Chapter 3

Brahmaputra River / Assam Valley, India – January 2012

He could smell Assam on the wind. Plucking season was still a couple of months away, but with the vast amount of it grown in this region, the valley winds always carried a hint of the black tea.

The forest around him seemed unusually quiet, almost as if it were holding its breath for what was to come.  The only sound seemed to be coming from the Grey Sibia perched in a tree near him, its squeaking call like that of nails on a chalk board.

Glancing around, He unslung the rifle from his shoulder and leaned it against the tree and boulder combination he had chosen as his ambush point, fifteen feet from the river. He knew the boulder would give him plenty of cover even if they decided to open up with a large caliber machine gun. If the used a grenade launcher he knew it might get a little hairy, but according to intel, the only thing they were carrying was fifty cases of Chinese NMH-90 assault rifles and five hundred cases of ammunition. That meant eight hundred rifles and a half a million rounds of ammunition were headed for Afghanistan.

 Removing his pack, he tossed it to the ground and drew the .40 S&W DTX from his left shoulder rig. He drew back the slide a quarter of an inch and looked into the chamber. A round was seated. He ejected the magazine and checked the counter. He was full up, fifteen rounds. He holstered the weapon. Several spare magazines occupied pockets just below the pistol.

He checked the MP7 he wore on his right hip. Finally, he lifted the SRS sniper rifle from its resting position against the tree and shouldered it. He sighted on the river. He knew they were coming. It wouldn’t be long now.

Conner McCollum watched the canal barge as it moved slowly down the river, carried along only by the currents. Something wasn’t right. Why weren’t they using the motor? This far out no one would hear. Maybe they’re having problems. He sighted on the deck of the craft. No one seemed to be on deck. He looked intently for his target.

“C’mon you bastard, show me your head.”

The barge continued silently forward, beginning a slow turn, its rear end hitting a fast-moving swell of water. The nose of the large vessel nudged the bank and then slid to a stop. There was a long “shick” sound as the rear of the craft spun forward grinding itself on a sandbar, before the craft came to a complete stop.

Conner watched the barge for a full ten minutes. The markings on it definitely identified it as the vessel he was targeting. General Shi Kuo Ping was supposed to be onboard.

He didn’t like this. Another ten minutes clicked by and still no sound or movement. Conner’s patience got the better of him.

“The hell with it.” He whispered.

He rested the Stealth Recon Scout sniper rifle against the tree once again and lifted his pack. Opening it he removed several magazines for his MP7 and stuffed them into pouches under his right shoulder and ammo pockets in his pants. Then he withdrew a pair of smoke grenades and clipped them to his combat harness. Lastly, he pulled a small, flat box and slid it into a pouch on his vest.

Charging his MP7, he slid out from behind the boulder and moved toward the river’s edge. Far in the distance he could hear a high-pitched clicking noise. He spared it only a cursory listen and then raised his weapon and slipped aboard the barge.

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