Today's Reading

She was gorgeous. The LatinArab gene mix definitely produced some exceptionally attractive women. Add in being smart and savvy with the courage of a lioness, and what was not to love. Little rattled her save for she loathed the cold, and where he hated enclosed spaces she detested heights. Unfortunately, neither of them seemed to be able to avoid either.

"Do you know where we are?" she asked.

"I'd say north of Brest, which sits right on the Polish border. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the town, off to the south."

He'd dead reckoned their course, keeping the morning sun behind them and following the dash compass on a southwest heading. Too far north and they'd end up in Lithuania, which could continue their troubles. Poland was where they wanted to be, safe back in the EU. The Belarus State Security Committee remained the closest thing to the old Soviet KGB that still existed. It had even kept the same shorthand name, along with the rep as a major human rights violator. Torture, executions, beatings, you name it, those guys were guilty. So he preferred not to experience any of their methods firsthand.

He kept a light grip on the yoke, which sprang up from the floor rather than sticking out of the control panel. He had excellent visibility through the forward and side windows. The sky ahead loomed clear, the ground below a sea of dense trees. A road ran in a dark, winding path among them with an occasional farmhouse here and there.

He loved flying.

A plane was, to him, like a being unto itself. Flying was once supposed to have been his career. But things changed. Which, considering his life, seemed like an understatement.

He made a quick scan of the controls. Airspeed, eighty knots. Fuel, forty-five gallons. Electrical, all good. Controls, responsive.

Below, to the south, he caught sight of Brest in the distance. Perfect.

"There's our marker," he said. "The border's not far."

They'd made good time on the 120 miles from Minsk. Once inside Poland he'd find a commercial airport to land where they could make their way out of the country on the first available flight. Far too risky to keep using this stolen ride.

He backed off the throttle, slowed their speed, and adjusted the flaps, allowing the Airvan to drop to a thousand feet. He intended on crossing at low altitude, under the radar.

"Here we go," he said.

He kept the trim stable, the two-bladed propellers' timbre never varying. The engine seemed to be working with no complaints. A few knocks rippled across the wings from the low-level air, but nothing alarming.

Then he saw it.

A flash.

Among the trees.

Followed by a projectile emerging from the canopy, heading straight for them.

He yanked the yoke and banked in a tight, pinpoint maneuver that angled the wings nearly perpendicular to the ground. Luckily, the Airvan had game and could handle the turn, but their slow speed worked against them and they began to fall.

The projectile exploded above them.

"An RPG," he said, working the yoke and forcing the throttle forward, increasing speed. "Apparently we haven't been forgotten."

He leveled off the trim and prepared to climb.

To hell with under the radar. They were being attacked.

"Incoming," Cassiopeia yelled, her attention out the windshield.

"Where?"

"Two. Both sides."

Great.

He maxed out the throttle and angled the flaps for a steep climb.

Two explosions occurred. One was far off, causing no damage, but the other left a smoldering hole in one wing.

The engine sputtered.
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