Chapter One:Mission in Afghanistan
“Seal team 3 this is Union Jack, do you copy Seal 3?”
“Seal 3 to Union Jack we copy, over and out!” The hill is all alone in a scrubby, parched land. I look around me, Cyrus, Isee, Ghasa, and our radio man, William Nargley standing or crouching next to an all terrain desert camouflage Humvee. “Color Sgt. Cyrus, there are 100 insurgents on that hill, Seal team 3 is two miles to the right of us, our enemies are oblivious of our presence, and they have no communication, take Isee and Ghasa up the lower skirts of the hill, when you get close, crawl. Stealth is key,” I say.
“Yes sir Lieut, take em up, got it.” I take out my binoculars, and survey the hill. Lights are up there, shining dimly and hazily. Scouts patrol the top, I locate their dirty brown turbans. “Will, call in to the Seal team, tell em to approach the right side, slowly, they got it.”
“Sir, yes, sir!”
William is a young mate, about 23 years old, but he's a good soldier and a excellent technician. Ghasa and Isee, Indians by birth, are on their first mission. A dangerous one too. “ How do you think we get on top of this one, eh Nargley?” I say absentmindedly.
“Well sir, I clearly think that you have never led us down a wrong path,” says William, rubbing his chin. “But well, I don't exactly know, there are alot of guys on that hill, I say we take it slow.”
“Thanks Will, you reassure me,” I say half jokingly. “But seriously,” I think to myself, “this looks really difficult.” I scan Cyrus and his mates crawling up the base of the hill, their silhouettes hardly visible in my night vision glasses.
With Nargley checking the guns to see if they're properly loaded, I stand up, the chill wind blowing across my face. I wrap my scarf(sent from my wife) around my face, it smells like home in Birmingham, and I fill greatly alone. This will be my last tour in the SAS,and then I'll be home soon with Sarah. I can hardly wait to be back there, Worrine street, back with Sarah, Just in time to see the first little one. The crackling of the field phone alerts my mind again. “This is Seal team 3 to Union Jack, Lieut. Mancroft, we go now?”
“Go now, wait for my signal to assault the hill, I want to catch them completely unaware.”
“Right'o, over and out!” Williams looks at me anxiously, he is afraid, poor man, but we got to go now in order to receive Cyrus's report. I wonder what the number tally will be up there. “Will, pack up the gear, were going in. It's okay, you'll be home soon, don't you think I feel scared too, with a wife and a child?”
“No sir, well I mean maybe sir, because your a great captain, and even some really great leaders get afraid too...??”
“Well Nargley exactly, do you think I gave up my degree at Oxford ten years ago to join the military, we face this kind of action. Isee and Ghasa feel even worse, their first mission, don't worry, if the King won't keep ya safe I will, okay.”
“The King won't, he's half the world away,” chuckles William, but at least we can bag some more Afghans before our journey home, ya know?”
“Yes, let's make the notch on my gun 101, okay?!”
I and Nargley make it up the hill, the insurgents on the hill are still there, guarding the ammunition dump. Cyrus's group met ours an hour ago, saying two hundred were on the hill, all heavily armed but with outdated weapons, dating from the 80's. Seal team 3 is somewhere to our right, a little bit lower, they will be the hammer stroke. “Cy, when should we go for it, ten, fifteen minutes?” I could tell this was a tough question for Cyrus, his face could be barely seen but it explained his answer.
“Twenty, let's wait twenty, there are a helluva bunch of insurgents on that blasted hill, and they could see us, now, they have just changed the guards, they probably don't expect nothing, but all the same let's wait Lieut Mancroft, let us wait.”
“Nargley, radio the Seals, tell them to wait, we don't want this operation to go wrong, or else the newbies Isee and Ghasa could get a bad name,” I say, smiling at the two Indians.
“Right away sir.” The radio is brought out of Will's pack again, and the crackling is heard once more. Ghasa and Isee sit hugging their legs, even though they moved to the UK and have been living there for awhile, they could and still can't get used to the cold. I love it.
The cries of those silly Turks awake me, they are on their prayer mats, shouting some garbled language that sounds to me like the flushing of a toilet. That reminds me...
Isee, who loves to smoke,(both the dangerous and the semi dangerous smoke) produces a cigarette. Looking about as if no one notices, he takes out a match book. Pulling his helmet over his mouth and hands, he lights the cigarette. Little does he know that I saw it from the corner of my eye.”Isee, cut that out now man! Cover it!” There is yelling up on the hill, and that awakens the dim witted Isee.
“Dam-” Machine gun fire is sprayed down on us, and when I say fire, I mean it.
“Down the hill Cyrus, Nargley, get going, roll roll roll!” Bullets clip the dust all around me, tiny explosions burst into the red earth with a dig. There is no time to return fire, except for the Seals still unnoticed by the enemy. They luckily see us and provide cover fire for us, and we scram into a hollow in hill, barely enough for adequate cover, and we exchange rounds. The rebels are now onto the Seals, but luckily for them they are in safer ground. The enemy doesn't know how many we have at the moment, and that is a good thing.
“Corporal Isee, you lost it man! Give me those cigs and quick now!” The young naive Indian was looking hurt. “Isee, you endangered us and blew the entire plan, you simply can't do that here, this isn't a joke, we or our allies could of gotten killed!”
“Um,... you know how hard it is for the urge to go away, sir.”
“Cyrus, keep a watch on the hill, make sure they don't try anything,” I say eruptively. “I am really furious, a mistake in battle fighting the enemy is one thing, this is another. I told the general you were not ready yet.” Isee brooded contemplatively. “You will be punished.” I was in a bad position, the plan had been destroyed by Isee, who rocked the boat.
“Seal team 3 to Union Jack, what was that about Union Jack.”
“One of our team members lit a cig, sorry mates, this is a done one, call it off, get back to your Hummer,” said Nargley. I could fill the disappointment, it steams over me. Now that Oxford job would of been a better choice. My last go at it and a...failure. I could not go home as a loser. What would Sarah say? My love for her and my pride won't let this happen. I am sure.
“Copy, will go back, you guys bummed this one, nice job.” That last stinging remark from the radio is too much. I am going to take the hill, now. “Ghasa, you know that Scorpion you got in your pack?”
“Scorpion, yep, I got it.”
“Everyone. Gather around. Listen. Ghasa here will stay in this hollow with the Scorpion, Will, Cyrus, and Isee will go up the hill. Will call the Seals, tell em to get back up here. Me and Cy will go up the right, Isee and Will up the left. Ghasa, that's you, you aim through the center of us. Hit the hill with the three shells we got, hit them hard.
“Got it sir,” said the heavily accented Ghasa. I sensed the tension and anxiety of a new prospect of death.
“Who knows, maybe Isee will get the chance to redeem himself.”
The dark sky is turning purple, the orange hues getting lighter. Myself and trusty Cy are moving low to the hill, Isee and Will are opposite to us and they advance too. Hopefully Ghasa has a true aim. Wouldn't want to get my head blown off by my own man! If the Seals are coming with us they better come quick, I can't see them anywhere. My mind is racing. The dawn gets brighter and the guards are more alert. We crouch down and aim our guns, Cy produces a short distance grenade launcher, he is the signal for Ghasa. “Fire, Cy, give em all you got mate!” Cy's finger clamps down on the trigger. Explosion after explosion hits the hill, which is disorientating the enemy. Success, success! Lets finish em. “Go! Go! Go!” Spraying our machine guns, we mow down what's left of the guard. Ghasa releases his artillery. Napalm rends the earth,explodes the dump, and the cries of the attacked are put into a frenzy. More insurgents pour down the hill. I shoulder my M-4, and aim my sights a little above their turbans. Not a single one is still on his feet. “Charge, up the hill, take it! Give it all ya got!”
The ammunition dump is burning, the explosions killed every rebel there, and we finish the job by sips if Sherry. “Tell you what mate,” I say to Ghasa, “those shots were perfectly aimed. Isee, you were redeemed, but I strictly forbid you from smoking ever again...” Isee's eyes darken. “...On the field.” They lighten back up. Cyrus and Will, excellent coordination and fire cover.” We laugh and drink and we take a stroll amongst the flaming ruins, to look for anything to take prisoner any still alive. I am so positively relieved,...I am going home...with 134 under my belt and a victory in the bag. This is pure happiness. Never again, no more war, bloodshed. To settle down once and for all with my new family as an Oxford Don. Lucky Mancroft. I see Cyrus and Will coming towards me, and I know our mission is done. “Get in the truck boys. Cy get Ghasa and Isee. There already heading down to the Humvee? Okay, let's get out of here.”
The Humvee whirs to life, the key in the ignition. Cyrus takes the wheel and I go with Ghasa and Isee in the back. Will takes the mounted gun and we travel the thirty miles back to camp.
We have barely start the engine when Will hears a faint cry coming a mile away to the east “Lieut, we got something out there, I can hear it, sounds like a human voice!”
“Well Cyrus, take the wheel, drive by Nargley's guidance. William direct us there.” I have a very uneasy feeling about this, a lone cry in the desert, the Seals not showing, it's all very funny.
“Were getting closer sir, wait, what in hell's name is that? Bodies, swerve! Swerve!” The Hummer tumbles out of the way precariously, of the bodies.
“What the devil was that?” exclaims Cyrus, as he puts the engine to a stop. I think I know all too well the truth.
“Seals, their down.”
“Sir, and we got some moving shapes advancing, one sec...this is terrible...they're lions! Lions!”
“Mow them down Will, shoot em!” I say. The machine spits out the rounds, we can see through the windshield a swarm of dozens of lions, roaring and jumping. Will guns them down, spurts of blood with each new shot. They all fall.
“Lions, feasting on those bodies,... lions killing men like that.” We get out of the vehicle, and what we see appalls me. The bodies of six Seals grotesquely prostrate on the desert floor. “Lions too, were there. “Let's see if these men were ambushed by the Afghans and scavenged by the lions,”I say.
The lions are the killers, it is plain to see. “Cyrus,” I suddenly exclaim, “one of those men are still alive!” It is true, a mangled seemingly dead body was moving slowly on the ground, groaning.
“Blimey, he is! With all this death there is life!”
“Ghasa, Isee,” I say, pointing to the two Indians, “pick this man up carefully and lay him in the back of the hospital quickly. William, get a camera, we need evidence of this!”
“Sir yes sir, right away.” This is bad, lions?
“Bring the other bodies too, they need a proper burial.” Cyrus comes up to me close.
“Lieut. Mancroft, this is inexplicable, lions don't do things like this, it isn't right. This is the reason why they didn't aid us, because the lions came and ambushed them.”
“Cyrus, I was thinking that, the Seals didn't have a chance to pull up their guns, none of them were fired when you inspected them, right?”
“Right, I checked them,” said Cyrus, tugging at his neatly trimmed mustache. “I trust that this is nothing weird,...but lions never do or never can do this. And these were Seals!”
“Keep your voice down, Ghasa and Isee shouldn't know the full truth, at least not yet.”
“They're done putting the bodies in, let's hurry down to base before this soldier dies!”
I sit in the back of the car, resting the mangled but alive man's head on my legs. He barely breaths. This is too bad to be true:six elite Seals, caught prey by lions and nearly all killed.
The tires skid against the sand and dirt, we're nearly at base. The wounded man is barely breathing, he needs plasma and medicine, quickly. I notice that his bloody lips endeavor to move, his voice raises above a hoarse whisper, and he speaks, painfully and quietly. His eyes look to mine, I can tell he trying to speak “We..di- not eve-... have a chan...they were oran-i-..ed.” His last words tumble out into a garble.
“It's okay, yank, your going to be fine, don't try to speak, you'll get medical assistance soon, then you can tell us all, okay?” The man closes his eyes, and a breath of air, came out of him.”Cyrus, how far mate, I don't think he is going to make it!”
“Two miles till we reach the city, five until we reach the base,!”
“Hell, he is not going to last that long!” I put his hands on his chest, which is torn with scars and matted with dried blood. He isn't going to make it. Soon afterwards, we arrive with the wounded Seal, and rush him to the emergency SAS hospital.
“Brigadier Pollin, we don't know any new knowledge at the present, the surviving witness is in bad trouble, his heart rate is getting slower, he's lost quite alot of blood sir.”
“I see Lieut. Mancroft, the Seal commander in chief in the Wangazi district, Gen. Aberson, is coming down from Magara, he wants some facts about how his men were killed. I personally find this extremely disquieting, lions can't kill men like the Seals, but there is the picture proof, and plus, no bullets marks were found near the massacre site, right Lieut?”
“Yes sir, and lions were there too sir, devouring the bodies, we shot them too sir, but we didn't bring any because the rush to save the dying man.”
“I see Lieut., there are some news told to me by the Commander in Chief who was told himself by the Minister, some really frightening news. This confirms my suspicions, we have a serious problem on our hands. I am pleased of the victory though, that breaks the Taliban remnant in the north of. Afghanistan, though that hardly matters with the new form of plans You are dismissed Lieut.”
I walk away from the Brigadier's office, overflowing with curiosity. The General was rubbing his hands together...and his hands were sweating too. I notice things like that. What was the “Big News?” The recent victory was brushed off, like it was nothing. Five Seals were mauled to death by sadistic lions, how? I walk down the barracks briskly, to Cyrus's room.(cell) He is there, listening to music. He sees me, out of the corner of his eye. “Sir, you want something from me?” he says, taking the headphones from his head.
“You want to come with me to see if that Seal member can talk, we'll force the doc to let us talk,...it's not an order,” I add, slightly smiling. Cyrus takes awhile to return his opinion, he brushes his hands through his light blond hair.
“Sir, um, sure thing, just rocking to the beat of Maroon Five.”
“Maroon Five?” I add, inquiringly.
“They're a, um, retro band from about five years ago, died in fatal plane crash...um. You know them?” he says awkwardly.
“Fraid not Cyrus, well, it's not a big deal, thought you only listened to stuff like Norwegian Apocalypse Metal.”
“That was before I listened to this,” says Cyrus laughing, “I have seen the “Daylight” now!... Um, oh,... that's right, you don't get that um,reference.”
“Quite right, ya coming or not mate?”
“Sure thing sir, let us see if we can get information from that man, it might make Pollin more pleased than taking the bloody hill.”
“So Cy, what do you think about having three more years of service, for the Queen right, eh?” I say, nudging him as we walk to the hospital upstairs. The SAS set up a medical room in here so we don't have to get shot at night as we walk through the city.
“Well, sir, it's going to be bloody hard without your leadership. We couldn't of taken that hill without you, and there were no losses.”
“There is only so much of military life you can take, and especially when you got a wife and a kid, then it really turns into a burden. Before I met Sarah though, I thought I would of stayed here in the service my entire life...I saw how quickly that changed.”
“I still haven't lost the fever yet, still hundreds more of those rebels out here in the hills, but at least they're without an ammo dump!” He slaps me on the back.
“Shush, quiet, we got to try not to laugh as we talk to the wounded man, so, shush.” We walk through the hospital door, Cy still holding(or trying) his calm. The hospital is large enough for thirty patients max, and at this time it only holds one. We approach a bend in the building and turn it, and to the left, is a bed and respirator, with a doctor and the victim of the attack.
“Do you think he'll be able to speak doc?” I ask the doctor.
“Well, let me see, I guess for a little while, he doesn't need air or blood anymore, so he could, well, let me see, a yeah, go ahead sir.”
I did not get much out of him, whenever he tried to speak he coughed blood and his voice would twist off into gumbo. I was really beyond disappointed, and Cyrus couldn't have lost much time listening to his Maroon Five, whatever that is. I have to write a letter back home, there is nothing to a phone call, plus, the phone is out of service here. The Seal General Aberson never came, for some reason unknown to Pollin. I am in my small cubicle of a room, though it is better than a bunk room(Far Better!) I feel distressed, there was nothing sweet to taking that hill, to me, it seemed useless, and maybe even a failure of a mission. God is the only one who knows how those Seals were killed, and why. I reach into my desk file marked “Home,” I pull out a white, thin piece of paper, long not used. Tens of times I had wanted to write, but something so unimportant always got in the way,...of my Sarah. I am mad at myself for this, Sarah, she would totally dismiss it as nothing. I take a pen out of my pocket, my hand slides slowly across all my medals. I write.
Dear Sarah, what else can I say but I love you and miss you? I am deeply sorry for my waste of time, what I'm trying to say is that I am so smashing angry at myself for not writing to you. How is the baby? Please keep the secret of the name still a secret, although it must be hard. Do you find yourself lonely? I know you do, but I'll be back soon. I just finished my last mission on my last tour, so you can expect a husband who will be never again separated from you. I saw your face when I faced danger last night, and I thought that it would be no way to go out, without seeing you. You can by far save me...seeing you again will be a a life saver...it will be too long to wait...give it three days, and a plane is taking me on my way to you...I can't stop thinking about you, please, no need to write back, tell the kid that daddy is bringing a present for him, okay? Love you,
On a rough dirt road leading to the city of Khardug, there is a jeep on it's side. In it is the body of two men. Gen Aberson is one. His throat is torn out from his body, blood stains his uniform and black beret on his head. Surrounding the jeep is a swarm of lion, slowly and strategically crawling away. In the city of Magara, which contains 800,000 men, women, and children, there lay 800,000 corpses, the last lying in a jeep on the road to Khardug. The city is silent and shrouded in mystery from the outside world, in mountains and no one will notice the destruction until it is to late...to save themselves. Standing on a smoldering building, is what looks like a heavily armored man On his black, hard helmet, there is an insignia of two red B's surrounding one A. On his chest is a mesh suit intertwined with bullet proof canvas armor. Over the chest is slung a heavy machine gun, designed with black and intertwined with red. He takes it and raises it over his head, and screams.
I am walking over to the post right now, if you can call it a post. Barbwire strings across it like a embattled compound, and only a guarded walkway leads into it. The guards(Afghan soldiers) know me personally, and they let me in without a glance. On my way in I see a small bird, with blood on it's beak . Ugh, a small little tweeter...what did it do? It's eyes turn on me suddenly, with a peculiar, intelligent look. Without warning the stupid bird swoops on me. Ow! It pecks above the eye, and darts just out of my angry hand when I try to hit it. Run for the door, run for the door! I do that and the bird crashes into the glass behind me, with a poof of feathers. The postmaster, a small, oily man with shift eyes, greets me. “Ah, Lieut. Mancroft, heheheehe, got something for me to send, eh?”
“Yes Subsira, a letter, and make sure you don't lose it, it's to my wife.”
“Wife? Ah, I see, in your part of the world they only have one,... okay... fine, hehehe.”
Weirdo. That stupid hell bird, what the the what! It plops back to the door, fluttering were it can see me through the glass. “Um, Subsir...?”
“Uh, What,” he says as he puts a stamp on my letter.
“There is a freaky bird thingy hovering by the window, it attacked me on the way in... and it looks like it wants to kill me right now.”
“Oh, that isn't a good sign, Culfua never used to harm anyone, just be careful...hehehehhe.” After a moment's pause, Subsira becomes serious.”Money, cash, Lieut.??”
My mind is still on that, bird. Or whatever it is.
“Almighty, Subsira, here it is you little...” I reach into my pockets and pull out some old banknotes, these will work. Keep the change.”
“Really, ah! Thankyou, come back soon, and don't worry about the bird, he's usually peaceful..” I cut him off the middle of his sentence and leave the post office. Bird, ah! Bird! Cul- um, Culfua! It strikes at me again. I swat it away luckily for me to pull my Minstur 19 (handgun) out. You are going down you bugger! I press the trigger, and the bird puffs, and that's all, there's nothing left. The wired guards ejaculate in disgraceful language. They look at me suspiciously. “It's okay, guys,” I say in their dialect, “just Culfua, Subsira's bird attacked me so I shot it, no big deal.” The guards just look at eachother as if to say “Allah didn't enlightened this man's IQ.” They let me pass.
What is up in the world! First lions butcher Seals last night, now birds are trying to kill me... just want to go back to my civilized country and drink a cup of ice tea... lightly spiked. I bring out my watch, there is a light on it, something they never have up here. 4:30 PM, still have three hours before I got to report to Pollin. I wonder what he was griping about today, something he said about the Prime Minister knowing something. He wouldn't tell me. I wonder if Cy or William knows what in the devil's name is going on. I am tired and depressed, I really don't want to live anymore until I get back to England, which is worlds away. A few more days...that's all. I stroll(on guard) by a lighted house. Sitting behind a window is a big tom cat, it's trying to break through the reinforced glass. Every time it thumps against the window it leaves small blood prints on it. Oh, not again. I am shaken now and quite ticked off on the animal kingdom. I pull out my Minstur again and give it a bang, breaking glass and killing the cat. I approach the house carefully, gun still raised. I put my hand on the knob, the house door is open. I sneak through the living room. Prayer mats and beads lay everywhere, and in the corner of my eye I see movement. No another one. It's the wounded cat, or thing. Not again. This time I blow it's head off, from the neck to the ears. Not going to be bothered by more demons.
“Ya Cy, I told Pollin about the incidents on my way back from post, and he looks grimmer than ever. He wants to tell me what''s going on but he has orders from the Command not to, you'll see. “The cat killed three people, that's what I find strange, what do you think, a revolt by nature?” Says Cy questioningly.
“Could be, we need to tell Aberson about that when he come, I mean Pollin needs to.
“Yeah, Pollin is definitely holding something in, and it is probably going to be a killer.”
William, comes into the smoking room(which is about as small as a garden shed in UK) surprised, started, and wired, holding a phone in one hand
“Mancroft, I mean Sir, take a long look at the Times, they got news that are beyond belief!”