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21

All the Democratic Front fighters volunteered to join in the assault on the fascist stronghold in the Honduran mountains. But the Huey could carry only the weight of fourteen men and their weapons. The former Salvadoran army officers and soldiers drew lots to determine who would accompany the North Americans across the Honduran border.

A plastic tarp sheltering them from the drizzling rain, Able Team went through all their weapons and equipment by the light of an electric lantern. The three North Americans took only what they needed for the assault. Their suitcases, backpacks, rations and field equipment would remain with the Democratic Front fighters who stayed behind.

"You know what happens if the politicians ever find out about this?" Gadgets asked his partners. "Foreign policy nightmare."

"About what?" Lyons asked. "Us killing fascists? You got it. Hope it starts an international fad."

"No! This stuff. We're giving it to guerrillas. Even if they aren't Commies, they're antigovernment."

"We need their help," Lyons said. "If Quesada ran off to someplace safe, I figure that place will have more defenses than his plantation did."

"Elementary, my dear Ironman. They teach you to think like that in college?" Gadgets countered. "But think about this. We're donating this gear to the guerrillas. The guerrillas are fighting the government of El Salvador. The government of El Salvador is a regional ally of the United States..."

"No ally of mine! How many U.S. citizens have the Salvos murdered so far? Nuns, social workers, lawyers, reporters, tourists! All the killers were army or national guard. Any of those goons go to trial? Captain Lizco says his men specialize in wiping out death squads. I don't mind helping his people, not at all. Wish I could donate a ton of ammunition."

"Ironman the hardcore diplomat," Gadgets said, laughing. "You make it simple."

"What's difficult? Kill an American, die."

A voice called out from the crowd of Democratic Front fighters. "Hey specialists!"

Floyd Jefferson splashed through the muddy water flowing down the hillsides. "Those guys say eight of them are going in the helicopter. Counting you three and the lieutenant, his brother and the teenager, that doesn't leave room for me. You cutting out the press coverage of this revolutionary event?"

"No room for the press corps," Gadgets told him. "Besides, you can't take pictures in the dark."

"I can write a story."

Lyons groaned. "Just what we need. I can see the headline. 'U.S. Paramilitary Agents and Communist Terrorists Attack Convention of Salvadoran Businessmen.' "

"How 'bout this one. 'Justice in the Night! Freedom Fighters Annihilate Nazis!' " Floyd said.

Lyons laughed. "Sounds good. Good enough to get us into a congressional investigation. Here's another headline. 'Freedom Fighters Rot in Leavenworth.' "

"Okay, no story," Floyd told them. "But I got to go. I've spent the past few months working on this. Checking out every Nazi group in the Americas. The Argentinian, the Chileans, the Salvadorans, the North American gangs. All of the groups. I made contact with the Democratic Front so that I could join their group here to check out Quesada. We know Quesada's one of them. Now he's run off to someplace named The School. I want to go. Maybe La Escuela is just one more fincain the mountains. But maybe it isn't. Look at the map"

The young reporter spread out a map of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. "Here's the Contra war zone in northern Nicaragua. There are reports of Argentinians working with the Somoza gangs. Here's El Salvador. I've spotted blond guys working with the national-guard death squads. They talked Spanish but they weren't Salvos. A report came out of Honduras of death squads led by Chilean secret police. Now here's Reitoca. If you had an international operation going, wouldn't you put the headquarters in a central location?"

The three men of Able Team glanced to one another. They knew much more about Nazis than Floyd. They had fought the conspiracy of Unomundo to seize Guatemala with an army of Guatemalan traitors and Salvadoran fascists and foreign mercenaries. They had seen Salvadoran fascists at parties with United States lawmakers. And now, Quesada had escaped because of a traitor in the United States government.

Careful not to betray his own knowledge, Blancanales questioned Floyd. "You think there's a Pan-American Nazi movement?"

"That's what I think."

"Couldn't your Nazi conspiracy just be right wingers cooperating with one another?"

"I think it's more than that. In Argentina and Chile and Bolivia, there are Nazi communities. They march around behind the swastika, do the 'Sieg Heil' boogie. In Argentina, the army keeps pictures of Hitler in the barracks. In El Salvador, you ever seen the salute of the Arena Party?"

Floyd snapped his right fist to the center of his chest, then shot out his arm in a Nazi salute.

"There it is. That's what goes on. Even in the U.S. of A., things are weird."

"What do you mean?" Blancanales continued his questioning.

"Like how Quesada skipped Miami. The FBI waited twenty-four hours after they got the warrant before they actually went to his mansion in North Beach. And the other Salvadorans who've murdered Americans they've got condos and cars and businesses in Miami. Makes you think they got friends in high places.'

Lyons shook his head. "It's going to be fourteen of us against whoever we find. Everybody who goes carries a weapon."

"I can pull a trigger," Floyd insisted. "I'll take an M-16."

Lyons looked to his partners. "What's the vote?"

Blancanales nodded. "Floyd speaks English and Spanish. We could use him."

"Talks jive, too." Gadgets grinned. "I need a translator."

"Go work it out with them." Lyons pointed at the men of the Democratic Front.

"All right!" Floyd splashed away.

Gadgets laughed. "The Ironman authorizes press coverage of a Team event. This is a first."

"And a last," Lyons muttered.

The high-frequency radio clicked with a coded message. Gadgets listened, then translated as he grabbed flares and flashlights.

"Jack will be here in a minute. Time to guide him in."

The Huey bucked through clouds and mountain winds. Crowded into the interior, the fourteen men sat shoulder to shoulder on the seats and on the floor. Autoweapons, ammunition, rockets tangled with the men. Floyd Jefferson flashed portraits of the guerrillas sitting quiet and thoughtful among their laughing and shouting compatriots.

Only a few seconds after they left the Morazan hillside behind, the intercom buzzed. Grimaldi, alone in the pilot's cabin, asked Able Team, "Hey, ah what goes on? Who are those troopers with you?"

Gadgets passed the headset to Blancanales. "You explain this."

"Not me." Blancanales passed the headset to Lyons.

Pressing through the mass of men and weapons, Lyons leaned forward to Grimaldi. Behind him a camera flashed. He shouted back, "No photos!"

Floyd responded. "Not taking pictures of you. Of the other guys."

"Interesting group of soldiers," Grimaldi said over his shoulder.

"Irregulars," Lyons told him.

"Uh-huh. Mercenaries?"

"No. But they're hot. They can pop hundred percent kill count ambushes."

"What do the initials DFL mean?"

"Democratic Front for the Liberation."

"Oh, shit, man. What are you doing? Are you involved in some kind of guerrilla action?"

"These guys aren't Reds," Lyons replied. "They're ex-army. Some of them were trained at Fort Bragg. Their officer was a captain in the army, a LRRP. He got involved in the land reforms. The Nazis sent a death squad, so he went to the mountains. I would've done the same thing."

Though he kept his promise of never showing the faces of Able Team, Floyd Jefferson allowed their nightsuits and weapons to appear in the photo frames. The high-quality uniforms and web-gear contrasted with the patched and hand-sewn uniforms of the Democratic Front fighters. The immaculate, high-tech weapons of the North Americans appeared behind the scarred and worry-lined faces of men who now fought against the government that the United States financed and armed. Every shot of the men had the background of the Huey panels and the rain-beaded Plexiglas side windows.

"Able Team's got the reputation for the weirdest, but this is the limit, you know that?" continued Grimaldi. "Do you realize these guerrillas are the enemies of your country? This is just totally..."

Lyons shouted down the Stony Man flier. "One, there has been no declaration of war, therefore they are not the enemies of my country. Two, whatever goes on between them and their government, I don't care. That's Salvadoran politics. And wait until you get the debriefing report on this mission compared to the scum-snakes we found down there, these guys are Boy Scouts. Three, we need fighters and they volunteered. Four, you're paid to fly. So fly."

"You got the exact location of this school?"

"We'll find it. There'll be an airfield and two helicopters. Lights. A perimeter. If we don't see it on the flyby, we'll get out and look for it."

"Then what?"

"Any chance you can come back with a B-52?"

"You serious? You want them bombed?"

"First we need to take Quesada alive. But then we'll waste the place. How can you help us?"

"The Agency's got cargo planes..."

"The Agency? Forget it. There's Nazi informers operating in the Agency. Quesada got warned we were coming. We've been betrayed by someone in the Agency or in the administration."

"I don't want to hear that talk! Running around with guerrillas, now you're sounding like a Commie."

"I'm talking the facts."

"Hear this, crazyman. The Agency gave me total cooperation. I was very pleasantly surprised."

"Be ready for unpleasant surprises. You tell them where you were going with this helicopter?"

"Never tell anybody anything."

"Don't tell them where you take the bomber."

"I don't know about bombs," Grimaldi said, shaking his head. "Especially on short notice."

"Improvise," Lyons said. "Use your imagination. We need maximum effect. Otherwise we'll have a Nazi army chewing at us through the mountains."

Grimaldi pointed down. "We're over the coordinates of that town."

"Stay high. Circle out. I'll be sitting in the door looking out."

Lyons motioned to his partners. He went to a door and buckled on the safety straps. Cautioning the men around him, he eased the door open.

Cold night wind and rotor-whipped rain struck him. Thousands of feet below, he saw darkness and the tiny points of lights. But no patterns of lights. He scanned the depthless black of the unseen mountains for La Escuela. Gadgets's voice spoke through the intercom.

"Bear to the left"

"Yeah, I see the lights," Grimaldi answered. "I'll take you past."

"What you see?" Lyons asked his partner in the other door.

"Airstrip lights. And the landing lights of a plane. Man, that is an installation."

The fighters turned to stare out at a mountaintop crowned with brilliant points. A rectangle of blue dots framed an asphalt runway. As they watched, a plane descended from the night, cones of white glare projecting from the wings.

When the plane taxied to a stop, the landing lights and the runway lights switched off. The blue rectangle faded to darkness.

A ring of white security lights remained on the mountain. Scattered points of incandescent glow indicated buildings. The scene wheeled into view as the helicopter continued in a slow circle. Grimaldi spoke through the intercom.

"That's the place you want me to bomb?"

"Don't look like there's anyplace else," Gadgets answered. "But we'll check it out."

"Put us down," Lyons told the flier. "And when you come back, come loaded."


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