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Chapter no 4

Forgotten Ruin

“So, here’s the situation…” Captain Knife Hand was saying before I needed to go back and explain what we’re doing here at what was officially called Forward Operating Base Hawthorn. Ranger Alamo. No one else was calling it that, but it was beginning to feel that way if you had a spare moment to dwell on current events. We stood on the cargo deck of the C-17 serving as the detachment command post. “This operation was always to be a joint services JSOC bridgehead. Those orders are still in effect even though we have yet to contact other elements in the task force. Our mission still stands. We came forward in time to establish a secure position from which to re- establish the government. Currently…”

The captain aimed this next bit right at the Deep State guy. Center mass of course, because right between the eyes is for optimists and show-offs. Not that he couldn’t have.

“… our position is not secure,” continued Knife Hand. No one was calling him this except me in my head. But I bet they were thinking it. “Once it is, and once we link up with other elements and command, those with a higher pay grade than mine, then they can determine just what will be done next and how we’ll respond to the current imperative threats. Until then… this is a military operation, and this is what we’re facing. Our last drone recon as of two hours ago is tracking massed irregular infantry forces, and I use those terms very loosely because what we’re seeing is like nothing we’ve dealt with before.

“All enemy elements are currently heading straight for our position from several points on the compass. It would be naive in the extreme to think they are not going to hit us in the next twelve hours, and hit us hard with everything they’ve got. The enemy force is numbered at upwards of five thousand. We are two hundred rangers and special personnel plus a highly trained flight crew and three civilians.

“I don’t have to tell you, but I will because often government and science specialty civilians don’t completely understand military capabilities, but these are not good odds regardless of what you think special operations troops can achieve. This is not a movie, and my men, and this flight crew, are not action stars with unlimited ammunition to do all kinds of ridiculous

things with.

“Furthermore, Rangers are raiders. We are not primarily defensive troops. We execute raids. We hit hard, and we disappear. Yet due to the nature of this mission and the high-value asset we are charged with protecting—the Forge—we have been forced into a defensive role. And we will execute that role to the best of our abilities. Make no mistake about that. Rangers were given a mission, and it will be done or we will die doing it. That’s the best I can offer you, and that’s our objective until the situation changes.”

He turned on a small projector and displayed the latest drone recon of the island against a screen that had been erected along one side of the aircraft’s interior.

“For the next eight hours we will continue to improve the forward fighting positions along the island’s edge. We will concentrate on cover to protect from enemy arrow fire. Platoon leaders, I need you to salvage what the sergeant major and the air crew decide is expendable and use that to better cover your troops in their positions.”

He pointed to the waterways that had so recently been visited by the marauders seeking to ford the river. “We are going to place punji sticks along these water approaches across the shallow points in the river and along the sand bars on the east and west sides. Claymores will be used on the western sand bars. They hit us from the east this morning, chances are a significant number of elements will come from the opposite direction after dark.

“Sniper and mortar teams will continue to improve the hill on the northern edge of the island. That will be our last line of defense if we need to evacuate our positions around the aircraft. Once the main attack commences, two squads will go Reaper under the direction of the command sergeant major. One will be tasked with eliminating an identified high-value target. The other will attempt to destabilize the main body of the attack by hitting the enemy rear and conducting hit-and-run operations along the flanks. My intent is… we are going to fight for our lives tonight. Priorities are to protect the CP here at the aircraft and, failing that, to fall back, on my order or that of the sergeant major’s, to the hill and retake the island at dawn.”

The captain left the projection going and stepped into the light to stand

before it, the images making ghosts on his features. He peered at the men he was leading, dark shadows sitting outside the brilliant projector light.

I couldn’t tell if he was satisfied or not. The captain wasn’t easy to read. He gave his final words on the pending battle.

“We’re not doing kill chains. We’re not working ’near certainty.’ If we determine that anyone approaching our defensive perimeter is our enemy, we are going to kill them and make the people they knew afraid we’ll come for them next.”

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