The monotonous drone of the Air Force C-130 engines were drowned out by the sudden roar of night air as the rear ramp of the aircraft lowered open. All was dark within the rear compartment of the aircraft with small red lights providing the only illumination as the rider re-checked his gear one more time, since they took of from the airbase at RAF Mindenhall two hours before.
The night outside was just barely visible from the within the aircraft, and the rider could see the dark ground below, covered mostly by vast forests, roll by and into the distance, disappearing once more into the darkness that was this part of western Germany at night.
The crew chief nodded at the rider who followed the jump master's hand signals by attaching his rip cord to the wire stretching the length of the aircraft. Ahead and between him and the open ramp, was his Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig, strapped down on its cargo pallet, sitting on and surrounded by the cardboard blocks which would provide it a cushioning effect upon landing.
The rider could barely hear the jump masters commands and concentrated on his training as he waited for the red jump light to turn green, indicating that they were above the drop zone. He knew that they would rise to an altitude of 1200 feet just before the jump, the aircraft currently flying low over the ground, in nap of earth mode, to avoid detection by radar.
The rider felt his stomach seemingly drop away from him as the C-130 suddenly and swiftly gained altitude and leveled. The jump light turned green and the cargo master quickly activated the release switches which unlocked the rider's Ural cargo platform from its moorings. A small drogue chute was launched by another crewman and it dragged the lines attached to the Ural's cargo pallet out into the night. One second the Ural had been a large shadowy object in front of the rider, the next it was a small dark blob floating in the sky, a larger set of three parachutes beginning to billow out.
The rider moved forward before the jump master could urge him and launched himself off the rear cargo ramp, feet and knees tightly together, head bowed forward into his chest and his hands tightly grasping the sides of his reserve parachute attached below his chest to his parachute harness.
The rush of air almost caused him to close his eyes, but he fought them open against the pressure as he counted to four as he'd been trained. As his count passed three, he felt the gratifying pull of his parachute drag him up into the sky, slowing his fall through the night sky. Looking up, he briefly gloried in the sight of a fully open parachute before turning his attention down and seeking his Ural.
He spotted it just as it hit the trailing edge of the small drop zone, it raised a small dust cloud and he steered his parachute towards his rig, manipulating his parachute's risers to guide his descent. The rider managed to land on top of one of the three collapsed cargo parachutes and he hit, dropped and rolled into a PLF or Parachute Landing Fall to absorb the impact.
Standing up and ridding himself of his jump gear and helmet, he moved towards the dark bulk near him and swiftly moved to free his Ural from its cargo platform and cushioning material. Kicking away the cardboard cushions from the front of his rig, he turned the ignition on after ensuring the lights were still disabled, held open the throttle a quarter turn and pushed down on the kick starter.
The Ural's 750cc engine roared to life at the one kick and he mounted the motorcycle in one smooth motion, opening up the throttle he rolled off the cargo platform and moved quickly to the trail he knew existed on the southeastern portion of the drop zone.
The rider donned his motorcycle helmet and keeping his helmet's visor open, soon saw the trail dimly among the dark trees that bordered the drop zone. The going was rough as the drop zone had been a recently harvested wheat field and the rig bounced about as the rider fought to keep it in a straight line until he reached the smoother edge of the field which had served as the drop zone.
Dark shapes which took to be deer flitted in and out of his way as the rider slowly but steadily gained distance from the drop zone and sought the small county road nearby. The map he'd memorized before the mission solidly in his mind, he found the road and turned right onto it after ensuring no one had seen him.
The rider's eye's adjusted quickly as he switched on his headlight and running lights as he spotted oncoming traffic about a half mile away.
The night was still and quiet as the Rider's Ural Sidecar Rig's headlight cut a weak swath through the darkness blanketing the narrow road. In his peripheral vision, the rider saw glimpses of the tall tree trunks and thick foliage growing close to the side of the road he was on. Dark shapes on both sides, with a slightly lighter shade of black where the trees ended and the sky began, this was his world at the moment.
The Ural's engine, while not exactly a purring sound, had its usual calming effect on its rider as it consumed the miles of German forest road. The hum of the wheels, could just barely be discerned by the rider from within his helmet which kept the night's chill air from his shielded face.
Off in the distance, the rider could discern the glow of a small town's lights. Knowing it was the town of Pulheim in western Germany, the rider had been using it as a navigational landmark and as it loomed, he slowed his pace, seeking a suitable place to pull over and park.
A rest stop showed itself and the rider pulled his rig into a parking spot, under one of the two bright halogen lights illuminating the rest stop. Dismounting, the rider removed his helmet, took out his cellphone and dialed a number he'd stored as a speed dial during his mission briefing.
Two rings and a voice on the other end answered with a female voice. The rider spoke: "R Bikes Rule" and thought he heard the speaker catch her breath and then come back with: "Oilheads drool" and shortly afterwards end the call. Smiling, the rider donned back his helmet, remounted his sidecar rig and pulled away smartly from the rest area towards the lights of the town.
Streetlights and neon signs greeted the rider as he entered the outskirts of the Pulheim. His helmet's earphones murmured directions into his ears, guiding him to the rendezvous point with his contact. He kept looking into his rear mirrors, trying to detect someone following him and finding his "six" clear.
The rider found his way to out of Pulheim, his onboard police scanner having reported no alarms or reports of parachutes in the sky over the Chorbusch Forest which had served as his drop zone. He got on the #1 Autobahn which formed part of the beltway around the big city of Koln or Cologne, the biggest German city closest to its border with Belgium.
The rider and his sidecar rig were not long on this highway, taking the Aachener Strasse Road exit and then heading straight into the center of town.
Traffic was pretty heavy and the rider noticed many glances from passing vehicles at his bright orange Ural sidecar rig. He wondered again why mission planning had dictated this color choice as it was not exactly what comes to mind when one is doing covert operations.
The rider threaded his way through the late night traffic, his rig being such an unusual sight that it caused drivers to give him some more space than usual. Soon he arrived at his destination, the exposition center where the 2012 Intermot Motorcycle Trade Show was being hosted. Pulling around to the back of the convention center, the rider slowly approached the loading dock area which was deserted at that time of night.
It was Saturday and near midnight as he parked the rig at one of the drive up ramps and he ran the access keycard he'd been provided earlier during the mission brief. The steel shutters rolled noisily upwards as the Rider inwardly cringed at the noise being made. Still, there were no persons around inside and no alarms started blaring so it was with a sigh of relief that he restarted the sidecar rig's engine.
Slowly motoring up the ramp and into the convention center, he quickly shut off the engine once inside and closed the dock door.
He pushed the sidecar rig through the brightly lit hallways leading to the convention site's exhibit area and pushed the rig through the doors. His eyes feasted on the site of many new shiny motorcycles parked in their manufacturer exhibit areas. The lights were on low as the exhibit was closed in preparation for the opening on Sunday, later that morning.
As he'd been briefed, there were no security guards about as the main public access doors were locked and he'd gained access from the docks. His contact had apparently disabled the inside cameras and alarms as expected, though he once again was amused at the previous exchange of code words.
He looked for and spotted the Victory Logo sign on one of the exhibit hall walls and pushed the sidecar rig in that direction. Finding the open spot he'd been briefed would be there, he pushed his Ural sidecar rig onto the display platform and locked the front wheel into place with the chock assembly that was waiting there.
Moving quickly, he disengaged the quick disconnects on the sidecar and separated the sidecar from the tug, leaving the tug on display. He applied the various covers and tupperware add-ons to the tug to make it look like a Victory motorcycle to the casual eye and rapidly wheeled the sidecar into a nearby storage area. He covered up the sidecar with a cover after ensuring the false bottom in the sidecar passenger compartment remained locked, security his special equipment and weapons.
Taking one last careful look, he moved silently back towards the dock area and let himself out a side door, blending rapidly into the night. Later that day, Sunday, would be his meeting at the site where he'd left his Ural tug, he was to look for a brown-haired woman wearing a black top and jeans along with a black leather handbag and appearing to be just a Intermot spectator admiring the new motorcycles.
The rider looked forward to the meeting, as his contact had the details of the his next mission, rumor had it being somewhere in Norway. He wondered what part his sidecar rig would play in that......
Image source: SonjaM
Previous appearance of "The Rider": A little mid-winter fiction