Chapter 53 & 54
Rickie blew on his hands to warm them. With the inky blackness of night, the breeze had taken a cooler turn.
At first he thought the quiet growl was his stomach, but then realized it was coming from across the water. A dark shape detached itself from the pitch-black water, and Rickie smiled for the first time in hours when he recognized the rigid hull fender boat of the APMM. The newest and fastest vessel in the Maritime fleet, capable of 50 knots speeds and painted matte black for covert operations, it eased in behind his cigarette boat, and began discharging its dark-clothed occupants.
Rickie use a small penlight to flash the agreed-upon signal, and then went down to the dock to meet the team. He shook hands around, and then handed his radio to the team leader.
“The crew members here are on this frequency, but the at least one Tango is able to listen in. I’m not sure of her current destination; the other one is still on the helipad. I don’t believe there are any others here. I’ve only visually confirmed her. She called herself “Ani”; black fatigues, around 170 cm, dark hair. She has an assault rifle, but I don’t know what other weaponry is on her. I last saw her in the crew mess hall on Level D. I’m going back to the Control Room; I’ll contact you on Tac channel 7 once I’m in place. Good luck.” They all nodded, pulled their balaclavas in place, and silently glided up the steps. Rickie watched them go to make sure they had a good start, bowed to the boat pilot still at the wheel, and climbed back up to start his winding way back to the Control Room.
Rickie carefully unlocked the door to the Control Room and surveyed it to look for any changes. Without a radio, he was unable to determine where the troops were before getting here. Since there were no staccato sounds of gunfire, he decided they hadn’t engaged anyone yet. He walked back over to the bank of monitors and gave them a cursory glance before grabbing one of the radios from the charger and switching it to the appropriate tactical channel.
“This is Ahmad; I’m back in the Control Room. Nothing visual yet, but will advise, over.” His transmission was acknowledged, and he sat back down in front of the screens and began to look more closely at them.
For several minutes, he directed the Alpha team through the platform to the helipad. Several team members pulled off to assist the civilian crew members still waiting in the meeting room, but most were heading for the helipad. Rickie was sure John was still there to make sure the helicopter couldn’t land.
Once the team was in place, Rickie pulled back, momentarily closed his eyes and rubbed his temple with his right hand, trying to stop the headache that threatened to settle in his forehead.
He was concentrating on that spot of pain when he felt a cold metal object against his left ear.
“Why, Mr Ahmad,” Ani purred, “How nice to see you again.”
Only his years of agent training kept Rickie from reacting and reaching for the weapon. Instead, he adopted a conversational tone.
“Ani, I can’t say that I have the same pleasure. How are you?” The gun retracted from his head, and he slowly swiveled until he faced the extremist.
Her pistol was now pointed directly at his chest, but her stance was relaxed, almost bored. On her right hand, a small black device was attached to the back of a wrist brace. Her assault rifle was slung over her shoulder.
“You have caused a bit of a bother, Ahmad. We expected you to be otherwise engaged with your European office. How did you end up so Johnny-on-the-spot, tonight?” She held up her right hand to stop any response, a small, slowly-blinking light catching Rickie’s eye.
“Don’t tell me; I’m sure it would be a fascinating tale. Too bad I can’t stay and listen. Your satellite phone, please.”
She held out her hand, and, with feigned reluctance, he placed the device in her hand, trying to discover anything about that box on her wrist. He was sure that was the trigger for the explosive; there was a small button on top but no other features that he could see.
He settled back down on his chair to wait for an opportunity.
“Why was it important to attack my business? And why now?” Rickie queried.
“When you made the agreement with PETRONAS last year, we knew that it was the perfect situation to show our might. A symbolic pillar of fire on your king’s birthday, and the chaos of the festivals would help frame our achievement. In truth, this has been planned for almost two years, with the target the final decision.”
“You know, if you cause that much damage, it will be catastrophic for the plants and animals in the sea. Why would you want that?”
Ani sneered. “If you really cared for the environment, you would have never created this thing we are standing on. This platform is nothing more than a symbol of pure greed, one that we are going to look forward to destroying.” A hissing noise emanated from the radio at her waist.
“The helo is coming back and I’m ready. Ani, take care, my dear.” John’s voice sounded tinny coming from the small speaker. Ani reached down for the radio, never taking her eyes off of Rickie and her gun still trained on his torso. Suddenly, the loud retorts from semi-automatic weapons came over the gadget, as simultaneously the loud sound of an aircraft swooping over head reverberated through the office. She reflexively looked up, and Rickie launched himself from the chair, grabbing for the handgun and trying to take her down as the assault rifle skittered across the floor.
Slamming her against the outside door, Rickie used both hands to grapple for the gun, forcing it up and over her head. She used a leg sweep to knock his legs out from under him, but he was able to maintain his grip and pulled her down to the floor. Once there, they rolled around, crashing into the furniture as each tried to gain the upper hand. Rickie managed to punch her cheek and ear, causing her to loosen her hold on the pistol. He wrenched it away and threw it to the other end of the room, where it struck one of the monitors, and bounced off to land behind the desk.
Ani cursed and struck the heel of her hand against Rickie’s nose. Pain blossomed on his face and his eyes immediately began to water. As he stepped back from her, she gained her footing and crabbed backwards towards the rifle.
Rickie knew that if she got a hold of that weapon, killing him would be easy. He swivel-kicked, catching her on her hip and sending her once again against the outside door. Rickie lunged at her, his priority the device on her right wrist. She reached behind her and opened the door, and they both spilled outside, Rickie landing on top of her.
The gunshots and the helicopter were much louder outside. As Ani struggled underneath him, Rickie ripped the kill switch off her hand and threw it over the railing.
As his eyes briefly followed the arc of the trigger, he felt a sudden, blinding pain to his abdomen, and looked down to see a butterfly knife protruding from his stomach. Ani had somehow gotten the weapon and stabbed it upwards, catching him just to the side of his navel.
He collapsed backwards; she wriggled free and stepped back from him. With a snarl, she turned and ran down the walkway. Rickie saw her form disappearing in the distance as his eyesight wavered. His last thought was regret that he never told Meaghan that he loved her.