What should have been a twenty-minute drive to Manama took almost an hour as their drivers had to take so many back roads to avoid the riots. Several times, they almost got caught by an approaching crowd only to speed away just as flying rocks and the occasional gunshot was sent their way. After detouring around the highway several times, Bill instructed the two drivers to just jump the curb and take side streets the rest of the way to the next target building.
From the passenger seat, Bill leaned back and showed them an overhead satellite picture of their target. The location was from the latest cell phone lock reported from Nerve; the map was simple commercial imagery.
“This is the next target,” Bill told them. “Wa’ad.”
The old school leftist political group still around from during the 1980’s.
“We will pull up on the target street this time and head right down to the front door, situation dependent of course.”
Deckard took one look at the objective area as Zach drove over a dead body laying in the street.
“There is a clear egress route out the back heading down the street to the west,” Deckard pointed out. “I’ll cut off the escape route.”
“Fine. Take Zach with you.”
Zach nodded as they continued to drive, “We’re just a few minutes out.”
The blacked-out sports utility vehicles pulled to the side of the road and stopped as they closed on the target. They were in the middle class neighborhood of sand-colored two and three story homes. Satellite dishes were on nearly every rooftop. Dark pools of brown water fermented along the side of the street.
Zach and Deckard jogged down an alleyway, dodging the air conditioner units that stuck out from windows as they moved to cover on the back side of the objective building. They arrived at the side street after having broken a sweat. Gunfire was popping off somewhere in the distance.
Pulling out his cell phone, Zach called Bill.
“We’re in position.”
Bill would now be moving his element with the other four Liquid Sky shooters down the street to breach the objective and kill the Wa’ad members inside.
Deckard pointed his AK-47 up at one of the rooftops and squeezed off two shots in rapid succession. Zach cringed as the shots caught him off guard.
“Saw a guy up there with a gun,” Deckard told him.
It was a blatant lie. He had just fired off a few warning shots to whoever was home, deliberately compromising their objective and costing them the element of surprise. He could hear Bill screaming over the cell phone at Zach.
“We just took someone out,” Zach told Bill, knowing better than to mention names. “Someone squirting off the objective.”
The line went dead and Zach pocketed the phone. The former Navy SEAL looked back at Deckard with his blond hair plastered against his forehead due to perspiration.
“Got a bad feeling about this one.”
“Me too,” Deckard said knowing that he was pushing the envelope harder than he ever had before. It was unlikely that he would get away with it.
The staccato bursts of gunfire rattled windows throughout the neighborhood. It was coming from the opposite side of the objective. Liquid Sky had made contact. Their Kalashnikov rifles answered in kind.
Seconds later, footsteps came beating down the side street towards Zach. The two mercenaries had both taken a knee next to the walls of houses alongside the narrow street.
“Here they come,” Zach said as he flipped the selector on his AK-47 from safe to semi.
Deckard did the same, then oriented the weapon away from the Wa’ad members heading towards them. Aiming down the rifle’s rear sight, he lined it up with the front sight post. His hands shook as he pulled the trigger.
The single shot blasted into the back of Zach’s head and immediately dropped him. He was dead before his body hit the ground.
The Wa’ad members stumbled as they tried to slow down and stop as the gunshot rang out right in front of them.
“You’re safe,” Deckard said in Arabic. “You are not in danger from me.”
Six Arabs moved forward carefully as Deckard emerged from the shadows. All of them were carrying rifles or pistols. One of them stepped forward to confront Deckard. He was perhaps sixty years old and had a thick bushy mustache.
“Who are you?”
“I just saved your life,” Deckard pointed towards Zach’s body. The head wound had gushed blood all over the street.
“You are American?”
“Yes,” Deckard answered. “Part of a team hired to kill you and your group.”
“So why are we talking?”
“I’ve had a change of allegiance.”
More gunfire rattled out from the objective building. Liquid Sky was still being engaged by other Wa’ad members in the area.
“We don’t have much time,” Deckard told the leader of the group. “You need to know that you and the other resistance groups are being set up. Turned against each other by propaganda and lies. They are trying to make it look like Wafiq, Wafa, and Wa’ad have all turned on each other. Do not believe the lies.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will. Call your contacts in Wafa and warn them that we will be coming to kill them next. Warn them so they can get away. You can continue to work with them against the Royal family.”
“I don’t believe this,” the older man said.
“I understand. Just run. Make that phone call when you get to a safe place, just to be sure.”
With a wave of his hand, he motioned his Wa’ad brothers forward. They ran past him and down the side street.
“I don’t believe you Amriki,” the old man said. “But if it turns out that you are telling me the truth, then God be with you.”
“And with you,” Deckard said. “But I think God has left me to my own devices this time.”
The arab looked at Deckard long and hard. Finally, he turned and ran to catch up with his comrades.
Deckard wasn’t looking forward to what was coming next. Reaching into his kit, he palmed a hand grenade. Pulling the pin he held down the spoon and carefully placed himself just outside the blast radius of the grenade from where he would throw it next to Zach’s body.
Holding his breath, Deckard tossed the grenade as the spoon flew into the air. Rolling into the fetal position, he lay on the ground facing away from the grenade and jammed his fingers in his ears while slightly opening his mouth to help equalize the pressure.
It didn’t help him any when the blast rolled over him and everything went black.
Deckard opened his eyes.
He felt like he had been hit by a truck. Lifting his head up off the ground, his mind struggled to make sense of what was happening. He heard someone calling his name. The voice sounded distant and faint. Then it was suddenly right in his ear as someone was trying to lift him up.
Nadeesha cradled his head in her hands. His eyes focused and he realized he was laying in the street. Men dressed in para-military gear were standing over him. Deckard managed to get out a single word.
The big man standing over him shook his head. It was Bill.
“You guys got hit with a grenade. You’re lucky to be alive.”
Paul pushed Nadeesha out of the way. Bending over, he grabbed Deckard under the armpits and helped him to his feet. Deckard found that he could stand but was shaky on his feet. Rick picked up Deckard’s AK-47 and looked it over before handing it over to him.
“Looks like the magazine got blown out but the receiver is still good.”
Bill and Paul watched him try to reload the AK. He was sloppy as hell. It felt like he was wearing Hamburger Helper mittens.
Bill leaned down and picked up Zach. Dead weight, wearing body armor, was completely different than carrying a live person, but Bill didn’t even flinch as he flopped the body over his shoulder.
“Let’s go,” the Liquid Sky leader said.
Paul placed a palm in the small of Deckard’s back and pushed him forward toward the vehicles. They navigated the streets to the black SUVs and got inside. Deckard found that his head was beginning to clear. He was still alive. Still alive, still a member of Liquid Sky. For now. The grenade blast had covered up the fact that he had executed Zach. The body was mangled enough by fragmentation that Bill could not tell that he had been killed by a shot to the back of the head.
Deckard’s state when the team arrived at the scene of the killing had alleviated him from suspicion.
With Zach’s body loaded in the back of the truck, Bill took the wheel and led out, heading for their third target of the night. It was the Wafa political party headquarters to the north of the island on Muharraq.
“Deckard,” Bill said as he drove. “I know you just got blown up but you can pick your weeping vagina off the ground when we get back home. Put in a TBI claim with VA or some shit, I don’t care, but don’t puss out on us.”
“I’m good,” Deckard said even though he only half believed it. “Just tell me where you need me.”
Bill made a phone call to Nerve while he drove.
“We’re en route to the third objective,” he said to someone on the other end of the line. “Is the bridge to Muharraq open?”
He paused while someone talked.
“Okay, I’m pulling over.”
Bill pulled on to the shoulder of the road, the second SUV pulling up behind them.
“The military has road blocks up on both bridges,” Bill informed them. “We have to wait a minute for Nerve to get commo through to make a hole for us. Otherwise those Pakistani monkeys will open fire on us.”
The cell phone rang two minutes later.
“Yeah?” Bill said as he picked up.
A few seconds passed while he listened.
Terminating the call, Bill pulled back onto the road. A half mile later they were at the bridge. An armored personnel carrier manned by Pakistani mercenaries chugged to life and blasted out a plume of black smoke as it drove forward on its treads to clear the road for the two Liquid Sky vehicles. The camouflaged soldiers stood guard with rifles at the ready, dressed in full battle rattle for when the rioters showed up.
Liquid Sky shot across the bridge. The water between the two islands looked like glass in the night. Golden light from the tall buildings near the shore bounced off the sea. Another Pakistani road block moved out of the way on the other side of the bridge, allowing them to pass onto Muharraq.
Unlike Manama, the streets of Muharraq did not follow a grid pattern but wound around neighborhoods in a haphazard manner. Some of the main streets were absolutely flooded with rioters. Cars were tipped over, storefronts smashed. Pakistani riot-control police moved forward with shields, batons, and face shields as they attempted to control the Shia majority that had gotten fed up with being second-class citizens. With the Royal family of Bahrain now gunning them down, the protest had taken on a new, and violent, flavor.
Bill avoided the large crowds, again staying on the side streets as much as possible. After making a couple hard turns through the urban sprawl, the streets simply became too narrow for them to drive down. According to the Garmin GPS on the dashboard they were only a block away from the Wafa headquarters so they again locked up the vehicles and moved out on foot.
Liquid Sky was now one gun short. With the team in disarray, Bill took the lead. Losing a team member always mind-fucked the survivors mid-mission even if they tried to pretend otherwise. Nadeesha seemed relieved to see Deckard walking without assistance, his rifle held at the low ready. The team weaved through the streets for the third time that night. It was getting late, maybe another three hours of night left before dawn.
Approaching the target building, there was clearly a Wafa party banner hung up outside. Officially they were a banned political party, but in the last twenty-four hours, the law no longer carried the weight it once had. There was a movement under way, one that turned into a riot after hundreds of them were mowed down by security forces, and now it threatened to spiral into a full-blown civil war.
Deckard still felt like he was walking on jello, his senses a little dulled from the explosion. Still, he had to wonder if the Royal family, Al-Khalifa, wasn’t shoving their trunks and suitcases onto a Gulfstream private jet to fly into exile in Qatar or the UAE right about now.
Paul and Ramon used the hoolie tool and battering ram to breach the door. Entering and clearing the structure, Deckard came in behind Bill and cleared his corners. The alcove at the door was empty. They flowed into the adjoining room. The lights were on, but nobody was home. Bill and Ramon took the kitchen while Nadeesha followed Deckard upstairs. They cleared two more rooms on the second floor. Paul and Rick came up behind them and leapfrogged to the last room. Not a single person in sight.
Shuffling back downstairs, Rick shook his head at Bill.
“Dry hole,” Rick said.
Bill walked back into the kitchen. There was a tea kettle on the stove. He pulled off his glove and placed a hand on it.
“Got a bad feeling,” Paul said.
Deckard leaned up against a wall to support himself.
“Place could be rigged to blow,” he whispered almost to himself.
Nadeesha’s eyes went wide.
The cell phone in Bill’s pocket began to vibrate.
“Yeah,” he answered.
“Who is coming?”
Another quick pause.
Hardly any pause.
“What do you mean ALL directions?”
Bill put the phone back in his pocket.
“We’re out of here, now. Wafa put out a call on all their social media networks that agents of the Royal family have raided their headquarters.”
“Holy shit,” Rick said as they ran for the back door. “They baited us in.”
“How the hell did they even know we were coming?” Ramon said.
Deckard kept quiet. He was glad that the leaders of Wa’ad had placed that call to Wafa, but now there was still the matter of him escaping Bahrain with his life intact.
Liquid Sky escaped out the back way and scrambled over a low wall. Rioters were already pouring down the street they had entered from, heading for the Wafa party headquarters. The alley was so narrow that they had to turn sideways to scoot through it, stepping over empty plastic bottles and crumpled newspapers.
Bill peered around the corner to see what was going on in the street.
They punched across the street and into another alley, circling around to find their vehicles. Behind them, another mob surged down the street they had just crossed. Liquid Sky was getting boxed in. When they got to the end of the alley, Bill could see the SUVs parked where the street got too narrow to drive.
The rioters had squeezed between the vehicles to get to the Wafa headquarters building, or simply climbed right over the top of the trucks. One was banging on a window with a rock to try to break inside. A couple others loitered around with crowbars or axe handles. Stepping into the street, Bill serviced each of the three targets with a burst from his Kalashnikov.
Bill again took the wheel of the first vehicle. Deckard climbed into the back seat. Once the Liquid Sky team was loaded up, they put it in reverse and started backing up. Having heard the gunfire, the rioters down the street turned to see what was happening. When the black SUVs began to make their escape, they knew these had to be the government agents they were looking for.
Bill gunned it. Ramon drove the other SUV, and they accelerated down the narrow street, Bill’s rear bumper only four feet from Ramon’s front bumper. The trucks moved in unison as the rioters charged forward. Several rocks pounded the windshield as Bill drove looking over his shoulder. The glass spider-webbed on impact. Deckard recoiled further inside the vehicle as Bill side swiped a garbage can and a nearby wall which shaved off the side-view mirror.
As he drove, Bill kept one hand on the wheel at the twelve o’ clock position. This way, as he swerved through the twisting streets in reverse, he always knew that bringing his hand back to that same position would straighten out the wheels.
Another rock flew, this one landing short. They had cleared off the X.
Pulling out on the highway, Ramon and Bill turned their vehicles around and started back for the causeway to the main island.
Green tracer fire flashed across the street in front of them.
Bill cursed as he jerked the wheel. A Pakistani convoy down the road hammered away at both vehicles. Automatic gunfire from a PKM machine gun skipped off the pavement. The upholstery and plastic siding in the SUV popped and hissed around Deckard as the truck was turned into a sieve. A piece of plastic housing around the arm rest blasted off and spun through the truck.
“That’s one way to enforce curfew,” Paul said from the passenger seat.
Bill snapped them around in a u-turn and cut off their headlights to drive blacked out. The second SUV did the same.
“I’m not driving back through that bullshit,” Bill said as he got back on the phone with Nerve.
“Arrange transportation for us at Bahrain International,” Bill said over the phone. Unlike Isa Air Base which was at the southern tip of the island, Bahrain International was only a kilometer away. It was the right call. The riots were getting more intense and it seemed less likely they would be able to navigate the roads. Now they were having close calls with the Pakistani soldiers that the government had deployed to control the riot as well. The more Paks that the rioters killed, the more trigger happy the soldiers would become, firing on anything that moved.
As the SUVs screamed north, Bill spotted a pile of burning tires in the middle of the street so he cut the wheel and shot into the opposing lane. Rioters threw more rocks and a few fired gunshots as they whizzed by. Bill jerked the wheel in time to body check one rioter who went flying through the air like a rag doll.
A few minutes later, they arrived at the airport. Bill called it in to Nerve, and the soldiers guarding the entrance let them drive through. Cruising onto the tarmac, their coordinator at Nerve directed them to link up with a Gulf Air pilot and crew.
Bill killed the call as he found the aircraft, a massive Airbus 330. The ground crew scrambled around to get it refueled and prepped for takeoff.
Deckard knew that, by now, the Royal family must be shitting bricks. The riots were out of control and Liquid Sky’s mission had turned into a shit show. They would want the American hit squad out of their country as soon as possible.
Stepping out of the pockmarked SUVs, the team was better able to inspect the damage. It was a miracle that none of them had been killed when the Pakistanis opened up on them on the highway.
The ground crew wheeled the stairs up to the side of the aircraft and motioned to the team to get on board. Rick managed to find a tarp next to the terminal and with Paul’s help, used it to wrap Zach’s body in. They were not concerned with getting him back home for a proper burial, his body would have to be ditched at sea somewhere along the line. He could not be left behind in order to protect their operational security.
Manhandling Zach’s remains on board the aircraft, the team took seats apart from each other and sat down. The interior of the aircraft was brightly lit and felt strange to the commandos who sat wearing their body armor, covered in sweat and blood. The airplane would normally seat hundreds of passengers but they had it all to themselves. The plane was empty and they were alone.
It was a long trip back.