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Eh my muse was friendly. Now you just need to feed it with reviews.
Chief Jeffries and her team lay quietly in the long grass at the edge of the trees as they looked over the small village 200 meters in front of them. They'd had the village under surveillance since early this morning. Intel told them there were 3 of a Warlord's soldiers holed up here with family and terrorising the town. Their orders were to arrest them for War Crimes and extract them, with whatever means possible as their informant had also told them they were still heavily armed.
Jeffries had spent last evening briefing her squad plus another squad they were teaming up with to complete the mission. Everyone was present except for a skeleton crew who was guarding their now combined camp. It was a lot cosier with another squad in the confined area but they at least knew they had the comfort of numbers on their side now.
Jeffries tried to memorise the map their informant had drawn for them in her mind. From what she could see of the village the map was pretty accurate. Just a cluster of derelict houses, a small livery, town gathering place/inn, all surrounded by fields of grass. That grass may make it easier to get closer to the village without being seen but eventually they would probably just have to pull a surprise attack. She would prefer to be able to see their targets though.
They could wait maybe another hour or two but not much longer. They needed to return to base before dark or it would be too risky to move and she didn't want to be stuck out here for the night. It would be easier to guard their prisoners back at camp for the night then put them on the transport back to the compound in the morning.
Cassidy, who was lying beside her, gave her a nudge and handed her binoculars.
"Big bloke just came out of one of the target houses" he whispered to her "Well fed, un-kept, looks like a piece of shit. Definitely one of our targets"
"Well at least we know the Intel is reliable" Jeffries muttered as she took in the man. Urgh, they were all the same, greasy long hair, full beards, unwashed in appearance. They'd stink out the camp for the night. The stench back at the compound must be phenomenal.
She watched as he staggered his way through the village, smaller villagers scurrying out of his way, cringing as he barked at them as he made his way to a second target house and knocked loudly on the door. Within moments the second target came staggering out the door. She figured they were hung over, possibly even still drunk from last night.
Her luck continued to hold as the third one joined them shortly after and they were soon at the local open aired meeting place/inn consuming liquor and whatever the poor harassed waitress brought out to them. Jeffries felt like shooting them on the spot when they tried to grab her, luckily for the woman she was sober and quick on her feet. She doubted it was an uncommon occurrence for the last couple of days.
She decided it was time to move in and using hand signals told the team they would be making a move. From what she could gather they could probably crawl undetected to within approx 50 meters. From there they would just have to hope the bastards were too drunk, hung over and surprised to fight back.
It was the longest slowest crawl of her life but she forced herself to take her time, to ignore the prick of grass seeds and the occasional puddle she had to choose to either go around or through. She made sure they made as little noise as possible and stopped regularly to allow the grass to settle around them. Luckily for them the men were very lax and not at all suspicious. In fact as they got closer she could see they were not armed at all. She thought it very strange.
Once they were right on the edge of the grass she held out her hand for everyone to stop and gave the order to wait for a few minutes for the whole team to catch up and regain their breath and ready themselves. Then she counted down on her right hand, bunching her muscles preparing to jump up. 5, 4,3,2,1.
She wished she could laugh by the look of surprise on the 3 men's faces. One man fell off his stool and flounded on the ground, legs kicking in the air and unable to turn over due to his large girth as they ran forward. Another stood there and yelled at anyone who could listen, promising retribution. The third tried to run but he was so fat, drunk and uncoordinated he stumbled over a chair and did an ungraceful face plant that left a nice abrasion on his forehead.
Within moments all three were in custody and cuffed with hand ties. Jeffries gave the order for her men to go from house to hose to check that no more vermin were hiding anywhere and to seize all weapons located. While her men did as ordered she turned back to the soldiers and while they sputtered and sneered told them they were being taken to the compound and would go on trial for War Crimes. They didn't seem to care much and she shrugged and turned away from them, relieved to see the villagers were being co-operative with her men.
They didn't locate any more soldiers but they did locate their weapons and a few other crude homemade ones that the villagers had made for self defence. She allowed them to keep them and requested that they keep their eyes and ears open for other fugitives.
They left the village with well wishes and full stomachs after the people rallied enough food and water to get them through the rest of the hike back to base camp. Jeffries was flushed and full of accomplishments for the day but dared not drop her guard. There were hundreds of soldiers out there on the run, it would take them weeks to hunt down and they had been known to attack other squads in desperation. She wouldn't be happy until they were safe back at base. She checked her watch and ordered for the pace to pick up, they had 3 hours until dark and it would take all that time to get back.
Olivia was accosted when she returned to base after lunch. Their prison was full to capacity and they were still expecting an influx of arrested soldiers to come. What prisoners could be released had been, including the shit Langan who had been sent packing back to Jorje's territory.
Olivia had called an urgent meeting with anyone over the rank of Second Lt to try and sort out the logistical nightmare. They had prisoners with no place to put them, but could not leave them to wander and terrorise the innocent villagers. She looked around the small group of men and women in front of her as after an hour they had no ideas.
Finally it was a Second Lt that spoke up, she had read somewhere that back in the 21st Century there had been a prison where they kept the inmates in tents and made them wear pink. She said if they had any spare tents maybe they could segregate an area and hold the prisoners there under guard until they set up something more permanent.
Olivia was pleased and left the 2nd Lt to it with assistance from a Captain. She indicated a field near where some of the cattle were being held. Already fenced off it would make it harder for the prisoners to walk out until they could get a better fence up. Guards could stand around the edge. Olivia made the hard decision that they could fire on anyone trying to escape. With the compound and the refugees nearby she couldn't take the chance, however verbal warnings and a warning shot must be fired first. Each prisoner was to be told of his fate on arrival at the camp. They could either stay in the relative comfort of the tents and get a feed every day or risk their life trying to escape. She hoped no one did try, Alex would kill her. She had to hope they could get a more secure fence up soon. She made sure to have someone speak to the civilian engineers so they could get onto the fence ASAP.
Having completed that marathon meeting she had her driver drive her out to tent city. She sighed and rubbed her temples wearily, the long day after her illness wearing her down a bit. She checked her watch, 1500, she was looking forward to going home and crawling into bed already. Of course only after spending some time with Calvin and her wife.
She got the shock of her life when they arrived at the refugee camp. It was a hive of activity, worse than she had seen it after the influx last week. So many people were turning up on their doorstep needing assistance and by the looks all were genuinely in need. They looked tired, thin, and frail and some of them sickly. Guilt gnawed at her, why had she not taken care of the War Lords before? Obviously their people had been suffering for a very long time.
She hurried out of the Hummer, requesting that her driver come with her as they made their way into the registration tent. She winced at the noise and activity. Poor Kathy and Abbie looked hounded but the teens that were helping them looked tired but determined.
"Go take over from Major Carmichael" Olivia ordered the trainee "Tell her the General said to take a half hour break and rest."
"Yes ma'am" the trainee saluted and hurried off. Olivia headed for Kathy who was relieved to see her, she needed a break. After 5 minutes to make sure Olivia had caught on she hurried off towards the nearest ladies.
Olivia did not make an issue of being General and the tired people in front of her did not know or care what the stars on her shoulder meant. The army personnel who were helping organise families into tents were sent a look and a shake of her head. They understood that meant the chain of command was not in effect at that present time.
It was heartbreaking to see all the people herded through like cattle, but she had no time to talk with any of them and merely smiled when they offered thanks and were wearily led away. It took Kathy about 40 minutes but she returned watered and fed and raring to go for a few more hours. Olivia squeezed her arm gently and left her to it before going to check on Abbie. She too felt better after their meal. Olivia requested the trainee stay and help while she spent the afternoon walking around.
Her next port of call was the infirmary. Jonathon was there and waved her over enthusiastically to introduce her to his brothers. They did not believe she was the General and it was only hospital staff that were finally able to convince them. Of course then she had to reassure them as they were most apologetic. She spent plenty of time talking to them, listening to what life had been like under the War Lords rule and assuring them that they did not have to leave any time soon and could apply for permanent refugee status. She made sure Jonathon would meet her at 1730 for a lift back to the compound. He was staying with Fin indefinitely.
She spent another half hour walking around the infirmary speaking to people, appalled by some of their injuries and how they received them. Most were injuries inflicted by the soldiers when they refused to fight. A lot were infected and festering and had not been treated for days. The doctors, medics and nurses were very busy. Thank God for Fin bringing back all those truck load of supplies.
Next on her list was a walk around the refugee camp. She was accompanied by 2 armed guards on the trip, they wisely did not accept her claims she would be fine. She met so many grateful people as she strolled up and down the aisles. So many were thankful just to have somewhere warm to stay tonight, with a roof that didn't leak and a blanket or sleeping bag to cover them. The children were delighted with the play equipment down one end or were sharing the balls, also brought in by Fin. Olivia was never so happy to have so much unnecessary equipment on hand.
Speaking to the women who were cooking for the refugees she found out that flour and some meat and milk were in good supply but fresh vegetables and fruits were low. Olivia told them most of the refugees would be happy just to eat regularly and to save what was in short supply. She hated to have to do it so soon but maybe she would need to send Fin off for supplies already. She would also have to work out who amongst the refugees were skilled workers and get them working on rebuilding their own communities sooner rather than later.
In fact she was so eager that on the way back to the compound with Jonathon she stopped in at the Officer's Mess and grabbed the nearest Major, tasking him with overseeing the task. The poor man paled a bit but she told him to choose a Captain to help him and anyone else he could find that already did not have a task to complete. It was precious few she had to admit.
On the ride back through the tunnels she sighed wearily and closed her eyes, grateful that Jonathon was silent. He seemed to understand that now was not the time for small talk. Olivia was overwhelmed, not even as a teenager when she was responsible for the welfare of her small community did she feel quite this overwhelmed. Probably because back then there were only a few hundred of them where now she had thousands, maybe tens of thousands to help. It was a very daunting task.
It took Fin and his squad only a few hours to realise that the fleeing War Lords and their men had created as much havoc as they could. Every town they came to they found fields burnt, houses burnt and people suffering or dead. He hoped to hell that Munch found them and killed them all. He knew Olivia's wife was an advocate for the Justice System but this was one time where he just could not agree. Right now he just wanted the bastards dead.
He spent time in every village, checking to see no one had been left behind. Alive anyway. Those who were dead were buried with as much dignity as they could muster. Those who could walk were sent in the general direction of the camp on Jorje's property, those who couldn't were loaded into carts by their family and carted. Fin radioed through to the small base camp and told them to send out vehicles to intercept and prepare medics, a lot of people needed help.
Then it was onto the next village, the next scene of destruction and Fin only found himself getting angrier with each village. He wanted to stop but there were people out there who needed him, needed them all. It was a very big task that they were taking on, especially when they should be preparing for a large war. He just hoped they were up to it.
Dread filled in Munch's stomach when he saw the thin reed of smoke on the horizon through the trees. Too big to be a camp fire he knew it was some sort of structure and considering it was on the trade route he was flying over he had a sinking feeling it would be some caravans.
He radioed to the pilots of the Black Hawks to continue along the route, to hunt down the fleeing soldiers. He instructed one pilot to stay with him so he could utilise the soldiers they carried to help if anyone was injured.
They flew over the scene and the usually calm and placid Munch was furious. It was undoubtedly the remains of a caravan, still smouldering. Rather fancy by the looks of it. He could see no signs of life down there but they could be hiding in the trees.
Searching the area he saw a clearing about 400 meters away, it would be a tight fit to get both choppers down there but they would manage it. He ordered the other chopper down first while he stayed airborne, watching the rest of the aircrafts fly off into the distance, hoping they would find the trouble before they found any more innocent victims.
Once the other pilot relayed he was safely down Munch concentrated on landing his Apache. It was a tight fit as he feared but he managed to get the chopper on the ground and winding down. In short succession he ordered a couple of soldiers to stay with the aircraft while he led the rest of the team, quietly and quickly through the forest towards the burning caravan.
They approached the scene with some trepidation, noticing any horses that had been hitched to it were long gone, possibly stolen. Only charred remains stood on the road, a black outline. No canvas, little wood and wheels barely discernable. Munch guessed they were a few hours behind.
There were no signs of humans, possibly they had moved on, were off in the wood dead or had been taken captive. He shuddered to think how any women were being treated if that was the case.
The soldiers stood off in a group to the side of the caravan while he continued to explore, he didn't want to leave unless he was positive that there was no one here for him to help. Sighing he turned to a couple of men.
"Let's knock this down completely and make sure it's doused. We don't need the woods catching alight if the wind picks up" he sighed and walked off down the track to continue the search, leaving the men to it.
It was long minutes later as he searched the area down the track that he thought he heard something. If he wasn't mistaken it sounded like a groan. He paused but otherwise didn't make a show that he had heard anything. Checking the ground in front of him and towards where he thought the sound came from he saw drag marks near a large tree.
He turned to his men, catching ones eye and made some quick hand signals, pointing to the tree. Within moments half a dozen men were by his side as they slowly approached the tree, he could hear more sniffs now and low plaintive groaning. Someone was definitely hurt. Hurrying his pace while still being cautious they rounded the tree.
Munch swore and quickly handed his rifle over before holding up his hands in a gesture to show the frightened family he was unarmed.
"My name is Colonel John Munch. I am with General Benson's army. You're safe now" he assured as he took in the distraught wife and two young boys. Munch reached out and gently took the knife from the young man who was trying to hold it despite the arrow in his shoulder and being deathly pale.
"You're going to be fine, we'll get help for your shoulder" he told the man "We have doctors who can help you, you just need to relax" he turned to a soldier and ordered him to get on the radio and warn the compound they would be coming back with a trauma patient before turning back to the family.
"We are hunting the men who attacked you, I promise they will not go unpunished" he promised them and then smiled at the two young boys, no more than 4 and 6. "How'd you like to go for a ride in my Chopper?" he asked and the boys stared at him wide eyed. Turning to the wife he realised she was not much older than Olivia's wife, very young and a young mother.
Standing he offered his hands to the boys who with encouragement from their injured father stood and bravely took one each. The wife stood also but hovered as a couple of men moved forward to help the injured man. Munch winced as he cried out causing his wife and children to stress.
They took their time, all the while he spoke quietly to the husband, trying to prevent him from going into shock. He found out they were a more affluent young family from the area of New York. They had been late setting out with another group of caravans as it had taken the husband a while to realise just how much danger they were in back home. Others is their group had either turned North into Canada or been slowed. Most had stayed together while the husband had unwisely decided to push ahead alone wanting to reach the safety of the West. All in all continual bad choices had led to him being vulnerable and putting his family in jeopardy. Munch realised he was pretty much a kid himself, though having said that if they'd made such poor choices when younger they would never have survived.
They had been attacked earlier that morning by a group of about half a dozen men who stole their horses and their food and water. The husband had been too weak to move and they had decided to hide until more caravans came along. Munch told him it was very fortunate he had heard the children, they wouldn't have survived the night in the cold without shelter. Other caravans would suffer the same fate as them if they weren't out here helping. The young man looked chastised but Munch wasn't too hard on him in his current state.
It took them a good 40 minutes to get the husband back to the aircraft and loaded inside. They had to reassure the young family it was 100% safe for them. Munch ordered the pilot of the Black Hawk to fly directly back to base, the husband needed urgent medical attention, that arrow needed to come out ASAP.
Once the Black hawk was clear he took off, checking his equipment before heading in the direction he'd last seen the rest of the squad, hoping to catch up with them and assist.