I walked over to Paul, and we watched as the medics left. Paul forced a smile and said, “that was a close one. We got lucky.”
“Yep. You know they will be back tonight, right?”
“Yeah. Let’s draw up a plan and then rack out.” We chatted about our kids on the way back to the tent. Paul’s daughter was valedictorian for her graduating class, mine was playing basketball on the local team. “It’s not even 0700 and we’ve already had trouble. What else could go wrong today?”
Sometimes, you should just be thankful things aren’t worse and keep your complaints to yourself. I was about to learn that lesson in a hurry.
Three days later, I found myself outside of a hostile city, lying in a bomb crater, waiting for orders to kill it.
Have you ever helped kill a city? What? You didn’t know they were living, breathing, entities? I have. I’m not especially proud of it, but sometimes these things are necessary.
Falcon was one such place. Numerous attempts had been made to quelch the violence in the city. Any who held opposing views were annihilated.
I was summoned to headquarters two days after the mass of people showed up at our office. Our intelligence officer, Dan Something-or-Another, stood at the horseshoe shaped table.
“Gentlemen,” he said in a voice that had hardly any edge to it, “the time has come for us to liberate Falcon. The insurgency has grown to such strength they openly kill all who dared take a stand against them.” I fidgeted in my chair; I hated these briefings. “Point us where to go and give us the objective already.”
A guy who sat next to me lifted his hand; Dan acknowledged him. “Yeah?”
“How many insurgents are we talking about, exactly?”
“We are unsure of the number of insurgents. There could be a couple of hundred. No more than that.”
“We are told to expect small arms and IEDS.”
“Told by who?”
“We have sources on ground who have fed us this intel.”
“You mean locals,” I interjected.
“Yes. They are locals. Getting back to the matter at hand. You guys are being sent to work on a task force.”
Across the table another hand shot up in the air. “Yes,” Dan sighed.
“What’s the survival rate of this mission? Are we walking into the lion’s den here?”
“We don’t expect all of you to return. We would be surprised if any of you returned. Falcon is a hornet’s nest, and you are being sent to kick it over. You should call your families. Departure for Falcon is 1630.”
A day later, I am stuck in this bomb crater watching the comings and goings of the city. Women are raped in public. The poor children, the horrors that befell the innocent children.
On day three in the OP, the radio broke the silence.
“The entire city is hostile, I say again, the entire city is hostile.”
Those were the words that sealed the fate of Falcon.