Disclaimer – As usual I own nothing but a large amount of debt and a severe lack of talent. Certainly nothing to do with Skins, (which makes me very upset)
Premise – Time to follow the trials and tribulations of Sgt Naomi Campbell. I could tell you more, but then it would ruin some of the story so lets just say the clue's in the title and there will be Naomily, eventually.
Rating – M+
Warnings – As I said with Avalanche, (and this will be the last time I put this on so heed it well) it's based around Skins characters so adult themes and acts as well as bad language from the start. If you're offended by these then don't read. If you're offended or upset by anything I write then please don't read OK? If you've read my work before you know I'm not one to shy away from stuff and it's possible that there's going to be some fairly graphic bits in this, even right from the start….read the rating it's there for a reason.
Authors Note - Right, so this is my first attempt at an AU storyline so be nice. I'll dedicate this one to Nobl's for trying to convince me that I actually had an AU storyline in me, (I've always been so jealous of them), and to the nice people that read this before I posted it and told me it was worth sharing, (both of you were so kind with your words). There will be another dedication at the end, but no spoilers for now.
Oh yeah, I know virtually nothing and I'm making this stuff up, so if there are tons of factual errors please don't throw rocks at me, it's a story ok?
Finally, (yes I will get to the story eventually), please don't go pestering me for updates. This is a bit of fun I'm trying and it will take a back seat to the 'Dragons saga' I'm writing. I'll update it as often as I can, (or can be bothered), for as long as people keep reading it OK?
Thanks and enjoy
Chapter One – Blood and Dust
Helmand Province, Afghanistan – December 2009
"Fucking cold one today Sarge."
I nodded, checking the action of the C8 CQB I was carrying. It's a variant of the American M4 carbine and I fucking hated it, it had a tendency to jam when dust and sand got into the mechanism, fouling the thick, almost frozen grease and turning it into little more than an oversized baton; and there was a lot of dust and sand in this hell hole, hence my constant checking. We all did it, every last one of us. After two previous eight month tours out here and one in Basra before it we were all paranoid about our weapons jamming.
Just under four years of living on your nerves and watching your friends die does that to you…blood and dust, sometimes that's all this place seems to have.
I guess I'd better introduce myself, Sergeant Naomi Campbell - Royal Military Police, currently serving with the Close Protection Unit, stationed in Gereshk. I joined the MP's straight from school, don't ask me why. I'd always wanted to join the army, wanted to make a difference and at the time the armed forces seemed the way to go. I'd applied to join the Red Caps after deciding that someone needed to keep the rest of the army in check. Plus no-one likes us, we're pretty much loners within the British Army and that's ok with me. I've been a loner all my life.
The army's been good to me, gave me a place to live after my mum died, gave me a good education along the way and has given me some pretty good times too. Some bad times as well; you can't serve in an active duty station and not lose friends and I'd lost more than a few. It seems like half of the people that I came over here with have gone home in bags or in bits. The fucking Taliban are far too good at building their IED's, and those roadside bombs are the plague of our tours.
So anyway, here I am in the armpit of the earth, sitting in the back of an APC with my unit. It's no joke that this place is called known to the boys as the back end of hell. At the end of my last tour we were stuck in 100 degree heat during the day, this time of year it is cold enough for Satan to skate to work…and I'm fucking positive the bastard lives somewhere around here.
I fucking hate this place, still I love the job and this is now my third stay at 'Butlins Afghanistan'. Today we're escorting a high ranking Afghan officer to tour the power station at Kajaki Dam. This means a trip to pick up the package and drop him off at the heli-pad and unfortunately the only way to do this is to drive.
We fucking hate driving around this place, too many IED's and too many spots for an ambush, and the Taliban sure like ambushing us. It's as if we've got a sign around our necks saying "shoot us now" but then if they know what we do I guess we have. Killing VIP's makes good propaganda. Fortunately they haven't managed it yet, not on my watch anyway.
"Everything ready for the off Sarge?"
Captain Frederick "Freds" McClair and I had served for three of the four active duty tours I'd done with the Red Caps. He'd been just another raw Lieutenant that had joined my unit after we'd left Basra; and a barely functioning Corporal, still sick at the loss of some good friends there had been forced to educate him into how things worked in the real world, not how they taught you at Sandhurst.
We weren't friends, he was an officer and I'm a non-com but there's an unwritten law in the Army; new officers trust their non-coms to get it done and the non-coms get it done and let the officers take the plaudits and pass the credit on. It's how it works, and after two tours and promotions for both of us we trusted each other with our lives. That's just how it is.
"Yup," I replied, shouting over the din of the engine that reverberated through the armoured chassis like thunder. "We're picking up the package at 11:00hrs. It's a 45 minute drive back to the base and then an hour in the chopper to the dam. Security at the dam has been stepped up and we'll be ok once we get there. Our pick up is the most likely position for any attack and we've got two Apache gunships standing by for close air support just in case."
"Great! This guy is important to the brass; we can't let anything happen to him."
"Have we ever let them down Captain?"
"Not recently Sarge. Let's get going then."
An hour later and we're on the return journey, the package is safely tucked in the one of the armoured Huskies and the four vehicles are heading back to base and the safety of the waiting troops. It's an anxious business and every one of us that can is scanning the horizon for the danger we know might be out there; freezing our arses off despite the blazing sun.
"Oscar 1-4 this is Charlie Papa 7, we are ten mikes out and proceeding South South East, what is your status over?"
The slightly garbled sound of our air support team comes through the speakers of the radio unit. It's a familiar voice, McClair and I have worked with this flight before. Both of the crews are exceptional and they've dug us out of trouble more than once during our last tour and this one. It's good to be working with them again.
"Charlie Papa 7 this is Oscar 1-4 we are on station approximately 2 mikes to your North, we are tracking you on optical and thermal. We have no hostiles visible, over."
"Roger that Oscar 1-4, do me a favour, keep your eyes open will you. Campbell's got a bad feeling about this one."
I fucking had as well, all day it had felt as if someone had been dancing on my grave in hob-nailed boots. After Iraq I'd learned to trust my instincts, they were usually right. After our first tour in Helmand McClair had learned to trust them too, mine and his own. Sometimes you just know when things are not going to go right; the art of surviving when the shit hits the fan is being well prepared to dodge the spray.
"Will do Charlie Papa 7, never known the Sarge to be wrong yet, do you want an overflight?"
"Negative Oscar 1-4, let's not draw any unnecessary attention to ourselves."
"Willco, Charlie Papa 7. Have a good trip, shout if you need us. Oscar 1-4 Out."
McClair threw the mike back to the rookie radio operator. Jesus…this boy looked fresh out of school and fucking gormless, though I knew he'd done a tour in Iraq already with the CPU so he had to be ok…but, well...fuck he's young. I guess at 25 everyone looks young; plus his predecessor had been a really good mate of mine so I guess I was predisposed to be a bit funny about him.
Corporal Paul "Whitey" White; my best mate and our old radio monkey. He'd took a .50 cal round through the chest in Kandahar on our last day of our previous tour. We'd been on a so-called 'milk run' escorting a US officer back from a site visit when he'd been hit. Paul had literally just stepped out of the rear of the vehicle in front of me when the sniper cut him down, a lucky shot really, not for Whitey, missed his body armour by millimetres...he didn't have a fucking chance.
We'd never found the fucking sniper either, vanished like smoke into the population once we'd got the package into safety. We'd kicked in doors everywhere looking for him or her, inside we all knew it was a waste of time; we just wanted to be doing something other than boxing him up.
When we got home, after the investigations had finished; I'd been the one that went with the Captain to see his fiancée, Gill was in the final weeks of her pregnancy and they were due to be married the next spring. Paul had even asked me to be his 'best man'. All three of us had laughed at the thought of that, Whitey had told Gill that I was more of a man that most of his mates, and I could drink harder than most of them as well. It was a good memory that one; we'd been so happy. Seeing Gill's face that day as she opened the door…well, let's just say it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Afterwards she told me she never wanted to see me again...and she never did. I couldn't face that look of anguish; the look of betrayal, the look that told me it was all my fault, the one that blamed me for being alive whilst her fiancée was dead.
I'd never got pally with anyone else since that day. PTSD and 'Survivor Guilt' the medics had called it, pretty labels for ancient problems that's all they were. Mental fucking Survival is a better description. From that day on the people I served with were my boys and I looked after them like a good Sergeant does. I hurt with them, I bled with them, but I never let them get too close. Whiteys loss had affected me too much to let that happen again.
I looked on as the youngster misjudged another dip in the road surface and smashed back into his seat, the radio set once again taking the brunt of the impact.
"Oi, Jenkins! If you twat that radio once more on the side of this vehicle I will personally force-feed you its broken innards."
I got a dig in my ribs from McClair at that, and a nod to the General who was looking on with interest. I looked across at his piggy little eyes that were regarding me with what looked suspiciously like lust.
"Sorry Sir. Got to keep the little buggers in check, you know how it is."
'Yeah, fuck you piggy-eyes. If you don't like the way I keep my men alive why don't you get some of your troops to escort you to and from that posh fucking home you live in? Let them get fucking shot at instead of us.'
Rather than say it, I just look back at him, holding his look, waiting for him to back down, thinking the words and hoping this ignorant, womanising twat would understand. Fucks sake, brass, can't live with them can't fucking shoot them. Instead of backing down his eyes shone with desire and he opened his mouth to speak to me.
"It is unusual to see a woman in such an important role Sergeant; you must be an exceptional soldier as well as an exceptional beauty. I would be delighted if you would meet with me sometime. We do not have many female troops in the Afghan Army; it would be interesting to hear your viewpoint on that."
The smile on his fat fucking face told me that talking was the last thing he was interested in, slimy little shit. Fortunately Captain McClair was not only astute but the soul of formality.
"General I'll pass your request on up the chain. I'm sure someone would be delighted to discuss that with you. I'm not sure I'll be able to release Sgt Campbell here, as you say she's an exceptional soldier. But it is so nice to hear a progressive viewpoint..."
He didn't get time to finish his sentence as the lead vehicle fifty meters in front of us detonated in a blaze of fire. There's a second explosion somewhere behind us and within seconds we're taking incoming small arms fire. The sudden hammering of bullets hitting the armoured sides of the Husky is almost deafening, like having your head inside a drum whilst Dave Grohl goes on a grunge fest.
"Ambush!" the gunner shouted, his 7.62mm machine gun spitting rounds out as fast as it could.
"No shit Sherlock." I shouted back, experience and training taking over, taking stock of the situation immediately.
"Adams, you sit on the General here, you are not to let him out of your fucking sight you understand? If anything happens to him you better shoot yourself son because it will be better than explaining what happened to me. Understand?"
He nodded calmly and took up station, his body in front of the General. He's a good lad Adams, he has promise. I move towards Jenkins who is already cranking up the radio to HQ when I'm suddenly alerted by a shout from the gunner.
"Sarge, looks like we've got Taliban on both sides of the road, they've got AK's and...RPG! EVERYONE DOWN!"
The vehicle is rocked as the grenade round smashes into the engine bay, the driver and coey are killed immediately; as, I assume from the blood pouring onto my head, is the gunner. The rest of us are thrown backwards by the blast. As I pick myself up from the floor I realise I'm pretty much unhurt, but Adams and the General are dead, a four foot piece of steel piercing both of their bodies, skewering them together. Unfortunately for us, they're not the only ones dead.
"FUCK! We've lost the package Sir, Adams, Jones, Harris and Chambers are dead too."
McClair spat blood onto the floor of the APC and shook his head a couple of times before speaking.
"Campbell, get Jenkins and the radio and get into cover, they'll probably hit us again. Get those fucking gunships onto our position and get battalion to send us some backup. Get moving Sarge, let's try and keep our people alive here."
That's what I liked about the young Captain; he'd learnt his lessons well. No panic, no fuss. He knew exactly what we needed to do. Well he should, I'd taught him everything he knew.
Dragging Jenkins to his feet I kicked open the rear doors of the, now shredded, APC. Seeing movement ahead of me I pulled the C8 to my shoulder and lined up my target, the fucker is carrying an AK and is shooting at the number three vehicle that seems to be on fire. Dropping to one knee I let off three shots and smile as the fucker drops to the floor at least two of the rounds hitting him cleanly. Dimly I realise that the insurgent was little more than a kid; I gloss over that unimportant fact, we're under fire and there are more important things to think about than some murdering scumbags age.
"Come on Jenkins, out the fucking door and into those rocks. I'll cover you. Ready? On three...one...two...THREE!"
He leapt out of the vehicle like the devil was after him, or more accurately like a bunch of militant Taliban were after him; and sprinted to the cover point. I ran after him taking snap shots at anything that moved that wasn't wearing our uniform. Behind me I could hear Captain McClair doing the same. I think I hit two more of our ambushers but I couldn't be sure. The books talk about the fog of war, that's fucking bullshit, it's not fog, it's smoke; it's always fucking smoke. This time it's the smoke pouring from our vehicles that's obscuring our view. In fact it's probably the only thing that saved the three of us as we're able to use it to our advantage and hit the rocks through its cover. There's an element of luck involved as well as I can hear the rounds hissing through the air viciously around us as we run. At least they're not clever, shooting into the smoke 'just in case' is a sure fire way of wasting your ammunition. Thank the gods for stupid enemies.
In cover and changing magazine, I'm looking for the rest of the unit through the rocks we've ducked into. I can definitely see that three of the four vehicles are down but I can't see the fourth through the smoke, I offer a silent prayer hoping they've ok but suspecting the worse. I can hear small firefights around me so at least some of the guys are out and safe. I suspect they'll be doing better than the Taliban; we may have all been trained in Military Law and police techniques, but the CPU get serious combat and security training. We know what we're fucking doing and this bunch of sneaky bastards is about to find that out.
"Oscar 1-4 this is Charlie Papa 7, we are under attack, repeat under attack from multiple contacts. We need air support and backup and we need it now guys, danger close, repeat danger close. Popping green smoke for friendlies."
McClairs made it into our cover and has taken the radio from Jenkins and is calling in the heat…fucking awesome.
"Charlie Papa 7 this is Oscar 1-4 we are on our way, repeat on our way. We have multiple targets on TADS, confirm that we see green smoke as friendly and danger is close. Keep your heads down boys; this is going to be tight."
"Sarge, pop another smokie; we've got air support incoming."
I grab a green smoke canister from my bulky body armour and pull the pin, throwing it into the open space in front of us. Almost immediately we come under heavy fire.
"Fucks sake they've got a gimpy out there."
They've certainly got something, and it sounds like a gimpy, the old L7 GPMG. It's a vicious weapon and I really wished I had one in front of me right now. The rocks we're taking cover behind are being battered with 7.62mm rounds from the machine gun and the AK's the insurgents are using. Not for the first time I'm glad I've got the Bollé's over my eyes as my cheek and lip is opened up by a flying splinter leaving a mark on the hardened plastic.
"You OK Sarge?" Freds shouts from his position on my right flank.
"Yeah, flesh wound." I replied, wiping away the blood with the sleeve of my jacket. "I'll be fine. What you got your side?"
"I've got three possibly four trying to flank us. I think the gimpy is locked on you Sarge."
"Jenkins? What you got son."
There's no reply. I look across to my left to see him lying face down in the sand, a pool of blood issuing from his throat.
"We've lost Jenkins Cap." I shout across as I return fire at two onrushing ambushers hitting a target cleanly through the chest and wounding his mate with the burst. Taking careful aim I shot the bastard through the drifting smoke as he tried to crawl to his dropped weapon. I only got off two good rounds before the C8 locked open, it's chamber empty.
I hit the ejector lever and start to jam a fresh clip into the receiver; before I can get it into place I see two figures jump up onto the side of our cover and start firing wildly. Freds hits one of them with a clean burst and I watch as he drops, fumbling with my sidearm to shoot the other. As I half drag the SIG out of its pouch I watch, unable to do anything to help, as Freds takes a full burst to the chest and face, and then stare in horror at the barrel of the AK swings towards me. I can see the evil smile on my opponents face as he pulls the trigger and I brace for the inevitable impact.
The first round catches me in the right thigh and it hurts like a bastard and I drop to the floor in agony. The next hits me in my body armour, knocking me backwards, taking away my breath and probably cracking my ribs, the third grazes my left shoulder ripping through my jacket and the soft flesh underneath and the fourth passes though my bicep. The rest of the burst smashes into the rocks and sand, showering me with shards of rock and hot metal.
Frankly I'm lucky, that second round would probably have passed just under my body armour if I'd still been standing; falling like that has probably saved my life. Fighting through the pain that's washing through my body I finally manage to drag my sidearm from its leg holster and weakly I aimed it towards my assailant as he lined up his rifle for the kill shot. Slowly he tracked the barrel back until it was pointing right at my eyes and he pulled the trigger. I watched as his face fell and his eyes glanced briefly down to the rifle which has made a click that I can hear over the firefight around me, the bolt locked open, his magazine spent.
You know those scenes in movies? The ones where the hero takes a bullet to their body armour and carries on as if nothing has happened? Or even better the ones where they get shot clean through the shoulder and act as if they're not even hurt? Let me tell you now it's bullshit. Absolute fucking bullshit. The only thing that's keeping me going right now is gut instinct and training; lots and lots of training. I know I'm losing blood, I can feel it ebbing away; I can't breathe properly; the hit into the plate over my chest has taken the impact, but not without breaking one or two of my ribs. I can barely hold the weapon I've stood on a range with and shot for hours. Normally aiming it straight isn't a problem; right now I can barely lift it.
Knowing that it's vital that I make this one last effort before the fucker manages to reload; I raise the seemingly dead weight of my pistol to my eye line. Carefully I line up the iron sights on him and squeeze the trigger, once, twice, three times. It's about all I can manage, the recoil feels like it is ripping my body to pieces and it's all I can do to bring the weapon down for the next shot. Despite this, despite the wounds my aim is true, well almost. My first round hit him through the chest knocking him backwards, the second entered under his chin and exited through the top of his head spraying blood and brains onto the rocks around him. I've no idea where the third round went; don't really care either as I drop the SIG and slump back against the rock, my energy spent.
As I watched him fall to the ground, the air around me very nearly boiled as our air support finally got here, filling the sky with 30mm cannon rounds and hydra rockets. The last thing I see as the darkness grips me is Freds' body sprawled on the sand, eyes open staring right at me as fire rolled around us.
A/N- Dedicated to all those brave souls of all nationalities, beliefs and gender that serve and do what they feel is right. It's a shame we need them. War sucks people, one day I hope we'll learn that.