Three Lives Down
Three Lives Down
Captain Matt Ryan sat with his back pressed against the hard surface of his jump seat in the back of the Mk9 Lynx helicopter, ignoring the queasiness at the pit of his stomach as the aircraft banked sharply to the right.
He didn't usually worry about being sick on a flight - all of them had been there, done that at some point - but the medic who sat across from him was new to the team, young and inexperienced in battle. The last thing he'd need to see would be his commanding officer throw up into the aisle between the seats.
Instead, he lifted his head and smirked at the man in front of him. 'Nervous yet, Thompson?'
If the medic turned any paler, he'd be invisible. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve before shouting over the noise of the rotors. 'Just a bit, sir.'
Matt winked. 'You never get used to it,' he yelled. 'I usually throw up before we land.'
'That's why none of us sit opposite him!'
The shout came from a large soldier who was squeezed into a seat further along the fuselage, and the men next to Matt dissolved into laughter.
Pleased, he noted the young medic joined in and silently thanked Sergeant Simon Blake for lightening the mood.
The call over his headphones pulled him back to the job in hand, and the fuselage fell silent as each man began to rehearse the plan in his head one final time.
They'd been flying dark for the past hour, the sun slipping over the horizon minutes after they'd left German airspace, the pilot using the full capabilities of the aircraft's night vision compatible cockpit.
The aircraft began a rapid descent, and as Matt's ears popped, his experience told him they'd just crossed the border.
Last chance to turn back.
Instead, the helicopter surged forward, its engines powering the craft through the night and he imagined its camouflaged form hugging the landscape, churning its way over the mountains that led a path to their destination.
He'd spent the past forty-eight hours poring over the topology maps and then the building's blueprints, planning the mission with his superiors, discussing the risks, describing his tactics for both the worst and best-case scenarios.
At one point, the Major General had stepped away from the window he'd been staring through, the grey outline of the HMS Belfast on the river beyond his silhouette.
'Is it worth the risk?' he'd asked.
A second man had pushed his chair back from the desk, and Matt had seen the cold steel glint in his eyes before he'd replied.
'Yes. It is,' he'd said. 'We're under threat, and he's been compromised. We need him back here. Now.'
The meeting had concluded two hours later, the plan finalised.
Matt's stomach lurched instinctively as the helicopter began a fast, sickening descent.
'Get ready to saddle up!' Matt yelled.
Last minute nerves threatened, as always, despite the knowledge that the Lynx had diffusers fitted to its exhaust to thwart enemy radar attempts to track its infrared signal, as well as the capability of disrupting its own electronic signature.
They were flying in as silently as possible, in one of the Army's fastest aircraft.
Adrenalin began to course through his veins, the reality of the mission all too clear in his mind.
Get him out. Get him back to London. Alive.
'Dead is not an option,' the mysterious man at the briefing had said as he'd fixed his glare on Matt. 'Is that understood?'
Matt had stood as the man had risen to leave, before turning to his superior as soon as the door had closed. 'What's going on, sir?'
The Major General had shrugged. 'Fuck if I know, soldier. I know as much as you.'
Which is next to nothing .
Matt shook the thought away and concentrated on running his hand over the equipment strapped to his clothing