My eyes snap open as the plane bumps down on the runway, and I glance outside into the heat of the Colombian twilight in which we’ve landed. After my night of little sleep (despite the warmth of Connor’s arms) and the residual feelings from having my head slammed into the pavement a few times, I found myself unable to stay awake for much of our flight across the Atlantic.
As Shane, myself and seven other agents shuffle off the plane, I grasp my passport in my hand, sneaking a quick glance to remind myself which identity I’m using to pass through the Bogota airport this evening.
Mildred Owens. Got it. Mildred and I go back a long way. I think the last time I used her was for an embassy dinner in Turkey. Good times.
Hefting only a small carry on bag, I follow Shane and my colleagues to the immigration area, and enter the line for non-Colombian passports, none of us saying a word to each other, none of us acknowledging that we even know each other. This is always protocol when a group of us travel together – no contact, no way for spies to link us together.
Finally, I shuffle to the front of the passport line, and present my British passport to the immigration officer. “Good morning,” he greets me in Spanish, and I answer in the same tongue.
“Good morning. How’s the weather?”
“It is very nice outside today, miss. What is the nature of your visit – business or pleasure?”
I give him a confident smile. “Business.”
“And how long will you be staying?”
“Only a day, I’m afraid. I meet with my client, and then I must return to London for another meeting. I seem to only see airports these days.”
He looks at me once, and then stamps my passport. “Your Spanish is very good, miss. Enjoy your brief stay in Colombia. I hope you are able to see some of our beautiful country.”
Oh, I can pretty much guarantee that.
“Gracias,” I say, taking my passport back and tucking it in my bag. Mere minutes later, the entire Leukos team is assembled in a van, speeding towards our rendezvous point with the advance team, who will be providing us with transportation, latest intel, and most importantly – weapons.
An hour later, we are departing from a small dock on the Rio Meta – a river bisecting the country, and the best chance we have for a silent approach.
Shane clears his throat, and then gives us our final briefing as the boat picks up speed, cruising down the river, ringed on both sides by lush foliage. “This will be a silent approach, and a silent mission. Stained Glass’ facility is well disguised and heavily guarded – nothing around it for miles and miles. We’ll go as far as we can by boat, and then travel on foot the remaining three miles, shrouded in darkness.”
We all nod, and he continues.
“Guards are expendable on this mission, but the real end game is destroying the chemical plant. There will be four charges planted by myself, Sutton, Daniels and Gerber. After they are armed, we’ll only have two minutes to get out of range before the charges detonate. Once you hear in your comm. unit that we’re armed, you are responsible for getting the hell out of there and back to the rendezvous point on the river. Clear? Questions?”
Everyone looks at one another, but there are no questions. Nothing has changed since Shane’s profile went live as we were leaving London, we have no other contingencies to worry about, which is always nice.
Stained Glass is a terrorist unit out of South America, bankrolled largely by the selling of cocaine to the entire western hemisphere. Their real purpose, though, is mayhem and murder in the name of God against all those who stand in the way of their ideologies, or more importantly, their income. The plant we are destroying tonight is a chemical plant, used to manufacture chemical weapons as well as a host of shoulder mounted missiles, short range missiles, and even a few nasty bioweapons.
And we’re going to blow it to pieces in one fell swoop. Good riddance.
“Our intel suggests that Esteban is on site tonight, so hopefully his reign of terror will end with a bomb blast,” Shane says coldly. “Remember, guards are expendable as well as Esteban. The plan is to have no survivors from the attack, thus putting an end to the entire Stained Glass operation, not just putting this one plant out of business.”
Esteban has been a shadowy figure haunting Leukos for the last decade – rarely seen, hard to track, and impossible to get close to, yet we know he is the brain behind Stained Glass. Without him, the entire group will collapse – exactly what we want.
I nod grimly. I realize the importance of ridding the world of evil men and their evil weapons, but it’s still sometimes hard to balance that part of my brain with the tenant we are all taught as children – harm none, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.
But then again, I’m not threatening western interests with chemical weapons, so maybe that doesn’t apply.
The rest of the ride is fairly silent as we glide noiselessly down the river, switching to manpower, rather than engine power, as we begin our final approach to our disembarkation point. Silently, we scramble from the boat, sorting out our automatic weapons and everyone donning night vision goggles before we begin our trek through the dense forest ahead of us.
The world springs into eerie green relief as I fire up the glasses, and I scan the area for my fellow agents, and then for obstacles. Using hand gestures, Shane bids us to follow him into the dense foliage, and I find myself missing the cool air around the river, practically gasping for breath in the swampy, soggy heat of the trees.
The hike is brisk, but quiet, for the first two miles, and then we begin our stealthy final approach, avoiding any snapping twigs, brushed bark or anything that could betray our position, carefully placing one foot in front of the other, avoiding any unnecessary sound.
The weapons plant blazes in the darkness – lights atop the towers guiding our way through the night. We gather together for one final, noiseless check of weapons and communication units, and then we begin our assault.
Shane, always first through the gate, snaps open several wires on the perimeter fence while Gerber mows down a guard who had whirled around at the noise, the sound a quiet pop from her silenced automatic weapon.
I take a deep breath and then run at full speed away from the fence and towards one of the cooling towers, where I am to plant my charge. I can hear gunshots spilling out all around me, and see the ground nearby fit pitted by rounds that are barely missing me.
Instead, I go inside myself, hearing only my breathing, focusing only on my goal – the tower.
This often happens in combat situations – rather than tensing up or freaking out, I seem to suddenly go outside myself. It’s saved my life a time or two, I’m sure of it.
Glancing around, I see guards returning fire, falling from their perches as rounds hit them, and hear shouting as more manpower is summoned. In the background, I see Daniels and Gerber at their appointed positions, readying their charges. I slam the small bomb to the side of the tower, and then arm it to discharge in a few minutes, hopefully giving us all time to get back out.
I see Gerber take a hit in the arm, but she shakes it off, gesturing that she is fine, and that her bomb is also armed. A moment later, Daniels signals his armed weapon, and we all begin our egress – running at full speed back towards the damaged fence where we entered.
Glancing to my right to find Shane’s position, I see a guard come up behind him as Shane is mowing down a guard fifty yards in front of him. I shout, but he doesn’t hear me, and the guard wraps an arm around Shane’s body, a long knife glinting at his throat.
Without thinking, I raise my weapon and sight on the guard, whose body is entirely blocked by Shane’s.
I only have one shot, and if I’m wrong by only an inch or two, I’ll kill my friend, colleague and mentor.
The world goes quiet as I sight, I exhale, and then my finger squeezes the trigger.
Shane stiffens, and then stands perfectly still.
The guard slumps to the ground behind him, a bullet lodged in the dead center in his forehead.
I always was an accurate shot.
Shane sets the final charge of the four, and then waves his arm, signaling retreat to the woods.
We run helter skelter away from the plant, all the guards now dead or detained, and under the cover of the trees, we no longer care about making any noise. It’s only two minutes later when we are concussed by the sound of the bombs discharging, the blast causing all of us to stumble, and Tennant to lose his footing.
I grab his elbow and help him to his feet, slinging his arm around my shoulder as we keep pounding through the woods, not daring to breathe until we are back on the boat, speeding back down the Meta River.
Then, and only then, do we consider our losses and what we’ve gained.
Gerber has a perforated bicep from the bullet, Tennant probably a torn knee ligament from his fall, and White caught a bullet that skimmed through his right side.
All in all, not bad. No loss of life is always a good day in my book.
And as for our gains? The plant is destroyed, and Esteban with it.
Yeah, a good day.
Only hours later, we are back on a plane bound for London.
Damn cute doctor keeping me up all night.
Damn trips to Colombia.
I sleep the whole way.