Now a preview from Issue #3, PROMIS: South Africa.
Street lamps cast golden light along the main roads leading throughout the Eastern Cape, insects creating a steady buzz that filled the darkness of night with their presence. The occasional window was still illuminated, only to be dashed as the locals tossed the curtains into place and prepared to bed down for the night. Although not still, the night was calm until the blast rocked through several neighborhoods, shaking people from their beds and setting off alarm systems on several warehouses located in the area.
South Africa was having another one of those nights.
An aluminum ladder slammed silently against the side of the prison wall, the strips of rubber tire treads tied to the top of the ladder damping the sound as it made contact. The ladder itself has been specially cut for one very specific task, to help two black-clad men scale that specific wall. Scrambling up the rungs, the first man tossed a carpet over the barbed wire before uncoiling a rope ladder down the opposite side of the wall.
Crawling over the lip, the two operators did their best to keep a low profile as not to silhouette themselves against the moon lit skyline. Sliding down the rope ladder in a kind of controlled fall, they then slung their AK-47 rifles off their backs. The safeties slid off without the normal distinctive click, the levers wrapped in black electrical tape during mission rehearsals that had been conducted over the past week.
Finding themselves in the courtyard of Middledrift Prison they sprinted to the heavy steel door that led into the prison itself, their rifle muzzles leading the way and scanning for threats. Black ski masks concealed their features from the ever watching CCTV camera on a pivot mount above the door way.
Reaching into a satchel, the larger of the two operators produced a specialized door charge made of P4 explosives. Developed years prior during the Rhodesian Bush War, the charge was often called by its nick name, the Gate Crasher.
If there was anyone on the other side of the door they were in for a world of hurt, the steel bending and giving away under the explosive force of the detonation. The charge lived up to it’s name. The two assaulters stood on either side of the door as the plastic explosives blasted a shower of debris out between them, rattling windows for blocks in every direction.
Inside, the cell blocks were consisted of cinder block walls covered in peeling paint that seemed to stretch on forever. The black-clad interlopers cut right and sprinted down a side corridor, knowing exactly where they were headed. A scale mock up had been constructed with wooden planks and hessian cloth. Together they had ran rehearsals through the improvised prison again and again until they knew the layout like the palm of their hands.
Approaching the wing of the prison where the target was being held, two guards rounded around a juncture in the hallway. With AK-47 muzzles bearing down on them, one of the guards threw his hands in the air. The other reached for the revolver holstered on his hip just a second to late as one of the intruders butt stroked him across the cheek drawing blood and knocking the prison guard to the concrete floor.
“You too,” the attacker said to the remaining guard who had prudently surrendered. “On the fucking ground!”
Through the balaclava the guard could see the man’s lips and edges of his eyes. He was the smaller of the two, also white, but his accent was not that of an Afrikaner. It was a strange voice like he had never heard before except maybe on television. American?
In seconds the gunmen had handcuffed the prison guards to a pipe sticking out from one of the nearby walls and were hurrying down the hall to complete their mission.
Turning another corner their boots thudded down the corridor towards the entrance to the wing that housed solitary confinement, usually reserved for those deemed to be too dangerous to be left in general population. However, there was also another type of prisoner consigned to solitary confinement. Political prisoners.
At the sliding barred metal gate that served as an entrance to solitary, a lone guard sat behind a desk half asleep. When he saw two men storming up to him with Kalashnikovs held at the ready he jolted awake, his heart rate suddenly skipping up well over a hundred beats a minute. Reaching for the pump-action shotgun laying across the desk a spray of 7.62 bullets shredded the wooden desktop, sending the shotgun spinning to the floor. The guard retracted his hand as it was now bleeding from several shrapnel wounds.
The larger assailant strode up to the guard and punched him in the face, toppling him over. No demands, just another obstacle to crush on the way to their objective.
Reaching for a key ring in his pocket, the shooter with the American accent produced a key, jammed it into the lock on the gate and turned it open. The key, and others, had been given to the operators several days prior by a guard who was currently off duty. The American had used some key impressioning techniques to make a copies before rushing the originals back to the prison before anyone noticed them missing. The door slid on it’s rollers until it came to a stop with a loud clang that resonated throughout the solitary confinement wing.
Jogging down the hall, prisoners reached through the bars of their cells attempting to catch hold of the would be jail breakers. They screamed and shouted in a half dozen languages and dialects. The cells themselves were empty cement cubes with a lone slop bucket provided. It was no wonder that they begged to be released. Most of them looked malnourished, some looked positively sickly with boils across their skin and covered in feces.
In cell Twelve-Alpha they found their target, Josef Menzi.
Although it could be debated whether or not Josef was a psychopath, he was kept in solitary for purely political reasons. The ruling government, particularly the current President of the breakaway state of Ciskei, didn’t want Josef spreading his political ideas among the other prisoners, afraid that it would lead to another coup attempt. It didn’t help that the current President was also Josef’s brother.
One by one, the various black ethnic groups were granted strategically located “black homelands”, Ciskei being one of them. The idea was purely Machiavellian on the part of the South African government. With black homelands granted, the rest of South Africa was reserved as a white Volkstaad by a matter of deduction. Besides, with the various black tribes split up into separate provinces it was even easier for the Apartheid-state to play them all off against each other.
With the fall of Rhodesia and the expansion of the communist menace, the South Africans weren’t taking any chances. That was where Josef came in.
Frail and underweight from years of captivity, Josef looked up at the two white men as he sat with his back against the wall. Were they liberators or murderers? Hard to tell.
“Tell us your mother’s name?” one of them said, slinging his rifle over his shoulder. This one’s accent was Australian, he was sure of it.
“You mother’s name dickhead!” The other sounded American.
“Phelisa,” Josef croaked.
“Where were you born?” the American asked.
The American pulled a key ring, and quickly located the appropriate key while the larger Australian kept an eye out for armed guards. Swinging the barred door open, the para-military soldier reached in and helped Josef to his feet.
“You stay with me, you do what I do. If you so much as shit your pants without me giving you permission first and I will put a bullet in the back of your fucking head. Understand?”
What else could he do?
The next few minutes were a blur as the two black-clad gunmen half dragged, half carried Josef through the prison, shooting their way out as several guards gave a half hearted attempted to prevent them from escaping. After the quick exchange of gunfire, both guards threw down their weapons and made a run for it. Dieing was simply outside their pay-grade.
Walking right out the front door of Middledrift Prison, the three of them stood silently as police sirens sounded in the distance. Headlights flashed and a white van grinded to a halt in front of them. Flinging open the side door, the two commandos pushed Josef in and piled in behind him. Before they even had the door closed the driver stomped on the gas and accelerated down the street.
Making the first right hand turn they came to, a half dozen police cars missed them by a margin of several seconds as they skidded to a halt in front of the prison.
Josef was handcuffed, gagged, and blindfolded before being laid down on the floor of the van.
“Don’t move,” Sean Deckard ordered the political dissident as he yanked off his balaclava.
“Are we clear?” Robin asked from the driver’s seat.
“I think so,” James responded, tugging off his own mask. “It looks like we lost them.”
Sean dropped a half empty magazine from his AK, topping it off with a fresh one from his chest rig. Golden light flashed through the van as Robin gunned it down a labyrinth of side streets. They had a long drive to their destination and he knew it was going to be an even longer night.
For years he’d been fighting one war after another. From Vietnam, to Laos, to Cambodia, Rhodesia, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, and now in South Africa he plied the ancient trade of soldiering whenever and wherever he could but tonight would be different.
Tonight he was fighting to prevent a war from happening.
If he failed, the resulting genocide would make Mugabe’s reign over Zimbabwe look like a walk in the park.
Holding on tight, Robin nearly balanced the van on two wheels as he rounded around a corner and sped off into the darkness.