Wei Too Close!
Wei Tsu Tin almost never had trouble sleeping. For some reason, this night was different. It might have been the heat, but he had slept in humid heat before. It might have been the excitement … the bombing of the Americans’ camp was absolutely glorious … but that had been days ago. Wei had slept well through the previous nights.
Something about this night had him tossing and turning.
His bedtime ritual had not changed. He had poured himself a nightcap around 10:00 p.m. local time, slipped into his silk pajamas and retired to his room to read for half an hour or so while he drank his brandy.
Even in the field, Wei tried to adhere to the same night-time routine. In fact, it was this routine, he felt, that helped him sleep so well on a regular basis. Many of his counterparts struggled with sleep. They tossed and turned thinking about the battles they had lost … and those they had won. They stared at the ceiling counting the men who had died under their command and remembering their faces.
Wei had no such troubles. The men he had lost were merely pawns in the game – pieces on a chess board to be sacrificed when necessary or advantageous. The battles he had lost were only temporary setbacks. Wei knew that he would always rise back to the top … one way or another. He always had. The battles he had won … well, those were better remembered during the day in front of his fellow commanders with greater embellishments each time the story was retold.
Wei could hardly wait until he could recount the bombing of the Americans’ camp. What a victory!
As the general rolled over again, trying to find a comfortable position on the unfamiliar pillow, he thought he heard small arms fire in the distance.
“Might as well take a look,” Wei grumbled. “I’m not going to get any sleep anyway.”
Wei slid his feet into his slippers and shuffled over to the dual windows of the corner office that had been converted into a bedroom on his behalf. The general parted the blinds of the window on his left. His view of the Lawson Airfield was washed in bright artificial light. The airstrip was lit up like they were expecting a plane to land at any minute.
The general blinked while his eyes adjusted to the bright light. Just beyond the edge of the illuminated landing strip, Wei was sure he saw muzzle flashes. A split second after he saw the flashes of light, Wei heard the sound.
The sound spurred Wei to action. He quickly slipped out of his pajamas and stuffed them into his go bag. A few moments later, he was in uniform and running as fast as he could for one of the helicopters sitting at the end of the landing strip.
Pitcher and Manny were working feverishly to cut through the chain link fence while four other Rangers provided suppressing fire. By and large, the suppressing fire was working. Most of the U.N. troops stationed at the airfield were pilots or crewmen with little desire to engage an attacking force. To a man, they kept their heads down and began to retreat toward the rear of the building.
General Wei ran into a wall of pilots and crewmen as he made his way toward the airfield. Wei recognized one of the men as the pilot who had flown the helicopter that had lifted him out of the swamp.
“Pilot!” Wei bellowed.
Unable to avoid the general, the pilot skidded to a halt and saluted, “Yes, sir.”
“You’re coming with me,” Wei’s voice bounced off the concrete walls of the hallway in which they stood.
“Sir?” the pilot was unsure of the chain of command. Did Wei outrank Watanabe?
Wei lowered his voice, “We’re flying out of this mess.”
The pilot looked around, wild-eyed. His cohorts were long gone down the hallway. He couldn’t think of a way out. “Yes, sir.”
Wei and the pilot raced down the hallway toward the crew’s locker room where the pilot grabbed his helmet and Wei quickly found one that fit reasonably well.
“Move it!” Wei gave the pilot a shove toward the door that led to the airfield.
The pilot swung the door wide, ducking instinctively as the gunfire became louder. Wei stepped in behind the pilot trying to keep the pilot’s body between himself and the source of the metal-jacketed projectiles.
“Watch the choppers!” Pitcher shouted.
Pitcher had spotted the two figures moving toward one of the choppers just a brief moment after his counterparts started sending rounds down range in their direction.
“Roger that, Sarge,” one of the other Rangers smirked as he tried to thread a shot through the open cargo compartment of one of the Blackhawks.
The Ranger’s shot narrowly missed the pilot and General Wei. The two scrambled into the helicopter’s cockpit. The pilot quickly ran through a pre-flight check while Wei pulled on the slightly large helmet and settled into the copilot’s seat.
Wei scanned the Blackhawk’s controls.
“This is a little different from the WZ-10,” Wei commented to the pilot.
“Yes, sir. They take a bit of getting used to,” the pilot was surprised that the general was familiar with the PLA’s newest attack helicopter.
Bullets smacked the Blackhawk’s fuselage as the rotors began to spin.
“I told you guys to watch the choppers,” Pitcher yelled as he clipped the last link in the fence opening a hole large enough for himself and his men to slip through.
“You want us to let ’em fly off, Sarge?” the Ranger who had made the shot through the cargo hold of the Blackhawk responded.
“Pappy wants at least one of them in one piece,” Pitcher responded simply. “You want to be the one to tell him that you disabled one of them?”
“No thanks!” the Ranger chuckled as he ran toward the landing strip in a combat crouch.
Wei’s chopper lifted off the ground and spun in the direction of the Rangers.
“He’s coming after us!” Manny shouted a warning.
The six Rangers broke their squad formation and headed for whatever cover they could find just as Wei launched the first of the UH-60’s Hellfire missiles in their general direction. The missile flew wide of the Rangers’ positions and struck the last Blackhawk in the line of four on the runway.
Wei laughed maniacally as the helicopter went up in a ball of flame.
The pilot stole a brief, wide-eyed look at General Wei and then lifted the bird as fast as he could into the night sky.
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