Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.
The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.
Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in, and because of it, he has now been roped into what might be called a suicide mission.
The folder had half a dozen single-page sheets with a photo attached to each with a standard-issue army paper clip. There was no top secret in pale red ink diagonally scribed across any of the pages which somehow diminished the exercise.
I guessed this was the hand-picked team selected for me to take on our suicide mission. It didn’t have the officer overseeing the mission, or the go-between Jacobi. Not exactly a useful man to have along in a firefight, because he would be too busy working out who would pay the most if or when he survived.
It still astonished me that we hired people like Jacobi, fully knowing that they would sell out their own mother if the price was right. I was going to reserve one bullet in my gun to execute him the moment he even looked the wrong way.
Trust him, I did not.
Nor any 0f the six members of that hand-picked team.
Sergeant Barnes. Tall, wide, deadly, that last attribute courtesy of a line in his resume that said he killed three soldiers of the army we were supposed to be training and supporting. No meaningful reason was given as to why he did, only that he’d just finished serving a five-year sentence, cut short by a month so he could join this force. Hand to hand combat, and a handy man to have if you’ve got a handheld rocket launcher handy.
Private Williamson. Had been a Corporal, but considered that too much of a burden, having men look up to him, and having to give orders. He decided to go AWOL instead. Used to be a butcher before signing on to see the world, and as described very handy with a knife. Refused to use a gun, and refused orders too, which was the reason why he was in the stockade, with his friend, the next man on the list.
Private Shurl. If we needed a man who excelled at sword fighting, he was our man. A very accomplished swordsman, but I doubt we were going to need a man of his talents because enemy swordsmen seemed only to exist in the old movies. I guess Lallo was expecting the three musketeers or something. Other than that, he was a useful radioman and would be handling the communications once we were on the ground in enemy territory.
Corporal Stark. His claim to fame was reading maps. He was also an expert on the ground in the country whose borders we were about to violate. He lived in the country for several years with his wife, who came from there, and who’d been killed by the dictator in a case of mistaken identity. Stark would have to be carefully managed.
Staff Sergeant Mobley. A man who had been up and down in ranks for a long time, suggesting a bad attitude, his latest bout leaving him fresh from a stint in the stockade. He had no valid reason to be in on this disaster and yet had volunteered. That took courage, to apply for a suicide mission with little hope of return. I suspect he had an agenda that no one else knew about.
Lieutenant Lesley Davies. A woman marine, no longer a lieutenant but just another soldier who obviously didn’t understand the concept of taking one step back when everyone else steps in another direction. It didn’t say what it was she did wrong, but my guess there were a few men out there frightened of meeting her on a dark night. Some women are dainty, some women are large, and then there’s Davies, a powerhouse that could be dangerous if out of control.
Out of all of that team, she was the one who interested me the most.
There was a knock on the door, interrupting my thoughts. I called out, “Enter”, surprised the person outside hadn’t just shoved their way into the room.
The door opened, Monroe walked in and closed the door behind her.
“Let me guess,” I said. “You’re running point.”
“And save your sorry ass from those recruits. Not a brain between the lot of them, and we need people who can think, given the nature of the forthcoming exercise. The brains trust has decided the rescue team reports to us. I didn’t ask for it by the way. This is one of Lallo’s sick jokes.”
Maybe he had a problem with her too and was hoping she wasn’t coming back.
“You and me both,” I said.
She threw another folder on the table. “Operational orders, wheels up at 0600 tomorrow. Make sure you get a hearty meal before we leave, it might be your last for a while.”
“Suit yourself.” She went back to the door, gave me a curious look, and left.
I opened the file and looked at the one piece of paper in it. It was marked Top Secret in red diagonally across the page, probably specially done by Lallo to make me feel important. It had departure time, the weather, the flight time, how long the stopover would be before going on to the target.
Tightly planned, no room for missing connections, though this was the army, not an airline taking us, no room for errors. New intel said that we had five days before the prisoners were to be executed.
No pressure then.
© Charles Heath 2019