When the Finch finally comes out of this bank some two and a half minutes later or thereabouts, Claribel feels it important to inform, “Almost to the drop. Gather your shit and get ready for my mark.”
Her free hand drifts over the control panel making a series of adjustments that she require no conscious thought to perform. That is experience at its best. Things become instinctive. They just happen. Thinking is what causes mistakes, usually in the form of delays and hesitations, like second guessing. Thankfully such afflictions are not a consideration for Claribel and so she manoeuvres the Finch, which is yet again under fire, ever closer to the highest terrace that protrudes from the slab of glass that is Linqi Lance. Bullets make what are the now familiar thumping sounds all across the skin of the Finch. She’d have cycled the doors closed but to be honest one of the airbourne boxes failures is with the door hydraulics. She wasn’t about to tell Zeta that and so just pretended it would force a slow down. In truth, the doors being in place would have hastened their climb not slowed it. She hopes they aren’t aware of how drag works but then if they are they haven’t said a word. Not that she gave them the chance too.
The g-forces on her body during the banking climb were enough. She can only imagine what they were like for the four; she means three, members of Zeta who have been stood, braced throughout.
Teddy and Lister open fire using the guns that were hastily mounted to the side of the Finch. Jax ordered they lay down some covering fire but reminded them not to get reckless. They both understood what their CO was getting at. This was always going to be a difficult op but with them now a trio the odds are even further stacked against them.
Teddy wonders just how many goons Mortimer Davidson has while firing burst after burst from the belt fed machine gun. Most of the hired guns on Linqi manage to duck behind cover. Only a few are shredded by his and Lister’s hail of bursting bullets. Still, it’s enough to cut a significant amount of the incoming fire. Maybe, they’ll even get to the terrace in one piece. It’s the thought that enters the blue eyed man’s head.
Not long after that the Finch stops moving. Lister dares to peer over the edge past where he needs to while manning the machine gun and spies the leafy terrace right below. A smile splits across his face. Bullets poorly lace his position. He switches back to firing, concentrating on the job at hand. Still, the smile persists across his face. It’s like the smile is stuck as a result of that old wives tale that says if you have an expression and the wind direction changes you get stuck like that.
Jax meanwhile turns his attention to Claribel who assures, “Fifteen seconds and then I have to bug out. Engines are overheating.” Zetas CO has to admit that sounds bad. He hopes she isn’t cutting the margins too fine to ensure her own safe getaway. Still, the Finch pilot is more honest and blunt than Jax considered she might be when they were first introduced to one another. Maybe it’s to make a point or maybe… It doesn’t matter, he tells himself. Right after he orders loudly, “Time to jump gentlemen. I’ll cover you both then follow.”
Lister nods without taking his eyes off the terrace. Rather, he dumps his hold on the machine gun, wrenches his assault rifle around and into his hands only to jump barely a second after toward the terrace below. It’s a seven foot drop. Lister dips his shoulder, performs a roll only and comes to a halt once he is upright with one knee dipped to the soft damp grass in this section of the terrace. His weapon raised he scans back and forth for targets. There are none. For some reason this terrace is clear. To him this smells very much like a trap. Lister empties his mind and waits. Suddenly, hired guns appear. Mortimer has his own personal army posted everywhere. The goons open fire. Lister does to. Right then Teddy appears at his side. He too opens fire but quickly slides into cover after a few bursts. Jax meanwhile pours weapons fire on the hired army of gun wielding suits. His guess is that they are all employees of Linqi’s security division. It’s headed by a man called Declan Parfitt. He is a close ally of Mortimer and has worked alongside the CEO for some thirty years, according to intelligence. From his file, lacking a recent photo, he’s described as a well dressed man who by all accounts has a penchant for violence. In some ways just like Ferris had been, except for the well dressed part. Ferris was always a little ragged during their down time and not much better when on ops.
“I’ve got to bug out! Time’s…” Claribel never gets to finish her statement because a rocket slams into one of the rear rotors. The rotor and its shroud explode into a plume of shrapnel. The force of the explosion viciously rocks the Finch forward and backward. Right after the initial devastation the aircraft begins to list to the right. Somehow Jax managed to hang on throughout. Even he is confused as to how but shoves the thoughts from his mind and clambers back to his feet. He does so just in time to see another rocket carving its way through the air and toward the Finch. “Incoming!” Jax roars while grabbing hold of the overhead rails.
“Jump!” Is Claribel’s immediate reply which comes in the form of an order. For reasons unbeknownst to him he complies and throws himself out of the Finch following a two step run-up. Almost immediately after jumping the second rocket slams into the other rear rotor. It too detonates in much the same fashion as the first had.
Jax meanwhile feels himself sailing through the air. The jump is further than he thought it would be and as a result he only just narrowly clears the glass wall railing that runs the entire edge of the long sweeping terrace. Then he crashes to the soft green. The impact isn’t as painful as he expected but regardless he rolls onto his back, out of the path of incoming bullets. From this position he watches helplessly as the Finch piloted by Claribel veers off, sinking rapidly as it does so. “Claribel!” Jax bellows without realising.
The green eyed head of Zeta manages to scramble back to his feet and rush to the glass railing only to peer over it just in time to see the Finch slam into the side of Linqi Lance. It explodes into a black fireball with a heart crushing sound that Jax can’t begin to describe.
Bullets zip past Jax. He’s oblivious to them. That is until Lister blares, “Jax, there are too many!”
With that the CO of Zeta grabs his assault rifle from across his chest and hauls it up and into position, he spins and opens fire. Jax prefers to keep his weapon on semi-auto but drops into a crouch following a series of eight shots. Two of the security goons go down. They’re dead and will never get up again. Two rounds in their hearts, the last in their heads. The other two rounds miss their mark entirely which is why Jax didn’t fire the third. It would have been a waste. After all, the attacker had already ducked back into cover. That gives Jax the time to scurry into cover of his own. He chooses to duck behind an open topped cube of black painted concrete that serves as a plant pot for what had been a small tree. The tree is decimated now with no more than the shattered remnants of a willowy trunk and many shards of splintered wood serving as proof that it ever existed in the first place.
“What’s the plan?” Lister asks of his CO while they both keep low behind their chosen cover.
Jax doesn’t answer. He needs to asses first, which is why he turns to face his cover. Throughout bullets continue to chip away at the concrete plant pot. It will take a while before his cover is eroded completely. He’d rather not be here that long. It’s a sure-fire way of getting yourself killed. And Jax knows better than to do that. If he didn’t then he wouldn’t still be here, in the land of the living with… He trails off because he’s heard a pause in the assault upon his position. He takes the chance, as risky as it is, and quickly rises from cover, counts the combatants and then sinks back to safety. Just as he does so the hail of gunfire starts up again. Flakes of concrete dust are shot a good ten centimetres above the source of the impacts. Teddy begins to cough in response. Jax diverts his attention to the techie of Zeta, concerned.
“Concrete dust.” Teddy manages between choking coughs. Jax and Lister both chuckle. Their outbursts last three seconds and following that they are serious once more.
“There’re seven. We take them then head inside. Gotta find a terminal and plug in. We need the buildings systems working for us. We try and push without that and we’ll be hamburger meat before we know it.” It’s an honest analogy of the situation and their possible future by Jax.
Lister and Teddy both agree and so the pair nod. Neither can doubt Jax’s words make sense. Still, they miss Ferris. He’d have rushed headlong at these hired guns. That alone probably would have cleared the terrace and bought them some time. Not an option they can rely on anymore, not that they ever did.
Reality is they’ll have to do things more by the book, which is why they all ready themselves, and then at the next break in fire appear from cover and take four of the seven aggressors out. The other three fire a little too late. By that point Zeta are back in cover. More concrete dust clogs the air around Jax, Lister and Teddy. This time Teddy doesn’t end up breathing it in and choking. However, there is no way that a break in fire is going to occur and give them opportunity a second time. If it does it will undoubtedly be a trap. That is why Jax gestures for Teddy and Lister to go around the sides of their cover and pick off targets. Jax meanwhile will leap to his feet to claim the last shooter. That is, if everything goes to plan. No point in over thinking now. Plan is set, decided, now too… Jax trails off because he gestures for them to execute. Lister and Teddy break around the sides of their respective cover. Teddy puts his mark down without him ever realising it. Lister’s does realise and begins to turn, but is too late and the security officer loses his life with a shocked look on his face. All going to plan so far, Jax thinks as he leaps to his feet fully exposing himself. To his surprise the gunman was expecting as much and fires. Thankfully, his bullets go wide due to an intervention from the other two members of Zeta who both fire upon this gunman. Their bullets tear the unfortunate soul to shreds. Jax fires a final round. It slams into the dying man’s head to bring an abrupt end to his flailing and the weapons fire that had been accompanying it.
“Looks like they almost got you that time Jax.” Lister comments while he and Teddy remove themselves from cover and return to their full heights. Lister has to admit it’s good to be on solid ground and fully upright.
“Yeah, thanks.” Jax’s tone is dry.
“Claribel make it?” Teddy asks curious and hopeful. He liked her. She fit well with them.
Jax shakes his head from side to side, a dejected look sat upon his face. Lister takes a sharp inward breath while Teddy’s head drops only for a groan to ultimately rumble from his general direction. Their remorse lasts barely long enough to note. They know better than to dwell. Teddy liked Claribel but there is a time and place to mourn and in the middle of an op is not it. Mourning is what you do after, when all is said and done.
“So…a security terminal, where we gonna find one of those?” Lister questions with genuine curiosity. It’s the bookend to the teams’ remorse. His guess is that it is about as long as they spent mourning Ferris. Now they’ll return to the business at hand. Why they’re here.
“Teddy?” Jax turns to the techie of Zeta in hopes Teddy, the blue eyed squad member, will have some incite. If he doesn’t then Jax will have to make something up on the spot. He hopes that if he does have make it up that whatever he comes up with will at least sound good or else…
Teddy taps at the panel strapped to the inside of his left forearm. A smile breaks across his face and then he shares. “There’s a terminal twenty metres away.”
“It’s on this level?” Lister sounds and is shocked to hear that their first goal is as close as it is. Sounds like a blessing and that makes him wary. Never are things that easy. That is what experience has taught him.
“Hell no.” Teddy chuckles before continuing, “If we were that lucky I’d be putting numbers on the lotto for the big win. Its two floors up. Between here and there is… I don’t know. I can’t get the schematics.”
“Wait, you, Edward Julian, can’t get the schematics for something.” Lister snorts but wastes no longer before adding, “Well fuck me, this is a day of firsts.”
Teddy smirks, then shakes his head ready to jab back when Jax ends the chatters with an order. “Stow the bull, we need to get moving. Won’t be long before they pour everything they’ve got on us and I’d really like the building systems batting for us sooner rather than later.”
With that Jax strides off heading for the interior of Linqi Lance. Lister and Teddy exchange silent looks and then follow in the footsteps on their CO.