“Sorry to pull you off the hunt for Azmi Sarraf, gentlemen, but this can’t wait.” Senior Chief Tom Evans points up to the screen, “This is a civilian recovery of Miss Tracy Martinez and Miss Emily Taylor. Miss Taylor is the twin sister of CIA operative, Evelyn King.”
Pictures of the women flash up on the screen, together and alone. Private First Class, Paul Ryan sits up in his seat as the picture of Emily Taylor flashes up on the screen. A willowy redhead, with lively green eyes that flirt with the camera and a bright smile on her face, Paul’s heart rate picks up.
“They were part of a group of friends vacationing together in Costa Rica. Three of them were out shopping when they were taken. Since they were close to a bank at the time, we were lucky to access the security video.”
The screen changes to a video showing women being grabbed by masked men and tossed into a van. Paul’s gaze lands on the redhead as she fights against the man dragging her to the van.
“They were hauled north, to a camp in a forest in Nicaragua. According to intelligence, of the three taken, two are still alive. They found the body of Miss Carrie Evans yesterday. The assumption is, Emily Taylor was mistaken for her sister Evelyn, and is being held captive for information.”
Paul meets his troop chief’s narrow gaze and thinned lips. Joe has been on enough of these missions to know what they are walking into. His gaze travels around the table to find his teammates with the same expression on their faces. News agencies might love to hear about missions like this when they are done, but the teams don’t enjoy them. It’s guaranteed to be a shit show.
“Considering the political tensions in the region, this will be a night drop. You will hike the remaining distance to the compound, remove any threats, and secure the location. Once you’ve acquired the targets, unless they are critical, a truck will be standing by to take you back into a neutral zone where you will be airlifted back to base. Only if either woman is critical will a helo evac be called.”
Joe lifts his hand to gain attention, “What do we know about the compound and number of combatants?”
“Not much. We know the compound has multiple small buildings. It has water, and occasionally electricity. From what intelligence could gather, there’s anywhere from ten to twenty-five combatants at any given time.”
“What about roving patrols?” Joe asks.
“Don’t have any intel on that, but it doesn’t mean they’re not out there, so watch your asses.”
Paul jumps in, “What kind of weapons-on-target?”
“Don’t know for certainty. While we don’t believe they have any heavy weapons, be ready for them. Get your shit together. Wheels up in one hour.”
Staring out into the inky darkness, Paul stands next to his teammates, waiting for the command to jump.
“Two minutes to drop.”
Hearing the update in his headset, Paul takes a step forward.
“Ready for this, old man?”
Paul glances behind him at Romeo, who gives him a toothy grin. He flips him the bird.
“One minute to drop.”
“Come on, old man. It’s okay to admit you’re scared.”
“Only of following your dumb ass, which is why I’m in front of you,” Paul retorts, but the smile on his face belies his tone.
“Shut it.” Joe steps forward and holds up his hand, ending the good-natured fight before it can really get started.
Paul pulls his oxygen mask and goggles into place.
When the light overhead turns red, they run down the ramp and jump into the inky black sky in pairs.
The air rushes past him as Paul falls, tugging at his fatigues. With the help of his night vision goggles, his gaze moves over his falling comrades. Time suspends during the short drop. He watches the first chute open, then another and another. After another second of dropping, he pulls his own chord.
With the ground coming up fast, Paul pulls on his toggles to change direction and lands several feet away from one of his teammates in the tall grass. He surveys the area with night vision as he steps out of the gear. In a world of green, tall grass surrounds them that limits their visibility, and trees nearby. He finishes getting ready by tugging a hat over his head. Lifting his rifle into his arms, Paul follows the others into the tree line and out of the open field. They spread out and move in silence through the trees, the sounds of insects and nocturnal animals echoing in their ears.