The Piranha Assignment by Austin S Camacho
Morgan dropped to the ground and joined Felicity in the clearing. It was perhaps eighty meters across, roughly circular. Morgan’s nostrils flared and the tiny hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. His eyes met Felicity’s and he knew she felt it too. That peculiar warning buzz they both sensed when some danger approached.
“It’s not that copter,” Morgan said. “It smells… I don’t know… animal.”
“Your play,” Felicity said quietly. They had arranged in past deadly situations to choose a leader quickly. From here on in they would not look at each other again and verbal communication would drop to a minimum. Experience told them this would help confuse an enemy. They would depend on their unique psychic link to guide each other.
* * *
From above, Bastidas could see the whole picture. He grinned thinking of the exquisite death awaiting these two petty annoyances. The clearing had two rough paths leading to it from the dense rain forest. Down each of these green tunnels ran a razorback boar, flushed by Herrera’s beaters. Each of these tusked pigs weighed over four hundred pounds. Their prey, still unaware of their ferocious stalkers, moved warily, back to back, toward the center of the circle of death.
* * *
Morgan’s flesh crawled when, a moment later, he watched the biggest wild boar he had ever seen trot into the open. He thanked the Lord for his safari jacket and heavy canvas trousers. That spiny hide could flay the flesh from any soft skinned animal, such as a man.
As he prepared for combat, Morgan heard another animal approaching the clearing. Still, he dared not lose his focus on his first target’s tiny red eyes.
He flipped his left hand toward the new thrashing and quietly said “Distract that pig.”
* * *
Above them, Bastidas was excited but confused. He considered only Morgan a threat. One huge boar was behind him, and he had a woman weighing him down. Yet both victims seemed calm, relaxed. Stark’s right hand slowly eased to his left side. He could not expect to bring down that bristling beast with the puny nine millimeter he was known to carry. Bastidas turned to his pilot.
“Now you can go. They cannot survive.”
* * *
Felicity knew Morgan had made her responsibility for the second boar and drawn his mind completely from it. She could not ask him what to do or how. He was directing the full focus of his will on the first beast, formulating its death in his mind, thinking through each detail, creating a predetermined path down which future events could be forced to flow.
Her skin prickled as sweat broke through her skin tight leotard and tights. She was not armed except for her most reliable weapon, her quick, agile mind. Would this be enough? If the animal on the path was as huge as the one facing Morgan, she had her doubts.
She began cataloging her assets on her tool belt. Lock picks, jimmy, screwdriver, nylon line… great, a lipstick and a bottle of perfume. She also carried anesthetic nose plugs, but she had no intention of getting that close. But wait. When her fingers touched her collapsible grapnel hook, she had an idea.
* * *
Morgan maintained eye contact with the first boar as it turned to face him. The creature stood four feet tall at its shoulder, with stiff bristles thrusting from its snout and the bright red fire of challenge in its eyes.
Morgan drew his pistol in slow motion. He was almost glad he lost his Browning Hi-power when he crashed the Land Rover the day before. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be carrying the Desert Eagle automatic, in forty-four magnum. It had a major power advantage over the Browning, but its magazine held only eight rounds, not thirteen like the nine millimeter. Trying to bring down the helicopter he burned through this magazine. He had only one round left. He would need extreme accuracy to bring this husky beast down with even this powerful handgun, and it was asking a lot of the gods of war to let him do it with one shot.
* * *
Felicity’s scarlet tresses flew as she moved. On the run she tied the line to the grappling hook. She stopped at a large palm, bigger around than she was. Whipping the hook out, she secured it to a tree on the other side of the path. She passed the line around the near tree, leaving it slack between the two. She was almost ready to face the boar.
With a high squealing that was almost a roar, the razor backed juggernaut launched itself forward. She had no time to don her climbing gloves. She braced her left foot against the tree trunk and wrapped the thin nylon line once around her left shoulder, then around her left hand.
Felicity prayed the boar would not spot the three ply nylon cord on the ground. As it stampeded, she fixed its position by hearing. Sweat burst on her forehead.
She had the beast’s stride timed now. He was ten galloping steps away. Now nine…eight…seven… six…five…four…three…
Her teeth clenched, every muscle in her body tensed, and her leg thrust out and locked against the tree. The line snapped taut. She heard a squealing grunt behind her and a crash into the tall grass.
Turning, she saw the beast tumble and bounce to its feet. She had hoped it would break one of its spindly legs tripping on the rope, but no such luck. But she had accomplished her mission. The boar turned from Morgan and roared after her. She gathered the rope as she sprinted for the opposite tree.
* * *
With a high squealing that was almost a roar, the razor backed juggernaut launched itself forward. Morgan settled himself into a solid two handed stance, the fingers of his left hand settling into the valleys between the fingers of his right.
Morgan hand loaded his own jacketed hollow point ammunition. As always, the tips of the rounds were filled with fulminate of mercury and capped with wax. This gave each bullet’s flight an explosive finish, almost like having a primer at both ends.
He kept both eyes open as his weapon settled on the mark. The boar’s left eye sat on top of the front sight ramp, deep in the rear sight’s “V” notch. It required all of Morgan’s concentration to maintain the lock on his target while his other eye marked off distance.
Thirty meters. Maintaining the sight picture required him to feel the beast’s stride.
Twenty-five meters. Push with the right hand, pull with the left to hold steady. Last breath. Hold it.
Twenty meters. Slow pressure. He had customized the trigger himself with a Timney Triggers kit. A gentle squeeze touched off a round, launching one hundred fifty grains of steel jacketed lead at over thirteen hundred feet per second.
Nothing changed, except that the bloodshot eye disappeared from Morgan’s sights. He lowered the pistol. The boar seemed to lose all interest in him, but momentum carried it on. A cloud of dust rose when the animal finally collapsed and slid like Willie Mays into the plate, almost to Morgan’s booted feet.
* * *
As she ran, Felicity tied a quick knot in her rope. She could feel the ground tremble as the four legged locomotive blew steam at her heels. She leaped, scrambling like a maniac up the stout trunk. She imagined she could feel the pig’s hot breath on her legs as it passed beneath her. The boar circled, uncertain but also unwilling to surrender its prey. Then, in a burst of suicidal bravado, Felicity tossed the noose she had made over the huge creature’s head.
Felicity dropped to the ground, the nylon line looped over the branch she had been perched on. The boar on the other end backed away until the rope was taut, then tossed its head vigorously. Felicity was snapped into the air and her left palm ripped open. What had she been thinking? That thing was nearly three times her weight.
Then Morgan’s strong hands were on the rope and Felicity’s feet returned to the ground. The boar turned to face the new combined target and pawed at the earth.
“What now?” Felicity asked, wiping sweat from her eyes.
“Now? Well, you had the right idea. Just hold the rope, while I go play `poke da pig’.” Felicity received a flash of his piratical smile and a slap on her rump, then Morgan ran into the clearing. Felicity bounded back up into the tree. Somehow, she knew she had to loop the rope twice around the tree’s trunk. It crossed her mind that she was literally out on a limb as she watched the razorback charge beneath her.
Morgan had stopped and turned to face the behemoth. He seemed to grow out of the tall grass, his Randall #1 combat knife in his hand. His legs and arms were spread wide, as if he was waiting to embrace death. He bared his teeth and Felicity thought she heard two growls as the four legged engine of destruction closed on him. Had Morgan thought this through?
* * *
Ten feet from his prey, the giant boar launched itself into space, jaws spread wide and aimed at Morgan’s throat. Its hot breath stung Morgan’s eyes and for a brief instant he wondered if he had misjudged the rope’s length.
Then the nylon line snapped taut, and the boar was brought up short. Felicity was thrown to the ground when the tree jerked. Foliage showered her but she hardly seemed to notice. Her eyes were on the boar, snapped into the air, spinning on the pivot point of its neck. Morgan and the ground hit the beast at the same time. His left arm looped around the thick creature’s massive neck. He plunged his long knife deep into its throat and wrenched hard. The beast’s death scream burst onto Morgan’s face along with its hot life’s blood.
Morgan rolled away from the thrashing animal and got to his feet. It was taking the boar a long time to die. The animal now had the rope caught in the gash in its throat. It gurgled and kicked, but it never gave up. It resisted death to the very end. Even with its throat ripped open, it roared its defiance.
Morgan wondered how much like a wild boar he would be when the grim reaper came for him.
Felicity showed a slight limp as she approached Morgan. Her hands were raw, one bleeding a little. But him! He was splattered with red – hair, shirt, pants, hands – and even he did not know how much of it was his own. The boar’s spiny hide had abraded his arms. His jacket was in tatters. The stench of the beast’s flesh and blood on him was overpowering. It seemed to bring the exhaustion out of him. He looked up into Felicity’s tired smile.
“We’ve got to get you cleaned up,” she said. Morgan smiled with her but his mind was not on a shower. He was wondering where the helicopter went.