50mm Mark 4 scope. He attached it to the Picatinny-Weaver rail mount system on top of the weapon and set it to factory standard. Then he grabbed a laser sight with a universal mount from the case and attached it to the front of the barrel. It made the weapon heavy, but he attached the bipod, which alleviated the weight and would keep the rifle still. Using a digital leveler, he aligned the laser with the barrel, then turned it on. A beam of light shot from the device down the length of the plane. He aligned it so that it hit the center of the target, then concentrated on the scope. It took a few moments of adjusting the knobs to get the illuminated mil dot within the crosshairs aligned. Then he tightened the knobs in place.
Next he got with the rest of the team and conducted pre-breathing, which consisted of intaking one hundred percent oxygen to flush the nitrogen from their bloodstreams. They’d be jumping from higher than twenty-five thousand feet, and the lack of pressure could lead to hypoxia or decompression sickness if all the nitrogen wasn’t flushed. So for thirty minutes they sat side by side, using the Starlifter’s oxygen supply and going over the mission in their minds, preparing for what would be an intense physical challenge in less than an hour.
Finally it was time to load up.
Over Walker’s body armor went the MC-4 free-fall parachute system, comprising the chute, an altimeter with a compass, an automatic parachute activation device, and a bail-out small oxygen tank, the latter which he’d eject once he was below seven thousand feet. The bulky reserve chute went in front. As always, he found himself resting his arms on it.
His Stoner was in an M1950 weapons case that was attached to the chute on a D ring to a lowering line, used just before impact to lessen possible damage to the weapon. Lastly, he put on his Protec skate helmet modified for MBITR.
After a commo check, they were ready to go. All the remaining gear had been tied down. They now stood at the edge of the closed ramp. The red light above it switched to yellow. The ramp began to open.
Fratolilio was scheduled to be the center man in the formation. Hoover was attached to the front of his parachute by her own harness, replacing the reserve. In addition to the harness, the dog had a muzzle protector, bubble glasses to protect her eyes, and a warming cloak worn beneath the harness. Hoover acted as if this was nothing special.
The team’s only odd uniform concession had been to wear ballistic masks that covered their faces but left holes for the eyes, mouth, and nose. Though they were concerned about video surveillance, there was nothing they could do about their mission possibly being recorded and reviewed by the People’s Liberation Army at a later date. But they could mitigate the PLA’s ability to record their identities for possible future use.
Holmes’s mask was black with a white slash across it.
Ruiz’s mask was a deep blood red.
Fratty wore a solid white mask.
Laws wore a mask with a green camouflage pattern.
And Walker, probably thanks to the tried-and-true tradition of fucking with the new guy, wore a mask so pink that it was fuchsia.
The Starlifter’s crew chief was attached to a monkey harness. When the ramp opened fully, he walked to the edge and glanced out at the darkness. The rush of cold air and the wave of sound hit the team like the slap of a giant hand, but they held their ground.
“Five minutes,” came the chief’s voice through their headsets. “We’re at twenty-seven thousand feet and forty miles southeast of the target.”
All five SEALs checked their altimeters and GPS to confirm.
At the one-minute mark, they conducted a final radio check, then prepared to embrace the dark.
The chief counted down from thirty. When he hit zero, they ran off the edge of the ramp like a gang attacking the night. As they hit the air, they were torn backwards in the jet wash. Last in line, Walker kept his weapon case