New Horizons Air Service: Mission #7(ish) – The Best Laid Plans…

11 April, 1970

Draco

“There’s no reason a man over the age of twenty-five should consume more muchaiwa than their own body weight…”. 

Da’veed had dropped this knowledge nugget on Doug during the American’s first few days in Rhodesia, which Doug had scoffed at initially. “Man, I cut my teeth drinking unregulated soju in booze huts and trailers, how bad can this be?”

And then Santa arrived with his initial delivery of Draco’s A-37B Dragonfly, after which the Canadian had properly educated Draco on just how potent the local homebrew could be. How the American had made it back to his bunk, he’d had no idea at the time, but judging on how even Shu was laughing at him the next morning, Doug assessed that it wasn’t gracefully. 

Once again, the sound of Aadi taxiing out stirred Draco from his intoxicated slumber, but this time drew a long groan from his core. “How…how can such an old bastard drink so much?!”

Peering out of his single window that looked out across the runway and into infinite plains, he was surprised to see that Santa’s King Air had already departed. “Asshole better be picking up more ammo…”

Doug rolled back over, feeling blindly around the small nightstand next to his head for a glass of once-cool water and a full bottle of whatever passed for aspirin in these parts. As the tiny tablets ran down his throat, the door to his hovel creaked open and in came a pot of something warm and something encased in bread. “Thanks, Chanda.”

“No problem, bossman. You had rough day yesterday.”

Draco nodded, downing the remaining water without thinking.  “Yeah…that hasn’t happened since ‘53”

“Bad day all around, bossman. Russian also got shot at yesterday.”

Doug shot to his feet and spun, looking next door to where the FISHBED slumbered. It looked more or less intact, though even head-on, he could tell that Pavel’s ground-crew had pulled the engine out for an in-depth look.

“Musta run hard yesterday, did he say who he was hitting?” Doug queried his crew chief.

Chanda shook his head, “Not bombing, bossman. He took missiles yesterday. Came back with ‘em, too.”

Doug gulped down a mouthful of carbs and fat-soaked vegetables, letting his mind sit on that for a moment. “What about the local guys? I ran into a CSAR patrol yesterday.”

“Yeah, woupombwe snakes caught one of the C-47s yesterday from New Sarum. Heard it went nose-in. No survivors.”

The American suppressed a ‘hiss’. Means a loss of control from either the cockpit or the tail, and any heavy flyer worth his salt can at least line up a belly landing most of the time. “Anyone see what happened?”

Chanda shook his head, which didn’t surprise Draco. The American patted his Rhodesian companion on the back. “Well, if she got taken down, I’m sure we’ll be bombing those woupombwe back to their ancestors here real soon.”

The mechanic nodded, though didn’t appear encouraged by that. 

Seeing the need to change topics, Doug nodded over to the red phone. “Did I miss anything?”

“No, but…” Chanda started, before the screeching whine of the Jastreb’s Viper Mk 531 engine cut the maintainer off. Doug headed over to the entryway of the Dragonfly’s hanger, peeking outside just enough that the sun didn’t try drilling too deeply into his eyeballs. Sure enough, the Israeli’s J-21 was beginning its takeoff-checkout. Its wings were laden to their maximum with high-explosive rockets and cluster bombs. Da’veed’s favorite loadout…must be some dug-in guerillas.

“That was fast, the Skymaster just left!” Chanda pointed out, at which Draco nodded. “Yeah, so Aadi didn’t find them. Must be a hot tip out there.” A hot tip trying to rip my brain out of my skull!

“You gonna check in with the tower, bossman?”

Doug shook his head, finishing off the vital nourishment needed to soak up all the booze. “Maybe later. But I’m sure that Israeli will tell me all about it when he’s waving his payout in my face again.”

*

Sword

11 April, 1970

It was indeed a hot tip, just not one announced on the red phone. When he’d come back from his information drop the previous night, Lior had brought Yousef a folded up square of paper and a photograph in a folder. The picture itself was nondescript, a building like any other anywhere, so it was useless on its own. But pairing it with the note told Yousef that an active Rhodesian Marxist gathering was meeting up outside Beria to the east in Mozambique, and they’d managed to get their hands on a T-34-85 tank. The mass of armor and death was now waiting next to the building in the photograph, carefully hidden under netting and tarp, but Yousef had seen enough Egyptian and Syrian machines to know its form even among the shifting sands. 

How one sneaks a Soviet war machine into East Africa, I can only imagine, but God’s will wants it removed, and so it shall be done. After he’d committed the latitude & longitude of the note to memory, he had Lior toss both the documents in a drum and melt them with an acetylene torch. After that, Yousef looked at his map to calculate how much armament he could ferry for the roughly hour-long flight to target and then scramble back.  

Of course, simply keeping the objective committed to memory wasn’t the main problem with this current assignment. If retention were an issue, Yousef was sure he’d be filing papers somewhere in a basement in Tel Aviv. A little border violation in the middle of a civil war can be a delicate issue, he let himself ponder. Especially when the Portuguese Air Force had a rather capable all-weather fighter in the Fiat G.91R. Naturally, a full squadron of these sat alert at the Aeroporto Internacional da Beira, right where the Israeli flyer needed to end up. If the Portuguese decided that Yousef was interfering in their goals, he had little doubt his Jastreb wouldn’t survive.  Reading the observations is one thing, but how good is the man at the yoke?

Once he was generally comfortable in his measurements and track, Yousef had ordered Lior to fetch him a sadza from their favorite shanty. Which in reality meant that Yousef was ready for Lior to falsify the mission assignment on the wire so Chetting would see why the Israeli was taking off. The fake target assignment would show why Da’veed was heading east from their airbase, but not how far he was going. So far, even this simple deception had kept the wool over the control tower’s eyes, but Yousef knew it would not last forever. 

But such was a problem for later on, and his eventual departure from Station Diana would be handled by pre-arranged Mossad elements, so Yousef turned his attention back to the hornet’s nest he was embarking toward. Even as the J-21 chattered down New Diana’s runway and lifted off, Yousef still rehearsed the mock engagement in his mind over and over.  In a clear sky, the Israeli would swoop in like a majestic osprey and erase the Soviet tank from existence. But such a textbook attack meant Yousef would be dead either well before or immediately after the raid. “And I’m not letting Lior gloat over my grave, at least not today.”

Weighing the Jastreb down with ordnance also limited its maximum altitude, which was usually not a concern of Yousef’s anyway.  Even free and under full power, the J-21 could not match the G.91 in speed or flight ceiling. So the Israeli often borrowed the American’s playbook and planned on ambushing his target at or below five-thousand feet. If he was low enough on approach, the simple camouflage paint scheme painted on his back could be just enough to trick the Portuguese fliers, while the ground clutter played havoc with any ground radar tracking. 

But as Doug had found out yesterday, that low-altitude hunt left Yousef pime for a Strela or other shoulder-launched missile to rip his wings clean off. Such was part of the gamble, And those in our trade gamble every time we ascend to the clouds.

A sudden slam of crosswind pushed the Jastreb south as if it were skating on oil, forcing Yousef to abandon such musings. He pulled the aircraft’s nose back on its straight path, pushing the right rudder pedal down as hard as possible to keep it straight, hearing as much as feeling the drag such a gale pulled on all the instruments of death on his wings. The Israeli cursed himself for not adequately factoring in the day’s forecast when choosing his flight path and payload, which was now stacking the chips against him at gravity’s roulette table. For a split-second, Yousef fervently wished that this mission had come in on the red phone so Draco would’ve answered, only to remember the sad state of stupor that Santa had stumbled back in. Even floating in unregulated brew up to his beard, the Candian still retained enough sense to drag Doug back to their base and toss him into his hanger. All those layers of blubber must be slick with toxins by now… Yousef had wondered as he’d watched this helpless scene unfold.

“No help from the Americans this time!” Yousef growled into his control stick, countering each bubble and surge of air pressure with both hands desperately trying to keep the J-21 from hopping itself into the many hills below. The battle for control ran somewhere between a minute and a year, but eventually airspeed and purpose won out, leaving the Israeli pilot already sweating before he even reached the Mozambique border. “God tests the faithful with the most dire challenges, does He not?” he wondered aloud, looking up at the wisps of white and grey being pulled along the sky above him. 

Only for that look to reveal a reflection of sunlight of shining metallic gray seemingly waiting to pounce on him from above. On instinct, the Israeli let the Jastreb fall from its previous altitude to one-thousand feet. Without his own radar, or the ability to radio Station Diana for confirmation, Yousef had only his eyes to guide him. Eyes that widened a little when the distant blur canted its larger wings to reveal a pair of large turboprop engines as opposed to the single turbojet the G.91R carried. 

“A transport? Out here?” he muttered to himself, hastily marking on his knee-strapped map roughly where this unknown was. Another question for Lior to seek answers on. Or another answer he could pull out of Chetting with gin-covered pliers, it didn’t matter. His cover demanded no less than the answer, since now there was something else in the sky to challenge him, even indirectly. 

Cautiously, the Israeli flyer pulled into a slow turn, to keep the glinting shine on his shoulder. Much to his shock, the reflection also turned, but it then started to grow larger. Whatever it was, it had found Yousef, and this was an unacceptable risk. Which meant he’d need to explain his sudden return to the airspace controllers back at base. 

“Delta-Zero-One, this is Sword. Mission scrubbed, will reacquire.” He was careful to add a hint of irritation and strain in his call back to Station Diana, to reflect Da’veed’s facade of frustration at not being able to earn his primary mission’s cut.
Time for the secondary mission: find some rebels and erase them…provided enough fuel remains.

The Jarstreb rattled and shook as it re-entered the maelstrom of pressure differences, putting the stalking aircraft to its tail. As he’d gambled, it did not follow him into Rhodesia. “I didn’t know I wanted Portuguese food tonight, but there we are…”

Once clear of the grip-testing gales, he pulled the J-21 to an easy ten-thousand feet. Gentler winds rocked the aircraft in a much more dulcet manner, allowing Yousef to breathe. “Saadhuk, this is Sword. Are we hunting yet?”

“Abhee nahin, not yet. I’m just hitting Gerwu-One now! You left so soon?” Aadi posed in response. 

“Yes, my friend. Was sent east for tagging mission, but the herd was uncooperative.” Da’veed replied, signaling his failure to complete the strike. Come on, give me something! All these rockets are too expensive to just toss away so I can get back…

“How are you on fuel? You cover west past Gerwu-Eleven and I’ll hit east?” 

“Acknowledge, Saadhuk, Sword will take the western grid while you cover east. Should have about half tanks left once I clear local airspace.” Da’veed confirmed, actually pleased to receive the dull assignment of burning holes in the sky looking for what probably wasn’t there. “Good thing this contract pays by the flight hour, eh?”

The Indian pilot chucked something Yousf couldn’t quite make out in the comms, but the line ended after that, which was good enough as confirmation for him. Now, before hitting the geographical landmark to turn back to Station Diana, Yousef pushed father west. 

Once the collection of hovels and shanties known as Gerwu was behind his shoulder, he turned his attention beyond the wingtanks keeping the Jastreb asloft, to the surface below. Gently continuing his tracking west, he was torn between wanting a sudden  thrill like Doug or Pavel had had yesterday, or returning with a full load for a change. While the swaths of road cut into the wasteland were wide, few were the travelers that came or went on the path that connected the outpost town to the flatlands that spanned the horizon.

So when a trail of dust sprayed by a fast moving line of heavy trucks caught his gaze, Yousef had little to do but bank his wings and point his nose at them. As he approached from a decent altitude, the convoy suddenly veered off the flattened path, barreling toward the Vungu riverbed with full abandon. For Yousef, that was an unusual move, until he put both his intelligence and his pilot roles together and focus not on the waterway, but the thick treelines on either side. “Trying to hide, are we? Not today, I think.”

Sure enough, the haulers swerved again to dive under an exceptionally thick thacket of branches and tree trunks. Have you seen me? What do you hide? Yousef wondered as he canted his wing to circle around alertly. Only then did he spot the second and third convoys of vehicles and men already concealed in the foliage. Quickly, a dozen others spilled out of the lead vehicle Yousef had followed and they started busying themselves with the labor of transferring massive iron drums. 

While the Israeli had little doubt this was activity most nefarious, there was little he could do about it as things stood. Smuggling is the government’s responsibility, unless we’re paid otherwise.

Coming around so that nothing stood between the Jastreb and the great blue beyond behind him, Yousef caught the spark of a smoketrail and the blur of something racing up to try and catch him. Yousef had an educated guess what it was when it failed to reach him so high up and vanished without its motor to push it forward.

Da’veed wanted to smile, for now there was work to do, but Yousef simply clenched his jaw as the J-21 pulled into a reversing turn as tight as it could manage. Once his nose was to the treeline, the pilot could make out dozens of figures racing to cover or into the riverbed to use its bank as cover. 

“If I were Draco, maybe you’d be safe.” he muttered, clicking his master-arm switch on for the VRZ-157 rockets. Using only his eyesight and angle measurement off his nose, Yousef squeezed the trigger deliberately six times, while also stomping the right rudder pedal to the floor to sweep his gaze along the horizon as best he could manage. 

Each rocket screamed off his wings in their own pillar of fire, caring little for anything but the spot they were aimed at. Two-hundred seventy pounds of high explosive slammed into the earth in close proximity, ripping flesh, steel, and baobab wood apart. At least one large truck tried to escape the carnage, only to plow nose-first into the mud and sludge of the Vungu. 

The choking black smoke washed over the Jastreb as Yousef flew on by, observing the waste he’d laid into the ground below. The few things left moving did so with horrendous anguish, or because they choked on the dust and debris. Yet much to the Israeli’s surprise, out of the carnage sprang two off-road jalopies, racing with all their might towards the northeast and back to Gerwu. But in their desperation, they moved together, as one target. 

Or perhaps that was the trap they were now trying to lay for the Israeli, for when the J-21 put its nose to their path, the two fleeing vehicles smartly swerved away from each other. Still, each driver matched the moves of the other, unwilling to completely abandon whatever il-conceived escape they’d been forced into. 

This did, however, prevent Yousef from switching over his cluster bombs, as the munitions were far too expensive to use without a more cooperative target. “So I shoot retreating fish in an infinite barrel.” The J-21 wailed like a wildcat as he pushed the throttle to near maximum power, letting gravity and thrust build up his speed. Almost simultaneously, Yousef came under a thousand feet, and the escaping vehicles split their paths again. But this time, the Israeli clenched the trigger for a full second, and a shower of .50 caliber rounds shredded most of the trail escapee into a fiery mist.

Now alone and frightened beyond logic, the second vehicle slowed, then stopped. From the cabin, a driver emerged with hands raised, before lowering something to the ground. Out the back of the truck came another three petrified souls, also with hands raised and rifles lowered. They pointed at Yousef and waved desperately.

“Surrender accepted, dreks. It should only take you a day or so to walk home.” the pilot acknowledged, lining up one final pass. Yousef let the submitting men freeze in terror or sprint away from the truck as fast as humanly possible before he pulled the trigger for one more twitch. Six rounds plowed through the transport from hood to cabin to bed, viciously dissecting it and setting it ablaze. 

Part of him wondered if he could actually hear the men below screaming up at him, or if that was Da’veed, inside his mind and rejoicing at the prospect of getting payment. Yousef could feel his blood racing through his knuckles and calves, but the wreckage behind him gave him little joy. The Isareli had little doubt that from this collection of slain guerillas, others would rise and take up arms in the name of the cause. “The Arabs taught us that lesson well, fighting hearts and minds is something you either commit to fully, or not at all. And this contract isn’t built for a victory.”

******

The next(?) installment of the New Horizons air mercenaries and our favorite spy-turned-pilot.

Why label it Mission 7? Mainly because I’m still not sure about one of my original characters as I’d originally wrote them. But maybe you’ll see them later on.

I hope you all enjoy.

Wildlife Security Solutions, LLC – Contract #1, pt. 13

Few were the things in life Akula truly despised. He’d never understood or cared for the corrupting indulgence of social media, and the sailor detested the taste of wasabi, as there were much better ways to prepare a fresh fish. The Russian team lead didn’t even loathe the Chechen on his team, as Akula could understand a small part of the greater history Nosorog had lived. Would I be so amicable if I followed a German or a Frenchman? Or even worse, some arrogant prick from Washington or Ottawa?

Among all such things he found irritating, stressful, and otherwise vomit-inducing, jumping out of an aircraft was one of them. No matter how many times he’d done it in exercises or previous missions, no matter the fact that he’d only suffered one poor landing with minor injuries, Akula still gripped his seat hard enough to turn his knuckles ghastly white. 

Next to him sat one of Pauk’s men, whom he’d met earlier on guard duty. The taller paratrooper wore a wide grin and was serenely reclined in the uncomfortably small webbed seat. Of course, one doesn’t earn the call sign Pelican without a lot of airdrops…

On the Shark’s other shoulder and closest to the An-74’s rear hatch, was Grizli. The Ukrainian’s eyes were laser-focused on the muzzle of his new box-fed PKP Pecheneg machine gun, though the hulk of a man still wore a grimacing smile. Gone was the jovial, almost poetically charismatic Bear. The man next to the Shark meant to exact revenge for his face on whatever came in front of him.

Across from them, Nosorog watched the rear door with furious anticipation, equally ready to destroy man or machine. Despite the extremely cramped troop compartment, the Rhino refused to surrender any of his explosives, which Akula didn’t argue with. If all else fails, we’ll blow than dammed uranium vault closed ourselves and fuck the consequences…

While the Chechen kept any sort of nausea from his face through clenched rage, Volk had already puked when the transport pushed into its rapid ascent to paradrop altitude of six thousand meters. Pauk and most of the other troops on board gave the Wolf a thorough teasing, despite however much the pup glared at them. 

Departing Haven had so far gone flawlessly beyond that, with Drakon and the Su-25s launching first, right on the second they’d determined for mission start. Like many of their missions before, they’d waited until late into the night to begin, gambling that many of the NLD jihadists would be heading to their bunks for the night, including the pilots of the attack jets ahead of them.

Everything had to be calculated down to the ‘tick’ of their wristwatches, from the moment the missiles flew from the sea to the moment that hatch would open and Akula would fling himself into the infinite sky. There was no communication now, no chatter between the naval forces and the following airstrike, as an orbiting American RQ-4 drone was already sucking in every stray bit of intelligence it could in the Mediterranean. Akula and Pauk had made sure at least one of their team carried an encrypted radio for the ground mission, but these were to remain offline until their boots hit the sand. If even one missile came in late or fell a few meters off its target, it could easily incinerate them all.

Part of the Shark was thankful there was no window so far back on his flying container, so he couldn’t stare out into the blackness like a child waiting for St Nicholas. But if Al Jufra isn’t on fire by the time we reach it, all this was for nothing… 

The timer on his watch hit zero and rang out, the mark of time that meant the first cruise missiles should be raining down on the airfield now. In response, the An-74 lurched as its nose pointed downward, sending his stomach right up into his mouth. Inside the compartment, a siren blared to life, and alert lights changed from red to yellow. Simultaneously, everyone stood and latched their parachutes to the rail above them. 

“Approaching drop point one now! Kill one for us!” the transport’s pilot announced over the intercom before the rear catch cranked open in the darkness. Even with his back to the flames below, Akula could see the ravaging orange glow bleeding into the night sky. Above them, banking around to fire their own wing-mounted rockets, the Su-25s tore into whatever defenses weren’t already ablaze.

The interior light flicked over to green, beckoning Grizli and Nosorog to step forward in a two-step sprint out of the aircraft. As soon as they cleared the ramp, the pull-strings on their parachutes went taut and opened their chutes a mere one-thousand feet above the burning sands. Without hesitation, Akula and Volk followed, keeping their rifles scanning the ground below them as much as possible in the gentle night winds. The Shark could hear the ‘clack-clack-clack’ing of rifle fire in all directions, and the ravenous rumble of Drakon’s rotorblades as the Mi-28 ripped into a scattering line of startled jihadists. Then came the howl of the Su-25s ascending from their initial attack run to line up the next.

The An-74 kept its wings level as it raced across the airfield to deliver Pauk and his team to their drop point across the airfield, almost vanishing in the pitch-black smoke clawing into the sky. As he’d been trained on in his younger days, Akula hit the sand as softly as his boots could manage and unsnapped the chest latch to drop his parachute away. Dropping into an open patch of earth between the main runway and a parking apron was a huge gamble on his part, but the Shark had reasoned that no one would be patrolling an empty strip of asphalt in the middle of the night. Pair that when the sudden, murderous chaos of sea-launched missiles, Akula had played the safe, but correct call, and had put his team only a hundred meters from the idle Tu-22 bombers.

Once the four predators were all parachute-free, they began their rapid sprint to cover. Quickly, they were greeted by shouting in Korean and Arabic, as well as rifle rounds whizzing past them. Peeking out from around the corner of a bomber’s parking embankment, Akula confirmed that both sides had taken up weapons and were shooting at them. It was all the justification he needed, tapping Volk on the shoulder and pointing the Bear and Rhino to swoop around to the other side. No sooner did the two larger men begin their flanking run did the Wolf claim his first kill of the night.

Stepping out to take his own shots, the team lead caught a flash of motion only for a split-second as another sae-launched missile came screaming in, ripping into a fortified building half a kilometer away, catching their opponents in a moment of shock. The Shark took the initiative and dropped one of the Koreans with three rounds to the side, Volk claiming two more NLD fighters that tried to run into cover under a dilapidated airframe. That difference in reaction and more controlled reaction of the Korean forces spoke volumes on their military training and devotion to their mission. Better to die here than disappoint the Dear Leader…Stalin would’ve approved, too.

The sudden ‘thoonk’ of a handheld grenade launcher firing at them made Akula react on instinct, pulling himself and Volk out of the line of fire and behind solid cement. The explosive round slammed into the wall on the other side, and he could feel the detonation rattle the massive barrier. Then came part of a surprised shout and the roar of Grizli’s drum-fed machine gun, which cared not whether it tore into flesh or metal. Torn between being fired at from both sides, those who could still run raced under the still aircraft and out the rear of the opposing parking embankment.

With both sides now secure behind cover, it should have been a stalemate until someone pushed forward to get slaughtered. For this reason, Akula ensured every team lead carried a flare gun on their shoulder, which the Shark now took out and fired into the air. Not a second later, Drakon spun her fangs around and blasted the parking row with dozens of anti-armor cannon rounds. Akula could practically see the crimson mist of what was left spraying into the air against the flames across the airfield. The Bear snarled out a laugh as he ran from his position to cover the next parking apron, savaging a half-concealed Korean who was trying to hide behind the nose gear of a Tu-22. 

Nosorog followed quickly behind, as the bomber Grizli took cover behind was one of the ones being restored. Quickly, the Chechen took a roll of FOX-9 explosive and ran to the rear landing gear. Climbing up the support legs, he smashed the sticky side of the patch to the belly of the bomber and clicked on its timer. Now the Rhino led the sprint away as both larger men ran back to Akula. A mere few seconds later, the legacy aircraft detonated in a massive fireball, sending its tailfin a hundred meters into the air and cracking the concrete walls surrounding it. Any nearby defender that had been running their way was washed over in flames or now writhing on the ground in pain from the searing flash or burst eardrums.

For a brief moment, Akula let their initial successes sink in as he motioned for his men to continue down the parking strip in staggered formation. As a fluid unit of action, they never moved more than ten steps before the rear guard cleared their flanks, making sure none would ambush them. The element of surprise had been with them, as well as satisfactory targeting from his Navy brethren. Drakon had been as savage as she was accurate in her close air-support, and the new Su-25s were creating all kinds of welcome havoc as they made another swooping pass on the far side of Al Jufra. Thanks to all the flames and occasional spats of tracer fire still reaching up into the night sky, the mission lead could even see the An-74 beginning its second pass to drop off the Spider and his newly-crafted team. Now all we need is Pauk to secure the…

The thunderous ‘thoom’ of a nearby missile firing jolted them in shock. Their momentary hesitation was greeted by the sheet white trail of rocket exhaust screaming up into the sky. Within the same second of sheer terror, Akula watched the ground launched missile slam into the An-74 in the center of its nose. Most of the transport’s frame collapsed into itself, equal parts fireball and ripping metal. The wings of the An-74 pushed inward on themselves without the support of the fuselage and sent the entire burning hulk screeching down into the sand. 

“OSA!” Akula shouted, and directed his men toward the source of the shot. Above them, the two Su-25s lit the sky with their countermeasure flares in the confusion and banked hard away to get out of range. The Shark could hear Drakon’s engine go to full power as well, but her Mi-28 was much closer and lower to the fight. 

“Get out of there! Get out!” Akula yelled as they ran forward in a dead sprint. The source of the launch came from a previously-abandoned pilot outstation, where the Osa had been waiting in secret, covered on all sides by a flimsy metal shack until it had been time to fire. Now exposed, the six-wheeled launcher rocked forward to reposition itself. Several jihadists moved with the vehicle like a shield of human ferocity, expertly keeping their eyes out in all directions. In their haste, Akula had run his team out into the open for a few brief seconds, giving the rear two NLD fighters ample time to shoot. Throwing himself to the cement taxiway, the Shark sprayed return fire, forcing both defenders to move back. It was all the time Volk needed to drop one of them and send the second running backward.

It was also all the time the mobile missile launcher needed to acquire Drakon in its sights and fire again.

*****

Part 13 of the very messy, highly dangerous, and overall super fun time that is the Libyan contact. We’re nearing the planned end of this section of the story, but the mess that Akula and company are in is only knee-deep for now. How will they fare when it’s up to their necks? We shall soon see, as what I had planned and what my pen is telling me now are far different things.

I hope you all enjoy.

Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12