Worse, a few mobile SAM units were being moved around the battered streets. Their functionality was unknown, but the knowledge that they were there was enough to prompt him to jump from altitude and come in sideways. He pulled his chute about a thousand feet above the ground, releasing the pack between his legs and letting it drop onto the lanyard connected to him.
Rapp gathered the chute quickly and pulled off his goggles and helmet. He lay still for almost two minutes, listening. When he was satisfied that his arrival had gone unnoticed, he stripped down to a grimy pair of jeans and T-shirt, then dragged his pack to him. Once done, there was little that would identify him as anything more than a local Iraqi who had been caught in the desert after sunset. Without the screen on his wrist, he was forced to use the stars for navigation.
Fortunately, they were just as effective now as they had been when explorers first set out to discover the world. He followed a southerly course, rubbing at his face to remove any marks left by his goggles. Rapp had managed to stop the plot, but not without the help of the local resistance. Now the identities of those men had been discovered and ISIS was closing in on them. Most of the people at Langley thought he was crazy to come back, arguing that the risks far outweighed the rewards.
And they were probably right. None were much use at gathering intelligence, either. Mostly they sat around making long political speeches that the others then heartily agreed with. Unfortunately, that decision had forced him to put a reluctant Joe Maslick in charge of the Rabat, Morocco, operation. In the end, it was probably a good thing. Rapp closed his eyes for a moment, acknowledging that he was just stalling.
Just another occupying force to fight an endless guerrilla war against. Welcome to the Middle East. Rapp stood and moved forward, slipping between two buildings and navigating by the light of a full moon. This area of town had taken a lot of battle damage and was largely uninhabited now. After about five minutes of generally southern travel, he came to a collapsed building with little more than the east wall surviving. By the time he made it to the far side, he was certain he was being tracked. There was a natural rhythm to the debris dislodging from the structures around him and now it was off just enough to stand out.
The footfalls were random and careful, but to the practiced ear they were unmistakable. He kept his pace casual, climbing over a burned car to gain access to the alley behind it. When he was certain he was obscured from view, he sidestepped into a gap in the wall to his right. Whoever was behind him was disciplined—Rapp would give him that. It was a full two minutes before he was able to pick out an intermittent shadow inching toward his position. He dug a shard of concrete from around a piece of rebar and threw it, creating a nearly inaudible clatter twenty yards to the south.
The footsteps faltered for a moment. Rapp retrieved his Glock and waited, barely breathing. A few seconds passed before the silhouette reappeared. The man it belonged to was an inch taller than him and a good six inches wider at the shoulder. He had an assault rifle strapped across his chest and was moving in a manner that suggested he was more than just another ISIS dipshit.
When he walked past, Rapp stepped out and pressed his gun to the back of his head.
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Let me see you. In order to not be recognized on his prior operation in al-Shirqat, Rapp had been forced to let Joe Maslick beat his face into something resembling raw meat.
That was the only face Gaffar had ever seen—the broken, bleeding, and swollen one Maslick had created. Fear is a good motivator, but this. It was everything in between. They finally arrived at a massive concrete slab that had tipped against a crumbling wall. Gaffar picked up a rock and tapped it three times against what had once been a lamppost. A moment later the people Rapp had come for appeared at the entrance of the artificial cave. On the left were two thin men who looked like computer geeks.
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