In November, 2009 Gerry travels to Europe on behalf of the Berant King. He’s there as a Special Envoy to resolve some trade issues with the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. He’ll also be sorting out some matters for his own and clan businesses in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Belgium. Travelling with him is a senior member of the Berant Department of Trade, Pierre de Darnet. His ancestors include the last two French governors of Berant from the time when it was a French colony. It’s hoped his French heritage and government links will help alleviate some of the strong animosity the French bureaucrats still feel about being kicked out of Berant sixty years ago.
Berant has good arrangements with the European Union, but also some minor issues with the three individual governments mentioned. The personal business items are to select local senior executives from several candidates, and to realign activities with new trade agreements. The local concerns are about the effect Berant import goods will have on local businesses. The biggest actual trade problems are with the United Kingdom, so Gerry and Pierre start their work there, and the worst political problems are with France, so they’ll finish the trip there to have more time to deal with the concerns of the touchy French bureaucracy.
A Special Envoy is expected to sit down and discuss issues with the senior politicians and bureaucrats of the government being visited, but that’s not how things are being done this time. The relevant Berant Ambassadors will still be responsible for the negotiations, the signing of all documents, and public relations. Gerry and Pierre are there to evaluate the situation and to amend Berant policy if they need to; something the ambassadors don’t have the authority to do, but Gerry does. Gerry and Pierre spend their time speaking to local businessmen and lower level bureaucrats instead of the senior ones.
The problems in the UK are due to the direct competition by two Berant manufacturers of technical equipment, and how it’ll impact on local businesses. Like France and Germany the UK stands to lose a lot of jobs through the loss of local and export trade because they currently supply much of Europe with the same high technology goods. The Berant goods are a higher quality at a much lower price, despite being imported. This is due to a better design and quality control during the manufacture resulting in lower wastage and costs.
The argument being made by the UK government is the same as those of the French and Germany governments about concerns for the local business operations. Investigations show the local businesses in all three are very inefficient, are using out of date manufacturing systems, and are over staffed. The governments are more concerned with the overall net effect on their own Balance of Trade figures and the potential loss of jobs. The ambassadors haven’t been able to get anywhere with these issues.
One lucky aspect is the Berant companies concerned are owned by Gerry, any loss in potential revenue for them will affect his pocket. He won’t be abused by others if he changes policy that reduces the export income. The bulk of the benefit of the new trade agreement with the European Union will be in other industries and companies, thus not getting the trade from these two companies won’t have any real effect on Berant; it’ll just mean the two companies won’t be spending any money on expansion in Berant.
After a week’s investigations and discussions Gerry proposes a deal for the UK government. Berant won’t import and sell the high tech products of those two companies in the UK if the UK government will approve the establishment of two new Berant controlled subsidiary companies to construct manufacturing plants to produce the goods locally as per their methods.
The owners of the existing companies aren’t happy with this deal, because it won’t ensure their continued operations. The UK government is very happy with the deal, because it will keep the Balance of Trade figures stable and minimise the job losses. They realise there’ll be some since the Berant manufacturing process uses less staff. The cost of constructing local plants and using local labour will increase the local retail price of the Berant goods, but they’ll still be lower than that of their competitors. An added benefit for the UK government is the offer of the Berant companies to establish their new plants in areas of high unemployment and to train the local people to do the work. The special agreement is soon signed. Copies are also sent to the ambassadors in Germany and France.
Gerry takes time to organise the establishment of the new companies, and selects suitable local managers from the pool of local people he’s checking for promotion in higher managerial roles. The just promoted staff are left to finalise the organisation of the new companies and construct the new plants.
Gerry and Pierre leave the UK for Belgium, and Gerry spends a few days attending to his businesses there while Pierre confers with the local embassy staff. They arrive in Germany to be handed a new signed agreement exactly like the one signed by the UK government. Because their work here is greatly reduced they have a little extra time to take in the local sights. Gerry sets about organising local managerial staff while Pierre confers with embassy staff on other trade matters.
A quick trip to Spain for similar work, and then onto France. They achieve a lot in their short visits in each country.
They arrive in Paris to be informed by the ambassador the majority of the French bureaucrats and politicians are ready to approve and sign an agreement like the UK one, but a few are being very stubborn about it. Some because they’ve connections with the local businesses that will suffer once the Berant operations come on line, and some because they still harbour a grudge about being kicked out of Berant.
Since they’ve plenty of time to deal with this, and no other places to visit, they change their meeting agenda. The ambassador is left to deal with the French government on the trade issue while Pierre confers with local staff on other matters, and Gerry attends to his personal business matters. After a few days Pierre is finished with his other work, and assists the ambassador with his. The French continue to play games, and they keep asking for the rights to have their existing companies make the Berant products under licence. Something they’ve already been told won’t ever happen. The existing companies’ quality checking process leaves a great deal to be desired, and Gerry won’t risk his companies’ reputations with such slack workers.
The discussions drag on, and look like they may never end. At one point Gerry has the head offices of his two companies send official notice to the French government they’ll never allow the manufacture of their goods out of their control. They’ll employ locals to manufacture, but will never approve other companies to do so. The Berant companies are quite happy not to manufacture in France or export direct to France, but will manufacture in and / or export to the other European countries, regardless of the French position. The choices are simple, either approve the Berant companies to expand operations into France, or expect their own market to pay more by having to purchase through middle level suppliers in the neighbouring countries. The Berant goods will still be cheaper than the French ones, and of a better quality too. The French hold outs aren’t happy with this, but there’s nothing they can do if it all goes that way because they won’t modify their position.
During the second week of their visit to Paris Gerry and Pierre are scheduled to address the seniors at a local school for the children of diplomats and embassy staff to tell them all about Berant. This is part of a school program to give the seniors a better understanding of life in other countries and cultures. Some similar talks have been arranged for a few other private schools in and around Paris.
They arrive at the school at 9:00 a.m. on the Thursday morning to address thirty-seven seniors in a lecture room at 9:30 a.m. They spend the intervening time meeting and talking with staff while Gerry’s security detail, a sergeant and ten Shields, check out the school, and set up security for the school and lecture room. The official security detail is small because the French government complained about the affront to their ability to protect visiting dignitaries; but they’d only assigned six gendarmes as the official security detail. The French don’t see Berant diplomats as being high risk targets. The talk starts at 9:30 a.m. with the introduction of the guest speakers. Pierre will talk for an hour followed by a fifteen minute question time. Then Gerry will talk for an hour followed by a short question time. They’ll then gather in another room for a buffet luncheon, and an hour or so of general discussion.
At 10:15 a.m. Sergeant Banners is checking the perimeter from the building’s roof when he notices three large trucks pull up in the streets around the school, two near the front entrance to the Senior’s Block, and one near its back entrance. The school takes up half of a small block. It has two buildings, the smaller Seniors’ Block is on the end with streets on three sides. The main building is between the Seniors’ Block and the other businesses in the streets. The original fence separates the Seniors’ Block from the main building, because the Seniors’ Block used to be owned by another company when they were the offices for a small marketing and training business.
Sergeant Banners brings his binoculars into focus on the trucks. He watches while the backs open and armed men jump out, lots of armed men. He activates his radio, and says, “Viper, Viper, Cutlass Three declaring Viper Black diplo school. Stand to and repulse boarders.”
At the embassy the radio alert is received, and causes instant action. The radio operator hits the alert button, and passes the word to the commander of the embassy security detachment. The rest of the two platoons of Shields who’d accompanied the party are soon getting ready for combat, so are the rest of the embassy’s security detachment; five platoons are readying for detached combat deployment.
The small security detail at the school are already responding to the attackers who eliminate the six gendarmes in the opening seconds of the attack. The Shields don’t have their usual weapons; the French were extremely difficult about what they’d allow them to carry, too. They’ve machine pistols and pistols, but no grenades or heavy weapons.
Over one hundred attackers are pouring through the gates when the outer screen opens fire. The attackers expect a few bodyguards for the Berant diplomats, but they’re expected to grab their people and fight a running withdrawal. They aren’t expecting the Berant security to launch a counter attack, but that’s exactly what Second Squad is doing. The squad commander, Corporal Mathers, knows he has no decent defensive points available. So the best he can do is to rip the attackers apart while they’re in the open. Yelling their battle cry of, “For the people,” the squad erupts from the front entrance with their machine pistols on maximum fire rate. The five Shields spread out to give the attackers more targets while they cut the attackers down with sweeping bursts of fire. About thirty attackers die in the opening bursts.
Some of the leading attackers drop to the ground to provide steady fire at the Shields. Sergeant Banners opens fire on the attackers at maximum rate as well, shooting at them where they’re bunched to enter the gates. He’s on his third magazine before they realise he’s up there. A few stop to aim up at him, he takes several rounds on his armour before one incoming burst hits his helmet, and knocks him off balance. He’s knocked over, falls, hits the roof hard, and his head strikes the roof edge, he’s knocked unconscious, and just lies there.
With just one minute into the raid Second Squad is down, all dead or dying. But so are nearly seventy of the attackers. The raid leader is on his radio calling in his reserves while what’s left of his force enters the building. He’s very upset, because this raid to capture the students is the culmination of seven months of preparation, and they chose today to include the special diplomat in the bag. They intend to demand the ending of sanctions against their birth country as the payment for the release of the students and diplomat. The planners expected total losses for the operation to be about fifteen to twenty men, but they’ve already lost most of the main force, and they haven’t got any of the hostages yet. Diverting the other trucks here means the cancellation of the two diversionary attacks. He’ll make someone pay for this, but later, when he has control of the school. He follows his attack team into the school.
Gerry is listening on his radio, and knows they have major problems. No outside guards are responding. He knows, from Sergeant Banners’ first reports, the building’s back door is covered by attackers, and they’re coming in the front. The windows have security grills, so no escape there. On his radio he says, “Corporal Jacks, do your best, we’ve no way out, and there’s too many of them. I’m going off the air.”
The Corporal says, “Yes, Sir, good luck. The best we can do is reduce their numbers to make it easier for the rescue team.”
Taking his radio out of his ear Gerry takes the main unit out of his pocket. He places the unit in an empty cigarette packet he has, and puts it back in his pocket. Going to another part of the room he slips one pistol under a cupboard, and his other under the podium. He returns to his seat in the audience. Most watch him when he moves about while they wonder what he’s up to, because they can all hear the shooting outside, and realise they’re in big trouble.
Out in the hallway Corporal Jacks splits his team up, and sends three men to the other end of the hallway with specific instructions. He’s plan is to kill as many as he can, not a defence of the room. He turns over a heavy desk to block the hall near the door to the lecture room. He and one private kneel down behind the desk, ready to hold the line.
The attackers encounter no resistance after entering the building, so the lead troops figure all the guards were at the entrance. They charge down the hallways toward their target room where the hostages are. Running flat out the raiders reach the cross corridor for the lecture room, and turn down it. The front nine die in their tracks when the defenders, Corporal Jacks and Private Little, open up on them, five more run into their fire before the rest can slow down enough to stop short of the intersection.
Grenades bounce around the corner and explode, a wave of raiders follows. Seeing the grenades the defenders duck behind the desk, and wait for the explosions before they pop up again, opening fire before they make target acquisition. They don’t need to aim, because the hallway is full of attackers, so their first shots take the leaders in the chests. Another dozen attackers die before those near the back can lob grenades behind the desk. Both dying Shields keep their fingers on the triggers with their guns pointed at the attackers until their magazines are empty. They don’t live much longer, either. They paid their ferryman’s fee, because thirty-four dead attackers lie in the hallway. The leader of the attackers is shocked, of his initial assault unit of one hundred and twenty men he’s lost one hundred and six, and not yet reached the hostages. This was supposed to be a cakewalk. He can hear his reserve forces entering the building; they’d just reported arriving via their radio. The leader directs the last nine men from his initial main force down the corridor, and he follows them. Hearing a noise behind him he turns, in time to see three Guards open fire. He’s killed with the opening burst, and the last of the initial team inside the building survive him by only seconds. The remaining Shields of First Squad are starting to move down the hall when the new group of attackers comes around the corner. The three Shields drop to their knees, and open fire. The air is soon thick with bullets travelling in both directions. In less than a minute the firing stops when all of First Squad are dead, as well as fourteen of the fifty extra raiders called in.
The man in charge of the extra raiders is shocked. Their leader and his initial assault force of one hundred and twenty men are dead, except for the five men watching the back door. Six gendarmes and ten security guards have killed one hundred and thirty of their best freedom fighters. He has only forty-one men left to secure the hostages and the building. He left five men to secure the front door, and with the five securing the back door he has thirty-one to secure the hostages. That’s all he can do for now. He’s only fifth in their European leadership, and he wasn’t fully briefed on this mission, since his job is to bring the extra men to where their leader needs them. No one thought he’d need to act on his own at all.
The new raider leader takes his men to the lecture room, and they enter it to find a middle aged man telling a group of high-school seniors to stay in their seats and be calm. The new raid leader walks up to the podium, and waves the man back from it. The man carefully moves away from the podium. The attackers spread around the room.
The new raid leader tells them they’re now his prisoners and they’ll be released unharmed once the reasonable demands of their liberation army are met by the western imperialists. They’re to stay seated.
One student raises his hand, and asks, “Which western government has taken control of your country as part of their imperial expansion?” The raider leader just snarls at him, and tells him to shut up.
One by one the students are motioned forward, and are checked for weapons before being sent back to their seats. Pierre is directed to sit with the students after he’s been searched for weapons as well. Fifteen armed gunmen are left spread around the room to keep an eye on the students. The other sixteen attackers spread out through the building while they check every room for other hostages.
Within a few minutes they hustle three more staff members into the room with the main hostages. They’ll do for object lessons when the time comes for such lessons.
When the alert sounds the Berant Embassy readies troops, and sends them to the school. The embassy security commander, Captain Thomas, rings the French authorities to tell them what’s happening. The school is in the same section of Paris as the majority of the embassies, so the Berant troops are first to arrive. Following Standing Orders they stop short of their objective, and advance on foot while checking everything out when they move forward.
Noticing the armed raiders at the two entrances they make no effort to enter the grounds, but set up a cordon around it. Also, some troops go to every nearby building to inform the occupants of what’s happening. By the time the French authorities arrive the surrounding buildings are empty of innocent bystanders, and the area is secure. The senior combat officer of the French forces is grateful for the help, but his politically motivated boss is extremely upset by the presence of the Berant forces when he arrives, especially when they refuse to leave the area to let the French forces handle it.
The French officer in charge is expounding on the capabilities of the French forces and how they can easily handle this when the officer in charge of the Shields, Senior Lieutenant Chesway, simply points to the six dead gendarmes and the dead attackers. There are no dead attackers near the gendarmes, and more telling, their weapons are still slung on their backs. It’s obvious they died before they got a shot off. And it’s just as clear the five dead Shields near the front entrance are responsible for all the dead attackers. No words are said, but the images say a lot about comparative combat capabilities of the forces. Not another word is said. However, much is being said on telephones between the embassies and the French authorities.
In the buildings surrounding the school sniper trained Swords are setting up to eliminate all the known and visible attackers when the word is given. They know it’ll come, regardless of French approval or disapproval. The Shields prepare for a fast hostage rescue assault, light weapons without much penetration capability, just in case a hostage is hit by accident. They’ll rely on speed, armour, and accurate shooting.
Things aren’t going well for the French authorities, because the hostages include children from all of the big embassies and the Berant Ambassador lets the other ambassadors know he has troops from the Protector’s Own, ones extremely well-trained in hostage rescue work. The foreign ambassadors know the quality of the French troops aren’t as high as the Protector’s Own, so all of them are pushing to have the Shields do the rescue. They all agree they can’t give into the demands from the terrorists so they have to mount an operation soon, before the terrorists recover fully from their heavy initial losses in the attack.
Pressure is mounting to hand the operation over to the Berant forces, and the French authorities don’t like it, not at all. It doesn’t help them to be reminded if they’d let the normal security team travel with Gerry all the attackers would be dead with no hostages taken.
With all the rooms checked the raid leader decides he hasn’t enough men to control the whole building, so he’ll move the hostages to a large room on the upper floor. He has his men check the room for anything that can be used as a weapon. They also check the path the hostages will travel, removing fire extinguishers and the like from the walls.
Returning to the lecture room he tells them he’s moving them. They have to stand and move out. They stand, and start moving as a group. When Gerry passes the cupboard where he hid his pistol he trips, and is quick to slip his hand under the cupboard to retrieve the pistol, putting it into his pocket. When he gets to the front there’s a blockage at the doorway, and he’s able to retrieve his second pistol from under podium while they slowly shuffle past it.
Once all the hostages are forced into the back of the room upstairs the raid leader leaves six gunmen at the front with a line of heavy tables between them and the hostages. Any mass assault will be unable to quickly mount the tables, and the only exit is beside the gunmen. The gunmen can easily kill any of the hostages who attack them before they become a real danger to them. They make the hostages sit down. Many choose to lie down. The gunmen don’t care which, as long as they’re not standing the hostages can’t charge at them. These changes are noticed, and reported, by the Swords watching the building. More snipers are assigned to deal with the gunmen in the room, but only four gunmen are able to be targeted from outside. One sniper is able to get a good line on the door, so once trouble starts he can stop more gunmen from entering.
The raid leader has the rest of his men setting booby traps at all the ground floor windows, the entrance doors, the ground floor halls, and the stairs. He turns the entire lower level into a series of explosive traps. The men who were guarding the doors retreat into the building, and activate the traps while they withdraw.
The raid leader sends a group of five men to the roof to ensure no helicopters try to land troops. When they arrive there they see Sergeant Banners lying near the roof edge at the front of the building, and report another dead guard on the roof. None bothers to have a close look, because he’s not moving and is in an awkward position. They can also see the bullet holes in his helmet and body armour. What they can’t see is the bullets stuck in the helmet and armour, since they didn’t penetrate all the way through them. They’re designed in a number of layers, high velocity rounds may penetrate the outer layers, but will be slowed down, and will rarely penetrate all the layers; except for special ultra-high velocity rounds. Banners is unconscious, but alive; and they don’t know it. The raiders move to a point further back on the roof, a point where they feel more protected from possible sniper fire coming from any of the surrounding buildings; a point where they can’t see the Sergeant!
Lying on the floor near the back of the room Gerry has a few people sitting up in front of him when he gets out his radio, and puts the ear piece in his ear. He plugs in the main radio, and puts it in its normal position clipped onto his belt. Gerry doesn’t place the microphone in its usual spot, instead he clips it to the inside of the light jacket he’s wearing, placed just below his mouth.
The gunmen are letting the hostages talk softly amongst themselves, so he isn’t concerned when he switches the radio on, and goes to the emergency frequency. He speaks into the microphone, saying, “Cutlass Control, Popsicle, do you copy.” He waits for a response for a moment, and repeats the call, he keeps waiting and repeating the call. He knows the recovery operation will be on another frequency, because the raiders could’ve taken any of the radios used by the security team. He also knows a listening watch will be kept on the frequencies assigned to the security detail, and they’ll respond to the call soon.
At the Berant Embassy a radio operator is bored while he listens to an unused backup frequency. Suddenly he sits up, and cross connects with his secondary board. The senior operator turns toward him when he says, “Cutlass Control, Big Ears, have Popsicle on Tactical Three for you, patching it through.” He completes the connection, and keeps listening; it’s not his job to respond to this signal, but it is his job to put it through, and Cutlass Control will decide if it’s valid or not.