one leg collapsing under him, and the shotgun slipped from his hands to hit the floor with a faint thud.

I followed the shot. As soon as I’d fired, there was no point in trying to stay behind the wall. Movement was the best option.

Besides, I was wearing low-profile plates under my shirt. They weren’t magic, but they might keep me alive for the next few seconds.

One of the others had gotten a pistol out and took a shot at me as I pushed through the doorway, the bullet smacking plaster out of the drywall next to my head as I went. I hadn’t paused after taking that first shot. I just pivoted toward the front of the house and the corner of the room, clearing my sector but exposing myself as I went. I was already turning back toward the middle of the room, trying not to flinch as I waited for the second round to tear through my armpit and end me, but KG had come through right behind me, and his Glock hammered three times as he Mozambiqued the guy who’d shot at me.

As I turned back, I saw a slight figure in black go out the window. Two more pistol shots echoed from outside, ending that escape attempt.

The living room was clear, and I turned toward the hallway, where Ken and Custus were already moving in. KG and I fell in with them, while Jake and Patrick held on the living room and the bodies leaking blood out onto the carpet.

There were two bedrooms and a bathroom in the back. Ken and Custus went into the first room, moving fast, and KG and I went for the second, pieing off the bathroom as we went past.

The door was partially ajar, and I took it as fast as I could, shouldering it aside and riding it to the stops as I pushed inside, trusting KG to take the opposite corner and cover my back.

The room wasn’t large, and the man who’d been hiding behind the door didn’t have a lot of room. He wasn’t ready for my assault, either, and I slammed into him with the door itself, feeling the resistance more than anything else. I quickly cleared my corner as I drove the man into the wall with a grunt, pushing hard to pin him behind the door and hopefully give him no space to bring a weapon to bear on me.

He still got a shot off, the bullet splintering the door and burning my side. Shooting blind went against the grain, but this guy was trying to kill me, so I levered my Glock around the edge of the door and dumped the rest of the magazine into him at point blank range.

The reports echoed strangely, and the man screamed as the bullets tore into him. At least one either missed him or went right through his soft tissues, blowing out through the drywall and into the hallway. Fortunately, there shouldn’t be anyone there; I’d taken a fraction of a second to try to remember where everyone else in the house was before I’d started shooting.

I felt the weight on the other side of the door go slack. “Got one here.” My slide was locked back on an empty mag, and even though I’d heard the man’s gun hit the floor as he slumped, I wasn’t in a position where I wanted to take chances. KG circled around me, squeezing past the bed, and pointed his own Glock at the gap between the door and the wall.

Stepping back, I let the door swing out, and the man I’d shot slumped to the floor, leaving a red smear on the wall. From the way he fell, his eyes still open, and the sheer amount of blood on the wall and the other side of the door, I could tell he was dead.

“Clear.” KG lowered his pistol and looked at his watch. I was already reloading. Clear or not, there was no way in hell I was going to let my weapon stay unloaded for long.

Pistols were hardly ideal for a hit like this, but they were concealable, and we were all trained well enough that we could be damned sure of our shots at CQB ranges.

“Ten minutes.” While we were reasonably sure that the cops weren’t going to get involved, for a couple of reasons—Li’s involvement not being the least—there was still an outside chance that we’d get rolled up if we lingered too long. The police probably would eventually investigate, but we intended to be long gone by then.

We were all wearing shooting gloves for that very reason.

I holstered my weapon, leaving security to KG for the moment. The bedroom was fully furnished, but aside from the bed, the Chinese special operators weren’t using it as living quarters.

The explosives and weapons packed in the crates that were set against the wall pretty well confirmed to me that these were PLA special operations. None of the weapons were of Chinese make; these guys were smarter than that, and they’d probably crossed the border empty-handed. The weapons were mostly M-16s and Smith & Wesson M&Ps. I suspected, just from looking at them, that if the serial numbers were matched up, they’d probably turn out to be some of the same weapons that had been stolen from the Springs PD only a week before.

That story hadn’t gotten out much, and the Springs cops were being very tight-lipped about it, but information gathering was a very large part of our work, and we’d been in Colorado for a couple of weeks.

The explosives were even more concerning. Those weren’t homemade, Anarchist’s Cookbook HME. Not even Tannerite from the local gun store. The green blocks of C4 weren’t the commercial stuff, either. That stuff was straight up, US military demolitions.

Considering we were within spitting distance of Fort Carson, Cheyenne Mountain, Peterson Space Force Base, Schriever Space Force Base, and the US Air Force Academy, the presence of military-grade C4 in Chinese illegals’ hands was saying something.

I glanced over the pile of weapons and explosives. “Do we want to try to take this stuff?”

KG shook his head. “Not a chance. The risks of getting caught with stolen police weapons is too high. Let the cops find this slaughterhouse and try to figure it out. They’ll probably do us a favor and try to sweep it all under the rug just to avoid letting this cache go public.”

I snorted. “I doubt that. Not with this many bodies on the ground. They’ll just conveniently leave out the weapons’ provenance.”

“Maybe. We still don’t want to take the chance that we’ll get stopped with them.” He turned toward the front. “Let’s finish tossing this place and get the hell out.”

We moved out into the hallway, and from there to the living room, though not without deconflicting with Custus, who was still posted on security on the door to the first bedroom.

Jake and Patrick were already going through the notes, maps, and tablets scattered on the coffee table and the couch. Just at a glance, there was a lot there. None of it good. These guys had targets aplenty.

“Get photos of everything. Leave it where it fell, if you can.” KG was looking around, as well. “We can analyze it later.”

I glanced over at one of the bodies slumped on the floor, tilting my head to get a better look. It was Li. He’d taken two rounds to the chest, right about in the A zone, and he was staring in shock, unblinking and unseeing, at the ceiling. There was another M&P on the floor next to his hand. “Hadn’t expected him to grab for a weapon.”

Jake glanced at him. “Guess he didn’t want to get taken alive.” He shrugged. “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”

“Probably for the best.” KG hadn’t ever been what I might call callous, but he didn’t have much sympathy for PLA operatives setting up for what looked like it was supposed to be a rash of assassinations of American military personnel around Colorado Springs. I had to agree. “Only so deep we can get into the ‘traveling interrogation van’ business, anyway.”

I didn’t know where, exactly, the PLA operative named Yan had been taken, before he’d finally been dropped off, probably dehydrated and undernourished, somewhere a long way out in the desert. He’d spilled his guts before then, which was part of why we were there, in that house, with an assortment of rapidly cooling Chinese bodies.

Patrick looked up as he was snapping photos of several of the documents, most of which appeared to be in Mandarin. “We’ve got this. Probably better if we don’t all mass exodus out of here, after all the gunfire.”

I glanced at KG. Patrick had a point, though security was still a factor we had to consider. He shrugged. “He’s right. Everybody but me, Patrick, Jake, and Brian, make yourselves scarce. Try not to be seen leaving, either. If you can get out the back, do it.”

“There’s a lot of shadow out on the other side of the fence.” Clint had come inside. “We should be able to disperse pretty quick.”

“Do it.” KG holstered his own Glock, which he’d still had in his hands. “We won’t be far behind you.”

It didn’t take long to get out the back and over the fence. I was already a couple of miles away, circling around to my rental truck—which was not in my true name—by the time the sirens started to wail through the night.


Non-State Actor comes out in ebook and print on November 21.

Non-State Actor Chapter 2

Peter Nealen

Peter Nealen is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in 2007, with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Bn. After two years of schools and workups, including Scout/Sniper Basic and Team Leader's Courses, he deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, I MEF. Since he got out, he's been writing, authoring many articles and 24 books, mostly Action/Adventure and Military Thrillers, with some excursions into Paranormal Fantasy and Science Fiction.

One thought on “Non-State Actor Chapter 2

  • November 15, 2023 at 11:14 am



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