Liquid Sky explosively breached the mockup with a flex linear charge. The explosion sent wood splinters everywhere as the door burst into six or seven pieces. They put Deckard up front as the first man through the door, reminding him that as the new guy on the team, he was really nothing more than cannon fodder to them.
Ramon had called back to the staging area to tell them that he had secured Ingram MAC-10’s with suppressors for the mission from the Philippines’ extensive black market. They would just have to make do in training with the M4 paintball guns. It was an imperfect world.
Deckard stepped over the broken door and cleared the first corner. It was a wide open living space, framed out by bare plywood walls. Second-hand furniture had also been placed inside the mockup. Ramon’s intel was that De Jesus routinely hired hookers from Manila’s most famous upscale whore house, Air Force One. Regularly attended by Ambassadors and Generals, Air Force One was where you went to score some “Tier One ass” as Bill had put it.
Deckard also noticed that, although they were expecting civilians on target, all of their targetry in the mockup were shoot targets. None of the silhouettes were no-shoot targets. Everyone in the apartment was being marked for death.
Point shooting the first target, Deckard put two blue paint rounds center mass. He and Zach then cleared the kitchen area, taking down another two targets. Practicing a form of room clearing known as free flow, they had the entire apartment cleared in seconds.
The worst part was that they had to clear the entire objective while still wearing their wing suits. There would be no time to take them off, only to unzip a slit between the legs so they could walk and escape from the wings by rolling back the sleeves. Once they hit the rooftop, they would release their main parachute via a cutaway pillow and begin the killing. How the MAC-10 and spare magazines would be arranged on their kit was something that was still being worked out.
Then, once the apartment was covered in blood and spent brass they had to exfil with their reserve parachute, a stunt chute designed for base jumpers in this case. The entire mission was Hollywood as hell in Deckard’s opinion. The only reason why it would work was because no one would be expecting it.
Liquid Sky hit the training objective five more times. Nadeesha had her jet-black hair pulled back, and was now covered in sweat like the rest of them. So far, she was keeping up on target. No one was talking to her though; she was considered an outsider to the assault element.
After dropping their kit, the team guzzled bottled water from a cooler they had brought along and piled into a van to head back to the warehouse. They ate an early lunch and then went into the simulator. Ramon had left remote devices in two rented offices in buildings near the Aquino building. They knew the target was on site. Meanwhile, Ramon had secured their weapons and was building up their logistical infrastructure for the operation.
They were making progress in the simulator. Everyone was itching to do the hit.
Deckard bailed off the ramp of the virtual reality airplane and into the night for what seemed like the thousandth time.
He counted off the numbers.
Thread the needle between Four Seasons and the Grand Soko Makati.
Deckard’s body screamed into the target as his parachute joltingly interrupted his descent and he crashed onto the rooftop.
This time the entire team made it to the rooftop. It was the decisive point of the entire operation. If they successfully infiltrated to the objective, then the breach and room clearing aspects would be fairly straightforward by comparison. Then there was the exfil.
That could go either way.
“Deckard, come with me,” Bill said. They were just finishing dinner. “Grab your kit.”
Tossing his paper plate and Styrofoam cup into the trash, Deckard shouldered his parachute and wing suit. Bill had his gear as well and opened the back doors to the 10 pax van they had outside. They both dumped their kit inside and Bill got behind the wheel.
“Where are we going?” Deckard asked as he took the passenger seat.
“Yeah, you are the most switched on, so you’re coming with me. Consider this a feasibility study.”
“You still don’t think jumping with night vision goggles will work?” Deckard asked him as they pulled off down the dirt road towards the airstrip.
“Too many lights in the metropolitan areas of the city. If your night vision whites out for even a second, that second is more than enough to kill you.”
“There should be enough cultural lighting to find our way to the objective,” Deckard agreed.
“Let’s find out.”
Bill stopped the van. The Twin Otter turbo prop was spun up and waiting for them on the airfield. The pilot opened the window and waved them forward. Picking up their gear, Bill and Deckard climbed aboard and set their altimeters. It was pitch dark in the desert when the pilot lifted off. The two Liquid Sky operators began donning their wing suits and parachutes.
Bill seemed huge inside the aircraft, as if the plane had been built for midgets. He got bigger just by looking at weights. Deckard knew he must have been going crazy without being able to hit the gym and drink a steady stream of protein shakes. As the plane leveled out, he leaned in close so that Deckard could hear him over the noise of the turbo props.
“What do you think the chances are of us actually pulling this off?” he asked.
“It all depends on whether or not we can get to the objective. If so, I would say 95 percent,” Deckard answered.
“What do you think are the odds of getting to the objective then?”
“Fair enough. Let’s find out.”
Bill turned and sat down, taking up two seats.
Deckard sat down and checked his equipment over. He started getting nervous when he realized they were heading north. They were flying towards Darwin, one of Australia’s northernmost cities. By plane, it was about an hour away.
They sat in the dimly lit cabin, the plane vibrating beneath their feet. Finally, Bill went up and said something to the pilot. Coming back into the cabin he leaned in to yell into Deckard’s ear.
“I found a building in Darwin that is about the same dimensions as the Aquino Building. It is the Marrakai apartment building. Just follow me. We’re going to prove that this can be done tonight. Illum is bright so we should be good to go.”
To say that Deckard had reservations was the understatement of the century. He had learned to control his wing suit very well but didn’t know any of the landmarks in Darwin. All he could do was follow Bill and hope for the best. If he missed the target building he would have to deploy his chute and land in the street or something, hopefully avoiding any electrical lines.
Bill opened the door on the side of the aircraft. Cold air rushed in, an old familiar feeling.
Deckard put on his helmet, strapping it under his chin. Then he reached up to swing down his virtual reality goggles. He was glad that Bill didn’t see him make that subconscious mistake. There was nothing virtual about this run. Just the ghosts of muscle memory, like a puppeteer pulling his strings.
Bill placed his feet at the edge of the door and carefully leaned out to spot for their jump. Looking at the lights of Darwin in the distance, he motioned Deckard forward. Deckard looked at the back of Bill’s neck, right where his spinal cord connected to his skull. He wished he could kill him now and get it over with but he had to find out who Bill was working for. Otherwise, his handlers would just spin up another team after Liquid Sky had been eliminated. A minute later, Bill leaned in and gave him the thumbs up.
Stepping forward, Bill jumped out into the darkness and disappeared.
Deckard took a deep breath and followed him out.
A rush of wind took him out into the night sky. He saw the moon wobble in front of him for a moment and, then he got stable in the air. Assuming the correct body position, he began gliding. It took a moment for him to spot Bill in the moonlight. He was just a black splotch floating through the sky. Deckard maneuvered behind him as they nosed over the harbor towards the city.
Deckard began to relax a little. Everything was quiet and peaceful as he floated over the harbor. They had about ten miles to fly before they reached their drop zone. Down below, he spied the lights of a few oil tankers heading into port. Up ahead, Bill began adjusting his angle of attack. Darwin was coming up fast.
They soared over the port, coming in low. The cityscape all looked the same, low-lying structures and houses everywhere except for two towers straight ahead. One was the Holiday Inn. The other was their target building. Deckard shifted his position to the left, offset of Bill. Getting caught in each other’s canopies was a serious concern.
The two jumpers were nearly side by side when they deployed their parachutes. The pilot chute pulled out their main parachutes, ribbons of suspension lines going taut above their heads. Reaching up and grabbing his toggles, Deckard made final adjustments. The roof of the building was dark, but the apartments below had their lights on, providing a perfect outline of the top of the building for them.
Bill and Deckard’s canopies were nearly touching as they landed parallel to each other. They touched down on the roof feeling feather light for once, both landing on their feet. The parachutes collapsed next to them as they quickly reeled in one brake line to make sure it didn’t get caught in the soft sea breeze.
“That’s it,” Bill said as he scooped up his parachute. “This can be done. My guys are just mind-fucking themselves at this point. They’ve got enough training. It is what it is.”
“It is doable,” Deckard agreed as he policed up his own chute.
“Find us an exit,” Bill ordered him. “Then you hot wire a vehicle for us. Consider it urban escape and evasion training.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Deckard took off his parachute harness, rolled up the chute like a sleeping bag and shoved it into its deployment bag. He could repack it later.
“When we get back I’m telling Ramon that we are coming in tomorrow for the hit. We jump and whoever makes it makes it. Whoever dies, dies. Its not like this is my first crew.”
“This isn’t your first team?”
“Fuck no. I had a few others but broke all of them.”
Deckard tried not to dwell on that as he looked for a way to bypass the lock on the rooftop door.