At that moment there was a sound like tearing cloth. Jeffrey glanced out the window just in time to see two Indian Air Force MiG-29 fighters thunder by overhead.
We’re out of time.
Thinking quickly, he picked Anka up and laid her over his shoulders. Then he staggered out the door and looked around. Just outside the office was a stairwell leading down to the parking garage, he assumed.
“Can’t go down there…”
He glanced up. At the top of the stairwell was a steel door, leading out to the roof of the building, he hoped.
He staggered up the stairs, carrying Anka, and heaved down on the heavy door latch with his one free hand. The door swung outward, and he looked out onto the roof just in time to see the two MiG-29’s thunder by again. The lead MiG opened up with its 30 mm cannon, firing through the windows of the office that Jeffrey had just vacated. Jeffrey jumped back and nearly dropped Anka.
He peeked out again. Bodies were strewn all about the roof, both Sikhs and Maoists. Smashed and broken black ultralights littered the roof. Jeffrey stepped out and glanced nervously at the two MiGs, circling for another pass.
I’ll only get one chance at this…
He set off at a dog-trot, heading for one ultralight that appeared to be intact. He heard the unmistakable sound of a sniper round whistling past his head.
Breathless, he reached the two-seat ultralight, dumped Anka in the passenger’s seat and strapped her in, and gave the aircraft the shortest preflight of his life. Then he jumped in, mashed the engine start button, and listened as the Rotax engine coughed to life behind his head. He shoved the throttle full forward, and the plane waddled down to the end of the roof. He kicked the left brake pedal and spun the plane around, lining it up for takeoff.
This will be a downwind takeoff. Ask me if I care.
Another sniper round whistled past. He saw the two MiGs turning for another pass, about a mile to the west of him.
“Man, what I’d do for a couple of Sidewinders right now,” he shouted to himself as he shoved the throttle in. The Rotax thrummed behind him, and the ultralight picked up speed.
“Let’s turn and burn!” he bellowed above the sound of the engine. The MiGs were now head-on to him, and closing awfully fast. He glanced at his airspeed indicator.
35 kilometers per hour… close enough.
He heaved back on the yoke and the ultralight surged into the air. At that same instant he was dazzled by a brilliant red light. Horrified, he remembered.
The MiG-29 has a laser rangfinder. He’s got the range on me.
He kicked in left rudder and heaved left on the yoke, just as the lead MiG opened up with its 30 mm cannon in an unearthly, low moan. An instant later the nearly one-pound, proximity-fuzed rounds began screaming past the ultralight at twenty-five rounds per second. They slammed into the roof of the building and exploded, throwing shrapnel through the ultralight’s fabric wings.
As the ultralight cleared the edge of the roof Jeffrey pushed forward on the yoke and dived towards the ground, desperate to shake off the MiGs. He looked down just in time to see the crews of the Dhruv armored cars staring up at him, wide-eyed. Jeffrey banked to the right just as the two MiGs thundered past overhead.
Jeffrey’s mind was on overdrive, and he could feel his heart pounding.
Calm down, fella, take a deep breath. Now, where was it I was headed?
He pulled the throttle back slightly and looked around. In the distance off his left wing, he could just see the turrets of the Golden Temple of Amritsar. He glanced to his right at Anka slumped in her seat.
“You’ll get your wish, Anka,” he said through his tears.