Consummate Professionals

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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Istvan56
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Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:08 am

After reading many stories I got inspired to bring back to life a project I started 2 years ago. No, this isn't another post-apocalyptic zombie outbreak survivor story. It is in the military science fiction genre and it covers a Terran colony degenerating into civil war, so it has an apocalypse in it. There are intelligent aliens who are bad guys and not so intelligent alien lifeforms which are deadly. However the most deadly creatures are the Humans and typical of us we are preying upon one another. I give you "Consummate Professionals," a work in progress.

Warning: The characters in this book are mainly Asians. There are many names that are hard to pronounce but since I don't expect you to say them aloud to each other I hope that doesn't matter too much. There are a few swear words and insults but mostly they are in Sinhala, Tamil, Punjabi and Nepali, the languages used by the combatants. Since I don't speak any of those languages I had to pick them up from native speakers, some of whom were on one or the other side of Sri Lanka's recently ended civil war. It has been interesting communicating with these folks online. I'm glad I didn't have to go there to do my research. :shock:

And now, here is the beginning of my story:

Consummate Professionals
by Istvan56


Prologue

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13


Mundo Novo, Favela do Metro

There is an old saying that no battle plan survives the first moment of contact. My plan is simple, meet the kidnappers at the exchange point, make the trade of ransom for the executive and then recover the money by eliminating the kidnappers. Our employers want to send a definite message that kidnapping isn’t profitable. The only problem is that the kidnappers have their own plan which is to get the money and not leave anyone alive, not the hostage or the guys making the drop. Needless to say, both plans can’t succeed. One or both has to fail which is exactly what occurred.

Vinh Nguyen is my point man, the man making the money drop. He looks like a successful gangster in his silk shirt, gold chains around his neck, expensive wrap around sunglasses, diamond pinky ring and manicured hands. He has a silver attaché case with the money and a tracking device that will only go off when I activate it. So any sweep of the money will show negative for bugs. They can take the money out of the case and it is covered since the bug is concealed between two bills that are sandwiched together. The case too is bugged but that is an obvious decoy.

Howe and Washington are his back-up team. They stay with the car and will be the ones to spirit the hostage out of the kill zone. Desmond Howe is an expert driver, he can do things with a car that would make most rally drivers cringe. Right now he looks cool as ice, the opposite from the irrepressible prankster he is when off duty. Andre Washington is an imposing figure, a former professional football player, American football, not soccer. He’s huge and the big 10 mm pistol he carries in a shoulder holster is lost underneath arms that are the size of lesser men’s thighs. I can see a few beads of sweat on his shiny bald head. The black man towers over Howe who is nearly a head taller than Nguyen. regardless of size each one is a talented soldier I wouldn’t trade for any man in any army.

Boyd and Takahashi are in position in the hidden chase car, Boyd driving. They’re the ones that are going to be tracking the money once I activate the bug. I am in the overwatch position with Lindstrom, my top sniper and Corporal Huygen, who is armed with a squad automatic weapon. Each is set back from their own window in an upstairs flat we occupied in the wee hours of the morning so we wouldn’t be detected. That leaves Orlov and Tran on the left flank with Golampor and Estrada on the right flank as the security detail. They are using a rented delivery truck that can double as an ambulance for the hostage or any of us.

Mundo Novo is a wild colony, a bit like the Old West as depicted by Hollywood. The law is corrupt or incompetent, when it is present at all. Private companies many times are a law unto themselves. We are working for one of them, with a license to kill. What we don’t know is that the other side, the ruthless kidnappers that had cut off fingers of the hostage and sent one each day till our employers paid, are lawmen. So they know of my team being on the job. And they are prepared for us.

Howe is the first one hit. I watch helplessly as his head flips back when the round from the enemy sniper rifle impacts his sunglasses. It punches through the bullet resistant polycarbonate lenses into his brainpan. He is dead before his body hits the ground. Andre reacts before the gunshot is through reverberating between the buildings surrounding the square. Drawing the TKW Model 29 he has the big automatic covering the likely firing angle from behind the armored door of the car. He breaks radio silence with a “Man down!” call when I spot the flare of a rocket-propelled grenade as it is launched at the vehicle. I barely am able to give a warning shout when it hits the car door and the blast punches through killing the big man and setting the car ablaze.

Chaos results from the explosion. Huygen pumps out short bursts of mixed tracers and armored piercing rounds into the doorway where the RPG gunner fired from. I hear first one, then a second soft crack from the heavy sniper rifle as Lindstrom takes out targets I failed to spot from my kitchen window vantage point. I’m more concerned about Nguyen. He is only armed with a small machine pistol, a spray and pray weapon that he had tucked into the small of his back under the loose shirt he is wearing. He has it out now as he sprints in a zig-zag pattern towards the nearest cover to him, a fountain where he was to leave the money. I bring up my assault rifle to give him covering fire when I spot a pair of policemen coming around the corner of a bodega into the square. We had warned the local cops to stay away from the pick-up site. Before I realize why they are there the pair pull out their sidearms and open up on Nguyen. He goes down on one knee and fires a controlled burst at the cops. He gets one and I punch the clock of the second pig. Now I know who betrayed us.

Sweeping back for further threats I see Nguyen fall over. He’d been hit in the exchange. I call for the chase car to move up for extraction while I reposition in support. I yell, “Cover me!” to Lindstrom and Huygen as I hop up and run down the stairs of the building we were hiding in. The staccato of Huygen’s machinegun covers the softer cracks of Lindstrom’s sniper rifle. I have confidence both men are suppressing what enemies remain as I move across the street to a corner where I can better support the rescue of Nguyen.

Boyd screams by me in the battered rental car and screeches the tires hard as he whips the car in a J-turn to end up next to our downed man. Takahashi jumps out before the vehicle comes to a complete stop. She drags Nguyen into the back seat. I see a muzzle flash from an upper window and fire a grenade from my Sturmgewehr 101 assault rifle back at it. There is an explosion and no more fire comes from that apartment. Boyd puts the car into gear and floors it, smoke coming from the spinning tires as they lose traction on the pavement. There are a few rounds that impact the rear window but they stop when either Lundstrom or Huygen silence the gunner permanently.

With the chase car gone the area grows quiet. I signal my security team to move up and secure the right flank where the two local cops had come from. While they are moving up Takahashi radios that Nguyen didn’t make it. I have her leave his body with Boyd and order her to join me. We are going to move up the left flank and police the area for holdouts. I want to know who these bastards are and where our hostage is.

We find one enemy survivor, the man I wounded with my grenade in the upper room. He refuses to talk till Golampor steps on his wounded arm. Then the kidnapper starts swearing in Portuguese. I don’t speak Portuguese but I still get the gist of his insults to our parentages. I motion for Golampor to step back. Pulling out my knife I kneel beside the wounded man and begin to cut off his shirt to check his wounds. They aren’t mortal, at least not yet. But I only have a few minutes to get what I need out of him. “Where is the hostage?” I ask. He spits in my face. It is a very bad move to make to a guy holding a knife. So I begin to perform surgery to remove the shrapnel from his body without any anesthesia. I am not gentle about it one bit. It isn’t long before he changes his tune. It is no surprise when he confirms that all of the kidnappers were local cops.

After we load up the bodies of our dead into the rental truck, along with weapons and police credentials from the bad guys we head out. The police prisoner, now bandaged, is our guide. The hostage is being kept at the home of the mistress of the police chief. I send Russell Boyd and Yuki Takahashi ahead to scout out the place. Lundstrom and Golampor I order to find a clear roof to provide security. I have Huygen cover the driveway with his light machinegun with Tran guarding the prisoner. I stash my assault rifle and web gear for a moment. Taking Nguyen’s reloaded machine pistol under my shirt I walk to the corner for a quick peek. Russell drives by the house and drops Yuki off in front of a neighbor’s house. She walks onto the premises as if she is at home and then disappears around back. I nod to Boyd when he passes me on his short jaunt around the block. Then I turn and walk back to where my car is parked.

A few minutes later Boyd pulls up in front of the same house. Yuki walks back from around the backyard and gets into the car. Within minutes she reports on the radio what she saw. “There are three guards. One is patrolling the yard. The second is just outside the rear door. The third is polishing the chief’s car in the carport.” I order the pair to get loaded for bear. We are going in. “Lundstrom, take out the rover. Huygen, you keep the street clear if they get reinforcements. Yuki, take the guy out in the carport, do it silently, then kill the guard at the back door. The rest of us will go through the front when you give us the all clear.”

I stroll into the master bedroom and interrupt the chief and his mistress in flegrante delicto. After securing our naked prisoners I have Tran bring in the informant while Boyd and Golampor search the rest of the house. Yuki brings in the bag of police ID’s and dumps them on the foot of the bed. “It looks like you need a new police force, chief,” I say. Boyd radioes that he has the hostage, but that he’s dead, has been for hours. “Tsk, tsk, very bad business. Now chief, who is the highest ranking officer in your department that wasn’t involved in this affair?”

A couple hours later I report in person to my employers that the message was sent and their missing executive has been located. Regrettably, he had been executed before the ransom could be paid. However, the money and his body are in the lobby. Furthermore there is a new police chief that will be more accommodating to their needs. They are appalled at the sight of their man but pay for a job well done. It doesn’t matter to me very much what they think, I have three good men to bury.

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Istvan56
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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:11 am

Chapter 1

My daddy left home when I was three
And he didn't leave much to Ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don't blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me 'Sue.'
Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue”


Paradise Resort, Turner’s World

“Paging Mr. Ku! Paging Mr. John Ku!”

I hear the bellhop as he threads his way through the cabanas but I ignore him. It is too perfect of a day to ruin it by responding to what is undoubtedly a summons from my boss. Instead I look out over the warm sands to the gentle white surf. There is a sailboat out beyond the reef. I turn to Cynthia, “That looks fun, do you want to go sailing after lunch?”

“Sure,” she replies. Then she turns and pulling down her sunglasses while looking me straight in my eyes says, “Maybe out there we won’t be interrupted by pages for ‘Mr. Ku.’ That’s what you are avoiding, aren’t you, honey?”

I sigh. She’s right. The moment I answer the page I know it will be over, the perfect vacation with the girl of my dreams. Of course it has been expensive, first class tickets to this vacation resort on Turners World in the company of a high quality escort such as Cynthia Myers, the natural blonde bombshell in the itty-bitty bikini next to me. My employer will spoil everything, demand that I return to duty for months at a time with no chance at all for the type of rest and recuperation that I am getting now. Well, I could put off answering the page for at least one more day. I pull Cynthia’s face close to mine and gave her a wet kiss, her mouth still tasting a bit tart from the lime of the drink she had just put down. I let my fingers roam over her abdomen tickling and teasing lower and lower till she gasps and pushes me away. “Not here,” she purrs. “It’s too public.”

Smiling I say, “Don’t worry about the page, beautiful. I’ll still have a job tomorrow. Let’s get lunch in our room and pack something to eat on the boat.” She smiles and gets up with the grace of a dancer, her perfectly tanned body barely covered by the bits of cloth that the resort’s boutique calls a swimsuit. It amuses me that skimpy items which cost so little to make seem to always be priced higher than say the tropical shirt and shorts I am wearing. So I have to pay extra to have her reveal more. Well, I was paying plenty and can afford it. My last contract had been a tough one to complete. But it had been very lucrative and I am living it up while I can. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” could be the motto of every independent contractor.

That’s what I am, an independent contractor or as some call me, a mercenary. Others prefer “operator” or “soldier of fortune” but that’s a bit romantic. Technically I’m a security professional employed by contract. Since “First Contact” and the subsequent “Great Expansion” into space there had been a jump in the field of independent contractors. We can go places and do things that formal armed forces can’t due to Union law. And that is a topic I can rant about all day.

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It all started with a stupid probe that was sent out to Uranus in 2012. You know, the planet kids deliberately love to mispronounce and then giggle over. The probe had a primitive ion drive and a small nuclear power plant so it could keep going and going, possibly going all the way out of the solar system. Three years into its’ voyage it was doing its’ thing, scanning Uranus and beaming back images to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory when it picked up an anomaly hidden on the far side. The NASA folks at JPL got all excited at what to them was obviously a manufactured artifact in space. Then the probe was destroyed and so too were their hopes that whoever was out there was friendly.

The destruction of the probe set the nation and then the world into a panic. Space alien movies had long been torn between the lovable “ET” type of peaceful explorers and the “Mars Attacks” type of xenophobia. The latter usually won out in portraying aliens as creatures who want to conquer Earth and wipe out Mankind. It was therefore believed that any aliens that showed the least bit of hostility must be evil, brain-sucking monsters. What most people, especially the military didn’t get, was that it was all a big mistake. The aliens never wanted to be detected by us. The fool who blew up the probe was only hoping to destroy evidence that he had blown his surveillance mission. Well, it backfired.

So when the aliens made First Contact with the probe’s owners by sending a shuttlecraft down to the Mall in Washington, D.C. all hell broke loose. Even the Secret Service got into the act firing SAM missiles from the roof of the White House. It goes without saying the aliens felt justified in firing back from their orbiting mother ship and the city was devastated. Frankly, there were many that felt America got what it deserved for being war mongers and international bullies but I disagree, naturally, since I was born and raised in LA, California. May 30, 2015 was a bad day for all of Mankind.

In the end the aliens turned out to represent a sort of United Nations of planets called the Union of Worlds, at least that’s what they said it translates to in English. They had been watching us for decades, waiting for the right moment to make First Contact. That’s a very important moment under their law, for when a species is contacted for the first time by the Union they are classified by their technological and societal advances. Needless to say we didn’t make a very good first impression. We are a space going race, though not a star faring or a very peaceable race, so we were classified as an aggressive Tier II civilization. In other words, we got screwed.

Races that are classified as Tier I get full membership in the Union of Worlds. That means citizenship and the right to self-government as well as full access to the trade and technology of the vast Union. Tier II races get far less. The term, “second class citizens” really does apply. We get limited access to space, no real standing in the Union and so are subject to “taxation without representation” as well as other ills. At least we don’t have to live with troops quartered in our houses which our forefathers did. Well, at least not yet we don’t. Remember I said they classified us as an “aggressive” species?

Of course we Humans didn’t have a say in how we were classified, just as we didn’t have a say in whether we joined the Union or not. One look at Washington, D.C. and the rest of the world acknowledged as fact that the aliens could wipe us out as a species. There were no overt threats, this wasn’t like that old Cold War movie where the ambassador comes down with a giant killer robot to deliver an ultimatum. No, this was a sort of hostile merger, very businesslike with all sorts of legal terms and clauses in the treaty. And it was very clear that we are “under new management.”

The benefits of Union membership as a Tier II race are twofold. First is access to space travel. Unfortunately only as sequestered cargo on Tier I Union vessels. We aren’t allowed to own space ships of our own yet or to mingle with other civilizations, even other Tier II ones due to our “aggressive” status. This allows Earth, or “Terra” as the United Nations decided to adopt as our official name, to colonize other worlds. (Some wanted Sol 3 for our name, then there were the crackpots who just wanted tell the aliens to call the planet “Bob.”) We just have to pay the Tier I owners of the new worlds for the rights to colonize (lease for a millennium actually) and buy passage on their vessels to get there.

This offer by the Union to lease uninhabited worlds started the “Great Expansion” out to the stars. We have a pioneering past both on Earth and in space so this was seen by many as a dream come true. And since many are convinced we are depleting our planet’s resources too quickly a reduction in our global population, without a cataclysmic event behind it, definitely factored in as a benefit to Mankind. We figure that the “owners” either can’t live on these habitats or it is too beneath them to risk life and limb on a primitive colony world. The fact that our descendants will have to vacate these improved worlds in a thousand years is not a big deal to folks who often can’t even plan for retirement let alone for generations yet to be born.

Secondly, access to new worlds allows Mankind to trade refined materials and raw energy products with Union mega-corporations in exchange for a limited offering of advanced alien goods. Frankly, without going to new planets and developing their resources we didn’t have that much to offer the aliens but cheap labor. Oh, there are some heavy metals they want but most of what they sought was beyond our capability or desire to deliver to them. And who wants to give away what we may one day need ourselves?

Now I said a limited offering of advanced goods as we are not allowed to purchase any technology which would advance us to the level of a Tier I civilization. No, that is against Union law, as we have to work our way up to their level on our own if we ever want to apply for Tier I status. What we get is a lot of “trinkets and trash” as I call it. The modern equivalent of the beads, blankets and trade goods we gave aborigines on Terra for land, furs and mineral rights. Humans sold themselves cheap and nearly wrecked our economy doing it. Alien pocket computers, completely voice controlled and with far more computing power and storage than any Terra built device took over the market despite their high price. Union pharmacology almost completely replaced our own putting hundreds of thousands out of work in the medical field. Sure, nobody can complain about getting the cure for breast cancer, HIV or gingivitis but why did it have to cost so much? That alone created riots in many countries where there was no socialized health care. And it nearly bankrupted many countries which did. It is a debate which rages on. Meanwhile Terran pharmaceutical companies are still struggling to catch up, as are computer companies and other affected industries. Reverse engineering is out of the question, both due to active countermeasures put into the alien technology and legal protections on Union patents.

That brings me to enforcement of Union treaty law. One of the strongest prohibitions of the treaty is waging war between planets of the Union, even between colony worlds and their home world. While the nations of Terra may still fight each other, which they do now and then, they can’t get around Union law off world, at least not with conventional forces. Can you say “Global Destruction” as the consequence for violation by any nation or colony? And we used to think “Mutual Assured Destruction” was the dumbest idea for a deterrent to war. We are stuck under this system until we progress to Tier I level and that isn’t happening anytime soon. Meanwhile the Union monitors and meddles in our internal affairs all due to our being such an aggressive species. So far Terra has found only one legal way to get around the prohibition on sending armed forces to put down rebellions on any of the dozens of colonies in the galaxy. That is where I come in.

Pagoda Security Consultants, Ltd. is a cover for what we are, hired guns, not rent-a-cops. We go where nations fear to tread and work for whichever side can afford us, usually the colonial government. Mercenaries can break strikes, put down rebel movements or boost them, stop sedition or organize it, train counter-terrorism forces, local militaries or private militias, all under Union law since we work for the locals and not for Mother Earth. We are licensed to import weaponry, within the heavy restrictions of Union law. And when Union law stands in the way of what our clients want we find a way to bend it.

As I said, I am between contracts and enjoying my time off with Cynthia. As far as I am concerned Cynthia’s work as an “independent contractor” is just as moral as mine. Maybe even more so since she doesn’t leave any bodies lying around after she completes her contracts. I also hope her job gives her more satisfaction than mine does, my last job was lucrative but not very satisfying. I especially hope to leave her satisfied after my contract with her is complete.

Still I am under no illusions, our relationship is strictly temporary, a consensual business venture. While we enjoy each other’s company she is not the kind of girl I’d take home to Momma. For one thing, my “Oma” was born in the Old Country, what used to be North Korea to be exact, and believes in arranged marriages. Second is that despite her becoming a US citizen Oma wants Korean grandbabies. My father wouldn’t mind me marrying an Anglo-American were he still alive but he died in 2017 getting my newly pregnant mother to freedom during the fall of the old North Korean communist regime.

My father saw the West as the source of liberty and embraced its’ ideals. He especially loved those of the United States of America which he saw as the arch-nemesis to dictatorial regimes like the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. Oma taught me all about the brave man that was my father, how he was a resistance fighter against the Communists to the end. It is natural then that I fulfill the duty of a US citizen that he would’ve done had he lived. I joined the US Army as a 2nd Lieutenant after completing Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program in college at USC. I eventually became an “operator” in the Special Forces community, first becoming an Airborne Ranger and then moving on to becoming a Green Beanie.

After the debacle of First Contact the US military was downsized but there still was a need for it as demonstrated by the Second Mexican-American War in 2043. I was a Special Forces captain by then commanding the team that captured part of the Mexican oil fields in the Chicontipec Basin. These were the last viable oil fields in North America outside of the areas where drilling is restricted to “protect the planet.” With all of North America unified I was “riffed out” or let go as part of the “Reduction in Force” after the war. So I joined the Great Expansion to the colony worlds and ended up working for Mark Kwong, head of Pagoda Security. It was likely Mark himself calling me away from my vacation. I put that out of my mind as I turn my thoughts to sailing with Cynthia. She’ll be sunning herself on the deck out of sight of the other guests at the resort, meaning she’ll have no tan lines.

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“Young Su, where have you been? The boss is pretty pissed off that you didn’t return his page.” That’s Yuki Takahashi, my team’s senior NCO on the hotel room’s vidcom. That means she’s in system, possibly already on the planet since this isn’t a pre-recorded video message. She knew of my plans to vacation here though not of Cynthia’s presence. Not that it matters to her. She is a consummate professional, not crossing the line between subordinate and supervisor except for a little teasing now and then. Besides, she is Japanese and I am of Korean descent. Our nations have a history, a bad one. While I don’t really care since I consider myself first and foremost an American, both her parents and my mother do.

“I told you not to call me Young Su. My name is John. Only my mother calls me Young Su.” My birth certificate reads Ku, Young Su but when I turned eighteen I legally changed it to John Ku. I was tired of being picked on for having a girl’s name. In Korean “Young Su” means the Eternal Su, a river that flows in China where Confucious was born. My sixth grade teacher was an older guy, at least in his fifties, which to an eleven year old is really ancient. He told me of a song from a long dead singer by the name of Johnny Cash about a boy named Sue by his father to make him tough. He brought in a recording of it and played it for the class. After class he suggested I take up martial arts. I took up Hapkido and then went on to Hoshindo, the art of self-defense. That cut down drastically on the bullying till I was old enough to change my name.

“We have a contract for a survey with a possible multi-team mission at the conclusion,” she says ignoring my correction of her. We are a pretty informal bunch, especially when not on the job. In the field it is completely different. Yuki came to us from the Rikujō Jieitai or the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force. It is still a male dominated army where she had to fight to get her combat rating. Ultimately it cost her too much face and so she left to become a private contractor, which was their loss, our gain. She is a shinobi-no-mono or one who is skilled in the art of stealth, a modern day ninja though she distains that word. Yuki isn’t an assassin but is an expert in reconnaisance and survellience. If cornered she can fight with formal weapons or in unarmed combat. Her skill in the ancient Takenouchi-ryū school of jujutsu is good enough to scare me and I have a fourth degree black belt in Hapkido.

“Send me the details of the mission. I’ll read them on my way back to headquarters.” Company headquarters is on New Nanyang, the oldest colony world which happens to be mostly populated by East Asians. Asia had benefited the most from the Great Expansion, having the largest surplus population to send off world. But few of the colony worlds are homogeneous. New Nanyang is no exception having non-Chinese minorities such as Nepalese, Tibetans, Laotians, Malays, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Thai and the like. Even a few Caucasians originally from Australia live there. I have a residence near to our headquarters but spend more time off-world than on it. This private resort on Turners World is just one of the places I prefer to spend my time and money.

“Sorry John, but we won’t be going back to headquarters.” I was afraid of that when Yuki called me. She didn’t come all this way just to tell me the boss was pissed off at my not returning his summons. “So, where are we going?” I ask. “Gondavana,” is the reply. I have to think on that one. From the name I take it to be one of the worlds colonized by India. “How soon will you be here?” I query.

Yuki snickers, “What, you have something to wrap up?” I reach over and pat Cynthia’s behind. She is blissfully asleep on the bed next to me. I am dressed since I wasn’t going to appear in the buff on the vidcom but Yuki shouldn’t be able to tell there is someone else in the room who isn’t. “You might say that,” is all that I want to admit to. Yuki is no prude to nag me about my sex life but that still doesn’t mean I want to share any details with her. She never says what she does with her down time, so I don’t feel like revealing anything about mine. “Let me guess, blonde, Caucasian, big boobs,” she sneers. “You American boys are so predictable.”

“None of your business, Snowflake,” I smartly retort. “You still haven’t answered my question.” She smiles knowing she scored a hit. “I’ll be there in eight hours. We depart at noon tomorrow, sir. I’ll give you a full briefing and itinerary when I arrive.” With that she salutes while barely managing a straight face and then cuts the connection. I sit back and groan while looking down at the still form of my dream girl. To me she represents all that was forbidden during my youth, a hot California babe with a great body and deep tan. The kind of girl I couldn’t bring home to Oma. Well, at least we’ll have a few more hours together. I run my fingers down her spine and she wakes up purring like a kitten.

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Yuki Takahashi, Turner’s World Space Station

I cut the connection to Captain Ku, still smiling. My sources were correct, he had picked up the high-priced bimbo that Martin Huygen had recommended to the commander. The Dutchman will pay for that, I will see to it soon. But first I have to get down to the resort and brief Ku-san on the new mission. I wonder what the fascination with busty blondes is all about. Many Japanese men have the same infatuation. I certainly don’t fit that mold and I am not about to go under the knife to change my body either. I look down at my modest bustline and slim, fat free body. If I didn’t work out regularly I probably wouldn’t have much of a figure but what I have is all muscle. I bet I can not only beat up that bimbo but get into positions that she never could. I smile at that last thought.

Still, Ku-san deserves the “down time” as the Americans put it. Our last contract had been difficult. We lost three good men, Nguyen, Howe and Washington due to the lack of intelligence support by our employers. The ambush cost us a third of our small team. Pagoda Security Consultants paid out a death bonus to their next of kin and will recruit replacements. And Mark Kwong gave us each a month to deal with the loss in our own personal way.

My way was to take the long journey back to my hometown of Osaka, Japan. My parents still live on Terra, despite my willingness to pay for their move to a more spacious home on New Nanyang where I live. They do not want to leave our ancestral home and in a way I do not blame them. There are few Japanese their age on New Nanyang. Even I do not have any real connection to the colony world I now call home. Perhaps in time and if I raise a family there I will.

That was one annoyance on my journey. My mother did not stop nagging me about settling down and getting married. My father kept silent on the issue. I know he disapproved of my “playing soldier” as he once put it to me. He does approve somewhat of my new employer, feeling that the army was no place for a girl. I do not correct his belief that I am merely working corporate security, it is a useful cover and closer to the truth this mission.

I review the briefing materials one more time so I can cover them quickly with my commander. The commander and I are to survey the situation on Gondavana. PAMCO, the Pan-Asian Minerals Corporation, is employing us in our security consultant guise to advise them and the government on how to best resolve a “native problem.” PAMCO has the mineral concessions from the government, exclusive rights to develop the planet and sell the energy, refined metals, chemicals, etc. to local businesses and off-world. Likely they are milking the locals for all the profit they can get and paying kick-backs to the government to get away with it. This in addition to selling refined metals and purified chemicals to off-world interests, meaning alien corporations, in exchange for alien wares.

It is a business model I have seen before. The Tier I civilizations include some species that supposedly cannot live on Earth-like planets. So it is cheaper for them to hire a Tier II species, namely us humans, to do the dirty work of drilling, mining, refining and shipping resources. All they have to do is launch bulk containers from automated ground stations for loading onto their orbiting cargo ships. That way they never have to dirty their hands, or whatever appendages they use for manipulating tools, in taming a wild planet.

I wonder what these aliens look like. So far the only Tier I species that communicates with Terrans is the T’limers. These are people so similar to us that we could be distant cousins. They physically look a lot like orange pigmented humans. They smell a little different though, somewhat earthy, or moldy. From their reaction to us humans they must think we have body odor problems too. Furthermore they are arrogant sons-of-bitches; every one of them treating earthlings as if we are the most primitive barbarians in the Universe. Which when compared to them technologically, maybe we are. Socially, well that is up for debate. Though there are some folks back on Terra who assign almost god-like status to the aliens. Most of those folks do not deal with them regularly. Not that many humans do. I do only due to the degree that we routinely ship weapons to our clients and that means Union customs checks. It is not a pleasant experience.

Union law is very discriminatory towards Tier II races. We are allowed to trade in small arms only, mainly hunting weapons but some military arms, as colony worlds are not free of indigenous predators. Meanwhile heavy weapons of war such as artillery, tanks and bombers are limited to our home world. Frankly if the aliens thought they could get away with it I think they would disarm us completely. As it is they forced the nations of Terra to give up all of their nuclear weapons. We can have nuclear power plants, even on colony worlds, these are considered clean, but no dirty nukes. The treaties on chemical and biological weapons already in place on Terra got some new teeth behind them. Violation of that Union law means destruction of the offending nation. The aliens were clear that collateral damage to the offender’s neighbors is not a big concern of theirs. That keeps the rogue nations in check. Everyone remembers what happened to the old United States of America at first contact. May 30th is now a holiday known as “First Contact Day” is as somber as Hiroshima Day was in Japan during my parents’ youth.

I quit my musing and go back to the briefing materials. Gondavana was primarily developed by three nations, China, Sri Lanka, and then later India. I find that fact interesting. The former Peoples Republic of China is still under one party rule but is no longer communist. They adopted a brand of democracy that is similar to the city-state of Singapore. Freedoms are subordinate to national security and the common good. That is how things are in most of the Asian colonies. Societal rules are strictly enforced, violations of Gondavana codes are severe. So the local rebels must be fanatical to risk their lives by assaulting and sabotaging PAMCO facilities. If caught they could face a death sentence.

For the next few hours I pour over reports on the geography, flora, fauna, culture, laws and development on Gondavana. Ku-san will have access to the same reports but I doubt very much that he will take the last few hours with his bimbo studying them. I snort, at least one of us has to be thinking with something more than our gonads.

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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:25 am

Author Notes: Weapons & Explosives

Yeah, the gun guys here may make fun of my weapon systems. They aren't all that space age but are merely the next logical step in progression for Terran weapons. Naturally I couldn't use real gun makers for my futuristic weapons so I made up a few new corporations, some of whom are not located on Terra. Oh, there is one "real" weapon, the Deathwind based upon the old Gyrojet carbine. Don't worry, it isn't for use on world but for use in space, in zero gee or low gravity environments.

In this civil war IED's are used by the rebels. At one point I have a class on making homemade detonators where some of the steps are described. More than a few key steps have been deliberately omitted (like how to make the explosive used in the detonator) and nobody should try this at home. It would be very dangerous, illegal and stupid. :evil: Anyway, I had a buddy of mine who is an EOD tech help me with that chapter. We used captured Al Q'aida training methods and tweaked them. Since we worked on that chapter he's gone for a 15 month deployment into the Sandbox and back again, fortunately not losing any body parts in the process.
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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:30 am

Chapter 2

Well, he must o' thought that it was quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a' lots of folk,
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named 'Sue.'
Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue”


John Ku, Paradise Resort Airport, Turner’s World

Yuki looks pleased with herself. She’s wearing a fashionable light gray business suit with a red tie and matching ribbon in her black hair, while I’m walking around the resort airport in my blue tropical print shirt, rumpled khaki shorts and worn sandals. So I saunter up to her, bow deeply and in my best “cabana boy” manner say, “Welcome to paradise. Will the lady be staying long?”

Her eyes gleam at my joke but she acts serious. Returning my bow she replies in heavily accented English, “So sorry. Regrettably I have business to attend to elsewhere. Perhaps another time?” She tilts her head coyly as she asks this question. As if I’d bring her along on my vacation, humph! Yuki is a nice girl, really cute and a great subordinate but there was no way she compares to Cynthia. Besides, I need Yuki as a subordinate more than as a lover. She is my right hand man, well, woman, my girl Friday who has kept me out of trouble on more than one mission. Then there is the point that I might some day have to send her to her death. You can’t do that to your lover, not and live comfortably with the results afterwards. So I drop the routine. “Come up to my room and let’s go over the mission materials.”

“Are you sure it will be alright with your bimbo?” I redden at that quip. “She’s gone. You probably passed her in the airport.” She nods and shouldering her attaché indicates for me to lead the way. Yuki drops the heavy accent for her normal voice, a bit British sounding from the version of English that they still teach in some Japanese schools.

Once secure in my room I pull up a chair for Yuki to sit on while I plop myself on the bed. At least I had the decency to straighten things up before she came in. I catch her giving the room the once over as she enters, looking for threats as well as something incriminating from my “bimbo” as she calls Cynthia. “There are no bugs or bombs, I swept the room thoroughly before and after Cynthia joined me in it.” Flipping a switch on a remote I carry in my pocket I tell her, “I’ve activated the portable faraday field, go ahead Snowflake.”

I started calling her that shortly after we met because her name means “snow” in Japanese. Typical of girls with that name she was born in December. She got the joke and didn’t seem to mind it when I kept it up so the nickname stuck. Opening her attaché case Yuki pulls out her notebook computer, one of the latest human designed ones. Flipping open the cover she twists it around so the projection screen faces up. After verifying her identity with a retina scan she hits the play button and a hologram of the planet appears in the center of the room.

“Gondavana means ‘Forest of Gond’ in Sanskrit,” she begins with information I already know from my scan of the file. “Gondavana is younger than Terra, it’s in the equivalent of our Middle Eocene Sub-Epoch according to the International Commission on Stratigraphy. So that makes it roughly 40 million years behind Terra in development. The planet is in an ice age and much of the primary landmass, a continent named Gondwana, is uninhabitable.”

The holograph of the planet is covered by two great polar ice sheets. There is one large continent overlapped by the two regions of ice along with many islands on the oceans to the east and west of the main landmass. “So the colony is in the equatorial zone?”

“Mostly so, but it has spread out to the north into the temperate zone.” She taps a key on the computer and the image increases size to where I can make out symbols of human settlements. “The capitol is Neu Kandy, on the sub-tropical southwest coast here.” She makes the city glow red. “There are cities on these western islands and then along a double railroad line up into these mountains where PAMCO struck it rich in gold right here.” Now another city glows red. “That’s Patan, capital of the Northern District. The main railroad terminates there. Branch lines run to the various mines, for example, here outside of the town of Bhairawa where there are silver and nickel mines.”

The colony formation looks a bit like an anchor. The arms of the anchor are the roads and trunk rail lines running along the coast. In the center is the capitol, Neu Kandy from which the northern rail line takes the place of the shank of the anchor. The branch lines form the stock and Patan sits at the top where the anchor eye is. “How long has this colony been in existence?”

Yuki replies, “Twenty-four years. It was jointly sponsored by PAMCO and Sri Lanka as a way to revitalize that country as well as drain off the surplus population. Sri Lanka was paid a hefty commission for securing the planet on behalf of PAMCO, then received a signing bonus for every colonist shipped to the planet. For the first four years everyone on the planet was a contract employee of PAMCO. After their contracts wore off the colonial government was formed and naturally PAMCO received exclusive rights to develop all mineral and fuel concessions. PAMCO is still the single largest employer on the planet.”

That makes sense. The multi-national corporations use their own investment capital to develop the new worlds. But the Tier I civilizations that own these planets won’t turn them over to a corporation for fear that they’ll just take what they want from them and then abandon the colonists. So they only sell the rights for colonization to a Terran nation. It doesn’t matter the size of the country so long as the nation accepts responsibility for the long term colony. Multi-nationals prefer dealing with small Third World nations since they not only are desperate for money but are also good sources of cheap labor. “What is the population on Gondavana now?”

“The last census was 2 years ago and it gave the population at 3.521 million, 48% of which are Singhalese from Sri Lanka, the largest ethnic group in the colony. 18% are Tamil from Sri Lanka. There are 15% Indians, roughly split between Tamils from Tamil Nadu and immigrants from the rest of India. That makes Tamils about 25% or the second largest ethnic group. Next are 11% Nepalese, 7% Chinese and 1% other or mixed ethnicity. There is an ongoing immigration of new colonists, now primarily from India and Nepal but a smattering of Sri Lankans joining the original colonists. Those numbers are roughly 150,000 per year so the colony population now should be just under 4 million.”

“That’s a wide number of different ethnicities and tribes. How many different religions are we talking about?” This is equally important as that’s also a source of conflict on colony worlds, as it is back on Terra. Yuki brings up the figures and projects them as a pie chart. “The Singhalese and most of the Chinese are Buddhists making up a majority of about 56% of the population. The Tamils from Sri Lanka and most Indians are Hindus. Of the remaining Indian immigrants, there is strong a Sikh community from various states. Many Nepalese count themselves as both Buddhists and Hindus, Nepal having been the last Hindu kingdom on Terra. That makes it over half the population Buddhist with a large Hindu minority, a small Sikh minority and a few ‘other’ religions such as Jains, Muslims and Christians.”

Yuki continues without waiting for me to prompt her, “The population is segregated into districts by ethnic group with the exception of Neu Kandy and a few of the coastal cities which are fairly cosmopolitan. Those cities tend to have ethnic quarters, not quite ghettos for the minorities but close, particularly for the Tamils who historically were rivals of the Singhalese. Mixing in public and the workplace is acceptable but intermarriage is not, especially for those who are of different faiths.”

“And how is the political situation?” I ask. She replies, “Stable enough for now but I expect trouble in the next few years.” Gesturing for her to go on she did so, “The constitution set up a strong prime minister, weak president and bicameral parliament. Since the beginning of the colony the Democratic Socialist Party has run the state. They represent the majority Singhalese population. The Chinese have their party but the Buddhist Bloc, as the coalition of Singhalese and Chinese is called, tends to vote as one. The Sri Lankan Tamils have their own opposition party, the Democratic Peoples Party, but it hasn’t ever garnished enough votes to do much. The new immigrants go through a long process to gain citizenship, that’s going to change the political landscape in the next couple of years when many will become eligible to vote. Neither side knows who the Nepalese will form a coalition with. It is clear the Indian immigrants, mostly Tamils, will favor the Sri Lankan Tamil opposition party. With Sri Lankan immigration slowed down to a trickle eventually the non-Buddhists will outnumber the Buddhist Bloc. That will really change the way the government is run.”

That is a good analysis and could be a source of some of the current troubles. “Okay, Yuki, wrap it up. What else is there to know?” She sniffs and replies, “There is a lot more information regarding terraforming, land distribution, native flora and fauna, importation of Terran animals and conflicts with native species, et cetera.” I frown and shake my head. She looks mad that I’m not taking this part seriously. “Tell me about their military,” I counter.

“Ah, Gondavana doesn’t have a military in the truest sense. Their domestic security forces are an extension of the federal police dubbed the Gondavana Defense Forces or GDF. Most of them are reservists with the rest a full-time training cadre. There is a militia system with a draft on paper but the government has never implemented it. For one thing, it would mean arming the population, including the immigrant minorities. Currently firearms are strictly regulated with only the military having automatic weapons. Rural citizens may possess some pretty powerful hunting arms for defense against aggressive native species but they are all registered and subject to inspection by the district constabulary. Ammunition is tightly controlled and only sold in small quantities to registered firearms owners.”

“So give me the details about these hunting weapons and why the rural population has them.” Yuki smiles in triumph, bows slightly and then punches in another codeword. The scene changes to show a large brown shaggy quadruped with short rear legs, long almost prehensile forelimbs, and a rather small head with dull teeth, signifying it was a browser and not a meat-eater. “This is the ‘greater sloth,’ an animal the size of an elephant. When you consider that it is comfortable standing on its’ hind legs so it can pull down the tops of trees to get at new growth you can see that it could be quite dangerous if it becomes alarmed or when protecting its’ young.”

The next holograph depicted a shorter version of the same creature only the head was a bit larger and the teeth more pointed. Its’ fur coat is mottled and the claws on it are more pronounced, as if it digs up some of its food. “This is the sloth-bear. Besides being nocturnal it is an omnivore. They normally dig up roots and tubers but supplement their diet with smaller burrowing animals and carrion. I say ‘smaller’ in that these stand about three meters when they rise on their hind legs, about the size of a polar bear. Their bite and paws cause horrible wounds, not just due to the size of the teeth and claws but due to the high risk of infection since they eat carrion.”

“There is a smaller cousin to both animals, the arboreal sloth. It is harmless for the most part, as are the mouse-deer, the flying possum, the rat possum and the rufous-backed lemur. All of these are food for the next creature.” This was a predator that I recognized from Terran history. “That’s a saber-toothed tiger!” I exclaim.

“Close, but of course this is the Gondavana version so there are some differences. By the way, there was not merely one species on Terra known as the saber-toothed cat. There were several different evolutionary branches of true cats and non-felines that had projecting teeth. This is a marsupial though locals still call it a saber-toothed tiger.” It looks about as big as a leopard so it isn’t quite the same size as a Bengal tiger. But like the tiger it has stripes. However it is clear that the claws are non-retractable as are the two very pronounced saber-teeth. “Like the leopard this predator is a tree climber and prefers to leap down on prey,” Yuki expounds.

“And now for its’ larger cousin, the saber-toothed lion,” she says. This one is tawny like an African lion though the resemblance ends there. The shoulders are broader, the head blunter and those pronounced teeth far scarier than any lion I ever saw in a zoo. “These live in the plains and hunt the sloth-bear and even the greater sloth now and then, though they are never alone when facing prey that dangerous. They are pack animals like their Terran equivalents. Unfortunately they’ve taken a liking to Terran beasts such as water buffalo and Asiatic elephants which the colonists brought with them to say nothing of eating the occasional human.” I just shake my head and shudder at the thought of packs of these beasts hunting elephant herds and people.

“Last but not least we have the crocodilians.” She snickers at my reaction to the picture she shows me. “It looks like a dinosaur,” I say. “Well, it is not.” Yuki states, “Even on Gondavana dinosaurs are extinct. This is an ocean going species though it can be found in any deep river or large warm lake in the tropics. The largest one on record was a whopping 12 meters long. It was killed after it ate a 3 meter survey boat. Not just the crew but the whole boat. We don’t know if there are larger specimens than that.”

Sighing, I let my curiosity get the best of me. “So, what sized hardware do the locals have to deal with beasts like this? Man-portable artillery? Crew served weapons? What?” Yuki smiles and brings up a set of schematics. I recognize the first vaguely from a gun magazine I read. They are from a small outfit named Turner Group Industries located on the planet we currently are on. Takahashi refreshes my memory, “The smaller of the two is the TGI Model 75 semi-automatic hunting rifle. It is a lightweight rifle that takes a variety of optical and electronic sights. Magazine size varies according to local government restrictions, the largest for civilians on Gondavana has a 10 round capacity. It uses an 8 mm magnum round in a variety of loadings, from a 165 grain Spitzer to a 220 grain soft-point partitioned bullet. Handled well it will stop a saber-toothed tiger but is considered generally light for hunting either a lion or a sloth-bear.”

The next weapon looks like it could take down anything including the largest crocodilian. It’s a bull-pup design with a box magazine underneath the receiver and a large muzzle-brake on the end of the barrel. It has a carry handle that folds to one side and an integral bipod at the fore of the stock. “That’s the Model 75’s larger brother, the Model 85. It is upscaled to handle the 11 mm magnum round and as you can see, reconfigured to fit in a smaller bull-pup stock to cut down on size and weight. The double buffer system reduces felt recoil and the muzzle-brake prevents climb when firing rapidly such as when facing a charging greater sloth. It comes with either a five round or ten round magazine. On Gondavana the magazine size is restricted to five rounds for civilians.”

“What’s the maximum effective range on these rifles?” I ask. Takahashi loses her grin, “Due to the lower gravity on Gondavana, .91 gees, the maximum effective range with decent optics is 850 meters for the Model 75 and twice that for the Model 85. They both make excellent sniper rifles with little gunsmithing required. The Model 75 is not bad as an expedient battle rifle either, though a bit heavy by current standards and lacking the high magazine capacity of modern rifles. Local rebels carrying them will be well armed.”

“Okay, now I’ve heard enough. This is going to be interesting. PAMCO security had better be prepared to out-think the locals because they certainly won’t be outgunning them with their usual weaponry. If I remember correctly they generally supply their security guards with shotguns and handguns, right?”

“Yes, they use the Sundown Industries M-1200 semi-automatic shotgun as their standard long gun on colony worlds. It holds 8 rounds in a fixed magazine and fires 12 gauge full case loads of slugs, rubber ball rounds, buckshot or birdshot. It may stop a sloth-bear or a lion with slugs at close range but I’d rather have the TGI Model 85 for that. They may have a few rifles in their inventory as well but their rank and file guards will be low paid locals with shotguns at best.”

I have seen this before. Corporations spend lots of money on security systems but almost no money on security officers. After all, they can write off the depreciation on equipment purchases but officers cost an increasing amount of money as cost of living goes up on colony worlds and so do benefits, especially if the local workers unionize. Typically they scrimp on the numbers of officers along with their weapons and training time. So when the fecal material hit the rotary device the company stooges can’t handle it and their bosses have to bring in specialists like us to fix it. The company winds up paying more in the end but it is often easier to go with the short-sighted view when explaining overhead costs and expenditures to the board of directors and stockholders. So what a few more workers die, new workers typically are paid less than the ones they replace. It is a cynical view but an accurate one. It also pays my bills so I don’t complain too loudly about it.

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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:32 am

Chapter 3

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,
My fist got hard and my wits got keen,
I'd roam from town to town to hide my shame.
But I made me a vow to the moon and stars
That I'd search the honky-tonks and bars
And kill that man that give me that awful name.
Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue”


Somewhere in transit

I hate space travel which is bad because I travel a lot. Commercial space travel involves first boarding a shuttle which is mated to an airplane. The “mothership” then flies about 15 kilometers up and drops the shuttle. The shuttle fires off its’ main engines and then flies straight up into space to dock with the spaceport. You are only subject to about 5g’s of pressure, not as bad as launching from dirtside. Coming back is easier, the shuttle simply drops down from orbit and glides for a landing like a conventional airplane. It is a system that was pioneered before First Contact, not by any government space agency but by a private company vying for a $10 million dollar prize. SpaceShipOne only cost about $50 million to develop, at least ten times less than what NASA spent on the old shuttle program.

Cargo such as refined minerals, bulk chemicals and volatile fuels, use a different system on the colony worlds. It’s riskier but again relatively cheap compared to the old NASA shuttle system. Of course it requires a nuclear reactor to power it, which is why it wasn’t adopted by NASA, nuke plants aren’t politically correct. The aliens who install and remotely operate these automated spaceports don’t care about Terran feelings on the issue. They go with what works and is cheapest. Cargo pods basically ride a ground based laser into space. It’s a one way trip since the cargo pods are simply being picked up by orbiting alien spaceships for delivery to whatever Tier I civilization bought the product. Merchandise, equipment and supplies coming into the gravity well come by way of the glider shuttles when there is a spaceport in orbit to drop them, hot re-entry and parachutes when there isn’t.

As a Tier II race humans are only allowed intra-system spacecraft such as shuttles and tugs. The T’limer and other Tier I races are only too willing to provide inter-system transportation for a price. We just have to book our trip through a travel agency like folks had done on Terra for over a century. The agency brokers the prices for each leg of the journey and for our layovers at various spaceports. It is too expensive for most colonists to travel, their first and only trip is paid for by their government. As for us, we travel in style and comfort. Not at all like the early days.

The first humans to travel in a Tier I spacecraft were treated as cargo. Since direct contact between humans and ship crew is forbidden to prevent technological contamination we’ll never know on whose ship it was. There were no viewports or monitors in the cargo bay. There were also no creature comforts of any kind, just basic life support, artificial gravity set to our home world and a simple waste disposal system. The words “Spartan” and “animal carrier” come to mind. It was humiliating, degrading especially for the UN ambassadors from Terra.

Naturally some enterprising businessmen came up with a plan to improve travel between the stars. They built passenger modules that could be fitted into the cargo holds of any alien transport ship. The idea resembles train cars with some modules for sleeping, others for dining, entertainment and of course, freight. Transport tubes connect the modules so they can be arranged to fit with any other cargo in the bay and still allow for passengers to move around safely. Once at their destination the modules are detached in space as each one has their own limited life support system. In that way a module, like a train car, can be shuffled from one ship to another, important when there isn’t always a direct connection between colony worlds.

For Yuki and I, travel is first class in a private coach owned by Pagoda Security. That means we each have our own bunk, a personal entertainment system and a restroom in our shared module. For meals we eat in the dining car though we carry our own emergency rations and snacks in our module. Most of our luggage is sealed in a bonded pod with the hazardous cargo since that is where our weapons are. That’s not to say we are totally unarmed, it just means that we have no firearms or explosives with us in our module.

Our itinerary is from Turners World first to Mutapa, the majority African colony world. There our module will be transferred to a ship jumping to Avalon, a European Union colony and from there on to Gondavana. Unfortunately there is a layover at both Mutapa and Avalon stations meaning we’d be going from 1g artificial gravity onboard the alien vessels to whatever the human spaceport gravity is. Since most spaceports use centrifugal force (some primitive ones have no artificial gravity) and their spins are set to local standards it means your body has to adjust every other day or so to a new body weight and movement style. The boss has told us we don’t have to leave the module while in station if we don’t want to. But all we have on board to eat are emergency rations, great if we want to have our bowels stopped up for a week. So we pay extra out of our pockets for dining out and trying the local cuisine. Even if it also means we have to go through Union customs and local security checks when we disembark.

It is all due to our being independent contractors. Our identification is flagged by Union and local authorities. Meaning every customs and security agent loves to inspect us and any luggage we don’t send via the sealed and bonded cargo pod. Not that we aren’t still dangerous as we are. We always travel with some edged and improvised weapons on our persons. People we’ve offended in the past, maybe we killed a family member or ruined some business venture of theirs, also travel in space. Therefore we must be careful. It is funny how the Tier I races are so advanced yet they don’t consider a small blade a prohibited weapon. In reality, I think they don’t care if we kill each other so long as we don’t have a weapon that could damage their ships and vent atmosphere. Local security types are even more paranoid. They look for contraband such as illegal drugs and in the case of some worlds, prohibited alcohol and pornography. We have to account for everything we have or be very clever in concealing it.

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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:40 am

Author Notes: Long ago and far away I was the boy named "Sue." Specifically, I was named Ku, Young Su which is where I got the name for my main character. No, I am not Korean. I just had the honor of serving in South Korea as a missionary. But I also had the merciless teasing by fellow Americans over being given the Korean name of "Young Su." I'd get "Young Su-ah, nolja!" This means "Young Su, let's play!" as when the little neighborhood kids call out for one of their friends to come out and join them. And yes, I had the Shel Silversteen song "A Boy Named Sue" thrown at me now and then. Notice I am crediting the song's author and not Johnny Cash who made it famous.

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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:46 am

Chapter 4


The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.
Proverbs 28:1


Mutapa Space Station, Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant

It is a good thing that we are so careful. There we were, to those around us merely an Asian couple having dinner, when Yuki suddenly kicks my foot. I don’t think she means to kick me so hard but we are in a low gravity station after just leaving a 1 gee standard ship. I look at her and ask in Japanese what is up. Again, most folks can’t tell a Korean from a Japanese, especially when at an African colony where we clearly are a rarity. She answers in her native tongue that there is a man watching us. Now my Japanese is fairly limited so I can’t keep up the charade for long but I do know my directions. So I ask where he’s sitting. All I understood is that he is behind me to my right. Not how far or at what booth in the Ethiopian restaurant we chose to dine in. Not how intently he is watching us, if he looks angry or pleased to see us.

My next step then is to announce that I have to use the restroom. I’m not worried about Yuki, she’s in a public place and probably can kill everyone in the room bare handed if it comes to that. I set my cup of tella beer down and stand to look where the men’s room is. Actually I know where it is but this gives me the opportunity to look around. I spot the guy right away, as he is concentrating hard on not looking my way. Like I said, Asians are a rarity on Mutapa, even those just passing through the spaceport. So a number of people are giving me the once over. This guy isn’t interested in the least. To make sure I bump the table and knock my cup on the floor. The waiter sees it and comes over. I apologize and ask for a new one as well as directions for the men’s room. Again the stir turns heads but not from this guy.

The suspect is a middle aged black male wearing what looks to be Arab attire, a long white djellaba shirt and an embroidered fez. That would indicate a foreigner since Mutapa is a Christian colony world. Likely he’s a businessman from Manden Karufa, another African colony world but one settled by Muslims. I take all of this in a glance since the restroom is in the other direction from where the man is sitting.

After doing my business I am able to observe the suspect much more closely on my way back to our table. I was wrong about his clothing and I realize why this man is watching us. He is not Arab but Swahili of the Theneshara Taifa or the “Twelve Tribes” as they call themselves. His djellaba is white but with a distinct beige embroidery on the yoke. In Swahili it is called a kanzu, just like his hat is termed a kofia, not a fez. Instead of the usual dark colored fez this one is off-white. He has a scar on his left cheek which I recognize though I keep my face blank to keep from giving myself away.

Back at the table I whisper to Yuki, “New Mombasa, Operation End of Time.” She nods and smiles as if I told a joke. Politely she covers her mouth when laughing but then asks lowly, “Why is one of the ‘Akher Zamani’ terrorists here?” I shrug and go about my meal though I am not so hungry now. The chicken stew, spicy Ethiopian doro wat, sits in my stomach like a lump. I tear off a piece of injera bread that serves as my plate and eat it with a bite of kitfo, or tartar steak. I make myself chew slowly while I remember details of the contract.

I think back two years to when we smashed the plot to blow up the offices of Trans-World Petroleum on Manden Karufa. The colony is dominated by Hausa-Fulani West Africans. However they are the minority in towns like New Mombasa, the second largest city on the planet and center of the oil trade but they occupy most political offices. Much of the oil profits from TWP go to corrupt government officials and bypass the Swahili who work the oil fields around New Mombasa. Members of the Twelve Tribes took it upon themselves to punish the government and TWP with a bombing campaign.

We were called in to stop it. We did through payouts to informants, infiltration of cells by local agents and kidnapping of key terrorist leaders. We used drugs to get the truth out of our prisoners and to build cases for the government to prosecute. We hamstrung the “End of Time” or Akher Zamani group and eventually broke the back of the rebellion. The government held family members of the tribal sheiks hostage with the promise of retaliation if any further bombings continued. After a few beheadings the Akher Zamani terrorists gave up as their own community turned against them.

This man, Salim Ali, is rumored to be one of their best bomb makers. We had long hunted him but never got him before the operation was closed down. Somehow he recognized us, though it was well known that a team of contractors was on the job and led by Asians we were careful to wear shemaghs covering our heads outside of our headquarters. How he knows we were part of the team I’m not sure but we could’ve been under observation by the end of the mission. We weren’t the only ones recruiting local agents at the time.

We are under no duty to apprehend Salim Ali, though there is still likely to be a price on his head. But we are staying on this spaceport and if he is going to blow it up we’ll definitely be inconvenienced. Finishing my tella I motion for the waiter to bring the check. I pay our tab and collect a few of the little dabo kolo cookies that Ethiopians serve for dessert. Then I ask Yuki, “What is he doing?”

She pops a cookie into her mouth and replies, “Still watching us. He finished his meal and is having coffee. He does not seem to be in much of a hurry. I think he is waiting for us to leave first.” I nod and respond, “Then let’s not disappoint him. We’ll go out together and then split up, each of us watching a different corridor. I want him alive and talking.”

Salim waits another twenty minutes before departing from the restaurant. I think he is as surprised to see us in there as we are to see him. When he comes out he looks nervously back and forth. He fails to see the little mirror I am using to spy around the corner of the maintenance corridor that I secreted in. Yuki is down the other way, hidden somewhere among the duty free shops. Salim must’ve thought he would be able to sneak away because he takes off down my way straightening his kanzu and acting as if he doesn’t have a care in the world. He is wrong.

As he passes the maintenance corridor I step out and press my knife to his belly, my back concealing the action from the hallway’s security camera. I smile and say, “Salaam, Salim Ali. Please come with me.”

He blanches but nods and steps into the maintenance corridor out of sight of the monitors. “Long have I dreaded this day, John Ku. I thought one of your teams of assassins might grab me but never their leader himself.”

I shake my head, “We lost interest in you when our contract ended two years ago. This is just a chance encounter. I want to know what you are doing on Mutapa spaceport.”

The terrorist chuckles, “No, I do not think so. You and the ninja are here for me. I am prepared to meet Allah. Do with me what you will.” I shrug, spin him around and deliver a stunning blow to the back of his head. He drops like a sack of potatoes. Putting away my knife I step out into the main hall and signal Yuki to come join me. While she makes her way down to me I drag the terrorist into an alcove and tuck his body out of sight of passersby. When Yuki arrives I have her use her hojo cord to tie the bomber up. Then I search him thoroughly.

My pat down reveals several sets of identity papers, none in his real name, a wad of local currency and a bundle of credit cards to match the phony ID’s. There is one more item, a tiny flashdrive for a computer. I asked Yuki to check it out while I wake up the sleeping beauty. He’s still groggy so I help him up. Yuki bound his hands in front of him but inside of his long kanzu. We have to get him to where we could question him without notice. I send Yuki to scout ahead while I act like Salim and I are both drunk. He is just weak enough that it works till we get to our module.

Once inside I lock down the module and activate the security screen. Now we have the privacy we need to conduct a proper interrogation. Yuki carries a medical kit and in it disguised as a pain killer we have a drug that can make the strongest man talk despite any conditioning or training. It is dangerous and experimental stuff, quite illegal on most worlds but we answer only to our boss. We have a dose of counteragent as well so when we were done there will be no trace in his system, if he lives through the process. One in a thousand subjects die from a reaction. Fortunately for all of us Salim Ali is a devout Muslim and didn’t have any alcohol with his dinner. That would increase the chances of a bad reaction.

“Salim, wake up,” I gently slap him on the cheeks. He’s sitting in my easy chair, reclined for comfort and to reduce the likelihood of his jumping up and attacking me. Yuki is playing on her laptop out of sight of the terrorist, hacking the encryption program on the flashdrive. The terrorist wakes up and looks at me with the grin of an idiot. “Salaam, John. You found me.”

“Yes Salim, I did. And I have a few questions for you. You want to answer my questions, yes?” I am testing the effect of the drug on his resistance. It is pretty potent stuff for he answers “yes” without hesitation. “Good,” I reply, smiling. He smiles back. I ask the pivotal question, “Why are you on Mutapa station?”

Salim thinks hard for a second. I don’t know if he is resisting the drug or just confused. Then he grins as if he remembers something. “I am here to meet someone.” He looks pained for second. I checked his vitals, they are strong. “It’s okay Salim, we are friends.” His pained look goes away and again he smiles broadly.

The drug breaks down a person’s willpower. It also makes them very prone to suggestions so care has to be used not to suggest an outcome that isn’t desired. What makes this drug so superior to old standbys such as sodium thiopental is the rapid effect of the drug and the lack of any trace afterwards. Furthermore, when used with hypnosis the memory of the interrogation can be suppressed. I’m not too concerned with his remembering our little chat since I plan on trussing him up and leaving him at the security office for the reward. “Who are you here to meet?”

“My new employer,” he replies. This is getting interesting. “Who is employing you now, Salim?” He scrunches up his forehead, then shakes his head back and forth. “I do not know his name.”

“What is the job?” I am curious. Salim is working freelance now, meaning he’s an independent contractor of sorts, the sort that I usually fight against. “Gondavana” is the reply. I am shocked. A bomb making terrorist is not someone that PAMCO would need so it has to be the other side. But who is hiring him?

“When are you going to meet your contact?” The bomber looks around and asks, “What time is it?” I give him the time according to the local clock and he replies, “In half an hour.”

“Salim, this is good that you are helping us.” I turn to Yuki, “Any success with the flashdrive?” She shakes her head in the negative. “It has a very good encryption program, military grade,” she says. I respond, “Then stop it for now and come work your magic on our friend. I want to see who he is going to meet.”

An idea was forming in my head. We’d have to work fast to get Salim ready and then be able to track him to the meeting. While Yuki puts him under and gives him both a memory suppression suggestion and a control trigger, I pull out some of our toys. One is the same type of micro tracking device I had in the money drop. I attach it to the inside of his kofia. Then I hide a camera and wire in his kanzu at chest level so we could pick up what is said and who he meets. Both are linked to my pocket computer. I had uploaded the layout of the station before we went out to dinner. I trigger the tracker and it registers on the map as in our module at Docking Port Theta. Then I give a scrambled earphone and a throat mic set to Yuki so we can communicate securely.

When everything is ready I return to Salim and get an idea of where the meeting is to take place and what is to be exchanged. He is selling the flash drive he had in his pocket. We give Salim back his personal effects, after having him give us his account numbers and PIN codes so we can strip him of the payout later. Then Yuki uses her control trigger to put him into a trance like state and we sleep-walk him back to the corridor outside the restaurant. I walk off and hide in a good observation point. Yuki gives him the counteragent. She whispers the control phrase into his ear to have him wake without memory of the kidnapping. Then she disappears into the shadows of a nearby alcove. Salim Ali shakes himself after a few seconds, looks about with a puzzled expression on his face, glances at his watch and then hurries away.

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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:56 am

Chapter 5

Undugu wa nazi hukutani chunguni: The brotherhood of coconuts comes about in the cooking pot. Swahili Proverb


Mutapa Space Station

Abdullah Naimi and his boss, Sheikh Mohammed Jumar Al-Majid, sit sipping strong black coffee from demitasse cups. “It is time, Abdullah,” the older man says. The younger man, already nearing middle-age, nods in agreement and sets down his cup. “I would rather we not deal with this dog.”

“I too, but even such a jackal as Salim Ali has uses now and then.” The Vice-President of Acquisitions looks at his field supervisor with narrowed eyes, “and when we are done with this one be sure that he receives all that is coming to him.” The subordinate grins, his right hand moving to the jambiya dagger tucked into his belt.

Salim Ali moves quickly to the lift. What had he been doing wasting so much time in the restaurant? Surely he had made a narrow escape from those Oriental assassins. He knows John Ku and his ninja girlfriend are here to find and liquidate him. If he could make this meeting he will be done and on his way back home before they find him, insha’Allah. Salim pats the flashdrive to make sure it’s still in his hidden pocket. The information on it was worth the risks he had taken to get it. The Arabs would pay well for it. First he has to arm himself. With assassins on the station he isn’t going to be easy pickings. So Salim goes by his module on Docking Port Gamma. There he retrieves his kijisu, a small single-edged tapered knife in its’ sheath of fawn hide. Tucking it into the small of his back beneath his kanzu he then hurries out the door not knowing that his enemies now know his lair.

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John Ku, Mutapa Station

I track the subject to his module and set a waypoint so I could find it again. We plan on stripping the terrorist of his ill gotten gains before turning him over to authorities for any reward that TWP still has on him. Yuki is keeping eyes on Salim Ali while I am merely monitoring him through my pocket computer. I have my small screen split between the station map and visuals from a camera. It shows he is on the move down a corridor and then at a lift. He presses the touch screen for Maintenance Level 5. I radio the information to Yuki.

Once we reached that level Yuki and I split up. Salim has moved about 50 meters from the lift to a filter storage room in the life support section. There isn’t any legitimate reason for him to be there and normally a foreigner would not have access to such an area. I surmise that he has a local contact or two who have given him a passcard for this area. This is definitely a good out of the way place for a meeting. Or a good place for an ambush. We move closer carefully.

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Salim Ali, Mutapa Station

Abdullah smokes while he waits impatiently. "Damn these space stations and their rules against smoking!" he mutters to himself. He’d do so if he wishes. He just has to be careful with the evidence of it. It wouldn’t do him any good to leave station security DNA evidence from the butt. Then at last, the fool of a Swahili dog arrives. “Insh’Allah, all will be over soon.” The agent thinks to himself. Out loud he says, “Salaam, Salim Ali. I trust all is well?”

The Arab has been smoking and from the smell it was cheap Turkish cigarettes. Salim had given up the habit years ago for health reasons, leaving cigarette butts had also led to the identification by police of several of his men. He does not trust this Arab who does not give his name. But the man paid well up front and would now deliver the second half of the money for the information Salim gathered on Gondavana. Salim could hold his nose and do business with the man, though he would wash his hands afterwards. The Arab is a pig. His people had followed the Muslim Africans to Manden Karufa and taken over the economy with their oil money. One day they would all be ejected from his home or die. Whether this one was part of that tribe or representative of another band of bandits does not concern Salim one bit. Today it is all for the money, money that one day will free his people. “Salaam. Everything went as expected. I have the estimates of sizes and locations for the bombs to be the most effective. Do you have the funds?”

“Of course, my friend. Where is the information? You did not store it all in your head?” Abdullah thought that would be unfortunate indeed if it were the case. He was looking forward to killing his old nemesis after he collects what he came for.

Salim reaches under his kanzu and pulles out the flashdrive. He passes it to the Arab. “The password is ‘coconuts.’ That will allow you to read the information now to verify it is there. Once I have confirmation that the payment is in my bank account I will give you a second password which will prevent it from deleting the information in 60 seconds.”

Abdullah nods. The man is cautious. That is wise but it will not save him. He inserts the flashdrive into his pocket computer and then inputs the password. Up comes maps of PAMCO facilities on Gondavana, their weakpoints, and estimates of the size of necessary explosives to shut down production but not permanently cripple it. It is what the sheikh requires. “Did you have any trouble gathering this information?”

“No, as a foreigner I was not suspected of being a spy. They only see the local threat. This will move the resistance to a much higher level, one they do not expect. With the right team of experts training the locals PAMCO will be hamstrung, much like other groups I’ve dealt with.” Salim grins at that. He suspects the Arab works for a rival to PAMCO, possibly even for Trans-World Petroleum. The Arab scowls which means he scored a point. Then the Arab looks seriously concerned with Salim’s next revelation. “However, beware of the same problem I faced on Manden Karufa. The assassin John Ku and his ninja woman are here on this station.”

The Arab agent raises his eyebrows at this news. He knows of the Asian man and his team. That is indeed a factor to plan for. They are good at their job and are a risk if they find him working with the Swahili dog. But their connection will be severed quite shortly. “What account do you want the funds to be transferred to?”

Salim pulls out one of his bank cards and passes it over to the agent. “Put it on this one.” The pocket computer has a card reader on it. The Arab swipes the card through the reader and then enters a transfer from an off-world bank. He shows Salim the cash deposit on the screen and then presses “enter.” Then he hands the card and pocket computer to the terrorist. Salim verifies the transfer went through and then enters the second password. Then he returns the PC to the agent.

As Abdullah grasps the computer with his left hand he draws his jambiya with his right and plunges it into the gut of the black man. Salim gaspes out an “Oomph” but shoves away from Arab and pulls his own knife. “Die, jackal!” Abdullah shouts in Arabic as he lunges again at the wounded man.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
John Ku, Mutapa Station

“Yuki, Code Red!” I am watching the fight via Salim’s perspective. It isn’t going well for the terrorist. He’s been stabbed in the abdomen, then slashed on the left arm as he blocks the second lunge. It looks like he got one swipe that might have hit his assailant and then the camera lurches. It now looks up at the ceiling and grows dim as the iris closes due to it looking up at a light. “Salim is down, watch for his contact. Be careful!”

I put away my PC and hurry to the storage room. My knife is out but at the low guard position so I can get a quick disabling thrust upward if I come upon the assailant. As I turn into the corridor outside of the filter storage room I spy Yuki entering the door, her moves graceful as a cat’s. I rush forward to back her up in case the enemy agent is still there. He isn’t, only Salim remains.

Yuki kneels beside him and gives him the trigger word which puts him under our control again. She breaks out her first aid kit and injects him with a pain killer. The one ampoule she administers isn’t enough so she injects him with a second. One look at the blood and angle of the wounds and I know he’s a goner. It is only a matter of time. Salim had gone down to a third wound, this one to his chest. He is bleeding out.

Kneeling beside him I tell him, “Salim Ali, wake up.” His eyes open feebly. “Ah, John Ku, you are back.” I nod. “You were betrayed by your employer. You are going to die soon. We have given you pain killers to make your passing easier.”

He sighs and wets his lips with his tongue. “Insh’Allah, as God wills it unbeliever. You should convert and find peace in Islam.” I smile at him, “A fine time to act like a missionary, right at your death. No, thank you.” I turn serious, “What information was on the flashdrive?”

It is the bomber’s turn to smile, “Information on PAMCO’s operations on Gondavana. Most useful to a competitor, no?” I agree but have to ask, “Which competitor?”

Salim’s eyes flutters for a moment and then he grows still. A final sigh escapes from his lips and he is gone. I curse silently and look over the scene for any clues. There are only two things near the corpse, his knife and the bank card he used for the transfer. Without picking up the former I gave it the once over. As I suspected there is blood on it. So he had scored a hit on his killer. I pocket the bank card. Since we know his PIN codes we can drain the account, funneling the money through a number of accounts to conceal its’ destination on the Pyotr Veliky colony where Russian bankers do for the outer worlds what Swiss bankers do for Terra, hide money from governments’ prying eyes. We can’t collect on the reward but we can make up for it this way. Then I remove our tracking device, the camera and wire. Besides avoiding them getting traced back to Pagoda Security I can recharge and reuse them.

“Let’s go and get cleaned up.” We both have traces of blood on our clothing so they will have to be destroyed along with the bank card after we use it. That is no problem, we have a heavy duty shredder in our room. Along with some bleach we keep there just for this purpose. The trace blood will not have any useful DNA on it linking us to the dead man. The shredded clothing will simply be recycled after treatment. Meanwhile I have a recording to review again as well as to copy and forward to the station authorities anonymously. Possibly they can ID the killer and throw a monkey wrench into his plans.

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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Keith B » Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:46 am

I will say that I am enthralled with your characters. It started a little choppy but is now flowing quite well. Keep it up!

I also think that serving your mission in South Korea has given you keen insight into writing your characters, good job!
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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Mr. E. Monkey » Tue Dec 01, 2009 4:53 pm

This looks good, I'll have to read more later. :D
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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Real_Ale_Act » Tue Dec 01, 2009 6:07 pm

I like!
“Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty, well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming ... WOW! What a ride!”
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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by masterblaster666 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 7:01 pm

Great Story!
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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 7:05 pm

Chapter 6

He should not kill a living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should he incite another to kill.
Do not injure any being, either strong or weak in the world.
Sutta Nipata II, 14


Neu Kandy Spaceport, Southern District

The shuttle glides down to gently touch the tarmac of the airstrip. I feel a couple of bumps as first the rear wheels and then the nose gear set down. The pilot lets the shuttle roll to the taxiway and then he brakes the ship till it stops. Within a minute a tractor races up to the ship and hooks up a tow bar. With the unpowered aircraft behind it the tractor tears off to the concourse. Within minutes of our departure from the spaceport we are on terra firma, just outside Neu Kandy, Gondavana to be precise. It is faster to go from space to the surface than traveling by air between the nearest cities on the planet.

I get a quick glimpse of the landscape beyond the airport just before we touch down. We are in a broad river valley dotted with small villages as islands on a lake of emerald green rice paddies. Neu Kandy sits beside the river delta and the sea, unlike her highland predecessor on Sri Lanka.

The first class passengers, all sixteen of us, are the first to deplane and go through local customs. Following us is a mass of immigrant workers and their families, over one hundred and twenty men, women and children. There is a babel of languages, the shriek of children and of parents trying to control them. The local officials looked stoic about it, as if this happens every day. From what I gather, it does, with sometimes larger immigrant groups in the many hundreds. Today’s group seems to be mainly Nepalese though there are a few Indians, southern Tamils from my guess. By contrast the only Singhalese and Chinese were in First Class with us, wealthy businessmen and women from the looks of them.

After leaving immigration we gather our luggage and check the seals on our weapon cases, they are intact. Union customs hasn’t messed with them this trip, beyond scanning them while in transit. We hire a porter to haul our luggage on his cart and hit the gift shop before looking for the PAMCO representative that is supposed to meet us. A dusky skinned, short, even by Asian standards, young man in a tropical print shirt, shorts and loafers holds a sign with our names. We walk over to him and give a slight bow in greeting.

Ayubowan!” he says, bobbing his head with his palms pressed together before his chest. “May you live long. You are Mr. Ku and Miss Takahashi?” We nod and ask his name. “I am Sunil Weerakoon. I am your pilot. Would you please follow me?”

I stop and ask, “I am a bit confused as to why we need a pilot. Aren’t we going to the head office in Neu Kandy?” He shakes his head, “Why no, it was thought best if you were taken to Vanchi Muthur, the Central District office. That is where all the trouble is.” I shrug and indicate for him to lead us. We follow him out of the concourse and back onto the tarmac. There sits another tractor, this one pulling a trailer with bench seats and a luggage trailer behind it. I have the porter load the latter up and pay him off with a tip. He gives me a deep bow and a broken tooth smile. From my guess he is a recent immigrant, not a colony born Singhalese like Sunil. Yuki joins me on the passenger trailer. We can converse freely in back but on the down side I can’t ask questions of our driver/pilot on the tractor.

Sunil sits in the driver’s seat and drives us across the taxiway to another concourse. Looking around I count half a dozen motherships and shuttles being serviced for flight back into space. Across the runways is another terminal, this one for military type aircraft. From the looks of it these are limited to cargo transports, utility planes and helicopters. I don’t see a single fighter-bomber or ground attack plane. I point that out to Yuki and ask her to check to see if any of the light aircraft have hard points for weapons. She pulls out her laptop and shows me the Gondavana Air Self-Defense Force Table of Operations & Equipment (TO&E). It includes a wing of older model Russian helicopters, Kamov Ka-62 medium transports, none of which can be armed with anything more than a simple door gun on either side. The Ka-62 is the stripped export version of the Ka-60 and lacks the hardpoints for mounting guns, rockets and missiles. The stripped version can transport a dozen troops plus the crew of four.

There is a second wing of Russian Kazan helicopters of the Ansat series. The reconnaissance version, the Ansat-R2C, is a light gunship with a single fixed forward 12.7 mm machinegun and four hardpoints for additional guns or rocket pods underneath the stubby wings. They have one squadron of these light two-man gunships and two squadrons of the transport model that holds one squad of 10 troops plus the pilot and a spotter. All in all the military can airlift a battalion of troops, if they had real troops instead of a frontier constabulary and all on paper army.

Union customs prohibit Terra from shipping anti-tank or air-to-air guided missiles to the colonies so those options are out for the helos. Just like the Union prohibits the colony worlds from owning strategic bombers, battle tanks and heavy artillery. Unless a colony world develops their own heavy weapons they have to either do without or find a way to smuggle them in. Pagoda Security Consultants is good at the latter point, at least to a degree. I was already thinking of ways to upgrade both PAMCO security forces and the Gondavana military if need be to put down a rebellion.

Once at the civilian helicopter terminal I am pleasantly surprised to see that PAMCO has its’ own fleet of aircraft. There are three Kamov Ka-115 light helicopters and six KA-226 medium helicopters parked there. One of the Ka-226’s is being serviced in the hanger bay while another is getting its’ rear pod changed from passenger to cargo mode. Both designs are hybrids, using Western engines in a Russian airframe. Meaning I feel more comfortable flying in them now that I know they do not have Russian engines. Mother Russia was in trouble, she never fully recovered following the break-up of the old Soviet Union in the last century. She was about to revert to Communism when First Contact changed things. She is still very paranoid but now it shifted from the West to the aliens, which I feel is justified as I don’t trust the Union either. Russia is the one country most willing to buck the Union customs laws in exporting weapon systems. Many of the colony worlds prefer the older proven and generally cheaper Russian designs. Still, their quality control is not as high as in the West so when it comes to avionics and engines I prefer the non-Russian engines.

The Ka-115 that Sunil leads us to is bright yellow with PAMCO stenciled in blue on the sides. I imagine that it makes the ship easier to spot if it goes down in the wilderness. If we get the contract to fight terrorists here that will have to change. Not that I prefer the smaller KA-115’s. When I bring the whole team here I want the larger Ka-226’s. Though only carrying two more passengers each than the smaller six passenger Ka-115’s, the Ka-226’s are capable of being fitted with light weapons. We will be mating some homemade rocket pods to the sides to turn them into ground attack helos for my quick reaction squads.

I am getting well ahead of myself. Here we are, newly arrived on planet and from the looks of it, in another tropical paradise not too different from the resort on Turners World. The sun is shining, people I meet are pretty friendly and there are no signs of any rebellion nearby. From the looks of the military base, they are not at war. So I have questions to ask of my employers, once I get to where the trouble is. I load Yuki’s and my luggage into the back of the helicopter and climb in next to Sunil. I let Yuki have the whole rear compartment to herself. She promptly opens up a hard-sided briefcase and begins to strip, then function check and load pistols for us. She passes me one in a pancake holster which I tuck on my right hip. Sunil’s eyes get big. “I hope you do not think you need to use that, even on my account. I am a very peaceable man.”

Smiling at the “peaceable man” I reply, “Do not worry, if Ms. Takahashi or I thought we were actually going to need a weapon we’d be carrying our rifles. This is no more than a tool of my profession, just as this helicopter is a tool of yours. We don’t go anywhere without our tools. As the Boy Scouts back on Terra say ‘Be Prepared.’”

Satisfied that we are not going into any gunfights with him, Sunil takes off. I sit back and think about his attitude. It is no wonder that PAMCO hired us. If Sunil is in any way the example of the local view then they are in for a rude surprise. I have the tape of Salim’s exchange with his employer and his murder ready to present to them as proof something wicked is in the wind for Gondavana. A lot worse than a few upset workers sabotaging equipment or farmers sniping at company vehicles, which is all they’ve likely seen so far.

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John Ku, Neu Kandy Spaceport, Southern District

After we take off we head north-northeast. I had picked up a local compass in one of the airport gift shops, one that is calibrated for the planet’s magnetic poles, not Terra’s. Using a pair of binoculars I study the landscape below. Colonists work in the rice paddies with water buffalo, obviously imported from Terra at some point. I see an elephant in the distance hauling a log in its’ trunk. There are no cars in view, only a few trucks and small farm tractors. I ask Sunil about it. “Yes, we have very few cars. They are very expensive to import from off-world. Mainly we ride buses or trains. A few people fly airplanes or helicopters, like me.” He smiles when he says that, very pleased with himself. I ask him how old he is. He replies, “I am nearly 24 years old and have been flying for five years. My father is a pilot too, though he does not work for PAMCO anymore.”

“So when did your family immigrate here?” I ask. His answer doesn’t surprise me one bit, “I was born here. My parents were among the first colonists to land. They helped clear the land and build Neu Kandy. My father is now a colonel in the Air Defense Force. In fact, I am a warrant officer in the Air Defense Force as well. All of us civil pilots are reservists.”

“That’s interesting. Are there enough aircraft for all of you to fly?” I question. He points at the instrument panel. “This helo and every civil aircraft may be called up in time of an emergency.” I file that fact in the back of my mind for future planning.

The rice paddy dikes seemed to disappear as one goes higher till it becomes merely a sea of bright green in the valley below. There are trains passing each other on the main railroad below, a passenger train heading north while a freight train heads south. The helicopter climbs to 3,000 meters and levels off. Our course is divergent and we soon leave the road and railway. After a few minutes I observe a brown line to the west that marks the end of the cultivated land and the beginning of the tropical rainforest. “What keeps the jungle from growing down there?”

“The government sprays a persistent herbicide that kills the native vegetation. After three months we plant a hardy terran species such as elephant grass in the cleared section. That keeps the native plants from encroaching on the areas we want to cultivate. Without native plants the native browsing species do not stay for long. That keeps most of the predators out as well,” he concludes.

“The native animals do not like terran plants?” Yuki pipes up. Sunil smiles, “They loved our crops at first but we had them bio-engineered to taste bad to them. We can’t tell, especially when we use lots of curry,” he jokes. “As far as other plants, they can eat the elephant grass and bamboo we plant but it lacks the vitamins they need to survive. So they move out of our ecosystem.” He explains. “What about insect pests?” Yuki interjects. “While native insects are a problem we have been able to control them through some rather weak pesticides. They don’t seem to be as resilient as terran bugs.”

He thought about something for a moment and then continues. “We have only introduced a few large species to Gondavana for fear of upsetting the balance like humans did in Australia by introducing feral dogs, cats, rabbits and mice. Our smallest contribution is the European honey bee. The largest is the Asian elephant. We also have useful animals such as the water buffalo, the Bractian dromedary and poultry. The government restricts what animals can be transplanted.”

“Camels, but I thought they are desert creatures. Where and why do you have them?” I ask. He explains as if repeating an elementary school lesson, “In the far north there are cold, dry mountains that are being prospected for metals. Camels are the best suited animals we have for transport there. They were the staple on the old Silk Road on Terra, now they serve on the ‘Golden Road’ as we call it here.”

We keep up the questions and answers till we are contacted by the air traffic controllers of Vanchi Muthur. Upon landing a car pulls up to the helopad. I am impressed by the importance PAMCO places upon our arrival. The company vehicle is a Terran made Sport Utility Vehicle with PAMCO signs on the sides. The driver is another Singhalese man, this one middle-aged and in a grey uniform denoting he is in their Security Services Department. He wears a pistol on his right hip, a large magnum revolver, very old school. No doubt it is impressive to the natives, expensive and powerful enough to deal with some of the local wildlife though a greater sloth would just get pissed off enough to stomp the shooter to death. He walks up to us and after giving us the Singhalese greeting of “Ayubowan!” he introduces himself as Ranasinghe Satchithanandan, PAMCO Chief of Security. “Welcome to Vanchi Muthur. Please join me and we’ll go first to district headquarters and then to your hotel.”

We shake hands and then help Sunil transfer our luggage to the SUV. Sunil waves goodbye and we climb in with Chief Satchithanandan. He pronounces his name as “Sat-chi-than-an-dan.” It is a mouthful but not as bad as some I’ve tried to pronounce. His accent is passable as well, not as sing-song as some, the porter for instance, but not as good as Sunil’s. The official language on old Sri Lanka is Sinhala while here on Gondavana it is the Standard English that had become the lingua franca of the colony worlds. This isn’t the English I learned in America, it has adopted far more foreign words, particularly from the blend of Asian languages spoken in most of the sponsoring countries of the colonies. We chat about the weather, the condition of the roads (nicely paved and maintained here, a wonder) and how the colony is growing. All except the troubles that brought us half-way across the galaxy. (Literally according to astronomers who check their star charts whenever a colony world is founded, as we aren’t allowed Tier I star charts.)

Finally I can not take the small-talk any more. “Chief Satchithanandan, how long ago did your security problem start?” I begin. He shuts up for a moment as he thinks about it. I am surprised when he answers, “Approximately ten years ago. The government passed laws that slowed down the process for citizenship of non-Sri Lankan immigrants. It also started the ‘New Village Movement’ forcing the semi- and unskilled immigrants to take up farming. First there were protests but the police were able to handle them. We at PAMCO did not suffer from problems as badly as the government since we are seen as ‘neutral’ in this matter. However our close ties to government officials and the fact that all of our management is either Chinese or Singhalese earned us some mention in the protests. We started having some monkey wrenching of our facilities after that.”

“So what has changed that the company feels it needs us?” I suspect that what we witnessed on Mutapa station played a role but I want to hear what he knows. He doesn’t have a clue about a bombing campaign as he says, “About five months ago we went from having occasional acts of crude sabotage and malicious mischief to actual assaults on management and security forces. There have been one manager, two supervisors and seventeen employees, mostly my security officers, assaulted or killed. Besides these attacks there has been a stepping up in the acts of effective sabotage and vandalism at our facilities. Particularly in the Central District where we Singhalese are the minority and the other races are in the majority. PAMCO pays well and has a good benefit package, especially compared to what goes for healthcare in the farming villages. I do not understand what stirred up the hornets’ nest. I do not think this all can be attributed to disgruntled employees or immigration problems.”

I fill him in on what transpired with Salim Ali. His face grows clouded, “So, we have outsiders causing problems for us, a rival corporation no less. Which one do you think is behind it, CMC, CCE, TWP or one of the alien corporations?” The companies named were founded by different blocs on Terra. CMC stands for Continental Mineral Corporation and is based in South Africa though it has interests in Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique. It also has interests on Mutapa. CCE is Consolidated Chemicals and Energy and is a North American conglomerate operating on Turners World, among others. The Tier I civilizations have their own unscrupulous corporations but I doubt they’d stoop to involving themselves in petty colony politics. There are others he didn’t mention but my pick is the Middle-Eastern bloc he referred to as TWP. “The man Salim Ali met was Arab, probably from Trans-World Petroleum. I think that’s why your officers and facilities are being targeted.”

The chief nods, “That makes sense. So what are their aims? How can they hope to replace us when we have such close ties to the government?” I shake my head. “That I don’t know, I think we are only seeing the early probes. Depending on what we find out we can either contain this now or end up constantly reacting to their plans. I don’t recommend ceding the initiative to them permanently, we need to take it and run with the ball.”

“You are American, right? We don’t run with the ball when we play sports. You must come to one of our cricket games or football matches. Our company sponsors many of the local teams which has helped blend our workforce regardless of their background. That was an initiative that we came up with to increase solidarity. Sadly the attacks seem to grow despite it.”

When we arrive at the district office I take a look at the security layout. Outside the situation is horrible. Anyone can park a bomb laden vehicle along the curb out front and blow the building sky high. The office itself is a four story concrete and steel box with lots of windows which can be reduced to deadly shards of glass. Inside the security consists of a pair of guards in blazers and ties at a reception desk, no screening for weapons or explosives at all. There are a few closed circuit TV cameras in the lobby but when I ask I find they are only recorded but not viewed by a central control room. I inquire if security is armed. To my welcome surprise they are though only with small caliber automatic pistols. I wonder how long they would stand up in a fight with enemies armed with semi-auto hunting rifles.

We go up the elevator to the fourth floor. Chief Satchithanandan introduces us to the district manager, his assistant, and three security supervisors who head operations at various locations. I note that all are Singhalese. The district manager, Mr. Hemakura De Silva, welcomes us and turns things over to his assistant, Deepa Mendis. She uses a remote to dim the lights and to drop a screen. Using her laptop she brings up a map of the colony. “As you can see the colony is divided into three districts. The Southern District runs along the Coastal Plain. Neu Kandy serves as both the district and national capitol. The Central District runs from just below Shakthi as far north as Gujrai though the line is not east-west directly as it runs between Dasaya and Gujrai. The district capital is Vanchi Muthur, of course. The Northern District is beyond the border and Patan is the district capital.

“The security problem is primarily appearing in the Central and Northern Districts. It is no surprise considering the population has many newcomers, Indians mostly settle here and Nepalese in the northern mountains. Many of these immigrants are not yet citizens and feel disenfranchised.

“PAMCO supports immigration and integration of the newcomers into the workforce. We hire those with select skills and relocate them to affordable company housing until they can find a place of their own. However, with immigration remaining at a constant high and our staffing needs fairly stable now we are hiring fewer and fewer newcomers.

“Most of the new immigrants are therefore forced to fend for themselves meaning they join the New Village Movement. This is a government program wherein newcomers homestead terra-formed land. Each family receives a field to farm, a lot in a village with a pre-fabricated home, farm tools, seed and a water buffalo. Depending on where the government sends them they may be rice farmers or dry farmers. Food is the number one priority, cash crops are allowed after they’ve proven themselves by succeeding as subsistence farmers for two years.

“Those who fail as farmers lose their homesteads and are forced to work in labor camps clearing new lands. It is mildly dangerous work with the local animals the biggest threat. After one year of that many are ready to try homesteading again. A few migrate to the cities to become urban poor if they do not have marketable skills. As beggars they will not last as the government is not willing to have anyone in the colony who does not work. There is no welfare system here, it is a matter of colony survival for everyone to be productive. Beggars who get caught are sent to the labor camps again.

“We believe that the most of the malcontents are recruited from either the New Villages or from labor camp walk-aways. The labor camps are not prisons, they only have armed guards to protect people from wild animals. So those that walk away are free to try to find work in the towns and cities. Some do find work. Or they end up as beggars, prostitutes, members of criminal gangs or terrorists.”

“The terrorists are putting out propaganda pushing for immigration reform, greater civil rights for non-citizens, tax breaks for homesteaders and nationalization of all resources and utilities. That last point is what affects us the most. PAMCO supplies natural gas and liquid propane to the utility companies, sells petrol and diesel fuel domestically, sells petrochemicals abroad and to domestic companies, operates surface mines, hard rock mines and underwater mining.”

Mr. De Silva speaks up, “The worse part about this to me is the fact that we built this colony with our own blood, sweat and tears. We paid for much of the infrastructure and development. We were the first major employer, higher paying than the government. We have the best healthcare system in the colony. And those who work for PAMCO have little to complain about. The complaints seem to be coming from those who haven’t earned the right to complain, newcomers and non-employees.”

I have to correct that misconception, “I’m sorry sir, but the biggest threat isn’t these folks but the instigators from off-world. As I informed Chief Satchithanandan earlier, there is a rival corporation backing these terrorists. And they are upping the ante.” I hand over a copy of Salim Ali’s meeting to Ms. Mendis and ask her to play it for everyone. “I believe we are dealing with agents working for Trans-World Petroleum and they are looking to move in on your operation here.”

That causes a stir. After a moment Mr. De Silva asks everyone to calm down. “So Mr. Ku, what do you recommend?” I look at Yuki and then turn back to the assembly. “First we will want a helicopter placed at our disposal. We will need guides to show us each of the threatened facilities. Then we will look at the other facilities because I believe they will expand their list of targets beyond merely the Central District facilities in order to drive PAMCO off world. Once we’ve made our assessment we need to meet again to go over my recommendations. This is a corporate war and will be costly to wage in rupees and lives so prepare your superiors for it. If PAMCO is not prepared to pay the bill then we might as well pack up and go home.”

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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by shrapnel » Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:32 pm

I like this. :D
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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:48 pm

Chapter 8

Before all else, be armed. (Niccolo Machiavelli)


John Ku, Vanchi Muthur Hotel, Central District

After having breakfast with Yuki we part company. She’s off with to tour PAMCO facilities while I turn to getting a view of the land and the people. The area I’m assessing is mainly settled by Tamils and I want to see where the level of discontent is at. So I get into my best tourist garb, conceal a pistol and spare ammo in a waist band holster under my shirt and head out. Since I’m carrying concealed I chose my pistol carefully. The IMA Model 10 machine pistol is a select fire weapon in their proprietary caseless 6.5 mm caliber. The diminutive round makes up for its’ size by having a variety of ammunition types for it: frangible hollow points (HP), a nasty high explosive (HE) round, regular full metal jacketed (FMJ) and armor piercing (AP). I have each of my three magazines filled with a mix of ammo types, first an AP round followed by three HP’s and lastly a HE round to be repeated. I leave the FMJ’s for punching neat little holes in paper targets. If I have to shoot someone or something I want it to go down and stay down. I leave behind the accessories today, the flashlight, sound suppressor or “can” and the red dot scope. They just are too much bulk for what I have in mind.

In the lobby I have the concierge call me a taxi. While I’m waiting I watch TV in the lobby. The local news is covering a bombing that occurred at an upscale club in the Singhalese quarter of Neu Kandy. From what I gather it was the job of a suicide bomber that slipped in past club security. There are seventeen dead, including the young man, and dozens in area hospitals wounded. The government condemns this act of terror resulting from old hostilities between Tamils and Singhalese, blah, blah, blah. Most of the people here are tuning the news out. It wasn’t here, it isn’t happening to them. A few are looking around suspiciously trying to spot if there are any terrorists among them. I pity the Tamils who are working in the hotel, at the very least they won’t be getting good tips. Some might be getting the boot.

The taxi is a funny type of three-wheeled truck which had a set of seats bolted in the bed, one bench seat facing the other. It looks dangerous but since the motor in the thing is only about 25 horsepower I don’t believe it can go fast enough to kill me. The driver then tries to prove me wrong. It is only by threatening violence that I get him to drive like a sensible person. Then I wave a wad of rupees in his face and say that I want him to drive me for the whole day. That mollifies him quite a bit and we are best friends after that. His name is Rani Alageswari and he is a Tamil immigrant from the state of Tamil Nadu, India. He is married and has five children. He is Hindu and devout. Even so he has no problem with the other religions of the colony, only with the attitude of the Singhalese. He came here five years ago and has a long wait yet till he gets full citizenship.

Naturally when I mention I want to stop by the bazaar he tells me of all the deals he can get me from his uncles, cousins and other relatives. When I mention what I really want is information he shuts back up. So I try another tack, when we get to the bazaar I buy a bunch of trinkets from some of his relatives. Then I ply them with good will including a large lunch in an open air restaurant. That gets me enough respect and trust that they open up to me. I ask them what they think about Gondavana and they all tell me they made the right choice in coming here. It is far better than India. Still there is room for improvement. Most think that once they gain citizenship and the vote there will be definite changes in the colony’s leadership.

I ask them about PAMCO and while they don’t have anything specifically to complain about they don’t like the company. After all, it exploits new colonies and digs up farmland. Mainly the feeling is one has it made if they get a job with PAMCO but otherwise they are only tolerated by the company at best and neglected at worse. “At least company workers get health care,” one woman says. “What do we get from the government? Nothing but empty promises,” she concludes. There are nods of assent from around the table.

I have Rani drive me out into the countryside to check out one of the New Villages. The first one we come to is named Newkokavil and it is wholly populated by Tamil immigrants from Sri Lanka, not Indians like Rani. Their English is barely comprehensible so I use Rani as an interpreter. I distribute some of the trinkets I bought in the bazaar to the children of the village. The kids ask me if I am Chinese. I tell them that I am American and laugh at their confusion. They think I am pulling their legs. I tell them that America is like Gondavana, it has many people living in it from different backgrounds. Then I explain that my parents were from Korea and have to explain where Korea is. When I tell them that Korea is next to China they think I’ve been lying to them about not being Chinese. It takes my buying them all treats from a street vendor’s cart to get back into their good graces.

Afterwards I ask the children to introduce me to their parents. I explain that I am a consultant from off world and looking into problems here on Gondavana. That gets the villagers going about the lack of a reliable water supply for irrigation, the leaky roof of the school, the underpaid teachers who keep quitting and the need for medicines for the health clinic. The villagers also share they have no voice in the government despite being here nearly as long as any of their Singhalese countrymen. They say they were deported from Sri Lanka by a government that has been trying to ethnically cleanse the island of Tamils for decades. Now they have been put out into villages with few opportunities for their children to advance to anything more than becoming farm laborers. There are substandard schools, little health care and no public utilities beyond the common well and a single phone at the post office. Promises have been made by the government but little done to deliver on them. On a positive note the land itself is better than what they left in Sri Lanka, the housing kits are not bad though the lack of plumbing and electricity is keenly felt. At least the buffalo are breeding well and seem to be content in the new world, more than the people are.

I have to correct a misconception that I am representing the government. When I tell them I represent PAMCO they question what the mining company want with them? They do not have any machinery that requires PAMCO fuel. There is no metal in their land to mine. “Or is there?” one questions me. A few look at me suspiciously. “Is the mining company going to take away our land?” a farmer asks.

“No,” I quickly reply. “PAMCO has no interest in your land. I am consulting them on how to be better corporate citizens on Gondavana,” I say, giving out the cover story Yuki and I invented. It isn’t far from the truth. It wouldn’t hurt the corporate giant to work on its’ public image. Purchasing good will is cheap and is worth it in the long term. The problem is that management seldom recognizes the value of the return on this type of investment. I see it as a security measure. The less the population sees the corporation as bad guys the less they will sympathize or support attacks against it. Then offering rewards for tips will work. Otherwise loyalty may go towards those hurting the company, especially if they are seen to have more in common with the local population than the big corporation.

When I leave I thank the villagers but make no promises to them. I am honest, at least in this point. While I feel that the villagers have valid complaints I cannot act on their behalf this trip. I’m only on a fact finding mission. Unfortunately it will take greater change than what PAMCO can effect to address all their problems.

We drive back to Vanchi Muthur before it gets dark. There are no streetlights along the country road and the single headlamp on the taxi is not powerful enough for me to trust to it alone. At least not with Rani’s wild driving. Looking at a map on my pocket PC I decide where to go tomorrow. I want to visit one of the labor camps at the edge of the developed lands. It is my belief that most of the disenfranchised and malcontents will be found there. That’s also where I’d go to recruit if I was a revolutionary.

Showing Rani the map I ask him if he knows how to get to Palod, a rural village by the lumber camps to the north of Eyyal. He looks apprehensive and asks for more money. “Naturally I’ll pay you double what I paid you today, it is further to go.” He nods, “And more dangerous, Sahib. There are wild animals in the area. We will need an escort to protect us.” I shake my hand, “Have no worry there,” I respond. “I’ll be well armed.” He looks dubiously at me so I pull out my money clip and peel off a few hundred rupee notes. “Here, this is to make sure you are at the hotel first thing in the morning, say 7:00 AM sharp. Wear clothing suitable for walking in the brush. I’ll pay you double today’s rate plus a tip if you work as my interpreter.” He nods and thanks me profusely.

Back at the hotel I find that Yuki hasn’t returned as yet. I don’t worry about her, she’s more than competent to handle the reconnaissance and that little Singhalese pilot. Pulling out my luggage I get a set of ripstop khaki cargo trousers and a green cotton long-sleeved shirt. I add a floppy bush hat to the mix. The clothing will keep the sun off of me as well as the bugs. The bug juice I have may not work on the exotic species here.

Then I get out my load bearing equipment and assault rifle. I change the mag pouches around to just three across my chest, a Bowie knife on my left hip to balance the low thigh holster on my right and a hydration bladder for on my back. I’ll fill it with cool water in the morning. I’m traveling light, more the great Korean hunter than looking like a soldier. I put my survival kit into left mag pouch. I need to cut down on my weight, taking less ammo will do that. I’ll take just one spare 50 round magazine in the center pouch. Into the last mag pouch I slip in a couple of field rations. If the 7 mm rifle rounds don’t take down any critters that threaten us then the five high explosive dual purpose grenades for the under-barrel launcher will, each one is capable of blowing a greater sloth apart. Satisfied with my limited weapons load, the Sturmgewehr 101 with two magazines of 7 mm ammo, one mag of HEDP grenades, my 6.5 mm pistol with one spare magazine plus a knife, I strip, shower and hit the bed.

Morning comes all too soon. My daily routine starts with stretching exercises, a short run along a random route, armed of course, and a few minutes of solo Hapkido drills back at the hotel. Then I shower and go to breakfast. I check and Yuki got in late, while I was out on my run. I leave Yuki a text message that I am going with cabbie Rani Alageswari to inspect a government camp near Palod and will be back tonight hopefully. Our protocols on a two person survey like this is to keep each other informed of our itineraries. If one of us goes out of contact for over a day then we call out the cavalry.

At 7:00 AM I’m outside with my equipment on save for my rifle which is cased till I get into the country. It is enough that my tactical harness and pistol impress the locals, I don’t need to frighten them with the sight of my rifle. Rani looks ready to go, he even has a basket of fresh fruit and a thermos of sweet tea in the truck to snack on while we are on the road.

Our journey starts out on a four lane paved highway with regular traffic of heavy trucks, occasional buses and the three wheeled light trucks like the one Rani has converted to a taxi. I’m surprised at how much traffic there is. There are log trucks, dump trucks, tractor trailers with heavy equipment on the back and the occasional manufactured home being moved to a new village. The small trucks carry produce and people, sometimes both, to and from market. As we move out into the country the traffic dies down somewhat. Off the road are rice paddies and villages. Brown skinned men and women work in the fields. On higher ground sit terraced vegetable patches, orchards and bamboo stands. We could be anywhere in Sri Lanka or India for that matter, the transformation by the colonists is remarkable.

At first Rani is animated and talkative, telling me the legends of local hunters who have fought the saber-toothed tigers and sloth-bears. Then there are the stories of the many man-eaters who plagued the early years of the colony. Here in the center of the district there hasn’t been an attack by a wild animal in over a decade. But the news reports of colonists lost on the borders of the wilderness weekly. Enough that after the first two hours on the road Rani grows quiet and thoughtful. Once in a while nervously looking around when there is growth of brush and trees near the road. “What is wrong?” I ask.

“Sahib, nothing is wrong. We will be just fine,” he says as if he needs to convince himself of that fact. I don’t take his word for it. “Rani, tell me the truth. Is something wrong?” He fesses up and what he says makes me very unhappy. “I forgot to bring extra petrol. But do not worry, we shall come to a village soon and all will be well.”

Cussing out Rani won’t change things so I just mutter under my breath and watch for the next village. Sure enough it isn’t five minutes and we are coming up on another bunch of manufactured homes. My driver looks relieved. It is very short lived. After some rapid fire Tamil with a local he looks worried again. I ask what is wrong now. “No fueling station. They have no lorries so they have no fuel for them.”

Now I swear. “Ask how far to a fueling station.” Another batch of rapid fire Tamil follows. Rani nods his head several times. “About fifteen kilometers,” he translates for me. “Do we have enough to get there?” Rani smiles and nods, “Oh sure, Sahib, we have enough to get that far.”

Sure enough we have barely enough gasoline to get to the next village with a fueling station. However the news is not good when we pull onto the lot. It has a hand written sign on the pumps that reads, “No Petrol, Diesel Only.” What comes next is best not repeated. Needless to say Rani’s ears got very red at what I say about his lack of common sense. Leaving Rani with the truck I grab my rifle case and sling it over my back. “Take a lunch break,” I order the cabbie. “I’ll get us some gas.” The sales clerk tells me the next town that has petrol is Makotai. It is about twenty-five kilometers away, much too far to walk. I head out to the trucks fueling up and ask if any are going that way. Waving a wad of bills I get myself a ride.

The driver must be deaf since he listens to annoying Singhalese folk music at full blast the whole trip. It’s so bad that I have him pull over as soon as we get to the edge of Makotai so I can get out and walk the rest of the way. I have some hearing loss already from years of exposure to gunfire so the noise is too much for me, my ears are ringing. I wave goodbye after paying him for the ride. Shouldering my rifle case I start walking into town. Along the way I take a sip from my drinking tube, clear my mouth of road dust and spit. The water is so good, the ice I put in it when I filled it has melted but the thermal insulation around the water bladder has kept it nice and cool.

The first local I meet in Makotai doesn’t speak English very well, another indication that Gondavana’s education system is broken. When I ask the Singhalese man for the fueling station he gets a confused look and shrugs. He points across the street at a barber shop. “No, I want to find the fueling station, petrol.” He is emphatic about the barber shop so I head there. Maybe they speak better English. Inside the shade of the barber shop it is a bit cooler. My eyes adjust and I see why. There is an Indian boy sitting to one side pulling a rope attached to a ceiling fan. As he pulls the rope the fan waves one way. When he releases it a counterweight pulls it back the other direction. I wonder how many rupees he makes a day sitting there pulling a fan. Also how much education he will get fanning people instead of going to school.

My contemplation about it is shortened when I realize that the man sitting in the barber’s chair getting a trim is a police officer. I didn’t recognize him as such with the sheet draped around his neck to keep his cut hair from falling on his uniform. It is the sight of his hat hanging from a coat rack that tells me that the bystander had directed me properly after all. The cop is sure to speak English, the official language of the planet. Everyone is staring at me, being a foreigner I’m used to it. I bow slightly and say “Ayubowan” to the police officer. If I guess right this civil servant is going to be Singhalese and not Tamil like many of the locals in the shop.

It turns out I’m correct, this guy is Singhalese. He sits up and responds with the same greeting. Then he asks, “What can I do for you sir?” The barber tries to trim more of his hair but the officer just waves him off with an annoying look. His right hand is now under the sheet, I think he’s holding onto his gun. Of course my tactical gear has got his attention and probably made him nervous. I quickly introduce myself, “My name is John Ku and I am with Pagoda Security Consulting, Limited. PAMCO has hired my company to advise them on how to better their security forces, particularly in light of recent problems. I have my credentials here for you to examine.”

Carefully I withdraw my pocket PC and identification. The officer motions for the barber to take off the sheet so he can get up. After looking things over he introduces himself, “I am Chief Constable Premasiri, at your service. What are you looking for here? There are no terrorists in my town.”

“Ah, that would be correct. My problem is simple. The driver I hired did not bring a spare petrol can with him and the fueling station we stopped at was out. He is back down the road waiting for me to return with fuel. Might I impose upon you to allow me buy a few liters of petrol from your department supply?” The constable chuckles at my discomfort and waves his hand, “No problem. And you do not have to pay for it. I am sure PAMCO will make good for what we give you. Please, come with me.”

After he settles his bill with the barber we head off to the police station. It turns out that the chief is the head policeman not just for the town but the country villages around it. When we get to the station he orders one of his men to get two twenty liter jerry cans and to take them with me to the fueling station. While waiting his curiosity finally overcomes his politeness and he asks what I have in the case. I unzip my rifle case and bring out the Sturmgewehr. The chief’s eyes get big, he’s clearly never seen a modern assault rifle.

“May I see this weapon, Mr. Ku?” I nod and hold it up for him. I point out the 30 mm grenade launcher, the selector switch on the left that goes from safe to semi to full auto to grenade launcher mode. I show him the scope on the top and let him handle the weapon, on safe of course. Then I pull out the spare magazine and show him the caseless bullets seated inside. He shakes his head. “These will not do. They are too small.”

Grinning I pull out a 30mm round from the rifle’s grenade magazine. “Chief Premasiri, what the rifle doesn’t kill, this will.” His eyes widen, “Yes, this bullet looks like it can kill an elephant.” That gets me laughing. “No, it is not a bullet. It is a grenade. And you are right, it will kill an elephant or a greater sloth.” He looks at me and with an officious voice says, “I’m sorry but I must confiscate this weapon. It is illegal.”

I realize he is serious. This country constable has likely never seen any military hardware before this. And he doesn’t know that I’m cleared for more serious weaponry than a mere rifle grenade. I straighten up and respond as gently as possible, “Chief Constable, I am licensed by your government to employ deadly force against the terrorists by any and all means available to me. This rifle, my pistol and other weapons were imported to this world under both Union and Gondavana law. If you have any questions I respectfully ask you to take it up with the Minister of Justice, the Honorable Janaka Rajapaksa. His number is on my pocket PC if you would like to call him now.”

I have to give it to the chief, he isn’t going to back down just because I drop a name. And I dropped a pretty good one. Rajapaksa is descended from the hardline Mahinda Rajapaksa that served Sri Lanka first as Prime Minister and then as President during the Tamil Tiger conflict back on Terra. Like his forebearer the current minister is no slouch when it comes to fighting terrorism. My boss assured me that PAMCO had full authority and cooperation of the ministry which includes our being here armed. The military brass weren’t as cooperative when he met with them but the ministry over police, no problem.

The chief picks up my pocket PC and tries to make a call. He isn’t familiar with the technology so I show him how to press the touch screen buttons and use the phone on speaker mode. Needless to say his reaction to it ringing straight through to the minister on his private vidphone is to snap to attention and start stammering. After the dressing down he gets from the minister I feel sorry for the guy. He’d only been doing what he thought was right. Now I have to help him save face. I take the PC back from the chief and apologize for disturbing the minister. Then I conclude with how helpful the chief is in assisting me in my current mission by providing me with valuable resources. I promise the minister that we will continue to work together and that I will be forwarding any leads through the chief constable.

Following the call I ask the chief if we can sit down together for a moment. First I take my rifle from him and return it to its case. Then I explain my mission for PAMCO and the intelligence I had gathered on Mutapa Station. When he hears that the terrorists are receiving foreign aid he mollifies his stance. “I know that we are not equipped to fight a well financed resistance group by ourselves.”

“If things go as I anticipate, my team will be back as counter-insurgency instructors for PAMCO security. When we come back we’ll be bringing with us more weapons like this rifle. How are your officers equipped for response to a gun fight?” Chief Premasiri takes me to his arms room. They best they have are the basic Model 75 hunting rifles that are authorized for civilian use. “We have pistols and riot shotguns for our primary weapons. On occasion we have to help track down a mankilling saber-tooth tiger or a pack of lions that stray into our district. That’s why we have these rifles.”

“The TGI Model 75 is a good rifle,” I say. “The only problem with it I see is that your officers are limited in how many rounds they can carry. How about I get a crate of high capacity magazines for your department? And some body armor that will stop these rounds? How many sets do you need?”

The chief is taken aback by my offer. “That is very generous of you. Yes, we will need that equipment. I’ll have my deputy prepare a list for you.” It takes another thirty minutes to haggle out what exactly I can provide. It comes down to two dozen sets of hard body armor, a crate of 20 round magazines for the rifles, three night vision scopes and a portable bomb detector. All for forty liters of gasoline and some good will. I don’t even have to carry it back to Rani and his taxi, the chief has two officers drive me.

Rani looks forlorn sitting in the cab. He thought that I had abandoned him. When he sees me in company with two police officers who are unloading the jerry cans from their pickup truck he jumps for joy. After gassing up we climb back into the taxi to continue our journey to Polad. Not long after Makotai we have to take a side road off the highway. When we turn off the main road I uncase my rifle and sling it across my chest. This both reassures Rani and increases his alertness. It is two more hours on an increasingly primitive road till we get to the village. Along the way we see growing numbers of native wildlife, birds at first and then some small deer like creatures. They are shy and are only seen at the edges of the bamboo and elephant grass that lives where humans haven’t yet settled.

There is little traffic here except for the log trucks with their habit of blowing their horns and forcing us off the road. We haven’t seen a private vehicle since leaving Makotai, they are all large company rigs and the rare bus. None of the latter seem to come this far off the main road. If Rani’s cab breaks down I wonder what I am going to do. For one thing, my pocket PC is out of contact with the local cellular network. And there are no telephone poles along the road indicating a lack of land lines. We are truly out in the bush.

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Istvan56
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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:53 pm

Chapter 9

The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings. (Okakura Kakuzo)


John Ku, Palod Village, Central District

Finally we reach signs of human habitation. There are cultivated fields being worked by colonists guarded by a turbaned man with a gun. I wave and he waves back. The folks working the fields just stare at us as we drive by. “Ku Sahib, those people are Sikhs,” Rani says. “So what?” I reply. “So I cannot act as your interpreter with them. I do not speak Punjabi.” He sounds sorrowful. “Don’t worry about it,” I reassure him. “I’m sure someone will speak English,” I say with a false sense of hope.

The first thing I notice about the village is the palisade made from sharpened logs. The whole place is encompassed with a solid enough fence to stop a herd of elephants or a greater sloth on a rampage. There is a pair of watchtowers, one by the main gate and one in the distance I suppose is looking over the rear gate. A trio of large dogs barks at us as we approach the entrance. It is open but a man stands guard armed with, of all things, a spear. At least the guard in the tower is armed with a modern rifle, one of the great big Model 85’s. The gate guard calls back the dogs and motions for us to stop. Wonder of wonders, he speaks passable English. “Where are you going?”

“Is this Polad village?” I ask. He nods and repeats his question. He is dressed like something out of ancient India. He wears blue checkered clothing, has a full beard flowing beneath his high turbaned head, multiple metal bangles around his wrists, and a large dagger at his waist. Only the presence of a small portable two-way radio on his right hip belays the image of a classic Sikh warrior. “We came to visit this village and the lumber camps near by. I am a security consultant and wanted to see how well prepared the colonists are. I must say that you look to be very alert.”

“We have to be. There is a man-eater loose in the area. An old lion with one broken saber-tooth has taken one of our women. We have hunting parties out and guards with all of our people. You should speak to our guru in the gurdwara in the center of the village.” He waves us forward through the open gate. Rani guns the taxi, fear showing on his face. I guess he thinks the lion might eat him if he isn’t inside quick.

While I don’t know exactly what a gurdwara is I figure driving into the center of village will give me a chance to find out. I do know that a guru is a teacher or spiritual leader of sorts. Coming from California has taught me that much. I guess I was expecting someone who teaches yoga and meditation. What we find is something quite different. There a middle-aged Sikh man leading a group of blue clad warriors in a martial arts contest. Except these guys are all armed with primitive weapons instead of doing hand-to-hand. Each has either a rattan practice sword or bamboo staff which is still quite deadly if used correctly. They are sparing with no holds barred. Many of the men are sporting welts and one man is on the ground bleeding from the face, another man checking his wound.

At the sound of the taxi’s engine the sparing is called to a stop. There is no doubt who is in charge. The order is barked out by the older man as if on the parade ground rather than in a backwoods village. I don’t need to understand the language, just the tone of the command. Instead of loafing around the warriors start doing knee bends and stretching exercises. Seems there is some form of yoga going on here after all.

Their guru gazes at us, curious but alert to any danger we may pose. He is not dressed the same as the other men. They all wear the same bright blue clothing as the gate guard. His turban is the only blue item on him. He is wearing a khaki button down shirt with epaulettes, it looks like a knock-off of a uniform blouse. Contrasting with this bit of modern clothing he is wearing light colored baggy jodhpurs with his ankles covered by puttees. Around his waist is a yellow sash with a broad leather belt supporting two swords in brass scabbards. Another small radio, a mate for the one on the gate guard, is tucked into the front of the sash.

We dismount from the truck and walk over to the men. I don’t know what else to do so I come to attention and render a salute to the guru. It seems appropriate, one soldier to another. Surprisingly, he snaps to attention and returns it though with the palm out, British style. I drop my hand salute and extend it in a handshake, “Captain John Ku, formerly of the United States Army Special Forces.”

“Halvidar-Major Bahadur Singh, retired from the Sikh Regiment of the Indian Army. Now serving Polad as their guru. What brings you to Gondavana?” I have to think back to my army training for the conversion of Indian Army ranks. A halvidar is a sergeant so a halvidar-major is a sergeant major, the highest ranking non-commissioned officer in a battalion. There used to be regimental sergeant-majors but they did away with that rank when they went to fielding battalions independently in brigades and divisions.

“Well, Sergeant-Major Singh, I am now working for Pagoda Security Consulting, Limited. My company is on Gondavana assessing the threat to PAMCO operations by off world rivals. There have been attacks and they are being sponsored by some nasty folks who don’t give a damn about the locals here on this world. They are merely tools to be discarded when they get what they want, access to the mineral wealth of your planet.”

He looks me over for a minute and then responds with, “A very nice speech. However it glosses over some points, such as unrest among the colonists that existed before your outside influences showed up here. And how your presence means there will be further bloodshed. We are far enough away from any PAMCO facilities to avoid being in line of fire or to pose much of a threat. So why are you here in our village?”

“To be frank, I was just passing though. There is a labor camp not far from here. That is where I think the terrorists will look to recruit the disenfranchised and disaffected. But I heard you are having troubles with a rogue lion and I thought I might be able to help you.” I pat my rifle.

“Yes, I see you carry a Bavarian Fabrik-werks Sturmgewehr Model 101 in 7 mm with the integral 30 mm grenade launcher. We could use your rifle, even your pistol might come in handy. Ever do any hunting of big game before, besides those that move on two legs?” I’m impressed with his instant recognition of my rifle. These things haven’t been out that long and aren’t in the inventory of either India or its rivals, Pakistan and China. The old sarge’major had been keeping up on military affairs.

“No, I grew up in the city so I never hunted till I was in the military. And yes, it has only been two-legged prey who could fight back.” The old veteran just shakes his head. “It is not the same. No amount of combat prepares you for hunting a prey that wants to eat you alive. You will face fear like you have never felt before. And what you Americans call ‘buck fever’ too. Do not miss, your life and the lives of my men depend upon your first shots hitting the lion. Now come join us for a spot of tea.” In that booming parade ground voice he again shouts out something in Punjabi. The men disperse stacking their practice weapons inside their temple, which I guess is the gurdwara. From it they bring out tables and chairs which they set up in the shade of an old tree left in the center of the village. “Come, sit down while my wife brings out the tea.”

Sure enough, a middle-aged woman with a matronly command of several younger women shortly appears. They bring a tea service and platters of finger foods for all of us. From the looks the warriors give the ladies these are wives and sweethearts. The wife of the sergeant-major comes and stands beside him with dignity and grace. I rise and bow when he introduces us to each other. “You will be our guest, Mr. Ku?” She asks. I nod.

The sergeant-major, or I guess I should call him the guru, explains how the hunt will proceed. “We will rest this afternoon. All villagers have been called in from the fields so our guards can rest as well. Some will be hunters, others watchmen protecting the village tonight while we lay our trap for the lion.”

He pauses to take a bite from a slice of melon before going on. “My men are giving their goodbyes to their loved ones as some may not return in the morning. These Sikhi are all Nihangs, warriors who do not fear death. That does not mean they do not also love life and their families.” Looking at the scene I’m touched by the tenderness that many of the couples are showing one other. They really are giving a final goodbye to each other.

“We have a young water buffalo calf that we will stake out in a field. The poor beast will be wounded so there will be a scent of blood for the lion. It will also call out for its’ mother. My men will be posted with wide enough gaps for the lion to pass through their midst. I believe the lion will be drawn to the calf first and not the hunters themselves. Either way, we will strike when the lion comes out of hiding.” The old sergeant-major pauses to sip some tea.

“A fight at night with a lion?” I ask. “How will your men see it?” He nods his head in the affirmative, “It is a risk. Each hunters’ camp will have a bonfire. Half of the men will bear torches and spears, what we call barcha. The rest will be armed with the few firearms we have for self-defense, save what the night guards need. I, myself, will be armed with a bacha, I am not too old to wield a spear in combat.”

It is also a good leadership trait, I think to myself, to lead by example. The guru goes up a notch in my book. After the meal I strip off my rifle and load bearing gear to make one final check before resting. The long road trip has also tired me out and I feel a bit cramped up. So I take the time to limber up with some pyugi exercises. This draws the attention of a few of the men who come over to watch me. They smirk and make comments to each other in Punjabi. Then they prod one to act as their spokesman. “Hello, my name is Hari Singh.” He says, “What martial art does this come from?”

“My parents are Korean and so I studied ‘Hapkido.’ The name means ‘The Way of Coordinated Power.’ It is not merely a martial art but also includes meditation and the healing arts.” I conclude. I don’t stop my stretching and limbering exercises. The spokesman translates what I say to his friends. Then Hari asks, “So this is an ancient martial art, like Kung Fu?”

I shake my head and say wryly, “No, it is a modern blend of older styles from Japan and Korea. It is only about 100 years old. There isn’t even agreement on how the style was founded. Some say it is from Japanese Aikido, others say it is a blend of Aiki-jujitsu, from which Aikido is also developed, with Korean style kicks added. Both Aikido and Hapkido use the power of an attacker against himself. I also studied Hoshindo, which is advanced self-defense techniques.” Only after I stop I realize that most of what I say is likely meaningless gibberish to them.

“We practice gatka but some of us are pehalwans, wrestlers. We would test our ancient martial arts with yours.” Okay, I saw this one coming. Better to build their confidence in my abilities now than later tonight when the chips are down. So I rise up, dust myself off and strip off my shirt. “Where do you want to do this?” I ask.

“Come into the gurdwara. We have an akhara, a wrestling pit inside.” They lead me inside the temple cum martial arts school. Sure enough there is a wet sandy pit, about six and half meters square. I don’t let on that I know about Pehlwani, the Indian art of wrestling. Actually, it comes from Persia according to Corporal Hamid Golampor. Hamid is a pahlwan too as they call themselves in Iran. I have sparred with Hamid many times so I know a few counter-moves to surprise them with. I keep a poker face to not let on.

“Ok, which one of you will I get the honor of sparing with?” I inquire of their spokesman. Hari smiles showing a gap in his upper front teeth, “Salwinder will be the one,” he replies. That name seems familiar to me. Golampor has mentioned it. Then it hits me, this guy is named after one of India’s greatest wrestlers. I hope it is only a coincidence. I strip down to my underwear and cringe as I think of the sand that will be irritating me all night and well into tomorrow. I notice that none of the guys watching me are stripping down. “So which one of you is Salwinder?”

Just then this giant guy in nothing but a loincloth and body oil walks in to the room swinging a pair of stone weights suspended from bamboo poles. Now I’m tall for a Korean which I credit to growing up in America with a diet rich in the protein that my shorter parents lacked. Still I’m well shy of 2 meters tall. This giant is about 230 centimeters tall, he could play basketball if he wasn’t so overly developed. I mean the guy is muscle bound, as bad as any I’ve seen on Muscle Beach in Venice, California. I thought the late Andre Washington was huge, he was a pip-squeak compared to the monster here. I definitely can’t allow Salwinder to grapple me. But I’m thinking that I’m about to find out what a pretzel feels like.

Keeping my face blank of the emotions running rampant through me I bow to Salwinder. “Do you speak English?” I ask hesitantly. “Some,” he grins. His voice is a deep bass, like the bellow of a bull. “Good.” He flexes while setting the weights down. We enter the pit. Their spokesman acts as referee and explains the rules. Looking at me he says, “No ‘death blows,’ till knockout or submission, agreed?” I nod as does the giant. He continues, “No gouging out eyes, ripping off one’s manhood or otherwise deliberately crippling each other.” We both nod in understanding. I’m not comforted though since he said “deliberately crippling.” The giant can claim it was an accident when he pops my head off my shoulders. Just as I’m thinking that thought Hari signals for us to begin.

Immediately Salwinder rushes in to knock me off of my feet. I sidestep and deflect him past me with a push. He recovers and spins round. We are both testing each other. I have speed while he has mass and muscle. With the next charge I give him a flying kick to the face and push off before he can grab my legs. I tumble as I land and roll back onto my feet. Salwinder has a bloody nose and fat lip. He smiles as he spits blood. “That will cost you,” he says. I’m surprised at his English, it is as good as the sergeant-major’s. I think he’s been in the army as well.

This time he is looking for me to hit him high. Instead I drop and do a leg sweep as he misses me again. When he falls I follow up with a grab to his right hand, apply a wrist lock, joint manipulation to his fingers, elbow bar and then twist his arm so I can gain control of him. He rolls with my twist and simply out muscles me to escape. When I realize I can’t hold him I flip off and get back on my feet before he can pull me onto the ground. Ground fighting is his specialty, not mine. I can fight on the ground and know many counter moves to jujitsu and judo but with his weight and size advantage it is too dangerous for me. Not till I have weakened him more than I have.

He shakes out the pain from his arm and warily watches me as he sides steps back and forth, arms wide, slowly driving me back in the square pit. He’s going for the grapple and takedown. He forgets that I can punch as well as kick. Instead of trying to break past him to another corner of the pit I go straight in. His first reaction is to try to grab me with both hands. I block his right by striking his wrist at the base of the thumb with my knife hand. This temporarily stuns his hand and prevents him from getting a grip on me with it. I turn and grab his left hand with both of mine and twist around and under his left armpit to put him into another arm bar. I give him two knee strikes to his left outer thigh, dropping the big man to his knees.

As I attempt to tip him face down onto the ground he twists right to bring me down on top of him. Then he delivers his own palm strike with his right hand to my mid rift, knocking the wind out of me. I still have his left wrist but stunned I’m losing my grip. So I push off and disconnect from him backing away till I can catch my breath. His strike was not traditional pehlwani but hey, I’m not playing by their rules at all. So far it has all been move and counter-move. We take a moment to recover and get into position for round three. “Were you in the Sikh Regiment with the halvidar-major?” I gasp out. He shakes his head, “No, I was in the Sikh Light Infantry. And you?”

I smile, “I was in the United States Special Forces, a captain over an A-Team.” Now he smiles back. “I hate officers. This will be fun.” We both rush each other. I change my tactics and am going for an over the hip throw to slam him down on the ground and then a choke hold to finish him off. Only his length of reach spoils my attack. He brushes off my grapple and head butts me. Stunned I’m slowed and miss blocking his left arm which grabs me around the waist. I have his right arm but that doesn’t matter as he picks me up one handed and tosses me down on my back. I roll out before he lands atop me to get the pin. My back hurts some but I’m not out of action yet.

With us both on the ground I do a low back spinning kick, the type that is normally a foot sweep, and clobber him in the temple. It should stun him but he brushes it off like I merely slapped him. Salwinder grabs my foot before I am able to get it back under me and drags me close to him. Now I’m in a precarious position. He’s gets me around the waist and is trying to flip me around into a pin. I deliver two fast distraction blows to the base of his neck but he grabs my left arm and just about yanks it out of the socket. I go for his face with my free hand, jabbing a pressure point under the jaw with my thumb while going into his left eye socket with my ring finger. He twists in pain trying to break free. Finally he has to release my left hand to fight off my right.

By now he’s got me in a scissors hold around my waist with his powerful legs. I feel like I’m being crushed in a vise. I give him an open hand blow to the throat with my free left hand followed by a quick circle escape of my captured right. With both hands free I am able to alternate the blows to his throat till he is gasping for breath. I have to be careful not to break his windpipe, just to bruise it enough to cut his air for a bit. He reaches up and punches me in the face, blood now spurting from my nose. It feels broken. I strike his forearms in the nerve bundles to weaken them. Then I twist while forcing apart his legs. Finally I’m free.

We are both gasping for breath, lying a couple of meters apart. His legs had squeezed most of the breath out of me and my blows to his throat limited the oxygen to his muscles and brain. Both of us are bruised and bleeding. Sometime in there he got cut above his right eye. My nose is still running, blood dripping down the back of my throat as well as down my face. When I start to rise to my feet he matches my movements. Neither of us is willing to submit just yet. “Come here, little man. I will crush you,” he says. I just shake my head as I try to catch my breath.

It is his turn to kick me. He runs at me, I expect to deflect him to the side but am surprised when he does an open scissors kick aimed at taking me down. I move but not fast enough to be missed this time and he hits me in my inner thigh. My leg goes out from under me and I’m where he wants me, on the ground again. I begin to fast crawl away but he grabs my foot. I turn and kick him in the face. It doesn’t stop him. So I kick first one wrist and then the other till I break free. Rolling over I hop up to a crouch and then jump on him. He isn’t expecting that move. I go from escaping ground fighting to attacking him on the ground. I have one arm around his neck and the other around a leg. I pull hard arching his neck and back. More importantly I am cutting the blood supply to his brain with a lateral vascular neck hold. If I can hold on I’ll win.

Somehow Salwinder summons up a last reserve of strength. Thrashing and kicking he breaks free of my leg hold and then clamps his arms on my neck hold. He rolls over flipping me face first into the sand. Then he pulls my arm free and twists it behind my back in a chicken wing hold. Now it is my turn to writhe in pain as he bends my arm out of the socket. I start to run in place untwisting my arm enough so I can roll to get my free arm to his head. I hammer him with elbow strikes to the head till he lets go. Once free I separate and get on my feet.

Salwinder doesn’t get up. I didn’t realize it but I must’ve knocked him out with the elbow strikes. I move as fast as I can to get him flat on his back and then open his airway so he doesn’t choke to death on his own tongue. Checking his pulse I find it fast but steady. I rest hunched over my opponent, wheezing and feeling the aches of the battle. My blood drips down onto his body, mingling with his. I do not feel like celebrating my victory, only my survival. The big man nearly had me.

Suddenly I feel someone prodding me. It is the Sikh warrior who is acting as referee. He hands me a bottle of water and a towel. “Take this,” Hari says. I nod thanks. After rinsing out my mouth and spitting I pour some over my face to wash away the blood. Then I pour some on the towel and clean up Salwinder’s face. He begins to come to with a cough and a groan. I don’t understand his first words, they are in Punjabi. The referee translates, “He asks, where is the elephant that stomped him.”

I laugh. “My nose is swollen enough to look like an elephant’s trunk.” Salwinder cracks open one eye, the other is shut with the beginnings of a shiner, and looks at me. “Behold, the Elephant! No other can beat the Rustam-e-Punjab!” I’m startled as I had no idea I was fighting the Punjab state champion. No wonder he nearly kicked my ass.

The rest of the Nihang warriors begin to clap. I think, “Oh great. What a nickname” but smile at their admiration. Frankly, I just want to get cleaned up and sleep. I think I’m not going to make the lion hunt the way I feel right now. As I stand I realize I have another problem, I’m naked. My briefs were ripped off in the fight and I am wearing nothing but sand and clay. Fortunately I’m in the company of men. Taking the small towel I do my best to cover myself. That gets the men laughing at me, none more than Salwinder who attempts to get up. That’s when he notices that he has lost his loincloth as well. “I see that’s where the elephant’s trunk has gone,” I quip when looking at him. That elicits another round of laughter.

Fortunately I am able to borrow a clean loincloth from Salwinder after we bathe. He complains that I gave him a concussion. I equally complain about my broken nose and battered body. That gets me a massage by an old man with hands that could knead rawhide into soft suede. At least that’s what I feel like before he works me over, stiff rawhide. Before he is done I fall asleep. When I awake it is past dusk. Hari Singh is there along with Guru Bahadur Singh, or as I prefer to think of him, the sergeant-major. One has my clothes, the other my weapons and gear. “Let’s go, Captain Ku. We have an appointment with a lion.”

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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:58 pm

Chapter 10

Crudelius est quam mori semper timere mortem - It is more cruel to always fear death than to die. (Seneca)


John Ku, Palod Village, Central District

Exiting the house where I took my nap I see the hunters milling in the center of the village. The ex-sergeant-major barks out a command and the turbaned Nihang warriors fall into formation. They form two ranks, spearmen in front and men with guns in the rear. I see an eclectic assortment of firearms: double-barreled and pump-action shotguns, TGI Model 75 hunting rifles and even an ancient Ishapore SLR1A semi-auto rifle. There can’t be many rounds of ammunition for that old thing. It shows the desperation and bravery of these folks.

Clustered to one side are a few of the villagers with the families of the hunters and my cab driver Rani. He motions for me to come to him. I think I know what he wants so I dig out my wallet as I walk over. “Here Rani, this should cover hiring you an extra day and your room for tonight. Did you find a place to stay?” He takes the money but just shoves it into a pocket rather than looking at it. “Yes Sahib, the guru has taken me into his home as his guest. But please be careful. A lion is nothing to take for granted, especially at night. We are in his territory, on his world. I will pray to Vishnu for your safe return.”

“Thank you, Rani. I appreciate your concern. Don’t worry though, we outnumber and out gun the old beast.” I pat my assault rifle. “Now I had better get going with the guru.” I shake hands with him and return to the head of the formation, which is now a column. The sergeant-major beckons for me to join him as his partner, he at the head of the file of spearmen and I at the head of the file of the gunmen. He gives the command and we march towards the main gate. I ache but the walk will help me warm my muscles up and keep from getting stiff again. As we file through the gate I see that Salwinder has taken up the overwatch position in the guard tower. It is no small comfort to see the giant warrior up there armed with the equally huge Model 85 rifle.

On the road we grow silent and watchful. I can see bonfires about half a click ahead surrounding a fallow field from where I hear the lowing of the frightened calf. We split up, spearmen paired with gunmen going to their assigned quadrants. I accompany the old sergeant-major to his chosen fire. We relieve a couple of boys and their guard who has been tending the fires since before it grew dark. The guru passes a torch to one of the boys and wishes them a safe trek back to the village. With that chore done we begin our vigil, moving to the edge of the circle of fire and keeping our eyes on the darkness to preserve what night vision we have.

My eyes wander a bit as I see a falling star streak through the upper atmosphere. I’ve been to so many planets that I have no clue as to where Sol and Terra are in the night sky. Yet there is a familiarity as I gaze on the Milky Way, listen to the crackle of the fire behind me and the soft murmur of voices as the other pairs of guards at this fire keep themselves awake.

The guru interrupts my reverie by asking me, “So Captain Ku, do you get homesick?” I don’t have to think long on that, “Yes, I do. It is not so much that I miss Southern California. I get the best of that lifestyle when I vacation on Turners World without the wierdos and flakes. No, I miss being an American. Not that it is what it used to be before First Contact. That was before my time anyway. But even when I was growing up it still meant that we were the ‘good guys’ who had the ideas for revolutionizing the world. And we did it. Then the Union of Worlds came and looked down their collective noses at all of us as barbarians of the worse sort, especially America for having used nuclear weapons on our own kind.”

The retired sergeant-major, now teacher nods as I finish, “I too miss the old days at times. That is nostalgia, not homesickness. But I live without regret for the life I have lived. And I have much to live for each day. Do you live without regret John Ku? Do you have much to live for?”

That sets me back. “Sure, I have regrets. I regret trusting the cops on Mundo Novo one little bit. That cost me three good men,” I sound a bit more bitter than I mean to. I shake my head. “But that is the cost of being a warrior. I stand by my choices. As for what I live for? That is easy, I live for my team, my comrades. We are a family, brothers and sisters in arms. And I believe that we work to make the colony worlds a better place to live, even if we have to kill a few bastards to make it so.”

“I can accept that,” the grizzled old soldier says. “One day I think you will find more to live for but for now, I can accept that. Tonight we hopefully don’t have to kill any ‘bastards’ but just one old beastie of a lion.” With that we sit and stare off into the night alone in our thoughts.

After a while the guru straightens up. “Listen,” he hisses at me. I do and note that it had gotten awfully quiet. The men behind us have stopped whispering, normal as they settle into the watch. The fire still crackles now and then as it consumes the unseasoned brushwood. Other than that I hear nothing. “It is quiet, sergeant-major,” I reply. “Yes.” He says, “Too quiet. The calf has quit lowing. I expected a noisy kill but we may have a silent killer instead.”

Taking out his radio the guru speaks quickly into it. We stand and he repeats the command to the other pairs of men. Hari the referee and one of his buddies moves out to the left like we do while the other two pairs of Nihangs from our fire move to the right, torchbearers holding their feeble lights high. I see the lights spread out as the hunters form a box around the field. “Do we have enough men?” I ask the guru. “We have all that we could spare, plus one,” he replies smiling grimly.

Clicking off the safety to my weapon I wish I had brought a night sight. At least my scope has an illuminated reticule. Bringing up my weapon I adjust it to take into account the torches bobbing closer to me as we walk across the field. I stop and focus on the center where the bait calf is tethered. I can barely make out the outline of the animal. “The calf is down but I don’t see the lion,” I report. “He is out there,” the guru says. “Keep moving, we must close our ranks.”

Instead of closing with me the old soldier angles further over to place himself between me and the next pair of men. I’m not comfortable with this, not with him holding our light source. Besides, I still think a spear isn’t a good weapon to hunt a lion with. Just then I hear excited shouts from across the field. There is a blast from a shotgun followed by a roar from what I suppose is the lion. It doesn’t sound like an African lion, I’ve watched enough nature shows to tell the difference. This one is higher pitched and screeches, I hope from the pain of getting hit.

“Be careful, he is only wounded.” The guru says this as the beast comes into view. It is indeed bloodied and bounding across the field looking for a way to escape our trap. I take a shot but my burst hits the dirt behind the lion, spurring it to move even faster. Cursing my buck fever I watch helplessly as it moves off to the left and into the darkness once more.

Suddenly there is another shout followed by the scream of a wounded man. A series of gunshots ring out, this clearly from a rifle. The screaming stops abruptly. Then there is a single shot. The guru and I are running to where we see a torch on the ground. I can see one body, no two bodies of men but no lion. The guru is examining one of the men who is still alive. Mercifully he has passed out. The old sergeant-major applies a tourniquet to the man’s left leg. He is ripped straight up the thigh to the crotch and has puncture wounds to his left arm where he fought back. His spear is stuck in the ground where he obviously made an attempt at stabbing the beast.

I walk over to the second man. It is Hari Singh, the referee. His throat was ripped out by the lion. The Model 75 rifle he was carrying lies on the ground next to his body, bolt back on an empty magazine. I have to shake my head. Hari came out here with only one partially loaded magazine. Why is ammunition so hard to come by? It makes me wonder about the rest of the hunters. How many rounds do each of them have before they run out of ammo like poor Hari here.

Just then I hear a low growl from somewhere behind me. I could’ve wet my pants but luckily I urinated before the ruckus started. Still I felt my sphincter tighten and the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Bahadur Singh whispers, “Don’t move.” I fight my natural instincts to turn and either run or empty my weapon in the direction of the lion. The guru suddenly yells, “Now!” I spin, side-stepping as the lion charges at me. The guru throws his spear and hits the lion in the right rear leg. That causes the beast to stumble but he is so large and fast I still can only fire off a short burst before I am bowled over. Fortunately my side-stepping means I only catch a glancing blow but I still go down ass over elbows.

I recover and pull my weapon up scanning for the lion. My tactical sling kept me from losing my rifle but it didn’t stop the rifle from bruising my body. I pray it still functions as I see the lion turn and begin to creep from where it landed in a heap. The beast is dragging the now useless back leg, the spear still sticking out of it. I pull the trigger and my weapon fires one shot before jamming. The single round doesn’t slow the already peppered lion as it comes after me. I backpedal quickly and yell for everyone to get back. I can’t fire my grenade launcher with the guru and the wounded Nihang warrior so close. “Here, kitty-kitty. Come to Papa!” I say to the beast. The animal snarls, the broken tooth taking nothing away from the deadly maw that gapes wide for me.

That’s it. I run with the lion in pursuit. I have a short lead that I hope will give me enough distance that I can turn and fire off one of my grenades without hurting anyone else. If my rifle will still work, that is. I look down as I flip the selector switch and realize that I’ve lost the grenade magazine. So I’m down to one shot, one chance to finish the fight or get dragged down and mauled like poor Hari. Stopping I quickly fire from the hip, at this range I pray that I’m not too close. The old adage that a miss only counts in “horseshoes and hand grenades” works for me as the blast sprays the lion with shrapnel. One fragment of the Dual Purpose – High Explosive grenade must’ve hit me low in the left leg, I feel a burning pain. But the lion is down. Letting go of my rifle I pull my pistol and walk over to the beast. Blood is streaming from gaping wounds and a red froth comes out its nostrils and mouth as it gasps for air. The eyes are glazed and don’t track my approach. Taking aim I put the beast out of its misery.

Slumping down I take inventory of myself. Besides the small piece of shrapnel which I’m able to pull from my leg I have some scratches across my chest where the lion must’ve raked me as he went by. My harness took the brunt of it fortunately. One of my ammo pouches is gone somewhere in the field. Pulling open my left mag pouch I pull out my survival kit. From it I take out a lightstick and break it, the chemical reacting and turning the area much brighter than the torches which are lying on the ground. Using my rifle as a prop I get up and walk to where the wounded warrior is getting treated by the guru.

“Thanks, Captain Ku.” He says as I hold the light over his shoulder. The wounds are worse than I thought. While the tourniquet has stopped the bleeding below the upper thigh there is still plenty of blood flowing out of the furrows that go up the crotch and from the bite wounds in his arm. I open my first aid kit and pull out a pouch of blood stopper. I don’t have enough to treat all the wounds so I pour what I have in the worse of the furrows. The bites will have to seep until they clot on their own. Then I take out two small syringes, one colored blue and one red. I inject the red syringe. Handing the blue one to the guru I explain, “The blue one is morphine, give it to him if he wakes up and is in pain. Watch his vitals though, too much and he’ll go into arrest. The red one is a broad spectrum antibiotic. I’m allergic to penicillin myself so I invested in some black market alien pharmacology. If the blood loss doesn’t kill him he should be safe from infection. Where can we take him for help? Do you have a doctor here in Palod?”

“Unfortunately, we do not. We have a clinic that a government doctor and his assistants come by once a month to use. He was here last week so it will be a long time before he comes again. We must take him to the Tammannewa Government Camp. They have a full time clinic.” The guru states sadly, “If he makes it that long. It is seven kilometers northwest of here on a rough road.”

The rest of the hunters soon arrive, some pausing to gaze at the lion, the majority gathering around the guru and their wounded comrade. The old sergeant-major stands up and barks out instructions. Men produce a blanket from by a fire which they fold between two spears to make a makeshift stretcher. Carefully four of them lift the wounded man and put him on the litter. Then they bear him off to the village. All but a small handful of men go with them. I presume they are standing watch over the dead man till another litter is brought.

I spend a few minutes looking around a bit with my chemical light and find my missing grenade magazine. It looks undamaged so I reinsert it and chamber a fresh grenade. Then I clear the jam and remove the magazine from my rifle. The mag is ruined, it has been bent and has claw marks where it took the brunt of a swipe that only nicked me. The bad magazine still has good rounds in it so I replace it into a cargo pocket. Then I look for the missing mag pouch. When I locate it I pull my only spare magazine out and reload my weapon. I regret coming so lightly armed. The center pouch is too ripped to be of any use so I discard it. I’ll have to replace my harness when I get a chance.

Before I go back to the village I want to take one last look at the man-eater. There is no way anyone can mistake this for an African lion. The color is close but the blocky head is wrong, discounting the massive saber-teeth where the lion gets its name. Looking at the paws I see that the claws are not retractable like a true cat. They remind me more of a bear’s paws, long wicked dirty weapons. That reminds me and I dig out some antiseptic wipes to clean my wounds with. Since I gave away my antibiotics I have to be careful. I have more but they are a long ways from Palod, all the way back in my hotel room in Vanchi Muthur.

Hanging my lightstick on my harness I trek back to the village. I feel thoroughly beat up. Not just from my earlier fight but from the battle with the lion. Still, I want to find out what has happened with the wounded man and if there is anything more I can do to help. The least I can do is get Rani to transport the man if there isn’t a better vehicle available. I feel rather disappointed with myself. If I had not missed my first burst maybe, just maybe Hari and his buddy would be alright now instead of dead and dying.

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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Wed Dec 02, 2009 12:09 am

This isn't the best map but it does help get an idea of the layout of the colony on Gondavana. The black lines represents the rail network. I haven't added topography, roads and the smaller villages and camps. So you won't find Palod Village on the map, it is too small for it. I built a gazateer to reference and this map as an afterthought one night when bored at work.

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Last edited by Istvan56 on Tue Jan 05, 2010 3:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Keith B » Fri Dec 04, 2009 12:00 pm

Uh, moar?!?
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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Sat Dec 05, 2009 12:04 am

Chapter 11

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived. (General George S. Patton)


John Ku, Palod Village, Central District

When I get back to the village I ask Salwinder where the medical clinic is. He points out the building which is really just an addition on the side of the post office. I should’ve figured that out, it has lights on, unlike most of the village which is still dark. I head that way and pass the litter bearers heading out to recover Hari’s body.

Before I reach the clinic I meet up with the guru’s wife. She is carrying a large pot of hot water which I relieve her of. She thanks me but I wave my hand for her to stop, “Please go get my driver, Rani. We will be taking the wounded man to the closest government camp. I don’t remember the camp’s name. It doesn’t matter, I’ll learn it soon enough. The important thing is that we get the wounded man to a doctor as soon as we can.”

Entering the clinic’s only exam room I see that the guru is alone with our patient. I ask, “Where do you want the hot water?” The guru points to a counter and turns back to the wounded man. I feel bad that I do not know his name. I inquire how he is doing while I take off my rifle. The guru responds, “In shock, we may lose him before we can get him to the camp if we don’t get some fluids into him. Search the cabinets there and see what supplies they have left us. I was going to have him drink some tea but he passed out.”

Opening up the drawers and cabinets reveals the usual contents of a small clinic. Mostly first aid items but there are no drugs in the unsecured exam room. I pull out dressings and gauze for starters. There is a box of exam gloves, I pass a set to the guru and after washing my hands put on a set for myself. The guru has found a pair of EMT shears and cuts away the trousers and shirt sleeve from our patient. While the guru cleans the wounds and props up the feet of the warrior I use a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope to check his vitals. His stats are not good, BP is low, pulse weak and breathing is shallow. The guru packs dressings onto the still leaking wounds and uses gauze to hold them in place. I report, “He needs fluids in him. There aren’t any drugs or IV’s in here. I think they must be locked up in another room. Is there a supply closet or office where there is a safe?” He shrugs, “Go and see, break open anything you think might hold drugs.”

I move into the outer office and look around. There is a desk and a screened off area which I take to be patient triage. There is one door which seems to be a connection to the post office but that is it. I test the handle and find it locked as I expected. It doesn’t require that much effort to defeat the door when I can pull out the pins for the hinges and pry it open with my knife. It looks like this was a back porch to the post office but it was converted into storage for the clinic when the addition was built. There are shelves of supplies, emergency cots, a small freezer and a refrigerator, both appliances apparently running off of a liquid propane tank I noticed outside the building. I get a couple of liters of blood expander, the appropriate large bore needles and a portable IV tree before heading back to the exam room.

Just then a young woman I don’t recognize comes into the clinic. She rushes past me and enters the exam room. Seeing the wounded warrior unconscious, stripped and covered in blood she cries out and faints. The guru rushes to the woman. He signals for me to take over patient care. I get the IV tree set up and attach the first liter of blood expander. It is a synthetic blood that will not only replenish the fluid levels of the patient but also help carry oxygen for him. Unfortunately the veins of the wounded man have collapsed, just like the woman I take to be his sweetheart. I apply a tourniquet to his unwounded arm and probe carefully till I get the largest needle I can into a vein. Once in I take the tourniquet off and get the life giving fluid into his body. The woman wakes up and the guru speaks to her in soft tones, words I don’t understand but must be of comfort. He assists her into the clinic waiting room and then returns a moment later.

After hooking up the patient I monitor his vitals to see if they stabilize. As things improve I get a moment to talk to the old sergeant-major about what happened during the lion hunt. “I’m sorry about Hari Singh and this man. You warned me about ‘buck fever’ and I blew it, clean missed my first shots at the lion.” The guru looks at me crossly, “There is no need for this guilt, if you had done this or if the other hunters had done that. We all knew the risks. Hari had six shots and missed every one. Ram Singh here missed with his spear. The first hunter missed hitting anything vital with his one shot. But as a team we all defeated the lion. And it was you in the end that killed it.”

Our patient, Ram Singh the guru names him, starts to wake up. That is a good sign. However he instantly begins to moan in pain. “Give him some morphine, half a dose to start,” I advise. I watch his vitals to see if they drop from the pain killer. As the IV bag volume lowers his vitals improve. I switch out the bag for a second one and check his wounds. The bleeding is under control and he looks well enough for transport. Checking my watch I note that his “Golden Hour” is already up. “Where is Rani?” I ask no one in particular. That’s when I hear the motor of the taxi coming from out front of the clinic.

In a minute Rani comes in with Guru Bahadur Singh’s wife. The guru turns over care of the grieving woman to his wife and she goes to speak to the young wife of Ram Singh, as she turns out to be. I have Rani accompany me to the supply room. In one corner I had spotted a Stokes Litter and a pile of tie downs. “We are going to strap in our patient and take him to the closest government camp. It is seven kilometers up the road. They have a full-time doctor on staff there. Okay?” Rani merely nods assent as he helps me get the stretcher through the door and to the exam room.

Loading the patient onto the taxi isn’t as tough as I figured. The bench in back not only provides support for it but the sides allow us to strap the Strokes litter securely. The problem is the underpowered motor of the vehicle. We can’t take everyone who wants to go. Rani has to go, it is his cab. I’m going to keep Rani and Ram safe. The guru is going to guide us and get us inside the camp. But we have to leave Ram’s bride and the wife of the guru. With a final kiss to her semi-conscious husband the woman turns to cry on the shoulder of the village matron. With that we drive off into the dark.

I stay in the back of the taxi with Ram and monitor the IV and his vitals. The guru is up front next to Rani. Before we left I grabbed two more liters of blood expander. Sure enough I need it as the wounds on his arm and crotch start to leak again. I make Rani stop so Bahadur and I can stem the blood loss. Once under control I replace the nearly depleted IV bag and we get going again. With the rough road and with only a single feeble headlight our progress is slow.

The Tammannewa Government Camp lay sprawled before us. We slow at the turn off for the main gate. The facility doesn’t look like a logging camp so much as a huge prison. There is a razor wire and chain link fence surrounding the place. Watch towers with lights cover both the inside and outer perimeter. As we approach I see armed guards inside the fence line on patrol with dogs. When we stop a spotlight is trained upon us. The guru gets out and raises his hands to shield his eyes. “We are from Palod. I am Guru Bahadur Singh, the village chief. We have a badly wounded man here from a lion attack. He needs immediate medical attention from your doctor. Please open the gate!”

The guards seem less than willing to open up for us. One shouts in badly accented English, “Too bad for him. You villagers no come for free health care here. Go back to village.” That pisses me off. I sling my rifle over my chest and stand up in the truck so they can see me. “I am Captain John Ku contracted by PAMCO as a security advisor. This man is under my care and protection. Open up and let us in. He will die soon if you don’t let him see your doctor. I will pay all his health costs so that is not a problem.”

The same guard replies, “Oh, so you work for PAMCO. This is no PAMCO camp. Try PAMCO camp back down road, we not letting you in. We closed. Now go away.” That really torques me. The rent-a-cop is willing to let a guy die for no good reason. “Open the gate or I will blow it open.” I heft my rifle and flip the selector switch.

He looks at my weapon and his face gets hard. “You shoot and we shoot you. There are more of us than you.” The guard raises his shotgun and shouts out something in Sinhala to his buddies. While the guys on the ground are armed only with shotguns I see that the tower guard has a Model 75 rifle. So I motion for the guru to get in. The guard smiles when I tell Rani we are going.

As soon as we begin to back away I say, “Rani, get us up the road 100 meters and stop. We’ll be out of range of most of their weapons. When I give the signal we drive through the gap I make for us.” Rani shakes his head, “Sahib, I think this is a bad idea.” The taxi driver looks grim as he backs us away from the gate while the guru sits and smiles. “What is your plan?” he asks. I speak low so the guards can’t hear me. “We are going in through a gap in the fence.” Rani looks at me puzzled, “What gap?” The guru points to a fence post about 150 meters from the main gate and guard tower. “I think that is a good spot for a gap in the fence. The ground is flat and there is no scrub brush in the way.”

Taking aim I nail the post high with a grenade severing the razor wire. Under tension it pulls back from the fence post. I then walk two more grenades down the wooden post breaking the chain link and flattening what isn’t broken. “Go!” I shout and Rani steps on the gas. The poor little truck bounces like crazy over the uneven ground and bumps over the downed fence. I hear shots from the men at the gate but they go wild as we race through into the dark spaces between rows of prefab shacks. We drive a few hundred meters into the camp before we lose our pursuers. Lights are coming on in a few of the homes as lamps are lit. Apparently the inmates don’t get electricity, only certain structures do.

“Where is the medical clinic?” I ask the guru. He guides us back over to the main road that runs through the camp. “I have been here once before. It is well marked.” He has Rani park in front of a white building with outside lighting. Staff members in scrubs walk out the door and I motion for them to come quick. “Please help this man, he was mauled by a lion.” As the nurse and orderly come and help unload Ram Singh I give them a rundown on his condition, vitals and treatment so far. I don’t bother telling them that camp security is after us, we can hear the alarm siren going off. I merely hand them a wad of bills saying that is for the health care of their patient and wish them good luck.

Turning to my companions I say, “Get out of here. Take the taxi out and get back to the village. I will keep them occupied. I have a ‘get out of jail card’ ready, don’t worry about me. I’ll see you soon.” While I do have connections in high places I don’t know if they will really bail me out. But my friends don’t know that. So they take off. While they are leaving I strip off my weapons and set them down on the ground. I pull out my pocket PC and test to see if I have a signal. No such luck so I can’t call the Ministry of Justice directly. So I pull up the Justice Minister’s phone number and wait for the guards arrival.

They don’t keep me waiting for long. A truck drives up and disgorges a squad of men, some armed with shotguns, the rest with truncheons. In the cab sits their supervisor, at least from the uniform I take him to be a senior man. He points at me and says something that I don’t understand. Clearly his men do as they surround me with weapons leveled. I keep my hands in the air, palms open to show the only thing I hold is my pocket PC. “I am Captain John Ku, here on the authorization of the Minister of Justice. If your gate guards had followed my instructions I would not have had to open the fence. Lower your weapons and get me your commander.”

I recognize the guard in front of me as the guy who speaks broken English. He shouts something at his supervisor then turns and buttstrokes me with his shotgun. I don’t resist as three of his buddies start to wail on my back with their truncheons. My pocket PC is taken from my hand and both arms are twisted behind me where they are manacled together. None too gently I’m tossed into the back of the truck. The supervisor finally gets out of the cab and walks over to where my weapons lay on the ground. He examines each, tucking the pistol into his belt before handing the rifle to the guard who hit me in the face. Then he takes the proffered pocket PC from one of his men and slips it into his breast pocket. I have a feeling that is the last I’ll be seeing of it. The officer calls his men back to the truck and we drive off. At least they didn’t mess with the medical staff or Ram Singh. I satisfied by that much. But my satisfaction is short-lived when the truck comes to a stop at the camp jail. Within minutes I’m stripped, searched in every orifice none too gently and tossed into a hot stuffy cell in my skivies.

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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by tenhigh » Sun Dec 06, 2009 6:12 am

This is an amazing story, please keep it up. MOAR would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Sun Dec 06, 2009 8:53 am

Chapter 12

A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity. (Sigmund Freud)


Yuki Takahashi, Vanchi Muthur Hotel, Central District

I wake up in the dark. Grunting I roll over and check the clock, it is nearly 7:00 PM. I’ve slept the whole day away. Hopping out of bed I flip on the lights and head to the bathroom, first to empty my protesting bladder and then to get the nasty taste out of my mouth. While brushing my teeth I take a good look at myself, a woman nearing thirty, single and without prospects for a good marriage according to my mother. My skin is still clear and youthful, my small breasts firm, my body toned and muscled, bearing but a few scars from the years of stress and danger I’ve exposed it to.

Rinse and spit, as if that can take away the bitterness of my life. My mother and her guilt trips weigh upon me like an albatross around my neck. “Get married, settle down and raise a family. This job is no life for you,” her litany goes. I grab a bottle of water from the counter and take a swig. Turning on my laptop I select a music playlist to keep me company while I begin my exercise regimen. After stretching I start my warm-ups, focusing on the music beat to drown out the little voices in my head. Is it too late for me already? When should I retire and what should I do with the money I have saved? Become a teacher, working with children like so many other single barren women? Or settle down and try to have a few of my own before my biological clock quits ticking? I don’t want to quit, I really enjoy my work on the team and with Ku-san. We are making a difference in the colony worlds. My anger grows and I use it as fuel as I turn from a dance routine to my martial arts katas. The room is not large enough for me to get a full workout but this little bit helps me to clarify my thoughts and work up a proper appetite. I end resolved to stay the course, push away my mother’s nagging and find happiness in what I am doing.

Perspiring heavily I finish my water and hit the shower. I have a mission to accomplish so I turn my mind to it. I will check with Ku-san on his day and then plot out where I want Sunil to take me tomorrow. That is a pleasant thought, Sunil is cute though too young for anything but a brief fling. I know he finds me intriguing, perhaps exotic. Not too dangerous I hope. I do not want to scare him. Men who are scared tend to have performance issues. Laughing I dry off and pick out a dress for dinner.

Before going downstairs to the hotel restaurant I check my messages. Ku-san has gone to check out one of the government camps that is a likely source of trouble-makers for PAMCO. His note says it is a day trip and he is expecting to be back sometime tonight. It is nearly 8:00 PM local time, so I’m not worried about him just yet. I’ll call him if he is not back by the time I finish my meal.

When I go into the restaurant I see Sunil in the lounge. He notices me and raises his glass. Walking over to him I ask, “Have you been here waiting for me?” The little brown man shrugs, like “So what if I have been?” I chuckle, “Are you hungry?” His eyes light up and his smile brings out dimples in his cheeks. Taking his proffered arm I accompany him to a table. At least his upbringing is good as he gets my chair and acts as the perfect gentleman throughout our dinner. I allow him to select what we will eat. We have lamb curry and curried rice with side dishes of spicy lentils, mango chutney and lunumiris, a hot chili relish. I haven’t had a meal this spicy since that Ethiopian restaurant on Mutapa Station. For desert we have wattalapam, a sweet Malay rice pudding that helps cut down on the hot curry that overpowered my poor taste buds. Besides the ever present tea we have toddy, made from fermented palm tree sap.

“You are not trying to get me drunk, are you?” I ask teasingly of the poor man. He shrugs again, this time non-committally as if he has not decided whether to admit his intentions. I laugh and say, “Naughty man, you have to fly me places in the morning.” His response makes me laugh even harder, “You asked me if I was trying to get you drunk, not if I am getting drunk. I have no intention to get so drunk that I cannot fly you.”

“You can pilot me to my room tonight, that is all. I have to check in with Captain Ku before determining where we are flying to in the morning.” Finishing off my toddy I rise, “Come on, flyboy, guide me to my hanger.” A tad bit chagrinned Sunil takes my arm after tossing out some cash for the tip, PAMCO having picked up the tab for our meal. I lean against him as we walk out into the lobby. I know I am sending mixed signals to him but I want to leave him with some hope of something more down the road.

When we get to the privacy of the elevator I let him know that I am definitely interested. His kiss is tentative only till I press my lips firmly back to his, brushing my breasts to his chest. We do not break contact until after the door has opened at my floor. A local couple enters and looks at us askew as we break contact, both of us a little bit red for getting caught intertwined as we were. We hold hands till we reach my door. “8:00 AM sharp, flyboy,” I tell him. He gives me one more passionate kiss and I withdraw into my room. Closing the door I lean against it with a sigh. “What are you doing, girl?” I say to myself. Shaking my head I grab up my pocket PC. No messages from Ku-san. After dialing his number I get a no contact message for his phone. He is still out of reach of the cellular network. He must be spending the night in the camp.

The next morning I am promptly greeted at 8:00 AM with a knock on my door. Sunil looks fresh and ready for anything. “I am hungry, so first we have breakfast.” I announce. Down we go, while not hanging on each other like last night we definitely do not separate in the elevator like strangers do. To anyone watching we are a couple, even if we are maintaining a professional distance while working.

Breakfast is a variety of hoppers, or appa in Sinhala. There are appa with a fried egg in the center and fruit hoppers called vanduappa and paniappa. Of course no meal is complete without tea. Gondavanans, true to their Sri Lankan roots, grow and drink lots of tea. The southern region of Gondavana is famous for its teas, even on New Nanyang the locally grown product marketed as “New Ceylon Tea” is popular.

Over breakfast we plot out our day. “I want to inspect the oil pipeline between the Dasaya fields and the refinery in Mandi.” Sunil nods, “So you want a plane to fly up there?” I shake my head, “No, I want to be able to stop and land in places I think the pipeline is vulnerable so a helicopter will do. I will also want to speak to any engineers or service people we find along the way to see if they have encountered vandalism or suspicious activity.”

“Okay,” Sunil says. “I’ll make the call to the field and file our flight plan.” He pulls out his pocket PC and makes the call. I pull out mine and try to contact Ku-san again. He is still out of contact. When Sunil finishes his call I ask him about it. “Oh,” he says. “There is no phone service out in the bush country. The government camp will have a short wave radio but that is for emergencies only. Villages out on the fringe of the native jungle may have a radio as well but not always since such technology is imported and costly. It takes years for the infrastructure to catch up with the expansion into the new lands,” he concludes.

“So if he stayed at the government camp or in Palod it could be hours before he is in range to call us?” I clarify. “Yes, he might not be able to call until he gets to Makotai. Eyyal has land line service but no cellular phone coverage. Not yet at least.” He gives me one of those ever optimistic smiles of his. It all makes sense but I do not like it. There is a low grade insurgency going on and all Ku-san has with him for back-up is his hired cab driver. A local Tamil cab driver no less. If he does not check in soon I plan on a visit to this cabbie’s home to see what his family has to say about what has happened to them.

Meanwhile I have my own area to survey. I have Sunil accompany me back to my room. “Come in,” I tell my pilot. He looks around as if he has entered some forbidden room of a harem. I laugh, “Do not worry, it is just a hotel room.” Ku-san and I actually have connecting suites with some added security features of our own doing but still it is just another hotel room. After awhile all their décor looks the same and unless one is particularly bad you tend to forget them. This one is probably a pretty good hotel for this colony world but definitely is not a five star hotel by any stretch of the imagination.

My luggage includes a hard weapons case. Sort of like an old fashioned steamer trunk only made of burnished aluminum and with deviously hard to pick locks that meet Union Customs regulations. I open it to reveal my body armor, various web gear, grenades and night vision goggles (NVG) on one side. On the other side live a small assortment of weapons including my TWG Mark IV assault rifle, a TWG Mark VIII submachinegun, a TWG Model 29 pistol in the same 10 mm caliber as the sub-gun and a compact IRI Model 15 6.5 mm pistol which is not in its’ assigned spot as it is currently tucked in my waistband holster. In their molded holders are the accessories for the weapons: suppressors, culminator laser sights, flashlights and of course, spare magazines.

Sunil looks intimidated by all of it, “Wow, this is an arsenal! You carry all of this for merely a security survey?” I nod, “There is a nasty little insurgency going on here with assassinations, bombings and now off-world terrorist connections. If there was not a problem we would not have been brought in. This is nothing compared to what we will be bringing here if we are retained to combat it. Sunil, you said you are a reserve warrant officer. I take it you know how to handle a pistol?”

He nods in affirmation. I pull out the big Model 29, pop the magazine and clear the weapon before handing it to him. “Can you handle this?” I ask him. He is surprised by its weight and balance. It looks heavier than it actually is. “Does it kick much?” he asks. I nod, “Some but it is controllable or I would not carry it. When I add the accessories to it the weight goes up a little and the felt recoil is more manageable. You remember what Captain Ku told you, we do not go anywhere without the tools of our profession.”

I am disappointed by the look Sunil is giving me, as if it has just dawned on him that I have used this pistol to kill before. This boy has a lot a maturing to do. He vocalizes his thoughts, “Have you killed a lot of people with these weapons, Ms. Takahashi?” I note the return to formality and write off any future with this guy. “Yes,” I reply. “But no more than necessary to accomplish the mission I am assigned to do. I do not relish killing my enemies, I am not a murderer but a soldier. Just as you are a soldier and may be called upon one day to do your duty as such.”

To his credit Sunil accepts that explanation. Handing back the pistol he says, “I never thought that one day I might have to kill anyone. I signed up in the reserves because I wanted to learn to fly. It is the only way to become a pilot. Even my father has never fired a shot in anger, except at native animals during the early days of the colony.” Shaking his head ruefully he concludes, “But I will do my duty if it comes to it. I can see now why the government and PAMCO hire mercenaries such as yourself. We are not prepared to hunt down our own people. I just pray that we do not have to.”

Taking back the pistol I reload it and chamber a round. “We are going to fly over a prime target for the insurgents so I want both of us armed. Please carry this pistol. After today I want you to get a pistol of your own. I’ll see that Chief Satchithanandan adds you to the list of authorized personnel to be carrying a weapon. So long as you are my pilot you will need to be able to help protect both of us.” He takes the pistol when I hand it back to him. He holds it with determination but then asks a very stupid question. “If I have your pistol what will you be carrying?”

I chuckle and pull off my blouse. Beneath my sports bra is a belly band holster with my compact 6.5 mm pistol and two spare magazines. “I do not go anywhere without some weapons on me. It is second nature now. I will carry this pistol and my rifle,” I say while pointing at my small arsenal. Sunil looks at my weapon with wonder and then lets his eyes wander to my chest. I chuckle and he looks away.

Tossing the blouse and the belly band on the bed I get a cool mesh undershirt from a dresser drawer and put it on. Then I pull out my body armor carrier, slip it over my head and fasten the sides together. The compact pistol goes into a cross draw holster on the front of my carrier, the spare magazines next to it. I hand Sunil a web belt with a holster on it. After putting the spare magazines into their pouches he holsters the Model 29 with a click.

“It is too bad that you are not qualified on this baby,” I say while pulling out the Mark VIII submachinegun. He looks at it and shakes his head, “I have never handled anything like that. Pilots train with the standard duty pistol and of course I learned to use my father’s hunting rifle.”

“Oh, what kind of rifle does he have?” I ask with interest. I am hoping it is the TGI Model 75. Picking up one of those weapons for him would be easy. “Oh, it is an old thing. Something he brought from Terra. I think it is called a Saiga. It shoots 7.62 mm ammunition which is hard to find any more.”

I have to laugh, “Yes, that is an ‘old thing’ and quite obsolete. The Russians built the Saiga in the last century as a hunting version of their venerable AK-47 assault rifles. The one you are talking about is the most powerful of the bunch if it is 7.62 x 51 mm. You are right, it still is very hard to find ammunition for it whether it is in 7.62 x 51 mm or 7.62 x 39 mm. So you know how to change out the magazines for the rifle and clear jams, et cetera?”

When he nods I show him how to clear the Mk. VIII sub gun and to reload the magazine. “This is a smaller version of my rifle, only in the same caliber as the Model 29 pistol you are carrying. Would you like to learn how to shoot it?” I see that he is hesitant so I withdraw my offer. “Maybe not. At least not yet.” I replace the SMG and pull out other goodies. Into the various pouches on my carrier go two colored smoke grenades, two fragmentation grenades and three spare magazines. Making sure my hydration bladder is full I then check my small trauma kit and stuff a couple of survival bars into my pants pockets. Lastly I hook my assault rifle onto the right shoulder of the carrier and say, “Ready. Let’s go.”

We get odd looks as we walk across the hotel lobby looking like we are ready for battle. I smile and bow in greeting to people while Sunil merely looks uncomfortable. “Square your shoulders and look self-assured.” I tell the young man. “Look like you mean business and are authorized to be carrying. Not like you are looking for a challenge or an excuse to shoot people. You are one of the good guys and the pistol is just part of your uniform.”

“Well, I am not in uniform. And I am not authorized to be carrying weapons.” He responds nervously. “A mere technicality, Warrant Officer Weerakoon, one that will be quickly remedied.” Pulling out my pocket PC I telephone a number in the Ministry of Defense. “General Bathiyutheen please, this is Yuki Takahashi of Pagoda Security Consultants. Yes, I will hold.” I stand in the lobby idly looking around while Sunil stares at me in stunned silence. The general’s secretary patches me through to him. “General Bathiyutheen, this is Yuki Takahashi. Ayubowan! I spending some time here doing some consulting work for PAMCO and I have a favor to ask of you. No, but thank you for offering.” I blush somewhat at his offer. The general is a man of unusual tastes. We met once at a reception on Pyotr Veliky, the Russian colony world where Gondavana buys aircraft and parts. I had too much to drink and awoke to find myself bound and gagged in the general’s suite. I made use of my escape skills to get out of the situation and to turn them around on the general. He found he actually likes playing a submissive role to a dominatrix. Needless to say that is our little secret.

“I have one of your reserve officers who is flying me around Gondavana. I would appreciate it if he could properly defend me if attacked by those nasty terrorists. Would you please have him issued a pistol while he’s escorting me?” Sunil now looks scared, he waves and shakes his head at me frantically. I ignore him. “His name is Sunil Weerakoon. Yes, the son of Colonel Weerakoon. I think so too.” I gave him a smile and he slaps his forehead in disbelief. “Oh yes, General. After I’ve concluded my tour I’d be honored to have dinner with you. I will call your secretary to set it up. Thank you again, bye-bye!”

After I hang up he looks at me as if I am a miracle worker or maybe a witch. Stuttering he says, “How, how do you know the Chief of Staff of our air force?” Giving him an inscrutable smile I wink as I say, “I have my ways. Would you like a promotion while I am at it? I can put in a good word later at dinner with the general.” He shakes his head “no” rapidly. “Uh, I am afraid of what you might promote me to. I do not want to outrank my father. Mother would never forgive me making my father salute me first.” I laugh as we exit the hotel and walk out to his company car.

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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by by-the-throat » Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:03 am

I have really been enjoying this story. It is highly lucid and well crafted, and the action is riveting.
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Re: Consummate Professionals

Post by Istvan56 » Mon Dec 07, 2009 8:00 am

Thanks all, it is good to be appreciated. It helps motivate me to keep writing. I wrote another chapter tonight. Here is the next one:

Chapter 13

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons. (Fyodor Dostoevsky)


John Ku, Tammannewa Camp, Central District

I am awakened by the sound of heavy steps. Twisting to sit up I feel where every blow landed on my back. My lips are cracked, not from dehydration in the heat but from where the guard split my lip with his shotgun strike. A small gate is lifted at the bottom of the cell door and a tray is slid inside. I scoot over to it and check out its contents. There is a bowl of very runny rice gruel with a few bits of protein floating around inside, drowned bugs from the looks of it. A cup with the handle broken off is full of unsweetened green tea. I have no spoon or any other utensils, likely so I can’t convert them into a weapon or tool.

“I’ve had worse,” I think to myself as I slurp up the gruel, insects and all. At least one bug as still squirming as I suck it in. I blow on the tea and use it to wash out the bland taste of the gruel. Then using my finger I scrub my teeth. “John, you should remember that ‘no good deed goes unpunished,’” I say aloud to myself. Still, if Ram Singh made it though the night it was worth it. Besides, eventually Yuki will miss me and call out the cavalry. So long as I don’t get myself killed doing something else stupid I should survive to draw another paycheck.

After a few minutes I hear the footsteps returning. “Guard, call the camp commandant” I shout out, “Have him call PAMCO. They will verify who I am. There will be a reward for helping me.” The jailer merely says, “Food tray.” I slide it forward through the reopened door gate. He collects the tray with its cup and bowl before moving on to the next cell. I hadn’t realized I had company in this cell block. Here I thought I was in solitary confinement. I wait till the guard leaves before making contact.

“Hello there. Who is in here with me?” I ask in a loud whisper. I hear a scraping sound and then a hacking cough as whoever it is tries to clear his throat. “I not speak good English,” comes the reply from the next cell. From the accent I can tell that the speaker is male and Indian, that is all. Best I start with introducing myself. “My name is John Ku, I am new here. What is your name?”

There is a pause as my fellow prisoner digests my words. “Me, no. My name is Dharam Panday. Are you American?” My accent has given me away despite being years away from Southern California. It doesn’t help that I spend my vacation time on Turners World, the “American” colony that was actually sponsored by Puerto Rico and financed by some rich American entrepreneurs looking for a tax haven. But I digress, “Yes, I am American by birth. Why are you here in jail?”

Dharam answers, “I hear guards threaten to kill my uncle. Now he die. I afraid I die too. You help me please?” You know a man is desperate when he asks someone who has just been beaten, stripped and thrown into jail to help him out. “When I get out I will see what I can do to help you.” More like “if” I get out but I still will look into this. If the guards are murdering immigrants then the terrorists will find this camp ripe for rebellion. “Tell me more about the killing of your uncle.”

“Thank you! Yes, we work here cutting trees. My uncle, he cut branches from trees on ground. My job is to cut branches into firewood or to say to women to take them to fire. Clean trees get picked up by elephants and put onto trucks for logging company. Camp manager, he sell logs to logging company. It not right, he sell more logs than they report to government. Tell government we are lazy. Logging company pay manager bonus money for logs. My uncle see this one day. He was not farmer in India but work for government as clerk. So he say it not right, manager cheat government and us on our pay. Head guard tell him to not tell any persons or he die. Uncle tell family. Family tell another family. Someone tell guard he tell them. So guards come take him away in the night. They say he killed by animals. I say I know nothing but they do not believe me. Guards beat me. They say I liar and thief. They arrest me but I know they will kill me.”

“Who is the head guard that made the threats to your uncle?” I have a suspicion that we have met already. “His name Ivor Premaratne. He very evil. Kali take him,” Dharam says with anger.

We spend the next few hours talking quietly. Dharam recites a tale of neglect and abuse by the camp administrators and guards. The labor camp is in reality a prison for the poor. Very few families ever leave this camp, save in death. There are deaths from sickness and injuries as well as the occasional person attacked by animals, all preventable. Worse is the bullying, the seizure of anything of value from the internees, the assaults and murders by the guards. There are a few good people on the staff, notably the doctor at the clinic but he is under threat by the camp manager. No one can report the abuse as the only communication to the outside is by radio and it is heavily guarded. “I do not know if every camp is like this one. I pray they are not. I would go to any other camp to get away from the guards. I would even escape and become a beggar rather than stay. But that is a sure way to be sent back to the camps.”

It is hard to tell the time but from the absence of the sun in my window I think it must be about noon. My stomach is growling and my guts rumbling, all a bad sign. When the door to the cell block opens next I am expecting lunch, even if it is more gruel. Instead four guards come in and flank my door. One begins to bark out orders in accented English, “Stand up, Gaerandiya! Hands on wall. Do not move.” When the cell door opens they rush in and pin me to the wall. My hands are wrenched back and manacled behind me. When I protest I am hit in the back of my head with a blackjack. I shut up, it is clear that I have to bide my time for now. But as they say, “payback is a bitch” and these guys are definitely going to meet her. And I’m not talking about Yuki though she’ll have something to add before I’m done with them.

I’m lead to an outer room of the jail, it looks like where I was first processed, to term a nasty and brutal search, fingerprinting and photographing in that category. There waiting for me is the guard who hit me in the mouth and took my rifle. He has my clothing and is still carrying my rifle. The former he throws at me. “Get dressed,” he says. I shrug, my hands are still manacled behind my back. Two of the guards pin me against the wall and uncuff me. They release me and back away quickly like I am some sort of snake. For a guy who hasn’t offered the least bit of resistance they aren’t taking any chances with me. I guess blowing the fence really, really impressed them that I’m a dangerous guy. If they only knew they would be even more careful.

“I need to take a crap. I have diarrhea.” Really, I can feel it coming on and I don’t want to get dressed and then mess myself. I address the guard with the broken English, I’ll call him “Dumbass” for lack of a better name. Maybe not aloud just yet but that’s a good name. “Twiddle-Dee and Twiddle-Dumb” are the two guards who just uncuffed my hands. Twiddle-Dee doesn’t speak English but his partner was the one who gave me the commands in the cell block. He looks at Dumbass and says something in Sinhala. My guess is that he doesn’t want me crapping all over as he’ll have to clean it up. With a look of disgust Dumbass says, “Go, then get dressed.”

Twiddle-Dee and Twiddle-Dumb each take one of my arms and lead me to the lavatory. It is a room with one of those flushing toilets you squat over. The kind you find all over Asian colonies like New Nanyang and Gondavana. Fortunately they have been replaced by Western sit down toilets in the hotels where I usually stay. I’m careful where I place my bare feet since it looks like some of the last users missed the bowl. With the violent expulsion of the squirts I have I can see why they splattered. The guards must not boil the water they wash the cups and bowls in. Either that or they don’t bring the gruel to a proper boil. Some bug has got a grip on my bowels and is squeezing everything out of me. I cramp up and let loose again and again till I feel I’m pushing out my innards. Finally it stops, I feel drained of energy. Maybe the guards do this to weaken prisoners so they can’t resist. They don’t look sick. But they do wrinkle their nose at the stench. It serves them right.

When I’m done I get to see myself in the mirror above the sink for the first time since my fight with Salwinder. I look like death warmed over. My nose is huge and purple, my lips swollen, cracked and caked in dried blood. I can see bruises and welts all over my chest, shoulders and back from the beatings I’ve taken from the lion and the guards. It was not a good night for me and it isn’t shaping up to be a great day either.

After I clean up I’m escorted back to the booking room and allowed to dress. Dumbass is smiling the whole time. Twiddle-Dee says something to him in Sinhala and they laugh. Before I can finish dressing I have to beg to go back to the lavatory again. When I feel like I can make it a few minutes without going again I finish up and get dressed. The guards don’t seem to be in a hurry and are enjoying my discomfort. Maybe it isn’t a bug I have in me but a laxative. Following my third trip they lose interest and are back to hurrying me to get dressed.

Manacled with chains between the handcuffs and ankle irons I’m escorted out to a truck and hauled up into the back of it. Surrounded by guards I’m driven to what looks to be the nicest building in the camp. Sure enough it belongs to some head honcho. Forced to stand between Twiddle-Dee and Twiddle-Dumb I listen to what could be my arraignment. The proceeding is in Sinhala so I don’t have a clue what is going on. The magistrate is a 50’ish Singhalese gent with a bald spot on the crown of his head. His name plate says “V.K. Molligoda.” Mr. Molligoda is dressed in a tropical weight cream suit, sans tie. He has a secretary or clerk taking notes meaning this is official.

Interrupting Dumbass’ dialog I ask, “Excuse me your Honor, could you please speak in English.” Twiddle-Dumb pulls back to hit me but the judge or whatever he is stops him with a simple raise of his hand. “You are not to speak unless I tell you to,” he says in pretty fair English. “I would like to have legal counsel,” I get in before Dumbass comes up from behind and hits me in the back with the butt of my own rifle. I turn to glare at him but am pulled around front by Twiddle-Dee. The judge says, “I told you not to speak unless I give you permission.” Now I keep my mouth shut.

However the official now instructs the guards to switch to English. Dumbass says, “I tell him that we closed for the night. That he no bring villager here. He use this gun,” he raises the Sturmgewehr and points at the grenade launcher. “To blow up fence. Then he drive over fence and come in. We chase him and make arrest. He fight hard.” I open my mouth but shut it as I don’t want to get hit. “But we take him down,” he concludes with a proud look of accomplishment on his face.

“John Ku, you are charged with assault, destruction of government property, criminal trespass, resisting arrest and possession of illegal arms and ammunition. How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?” The official asks me. I stand at attention and respond clearly, “I do not enter a plea as this court has no jurisdiction over my case.” Before I can say more I am kicked in the knees forcing me down. The magistrate or whatever he is shakes his head and says, “You will answer guilty or not guilty.”

Rising back to my feet I reply, “I have immunity from prosecution by the Minister of Justice. Feel free to check with him. That man” I indicate with a nod of my head at the leader of the guards who arrested me last night, “Has my pocket PC with the Minister’s direct number on it.”

The official looks at the guard leader and raises his hand beckoning for him to hand it over. The guard pulls my pocket PC out of his shirt and passes it over explaining, “Sir, I checked with the nearest PAMCO office about this man. Last night he was claiming to work for them as a security consultant. They have no knowledge of him whatsoever. I expect that this latest claim is also a lie. I believe he is an agent provocateur sent to stir up trouble from the local villagers and in our camp.”

Looking over my pocket PC the official seemed to have trouble figuring out how to turn it on. He looks at the guard leader for help, “Ivor, if you would please be so kind.” I’ve heard that name before. That’s the name of the chief guard Dharam was talking about that threatened his uncle. I have to be careful what I say next. “If it please your honor, I can tell you how to operate the system.” The judge waves me away. The chief guard takes back the unit and hits the power button, then the menu button. I hope what I left on the screen is still there.

It must be as the magistrate says, “This is the minister’s name but we have no way of knowing if this is his number. We do not have telephone service here in Tammannewa Camp.” Mr. Molligoda continues, “It doesn’t matter anyway, I operate under the authority granted me by the Ministry of the Interior, not the Ministry of Justice.”

“So you are not a judge?” I ask confusedly. Mr. Molligoda smiles and says, “I have quasi-judicial authority here as camp manager.” Now I know my goose is well and cooked. This guy thinks he’s above the law. But he is also greedy, maybe I have a way out after all. “Then I do wish to enter pleas on each of the charges and specifications.”

He nods for me to go ahead. “On the charge of assault, not guilty and there doesn’t look to be anyone here assaulted but me.” Twiddle-Dumb chuckles until he notices that the chief guard is starring at him so he abruptly stops. “On the charge of resisting arrest, not guilty. I had laid down my rifle, pistol and knife before your guards arrived. I had my hands up and have not resisted up to and including this proceeding. On the charge of possessing illegal arms and ammunition, not guilty either. If you can’t check with Minister of Justice Rajapaksa can you call Chief Constable Premasiri of Makotai? He questioned the legality of my weapons as well and received confirmation that all my weapons are legal and in order.”

I turn to the chief guard, “Of course the local PAMCO office doesn’t know about my visit. I work directly through the Central District Office in Vanchi Muthar. Contact Mr. Hemakura De Silva, Central District Manager, or his executive assistant, Ms. Deepa Mendis. Or call PAMCO’s Chief of Security, Ranasinghe Satchithanandan. Their names and numbers are in my pocket PC.”

Back to the camp manager I say, “Pagoda Security Consulting, Limited is renown for its counter-terrorism work. That is why PAMCO hired us. I am here examining potential hot beds of discontent that the rebels may exploit. All of the labor camps qualify for that status.”

Mr. Molligoda frowns at me. “You still haven’t answered the charge of destruction of government property.” I hope my answer appeases him, “I plead not guilty by reason of having to choose the lesser of two evils, allowing a man in my care to die or busting down a fence. Of course my company is prepared to pay for all damages, just as I paid for the health care of the injured man, Ram Singh.”

“You paid for the health care? This is news to me.” The camp manager turns to the chief guard, “Ivor, you did not mention this.” He shrugs to his boss, “I did not know. The doctor has not allowed me to interview this patient or his staff regarding the matter. He has been most uncooperative.”

I blurt out, “Mr. Molligoda, I’m sure we can work out an equitable and rewarding fee for the replacement of the fence and any inconvenience to your men my entrance may have caused.” The camp manger begins to mull this over when suddenly a messenger bursts into the room. He looks out of breath as he walks over to the chief guard and then whispers into his ear. The message makes the guard look angrily at me. I look perplexed and as innocent as I can. He spits out, “The Palod villagers are outside the gate demanding this foreigner be released and to see their injured man. They threaten to riot if we do not give into their wishes.”

“I doubt that Guru Bahadur Singh would ever lead his people into something so suicidal as a riot,” I counter. “It is likely a peaceful protest to my unfortunate arrest. If you let me see them I’m sure we can peacefully conclude our business.” But the camp manager is having none of that. “We cannot give into the demands of mobs. You will go back to your jail cell until we work out who you are and whether any of your claims are true.”

I am pinned against the wall and again manacled hands to feet for the trip back to jail. Meanwhile the manager and most of the guards head out to the main gate. I pray that the guards don’t overreact. The last thing I want is more bloodshed.

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