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Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Kildaran - Chapter 13

[Well. Ibrahim has been busy. What else is going on? Read on and find out!]

CHAPTER 13

Captain Jean-Paul Guerrin, known to his friends as “J.P.”, was psyched.
When his commander informed him that his company was going to be deployed overseas - again - he hadn’t been. In fact, he was pretty pissed. Not only was he on short time, but Bravo Company had been overseas fifteen of the past twenty months. Some time was in Germany, which on the whole was pretty good. A very little bit of time was in Georgia, which could have sucked, but turned out very good. And most of it was in one sandbox or the other, which still sucked. Home had been good. Home for mustering out was going to be better. He was far into short time, with less than two months to go. So to be told that he had one more deployment to make - shit.
Then he was told that it was back to Georgia. That changed everything in a hurry.
Bravo had been deployed a couple years earlier. The mission, he was told, was to train with a mountain militia called the Mountain Tigers. While Rangers were one of the best spec ops forces on the planet, it never hurt to get more practice in unusual terrain, and the mountains of eastern Georgia, while not the Rockies in stature, would provide ample challenge to even a veteran company. It got better, though, since the company was going to jump in. Normally, maybe jumping into an unknown LZ would not be high on anyone’s list of things to do, but they needed to jump to get recertified - and stay on jump status, and therefore on jump pay. So that was good.
Getting to Georgia to jump had been - interesting. First, military airlift to the Ukraine, where a Ukrainian An-120 had picked them up and delivered them to the LZ. Then J.P. landed in a tree, to get pulled out by a fucking Hind, and set down in the middle of… He still didn’t know quite how to think of it. It ended up that Second platoon was bunking in the quarters of the local warlord’s harem, of all things. This warlord, called Kildar, turned out to be a former SEAL, and had some serious pull in Washington, because J.P. got briefed on what their real mission was.
Seems that the militia was out of town, on a black op. Seriously black. Black as in, “This never happened, now we have to kill you,” black. So their real mission was to cover their back and hold the valley from being overrun by Chechens. They weren’t alone. Even though the militia had left for points east, the women were still around. They weren’t your typical peasant women, either. Besides running a very credible intelligence outfit, a good number were trained as mortarmen - women - whatever.
This did cause a little problem, though, as some of his men had to be assigned to the mortar teams in support, which meant that they had to work with the women. Closely. Not a problem if they were typical peasants, but they really weren’t typical. J.P. didn’t know how they did it, but every one of these women could have posed for a swimsuit issue. And it didn’t help that they were all young.
What did help was the fact that most of them were either married or engaged to the men his Rangers were there to cover for. That, plus promises of immediate and dire punishment if there were even any hints of an issue, kept everyone in line.
Then there was the third, truly black mission. If the shit really hit the fan, and the Keldara came barrel-assing back through the pass with Chechens on their heels, then his company was to slam the door shut on the Chechens with all the force they could bear. The Keldara were going to have a home to come back to, period fucking dot.
The situation had never quite gotten that bad. They discovered Chechen-manned bunkers in the pass leading to the valley, but one of the Hinds had completely flattened them. The force chasing the Keldara had been nearly wiped out despite outnumbering the militia by roughly forty-to-one. And the blocking force sent ahead to bottle the militia up had met a grisly end at the hands and knives and axes of the Keldara women. All that was left for the company to do was help carry the wounded and dead back home.
They’d been pulled out shortly after. Since, their deployments had been routine, even boring in comparison. One final deployment to Georgia, though - that made it much more agreeable.
They had been given a choice between jumping in again or taking a more conventional approach; J.P. had chosen to jump. He was regretting that somewhat now. Twenty hours. That’s how long it had taken from takeoff from Lawson aboard the C-5 until now, just before time to jump. Three hours’ sleep, he estimated. And the jet lag was going to suck. Still, they were almost there.
===============================
“I hope they don’t land in any of the trees again,” joked Kacey.
“Oh, I don’t know,” replied Tammy. “That captain was pretty cute.”
“You just appreciated that he got your name,” answered Kacey.
“You gotta admit, not many people - not even Rangers! - know about Tamara Sperling.” Her father had been a big sci-fi fan, though, and had named his only daughter after two of his favorite Heinlein characters - Tamara Sperling, a hetaera (or, as Tammy joked, a “space hooker”), and Jillian Boardman, a nurse and the heroine of Stranger In A Strange Land. It was one of Tammy’s ways of separating the wheat from the chaff when it came to men; if they didn’t get the reference, they were done. J.P. had gotten it. “I ought to get my bird ready, though. Chief!” she called, turning away.
“Captain?” answered Tim D’Allaird. Chief D’Allaird had known Kacey and Tammy before they were invited to leave the Marines, the Corps in its infinite wisdom deciding that it would rather not have two female pilots who ditched a chopper in the Caribbean. In the Bobbsey Twins’ defense, there had been extenuating circumstances: a nuclear blast which had totally fried their bird’s electronics, making the subsequent crash a testimony to their skill in that anyone survived, rather than a negative. D’Allaird had been recruited a few months later, after he had separated from the service as well. Now he was the primary flight engineer for the Kildar’s burgeoning air force, working harder than ever, teaching Keldara everything he knew, and loving every second.
“We might have to go fishing for Rangers again,” said Tammy. “We up on Valkyrie?”
“Ready to roll.”
“Who we got to winch ‘em up?”
“Naida’s got the duty right now, but I’ve got nothing doing right now if you prefer?”
“No, she’s passed all her qualifications. Gotta solo sometime, right?”
“Gotcha. We’re ready to roll.”
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“Captain! Company all present and accounted for, two injured,” reported First Sergeant Michael Kwan. Another veteran of the first Keldara mission, Kwan was nearing twenty years in uniform. Unlike J.P., though, he wasn’t planning on going anywhere soon.
“Who?”
“Corporal Sivula, and Specialist Lynch. Lynch rolled his ankle landing. Sivula managed to knock himself out. I didn’t see it, but I was told he came down on a rock, got caught by a gust of wind and dragged along for a few feet. He’s conscious now. Robinson’s looking after him.” Daniel Robinson was the company’s medic.
“Any sign of the Keldara?” Last time, the women had met his men out in the fields to collect and fold the chutes. It was a nervous few minutes, though, as the Rangers hadn’t been alerted to being met.
“No, sir. It seems they’re holding back this time.” Kwan looked around. “We’re ready to move out when you are, sir.”
“Good. Let’s get the men moving, then.”
===============================
The first Rangers were at the edge of the field when a black Expedition pulled up. J.P. brought himself to attention and saluted as the man he knew as Mike Jenkins got out. “Captain J.P. Guerrin and company reporting for duty, sir!” he snapped.
Mike stopped, surprised, then returned the salute. “Welcome back, Captain!” he said. “At ease! You know,” he said as he walked forward, grinning, to shake his hand, “That’s the first time in years anyone from outside the Valley has saluted me. Usually it goes the other way around.” His smile became broader. “I see you missed the trees. Tammy’ll be disappointed; she was all set to come to your rescue.”
“Good to be back, Kildar,” J.P. replied. “If you don’t mind, though, I have two injured men I’d like to get into shelter as soon as possible.” It wasn’t artic cold any longer, but he knew that Sivula and Lynch would do better if they could keep warm.
“No problem. Do you want our doctor to look at them?”
“You have a doctor now? Probably be a good idea for one of them, make sure he’s not concussed.”
Mike nodded and turned. “Serena!” he called. One of the Keldara girls ran up. “I need you to take these men to the hospital. Sergeant - Kwan?”
“Kildar?”
“Serena will take your men up, if you’ll point them out to her?” Turning back to J.P., he continued, “In the meantime, we’ll get your men settled. It won’t be quite as complicated as last time.”
“No more harem quarters?” asked J.P.
“No,” Mike said, “Sorry. We have three, I guess you could call them community buildings, set up as shelters during the winter. There’s enough space for all of your company. I do have enough room at the caravanserai for you and your officers, though.”
“We’ll get the men in first, if you don’t mind, then settle the rest of quarters. I‘m a little uneasy living up there -” He gestured at the vaguely Turkish-looking castle perched on top of the hill. “- while my men are down here.”
Mike shrugged. “Whatever you prefer, Captain. I’ve been in your shoes, though, and I have to say that I never needed an extra opportunity to be uncomfortable. It always came around enough sooner or later.”
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Corporal Andrew Sivula didn’t feel concussed. That’s what the weird Russian doctor had said, though, and he’d spent enough time in hospitals to not argue with a doc. Besides, it kept him in a nice, warm, comfortable bed overnight, instead of wherever the rest of the company was bunking.
Still, he had to wonder if the doctor was right. He had to be seeing things, or something, because…
“You are awake, finally,” said the woman sitting next to him. Her brown eyes were rimmed in red, as if she’d been crying, and filled with concern. Her face was framed by curly brown hair, and he could feel her hand on his.
“Jessia?”
She nodded. “Welcome home, Andrew.” Then she was kissing him.
Not the worst way to wake up.

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