Philippine September-monsoon rain really sucked.
In a full flightsuit and helmet it was thick, hot, and disgustingly sweaty.
Worse, it was creating mayhem with their midnight attack plan.
Drake Roman hung on to his M134 Minigun with both hands as the Night Stalkers’ DAP Hawk helicopter Beatrix banked hard to avoid a hundred meters of island that came out of nowhere. The tactical readouts were showing nothing but a wall of water thick enough to block most radar signals, and the infrared night vision was totally useless because everything was the same temperature—wet.
His flight harness cut into his shoulders as he leaned against the turn. Levering himself forward, Drake stuck his head out the window, trying to see ahead through the unlit darkness. The rain was coming straight down, but the Hawk moved at over a hundred and fifty knots, so even in the slipstream of the hull, he couldn’t see squat as the rain drumbeat on his helmet.
The crew chiefs’ seats faced to either side from close behind the two pilots’ seats. His Minigun was on a traveler that reached out the side window and gave him a full range of fire from directly sideways to straight ahead and from level to straight down.
Right now he just wanted someone to aim it at.
On the first pass, the other crew chief had taken a hit, a bad one by the sound of it. With Carl out of action, the pilots had twisted sideways, giving Drake the primary action side, so Carl was someone else’s problem. He had an aircraft to defend.
Normally able to strike from a thousand meters away, tonight’s weather was forcing encounters to be up close and personal.
“I’m in crew chief starboard seat,” a new voice announced on the intercom, “I’ve got Carl patched and sedated.” Anyone else, he wouldn’t have registered more than the fact that the position was occupied and Carl was alive—a welcome surprise. But Chief Petty Officer Nikita Hayward of DEVGRU—also known as SEAL Team 6—spoke with a smooth, soft Southern accent that had messed with him since the day he’d first met her on a mission a year before. Never did him any good, but damn he liked that voice.
The wall of water broke—one instant in the midst of a biblical downpour, the next in clear air—to reveal a narrow beach and a high vertical cliff capped by dark jungle. Probably be dramatic as hell in the daytime. At night it was just another obstacle to not smash into. At the base was huddled a line of small boats.
They flew less than a hundred meters above the sea and less than that from the soaring cliffs. With the break in the downpour, the tactical readout inside his helmet’s visor finally painted a clear image.
Tourist boat. Tourist boat…and another tourist boat. They were tied up just outside the surf line. Abandoned to the nightly monsoon, they’d be washed clean for tomorrow’s tourists who came to mob the dramatic beaches of Palawan Island, Philippines, along the South China Sea.
Except it wasn’t only tourist boats huddled here tonight and the Night Stalkers of the 5th Battalion E Company had been waiting for just such a night to take care of a problem.
Someone had made it abundantly clear to the Philippine military to not interfere in this region. The AFP had recently lost three helicopters, two boats, and twenty personnel before giving up.
Drug-runner, gun-runner, pirate—it didn’t matter. Tonight was the night they were going down.
Technically, the US couldn’t help, at least not in any obvious way. They couldn’t admit to attacking any Philippine nationals without putting their new military base leases at risk. The Philippine government had given the US military access to five new bases in addition to Subic Bay with the understanding that they’d help defend the country, not attack it.
Regrettably, the local criminal element didn’t feel the need to honor any such unspoken agreement. The 5E were here to give them a lesson tonight in the hazards of ignoring that.
Their company had drawn the mission because they specialized in never-having-been-there operations—Black Ops. The very blackest. Though this wasn’t one of those.
Tourist boat…tourist bo—
The next boat flared with heat signatures of ten people on a night when no one in their right mind would be afloat. Hard radar returns, as if their boat was loaded with more than tourists or local fish. There was metal on that boat, a lot of it.
He saw the hot flash of gunfire from yet another boat just emerging out of the curtain-like edge of the deluge. Multiple targets.
The bastards had already taken the first shots, hitting Carl more by chance than skill—which satisfied the 5E’s rules of engagement for this mission: do not fire first. They hadn’t.
But paybacks were about to be delivered.