Blank - Cambria Hebert
The loud rumbling of the V22 Osprey engine was almost deafening. I could have worn the earplugs that were issued to us. We all could have worn them, but we didn’t. Sure, with the engine noise, it was hard to hear anything else, but it was possible and I wasn’t about to muffle any kind of noise that I needed to hear.
Most people would call that paranoia.
I call it being prepared.
Sure, we were flying at thirty thousand feet in a government plane filled with Black Ops warriors… but that didn’t matter. Why?
Because we were currently flying over enemy soil.
Some men might not be able to hear the faint whistling of a missile on a path to destroy their plane, but I could. We all could. It’s the reason we were Black Ops, but not just any Black Ops team… We were the government’s best-kept secret. Not even the other Black Ops teams knew about us.
We completed another successful mission, not that we’d had any failures. We didn’t fail—ever. That’s why the government overlooked our differences from the other warriors they employed. It’s why we were granted an enormous expense budget and got all the cool toys.
We were good at what we did. We survived when we should have died. But just because we were good at war didn’t mean we liked it. We did it because we were the only ones who could, because the innocents back in the States needed us to do it. If we didn’t, we might not have the freedom that everyone else was granted. It was ironic, really, that we fought for freedom—freedom for others when we really needed it for ourselves.
It had been a long year. Mission after mission. Country after country. Being back in the United States was sure to be jarring. Civilization was something I had grown accustomed to not seeing. I had grown used to sand, endless amounts of sand, and bare, solemn landscapes. Of people who squatted by the side of the road just because they had nowhere better to be. Men who sold trinkets to Americans because we were the only ones who could afford to pay for such items. I was used to bathing when we found a body of water and using baby wipes in between.
I was used to hearing gunfire and screams. Seeing the hollowed cheeks and the bloated bellies of people whose ruler made it impossible to eat. I took peace in the fact that we were trying to make a difference, knowing that my actions might not always be kind, but the intent behind them was.
I didn’t have anything or anyone waiting for me to return; the people I valued most, the men I considered my family, were all aboard this plane, but it would be nice to sit and have a beer with them without worrying about enemy gunfire.
A sound, faint yet utterly distinctive, caught my ear.
I swore. The beer would be great, if we made it home.
We were definitely survivors, definitely hard to kill. But being a passenger on a plane flying thirty thousand feet in the air that had just been marked by a missile was something no one would survive.
“GO, GO, GO!” I yelled, tossing off the harness that was strapping me to the side of the plane and jumping to my feet. The guys were already doing it, having heard the telltale whistling.
This was the reason we had parachutes strapped on at all times.
I raced to the door and threw open the hatch, bracing against the change in pressure, planting my feet to prevent being sucked out into the endless night. I turned and saw everyone readying to jump.
“We’ll rendezvous in the sand. Take out anyone who isn’t one of us,” I shouted.
I locked eyes with every guy right before he jumped into the sky. They would be okay. Then it was just me, Brick, and Pyeatt. I was close to all these men, but these two especially.
“Go,” Pyeatt yelled, stepping back from the door.
I wasn’t about to let them stay behind. They were getting out while they could. “I’ll see you on the ground,” I yelled and shoved him out the door.
Then it was me and Brick.
There was no time for us to exchange heartfelt messages. No time to shake hands and pay any last-minute respects. Because at that moment, the missile connected. I heard the metal of the plane dent in anticipation of the hit and I threw myself at Brick, sending him flying out. The explosion