The Bazaar: Chapter 36


Emily recognized the drone immediately.

It was a US EXPED Raptor. They used them to interdict drug shipments, for high-altitude recon, for targeted assassination (dirty word, that). She knew immediately there was something wrong with this one. It flew much too low. Much too fast.

Air Force drones operated up high, out of reach of man-portable air defense systems like Stingers and Strelas. They moved at a leisurely pace, because really what did you have to worry about at twenty thousand feet when the enemy had no planes? This drone was the military equivalent of a rabid dog, and Emily had a sneaking suspicion the explosion that ran them into a wall was no unhappy accident.

More like targeted assassination.

She reached the back of the SUV and flung the tailgate open with one hand. Sleek, black gun cases sat stacked three feet high. She snatched one off the top, popped the locks. Inside lay an automatic carbine. Emily threw it away.

The next case down yielded another carbine.

She hit pay dirt with the third.

In the center of the padded case lay the sleek, elegant, oh-so-sexy form of a Skorpion launch tube. Basically a miniature Stinger: a stubby box on the business end with a foot-long tube sticking out to funnel the back blast. The firing mechanism was a pistol grip with a trigger. The sight picture was about as basic a heat-seeking system as you could find on the market. In Grozny the OPFOR stockpiled thousands of the things. Sometimes they camped out near the airport. Whenever a plane took off two helicopters dumped flares alongside it to spoof the missiles.

Emily snatched up the tube. She spun, fell to one knee and brought the tube to her shoulder.

The eyepiece on the Skorpion held a stripped-down heads-up display: a gun cross inside a square. You put the box on top of the target. When the infrared sensor locked the target the box went red and moved to track the target. Firing was easy as squeezing the trigger.

Emily counted on that ease-of-use as she swept the sky for the drone and its jet engine, which, by virtue of the fact it was running hot and fast, would light the Skorpion’s IR sensors up like Christmas, New Year’s and the Fourth of July come all at once.

She caught sight of a black speck in the distance and flicked a switch on the side of the launch tube with her thumb. This uncaged the heat-seeking sensor in the nose of the warhead. The box came off the gun cross. It jumped to the edge of the display then raced inward along the edges, spiraling toward the growing speck in the center until it finally locked, turning fire engine red.

Emily squeezed the trigger.

The Skorpion tube lurched up and back with the force of the launch. The missile shot out the end of the tube. Thick, black smoked billowed out behind it. A hot blast of jet wash caught Emily in the face. She snapped her eyes shut. When the heat faded she opened them to see the missile arcing skyward.

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