Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fiction: Unwanted President. Chapters 31 & 32

Kandahar Airport
& The Last Hole

By Ed Rogers

Chapter 31. Kandahar Airport

The black C-17 Globemaster with no lights dove toward the ground and landed at Kandahar at 1 a.m. Max and his team disembarked from the rear of the airplane.
    Four headlights were coming at them from the other side of the tarmac. Two Humvees pulled up and four of the five-man team climbed aboard the first Humvee, while Max talked to the captain driving the second vehicle. “You do know what our mission is and where we are going, don’t you?”

    “I have orders to give all and any assistance to you and your mission, but I was told it was a need to know, and I didn’t need to be briefed on the details,” said the captain. “Your driver will get you where you’re going, and we have a chopper standing by to extract you if you get in trouble.”
    “Good. I’m also looking for a SEAL team. A Mark Lowery commanded them. They should have been in-country for about two weeks. Have me a location for them by the time I get back.” Max jumped aboard the first Humvee with his men and it headed down what they liked to call a highway.
    The captain watched the Humvee pull out of sight, wondering who these people were. Maybe CIA, Delta? Shit, there were so damn many special units, nobody knew who anyone was anymore. And he wondered how he was going to explain not knowing what happened to SEAL Team 5. There was no record of them ever being at Kandahar. The captain was ordered to provide them with whatever they needed and ask no questions. Just like with this team now, he had followed his orders.
    After ten days of training, SEAL Team 5 was dropped into the mountains and never showed up at the extraction point, and the captain had never heard from them since. He didn’t know where to search for them or to whom to report they were missing. This was the first time anyone had asked about them. The captain headed back to his bunk to grab forty winks before his day started. He guessed they wanted him to shit a location of their people!

Max’s team had gone about 50 miles before cutting across country. It was just getting light as they eased into the small village. A dog barked once and a little pop from the back window of the Humvee and the dog lay over and barked no more.
    “I’ll let you out here,” the driver whispered. “Abdul Zmarak is in that house to the left. I’ll wait in the alley for you to come out.”
    The team dismounted and moved to secure the house. “Thomas,” said Max, “you and Wade, around back. Gene and Terry with me. Don’t kill anyone unless you have too.”
    Max gave Thomas and Wade time to reach the back of the house and pressed the mic at his neck. “Wade, are there any windows back there.”
    “Yeah, two of them.”
    “You and Thomas take a window each and on my command put a flash grenade through each window.”
    Max looked over at Gene and saw he was ready. Terry nodded he was good to go too. Well, this was it, thought Max. “Hit ’em.”
    The two flash grenades went off simultaneously. Gene kicked down the door and was inside before anyone knew what was going on. He covered the two men in the front room as Thomas and Wade moved the three Afghans from the back room to the front. Now they had them all seated in one room with their hands on top of their heads.
    They were forty seconds into the mission.
    Gene pulled the picture from his pocket and started going from one man to the next until he found the man they were looking for, Abdul Zmarak. “Come up here, someone wants to talk to you.”
    “I’ll have you killed for even touching me, you infidel. You know you are all dead men.”
    “Sure you will,” said Gene, “but first you’ll have to get my rifle out of your ass.”
    As Gene stood the man before Max, Zmarak said to Max, “Do you know who I am? You must be insane to come here like this. I am Abdul Zmarak. I am under the protection of the US Army.”
    “Well, I’m the Vice-President of the United States and by God, I never authorized that protection.”
    They were sixty seconds into the mission.
    “Better do whatever you’re going to do,” Terry hollered at Max. “We’ve got movement outside.”
    Max gave the order. “Gene, you and Terry hold them until we get this asshole out the back. If you don’t catch up with us, we’ll wait with the Humvee at the top of the hill, where we came in.”
    “You can forget the Humvee,” Terry said. “They just took him out.”
    “You are dead men,” said Zmarak. “You may have a chance if you run now, but if you take me, they will follow you into Hell.”
    Gene and Terry opened fire, with three short bursts apiece. “Max,” Gene yelled, “let’s get the hell out of here! The whole damn village is out there.”
    They were ninety seconds into the mission.
    There was firing from the back now. “Hey, boss,” shouted Wade over the intercom, “we got a shit load of bad guys back here.”
    Max pulled his silver-plated Colt .45, with the emblem of the Office of the Vice-President on each side of the pearl-handle grips. Putting the gun in Zmarak’s face, Max said, “The next time it will be a bomb. The President says no more drugs, and he means it.”
    “Fool, do you think you can find Zmarak if he does not want to be found. We knew you were coming and we will know if a bomb is coming. Do you not understand you are dead men? This was a trap. I am not the one you seek. I’m the brother of Abdul Zmarak.”
    Max turned to Terry and Gene. “Come on, we’ll fight our way out the back.”
    They were two minutes into the mission.
    “What about these guys?” asked Gene.
    Max pushed Zmarak’s brother toward Gene. “Tape his mouth and throw him out the front. The others will lead the way out the back door.”
    As Gene and Terry pulled the brother of Zmarak to his feet and began taping his month, Max herded the others to the back room.
    The sound of rapid fire came from the front of the house. Gene and Terry came running into the back room and joined Max, Wade, and Thomas.
    “Let’s go, let’s go!” said Max.
    Pushing the Afghans out the door, the five followed, keeping low and cutting along the side of the buildings. They were being fired at, but most of the fire was directed at the group of Afghans they pushed out in front of them.
    They made it to open ground, but Max knew that as soon as the Afghans found they had killed their own people, they would be coming for them.
    “Gene, you and Terry take the point. Thomas, keep an eye out back there – they’ll be coming soon, and they’ll be mad as hell.”
    “Wade, get on the horn and get us a ride out of this damn place.”
    “You got it, boss.”
    Wade activated his radio. “Adam One, Adam One, this is Tango Seven. Repeat, this is Tango Seven. We are under fire, we need E-VAC. Do you copy, Adam One?”
    That was the last thing Max heard before the world blew up in his face.
    They were five minutes into the mission.

Max knew the mortars were still coming in. He could see the bright flash of light and feel the ground give way, then slam into his body. He was being thrown from one side of the hole to the other. But thank God for the hole, for without the hole, he would be dead. His lungs felt as though they were on fire. The only breath of air he could get was full of sulfur and dust.
    The young soldier in his arms paid no attention to the bombing or the thick air. His war was over.
    How had they been caught in this damn trap? Everything was going right by the book. In ten minutes, they would have been on a chopper, and back at base camp in fifteen.
    Then from nowhere, the world had exploded around them. The Afghans knew they would have to come up the valley to get out of the village. They had a foolproof plan.
    The first round had hit right in front of Terry. The blast killed him and Gene instantly and threw Gene back into Max. They both fell into a large hole next to the road.
    Unbeknownst to Gene, he had saved Max’s life, but the blast had ruptured both of Max’s eardrums and buried a piece of metal in his leg. The only way Max had to determine how close the mortars were coming at him was the shaking of the ground. He couldn’t help but wonder if he would hear the one that killed him.
    As suddenly as it had started, it stopped. The light from the exploding shells was gone and it became dark and the ground shook no more. Max was thinking, thank you, Lord. Oh! God, thank you. He had gone to Hell, and the Devil had deemed him unworthy.
    The happy, jubilant feeling didn’t last long. Max knew someone would be coming to check out their handiwork. The last thing he could do was to be captured. The Vice-President of the United States a prisoner-of-war. How the hell did you get your head around that?
    Max peered over the edge of the hole. He hoped to see Wade or Terry, but nothing was moving. He also hoped that whoever was bombing them would take their time coming to investigate. At first, it was hard to see. The air was still full of dirt and smoke. Then he saw the dark forms coming at him from about twenty yards out, and all of his hopes were crushed.
    Lying in the bottom of the hole, Max pulled Gene’s body on top of his own. The sun was just coming up but it was still dark in the hole. Maybe they would miss him. Then Max pulled his Army Colt .45, pulled the hammer back, and placed the barrel under his chin. He was thinking, he had no ID on him, no billfold, and no dog tags. No one knew he was there. Dead, he would be just one more dead American to those people. But alive, what a nightmare that would be.
    Max could see lights moving around outside the hole – a lot of them. They had what looked like floodlights crisscrossing the whole area. Why would they want to light up the place like that?
    His hand tightened on the Colt as he watched the light drawing nearer to his hole. “Forgive me,” he whispered as his finger put a little pressure on the trigger. Then he saw a chopper fly over the hole. What the hell, Afghans didn’t have choppers.
    Suddenly, there was an American soldier in the hole with him. The soldier was saying something, but Max couldn’t hear anything. Now two of them had his arms and were carrying him toward the waiting chopper.
    “My men, where are my men?” Max asked, hardly able to hear his own question.
    Max couldn’t hear the answer, but he understood the shaking head and the look on the soldier’s face.

Chapter 32. The Last Hole

Two of the team’s men began digging a hole in the foreboding darkness of the moonscape environment while two other men sat up guard posts around the perimeter, and the fifth man, the one they jokingly called the Professor, stood nervously off to the side with the little black box. The moon had set at midnight – without their Global Tracking Device the team would have been wandering around lost in the desert.
    With quick succession, the diggers’ shovels removed the loose soil, the scraping of their shovels against the grains of sand being the only sound heard in the early morning air. The penlights attached to their helmets illuminated their small work area, providing only enough light to accomplish the task at hand.
    The two men setting up guard posts dug a shallow indention in the sandy soil to lie in and lowered their night vision goggles to their eyes to look over the barren terrain. They could spot any movement long before it would reach their location.
    The Professor knew that the success of the mission now rode on his back – no more simulations, he had one chance to do the job right.
    SEAL Team 5 was now on the border between Iran and Azerbaijan. They had dropped in at 01:30; sunrise would be at 05:45. That was how long they had to reach the cable and attach the box.
    IBM controlled all the flow of oil in the Middle East by a system of fiber-optic cables crisscrossing the oil-rich lands. The locations of these cables were Top Secret. Not one nation in the Middle East would benefit from the interruption of the cables. The spot where the men were digging was the one spot in all of the Middle East that the cable could be reached with a shovel. In all the thousands of miles of cable buried under the sand, this was the only spot you didn’t need a backhoe to dig into IBM’s most prized possession.
    Although the sand was easy to dig into, you had to dig fast and hard to keep it from sliding back into the hole. The cold night air of the mountainous desert had little effect on the two men who were soaking wet from sweating, and they never broke their rhythm of digging. Then the taller of the two said, “Hold up, I think I found the cable.”
    Very carefully they began removing the dirt from around the big black cable. Their pace slowed, their movements careful, almost snail-like. The last thing they wanted was to cut into the fiber-optics with a shovel blade.
    The Professor eased over for a closer look, and said, “Make sure you cover the inside of the hole with the plastic sheet we brought. Once I cut the outside sheathing, I can’t have sand getting into the works before I can seal it back up.”

While ST5 was digging, two Russian KA-50 Hokum Attack Helicopters had slid along the mountain valleys muffling the sound of their engines until they were right on top of their prey, at which point they blinded them with floodlights from above.
    There was no request for surrender. The gunships opened fire, and forty seconds later, the five Americans lay dead on the cold ground in the middle of a forsaken, desolate wasteland. The Russians doused the lights, turned their helicopters around, and headed back to their camp.
    The darkness covered the five soldiers like a warm blanket, and nothing moved, the land was devoid of all life, but for a small snake that crawled over the Professor’s boot on its nightly hunt for food.
    Two or three hours after sunrise, a truck with three Azerbaijan workers and a short Russian man with two fingers missing pulled up to the kill site. The workers took the five dead men’s clothes, boots, and weapons and put them into the back of the truck. They would sell the stuff at the market and divide the money later in the day. Most of the people in Azerbaijan lived on $26 a month. Therefore, for these three, the pay and the bounty from the clothing and weapons would be enough money to last them all year.
    The only thing the Russian wanted was the device the Professor was holding: the little black box. The Russian told the workers to throw the naked bodies of the soldiers into the hole they had dug and cover them up. “Let their bones be a warning to anyone else who would think Mother Russia has lost her teeth.”
[Editor’s Note: The novel from which these excerpts are taken can be ordered from Amazon, as either a paperback or a Kindle book.]

Copyright © 2017 by Ed Rogers

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