The Twin Otter lifted off in the morning with six passengers on board. Rick had extra hair gel applied today and his ear plugs in, listening to music and not talking to anyone. He was still bitter about being bumped from the mission and moved to the support role.
The pilot, the one who had flown for their training jumps, was a drug runner who routinely made illegal flights from the South China Sea to Darwin and knew the routes in and out of the area well. The Liquid Sky members had their wing suits and parachutes with them. In the unlikely event that they were stopped along the way, they would appear as nothing more than sport jumpers.
Deckard leaned back and watched fluffy white clouds float by the window. Was he scared? Scared of what? Jumping out of a blacked-out aircraft over a major metropolitan city, gliding between buildings while wearing combat equipment, deploying a parachute at the very last second, landing on the smallest drop zone imaginable, then explosively breaching a door, and getting into a shootout with dozens of goons, killing a terrorist financier, all before parachuting off the roof down to the streets? What was there to be scared of?
At least a couple of them were going to die on this mission according to Deckard’s calculations. Bill didn’t seem very conflicted about that fact after basically admitting it to him. Who was he kidding, they were all going to die on this mission. Deckard closed his eyes and tried to get some sleep. He had been there before.
They landed at a remote airfield in Indonesia to refuel before continuing on to the Philippines. Some of the guys slept, others watched movies on their tablets.
It was late at night when they landed at the Barradas airfield, a dusty airstrip not far outside of Manila. Under the cover of darkness, the team policed up their gear and walked to a waiting van. As they approached, Ramon got out from behind the wheel and shook hands with Bill.
“I have the team house set up and ready to go,” Ramon told him.
“About a hundred meters away from the airfield, just a short drive around the block.”
“What about our weps,” Zach asked.
“Good to go,” Ramon assured him. “Test fired all of them myself last week.”
It took the pilot half an hour to get the Twin Otter into the small hangar on the airfield and power down, but then they all crammed into the van and drove off. True to Ramon’s word, the team house he had secured was all of three minutes away. It was a one story house and had a garden around it that was well attended to.
Each of them had a simple cot to sleep on, and Ramon showed them where the food was so they could cook themselves some dinner while he went over preparations with Bill.
“We’re on a reverse sleep schedule from here on out,” Bill told them. “Do all your preparations for the op tonight and sleep during the day.”
The hit was laid on for the following night.
Wood boxes were filled with the combat gear they would need for the mission. There was a Ingram MAC-10 sub-machine gun for each of them. Chambered for the .45 caliber round, each gun came with a threaded barrel for screwing on the suppressor. They had three 30-round magazines each. The sub guns and the cans for them were in “pre-owned” condition, but Ramon said he tested them himself. Deckard picked one up and racked the charging handle on the top of the box-shaped weapon. On inspection, it looked clean. He then conducted a functions check: so far so good. He would have liked to have fired it himself prior to the mission though.
Nadeesha reached for a box of ammo and started jamming magazines. The others sat down on their cots and did the same. Their next course of action was to rig up in their wing suits and parachutes and figure out how to run their combat load with it. They had small chest rigs that they could wear under the parachute harness but slinging the MAC-10 was problematic.
Among the supplies lying around the team house, Deckard found an elastic bungee cord that he hooked around the wire shoulder stock of the sub-machine gun. The other end of the bungee he looped around the chest strap on his parachute. Next, he screwed the suppressor on the MAC-10 and routed a rubber band under his waist strap, looping it over the suppressor to hold the MAC-10 in place diagonally across his body.
This kept the weapon secured while being able to quickly bring it into play when he hit the ground simply by snapping the rubber band when he yanked on the gun. The others saw what he did and began rigging their weapons in a similar manner. Even Rick was kitting up on orders from Bill. If one of them got hurt, got sick, or got dead between now and the hit time, then Rick would be taken off the bench and put back into the game.
Meanwhile, Bill and Ramon sat in front of an open laptop. Ramon’s remote devices were still running off batteries and would be for the duration of the mission as they kept an unblinking eye on overwatch on their objective.
The apartment was situated in the middle of the rooftop, a penthouse that included a pool and party area outside. Sometimes De Jesus’ security people patrolled the pool area, but usually, they stayed inside unless they came out to have a smoke. A couple times a week De Jesus would send a few body guards down to Air Force One to pick up some girls, and they would throw a massive rooftop party. Bill was adamant that they not infil on one of those nights, it just added to the number of things that could go wrong.
The good news was, from spying through the glass windows in the apartment from two separate angles, it did not appear that De Jesus had a safe room. Liquid Sky would bring explosives anyway, just in case.
One by one, they found their way to the kitchen to find something to eat. The preparations went on deep into the night. With Bill’s permission, they each went outside and popped off a few suppressed rounds through their MAC-10’s into a dirt mound to make sure everything was kosher.
Zach dug into the explosives cache that Ramon had secured for them. It was mostly industrial explosives that had probably been stolen from a mining site before they turned up on the black market. That was sketchy as hell. He could test the time fuse, but they were too close to civilization to do a test shot of the detonation cord and plastic explosives. Worst case, they would shoot through the windows and enter the apartment that way. They also had a half dozen hand grenades that they could use to breach if need be.
As they laid their kit out one last time before donning it the following night, the Liquid Sky members joked with each other, pretending they weren’t scared of smashing into a building at 120 miles per hour.
“Shit dude, we could be the biggest bugs on the world’s largest windshield if we fuck this up,” Paul said, his respectable-sized Taliban beard shaking as he chuckled to himself.
“Unfortunately, this mission doesn’t come with any fringe benefits,” Zach complained.
“Oh, you mean like that pile of pirate’s treasure we pulled out of Abottabad?” Paul asked.
“Right now I think Rick has the pirate’s treasure,” Paul joked while curling his shoulders in. “The sunken chest!”
“Don’t forget to lick my balls while you’re down there,” Rick said as he got red in the face.
“What do you think, Nadeesha?” Zach asked. She hadn’t said a word all night.
“Suck my dick.”
The room exploded with laughter until Bill told them to shut up.
Deckard saw his opening.
“You guys were on the Abbottabad mission?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Zach answered. “Got a large haul off that one.”
“Fuck no. The Agency has been playing that angle up. We hardly got anything. Old boy hadn’t been operational in years. We got a big haul of gold though,” Paul told him.
“He had a stockpile of gold?”
“Yeah. Spanish, French, and Italian intelligence services had been paying the Taliban in bullion for years and years not to attack their troops, so there was an influx of gold bullion in Afghanistan, which eventually filters into Pakistan.”
“The Europeans pay off the enemy because casualties would upset their shaky coalition governments, and you rake up the fruits when you hit the targets.”
“Fucking A,” Zach answered. “The CIA has been paying their Taliban informants with blue pills, unfortunately, so they are not helping us out at all.”
“How do you get all that gold back?”
“Teeny Weeny Airlines. Dev has their own aircraft.”
“Shit, sounds like a good deal. And old boy goes into the ocean on the flight home, huh?”
“You really think we just dumped his body in the ocean, dude?”
“Then where is it?”
“Somewhere in the United States.”
They lay down as the sun was coming up, and got up eight hours later. No one had slept particularly well.
Their pilot pounded down some chow, threw on his sunglasses, and walked over to the airfield to start preparing the Twin Otter for the night’s flight. The others loaded all their gear into the van. Ramon and Bill made some last-minute inspections of the objective using the remote cameras. Ramon would be able to access the cameras via a 3G connection on his tablet, so he could update Bill in real time as they made their infil.
The sky was turning a hazy yellow. It was time.
Liquid Sky boarded the van and drove back to the airfield. They spent over an hour just kitting up and getting their gear exactly where they wanted it, then checked each other over just to make sure. Each team member going on the objective carried a half brick of C4 and an initiation system.
Rick and Ramon would be securing the second drop zone down on the ground, their exfil point. When Ramon walked into the hangar with his concealable plate carrier on and MAC-10 slung over his shoulder, Deckard noticed a curved knife the former Special Forces soldier had sheathed on his belt. It was the same Filipino karambit fighting knife he had seen him with in Afghanistan.
Images from Pakistan flickered in front of his eyes. One of the Pakistanis he had seen in the hospital in Karachi had a series of deep, defensive knife wounds on his body. Now he knew that he had witnessed Ramon’s work.
They didn’t bother rehearsing actions in the air. After the training jumps and unending hours in the simulator, they either knew their shit at this point or they didn’t. They took off their helmets and propped them behind their parachutes to lean back on as they sat on the floor of the hangar.
Ramon and Rick got in the van and drove off to the exfil site where they would be waiting to pick up the Liquid Sky team.
The wait began. They drank bottled water and waddled off occasionally to take a piss in the grass.
Deckard turned and caught Nadeesha’s eye for just a moment. She had her hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her trigger hand lay over the MAC-10 tied down across her chest. She turned away from him, breaking eye contact.
Ramon called Bill on an encrypted cell phone. They were in place in Manila and had their tablet up, watching the camera feeds. They had positively identified De Jesus when he stepped outside to make a phone call by the pool. It was almost ten at night. Bill stood.
It was their green light.
The pilot fired up the Twin Otter and Liquid Sky filed through the door.
Deckard felt oddly relaxed as the aircraft lifted off and he clipped his pro-tec helmet on under his chin. He had decided that he was going to make it to the rooftop.
They gained altitude as the pilot took them north, over the lagoon towards Manila. Bill opened the door and began spotting for their jump. It would be a short trip, as the pilot flew on a flight plan that took them just east of the city. Zach, Deckard, Paul, and Nadeesha stood up to be on standby for the jump. The airplane rocked under their feet, forcing them to hold on to the seats for balance.
Sweat rolled down Deckard’s face as he steadied himself, burdened under all of his equipment. The wing suit, the parachute, the weapons, explosives, and helmet made it awkward to move around to say the least. Without thinking about it, the jumpers began closing on each other, getting nut to butt as they inched towards the door.
As they flew along the edge of the city, Deckard saw that Manila was lit up as brilliantly as any other major metropolitan city with hues of gold, blue, and yellow. They would have no problem identifying landmarks as they navigated around the city. The only problem was that, unlike land navigation, there was no doubling back.
Bill had his head stuck out the door looking for their release point. It was a flood gate on the outskirts of the city. The Liquid Sky team leader turned to look inside the aircraft. He held one finger in the air telling them that they were one minute out. Then he turned to look back outside.
The other four jumpers were now right on top of each other, almost as if they were going to push Bill out the door if he didn’t get out of the way. Bill leaned inside again, holding his thumb and pointer finger about an inch apart. Thirty seconds out.
Deckard swallowed. Everything seemed surreal, he could hardly hear anything with the turbo props going and his helmet covering his ears.
Finally, Bill gave a follow-me motion and dived out of the door. One by one, Zach, Paul, Deckard, and Nadeesha spilled out into the night.
Following Bill’s lead, they glided behind him heading west, into the city. Settling into position, Deckard noted the golf course passing on his left as they continued towards the river. They had six miles to cover before reaching their target. Manila looked like a painting from their vantage point, pin pricks of gold light shone through windows, larger street lamps and signs made big blotches of star shaped light. Wind whistled in Deckard’s ears as Liquid Sky glided deeper into the city.
Their next landmark was coming up, the river that weaved through the center of Manila. Bill adjusted his attack angle slightly, shifting left and pointing directly into the metro area where buildings jutted into the night sky like jagged teeth. The rest of Liquid Sky followed his lead as they assumed a file formation, one jumper after the other. Bill was first in line, Deckard second. The other three were stacked up behind him.
It didn’t look like it did in the simulator, but close enough. As he dumped altitude, Deckard could make out more details on the ground and see cars driving on the streets, the pedestrians below completely oblivious to what was happening above them.
Deckard soared over the Rockwell building and knew he was getting close. He could see the soles of Bill’s boots has he shifted his weight again, trying to acquire the perfect angle. Deckard ignored what was going on below and focused straight ahead. He flew silently over seven more city blocks and then cleared the top of the Roxas building. It seemed like he was picking up speed, but the reality was, he had just gotten lower to the ground and his eyes could now judge how fast he was really going.
He steered carefully, making minute corrections as he blasted through the city. The Petron Mega-Plaza towered over him on his right flank.
He held his position and shot between the two buildings. He lost track of Bill, fixating completely on his target. The Aquino building was dead in his sights. Then, he was over Velasquez Park. Deckard pulled his chute.
He had walked through the maneuvers so many times that, by now, it was impossible for him not to do it right. The parachute caught in the air. Deckard swept in and landed alongside the rooftop pool, touching down on both feet.
A Filipino security guard wearing a black polo shirt turned to Deckard as his parachute collapsed behind him. A Glock pistol was holstered on his hip and an unlit cigarette dangled from his lips. Deckard shrugged out of the wing suit sleeves, slapped for the MAC-10 hanging from his chest, snapped the rubber band, and leveled the sub-machine gun. Flicking the safety off, Deckard zapped the guard with a suppressed burst that tore across his chest. The security guard was dead before he hit the ground.
Just then, someone splashed into the pool like an elephant. Nadeesha hit the roof right behind Deckard and stumbled into him as he was unzipping his legs from the wing suit flap.
Deckard pulled his cutaway pillow to jettison his main parachute. He stepped over the guard’s body, heading straight for the pent house door. Bill was on the other side of the pool where he had put down. He took long strides, heading for the same doorway.
Zach had cut away his chute and was clawing his way out of the pool. No sign of Paul. He hadn’t made it.
They were ready to blow the door, but Bill wisely tried the knob first. He turned to Deckard and nodded. It was unlocked. He was up.
Bill flung the door open and Deckard stepped through. A half dozen guards sat at the dining room table playing cards. Deckard had the wire stock of the MAC-10 extended and tucked into his shoulder as he walked his bursts from left to right across the security crew. Bill was at his side a second later, working them from right to left. They met somewhere in the middle as the corpses slid to the floor.
That was when the other heavies rushed in from a side room. Bill and Deckard dove to the ground as pistol and sub-machine gun fire tore up the living room. A flashbang exploded, shattering one of the windows. Deckard rolled behind a couch that would offer concealment if not cover. Bill got behind a billiard table. It was one large open party space for De Jesus to entertain his guests with a dining area, hot tub, pool tables, and couches around a wide-screen TV. Zach knelt down next to Bill. Nadeesha fired a few suppressive bursts as she slid in next to Deckard.
9mm bullets zipped through the couch and ricocheted off the tile floor. De Jesus’ security detachment had better cover from behind the bar on the other side of the room. Deckard had the whole rest of his life to figure this one out. That gave him about half a second.
One of the card players at the dining room table had slipped out of his chair and sprawled out on the floor. He had been sitting on an office chair with roller wheels on the bottom. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Bill and Zach try to pop up and return fire only to be driven back down as the gunmen sprayed them down with autofire.
They were pinned down with nowhere to break contact to and were about to be shot to pieces in the blink of an eye.
Deckard broke cover and jumped onto the chair, rolling across the tile floor towards the bar. Holding down the trigger on the MAC-10, he fired right into the faces of the security guards as he raced up to meet them. They were so stunned by the unexpected move that the Filipinos were unable to react fast enough. He walked a line of .45 caliber rounds across them until the back of his chair collided with the far wall.
Dropping his empty magazine, Deckard rammed a fresh stick into the pistol grip to reload. The gunfire had ceased for the moment, gun smoke lingering in the air. Five security guards lay behind the bar, dead or dying. Deckard fired several mercy shots.
Bill ran for the bedroom and kicked in the door. Zach and Nadeesha were on his heels.
Deckard heard several stunted suppressed shots as he entered the bedroom.
De Jesus lay on his shag carpet, bleeding out.
His chest heaved as the terrorist financier struggled to breath. Bill’s shots had collapsed his lungs. Zach stepped up and fired a couple bullets into his crotch, causing him to shake and moan as blood bubbled around his lips.
Straight-arming his MAC-10, Bill fired on full auto. He cycled through the entire magazine, blowing off the top of their target’s skull and splattering his brains all over the carpet.
“Cocksucker,” someone in the group remarked.
Bill reloaded his MAC-10.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
Back in the living area, Deckard saw numbers on the display next to the penthouse elevator, ticking up.
“We’re about to have company,” Deckard warned.
“Stay here and slow them down,” Bill ordered. “Nadeesha, you cover him. I don’t want these assholes shooting us on the way down to the park.”
Bill and Zach walked out onto the patio next to the pool and continued to the edge of the building. Deckard reached for a frag grenade in his kit and yanked the pin out while holding the spoon down. He looked to Nedeesha.
“You shoot, I’ll frag.”
“All right,” she said as she shouldered the sub-machine gun.
When the elevator doors pinged open, she raked the inside of the elevator with .45 caliber fire. Security personnel backed up into the back of the elevator, trying to hide from the gunfire. Deckard overhanded the grenade. It bounced once, then rolled into the elevator and detonated as the two Liquid Sky commandos hit the ground.
The elevator bulged out on the sides from the overpressure. Flaming pieces of insulation or foam tiling floated through the air. It was a slaughterhouse of torn limbs and torsos. The stench of burned flesh stung their noses.
Nadeesha stumbled over some debris. Deckard took her by the elbow and led her towards the door. Just as he was about to step outside he heard some banging behind him. Even over the ringing in his ears he could hear shouts and then gunshots. Looking over his shoulder, he saw a metal door near the elevator shake as security guards on the other side fired their guns right through it.
The door shook as the guards began kicking it in, the lock barely holding.
“Shit,” Nadeesha cursed.
Deckard turned back around just in time to see Bill and Zach jump off the roof and disappear below the lip the building.
“They left us,” she said, exasperated.
He pushed Nadeesha outside as the door was kicked in. Deckard leaned back and fired one handed. The chatter box rattled in his hand as the bolt slid back and forth. The suppressor slowed the already low-velocity rounds as he serviced the first target that bolted through the door. This was the security quick reaction force. They wore black uniforms and carried M4 rifles.
“I’m black!” Deckard yelled as he ran onto the patio and took cover behind a concrete planter.
Nadeesha picked up the rate of fire from a kneeling position next to him.
Deckard loaded his last magazine. They were only carrying enough gear to last them for a five-minute surgical operation. Now they were in combat and running low on ammo fast. Letting the Ingram MAC-10 hang by the elastic bungee cord, he went back into his kit and quick-attached the initiation system to the half block of C4 he carried. Pulling the time fuse, he stuck the charge in the planter.
Sixty seconds of time fuse.
It was to be used in case De Jesus retreated into a safe room they had missed during recon. Now, the charge would cover their withdrawal.
Nadeesha went empty on her sub gun. Now it was Deckard’s turn to fire.
“Bound back,” he ordered Nadeesha between bursts.
The return fire was getting intense as a couple dozen guns for hire wearing full SWAT team get ups stormed the pent house. 5.56 rounds zinged and popped around him, many chipping into the planter he was taking cover behind. The kitchen windows exploded outwards as gunmen inside found new firing positions.
Nadeesha reloaded on the move and took a position next to a large heating and air conditioning unit on the roof near the pool. Deckard threw his last hand grenade at the open door as a couple of security guards attempted a break out. Ducking behind the planter, the explosion stopped them dead in their tracks. At least for a few more seconds. As Nadeesha fired, Deckard ran back to her position.
“Jump!” He yelled in her ear over the gunfire. “I’ll cover you.”
She looked up at him with wide eyes.
Deckard popped around the corner of the HVAC unit and took single well-placed shots with the MAC-10. He was almost out of the ammo and by his estimation, only 30 seconds of time fuse remained. He caught another muzzle flash in the kitchen window so he fired a shot there and the muzzle flash went away.
Nadeesha turned to run for the edge of the building. She let out a scream as enemy gunfire hit her from behind. She stumbled and fell to the ground alongside the pool. Sensing wounded prey, the gunmen inside the penthouse fired on her, bullets chiseling the tile next to her and making splashes of water in the pool to her flank.
Deckard ran out into the open and laid down suppressive fire with what he had left in the MAC-10. The gun cycled empty and Deckard dropped it in the pool. Without slowing down, he scooped Nadeesha up and dragged her forward. He propelled both of them back behind another concrete planter. It was their last piece of cover; they were all out of building. A few feet away was a fifty-five story fall to the streets below.
He tore her MAC-10 off her kit and shot a burst over the planter without sighting in on anyone specific. The guards were bounding out of the doorway and moving towards them. He could hear them trying to coordinate their movements in Tagalog.
Deckard looked over his partner. The rounds had torn apart her second parachute, the reserve she would need to get off the building.
“Fuck,” he cursed.
“Go,” she mumbled. “Just go.”
It was time to go.
Deckard grabbed her hands and put them around the main lift web on his own parachute.
“Don’t let go for anything.”
Wrapping an arm around her, he dropped the MAC-10 and grabbed the ball on his parachute that pulled free the pilot chute.
He heard the enemy shouts as he stood up. Two steps forward and he was off the ledge and into the night.
Nadeesha’s scream died in her throat.
Deckard released the pilot chute as they fell.
The C4 detonated as his parachute caught in the wind, clearing off the top of the Aquino building. The parachute popped open while they flashed by still-lit offices in the building under the penthouse. Nadeesha hung on to his parachute harness, her legs kicking in the empty air.
“Don’t let go!” she screamed.
“I have to!”
They were tracking forward and were seconds away from impacting the adjacent building. Deckard could see the desks and swivel chairs inside the offices as they were about to slam into the window.
Releasing his hold around Nadeesha, he reached up and grabbed the parachute toggles while she clung to the parachute harness. Yanking down hard on his right toggle, they cut a hard turn. The two of them dangling under the parachute, they nearly brushed up against the office building.
Nadeesha looked like she was about to panic. She pulled herself up as she held on to the harness and wrapped her legs around him.
Deckard knew they were burning altitude fast. The street lights below swirled like a kaleidoscope as he twisted and turned the parachute, angling towards the Ayala Gardens.
A military parachute was designed to safely carry two entangled jumpers and their equipment to the ground. This wasn’t a military parachute.
They were coming in hard, their feet passing just a couple meters above the Paseo Center before they cleared it and went out over the gardens. Deckard wanted to make an adjustment to keep them out of the trees but nothing he did mattered at this point.
The ground came up to meet them. Deckard grunted as he made impact and slid on the wet grass. Rolling, his vision redded out for a second when the back of his head hit something. He felt a weight on his chest as the parachute collapsed on top of him.
He opened his eyes to see Nadeesha almost nose to nose with him. Her pink lips were next to his as they both took short ragged breaths. It was dark underneath the parachute, everything forgotten for a moment.
Nadeesha buried her face in Deckard’s neck as she held on to him.
“Ho-ly she-it,” a low-pitched voice said.
“Did they come in on one chute?” another asked.
“That was some gangster-ass shit.”
Deckard tried to sit up with Nadeesha on top of him.
Bill and Ramon tore the parachute off of them. The accidental tandem jumpers were now hopelessly entangled in their parachute and the suspension lines.
“Fucking hell,” Rick said as he ran up to them. “It was like the entire rooftop blew up as you fell off.”
Zach came up and joined Bill and Ramon who were using their knives to cut through the suspension lines. Deckard sat up with Nadeesha on his lap.
“Thanks for covering our withdrawal,” Deckard said dryly.
That snapped Nadeesha back into the zone.
“Yeah, thanks for nothing you assholes.”
“I thought you were covering our withdrawal,” Zach insisted.
“We did, and were hoping you might do the same.”
“Whatever,” Bill said cutting in. “Stop complaining. You’re alive.”
Nadeesha shook her way out of the suspension lines and stormed off. Deckard undid the buckles on his harness and dropped it. Police sirens were approaching in the distance. Paul was at the dropzone as well. He missed landing on the building but obviously had managed to make it down to the ground in one piece.
“Time to boogey,” Ramon said.
Deckard left the tangled parachute as they ran for the van. They didn’t have time to police it up, and none of the gear could be traced back to them anyway. As the first red and blue lights came flashing up to the park, Ramon fired a burst into the hood of the police car. The cops got the message and did not pursue, opting to call for back up instead.
Liquid Sky piled into the back of the van. Ramon took the wheel and began navigating through the Manila streets as they left the gardens.
The police had already thrown up one road block heading out of the metropolitan area. Ramon threw a light jacket on over his kit. The others stayed in the back of the windowless van so they would not be seen.
“Konting pabuya para sayo bossing,” Ramon told the cop in Tagalog as he handed him a folded bill.
“Salamat at magingat po kayo sir,” the policemen said with a smile.