7 December 1941, Sirte, Libya, 0230 hours
"Just look at that lovely little airfield, Beanie," John said, his mouth curving into a sly smile.
Bean took the proffered binoculars and took a long look. "Bloody Jerry; always so pristine." The makeshift German airfield was laid out neatly - five rows of six planes spaced evenly apart; fuel trucks parked on either side of the airstrip; larger supply and troop vehicles further back, also in neat rows. "Let's see how they like a surprise visit, eh?"
"They couldn't have made it easier for us if they'd tried."
The two men grinned even wider and slowly backed away from the rise overlooking the airfield. Halfway down, they sprang to their feet and ran the rest of the way.
Billy managed to hide his smile as his two scouts appeared out of the darkness, jostling each other as they came. "Christ, you'd think the two of you just got off shift at the factory."
"Wouldn't want to take it too seriously, Billy, it's only life and death," John replied, shrugging.
Billy chuckled as the rest of his team gathered round.
Bean smirked. "Urban. Glad you could make it." .
"Fuck off, Bean. Difficult enough to sneak around SAS troops at the best of times, and then the Captain here changed transports at the last minute."
Billy shrugged. "I told you that you couldn't be seen with us. I had every confidence you'd find us in the end."
"Welcome to the team," Gerry snorted; Urban rolled his eyes.
"All right lads, let's get over to the rendezvous point and get everyone up to speed." Billy's voice was business-like, signaling the end of the fun, and the men fell in behind him.
"According to our scouts, the camp and airfield are well within our take-down abilities," Billy said, nodding at the twenty soldiers around him. "Lieutenant Bloom has kindly devised some special gifts for our German friends. What have you got for us?"
Orlando smiled as he dug into the extra packs they'd brought. "I've been trying a mix of oil and thermite, sir. I haven't had time to test it out thoroughly, but it'll do well enough blowing through the metal, and it should set the fuel off as well."
"Excellent," Billy said, rubbing his palms together as Orlando began to hand out his small homemade bombs.
"Just lay these on the wings and pull the pins to set them off. On the trucks, you can put them on the bonnet or anywhere on the undercarriage - easy peasy. You'll have roughly five seconds once you've pulled the pins, so don't hang about afterward."
"Here's how we're going to do this," Billy said, once Orlando was done. "Alpha team takes the fuel bunker and command structure down, then goes for the planes. Beta team takes the transports and fuel trucks, then the planes. Destroy everything possible within ten minutes, then fall back to the pre-arranged coordinates."
A quiet chorus of "Yes, sir" answered him. He blew out a breath and continued. "Right, then. We're on hand signals from here out. Let's get to it."
And with that, the men divided into their pre-designated groups and moved silently into the darkness.
Twenty men with grease-painted faces and mayhem on their minds emerged from the dark, encircling the camp. Sentries were dispatched with knives, their bodies dragged out of sight as the men converged on their targets. The first bombs went off within two minutes. The fuel bunker blew spectacularly just as the trucks began to explode one after the other. The command tent went up in flames as planes began to blow. The camp was suddenly a cacophony of screams, explosions, orders being shouted in German. The night was on fire and the Germans had no idea what had hit them.
Billy would have been quite satisfied with the night's work, except that they’d run out of bombs with ten planes left. He and Bean looked at each other, grinning wildly as they realised they'd both pulled out their weapons. They each unloaded the last of their ammunition into the control panels of the nearest planes.
Billy climbed into the next plane even though he had run out of ammunition. Not wanting to leave it quickly salvageable, he beat the console with the butt of his weapon. Once the glass was broken, he ripped out whatever he could reach before kicking the control stick, bending it sideways, and exposing its wires. He pulled out the wires, cutting them with his knife in several places to ensure simple splicing would not work.
Hearing the series of shrill whistles that was their call to retreat, and satisfied he'd done everything he could, he crawled over the lip of the cockpit and dropped to the ground, using the smoke and confusion to slip quietly into the darkness.
The mood at the rendezvous site was quietly celebratory once the last of the lookouts and snipers had reported in with no further German pursuit. There were injuries, but nothing life-threatening, and even the injured were managing to smile through the pain as they waited for the transport vehicles to arrive. They'd immobilised the entire encampment with no lives lost.
Billy and the other leaders made the rounds, congratulating the soldiers on a job well done, and ensuring the injured received medical help.
Once the transports arrived, they helped the injured get loaded safely then headed for their pre-designated trucks for the trip back to base camp.
Billy was sat in the back of the truck, his hands tucked into the folds of his jacket--Christ, but they hurt--when his team found him.
"Thought you'd abandoned us." Gerry's smile was wide, his teeth flashing in the dark.
"Knew you'd find me at some point," Billy replied, his smile tight.
Gerry's eyes narrowed. "You injured, Bill?"
"I'll be fine."
"You didn't answer the question, goddamn it," Ewan said. "Where are you hurt?"
Billy sighed and pulled his hands out. The gloves were dirty and blood-soaked.
"Jesus!" Ewan cried out as he got a good look.
"I got cut on some glass from that last plane. It looks worse than it is."
"Karl, get a medic back here," Ewan ordered.
Billy leant his head back and sighed. This was exactly what he'd wanted to avoid. Bean, Ewan, Johnny, and Gerry settled around him, tense and anxious. "I'll be fine."
"We'll just wait to hear that from someone who doesn't do stupid shite like try to hide injuries," Bean snapped.
The medic chose that moment to arrive, Urban directly behind him. "Let me see, sir," he said, reaching out for Billy's hands. "Lieutenant, let's have the torch here, eh?"
Urban shone the light and the medic gently cut the gloves off Billy's hands; a collective gasp went up at the gruesome sight. Deep grooves were carved all over his hands and wrists, and there was nothing but blood-streaked bone on the knuckles of both. Blood, oil, and grime covered his hands and arms. The medic did a check to make sure no tendons were severed and then released Billy's hands with a sigh.
"Am I going to live?"
Billy's sarcasm was too much for Ewan. "Fuck you, Boyd. Christ, look at your fucking hands - they're shredded, and God only knows what kind of shit could be poisoning you right now, so just shut the fuck up!"
"It's not as bad as it looks," Billy said quietly.
Everyone looked to the medic, who nodded. "As far as I can tell, he'll be all right."
They turned back to Billy, glaring and angry, the lot of them. He shrugged, non-committal, closed his eyes and willed himself to sleep.
7 December 1941, outside Tobruk, Libya 1145 hours
Billy had just been released from the medical tent, and had been told to go straight to his own tent and rest. He'd have been glad to do that, except he was being saluted by every person he passed and had to return them all, which made his hands ache. Then, just one corner away from the relative solitude his tent might offer, he was intercepted by Colonel Gordon's aide, Captain Jones-Hart, who informed him that the colonel was expecting him for a 'quick chat.' Billy thought the colonel probably didn't know what a 'quick chat' was, and he definitely thought that Captain Jones-Hart was an officious prick, but he somehow managed to keep those thoughts to himself and dutifully followed the captain.
Once he was announced and waved through, Billy entered the tent and was surprised to see Captain Stirling there as well. He saluted smartly, "Good Morning, Colonel Gordon. Captain Stirling."
Colonel Gordon returned the salute. "At ease, Captain Boyd." He waited until Billy had assumed the position, then continued. "I hear you went above and beyond the call of duty this morning."
"The objective was to cause as much damage to the camp as possible in ten minutes and we all did exactly that."
"So you're telling me, Captain Boyd, that disabling a plane with your bare hands doesn't count as above and beyond," Gordon said dryly.
"Any member of my team would have done the same had they been in my position."
Gordon snorted. Billy chanced a quick glance at Stirling and found him smirking.
"I hardly think so, Boyd, but you can continue to believe that if you wish."
"Thank you, sir," Billy replied straight-faced. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Stirling raise his knuckles to his mouth.
Gordon's mouth tightened, but he didn't take Billy to task. "Captain, I am sending you and your men on two days R & R starting tomorrow. You've certainly earned it."
Billy blinked in surprise. "Thank you, sir," he said, meaning it this time.
Billy saluted crisply and turned to leave.
"Oh, and Boyd?" Stirling called out.
Billy looked back. "Yes, sir?"
"Do try not to destroy anything or end up detained by any of the Allied forces' MPs, won't you?"
"We'll be on our best behaviour, sir," Billy said with the tiniest of smiles.
"See that you are," Gordon said, missing the interplay between the two captains. "We'll be needing your talents again soon."