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Resource Tales of the Ranch - Seeing Jahannam (Story 4 of the "Normal" Saga) 2015-02-03

by Grand58742

  1. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

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    Tales of the Ranch - Seeing Jahannam - by Grand58742

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  2. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++


    Date/Time: 11 March/1709
    Location: 30,000 feet over Hungary

    The two F-15I Active-Eagle fighters continued to bore holes through the sky as the pilots waited for a mission from the orbiting AWACS aircraft, safely behind the front trace of the battlefield. But the pilots didn’t want to continue burning fuel waiting for something to happen. They wanted some action. Being young and brash, they still didn’t know the horrors of war up close. They saw it from the computer monitors in the cockpit and the heads up display graphics as opposed to seeing your enemy’s face when that primal instinct of survival kicks in and someone goes home in a flag draped coffin. Captain Wyatt “Hank” Williams was in the “driver’s seat” of the lead aircraft and radioed the controller once again.

    “Oreo, this is Kansas Flight, arriving at Point Floss and continuing to orbit. You have any traffic for this unit?” he said very bored into the radio. He was sitting at three “kills” with the green stars painted under his name under the canopy and he wanted to fill it to at least five to get that coveted ace title.

    “Negative Kansas, no new taskings. Continue to orbit,” said the unknown controller.

    “You might think they would send up something today,” observed his wingman, Second Lieutenant Mike “Dazzle” Coffee. By “they” he meant the IU.

    “They’ve been quiet for a while. Maybe they are planning something big,” said Williams.

    “Whatever, I’m ready to rumble as it is,” said Coffee.

    Williams chuckled at his young and eager wingman. While not an older man by any means, he had been in theater almost a year and was preparing to get promoted to Major soon. As soon as the brass got off their behinds and signed the appropriate paperwork that is. And so they continued to fly in the long figure eight pattern, waiting for the chance to engage any aircraft that came their way.


    “I don’t think we’re going to make it back to England,” said the co-pilot of the B-52I bomber. It had been on a low level bomb run (actually it had been launching cruise missiles for deep strikes into the Balkans and Turkey) when it was hit and damaged by anti-aircraft fire from a previously unidentified post on the ground. The fire had been effective enough to rip into their fuel stores and weapons bay and the aircraft was still flying along on hopes and wishes. They had gained altitude soon after being hit and the pilots knew they were a sitting duck for any kind of aircraft the IU would send up. They could make it to an alternate German landing site, but their primary base in England was out of the question.

    “Let’s see what is available,” said the pilot as he changed the frequency to the AWACS control net.

    “Oreo Command, Oreo Command, this is Basher 3 on emergency channel Bravo,” said the pilot.

    “Basher 3, this is Oreo, state nature of emergency and send data,” said the controller.

    The pilot sent the encrypted data transmission with his aircraft stats, course and other critical information before replying. “Oreo, this is Basher 3, be advised, we were on missile run near Arad, Romania when we were struck by anti-aircraft fire. We have climbed to 20,000 feet and declared inflight emergency. Limited fuel and primary systems out. Request emergency divert to nearest landing field, tanker support and fighter escort. How copy?”

    “I copy Basher 3, stand by,” said the controller as they reviewed the data. She put the information into the computer and saw the aircraft should stay in the air long enough for an emergency landing in southern Germany. While there were several other bases nearby, they were not as secure and still under threat from IU ground and air forces. And the B-52 type aircraft were to be preserved if at all possible. “Basher 3, stand by for incoming packet.”

    The B-52 pilot saw an incoming packet of information and fed it into his computer. He saw his projected course change and saw it was within the limits of the fuel remaining. Barely, but within the limits. “Oreo, I copy landing at Landsberg Air Base. Diverting from flight path at this time. Also repeat request for fighter escort.”

    “Copy, standby,” said the controller as they looked at the nearest fighter cover available. She switched frequencies and called up the nearest flight. “Kansas Flight, Oreo. Be advised, I have new tasking for you.”

    “Oreo, Kansas Flight, go ahead,” said Williams.

    “Roger, switch freqs to Channel Bravo 5 and come in contact with Basher-3. Be advised, it is a B-52 type aircraft hit by ground fire that needs escorting to Landsberg Air Base. Divert to following location and form up for escort,” she said after transmitting the data to the fighters.

    Williams looked as the navigation screen changed and gave a heading and altitude adjustments for him to form up with the wounded bomber. While it wasn’t an engagement with enemy fighters, it was certainly better than continuing to complete endless figure eight tracks in the sky. “Kansas Flight copies, diverting from established patrol route.”

    “We heading somewhere else boss?” asked Coffee.

    “Yeah, we get to play nursemaid to a bomber that got hit,” said Williams. “Switch to Bravo 5.”

    “Copy, Bravo 5 and divert from path,” said Coffee as he switched the radio over to the emergency frequency.

    “Basher 3, Basher 3, this is Kansas Flight on emergency channel Bravo 5,” said Williams.

    “Kansas Flight, this is Basher 3, go ahead,” said the pilot of the B-52.

    “Roger, we have been tasked to escort you to alternate landing site and are enroute to your location. Be advised, ETA nine minutes,” said Williams.

    “I copy nine minutes. Switching to channel Charlie 7 to clear emergency bands,” said the B-52 pilot.

    Williams and Coffee once again switched their radios to the frequency where they could coordinate efforts without tying up the emergency channel. The fighters pushed up their speed slightly to make it to the bomber in enough time to make a difference. “Basher 3, ETA four minutes, we have you on radar.”

    “Roger, four minutes,” said the B-52 pilot.

    Williams could see the aircraft on the internal radar set, but had yet to notice it visually. The newer B-52 models had some stealth enhancements to their design, but still presented a rather large target on radar when compared to the B-2 and B-1 models. Their overtake speed would be a problem in the next minute and Williams backed off on his throttle slightly. He could see the bare outline of an aircraft in the distance as a trail of black smoke marked its progress across the sky. As they got closer, the smoke grew darker and the bomber had considerable damage.

    “Dazzle, pull back on your speed and go to hi-cap. Basher 3, I’m going to give you a look over,” said Williams.

    “Copy that,” said Basher 3.

    Williams pulled his fighter up and over the bomber making an external check of the aircraft to determine if it was even possible to land.

    “Basher 3, be advised, you have serious damage to the bottom near the bomb bay. Landing gear area seems to be okay. Two engines are trailing smoke and your rear rocket launcher is bent. I wouldn’t attempt to fire anything from there,” said Williams.

    “I copy last, Kansas Lead. We are on internal oxygen and two engines out. But we are hanging on,” said the pilot.

    “We’ll get you to safety,” said Williams as he took up a position to the rear with his wingman. Oreo continued to call in contacts, but nothing moved towards them at the moment and other flights were dispatched to the calls. It was boring work playing nursemaid to the wounded bomber, but they both knew it was important work.


    “Turn to heading 310 for intercept. Be advised, two fighters in escort,” said the ground station to the flight of four IU Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft currently “in the weeds” preparing to attack the bomber. The newer models had radar absorbing skins which made them extremely hard to detect until it was far too late to react.

    “We copy, preparing to climb,” said the lead pilot. “Wolf 3 and 4, take the fighter on the left. Wolf 2, you and I will take the one on the right.”

    He received acknowledgements from the other three aircraft and prepared to climb as soon as they came into range of the radar guided missiles. The bomber could be dealt with at their leisure, but the fighters were a different matter. They could spoil your day if you were not careful and the FNC fighters that were this far out were the more advanced designs. But his Typhoon was a match for anything the FNC could throw at it and only the best pilots qualified for the program.

    “Wolf flight, climb now!” ordered the Major as he pulled back on the control stick and turned on his radar. Three targets were immediately illuminated by the on board systems and he let two missiles fly at the fighter. He could see six more smoke trails fly past him as the other fighters also fired.


    “Dazzle! Break left now!” yelled Williams as his radar warning receiver screamed at him about the inbound missiles. “Basher, dump chaff and dive!”

    He yanked on the stick while hitting the chaff and flares button, leaving behind a large cloud of the radar reflecting material for the missiles to home in on. He saw a large cloud appear behind the bomber as well and hoped it would be enough for them to escape. The G forces applied against his body as he grunted to keep the blood flowing to his brain as he yanked the fighter around the sky and towards the threat. He saw three of the missiles going after the chaff and the fourth still coming towards him. He yanked the controls once again and applied the afterburner to jink away from the missile and hit the chaff button once again. The last missile veered off course and headed for the cloud and exploded as the proximity fuse detonated.

    “Oreo! We are under attack! I need vectors!” demanded Williams.

    “Kansas Lead, be advised, they just popped up on the screen. Four Typhoon types coming from your six o’clock and climbing. Basher 3, descend and hit the gas! Kansas Lead, be advised, negative contact with Kansas 2,” said the controller on the frequency and as surprised as the pilot. She could hear her counterparts vectoring in additional fighters to the location. “We have two additional flights coming to your location. ETA seven mike on four Swiss Hornets and nine mike on four NESA Tigersharks.”

    “I won’t be alive seven minutes from now!” yelled Williams as he looked around and saw the plume of black smoke where his wingman should have been. Three of the four missile trails led right into the cloud. He looked back around and found four targets in his Heads Up Display. Luckily he was armed with the latest variant of the AIM-120 missiles which required little time to lock onto the targets. He fired two missiles at the right targets and dove towards the ground to avoid a shooting solution from the remaining two. Going nose to nose with four fighters might not have been the smartest thing he could have done, but his main job now was staying alive long enough for the bomber to escape and worrying about his own hide. If he could keep them occupied long enough, the remaining fighters just might get here in time.

    He watched as a fireball erupted as one of his missiles hit one of the Typhoons. However, the second one missed and continued on, striking the ground in an explosion. He made the pass towards them with all four aircraft firing their cannon at each other. However, the 27mm cannon on the Typhoons firing at a slower rate than M61A1 Vulcan cannon on the F-15. But Williams was only attempting to break up the formation of the fighters rather than actually down one. He did score a hit on one of the aircraft as he saw the tracers hit the aircraft as they passed each other.

    He yanked back on the stick again, now having the speed and control factors over the Typhoons. They were all turning back towards him in an attempt to bring the front of their aircraft online and fire more missiles. But he got into position first on one of the enemy fighters and fired an AIM-9Y missile at the retreating fighter. The missile roared off the pylon of the right wing and tracked in as it should on the Typhoon. Williams saw flares being deployed from underneath the aircraft, but the missile ignored them and went straight for the afterburner plume from the two engines. It exploded and showered its target with the explosive rod making up the warhead of the missile. Williams saw the aircraft was in trouble as fires were burning in the engine compartment and the ejection seat fired away from the craft.

    “Oreo, two down! I really could use some help up here!” exclaimed Williams as he brought his fighter back around to pick up speed once again. The remaining two were attempting to position themselves behind him, but his sudden Split S maneuver ruined that chance and set him up in firing position once again. But the inbound IR and radar seeking missiles ruined the chance of him making a shot until he dealt with that problem. Again he popped flares and chaff and pointed his nose at the missiles to jink away at the last possible second. He watched as one of the missiles went for his flares, but the other kept coming. He yanked on the stick and hit the afterburner just as the missile came into view. He barely escaped the warhead’s destructive power, but still caught some of the flak as the alarms started blaring at him.

    He rolled level and saw he was hit in the right wing. While he was trailing fuel, he could still make it to an emergency divert site. And his EPU was out, but the primary systems were still online and working. The radar warning receiver stopped working as well. The missiles on his right side still showed their full capability and he decided to press the fight.

    “Oreo, this is Vampire Flight of four Swiss F/A-18 aircraft. We will be in AIM-125 firing range in two minutes. Have Kansas and Basher turn on their IFF,” said the accented voice over the radio.

    “Kansas Lead, Basher 3, ensure your IFF is operating,” said the controller.

    “Oreo, this is Basher 3, be advised, IFF not operating correctly,” said the bomber pilot.

    “I copy. Kansas, ensure your box is working,” said the controller.

    “Roger, it’s on,” grunted Williams as he yanked back once again and another Typhoon came into view. He had another snap shot with his cannon and fired as the aircraft crossed his nose. He was rewarded with another hit. Smoke started trailing from the left engine and the aircraft disengaged from the battle to save itself.

    “Hank, be advised, one of the two aircraft is extending and leaving the battle area,” said the controller as she focused in on vectoring him onto the remaining fighter.

    “Oreo, Vampire Lead. Be advised, we cannot make out the identity of Kansas Lead. We cannot launch our missiles,” said the Swiss pilot.

    “I copy,” said the controller. “Hank, what’s your status?”

    “One vee one at this time. I’ve got this,” said Williams as he pulled towards the last Typhoon. But the enemy pilot was having none of that and reversed in an Immelman turn back towards him. They both broke contact to replenish their speeds and attempt to look for an advantage on the other. Williams broke back towards the Typhoon at the same time and attempted to line up a missile shot, but the Typhoon broke once again and dove towards the ground. Williams attempted to follow, but found he couldn’t keep up as the enemy aircraft had built its speed up quicker than he had. He put the F-15 back into a shallow dive and started building his speed once again. He pulled the aircraft into a long looping turn and saw the Typhoon bearing down once again.

    He managed to snap the fighter over and away from the firing solution of the enemy aircraft, but the Typhoon fell into a trail pattern on the rear of his aircraft. No matter the maneuver Williams tried, the fighter stuck on his tail like it was tied to it. But Williams had one more maneuver in mind that could put him into a firing position. He disabled the angle of attack limiters in the fighter and yanked back on the stick all while putting the throttle into full military thrust. He had plenty of speed built up for the planned tactic and it started going off without a hitch. The famous Pugachev’s Cobra caused the fighter to look as it was beginning a climb, but in reality was still flying forward with its nose pointed high. The Typhoon was not able to slow fast enough or bring its guns online and sped by the fighter just as the nose started to come down.

    Williams heard the distinctive growl of the Sidewinder lock tone in his headset and fired another missile at the retreating Typhoon. He watched as it went towards the retreating fighter and exploded just above, breaking the aircraft in two. No parachute was seen from the fighter and Williams now concentrated with bringing his aircraft speed back up to acceptable levels.

    “Oreo, this is Hank. Be advised, clear skies at this time. Give me a vector to Basher 3,” he said confidently in the radio.

    “Kansas break now!” yelled the controller into the microphone just as she discovered the inbound missiles heading for him. But it was too late. The AA-21 radar guided missiles homed in on his aircraft and exploded; fired at the extreme range of the retreating Typhoon in vengeance for his wingmen that had been downed. Launched “over the shoulder” from the retreating Typhoon, he hadn’t pointed his nose and allowed the missiles to lock on after launch. Since it didn’t show the classic attack profile, the controller on the AWACS didn’t detect the attack until the missiles showed on radar far too late.

    Williams was thrown forward in his seat from the double explosion to his rear. His aircraft began screaming all kinds of warnings at him and letting him know it was dying quickly. He checked the gauges quickly and found they were all telling him the same thing, to bail out and bail out quickly. He didn’t hesitate for a moment and grabbed at the ejection handles and prepared himself for the violent ejection from the aircraft. The rocket motor below the seat accelerated him quickly after the inertia locks had pulled him into the seat. He felt like his head was going to fly through his bottom from the increased G forces, but just as it began, it was all over. But even as he fell, his parachute wasn’t functioning correctly and he was freefalling towards the ground. He struggled to get clear of the ejection seat and use his emergency reserve chute as he fell towards the ground. He could see the flaming remains of his aircraft falling from the sky as it had exploded after he ejected.

    “Vampire Lead, this is Oreo. Be advised, target is a single fighter extended from the area. Are you in range?” asked the controller on the AWACS.

    “We are. Stand by,” said the Swiss pilot as he locked up the aircraft and let an AIM-125 missile fly at the retreating fighter. While a stealthy design, the damage caused during combat had caused the strict tolerances of stealth technology to cease to work properly. The IU fighter showed on radar clearly as the Swiss pilot watched the display and datalink from his missile. Although designed for bomber type aircraft, it homed in on the aircraft plodding along at five hundred knots and in a straight line. The IU pilot never knew what hit him as his aircraft was blotted from the sky by the one hundred pound warhead that detonated over the top of his aircraft.

    “Oreo, this is Apollo Flight. Be advised, we have joined with Basher 3 and are enroute to Landsberg Air Base,” said the pilot of the lead F-20C Tigershark aircraft.

    “Copy last, break, Vampire Lead. Was there a chute from Kansas Lead?” asked the controller.

    “Negative, we did not see a chute,” said the pilot.

    “Roger, can you make a pass and check?” asked the controller.

    “Copy last, we will check. But it is growing dark and we might not see him. We will check with our IR viewers,” said the pilot as he radioed to his flight in German to look for the American pilot.


    Date/Time: 12 March/0943
    Location: Northeast of Brezno, Occupied Slovakia

    “Not again! Amber’s going to kill me!” gasped Technical Sergeant Heath “Magnet” Bates as he clutched at his chest.

    “Stay still! Rowdy, this is Kodak! We need some help over here! Magnet took a hit!” yelled Sergeant Major Scott “Kodak” Carlson as he started aid on Heath.

    “Bad? We’ve got our hands full over here with another squad!” yelled Captain Dave “Rowdy” Lawson.

    “If you can find the time!” said Scott as he paused and sent another three rounds towards the advancing IU troops. “Why does it always happen like this?”

    “And to think he volunteered to pick up the slack for my brother!” said Staff Sergeant Heather “Trouble” Davis as she led a target and sent a round downrange from her designated marksman rifle, scoring a hit. Instead of continuing her fire, she darted over and picked up the H&K machine gun from beside Heath and started sending rounds downrange. There was something psychological about facing a machine gun and the IU troops took a moment to think about pressing their attack.

    “Pure luck…and I’m never buying a lottery ticket ever!” said Captain Rick “Badaa” Jones between shots. “All units! This is Badaa. We need to shorten and consolidate the lines. Evac is inbound and we need to get these guys off our backs! Rowdy, fall back one hundred meters to your right and prepare to cover our move. We’ll cover you!”

    “Rowdy copies!” yelled Dave in the radio and sent another burst at the attackers before displacing and moving to the rear.

    “Okay! I’ve got the hole plugged and the chest seal in place!” yelled Scott as he finished applying the dressing on Heath’s chest. He quickly rechecked the rear bandage and saw it was holding. He saw an additional wound on his knee and slapped a quick dressing on before gathering up his carbine and getting ready to pull Heath to safety. “Moving!”

    “Roger! Go!” yelled Rick as he and the others started putting down a wall of lead for the IU soldiers to cross. Scott quickly threw Heath over his shoulders and ran backwards, being covered by the two teams. Once he was in place well behind Dave’s team, he called Rick back. “Badaa, I’m in place. You can move.”

    “Rowdy, we are preparing to move!” said Rick after hearing the radio message.

    “Got you covered!” said Dave as they started picking targets in the distance and placing fire on them. He saw Rick and Heather preparing to move, but just as they did so, the IU started attacking once again, pinning them in place. He placed effective fire on the human wave type attack heading their way along with the others in his team. The IU charge faltered then stopped. But Rick and Heather were trapped.

    “Rowdy, get on the horn and see about that air support they promised!” yelled Rick as he continued to put fire downrange.

    “Saturn Base! Saturn Base! This is Renaissance Six Bravo on emergency channel Delta-Six! Come in, over!” yelled Dave into the communicator.

    “Renaissance Six Bravo, this is Saturn Base; prepare to authenticate,” said the controller at the other end of the radio, sounding quite bored.

    “Send it Saturn Base!” yelled Rick over the gunfire.

    “I pass you Lima Seven,” said the controller.

    “I pass you Alpha Six Yankee! Be advised, we are under assault from approximately forty, that’s four zero IU troops at our supposed lightly defended target! Request immediate air support!” yelled Dave.

    The controller sat up as they had heard the gunfire this time over the radio. “Roger, send location!”

    Dave input the data into the communicator and sent it on its way to the satellite. The controller took note of their current location and sent a reply.

    “Sir! Team Renaissance is in trouble! Current location approximately five clicks west of Objective Camelot,” said the controller.

    “What kind of engagement?” asked the Major in charge.

    “Sounds like a large one! Squad sized element taking on a platoon!” said the controller excitedly.

    “We have anything in the area?” asked the Major.

    “Two Brazilian AMXs coming back from a bombing mission and the two Piglets tasked to cover the ex-fil,” said the controller.

    “E-T-A?” asked the Major.

    “The Brazilians can be diverted an on station in about four minutes. The choppers and A-2s are still fifteen minutes out,” said the controller.

    “Divert the AMXs and find out their ordinance state. Tell the A-2s to head that way and cover the choppers with some other aircraft on call. We should have some fighters nearby that can cover,” said the Major.

    “Rio Flight, this is Saturn Base, do you read me, over?” asked the controller without any further ado.

    “Saturn Base, this is Rio Flight, authenticate Mike Four,” said the accented voice over the radio.

    “I authenticate Nine-Five-Golf,” said the controller.

    “Go ahead with message Saturn Base,” said the pilot of the lead aircraft.

    “State fuel and ordnance remaining,” said the controller.

    “Fuel is fifteen minutes of loiter time, seven of strike time on low level. Ordnance is full cannon loads, two Sidewinder missiles and four Hellstorm multimode missiles per aircraft. My wingman has one two-fifty kilo bomb remaining as well,” said the pilot, taking stock of his ordnance.

    “Roger divert to following coordinates and come in contact with J-SOD Team Renaissance. Be advised, team is under heavy attack and is getting pulled away from their extraction zone. How copy?” asked the controller.

    “Frequency?” asked the pilot.

    “Emergency Channel Delta-Six,” said the controller.

    “Copy all Saturn Base, diverting from established heading at this time,” said the pilot. The controller put out the word on the computer networks of the team in trouble and started looking for additional assets to bring to bear if needed. But the bad weather recently had grounded a lot of aircraft even though they were supposed “all weather” attack models. However, it did give the maintainers an opportunity to perform critical maintenance on the aircraft and replace parts which had been ignored for far too long. But the FNC kept the pressure on the IU somewhat with limited bombing strikes and raids.

    “Team Renaissance, this is Rio Flight on Delta-Six. Do you read me?” asked the pilot.

    “Copy, I pass you Alpha-One for authentication,” said Dave into the radio before firing another shot at an IU infantryman trying to get to better cover.

    “I pass you One-Lima-Papa. I have your position as listed on incoming packet,” said the pilot as he transmitted the data to Dave’s communicator. He received it after the two devices linked up.

    “I copy last. Our position has changed and is now approximately four hundred meters west of that location. Sending new coordinates now,” said Dave as he sent the new coordinates to the aircraft.

    “How may we be of assistance?” asked the pilot.

    “Be advised, we have thirty IU infantry trying to surround us. I am sending the free fire zones at this time,” said Dave and sent the information in another packet to the pilot.

    “I have received your transmission. Can you confirm the two locations?” asked the pilot.

    “Roger, team is at location one, landing zone and security element is at the second location. Everything else around that location is fair game,” said Dave.

    “I copy, we are one minute out approaching from the northeast,” said the pilot as they could see tracers in the distance flying from both sides. “Rio 2, we will perform look only pass and pick our targets.”

    “I copy leader,” said the wingman in Portuguese. The two aircraft flew in low at the treetops and looked for the largest formations of IU infantry. The special operations team seemed to be in a good position with good cover, making their job easier.

    “Team Renaissance, can you mark the most significant targets?” asked the pilot.

    “Roger, marking with red smoke and white phosphorus,” said Dave as he got back onto the internal radios. “Team, mark the biggest targets with red smoke and Willy Pete!”

    The team grenadiers loaded the appropriate rounds into the launchers before sending the grenades downrange to the intended targets. The white phosphorus has the added effect of wounding some of the soldiers and was clearly marking the remainder of the group. The AMX aircraft screamed by overhead and pulled up to begin their attack run. However, the IU must have figured out the targeting plans of the FNC team and started scattering away from the areas under the red and white smoke. However, the aircraft were quicker and bore down on the scattering infantry before many of them got away. It was a cannon only pass, but the rounds had the intended effect and broke up the attack and made them seek cover. Another pass launched two of the Hellstorm missiles on larger groups, against trying to wound them and break up the formation. The missiles had the intended effect and the attack against the team was stalling.

    “Team Renaissance, can you mark a target for a bomb?” asked the wingman.

    “Roger, following coordinates would be good,” said Dave as he found the largest formation of surviving infantry. Between the aerial onslaught and the continual fire from the team, the back of the IU security platoon was being broken. Dave found what appeared to be one of the few remaining officers in charge of the attack and plotted his location before sending it to the aircraft. The wingman acknowledged the transmission and plotted the coordinates into the bomb under his wing. The ordnance took the inputs and dropped free to navigate to the intended GPS location on its own.

    The flight time didn’t take long and the five hundred pound bomb went off as advertised in the middle of the group, effectively destroying any further command and control. Sergeants and Corporals still had the leadership role on their men, but decided to remain in place and harass the FNC team more than try to overwhelm them. A Senior Sergeant took the lead of the platoon and started trying to regroup his forces before looking for an advantage.

    The AMX aircraft made two more passes before having to divert back to their planned landing location. They had just enough ordnance remaining to protect themselves and little more. The remaining team members quickly reloaded and waited for the next charge.

    “All Renaissance units, stand by. Forces are preparing for an additional charge,” said Rick over the radio.

    The IU forces, still shocked at the aerial assault, were content for the moment to fire at the forest to their front. And even though it was not aimed, it still gave the defenders pause for thought and kept their movements to a minimum.

    “Anyone not engaged?” asked Rick over the radio.

    “Blue team!” said Master Sergeant Tim “Fluffy” Daniels over the radio. He was leading Staff Sergeant Amy “Feisty” Kerns, Sergeant Johnny “Junior” Thompson and Technical Sergeant Stu “Mac” Donaldson. They were supposed to be guarding the landing zone, but when their team was in trouble, they knew they needed to disregard the security and go to help. A landing zone could always be secured again, but their members in the unit couldn’t be replaced.

    “Negative, need you to secure the L-Z!” yelled Rick into the radio as an IU fire team emerged from behind their cover and moved forward.

    “You need us more there!” protested Daniels over the radio.

    Rick thought about his options for a moment and decided it would be better for the team to flank the enemy and help roll them up instead of sitting useless at the landing zone. “Go to our left flank and start placing some fire on the teams. Get them diverted away from us so we can move closer.”

    “Roger, on the way,” said Tim as he and the three started heading towards the gunfire. They moved cautiously until seeing the camouflage uniforms of the IU moving this way and that looking for an advantage. Apparently the IU had the same idea and had sent a squad to the Americans flank to try the same maneuver. However, Daniels and his team got into position first and were able to ambush the team in relatively open ground.

    “Badaa, this is Feisty. We have one squad trying to flank you on your left side. We’ve got them occupied, but cannot move forward,” said Amy Kerns over the radio.

    “Can you hold?” asked Rick.

    “Absolutely,” said Amy as she fired another round at an advancing infantryman. Her shot was dead on and the man collapsed.

    Rick looked at the group to his front and knew they needed some form of cover to be able to depart the location. The A-2A Piglets arrived on scene and were immediately put to work by Heather Davis attacking the largest of the formations. But under the cover of the trees, the fire wasn’t as effective. But it did have the effect of stalling the attack and giving the two teams the opportunity to move back. Scott was assisted by Rick in moving Bates behind the lines and setting up a defensive perimeter near the landing zone. One of the two A-2s was tasked to the other team in contact and was given targets by Donaldson. Lucky for them, the ambush had claimed half the IU squad and the well placed munitions by the attack aircraft diminished their number to two remaining. The IU infantry retreated to regroup with the remaining squads as the American team fell back to the landing zone once again.

    “Looks like they have a pause for thought. Rowdy, get your team back this way,” said Rick.

    “Roger, moving,” said Dave as he retreated amid the gunfire from the remaining IU infantry. However, enough cover stood between the two groups that the gunfire was randomly smacking the trees. They managed to fall to within sight of the landing zone and join up with the two other teams. The A-2s continued to attack targets of opportunity as the teams fell behind the nearest cover and waited for the IU to advance once again. The distinctive sound of a CH-53 was heard over the gunfire as it came in fast for a landing. Bates was loaded first with Carlson and the remainder of the team threw packs inside and were assisted onto the ramp.

    “Raven 1-4, this is Fanta flight lead. Be advised, team is heading your way,” said the pilot of the lead A-2.

    “Raven 1-4 copies,” said the pilot over the radio. “Everyone on board?”

    Dave and Rick both jumped on at the same time after seeing their teams were safely aboard and counting noses one last time. They gave the flight engineer manning the rear machine gun a thumbs up and he relayed it to the pilot.

    “Guns, light that sucker up!” shouted the pilot over the intercom as he prepared to lift off. The gunner at the cargo ramp unleashed the GAU-19 machine gun at the trees surrounding the rear of the aircraft spreading death in a beautifully violent stream of red tracers. The door gunners swept their quadrants with GAU-2 miniguns as well just in case the IU had flanked the aircraft somehow. They didn’t seem concerned with wasting ammo as the saying went “ammo is cheap, life isn’t.”

    After they were out of range of the ground fire, Rick discovered he had two additional wounded members. Reggie “Burnout” Nicholson, a member that had joined the team after the Eris mission, and Daniels had both been hit during the fall back to the landing zone. Nicholson had taken a round to the thigh and Daniels took a grazing shot along his shaved scalp. While bloody, it hurt more than anything as he waved Scott off to check on Nicholson and held a bandage in place. The flight engineer came over and handed Rick a headset to talk with the pilot.

    “Thanks for the timely assist,” he said.

    “No problem, we aim to please. Got your boss on the radio,” said the pilot.

    Rick switched the headset from intercom to the radio setting and called out over the radio.

    “Badaa, this is Warbucks, SITREP?” asked Major Thomas “Warbucks” Dayfield after Rick identified himself.

    “Warbucks, this is Badaa, be advised, three W-I-A, one critical. Need immediate ambulance upon arrival and surgeon standing by,” said Rick.

    “Who?” asked Dayfield.

    “Magnet took another hit to the chest. Burnout took a round to the thigh and Fluffy took a grazing shot to the head. Be advised, all are stable for the moment,” said Rick after seeing Heather finish the IV on Bates.

    “Objective?” asked Thomas.

    “No go on the objective. It was a supply depot,” said Rick. “Get the air force to bomb that puppy.”

    “We’ll pass it on,” said Thomas. “Also, ambulance will be waiting at the landing pad.”

    “Roger that,” said Rick. “Anything else?”

    “Negative, just get back in one piece,” said Thomas as he signed off.

    It was another typical mission for the teams of the 14th Special Operations Battalion in the service of the North American Union during World War Three. The teams had been together a long time and had fought through the Fall as well as the invasion of North America. And after the invasion, had served their country and the Texan Armed Forces defeating the Islamic Union on North American soil and going on to liberate much of Europe after the invasion.

    The invasion of Normandy and France was one of the largest military operations outside of D-Day in World War Two ever seen in Europe. And not unlike the previous landings, the world held its breath for three days after bad weather had set in preventing the massed follow on forces needed to expand the beachheads. But the initial invasion forces held onto the beachheads by their fingernails and sheer tenacity in knowing they couldn’t fail. The combined will power alone was probably the only thing that kept them alive until relief arrived and the forces moved inland. And after which, the forces started rolling southward in France towards the Iberian Peninsula and eastward towards Germany and the Benelux region. The forces had a hard time getting past the Pyrenees Mountains, but managed to force amphibious landings to the rear and waited out the IU defenders dug into the mountains. After their surrender, Spain and Portugal fell rapidly to the advancing armies of the Free Nation Coalition and the nations celebrated their liberation from the tyranny of the IU. Gibraltar was once again fortified and a crossing of that straight was in the works where the forces would start to roll up North Africa.

    The remainder of France and the Benelux region fell somewhat rapidly to the FNC, but Germany was a hard nut to crack. The IU had dug into the heavy industry areas of the western part of Germany and made the Allies pay for the advances easily done so far. However, the country was finally liberated and the Allies moved east into Poland and the Czech Republic. But the advances were stalling somewhat since the supply routes were growing longer and harder to maintain. The Allies called a general halt for the winter as it gave them time to resupply, rest and refit units. They made some limited gains on the eastern front, but mainly took the time to catch their breath after a mad dash across Europe. But the time was coming for the liberation of the remainder of Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

    The remainder of Western and Central Europe was liberated and the Swiss finally had relief from the years of isolation. The Swiss Armed Forces quickly joined the side of the FNC and started attacking the IU at their borders, mainly moving south into Italy where they made good progress. The Swiss soldier was a well trained, formidable fighter which held himself in good account on the battlefield. Russian forces had finally finished their civil war and the democratic victors were ready to catch their breath and join in as allies of the FNC. The Allied leadership knew the balance of the war would quickly fall into their laps with the addition of the Russian military and were eager to get them involved in attacks on the northern flank of the Islamic Union.

    But even as the IU was putting up a determined defense, their gains had been too much and too fast. They had a hard time securing the remaining land they had conquered and partisan groups kept the rear areas in disarray. They were in a headlong retreat back to Turkey and the relative safety of the Middle East. But even as they were defeated on the battlefield, they still ran a defense which prohibited the Allies from performing an end run to the rear and capturing Istanbul and the Bosporus Straight and forcing a general surrender in Europe before the next stage of the campaign. So the Allies continued to perform limited attacks in Eastern Europe and in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains while building forces for a large scale attack in the spring when the weather broke. The winter had been one of the harshest on record and the cold injuries almost outnumbered the combat related wounds.

    But in getting ready for a massive attack, they needed intelligence. Which was where the members of the 14th Special Operations Battalion came into play. Operations Group (OpGrp) Alpha of the 14th Special Operation Battalion was a unit within the North American Union Armed Forces that was tasked with the reconnaissance of areas behind the lines. The unit had its origins in the Texan Armed Forces, but had been transferred to the North American Union since the members were predominately from those States aligned with it. The original Ranch residents and those that had come after them had all joined the unit and later were assigned en mass to a new section, the SDR.

    Surveillance, Detection and Reconnaissance was a new concept combining the old US Army Long Range Recon Patrols, USMC Force Recon, USAF Combat Controller and US Army Special Forces. Known informally by pronouncing the letters as “cider,” the mission was highly critical to the war effort and sought after by new recruits. The news releases and press the team got from missions often made them seem larger than life and they shunned the publicity. This partially came from shying away from keeping a low profile they had been doing for several years at the Ranch prior to joining the Texan Militia. Teams were sent by two, four, eight or sixteen and sometimes even larger far behind enemy lines and provided recon of large geographical areas, detection of targets and surveillance until they could be struck by Coalition warplanes, artillery or conventional forces. Sometimes, the unit would take out the targets if it was deemed too hazardous for a conventional raid as they retained the knowledge and experience of fighting since almost the beginning of the Fall. And they were exceptional at their jobs.

    The current mission the teams had been on was to locate and mark a suspected divisional headquarters for the IU forces in the old nation of Slokakia. However, they didn’t expect to run into the company of troops guarding a supply depot and had made contact with one of the patrols. While the mission to find the headquarters would be taken up by another team, the Ranch residents would lick their wounds and continue to soldier on until the enemy was defeated and their families could be safe again.

    Little did they know another mission was already being identified. Only thoughts and conversations over a large map table, but the mission would impact the entire group and shock them deep into their souls.
    Last edited: May 8, 2014
    Tully Mars, STANGF150 and Sapper John like this.
  3. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

  4. Pax Mentis

    Pax Mentis Philosopher King Site Supporter

    Thanks for posting this...I almost made a post recently asking if anyone knew who had written Normal and Operation Eris. Since they are some of the better PAW fiction I have run across I was wondering if you had investigated publishing them for Kindle...(I must admit I converted Normal and TOTR-Operation Eris to MOBI using Calibre and have it already on my Kindle, and these 2 are soon to join them)
  5. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++


    Date/Time: 13 March/0626
    Location: Southwest of Ružomberok, Occupied Slovakia

    “Wyatt Oscar Williams, Captain, Texan Air Force, serial AF32888721, born 9 February 1984,” said Williams as he recovered from another blow to the face from his captors. The handcuffs he was in were tight against his wrists and he could feel the swelling in his eyes already.

    “You are a terrorist that flies airplanes and bombs innocent civilians,” said the interrogator as he lit a cigarette.

    “Wyatt Oscar Williams, Captain, Texan-” started Williams again before he was punched in the face once again.

    “Admit you were bombing innocent civilians and I will stop,” said the interrogator as he rubbed at his sore hand. They had already been interrogating him for over an hour.

    “I will give my name, rank, serial number and date of birth as prescribed by international conventions,” said Williams weakly.

    “Conventions your country has chosen to ignore by bombing innocent civilians and murdering my people,” said the interrogator as he motioned for a guard to strike him again. The blow made Williams fall out of the chair and onto the floor. The guard followed up the strike with a kick to the midsection. “Tell me what I want to hear, sign the confession and all this will stop.”

    “Williams, Wyatt Oscar, Captain…” he managed to say weakly before a coughing fit took over.

    “You were bombing innocent civilians in Hungary and destroying national landmarks,” said the interrogator.

    “Williams…” he managed to say before getting another kick in his stomach.

    “Your forces are preparing for another attack, no?” asked the interrogator.

    “I’m a simple pilot, I do not know such things,” said Williams.

    “Your pilots are officers, yes? They tell officers more than enlisted in your military?” asked the interrogator.

    “No, they keep secrets about such things,” said Williams.

    “They would tell you this, I believe. You are a pilot. An elite officer that flies fighters. I know few in your military get the opportunity to do such things,” said the interrogator. “I will stop hurting you if you will answer my questions.”

    “Wyatt O. Williams, Captain-” he started as he sat up to face his captors. Another flurry of punches and kicks took place and he was left groaning on the floor of the room.

    “Perhaps he does not know much,” said the Lieutenant Colonel in Arabic observing the interrogation. He and a Major were standing in an adjacent room watching in a camera.

    “He knows something,” said the Major. “Each and every one of them knows something.”

    “And it is worth breaking him for it?” asked the Colonel.

    “Each and every piece of information we get is valuable,” said the Major. “This is just the beginning and necessary for the second part of my plan.”

    “Very well. Clean him up and start over,” said the Colonel.

    “I will break him,” said the Major. “But it will take time.”

    “He has been tough. Most infidels tell us something by now,” said the Colonel. “Perhaps drugs would be appropriate.”

    “We can soften him up first,” said the Major. “It is critical to my theory.”

    “And when you are done with him?” asked the Colonel.

    “What do you wish us to do with him?” asked the Major.

    “He will be of no use to us. Send him to one of the prison camps in Romania,” said the Colonel.

    “He is talented. He shot down three of our best fighters by himself. I think we have much to learn from him,” said the Major.

    “Do what you feel is right,” said the Colonel as he departed the room.

    The Major looked at the pilot still lying on the ground and tried to determine the best way of breaking him. The location they were in wasn’t your typical prison camp, however, it had been the closest military installation to the downed pilot. But still, all the “required” items for an interrogation were here and available. So he decided against the physical means of gathering information and decided on a different approach.

    “Remove him and put him in a holding cell,” said the Major as he entered the room.

    “You wish to stop the interrogation?” asked the interrogator. The guards were already dragging him off towards one of the small holding cells in the building.

    “For the moment,” said the Major. “I believe for now the psychology of his capture should be on his mind. We will let him sit alone and in thought for a little while and play the recording for him.”

    The guards picked up Williams off the floor and drug him from the room to the small holding cells. The insides were cramped and offered little comfort from the beatings he was taking. At a hundred and twenty centimeters cubed, there was little room to do much more than sit down. Williams was tossed inside and the steel door latched behind him with a loud bang. As he was recovering from the beatings, he started to think back to his survival training and tried to make plans for an escape. As he was thinking, he could hear voices from the outside. Little more than whispers, he strained to hear what they were saying. To his surprise, the voice was in English and was without an accent. It started repeating the same message over and over.

    “You are without hope. Your so called friends and countrymen have abandoned you and will not rescue you. There is only one chance for your continued survival. Work with your friends in the Islamic Union and you will be treated well. We are your friends, not your enemies. Work with us and you will be sent home. We are a peaceful nation that does not want this war. We are your friends and wish to be at peace with your country. We will help you survive and see your family again if you let us. Your country will not try to rescue you. But we are your friends and will help you…”

    The message repeated back as Williams tried to get comfortable in the cell. The message was slightly louder than the beginning but still at a whisper level. He didn’t need to strain to hear it, but it was blocking the thought process in his brain. As he tried to think of a way of escape, the message blocked any successful attempts at doing so. Knowing he needed to be rested in order to escape, he tried to get comfortable enough to sleep in the cold dark cell. But the message continued eating at his brain as he tried to doze off.


    “Nothing more than a supply depot,” said Captain Dave Lawson.

    “How was the mistake made?” asked Major Thomas Dayfield.

    “Apparently the unit was supplying one of the communications battalions for the corps. So there were enough antennas around to make it look like a command post,” said Captain Rick Jones.

    “Good enough answer although I don’t like the fact we took three casualties on this mission,” said Major Darren “Snoopy” Thompson.

    “Between that and the fact it was guarded with a whole lot more troops than they briefed on,” said Master Sergeant Tim Daniels.

    “Yeah, a full company of troops makes for a pretty exciting ex-fil,” said Sergeant Major Scott Carlson.

    “The Air Force did hit it not long after you guys left. Bomb damage assessment seems to think they’ll be out of commission for at least a month,” said Darren. “At least that was a successful part.”

    “Okay, anything else?” asked Thomas before finishing up the after action report.

    “Better air assets next time maybe?” asked Staff Sergeant Heather Davis. “Like on call air assets.”

    “We’ll look into it, but the problem is the weather is keeping most of them grounded for the moment and none of the brass was to risk them until the offensive starts,” said Thomas. “I did object and used colorful language, but was given my coloring book and crayons with orders to shut up.”

    “Nothing else then,” said Dave as he picked up his carbine and prepared to leave.

    “Kodak, Badaa, hang tight for a moment,” said Thomas as the remainder of the group prepared to leave, shower and get a meal in before hitting the sack. After the remainder of the teams filed out, the two were left with Darren and Thomas.

    “Scott, I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably going to be reassigned,” said Thomas as he handed over the official message from higher headquarters. “Senior Enlisted Manager for the Combat Medic Course at Camp Colby.”

    “What? Why?” demanded Scott as he read the message.

    “Apparently they want to cycle in combat medics into the schoolhouse in Kansas. And your name was at the top of the list by both service time and by combat time. Headquarters is holding off on the decision until I spoke with you,” said Thomas. “Badaa, I know it puts you without a team member and a medic, but headquarters promised us pick of the litter on a replacement.”

    “And I get stuck breaking in a wet behind the ears rookie?” asked Rick.

    “We might be able to work out a transfer from another unit,” said Darren.

    “And rob someone else’s medic?” asked Scott. “That’s not fair!”

    ‘The decision is yours to make. I’d suggest you take a little time to think it over before coming to a decision,” said Thomas.

    “Has my performance been lacking lately?” asked Scott, wondering why the sudden reassignment.

    “Absolutely not. You are still performing at the top,” said Darren.

    “Bad ratings?” asked Scott.

    “Your performance reports are firewalled to the max,” said Thomas.

    “Slower than usual?” asked Scott.

    “A tad, but still quicker than the rest of the conventional force,” said Thomas.

    “So why the sudden transfer?” asked Scott.

    “Because the instructors at the school are not up on the latest combat lifesaving applications. Most if not all of them have never seen combat and only practice it in the rear with the gear. The program is trying to rotate combat medics into the staff and get some real world experience in what works and what doesn’t. You know far better than anyone you can only learn so much from a book,” said Thomas. “I’d feel a lot more comfortable with knowing I had a medic trained by one of the best rather than one that learned from the book the entire time.”

    “Trying to get rid of me?” asked Scott with half a grin.

    “No, I’d love to keep you, but let’s face it; you are probably the most skilled combat medic on the planet. Each and every person you train there saves five lives here. I hate to use the old saying of big picture, but you know it applies,” said Thomas.

    “I’ll think it over for a little while and get back to you,” said Scott, who resisted the opportunity for advancement, but knew the fact he was getting a little long in the tooth to be playing the combat game. He had been feeling a little slower than normal and a little more tired after the missions they had been going on and knew it was probably time to pass the torch off to a younger member. But still, he felt loyalty to the group of men and women he had fought with since the Fall so many years before and would have a hard time letting go. “Any chance of getting a phone call through to Gwenn? I’d like the opportunity to talk it over with her.”

    “I think that might be arranged,” said Darren. “Go ahead and set it up from the comm shed.”

    After Scott left, Rick was left behind with the two others. “Okay, what’s the real deal?”

    “There is no real deal. He was being transferred, but I managed to get headquarters to hold off on that and leave the decision to him. I had to call in more than a few markers just to get them to agree to that,” said Thomas.

    “I hate to lose him,” said Rick.

    “I know and I do as well. But yes, he is a tad slower now and I believe he’s served his time for God and country. I also think putting him in that school will ultimately help save lives. He’s not going there as just an instructor, but as the head enlisted member in charge. He’s the one that gets to dictate the training schedules and methods. And ultimately, I think that would be best for all concerned,” said Darren.

    “When you put it like that, yeah, it does make sense,” admitted Rick. “How long until he has to give you an answer?”

    “Headquarters didn’t say, but I can stall them for a few days,” said Thomas. “Can you get the phone call worked out?”

    “Sure, I’ll let the commo guys know it has a priority,” said Rick as he prepared to leave.

    “One more thing. If I know Scott like I think I do, he’ll accept the position. Here’s a listing of eligible candidates to replace him,” said Thomas as he handed over several folders.

    “Any one of them stick out in your mind?” asked Rick.

    “I didn’t take the time to look. It’s your team, your decision,” said Thomas with a wave of his hand.

    “I’ll let you know,” said Rick as he departed.

    “So what was the real story on your headquarters call about the mission?” asked Darren as they departed and headed towards the chow hall for dinner.

    “I was told to shut up and color as mentioned beforehand,” said Thomas.

    “And?” asked Darren since he knew there was more to the story. Thomas typically kept his emotions to himself, but Darren knew him well enough to know there was trouble brewing inside his skull.

    “I was informed Cider teams are paid to get information about the enemy. And as such, are paid to die if they have to in order to get that information. I promptly informed him my people were not expendable and had a few choice words about the decision making process before I slammed the phone down,” said Thomas.

    “Keep that up and you’ll never be promoted,” laughed Darren.

    “As if I care about that?” asked Thomas, getting slightly angry again at the phone call. “As long as the mission gets done I could care less if I’m a buck private or a Field Marshal.”

    “God help us all if you were a Field Marshal,” laughed Darren to ease the tension.

    “I don’t particularly care for our new Colonel. He seems to think people are more or less numbers on a paper rather than living, breathing troops. His comment about the three casualties? ‘Well within mission norms.’ I just about had my mouth hit the ground and had to leave the office,” said Thomas, finally letting the root of his problem out in the open for Darren to see.

    “Three was a bit much for what we expected. We’ve taken that many before, but on far riskier missions in targets we knew were well defended,” said Darren.

    “Which infuriated me even more. Apparently there was intel about the location, but was dismissed beforehand,” said Thomas.

    “We need a better line of intelligence coming out. Want me to put out some feelers?” asked Darren.

    “Way ahead of you on that. I’ve got Hermann working on that already getting us some additional under the table assets lined up,” said Thomas.

    “And the Colonel?” asked Darren.

    “Will just have to live with it,” said Thomas. “As long as I keep everyone alive to the best of my abilities. But what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him will it?”

    “We will take casualties again, you know that,” said Darren.

    “I know, but if we can mitigate the unknown aspects of the missions, we can still get the job done without exposing ourselves to danger,” said Thomas.

    “I’ll give you that,” said Darren. “Except for Murphy.”

    “Which can and will pop up when we don’t want him,” chuckled Thomas.

    “You think Scott will accept?” asked Darren.

    “Yeah, he probably will. He’ll resist, but I think he’ll go along with it,” said Thomas as they entered the chow hall tent and started figuring out what was for supper that night. All conversations of the teams, missions and current gripes were dropped as they were in mixed company and such things needed to be conducted in private.

    But Darren knew there was more to what was being said than met the eye. He had already dealt with their new Colonel in the 1st Brigade and knew there were some troubled times ahead. The Colonel, recently arrived from North America had been put in charge of the Brigade by an old friend who wanted to see him promoted. His service had been filled mainly in headquarters jobs starting in the US Army and ending up in the North American Union Armed Forces with more staff jobs. But his friend knew the only eligible Colonels for promotion were coming from combat assignments and saw his friend needed that experience to be eligible. So he had snagged the Brigade Commander position for the Colonel when the old commander was promoted even though he knew his friend had never commanded a combat unit before.

    The Colonel realized this fact as well, but did little to fix the problem and rely on his staff of veterans. He tended to look at the mission briefs on paper, units on the maps and figures on spreadsheets rather than relying on the hard earned experience of his counterparts. Lucky enough, he had a good staff and had plenty of experience in the units he could and should have relied on, but tended to ignore the advice given and went with computer models and simulations instead. He also had no idea what to do with the Special Operations Battalion under his command. While assigned to the various staff jobs, he had worked around the special operations force on many occasions, but was envious of their experience and the awards and promotions that came as a result of their operations. Furthermore, he didn’t care at all for the fact they tended to believe they were better soldiers than others. He relied on his own experience from the staff position to decline, accept and create missions rather than trust in the Major assigned as the battalion commander. And the missions coming out of headquarters these days were getting riskier and outright dangerous.

    Not that the missions were not dangerous enough as it was, but taking on a combat seasoned infantry company of one hundred plus people with twelve operators just didn’t make sense. It was if the Colonel believed in the press reports and how the operators were portrayed as ten feet tall and bulletproof. He knew otherwise and was bound and determined to show them they were not as great as they thought they were by giving them more and more missions that were generally unachievable or in direct contravention to their actual operational chain of command through the Joint Special Operations Division (J-SOD) which typically assigned their missions. The J-SOD had attempted to work with the Colonel on several occasions as well as limiting his involvement, but replacements for base guard duty, leaves and rest and relaxation time were administrative issues they couldn’t interfere with. The missions they turned off as best as they could, but the 14th rarely had the opportunity for any down time as they would come off a mission and be put right on base details without any time off. Additionally, any mission which directly affected the Brigade could be tasked to the Cider teams. And the Colonel brought up more than a few missions for them since he assumed command.

    The entire unit was supposed to have been rotated back to France or England for an extended rest and refit period, but that had been held up as well as other units suddenly had more of a priority even though they were further down the list. The entire unit was starting to show the signs of fatigue from continuous service since the invasion. And fatigue causes mistakes. And mistakes cause death. A situation Thomas felt completely unacceptable and let it be known he didn’t care for it one bit. In his own fatigue, he was starting to come unraveled at the mismanagement of his unit.

    But most of all, the Colonel didn’t care for the Battalion Commander, this Major Dayfield. Since the 14th was only a battalion in name and Thomas was the ranking Operations Group commander, the billet fell to him. There were four Op Groups assigned in the Division, small company sized formations which didn’t fall into the normal Army structure. Op Group Alpha was Thomas’ unit and he was filling the Lieutenant Colonel’s billet until such time as his promotion came through. Thomas had his initial mission brief with the Colonel and went away more confused rather than with a clear sight picture of what was to be expected of him and his unit. What Thomas didn’t realize was the outgoing Brigade Commander had sung his praises to the highest extents and pushed for his promotion through the Division and Corps. But the new Commander had put a hold on the promotion until such time as he felt it was needed, which was probably no time soon. Since the 14th was only about eight platoons of individuals, it didn’t typically meet the size requirements for a Lieutenant Colonel, the only fact the Colonel put forward in his non-recommendation for promotion. Plus, Thomas had informed him the Brigade was only there for administrative support rather than operational control during his initial briefing; a simple fact the Colonel detested and didn’t like to be reminded of. He felt any unit under his Brigade was his and his alone and the fact the 14th received orders from another directorate entirely chaffed at his very being.

    Plus, the Cider teams were starting to be broken up somewhat. It was past time for some of the older members to move on since they had spent their time and needed to be replaced by younger members. But the replacements they were getting in were far from the same caliber of men and women they replaced. It appeared the administrative controls the Brigade had were being worked as any member being sent to the 14th had to go through the Colonel. And typical members which might have been turned down were accepted and put forward into the units. The team leaders were having a hard time trying to break in the younger troops and the missions were slightly more hazardous until they could work out the training issues. The Battalion was taking slightly higher casualties in recent times due to the problems the newer members caused.

    But Thomas kept these problems to himself and continued performing the missions as they were dictated. The J-SOD managed to keep the strategic mission rate low since they also saw the problems and had addressed it with their chain of command, but the Colonel had political connections and getting him removed was going to be a problem. It wasn’t an easy task, but they all hoped he would spend enough time in the billet to get the “combat” time he needed before being moved on to bigger and better things. At least things that didn’t involve the direct supervision of combat troops so they hoped.

    It was a dark period in the time for the members of the Ranch as they hadn’t been affected by political decisions until now. But they soldiered on, doing their job and hoped it would all end somewhat soon and the Colonel would be sent on his merry way.

    “Tom, the hospital called,” said Amy Kerns as she came walking up. Thomas saw she hadn’t even gotten the chance to head to the showers after the mission debrief and taking care of the administrative side of the mission.

    “Are our guys out?” he asked.

    “The doctor said he needed to talk to you in person,” said Amy. “Said it was important.”

    “Okay, I’ll be on my way,” said Thomas as he grabbed his carbine and walked the distance to the small field hospital that served the base camp. They had a surgeon and medical staff assigned to the unit, but he regularly worked in the hospital while they were in garrison. He walked in and attempted to track down the doctor but kept getting bounced from station to station. He finally found him near the post-op ward tent.

    “Hey doc,” said Thomas as he finally caught up with the surgeon that took care of their unit.

    “Major,” said the doctor. “Thanks for coming down.”

    “How are my people doing?” asked Thomas.

    “Nicholson took a round to the leg that took a little delicate surgery to correct, but nothing life threatening. He’ll be down for a little while as it heals. Daniels’ head wound was superficial and nothing a few stitches didn’t take care of. We’re going to keep him overnight to make sure there’s no brain trauma, but initial signs for that are negative,” said the doctor.

    “And Bates?” asked Thomas.

    “He’s stable for the moment. Pretty torn up but he has Sergeant Major Carlson to thank for saving his life. We’ve moved him into the recovery ward,” said the doctor.

    “He going to be okay in the long run?” asked Thomas.

    “He’s going to pull through this okay barring any unforeseen problems, but he’s incapable of recovering enough for combat duties,” said the doctor as he looked at Heath’s chart once again.

    “He’s pulled through these kinds of injuries before,” said Thomas.

    “He may very well have, but I took the liberty of doing a comprehensive check this time and what I found scares me,” said the doctor.

    “Such as?” asked Thomas.

    “The previous lung puncture shows significant signs of scarring and not healing correctly after the first injury, which was probably caused by his lack of rehabilitation and refusal to stay in the hospital. Same goes with the gut shot he took last year. I can see the previous wound to the left knee is causing some additional problems although he refuses to admit it. This current wound to his right knee is significant enough to threaten his mobility fifteen years down the road. The shoulder injury has popped back up. And now the latest puncture in the other lung can develop into something quite serious if not treated correctly since the other lung is having a hard time compensating for running both right now. In short, he needs serious down time to rest and most importantly, to let it heal correctly,” said the doctor.

    “Best case?” asked Thomas.

    “A year of rehabilitation at a minimum, but probably more like eighteen months. And preferably in a Stateside hospital where they have specialists for this sort of thing,” said the doctor.

    “Worst case?” asked Thomas.

    “You plan a ceremony to discuss the positive contributions he made to this unit and hand his wife a folded flag,” said the doctor earnestly.

    “Do what you have to do doctor,” said Thomas who knew better than to argue a medical prognosis from the man they trusted with their lives. While he turned a blind eye to many injuries that should have received longer rehabilitation, when he put his foot down, there tended to be little arguments. “Can he receive visitors?”

    “Yes, he has been asking for you and his wife,” said the doctor.

    “Write up your report and we’ll send it up,” said Thomas.

    “I cannot stress the fact enough that he cannot be cleared for combat duties again. At least not for a long time. He has to be made aware of the ramifications of trying to sneak back in. He will never be at one hundred percent ever again. He will probably get the use of seventy-five percent at most out of his lungs and maybe sixty percent out of his right knee if we rehab it correctly,” said the doctor.

    “He won’t like that,” said Thomas. “At least put that option out there for him. Gives him something to strive for.”

    “That would be lying to him. No doctor on this planet would clear him for combat duties again with his list of current and former injuries,” said the doctor.

    “He’s the kind of guy that needs a goal to push towards,” said Thomas. “A lie, but a little white one at that.”

    “You guys are all the same,” smirked the doctor. “Action junkies the whole lot of you.”

    “No, just wanting to get the job done and go home,” said Thomas.

    “He’s on the flight to Germany in two days for further treatment and on to North America after that,” said the doctor.

    “You think the hospital at Fort Carson will be okay? Puts him close to home,” said Thomas.

    “And close to the mountain warfare training center,” said the doctor as he knew very well where Fort Carson was close to.

    “That too,” said Thomas. “He can still help train. You pen him up in a hospital for a year and he will go completely crazy.”

    “The higher altitude won’t help in his recovery. I’d prefer sea level myself, but Colorado Springs might be okay. However, not up in the mountains. He heads to San Antonio first and gets further treatment,” said the doctor. “After that, I can suggest it to the attending physician. But only, and I stress only after his lungs have healed enough to permit good oxygen transfer.”

    “Thanks doctor,” said Thomas and knew it wouldn’t be an easy sell to Heath to let him know his days in a combat rated unit were over. He would discuss that issue with Amber first and let her break the news as it might come better from his spouse than his commander. He headed towards the “waiting room” of the field hospital and saw Amber waiting anxiously.

    “How is he?” she demanded as soon as she saw Thomas.

    “He’s going to pull through okay,” said Thomas.

    “But?” asked Amber as she knew there was something else.

    “He can’t come back. The doctor won’t clear him for combat duties again,” said Thomas.

    “Then we’ll find one that will!” protested Amber.

    “Amber, listen to me. He cannot go back out. The previous injuries are starting to cause some serious complications and even impacting the mission. You’ve seen it yourself he’s started getting slower and is not as strong as he once was,” said Thomas.

    Amber bit her lip as she looked away. Heath was typically a fast runner, but she had been coming in before him on most runs in the past few months. She also saw he didn’t have the strength or stamina like he once did, but was afraid to bring the subject up. “I didn’t want to say anything.”

    “None of us did,” said Thomas. “And since he was able to keep up relatively speaking we turned a blind eye to it. But the doctor just gave me the complete prognosis.”

    “So how long in rehab?” asked Amber.

    “A year to eighteen months,” said Thomas.

    “Heath can do it sooner,” said Amber. “I know him well enough to know that.”

    “He pushes the envelope this time and he ends up in a casket,” said Thomas and immediately regretted speaking that way to Amber. She was being protective of her husband, although in generally the wrong way.

    “No hope?” asked Amber and knew Thomas was under a lot of stress lately.

    “The knees are bad enough to where he might not be able to walk in fifteen years, both lungs are shot out and his shoulder keeps popping in and out. You’ve seen that yourself. Only so many times Scott can pop it back into place,” said Thomas.

    “What do I tell him?” asked Amber as she stared absentmindedly towards the camp.

    “The truth,” said Thomas. “And make him understand he needs to let himself heal this time.”

    “He’s a little stubborn,” she chuckled slightly.

    “And wives aren’t?” laughed Thomas. “I’m going to get him reassigned to Colorado after his rehabilitation and hospital time is done.”

    “When can I see him?” she asked.

    “He can receive visitors. It’s better coming from you and I cannot stress the importance of this. He has to know how serious it is this time,” said Thomas.

    “I’ll talk to him,” said Amber as she retrieved her carbine and headed towards the recovery tent of the hospital. After checking in at the desk, she headed down and saw he looked pretty bad from the blood loss as well as the injuries he had sustained. But he smiled as he saw her approach as he always did.

    “Hey,” he said weakly.

    “Hey babe,” she said with a smile. “Should have ducked.”

    “Took another for the team,” he said weakly and put the oxygen mask back on.

    “Quite the bullet magnet aren’t you?” she smiled at him.

    “I’m not going to be cleared for combat again am I?” he asked after removing the mask once again.

    “No,” she said and shook her head as a tear formed in her eye.

    “Saw it coming,” said Heath. “Knew after the doc kept shaking his head.”

    “But Thomas is going to try to get you close to home,” she said with a smile.

    “Would like to have you there,” said Heath.

    “My place is here, you know this,” she said and kissed his hand.

    “I know,” he said and took a breath from the oxygen mask. “Just like to spend some normal time with you.”

    “What’s normal since we’ve been married,” she laughed.

    “Knew I could get you to laugh,” he said and took another breath from the mask.

    “You need to get better this time,” she said and held his hand. “I want to grow old with you sitting around on our porch at the Ranch. You have to slow down this time sweetie.”

    “Knew that the last time,” he said weakly. “But thought I could still help.”

    “Heath Allen Bates, the world will turn without you,” said Amber and immediately regretted it.

    “Just want to serve,” said Heath.

    “And you will. I’ll make sure Dad calls in a few favors from the staff and gets you assigned up near him. That way you can have that porch ready for when I come home,” said Amber.

    “Tell Tom there’s a guy coming up in S and T that looks promising,” said Heath and took another breath. It wasn’t good to be talking this much, but he knew it needed to be said. “Name is Wallace, good to go.”

    “I’ll let him know,” said Amber as she saw a nurse coming over.

    “I’m sorry ma’am, he needs his rest and visiting hours are almost over,” she said politely.

    “Bye love,” she said and kissed him on the forehead. “I’ll come by before they ship you out.”

    “Love you baby,” he said and squeezed her hand gently. Amber left the room before he could see her start to cry. Her husband wanted nothing more than to serve his country in a front line unit and this was being taken away from him. She saw how unfair it was and the fact they were behind the lines on a useless mission that could have been performed by the Air Force grated at her even further. She walked outside the tent and heard a voice from behind her.

    “He doing okay?” asked Thomas.

    “Yeah, trying to get back into the thick of it as suspected,” she said and wiped a tear from her face. “Too stubborn to realize it can kill him.”

    “We’re all like that, including you,” he said with a chuckle.

    She laughed in return and sniffed back her emotions once again. “He told me to tell you there was some kid named Wallace coming through Selection and Training you should take a look at. Said he was good to go.”

    ”We’ll take a look,” said Thomas. “How are you holding up?”

    “Me? I’m fine,” she replied and saw the disbelief on his face. She knew Thomas about as well as any man besides her father and husband and knew he saw right through the FAçade of her trying to be brave. “How would you feel if Sharon was lying in a hospital bed and you couldn’t do anything to help her?”

    “Hey, he’s got the best doc on the planet looking after him,” said Thomas.

    “But it’s my husband,” she said and another tear streamed down her face.

    “Come here,” said Thomas as he took her into a hug and let her shed her emotions for a minute. She cried briefly, but spent the remainder of the time sniffing back her emotions and thinking at least her husband would be safe. “What time is it in Colorado?”

    “Umm, a little after seven,” said Amber after looking at her watch and wiping back a tear.

    “You think your dad is at work yet?” asked Thomas.

    “Should be,” she replied.

    “Let’s go get him on the VTC and let him know Heath will be coming in soon,” said Thomas.

    “That’s kind of misuse,” said Amber.

    “Maybe a little,” smiled Thomas. “But for a good cause.”

    “Okay, if you insist and cover my behind,” smiled Amber in return.

    “Won’t be the first time,” he chuckled as they departed and went back to their compound and to the communications area. The tech on duty wasn’t a fully trained and qualified member of the SDR teams, but he had one glaring attribute, he was trained by one of the best in the business.

    “Dial up Camp Dugger please,” said Thomas to the communications technician.

    “One moment sir,” said the tech as he started inputting the numbers into the system. He didn’t need to look them up as the teams used the gear frequently enough that he had it memorized. While it was a minor misuse of government equipment, they all turned a blind eye since it gave them an opportunity to speak to their families as well. “Okay, we’re synched up, let me ping them and see if anyone is around.”

    He hit the “call” button on the console and waited for a response. The terminal at the other end was always manned although sometimes it was someone they were unfamiliar with. However, a familiar face appeared on the screen.

    “Tom! How are ya?” said Ryan Meeks with a friendly smile as his face came onto the screen.

    “Pretty fair, and you?” asked Thomas.

    “Getting along,” said Ryan. “Hey Amber. Hey Rookie. See they’re keeping you around.”

    “Can’t get rid of me old man,” smiled the tech. He had been trained by Ryan prior to coming overseas and had been handpicked by the 14th prior to his arrival after an alert from Ryan. Ryan had told the teams he was one of the best he had ever seen and they could do far worse than the young man sitting in front of the console.

    “Something going on?” asked Ryan.

    “Magnet took another hit,” said Thomas.

    “Bad?” asked Ryan.

    “He’ll pull through, but needs significant rehab this time,” said Thomas.

    “Coming back to us again?” asked Ryan.

    “Probably so after he gets released from Brooks,” said Thomas.

    “Want me to grab George?” asked Ryan.

    “If you would be so kind. He isn’t out in the field or anything is he?” asked Amber.

    “That old fart never leaves the office these days,” laughed Ryan.

    “And yet we see you shining a seat with your butt in the commo center,” laughed Amber.

    “Got me,” laughed Ryan. “He was getting ready to take out the new class we just got in here. Heading up in the hills for some boulder climbing exercises.”

    “Good class?” asked Thomas.

    “About like them all, headstrong and full of piss and vinegar. Wants to go save the world all at once,” said Ryan as he grabbed a small radio and called George Taylor. After speaking for several moments, he turned back to the video camera. “Should be here in a couple of minutes.”

    “Good deal, how’s everything else going?” asked Thomas.

    “That little one of yours is getting to be a handful. Terrible twos,” laughed Ryan.

    “And gosh darn it, I’m missing it,” chuckled Thomas.

    “Exactly what Sharon said, but used some other words to describe her feelings and your lack of attendance in assisting the upbringing of your youngest,” he replied.

    “I’m sure I’ll make up for lost time when I get back,” said Thomas.

    The conversation turned to small talk until the arrival of George Taylor on the screen. He looked a bit older and grayer, but his eyes were still sharp as a hawk’s.

    “Thomas, Amber…what’s going on?” asked George. “Is Heath okay?”

    “I’ll let Amber fill you in,” said Thomas as he motioned for commo tech to give the two some privacy. “George, Ryan, we’ll catch up another time.”

    Thomas and the tech removed themselves from the immediate area as Ryan did the same half a world away. Amber plopped herself into the seat in front of the camera and got comfortable.

    “Amber…” said George.

    “Hey Dad,” she sighed. “Heath took another shot to the lung.”

    “Bad?” asked George.

    “Gonna disqualify him from combat duties,” she said.

    “How long?” asked George.

    “Permanently from what the doctors say,” said Amber.

    “Honey, this is what? His sixth or seventh trip to the hospital?” asked George.

    “Yeah, but he’s always bounced back!” she protested.

    “His luck can only hold out for so long,” said George. “Maybe it’s time for a job in the rear with the gear.”

    “I know…” she said and her voice trailed off. “But this is his life and what he loves to do!”

    “I think he loves you more,” said George. “And you know I’ll keep him safe waiting for you.”

    “I know,” she said and sniffed once again.

    “Something else going on?” asked George.

    “The unit has some issues right now. The new brigade commander isn’t exactly panning out like we thought he might. Thomas is under some pretty good stress right now,” she said.

    “Taking a toll on all of you?” asked George.

    “We all look up to him, so yeah,” said Amber. “Wasn’t like this before.”

    “All units go through some rough patches,” said George. “And I called in every marker I could trying to get that pretentious hoo-ha assigned someplace else. Unfortunately, I’m just a simple Sergeant Major assigned to a backwater training school.”

    “You’re more than that Daddy,” said Amber.

    “But that doesn’t matter. Keep your heads up and your tails clean and it will work out, I promise you,” said George.

    “Enough of my problems,” said Amber. “How are Mom and sis?”

    “Your Mom’s doing good. And will be worried sick about you when I hit her with this news. Your poor husband has seven Purple Hearts now and you still have yet to be wounded. Call me crazy, but the numbers will catch up with you eventually,” said George.

    “I’m a firm believer in not sticking your head up when you don’t have to and shooting before the other guy can get a shot off,” said Amber as she repeated the advice given to her by her father some years before.

    “Seems vaguely familiar,” he laughed. “Your sister is doing okay as well. Misses Stu tremendously, but is bearing it well.”

    “I’ll be in her same boat soon enough,” said Amber.

    “When is Heath getting shipped out?” asked George.

    “He’s going to Germany first then heading for San Antonio. It would be nice to see some family when he arrives; even if it is in laws,” she chuckled. “So please don’t give him a hard time.”

    “I haven’t given him a hard time since before the wedding!” protested George.

    “And right before we shipped out to Texas and after North Carolina and before we went to Iceland, Britain, Europe and before he came back over the last time,” she laughed.

    “So a father trying to make sure his daughter is okay is a bad thing?” asked George.

    “No, it’s what makes you my daddy,” she smiled at him, her spirits momentarily uplifted.

    “I’ll see about getting a ride down there,” said George. “We have flights going out of Peterson and Buckley to that area fairly often.”

    “If you don’t mind,” said Amber. “And make sure he takes it easy this time. I want a husband when this war is over.”

    “The same could be said about my daughter,” said George, the father in him still coming out.

    “This is the life I chose,” she said. “And I could turn my back on it about as easily as you.”

    “Your mother always said we were a lot alike on the inside,” he smiled.

    “Don’t tell Mom,” laughed Amber. “She still thinks I’m coming home to pop out grandkids.”

    “When it’s over, I expect a whole house full,” laughed George.

    “Hey, I’m going to get off here. Tying up the satellite lines for personal chat is frowned upon highly, especially by our new commander. Give my love to Mom and Misty and everyone else we left behind,” said Amber.

    “Will do,” said George. “But one more thing.”

    “Sure,” said Amber.

    “Well, two things,” said George. “First, take care of yourself. Second, help Thomas out as much as possible. The burden of command will get heavy after a while.”

    “I will,” she replied. “On both accounts.”

    “Bye, bye little girl,” said George. “Love you.”

    “Bye Daddy,” she said and not even trying to argue the “little girl” point. “Love you too.”

    Amber cut the connection and headed out to find Darren Thompson, Dave Lawson and Rick Jones. She knew the three of them knew Thomas as well as anyone and probably needed to be made aware of what her father picked up. Amber and her father were close enough to be able to read each other’s emotions and she knew he was saying a lot by not saying much. He had picked up on the stress Thomas was under and mentioned it. And to Amber, that meant her father was concerned. And if he was concerned, she knew the rest of the team needed to keep a watchful eye out as well.
    STANGF150 and Sapper John like this.
  6. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    Yeah, I've been under the radar and haven't posted anything for about two years now. Just got it in my mind to finish up some of the stuff that's been lying around for <ahem> some time.

    I've considered the e-book route. Just haven't gotten around to doing anything about it yet.
  7. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++


    Date/Time: 15 March/1117
    Location: Joint Special Operations Division Headquarters, Prague, Czech Republic

    “No joy sir. We have to assume he was captured,” said the Senior Master Sergeant Pararescue Jumper on the J-SOD staff.

    “How can we assume that?” asked the Colonel in charge of the rescue attempt.

    “We’ve had teams crawling all over the place down there. They think they found where he landed, but there are vehicle tracks all over the place and at least two dozen different sets of footprints,” said the PJ. He had been injured in a rescue attempt in Poland and had not fully recovered enough to get back on the job. His job at the headquarters was to advise the staff on the capabilities of the various PJ units assigned to the J-SOD. “With the amount of enemy troops in that area, we have to assume they snatched him up almost as soon as he landed.”

    “Any indication of where they might have taken him?” asked the Colonel.

    “Not really sir. We are taking a look at the aerial recon photos of the area, but we don’t have anything definite yet,” said the PJ. “The local Aussie intel unit seems to think he was taken to a possible camp near Ružomberok. Not sure about that though.”

    “What kind of camp?” asked the Colonel.

    “Supposedly an abandoned staging facility,” said the PJ.

    “Keep looking. We’ll get some additional teams on it,” said the Colonel as a way of dismissal. He thought about the downed pilot and needed a location to start a rescue from. There were several special operations teams close by that could perform a rescue if needed and all they needed was a location and reliable intelligence. In the meantime, he would put more human assets on the ground in a search and found the 14th Special Operations Battalion was nearby. They had been pulled from the rotation a lot lately since they were being over tasked by their parent unit with useless details, but this kind of milk run should be a walk in the park for them. He drafted a message to send to them and put it out to be sent with the daily traffic to their command center, hoping the Major in charge would see it as a somewhat easy tasking.

    As he sent out the message, he never knew what chain of events he was putting into motion and what the eventual outcome would be.


    “Eat, food,” said the guard in broken English as he tossed a small portion of rice and a small piece of mutton. Some of the rice spilled out of the bowl onto the dirty floor and the piece of mutton bounced onto his leg.

    Williams looked up as the steel door slammed back shut with only a sliver of light coming in through the gap in the top. He was hungry, certainly, and knew he needed nourishment if he was planning any sort of escape. Scraping the rice off the floor, he picked it up and looked at the dirt on the outside. But hunger took over and he gobbled it down without thinking. Doing the same with the mutton, he knew he needed more than the simple items to survive. And water, he needed water. He had been dehydrated before and knew it wasn’t something he wanted to go through again. He knew it would be some time before they brought by the small cup of water, more to keep him alive than nourish him, and tried to think of ways of escaping once again.

    The message started, blurring his thoughts once again as the soft voice spoke to him. He knew it was all propaganda, but also knew the longer he listened to it, the more apt he would be to believe it. He knew it was untrue, but it kept eating away at his brain as the tone would waver from time to time and get his attention once again.

    Suddenly he heard footsteps in the hallway and the door was opened. Two guards pulled him out and half walked and half drug him back into the interrogation room. After getting inside, they commenced to beating him once again. No questions were asked; no points were made. This was purely hatred being shown as the fury of their attacks was relentless and they showed him no mercy. As he curled up in a ball, a thought formed in the back of his mind. While he had given the token attention to pass the course during his pre-deployment training, the Texan Armed Forces Code of Conduct came into his mind as sharp as he had seen it on the overhead projector. It was little different than the US Code of Conduct, but added in an important seventh article.

    “I am a Texan, proud of a strong heritage. I will continue to survive and remember that my country will not let me down and will do all they can do to rescue me.”

    As the beating continued, this verse flashed into his mind as he attempted to protect his face and knew his armed forces would eventually free him. A kick landed on the side of his head jolted his thoughts back to the present as he was dazed enough to lower his guard for a moment. Suddenly, the door to the room flew open and yelling was heard in Arabic. The guards paused for a moment before one last kick was delivered to his midsection. Williams groaned on the floor until he was moved slightly and gentle hands tried pulling his away from his face.

    “No, please let me look,” said a voice in accented English.

    Williams resisted, but was confused. The man seemed sincere in his attempts to help and he let his guard down slightly and uncovered his face. An IU Major was looking down at him with concern on his face.

    “Please, let me see what damage they caused,” said the yet to be identified Major.

    Williams pulled his hands away and brought them down to his sore midsection. After looking for a moment, the Major barked an order at one of the guards and they quickly retreated away. Returning, they handed over a green box with the Red Crescent on top. The Major opened the first aid kit and grabbed a package before ripping it open. He barked another order at the guard and sent him scurrying off before gently dabbing the gauze on Williams’ face.

    “This may hurt a little,” said the Major as he tried to clean the cut.

    “Who…who are you?” asked Williams weakly as he winced from the touch of the gauze.

    “I am Major Caleb Aziz,” he said and grabbed at another package. “This will hurt. It is…I do not remember the English word.”

    The Major dabbed the iodine pad on the cut as Williams grunted once again. “It hurts!”

    “It will clean the wound,” said Aziz as he used the pad sparingly on the smaller cuts and finished up with the gauze. “I am sorry for the guard’s behavior.”

    “Thanks,” said Williams as another man entered the room. Apparently he was a doctor of some sort since he started poking and prodding at Williams to see if anything hurt. Aziz provided the translation.

    “He is doctor and asks if any of this hurts,” said Aziz. Williams nodded at selected points as the so called doctor felt his midsection. After completing his examination, the doctor said something briefly to Aziz and was rewarded with a nod in return. He departed the room and the guards picked up Williams and sat him in a chair. A cup of water appeared in front of him and a pack of cigarettes was set on the table.

    “Drink, it is water,” said Aziz. “You want smoke, no?”

    “No, I don’t smoke,” said Williams as he grasped at the metal cup and saw the water inside. It looked clean enough to drink and he felt the liquid wetting down his dry throat. The guard refilled it from a pitcher on the ledge in the room and Williams drank down the next cup.

    “I am sorry for the behavior,” said Aziz. “But we must return you to your cell.”

    “Okay,” said Williams simply as he resigned to going back to the small box they were keeping him in.

    “I have no medicine to give you. Unfortunately, your bombers destroyed the convoy that was transporting medicine to one of the hospitals nearby,” explained Aziz as the guards picked him up by his arms to take him back.

    “Did they now?” asked Williams.

    “Yes, it was meant for the civilian hospital. You fly bombers, correct?” asked Aziz.

    “I am required to give my name, rank, service number and date of birth,” said Williams as they led him down the hallway.

    “I understand,” said Aziz as they crammed him back into the cell where he continued his solitude and the message started playing once again. He knew it was too early to start any form of serious interrogation based on sympathy, but Aziz also knew he had just planted the seed of doubt in the mind of the Texan prisoner.


    “So we are facing at least two battalions in strength at Objective Casio as well as the armored regiment from Objective Omega,” said the Brigade S-2.

    “Can we hold them in place if needed?” asked the Brigade Commander.

    “Absolutely. They are sitting at approximately seventy percent strength and don’t have the typical armor support of a normal infantry battalion,” said the S-2. “They may be closer to the eighty percent mark, but not anywhere near one hundred percent.”

    “But they still hold the commanding terrain,” said the Colonel.

    “Not really sir. The problem that faces us is the front. We have a limited amount of maneuver room and could only feed two companies at a time through the lines,” said the Brigade S-3.

    “We could move forward with three, but it won’t be easy,” said the Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the 2nd Infantry Battalion, responsible for holding the front at Objective Casio, better known as the Slovakian city of Ružomberok.

    “The terrain favors maneuver and should be forced with two. If you try to cram three into that narrow corridor, you face problems getting your units to maneuver,” said the Colonel.

    “But we can do it. We’ve done it before,” said the Lieutenant Colonel.

    “Unacceptable risk,” said the Colonel. “Statistics and simulations show you could take serious casualties.”

    “How about a recon of the area?” asked the Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 1st Battalion.

    “We could conduct another in depth recon of the area,” said Thomas Dayfield. He normally kept quiet during these meetings, but this remark was intended for him.

    “No, we have the data we need from the intelligence assets for the moment,” said the Colonel. “Best to wait until closer to the start of the spring offensive.”

    “Even though the IU is showing signs of digging in further and we could take this objective beforehand? It could give us a better position when we start the offensive,” suggested the Brigade S-3.

    “No, your orders are clear. We are to conduct limited attacks within that sector mainly keeping the IU off guard,” said the Colonel.

    “And still getting casualties in the process?” asked the XO of the Brigade.

    “Well within acceptable norms,” said the Colonel.

    “The city of Ružomberok commands a crossroads that can and will help when the spring offensive starts. It would be better to have that in hand before mounting any kind of offensive,” suggested the Commander of the 1st Battalion.

    “No, it’s too risky,” said the Colonel.

    “How about a little further west at Hrboltovainstead? The river narrows out enough to ford and puts us into a position to flank Ružomberok prior to the offensive,” suggested the Commander of the 3rd Battalion.

    “We have limited bridging assets and if they are destroyed, they will be hard to replace,” said the Colonel.

    “But does give us a decided advantage when it comes to Ružomberok,” said the 1st Battalion Commander. “And that kind of edge would be critical for Ticonderoga in the spring.”

    “Gentlemen, I won’t even push it forward to the Division. The potential losses of an operation to seize that target are enough for me to think it’s a bad idea. When the time is right, we’ll strike, but not before then,” said the Colonel. “Since there’s nothing else, we will adjourn.”

    The staff meeting broke up and Thomas was on his way out when he was stopped by the aide to the Colonel. He was brought over and kept standing for five minutes until the Colonel acknowledged his presence.

    “Your unit is tasked with relieving a company from the 1st Battalion. They are due to rotate back to the rear for R and R,” said the Colonel.

    “I was led to believe our unit was next on the batting order for R and R,” said Thomas.

    “That unit was hit by artillery fire the other day and needs some down time to get over the shock,” said the Colonel.

    But Thomas knew better. The artillery fire was less than five minutes of a barrage and hit no closer than five hundred meters of any positions of the 1st Battalion. In fact, the commander even joked about the poor shots the IU had been afterwards. “Sir, you are using my unit to replace a conventional unit?”

    “Yes, unless you feel your unit is inadequate to the task,” said the Colonel.

    “I think overqualified would be a better answer sir,” said Thomas.

    “So they are better than the troops they are replacing, or so you suggest,” said the Colonel.

    “With all due respect sir, my unit is better than the conventional infantry. This is like using a Ferrari to replace a Volkswagen for a trip to the supermarket,” said Thomas.

    “You have your orders Major, were there any questions?” asked the Colonel.

    “Yes, when is my unit going to get some stand down? We’ve been passed over three times already and my troopers are starting to fatigue,” said Thomas.

    “Are you complaining about being a little tired? Well Major, that’s just war for you. Everyone is a little tired and we probably won’t sleep until it’s all over,” said the Colonel. “I’ll let you know when your unit will rotate back to the rear.”

    “And what do I tell my people?” asked Thomas, suddenly starting to get angry.

    “To suck it up and drive on like we all have been,” growled the Colonel. “You are dismissed.”

    Instead of trying to sway the Colonel’s decision as well as losing his temper himself, Thomas wisely walked away. The urge to punch the Colonel in the mouth would do his unit little good and he knew there would be consequences, although most people would have felt it justified. As he walked out of the Brigade Headquarters, the S-1 caught up with him.

    “Tom, I’m sorry. I tried to sneak your unit in, but the Colonel preempted the orders,” said the Captain.

    “Thanks for trying Dan. When can we expect to be back into the rotation?” asked Thomas.

    “The Colonel dropped you down to the bottom…again,” said the Captain.

    “Are you serious?” demanded Thomas. “Eight more weeks and we might get a week off?”

    “I’ll keep trying to sneak something in, but the Colonel has it in for you. I don’t know why, but he does,” said the Captain.

    “That’s mismanagement and abuse of power if I’ve ever seen it!” exclaimed Thomas.

    “Listen, best advice is to lay low. Maybe he’ll forget about it and I can sneak you in,” said the Captain.

    “He’s as likely to forget about me as he would a case of herpes,” said Thomas. “I’m thinking of heading to the Division and file a complaint.”

    “Which won’t do any good. He’s buds with the inspector general,” said the Captain.

    “An audience with the Division Commander then,” said Thomas. “I’ve got to do something!”

    “Listen, the S-3 says the 1st Battalion isn’t facing significant IU threats. It’s still more or less on the front, but you won’t have to fill any missions right then,” said the Captain.

    “And filling a foxhole instead,” said Thomas.

    “I put in a call to the 1st Battalion commander. He understands what is going on and will be putting your unit on ready reserve,” said the Captain.

    “It’s something, but not nearly enough to help out. And you and I both know that,” said Thomas. “Listen, my people are starting to show serious signs of fatigue and everyone else in this Brigade has rotated back to the rear except us. We’ve been on the go for the past six months straight and it’s wearing at my patience. I might understand if the rest of the units were in constant contact each and every day, but this is getting ridiculous!”

    “You could try pulling some strings through the J-SOD,” said the Captain.

    “I might,” said Thomas, thinking over the idea.

    “I’ve seen it as well and certain parts of the Division staff have seen it. But since our Colonel has political influences, it’s a hard sell getting him replaced or any of his orders getting countered without a good reason,” said the Captain.

    “And all the while my troops get wounded and possibly even killed without getting any rest?” asked Thomas. “Is that not a good enough reason?”

    “As he said, it’s within norms. However, I don’t agree with it. But until you take massed casualties which garner the attention of the higher headquarters, they continue to ignore the problems,” said the Captain and immediately regretted it.

    “I have to take massed casualties in order to get some relief?!” growled Thomas.

    “Not like that Tom, but until something happens that gives the General a reason to can the Colonel, this will go on. So far he’s done nothing to earn replacement,” said the Captain.

    “Sorry, I should have known you weren’t saying that. I’m just a little tired,” said Thomas.

    “We’ll get you some relief as soon as possible,” said the Captain. “Anything else?”

    “Yeah, the replacement for Scott Carlson? Anything more on that?” asked Thomas.

    “Nothing yet. Give me some time to work it,” said the Captain.

    Thomas wandered away from the staff meeting, still fuming over the current on goings concerning his unit. The troopers were starting to show fatigue and making minor mistakes. And while they had been relatively safe, minor mistakes could turn to major ones before long and he would end up writing a letter to one of the families in his unit explaining why their son or daughter gave their life on the altar of freedom. Or someone will be writing Sharon to explain the same thing, he thought as he moved towards their compound. His mood must have showed as he went through the gate and was seen by members of his team.

    “Getting bumped back again, aren’t we?” asked Major Mark Williams as he and the remainder of the leadership were waiting.

    “Yeah,” sighed Thomas. “And filling in for a company from 1st Battalion so they can get some R and R. Apparently they were the victims of a near miss of an artillery barrage the other day.”

    “We knew it was coming,” said Command Chief Master Sergeant Greg Henry. “Don’t beat yourself up over this.”

    “I cannot understand for the life of me why or how that man gets away with what he does!” exclaimed Thomas, who felt a little more comfortable with the friends around him.

    “It’ll get noticed eventually,” said Darren.

    “Hopefully before someone gets killed,” said Thomas and immediately regretted it. The 14th had taken casualties along the way, some were close friends, others those that joined along the way. But as the unit was one large family, all losses were mourned heavily by the unit.

    “Keep training and working things out. The strategic missions coming from the J-SOD aren’t as bad as they have been,” said Mark.

    “You think someone up there noticed it as well?” asked Dave Lawson.

    “Probably so,” said Mark. “They have to notice the increased mission reports coming from the tactical level and how we aren’t exactly getting a break.”

    “Point being, we are overtasked and getting fatigued,” said Thomas. “There are limits to every unit, including this one, and we are getting close to the stage of making dumb mistakes.”

    “This is 1st Battalion’s staging area,” said Mark as he pointed at the map. “Pretty good ways away from where the active shooting is. Gives us a chance to reconsolidate and work in some of the new guys. It’ll be training, but at least we can get some quality sleep in.”

    “I know, but nothing would beat getting some quality time behind the lines where we could sleep in if we wanted to,” said Thomas.

    “Patience,” suggested Mark. “Anyway, when do we move?”

    “You know, I was so mad I didn’t even ask,” said Thomas. “You mind? I’m liable to start lopping off heads if I go back up there.”

    “Yeah, I can handle it,” said Mark as he departed. He also saw the signs of stress in Thomas and wanted to do whatever he could to help out. But Thomas typically took on a lot and internalized his problems. Getting him to open up wasn’t easy. Getting him to release some of the minor jobs he took on was almost impossible. To get him to admit defeat though was like making the earth stop spinning. But they would help out as best as they could along the way. As he reached the headquarters, he stopped by the S-3 office to find out exactly when they were supposed to move.

    “Hiya Neal,” said Mark as he went into the small office in the trailer.

    “Hey Mark,” said the S-3. “Sorry about the rotation FUBAR.”

    “I’m not going to say it’s okay by any means,” said Mark with a slight edge. “An apology the first time was okay, the second time got old, the third time was unacceptable. This time it gets to be downright personal and borderline criminal.”

    “We can’t…” he started to say and looked off to the side where another member of the staff was working. He nodded his head and they went outside to speak in private. After getting out of earshot, the S-3 took out a cigar and lit it up. “I can only say I’m sorry, but I know that doesn’t help. But our hands are tied here.”

    “What are you talking about?” asked Mark.

    “Listen, I’ve got people in my own office spying on me which is why I’m out here talking to you. Anyway, the informal orders, no paper trail mind you, are that your unit sees no down time as long as our conventional units are in direct contact with the enemy,” said the S-3.

    “Which the conventional units are perpetually in contact and not due to be rotated back to the rear any time soon,” said Mark. “But more to the point, we are perpetually in contact as well, a whole lot more often and taking far more casualties than the line units. Which makes that order completely illegal and way out of line.”

    “Which has been reported up and bounced right back in our laps,” said the S-3.

    “Explain,” said Mark as he crossed his arms.

    “We have some channels heading upwards, the IG, the Division Commander, the J-3, so on and so forth. Problem is the Division Chief of Staff controls all aspects of the meeting on high and just so happens to be a friend and former classmate of you know who. Additionally, the IG happens to be the one that helped sway the decision to get him assigned here. He needs combat time to get promoted and will only get there here. What we can hope is he is relieved by the spring offensive and we get someone in here that knows what they are doing,” said the S-3.

    “That’s the most moronic thing I’ve heard!” protested Mark.

    “It may very well be, but the problem is we are not in direct combat at this time. So his inadequacies of command are not showing up right now. If the shooting starts, yes, they come to light. But right now there is no reason for the Division commander to replace him,” said the S-3.

    “So this entire Brigade has to take significant casualties in order for someone on high to realize he sucks and has about as much business being in charge as my cat does?” said Mark with a slight rise in his voice.

    “We certainly hope not,” said the S-3. “The XO and I are attempting to get him up to speed on the tactical aspects of the job. Mostly the fact we should be running the operations. Problem we run into is he believes the training he got back when he was a butter bar still applies today. Way different world of war now and way different methods of doing things. Something he flat refuses to come to terms with.”

    “The Division Commander has to see it at the sand table exercises you guys pull,” said Mark.

    “He does, but again, until we start filling body bags he cannot be replaced. He has significant political connections in North America,” said the S-3.

    “And I thought we were a non-political military,” scoffed Mark.

    “For the most part we are,” said the S-3. “Unfortunately, some have refused to change from the ways in place prior to the Fall and accept the reality we need combat leaders and not managers these days. And he has slipped through the cracks.”

    “So why the down on us anyway? We should be making him look good,” asked Mark.

    “Have no idea to be honest with you. He’s had it in for your unit since day one,” said the S-3. “Nothing I can put my finger on, but I think it has to do with the fact you guys do get publicity and promoted generally faster than normal officers.”

    “So we get blasted for doing our jobs?” asked Mark.

    “Appears so,” said the S-3. “Again, this is a guess of mine.”

    “Okay, I can’t sit here and talk about this all night with you. I understand your pain, but understand ours as well,” said Mark.

    “We do feel your pain and it’s been addressed,” said the S-3.

    “Anyway, when do we rotate up to the line?” asked Mark.

    “Tomorrow at 0700. Movement by truck,” said the S-3.

    “Okay, we’ll be ready,” said Mark.

    “Again, I’m sorry,” said the S-3 as Mark was departing. Mark just shook his head slightly and headed back towards the encampment without saying another word.
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  8. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++


    Date/Time: 18 March/1422
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    “How long are those guys up there for?” asked Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen Garcia.

    “Supposed to be a week I think,” said the communications specialist inside the secure center.

    “You have a look at this?” asked Stephen.

    “No Chief,” said the tech. “Just deciphered it as was required.”

    “Okay, get on the horn and get me transport up to 1st Battalion’s area,” said Garcia. “And let Captain Shannon Parsons know I’m heading up to the line for a while and request she mind the store.”

    “Roger that sir,” said the tech and started looking up numbers to call. He sent one of the orderlies to find Captain Parsons who was currently injured to let her know she was nominally in charge of the unit while Chief Garcia was away even though she outranked him. She was currently working the night Officer In Charge since she was still on light duty from having her appendix removed.

    Stephen headed out and saw a vehicle was heading towards him. As it came to a stop, he wavered before tossing in his bag into the back. “You heading for 1st Battalion?”

    “Yes sir,” said the driver. “Convoy was about to leave when your guys called us.”

    “Can’t beat that timing,” said Stephen as he jumped into the passenger seat and sped back to the waiting convoy of supplies and replacements. The convoy got underway almost immediately and set off the main brigade operations area and headed northerly direction towards the encampment and staging area of the reserve battalion at the moment. Stephen knew it wasn’t exactly down time per se, but the troopers of his unit were getting a needed break away from the Brigade leadership and the endless details they managed to find for them. He had also seen Thomas starting to break down under the strain of leadership and had quietly made calls of his own to his contacts in the intelligence circles he dealt with. However, there had been nothing back yet.

    They eventually ended up at the encampment area and were checked by the guard post at the entrance. While the convoy was friendly, nobody was taking any chances with the security and the M2 machine gun continued to point at the vehicles as they pulled up one at a time, had their identity and movement orders checked and were given a cursory inspection before being allowed to proceed. Stephen was lucky that he was only fourth in line and the driver got directions to the unit before dropping him off near the area where the infantry fighting vehicles were located in camouflaged positions as well as the tents for the members. Retrieving his bag out of the back, he headed towards the first tent and was rewarded with members of the unit inside already.

    “Hey Steve, what brings you to these parts?” asked Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ashley Scott, one of the other intelligence specialist assigned to the unit. “I thought you were with the detail that was supposed to stay behind and man the command center.”

    “Got some info that came in from J-SOD that Tom needs to look at. Is he around?” he asked.

    “He’s at the Battalion CP right now, but should be back at any time,” said Ashley.

    “Keeping you guys busy?” asked Stephen.

    “Been catching up on sleep. The Battalion Commander knows what we’ve been through lately and has kept us out of the rotation as much as possible. We’ve only been up to the line once since we got here,” she replied.

    “Nice to know someone cares,” said Stephen. “While it’s not R and R, it’s something.”

    “Sure could use some down time away from here though. A lazy day with some good French wine in the Rivera? Or even some good Italian wine on the beaches in Sicily?” chuckled Ashley.

    “I’m detecting a pattern of wine,” laughed Stephen. “Or is that whine?”

    “Don’t get much good stuff ‘round these parts,” laughed Ashley and ignoring the barb. “What kind of info did they send?”

    “Something about a pilot that got shot down and they want us to recheck the area he was in. Happened reasonably close to our AO,” said Stephen.

    “Easy enough,” said Ashley as the field phone in the tent rang. She answered it and listened as the message was relayed. “Okay, also Stephen Garcia is here to speak with you as well…okay, I’ll let him know…how long…okay, we’ll send him over…out.”

    “Tom says he and the Battalion Commander are going up to troop the line and they’ll be there for a while. He said you can tag along if you like or wait around,” said Ashley.

    “Nah, I’ll head up there with him,” said Stephen. “Where do I need to wander?”

    “I’ll grab someone to show you,” said Ashley as she headed out of the tent with Stephen in tow. They headed down two tents before stepping inside. “Where’s the rookie?”

    “Jill, important people to see you,” said Staff Sergeant Nancy Dugger from her cot.

    “Didn’t know I was important,” chuckled Stephen.

    “You’re not, but Jill doesn’t know that,” laughed Nancy.

    “Not sure I know how to take that,” laughed Stephen.

    “Yes Chief?” asked Jill as she approached.

    “I need you to run this gentleman over to the CP and link him up with Tom,” said Ashley.

    “Will do,” said Jill as she scampered to grab her rifle and gear. She was putting on her helmet as she returned. “Ready?”

    “I’m following you,” said Stephen as he motioned with his hand towards the opening.

    “I’m not sure that’s wise,” said Nancy with a semi-straight face.

    “I think I can find my way to the CP,” said Jill.

    “You got lost on the way to the chow line,” remarked Nancy.

    “You’re my sister, what’s that say about you?” asked Jill.

    “I’d say it’s a good thing you were adopted,” deadpanned Nancy.

    “Much as I’d like to continue hearing the family feud, I don’t want to keep Tom waiting,” laughed Stephen before Jill could retort.

    “It’s a good thing for Nancy, I was about to let loose,” said Jill as she kicked at Nancy’s cot on her way by and jiggled it enough to cause Nancy to make a mistake in the letter she was writing. She earned a growl in response and left before anything further could be done. They walked through the encampment area and arrived at the Command Post before being challenged by a sentry. And while Stephen was on the authorization list, Jill was not so she left him with the sentry and returned to the tent to continue the poke and prod match with her sister. The sentry called over a roving patrol and had Stephen escorted into the central area of the Battalion command post area where he caught up with Thomas.

    “You want to head out with Colonel Jacobson and me to the line?” asked Thomas as he shook Stephen’s hand.

    “I don’t know if they pay me enough to be going towards the gunfire,” laughed Stephen.

    “I would hope your intel weenies aren’t as bad as mine,” laughed Thomas as he turned to Lieutenant Colonel Micah Jacobson.

    “I’m not sure I can even find mine when the shooting starts,” laughed Jacobson. “Chief, good to see you again.”

    “You too Colonel,” said Stephen as he took the offered hand.

    “Ready?” asked Jacobson.

    “No security escort?” asked Thomas.

    “Nope, makes for a larger target,” said Jacobson. “The IU forces see someone with an official entourage they might think it’s someone worth taking a shot at. And as much as I like the action, I’d prefer a quiet trip of you two, the Sergeant Major and myself.”

    “Always said you were a reasonable guy,” observed Thomas.

    “Now if I can only find my Sergeant Major…” said Jacobson.

    “Right behind you sir,” said the Sergeant Major. “And ready to go.”

    “Sneaky one my Sergeant Major is,” laughed Jacobson.

    “Be glad I agreed to this trip sir,” chuckled the Sergeant Major. “Without me, you officer types would probably end up somewhere in Albania.”

    “You have this kind of insubordination with your enlisted folks?” laughed Jacobson who got along great with his senior enlisted member. And although it seemed like insubordination, while they were away from the remainder of the troops, a little back and forth was okay just to keep the spirits of all involved up.

    “No, generally it’s far worse,” laughed Thomas.

    “I didn’t get that impression from Chief Henry,” remarked the Sergeant Major as they departed the command post.

    “You haven’t seen him away from everyone else,” laughed Thomas. “Or when the girlfriend puts a whipping on him. You think he’s tough? Come watch a redhead destroy him with nothing but a look.”

    “My wife is a redhead,” laughed the Sergeant Major. “I know better than to cross her.”

    “My wife isn’t a redhead, but has the temper associated with them,” chuckled Thomas.

    “Don’t all wives?” asked Jacobson.

    “True,” said Thomas. They were approaching the front trace where the 1st Battalion had two Companies forward and two in reserve. Before they got to the edge of the line, Thomas took the report from Stephen and looked it over. “Nothing significant here so to speak. Should be a cakewalk from the looks of it.”

    “True, but they want us out there pretty quickly. J-SOD seems to think he hasn’t been moved to one of the larger camps yet,” said Stephen.

    “Can’t do anything until they pull us from here,” said Thomas as he handed the papers back.

    “I’m under the impression the J-SOD will be making that request before long,” said Stephen.

    “Okay, as soon as we get replaced out here we’ll send out six teams,” said Thomas.

    “Want me to get the planning done in advance?” asked Stephen.

    “If you don’t mind,” said Thomas. “We don’t have access to what we need up here.”

    “I’ll take care of it as soon as I return,” said Stephen. “Anything heading back to Brigade this afternoon Colonel?”

    “Probably so,” said Jacobson. “Check with the S-3 when we get back.”

    “Will do,” said Stephen as they approached the first dug in positions for the armored vehicles assigned to Alpha Company. The infantry were seen in their fighting positions to the left and the right with one up and one down. They were challenged and heard the distinctive sound of an M-4 safety being turned. After answering correctly, they were admitted to the area around the track by the Platoon Sergeant of Second Platoon.

    “CP called and said you were on your way,” said the Sergeant First Class as he slung his M-4.

    “Anything new to report Sergeant?” asked Jacobson.

    “Nothing in particular,” he replied. “The IU replaced a company of troops this morning and rotated the old ones back into the city.”

    “Were they in the open long enough to get some fire on them?” asked Jacobson.

    “Not direct fire no. The Captain passed along the request to Brigade for artillery but by the time the old man got around to approving it, the targets were gone,” said the Platoon Sergeant.

    “Typical,” said Jacobson. “Is your Lieutenant around?”

    “He’s getting some down time sir,” said the Platoon Sergeant. “Over by Track 3.”

    "Everything okay with him?” asked Jacobson.

    “I’ve got a green Lieutenant on his first trip up to the line,” said the Platoon Sergeant. “To say he hasn’t gotten a wink of sleep since we’ve been here is an understatement.”

    “Is he coming along okay otherwise?” asked Jacobson.

    “Decently so sir,” said the Platoon Sergeant as they began heading up the line. “He’s a little hesitant, but relies on the NCOs and the Company Commander to help out. Just green.”

    “Not a problem I hope?” asked Jacobson.

    “No, he’s got good instincts. Just getting him to act on them is a work in progress,” said the Platoon Sergeant. “Just takes time as you know.”

    “That it does,” said Jacobson as they came to the second Improved Bradley Fighting Vehicle in the platoon and were challenged once again. After giving the correct password, they were admitted to the area and continued checking on the line as well as the troops involved. While it wasn’t necessary, it was a leadership function that the troops saw the commander care enough to come by and check on them in the cold misery of the long Eastern European winter.

    “I see they haven’t changed the defensive positions around the bridges since we did that recon,” observed Stephen after staring at the area with his binoculars. The bridges over the southern side of the city were just barely visible around the edge of the city as were the defenses.

    “Not that we can tell,” said Jacobson. “They move around the front trace defensive works from time to time, but the bridge defenses are fairly static.”

    “You actually saw the unedited report?” asked Thomas.

    “I did,” said Jacobson. “The Brigade S-2 and I go back a ways and I get some nuggets from time to time.”

    “Dangerous to keep the static positions like that. When the spring offensive kicks off, some artillery and precision munitions right on top of their heads will allow you to walk right across without breaking a sweat,” remarked Thomas.

    “Surprised they haven’t rigged it for demo yet,” observed the Sergeant Major.

    “I’d say that will change once we start moving troops forward for the offensive,” said Stephen.

    “I would have done it already,” said Jacobson. “But that’s just me.”

    “Suppose we could be glad you’re on our side,” chuckled Thomas as they approached the Second Platoon’s area and again were challenged. This time an M1A3 Abrams tank was seen through the concealment in its firing revetment. “Wasn’t expecting the armor yet.”

    “The Company Commander moved around the tanks and dispersed them between the company. They have slightly better fields of fire here and up on the hill compared to where they were before. Even though they are split up, the platoon commander and sergeant know their business and I agreed to it,” explained Jacobson.

    “No matter what, it’s helpful to have sixty tons of armor wrapped around you in battle,” said Thomas. “We could learn a lesson from the tread heads.”

    “Not real subtle and sneaky though,” laughed the Sergeant Major.

    “Nobody ever accused me of being subtle,” laughed Thomas. The Sergeant Major and Stephen went over to talk with the tank crew who was currently outside their vehicle. Jacobson motioned with his head to Thomas to step away from the group for a moment.

    “I heard what happened to your unit in the relief rotation,” he said. “Sucks.”

    “Sucks isn’t a word I would use. It’s borderline criminal,” said Thomas.

    “I’m trying to keep you out of the rotation as much as possible up here and my company commanders all know about it as well. They are understanding and are taking it for the team to get you guys some rest,” said Jacobson.

    “We’ll do our time if needed,” said Thomas.

    “I know and I know you guys will troop through,” said Jacobson. “But no more than twelve hours up here while we’re on the line at a time.”

    “I’m not asking for special favors, Micah,” said Thomas.

    “There’s more to it than that,” said Jacobson. “The problem you run into is not a darn one of you know how to operate a Bradley in combat conditions. You can drive it on a controlled course probably, shoot the gun if someone points it in the right direction, but other than replacing the infantry dismounts, I really can’t use you.”

    “So you had to keep some of your folks back?” asked Thomas.

    “No, I took infantry from other companies that have been getting up to speed on the systems since we paused the offensive. They’re green and nowhere near proficient enough to go into combat, but they are capable of staying alive. So your being here actually decreases the effectiveness of this battalion,” said Jacobson.

    “I knew we wouldn’t cover the numbers we replaced, but I hadn’t realized others had to cover more,” said Thomas. “That doesn’t make me feel any better.”

    “The Colonel should have known that as well. If he did, it’s gross negligence; if he doesn’t that’s gross incompetence. I know the S-3 and XO would have brought it up though,” said Jacobson. “But he went through with it anyway.”

    “So we’re not being rotated up because it puts your battalion at risk,” said Thomas. “To think all our training counts for nothing.”

    “Just a different type of training and yes, you can replace the dismounts with no sweat,” said Jacobson. “Listen, your guys and gals are out there getting us valuable information that will end up saving my troopers lives when the spring offensive starts. And if you’re fatigued and demoralized it takes away from the ability to do so. So I’m not asking you to come up here every once in a while; I’m telling you that’s the way it will be. When we rotate back to the rear we have nothing to do except sand table exercises, PT and looking at each other. When you guys rotate back, you have more missions to accomplish. So it’s weird being forward deployed to get some rest, but you will get some rest while you are under my watch.”

    Thomas didn’t say what he was thinking, but knew Jacobson was correct. “It is appreciated.”

    “Least we can do,” said Jacobson. “It isn’t much, but it is a chance to get caught up on sleep.”

    “Sleep isn’t the issue,” said Thomas. “Removal from the front is the only thing that will help.”

    “My guys in Charlie Company were pretty happy about getting bumped up in the relief. Until they found out the situation behind it. They volunteered to stay so you guys could take your turn, but the Colonel took my head off when I suggested it,” said Jacobson.

    “Tell them I appreciate it when they get back,” said Thomas.

    “You’re a pretty popular guy with the troops,” said Jacobson. “Maybe that’s why the old man is bringing the heat on you and your guys.”

    “Then he can take it out on me, relieve me, do whatever he wants to. But my troops need to be left out of this,” said Thomas forcefully.

    “Okay, not just you specifically, but your unit is pretty popular with the troops as a whole. My guys tend to think fondly of those that help them in a bind,” said Jacobson.

    “I’ve thought about jumping the entire chain of command and getting an audience with the Division Commander or his ADM,” said Thomas.

    “Probably a bad move,” said Jacobson. “If it fails, you’ll be in way more hot water and potentially get yourself relieved.”

    “Then Darren takes over and I’m completely comfortable with him running the unit,” he replied.

    “And what happens to you?” asked Jacobson.

    “I suppose I get rotated into another unit or sent back Stateside,” said Thomas.

    “Where you would end up going out of your mind being away from the action,” said Jacobson. “It’s not your style and you belong here. Some folks were born to do this and you happen to be one of them. Just hang in a little longer and he’ll move along.”

    “Hopefully before the spring offensive,” said Thomas.

    “Most certainly,” said Jacobson as the Sergeant Major and Stephen returned. They finished checking the line and headed back to the laager to the remainder of the battalion. Thomas and Stephen headed back to the tent area where the remainder of the unit was currently lazing around and getting rested.

    “We’re headed back to the line tomorrow morning at 0700,” Thomas announced.

    “Some reason we aren’t doing the normal rotation?” asked Darren.

    “Jacobson says because we are getting a break. He’s understanding of our current plight,” said Thomas. “And promised us only twelve hours on at any given point in time.”

    “That’s not exactly fair to the rest of the guys up here,” said Darren.

    “The rest of the Company Commanders decided it was a good plan as well. They know when they get back they are on a normal PT and training schedule while we are doing our primary job. So they know us getting a little more rest than usual is okay,” said Thomas as he repeated what Jacobson had told him on the line.

    “Sucks we have to be forward deployed to get some rest,” said Darren.

    “That’s what Micah said as well,” chuckled Thomas.

    “What’s going on with Stephen?” asked Darren.

    “Some tasking from J-SOD to poke around for a downed fighter pilot. They seem to think he might be somewhere in our sector,” said Thomas.

    “Going to pull us from here?” asked Darren.

    “I’d imagine so,” said Thomas. “They want an in depth recon of the area.”

    “Like finding a needle in a haystack,” observed Darren.

    “Yeah, but we need to try,” said Thomas.

    “Anything else?” asked Darren.

    “Nothing critical,” said Thomas as he put the current tasking from the J-SOD out of his mind and focused on their more immediate problems. However, the mission would end up coming back to the forefront in record speed once they found out what the stakes were.


    “Orders are clear sir, we have to pull the 14th out of 1st Battalion’s area and back on mission status,” said the Brigade XO.

    “Can’t this wait until the end of their rotation?” demanded the Colonel.

    “I’m sorry sir, but you know the J-SOD taskings trump our local orders,” said the Brigade XO.

    “What’s the point of having a unit under my command if I’m not allowed to command them?” thundered the Brigade Commander.

    “We are allowed to administratively task them and operationally as long as it doesn’t interfere with what they get from J-SOD,” said the XO and immediately regretted it.

    “You don’t think I know about the command structure?” asked the Colonel angrily.

    “My apologies sir, that was not my intent,” said the XO.

    “So we have to pull them off the line?” asked the Colonel.

    “The tasking they got was clear,” said the XO.

    “Fine, send up a company from 3rd Battalion to replace them,” said the Colonel disgustedly.

    “Wilco sir,” said the XO.

    “What’s the mission for anyway?” asked the Colonel.

    “Apparently a fighter was shot down somewhat close to our sector and the J-SOD wants some boots on the ground looking for the pilot,” said the XO.

    “And they have nobody else that can check?” asked the Colonel.

    “It’s our sector sir and the 14th has the most familiarity with the area,” said the XO.

    The Colonel didn’t say anything else as he waved the XO away and went back to the upcoming exercise the Division Commander had planned. He was desperate to make a good impression and had the inner track on the “enemy” troop movements provided by his friend at the Division Staff. He continued to stare at the computer generated map and come up with plans on his own instead of getting his staff involved.

    Little did he know events were already set in motion that would expose his weaknesses in the command of a combat unit.
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  9. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++


    Date/Time: 19 March/1944
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    “Honey, I’m home,” announced Captain Michael Parsons as he barged into the command tent area and found his wife sitting by a communications terminal.

    “If you’re expecting dinner to be ready, it’s over in the brown bag,” she deadpanned and pointed at the box of field rations.

    “I’m gone for what seems like an eternity and this is the welcome I get?” he said.

    “What did you do to earn anything else?” grinned Captain Shannon Parsons.

    “I was a good boy,” he laughed.

    “I prefer it when you’re bad,” she said with a wink. “But not until the doc clears me.”

    “Have to have a chat with the lad,” laughed Michael and collected a quick kiss. It seemed unusual for family members to serve together, but since neither were in a position of authority over the other, the military turned a blind eye to the practice. “Anything happen?”

    “Just those orders from J-SOD. Stephen and I have been working on the details, but we’re kind of short on information,” said Shannon. “Tom around?”

    “Headed to headquarters to report back in. Hopefully he only gets the staff duty officer,” said Michael. “He’s grumpy enough as it is.”

    “He’s having a rough time,” said Shannon.

    “As are we all,” said Michael. “How long until we hit the field again?”

    “Depends on the intelligence we get. Unfortunately, J-SOD doesn’t have a whole lot so Stephen is working his contacts right now. And Ashley could help in that regard since she has some folks she knows as well,” said Shannon.

    “Want me to grab her?” asked Michael.

    “If you’d be so kind,” said Shannon. “But please limit the grabbing.”

    “Only to you sexy woman,” he laughed and retreated towards the tent area passing by a roving patrol of the on sight security. Being that the 14th has special intelligence facilities and equipment, they had their own section of the Brigade encampment area fenced off with their own guard force of selected military police. He followed the fence area and went behind the indirect fire bunker where the tent was located to find Ashley and get her help with some of the contacts she had made in the intelligence circles. Lucky enough, he had caught her just as she had finished dumping her gear and before she hit the latrine area for a much needed shower. “Shannon and Stephen could use some help.”

    “Sure, what kind?” she asked.

    “They are a little short on the intelligence for our upcoming mission and were wondering if you could do that voodoo you do so well in talking to your contacts,” he replied.

    “Before or after the shower?” asked Ashley.

    “Not sure,” he stated.

    “I’ll swing by on my way,” she said as she collected her towel and ditty bag. And her ever present rifle and web gear. She headed into the headquarters area and found Shannon looking over some older intelligence reports she had pulled from the central data archives. “Mike said you guys needed some help?”

    “I’m gonna beat that husband of mine,” said Shannon. “It could have waited until you finished with a shower.”

    “Meh, I’m here already. Tell you what, I’ll put out the messages to see who’s up and about right now and head for the showers. If they respond while I’m gone, ask them politely if they can hold on for a few minutes,” said Ashley.

    “Sounds like a plan,” said Shannon as she relinquished the terminal. Ashley quickly started typing out messages to her various contacts and sending them via email and instant message over the secure communications terminal. It didn’t take long and she departed for the latrine, hoping all the hot water hadn’t been used by the others already.

    “I put in a call to Hermann the German hoping he might shed some light on the situation,” said Stephen as he reappeared from another terminal.

    “How’s he doing?” asked Shannon. Major Hermann Graf of the Bundeswehr was one of the more frequently used back channels for information used by the unit. While he wasn’t the top intelligence officer in the German Army, he had a knack for finding little tidbits of information that proved extremely valuable in the long run. And in quid pro quo fashion, they often did him favors when he asked so the relationship between the two was extremely sound.

    “Didn’t get to talk to him. His assistant said he was out for the evening and would try to let him know we called,” said Stephen as he handed over an email he had printed out. “And this came in on the official inbox.”

    Shannon took it and scanned over the contents. “Tom’s not going to be happy.”

    “He knew it was coming, but thought we had a little more time to get things settled,” said Stephen. “As a minimum get a replacement before shipping him out.”

    “Want to let him know?” asked Shannon.

    “No, let’s let Tom know first,” said Stephen and if by magic, Thomas Dayfield appeared behind them catching them by surprise.

    “Let Tom know what?” he asked.

    Stephen handed over the email that was ordering Scott Carlson to the Combat Medic School at Camp Colby in Kansas. With orders to leave within two days. Thomas looked them over and handed them back without saying a word. They knew he was slightly upset since Brigade had promised him some time to find a replacement and for Carlson to make a determination. And while Scott had made the choice to head to the school, he had only decided that morning and it hadn’t been reported yet. So the Brigade Commander had made yet another decision for the unit which would leave them shorthanded at best or having a member that was unfamiliar with the team tactics at worst. And Rick Jones’ team would have to be pulled from the rotation to get the new member up to speed before going back into the field. Dayfield headed over to the terminal and checked his email without saying anything else, not finding anything of note.

    “Let Scott know please,” said Thomas as he sat back with a sigh. “And let Rick know the search for a new member is on the front burner for him.”

    “Roger that,” said Stephen as he departed to find both the individuals. Shannon came over and sat down next to Thomas and spoke in a low voice so the others in the center couldn’t hear her.

    “Problems at Brigade?” she asked.

    “About had my head taken off because we got pulled from the line. I had the whole guilt trip of ‘your unit isn’t special and now another has to pay’ blah, blah from his majesty laid on me. It didn’t work of course and I bit my tongue, but that man just aggravates the life out of me,” said Thomas. “And it’s not helping that you guys are paying the price.”

    “We know there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Shannon.

    “But I should be able to,” said Thomas. “Not exactly effective leadership when you watch your own unit start breaking down from the inside.”

    “Ever hear of the old saying of this too shall pass?” asked Shannon. “It works in this situation as well. He will move on eventually and we’ll still be here.”

    “Hopefully before we get anybody else hurt or killed,” said Thomas.

    “We know our jobs and are good at our jobs. We can troop through this,” said Shannon.

    “I know, but it’s way past time for you guys to get some down time,” said Thomas. “I’m going to call in some favors and see what strings I can pull.”

    “Be careful doing that,” said Shannon. “If the Colonel gets wind of it, he’ll flip his wig.”

    “I really don’t care at this point,” said Thomas. “You guys are worth the beatings I take.”

    “Tell you what, Steve, Ashley and I have our contacts looking into any information they can find about this upcoming mission. Why don’t you head for the showers and get cleaned up while we get things organized here. Sound like a plan?” she asked.

    “You’d make someone a dandy wife,” he chuckled.

    “I think I already am,” she laughed heartily.

    “Okay, let me know when you start getting a more coherent picture of what it is we are doing and where we happen to be looking,” he said and departed the center. After she made sure he was gone, she started placing calls to another of her contacts that could help with her commander’s and more importantly her friend’s current predicament. Lucky enough she was able to get through on the first try and relayed the message and request. After a couple of minutes, she was told to call back in an hour so everything would be in place. Ashley came bouncing back into the center feeling worlds better and still toweling at her wet hair. She found one of her contacts had already responded and was waiting on her for a video teleconference. She pinged the station and was rewarded with a face on the other end.

    “Hey Chief,” she said and continued drying her hair.

    “Did I catch you at a bad time?” asked the Chief Warrant Officer on the other end.

    “Nope, just got out of the shower,” she replied.

    “You’re a tease,” he laughed.

    “Tease how?” she asked.

    “Making me think of you in the shower,” he laughed.

    “Not very proper of you,” she smirked.

    “The same could be said of you,” he laughed. “I’m sending a data file with what we know about the downed pilot. Sorry to say it isn’t much, but it’s all we have.”

    Ashley turned to the laptop next to the VTC console and logged into her secure account, finding the file waiting for her. After opening it and skimming over the contents, she was less than impressed. “Not much here.”

    “We honestly don’t know a whole lot. He’s not been reported to the Red Cross yet, which isn’t unusual, but he also isn’t in one of the major POW camps either. Or if he has, our assets haven’t gotten us word on it yet,” said the Chief.

    “How long before you’d hear something?” asked Ashley.

    “Sometimes we get word from our agents before the Red Cross, sometimes after. One way or the other, we tend to hear word in a week or so,” said the Chief.

    “And he’s been missing for how long?” asked Ashley.

    “Nine days tomorrow,” said the Chief.

    “Okay, so we have a general area?” asked Ashley.

    “We think he landed somewhat close to your sector. And the PJs think he might have been taken once he landed, but aren’t certain so we sent the request to the J-SOD for someone to look around. Your unit happens to be closest,” said the Chief.

    “We’re planning an in depth recon, but more specifics would be best,” said Ashley.

    “I’d love to help, but I can’t give you what I don’t have,” said the Chief.

    “Too bad, because I was going to describe my shower,” said Ashley with a grin.

    “Oh, now that’s just wrong,” he laughed. “Seriously though, if I hear anything I’ll send you what we get. But I have to say it’s probably not going to be much.”

    “Whatever you can get will be good,” said Ashley.

    “Okay, I’ll beat the bushes and see what I can come up with,” he replied. “Anything else?”

    “Nothing I can think of,” said Ashley. “I owe you for this.”

    “Dinner when you finally get on some R and R?” he asked with a wink.

    “I think that might be arranged since you have gone out of your way to help us in the past,” said Ashley. “Least I can do.”

    “Okay, if you ever do get rotated back to the rear, give me a call,” he replied knowing they had been skipped over several times in recent memory.

    “Will do, take care now,” said Ashley.

    “You too,” he said and signed off. She checked with her other contacts and found another had gotten back. And had little different information than the first report. Stephen cross referenced it as well and found most of the reports had generally the same information.

    “Not going to be easy,” he remarked.

    “It never is,” she replied. “You already plan out the recon areas?”

    “More or less. Depending on the situation, I figure he’ll try to head back towards our lines, so that gives us a pretty large area. Crossing off the hard terrain that he probably won’t try to go through, that brings it down from impossible to ridiculous,” said Stephen.

    “When are we heading out?” asked Ashley.

    “Day after tomorrow at the earliest,” said Stephen. “Gives everyone a chance to get prepped and go over the mission plans.”

    “Okay. I’ll give you a yell if I get anything different,” she said and started heading back towards the tent area. She was stopped at the doorway by Shannon.

    “You mind sending Tom back over? We’ve got a VTC scheduled for him,” asked Shannon.

    “Sure thing,” said Ashley as she headed towards his tent. Entering in, she found the remainder of the team finishing the cleaning they had started and were snacking on various items since they had missed dinner due to the convoy back to the Brigade area. “Hey Tom, they need you for a VTC over in the command center.”

    “They say what it was about?” he asked after looking up from the letter he was writing.

    “No, sorry,” she replied.

    “Okay, thanks,” he replied and put away the paper and pen. Grabbing his carbine, he went back to the intel center for what would probably amount to a useless teleconference with whomever was calling him. After entering, he saw Shannon already speaking with someone, but he couldn’t see who with the privacy screen up. He waited until Shannon was finished speaking with a “here he is” and got up from the seat. She motioned Thomas to sit down.

    “Who is it?” he asked quietly enough that the monitor couldn’t hear him.

    “Someone important,” said Shannon and motioned with her head towards the monitor. He took a seat and was rewarded with something he wasn’t expecting.

    “Hey baby,” said Sharon Dayfield with a smile on the other end of the camera.

    “Sharon! Hey! How are you?” he stammered and gave her a smile. His youngest, Hope Dayfield was sitting on her mother’s lap.

    “I’m good, how are you?” she replied.

    “Absolutely perfect now except for not being at home,” he smiled. “Where’s Angel and Brent?”

    “With Uncle George for a minute,” she chuckled. Thomas looked and saw the monitor was in secure mode which meant Sharon had to be in the Camp Dugger intel facility.

    “How did you get access to the intelligence facility?” he asked.

    “Oh, I happen to know some folks that let me in. Had to bribe them and flirt with the guard, but you know how persistent I can be,” she grinned.

    “I think it’s worth the hassle,” he laughed in return. “How are you doing?

    “Oh the usual,” she replied and spent a couple of moments filling him in on the small details of life beyond the combat zone. She was eventually joined by his other two children who spent some time with Daddy and he with them. It warmed his heart slightly seeing his children well and growing and he swore they had grown a few inches since the last time he saw them. And Hope, who he had never seen in person, was getting huge and into the “terrible twos” causing her mother problems. Thomas felt a little guilty being so far away and not helping, but he didn’t let it show with his children. Eventually they said their goodbyes and went back to Uncle George and Uncle Ryan, much to their protests, and Sharon came back on the monitor.

    “So how are you really doing?” she asked.

    “I’m fine,” he replied. “Missing you and the children.”

    “Uh huh,” she said. “I know that look you’ve got right now.”

    “I promise,” he said.

    “Thomas Brent Dayfield, you cannot hide what’s going on behind that thick skull of yours from me. What’s happening?” she asked crossly.

    “Just feel a little guilty that I’m not around helping you raise our children,” he replied.

    “No, it’s more than that,” she observed. “Something is going on with you.”

    “Just not having a fun time at work right now,” he said evasively.

    “People getting hurt more?” she asked.

    “A few more than usual,” he replied.

    “Not getting the support you need?” she asked.

    “An understatement,” he sighed and explained the current troubles with the Brigade Commander since he couldn’t hide it from her. After a minute of explaining, he let out another sigh.

    “Honey, you’ve worked for some bad people before, right?” she asked.

    “From time to time,” he replied.

    “And what did you do then?” she asked.

    “Worked through it. But it’s a little different when I’m in charge of a combat unit that can and will take casualties if they are fatigued,” he replied.

    “Are they good soldiers?” asked Sharon.

    “They are and I trust them,” he replied.

    “Sometimes things happen out of your control and you have to leave it up to God,” she said.

    “I don’t like that theory myself,” said Thomas.

    “You’ve done an admirable job bringing everyone this far. And don’t say they did it on their own because they needed the leadership you’ve provided so far. So I can only say to hang in there and continuing slaying the dragons you can and going around those you can’t,” she said.

    “Still though, I’m the leader and should be able to do more!” he protested.

    “You took the good with the bad when you signed up. I told you before you left it was your decision and you needed to go. Has anything changed?” she asked.

    “Well, no, but-” he started to say and was cut off.

    “But nothing,” she started. “Would you rather be at home reading about it in the papers?”

    “Well, no,” he replied.

    “So take the bad with the good and press forward,” she said. “Sorry for the tough love today, but sometimes you need someone to give you a reality check.”

    “You’re good for that,” he chuckled.

    “And other things,” she laughed. “Nice to see you smile and laugh a bit.”

    “Haven’t had enough of it lately, but seeing you and the kids helps,” he smiled.

    “I have this funny feeling that something will happen that will change your entire perspective. It always does,” said Sharon.

    “Let’s hope so,” said Thomas.

    “Just don’t let your temper get the better of you before then,” she warned him.

    “Me?” he laughed. “Would I ever do something like that?”

    “Absolutely!” she exclaimed with a laugh of her own.

    “You have little faith in your husband,” he laughed.

    “I have all the faith in world when it comes to my husband but also know his temper well enough to know how close you are to losing it,” she smiled.

    “I love you baby,” he said without finding any other retort.

    “And I love you more than my own life,” she said with a smile that uplifted his spirits.

    “As much as I’d love to spend the entire evening with you on here, I probably need to clear this line. So awesome to see and talk to you,” said Thomas with a smile.

    “You probably need to thank a couple of your friends, Shannon specifically,” said Sharon.

    “She’s a good mother hen when she needs to be,” laughed Thomas.

    “Well, did it help?” asked Sharon.

    “No matter if it’s a second or an eternity, seeing you always makes me happy,” he smiled.

    “Awww, you’re adorable,” said Sharon with a laugh.

    “I was being serious,” he said crossly.

    “As was I,” said Sharon. “You are the most wonderful man in the world and even adorable at times. So to use that description is not a bad thing.”

    “Love you,” he said and kissed his hand and put it on the monitor.

    “Love you right back,” she said and did the same. “Take care please.”

    “Always do,” he said. “Bye.”

    “Bye,” she replied and the connection was cut after another second. Thomas sat for a moment before getting up and finding Shannon. “Thanks.”

    “You needed a little perspective in life,” she remarked. “Did it work?”

    “Sure did,” said Thomas.

    “Michael has the advantage of having me around to vent to. You don’t like for the rest of us to see your emotions so I had to think of someone that you would open up to,” said Shannon.

    “Sharon was the perfect choice,” said Thomas.

    “And that youngest of yours is adorable,” laughed Shannon. “The only reason I made the call.”

    “She sure is,” laughed Thomas. “Looks just like her momma.”

    “She does although Sharon says she is just as stubborn as you are,” laughed Shannon.

    “My wife has no room to talk about anyone being stubborn,” he laughed.

    “She calls it the curse of the Dayfield,” laughed Shannon.

    “It’ll be nice to be able to finally meet her and see for myself,” said Thomas.

    “Well, once the spring offensive starts, I’m sure it won’t be long,” said Shannon.

    “We can hope,” said Thomas. “Care to debrief me about the plans?”

    “Not tonight. First thing in the morning is okay, but tonight you get to enjoy the conversation you just had and relax for a bit,” said Shannon.

    “Pushy broad aren’t you?” laughed Thomas.

    “Ask Michael, his tent is that way,” she said with a serious tone and pointed towards the door.

    “Again, thanks,” said Thomas.

    “Anytime,” said Shannon who deeply respected Thomas both as a person and as her commander. And seeing him in his current state was not doing anybody good. She asked Amy Kerns if she would mind keeping an eye on the center while she went to track down Darren, Rick and Dave Lawson. The tipping point had been reached and she knew those three would be able to help more than anyone else with Thomas’ current situation.
    Sapper John likes this.
  10. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++


    Date/Time: 20 March/0922
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    “Tom? Hermann is on the line for you,” said Second Lieutenant Holly Meredith. Recently given a field commission for bravery during a high risk mission, she was just now returning from the hospital from the injuries she had received.

    “About time,” said Thomas as he went to the telephone and picked up the handset. “Hermann, I was about to think you had run away.”

    Nein mein Kamerad!” said Hermann with a jolly laugh. “Sometimes even I get some time off. Und the lovely Frauen at the General Staff needed my specific attention last nacht.”

    “You devil, you,” chuckled Thomas. “Were you able to find out anything?”

    “Other than the official reports from most of the other intelligence circles, ja und nein. I found something curious, but it has not been confirmed,” said Hermann.

    “Such as?” asked Thomas.

    “A report from some friends in an Australian intelligence unit,” said Hermann. “I was hoping to get more confirmation before sending this to you.”

    “Hermann, sometimes your curious tidbits turn out to be pure gold,” said Thomas.

    Ja, which is why I have already arranged for you to meet them,” said Hermann.

    “Figured as much,” said Thomas. “Are they reliable?”

    “They have been right far more than wrong even when it goes against the official estimates. I use their analysis from time to time,” said Hermann.

    “Okay, can we get a teleconference going and you can introduce us?” asked Thomas.

    Nein, but I have you scheduled for a trip to see them,” said Hermann. “They are an Australian unit, but on a French base.”

    “Why can’t they send the report to us and schedule a conference call?” asked Thomas.

    “The report was done on a Prism 3D system. The only one you have available is the one in your Brigade Headquarters,” said Hermann. “You require further explanation?”

    “No, I get it,” said Thomas. “Location?”

    “Near Makov,” said Hermann. “I have arranged for a helicopter ride to the location.”

    “So how did you come across this intel? Was it passed forward?” asked Thomas.

    “It was, but since it is in your sector geographically speaking, your own brigade intelligence discredited it based on an old recon you did of that area,” said Hermann.

    “How old?” asked Stephen.

    “Four, maybe five months ago. Far before the unit pulled into that area. Some mission you were on observing the bridges in Ružomberok,” said Hermann.

    “Which is pretty out of date,” observed Thomas.

    “But was accepted as new because someone put a new date on it,” said Hermann.

    “And who can we could thank for that?” asked Thomas.

    “My friend, why do you ask such questions when you know the answer,” said Hermann.

    “Right, when is our little class trip planned?” asked Thomas.

    “Tomorrow the helicopter will be there at around eight,” said Hermann. “You can take six people maximum.”

    “Okay, thanks for setting everything up,” said Thomas.

    “I know your unit best,” said Hermann. “And I know this is something I believe you would be suited for.”

    “Thanks for the endorsement,” said Thomas. “We’ll be in touch.”

    Tschüs!” said Hermann as he ended the call.

    “Okay, you, Shannon and me; who else?” asked Stephen as he had arrived for the last part of the call. “Six maximum, so let’s be selective.”

    “Leave Shannon here in case we get further intel. And I’ll say Amber since she can charm any opposition that gets in our way. We have anyone who speaks French?” asked Thomas.

    “Nancy does,” said Stephen. “Speaks it the best from what I understand.”

    “She’s a good scrounger as well,” said Thomas. “Let’s grab Tim, he’s good as grabbing stuff that isn’t nailed down.”

    “Take some barter material?” asked Stephen. “And how about Junior?”

    “Might as well,” said Thomas. “Make it a bit profitable for us if we can. Junior sounds good. He never gets to take trips anyway.”

    “Easy enough,” said Stephen. “I’ll let the others know.”

    “Thanks Steve,” said Thomas as he wandered away from the group and away from almost everyone. He had this feeling in the back of his mind there was something else Hermann was setting them up for. And as they trusted him, it wasn’t a bad thing. But Thomas couldn’t quite put his finger on what exactly it was.


    “He has been in our custody almost ten days and we have learned nothing yet,” remarked the Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the camp they were currently in.

    “These things take time, sometimes weeks, sometimes longer,” said Major Aziz.

    “Sometimes it is not worth waiting for,” observed the Colonel. “We do not have the proper facilities here to accommodate such interrogations.”

    “We could be in the middle of the desert and find a suitable location for an interrogation. It is as much psychological as it is physical. No, where we are at is fine,” said Aziz.

    “You think this theory you have will work?” asked the Colonel.

    “I think it has merit and we have nothing to lose,” said Aziz.

    “Sometimes tricks aren’t as good as brute force,” said the Colonel.

    “Those are the old days. Psychology is just as critical in this as physicality. Think about what the Americans did after the September 11th attacks. While waterboarding seemed cruel, it was very effective in gaining information since the individuals had the perception of dying. And the basic psychology of the instinct of survival kicked in and they broke quickly. So yes, the psychology is just as important as the physical,” said Aziz.

    “Have you spoken to him very much?” asked the Colonel.

    “Not as often as you would think. The bond between captor and captive needs some time to nourish. In fact, I was planning on visiting him today,” said Aziz.

    “I will be observing your interrogation techniques,” said the Colonel.

    "As you wish,” said Aziz and turned to a guard. “Bring the prisoner.”

    The guard left and returned a few minutes later with another guard carrying and dragging Williams to the interrogation room. He was sat in the chair and left unbeaten this time. He entered the room and Williams turned slowly to look at who had entered. Aziz put a pitcher of water on the table and a cigarette ashtray. “Drink.”

    “Don’t mind if I do,” said Williams as he poured a cup of water and quickly drank it down. He refilled it two more times before slowing his pace.

    “Do you mind if I smoke?” asked Aziz as he pulled his lighter and cigarettes out of his pocket. It was yet another psychological ploy that would show the American he was on equal footing as the Major and had a choice. Although there was nothing further from the truth.

    “Your lungs bud, but it’s bad for your health,” coughed Williams as the water was clearing his throat and causing the mucus to form once again.

    “This war is bad for my health, my friend,” said Aziz.

    “That much is certain,” said Williams as he knew the bruises were still there from his beatings.

    “Have you written your family yet? The Red Cross allows mail from prisoners to go to their families,” said Aziz.

    “No,” said Williams.

    “Would you like to write your family?” asked Aziz.

    “I will only give the required information under international conventions,” said Williams.

    “I am not asking for military secrets Captain,” said Aziz. “I am asking if you want to let your family know you are alive. We have notified the International Red Cross as to your status, but they surely would want to know you are alive.”

    “I will not write anything that can be used against me,” said Williams.

    “I would not want you to write anything about what has happened to you. Yes, a few of the more barbaric guards got out of hand, but have I not put a stop to that?” asked Aziz.

    “Better accommodations might be in order,” said Williams.

    “We are not exactly set up for that here,” said Aziz. “In time you will be transferred to another facility that is better set up for prisoners. But until the random bombing of vehicles on the roadways stop, we cannot guarantee your safety.”

    “That’s what I thought,” said Williams as he finished the water and filled another cup.

    “So, do you wish to write your family?” asked Aziz.

    “No,” said Williams.

    “They are probably worried about you,” said Aziz sensibly.

    “I’d rather not for the moment,” said Williams.

    “So be it,” said Aziz as he stubbed out the cigarette and lit another one. “Texas is an interesting place. I once lived in America when I was in college and visited Austin. That’s where the Alamo is, no?”

    “No, San Antonio,” said Williams.

    “Ah yes, thank you,” said Aziz. “Intriguing place the Alamo. Defenders willing to give up their lives so easily over a simple building.”

    “I don’t want to talk with you about anything,” said Williams.

    “I have to interrogate you, it’s my job. But since you have made it clear that you have no desire to speak of anything other than your name, rank, identity number and birthdate, I have no choice but to engage with other talk. I have to justify my pay in some way,” said Aziz.

    “I know how this goes, you start talking about home and it forms a bond between us. Or so you think and it gets me to talking. Not going to happen,” said Williams.

    “No, I have to justify spending several hours attempting to get information. My superiors would rather see you beaten, but I do not think such barbaric tactics work as well as some do. So let us talk of simple things. Have you been to the Alamo?” asked Aziz.

    “Yes I have been to the Alamo,” said Williams, relenting for a moment.

    “An interesting place for certain,” said Aziz. “Very brave men. You visited for pleasure?”

    “All Texan children learn about the Alamo. It’s taught in schools,” said Williams. The information wasn’t a military secret and as long as the beatings weren’t going on, small talk was okay, or should be okay he thought.

    “And you went with your school?” asked Aziz.

    “Yes,” said Williams.

    “Fascinating,” said Aziz. “Our schools do not teach military history.”

    “It’s not military history,” said Williams.

    “It was a great battle, no?” asked Aziz.

    “A battle yes, but part of the revolution in Texas,” said Williams.

    “But not military history?” asked Aziz.

    “No, just shaped the way our State was formed,” said Williams.

    “I will confess, I was hesitant to visit Texas,” said Aziz. “I thought, quite stupidly, I would be gunned down by some horse riding cowboy just for being an Arab as soon as I got off the plane.”

    “Might have saved me some trouble if they had,” chuckled Williams.

    “That is not a polite thing to say,” said Aziz.

    “It’s not polite having me beaten,” said Williams.

    “These things happened before I arrived and again, I put a stop to them. There are other forms of interrogation, drugs for example, that produce far better and faster results,” said Aziz. And after he said it, Williams immediately looked at the water pitcher with horror on his face.

    “No Captain, these drugs are to be given intravenously,” said Aziz as he poured a cup of water from the pitcher and took a drink.

    “I’m not so sure,” said Williams.

    “We would have you tied down if this was the case. The drugs cause involuntary spasms in the arms and legs. You are safe,” said Aziz. “For the moment.”

    “I’m not sure about that either,” said Williams.

    “The drugs are generally a last resort since they have some complications associated with them. I believe prisoners are more valuable alive than dead. Or at least without drugs clouding their brain. This is why I did not agree to them in your case,” said Aziz. “To keep you safe.”

    “Funny how I don’t feel very safe,” said Williams.

    “I will be honest, I would like information from you. This is my job, just as you have your job. But at the same time I cannot justify torturing you senselessly since it will just increase resistance to getting the information and in turn, take more time. So perhaps in time you will learn to trust me and learn that some secrets are not worth the trouble and giving some information can change the conditions you are living in. Perhaps we can talk as equals one day without the threat of torture hanging over either of our heads,” said Aziz.

    “That just doesn’t make me feel any safer,” laughed Williams.

    “You are safer here than in many other places,” said Aziz.

    “I’d rather be at home safe myself,” said Williams.

    “As would we all,” said Aziz. “I have a wife and children to think of.”

    “Shouldn’t have started this war then,” said Williams.

    “As with all wars, there are complications as to who the aggressor was and who the victim was. From our perspective, we were the victims,” said Aziz.

    “We didn’t invade an entire continent after the Fall,” protested Williams.

    “Does Iraq not count? Or Afghanistan?” asked Aziz.

    “Because of terrorism!” protested Williams.

    “Of which I abhor,” said Aziz. “Mindless brutes that attack innocents. I am a professional military officer and do not agree with their tactics.”

    “Enough people do,” said Williams.

    “I would rather not talk of such things as it will only lead to a confrontation between us. Let us speak of Texas once again,” said Aziz.

    “I’d rather not,” said Williams.

    “I went to college in Ohio myself. The Ohio State University,” laughed Aziz. “Must remember to add ‘The’ onto it. And I must confess, I still enjoyed watching your American football up until the Fall. Did you play football?”

    “I don’t want to talk about it,” said Williams. “I’ll give only-”

    “I am not asking for military secrets. Is there any harm in discussing sports?” asked Aziz.

    “I’d prefer not to talk,” said Williams.

    “We cannot sit here and look at each other,” said Aziz. “And I am sure you are lonely in your cell. None of the guards speak English either.”

    “That doesn’t matter,” said Williams.

    “So did you play sports when you were young? Football?” asked Aziz.

    Williams slumped back in his chair, unsure of the tactic being used on him. He fully expected to get beaten or drugged eventually. But perhaps there was the potential for his captor to see him as a person rather than a file full of information. There was no harm in discussing sports.

    “I did in school, yes,” said Williams.

    “A most interesting game that I never learned all the rules for. At some points, it appears to have no rules, yet other minor infractions are dealt with harshly,” said Aziz.

    “Everyone in Texas plays football at some point,” said Williams.

    “I did not know that,” said Aziz.

    “It’s like a religion on Friday nights there,” said Williams.

    “A religion?” asked Aziz.

    “It is sarcasm,” said Williams. “Some people’s live revolved around high school football.”

    “Ah, as we were about the real football,” said Aziz. “Soccer you call it.”

    “I played that too,” said Williams.

    “Did you now? I was a midfielder myself,” said Aziz.

    “I played back,” said Williams.

    “How simple this would have been had we played a few games of football instead of killing each other,” said Aziz. “All matters settled on the pitch.”

    “Let me out and I’ll see if I can arrange it,” said Williams.

    “You Americans,” laughed Aziz. “Even in the face of adversity, you keep your humor.”

    “Worth a try,” said Williams.

    “Indeed,” laughed Aziz. “Well my friend, as much as I’d like to continue our talk, I have other matters to attend to.”

    “Time to beat some other prisoners?” asked Williams.

    “No Captain, you are my only prisoner here,” said Aziz as he nodded at the guards and gave a command in Arabic. “See? You learned more from me than I have from you this session.”

    “Sure,” said Williams as he was escorted from the room back to his tiny holding cell. After he was tossed inside, he wondered if he had crossed any lines of impropriety by talking with his interrogator. He would be mindful the next session not to speak as much as he had today.

    Back in the interrogation room, the Colonel had come inside and stolen one of Aziz’s cigarettes. “Is this what you call an interrogation?”

    “It is the way things are done. We talked of small things, home, sports, places he has been and nothing of military importance. It helps build the bond between us and opens him up to giving even more information in the future. Surely I got more information out of him than constantly beating him,” said Aziz.

    “He would have given us military information had we beaten him,” remarked the Colonel.

    “Which would be of dubious value,” said Aziz. “He would tell you anything you want to hear before long just to make the beatings stop.”

    “It is more gratifying,” said the Colonel.

    “Again, he is a skilled pilot that shot down six of our aircraft. Three of which were our most advanced fighters by himself. We have much to learn from our young Captain,” said Aziz.

    “Headquarters grows impatient,” said the Colonel.

    “You have the ability to stall them,” said Aziz. “My theory will be proven correct.”

    “You are hoping so,” said the Colonel.

    “I know so,” said Aziz. “Once a certain point is reached, I will implement the final phase of the interrogation and he will spill everything he knows.”

    Date/Time: 20 March/0838
    Location: 3rd French Regiment encampment, near Makov, Slovak Republic

    “Daddy, put another quarter in the machine!” exclaimed Amber as the helicopter wound down after landing on the French encampment. “Don’t let it stop!”

    “Who’s idea was it to bring her again?” asked Thomas with a laugh, knowing Amber loved helicopter rides. And a general milk run behind the lines where no contact was expected on landing made the excitement even better.

    “You sure you want the answer?” laughed Stephen. “Nancy, you think you can communicate with the locals and find the Australian unit?”

    “Sure,” said Nancy and went towards the French ground crew. After speaking to several people, she gave up on trying to ask the ground crew and stopped a passing officer on the roadway adjacent to the helicopter pad. She learned quickly he spoke English and didn’t want her using French any more than necessary.

    “It is two hundred meters past the water tower on this roadway,” he said pointing.

    "Merci,” said Nancy and gave a quick salute since they were in a formal environment. “He says it’s two hundred meters past the water tower on this road.”

    “Should be easy enough to find,” said Thomas. “Steve? Ready?”

    “Yep,” he replied. “You guys going to scavenge?”

    “As long as it isn’t nailed down,” said Tim Daniels. “How long are you going to be gone for?”

    “Not sure exactly,” said Thomas. “We’ll make radio contact at eleven hundred no matter what.”

    “Sounds good,” said Tim. “Okay folks, let’s get to stealing.”

    Thomas and Stephen traded a laugh as they headed down the roadway. Being on a French base was a little unusual since all the signs were in three languages, but they eventually found a small compound with an Australian flag flying outside. They were met at a checkpoint and had their identities verified before being pointed towards the intelligence facility. There was another checkpoint where they were stopped and the Australian soldier guarding the facility called inside for someone to make contact with the Americans. Shortly a soldier exited the connex type facility and came to the post.

    “Hello. Can I help you…Major?” asked the man in a very Australian accent. The AUSCAM uniform he wore told his true national identity.

    “Hi, I’m Major Tom Dayfield from the 14th Special Ops Battalion, North American Union. We’re here about a briefing for a downed pilot,” said Thomas. “Hermann the German sent us.”

    “Ah, yes, do you have your identification?” asked the man.

    Thomas pulled it from the badge holder he wore around his neck while in base camp. The man looked over it and over his face before deciding he and the ID were valid.

    “You going to vouch for your mate?” asked the man.

    “With his reputation, I probably shouldn’t,” laughed Thomas. “But sure.”

    “Please come in,” said the man who wore the Captain’s insignia.

    “Didn’t expect to see any Aussies around these parts,” said Thomas as they walked into the building. There was a weapons rack next to the door where Thomas and Stephen cleared and set their carbines down into the slots.

    “Oh, King and Country and all that noise. Might as well stop ‘em here as opposed to in the backyard,” said the still unidentified man as he locked the door behind them.

    “Sensible,” said Stephen.

    “Very…I’m Captain Andy Martin of the Australian Defense Force and this is my merry band of mystics who try to decipher what odds and ends are picked up,” said the Captain.

    “Tom Dayfield and this is Stephen Garcia,” said Thomas.

    “You formal?” asked the Captain.

    “Not so much Andy,” said Thomas.

    “Works out great. Round here, we are a fairly informal bunch,” said Andy.

    “I forgot I have a rank some of the times. Other times the rest of them forget it as well,” said Thomas with a laugh as he nodded at Steve.

    “Wait a second. You guys are Cider, right?” asked Andy.

    “Yeah, that would be us,” said Stephen with pride.

    “We use your reports to support some of our own analysis from time to time. I thought I’d seen your name before,” said Andy.

    “Normally it’s in the police reports,” laughed Stephen.

    “Nice job on that bunker in Germany. I always wanted to know more about that mission. Sometime, we need to discuss it over a beer,” said Andy with a laugh at seeing the two were fairly down to earth.

    “I didn’t know you guys were in this area,” said Thomas.

    “Our Regiment has been chopped to the 2nd Freedom Guards Division for Operation Ticonderoga. We were moved forward last week in preparation for the spring offensive,” said Andy. “Care for a spot of tea or coffee? We only keep the coffee around for Yanks like you who insist on being uncivilized and forgo our splendid tea.”

    “Didn’t we throw some of this off a boat once?” laughed Steve.

    “Yes, tea would be fine,” said Thomas knowing which would be better.

    “If you don’t mind, we’d rather you make your own. The chaps in here tend to get into fist fights over the amount of sugar and cream put in,” laughed Andy.

    “Got it,” said Thomas as he walked over to the stand where hot water was ready. He put two bags in the cup and poured the required amount of water in before dipping the bags and continuing the small talk. Steve grabbed a cup of coffee and decided Thomas was the wiser for getting the tea. It was a horrid blend.

    “How long you guys been in country?” asked Thomas.

    “We’ve been preparing to come to Europe for a long time. Ever since the Royals evacuated England and came down under, we’ve been planning to get them home. But this unit in particular has been here since the invasion of Iceland. Originally planned, we were heading for North America, but you all settled that bit before we got there,” said Andy.

    “That must have been some story,” said Stephen.

    “Which one?” asked Andy.

    “The evacuation of the Royal family,” said Stephen.

    “Oh, right. I don’t believe they expected to be riding a tramp steamer to Oz, but they got there and stayed out of our business for the most part. But I do give the two boys their credit, they joined the Defense Force with no reservation. And it’s a shame about the Queen, but she was given full burial honors in Queensland,” said Andy.

    “Your unit has been around the block a few times if I recall,” said Stephen as he took another sip of the coffee to be social.

    “Started off in Iceland and have been in combat ever since,” said Andy.

    “Where were you at in Iceland?” asked Thomas.

    “We went in to Keflavik with the Texan 1st Infantry Division. Only a battalion of troops, but the rest of the regiment followed afterwards. Went into Ireland with the AFNAS 3rd Armored and after that put on our colors again,” said Andy.

    “I didn’t know the Australians sent contingents of soldiers prior to Normandy,” said Stephen.

    “We wanted to keep it low key. Since we weren’t technically at war with the IU, they weren’t targeting our shipping and it kept us safe. We used the uniforms of Texas and the AFNAS instead of our own. Surprise for them when we showed up on the beaches of Normandy,” laughed Andy.

    “Right on,” said Thomas as he put in some sugar and cream into his tea.

    “You might make a right proper bloke if you keep it up,” observedAndy as he watched Thomas doing the same thing he had done right before they came in.

    “Trust me, that’s about as civilized as he gets,” laughed Stephen.

    “You all aren’t from Texas are you?” asked Andy.

    “Nope, Colorado,” said Thomas.

    “Talk about uncivilized. Those chaps brought in some evil devil water and called it mescal. Horrid stuff compared to gin,” laughed Andy. “But down to business shall we?”

    The three moved over to the large map of the continent and looked over the area. The Prism 3D screen came up on the overhead and Andy began his briefing.

    “Your pilot was about right here when he tangled with a flight of Typhoons coming out of the Serbia area. Long story short, he and another were escorting a damaged bomber back into friendly lines. They snuck up on him, got his wingman before they knew he was there. He fought them off to give the bomber time to escape. They did manage to land in Landsberg without crashing, so he did his job.”

    “Anyway, he managed to take out three before the final one got him. The locator beacon was picked up here right after,” he said and pointed at different areas of the map. “We had satellite photography of the area, but weren’t able to download for a time because of technical difficulties. Afterwards, we analyzed the data and found this in the local area.”

    Other pictures, satellite photos were pulled up on the screen by another member of his staff. Even from several hundred miles in space, the resolution was exceptional and the two could see the distinct camouflage pattern in the Texan flight suit. At least a squad of IU soldiers was surrounding him and several vehicles were nearby. The pilot had his hands on his head and looked defeated.

    “How come all this was on the photography?” asked Stephen.

    "Your guys have been keeping the cameras on the entire time it’s over Europe. Makes sorting through the data a little harder, but we’ve picked up things we might have missed otherwise,” said Andy.

    “Okay, and after?” asked Thomas.

    “It took us a while to track down the location they went afterwards, but we think we managed to find where they went,” said Andy as more pictures were brought up. It looked to be the same vehicles pulling up to some form of camp. Both the Americans saw the distinct outline of what could only be a prisoner camp. Stephen saw the date stamp on the picture and commented.

    “These are over a week old. How come it took so long to get to us?” he asked.

    “The technical problems of downloading the photos from the recon bird. And because we generally look at every outhouse, barn and fenced in cattle pen in all of Eastern Europe,” explained Andy. “I don’t have that large a staff.”

    “And your guys get us good info. I wasn’t implying you sat on it,” said Stephen.

    “Plus, we made contact with the Brigade Intelligence in that particular sector and passed on what we knew. Problem is, they weren’t sure if this was your pilot, so it was discredited,” said Andy.

    “Hermann explained that as well,” said Thomas.

    “Right, so we never caught sight of him on this pass and the vehicles had since disappeared. But we managed to cross reference this with some later photos and came up with this,” said Andy as another picture came up. It was nighttime and the shot showed the computer enhancements, although in black and white. A hooded figure was seen being led from one of the buildings in what looked to be the administrative part of the camp to another building. The shot was oblique and the resolution not so great, but it appeared to be possibly the same man.

    “What’s this area?” asked Thomas.

    “Appears to be some form of camp. Maybe a prisoner camp,” said Andy.

    “Not a standard troop camp?” asked Stephen.

    “Probably not. Double fenced in area, guard patrols and towers. It all fits into the standard IU prisoner camp,” said Andy.

    “Where is this specifically?” asked Thomas. He was rewarded with a precise location. “You’re kidding me? This close to the lines?”

    “We found that strange as well,” said Andy with a moment of thought before continuing. “But there was further activity after these photos. Apparently an additional unit was sent in from Arad, Romania.”

    “What kind of unit?” asked Stephen.

    “We aren’t sure, but it amounted to less than a heavy platoon of troops,” said Andy.

    “Best guess?” asked Thomas.

    “The area we think they were dispatched from is the South Industrial Zone of Arad,” said Andy.

    The area which he referred to was the known prisoner area of Romania. Prisoners from all over the region were sent there to include all military prisoners. It was also one of the larger concentration camp areas for Europe.

    “If what you’re saying is correct…” said Thomas.

    “We doubt very seriously the IU would have kept a concentration camp open this close to FNC lines,” said Andy. “So that’s why it wasn’t included in the intelligence packet.”

    “What else then?” asked Thomas.

    “Not sure,” said Andy after a pause. “The liberation of the camps has become a little more commonplace and one of my guys came up with the theory they are spreading them out and making them smaller. Which still doesn’t explain the close proximity to the front lines, but one of the ‘could be’ scenarios we have.”

    “And the unit from Arad?” asked Stephen.

    “Just where they originated from,” said Andy. “Could have been something besides their death squads.”

    “We did an extended recon in this area about two months ago. Didn’t pick up on it then,” said Stephen. “Is it new?”

    “I saw that report and you came within maybe three or four clicks of the area. Best we can tell it’s been there at least ten months and we honestly haven’t tried chasing it down any further. But again, they are low key. No vehicles to speak of except a few light utility vehicles. Reasonably light guard force, maybe two platoons at most. No significant thermal images. Doesn’t really stand out as being interesting,” said one of the analysts, joining the conversation.

    “Except now,” said Thomas. “What’s the chances the pilot was only held here temporarily?”

    “Could have been, we aren’t sure. But either way, this is a decent place to start looking. Go in and bag a few of the officers and get them to talking,” suggested Andy.

    “Not sure they would let us just stroll in,” said Stephen.

    “Who says the rest will have the ability to complain?” asked Andy.

    “He makes a valid point though,” said Thomas. “Best lead we have and J-SOD isn’t being helpful with any further information.”

    “You want my boys and girls to get you a detailed target analysis?” asked Andy.

    “Yeah, sounds good,” said Thomas. “Also an in depth look at the local forces capable of responding to said camp. I know the forces around Ružomberok are tied up for the most part, but you guys know we travel light and even a reinforced platoon can give us a spot of trouble.”

    “I’ll see what we can dredge up. But for the most part, you guys know better than we do as to response times and units. You have the ability to disappear far easier,” said Andy.

    “Normally I’d agree with you, but if this is a prisoner camp, we have to secure it and await follow on forces,” said Thomas. “Or at least some way of getting them back to our lines.”

    “Sounds like a fairly large raid,” said Andy.

    “Which is why we could use the additional info on the response forces,” said Thomas.

    “Right,” said Andy. “We can have you an initial analysis in about twelve hours with a detailed regional scope analysis in about twenty-four. Is that acceptable?”

    “Perfect,” said Thomas. “Just send it through our organizational S-2 inbox.”

    “Got the direct address?” asked Andy.

    “Can I use your terminal?” asked Stephen.

    “Yes, please,” said Andy as he nodded for the analyst to relinquish the computer. Stephen sat down and started typing in the address as well as the instant message communicator. He received replies almost immediately.

    “Okay, you have the link for the inbox and our IM system,” said Stephen.

    “Great,” said Andy. “Like I said, we can have you something by tonight.”

    “Can’t say how much we appreciate this,” said Thomas.

    “You going in to get him?” asked Andy.

    “If it pans out, we certainly will try,” said Thomas.

    “And if it happens to be anything else?” asked Andy.

    “We’ll mark it and call in bombers,” said Thomas. “No sense in risking our necks for a supply warehouse if it turns out he isn’t there.”

    “And if it is something else entirely?” asked Andy.

    “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” said Thomas.

    “Right,” said Andy. “If there is anything else that we can help with, please feel free to ask. Makes the lads around here feel important and all.”

    “You’re the only unit that’s passed on the information that has anything further than he was shot down. That’s pretty important,” said Stephen.

    “Hermann the German helps us and we help him. He’s the only one that expressed any interest in the story,” said Andy.

    “He’s a popular guy,” laughed Thomas. “We do appreciate it.”

    “As do we,” said Andy. “We get your intelligence assessments from time to time and use them accordingly. And a few get a little hairy from what I can tell.”

    “Nothing we can’t handle,” said Thomas.

    “Good deal,” said Andy. “Need a ride back to the heli pad?”

    “Nah, we’d rather walk. Gives us the opportunity to figure out if there’s anything on this Frog base worth stealing,” laughed Stephen.

    “Nothing worth mentioning although their rations are decent,” said Andy. “And just so happens you pass right by a supply yard.”

    “Oh, do we now?” laughed Stephen.

    “It’s best we have some dumb Americans to blame rather than our own people that are normally doing the stealing,” laughed Andy.

    “I knew you Australians were sneaky,” laughed Thomas as he shook Andy’s hand. “It’s been a pleasure and thanks again.”

    “No problem at all,” said Andy and shook Stephen’s hand as well. And finally added in the most Australian phrase of all. “G’day now.”

    Stephen and Thomas departed the compound and were heading back down the road towards the helicopter pad. They noticed the supply compound that had been mentioned and decided they would enlist the help of the remainder of the group before going inside the unguarded area. As they continued down the road, a truck started passing them.

    “Hey soldier boy, looking for a good time?” asked Amber from the passenger side.

    “Do I want to know where you got the truck?” asked Thomas.

    “Nope soldier boy, that kind of information costs you a dollar,” she laughed.

    “Right,” laughed Thomas as he and Stephen were hoisted up into the cargo area by Specialist Johnny Thompson and Nancy. “Nice truck.”

    “It’s a rental,” said Johnny.

    “I’ll bet,” laughed Stephen. “Unlimited miles?”

    “And full coverage contract,” he laughed in return. They arrived at the UH-60 Blackhawk and backed the truck towards the aircraft, being guided in by the copilot. After parking, they started unloading the supplies.

    “Two cases of hooch for our pilots,” said Tim as he handed over the cardboard cases.

    “And we thank you very much,” said the copilot as he took the offering and placed it in a secure area of the aircraft. “Fuel truck is on the way, should be here in a few.”

    “What else?” asked Thomas.

    “Case of wine for Ashley so she’ll shut up about it. Got a couple crates of ammo, another two cases of liquor, some med stuff, few of cases of rations and some batteries,” said Tim.

    “How much did it run you?” asked Thomas.

    “How much did what run me?” asked Tim.

    “I’m going to jail eventually,” laughed Thomas as they finished unloading the acquired supplies into the Blackhawk and strapping them down. While they didn’t really need any more ammo, rations, batteries or medical supplies, Tim usually walked away from most places with a case of something. And this time with an unguarded supply area, he had hit the jackpot. He wished Hermann had been able to get them a larger helicopter like a CH-53 and they would have taken the whole truck with them. After they unloaded, Tim returned the truck to the immediate area outside the ramp, parking it in a normal spot so it didn’t look out of place. As the group returned towards the chopper, a voice was heard from behind them.

    “Amber?” said the voice in a heavy accent. Amber set into stone as the voice called from her past although she didn’t turn around at the sound.

    “Amber? Do you not remember my voice?” asked the voice. She finally turned and saw what she was expecting, but not expecting.

    “What do you want?” she asked.

    “Are you not happy to see me?” asked Thomas Villier, her ex-husband.
    techsar and Sapper John like this.
  11. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++


    Date/Time: 20 March/1009
    Location: 3rd French Regiment encampment, near Makov, Slovak Republic

    Amber stood, quite shocked at the turn of affairs. She always knew there was a chance that her ex-husband had survived the Fall, but never expected to see him in the middle of East Europe.

    “Should I be happy to see you Thomas?” she asked coldly.

    “This is not the welcome I expected from my wife,” he said crossly.

    “Ex-wife. I gave up, no, you gave up any marriage rights you had a long time ago,” she said coldly.

    “I do not remember getting any papers in the mail,” he said trying to charm his way into the conversation and hopefully warm her up to his presence.

    “Had I been given an address to mail them, I might have sent them to you. But as it stands, you decided to run out on me, leave me alone and in the dark and never let me know where you were going. I had no way of tracking you down and you flat out abandoned me!” she snarled through gritted teeth.

    “I was young and did not know any better. I am sorry for what I did and want to right the wrongs from before,” he said.

    “The time for that is long since passed,” she said coldly. “I didn’t know if you were dead or alive. And I know you didn’t know if I was either. Furthermore, I know you didn’t care. You didn’t care enough to come looking for me or take me with you at the least.”

    “I cannot make it right, I know, but at least allow me to apologize,” he said.

    “So apologize and be done with it. Then get out of my life…forever,” she said coldly.

    “Like it or not, we are still married,” he said in return.

    “Like it or not, we got divorced many years ago. It never went through the courts, but I can flat guarantee you one thing bud, you ran out on me and that counted as abandonment. Straight up grounds for any divorce in the world,” she said coldly.

    “Are you married again?” he asked.

    “Yes, to a loving man who doesn’t run out on me,” she said. “Apologize and leave. I never want to see you again.”

    “Is he a good man?” he asked, avoiding the issue at hand.

    “The best…are you going to apologize?” she asked.

    “Can I meet him?” asked Villier.

    “An apology, then disappear,” she said through gritted teeth once again.

    “I would like to meet him,” he said, still avoiding the request.

    Amber rolled her eyes and turned to walk away. She was caught as he grabbed her by the arm and spun her around. “You do not turn your back on me!”

    Before she had the chance to react, she saw Thomas Dayfield swoop in, apply a pressure point which made him release his grasp and pushed him away. Villier attempted to move back in, but was diverted by Dayfield and pushed away once again. Dayfield stood between the two and had a look of pure evil on his face. Villier was taller and had a heavier build than Dayfield and figured with his recent training he could put him on the ground and get Amber to listen to reason. He was quick on his punch aimed at Dayfield, however, was unsuccessful as the teams had learned and constantly practiced the Krav Maga learned during their specialized training and kept up frequently since then. They already had a good base of fighting techniques learned from Amy Kerns and Kristy Garcia years before, but it had been honed by the specialized defensive techniques learned since then.

    Dayfield countered the punch with a block and landed several punches of his own before kicking out Villier’s leg and sending him to the ground. Villier got back up, seeing red and resumed his attack with brute force instead of technique. Dayfield countered his attack by again blocking his attempt to grab him and pushed forward in a clothesline technique which put Villier on the ground again. He slammed in hard on the ground and got the wind knocked out of him, but saw as Dayfield resumed his normal stance waiting to see what move he would make. By this time, Villier was hopping mad and almost out of control when he got back up to resume his attack once again. His attack was two pronged as he swung hard right with a haymaker which was blocked, but immediately followed with one from the left.

    But Dayfield saw him telegraphing his moves and countered the second punch before bringing in both the arms to the center and doubling them over. He swung the arms wide around and flipped Villier over his back slamming him on the ground hard before landing a stomp to his midsection and backing off once again. He backed off in hopes the latest blows would have brought him to his senses, but saw Villier getting back up once again after a pause to catch his breath. However, this time it turned even worse for the cause as Villier grabbed for the pistol holstered at his waist.

    Dayfield moved in just as he was bringing it up and caught the pistol in both his hands, twisting it slightly and making him released his grip involuntarily. While breaking the grip on the pistol was fairly easy, he wanted to make sure he went down for good this time. He pulled the offhand over to the side and swung him hard in the opposite direction which landed Villier on the ground once again. But this time, Dayfield didn’t release his grasp and rolled Villier from his back to his stomach and locked the arm in between his knees and gained control of the pistol. He pointed it at the back of Villier’s head while pulling in his left hand into a pain compliance grip. Villier knew enough about unarmed combat to know he needed to tap his hand on the ground to be released. But that only worked well in training.

    “No taps outs in the real world ami. You draw a pistol on me and you pay the price,” growled Dayfield as he used the rear sight to rack the slide of the Sig pistol on his boot heel and chambered a round before placing it against the back of Viller’s head.

    “It hurts!” exclaimed Villier followed by several curses in French. By this time, his squad had seen the fight between the two and had headed over to intercede on their comrade’s behalf. However, they were intercepted by the remainder of the Cider team who assumed defensive stances of their own. Even though they had superior numbers, the French squad took the smart way out and decided to sit out the battle between their squad mate and the American Major.

    “Give me a reason I don’t kill you right now?!” growled Dayfield.

    “We are allies!” he strained as Dayfield tightened his hold.

    “You attempt to shoot me, that made you my enemy,” growled Dayfield.

    “I only want to speak with my wife!” protested Villier.

    “You laid a hand on my teammate. She wants an apology,” said Dayfield.

    “Apology for what?” grunted Villier.

    “For putting her through what you did! Do it! Now!” barked Dayfield. He saw Villier was hesitating and applied even more pressure on the wrist, causing more pain.

    “I am sorry Amber!” he said.

    “Louder! And what for!” barked Dayfield.

    “For hurting you! I am sorry!” he screamed at the top of his lungs.

    “And what else?!” demanded Dayfield.

    “For abandoning you and leaving you to fend for yourself!” he screamed in pain.

    “And is she your wife?” growled Dayfield.

    “Yes,” said Villier and Dayfield applied more pressure. “No! No! No!”

    “She divorced you, get over her, leave her alone and get on with your life!” growled Dayfield.

    “I will!” said Villier.

    “Say it! Now!” barked Dayfield once again.

    “I will leave you alone Amber!” he cried as the pain was getting to be too much.

    “I’m going to release you. If you even attempt to do anything stupid, I will kill you where you stand. Got it?” asked Dayfield. “Got it?!”

    Oui! Yes! Yes!” yelled Villier.

    “Now get up and leave here,” said Dayfield as he released his grasp and backed off his opponent. Villier slowly got off the ground and cradled his left arm that had been in the arm bar. He had second thoughts on resuming his attack, but saw Dayfield was ready for any move he was about to make. He looked at Amber once again, the pain immediately recognizable in his face before turning to leave. He walked away slowly before turning once again and seeing the complete lack of emotion on her face. Often in his life he wondered what might happen if he was to ever come face to face with her again. One question finally answered.

    “Are you okay?” asked Thomas calmly after Villier had departed the area.

    Amber looked at him with a shocked expression on her face. She had seen Thomas be aggressive before, especially on the battlefield, but never the uncontrolled violence he had just showed to the entire group. It was like another person had taken over Thomas at that point in time and had been the channel for her hostility.

    “Why did you do that?” she asked quietly after finally being able to speak.

    “I saw how he hurt you. You are a friend and furthermore, like family to me. I’ve wanted to do that to him for a long time,” said Thomas calmly.

    Amber looked at him and realized she would have followed him to hell and back carrying a five gallon bucket of gasoline. There really was nothing else that could have been said right then except “thank you.”

    “It was my pleasure,” said Thomas as the remaining squad had departed the area to check on their comrade. A French officer was seen walking up to their group along with three French Military Policemen.

    “I do not know what happened here, but I want you off this French base immediately,” he said in flawless English.

    “As soon as our aircraft is refueled, we will be gone,” said Thomas and handed over the service pistol he had taken during the fight.

    “Never to return either. If you set foot on this base again, you will be arrested,” said the French Major as he took the pistol and cleared it.

    “You and whose army is going to do it?” said Thomas coldly and got the same look on his face he had right before the most recent confrontation.

    “It is best you do not return. My troops might take matters into their own hands,” said the Major, backing off slightly.

    “We can and will take care of ourselves. You best tell your people to avoid us in the future. We do not like leaving unfinished business out there,” said Thomas.

    “This is our base and our rules. We may be allies, but you are our guests here. You should act like it and be grateful for our help,” said the Major.

    Before Thomas was able to react, Nancy came over and took the Major off to the side. She spoke in French as to be completely understood.

    “Major, you do not understand. The woman over there, my friend, was abandoned by that soldier before the Fall. She was his wife and he left her in Germany to go to his own family. She had to find a way of getting back to America on her own and back to her family during the Fall. You lived through the Fall and understand how hard it was for some people to get back to their families, especially after being separated by an entire ocean,” said Nancy sensibly.

    “I was not aware of any previous dealings with the two. But your Major should not have become involved,” he said in French.

    “It was better for my Major to get involved. My friend is fairly passionate and might have killed him had she gotten the opportunity,” said Nancy.

    “And we would have been forced to deal with that,” said the Major.

    “Nothing was hurt here except for some pride. And your soldier did elevate matters by drawing a weapon,” said Nancy.

    “I will deal with that problem,” said the Major.

    “And I will calm our Major. We are scheduled to leave within a half an hour. I will keep him near the aircraft,” said Nancy. “It is best for us both.”

    “I am serious about what I said, I do not want him or any of you on this base again. I will be going to my commander and informing him of this incident and requesting your unit be declared off limits on this base,” said the Major, trying to gain the upper hand.

    “You might want to remember which unit this is and what we did to help free your country both before and during the invasion. And was decorated by your President for doing it. Things to remember before making claims we are not welcome here,” said Nancy coldly.

    “You have a half an hour to be off my base,” said the Major and walked away.

    Nancy walked over to Thomas and the remainder of the team which was waiting for word of what she had accomplished.

    “Haven’t seen you that irate and snap that quickly since you stopped smoking,” laughed Tim.

    “I was kind of a bear at that point, wasn’t I?” Thomas chuckled.

    “It wasn’t easy on any of us to quit smoking after the Fall,” said Tim. “Well?”

    “He says we have to be off the base in the next half an hour. Guess we don’t get to see what the French have for chow on their line after all,” said Nancy.

    “Was he at least understanding?” asked Stephen.

    “I think the term might be arrogant,” said Nancy. “I can understand why the French get a bad name now. But the resistance we worked with before weren’t bad at all.”

    “Different kinds of people,” said Rick. “We have chow on the chopper?”

    “Yeah, we brought out a couple of extra cases,” said Thomas, surprisingly calm.

    “Might as well eat here. The birds will be finished in about twenty minutes,” said Tim as he meandered over to the helicopter and grabbed a case of rations.

    “Someone you know?” asked the pilot to Amber.

    “I thought I did at one point in my life,” said Amber without explaining who he was.

    “He hurt you?” asked the pilot.

    Amber flashed her eyes at him letting him know he heading into territory he didn’t belong in. The pilot knew well enough to leave it alone and make sure the helicopter was okay to fly back to the forward areas and drop the team off. He wanted to know more, but also knew they didn’t need to be spending any more time on the French base than was necessary due to the confrontation. The fuel truck drove up and he busied himself helping with hooking up the fuel lines as the team ate in silence and were eyeballed by every French soldier that passed by.

    Eventually everything was complete and the crew did a quick pre-takeoff check and told everyone to strap in. As the engines were starting, Amber looked across the small cabin and saw Thomas with a neutral look on his face. He glanced at her long enough to see her mouth the words “thank you.” As they lifted off, Amber didn’t look out of the chopper as she normally did. She was leaving a piece of her past behind, hopefully for the last time.


    “Sir, General Girard from the French 3rd is on the phone for you,” said the Aide to the 2nd Freedom Guards Division commander.

    “Which line?” asked the Major General.

    “Line three sir,” said the Aide.

    “Got it,” said the General and pushed the button for the correct line. “Hello General, it’s General Chambers here…okay…yes, I do have a Major Dayfield in my Division…oh…oh really…right…okay…well, I don’t know why he was on your base…you know those special operations types, they pop up in unusual places…well I’m sure if there was a confrontation he has an explanation…banned from your base…right…again, I’m not sure…I’ll check into it of course General…well, no I don’t think that’s necessary…a court martial isn’t a good idea until I can at least hear both sides of the story…of course I’ll be fair…I would hope you would check into it from your end too…no, I don’t think a minor spat between our two forces will cause any great harm…yes, of course I’ll look into it…yes, absolutely…do you have a copy of their movement orders…okay, can you send a copy here…right…Hermann Graf…okay, I’ll check into it and take care of it…yes, you too.”

    The General paused for a moment after ending the call and waited for an email hit his computer, a scanned copy of the movement orders in question. He was unsure of why Thomas Dayfield was on a French base when his unit was staged forward, but he would certainly look into it. While it wasn’t unusual for the Cider teams to end up in some unusual places, that far behind the lines wasn’t entirely usual. He hit the intercom button for his aide. “Contact 1st Brigade and find out what Tom Dayfield was doing up at the French 3rd Infantry today.”

    “On the way sir,” said the voice over the intercom.

    “Belay that, can you track down a number for me? For a Major Hermann Graf in the German Army. Says here he’s a shift commander in the Heer Headquarters in Berlin,” said the General.

    “Sir, it’s DSN 668-2100, extension 313,” said the Aide without hesitation.

    “You recalled that pretty quick,” observed the General.

    “We’ve uhh, met sir,” said the Aide.

    “I’d bet,” said the General as he dialed up the number. Reaching the central military switchboard, he was put through to his extension.

    Drei ein drei, Major Graf,” announced the voice in German.

    Sprechen zie English?” asked the General.

    Ja, Major Graf, how may I help you?” asked Hermann.

    “My name is Major General Chambers and I’m the-” started the General before being interrupted from the other end.

    “Commander of the North American Union 2nd Freedom Guards Division. How may I help you sir and I must say, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” said Hermann.

    “I’m assuming that’s a good thing?” asked the General.

    “Yes of course sir,” said Hermann. “You are well known and highly respected in our forces. Oberst Kaufmann speaks highly of you.”

    “How is that old dog?” asked the General, a moment of pleasantries before getting down to business. “Haven’t heard from him in a while.”

    “He was wounded a couple of months ago in an IU attack. But he is recovering nicely,” said Hermann. “I can pass along your regards if you wish.”

    “Regards nothing! Where is he at?” asked the General.

    “At his home in Weisbaden on medical leave,” said Hermann.

    “I might plan a side trip during the next conference,” said the General.

    “He said you were one of the best maneuver commanders in the FNC,” said Hermann.

    “Coming from him, that’s a compliment. The guy is like Rommel reincarnated,” he replied.

    “Without the political baggage of course,” laughed Hermann.

    “Obviously so,” laughed the General.

    “I’m certain you didn’t call to catch up about old friends Herr General; how may I assist you today?” asked Hermann.

    “Not to put too fine a point on my question, but do you know Major Thomas Dayfield?” asked the General.

    “It is hard to find many soldiers in the FNC that do not know who Major Dayfield is, Herr General,” said Hermann evasively.

    “Let me rephrase then, do you know Major Dayfield personally?” asked the General.

    Jawohl, Thomas Dayfield is a friend of mine,” answered Hermann.

    “You do understand I’m calling you directly to ask you these questions instead of going through your superiors?” asked the General.

    Jawohl, I understand,” said Hermann.

    “So explain to me why you signed off on travel orders to a French base please,” said the General.

    Hermann was silent for a moment and wondered exactly what had transpired while Thomas was getting his briefing. He had not heard anything from his friends in the Australian intelligence outfit, so this was unusual.

    “Yes Herr General, I signed off on travel orders for Major Dayfield and five others to go to the French 3rd Regiment base of operations to receive an intelligence briefing. There is an Australian unit on the base that had some information that I believed he would have found useful in his upcoming mission,” explained Hermann.

    “Why go there? He has a good intelligence center,” asked the General.

    “Because their briefing was on a Prism system Herr General,” said Hermann.

    “Of which his Brigade Headquarters has one as well,” said the General.

    “Indeed,” said Hermann before continuing. “I believed it was best to get the briefing from the horse’s mouth as you might say.”

    “Which can just as easily have been done through a Prism briefing and a video teleconference at the Brigade Headquarters,” said the General.

    “It could have sir,” said Hermann.

    “But for reasons that you aren’t or more likely don’t want to tell me, you didn’t want them to use the Brigade for that,” said the General pointedly.

    “It is complicated Herr General,” said Hermann evasively after a brief pause.

    “Make it uncomplicated. I like simple things,” ordered the General.

    “The report I received from the Australian unit is contradictory to most of the intelligence reports that have come through so far Herr General. And even though I found it to be a good lead, your 1st Brigade Commander decided it was not verified and dismissed it. I have a feeling about this report Herr General and it could lead to the discovery of the downed Texan pilot in your area of operations. However, since the Brigade Commander was unwilling to entertain the notion that the report might have some validity, I ensured Major Dayfield got a proper briefing,” said Hermann. “And I authorized the travel documents to the French base to get it.”

    The General sat quietly for a moment as he digested what he had just been told. The Colonel had been foisted on him by higher headquarters even though his experience commanding a combat unit was zero. However, he had also attempted to get him up to speed and one of the lessons he had harped on was never to dismiss an intelligence report without at least following up on it no matter how far out it was. But it appeared he was dismissing the report for some reason, which might have been valid, but should have reported it up just in case. He had received the request from J-SOD for the 14th to conduct an in depth recon of the area in question and the various reports about the downed pilot. But had not received, to his knowledge, any report from an Australian unit. “How sure are you about this report?”

    “I could not get the information verified Herr General, but it is one of the only leads we have at the moment,” said Hermann.

    “And you typically need two sources before up channeling,” said the General.

    “Normally, yes,” said Hermann.

    “And nobody else would validate it?” asked the General.

    “Most other intelligence services gave it the token glance before seeing it was out of their sector. The J-SOD relied on your 1st Brigade for the validation,” said Hermann. “And since they wouldn’t validate, J-SOD wouldn’t approve the report for dissemination.”

    “And why wouldn’t 1st Brigade validate?” asked the General.

    “They used an old report as evidence to the contrary Herr General,” said Hermann.

    “How old?” asked the General.

    “Last November,” said Hermann, completely throwing several people under the bus.

    “My God, that’s five months ago!” exclaimed the General.

    “Which is why I felt it prudent for Major Dayfield to get better information,” said Hermann.

    “He and his unit have been conducting front level recon missions at least twice a week. I see the reports myself!” exclaimed the General.

    “They have, but for this specific report, the Brigade used an old analysis of the target area. Specifically the Ružomberok sector where your Brigade is on the lines,” said Hermann.

    The General sat quietly once again. He knew there was trouble in the 1st Brigade. And he also knew the Colonel didn’t care much for Dayfield even though the reasons weren’t so clear. But to deny him potential information prior to a mission was bordering on negligence of his command duties. “Hermann, do you consider Thomas Dayfield a friend?”

    Jawohl Herr General, he is a friend,” said Hermann.

    “Then you do not discuss this conversation with him, period,” ordered the General.

    “I do not understand,” said Hermann.

    “Here’s what you are going to do instead. If you get intelligence that you feel is necessary for him to complete a mission, you send it directly to him. And you courtesy copy my Division S-2. No more of this back door nonsense, understand?” asked the General.

    “Understood sir,” said Hermann.

    “You have a lot of friends out there Major?” asked the General.

    “I have a few acquaintances here and there,” said Hermann.

    “My own Aide knew your number off the top of his head. That says you have more than just a few acquaintances,” observed the General.

    “I may have more than I let on,” Hermann laughed. “I am in the information business Herr General and the more information I get, the better I do my job.”

    “Ever think of transferring to our Army,” laughed the General.

    “No, I am happy in my new service. But you ask for a specific reason sir,” said Hermann.

    “Yep, get whatever information you can and send it Dayfield’s way. I know I cannot task you with such an order, but I can make the request and a favor owed,” said the General.

    “I believe I can do that,” said Hermann. “I have already given them what I have. But I can dig up whatever else might be out there.”

    “And if it’s not too much to ask, could you request that Australian unit come to my headquarters to give me the same briefing they gave Tom Dayfield?” asked the General.

    “I think that can be arranged,” said Hermann.

    “I won’t hold you back then,” said the General. “And in case I forgot to mention it, thank you.”

    “It is a pleasure Herr General,” said Hermann. “Thomas Dayfield is a credit to your Division as well as the Coalition as a whole. And a good friend, so helping him, even under the table, is the least I can do in this situation.”

    “And it is appreciated. Have a good day Major,” said the General.

    “And to you Herr General,” said Hermann as the call ended. He certainly had his work cut out for him, but having a favor owed from a Major General was certainly something nice to have in his back pocket. Hermann turned and started tasking his staff with gathering whatever information they could in the Ružomberok sector as well as the adjacent areas. He wanted a complete and thorough report to send to Thomas and the Division S-2 and wanted it quickly.

    After the call, General Chambers sat in thought for several minutes thinking of his current predicament. Again, he knew there was tension between Dayfield and the Brigade Commander, but didn’t know what had happened after his arrival. Instead of jumping to conclusions and taking Dayfield’s side, he would let things play out a little further before digging into the matter if he needed to. The 14th was an extremely valuable asset to his Division and he knew the leadership was one of the reasons they performed as well as they did. So keeping the peace might require his intervention at some point, but not right then. However, he did have some concerns that needed answer.

    “I need the mission taskings for the 14th that came out of the J-SOD as well as any administrative paperwork you happen to have on hand. And I’d like to see the intelligence reports from the 1st Brigade in the Ružomberok sector as well,” he said over the intercom.

    “Roger that,” said the aide over the intercom.

    “And also, if any unusual requests for supplies or support comes from the 14th direct into the Division, they are granted by my authority,” said the General.

    “Roger that sir,” said the aide.

    The General sat back in his chair and continued giving the situation some thought. And what his probable course of action could and maybe should be. He would run into serious political opposition from the NAU leadership if he relieved the Colonel without proper cause, so for the moment things would continue as normal. In thinking of the situation, he had completely forgotten about the incident on the French base.

    Date/Time: 21 March/1633
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    “You sure you don’t need me to stick around?” asked Sergeant Major Scott Carlson just before he started towards the chopper to take him to the airfield to get on the cargo transport to England and then the big ticket home. Although accepting the assignment to the school in Kansas, he still had lingering reservations about leaving the unit. He had already made his rounds of the family he was leaving behind and got to Thomas last, but certainly not least. The helicopter in the background was ready for flight, but the Texan crew also knew Scott personally and knew it wasn’t easy for him to let go.

    “Brother, you’ve served your time in two separate services, three if you count the Texan Army and in too many battles to remember. You’ve earned your place in the rear with the gear,” said Thomas.

    “I know, I just feel like I’m abandoning the team you know?” he said.

    “You aren’t abandoning anything. You’ve stuck with us through thick and thin, good and bad. Now’s your chance to get back Stateside and train up more Scott Carlson’s. You know I’d love to keep you, but you are a far more valuable asset teaching others your trade. You are the best combat medic I know and it’s far past the time you taught others how to save lives. I’ve hoarded you long enough,” said Thomas.

    “It’s been a pleasure serving under you for my last combat assignment,” said Scott.

    “No, it was my pleasure serving with you for your last combat assignment,” said Thomas.

    “I can’t really think of anything else to say,” said Scott.

    “Well, don’t get all mushy and start crying. Those Texas pilots will think you’re not so tough,” said Thomas with a laugh as he shook Scott’s hand and gave him a hug afterwards. “Give Gwen my regards.”

    “Will do. And I’ll give Sharon the letter personally,” said Scott. And right before he left, he snapped up one final salute. Thomas was surprised by the act and snapped a salute that would have made the Old Guard proud. They held it there for a long moment before they both let them go at the same time. Scott turned without saying anything else and darted for the chopper as the rotors were starting to turn. The entire group was watching as the elder member of the team moved on to better things and a more secure location. They felt as if a family member was departing and in some regards, one was. But Scott had served his time and knew he needed to be replaced by a younger member. But he could still teach and when offered the chance to train at the school for combat medics, he reluctantly took the offer after conferring with several team members at the base.

    But his legacy would live on in the hundreds of recruits he would teach to perform the lifesaving applications he had learned the hard way in the two way shooting gallery. And they would be better for it as their skills would increase tenfold by learning the lessons from a tried and true combat veteran. Thomas had a feeling he would end up with another medic before long talking about “Old Man Carlson” when they arrived and would be happy knowing they were taught by the very best.
    techsar and Sapper John like this.
  12. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++


    Date/Time: 22 March/1047
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    “Okay, so let’s put two teams here,” said Thomas as he pointed at the map. “One more here and one in this area. I don’t want any more than two teams approaching that compound at the same time and spooking the opposition. We have the intel that happens to show the guard force has dogs so this could get a bit tricky.”

    “I don’t like dogs,” said Mark Williams.

    “You like my dog,” chuckled Darren.

    “Okay, I don’t like their dogs,” laughed Mark. “But Tom’s right. If they are smart and using dogs out on a detection screen, it could make an approach a lot harder.”

    “Just have to go slow,” suggested Michael Parsons. “Who’s up in the batting order?”

    “For the moment, your team, Bill Meyer’s and Dave’s with Shaun Hanson filling in for Burnout if that’s okay,” said Thomas. “Carmen Ford’s team is already down two, so stealing another won’t hurt her in the long run until she can get back healthy.”

    “Shaun’s okay, I can deal with that,” said Dave Lawson. “He’s worked with us before so he should slide right into the rotation.”

    “And the fourth?” asked Darren.

    “Either you or Tim,” said Thomas. “If he’s mission capable.”

    “Doc cleared me this morning,” said Tim Daniels.

    “Okay, Darren, your team is on backup, but I’m considering putting you in here,” said Thomas as he pointed at the map again. “This looks to be the only road in or out and probably could use some surveillance.”

    “Sound play, but with Tim just coming off the med listing, why don’t we swap his team for mine?” asked Darren. “Plus, this area here looks inviting for an ORP.”

    “Looks to be some thick brush and briars in that area,” said Mark as he looked over a previous mission report. “Nasty stuff.”

    “Which makes it more inviting for an ORP,” said Tim. “I can handle babysitting a roadway. Say two in and two out. But honestly, let’s send in two teams for that. Get a better rotation that way and a little better security.”

    “Doesn’t sound like a bad idea boss,” said Darren.

    “Shannon isn’t cleared yet so Holly, are you back in the saddle?” asked Thomas.

    “I probably need some range time and really need some pro work with the equipment. And I’m really in need of getting into shape. I don’t want to say no, but honestly, I’d be more of a hindrance rather than a help in my current state,” said Holly.

    “Nothing wrong with admitting you aren’t back in the groove yet,” said Darren. “Pull one from your team and slide him in. You and I can’t be out at the same time anymore, but it doesn’t say members of your team can’t go out. So Ashley takes lead, Grumpy or Tattoo, Sister and Junior. Pretty solid team in my opinion.”

    “Ashley? You can handle that?” asked Thomas.

    “I was born to cowboy up!” she exclaimed.

    “Gender confused?” laughed Mark.

    “I can be a cowgirl too, yee haw!” she laughed. “Sure, we’ve practiced this before. Which one do I get?”

    “Call it Grumpy,” said Thomas. “He can handle the thumper.”

    “I like my thumper,” said Ashley.

    “Fine, I won’t mind carrying a carbine for a change,” laughed Greg Henry.

    “Let’s hold off on that for the moment,” suggested Mark. “We’ve got other teams ready to go. How about putting in Bobby Rivera and his team instead of screwing around with team alignments?”

    “I want a few of the good teams as the ready response in case things go south,” said Thomas.

    “Which I’d prefer having your team backing us up,” said Darren. “Mark has a point.”

    “Okay, let’s put Bobby in place of Ashley. Sorry, no rodeo for you cowgirl,” said Thomas. “But you’ll be on ready reserve for the moment.”

    “Still need someone to round out the equation,” said Ashley.

    “Can’t swing my way into this one can I?” asked Stephen.

    “As a relief team yes, but we still need one of you intel weenies on the ground here deciphering what we are getting from out there,” said Thomas. “And you’re filling in on Rick’s team until we get a replacement in.”

    “How about the new guy? Josh something? You know who I’m talking about, right?” asked Ashley. “New guy that was assigned to Bill’s team for a while.”

    “You mean Josh Wolfe that’s been in the unit for five months now?” asked Darren with a laugh. “That the new guy you’re talking about?”

    “He’s been here that long?” asked Ashley.

    “Yes,” laughed Thomas. “And he’s without a team at the moment, so sure, plug him in. That gives you Jeff, Wolfe and Jill. Kind of on the young side, but they’re okay.”

    “You ever think we’d be in such medical trouble?” asked Michael.

    “Don’t remind me,” said Thomas. “Speaking of, you get those files reviewed yet?”

    “Yeah, I’ve got a couple of names I’ll send to you,” said Rick.

    “Pick one and send it up,” said Thomas. “Your team, your choice.”

    “I’ll have it this afternoon,” said Rick.

    “Airflow?” asked Darren.

    “Need to work it with J-SOD,” said Thomas. “And let’s see if we can get some on call air support like Heather suggested. Or as a minimum the Brigade or Division artillery on priority.”

    “Okay, ready reserve?” asked Darren.

    “My team, Rick with Stephen, Mark, Ashley…who else?” asked Thomas. “How about Joel Tucker and Cliff Morris to round out to six teams? And let’s call Justin Smith and see if he can put two squads on alert for us.”

    It still amazed everyone that even with the stress of the job getting to him, Thomas could still remember exactly which teams were up and which were down. But the writing was on the wall. Minor injuries that went long untreated and zero down time was taking its toll. Members were getting injured far more frequently than they should have and the teams were suffering by having to swap around to get the job done.

    “They are picking up some additional taskings themselves, so two would be a stretch,” said Michael. “Maybe a squad from him and a platoon from one of the down companies?”

    “Which means I’ll have to ask his highness for help,” grumbled Thomas.

    “We can’t pull that many teams from the alignment,” said Dave.

    “Yeah, I know,” sighed Thomas. “Okay, I’ll make the request. Grab everyone else we’ve mentioned and start planning. I should be back in a half hour. Doesn’t take that long for someone to say ‘no’ you know?”

    “Everything looks right,” said Darren. “I’ll handle the airflow.”

    “I’ve got supplies,” said Tim.

    “I’ll send out runners to gather everyone up and start mission planning,” said Mark.

    “And I’ll go beg for help,” said Thomas. “See you in a bit.”

    Thomas headed across the encampment for the Brigade Headquarters and got a ride from a passerby in a utility vehicle. Getting dropped off, he nodded politely at the guards at the entrance and was admitted quickly since they knew who he was. Heading inside the command area, he was searching for the S-3, but was intercepted by the Brigade Commander before he reached the station.

    “Aren’t you supposed to be out on missions?” asked the Colonel.

    “We just finished mission prep and team alignments. We’ll start sending them out probably tomorrow and finishing up tomorrow night,” said Thomas.

    “We pulled you from the line because you got taskings from J-SOD. Now another Company has to pull your weight on the line because of some simple task of looking for a downed pilot. I would have thought you took your duties a little more seriously,” said the Colonel.

    “It’s not exactly like heading out the front door into the yard. It does take proper planning and coordination before teams can go behind the lines,” said Thomas without losing his temper.

    “And why are you here?” asked the Colonel.

    “I came to coordinate the request Brigade and possibly Division artillery in case any of our teams get into trouble. And to request a platoon from one of the down battalions be put on standby as a ready reserve,” said Thomas.

    “Your unit can’t handle the requirements? You have sixty-four people assigned, that leaves plenty for a reaction force,” said the Colonel.

    “Sixty-two since Sergeant Major Carlson and Sergeant Bates are gone,” corrected Thomas. “Bates is being medevaced for long term treatment. And of those remaining, I have eleven down for injuries and put ten teams on mission leaving me eleven for the J-SOD reserve. Which technically is below the minimums for that mission, but J-SOD has been made aware and we can pull a team out of the field for immediate redeployment.”

    “About Carlson, I’ve taken the liberty of finding a replacement,” said the Colonel.

    “Captain Jones was reviewing the packages and submitting a name this afternoon,” said Thomas.

    “Since you and Captain Jones decided to drag your feet in choosing a replacement, I decided the matter for you. The S-1 has the information on the troop being assigned,” said the Colonel. “As for your other troop, make the request through the proper channels.”

    “We’d like to have a little more say in who goes where,” said Thomas.

    “Well, I suppose we could put in a request for another medic,” said the Colonel.

    “Which will take up to six weeks to process and in the meantime, we are stuck without a medic,” objected Thomas.

    “One way or the other, you can have a body now or he goes back into the pool for reassignment,” said the Colonel. “Your decision.”

    Thomas quickly thought about the situation and whether or not it was wise to go without a medic in the time it would take for a replacement. For certain, he would take the body, but he was unsure if the man would be able to be brought up to speed before the next mission. There could always be more team swaps until the new medic was brought up to speed so Thomas figured it would be best to take the man for the moment and evaluate him when he got there.

    “We’ll take him for the moment,” said Thomas. “And the artillery and ready reserve?”

    “Artillery will be on an as needs basis and will go through normal protocols for requests,” said the Colonel. “Ready reserve…I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you go ask the Battalion Commanders themselves and see if they are willing to help? See if they want their tired and worn down troops to support you or not.”

    Thomas knew if he made the request himself he would have no problems getting the manpower he needed. He was on good footing with the commanders and shouldn’t have any issues getting help. “I’ll have to contact Division Aviation for helo support.”

    “Fine,” said the Colonel. “As for your eleven wounded, are they lagging behind?”

    “If any of my troopers get put on medical hold, it’s because they are too wounded to perform missions. Most of them avoid that listing since they’d rather be out in the thick of it and the doc has a hard time keeping them in one place long enough to recover properly,” said Thomas. “And that means the eleven that are wounded are bad enough to warrant being black listed.”

    “We have base details that need to be accomplished,” said the Colonel. “It’s not too much to ask your troopers to do their fair share is it?”

    “I think they are already doing more than their fair share sir,” said Thomas through gritted teeth.

    “If you say so,” said the Colonel.

    “And it does beg the question, when are we going to be replaced and get some R and R? We’ve been passed over four times now,” said Thomas.

    “Everyone gets their turn Major,” said the Colonel. “Yours will come eventually.”

    “The unit is overdue for some R and R in the rear,” said Thomas.

    “Other units have priority. We’ve all seen combat since we’ve been in Europe,” said the Colonel.

    However, Thomas knew the Colonel had been nowhere near combat since his arrival. The entire unit had only been in minor skirmishes kept at the Company level since his arrival save what the 14th had been doing. Thomas knew there was no reason to fight him on it and decided to hold off until he could speak to the J-SOD in private about the decision. Maybe an extended “training” in the rear would be a change of pace. Call it training, but it gives my people a break from the lines for a change, he thought. Talk to them about it after the current mission is over and find a replacement company to fill in for a couple of weeks.

    “Was there anything else?” asked the Colonel.

    “Negative sir,” said Thomas. “And if there’s nothing further from you, I’ll coordinate the artillery and air support and speak with the S-1 about the replacements.”

    “Yes, let the S-1 know exactly how long your medical hold troops will be down for. I mean, maybe a change of pace in doing some minor base details might do them some good and get them outside for a bit,” said the Colonel.

    “I’ll get right on that,” said Thomas as he snapped a quick salute and departed after it was returned. Heading to the S-3 section, he requested the Brigade put a battery of artillery on alert for possible action and gathered the current frequencies they were using. And stopped by the S-1 to get the information on Scott’s replacement as well as letting him know about the medical hold situation. And letting him know to start looking quietly for a replacement for Heath. The S-1 just shook his head and let Thomas know he would continue feeding other squads into the details as long as he could and suggested Thomas pay the doctor a visit to update the profiles with a zero duty descriptions to avoid the base detail listing. Thomas already planned on doing that as soon as he got through with the Battalion Commanders. He was given the name and serial of the newly assigned medic on the team, which generally told him nothing, but Thomas would work his contacts and see what information they could dig up before the replacement got in theater.

    He departed the Brigade Headquarters, still angry from his dealings with the Colonel and headed for the 4th Battalion area. Finding the battalion command post, he again was admitted without being checked and entered to find one of the leadership. He found the commander, XO and S-3 going over a map of the area.

    “Hey Tom, what brings you down here to our area?” asked the Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Curtis Reese. “You don’t look happy.”

    “Oh, just got back from Brigade and you know what fun that always is,” said Thomas.

    “Fun is not quite the term I would apply to it,” laughed Reese.

    “Well, the Colonel says I need to come down here and beg for your troops since I’m short right now and could use a ready reserve,” said Thomas.

    “How many do you want?” asked Reese and not specifically in the form of a question, but offering up as many as Thomas desired.

    “A platoon should cover it I think,” said Thomas.

    “That’s all? Shoot, I’ve got a whole company sitting around on their behinds waiting for something like this,” said Reese.

    “Nah, a platoon should do it. I’ll be arranging chopper assets in case you are needed,” he said.

    “You’ll get my best,” said Reese.

    “I don’t want to leave you shorthanded,” said Thomas.

    “For crying out loud, are you serious? You never ask us for anything and since you’ve come in here hat in hand asking for help for a change, you’re going to get the best I’ve got,” said Reese.

    “How about Reyes and his band of misfits in the recon platoon?” asked the XO.

    “Perfect,” said Reese. “Oh, you’ll like him Tom, he’s a beast. But no headhunting.”

    “Would I ever do anything like that?” asked Thomas with a laugh.

    “Yeah, you would,” laughed the S-3. “You sure you don’t want two?”

    “I mean, if you guys want to designate two in a rotating schedule that works,” said Thomas.

    “Andrews,” said the S-3.

    “Andrews is still getting his replacements up to speed. Caldwell?” asked the XO.

    “Caldwell…no. Same issues as Andrews,” said Reese and thought for a moment. “Goodman.”

    “Yeah, he will do nicely I think,” said the XO. “You need them for planning?”

    “Send them and their platoon sergeants over to our compound say at around 1500 or so. Mark Williams can brief them in on the role,” said Thomas.

    “And you say we are getting chopper assets?” asked the S-3.

    “Gotta work that when I get back,” said Thomas. “But enough for a reinforced platoon.”

    “Heavies?” asked the S-3.

    “Standard weapons assortment,” said Thomas. “Just in case we get into trouble.”

    “Which translates into ‘more than likely we will get into trouble because that’s what we do’ from one Major Thomas Dayfield,” laughed the XO.

    “I don’t happen to go looking for trouble,” protested Thomas with a laugh.

    “You go to Brigade Headquarters,” said Reese. “Which means you look for trouble.”

    The small group was silent for a moment before laughing at the thought. “Okay, you guys got me. They are good to go?”

    “We could do some squad swapping, but I think Goodman and Reyes will be fine,” said Reese.

    “Okay, got some coordinating to do, so I have to run,” said Thomas as he shook the hands of the XO and S-3 before leaving.

    “Let me walk you out,” said Reese. And once they were out of earshot, he asked the question. “Okay now seriously why are you here?”

    “Because our dear Colonel thought I would have to beg for help instead of just asking. He’s got it in his head that you guys don’t like me,” said Thomas.

    “Well, we don’t” said Reese with a straight face. “Okay, I can’t say that without laughing.”

    “Nice to be loved,” laughed Thomas.

    “You ever need anything, and I mean anything, you give us a holler,” said Reese.

    “Two weeks R and R would be good,” said Thomas.

    “Okay, something we can give you,” laughed Reese. “Seriously though, all the battalion commanders know what you’re going through and we’ve all spoken offline about it. And each and every one of us will help you with anything you ask. And when I say anything, that includes if you get into hot water and need some character witnesses.”

    “I won’t get into hot water,” said Thomas.

    “You’re closer than you think. Word around the brigade campfire is the Colonel is looking for any reason to can you. One misstep and you’re history,” said Reese.

    “What?” demanded Thomas.

    “Rumors mainly, but more than a couple of the staff up there recognize a witch hunt when they see it. And the Colonel is looking for anything to get rid of you,” said Reese.

    Thomas was stunned and couldn’t think of anything to say. He just stood there open mouthed at the information he had just received.

    “It’s a like a ton of bricks hit you, I know. But let me tell you one more thing. Each and every battalion commander, XO, company commander, Sergeant Major and First Sergeant is ready to go to bat for you if you need it. We’ve all talked and all came to the conclusion individually that we’d risk our own careers backing you up if push comes to shove. If you’ve never seen an entire brigade revolt, stick around and see what happens if he fires you,” said Reese.

    “I won’t have you guys risking your necks for me!” protested Thomas.

    “You mean the same way you risk your neck each and every time you go out there while we are sitting back here snuggling in our cots? You’ve earned our respect and admiration for the way you’ve trooped on through this whole thing. And you know what? If that means we take a few risks ourselves, then so be it. And I’m reasonably certain the old man at Division will have to take a hard look at what’s going on if every battalion in 1st Brigade decided to sit it out,” said Reese. “So however unofficial this is, you have our support.”

    “I can’t ask for that,” said Thomas.

    “It’s not asking. We came up with this on our own,” said Reese. “So your charge is not to give him any reason to get rid of you. Keep your nose clean and run your unit like you have been.”

    “I can’t make any promises. We aren’t exactly rule followers,” said Thomas.

    “And most don’t care what happens behind the lines,” said Reese. “But while you are here, you have to endure. And I mean that. Your unit needs you. This Brigade, shoot, the whole Division and Coalition Forces as a whole needs you. You’re too valuable to lose.”

    “I’m just a single person,” said Thomas.

    “You’re a bit more than that Tom,” said Reese. “Even if your humility won’t allow you to think otherwise, you are more than just a random dude.”

    “Thanks for the heads up,” said Thomas.

    “You deserve it,” said Reese as he shook Thomas’ hand. “Be careful.”

    “Not sure I know how to do that,” chuckled Thomas.

    “Learn,” said Reese. “And quickly.”

    Thomas departed the area with a million thoughts pouring through his head. He had no idea what was going on in this situation and most importantly, why the Colonel had it in for him. He had never crossed paths before in his career and had been respectful from the beginning with him so he had no personal history that he knew of. He continued to wander towards his compound, the thoughts of the conversation still cascading through his mind.
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  13. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++


    Date/Time: 22 March/1301
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    Thomas reentered the compound still lost in thought over the revelation from earlier. He only knew of one way to command and had continued to do it that way since it worked. And being under the microscope meant he would have to be more mindful of the decisions he made. He saw Mark over by the map shaking his head and went to find out what was going on.

    “Something wrong?” asked Thomas as he looked at the map.

    “We got the initial assessment from the Aussies,” said Mark. “Great stuff and we really need to keep those guys happy for continued contacts in the future.”

    “So why are you shaking your head?” asked Thomas.

    “The Colonel isn’t exploiting some of the things he should. Look here? See this valley? You take that valley and it provides a darn good jumping point for encircling the troops to the south and west by linking up with the Division coming east from Nitra. You can move south continually to this point and maybe beyond Zvolen. Whole lot of options he isn’t considering that are generally low risk, high reward,” said Mark.

    “Still have to get past Ružomberok,” said Thomas.

    “Okay, see this village here? Černová? Only two companies dug in here guarding the approach to the bridges. You take those two out and it opens up the lines to head into Ružomberok. And from there you can either surround and siege Ružomberok or move past down the valley,” said Mark.

    “That was brought up at the last staff meeting,” said Thomas. “The Colonel shot down the idea since it was too risky.”

    “This entire war is too risky,” said Mark. “But it puts the Brigade in a far better position for Operation Ticonderoga when it starts. There is practically nothing behind them for thirty miles besides some small garrison troops at selected villages. And even if the Brigade dug in this valley, we provide the anvil for the Division coming east to hammer the retreating troops.”

    “Maybe you should be in charge of the Brigade,” chuckled Thomas.

    “Not for love or money,” laughed Mark. “I’m a foot slogger by nature.”

    “We get anything further on the target?” asked Thomas.

    “Nothing really ground breaking. Some thermals of patrols and better photos to include some possible internal layouts of the buildings,” said Mark as a knock was heard on the door.

    “Enter,” said Thomas, not looking away from the file he and Mark were looking at.

    “Sir! Sergeant Jamie Collins reporting for duty,” announced the mid 20s looking Sergeant upon entering the building.

    “Were we expecting replacements?” asked Mark.

    “More or less, you have orders assigning you here?” asked Thomas.

    “Yes sir! I’m to be assigned to the 14th Special Operations Battalion, Op Group Alpha,” said the Sergeant. They both noticed he gave a little extra emphasis on the “sir” portion of his speech. He handed over his ID card and a sheet of paper officially assigning him to the unit.

    “I just got the notification you were coming a couple of hours ago,” said Thomas after comparing the identity with the name he had received from the S-1.

    “Sir, I was informed three days ago of my reassignment. It’s taken me a little time to get this far forward,” said Collins.

    “Figures,” said Thomas. “He’s Scott’s replacement.”

    “You’re a medic?” asked Mark.

    “I’m a linguist and a medic, sir,” said Collins.

    “What’s your language specialty?” asked Mark.

    “Arabic sir,” said Collins. “Specifically the Iraqi dialects.”

    “Helpful,” said Thomas. “You bring everything in?”

    “Sir, just my ruck, weapons and sustainment load. The rest of my gear comes in sometime in the next few days,” said Collins.

    “Where are you coming from?” asked Thomas.

    “Just finished Selection and Training, sir,” said Collins.

    “And before that?” asked Mark.

    “I was in the 19th Support Battalion sir,” said Collins.

    “You have lunch yet?” asked Mark.

    “No sir,” said Collins. “I’ve been on the road the entire morning.”

    “Okay, we’ll get you bedded down and fed, then have our initial talk,” said Thomas as he picked up a field phone to call someone to fetch the new member.

    “You have your personnel folder?” asked Mark.

    “Yes sir,” said Collins as he dug out the thicker than normal envelope from his assault pack and handed it over. Mark sat it off to the side so they could review it later. Staff Sergeant Heather Davis appeared without knocking on the door.

    “You rang…Major?” she said after seeing they had unknown company. While she would have typically resorted to first names, she was proper for the time being.

    “Yes, this is Sergeant Jamie Collins and will be assigned to your team. See he gets a bunk and gets fed,” said Thomas.

    “Meet and greet time?” asked Heather.

    “We’re in the middle of something here. Say about an hour and a half,” said Thomas.

    “Roger that,” said Heather. “Come on Sergeant, let’s find you a place to stow your stuff.”

    He collected his pack and snapped up a sharp salute before leaving. Thomas had seen the very proper military type before, but for some reason, he just wasn’t getting the vibe from this soldier. However, proper military courtesies took over and he gave a quick salute before the trooper left. After his about face, they two quickly departed and the door closed behind him.

    “You thinking what I’m thinking?” asked Thomas.

    “Let’s check that personnel file and put in a call to one of our contacts,” said Mark as he pulled a pocket knife and slit open the yellow envelope containing the records. Thomas went to a nearby telephone and called a contact they used from time to time.

    “Blake? Tom Dayfield here…yeah, got a new guy in and need your networking abilities…Sergeant Jamie Collins…ummm, 90-324-7392…new guy who just got out of Selection and Training…19th Support Battalion before that…yeah, just what the personnel folder won’t tell us…just whatever you can dig up…okay, we’ll be here for the next couple of hours…yeah, we got that stuff you sent down…tell your Dad he needs to lessen up a bit on that hooch, it’s a sneaky little devil…sure, sure, anytime you want to come down you know you’re welcome here…talk to you in a little while,” said Thomas as he hung up the phone. “Blake Niles said he’s going to take a look. Find anything useful so far?”

    “Yeah, the 19th Support Battalion was only the last unit he was assigned to. He was in four units before that and bounced out of each. Letters of Admonishment and Reprimand for insubordination…non-judicial punishment for assaulting an officer…performance reports have him firewalled to the max on duty performance, but gave the lowest marks possible for teamwork and military bearing…here’s a citation for bravery during a raid by IU special forces in Manchester…received a Bronze Star for personally taking out a squad by himself…more memorandums for insubordination…he’s a wild card,” said Mark.

    “How did he end up here?” asked Thomas.

    “Last commander hacked off on his application to Cider after he applied. Went through the application and Selection and was accepted although the file says the committee was ‘reluctant’ to send him forward to the Training portion. Got high marks for individual tactics, but low marks for teamwork. Passed, but at the last of his class,” said Mark, handing over the documents he had already scanned over.

    “You passed last of our class as well,” chuckled Thomas.

    “Yeah, but I’m an old fart so I had a good excuse,” laughed Mark.

    “Anything else revealing?” asked Thomas as he scanned over the documents himself.

    “Nothing that stands out in my mind. After the interview, we’ll know more. Maybe he’s just a misunderstood child,” laughed Mark.

    “Aren’t we all,” said Thomas as he reflected on the situation he was in. “I’m going to use some back door channels trying to get us a relief unit in here. Any ideas?”

    “I’ll have to check to see who’s been sitting on their duffs for a while,” said Mark.

    “Quietly,” said Thomas as Rick entered.

    “Okay, jokes over,” said Rick.

    “Joke?” asked Thomas.

    “You are not saddling me with some wet behind the ears, snot nosed rookie with a bad attitude. No way this is going to happen,” said Rick.

    “Word travels fast,” said Mark.

    “This isn’t a joke?” asked Rick.

    “No, he’s your new guy,” said Thomas.

    “He’s not the one I picked out!” objected Rick.

    “I know and I just found out this morning,” said Thomas. “At least give him a shot.”

    “I’ll give him a shot of something all right. Kid comes barging in already causing problems within my team dynamic,” said Rick.

    “What happened?” asked Thomas.

    “He saluted me!” protested Rick.

    “Well, as a minimum he should have smacked you in the face first,” deadpanned Mark.

    “We ain’t that formal as you well know!” protested Rick.

    “He’s young,” laughed Thomas. “He’ll learn.”

    “Background?” asked Rick. He was handed the personnel folder by Mark and started scanning it before a dark look came over his face.

    “Oh, you’ll have fun with that one,” chuckled Thomas.

    “I’ve already got Heather which has her own issues and you saddle me with him?” asked Rick.

    “Just give it a shot first,” said Thomas. “If you don’t mind.”

    “Not feeling the love here,” said Rick.

    “You’ve still got Stephen until he gets up to speed,” said Mark.

    “And no medic,” said Rick.

    “Steve’s pretty good,” said Thomas.

    “I trust you’ll take it under advisement if he doesn’t work out?” asked Rick.

    “Only after, and I do mean after, he’s been properly evaluated,” said Thomas. “And I mean a legitimate shot to show whether he’s capable or not.”

    “Still not feeling the love,” said Rick.

    “Get with Frank and schedule some range time and Darren for tactics,” said Thomas. “And speaking of, I’m pulling Darren’s team from the mission and sliding in Ashley instead.”

    “Okay, something happen?” asked Mark.

    “I have my reasons,” said Thomas.

    “Won’t argue with you,” said Mark. “You mind fetching Ashley after you go back to sulk?”

    “Yeah, I’ll find her,” said Rick as he gathered the personnel folder for further review. He departed the area to further study the folder and start getting to know his new troop.

    “You have this feeling the Colonel scraped the bottom of the barrel to find a replacement for Scott?” asked Mark.

    “I have this feeling this was in the works long before we got the message saying Scott was going to be reassigned. It was a foregone conclusion he was getting shipped out. It takes a minimum of a week to get a replacement assigned and that’s using our channels that cut the red tape. So yes, this child was on the radar long before we got him,” said Thomas.

    “You think it was intentional?” asked Mark as he looked through the computer.

    “Probably so,” said Thomas.

    “Okay, Ranger Company out of the Pacifica 3rd Mech Infantry Regiment has been begging for some field time. That’s McMackin’s outfit isn’t it?” asked Mark.

    “I think so,” said Thomas. “Good guy.”

    “You wanted an idea on a replacement, there you go,” said Mark. “J-SOD coordination should be a cinch and I don’t think McMackin would object.”

    “As long as he doesn’t mind the transfer of authority,” said Thomas.

    “Happens all the time,” said Mark. “Want me to track down the info?”

    “Yeah, please,” said Thomas. “Also, you have two platoon commanders and their sergeants coming over at 1500 for a briefing. They’ll be our ready reserve while we’re out.”

    “You get the transport lined up yet?” asked Mark.

    “No, not yet,” said Thomas.

    “Look, something is going on behind that thick skull of yours. Why don’t you take a little bit of time to sort things out while I work this?” requested Mark.

    “Okay, contact division and ask for the choppers. Also, let them know we are going to be requesting to be on call for some artillery support if needed,” said Thomas.

    “Will do,” said Mark as Thomas departed to sort through the emotions of what he had gone through that day. Once he had left, Mark made another phone call before calling Division and requested Darren come to the center. After several minutes, Darren appeared.

    “Hey Mark,” he said.

    “Hey man, Tom pulled your team from the mission and put in Ashley instead,” said Mark.

    “Why?” asked Darren.

    “Not sure and he wouldn’t tell me,” said Mark. “But when he came back from Brigade, something had changed in him. He’s more reserved and is in deep thought over something.”

    “Wouldn’t say what?” asked Darren.

    “No, but you might be able to get him to open up,” said Mark. “Maybe after supper when he’s had some time to sort through the thoughts.”

    “Yeah, I can do that,” said Darren. “Are the infiltration routes in place?”

    “Yeah, starting day after tomorrow at 0400 and going for the next six hours,” said Mark. “We tried earlier, but J-SOD couldn’t get the aircraft sooner.”

    “Batting order?” asked Darren.

    “Tim and Ashley first to secure the ORP followed by Bobby, Bill, Dave and Mike. Infil here, here, here and here,” said Mark as he pointed at the map. “Ashley and Tim are heading out together and the other four teams have separate assets.”

    “Sound like a plan,” said Mark.

    “So no ideas about what’s going on in Tom’s head?” asked Darren.

    “Nothing I know of,” said Mark. “Let me make a couple of calls and see what I can dig up.”

    “It’d be appreciated,” said Darren.

    “You know, we just got a supply shipment in,” said Mark.

    “Yeah, that’ll work,” said Darren. “Any ice to be had?”

    “I’m sure someone can find some to steal,” said Mark.

    “Okay, any changes, let me know,” said Darren who departed and saw Thomas over by himself. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but he did see something that he didn’t like. He walked up behind Thomas and found yes, he was doing what he shouldn’t be. “Are you serious?”

    Thomas had heard someone approaching from behind him and wasn’t surprised when they objected. He took another drag on the cigarette before turning. “My body.”

    “Sharon would skin you alive if she caught you doing that!” protested Darren.

    “Give me a break will you? It’s been a long day already,” said Thomas.

    “Where did you get that anyway?” asked Darren.

    “One of the MPs,” said Thomas as he took another drag.

    “It helping?” asked Darren.

    “Making me feel guilty,” said Thomas and added a sour face and stubbed out the remainder on the ground. “And reminding me why I quit.”

    “Nine more seconds off your life,” said Darren.

    “All sorts of bad things happening today,” said Thomas.

    “Want to talk about it?” asked Darren.

    Thomas sat in silence for a moment thinking about it. Darren was probably the closest thing he had to a brother in the world and was always the one he could vent to. But this time, he kept it inside. “No, not yet.”

    “Plenty of us around here to talk to if you change your mind,” said Darren.

    “I know and I’m grateful,” said Thomas. “But for now, I still need to make up my own mind about what’s going on and what to do.”

    “Well, in any case, I have a briefing for you tonight,” said Darren.

    “Such as?” asked Thomas.

    “If I told you it wouldn’t be much of a surprise would it?” said Darren with a laugh. “After supper, make yourself available for a briefing.”

    “I’ve got nothing planned,” said Thomas.

    “Until then,” said Darren as he went back to the command center to see if Mark needed any help. It was apparent Thomas has some significant internal trouble going on and whatever Darren could do to help he would.
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  14. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 10

    Date/Time: 22 March/1948
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    “Okay Tom, time for your briefing,” said Darren as he found Tom after he had gotten done with the evening dispatches.

    “What kind of briefing?” asked Thomas.

    “It’ll take too long to explain, just come with me,” said Darren.

    “Is it serious?” asked Thomas.

    “Could be,” said Darren.

    “All right, lead the way,” said Thomas. They departed the command center and headed into the center of the compound where the supply containers surrounded their small rec area. And it appeared Darren had already prepared the “briefing” by putting a case of beer on ice in a cooler. Additionally, the makeshift fireplace they had made from an old drum already had a fire lay inside and was ready for a match.

    “This kind of briefing huh?” asked Thomas with a shake of his head.

    “Yep, a briefing of Coors Light, your favorite, a fire and forgetting about the war even for a short time tonight,” said Darren.

    “Three is the limit,” said Thomas.

    “Okay, fair enough,” said Darren as he grabbed two out and handed one over. They caught up on small talk while sipping on the cold beer and hoping to forget about the war for a while.

    “Hear about Nicole?” asked Darren as they sat on the redneck engineered chairs made from old wooden pallets and looking at the stars.

    “No, something wrong?” asked Thomas as he sipped at the beer.

    “Blew out her knee during parachute training and they removed her from flight school. Tore just about every tendon in her leg and pretty much broke her heart,” said Darren.

    “Surgery?” asked Thomas.

    “Yeah, but it’s one of those things they say can’t really be fixed well enough for her to fly,” said Darren.

    “That sucks,” observed Thomas.

    “She’s heading back out to Colorado. Probably looking for a job at Camp Dugger,” said Darren, referring to the recently renamed North American Union Camp near the Ranch. Renamed for Mike Dugger after his death in an airstrike prior to Operation Phoenix.

    “They going to discharge her?” asked Thomas.

    “Probably when it’s all said and done. She’s desk bound for a minimum of a year with the surgeries and all,” said Darren.

    “Going to get the surgery at the hospital at Carson?” asked Thomas.

    “Probably. And still gets full pay while she’s laid up,” chuckled Darren.

    “Maybe I should blow out my knee,” chuckled Thomas. “Get paid to sit around a while.”

    “You would go out of your mind not doing anything and furthermore not being able to go and do like you are used to,” chuckled Darren.

    “Okay, I’ll give you that,” said Thomas with a laugh. “How is she otherwise?”

    “Apparently somewhat serious about a boy,” said Darren, not realizing the boy was twenty-four years old and more of a man than a boy. But when it came to his daughter, each and every one of them was a “boy.”

    “Is that good or bad?” asked Thomas.

    “Well, I haven’t met him yet, so that’s bad. And the fact I haven’t met him and given him the mean father speech is even worse,” said Darren with a laugh.

    “Couldn’t stay young forever you know,” said Thomas, worried about the day Angel started dating.

    “She’s always wanted to be a grown up, that’s for certain,” said Darren, taking a sip out of the can. “But apparently Janet put the brakes on him already.”

    “How’s that?” asked Thomas.

    “Told him her daddy was a decorated special forces soldier and was an ill-tempered old cuss when it came to his daughter,” he laughed. “And told him I only negotiated from the end of a gun.”

    “And how did he take it?” asked Thomas with a laugh.

    “About like any other typical male in his early twenties would. He didn’t listen,” laughed Darren.

    “Nicole’s got a good head on her shoulders. She’ll be fine,” said Thomas. “You know, I’ve never asked something about your family. Through thick and thin, there are some things I just don’t know about you…”

    “Janet and I were real young when Johnny was born. She was 15 and I was 16,” said Darren as he knew the question Thomas was about to ask. “So yeah, I know the whole boys will be boys thing.”

    “I think Nicole knows how to be proper,” said Thomas with a chuckle. “She’ll be okay.”

    “But it’s not your daughter! My baby girl is getting serious about some boy? I might have to go AWOL to have a chat with him,” laughed Darren.

    “We’ll cover for you,” said Thomas with a laugh. “But no jury in the world would convict you as long as they are fathers with daughters themselves.”

    “Ain’t that the truth,” said Darren as he handed over another beer. They sat in silence and fed a few additional pieces of wood into the fire. The air was a bit chilly, but not uncomfortable.

    “This is about the time I would say ‘it don’t get no better than this bud.’ But that’d be fairly cliché,” said Thomas with a chuckle.

    “Get your mind off work for a bit?” asked Darren.

    “It did and I know that’s why you brought me out here,” chuckled Thomas.

    “Was it that obvious?” asked Darren.

    “Kinda figured you guys were up to something,” said Thomas.

    “You needed a break,” said Darren.

    “We all need a break,” said Thomas.

    “A few days of stand down would be in order for everyone,” said Darren. “Fatigue is setting in and we won’t be worth a darn for the spring offensive if we don’t get some relief.”

    “I’m working it,” said Thomas. “Trying to bring in a relief unit through the J-SOD if I can.”

    “And the leave will still have to be approved through Brigade,” said Darren.

    “Working that as well. I’m calling in a few favors,” said Thomas.

    “Anyone in particular?” asked Darren.

    “General McMackin,” said Thomas. “He owes the unit a favor for that job we pulled in France.”

    “You mean when we stole those steaks for his unit?” asked Darren.

    “That very same one,” said Thomas.

    “Kind of a flimsy favor. We are talking about getting a unit in here to replace us and getting pulled from the line. That’s normally a pretty big deal,” said Darren.

    “Normally, but he has a Ranger unit that’s a little green that he says wants some field time,” said Thomas. “So it works out for us both.”

    “You’ve already talked to him?” asked Darren.

    “Not yet, but I don’t think he would avoid my calls,” said Thomas. “Nice to have friends in high places even when they can’t help in our current predicament directly.”

    “And what did the Colonel say?” asked Darren.

    “Our dear Colonel hasn’t been told yet,” said Thomas.

    “Well, it seems like you’re covering all your bases,” said Darren.

    “I’m not asking for anything more than ten days, maybe two weeks if I can swing it. The rest of the Brigade has rotated out, but it just seems our number keeps slipping down the chain,” said Thomas. “So I bring in the Rangers to replace us and it doesn’t give him any excuses.”

    “Shouldn’t that is,” said Darren.

    “True,” said Thomas. “But with a hack from the J-SOD, it should go through just fine.”

    “But then again, leaves are administrative and anything administrative has to go through Brigade,” said Darren.

    “I’ll call it advanced training in something or other,” said Thomas.

    “And in a spot that’s typically R and R?” laughed Darren.

    “Pretty close to one,” laughed Thomas.

    “Taking a big chance here,” said Darren. “But it is appreciated.”

    “It’s the least I can do,” said Thomas. “And you guys deserve it.”

    “Otherwise, what was going on in your head today? Feel up to talking to it yet?” asked Darren.

    Thomas hesitated for a moment before finally letting someone know about the conversation he had earlier with Lieutenant Colonel Reese. Explaining the situation to Darren, it was like lifting a dark cloud from his mind. Darren took a moment to absorb the data Thomas had given him before replying. “Kind of knew that already.”

    “And you didn’t think to tell me?” demanded Thomas.

    “Not like that Tom,” said Darren. “It’s not a secret that the Colonel doesn’t like you and the next logical step is getting rid of you or at least trying to. I mean, I never thought it through to a conclusion, but the facts support the argument.”

    “Reese says it’s only rumors,” said Thomas.

    “Perhaps,” said Darren. “But there’s always a little truth to rumors and that’s why you pulled me from the mission and kept me close. In case something happens, I’ll be right there to pick it up.”

    “You’re too smart for your own good sometimes,” said Thomas.

    “Don’t hear that too often,” chuckled Darren.

    “It sucks,” said Thomas. “I’ve busted my butt and bent over backwards for that man. And for what? So he can turn around and fire me? I’ve done everything the military has asked of me and a whole lot more and this is the thanks I get?”

    “I don’t think it will come to that,” said Darren.

    “With that man, I’m not sure,” said Thomas as he finished the beer before crushing and throwing the can against a nearby crate. “It’s like the laws of common sense aren’t working when he’s around. This unit can and probably will get him promoted out of here a whole lot quicker if he’d just leave us alone!”

    Darren fished another beer out of the ice before handing it over to Thomas. “Well, this latest mission should get him some good press. Maybe that’s all it will take to get him promoted and out of here.”

    “Maybe,” said Thomas. “But that’s on the Division Commander.”

    “And rumor has it he’s looking to try to get him out of here as well,” said Darren.

    “Yeah, heard that myself,” said Thomas.

    “Look, I can’t tell you what to do except to keep doing what you are doing. It’s worked so far and the rest of us are happy with the way things run around here. So don’t go thinking you have to change the way you do business because you are looking over your shoulder,” said Darren.

    “That also happens to be the exact path that’s probably giving him ammunition to get rid of me. Hope you’re ready to move up in the world,” said Thomas.

    “I think he’d rather keep you in place,” laughed Darren. “I know I’d probably be just as bad if not worse than you are.”

    “Mark needs to get warmed up then,” laughed Thomas.

    “With the way we act? That new kid will be in charge before long,” laughed Darren.

    “I forgot I was supposed to do my meet and greet with him today,” said Thomas.

    “I’m sure the world won’t stop turning if it’s delayed by a day or so,” said Darren.

    “Principle of the matter,” said Thomas as he sipped on the beer. “Last one.”

    “Same here,” said Darren. “Just can’t swig like I used too.”

    “None of us can,” laughed Thomas. “Hell getting old isn’t it?”

    “I don’t know, can you describe how it feels?” laughed Darren.

    “If you weren’t my best friend, I’d probably have throat chopped you by now,” chuckled Thomas. “Or worse.”

    “Like Amber’s ex?” laughed Darren. “That story is one for the record books.”

    “I don’t remember a whole lot of it except I think I threatened a French officer with bodily harm if he didn’t back off,” laughed Thomas.

    “Who hasn’t threatened the French at least once?” laughed Darren.

    “I’m kind of surprised I haven’t been briefed on that by the Colonel yet,” said Thomas.

    “He probably doesn’t know,” said Darren.

    “Let’s hope it stays that way. Assaulting an enlisted member, even a French one, has some serious consequences involved. Like the kind that get you fired,” said Thomas.

    “Better you than Amber. I’d be willing to bet pennies to dollars she would have left him for dead instead of just a twisted arm and wet pants,” said Darren.

    “Wet pants?” asked Thomas.

    “You didn’t hear?” asked Darren. “Apparently the gentleman was leaking when he departed the scene. Or at least according to Stephen he was.”

    “I didn’t notice,” said Thomas.

    “Well, even if it isn’t true, it’s a funny side note to the story,” laughed Darren.

    “True,” laughed Thomas. “It was justified though.”

    “A lot of the things we do are justified,” said Darren. “As long as the end result is good.”

    “I keep telling myself that,” said Thomas. “But wondering what God will say.”

    “You’re not going to get philosophical on me are you?” asked Darren.

    “Nah, just wondering about the end result,” said Thomas. “Wondering if we ever really will make a difference through all this.”

    “I think so,” said Darren. “Give it time to think objectively and when you aren’t under the impending threat of removal. I’m sure you’ll see it’s worth it.”

    “Hope so,” said Thomas as he took another sip. “Do me a favor though.”

    “Sure,” said Darren.

    “Don’t tell Sharon I was smoking,” said Thomas.

    “Our dirty little secret,” said Darren with a laugh.

    “This just sucks,” said Thomas repeating his sentiments from earlier.

    “So are you ready to give in and call it quits? Let the Colonel brush you aside?” asked Darren.

    Thomas’ immediate reply was describing where the Colonel could go and what he could do with himself when he got there. And something he might find hard to accomplish through ordinary means, but was followed by a simple “I don’t quit.”

    “So persevere,” said Darren.

    “If I make a misstep, I’m gone,” said Thomas.

    “You think you have any friends at Division, in J-SOD or in other services?” asked Darren.

    "Yeah, I do,” said Thomas.

    “And none of them would go to bat for you?” asked Darren.

    “Actually Reese said the battalion leaders would support me no matter what and refuse orders coming from him if I get relieved. Not sure how much faith I’d put in that though,” he replied.

    “See? There are some willing to stand up for you. I know the rest of us would in a heartbeat if something happened,” said Darren.

    “I don’t want you guys putting your careers in jeopardy over me,” said Thomas.

    “You’ve always believed in us making our own choices and sticking to them, right?” asked Darren. “And in turn, living with the consequences of said decisions?”

    “I know the point you are about to get at, but one man isn’t worth it,” said Thomas.

    “You’re more than a man you know?” asked Darren. “Oh, I know how corny that sounds and a simple way of looking at it, but you are a symbol and an inspiration to plenty of folks. I know more than a couple of people around here that would have packed it in already if you weren’t around to keep them up. Shoot, since the Fall, you’ve kept most of us alive, motivated and healthy, so what’s changed about the situation?”

    “Point being, a whole lot of people look up to you and put you on a pedestal. A hero to look up to. Now I know you aren’t a hero or larger than life, but that’s because I’ve known you for years. And I know you shun that sort of thing anyway, but the principle applies that you are seen as a rock by those outside our unit. They see you as an effective leader when others are paper tigers. Call it crazy, but folks fight better knowing you are around or helping them. And that goes for this brigade and the entire division. Shoot, maybe even the Corps, I don’t know.”

    “But overall, we believe in you no matter what and will trust your judgment to get us through whatever comes our way. And if for some odd reason you get canned, not a darn one of us will step up and I could almost guarantee the S-1 won’t know what to do with all the voluntary withdrawal forms he’ll get. Because to a man and woman, the entire team here, and likely a lot in the other teams, will resign their position in Cider over that kind of thing. And generally speaking that sort of thing gets noticed by those on high,” said Darren.

    “And the whole lot of you get tossed into a conventional infantry outfit,” said Thomas.

    “Get more sleep that way,” said Darren with shrugged shoulders.

    “I can’t let you guys do it,” said Thomas.

    “And if you aren’t in a leadership position, who’s going to stop us?” asked Darren.

    “I would normally say you, but I know where you stand,” said Thomas.

    “We stand with you. And if it’s in Alaska guarding a radar site, so be it,” said Darren.

    Thomas paused for a moment and took another sip of the beer. Darren could see the wheels were turning in his brain and thinking things through to the logical conclusion as he tended to do in most cases. “I’d advise against it, but people make their own decisions.”

    “I’ve been trying to tell you that!” exclaimed Darren with a laugh.

    “I’m a slow learner,” laughed Thomas.

    “If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s the opposite,” laughed Darren.

    “Okay, stubborn then,” laughed Thomas.

    “Nail on the head,” said Darren as he turned slightly and offered his can. “To stubborn.”

    “To stubborn,” said Thomas as he popped his can against Darren’s and sipped. “Foam!”

    “Yep,” said Darren with a grunt. “Right up my nose.”

    They both started laughing at the unintentional comic relief they both had brought and finished up the cans in their hand. Thomas felt a little better about the situation and also knew there were probably more than just his team that he could count on. They heard a voice behind them and someone digging in the cooler.

    “Can’t believe I wasn’t invited,” said Rick as he took a long pull on a can he had retrieved.

    “We were trying to have a romantic interlude here,” said Darren.

    “I’m sure my showing up won’t break up the bromance,” said Rick as he grabbed two more beer and handed them over. “Don’t make me drink alone.”

    “Three was going to be our limit,” said Darren.

    “And yet you still have another eighteen in this cooler,” said Rick. “Don’t make me put the peer pressure of you two old men.”

    “I’m sure one of the two, or both of us could take you down,” said Thomas.

    “Yep, right after you finish your beer,” said Rick.

    “You don’t argue with logic sometimes,” said Darren as he popped the top on another can.

    They started chatting about the little things in life before yet another voice was heard behind them. “Seems like our spot’s already taken,” said Greg Henry to Brian Holmes.

    “Pity,” said Brian. “Guess we’ll have to join them.”

    “We were discussing how many cans we could crush on Rick’s skull before it knocked him out. Want to get in on the pool?” asked Darren.

    “I’m not sure if there’s enough beer in the world for that,” laughed Brian.

    “Collins, you can come over, we don’t bite,” said Thomas as he noticed the new member of the team watching from a short distance.

    “I didn’t know if it was private sir,” said Collins.

    “What exactly is private?” asked Darren.

    “That thing you’re going to be if you keep it up,” deadpanned Thomas as the others laughed. “You want a beer? Come on over.”

    Jamie hesitated before joining the group, but remained quiet since everyone here was a senior NCO or officer and he wasn’t sure how to act. But he listened in on the conversation and learned a little more about the unit he was currently assigned to.

    “Anyone see a ‘no girls allowed’ sign anywhere?” asked Ashley from behind them and carrying one of her newly acquired bottles of wine. She had Amber and Heather in tow and grabbed another seat before she even got an answer. And Michael and Shannon Parsons were seen behind them coming towards the ever growing group.

    “Only if you get rid of that ridiculous bottle of wine and have a beer,” remarked Thomas.

    “Blech! We’ve got good French wine here,” said Amber as she stole some of the ice from the cooler and put it in a bucket for the bottle of wine. “You guys keep your crap beer.”

    “I swear, Ashley is the only person in this theater that has her own wine bucket, glass set and corkscrew,” laughed Greg.

    “Just because I appreciate the finer things in life doesn’t give you a reason to be a hater,” she smirked and sniffed the cork after removing it. “And it’s got a wonderful nose.”

    “I don’t recall ever sniffing a bottle cap from a beer, have you?” asked Brian.

    “Something to be said about the simple things in life,” laughed Thomas.

    “Kind of like Ashley’s brain?” said Rick with a grin.

    “The same brain that got Tim to steal me a case of wine?” she asked.

    “Only, ‘to make you shut up about it’ in his own words,” laughed Thomas.

    “Better wine than whine I always say,” said Heather as she accepted a glass.

    “Dis a white man only pah-tay?” asked Jeremy Baines as he wandered up with Reggie Nicholson. Nicholson had recently been released from the hospital and was still on crutches.

    “Did you miss Mike and Shannon?” asked Greg.

    “I mean like real black folk,” said Jeremy with a straight face.

    “A real black man is gonna take some young buck behind the storage shed and teach him a few lessons in manners,” said Michael.

    “As soon as you find one, come get me,” said Jeremy as he fished in one of the random coolers for a beer. The group all laughed at Michael’s expense as he made a scene of grabbing Jeremy and lifting him off the ground in a bear hug. And Michael got the last laugh as the can of beer had built up enough pressure to spew all over Jeremy when he opened it.

    “And this is where I’m supposed to say ‘where de white women at’ right?” asked Reggie as he found something to lean against and set his crutches off to the side. He was handed a beer by one of the other members, thanking them since it meant he didn’t have to move.

    “Ahem, did you miss us?” asked Jill Dugger.

    “I mean like girls that can’t beat me up,” said Reggie.

    “That would be about all of them right now, hop-along,” laughed Michael.

    “You could try the 19th Support Battalion. I hear they have a lot of little girls,” said Nancy.

    “Hey, I was in the 19th,” said Jamie and the group got quiet.

    “Yeah, we know,” said Nancy with a hint of a smile. Jamie had a look of confusion on his face until it hit him. The rest of the group was trying not to laugh out loud until he got the joke.

    “Oh, ha ha ha,” said Jamie sarcastically and the group broke out in laughter.

    “Took you long enough,” laughed Amy.

    “Word travels fast about my former unit,” said Jamie.

    “We have no secrets here,” said Darren.

    “But apparently you do have a whole lot of dudes with long hair,” said Jamie with half a grin and attempting to get in a barb on Nancy in retaliation.

    “Okay, that was weak,” said Nancy and added with a sweet smile. “Kind of like your arms.”

    Jamie blushed up at the prod and couldn’t think of anything in retaliation at the moment. He conceded defeat for the moment as the rest of the group gave a chorus of “ohhhhs” and “woos” at him. He gave a polite nod to Nancy with half a smile on his face.

    “You have fun with that one Rick,” laughed Thomas. “He’s off to a bad start letting little Nancy get the better of him.”

    And the group grew a little larger as more and more people came over carrying coolers and seating from wherever they could find it. The conversation turned from work to the little things in life and stories to tell for the younger troops that hadn’t been with the unit very long. Laughter and smiles were contagious that evening and for Thomas it put the thoughts of his current situation out of his mind for a little while as he laughed at a story being told by Bill Meyers about something Stephen had done on a mission. Everyone roared at Stephen’s expense as he held up his hands and attempted to get his side of the story on record, much to his failure. And for a brief moment in time, the entire group forgot about the war and the troubles they were having and enjoyed each other’s company as if they were sitting back at the Ranch in Colorado.

    And for that brief moment in time, only they existed in the world and not a care was had.
    techsar and Sapper John like this.
  15. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 11

    Date/Time: 22 March/1001
    Location: Camp Colby, Republic of Kansas

    Sergeant Major Scott Carlson approached the gate shack by the roadway where he had been dropped off by a local farmer that had given him a ride from the bus stop in the town of Colby. A uniformed MP stepped outside to see who was coming forward and stood a little straighter since he saw it was someone with some rank. “I.D. sir?”

    Scott handed over his NAU ID card as well as his FNC badge and copy of orders assigning him to Camp Colby, located somewhat close to the city of the same name in Kansas. The MP’s eyes opened a little wider when he saw the office of assignment.

    “Apologies Sergeant Major! We weren’t expecting you for another month!” he stammered.

    “It’s okay troop,” said Scott. “Can you point me towards the in processing station?”

    “If you can wait for a moment sir, we’ll arrange for transportation,” said the MP who noticed his partner was already putting in a call for someone to pick up the new highest enlisted member of the camp. Scott noticed he was attempting to hide the minor refuse inside the gate shack hoping the new Sergeant Major wouldn’t notice. The other gate guard came back out a moment after hanging up the phone.

    “Transportation is on the way Sergeant Major. Can I get you anything?” asked the younger man.

    “No, thank you though,” said Scott who was slightly uncomfortable with all the pomp and circumstance. He was already starting to miss the informal atmosphere of the SDR teams. A commercial type truck came rolling up to the gate in short order and a female Specialist came over to introduce herself.

    “Sergeant Major? I’m Specialist Waverly,” said the young female. “I work in the command section of the camp and I’ll get you squared away.”

    “Roger that,” said Scott as he went to pick up his bags. However, he was interrupted as they snatched away the two bags as well as his carry on. He decided it was best and headed over to the passenger seat of the vehicle and hopped in.

    “We’ll get you to your quarters sir to give you a chance to get settled in and then head over to see the boss,” said the Specialist as she started the vehicle.

    “Actually, let’s go see the boss right away. I’m okay for the moment,” said Scott.

    “Roger that Sergeant Major,” said the Specialist as she turned the wheel and headed back into the camp area. Scott saw several formations of troops out running and several individuals heading into what could be classrooms. The barracks area looked neat and most of the grounds were in good order. Short of mass chaos spontaneously erupting in the camp, it appeared everything was squared away for his arrival.

    But he also knew they weren’t expecting him for another month so this was the way it was always kept up. Not that it was a bad thing, but it didn’t give him a lot to do in his new job or at least he briefly remembered what Command Sergeant Majors were supposed to do or thought they were supposed to do. He wondered exactly why he was picked for the assignment and sighed as they arrived at the headquarters.

    “We can leave your bags here Sergeant Major,” said the Specialist as she opened the door for him. He grabbed his small pack that served as a carry-on bag and headed inside the building. Like something from a movie, the people inside stopped momentarily and looked at their new Sergeant Major. They stared for an uncomfortable moment before resuming what they were doing although still sneaking peeks when they could. A Sergeant First Class came up and introduced himself as the NCOIC of the staff and herded him towards the commander’s area. As they arrived, the Specialist hung up the phone and requested he have a seat, the commander will be right with you. He grabbed a seat as provided and a newspaper as well as a cup of coffee immediately appeared beside him by another member of the staff.

    Scott was nervous about the meeting. He was under orders to report directly to the commander of the combat medic school at Camp Colby in Kansas although he hadn’t seen his family yet. He was dressed out in his complete formal service dress along with the numerous awards and decorations he had received in the U.S. Army, Texan Army, the North American Union Armed Forces as well as several foreign awards. And it was an impressive sight to behold. The old U.S. Army Special Forces Tab with scroll was only slightly below the SDR tab with the combat action scroll on his left shoulder and his rank which nearly touched the bottom of the tabs. His right shoulder announced his combat unit patch as well as the years of service running from the bottom of the sleeve. His “salad bar” of decorations ran the full length of his left breast and was partially covered by the lapel of his sage uniform tunic. The badges of master parachutist and combat medical badge were displayed properly on his left pocket and the master freefall badge on his right pocket along with the expert badges in rifle, shotgun, pistol and machine gun. Underneath that badge was the North American Union Unit of Freedom Award with its distinctive gold border. In short, he looked like a walking sales catalog for a military clothing sales and a recruiting poster soldier.

    But the reason he was nervous was the fact everyone kept eyeballing him like a piece of meat as they knew he was getting ready to be the senior enlisted member in charge of the medical school there. And they would glance at top ribbon on his rack of the Distinguished Service Cross he had earned during the Icelandic invasion. And in looking over the ribbon, they wondered what kind of man he was as well as what they would be expected to do. He read through the current newspaper and sipped at the coffee while he waited for the Lieutenant Colonel to get done with his current meeting. Finally after several uncomfortable minutes, the female Specialist approached him.

    “Sergeant Major? The Colonel will see you now,” she said.

    “Thank you,” said Scott as he stood up and went over to the door. He knocked twice as dictated by regulations and stood by as he waited for the announcement to enter the room.

    “Come in,” said a fairly friendly voice from the interior.

    Scott entered the room and snapped to attention before giving a formal salute and announcing his presence. “Sergeant Major Scott Carlson reports as ordered sir!”

    “Have a seat Sergeant Major, please,” said the Lieutenant Colonel after looking him over and sizing the man up. He noticed he was being sized up as well by Carlson. An eye patch covered his left eye as well as a prosthetic limb on his lower left leg and a missing finger on his left hand. His uniform was simple as he was not wearing his full service jacket right then. He returned the salute and set him at ease. “Coffee?”

    “Thank you,” said Scott and immediately turned towards the small pot.

    “No, allow me,” said the Colonel. “Black, right?”

    “Yes sir,” said Scott since the man had obviously done his homework.

    “Please stop being so formal. I should be calling you sir,” laughed the Colonel.

    “Thank you sir,” laughed Scott nervously.

    “Okay, I’ve had the chance to go through your service record,” he started and handed over the cup of coffee and getting right down to business. He took a seat across from Scott and not behind the desk; a fact which did not go unnoticed by Scott. “And frankly, you are overqualified for this position.”

    “I am sir?” asked Scott.

    “More or less, but the fact is, we need your experience around here. But I’ll get to that here in a minute,” said the Colonel. “You just finished your leave?”

    “Haven’t been on leave yet sir. I was instructed to report directly here,” said Scott.

    “The message that was sent instructed your losing unit to afford you thirty days of leave,” said the Colonel. “You just got off the plane?”

    “Practically sir. I flew into Topeka and took the bus to Colby. A local gave me a ride in from there,” said Scott. “The message never got relayed that I had extra time.”

    “I’m not surprised with that pompous brigade commander of yours. He’s about as worthless as a football bat from what I understand. Had the opportunity to meet him a while back and got the distinct impression…well, anyway; I shouldn’t be talking bad of my superiors and all that. We’ll get you on leave as soon as we are done here,” he stated as he turned to the intercom. “Please have the paperwork for Sergeant Major Carlson’s leave typed up immediately. Thirty days starting tomorrow.”

    “On the way sir,” said a voice over the intercom.

    “No sense in you being this close to home without seeing your family. And I think you have earned the right for a little rest,” said the Colonel. “From the looks of it, you’ve been around the block a few times.”

    “Been a few places sir,” said Scott. “And you look like you’ve seen some stuff out there as well.”

    “I was at a battalion aid station in England when the IU decided to drop some artillery fire in on us,” said the Colonel.

    “A Lieutenant Colonel at a battalion aid station?” asked Scott.

    “I was a Major at the time and working on the actual battalion surgeon who had been hit by a rocket attack earlier. Took my eye, part of my leg and a finger. I have some nerve damage in my left hand so my days of emergency surgery are over. But I can still teach so they promoted me and sent me to several schools before I ended up commanding here since the school was in shambles,” said the Colonel.

    “Roger that sir,” said Scott.

    “Now I bet you are wondering why you are here instead of the Special Operations Medical Course in Wyoming,” said the Colonel getting down to business.

    “The thought crossed my mind sir,” said Scott, thankful the Colonel seemed like he was down to earth.

    “Frankly, you are here because I requested you. You were earmarked for Wyoming, but I intercepted you and got you reassigned,” said the Colonel. “Took a bit of finagling, but eventually reason gave well to military necessity.”

    “Oh,” said Scott.

    “Frankly, I need you around here Sergeant Major,” said the Colonel.

    “Please, call me Scott,” said Scott.

    “Okay, Scott it is,” said the Colonel. “I could have had any number of senior enlisted combat medics, but I wanted one with special operations experience. You guys spend a lot of time behind enemy lines and doing things that are generally above your level of training so to speak. Not to say you do a bad job of it, far from it as I saw plenty of Joes coming back you guys had patched up that would have died otherwise. So while you guys may not have been trained for it, your expertise in combat related injuries far surpasses the normal line medic.”

    “Now I’ve seen too many of the combat medics out there today will only do what they have to do and have no initiative to go any further. They leave the heavy work to the surgeons, sometimes with good reason, but we need combat medics that know how to diagnose, treat and repair if the need arises. I need combat medics leaving this school prepared for the worst and able to function in more than just a lifesaving capacity, but in a capacity of being able to treat simple things without having to send them behind the lines each and every time someone gets a paper cut. I need them to be able to perform these items under fire and save lives.”

    “Your job is to train them in ways not covered in the training manuals. Or make suggestions to change to that level of training. You have unlimited access to change the training course as long as it doesn’t get too deep. But I want these folks leaving this class to be able to assist a surgeon in combat and even do some basic procedures if the need arises. You guys out there in Cider and other special operations units know far better what the line medics are lacking; so now is your chance to fix the problems. I’m building this school basically from the ground up and you are an integral part of that. I’m getting rid of the dead weight around here and getting in people that not only know their business, but have been out there doing that kind of job under fire. And I’m starting a rotational period where our instructors get back out into the field every three months to learn what the current trends are and what the folks on the line are doing. We’ll incorporate those lessons learned into the course upon their return. This class will be dynamic and we will do our best to keep up with the current trends,” said the Colonel.

    “I’ll be able to make changes to the curriculum?” asked Scott.

    “Within reason,” said the Colonel. “I mean, I don’t want them to be able to perform brain surgery, but I do want them able to stitch someone up and keep them on the line as opposed to sending them back to a battalion aid station. I saw too many easy problems coming into my patient rooms that could have…should have been treated by a talented medic. And I’ll let you be the judge of what level they need to be at. But keep it realistic.”

    “And about the combat portion of the combat medic?” asked Scott.

    “Simple enough,” said the Colonel. “These folks need infantry skills in order to survive in the real world so to speak. While there are some combat skill related subjects, they mainly rely on what infantry training they learn in basic training to get by. And when they get to their units, they are fairly unprepared for the two way shooting range.”

    “So we need a better combat skills training program?” asked Scott.

    “Have a look at what we are doing first then we’ll see where we can improve,” said the Colonel. “Higher headquarters is already aware that we might be requesting to make the course longer.”

    “I’ll need access to the course training guides,” said Scott, thinking this might not be a bad assignment after all.

    The Colonel nodded to his left at a stack of books on a nearby counter. “Figured you might ask for them so I had them ready. Additionally, I’ll need your eyes on our instructors here and keeping them in line. If they start slacking off, I’ll send them packing and get someone in here that is willing to teach others how to save lives.”

    Scott already had formatted a plan in his mind as he knew more than most what the medics in the combat units were lacking. Being Special Forces by trade, he always attempted to bring them to a higher level in the field, but only on a limited scale. Now he would be able to go from the ground up and mold them into what he wanted and knew the units needed. Thomas had it right that he would have a far larger impact here than he originally realized.

    “And I have free reign to make changes to the staff?” he asked.

    “Again, within reason,” said the Colonel. “I’m betting you already have a list of names you’d like to bring on board here?”

    “I’ve got a few in my mind that have been put out over the years for medical reasons. Some will come if I ask them to and like you sir, they can teach as opposed to fighting,” said Scott.

    “I’ll have my folks check into the administrative side of that,” said the Colonel. “Can you get me a list of names and known addresses before you leave?”

    “Names, yes. As for addresses, not sure on many of them,” said Scott.

    “Well, one thing the Army is somewhat decent at is keeping tabs on its former soldiers,” said the Colonel. “We’ll try to track them down.”

    “Anything else sir?” asked Scott.

    “Physical training requirements were somewhat lacking when I got here as well,” said the Colonel. “I’ve already got a bunch of gym equipment and specialty gear on order, but we need a good program put together for the students that not only strengthens them, but trains them for conditions they will see in combat.”

    “I have a few things in mind I can come up with,” said Scott.

    “And I will be out there with you guys. Just because I’m missing half a leg doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t lead by example,” said the Colonel.

    Scott was already seeing he was going to enjoy this assignment. While he would miss the action out in the field and the camaraderie of working with people he considered his family, he saw the Colonel was giving him a lot of latitude as well as being a positive example of leadership in action. He sipped the remainder of the coffee before replying.

    “I’ve got my work cut out for me then,” was all he could really say at that moment.

    “You were my first choice and came highly recommended by plenty of people in high places in the NAU, strike that, pretty much every North American military. Believe it or not, you’re close to being a household name. People know and respect you which is why I had to pull in quite a few favors to get you assigned here,” said the Colonel.

    “Nice to know I’m infamous,” chuckled Scott.

    “We’re going to change the way we do business and you’re going to be a big part of helping accomplish that,” said the Colonel. “And if there’s no further questions, I’ll get you on your way and ready to start your leave.”

    “I appreciate it sir,” said Scott as he stood and went to the pile of books. Not only were the training manuals for the current school there, but ones from the United States, the AFNAS School and the Pacifica academy. Also were translations of the Russian school and the Cuban training program.

    “Figured we’d take a look at what other schools are teaching to see if we are missing anything. Nobody has the cornerstone on smarts and I figure we can share and share alike,” said the Colonel. “But under no circumstances are those materials to sneak their way into your bags when you leave tomorrow. You can poke through them tonight, you can jot down some ideas while you are on leave, but I need you relaxed and refreshed when you come back next month.”

    “Understood sir,” chuckled Scott as he had intended to take them with him.

    “And I mean that Sergeant Major,” said the Colonel with a smile. “I don’t care how impressive your salad bar looks or how mean you can be. I’m meaner and more stubborn than you.”

    “Roger that sir,” laughed Scott. “If there’s nothing else, I’ll get to my quarters and arrange for the rest of my personal gear to get shipped here.”

    “Cindy, would you please escort the Sergeant Major to his quarters and help show him around,” said the Colonel into the intercom once again. “I’ll meet up with you at dinner at the mess hall. It’s lasagna day and our cooks do it up pretty good.”

    “By your leave then sir,” said Scott as he stood and saluted. The Colonel returned the salute and stood to shake his hand. His grip was firm although not a finger breaker.

    “We’re going to make this place into the premier combat medic school,” he said.

    “Absolutely sir,” said Scott as he collected the materials and was met by the female clerk. He was led to a desk where he quickly signed off on about a dozen forms indicating he was now assigned to the School and was about to depart on thirty days of leave along with two travel days to and from his location. While he knew it would only take one day to get to the Ranch, it always was smart to go for more. When he finished signing and initialing all the forms, the clerk led him outside where she hopped in a UTV and he put his bags in the back. They headed towards the barracks area where he found he would be in in a small villa by himself. However, most of the creature comforts of home were there as he saw the small kitchen had a gas range and a full sized refrigerator. But in the middle of the living room was a woodstove much like the ones they had used overseas. A television and normal living room furniture completed the area.

    “What’s with the woodstove?” asked Scott.

    “The power here gets a little quirky in the winter. The woodstove is a just in case thing,” said the Specialist. “There is a woodpile out back.”

    Scott nodded and headed into the bedroom to drop his bags off. He noticed a queen sized bed along with real sheets and pillows. After having lived in a tent for quite some time, he was going to have to get used to sleeping with four walls and a mattress. “Does any of the staff have families that live here?”

    “The Colonel does and a couple of other instructors,” said the Specialist. “Would you be considering bringing your family here?”

    “Don’t know yet,” said Scott. “For visits, certainly. Living here I’m not so sure of.”

    “Not many like being out in the middle of nowhere like we are,” said the Specialist. “I can let you freshen up and come back to get you for dinner.”

    “Thank you Specialist,” said Scott.

    “My pleasure sir,” said the Specialist and departed the small cabin. Scott looked around the cabin again and got a feel for where he would call his temporary home once again. He started taking his clothing out and getting settled into the quarters, thinking he might enjoy this assignment a little more than he gave it credit for originally.

    Date/Time: 24 March/0354
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    “Got everything?” asked Thomas as he helped put in Tim Daniels’ pack into the Blackhawk.

    “Yep, we’ll be expecting the rest to come wandering in today,” said Tim as he shook Thomas’ hand and retrieved his carbine.

    “We’ve got everything ready in case you get into hot water,” said Thomas.

    “When do we ever get into hot water?” laughed Tim as the engines started and the rotors were turning and starting to push the air downward.

    “Good luck,” said Thomas and waved at the remainder of the two teams on the helo. The rotors were turning faster and Thomas jogged away from the wash. In moments, the Blackhawk had enough lift and took off slowly into the sky, heading out over the encampment and shutting off the running lights as it went eastward.

    “Get to do this three more times,” remarked Darren as they waited until they couldn’t hear the helicopter anymore and headed back into the command center.

    “Wish I was out there with them,” said Thomas.

    “You’ve got your own battles to fight here,” said Darren.

    “Not the fight I want,” said Thomas.

    “It’s the fight worth fighting,” said Darren.

    “You’re not helping,” laughed Thomas.

    “You are beyond help friend,” laughed Darren. “Breakfast?”

    “I’d rather sleep,” said Thomas. But Darren knew he wouldn’t catch as much as a five minute snooze until all the teams were on the ground and secure.

    “Come on,” said Darren. “I hear the cooks are trying Eggs Benedict this morning.”

    “Baldy at it again?” asked Thomas.

    “Who else would think of something like that in this place?” asked Darren with a laugh.


    “We’re on the dark side of the moon,” said the pilot over the intercom which indicated the fact they had crossed the front rtace. “L-Z coming up in ten minutes.”

    “Got it,” said Tim over the headset. Tim flashed both his hands at the remainder of the teams in the cabin as they readied weapons and gear.

    “Five minutes to L-Z,” said the pilot as the door gunners started scanning to the left and right as the helicopter lowered its altitude to barely above treetop level. “Three minutes.”

    Night vision equipment was put on and turned on as the cabin was now bathed in an eerie green glow. Looking out the doorway, the pilots were coming into the area with as much speed as they could manage out of the engines, not slowing even though they were fairly close to the primary landing zone. Suddenly Tim heard “Pull up! Pull up!” through the intercom and saw tracer fire pass the aircraft as it climbed for altitude.

    “Infantry unit on the ground, primary L-Z is busted,” said the pilot.

    “Go for the alternate,” said Tim as the tracers were rapidly falling behind them. Lucky enough, they were moving too fast for the IU patrol to get a good bead on the black helicopter and managed to escape with only a few rounds hitting the aircraft.

    “Took a round I think, tail rotor temps are rising,” said the copilot.

    “Can we proceed?” asked the pilot.

    “Rising steadily, but we can make the alternate L-Z,” said the copilot.

    “Roger, seven minutes to alternate L-Z,” said the pilot as he nosed the aircraft back over and headed back for the treetops. “One minute.”

    The teams in the back got in position to rapidly exit the aircraft once they hit the landing zone. It was something they had performed countless times in both practice and in real world scenarios.

    “Thirty seconds,” was the call as the team chambered rounds into their various weapons. In the last ten seconds the helicopter made a massive deceleration of speed by pitching the nose up and throttling up the engines. Once they were in the small clearing, the aircraft came to a hover five feet off the ground as the teams dismounted by tossing packs off and following them to the ground. They fanned out in a semicircle on both sides of the helicopter as it rose into the sky once again and departed the area. Time in the landing zone was exactly four seconds as it disappeared back into the sky.

    After it departed, the teams removed their earplugs and listened to the sounds in the landing zone, listening for anything out of the ordinary. Conducting a Stop, Looks, Listen, Smell or SLLS, check, they didn’t hear, see or smell anything out of the ordinary and prepared to move. Shouldering up their packs, they departed the area into the relative safety of the nearby woods where they felt far more comfortable in their ability to disappear.


    “Rotor temp is rising,” said the copilot. “Getting close to red.”

    “Nine minutes to friendly lines,” said the pilot. And as soon as he finished the statement, a warning tone was heard in the cockpit right after a thump in the rear of the aircraft.

    “Past redline, we’re losing oil pressure too,” said the copilot as additional warning lights came on and screamed in protest.

    “Send out the mayday call,” said the pilot. “We’re going to have to put her down.”

    “All stations, all stations, this is Boulder Five, mayday, mayday, mayday. We are going down. Tail rotor damage with semi-controlled descent. Sending flight path and coordinates via secure data channel Bravo Two. Mayday, mayday, mayday,” heard Shannon in the command center over the radio.

    “Boulder Five, this is Camelot Base, authenticate Charlie Two,” said Shannon over the radio.

    “Boulder Five sends Whiskey Four Whiskey,” said the copilot.

    “Roger, we have your databurst and will alert teams for rescue,” said Shannon.

    “Much appreciated Camelot,” said the copilot. “Final landing coordinates being sent now.”

    "Go get Major Dayfield and Thompson,” ordered Shannon to a nearby orderly. The Private dashed out of the center over to the mess tent where he found the two in the middle of eating.

    “Sir, Captain Parsons requests your presence immediately!” he exclaimed.

    Without prompting, Thomas and Darren grabbed their weapons and dashed back to the command center, chewing the last bit of food as they ran. Once inside, they were joined by the pilots of a MH-47H Chinook that had been put up temporarily on the base in anticipation of the missions they would fly that day.

    “Boulder Five, the chopper that was taking in Ashley and Tim’s teams, went in here,” said Shannon as she pulled up a map of the area. “They are requesting rescue.”

    “Were they able to deliver the teams?” asked Darren.

    “I believe so,” said Shannon. “They sent a databurst stating the primary LZ had enemy troops nearby and were proceeding to the secondary. The time works out for a successful insertion, so I might imagine so.”

    “What do we have available?” asked Thomas.

    “We’re a Chinook, we’ve got plenty of space,” said the pilot.

    “Okay, get your helo warmed up. Get me Rick and his team, plug in Stephen and Darren, you mind the store,” said Thomas as he turned to the orderly. “Go wake my team and Captain Jones. Let them know it’s for a SAR mission.”

    “Go preflight the bird,” said the pilot. “I’ll stick around for the mission brief.”

    The orderly, flight engineer and copilot darted out of the command center again as Darren came up and spoke quietly to Thomas. “Let me take this.”

    “No, I need to do this,” said Thomas.

    “Let me take Rick’s place then,” said Darren.

    “I want you here in case anything goes wrong,” said Thomas.

    “Got it,” said Darren as the members started appearing pulling on uniforms and gear while still shaking the sleep off. After they all arrived, they were given the impromptu briefing by Shannon about what happened and where they were.

    “Looks to be about ten clicks behind the lines,” observed Rob Davis who had been released back to his team the day before.

    “Partial wooded area,” said Thomas. “Can you guys get into one of these clearings?”

    “This one looks marginal, but doable,” said the pilot as he pointed at the pictures of the area. “About a half a click away from where they went in.”

    “Pretty close for a rescue,” remarked Rick. “A downed chopper is bound to draw attention.”

    “True,” said Thomas. “Have them head…here, four clicks to the east.”

    “Any wounded on the crew?” asked Stephen.

    “Databurst didn’t include that,” said Shannon. “I’ll see if they’re up on their survival radios yet.”

    “Okay folks, assault packs, weapons and ammo, leave the rest of the goodies behind. Brian, grab some demo for the downed chopper in case we can approach. Meet at the helicopter pad in fifteen minutes,” said Thomas. The members headed for the doors to load up on ammo and grab packs. Heather was about out the door when she was stopped. “Trouble.”

    “Boss?” she asked after turning around.

    “Grab a med kit, you just got promoted to medic,” said Thomas.

    “I’m not trained,” said Heather. “Why not grab that new kid?”

    “He’s never even been off this base before,” said Thomas. “No.”

    “If there are wounded, which there always are in crashes, we’ll need a trained medic,” said Heather reasonably.

    “Grab him and Fred Stone,” said Thomas after thinking her idea had merit. They departed the center together as Thomas grabbed his pack, body armor and the remainder of his gear before departing back to the center.

    “Got them on the radio,” said Shannon. “They’ve been advised of the rescue location and will be heading that way. They have two wounded so moving is going to be slow.”

    “Add two to the names listing. Jamie Collins and Fred Stone,” said Thomas.

    “The new kid? He hasn’t even been evaluated yet,” said Shannon.

    “Trouble made the case for a medic, so pressure under fire,” said Thomas.

    “Could be a hindrance,” said Shannon.

    “I’ll toss his butt back in the chopper myself if that’s the case,” said Thomas.

    “Happy hunting,” said Shannon.

    “Be back in a flash,” said Thomas as he departed.

    “He’s taking a huge chance with that kid,” remarked Darren.

    “Tom’s a smart guy and knows what he’s getting into,” said Shannon.

    “True,” said Darren. “Have you notified brigade and J-SOD of the mission?”

    “J-SOD yes and was given a green light. And I’m kind of waiting on brigade,” said Shannon.

    “You think they would pull us back?” asked Darren.

    “I don’t know and that’s specifically the reason I won’t ask yet,” said Shannon.

    “Smart girl,” said Darren. “I’m going out to see them off. I’m on the radio.”

    “I’ll let you know if anything changes,” said Shannon who continued to monitor the situation and prepared the briefing for the Brigade.

    After arriving at the chopper pad, Darren took Thomas off to the side once more. “You sure about this? You and the new kid?”

    “Positive Darren,” said Thomas over the whine of the now starting engines.

    “Be careful out there,” said Darren.

    “I always am,” said Thomas as he boarded the helicopter. The rotors started whirring faster, making the distinctive deep base whooping sound the Chinook was renowned for. And for the second time that morning, he watched a helicopter fly off the base and disappear into the growing daylight. Once it had left, the radio in Darren’s ear went off.

    “Brigade says put the mission on hold,” said Shannon. “The Brigade Commander has to be advised before it can proceed.”

    “Too late, they’ve already departed,” said Darren who knew that any time wasted during a rescue increased the chances of the crew being captured or killed. And as these crews were the ones that often flew into dangerous situations to pull the teams out, the least they could do was go in and get them.

    “Want me to recall them?” asked Shannon.

    “You sure we have the proper frequencies for that aircraft?” asked Darren.

    “Power spike just reset our equipment,” said Shannon after a moment’s pause. “Will be at least ten minutes before we can reestablish secure communications.”

    “Too bad,” said Darren more to himself than to Shannon as he knew that in ten minutes, the chopper would be behind the lines or close to it. He couldn’t hear the aircraft any longer and slowly walked back towards the command center, hoping, as always, the teams would come home alive, safe and unscathed.
    techsar and Sapper John like this.
  16. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 12

    Date/Time: 24 March/0617
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    “They did what?!” demanded the Brigade Commander.

    “Sir, a helicopter that was inserting the Cider teams went down behind the lines. The remaining forces here went out on a search and rescue mission,” said the orderly.

    “On who’s authority?!” thundered the Colonel.

    “They got approval from J-SOD sir. And actually, that type of mission is in their standing orders from J-SOD,” said the orderly. “We asked them to hold until you were briefed, but they stated they were having communications problems with the helicopter and the mission departed before they could reestablish the link.”

    “Oh, I bet they very well did!” exclaimed the Colonel. “Get Dayfield up here now!”

    “Sir…Major Dayfield is leading the mission,” said the orderly meekly. He saw the Colonel turning about eighteen shades of red upon that announcement.

    “Get the senior officer in the 14th up here right now!” screamed the Colonel. The orderly departed back to the operations section where they had already passed on the message and were waiting the arrival of Major Darren Thompson.

    “You called it sir,” said the orderly as he pulled a five NAU Credits out and passed them over.

    “Work around someone long enough and you start figuring them out,” said the Captain.

    “Why would he stop a mission like that?” asked the orderly. “It’s a rescue.”

    “I honestly don’t know,” said the Captain. “Just bad blood I suppose.”

    “Not cool playing with the lives of those pilots,” said the orderly.

    “Sometimes I don’t think he cares as long as Tom Dayfield doesn’t get in the spotlight,” sighed the Captain. “And of course, I never said that.”

    “Said what sir?” asked the orderly.

    “Quick learner,” said the Captain as Darren entered the facility. “And the Christian has arrived in the Coliseum.”

    “Not so sure he isn’t a lion sir,” said the orderly under his breath.


    “Brigade is requesting your progress,” said Shannon over the radio.

    “Let them know we are behind the lines,” said Thomas over the headset.

    “And also made the request of why you are on the mission,” said Shannon.

    Thomas didn’t answer as he knew anything he said would be completely out of line and insubordinate. He focused on the mission at hand and switched back over to the intercom. “How long?”

    “L-Z coming up in three minutes. We have the locators of the pilots. They are about fifteen hundred meters away from the L-Z,” said the pilot.

    “Get us in close and we’ll fastrope in,” said Thomas.

    “Roger that,” said the pilot as he slightly adjusted course. “Want us to wait at the L-Z?”

    “Negative, go into circle pattern above small arms range, we’ll call you when we are in the clear,” said Thomas as he clicked off the intercom. “We’re fastroping in! Two minutes!”

    The flight engineer had already prepared for that possibility and had hooked up the long static lines just after they were airborne. She opened the back ramp as well as the side doors as the ten individuals prepared to slide down the ropes and into hostile terrain. The helicopter slowed down although not as quickly as the Blackhawk from earlier and eventually started hovering near a small clearing in the trees, barely big enough for the two ropes to reach. He lowered the helicopter into place and came to a hover as a large and inviting target.

    “Go, go, go!” announced the flight engineer and kicked out one of the rope bags herself. As soon as the bags were deployed and the lines looked to be untangled, the teams started sliding down the ropes to the ground with a second pause between them. Once all ten were on the ground, the helicopter immediately applied power and rose out of the clearing.

    “Can you get the ropes back in?” asked the pilot.

    “Gonna take a minute or two,” said the flight engineer as she was already steadily lifting the heavy ropes back inside.

    “If we can’t get them all back in before the pickup, cut them,” said the pilot.

    “Got it,” said the flight engineer. As the ropes were well over fifty pounds apiece, she was glad her daily workouts kept her in good enough shape to pull them back in. But it was a tedious and tiresome job as she had to deal with both.

    On the ground, Thomas checked his communicator and found the signal from the downed pilots was strong. Using hand and arm signals, he pointed the team and sent them towards the signal. While he couldn’t get a triangulation, if they continued in their straight line bearing, they would encounter them before long.

    After two hundred meters traveled, Heather put up her hand in the “hold” sign and peered forward intently. She could hear something in the background quietly working its way through the woods near to where they were. She slowly pointed in the direction she heard the sounds coming from as she was joined by Rick.

    “More than a single group,” she whispered. “Hundred fifty meters or so.”

    “The crew?” asked Rick.

    “More than that,” said Heather.

    “Warbucks, Badaa, we have hostiles out here,” said Rick over the radio.

    “Size and location?” asked Thomas.

    “Unsure, but approximately hundred fifty meters to our ten o’clock,” said Rick.

    “Press forward, quietly,” said Thomas as he spread out the remainder of the teams into a short skirmish line. Being new, he put Jamie Collins and Fred Stone on rear security as they pressed forward.

    Jamie was just about to jump out of his skin. He had barely been assigned to the unit for three days and was already out on missions prior to even being evaluated. He hadn’t asked to be on this mission and wondered why they had picked him when they had other competent and qualified people that could have gone. He continued to look behind them expecting to get shot at any given point in time. His plan had completely backfired on him as evidence of where he happened to be at right then and there. Small arms fire to their front jarred him back into reality and almost caused him to send a shot off himself. The team hit the ground as three weapons were heard firing to their front.

    “Sounds like an MP7, a Mk 18 and a pistol,” said Heather. “To our front, seventy meters.”

    And calls in Arabic were heard from the location they had heard the sounds from before. A minimum of a squad and maybe even more were heard returning fire on the downed crew and attempting to destroy them in place.

    “Badaa, set up a base of fire here on their flank. I’ll take my team up the right and try to get into position to cover the pilots,” said Thomas.

    “Got it, moving,” said Rick as his team heard the instructions and were bounding forward into place. They started seeing individual IU infantry through the trees, but wanted to get a bit closer before opening fire. After covering another fifty meters, they found cover and the command of “open fire!” was given. They managed to catch six of the IU infantry exposed and hit them in the first two volleys.

    “Fifteen IU soldiers to our front, fifty meters and beyond!” called Rick over the radio.

    “Check your nine! Another squad coming in!” yelled Thomas as he noticed another IU squad coming in from the left of Rick’s team. He and his team quickly started laying down fire on the new squad and pinned them down for the moment. Amber saw a member of the group on a radio and fired a grenade from her launcher that hit right in front, killing or wounding three of them. As the squad was now leaderless, the Cider team had the opportunity to go on the attack and hopefully push them back around towards the remaining IU squad.

    Rick’s team was effectively pinned in place while Thomas was attacking through. And although deadly, the fire being placed on them was random and meant more to keep them in position rather than kill them. The weapons fire from the helicopter crew position was silent for the moment as the IU squad to their front was regrouping.

    Thomas managed to get the additional IU squad to retreat back towards the remainder of the forces and started pushing forward to line up with Rick, more gunfire was heard from the chopper crew position once again as targets of opportunity presented themselves to the crew. After they got on line, Thomas’ and Rick’s teams covered each other in bounding forward attempting to keep the IU pinned in place so the crew could be retrieved. When they got closer, Thomas turned to instruct Jamie and Stone to move forward. But by the time he had turned to yell, he caught the two out of the corner of his eye already moving towards the downed crew.

    “Keep pressing them forward,” said Thomas over the radio as he fired another string of shots at the IU forces. His magazine went empty and he announced “I’m out, reloading!”

    “Got you covered!” said Amber as she took another two shots at an infantryman that had exposed just enough of his body for her to make out a target. A split second later she heard Thomas call “I’m up!” as he resumed firing. Her own rifle ran dry as another infantryman popped up to her immediate front and after she had fired a single shot. Without hesitation, she immediately transitioned to the H&K P30 at her waist and fired another three rounds into the man. “I’m out! Reloading!”

    “Got you covered!” yelled Thomas as the IU squads appeared to be in some sort of retreat. They were firing wildly behind them attempting to keep the Americans from advancing further in a hasty retreat.

    “No targets!” yelled Rick.

    “Move forward and set up a skirmish line beyond the pilots!” yelled Thomas as he and Amber bounded forward and were followed by Greg and Brian once they were in position. Once they got past where the crew was located, Thomas instructed Amber to “hold here” and went to the crew where he found Jamie already at work on the injured door gunner.

    “Compound fracture in the left tibia and a sliced artery Major. Artery is clamped, but I’ve got to get a splint on it before we can move,” he said as he finished off the IV line.

    “Time?” asked Thomas.

    “Three minutes to set,” said Jamie. “Four max.”

    “The rest of you okay?” asked Thomas.

    “Broken wrist on that one, those two have bumps and bruises,” answered Jamie without being prompted and even though he hadn’t been addressed.

    “Need help?” asked Thomas.

    “I need to wake up and find myself in Nebraska,” said Jamie. “You want to help, get the stretcher ready.”

    Arabic commands were heard in the distance as another attack was coming soon. “Warbucks, we’ve got another attack coming in,” said Rick over the radio.

    “Make it faster than three minutes,” said Thomas as he bounded back to the line. They heard noises coming from the right of their position and an IU fire team had snuck up towards the aircraft crew and were preparing to fire.

    “Cover!” screamed Thomas as Jamie immediately went into action, drawing his pistol and firing triple taps into two of the infantry that had snuck up on them. Two in the chest and one in the head were perfect strings of fire as Thomas engaged the other two out of Jamie’s field of fire. However, he and the remaining IU fired at the same time with Thomas getting a round in the body armor for his troubles.

    “You okay?” yelled Jamie as he scanned the area.

    “Little sting,” said Thomas as he felt inside but found no blood on his fingers. Jamie quickly went back to finishing up the splint and hauled the pilot onto the stretcher. Thomas recovered and got back on mission of securing the pilots and his teams.

    “You and you! You will carry him to the L-Z! Got it?” he instructed the other door gunner and copilot and to the injured pilot he instructed “You stay in front of us!”

    “Got it,” said the copilot as the IU attack was resuming.

    “Major, we’re ready to move!” shouted Jamie.

    “Break contact!” yelled Thomas. “Badaa! Get your team back!”

    “Roger, moving!” yelled Rick as they headed back as pairs and the IU infantry were seen through the trees once again. After fifty meters, he called to Thomas “in position!”

    “Moving!” said Thomas as his team bounded back as well. The IU wasn’t moving forward as quickly as they could have and the distance was growing between the two groups. However, Murphy made an appearance as he was supposed to as the copilot caught a round in the pelvis and dropped to the ground screaming.

    “Major, we’ve got a problem!” yelled Jamie as he went over to diagnose the latest wound. Not that it needed much as the femoral artery had been hit as evidence from all the blood spurting out. “We need to hold!”

    “Leave me!” screamed the copilot.

    “Not on your life!” yelled Jamie as he ripped into his medical kit once again. “And lie still!”

    “I’m dead, I know this, now leave!” yelled the copilot.

    “You aren’t dead until I say you can die, now shut up!” growled Jamie and grabbed the two large hemostats from the proper pouch. “Need a minute Major!”

    “We may not have a minute!” yelled Thomas as he came back to see what the problem was this time. “Hold the line!”

    “Hold him down!” ordered Jamie as he attempted to clear away the clothing and the blood to get the hemostats in place. Thomas did his best to restrain the copilot as Jamie worked as quickly as possible under the circumstances. Thomas could already see he was very talented and worked quickly under pressure.

    The IU seemed to sense the withdrawal of the troops was being held up for some reason and pushed forward once again. The attack seemed to be stronger as they had gotten reinforcements from the remainder of the company they had been attached to earlier. Two full squads pressed the attack towards the American team, desperate to stop them.

    “Smoke!” yelled Rick and the two grenade launchers thumped out the grenades that started spewing out yellow smoke after impacting to the front of their line. Two additional high explosive grenades were launched into the front just to give the IU something to think about. Sporadic gunfire was heard as the IU forces attempted to flank the American team once again and catch them in a crossfire.

    “Ready!” yelled Jamie as he finished clamping the artery and preparing a folding sked. He managed to muscle the copilot onto it and get him strapped in. Stone had taken the copilot’s place on the stretcher and was prepared to move.

    “Move!” yelled Thomas as he sent fire down their right flank where he spotted yet another IU team. He managed to hit one and caused the others to take cover and momentarily halt their advance.

    “Warbucks, this is Boulder Four, we have yellow smoke approximately two hundred meters from the L-Z,” Thomas heard the pilot of the Chinook say over the radio.

    “Copy Boulder Four, we are behind the smoke by seventy meters coming in hot. Two critical casualties coming in first. Clear for landing,” said Thomas.

    “Can you confirm none of your guys are beyond the smoke?” asked the pilot.

    “Negative, we are all north of the smoke,” said Thomas.

    “Light it up Erin!” Thomas heard over the radio. Suddenly a GAU-19/B .50 caliber minigun was heard from above as shells started striking the ground to their front as the helicopter roared overhead. Several IU attempted to engage, but the helicopter managed to clear the area before being hit significantly.

    “Get clear Warbucks!” called the pilot over the radio as the minigun continued to spew out death to the advancing IU infantry. The teams fell back and saw Jamie, Stone and the injured already waiting at the clearing.

    “We’re in position!” called Thomas over the radio and fired off a full magazine into his front. The remaining team members started dumping rounds in an attempt to forestall any attack the IU could make. The Chinook came in and flared for a landing with Jamie, Stone and the door gunner carrying the wounded out before they touched the ground. After depositing the copilot, Jamie turned to Stone and instructed him to finish loading the crew as he was going back to help. Before Stone could object, Jamie was already running back towards the treeline. However, he was prevented from moving further since the remainder of the teams came bounding out while firing and moving. Since they were in the open, they made a mad dash towards the helicopter.

    But Jamie was unfamiliar with the tactics and hesitated while waiting for the IU to appear. He felt like he needed to cover the team, but was wrenched around by Rick as he passed by, the last in line.

    “Get on board you idiot!” yelled Rick as the IU gunners started firing through the trees hoping to score a hit on the large helicopter target. Jamie and Rick both dove onto the ramp of the helicopter while the flight engineer started sending a steady stream of .50 caliber bullets towards the trees. Greg and Rob Davis joined her as well with their own machine guns in helping to cover the withdrawal. The engines roared as the pilot pushed the throttle to full power and lifted the large helicopter off the ground. The sudden lurch cause Rob to go off balance and almost roll off the ramp as they gained altitude. However, he was grabbed at last moment by the flight engineer and hauled on board.

    “Thanks!” he exclaimed.

    “No problem,” she replied.

    “I love you!” he exclaimed in the heat of the moment.

    “I get that a lot,” she grinned and started closing the ramp.

    “Thanks for the help,” said Thomas as he donned a headset.

    “Least we could do, besides, my flight engineer loves the big guns,” laughed the pilot. “We heading back to your brigade?”

    “Yeah, set frequency 126.5 sideband bravo,” said Thomas.

    “Okay, it’s set,” said the copilot. “Seventeen minutes out.”

    “Archangel, this is Warbucks, come in,” said Thomas as he called the hospital.

    “Warbucks, this is Archangel, go ahead, over,” said the voice on the other end.

    “Archangel, this is Warbucks, be advised, we are inbound with two critical casualties and one routine casualty. E-T-A your location will be approximately twenty mike. How copy over?” said Thomas.

    “Warbucks, can you give nature of injuries?” asked the doctor as he came on the line.

    “Standby,” said Thomas. “Hey Collins!”

    Jamie didn’t hear Thomas when he called as he was attempting to get another IV started in the copilot so Thomas called again. “Hey new guy!”

    “What?” asked Jamie as he turned around.

    “Doc is on the radio, needs you to tell him what the injuries are,” said Thomas as he handed the headset towards him. However, Thomas could see he was busy and went over and put the headset on so he didn’t have to stop what he was doing. He finished up getting the IV into place and took the vital signs of the copilot and relaying them before going to the door gunner and taking his. He also relayed the further injuries to the crew as well as blood type so the surgical team would already have additional units set when they arrived.

    “Pretty good for not having any formal training in our group,” said Thomas as he took a seat next to Rick.

    “Except for being an idiot and standing there when the chopper was on the ground,” said Rick.

    “One minor point,” said Thomas.

    “Still not liking him,” said Rick. “He saluted me and calls me sir.”

    “Better than what we call you,” laughed Thomas. “Everyone else okay?”

    “Stephen took a graze and that’s it. Couple of stitches and he’ll be back at it,” said Rick. “Couple of folks took some hits to the vest, but no injuries other than bruises.”

    “Like that?” asked Thomas as he pointed at Rick’s vest. The path of a bullet was seen through one of the pouches and the round itself embedded in the armor.

    “Cutting it close I’d say. Felt something hit, but didn’t realize it until now,” said Rick. “You took one too?”

    “Yeah,” said Thomas as he plucked the round out of the armor. “Another bruise and another keepsake for the jar.”

    “You’re too sentimental,” laughed Rick.

    “We got real lucky,” said Thomas. “That was at least a platoon.”

    “Mad skills on my part, but you believe in luck,” laughed Rick.

    “We’re back over friendly lines,” said the flight engineer.

    “Thanks for the help,” yelled Thomas in return.

    “No problem. And can you please let your troop over there know I don’t want to get married?” she replied and pointed at Rob Davis.

    “Rocky!” yelled Thomas across the compartment.

    “Boss?” he yelled in return.

    “You annoy this nice lady again and I’m going to let her throw you out of this chopper!” yelled Thomas in return.

    “Roger that boss,” yelled Rob with a grin and a thumbs up.

    “She says you’re ugly anyway,” said Thomas.

    “Now I know you’re lying! Can’t be me and be ugly!” exclaimed Rob as the stress of the rescue mission and being shot at yet again was wearing off the teams.

    “I didn’t say he was ugly, but I’d at least like to get to know him first,” she laughed.

    “He’s annoying and will pester you to death,” said Heather.

    “He can’t be that bad,” she said and looked at him again.

    “I know better than most; he’s my brother,” laughed Heather.

    “Got it,” laughed the flight engineer and started preparing the helicopter for the landing at the hospital. While the pad wasn’t designed for the large Chinook, it had a talented crew that could just barely make it fit as long as they were careful. They flared out over the pad and gently touched down right in the center with about two feet to spare on all sides. The surgical staff swarmed over the ramp area and were assisted by Jamie in unloading the two critical casualties. Before he hopped off the ramp, he was stopped by Thomas. “Catch up with us back in the compound!”

    “Roger that!” he yelled in return over the sound of the rotors.

    “Good job today!” yelled Thomas and gave him a thumbs up. Jamie didn’t say anything but ran along with the doctor already looking over the copilot and briefing him on the condition.

    The chopper lifted back off and headed the short distance to the helicopter pad near the compound. They came in for a landing and shut down the engines before the teams unloaded.

    “Okay folks, debrief in twenty,” said Thomas and was met as he departed the helicopter by Darren and another man he recognized as the senior MP on the base. “Hey guys. Scott, what brings you out here?”

    “Tom, you’ve been ordered to report to the Brigade headquarters,” said Major Scott Kinsley.

    “Am I under arrest?” asked Thomas.

    “No, the Colonel just wanted to make sure he had your attention,” said Scott. “This wasn’t my idea by any means.”

    “He could have just said please,” said Thomas. “Okay, let me get done with debrief.”

    “I’m afraid he said immediately,” said the Major.

    “Right,” said Thomas and grabbed Rick to let him know he would have to handle the briefing. He departed with the two in a MP marked vehicle for the drive up to the headquarters. Upon arrival, the staff got eerily silent at his appearance and parted as he walked towards the commander’s office. Like something out of a movie, everyone stopped and stared as he walked through the room towards the office. Once at the door, he handed of his carbine to Darren with a very knowing look and knocked twice per regulation.

    “Get in here!” thundered the Colonel from behind the closed door. Thomas looked at Darren with an entirely different expression before he opened the door and closed it behind him.

    “Uh oh,” said Darren.

    “What?” asked Major Kinsley.

    “You got a few more of your troops around?” asked Darren.

    “Do I need more?” asked Kinsley in a worried tone.

    “You might want to call in your crime scene unit,” said Darren. “It’s about to get ugly.”
    techsar and Sapper John like this.
  17. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 13

    Date/Time: 24 March/0902
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    “How dare you mister!” bellowed the Colonel after Thomas came to parade rest in front of his desk. “How dare you go running off on some mission without my authority!”

    “Excuse me?” asked Thomas.

    “You heard me Major! You do not, I repeat not go running off on some half planned out mission without submitting your request through me! Do you understand me?!” thundered the Colonel.

    “Pardon me sir, but our standing orders from J-SOD specifically list search and rescue as a primary mission when the aircraft crew happens to be in our area of operation! And in this case, they weren’t just within our area, they were on a mission from us!” growled Thomas in return.

    “And you come into this office, unshaved with a dirty uniform! Where is your pride in what you are doing?! Perhaps if you took a little more consideration with your personal appearance you would at least look like a better leader!” exclaimed the Colonel.

    “I’ve been up since 0300 this morning sending off two of my teams on a mission. And went out at 0530 on a rescue mission per my standing orders from a way higher authority than you! And as soon as I land, you yank me in here for God only knows what so forgive me if I haven’t been able to clean the blood from the copilot off my hands yet! Furthermore, I’ve got more teams leaving in the next hour and I would like to be there for them as well. You know, it’s a leadership thing like you should be doing!” said Thomas in an elevated voice.

    “I don’t answer to you in leadership abilities!” thundered the Colonel.

    “You want to sit here and talk about how this unit happens to be under your command but you don’t even care enough to get up and see your only special operations capable unit off when they leave for missions? You think a unit like mine gets managed from behind a desk?!” said Thomas in as close to a yell without being called it.

    “You just shut your mouth until I’m through with you! I cannot believe for one second that with all the teams in your unit you were the only one available! And you go running off like a scalded dog without even consulting your leadership! I cannot even begin to comprehend what goes on in that mind of yours…” said the Colonel and continued berating Thomas in a very loud manner and listing what he considered the significant flaws in his decisions and leadership to that point. He finally started to rise out of his seat while Thomas was attempting to make sense of why he was being briefed over a simple rescue mission in which not only did they get the crew back alive, but both the teams with barely a scratch even though having a pretty close call. The Colonel continued droning on and on and suddenly it reminded Thomas of those old Charlie Brown cartoons where the teacher would continue talking to where nobody could understand her. But something inside Thomas finally gave way. His dam had finally broken and he was at the end of his emotional rope with nothing more to lose.

    “Enough!” he thundered back and slammed his fists down knuckle first on two piles of folders on the Colonel’s desk. With a look of pure evil, he stared at the Colonel and dared him to continue with nothing but the look on his face.

    “Excuse me?” asked the Colonel in a quieter tone.

    “You heard me,” said Thomas through gritted teeth. “Now I’ve had about all the verbal abuse I’m gonna take today from you so you had best listen good and hard to what I have to say. Frankly, I don’t work for you and when it comes down to who I pick and who I do not for my missions I get the choice, not you! I get tasking from J-SOD, of which SAR is one of them and I do not, repeat do not have to consult with you on. Period! That is way outside your lane Colonel and how dare you even think of trying to tell me who you think should be going when you haven’t the first clue about special operations in the first place! So I will not be berated by you any further nor have you question my intelligence in anything in which you are entirely incompetent with in the first place!”

    “So you’d best understand me clear as a bell right now. I went on that mission today because I was the obvious choice! I led that mission to rescue that downed aircrew! And the decision was mine and mine alone! And now you want to sit up here with your dead ass Velcroed in that chair trying to question my competence when you won’t even take long enough to come down and see the teams off this morning like a good leader should have?! How dare you even think you have one iota of standing to question the job or my performance of such! Especially in light of how worn down and fatigued this unit happens to be right now!” said Thomas as his voice was elevating through the entire speech. Before the Colonel could respond, Thomas cut him off.

    “You might as well go out and buy sixty-three saddles and strap them on us Colonel, because you are riding this unit straight into the ground! So don’t think for one second that I don’t know what you’re doing here! You may have it in for me and that’s fine, but you had best leave my troops out of this! They have been forward deployed since October without a break! And while every other member of this brigade had rotated out at least twice, you, and you alone, keep slipping us back down the order! So let me make myself perfectly clear, I don’t care how tired and how many times indirect fire land five hundred meters away from other troopers out there! My people get shot at almost each and every time they go behind the lines! And yet you feel we aren’t doing enough so you assign us to these pissant details like base cleanup and relieving a normal line infantry company that’s already been ahead of us twice in the relief rotation! So I’m not sure short of dying how much more we have to do to make you happy! And again, whatever personal issue you have with me needs to end with me because my troops are tired, fatigued and ready to break at any point in time!”

    “So let me make one thing perfectly clear to you, Colonel. You have absolutely zero authority to tell me how good of a job I am doing! And furthermore, these needless details being assigned to my unit will stop! Period! I don’t care if you are buds with the IG at Division! I’ll go straight up to Corps with everything you have done to this unit as well as how grossly incompetent you are in this position! So get this through your head that you will order in a relief team when we complete this mission of looking for the downed pilot! You will be removing us from base details due to the fact that we are constantly on a state of alert! You will approve the award I’m getting ready to put forward for Sergeant Jamie Collins and you will say nothing about it? Got me?” thundered Thomas.

    “How dare you-” started the Colonel in a low voice after he managed to close his mouth.

    “How dare you Colonel!” said Thomas through gritted teeth once again. “Your actions are borderline criminal in nature and I can flat guarantee if you went into a court martial proceeding you would end up being found guilty of gross incompetence and criminal negligence. And damn your political connections when it comes to that. Because I can promise you right now, if one more of my people gets seriously injured or killed while on a mission and you aren’t brought up on charges, there is nowhere on this planet that you can hide from me. And I’ll skin you alive and bury you where nobody will find you,” growled Thomas in a low voice.

    “I should have you arrested!” exclaimed the Colonel after he managed to regain the ability to speak once again.

    “Go for it! Because I cannot and will not take this any longer! And if a court martial is where I get the opportunity to let the world know about the things you’ve been doing to my unit, then so be it! I may very well end up in a prison cell where I spend the remainder of my days during this war. But no matter what, if one more of my troops gets seriously injured because of fatigue and your incompetence, I will not hesitate to destroy you,” growled Thomas as he was leaned over the desk on his knuckles. And the Colonel saw the look in his eyes of sheer and utter sincerity. The Colonel had never had anyone talk to him this way and it frightened him slightly since he knew Dayfield was more than capable of making good on his threats.

    “You can’t threaten me!” he said in a low voice once again, but the fear showed through slightly.

    “That’s not a threat Colonel, that’s a promise. And one I will keep no matter how much time I spend in jail or if I end up at the end of a noose,” growled Thomas.

    And the two sat locked eye to eye for what seemed like an eternity. But the stare down was interrupted by the intercom buzzing and the Colonel quickly answering “what?”

    “Sir, General Chambers is on the line for you,” said the voice on the intercom.

    “We aren’t done yet,” said the Colonel as he picked up the phone and punched the button for the call. “Yes sir, Colonel Woodson here…yes sir…yes sir, the 14th went in this morning…yes sir, I believe they made it out okay…yes sir, Major Dayfield led the mission…actually sir, he’s here in my office right now…yes sir.”

    “The General wants to speak to you,” said the Colonel and put the phone on speaker. “You’re on speaker phone sir.”

    “Dayfield, you there?” asked the General through the speaker phone.

    “Yes sir, right here,” said Thomas in a far calmer voice than he had been using.

    “I was going to let your Colonel pass this on to you, but since you are available, I’ll let you hear it from the horse’s mouth,” said the General.

    “Yes sir?” asked Thomas.

    “Awesome work out there today boy! I can’t say this enough! You took how many teams out with you?” asked the General.

    “Two teams plus another pair sir, ten total,” said Thomas.

    “We had a Predator do a flyover just as you were getting yanked out. Did you know there was an entire enemy company out there during that rescue?” asked the General.

    “I thought it was a platoon sir,” said Thomas.

    “Even taking on a platoon with ten guys is gutsy. And I got off the phone with the hospital right before I called here and they said both the copilot and the door gunner are going to live. Is that Scott Carlson’s handiwork?” asked the General.

    “Sergeant Major Carlson was reassigned sir. That’s our brand new medic,” said Thomas.

    “Carlson’s gone? I wish I would have known so I could be at his sending off,” said the General.

    “It was kind of short notice sir,” said Thomas and glared at the Colonel.

    “Well, whomever it was, you best be putting that soldier in for some form of decoration. Doctors said they would be dead if it wasn’t for what they did,” said the General.

    “Funny sir, the Colonel and I were just talking about that,” said Thomas.

    “Well, good. You probably should put yourself in for some kind of award as well Tom, but you won’t do it. Maybe you could consider something Colonel?” asked the General.

    “I’ll look into it sir,” said the Colonel.

    “Well, no matter what, you should be proud to have a unit like the 14th and a commander willing to go out and kick some tail like Dayfield. Puts your command in the spotlight with the brass…hold on, just got an email here from the Corps Commander. ‘Please pass on my congratulations to the units directly involved in the rescue this morning. An example of heroism and tenacity for us all.’ Not too bad coming from the top dog himself,” said the General.

    “We appreciate the compliments sir, but no heroics involved. Just doing the job we are tasked with,” said Thomas.

    “You should learn to take a little praise now and again son,” said the General.

    “Work in progress General,” said Thomas.

    The General laughed and finished up the call. “Let your folks know how proud I am of them and I want them to keep doing the great work they have been. If we had a whole Division of folks like yours, we’d probably have been in Tehran by now. Colonel, we’ll see you at the sand table exercise this afternoon.”

    “I’ll see you then sir,” said the Colonel as the call ended.

    “Are we done here?” asked Thomas in a very cold voice.

    “You are dismissed,” said the Colonel. Thomas turned to leave and started opening the door. “Excuse me Major, but don’t you salute superior officers?”

    “If there was one in your office, I’ll be glad to,” said Thomas coldly as he shut the door behind him softly. The entire staff stood with open mouths and shocked expressions on their face as they had heard nearly the entire exchange save the portion where Thomas started threatening physical violence. He collected his carbine from Darren and departed the headquarters with all eyes following him the entire way.

    “Ever hear of the Christian eating the lion, Captain?” asked the same orderly from that morning.


    “It has been nearly two weeks,” said the IU Lieutenant Colonel. “And what are you going to speak with him about today? More sports or perhaps swap recipes this time?”

    “He is near to breaking,” said Major Aziz. “Trust me. He has learned that I am not some evil monster that will hurt him physically when he does not give me information. And this is the bait I will use to get him to speak.”

    “It is pointless,” said the Colonel.

    “It is my theory approved by headquarters,” said Aziz and turned to the guards. “Bring him.”

    The two guards disappeared and brought Williams back into the interrogation room. The limited water and food intake was already showing as his injuries received in the beatings had not completely healed and his skin showed a distinct paleness.

    “I have some bad news Captain,” said Aziz as he entered the room.

    “The Cowboys lose the Super Bowl?” asked Williams.

    “No,” said Aziz with a sigh. “I have attempted to protect you so far in hopes you might consider helping us at some point. But some officers in this command see my kindness as weakness. I may not be able to protect you much longer.”

    “I’m still not giving you any information,” said Williams.

    “I was not asking for it,” said Aziz. “Although plenty of American prisoners have done such things before, I do not believe the information you give us is entirely accurate.”

    “So why keep me here instead of a normal prison facility?” asked Williams.

    “To protect you,” said Aziz. “I will be honest, I have enjoyed our talks and it has given me a sense of…I don’t remember the word. To remember when you were young again?”

    “Nostalgia?” asked Williams.

    “I think that is it,” said Aziz. “I enjoyed my time in America before this war. Well, before all the wars really and have enjoyed some fond memories that you helped me remember. However, my superiors grow tired of our chats and believe I am stalling. They would prefer to beat you senseless and take whatever information you give.”

    “So go for it,” said Williams.

    “No my friend,” said Aziz as he lit a cigarette. “Such methods only lead to unreliable information. Or out of date information. It serves nothing more than to desensitize the guards which can cause more problems in the future.”

    “So why protect me?” asked Williams.

    “Because I think you do have knowledge that can help us,” said Aziz. “Of this I have made no secret. But the information should be given freely and without inducement.”

    “I’m not willing to betray my country,” said Williams.

    “And I would never ask you to,” said Aziz.

    “So why the talk today?” asked Williams.

    “To warn you that my superiors are growing impatient and I may be forced to end my talks with you soon,” said Aziz.

    “And I go back to the beatings?” asked Williams.

    “More than likely,” said Aziz.

    “I stood up to them before,” said Williams.

    “But for how long? I put a stop to it quickly,” said Aziz. “This time they will be unrelenting.”

    “I’ll take my chances,” said Williams.

    “Do not put yourself through this,” begged Aziz.

    “I can’t betray my nation,” said Williams.

    “Anything would be helpful,” said Aziz. “It could help me stall them for at least a little while.”

    “I cannot,” said Williams.

    “I understand,” said Aziz. “Just that you know and have been warned that my superiors believe physical torture is necessary to extract information from you.”

    “So be it,” said Williams.

    Aziz did nothing more than nod at the guards who took him back to his cell. Once inside the cramped container, Williams heard the soft speaking in the background once again and started to feel dread. He knew he had withstood the torture before, but wasn’t sure how long he could hold out under sustained torture. He could give Aziz something simple. Maybe not critical military secrets, but at least something to forestall the beatings he might take otherwise. As he sat alone in his cell, he wondered if he made a big mistake in not saying something and if he might get another chance to.

    Date/Time: 24 March/1023
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    “Hey boss, got the after action report ready for your review,” said Rick as Thomas came into the command center after his meeting.

    “Great!” exclaimed Thomas. “You think I’ll need to add anything?”

    “I’m not sure,” said Rick, slightly puzzled at the exclamation. “I think we about got everything.”

    “Need to make sure it’s good to go since it’ll be used as the basis for Collins’ decoration,” said Thomas. “Specific instructions from the Division Commander himself.”

    “Really?” asked Rick.

    “Yeah, got to talk to him today. And specifically said we should decorate him. Actually, he said to tell each and every one of you what a fine job we did out there today and we even got props from the Corps Commander!” exclaimed Thomas. “Did I miss any of the teams going out?”

    “Just missed one and we have two more,” said Mark who was also puzzled by the chipper behavior from Thomas.

    “How long? I really need a shower,” said Thomas.

    “About forty-five minutes,” said Rick.

    “Cool, let me grab a change of clothes and a shower and we’ll head out,” said Thomas who disappeared out the door.

    “Okay, what’s going on?” asked Rick after he departed.

    “He might have finally cracked,” said Darren.

    “Sorry?” asked Mark.

    “He had a knock down drag out with the Colonel. The entire command section heard it. Or most of it at least,” said Darren. “And when he came out of the meeting, he’s been a little off.”

    “Like good off or bad off?” asked Mark.

    “Not sure yet,” said Darren. “I’ve only seen him like this one other time.”

    “Which was?” asked Mark.

    “You weren’t there, but Rick was. Do you remember when we went to the Gable Retreat during the Fall and picked up the Duggers, Carlsons and Ashley?” asked Darren.

    “Yeah,” said Rick with a little puzzlement.

    “Remember how we got them out of there?” asked Darren.

    “Vaguely,” said Rick.

    “Okay, remember what Thomas did specifically to get us out of there?” asked Darren.

    “It’s kind of hazy…wait…oh…oh, no,” said Rick. “You mean he pulled a gun on the Colonel?”

    “No…I mean, I don’t think he did,” said Darren. “But when he left the meeting, it reminded me of how he was in the aftermath of the Gable Retreat.”

    “Long story short, Tom held a gun to Morgan Gable’s head for about a half an hour while we packed up the families to get them out,” said Rick. “Not a lot of folks know the particulars of that story since Tom is kind of embarrassed about it. But that’s the gist of what happened.”

    “And today when he left the Colonel’s office, he had that same neutral expression on his face. I heard most of what he said and let me tell you something, it wasn’t pretty. There were a couple of times I could hear him talking, but couldn’t make out the words. But I’m pretty certain the Colonel threatened him with arrest at one point,” said Darren.

    “Over what?” asked Mark.

    “Not sure,” said Darren. “It was right after Tom said something to him.”

    “You think he finally broke?” asked Rick.

    “I don’t know,” said Darren. “Or he just went past the point of caring.”

    “Both of which can be bad for us,” remarked Rick.

    “Agree,” said Mark.

    “We really need to keep a close eye on him,” said Darren. “The three of us, we’ll talk to Amber and Dave and Mike when they get back.”

    “Should we report this?” asked Mark.

    “No, not until we know more,” said Darren. “I mean, his point of ‘give a darn’ might have been passed and it could be a good thing.”

    “I’d really like to know what went on in that meeting,” said Rick. “Fly on the wall you know?”

    “From what I could hear, which was most, it got really one sided. I know he slammed something at one point. Probably his fists since they were a tad red when he came out. But let me go on record with you two in saying he fought for us in there. Basically told the Colonel we were done doing details, replacing line infantry and for him to arrange for R and R for our unit as soon as we complete this mission,” explained Darren.

    “All of which could be good for us,” said Mark.

    “But bad for Tom,” said Rick. “He basically drew a line in the sand with the Colonel if what Darren says is correct.”

    “He’ll have to mind his manners over the next bit,” said Mark.

    “Guys, I really wish you could have been there,” chuckled Darren in retrospect. “The entire staff practically had a glass against the wall during that meeting. Never saw so many people in my life herding around a water cooler if you’ll excuse the cliché.”

    “Hey guys, we have anything to drink?” asked Thomas as he popped back in with his ditty bag, fresh uniform and towel.

    “I think we have some beer,” said Rick with a puzzled look on his face.

    “No goofball, like a soda or something?” asked Thomas.

    “Yeah,” said Rick who retrieved a Diet Mountain Dew out of the small fridge.

    “Diet huh?” asked Thomas. “Well, gotta watch my figure I suppose.”

    And with that comment he disappeared back out of the tent and was quickly followed by the three peeking out the doorway. He was headed in the general direction of the shower taking sips of the soda along the way. And instead of walking with a purpose as he normally did, his stride would be considered “moseying” by any onlooker.

    “Okay, this just got weird,” said Rick. “Did anyone else think it was a little reckless to grab that new guy and bring him without any formal immersion and training?”

    “I did think it was a little odd, but the kid seemed to work out okay,” said Darren.

    “But still, he took a huge chance on sending him out like that,” said Mark.

    “Definitely not the way Tom usually plays things,” observed Darren.

    “Ya think? I know I’ve not known him as long as you guys, but I’d say I know him well enough to know he’s a little off kilter at the moment,” said Mark and the rest got very quiet afterwards.

    “I think I’ll go track down Amber…” said Darren after the silence became unbearable.

    “And I’ll see if Greg and Brian are about,” said Mark.

    “I’ve got to hold the fort down here, but I’d say the sooner you find them, the better,” said Rick.

    “If he comes back, just keep him occupied,” said Darren.

    “I’ll tie him down if I have to,” said Rick. “I know it’s Tom and I know we shouldn’t be worried. But you know, I might be a bit worried.”

    “Next couple of hours when the recon data starts coming in will be the key,” said Mark.

    “That should tell us whether or not he’s lost his marbles, I agree,” said Darren.

    “Okay, you guys head out and start talking to folks,” said Rick. “Meet back in a half hour for the last teams going out.”

    “We’ll be back then,” said Darren as he and Mark departed the center. Rick sat in thought for a few moments and tried to determine whether or not he should be worried. He had known Tom a long time and knew that he suppressed a lot of his feelings. Perhaps the Colonel has finally broken the dam and his emotions are all coming out and this is his way of dealing with them, thought Rick. Could be a good thing, but most certainly can be a bad thing as well. We’ll have to keep a close eye on him to figure this all out.

    Date/Time: 24 March/1422
    Location: Coalition Simulation Facility, Prague, Czech Republic

    The Coalition Simulation Facility was a state of the art battlefield simulator put in by the Free Nation Coalition not long after liberation of Prague. The massive computer controlled simulations had the ability to go from Virtual Reality simulations of the individual rifleman up to Theater Level battles with multiple Corps on both sides to control. It generally had a Red Team Commander which represented the opposing force, or OPFOR and a Blue Force Commander which represented the friendly forces. Or it could simulate one or the other through its advanced logic computer “brain” by learning from the past simulations. And had the ability to predict millions of variables in the battlespace through inputs from the master controller. It typically was used for Battalion level engagements or higher, with the majority of the time being spent fighting imaginary battles and learning the hard trade of warcraft by killing 1s and 0s instead of actual blood being spilled. In keeping with tradition, it was still referred to the “sand table” although it represented something far more advanced than any of them had ever used before.

    And today, another Brigade Commander was being put through his paces as the simulation was running steadily and the exercise was not going well for the Colonel. After his initial attack has stalled, he has hesitated on committing his reserves into the fight and was now in danger of being overrun by the “Red Team” aggressors. He had to hold the important high ground he had started from in order to force a stalemate and not lose ground. His attack had already stalled out due to his predictable tactics and the two lead battalions had been decimated.

    “Commit the Cider Group here,” he ordered his S-3. “Plug in that gap on Objective Broom.”

    “Sir?” asked his S-3.

    “I need them to hold this line while we attempt to flank the attackers from the north. Get them in position here,” he said and pointed at the key terrain. As this was a simulation, the times could be speeded up for unit deployments in order to see the eventual outcome.

    “Cider in place sir,” said the S-3. “Encountering heavy artillery and rocket fire. Reports coming in of a major attack with tank support.”

    “Get 2nd Battalion’s Alpha and Charlie Companies moved north to hit the flank,” ordered the Colonel. Again time sped up and almost immediately slowed.

    “2nd Battalion reporting significant resistance sir. The Companies were ambushed and have been pinned down,” said the S-3. “Reports coming in from Objective Broom. Cider has been overrun and has to retreat.”

    “No retreat, get the companies to pull out of the ambush and back to Broom!” yelled the Colonel.

    “Companies are pinned in place, IU armor is sweeping behind them and attempting to encircle. Reports coming in from Broom, positions have been lost with heavy casualties in the defenders. Might I suggest we pull back the remains of 3rd Battalion and attempt to set up a defensive line here?” asked the S-3 as he pointed at the map.

    “Negative, order the remains of 3rd Battalion to link up with the remains of 1st Battalion and hit Broom from the south!” said the Colonel. And the time sped up once again.

    “Reports from 2nd Battalion, those Companies are surrounded and cut off. Remains of 1st and 3rd Battalion reporting heavy infantry and anti-tank resistance from the woods. They cannot move forward,” said the S-3 after the attack plan was implemented and stalled yet again.

    “Move 4th Battalion into position to attack!” yelled the Colonel.

    “Okay, pause the exercise,” said the Assistant Division Commander for Maneuver, or ADM as he was called in the NAU. “Well, we can all go away from this seeing a textbook case of how to kill an entire friendly Brigade. In another fifteen minutes simulation time, your reserve battalion is about to roll into an armored ambush and probably get dismantled by the two IU battalions coming in from their ready reserve. Exceptional work in killing off three thousand men and women. Let’s go from the start shall we?”

    The exercise was rewound on the computer simulation system and the beginning dispositions of the forces from both sides were seen. “Okay, right here is where you lost it. You should have committed your reserve force right here and pushed through,” said the General.

    “I was trying to hold them back in case we were hit in the flank,” said the Colonel.

    “The Red forces were pulling back along this line here,” said the General as he pointed at the screen. “Had your reserves been committed then, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to pull back around and hit 1st and 3rd Battalions and pin them down. They were in the wide open spaces when they got hit instead of holding the high ground here where they could direct their fire.”

    “And then you hesitated pulling them back to regroup even after your S-3 suggested it. Which caused you to lose significant ground as well as taking a whole lot more casualties than you should have. And by then, the Red Team had been able to regroup, get their reserves in place and counterattack,” said the General.

    “And when you sent in the two companies in here,” said the commander of the Red Team, a Brigadier General assigned to a different Division. “It was too obvious. Had you sent them another five kilometers to the north, you would have been able to catch us moving into position and might have been able to save your initial starting point.”

    “And why did you feed your Cider troops into the line?” asked the Division Commander who had been silent up until this point.

    “I needed the hole in the line filled,” said the Colonel. “And they were the obvious choice.”

    “You sent in a special operations force to occupy normal foxholes?” asked the Division Commander. “With a whole battalion in reserve?”

    “The terrain was suited more for infantry,” said the Colonel.

    “You’re missing the point. That’s not what they are designed to do,” said the ADM.

    “They’re shock infantry, I know, but still infantry,” said the Colonel.

    “But not exactly where they should be committed. You had the location of the Red Team headquarters before this all started. Why not insert them before the battle and take the leadership out of play? Or as a minimum distracted while you went on the offensive,” asked the Division Commander.

    “I’m not sure if they are capable of doing that mission. So instead I ordered the brigade artillery to fire several volleys as the attack started,” said the Colonel.

    “You may not be sure, but I’m reasonably certain the Cider team could have pulled it off. I’ll tell you what, let’s see,” said the Division Commander. “Simulate adding the Cider element to the mix.”

    The simulator operator added in the attack by the Cider teams just prior to the main attack. Even with the horrid dispositions of the attacking force, they were able to accomplish the objective and capture the key terrain before the Red Team could react since their leadership was out of play.

    “Your Cider team should have been committed right there. Instead you tried to make them into normal infantry which is not what they are designed to do,” said the ADM.

    “Let’s say I don’t trust my specific Cider teams to that mission,” said the Colonel.

    “Okay folks, give us the room,” ordered the Division Commander. The remainder of the exercise participants exited the room and the internal cameras were turned off. “You obviously have something on your mind. Spill it.”

    “I’m losing a lot of faith in Major Dayfield’s ability to lead his unit,” said the Colonel.

    “Specifics Colonel, you bring an accusation like that, you need specific instances,” said the General. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, but I’ve known him longer and know what he’s capable of when he puts his mind to it just like we saw this morning.”

    “It’s the picking and choosing of the missions he wants his unit to participate in. I know he receives his orders from J-SOD, but when not being actively tasked, we can exercise a limited amount of Opcon. And he doesn’t like some of the missions we assign to him and protests when he feels like it,” said the Colonel. “In my opinion, he’s insubordinate, a loose cannon and will end up getting more of his troops injured and killed if he’s allowed to continue in command of that unit.”

    “You realize in all the past commanders, you are the first to bring such things up to me?” asked the General. “Everyone else has been ecstatic about the results he gets them.”

    “Sorry sir, but I don’t see it that way,” said the Colonel. “He basically demanded time off a few days ago. Specifically told me he needed to be bumped in the R and R rotation because his troops were fatigued and got pissed when I wouldn’t do it.”

    “When was the last time he had any down time?” asked the General.

    “I don’t recall exactly, but it wasn’t that long ago,” said the Colonel.

    “If he’s asking for it, even demanding it, you should take it under advisement. His unit is in almost constant contact while the remainder of your brigade has been able to get away from the fighting this winter. Things like this should be taken into account when the R and R schedule comes up,” said the General.

    “I’ve got battalions always in contact as well General,” said the Colonel. “I can only let a so many go at a time and they need some rest as well.”

    “I agree, but while your other battalions can rotate back from the line and at least be able to sleep in something other than a track or a foxhole, his unit is still heading behind the lines,” said the General. “Now if it’s a matter of relief for your Cider teams, I can make arrangements.”

    “With all due respect sir, it seems like you are already taking their side in this matter,” said the Colonel. “Which is why I’m hesitant to bring it up.”

    “I don’t take sides, but again, when you have a record like Dayfield’s the accusations of incompetence and insubordination just don’t seem fitting,” said the General as he realized the Colonel was intentionally being vague about a great many things in the conversation.

    “Maybe the past commanders didn’t care. Maybe they just didn’t know how to deal with it. But I know this for certain, I’m not sure he is capable of command,” said the Colonel.

    He isn’t the only one that folks are having concerns about his leadership abilities, thought the General. “Would you like a new Cider group to replace his?”

    “No, I won’t pass off my bad units on someone else and I wouldn’t want someone doing it to me. I’ll deal with it if it comes down to it,” said the Colonel.

    “I’m not sure his Op Group would qualify as being a ‘bad unit’ by any means,” said the General.

    “Honestly sir, I’m closer to this than you are,” said the Colonel.

    “And I recognize and appreciate that. Look, you’ve spent almost your entire career in non-combat roles and jobs. Special Operations Forces are a unique bunch of individuals that don’t fit into the conventional army mindset and it’s something some commanders have a hard time understanding. Tell you what, I’ll send down a representative from the J-SOD to help bring you up to speed,” offered the General.

    “I’ve had my command brief with them already,” said the Colonel.

    “Maybe a refresher and a more in depth look would help,” said the General.

    “Not sure it will help with people like Dayfield running around,” said the Colonel.

    “Okay, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll consider a wholesale transfer of his unit to another brigade. Sometimes folks don’t mingle well and it appears you two have some significant problems. I won’t hide the fact that Tom Dayfield gets results that I like and I would be seriously hesitant to replace him due to the fact thus far he has an exemplary record. Sound fair?” asked the General.

    “Again sir, I wouldn’t want him being a problem elsewhere,” said the Colonel.

    “I don’t imagine you are catching my point. I will not allow you to relieve or replace Major Thomas Dayfield unless he is caught completely red handed in a criminal act worthy of a firing squad. Is that clear enough?” said the General with a tone.

    “Understood sir,” said the Colonel.

    “Now you will listen to what the J-SOD rep has to say and you will take his advice concerning the application of the Cider teams under your brigade. That is a non-negotiable topic of conversation for you. The Cider teams greatly enhance the abilities of your brigade and of this division as a whole and are the best force multipliers we have,” said the General. “They don’t fit into the normal paradigm of how units should operate, but generally get results we can’t get through conventional means so they are afforded a lot of latitude when it comes to the job. And the 14th has proven themselves time and time again in high risk, high reward operations that have come off without a hitch. So you’ll understand my reluctance to relieve him without cause. And I mean something serious.”

    “Yes sir,” said the Colonel.

    “Get the report from this exercise and review it. And for God’s sake, get your staff more involved here. You inherited an outstanding staff and good battalion commanders from your predecessor, use them and their abilities and stop making all the decisions,” said the General.

    “Yes sir,” said the Colonel.

    “A good General is made by the ability to have good staff and getting positive results. And having good field commanders that get results. And people like Dayfield get noticed by way higher leadership than you or me. Something to consider that the results of the units under a commander often reflect on the commander himself around promotion times. Understand?” asked the General.

    “I understand sir,” said the Colonel.

    “We’ll redo this exercise in two weeks and I had best see significant improvement over and beyond what you displayed here today,” said the General.

    “I will sir,” said the Colonel and took his leave.

    After he left, the General knew the battle between Dayfield and the Colonel would come to a head sooner rather than later. He considered getting the swap made right then and there, but knew Thomas was involved in a mission currently and trying to swap administrative and logistical chains in the middle of a mission would be disastrous at best. He would reassess the transfer once they completed the search for the downed pilot and probably move ahead to see if that helped cool the heat that Dayfield had coming on him from the Colonel. If it continued to happen with another unit in place, the evidence would point towards the Colonel as being the problem, but they wouldn’t know until it happened if that was the case.

    But one thing was certain. He would have to keep a far closer eye on the Colonel if and when they went into combat. He had staged him forward ahead of more competent brigade commanders in an attempt to get up to speed as quickly as possible. But so far it appeared that plan of action wasn’t working as he hoped it would.
    techsar and Sapper John like this.
  18. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 14

    Date/Time: 24 March/2111
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    If anything, Thomas was a creature of habit for certain things in his life and a disruption of certain habits would completely throw him off kilter. And one of those was his nightly shower before getting the last assessments and turning in for the night. While he was in the field, it didn’t seem to bother him, but when in base camp, it was something he had to do. After finishing rinsing off, he checked the newly acquired scratches and cuts from the last mission and reminded himself to put some antiseptic and band-aids on them before going to bed. And the new bruise from the round that hit him that day. There weren’t any cracked ribs, but he would still be a bit sore. He grabbed the towel from the hook hanging outside the stall and dried off before wrapping it around his waist and stepping out. Grabbing the shaving kit from his ditty bag, he had that feeling he wasn’t alone.

    “I am in the right showers, correct?” he asked Amber who was sitting on the bench.

    “Yep,” she replied.

    “These are the male showers?” he asked again.

    “Sure are,” she said simply.

    “Might you be in the wrong place then?” he asked with a chuckle.

    “Nope, I’m right where I’m supposed to be,” she said.

    “Amber, I’m sure there is a completely logical reason why you are here,” he said.

    “I need to talk to you privately,” she said.

    “How did you know I was here? Or alone for that matter?” he asked.

    “I’m a recon troop by nature. I stalked you from the tent and tactically made sure the facility was clear before dynamic entry and popping my behind down on this bench,” she replied.

    “Mind if I shave at least?” he asked.

    “If you must,” she said. “But honestly, I think you look better with a beard. Or at least a few days growth. Like maybe four or five days, trim it down with a number 1 clipper.”

    “Amber…” he said in the tone he used to get her to move on.

    “So Darren came to see me today,” she started.

    “Okay, he sees lots of folks,” said Thomas as he applied the shaving gel.

    “He’s concerned about you,” said Amber simply.

    “Why?” asked Thomas.

    “He said the meeting with the Colonel didn’t go so well today. But since he doesn’t know everything that happened and you had changed when you left the office, he was concerned about your mental state,” said Amber. “So he came by to ask me to keep an eye on you.”

    “He didn’t think to talk to me first?” asked Thomas, somewhat irritated.

    “Darren Thompson is the best friend you have around here, be glad he cares enough to have your close friends looking out for you,” said Amber.

    “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me,” said Thomas.

    “The pressure gets to everyone eventually. And Darren said you snapped on the Colonel today. But he also said you stood up for us, so the ends justified the means I suppose,” she said.

    “That remains to be seen,” said Thomas. “And he asked if I was okay?”

    “Not really,” said Amber. “He asked your closest friends to keep an eye on you to make sure you were doing okay. I felt honored to be included in that small club.”

    “Yeah, I’ve got my own entourage,” laughed Thomas.

    “Seriously,” she replied.

    “Normally, that’s me saying that to you about now,” he chuckled and applied the razor again.

    “Look, I’m a direct person and when I want to know something, I ask,” she said and the door opened with Martin Watkins starting to walk in. “Excuse us.”

    “Oh, I’m sorry,” said Martin as he quickly closed the door and departed.

    “You were saying?” asked Thomas.

    “I’ll get to the point,” said Amber. “Is everything okay with you?”

    “I feel like everything is okay,” he replied.

    “Darren and Rick both said you were a little off when you got back. And the decision to take that new kid on the mission was risky,” she explained.

    “I think he turned out to be okay,” said Thomas.

    “But it was a huge risk,” said Amber. “There were plenty of other medics you could have, and probably should have picked before someone who wasn’t even vetted by his team leader.”

    “Okay, but I wasn’t expecting to take on an IU Company out there,” he reasoned. “I figured it would be a milk run and he got a little field time under his belt.”

    “I figured that was your thought process,” said Amber. “And I do think the risk ended up paying off in the long run as he saved those guys lives.”

    “So was it a bad decision?” asked Thomas.

    “Not bad, but it was a whole lot more risky than what you typically take,” said Amber as they heard yelling from the adjacent female showers followed quickly with a “get out!” from both Holly Meredith and Heather Davis.

    “Probably should have just asked Solo to wait,” chuckled Thomas.

    “Yeah, hindsight and all,” said Amber. “Anyway, they said you weren’t exactly acting like yourself when you got back from the meeting and got a little reserved today.”

    “It wasn’t exactly a pretty meeting,” said Thomas.

    “Want to talk about it?” asked Amber.

    “No,” said Thomas. “I lost my cool with the Colonel and that’s all anyone needs to know.”

    “Darren said it was a little more than that,” said Amber.

    “I didn’t know he heard everything,” said Thomas. “And since I threatened bodily harm or death on a senior officer, I turned up the gas on my own pot.”

    “You what?!” she exclaimed.

    “I…” he started and caught himself. “Darren didn’t tell you?”

    “No, he didn’t mention anything like that!” she exclaimed and the door poked open once again and Martin was seen peeking around the facing.

    “Give us a few minutes please,” said Thomas.

    “This is the guys shower, right?” he asked and saw Amber sitting on the bench.

    “Informal conference room and counseling session for the moment. You mind heading folks off trying to get in?” asked Thomas.

    “Sure,” he replied with a bit of confusion and closed the door.

    “So are you the counselor or the counselee?” she asked with a wink.

    “Not sure yet,” he chuckled.

    “Anyway, he did not mention you threatened to murder the Colonel. Just said things got a bit heated between the two of you,” said Amber.

    “Let’s keep that between us shall we?” asked Thomas.

    “He did say the Colonel threatened to have you arrested,” said Amber.

    “And now you know the reason why,” explained Thomas.

    “So back to the big picture, we just want to make sure you’re okay,” said Amber.

    “I feel fine,” he said.

    “And looking fine as always,” she laughed. “Those nice arms and sexy butt.”

    “Probably not the best environment to be saying that,” he laughed.

    “Like it’s the first time I’ve come in on you in the shower,” she laughed.

    “I’ll give you that,” he laughed. “Listen, I’m perfectly fine. I just had a whole lot of thoughts running through my head when I got back and tried to act normal. I’m guessing that was a massive failure since I was a little over the top. But tell the guys I’m perfectly fine.”

    “I’m not sure they will agree,” said Amber.

    “Okay, I’ll tell them,” he said.

    “Actually, Darren asked me not to talk to you about it,” said Amber.

    “Following rules again aren’t we?” asked Thomas.

    “A trait learned from my leadership,” she said with a grin.

    “I can’t argue on that point can I?” he laughed.

    “Nope, backed you in a corner for the first time,” she laughed. “But seriously, this conversation is just between us, okay?”

    “As in you aren’t to tell anyone about my death threats either,” said Thomas.

    “No, what goes in the shower, stays in the shower,” she said with a wink.

    “Hopefully so,” said Thomas. “Now please turn your back so I can at least get pants on.”

    “Awww, I paid a quarter for this show,” said Amber with a laugh.

    “Nope, that kind of show costs you a dollar,” he said.

    “Touché,” she laughed and turned around while he pulled on some PT pants and underwear.

    “I’m decent again,” he said.

    “I’m not sure you are ever decent, luring an innocent girl like myself into the shower,” she said.

    “Need I remind who came in on…never mind,” he laughed. “I appreciate the concern.”

    “It’s the least I could do,” she said. “You’re a true friend Tom and I don’t say that about a lot of people. And you have other true friends in this unit. Just be happy friends care enough to be concerned with your mental well-being.”

    “I know and I am very happy,” said Thomas. “I’ve about got everything sorted out between the ears so I’ll be back to normal before long. I promise.”

    “You have been a little more short tempered as of late I noticed. First my ex, the French Major and now the Colonel,” said Amber. “Not really like you.”

    “Did they all not have it coming?” asked Thomas.

    “Well, I didn’t say that, especially with my ex-husband,” she exclaimed. “Just haven’t seen you lose control like that in a while.”

    “I think you’re worth it,” said Thomas.

    “Nice to hear,” she laughed.

    “C’mon kiddo, let me get you a chocolate milk before bed,” he said and gathered his items.

    “I prefer the strawberry milk myself,” she grinned. “Speaking of beverages, Ashley is probably going to kill someone when she gets back.”

    “Why?” asked Thomas as they headed for the door.

    “Seems Rob Davis decided to reward the Chinook crew today with the remainder of a case of wine. Coincidentally, the same type of wine that Ashley had stashed under her bunk and was saving,” explained Amber. “Well, he did leave her one bottle at least.”

    “Got used for a good purpose,” said Thomas. “They saved our bacon.”

    As they exited the showers, a small group was waiting outside the showers and looked slightly annoyed at the delay. “Is the counseling session over?” asked Martin with annoyance.

    “Had to spank her a few times, but she’s promised to behave now,” said Thomas.

    “Not sure there are enough spankings for that,” said 1st Lieutenant Joel Tucker.

    “I’m a good girl!” protested Amber.

    “Barging into the men’s showers and making me walk in on Holly and Heather in the women’s showers on accident? Sure,” said Martin and the group had a laugh. Thomas and Amber departed the area and headed for the command center.

    “Anyway, about the wine. He specifically gave it to that flight engineer,” explained Amber. “Along with a rose he got from Lord only knows where.”

    “Do you ever question where we get stuff from?” asked Thomas.

    “Nope,” said Amber. “Just happily take it.”

    “Did it work?” asked Thomas.

    “He got her contact info, so yeah,” laughed Amber as they entered the command center. Shannon was going over some latest information about the site and had received some data from the teams on the ground already. Thomas noticed Jamie Collins was sitting over at an unused desk going over the standards and procedures regulation for the unit, a controlled item that was their “bible” of how the teams operated as well as the tactics and techniques they used in the field. He also had about a half dozen old mission reports on the computer and was cross referencing the regulation with the after action reports where the tactics had been learned and implemented in situations where the students could come off dead.

    “Hey Tom,” she said. “One last data dump before bed?”

    “Yeah, whatcha got?” he asked. She spent the next two minutes outlining what they had learned as well as additional information coming in from Hermann. Thomas spent a few moments looking at the newest photos from the site as well as the composite images they had received. He compared two side by side and asked for a second pair of eyes on the two.

    “Tell me if this looks like a pattern or not,” he said. “See this small mound here? And there’s another one here and here. I’d be willing to bet those are fighting positions dug in between the towers. See how they are almost exactly between the two?”

    “Maybe,” said Shannon.

    “No, it really is,” said Amber as she took a scale marker and drew a line on the printed photograph. “Exactly two hundred meters, give or take a meter or two. And look here,” she continued and drew two lines from the towers into the mound. “Exact distances again.”

    “Well, I’ll be,” remarked Shannon.

    “And if you look closely, there are less discernible features here, here and here. All lined up between the towers in the camp,” said Thomas.

    “I did find it strange they had two hundred meters between the towers with nothing else guarding the place,” said Shannon. “Trying to put me out of a job Tom?”

    “Nah, just figured it out myself,” said Thomas. “I’d bet when they start getting closer in, they will find more in about the same spots as these. Do we have any enhanced radar images of the site? Satellite or otherwise?”

    “No, but we can ask,” said Shannon as she typed out the request and sent it to the Australian intel unit as well as their findings on what appeared to be fighting positions.

    “We need some good resolution because it appears there might be a path right here,” he said.

    “That’s kind of stretching it a bit,” said Shannon. “It’s not regular enough for a path.”

    “No, but it picks up here and here as well,” said Thomas.

    “Could be,” said Shannon. “And that’s why we have folks on the ground. I’ll tell you what, I’ll package it up and sent it to the teams. They can take a closer look at it from the ground.”

    “I knew you got paid the big bucks for a reason,” said Thomas.

    “Hey you looked at them for ten seconds and noticed something I completely missed after a couple of hours,” said Shannon. “Give yourself a raise.”

    “Go ahead and send the data into the team box for download,” said Thomas.

    “You don’t want to send it direct?” asked Shannon.

    “Ping them to let them know there’s an important download, but the file would be too big if they happen to be closer to the compound,” said Thomas.

    “Good point,” said Shannon as she started marking the appropriate pictures, scanning them and preparing the file for upload. The satellite uplink would allow the teams on the ground to download the file at their leisure but the base message would let them know it was important.

    “Should be ready in about twenty minutes,” said Shannon.

    “Anything else?” asked Thomas.

    “No, nothing yet,” said Shannon. “Just initial observation from the teams. They haven’t gotten any closer than five hundred meters yet.”

    “They find anything worth mentioning?” asked Thomas.

    “Maybe some infrequent patrols, but nothing major,” said Shannon. “There doesn’t appear to be a minefield surrounding the compound, so that’s very helpful.”

    “Mines can ruin your day for certain,” remarked Thomas and nodded at Collins with a questioning look on his face.

    “Came in and asked for it as well as the secure computer files to cross reference. Said he needed to get ahead of the game,” said Shannon. “And keeps saluting.”

    “On his own?” asked Thomas.

    “I would assume so,” said Shannon. “Most folks don’t do that until they start training.”

    Thomas wandered over to Collins who was engrossed in one chapter and looked up the cite on the computer, going through two files before he found what he was looking for. “Doing some light reading?”

    “It’s obvious I just need to get up to speed sir,” said Collins.

    “Most folks start reviewing it after the formal instruction and as they get deeper into their immersion training,” said Thomas.

    “I have unusual learning habits sir,” said Collins. “I have to read about it first so I can visualize it in my head as it’s being taught. Only way I learn sir.”

    “You did pretty good out there today without being formally trained and were reacting like you should have been without being prompted. And the Division Commander singled you out for an award. So we’ll be putting you in for a decoration,” said Thomas.

    “I honestly don’t want any awards sir,” said Collins.

    “That makes you little different than the other sixty-four members assigned to this unit,” said Thomas with a chuckle. “We all try to refuse them, but we get them forced on us.”

    “I don’t need recognition,” said Collins. “Just want to do my job and get home.”

    “Son, when one Major General Chambers says you get an award, it’s a foregone conclusion you will be receiving said award,” said Thomas. “He’ll probably want to pin it himself.”

    “Like I said sir, I have a job that needs to be done and did what I had to do today,” said Collins. “I’m still not certain why you took me on the mission, but as long as I was there, I had to give it my all in order to keep from getting killed.”

    “And for a first time out, you did a good job,” said Thomas. “I’ll leave you to your reading, but I did want to let you know one more thing.”

    “Sir?” asked Collins.

    “We’re fairly informal around here, stop saluting everyone,” said Thomas.

    “Not used to it sir,” said Collins. “Normally I am required to salute.”

    “Unless it’s a Colonel or better, we don’t salute,” said Thomas.

    “I’ll keep that in mind sir,” said Collins.

    “Okay, keep up the good work otherwise and don’t stay up too late. You’ve got training tomorrow,” said Thomas and ran into Darren on his way out. “I was coming to find you.”

    “Good tracking skills,” laughed Darren. “And there’s something I need to talk to you about too.”

    “I need you to set up Collins for some training tomorrow. Basic range time and team tactics to include the kill house,” said Thomas.

    “Rick beat you to it,” said Darren. “They start at 0800 tomorrow.”

    “Okay, and what else?” asked Thomas.

    “Mark got a job offer today,” said Darren. “Actually, the both of us did, but I already declined.”

    “What kind of job?” asked Thomas.

    “Cider rep up at the Corps,” said Darren. “They wanted experienced Majors and above, but nobody in a command billet already which counts you out.”

    “For the moment,” laughed Thomas.

    “Yeah, for the moment,” laughed Darren.

    “Has he accepted it?” asked Thomas, not angry at someone moving up.

    “He’s thinking it over and wants to talk with you about it,” said Darren. “But he also said he wants to finish this mission before going.”

    “I’d advise him to take that,” said Thomas. “It’s a good position and we could certainly use good folks up there networking.”

    “He’ll feel like he’s abandoning the unit,” said Darren.

    “Is that why are you sticking around?” asked Thomas.

    “Nope, creeping into your job slowly,” laughed Darren.

    “It’s yours,” laughed Thomas.

    “As stated before, no,” laughed Darren. “Want to come observe the training?”

    “Probably a little later, I’ve got some other stuff to go over,” said Thomas.

    “Okay, we’ll be at the range in the morning and the shoot house in the afternoon,” said Darren.

    “I’ll find you eventually,” said Thomas. “Oh, and set Collins up for my initial meeting, say tomorrow evening.”

    “Almost past that point already,” said Darren.

    “Never too late to make a bad first impression,” said Thomas.

    “You still not getting good vibes?” asked Darren.

    “Let’s say I don’t trust some folks not to sabotage this unit from within,” said Thomas.

    “Completely understand,” said Darren. “Night.”

    “See you in the morning,” said Thomas as they headed back to the tent. “Amber?”

    “Yes?” she replied.

    “Thanks,” said Thomas and pulled her in with a side hug and a squeeze on her shoulder. She took his hand and squeezed back letting him know she was welcome and the unspoken message that she appreciated all he did for her as well. They headed into the tent where Brian and Greg were playing a game of chess, very badly from the looks of it.

    “No, it can only move two up and one across!” protested Brian as he moved Greg’s Knight back to its starting point.

    “I thought that was the pointy one here!” objected Greg as he pointed at the Rook.

    “You’re impossible,” said Brian.

    “Takes a skilled mind to play chess,” remarked Thomas after a laugh.

    “Well, that omits everyone in this tent except me,” said Brian dryly.

    “Oh really?” asked Thomas. “Want to put your money where your mouth is?”

    “Bring it on Gramps,” said Brian and started putting the pieces back in starting position.

    “I thought I was playing!” protested Greg.

    “The checkerboard is over there for the less skilled,” said Brian. “Or play Go Fish with Amber.”

    “I like Go Fish,” she exclaimed.

    The group had a laugh as Thomas sat down at the table and got ready to play. And passed the remainder of the evening in idle chitchat. However, Thomas’ mind wandered to his teams on the ground and how they were doing.


    “Got a message and a file from command,” said Captain Bill Meyers quietly in the objective rally point for the teams on the ground. “Got some further intel about the site.”

    “Anything good?” asked Michael Parsons who had just completed his initial survey on his way from being dropped at his landing zone. They had arrived and been challenged by Stu Donaldson before being allowed into the small encampment in the thicket of thorns and brambles. And although from the outside it looked uninviting, on the interior it opened up a little bit into a decent sized space. Crawlspaces under the brush were already in place and the teams were using them to get in and out of the location.

    “Looks to be fighting positions here, here and here,” said Bill. “And they think it’s a pattern of them being between all the towers.”

    “Sure looks that way,” said Michael. “Need to be careful.”

    “They also think there might be a patrol path here,” said Bill as he pointed at the circled areas Shannon had indicated on the photos. “So we need to confirm.”

    “Kind of slim on that,” said Michael.

    “They appear to do some long range patrolling, so it could be spot on,” said Bill. “From Bobby’s initial sweep of the area. Some tracks, but not enough to indicate regular use.”

    “You passed it up?” asked Michael.

    “Yep,” said Bill. “Got a thank you note.”

    “We have anyone out at the moment?” asked Michael.

    “Dave and his team and Ashley and hers,” said Bill. “I sent them a message and they are pulling back to get the file.”

    “I thought Ashley was going to be tasked with just watching the roadway,” said Michael.

    “I considered it, but that might be better if we rotate our groups through that while on the ground. I know it wasn’t Tom’s intent, but she and that team are capable. A little young, but youth sometimes can overcome,” said Bill.

    “Do we have anyone watching the crossroads?” asked Michael.

    “Not yet, we were waiting on your team,” said Bill. “It’s complicated, but we’ve worked it to one team at the road, one team up here and two on site. Yours was the last piece of the puzzle.”

    “Sounds good,” said Michael. “You heading out soon?”

    “Four hours,” said Bill. “As soon as Dave’s team gets back, mine’s out to the roadway. Eight hour rotations with four hour overlaps.”

    “Sounds complicated, but as long as it works,” said Michael who was nominally in charge. But being equal within a group of equals, he always took the inputs of those around him. “When are we scheduled?”

    “Sixteen hours,” said Bill. “We weren’t sure how long it would take you to get here so we skipped over you in the rotation which is why we aren’t watching the roadway.”

    “We can go sooner,” said Michael.

    “Nah, rest up,” said Bill. “Everyone needs some sleep.”

    “I won’t argue,” said Michael and turned to his team who were resting at the moment. “Get some shuteye; we’re heading out in sixteen hours.”

    “Twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep?” asked Staff Sergeant Willy “Guns” Perez.

    “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” said Sergeant Nate “Baldy” Clark.

    “Twelve hours if you two would shut up,” said Nancy Dugger who was almost asleep already.

    “How does she do it?” asked Bill.

    “Go to sleep so fast?” asked Michael. “Still haven’t figured it out.”

    “It’s a neat trick if you can pull it off,” said Bill.

    “I’ll market and sell the secret when I find out,” chuckled Michael as he went over to find a bed for himself. As they were in camp, they would hot bunk between the teams. He found an unused sleeping bag and climbed in, pulling it over the top, but not zipping it up. Cradling his carbine, he already was thinking of the mission they would go on the next day and get more information to possibly plan a strike if the target was valid.
    techsar and Sapper John like this.
  19. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 15

    Date/Time: 25 March/0244
    Location: West of the enemy compound, southeast of Ružomberok, Occupied Slovakia

    “Possible contact,” said Ashley into her radio microphone quietly as the crashing was heard to her front. It sounded like a single individual running through the woods heading somewhat towards their position. “Negative, positive contact. One individual.”

    She was paired off with Jeff Holmes right then and listened at the unknown individual was panting heavily and stopped for a quick break near a tree. They saw him leaned over and propped himself against the large tree gasping for breath after sprinting from what they assumed was the encampment. Suddenly shouts in Arabic were heard in the distance from where the man had come from and his head jerked around at the sound. He started jogging again, only going forward about thirty feet before getting tripped up on a root and falling onto the muddy ground. They saw him look himself over before getting up and looking behind himself once again. A dog’s barking was heard as well and the man started forward in yet another slow run.

    “Sister, Catman, he’s heading for your position,” said Ashley as quietly as she could. A fire team of IU soldiers was seen running past them being led by the K-9 unit in front as it strained at the leash with the sounds to its front. One of the IU soldiers raised his rifle and fired a burst at the fleeing figure shouting a command in Arabic.

    The IU team sprinted towards the man and slowed as they approached. Flashlights were turned on from the group of soldiers illuminating the man as he was attempting to stand, struggling as the gunshot wound was already taking its toll on his body. But even as they approached him, he suddenly stood straight up and faced them with a look of dignity. More Arabic was heard and Jeff provided the translation. “They are asking where he was going,” he whispered. They saw one of the soldiers move forward and hit the man with the butt of his rifle, knocking him to the ground once again. He attempted to stand, but was rewarded with another hit from the rifle in the head. They could see him bleeding from the gunshot wound as well as the head through their night vision.

    The soldiers were laughing at his attempts to stand up again as he clumsily fell down after an attempt. But something inside him kept moving his body upwards and he grabbed at nearby branches to pull himself up. He faced the guards yet again with a look of sheer determination and will and one of anger. Speaking in a foreign language they couldn’t understand, he stood tall as another of the soldiers approached him and pulled his pistol from his holster. He got within five feet of the man and spoke before pulling the trigger, hitting the man right between the eyes and killing him on the spot. A short conversation in Arabic was had before the group started to move back to the compound. However, they were stopped as the dog turned and started searching intently towards where the man had been. It appeared to be focused in on exactly where Jill and Josh Wolfe were currently hiding under some bushes.

    But they caught a lucky break and the handler pulled at the chain and brought the dog back to his side. The dog turned once again before they departed, causing the handler to give a command in Arabic and tug him back to his side for the trip back to the compound. Ashley and Jeff watched and listened intently as the group was finally far enough away not to cause a problem. “Clear.”

    “Safe,” she heard Jill say over the radio.

    “Check him,” said Ashley. Jill and Josh “Catman” Wolfe moved forward to the body lying on the ground. Checking his carotid artery, they felt no pulse after ten seconds of trying. The head wound was evidence enough that his life had been ended prematurely.

    “Our guy?” asked Ashley.

    “No,” said Jill as she removed her patrol pack and pulled a night vision camera out of one of the pouches. She snapped several photos of the man from the front and side to send in to command to see if it might be possible to identify him from records. His face was already pale and not from the lack of blood and he appeared to be in bad shape even before the incident.

    “Mark the spot and we’ll come back in the daylight to get better photos,” said Ashley.

    “Roger,” said Jill. “Contact report?”

    “Got it, R-V here,” said Ashley as she slid the small keyboard out of her communicator and started typing out the initial incident report. Sergeant Jeff “Duck” Holmes moved out thirty meters and set up a listening post while Ashley quickly typed out an initial contact report, making it understandably short with the promise for an extended brief when the sun came up.

    “Hard watching a murder right in front of your eyes,” remarked Jill after approaching and sending the pictures to Ashley via her communicator.

    “I feel for you,” said Ashley. “Sometimes we have to hold ourselves in check because of the larger mission at hand.”

    “I hope we get the chance to even the score in a big way,” said Jill as she continued to observe the dark woods.

    “Give it time,” said Ashley and sent the initial contact report.


    “Sunshine’s team was in contact, but the gunfire wasn’t directed at them,” said Dave Lawson after receiving the communication from Ashley.

    “What happened?” asked Master Sergeant Roberto Rivera, better known as Bobby or his call sign R-2.

    “Looks like they stumbled across a patrol chasing someone from the camp. Here’s a picture, but it’s not pretty and they verified it isn’t the Texan Pilot,” said Dave as he handed over his communicator to the others.

    “Yellow suit? Prison issue?” asked Amy Kerns.

    “Pretty good guess,” said Dave. “It seems our suspected compound might be the place we are looking for after all.”

    “Guy doesn’t look like a concentration camp victim though,” said Tim Daniels.

    “Could have been overweight to begin with,” said Amy. “Lost weight while he was there.”

    “Or just a normal prisoner,” said Tim. “Won’t know until we get a better assessment.”

    “Go ahead and send the initial report to command,” said Michael.

    “Looks like Ashley already did,” said Dave as he checked the message.


    “Tom?” said Shannon Parson at the base camp and shook him gently. “Tom?”

    “Hang on,” said Amber and rolled out of her bunk with a grunt. She leaned over and whispered in his ear and his eyes popped open immediately.

    “You have to teach me that trick,” laughed Shannon.

    “Sharon told me about it before we left,” said Amber as she rolled back into her bunk. “Said he was impossible to get into the land of living by conventional means, but this works.”

    “Thanks,” said Shannon. “Tom, you wanted to know if we got anything significant.”

    “Yeah,” he said and wiped at his face and walked outside to keep from disturbing the others. The night air was chilly and he zipped his jacket up. “Something happen?”

    “Ashley’s team made contact, but they didn’t get engaged,” said Shannon as she handed over a computer tablet with the contact report.

    “We know who this guy is?” asked Thomas followed by a yawn.

    “Not good enough resolution to send to J-SOD and the intel outfits. Ashley says they will head back after daybreak to get better photographs,” said Shannon.

    “There were undetected?” asked Thomas.

    “It appears so except the K-9 unit that kept trying to pull them back,” said Shannon.

    “They continuing on mission?” asked Thomas.

    “Don’t see why they shouldn’t,” said Shannon.

    “Okay, assessment?” asked Thomas.

    “First evidence that we have that this is a prison camp as a minimum. Way too close to be coincidental and the yellow suit implies he was a prisoner of some sort. However, doesn’t look emaciated enough to be a concentration camp victim,” said Shannon.

    “Agreed,” said Thomas. “Send a reply for them to continue and stay safe.”

    “Roger that,” said Shannon. “Head on back to bed.”

    “Don’t mind if I do,” he yawned and went back into the tent and crawled back into his sleeping bag. He was back out within moments of putting his head on his pillow.

    Date/Time: 25 March/0630
    Location: IU Internment camp, southwest of Ružomberok, Occupied Slovakia

    “Have we determined how the person escaped?” asked the Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the facility. He had been woken up after the patrol had discovered the missing prisoner, but had waited until the morning for the full briefing.

    “It appears he created a hole in Building 7 and escaped through there. He was able to get below the fences and into the exterior before the tower saw him,” said the Captain who was in charge of the site security. “He made it to the woods before the towers were able to engage.”

    “I told them the trees needed to be cut back further,” said the Colonel.

    “It was determined it would draw more attention to our location,” said the Captain.

    “And the guards that were supposed to be watching the camp?” asked the Colonel.

    “They were asleep at their posts and have already been arrested and are awaiting transport to Budapest for trial,” said the Captain.

    “I want one to remain to serve as an example to the other guards,” said the Colonel.

    “Yes sir,” said the Captain.

    “Are you taking care of the other problems?” asked the Colonel.

    “Yes sir, the hole will be sealed up today and the fence will be anchored once again. However, I do not believe the additional anchoring will be necessary since we will be leaving in two weeks. Plus, I believe another example of ten random individuals in the camp will entice the others to not resist so actively,” said the Captain.

    “Yes, ten should be sufficient,” said the Colonel. “Find ten of the most healthy and deposit the bodies back into the buildings so the people will see for their own eyes.”

    “Yes sir,” said the Captain.

    “And Captain, I do not expect any further incidents of this sort while we are here,” warned the Colonel. “I will not tolerate complacency or incompetence in the guard staff or its leadership.”

    “Yes sir,” said the Captain and left the office. He instructed his second in charge to pick one of the guards that had been arrested at random and to be publically executed as an example to the remainder of the guard force. He also made plans to pull ten of the prisoners out of the buildings at random to serve as examples to the remainder of the prisoners what the punishment for escape was. If they knew they would never leave the internment facility alive, they would all have tried to escape.


    “Yep, it’s a DFP,” said Bill Meyers after he and his partner Staff Sergeant Aaron “Mongo” Harper had returned from a close in observation of the compound.

    “So the intel was right?” asked Staff Sergeant Adam “Crash” Neal.

    “Appears to be, Sunshine and her team found the same thing,” said Meyers.

    “Good catch by command,” said Harper.

    “Okay, we’ll back off and send in another report,” said Meyers.

    “What was the banging about earlier?” asked Neal.

    “They were patching up one of the buildings as best as we can tell. We couldn’t get in close enough to tell for certain, but one had a new piece of plywood on the back,” said Harper.

    “I’ve got lead,” said Staff Sergeant Katie “Bear” Shepherd as she shouldered up her rifle and waited on the remainder of their team to file in behind her. But before they set off, they heard the PA for the camp in the distance. They turned and tried to key in on what was being said and slowly advanced forward attempting to hear what was going on in the compound. They reached a point where they could observe the camp, but still be out of sight from the guard towers and the positions on the ground.

    “What language is that?” asked Harper.

    “Czech, Slovak, not sure,” whispered Meyers.

    They were not close enough to get a recording of what was being said, but they could see the goings on in the camp and ten figures in yellow jumpsuits being brought into the center of the main area. Shepherd attempted to get the camera zoomed in, but they still were out of position as the figures lined up behind one of the structures just out of their view.

    Suddenly, a single pistol shot was heard, followed by another and another all the way to ten shots. A figure was seen strutting out of the compound once it was all over and the bodies were seen being carried to the ten buildings within the compound. Wooden bars on the doors were seen being lifted off and the dead bodies being tossed inside.

    “Please tell me you’re getting a recording of this,” said Meyers.

    “Yeah, I-” started Shepherd and let out a string of curse words that would have made a sailor proud and her mother blush. “It’s not recording!”

    Meyers immediately snatched it out of her hands and found the unit’s record button was damaged and would not engage. “Doesn’t matter, our reports should be good enough.”

    “Sorry sir,” said Shepherd meekly.

    “Not your fault Bear,” said Meyers. “Things that can break often will when you need them the most. We have our four statements; that should be good enough.”

    “Next time we need to bring the recorder units for the rifles,” said Harper.

    “Yeah, lesson learned,” said Meyers. “We need to report this immediately.”

    “I’ve got lead,” said Shepherd once again as they slinked back away from the view of the compound and into an area they could send up the report.


    Williams was in his cell and received a visit from three of the guards. He was hauled out of the cramped space and taken into the interrogation room where they tossed a yellow jumpsuit at him.

    “You wear,” said a guard in heavily accepted English. Williams started putting it on over the top of his flight suit but was stopped. “No, wear only.”

    “I am wearing it only,” said Williams as he continued to pull it on over his flight suit. However, he was stopped by the punch to his midsection before he could continue. He doubled over and coughed as the air was sent out of his lungs.

    “No! Wear only!” said the guard again.

    Much as he wanted to play further games with the guards, he saw they were in no laughing mood and decided not to tempt fate at that point in time. He stripped off his flight suit and put on the jumpsuit, leaving his flight suit behind him. But before being escorted back to his cell, he received another visitor who entered the room. Major Aziz barked at the guards who grabbed the dingy flight suit and departed, leaving the two alone.

    “I am sorry Captain, but you have left us little choice. My superiors are not willing to wait any longer and have decided other measures are necessary,” said Aziz.

    “Other measures?” asked Williams.

    “They do not believe you have information that can help us,” said Aziz. “So they have decided to treat you as any other political prisoner in our territory.”

    “Not sure I like the sound of that,” said Williams. “Especially after hearing gunfire outside.”

    “Please, I beg of you, give me something to stall them! Just a little piece of information no matter how insignificant you believe it to be! Something I can use to help you!” begged Aziz.

    “I can’t,” said Williams.

    “They may physically torture you once again!” exclaimed Aziz. “Of this I am sure!”

    “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” said Williams.

    “Anything!” said Aziz.

    “I just can’t,” said Williams. “I won’t.”

    “I am sorry friend,” said Aziz as another individual came into the room. He appeared to be a member of some rank as Aziz jumped out of his seat when he entered. The new man started barking off something in Arabic and pointing at Williams and back at Aziz. Aziz attempted to start speaking, but was cut off as the senior individual barked yet again and the guards returned to the room. He got into Aziz’s face and yelled before turning to the guards and pointing at Williams. They came over and grabbed both arms and started dragging him away.

    “What’s going on?!” demanded Williams.

    “They are taking you to the main camp!” exclaimed Aziz.

    “I’ll talk!” said Williams. “Don’t let them kill me!”

    “I cannot stop them Captain!” said Aziz and was restrained by another guard. He yelled in Arabic at the guard, but was not released. They drug him from the room down a corridor and out the front door of the building. The sunlight was blinding to him after being cramped up in the cell and in the ill lit interrogation room. But this was his chance to escape or at least die trying. He wrenched his arms out of the hold and made it five feet before being hit by a copy of the Taser. His muscles went into involuntary lock and he hit the ground without breaking his fall. They gave him the full five seconds of riding the bull before the clacking on the device stopped. He moaned and the guards decided another shot for good measure would be in order. After the second dose of the electrical shock, they picked up his limp body and half drug him past the gated area and into the main camp. As they entered the first area, the guard escorts doubled as others readied their weapons just in case there was trouble. They went to the first building, removed the bar on the door and tossed him inside the dark interior. Closing everything up, they headed back out of the compound before locking and double checking the protective barriers keeping the occupants inside.

    Williams groaned and rolled over, trying to adjust to the dim light creeping in from small gaps in the wooden walls. He sensed he was not alone, but couldn’t see anything in the dark yet as his eyes were still affected by the brief exposure to direct sunlight. There was a foul smell inside and his nose involuntarily twitched. A voice came from his right side as he lay on the floor.

    Haló?” asked the female voice.

    “Yeah, I’m alive,” said Williams as he grunted, trying to roll over towards the voice.

    Kto ste?” asked the female voice. It sounded younger.

    “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak your language,” said Williams as he tried to sit up.

    “You are…American?” asked the voice.

    “Texan,” said Williams as he managed to sit up and look at the voice finally. In the dim light, he could see a younger girl in her early teens.

    “What is Texan?” she asked. “I no understand.”

    “Texan…from Texas,” said Williams.

    “Oh, kovboj!” she exclaimed. “Ummm, cowboy? This correct, no?”

    “Not everyone from Texas is a cowboy darlin,” he drawled and felt for additional injuries.

    “Sorry?” she asked.

    “Nothing, who are you?” he asked.

    “My name is Dana,” she said very formally. “What is your name?”

    “Hank,” he replied, wondering who this person was and if she was a plant by the guards to gather intelligence information from him.

    “You soldier yes?” asked Dana.

    “I’m a pilot,” said Williams. He knew that little tidbit of information wasn’t really a bad thing since the IU knew it already.

    “I no understand,” said Dana.

    “I fly airplanes,” said Williams.

    “Oh,” said Dana.

    “What a young thing like you doing around here darlin?” asked Williams.

    “I prisoner here,” said Dana simply.

    “Okay,” he said and tried to look around. His eyes weren’t adjusted yet so he focused back on the skinny girl to his front.

    “You hurt?” she asked.

    “No, I’ll be fine,” he said although his entire body felt like it was on fire from the Taser.

    “Why you here?” she asked and moved slightly closer.

    “I was shot down,” he drawled.

    “Sorry?” she asked.

    “They shot me…never mind,” said Williams. “What is this place?”

    “The guards say it Jahannam. We in Slovakian Republic,” said Dana.

    “Jahannam doesn’t sound too bad. Kinda pretty,” said Williams.

    “It bad place,” said Dana with some fear in her voice.

    “How’s that?” asked Williams as his eyes adjusted to the darkness just a little more. He started seeing the stick thin figure of the young girl sitting in front of him. Glancing around, he started seeing the death and misery around him as victims of the IU concentration camp were becoming clearer and clearer. His 20/10 eyesight showed the sharp detail of those around him.

    “It mean hell to Muslims,” said Dana with some sorrow.

    “Just what is this place,” said Williams with some fear creeping into his voice.


    “You believe this will work?” asked the IU Lieutenant Colonel.

    “I believe after five to seven days he will tell me anything I want to know,” said Aziz.

    “You did not pursue your real talent in life,” said the Colonel.

    “Which is?” asked Aziz.

    “Theater,” said the Colonel. “You were very convincing before we took him out.”

    “I still must have him believe I am concerned for his wellbeing,” said Aziz.

    “We have about two weeks before this camp is closed permanently. Can you break him by then?” asked the Colonel.

    “I believe a week will be sufficient. While he was cramped in the holding cells here, his reaction to being placed in with those vermin will give him more than enough motivation to tell me what I want to know. Again, the psychology is important here,” said Aziz. “He can stay there and die like the rest of them or live in a cell at one of our main internment facilities until the war is over. When given a choice after experiencing the worst, why would a man not choose better?”

    “And if it does work?” asked the Colonel.

    “It is but a single man. We will need to do it again, but on a larger group next time,” said Aziz.

    “So be it,” said the Colonel. “And keep me informed.”

    “I am out of a job for the next week and I planned to brief headquarters on what I have learned so far. I would like to go to Budapest and report on my progress,” said Aziz.

    “You have my authority,” said the Colonel. “When will you depart?”

    “I will arrange transport and leave in the morning,” said Aziz.


    “You sure about this?” asked Michael over the communicator.

    “Positive,” said Bill Meyers. “We saw them herding what appeared to be prisoners into the compound, shooting them and then tossing them back into the buildings.”

    “Sunshine? You think you saw the pilot?” asked Michael.

    “I couldn’t get a good look at him, but Sister scoped him out. The individual had the right build, complexion and hair color, but we were seven hundred meters away,” said Ashley.

    “Sis, you positive?” asked Michael.

    “As close to one hundred percent as I can be,” said Jill. “I’d say we have a valid target.”

    “And this was after the gunfire?” asked Michael.

    “Approximately forty-five minutes after,” said Ashley.

    “Where’d they take him?” asked Michael.

    “Southwest most building in the prisoner compound. He appeared to have been stunned before they tossed him in, but again, we weren’t positive,” said Ashley.

    “Okay, both of you get a base report typed out and sent into the uplink. As soon as you get it sent, start making your way back here,” said Michael.

    “No more observation?” asked Ashley.

    “Negative,” said Michael. “I think we’ve seen all we need to see and I’d say Warbucks will be pulling us out sooner than planned.”


    “Start working the extraction,” said Thomas after he read the reports from Ashley and Bill as well as the comments from Michael. “We’ve got enough hard data to plan a strike.”

    “Already working it,” said Mark.

    “How long?” asked Thomas.

    “J-SOD is checking schedules,” said Mark. “They’ll get back to me in half an hour.”

    “One more thing from J-SOD; we need someone fluent in Slovak. Probably Czech as well. Preferably some folks with special ops experience or infantry as a minimum. Maybe even former guerrillas would work,” said Thomas.

    “Czech, Slovak and infantry experience being sneaky, got it,” said Mark. “You just want one?”

    “A couple would be good, but I’ll settle for whatever they can get on short notice,” said Thomas. “Oh, and please make sure the guy is fluent in English as well. Not like that Polish dude they saddled us with up in Gdansk.”

    “English as well,” chuckled Mark. “We’ll get on it.”

    “Sounds good,” said Thomas. “Speaking of, if you want that job, you should take it.”

    “Darren told you?” asked Mark.

    “He mentioned it last night,” said Thomas. “Hey, if you stick around, I’ll be happy. But I’m also open minded enough to know you could be very influential in a position like that. And in turn, that benefits not only us, but all the Cider units in the Corps.”

    “And to think I abhor desk work,” he chuckled.

    “You make a decision yet?” asked Thomas.

    “No, but honestly I’m leaning towards it. This game is for you young cats and I’m having a hard time keeping up,” he laughed.

    “You’re only like three years older than I am,” said Thomas with a laugh.

    “Makes a huge difference let me tell you,” laughed Mark. “Either way, I’d like to finish this one out no matter what. If it is a prison camp, that’ll be a nice way of going out with a bang.”

    “I wouldn’t let you miss this for the world,” said Thomas. “You’ll need a team.”

    “I’ll pick one out as soon as possible,” said Mark. “We’ve got enough down teams for me to put one together for the most part.”

    “Okay, everything is falling into place,” said Thomas.

    “Want me to start working the brief for Brigade?” asked Mark.

    “You mean J-SOD?” asked Thomas.

    “Technically it’s Brigade that will have to hack off on this. It’s within their sector and too close to the front according to the new regulations we got. So J-SOD can’t officially let us go without Brigade approval,” said Mark.

    “Right,” said Thomas. “Yeah, go ahead with initial plans for that since you know how the Colonel is about his briefings. Add intel, logistics, additional units involved and service and support. You know he loves that stuff.”

    “Got it,” said Mark.

    “Good training anyway for a future staff weenie,” laughed Thomas.

    “Yeah, about that,” laughed Mark. “They best let me continue to pro fire. I’ll go completely out of my mind if I can’t fire a shot every couple of weeks.”

    “We’ll send in a team to toss some grenades at you from time to time as well,” laughed Thomas. “Okay, I’m heading over to see Rick’s team at the shoot house and I’ll be on the communicator. When you get airflow set for the extraction, give me a yell.”

    “Roger that,” said Mark as he started in on the initial briefing for Brigade to sign off. Thomas grabbed his weapon and took the short ride over to the shoot house where Rick and his team were evaluating their new member and in turn being evaluated by others. He entered the facility and headed for the control room where cameras were positioned to show how the team did on entry. Thomas arrived at the end of a scenario and heard the four individuals shout “clear!” as they finished shredding targets.

    “Well?” asked Thomas. Having a new member meant he had priority in the shoot house and for range time. As well as a priority on training ammo.

    “He’s a natural. Good instincts, good tactics and learns quickly. He seems to have a built in radar that’s allowing him to see what everyone else is doing around him,” said Darren as he went over the video of the last engagement. “See here where he moves just a half step to the left to clear Heather’s field of fire?”

    “Was that where he was supposed to be?” asked Thomas.

    “No, he was supposed to stay put, but somehow realized that he needed to move a foot left to make room for her coming in behind him,” said Darren.

    “Run it again,” said Thomas. “With special targets.”

    “You sure about that?” asked Darren.

    “You think he’s ready?” asked Thomas.

    “His shooting is dead on accurate. But it’s the first day you know?” asked Darren.

    “I trusted you on the first day,” said Thomas.

    “Kid does have some moves,” said Darren. “You want to play?”

    “I wouldn’t have suggested it if I wasn’t,” said Thomas.

    “Okay, if you trust it, so will I,” said Darren.

    By special targets, Thomas meant live people sitting in the room as the “hostages” while the entry team came in with live ammunition. Normally the entry team didn’t know about the targets in advance which would possibly give them a moment’s hesitation before pulling the trigger. It was an old tactic that increased the trust between unit members and a sure tell if someone might freeze up at the wrong moment. It took several minutes to rearrange the furniture and targets and to reset the door for another controlled breech. Outside the team prepared for another entry and stacked up outside the door. Thomas, Darren, Frank and Greg all sat in different spots in the room, two of which would be in Jamie Collin’s sector of fire. They heard the announcement on the radio with a countdown before entry. A split second after the countdown hit “One!” the door exploded inward and the simulated flashbang grenade was tossed in with the team right on the heels of the minor explosion. Jamie was the first person through and started engaging targets without any hesitation of the live targets in the room. In about four seconds, it was all over with the calls of “Clear!” coming from all four members.

    “Not bad at all Badaa,” said Thomas. “Go ahead and get your team ready for the walk through.”

    “Anybody dinged?” asked Darren.

    “Nope, all good here,” said Frank.

    “Felt a whiz, but that was Trouble cutting it a bit close,” said Greg.

    “How are his weapons skills?” asked Thomas after looking at the shredded targets from Jamie. From the appearances, they were okay in the house, but longer range was a different matter.

    “Very sound. Not much improvement needed and we could slide him into a grenadier spot without any trouble,” said Frank who had evaluated him on that portion.

    “Plug them in?” asked Thomas.

    “Maybe a milk run or two before moving forward. Way different environment in training as compared to where the targets shoot back at you,” suggested Greg. “But he has shown he knows what to do when getting hot lead tossed at him already.”

    “Can’t argue with that logic. The current recon missions would be okay I think,” said Darren.

    “I just pulled the recon missions,” said Thomas and explained the reports he had gotten earlier.

    “So that’s why you are trying to get him up to speed quickly,” said Darren.

    “We’ll need everyone that is healthy and can shoot straight for this mission,” said Thomas.

    “We do okay?” asked Rick as he came in after his walk through.

    “Looked perfect,” said Thomas. “No additional holes.”

    “Kid is pretty slick,” admitted Rick. “If I can only get him to stop calling me sir.”

    “You comfortable with him?” asked Thomas.

    “Yeah, I think he’ll be okay. He has good instincts and good tactics,” said Rick.

    “If I told you to go out on a mission tomorrow with him, would you have a problem with that?” asked Thomas.

    “I think he’d be fine,” said Rick. “We’ve got a little more ironing out of the minutia and give him a call sign, but for the moment, it’s like Scott never left.”

    “Darren, Frank, you two ready to sign off?” asked Thomas.

    “He’s good in my book,” said Darren.

    “Kid is a better shot than Rick,” said Frank. “Qualified expert on the first string.”

    “Okay, Rick is back on mission ready status for the moment,” said Thomas who had learned to trust the instincts of the people around him.

    “Filled in pretty quickly. You thinking what I’m thinking?” asked Greg as they walked down the corridor to exit the facility.

    “That our dear Colonel put him here because of his checkered past hoping he would throw a wrench into our team alignments?” asked Thomas. “The thought crossed my mind.”

    “And it backfired,” said Greg. “For the moment at least.”

    “I still want my one on one time with him. Being a commander and all I should get to know my troops a little better,” said Thomas.

    “You already do anyway,” laughed Greg.

    “I just think there’s more than meets the eye to our newest member,” said Thomas.

    “I’ve learned to trust your gut feelings,” said Greg. “This afternoon?”

    “Before dinner I think. Let me have the lad as an appetizer before my main meal,” laughed Thomas. “Around 1730 or so.”

    “And if there are some underlying issues?” asked Greg.

    “We can deal with them,” said Thomas.

    “And if not?” asked Greg.

    “We can deal with that too,” said Thomas, thinking about the new mission they were about to go on. It was unusual performing a hostage rescue this close to the front lines, but that would actually work out better for them logistically as it wouldn’t be that far for them to go for medical help the prisoners would probably be in need of. Planning out the idea in his head, he and Greg went back to the command center to start getting all the details in place before the briefing.

    But as with all missions, there would be some unforeseen circumstances. Only this time they would come from a direction they didn’t expect.
    techsar and Sapper John like this.
  20. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 16

    Date/Time: 25 March/1731
    Location: 1st Brigade Encampment area, near Babín, Slovak Republic

    Some things never changed in the military. If one was to reach back far enough into history, they would find the bureaucracy of evaluations, manpower reports, justifying logistical requests and all forms of documentation and paperwork in military service. And as things had not changed in the 21st Century, Thomas sat at his small desk going over several reports and requests to be sent to Brigade, Division and the J-SOD. It was a small office of sorts, more of a closet really, but a place where Thomas could come in and shut the door from time to time. A knock on his door was heard just as he was finishing a manpower report.

    “Come in,” he said without looking up from the paper. The door opened and Jamie Collins was seen peeking around the door.

    “You asked for me sir?” asked Jamie.

    “Yes, come on in and grab a chair,” said Thomas. “Let me get this finished up if you don’t mind. Has to be filed today.”

    “Roger that sir,” said Jamie and took a seat opposite of Thomas’ desk. He shifted uncomfortably in the chair as Thomas finished up the duplicate reports to be sent to the Brigade and J-SOD. Everything appeared to be in order and he put it into the outgoing box before leaning back in his chair.

    “Normally I meet folks before they start training and before missions. Kind of slipped up the timeline with you,” said Thomas.

    “I wasn’t expecting to be sent out as soon as I was sir,” said Jamie.

    “But you proved yourself under fire. And did it very well I might add. Those two men owe their lives to you,” said Thomas.

    “The medical field has always intrigued me sir,” said Jamie. “But when I was drafted, I was assigned to be a supply troop. Not the best of jobs.”

    “An important one though,” said Thomas. “Logistics win wars, not tactics.”

    “Suppose so sir,” said Jamie.

    “You getting settled in otherwise?” asked Thomas.

    “Yes sir,” said Jamie.

    “Finding anything difficult? Training schedule okay?” asked Thomas.

    “It’s okay so far sir,” said Jamie. “Lot of information packed into a little time.”

    “Captain Jones said some nice things about you. Said you were about the best he’s seen come out of S and T yet,” said Thomas. “And I generally listen to what my team leaders have to say and he said he was comfortable going back on mission ready status.

    “As in active missions, sir?” asked Jamie.

    “As in real behind the lines work in surveillance, detection and reconnaissance,” said Thomas.

    “I understand sir,” said Jamie. “Just seems sudden.”

    “You feel like you need more training?” asked Thomas.

    “No,” said Jamie. “I mean, you can’t ever be trained enough so to speak.”

    “Most people that get here can’t wait,” said Thomas. “But you almost seem reluctant.”

    “I wouldn’t say reluctant sir,” said Jamie.

    “So find another word,” said Thomas.

    “It’s different pace of life than I’m used to. More challenging I suppose. But I don’t mind a good challenge every now and then,” said Jamie. “But it seems sudden, that’s all.”

    “We do a lot of challenging things,” said Thomas as he found the path that led into the intent of the meeting. There were several questions that begged for answers of the NCO sitting in front of him. “But the challenge I have to ask about is the one, or rather the many you had prior to coming here.”

    “I’m not…” started Jamie and his voice trailed off. “Not really sure what to say.”

    “The truth is always a good start,” said Thomas with a wave of his hand.

    “The truth…” he started and his voice trailed off once again. “I’m not sure you want to hear the truth of the matter.”

    “Our unit is built on trust of each other. And that trust was gained by some in the immediate aftermath of the Fall and others by being in this unit for a while. And with that trust came complete and open honesty with each other. We all know our dirty little secrets and are honest and open about them with each other. And no matter how nasty, blunt and hurtful it may be, the truth always comes first with us. So if you are telling me truth and trust will be an issue, I’ll see to it right now that you’re reassigned to another Cider unit or more likely a regular infantry unit,” said Thomas bluntly.

    “That’s not exactly what I had in mind sir,” said Jamie.

    “So lay it on me. Why are you here?” asked Thomas again very bluntly. “It’s a simple question that needs an answer. Your file is filled with all sorts of indicators of someone who really shouldn’t be here. A maverick who spurns authority in any shape or form. You know Cider is built on teamwork, so the most important question I ask is why are you here?”

    “I’m here sir, because I never expected to make it this far,” said Jamie.

    “Explain,” ordered Thomas.

    “Well sir, I was drafted as you can probably tell from my records and assigned to a conventional unit. I honestly didn’t want to be drafted because I don’t think we should be here. In Europe specifically. I couldn’t get a medical deferment since I’m as healthy as they come so there were no other options for me. Anyway we kicked the IU out of North America and should have stopped there. I mean, I’m from Nebraska and the IU never came that far inland so I have a hard time seeing the big picture so to speak. I’m not entirely sure why we happen to be in Europe since the IU isn’t a threat to us anymore. So after I was drafted, I did what I had to in order to do my time and get back. But I’m not sure why we’re here,” he explained.

    “Your evaluation reports have you listed with high marks in performance and efficiency. So it’s hard to imagine someone who doesn’t want to be here would have been that good of a soldier. And being that you applied and passed S and T means you put in some hard work,” said Thomas.

    “I applied for Cider since I thought it would be a quick path to getting out. It was basically the easiest way for my last commander to get rid of me without having to go through all the trouble of a failure to adapt discharge,” said Jamie. “My commander gave me the option to apply and signed off just so she could get rid of me.”

    “Yes, we know,” said Thomas and saw the expression on Jamie’s face. “Oh don’t act surprised Sergeant, you’d be amazed at what information we can find out.”

    “I’m surprised, but I know I shouldn’t be,” said Jamie. “I’ve heard stories about how Cider, your unit in particular, can find out just about anything.”

    “So what else? Why not request a dismissal from training?” asked Thomas.

    “Because I don’t quit sir. I know that makes me an enigma, but once I start something I just don’t quit. I would prefer to be dismissed by the cadre than admit defeat,” said Jamie.

    “And it would have bounced you back into a normal unit as well,” stated Thomas.

    “That too,” said Jamie. “So I did what I had to do and hoped the cadre would recognize I wasn’t fit for Cider duty and give me the option of getting out. Per the regulations, you are given the option of voluntary dismissal from service if you are involuntarily opted out of S and T.”

    “It backfired,” said Thomas.

    “As I realize now,” said Jamie.

    “So why are you here?” asked Thomas.

    “Because I passed and I won’t quit,” said Jamie.

    “And will this be a problem?” asked Thomas.

    “I’d prefer just a simple discharge sir,” said Jamie. “As long as we’re putting it all on the table.”

    “Which I think would be in order. Frankly, I don’t want you here if you aren’t willing to be a team player and build trust with us so you’ll get your wish and I’ll sign off on your discharge. We’ll sign it as a humanitarian deal or something and go from there,” said Thomas.

    “I hear a ‘but’ in there sir,” said Jamie.

    “No, there won’t be conditions so to speak. But I will say I won’t leave Captain Jones shorthanded while we get a replacement. So until he gets a new member to replace you and is up to speed, you will, and I repeat that with some emphasis, will continue to troop on and serve at the discretion of myself and the other leaders in this unit,” said Thomas.

    “Like I said sir, I don’t quit,” said Jamie.

    “Not good enough for me,” said Thomas.

    “I’m not sure what you want me to say,” he replied. “But I will give it one hundred percent while I’m here and will do what’s required.”

    “We don’t give it a hundred percent, we give it everything we have and then reach deep down and give it a little more. Furthermore, we may not like what we happen to be doing or can’t see the big picture here, but we still soldier on,” said Thomas.

    “Hard to soldier on when I’m not even sure we should be here,” said Jamie. “And I think that ends up making me more of a hindrance than a help.”

    “You may not like the fact you got drafted or the reasons why we are here or maybe even have a little pacifist streak in you. But the simple fact is you volunteered to go to S and T, however unofficial it may have been, and made it through before getting dropped in our laps. And until I can get a replacement for you, that’s your problem, not mine. And let me go ahead and tell you, the better you perform while you happen to be occupying a bunk here gives us more motive to get you out because you asked. And if that means you have to put your personal feelings in check and be a team player, then you best learn how to play well with others because you do not want to be the one known as the person who can’t be trusted. Such people can find themselves cut off, alone and their leadership quite unreasonable to whatever concerns they may have,” growled Thomas, finally losing his temper after being reasonable.

    “Again, I don’t know why we’re fighting. Or what we happen to be fighting for,” said Jamie.

    “We are fighting because our political leaders deemed it necessary to eliminate the IU threat not only to the North American nations, but to the European ones as well. And seeing that there are formal agreements in place, it’s not our place to question,” Thomas said through gritted teeth.

    “Again, I won’t quit and will do what is necessary to get out of here,” said Jamie.

    “As we all are doing! You think any of us really want to be here? I’ve got a daughter I’ve never met, Sergeant Taylor-Bates just sent her husband home where he will be hospital bound for at least a year if not more, Sergeant Nicholson has been with his wife for exactly three weeks since they got married. You think you’re the only one that’s doing what is necessary to get out of here?” thundered Thomas going back to his former days as an NCO. He rarely had to use it and never had to use it on his own unit members, but lessons learned about dressing down a junior member came back in full force as he took a breath and continued.

    “Not a single one of us want to be here! But guess what? We are here! And while we happen to be here, we will continue until our political leaders think it’s time to come home! You may very well question the reasons why, but it’s not your place to say we should or shouldn’t be here until you get back to the States, run for office, get yourself elected and start making policy for the military! So until said time you actually can influence policy, you will serve to the utmost of your abilities and beyond if the mission calls for it, will be a team player and most importantly will start to trust those around you with your life! Because that’s exactly what’s happened when you got assigned here! You put your life in our hands! So you better start warming up to the idea that we are not stuck with you, but like it or not you are stuck with us! Am I making myself perfectly clear?” demanded Thomas who had risen out of his chair and was over the desktop.

    “Crystal sir,” said Jamie who had also risen and assumed the parade rest position.

    “Now do you have any pressing questions or concerns that need to be addressed?” he asked.

    “Negative sir,” said Jamie.

    “Are we going to end up having a talk like this again?” asked Thomas in a calmer voice.

    “Negative sir,” said Jamie.

    “Believe it or not, we are in the business of saving lives. Each mission we do helps save lives to include those of your precious family back in Nebraska. I’m not going to give you the song and dance about how we should be here, but we are here because some people just can’t fight for themselves. And that’s something to take and internalize while you happen to be here, however long or short that may be. I will get you discharged as soon as possible, but until said time, start thinking about others instead of your own personal woes that brought you here,” said Thomas.

    “Roger that sir,” said Jamie.

    “Dismissed,” said Thomas and did something he almost never did with members of his teams. He rendered a quick hand salute before sitting down and ignoring the young NCO to his front. Jamie quietly left as Thomas fumed over another report on his desk. Not being able to concentrate after the conversation, he started reading it from the start and attempted to focus. He hadn’t noticed Greg had come into the office.

    “You are a grumpy old bastard,” he chuckled.

    “Now is not the time,” said Thomas, not looking up.

    “And they say I’m the mean one,” said Greg.

    “I’m about ready to hurl you out of my office,” remarked Thomas without looking up.

    “Out of your closet?” asked Greg.

    Thomas finally pushed the report away since he couldn’t find the concentration needed to look it over. Taking a deep breath and letting out a big sigh, he thought about the young NCO that had departed so recently. “You would have thought the psychological screening would have caught his aversion to authority as well as the war.”

    “I did some checking on that myself once I heard about the troops checkered past. I called up some of my contacts at the schools and found out they knew about it already,” said Greg.

    “And they failed to mention this?” demanded Thomas.

    “The guys I talked to thought he might end up ‘growing up’ by the next stage of training. That’s their words, not mine,” said Greg. “And since he never did anything bad enough to get tossed, they kept passing him on to the next phase of training hoping he would get better.”

    “And it obviously didn’t happen,” said Thomas.

    “Some folks end up not working out in the long run,” remarked Greg.

    “Shouldn’t happen that way. I mean, we’re in a combat zone and can get this sort of information reasonably easy. There is no reason whatsoever that the rear echelon guys shouldn’t be able to pick up a phone and get the same information,” said Thomas. “And at least we don’t have to try to figure out a name for him.”

    “You already got a call sign in mind?” asked Greg.

    “Yep, Outcast,” said Thomas. “Fits perfect.”

    “Want to pull Rick’s team from mission ready status?” asked Greg.

    “As much as I’d love to, we just can’t right now. But make sure he knows to keep a close eye on Collins as well as giving him an even shorter leash,” said Thomas.

    “You think he’ll come around?” asked Greg.

    “Doubt it,” said Thomas. “Once those feelings are set, it’s hard to get rid of them.”

    “I dunno, we are kind of a fun loving unit and all,” laughed Greg.

    “That’s because we’re all certifiably insane,” chuckled Thomas. “Start using our back channels for a replacement for him. I don’t trust our Colonel so do this informally.”

    “I’ll poke around,” said Greg. “Want to grab a bite to eat?”

    “I’m still a little angry and I’ve got these reports to sign off, let me cool off for a few more minutes and we’ll go,” said Thomas.

    “Deal,” said Greg as he departed the office. Thomas started scanning the report once again, but his mind was still wandering to the conversation he had just had. Trusting in Mark Williams’ ability for the moment, he signed off the report and filed it away before going on to the next one.


    Collins sat on the edge of his bunk continuing to think of the conversation he had just been a part of with Major Dayfield. And continued going over what had been said and the agreement he had informally made. If being a good soldier would get him out of the European Theater quicker, he certainly would put all his effort into accomplishing that goal. But he was slightly worried over the situation he had put himself into if he didn’t perform up to standards. His mind started working in overdrive into the countless possibilities that awaited him while in this assignment. It was a relatively simple task to have a training accident or something to happen behind the lines during a mission. And generally as all units took casualties, it would just be part of the process.

    But he also knew a lot about the 14th as their exploits had been well documented and knew they were a lot closer than most units due to the fact that many of them had been with each other since the Fall. And knowing such made him the outsider in their close knit community. So in order to get out quickly, he had to meld quickly whether he liked it or not. His thoughts continued to go back to how he ever had it so wrong to think it would be easy to get dismissed from Cider.

    “Hungry?” asked a female voice from the side as he continued in thought.

    “Sorry?” asked Jamie.

    “Are you hungry?” asked Heather.

    “No, thanks though,” he replied.

    “Everyone gets barked at from time to time,” said Heather.

    “Happens a little too frequently with me,” said Jamie.

    “I’d like to say I was always the perfect little angel. But I still get my butt chewed when I act dumb. But I learned to change the paradigm of why I get briefed,” said Heather.

    “Not easy to do with me,” said Jamie.

    “I’d say it’s easier than you probably think. I don’t question why or why not, just remember that none of this would have happened had someone not invaded Europe and in turn North America,” said Heather.

    “I’m not sure that we should be worrying about others when the threat is no longer a concern of ours,” he said.

    “You honestly think the IU would have stopped at just one invasion? Or not used nukes in their next attempt? You think our being here makes our homes more or less safe?” asked Heather.

    “Dunno, but not for me to decide,” said Jamie.

    “Which is very true and the sooner you learn that valuable lesson, the better,” said Heather.

    “Trying to make me feel worse?” he asked with a wry smile.

    “I doubt after the ripping you got I could do that,” she chuckled.

    “Word travels fast,” said Jamie with a frown.

    “We have some thin walls around here. The entire camp heard the exchange…well, at least the one side of it,” said Heather.

    “Which will make me a pariah in these circles,” said Jamie.

    “Not necessarily so,” said Heather. “Trust is earned from both sides of the equation.”

    “How will you guys ever trust me knowing I don’t support the reasons we are here?” he asked.

    “For the same reasons you will trust us to get you back alive,” she replied. “We’re here to survive and get back home. Sure we have a job to do, but overall, survival to get back to our families and loved ones is the primary objective.”

    “That’s kind of a simplistic way of looking at things,” said Jamie.

    “Doesn’t have to be complicated you know,” she stated reasonably.

    “Suppose not,” he said.

    “And if you want to continue feeling sorry for yourself and your predicament, you might as well do it on a full stomach. C’mon, let’s grab some chow,” she prompted with a nod of her head.

    “Might as well,” he said and collected his web gear and carbine. The thoughts continued to cascade through his mind, but he knew there was finally light at the end of the tunnel. But at least one member was willing to look past his personal issues with the war and attempt to welcome him into the fold.

    Date/Time: 26 March/0127
    Location: west of the enemy compound, near Ružomberok, Slovak Republic

    “Everyone set?” asked Michael Parsons as the teams were geared up and preparing to move towards the landing zone for their exfil. One team was still missing as they were keeping an eye on the crossroads in case anything was to spring up at the last moment. They would join the group after they got underway at an established rally point and continue to the LZ.

    “All set,” said the other team leaders in turn as they got into formation. Michael did a quick head count just in case and scanned the area to make sure they didn’t leave any obvious signs they had been there. Of course, the area had been walked and crawled over, but after several days, the grass would start going back into place and the area would take on a more natural look.

    “Giggles, lead off,” said Michael as he patted Nancy Dugger on the back. Her call sign Giggles went all the way back to when they were first assigned to the Texan Militia and had followed her through her career.

    They had traveled almost a kilometer when the radio came alive from Tim Daniels’ team that was overwatching the main roadway. “Token, stand by, we’ve got a lot of traffic down here.”

    “Heading towards the camp?” asked Michael in response.

    “Negative, looks to be heading straight up the hardball,” said Tim.

    “Will it affect our ex-fil?” asked Michael.

    “You could say that,” said Tim. “Appears to be at least a battalion in travel formation.”

    “Copy, keep an eye on it,” said Michael as he grabbed the satellite antenna to contact command. It took several moments for the device to link up, but he finally got a carrier signal and reached the command center. After explaining the situation to Holly Meredith, he concluded with the statement “Request pick up at alternate Bravo.”

    “Stand by,” said Holly as she checked the schedules. “Also, can you get Fluffy up on the radio for possible targeting info?”

    “Stand by,” said Michael as he quickly reconfigured the device to allow direct communications between the command center and Tim. The patch took several moments but finally the three individuals were linked up.

    “Fluffy, this is Casper,” said Holly.

    “Go,” said Tim.

    “Can you get targeting coordinates for artillery?” she asked.

    “Roger, the column is between target reference points Quebec through Tango on the planning maps. Targets are a mix of armor, infantry fighting vehicles and standard cargo trucks. Request a mix of airburst and delayed action along the entire hardball. I can adjust,” said Tim.

    “Roger, standby,” said Holly and pulled up the Brigade command nets. Before communicating, she asked Brian Holmes to contact J-SOD to coordinate the aircraft to the new landing zone and sent a runner to find Thomas.

    “Bear Cave, this is Camelot, over,” said Holly on the Brigade frequencies.

    “Camelot, this is Bear Cave, go ahead,” said the on duty controller in the Brigade headquarters.

    “Request artillery strike on target of opportunity,” she relayed.

    “Standby,” said the controller. “Go ahead and send request Camelot.”

    “Roger, adjust fire on forces on ESR Tombstone at T-R-P Quebec, Romeo, Sierra and Tango on Camelot Opord 21 dash Alpha. Target is battalion sized formation in road travel configuration. Request immediate time on target with delayed action and airburst rounds. We can provide adjustment,” relayed Holly.

    “Stand by Camelot,” said the controller. “Be advised, request is being made to Grizzly-6.”

    “Standing by,” said Holly as she looked up the frequency for the Brigade artillery so Tim would be able to communicate directly with them. She passed the radio frequencies over the satellite net and Amy Kerns immediately started getting another radio set up.

    “Camelot, Grizzly-6 is requesting additional information about the unit in standard SALUTE format,” said the controller.

    “Fluffy, can you give us a SALUTE?” asked Holly.

    “Size, battalion in open. Activity, moving up MSR Tombstone. Location, between TRP Quebec and Tango, Uniform, appears to be mix of Tango-90 armor, Bravo-Tango-Romeo and Bravo Mike Papa vehicles and cargo trucks ranging from half ton to flatbed type. Time, now. Equipment, as described,” said Tim patiently.

    Holly relayed the information to the command center and waited once again. The controller came back on after a brief pause. “Grizzly-6 requests unit identification.”

    “Be advised, team cannot identify specific unit, they are five clicks out,” said Holly.

    “Standby,” said the controller and paused to relay the information. “Camelot, Grizzly-6 has authorized time on target with two batteries of mobile guns. He also orders your team gather damage assessment and unit identification upon completion. Contact Nomad-6 on channel Charlie-4 to coordinate.”

    “Copy, thanks,” said Holly and relayed the information. The artillery unit had already been alerted by the Brigade command post and was waiting on Tim to coordinate.

    “I’m never going to get a good night’s sleep around his joint,” said Thomas as he wandered in.

    “The teams sighted a new battalion moving into Ružomberok,” said Holly. “It’s a target of opportunity, so they want to hit it with some artillery. Brigade just cleared it.”

    “Nice of them,” said Thomas. “Which team is in contact?”

    “Fluffy,” said Holly. “Brigade requests they do damage assessment as well as identifying the units involved.”

    “No,” said Thomas. “Assessment fine, but I’m not asking four people to walk into a battalion that just got mud stomped by the brigade guns and ask who they are.”

    “I was going to suggest only,” said Holly.

    “If, and only if, they can get in undetected,” said Thomas. “But either way, keep Fluffy on the ground and have Token and the rest head to the alternate LZ. Something like this is too important to pull them for and we can arrange additional aircraft to pick them up.”

    “Brian was working the airflow,” said Holly.

    “Aircraft unit has been notified and there are no problems in diverting,” said Brian.

    “What type? We’ve got twenty folks on the ground,” asked Thomas.

    “Chinook, same aircraft that took us in before,” said Brian.

    “Mighty nice of them,” said Thomas. “Probably hoping for more wine.”

    The radio came alive between the artillery fire direction center (FDC) and Tim on the ground. They had coordinated the targets and they heard the FDC announce “shot, over.”

    “Splash, drop one-fifty and fire for effect!” announced Tim over the radio as the shell had gone over the target by one hundred fifty meters. The brigade howitzers opened fire on the convoy, sending delayed action high explosive shells and airburst up and down the convoy for two minutes of rapid fire. The vehicles attempted to get off the roadway, but found their path blocked by large ditches on either side. Tim continued to shift fires onto the largest concentrations of IU forces attempting to get away from the attack

    “Nomad, switch to DPICM, hit all three target reference points with three volleys and one more of HE,” requested Tim.

    The remaining rounds fell onto the position before switching over to the Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions, a shell which contained submunitions that would spread the destruction over a wider area. The twelve M-109A7 self propelled howitzers fired thirty-six of the DPICM shells before a final volley of high explosive onto the targeted convoy.

    “Fluffy, this is Nomad-6 Charlie, fire mission complete,” said the controller in the FDC.

    “Roger, will provide damage assessment in five mike,” said Tim. “Nice shooting.”

    “Our pleasure, Nomad-6 Charlie standing by,” said the controller.

    “Fluffy, this is Camelot,” said Thomas over the satellite radio.

    “Send it,” said Tim.

    “Roger, I want you to stay on the ground and assess the intentions of that convoy. You can attempt to make positive identification on the specific unit, but at no risk to your team. How copy?” asked Thomas.

    “Acknowledged,” said Tim. “How long?”

    “We need to know if the convoy was reinforcing Casio or was passing through,” said Thomas. “Link up with Token and fill up on supplies before they leave.”

    “Roger, we’ll contact you in six hours,” said Tim.

    “Stay safe, Camelot out,” said Thomas.

    Date/Time: 26 March/0409
    Location: IU Eastern Command, Budapest, Occupied Hungary

    “Sir? There is a problem in the Ružomberok sector,” said a Captain after completing a phone call and reading over the dispatches.

    “What happened?” asked the Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the night staff.

    “It appears the two relief battalions moving in were hit by artillery fire and airstrikes while still in road travel formation. They are still gathering the figures, but it appears we have lost upwards of a Company’s worth of equipment and personnel and the support company assigned to each suffered heavy casualties,” said the Captain. “One was hit last night by coalition fighter bombers and this battalion was hit a few hours ago by artillery fire.”

    “They were to replace our battalions in the sector?” asked the Colonel.

    “Yes sir,” said the Captain. “Part of the relief in place for the forces in the area. They were being moved back to consolidate prior to the Coalition spring offensive.”

    “I know the units moving in,” said the Colonel after looking over the dispatches that had preceded the phone call. “Certainly not our best troops.”

    “Our intelligence has informed us they believe the spring offensive is still some weeks away. It was a calculated risk by the General Staff that we move these units in while we still had the chance to provide relief and reconsolidation to the remainder of the units on the front,” said the Captain.

    “Can they still do the relief?” asked the Colonel.

    “They are still assessing the situation, but it appears they will be at approximately sixty to seventy percent strength when the final figures are sent,” said the Captain.

    “What is required in that sector for a proper defense?” asked the Colonel.

    “At least two full strength battalions with one preferably being armored and an additional infantry battalion as garrison,” said the Captain. “Along with the usual indirect fire and attack helicopter support for that size of a formation.”

    “A full regiment of troops?” asked the Colonel.

    “It secures vital rail and road bridges in the area,” said the Captain. “But we’ve managed to get by with two battalions as a screening force with plans of moving in additional forces if and when needed. Most of our troops have spent the winter behind the lines resupplying and training for the spring offensive.”

    “Enemy dispositions?” asked the Colonel.

    “The FNC is facing us with two battalions and one in reserve on the front. The fighting is limited to minor skirmishes and artillery exchanges,” said the Captain.

    “A full brigade opposing us presents a problem,” said the Colonel.

    “It does sir, but apparently the brigade commander facing us is content to sit back and limit the fighting,” said the Captain.

    “Do we have a dossier on him?” asked the Colonel.

    The Captain handed over a folder with the known information on the opponent. “Sir, he was on the North American Union planning staff until recently. He was transferred in as part of a political move to ensure his promotion, at least our analysts believe this.”

    “Has he been in combat before?” asked the Colonel.

    “Nothing we can find sir. He was in Iraq before the Fall as part of the American transition team, but since that time, has spent his time in North America,” said the Captain.

    “Do we believe him to be a threat?” asked the Colonel.

    “From what he has done so far, no,” said the Captain.

    “How come?” asked the Colonel.

    “He is not bold and does not exploit the mistakes of our commanders. When the unit arrived to oppose us, there was an opportunity to move closer to the city. The balance of forces was to his advantage and had he pressed, we might have lost the city then. But he made no move to strike against the city and displace our forces,” said the Captain.

    “So he is not brave?” asked the Colonel.

    “He is cautious from what we believe. Intelligence thinks he prefers to plan out every detail of the operations prior to implementation. From messages decoded by our intelligence units, he manages all portions of the engagements and has his staff do little of the thinking,” said the Captain.

    “Certainly different from the commander he replaced,” said the Colonel as he continued to read through the dossier. “The last commander would have reached Budapest by now had he still been in command of this brigade.”

    “Allah works in mysterious ways,” said the Captain. “We could move in additional forces from the Prievidza sector.”

    “They are responsible for countering any actions made by the Germans,” said the Colonel. “And that commander is competent and aggressive enough to attack as soon as he sees the troops pulling back. Best to deal with the devil we know.”

    “Sir?” asked the Captain.

    “How long were they to be on the line?” asked the Colonel.

    “Two weeks sir,” said the Captain.

    “And intelligence does not believe the offensive will start in that time?” asked the Colonel.

    “No sir,” said the Captain.

    “Then we deal with the devil we know by limiting forces in this sector on the assumption that this opposing commander will not strike. Contact the garrison commander and instruct him to consolidate the remains of the battalions and utilize them as necessary. And remind him he will get reinforced after the two battalions on the ground are able to rest, resupply and receive replacements,” ordered the Colonel.

    “Do you wish to alert any other units to be prepared to move forward if necessary?” asked the Captain.

    The Colonel looked over the map where the units were off the lines at the moment and selected two additional battalions. “Alert these two units in case they are needed. They are four and six hours away respectively which should be ample time to move in if we receive indications of an impending attack.”

    “Yes sir,” said the Captain.

    And a brief window would be opened. Neither side knew the ramifications of the decisions that had been made or were about to be made on both sides of the equation, however, war is often about chance and seizing an opportunity. And one person in particular was about to seize the moment and take a large gamble with his own future.
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