The Sikorsky S-76 raced through the early afternoon sky, the blades of the rotor ripping at the air and pulling the chopper along. Puck loved the feel of it all; the controls, the wind currents, the gentle dips and sways of movement, and especially the griping threats coming out of the back as he did his best to make someone sick. There was a running bet with 3rd Squad that no pilot could make a member barf during a flight. So far Puck had collected 2 of 4 times that the bet was in effect. Today would make 3, but he wasn’t as into it as he normally would be. A hit on one of the Renegade’s families hit close to home for him as his wife and young daughter were in Wick with him. Redleg’s girls had even watched his daughter, affectionately known as Lipstick5, a few times. They swore she was the sweetest girl ever and smart as a whip. Puck had seen her trying to eat her crayons one too many times, so he wasn’t so sure. That was beside the point, he knew both girls, and knowing his own feelings for his daughter, he could only start to imagine what Redleg and Talia were going through.
“Now over the A99” reported his co-pilot. “We should see something in the next couple of minutes.”
“Roger” replied Puck. Then he toggled the intercom to the back. “Hey Viking, look alive. We’re getting close.”
“Roger that Puck” said Viking, then he started giving orders. “3rd! Stand by!” Seat harnesses unbuckled and the doors slid open. Fast ropes were ready to deploy, but Viking was willing to bet they were going to set down assuming an open area was close enough. He peered out the right-side door, eyes following the road until he noticed a jumble of cars and people that did not look like your normal Sunday drivers, even Scottish ones.
Puck saw it too and found a spot that looked perfect to set down. He slowed, flared slightly to drop his speed, and then set down in the grass about 100 meters away from the ambush site. Viking and his squad disembarked rapidly. One fire team moving to secure the perimeter while Viking led the other towards the wrecked cars, with the straphangers from Intel and Legal following close behind.
As they moved forward, Viking took in the wrecked cars and the bodies lying about, and he saw Andrew and Talia standing to the rear of their wrecked Land Rover. He looked at the team leader and ordered him to secure the bodies and wrecked vehicles so the Intel troops could get to work, then he walked over to the McCalls.
“Redleg, Talia. You guys OK? I mean physically.” Viking saw how shook up both were. Talia more visibly then Redleg, but Viking could tell that Andrew was having trouble holding it together.
“Neither of us was hurt, at least nothing serious. They were trying to take Talia, but not me and somehow I got the better end of the confrontations.”
“Somehow?” said Talia in a rather sharp voice.
Andrew looked at his wife, realizing that the ‘stray shot’ that saved his life was actually a very aimed shot, courtesy of Talia. He looked back at Viking and said “I stand corrected. Thanks to my bride I am still alive to brag about her prowess with a pistol.”
“That’s better,” Talia said. You could still hear the grief in her voice, but it was obvious she was doing her best to deal with the situation.
Viking grinned. “It’s Ok Talia, everyone knows that you’re the better shot. We’ve seen you both shoot.” Talia smiled in reply while Andrew grabbed at his heart and muttered skyward.
“I refuse to be baited, so why don’t I change the subject and walk you through what we have” said Andrew.
“Lead the way boss” said Viking, still grinning.
They turned and Andrew led the way towards the body of the first guy he had killed, the one that kept getting up until Andrew put a round through the top of his head. As they got close, the body started to smoke and the group stopped to stare.
“What the?” said Andrew. Talia gasped and turned her head. Viking looked at Andrew and said “What did you shoot him with?” Andrew kept staring at the smoking body as he replied, “9mm ball, definitely not a tracer round. I double-tapped him in the chest and he went down, then he got back up and I shot him twice again a bit higher. That time he stumbled to his knees but was starting to get back up so I put one through the top of his head. That’s when he stayed down.”
They heard a shout from a member of the intel team. Turning to look, they saw that several more bodies were starting to smoke and smolder. Then Andrew noticed something weird. “They’re burning, but they don’t smell like burning flesh” said Andrew. He looked at Viking who nodded in agreement. “Yeah, that’s really weird. So is the blueish tint to the smoke.” Andrew looked back at the closest body and saw that Viking was correct. There was no flame, but the smoke was definitely a blue-grey color and the bodies were dissolving.
Andrew turned and ran back to the last two he had killed. They weren’t smoking yet so he looked around and waved over the intel specialists. “These two! Quick!” The two specialists ran over and started to check the bodies, pulling out pockets and pulling back clothing to see if they can find anything that would identify the men.
Pulling back a sleeve, the first specialist remarked “I’ve got a tat, looks like a stylized eye.” His camera snapped as he took the picture, then he snapped a picture of the man’s face. He looked at his partner who was holding up an arm of the other dead man, a tattoo of an eye at the top of the forearm. “Did it look like this?” he asked. “Yep, same mark” said the first as the camera snapped again. “Any idea what it means?” As he held up the dead man’s face so another picture could be taken he said “Maybe. It looks vaguely familiar.” Suddenly both bodies began to smoke, and the two specialists jumped back. “Man, that is weird.
”Andrew looked at the bodies, then at the arms that were rapidly withering with the smoke and starting to dissolve. The stylized eye tattoo staring at him as it dissolved with the rest of the body. He knew that tattoo, he had seen it before. Now, as it burned away due to whatever was causing the bodies to dissolve, it looked as if it was taunting him, daring him to come after those that also wore the same mark. Any doubts that he had about who was responsible for the abduction of his daughters were now banished from his mind. There were never any doubts that he would go after the monsters that took his girls, but now it became even more personal, and urgent.
“Ok, wrap up your work with the cars and let’s get out of here. Who from legal came with you?” asked Andrew. A voice spoke behind him. “Right here Redleg. You sure know how to make a mess, don’t you.”
Andrew turned to see Brody walking up behind him. “Hey, go big or go home, right?” Andrew replied. Brody smiled, “Sure man, whatever works” He replied. “You guys can get out of here. I’ve got a contact from the magistrates office on the way and another one of our mates with the ground crew is headed out to bring me back after we clear things up.”
“Got it. Thanks Brody” said Andrew. Brody replied, “No problem. Go find your girls.”
With that, Andrew looked at Viking, pointed skyward with his right arm and spun his hand around, then pointed at the S-76 that was still turning in the grass. Viking nodded and started to gather up his squad and head towards the bird. Andrew walked over to Talia, put his arm left arm around her, and started walking her towards the waiting helicopter.
“ANDREW! TALIA!” They both turned to see Steven and Sarah Pare, running in their direction from their car that was hastily parked on the side of the road. Walking towards them, the Pare’s arrived and immediately started with questions. “What happened? Where are the girls?”
Talia sagged against Andrew again as she spoke, her voice breaking. “They took my girls, please keep praying, but they took them.”
Hearing that, both Pare’s looked even more shocked. “Took them? Who took them?” asked Steven.
“We don’t know for certain, but we’re heading back to Castle Wick so we can track them down and bring them back” said Andrew.
“What?” said Steven, sounding rather shocked. “The Renegade is going to help you find them?”
“Of course they are” said Andrew, “Crew is family, and we watch out for each other. Please pray for the girls and pray for us. We’ll be back after we get them.”
“Absolutely” said Steven. With that Sarah hugged Talia, and then she and Andrew turned away and headed back towards the chopper.
As they got closer, Talia looked up and spoke loud enough for Andrew to hear. “Is there any doubt about who did this?” Andrew looked down at her. “Nope, not in my mind. The tattoos that the intel guys found pretty much confirmed it.”
Talia’s eyes narrowed. “What tattoos?”
“Eyes” said Andrew
Talia exhaled, speaking at the end. “The Eyes of god. You’re sure it was the same tattoo that we saw before?”
“No doubt at all. These guys were part of the ‘The Eyes’, but this whole body dissolving thing was new, they didn’t do that back in Utah” said Andrew. Then he stopped talking as the noise of the engine and rotors was drowning out everything.
Andrew helped Talia into the front part of the passenger compartment, then he followed her in. She sat down in the middle of the three-person canvas bench seat, right next to one of the intel specialists. His partner staying behind with Brody. Andrew sat down next to her and then looked at Viking who was seated in the jump seat, facing aft. Viking keyed his headset, then the helicopter started to rise up and turn towards Castle Wick.