Robledo Mountain
Chapter 21

Copyright© 2018 by Kraken

I’d left the briefing after watching JT die for two reasons. First, if I’d stayed I would have given away what I knew, just by my body language. The swamp that JT referred to was Basra. We’d been talking shortly after arriving, trying to figure out where ‘Stormin Norman’ Schwarzkopf was going to attack. We had both agreed that it wasn’t Basra no matter what it might look like.

JT had stabbed a finger at Basra on the map and said, “So the swamp is out.”

And that’s how we referred to it, from then on.

The Land of Ever Summer was the Apache phrase for the hereafter and Thundercloud was me.

The second reason I left? I had some planning to finish!

Three hours later, my planning was done. I ate dinner in the mess tent, and then it was time to start gathering supplies for the trip. Food and water were easy. I hadn’t turned the Humvee back into the motor pool after my trip to Al Kharj. So, just as dark was falling, I drove it around to the back of the mess tent where two half shelters held cases of MREs and bottled water. Anyone who needed water or didn’t want to eat in the mess tent could walk up and grab whatever they needed. It wasn’t unusual to see someone loading up a vehicle with MRE’s or water for their entire team, so no one paid me any attention as I loaded three cases of MRE’s and six cases of bottled water into the vehicle.

After a quick stop to fuel up the Humvee I headed to the dispensary. With no one out on a mission, the dispensary was manned by one medical tech who was up front watching CNN, when I silently came in the back door of the large inflatable tent. Between the generator outside powering the tent as well as everything inside and the noise from the TV, I doubt if he’d have heard a mortar going off. After making sure he was absorbed in whatever CNN was reporting on, I opened the pharmacy door and quickly grabbed bottles of two different broad-spectrum antibiotics, a box of ‘go/no go’ pills in blister packs, and a couple of bottles of Motrin and Feldene. I stuffed everything in my rucksack and stepped out into the corridor, gently closing the door behind me. I quietly walked to the back door, only to find the tech leaning against the hallway wall, with his arms folded across his chest, just around the corner from the door. His expression was unreadable. While his face was familiar, I couldn’t place him or his name.

He glanced down the hallway I was in to the pharmacy door, down at my rucksack, and then back at me. “Someone broke in to the pharmacy at some point during the last couple of weeks,” he said evenly. “We’ll conclude that must have been what happened, when the pill counts don’t come out right during our next inventory in a few days.” He reached down by his foot, grabbed a large emergency medical kit, and handed it to me. “For some reason, they also took a Rescue Ranger medical bag. If we ever find out who did such a thing, they’ll be in big trouble, believe you me.”

I looked him in the eye and he nodded ever so slightly, before turning and going back up front to watch CNN. As he turned the corner, I suddenly remembered that he was one of JT’s many friends. They’d been in the same squad during Basic Training.

Outside, I put the medical kit and rucksack on the back floor board with the MRE’s and water before making my last stop for supplies.

Once inside the armory I quickly gathered everything I wanted and started loading the Humvee. A short time later I had everything I thought I might need. With a wave to both the Saudi and American gate guards, I drove out of camp onto the road heading north for the Iraqi border.

I was ten miles down the road when I pulled over, turned off the headlights, and put on the night vision goggles. Driving while wearing night vision goggles, or NVGs as the military calls them, is kind of like swimming with your eyes open in salt water. You can see, but your brain isn’t quite sure how to interpret what you’re seeing, and your eyes get extremely irritated. NVGs mess up your hand eye coordination, too, since they give you a monocular view of the world. I’d driven for short durations using NVGs before, but this was the first time I’d be driving over two hundred miles in a combat situation.

With the NVGs on and working I resumed my trip, turning off the road about ten miles from the border and heading east, toward the area JT and I had stopped the Iraqis from building up. It had been five days since we were there last, and I was praying that the Iraqis hadn’t returned yet. A short time later I happily confirmed that the berm was still almost non-existent, there was no ditch on the other side, and the wooden boxes of mines the Iraqis had left stacked on the desert sand were still there. Even knowing that nothing had changed on the Iraqi side of the border, the pucker factor went way up as I drove through what was supposed to have been a mine field. It didn’t go back to anything approaching normal until I pulled up to the stack of land mines.

I was really pleased the mines were still here. I had plans for these. I pried open one of the boxes to make sure there was one per box before loading thirty boxes into the back of the Humvee. When I was done I checked the odometer and drove north for another twenty miles before making a broad turn to the east. I knew exactly where I was going, exactly how long it should take to get there, and exactly what Iraqi forces should be in the areas I drove through. The problem was, that all my planning was based on maps that were, at best, five years old, and perhaps older. Not to mention that militaries have the nasty habit of moving troops around. Still, the deployment data I’d gotten from the maps covering the intelligence shack walls was updated daily, so it was the best data available.

As I drove along at a sedate twenty miles per hour I reflected on how different this desert was from the one I knew and loved in New Mexico. This was a true desert, completely barren of anything except rock and sand except where the rivers ran and along the coasts. The sand had been here so long, and was so compacted, that in some places nothing short of a fully loaded two and half ton truck would leave a trail. I was following a carefully planned route over compacted sand. It wasn’t continuous by any means and I would leave some tracks for short distances but, again, it was the best I could do.

Nine hours later I was parked in the wadi I’d designated as my stopping point for the day and had erected the camouflage netting over the Humvee being careful to keep the top of the netting below the top of the wadi walls. I ate an MRE and settled back in the seat of the Humvee to sleep. The seats in the Humvee proved to be just as uncomfortable to sleep in as I remembered and my sleep was fitful as a result.

At dusk, I finally roused myself completely. I pulled down the camouflage netting, collapsed the poles that held it up, and had another MRE. I whiled away the next hour filling up the empty rifle and pistol magazines I’d taken from the armory with ammo. I also looked over the instructions for the Iraqi mines. The instructions were a joke. A single page of cartoons with very little writing, all in Arabic, but they were drawn so even an illiterate peasant could understand what to do, and not do. Like most Soviet knock off mines they were really simple. Bury them until the top of the detonator just barely cleared the sand, pull the safety pin out of the detonator spike, and back away slowly and gently. I wondered how hard it was going to be to do it at night while wearing NVGs.

With all that done, enough time had passed that any Iraqi units nearby should be settled down for the night, so I reloaded everything back in the Humvee and started the last leg of my trip east towards Basra. I had another hundred miles to go, and expected to arrive at the next wadi by 0400, giving me about an hour to hike the last mile to the point I’d selected to use for my surveillance of the Special Republican Guards compound.

I had no problems during the drive, and by 0500 was ensconced on the rocky ridge, two hundred yards from the compound gate, just as the compound was coming to life. I quickly dug a spider hole and, once inside, spread out my ghillie suit around me. Once I was comfortably situated, or at least as comfortable as one can get in the desert when covered by a ghillie suit, I started watching the compound.

Unlike most Iraqi compounds, this one didn’t have a high brick, or block wall around it. It was truly out in the middle of nowhere, just as the intel guys had said. There were four large single-story buildings around a courtyard. Two long vehicle sheds were along two sides, with bays for twenty vehicles each. The entire compound was surrounded by chain link fence topped by concertina wire. According to the guys in intel, the Iraqis had just started to build this facility when Saddam decided to annex the 19th Province, also known as Kuwait. When the rest of the world, led by the United States, had reacted as it did, completion of this compound was given a high priority. Even then, electricity was provided by generators next to each building, and there were no phone lines. That meant they used radio for virtually everything, and their radio discipline sucked, which is how we originally learned about the new compound and who owned it.

When there was enough light to see clearly, I used my spotter scope to check out as much of the compound as I could, before the sun actually rose above the horizon. Checking the guard shack first, the anger and rage that I’d kept carefully banked almost exploded into full flames. JT and the Army spotter’s heads were impaled on the fence posts, on either side of the road leading in to the compound.

It took well over an hour, but eventually I was able to control the anger and rage enough to continue my scan. There were four roving perimeter guards, plus the stationary gate guard. None of them appeared to have radios and the gate into the compound was a joke. It was nothing more than the familiar swinging wooden arm barrier.

I continued to watch the place until well past noon, discovering the guards pulled full eight-hour shifts and no one ever checked on them. That was good enough to call it a day and I settled down to sleep.

I spent that night carefully watching everything that I could see. No one came in that night and one truck pulled out so, for that night anyway, there was no real activity. The perimeter guards roamed around at will for a full eight hours, and they all congregated at the guard shack to eat a snack or meal just after midnight. Other than that, there was no night time outside activity at all.

I watched for the next two days and nights, confirming that trucks and cars came and went at all hours of the day ... but there was virtually no activity at night, other than the guards. Based on what I’d seen I estimated there were between two and three hundred Special Republican Guards stationed here, as everyone I’d seen was wearing the red beret. I couldn’t help but wonder why they were stationed here of all places instead of closer to Basra but in the end, I decided it just didn’t matter.

The morning of the fourth day in my little hidey hole, I took a ‘no go’ pill, to make sure I was fully rested for my planned night’s work. I hated taking the damn things, as it took me forever to clear the haze out of my head when I woke up, but they certainly did the job. I was fully rested for the first time since I’d returned from Al Kharj.

The guards changed shift at 2200 so I waited until 2245 before beginning my assault. With a silencer on my M9, my assault rifle slung barrel down to the front, the ruck sack on my back and a courier bag hanging from my side; I crept down the rocky hill, across the road, and up to the guard shack. The only outside lights were coming from the buildings themselves, and they were only over the doors. The guard shack and perimeter were unlit.

As I crouched in front of the guard shack, I looked up at the gate post to see JT’s head. At that point, I lost all control on the anger and rage I’d been holding in check. I was now a berserker, a destroyer, a bringer of death. Everyone and everything in this compound was a target to be destroyed without thought or consideration. The green glow of the NVG’s I was wearing just made the mental image of myself all that more surreal.

With that last thought, I crept around the side of the guard shack to the side of the door, and slowly stood up before moving into the doorway and shooting the guard between his startled young eyes. One outside target down, four to go.

I looked left and right searching for the two front roving guards. There was no sign of the guard on the right, but the guard on the left was about halfway down the front fence slowly walking away from the guard shack. I went after him first. With all the noise from the generators there was no real need to be stealthy, so I moved towards him as quickly as I could. When I was within ten yards of him, he stopped and leaned his rifle against the fence, before undoing his pants as he prepared to urinate. A bullet in the back of the head as he was fishing in his pants and it was two outside targets down, three to go.

I turned back to find the right front guard. I was beginning to wonder if he’d gone back inside, when I saw him raise his arms above his head in a stretch from where he was sitting in the front fence corner. I watched as he folded his arms back across his chest, and nodded off again. I got within five feet of him before he heard my footsteps and swung his head in my direction with a questioning look on his face. He was answered with a 9mm bullet between the eyes, just like the gate guard. Three outside targets down, two to go.

The last two outside guards turned out to be the easiest of all of them. They were both facing outward, smoking cigarettes at the end of the vehicle sheds, and talking quietly. The never heard me coming. The last thing they did hear was the soft pfft of the 9mm bullets leaving the pistol, just before entering the back of their heads.

I walked back towards the front of the compound, stopping in each vehicle bay to put a small ball of plastic explosive with a wireless remote detonator stuck into it, just under the driver’s seat of every vehicle I found. I’d prepared 50 of these while lying in my spider hole the last three days. Once I was done with the vehicle shed on the right, I ran around to the left side and repeated my actions there. I did leave the vehicle in the first shed on the right side alone. That was my emergency escape vehicle if I needed one.

Once I was done with that task, I ran around the entire compound putting a ball of explosives in each generator, as well as on each strut of the radio tower. Finished, I ran back to the front building and stopped next to the door swapping out the silencer for a new one. Taking a deep breath, I opened the door and walked in to the startled look of the young man sitting behind the desk. As he reached for his rifle, I raised my pistol and shot him between the eyes. He slumped back in his chair with a look of horror on his face. There was one door leading deeper into the building. I cautiously opened it and found a T intersection of two hallways with multiple doors on each side of each hallway.

I checked the hallway along the front of the building first, discovering that all the rooms along the front of the building were empty offices. The rooms across the hall from them were dorm style private rooms with one occupant per room.

In every case the occupants were in bed sleeping the sleep of the not so innocent. The second room I checked held the executioner. If I hadn’t memorized his face I’d have still known he was the executioner, because his scimitar was laying unsheathed on the desk. He got a bullet in the heart. I certainly didn’t want to mar his face with a bullet. The fourth room held the man JT had told to study up on Apache culture. Him, I saved for last, backing quietly out of his room before continuing down the front hall. With all the other rooms in the front hallway cleared, I went back to the Executioner’s room and quietly took out the canned ham I’d brought with me and opened it up. Using my knife, I cut several thick slices before walking back into the fourth room. I walked up to the side of the bed, and put the silencer right against his forehead. The heat from the silencer quickly woke him up, and his eyes widened in surprise.

“You were warned that Thundercloud was coming. I AM Thundercloud!” I told him in a strong quiet voice. His eyes opened even further. “Open your mouth pig boy!” I demanded. He took a breath to argue and I switched the pistol from his forehead to his mouth, giving it a good shove against his lips and teeth to get his attention. “Open your mouth now, or I’ll open it for you!” Slowly he opened his mouth. I reached down to the can of ham, picked up a slice, and put it into his mouth telling him to bite down. When he’d done as I asked jammed my free hand up under his chin while switching the pistol to his heart and firing once. He struggled for a couple of moments and then was gone.

Taking the can of ham with me, I returned to the executioner’s room, put a slice of ham in his mouth, removed the pillow case from his pillow, and using his chin for leverage titled his head back. I put the can on his desk and picked up the scimitar. The sucker was as heavy as it looked and as I soon discovered it was very sharp as well. With one quick two-handed slash the executioner’s head was removed from his body. I wiped off the sword on the sheets, wrapped the head in a blanket lying at the foot of the bed, and put it into the pillow case.

I walked back to pig boy’s room carrying the pillow case and scimitar where I repeated the process. I left both pillow cases just inside his bedroom door, changed silencers again, and started down the long hall. The rooms off of this hallway were larger but apparently for the lesser class as there were two men to a room. Not wanting to waste any more time than necessary, I boldly entered each room and quickly fired a round into the head of both occupants. By the time I was finished, I had destroyed fifty-four inside targets, and had one silencer left.

The long hallway ended in another T intersection but the intersecting hallway only had one door off of it midway down the left-hand side. I decided not to mess with success and boldly opened the door, walked in, and shot the guard behind the desk who’d just looked up from the porn magazine he’d been reading.

There was a door leading out of the room on both the left and right walls. I opened the door on the right-hand wall, and walked into a dispensary. There were four individual exam rooms and a small pharmacy. I found one target asleep in one of the exam rooms, and made sure he would never wake up. Other than that, the place was empty.

I walked back into the guard room and started towards the other door, when I saw a small key ring full of keys sitting on the edge of the desk. I hadn’t seen a single lock since I’d entered the building, so I assumed these were important. I picked them up, taking them with me. The other door proved to be the only entrance to what can only be described as jail cells. Very tiny jail cells.

There were twelve cells, but only three were occupied. The prisoner in the last cell was looking at me wide-eyed. He started to ask me a question when I put my finger to my lips. Using the keys on the key ring, I eventually found the key that opened the furthest cell from the door, and waved the prisoner out. From his clothing and haircut he was an Air Force crew member of some kind. He came out slowly, and looked around while I moved to the next cell and repeated trying the keys until I found the right one. A very large black man slowly squeezed his way out the cell. He, too, was some kind of aircrew; but his brown boots identified him as Navy. The third cell held someone wrapped in a blanket laying on a small cot. As I tried the keys the black man came over and whispered in my ear.

“I don’t think she’s conscious. I know she’s alive, because I can hear her breathing. They come in every eight hours or so, and give her a shot of something that keeps her knocked out, though.”

My head snapped up at his use of the word she. He noticed my surprise, and nodded his head to confirm that it was a she. I finally got the door open and reached in to pull out the small cot she was on. It turned out it was a stretcher not a cot and it was in fact a she. Short, blonde, and young, she was wearing US desert camouflage pants, desert boots, and a brown ripped and stained t-shirt, who was in dire straits. A quick exam showed a gun-shot wound to the left thigh. The bullet must have hit the femur because there were pieces of bone embedded in the exit wound. Her right ulna and radius were also broken. From the bruising I could see through the rips in her t-shirt, she had significant trauma to the chest as well. Her breathing was raspy and her eyes weren’t responding normally to light. All in all, she was in pretty bad shape. Complication number one!

I took a quick look at both men. They looked to be in roughly the same condition that JT had been in just before he was executed. “Can the two of you carry the stretcher outside the building?” I asked them.

At their nods I said, “Good. Let’s get out of here before more bad guys show up. There aren’t any live Iraqis left in this building but there are three more buildings full of the them so let’s do this quietly please.”

They both nodded and each picked up one end of the stretcher. They followed me out the door and down the hallway to the front of the building. I handed Air Force my pistol and asked him if he knew how to use it. When he said he did, I just nodded and told them I’d be right back with transportation. I stopped at the door and said, “Don’t shoot me when I come back in!”

Not waiting for an answer, I left the building and ran around to the first vehicle bay. I’d picked this small truck for many reasons. The two primary reasons, besides its relatively low gross weight, were the long canvas topped bed it had behind the driver’s seat, and the old-fashioned floor starter it used instead of a key. I got in, and it started right up. Checking the gas gauge, I was relieved to find it read full ... assuming the gauge was working, of course. With the lack of discipline and training I’d seen so far, nothing was certain when it came to these guys.

I drove around to the front of the building. Leaving the engine running, I jumped out and opened the door, telling the two men to bring the lady outside. I held out my hand and received my pistol back before they carried the stretcher outside and put it in the back of the truck.

I looked at both men and said, “One of you in back with her, and one of you in front with me. You two decide but be quick, the train leaves in ten seconds.” I walked around to the driver’s side. As I got in, the black guy opened the passenger door and squeezed his big frame through the door and into the seat.

I turned to look behind me, and saw Air Force already sitting in the bed of the truck next to the cot. I nodded, put the vehicle in first, and drove off down the drive way, past the guard shack, and turned right on the road. I traveled about two hundred yards until the rocky ridge ended in a steep cliff. I turned west into the desert, and when I’d traveled about fifty yards, I stopped the vehicle, pulled the NVG’s down from my forehead, and turned them back on. When I could see again, I put it back into first and drove west to the wadi my Humvee was in.

I pulled to a stop outside the wadi and leaving the vehicle running got out and went around back. The Navy guy was a little slower getting out due to his size, but he joined me moments later. “Do either of you guys know how to drive a stick?” I asked. They both answered that they did.

“Good, stay here. I’ll be right back,” I said before taking off at a run into the wadi.

When I got to the Humvee I started it up and drove out from under the camouflage netting. That was one thing I could leave behind. I pulled up next to the Iraqi truck, got out, and rummaged around the back seat before handing the two startled men a case of MRE’s and a case of bottled water. I turned back and pulled out the spare assault rifle and the M9 pistol I’d taken from the armory. I handed those to them along with eight magazines of ammo for the assault rifle, and four magazines for the pistol. The last things I handed them were the spare set of NVG’s, with two extra batteries, and the emergency radio.

“You two are going to take the lady and this truck and drive due west for a hundred and seventy clicks, at no more than thirty-two clicks per hour. Got that?” I asked. When they nodded I continued. “When you’ve done the one-seventy, look for the closest wadi big enough for the vehicle to get into, and wait for me. Use the NVG’s exclusively. No headlights for any reason! If I don’t find you by nightfall use the emergency radio and call for an evac. Don’t turn the radio on before then as it has a built-in homing beacon and everyone within a hundred miles will know right where you are before you finish transmitting.” At their nods, I stuck out my hand and said, “Good luck guys, get that lady out of here to somewhere safe.”

After shaking their hands, I turned to climb back into the Humvee when the Navy guy asked, “Where’s your team?”

“My partner is back in that compound,” I answered.

“What are you going to be doing?”

I gave him a grim smile and replied, “Arranging some surprises to keep the rest of the ass hats in that compound busy for a while, instead of looking for you.” With a wave, I drove off back toward the compound.

When I got back to the road I stopped and removed five of the land mines from their wooden boxes and set them next to the road before driving down the road towards the gate. I pulled up and shut down the engine when I was across from the gate, and got out to unpack the rest of the land mines, setting all but five of them down next to the road. When I was done with that I walked back into the compound and into the front building. Back in the cell area, I put a one pound block of plastic explosive from my rucksack in the far back corner of the middle cell. I placed another one-pound block under a bed in the center room of the long hallway. I walked back outside, and threw a one-pound block up on the roof of each of the other three buildings, before returning to the front building where I grabbed the two pillow cases.

It was just approaching 0100. If things continued to go as planned, I had about five hours to set everything up and get ready for the show to start. I pulled the Humvee up next to the fence poles and gently removed JT’s head, replacing it with the head of the spokesman ass hat, making sure the red beret was sitting at a jaunty angle on his head before I climbed down off the hood. I did the same for the Army spotter using the executioner’s head, again with the red beret displayed at a jaunty angle. Both heads had pieces of pork hanging out of their mouth as well. That should get a reaction.

I put the pillow cases containing JT’s and the spotter’s heads in the back of the Humvee. I removed the folding shovel and went to work setting up the mine field. From this side, the rock ridge had been covered with sand until just before the crest, creating a gentle slope that looked for all the world like a large sand dune. Digging in the sand was fairly easy but getting the depth right was a real struggle. I finally finished burying the land mines after two hours of work, with intermittent pauses as I slowly backed away from each newly armed mine.

With my mine field laid, it was time to work on the wadi to the south that intersected my rock ridge, and provided a smooth easy climb up where I would be holding court, so to speak. I took out three of the claymore mines I’d brought with me along with a small spool of trip wire and ran down and into the wadi. The walls were almost sheer for the first hundred and fifty yards before easing out into an easy climb up to the rock ridge. The wadi took a sharp turn to the north about thirty yards before the walls eased out, and it was just past that turn that I placed the first claymore. I set it out in the open in the middle of the wadi. I climbed up the slope further down and carefully walked along the top of the wadi until I was over the claymore down on the floor. I took the spool of electrical detonator wire that came with each claymore and holding on to the loose end threw the spool down to the floor of the wadi. Climbing back down into the wadi, I connected the wire to the claymore and headed back out.

I dug a small shelf in the wadi wall, thirty yards from the turn, and set up a claymore inside the hole. I gently and oh so carefully set the trip wire detonator mechanism so that the slightest brush by anyone would set it off. I did the best I could to fill in the hole where the claymore was sitting with loose sand to hide it from casual observation. I repeated the process with the third claymore on the opposite wall a further thirty yards back towards the road. If all went well, the first person around the sharp turn would see the claymore and warn everyone else. That would send them to the sides of the wadi for protection which would, in turn, hopefully, trip the detonators on the claymores in the walls. I would manually set off the claymore on the wadi floor with a clacker if anyone survived and tried a second assault from that direction.

I ran back out of the wadi and up the road, to move the Humvee to the north end of the ridge. There, I buried the five land mines I’d left earlier. I set them about thirty yards apart, and ten yards off the road, so anyone trying to flank me from that side would hopefully set them off. When I was done I drove the Humvee to the back side and emptied all the empty wood and cardboard boxes from the back of the Humvee, throwing them in a small wadi off to one side.

I lugged the Barrett M107 Light Fifty sniper rifle up to the top of the ridge and leaned it up on a four-foot-wide ledge that ran most of the length of the ridge, about four feet from the crest. That was followed with more trips to carry up the M60, ammo, and a rucksack half-filled with grenades.

I took the last five land mines out of the Humvee and set them five yards away from the ridge wall just inside the point where the ridge ended, again spaced out every thirty yards or so. This was the most likely approach route for someone who got beyond the land mines near the road, and tried to flank me. I also placed one final claymore against the base of the ridge wall where it would be in the shadows. With everything I could do done, I drove the Humvee over to a small wadi three hundred yards away, and parked it just out of sight. I carried an MRE and six bottles of water from the Humvee back up to my perch on the ledge at the top of the ridge.

Before I ate, I climbed up to my spider hole and positioned the little video camera so that it caught most of the compound, the guard shack, the road in front of the compound, and the sandy slope up the ridge. When it was all aligned I zoomed in on the replacement red beret wearing heads and turned it on. After fifteen seconds, I zoomed all the way back out, and left the camera running. I carefully covered the sides and top of the camera with my ghillie suit and wearily walked back down to the ledge on the backside of the ridge.

I was almost afraid to sit down for fear I wouldn’t be able to get back up when the time came. I wasn’t tired, really. I was just as close to being completely drained of energy as I’d ever been. Anger, rage, becoming a monster, and strenuous physical activity are a potent combination of energy depleting emotions. I hoped that eating one of the calorie packed MRE’s would fuel me back up but if necessary I had a ‘go’ pill in my pocket to fall back on. That would keep me awake for ten to twelve hours.

I looked at my watch and discovered it was already 0530. That gave me an hour to eat a nice relaxing MRE before things probably started happening. I knew I could expect a three car convoy to come up the road from the south anytime between 0630 and 0800. That’s what I was waiting for.

I was close on my time estimate. At 0620 all hell broke loose inside the compound, as someone started discovering all the dead bodies in the front building. By 0640 virtually every vehicle in the compound had been started and troops were pouring out of the other three buildings, and beginning to load themselves into the large troop transports. At 0645 the three car convoy came up the road, and stopped in the road just across from the guard house. The rear passenger side door of the middle car opened, and a man in crisply starched military fatigues festooned in medals and wearing a red beret got out.

He stood with hands on his hips, looking at the replacement heads wearing their red berets that I’d put up on the fence posts. His body posture becoming stiffer and stiffer the longer he stared. His stare was interrupted as the first troop carrier came down the drive, past the gate and started to turn north on the road. Still standing in the middle of the road the man pointed to the side of the road and the driver nodded his head before completing his turn and driving sixty yards down the road and pulling over. The next nine trucks followed and pulled over behind him. The eleventh truck started to turn south and again the man pointed to the side of the road. The south bound trucks all followed the lead trucks example. I smiled to myself. So far so good.

One of the men in the lead north bound truck came running down the road. When he reached the obviously senior man, he stopped sharply, came to attention, and saluted smartly. The senior officer quickly returned the salute and then started yelling angrily in Arabic while pointing at the new heads on the fence posts. When he’d finally finished his tirade, the junior man quietly replied in Arabic and then listened closely to the senior man’s much calmer response. The junior man gave a short sharp nod, gave a loud sharp whistle to get all his subordinates attention, then waved his arm in a circular motion above his head. Men erupted out of the back of the trucks. In no time both men were surrounded by roughly four hundred soldiers. Damn! I’d seriously underestimated how many men were inside that compound. Complication number two!

I looked through the scope of the Barrett .50 caliber anti-material sniper rifle, and found the senior man. I figured I’d have time for four shots before the group of soldiers reacted like ants protecting their burrow and came swarming up the hill. I practiced moving the scope from senior man to junior man to the trailing escort car to the lead escort car as the senior man talked to his troops. As senior man started to move in a small circle so he could address everyone around him I put the scope back on him. I wanted him looking directly me at me before I shot him so the camera could catch his face which neither I nor it had seen yet.

The senior man was finally facing directly towards me, and I started to take in the slack on the trigger. Just as I fired he turned more towards the camera and his head exploded. Those .50 caliber anti-material rounds sure did some damage to people at close range. I immediately switched to junior man and took my shot at him before putting a round in the engine block of the trail car and the lead car. By the time I was done the rest of the small army facing me were hunkered down using the cars and trucks as cover.

Perfect! I moved from behind the Barrett and down the ledge to the M60 all while trying to fish the wireless remote trigger out of my pocket. Before I could get it out though I saw roughly a hundred men break from behind the furthest truck to the south, cross the road, and disappear into the wadi. I looked to my left and saw another fifty break from behind the furthest truck to the north, cross the road, and disappear around the edge of the ridge. Damn! I may have taken out the two main leaders but someone down there was still able to think. I thought I’d have at least a couple of minutes before they reorganized. Complication number three!

I set the remote trigger down on the ledge so it would be ready to use if I was able to get everyone regrouped under cover behind the cars and trucks. I didn’t really expect that to happen at this point. What I expected to happen now was that at least a few of the flankers would make it through on both sides of me, and I’d detonate all the explosives as a last act of defiance.

Peeking over the top of the ridge I saw roughly two hundred fifty men come boiling out from behind the cars and trucks and charge across the road towards me in three long waves. They were half way across the road when two of the mines I’d planted at the north end of the ridge went off. Well, that part of plan B had worked. I just didn’t know how well it worked, although two mines weren’t going to kill fifty men. I gave a mental shrug, it would slow them down.

Turning my full attention back to the front, I watched as the line of men hit the sandy slope slowing their headlong charge. The first four mines in the mine field went off almost simultaneously, and I opened up with the M60. The unexpectedness of both the mines and the M60 stunned them for a moment, before they resumed their charge up the slope. The mines had killed a few and the M60 was doing its job as I worked it from left to right along the line. The problem was, I couldn’t keep firing the M60 at the rate I had been, because the barrel was getting too hot. The last thing I needed was to have it cook off the rest of the rounds or explode.

I let off the trigger as I heard two claymores go off in the wadi. Plan B was continuing to work, but again I didn’t how many in the wadi were left alive. The much reduced line of men at my front continued up the hill towards me, seeming to have taken heart when I stopped firing the M60 and started using my assault rifle to take aimed shots. I’d gone through one magazine when they hit the second line of mines. I moved back behind the M60 and opened fire again. That did the trick, and within seconds the charge became a full-blown retreat. When I was sure none of them were still coming up the hill I moved south down the ledge towards the wadi as two more mines went off to the north.

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