The Rise of Jade Force
Chapter 5: The Founding of Jade Force

March 10, 1976

General Wynn stopped the car on the side a road in a semi-tropical region of Inra. Thick lush vegetation grew right to the edge of one side of the road. The land on other side of the road had been cleared. Grass had replaced the natural vegetation so evident on the one side of the road. At the far end of the field was a massive wall that extended almost a kilometer in length.

He exited the vehicle and approached the young man leaning against a battered old truck.

“Hello, Nguyen Dung.”

“Hello, General Wynn.”

Although the two men were in frequent correspondence, they had not met face to face like this in years. To General Wynn, it looked like the younger man had turned hard – a far cry from the playboy businessman he had met years ago. To Nguyen Dung, the general looked like he had aged a lot.

“My condolences regarding your father’s death.”

“Thank you.”

“It was a sad day when he passed.”

“He died achieving one of his great dreams. He showed the world what happens when a true warrior engages in a righteous war.”

“He did indeed show the world.”

“You and he planned it out well.”

“I miss him greatly. He was my best friend.”

“He spoke of you as a friend quite frequently. He spoke of his hope that you would fulfill the great dream that you and he shared.”

“I’m trying.”

“The architect and the contractor will be here in half an hour.”

“Why did you want me to show up so early?”

“There was something that I wanted to show you before they get here.”

General Wynn followed him around to the far side of the truck. Nguyen Dung opened the door and pulled out a package that was wrapped in an old blanket.

“When we arranged the return of the Vam national treasures, we hadn’t discovered the last hidden cache. We found it a couple of months ago. Inside it we found the Jade Sword of the Third Emperor of the Tran Dynasty.”

He unwrapped the blanket revealing a gorgeous sword made of a luminous jade. He held it up to the sky. It appeared as if it was glowing from an inner light.

A chill went down General Wynn’s back.

The young man lowered the jade sword and held it reverently.

“I considered returning it until the first time I held it up like that. Looking at it, I felt like it held my father’s spirit. I decided that it belonged with you and the army you’re creating. My father’s spirit is a part of that.

“I took the liberty of asking the architect to design a temple of war in which this sword could be placed in an honored location. It would need to be kept out of sight, but still have a physical presence. I hope you don’t mind.”

“I am honored that you would do that.”

“May I ask one additional favor?”

“Of course you may.”

“You and my father called it your Orphan Army. I think that is not a good name. I would name your army after the sword.”

“What name do you have in mind?”

Raising the sword once again, he said, “The Jade Force!”

“That’s perfect.”

Nyugen Dung lowered the sword, wrapped it in the blanket, and placed it back inside the truck. He closed the door and turned to face the field. He wasn’t worried about it getting stolen. He had men hidden inside the jungle watching it.

“My father managed to help two-thousand people flee Vam. He provided them with transportation to leave the country, papers to find a new home, and money with which to establish a new life. They have scattered to countries all over the world. Some have opened restaurants. Others have become fisherman. Still others have found good-paying jobs.

“Despite being concerned that I was doing something immoral, I asked them to help us find the orphans with which you’ll build your army. They have found over three hundred of them that meet the criteria you and my father established.

“I talked to them about my concerns. Having fled a war zone with their families and having lost everything, these people find themselves dismayed at the conditions under which these orphans are living. It breaks their hearts. They tell me that my concerns are unfounded.

“I initially thought that what you and my father were proposing was heartless and cruel. Then I saw some of these children. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are doing them a great service. Not only are you saving their lives, but you will be giving them something to live for.”

General Wynn said, “I must confess that I shared your concerns. I still have them, although in my travels around the world I’ve seen some pretty horrendous neighborhoods. It’s amazing the level of poverty that exists in some places.”

Nyugen Dung said, “The families have taken the children into their homes to prepare them for the trip here. Most were not healthy enough to survive a trip here. We’ve had to treat them for diseases and parasites. Too many of them were malnourished. We had to feed them and help them recover their strength.

“All of the bribes have been paid to get the appropriate papers so that they can travel here. There’s no one who will miss them except the families who rescued them. They have grown attached to the kids. I will keep them informed of what is happening with the child they helped.”

“Thank you for taking care of this. I often thought that your father was asking too much of you when he asked you to do this.”

“I have found it strangely rewarding helping my father. I have punished a number of criminals, I have saved a lot of lives, I have rescued a nation’s treasures, and I am helping to build something new and different. He may have asked a lot of me, but not many men can say they’ve done the things I’ve done.”

“That’s true. You should be proud.”

“I have given honor to my father.”

“What are your plans now?”

“I have bought a house in a nearby town so that I can continue to be a part of what happens here.”

“You’ll always be a welcome.”

There was a rattling sound in the distance. The two men turned to face the direction from which the sound originated.

Nguyen Dung said, “That sounds like the contractor. He drives a truck that is in even worse condition than mine. The architect drives a new car built in Enga.”

“Why is it that I’m not surprised?”

“He likes to show off, but he’s a damned good architect.”

A beat up old truck pulled to a stop and parked behind Nguyen Dung’s truck. A man of obvious Inra descent stepped out of the truck. Unlike the majority of his countrymen, the man was fat almost to the point of being obese. It was clear he had never missed a meal. He walked over to where General Wynn and Nguyen Dung were standing.

“I am Ankur Reddy, but you should address me as Mr. Reddy. I am the contractor involved in the majority of building construction.”

“I’m Nguyen Dung, and the man with me is General Wynn.”

“A General? You’re not with the Imra Military.”

“That’s is correct.”

“I don’t think your rank will hold much weight here in Inra.”

“I don’t care about that,” General Wynn replied.

A car pulled up and a younger man from Amra stepped out of the car.

“General Wynn!”

“Major Brown!”

“The day I heard that your book hit the bookstores, I ran out and bought a copy of it.”

“What did you think?”

“I read it and decided that it was a pretty good book for a story about elves. I particularly enjoyed your description of some of the fortifications.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

“I was impressed. It was a pretty good story.”

“I was afraid that it went a slow in places.”

“I didn’t think so.”

“Well, thank you. I hope that retirement has suited you.”

“Well, this little project was quite a nice little challenge.”

“Have you given any thought to my offer?”

“I’ve already joined your team. I’ve moved my stuff to the faculty dorm yesterday.”

“I didn’t know that. It’s good to have you aboard the team.”

“Thank you. I take it you have met our dear contractor, Ankur.”

“Call me, Mr. Reddy,” the fat man growled.

“He introduced himself. I understand that he’s the biggest contractor in this part of Inra.”

“Yes, in more ways than one.”

“I’m a—”

“I know. You’re an important man in this area. You know everyone. You’re politically connected to the Prime Minister. We’re just your customers, and are of no import whatsoever.”

“It’s just that I deserve respect, particularly from foreigners who have no idea how things are done around here.”

“We have a pretty good idea how things are done around here,” Major Brown said.

“Major Brown, would you give us a tour?”

“I’d love to,” Major Brown said, “Mr. Reddy. I’m sure that you don’t want to walk up to the gate. Why don’t you get in your car and drive up there? We’ll be along in a few minutes.”

The three men waited while Mr. Reddy got into his beat up truck. It took him a moment to get it started. He drove away slowly with a scowl on his face.

Disgusted, Major Brown said, “He drives that truck to job sites to show the workers that he’s a real man. He thinks it makes him a cowboy or something. He’s even got a Llammadan style straw hat that he wears at times. Everyone knows that he’s got four luxury cars parked at his house.”

“I think Mr. Reddy is going to be a problem,” General Wynn said.

Nguyen Dung said, “He won’t be a problem. That I promise you.”

“Good enough.”

Major Brown rubbed his hands together and said, “Let’s walk down the drive to the main gate.”

“Lead the way.”

“Now, if you notice there’s a cleared area that is three hundred yards wide. It runs between the road we just left and the large wall ahead of us. It would take an average guy carrying a pack and rifle almost a minute to run flat out from the road to the fence. I had a couple of local boys make the run and I timed them.

“A minute is a very long time, particularly if someone is shooting at you. I still wasn’t satisfied with that as a deterrent. The ground here is basically grass covered, but the surface below the grass is little uneven. Actually, it’s a lot uneven. It’s not that easy to run across it without tripping or twisting an ankle. I sent a dozen kids across the field at a run and none of them made it. In fact, you don’t really want to walk across it.”

Colonel Wynn looked across the field. It did look flat and level for the most part. He did notice, now that they were well down the turn off, that there was a secondary road running parallel to the main road. It was in a minor depression that made it invisible from a distance. There was a low fence along each side of the road.

Pointing to the road which Colonel Wynn had just noticed, Major Brown said, “We’re about to reach an interesting feature in the layout of this field – the double fence.

“I borrowed this feature from a battlefield where a major battle was fought during the Llammada revolutionary war. Forces from New Franc were advancing on a position occupied by the Llammadans. There was a nice open field between the two groups of men. The forces from New Franc charged across the field and then hit a little problem. There was road in the far end of the field right in front of the Llammadans position. The road was about three feet lower than the surrounding land. It wasn’t the real problem. It was the fences that ran on both sides of the road.

“They were like these fences: short four-foot-tall posts with two ten-foot long railings strung between the posts. They don’t look particularly strong. The New Franc soldiers hit the fence thinking they would push it over. It didn’t fall over. Suddenly, they were stuck on one side of the fence when they wanted to be on the other side. No big deal, it’s not a tall fence, all you have to do is climb over it.

“Unfortunately, the Llammadans were hunkered down on the rise above the road about twenty yards from the fences. Seeing the New Franc soldiers bunched up against the fence, they get the bright idea to start firing upon them. The New Franc soldiers were stuck at the fence, unprotected, while struggling to get over it or crawl through it. Not one New Franc soldier survived.

“Twenty minutes later, another bunch of New Franc soldiers look across the field thinking it was an easy charge. They charged with the same result as happened to the previous group.

“The interesting thing about that situation was that the road and fence had been there for a long time. It wasn’t put in as a defensive measure. The Llammadans had taken that position not even aware that the fence would serve as an excellent defensive obstacle. It was just luck.

“In our case, it’s planned.”

Colonel Wynn nodded approvingly despite knowing that it wouldn’t even slow down a tank and that the fence would probably get chewed up with a bombardment prior to a troop attack by any competent military force. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to a real army since they’d have aerial photographs of the place before making any plans on how to attack it. However, it would present just one more element that the plans would have to take into account and it would be effective against a mob.

As if reading his mind, Major Brown said, “We designed this for defending against Inra rebel forces, not the Amra army. They have small mortars, not cannon or artillery. If the Inra army turns its attention to us, well ... all of their heavy stuff is on the border facing Vatica.”

“You’re right. Considering the political instability of this area, we do need to have defenses in place for a mob army. This could definitely turn into a killing field.”

They walked along a little further and stopped outside an open gate that provided access to the area inside the massive wall. The gate was wide and tall enough to admit a very large truck. There was a guard house next to the open gate.

Major Brown said, “This is the wall surrounding your compound. It is twelve feet thick at the base and rises ten feet above the ground. There is a walkway four feet below the top of the wall. The walkway is seven feet across leaving a three foot thick barrier facing the field.

“The interior of the wall is constructed of alternating layers of steel-reinforced concrete and packed dirt. The concrete gives it strength while dirt allows it to absorb an impacting projectile that makes it through the outermost concrete layer. Walls aren’t particularly good at resisting cannon fire, but they still have a defensive value.”

General Wynn said, “A wall serves another purpose. It prevents people from being able to see what goes on inside.”

“The exterior door of the gate is a thick metal drawbridge that is raised using chains attached to drums. It’s a heavy bastard, but it can be raised by hand in case the motors burn out.”

“That’s a little different.”

“It was Tommy Marks’ idea. He was in charge of critiquing the security elements of my design. The plan is that the gate will remain closed most of the time. With it being a drawbridge like this, it forces any unexpected guest to stop well back from the gate,” Major Brown said.

“Tommy Marks? You wouldn’t mean Corporal Marks, would you?”

“Yes. I brought him on board this project to deal with security issues. He felt that gates, which are often little more than minor obstacles to prevent cars from driving through, are the weakest point in security.”

“That’s one idea that I agree with.”

“If the area where unwanted visitors have parked is mined, then you don’t have to worry about the mines damaging the gate.”

“Now that is a very interesting idea,” General Wynn said with a grin. “You do know that he’s going to become an instructor here.”

“I know. It seems to me that you are collecting a very unusual mix of instructors for an orphanage.”

“It may seem that way.”

“Let’s enter the compound.”

The small group of people walked through the gate. Mr. Reddy was seated in his truck waiting for them. The man slowly climbed out of his truck and headed towards them.

While they waited for Mr. Reddy to join them, Major Brown said, “The interior door swings on hinges from the sides. We have a cross beam that can lock the door in place.”

“It looks strong.”

“It is. We don’t have holes in the passageway to pour boiling oil down on invaders, however the passageway can be mined with claymores. It wouldn’t be pretty getting stuck in there.”

“No, it wouldn’t.”

“You’ll notice this wall is fifty feet behind the gate. This forces traffic to make a turn as soon as they enter the compound. It’s far enough from the gate that trucks can make the turn. It’s close enough that there won’t be any high speed entries into this area. It also prevents anyone outside the gate from seeing anything of the interior of the compound.”

General Wynn said, “Excellent.”

He followed Major Brown around the barrier wall to where he could now see the heart of the compound. It was an impressive sight.

“Along the road off to the right, you’ll see a dozen Quonset huts lining the far side of the road. They serve as warehouses and repair facilities. Most of them are being used for storing furniture, but that is only a short-term need.

“On the near side of the road we will have the school buildings. There is only one now, but there will be fourteen of them in all. Twelve will be for training cadets and two will be used for advanced training. We have two years before the next building will be needed.

“Along the road off to the left, you’ll see a dorm on the near side of the road. Ultimately, there will be eighteen dorms on that road. It is a short walk to go from the dorms to the school buildings. The far side of the road is an open training field.

“At the end of that road, there’s a utility road that runs a mile away to where the water treatment plant, power plant, and communications center are located. All of them are fully functional. By the way, we used the Nord method of running the utilities underground. The Nord method has proven successful at keeping vermin and snakes out of the conduits. There are no poles or visible wires.

“You can’t see them from here, but we have a set of residences for the staff at the far ends of the roads. Residence buildings are modeled on town homes. They are very nice places. Integrated into each set of buildings are standard businesses like you would see in any small town.

“Past the residences are the administration buildings. A couple of them are operational. We’ve been running the construction project out of one of them. We’re sharing it with the folks responsible for recruitment. The other one is being used by your logistics people.”

General Wynn said, “I’m sure that we’ll be reorganizing things once all of the buildings are ready.”

“At the moment, some of the administrative buildings and residence buildings are still under construction. Mr. Reddy can fill you in on the progress.”

Mr. Reddy said, “I have crews working on the last few buildings of this contract. Most of the work is on the interior, installing the toilet fixtures, kitchen, and lights. It is very slow going because everything has to be just right.”

General Wynn frowned on hearing the slow-going comment. He asked, “Is everything on schedule?”

“We might be a couple weeks late. We could be done in two weeks, but I have to motivate the workers.”

“That’s the wrong answer, Ankur. You will be done in two weeks,” Major Brown said.

“I can be done in two weeks if I have a little extra money.” Giving a weak smile, Reddy held his arms out to the side as if he had no choice in the matter. He was the only one smiling. “It’s the workers. They need motivation.”

“No. You will be done in two weeks. You don’t need any extra money from us to motivate your workers.”

“Well, that’s a problem.”

General Wynn said, “We have a contract with you. We enforce contracts.”

“The Inra courts may see things my way. You’re a foreigner.”

The expression on Mr. Reddy’s face had turned sharklike. The absence of concern on the faces of the other three men kind of bothered him, but he was a master at the last minute shake down.

Sounding unconcerned, almost bored, Nguyen Dung said, “I seriously doubt our dispute will ever reach an Inra court. Regardless of how your widow and orphan children may feel, we’ll be quite satisfied with the outcome.”

Mr. Reddy paled. He’d had people threaten him before, but not with such a casual indifference. Usually, people who threatened him shouted, shook fists, and stormed about cursing him. The minute they did that, they had already lost. He didn’t know how to respond to these people.

“My architect had better be very happy when he goes through the final inspection,” General Wynn said.

Smiling, Nguyen Dung said, “You must understand, Mr. Reddy. We are very serious people. We do not take failure to perform lightly. For us, these things are a matter of ... life or death.”

That smile didn’t look the least bit friendly. Mr. Reddy felt like he was going to be ill.

Major Brown said, “Let’s walk over to the first school building and take a tour of it.”

“Can’t we get one of the golf carts?” Mr. Reddy asked. “There are a couple of them parked right over there that no one is using.”

“I don’t think we need a golf cart. A little exercise will do us all a world of good.”

Mr. Reddy followed behind them. After traveling fifty yards, he was panting from the exertion of having to walk so far. He kept glancing back at where the golf carts were parked wondering why they would prefer walking rather than riding.

They approached the first building. It was a large rectangular structure with plain concrete walls, lined with doors along the two sides and a set of wide double doors on the side facing the street. There were no windows to break up the flat exterior. All in all, it was a pretty ugly-looking building.

They went into the building, entering at one end of a wide hallway that led to the far end of the building where another set of wide double doors were located. There were doors lining the hallway. The walls were covered with a glazed tile. The floor was finished with a thick linoleum sheet that was of a speckled pattern.

It would never look like a typical school with hand-drawn art or holiday collages hung on the walls. This school was not meant to babysit children while attempting to teach them something in an entertaining manner, but to prepare them for the harsh realities of life. Learning was serious business.

Major Brown said, “This is the school house for the cadets during their first and second year. There are two storage rooms for holding school supplies, text books, and teaching materials. There’s a small library as well. It has fifteen classrooms, each of which will hold twenty five students. There are bathrooms on two sides of each classroom. Each classroom has four means of ingress and egress, two to the outside of the building and two to the interior.”

Sticking his head inside one of the classrooms, General Wynn looked around. On each side of the room there was a door which he assumed led into the toilet facilities. There were two doors at the far end of the room. The walls were lined with little lockers for storing raincoats. It was well lit with light fixtures built into the ceiling.

He said, “I like it. When will the furniture arrive?”

“It’s already here. We’ve got the desks and chairs in storage in one of the Quonset huts. All of the rooms will be ready in three days.”

“That’s good.”

“Let’s go out the back door, and look at the dorm.”

After they stepped out of the back door of the school building, Colonel Wynn looked down at the grass beside the walkway. It was cut very short, almost like the putting green of a high end golf course.

“Why is the grass cut so short?”

“It makes it easier to see the snakes,” Major Brown answered.

“Is that a problem?”

“Not any more. The Sergeant Major has been using them for target practice. He sits up on the building over there and shoots them when they come out to sun themselves. He’s filled up a couple of trashcans with dead snakes, already.”

“It sounds to me like he’s having fun.”

“He is.”

They entered the dorm. The first room was a large area.

“This is the dining hall. Service is buffet style, although there will be supervision to ensure that the kids don’t eat five servings of dessert. The kitchen and serving area is at the far end, over there,” Major Brown said pointing to the far end of the room.

“I assume this also doubles as a meeting room?”

“And a study hall.”

“What’s that raised dais over there?” Mr. Reddy asked pointing over to a platform with steps leading up to it.

“That’s the stand of shame.”

“What’s that?”

“That’s for administering the cane. When a student violates one of the rules, the student is taken up there, and a cane is applied to the back of their legs. All punishments are public,” General Wynn said.

“That sounds harsh,” Mr. Reddy said.

“All rules exist for a reason and that reason is to protect the students from harm. Without immediate enforcement of the rules, the rules become meaningless. People learn to ignore them. We won’t argue the rules or try to convince the students through clever arguments they won’t understand that they should follow the rules. A quick caning might be a painful lesson, but it is direct and unambiguous. In the long run, it is much better than the consequences of failing to follow the rules.”

“You’re talking about children.”

“Exactly.”

Major Brown said, “Let’s go down the hallway to the dorm rooms.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing them,” General Wynn said while following Major Brown out of the dining hall.

“As you can see, we have sixteen rooms on each side of the hallway. There are beds for ten in each room. Each room has ingress and egress to the exterior and the interior of the building. The exterior door is alarmed. We don’t want them sneaking out at night.

“There are shower, sink, and toilet facilities for each room. The mornings and evenings will be a little rushed, but we couldn’t fit more than two showers and four toilets in the available space.”

“That’s acceptable.”

“Unless we get a bad outbreak of diarrhea.”

“Ugh. What about other medical situations?”

“We have two rooms for patient care in case we have any broken limbs or seriously ill people. They’ll be equipped such that we could perform surgery in them.”

“Whose idea was that?”

“Colonel James.”

“I was glad to see him come on board. He brought a full medical team with him. We now have a field surgeon and four nurses.”

Mr. Reddy stood there looking a little puzzled. He thought this was supposed to be an orphanage, but they sure didn’t talk like folks putting together an orphanage. He had done business with the nuns that ran an orphanage in town. When he put the screws to them for more money, they begged him for favors in God’s name. They definitely didn’t threaten him with death like these guys.

Every time they mentioned someone on staff, it was with a military rank. It seemed to him that they were building a military base. He wondered if someone in his government knew they were building a foreign army base inside Inra.

“Excuse me. Is this a military base?”

“No. It’s a school for orphans.”

“What are they going to learn here?”

“How to kill,” Nguyen Dung answered looking him directly in the eyes.

Mr. Reddy wasn’t sure if the Vamese guy was joking. He sure sounded serious.

Major Brown said, “It’s a military academy for orphans.”

Mr. Reddy looked from one man to the other. These were dangerous people. He decided that he might want to take their threats seriously. Still, they were foreigners, and he was not.

General Wynn said, “I want to see the training field.”

“We can go out the front door.”

The men left the building. They crossed the road to the large field. Like everywhere else they had been, the grass was cut short.

Mr. Reddy followed behind them, wondering what was so special about a large grass lawn. It was obvious that they wanted to walk out into the middle of it, which was a waste of time, since they could see everything there was to see from the curb. Getting tired of walking so much, he stopped.

“I’m gonna sit here on the curb.”

“Good,” Nguyen Dung said, glad to be rid of the fat man.

The three men walked another hundred yards onto the field leaving Mr. Reddy far behind.

In his mind’s eye, General Wynn could see six classes of cadets spread across the field practicing their martial arts forms in the early morning light. From a group of five-year-olds on up to a group of seventeen-year-olds, all of them would be moving together as one large body.

“Most impressive,” General Wynn said.

“I’m glad you like it. I’m quite proud of the grounds. It was a lot of work to get them in this shape,” Nguyen Dung said.

Major Brown said, “Something has always bothered me. How did you get all of this set up in such a short period of time?”

“Why don’t you tell the story,” General Wynn said, after glancing over at Nguyen Dung. “After all, you did most of the work.”

Nguyen Dung said, “Major Brown, I began looking for this property when General Wynn and my father started making contingency plans for the fall of East Vam. That was in late 1971 or early 1972. I had been looking in countries all over the world, concentrating the majority of my efforts in Inra, Venu, Joma, and Tobo. The biggest problem was money.

“The former president had just been ousted in an election. He was shipping money out of the country with plans to move to Sviss. Unfortunately, before he could move to his retirement chateau, he had a tragic plane accident in which he and his whole family were killed. He had sent ten million dollars ahead by a different route. We intercepted the shipment and after minutes of discussion, maybe two minutes at most, we decided that it should be used to help fund our contingency plans — after all, he was one of the men who was helping to bring about the fall of East Vam.

“It was about that time I found this place. It wasn’t easy and the search took more than a year. There aren’t many places where you can purchase such a large tract of land in a region of a country where the government isn’t really a major presence.

“I had money and a place to purchase, but I wasn’t the one to make the decision. General Wynn took a little R&R to Inra, visited the place, and said that it was perfect for harboring refuges from East Vam. I used the money to purchase it.

“I returned to East Vam to help my father implement the plans the two of them were developing. I was moving around Sage like some kind of millionaire businessman, making deals to set up import and export businesses. I had offices in countries all over the world. Of course, all of those offices were nothing more than mail-drop addresses. Nobody checked those kinds of details.

“I did have an office here staffed with people working to develop this land for use when we started evacuating people. They arranged for a slash and burn operation to clear the land. They had a road cut and the Quonset huts built. It was our intention to use the Quonset huts to store whatever we liberated from the people smuggling money and goods out of East Vam. We wanted to build better facilities for the refugees.”

Shocked by what he was hearing, Major Brown said, “I can’t believe you guys started this back in 1971.”

“Yes,” General Wynn said. “Our schedule got pushed forward a bit when I was transferred back to the Rock.”

Nguyen Dung said, “The day General Wynn told my father that he was a member of the team that was planning the withdrawal of Amra troops from East Vam we started smuggling people out of the country. We got them visas to staff my fake offices. My playacting as a businessman started to pay off.

“Most of the people we helped were the families of the troops my father commanded after the government fled. We didn’t charge them for the help. In fact, we set up most of them with a little seed money to rebuild their lives. Because of that, his men were intensely loyal to him.

“We used this place as a layover point with people staying in the Quonset huts since we hadn’t started on better quarters. To give them something to do until arrangements were made for permanent residency in other countries, my cousin put them to work landscaping the grounds.

“You might not be aware of it, but slash and burn operations for clearing land leave an ugly mess. There were plants growing back and dead stubble sticking up. We were beginning to see the beginnings of soil erosion. They transformed this from an unruly mess to a lawn on which you could play cricket.”

“With my cousin taking care of things here, I was back in East Vam helping to track down smuggling operations. That was a full time job. I watched the National Museum get stripped of everything in it. I watched temples get looted for the art, metals, and gems they held. Old palaces from the third and fourth dynasty had reliefs chiseled off the buildings. Gold, dollars, artifacts, gems, books, and anything of value was getting stashed away to be moved out when the end came.

General Wynn said, “While he was doing that, I was busy at the Rock identifying people to recruit. I knew that as soon as Amra pulled out of East Vam, that there were going to be massive cuts in the defense budget. They would call it a ‘peace dividend.’ What it really meant was that officers and enlisted men were going to be released en masse. They were going to abandon a huge talent pool that would ultimately be wasted.

“I used the idea of a fantasy novel to have a chance to interview people. I don’t think anyone ever suspected that I was doing what I was doing. I talked to them about elves, and they were showing me their thought processes, and their willingness to think outside the box.

“You’d actually be surprised by how many people answer that the elves would do it some particular way because that’s how we’ve always done it. I didn’t want people like that involved in this project unless they had really thought out their answer.

“When the East Vam government fell, I was actually getting desperate. I hadn’t identified anyone in logistics, engineering, or medical. Then one day, you and a dozen other guys just dropped in my lap. I couldn’t believe it. You guys had done half the work that I was planning to hire you to do.”

Looking a little embarrassed, Major Brown said, “With Amra pulling out of East Vam, we were sitting around with nothing to do. Your little elf adventure story was irresistible. Suddenly, we could speculate how to do things without having to deal with politics or budgets or anything. We started tossing ideas around over lunch and it just grew. I had no idea there was more to it than that.”

“Then I got promoted to general and was told that I could travel around the world inspecting embassies. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that. I had attempted to resign my commission so that I could travel. All of a sudden, Amra was paying me to do exactly what I needed to be doing for this project.

“For the next four months I traveled around the world interviewing hundreds of experts in all kinds of martial disciplines. You name it, I found it. I was invited into a Chen monastery where they train fighting monks. I recruited a couple of monks to teach our students. I spent a day talking with the swordmaster of a martial arts school in Japa. I recruited two of his top students. I met up with a Kor armorer who still makes Kor armor the way they did a thousand years ago. He’s coming here to develop armor based on ancient Kor designs, using a new material called Kevlar, which we are hoping will produce something that is bullet proof.

“With my credentials as a general, even though I’m retired, I can step onto any Amra base and get the royal treatment. I can walk around and talk to anyone about anything. I get invited to demonstrations of new equipment and new training methods.”

Nguyen Dung said, “While he was traveling around the world looking for other people to recruit, my people in Amra were watching to see who was getting ready to retire. It was not luck that you found out about this job. Everyone on the watch list was sent a letter about a great opportunity, within their field of expertise, that awaited them if they were to retire.”

“I wondered how it was that I got that letter. It’s what helped me decide to retire.”

“Now you know,” Nguyen Dung said.

“The book? Was that real?”

“Not initially, but so many people contributed so much work on it, that I started to feel guilty. I had to write it. It’s been so successful, that the publisher is trying to get me to write a second book.”

“Why are you telling me all of this now?”

General Wynn answered, “From this point on, the staff is going to have minimal interaction with the external world. The Nguyen family will serve as intermediaries between us and everyone else. If we need things, they will order it for us. They’ll deliver it, stopping at the front gate.”

“It’s a security issue, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. We aren’t going to make the mistake we made in East Vam where we had locals wandering around our bases essentially spying on us. When these kids leave here on a contract, no one will have any clue as to what they are really capable of doing.”

“What about us? We’ll know. I don’t think many of us will want to retire here.”

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