Chapter Five (Part One):
Yellow flames were still licking out of the top of the burn barrel as they loaded up into the back of the janga truck.
Bill, Ramon, Rick, and the two other team members had kitted up. Deckard had been listening to them banter back and forth about who would get more kills on this mission and picked up the names of the final two team members, they were Zach and Paul. With Deckard now filling the void left by Henderson, a void created by Nikita’s sniper rifle in Pakistan, they had a six man assault element.
A young kid, maybe eighteen or nineteen, had been warming chai tea over a small fire in the court yard. Bill spoke to him and the kid responded in broken English. He would be their indigenous driver for the mission. It was a simple but ingenious infiltration method. With a local driving the janga truck, the Americans would be hiding in a secret compartment in the back. The Trojan Horse was alive and well.
After a few words with Bill, the Afghan went and opened the gate, then fired up the truck. The hidden compartment was a large metal box that had bags of rice thrown on top of it to give the truck the appearance of hauling a full load. The door to the compartment was disguised to look like the side of a crate. The Liquid Sky members took turns searching each other over to make sure none of them unwittingly brought any non-local items. The video games and Maxim magazines had to go into the burn barrel before they left. Once out on patrol, they had to be completely sterile.
Deckard handed Rick his alias passport and other false documents. The former SEAL Team Six operator tossed them in the burn barrel and then patted him down just to make sure he didn’t have anything squirreled away. He didn’t. If Deckard died on this mission it was unlikely that Pat and the others back at Samruk International would ever discover what had happened to him. They had no idea where he was or what he was doing. His body would be quickly buried by the locals who would not want to be discovered with a body, especially a white one by other Afghans or Coalition Forces.
Deckard climbed into the janga truck with the team and then Bill got inside and shut the door behind him. They would leave the compound unattended, the operations center had been sterilized and they would not be reoccupying their forward staging area after the mission.
Bill talked into his radio, “check the bug light.”
The driver hit a button under the dash board and a red light flickered on and off inside the hidden compartment. It was a non-vocal warning in case something was wrong. From inside their hiding place, the team had zero situational awareness of what was going on around them and would be relying on the driver for a heads up.
“Punch it out of here,” Bill radioed the driver.
With a squeal of metal on metal, the janga truck lurched out of the compound and rumbled down the dirt road. Where they were heading, Deckard had no idea. Wherever they were going, he was happy that the team at least had the foresight to add some air holes and install a fan inside their compartment. It was brutally hot and they had loaded an entire case of water bottles inside with them to stay hydrated.
They rode in silence, the compartment occasionally lit up as someone flipped on a pen light to check a watch or to make last minute adjustments to their gear. For the first hour, Deckard just leaned up against the metal wall while sitting. By the second hour he was starting to feel rattled due to the worn slat shocks on the truck’s suspension banging up and down on the rough Afghan roads. By the third hour he was getting motion sickness. He felt like a bug sealed up inside a tin can which was then shaken vigorously by a small child.
He was attempting some breathing exercises to help maintain his composure when the bug light went off. It was a relief to say the least.
Bill broke squealch on his radio.
“What is it?”
White noise hissed over the net before the driver answered. “Taliban check point. They make me to stop.”
In the darkness, Deckard heard the guy sitting next to him grunt out several curse words. It was Rick.
“This is all you,” Rick then told Deckard.
“What the fuck Deckard!” Bill’s words bellowed through the cramped compartment. “Rick just told you to take care of this shit so take care of it.”
“No problem my ass,” Bill snarled. “Rick, take this fucker’s guns.”
“What-” Deckard exclaimed.
“Hand ’em over,” Rick ordered. “Let’s see what you’re made of.”
“How many of them are out there?”
“No idea,” Bill answered. “For your sake I hope it is less than a dozen!”
“Fuck me,” Deckard groaned.
The driver stopped on non-existent brake pads. The entire team lurched forward and then back in the opposite direction as the truck screamed to a halt. Rick reached over, undid a latch and threw open the door. He then relieved Deckard of his AK-47 and Glock pistol.
“Good luck bro,” he said as Deckard slid out into the night. “And thanks for the extra ammo.”
As the janga truck slowed, Deckard readjusted the pakol cap on his head and crept along the back of the truck to peer ahead. At first he had to steady himself by holding on to the side of the truck, the motion sickness fading off after a couple seconds. They were on one of the perilous mountain roads that snaked around the spurs and draws as it winded deeper into Indian Country. The side of the road terminated in a sheer cliff that went nearly vertical for several hundred feet. Deckard heard rushing water down below and could just make out the reflection of moonlight off the surface of the river. There was only a few feet between the truck and edge of the road, the Taliban had stopped them at a perfect choke point.
Deckard rounded around to the side of the truck, sticking to the shadows cast by the moonlight. There were three of them. Wearing dishdashas and black head wraps, the three men at the checkpoint each had long Wahhabi beards, the type that blow up under your armpit when you are running from AC-130 gunships at top speed. One reached over and pulled open the driver’s side door while another was saying something to their Afghan driver.
Three bad guys, three AK-47’s. He would have to act fast.
Deckard crept forward, his heart in his throat. They were distracted as they tried to shake down the driver for some kind of Taliban Value Added Tax. They needed extra money to buy acid to splash in school girl’s faces or something. Deckard just hoped he wasn’t spotted until he was on top of them. Inching forward, he saw the driver becoming more distraught. He began flashing money, but glancing back over his shoulder, Deckard could see several dark silhouettes back at the rear of the truck. Some of the Liquid Sky men had hopped out to watch him work. So be it.
Grabbing the nearest terrorist, Deckard flung him right off the edge of the road. The terrorist’s arms were pinwheeling as he stumbled and went over the edge. Deckard didn’t have time to listen to his screams. The other two checkpoint guards turned to face Deckard, the driver’s jaw was hung open as he could only watch in horror.
The closest of the two tried to bring his AK into play. Deckard pivoted away from barrel to clear the line of fire while simultaneously reaching out and grabbing the barrel with his hand. Using his other hand, he swatted away the terrorist’s support hand on the foregrip of the rifle. In one final blur of motion, Deckard swung the rifle barrel straight up where it smacked into the terrorist’s face. Temporarily stunned, Deckard relieved him of the AK and slammed the buttstock into the face of the remaining terrorist.
With the wooden AK buttstuck blasting into the side of his face, the terrorist rocked backwards and ran into the side of the truck. Deckard gave him another buttstroke for good measure and the terrorists knees began to turn to jelly and he was heading for a faceplant in the dusty road. Transitioning the AK into one hand, Deckard grabbed the terrorist by the collar and flung him down the cliff to take a magic carpet ride with his buddy.
The remaining terrorist recovered enough by this point to charge at Deckard. The American grabbed him by the wrist and elbow, then shifted and dumped the terrorist over his hip in a simple judo throw. The terrorist coughed and tried to get back to his feet. Deckard placed a shoe on his forehead and pushed him down the cliff.
He could hear the terrorist scream as he hit the nearly 90 degree slope and begin somersaulting all the way down to the river.
Deckard was hardly breathing heavy, but truth be told, his leg burned like hell from an injury he had received on his previous mission to Mexico. He went from one job to the next and hadn’t had enough time to heal.
That was when someone initiated a slow clap. There was one at every party. Deckard looked back. It was Bill.
The entire team was gathered at the back of the truck. Rick stood with his arms crossed. Zach and Paul, both with their Taliban starter beards had taken advantage of the pit stop to smoke cigarettes. Bill finished clapping and scratched his goatee.
“Not bad Deckard, but I gotta know. Why didn’t you just kill those fuck heads outright.”
“I did. None of these dumbasses even knows how to swim. If they manage to survive the fall, they will sink right to the bottom of that river down there.”
Bill frowned. His face looked like worn leather, his biceps and shoulders threatening to tear the man dress he wore open at the seams.
“Next time use a bullet. A bullet is always a good choice.”
“I didn’t want to compromise our mission in case there are other enemy positions in the area.”
“This is Afghanistan,” Rick lectured. “No one will notice a few gunshots and besides, what’s a little stray gunfire between friends.”
“Get back in the cab,” Bill motioned the driver who was still gathering his wits. “Let’s load up and get rolling. We have hard times to hit.”
Deckard walked back to the rear of the truck, forcing himself not to favor his bum leg.
Rick glared at Deckard as he reclaimed his AK and Glock before pulling himself back inside the hidden compartment.