The tiny jet reeled.
Sullivan’s dossier spilled from her lap. Her drink crashed against the wall.
She’d already escorted the target to his embassy safely. Not only was the mission over, but she was the only passenger on this flight.
An oxygen mask dangled in front of her as she tore off her seatbelt. She frowned as she passed the unfortunate stewardess collapsed against a window. Blood trickled down the woman’s forehead.
The explosion had come from the cockpit. Sullivan held her breath and crashed through the door. A rush of air escaped the cabin, exiting through the shattered windshield.
What a mess.
The pilot lay charred and scattered over his controls. Smoke billowed out the windshield as the air stabilized with the outside. Ahead, a vast desert was quickly filling up the entire view. With no controls, her options were limited. She could jump, or die.
The damage didn’t have the hallmarks of a bomb. Somebody out in the desert was intent on blasting her out of the sky. Her mysterious attackers were after her head again. This time, they’d dragged two innocents into the fray.
HQ looked into the previous attempts on her life. No whos or whys popped up. No other agents were being targeted. But wherever Sullivan went, her invisible enemies were one step ahead.
Her face was blue by the time the air had stabilized. She gasped in a new lungful and returned to the cabin. She found the parachutes and grabbed the stewardess by the shoulder. The woman flopped closer. She’d passed out.
Sullivan yanked the nearest oxygen mask down and put it over the woman’s mouth. A quick slap across the face sped up the process. The stewardess opened one eye, then the other. That would have to do. The oxygen mask was removed and Sullivan strapped the parachute to the woman.
“You know how to use these, right?”
The stewardess looked down. She felt the parachute straps absently and nodded.
“We were attacked. Want to survive? Jump and let’s hope for the best.”
The woman swallowed hard. Sullivan kicked the emergency door open. The stewardess would go first. A quick shove was all it took. The stewardess screamed her way into the open air.
A second blast came from behind.
Sullivan grasped the edge of the emergency doorway for support. The jet was sent into a dangerous spin. If Sullivan wasn’t careful, she could get clipped by the craft. On top of that, the tilt had gotten much worse. She clung to the door frame just to keep herself from tumbling toward the cockpit.
She had to jump right now, but her enemies were waiting. As soon as she was out, they would fire. She had to make this count. Using a seat as a launchpad, she leapt from the jet.
The wind whipped against her face. She made her body as narrow as possible. The faster she went, the harder time they’d have shooting her. The dove down through the clear evening air like a hunting falcon. Bullets zipped through the air around her. Whoever was shooting had switched guns.
This couldn’t get too much worse. The new barrage wasn’t as visible or avoidable as what had knocked out the jet. Her parachute would be an easy target. But not opening it wasn’t an option either. She measured out the distance as best she could. She’d have to cut this close.
She yanked the cord that opened the chute. Her chest felt like somebody had dropped a tank on it. She hacked and wheezed as she worked to recover from the change in velocity. The sound of gunshots and wind and near-miss bullets filled her ears. A quick glance up said her chute wasn’t going to last very long. It was already riddled with holes.
The closer she got to the ground, the better her enemies’ aim. One of the bullets hit her leg. Another grazed her ribs.
Amid the stinging pain, Sullivan suddenly heard someone screaming. She’d nearly forgotten about the stewardess. The cries came from above. She had zipped right past the stewardess on her jump. Hopefully the woman could hang on up there. Once they were safely on the ground, Sullivan could sort out what to do.
Another bullet sliced through a lock of Sullivan’s hair. She scowled as the hair floated toward the ground with her. The ground which was getting very near now. She scanned the area below her. It was a desert, likely the Arabian. Rocks and brittle trees dotted the landscape. All of them would make good cover. Shots flew in from every direction. There was a very real chance she was surrounded.
The holes in her parachute were getting bigger, growing with each new bullet that missed hitting Sullivan herself. The wind howled as it passed through. She was picking up speed. Through one of the holes, she could see the frantic stewardess. The woman’s chute was also torn up. Being above Sullivan was only attracting danger.
“Shift away from me so you don’t get hit! We’re almost there.”
The woman made no sign that she heard. A shrill whistle was tried next. Even that was drown out by gunfire and the stewardess’s own frightened wailing. Sullivan tried to shift herself away instead, but the damage to her chute was too great. She was falling like a boulder and completely at the mercy of gravity.
Suddenly, the woman’s screaming stopped. Sullivan jerked her head up. The chute’s flailing in the wind prevented a clear view, but there was no need to guess what happened. The only thing to do now was make sure she didn’t die as well.
Sullivan took a slow breath to clear her head. She stared stone-faced at the ground. Armed men and women emerged around her landing site. Hopefully they wouldn’t be expecting this. The guns below took aim. She held a hand to the straps securing the parachute.