Unto the breach pos 4, p.34

Unto the Breach pos-4, page 34

 part  #4 of  Paladin of Shadows Series


Unto the Breach pos-4

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  “That’s it,” Keller snapped. “You are official brass detail for the rest of the mission.”


  “Just to keep you from getting too fucking curious, I’ve arranged a tour of the castle,” Keller said. “Among other things, it will point out the secure areas and the no-go areas. Effectively, you’re restricted to this area the main foyer, the dining area and the living rooms. There are three offices on the first floor and the kitchen in addition. You are restricted from all of those areas. You are also restricted from the basement areas and the upper floors. You’re going to be shown some of that, but you are otherwise restricted from entering those areas.”

  “When are we going to get the tour?” Serris asked.

  Keller turned at a quiet knock on the door and opened it to reveal a very pretty, and very young lady wearing a school uniform.

  “Staff Sergeant Gordon Keller?” the girl asked in good, if accented, English. “My name is Martya. I was instructed to give you and your soldiers a tour of the facility. I am at your disposal.”

  “Hoowah,” Lane said making damned sure it was a whisper.

  * * *

  “Are these quarters acceptable, captain?” Anastasia asked, waving at the room.

  The bedroom was about twice the size of the master bedroom of the house Guerrin had, until the divorce, shared with his wife. The floor was marble but covered in deep pile throw rugs that looked hand-made. The bed could best be described as “sumptuous”, a king size four poster with those hanging things on the side. For that matter there was a desk and a small seating area and nice paintings, maybe originals Guerrin had no clue, covered the walls. There were two doors on one side and through the open one he could see enough that it was apparent there was an attached bathroom that was on the same order as the room.

  The one odd aspect was that the two windows of the room were rather small and deep, making it deeply shadowed. Then he had to kick himself. Duh. Castle.

  “The only problem with them is the vague feeling that I shouldn’t be living like this when more than half my company’s in barracks,” Guerrin admitted. “And this is a guest room?”

  “This is one of the three Distinguished Person guest rooms,” Anastasia said. “We occasionally have visits from distinguished individuals and the Kildar felt it wise to set up some rooms for their stay and left the details to me.”

  “You do good work,” Guerrin said. “You can decorate my house any time. If I could afford it.”

  “If you know where to shop, and have a ready source of labor to do sewing, it is not so expensive,” Anastasia said with a smile. “What kind of house do you have?”

  “Had,” Guerrin said. “Lost it in the divorce. Pretty standard two story tract home. Liked it but not enough to stay. My wife liked a 3rd ID officer more than me.”

  “I’m sorry,” Anastasia replied.

  “Yeah, well, she got the cats, too,” Guerrin said with a shrug. “So I looked at it as a fair trade.”

  “Colonel Nielson asked that you join him in the tactical operations center as soon as you were settled,” Anastasia said. “When you’re ready just step out in the hall. I will have a guide waiting.”

  * * *

  Guerrin followed the young lady to the lower level then into the main foyer. As they reached the area the front door opened and two females in flight suits, one short, one a bit above average female height, walked in the taller one chuckling about something.

  “Hello,” Guerrin said, looking them over. Both were wearing those unfamiliar rank tabs and he made a mental note to find out what the rank structure of the organization was and how to read the tabs. “I take it I have you to thank for plucking me out of the trees. Captain J.P. Guerrin, United States Army.”

  “Captain Kacey Bathlick,” the shorter pilot said, walking over to shake his hand. “Glad to give you a ride, captain.”

  “Captain Tamara Wilson,” the taller added. “No problem. Any time.”

  “The young lady was showing me the way to the TOC,” Guerrin said. “I guess we can touch base later. I’d appreciate a bit more background on this place. Nothing confidential… ”

  “We’re new here, too,” Captain Wilson replied. “But we were headed down to the TOC, too. We can show you the way.”

  “Okay,” Guerrin said, turning to his guide. The girl couldn’t have been a day over seventeen and had some of the best knockers he’d ever seen in his life. “I go with them, yes?”

  “Okay,” the girl replied, smiling and shrugging. “Go back to class.”

  “Class?” Guerrin said as the two pilots continued across the foyer.

  “All the girls are taking classes,” Captain Bathlick replied. “It may be a harem but apparently the Kildar would rather move them out with an education under their belt. Apparently he only took them in at first because nobody else would. It was that or dump them on the street to be whores. Concubines was a good second choice. Actually, the one girl we talked to saw it as a first choice if she’d had one. The Kildar’s a big guy around these parts.”

  “More than around these parts,” Guerrin said.

  “You noticed?” Captain Wilson said, dryly. “We got recruited by some spec-ops unit that works in the Pentagon. Just came to our apatment in DC and told us to get on the a plane to Georgia, don’t worry about visas, it’s taken care of. And it was. You got flown over here like a FedEx package: guaranteed delivery by nine AM. They even diverted a C-130 on a relief mission for a part of this package. The guy has got clout.”

  “How long have you been here, if I can ask?” Guerrin said as Captain Bathlick, the shorter one, opened an obviously heavy door. When it was open it was apparent that it was steel and about as thick as an armored hatch on a cruiser. Since it was covered in a thin wood facing — not veneer: very thinly sliced wood — the sturdiness wasn’t apparent. Anybody trying to force the door was going to have to use some very advanced entry techniques. An oxyacetylene torch probably wouldn’t even cut it.

  “Not long,” Captain Wilson answered. “We got recruited, flew over, agreed to the job, flew the same day to the Czech Republic, trained in on the bird and then flew it back. We only got here, again, a couple of days ago. We’re still trying to catch our breath.”

  The door led to a narrow spiral staircase. Fighting down is always easier than fighting up but Guerrin would not have wanted to fight down these. At the base was a small landing, another heavily armored door, this one undisguised, then a t-intersection to a corridor lined with doors.

  “Welcome to the dungeons,” Captain Bathlick said. “To the right is the TOC, commo room, signals intelligence and commander’s combat office. To the left is the humint area. Prisoner holding and interrogation chambers on the lower levels.”

  “Holy shit,” Guerrin said. “This is a much bigger operation than I’d realized.”

  “Yeah,” Captain Bathlick said. “When we got here we saw these, well, peasants running around with guns and thought ‘what the fuck, over?’ Then we started dealing with them and, well, the Keldara are something. I’ve barely had any dealings with the Kildar, mind you, but he’s pretty interesting, too.”

  “Hmmm… ” Guerrin said then grinned. “I’m coming up on my open resignation time. I wonder how you get a job around here?”

  “You get asked,” Captain Wilson said, chuckling. “And you have to be very very good at what you do.” She paused and then grinned. “My that sounded arrogant.”

  “Ladies, you plucked me out of some trees and dropped me out of a SABO with the smoothest skill in a helo I’ve ever seen,” Guerrin replied. “And now you tell me you’ve only got a couple of days in the bird. I’m not going to knock your ‘arrogance’.”

  “Why captain, I do believe that was a compliment,” Captain Bathlick said. “Kacey,” she added, holding out her hand.

  “J.P.,” Guerrin replied. “It stands for Jean-Paul. Long story.”

  “Star Trek fans?” Kacey asked, then shook her head. “Nah, not yo
ung enough.”

  “Tamara,” Tammie added. “It’s a short story. I’m named after a space hooker.”

  “Excuse me,” J.P. said, blinking.

  “Love it,” Tammie said, laughing at his expression. “It’s a character in a book… ”

  “Tamara Sparling?” J.P. asked. “Tamara Sparling was not a ‘space hooker.’ She was a hetaera. More like one of the Companions in Firefly. Very high status.”

  “My God,” Kacey said. “The man reads Heinlein and knows about Firefly. There may be hope for the Rangers after all.”

  “I know,” Tammie said, more or less simultaneously. “But I like ‘space hooker’ better.”

  “TOC’s towards the end,” Kacey said, continuing down the hall. “I’m not sure if you’re permitted in intel or not so we’ll just go there.”

  The door was steel again, undisguised this time. Not as heavy as the vault doors to get into the basement area but still solid. Take a good breaching charge to take it out. Inside there was a young woman in digi-cam at a computer station with Colonel Nielson leaning over her shoulder. There were several more stations set up, most powered down, and a conference table on the left with a large map of the area on the wall behind it. Another wall had six big plasma screens, three of them set to world news the other three set to remotes somewhere in the mountains.

  The major difference from any TOC Guerrin had ever seen was besides the usual coffee station there was a tea samovar and an espresso machine. Other than that, and the fact that every bit of equipment was state of the art, it could have been an American TOC anywhere in the world.

  “Captains,” Nielson said, turning and nodding then turning back to point to something on the computer. He said something in a foreign language Guerrin didn’t get.

  “Da,” the girl said, clicking the mouse. “Uploading.” The latter was English.

  “Welcome to Chaos Central,” Nielson said, straightening up. “Captain Bathlick, we’ve got your LZs. Which to use depended on weather. There’s some really heavy weather coming in. I’m not sure we can make the drop early this evening. It might be late tonight. And the winds may still be high.”

  “We’d better go get some crew-rest, then,” Kacey said. “Brief later?”

  “That works,” Nielson said. “Brief at 2000 and lift-off based on weather?”

  “Should work,” Kacey replied. “One helo?”

  “You should have lift for it,” the colonel replied. “You’re bringing in the body armor on this one, though. It will probably require three sorties. Touch and go. Just dump the shit out the door and keep moving. Don’t stop. You’re getting into the edge of injun country on this one. The Keldara will be securing the LZ but that doesn’t mean it will be fully secure.”

  “Okay, in that case I’m definitely gonna get some rest,” Tammie said. “Night ops in a new bird in the mountains doing a drive-by. Sleep is a good thing. Captain Guerrin, catch up with you later.”

  “Okay,” Guerrin said. “Later.”

  “Nice girls,” Nielson said after they’d left. “Marines. They got involved in a hairy mission and the Marine brass freaked and yanked all their females out of any potential combat missions. So they went looking for work.”

  “The guy who plucked me out of the trees said he’d been a PJ,” Guerrin noted.

  “D’Allaird, the crew-chief,” Nielson said. “He was a PJ once upon a time. Burned in on a jump and got too banged up. He transitioned to crew chief in the Air Force and then, for some reason, jumped to the Marines in rank. Spent the rest of his career as a Marine avionics guy.”

  “Well, he seemed to know his shit,” Guerrin said.

  “While there are some that are learning the trade,” Nielson said, looking fondly at the young lady at the computer, “we only hire people who ‘know their shit.’ There’s a fairly tight job market for such people at the moment, admittedly. But there are perks to this job that working in the sandbox doesn’t afford. Among other things, Georgia is just a prettier country than Iraq or Afghanistan. And you haven’t had a chance to sample the beer, yet, but you’re in for a treat.”

  “Sounds good,” Guerrin, wondering, again, how one got a job working for the “Kildar.” “What’s up?”

  “I thought we’d go over the local area and where you might want to operate in a bit more detail,” Nielson said. “And I thought you should get oriented to where the TOC resided. I don’t know if you’re planning on going out with your patrols or controlling from here. We can maintain commo pretty solidly. Our top commo guy is, unfortunately, ‘out of town’ but we’ve got a distributed network for the area that we can hook your teams into. For backup I’d say sat phones for each of your platoon leaders. We have plenty available. And I take it you brought your own commo.”

  “Yes, sir,” Guerrin replied. “I’m planning on leaving Third Platoon in place and deploying First and Second. I’ll centralize our heavy unit where they can move to support either team. And, yes, I’ll probably stay here until there’s contact. I’d like to move forward if we get in contact or if we have to support the retreat of the Keldara.”

  “That may depend on assets,” Nielson said. “We’ve only the two choppers and two pilots. They are probably going to be in support of the Keldara. On the other hand, I could see them capable of dropping you on or near your units on the way by. We’ll have to take that one on the fly. There’s a road, vehicle capable, that runs to quite close to where I anticipate the Kildar retreating. Again, that part is going to depend upon enemy reaction. I would suggest, however, that you bring in your platoon leaders and such and brief them in sometime this evening.”

  “Yes, sir,” Guerrin said. “1700?”

  “Fine,” the colonel replied. “Then we can repair to the bar to really discuss the mission.”

  * * *

  “Gentlemen, welcome once again to the valley of the Keldara,” Nielson said.

  The Ranger officers and NCOs had been brought down to the headquarters room for their briefing and were looking around in interest.

  “Sir, if I may,” First Sergeant Kwan said, “when they said we were going to be aggressing against some Georgian mountain infantry, this wasn’t exactly what I expected.”

  “The commander is an American,” Nielson said. “What he was prior to ending up here you don’t have the need to know. Frankly, I don’t know the whole story. But when he moved here, he decided that he needed a militia. The Chechens had been using this area as their personal fiefdom and he chose to change that. Since he knew what good equipment, and training, could do for a militia, especially if they had the basic instinct to make good soldiers, he didn’t stint on spending. As it turns out, the Keldara very much do have that special trait, in spades. Any of you gentlemen history majors?”

  “Here, sir,” First Lt. Mund, the third platoon leader replied.

  “The Keldara are a remnant of the Varangian Guard, Lieutenant,” Nielson said with a grin. “Ring a bell?”

  “Viking bodyguards of the Byzantine Emperors?” Mund said with a furrowed brow. “What are they doing up here?”

  “Long story,” Nielson said. “For the rest of you gentlemen, understand that the Keldara are mountain fighters from way back. And they’ve kept the tradition even while being farmers. They are… fierce. Like the Ghurkas or the Kurds they are warriors first and farmers a distant second. Not that they’re bad farmers. However, you’re likely to not deal with them at all. What you are doing is covering their back and acting as if you’re fighting them. Captain Guerrin?”

  “This is the Guerrmo Pass,” Guerrin said, pointing to the map on the wall. “While Second Platoon stays in place with the Keldara, First and Third will move to this region and perform patrolling, carefully staying on this side of the pass. The other side is serious Injun country.

  “As previously mentioned, they should take both blank and live ammo. From time to time they can act as if they have raided or ambushed someone using blanks. However, they should only load blanks, fire, th
en reload with live ammo. For that reason, don’t actually have anyone in the kill-zone. Just play act. We’re supposedly aggressing against the Keldara. The impression is that we’re an American unit which has taken a hostile town while the muj types ran to the hills. We’re trying to comb them out. The reality is that the Chechens still, occasionally, try to penetrate the area. So keep your units hot at all times unless you’re performing one of the deception missions. I’ll give you each written op orders detailing your area of patrol. Second.”

  “Here,” Lt. Pope replied.

  “The Keldara women handle fixed defenses,” J.P. said. “So your guys are going to have to interact with them. Rules on that are no male is to be present with less than two women at any time. Preferably work in groups at all times. But part of the defenses are bunkers and there are only so many who can fit in them. Make sure there’s no hanky-panky and brief your men that if there are any complaints, they are automatically considered to be in error if there was any way there could be a complaint. Understood?”

  “Yes, sir,” Pope said.

  “Full op order,” J.P. said, tossing sealed manila envelopes on the table. “In those is a sealed envelope containing secondary missions and communications details. If you’re told to open them, do so. In the event that you are in a position to be captured or killed, ensure the destruction of the contents. In the event that the carrier goes down, brief your personnel that destruction is paramount, even over survival. Clear?”

  “Yes, sir,” the group chorused.

  “Yes, we’re here as a deception mission,” Guerrin said. “But in the event that the deception fails we have a secondary mission. You get briefed on that only if it goes off. For now, just go play in the hills. The weather should be great for it.”

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  The weather was preparing to suck.

  The mountains were really steepening up. They’d gotten out of anything that couldn’t be called “low” at this point and were well into the “high-up.”

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