Unto the breach pos 4, p.33

Unto the Breach pos-4, page 33

 part  #4 of  Paladin of Shadows Series


Unto the Breach pos-4

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  “And I need to get the girls moved,” Nielson said. “Fortunately, Mike has good subordinates. They’ll be moved by the time your guys get there.”

  * * *

  “This is a nice fucking shoot-house for some Third World yahoos,” Serris said as he emerged from the smokey interior.

  Lance Serris, 6’ 1” tall, slender with short cropped blond hair and an almost unnoticeable beard, was twenty, just, having joined the Rangers straight out of high school with only intervening steps at One Station Unified Training and airborne school at Ft. Benning. Upon completion he hadn’t gone far, just across the state to Hunter Army Airfield. There he’d passed the initiation rite known as “Ranger In Processing” or “RIP.” RIP was a kinder gentler version of SEAL Hell Week, a week long test of endurance designed to determine if the candidate had what it took to be a Ranger.

  He had assumed that when RIP was over things would get easier. What he realized within a month of joining First Battalion was that RIP wasn’t a pointless test. There had been plenty of weeks in the Batt when RIP had looked like a day at the beach.

  Rangers had an interesting role in the US military in that, in many ways, they were neither fish nor fowl nor good red meat. Rangers were trained in much the same way as any standard light infantry outfit. Every light infantry company could patrol, every light infantry company could march, scout and do a basic entry. Delta Force, the primary “black op” unit of the military, was specialized for entry and killing or capturing targets. They could do a long range reconnaissance quite well, thank you, but tended to work in shorter ranges and hard bursts of, highly clandestine, activity.

  Rangers, though, trained in it all. They were better than any other light infantry company in the US military, possibly the world, at patrolling, either in vehicles or on foot. They could march further and faster, in worse conditions. They were, in general, much more stealthy in reconaissance and their raids hit harder and faster. Their missions were always classified Secret and often involved, as in Mogadishu, “backstopping” Delta and doing much the same missions, just with lower profile targets or less resistance.

  Some units that had a bit of one skill and a bit of another but no real concentration tended to be under utilized. Not Rangers, though. Especially since 9/11 their operational tempo had been through the roof. Jacks of all trades, close to masters of most, they were constantly going somewhere doing something.

  Serris had started to wonder if it was worth it. If he transferred to the 82nd or, God help him, a leg infantry unit, he’d at least be more or less guaranteed of spending some time Stateside. Hell, he couldn’t even find a girlfriend when he was out-of-town 90% of the time.

  “No shit,” Lane replied. “And those women.”

  Specialist Kevin Lane, 5’ 5”, dark of hair and eye, had just gotten his specialist rank whereas Serris was already on the list for the sergeant’s board. But that didn’t mean he hadn’t seen a few shoot houses, or foreign women, in his time. And so far this mission was just fine by him. Among other things he was a “there’s no such thing as a bad jump” parachutist who freefalled on his rare free time. The ride in and the jump had been a kickass start as far as he was concerned.

  “That’s because they ain’t yahoos,” First Sergeant Kwan said. “Get your ass over here!”

  Apparently Top had gathered the rest of the platoon while the two had been doing their run-through and Serris and Lane hurried over to join the rest of the cluster.

  “Gather round,” Top said, shaking his head. “I don’t know why the CO picked you idiots for this, but… While the rest of the company is being quartered in the local militia barracks, which I’ve looked over and ain’t half bad, you yardbirds are going to be up in the castle.”

  “Hoowah!” Lane said. “That’s gotta be cool!”

  “Yeah, cool,” Top replied. “Now shut up, fuckhead. Here’s the first problem. You ain’t gonna think it’s a problem but if you give it some small consideration you’ll see that it’s a hell of a problem. Most of the rest of the residents of that castle, which is called a caravan surry or something, are women. Fine women from what I’ve been told. And you’re all thinking ‘Excellent’ or ‘Woohah!’ But I guess I need to explain in words of one syllable. If you touch one single woman in that house, if you look at them sideways, if you even think about talking to them, smelling them, kissing them or, God help you, fucking them, I will personally bury your ass in the ground. If you’re lucky, you won’t be breathing when I bury you. So you are going to be surrounded by good looking women and you can’t so much as acknowledge their existence. Now, Lane, you were saying?”


  “No,” Kwan replied. “No fuck. No look. No talk. That is the point.”

  “Top?” Serris asked. “What if they talk to us?”

  “You smile,” the First Sergeant answered. “Politely. And then you walk the fuck away. Fast. Understood?”

  “Understood,” Serris said. “Fuck.”

  “Now, as to the nature of the quarters,” Top continued, smiling. “That’s the second problem. Some of the girls are being moved out of their rooms. Some of you will be using those rooms. They are, for sure, not going to be moving all of their stuff out. So if one of you perverts goes and jacks off on their underwear, or even opens a fucking drawer, the same thing goes. Understood? Sound off!”

  “Clear, First Sergeant!”

  “Don’t try to game it, don’t try to get around it and damned sure don’t just fucking ignore me,” the First Sergeant said, tightly. “I’m starting to get a smell about this op. I don’t know who this guy is who runs this place but he’s connected. There’s a very strong smell of high brass and seriously deep black ops to this place. If you piss off the owner, you are going to be head down in shit, deeply head down in shit, faster than you can say ‘Condom.’ Now grab your shit and head up to the palace. This is going to be so much fucking fun I can’t stand it. The good news is some of us are going to be training in ‘positional defense’ here in the area. Others of us, and I will permit you fine young men to think on who that might primarily be, are going to be doing heavy duty mountain ops during our stay. Guess who’s going to be doing most of them?”

  * * *

  “This way, captain,” Nielson said as they entered the great room of the castle. It was a hell of a place, that was for sure. Big didn’t begin to cover it; the had a dome that was at least three stories high and the rug on the floor looked like an antique Persian. “I think I’d better take you to my… Anastasia!”

  Guerrin froze and, frankly, stared. The women that had appeared out of a side door was… Beyond hot. If she was one of the harem girls, his problems had just gotten worse than he could possibly have imagined. She looked like she should be in the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition.

  “Captain J.P. Guerrin, Anastasia Rakovich,” Nielson said. “Anastasia is the Kildar’s housekeeping manager.”

  “I run the house and his harem,” Anastasia said, taking J.P.’s hand. She had incredibly fine hands. “I am given to understand you were to be briefed on the latter. Welcome to the home of the Kildar, Captain Guerrin.”

  “Thank you,” J.P. replied, tongue-tied.

  “Anastasia, we’re going to have to quarter one of the platoons in the harem quarters,” Nielson said. “I’d like to move all the girls out into the other rooms in the house. For the time being, all of the girls are off-limits. If we had the beds to do it the other way around, and put them in purdah for the duration of the Rangers’ stay, I’d be happier. But we don’t.”

  “It will be fine,” Anastasia said, easily. “I will begin moving the girls. I would suggest, however, that Katya’s room be placed off-limits.”

  “Well, she’s not here to agree on its use so I can see that,” Nielson said.

  “It is not that,” Anastasia said, exasperatedly. “The last time she went out of town she left some nasty suprises behind. I would guess this time they would be nastier.”


  “Have a seat, captain,” Nielson said as they entered the office. “Coffee?”

  After meeting Anastasia they’d headed straight to the colonel’s office. It was a windowless room on the first floor and looked pretty secure. Heavy, soundproofed, door and it would be hard to get a signal through the walls.

  “Please, sir,” J.P. said, taking a seat. “Black, sir.”

  Nielson poured two cups and handed one to Guerrin then sat down on the edge of his desk.

  “Your stated mission was to engage in training with the Keldara,” Nielson said. “Obviously, the Keldara militia, who are called the Mountain Tigers by the way, is out of town. Your higher, those who ultimately tasked you, knew they were out of town. So why are you here?”

  “To cover their backs?” Guerrin asked, taking a sip of the coffee. It was excellent, big surprise.

  “There is that,” Nielson said, walking around the desk and touching a control on his keyboard. The computer flashed a map of the local area up on a white-washed wall. “This is our AO. As you’ll note, directly to our north curving to the east, is Chechnya. The Russians hold the low-lands. They’ve been unable to take or hold control of the highlands, the bit closest to us. The Chechens had been using this part of Georgia as their personal fiefdom, a secure rear area, to supply their forces and provide safe areas, notably in the Pansiki Gorge.” Nielson pointed it out with a laser pointer.

  “Not far from here at all,” Guerrin mused.

  “No, it’s not,” Nielson admitted. “And I’ll add that it’s simply crawling with Chechen mujaheddin. And muj from all over the world that didn’t want to get their balls blown off in Iraq. Fighting the Russians isn’t safe but it’s a damn sight safer than fighting Americans as the muj have started to notice. I’m not saying that the guys over there are cowards. Call them the wiser part. They’ve tried to hit us once and we handed them their heads. One team of twenty Keldara, straight off their first week on the range, took down a Chechen force of about two hundred.”

  “Not bad,” Guerrin said.

  “I think, at this point, the Keldara are probably close to the ability level of your Rangers,” the colonel mused. “I’m not sure who is better and I don’t think it matters. They are quite good. They’ve been running patrolling ops, shutting down Chechen movement in our AO, for the past nine months. This has made the Russians very happy because it has significantly reduced the supplies the Chechens are getting. It has made the American government happy because the Russians are happy and it’s an American driving it, even if it’s for his own reasons.

  “The Keldara teams, twenty men per team, patrol on a cycle so it’s not day in and day out. But they go out for a week or so, do intensive patrolling, scouting and ambush ops then come back. So far, they’ve taken light to no casualties while killing over fifty Chechens and bringing back several tons of supplies. They’re good.”

  “Got that, sir,” Guerrin said, nodding. “And based on the results, I’d say I agree. Not better than my company, you understand… ” he added with a grin.

  “Understood,” Nielson said, smiling back and then becoming serious. “The following information is classified TS Codeword Ribbon Blade. Ribbon Blade is an Ultra Blue classification, you may not discuss it with anyone without authorization from the person informing you of your portion of the mission or someone with National Command Authority clearance. Do you understand this classification, captain?”

  “National command authority level?” Guerrin said. “President, National Security Advisor… ”

  “Secretary of Defense,” Nielson said, nodding. “They are the only three persons permitted to open up the compartment. No one else. The codeword itself is classed Top Secret as is its classification level. Nobody can ask you what you really did on this mission. Should your mission parameters change then you need to ensure that your men are made aware that the basic mission parameters can be considered open source but if there is a mission change it goes totally black. Are we clear?”

  “Clear, sir,” Guerrin replied.

  “Your cover mission, the open source mission, is to train on mountain operations with the Keldara,” Nielson said. “As I pointed out, they’re gone. Your confidential mission is to cover their backs while they are out of town. Which gets to what they are doing.

  “For a number of reasons, among others that the Keldara are good enough, they got handed one hell of a fucked up mission. You’ll note the nature of the terrain between Chechnya and here.”

  “High alpine, looks like,” Guerrin said. “I saw the mountains on the way in. Nasty. You’ve already had a couple of snows I see.”

  “They are ‘out of town’ doing a penetration of Chechen controlled Georgia for the purposes of a raid,” Nielson said. “The area is one that even the Russian Spetznaz hasn’t penetrated. It’s been in Chechen hands for at least ten years. The nature of that raid is not in your need-to-know at this time. However, when they attempt to extract, on foot, they are likely to have every damned Chechen in the entire region on their ass. If they are in contact or being closely pursued it is likely that DC will authorize you to engage the Chechens to stop them from crossing into Keldara territory. At the very least you are authorized to keep them from taking this valley and its infrastructure. Do you understand the three level structure of this brief?”

  “Yes, sir,” Guerrin said. “We play like we’re doing training ops with the Keldara, we really make sure they’ve got a home to come back to and if they get dropped in the shit we screen them on their way out. The first is confidential, the second TS and the third absolutely black.”

  “The Keldara are using very out-of-the-way areas for their penetrations,” Nielson said. “But the best egress routes are here, here and here,” he added, pointing to three passes. “They didn’t go in that way because the Chechens have outposts and patrols covering those routes. But those are the egress routes. They are also the primary routes the Chechens use to penetrate our area and the area that the Keldara do most of their missions.”

  “So if I ran my patrol ops up through there… my teams would be in position to support the Keldara,” Guerrin said.

  “Exactly. You’re not quite a Go-To-Hell Plan, captain, but you’re close.”

  “What is the Go-To-Hell plan?” Guerrin asked.

  “Falls very strictly into need-to-know,” Nielson replied. “There are… five people who know it. Including NCA in its entirety.”

  “I… ” Guerrin started to ask a question then shut his mouth.

  “Go ahead, captain,” Nielson said mildly.

  “Is this some sort of CIA black op or something?” Guerrin asked. “I figure the answer is going to be NtN but I figured I’d ask.”

  “The Kildar is entirely an independent operator,” the colonel said. “We are not employed by the US Government in any capacity. The Kildar does, however, often take on missions that require a high degree of deniability or that the US government isn’t willing to touch with its own forces. Even the extremely black ones. I will not detail the nature of those missions but suffice to say they are important enough that the rewards from the missions pay for… ” Nielson just shrugged and gestured around. “I will say this: the Kildar is the only person I’ve ever personally met who has a direct line to the president on the speed-dial of his phone. He rarely picks it up just to chat, but I’ve seen the opposite happen.”

  “You know, the first sergeant said this mission had a high rank ‘smell’ to it,” Guerrin said. “I guess he was right.”

  “But be clear, captain,” Nielson said. “This mission has a high priority due to the nature of the raid. Not because the Kildar can pick up the phone and talk to the president. More the opposite. We got the mission because the president knew we could do it and because Mike is on his speed-dial. This was a mission that had to be black, it had to be politically correct in a very real meaning of the word — there were huge problems with the both the Georgians and the Russians but both were willing to tr
ust the Kildar — and it had to be successful. That is why the Kildar was tapped. Because he hasn’t failed in a mission yet. Let’s hope this isn’t a first.”

  * * *

  “Oh, hoowah!” Lane said.

  Serris, looking around the new quarters, had to agree. The harem quarters were two stories and circular, the upper balcony and lower rooms facing into a center atrium with a fountain in the middle. The fountain had a sculpture in it, probably marble, so worn by the water the original statue had faded into something that looked modernist. But there was enough left of the original shape to determine that it had been two forms, horizontal and superimposed. Murals depicting pastoral scenes, some of the tiles missing, covered the walls between the doorways.

  The south facing outer wall was mostly glass with complex metal filigree supporting it. It took Serris a second to realize that the metal was both thick enough and closely enough spaced that it was, effectively, bars.

  “I wonder what the rooms are like?” Lane said, leaning his M4 against the wall and dumping his ruck on the marble floor.

  “Girl froo-froo,” Staff Sergeant Gordon Keller their squad leader said, emerging from one of the rooms. “The one with hundred mile and hour tape on it is off-limits. I have a reliable report that it may have one or more IEDs in it. The girl who uses it is not part of the harem and currently ‘out of town’ with the rest of the group. There’s a half dozen rooms that aren’t occupied. Junior guys get those.”

  “So where are the girls?” Lane said, grinning.

  “Lane, did you hear the first sergeant?” Keller asked. “If you so much as talk to any of them, you are going to have an Article Fifteen so fast it will make your head spin and you are going to be out of the Batt and up at Ft. Bragg picking trash with the rest of the trash. Is that clear enough for you?”

  “Clear, sergeant,” Lane said with a grin. “But it also didn’t answer the question.”

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