You can see it in my eyes, mostly. And in the red rims around my eyes. In the coffee blackened orbits and the sun-starved lids. Pulled another Black Watch. Fuck.
Been a long week so far, and not a wink to be had. Head nods, and when I jerk myself awake my trigger finger flexes. Whoa. Safety was on, but gotta stay on top of that. Squeezing a round off inside an armored vehicle? That sucks.
Jolting and bouncing of spring suspension on what can laughingly be called ‘road’. More craters than the moon. Driver’s trying to keep the speed up, so he swerves around ’em. Tosses us against benches and bulkheads if we’re not paying attention. And at the end of a ride like this, feels like we’ve gone fifty rounds in a pro wrestling match with no limit on foreign objects. Black and blue all over.
Alloy rods and composite grips in my gloved hands. A hundred pounds of kit on my hips and shoulders. But, shit…that’s all normal. What isn’t normal is how bad these motherfuckers want us dead.
Not just dead. I mean, gouge-your-eyes, quarter-your-body, and mail-your-face-back-to-mom kind of dead. Never seen hatred like this before. Isn’t hard to see why, either. Imagine some Rooski sumbitches carted off the Constitution of the United States after stomping DC flat. And I’m not talking about some fucking replica, I’m talking about the Constitution of the United Fucking States…if it was written and autographed by Jesus Christ, himself.
That’s what we’ve done. Well, the Arab equivalent, anyway. And it’s not like we were quiet about it. In this day and age, word travels fast. Now, every car at every intersection has some asshole in it who’s just dying to punch our cards. Would you believe me if I told you a person gets used to it?
No? Good. Because you don’t.
We keep reminding ourselves it isn’t our call, it isn’t our decision. Morale isn’t the problem, we’re all-in on this one. For King and Country, for the mortgage and college tuition, for the all-night booze fests where we roll up our sleeves and brag about the shit we survived and how big our balls are…
But at this particular moment? Seems like a really bad idea.
Haven’t heard a shot in over twelve hours. Stillness like this, well, it’s usually the calm before it all goes Hollywood. We’re twitching at ghosts now.
Sleep dep turns you to tar and caffeine only gets you so far. Then the real chemistry comes out of the CO’s pocket. My mates are amped on supercool fumes like rocket planes skimming the boundary between sky and space. Yeah, they’re that high. I’d be right up with them, but that shit turns me cold. Reflexes are tuned up and I’m alert on the stuff…I just don’t like what I become. Went a little psycho last time. So I’ve got my own stash of norepinephrine. Probably give me a heart attack one of these days, but it’s better than that synth-crap. Nothing beats Mother Nature.
Have I got plans after this? Ha. No. No one makes plans in a combat zone. That’s some seriously flawed thinking. We make contingencies. If this, then that. IFTTT, for short, since we’re mad about acronyms.
IF an IED doesn’t launch me to Low Earth Orbit, and IF I’m not shot in the face by a truly skilled marksman, and IF the Martyr’s Brigade doesn’t total the barracks while I’m sleeping, and IF I’m not nabbed by the locals to host my very own slow-roast BBQ, THEN maybe I’ll buy that GTI I always thought I needed.
Aw, shit. Got distracted, there. Got thinking. That’s a problem. Relax, man, and watch your angles. Check your mags for the hundredth time. It isn’t OCD, it’s thoroughness.
Another hour, no action. Gonna be bad when it lights up…
No. Knock it off. Clear your head, settle in, and watch your sector. Rifle loaded? Check. Round chambered? Check. Scope dialed in and functional? Check, check.
Whiff of smoke. From my rearward facing post, I look over my shoulder to the front. Orange glow on the dark horizon. Distant crump of bombardment trailing long after the flash. City’s getting blasted. Can’t help but notice the road we’re on leads right to it.
Ah, shit. Flames. Flames everywhere and smoke that reeks of garlic. Incendiaries. Good ole Willie Peter. Goddamn, they’ll never come back from this.
I’m looking at a skyscraper right now that probably cost a billion dollars to build, plumb, wire, and furnish. The whole thing is burning. Every floor. I’d get upset if I could possibly fathom how much money that is. A thousand million. Doesn’t even register. It’s monopoly money for the stupid rich. Fuck those guys.
And I know, I know. It’s billionaires that brought us here. Some mega-rich dude got sore at some other mega-rich dude because he knocked him from number four to number five on the richest dickheads of the universe list. So roll out the troops, right?
Made my peace with that a while ago. Math is hard, and that’s why I’m in the Kevlar. Pretty lucky to be in Kevlar, come to think of it. Those poor bastards deployed to Iraq in ’05…
Rolling through the outskirts, and I’m looking back at the burning wreck of some Arabian paradise. Maybe that bombardment was just for us. Urban Pacification, they call it. Also, war crime. Depends what side you’re on.
Can’t believe we got through without taking heat. Most folks see it as a good thing to not be shot at, but we know better. Just means all the guys with guns are in one place, looking to make a good showing. Anticipation is proving to be a better stim for me than that primo meth-analogue getting passed around like skittles.
Whiz and whistle of incoming rounds. Here we go.
Hammer stroke at the front of the truck. Sounds like someone just whaled it with a sledge. High caliber, going for the engine block. Want to stop us dead. Should I be glad they aren’t aiming for me?
Fuck, white smoke. They got it. Jolts and clangs of dying metal. This ride’s over.
“Out, yeh cunts, and get cover!” yells LT. Then a round canoes his head, right through his lid. Talented shooters tonight.
Out the tailgate and onto the ground. Damp earth, wet grass, and mold. Truck sounds like a glockenspiel being played with a jackhammer. Fucking Hollywood, man.
On elbows and knees to the ditch by the road. Dead skunk, bloated and crawling with maggots. Great.
Zip and twang overhead. They don’t see me. Not yet. The German guy next to me is talking some serious shit right now. Big chip on his shoulder, roaring about the ab-rech-nung that’s coming. Jesus, why’s he taking it so personally? Be professional, for fuck’s sake.
Well, I can’t stay here. Gotta earn my payday. Back in a bit…
Four shooters. That’s all. Four shooters blasted our convoy to pieces. The front three MRAPs are burnt wrecks, hit from both sides with high explosive. Plasticized RDX is my guess. Must’ve known where the goods were ’cause they saved the bombs for my ride and swiss-cheesed it instead.
Hard to believe just four shooters did all this. We even scanned the bullet holes and mapped the trajectories to be sure. Four nests, good angles. But no spotters. We snuck up and whacked ’em quick.
Zeroing our LT at four hundred yards? That’s motivation. Motivation and talent. I mention a moment of silence for them, and my new CO threatens a court martial. Ok, fine, I get it.
But here’s the part I’m not saying out loud: I respect that kind of commitment. This is a worthy enemy. Yeah, they’d probably like nothing more than to spit roast me with a crate of fireworks jammed up my ass, but they believe in what they’re doing. And they believe hard.
More than I can say for myself.
In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not thinking of switching sides. The guys that fight this hard are always zealots. If they win, it’s lock up the women and firing squad time. Not for me, thanks. I like my women sexually aggressive with state-mandated freedom to be so, thank you very much. This Sharia Law garbage is a bunch of shit. A crock of shit. An idiotic, backwards, Neanderthal, Birther, Climate Change Denier grade of shit.
But respect to that clustering. Less than a minute of arc from over 400 yards. Gonna need that kind of accuracy when the aliens show up and decide we’re tasty.
The two M-ATVs at the rear still have some juice in the batts and can get to limping. So time to transfer the cargo. Oh, yeah, you’ve probably been wondering the whole time what we’re carrying. Ok, I’ll tell you.
First, you should know that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is credited with revealing the Holy Qur’an, but he never wrote it down. The two Caliphs after him, Umar and Abu-Bakr, either couldn’t or wouldn’t. Wasn’t until Uthman that a concerted effort was made to record the Qur’an. That’s a significant amount of time.
Further, the Haditha (Muhammad’s footnotes and appendices to the Qur’an) were recorded from the memory of those who claimed to have heard Muhammad speak. To be blunt, everything Muslims claim to be direct from the mouth of their prophet is hearsay. Wars have been fought over the interpretation of that speech. Until now, that is.
What we transport is documentation of the Qur’an made in Muhammad’s own words while the Prophet lived, commissioned by his first wife, Khadija. A team of Brit archaeologists unearthed it in Medina. No one knew it existed, supposedly not even Muhammad.
That’s right. The schism between Shia, Sunni, Sufi, and the various factions could be healed by reading this document aloud… A rallying point for all Muslims, directly from the source.
And I know you’re putting the pieces together. My billionaire masters don’t want a bunch of Middle Eastern Billionaires to figure their shit out, unify into one singular cartel, and hike all the prices. Can you imagine true Pan-Islamism? The possibility that a new Caliphate could emerge and restructure the entire world order…
You’re with me now.
Knowing this, I look down at the weapon in my hands and I have to laugh. I see my place in all this, in denying Muslims across the globe the chance for better understanding of their faith, denying them an end to the hatreds and divisions that keep them small and weak…so that my handlers remain in control of world commerce…
This is history. Possibly the start of World War III and I’m smack dab in the middle of it. But when it all shakes out, and the world looks back, I wonder: will we be the Nazis this time?