Chapter 3: Concept Proved
Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac
April 20, 1988
Physically, Okeke was a large man in every way possible. He had a large square head, with a broad flat nose and big eyes that seemed to bulge out. His neck was like that on a bull. He had wide muscular shoulders, a barrel chest, and thick waist. His upper arms were bigger than the thighs on most men. His hands were large and beefy. His legs were like tree trunks. His voice was deep, loud, and carried forever.
He had learned early in life that if he wanted something, all he had to do was take it. Food, cars, or women, it didn’t matter. If he wanted it, all he had to do was take it. Very few would argue his right to it, but if they did then they didn’t argue for long. One solid blow from his fist was all it took to leave a corpse behind. No one told him no, and lived.
Okeke was the Lion of Kootu. Having grown up in the village of Kootu, he had been given that nickname after having killed a lion with his bare hands. It had put up a good fight and he had scars to prove it. He was the only one who knew how sick and near death the poor beast had been when he had come upon it. The death of the lion had solidified his reputation that he was a man to be feared. That had been a good day in the life of Okeke.
Today had not been a good day. In fact, today had been a very bad day. Even worse, it was just the most recent bad day in a series of bad days. Today was supposed to be his first day as President of Kale with the license to steal that came with the office. Instead, he was camped in a miserable little field located 20 miles from the capitol.
His bad luck started seven days ago. Ten soldiers wearing tan outfits had visited one of his camps. They had run through the camp shooting everyone they encountered. They had fired their guns while running flat out. They made one pass through the camp and then disappeared into the jungle without a trace. It was incredible that they had killed over 80 of his men in such a short time span. His men had not even fired a single shot. One of his men had later run that same path taken by the tan soldiers and had completed it in 20 seconds.
Three more times that day the soldiers in tan had shown up. Each time, they passed through his men running flat out leaving a trail of dead bodies behind. None of the engagements could have lasted much more than 20 seconds. The weird thing was that the soldiers in tan didn’t yell or scream to instill fear or terror. They just ran silently past like ghosts, letting their rifles speak for them. That silence was more terrifying than any scream they could have made.
Every day there were half a dozen raids like that. They struck troops moving along the road, troops taking breaks for meals, and troops in camp for the night. Each time, the first sign of warning was the pat-pat of running feet hitting the ground. That was followed by the unmistakable sound made by rifles spitting out their deadly payload. No shouting. No yelling. No slogans. Just bang-bang-bang, followed by silence.
He had seen one of the raids a couple of days after they had begun. By then, his men were thoroughly spooked. They were moving in bunches, eyes watching the jungle and walking slow like each step was going to be their last. He had turned back to yell at them to pick up the pace. Then suddenly, there were the soldiers in tan running across the road firing their weapons. If he had blinked, he would have missed it. Over 20 of his soldiers were dead: dead, not wounded. He had inspected the bodies. No shoulders, stomachs, arms, or legs were hit, just the head or the heart.
He knew what the soldiers in tan were doing. They were playing head games with his men. They were eroding that sense of invincibility that his men had developed after two years of victories in battle. Little quick raids announcing that we can attack you at any time and there’s nothing you can do about it sapped the spirit. It was a strategy that worked but it didn’t destroy armies. At some point in time they would meet in a full out battle and he’d show them what it was all about.
It wasn’t just the soldiers in tan that were hurting him. Four days ago, the three mosquitoes showed up. They were stupid little cloth-covered airplanes with the wings over the body. They didn’t roar like a jet but buzzed like a mosquito. They were single-engine planes with propellers.
He had laughed the first time they’d showed up. What were they going to do? Nothing, he thought until the grenades started falling from the sky. It wasn’t that they killed so many men, but the falling grenades did cause his army to scatter off the road. One grenade did hit a truck and that had caused a major delay. Each raid by the mosquitoes was an irritating delay in his march on the capital. It cost time for his men to regroup and get moving again.
His men had fired upon the little planes, finally bringing one of them down on the third day of raids. He sent men after the pilot. Okeke had wanted the pilot alive so that he could make a public statement when he killed him. When they finally found the plane, the cocky bastard flying it fought back. Then the soldiers in tan showed up and the pilot got away. More of his men had died.
More damaging than the mosquitoes had been the transport plane. It had only flown over once, but it had been devastating. It had flown overhead at about five hundred feet above the ground. Someone had dumped out large boxes of gravel from the open rear of the plane. The boxes had shattered upon hitting the ground, but the gravel went flying. A number of men had been killed, but a lot more men had been injured with that little trick.
He’d been standing nearly a hundred yards from where the boxes had impacted the ground and had been hit in the thigh by a rock that had bounced down the length of the road. He still couldn’t believe it! They were throwing rocks at him! Rocks!
He didn’t expect to see another attack like that for quite a while. One of the engines on the transport plane was on fire when it turned to fly away after that single mission. He hadn’t gotten any news that it had crashed but it would definitely take some time to repair. By then, he would be president, and in a position to see that the people involved would die.
There had been one high point over the past few days. They had a minor battle against a couple of squads from the Kale Army. That had been a total rout. The Kale Army had a paltry three dozen men against his hundreds.
He could deal with the Kale Army but the tan soldiers and the mosquitoes had left Okeke frustrated. Where they had been making 20 miles a day, they were now lucky to get two miles. The slow constant erosion of his forces was beginning to be felt. He had lost over 800 men and nearly twice that were injured.
Too many more days like this and he would have to retreat. No! Tonight he was going to have to adjust his plans. He would have to get his army back into a mode of quick movement and fast strikes using overwhelming force. It was time to exercise his strengths.
He roared out his anger into the darkness, sounding exactly like a lion announcing his territory on the savannah.
He limped back over to the fire and sat down heavily on a large log that served as a bench. He rubbed his thigh where the rock had hit him. It was late and he was tired.
“Who would do that to a lion?” he asked.
He was making reference to the head of a lion found impaled on a spike a hundred yards down the road from where they were camped. Under it was a sign that read, “The lion shall roar no more.” That, more than all of the other attacks, had sent a wave of terror through his army. The men had looked at the head of the lion and then at him. He could hear them muttering, “Lion of Kootu”, as if it was his head on the pike.
“It had to be one of those tan soldiers.”
Okeke growled. “Don’t talk like that.”
“No one who has been close enough to see their face has lived to tell about it.”
“They’re just soldiers,” Okeke said harshly.
“They must be the mercenaries that General Mosi warned me about.”
“So the old fool hired mercenaries. What a waste of good money. You know they’ll run the first time they catch sight of our army.”
“If the tan soldiers are the mercenaries, then they’ve seen us ... and they aren’t running.”
Okeke asked, “Where is General Mosi?”
“I don’t know. We were supposed to meet up two days ago, but we didn’t make it to the meeting point. I can’t get him on the phone because the telephone lines are down. There are rumors he’s dead, but I haven’t been able to confirm it.”
There was the sound of gunfire off in the distance. Okeke turned his body so that he was facing the direction from which the sound originated. He stared off into the darkness as if the lack of light and distance wouldn’t affect his ability to see what was happening. The gunfire didn’t last long and then it was silent.
“Another raid by the tan soldiers.”
There was a huge explosion. A fireball lit up the night sky.
Okeke said, “Thabo, go find out what happened.”
One of the older men rose from the log upon which he’d been seated. He took a couple of steps from the fire. There was the sharp crack of a gunshot. Thabo fell back towards the fire.
Three of the four men around the fire stood up and then fell, leaving Okeke seated alone in front of the fire. He glared at the two people who stood in front of him. The first thing he noticed was that they were wearing tan armor and not tan uniforms. Then, he noticed what was wearing the armor. His eyes opened in surprise.
“You’re women,” he growled.
“All women are good for is f•©king.”
“Are you Kofi Okeke?”
Then all hell broke loose where the main body of Okeke’s army was camped.
Seated at his desk in the Presidential Office of the Presidential Palace, Dr. Sall looked over at the woman standing in front of him with a slight frown. For a week, he had heard nothing from her. He had heard nothing concerning their progress in stopping Okeke. Then all of a sudden, she wanted a meeting. Not tomorrow, but right now.
Unfortunately for him, right now was well after midnight. He should have been in bed sleeping, although sleep had been slow to come ever since signing that contract. Not for the first time, he wondered if he had signed a pact with the devil. It sure seemed like it.
One of his biggest regrets was that he had given them authority to kill anyone who stood in the way of achieving their mission, even if that person was in the Kale Army. The first person they killed was a general, General Mosi. They hadn’t even bothered to inform him of that fact or to explain why they had done it.
Then there was issue with national telephone service. For seven days, the country had been without a telephone that worked anywhere. Key parts that would take months to replace had disappeared. That had caused a political firestorm. His inquiries to the Jade Force encampment had gone unanswered.
Suddenly, in the midst of a discussion about the progress of the war, she had held up a hand interrupting him. Now she stood there having a conversation on her radio essentially ignoring him. She spoke in a language he didn’t understand. He couldn’t tell by the expression on her face if she was receiving good news or bad.
Pen Hopo finished her conversation, turned to him, and said, “The lion shall roar no more.”
“What’s that mean?” he asked.
“Okeke is dead,” she answered.
“What? Are you sure?” he asked sitting up straighter.
“Yes. They are bringing his body in now,” she answered.
“They are bringing it here?” he asked.
“Yes. You are aware of the honorable burial clause in the contract.”
“Yes, I am,” Dr. Sall said.
He’d been surprised by that clause. He hadn’t thought that a mercenary outfit would be concerned with honoring the fallen among the enemy. It had specified proper handling of the body with disposal of the body in accordance with traditional methods and with full religious rites as appropriate.
“He is to be respected. Two hundred years ago, he and his army could have conquered most of the continent of Ringland. Even today, he could have possibly conquered two or three countries before Engle, Espa, Amra, or Chen decided that he needed to be stopped,” Pen Hopo said.
“He was that good?”
“No. He was that strong and his desire was that great,” Pen Hopo answered.
“What about his army?”
“Ten Swords are taking care of it now.”
“Ten? Only ten?” Dr. Sall asked concerned that he would find swarms of bandits roaming around the countryside in the next few days.
“You’ve never seen what ten Swords can do with 40mm automatic grenade launchers.”
“Ten grenade launchers? Please pardon my ignorance of military matters, but that doesn’t sound like much.”
“Sword Nia, would you explain.”
Sword Nia said, “It’s actually five grenade launchers that are set up a kilometer and half from the camp. We use two people per launcher. They can fire up to 60 rounds a minute each, although that’s not really possible. We use the belt box that only holds 32 rounds rather than the larger belt box which holds 72 rounds. It’s lighter, weighing in at 42 pounds.
“The fact is that 30 rounds a minute actually produces a better result. That’s one round every other second. Each launcher is on a specially designed platform for ballistics-based targeting as used for large artillery rather than being manually aimed. They aren’t very accurate weapons, but they don’t need to be. They have a kill radius of five meters and a wound radius of fifteen. That’s putting a world of hurt in a relatively large area.
“With five launchers, we’ll be putting 150 rounds a minute in the enemy encampment. Four will be shooting from the outside of the camp towards the center in a sweeping pattern and one will be firing from the center of camp towards the outside. There won’t be a safe direction to run.
“We’ll fire for a minute, pause for two minutes, fire for a minute, and then pause for five minutes. Then we’ll repeat the cycle. The pauses are to reload, recalibrate the targeting system, and to allow the tube to cool off. The longer pause between cycles also lulls the enemy into a false sense that everything is over. They start to move around checking for survivors and regrouping. They’ll try to set up a defense. That’s not a good idea on their part.
“Others will choose to run. Those who make it out of the camp will run into the claymores. That will drive some of them back into the camp for the second cycle.
“One in seven of the rebels might survive the night. Very few of them will survive without a wound.”
Dr. Sall had turned pale on hearing what would be happening. This sounded like a massacre and not a battle. He couldn’t imagine what the people inside that camp would be feeling.
Pen Hopo said, “Thank you, Sword Nia.”
“Are you satisfied, Dr. Sall?”
Turning back to Pen Hopo, he asked, “Does this mean that you completed your portion of the contract?”
“We won’t know until tomorrow morning when we are able to do a full assessment of tonight’s operation. A significant fraction of his army should be dead by the morning. Any that survive will be easy to capture. I doubt any survivors will be in any shape to fight, although we might be surprised. The human spirit is amazingly resilient.
“The terms of the contract state that Okeke is to be killed or captured, and his army is to be reduced to less than half its original size either through capture or death. According to the figures you supplied, you estimated his army at 5,400. Prior to tonight’s action, 873 of his troops have been killed in various engagements, including those undertaken by your forces.
“I must admit that the casualty number is higher than expected because of the actions taken by a very unusual party.”
“Your air force. They accounted for over 300 casualties.”
Dr. Sall stared at Pen Hopo incredulously wondering if he had heard her correctly. The Kale Air Force was a joke. The worst they could do to an enemy was to have the landing gear fall off and land on them.
“My air force? What air force? They’ve got four planes that work and there are no weapons on any of them.”
“Well, you have a rather gung ho young captain. I don’t know whether to keep him or kill him. His actions forced us to completely replan our campaign at the last minute, yet his actions also allowed us to end things a little earlier than we anticipated.”
“What did he do?”
“He and a few of your pilots filled their planes with hand grenades and dropped them from the plane onto Okeke’s men while they were moving down the highway. He also loaded the transport plane with rocks and dropped them on Okeke’s men.”
“Rocks? He dropped rocks on them? That’s crazy.”
“It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Our Swords have had one injury so far. A Sword was hit in his helmet by one of those rocks. The helmet saved his life, but that rock knocked him out for an hour. He was out cold.”
“A rock did that?”
“Yes. We often forget in these modern times of wars based on gasoline and gunpowder that ancient armies used to load catapults with rocks and launch them into the ranks of opposing soldiers with lethal effect.”
“Now that you mention it, I do remember reading about such things in my history classes back in my university days.”
“Our original plan had us killing Okeke two nights ago. We had an ambush prepared for him at the place where he was supposed to meet General Mosi. The attacks by your young captain delayed him from reaching it. We had to move forward ten miles to the site where he was camped tonight.
“Our original plan was based on having his army spread out over five miles. Once Okeke was dead and his men were leaderless, we were going to cut the army apart and kill it a piece at a time. That would have taken about ten days.
“The attack by your young captain bunched them all up and put the majority of the Okeke’s men in a single camp. That is the camp that is currently under attack even as we speak.”
“Who is this young officer?”
“I’ve never heard of him.”
“I’m not surprised. I will admit that at first sight there’s nothing memorable about him. My first impression was that he was a hopeless fool. He really surprised a lot of us and turned out to be a tiger. Even our Swords were impressed by him.”
“I’ll have to meet Captain Amaka.”
“That will have to wait. He’s in our jungle camp being treated for his injuries.”
“He was injured?”
“His plane was shot down. He and his bombardier were in a firefight with Okeke’s men when we found them. They accounted for four of the enemy while wounding several others.”
“He sounds like a rather amazing individual.”
“If you really want to make him happy, get him a decent plane to fly.”
In the jungle it’s never quiet not even at night. There’s always something moving around, a wisp of a breeze rattling, or just a branch falling. Yet, there are some sounds that just don’t belong in the jungle. Captain Amaka sat up when he heard the rustling in the brush. He slowly reached a hand out for his pistol.