“Bloody hell! That thing is turning us into Swiss cheese!”
“Not for long. Mark him, Vanya, so I can see when to let him have it!” I switched into rocket mode and dialed up a salvo of four. Tipping my nose almost vertical to the ground, we picked up speed. Vanya locked him up with the low-light-level TV in our nose, putting a circle on my combining glass. I pointed my reticle toward the circle; once they superimposed, I would have him clear.
“Nyet! Sacha, watch it!” We were heading right for the madly evading APC. I could see the Wahhabists in the cupola, frantically gesturing, pounding on the turret gun with some sort of mallet. It was jammed!
“Do svidaniya, zhopy’!” In my reticle, the circle marking my prey merged with the reticle. I could see them filling my glass, I really had no need of the system lock now. I squeezed the trigger, sending waves of death raining down as we flashed overhead.
“What do you think, Vanya, eh? Do our friends have enough for their show now?”
“You will get us killed yet, Sacha.” Vanya let his breath out in a rush audible over the intercom. “Look out your bubble, my girl — all the mujahids are off to their 72 virgins.”
I swung the Krokodil around, checking the targets. We had prevailed! All the vehicles were burning most satisfactorily. I called my young falcons from their perch nearby, complimenting them on their first action. Today, we were successful.
“Shh…. Rest, Sacha. Don’t try to move too fast.”
My head hurt. “Wha…?” Oh, that hurt, too.
“Suicide terrorist. Made it through the perimeter to the airfield. A miracle the flightline patrol got him before he could set off his explosive vest.”
I sat up, wincing. “What happened?”
“Stray round hit your hard hat.” Vasily smiled. “It was wise of you to wear it for once. A millimeter lower and the round would have creased your head instead. As it was, you took a nasty spill off the ladder but nothing permanent.”
My hand flew to the left side of my face, causing Vasily to laugh. “It didn’t get your beautiful face, Shoura. Never worry about that.” He sat back, grinning. “Your father was in a state, you know. He was threatening summary punishment for everyone on the flight line. As it was, the gate guards got ten days under arrest in the glasshouse, but that was it. The General calmed him down somewhat.”
“He’s here?” I winced.
“Da. He’ll come by in the morning. You rest now. Plenty of time for family later.”
Vasily’s attention wavered, distracted for a moment by the television in my hospital room, which someone had left on at a low level. It was playing a show in the background, something about people fighting over whales in the Antarctic.
He quickly reached up, angrily snapping it off.
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