Tom Clancy – Op Center 6 State Of Siege

Traffic Had Stopped Well Behind The Armored Car.

The Road Was Clear And The Backup Would Slow Police Even More. When Vandal Was Finished, He Slid From The Hood And Joined Downer Around Back. Neither Man Spoke. There Was Always A Chance That The Open Radio Would Pick Up Their Voices. As Downer Stood Watch, Vandal Unlocked The Door. Gas Rolled Out As He Opened It, Along With The Gasping Security Guard. He Had Tried To Get The Gas Mask That Was Stored In A Chest In The Back. Unfortunately, The Mask Had Been Placed There With The Expectation That A Gas Strike Would Be Made Outside The Van, Not Inside. He Never Reached The Chest, Let Alone The Mask. The Guard Hit The Asphalt And Downer Stomped Hard On The Side Of His Head. The Man Stopped Moving, Though He Was Still Breathing. As Vandal Climbed Inside, Downer Heard The Distant Hum Of An Approaching Helicopter. The Black Hughes 500Do Swung In From Over The River, Which Was Where Sazanka’s Family Owned A Waterfront Shipping Facility. The Japanese Pilot Had Stolen The Helicopter So It Couldn’t Be Traced To Them. He Slowed As He Flew Over The Boulevard. The Hughes Has Exceptional Flight Stability In Slow And Hover Modes, As Well As A Tolerable Downdraft. It Also Has Room For Five People And Cargo, Which Was Perhaps The Most Important Consideration.

Barone, Who Had Been Driving The Truck, Ran Back. As The Uruguayan Pulled On His Gas Mask, Georgiev Opened The Aft Door Of The Helicopter. He Lowered A Line With A Hook.

Attached To The Iron Hook Was A Twelve-By-Seven-Foot Metal Platform With Large Nylon Nets Along The Sides. While Downer Made Certain That No One Interfered, Vandal And Barone Stood In The Thinning Clouds Of Tear Gas And Loaded The Sacks Of Money Onto The Platform. At Five Minutes Into The Operation, Georgiev Hauled Up The First Load. Downer Glanced At His Watch. They Were Running Slightly Behind Schedule. “We Need To Speed Things Up!” He Shouted Into The Specially Built-In Mask Radio.

“Calm Down,” Barone Said. “We’re Within The Safety Net.” “That’s Not Good Enough,” Downer Said.

“I Want To Be Dead Center, In The Sweet Spot.” “When You’re In Charge, Then You Give The Orders!” Barone Said. “Same Goes For You, Mate,” Downer Snapped. Barone Shot Him A Look Through The Faceplate Of His Gas Mask Just As The Platform Came Back Down. The Men Threw In A Second Batch.

They Heard Police Sirens In The Distance, But Downer Wasn’t Worried. If Necessary, They Had The Unconscious Guard As A Hostage. Fifty Feet Above, Sazanka Watched The Skies. The Only Event That Would Cause Them To Abort The Mission And Move Out Was The Arrival Of A Police Helicopter.

Sazanka Was Looking Out For That With The Cockpit Radar Unit. Downer Was Watching Sazanka. If There Was A Blip, Sazanka Would Signal, And They’d Move Out.

The Second Load Of Bags Went Up. There Was One More To Go. Traffic Had Backed Up Nearly A Quarter Mile When People Realized What Was Going On. There Was No Way To Get Through. The Police Would Have To Respond Either With Members Of La Brigade Tquestre Or By Air.

The Men Continued To Work Quickly But Efficiently. There Was No Sense Of Panic.

The Third Load Went In. Suddenly, Sazanka Raised His Finger And Moved It Around In A Quick Circle.

Then He Pointed To The Left. There Was A Police Helicopter En Route From The West. Georgiev Lowered The Platform Again.

As They’d Planned, Barone Climbed In, Followed By Vandal. The Bulgarian Didn’t Reel The Net In. Instead, The Men All Removed Their Gas Masks, Hooked Them To Their Equipment Belts, And Began Climbing The Line. When The Men Were Respectively Twenty And Ten Feet Up, Downer Hopped Onto The Platform. Now Georgiev Began Reeling It In. While It Rose, Downer Steadied Himself By Holding The Net Siding With One Hand While With The Other He Pulled The Grenade Launcher From His Shoulder.

Then He Pulled Off His Gas Mask So He Could See More Clearly, Lay On His Side, Removed A Projectile From The Grenade Pouch On His Belt, And Loaded The Weapon. Above Him, Georgiev Helped Barone And Vandal Climb Back Into The Helicopter.

Sazanka Climbed, Quickly Pushing The Chopper To Its Maximum Cruising Speed Of 160 Mph. As He Did, Downer Made Sure That Both The Barrel And The Exhaust Of The Launcher Were Poking Through The Mesh Siding.

He Didn’t Want To Incinerate The Net And Fall To His Death.

Georgiev Secured The Platform With Cables Run Through Two Eye Hooks On The Front And Back Side Nearest The Helicopter, But He Left It Hanging Three Feet Below The Open Door Of The Helicopter’s Aft Compartment. From Here, Downer Could Cover Pursuit From Any Direction. Being Close To The Underbelly Would Also Keep Him From Being Knocked Around By The Winds And By The Down-Draft From The Rotor. And It Would Be Much More Difficult For A Sharpshooter On The Ground Or In The Air To Notice Him In The Shadow Of The Chopper.

While They Waited For A Possible Pursuit, Sazanka Held Them To One Thousand Feet And Took Them Northwest Along The River. A Small Plane Was Waiting For Them At A Tiny Airstrip Outside Of Saint-Germain.

Once The Men And Money Bags Had Been Transferred From The Chopper, They Would Fly South Into Spain. There, The Chaos Of The Simmering Civil War Would Make It Easy For Them To Buy Their Way In And Then Out Of The Country. “There It Is!” Georgiev Shouted Down. The Big Man Was Pointing Toward The Southwest.

Downer Didn’t Have To Look Up To See Where The Bulgarian Was Pointing. He’d Also Just Spotted The Police Helicopter. It Was About Two Thousand Feet Up And A Half Mile Away. As Vandal Had Expected, It Was From The French Gendarmerie’s Special Intervention Group.

The White And Blue Police Chopper Flew Toward Them In A Sweeping, Downward Arc. The Sig Team Would Follow Their Usual Operating Procedure. They’d Attempt To Raise The Fleeing Chopper By Radio, Which They Were Probably Doing Now. When The Men Didn’t Respond, The Police Chopper Would Stay In Constant Radio Contact With Ground Forces. Even If They Had Medium-Range Weapons, The Police Wouldn’t Attempt To Shoot The Chopper Down. Not As Long As It Was Over A Populated Area And Carrying A Million Dollars In Currency. When The Hughes Landed, Both Air And Land Units Would Close In On It.

Vandal Knew That The Paris Police Department Relied On Radar From The Two Nearby Airports To Monitor The Skies Over The City. They Used Charles De Gaulle To The Northeast In Roissyen-France And Orly To The South. Vandal Also Knew That When An Aircraft Dropped Under Two Hundred And Fifty Feet, Radar Was Ineffective Due To Interference From Surrounding Buildings. He Had Sazanka Keep The Hughes At One Thousand Feet.

The Police Chopper Came Closer. The Hotels Of The Northern Bank Of The River Passed Beneath Them In Quick Succession. To His Right, Across The River, Downer Saw The Eiffel Tower, Dark And Spidery In The Misty Morning. They Were Flying Level With The Top Of The Structure.

The Pursuing Helicopter Closed To Within A Quarter Mile. They Were Still Several Hundred Feet Higher Than The Vehicle They Were Pursuing. The Range Of The Grenade Launcher Was One Thousand Feet. According To The Read-Out On The Digital Sight, The Chopper Was Just Out Of Range. Downer Looked Up At Georgiev.

Vandal And Georgiev Had Both Agreed That Conversation Over Radios And Cellular Phones Was Too Easy To Intercept. Thus, Once Their Gas Masks Were Off, Communication Had To Be Muscular And Old-Fashioned.

“I Need To Be Closer!” Downer Yelled.

The Bulgarian Cupped His Thick Hands Around His Mouth. “How Much Closer?” He Shouted.

“Two Hundred Feet Higher, Three Hundred Feet Back!” Georgiev Nodded. A Door Separated The Cockpit From The Aft Cabin. The Bulgarian Leaned Through It And Told Sazanka What Downer Needed. The Japanese Pilot Slowed And Climbed. Downer Watched The Police Chopper Through His Sight. The Ascent Brought Them Level With The Other Helicopter, And The Decrease In Speed Narrowed The Distance Between Them. The Platform Was Jiggling Up And Down From The Force Of The Rotor While The Wind Caused It To Bump Toward The Stern. Aiming Was Difficult.

Downer Sighted The Cockpit Of The Police Chopper.

The Optics Of The Grenade Launcher Did Not Magnify The Target. Even So, Downer Could See That Someone Was Standing In The Cockpit, Leaning Between The Pilot And Copilot And Watching Them With Binoculars. Now That The Two Helicopters Were Level, They Would Finally Be Able To See Downer. There Was No Time To Wait For The Police To Get Closer. The Australian Hunkered Down On The Platform, Curling As Tight As Possible Against The Far Side Brace For The Recoil. Again He Sighted The Cockpit Of The Pursuing Aircraft. The Shot Didn’t Have To Be Pretty; All He Had To Do Was Hit The Enemy Vehicle. He Pulled Hard On The Heavy Trigger.

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