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Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Kildraran - Chapter 10

[Very short chapter today, but it's very intense - to say there's some bad blood going on here it a gross understatement. Serious language.]


“Keldara Base, this is Sawn Eight.” Sawn Eight was Grigor Devlich, on post at the checkpoint on the main road into Alersso. It was one of the most distant controlled entries to the Valley, and usually the least interesting. A few trucks making deliveries, townspeople going back and forth, a couple refugees - though they were much more infrequent, nowadays - and occasionally Captain Tyurin on an honest-to-God patrol. When he couldn’t send some of his Keldara auxiliaries, that is.
Today, though… Today was interesting.
“Keldara Base, go Sawn Eight.”
“Colonel Erkin Chechnik of Russian Intelligence just passed the checkpoint. Blue Mercedes sedan, being driven by a sergeant , probably Georgian Army. They are en route to the caravanserai to meet with the Kildar, over.”
“Sawn Eight, be advised, Colonel Chechnik is not on the Kildar’s approved list for visitors.”
“I told him that, Gana! He insisted on passing, and since he isn’t on the other list…” The “other” list was Mike’s shoot-on-sight list: any Chechen, anyone carrying sex slaves, and Vladimir Putin.
Gana sighed, then keyed the mike. “Understood, Sawn Eight. Will advise the Kildar. Keldara Base, out.”
Colonel Chechnik strode into the foyer of the caravanserai. He put on a brave front, but he half-expected to see a line of Keldara, weapons drawn. Instead, he was greeted by Anastasia. Not smiling, perhaps, but a beautiful woman beat loaded weapons any day, he reflected. Unless - he looked around. No. That other blonde - the one who’d been ‘augmented’ - was absent. Thank the Christ.
“The Kildar is in the conference room,” she said, and led him down the hall. She knocked once on the door, and opened it for him.
“Colonel Chechnik.” The greeting, bare as it was, came from a man Erkin didn’t recognize, seated at the end of the conference table closest to the door. “Chief Warrant Officer Patrick Vanner, Keldara Intelligence.” He didn’t offer to shake hands. Nor did he stand up.
“Mr. Vanner. I had hoped to meet with the Kildar…?”
“The Kildar does not want to meet with you, Colonel. In fact, there was an opinion, strongly expressed, that you be, ah, disposed of. I think that the Chief and Colonel Nielson talked him out of it.”
Chechnik nodded. “I knew that I would not be exactly welcome.”
“And I know why. My friends were out there, too.” The tone was decidedly chilly, but Vanner very obviously shook it off. “However. You have information that we need. You are a potentially useful conduit between my organization and the Russian agencies that report to you. As such, the Kildar has decided - with, as I said, quite a bit of argument - that killing you would be detrimental at this time.” He gestured. “Please. Sit. And tell us what we are getting into, every detail you can manage.”
Chechnik sat. “I cannot sufficiently express the regret I feel over the decision to withhold information from you, Mr. -”
“Chief Warrant Officer, Colonel. You want something from us, you can address me as Chief.”
“Chief, then. I am sorry, more sorry than you know. It was never my intent -”
“Colonel, save your breath. You don’t need to apologize to me; it wasn’t someone I love who was killed. The person you need to talk to, wouldn’t listen to you anyway. So let’s quit the bullshit and get down to it.”
Chechnik nodded. “Very well, Chief. You know that this convoy was ambushed by -”
“- a large force of Chechens, yes?”
Mike leaned forward and silenced the speaker. “We’ll get it on tape. I really don’t feel like listening to him right now.”
“You don’t think that Vanner’s laying it on a little thick, do you?” asked Adams. They were sitting in another conference room, one floor down in the more-secure first basement.
“Naah. It’s good to see him sweat a bit.” Mike shrugged. “I was pissed at him for a long time. Honestly, if he had come here even six months ago? He’d have been sorry, sore, and in an unmarked grave. Now, though? Not so much.” He raised a hand to stall the comments. “I still don’t want to see him. I don’t even want him here. We do need him, though, or at least the information he can provide. If nothing else, maybe he can keep that prick Putin out of my hair this time.”
Nielson spoke up. “On that note - Mike, I think you need to make an appearance. Put the fear of the Kildar in him.”
Mike stood. “No. The fear of the Keldara.”
The door to the conference room opened with a slam.
“Stay in your fucking seat, Chechnik!” Mike strode across to the opposite side of the table. “And don’t open your lying mouth! You will listen, and you will comply, or you will die here, now. Understand?”
Chechnik nodded.
“First smart thing you’ve done, Colonel. Didn’t I tell you not to come here? Didn’t I tell you I didn’t want to see you?”
He nodded again.
“It’s not me you have to worry about. You know that, don’t you? Oh, I could make your life miserable for what little time you had left. And I would enjoy it,” he snarled. “You - you! - are responsible for the death of a woman I cared for, very much.” He lowered his voice slightly.
“You knew that without that information, we would be hammered. You knew. But you followed your orders, didn’t you, Colonel? You just followed orders.” He leaned forward. “Just like a goddamn Nazi storm trooper, you followed your fucking orders!” he shouted, then sat back.
“It’s not me you have to worry about, Erkin.” Mike’s voice was soft and full of menace. “You want to know why? It’s because, like you, I was a soldier. I understand that sometimes you do have to simply follow orders, even if you disagree with them. I’ll even give you credit, that you did disagree.”
Now he stood, and walked towards Chechnik, still speaking. “But the Keldara, now, they’re warriors.” His voice got softer, quieter, and more threatening with each step “They believe in honor, and doing the right thing. They can’t understand why you didn’t. They don’t understand why you couldn’t. It was their brothers and sisters out there, Chechnik, wives and husbands. Sons and daughters. Yes, it was war. Soldiers die. But more of them died than had to had you done the right thing. In the mind of the Keldara, you owe them a debt of blood.” Mike’s face was inches away from Chechnik’s now. “Frankly, I’m surprised you lived to get here.” He stood again.
“Every piece of information you get, we get. I don’t care if you burn your source. I don’t give a damn if Vlad gets annoyed. And I don’t give a fuck if you end up in some nowhere town in Yakutsk! If I get even a hint that you’re holding out on me, I turn the Keldara loose with my blessings and the best intel I can give them.” He leaned back down again. “And if I do that, you had better pray the men get you before the women.”
Mike turned away. “Vanner, when you finish with this piece of shit, make sure he gets safely out of the Valley. Then put his sorry ass on the other list.” He walked out.
“Other list?” Chechnik said after a moment.
“Shoot on sight,” replied Vanner, with a smug, Cheshire cat smile. “Now. Where were we?”

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