SMASH AND GRAB THE AIRPORT.
The convoy drove up the drive to the airport. Philipps had ordered 30 miles per hour. Neither too fast nor too slow to seem suspicious.
”Now we have killed Kona the others will leave the regime high and dry” said Sani eagerly.
”I would not be so sure” said Philipps.
”But the commies put all their eggs in one basket. There is no successor. Kona took out anyone who could have become president.”
Sani tried to distract himself from the grimness of the situation. Victory did not seem such a safe bet. He decided to think about some of his wide ranging interests. He summoned up Hungarian Dance number 5 in his mind. He imagined himself in his chambers engaging in witty conversation with m’learned friends – subtly introducing his wish to be made a silk. Once he was president he would re introduce horse hair wigs in Borno’s courts. Kona had got rip of them just to epater le bourgeois. Marxist vandalism. There would be none of the dogmatism in education. None of the stubbornness in the arts that it all had to be about class struggle.
The two sentries on the gate were suspicious. The airport did not open till 6 am.
An APC was in front. Laertes was in the passenger seat in Bornoese Army major’s uniform.
The convoy slowed down and stopped as the lead APC reached the sentries.
Laertes slowly wound down his window. This being the time before automatic windows in cars.
”Good evening major” said the boyish sentry saluting. He had noticed Laertes putative rank.
”Good evening. Open the gate please.”
”I am sorry major we have been told not to open the gate except if ordered to by HQ.”, he said assiduously.
”Yes, HQ sent me to order you to open it” he said resonantly. Laertes noticed that the order of Kona had been bestowed on the soldier – a pin with Kona’s likeness on it adorned the soldier’s lapel.
”No can do sir. I am sorry. We need orders by phone from the officer on duty at HQ. That is Major Biya tonight.” His voice was incongruously grave for one so young.
”Major Biya told me to say you must open it.”
”Sir, I am sorry but I cannot do that. I have my orders.” There was a reek of arrogance from him. Laertes could not help but admire this man – he refused to be browbeaten.
”Private, I am giving you a direct order. Do you want to be charged with insubordination?” There was irritation in Laertes’ tone and the volume was rising.
”Sir, I am following orders. Sir, I know all the majors here and I do not recognise you” said the sentry growing doubtful of Laertes. He tentatively felt for the safety catch of his weapon.
Laertes had his handgun with silencer at the read. It was out of sight of the sentry. He was forced to move early. He raised it to head height and shot the sentry three times in the face. The sentry fell back on the road but was not dead.
The other sentry saw what happened and took his AK 47 off his shoulder. He moved to aim it at Laertes. Before he could open fire one of the coupsters did. Through the gun port of the lead vehicle Perkins gave the sentry a burst of 10 bullets in the chest. The sentry lay dead.
”Shit there goes the element of surprise” said Laertes as the report of the gunfire echoed around.
”What I supposed to do? I was saving your ass” said Perkins.
”You did the right thing” said Laertes.
The lead APC then revved up and smashed through the locked gate.
Did we really have to shoot – thought Sani. Shooting seemed to be a compulsion for Laertes. Sani was reminding himself this was no game. But no – do not reflect on the enormity of what was done, the carnage in the palace. Just focus on the next step. He could not rebuke Laertes – there was no way around firing.
The vehicles sped up to the terminal building. The men in the lead vehicle hopped out. They shot the locks off the doors and forced their way into the building.
Simms was wounded in the left hand by a richochet from one of his comrades’ bullets.
The airport building was dark. Their voices echoed in its emptiness. Four men rushed towards where they knew the control tower to be.
The reached the stairwell of the control tower. Wynn, Perkins, Timms and Laertes were there. As they looked up the stairs as soldier at the top of the stairs fired a burst.
Wynn received several bullets. Some hit his chest and were blocked by his flak jacket but three bullets hit his arm. He yelled in pain and fell down bleeding heavily.
Laertes returned fire with an AK 47. The soldier disappeared around the corner.
”Cover me” said Perkins.
”Ok said Laertes” who kept firing intermittently at where his enemy had been. Perkins ran to the top of the stairs. He took a grenade out of his webbing. He pulled the pin and counted to two before flinging it around the corner.
Two seconds later an ear splitting explosion put paid to the control tower;s defender.
Perkins then rounded the corner. He say his enemy dead and a terrified air traffic controller concussed.
”The room is clear” Perkins shouted down.
Simms and Laertes ran up the stairs.
Laertes announced. ”Excellent. We got it.”
”Hey where’s Wynn?” said Perkins.
”He’s done there wounded. Losing blood fast.”
”Oh shit. I didn’t even notice. I was was concentrating on nailing this bastard” he nodded at the soldier’s corpse.
As four men had secured the terminal building another APC had raced across the tarmac towards the air force hangar. Inside were Blakelock, Coen, Messing and Dibdin. A sentry behind sandbags was agitated when he heard the sound of gunfire. A minute later two more men from the air force barracks had joined him armed still dressed in pyjamas but armed.
”What the hell is going on?” said the first sentry. Their jaws dropped to see APCs running towards them. The first sentry vainly opened fire on the APC. His bullets bounced off its armour like hailstones off ice. The machinegun in the turret then picked him out and gave him a generous burst. So many bullets his the same point in his chest that it cut through his bullet proof vest and he fell dead.
Another soldier ran for his life back towards the hangar. He too was cut down by machinegun fire.
The third sentry sagely ducked down behind the sandbags. He took some fresh blood from his friend’s corpse and smeared it on himself to play dead.
The men on the APC sped towards the hangar – raking it with bullets as they approached. They pulled up at the air force barracks beside the hangar. Four men jumped out and thundered up the stairs. They burst into the dormitory and captured a dozen hazy airmen in various states of undress. A couple of them were tanked up. The Bornoese Air Force was then locked in a basement.
The APC at the hanger radioed back. ”Hangar to commander, Hangar to commander – the air force is secured. The air force is secured. Over ”
Philipps received the message. ” Commander receiving. Commander receiving. Well done. Do you have any casualties? Over”
”No casualties. Repeat we sustained no casualties. Over”
”Yes” shouted Philipps. He was still sitting in an APC outside the terminal building. ”We will send pilots over now. Repeat we are sending pilots over now in another APC. Over.”
”We are ready to receive the pilots. We expect them to arrive in an APC. Over.”
”I will order them to go now. Expect them in 2 minutes. Over and out.”
”Over and out” said Hangar.
”Looks like they do not need reinforcements after all” said Philipps to Sani who sat beside him.
”Brilliant” said Sani ebulliently. ”I want to lead the assault on the bank.”
”Don;t be silly. This is not a Boys’ Own Adventure. We cannot risk you. Should not have risked you at the palace but I thought you and Laertes were the only ones who could play the part. ”
”But I want to. The men will doubt your courage.”
”So what? You are here to be a president not a hero. We need you alive. If you get killed our goal will be a lot more difficult to achieve.”
”Philipps – this is my coup.”
”Well I am the military commander. You do the politics. I am ordering you not to take part in the attack on the bank.”
”All right then” he was crestfallen.
”Right. I am going into the terminal. We have to prepare to defend this place. It is only a matter of time before the army tries to re-take it. I cannot believe nothing has come over the scanners already.”
”The army has no initiative” said Sani ”that is Soviet training for you. They do not want responsibility. They cover their arses. Never do anything without orders.”
”I see” said Philipps stepping out of the vehicle. He strode into the terminal building.
There lay Wynn on the floor unconscious for lack of blood. Even in the semi- darkness the unnatural palour on Wynn’s face as apparent. Dr Murphy lay over him getting bandages out.
”Commander – the other fellas brought Wynn here. He took bullets in the arm – hit an artery. I might not be able to save him” said Murphy. ”Only hope is if someone donates blood like right now. I could do a transfusion.”
”Don’t even bother.”
”What? Sir. You are saying not to save him”
”Don’t waste your time. Simms is wounded in the hand. Tend to him.”
”Sir but maybe I can save this man.”
”Murphy – leave Wynn alone. Let the fucker die. He raped kids. Little kids. Let him die. Go and look after Simms.”
”Well if that’s your order”
”It is. Do it now” he said with a low menace.
Murphy stood up and walked towards Simms who was standing guard by the door – a handgun in his unwounded paw. Simms was flattered to be attended while Wynn was gravely wounded. Simms despised Wynn so was delighted to watch him die of exsanguination.
The pilots were soon in the cockpits of planes and helicopters awaiting orders. There was a barracks ripe for bombing.
There was a rocky ridge not far from the airport. Philipps thought of the enemy set up snipers there we will be in trouble -a few of them spread out could not all be taken out by planes.
Sani and Philipps ensconced themselves in the control tower. Sani was enthralled by the controls.
After a couple of hours the corpses outside the hangar were fly blow and malodorous. Philipps had to order his men to bury the bodies near the perimeter.