Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.
The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.
Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in, and because of it, he has now been roped into what might be called a suicide mission.
It took longer, as everything does when you’re in a hurry.
The plane was loaded, the fuel truck had just disconnected the final hose, and was leaving the field, and Davies was firing up the engines.
Everyone was on board and strapped in. I gave my thanks to the Colonel and shut the door before joining Davies in the cockpit.
Looking at her cool, calm demeanor gave me confidence. If anyone could get us out of here in one piece, she could.
I put the headphones on and put on the seat belt, just as she revved the engines, saw the wave from the ground crewman who removed the wheel chocks, and we started moving.
15 minutes to spare. Would it be enough?
The Colonel had said that it was possible the helicopter might be one of those belonging to the air force and might have missiles that could shoot us down. Not a good thought. At the very least it would have a cannon, and if the bullets hit us, it could make an awful mess of the fuselage.
He didn’t have any good news though.
I was hoping it would just be a commercial helicopter with a couple of thugs with handguns shooting at us.
At the top of the runway, she didn’t waste time going to full throttle, and we started rumbling down the runway. Unfortunately, the wind had changed and to take off we had to initially fly towards Congo airspace before turning towards our destination.
Then we lifted off and started gaining altitude.
Then I heard Davies mutter, “Fuck.”
Trouble. I saw what elicited the curse. The helicopter, heading towards us.
“Military,” she added.
Not that I had any idea what I was looking for, but it didn’t seem to have rockets, but it did have a cannon barrel under the fuselage.
“Brace yourself,” she said. “We’re about to get on the roller coaster.”
Still climbing we were getting closer, and I could just see the cannon move. If it was shooting rounds, they didn’t hit us, not from such a distance, but they were getting closer because we were still flying towards them.
Then, suddenly, she turned the planes to the right and down, a plunge so quick that my stomach was in my mouth. I hate to think what it would be like for those in the back.
Aside from the fact my hearing was blocked by the headphones, I could still hear several mini-explosions coming from behind me.
Another curse, rather longer this time, from Davies and she twisted the plane back in the opposite direction, and heading around towards the airfield again, much lower down this time, with the helicopter in hot pursuit.
Now we couldn’t see it, but it would have a good view of our engines and tail.
If any of the bullets hit, we’d be in big trouble.
I was bracing myself for disaster.
Davies was coaxing the plane upwards, but it seemed sluggish.
“Gun’s jammed.” She said. “If you don’t maintain your equipment…”
That statement was cut off by a huge explosion and turning as far as I could in my seat I just saw the remnants of a firewall, what was once a helicopter.
“Ground to air rocket. The Colonel must have some interesting toys at his disposal.” Davies sounded very relieved.
I started breathing again.
“Are we damaged?” It was a valid question. The plane seemed like it was flying awkwardly.
“I’d say so., Those explosions. Cannon fire hitting the fuselage. Probably took out some controls, or failing that, since there’s still maneuverability, probably just a few holes creating drag.”
She was a matter of fact like, but that was more because she was fighting the controls to keep us moving in the right direction.
Away from trouble.
“Go check it out,” she said.
At the head of the cabin, I saw the problem, a row of neat holes carved from one window through to halfway along the fuselage, going down. We’d be lucky if one of the bullets hadn’t struck one of the wires that drove the flaps/
There was a hell of a noise from the air coming in through the holes.
By the second window, slumped forward, was Shurl. There was blood and blood spatter on the floor. Monroe came up to me and yelled in my ear.
“Damned good flying, and only one casualty. We were incredibly lucky. Shurl wasn’t quick enough to get on the floor. Other than that, we’re still in the air, and I’m guessing someone shot the helo down?”
“Ground to air missile. Any sooner, that would have been us. Try and sit back, rest, and enjoy the in-flight service. Oh, and a prayer or two might help.”
© Charles Heath 2020