“The problem is, all three of our targets are united in opposition to our employer. They want us to not just take out the leadership cells, but to turn the survivors of each group against each other,” Bill said. “Deckard and Nadeesha, you both know Arabic. I want you to hand jam some notes that we can stick into the pockets of the dead bodies we are about to make.”
“Plant some pocket litter that will make it look like the three target groups sold each other out to the regime,” Nadeesha said.
Deckard looked in the glove compartment for a piece of paper.
“This is sloppy as fuck,” Deckard said.
“Yeah, it is,” Bill agreed. “But this little conspiracy we are creating doesn’t have to hold up in court, it just has to survive long enough to get al-Wafiq, Wafa, and Wa’ad killing each other to break the momentum of this protest movement. Then the regime can shore up their base.”
“But who really gives a fuck as long as we get paid,” Nadi said.
“Exactly,” Zach agreed.
“I guess we won’t be here to deal with the aftermath anyway,” Deckard said, going along with the idea.
As Zach drove them north to their first target in Tubil, the two vehicle convoy had to make a hard right to avoid the roadblock up ahead. Protestors had piled burning tires in the middle of the street, and the toxic black smoke created a haze in the air. Human forms could be seen skulking around the streets, back lit by the fires.
Using the Garmin GPS mounted to the windshield, Zach quickly found an alternate route. The orange light from the fires could be seen above the rooftops as they skirted through the narrow streets. If you were not in an area where the rioting was happening, it seemed like the roads were completely empty. Zach bumped back up to Al Quds Avenue and had to make another abrupt turn. Several dozen people were clogging both lanes of traffic. Someone was shooting a gun in the air.
Going back into a residential neighborhood, he cut a couple more turns and got them into their target neighborhood.
They parked the trucks five blocks away from the target building, locked them up, and moved out on foot. The Liquid Sky team could hear the riots in the distance, not to mention see the orange embers of the fires floating up into the night sky. The neighborhood they were in was seemingly deserted, while the island itself was going up like a Roman candle.
As they hit the target street, the team silently split up, each half of the group taking one side of the street. In this manner, they could pull cross coverage. The lead shooter in each column covered their front while those behind pointed their rifles across the street, scanning the rooftops above their teammates’ heads for enemy snipers or scouts. The target building was ahead, a large compound at the end of a cul-de-sac.
Deckard scanned the rooftops as he crept down the street behind Zach, his AK sweeping from side to side, looking for threats in the shadows. The heat, the dust, the empty Arab street. It felt like a thousand other objectives in a hundred different cities in the Middle East. Or so it seemed.
Al-Wafiq was supposedly hiding in the target building. They were the resistance organization that was the closest aligned with Hezbollah, and the one that espoused the most extremist views of Islamic fundamentalism. Just because you were opposed to the Royal family didn’t necessarily mean you were a good guy.
Suddenly, Zach came to a halt, his rifle pointed in an upward angle towards the target building. He squeezed off a single shot and someone screamed from the rooftop of the target building. Rather than maintain a stand off from the building, Zach took off running towards it, firing off several more shots in the process. Bill, who was the point man for the column on the other side of the street followed suit, sprinting for the objective.
Deckard tried to keep up; catching something in the corner of his eye. Movement on another rooftop to his flank, above Bill’s line of sight. Deckard paused, pivoted his hips towards the movement and gained target acquisition. The man up on the roof also had an AK in his hands and was looking to get an angle of fire on Bill or Zach. He hadn’t noticed Deckard in the shadows directly to his front.
Deckard fired two rounds center mass.
The shooter went limp, the rifle falling from his hands and clattering to the street below. He then pitched forward over the lip of the roof and somersaulted through the air before flopping into the street on his back.
Paul nearly bumped into Deckard as he turned and ran to catch up with Zach. His sneakers pounded the pavement as the entire street erupted with muzzle flashes, gunfire crisscrossing through the street. With bullets kicking up clouds of dust right behind him, Deckard arrived at the entrance of the target building.
Zach already had the hooligan tool stuck in the door jam. Bill had the battering ram and swung it against the hoolie tool, using it as a giant lever to blast open the door. Deckard took up a security position next to Zach and began firing over Paul’s head as he ran towards them. Deckard shot just below the muzzle flashes he saw on the rooftops, knowing that people had a tendency to aim high when firing at night.
Bill took a couple of swings, and the door began to shatter. Dropping the battering ram, he added a few mule kicks and the door finally cracked open. Paul, Nadeesha, Ramon, and Rick joined the team as they pushed inside as fast as possible.
Inside, women were screaming. A shadow moved across the living room. Bill fired and the form collapsed. Gunfire blasted the team from an adjoining doorway. Ramon pulled the pin on a grenade and rolled it into the other room.
They braced themselves as the explosion shook the building. Stacking on the door, they flowed in and found two gunmen on the ground with AKs next to them. The frag grenade had nearly taken off the leg of one of them. The other’s eyes bulged out of his skull.
Ramon found a door and edged up to it. He had no way of knowing if the door led up to the second floor, or down into the basement where the madrassa was located. Standing off to the side while opening the door proved to be a good idea. Gunfire from the basement tore up and through the wooden door when Ramon began to open it.
Priming another grenade, Ramon kicked the door the rest of the way open and tossed the grenade down the stairs. There were a few excited shouts from below in Arabic before the frag blew. The sickly sweet smell of sulfur and blood seeped up from below.
Paul and Rick were firing back into the room they had just come from as fighters began pouring in from outside and from the second floor.
“Paul, Rick, Nadeesha, stay up here and maintain a foothold. The rest of us are going downstairs.”
“We’ll be here,” Rick promised.
Ramon took point as he descended into the basement with Bill, Deckard, and Zach on his heels. A single bare bulb swung from the ceiling, the rest of the lights had exploded from the blast. Deckard almost tripped over a corpse that lay sprawled on the floor. A few other bodies were still moaning and twitching. Bill and Zach finished them off with short, clipped bursts from their rifles.
The floor was covered with prayer rugs and a bookshelf against the wall was filled with Korans and other study material for the students of Islam who would ordinarily meet there for instruction.
Zach put a few shots into the groin of one of the bodies. Ramon did the same.
Bill started taking pictures of the faces of the four bodies with his cell phone. More gunfire sounded from above as the rest of the Liquid Sky team held their position. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for Nerve to text Bill with a confirmation.
“Okay,” Bill said as he kicked one of the bodies with his foot. “This one is the Wafiq leader. Deckard, start writing up some pocket litter to plant on him and at least one of the other corpses. You’ve got two minutes.”
Deckard started scribbling with a pen on scraps of paper he had found in the SUV. His Arabic writing would not pass for a native’s by any stretch of the imagination. As Bill had said, it didn’t have to hold up under forensic investigation, just had to plant the seed of doubt in the al-Wafiq followers for a day or two.
He wrote two notes, both of them in Arabic. Both saying that al-Wafiq was being set up along with the other opposition groups and not to fall for the trap the Royal family had laid for them. Deckard didn’t much care for some Hezbollah-linked Islamist group, but he would still undermine the overall anti-democracy mission anyway he could. One note was shoved into the pocket of the al-Wafiq leader, the other went into the pocket of one of the other dead men.
“You done?” Bill asked.
“Good to go,” Deckard answered.
Running the gauntlet again through the street was out of the question for Liquid Sky.
Joining Nadeesha, Paul, and Rick on the ground floor, the team knew that they had completed their objective and now had the more difficult task of escaping the death trap they had walked into. Paul and Rick recovered their breaching equipment from the entrance while the others cleared the rest of the structure. The security team left on the ground floor had made a lot of dead bodies while Deckard was downstairs scribbling notes.
There was an alley between the compound and the adjacent house that looked like it led to a side street. Zach noticed it, but Bill shot the idea down. He didn’t relish the thought of scooting through a one-foot-wide alley while the enemy was above them on the rooftops. One burst of auto-fire or a single grenade and the entire team would be toast.
Instead, Bill had them clear upstairs. At the top of the stairs, Deckard caught one Wafiq gunman trying to come in through a window after jumping over from the building next door. He put a burst of 7.62 into his chest and the fighter was flung back out of the window. Moving to the window, Deckard placed himself along the wall and took a glance outside, exposing as little of himself as possible.
A few dark figures bolted across the street about fifty meters away. There was some shouting back and forth but not much incoming fire. The enemy was slowly probing them while they waited for reinforcements to show up. Liquid Sky didn’t want to be there when that happened.
Using the window the gunman had tried to enter from, Deckard showed Bill a way out onto the adjacent rooftop. One by one they ledged out and onto the rooftop while there was a lull in fire. The enemy was simply trying to box them in and hold out until they could call in an entire al-Wafiq mob on them. Once the team made it to the next door neighbor’s roof, they leaped from rooftop to rooftop and then down onto the next street over.
Moving quickly into a single file line, they squeezed through another alley to put another block of houses between them and the al-Wafiq compound as fast as possible. Jogging over to the SUVs, everyone got inside and gently eased the doors shut.
“Holy shit,” Paul said he as looked over his shoulder. Behind them was an entire mob, hundreds of rioters holding up banners and pickets with Arabic writing. The crowd was illuminated by the torches they carried. The mob shouted Islamist chants in unison.
“Time to get the fuck out of Dodge,” Zach said as he started the engine.
The two SUVs raced off with the riot nipping at their heels.