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We have not got a thread for FICTIONAL stories. I'd like to start one here.


Phil Perry
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I just alluded to this on RecFlying, as, since articles by my mate Blown Periphery seem to be popular,. . .I would like to introduce you to his Fictional military stories, derived no doubt by a long career in the Military.

 

This is a 'Taster' and is posted out of sequence in quite a well connected story. . .It should give you an idea of why I find his stories a rivetting read. . .I hope that you will agree, and cn post more if anyone likes the subject matter. This story is military in nature, and therefore contains some 'naughty words' which the automodbot will delete, but I cannot bring myself to edit such a good author. Please let me know what you think.

 

War Crimes Part 10 – SERE and the RAF Loadmaster’s Story

 

15th December 2017 - Blown Periphery Fiction.

 

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This is fiction. Any resemblance to any persons living or dead is coincidental. The events outlined have never to my knowledge occurred. Some of the locations are real.

 

 

The Nimrod MR4A had been replaced by a USAF Rivet Joint flying out of Incirlik in Turkey. The updated Boeing 707 was in a gentle holding pattern, 35,000 feet above Falluja. It was monitoring cell phone traffic and tens of thousands of bytes of data could be processed every few seconds, the sensors’ electronic brains programmed to detect certain key words and phrases. CIA trained interpreters would listen in to calls of interest.

 

Three consoles down towards the less glamorous rear of the aircraft, signals from two Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) suddenly appeared and were beamed back to the aircraft from a geostationary satellite over the Persian Gulf, one of many. The USAF Master Sergeant zoomed in her console to show Basra City and the surrounding waterways. She notified her supervisor.

 

“Captain, I think we’ve got a bird down in Basra.”

 

“Really?” he looked over her shoulder at the city map and saw the two signals, so close together it looked like a single trace apart from the datum labels, “Let’s get a real time view from Cyclops.”

 

The Master Sreergeant manipulated the display via computer programme and the image of the city appeared on her console. They were viewing a real-time picture with a delay allowing for satellite links of a few seconds.

 

“It was by that island, down from the bridge. Can you superimpose the readout from the PLBs onto the real-time satellite telemetry?”

 

She shook her head, “No, but I can run the two displays in parallel.”

 

She zoomed in and they saw the wreck of a helicopter, very badly mangled and partially obscured by reeds and vegetation at the side of the river.

 

“One of ours?”

 

“Don’t think so,” he said. “Brit, probably a Puma, certainly not a CH 47.”

 

“One of them is on the move.”

 

They watched the red dot marking the last known ping move south along the river, leaving a trail of green dots marking the progress.

 

“I can’t see him. Can you zoom in?”

 

“They must be in the undergrowth as I’m at max magnification. How do you know it’s a he?”

 

“Sorry, sexist assumption.”

 

Survive

 

Ladies and gentlemen, your survival will be the most catastrophic event of your lives. You are alive, but you are at your weakest and most vulnerable. The decisions that you make in the next ten minutes will ultimately decide whether you have grandchildren, or come home in a flag draped coffin. The problems you will face at the beginning of the ordeal are exactly the same faced by crew of a Lancaster bomber who have bailed out, or a paratrooper who has been accidently dropped in the wrong area behind enemy lines.

 

At this point your duty is to continue the fight by other means. It is time to repay the taxpayer for your training and for you members of the one and two winged master race, it’s no longer about poncing around in your growbags, looking cool. Your sworn duty is to survive, evade, resist and extract.

 

The interior of the Puma was a shambles, the aircraft lying partially on its port side. Half of the interior was full of stinking, muddy water. Gilmore groaned and pulled himself into the cockpit, having to push the pilot’s body out of the way. The instrument panel had come forward and seemed to be pinning Louise’s bloody legs. He went in further until his back was resting on the panel and he twisted to get to her face. There was a searing bolt of agony in the side of his chest and he contemplated passing out again.

 

“Louise, you OK?”

 

She wasn’t breathing so Gilmore wriggled his fingers into each side of her helmet and felt for the angles of the jaw, hooking his index and middle fingers behind the angle of the mandible. He put his thumbs on her cheekbones and gently pulled her jaw forward. Louise gasped, coughed and showered his face with bright red frothy blood.

 

“Is that you, Gary? I can’t see.”

 

“It’s all right Lou, I’m here. You’ve got blood in your eyes, only a bit. “I’ll get you out.”

 

She felt for his face and caressed it, “You’d better get out of here, Gary.”

 

“I’m not leaving you!”

 

“Gary, I’m going to die. There’s something inside me and it’s done terrible damage. I can’t feel anything below my chest and my legs are smashed to fuck.”

 

“Oh, Louise,” he sobbed.

 

“Stop grizzling Gary and go.”

 

Despite his pain, he hugged her, “Oh, Louise.”

 

“I always loved, you Gary. Does that surprise you?”

 

“Yes,” he was weeping openly now.

 

“Fuck off, Gary, while you still can.”

 

Evade

 

It is vital that you have a plan. Something to work towards, otherwise events will overwhelm you. Be sure of what you are doing, your goal and how to achieve it. But at this point your overwhelming consideration must be to put as much distance between you and your ejection, crash site or landing point as possible.

 

He headed south, following the course of the river, which was too wide to swim across. There was a pontoon bridge by the zoological gardens and he might be able to cross it in the water, moving from one pontoon to another. He was aiming for the British base that was at Basra Palace. He could hear helicopters but none of them came close enough for him to show himself. It was very boggy underfoot in the reeds and his progress was slow. He could hear shouting and vehicles from his left. Someone was obviously looking for him.

 

In the distance behind him, he heard men shouting Allahu Akbar and firing in the air. They had found the helicopter. He tried not to think of Louise, part of him hoping she had died quickly. The injury to his chest was slowing him down and he was gasping for breath. He would have to go to ground.

 

You should keep moving unless injury or the enemy’s physical presence demands that you hide up. If a location is obvious to you, it will be obvious to those who are searching for you.

 

In a creek joining the river from the north, he came across a pipe or conduit and it was just big enough for him to wriggle into. It was a sewage pipe, but he was beyond caring.

 

*

 

“I think he’s stopped moving. And let’s not get bogged down with the PC bullshit. I’m assuming it’s a he, which is reasonable.”

 

There was a sizable group huddled round the console. “There’s a group of bad guys following him on the road above the river bank. They must have others in the undergrowth. They’re good.”

 

The immobile dot at the crash site disappeared off the screen.

 

“They’ve found the bird,” the Master Sergeant observed.

 

The group on the road moved down towards the river bank, heading towards the immobile red dot. It didn’t move and ten minutes later, it too disappeared.

 

“They’ve got him.”

 

Resist

 

This is not going to be pleasant hearing for many of you. With all respect for the brave lads of Bomber Command, you won’t have the luxury of a roughing-up in Dulag Luft, where a frightfully civilized German officer offers you a cigarette. There will be no Stalag Luft III where you can dig tunnels, forge documents and sing Christmas Carols.

 

Ladies. You are going to be raped many times and continually by many different men. Gentlemen, you will be forced to watch your female comrades abused and beaten, then it will be your turn. The filth who have you, don’t care what sort of orifice it is. It’s just another way of stamping their authority, barbarity and control over you.

 

And one day, sooner or later, they will drag you in front of a camera and very slowly, they will cut your head off. Reflect on that and decide on which way you want to die.

 

They dragged Gilmore out of the conduit and stripped him of his body armour, smock, boots and trousers. His Glock was waved in front of his face, and he cursed, because like the unmilitary PONTI that he was, he had forgotten all about it. They found the PLB and smashed it up, before dragging him to a waiting people carrier where he was hooded and thrown inside. The men with him reeked of filth and tobacco. In the back of the vehicle, Gilmore received the first of many beatings. There was no hardbody bitch wearing just skimpy bra and pants, laughing at the size of his cock and blowing cigarette smoke in his face. He wasn’t forced to stand in stress positions against a wall. The fists, boots and rifle butts were very hard and very real and very painful.

 

He could tell despite the stinking hood that the vehicle was going across a bridge back into the city. He even knew that he was heading west because of that innate sense of direction that aircrew develop. He also knew that he was a high-value catch and he was deeply in the shit. They dragged him out of the vehicle and dragged him down two flights of stairs to some kind of basement. Judging by the smell of oil and fuel, it was a garage of some kind. He was thrown against the wall and the hood was dragged off. It was an underground car park. Then there followed the inevitable ritual of a few kicks and slaps, some random and pointless spitting in his face and some nice selfies where various, assorted Iraqis gurned to mobile phone cameras, holding Gilmore’s hair, which he had allowed to grow to a convenient length. Then someone pissed on him and how they laughed. In fact they all thought it such a good idea they were queuing up to empty their bladders on one of the Royal Air Force’s finest. In between the odd, random twatting with an AK47 butt.

 

Then they left, leaving Gilmore to be guarded with a lad who couldn’t have been much older than sixteen. His AK was real enough though. Gilmore looked at the lad and smiled. He looked away, scowling with a certain self-importance. He was in charge. Gilmore studied him. It soon became obvious that this lad was simple. To describe him with a word that Gilmore hated, the boy was a retard. His eyes burned with self-importance, but he was a gapped-tooth simpleton, a few chromosomes short of a picnic.

 

Your first few minutes after capture are crucial. The longer that you are held by the enemy, the deeper into their system you will go. The more difficult it will be for us to find you and for you to escape. You must take your chance as and when it arises.

 

“Do you want to see a trick?”

 

The boy stepped back and shouted something in Arabic. Nobody came to see what was going on. OK, might be promising.

 

“I can pull my thumb off.”

 

The boy spat at him.

 

“Seriously I can.”

 

Gilmore showed him the timeless trick of pulling his thumb off by deftly manipulating his hands. The boy’s eyes widened and he leaned in, then realised what an important job he had been given and stepped back, unslinging the AK.

 

“Can I have a cigarette please?” Gilmore asked and made a pretence of smoking with his hand.

 

The boy grinned. His teeth were manky, “Fuk yoo,” he said and laughed.

 

Gilmore smiled and held up his thumb again. The boy leaned closer.

 

“I’ll show you how, for a cigarette.”

 

The thumb came away from the rest of the hand, yet again. Gilmore showed him his open hand.

 

“No thumb here. See?”

 

The lad grinned and leaned further forward. Gilmore rammed his index and middle fingers into the boy’s eyes. He felt an eyeball burst and was nauseated and disgusted with himself. The boy screamed and clutched his face as vitreous humor trickled past his fingers down his face. Gilmore forced himself to remember a dying Louise and he rammed the butt of the AK into the boy’s face. He was screaming with a high-pitched wail of a child. He was up and trying to drag the rifle away from the boy, but the sling was twisted round his neck. Gilmore was on his feet and he was stamping hard down with his heel. He felt the boy’s nasal cartilage break under his foot and the screaming stopped.

 

Out of here. Which way? Stairs? No they’ll be having a fag at the top. Up the ramps. The coarse concrete hurt his feet but soon he was out in an alley, blinking in the harsh midday sunlight. He ran down the alley, the rubbish shredding the soles of his feet.

 

I’m out, I’m fucking well out!

 

The car hit him from the side and he thudded up the bonnet and over the roof. Something went inside. There were at least four that arrived and proceeded to beat him to a pulp. This was the mother of all beatings and he went under gratefully, through a pink mist of his own blood.

 

*

 

He didn’t know how long he had been awake. His head felt twice its normal size. His back and kidneys ached. His liver was burning and he could barely see out of his swollen eyeballs. The man in the suit spoke to him, Gilmore’s head lolled forwards and he puked bloody bile. The man in the suit started screaming at the other men with guns, incandescent with rage. He slapped one of them around the head, gesticulating to the bloody body in the corner, sitting in its own blood, piss and vomit.

 

That evening they moved him. Very gently this time. Gilmore drew back into himself. He knew he was going to die, but he conserved enough strength and moral fibre to be sure he would take the man wielding the knife with him.

 

Extract

 

Never give up hope. If we can find you, we will come and get you. All the assets we have at out our disposal will be applied to come and save your arse. When we come, do everything we tell you to. It will be sudden, very noisy and very violent.

 

Satellites had scoured the city in all modes. Tornado GR4s flew endless sorties above the city with their RAPTOR Pods, but is was Mk I eyeball that found him. An eyeball belonging to a young woman who had grown up in Derby, had failed her GCSEs and who’s dad had the sense to insist that she went to college and pass English and Maths. A daughter who joined the army at eighteen as a supplier, who saw a notice in Daily Orders for volunteers for duties of an arduous and unusual nature.

 

Now she was just another woman in an Arab city. Shrouded from head to foot in a Chador, from which her beautiful eyes peered. The car hooted angrily at her and she dropped the washing she had been carrying. As she picked up the folded clothes and dusted them off, she watched the car grind to a halt and three men drag out a body wearing Service issue boxers and a brown tee-shirt. Because she was just another, shrouded and oppressed, worthless woman in an Arab city, nobody took the slightest notice of her. This piece of chattel had a Glock under her Chador and a Fairbairn Sykes fighting knife tucked into her knickers. She also had a VHF radio, throat mike and earpiece and she clicked her jaw to activate the radio.

 

“I’ve got him. Position as follows…”

 

*

 

Gilmore could tell it was dark because the air smelled differently. They had carried camera, sound and lighting equipment into the room next to where he lay chained to a radiator. Tomorrow they were going to decapitate him. Tonight they would give him a drink, heavily laced with drugs to make him dopey and compliant. He would stare at the camera, glaze-eyed while they sawed through his neck. Well fuck them! He was going to go down fighting. He would make himself sick rather than ingest the tranquilisers. He thought about how he was going to kill the knifeman. It was difficult with arms tied behind the back. Perhaps smashing his head, thick frontal bone first into the nose and maxilla area. With any luck he would knock himself out. Anyway, a knifeman with blood pissing down his face wouldn’t look too good on Al Jazeera. Gilmore smiled grimly.

 

“Fuk yoo Tommy. Tomorrow choppy-chop,” his guard said seeing him smile.

 

“Fuck you, you inbred piece of Mohammed shit. The best part of you dribbled out of your Dad’s camel’s arse. Your mother fucked goats coz they are better at fucking than your…”

 

The door blew in off its hinges and Gilmore instinctively went down. Three stun grenades went off in quick succession and Gilmore’s eardrums went with them. Four men piled into the room and the guard disappeared in a red mist.

 

“GILMORE STAY DOWN!” someone yelled.

 

The bursts of gunfire lit up the room. The makeshift studio went up with a thermite bomb and a man staggered out on fire. He was cut down and fired upon whilst writhing on the ground. A torch taped to a rifle swept the room and steadied on a cowering body. A man looked at his face, a brute of a man who was strangely familiar.

 

“Gilmore?”

 

“Urgh.”

 

Someone appeared from the darkness with bolt cutters while the man with the gun placed his hand gently on Gilmore’s head. He was swept up and screamed as powerful arms slung him across broad shoulders. His broken ribs were shrieking in protest. He was carried outside to where a Chinook was on the hover and he was half given and half thrown to the waiting medics inside. Gilmore screamed again and decided that this would be a good time to pass out. And he did,

 

*

 

It was difficult to sleep in the evacuation ward of the Role 2 at Basra Air Station. Faye had gone, sobbing, meaning well but really not helping at all. It was difficult for him not to feel sorry for himself. For someone as vain as Giles Gilmore, it was a shock when he saw his smashed and ruined face in a mirror. He was due to go home on the Tristar that night. In a way, Gilmore was lucky. There was a Czech general surgeon with a specialisation in oral and maxilla facial surgery in the field hospital at Shaibah. His jaws were wired to stabilise them and wire cutters were tie-wrapped to his wrist. If he was going to vomit, he would have to cut the wire cleats holding his shattered mandible and maxilla together, rather than choke to death. It would take several operations to rectify his crushed cheek bones and the orbital floor of his left eye. Gilmore felt sorry for himself, then he thought of Louise and he cried. His hot, salty and futile tears seemed to put it all in perspective.

 

The ward sister, a kindly woman with a soul and compassion rather than a degree, took Faye into the ward office. She gave the sobbing girl a tissue.

 

“I know he looks a right old mess now, but he will get better.”

 

Faye looked at her with forlorn hope.

 

“All that swelling will go down and his face is a bit lopsided because they broke some of the bones in his face. They’ll do some operations and in six months he’ll be fine and as handsome and vain as ever.”

 

The young girl cried her heart out while the older woman cuddled her, trying hard not to think that all men were bastards.

 

“But the problem is, you mean well, but you’re not really helping. He’s been through an awful lot and is probably now at the guilt stage, because he survived and the others didn’t. You remind him of what has happened, and I know you don’t want to. Just let him go for a bit. Let him get it out of his system. He’s going home tonight, but you’re staying here, so you need to think about you. Get it?”

 

Faye smiled gratefully, “Thanks ma’am. I didn’t think of it like that. I’m here for a few more months.”

 

“Yes dear, you are. And so am I. There will be a lot more Mr Gilmores to take care of.”

 

The nurse smiled sadly once the young MT driver had gone. She went into the area behind the medical facility where they parked the ambulances and enjoyed a cigarette. An hour later, someone else wanted to see Sergeant Giles “Gary” Gilmore. He was the sort of person who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

 

“Ten minutes, max!” she said.

 

“Don’t worry. It won’t take that long.”

 

Gilmore opened his eyes and saw a hard-faced man scrutinising him.

 

“I know you,” Gilmore mumbled through immobile jaws.

 

“Probably,” the man agreed.

 

“You came to get me.”

 

“Me and a few more blokes. And ladies too. Aren’t you lucky?”

 

“I don’t feel very lucky.”

 

“Well dry your eyes, coz I’ve got a present for you.”

 

The man held up a black, cylindrical object. It was a particularly nice flask, the type beloved by aircrew that doubled as a large, insulated mug.

 

Gilmore laughed. It was the first time he felt good for a long time. The man tossed the flask onto the bed and smiled, but the warmth didn’t quite seem to reach his eyes.

 

“Seeing as how you saved my life, I would like to thank you…”

 

“Edge, my name is Edge.”

 

He turned and left.

 

“Bye, Edge.” Gilmore closed his eyes and slept.

 

 

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If you've read the above story, you will recall the 'Woman' who found the loadmaster's location and reported it. . . . . .this is HER story, as a second taster from Blown Periphery. . . .

 

War Crimes Part Eighteen – The Girl from the “Det”

 

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This is fiction. Any resemblance to any persons living or dead is coincidental. The events outlined have never to my knowledge occurred. Some of the locations are real.

 

The Special Reconnaissance Regiment, or SRR, (formerly 14 Intelligence Company) is a special reconnaissance unit of the British Army. It was established on 6 April 2005 and is part of the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) under the command of Director Special Forces, alongside the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS) and the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG).

 

The regiment conducts a wide range of classified activities related to covert surveillance and reconnaissance. The SRR draws its personnel from existing units and can recruit male and female volunteers from any branch of the British Armed Forces. All of the confirmable information has been openly sourced from the internet and other open-source media. It contains no classified information. It is fiction.

 

It is dedicated to all those elected and non-elected people who think that the Army’s “Be the Best” recruiting mission statement is elitist. Congratulations, you now live in a country that celebrates mediocrity.

 

It is very difficult to get a poor, post operational report unless you clash severely with someone in your command chain or you are a complete tube. SAC Kahn’s post operational report was by any measure absolutely exceptional and it was signed off by the Director of UK Special Forces. She was interviewed by the Station Commander of RAF Marham and congratulated. Two days later a man in a dark civilian suit interviewed her in the Station’s conference and briefing facility. He was well-spoken and his eyes never left hers, which she found disconcerting.

 

“Ms Kahn, have you ever heard of a unit known as 14 Intelligence Company?”

 

“No.”

 

“I have some literature that I would like you to read. It is of a rather sensitive nature and you should not let it out of your sight. When you have read and thoroughly understood it, please give it to the chief clerk or station duty officer for safe keeping. I would like you to consider the offer we are making on the final page.”

 

That was it, he gave her a card with just his name and a military telephone number, shook her hand and left. She read it and re-read it several times that late morning and afternoon, then made her way to the Station Headquarters and the Chief Clerk.

 

“I was given this paperwork this morning, Flight. I would like to formally apply for special duties.”

 

“Are you sure? This will be for years, not just a few months on an operational tour.”

 

It was as though he had been expecting her. He had.

 

“Honestly, I’ve thought it through and made my mind up.”

 

“He sighed, “All right, but think it through again tonight and if you’re sure, come back in the morning and we’ll start the ball rolling as far as the paperwork goes. You’ll need to go for a briefing to __________ and from now on, everything to do with this is classed a Secret UK Eyes Only. That includes everything you say. For what it’s worth, I think you’re incredibly brave. You’ve proved that, but the next few years if you’re successful will be grinding and gruelling. You may not come out of it at the other end the person you were when you went into it. You may not come out of it at all. Think on that, SAC Kahn.”

 

*

 

It started with medicals and aptitude tests. They became progressively harder as did the physical training. Five mile runs became ten, then fifteen. Then carrying weight. One hour circuit training followed by a swim and then a run. She would be woken in the early hours and made to do aptitude tests. She was taught how to memorise things by word association, then made to run to checkpoints and memorise the contents of cached ammunition boxes. She would have to run to a certain place, reconnoitre it then run back and produce a scale tactical map.

 

The training became progressively harder. She was kept awake and given no food and water for what seemed like days. She was stripped and hosed down in a cell with a fire hose, while men would laugh at her as she tried to cover herself. She was interrogated, beaten and hurt in extremely cunning ways that left no marks. And all the time there were less and less of them. She lost count of the number of times she wanted to jack it in, but some perverse attitude kept saying “feck them.”

 

She spent endless hours on a range firing various hand guns and machine pistols. Never stationary. She fired out through the windscreens of cars and learned to drive defensively and aggressively with police drivers, clocking up speeds of over 100mph through country lanes. Then she learned how to fight with knives, everyday objects and knees, elbows and hands, never fists and always in defence. Make-up artists from London theatres showed them how to change their appearance and gender with theatrical make-up and wigs. Members of the Magic Circle showed them how to perform sleight of hand tricks and conceal objects around and in their bodies. She was taught how not to walk and run like a girl.

 

The culmination of their training consisted of her syndicate being given a target of strategic importance. A nuclear power station, a high security prison, a prominent, well-guarded person, an airport or a crucial military establishment. The syndicate would research and reconnoitre their given objective. Produce detailed models and plans of the target and fully understand its everyday routine and workings. Then they would separately plan a means of infiltration and carrying out their given task. There followed a Character Assassination Group (CAG), where the syndicate members would forensically tear the plan to pieces and pick holes. The person whose plan they all thought had the best chance of success, was elected team leader.

 

Afarin’s plan was voted as being the second worst, and using the best plan her syndicate infiltrated an RAF airfield in Scotland. In broad daylight they placed a teddy bear wearing a fake explosive belt in the cockpit of a Tornado F3 in the Quick Reaction Alert Hardened Aircraft Shelter. They also left a bright red oil drum marked “bomb” in the cellar area of the officers’ mess bar, and stole the Station Commander’s car from outside SHQ. The Station Commander who was also AOC Scotland was in it at the time.

 

She had done it. She had taken the exhaustion, abuse, physical and mental pain and self-doubt and got through. The little Girl from Derby was now a member of the “Det.”

 

*

 

It was always the kids that provided the signpost. Follow the gutter rats to find out where the action is. This area of Basra was a ghastly sprawl of poorly-constructed, single-story buildings, set in a filthy, rubbish-strewn district north of the Abu Mustafa markets. She glanced across at the other side of the street where her shadow was keeping sight of her. Malik was dressed as a poor workman, his beard was unkempt and his dish-dash filthy from the engines and vehicles he was supposed to be working on. She was shrouded in a Chador, the all-covering garb favoured by Shia Muslim women in the predominantly Shia city of Basra. She was a washer woman, a basket of washing balanced on her head. She even shimmied her arse like the Shia women, because she had been taught to walk like them.

 

She was the eyes. Malik was her back stop, her protection in the febrile atmosphere of a city in the midst of insurrection. Two hundred metres behind them was a Toyota pick-up, their Q-car with the heavy artillery should the shit really hit the fan. The JAM had already taken two SAS undercover operatives who should have known better, that morning and the insurgents were not in the mood for finding more on their doorstep. They were following the trickles of the street urchins northwards, and more heavily armed men, wearing the black of the JAM were apparent, lurking on roofs and in alleyways. Ahead was the only substantial building in this slum district, the two-story, brutalist architecture of the Muwafaqiya Police Station.

 

She made a close observation as she approached, noting the aerials and satellite dishes on the roof, along with the myriad of black-garbed JAM armed with assorted RPGs and AK 47s. The British were reaping the fruits of their inability and unwillingness to occupy and police Iraq’s second largest city. The JAM had poured into the vacuum and they now effectively ran the city. The building was surrounded by RPG screens, a throw-back to a time before the British Army handed it back to the criminally corrupt Shia police force. She made an unobvious circuit of the building, remembering doorways, windows, loading bays and all ways in and out of the complex. On the last quarter a member of the JAM came up to her and shouted in accented Arabic:

 

“Get out of here, you disgusting split-arse. Why are you not with a chaperone?”

 

“I am a widow, and I must make a living collecting washing. My children have to eat,” she replied in Arabic, avoiding eye contact. She suspected this man was Iranian, possibly Revolutionary Guard.

 

He kicked her, “Get away. You disgust me.”

 

She hurried back down the street while her shadow watched the JAM militiaman. Bored with his misogyny, he went back into the police station. Two blocks away, the Toyota pickup was waiting. Malik got in the cab with the other two men. Afarin naturally got in the back because she was a woman. The rear glass window was slid open and as they headed back to the safe house, Afarin told them what she had observed.

 

“You take too many risks,” Malik told her in a mixture of annoyance and concern.

 

“At least we now know where the JAM are holding them. They’ll need to move fast.”

 

Their safe house was in Al Quiba in the south of the city, a nondescript house that was in turn kept under observation from another safe house of the second team. When the Toyota arrived, the men went straight into the building, leaving Afarin to struggle out of the back of the pick-up with her washing. To have done otherwise would have invited suspicion. Two men were already inside waiting for them to return. Although they were both wearing Arab headdress and clothing, one was an intelligence officer, the second a captain in the SAS.

 

“Give us ten minutes while we produce some drawings and maps.”

 

While Malik drew a tactical map with ranges and datum points, Afarin drew a plan, elevation and three dimensional view of the police station. It was draughtsman’s quality and would be used for briefing the assault teams. Because she had been the “eyes,” Afarin briefed their two visitors.

 

“Could we have a team rappel down from a helicopter onto the roof?”

 

She shook her head, “Too many obstructions on the roof to tangle your rappel ropes, plus there’s a sangar of sandbags which is manned. The chopper would be a sitting duck.”

 

“Ok then,” the SAS officer said looking at the drawing of the police station, “What’s the best way in?”

 

“Through the eastern side of the building where the loading bay is. You’ll need to go through the wire with some big vehicle such as a tank, while you distract the JAM round the other side.”

 

They rolled up the map and drawing and shook the hands of the team. They seemed almost humbled by the level of risk taken and the commitment.

 

“Gents, lady, you are truly remarkable and brave people,“ the SAS captain said without a flicker of bullshit, because he knew when his teams went in, they had all the firepower they could handle.

 

The special reconnaissance team had done their job and thought that they would get the rest of the day to clean weapons and see to personal admin. Afarin was desperate for a long soak in a bath, a proper bath but it wasn’t to be. The team leader’s sat phone went off just before 11:00 hours. He listened and then his face became grim.

 

“A Puma has gone down east of the Arvan Rood waterway, near Sinbad Island. No word on casualties but the CSAR team needs to pinpoint it. And we’re it again. We’ll take both the Toyota and the Passat. Afarin and Malik in the Toyota, me and Percy in the Passat. Fully tooled up. Fuck subtlety, just find them.”

 

“What do we know about the crew?” asked Afarin as she put on a shoulder holster and then the Chador. There was no place in their lives for false modesty.

 

“Three. Male pilot, flight lieutenant, female co-pilot, flying officer and a sergeant loadie, male. No names as yet.”

 

Afarin got in the cab of the Toyota this time and in the foot well, within easy reach was a Remington 870 shotgun with a folding stock and an H&K MP5A3. They headed northwest towards Dur el Naft and turned right to follow Dinar Street, which runs parallel to the Shat al Arab waterway. They kept the Passat in sight as it turned to cross the huge bridge that crossed both the waterway and Sinbad Island. The sky was full of helicopters and the air was rank with burning tyres. They turned off the main highway once across the waterway, past the Al Jazeera building and were in the heart of bandit country, Firuziyah District. “Follow the kids,” Afarin told Malik and as they drove past the Fayhaa Mosque they saw a large and gathering crowd ahead of them.

 

The Passat was ahead of them and it pulled in over when it became obvious the crowd was too dense. They saw Percy get out of the car and look back at them.

 

“Stop here, I’ll go in on foot. You’ll have to stay here with the wagon and the artillery.”

 

She got out of the Toyota and did a quick radio check to establish contact with all of the team members. She headed towards the crowd while Percy hung back to cover her. There atmosphere was febrile with much shouting of Allahu Akbar with associated firing in the air. The crowd were mainly civilians with as yet, few black-clad members of the JAM in sight. She pushed into the heart of the throng and saw what looked like two bodies being carried by men in old tarpaulins. A member of the clergy seemed to be directing operations and she pushed in closer. The bodies were dressed in desert flying coveralls. One had a ruin of a head and upper body and he, she assumed it had been a he, was quite obviously dead.

 

The second tarp contained the body of a woman. They had removed her flying helmet and a shock of auburn hair hung over the edge of the tarp. Her eyes were closed and she looked almost serene until Afarin saw the mangled lower limbs. She looked at the striking, peaceful face and remembered a vibrant young RAF helicopter pilot on an Armed Forces recruitment stand, in a Derby college. She turned away, tears prickling in her eyes.

 

Afarin keyed her throat mike, “Positive ID numbers two bodies. Repeat two only. Co-pilot definitely, possibly the pilot as well. Mobile one, suggest recce of possible landing site for CSAR.”

 

After a few minutes it became clear that there was a definite rift within the crowd. The civilian contingent carried the bodies towards the precincts of the mosque and the members of the JAM wanted to take the bodies. Even corpses can be bargaining chips. There was a heated stand off until two Merlin helicopters swept low across the buildings and landed in a sports stadium close to the mosque. The undercover team, which had marked the landing site watched, the Merlins disgorged around fifty troops of the CSAR recovery teams. They were very heavily armed and while half fanned out to secure the landing site, the others headed for the mosque. There was a brief exchange of fire until the outnumbered JAM melted away. The undercover team waited for the crowd to dissipate and then headed back to the safe houses for updated orders.

 

“So where’s the third one, the Loadie?” Afarin asked rhetorically. They knew they wouldn’t be getting much sleep over the next forty-eight hours.

 

*

 

“Right, let’s look at what we know. According to the USAF Rivet Joint, at around 1200 today the signal from Gilmore’s PLB went off air in this area where the Hassan River meets the Shat al Arab,” the team leader said pointing at the location on the map, “From that we have to assume he was captured by the JAM. Now what would you do if you had him? Malik?”

 

“Into Iran quickly, before we set up border surveillance at the crossings.”

 

“Percy?”

 

“Up to Amarah then across the border into Iran at Chaddabeh.”

 

“Afi?”

 

“I don’t think the Iranians would want him on their soil. Politically too controversial. I think he’s back in the city in one of their strongholds and they’ll keep moving him… Until…”

 

“Until when?”

 

“They’re going to kill him and film it, like they did with those American security operatives and hung the bodies on the bridge in Fallujah. They’re not interested in exchanging him for some bottom feeders in the JAM. They want to show the world and more importantly, the Iraqi Sunni population how powerful they are. The Shia that is.”

 

There was a shaken silence in the room.

 

“And there’s two undercover teams, eight people to cover an entire city.”

 

“Not quite,” Malik pointed out, “We can discard certain areas such as downtown, the ministries and close to our bases. And there are the SF covert teams.”

 

“One of which has just had to be rescued from a police station, so that just leaves sixty percent of the city,” Afarin observed quietly, looking at the map.

 

*

 

They knew they were facing an impossible task, even with the satellites and Tornado GR4s that made constant passes over the city with their RAPTOR pods. Less than thirty undercover people were looking for one person in a city the size of Newcastle. The regular Army patrols were predictable and it was impossible to search every house, garage or industrial building, had they known where to look in the first place.

 

It was 15:30 when Afarin made her eighth sweep of a city area on foot. She was in the Al Hayyaniyah district having been dropped off with her basket of washing. Their vehicles had to keep moving because occupied parked cars were immediately suspicious and unoccupied strange vehicles had the tendency to be regarded as a bomb. She was beginning to feel despondent as the enormity of their task struck home. They had been passed a photograph of the man they were looking for and she had memorised his impossibly, handsome face with his just long enough to get away with it hair. You poor bastard, she thought.

 

It was an unlovely slum of mainly single story houses, chaotic shops and garages and storage buildings. A seething mass of humanity with endless places a person could be hidden. Fate plays a hand in all the endeavours of mankind. Napoleon recognised this when he said to his marshals, “Yes I know you’re good, but are you lucky? Perhaps God had other plans for an insignificant dot of humanity called Giles ‘Gary’ Gilmore.

 

As Afarin shimmied across a road junction, just another bint in an Arab city carrying a basket of washing, a car turning right nearly hit her. The driver hooted angrily and she jumped back, dropping the basket. She looked into the car as it swept past imperiously. Two men in the front, dark glasses. She couldn’t see into the back because of the tinted windows, but she felt something in her guts. Morrison used to call it his spidey senses and she smiled to herself at the memory. She made a show of carefully picking up and dusting off the washing and watched the car covertly but carefully. It pulled in halfway down the street and the two men got out of the front and one man from the rear left side. He went round to the other rear door and pulled out a body. Hooded and slumped, but Afarin recognised the bloody brown issue t-shirt and soiled, black issue boxer shorts. The man could barely walk and was in a bad way. She clicked her jaw to activate the throat mike.

 

“I’ve got him. Position as follows…”

 

She waited until they disappeared inside of a building and went down the street on the opposite side to the car. For the next half an hour she conducted a close recce of the building front and back, getting in as close as she dared, memorising everything, air con boxes, drainpipes, windows, mainly barred, doors and what she could see of the roof. She was glad when the second team was in place to relieve them and she finally extracted back to the Toyota. She clambered in the cab and Malik was beaming at her.

 

“Fucking good effort, Afi. Time is as they say of the essence. We’re to go straight back to BAS. Percy took some photos of the surrounding area where they can get a chopper in. The assault team is going in tonight. You’re a bloody star!”

 

“We got lucky, Malik. Or rather Mr Gilmore got lucky. Let’s hope we’re in time.

 

*

 

She had borrowed a T-shirt and trousers that were far too big for her, because she had been wearing nothing apart from pants under her chador. She felt dirty and dishevelled. She was still wearing sandals when she went in front of the assembled bad-arses to brief them. Afarin loathed speaking in public and blinked nervously in front of the thirty-odd members assembled in the Divisional headquarters briefing room. There was the main four-man assault team and four more back-ups. The force protection who would secure the area, the drivers, helicopter crews and medics. The ground teams were all armed, faces and hands blackened and looked at her expectantly as she was introduced by J2 Int as “the eyes.”

 

Afarin started off by outlining the ground area, routes in and out, helicopter landing points and RV points. The Int boys and girls had been busy putting a PowerPoint presentation together, which included images taken from the Tornado RAPTOR pods. Her precise drawings had been scanned and included in the presentation. As she spoke her glance swept across the audience and she faltered when she looked at the assault team at the front of the audience. Henry Morrison was looking at her coolly and Jarvis was giving her a broad grin.

 

Oh fuck!

 

Stumbling over her words, she kept going, but she could feel her face burning. Henry looked away, a strange expression on his face. She was glad to finish the scripted bit, but the questions were endless. The helicopter crews wanted to know about power lines and obstructions in and out of the LZ. The state of the ground on the LZ regarding FOD. Rotor clearances. Dust state on the ground. Bright lights in the area that could glare out the NVGs. The assault teams wanted to know how many were in the building, the state of the windows, obstructions inside the walled complex. Afarin felt like telling the hard-faced bastard with the broken nose that she hadn’t exactly been able to knock on the door and invite herself in. Jarvis just smiled dreamily at her. Henry studiously avoided eye contact.

 

Once they had wrung all of the information out of her like a dishcloth. Afarin gratefully sat down and swigged water while the Assault and back up teams conducted some very quick and dirty planning. She was exhausted and listened to brief snatches of their conversations.

 

“Go in with unmarked vehicles. Frame charge for the main door. In through the roof too risky. Bars on back windows. Spare frame charges for locked internal doors. Cooper, you carry the frame charges, Jarvis, you place ‘em. One way in. No time to secure houses either side. Flash-bangs, shitloads of them. No CS. Clear entire house once Gilmore’s extracted. No NVGs, too constraining and they’re always going tits-up. Take anything like phones, papers, laptops, flash drives. Go in with unmarked vehicles, out on the Merlin once the Chinook, Gilmore and the medics have fucked off to Shaibah. Booby trap the door? No, danger of civilian casualties, you know what the fucking kids are like. Don’t want ‘em getting a gob full of Mr Claymore’s finest. Right that’s the plan, vote. For? Against? Fuck’s sake why Cooper? I can’t carry three fucking frame charges. I’ll take two. Jarvis the first one for the main door. OK agreed.”

 

“We have a plan, Stan. Let’s go and get our Crab friend.”

 

And then they were gone. Afarin went for a shower and went back to the briefing room, to hang around with the Int team and the Det teams. They all felt like Barnes Wallis waiting for the signal to come back from the Ruhr Dams. At 03:30 they heard the helicopters returning and a few minutes later the bad-arses burst into the room, reeking of firearm residue, explosives and blood, mixed with testosterone.

 

“We got him,” Morrison said, “I need a drink!”

 

Afarin who had expended a great deal of emotional energy on Giles Gilmore asked him softly: “Will he make it?”

 

Morrison looked at her as though noticing her for the first time, “He’s not good. The bastards gave him a right old kicking, but the medics think he’ll get through it.”

 

“And what about the…”

 

“Dead. Every last fucking one of them. Pour encourager les autres.”

 

The Station Commander of BAS authorised the opening of the All Ranks Club, “The Camel’s Toe” despite it being the early hours. The party was tinged with sadness because although Gilmore was safe in the field hospital, the bodies of Andy Mount and Louise Skelton lay still as eternity in the refrigerated reefer behind the medical centre, waiting for their repatriation flight. Afarin was exhausted but smiled at Jarvis, glad of his company. He was shouting at her because he had been temporarily deafened by the frame charge going off prematurely.

 

“Look at you now,” he yelled and guffawed, “The gash with the ‘tache.”

 

Later, the sergeant from the assault team with the hard face and twisted nose came across to speak with her. To her surprise, he put his hand on her shoulder and smiled at her. It seemed to light up his soul through eyes that had been grey and cold.

 

“You are an incredibly brave woman. A man owes his life to you, not to me or everyone else here because I’m just a trigger man. She who saves one life saves the world entire. Thank you.”

 

And then he was gone.

 

Afarin didn’t feel even slightly brave, just tired and lonely. She went outside craving a cigarette and stared up at the stars and the lightening sky to the east.

 

“I tried to find you for two years,” said a voice from the shadows.

 

She went to him.

 

*

 

Morrison watched her getting dressed, first the shoulder holster and then the chador over the top of her head.

 

“Don’t the straps chafe?”

 

“You get used to it,” she said slipping on the sandals.

 

“So that’s it for another two years.”

 

He was still in bed. She went and sat next to him and bent down to kiss him. The chador made it almost impossible.

 

“You’ve sacrificed everything to serve your country. Is it worth it? Do you think your country gives a flying fuck about you? Like me you’ll probably end up dead in some fly-blown shithole.”

 

“Oh, Henry, I thought that of almost everyone, you would have understood. There’s nothing for me, no home or family.”

 

“I waited for you.”

 

“Could you ever see the two of us living together in multicultural nirvana?”

 

“Yes.”

 

She ruffled his hair, “Bloody liar.”

 

She opened the door of his corimec.

 

“See you in two years.”

 

He could tell she was smiling because her beautiful eyes shone like the sun breaking through a sad, wintery sky.

 

 

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They make" themselves" richer so they must be. Their business plan, is look after the rich and they will look after you. You have to admit they are on a winner if they continue to fool slightly more than 1/2 the people with the help of the Murdoch rags and the shock jocks, but they do look like collapsing from within because they are too self centered. and just dumb. .Nev

 

 

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Nev. I've thought about it a bit. Seems to me, and I hate to admit it, but the CONservatives are the most successful politicians in Australia when you look at the amount of time they have ruled the Treasury benches. This is despite the fact that when they are replaced by a slightly more liberal mob (the ALP) they manage to convince the voters, a short time down the track that they can again be trusted. Blame the short memories of the voters I suppose. Don

 

 

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I voted for Gough Whitlam and his 'Medibank' proposal. . .although my Blue Cross medical plan was quite affordable, although, being a young StrongBuck in my Twenties,. . .I never had the need to use a Doctor, or a hospital. . .( *** EDIT *** Except when my first Daughter was born,. . .nearly on the front room carpet of our house in Boronia. Fern Tree Gully memorial Hospital satff were very helpful in sorting that into a fine outcome. . but I digress )

 

Also, I have to say that, given the opportunity,. . . I would have cheerfully assassinated the British Governor General for Getting rid of GW and thereby shoehorning Malcolm Fraser ( Slimy Twat ) into the Premiership following his concerted effort to block the money supply. There were even published media pictures of Fraser, laughing and joking with the Governor General, BEFORE the 'Stitch up' was even announced. .. and the Press never made anything of this, so I guess they were a party to the collusion as well. . .( Shock Horror - Press collusion for political ends. . .who'd have thought it ? )

 

Please bear in mind that my Austro-political knowledge is based ONLY upon personal experience of things which were happening in Australia at that time. . . .When I was living in Brisbane, I had friends who personally Knew Russell HInze, and Joh + Flo too. . . and a lot about their dirty dealing criminal activities. . . The QLD police were run like a Mafia family and Hinze was the Capo de Tutti Capi of the whole rotten thing. . . Drugs, Gambling, Prostitution. .

 

One of their Wheezes was getting the Qld taxpayer to fund a paved runway at Joh's private residence, and giving his personal Pilot 'Beryll' the Nazi; carte blanche to ignore most if not all of the airspace / regulatory requirements in the state. . . Her 'Get out of Jail Free' card being to REGULARLY circumvent rules by stating that 'The Premier is on board this flight' in order to secure unusual clearances. . . when he was out of the bloody country on taxpayer funded Jollies to Indonesia or some such place. . .( Information quietly provided by friends in Flight Service and ATC )

 

I had a good mate who worked for DCA in 'Airports' and he blew the whistle on the 'Joh's Private Runway deal', and was, initially threatened with dire consequences,. . . and when that didn't work, later pensioned off in double quick time with a BIG Bung. ( I Can't blame him for 'Taking the shilling' as his career at DCA was fooked by then. . Senior Civil servants don't like the Whistlers. . .)

 

I wonder if that story ever entered the public domain ? ? I seriously doubt it. . . Queensland was a bloody political 'Banana Republic' for a lot of the Seventies. . .

 

 

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ANYWAY . . .

 

This is my FICTION thread How dare you drift it into OZ RealPolitk. . . .

 

I blame that Methusala bloke,. . .right Stirrer He is. . . . I think we need to drag him behind the hangars at school playtime,. . . and give him a serious talking to. . .I mean,. . .How dare he Importune the Saintliness, purity, Sincerity, and genuine Integrity of Australian Politicians ?. . . .

 

Hanging offence I reckon. . . . .

 

 

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Dear Phil, how DARE YOU impugn my motives when you took up my challenge with the alacrity of a Russian ballet dancer by posting a flagrantly political tale mere hours after mine. If hypocrisy were the only qualification required for public office then perhaps we would be cursing the name "Perry" as the root of all ills rather than Thatcher.

 

My regards to the Missus, Don

 

 

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Another Fiction thread. . . on the subject of the Lady Warrior in Iraq. . .I posted the first one seriously out of sequence. . .My Bad.

 

War Crimes Part Sixteen – The Girl from the “Det”

 

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This is fiction. Any resemblance to any persons living or dead is coincidental. The events outlined have never to my knowledge occurred. Some of the locations are real.

 

Afarin Khan had never been blessed with the type of cleverness required to ingest, sift, collate and then regurgitate information onto an examination paper. If anything as far as the British State Education system was concerned, she was cursed with a questioning and interrogative mind. She took nothing at face value and questioned established wisdom at every cut and turn.

 

“Why are we concentrating on the Native Americans and Black people in the 1930s, Miss. Surely the depression affected all poor and working class people? What about the Chinese immigrants to America?”

 

“Why do we call the Nazis ‘Right Wing’ when they were called the National Socialist Workers Party?”

 

“Why is it when we’ve been sending millions of pounds to Africa over the past sixty years, do they still send their kids loads of miles with a manky plastic jerry can to gather water from a polluted river and then complain because they can’t go to school. Why don’t they boil the water or move the village a bit closer to where the water is and dig a few, new clean wells?”

 

Afarin Khan was blessed as well as cursed. She certainly ticked the right diversity boxes, she was “Asian,” she was a “she,” she was a Moslem and therefore came from a very special and protected niche of Liberal society. Her teachers expected very little of her because of her “disadvantaged” background, but in their heart of hearts, her kindly, liberal teachers with a social justice agenda hated her guts. She was roundly and secretly detested and had she been a white, working class boy, she would have been excluded at the drop of a Pussyhat. Unfortunately they had been hoisted by their own politically correct petard.

 

It was late spring in the secondary school in south Derby and the GCSEs were coming up. A clump of the more right-on teachers were in the common room, drinking fair-trade, decaffeinated green tea and discussing Afrin Khan’s prospects of achieving a reasonable set of examination grades.

 

“I don’t suppose we should expect too much. It’s quite surprising that she’s still in school to be honest.”

 

“I find her quite disruptive in the class,” the Religious Studies and Citizenship teacher observed with a trace of rancour, “She constantly interrupts me when I try to explain the six articles of faith in Sunni Islam and five roots of ‘Usul ad-Din in Shi’a Islam.”

 

They were joined by the physical education teacher, a rather strapping young woman with close cropped hair, interesting tattoos and numerous piercings, both visible and hidden. Because she was a lesbian, she also fell into a “special” and therefore protected category.

 

“Are you lot talking about Ms Khan?”

 

They nodded with pained expressions.

 

“Ahh, she does present somewhat of a challenge, doesn’t she? But I quite like her. At least she isn’t constantly menstruating like the other girls in her year, she will expend some effort and will at least take a shower after PE, unlike the other skanks.”

 

There were pained expressions around the group and the terribly camp arts and drama teacher looked like he was having a touch of the vapours.

 

“She just lacks application.”

 

The PE teacher drained her coffee, “No she doesn’t. Her problem is that she has a questioning and independent mind. The kiss of death for kids in state education. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some year eights to brutalise in the gym. Circuit training for the little bastards.”

 

Afarin always wore a Hijab to school, not because she wanted to, but because it was expected of her by her community, her female relatives and the oh so liberal teachers. She hated it and pulled it off whenever she was at home. One afternoon on leaving the school, she saw a group of girls hanging round a pimped-up Mercedes parked outside the school gates. The girls were mainly year eights and nines and came from what their teachers and social workers called rather euphemistically, “troubled or challenging” backgrounds. Their white male classmates called them “skanks.” The men who would have been called by a reluctant media “Asian men of Pakistani heritage” in the Mercedes called them “fresh meat.”

 

Afarin Kahn walked up to the car and sneered at the young men inside. Her father and her family originated from the Hindu Kush area of Afghanistan, so her first language was Pashtu. Afarin was also fluent in Arabic, Urdu and Bangla. Although she considered them to be of a lower social caste, she addressed them in Bangla.

 

“Looking for some little white girls for a spot of fun, are you?”

 

“Fuck off you Afghan whore,” the driver said to her in English.

 

“Yeah, piss off you Taliban bitch,” one of the white girls said to her.

 

Afarin shook her head with incredulity, “You do know what this is about, don’t you? What’s it been up to now? CDs? Play Station Games? Some fags? Soon it’ll be booze, then drugs and then you’ll end up staring at the ceiling in some grotty hotel, while their uncles, fathers and grandfathers queue up to fuck you. They don’t care.”

 

She looked at the young men in the car and her face screwed up with disgust, “مشيمة الخنزير.” She spat at them.

 

Afarin crossed the road as a police car drove slowly past. Despite looking into the parked Mercedes and at the underage girls outside a school, the coppers did nothing and the police car disappeared around the corner.

 

*

 

Her grades were predictably disappointing and she went home in tears. Her mother and sister were quite sanguine about it, because academic results meant little in their world. It was the reaction of her father that she was terrified of. Eventually she caught him alone and told him, fearing the worst. They spoke in English as he insisted, even in the home.

 

“Father, I messed my GCSEs up. I only managed a B in Science, a B in Art and Design, a C in Geography, a C in Computer Science, a C in History, a C in literature but two Es in English Language and Maths. I am so sorry.”

 

Her father smiled sadly at her. He and his wife and elder daughter had fled Afghanistan when the Russians invaded. He had been a high-ranking member of the Civil Service but carved a new life for himself in England. He deliberately avoided the Pakistani ghetto towns in the north and West Midlands and settled in Derby. He ran his own carpet business and he loved his middle daughter with all of his heart. There was something about Afarin that stirred his soul. She was just so unique and he wanted the best for her.

 

He had argued with his only wife when the child was small.

 

“No, she will not be cut. It is a barbaric superstition from the Swat valleys. Afarin will leave this world in exactly the same way as God brought her into it. I will not allow her to be mutilated. If you go against my wish, you will go back to the home country without me.”

 

He knew the problems his daughter faced, being torn between two different cultures. And he knew he didn’t want her to be in an arranged marriage with what he considered some inbred wide-boy from Pakistan.

 

“Come on, Afarin, let’s look at this dispassionately. You have two subjects with good passes, one of which is science. You have three other good passes. Unfortunately you have not done well in the two most important subjects, the ones potential employers care the most about. What shall we do about it?”

 

“I could go to college and get a part-time job.”

 

“You could, and so you shall.”

 

She hugged her father still crying, tears of gratitude now, “I thought you would be so cross, Daddy.”

 

“What’s the point? But I do worry about you. I won’t always be here and I want you to make a good life for yourself. One that will provide you with the opportunities this country offers, but nevertheless, a life that pays homage to your background, religion and culture. As a girl, Afarin, it will not be easy. Do you have any idea what you want to do?”

 

She shook her head, “I literally have no idea.”

 

“Then think. The choices you make now will be the most important for your future life.”

 

Afarin Kahn went to college and struggled once again with English and Mathematics, but the difference was, that now she was in a class of men and women who actually wanted to be there. The disruptive morons had gone and at last she was able to concentrate, instead of waiting twenty to thirty minutes for an ineffectual, but oh so liberal teacher to gain a modicum of control over the class.

 

A few days before she took the examinations again, there was a display in the entrance hall of the college by a group from the Armed Forces Careers Office. The Army display was quite impressive with lots of radios and technical stuff (no Guns allowed), but lots of boys toys. The two men and the woman from the Royal Navy looked really good in their best uniforms and the looped video showed ships and helicopters and was slick and professional. The Royal Air Force display had two females, one was a medic with an impressive tally of medals on her No1s breast pocket. The other was a pretty woman with long auburn hair, tied behind her head in a ponytail. She was wearing a green flying suit and with wings and two, tiny thin, light blue stripes on her epaulettes. She was sipping coffee from a black, metal insulated mug. She exuded confidence and easily batted aside the boys’ attempts to make a pass at her. Afarin looked shyly at her and the RAF lady caught her gaze.

 

“Hello.”

 

“Hello,” Afarin said shyly, “What do you do?”

 

The woman put down her coffee and smiled, “Well….”

 

“Afarin, Afarin Kahn.”

 

“Well Afarin, my name’s Louise and I fly one of these,” she said pointing to a picture of a helicopter on the display board.

 

“Cool. I bet you’ve got a degree or something.”

 

The RAF pilot nodded, “Yes, but if you join up you just need GCSEs and then apply for aircrew duties. If you pass the aptitude tests.”

 

She handed her a leaflet, “This tells you what you need to have for exams and how to do your homework before you apply to join.”

 

Afarin could have got lost in those hazel eyes and she felt hot with embarrassment. Louise had that effect on both sexes. She took a long time to read the paperwork on the bus and by the time she got home, Afarin Kahn knew what she wanted to do. Unfortunately her father was not happy about her decision when she told him.

 

“Have you taken leave of your senses? You are placing yourself at odds to two communities, neither of which will ever accept you. The kufar will always distrust you and your own fellow-believers will ostracise you. To our community you will be dead!”

 

She was shocked by his negativity as she had always seemed such a beacon of tolerance, but it would appear that if the veneer was scratched off, the lie of multiculturalism was revealed. In truth, she was deeply disappointed with her father and her stubbornness kicked in. Now would not be a good time to tell him that she found the entire premise of a supreme being to be nothing more than a ridiculous throw-back to the Dark Ages.

 

Afarin passed GCSE English with a B and Mathematics with a C and the previous week she had celebrated her eighteenth birthday. That afternoon she put on her best job interview clothes, collected her educational certificates, birth certificate and passport, and walked into the Armed Forces Careers office on Sitwell Road in Derby and made an appointment. She sat the first of a raft of aptitude tests interviews and initial medical PULHEEMS. Seven weeks later she was attested into Her Majesty’s Armed Forces as an Intelligence Analysis (subject to successfully completing Recruit Training and the sixteen week course, in the fundamentals of Intelligence at the Joint Intelligence Training Group, Chicksands in Bedfordshire). She was initially paid over £13,000 pounds a year, a figure that was beyond her wildest dreams. Once her training was finished, she would learn to drive and buy a little car.

 

*

 

She could have written the script herself. Her transit through Recruit Training at RAF Halton was laughably easy because the race, religion and “special category” card was played at every opportunity. Not by her, but by the directing staff who were terrified of failing to show “cultural awareness.” In the end she became so pissed off with it, she asked for an appointment with her flight commander. Of course it was immediately granted.

 

“What is the problem, AC Kahn?”

 

“I want to be treated like everyone else in my flight and not picked out for special attention, sir.”

 

The instant worry in his eyes was almost comical, “Has anyone…”

 

“Sir, you don’t understand. I want the instructors to stop tip-toeing round me like I was a delicate little flower. I want to be shouted at and sworn at like everyone else. In the past week during kit inspections and my weapon handling drills, I have made mistakes that anyone else on my flight would have got restrictions for. I want to make it by my own merits, not because I tick a diversity box.”

 

He looked at her with a slight smile and thought: Right you bitch. Be careful what you wish for.

 

Another major irritant for Afarin were the recruiters who wanted to photograph her at every cut and turn so she could be a pin-up for diversity at the AFCOs.

 

Relaxing on her bed, “Can you wear one of those headscarf thingies for the photos?”

 

“Do you mean a Hijab?”

 

“Yes, one of those.”

 

“No!”

 

“What about a picture of you sitting at the table, reading the Koran?”

 

“Get stuffed!”

 

She was the only person on her Squadron who had no friends or family attending the ceremony. The problem was what to do during the two weeks leave before she started her Phase 2 training. It had been made clear to her that she was not welcome at home, mainly due to the attitude of her mother and sisters. But the craven weakness of her father left an emptiness in her soul. She approached the Padre who managed to persuade SSAFA to let her use the emergency married quarter, put aside for families who were in extremis due to family break up or major problems in a married quarter, such as flooding. It was a lonely existence, but Afarin had found that all of her life. Some people make very great sacrifices in order to serve their country.

 

Afarin struggled with the more academic elements of the Intelligence Analysis course but she was good at analysis and with the help of her instructors, she graduated and her first posting was to RAF Marham, a huge main operating base in the wilds of Norfolk, close to Swaffham, much beloved by Harry Hill. Afarin explored the area in her little Corsa, a part of the country she had never been to. Kings Lynn was interesting historically, but had seen better days. Norwich was a fine city that she enjoyed visiting but the less said about Swaffham the better.

 

She made friends on the station and socialised with them, but the boys were reluctant to get too close. Afarin was a strikingly beautiful young woman but the barriers were there and she hadn’t erected them. So surrounded by thousands of people, she remained lonely and unfulfilled.

 

She also found out that the route to aircrew through the ranks was much more difficult than direct entry from civilian life. Serving RAF personnel had far more hoops to jump through than keen youngsters coming in from university and Sixth Form College. There were always excuses when she tried to apply. We’ve had our quota from the ranks this year. You really need a degree or your work can’t spare you. It all led to her level of frustration and dissatisfaction, but she had made her bed and would have to lie in it.

 

On September 11th 2001, Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia decided to fly passenger jets into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon. President George W Bush decided to bomb a country stuck in the Dark Ages back to the Stone Age. The special forces of all English Speaking countries piled into Afghanistan to hunt another Saudi called Osama Bin Laden. These units required a massive amount of logistics support and the airfields that had been bombed to destruction suddenly needed to be re-activated to support counter terrorist operations. Which was why in February 2002, Senior Aircraftswoman Afarin Kahn stepped off the rear ramp of a C130 on a provincial airport, a few kilometres south of Jalalabad, east of Torkham on the Afghan/Pakistan border. She was part of an enabling force of force protection, engineers, EOD technicians, flight operations, medics and chefs who were going to re-activate the airfield. It had been built by the Russians, bombed by the Americans and repaired by the Brits.

 

They set up an operating base of tents on the edge of the airfield. The bitter rains turned the talcum powder sand to a muddy mush and temperatures would regularly fall to the minus twenties at night. The heavy equipment arrived a few days later by Antonov 225 and the hard work started, but nor for Afarin, whose real work wouldn’t start until the Tornados and their RAPTOR Pods arrived in theatre. She joined the RAF Regiment patrols that pushed into the local area and did a bit of hearts and minds stuff with the women and children. The men obviously shunned her.

 

A few Groundhog Days after she started patrolling with the Gunners, a Land Rover that was bristling with heavy machine guns, anti-tank missiles and crewed by pirates, trundled onto the airport and headed for the operations tent. There followed a one-way discussion with the senior RAF officer and a runner was sent to the mess tent to find SAC Kahn.

 

“Station Master wants to see you, Affi.”

 

“Oh no, why?”

 

The runner shrugged.

 

The Wing Commander was waiting for her along with four men who were dressed in a mixture of British, American and Afghan clothing. They scrutinised her like she was a particularly unusual specimen. The man who seemed to be in charge of the pirates smiled at her.

 

“You speak Pashto fluently?”

 

Yes, and Arabic, Urdu and Bangla.”

 

“SAC Kahn, these gentlemen have requested that you be seconded to them for a few weeks and they have paperwork that is signed off by the Directorate of Special Forces, which rather trumps the Air Component Commander.”

 

“I see,” although she didn’t, “When?”

 

“Now, treacle,” the chief pirate said, “Get your kit, luv but don’t bother with your personal weapon. You won’t be needing it.”

 

Blown Periphery 2017

 

Going postal blog.

 

 

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Dear Phil, how DARE YOU impugn my motives when you took up my challenge with the alacrity of a Russian ballet dancer by posting a flagrantly political tale mere hours after mine. If hypocrisy were the only qualification required for public office then perhaps we would be cursing the name "Perry" as the root of all ills rather than Thatcher.

My regards to the Missus, Don

 

Ah, Jeeze. . . .I tell you what,. .that near brought a tear to me eye mate.

 

This is the prime reason I travel electronicalistically down under, you just Can't get this kind of fair dinkum mateship on a Pommie forum and that's a fact.

 

( The Missis sends a metaphorical cuddle btw. . . .)

 

 

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The last of the 'Girl from the Det' series. I apologize for the Pig's ear I've made of posting this trilogy, this should fill in any gaps though. It contains much 'military' language ( Autobot take note ! ) plus military Gore & violence.

 

War Crimes Part Seventeen – The Girl from the “Det”

 

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This is fiction. Any resemblance to any persons living or dead is coincidental. The events outlined have never to my knowledge occurred. Some of the locations are real.

 

Afarin Kahn was used as an interpreter by the patrol teams that operated from a tiny forward operating base (FOB) in the mountains that spanned the border. The base was a small cluster of tents, a prisoner holding cage, satellite dishes, guard towers and Hesco Bastions. It had an airstrip just long enough to operate C130s and a Chinook, two Black Hawks and an Apache were based there. The accommodation was luxurious compared with where she had come from. She had her own tent and ablutions. A proper bed with a mattress. The mess tent had armchairs and sofas and a TV showing the American Forces Network, God knows where they had come from. She had everything apart from their trust and companionship.

 

She would go out with them on the WIMIK as part of the support troop on patrols. She was always unarmed, always accompanied and she was only allowed to question women and not suspects who had been arrested. The questions they told her to ask were clumsily framed and showed a hopeless understanding of the people and culture of the area. She bore it for weeks and finally erupted with frustration during a morning’s O-group meeting.

 

Because of the small number at the base and the nature of their operations, everyone except those on essential duties attended the weekly main O-group in the Ops tent, round the “Bird Table.” Not everyone, however, was expected to have a speaking part. The command group would run through commander’s intent, scheme of manoeuvre, the latest Int briefing, weather for the aircrews, Logistics briefing and command and signal. The Colonel would finish with a pep-talk and then any questions from the main players. Just before the Colonel turned to leave, Afarin stuck up her hand.

 

“I’ve got a question, sir.”

 

The Battle Captain moved to behind the Colonel and made a chopping motion at his throat to signal to her to shut up. She ignored him and ploughed on.

 

“Why am I regarded as somebody who is here on sufferance? Why have I not been issued with a personal weapon of any kind? Are you worried I’ll shoot myself? Why do you only allow me to speak with local women with questions that have the most dumb-arsed framing so they can only be answered yes or no? Why am I referred to as ‘Genghis Kahnt,’ the ‘’PONTI Paki’ and my personal favourite, the ‘Gash with the ‘Tache.’ Why am I wasting my time and your time here, when I could be gainfully employed analysing data from RAPTOR Pods?”

 

The Colonel’s face was white and pinched. The grownups looked shocked and embarrassed, while some people were smirking. She thought the Battle Captain was going to spontaneously combust.

 

“Don’t worry. This Paki’s going to pack.”

 

She went outside and went into the MT compound, sat on the ground leaning against the wheel of a Land Rover and lit a cigarette. She was watching the Ops tent, waiting for the hammer to fall. One of the RAF Chinook pilots walked purposefully towards her after he came out of the Ops tent. His face was grim and as he reached her, he dragged her roughly to her feet and gave her a tight, warm hug.

 

“Very big balls, SAC Khan and an attitude the size of a planet. Good luck and I’ll help you if they get arsey. I don’t think they will.”

 

Nobody spoke to her until the next day and she had packed her kit and lay moodily on her bed, which she would miss. She heard someone moving outside her tent followed by:

 

“Knock, knock.”

 

“Come in. I’ve packed.”

 

The man who had been in charge of the party who collected her came into her tent. He was holding a Colt L119AW short rifle and a pistol in a holster.

 

“Are you going to shoot me?” she asked only half joking.

 

“No, I’m going to teach you how to shoot these. We’ve got all day and every time you get it wrong, I’ll kick your magnificent arse.”

 

They went to the makeshift firing range on the other side of the airstrip, which consisted of sand filled oil drums in front of a bund.

 

“We’ll be firing at 200 metres. Any further and you’ll be wasting your time. This is our weapon of choice,” he said holding up the short rifle, “The Colt Special Forces Infantry Weapon. 5.56mm calibre, same as the L85 that you’re used to. Single shot or fully automatic. Forget the single-aimed shot bollocks. You’re not gate guard at RAF Little Snoring now. You fire short bursts, three rounds max. Got that?”

 

She nodded with beautiful wide eyes.

 

“And stop looking at me like that, otherwise I won’t be responsible for my actions. Now. Loading your magazine. When you’re on the range do you count your shots?”

 

“No, I always lose count.”

 

“Me too. So this is how we know when to change magazines,” He held up a round with a red tip to the bullet, “This is a tracer round and it goes into the magazine first. Then three normal rounds. Then a second tracer round and then all the rest. Only put twenty-eight rounds in each magazine so you don’t knacker the spring. So you’re firing away in short controlled bursts and you see a tracer round go down. What does that tell you?”

 

“I’ve got four more rounds left.”

 

“You’ve got it. So when you see that first tracer round go down, you yell MAGAZINE and get ready to change. You make sure you can reach the pouch, make sure you can open it, but you don’t look down and take your eyes off the action. Got it?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Why do you yell MAGAZINE?”

 

“So everyone knows I won’t be able to fire for a bit.”

 

He smiled. Underneath the beard he was a very handsome man.

 

They spent all day on the range. First Afarin learned the weapon handling drills and how to strip it down for daily cleaning. Then she zeroed the rifle with single aimed shots at a Figure 11 target at 50 metres, before moving back to 200 metres. He ran her through short bursts, fire with movement and firing whilst moving position. By the end of the first session she was sweating like an adulteress in Kabul and was covered with ingrained grime and dust.

 

“I’m hungry.”

 

He opened his day sack and produced an Halal ration pack. Afarin scowled at him, “So you bastards had these while I’ve been eating rancid, processed fucking cheese sandwiches.”

 

“We found them in stores,” At least he had the good grace to look embarrassed.

 

In the afternoon they moved onto the pistol, which was a Sig. He thought it would suit her because it was so small and easily concealed, but she was having a great deal trouble cocking it with sweaty, slippery hands.

 

“OK you weak and feeble Crabette. Let’s try the Glock.” He produced a chunky, plastic block of Lego that looked like it should have been attached to the bottom of a Johnny Seven Gun toy. She loved its non-slippery tactile grip and was a natural with the chunky but very light automatic pistol. Each magazine held seventeen rounds and she fired twenty of them, from cover and on the move.”

 

“Bloody hell, Ms Kahn, you’re a better shot than me,” he said as they sat sharing a coffee and watching the sun pour itself into the Kandahar Plains.

 

“What’s your name?” she asked, enjoying his company.

 

“Henry.”

 

“Well, Henry, you bunch of bastards could have been a bit kinder to me when I first got here. I never asked to come.”

 

“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry, for what it’s worth, Treacle.”

 

“So what happens now?” she asked lighting a cigarette.

 

“Those things will kill you. You come out with us, still in the support WIMIK, but we might have to ask you to speak with the bad guys. Do you mind doing that?”

 

“No.”

 

“You’ll still have someone keeping an eye on you and you may have to hide your ample charms a bit, but a chest rig over the Osprey should help to conceal your lady-bumps. I realise that it will be impossible to stop you walking and running like a girl. You need to cover your hair as well. I know it’s short but very nicely styled. I presume you don’t want to look like Medusa. Do you have a Shemagh?”

 

“Yes, I wear it round by neck to stop the Osprey chafing my neck.”

 

“Of course you do. Well wear it round your head. I’ll show you how to wrap and tie it tomorrow.”

 

It was almost dark by the time they walked back across the airstrip to the camp in a companionable silence. The sky was purple and the stars looked like a van Gogh painting of Arles.

 

“Do I put these guns in the armoury?”

 

“No, you keep those weapons with you at all times from now on. They are your responsibility now, so don’t leave them in one of the traps when you do numbers one or twos. They should be made safe whilst in the camp and in vehicles. I will be doing random checks and if I’ve found that you’ve made ready, I will do unspeakable things to you.”

 

“What about when I have a shower?”

 

“Put a poly bag over the working parts and hang them on the hooks above the shower head.”

 

“So that’s what they’re for. I thought it was a bloody silly place to hang a towel.”

 

As they came to part company, she sensed a sudden awkwardness come over him.

 

“Err, me and the boys are having a few beers and watching baseball on the AFN. I know you probably don’t drink, but you’re welcome to join us for a coke or something. It’s our way of saying sorry”

 

“I don’t drink,” she agreed, “But it’s nothing to do with any religious sensitivities. You see, when I was fifteen I got blind drunk on cider to piss my mum off. I thought I was going to die. I don’t ever want to feel like that again. Thanks, I’ll be glad to join you,” she reached out and briefly squeezed his hand, “And thank you for teaching me how to fire these gu… Weapons.”

 

There were a few, a very few other women on the base, a chef, a Krypto Analyst, two signallers and an RAF Battlespace Manager. Their company was much in demand in the mess tent. There was a proper bar but no spirits and tins and bottles. They did have wine. Henry made room for her when he spotted Afarin push open the door flap tentatively. He beckoned her over and made a few introductions. The driver was a Brummie called Wayne. He nodded shyly and apologetically. The WIMIK gunner was Trooper called Jarvis, a happy-go-lucky chappie from Sarf Landan. He seemed particularly smitten with Afarin after her performance at the O-group yesterday.

 

“Loved it. ‘The Gash with the ‘Tache.’ I thought the Colonel was waiting for the ground to swallow him,” he chuckled.

 

“I’ll tell you what wouldn’t be a bad idea,” Henry muttered in her ear, looking at the bar, “Going over and apologising to the Colonel. Clear the air. And don’t call him sir, address him as Colonel.”

 

“But he’s only a lieutenant colonel, same as a wing commander.”

 

Henry chortled, “Err, not quite. Go on, big balls.”

 

Reluctantly she went over and stood next to the most senior officer on the FOB, “Excuse me, Colonel.”

 

He looked round and scowled at her.

 

“I apologise for speaking out in a manner that you would class as inappropriate in an O-group.”

 

He chose to ignore the semantics, realising this was half an apology. He smiled ruefully, “Well Ms Kahn, I realise that the Royal Air Force may do things slightly differently, but I wouldn’t do it again at a bird table, if I were you.”

 

“Oh I wouldn’t, Colonel. Unless it were an operational imperative.”

 

He huffed in amusement, “Well, having delighted me with your presence, I think your friends who put you up to this are waiting to hang on your every word.”

 

When Afarin got back, Henry was taking ten dollars off the RSM.

 

“You put a bloody bet on me not apologising to him?”

 

“No, on you’re not getting thrown off the base.”

 

“You lot really are bastards,” she said trying not to sweep drinks off the table with her slung SFIW. She had only just realised she was the only woman carrying a weapon.

 

“Why am I the only girlie lugging bloody gu… Weapons around with me?”

 

“Because you’re the only girlie who’s going off base with the blades and we want carrying and being confident with a weapon to be second nature to you.”

 

Suddenly Afarin felt humbled. They actually trusted her.

 

“I bet your Mum and Dad would be shocked if they could see you now.”

 

“To be honest, Henry. They wouldn’t give a toss. I’m dead as far as they’re concerned.”

 

He felt a lump in his throat, “Why? Because you’re here?”

 

“No. They haven’t known where I am for over a year. They didn’t want me to take the Queen’s shilling. It’s not the done thing in my community, apparently.”

 

He felt a desperate sense of sorrow for a young woman and gave her a manly, non-sexual hug. Her rifle clouted his shin.

 

“Well fuck ‘em!” Was the only constructive thing he could think to say.

 

*

 

She was lying in a small depression behind the cover of a bush and clump of rocks. About fifty metres behind her the four Land Rover WIMIKs were drawn up nose to tail in a battle line, well-spaced, half the crews operating the vehicles’ support weapons, the other half providing a protective skirmishing screen ahead and behind the vehicles. They were occupying a frontage of about five hundred metres, Wayne their driver occupied a position about fifty metres to her right. She could only see him when he moved, but she suspected that he was keeping an eye on her.

 

In the clear, blue sky, the circular vapour trails of the B52s wound like the Olympic symbols as the bombers circled, waiting to be called in to drop their JDAMs. She could feel the visceral thuds of the 8,000lb munitions as they pulverised the cave complexes of Tora Bora in the Spin Ghar mountain range. She also felt the heavy, slow thuds through her torso of the WIMIKs’ .50 Cals firing over her head and watched with awed fascination the bobbing, jinking fiery trail of the TOW missiles, heading towards the Taliban trench and sangar system.

 

They were providing fire support to a unit of US Navy SEALs who were clearing the outer trenches before moving into the main cave complex. Afarin shook her head with bemused wonder. This little girl from Derby is in the middle of a battle in her ancestral homeland. Bloody hell! She turned round and looked at her Land Rover. Henry and Jarvis were stripped to the waist, operating the support weapons.

 

Henry was singing tunelessly as he sent the rounds down from the 50 cal, Ooooohhhhhh that’s the way a-huh, a-huh, I like it, a-huh, a-huh…

 

Henry saw her looking at him.

 

“Face your bloody front and scan your arc!” he yelled at her. Afarin turned back and smiled to herself. She had decided that she liked Henry very much. From about three hundred metres ahead of them she heard the fast rattle of automatic rifle fire and the thuds of grenades as the SEALs started to roll up the trench system, clearing it metre by metre. Their weapons of choice seemed to be war dogs, grenades and fighting through with automatic fire. The WIMIKs ceased fire and the remaining crew members dismounted to provide all-round cover. The JDAMS continued to pound the caves, two kilometres away. The skirmishes in the trenches took about two hours until billows of purple smoke denoted that the first line of enemy defence had been cleared.

 

A group of figures appeared out of the smoke, moving steadily towards the WIMIKs. As they came closer they were revealed as multiple of SEALs leading a hooded prisoner, who had his hands tie-wrapped behind his back. The British officer went out to meet them.

 

“Can you guys process this joker for onward move to Bagram? He decided he didn’t want to go to paradise and meet his seventy-two virgins today,” the SEAL swung round and punched the prisoner in the side of the head. He fell over in the dirt, “We think this piece of shit is a Saudi mercenary.”

 

Watching from a few metres away, Afarin was shocked at the way the American Special Forces treated the prisoner. In her headscarf and dark goggles she was indistinguishable and looked like the others. She turned away in disgust and found Henry standing just behind her. He had put on his smock and Osprey.

 

“You have to remember, these guys have just gone eyeball to eyeball with some of the fiercest fighters the world has produced,” he said to her in a low voice, “This fighter is lucky that he’s still alive, particularly if he isn’t an Afghan. Walk a mile in their boots”

 

The British agreed to take the prisoner back to the FOB and decided to use Afarin’s WIMIK. She was grateful because it meant she would be sleeping in her comfy bed tonight, rather than in a depression in a sleeping bag. She was briefed to make note of anything the prisoner said on the way back, but he just lay on the floor, hooded and tied and never made a sound. Back at the FOB, the intelligence officer was waiting in the tent inside the POW holding pen. The British weren’t exactly gentle with him either. They sat on the vehicle. Listening to the intelligence officer (colloquially known as green slime), yelling at the prisoner in appalling Arabic.

 

“He sounds like the Arabic version of Officer Crabtree from ‘Ello ‘Ello,” Afarin remarked to the Captain who had been leading her patrol, “Why don’t you let me have a go?”

 

The Captain looked at her doubtfully.

 

“Go on, Boss. Just yelling at him won’t cut it.” Henry said in support.

 

“OK, I’ll ask.”

 

“But it’s just me alone with him in there. I understand how their mind works, so we’ll do it my way. It’s my way or nothing. That’s the deal.”

 

“So what’s the plan, Stan?” asked the Captain.

 

They walked away from the POW holding pen and she explained to him.

 

“If this guy is a Saudi, he will almost certainly be a Wahabbist. They are so ultra conservative that women disgust them and are regarded as unclean. If a fighter is killed by a woman, they believe that he will be disbarred from paradise. The seventy-two virgins thing is a load of crap and is a mistranslation. But he has to believe that I will kill him. That’s why I need to fire one round.

 

He waited until the Intelligence Officer came out of the tent, seething with frustration and had a word with him. They both looked at Afarin doubtfully, but he reluctantly agreed.

 

“All right, but the guard stays in there.”

 

“No,” She was adamant, “Just him and me.”

 

In the end they reluctantly agreed. She gave her rifle to Jarvis and took off everything apart from her boots, trousers and t-shirt. She wasn’t wearing underwear because it was pointless in the field. The scarf had gone, so had the dark glasses. She un-holstered her Glock.

 

“Bloody hell, where did they come from?” Jarvis said, unable to take his eyes off her breasts.

 

“Let’s go, sir,” she said to the Intelligence Officer. Her heart was pounding.

 

Inside the tent there was a table and two chairs. The prisoner was sitting on one chair, still hooded, head bowed. The guard stood behind him, rifle at the ready.

 

“Will you please take off his hood and then both of you leave. Do not come back in until I have done what you requested.”

 

They did and she sat down at the opposite side of the table. She was holding the Glock. The prisoner refused to look at her while she scrutinised him. He was definitely a member of the Saud, she could tell by his ratty features.

 

“They have told me to kill you,” she said to him in Arabic.

 

He sneered without even looking at her. She cocked the pistol.

 

“They know what is written in the Holy Koran, that if a man is slain by a woman, he shall never enter, the Gardens and vineyards and meet his young, full-breasted maidens of equal age, with a cup of wine.”

 

She leaned forward to accentuate the fact she was a woman.

 

“So I want you to look at me before I kill you.”

 

“You are nothing but a vassal of the Kufar, whore!”

 

She pointed the Glock at his head and pulled the trigger. The round ruffled his long hair and deafened his left ear. The 9mm bullet went out of the tent and harmlessly across the airfield. The guard came back in with a tearing hurry.

 

“Get out!” she screamed at him, “Until I have killed him.” She was guessing the prisoner could speak English. She was right.

 

The prisoner wailed and fell on the floor, moaning and shaking. Afarin stood up and pressed the pistol hard into his head.

 

“No. I want to talk to the man, not you, not you…”

 

She left the tent and looked at the Intelligence Officer, “I think our Saudi Arabian friend wants a chat now, sir.”

 

Henry was looking at her with a strange expression, “Jesus, Treacle. You forgot to tell us you’re a fucking psychopath.”

 

She was shaking with emotion and Henry took the Glock out of her trembling hand and unloaded it, fired off the action, put the ejected round back in the magazine and then back in the weapon. He tucked it in the holster on her thigh, then put his arm round her shoulders.

 

“You will never cease to amaze me Ms Kahn.”

 

“Do you know what the worst thing is? I could so very easily have killed him.

 

*

 

Four months after she arrived at the FOB, the Blades were rotated with a fresh mobility troop unit. By now she was part of the fixtures and fittings and nobody questioned her right to be there, but she badly missed Henry, Jarvis and Wayne, her Oppos. Before he left, Henry gave her a couple of phone numbers.

 

“When you get back to Blighty, give me a call. We can catch up.”

 

Despite not really having anything to go home for, Afarin wondered when her tour would be up, but if anything she was getting busier and was loaned on a several occasions to American and Australian SF units. The Americans were very polite, but reticent towards her. The Australians were outrageously friendly and desperate to “initiate” her into their unit. She had a pretty good idea what form the “initiation” would take. As well as starting to miss the cool, wet UK, Afarin noticed that the Taliban were getting better as their tactics evolved. They were using more IEDs and instead of shooting and scooting, they were setting up sophisticated ambushes.

 

She was in the back of a Land Rover FFR with two Diggers and a couple of war dogs that were as friendly, but only just slightly more slobbery than their handlers. They were on the main Jalalabad to Kabul road, designated as Route VIOLET but known as “Route Violent,” because of the numbers of burned-out military vehicles and oil tankers that littered the side of the road. Two Land Rovers FFRs and two versions of the Australian WIMIKs were well spaced, the gunners on top cover with the .50 Cals. She couldn’t see much out of the back of the FFR, but she certainly heard and felt the deep boom of the IED that rocked the vehicle. She followed the Digger who was tumbling out of the back of the FFR while the top cover waited for the inevitable ambush. She went prone on the road and cocked her Colt SFIW, waiting to follow the lead of the rest. She made a very fast tactical appraisal of situation. She had been in the third vehicle. The second Land Rover WIMIK,or at least half of it was burning in a crater in the road. The first vehicle, a FFR was three hundred metres away. The radioman of the command FFR was sending a contact and METHANE report.

 

“Afi, mate, check the casualties. Come on luv, move your arse!”

 

It seemed futile to point out that she wasn’t a medic, so she got up and dashed, zig-zagging towards the wrecked WIMIK. The rounds started spattering off the road and cracking overhead. Nothing, absolutely nothing in the world could have prepared her for the scene of carnage that was waiting for the little girl from Derby. The front axle and engine block was ten metres from the crater. There were two men near the back of the wreck. One was unconscious, the other compos mentis and returning fire. The driver had taken the brunt of the explosion from the conduit under the road. There was nothing describable left of him and she blanked the image from her subconscious. The vehicle commander had lost his right arm and leg and was staring up at the sky, muttering, “fuck, fuck, fuck.”

 

Afarin tried to remember her Common Core Skills Aid Memoire and the casualty triage algorithm. She shook the man who was returning fire.

 

“OK?” she yelled,

 

“Deaf,” he shouted, sending the rounds down.

 

She moved to the unconscious man. HRABC. Hazzard – pretty bloody obvious, as a round clanged off the roll bar next to her head. Response – no to shouting. She pinched his earlobe and heard a low moan. Airway – She checked for at least ten seconds, he was breathing. Circulation – fast but regular but he was bleeding from his ears. No point in checking pupils because she couldn’t have done anything anyway, so she rolled him into the recovery position.

 

The driver’s remains made her retch, so she dragged the commander by his webbing slowly into cover. Now what the fuck do I do? She found his morphine autojet round his neck and jammed it into his good thigh. His leg stump was spurting and she tried to tie her shemagh around his thigh. So Afarin did the only thing she could do, while the gun battle raged around her. She cuddled the Digger and talked to him softly. He stared up into her eyes, shivering with the pain and morphine. They were the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. Like his wife’s only darker and flecked with violet. He smiled at her and died four minutes later. They were the longest four minutes in Afarin Kahn’s life.

 

Time telescoped until a Pedro Black Hawk with two Apaches riding shotgun blasted the Taliban back under their stones. The Pedro retrieved the casualties along with Afarin. She was checked over in the US MTF in Kabul and was ascertained as suffering from mild combat stress. The Americans flew her back to the British FOB that night. She was tortured with the thought that had she gone to assist the vehicle commander first, he might have survived.

 

The following day she begged to borrow the Ops Officer’s sat phone and called one of the numbers Henry had given her. She told him everything that had happened and couldn’t stop herself from sobbing.

 

“Henry, I’ve had enough. I can’t take it anymore. I go out on nearly every patrol and I’m terrified that I’ll fuck something up and get someone killed. Everyone says I’m indispensable, but surely someone else must be able to speak Pashto?”

 

“Leave it with me.”

 

Twenty-four hours later she was on a USAF C17 out of Kandahar to Ramstein. She was met at the US Air Base by a charming lady USAF Captain and an MT vehicle to take her to Frankfurt Airport. Her flight had been booked to Heathrow, where a Q Car from Hereford was waiting for her. She was back at RAF Marham less than forty-eight hours after she had made the phone call. The British Special Forces do tend to look after their own when there is no Civil Service involvement. Afarin had been in almost constant front-line action for seven-and-a-half months.

 

*

 

Two days after Afarin had returned to RAF Marham, an Army Staff Sergeant pitched up at the main gate and booked himself onto the camp.

 

“Purpose for visit, Staff, or do you have a sponsor?”

 

“I’ve come to collect SAC Afarin Kahn, who’s won a two-week holiday. Do you happen to know where she’s accommodated?”

 

“Sorry no, but the two female accommodation blocks are located behind the Med Centre. I can’t give you the combination, but ring the door and someone will answer and get her for you.”

 

He didn’t need to ring the doorbell of any block. As he drove down the main drag he saw a young woman jogging on the grass at the side of the road. The arse was instantly recognisable. He followed her, parked up and chased after her.

 

“Hello, Treacle. Going my way?”

 

She turned round in shock, “Oh Henry,” she cried, ran up and hugged him.

 

“You are on post operational tour leave, correct?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Can you do brickwork pointing or plastering?”

 

“Err, I dunno.”

 

“Do you want to find out?”

 

She smiled shyly, “Oh yes.”

 

“Ten minutes. Pack light.”

 

That night they had dinner in the Lions of Bledlow pub on the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire border. Henry explained his project to her.

 

“It’s an old barn that I managed get for just over eighty grand. The hardest bit was getting the plans through the planning department, but they gave the go-ahead after I made a few changes to the design. I’ve got a mate who’s a builder and the roof has just gone on, so it’s weather tight. The external brickwork needs pointing and there’s a dry stone wall that needs rebuilding. That’s where you come in.

 

“I’ve got a good sized caravan in the grounds where I’m living, with hot and cold water and power, so you won’t have to crap in a bucket.”

 

She drove his car back from the pub because he had a few drinks with his dinner. In the fading light he showed her round the barn. Immediately she could see its potential.

 

“It will be lovely when it’s finished, Henry and the view is beautiful.” He was like a dog with two tails as he showed her into the caravan.

 

“Here we go, all mod cons.”

 

“Henry, where do I sleep?”

 

“Well this sofa can double as a bed. Or you can sleep with me.”

 

She looked at him and felt her cheeks burning.

 

“Henry, I’m not very good at this because… Well I’m just not.”

 

He cuddled her as they sipped coffee, “No worries, Treacle. We’ve got two weeks.”

 

Later, the owls screeching and hooting frightened her, so she padded to the other end of the caravan and slipped in next to him. He was still awake and hugged her close.

 

“Ahh, listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”

 

And they did.

 

She slipped out of the bed at dawn and looked through the window at the rising sun on the Chiltern Hills. The beech trees were beginning to turn and the slopes were dusted with yellow and orange. She was crying with happiness…

 

But the drumbeat strains of the night remain

 

In the rhythm of the new-born day

 

You know sometime he’s bound to leave you

 

But for now you’re going to stay

 

In the year of the cat

 

Apologies to Al Stewart

 

Blown Periphery 2017

 

Going Postal blog.

 

 

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