The Acura MDXs pulled off the road and through the parking lot of the Timbuktu Airport. The Dogon region was about two hundred miles southwest of the city and they would be there in a few minutes. Even by road it would’ve only been about three hours.
The airport’s ground crew were chocking the wheels of a single engine Cessna Caravan that had just landed. Crates were visible though the windows as the aircrew climbed out and stretched. Three ramshackle trucks were pulling off the main road with workers hanging on in their backs ready to unload the plane.
The three SUVs stopped by their black jet which was idling and ready to go. John and Kathy grabbed their bags then got out. Without any warning the Cessna blossomed into a block wide ball of flame and heat. Kathy’s instinct’s kicked in and she ducked between the Acura and the plane. The SUV took most of the blast, shielding her from the flame and shrapnel. As the fire and debris cleared she made her way around the back of the vehicle,looking for John.
She’d been witness to several IED blasts in Iraq and guessed the plane had been loaded with explosives. It was too big a blast for just the fuel tanks. Thoughts of the poor air crew were pushed from her mind as she saw the three trucks had accelerated and were nearly upon them. The workers in the back now brandished assault rifles. Two began firing at her as they closed the distance. She heard the smack of bullets on the SUV and then something punched her in the chest.
As she fell backwards, Kathy was aware of a gunner leaning out of a truck and grabbing John. As he was jerked into the truck the journalist hurled his bag at his partner and it skidded to a stop by the MDX’s rear wheel. Two other gunmen leapt from another truck and raced after the bag.
Suddenly they ducked to one side as other attackers fired Rocket Propelled Grenades at the SUVs and the jet. Laying there Kathy actually saw one streak toward the plane passing right over where she lay. Another slammed into the last SUV in their convoy. Instinctively she closed her eyes and opened her mouth to protect her eardrums. The rocket grenades exploded, bathing the tarmac in heat, fire and shrapnel. Seconds later the smoke cleared, revealing the jet and SUVs relatively unscathed.
The two gunmen now rose and ran for the bag. But Kathy had recovered and drew an automatic pistol in one fluid move. She fired it repeatedly, catching both men several times. They dropped and didn’t get back up.
A man in a black suit and sunglasses came around the back of the MDX. He held two stubby black sub-machine guns and passed her one as he began returning fire with the other. The magazine and firing chamber were behind the trigger in what Kathy recognized as a bullpup configuration. This made it easier to fire in close quarters. As she began firing the CIA agent realized it had three barrels, allowing a constant rate of fire. But even with all three barrels firing there was surprisingly little recoil.
Three other trucks came racing in from the main road and more attackers spilled out. Using the trucks for cover they began lobbing grenades at the black SUVs. Kathy and the agent ducked behind their MDX as the grenades went off, filling the air with even more deadly shrapnel. Another RPG came sailing toward them.
Once again the Acura proved to be up to the challenge. Kathy felt the vehicle rock under the assault, but it remained solid and seemingly undamaged. They were tough vehicles, she realized as she gripped John Parker’s bag and wondered if he was still alive.
A female agent in a black suit and sunglasses dove from the plane and huddled behind the front wheel of the MDX. She braced a three foot long black tube between her knees and punched a few buttons on its side. The top popped open and a small artillery round shot straight upward with a burst of smoke. Kathy watched what looked like a eighty two millimeter mortar round as it stopped about thirty feet above them.
Airbrakes on the sides had popped out from its back, spinning to slow and stabilize it. Then the round literally turned in midair and began its descent. It split into three small submunitions that dropped toward their targets, using small fins for precision guidance.
Three rumbling blasts shook the airport. The sound of gunfire was replaced by burning trucks and the attacker’s ammunition cooking off. The whine of diesel engines could be heard in the distance.
Now the men in black suits responded to the sudden attack. Carrying multi-barreled assault rifles and wearing futuristic body armor they pushed out from behind the wall of SUVs. As Kathy watched they methodically moved from truck to truck. The remaining attackers— only three had survived— were too stunned and shocked to resist. The agents returned to the plane with their prisoners but no John Parker.
Kathy was bustled toward the black jet. Despite at least three direct hits from RPGs it was still in one piece and even the paint still looked good. There was fear and awe in the eyes of the gunmen as they were escorted up the stairs behind her. The black suited agents hustled them through a door to the rear of the plane as Kathy collapsed in a window seat.
As soon as the stairs left the ground the plane was moving. By the time the door closed they were at full speed. The three black SUVs were racing along in front of and behind it all down the length of the runway. As the jet finally lifted off they turned and headed back for the smoking airport tarmac.