View Full Version : Rumble in the Jungle
07-10-2012, 04:13 PM
The light of many screens provided the main illumination in the small room, yet the figure addressing them was still mostly in the shadows.
“Then we are all agreed. Greed and ambition blind those who lead. What power can shake the G8? What corporation can bypass the Fortune 500? What enterprise can give pause to the mafias, syndicates and gangs of the world? We shall, and in chaos, opportunity.”
With a wave of his hand the screens went blank. The figure left the room, walking down the narrow passage way along steel grate floors, down a ladder, and entered his small chamber.
“And they’ll do it with their own money,” he said to himself, chuckling.
17 1000R Jan 20XX
The room was bare except for six chairs, in which sat men of military bearing but wearing civilian clothes. They addressed two men standing in the entrance, wearing the uniforms of a colonel and a master sergeant.
“Good morning gentlemen. I’ll cut to the point. How familiar are with the Democratic Republic of Congo?”
“Not very,” replied the Colonel.
“Well, you will be. The two of will be heading up a task force investigating some troubling activities in the interior. There seems to be some non-state-controlled arms manufacturing and distribution going on that we weren’t aware of, which is counter to our interests. You have a recon and intel gathering mission. Depending on what you find, you may be cleared to eliminate specific targets.
The Colonel nodded. “Who do I liaise with? AfriCom? SOCOM? The ambassador?
The men in civilian clothes glanced quickly at each other. “None of the above; you report directly to us. There’s an intel liaison in location, along with a civilian freighter to provide logistic support. You’ll have a cover as an industrial group. Keep a low profile. Your liaison has made contact with a local arms dealer we’ve used in the past. You’ll get a budget to buy mission essential equipment. Keep track of what you spend. Colonel, here is your mission tasking packet. There’s a contact number in there. Call in 24 hours for any questions, and 48 hours after that call again to provide a mission brief. Sgt Wilkinson, you can collect the personnel files at the door. Transport is arranged for you to get to Fort Jackson, where you will meet your command.”
The two men left the room, collecting a thick packet as they went. They passed through a maze of hallways, clearing various security checks along the way. The Colonel turned to Sgt Wilkinson.
“We’ve never met. Colonel Abernathy.”
“Master Sergeant Wilkinson, though most people call me Stalker. Tell me Colonel, do you have much SOF experience?”
“No. I’ve done work with a variety of light divisions in a variety of theatres, and have had some interactions with SOF, but never in direct command.”
Stalker grunted. Having opened the packet, he flipped quickly through the enclosed files. “I’ve done some unconventional things, but this is an . . . unusual task. Looking through these files, it looks like we’re an ad hoc group, pulled from every service. A good leavening of operators, but a bunch of line types too. And every service is represented so we’re going to a mix of SOPs. We’ll need to run a short, sharp training session to get everyone up to speed.”
“What about jungle experience?”
Stalker flipped back through a couple of the files. “Not much. We’ve got a couple of guys from the training centre. They’re my first choice for setting the standards.”
Colonel Abernathy was running through mental checklists. “Any legal or financial people?”
Stalker paused, running through his own checklists. “No, it doesn’t look like it. But I think I know a couple of boys who might be able to help. Plus, there’s someone I worked with years ago who I’d like to add to the list. He’s probably with ACE in JSOC right now.”
Colonel Abernathy smiled. “What are the troops doing now?”
“Looks like they’ve been left to their own devices.”
Hawk sighed. “Start drafting a training plan based on contact drills, leadership training, navigation, shooting and regional awareness. Finish with a jungle ex. Everyone has lots of low intensity conflict experience, but some of these African countries have surprising amounts of artillery. I want the troops to get a battle inoculation with rockets. I’ll arrange that. Hit up your contacts for legal and accounting. I happen to know your colleague’s commanding officer. I’ll see if I can free him up for this task.”
An MP guided the two towards a waiting car. “Sir, this car will take you to your aircraft.”
Stalker and Colonel Abernathy looked at each other, then got in.
07-10-2012, 10:51 PM
Interesting. Very well written. Can't wait to see more.
07-11-2012, 01:58 PM
18 1100R Jan 20XX
Stalker held a phone to his ear and jotted notes while waiting for an answer on the other end. Finally, a voice replaced the sound of ringing.
“Pine? It’s Wilkinson.”
“Wilks? Stalker? Man, I haven’t heard your voice in what, two years?”
Stalker did the math in his head. “Yeah, about that. What are you up to these days?”
“I’ve been climbing Piz Badile. I thought I’d try out some classic climbs with classic gear - wool, Tricouni nails, an old Primus No 5 stove.”
Stalker laughed. “That’s why we called you Alpine. How are you funding those expeditions?”
“I’ve been doing the books for a publishing company.”
“How would you like do a little more work for Uncle Sam? It’s more on the financial side than the trigger side, but it has to be more interesting that that publisher!”
There was a long pause.
“Sounds tempting. I’d have to give my boss appropriate notice, but tell me more.”
Stalker smiled and checked off a box on his sheet.
Colonel Abernathy pulled into the Spring Lake IHOP parking lot, parking beside a convertible Mustang. A powerfully built man in a jeans and leather jacket leaned against the hood, but straightened up, smiled broadly, and grasped Abernathy’s hand in a firm handshake.
“Great to see you again Clay. SAMS seems like a lifetime ago.”
Colonel Abernathy matched the squeeze, and clapped his friend on the shoulder. “It certainly does seem like a long time.”
The large man frowned slightly, then pulled an envelope from his jacket. “Here are his details. A year ago I’d have told you to pound salt, but . . . well, he had a string of bad luck. Several consecutive missions went sideways, and then he was the sole survivor of a helicopter crash. He just kept rolling snake eyes. Anyway, he spent six months in a Singapore hospital having half his skeleton replaced with rattan bones. I doubt he’ll ever talk again. Anyone else would be headed towards a medical discharge, but this guy . . . He should still be in hospital, but he walked out a few weeks ago. Just before you called I received another call – from the cops. He’s in Florida. He walked into a biker bar on the edge Port St Lucie and took it apart. Put a dozen guys in hospital, and then calmly let the cops cuff him and put him away. I’d punt him from the unit for that, but if you want him, I can transfer him instead.”
Colonel Abernathy nodded. “Do that. Thanks.” He got back in his truck, and leaned out the window. “Enjoy your pancakes!”
Stalker was frustrated that his day had been spent on the phone instead of training with the team. SSgt Sneedon had led a brutal PT session to start the day, and PO2 Forrest was currently running everyone through instinctive shooting drills. Lieutenants Pulaski and Falcon and Sgt O’Hara were scheduled to give country briefs that evening. The phone finally rang, and Stalker eagerly lifted it to his ear.
“Sergeant Talltree speaking, Sir.”
“Sergeant Talltree, this is Master Sergeant Wilkinson. I’ve been speaking with your sergeant major. He tells me good things about you. He’s probably been vague on why I wanted your time.”
“He was, Master Sergeant.”
“Well, I want you for your unique combination of soldier skills and legal skills.”
Sergeant Talltree cursed. “No thanks Master Sergeant. I didn’t join the Army to write legal briefs.”
Stalker laughed. “And I don’t want you to write legal briefs. But I do want someone who can occasionally translate legal jargon into something soldiers can understand, and who can provide advice to the commander.”
Sergeant Talltree was silent for a moment. “Why don’t you get a JAG, Master Sergeant?”
“Because I want someone who can handle himself in a fight. And I assure you, you’ll get a chance for a fight on this op. What do you say?”
There was a long silence, and Stalker thought perhaps the connection had been lost. He held the phone closer to his ear just in time to hear Sgt Talltree yell “AIRBORNE!”
Stalker grinned and checked off another box on his sheet. He glanced at his watch. There was still time to get to the range.
Colonel Abernathy approached the airport, and made one more phone call.
“Zullo, it’s Colonel Abernathy. I’ll be gone overnight. Let Stalker know I’m bringing in his friend, but it may not be all good news. We’ll see. How’s the training going?”
The stocky major delivered a brief report on the day’s activities, and those scheduled for the next day.
“Shorten the ranges by an hour and insert a navigation refresher. It will pay off in the Black Hills, which will pay off in the trees. Now, I’m sending you some notes on the mission for planning purposes. I want to see your courses of action when I return to compare them with my own thoughts. Finally, I have some special projects for the officers. Have Pulaski research armour battles in sub-Saharan Africa. Focus on the south and west, but also look into Egypt-Eritrea. Have Falcon research Wendell Fertig, to include a biographical sketch, his techniques for raising indigenous forces, and his jungle tactics. Get Leilaloha to provide an update on activities out of Manda Bay and Lemonnier, and their potential relevance to this mission.”
“Will do Sir.”
Colonel Abernathy hung up, emailed a document, then walked to the ticket desk to buy a ticket to Florida, and two tickets for the return.
Major Zullo turned to Stalker, who was running an rag over his pistol, to pass the message.
“The Colonel’s watching us like a hawk, isn’t he?”
Stalker reassembled his pistol. “Yup. I’ll tell Selkirk to get ready for tomorrow.”
19 0930R Jan 20XX
Colonel Abernathy thanked the police officer, then walked down the row of cells, stopping in front of one. Three men lay sleeping on hard metal cots. A fourth was doing chin-ups from a pipe. Abernathy watched him silently, counting off twenty before the man dropped and made his way to the bars. His chest barely moved in spite of the exertion.
Abernathy looked over the fit form, noting multiple scars disappearing into his shirt, and the badly damaged face.
“Did you get your voice back?”
The man shook his head.
“I’m Colonel Abernathy. I’m working with Master Sergeant Wilkinson, who I believe you know.”
The man nodded.
“Your CO has transferred you to my command. Now, you’ve got a choice. You can continue to bust up bikers, but as a civilian, or you can fight for Uncle Sam with me. Which is it?”
The two stared at each other for long moments, and then the scarred man held up two fingers and pointed at Abernathy.
“Good call. Let’s get going.”
07-12-2012, 10:24 AM
10 2100R Feb 20XX
After weeks of navigating the Black Hills, long and short range shooting, patrolling through the Everglades under the harsh attention of Recondo and Gung Ho, medical refreshers, intelligence analysis sessions and country studies, the team was coming together. Competition and rivalry between the services and individuals evolved into competition between sections, and common drills began to gel. Nicknames had become the norm.
Hawk sat at the head of the table with Stalker, Claymore, Steeler, Torpedo, Falcon, Psych Out, Doc and Scarlett down the sides.
“So to summarise, the advance group will fly into Kinshasa to meet our contacts. The cover is that we’re the advance security detachment for Transat Minerals. We occupy a false-front office and accommodation complex, and conduct surveillance and reconnaissance within the city. The main body, under Claymore, flies into Brazzaville three days later and links up with the freighter, the Jane. That group will be prepared to conduct recon in the more remote regions, noting that freighter movement is restricted to the leg of the river between the rapids. Claymore and Beach Head will fly on to Pointe Noire to meet an off-shore arms ship. You’ll buy our arms and collect additional intel on inland DRC arms activities. They’ll be flown by DC3 to an airstrip east of Kinshasa for loading on our own freighter. The pilot’s details are here.” He passed a file to Claymore. “Any final questions?”
Everyone shook their heads.
“Good luck, and I’ll see you in a few days.”
11 0300 Feb 20XX
Stalker turned around and looked down the aisle of the airplane. Scarlett, Steeler, Clutch, Breaker, Mainframe, Alpine, Airborne, Tollbooth, Wet Suit, Dusty and Recondo – it wasn’t a large team, but would be sufficient for the initial activities.
12 1815A Feb 20XX
Even in the evening the heat and humidity struck like a hammer. The airport’s air conditioning was either off or not working, and the press of humanity made finding the luggage carousel a challenge. The group pushed forward, and Tollbooth caught sight of a shirt louder than all the rest. The long haired blond man was holding a sign reading “TRANSAT MINERALS.”
“You’ve gotta kidding me,” Tollbooth muttered, then tapped Stalker on the shoulder and pointed. The group adjusted course towards the blond man, who offered a thumbs-up, and started jabbering away.
“I knew you were the guys I was waiting for. Hot here, isn’t it? Listen, the bags are over here. I got a couple of kids who will load them up for you. We got two vans. You’re gonna love this place. The food, oh man, wait ‘till you try the food! And the music!” He clipped Hawk on the shoulder. “You guys’ll be shaking your backsides when you see the nightlife here. C’mon!” He paused his stride for a moment. “Oh, hey,” he patted his chest, “Phil Provost, but just call me Chuckles.”
Clutch took the toothpick from his mouth and seemed about to say something when Steeler grabbed him by the arm to guide him towards the baggage. “Not now Lance.”
Within a few minutes bags were rounded up and a small army of children ran them to two vans. Chuckles handed out small notes and candies, while the team loaded up the vans. A muscular man in a short-sleeved tan shirt and sunglasses sat behind the wheel of the second van.
“He’s the straight guy,” Chuckles said, pointing to him. Dusty and Steeler both reached out and grabbed Clutch, while Scarlett stepped behind the van to hide her laughter. “That’s Conrad Hauser, but you can call him Duke.” He turned and leaned towards Stalker. “It’s short for Doogie.”
Duke shook his head in exasperation, and the rest of the team climbed in the vans, not quite sure what to make of their reception. The two vans navigated the chaotic Kinshasa streets, eventually pulling up to a compound on the edge of the city. Having dropped off their bags, they assembled in the main room. Duke and Chuckles had a series of maps and photos on the wall. Chuckles picked up a pointer and began the brief.
“I’ll start with the regional map. Congo is experiencing tribal and ethnic conflicts in these regions” he pointed to various regions on the map. The weapons production of interest is around the great lakes. Of interest here in Kinshasa is Ares Manufacturing, which has spent the past couple of years developing the industrial base to domestically manufacture a range of light jeeps, trucks, tractors and bulldozers. They know a lot about the conflicts, because their parts and assembly plants are located in the vicinity of some of the fighting. They have a warehouse and distribution point down between the docks and the rail line. It’s permanently guarded and appears to have a sophisticated surveillance and alarm system. Ares has effectively taken over the Sanaga Hotel where they house all their guards. They’re a tight-knit group and a tough bunch to target for humint.”
“Is Ares involved in the conflicts?” asked Hawk.
Duke stepped forward. “We don’t know. As Chuckles said, they have their own security here in Kinshasa, which is armed and on good terms with the local police and military. Presumably they have security at each of their plants and with their shipments. Everyone does, though. But Ares’ arrival roughly coincides with escalation of violence in certain regions. We don’t know if that’s causation or correlation, but it makes them our initial point of interest.”
“What about the government?” asked Hawk.
“Well,” said Chuckles, “the Ministry of the Interior should be monitoring this one, but to date there have been no attempts to investigate. That suggests either ignorance, which is possible but unlikely, or compliance. That in turn suggests either an official policy or bribery. We’re working on monitoring phone and banking traffic of key ministers and civil servants, but there’s a lot to cover and only the two of us.”
Alpine stuck his hand up. “Ares must bank locally and pay taxes. Where do they bank, and have you pulled any records from ministry of finance?”
“They bank with the Kinshasa Bank of Commerce, KBC. We haven’t gone into tax records, but they have been on the receiving end of some very generous incentives to develop their factories. And they have good relations with a number of key government, military and police leaders.”
Alpine jotted notes and turned to Mainframe. “It’ll be worthwhile doing some background checks on those persons of influence.”
“We’ve set up a meeting,” Chuckles continued, looking at Hawk, “between you and the Ares sales representative. Buying local sounds good and gives us an ‘in’ with the company. It also sparked some interesting telephone traffic between Ares, various government departments, an inland location, and an Eastern European location. It was mostly encrypted, but we’re working on refining intel from those hits. They also put in some confirmatory calls with the Transat ‘head office.’”
“I wonder what kind of reaction we’d get if we asked Ares to sell us weapons,” Hawk mused.
“An interesting one, no doubt,” noted Duke. “As representatives of a ‘mining company’ you’ll be expected to meet with a couple of ministries here in Kinshasa before heading inland. We’ve already laid the groundwork for the right stamps so you can carry side arms and shotguns. Crew served weapons will raise eyebrows. In the interim, we have a small armory here. Six pistols, two SMGs, two rifles, plus some NODs and radios. You’ll also need comms. For your official comms you will require a stamp from the Ministry of Post & Telecommunications to clear the frequencies. Ares sells radios with their vehicles and can hook you up with that too.”
Hawk turned to the group. “Take tomorrow to get familiar with the city. Then we’ll refine the search. Scarlett and Alpine: investigate the bank. Breaker and Mainframe: review the sigint. Airborne: review government dealings with Ares and the local security companies. Clutch and Steeler: investigate alternate vehicle providers. Wet Suit, Stalker and Duke: start coming up with plans for infiltrating KBC and the relevant government ministries. Recondo and Dusty: go over the local intel on the conflict areas of interest. Tollbooth and I will meet the Ares rep.”
Chuckles motioned. “One last thing. At some point this is going to move inland, and no doubt there will be a dust up. There’s a friendly merc helicopter crew that does some lift and fire support in the area with a Hind. Couple of American pilots and one massive door gunner. When we get to that stage we should bring them onside.”
Hawk nodded. “Ok. Let’s go to ground.”
07-13-2012, 10:27 AM
13 1500A Feb 20XX
The Ares office occupied the third floor of a downtown six-storey building. The floor was divided into ‘Light,’ ‘Transport,’ and ‘Construction’ wings. Office workers manned telephones behind laminate desks and the walls were decorated with photographs of Ares manufacturing processes and finished vehicles on the roads or worksites. A receptionist invited Hawk and Tollbooth to have a seat, and offered them glossy Ares promotional literature and coffee while waiting for their appointment. After a few minutes a dark-haired man with a scar running up his cheek to his eye, wearing a lightweight grey suit strode up to them, hand extended.
“Heinrich Eisen,” he offered, taking their hands in a powerful grasp. “Please come to my office. I hear you wish to do business.”
His office contained simple furniture, with a phone on his desk and no sign of a computer.
Hawk opened. “That’s right. Transat Mining has a potential interest in several regions in the Congo. I’m in charge of the advance group, which is a mix of security, geological exploration and logistics. We need vehicles, and one of Transat’s corporate social responsibility planks is to lease local. Since you offer the opportunity to lease vehicles actually manufactured here we decided to start with you.”
Eisen smiled broadly. “I’m delighted to hear it. So, what are you looking for?”
“Well,” Hawk continued, “the initial order will be small. We’re looking for the equivalent of six Land Rovers, two Unimogs, two motorcycles, two ATVs, a bulldozer along the lines of a D7, with trailer, and an armoured car. We’ll also need some spares for local repairs, particularly tires. Tools, such as sand ladders, bridging ladders, high lift jacks, ground anchors, extra shovels. And we’ll need radios. I understand you can help navigate us through the relevant ministries for that.”
Eisen noted these points and nodded. “We can help with all of those. Unfortunately not all will be locally manufactured, as our full range of plants aren’t running yet, but you will be happy, no doubt, with our products. I recommend against a flat bed for the bulldozer. The roads here are almost non-existent and you’ll spend your whole time getting unstuck. Frankly, you would be better off with a wheeled front end loader until you settle on a specific location for exploiting. The armor will be decommissioned surplus. I can negotiate that through the government on your behalf. Communications will not be a difficulty.”
Hawk leaned forward. “We have one more concern. Given where we’ll be working, we would like some weapons. We’ve acquired licences for some side arms, but something with more punch would be good deterrent.”
Eisen stiffened. “I deal in utility and construction vehicles, not weapons. I have connections in the government to ease the acquisition of permits and licences, but not in violation of national laws.” He paused, breathed deeply, leaned back in his chair and put the tips of his fingers together. “I do offer an alternative suggestion. Why not hire a local security company? Or even Ares? We have managed security for our plants and could expand to cover your business too. We have very good relations with the government. As relative newcomers, you may find there are difficulties you are not yet aware of. You have done well acquiring the right stamps and permits to date, and we can of course help with permits for communications, but sometimes . . .” He let the phrase hang.
Hawk nodded. “My company considered that option, but concluded it was preferable to keep this internal. I believe it had something to do with insurance.”
“I see. Well, I can offer the following vehicles.” He pulled out a series of documents. “Here is a list of our prices, including options packages. I can also provide a contract outlining our warranty policies and pricing for future purchases based on volume. I can have the vehicles ready for you within the week. The armor may take a little longer. Now, I can offer a few other services too. First, you will encounter many small rivers. We can lease TMM bridges. You will also need a camp. We can arrange modular containers for living, ablution and work spaces, and we can provide airlift through a variety of fixed and rotor wing aircraft, including Mil Mi10 for heavy lift. Perhaps when you are ready we could airlift in your bulldozer.”
Hawk smiled. “Your services extend beyond what I had initially understood. As your products are unknown to us, we would like to test drive them first. When can we arrange that?”
“Tomorrow afternoon. I will have one of each vehicle at a driving circuit on the edge of town.”
“Excellent. My legal and accounting experts will review the paperwork in the meantime.”
They all rose and shook hands, and Eisen had his secretary escort them from the offices.
Upon returning to the compound Hawk and Tollbooth compared notes with Clutch and Stalker.
“Toyota, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Renault, DAF, Ural . . . no wonder these guys are so messed up. They have crap rides,” Clutch fumed.
“More to the point, no one can provide a fleet of like vehicles, which would make maintenance and support a nightmare,” Steeler noted.
Stalker scratched his head. “You know, if you can make jeeps it’s only a small step to make armoured cars. And if you can make bulldozers, like the one we have on order, it’s a small step to making tanks. Ares just strikes me as being a little too smooth for this neighbourhood.”
Hawk frowned. “It’s one thing to make a chassis. I haven’t seen any local capacity to build turrets or fire control systems or even armour plate. And there’s a big difference between welding thin sheets of soft metal and thick slabs of plate.”
Stalker nodded. “True. But we don’t have any other leads at this time. Might as well have Alpine run the Ares company history and dealings.”
Breaker walked into the room smiling and chewing away on his ever-present bubble gum.
“Thought you’d like to know we picked up a bunch more electronic traffic from Ares shortly after you left. Most were encrypted, but again to KBC, to Eastern Europe, and to the interior – somewhere in the vicinity of Isangi. One unencrypted call to the Ministry of Transport and Communication Channels about the vehicles and radios.”
Hawk rubbed his chin. “We need more info. Wet Suit and Recondo – you’re doing night surveillance on the warehouse. Breaker and Chuckles – you’ve got the Sanaga hotel. Breaker, try to set up some permanent tap. I suspect comms discipline will be tight at the office, but may slide at the hotel. Stalker and Tollbooth, you’ve got the office. All I want from those targets is pattern of life. Guard schedules, police patrols, that kind of thing. Steeler, Dusty and Clutch will be the mounted reserve.
14 0200A Feb 20XX
On a rooftop across the street, small antennae hid among the cluster of rooftop wires and pipes. Chuckles watched the windows through binoculars, and adjusted a laser microphone as he saw activity. Breaker monitored a frequency scanner. He shook his head in disgust.
“Nothing. These guys have tight discipline. It’s going to be a long night.”
He shifted his attention to charting the various antennae in the area, the phone and power lines, and locations of junction boxes. He turned to Chuckles.
“Our best bet may be to tap their lines. I wouldn’t do the junction box itself, as they can check that, but maybe we can get the line where it leaves the pole.” He pointed to a rat’s nest of overhead wires. “And the nearest cell tower is over there,” he pointed to the distance. “I can spoof their cells with a meaconing antenna. Then I just need to set up an algorithm to sort through all the traffic at that tower. In the meantime, we can plant cameras covering the front and side entrances to record the pattern of life.”
“Sounds good. That will free us up for other work. I’m still trying to talk my way into that hotel. I’ve got a line on some cheap booze that might get me into the bar.”
“Well, if you get inside I’ll give you some bugs to plant.”
Out in the middle of the Congo River, Wet Suit navigated a small boat through the dense traffic, while Recondo kept thermal binos on activity on the river-side of the Ares warehouse and its pier, noting the guard shift schedule.
“They’re vigilant. Physical patrols keep all approaches under surveillance at all times,” he whispered into a mic. “They patrol the building perimeter and the fence line, occasionally with dogs. I can also make out the IR* security system. They’re better armed than your run of the mill guards.” He picked up a camera with an image intensifying lens and started to take photographs. “The foot patrols have pistols and Jatimatic SMGs.** Static guards have G3 rifles. Each patrol has NVGs.*** Each patrol has comms.”
Wet Suit checked a frequency scanner.
“Got it,” he whispered, as one of the guards raised a radio to his mouth.
Stalker and Tollbooth stood in the alley shadow, watching the office building. No lights were on, all blinds were shut. There was no sign of external security beyond the locks on the front door and the bars on the windows. Police pickups did, however, patrol past the building about twice every three hours.
“So what are the other businesses in that building?” whispered Tollbooth.
Stalker flipped through a notebook and compared notes with the window signs.
“Pan-African Architecture, Ruga Accounting, Norwood & Shaerd Legal Service, Limete Pharmacy, Naja Hana Video Corp, and Local Hardware. It’s a mixed bunch alright. Scarlett’s looking for any connection between the businesses.”
Tollbooth ran a laser mic across the windows.
“All I got is what sounds like a portable radio on the ground floor. There must be a night watchman inside.”
“Well, let’s see if he ever does any rounds.”
Back in the compound, the remainder of the team stared at maps, blueprints and reports. Clutch leaned back in a chair with his feet on a table, flipping through a magazine. Steeler looked over his shoulder.
“What’s that you’re looking up?”
“Parts. I rebuild pony cars. Right now I’m doing a ‘73 Barracuda,” Clutch replied without looking up.
“No way! Got a reliable source?”
Across the room, Scarlett coughed and motioned to Steeler to get back to work.
Clutch continued, “I just search through scrap yards mostly. I was all the way up in Warwick getting parts from Specht’s Salvage Yard just before this all happened.”
“What else have you done?”
Clutch flipped the page. “I started with a ‘57 Chevy. Worked on it behind my Uncle Arnie’s gas station after school.”
Dusty put down the government report in French he was reading through. “I was more into bikes. I fixed up a BMW R75 a few years ago.”
Scarlett slapped her hand on a table. “Boys! Get back to your homework!”
The three looked at each other, then returned to work. Clutch caught Scarlett’s eye and winked.
“You’re cute when you’re angry.”
Scarlett swore under her breath.
IR - Infra Red
SMG - Submachine gun
NVG - Night Vision Goggles
07-13-2012, 10:45 AM
nice orgin story so far.
07-14-2012, 11:09 AM
14 0730A Feb 20XX
Scarlett laid a paper report in front of Hawk and started her brief. The other team members sat in the background.
“The executive summary of last night’s surveillance activities is that Ares has more security than other comparable companies, and tighter discipline. Otherwise, it largely confirmed what we suspected. Those of us back in the TOC* took advantage of the time,” she paused slightly, glaring at Clutch, and continued, “to broaden the search. First, there appears to be no connection between the other tenants of Ares office location and Ares itself. Nor is there any apparent connection between the building owner, Chokoloskee Realty Inc, and Ares.”
Hawk held up his hand to stop Scarlett. “An American company?”
“Yes Sir. Privately held. Most of its holdings are international. It has an odd portfolio, without any kind of regional concentration. I couldn’t find any connection with arms dealings.”
Hawk motioned for her to continue.
“Next, we followed up on the transmission to Isangi. Ares conducted a regional assessment there, but did not build a plant. I pulled imagery of the area, and there is no sign of heavy industry. In the past few months the government has pulled out all security forces from that area. I haven’t been able to track down the reason or a formal record of the decision. Third, research into KBC came up empty. They either keep their records on a stand-alone system or in paper, so no way of getting into their correspondence with Ares, or anyone else. Finally, Breaker has proposed a cell phone meaconing op, and tapping a fibre optic line. He can brief on that.”
Hawk scanned the images. “I already like the plan. How soon can you do it?”
Breaker’s gum bubble popped in surprise. “Well Sir, I could get started on meaconing tonight, but I’ll have to periodically move the gear. Tapping the FOCA** will take longer.”
Hawk nodded, tracing one of the maps with his finger. “Good. The next step will involve getting access to the KBC records.”
Airborne leaned forward in his chair. “As your legal advisor I feel compelled to tell you that in this jurisdiction, breaking into banks is a felony. As a soldier who hates legal briefs, I’ve always been curious about robbing banks.”
Hawk smiled. “No robbery. We’re just encouraging freedom of information. Steeler, Clutch, Dusty, Tollbooth – you’re up for test driving today. Tomorrow we’ll meet the Jane. Within a week we should have our vehicles and weapons. Be prepared to head up river to Isangi. We ought to learn what’s keeping the government out of there.”
14 1445A Feb 20XX
Clutch skidded the jeep to a halt in front of the Ares reps. His Ares co-driver unwrapped his hands from the dash and he carefully climbed out, braced himself on the hood, and threw up violently. Clutch laughed, swung out and looked under the wheel wells.
“Dusty – you have GOT to give this thing a spin. It’s amazing. I tried to break the suspension on the washboard, the uneven climb and the rock garden and it took it in stride.”
Dusty was busy trying to get one of the reps to pose in a photo with him by the truck.
“Why don’t you take it for another loop? I’m going to give the truck a drive.”
Clutch turned to the rep. “Hey, sounds good to me. Wanna hop in for another ride?”
The rep turned pale and backed away.
“No no no. No, listen, you know the loop, you take it yourself this time.”
Clutched whooped, hopped back behind the wheel and hit the gas. The jeep took off leaving rooster tails of mud. Clutch whipped the wheel through the first turns until he was out of sight of the main group. Slowing to a halt, he reached into his pocket for a spray bottle and plastic sheeting. A quick spray of the dash highlighted the Ares rep’s full hand prints, which were transferred to the plastic sheet. Tweezers collected a scrap of bloody hair from where the rep had slammed his head off the door frame. The plastic bags went back into his shirt, and with a howl of glee he threw the jeep back onto the course.
Steeler walked around the armoured vehicle a second time.
“Òk, I give up. What is this?”
The Ares driver laughed.
“It’s a god-awful nightmare of a Frankenstein creation is what it is. You’re looking at some local mash up of a VAB, a BTR and an Alvis Stalwart.”
Steeler stared at him in stunned silence.
“I’m serious mate. Lookit, she leaks fluids all over the place, she makes some spooky noises, and she wouldn’t pass a safety inspection in the rest of the world, but she runs. I’ve never seen anything like it myself. Anyway, if you want it, it’s yours. The locals don’t want it because they hate doing maintenance.”
Steeler gingerly climbed into the cab and looked around. Cursing to himself, he hit the master switch and engaged the engine.
“Let’s see what she does.”
The rep climbed in beside him.
“If you’re feeling lucky you can try swimming her too.”
The scissor bridge slowly extended under Tollbooth’s control. His Ares rep nodded in approval.
“You got the knack quickly. Impressive.”
“I grew up around machinery. Never met a vehicle I couldn’t master.”
The whine of a dirt bike engine interrupted them. Clutch was climbing into the cab of the truck as Dusty disappeared down the trail on the bike. The Ares reps were clustered, shaking their heads.
Steeler, Clutch, Dusty and Tollbooth gathered, chuckling at the sight of each other. They were covered from head to toe in dirt and grime, except for streaked patches where their goggles had been.
Steeler turned to the lead Ares rep and shook his hand.
“We’ll be passing on our approval to the boss. Our compliments to your whole team. These are solid vehicles.”
The Ares rep smiled.
“Have you decided on the dozer or the loader?”
Tollbooth nodded. “We’ll take both.”
Clutch dug some dirt out of his ear with his toothpick.
“Hey, what do you call that jeep?”
The rep glanced over at it and back at Clutch.
“We’re marketing it as the Vamp.”
* TOC - Tactical Operations Centre
** FOCA - Fibre Optic Cable Assembly
07-15-2012, 10:11 AM
15 0900A Feb 20XX
Hawk, Alpine and Airborne sat in Ares’ offices, reviewing contracts.
“Everything seems to be in order Mr Eisen.”
“You are fortunate. We have the vehicles in our warehouse, and all the permits were approved in near record time.”
Hawk glanced out the window.
“I noticed that there’s a lawyer and an accountant in this very building. Do you ever outsource any work to them?”
“No. We do all of our work in-house. Though I hear they provide passable service, should you ever be in the market.”
“On a related line, we’ve been checking out a few local banks in order to manage local payroll and expenses. We’re thinking of KBC. Any thoughts on them, or others.”
Eisen thought for a moment. “We’ve done some work with KBC. They’re perfectly reliable and you’ll have no trouble with them. Now, how can we arrange delivery?”
Airborne referred to his notes. “Pier 17 tomorrow morning for loading on the MS Jane.”
Eisen rose and shook hands.
“I wish you success, and look forward to future business with Transat. Should you ever need anything, the invoices include our office phone, a sat phone number and an HF frequency, all monitored 24 hours a day.”
15 1330A Feb 20XX
Cutter had been getting worked up waiting for this meeting, and immediately launched into his complaints.
“This ship is old and worn out. I get that it fits with the mission profile. But it needs a crew of about 25. Instead, I have a third of that, and a bunch are Army types. Hell, my mechanic is an AFV* mech. She gets diesel engines, but has been busting her ass to figure out these particular ones. I’ve got a mouthy machinist, a catatonic diver, a shore defender, a deck hand/rad op who wants to outdo everybody, an electronics guy who is trying to rewire the whole ship on his own, and a firefighter. Now I’ve got your whole clag aboard, and most of them don’t know bow from stern. If you’re going to come aboard you’re all going to have to pitch in to make her run. I don’t care where in the world we are. I run an AL East ship, and I can’t do that with an AL West crew.”
Hawk blinked. “Right. Well, we load the vehicles tomorrow and then head straight out to pick up our weapons. From there we’re heading upriver to Isangi. We’ll do crew famil while underway. I assume Claymore has already left.”
Cutter nodded. “You probably don’t know this. The ship came with a broken down HMMWV in the hold.”
“Huh. I’ll tell Steeler. Put together your training plan and give it to Lt Falcon. He’ll make sure it’s followed. See you tomorrow.”
15 1900A Feb 20XX
Scarlett pointed to the faces projected on the screen.
“It took a while, but we’ve traced the various Ares reps you got biometrics on. They’re all Scottish, all British Army vets, all with honourable discharges. None have criminal records.”
“It seems an odd coincidence that they would all be Scottish, doesn’t it?” asked Steeler.
“Well, Herr Eisen certainly isn’t. I’d peg him as Austrian,” said Alpine.
“I’ll run his name and photo through the databases again.”
Wet Suit and Duke stared at blueprints of the KBC.
“We need internal imagery. We’re going to have to get inside walls, so we need paint chips, screw heads, conduit types . . .”
“Maybe we can film a few appointments and meetings with the manager and staff.”
Hawk walked into the TOC. “Alpine, Airborne and Breaker – you’re staying back here with Duke and Chuckles as the Transat rear link. Develop the SigInt picture, a network analysis of Ares and the government and business officials, and any banking info you come across. Everyone else comes on the ship and heads upriver. And Breaker, figure out where Ares monitors its comms. We already know it’s not the head office. It’s probably the warehouse, but confirm that.”
AFV - Armoured Fighting Vehicle
07-16-2012, 08:34 AM
16 1500 Feb 20XX
The crane operator lowered each vehicle into hold of the Jane under the watchful eye of Cutter, Steeler and Shipwreck. Inside the hold, Clutch, Dusty and Rock n Roll quickly manoeuvred the vehicles to make room for the next, and to have space to work on them. Once the four jeeps, two Unimogs, the APC, bulldozer, loader, two motorcycles and two ATVs were parked, Clutch grabbed his tool bag. He popped the hood on a jeep and started to examine the engine. Dusty started to do the same with a second jeep, while Steeler slid down a ladder and rolled under a Unimog on a creeper. Clutch stood back in confusion.
“Hey - my wrenches don’t fit.”
Dusty laughed. “The nuts are metric.”
Clutch swore. “Metric? My kick ass Vamp is Euro-trash? Next you’ll want me to wear cycling shirts and watch Formula 1.”
Dusty turned to Steeler, who had rolled back out from under the truck. “You know, he’s never even noticed the Grid Girls!”
Steeler grunted. “You only take it seriously if it burns gasoline, don’t you.”
Clutch started pacing back and forth, waving an oily rag in the air. “Hell no. There are some great top fuel engines out there - nitromethane. Shoulda seen some of the cars down in Bakersfield. Hot rods built with classic car bodies, custom chassis, cranking 3000 hp. Biobutenol is amazing. The NHRA is going to have to revise the length of the track so those babies have room to brake!”
Dusty shook his head. “That’s great if you want to drive in a straight line. Ever look into Dakar? Pharaons? Raid de Himalaya? Man, Alpine and Hit n Run would be all over that one.”
Clutch pointed an accusing finger at Dusty. “You know nothing about the joys of street racing.”
“And you’ve never been in a banger rally,” shot back Dusty.
Clutch tossed his ratchet back into his bag and looked into the wheel well. “We should install some on-board hydraulic jacks.”
Dusty leaned into the back of the jeep. “Drinking water tanks with foot pumps would be useful too.”
Clutch shook his head. “We’re in the jungle - not the desert.”
“Ok - enough chatter,” Steeler interjected. “Let’s finish these inspections.”
A couple of hours later they wiped the grease off their hands. Flash and Shipwreck were leaning on a railing, watching the work. Rock n Roll was soon finished going over the bikes and quads and leaned on one while watching the others.
“They aren’t bad looking. I’m not sure I trust a new locally manufactured vehicle, but we can give them some more test drives to find the bugs.”
Steeler nodded. “How about the HMMVW?”
“The brakes are out. Blown master cylinder. Dead alternator. No fuel filter. The steering box is also wonky, and it’s leaking oil. And this APC is a mess.” He turned to it and started pointing. “The turbo is shot. It needs new struts and tie rod ends. Hub seals need replacing. Engine coolant temperature sensor cables need replacing. So do the coolant hoses. I have no faith at all in the transmission, and it’s leaking just about all of its fluids.”
Flash walked over to the group. “I’ll have a go over the electronics. I can fix up the wiring.”
Shipwreck joined in. “Give me the parts specs. I’ll run them through the 3D printer for new gaskets. It does good metalwork. We’ll see how well it does hoses and cables.”
Steeler laughed. “I think you’ll have to measure them all yourself, based on this monster’s pedigree.”
“I’d like to look at that engine,” came a female voice.
Heads turned, and Clutch dropped a wrench on his foot.
“Sweet mother of road kill . . .”
The coverall-clad woman tucked her hair behind her ears, climbed on the APC, and started to examine the engine.
Shipwreck pointed a thumb at her backside. “Meet Courtney, our very own grease monkey cover girl.”
Clutch’s mouth hung open and his toothpick fell to the floor.
Rock n Roll held his hand up. “The bikes all look ok.”
17 0730A Feb 20XX
Stalker looked over the assembled soldiers.
“I’ve posted the new squadron orbat. There are three environmental troops, a specialist troop and a headquarters troop. But that’s largely administrative – useful for organizing bed spaces. Specific ops will call for a mix and match of capabilities.
Amphibious Troop (K-Bar)
Dismounted Troop (Arrowhead)
Hit & Run
Mobility Troop (Scorpion)
Rock n Roll
Mutt & Junkyard
19 0100A Feb 20XX
Lt Falcon, Ripcord, Crazy Legs, Spirit and Recondo lay in the tree line, watching the open field. Crazy Legs held the radio to his ear.
Falcon touched Ripcord on the sleeve.
“Time to go.”
The two ran from the trees and started to light the paraffin pots that marked the half-mile rough landing strip.
“I’ve only ever done this with IR strobes,” Ripcord muttered.
“Me too,” replies Falcon. “But they’re all on the plane. This method is still in the books.”
“Ah yes, the Junior Woodchucks Guidebooks.”
“Hey – if it works it works.”
“I have the bend in the river, and am picking up the runway lights,” came the voice over the radio.
“Roger. The ground is firm and smooth. No wind,” replied Crazy Legs.
The blacked-out Dakota made a smooth landing, and upon reaching the end of the rough landing strip turned around. The rear ramp was already opening, and two heavy trucks broke out of the brush to start cross loading. Claymore and Beachhead and two crew member started pushing crates down the rails, while Night Flight and a second crew member started pumping fuel from drums into the plane. Rock n Roll, Bazooka, Outback, Gung Ho and Steeler started breaking the loads down and loading them into the trucks.
Outback cursed as he hefted a crate to his chest. “A forklift would be nice right now.”
Within forty minutes the load was transferred, the Dakota was airborne, and the trucks were headed back to the shoreline. Flacon and Ripcord extinguished the lights and the pathfinding team took up rear security.
In the lead truck, Rock n Roll turned to Gung Ho.
“Man, I’m sure glad to finally get some weapons. I don’t like the idea of being out here unarmed.”
Gung Ho looked surprised. “Pour quoi? Did you forget to bring a knife?” He patted the Ka-Bar strapped to his boot.
07-17-2012, 08:43 AM
19 0900A Feb 20XX
Clutch walked down the corridor with a crate of parts and wires and diagrams. He collided with an opening door, knocking over Trip Wire, who fell into Scarlett. Scarlett dropped an armful of books and papers, and started scrabbling to pick them up. Clutch set his box upright, stepped over Trip Wire, and bent to help Scarlett.
“That’s a lot of books there. What’re you reading?”
Scarlett continued to pick up papers. “Keep walking Clutch.”
“No really, what’re you reading?”
“Correspondence courses. Keep walking Clutch,” Scarlett muttered.
“Night school . . . so, math? geography? economics?”
“Clutch - get lost.”
Clutch grabbed one of the books from Scarlett. “What’s this? Library science?”
Scarlett punched Clutch in the kidney and grabbed the book back.
“Hey everyone,” Clutch shouted. “Scarlett’s going to be our naughty librarian!”
Scarlett kicked Clutch’s feet from under him and stormed off.
“And she likes it rough!”
Trip Wire shook his head.
“Clutch – who taught you to act like a man?”
Clutch propped himself up on his elbow. “My shop teacher, my football coach and Asa Baber.”
Trip Wire got up and walked away.
“You might want to re-read those magazines,” he said over his shoulder.
23 0830A Feb 20XX
The team lined the deck of the Jane, wind whipping around them as the white-painted Hind helicopter landed. The three crew climbed out and made their way to the RHIB, piloted by Topside. Once aboard the Jane they sat at a table on the deck, looking at the curious faces. The pilot stroked his thick mustache and tilted a Cavalry Stetson to the back of his head. He wore cowboy boots, jeans and had an enormous belt buckle showing the Texas flag. The stocky man beside him wiped sweat from his brow with his beret, and placed his shotgun at his feet. The enormous, heavily muscled crew chief crossed his arms, looked from face to face, and broke the silence.
“What do y’all have for breakfast?”
Shipwreck jumped to his feet. “I believe it’s my turn. Powdered eggs and coffee coming up.” He spun on his heel and disappeared down a hatch.
Hawk leaned forward. “I’m Colonel Abernathy. Conrad Hauser gave us your contact info. I’m still not exactly clear on how you provide services to the UN, but I understand you may also be available for additional work.”
The man in the Stetson grinned. “William Hardy, but I go by the call sign Wild Bill.” He jerked his thumb to his right. “You can call him Flint, on account of how tough he thinks he is.” He jerked his thumb to his left. “You can call him Roadblock, for obvious reasons. Now, as for how we work, it’s pretty simple. Our contract with the UN calls for a set number of aerial patrol hours per month. With 72 hours notice we’re on call to support specific UN patrols. As for where we patrol . . .” he spread his arms. “For a negotiable fee we could log a patrol somewhere convenient to you.”
Flint scratched a bicep. “Fees cover fuel and ammo expended, plus a hazard bonus depending on the level of risk. We can also lift small teams of up to six pers, or two stretchers.”
Stalker rubbed his chin. “Where do you guys bunk down?”
“We move around. Sometimes a hotel in one of the towns. Sometimes in a UN camp.”
Stalker nodded. “We can’t compete with hotels, even the ones around here. But I’m sure a bunk here, with showers and American-standard toilets, would be preferable to a UN camp.”
The three exchanged glances. Flint nodded. “That might be a factor in pricing.”
“I think I’ll check out the galley before going firm,” said Roadblock, and he headed after Shipwreck. “I’m not so sure about those powdered eggs.”
Roadblock joined Shipwreck in the galley.
“What are you doing with those powered eggs?”
Shipwreck looked up.
“Scrambling 'em. Thought I’d do ‘em fancy with some Tabasco.”
“Give me that bowl.”
He rummaged around the galley, added a splash of milk, cut up some onions and peppers and mushrooms, and started making omelets.
“So what are you guys really doing out here?”
Shipwreck stared at Roadblock, shook his head slightly, and then said “we’re trying to figure out who’s arming all these factions. What brings you out here?”
“I was getting a little disillusioned in my last line of work. You know there are companies – not the security companies, but resource companies, manufacturers, that kind of company, and they have larger security forces than most armies? They actually influence American policy, and I was a little tired of being a part of that.” He folded the vegetables into the omelets. “America has ignored this whole continent for decades. But the industries, they’re moving in, and playing their own divide and conquer game. That seemed wrong to me, so I’m trying to impose a little peace on a small area. Give the locals a chance to lead a normal life. Have their own version of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
“Sounds a little idealistic to me.”
Roadblock stopped what he was doing and turned to face Shipwreck.
“I joined the Army because I was an idealist. I left because I was an idealist. I’m doing this because I’m an idealist. The red, white and blue may not be everyone’s idea of home colours, but the ideas behind the flag are worth spreading.” He transferred the omelets to a plate.
“Well, if you fight as well as you cook we’ll get along just fine.” Shipwreck extended his hand “I’m Hector Delgado, but everyone here just calls me Shipwreck. Don’t ask.”
Roadblock smiled and took the hand. “Marvin Hinton, but as the man said, call me Roadblock.”
07-18-2012, 08:38 AM
24 0300A Feb
Beach Head starred at the village through binoculars, then reached for his radio.
“No movement, no sound, not even animals.”
Low Light scanned the village through his thermal scope.
“This is my second vantage point and I’m still not getting anything on thermal.”
Lt Falcon rubbed his face and took a deep breath.
“Spirit, Tunnel Rat and Hit & Run will shift arcs and cover the dirt road entering the village from the south west. Beach Head’s section provides overwatch. My section will sweep the village.”
Beach Head winced. The mission was strictly covert, and any compromise in the village could jeopardise future patrols. Then he started to assign new arcs.
Lt Falcon stepped forward carefully, flanked by Ripcord, Crazy Legs, Outback and Recondo. They knelt by the first grass hut and Falcon peered through a gap in the window. There was insufficient ambient light for his naked eye or NVG to make out anything. He sniffed. Rotting meat. He tapped Outback on the shoulder.
“We’ll crack the door. You scan left, I’ll scan right.”
Outback slung his rifle on his back and drew his pistol and cracked an IR glowstick. He pushed open the door, tossed in the glowstick, stepped in turning left and scanning. Falcon stepped in immediately behind and swung right. A cloud of flies awoke and the room filled with buzzing. The stench caused both men to gag.
Outback swore and finished checking the room.
“Six dead. Looks like they were killed with machetes.”
Falcon stepped outside and breathed deeply.
“Rip, Legs, check that building.” He pointed left. “Recondo, we’ll get this next one.”
Eighteen huts and 130 bodies later, Falcon regrouped the patrol on the far side of the village. Spirit and Outback were examining the area for tracks.
“The bodies are at least five days old. It’s rained every day since then, washing away most tracks, and there haven’t been any fresh ones in the interim. All dead were hacked to death, though, so unless we’re extending our search to machete vendors this is a cold trail. Hawk is pushing us 500 metres to the southwest to observe where this track intersects with another. First light is in just over an hour.”
Eight hundred metres to their west, Gung Ho stepped over mangrove roots. He held up his hand and sank to a knee. Wet Suit closed up behind him. Gung Ho pointed to his right. Wet Suit pulled secateurs from a pocket and started snipping through vines. Leatherneck passed through the opening, taking over point, with Wet Suit close behind to clear obstructions. Torpedo slid by, followed by Muskrat, who tapped Gung Ho on the shoulder to fall in as rear guard of the four-man patrol. Over the next hour the patrol covered five hundred metres, moving alongside an almost invisible inlet running off the river. Torpedo halted the patrol in the ORV* and motioned to Leatherneck, Muskrat and Wet Suit.
“You three provide overwatch. We’ll move into a vantage point.”
Torpedo and Gung Ho dropped to their bellies and began to slither through the jungle growth for almost a hundred metres until they were in position. Torpedo raised the thermal binos to his eyes and started to scan. Gung Ho peered through an image intensifying monocular. They both lowered their devices and scanned naked eye. They repeated this process for an hour before Gung Ho touched Torpedo on the arm.
“Look, where the creepers enter the river,” he pointed. “The right hand edge is just too uniform. Follow it to that branch,” he adjusted his point. “It’s a camouflage cover.”
Torpedo nodded, and started to prepare a sitrep.
Aboard the Jane, Scarlett finished plotting positions. Claymore compared the patrols positions with the Jane’s fire support overlay, then picked up a radio.
“Short Fuze, Grand Slam, and Downtown, move to waypoint one. Lt Falcon’s patrol will be out of the Jane’s fire support range. Once in location, coordinate with Falcon for final protective fire grids.”
Beside Scarlett, Lady Jaye was translating electronic intercepts from French to English. A message flashed up from Alpine.
“Doing more background work on Ares. They’ve received a number of shipments from the same freighter, the MS Ramona, flagged in Liberia, insured by a private firm in Romania. The freighter beneficial ownership is concealed in a tangled mess of bearer shares, but looks to somehow be connected to a subsidiary of ARB Transport Co., headquartered in Springfield Vermont. They do truck transport around the northeast US. Again, a private company. In fact the only time a private company hasn’t been involved is the sister ship of the Ramona, the MS Arbco Star, which was insured by Lloyds and sunk a couple of years ago in the Pacific. Back to Liberia, turns out Ares has a small office there too, and the buildings are owned by Chokoloskee. My gut tells me there are too many coincidences for normal book keeping, but I can’t pin down anything actually incriminating.”
Scarlett re-read the message and passed it to Lady Jaye.
Lady Jaye read through it twice, and then shrugged.
“I don’t have the finance background to comment. I don’t see anything here immediately relating to arms dealing in the Congo. Still, if it smells fishy to an accountant I say he might as well pursue it.”
Scarlett nodded and typed out a quick response.
“Keep digging. We’re getting into tactical intel on this end.”
She turned back to the FalconView** screen.
“Ok. Torpedo has eyes on a camouflaged dock and high-speed boat. That confirms the radar intercept last night. He’ll maintain overwatch until we figure out who owns it.”
Stalker quietly stepped out onto the Jane’s deck, and saw the figure he was looking for silhouetted against the stars.
“You’re supposed to be sleeping. That’s why Claymore has this shift.”
Stalker stood beside him.
“You had another conversation with those generals, didn’t you?” he asked.
Hawk nodded, and turned. “I still can’t figure out their angle on this.”
Stalker shrugged. “Listen, we could just as easily be scattered to any of our other missions right now. But we’re here, so let’s keep focussed on doing this fight as best we can.”
Hawk smiled. “In that case you and I have to get out on a few patrols just to keep the sense of ground truth.”
Stalker chuckled. “Oh we’ll get our chance. On a different note, I heard from the snake. He’s got another six weeks of rehab before he can join us. He’s spending some time with Dan Gable. Said he had to polish his ground work. Frankly, the guy is a little nuts, but he’ll be a great asset.”
“Hmm. As for the guys here, what’s your take?”
Stalker mulled this one over. “They’re glad to have weapons and to be finally out on a mission. Some of the younger guys have that mix of anxiousness and bravado, but they’re in good hands. The only ones I can’t get a read on are Torpedo and Deep Six. I’m pretty sure they’ll be fine. They’re just kind of emotionally dead.”
It was Hawk’s turn to chuckle. “Yeah. They really are a pair of cold fish. Or maybe they just studied at the John Wooden school of emotional management.”
Stalker laughed. The two stared at the stars for a while longer. Stalker finally turned to Hawk.
“Come on – we both need rack time. I think things will be picking up soon, and you won’t be any good to us if you’ve burned yourself out in the first couple of weeks.”
* ORV - Objective Rendezvous - a designated location just short of the target.
** FalconView - a mapping program
07-19-2012, 09:43 AM
25 1145A Feb 20XX
Lt Falcon’s patrol had moved an additional kilometre inland overnight after seeing no movement the previous day. The dirt road they observed led to two further villages and would, after a circuitous route, lead to Isangi. Zap, Tunnel Rat, Spirit and Crazy Legs were dozing in the patrol base, while others provided security and observation, the only sounds being those of local wildlife. Falcon shook his head slightly to shake off a fly when, in the distance, the sounds of several loud near simultaneous explosions and a long burst of automatic fire broke the silence. Everyone came alert instantly. There were two more bursts of automatic fire, then a series of a dozen single shots over the next two minutes. Lt Falcon called in the shotrep.
Aboard the Jane, Claymore and Stalker conferred.
“The sounds were probably from about a kilometre to the east of the patrol. Sound won’t carry much further than that in those trees, even accounting for the trail. The nearest village is a good five clicks from that.”
Stalker scrolled the map. “We really need better intel on the factions contesting this area. Think it might be a reprisal for the village massacre?”
Claymore shrugged. “I don’t think we’ll know until we get eyes on. At least Falcon can give us an idea of the weapons in use.”
“Agreed.” Stalker picked up the radio. “Investigate the incident. Specifically report on weapons effects and suspected weapons.”
“Roger out,” the radio crackled.
Beach Head already the patrol formed up when Falcon gave the order to move. They remained several meters inside the tree line and had been moving for several minutes when Spirit froze and waved the patrol to the ground. Vehicle engines. Outback and Ripcord pulled cameras from their gear, and started recording the small convoy that passed. In the lead was a six-wheeled armoured vehicle with a one-meter turret. It was painted with streaks of green and tan, with the hint of white showing in places. Two 5-ton trucks followed, driven by helmeted men in blue and grey uniforms, and a jeep mounting four missiles and a machine gun brought up the rear. Falcon’s jaw dropped. A Vamp, painted blue-grey.
He pointed to Beach Head. “Take half the patrol, including Spirit and Zap, and follow those trucks. Just follow their tracks. I’ll do the damage assessment.”
Beach Head ground his teeth. “Lt Falcon, we barely have the firepower to take on that force with the whole patrol, assuming we got off the first shot. A half-patrol will be cut to pieces. Pick one objective.”
Falcon shook his head. “No. This is our first solid lead. We need to know who they killed, but we also need to know who they are. No one else is out here, and we have zero air. I’ll let Short Fuze know so he can include us both in his fire plan.”
Beach Head took a deep breath, then turned, pointed to half the section, and headed after the trucks.
Outback disconnected the cameras from a hand held computer, connected it to a radio, and sent the still and video imagery back to the Jane.
“Recondo, take point.”
Recondo glanced over his shoulder to ensure everyone was ready, then resumed movement towards the scene of firing.
Aboard the Jane, Scarlett and Lady Jaye pored over the imagery sent by the patrol.
“Look at the lead vehicle. The paint job is pretty bad. You can make out a marking underneath.”
“AMIS. That’s a mission in Sudan.”
“I’d say someone captured a UN vehicle and brought it down here. I’ll check the database on lost vehicles.”
“Look in the back of the trucks. More troops in the blue-grey uniforms. Looks like they’re all wearing bandanas. It isn’t that dusty out, though. I think I can make out AKMs, a Minimi and an RPG 7.”
“I see the same.”
“Now that Vamp is interesting. It gives us a link between Ares and the conflict.”
Hawk joined them.
“Do these guys bear any resemblance to the security guards on the Ares warehouse in Kinshasa?”
Scarlett pulled up the old photos.
“No. Different uniforms and different weapons.”
Hawk rubbed his chin. “Ok. Have Mainframe start going through all of Ares’ sales. I want to know who they’re selling to out here.”
Recondo sniffed the air. The smell of burning metal, fuel and rubber was strong. He turned to Falcon.
“I’d say we’re 100m out. We should be wary of any mines or booby traps left behind.”
Falcon nodded and waved Tunnel Rat forward.
Tunnel Rat looked around.
“Seriously? You want me to clear 100m of jungle? Do we have all day? Why don’t we get up on to the edge of the road. I can see if there’s anything along what passes for a shoulder while you guys cover me.”
“We do NOT have all day.” Falcon pulled out his map. “Let’s look at the most likely avenues of approach. They’re the ones likeliest to be mined.”
The three huddled over the map. Tunnel Rat pulled a leaf off a tree and stripped it to just the stem. He used it to point on the map.
“Here’s where I’d lay traps. Set up the ambush like so, mine the far side, mine the reinforcement route, and then drop something to cover withdrawal.”
Falcon nodded. “Now THAT was what I was looking for. Watch the attitude.”
Tunnel Rat handed his Mk 48 to Crazy Legs, taking the HK416, and he and Recondo resumed the advance. Reaching the edge of the tree line they took in the sight: A felled tree and three burning BTR80s with Bangladeshi markings. Eight bodies were visible, lying in pools of blood. Lt Falcon took in the scene.
“Crazy Legs, cover the western approach. Ripcord and Low Light, cover the eastern approach. Recondo and Tunnel Rat, sweep the near tree line for booby traps and to ID firing positions. I’ll take a look at this scene.”
He took a breath and then stepped out onto the road. He walked slowly past the burning vehicles, past the bodies sprawled on the ground, each with a bullet hole in the forehead. He examined the ground. No shell casings. No sign they ever had a chance to fight back. He started to take photographs, noting that all weapons and radios had been taken away. He stepped back into the tree line, meeting Recondo.
“We’ve got no booby traps on this side. Rat’s checking out the far side. There are plenty of shell casings here, and a dozen scorch marks. I’d say they opened with a volley of RPG fire – six in all. Two per target. Then the hosed the area with MG fire from there and there,” he pointed. “Then they came out and executed anyone still alive. I’ve got a collection of 7.62mm short and 5.56mm casings and links. I’ve bagged a few so we can record ballistics and the stamps.”
Tunnel Rat stepped out from the other side of the road.
“Got a couple of PROM-1’s here. I want to BIP* ‘em.”
Lt Falcon held up a hand.
“Wait. Let me call all this in first.” They stepped back into the tree line, and Lt Falcon called in the sitrep.
On the Jane, Hawk and Stalker conferred.
“What’s the benefit in hitting a UN patrol?”
“What was that patrol doing there? Especially since the government forces were avoiding the area.”
Hawk scrolled through the photos on the screen.
“With our dubious status out here I can’t even ask the UN what they were up to.”
Stalker flipped through some of his notes.
“I think Jordan still has some SOF out here. I have a couple of contacts with them. Let me do a quiet check. They’re not in this AO,** but might be able to get us some info.”
Hawk sat silently for a minute. He scrolled to the photos of the mines.
“Ok. Tell Falcon to blow those mines in place. Leave everything else.” He looked at the map. “Tell him to RV*** with a vehicle convoy here for replen and augmentation,” he pointed on the map. “He’s staying out 72 hours to investigate some of the nearby villages. We need to improve our white situational awareness.” He shifted focus on the map. “We’ll augment Beach Head too and have him stay out longer as well.”
Spirit stared at the trail. Although it rained every day, the heat baked the mud to near concrete hardness in less than an hour. Still, heavy vehicles chipped away at ruts, and the discolouration of these tossed stone-hard mud chips indicated direction of travel and, to Spirit’s eye, age. He pointed to the right trail at the fork. The patrol rose and continued. As Spirit approached a bend he froze. The patrol immediately hit the ground again. Spirit waved forward Beach Head and pointed. Around the bend, in the middle of the trail, lay a foil wrapper. Beach Head scanned the tree line and covered Spirit as he moved forward to collect it. Hit & Run stood close behind him.
“The Lt is pretty green, isn’t he,” he whispered.
Beach Head spun, grabbed Hit & Run by the collar and pulled him close. He brought he head almost touching Hit & Run’s, and glared straight into his eyes.
“Noise discipline,” he hissed, and pushed Hit & Run back into position.
Outback trotted up to Beach Head and handed him the radio headset.
* BIP - blow in place
** AO - Area of Operations
***RV - Rendezvous
07-20-2012, 10:26 AM
25 2230A Feb 20XX
Steeler shook Lt Falcon’s hand, and handed him an envelope.
“Your new orders. Grids of objectives, RV locations, timings, frequencies. You’ve got a couple of extra troopers to augment you too.” He pointed at Sneak Peak and Recoil. “Plus an extra radio, batteries and rations.”
Recondo snorted. “This is the jungle, man. We’re supposed to be living off stale peanuts and cold coffee!”
“You’re still stuffing those fat packs in your gear, though!” said Tunnel Rat.
Lt Falcon flipped through the contents of the envelope, then turned back to Steeler.
“Any word from Beach Head?”
“Last I heard they’d almost caught up with that convoy. It veered off the track into the bush. Looks like there’s a decent sized clearing. He thought they might be waiting for aviation.”
“Who has aviation out here?”
“That’s what we’ll soon learn. I’m moving over to resup him too and augment him with Blowtorch and Footloose.”
Beach Head lay motionless, watching the clearing. The enemy patrol had adopted an all-around defensive position, while several of the troopers were preparing the trucks and AVGP for sling loading. A tall man in brown fatigues and with an eye patch was issuing concise direction. Two burly black soldiers in mismatched camouflage and armed with an FN FAL and an R4, flanked him. The remainder of the group, at reinforced platoon size, wore blue-grey uniforms, helmets and black bandanas. They were armed with a mix of AKM, Dragunov, Minimi and RPG-7, and the vehicle crews were carrying PM-63s. Outback filmed the scene. The sound of rotor blades broke over the whine of flies and the occasional scream of a monkey. One of the enemy tossed a blue smoke grenade.
“I don’t believe it,” muttered Hit & Run.
Two long-legged Mi10s and an S-64 hovered over the clearing, were quickly connected to their loads, and took off. A second S-64, with a box body, landed, and the Vamp was driven in the back, followed by a dozen soldiers. A Hip landed, and the rest of the platoon collapsed onto the helicopter. Overhead, an armed Hip circled, while a distant roar told of a pair of jets flying high cover.
Beach Head waited until Outback had transferred the imagery to computer and then sent it back to the Jane, and then took the handset.
Aboard the Jane, Hawk and Claymore studied the map.
“The limiting factor will be those Mi10s. They’ve got the shortest range, and they burned a bunch of fuel just getting here. Based on their approach and departure bearings we should be looking in a bubble about . . .” he traced an arc on the map. “Yeah, they’re going to have to stop in the vicinity of Opala.”
Hawk turned to Topside and Dee-Jay.
“Do you have anything on signals intercept?”
Topside pushed a headset off one ear. “I think so. It was really brief and I don’t recognise the language. I’ll run it through the computer. The radar signature of the jets indicates MiG 21s.”
Scarlett and Mainframe walked into the command room.
“We’ll start reviewing those films for any aircraft markings. Ares mentioned having access to Mi10s. Maybe this is one more question for them.”
Hawk nodded. “Scarlett, use our reach-back to see if there is any satellite coverage of Opala.” He turned to Claymore. “Keep Falcon and Beach Head on their tasks. We still need to improve our understanding of this area. Recover Torpedo. Talk to Night Flight about his airlift capabilities, and work on a plan for moving to Opala in 36 hours with a mix of mobility and boat pers.”
Mainframe stared at a screen, examining the translation of the intercepted transmission.
“Huh. Check this out. It’s unencrypted, but they must be using code words. In Esperanto.”
They all looked at each other for several moments.
“Well,” said Claymore. “That’s a first.”
26 0800A Feb 20XX
The video teleconference reception was adequate, though with slight lag and occasional distortion. Claymore was discussing airlift charter with ABCA Air.
“We offer airlift with a DC3 and an AN-26. We can do escort with PC-7, Soko J21, and Hawk 60. We can do helo lift with Hip. We’re small – seven pilots, five crew/mechanics, but we’ll get you places.”
“We need to get twenty pers, two Vamps and about 3,000 pounds of equipment into the Opala region, and sustain them for up to ten days.”
Night Flight turned to someone out of the camera’s field of vision.
“Sikorski, Boyajian, give me your thoughts on this.”
There was muffled conversation, and then a new face entered the screen.
“Call me Lift Ticket. Here’s what I’m thinking. We’ve used a landing strip in your area of interest in the past, for NGOs and survey teams. We’ll pick you up at the airfield we used before. It will take two lifts to move your pers, kit and the two Vamps. Once in location we’ll have a Hip and an escort plane. The An-26 will be primarily used to refuel the others, but could do a paradrop, if you like jumping into trees.”
Claymore nodded. “And you have no idea who is flying heavy helos in this area?”
Lift Ticket shook his head. “Nope. And I’d like to know who it is. Sounds like they’re trying to muscle in on our business.”
“One last thing. We’ll try to coordinate with a Hind and crew to join us. Will there be space on this strip for all of us?”
Lift Ticket pulled out a tablet computer and did a couple of checks.
“It will be tight, but we’ll manage. Who’s the pilot?”
“He goes by Wild Bill.”
Lift Ticket grinned. “It will be good to see him again. We’re on!”
Scarlet handed a report to Hawk. “There was no satellite coverage at the time of flight. There was, however, an AFRICOM op going on in the CAR,* and they happened to have an AWACS** coordinating air movement. Our little piece of boondocks is at the edge of that AWACs’ radar range, and the helicopters were flying too low to be picked up. The jets, however, were spotted and tracked, and a transport aircraft took off from the Opala region just after midnight, headed towards the great lakes region. It left radar range before landing, so we don’t know where it ended up. There is no airport in that region, so it must have been a rough landing field. On a different note, still no movement on the boat covered by Torpedo’s UGS.***”
* CAR - Central African Republic
** AWAC - airborne warning and control
*** UGS - Unattended Ground Sensor
07-21-2012, 08:28 AM
26 1130A Feb
Lt Falcon leaned his pack against a tree and scanned the village once more. There were only women and children, and not many at that. Most of them were missing a hand or an arm, a legacy of the brutal terror campaigns that had swept through the region. But not a single male was to be seen. He reached for a radio handset.
“Jane, this is Falcon, over.”
“I have eyes on objective Victor 1. Twenty huts, about twelve women and fifteen children. No males of any age., over.”
“Request permission to reveal and question the villagers, over.”
“Jane, wait out.”
Lt Falcon clipped the handset to his shoulder strap and raised the parabolic microphone once more. The children were speaking something close enough to Swahili that he was sure he could converse with the villagers.
“Falcon, this is Jane, over.”
Falcon unclipped the handset.
“Jane, request denied. Remain covert. Acknowledge, over.”
“Falcon acknowledged, out.”
He shook his head. Until he could talk to people all he could do was guess at attitudes based on passive observation. Watching villagers tend to cassava crops and chase scrawny chickens wasn’t going to build an intel picture.
“Where are all the men?” he whispered to himself.
Aboard the Jane, Clutch, Dusty and Rock n Roll prepped vehicles and equipment for the airlift. Music blared from a battered ghetto blaster bungee corded to a shelf.
“Dusty - what are you listening to?!” Rock n Roll asked.
“Well stop it. It’s even worse than country music.”
Dusty pulled out a CD wallet and started flipping through it. “You prefer a little Salif Keita?”
“No!” shouted Rock n Roll and Clutch in unison.
“And yet you like Ali Toure . . .”
Clutch rolled out from underneath a Vamp. “I just want to know who still carries cassettes and CDs in this day and age.”
Tollbooth walked into the workspace.
“I’ve finished the geo analysis. If you stay north-east of the Lomami River the only fording you’ll have to do can be managed with winches. I’ve got an expedient raft I’ve been tinkering with that you might experiment with, but otherwise your main hazard is swampy ground.”
Claymore walked in behind Tollbooth.
“How’s everything looking?”
Rock n Roll wiped his hands on a rag.
“Good. We’ve got extra fuel cans, four spare tires, a small stock of other spares. Both Vamps will mount remote-fired twin 7.62 MGs, and we’ve rigged storage for an 81mm mortar on one and the 84mm and spare rounds on the other. Short Fuze and Bazooka have already tested the layouts.”
27 1215A Feb 20XX
Law and Mainframe scrolled through a consolidated intelligence report. The shell casings recovered by Lt Falcon’s patrol were not manufactured in any known factory. Two different thumbprints had been recovered. One was American: Tyler Stevens. Convicted of break and enter and assault in Jacksonville, Florida. The Department of Homeland Security recorded one exit from the US, for a Caribbean cruise the previous year. Interestingly, he was somehow still cashing checks in Jacksonville. The other thumbprint had a partial match with an Egyptian, Siddiqui Nahaz, two years at the University of Cairo studying telecommunications engineering, then arrested for political dissent. Finally, prints off the foil wrapper recovered by Spirit belonged to Roh Tae Jung of South Korea. He’d been expelled from the medical program at the Seoul National University following his arrest during student protests.
“It’s scary the kind of information we can pull from here,” noted Mainframe.
Law grunted. “Once you’ve been fingerprinted it’s just a matter of trolling the databases to get all your personal history.
“I suppose this explains the Esperanto. It puts them all on a common communication level.”
“I still don’t see a common connection between these guys and this outfit. Who are they?”
07-22-2012, 07:53 AM
02 0600A Mar 20XX
The feed from the unattended ground sensor was grainy, but two figures were clearly moving towards the boat discovered by Torpedo. Hawk studied the images for a few moments. The two figures hauled some crates from under water and moved them under the camouflage netting. One of the figures stumbled, and the end of one crate fell, cracking open. Rifles fell out. Hawk immediately summoned Lt Falcon, Torpedo and Steeler. He turned back to the screen. The figures had recovered the weapons, loaded them on the boat, and were walking away from the area.
A few minutes later the four, accompanied by Stalker and Scarlett, stood around a map, imagery of the site, and the UGS feed.
“It looks like these guys are preparing something for later today or tonight. Lt Falcon, you’re commanding an ambush of the site. Torpedo, you’ll command a post-ambush observation post. Steeler, you’re commanding the reserve. This is a snap call, so not much prep time.”
Torpedo turned to Falcon.
“I suggest you insert by boat in the mangroves about six hundred metres east of the inlet. We can guide you into location and then set up an OP.*”
Steeler pointed out a couple of small trails.
“I can get the APC and two Vamps through there, along with a mortar team. We won’t be able to drive into your location, but we can provide an emergency fall back. Plus, we’ll work out templated firing line. The APC’s 14.5mm and the two twin machine guns can punch through to a couple of kill zones.
Stalker turned to Lt Falcon.
“I’ll be joining your ambush. You can put me in charge of something if you like, or just tell me to carry a rifle.”
“Let me work out a plan and I’ll let you know.”
02 1220A Mar 20XX
Lt Falcon wadded through the last of the mangroves, listening to the sound of Top Side’s boat recede into the distance. He took one quick glance around, and then waved for the patrol to continue its advance. They moved silently, following Torpedo’s guidance. Falcon pointed out rally points, then the emergency rally point. After a final reconnaissance, he moved the patrol into position. Stalker and Sneak Peak were the left cut off. Spirit and Zap were right cut off. Beach Head, Hit & Run, Blowtorch and Footloose had rear security, and Falcon, Recondo, Low Light, Tunnel Rat, Ripcord, Crazy Legs and Recoil were the kill team. They lay in wait, scanning arcs, ears straining for man-made sounds over the drone of flies.
Torpedo led Leatherneck and Muskrat to a new vantage location, with observation on the boat and within earshot of the ambush site.
Steeler pulled his small convoy into herringbone formation on a trail eight hundred metres south of the ambush site. Grand Slam and Down Town quickly set up an 81mm mortar and prepped mortar bombs. Steeler proficiently laid the machine guns on a line to provide fire support to the patrol, manned by himself, Heavy Metal, and Hawk, while Cross Country and Fast Draw moved a few dozen metres into the trees on either side of the trail on listening watch.
Leatherneck squinted his eyes to relieve the strain, and let them wander across the upper limbs of the trees for a few moments. He did a double take. About thirty feet above the ground, a nest in a tree had partially come apart, revealing a black curve. He slowly raised binos to his eyes to get a closer look. It was the head of a surveillance camera, oriented in the direction of the ambush team. He reached over to touch Torpedo, and whispered his finding. Torpedo took the binos and looked for himself.
“Call it in,” he whispered.
Leatherneck picked up his handset.
“All call signs, this is Leatherneck, sitrep, over.”
He tried again.
He checked all the connections, but they were tight, but then discovered that the battery compartment was soaked. He swore – the seal was faulty. He carefully wiped down the connectors, and was pulling a new battery from his pack when he heard Muskrat click his selector switch to ‘fire.’ He looked up, and made out brief glimpses of figures moving towards the ambush – but not into the kill zone. They were flanking the position.
Beach Head heard the rustling of careful footsteps and felt his adrenaline levels spike. He took a deep breath, held it, exhaled fully, took another breath, and felt the control return to his heightened senses. He scanned his whole area once again, and then the world exploded in automatic fire.
“COMPROMISE,” he yelled, as he returned fire, and then started shouting at his det. Footloose hit the claymore clackers, and Hit & Run was already changing magazines having dumped thirty rounds into the trees to his front. Blowtorch had dropped his carbine and raised himself slightly off the ground, a tube over his shoulder. He squeezed the trigger, and the det’s frontage disappeared behind a ball of fire. The overpressure of the fuel-air explosive knocked the wind out of everyone, and the enemy fire stopped. Startled and panicked cursing came from the trees, and Beach Head aimed his fire accordingly, as did Footloose, who fired off a 40mm grenade into the trees.
“EMERGENCY RALLY POINT,” Falcon yelled, pushing his team in that direction. He did a quick head count and moved off, calling into his radio for covering fires as he moved.
Beach Head rolled towards Hit & Run and shoved him. “Fall back,” he shouted. Hit & Run got up, dashed past the rest of the team, then dropped to a knee facing the enemy. Beach Head followed him, slapping Blowtorch as he passed.
“Last man,” he shouted.
Blowtorch picked up his carbine, fired a burst into the trees, then turned to follow Footloose, slapping his boot as he passed.
Footloose fired off another 40mm grenade and two three-round bursts, then ran past the rest of the patrol, dropped to a knee, and pulled out a claymore. He attached a ten second fuse as the rest of the patrol peeled back. Rounds were starting to slap past him as the enemy bypassed sputtering flames. Blowtorch fired an MRO-A towards the enemy, and another, smaller, fireball detonated, then he turned. Footloose felt Blowtorch’s hand on his shoulder and heard “Last man!” He fired half a magazine on automatic into the trees, started the fuse, turned and ran. The claymore detonated in a sharp crack behind him.
Falcon moved quickly down the line of troops in the emergency rally point. Everyone was accounted for.
“Spirit, Zap, move up with Stalker and Sneak Peak. You’re now the forward security element. Start moving towards the vehicle location.” They ran up the line. Falcon turned to Beach Head. “You’ve got rear security.” Beach Head gave him a thumbs-up. He had already fanned out his det to cover that direction. To their rear they could hear mortar bombs exploding, and to their flank they could hear machine gun rounds tearing through the trees. Falcon caught Stalker’s eye. “Move now,” he signalled. Stalker got up and took point.
Hawk held down the 14.5mm’s trigger with one hand, while holding a radio prestle switch with the other.
“Scarlett, it sounds like Falcon is moving back to our location. Once they're all mounted we’ll move directly to the primary loading point. Make sure Doc is on standby for casualties. Have you received a sitrep from Torpedo?”
“Wait, you’re cutting him off,” Scarlett replied. Moments later they heard Torpedo’s voice.
“Enemy is regrouping in vicinity of the dock. They are not pursuing. I say again, they are not pursuing. They do not appear to have detected my OP. Recommend I remain in location.”
Hawk’s brain raced. If that three-man OP was compromised they would be overrun in minutes. But if they could provide intel on this enemy force, that would be invaluable. He weighed the risk for what felt like an eternity, and then flipped the prestle switch.
“Remain in location.”
“Torpedo acknowledged. Out.”
From the tree line he heard Cross Country yell “Halt!” There was a moment of noise, and then the ambush patrol started moving to the trail, being counted off by Falcon. They quickly fanned out into a circle around the vehicles until all were accounted for.
Falcon and Steeler conferred with Hawk, then Steeler shouted “Mount up!” Within a minute everyone was mounted and the vehicles were on the move.
Torpedo watched the proceedings below him. A couple of enemy splashed gas on the cam net and lit it alight. Three others recovered the surveillance camera Leatherneck had spotted, along with two more cameras from other locations. One more soldier climbed out of the boat, gave a thumbs up, and the enemy force of about twenty pulled back into the cover the trees. Torpedo frowned. Then the boat exploded, fragments flying several hundred metres. The enemy platoon then formed up and headed west. Torpedo noted the details. Most wore blue-grey uniforms, except for two in mixed camouflage. They carried mix of AKs and Minimis. No casualties. Torpedo reached for the radio.
“Enemy have destroyed the boat and are withdrawing west. Recommend I follow the enemy.”
Hawk considered this. There wasn’t much point in watching the burning remnants of a boat.
“Follow the enemy,” he said.
Muskrat took point. The enemy were moving fast and in a straight line. In the distance, they could hear helicopter rotors. Torpedo halted his team.
“There’s a clearing ahead a few hundred metres ahead. Probably an HLZ.** They’ll likely have rear security, and a section may have doubled back to cover their route. Let’s cloverleaf to the right a couple of hundred yards to get a safer vantage point.”
Muskrat moved off the line of march to his right, heightened senses trying to feel the enemy first. The sounds of rotors grew louder. Muskrat made out light ahead, and dropped to his belly, crawling the last yards to the clearing. He saw the enemy in a tight all-around defensive posture, with machine guns covering the route they’d taken. One had just popped a red smoke grenade. An armed Hip circled, covering the tree line, while an S64 with box landed, and the enemy platoon quickly piled aboard. They whole procedure took less than a minute.
Leatherneck punched the ground and swore.
* OP - Observation Post
** HLZ - Helicopter Landing Zone
07-23-2012, 09:33 AM
09 1037A Mar 20XX
Gung Ho sniffed at the jungle. Something wasn’t right. After a week patrolling around Opala his senses were more in tune with the jungle than with civilization. He took one cautious step forward, and another, and then the ground collapsed under him. He hugged his weapon along his centre line as he skidded ten, fifteen feet down an embankment. He landed at the feet of a startled blue-grey clad soldier, who was aiming his rifle over Gung Ho’s head and looking up the embankment. Gung Ho released his pistol grip and in a fluid motion pulled his ka-bar from its boot sheath and drove the point up through the soldier’s jaw and mouth and into his brain. The soldier collapsed in a heap. Gun Ho brought his M32 to bear on the centre of visible mass of a partial figure twenty yards in depth, leaned into the weapon and squeezed off a round of buckshot.
“CONTACT FRONT” he yelled, stepping forward and putting two HE* rounds into the trees before scanning for more targets. Mutt skidded down the same embankment, Junkyard at his side, taking up a position to Gung Ho’s left, and Wet Suit slid down and took up a position to his right, all putting suppressing fire into the trees to their front. Trip Wire slid down the slop on this backside, scrambled to his feet, and fell into line, followed by Salvo.
“BASELINE,” Wet Suit yelled, and the five advanced in line in fire teams. Inaccurate automatic fire spat back from the trees, offering new targets. They saw a couple of flashes of blue as the enemy withdrew into the trees, and then heard a pair of sharp explosions.
“Claymores,” shouted Trip Wire.
Junkyard suddenly bounded in front on the patrol and sat down, pointing his nose at the ground.
“Down!” shouted Wet Suit, and the patrol hit the ground, shuffling into an all-around defensive position. Trip Wire crawled forward under Mutt’s cover, while Wet Suit pulled out his radio.
“Contact, enemy patrol of unknown size engaged, two killed, remainder withdrawn east under cover of automatic fire and command detonated mines. Fire mission, ZT 1041, left 200, add 300, harassing fire, over.”
The radio crackled and Short Fuze’s voice came over the air. “Fire mission, ZT 1041, left 200, add 300, harassing fire, out.”
Just over a minute later, the sound of six mortar bombs exploding somewhere on the line of the enemy withdrawal broke through the trees.
Trip Wire lay on his belly and called back.
“It’s an M86 mine. All I can do is BIP it. I want pictures first, though.”
Wet Suit waved Gung Ho forward, and breathed deeply. Contact had been broken. Time to strip the two bodies of weapons and documents and pull back before the enemy could counterattack.
In the distance, birds and animals resumed their chatter.
Claymore waved for Lift Ticket and Wild Bill, then turned to Psych Out and started pointing on the map.
“I’m taking Dusty, Hardball, Rock n Roll, Back Blast and Short Fuze in the Hip to this clearing. We may cut off that patrol. I’m going to push Wet Suit up to the high ground here. Take the Vamps along this trail, and RV with us here.”
Psych Out quickly wrote down the grids, as did the two pilots when they arrived.
Lift Ticket held out his hand. “Wait. Leave Back Blast here. The planes need his cover. Take a couple of the boys from the transport.” He glanced over at the shelter. “Skymate and Cloudburst have gone to ground, but Big Ben and Back Stop are available.”
“Hey, don’t worry about their skills. They’ve done every kind of LZ** you can imagine. Just go over the SOPs*** with them in the air.”
Claymore nodded. “Ok. They’ve seen our rehearsals. Get them.”
Lift Ticket trotted over to the tent, where an animated conversation was in progress.
“Ok, George Chuvalo versus Henry Cooper.”
“Oooo, that’s a tough one mate. Georgey had a rock for a jaw, but 'Enry, well, there was Marmite in his punch.”
“Lingo shenanigans,” came a sleepy voice from the back of the shelter.
Lift Ticket interrupted the discussion. “Grab your kit and get ready for an ambush op. Details en route.”
The team quickly marked their maps, reviewed the mission and mounted up, and the Hip and Hind took off for the clearing. Lifeline had jumped into the Hip with an emergency bag, just in case, and Lady Jaye joined them with a camera to add to the team’s growing collection of aerial imagery. Clutch and Thunder already had the Vamps running, with Bazooka riding shotgun. Psych Out joined them, and they pulled away.
* HE - High Explosive
** LZ - Landing Zone
*** SOP - Standard Operating Procedure
07-24-2012, 09:56 AM
09 1156A Mar 20XX
The Hip set down in the clearing and the Claymore and his patrol dismounted quickly, fanning out into an all around defence. The helo lifted away, and the patrol lay silent, listening for any hostile sounds, before pushing into the trees. Dusty took point, followed by Big Ben, Claymore and Rock n Roll. Hardball, Short Fuze and Back Stop brought up the rear. They moved quickly several hundred metres into the jungle and set up a linear ambush along the route Claymore had expected the enemy to take. They waited behind hurriedly emplaced mines. Rock n Roll took advantage of the lull to study the map and the ground and select two alternate firing lines. Short Fuze fingered the mortar bombs he had primed and ready to drop. An hour passed. Then two. No sounds. Claymore pulled out his map. They didn’t have any photos of this area for comparison. He reviewed Wet Suit’s contact location, the route of enemy withdrawal, likely rally points, and his current ambush spot. Big Ben crawled to his side.
“I know what’s going through your mind. The enemy heard the helo and diverted course. Stands to reason. So, what route did they take?” He pointed to the map. “I think they’re headed towards this high ground here.” He pointed again, then pointed in the direction of the ridge.
Claymore nodded. “If I airlift Wet Suit over to the northwest of the ridge, bring Psych Out up the southwest side, and we move in on the east side, we can box them in.”
“Exactly.” Big Ben grinned.
Claymore calculated the distance and time.
“It’s going to be dark by the time we’re all in place, and we haven’t rehearsed this plan,” he mused.
“I dare you,” Big Ben challenged. “Roll the dice and give ‘em a swift, hard kick. They’ll crumble. But if you let them get away they’ll just come back stronger.”
Claymore smiled, jotted down a quick set of orders, and reached for the radio.
09 2040A Mar 20XX
Wet Suit’s team leapt from the Hip, oriented themselves, and started moving into the trees, Mutt and Junkyard leading. The moved quickly up the incline to an area Wet Suit had determined the most likely to cut-off the enemy. The incline was steep, and he could start to hear his heart pounding – a mix of exertion and adrenaline.
Clutch spun the wheel and applied gas. The Vamp skidded through the bend.
“We’re getting close,” he shouted to Bazooka, who clung to the roll bar. Then the front end exploded.
Claymore pushed his team closer to position. Just a few more hundred metres. They’d spotted the odd sign telling of enemy just ahead. Footprints in the mud, a grenade connected to a tripwire as a booby trap, broken foliage. They’d fanned out from the trail on several occasions in case the withdrawing force had a rear guard that hooked back to lay ambushes on the trail, losing ground each time, but sustaining pressure nonetheless. He checked the map one more time, and waved his arms. The force split into two groups, fanning from single file into line abreast. Then he heard the explosion and a long burst of automatic fire.
Junkyard growled and strained on the leash. Mutt raised his Ingram and scanned, while Gung Ho, Tripwire, Wet Suit and Salvo fanned out into line and started bounding in pairs.
“CONTACT FRONT,” yelled Tripwire, firing off a burst from his rifle. Gung Ho pumped three quick HE rounds into the front, and automatic fire started to crack past them.
Thunder had slammed his Vamp to a halt, leaped out and started to dismount the 81mm mortar. Psych Out leapt from his side, rifle in one hand and the tow hook from the winch in the other. The sound of automatic fire came from around the bend. He ran forward to the lead Vamp, saw that the fire was all outbound from the twin machine guns, connected the winch to the back of the damaged Vamp, and ran back to his own vehicle. He turned on the winch and watched it take up the slack and then start to take the load. The firing stopped, and Clutch ran back around the corner, waving for Psych Out to stop.
“Give me some slack,” he shouted.
Psych Out reversed the winch a moment. Clutch disappeared around the corner and unhooked the cable. He then routed around a tree in order to keep the damaged vehicle from being dragged off the trail, and gave Psych Out a thumbs up. The first thump of an outgoing mortar bomb broke behind them. Psych Out started the winch and the damaged Vamp was dragged into view. Clutch waved for him to stop, disconnected the tow cable, pulled it back from the tree it had been around, and reconnected it so Psych Out could drag the vehicle on the new angle.
“What hit you?” Psych Out shouted.
“A mine I think,” shouted Clutch. “We bailed out. I hit the remote fire switch and started hosing down the front sixty degrees. Bazooka started tossing smoke grenades. He’s moved forward to cover the front.”
Psych Out nodded.
Wet Suit saw a figure in his sights, squeezed the trigger, and saw the figure jerk and disappear from view. He scanned left, and then heard the sound. Rotor blades. Cursing, he moved faster, when the trees started splintering around him. He hit the ground. An armed Hip swooped overhead, having fired a ripple volley of rockets, and hosing the area with machine gun fire. More explosions came from his front as the enemy detonated claymore mines.
“Get Down!” Claymore yelled, as the Hip swung towards them. They could see the trees above starting to explode as the volley of rockets impacted around them. The patrol spread out, except for Rock n Roll, who raised his MG42 to this shoulder, caught sight of the Hip, shifted his aiming point ahead of the helicopter, and squeezed the trigger. About forty rounds spat into the air in three bursts, driving Rock n Roll back two steps, but he let out a yell of glee as he saw the Hip shudder and black smoke start to come from the airframe. The Hip gained altitude, and withdrew from the fight.
“Up Up Up,” shouted Wet Suit. “Keep at them!” He waved the team forward, changing magazines on the move. Trees around him started to shake, and the sound of more rotors broke through his adrenaline. An S64 landed a couple of hundred metres to his front a door gunner firing a minigun into the tree line, and the enemy platoon piled aboard. Wet Suit screamed as he fired a whole magazine in its direction, Trip Wire and Gung Ho pumping rounds off to his left and right. Salvo pulled an M72 off his back, extended the tube with a sharp snap, raised it to his shoulder and fired. Foliage deflected all the rounds, and the heavy helicopter took off unscathed.
“Son of a –“ Mutt started to shout, being drowned out by the roar of a jet engine. They looked up as a MiG 21 popped, looped back, and released a pair of 500lb bombs.
“DOWN!” Wet Suit yelled. They hugged the ground as the bombs landed wide. The overpressure from the explosions hammered their chests. And then there was silence.
Big Ben slapped Claymore’s back.
“Don’t worry. I’m sure we got a couple, and sent the rest of them home with full pants. That’ll drag on morale.”
The two checked out the rest of the group. No injuries, but the deep fatigue as adrenaline wore off was visible in a few eyes.
“Get your breathing under control,” Claymore said, checking everyone out.
“Bloody good shooting mate,” Big Ben said to Rock n Roll. Rock grinned.
“Hell, I’m just glad to get my hands back on an MMG,*” he replied.
Claymore took a radio and raised Psych Out.
“No injuries. One Vamp is a mobility kill. We can tow it out, but some air cover would be nice.”
A drawl broke the air.
“This is Wild Bill. We’ve Dogfight up in the air in a Soko to fly CAP,** so now we can cover you. I suggest Lift Ticket haul out the dismounts. Then we can come back and sling load you out.”
“Sounds good,” Claymore answered, and then transmitted the withdrawal plan.
* MMG - Medium Machine Gun
** CAP - Combat Air Patrol
07-25-2012, 07:54 AM
10 0800A Mar 20XX
“So here’s what we know,” began Lady Jaye to the assembled team. Images scrolled on a screen behind her. A disciplined multi-national military force is operating in this area with at least two platoon-sized elements. They are augmented by an unknown group in different uniforms, but who are presumably an advisory cadre. We thought at first they were an African force, but now we’re not so sure. They have a mix of armoured and un-armoured transport, and a good air wing of Mig 21s, transport aircraft, and medium and heavy lift helicopters. That suggests good finances, good logistics, good access to skilled mechanics and pilots. Their weapons are mostly old Soviet types, which are available across the continent, plus a mix of mines, and anti-materiel weapons; Clutch’s Vamp didn’t hit a mine after all. It looks like someone put a 50 cal round or larger through the engine block. Maybe even a 20mm round. But we don’t know who they are, who they work for, or what they are trying to accomplish. That helicopter and the jets flew almost due east towards Ubundu.”
“Oi – where’d you get that pic?” came a voice from the rear. Everyone turned. Big Ben, Backstop and two others were standing in the back. The speaker waved, and pointed to an image of a tall man in brown fatigues with an eye patch.
“Dan Toner, but call me Skymate. That pic there. I reckon I know him. Sebastian Bludd. He spent a bit of time with the Regiment as a captain. Commanded a line rifle company before being booted for embezzling funds. There were a few irregularities with some things he was doing up in Timor too.”
Lady Jaye raised an eyebrow.
“So,” she asked, “what’s he doing out here?”
“Good question.” Skymate leaned closer to the images. “And I’d say you’re right that those scruffy ones aren’t African. Wrong features. I’d say they’re from the Pacific. Fijians, most probably. Maybe Tongans”
Lady Jaye looked at Claymore.
“I need to get this info to the Jane soonest,” she said.
Aboard the Jane, Hawk was talking with Airborne and Alpine via video teleconference. Scarlett and Stalker sat in the background.
“I think I’ve hit a wall,” Alpine said. We did a slick op to copy the bank manager’s hard drive, and we’ve got a Trojan in their main system that’s feeding us their daily transactions. The manager’s files show a number of Ares transactions to Swiss, Caribbean, East Asian and Jafza account, and a couple to Bamako that seem a little odd. Chuckles is doing further analysis on those. But to be frank Sir, this is beyond my skills. I did books for books; I was a simple accountant for a publisher. This takes a team of finance, business and forensic accountant specialists to decode. Maybe the FBI and the IRS should be on this. Look at this: I’ve followed a money trail from our bank, going through large individual transactions, and corporate transactions. Most lead nowhere. None are to publicly traded companies, but I’ve been able to determine that some are investment banking, software and mining companies. A lot lead to another bank in town: Banque Internationale Congolaise. BIC has crazy security. The company that installed it all doesn’t exist any more, though they seem to have periodic inspections from a different company’s rep. Some other transactions have me running in circles. In one case I’ve tracked these seven companies that all have interests in each other or common board members. Note how X owns Y, which owns Z, which in turn has a controlling interest in X. They do business with shell companies. This is business management beyond my grasp.”
Hawk rubbed his face.
“You’re losing me.”
Airborne took over.
“There are segregated portfolio companies in the Cayman islands, holding companies, closed-end companies, unlimited companies . . . everything is privately controlled with minimal reporting requirements. The reporting that happens is bare bones AGMs and financial statements, all of dubious veracity. Some must be dead ends, like this one - the Bern Institute of Reconstructive Surgery. The ties are so tenuous that we’re really chasing ghosts, and the legal and financial laws change so much from nation to nation that even if there is some shadowy organization out there, there is no way to get at it.”
”Well that was much clearer.” Hawk reviewed the documents. “These two - Naja Hana Video Corp and Naja Trading Corp. Those are similar names, and the Video Corp is in the same building as Ares’ Kinshasa office. We might as well dig into them for lack of any better leads.”
Mainframe jotted that down.
“Look,” Alpine said. “This is a long shot, but I have a buddy who’s in Switzerland right now. He’s a biathlete, over there for a couple of competitions. I can give him the names of the Swiss companies and he can check them out – confirm addresses, staffs, clustering of businesses – that kind of thing. I’ll keep the request vague.”
Hawk considered this.
“Ok. Do it. Also, we’re sending you details of one of the mercenary leaders, a former Australian officer. Sebastian Bludd. Mainframe is tracing his service record and passport details. See if you can figure out his banking arrangements and who’s paying him.”
Alpine shifted the camera towards Chuckles.
“I did a follow up with Ares about airlift and security. I got a brief demo of some capabilities. Nothing matches the troops you’re in contact with. And we haven’t had any success figuring out who they’ve been selling Vamps to.”
Hawk rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“Right. Keep at it. Thanks.” He signed off.
Stalker leaned forward.
“I heard back from my Jordanian SOF contact. Seems that there has been some smuggling issues in this neighbourhood. A few palms were greased which is why the government troops pulled out of the region. The UN found out accidentally, and wasn’t happy. But they also didn’t direct that patrol. I think the local commander did that on his own initiative.”
“That puts some of this in a new light,” Scarlett added. “We may be getting mixed up with a smuggling organization.”
Hawk looked at a map.
“I’m not convinced,” he said. “There may be smuggling interests here, but this outfit seems too established just for that. I’d buy it if we had only run into this Bludd character and his motley crew, but these guys seem bigger than that. The profits would have to be enormous to cover the expenses.”
Stalker shrugged. “The narcos in South America and Mexico could pony up those kinds of assets. Smuggling here can be just as lucrative. But getting back to the focus of arms dealing, Claymore’s team recovered three rifles, several magazines, some grenades and a few hundred rounds of ammo. Mainframe is running the serial numbers to figure where they were made and where they were originally sold. Then we have to follow the trail to the Congo. There have to be end user certificates somewhere. In the meantime, that helo seems to have headed into the Ubundu area. My Jordanian contact has told me that some of the local factions in that region have become better armed in the past months. We could probably kill two birds with one stone by patrolling that region.”
“Good.” Hawk paused. “Pull Claymore back. We’re spread too thin with no reserve. We’ll moor the Jane in the vicinity of Kisingani, before the rapids, and move east by ground and try to regain contact.”
Stalker and Scarlett turned to leave.
“Stalker, wait. We’ve been punching blind this whole time. We need a couple of prisoners to interrogate. Give some thought to how we can accomplish that.”
Stalker nodded and smiled tightly.
07-26-2012, 10:55 AM
13 0930A Mar 20XX
Claymore studied the plan once more.
“It’s risky. You know you have no fire support.”
“I’ve run it by the ABCA guys. They can have a plane up for us within an hour.”
“Weather dependent,” Claymore noted. “And an hour can be a lifetime in a firefight.” He stretched his arms behind his head. “I don’t think Falcon has the jump experience for this one.”
“I thought of that, but he’s the only other one who speaks Swahili. It has to be him. He’s got medic training too. As for the rest, well, we’re really short guys with HAHO skills. But I think it’s worth the risk. We’ve got those mercs on the run, but we need to figure out their relationship with the local factions and set the conditions for raids. We need to maintain momentum.”
Claymore stared at Stalker for several moments.
“You know momentum is used as an excuse for a lot of questionable plans. But as far as I can tell you’ve got your contingencies covered here. Think Hawk will approve it?”
“I’m betting he will. Getting him to free up Airborne may be the hardest part!”
Stalker walked into the intel cabin where Scarlett and Mainframe were reviewing documents.
“Sorry for interrupting, but I have some info here on some of the local factions in the Ubundu region. Can you see if we have anything extra on them? Run them by Kinshasa to see if there’s anything to pull from the capital too. Include aerial imagery and potential drop zones.”
Scarlett cocked her head.
“What’s running through your mind Stalker?”
Stalker sat down in front of a map.
“It’s going to take a few days to get to Kisangani. It’ll take a few more days to drive into these areas. I think we should HAHO* in two recon teams to get eyes on a couple of camps. That way we know what to expect.”
Mainframe leaned back in his chair with his hands behind his head.
“And then what? Walk in and ask to see receipts for their weapons?”
“Let’s find out what they have first.”
13 1400A Mar 20XX
Lt Falcon was looking for Claymore. He found him in the canteen, sitting with Beach Head and Wet Suit. They waved him over.
“You look down Vince. What’s troubling you?” Claymore asked.
Lt Falcon took a breath, and then started.
“I think we have developed a direct action focus here. We’re chasing an unknown entity that has obviously been here longer than us, and we’re not bothering to ask the locals for info or help. Wouldn’t it help to raise some indigenous troops to be eyes and ears? There must be villagers who hate these mercs and would jump to take up arms against them.”
Beach Head looked down and shook his head.
“This isn’t foreign internal defence. We can’t trust these people, we don’t have the backup to get us out if they turn on us, and we don’t have the resources to train and equip them. And I don’t think they’d take too kindly to a bunch of armed white guys walking into their midst.”
A look of annoyance crossed Lt Falcon’s face.
“Hey, even Ranger history involves partnering with indigenous forces. Cabanatuan would never have happened without Philippine guerrilla assistance.”
Claymore held up a hand.
“Look - it isn’t that training locals is beyond our mandate. If it were really going to help us, we’d do it. It’s that we’re here to get specific information and hit specific targets. Training a private army, right now, is a distraction.”
Lt Falcon sighed.
“We treat everything as a hard target to be taking by force. We need information out here. We can get that from the locals. They cover more ground than we do. They have more eyes. We can gain relative superiority in intelligence through these people.”
“That’s assuming you trust anyone here,” said Beach Head.
“Sometimes you have trust humanity and common, if temporary, interests,” said Falcon. “You think our own revolution would have worked if no one had any faith in us at Valley Forge?”
“And how often have we raised successful indigenous forces?” asked Wet Suit. “Bay of Pigs? ‘Nam? Either sandbox?”
Lt Falcon nodded.
“You’re right that indigenous forces are weak against conventional forces. But they excel at sabotage and intel. That’s where I think we should use them.”
“Thanks Vince. It’s still not going to happen,” Claymore said.
“LT - couldn’t help but overhear the discussion,” came a voice from behind them. Falcon turned to see Flint.
“As a former SF guy I’m sympathetic. But you may be overestimating the locals. You propose to turn them into commandos – not guerrillas, because you have no local political framework. That’s impossible.”
“Aren’t you splitting hairs by distinguishing between guerrillas and commandos?” asked Falcon.
“Absolutely not. Whenever you deal with locals there’s a political dimension.”
“Sure,” Falcon nodded. “But it all comes down to whether you can find some temporary common ground.”
“Right,” said Flint, “but we Americans will always be transient. At some point we go home. The locals are local. Yet we always insist on bending them to American interests. If we’re serious about this, we’ll bend to their interests. It makes them better allies when the fighting is over.”
Beach Head shook his head. “Now that kind of decision may be a little above our grades.”
“I don’t know.” Said Flint. “I’m a gun for hire and you’re on some ultra covert op. I’d say we’re in the perfect position to be making that kind of strategic decision. Then we’ll tell the judge the LT put us up to it!”
They all laughed.
“Before you argue further, I’ve got something for you to read. Come with me,” said Flint, motioning to Falcon.
“More reading,” Lt Falcon sighed. He got up and followed Flint out of the canteen, down a corridor, and to the small room he was sharing with Wild Bill. Flint pulled some books from a small pelican case: 'The Crime of the Congo'; 'King Leopold’s Soliloquy'; 'Heart of Darkness'; 'Dark of the Sun', and then he handed one to Falcon: Che Guevara’s 'The African Dream: The Diaries of the Revolutionary War in the Congo.'
“If it’s any consolation, even Che couldn’t turn the Congolese into guerrillas. Or commandos”
“Thanks. Ok, I have to go do some HAHO refresher.”
* HAHO - High Altitude High Opening
07-27-2012, 09:00 AM
17 0100A Mar 20XX
The inside of the An-26 was freezing, and the twelve paratroopers huddled together for warmth, breathing bottled air. Stalker checked his watch, then looked up at Big Ben, who held up a hand.
“Chalk One: Five minutes.”
Six of the figures started wrestling with kit, checking each other, and ensuring bundles were secure. Lifeline walked along the line, checking each soldier’s pupils and reactions, confirming that hypoxia hadn’t set in.
They lined up at the rear of the plane, staring into pitch black out of the open ramp. The light turned green, and the six men leapt out into the void, pulling their chutes moments later. The jerk winded all of them, leaving bruising that would be felt for days. Crazy Legs checked the navigation unit on his chest, and pulled on his risers to adjust course slightly. The remaining five adjusted as well, forming up behind him. The drop would cover thirty-two kilometres of horizontal distance and would take more than half an hour to complete.
The same process repeated itself several minutes later, with Ripcord navigating the second chalk. The two drop zones were separated by about twelve kilometres, and were each about two kilomtres from the respective targets: an FDLR* camp and an ADF-NALU** camp. The UN had been given strict orders to avoid those areas, which, coupled with rumours that both camps had received shipments of weapons, made the camps worth investigating.
Lt Falcon stared into the black, and then double-checked his navigation instruments. Each man – Ripcord, Low Light, Sneak Peak, Recoil, Tunnel Rat and himself – had attached a glow stick, taped until only a sliver of light shone, to his helmet. So far the chalk held its formation. The two practice jumps had been invaluable. He swallowed and wiggled his jaw to equalize the pressure in his ears as they lost altitude.
Eventually, the ground came up to meet them, and the chalk landed in an open area, spread out by only a hundred metres or so. They quickly bundled the parachutes and jump gear and redistributed their loads. Having to maintain such a tight formation required each jumper to weigh the same upon exiting the aircraft. For Tunnel Rat, by far the lightest man, that meant carrying an enormous equipment container to even out the weight. He staggered under the load to the rally point, gasping for air. Recoil chuckled as he broke apart the container and adjusted his load. He then laid a bearing, and waited for the sign to advance. Lt Falcon checked everyone’s gear, and gave the signal.
17 0900A Mar 20XX
Stalker adjusted his parabolic mic and listened to the sleep-blurred speech of the FDLR guerrillas. Well armed or not, they had sloppy discipline, paid little attention to local security, and were seemingly mostly hung over. He had made out a mixed collection of small arms, mostly AKs and PKM, with a handful of RPGs. He also made out an SPG 9 recoilless rifle, but nothing to suggest significant external support. Then two men walked out of a hut carrying FN2000s, and walked over to a parked truck. One shouted at a group sitting around chatting. They ran over to the truck and started unloading crates. Stalker glanced to his left. Crazy Legs was recording the events with his camera. Stalker picked up his binos and focussed on the crates. The stencilled letters were faded, but he made out SPIKE. Fire and forget anti-tank missiles. Someone really was pushing the high tech weapons.
17 1500A Mar 20XX
Lowlight chewed on a blade of grass and scanned the ADF-NALU camp through his scope. About fifty men, all carrying a variety of rifles or pistols, sat idly passing time. He had already examined the camp from two other vantage points and had identified three Vamp jeeps. Two were armed with four missile tubes. The missiles looked very similar to Strelets.
“Where did they get those, and do they know how to use them?” He thought to himself.
The third jeep had a skeletal box of four missiles. He wasn’t able to determine the type. He scanned the area, considering his next position. A light stake truck had several boxes in the bed, with stencils indicating they contained AK 101s. Four rudimentary guard huts were around the perimeter, manned by guerrillas paying minimal attention to their surroundings. A mortar pit with what appeared to be an 82mm mortar, and two dug in 12.7mm machine guns completed the defences. Further west the ground opened up, and then fell into a tangle of wetland trees as a stream ran by. Best to avoid that area for now.
18 1100A Mar 20XX
Mainframe ran the checks one more time.
“Bingo! Hey Scarlett, take a look at this.”
Scarlett looked over his shoulder.
“I ran the serial numbers of the rifles Claymore’s guys bagged. They were all in the same shipment, coordinated by Sutherland Munition Works, and sold to Corporate Operations, Business and Research Applications for their security detachments. Originally manufactured in Russia, sold to Venezuela, sold in turn to Senegal, and then brokered by Sutherland. The hand grenade lot numbers follow a similar route. They originated in Italy, but were also sold by Sutherland to the same organization.”
“That’s a start. Let’s see what else they’ve been selling. I’ll pass this on to Alpine. Maybe he can trace the money. Anything else?”
“Yeah. Wet Suit stripped a body of its uniform. There aren’t any manufacturers labels on it – just a stylized cobra patch that shows up in all the imagery, but Law is trying to do some kind of forensic trace. Finally, we got a hit on the third body: Lop Leung from Mong Kok, and with a fairly lengthy criminal past. You should have seen his tattoos."
Scarlett read through the file.
“So who are Corporate Operations, Business and Research Applications?”
“COBRA? Well, its background is going to drive Alpine and Airborne to distraction. It’s a legal entity that’s wrapped in shell companies, subsidiaries, blind trusts and so on. They seem to have connections with software and hardware manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, radar and telecommunications, human resources. I found a trace of trouble – they poached several dozen workers from the Sakhalin oil and gas projects, particularly guys skilled in underwater and below-ice construction, but nothing I can verify, nor where they ended up. I’m trying to find confirmation of what they’re doing here in the Congo.”
“And presumably the soldiers wearing cobra symbols do in fact work for COBRA.”
“Do you have a better theory?”
Scarlett shook her head.
“I don’t. But tell you what. Give the raw data to Lady Jaye. Let’s see what conclusion she comes to. Maybe she’ll see something that we don’t.”
“I’m also running checks on the weaponry Stalker and Falcon’s teams have uncovered. Sutherland doesn’t seem to have had any dealings with those particular weapons, so we may have another dealer to worry about. Whoever it is, it’s a dealer with access to some decent systems. Modern rifles; high tech low-level air defence; and Swingfire anti-tank missiles in a Beeswing launcher. Not the newest, but still nasty.”
“Or Cobra is the source.”
* FDLR - Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda
** ADF-NALU - Allied Democratic Force - National Army for the Liberation of Uganda
07-28-2012, 11:30 AM
20 0500A Mar 20XX
Stalker awoke to the distant sound of rotors. He had ended his shift two hours prior and the first light stand-to was due in half an hour. He still felt aches and stiffness all over from the jump, but the sounds were bothering him. He didn’t like this strange experience of operating without air superiority against an unknown enemy with superior aviation capabilities. He didn’t think the US had ever been in that situation in his lifetime. He quickly packed his sleeping gear and crawled up to his alert position, confirming that Spirit, Outback, Gung Ho, Crazy Legs and Airborne were either in, or moving into position. He scanned the sky, and his jaw dropped.
Lt Falcon and Ripcord turned to look at each other in puzzlement.
“That sounds like heavy vehicles.”
Falcon swung the parabolic mic, and Ripcord put on Peltors. There was a definite sound of diesel engines, and the occasional squeak and clack of tracks.
“It can’t be tanks,” whispered Ripcord. “We’d feel the vibration through the ground.”
Stalker watched six tiny helicopters, each barely large enough for its single pilot, swoop over the camp, firing rockets and machine guns at the huts. Four Hip helicopters landed and quickly disgorged a company-sized group of blue-clad soldiers, along with a handful of Fijians who followed along, seemingly taking notes. An outer cordon quickly isolated the entire camp, and then platoons and sections ruthlessly cleared through each hut in turn. FDLR guerrillas stumbled from their drunken stupor, occasionally returning fire, but mostly dying in the withering crossfire from a weapons platoon, the mini-choppers and the manoeuvring platoons. It was a textbook air assault. Airborne noticed one of the blue soldiers point to the far side of the tree line. He swung his camera in that direction, and started taking photos of four men in ghillie suits, including some rigid pieces, and armed with Dragunovs and P90s, making their way to inside the cordon. They spoke quickly with command team, while a gruff soldier barked orders at two sections that were gathering up all the weapons and crates. The Hips returned minutes later, and everyone boarded. Stalker looked at his watch. The whole operation had lasted half an hour. He turned to Gung Ho when he heard a sound like ripping canvas in the air. He instinctively hugged the ground and the camp disappeared in ground-shaking explosions.
“No way,” Tunnel Rat whispered. Four Harriers screamed over the trees having followed the stream as a navigation point. Rockets hammered into the guard huts, destroying them almost simultaneously. A dozen light tanks unlike any he’d seen before burst out of the bush and started hammering the ADF-NALU camp with cannon-fire. Vamps guarded the flanks, while truck-borne infantry dismounted at the tree line and followed the light tanks. They poured concentrated fire into each hut as grenadiers approached and posted grenades through every window. The assault was complete within minutes, and the soldiers then turned their attentions to rounding up the Vamps and all weapons in the camp. Six figures emerged from the stream, wearing ghillie suits and carrying scuba gear, radios, night vision equipment and AR57s. They climbed into one of the trucks, casually displacing a load of soldiers who scurried to climb into other trucks as the company group pulled out the way it had arrived. Lt Falcon heard the artillery striking the FDLR camp as the armoured company group withdrew from the camp he was watching. Moments later, the fire shifted and the huts of ADF-NALU huts vanished in geysers of mud and steel. After a minute the bombardment lifted. Tunnel Rat spat the taste of high explosives out of his mouth.
“I’m guessing that was six 155mm guns, three rounds each. Bit overkill, don’t you think?”
Falcon shook his head.
“Someone just launched simultaneous raids – air assault and an armour company group – coordinated with air support and artillery. Someone has good staffs, good drills, and well rehearsed troops.” He looked around the clearing. Nothing was left except matchsticks. He looked at his patrol.
“Gear up.” He pointed to Recoil. “You have point. We’re following that column. No one moves vehicles like that through this terrain without decent trails. Let’s see where they go.”
Stalker starred at the shattered FDLR camp. The sheer speed and violence of the assault still numbed his mind. He turned to Gung Ho.
“We stay here for another couple of hours in case they left a lay back OP.”
Gung Ho was nodding when Spirit tensed and pointed to the bushes to their left.
“Someone is approaching.”
Stalker, Gung Ho and Outback were the closest and quickly reoriented, while Spirit, Airborne and Crazy Legs watched the clearing and the flanks. Four guerrillas were running towards the clearing, and stopped, mouths open in shock, when the saw the destruction.
“Drop your weapons,” Stalker hissed in Swahili.
The four turned, still stunned. Three did drop their weapons, but the fourth raised an AK. Stalker squeezed off two rounds from the silenced Ingram, and the hostile guerrilla collapsed. Outback and Gung Ho sprang forward and with a few sharp punches dropped the other three to the ground and zap-strapped them. Stalker looked over their weapons: two AKMs, a Makarov, and a submachine gun he’d never seen before, that looked like a modified MP5/40 with a tubular stock, and custom hand guard. Stalker pulled out his map, and then turned to Crazy Legs.
“Clearing, six clicks north-west. You’re point. Let’s get moving.”
21 0950A Mar 20XX
Aboard the Jane the three FDLR prisoners sat in three separate small makeshift cells. Stalker, Law, and Lady Jaye had been questioning them in turn, under Airborne’s supervision. Hawk and Claymore stood outside, reading over the reports that Scarlett was transcribing.
“I still think reading them their rights was a waste of time,” said Claymore.
Hawk shook his head.
“We’ve got a choice: We can kill them, let them go, or keep them forever. Or, if we don’t want to do any of those, we’re left with the option of putting them in front of a judge, in which case we need to follow certain procedures. The legal status of this kind of combatant is still very fluid, so it never hurts to err on the side of caution. If that happens, everything has to be in order. The rules still apply. Besides, we’re still getting info out of them.”
“I think we have a language problem. Look, when asked who sold them the weapons they all said ‘the man with the silver head.’ How complicated is it to say ‘grey-haired guy?’”
Hawk flipped back a page, frowned, and then knocked on the door, opened it, and motioned for Stalker.
“The arms dealer – is he white, black or Asian?”
“I really don’t know, and I don’t think they do either. That’s been bothering me too. They say they’ve never seen his skin. He wears all black, and I think he wears a metal mask.” Stalker held up a hand quickly as he saw the expressions on both faces. “I know what you’re thinking, but I’m serious. It’s what they believe. And he has strong ju ju.”
Claymore swore and turned away.
“If anyone needs me I’ll be in the Ops Room, tracking Falcon’s progress. He’s found a brick road. Stalker found a tin man. These guys believe in wizards. Maybe we’ll find some flying monkeys.”
07-29-2012, 09:59 AM
21 1034A Mar 20XX
The brick road started a couple of kilometres east of the destroyed camp. The jungle canopy had been knitted together overhead to conceal it from the air. Falcon’s patrol had carefully skirted the road, and after twelve kilometres passed an abandoned kiln. Although the heavy foliage was limiting the effectiveness of GPS, through compass bearings and pacing he was charting the road for future map updates.
“Who lays brick roads in the jungle?” whispered Tunnel Rat.
“The Brits did in the Second World War. General Slim had local labourers build the Burma Road through jungle and over mountains. It was his logistical lifeline.”
“Huh.” Tunnel Rat spat. “You were wondering where the men were. You think they were press ganged into building this road?”
Lt Falcon turned and stared Tunnel Rat in the eyes.
“You know, that’s not a bad theory.” He checked his watch, and then turned to Recoil.
“Next kiln we see, lay a UGS on it. Now, let’s get moving.”
Recoil nodded, caught everyone’s eye to make sure they were ready, and resumed the patrol’s advance.
21 2030A Mar 20XX
Sneak Peak and Recoil peered through the foliage at the cluster of weapons systems. They had found a trail branching off the brick road, leading up a ridgeline. Along the top they found what appeared to be an anti-aircraft cluster, consisting of a radar, a Vamp with Strelets, two twin large calibre gun systems, and two twin gatling guns. There were also a few poorly camouflaged trenches and a cluster of tents. They estimated a small platoon for local security. Lt Falcon and the rest of the patrol were several hundred metres back under cover, building an expedient HF antenna as quietly as possible while Lt Falcon transcribed a sitrep into Morse code. Given the proximity to enemy, noise discipline was crucial. Low Light had systematically prepared image intensifying and thermal night sights and was now studying the ground, selecting a route for a stalk into a night OP.
21 2200A Mar 20XX
Hawk rubbed his face. Backblast was drawing rings on a map around the site identified by Falcon.
“Judging by the terrain, the route of that road, and the location of this one site, I’m going to extrapolate that there’s something worth defending in this low ground. Maybe an airfield. Note that it’s got reasonable proximity to water and to an old narrow gauge railroad track. Assuming two other air defence locations, they’ve got a bubble around the valley out to a radius of over twenty kilometres, and to several thousand feet. A high level bombardment will be immune, but inaccurate. Cruise missiles will be vulnerable. Low-level strike will be vulnerable. Air assault will be cut to pieces.”
“We have no idea what kind of radar is covering the area. We can hump in some instruments, but it will be days before we have any idea. Same for intercepting radio comms. And chances are these guys have hardwired the place with fibre optics.”
Hawk nodded and turned to Torpedo and Steeler.
“Start working plans for water and ground insertion. The initial objectives are the likely air defence and outer perimeter security installations. Then we’ll work infiltration routes into the heart.” He pointed to Claymore. “Have Falcon recon one of the other suspected air defence locations. I know we’re pushing his endurance. Live with it.” He turned to Dial Tone. “Get me the Jugglers. I need to discuss support options.
21 2350A Mar 20XX
The video teleconference line was fuzzy but workable.
“General Malthus, I think we’re getting close to your objective. As you’ve no doubt seen, we’re discovering some interesting arms transactions out here. We’re also getting close to something protected by air defence. We still have a lot of recon to do, but I want to prepare supporting fires if anything goes wrong, or if you direct me to assault an objective.”
The man on the screen frowned.
“You know the limits of what we can provide,” he said. “But we do have a carrier group transiting the west coast of Africa. Get in touch with Admiral Colby. I’ll make sure he knows to expect your request, and the appropriate security classification of message traffic handling. Out.”
22 0810A Mar 20XX
Admiral Colby was not happy.
“Listen Colonel, I think you need to understand what I can and cannot do. I’ve got four strike fighter squadrons, with about forty jets that I can put in the air. My Super Hornets have a combat radius of about 700 kilometres. Your proposed targets are twice that distance from the coast, so I need to cut back on the number of planes I can give you in order to put up jets with buddy tankers. Now you tell me there’s an air defence threat. That means I need Growlers, so more buddy tankers. And you tell me there are MiG 21s – not a critical threat, but they call for dedicated escorts, so more buddy tankers. In order to give you a few ground attack planes I need to commit just about my whole wing, and do it over a country we aren’t engaged in hostilities with. How exactly am I supposed to explain that one to the ambassador, when he starts asking questions? And how do I protect this carrier group while they’re all off chasing your jungle ghosts?”
“I acknowledge your concerns Admiral,” Hawk replied. “I’m not asking for specific support at this time. I’m trying to make you aware of what I may require in the coming days. But thank you for your capability assessment.”
Hawk signed off.
“Tell Short Fuze I want a fire plan with proposed mortar base plate locations in order to suppress those air defence locations and support any planned assault.”
Steeler and Torpedo walked into the room.
“Hawk, we’ve been running through some ideas. We’ve come up with something a bit unusual, but which we think will work.”
07-30-2012, 10:47 AM
This is awesome, I can't wait to read more!!! ;)
07-30-2012, 03:42 PM
25 2330A Mar 20XX
Breathe. Scan. Breathe. Scan. In five, four, three, two, and blink to block out flash of first explosion. First target, stunned, exhale, squeeze, one. Scan. Breathe, there – shouting instructions – exhale, squeeze, two. Scan, Breathe, there – machine gunner – exhale, squeeze, three. Scan. Breathe. Scan. Antenna. Trace it – a helmet. Pause. He rises. Exhale, squeeze, four. Scan. Breathe. That rat is a fighter. Squeeze. Five. Replace magazine. Another shouter, rallying a section. Exhale, squeeze, one. Breathe. Time to change locations. Sink into the ground, push backwards. Left, around four trunks and tangle ferns. Up behind fallen log. Breathe. Scan. Another machine gunner. Exhale, squeeze, two. Scan. Attention is still focussed on Falcon. Another fighter. Exhale, squeeze, three. Breathe. Those incoming rounds are still feet away. There’s the gunner. Exhale, squeeze, four. Ah, a section attack. Exhale, squeeze, five. Slide back, roll, left past two trunks, right past three, around one, step over the ditch, change magazines, sling rifle and draw Uzi. There are four types of expedient traps in the jungle. They strangle, dangle, tangle and mangle. Turn and kneel. The lead pursuer hits the ditch and stumbles, setting off the deadfall. Mangle. Two more stop in horror. Exhale. Squeeze. Squeeze. Turn, five trunks, left, two trunks, turn and kneel. Two more pursuers. Some rats are born fighters. These rats were lazy and undisciplined. No clearance patrols, no listening posts, but they are natural fighters. But natural fighters can’t defeat punji stakes. Mangle. Exhale. Squeeze. Squeeze. Breathe. Scan. Some rats are cowards. They don’t pursue. They hide. Time to return to the main fight.
Short Fuze reconfirmed the bearings and elevation. He checked his watch, held up a hand, and . . .
Three bombs rattled down tubes, then launched out. Three more rattled down, and three more. Short Fuze watched the display of the UGS laid on the first air defence location. Seconds passed, then explosions burst in the midst of the sleeping troops. There was a mad scramble.
They adjusted knobs, and dropped three more bombs down each tube.
“Dismantle, and back to the barge!”
Dial Tone monitored the frequency scanners.
He listened intently and smiled.
“They’re calling for a quick reaction force.”
Past six trunks, and into the hollow of old roots. Scan. That platoon is combat ineffective. No leaders, no support weapons, just frightened rats trying to hide. Scan. Two large-calibre air defence systems are trying to get enough depression to engage us. They can’t. Exhale, squeeze, one. No effect. The glass canopy is thick. Scan. Twin gatling guns, also trying to depress. No protection for the gunner there. Exhale, squeeze, two. The jeep is moving. They’ve hitched to a gun system. Exhale, squeeze, three. They will be slow on the run-flat tire. Scan. Breathe.
26 0042A Mar 20XX
The ground began to rumble.
“A jeep and two tanks are five hundred metres ahead of the main body,” came over the air. Beach Head let them pass. Trip Wire pulled on a cord, and a necklace of mines snaked across the road. The rumble grew louder, and light tanks came into sight. The lead tank was rocked in cloud in dust and smoke as it struck the mines. Zap, Bazooka, Fast Draw, Salvo and Footloose fired off anti-tank rounds, and the remainder of the column started to burn. Further back on the trail, Wet Suit pulled a second necklace of mines across the road to isolate the burning tanks. Blowtorch fired an MRO-A into the middle truck of infantry. Leatherneck, Gung Ho, Muskrat and Torpedo started engaging the other two, pouring 5.56 and 40mm grenades into vehicles. Beach Head signalled, and Tollbooth put the bulldozer in gear. He crashed through the trees and did a pivot turn. Barbeque stepped forward and doused one of the tanks with foam, and Bazooka and Fast Draw attached tow cables to it. Tollbooth took up the slack, and started towing the damaged light tank to the water. The dismounts collapsed the ambush and covered the movement down to the water.
The air shrieks. Artillery. What are they thinking, calling in arty along a ridge? Hug the earth, and feel the explosions. They fired long, landing hundreds of metres in our depth. The next rounds will be short, falling harmlessly on the other side of the ridgeline. Keep scanning.
“We’ve got arty falling in the vicinity of Falcon’s position. No enemy air yet. Radar is backtracking . . . got it!”
“Send the grids,” he said.
Three jets screamed up the river, flying only feet above the water. The PC-7 and one of the Hawks each carried 500-pound bombs, while the other Hawk carried air-to-air missiles. They broke over the trees heading towards the grids provided by the counter-battery radar. Skystriker and Dogfight each released their loads, and nine bombs fell in a tight cluster. As they pulled away, Slipstream noted secondary explosions, then returned his attention to watching for enemy air threats, while an EW pod soaked up all electromagnetic transmissions in the area.
Scan and breathe. The rats are too disorganised to pursue. Target: exhale, squeeze, four. Check left and right. The team is bounding back. Find Tunnel Rat. We will cover the withdrawal.
07-31-2012, 11:07 AM
27 1400A Mar 20XX
“It’s incredible, isn’t it?”
Tollbooth and Cover Girl nodded in agreement. The chassis, the power pack, the final drive, and whole suspension – they were identical, if reversed, to the Ares bulldozer.
“I think we’ve got some proof that Ares is involved in arms dealing,” said Steeler. “It’s a fascinating design.”
“You would think it would be top heavy going down slopes,” noted Heavy Metal, “but the high clearance, low ground pressure, and position of the crew away from the lead point of contact make this vehicle very resistant to mines and IEDs.”
“The armour is well sloped. I bet it’s resistant to 25mm. And the twin cannons are pretty nasty too. Not much depression, but great elevation. Only problem is the lack of a coax for dealing with infantry, and the small ammo capacity.”
“Sure,” acknowledged Heavy Metal, “but it’s light enough to be transported inside a heavy helo like a Stallion, and is easy to resupply. Simple to maintain. The fire control system is basic but reliable. It’s like the budget version of the Wiesel.”
“So how do we defend against it? We’ve already seen them used in company level attacks.”
“That’s the key question, Steeler,” came a voice from behind them. They turned to see Hawk enter the maintenance tent.
“Evidently these guys, either Ares or Cobra, have developed a cheap light tank with lots of interchangeable parts with bulldozers. I’m curious to know who they’re marketing to, but right now I want to know how to consistently kill them. We got the jump on them with that anti-armour ambush, but we won’t get many of those opportunities.”
“Maybe we should get our own tanks,” suggested Steeler.
“I’ve considered that. I’ve also considered the logistical burden that would impose, and I’m not convinced.”
“Anti-tank missiles?” Proposed Heavy Metal.
“The jungle is hard on them,” countered Hawk.
“Thought of that too,” said Hawk. “But smart anti-armour rounds are prohibitively expensive, and so far we’ve only got mortars.”
“Well, I think we should be mounting a missile like Javelin or Milan on each of the Vamps, or at the very least get our hands on some recoilless rifles,” said Steeler.
“I agree. Come up with a list. It may be time to go shopping again,” said Hawk.
“I have an idea,” said Flash. “I’ve been tinkering with some robots for a while, based on the Talon design. Shipwreck has been helping me with some of the metal work. They aren’t autonomous, but offer a protected way to get observation and fire on a target. So far I’ve only tried equipping them with M249s, but I think I could easily work a dual or quad mount for something like a MATADOR. If we build a bunch of them we could use them for defensive purposes, or maybe to lead an assault.”
Hawk was silent for a moment.
“Ok. Get a prototype together and show me. There might be some merit to the idea.”
27 1500A Mar 20XX
Slipstream, Scarlett and Mainframe reviewed the data from the bombing run on the artillery position.
“They have really good camouflage. Gun cameras really don’t pick up anything. If it weren’t for the counter-battery grids and the secondary explosions, I’d have thought we’d just moved some earth around.”
Scarlett pursed her lips.
“I’m thinking you probably damaged or destroyed two guns and an ammo truck. But you’re right – it’s hard to tell.”
“There wasn’t much electronic chatter either. We were definitely painted by radar, though intermittently, as we flew up and down the river. They never got a lock on us, though. We were really low!”
“I’m trying to find an electronic match to those signals. So far I’m not getting anything,” said Mainframe.
“We need Hawk’s help with this. He’s got a strong background in radar,” said Scarlett.
“Maybe Backblast too. He’s strong in this field.”
At that moment Hawk entered.
“I’m interested in your findings,” he said, rubbing his hands. “Glad I caught you here,” he said to Slipstream. “I’ve just received a signal from the Flagg carrier group. Although they can’t provide us with air support, they are going to provide a liaison officer. He’s some hotshot pilot who started out in the Air Force and has been seconded to the Navy for a couple of years. I think Admiral Colby just wants to learn more about our op and the potential threats here, but we’ll make the best use of him. So, do you guys have any spare planes he might be able to fly out here?”
“We aren’t exactly that kind of organization,” we said, “but once we meet this pilot we’ll make an assessment.”
“In the meantime, what can you tell me about the radars we’re up against?”
27 2345A Mar 20XX
Topside scanned the shore line through thermal binos. The pickup time was 2300. They were late. He canted his head left and right to work the kinks out of his neck. The last twenty four hours had been hectic. Inserting and recovering the mortar team, inserting and recovering the tank-hunting team, along with a captured damaged light tank. Inserting Recondo, Outback, Hit & Run, Dial Tone, Spirit and Mutt & Junkyard to maintain contact with the Cobra forces and to see how they responded to the raids. And now, trying to recover Falcon’s patrol. There – in the mangroves, three flashes. He replied with two, and then made out one of the figures waving. He pointed the nose towards the shore and started to advance. Those boys deserved a quiet couple of days. They climbed aboard, filthy and exhausted. He backed out into the river current, and watched Falcon start to inspect each man for medical issues.
“Hey, check that footlocker,” Topside said to Sneak Peak, pointing to the bow. “We figured you’d been on half rations for a couple of days. The burgers are probably cold by now, but there are some heat packs in there too.”
08-01-2012, 11:09 AM
30 1100A Mar 20XX
Recondo wiped sweat from his eyes and swore to himself. They had spent three days avoiding Cobra patrols while trying to work their way into whatever it was that the air defence systems were protecting. The Cobra forces had clearly been rattled by the raids, and the air was constantly buzzing with mini-choppers, while mounted and dismounted patrols manoeuvred frequently. Random harassing artillery fire hit vacant jungle, possibly sowing unattended ground sensors. Getting in was tough. Getting out would be even harder. He had narrowed down the likely location to four grid squares, which was large enough an area to challenge a battalion, let alone a six man patrol. Lacking the supplies to stay out long enough to properly cover those four grid squares, Recondo decided to move towards the area of highest patrolling density, on the premise that this was where the patrols originated and ended. The six men and Junkyard lay silent as several soldiers on ATVs drove slowly by along a tiny trail about fifty metres to their west. They waited several minutes, then slowly began snipping a patch through the thick undergrowth. Junkyard tensed, and the patrol went to ground. Sounds of machetes hacking through the bush came from their north-east. Recondo tensed, and then the sounds stopped, to be replaced by the sound of a zipper, and then the sound of escaping bodily gasses.
“This estas mia lasta patrol. Mi am titolo al Sudan al labori kun kolonelo Sharrif. Mi cannot atendi al akiri out da this jungle.”
“Lucky. Mi am stuck here por ses pli monato car mi failed Eel training.”
They lay silently until the sounds of wiping and zippers were finished, and the heavy footsteps receeded. Recondo angled towards the direction of the sounds. A couple of dozen slow metres later he found two steaming piles of fresh feces and some crumpled up paper that looked torn from a paperback novel. He pulled a couple of ziplock bags from his kit and took samples. Hit & Run make a look of disgust and mimed gagging. Outback put a hand on his shoulder and whispered in his ear.
“Might as well give Doc and Lifeline something to do out here besides check for athletes foot and crotch rot!”
Spirit held a finger to his mouth, and took point, continuing to move after the pair of Cobra soldiers, who had noisily rejoined their patrol.
30 1200A Mar 20XX
Short Fuze walked around the perimeter of his small firebase. They had exchanged their three 81mm mortars for two MO-120-RT for the extra range required to support Recondo’s patrol. Thunder, Grand Slam and Downtown had carefully sited the heavy mortars under Hawk’s supervision, and were currently dozing in the gun pits. Dee-Jay monitored the radio, while Clutch, Dusty and Bazooka rotated sentry duties. The two Vamps and the Unimog were well hidden in the trees, but with machine guns ready to bear. They were also testing one of Flash’s armed robots – he had taken to calling them PAC-RATS – with its optics and weapon pushed fifty metres down their egress route. Short Fuze took one more look at the overhead cam net, looked at his watch, and walked over to Dee-Jay.
“They should be sending a sitrep in four minutes. Make sure you update their location and expected direction of travel.”
Dee-Jay stared at Short Fuze.
“Just like I’ve been doing every hour for the last couple of days? Relax – just because we’re all getting a little sleep deprived doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how to do my job.”
“Hey!” Short Fuze snapped, his face turning red. “Don’t tell me to relax – we’re the only fire support Recondo has.”
Clutch trotted over.
“Keep it down. Remember the noise discipline. Remember Short Fuze, we can’t help Recondo if we bring a Cobra patrol down on us.”
Short Fuze took a couple of deep breaths, and Dee-Jay held up a hand.
“The sitrep should be coming in a few minutes. I’ll wave you over and let you know the grids.”
Short Fuze nodded and walked back to the truck to inspect the ammo load again, muttering to himself.
“I wish we could also cover the airstrip where Hawk has set up temporary base.”
08-02-2012, 11:25 AM
31 2115A Apr 20XX
Spirit stared at the sky, then held his head to Recondo’s ear.
“Helicopters – lots of them.”
Within fifteen minutes the sounds of helicopters landing about eight hundred metres to their east drowned any other sound. Recondo signalled to Dial Tone to initiate a sitrep. He then motioned for the patrol to move in the direction of the sounds.
01 0120A Apr 20XX
Recondo shook his head. They had found the Cobra camp, a clearing concealed from aerial observation by large overhead camouflage that had been pulled aside. Ten heavy helicopters were in that clearing. Five had already left, sling-loading light tanks, and had returned. Additional light tanks were being prepared for sling load, while the better part of an infantry battalion was doing final load inspections before embarking.
01 0145A Apr 20XX
Bazooka heard the rumble of a heavy helicopter, and through his thermal sight saw its lumbering frame, sling-loading blivets of fuel, pass overhead and land some distance away. A short while later, coming from the river, a dozen mini-choppers flew towards the landing site. He nudged Dee-Jay awake.
“Call in a sitrep. Cobra is setting up a forward arming and refuelling point, and is moving mini-choppers into position. They’re going to attack something big.”
Dee-Jay nodded, wiped sleep from his eyes, and reached for the radio.
01 0217A Apr 20XX
Sneak Peak raised his hand and dropped slowly to a knee. He raised a thermal sight to his eye and scanned. Nothing. But he was sure there was something out there. Maybe a snake. Recoil stepped forward to Sneak Peak’s side, and sniffed. He raised his rifle to his shoulder, and whispered in Sneak Peak’s ear.
“Toothpaste.” He pointed just off to the front left.
Zap, Tunnel Rat and Leatherneck readied their weapons. Sneak Peak motioned for them to close their eyes, then he pulled a flare from his kit. Instead of aiming it into the air he aimed it in the direction Recoil had pointed. He twisted the base, and the flare rocketed into the jungle, the magnesium igniting in a dazzlingly bright light. Crashes and swearing came from the front, and the clearance patrol opened fire on full automatic. Zap pulled an M72 from his back, extended it, and fired it into the middle of the enemy patrol, the explosion adding to the chaos. Sneak Peak and Recoil bounded forward, followed by Tunnel Rat and Zap. Leatherneck moved through the middle, firing a 40mm grenade in the direction of more sounds.
“Fix bayonets!” he shouted.
Firing ceased for moments, while the ‘snic’ of bayonets attaching to lugs rang impossibly loud.
“Sneak Peak and Recoil, clear the trench!” There was no trench, but the meaning was clear.
They hit the ground and the concussion of the grenade rocked them. Sneak Peak yelled, and started driving his bayonet into figures.
The others swept past the position, searching for additional enemy. Leatherneck found one ten metres away, badly wounded, struggling to raise his rifle. Leatherneck fired two quick rounds and then drove his bayonet in the figure’s eye.
Tunnel Rat shuddered at the sight.
“The eye?” he asked.
Leatherneck wiped the bayonet clean.
“The chest is protected by web gear and ribs. The belly grips the blade. The eye always gives."
Hawk ran into the ops tent in the camp. Claymore and Night Flight looked up.
“We have heavy helicopters in Recondo’s objective area loading a battalion of infantry and sling loading light tanks. Across the river and fifteen clicks from here we have a FARP* with a squadron plus of mini-choppers. Our clearance patrol just destroyed a four man Cobra reconnaissance team. We’re the target.”
Hawk looked quickly at the map.
“The main objective is probably the aircraft. What’s their status?”
The Hip and Transport are both down for maintenance and can’t be moved. Bob and Lola need another six hours on the engines. The jets are ready to go, and we’re changing the armament to air-to-air.”
“Ok. Unless they plan to land right on the strip, the best places are here and here.” He pointed to clearings two kilometres north. “The ground is pretty close, and they’ll have to cross that little creek, but there are trails that the tanks can use. Push a mixed anti-tank, engineer and machine gun team down there. Build abatis and other obstacles. I’ll command that group. Claymore, put together a smaller infantry team and prepare fall back positions. Now, half a kilometre north of us there’s a ford across the river. Stalker, take a team across the river and defend on the far side of the ford.” He turned back to Claymore. “Contact Wild Bill. If he’s anywhere nearby his help will be invaluable. But we can’t let the enemy get to the airfield.”
“My guys will protect the planes on the ground,” said Night Flight. “We’re all accustomed to ground defence, and we’ve got a lot of firepower for a small group. I just ask that Back Blast and Rampart stay close. Big Ben will augment them – we have a MANPAD** and he’s been itching to give it a go.”
“Want me to have Recondo call a fire mission on that form up point?” Asked Claymore.
Hawk thought it over.
“No. Don’t compromise his position. I still want to know what’s so important to be ringed with air defence. We’ll shell them on their way home.”
* FARP - Forward Arming and Refuelling Point
** MANPAD - Man Portable Air Defence
08-03-2012, 12:52 PM
01 0330A Apr 20XX
Zap and Tunnel Rat finished wrapping trees with det cord.
“Fire in the hole!”
Several dozen trees fell in rapid succession, criss-crossing the trails. Trip Wire started lacing the lead edges with mines and booby traps. Zap grabbed several rolls of cattle wire and headed to the flanks to start laying low wire entanglements.
Lt Falcon was laying out the defensive position, when Rock n Roll approached him.
“Why aren’t we using the tripods? I can site these MGs to provide better coverage than just interspersing them along the frontage, or putting them at the cardinal points of a patrol base.”
“Yes. Haven’t you ever prepared an MG overlay?”
Falcon took a deep breath.
“No. Show me.”
“Well, here’s how it works, and I’ll give you the manual to read up on after this scrap is over. Instead of putting the guns forward, put them on the backside of that little feature there. They’ll be in a defilade position, but can be used against helicopters, and we can put them on a series of firing lines to put massed indirect fire on the enemy.”
“Huh. Thanks. I was only in an infantry battalion very briefly, and we kept our crew served weapons mounted on HMMVWs.”
Rock n Roll sighed.
“That’s typical these days, and lazy. I, on the other hand, had a crusty old top who cut his teeth on the Browning M1917.”
In the near distance, Ripcord turned to Hit & Run
“The Lt was probably reading up on Valley Forge when they covered sustained fire at Benning.”
“Well it’s all about the revolution, man! No one ever won one from a prepared defence.”
Lt Falcon returned to laying out firing positions, and Rock n Roll trotted over to Ripcord and Tunnel Rat. He grabbed them both by the collars and pulled them close to his face.
“It stops now. Got it?”
Tunnel Rat started to protest, and Rock n Roll squeezed tighter. He and Ripcord both nodded.
“Good. Now get the tripods and twenty cans of 4B1T* per gun and run them over to that knoll. Remove all the tracer from three boxes.” He dropped them and turned away, heading towards Steeler, who was examining run up positions for the jeeps. Tollbooth and Cross Country had the loader and bulldozer preparing fighting holes and vehicle positions.
01 0530A Apr 20XX
Topside smiled. The radios were blanketed with static. They were being jammed. He adjusted sensors to get a bearing on the source of the jamming, and then he picked up the field phone.
Rampart stared into the sky through massive nautical binoculars.
“Looks like four MiG 21s at five thousand feet, and four Harriers coming in low.”
“The Harriers are the targets,” said Back Blast.
Rampart and Big Ben nodded, readying their missiles. They waited for what felt like an eternity, and then had tones in their ears.
Three missiles raced towards the Harriers, evidently catching the pilots by surprise. The planes broke formation, launching flares and chaff and manoeuvring violently. Two of the pilots jettisoned their bomb loads in order to lighten the planes, and the bombs detonated harmlessly in the jungle. Backblast had already acquired another target and launched a fourth missile, while the other two were loading new tubes and cooling units. Two Harriers were trailing smoke, and all dispersed while the MiGs circled back to continue to provide top cover. Suddenly the MiGs themselves started manoeuvring erratically, as Slipstream, Skystriker and Dogfight launched air-to-air missiles of their own.
Rock n Roll could see the aerial explosions of the jets fight, but his focus was down river. He saw the specks before he heard the whine of the small engines and the beating of the rotors. He turned to Tunnel Rat and Crazy Legs and signalled for them to get ready. The flight of mini helicopters got closer, and at 800 metres they opened fire, using the belts without tracer. The first indication the pilots had of incoming fire was when four helicopters exploded. The remainder scrambled for altitude, flying into the gun sights of two Vamps. Machine gun fire caught the mini-choppers in the flanks, downing another two and damaging several more. The mini-choppers turned and retreated down river.
01 0615A Apr 20XX
Two light tanks, flanked by two sections of infantry, moved to the edge of the creek. They examined the near bank, waited for two more tanks to move up and adopt fire positions, and started to cross. Zap, Fast Draw, Footloose and Salvo squeezed the triggers on their Carl Gustav recoilless rifles, and the four tanks exploded. Wet Suit, Torpedo, Gung Ho and Muskrat engaged the infantry with a mix of light machine gun and 40mm grenade fire, covering the withdrawal of the anti-tank teams on ATVs. Two more light tanks pushed to the creek and starting lacing the now-unoccupied anti-tank positions with 20mm cannon fire, while an infantry platoon starting pouring speculative fire up and down the banks. Torpedo pulled his team back. They piled into the HMMVW and withdrew to firing positions covering the abatis. Minutes after they left heavy artillery fell along the creek.
“They should have had that planned before they even hit the creek,” muttered Torpedo. “These Cobras are pretty mixed quality.”
As they reached the abatis, Torpedo caught Hawk’s eye.
“They’re coming. Four tanks destroyed.”
Hawk nodded. The anti tank gunners were adopting positions along the abatis. Torpedo took his troops to their secondary position under Claymore.
01 0700A Apr 20XX
The lead infantry section came into view, hugging the sides of the trail in ack ack formation, likely with additional sections on the flanks in the trees. When they hit the open fire line, Hardball dropped six 40mm grenades along their line of march, and Scarlett and Low Light squeezed the triggers of their XM2010 and Tac-300 respectively. Hawk eyed the feeds of the unattended ground sensors laid along likely rally points, and saw two being occupied by depth troops. He picked up his field phone and contacted Rock n Roll.
Rock n Roll put down the field phone and turned to his firing line.
“Target three.” He quickly checked they all had the right bearing and elevation. “Fire!” The three machine guns each fired fifty rounds, and Hit n Run dropped five bombs down the 60mm mortar. A light tank pushed forward spitting 20mm cannon fire. Fast Draw fired off an 84mm round, then ducked for cover as fire from several machine guns converged on the location of his back blast. Low Light and Scarlett followed the streams of tracer back to their origins and started sniping the gunners.
01 0740A Apr 20XX
A mine detonated in the distance, and Bazooka adjusted the elevation on the Vamp’s twin machine guns and fired off a long burst. Several minutes later a light tank crept around a corner, and Bazooka fired a Milan missile. Heavy Metal fired a burst of 40mm grenades from the APC, followed by a burst of heavy machine gun fire, in order to suppress the infantry trying to engage the Vamp. Bazooka pulled back into the trees and scooted through the covered route he’d prepared earlier, moving to an alternate position. The sounds of infantry getting hung up on a low wire entanglement signalled Stalker to detonate four claymores covering that obstacle. A PAC-RAT laced the other side of the trail with 7.62mm fire while Bazooka dismounted a Carl Gustav, lined up a second light tank trying to push the burning lead tank off the trail, and fired.
01 0815A Apr 20XX
Lady Jaye plotted positions in the command post when Topside turned to her.
“We’re getting intermittent breaks in the jamming. I think it’s an arty-delivered device that got banged up in flight. Recondo is reporting heavy helos moving back to his location to pick up a second wave.
“Do you have comms with Short Fuze?”
“Put a fire mission on that clearing.”
01 0817A Apr 20XX
Two 120mm mortar bombs flew towards the Cobra clearing. Just over a minute later they heard a weak radio signal with a correction. The adjusted the bearing and elevation slightly and fired off four more rounds.
“Switch to secondary aiming point!”
The crews rapidly applied a new fire mission point, and then each tube fired a white phosphorus round into a pre-designated point in the jungle. The crews swiftly dug out the base plates and hitched the mortars to the Vamps, and the small group moved to a secondary base plate position.
“Hopefully the smoke from those WP** rounds confuses Cobra, making them think that’s our firing position and keeps their air force shooting up empty jungle.”
01 0837A Apr 20XX
Uncoordinated heavy artillery had been falling around Hawk’s main position for several minutes as Cobra infantry tried to find a way to outflank the defensive position. Ripcord and and Hardball had been pulled back with shrapnel wounds in the arms and legs. Fire slackened, and a Cobra soldier stood up, holding a mega-phone. He called through it in heavily accented English.
“Surrender now, and we will let you live. Keep fighting, and we will sell the survivors into slavery.”
Hawk grunted and turned to Rock n Roll.
“You see a flag of truce there?”
Hawk raised an M14 to his shoulder and fired. The spokesman’s head snapped backwards and he crumpled to the ground. Hawk swore and adjusted his sights.
“I was aiming for his chest.”
He scanned the battlefield to his front and picked up a field phone.
“Claymore – we’re holding the line, but they’re trying to turn my left flank. Come forward and reinforce my left.”
01 0905A Apr 20XX
Barbeque fired two quick rounds at the fleeting figure to his front. The PAC-RAT covering the flank had been destroyed, and they had detonated almost all of the command mines they’d emplaced, but enemy fire was starting to slacken. Off to his left he heard the Cross Country put the APC in gear, with Heavy Metal hammering 14.5mm into enemy pockets. Then he heard Stalker’s yell.
01 0915A Apr 20XX
A blast came from the tree line, and an incoming anti-tank round arced through the air, exploding on the fencing the air crew had erected around the grounded aircraft. Bob and Lola had almost finished with the engines, but they dropped their tools, leapt behind sandbag walls, pulled M60s to their shoulders, and started firing into the trees. Big Ben laid down his MANPAD, grabbed an FN MAG and added to the volume of fire. He turned to the two mechanics and grineed.
“Once a grunt, always a grunt,” replied Bob, firing off another burst. "We've been doing our own Phoenix Raven work security since start up."
Skymate started aimed through his Steyr AUG, and Back Stop pulled out a sniper rifle. He scanned the tree line, made out the movement of a rocket launcher being reloaded, and squeezed. A good chunk of tree splintered, and the figure jerked backwards. He pumped the next round into the chamber and fired at more movement. Lift Ticket and Windmill grabbed Rampart.
“Come with us to cover the other side of the field in case this is a diversion.”
“They’re just beyond my effective range. Looks like they’re pulling back.”
Big Ben, Skymate, Back Stop and Back Blast started quickly moving towards the tree line while Bob and Lola continued to provide suppressing fire. They passed one dead Cobra soldier, wearing a camouflage uniform, a buoyancy control device, a dive mask around his neck, and with fins attached to his belt. Big Ben noted the dive computer on a wrist, dive watch attached to the BCD*** and the FN P90, satchel charge, and unfired Panzerfaust 3 round lying on the ground. Back Stop held up a hand and pointed to the ground.
“M86 PDM.”**** He waved them around the device, then paused at a second one. He squatted, staring at the ground.
“There’s a grenade on a trip wire there, and a couple of blood tracks. Two guys are being helped along.”
“I think they did a poor estimate and brought short-range weapons only,” said Big Ben. “Normally not a problem in the trees. Bit of a problem when you show up at the wrong end of an airfield.”
They continued their advance carefully, speeding up as they heard the sound of motors at the water. By the time they got to the river’s edge, ten strangely shaped two-man boats were racing up river. Back Stop raised his rifle and fired. One of the boats shuddered and starting smoking. The two divers rolled off and started swimming, and clung to the sides of other boats, and the disabled boat started drifting back towards them with the current before sinking.
“Man, are you firing explosive rounds?” asked Back Blast.
“.338 Lapua. It’s a Timberwolf rifle.”
“I always thought you were a poseur with that rifle, but you really are a sniper.”
“Nope. LAV driver and gunner, mountain ops, advanced recce, para, arctic ops advisor, but never a sniper. But I grew up hunting when I wasn’t playing hockey. My uncle, Ogie Oglethorpe, after he was banned from every hockey league in North America, set up a hunting and guiding business in Northern Quebec. Moose, deer, the odd bear, geese, pheasant, great fishing. I spent a lot of time up there with him.”
Big Ben grunted.
“I’ll have to see if I can get you an AWM to try.”
01 0940A Apr 20XX
Gung Ho fired three high explosive rounds into the trees. Figures bolted from the cover, right into the line of Muskrat’s light machine gun. Wet Suit manned the HMMVW’s .50 cal, shredding potential enemy cover. Torpedo fired at a snap target, then shouted to Claymore.
“I think WE can turn THEM. We should push forward to that next feature.” He pointed to a low crest through the trees.
Claymore gave him an ‘ok’ signal and waved his hand forward.
Stalker changed magazines and shouted to the men on his flanks to keep moving, when he realized that what he was pushing back had just been an advance guard. At least a full reinforced company was moving towards him. He started to yell to everyone to go firm when something that felt like a sledgehammer struck him in the chest. He was staring up at the sky, fighting for breath, trying to figure out where he was. Flash fired a burst when he saw Stalker fall.
Recoil rushed over under the cover of the Vamp’s machine guns, when a round punched through his lead leg. He crumpled.
Blowtorch fired an MRO, and the fireball provided momentary cover for Barbeque and Sneak Peak to drag the downed troops to cover.
“Get ‘em in the APC.”
With heavy machine gun fire ripping over their heads, they unceremoniously heaved the casualties into the back of the carrier, where Barbeque started performing immediate aid.
Blowtorch fired another flame rocket, and then un-slung his rifle and started firing bursts on automatic.
“Fall back!” He shouted. The thin line began to collapse under the weight of the Cobra advance.
Across the river, Hawk noted the change in tenor of the fight, and then saw Cobra troops emerging from the trees and moving across the marshy bank, pursuing Stalker’s force. He signalled to Rock n Roll, who had his machine guns shift fire to catch that force in the flank. Fast Draw caught sight of a light tank, and fired a Milan across the river at it. The Cobra counter-attack faltered as soldiers scrambled for cover from this new threat. A ripple of explosions first to Hawk’s front caused him to duck, and then he saw a Hind sweep over the river, pouring 80mm rockets into the Cobra troops. A Texan drawl broke the air.
“Nice of y’all to leave me a couple of targets. Let me know if anyone else needs perforating today!”
01 1020A Apr 20XX
Dial Tone whispered into his radio.
“Sitrep – enemy helicopters are NOT, I say again NOT, landing in this clearing. They are continuing east. This site appears to be deserted. We are conducting a clearance sweep, over.”
“Lady Jaye acknowledged, out.”
Hawk took a long drink from his canteen, poured some water on his face, and wiped the grime and cam paint with a bandanna. With the end of the jamming, he radioed all elements, pushing forward to a new defensive along the creek where the first shots had been fired.
03 1400A Apr 20XX
“I’m please to tell you that Stalker and Recoil will make it, though they’re on bed rest for a week and light duties for at least two weeks following that,” said Doc. “The other half dozen walking wounded, all from artillery, will be fine in another day or two. On a different note, Lifeline and I also ran some tests on the stool samples Recondo so thoughtfully brought back for us, and on a few of the bodies recovered from the battlefield. In short, they all show signs of childhood malnutrition, are currently on a diet of rice, legumes, vegetables, tuna and yogurt, and have been abusing performance enhancing drugs and supplements. The dietary exception is that frogman commando and the reconnaissance patrol Leatherneck and Sneak Peak stabbed to death. They were eating a lot of meat. Oh, and the ‘toilet paper,’ you recovered?” He looked over at Recondo. “That was pages from an Esperanto translation of a science fiction book. The Wasp, by Eric Russell.”
Hawk made an annotation on his notes. Flash stepped forward.
“Wet Suit and Torpedo recovered a kind of boat from the river. It had a few markings on it. One was “Hydro-Sled.” Several other parts had markings that Mainframe has been tracing. A couple point us to a small company called M.A.R.S. Industries. Alpine is working on linking them to our riddle inside a puzzle. Analysis of weapons recovered from the battlefield is consistent with previous findings. Probably not much further to be gained there. Lt Falcon led a patrol to recover the arty-borne jammer. I’ve been examining that with all the comms guys. It’s completely unfamiliar to us. We need more time to figure it out. The site Recondo patrolled was simply a forward staging base. Supplies not withdrawn by air were torched. No further intel from that location.”
Lady Jaye took over.
“Recondo’s patrol overheard a conversation referencing a Colonel Sharrif in Sudan. I’ve been doing analysis on this. I believe he heads a faction based in South Sudan though not affiliated with that government, and which has been involved in several attacks across the Sahel. We’re trying to recreate flight traffic associated with Cobra to South Sudan to figure out the base location.”
Hawk rubbed his chin.
“I need to talk with the Jugglers. We need to keep pushing east to reacquire contact with Cobra. Don’t get too confident from this battle. The enemy we faced was inferior to that we’ve patrolled against in the past weeks. There was no sign of Major Bludd or his mercenaries. The attacks were uncoordinated, they did inadequate reconnaissance, and they made poor use of artillery or air. I think we were facing a green force that was getting some live experience. Future fights will be tougher. We also need to explore this Sharrif link. We currently don’t have adequate resources. Thanks for the briefs. I’ll get back to you at 2100 tonight.” He rose and left the tent, deep in thought.
* 4B1T - Four Ball One Trace - typical arrangement of linked/belt ammunition
** WP - White Phosphorous - smoke ammunition
*** BCD - Buoyancy Control Device
**** PDM - Pursuit Denial Munition
This ends the first chapter of this tale. Future installments will start being posted in a few weeks. Any constructive criticism in the interim is appreciated so I can work on tightening up the story.
09-08-2012, 09:01 AM
Some time previously
Several men and a woman sat around a boardroom table. At the end of the table stood two strongly built men, the taller being bald and the shorter of the two with scars running across his face. A series of models were laid on the table in front of them, and a presentation ran on screens behind them.
The taller man opened.
“Destro Systems’ proposal for your air defence competition is one based on layered and redundant systems in conjunction with a deployment philosophy. My chief designer, Herr Eisen, will explain in further detail.”
“It is basic air defence,” said the scarred man, with a slightly noticeable Germanic accent. “We combine civilian air traffic control and weather radar systems, cell tower UHF feeds and our own thermal, radar and lidar systems, based on such concepts as Skyshield and Iron Dome. Long range missiles target C2* and surveillance platforms. Dummy positions draw the SEAD** fires, which are further diluted with dazzlers and GPS jammers. Camouflage, such as thermal- and radar-resistant overhead netting, and complex terrain protect the rest. Then we ambush the raiders on their trip home. We don’t need to kill them - just make them run out of fuel. The complex terrain precludes massed helicopter attacks, but should anyone ignore the lessons of Kosovo, Anaconda and Karbala, we have sufficient flak to augment the vehicle’s AAMGs*** to make anyone's day unhealthy. Even the HISS tank program we started collaborating on two years ago can double as an anti-air platform. Same for taking down massed UAVs or cruise missiles. We also have a prototype short range missile based on the Igla that we can mount on a variety of platforms to further stiffen the shield. We avoid concentration, making air strikes less cost effective - especially for strategic bombers. There’s nothing visible to justify a B2 run. Plus, combining air defence and counter-battery in one system is cheaper. Finally, we are developing an upgrade option consisting of vertical-launch short range rocket aircraft for intercept purposes.”
The hooded man at the end of the table nodded.
“Thank you. I think a short recess is in order while we review a few figures.”
* C2 - Command & Control
** SEAD - Suppression of Enemy Air Defence
*** AAMG - Anti Aircraft Machine Gun
Night Viper 143
09-08-2012, 10:29 AM
Absolutely Brilliant. I am hooked through and through.
The characters are exaclty the way I have always imagined them... I love Stalker as the boss. He has always been my favorite character too.
09-09-2012, 08:28 AM
Everyone rose. The taller of the two presenters made his way to the woman.
“Even if I hadn’t heard your title, your accent tells me that you are a long way from home. What brings a baroness to this organization?”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Is that germane to the negotiations?” she asked.
The man smiled.
“So the song ‘Common People’ wasn’t written about you?”
The Baroness frowned.
“I hardly think that’s relevant. Tell me about your research teams, Mr McCullen.”
“I hire based on background rather than education. I want encryptors who grew up working prime numbers in their heads while taking book on the track. I want engineers who grew up bending metal in backwater chop shops. I want geneticists who grew up manipulating rice with chopsticks. Those people have the skills to make cutting edge equipment.”
The Baroness stopped walking and turned towards him.
“And your design philosophy?”
“Simple to produce, use, resupply and maintain; easily modifiable; lethal. And who have you been buying from to date?”
The Baroness turned away.
“We don’t discuss such dealings.”
“The rumour is you were using Sutherland Munition Works. I haven’t seen Derek in ages.”
“You said your banking arrangements are in Transylvania. Isn’t that distant from Scotland?”
“Banking is a global activity, my dear. As your own bankers are all too aware.”
The hooded man joined them.
“Mr McCullen, a word in private, if I may.”
McCullen nodded towards the Baroness, and followed the cowled man to a private room.
09-10-2012, 11:53 AM
Cobra Commander gestured towards a chair.
“I’m impressed with your armaments company. Your light tanks and utility vehicles have proven robust and simple to maintain and operate. Your air defence concepts are tailored for my work in Africa.
McCullen rubbed a hand over his head.
“What made you think the Congo was the place to put down roots?”
Cobra Commander leaned forward.
“Basing in the heart of Africa is simple. I can trade space for time, take advantage of the lack of local infrastructure, dominate the waterways and have dense air defences to deny enemy transport. It’s all based on Russian lessons. They defeated Charles XII because his force was too small and he lacked allies; they defeated Napoleon because his force was too large to sustain and his logistics couldn’t keep up; they defeated the Germans who lacked focus and whose forces overburdened the infrastructure.”
McCullen ran his hand over the table.
“But they were decisively conquered by the Mongols. In any event, do you confirm that you wish to enter into an agreement for development, construction, training and service support of an air defence system?”
McCullen leaned back in his chair.
“Then I have a further proposal for you. Your logic for basing here is similar to one I have for expanding operations in Zomia. In both cases the environment favours the defender and deters foreign meddling – particularly American meddling. I have a number of prototype systems I’ve been developing, but I am looking for venture capital to expand my R&D and manufacturing capacity. Your return on investment would be through access to certain systems at cost.”
Cobra Commander steepled his fingers.
“Hmm. What kind of systems do you have in mind?”
“Air support. I know you have access to certain airframes already, but those are vulnerable to combat air patrol missions, and are old. I can provide small, armed helicopters. We are also developing flying wings and rocket chairs for local air support. Those will benefit from expanded facilities in Zomia."
Cobra Commander stood and walked to a window.
“I have affiliates elsewhere in this continent, South America and northern Asia, but only one in the Golden Triangle. Perhaps your proposal has merit. And how have you been creating the market conditions?”
“I have agents who provoke conflict. Inevitably the competition’s infrastructure gets damaged; I have excellent saboteurs, and I end up with complete access to all sides involved.”
“I see.” Coba Commander turned back to face McCullen. “I have my own R&D facilities, but perhaps we can make this an even more fruitful partnership. I will provide venture capital for your Zomia operations in exchange for weapons at cost. I will also provide you access to my own R&D personnel and facilities, in exchange for access to your mercenary connections.”
“’Now thrive the armourers.’”
Some time later Cobra Commander sat before a video teleconference monitor.
“Leverage McCullen’s expertise for our air arm. See if he can accelerate our Rattler project. Give him full access to rocketry and conventional weapons development. Keep him away from the biological and genetic work. Work out his web of companies and start taking them over."
The twins at the other end of the line exchange broad grins.
“With pleasure, Commander.”
09-11-2012, 10:50 AM
Cobra Commander stood in front of ranks of raw recruits, finger in the air, preaching the Cobra philosophy.
“You have experienced a world of inequality and injustice. The injustice you have suffered has been largely due to the colour of your skin and the language you speak. The masks you wear erase the racial distinctions that have oppressed you. The Esperanto you have learned levels the language field. You are all equal now and free to advance based on your merits. It is time to mix military training with philosophical training. You will critique The Iron Heel to find the flaws in socialism. You will critique Atlas Shrugged to find the critique in capitalism. You will study The Wasp to learn the basics of insurgency.”
Off to the side, a tall Australian man in brown fatigues leaned towards the Baroness.
“As soon as the first round comes in they’ll all go back to mother tongues. It’ll be a dog’s breakfast the first couple of scraps. This language project is complete bollocks.”
“Is that so,” she said.
The Major pointed towards the obstacle course the recruits had run through prior to the parade.
“And prancing through a jungle gym won’t turn anyone into a soldier.”
“Well then, Maj Sebastian Bludd, Retired, perhaps we should hire you to put them through advanced training,” the Baroness whispered back.
Major Bludd grinned.
“You reckon? Darling, for 5 grand a day plus expenses I’ll put your toy soldiers through finishing school.”
“I think your fee can be negotiated down.”
“Well luv, you might be able to throw in something to sweeten the pot.”
Baroness wrinkled her nose.
“Don’t be a pig.”
Major Bludd chuckled.
“Well, I’ve fulfilled my contract to secure your facility until your own guards were ready. I’ll be off. You know where to reach me if you have any other jobs.”
09-12-2012, 09:34 AM
Cobra Commander laid the tablet computer down on a folding metal table, got up from his chair, and started pacing with his hands behind his back.
“Our first cohorts were excellent material. Why are our subsequent troops of such lesser quality?”
The Baroness adjusted her glasses.
“Might I remind you, Commander, that you heavily mined those first cohorts for the technical Vipers and your Eels program, which in turn you’ve mined for your special tactics forces. We have few suitable mid-level leaders left to properly train and lead the subsequent recruits.”
“So you’ve told me before, Baroness. Are you still pitching the Aussie as a solution?”
The Baroness nodded.
“Very well. I was considering offering him a contract for a command position, but perhaps we need him in training first. Bring him out.”
A few days later, the Baroness sat beside Major Bludd in a Cape Town hotel bar. Major Bludd laid down a sheaf of legal documents, took a sip of wine, and turned to the Baroness.
“Where do you recruit?”
“Everywhere. We look for NINJAs. No Income, No Job, no Assets. Many countries produce technically skilled university graduates with no job prospects. Others have mechanical skills and a grudge. Others still just aren’t happy with ‘the system.’ We do well in places like Tin Can Island Port and Salalah Port.”
Major Bludd nodded, and held the glass to the light.
“You get many Yanks?”
Baroness shook her head.
“They aren’t the Berkeley revolutionaries of old. Other than the lawyers and accountants with skeletons in their closets we aren’t much interested in that pool, though we do get a trickle through one of our contacts – a motorcycle club turned to skip tracing.” She shook her head slightly and rolled her eyes. “Picture Dog meets Domino. Anyway, where do you recruit?”
Maj Bludd put down his glass and leaned back in his chair.
“For this job I’ve got a team of Fijians. Solid troops, fit as all else, and a great choir! Just have to remind them ‘Boula’ means something different in Swahili. I also have some Salvadorans on tap, and a few Indonesians. Brits, Frogs, South Africans and Russians are all tough fighters, but invariably have a foot in the domestic intelligence door. Can’t trust ‘em.”
The Baroness stared out at the swimming pool.
“We would like you to start in a week.”
“So you accept my conditions?”
“Yes. You get fresh troops who have only been through our basic language and fitness regime. You get carte blanche for selecting areas in which to train. And you get full control over selection of instructors throughout the program.”
09-13-2012, 06:54 AM
Three days later he stood in a jungle clearing, a ring of recruits around him. He tossed a rugby ball in the air and looked around.
“Who’s got the biggest army in the world?” he asked.
One of the recruits glanced left and right. “America?” he ventured.
Maj Bludd gave out a short barking laugh.
“They Yanks are big, they have lots of shiny toys, and they chuck their army everywhere, but they can be beaten, because they’re soft. Yanks are soft because their sports involve long stretches of standing around doing nothing. Not like rugby. Or Aussie rules.” He stared at the recruits.
“Ruck up!” he shouted, and they scrambled to sling packs on their backs.
“Time to play!” He tossed the ball into the gut of the recruit who had spoken. After a moment’s hesitation, other recruits tackled him to the ground, and the gruelling regimen began.
Day blended into day as recruits marched, dug, mastered weapons, field craft and tactics under the vigilant eye of Major Bludd and his trainers. Taking advantage of the cover of the sound of heavy rain, recruits were stalking sentries, practicing silent killing techniques. One recruit stumbled on the approach, slipped in the mud and lost his knife. In desperation, he flung himself at the legs of the target, and the two wrestled in the mud. Major Bludd stopped a heavy boot on one wrist and grabbed the recruit by the neck.
“You’ve been watching too much UFC nonsense. It’s useless for soldiers. Your job is to kill the enemy, not to get him to tap out while you roll around on the ground. You were trained by a boxer, so in this situation, break his jaw, take his knife, slit his throat, and move on. Never go to the ground if you can help it.”
Field firing ranges grew in complexity from fire team to section to platoon to company, moving through grassland, jungles and villages. Recruits rotated through senior command appointments, demonstrating their leadership potential, or lack thereof. As one attack bogged down and the appointed platoon commander lost control, getting sucked into trying to destroy a machine gun position, the Major grabbed the recruit, flung him into a tree, and fixed his gaze with his eye.
“You’re supposed to be a leader. You aren’t just a rifleman. Your job is to get forward where you can see and be seen, communicate a plan, and then commit your reserve at the right time. You can’t do that if you’re chucking grenades and knife fighting.”
The recruit struggled to form his thoughts into words.
“Never mind,” hissed the Major. “Get back in the ranks.” He glanced around and pointed at another recruit. “You’re now the platoon commander.”
The newly elevated recruit started shouting fire control orders to a firebase and organising an assault team.
“That’s how it’s done,” said the Major, a grim smile on his face.
An hour later, Major Bludd blew a whistle to indicate time to consolidate. The recruits formed a defensive circle, with senior appointees running quickly to assign arcs and redistribute ammunition. Major Bludd wiped sweat from his face and looked at the filthy soldiers.
“These field firing ranges are just shadow boxing. Time for some carefully selected ambushes to build your skills. Let’s start on some blue helmets.”
09-14-2012, 09:51 AM
McCullen and his chief arms designer landed their helicopter in the small clearing and were greeted by a vehicle escort which drove them through the jungle to a Cobra weapons development facility. Destro noted the camouflage and concealment protocols, and then turned to the engineer providing him the brief.
“I see that no one here wears the standard blue uniform.”
“No,” said the engineer in heavily accented English. “We are all here under different recruitment programs. We all have specific science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds. You will find a mix of Guards, Televipers and Technovipers here.”
“So your design facilities are here too?” asked McCullen.
“Oh, well, no. I don’t actually know where the designers work. We never see them. This way please.”
He led the pair into a large concrete test facility, where a pair of technicians studied diagnostics of a three-legged metal bubble with a clamshell canopy.
“I understand you have been doing research into rocket planes. This test platform has let us work out some bugs in rocketry, hydraulic shock absorption, and gyroscopic stabilisers. It’s still damn dangerous to operate, though.”
McCullen and Eisen exchanged sceptical looks. The engineer hurriedly moved along through a door into a larger space, filled with a variety of rockets and missiles in various states of completeness. Eisen walked the line, touching them and naming each.
“SA18, SA300, Sunburn, Club-K, Storm Shadow, Starstreak, Common Anti-Air Modular Missile, BrahMos.”
McCullen stared at the engineer.
“Where did you acquire these? These typically are not on the open market, and I imagine there are any number of intelligence services trying to find them.”
The engineer shrugged.
“I don’t know. They arrive and we reverse engineer them. If they are useful to you, tell me.”
He directed them through another hall to a hangar filled with aircraft.
“We acquired these scrap A-10s under a DOD contract for refurbishment. But the Air Force actually wasn’t interested in pursuing the project, so we kept them and modified them. We had to make do with smaller engines, hence three for redundancy. Shifting two to the wings makes them a bit more vulnerable to ground fire and slows the re-arming turnaround time, and we’re still tinkering to eliminate gun gas ingestion. I’m not convinced the cupola gun was a good idea, but there it is. Less obvious, we’ve replaced the landing gear with a tougher ‘farm tractor’ style to allow rough runway operation.”
McCullen raised an eyebrow.
“Well now, that is very interesting. I would be curious to see the paperwork behind that transaction, and the specs and results from your tests. And what other surprises do you have out here.”
The engineer shifted nervously.
“We have a few aircraft sections from SR-71, M-21, and a complete D-21 drone, but other than materials research we aren’t doing anything with them. We have a few telecommunications projects, and some human sciences work in diving, but most military hardware is bought off the shelf. I’m afraid we’re counting on you to fill that niche. Elsewhere we have a maritime research facility. Perhaps you have companies or interests that might benefit from collaboration in that domain.”
McCullen and Eisen exchanged glances, and McCullen shook his head.
“We should be on our way. Thank you for the tour. We will be in touch regarding specific areas for collaboration.”
The engineer handed them data sticks with information on the projects they had seen. They remained silent on the trip back to the Destro Systems helicopter, protected by a small team of McCullen’s personal security guards. Once aboard, McCullen turned to Eisen.
“You should be getting back to Kinshasa to oversee the Ares operations, but first, your thoughts.”
“Those designers would be more effective if they got their hands dirty on the factory floor and the testing ranges.”
“I agree. But I also think we’re being set up. There isn’t much there of benefit to us. The missiles are a trap for selling us out to the alphabet soup of intelligence agencies, and most of the work is derivative of other designs. I suspect the real aim lies elsewhere.” He rubbed his chin. “They asked about maritime research. I wonder if they’re aware of Argent Corporation.”
“Perhaps we should reveal it and have the Eels build the next rig. We might save considerably on construction costs as a result.”
“That’s not a bad idea.” He passed the data sticks to Eisen. “Print everything off on a standalone, including all document metadata, and have the techs analyse everything in here for viruses, malware and so on.”
09-16-2012, 07:05 AM
The Baroness raised Major Bludd on a secure frequency.
“What are you thinking, attacking UN patrols?”
“These troops need blooding in controlled circumstances. It gives them confidence in the drills and separates the swimmers from the floaters.”
The Baroness sighed.
“It also draws unnecessary attention.”
Major Bludd laughed.
“Don’t get your knickers in a knot. No one cares about those peacekeepers. No one ever made a strategic point by killing a Bangladeshi corporal, so no one will investigate.”
“If you want live practice there are some rival gangs working smuggling routes to and from the main river. I’ll give you some details. You can use them for training targets.”
Major Bludd licked his lips.
“Well then dearie, I think I might want to adjust my fees to ensure I get a percentage of whatever you are being paid to eliminate someone’s opposition out there.”
The Baroness laughed.
“Once you have dealt with the smugglers, pull back to the forward logistics hub. We are rotating through a battalion group doing final training before deployment elsewhere.”
09-17-2012, 08:46 AM
The Baroness closed her file of Pacific Ocean shipping activities and answered her ringing sat phone.
“What kind of bloody useless intelligence operation are you running here?!” shouted Major Bludd.
The Baroness recoiled at the anger, but quickly composed herself.
“Explain yourself,” she said.
“We baited your so-called smugglers, and ran into a very well armed and highly disciplined force. Our cameras captured some of the fight, though not enough to tell me who we were up against. No one local, though. So – who the hell is operating out here?”
“Send me the footage.”
“Already done, luv, through one of your Tely-Vipers. We’ve broken contact and pulled back closer to the logistics hub, but you better start telling your air wing commander to have his planes in the air for cover.”
The Baroness ended the connection with a disgusted hiss. She sat, tapping a nail against her teeth, concerned. Then she started searching databases and drawing up a list of contacts in whom to make inquiries.
Some time later she sat across from an angry Cobra Commander.
“Who is conducting military operations here?”
“We’re working on that” the Baroness replied. “We believe they’re Anglosphere. I’ve already confirmed that neither the French nor the Belgians have any SOF or intelligence operatives here. The Brits’ assets are all accounted for, as are the Aussies and South Africans. I’m still rounding up the last few American and Israeli units. It may be a private company hired by a mining interest.”
Cobra Commander studied a map of the reported contact.
“They can’t be conventional, as we’d have seen their logistical footprint by now.”
“I agree,” said the Baroness. “I suspect they’re some kind of ad hoc organization. Strangely, none of the embassies are aware of this mission, and neither is AFRICOM. Whoever they are, they’re as clandestine as it gets. Tele-Vipers are focussing radio intercept efforts in that region, and we are moving the current Jungle Viper and Eel courses to the area for increased ground reconnaissance.”
Cobra Commander pushed the map away.
“Keep at it. Find out who they are and what they want. Then I can give them a suitable target to chase to get them away from us.”
“The swamp forest seems like an excellent dead end,” mused the Baroness.
“Mmm. How is the final combined arms exercise looking for 3rd Battalion?”
“Good. Close reconnaissance is moving into position as we speak, and the staff planning is well underway.”
“Reassign Bludd and his men to supervise the assaults. Once complete, transfer that battalion to Burma, cut the Eels and Jungle Vipers back to the 4th Battalion, and Bludd and his men can go on their leave.”
09-18-2012, 10:43 AM
Having dismissed the Baroness, Cobra Commander pushed the distractions of local minor conflicts from his mind and turned to larger projects. He was due an update on a specific intermediate project, and activated the appropriate encrypted communication application on his tablet. Within moments he was looking at the twins, one seated behind a desk in their Singapore office, and the other from a ship.
“How is the island coming along?” he asked.
“Nicely,” replied Tomax. “The seasteading principles are working well. We’re ahead of schedule on materials due to better than anticipated salvage operations of ships floating off Mumbai, while a couple of others passing through the Malacca Straits have been “lost to piracy.” But the insurance claims were most satisfactory.” He and Xamot grinned. “A lot of salvaged steel is growing calcium carbonate, and we have a couple of small patches already growing vegetation. We’re pushing booms out to mitigate wave frequency. We’ve had to chase off a couple of fishing boats, and a couple more ‘donated’ boats to the cause. We’ll soon be splicing into the main undersea cables, and then you’ll have your own nation complete with global banking and data systems.”
“Good,” said Cobra Commander, nodding.
“Your chief of security out there is an . . . odd character,” said Tomax.
“He came highly recommended. I had a hard time tracking him down though.”
“Who recommended him?”
“Zartan. They met in northern Australia.”
“I don’t think his accent is Australian.”
“No. He’s from Florida. He’d moved to Mali by the time was looking for him, and was living in Bamako. He called it a pilgrimage.”
“Ah,” said Tomax. Well, we’ll soon have the docks completed for fast attack boats. We’re still testing the hydrofoils, and those new torpedo sleds will help too.”
“When will the docks be ready for larger craft?”
“Two months,” said Tomax, consulting a report. “We will start the Cobra Island International Ship and Corporate Registry and the Cobra Shipping Corporation as a means of generating additional revenue.”
“Status for air operations?” asked the Commander.
“Preparation of runway sub-grade will start in four months. It will be another three months to get the runway, aprons, alternate landing pads, lighting and the fuel bunker in place, provided the contract for runway matting proceeds as projected. At that time we can start air operations. Rattlers, Harriers and helicopters only. We’re anxious to get air defences in place before construction starts, though.
“We are currently training the initial air defence operators,” said Cobra Commander, nodding, “and will relocate them as soon as the docks are completed. Any other issues?”
“Well,” said Xamot, “some of the more lucrative shipping targets are going to be diverted away from the Malacca Straits due to development of a northern corridor.”
“So what do you want me to do?”
“We want to sabotage infrastructure projects,” said Tomax.
“The Cai Mep-Thi seaport in Vietnam, Sihanoukville port in Cambodia and Dawei seaport in Burma,” said Xamot.
Cobra Commander pressed his palms together.
“Provide me the cost-benefit analysis. If it’s truly advantageous then we’ll subcontract Firefly.”
He ended the transmission, leaned back in his chair, and reached out for a globe on the corner of the desk. He idly spun it while reflecting on the projects underway. There was still so much to do . . .
09-19-2012, 09:02 AM
The Baroness uploaded a file to the Commander’s tablet.
“We have gathered enough intelligence on those commandos to determine that they are American. But they are not from any organised command, which is a puzzle we continue to try to solve. They have chartered an air company of former military personnel, and, interestingly, they are driving some of McCullen’s vehicles.”
Cobra Commander reviewed the document and associated imagery.
“Americans conducting a very black operation, and buying locally. From McCullen, no less. Someone is breaking the rules.”
“Yes,” said the Baroness as she sat down.
Cobra Commander began pacing and stared at the ceiling, recalling something.
“‘I believe if we had, and would, keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own. That they design and want. That they fight and work for... and not the American style, which they don't want. Not one crammed down their throats by the Americans.’” He turned to the Baroness. “Know who said that?”
“No,” said the Baroness, crossing her legs and looking bored. “From 'The Ugly American,' perhaps?”
“Good guess, but no. General Shoup, Commandant of the Marne Corps, and a Medal of Honor winner said that,” replied the Commander, sitting across from her.
“It seems that no one paid attention to him.”
“Do you believe they know who we are?” asked the Commander, scanning the report.
“No. American intelligence analysis is too coloured by national biases, and they have too few analysts who have life anywhere other than America, or the little Americas they export. As a whole they do feeble analysis, of the ‘I never knew Arabia until I read Lawrence’ sort.”
“And yet here they are, in our backyard.” said Cobra Commander, “Well, in addition to the deception plan in the Congolian Swamp Forest, let’s send them after one of McCullen’s plants to teach him a lesson. Pull Bludd back. He can handle that task. The forces in place will have to conceal themselves until we figure out who these snooping forces are.”
With that he waved his hand to dismiss the Baroness.
09-20-2012, 12:27 PM
Cobra Commander found Major Bludd chatting with several of his trainers among a mass of troops celebrating their graduation from training.
“Well done Major. You’ve brought up the standard of these recruits. But I’m a little puzzled. I get that many of our recruits don’t drink, but the ones that do seem too hard to be sipping little pink drinks.”
Major Bludd looked around.
“That’s an Amarula Sunset. Perfect in this climate.” He handed one to the Commander, who waved it away.
“Ah yes,” noted Major Bludd. “It’s so difficult to drink through a mask.”
“I always pictured you as more of a lager man,” said Cobra Commander.
“Well Mate, sometimes you have to adapt to the environment.”
“Major, I have a special task for you. How quickly can you pull together one of your teams of white operators?”
“Depends on the job,” said Major Bludd with a frown.
“The job is straight forward. There’s a local security organization that hasn’t cooperated with me. I want their station overrun. Target strength is about twenty pers with small arms and lax security.”
Major Bludd cracked his neck.
“Well, for time and a half, I can have recce started in a few days and the station overrun in no more than 21 days.”
“For time and a half I expect it done in 14 days.”
Major Bludd shrugged. “Send me the target package.”
With that, Bludd and his trainers stepped around the Commander and circulated among the new graduates.
A worried-looking Televiper pushed through the crowd, searching for the Commander.
09-21-2012, 10:05 AM
Cobra Commander paced back and forth. He paused briefly on several occasions, pointed a finger, started to say something, then stopped and resumed pacing. Finally he stopped, standing inches from the terrified officer, behind whom stood the assembled ranks of a battered battalion group. His voice, which had threatened to be a yell, was instead a cold, quiet hiss.
“You launched an unauthorised assault on a poorly defined objective. Your reconnaissance forces were compromised, costing you the element of surprise, and yet you persisted in attacking. Did any one of your officers object to your plan?”
The officer’s eyes darted back and forth, and then he nodded slightly.
“Yes Sir. My second in command objected Sir. But he carried on with the attack.”
Cobra Commander glanced to the end of the ranks, seeing the officer with a heavily bandaged face.
“And where was your second in command when he received those wounds?”
“He, er, he commanded the rear guard as we withdrew.”
“And where were you?”
“I . . . I was in my command post, Sir.”
“And your company commanders and your senior viper?”
“They thought it was a good practical exercise, Sir. My senior viper was killed.”
Cobra Commander looked skyward and drew a breath. Then he fixed the officer with his gaze.
“You lack judgement. You lack tactical awareness. You have brought unacceptable attention to our forces and suffered unacceptable losses in soldiers, equipment, and supplies. Your battalion is therefore consigned to Desert Scorpion status. You are relieved of command and your second in command is promoted to commanding officer. You are also found guilty of disobeying orders and of cowardice.”
With one motion Cobra Commander drew a pistol and shot the officer between the eyes. He then pointed at the bandaged officer.
“You – Scar Face. Report to headquarters in one hour for orders. Have your battalion prepare for desert operations. Your company commanders are reassigned to Dr Venom’s laboratories as test subjects.”
He holstered his pistol, turned on his heel, and walked away.
09-23-2012, 09:27 AM
As he passed through the headquarters he signalled to the Baroness to join him.
“The Jungle Vipers and EELs candidates and cadre performed disappointingly in that fight. The best have clearly moved on to the Snow Serpent and Para Viper Commandos. I need some expertise to drive up the standards.”
Baroness pulled out her tablet and scrolled through a couple of files.
“I anticipated this, Commander. McCullen has an officer on retainer who might be suitable: Major John Sheppard, formerly of the Royal Marines. He was Mountain & Arctic Warfare Cadre and an SBS commander. He quit the Marines in disgust after multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was last reported working in Burma.”
“Good. Hire him.”
A man in a flight suit caught the Commander’s eye. He took in the scarred face, the damaged lips and the missing teeth.
“I have an objection to sssending the pilotsss to the desssssert,” he said. “You hired me to train pilotsssss for low level operationsss in closssse terrain.”
The Commander made a show of wiping spit off his jacket.
“I also paid for your replacement teeth. Put them in when you talk to me, Wild Weasel.”
The pilot inserted his teeth.
“The doctrine I’ve been training is based on lessons of the Biafra Babies and the LTTE Air Tigers. I can better develop your pilots here in the rain forests than in the exposed deserts of North Africa.”
The Commander stepped to within a foot of the pilot.
“Then there had better be significant improvements right away, or I’ll restart the program with completely new personnel.”
He turned on his heel and walked into his office. The Baroness and Wild Weasel exchanged looks.
“Do not push your luck,” she mouthed.
Scar Face entered the operations room. A televiper pointed him towards a map board and handed him a briefing packet. He started reading and jotting down notes. Fifteen minutes later, Cobra Commander and the Baroness entered the room.
“Your force is leaving for the Nuba Mountains before dawn. You’ll be attached to Colonel Sharif for operations in the Sahel and Maghreb. He tends to drift off message, so your job will be to remind him that he operates at my whim and pleasure. You’ll draw support from 419 Televiper Battalion, responsible for northwest Africa.”
“Sharif lacks the vision and the discipline to realise his visions,” said the Baroness. “He has surrounded himself with a personal bodyguard, called the Guardians of Paradise, but he tends to grow complacent in their presence.”
“You have a list of targets. You, or Sharif’s forces, will successfully prosecute all them in the next year, at a minimum rate of one per five days.”
Scar Face flipped to a page he had noted.
“Sir, I note I am not required to ever hold any ground.”
“Correct. Your job is to sow chaos. Do not fail.”
09-24-2012, 10:20 AM
07 May 20XX
Stalker knocked on the door, and waited until he heard Hawk call him in. Hawk was sitting in a chair, flipping through files on a tablet computer.
“You were in the teleconference a long time.”
“Mmm.” Hawk kept scrolling through files and tabs. Finally he shook his head and looked up, to see Stalker leaning back in a chair, carefully watching him.
“Sorry. Yes, it was a long discussion.” Hawk ran a hand through his hair. “It’s been over a month since we last had contact with Cobra, and people are getting impatient. I need to blow off a little steam tonight. Gym or the range?”
Stalker started to laugh, and doubled over in pain, holding his hand against the bandages under his shirt.
“Frankly, you could use both,” he said, when he caught his breath. “I’ll only join you for the range. But we’re secure here, so tell me what’s going on.”
“We’re getting a handful of reinforcements. They’re due in in a few days, along with some new vehicles and some small UAVs. We have an intel contact in the US to handle cross referencing with the FBI, DIA, NSA and DHS. Goes by David Lane. Plus, we’re going to have a diplomatic contact in Kinshasa, Brian Hassel, and a CIA contact, Anderson. But we’re still not to talk with the ambassador.”
“What else?" asked Stalker.
“We have to cover three areas now. Here, the Congolian Swamp Forest, and South Sudan.”
Stalker whistled to himself.
“That’s going to be a nightmare to control.”
“Have Scarlett put together packages on each area. We won’t move until we have something specific to go after. At least we’re getting some computerised translators loaded with a few of the local languages."
09-25-2012, 10:48 AM
“We’ve got a SIGINT* report from the HQ in Kinshasa of white troops overrunning a local security compound, corroborated by an NGO report to MONUSCO. It sounds like a Cobra attack. It might be worth sending a patrol. We might be able to re-establish contact."
Scarlett plotted the incident on the map, and then zoomed out and north into Nuba Mountains.
“We also have this imagery we just received from Hawk’s Jugglers, allegedly of Colonel Sharif’s headquarters.” It showed a cluster of fortified facilities in the mountains, and across the border a small airfield with what appeared to be MiG 21s, allegedly being used by Colonel Sharif. "Apparently, a couple of weeks ago there were several flights between that airfield and eastern Congo. It could have been a transfer of personnel and equipment.”
“Do you think there’s enough to go on?” asked Lady Jay.
“It’s pretty weak. That spook, Anderson, is moving into the mountains to try to corroborate the info.” She turned to Mainframe. “Have you figured out yet if we’re feeding into DCGS-A** or Palantir?”
Mainframe spread his hands helplessly.
“Neither. We may ultimately feed into one of them, but I’m still stumped by the interface between us. It would be obvious if I started hacking it, so Slipstream has been looking into it. No CHARCS*** either.”
Scarlett sighed. “If I knew then I could dip into AFRICOM and State Department intelligence databases. I got access to RiftValley, but we’re too far west for that modelling to help.” She turned to the VTC monitor. Duke, Chuckles and Alpine sat at the other end in Kinshasa.
“The nearest facility to that fort is a zinc mine, along with a small factory. It looks like they’re manufacturing and assembling a lot of their equipment on site, which I suppose makes sense based on local infrastructure, but must eat into profits. It’s a Silversmile Manufacturing operation. I can look into their books,” said Alpine. “We might as well run it by our new contact, that Lane guy, too. What’s the naming convention for his RFIs again?”
“Preface every request with ‘SURE FIRE,’” said Scarlett. “Ok. I’ll recommend to Hawk that we focus on patrolling around the reported contact. That will give time for further developing the Sudan issue.”
* SIGINT - Signals Intelligence
** DCGS-A - Distributed Common Grounds System - Army - an intelligence database
Palantir - a rival intelligence database
*** CHARCS - Counterintelligence Human intelligence Automated Reporting and Collection System
09-25-2012, 12:03 PM
a great read
09-26-2012, 07:50 AM
Steeler, Heavy Metal and Cross Country examined the vehicles that three coverall-clad men were walking around. The men stopped and faced them.
“I’m Dodger, your new mechanic. This is Gears, another mechanic and designer, and Hot Seat, who’s been test driving these vehicles. We’ve been working on these at one of the proving grounds. They were originally test bed vehicles about thirty years ago, but technological advancements have made the ideas finally viable.” He patted the largest vehicle. “This is a Mauler. It has a two-man crew, is air portable and droppable, and the rapid-fire gun will take out older tanks, light vehicles and has an anti-air capability. The driver and gunner/commander sit side by side with identical controls, and the optics in the turret are fan-frickin’-tastic. This next one,” he pointed to a smaller tracked vehicle with four cannons, “is a one-man killing machine.”
“Are we really supposed to drive, command and gun these at the same time? Steeler asked the man standing with his hand on a fender.
Dodger held up a finger.
“I’m glad you asked. These Armadillos have some pretty sophisticated computers in them to manage the gunnery. They link in with Maulers to do air defence and direct fire. It’s still an experimental system, designed to compete with things like Skyranger, though as you can see, with four barrels it can spit out a ton of lead.”
“Maybe,” muttered Cross Country, “but there’s so little ammo stowage that one engagement will run us dry.”
“Ah, but look at this!” The man hit snaps on the side of the turret and slide the ammo bins out on rails. “You just unsnap the lid and insert. No feed chutes, no ratchets, no agony. And with multiple guns you can have different loads for different tasks. Frangible, HEI, sabot,* sub-cal anti-air. And it links autonomously to radars and other weapons platforms.”
Cross Country spat a stream of tobacco juice and pointed to the vehicle’s guts. “You still need a ratchet for the daily maintenance like fuel filter checks, and a torque wrench for the suspension.”
“True, but that’s driver’s maintenance and not gunnery . . .”
“And where are those radars and other platforms?” asked Steeler as he knelt and examined the mix of torsion bars and hydro-pneumatic suspension.
“Ah, well, this is still experimental, and those platforms are still in development stages.”
“But,” continued the man, “on a different note, I see you’re examining the suspension. Like the Mauler, it can rise, lower and tilt forward and back or side to side in order to increase elevation and depression, or to level out on uneven ground.”
“So you want us to take your untested system into combat? How long is it going to take to learn to fight these things?”
“I understand you’ve been repairing and driving enemy vehicles recovered from your last fight. Surely you can figure these new ones out in a couple of weeks.”
“And what the hell is that?” Steeler pointed to a contraption off to one side, ignoring Dodger’s comment..
“Ah, well, that’s also an experimental device, though really it’s been in the works for over fifty years. It’s a rocket belt.”
“A rocket belt. Or a jet pack. For clearing obstacles . . .” His voice trailed off. “Well, you SF types demonstrated on to Kennedy back in ’61. Surely your doctrine has evolved since then. Maybe I should brief your airborne guys on this one.”**
The three armour soldiers shook their heads.
“This has trouble written all over it,” muttered Steeler.
* Frangible - a round that shatters on impact, causing additional spalling and fragmentation effect
HEI - High Explosive Incendiary
sabot - a kinetic-energy anti-armour round
** It’s True! Check out this video: October 12, 1961 - President John F. Kennedy Visits Fort Bragg, North Carolina - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP3uUNlMKPU)
The jet pack makes an appearance around 12:30. Tell me this didn’t influence Issue 1!
09-27-2012, 09:23 AM
Sneak Peak and Muskrat watched the screen showing feeds from two cameras mounted in trees, zoomed in on the village. The buildings were a mix of thatch, shipping container and cinderblock, with a pair of large cinderblock buildings at the south edge of the town, the Ares factory. Outside one of the buildings was a pair of thirty foot masts topped by VHF antennae, and a tacsat x-wing antenna was mounted on the roof. In the centre of town, a pile of burned out rubble was all that remained of the police station, and a guard post on the western entrance was similarly destroyed. To the north east the ground opened up into a stretch of grassland with a few small cultivated plots. The village seemed completely devoid of civilians, but over the past two days they had seen two armed men on a small ATV drive a patrol circuit at various random times. They seemed to be operating out of the large cinderblock buildings.
“I still don’t think they’re Cobra,” muttered Muskrat.
“Regardless, what are they doing? What did they gain by killing cops, and what do they gain by staying here?” whispered Sneak Peak.
Movement on screen drew their attention back to the village. A docking bay door was opening, and four armed men dragged a small group of women and children out of the large building.
Sneak Peak grabbed a stick and poked the sleeping form lying a few feet away in the dug out shelter. Outback stirred, sat up, and looked at the screen, in time to see the first women shot in the gut. The sound of the rifle shot rang through the trees, followed by an agonised wail. The rest of the patrol tensed.
“Oh no,” gasped Sneak Peak.
A burst of sustained fire followed moments later, and the group of civilians crumpled to the ground.
“We have to –“ started Sneak Peak, who was cut off by Outback.
“Call in the sitrep. Send that imagery back right now. Lowlight, move to the left flank, get a vantage point and stay there. Tunnel Rat and Footloose, move to the right. Muskrat and Sneak Peak with me.” He took a quick look at the screen, which showed a second group of civilians being dragged outside. He grabbed the handset from Sneak Peak.
“This is Outback. Murder of civilians is ongoing. I cannot sit back and watch. Am preparing an assault now. Send QRF* immediately. Approach from the north east. Outback out.” He turned and saw the patrol spreading out, and they started moving quickly through the three hundred metres of trees to the town’s edge.
* QRF - Quick Reaction Force
09-28-2012, 09:26 AM
Lowlight ran a tripwire across a gap between a thatched hut and a shipping container. He slung his rifle over his back and pulled himself onto the shipping container, connected the tripwire to a claymore mine angled down to cover the gap on his flank, unsnapped the bipod on his rifle, flipped open the scope covers, and sighted on the activity around the factory.
The rest of the patrol shuffled between buildings, rifles ready and scanning their arcs. Outback waved them to spread out and pointed out areas of observation and fire. They broke the last cluster of cover before the factory and started engaging the armed men. Almost immediately, heavy return fire came from windows and loopholes in the factory wall, as well as from several of the houses. Outback twisted back behind a wall as bullets impacted around him. To his right, several long bursts of fire came from a factory out building, followed by a large explosion as Footloose fired an M72 into it. Tunnel Rat put half a belt into that same building, silencing the enemy machine guns. Outback rolled out from behind cover, sighted on a window, and fired a 40mm grenade through it, swearing as he did so. To his left he could hear Muskrat and Sneak Peak engaging targets, and saw another explosion in the factory as Footloose fired a grenade through a different window.
Lowlight focussed on muzzle flashes from the building, and adjusted his aim to account for estimated weapon length and cover. He had already fired off two magazines, but enemy fire showed no signs of slackening. He held a radio handset to his ear.
“Send ETA* for QRF.**” He squeezed off another round.
“Four zero minutes,” came the reply.
He swore, and shifted his point of aim to the next window.
Tunnel Rat slapped his last belt of ammo into his machine gun, picked out muzzle flashes from a loophole, and fired a fifteen round burst and chewing through the cinderblocks. The fire didn’t let up.
“What the hell?!”
Footloose fired a 40mm grenade into the hole, and the firing stopped.
Outback slid his last 40mm grenade into the launcher and swallowed a mouthful of water.
“Muskrat, Sneak Peak, prepare to breach the building,” he yelled. “Footloose, Tunnel Rat, sustained cover fire in three, two, one, FIRE!” He broke cover, fired the grenade through a window, and put ten quick three-round bursts through other windows. He saw movement to his left as Muskrat sprinted across the open ground towards a door, shot out the lock and kicked it open. A series of explosions rocked the building. The blast knocked Outback to the ground, and a cloud of dust blinded him.
* ETA - Estimated Time of Arrival
** QRF - Quick Reaction Force
10-01-2012, 09:15 AM
Lowlight saw the building collapse upon itself before the dust cloud obscured his view. Swearing, he toggled the radio.
“Factory has been destroyed. Looks like an inside demolition job. One man down. Maybe more. Moving to confirm. Wait out.”
He rolled off the roof, slung his rifle, extended his Uzi’s stock, pulled his goggles over his eyes and moved towards Outback’s position. He had to keep wiping the concrete dust from his goggles as he moved until he found Outback lying on his back, a trickle of blood running from his ears. He put two fingers on Outbacks’ neck and felt a pulse. Stepping over him, he moved on, finding Tunnel Rat and Footloose struggling to their knees, coughing up black phlegm and bleeding from their noses. He splashed water on their faces and pointed them into a rough defensive posture. He ran back, grabbed Outback and dragged him to their position. He grabbed Tunnel Rat’s head between both hands and stared him in the eyes.
“Cover me,” he shouted. “I’m going to look for Muskrat and Sneak Peak.”
Tunnel Rat blinked and winced.
“Ok,” he croaked, and fumbled for his machine gun.
Lowlight laid down his rifle, readied the Uzi, and moved quickly to where he had last seen Recoil, but the pile of rubble was too much to dig through. He spun and looked to Muskrat’s last piece of cover, and saw a pair of legs sticking out from behind a wall. Scanning for threats, he moved to that position, knelt, and swore. Sneak Peak had taken a burst of fire in the chest and head. One lifeless eye stared at the sky. Lowlight brushed at the flies already landing, and blinked away tears. Gathering his kit, he slung the body over his shoulder, and carried it to defensive position.
Beach Head arranged troops in an all around defence while Wild Bill, Flint and Roadblock provided aerial cover from the Hind. Lifeline was assessing Outback, Footloose and Tunnel Rat, while Sneak Peak’s body, already bagged, was carried to the Hip. Lowlight, Gung Ho and Wetsuit headed into the trees to recover the optics, sensors, and defensive mines and to obliterate the OP. Barbeque, Ripcord and Zap removed rubble from where they expected to find Muskrat, finally finding the crushed body. They knelt by the body for a moment, and then bagged it and put it on a stretcher to carry to the helicopter. Zap pulled out a camera and started taking photos of what machinery he could see. He shifted some blocks and pulled out a PKM attached to vice grip and mounted on a handcart. A metal bar, controlled by a cable, was wired to the trigger. He ran his find over to Beach Head, who signalled for Spirit to join him.
“It looks like the enemy was using remote fired weapons. Based on line of sight, assume they withdrew out the back of the building. Where would they escape?”
Spirit looked around.
“Into that wood line.” He examined the ground and walked to the edge of the trees, and nodded. “There are clear signs that a number of people in boots entered the trees at this point.”
Beach Head grunted. “Well, we aren’t chasing them into another ambush. Load the Hip. We’re going home.”
No one spoke on the return flight.
10-02-2012, 07:55 AM
Hawk stood in front of the collected troops.
“This is a tough day. We’ve lost two friends in a challenging operation. But we did not lose them in vain. They died doing that which we all donned a uniform to do. They were trying to protect those who could not protect themselves. We’ve shared difficult and dangerous times, and will continue to do so. Doc will now say a few words.”
. . .
An hour later Hawk, Stalker and Claymore sat with the intelligence team.
“It was clearly a trap, though the ultimate end is unclear. Had the intent been to inflict casualties the enemy would have been in a strong position to counter-attack the QRF. They didn’t. That suggests something else, though we don’t know what,” said Lady Jaye. “The factory was an Ares facility, though it only showed up on the government registry in the past few days. Steeler took a look at the photos of the machinery. One crane was rated for a couple of tons, and a couple of welding machines could manage heavy duty work. There were also some hand-held TIG* welders. It might have been a truck plant, but it looked like it could assemble heavier equipment too. Maybe even HISS tanks. But again, we don’t know.”
“There was one development,” said Scarlett. “Lift Ticket reported being picked up by radar. The comms guys have been studying the EW** pod recording, and we have a pretty good idea of the location of the radar. It’s a P-18 radar. It uses VHF, which is actually pretty good at picking up our stealth aircraft. No African nation uses them, so an outside actor must have brought it in. It might be worth investigating.”
Hawk looked at the radar location on the map.
“Do you think this is part of a larger, complicated trap?”
“I doubt it,” said Scarlett after a pause. “As traps go it depends on too many suppositions.”
“If you tell the Jugglers about that radar they’re going to tell us to destroy it,” said Claymore, turning to Hawk.
Hawk studied the ground around the radar location. Scarlett handed him some old aerial imagery.
“Steeler has already approached me on this,” said Claymore. “He wants to do the raid using the Cobra vehicles we recovered from the last fight. He thinks attacking in HISS tanks and Stinger jeeps will cause enough confusion to get in and out while sowing confusion in the enemy.”
“Assuming it’s a Cobra installation,” said Hawk. “But, I like it.” He smiled. “Let’s see his plan.”
* TIG - Tungston Inert Gas
** EW - Electronic Warfare
10-04-2012, 01:34 PM
Steeler glanced back at the column following him. His lead HISS was followed by three Stinger jeeps, a truck carrying a section of infantry, a bridge layer, and a rear HISS. A quick map check confirmed that they were a kilometre from the objective. He signalled a halt, and the column pulled into herringbone along the trail. Beach Head jumped down from the back of the truck, and Breaker set up an antenna.
“I’m not getting anything,” said Breaker, checking his readings. I had them an hour ago, but they’ve switched off.”
“It’s possible that they’ve moved,” said Beach Head, “but since they hadn’t moved since the last contact I think it unlikely.”
“I agree,” said Steeler. He pointed to a tree line a few hundred metres away. “The truck and bridge layer stay here, along with Short Fuze and the 81mm. Infantry climb onto the HISS and Stingers. Dismount will be 100 metres short of the objective.”
Beach Head started directing his troops, and within minutes the convoy was on the move.
The column crested a small rise and saw the objective to the front. The P-18 radar truck was clearly disabled, and being worked on by mechanics. A trench ring with fighting positions surrounded the radar, living bunkers and a command post. Several soldiers stood around the command post, chatting and drinking coffee. They turned at the sight of the lead HISS, several looking confused, and a couple of others waving in greeting.
“Line abreast,” called Steeler over the air. The column shook into a line with the light tanks at each end. Infantry dropped off the back of the vehicles. Steeler laid sights on a machine gun trench and squeezed the trigger. Twenty millimetre shells ripped into the trench, and the Cobra troops scattered in panic. Rock n Roll and Repeater engaged infantry in the open with their Stinger-mounted machine guns while Zap fired rockets into the parked vehicles. Beach Head was shouting at the troops to fix bayonets, and they then ran to the trench line and posted grenades. Immediately following the explosions they piled in. Ripcord, Spirit and Recondo went left, Beach Head, Hardball, Crazy Legs and Hit n Run went right, tossing grenades around each bend and following with automatic fire. They bayoneted every body they came across, bounding past each other as they went. The two HISS tanks backed off to get sufficient depression to lead the advancing infantry with 20mm cannon fire, while the Stingers engaged everyone within the trench ring.
“Punch!” shouted Beach Head into the radio
Heavy Metal drove over a section of trench line and jerked on the tiller bars, pivoting left and right and collapsing a section of trench, burying a cowering Cobra soldier. The two tanks raced past the defensive position, searching for depth positions. There were none.
Beach Head kicked open the door into the command post and threw in a grenade. Stepping through the door he fired several short bursts, then yelled “Bunker Clear!” He ducked his head back outside and caught Spirit’s eye.
“Sweep up. Give me a casualty count and recover all weapons and documents.”
He then ducked back into the command post and started photographing everything before pulling out the damaged radios, crypto gear and documents for future analysis. He pulled off his balaclava and wiped his face, then looked outside at his troops. They were covered in mud and gore, with only their eyes and teeth shining white as the grinned hard smiles and shook the adrenaline out of their systems.
Payback was good.
10-05-2012, 06:55 AM
Flint knocked on Lt Falcon’s door. There was no answer, but he and Slipstream could hear noise from the other side. He knocked again, and then cracked the door and looked inside. Falcon was leaning back in a chair, his feet up on a table, wearing oversized headphones and reading a slip of paper. Flint coughed, and Flacon looked up, smiled, and waved them in. He removed the headphones and started flipping through books on a shelf.
“I finished that book. Thanks. It was an educational read.” Falcon passed a book to Flint.
Flint flipped it over in his hands.
“It certainly is. More of us could benefit from reading it before coming out here. What are you listening to?” He pointed to the headphones.
“I’m trying to learn a bit of Lingala. I think I’m a little limited with only Swahili out here. I’ve downloaded a bunch of Soukous songs and am trying to follow along with the lyrics. I started by watching the videos, but the dancing was too distracting!”
“Good idea,” said Flint, laughing. “I’ve done that too. But that’s not why we’re here. Go to Ops for orders. And since this group lacks a combat controller, we want to talk about air and aviation SOPs.”
Across the compound in the vehicle bays, Flash leaned on the new Vamp Mk 2.
“I’ve tried a couple of different gun setups. I know you guys are all crazy about the GAU-19 and M134, but the extra batteries I’d need to install to power those beasts would take up too much space to be of much use. I think you’re better off with the GAU-21. It puts a similar effect on target with less weight and bulk, so you can carry more bullets or fuel or water.”
Rock n Roll ran his hands over the various weapons and eyed the ammo boxes. They’d been experimenting with load configurations, piling weapons, packs, ammo, tools, parts, optics, radios, food, water and cam nets onto the trucks, trying to find the optimum system.
Crank Case nudged Dusty in the ribs.
“I bet soldiers have been doing this since the invention of the chariot.”
“Maybe. But the Egyptians also had forty thousand slaves to carry any kit that didn’t fit.”
“Ok,” Rock n Roll conceded. “You’re probably right. GAU-21 it is, and a Y3 auto grenade launcher for the other support Vamp, along with anti-tank missiles for each. Stick with the twin 7.62s for the assault Vamps with dash-mounted M249 and M32.”
10-06-2012, 07:53 AM
Wow what a great read. I love all the detail. Even the military terms used, although unknown to me, make it all the more realistic. I love all the characters used, you've hit everyone through year 5 practically. I cant wait to see who you add next. Claymore as the XO is awesome. Major Bludds Fijians is a cool touch. Using half the secondary MOS's for guys like Alpine and Airborne. Putting Stalker as the senior NCO brilliant.
Having lived in Kinshasa when I was younger makes the story all the more special to me. I never learned much Lingala since it gets mixed with French. (it only has 400 words and 3 colors.) Falcon speaks French so he could probably get by. The use of Esperanto is a cool idea as well.
Anyway great stuff. Keep up the good work!
10-06-2012, 08:53 AM
Wow what a great read. I love all the detail. Even the military terms used, although unknown to me, make it all the more realistic. I love all the characters used, you've hit everyone through year 5 practically. I cant wait to see who you add next. Claymore as the XO is awesome. Major Bludds Fijians is a cool touch. Using half the secondary MOS's for guys like Alpine and Airborne. Putting Stalker as the senior NCO brilliant.
Having lived in Kinshasa when I was younger makes the story all the more special to me. I never learned much Lingala since it gets mixed with French. (it only has 400 words and 3 colors.) Falcon speaks French so he could probably get by. The use of Esperanto is a cool idea as well.
Anyway great stuff. Keep up the good work!
Glad you're enjoying it. Let me know if there are any Kinshasa details I've got wrong!
10-06-2012, 08:54 AM
Lt Falcon briefed the assembled paratroopers.
“We’ll be conducting a HALO* drop onto this objective,” he pointed to a flat stretch of desert on the map. “We’ll provide integral security, confirm the capacity of that stretch of desert to take the weight of a landing aircraft, and then mark the landing site with IR beacons.” He turned to Ripcord and looked him in the eye. “No paraffin pots this time around.” Ripcord winced at the memory.
“Two planes will land in quick succession, offloading Steeler’s troop. Freefall, Airborne, Recondo and I will board the second plane with all our parachutes for exfiltration. In the event that the landing site is not appropriate, we move thirty km southeast to test this alternate site. If that’s not suitable, then we extract via helo from that site.” He looked at his watch. “Time now is 1047 hours. The mounted element is conducting tactical rehearsals, and at 1500 hours will then be doing load and unload rehearsals by the landing strip. We’ll conduct our own tactical rehearsals until 1400, and then link up and report to the airfield for 1500. Questions?”
There were none.
Hawk sat in the canteen, ostensibly reading a report, but in reality listening to the chatter around him. In one corner, Ripcord was discussing rifles with Crazy Legs at a table littered with energy drink cans, cans of dip, and skin mags.
“These HK weapons are a big improvement over the M4, whether 416 or G36. I really like their reliability.”
Crazy Legs shrugged, his fingers playing chords on the table surface.
“I was hoping to get my hands on a Stoner 63. Wet Suit was telling me a couple of the SEAL Teams still have a few. I asked Torpedo, but . . . “ He held out his hands, palms up.
“But the direct impingement system made for too much maintenance and too many stoppages. Piston operating systems are far better suited for combat in harsh climates and terrain,” Ripcord said.
“You’re thinking of his Armalites,” said Crazy Legs, shaking his head. “The 63 family used a piston system.”
Steeler pulled up a chair.
“Hey boys - talking guns? I figured you’d still be looking at stereoscopic images of the drop zone.”
Crazy Legs laughed.
“We’re seeing those images in our dreams.” He nodded towards Ripcord. “No - Rip here is being unpatriotic.”
Steeler looked conspiratorially over his shoulders. “Well don’t tell Roadblock, or he’ll put you through the meat grinder and serve you as burgers,” he whispered.
“I just think these rifles are better than what the rest of the green machine is using. And plenty of the boys have taken to the MP7.”
Steeler laughed. “Your gun cult colours are starting to show.”
“And I think we missed an opportunity to have great home designed guns instead of these imports,” said Crazy Legs.
“You sound like Clutch going on about his precious wheels!”
Low Light, sitting a table over, had been tapping away on a tablet, working through some design ideas for night sights. He raised his head.
“You boys have it all backwards. You start with the desired terminal effect – the number of joules you want to dump in a body. You determine the optimal effects over the intermediate ranges, determining the trajectory, which then dictates your muzzle velocity and grains. That in turn drives your rifling. Everything after that is cosmetic.”
Ripcord, Crazy Legs and Steeler stared at each other.
“Of course, most problems stem from people just not hitting the target.” Low Light leaned forward and tapped Crazy Legs by the eyes. “You need to hit the “T.”” He drew his hands to the bridge of a tense Crazy Legs’ nose, and then ran them down the centreline of his body to the base of the sternum. “If you don’t hit that, it doesn’t matter what shoot him with, the target will still be able to fight.” He leaned back and returned to his tablet.
* HALO - High Altitude Low Opening
10-07-2012, 07:45 AM
Stalker and Psych Out sat beside Hawk. Hawk turned to them.
“The boys are always talking shop, aren’t they?”
Stalker looked surprised by the comment.
“Of course they are. We’ve got that cadre of the tier one guys, the Olympians. That’s all they do. Then we’ve got a bunch of high achievers from the conventional force. We put them through a special program under the leadership and influence of the Olympians and they raise the level of their game accordingly. They develop those intense mental and physical traits. They want to prove that they’re up to the challenge.”
“I’m not sure everything is all positive,” said Psych Out, frowning. “I’ve compared the periodic psych and peer evals against the baseline tests I did back in the States. We have a problem. Half the troops are near addicted to the adrenaline of combat, and take risks in order to get a high. The rest are scared, but too proud to admit it, so they take even greater risks to not lose face.”
Hawk stared at Psych Out. “We’re not doing more multiple choice personality tests.”
“No. This isn’t Myers Briggs or five factors. This is neurology,” said Psych Out, shaking his head.
“What do you propose?”
“Start sending guys on leave. Let them chase a few other hobbies so they don’t rewire their brains to only get dopamine and opioid fixes from gunfights.”
Hawk shook his head. “I’m fighting in multiple regions right now. I can’t spare anyone for leave.”
Psych Out looked around the room before answering. “This unit is like a car you’re redlining. The engine is going to blow, and it’s going to hurt. You’ve said yourself that this is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Stalker turned to Psych Out. “I think you may be underestimating some of these troops.”
“Stalker and I will discuss this further,” said Hawk, holding up his hand, “and I’ll talk with Claymore too. I do see signs of out-daring each other in some of the recent plans. It’s time to get back to some basics and better planning processes.”
“I don’t think that will be enough, but maybe it will buy us time,” said Psych Out as he bit his lip.
Stalker jerked his thumb to a different corner of the room, where Rock n Roll, Clutch, Wild Bill and Cover Girl sat.
“Not everyone is wrapped up in work!”
“I can’t stand that country and western junk you insist on listening to,” said Rock n Roll.
“Oh come on,” Wild Bill laughed. “You wanna see a pretty girl in a short dress kick her heels up with a smile on her face you gotta be prepared for a little twang!”
“No way. I want something I can get with on the beach after a day on the waves. The girls are still in bikinis, all sun kissed and looking for someone to warm them up as the sun goes down.”
Wild Bill laughed again.
“Well, I will admit I enjoy a little Lynyrd Skynyrd now and then.”
Clutch slapped the table.
“Hey – Free Bird was the final song played at my high school prom!”
Cover Girl’s jaw dropped.
“You have got to be joking.”
“Nope.” Clutch leaned back and smiled at the memory. “Well, it was the last song Margaret Boberek and I were there for, before heading out to check out the back seat of my Corvair!” He added, leering at Cover Girl.
“You are absolutely incorrigible, Clutch,” said Cover Girl as she shook her head.
A serious look crossed Clutch’s face. He leaned forward and put his hand over Cover Girl’s.
“Hey – one summer I worked this funky old beach town. There was this girl, and we had this thing going. I swear “Boys of Summer” was written just for us. You know, you remind me a lot of those days.”
Cover Girl put her hand on Clutch’s cheek.
“Clutch, if this world were a little different, and maybe if you and I were the last two living people . . .” she paused, a far off look in her eye. Clutch started to lean closer.
“Yeah,” she continued. “I’d stockpile batteries.”
The table erupted in laughter. Clutch shook his head.
“Say, you think that line might work on Shana?”
Cover Girl looked at Clutch’s hand, still covering her own.
“Well, maybe if you shaved, washed that grease out of your hair, cleaned you finger nails . . . No. I think the only thing that would stop her breaking your wrist is knowing it would keep you back here with her.”
“Oh no,” Rock n Roll said. “She’s coming with us.”
“Oh, then she’ll definitely break your wrist.” Cover Girl pulled her hand away from Clutch, and winked at him.
10-08-2012, 06:33 AM
It was two hours before takeoff for the pathfinding team. Low Light and Spirit sat poring over schematics of a rifle design.
“I’ve been looking for something lighter than .50 or .338 but with better performance through foliage and cover than the .300 Winchester Magnum. I’m experimenting with a 9.3x74R round, 285 grains with a tungsten rod, using a necked-down .375 H&H cartridge. The overall range is shorter than our current rifles, but is more than enough for this terrain and it packs more joules at distance than our current rounds. Shipwreck is working on some of the parts right now. Can you work on the cartridges while I’m gone?”
Spirit traced some of the diagrams with his fingers
“I’ve been wildcatting cartridges my whole life. I look forward to testing this rifle when it’s ready.”
Wild Bill stuck his head in the tent.
“Hey y’all – we’re havin’ a prayer session before you leave. You comin’?”
Low Light stared Wild Bill in the eyes.
Wild Bill was slightly taken aback by the hard response.
“You don’t pray?”
“Never saw the point,” said Low Light, shaking his head.
Wild Bill nodded thoughtfully.
“Well, you practice shooting so when the fight happens you react instinctively. You pray so that when a crisis happens you have a solid moral foundation and the crisis doesn’t overwhelm you.”
Low Light holstered a pistol, slung an Uzi, and picked up his rifle case.
“Good point. I’m going to the range.”
Wild Bill put his hands on his hips and shook his head. He spat out a wad of chew.
“Remember Ecclesiastes 3:3!” he called out. Then he turned on his heel and walked away.
The light inside the freezing transport plane went from red to green. Big Ben pointed and the eight paratroopers leapt into the darkness, stabilising in freefall as the ground rushed to meet them. They watched their gauges closely, opening their parachutes and being jolted into slower descent only a few hundred feet above the ground. Boots kicked up sand and dust as they landed, and they quickly bundled their ‘chutes and consolidated. Lt Falcon confirmed his location on his GPS, oriented on a terrain feature, and waved the team to their tasks. Low Light, Ripcord and Crazy Legs moved to a rock pile a couple of hundred metres to their west, setting up an observation post from which to cover the landing strip, and calling in a sitrep to the headquarters. Falcon led Airborne, Freefall and Recondo down the proposed landing strip, testing for soil density and laying out infrared landing lights. After consulting the penetrometre readings he updated the sitrep. The landing strip would work.
10-09-2012, 10:24 AM
An hour later they heard the growing sound of aircraft engines, and watched a bulky aircraft blot out the stars. It landed, the rear door opening and Vamps rolling out before it had stopped rolling. Three Vamps, two with motorcycles strapped to the back and a Mauler pulled out and quickly adopted defensive positions as the plane turned, accelerated, and took off into the night. Half an hour later a second plane landed, offloading another Vamp, a Mauler and a truck. Lt Falcon, Airborne and Freefall boarded the plane and it took off as the mechanised force moved out across the rocky plain. The dry air and the parched, cracked earth were distinctly different from the lush rain forests they’d left behind.
Shortly before dawn they reached the release point where the firebase and the assault force separated. Steeler guided the firebase to a low ridge overlooking the target, arrayed the vehicles, and assigned targets to each weapon: the Mauler cannons, the anti-tank missiles and the GAU-21 and Y3 automatic grenade launcher of two Vamps, and Low Light and Scarlett’s Barrett sniper rifles. Short Fuze set up his mortar and laid out a series of HE bombs, and set aside a pair of smoke bombs and pair of illumination rounds. They watched the two assault Vamps move through the low ground, and at 0540, twenty minutes before first light, they all opened fire. Troops leapt from the assault Vamps, which were engaging with their twin 7.62mm machine guns, and began bounding forward in fire teams. Night Fox turned to Bazooka, who was manning twin machine guns.
“Take the wheel and use the remote firing system. I’m dismounting.”
Chunks of masonry flew off the building, and Zap fired an 84mm round at the outside wall. Ripcord and Crazy Legs ran to the hole, tossing grenades through. Back Blast swung a sledge at the edges of the hole, widening it, and Night Fox, Hit n Run, Dusty and Alpine climbed through, scanning for targets as the others followed. Within minutes they had cleared the compound. Dusty sipped water and radioed a sitrep to Steeler.
“Compound is secure. We only encountered resistance from four pers, all local security types. All are dead. There are no other pers in the vicinity. Zap is checking for booby traps, but so far everything looks clean. We’re securing the command post area for sensitive site exploitation. The armoury is empty, as are a lot of rooms. We only faced a skeleton force. The main body must have left here days ago.”
Steeler swore, and waved Scarlett over.
“Get down below to bag items of intelligence interest. We aren’t sticking around in daylight hours. You have thirty minutes, and then we move south to lay up deeper in the hills."
10-10-2012, 07:05 AM
The convoy headed south, passing through desolate landscape. There was no sign of wildlife. In the distance, the gunners made out small herds of thin cows through their optical sights, and they skirted fields of stunted sorghum and thinned-out clusters of baobab trees. Steeler studied the rock pile through binoculars, and then waved a pair of Vamps forward to clear the area. Once it was secure they pulled into an all-around defence, deployed cam nets, and conducted security, maintenance and rest. Breaker and Dusty set up a frequency scanner connected to a laptop to scan the satellite phone frequencies. Steeler joined them.
“You guys both speak Arabic. What are you picking up?”
Dusty and Breaker exchanged wry grins.
“Arabic has so many variations that it might as well be a bunch of different languages. We won’t get a lot of what the locals are saying. MFLTS* might. We’re hoping to pick up other languages, which would indicate foreign involvement. We’re also DF’ing signals.** The airfield is that way,” Dusty pointed, “so transmissions from there will indicate it’s active. But so far we aren’t getting any. Or any indication of radar emissions.”
“Ok. Twenty five percent manning for sentries. We roll at last light.”
Night Fox looked away from the horizon and turned to Dusty, who was almost invisible under a camouflage blanket.
“What is that?” he asked.
“It’s a Fjellduken bag. Alpine gave it to me. It’s the best camouflage I’ve ever come across. I usually travel with some chicken wire and hessian, but this is more convenient.”
“So how did you end up doing this kind of thing?”
“Refrigeration and air conditioning bored me. The company I worked for, Central Services, was drifting more towards duct work. I hate ducts.”
“So life in the Army made more sense?”
“Well, I thought so until my commanding officer told me I was going to Iraq to put an end to religious fundamentalism. He didn’t know that the Baath Party was secular. That’s when I realised I knew more about the region than the chain of command, so I moved into the SOF world. But I discovered many of the ‘operators’ were just as ill informed. They’re just in better shape. I spent a lot of time in Afghanistan arming tribes while we completely misjudged the impact of dumping weapons on a culture of violent retribution with no loyalties to a central government. And now I’m here. Go figure.”
Night Fox nodded.
“Yeah, and here I am too, in yet another land-locked country. Some place for a SEAL.”
* MFLTS - Machine Foreign Language Translation System
** DF - Direction Finding
10-10-2012, 09:20 AM
When this is done you should upload it to a file storage site. I'd like to print it out and read it.
10-11-2012, 07:03 AM
When this is done you should upload it to a file storage site. I'd like to print it out and read it.
I'll give that idea some thought.
10-11-2012, 07:08 AM
Thirty six hours later . . .
Steeler and Scarlett laid out the imagery of the target airfield.
“We know there are Mig 21s, and we also believe there are Mig 17 and SU 17 on the airfield. We have no idea how they were acquired, but they can further unbalance the situation between Sudan and South Sudan. At last light we’ll leave this location. There’s a small escarpment a kilometre north of the airfield, currently being secured by Dusty and Low Light. We’ll drop off the truck and Short Fuze there, and then advance on the airfield. At the edge of the airfield we’ll switch to line abreast and spray everything with fire. I’ll fire a green flare and we then move to two columns, Maulers leading – me left and Hot Seat and Long Range right - to drive between the parked aircraft, firing outwards. Keep the speed below five miles per hour. Return to the RV independently. We’ll use the runway to extract using ABCA airlift.”
At last light the vehicles stated their advance, crunching over rock and navigating by a combination of GPS and stars. After several hours, including two halts to replace punctured tires, they linked up with Dusty and Low Light.
“They had two Mig 21s up in the air earlier today, doing what appeared to be flight training. That large transport has been sitting there all day too. They were refuelling it earlier today, so maybe it arrived in the past day or so. There’s one Hind helicopter, but it looks like it’s being repaired, and a pair of Yak-38s.”
“Any sign of ground troops?” asked Steeler.
“No – just pilots and ground crew.” He pointed out the various living quarters. “But there are a whole bunch of anti-air defences.” Dusty started pointing them out. “There are several missile positions, and four ZSU-23-4.”
Steeler pointed to Zap, Fast Draw and Bazooka.
“Dismount the Javelins from the Vamps. Set up a firing line here along with Short Fuze. When we go to extended line and start firing, engage the ZSUs first, followed by the missiles.”
Dusty and Low Light loaded their bikes in the back of the truck while the three anti-tank gunners set up their firing posts and others helped them stack replacement missiles.
Steeler signalled for everyone to mount up, and the assault force crested the escarpment and began its advance on the airfield.
As the assault force closed the distance to the airfield Bazooka scanned further to west.
“Oh crap, I’ve got thermal signatures. Vehicles are approaching from the west.”
Muzzle flashes briefly lit the sky, followed by a flash as the rightmost Mauler exploded.
The three gunners fired missiles laid on ZSUs, and immediately reloaded and swung to acquire the new targets.
“Fast Draw, kill the fourth ZSU,” shouted Zap.
“Where’s Dee-Jay?” shouted Scarlett.
“He took my spot in a Vamp with Rollbar and Repeater,” said Zap, sliding another tube into the launcher.
“That irresponsible son of a . . .” spat Scarlett, laying down her rifle and running to the truck for the tacsat radio. Gears sat rigidly in the driver’s seat.
“ABCA, this is Greaser Troop, over.” She waited what felt like an eternity, listening to the sound of Short Fuze’s outgoing mortar bombs aimed at the airfield’s guard positions.
“Greaser Troop, this is ABCA, send message, over.”
“We’re under contact from mechanised ground elements at airfield. Lead with close air support.”
“ABCA acknowledged. CAS inbound. ETA nine zero minutes.”
Scarlett swore, dragged Gears out of the truck, slung the radio on her back, and ran back to her rifle. She pushed Gears to the ground and shoved the radio into his hands.
“Make yourself useful and listen to this. If you hear anything, let me know.”
Stretcher leapt out of the back of the truck with a medical kit on his back.
“I need to get down there,” he said.
“You need to stay up here until we’ve secured the area,” said Scarlett. “Anyway, no one survived that explosion.”
Beside her, Low Light aimed a pair of laser binos at the enemy mech force.
“Three two hundred metres,” he said.
Scarlett swore again, and adjusted her point of aim back at the airfield, laying on a guard revetment. Exhaling, she squeezed the trigger.
10-12-2012, 06:45 AM
“All Vamps continue assault on airfield. Adopt defensive positions once the field is secure,” said Steeler over the radio. Heavy Metal swung the Mauler to the right, and Steeler picked up his first target. Hitting x14 magnification he laid on a HISS, lased the target, and squeezed the trigger. Three 75mm shells punched through the armour, setting off internal secondary explosions. Steeler flicked back to x7 magnification, catching sight of friendly missiles from the fire base, and noting two other burning HISS tanks. He traversed right, laid on another target and fired, cursing as the picture jumped as Heavy Metal jerked vehicle left. The screech of shells ricocheting off the frontal armour caused both of them to jump, and Steeler slammed his hand over the smoke grenade discharger button. Six white phosphorous grenades burst, providing temporary cover from view. Heavy Metal slammed the Mauler into reverse, jockeyed right, and accelerated forward to a small fold in the ground.
Clutch floored the accelerator as Rock n Roll engaged targets with liberal bursts of .50 from his M3M, concentrating on airfield security installations. Following close behind, Night Fox kept his Vamp in Clutch’s tracks, while Ripcord focussed the twin 7.62mm guns on the parked airframes. A hundred metres to their left, Rollbar zig-zagged through gaps blown in the wire perimeter while Repeater engaged aircraft. In the passenger seat, Dee-Jay leaned into an M249 shooting up everything to his front. Crank Case steered towards a guard revetment and Crazy Legs concentrated automatic 40mm grenades at it.
“Enemy force is dismounting infantry,” shouted Bazooka. Short Fuze raised laser binos and lased a centre of mass. He adjusted traverse and elevation on the mortar, clipped propellant to a dozen rounds, and started firing. Moments later the enemy infantry scattered under the weight of fire.
Rollbar slowed his Vamp as he passed the pilots’ quarters, and Repeater fired a long burst along the lower edge of the length of the building. He reached down, pulled fresh boxes of ammo from the floor, and reloaded both guns. Crank Case pulled into a sandbagged position, driving over the body of a dead sentry, and Crazy Legs sighted on a concentration of dismounted infantry in the distance. Five grenades arced through the air, breaking up their formation.
“We’ve got infantry moving towards this escarpment,” called out Fast Draw.
Bazooka ran back to the truck and dismounted the M240 and grabbed a couple of boxes of ammo.
“I’m out of missiles. I’ll deal with them.” He dropped behind a rock, took aim, and started firing. Scarlett rolled beside him, laying aside her heavy rifle in favour of her XM 2010. She made out the leg of a soldier taking cover and squeezed the trigger. She shifted her aim as she saw another soldier break cover and squeezed, cursing as she was jolted off target. Gears shoved the radio handset at her. She grabbed it and glared at Gears, who backed away.
“Greaser this is ABCA. CAS inbound three zero minutes out. Airlift has had to abort due to hydraulic failure. Estimate it will be two four hours delay before we can recover you.”
Scarlett turned to hand the radio back to Gears, but he was nowhere to be seen.
10-13-2012, 08:36 AM
Clutch pulled behind a battered sandbag wall and leapt from the vehicle to examine the wheels.
“We’ve shredded left rear, he called.
“Keep the platform as stable as you can, “Rock n Roll grunted, squeezing off bursts.
Clutch pulled out tools and started breaking torque on the nuts, and slid a jack in place.
“Jacking,” he shouted, and Rock n Roll used the moment of instability to slap a new belt in place.
Suddenly rockets impacted around them, tearing up the ground. Both soldiers ducked, and turned in time to see rockets rip into the next Vamp over. Rock n Roll looked up to see an Su-17 kick in the engines, having glided silently over the battlefield. He swung the heavy machine gun to the sky and fired a long burst. The enemy plane banked, fired a ripple of rockets and cannon fire at the fire base on the escarpment, and then shuddered as .50 cal rounds impacted. The plane swung north and disappeared behind the mountains.
The group on the escarpment hugged the ground as rockets impacted around them. The front of the truck exploded and there was a brief cry. Stretcher turned to see Gears’ body crushed beneath the front end. He ran to the vehicle, grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the flames, then lay down to examine Gears. Gears blinked twice and coughed frothy blood.
“Stay calm buddy,” said Stretcher, pulling bandages from his bag. He turned to Fast Draw. “Can you jack this up?” He inserted a chest decompression needle, and started applying pressure bandages to visible open wounds.
Fast Draw turned to run over then paused, looking into the hills to the north.
“More infantry inbound,” he shouted.
Low Light rolled into a new position, focussed the binos on them, and then ran over to the radio.
Fast Draw put a jack in place and started cranking. He heard Stretcher swear and took a quick look under the vehicle. It had crushed Gears’ pelvis.
“There’s massive internal bleeding. I need your help while I clamp arteries.”
Fast Draw glanced back at the closing enemy.
“We’re going to need your rifle or we’ll be overrun.”
Clutch grabbed a medical bag and fire extinguisher and ran towards the burning Vamp, but the fuel tank had evidently ruptured and the searing heat drove him back. Ammo began to cook off, and he hit the ground and low-crawled to a sandbagged position as the. Looking around, he saw a dead defender lying behind a PKM. He slapped in a belt and began firing short bursts at the enemy infantry. He heard the sounds of an approaching airplane, and hugged the ground.
10-13-2012, 08:55 AM
Whoa! How many Joes KIA so far? Sneak Peak and Muskrat?
10-14-2012, 06:58 AM
“Greaser this is Skystriker on approach. Identify your positions.”
Scarlett reached for the handset.
“Skystriker, this is Greaser. The airfield is friendly, and we have a position on the escarpment, marking with smoke.” She tossed a red smoke grenade behind her.
“I see red,” said Skystriker.
“Mechanised enemy are west of the airfield and enemy dismounted infantry are north of the escarpment.”
Skystriker, flying a Hawk, flew a pass over the mech forces, noting the burning HISS tanks, Stinger jeeps, and light trucks, and fragmented infantry. He fired a ripple of rockets and headed north. He made out what looked like two companies converging on the escarpment, with a third company in depth. Circling back, he fired another ripple of rockets and dropped two 500 pound bombs. He looped back for a cannon run on the depth company when he saw multiple flashes.
Low Light watched several missiles race into the sky. He saw the Hawk fire flares and head into a step climb, and then he saw a missile detonate and shred a wing. The Hawk shuddered and Skystriker ejected. Low Light turned his attention back to the depth forces, who were rushing in mass towards the anticipated landing spot of the falling pilot.
“Short Fuze, adjust fire!” he shouted.
“I’ve only got two bombs left,” replied Short Fuze. He lased to the mass of running enemy, adjusted his mortar, and dropped the two bombs.
They watched the bombs impact on the edge of the mass, but the bulk of the men kept running, sunlight reflecting off drawn blades. Skystriker landed, pulled a pistol, and got off three rounds before disappearing under the frenzied mob.
Stretcher and Fast Draw took up firing positions to Low Light’s left and started firing.
Short Fuze glanced over at the truck, saw the tarp covering Gears, picked up his rifle and adopted a firing position.
10-15-2012, 08:41 AM
Steeler checked his ammo load. There were only six rounds remaining. He toggled his microphone.
“Scarlett, this is Steeler. Your position looks untenable. Bring the truck down to the airfield.”
“The truck is destroyed and Gears is dead.”
Steeler took several long breaths.
“Crank Case, Night Fox, this is Steeler. Take your Vamps up the escarpment, load up the fire base, and return. Leave your dismounts back here manning crew served weapons.”
He looked over at Heavy Metal.
“It’s your tank. I’m going to check the pilots’ quarters to see if any are alive who can fly that Condor.”
He popped the hatch and started running, seeing two Vamps race towards the escarpment. He slowed as he approached the quarters, hearing moaning coming from within. He drew his pistol and pushed the door open. Nearly two dozen men lay on the ground with various wounds, struggling to apply bandages.
“Who can fly the Antonov?” barked Steeler.
Accusing eyes and silence met him.
“One of you must be able to fly the Antonov. Who?”
“I can,” came a low voice. Steeler swung to see a blond woman, bent over a wounded man.
“Start it up. All of you will come with us.”
“You are a bastard,” she spat.
“If you don’t start that plane up we are all going to be overrun.”
The woman stood up, pulled a set of binos off a shelf and stepped outside. She scanned.
“Desert Scorpions to the west, and Guardians of Paradise to the north.” She pulled a canteen from her belt, rinsed her mouth, and spat.
“Go get that plane running. We’ll load up and get out of here pronto. I have a medic who can patch up your friends. Hey, call me Steeler.”
“That is a stupid name,” said the woman. “And they are not my friends. But bring them. I am Daina.” She walked toward the large transport plane.
On the escarpment, the firebase group wrapped Gears’ body in the tarp and rolled it onto a stretcher. Low Light and Zap hurriedly emplaced pursuit denial mines, and the group started moving towards the airfield, closing the distance with the approaching Vamps.
An hour later they were all aboard the Antonov, the battlefield behind them, where the Desert Scorpions and Guardians of Paradise regrouped. Daina stepped out of the cockpit and surveyed the scene. The Mauler and three Vamps were lashed down, wounded pilots were being treated by Stretcher, and the exhausted Americans were checking kit, figuring out what had been lost to distract them from thinking about who had been lost. She signalled to Steeler and Scarlett.
“I have set the autopilot to fly to Rostov-on-Don. Unless you tell me what American forces are doing in Sudan, that is where we shall land."
“We’re protecting civilians from –“ started Steeler. Daina cut him off.
“No you are not. You were hunting Colonel Sharif. Why?”
“And how did you come to be flying for Sharif?” shot back Scarlett.
“I am tracking stolen weapons. What are you doing?”
“What weapons were stolen?
“No. What are you doing here?”
Steeler and Scarlett exchanged concerned looks.
“Do you think they might be connected?” Steeler asked Scarlett.
Scarlett bit her lip, then looked back towards Daina.
“We’re tracking an arms manufacturer.”
10-16-2012, 06:58 AM
Lady Jaye found Hawk in the Ops Centre.
“Sir, you ought to see this.” She held out a piece of paper. Hawk glanced at it, frowned, and read it a second time.
“All of them?” he asked.
Lady Jaye nodded.
“Skystriker too. I just checked with ABCA."
Hawk reread the list.
“It’s a bizarre coincidence,” He said. “Do we have anyone else from there?”
Stalker looked over his shoulder to look at the paper.
Dee-Jay, Providence, RI
Hot Seat, Pawtucket, RI
Repeater, Cumberland, RI
Long Range, Warwick, RI
Rollbar, Greenwich, RI
Gears, Westerly, RI
Skystriker, Providence, RI
“Yes,” said Lady Jaye. “The liaison officer from Admiral Colby, Ace, and Dogfight from ABCA are both from Providence. There’s something else. I started digging into the Jugglers. A number of them served together back in the 9th ID when it was the High Technology Test Bed. They have a number of contacts with some of the companies who developed prototypes for that Division, including HAC,* which is based in Rhode Island.”
“What exactly are you suggesting?”
“Mainframe and Law are re-running the data right now, but it looks like HAC and MARS were in direct competition for several contracts, both at home and abroad. HAC made allegations about patent infringement, unfair practices and so on, but nothing ever stuck. Law is going to ask Dogfight and Ace a few questions. Sir, I have to ask you to consider the possibility that we’re being used to further the business aims of a weapons company.”
* DISCLAIMER. I first drafted this story line because I thought it was dumb that so many Joes have RI as their native state. I subsequently learned that was due to Hasbro people taking over file card writing from Larry Hama, and giving their own names and home towns to characters. So I created HAC, which stands for Hasbro Armaments Company (rather unoriginally – I’m open to suggestions of better names!). Since so many of the early Joe systems were based on real kit, much being trialed by 9th ID, that seemed a logical connection for the Jugglers. I then did a little research and discovered that there really is an arms company based in Rhode Island - Textron. Awkwardly, one of its subsidiaries is AAI Corporation, which designed the High Survivability Test Vehicle – Lightweight, upon which the Mauler is based. So, I’m here to tell you that any similarity between my story and Textron’s activities is purely coincidental.
10-17-2012, 06:43 AM
Several days later, in the dead of night in an empty room in a nondescript building on the edges of the D.C. beltway, a group of civilian-clad men stood around, engaging in small talk and checking their watches. The door opened and Hawk, dressed in khakis and a sweatshirt, walked in. One of the men started to protest the nature of the meeting, but Hawk cut him off.
“You sold us out,” he said, pointing his finger at the men. “You sold out the institution to a bunch of arms companies.”
“That’s not correct Colonel Abernathy,” said one of the men, cocking his head as he considered the allegation. “It’s not entirely incorrect either. We balance national interests with those of organizations that transcend nations but which face similar threats. This country is stretched thin. The services are stretched thin. SOF is stretched the thinnest. You are part of a trial program. We wanted to see if a cadre of tier one operators, fleshed out with some strong conventional troops and funded and equipped by these companies could relieve the burden on the force.”
“I swore an oath to protect the Constitution, not to preserve shareholder value,” said Hawk.
The men, looking tired and frustrated, all shook their heads.
“We face evolving threats, and we have to evolve to meet them. Look at the institution we belong to. It’s more concerned with preserving itself than in winning wars. These companies have a vested interest in preserving the values of the Constitution. They may seek opportunity in the seams of the world, but they house themselves here, where rule of law and preservation of individual rights are sacrosanct. They have greater concern for the Constitution than does this institution, or most of the population if it comes to that.”
“No it’s not. They depend on rule of law. They will take advantage of opportunities that present themselves, but they depend on the protections granted by the Constitution.”
“I am not a mercenary,” spat Hawk.
“No,” said the designated spokesman. “You wouldn’t switch sides if offered more pay. Neither would they. This threat you’ve identified, though: Cobra. They might. We therefore redeployed some assets based on info you provided. We want you to focus on pursuing them, and to lead your team into South East Asia, Brigadier-General.”
This ends the main Rumble in the Jungle story. Short stories (emphasis on the word ‘short’) based on the story line are forthcoming. The first will be a Joe/Queen & Country cross-over. Thanks for reading. Comments are always welcome. I will not confuse criticism of my writing with criticism of me.
10-17-2012, 12:18 PM
Well I thought this was excellent Low-Tech. Very well thought out and followed a straight forward story which was a very enjoyable read. Your twist on the characters was great. I quite enjoy how you have some of the favortie characters working as contractors, only to essentially form the Joe team by the end of the story. The fact the Jugglers aren't entirely bad is great. Hawk's promotion is a nice touch.
I think most of the original RI joes were named after Hasbro employees, but Hama gave them the filenames. after 1987 or so Hama stopped writing the filecards and there are even more hasbro employees. I wish I remember how many but I think its close to 20!
I can't wait for more. When you mention Queen and Country does that mean we're going to see some Action Force?
10-19-2012, 07:53 PM
Well I thought this was excellent Low-Tech. Very well thought out and followed a straight forward story which was a very enjoyable read. Your twist on the characters was great. I quite enjoy how you have some of the favortie characters working as contractors, only to essentially form the Joe team by the end of the story. The fact the Jugglers aren't entirely bad is great. Hawk's promotion is a nice touch.
I think most of the original RI joes were named after Hasbro employees, but Hama gave them the filenames. after 1987 or so Hama stopped writing the filecards and there are even more hasbro employees. I wish I remember how many but I think its close to 20!
I can't wait for more. When you mention Queen and Country does that mean we're going to see some Action Force?
Well, the Jugglers are using DOD resources to further industry aims without government approval, so I'm not sure how good they are, but at least they have a rationale.
As for Queen & Country, I was actually referring to this: Queen & Country - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_%26_Country). That said, I have toyed with a few Action Force concepts. I'm not interested in using the AF that was Joes with different file cards. The old AF characters from the Blood for the Baron days do interest me, though, but I haven't yet settled on how to use them. I'm torn between making them a modern force, or using them thirty years after their first appearances, at the end of their careers/retired - possibly working as chauffeurs and gardeners for some British ex-military Foreign Secretary, or some such thing. More to follow!
11-23-2012, 06:46 PM
David Bennett walked into the Ops Room and exchanged a few pleasantries with the duty staff. He’d dropped his bag in the pit, the tiny cubicle shared with the other two “Minders,” noting the pile of papers on his desk. He shrugged his shoulders inside the dress shirt, and contemplated leaving the suit jacket over his chair before reporting in to Director of Operations. He decided against it. He was still used to the heat of the Congo, and London’s weather, while unseasonably warm, felt cool. He wandered over to Kate Cooke’s desk. The long suffering PA to D Ops was always a source of a smile and warm greeting, not to mention useful insider information on current events.
“Davey, so good to see you back,” smiled Kate. She eyed him critically. “You lost weight. You suit looks a size too large.”
“Nothing a good nosh won’t cure,” he replied.
“How was the trip?”
“Educational. My ‘job interview’ was held in an ‘authentic Irish pub.’ I was worried I’d walk in, get a broken bottle across the face and find myself trading punches in a piss-soaked alley beside some bloke shagging a bird against the rubbish bins. Then I learned that ‘double fisting’ means something completely different over there. But I’m back, and looking forward to getting back into some fell running.”
He was interrupted by a voice over Kate’s intercom.
“Send him in.”
Kate shook her head and waved him into the office.
“Good luck Dave,” she mouthed.
Bennett walked into the office and took in the trim figure of D Ops, Tara Chace, sitting behind her desk going through a stack of files. She glanced up at him.
“You didn’t finish the job in Congo. What are you doing back here?”
“Nice to see you too,” said Bennett, sitting on the edge of the desk. Chace raised one eyebrow and pointed to the chair. Bennett smiled and moved to the chair. “Right, sorry. Ma’am.”
“Well, everyone went wobbly. The Yanks think and work in black and white, and can’t get above the tactical level. They discovered they’re a shade of grey, and that they’re playing a more complicated game than they realised. They’ve gone static while they work things out. When in doubt they fall back on bureaucracy. And besides, the air company basically shut down. I figured I’d got you enough to work with for now and was better employed elsewhere.”
Chace grunted, then slid a file towards him.
“You’re bloody useless to me here, aren’t you,” she said. “Pack your backs for Burma. There’s a nuclear scientist who’s fallen off the radar over there. Embarrassingly, he holds a British passport, among others.”
Bennett flipped through the file.
“You want him busted out?”
Chace starred at him for several seconds.
“Our Aussie cousins have a stake in this one, so it’s a joint op. They’ll provide you an SASR brick. The team leader is just as useless as you: Dan Toner.”
Bennett grinned, tapped the file on the desk and stood up, buttoning his jacket.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
11-24-2012, 07:31 AM
The humid heat was a welcome relief after London’s cold. The chaos of Naypyidaw’s airport was less so. He struggled through the crowds and fought his way to a taxi, quickly bartering a price to a hotel on the edges of the city. Once inside, he stood under a tepid shower, and then spread a map out across the bed. At 7 o’clock there was a knock on the door. Bennett tensed, and heard a voice say ‘Room service.’
“I didn’t order any room service.”
“Well then my mate,” came a voice caricaturing a South Asian accent, “your bloody fish n chips are going to get all cold and smelly.”
Bennett laughed and opened the door, letting in Dan Toner who he had last seen as a colleague for a questionable air logistics company in Congo, and an enormous man he had never seen before.
“Davey, meet Scott Walters, a Kiwi blade, and ‘Pinetree’ to his friends. Let’s get a bite to eat.”
The tiny restaurant was packed, and the three large men found themselves struggling to create enough space to join in. They exchanged banter over beer and fried seafood, until Toner nodded his head to leave.
“Come. We have some business to discuss back at the shop.”
11-25-2012, 08:12 AM
Toner spread an aerial image of the city over a table. A topographical map was pinned to the wall, along with 1:5,000 blow ups of an industrial region and photographs of specific buildings.
“We have converging problems. Our target is in Kyaukpyu, a port city in the west, close to the Indian border. He’s somehow peripherally associated with a group stirring up unrest out there. Although most of the population is Buddhist, there’s a Muslim minority in the west, the Rohingyans. They’re being persecuted and are crossing the borders into Bangladesh and India, both of who view the Rohingya as illegal immigrants. We think someone is deliberately trying to inspire unrest and start a war. They’re certainly creating a market for weapons. Next, Kyaukpyu is building a massive port for regional trade, and a pipeline that links the port to China. There have been a number of issues with both projects that would normally be written off as vigorous free market competition, but some of the sabotage has had distinctly military tones. There have been some spectacular fires too. Anyway, those or both tangential to our mission. The target is in a textiles factory. The other two are keeping it under surveillance. We’ll stick with codenames for this – Digger and Down Under. You should be able to remember those.”
Bennett chuckled. “Right – that’s about as subtle as Big Ben. So tell me about the building.”
“Yeah, well, it’s a Silversmile plant. Makes military-style clothing. Everything from monochrome coveralls to camouflage uniforms, and peripherals like straps and belts. They mostly work in Cordura. There hasn’t been anything particularly unusual about traffic in or out, either for employees or supplies or products. They have other plants scattered around the region making plastic and metal buckles, loops, slides, buttons, zippers and so on. The intel guys did a little digging and didn’t come up with much, but they’re leveraged to the hilt with unsecured revolving credit facilities through some European banking syndicate.”
“What does that mean?” asked Bennett.
“Damned if I know. But it sounds impressive. Anyway, security is pretty standard, with a few rent-a-cops and some video surveillance. There’s nothing to suggest a nuclear scientist is working there.”
Bennett flipped through the images and then turned to the reports on security details and the movements of employees.
“What about the senior management? What are their hours and where do they live?”
Toner pulled up the imagery on a tablet computer.
“We’ve flagged the residences of the senior guys and have developed a rough pattern of life.” Coloured icons and routes built up on the screen. “It’s still rough, given that we only have two men on surveillance right now.”
Bennett rubbed his face.
“Have you given any thought to the extraction plan?”
“I have a contact with a high speed boat. Once we have a better idea of a timeline I’ll finalise the details with home. We’ll either rendezvous with a sub, a ship or a skyhook for C130 recovery.”
“Well, then we better get out there to add eyes-on.”
T J Bang
11-25-2012, 09:07 AM
Very good. I like where this is headed :)
11-25-2012, 01:02 PM
This is going to be good. Cobra has a reach all over the world. Can't wait to see who else you add.
11-26-2012, 03:33 PM
Kyaukpyu was significantly smaller than the capital, though chaotic in its own right, surrounded by townships and broken up by snaking rivers. Digger and Down Under were reaching the limits of their endurance, struggling to remain alert after days of keeping the factory under surveillance and tailing key employees. After a quick handover they both fell into a deep sleep while Pinetree took over surveillance and Toner drove Bennett around the city, pointing out vantage points, escape routes, high risk areas, and the routes of the staff. They spent the following days in surveillance, fighting boredom by inventing obscene names for each person of interest.
“Maybe he’s living in the factory,” mused Pinetree one day.
“We’re a little undermanned to fight through a whole factory,” said Digger.
Bennett flipped through a notepad, than checked the logbook.
“What about this periodic run to the military area? Do we have any indication that the Burmese are buying uniforms from Silversmile?”
Toner checked his tablet. “No.”
“Well it looks like a regular run, every two weeks, same time and route. It’s a nicer looking sedan with blacked out windows. It should be making the run tomorrow. Let’s do a close target recce. Maybe that will give us a target in two weeks.”
“I dunno,” said Digger. “If I was moving a nuke scientist about I’d have more security than that run.”
“Maybe,” admitted Bennett, “But this place is pretty remote and the security forces have a pretty tight lock on everything. Overt security would just draw unnecessary attention.”
They all nodded, and started reviewing the route, identifying likely ambush spots and escape routes.
11-27-2012, 05:42 AM
Fifteen days later Digger sat behind the wheel of their van, with Bennett and Toner in the back. Down Under waited in an escape car a few short blocks away, while Pinetree readied the escape boat. Toner watched the feeds on his tablet, coming in from cameras they’d emplaced over the prior days, while Bennett checked the armour-piercing rounds in his submachine gun. The Rohingyan section was a gutted, burned out mess and relatively heavily patrolled by police,* but the route between the Silversmile factory and the gated community housing the local military leadership was surprisingly lightly patrolled.
The target sedan rounded the corner, and Digger pulled out of the lane way. As the sedan approached he stepped on the gas and accelerated across the target car’s path. Digger spun the wheel hard, slamming the van into the front end of the sedan, riding it over the curb and into the corner of a building. Before the vehicles had come to a halt Toner had slid open the side door and Bennett was firing rounds through the Sedan. Digger leapt from the other side of the van, lugging brightly painted traffic barriers that he put in put in place, blocking additional traffic from entering the street. Toner fired up a circular saw and started cutting open the sedan, and Bennett fired more rounds through the opening. He leaned in and looked around. There were five bodies – the driver, a guard who had died while pulling out a submachine gun, and three men in the back. Bennett took DNA samples from each while Toner took photographs. Bennett rifled the bodies, retrieving a pair of notebooks, five mobile phones, a tablet computer and a slim black hard drive. He tossed the items into a small satchel and stepped out of the way as Digger poured naphtha over the sedan interior and then tossed in a flare. They ran down the street, ducking through a pair of alleys, and leapt into the small car that Down Under was waiting in. He led them quickly through the streets towards the waiting boat while the sounds of sirens converged on the incident scene.
“Was it him for certain?” asked Digger.
“It was someone. We’ll know for certain when we run the tests.”
Down Under drove the car off the paved road and parked in some scrub along the water’s edge. They transferred into the boat while Digger poured bleach over the interior of the car, then set an incendiary device on a timer.
“Time to make waves!”
Pinetree pointed the boat to open water and pulled away from the shore.
*See Kyaukpyu’s Muslim Quarter Razed to the Ground | The Irrawaddy Magazine (http://www.irrawaddy.org/archives/17309) for more.
11-27-2012, 01:47 PM
Its great how you've managed to use current events to explain the ease of which they pulled this off.
11-28-2012, 05:39 AM
Four days later, Tara Chace glanced at the incoming text on her mobile. “Meet me by the statue of Achilles.” She glanced at her schedule and reached for her coat.
“Going out for a bit,” she said to Kate as she passed the desk. She breathed the crisp air as she made her way through Hyde Park, glancing over the variety of people enjoying the day and the scenery. She made out Bennett waiting by the statue, dropped her cigarette and ground it underfoot without breaking stride.
“I saw the preliminary report,” she said. “It was supposed to be an assassination, not a massacre.”
“Do you know who the others were?” he asked.
“A pair of mid level managers, a bodyguard and a driver. The Burmese are not at all impressed.”
“Have you been looking into Silversmile, figuring out why they’d have a fugitive nuclear scientist in their factory?”
“D Int has that one, but it’s not the highest priority right now.”
“Make it a priority.” He passed Tara a wrapped package. “It has target lists of twenty-four retired US Senators, Congressmen and GOFOs. Someone is fed up with being on the receiving end of targeted killings and is planning their own, though with trigger pullers instead of drones. That seems outside of a mid level manager’s normal responsibilities.”
“Have you told anyone about this?”
“No, not even the Aussies. Figured you’d know best what to do with this. But given the nature of the contents and how you say the CIA has a quarter of SIS on their payroll, I thought it better to do this out here.”
“You’re not going to give it to the CIA, are you?”
Tara stared at him. “Not until they have something I want.”
He smiled. “That’s what I figured. Tamsin still getting Machiavelli for her bedtime stories?”
Tara swatted his arm with the package.
“Go on, take the rest of the day off. I’ll expect your official return and report tomorrow.”
“Ta. Give Kate a kiss for me.”
11-28-2012, 10:25 AM
Very good. I like where this is headed :)
This is going to be good. Cobra has a reach all over the world. Can't wait to see who else you add.
Thanks for the votes of confidence. Having done an overly bloated storyline I wanted to suck back and focus on short vignettes, kind of like Special Missions. That way I can explore a concept or introduce new characters and then move on to something different. The Aussies will be back in greater detail in future, but there will be some other perspectives (which will at some point include Action Force, as previously discussed) between now and then.
Its great how you've managed to use current events to explain the ease of which they pulled this off.
I'm a news junkie (!) and figure there are enough real crises that there's no need to get into fictitious countries. I may play with the timelines a bit, but I'll always ground my stories in fact. As the saying goes, war is a way of teaching geography.
11-30-2012, 12:59 PM
Spears of light played through the back of the truck, showing clouds of swirling dust and silhouettes of the other men on the hard benches. He buried his head deeper into the scarf wrapped around his face and tried to drift back to sleep, and effort made near impossible by the jolting over the rough ground. The brakes squealed and he was squeezed between his neighbours as momentum carried them all against the cab. Moments later he heard the banging of the driver and passenger doors, and then he was blinded as the rear tarp was flung up. The driver and co-driver dropped the back gate.
The eighteen men grabbed their rucks and rifles and jumped to the ground, blinking in the harsh light. The driver was already climbing back behind the wheel.
“That way,” said the co-driver, pointing down the rough road. “Start walking. Helmets on.” He then climbed into the cab, and the truck pulled away.
He took a look at his heavy steel helmet, with pieces of white gun tape on the front and rear on which was written the number “21.” Most of the others were putting on their helmets, each with a different number written on the tape. Several of the men swore, un-slung their packs, and started preparing a meal. He shook his head, tightened the straps, pulled out a compass to check the bearing out of habit, and started walking.
Eight hours later he caught sight of a truck in the distance. Only two or three other candidates were within sight, the others having fallen back hours ago. He blocked out the pain and kept putting one foot in front of the other, closing the distance with the truck, not allowing himself to hope that this might be the end of the walk. As he drew near a men stepped from the shade of the truck and reached out a hand.
“Number 21, give me your ruck.”
He shrugged out of the shoulder straps and the man hung it from a scale, nodding that the weight was correct. The man opened the ruck, pushed aside the contents and pulled out a clear plastic ten-litre jug full of water dyed red, and nodded when he saw it was full, and then pointed to the side of the dirt road.
“Brew up and rest.”
He stretched his muscles, lay out a pad and poncho liner, and pulled out a canned meal. He set up a small stove to heat the can, then pulled off his boots and inspected his feet. Months of working in water had softened his skin, and this training regimen had not completely re-hardened his feet. He held a needle in the stove’s flame for a moment, threaded it, and ran the thread through the blisters under the balls of his feet. He then leaned back, propped his feet on his ruck, ate his meal and rolled under the poncho liner.
12-03-2012, 08:03 AM
“UP, UP, UP,” came the shouting.
He opened his eyes, feeling as though he had only just closed them, but the darkness and stars told otherwise. A dozen men now lay on the ground around him, with several more limping up the road, stragglers from the route march. He carefully pulled the thread from his feet, inspecting the now-hardened skin. It was important to rebuild the calluses under his feet. He rolled his pad and liner and stowed them, and a soldier stood in front of him and flashed a card with a four digit number and a three digit number. He blinked, and the soldier moved on, flashing another card to the next candidate. After a moment’s hesitation he pulled out his compass and set it to the four digit number, assuming it was a bearing in mils, and that the three digit number represented distance in metres.
“Get moving!” the soldier shouted.
He pocketed a handful of gravel, shouldered his ruck, confirmed the bearing, and started walking. Every hundred metres he transferred a pebble into a specific pocket to help him keep track of distance. He had eight hundred and twenty seven metres to cover. At eight hundred metres he slowed his pace, and then finally stopped, looking around for any sign of what to do next. There was nothing. Quelling rising concern he stared at the ground, and started kicking over rocks. He rolled over one larger one, and found a piece of paper with another bearing and distance. He stretched his shoulders and set off again. This process repeated itself over the rest of the night, with the directions occasionally displaying a photo of a piece of equipment or a transcribed situation or contact report. The last bearing brought him to a truck. The driver leaned out the window and waved him over.
“What did you see?”
He collected his thoughts for a moment.
“A Toyota pickup with DShK machine gun, max effective range 2,500m and six men armed with AKs, max effective range 300m – probably less in their hands; a ZU-23-2, max effective range 2,500m; and a BMP-2 with twin FN MAG machine guns mounted on the turret. Max effective range of the 30mm cannon is 1,500 against light armour and 2,500 against soft targets, while the MGs are effective out to 800m.”
“Show me the location of friendly and enemy positions on your map.”
He plucked a blade of dry grass and pointed out the positions described in the reports.
The driver jerked a thumb at the back. He climbed in, saw three other candidates sleeping, and joined them. Some time later he was jolted awake as the truck started up and pulled away. Four others had joined them in the intervening time. He closed his eyes and didn’t open them until the truck came to a halt again.
12-04-2012, 07:02 AM
Several days later, the fifteen remaining candidates filed into the jungle basha and were directed into a rough semi circle. A grizzled sergeant approached.
“This next stage of your training will introduce you the basics of parachuting. You’ve got the bottle we’re looking for. Now we need to see if you can apply it in the harness.”
He looked around, seeing elaborate systems of suspended harnesses and a tall tower with cables running to the ground through a hundred metres of brush.
Over the next two weeks he spent more time suspended from these contraptions, practicing slips, landings and emergency procedures than he spent on his feet. His thighs and shoulders were rubbed raw from the webbing, and he dreamed about parachutes. It was a relief when they finally climbed into an aircraft for the first time.
“Your first jumps will be from the Hip for you to gain your air sense,” barked one of their instructors. “Then we’ll move on to the An-26 for further drills.”
Later that day, he stood in the doorway of a Hip, staring at the ground below and waiting for his first jump he thought of the challenges he had overcome to date. Basic training, his first firefights, Eel training – first in shark-infested waters and then the frigid North Sea, and now this. The jumpmaster pointed at him. He swallowed, then jack-knifed into empty space.
12-05-2012, 07:01 AM
The group consolidated on the drop zone following their fifth jump and the sergeant addressed them.
“You need six jumps to pass this course. Before that last jump you’ll review battle drills. Corporals,” he signalled to the staff. “Over to you.”
Days and nights blended together in sessions of patrolling, instinctive shooting, contact drills and deliberate attacks. One day the Corporal gathered the section for orders. He laid out a map, an aerial photo, and a photo of a heavyset man.
“The target is male, thirty one years of age, in an isolated farm house. He’s required alive for questioning. Everyone else in the vicinity is hostile. Estimated opposition of six guards armed with rifles and pistols. First stick – 7, 12, 17 and 29, you’re the firebase. Open fire on my single whistle blast. Once we’re inside, shift fire to anyone exiting the rear of the building. Two blasts indicate objective secure. Second stick – 3, 9, 21 and 25, you’re the assault force.”
They marched in silence for an hour, passing from open grassland into woods, and then stopping at a small river, with several floating logs. The Corporal raised his rifle and fired several shots into the water. The logs exploded into life, and crocodiles swam away from the sound.
“You,” said the Corporal, pointing at one of the candidates. “Number 17, take the end of this cord, swim across, and secure it on the far side.
Number 17 paled, but grabbed the cord and started swimming. They hastily set up a single rope crossing, clipped their rucks, and crossed, keeping a wary eye out for returning crocs. Once on the far bank, he exhaled a huge breath and felt his body tremble as it purged adrenaline.
“Keep moving,” said the Corporal, and they continued deeper into the woods, moving more tactically for another hour. Number 9, on point, halted the patrol and waved the Corporal forward. The ground ahead was littered with sheets of corrugated metal. The Corporal gathered them into an all around defence.
“It’s a common early warning device,” he whispered. “You can’t walk on them or drive over them without making a noise that will wake the dead. Start looking for a gap.”
They threaded between trails littered with the sheets of rusting metal and carefully moved the last few hundred metres to the target before splitting into their respective groups of firebase and assault force. He lay in the woods, examining the open ground to the house, and seeing only one man standing under the shade of the roof, watching the setting sun. The Corporal confirmed their dispositions, then put a whistle to his lips and blew one sharp blast. The man in the shade had only a moment to tense before being cut in half by a burst of fire. The firebase laid down fifteen seconds of automatic fire and then the assault force was sprinting through the ploughed field. Number 3 headed for the door, shooting out the lock and kicking it open.
“Not that way,” screamed the Corporal, leading the rest of the group to a window. Number 3 stepped through the door and fell to the ground as a burst of fire caught him in the chest. The Corporal leaned through the window and opened fire on the prone defender, then waved the other four through. They leapt in and swept through the house. Number 21 kicked in a bedroom door and put two rounds through the last guard who was standing in front of the target. He drove his rifle butt into the target’s stomach, kicked his feet front under him, and zip-tied his wrists. The Corporal examined the room, pocketed some papers, a mobile phone and a digital camera, then blew his whistle twice. They consolidated outside after confirming 3 was dead and began moving back to base, pushing the target along. At the river, 21 blanched. Darkness had fallen and none of the crocodiles were visible. The Corporal fired shots into the water and the sounds of thrashing echoed along the bank.
“Seven – get going.”
Number 7 swallowed, then plunged into the water and hastily swam across, re-establishing the rope crossing. They all followed, visions of hungry crocs playing through their minds. The sharp odour of urea came from the target as he was pushed into the water, which 21 hoped was covering the smell of fear coming off his own body.
12-06-2012, 07:35 AM
He had barely finished cleaning his gear when the group was assembled for a briefing. He noticed a dozen men he had never seen before gathered around the sergeant and another man, broad shouldered, lean, with grey hair cut close to the scalp. He wore sunglasses and chewed on a cigar, and his rolled-up sleeves revealed powerful forearms covered in faded tattoos, and stood examining a map model on the ground.
“What’s going on?” he asked his Corporal.
“It’s the final assessment. That’s Crippled Eagle, our Commanding Officer.”
“He’s kept in shape for an old guy,” muttered 25. The Corporal glared at him.
“But seriously, what kind of a name is that for a Para Viper?”
The Corporal shrugged.
“As far as I know it has to do with his first war.”*
They gathered around the CO.
“It’s test day. The reconnaissance troop has located a guerrilla party and has been tracking it for several days now. They’re heading towards a prime killing field.” He picked up a stick and started pointing to the model. “The guerrillas will break out of the woodline here and will have a mile and half of open ground to cover. They’ll do it by bounds. Reconnaissance Troop will have stop teams located in these two cut off positions,” he pointed to gaps on a flank of the anticipated direction of movement. “The vets will helo in and set up stops in these further three locations,” he pointed to additional places. It was clear that the enemy’s rear and right flanks would be blocked by these moves. “The greenhorns are the sweep force and will jump from An-26, landing in line parallel to the enemy’s line of march. You hit the ground, you turn into the enemy, and you assault. Overwhelm those who stand, and drive the rest towards the stop groups.” He stared at each man in turn. “I’ll be jumping with you. Questions?”
* The Crippled Eagles - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crippled_Eagles)
12-06-2012, 11:41 AM
Cobras! Awesome stuff. I always like fanfic from the cobra trooper point of view. Para-Vipers no less. The Crippled Eagle stuff is cool too. Something about the Rhodesian war always captured my imagination. Probably a combination of all the Soldiers of Fortune magazines, and Major Bludd's Filecard.
12-07-2012, 07:14 AM
Cobras! Awesome stuff. I always like fanfic from the cobra trooper point of view. Para-Vipers no less. The Crippled Eagle stuff is cool too. Something about the Rhodesian war always captured my imagination. Probably a combination of all the Soldiers of Fortune magazines, and Major Bludd's Filecard.
Rhodesia has interested me ever since (years ago) I picked up (and have since lost) a copy of Harry McCallion's Killing Zone, (Para, SAS, South Africa Recces, RUC), which included tales of violence in Rhodesia. At the time I couldn't even find that country on a map, and it took a while to learn the name had since changed. Since then I've learned an awful lot more! Brilliant tactics, hopeless strategy, indefensible politics - but the source of some terrific adventures.
Strangely, I never associated Bludd with Rhodesia. I always imagined him as one of the Katanga or Biafra bunch - along with Wild Weasel.
12-07-2012, 07:16 AM
He fought to control the adrenaline coursing through his body as he sat in the plane. This was hardly his first firefight, yet the feeling was the same as the first time he had tensed before squeezing the trigger. The jump master waved for everyone to stand up. He checked his gear and line, and that of the man in front of him.
“Lets go let’s go let’s go,” he whispered to himself, and then before he knew it the light was green, the jumpmaster was waving and he was in the door, checking clearance, out, counting, feeling the jerk of the risers, checking canopy, and dropping. He glanced down and saw the enemy – God there must have been a couple of hundred of them, scrambling about. He saw black puffs from impacting mortar shells, and a pair of Fangs raced along at treetop level, pouring machine gun fire into the group. He hit the ground, rolled, released his ‘chute and readied his rifle. A quick glance left and right confirmed that he was oriented on the enemy, and he started advancing, snapping off rounds at targets. In the back of his mind he recalled the view of the battlefield as he fell, broke it into a grid and worked out the number of enemy he had seen. There were about seventy five – not the hundreds he had first thought. He continued advancing and engaging targets, pressing home the advantage of shock action before the enemy could bring crew-served weapons to bear. He could hear Crippled Eagle screaming at the assault force to spread out. He realised that in the heat of the moment they were all converging, seeking the psychological comfort of proximity. He shifted left and waved the next man to move out as well.
The enemy broke. They turned and started running, few firing back at the sweep force. Bursts of fire came from the front as the stop groups cut down the running guerrillas. He sighted on a target and squeezed the trigger. Nothing. He canted the rifle and saw the action was to the rear.
“Reloading,” he shouted, grabbing a fresh mag and inserting it.
“Covering,” shouted his fire team partner, snapping rounds at the fleeing enemy.
He checked his watch. It was incredible. He had been on the ground less than fifteen minutes and they had routed a force three times their size. Corporals and Lance-Corporals barked instructions, consolidating the sweep line into a secure position, coordinating ammunition redistribution, and tasking groups to search the enemy dead.
He rinsed his mouth and then swallowed a mouthful of tepid water. He felt invincible. What a way to fight, he thought.
Crippled Eagle strode over to the group.
“Good fighting.” He looked over the men, sweat tracing trails through the dust and dirt on their faces. “Ten more of those drops and you’ll be eligible for freefall training and the reconnaissance troop. In the meantime, take those numbers off. You’ve earned your names back, Para Vipers.”
Juan Ortiz took his helmet off and ripped away the tape bearing the faded number “21.”
“Welcome to One Commando.”
12-08-2012, 06:52 AM
Colonel Cliff Mewett looked over the request forms, then looked up at the two men standing in front of his desk. He frowned. It was rare to have visitors in his office, located in the depths of a nondescript industrial building on the outskirts of D.C. It was rarer still for visitors to hand-carry requests. He was more accustomed to dealing with electronic requests. He considered the years of approving the transfer of military and military-related equipment for clandestine operations. He knew the authorisation figures involving SOFCOM, CIA and State cold. There were no figures on this request. Instead, he had a CIA liaison, and what was clearly a military officer who had stopped paying attention to civilian fashion upon joining the military two decades ago. He scanned the list – rifles, grenade launchers, light and medium machine guns, sniper rifles, anti-tank missiles, recoilless rifles, day and night optics, frequency hopping encrypted radios, tooling, medical supplies – all to be transferred to a seaborne arms dealer off the coast of West Africa. Unconsciously, he straightened his tie, flexed his feet in highly shone shoes, and dropped a hand to scratch a non-existent itch on his left leg. He scratched plastic.
12-10-2012, 09:11 AM
25 0347Q October 1983 – Grenada
The freefall jump had gone smoothly, but that was about the only thing that had gone according to plan. A burst of fire cracked overhead, the tracers an eerie mix of red and green. The damn Point Salines airfield security forces were well equipped with both Bren LMGs and PKM medium machine guns, outranging most of the weapons his team was carrying. They seemed to be growing stronger by the minute.
“Covering!” came a voice behind him, rounds slapping past to his left. He fired two more quick rounds, turned, and ran back towards the wooded area northwest of the airfield. He heard the rumble of a diesel engine, and in made out the shadow of an armoured vehicle pulling up to reinforce the airfield security. Damn – BTR 60. His Troop didn’t have any anti-armour weapons. He was about to report it when his radio squawked.
“Assault Troop and Sniper Troop, consolidate in wood line. We’ll lay down max fire, then break contact north.”
He ran past the covering team and paused.
“Consolidate into one firing line in the trees.”
“Roger that Cap’n,” the man grunted.
He hit a piece of cover, spun, and started firing.
He reached for his radio to reach the Squadron Commander.
“Sitrep – one armoured vehicle, probably a BTR-60, moving up to support the enemy.”
12-11-2012, 07:00 AM
25 0357Q October 1983 – Grenada
The four-man team to his front pulled back under his covering fire, running hard. One jerked and fell, and the man to his left immediately spun, fired half a mag, grabbed the downed man and started dragging him.
“Damn it.” He searched for more targets, the night vision goggles only revealing faint outlines of enemy soldiers. He squeezed off several more rounds as the wounded operator was dragged past him. He turned and ran for the woods.
Once in the woods the two troops, along with a pair of attached combat controllers, opened up with maximum firepower. A firing line of thirty-five seemed impressive in Bragg, but seemed awfully meagre against what must be a reinforced company. Worse, a quarter of the Assault Troop were burdened with demolitions to clear potential runway obstacles, so were only carrying MP-5s, and they had no machine guns or anti-tank weapons. The volume of fire made no appreciable impact on the slow enemy advance.
“Snipers hold, Assault fall back,” shouted the Squadron Commander.
Maybe they could lose the enemy in the trees. He flipped the NVGs onto his head and threaded his way into the woods. Within steps he lost his footing as the ground dropped away. He skidded several feet before catching himself on a tree.
“It’s a ravine,” he shouted over his shoulder.
“Keep moving,” called the commander.
“This is what happens when you don’t have any maps,” muttered a Sergeant.
The two troops scrambled down the ravine, relieved at the respite from taking fire. They started treating their wounded. Three operators lay bleeding while others with SF Medic backgrounds provided immediate treatment. Several explosions marked Claymores on time delay detonating, hopefully deterring close pursuit.
“We’ve got to keep moving,” said the Squadron Commander.
One of the medics started performing chest compressions on one of the casualties.
“This guy ain’t going anywhere.”
Operators were already taking ammo from the casualties and redistributing it. The commander turned to the Combat Controllers, who were cycling through frequencies, trying to raise air support. One of them turned.
“We’re not getting anything until first light when the Rangers jump.”
The commander swore.
“Cliff – take your guys back and provide rear security.”
12-12-2012, 07:02 AM
25 0445Q October 1983 – Grenada
Mewett waved his team back up the slope. They were only half way up when the firing resumed. Small saplings started blowing apart around them as they hit the ground and returned fire. Shadows moved at the edge of the tree line, but he couldn’t make out any decent targets. Cliff checked his mag pouches – down to four mags. Hearing the sounds of engines moving across the front, he ran down the line to his left, adjusting the firing positions to a curve to protect their flank. As he did so, heavy machine gun firing opened from that angle, and a 14.5mm round tore an operator in two. Two more men were hit my small arms fire.
“Fall back,” shouted Cliff.
The troop withdrew by bounds, pulling their casualties to the centre of a collapsing perimeter. Grenadian security forces lined the top of the ravine in a V-shape, pouring automatic fire into the base. The arms of the V slowly got longer as more soldiers moved along the top of the ravine, cutting off escape.
“All we’ve done is alert the airfield security. The Rangers are going to get shot to pieces when they jump in,” muttered one of the soldiers.
Cliff rounded up a group of operators – two with straight M16A1s, one with an M203, and a sniper.
“We’re going to pull back a hundred metres then get up the ravine wall and hit the Grenadians in the flank. We’ll push hard to roll them up and relieve the pressure. Another team will do the same on the other slope.
They ran though the woods and scrambled up the slick slope, turning to face the enemy. The grenadier fired a grenade into a group clustered at the edge of the trees, and the others picked off Grenadians as they ran. They bounded forward, firing on the move. Cliff glanced down into the ravine and noted the fire was easing up. He sighted on a target and squeezed, and then the world flipped upside down.
Agonising pain shot through his leg, and he felt like a defensive lineman was sitting on his chest. He tried to move his hands, trying to find a grip on a rifle, on anything. He struggled to draw breath, and to focus on anything except the pain. He felt hands on his shoulders, pushing him to the ground. He had vague awareness of a tourniquet being applied to his leg, and his shirt being cut open. Rifles cracked above him, and then he found himself half upright, his head lolling onto his chest, trees moving past him. His leg felt like it was on fire, and he was dimly aware of someone screaming in pain. He gritted his teeth and the screaming stopped. Someone shut that poor bastard up, he thought. His leg slammed off a stump and he heard the screaming again.
Oh God that’s me.
He glanced down his body, trying to make sense of the blood-soaked mess of exposed flesh and bone.
He came to with the sound of explosions tracing the edge of the ravine. Dawn cast its grey light over everything, and the slow moving AC-130 was pounding Grenadian forces. From the runway came the distance, the hammering sound of anti-air cannons, aimed at approaching troop carriers. Grenadian fire lifted as the airfield defenders broke contact and sought cover from the sky. The gunship fired 105mm shells into the trees, and then focussed minigun fire on elements that broke cover. In the ravine, the Delta operators placed their casualties in ponchos and hauled them to the lip of the ravine, waiting for helicopters to extract them to the Navy’s ships.
12-12-2012, 12:55 PM
I'm glad Courage got a story behind his plastic leg. Delta no less. Excellent work as always.
12-13-2012, 08:17 AM
Colonel Mewett ran through the list of missions he was authorised to support. None included floating arms ships, and this didn’t fit the parameters of any of the missions being conducted in conjunction with the CIA. On the other hand, soldiers were certainly either in, or about to be in contact. Someone had done an analysis and was determined not to be outgunned. He scratched his leg again. To this day he still had phantom pains in that leg, even though it had been amputated by Navy doctors. He thought of the years of recovery, the struggle to restart a career, cycling through supply and administration and intelligence. He thought of his teammates dying in the mud, and about the decisions to carry light weapons instead of bringing along a few machine guns and LAWs. He wore two ribbons for that action, but bits of cloth failed to make up for the losses. He shook his head at the memory. Not again.
He opened a new database and started transcribing the requirements. He paused and looked up at his two visitors.
“You’ll have your equipment by the end of the week.”
LT Note – I wanted a little tale to explain how the Joes could get modern western equipment for their Congo mission while also tying in peripheral characters – Colonel Courage in this case. The recollection is based on something I read years ago in James Adams’ Secret Armies – a book I used to own and then lost sometime over the past years. That’s why we have libraries. Anyway, the passage (cited below) concerns a Delta mission in Grenada. I’ve never seen mention of this particular mission anywhere else, while I have seen several variations on failed SEAL Team 6 missions to observe the airfield (they jumped into the sea with boats, 4 guys drowned, the engines were flooded . . ), so maybe the Delta mission was a snap call to fill an immediate need. Who knows if it’s true or not. Regardless, it reads like a bad day at the office, which I’ve tried to capture in this very fictitious retelling.
"As planned, Operation Urgent Fury began with a pre-dawn Delta Force parachute drop onto the airfield at Point Salines. It was to be one of the very few things that did go right on that day. Delta had arrived in Barbados on 24 October aboard C-130 transports and giant C-5 transports which carried dismantled Black Hawk helicopters for the other Delta team.
Soon after the Delta parachutists landed, they were spotted by a Grenadian airport guard who raised the alarm. They quickly came under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire and were pinned down in a small ravine by the airfield, surrounded by Grenadian and Cuban soldiers. In the dark they were unable to summon assistance. Eventually, after dawn had broken, an AC-130 Spectre gunship came overhead and put down devastating covering fire. In four hours of fighting six men from the Delta unit of thirty-five were killed and sixteen wounded."
James Adams, Secret Armies, 1987, p. 238,
I’m of the opinion that the invasion summed up the importance of good intelligence and putting winning ahead of bureaucracy and inter-service rivalries. Adams sums up the Green Machine’s spin on the adventure:
"...the Army awarded more than 8,612 medals to the soldiers who had taken part, even though no more than 7,000 ever set foot on the island." p. 254
So I guess it was actually all a great success with few lessons to be learned and fewer processes to be changed.
01-11-2013, 07:48 AM
12 April 1983 - Dallas
The only sounds in the offices of the small First Dallas Bankcorp were the hum of the air conditioning and the clacking of word processor and adding machine keys. Tomax Paoli wore a bespoke suit and sat at a conference table covered in reams of paper. He flipped through land surveys, aerial photographs and financial statements, making notes about each on yellow legal pads. He reached for a large spiral binder
with the words “Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act” embossed on the spine, thumbed through several sections, and nodded in satisfaction. At length, he laid down his Mont Blanc pen and turned to the man sitting beside him.
“Fred, this was a highly inspired move. It is not every day that one buys sixty acres of land at 52 cents per square foot and in a period of twenty four hours flips it so many times that we finally sell it to a developer at twelve dollars per square foot. And to top it off, the developer returns to us to finance construction!”
He picked up a phone.
“Brother,” he opened. “The Keating deal is on. I leave it to you to play his bond issue.”
He set down the phone and turned towards the door.
“Rachel,” he called out.
Outside the conference room, a woman slipped her feet back into a pair of green patent pumps, straightened her green pencil skirt, and approached the conference room with a pad and pencil.
“Rachel, call Mr Keating and tell him we’d like a meeting tomorrow afternoon. Four o’clock. I have completed my assessment of his land development proposal and shall finance the project.”
“Yes Mr Paoli.” She paused. “You are aware that will push us past the legally permitted percentage of assets to commercial real estate loans.”
He pulled a slim notepad from his jacket pocket and pursed his lips as he thumbed through the pages.
“I think Springfield Holdings can manage some jumbo certificates of deposit. And have Fred arrange additional depositors from the latest blue-shirt intake."
Rachel noted the details and returned to her desk.
01-12-2013, 09:18 AM
13 April 1983 - Dallas
The next day, Tomax sat at the same table with the Keating development team, signing and countersigning the financial paperwork.
“It’s a ‘can’t miss’ deal,” laughed Keating. “You’re lucky some of the bigger boys passed on this one. I tell you,” he pointed a thick finger at the brothers, “we’re all gonna be stinkin’ rich by the end of this
one. The I-30 is covered with condo projects. This commercial tower is a can’t miss. People will be happy to have their office right down the street.” He shifted his finger’s point of aim to a sign on the wall that read ‘always remember the weak, meek and ignorant are always good targets.’
“And remember, I ain’t one of them.” He laughed.
Mr Paoli smiled slightly.
“The thought never crossed my mind.”
“No, I tell ya,” Keating continued. “Once this land is developed we’re gonna be rolling in it. Now -” he reached a hand across the table “I insist you join us at the Wise Circle Grill.”
“Wonderful. I will join you shortly.”
The delegation left and Tomax signalled to Rachel and to one of the accountants sitting in a semi-enclosed officer. Both joined him in the conference room where he pulled out a sheaf of folders.
“Rachel, Fred, here are a list of companies. Start negotiating via telex for office space in the Keating project. Make initial commitments for occupancy and agree to market rent plus one percent in
exchange for a minimal deposit. Total deposits for all companies are not to exceed five hundred thousand dollars. Fred - you are working five different real estate flips right now, aren't you?”
“Make that six. I'll handle the face to face.”
Rachel and Fred smiled as they took their notes.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, Mr Keating wants to buy me filet mignon.”
01-13-2013, 07:41 AM
21 February 1984 - Dallas
A trim Asian man was ushered into Tomax’s office.
“My work on the Keating building is concluded. I was subcontracted to work on the heating and ventilation systems. Everything exceeded code – though not much else in that building does. I personally installed the devices, which can be initiated by calling a telephone number.” He slid a card across the table.
Tomax frowned, and the Asian man held up his hand.
“I’ve developed an initiation device that uses a mobile phone system.”
Tomax arched an eyebrow.
“Clever. Now, the primary payment has been deposited in a UAE account. The balance is here.” He pushed three folders across the table, each containing complete account records and passbooks showing deposits of $100,000. “Anticipated time of availability is eighteen months.”
The Asian man inspected each file and put them in a briefcase. He stood, buttoned his jacket, bowed slightly, and left without a further word.
Tomax walked over to Rachel’s desk.
“Start breaking leases on the Keating project and fold the companies involved.”
14 April 1984 – Dallas
Keating slammed his hand on the conference room table. His face was white with red splotches around the eyes.
“I’m telling you I can raise the funds you bloodsucking Eurotrash parasite!” Flecks of saliva flew from his mouth as he screamed.
“Be that as it may, Mr Keating, the First Dallas Bankcorp has no option but to force foreclosure. You had assured us you would have seventy percent tenancy at this stage in the project, and instead you are at twelve percent. Your bond rating, which was improving, has been slashed. We have little faith in you being able to raise further capital to complete construction of the tower. Our legal representatives will complete the arrangements by the end of the week.”
“You’re going to have a nasty accident if you don’t cut me some slack,” Keating growled leaning forward and thrusting a finger into Tomax’s chest.
Tomax raised an eyebrow and leaned into the finger.
“Uttering threats will not help your situation at all. I’m afraid this meeting is over.”
01-14-2013, 06:54 AM
03 May 1984
Tomax dropped a quarter in the pay phone, pulled a card from his pocket and dialled the seven digits. He heard the line connect and ring twice before being cut off. He replaced the handset and returned to his car, pulling his coat around him. The night was unseasonably cool.
Across the city, in an unfinished office block - one of many lining I-30, a natural gas heating system malfunctioned, and the building caught fire. The fire burned through the building’s telephone trunk line before the fire detection system kicked in and could inform the fire department. As the building was in the middle of an as-yet unfinished development area and it was the middle of the night, the fire burned for over an hour and a half, and had jumped to two other buildings before the alarm in one of the other buildings alerted the fire department.
30 May 1984
Tomax depressed the phone’s switchhook for a moment, and then dialled a number.
“Brother, the insurance company has come through. They have settled three claims for the unfortunate fire. Fourteen point three million dollars to cover the damage to the Keating building, as well as twelve point eight and sixteen nine seventy five for the other two buildings. Yes – those assets, as well as the proceeds from the land sale, will be transferred to our parent company. Yes - the land sale was financed by Springfield S&L and is being managed by a CG.” There was a pause. “Yes, I agree, it is time.”
He hung up and called Fred and Rachel into the office, and spread out a folder on the desk.
“This file is a loan request for an exploration project in the Gulf of Mexico. Officially, oil projects are almost a license to print money. We’ll be sinking all of our loans into this project.” He leaned back in his chair and sat silent for a moment. “We’ll be liquidating very soon. Make appropriate preparation. For your situational awareness, this is a transfer of funds to a larger offshore project.”
15 November 1984 – Dallas
Tomax sat in front of the desk officer in the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation office. He placed several large binders on the desk.
“Here are the complete filings for First Dallas Bankcorp. We had eight hundred and twelve account holders with total deposits of $64,960,000.”
The desk officer looked startled.
“Those are some well-to-do account holders, Mr Paoli.”
“They are. And they are very much counting on your organization guaranteeing their deposits to the value of $100,000.”
The desk officer opened one of the binders.
“We will of course have to review your books to ensure no fraudulent activity has occurred.”
“I assure you, our transactions were completely above board.”
“Hmm. I’m hearing that from an increasing number of thrifts these days. So you lost your shirt on loans to an oil exploration venture. Were you qualified to assess the risk prior to approving the loans?”
Tomax shifted uncomfortably.
“My legal advisor has advised me to avoid answering such questions at this time.”
The officer shook his head, paused, and re read one of the pages.
“I see you made sizeable campaign contributions to a number of our legislators.”
Tomax nodded slightly, expressionless. The officer shook his head and waved Tomax away.
01-15-2013, 07:08 AM
07 January 1985 – Florida Keys
Fred and Rachel pulled their golf bags from the back of the car, laughing at a shared memory. They walked into the resort, where they were met by a Crimson Guardsman holding a clipboard.
“Well done. You both passed all of your annual recertification, and are both well under par. You received packages while you were out.” He handed them each an envelope.
They opened them, finding printouts of Nassau account information and a short note.
“FSLIC has covered all First Dallas Bankcorp accounts. The deposits in the five blind accounts for each of you have been honoured, and those proceeds have subsequently been deposited in the enclosed offshore accounts. You have each earned a further bonus of the proceeds of an additional blind account.”
The note continued with reassignment instructions, sending Fred to New York City, and Rachel to a forensic accounting course in Atlanta.
Fred and Rachel smiled at each other.
“The Commander wishes he could be here in person, but he claims he had unfinished business in Dallas,” said the Guardsman.
07 January 1985 – Dallas
Keating unlocked his front door and stepped inside. He dropped a briefcase on the floor and made his way to the fridge, pulling out a beer. He sat down with a sigh, and took a long swallow. His contented sigh turned to a splutter as Tomax stepped in front of him.
“I see you’re doing well with a new company and another project,” he said, dropping a file on the coffee table, and positioned a mirror in front of Keating.
“What the hell are you doing in here?!” shouted Keating, pushing himself out of the chair.
Tomax kicked him hard in the shoulder, pinning him back against the chair.
“You threatened me once before. That’s why I’m here.”
There was a flash, and Keating tried to respond, but felt suddenly weak. He felt warmth spreading across his chest, and then sudden agony in his mouth. He slumped in the chair, staring at his reflection in the mirror. As his vision faded he saw that Tomax had sliced his throat open and pulled his tongue through the hole, like a macabre necktie.
Tomax wiped the straight razor clean and exited the house.
Banking was such a risky business.
LT Note - While we’re still feeling the effects of the latest fiscal crisis, brought on in large part by poor regulation of the subprime mortgage industry, it is worth remembering that such crises strike disturbingly frequently. The US in the early ‘80’s saw unintended consequences in deregulating the Savings & Loan, or ‘Thrift’ sector in an effort to save it. Unfortunately, it was done in a manner easily exploited by the unscrupulous, and in a manner that I’m sure inspired Hama when he wrote the Crimson Guard file cards, and which I’ve tried to capture in this tale of the early days of Cobra (and more specifically Extensive Enterprises) exploiting opportunities faster than the government can close the loopholes. In the event that financial stories interest you, here’s a backgrounder: FAST MONEY AND FRAUD - New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/23/magazine/fast-money-and-fraud.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm)
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