You've gotta love cliffhangers. So wonderfully cliched, and by their very nature you know what's going to happen.
So let's find out (It's a long one folks): Chapter Four – Final Boarding call
Niko and Rami watched almost helplessly as the pair of feet stopped right next to the bed. Rami had his gun out, and controlled his breathing. The legs stayed still for a moment then turned and headed back to the door. They watched the door open and, seconds later, the subject was gone.
Niko breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and Rami merely holstered his pistol.
“That was close.” Niko breathed.
“Yeah. How about we…” Rami gestured out from under the bed.
“Yeah.” Niko shimmied out and stood looking around as Rami followed.
“I think we’re done here.” Rami said, now standing. “Apart from forgetting his phone, this guy still remembers some things.”
“Pretty big thing to forget though.”
Rami shrugged and moved to the door, peering through the peephole. “We’re clear.”
Niko nodded and followed the Israeli out of the room.
They returned to the office and sat in front of their boss.
“Update me.” The man said curtly.
“We recovered a voice recording.” Rami said.
“At least you got something. Any lead of the one that got away?”
“No.” Niko said, pulling his phone out. “But the message we recovered mentioned support.” He slid the phone over to their boss, and pressed play.
The men listened, even though Niko and Rami had already heard the message. After it ended their boss nodded.
“I see. Well we should address this. As I’ve said, this is too much of a coincidence. Now the mercenary’s calling in his men.” The man took a breath and thought for a moment. “Alright. Get yourselves to the airport. I’ll arrange your flights. You’ll have some gear shipped ahead of you.”
The thing that annoyed Niko was sitting around, waiting. They received a phone call telling them that the gear would be waiting for them in Los Santos. Now they simply had to wait.*****
It was dusk when they landed, and they had a couple of hours until the targets’ flight was due. Even private flights sometimes had to adhere to air traffic schedules.
The targets, which belonged to a PMC associated with the mercenary waiting in Liberty City, were waiting in a private terminal lounge. Both Rami and Niko saw this as bad trade craft; each mercenary should have travelled between coasts independantly, and they shouldn’t be using the same airport, let alone the same flight. But, the Israeli had said to the Serbian, if it makes their job easier, why complain? Sometimes things did
go your way.
They’d studied what material they could on the flight over, spending most of the time looking at the layout of the lounge – it was actually published in a newspaper which reported on a relatively recent refurbishment of the airport. A current photograph of the lounge was affixed also.
The trick was, they both saw at once, getting in to begin with. Once they’d collected their gear – which had been sent ahead somehow – they could hardly walk in through the main entrance. No this operation, Rami had said in observation, would have to be an extended one. First they’d need to – to use Rami’s words – penetrate the airport’s parameter - then infiltrate the terminal. All without detection, which would not only alert the mercenaries into fleeing, but bring down the wrath of anti-terrorist forces, because that’s exactly what their actions would be identified as; terrorism. After all, if one heard the words ‘attack’ and ‘airport’, what else would one think?
Collecting their gear had been the easiest and, in some ways, most stressful part so far. They had to navigate the streets of an unfamiliar city and its infamous traffic, which rivaled Liberty City’s, and locate the safe house. Luckily, their boss had supplied them with a list of safe houses and their addresses and with the aid of a sat-nav, the duo arrived on schedule.
The gear was as surprising as the safe house; that is to say not at all. The décor was cheap and boring and the most exciting item in the entire building was either the television – an old cathode ray tube – or perhaps the refrigerator. That was, of course, excluding the cache hidden inside. There were three crates of varying sizes. The first, and smallest, set on top of the pile, contained the state-of-the-art headsets that Niko didn’t really like much. They were bulky and reminded him of opticians’ apparatus, something he’d been introduced to mere months ago.
The second crate, in the middle in both size and positioning, contained their tactical suits – flexible but armored apparel that bore a strong resemblance to NOOSE SWAT gear. It was colored a dark grey – not black as many people assumed – and came complete with a balaclava and gloves and boots.
The bottom, and largest, case, contained their weapons. Both men had a primary weapon that consisted of a submachinegun – a more modern/high tech version of the P90 – and a sidearm – a pistol. Both weapons had high-end suppressers which the men attached with ease, after checking and running a quick service/clean on both weapons. They also had a few grenades – smoke and flash mainly, though each took a couple of fragmentation grenades – just in case. The final case also contained a knife, a multi-tool kit, and a mechanical lockpick.
Once both men had donned their combat gear, they drove out to the airport, their weapons and headsets stored in the trunk, jackets draped over themselves to hide their military appearance.
Niko parked a block from the Airport and they made their way to it on foot, artfully dodging any traffic in between.
They were greeted by the well known sound of jet engines, and Rami breached the chain link with ease. Within a minute they were beside the runway.
Niko was on point and, with his submachinegun in front, led Rami toward the terminal, to ‘waypoint one’, carefully keeping out of the lights and using cover where possible. In no time at all they reached the door.
Niko was worried about alarms, but Rami shook it off. Airports were busy places and certain areas weren’t alarmed. Whether it was luck, or the norm, their entry point was not alarmed and wide open. It took a while – almost fifteen minutes – but they managed to slip in unnoticed, right next to the ‘throwers’ that loaded up the luggage trolley that would service the airplanes. It was a feat in stealth and discipline, using the piles of cases, the parked caddy and other obstacles to sneak in, and they did it without being seen. Rami wondered if the baggage handlers would actually care.
They found themselves in the catacombs of the airport. As evident by the men loading and unloading the baggage trains, this was the hub for luggage, with conveyors moving in all sorts of directions. There were a lot of workers around too – all moving about like busy, but unenthusiastic, employees, many of them Latinos. Not many females though, Rami observed, wondering if the physical demands of being a handler played a factor. Probably not, he concluded; the women were all probably working roles that dealt directly with the public. Women seemed to be perceived as more hospitable and friendly than men. Rami believed that by such a shallow policy was how they’d probably function.
Either way, male or female – there was a female baggage handler – they were obstacles to be avoided. Both men knew the direction they had to move in, and the designation of the private terminal – P-3B, a designation that would mean absolutely nothing to anyone that didn’t work here.
The entire area was lit like a factory. Fluorescent lights hung high overhead, and orangey-yellow lights dotted the conveyors. There were the odd lamps on walls and pillars, as well as a myriad of LEDs on the machinery. Fortunately though, whether through economy-friendly design or happenstance, there were plenty of shadows and the complex layout only offered many hiding places.
Niko moved forward first. In a military sense, this area was heavy with civilians. That meant they were weapons-tight
. They simply had to avoid any
Niko took cover behind a wall, pressing his body deep into the shadows, and peeked round a corner. A set of metal steps hugged the wall and led to a catwalk which probably services the higher echelons of the conveyor system as well as providing access to the terminals. It was up they wanted to go.
Their night vision goggles were, in fact, infra-red based night vision, and gave the user a high contrast viewpoint. Human bodies stood out like proverbial sore thumbs, as did any other sources of heat. Thermal vision, the informal name was, though there were so many variants of the tool. Niko was not seeing the world in blues and oranges, but in black and white. There was a filter that added a mixture of the more common night vision in too, and that allowed Niko to see the faintest of light sources, and the basic outlines of objects.
Niko watched for any moving workers and saw his opening. He moved out and climbed the stairs, staying low and walking as quickly as he could without compromising on quietness. Luckily this area was not a quiet one, and they had some leeway in the noise they produced.
Niko reached the top of the steps and turned a corner. Ahead a man was approaching – probably thirty or forty feet away. He was carrying a large box and his face was hidden. Niko moved to the only cover available – on top of a machine control panel. He got as flat as he could and edged away from the walkway, into a soft shadow.
The worker passed, not even looking in Niko’s direction. Niko’s position was just above head height, so to be seen the man would have to just happen to look up. Like looking on a shelf.
Rami had positioned himself between a pillar and the lower end of a conveyor. He saw Niko disappear up the steps then the worker come awkwardly down. The worker walked past Rami and Niko radioed in.
“The way up’s clear.”
“Copy.” Rami acknowledged before moving up the steps.
The two converged on the catwalk and moved forward. They found themselves on another level with more conveyors and luggage elevators. Pillars littered the area with signs and fire extinguishers, as well as dolly-trolleys leaning up against them.
Rami pointed in the direction and, on the far wall under the golden glow of a service light, the access door to P-3B stood, lit up like a spotlight.
Rami now led Niko. It was the better way to play this game – leapfrog. Niko took cover out of sight while Rami moved to the next point of hiding. A moment later, Niko followed.
This repeated itself for another five minutes, and they finally found themselves on the highest catwalk, approaching door P-3B.
Niko backhanded Rami on the shoulder. The Israeli turned to see Niko pointing.
Above the door was a camera, pivoting, its single-eyed lens overlooking the area below.
“Stick to the wall. Move slowly.”
Rami took the natural lead now. He pressed his back against the wall and began side-stepping toward the door. He waiting for a moment, telling Niko to hold, then, as the camera began its rotation away from them, he moved quickly toward the door. He worked the lock in seconds and slipped inside.
“Clear in here.” His voice sounded in Niko’s ear. “Wait for the camera, then move in here.”
Niko felt insecure. Sure, he’d avoid the camera’s merciless gaze, but what of the men downstairs? If they looked up and saw a soldier – there was no other word that adequately described him – moving across the catwalk...
It didn’t bear thinking about. Instead he took a deep breath and, once the camera moved away, hurried toward the door.
Rami watched Niko enter and close the door behind him. He paused, casting a last look out over the luggage area as he shut the door, checking to see if anyone had noticed him. Rami was impressed by that.
The pair shared a nod then moved on.
The terminal was exactly what they expected. It had not changed from the photo or the layout they’d studied – both documents had been burnt. It was lit with night-lights too. Enough to see by, but also with plenty of shadows.
“This is going to fun.” Rami said, half sarcastically. In truth it would
be fun. This was what they did. Sure, they’d both fare better with more social-based wet work, tailing and taking single people out, but they were also both trained for this.
In his short time working for the Mossad, Rami had dealt with some KGB operatives from Department V. Rami believed it was the Russians that coined the phrase wet affairs – Мокрые Дела
– and it was likely that which gave them the reputation – in films and fiction at least – of cold hearted killers. The stereotype – or was archetype the right word? – of the Russian KGB assassin, eliminating the target with no emotion... it all came from Department V, the mokrie dela
, the wet work. To wet the earth with the bane of blood
, Rami had heard it explained by that old KGB man.
“How do you want to play it?” Niko asked, pulling Rami out of his mental digression. The Israeli looked down at the men waiting. Most sat reading papers, or magazines, two were engaged in a game of chess, and two more were playing cards on a seat between them. One man was doing some press-ups and a few were walking round. There was a small coffee shop at the far end, serving refreshments to alleviate the hunger pangs, or to quench a thirst. It was both too early and too late for these men to need the caffeine, so it was likely many drank the coffee just to have something to do. Two men were actually dozing, though Rami knew better than to discount them.
“Take out the stragglers first.” Rami said, noting the men walking around. Every man seemed to be in good shape, and were most likely armed. Rami wondered if the men had suppressed or unsuppressed weapons. He didn’t plan to find out, at least not the hard way.
Niko pointed at himself then to the left, where the walkway looped round to an empty cafe which stood above the terminal’s gate. The upper level encompassed each of the four – actually six, as the room was hexagonal – sides, with three stairways down, two leading down like those found in great halls, and one leading down behind the wall, providing back-stage access to the restrooms, which occupied both levels.
Rami ventured down, as Niko set his sights on a target that had wandered into the empty cafe. An easy kill
Rami noted, but an important one
. Like with sports, the first act had to be a good one. Goalkeepers apparently found it important to pounce on early shots, and nothing pleased them more than an easy first shot. Attacking players would, Rami imagined, want their first shot to be on target. A confidence builder? Perhaps, the Israeli though inconclusively. He was simultaneously amazed and bewildered by goalkeepers though, throwing themselves about like they do. They had to be tough and brave, leaping through the air, but also downright idiotic, perhaps crazy. Rami was unaware of the saying that all goalkeepers were
Niko crept up on the mercenary, his combat knife in hand. When he got in range, he hooked his left hand round the target’s head, cupping the mouth, and plunged the knife into the vertebrae, just below the skull. The man was dead almost instantly, and made no sound. He did not kick out, nor did he make any kind of death rattle. A truly silent kill – it was a technique that required practice but was deadly.
Rami’s was mere feet away from his first target. The man was moving through the light. He was not going to reach him before he stepped into view of the other mercenaries, so Rami took careful aim. He controlled his breathing, taking a breath and letting half out, then fired.
The man fell on the carpeted floor with very little noise. No one heard. Perhaps all the shooting they’d done in their lives had rendered them slightly deaf. Rami moved on, skirting the light and dragging the body behind a bench. He then checked his gun and moved on.
Niko had identified his next target. Immediately below him, the temptation to jump off the upper level was there. Distant, but there nonetheless. Instead Niko moved on a distance away from the target and slipped over the railing. He let himself down gently – and quietly – then crept up on the man.
Rami saw his target’s route pass ahead of him. He stood behind a large hanging sign and used his infra-red vision to track his target. The goggles had no problem seeing through the cardboard and, as the target passed, Rami stepped out.
The target’s head turned to see Rami’s left hand reach out. He grabbed the mercenary by the cheeks and thrust a hard and accurate punch to the throat.
The man sucked air in, shocked and before he could make any other sound, Rami stepped around him and grabbed him in a sleeper hold.
There was no neck break – not in the Vinewood way anyway, Rami tightened the sleeper hold and within seconds the man fell from consciousness. Then Rami tightened and held it for even longer, offering a little twist as he pulled the head upwards. There was the faintest of cracks as the spinal cord was severed. But Rami did not do the action violently, so the break was surgical. And quiet.
Out of instinct, Rami turned. He saw a mercenary approaching.
“Dave.” The man was holding a paper. “You seen this?”
Rami was already seen albeit only his shadow. Niko had turned on hearing the voice and had his gun up.
“Hold fire.” Rami breathed.
The man approached Rami, who was still in shadow. Luckily the mercenary was in a lit patch, so seeing the details of the figure was difficult.
“You get changed, brah?”
As soon as the man stepped out of the light, Rami moved forward. His knife plunged into the soft of the man’s stomach – he didn’t work out – and his hand came up to muffle any cry.
Niko nodded at Rami’s work – rather at how calm he was.
“What you...?” Niko turned and came face to face with a mercenary. The man blinked.
The man tried to yell. Niko grimaced and shot the man in the chest and face. No shout had come but the man fell onto a trash can, knocking it over.
Niko moved quickly, climbing up the wall with the use of a seat, and taking cover.
“We’re blown!” He rasped into the mike.
“Copy. Keep your head down.” Rami had already changed positions, and had take cover behind a service desk. He took a deep breath.
From his perch above, Niko saw the men get up and begin to move. Words were exchanged and a shout came out.
“Mario?” There was no answer.
More hushed talking and the men began to spread out, their guns drawn.
“Try to keep this quiet.” Rami advised.
“Got it.” Niko replied, reloading his pistol. He then shrugged and switched to his submachinegun. “Be advised, I’m switching to primary.”
Niko scanned the room, forcing himself to observe. These guys had made a huge mistake. By spreading out they’d allowed themselves to become vulnerable.
Rami was still in great shape, At least for a man of his age. In his prime, in his work for the Mossad, he had been a very strong and agile operator. He could leap higher than most men, and could dangle by a single arm for minutes at a time without his aim suffering. He could shimmy along ledges and even shoot at the same time. He could drop down from the rafters like a ninja, and kill his target – by gun or by hand – before he hit the floor.
Now though? He was getting old. He’d now moved from his cover, having taken a target down in the confusion, and climbed up to the higher level – kicking off of the wall to get the height his partner required a chair for. He still had some moves
“Thin them down to five or six, then we can bring the thunder.” Rami said, referring to their flash grenades and open combat.
Niko obliged by taking out a man who’d paused in between rows of seats. The headshot floored him. A mercenary turned and stared, but the newly deceased had, post mortem, hidden his body well. The man began a slow walk round.
“He’s mine.” Rami thought out-loud. Niko nodded – to himself – then moved to a different position.
Rami climbed over the railing and allowed himself to hang there for a moment. He felt the strain on his wrists and knees. Ten years ago he’d feel his muscles harden as they worked, and that’s it. Now, there was some discomfort.
The target passed beneath him and the Israeli pushed off of the railings, rotating in mid air.
The knife came down first. For some reason, the mercenary had looked up, perhaps seeing a shadow out of the corner of his eye. Perhaps in the reflection of his gun.
Rami didn’t ignore the now familiar target. The serrated blade came down, the tip penetrating the man’s left eyeball.
Rami landed in a roll, releasing his blade. He recovered, ignoring a dull pain in his knees, and pulled the body out of sight. He retrieved the knife and pushed the body under a row of seats. He ducked and rolled under the row behind.
Niko’s new position took him down to the lower level. He brought his gun up, sights set on the back of a man’s head.
He felt the breath before anything else. Immediately he spun round, his arm coming up and knocking the gun out of the man’s hand. The man’s face dropped. Niko was aware of the noise the gun made as it crashed to the floor, but he ignored it. For now. He grabbed the man by the collar and used his momentum to spin the man round. Both men fell, to Niko’s design, and the Serbian landed on top of the mercenary.
“Thought you could sneak up on me, ti kurvin sine
?” Niko pulled the man up then threw his head down as hard as he could. There was a cold, wet thud and the man went limp. Niko then stood and felt the eyes on him. A shot was fired.
Niko grabbed one of the grenades.
“Cloudburst!” He rapped into his mic. The mercenaries probably didn’t hear it but he spoke in code anyway. Cloudburst meant he was releasing a smoke grenade.
Things suddenly went to hell. Rami brought his gun up and shot two men from under the seats. Niko had pulled down his goggles and pulled down a vending machine. Using it as cover he began picking off targets with short, controlled bursts.
Rami saw the men fall. One by one. The Serbian was using the smoke to conceal himself, and once he pulled down his goggles, Rami saw the red and orange figure behind a large darkened square. Clever,
his analytical mind observed as he reloaded his gun.
The mercenaries began peppering Niko’s position with gun fire. The smoke was beginning to thin, so Niko moved. He rolled to the side and shoulder open a door as he rose to his feet. He even closed it after him.
Rami hadn’t seen his partner move. He was reloading and when he looked up, Niko was gone.
Niko found himself in a small corridor. It wasn’t well lit. The hallway looked like those found in the back of hotels – connecting two places for the convenience of the staff. He ran along, an idea forming in his mind.
Rami had to leave his position. Three men had cornered him and, as he crawled out, they approached.
There was a shout, but Rami rose, using his leg power to slap the gun out of the first man’s hands, with both palms. A little known fact – at least amongst most criminals – was that you hit hard with soft, and soft with hard. You don’t punch someone in the face. There’s a lot of bone there – you use the heel of your hand. You only punch in the stomach, or somewhere that’s soft. A gun was certainly not soft.
The mercenary was surprised, but Rami wasn’t. He danced past the man and spun as the other two – three now – mercenaries opened fired. The Israeli ducked as the mercenary took the bullets, Then he thrust forward, lunging the now dead body into one of the gun men.
Rami surged forward. As he reached a man – who was anticipating a melee attack – he threw his legs forward, allowing his upper half to fall backward. He grabbed the mercenary’s suppressed pistol and slid under the man’s open legs. As he passed, Rami opened fire, taking out the other two men. He stood and grabbed the disarmed man’s shoulder, spinning him round. A knee to the stomach allowed Rami to grab the head in an upside-down headlock. He twisted. Hard.
Niko opened the door and moved through the cafe. He found himself on the upper level and approached the railings.
Rami turned to see the remaining mercenaries bring their gun up, having seen the four second fight. The Israeli dropped the pistol and went for his submachinegun.
“Starlight!” Niko’s voice sounded. Rami merely looked at the floor, strafing as he did so.
The group of mercenaries hadn’t anticipated what came next. Niko had ‘cooked’ the grenade, and expertly thrown it into the group of men. They only had time to see it before it exploded.
The noise was ear piercing. The flash, had Niko not looked away, would have taking him out of the game too. But the mercenaries on the lower level all began stumbling about. The flashbang had exploded right in front of one man’s face, and he lay on the floor, unconscious, perhaps dead. Two more were writhing on the floor, bleeding from the ears.
Niko and Rami shared no sympathy. They opened up with their guns, sending three round bursts into each man’s head. In seconds they’d taken down ten men.
A few more survived. One had figured out Niko’s escape and was in the service corridor. Another had been at the far end of the terminal, by the entrance. The third was standing by the access door to baggage handling.
Niko took out the man by the baggage handling door. A simple shot with the submachinegun’s sights had seen to that. Rami turned and sprinted toward the man by the entrance. He leapt up and ran on the seats of two of the chairs, stepping up onto the backs of them before leaping into the air.
The target was taken by surprise. Rami came down, his knife drawn and held with the blade running parallel with his wrist. The force of him coming down not only slit the man’s throat, but almost took the head clean off. Rami stood, his lower arm and hand drenched in blood.
One man remained, and Niko had seen the door open. He’d left it closed. He moved and stood behind the door in the cafe.
The remaining target rushed through the door and al Niko had to do was put a single bullet in the back of his head.
Niko’s statement was interrupted by a loud crash. He ran to the railings and saw a man disappear through a set of doors by the gate.
“We’ve got a runner!” Niko called to Rami, leaping the railing and taking chase. Rami wasn’t far behind.
Niko sprinted through the door and into the crisp, night time air. It was then he saw how close they’d timed it. The targets’ plane – a private one which still amazed both men – had taxied into position. The steps were down and the target ran up them.
Niko followed and the plane began to move. Rami only just caught up and had to leap off of the top of the steps as the plane accelerated.
“Don’t move!” Both men stared at the target, standing in the cockpit, a gun to the pilot’s head. “Shut the door.” The co-pilot was already dead. There was no sign of the crew, who’d fled as the man came aboard.
Rami obeyed. They had strict rules here – no civilian causalities. “Make a move toward me, and I kill him, we all die.”
The plane took off, and Niko lost his balance. He fell out of sight and knocked into a cupboard, revealing a collection of rucksacks. He grabbed one then waved it to Rami. Parachutes!
The tables had turned.
“You’re not going to shoot.” Rami said calmly. “If you wanted to die, you wouldn’t have run.”
“Who are you?” The man demanded.
“Let me answer that question with another.” Rami said. “Who hired you?”
“Nah-uh.” The man laughed mockingly. He was scared. “You take out my team – my
team. I don’t owe you sh*t.”
“I’ll tell you if you tell us.”
The man chewed on that for a moment. “We’re a PMC. We go where the money is.” They knew that.
“But who paid for you?”
“You’re asking the wrong man. Ask that prick who sold us out. He took the money then sent you didn’t he?”
“Good try.” Niko said, reappearing. “You’re hired to kill the bad guys.” A look in the man’s eyes told them they were right. “But I’ve got bad news for you friend.” Niko approached the target. “Do you want to know who the bad guys are?”
The man exhaled, barely able to form the word ‘yeah’.
“Us.” Niko’s face went hard, and cold, his eyes staring the man down. The target froze and Niko’s gun came up. A single shot was fired.
The man flinched and nudged the pilot, knocking the controls. The plane changed pitch slightly, but enough to affect Niko’s shot. The single bullet didn’t hit the target’s head. Instead it bore into his chest. The man’s muscles tightened and he fired his shot into the pilot’s face.
The sound of the engines changed then. The plane began to tilt. Nose first.
“We’re going down.” Rami called out. Niko moved forward and brought his gun up to finish the target off. But the man fired first, causing Niko to jump back.
“I’m taking you with me…” The man gargled. He turned and fired several shots into the instruments before Niko could react. Both Rami and Niko put bullets into him in the end.
Then they saw the ocean in the cockpit window.
“We’d better leave.” Rami said, strangely calm. Both men grabbed the parachutes, struggling to stand. By the time they were on and they’d opened the door – to an inrush of wet and icy cold wind – the plane was almost vertical.
Rami wasted no time and leapt out. Niko was half a second behind.
The plus side – Niko thought as he fell into the darkness – was if the chute didn’t open, they might survive. It was only a couple of hundred feet fall to the water. Survivable. More so than on land anyway.
Both men had waiting mere seconds before opening their chutes. They weren’t far from land, and managed to steer in that direction.
Behind them the private jet collided with a fishing trawler in a huge fireball. Both operators felt the heat as they floated down towards the city of saints. Click Here to read the next chapter - It's All About The Guns!.