Seals (2005), страница 1
Pulling their K-Bar knives, Brannigan and Mike moved slowly towards the two fighters who were guarding the hostages, appreciative of the noise from all the shooting some hundred meters away. They stopped a scant two paces from the guards, then Brannigan nodded the order to attack. Both SEALs struck simultaneously with the viciousness of cobras, driving the blades of the weapons under the back of the rib cages and up into vital areas where organs and arteries were located. The knives were violently twisted to enlarge the wounds. Brannigan and Mike kept their hands over the victims' mouths, working the knives until the mujahideen went limp. At that point the dead men were lowered gently to the ground to avoid unnecessary noise.
"Damn!" Mike whispered. "The son of a bitch vomited."
"It's a messy job no matter which way you cut it." Brannigan said. "No pun intended."
TABLE OF ORGANIZATION
William "Wild Bill" Brannigan
Platoon Commander, First Squad
and Alpha Fire Team Leader
ALPHA FIRE TEAM, FIRST SQUAD
PO2C Mikael "Mike" Assad
PO2C Francisco "Frank" Gomez
PO2C David "Dave" Leibowitz
BRAVO FIRE TEAM, FIRST SQUAD
SCPO Buford Dawkins
PO1C Mike "Connie" Concord
PO2C Guttorm "Gutsy" Olson
PO3C Chadwick "Chad" Murchison
James "Jim" Cruiser
Lieutenant (J. G.)
Platoon Executive Officer, Second Squad
and Charlie Fire Team Leader
CHARLIE FIRE TEAM, SECOND SQUAD
PO2C Michael "Milly" Mills
PO2C Josef "Joe" Miskoski
PO3C Kevin Albee
DELTA FIRE TEAM, SECOND SQUAD
CPO Matthew "Matt" Gunnarson
PO1C Adam Clifford
PO2C Bruno Puglisi
PO3C James Bradley
When you're wounded an' left on Afghanistan's plains, An' the women come out to cut up what remains, Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains, An' go to your Gawd like a soldier
--Rudyard Kipling, Barracks Room Ballads
1620 HOURS LOCAL
THE stranger walking through the bazaar showed obvious signs of having endured a difficult, strength-sapping ordeal. His clothing was dusty and sweat-caked as would be expected from a traveler who had made a long foot journey. His eyes, red with fatigue, looked out from under his bushy eyebrows in a dazed sort of way, and his thick black beard was unkempt and in bad need of a trim. What casual observers couldn't perceive was that deep inside the man's psyche, his waning strength and alertness functioned more out of stark fear than physical vigor. He struggled to keep moving in spite of the exhaustion that threatened to drop him to his knees.
A couple of thieves skulking in the marketplace caught sight of the limping man. They tried to determine if the fellow might be worth robbing. After a few moments of observation, they changed their minds about any attempts to overpower him, even though he seemed an easy mark. The Kalashnikov assault rifle and bandoleer of ammunition across his chest gave evidence that his lifestyle was not a particularly peaceful one. An old Pashtun proverb taught that an exhausted man with a weapon was like a wounded tiger with teeth. Both could summon spiritual rage to fight off enemies.
The man seemed to know where he was going as he painfully shuffled through the crowd and lines of kiosks in the bazaar. He reached a narrow alleyway, and turned down it to walk past a blacksmith's stall before reaching a gun merchant's shop. He went inside and nodded to the clerk, who was cleaning a Heckler & Koch assault rifle in preparation for display.
The gun cleaner, a teenage boy, politely stood up. "Asalaam aleikum, sir. How may I serve you?"
"I wish to speak to Ilyas," the man said in a raspy voice.
The name he spoke caught the boy's interest. This was one of those special customers that came around now and then, and only the boss could speak to them. "I shall inform him, sir." He went through a curtained door and entered an interior room. His employer, Nader Abiska, sat in his favorite chair, sipping a hot cup of sur chaff tea with milk. The boy approached him closely and whispered in his ear. "A man has come making inquiries about Ilyas."
Abiska pulled the Beretta automatic from his shoulder holster and went to the curtain to peer out. He could see the disheveled man leaning against the counter. The shop owner opened the curtain. "Come in."
The boy went out as the stranger entered. "Sit down," Abiska invited him.
"Shukhria--thanks," the man said gratefully, settling down onto the cushion of a wicker chair. "I am Ishaq."
"We thought you were dead," Abiska said.
"I damn near was."
"You are compromised, la?"
"True," Ishaq said wearily. "But I am still useful. I must get out of here."
"That can be arranged," Abiska said. "But first I suggest you take a few days to recover from whatever hardships you have endured so recently. You are obviously exhausted."
Ishaq shook his head. "There is no time to be wasted. I must get back."
NAVAL AMPHIBIOUS BASE
THE platoon was new, having been activated less than a month previously from veteran personnel drawn out of the ranks of SEAL Teams One, Three and Five. Most of the men knew each other well from having served together at various times in the past. They also had participated in many drinking sessions at the Fouled Anchor Tavern in Coronado, thus it didn't take them long to form into a cohesive unit. Within a short time they began referring to themselves as Brannigan's Brigands after their commanding officer Lieutenant William "Wild Bill" Brannigan.
They were a typically dedicated SEAL unit who had endured the near unendurable to earn their way into that elite branch of the United States Navy. Consequently, they performed their duties with exceptionally high morale, esprit de corps and a special elan. Among the other platoons, Brannigan's Brigands were noted to possess that little extra something special that occurs when the right chemistry develops among congruous people. The men even had unique T-shirts made up from a design a couple of the more artistic in the group had dreamed up. It consisted of the unit's name around the image of a leering buccaneer wearing a pirate hat. But instead of the usual skull-and-crossbones emblem on the headgear, it bore the eagle-and-trident insignia of the SEALs.
The platoon consisted of sixteen men divided into two squads of eight men each as per SOP. The squads were further broken down into pairs of four-man fire teams. The commanding officer led the First Squad and its Alpha Fire Team, while a senior chief petty officer honchoed the Bravo Fire Team. The platoon's executive officer commanded the Second Squad and bossed Charlie Fire Team, while a chief petty officer led the Deltas.
The Brigands' camaraderie went beyond duty hours. They spent most of their liberties in the company of other platoon members. Their favorite watering hole was the Fouled Anchor, owned by Salty Donovan, a leathery SEAL veteran
It was a toss-up whether Salty or Dixie was in charge of the tavern. She was the feminine version of her husband, i. E., muscular, with an Irish temper. They were both in their fifties, and as an evening of boozing progressed, Dixie let Salty come out from behind the bar and sit with his old buddies or the young guys still on active duty, to knock back what seemed to be endless rounds of brew. Though he drank his share of the pitchers and more, Salty was most certainly not a tub of beer guts. Even after a long session of drinking, he would still be out early the next morning double-timing down Silver Strand Boulevard--AKA State Highway 75--all the way past the state beach before reversing direction for the return run. That was a distance of ten miles, and Salty arrived back home invigorated and ready to take on the world for the rest of the day.
Dixie, on the other hand, didn't exercise at all. But she didn't smoke or drink except for an occasional glass of wine and had inherited a robust natural health from her Irish ancestors. She and Salty didn't have any kids, and lavished their affections on the youngsters who patronized the tavern. Sometimes, when the testosterone and beer mixed a little too well, Dixie would break up the fights with kind words, a motherly smile and a hard grip around the muscular necks of the combatants. They always settled down to shake hands and let bygones be bygones. Dixie did not allow grudges.
And on occasions when reports came back of young SEALS giving their lives for their country in training accidents or combat, both Salty and Dixie wept with the deep grief of parents losing a child.
0630 HOURS LOCAL
SENIOR Chief Petty Officer Buford Dawkins stood in front of the twelve men who were arranged in a reveille formation of two ranks of six. Buford, an Alabaman, was the senior enlisted man of the platoon, while his buddy Chief Petty Officer Matt Gunnarson ranked just under him. At that particular moment, Gunnarson stood off to the side, aloof and in somewhat of a bad mood. Neither of the two platoon officers was present, which meant that everyone was at Dawkins's mercy.
A bit of confusion was evident at this early morning formation. Everyone was dressed for the normally scheduled run. The platoon T-shirts, shorts and boots made up the prescribed uniform. The footgear was the skipper's idea. Wild Bill Brannigan considered jogging shoes candy-ass. If a SEAL fought in boots, the Skipper reasoned, he should damn well run in them too.
The two chief petty officers, however, were not garbed for physical activity. They wore the normal BDUs. Senior Chief Dawkins gazed at his charges, the grin on his face making a blatant display of devious humor. "I see we have a dozen smiling faces this morning. That pleases me. Did y'all have a good time last night? Did you see your little honeys and get some sweet loving and affection from 'em?" He looked into the second rank, at Petty Officer Second Class Bruno Puglisi. "What about you, Bruno, ol' buddy? Score some poontang, did you?"
"I did awright, Chief," Puglisi said. "I always do awright, you know that."
"Well, I'm glad you did all right," Dawkins said. "In fact, I hope all y'all did just fine with the ladies. And I use that term loosely where y'all are concerned since I seen some of the sorry wimmen you guys attract. But, looks aside, it's my fondest wish that y'all got yourselves laid, re-laid and par-laid."
Joe Miskoski, holding the right guide's position, snickered. "That's real nice of you, Senior Chief. You ain't always this concerned about our love lives."
"I'm nice this morning, because I got some bad news for ever' body," Dawkins said. "If you didn't get any loving last night, that's too damn bad 'cause you sure as hell ain't gonna get another chance for romance for a good long while." He winked over at Gunnarson. "Tell 'em why, Chief."
"Because as of this very minute the platoon is on alert," Gunnarson said morosely. "We're all going into Isolation."
The men were caught between elation and disappointment. They were glad to be going on active ops since it would be the first for them as a platoon, but some of them had been working hard establishing some very satisfactory and shallow relationships with cuties in both Coronado and San Diego. Their activities with the female of the species had been progressing nicely.
"Is that why you aren't dressed for PT?" James Bradley asked, thinking of the pretty San Diego State University coed he was currently romancing.
"That's it," Dawkins answered. "Me and Chief Gunnarson was hauled out of our racks at oh-two-thirty for notification of the alert. Unfortunately it took so long to brief us, I wasn't able to arrange early chow for you this morning. It looks like you'll have to wait for box lunches to be brought into Isolation at noon."
"How about you, Chief?" Joe Miskoski asked. "Did you get early chow?"
"If you don't get to eat, then I don't eat," Dawkins answered. "I just hate having a guilty conscience. It was the same for Chief Gunnarson."
The men weren't surprised that the two had purposely skipped a meal because none of the others in the platoon would have breakfast that morning. This was typical in the SEALs, where bad luck, danger and food were shared equally in times of feast and famine, regardless of rank or position.
"Okay, now," Dawkins continued. "When I fall you out, go into the platoon but and grab your alert bags. You can change into the uniforms you got in 'em when we get to Isolation. Albee! Murchison! You two get the Skipper's and Lieutenant Cruiser's. All right! Fall out!"
The men went inside to grab the parachute kit bags where their field gear, extra clothing, boots and other items needed for operations were packed. Once alerted, all they had to do was grab the bags and they were ready to go. In less than three-quarters of a minute they were back outside in formation with the baggage.
"So let's get ourselves into the middle of this exciting happening, shall we?" Dawkins said. "Atten-hut! Right, face! For'd, harch!"
The platoon marched out of the garrison toward the barbed wire and sentries in the Isolation area.
0645 HOURS LOCAL
SENIOR Chief Petty Officer Buford Dawkins called the room to attention at the moment the door opened. The thirteen SEALs slid out from the desk chairs and braced. The first officer through the door was the Skipper, Lieutenant Wild Bill Brannigan. He was followed by his 21C Lieutenant (J. G.) Jim Cruiser. Commander Thomas Carey, the team N3 officer, and a swarthy, bearded man in a civilian suit followed. Lieutenant Commander Ernest Berringer, the N2, brought up the rear.
"Take your seats, guys," Brannigan said. He was a tall, muscular man with light brown hair and bright blue eyes. His features had been coarsened by continued exposure to sun, sea and wind. The result was the rugged handsomeness that fascinated women, yet made them a bit uneasy. He grinned at his subordinates. "Good morning and welcome to the SEALs' favorite place in the world--Isolation. This is an auspicious occasion since it is the first time since our activation, and believe me, I'm as surprised to be here this morning as you are." He gestured toward the others who had followed him into the building. "Everyone knows our N2 and 3, and we have another guest. The gentleman with them is Ishaq. He is our asset for this mission, but circumstances preclude him from accompanying the platoon into the OA. He is here to supply us with all the useful information he can."
The SEALs knew that anyone introduced with only one name would be from that deep, dark world of clandestine operations where secrets, double-dealing and deadly encounters abounded.
"Therefore," Brannigan continued, "without further ado, I shall turn this session over to Commander Carey."
Carey went to the podium. "Although I know all of you, I'm pleased to meet you as Brannigan's Brigands. You already have a good reputation in the team. I hope you guys are rested and eager, because there's a hell of a job for you to do. First o
Jim Cruiser chuckled. "Is this going to be one of those good news/bad news situations, sir?"
Carey shook his head. "This is bad news and worst news, Jim. I know everyone in the SEALs has become uneasy about the new tactical and strategical situations that have grown out of Nine-Eleven. We're used to quick hit-and-run raids in coastal areas. We always like to keep one foot in the water, but now we have to make deep penetrations into outlaw country and stay there awhile. On this particular operation, however, you have an estimated time limit of ten days. After that, consider it a lost cause."
"Just how far into Afghanistan are we going to penetrate, sir?" Brannigan asked.
"Approximately six hundred miles," Carey replied. "I say `approximately' because we don't have any accurate maps of the location. Even Queen Victoria's troops in the heyday of the British Empire were unable to fight their way that far through the native tribes. I should mention you'll have roughly two hundred miles of Pakistan to fly over before you reach the Afghan border." He paused to let that bit of unpleasant information sink in. "You'll go from here to Station Bravo in Bahrain. From there you'll launch the operation to the OA, where you'll meet a guy at a certain location. Unfortunately, it was impossible to arrange a definite time for this linkup. But once you've gotten your hands on him, you can go into your exfiltration mode and bring him back with you. Questions? None at the moment? I'll be available for any that might pop up."