Choosers of the Slain (Ghost Series #3)by John Ringo
Sequel to Ghost and Kildar.
Former SEAL Michael Harmon (Ghost, Kildar) has a pretty good life. He's settled down in the country of Georgia and built a solid commando-quality militia out of his local retainers. The Keldara have an ancient history of being first-class mountain warriors and all they needed was a few million in modern weapons and/i>/i>
Sequel to Ghost and Kildar.
Former SEAL Michael Harmon (Ghost, Kildar) has a pretty good life. He's settled down in the country of Georgia and built a solid commando-quality militia out of his local retainers. The Keldara have an ancient history of being first-class mountain warriors and all they needed was a few million in modern weapons and training to bring them up to speed. Now, with the Keldara keeping the area safe from Chechen raiders, and the various other terrorists that want Ghost's head on their wall, he can settle back, relax in his harem and drink a few beers. However, a US senator has a problem. A "major financial contributor's" daughter has been kidnapped into the labyrinthian depths of the Balkans sex-slave trade. The US government has been unable to find her and the Senator is very interested in changing that condition. Five million dollars interested. As Ghost and his Keldara warriors blast a gaping hole through the middle of the trade, it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to the mission than a "poor missing waif." There's a rot underneath, and the stench is coming from the very floor of the Capitol. Being at war with Albanian gangs is one thing. Taking on Washington is a different ball game. But Ghost never believed in fighting fair.
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Choosers of the Slain
By John Ringo
Baen BooksCopyright © 2006 John Ringo
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Colonel Ushakoff," Mike "Jenkins" said as the unwounded Chechen prisoners were being unloaded at a Georgian military prison.
Mike Harmon had been a college student at the University of Georgia when he'd witnessed the kidnapping of a co-ed. Most college students would have picked up their cell phones, or run to someone that had one, and called 911. But before he was a college student he'd been a SEAL and a SEAL instructor. So he just jumped on the van and road it to it's destination.
That move, and a series of similar decisions, had led him to an underground bunker near Aleppo where terrorists backed by Syria had brought American girls to be used as hostages. And their plans didn't just include holding them, but torturing them for the cameras to force American units to leave the Middle East.
Mike had lost one before he realized what the plan was, but he'd fought his way through to the rest and held the position until relieved, along the way wiping out a chemical weapons factory, the Syrian president and Osama Bin Laden.
This had earned him the grateful thanks of a nation, quite a bit of money and a price on his head from every Islamic terrorism group on earth. Mike Harmon, Team Name "Ghost", had quietly disappeared, maybe alive, maybe dead, and Mike Jenkins had reappeared in hisplace.
After being the wrong place at the wrong time too many times, Mike had settled down in the Republic of Georgia, using part of his reward money to buy a pleasant little farm with a group of tenant farmers already in place. However, the security situation in the area being what it was, he'd taken the opportunity to train the retainers as a local "militia."
The retainers, called the Keldara, had taken to it like so many ducks to water. A little digging turned up the fact that the Keldara were anything but simple farmers. They were, in fact, the last remnant of the Varangian Guard, the Viking guards of the Emperors of Byzantium. The group had apparently descended from a small force of mixed Norse and Scotts-Irish that had drifted down through the Meditteranean until encountering the Byzantine Empire.
They farmed quite well but at heart, like the Kurds and the Ghurkas, they were warriors first and foremost. A couple of million dollars in equipment and a similar amount in payroll for trainers and training had turned them into a formidable, if small, fighting force. They had taken on a Chechen "battalion" at nearly three to one odds and the prisoners and dead in the Georgian military trucks were the result.
Mike suspected it wouldn't be the last such battle for the group called "The Tigers of the Mountains."
"Mr. Jenkins," the Russian attache replied, nodding. "Quite a battle for a little militia."
"Untrained militia," Mike pointed out. "They were only in their third week of training. The teams fought them straight off of their first days of range training."
"How many did you kill?" Ushakoff asked.
"One hundred and three KIA," Mike replied. "Including some who got froggy when we were in the capture phase. Forty-two WIA, including some the doctors don't think will survive. And twenty-one prisoners, unwounded."
"And Breslav?" the Russian asked.
"He, unfortunately, did not survive the encounter," Mike said, slipping a picture out of his jacket pocket and handing it over. Breslav had, apparently, been directly in the area of effect of a claymore since his torso and right arm were missing. However, his head was still attached and the expression of surprise was clear on his face. As was the expression of satisfaction on the face of the Keldara that was holding his head up by its hair. "I would have liked to capture him for intel purposes, but you can't always get what you want."
"We are glad enough that he's dead," Ushakoff replied, smiling at the pic. "Can I keep this?"
"Certainly," Mike said. "It's a photo quality printout, anyway. We only use digital cameras."
"Three weeks of training, you said?" Ushakoff asked. "I think that my bosses will be impressed. Very impressed."
"And, of course, the intel we forwarded you," Mike pointed out. "That stopped his team from entering Chechnya. Can I take it we might be able to avoid a border war?"
"There is still the matter of the Paniski Gorge," Ushakoff pointed out. "That is where their main bases are."
"I don't think the Keldara will be up to taking that on any time soon," Mike replied. "But we'll start interdicting their movements as soon as our training is complete. The Gorge will be a matter between you and the government of Georgia."
"I'll pass all of this on," Ushakoff said, pocketing the picture. "And I give you the thanks of Russia, for what it's worth."
"Oh, I'm sure it will have some use in the future," Mike said, smiling faintly. "You scratch my back, I scratch yours. Take care, colonel."
* * *
"Back into training again," Nielson said in a satisfied tone. "Nothing like a little live fire exercise to get the blood pumping and the troops motivated, but now they're going to think they know it all."
Colonel Robert Nielson was the senior officer of the group Mike had hired to train the Keldara. The colonel's field credentials were impeccable but he was, at heart, a trainer. He loved taking soft clay and molding it into soldiers. As such he'd been a very good choice to lead the training, although some of the trainers, notably the SEAL and Marine Recon members, had questioned having a regular Army guy in charge. That was until they started to see the results.
Mike had been flown back to the serai, courtesy of the Georgian government which was being remarkably friendly at the moment. He'd consistently tried to downplay the Keldara, but having a fraction of their force wipe out a Chechen "battalion" was, he was told, being discussed at the highest levels. It had also made the international news, although the story for press consumption was a special Georgian commando group. Which, in a way, they were.
"Get that out of their system with a good, solid After Action Review," Mike said. "I'll be on the grill, too."
"Everyone was involved," Nielson pointed out. "Who conducts it?"
Mike started to answer when his sat-phone started to ring.
"Jenkins," he said.
"Pierson, go scramble."
"Scrambled, how's it going, colonel?" Mike replied when the system was in place.
"I thought it was going to be a year before you were fully in the groove?" Pierson said. "What's with making network news?"
Colonel Robert Pierson had been Mike's "control" ever since his first mission in Syria. The colonel just happened to be the guy picked to talk on the phone with some madman who had traced the kidnapped co-eds half way across the world. Since then he'd received similar calls from Mike and made a few in the other direction. He never ordered Mike, who was after all a free agent, he just suggested or in a few cases pleaded. He was less a "control" than an information conduit. And in a way a friend.
"We did?" Mike asked, frowning.
"Slow news day," Pierson pointed out. "And the Chechens are still a bug-a-boo after Breslan. Apparently the guy you wacked had a small piece of setting that up. At least, according to CNN."
"Nice of them to tell us," Mike said, rolling his eyes at Nielson.
"Seriously, what did you do, use all the trainers?" Pierson asked.
"No, it was mostly Keldara," Mike replied. "Their first FTX. Right off of their first two days on the range. The mortar girls had had more range time, but not much."
"Jesus Christ," Pierson said, wonderingly. "How far are you into training?"
"Three, four weeks," Mike said. "Depending upon whether you consider that training. Colonel Nielson doesn't."
"I didn't say that," Nielson said with a sniff. "Just that it's interfered a bit."
"Well, the boss man said 'Good job' followed by 'next time, try to avoid the papers.'"
"Tell him I said thanks," Mike replied. "Anything else?"
"Just that," Pierson said. "I'll add my own 'good job.' Take care."
"Will do," Mike replied. "See ya."
"We were talking about an after action review," he continued, looking at Nielson.
"I was thinking it might make sense to ask DC," Nielson replied, gesturing at the phone with his chin.
"Thought about it," Mike said. "Too many fingers in the pie. You'll work up the AAR. Include me in the review as well as yourself. Get Adams and a couple of the instructors to do a forensic of the shoot site. I want a count of every round expended and a probable of who shot who. Work them all down and show them exactly what they did wrong. And I did wrong. Start with my forgetting to bring the mortars; I'm not used to having to think about integral heavies. And we had a major problem at one point with commo control. I want that hit heavy, along with the fact that it slowed down the pursuit, and I want Vanner to get started on what we can do about team freqs and sub- freqs. When Oleg told them to move by odd and evens, the security guys wanted to get out and pursue. That has to be covered, too."
"Will do," Nielson said, sighing. "Can I have Kat to assist?"
"Go for it," Mike replied. "Hot wash tomorrow, full AAR with all teams by the end of the week."
"Got it," Nielson said. "I'll get started."
* * *
"Vanner," Mike said, sticking his head in the radio room. Vanner was pointing to something on one of the computer screens with his head nearly touching that of the Keldara female working the computer. Mike wasn't sure who she was, but he was pretty sure she was a Makanee.
"Kildar?" the intel NCO said, spinning around.
The term "Kildar" was what Mike was called by the Keldara but it had caught on with others. It was a unique name for the local warlord, translating as something like "baron." What it meant, simply, was leader of the Keldara and that was enough for those who had come to know them.
Patrick Vanner was a former Marine, but Mike tried not to hold it against him. The guy was plentiful hardcore, but he was, nonetheless, the designated team geek. He'd been an intercept specialist in the Marines then worked for the NSA for a while. After getting out he picked up a degree in computer science which was almost superfluous to his actual knowledge, which when it came to electronics and electronic intel was enormous. Short, stocky and crew-cut, he was proof positive that you could take the boy out of the Marines but not the Marines out of the boy.
"Got a couple of questions," Mike said, gesturing for him to follow him out of the room. Mike led the way to the war room and grabbed a seat.
"You look like you're getting pretty friendly with some of the Keldara girls," Mike said, raising an eyebrow.
"Is that why you wanted to see me?" Vanner asked, frowning.
"No, but I figure I should ask about it," Mike replied.
"Galina and I are just friends," Vanner said, shaking his head. "She's really good at picking out freqs. I'm being very proper in all my dealings with her. Speaking of which, I know these girls are being paid for this, but is there some way we can get them rank? They're doing the job of commo and intel techs, which in the military would make them privates or specialists."
"I'll think about it," Mike said. "But watch yourself. I don't want some Keldara Father on my case over a pregnant daughter. Or even one that could be pregnant, if you get my drift."
"Got it," Vanner said.
"On the real reason I wanted to talk to you," Mike continued. "We had a real breakdown in commo on the op. Not a breakdown, exactly, but ..."
"The team net got filled with chatter," Vanner said, nodding. "That's partially a matter of training so they don't just jump on the radio."
"I'd like more," Mike said. "Sub freqs for the sub-teams, a general freq for the whole team, then on up. Something where the commander doesn't have to think about it to pass stuff down, though, and can listen in on the chatter. Also, I want to start working on a battle net. Something where call-for-fire, at least by those with the right equipment, is point and click. Probably with a voice back-up and confirm, but I want to be able to point to a spot on a map and say: 'Send fire there.' I'd also like to be able to sketch out movements for the teams."
"I can get all that," Vanner said. "Some of it's off-the-shelf and unclass but some of it's classified US and European systems, mostly US."
"I think we can swing that," Mike said. "You find the system and I'll get permission for us to get it. Keep an eye on whether it can be integrated into US battlefield systems. If we end up in a situation where we can call for fire from God, I'd like to be able to do it. Look around at some of the firms that do C2 and offer free field trials," he added, grinning. "Try to get a deal; it's not going to be cheap gear."
"Will do," Vanner said. "Anything else?"
"If you and Galina get to be more than friends, tell me first," Mike said, seriously. "I'll see what I can do with the Keldara. Unless it's a lot more than friendship, in which case you'll be going home with a mother-in-law."
"Wasn't planning on it," Vanner said, frowning. "But it's a thought. She sure as hell is gorgeous."
"And she can cook," Mike said, nodding. "But she'd have to adapt to an entire new culture. A very, very different one. Think about it carefully."
"I will," Vanner said.
"Now we're done," Mike replied, grinning. "Take care."
* * *
"What we're going to do here, is go over the action you just engaged in just like any other test," Nielson said to the gathered Keldara. The hot-wash on the action was being conducted team by team, taking the whole day to go over known faults. They'd started with Team Oleg as the one that had been involved in the most combat. They were using one of the basement rooms in the serai for the review and it was packed with the Keldara sitting on folding chair and looking nervous. "We will do one of these after every action, so get used to them.
"The first thing to say, and I'll say it again and again, is that you did very well," Nielson continued, looking around at the group. "Especially since you are in the middle of training. But there's no such thing as perfect. This is a method to get closer and closer, though, if you pay attention. Right now, Chief Adams and Sergeants Fletcher, Graff and McKenzie are walking over the skirmish area and working up the full review. What we're doing today is called the hot-wash. We'll be going over individual and unit actions as they are known and determining what we can do better the next time. I'll start with ammunition expenditure."
He pulled up a list with a graph on the computer screen on the wall and pointed to a couple of high points.
"There were over sixty rounds of 7.62 expended per casualty that was found to have been shot," Nielson said, pointing at the two graphs. "Not a total of sixty rounds, but sixty rounds per casualty. The low round count was Oleg, which, given that he shouldn't have been firing at all, was pretty good at only fifteen rounds. Oleg, why did you fire?"
"I ... wasn't doing anything else, Colonel," the team leader said, uncomfortably.
"You were supposed to be paying attention to everyone else's actions," Nielson said, shaking his head. "Chief Adams is, trust me, much more accurate than you are in a fight like that. But he expended no rounds because he knew he wasn't there to fight. He was there to observe and control. You are given a weapon for one purpose only; self defense or something that you have to shoot at because you can't get one of the shooters to do it in time. That is it. Period. I can't imagine a reason for you to have expended even one round in this engagement. Did any of the enemy get close to your bunker?"
"No, sir," Oleg admitted, dropping his head.
"Keep your head next time," Nielson said. "You're there to control the flow of the battle. If you have to, lead from the front if you're directly attacked; if you have to engage due to time constraints, you can engage. Otherwise, keep your finger off the trigger! Beso!"
"Sir!" the Keldara said, sitting bolt upright. He'd been bent over talking to the Keldara next to him.
"Three hundred and eighty-six rounds?" Nielson said, clearly amazed. "How in the hell did you expend three hundred and eight-six rounds?"
* * *
The day after the hot wash they took all six teams out and walked the ground, looking over what they could have done better. Mike determined that Nielson was just better at picking out details on stuff like this than he was. Everything from the timing on when he'd pulled in Vil to when he'd sent Killjoy and Vanim down the hill was reviewed and critiqued.
Excerpted from Choosers of the Slain by John Ringo Copyright ©2006 by John Ringo. Excerpted by permission.
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