Between the events depicted in The Dareed War and these events the following changes have occurred in the Royal Guards organisation. Naturally they've also had upgrades in equipment, weapons, training, and procedures during this time. Many as a result of the lessons learned at Marley's Landing. The 3rd Claymore are given the unit insignia of a rock, along with their name of The Rocks.
The Claymore has two more regiments. The 4th, the Falling Angels, a parachute insignia, air assault, helicopter and parachute troops. The 5th, the Urbans, a house insignia, urban combat troops.
The Peregrines, Royal Air Guards, three wings of one thousand three hundred soldiers. Each unit is structured to match the operational and support needs of their aircraft. The unit insignia is a Peregrine Falcon with wings wide in braking and claws out in strike mode, with the wing number on the falcon's chest. The 1st, Brown Bombers, jet fighter bombers with aircraft painted like giant brown Peregrine Falcons. The 2nd, Green Birds, helicopter gunships painted jungle green. The 3rd, Blackbirds, troop transports in jungle green (Blackhawk helicopters and short landing / take off aircraft), unit insignia has a sword grasped in the falcon's claws because they deliver Swords.
The Orcas, Royal Sea Guards, four fleets of one thousand three hundred soldiers. One platoon per boat. The unit insignia is a side view of an Orca with the fleet number on its side. The 1st, Blue Orcas, light patrol boats that are better at inshore work. The 2nd, Green Orcas, heavy patrol boats better for open sea work. The 3rd, Black Orcas, troop transports, their insignia includes a sword clutched in its mouth, because they're used for amphibious operations and deliver swords. The 4th, Red Orcas, ultra-fast patrol boats equipped as torpedo boats.
The intent is to expand all brigades to five regiments. All seagoing units are equipped with single hull patrol boats; the size, power, equipment, and armament varies according to the unit needs. Also, two new army units are added, one of helicopter gun-ships and one of air transport; similar to the 2nd and 3rd Peregrines.
Darmore is a small town of seven hundred souls in north-western Berant and eight kilometres from the base of the Sharten Mountains, the northern border of Berant. It provides essential services and a transport terminal for the farms in the area of about fifty kilometres around it. The main products are citrus fruits and grains. The area has several small passes in the mountains that allow foot traffic to cross, but no vehicles can pass through them. The only road through the Sharten Mountains is eighty kilometres further east. The road from Darmore joins that road, The Northern Road, just below a major river crossing, then The Northern Road runs straight to Berana, the capital of Berant. In recent years some tourist trade has come to Darmore. A few locals set up escorted tours of the mountain trails and weekend jungle camping trips for nature loving tourists. This small boost to the local economy is very beneficial to all in the area.
Throughout history groups of people crossed the mountains to raid the farms and towns on the other side, the tribesmen went both ways. The last such raid into Darmore was in 1932. Darmore was untouched during the civil war. The area has known nothing but peace for nearly forty years, since the end of World War Two.
Jessica Tandar is the second child born to a poor farming family. Born in late 1964, four weeks early while her mother is visiting her parents in Amarant. The family lives with her father's clan while working on a farm at Marley's Landing on the Kotar Plain. Her father dies in an accident on the farm when she's four years old. The family stays at the farm and her mother continues working on the clan farm. Family cares for family in Berant, even in-laws. When Jessica is eight years old and her brother Brian is eleven years old their mother marries another man who's a cousin to their father. The four of them move to Carmel, because he has a new job there at a hotel; she's nine years old when this happens.
Jessica loves living in Carmel, a seaside holiday resort town. The Carmel school has much better resources than her previous school and her studies improve a lot. The warm sea is a delight to swim in. There's also a major Royal Guards base nearby with lots of off duty Guards wandering around town. To her they all look handsome and strong, both the men and women. She's infatuated with them, often seeking them out in her free time to talk with them. Mostly about life in the Guards and what she should study to gain entry. They're used to some children doing this, and speak freely with them. They know most ask because they're thinking of joining the Guards when they're older, and most end up joining; this is what they did when they were young. On her twelfth birthday she tells her mother she intends to join the Guards as soon as she can pass the entry exams. Her mother thinks this is a passing phase, despite it going on for some years already.
In Carmel Jessica joins the Martial Arts Team for school sport, and soon becomes a top competitor in the school and regional matches. She's also fast to progress through the ranks of devotees of the Way of the Hand, the local form of martial arts. At thirteen she joins the local junior shooting club to participate in rifle and pistol competitions on weekends. By her fifteenth birthday she rates as marksman with both. Just before her sixteenth birthday in October 1980 she passes the Year 10 exams. Three weeks later she receives her official results notification. At dinner she hands it to her mother with an application to join the Royal Guards. This is for her mother to sign to approve her enlistment, because she's under eighteen years of age. Her mother looks at the form and at Jessica. Sighing softly, she signs the form. She now realises her daughter will never go to university, and she's already given up on trying to teach her how to cook properly.
Her application to join the Guards is accompanied by the written recommendations of two teachers and the shooting club instructor, all retired Guards. All speak well of her, especially her concentration and level of commitment.
Sixteen year old Jessica is 160 cm tall, slim athletic build, light brown hair, striking steel blue eyes with well above average intelligence and very fit.
In the Guards
The next day Jessica visits the Guards recruiting office to lodge her application. They note her scholastic record transcript and high marks. She returns two days later for her medical and physical tests, passing both. The following day is her interview with Peter Landers, a retired warrant officer with a psychology degree. He's to evaluate her attitude and suitability. In response to the key question of: "Why do you want to join the Royal Guards?" She says her wish is to help others and defend her country. She explains how she's admired the Guards ever since she saw them, as a small child, when they fought her country's enemies. She likes their unity and spirit of purpose. She wishes to be part of it.
Later, when discussing her application with his supervisor, Monica Stephens, Peter says, "I was concerned Jessica may be too idealistic, but she came across as being very well grounded and realistic. I think she's perfect and will go far. If she's not solid enough they'll find out in basic." He sits there for a moment, and Monica raises her eyebrow in question. "There's something else that troubles me about the girl. Oh, it's nothing to wash her out. But in the tests she never got flustered once. I've never seen that before, everyone gets flustered at some point. The tests are designed to make them get flustered. She never did. Also, I felt very comfortable sitting and talking with her, almost as comfortable as being down the pub drinking with my mates." Monica raises both her eyebrows at this. She makes a note on Jessica's file about her stoic attitude, and a personal note to handle her final interview herself, because she wants to see what this candidate is like.
All Guards applicants are given two weeks from the date of their application and testing to the date of their final enlistment. This is to allow them time to review what they've done and retire gracefully if they have any second thoughts. At the end of those two weeks Jessica attends a final interview with Monica, the senior recruiting officer, a retired major with a psychology degree. This interview is deliberately designed to really rattle the applicants and encourage those not fully committed to withdraw. The Guards requires a total commitment by the new recruits. Monica is also surprised by Jessica's level of stability and calmness during the interview. Nothing rattles her. She approves Jessica's application and gives her travel papers with orders to report for training at the next recruit induction in January. Later, while talking to Peter over an after work drink, she mentions her interview with Jessica and how she felt like Jessica was an old mate, even when she knew this was the first time they'd met. It's not like she's an old squad mate or something. Looking up, Peter says, "That's it, she's the feel of a combat veteran and it sets me at ease." Absent-mindedly Monica nods. Suddenly she looks up, and they both stare at each other, while they wonder how that can possibly be? How can a sixteen year old girl feel like a combat veteran? They stare at each other while they ponder hard on this paradox. Neither says anything about it to anyone else.
.... There is more of this story ...