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Untitled – Chapter ?

August 11, 2017

Always on the run

Kunar Province, Near the Pakistan Border

***

There it was again: Request denied. Await choppers.

He’d been listening the last hour-and-a-half to the scrambled radio chatter between a nearby Army unit and the commanding officer of the two dozen or so coalition representatives who had apparently been betrayed by the village elders to the Taliban. They were separated and bogged down under enemy fire and were requesting mortar rounds on the groups of Taliban who were preventing their leaving.

Occasionally, the Taliban taunted them on an open radio channel. He listened to that as well, broken English that would have been comical had it not been for the dire circumstances.

His own mission had gone smoothly enough, if by smoothly one included aborted. The plan had been to take out one, just one, senior member of a Pakistan tribe that had cooperated with al Qaeda. The man, known simply as Ahmed al-Sidr, hadn’t shown up at the trap. It was to be an exchange of opium for weapons.

Al-Sidr didn’t show. Had the man smelled a trap?

It wasn’t so much that he was good at killing, that hadn’t been why he’d been chosen for the job. Rather, it was his skill with disguises and language. This particular job required someone to blend in, even under close scrutiny during broad daylight. His equipment, which included a limited SOPMOD and Raytheon’s latest thermal weapon sight, good for day or night, would make up for any shortcomings he might otherwise encounter.

He could kill enemies yards away while moving quickly or from a safe sniping distance.

There was an explosion.

“Fuck you!”

Some marine had had enough of the Taliban’s taunting and managed to lob one via RPG near the closest line and punctuated it with a radio retort.

He checked his watch. Eleven hours and one minute to extraction. He only needed to lie low until then.

A new round of counterfire could be heard coming from all three sides of the bogged down Army, Navy, Marines and Afghan Army groups. Eleven hours was a long time to wait when taking fire from a hundred or more fighters being supported by local villagers. The Taliban would have ammo, food, water, and medical attention, as unlimited as they had open access to. The other side was limited to whomever was trained, able-bodied and with whatever little supplies they brought with them, and then only if such personnel could make it from their location to where they were needed without becoming a casualty themselves.

Never get involved. It had been drilled into him. If you were walking down the street and saw your sister being raped and murdered, you were trained to turn and walk away. Never draw attention to yourself. Never break cover. Never lose your cool unless it served a mission goal, which was just acting, and even then it better be the right choice.

His equipment was all accounted for. For every shot he fired–which had been none at all given his quarry’s absence–he would have to account for it in his report. Though he had no idea what would happen if he got involved, probably not shot in the face and thrown out an airplane–hadn’t that been what Snowden said he expected?–but whatever it would be, it would be very unpleasant. He’d be made an example of.

Despite the reputation sometimes as cowboys, despite the thinking outside the box, despite the–he suspected–frequently invoked “mistake” or few bad apples excuses to hide what had really been orders from the power structure, the Central Intelligence Agency was actually very well disciplined. By the time you got to, assuming you ever did, the kind of field operations he was involved in they knew you so well that they knew you better than you knew yourself. Whatever they didn’t like, they set about to change and change you did or you were out.

And, of course, it never hurt that they also had you blackmailed: Committing various illegal acts was only protected as long as they wanted you protected. He’d seen it over and over again, what happens. Even when what precisely they did wasn’t always clear. Kiriakiou. Sterling. Hell, Plame-Wilson from before his time.

And then there was internal security. They were some of the scariest people he’d ever met, and he’d met a few of the world’s scariest people.

He glanced over at the unused bait, the weapons and ammo he was supposed to trade to the man he was ordered to kill. He had acquired them on the black market. They were used but in decent working condition and the ammo was real, in case al-Sidr decided to check it before he was ready and able to make his move. Since he had acquired it in-country, and alone, and the mission was not yet complete, it was not, unlike his issued equipment, fully accounted for. Not yet.

He contemplated what he might be able to accomplish if he were careful: Confusion. Cover-fire. Removal of some of the Taliban’s better riflemen, their snipers.

He was about to reject the idea when something suddenly clicked in his head. The reason the Army refused to lay down mortar fire…

It was him. Embedded CIA at the Army base had refused to allow it, lest they accidentally take out a valuable officer, an asset, via friendly fire.

It made no fucking sense. Yes, his training was expensive and, he had no illusions, or at least very few, he was valuable and yet not irreplaceable.

But how many grunts was he worth?

That was when the possibility that they had been the bait for al-Sidr in the first place popped into his head. It was not at all beyond top Pentagon officials and their CIA counterparts to sacrifice some to take out one leader.

He heard someone on the encoded channel, probably the same crazy marine who had fired the RPG, explaining that he was going in, against orders, to get the other men out.

It was going to be a massacre.

He opened the weapons crate and selected the weapon in the best shape he could find and he loaded it. He just needed to get to a good position.

 

 

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From → Novels, Untitled

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