|Foreign and Domestic
Author: Nate Davis Volsungassonnr PM
With the United States teetering on the brink of war and collapse, a rogue faction of military officers take the opportunity to stage a coup against a corrupt government.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Crime - Words: 2,867 - Reviews: 10 - Follows: 6 - Published: 11-14-12 - id: 3074458
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Foreign and Domestic
"Oh please, Mr. Reagan,
Please send me to Iran
To kill for my country
And die for my land."
—Army marching cadence
"Tell the truth about what you see and what you do. There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can lie all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don't never lie to a Ranger or officer."
—Major Richard Rogers, Standing Orders of Rogers' Rangers, 1759
Mohammed Gysranovich had no idea that he was being followed, and Tommy liked it that way.
Gysranovich was a creature of habit, always stopping at the same café at precisely 0945 every weekday morning for his coffee and early lunch before going back to his business. And the men who hunt men, like Corporal Thomas Che Martinez, United States Army, 75th Ranger regiment, love creatures of habit.
As Gysranovich walked out of the café, a dark-skinned bum with wild hair and an enormous black beard noticed his sharp business suit and waved to him, speaking in strangely-accented Russian. "Allahu akbar, my friend! I am sorry to trouble you, sir, but Insha'allah, could you perhaps spare some change?"
Gysranovich smiled as he dug around in his pockets. "Of course, stranger. I am always happy to help a brother in need," he said, pulling a few bills from his wallet.
The bum snatched up the bills as though he'd just been handed the keys to his destiny. "Bisma'allah! Blessings of peace be upon you, my friend!"
"It is no trouble, stranger. I hope that your luck improves."
When Gysranovich had walked off, the bum took an empty Coca-Cola can from his shopping cart, held it up to his mouth, and whispered into it, "This is Punisher Two. Just spotted the package exiting the café. I'll start tailing him now. Christ, this guy is a total amateur; this'll be the cleanest takedown we've ever done."
He held the can up to his ear, and a voice said, "Good copy, Punisher Two. Keep your eyes on him, but don't let him get suspicious. Over."
Tommy tossed the pop can into his pocket and ducked into nearby alley. When he emerged a minute later, he was wearing a tailored business suit similar to Gysranovich's. His hair and beard had been tamed, and his face was half-hidden under the brim of a black porkpie hat. He held a black leather briefcase in his left hand.
Tailing Gysranovich was almost completely unnecessary; the package was such a creature of habit that Tommy already had his morning route memorized, and he deviated from it not at all. Why the Baathists would trust this joker to run a lemonade stand, let alone negotiate the purchase of radiological material, was a mystery Tommy couldn't wait to unravel.
It wasn't until they were halfway to the kill zone that Tommy saw a gig.
He leaned slightly to the left and whispered into his Bluetooth, "All call signs, this is Punisher Two. We've got a gig. I think the package has a shadow."
"Punisher Two, this is Spartan Six. I've got a visual on the package. Can you identify the shadow?"
"White man, about six foot tall, shaved head, built like a brick shithouse. Third one back from the package. He's been in between us for the past four blocks."
"Copy that, Punisher Two. I've got a visual on the possible shadow. Looks like . . . aw, fuck me running!"
"What's the problem, Spartan Six?"
"That cocksucker is Spetznas if I've ever seen one. The Rooskies are onto him, too. And if you noticed him, he noticed you. We might be compromised."
"All call signs, this is Punisher Two. The shadow is a third party and the mission may be in jeopardy. I need somebody to run interference in Sector Golf, on the fucking bounce."
No sooner had he spoken than a smiling man dressed like a tourist ran up to the shadow and said, in very bad Russian, "Excuse me, sir, can you give me directions to the post office?"
The Russian leaned in close and said in perfect English, "Do you think I am stupid? This one is ours to take out, American, not yours. Mind your own business for once and I'll mind mine."
In the time it took to complete that exchange, Thomas and Gysranovich were both long gone.
Gysranovich turned a corner onto a little-used street, and an unmarked van roared out of a blind alley to block his path. He turned to run and saw Corporal Martinez standing behind him. The briefcase lay open on the ground, and Martinez was holding a locked and loaded Thompson sub-machine gun.
Someone threw an arm around Gysranovich's throat, and he blacked out.
Zip-tied, black-bagged, and gagged, the package was delivered to a warehouse on the outskirts of the city and taken to a small concrete room where he was untied and given food and water. After he'd had time to recover, Tommy came to visit him.
Ever since the mock interrogations at Fort Huachuca so many years ago, Tommy knew that he was a complete booth rat. He loved interrogating prisoners and extracting information. But he was no sadist, and had never been forced to resort to anything like waterboarding or sleep deprivation. Tommy Martinez made people talk with good old fashioned mind-games, and he loved every minute of it.
More than physical pain or psychological stress, more than threats or bribes, the best way to get good intelligence out of a subject was plain old futility.
Corporal Martinez walked into the plain concrete room like he owned the place and stuck a metal chair under the doorknob, just to let Gysranovich know that nobody was coming to rescue him. In keeping with his new persona, Tommy wore a black jumpsuit and matching black ski cap.
"Good morning, comrade," he said in his flawless Russian. "I apologize for being so rude to you, but we knew you would not talk to us voluntarily. Sincerely I apologize for your treatment. We are your friends."
"You are no friends of mine," Gysranovich spat. "Who are you really? Are you Russian? American? British? Mossad? You are Mossad, aren't you? Filthy Zionist pigs!"
Tommy smiled. The man was cracking already; this would be too easy. "We are not your enemies, Comrade Gysranovich. We do not work for the Russians, or the American imperialists, or their Zionist cronies. We want to be your friends, Comrade Gysranovich."
"How do you know who I am?"
"We know all about you, comrade. We know that your birth name is Nikolai Gysranovich, but you changed your first name to Mohammed after converting to the holy faith of Islam when you were fifteen. You lead a double life; at once you are manager of a successful Georgian consulting firm and an important negotiator for Allah's holy caliphate, the Baathist Middle Eastern League."
"How do you know all this?"
Tommy almost laughed; he'd already confessed. "Never you mind, comrade. It doesn't matter how we know it, only that we do know it. But I say again that we are not your enemies. We wish to be your friends." He decided to play on Gysranovich's vanity. "We know from our sources that Comrade Mohammed Gysranovich is a very important man to the Baathists. We are hoping to align ourselves with them, that they may help us in our struggle against the godless Russians. Will you please help us, comrade?"
Gysranovich relaxed. "Of course I am more than happy to help all soldiers of Allah."
"Can you tell me what your current business venture is, and how you will use it to glorify Allah by butchering the infidels?"
"No. No, I cannot, my friend. I am sorry, but I've been sworn to secrecy."
"Are you sure you aren't negotiating the purchase of spent uranium fuel rods which your handlers plan to use in a dirty bomb, comrade?"
Tommy could tell by the look on Gysranovich's face that the sheer futility of the situation was starting to sink in. He was about to press the subject further, knew that he was just a few tricks away from getting the names of some new marks, when someone knocked on the door and said, "Comrade Dimitry! Comrade Zukov wishes to speak with you."
He sighed and said to Gysranovich, "I apologize for the interruption, comrade. We will continue our negotiations later. While I am gone I will have them send you more food; surely you are hungry from your eventful day."
Outside of the booth, Sergeant First Class Joshua Radcliffe pulled Tommy aside and said, "Kid, I'm sorry, but this mission is over."
Tommy shook his head. "Hell no it ain't, sarn't. He was about to give me some names, I just know it. Gimme ten more minutes."
"I just got off the com with Colonel Moby. The President found out about our little party and decided to cancel it."
After a few minutes of silence as he absorbed what his platoon sergeant had just said, Tommy flew into a blind rage. "Bull fucking shit, Radcliffe! He's in my booth! The bastard is in my fucking booth and he's about to drop dime! We could hamstring the Baathists and save Chechnya all at once with the shit that this guy knows, and I've almost got him singing!"
"Mission's over, kid. That's a direct order straight from the top."
"Fuck 'em! That bastard Standish can go eat a bag of dicks. We could save hundreds of American lives with this guy's intel. Thousands, even. Standish don't know how the world works. Hell, he couldn't find his own ass with both hands and a flashlight! When a dirty bomb goes off in the middle of El Paso because of this shit, he's going to ask why the fuck we didn't stop it in time. Dumb bastard."
Radcliffe glared at him. "How about you go to parade fucking rest, corporal?"
Rather than snap to parade rest, Tommy sank to the floor and cradled his head in his hands.
"Listen to me, corporal. You will not disrespect your commander in chief, the President of the United States, verbally or otherwise. You will not disobey a direct and lawful order from your platoon sergeant, especially not when said order came through your battalion commander directly from the fucking President. Do I make myself clear, corporal?"
Tommy looked up at Radcliffe, his eyes on the verge of tears. "He's in my booth, sarn't. He's in my booth and he's ready to drop dime."
Radcliffe sighed. "You know I'm not one of the Eleven Bang-bangs, corporal. I'm a secret squirrel, too. It's bullshit, kid, I know it is. But those are our orders. We'll be back. We'll finish the job, keep on keeping America safe. We're only hamstrung as long as Standish is in the White House, but he's not gonna be there forever. Now you just Ranger the fuck up and let's go home. I'll treat you to a few beers."
"What do you want me to do with Gysranovich? He's too dangerous to release, especially now that he knows people are looking for him. He'll just finish negotiating for the fuel rods and then fuck off to Jordan or someplace and we'll never see him again. Even if I can't get him to drop dime, I can still complete the mission."
"He's too dangerous to release, but we don't have anything to hold him under; if we tried to prove he works for the Baathists, it would blow the lid off of this entire operation and the President would hand us our asses."
"I'll take care of it."
"I know what you're thinking, corporal, and the answer is no."
"We have to, sarn't. If we try to detain him, everybody from Old Man Moby down to little old me is fucked. If we let him go, American citizens will die."
Radcliffe shrugged. "Do what you have to do, kid. Just make sure it looks like a local job."
"Roger that, sarn't."
Tommy walked back into the room and shut the door behind him. There was a single pop from a .45 handgun, followed by a bit of rustling, and then Tommy came back out. Radcliffe stuck his head into the makeshift booth and saw Gysranovich lying dead on the floor and the word "Collaborator" tagged on the wall in Arabic.
"Yep," said the sergeant, "that'll about do it. The Baathists won't know which way is up when this gets discovered."
"Insha'allah," said Martinez.
On the bird back to America, Tommy was silent and withdrawn. As far as he was concerned, the mission had been a total failure for reasons he, as a soldier, couldn't begin to wrap his head around. They'd entered clean, extracted the target clean, but then, suddenly, right at the brink of success, it had all just stopped. It filled him with a kind of indescribable rage, sort of like a caged tiger.
Radcliffe leaned over and asked, "What's the problem, kid?"
"I quit," said Tommy.
"My contract's up in a couple of months. I'm not going to reenlist. I quit."
"You're up for sergeant next week."
"I'm not going to the board."
"What the hell for?"
"Because I can't do my fucking job! I'm a soldier; I'm supposed to fight and win the nation's wars. I'm an interrogator; I'm supposed to fucking interrogate. But the only way I can do any of that is when the old man goes under the president's nose, and somehow he always gets found out and we always get called back home. One of these days the old man is going to go too far and find himself without a commission."
"Don't worry yourself about that, soldier. There are . . . things in motion."
"I can't say more; it's all classified above top secret. Let's just say that the old man has a long-term plan and you should trust him."
"Sarn't, I don't think even the old man can stop the tide of history."
"What makes you say that?"
"Because Standish is the most popular president we've had since God-knows-when. The American people love the stupid bastard. They act like he's the second coming of Christ. The more he fucks up America, the more the voting public jizzes in their pants for him. They absolutely love him for hamstringing the military. And when those dirty bombs go off in New York, they'll keep on loving him, but they'll start hating us."
"This is the last year of his second term. Whether the voters love him or hate him, he has to go."
Tommy gave Radcliffe his best I-just-don't-care-anymore look and said, "Do you want to know what I think, sarn't? Do you want to know what I really think?"
"Fire away, son."
"I think Standish knows all about what's happening in this part of the world. I think he's doing this to us on purpose. And I think a couple of dirty bombs going off on American soil would be great justification for declaring a state of emergency, or maybe even a war."
With his mouth, Radcliffe said, "That's dangerous talk, soldier. It could get you into a lot of trouble if the wrong ears head you mouthing off like that." But the look on his face was oddly paternal, even approving.
"I just want to go home, sarn't," Martinez said. "I don't give a flying fuck about politics. I really don't. I just want to go back to my daddy's old farm outside El Paso, raise goats, smoke dope. I love soldiering like nothing else in the world, but I can't live with this shit; it's driving me nuts."
"You're the best soldier in my platoon. Best soldier in the goddamn battalion, even. The Army needs good men like you to lead soldiers, now more than ever. Please just go to the promotion board; if you're leaving, I'd at least like to see you leave with one more stripe on your chest."
"That's and old AIT trick, sarn't, and I ain't fallin' for it. You think I'll smoke the board and then be all like, 'Well, now I'm Sergeant Martinez, and these boys are counting on me to lead them, so I may as well stick it out a couple more years.' As soon as I've finished out my contract, I'm gonna go home and forget all about the world."