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Guy Pearce still takes the top spot as the best actor to portray Deckard. He’s not the standard issue tough guy or ex-special-something-or-other dude you see in most action films. Deckard is a smart ass dude sticking it to jive ass mofo’s all over the place. Take a back seat Channing Tatum, I’ll use you as a henchmen in book #13.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a terrific actor with a huge personality. In Direct Action, Bill is described as a “human wrecking ball” so the actor that plays him can’t be some sally. The Rock has the personality and the physique but my only hold up is that I wonder if he can play a truly evil character. Because he plays the hero and since he seems like such a nice guy in real life, I wonder if he could pull it off. If I were casting, I’d definitely let him take a shot at the role though.
Rick is the team’s pretty boy, pompous ass, and self indulgent prick. Sorry Bradley Cooper, this has you written all over it. Pretty boy.
Zach is actually described as looking like Waffen SS trooper but I think Paul Adkins has the street cred to pull it off. He’s a real life fighter and martial artist so I think he’d work quite well.
Paul is another Liquid Sky mercenary, pals with Rick and Zach, who sports a nice Taliban beard. I think Ben Foster can play a different type of character, more of an introvert which would work well in contrast to Adkins, the Rock, and Cooper.
Ramon is Liquid Sky’s only member who hails from Army Special Forces. He is a Filipino-American who served in 1st Special Forces Group. Mark Dacascos fits the bill and he is also a martial artist. Plus him up with some karambit training and he would be good to go.
Nadeesha is actually from Sri Lanka as opposed to India which is where the actress Freida Pinto is from. I pictured Liquid Sky’s sole female operative is being darker skinned but I think the talented Ms. Pinto could play the role of the femme fatale.
“Gonna lay it out there… I love Jack Murphy’s work. It’s gritty, it’s fast paced, it’s got more bang than a breaching charge and it’s balls to the wall from cover to cover. Murphy’s latest, Direct Action, is all of this with a very healthy slab of contemporary world events thrown in for good measure. Yeah sure it’s a little controversial in parts but hey, it’s fiction, so it’s not necessary real…or is it? It’s the blending of fact and fiction that makes this book such a great read. If you’re interested in the murky world of SOF and the even darker world of contracting then this is the book for you. Another great read by Murphy that comes highly recommended.” -Jack Silkstone
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I just wanted to pass one some of the music I was listening to as I wrote Direct Action. I actually had a big break during the writing of the book as summer ended and the fall semester started up at school. I ended up jamming out the rest of the book during Christmas vacation. The THYX album actually really helped kick start the book.
Apoptygma Berzerk, Unicorn
Edge of Dawn, Beyond the Gate
And One, Military Fashion Show
And One, Body Company
THYX, Below The City
Stochastic Theory, What You Weren’t (Echos Virus Mix)
Conjure One, Like Ice
Somewhat Damaged, NIN
Came Back Haunted, NIN
“It happened again.”
Admiral Corbett looked up from his desk and set his reading glasses down so he could see his J3 officer. The Admiral always left his door open, a literal open door policy. Where he worked, he needed a team more than he needed a hierarchy.
“You’re kidding me,” Corbett said as he sat back in his chair. “Again?”
“I’m afraid so, sir.”
“Who the hell is doing this?”
“We’re about to sit down in the SCIF and try to hammer that out right now.”
Admiral Corbett left his desk and followed his right hand man down the hallway. A vault door was open which led into the Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility. This was where sensitive operations and intelligence was discussed and records stored. At JSOC, practically everything was sensitive.
“Where?” Corbett asked.
An assistant J2 intelligence officer turned to his commander.
“Manila. It was Kanor De Jesus.”
“I remember the name. He was on the SIGMA-11 target deck.”
“Yes, sir,” the intel officer confirmed. “Two TF Green attempts, one TF Blue, and local competitors tried to bump him off a couple times as well.”
“We’re still trying to piece it together. We have someone from the activity on the ground working with local authorities. The police found a parachute in the park nearby which explains how the killers got off target but no one knows how they got there to begin with. We’ve had the special entry troop working this problem set for months. The building is a fortress.”
“What the hell is going on? This is our third target that someone else took out in nearly as many weeks. First those guys working for Karzai that the bed wetters in Washington wouldn’t let us touch, then Hezbollah’s main money man gets whacked in Dubai. Now this?”
“It has happened before. De Jesus had hits put out on him by both the NPA and Abu Sayaf. Whenever these guys carve out a piece of the local black market for themselves there is always a competitor who wants that slice of pie for himself.”
“Too many coincidences,” the Admiral stated. “And the hits are too precise, too well planned. The Israelis are good but they don’t have this kind of reach. Besides, they wouldn’t play in our backyard without a courtesy call.”
“What about Langley?” The J3 said as he rolled his eyes.
“They are ready for a tele-conference right now,” the J2 said.
“Put them on,” the Admiral said as he sat down at the long table in front of a projection screen.
The screen came on showing a bald headed CIA officer in a suit sitting next to a Army Officer in his class A uniform, a Special Forces liaison officer detached to Central Intelligence.
“Hey Russ,” the CIA officer said, addressing the JSOC Admiral by his first name. Technically they were of equivalent ranks but they also had a working relationship stretching back to the first days of the War on Terror.
“Francis, I need some help here.”
“I heard. Someone is working your target deck.”
“Talk to me.”
Francis shook his head. The Special Forces officer clasped his hands in front of him on the table.
“It’s not us brother.”
“You know I don’t believe in coincidences.”
Admiral Russ Corbett sat back in his chair. He didn’t ask questions that he didn’t already have the answers too. He knew Francis was telling him the truth because the CIA had hired dozens of former JSOC operators to do their dirty work. Those operators had loyalty to the home team and kept JSOC informed of everything the agency was up to around the world. He was simply hoping that Francis could help him unravel this puzzle.
“I hate to say it Russ but do you think someone over there is saying some things they shouldn’t to some people they shouldn’t be talking to?”
“SIGMA-11 is locked down. We can do an informal 15-6 just to snoop around but the CI around that program is air tight.”
“I hope so,” the CIA officer said. “Because I agree with your assessment. Someone is working your target deck and for both our sakes, we better find out who it is fast before this shit blows up in both our faces. You know how this works. Our fingerprints are on SIGMA so we’ll take the fall for whoever these chuckle heads kill.”
“It could jeopardize other programs as well.”
They both knew what programs he was referencing. Collection and sabotage in a country whose name started with an I and ended with a RAN.
“Get this done Russ. I’ll let my people know to help you however they can.”
“Thanks Francis, I appreciate it.”
The screen blacked out as the tele-conference ended.
The Admiral took a deep breath.
Someone was working their target deck but it wasn’t Special Operations, the CIA, or even an allied country. It was time for the Admiral to make a phone call to an old colleague. He had been his predecessor as the commander of JSOC. A General who had been publicly disgraced and removed after a series of revelations in the newspapers. It was known to those who knew that the General could get more done on the outside through his commercial endeavors than he ever could as military officer.
It was time to look up General McCoy and see what he was up to these days.
They laid 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 that curved knife that the former Special Forces soldier had sheathed on his belt. It was a Filipino Karabit fighting knife.
Images from Pakistan flickered in front of his eyes. One of the Pakistanis he had seen in the hospital in Karachi with a series of deep, defensive knife wounds on his body. That had been 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 flight 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 jump 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 shown through windows, larger street lamps and signs made big blotches of star shaped light. Wind whistled in Deckard’s ears as they 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 the 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 obvious 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 that 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 right 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 sites. 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 and Deckard swept in and landed right 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 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 dived 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 right 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 his chair and sprawled out on the floor. He had been sitting on an office chair with 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 too and would be shot to pieces faster than they could blink.
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 an line of .45 caliber rounds right 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 as gun smoke lingered in the air. Five security men 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 bed room.
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 fire a couple bullets into his crouch 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 pent house 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 to the patio next 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.”
“Alright,” 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 along the sides and trying to hide behind each other. 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 was bulged on the sides from the over pressure. Flaming pieces of insulation or foam tiling floated through the air. It was a slaughter house 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 gun shots. 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 chord, 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 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 gun fire. “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 left. He caught another muzzle flash in the kitchen window so he fired a shot there and the muzzle flash seemed to go 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 a suppressive fire with what he had left in the MAC-10 to quell their fire. The gun cycled empty and Deckard dropped it on 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 tore apart her second parachute, the reserve she would need to get off the building.
“Fuck,” he cursed.
“Go,” she mumbled. “Just go.”
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 dropped.
The C4 detonated as his parachute caught in the wind, clearing off the top of the Aquino building. The parachute popped open as they flashed by still lit offices in the building under the pent house. 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 as they were about to slam into the window.
Releasing his hold around Nadeesha, he reached up and grabbed the parachute toggles. 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.
“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 that they would not be seen.
“A little something for you,” Ramon told the cop in Tagalog as he handed him a folded bill.
“Have a good night,” the policemen said with a smile.
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 shoot out with dozens of goons, killing a terrorist financier, 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 portable DVD players.
It was late at night when they landed at 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 deal and had a garden around it that was well attended too.
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.
Wooden 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 laying around the team house, Deckard found an elastic bungee chord 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 and looped it over the suppressor, holding 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 over watch on their objective.
The apartment was situated in the middle of the rooftop, a pent house 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 that from spying through the glass windows in the apartment from two separate angles, that 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 went outside one by one 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 test the detonation chord 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 in the following night, the Liquid Sky members joked with each other, pretending that they weren’t scared of smashing into a building at a 120 miles per hour.
“Shit dude, we could be the biggest bugs on the world’s largest wind shield if we fuck this up,” Paul said, his huge 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 said. 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 is a influx of gold bullion in Afghanistan which eventually filters into Pakistan.”
“The Euros 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 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?”
Liquid Sky explosively breached the mockup with a flex linear charge. The explosion sent wooden 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 still nothing more than cannon fodder.
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 broke 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, just 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 straight forward 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 northern most 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 Dawin 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 VR goggles. He was glad that Bill didn’t see him make that subconscious mistake. There was nothing virtual about this run.
Bill placed his feet at the edge of the door and carefully leaned out to spot for their job. Looking at the lights of Darwin in the distance, he motioned Deckard forward. Deckard look at the back of Bill’s neck, right where his spinal chord 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 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 city scape all looked the same, low laying 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 taunt 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 touchingmas 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 broke all the others.”
Deckard tried not to dwell on that as he looked for a way to bypass the lock on the roof top door.
Rick pushed a piece of plywood into position and held it in place for Deckard. While holding a half dozen nails in his mouth, Deckard began nailing the plywood into the wooden frame that they had spent the day constructing. Each of the Liquid Sky members were covered in sweat, their clothes soaked through while they labored in the Australian heat.
Nadeesha weaved her way through the mock up they were building with a clipboard in her hand.
“When you finish with that I need you two to help Paul frame out the dinning room.”
Rick and Deckard looked at each other as she walked off. She was taking her role as foreman a little too seriously. Using the pictures that Ramon was taking of the objective area, they were building a scale model of the rooftop apartment they were going to raid. Once they finished building it they would be running through it for training with guns that shot paint pellets.
Nadeesha kept pushing them to work faster. They still had a mission brief to do and then it was back into the simulator until they didn’t suck anymore.
Deckard finished nailing the plywood in place and then they went to go find Paul.
* * *
Back in the warehouse everyone was relieved to be able to sit in the air conditioning for a while. Nadeesha had just gotten off the phone with Ramon and was now ready to start the brief. A map was laid out on the table alongside some over head satellite photography taken from Google Earth. The next step would be to make a three dimensional model of the city to help conduct talk throughs of the mission.
Bill turned on a tablet and passed it around. It showed a thirty-something Filipino with a goatee and wearing eyeglasses.
“This is our target, Kanor De Jesus. He runs a finance network for the moose limbs. Some of them are targeting the Royal families in the Gulf States so the client wants this guy out of the picture. The problem is that various players, including JSOC, have already tried to kill him. Five botched assassination attempts in the last two years. These days he doesn’t ever leave his rooftop apartment. The building is locked down with security from top to bottom. It would take a battalion of soldiers to fight their way up to the top. He knows there will be another assassination attempt and has taken precautions.”
“For some reason De Jesus just doesn’t sound like a Muslim name,” Zach remarked.
“It isn’t. This guy is a businessman; not a moose limb. His MO is providing financing to individuals and small cells that conduct terrorist attacks back in their home countries. Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait, Iraq, and so on. He has a network that goes out and buys pre-paid cards. You have to show identification to buy the cards, but not to reload them. So De Jesus has some local patsies buy the cards, then he has his men reload them with cash, all the way up to 10,000 dollars which is more than enough to get into the Middle East and run a small scale terrorist operation. Sometimes he will hand out multiple cards anyway.
“The thing is, these attacks he is funding are becoming so frequent that each country’s intelligence services are having a hard time countering them. He is using swarming tactics. Remember those anus bombs?”
“Butt bombs?” Paul asked.
“A couple moose limbs stuck HME,” Bill said referring to Home Made Explosives. “Along with a cell phone detonator right up their poop chute.”
“These fuckers have lots of practice playing butt darts so I’m sure it wasn’t that big a deal. They almost killed the intelligence minister of Jordan a few months ago with one of those attacks. The other went off and killed a bunch of people in Riyadh during Ramadan.”
“Killing their own people,” Zach remarked. “Fucking savages.”
Deckard said nothing. He wasn’t at all surprised. That was how groups like Al Qaeda operated. Muslim or not, you, your wife, and your kids were going to be turned into corpses if you didn’t believed in AQ’s bronze age worldview.
“The thing about these pre-paid cards is that they are an easy way to transport large sum of money across international borders and they are completely untraceable. It allows terrorists to access funds in ways that would set off trip wires otherwise. If they were moving cash around in some other manner it would get picked up by banking software and red flagged by American and foreign agencies.
“There was also an IED that injured a Saudi prince a couple months back. The scale of the attacks is increasing while the duration between them is decreasing. De Jesus is handing out these pre-paid cards to moose limb motherfuckers like it is going out of style. But this is what really has the client freaked out,” Bill said as he grabbed the tablet and flipped to a new picture.
“This guys works for the People’s Liberation Army with the General Staff Development’s Third Department.”
“The what?” Rick asked.
“Uh, its like China’s version of the NSA.”
“Not really,” Nadeesha chimed in.
“Well, then tell us knuckle draggers what the fuck this guy represents.”
“He goes by the name Dai Kexue, a mid-level executive with a state owned manufacturing consortium. His real name is Major Shen Banggen.”
“And what does he do for Red China?” Rick asked again.
“He facilitates certain programs and projects, only a few of which we know anything about. We do know that the Third Department is invested in securing China’s cyber infrastructure and protecting its national security but it isn’t anything like the NSA. The Third Department takes a more holistic approach to national security calledinformatization. This means that their cyber security initiatives work in tandem with China’s efforts to secure its place in the global marketplace, continue its economic growth, and compete commercially.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Paul asked, clearly frustrated.
Deckard leaned forward and began to speak.
“It means that Major Banggen is tasked with ensuring that China has total information dominance for political, economic, and military purposes. Baggen is clearly working with De Jesus as part of a Chinese shaping operation. They are facilitating outcomes in the Middle East that they feel are favorable to China and dis-favorable to the United States.”
“I still don’t get it,” Paul said rolling his eyes.
Nadeesha blew air through her teeth.
“It means we have to kill De Jesus,” Deckard said.
“You should have just said that in the first place.”
“You guys can go bone to bone and see who is bigger later on,” Bill told them. “Nadeesha has been compiling the intel that Ramon has gathered so far and will brief you on the general layout of what you will find on the roof top of the Aquino building when, and if, you make it there.”
* * *
They slept in cots right there in the warehouse. The team was cut off from the rest of the world and kept in isolation. The technician who ran the simulator would bring them food in the morning and other odds and ends they requested.
Bill woke the team up at nine in the morning. Using replica M4 rifles that shot paint ball pellets they began clearing the mock up that they had begun constructing the previous day. Most of De Jesus’ apartment was framed out but it still needed some work. Still, they were just familiarizing themselves with the floor plan. Bill only set up a few paper targets inside for them to shoot at.
Deckard had to give it to Bill, as unprofessional an outfit as it was, Liquid Sky had a pretty squared away training plan for this mission. He was using the crawl, walk, run method to train up the team and prepare them for their mission in the PI. The simulator, the mock up, using the kit they would have on the mission, it all made sense and greatly increased their probability of success.
After a few hours in the mock up, Bill called them back to the warehouse before they got burned out and lazy running through the wooden structure again and again. The human mind reached the point of diminishing returns after a while.
Then it was right back into the simulator.
Bill was the first one to stick the landing on the rooftop. Deckard was the second but was still hit or miss. Then Paul made it in the next couple simulations. Zach made the landing once, but just barely. Rick still had a big goose egg for a score in the simulator that night. It was early in the morning when Bill decided they were done for the night.
They were getting better.
At least they had a high degree of confidence that their target wasn’t going anywhere.
After lunch they drove out to a nearby airfield with their parachutes and wingsuits. A small prop plane took them up. It was basic familiarization with their equipment. Some of them, like Deckard, had hundreds if not thousands of jumps but never used a wingsuit before. It wasn’t exactly standard issue after all.
As they waited for the plane to spin up, Deckard heard Zach and Paul talking about how they wished Nadeesha was coming along so they could sabotage her parachute and be done with her once and for all. Liquid Sky wasn’t like a military unit. It wasn’t a brotherhood. It was like the mafia. Everyone was guilty and that guilt was the only thing that bonded them together. That and fulling their own self-satisfaction. For drugs, for money, for pussy, whatever it was.
Finally the pilot indicated that he was ready for the first lift. They set their altimeters and got on board. They quickly rose to 12,000 feet. When Bill opened the door the air that rushed in was damn cold. They would have to glide to their drop zone.
Tucking his limbs in, Deckard dived out the door of the plane then extended his arms and legs to begin tracking forward. With his arms swept back and his legs fully extended he could feel the lift being generated by the wingsuit. He was tracking several meters forward for every meter that he dropped. With the rest of the Liquid Sky team, he glided towards the drop zone.
As they dropped in altitude it really became possible to see how fast they were moving in relation to the terrain below. With a wing suit a jumper could get going up to a hundred and twenty miles an hour. That became apparent as the shrubs and desert of the Australian outback below blasted by. At four thousand feet they deployed their parachutes.
These were much smaller parachutes than the military used. The T-10C static line parachute and MC-5 HALO parachute had to be able to carry two entangled jumpers to the ground, with all of their combat equipment. By contrast, civilian parachutes did not have any such requirements and were true sport parachutes. They deployed faster and dumped altitude faster. The margins for error were also much smaller.
A MC-5 had 3,000 square feet of material in the parachute. Their civilian parachutes had about 500 square feet. [fact check].
The reality was that they would be deploying their chutes about 500 feet above the target. That wasn’t a small margin of error, it was no margin of error. They knew this. There were no high fives or woots when they touched down on their drop zone. Everyone knew that had been child’s play.
* * *
That night was spent diving through Manila in the simulator.
They had perfected the variables at this point. The jump altitude was finalized, the approach path was on target, now they just had to learn to compensate for the variables that they couldn’t control, like wind speed. They also had to have split second timing when it came to deploying and steering parachutes. They only had about ten seconds from the time they pulled to the time they were hitting the deck on top of the Aquino building.
Bill was hitting the rooftop about half of the time. Deckard was hitting it about the third of the time, but he was quickly getting used to the wingsuit’s aerodynamics. Zach and Paul were still hit or miss. Rick hadn’t stuck a single landing.
It was the eleventh simulation that night. Deckard zoomed over metro Manila, letting the gold lit buildings guide his way. He had every landmark, every hit point memorized by now. Crossing the river was his first heads up, then the oval shaped One Rockwell East Tower told him he was getting closer.
The ground was coming up to meet him. He was gliding and dropping at the same time. Running out of air, running out of time. It had to be perfect.
He cruised over the helipad on the top of the Roxas building, just a hundred over the roof. The Petron Mega-Plaza passed on his right flank. He shifted his legs to steer left. Next he blasted right between the Four Seasons and the Grand Soko Makati. Suddenly he was over Velasquez Park.
This was it. Reaching back, he yanked out his pilot chute and released it into the wind. The parachute deployed, the pulleys on the simulator lowering him from a freefall position to a vertical position as if he were really under canopy. The Aquino Building was right at his foot tips.
Only under canopy for a few seconds, he steered as close to the center of the building as he could with his toggles and yanked down on them at the last moment to brake. The suspension lines on the simulator suddenly went slack, dropping Deckard to the warehouse floor to simulate a real landing.
The screen froze.
Chalk up another touchdown. In the VR goggles, the other jumpers were listed as they hit their assigned dropzone. Bill, Zach, and Paul all made it to the top of the building. Rick was still shitting the bed.
“Rick,” Bill bellowed in the empty warehouse. “Unclip from the simulator and de-kit. You’re done.”
“What do you mean I’m done?” Deckard could hear the voices talk back and forth before he flipped up his goggles.
“Exactly what it sounds like. You are not hitting the dropzone. You’re done.”
“That’s fucking bullshit.”
“What’s bullshit is that the most cherry fuck on this team is hitting his targets and you aren’t,” Bill said referring to Deckard. “I said, fucking de-kit!”
Deckard flipped up his goggles in time to see Rick unclip from the simulator and unceremoniously drop his goggles and parachute on the cement floor. Tearing off the wingsuit he tossed it and stormed outside, the heavy metal door slamming shut behind him.
“Nadeesha!” Bill yelled. “Kit up and get in the simulator. The rest of you are done for the night.”
Nadeesha looked up from the folding table where she had been going over intel reports and working on the layout of the objective.
“You waiting for a second invitation sweet pea? Kit the fuck up. You’re in for an all nighter.”
“What the hell is this,” Zach said in shock. “You’re taking Rick off the team for some squall?”
“I need pipe hitters on my objective, but that pipe hitter can’t even get to the objective. If Nadeesha can get her piss flaps to the top of the fucking building than a squall trigger puller is better than no trigger puller.”
“She does intel not operations,” Zach said as if Bill needed reminding.
“She only has to be operational for all of five minutes on target and I don’t have time to find someone new. Ramon has the remote devices on batteries to watch the target but he is now busy working logistics for our infil and exfil.”
Apparently Nadeesha didn’t need to be told twice. By the time Deckard had unclipped from the suspension lines and shrugged out of his parachute, Nadeesha was already set to go in what had been Rick’s simulator station.
“So since you don’t think she is up to it,” Bill told Zach. “I want you to brew a fresh pot of coffee for her.”
Then he turned to the technician working the computer.
“Feed her a cup after every five simulations once she starts getting tired. I want her going all night. She has a lot of catching up to do to get up to speed with the rest of us.”
Deckard unzipped his wing suit and set it down next to the parachute. Nadeesha was being pulled up by the pulleys into the free fall position. The VR goggles were down over her eyes. The wing suit was going to need some further adjustments for her smaller frame but they would work that out later. Rick wasn’t that tall to begin with.
Fuck that dude anyway.
Deckard launched himself off the ramp of the airplane and into the darkness. He still had trouble stabilizing as he exited the aircraft and rocked from side to side for a few moments as he rode the hill of air down through the sky, his body riding along with the forward throw the the plane on exit. Seconds seemed to stretch on to forever but he finally got stable in the air and assumed a position that would be called a high lift track position in normal parachuting, that is, with his arms extended but swept back and his legs extended all the way out.
Unlike a HALO jump in the military, he was wearing a wing suit which would provide additional lift, and therefore, more forward glide during free fall. The sheets of material stretched between his legs and out from his arms. An ancient dream was now achievable: human flight.
Turning his head slightly, he could make out the sleek forms of four other Liquid Sky members flying behind him in the moonlit night.
Pivoting his hips and shifting his legs, Deckard was able to steer by using the wing suit like a giant rudder. Splotches of gold floated beneath him as he soared over the city. Manila.
He got on azimuth, heading West, over the city and pointed towards the ocean beyond. He was dumping altitude, dropping a meter for every couple of meters that he traveled forward. The wind howled in his ears as the cityscape below him shot by.
Angling himself downward, he picked up speed as he flew towards his target. Through the wind goggles he wore, Deckard could now make out the outline of the Aquino building. He was moving at nearly a hundred and twenty miles and hour and the rooftop was the smallest dropzone he had ever had to hit in his career.
It was coming up fast.
The other Liquid Sky members floated alongside him, each maneuvering slightly away from each other to clear their airspace. In the night they looked like giant flying squirrels in their wing suits. One operator dropped his hips to try to adjust his trajectory. At this point they were all trying to make small adjustments to get on the right track before deploying their parachutes.
To his right, one of the wingsuit parachutists peeled away from the formation. He was too far off the required fight path and was having trouble getting stable. He would have to deploy his parachute and land safely at a secondary landing zone on the ground. Deckard didn’t noticed, he was completely fixated on his target.
The leading edge of the target building was coming up. Deckard reached back and deployed his pilot chute. The drogue caught in the air and yanked out his main parachute. Everything was a blur of motion as Deckard’s world swayed, his parachute opening above him. He was looking down into the lights inside the rooftop swimming pool.
He was too low.
Deckard reached up to grab his toggles to try to steer while he still had some space to maneuver. Below him, he saw another jumper slam right into the side of the building and through the plate glass windows. His parachute never had a chance to deploy at all.
Deckard reached out but the edge of the roof was still a good ten feet away. He sunk beneath the lip of the roof and was staring at his reflection in the windows. His heart was in his throat as he made impact.
The scene froze in front of his eyes.
Feeling his boots make contact with the floor, he stood up. The harness had lowered on its pulley system at the end of the scenario. The blinking word RESET flashed in his goggles. He flipped the visor up on his forehead and looked across the dark room. Everyone was quiet. It was their tenth time through the same scenario and none of them were getting any better.
He squinted as the lights came back on.
“Not a single person made it on to the roof top,” Bill scolded them. “Take it from the top.”
Deckard stretched his neck and then his arms and legs as he was still secured in his parachute harness and couldn’t start walking around while tethered into the metal frame.
Each of them wore a parachute and black S-Bird wing suits made by TonySuit. Following the Special Operations adage, train as you fight, they used the same gear in the simulator that they would use on target. The S-Bird wing suit would allow them the forward glide they needed to jump from an airplane, fly into the restricted airspace over the city of Manila, and then land on their objective. This model wing suit also came equipped with escape sleeves. Normally the wings of the suit had to be unzipped manually after the jumper deployed his parachute so that he could reach up and grab the toggles on his parachute in order to steer it. There would be no time for that on this gig, they would be right on top of the objective by the time they got silk over their heads.
Later, they would add their combat equipment to their rigs. At the moment the kit loadout was still being finalized as Ramon collected intelligence on the target in the Philippines. As it stood, it didn’t really matter what kit they carried on objective if none of them could even get there in the first place.
A gray haired technician sat in the corner of the warehouse. He was behind a computer, clicking away with his mouse as he began to reset the training scenario.
The simulator and the software were created by a company called ParaSim. The scaffolding structures were lined up next to each other, five in a row for the Liquid Sky operators. Nadeesha was working intel and logistics for them at their staging area and would not be going on target.
At the top of the scaffolding was a series of electronic pulleys and servos that moved the suspension lines that each parachutist hung from during the simulation. The suspension lines would reel themselves in and out and reposition the jumper’s body based on what was going on in the simulator. It would even release and drop the jumper down to the floor when he landed on the ground in the simulation.
Sensors were hooked up to the parachute ripchord and toggles so that the jumpers actually used his gear in physical reality, and got real time feed back inside the virtual reality simulator. A modified night vision goggles headset was worn by each jumper with a flip down virtual reality screen. The simulator could replicate all sorts of different scenarios based on the inputs added by the technician behind the computer.
Windspeed, jump altitude, weather conditions, and much more could be adjusted on the software side to give the most realistic experience possible. In this case they had the sub-contractor, where they were now located in Australia that ran the staging site, program the exact scenario they had in mind for their mission. It was constantly being updated based on the feedback sent from Ramon who was already watching the objective.
They were still working out what their jump altitude should be, what their pull altitude should be, and what their angle of attack should be as they came in on the objective building. Beyond that, they were all still having trouble controlling their wing suits.
“Come up five hundred feet on the jump altitude,” Bill told the technician.
“Got it, resetting now,” the technician announced.
Deckard flipped down his VR goggles as the suspension lines began to retract and pull him up into a free fall position.
“Don’t fuck it up,” he heard Bill say, his voice echoing in the warehouse.
Then they were jumping out of the back of an airplane over Manila and blasting over the city again. Deckard overshot the target and slammed into another building.
Everybody else died too.