Talk about a mess, someone was trying to blow us out of the air. The cabin lights were going crazy, alarms everywhere and the seatbelt sign was definitely on. I ran to the cockpit.
"What the hell is happening here?"
"We're under fire, two missiles, one bogey. We have flares sir, should we deploy?"
The flares scattered, streaking off through the clouds. The missiles were most likely heat seeking using infrared radiation as their primary guidance. The flares would act as alternative heat sources and draw the missiles away. Sure enough there was an explosion behind us, the shockwaves jolting the plane. They'd missed. But not by much.
"Good job this plane is fast huh sir," the pilot sighed with relief. He was former airforce. All our SCIT pilots were. He knew what he was doing but honestly, even in a private jet designed specifically to get us from A to B fast and safely we weren't going to last long with fighters on us.
I rushed back into the cabin and grabbed a bulky green rucksack and harness from under the first seat I saw. The team all looked up at me, I saw no fear in their eyes. No hesitation, no limitations, no inhibitions. These were my agents. Total pros. I was proud.
"Listen up! We've got a situation. At least one Bogey in the air and it won't have exhausted its payload yet. This is flightplan protocol one-zero-delta, stations everyone, we have to get this working yesterday, move!"
Nobody questioned me. They all knew which emergency protocol I was referring to. Nobody talked to me either. I'd assumed command and for now I was focused on keeping them alive. My friends, my family. I wouldn't let them die no matter what. The team got down to business and I made my way to the back of the plane again amid a low buzz of alert conversation. I scanned the sky through the windows at both sides. I couldn't see a thing. It was too much to hope for that he'd buggered off though. Think, Foster. If he's not starboard or port and you can't see him below then he has to be... above. I looked up. There it was, a speck in the sky. High above us diving out of the sun. It looked like a MiG, the fighter to have if you were ex-communist. Korean then. A MiG's loadout allows it to carry four medium to long range heat seeking missiles. We'd only had two so far. I turned and rushed back to the cockpit calling out to the pilot along the way.
"Pilot! MiG in the sun, evasive action now!"
Even as I moved the red lights came back on.
"Sh*t. Missiles incoming."
The plane lurched into action, diving and weaving, the blinking lights on the radar still bearing down upon our position.
"Use the flares!"
"We're out sir!"
Useless. Whoever stocked this plane was a f*cking idiot. This is it, I thought. No flares, no guns, nothing that can take down those missiles. We're going to die. My eyes were frantic, I scanned over the faces of my team and caught the eyes of my daughter. Dani. I couldn't bear to let her be hurt but I couldn't save her now either, even with emergency action in place. Everyone was ready, holding onto the support handles and all sitting strapped in as near to the door as possible with their parachutes all ready to go, oxygen masks fitted, flight suits checked. Even a jump now would be pointless. As long as that plane was still in the air it'd pick us off as we jumped. Hopeless. I opened my mouth to speak...
The pilot jerked the controls violently and the plane rolled. I was flung into the walls of the cockpit and landed hard on my arse as the plane righted itself. I got up in time to see the two remaining missiles collide with each other in front of the plane.
"Have some faith sir, we're not dead yet."
I smiled at the pilot and strapped myself into my own flight suit. He was right. We weren't dead yet and I wasn't giving up my team's lives so easily. And right then the MiG dived out of the sun. It had run out of missiles but its guns were rattling, huge 30mm shells punching fist sized holes in the plane, the noise of the air being sucked out of the cabin roaring in my ears.
"Pilot!" I called. No response. I checked the cockpit. He was dead. The windows were shattered and there was a hole a foot across in his chest, blood slippery on the cabin floor. The MiG was coming back around. It would swoop in from in front of us again and this time its bullets would saw through the entire fuselage and integrity of the entire structure would be compromised. Our plane would probably split in half or explode, all of us perishing with it.
Not. On. My. Watch.
I scrambled over to the plane door and released it. It was sucked away into the wind.
"We're initiating one-zero-delta! Jump! Go! Go! Go!" I was screaming against the howling wind and hand signalling like crazy whilst trying not to be sucked out of the plane myself. I hadn't even gotten my mask on yet and was starting to feel a little faint.
"The MiG Foster! What about the MiG?" Jagan roared back at me. He had his mask on and the internal microphone hooked up so his voice came through into my earpiece loud and clear.
"Just shut up and GO!" I grabbed him and practically threw him from the plane. Scarecrow didn't hesitate, he just glanced at me with an 'I hope you know what you're doing' look and jumped. Beth followed her brother's example. Dani was the only one left. I hugged her close for just a moment then rushed off towards the cockpit again. "Dani. Go."
"But, Dad, the MiG, you'll die! What about-"
"Just go!" I pushed her. Gently. But just enough. I saw tears just starting to cloud up her gas mask as she fell from the plane.
I turned and went into the cockpit. The MiG was changing its course, its new target the people falling through the sky. He wouldn't fire until they opened their chutes. That way he was guaranteed to either hit them directly or destroy the canopy of the parachute and let them plummet to their deaths. He hadn't bargained for this. I took the controls from my dead pilot's hands. His name badge said Dave Jackson. I'd remember to call up his family if I survived this. I steered the plane gently downwards. Slowly I edged the angle a little and a little lower. The MiG was still waiting for a chute to open. He hadn't noticed me yet. I pointed the nose of the plane little by little until I was on a direct collision course with the MiG. Then I gunned the throttle. The plane's engines screamed deafeningly and the ruined machine lurched forwards once more. I legged it. I wasn't going to make it. I would be still inside the plane when the two collided. I'd never get to see my daughter again. At least I'd've saved her.
I leapt from the plane moments before the impact. I fell for less than a second before I heard the crunching, grating sound of twisted metal, the heat on my back from the explosion, the shockwaves sending me spiraling down from the blast. I twisted my body and turned to the freefall position. I had pulled it off. Hell. Yeah. I reached for my oxygen mask but my hand wouldn't move. The corners of my vision were going dark. Oxygen deprivation, my mind registered. My limbs felt sluggish. You need your mask, my brain told me. I was trying but my body isn't responding, was my reply. The black tunnel narrowed. At least pull your chute! My thoughts screaming in my ear. Can't, too tired, was my only response. I saw three dark green chutes opening below me. The three lowest. Jagan, Beth and Scarecrow were all safe. I smiled. Dani. Where was Dani's chute? I couldn't focus my thoughts any longer. No oxygen. As my eyelids started to droop I had the vague notion of a body in a textbook freefall position rising to meet me as I tumbled aimlessly through the sky. I felt a pair of slim and gentle arms grip me tight and the jerk of a chute pulling. That's my girl. Perfect rescue Honey.
"Dad! Dad!" Her voice was so distant.
Then I blacked out.