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Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Kildaran - Chapter 8

[Now that we're done with the Chief, Mike can make another call. Language advisory!]


“Office of Strategic Operations Liaison, Colonel Pierson speaking, how may I help you sir or madam?”
“Go scramble.”
“Scrambled. Hold one. Walker!”
Another voice came on the line. “Sir?”
“This is going Ultra. I want you off this line, recorders shut down and the record of this call wiped. Now.”
“Sir, yes sir!” There was a distinct click.
“Sorry, Mike. New bells and whistles. Go ahead.”
“Bob, we’ll take the mission. But we need lots and lots of support or this is going to be a no-go.”
“That’s what I told NCA, and his exact words were, ‘I don’t care. I was told he was the best, and you will personally ensure he gets whatever he wants.’”
“Nice to know I’m appreciated,” Mike said with a chuckle, then he turned serious. “Ready?”
“Go ahead.”
“First, we need better intel. I’m getting a string running, but it’ll take time to generate anything useful. So anything you have, we want. Don’t worry about any processing or pre-processing - my intel section will want the raw data to see what they can mine from it themselves.”
“Done. You want me to coordinate directly, or through you?”
“Directly. I’ll have Vanner call you. You could do me a favor.”
“Name it.”
“He’s been tabbed, unofficially, as a CW3. He doesn’t care one way or another, won’t wear the rank, barely remembers to use it. I want it official, not just something I did at his bachelor party.”
“Not gonna ask. Okay… Next?”
“Not so fast. We want all of the Russians’ take, as well. Overheads. Names. Planning. Everything about this convoy, from soup to nuts, from the officer in charge down to the grunt filling the gas tanks. If there‘s a leak on their end, we need to find it before I put any Keldara‘s asses on the line.”
“There might be some issues with that -”
“Not if you want this done, there won’t be! Bob, if these weapons were anywhere in Russia except Chechnya, in anyone’s hands except the Chechens, I would have told you to fuck off and not thought twice.”
He continued angrily. “If the damn Russians put any - any - obstacles in my way, if they interfere even once, I swear to you I will walk away and let them deal with their own problems! So don’t you tell me there are any issues with getting me the intel I need to pull this one off! You need me to pull this one off. Vlad needs me to pull this one off. What I don‘t need is to be jerked off. Do we have an understanding?”
“Feel better now?”
Mike smiled ruefully. “Yeah, some.”
“What I was going to say was, there may be some issues BUT we will get it to you. Right, intel. What else?”
“Home guard. Someone to watch the store while we’re haring after these nukes. Preferably the same company that was here last time; they’re familiar with the Keldara and at least some of the terrain. But I want them here soonest. They couldn’t take advantage of our infrastructure, didn’t have a chance to learn our patrol routes, weren’t able to fully integrate with the Keldara. Since we have more lead time, though -”
The last major mission had taken the whole of the Keldara militia to execute. Even though they were going to be, geographically, fairly close by, the geographic and political terrain had made it impossible to get in and out quickly. This would have left the rest of the Keldara vulnerable to raids from the Chechens, a situation that Mike, as Kildar, couldn’t permit.
A company of Rangers had been flown over to take the militia’s place, but the timing hadn’t permitted a truly comfortable fit. Although no problems had arisen, it was an oversight which Mike was determined to avoid a second time.
“Makes sense. I think it was Bravo Company, 1st/75th, but I’ll check that and their availability.”
“It’s not a deal-breaker if Bravo isn’t available, it would just be smoother. They know the territory, they know the Keldara, and they know the rules.”
“Understood. Next?”
“Full entry and overflight permission from the Russians for the whole operation area. We can’t fuck around with passports and customs and ritual dick-beating when we need to move. I especially don’t want to give Putin a single opportunity to fuck us over again. It’s not like we were good buddies last time we met. Oh, and off the record?“
“Yeah?“ said Pierson warily.
“I told Lasko to miss by at least three inches.“
“I really, really didn’t need to know that, Mike.“
“In any case - if we get good intel, we may have to act quickly; we can’t lose time. Also, it’s a potential security issue. If we have to be cleared through customs, then some guard will be on the phone to his cousin in Groznyy minutes later.”
“Stickier, but it’ll get done too. You mentioned overflight?”
“We’re trying to line up chartered cargo and passenger flights. We’d be deploying out of Tbilisi, if we move that way. We also have the two Hind-Js, so we‘d need support for them - refueling, mostly, but they will be armed. Dragon and Valkyrie will be piloting, if we use the choppers.”
Kasey Bathlick and Tamara Wilson, former captains in the Marines, were Mike’s pilots. Recruited by OSOL on his behalf, they had been flown to Georgia with a promise of good pay for nothing more than an interview. The situation, and population, hadn’t impressed them at first, but they quickly realized that they had landed in with professionals and had signed on. The next day they were in the Czech Republic, taking delivery and getting flight qualified on the Hind-J helicopters Mike had ordered, followed quickly by a three-day flight back to Georgia. One series of hairy-ass sorties had earned them their handles, Dragon and Valkyrie.
“Do you need any extra mechanical support?”
“No, we have a good ground crew that we’ll be taking along.”
“Anything else?”
Mike was somewhat hesitant, but brought up his final point. “This could well end up being too big for us to handle. Don’t want to say that, but it’s the truth. This has to be the major thrust of the rebels, and with this number of weapons, I expect security to be massive. We might not have the manpower to take it down. The other problem is if they’ve dispersed the weapons. Again, it’s a question of bodies. I only have a hundred twenty, more or less. Concentrated, it’s a pretty good force. But if we have to break up into penny packets, we risk being defeated in detail. I won’t do that to the Keldara. And if we stay concentrated, and hit one target at a time, we risk losing the others weapons if they get the alarm out.”
“What are you asking for, Mike? We can’t commit any forces to hostile action on behalf of Russia, not even on Russian soil.”
“No, but the Russians can. If I tell you we can’t do it, or we need to do multiple, simultaneous strikes, then I need to know that the Russians will commit their own military to this.”
“I can’t guarantee the quality of their forces.”
“If they’re smart, they’ll send their very best, but that’s their problem. If we find the nukes, we’ll recover what we can and steer the Russians to the rest. A couple brigades, even of their crappy conscripts, will go a long way toward taking them out of commission.”
“Quantity does have a quality all its own.”
“Truth, Bob.”
“I’ll start the wheels turning. What else?”
“That about does it for now. I’ll have Vanner call you shortly to set up the initial intel exchange and arrange further dumps.”
“Good enough. Out.”
Mike set the satellite phone down. They were committed now.

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