Friday, September 16, 2011

Rapid Reaction II

Rapid Reaction II: The Red Cross couldn't keep all three hostile Turks alive; one soldier had been hit in the femoral artery and bled out. The second went into shock then a coma, but was stable. The third was only lightly wounded. Sgt. Mathers questioned him for an hour, learning as many details as he could; it wasn't much. The soldier had been under the impression that the entire military was amassing at the Syrian border to fight off what was rumored to be another American foray into expanding their capitalist empire. Everything was so patently untrue that by the end Mathers was surprised the soldier could tell his head from his ass.

Sgt. Mathers secured the detainee down and locked him in a room, then resumed his patrol at the entrance to the mosque. He got on the radio, “Alpha unit, it looks like we have stirred the pot. That patrol was due back thirty minutes ago, so I'd expect things to heat up here in the next few minutes. I need everyone on their guard. I doubt they'll use heavy artillery or explosives. Expect to be surrounded. I've got the UAV circling and satellite is tracking what it can, but the Turkish army is well-equipped to hide a lot of their signatures. My guess is that there are probably two companies and a large tank unit. We have an hour until the General Assembly vote and I have confirmation that NATO and SCAPO forces are standing by for support.”

Cary looked at Coos, they could conceivably be over-run in fifteen minutes. Actual support, aside from a lightly equipped UAV and an even more lightly equipped French destroyer, could take up to five hours to reach them. He knew the unit was going to be without much support but he didn't know it was going to be that sparse.

“I have large scale movement, all converging on the main road,” Patel's voice shook over the radio, but he knew it was good news. That the units weren't coming in from all sides gave Alpha unit a good shot at holding them off. They had no idea how many PPP soldiers were defending the refugees and that was a big bonus. Every movement would be suspect, an excellent way to keep the tense army at bay.

“Hold fire until you have a clear shot. All units conserve ammo,” Sgt. Mathers knew he would have to multiply his forces somehow, “I have command on-line, they are authorizing two more UAVs and the French have missile support incoming. That should give us what we need, but the French destroyer needs a target. Do you have a position Patel.

“Switching to targeting. I have a point right on what I think are the main tank lines. Give me a perpendicular spread off my point and we should be able to get a good scare in them,” Patel's voice betrayed his lack of confidence.

“Roger, all units stan--” Sgt. Mathers' voice stopped, “what?” a long pause, “No. Tell them to stay...no...I don't care if that's the case...this...no...damn it!” Sgt. Mathers got on the radio again, “all units, I have about forty refugees that have just been kicked out of the mosque. They are gay apparently, and the other refugees don't want them there. No one will house them for fear of retribution.”

“I have a unit incoming. Fourteen right down the main road,” Patel interrupted.

“Hostile?” Sgt. Mathers forgot the refugee situation momentarily.

“Kicking down doors,” Patel said it with the assured voice of someone with a target in the crosshairs. Cary could hear the violent pounding and yelling of the soldiers as they broke into the first few homes on the road. Cary looked at Coos who was controlling his breath.

“Clear to shoot, clear to fire. Conserve ammo, I repeat, conserve ammo,” Sgt. Mathers was stern with his words.

Cary peeked around the corner and saw three soldiers pulling a woman from her home. They were tugging at her hair and screaming she was a treacherous whore. One soldier pushed her on her knees and put his rifle to the back of her head. He yelled at her to submit to God's will. A bullet ricocheted off the dirt behind the soldier. The soldier collapsed, spilling blood from his head as he fell. The woman screamed, the soldiers panicked and called to their comrades. Cary called out his shot over the radio, “clear on back target, firing.” He hit the soldier in the chest.

“Clear on front target, firing,” Jackson's voice came over the radio, “Patel is targeting the line of tanks.” Jackson fired a burst from his machine gun, the front soldier fell and the woman ran screaming back into her home. The advancing soldiers stopped trying to raid houses and ran for cover. The narrow streets and alley-less architecture made them sitting targets in the corridor.

Cary watched as several soldiers made their way to his position. He whispered to Coos, “left most clear,” and fired.

Coos followed suit, “right-most clear,” and fired. They did this until all seven were injured or dead on the ground. It took less than four seconds.

Bursts of machine gun fire hit the back soldiers, spreading them into chaos. Cary heard a soldier call out a retreat and the soldiers scrambled back to the town's entrance.

“I have confirmation from command, missiles incoming,” Sgt. Mathers sounded relieved, the first time he had emoted in a long time, “contact in 15 minutes.”

“Sir, does that mean we have an official engagement?” Jackson asked.

“Not yet, but it seems the assembly will vote to support us. I have three SCAPO destroyers en route to us and the UN has a full rescue on standby at the Greek Border. But that's not important now,” Sgt. Mathers came to his senses, “Private Sharma, I need a head count on our evicted refugees. I also need a place to put them that is safe.”

The head count came back and there were 43 gay minorities—all of them singled out and kicked out by their families. They ranged from a young 16 year old boy to a 58 year-old woman. The Red Cross had run out of tents and they were standing in the plaza completely exposed.

“We can move some of the people in overflow to the mosque, but it won't be everyone,” Nguyen had been running through plans. “We can commandeer a house, but I don't think it's within our goodwill protocols.”

The goodwill protocols are what made PPP missions so complex. Along with being active combat units, they were also considered UN diplomats. The expectations of their behavior were held to the highest degree. A long-sighted US secretary of defense had made it required for American support of the PPP's creation; her justification was that hearts and minds were won through the duty and honor of the soldiers on the ground. It wasn't a unique idea but it was certainly the most extensive (and ultimately restrictive) codification of those principles. Violation of those codes, even in the most dire of situations was grounds for severe punishment.

“We might be able to surpass those codes given circumstance,” Nguyen was doing the calculations. The goodwill protocols were fuzzy in a couple areas, and the utilitarian approach meant that they might be able to justify it.

Sgt. Mathers thought for a second, “do it. I want an easily defensible residence near the plaza. I need two volunteers.”

Cary spoke up, “I'll do it sir,” he punched Coos on the shoulder, “Coos will too.”

“Good, your position is fine for now, but your fall-back position will be where they are housed and not the mosque, clear?”

“Clear sir.”

break---

Cary looked overhead, he could see the bright streaks in the distance. The missiles were coming. He braced himself as he felt the earth-shattering explosions rock the line of tanks outside the town. There would be lots of noise and fire. Certainly another round would be headed their way. The Turks knew that. They would be headed into the city to get cover and make a full-blown attack on the refugees.

Cary heard the rumble of several thousand soldiers marching in time toward his position. At some point the march changed into a looting. He could hear the soldiers speed up and become animalistic. Their anger and hatred reaching a fever pitch as they yelled and kicked down doors. Cary wondered if they had made the right decisions. They were sworn to fulfill their duties and make sure the mission succeeded. But the town wasn't in their parameters. And they weren't defending the families that had quietly let the refugees gather in their town. The people of the town weren't dissidents but they were brave to allow a seeming act of treason reside in their town center. And now Cary could hear their screams as gunshots rang out inside the houses. The sound of footsteps got louder and a woman ran by.

“God is great, Turkey is great, I am loyal, I am loyal,” she tripped.

Three soldiers ran up to her, “you are nothing. You don't know God.” Cary fired off a burst, hitting them in succession. He heard more soldiers approaching. Loud heavy footsteps. Coos and Cary started firing, trying to stem the flood of soldiers going down the main street.

The UAVs came in low, strafing straight down the street. Cleanly spreading soldiers. “They're taking to the side streets. Fall back.” It was Patel.

Coos took a grenade and tossed it into the street. Smoke poured out of it, creating a wall that Coos and Cary could run behind. Gunfire burst out sporadically through the smoke. The soldiers were obviously confused. Cary called into his radio, “we're falling back, location?”

“Building closest to you on the plaza,” Sgt. Mathers was setting up a defense of the plaza. He knew they weren't going to last long.

Cary burst through the door of the house, there he was confronted by forty three faces of scared and helpless refugees. He tapped Coos and signaled the upstairs; Coos nodded and took a position at the upstairs window. Cary signaled the people to move to the far corner and stay quiet. He peeked out the window and watched for soldiers. He heard rifle bursts and screams. People yelling in Turkish. A massive execution was happening right outside and he didn't have any way to really stop it. A soldier came running out of the smoke and a line of machine gun fire stopped him in his tracks.

Cary turned and looked at the plaza. There was a fire in the distance, they were setting the town on fire. Cary knew that he would die; it was strangely comforting to know that. He watched as the smoke started to fill the night sky and the city turned orange.

Soldiers started coming into the plaza, a few at first and all of them easily picked off by the soldiers of the PPP unit. Then it was in droves, they over-ran the tent. The soldiers fired blindly into it, marking it with hundreds of holes. The tent was back-lit by the flames in the distance and he could see people running and screaming; falling and dying. People poured out of the Red Cross tent, trying to escape. They were met with a hail of bullets. He heard the sergeant on the ear piece, “Nguyen is down!”

Cary saw gunfire coming from behind a wall near the entrance to the mosque. A machine gun burst and sniper fire from the minaret. The smoke was getting heavy now. The noise was unbearable almost. Then it felt like there was a rumbling everywhere, and the tanks rolled into the plaza. He held his breath, turned to the refugees and turned over a table. He hid behind it with his gun trained at the door. Blood spattered the window. He heard banging on the door; they were trying to come in. Cary took stock of his equipment. A smoke grenade, two flashes, and two explosive grenades. He hoped it would be enough. He heard Coos firing out the window. Then, “flash!” Cary covered his eyes. A flash was almost useless in the open, but it surprised the enemy sufficiently to give Coos a clear shot at two soldiers.

Then the rumbling stopped. Coos yelled down, “this is it!” He threw his grenades to the streets. Cary saw men scattering and heard a deafening boom. The grenades exploded but the boom came from tank fire. The tank had fired on Coos and blown up the second story of the house. The refugees that could, screamed.

Cary turned and yelled in Turkish, “quiet if you want to live!” It was suddenly silent and Cary knew that most of the refugees must be hurt or dead. He trained his gun at the three points of entry in front of him: window, window, door. Faces streamed by: some fleeing, some chasing. There were tanks in the plaza, firing on the mosque. Cary watched as a direct hit to the minaret sent tons of brick and mortar crashing to the ground. Patel and Jackson were gone.

The barrel of a rifle peeked through one of the windows. Then a grenade dropped into the room. A refugee jumped to cover the blast. “No!” Cary couldn't breathe. He ducked for cover and felt the change in air pressure. A blast of heat came through the room. The house was in shambles. He looked at the door, it was falling off its hinges.

Then there were soldiers at the door, banging, breaking the already weakened hinges. Cary tightened his grip, looked intently through his sight and braced himself.