"Even their eyes are ugly," added his friend, another young, bearded man. "Sure, that sheik has eight wives, but he is probably always on top to avoid injury."
"Let's go and look at the girls for auction. They're probably too expensive for us, but we can always window shop," said the first man.
Both men laughed as Salah Amar looked at them from afar.
"Excuse me, what kind of weapon is that? I've never seen that before. Is it Russian?" asked the young man with a scraggly beard, enviously asking of Amar's rifle, accompanied by his wife dressed in a burqa standing a few feet behind him.
"It's a beefed-up Heckler & Koch 416." answered Amar. "It's used by the U.S. Marines. They call it the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. There's nothing like German engineering."
"Why carry that compared to my AK-47," continued the man as he looked down at the weapon he was carrying.
"My sheikh wants only the very best. AK-47s are reliable, but H&K rifles are that and very accurate. This 5.56mm rifle can fire at 700-800 rounds per minute, but it's very accurate when fired single-shot. The U.S. Marines are replacing their current squad automatic weapons with it because it's half the weight, allowing their automatic riflemen to increase their mobility," countered Amar.
"Very nice," finished the man. "Farewell with peace."
"Farewell with peace," replied Amar.
The man and his wife walked away, with the latter saying to him: "What will happen to me after we die? After you earn your 72 virgins, will I be discarded like yesterday's lamb?"
Amar turned, only to find another man in front of him.
"Would you like a tooth-cleaning twig? They are recommended most highly in the Quran," promised the bearded man.
"Sure, thanks," said Amar, afraid that if he refused the man might declare jihad on him.
"Also, I have a statue from Palmyra for sale. It is in my truck just west of the square. I liberated it just before one of our bulldozers leveled the building. Come and see it!" the bearded man urged.
"I thought Islamic State forbade the keeping of representations of humans because it is not in keeping with the Quran," answered Amar.
"Well, yes, that is true, but we also need to make money to buy arms and keep things going," continued the man.
"No, thanks, I do not have money to buy statues," said Amar.
Amar turned away from the man and walked to the person referred to as his sheikh. "So, sheikh, is everything in order?"
"Who were those guys?" asked Clément Maudet.
"The first one was jealous of my weapon and the second one wanted to sell me a statue," replied Amar. "I told the first guy that our M27s are based on the H&K 416, but do you think I should also have told him that the H&K 416 is based on the AR-15 family of weapons?"
"You definitely should have told him that Delta Force and Seal Team 6 use H&K 416s, with them being used to kill Osama bin Laden," laughed Maudet.
"And I always have to remember who I'm talking to. Non-Islamists use the term 'Daesh," an acronym taken from the full Arabic name, but Daesh fighters want to hear the term 'Islamic State' to solidify their belief that they have created some kind of country," continued Amar.
"A statue? In the heart of Daesh territory? Isn't that similar to a false idol?" asked Maudet.
"Yeah, something like that," admitted Amar. "The second guy reminded me of someone I met in Volgograd. I was waiting for a Russian woman and this young Russian guy tried to sell me a set of stainless steel cutlery. It was just like the scene in The Russia House on the small bridge in Leningrad."
"Did the first guy want to buy your weapon?" queried Maudet.
"Maybe, though he did not make an offer. Did you have toys like this in the French Foreign Legion?" asked Amar.
"Our weapons were adequate, but I must admit that the M27 is really nice for target shooting," responded Maudet. "You probably had nice toys in the IDF."
"Yes, for the most part. Israel Military Industries makes good weapons. The fact that I'm Druze, not Jewish, made no difference in the IDF. By the way, how's your leg holding out?" asked Amar.
"I swear I can feel each and every screw and metal plate they inserted into my leg, my only souvenirs from Mali. Take my advice: never allow anyone to shoot your femur," declared Maudet. "I hope the party starts soon. My so-called wives are sweating like pigs."
* * * * *
"Eight approaching F-16s, confirmed Turkish," declared the voice on the radio in Kurdish.
Jacob Bernstein, businessman from Montreal, took a drink from his water bottle.
"We are finally going to hit them hard, eh, Jacob?" asked Latif Goran. "Things have progressed far beyond your original idea of buying Yazidi slave girls in order to free them from Daesh, via the organization Freedom for Christian and Yazidi Children of Syria and Iraq. We were only able to free girls here and there, but now we will free a good number from sex slavery."
"Yes, far beyond," answered Bernstein. "I would never have had the money for all this, except for the cooperation of Jewish and Christian businessmen in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. Not to mention the active participation of Jordan and Kurds in the region."
"Eight approaching F-16s, confirmed Turkish," declared the voice on the radio in Syrian-accented Arabic.
Bernstein smiled. "I still expect to hear the voice in Russian saying the same thing."
"Yes, no matter if the planes were Turkish, U.S., or NATO, our Russian friend would always describe them as Turkish. He was quite predictable," laughed Goran. "He's still there because the Russian government wants to ensure that the missiles do not grow legs, but he's certainly miffed that he's only a watchman now."
"Yeah, Russia is moving back to the Dark Ages almost as fast as Islamists want the world to do so. Did you hear that Russia is banning the importation of all foreign medical equipment, even though Russia does not manufacture most supplies used today?" asked Bernstein.
"I read that the surgeon who performed a quintuple bypass operation on Yeltsin admitted that the only Russian supplies in his Moscow office are bottles of saline solution," added Goran. "The Russian government is going to cause a drop in the population even greater than the one occurring because of excessive drinking and smoking."
"All stations, you are cleared to fire. I repeat, you are cleared to fire, but do not lose track of them to ensure that other planes are not shot down by mistake," said Bernstein into the microphone. "Let's not pull an MH17. Beth Horon out."
He released the microphone. "We warned the sultan about interfering. He gives military aid to Daesh, but always pretends to be NATO and the EU's pal. He's not our pal."
* * * * *
Sandy McCormick was holding his water bottle at the base of his neck when the Daesh commander started walking to his vehicle.
"Duck down and pretend to do something. I'll handle this guy," demanded Rohat Sabir, sitting in the driver's seat. "May the mercy, peace, and blessings of Allah be upon you."
"May the mercy, peace, and blessings of Allah be upon you," returned the Daesh commander. "I do not recall our recovering any of these Ukrainian-Polish BTR-80UPs. As far as I know, the Iraq army still has all of the vehicles it was sent."
"We took these from Iraqi troops not far from Rahabi. It was a tough fight, but we managed to snag them without any losses to our men," answered Sabir.
"That's a laugh. The Iraqi troops probably ran away as soon as they saw you, allowing you to simply walk into them." said the commander. "You have a funny accent. Where are you from?"
"Hamburg. German and Arabic have combined to give me a strange accent," explained Sabir.
"You wait here while I check in," instructed the commander, looking as if he was not sure he believed the Hamburg story.
"Of course," said Sabir with a fake smile as the commander walked away from the tank to a passenger car located twenty meters in front of the BTR-80UP, stepped into the front seat, accepted a phone that was handed to him, and began to speak into it.
"Whatever you say, Himmler," muttered McCormick to himself.
"I hope he did not hear my Kurdish accent through the Arabic," said Sabir.
"Don't worry, he's from Kosovo, the Western country with the highest per capita number of Daesh recruits, so he's not exactly an expert on Arabic accents," said Firat Adab, McCormick's gunner.
"What did Cat Stevens want?" asked Dan Hardy via radio from the BTR-80UP on the other side of the street from McCormick's vehicle.
"We might have a problem. He does not really believe our story. He'll probably come back in ten minutes with some heavily armed thugs," admitted McCormick.
"We might need to move sooner than ordered," continued McCormick.
"Let's wait as long as we can," said Hardy. "Does this remind you of our time in the Marines?"
"Yes and no. We definitely are waiting, just like in the military. But driving Soviet-style vehicles is really different. Beats the heck out of working in a BigWoman warehouse, though," answered McCormick.
"It's about as hot as the inside of one of those warehouses," countered Hardy. "I think these vehicles are cool. The main machine gun is 14.5 mm, .58 caliber. That's a big hole!"
"Yeah, the electronics aren't nearly as high-tech as what we had in the Corps, but any kills where I keep my head entirely inside the vehicle make life livable," added McCormick.
"Speaking of electronics, did you notice that there are no satellite dishes anywhere?" pondered Hardy.
"That's because Daesh outlawed them to prevent the people living in their so-called caliphate from learning anything other than what Daesh wants them to know," explained Sabir. "All satellite dishes and television receivers have been destroyed."
"Reminds me of North Korea," said McCormick.
* * * * *
As soon as Ahed Rezk heard that eight Turkish F-16s were crossing the Syrian border, he threw his coffee on the ground and set his cup on a large rock. "This time for real, eh Rauf?"
Rauf Mukriyani, the Kurdish half of the Syrian-Kurdish team smiled in response. "We've been drilling for the past week. Now we finally get to drill a real F-16!"
"And I won the coin toss! Help me confirm everything, Rauf," said Rezk as he gingerly lifted the mechanism out of the box.
"I cannot wait to see if the Russian was correct. This 9K333 Pussy Willow -- I just love that name -- has three sensors, ultraviolet, near-infrared, and mid-infrared, that cross-check against each other to verify if counter-measures are being used against it. I'm sure the F-16s will fire flares as soon as they notice the missile climbing toward them, but a big surprise awaits them. Even if they use a laser to try to blind the missile, their odds of success are not good," added Mukriyani.
"It won't be long now," mused Rezk. "The Ottomans are going to be taught a lesson today."
* * * * *
Captain Will "Firecracker" Kasmirsky and Second Lieutenant Samer Radaideh were sitting in their A-10 aircraft just off the main taxiway at Prince Hassan Air Base in Jordan, waiting for the signal to take-off.
"Captain, why aren't we using laser or GPS guided bombs? We have a mix of AGM-65B Maverick missiles and Mark 77 incendiary bombs, but the latter are the dumb kind," asked Radaideh.
"Always remember the mission. We are going to fly just high enough to avoid antennas and street wires, so any external guidance would be a waste. Not to mention that our targets will be communicated to us in real-time, which precludes someone else pointing a laser at the target," explained Kasmirsky. "The current practice of using F-16s to bomb Islamic State positions is not working. Usually the planes return without dropping their bombs because it is really difficult for someone to get close enough to paint the target with a laser. GPS bombs are only good against a target which sits still long enough for use to program that data into the system. The Mavericks will work fine because we'll aim them via the fire-and-forget TV-guided system."
"Are you not a big fan of F-16s?" asked Radaideh.
"I believe we should have aircraft suitable for the mission. F-16s and other fast aircraft cannot linger long enough to see what's happening on the battlefield. In Vietnam, F-4 Phantoms could not accomplish ground support, so we used Korean War era, propeller-driven A-1 Skyraiders. Helicopters can linger, but they are highly vulnerable to ground fire. The A-10, being relatively slow, allows us to see the target and kill it without sending ordnance to undesired areas. The armor keeps our collective nuts from being shot off," responded Kasmirsky.
"Why did your country send two of these aircraft to Jordan from Kuwait?" queried Radaideh.
"My CO sent us largely on his own initiative. I suspect he used convincing phrases like "team building" and "international relations" in the paperwork, but he could see what was going to happen. It's merely an ironic coincidence that we are here, ready for action, in the middle of things, wink wink, nudge nudge," continued Kasmirsky.
"An F-16 would kill an A-10 in a dogfight, right?" asked Radaideh.
"It would not be close. An F-16 is a little more than twice as fast at sea level. Maneuverability vastly favors the F-16. An A-10's cannon would literally shred an F-16, but the F-16 pilot would have to be grossly incompetent for that to be an issue," replied Kasmirsky.
"By the way, I've been meaning to ask you how you got your call-sign," said Radaideh.
"Back in flight school there was this guy who was insufferable. He'd watch Canidae News and repeat everything they said. One of his favorites was calling the president of France 'The Hungarian' because that's the phrase the anchors used in reference to the fact that the president's father was from Hungary. His birthday was coming up and he actually started hinting that we should buy him a present. So that day I bought a cupcake in a grocery store and brought it to the ready room, along with a firecracker. When he wasn't looking, I inserted the firecracker into the cup cake like it was a birthday candle, lit it, and set it next to him. He didn't hear the fuse until it was ready to explode, with him turning to face it just before it went off, scaring the crap out of him," explained Kasmirsky. "His call-sign became Cupcake, which he hated because it's an endearing pillow-name only used by men speaking to their female lovers."
* * * * *
"Does it bother you that almost everyone in this square will soon be dead?" asked Amar.
"Not really. The crowd is 99% men, fanatical Islamists at that, all here to either participate in the slave auction or watch. They're all incorrigible. The foreigners here, if they were to return home, would try to plant a bomb in a public place or shoot someone who does not concur with their medieval world view. France, Britain, and the U.S. have seen a lot of that. What are we supposed to do with these people? They are determined to participate in jihad. Jail is expensive, deporting them just allows them to kill in foreign countries, and retaining them allows them to kill locally," explained Maudet. "Besides, how else are we to rescue the girls being held as sexual slaves by Daesh?"
"And they are causing a refugee crisis approaching that of post-WWII. The residents cannot live here, so they try to reach Europe, which cannot handle them. They need to stay here, so the only solution is to eliminate the problem," continued Maudet.
Maudet and Amar watched as thirty girls were brought to the north-to-south stage and paraded in front of the assembled buyers. One older man, clearly in charge, started saying something.
"I'm having trouble with ZZ Top's accent. What is he saying?" requested Amar.
"He's saying ... to maximize the price ... this six-year-old girl will now have her virginity checked," translated Maudet. "Buyers will be able to examine all the merchandise."
One of the figures in black niqabs started shifting weight from side to side.
"Anna Shavenkova, I say again, Anna Shavenkova!" purposefully said Maudet into the microphone concealed in his beard.
The eight figures in black niqabs walked over to the stage. One leaned toward the oldest girl and said in a voice far too low-pitched for a woman, "When the shooting starts, jump to the ground where I am standing and lie on the ground. Make sure your head is below the stage."
The girl's eyes went wide for a second and then a slight smile came to her lips.
The other "wives" said similar things to the other girls.
* * * * *
"Anna Shavenkova, about damn time," exclaimed McCormick as he ripped off his fake beard. "Move out, Rohat! Let's knock down and kill people we don't know like Anna did!"
Sabir started the engines and started the vehicle moving forward. Hardy's vehicle mimicked them on the other side of the street.
McCormick ripped off the black Islamic State flag attached to an antenna, revealing a flag of Kurdistan which is banned in Iran, Turkey, and Syria.
Hardy ripped off the black Islamic State flag on his vehicle only to reveal another black one with a Jolly Roger. "No prisoners!" he yelled.
McCormick saw what Hardy had done and chuckled. "Peter O'Toole or John Belushi?" he pondered.
R.B. Powell, the gunner on McCormick's vehicle, aimed his 14.5 mm machine gun at the Daesh commander just as he started walking back to their vehicle. Powell fired a burst starting at his crotch and walked it up to his head, splitting him in half.
"I think he was one before, but he's clearly a half-wit now!" joked McCormick.
Not to be outdone, John Sousa, the gunner on Hardy's vehicle, used the 7.62 mm machine gun to strike one Daesh fighter after another. Each time he caught the man with a full-auto burst, the man's arms moved up and down in a macabre version of the dance John Travolta made famous. His machine gun then struck the fuel tank of a Daesh Humvee, with the vehicle catching fire.
"Burn, baby, burn, disco inferno!" sang Hardy. "That's the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it!"
The 300 hp of the vehicles enabled them to surge ahead, mowing down Daesh fighters, sometimes causing them to be thrown to the side as if a giant girl was annoyed with her dolls. The passengers in each vehicle stuck their rifles out of the firing ports and killed Daesh fighters congregating on the side of the road.
They roared toward the square to the east.
* * * * *
Sherko Ardalan and Zarifa Evdal were walking through the neighborhood just north of the square.
"There they are. I see ten suicide vests being prepared," observed Evdal. "You know, this ridiculous outfit is hot as hell. How do women wear this thing without melting? I cannot wait to get back to the Kurdish Women's Defense Unit where I can wear a uniform and no head covering."
"But if you weren't wearing that sack, we'd never be able to mingle with Daesh fighters. They might even recognize that you are Yazidi," said Ardalan as his voice trailed off, remembering what she had been through.
"They always said they were getting closer to Allah by raping us," spat Evdal. "Those savages will never get their filthy hands on me again. I'll save my last grenade for one final embrace with Daesh pigs."
"Let's find a place to transmit, preferably out of public view," said Ardalan.
* * * * *
Mukriyani watched the eight F-16s change from tiny dots on the horizon to discernable entities. "Hold, Ahed, hold."
Rezk was facing the other way, ready to launch his missile. He tried to be as motionless as the rock his coffee cup was lying on.
Mukriyani used his binoculars to view the F-16. "Yes, Turkish markings," he confirmed.
The aircraft passed directly overhead. Rezk did not need to point his weapon at them because he was already perfectly aligned.
"I have lock," said Rezk, his voice rising a bit. "Firing," he said as he depressed the button.
Rezk watched the missile quickly gain altitude, rising toward the group of fighters, while Mukriyani filmed it with his smart phone. The eight F-16s scattered, looking like a group of impalas being chased by a cheetah. The missile turned toward one aircraft, with that aircraft and the other one near it, its wingman, both releasing flares. The pyrotechnics looked like one-color fireworks, spreading away from the aircraft in a symmetric pattern.
The flares, burning at a temperature much hotter than the exhaust of the single-engine F-16, tempted the infrared sensors of the missiles to choose them instead of the target. They were the Sirens of this ersatz Odyssey, luring the missile with their bewitching and irresistible music. But the ultraviolet sensor played the part of Odysseus, who had told his sailors to tie him to a mast so he could hear the music without being able to act on his impulses, with the sailors having plugged their ears with beeswax and wrapped their heads with fabric, all to dull the entrancing songs. This third sensor saw that the flares had a radically different UV signature than a typical jet engine exhaust. The onboard controller compared the data from the three sensors, used pre-set logic to settle the disagreement, and commanded the missile to continue following the F-16.
The missile struck the F-16 as it desperately tried to jink its way to afterburner afterlife. The aircraft exploded into many pieces in a large fireball. And just like the Sirens who perished after allowing a mere mortal to pass by after hearing their song, the flares turned into ashes and dust which fell to the ground long after the flaming pieces of the wrecked F-16.
"Beth Horon, one solid hit on a Turkish F-16. No chute. Flares made no difference to the missile trajectory. We confirm Turkish aircraft. Remaining seven are continuing in original direction. Viper out," said Mukriyani into the radio microphone.
Mukriyani then pointed his smart phone at a specialized GPS device. "Love that large display!" he exclaimed. He captured the coordinates which proved that the missile had been launched from inside Syria.
"Now all we have to do is put that footage on the Internet," said Rezk.
* * * * *
"We are really late!" exclaimed Captain Faisal Munif, commander, Armored Reconnaissance Company, Second Royal Armored Battalion, 40th Armoured Brigade, 3rd Armored Division, Royal Jordanian Army, at the head of an eight-tank column.
"Captain, everywhere we go, Daesh commanders demand to know where we are going. Giving them the same explanation is slowing us down, not mention tedious. Maybe we should just start running them over," added Sergeant Tareq Raimouny, tank gunner.
"I'm okay with that, Captain," chimed in Corporal Daoud Mousa, tank driver.
"Make that three, Captain!" added Corporal Habis Suheimat, tank loader.
"Don't tempt me," answered Munif as yet another Daesh commander demanded to know their intentions.
"I do not recognize these tanks. What model are they?" demanded the commander.
"They're British Challengers, actually the first generation. Britain sold them to Iraq when the Challenger 2s were released. We took them from Iraq troops in Rahabi," exclaimed Munif. "The soldiers ran away like scared rabbits."
"Yes, I have seen that myself. But I do not think that Iraq acquired Challenger tanks. The only country in the region which uses them is Jordan. Do not move while I check it out with Violeur al-Bigdaddy," ordered the commander. He spun around and returned to his pickup truck. He was handed a phone and began talking on it while looking at Munif.
"And they're called al-Hussein tanks," Munif muttered to himself. "In honor of past and present kings of Jordan. Not to mention that the Kurds in our group would like to insert their tank barrel into your rear and fire a blank round, incinerating you from the inside."
The Daesh commander became agitated as he talked on the phone. He pointed to the lead tank, even though the person on the other end could not see it.
"Everyone get ready to start moving," ordered Munif on the radio. "There are no tanks in this column, just Toyota pickup trucks and Humvees. Load heat or use machine guns. Fire when a clear target is seen. If a vehicle is in your way, run it over."
"The commander started walking back to Munif's tank. He raised and lowered both arms in front of him to signify that the tanks should switch off their ignition.
"Driver, move out! Flatten him!" ordered Munif as he ripped down the Islamic State flag, revealing a Jordanian flag. All of the other tank commanders did the same or displayed the flag of Kurdistan. Every tank crewman ripped off his fake beard.
As Mousa engaged the throttle and the tank surged forward, the commander realized what was going to happen to him. He turned and ran toward the line of trucks, but he fell just behind his truck. Munif's tank caught the back edge of the pickup truck. The tank ran up and over the pickup truck, crushing it, along with the commander.
"Driver, come left, straighten out, and keep moving forward," ordered Munif. The tank moved just to the left of the trucks.
"Gunner, machine gun, one o'clock, trucks!" ordered Munif.
"Identified!" said Raimouny after he moved the turret slightly to the right.
"Fire!" ordered Munif as the tank traveled down the street parallel to the column of trucks, giving them the Bonnie & Clyde treatment via 7.62 mm machine guns. The other tanks followed his lead, shooting at anything that moved.
A Daesh fighter appeared in between two trucks, twenty meters in front of them, carrying an RPG-26. He fired at Munif's tank, striking it in the right front. The blast caused a small piece of the generation 1.0 Chobham armor to chip off and give the crew a headache. The fighter was cut in half by the machine gun a second later.
Sergeant Ciwan Kaya, last in line because he was late to the mandatory meeting the previous morning, saw the tank in front of him pass a flat-bed truck carrying 55 gallon drums of something or other, with the truck stopped on the shoulder of the road. Then he saw another flat-bed truck, moving fast, coming from the left cross-street. This truck had many blue plastic barrels with what appeared to be tubes coming out of each one. The truck started turning in the direction of the other seven tanks.
"Fertilizer bomb," he muttered to himself.
"Hikmet, there's a suicide truck turning to you. Suggest max speed. He's ours," breathlessly exclaimed Kaya. "Driver, emergency reverse!"
"Great," muttered Hikmet Barakat, tank commander of the tank immediately in front of Kaya's vehicle. "Driver, punch it!" he ordered.
Corporal Tara Zirak locked the left track of Kaya's tank, causing the tank to spin around. As soon as the tank faced the reverse direction, he unlocked the left track.
"Loader, heat!" Kaya ordered Corporal Kayhan Moradi, tank loader, while both were still holding on during the extreme turn.
"Gunner, six o'clock, truck!" Kaya ordered Sergeant Nezir Kendes. The turret began turning to the rear of the tank.
Moradi inserted a high explosive squash head (HESH) round into the chamber of the 120 mm rifled gun.
"Up!" said Moradi to confirm the loading.
"Identified!" said Kendes to confirm that he had the target in his sights.
"Fire!" ordered Kaya.
"On the way!" said Kendes as he pulled the trigger.
Kaya had just enough time to wonder if he made the right decision: turn about, saving some forward momentum and getting the farthest away from the blast, or stop and then go backwards, shielding his relatively exposed engine but also taking more time.
The rear of Kaya's tank lifted off the ground and then returned with a shudder due to the shockwave of the exploding truck.
"Cease fire!" ordered Kaya. "Everyone all right?"
"Yeah," answered Zirak.
"I'm okay," answered Moradi.
"Can we do it again?" asked Kendes with a grin.
Kaya waited until the flames died down before sticking his head up to see the impact of the explosion. "Hey, guys, the entire street is on fire. That other truck must have been filled with flammable chemicals."
"Sergeant Kaya, this is Captain Munif. Is everyone okay?" he asked on the radio.
"Yeah, but the street is on fire. I don't think we can drive through it. We're going to drive north and follow you on a parallel street until we can reconnect," explained Kaya.
"Roger that. Don't take chances," cautioned Munif. "Remember, you don't have any back-up or local friends. Just go around the block and meet up with us as soon as you can."
"See you in a few, Captain," Kaya finished.
* * * * *
"Captain, it's far above my pay grade, but I don't understand your country's fascination with the F-35. It was allowed to be manufactured 80% of the way, tested, and then sent back to the factory to finish the job. Didn't that cost much more than the usual way?" asked Radaideh.
"The procedure you mentioned was best described as acquisition malpractice. And to make things even worse, the administration proposed the cutting of one billion dollars from the commissary subsidy. Most military families depend upon the commissaries to survive. Luckily, Congress refused to go along with that," replied Kasmirsky.
"Not to mention the constant pressure of Air Force generals and the military-industrial complex to retire the A-10 to free up more money for the F-35 and its evil offspring, the LRS-B. It's a slap in the face of every soldier who has experienced a close encounter of the dangerous kind," added Kasmirsky.
"Firecracker, you are cleared for immediate departure," announced the air traffic controller in the tower. "Good hunting!"
"Okay, Samer, let's exterminate some Daesh vermin!" declared Kasmirsky. "Anna Shavenkova, we are going to shatter your record for vehicular homicide!"
Both pilots guided their aircraft onto the runway and into the air.
* * * * *
As soon as the BTR-80UPs arrived in the square, Maudet shouted, "Modern Mormon! Modern Mormon!"
There were four pairs of BTR-80UPs in all, including McCormick and Hardy, with all four entering the square on the west side, but with about ten meters separation. All four gunners of the lead vehicles raised their 14.5 mm machine guns, aimed over the heads of the thirty girls, and fired, slaughtering the Islamists on the eastern side of the square. The trailing vehicles turned around quickly and backed up to allow for a partially shielded zone between the vehicles and to point the machine guns toward the egress direction. The thirty girls jumped off the stage as they had been instructed, with two of them being too young to do so by themselves so the others girls assisted.
Maudet ripped off his fake beard with his right hand while holding his headset with his left. Then he ripped off his wig, revealing a much shorter haircut. At the same time Amar ripped off his beard and wig and placed a headset on his head. Both men tore off their cloaks, revealing standard YPG uniforms. Their legs were covered in 50-round magazines, each one held by tape.
Maudet raised his M27, took aim, and shot the man who announced the virginity test, first in the abdomen and then in the liver. He wouldn't die for a good twenty minutes, screaming all the time.
Maudet was about to shoot the man who tried to sell Amar a statue when a .58 caliber bullet from one of the BTR-80UPs hit him in the heart and spine, killing him instantly and freezing his expression with his eyes open. He fell straight down and came to rest leaning against two men who had already been shot. In the process of falling, 7.62 mm bullets struck him in the palms of both hands. His right arm came to rest balanced precariously, fingers up, on the head of one of the two corpses, making him look like a modern statue of post-Resurrection Jesus. Minus the blue eyes, of course.
Amar shot the two men who had laughed at their "wives" and pointed his rifle at the fighter who had asked about his rifle and was just pulling the trigger when the man's head exploded like a ripe watermelon in a Gallagher Sledge-O-Matic skit. His wife just plopped down on the ground and looked at him with a vacant stare.
One Daesh fighter dove to the ground and played dead. In the minutes that followed, other Daesh fighters running back and forth either trying to escape or obtain a better shot trampled him to death.
The eight "wives" tore their garments from side-to-side, allowing them to fall at their feet. All eight Kurdish men, burly ones dressed in YPG uniforms, leveled their belt-fed H&K MG4 5.56 mm light machine guns and started firing at any man carrying a weapon, which was almost all of them. Even though their weapons were fully-automatic, their training allowed them to shoot only 2-3 rounds with each depressing of the trigger, using this technique to take out individuals or small groups of men. Sometimes a longer burst would be necessary, but they knew that ammunition was a limited resource in a large crowd.
At first the ten men could not see very far because of the many Daesh fighters standing around, but as more and more of them were shot, the distance the men could see increased. And the distance increased quickly.
"Mind the backstop!" unnecessarily chided Maudet, reminding the men that their rounds would usually pass through their target and continue on to another
Eight women from the Kurdish Women's Defense Unit climbed out from McCormick and Hardy's vehicles, all carrying H&K 416s, and ran to the stage.
Rehana Pekgul, the team leader from Hardy's vehicle, and Vian Aloyan, the team leader from McCormick's vehicle, sat down among the girls.
"Do you see those four armored vehicles? That's where we are going. Run as fast as you can and get inside one of the vehicles. It does not matter which one. Put your hands over your ears to stop the noise if you want. Just squeeze in any way you can. She and I will carry the toddlers. Now go!" Pekgul commanded.
The twenty-eight girls ran as they were instructed, while Pekgul and Aloyan ran with their left arm holding a toddler and their right hands holding their rifles, shooting as needed. The other six female soldiers covered for them, shooting anyone even close to them, with two of them grabbing the six-year-old by her armpits and carrying her to the vehicles.
When all eight female soldiers and thirty girls were safe inside the vehicles, Maudet, Amar, and the eight male soldiers started backing up to the lead vehicles, firing as they went. They walked to the space between the two vehicle pairs. Those two vehicle pairs started moving slowly away from the square as the other two vehicle pairs traveled toward them on an intersecting path. When all eight vehicles were within one meter of each other, the outside vehicles opened their doors and the ten men still outside entered. Some of the girls who were sitting on another girl's lap also moved to the outer vehicles.
The eight vehicles slowly moved away from the square as a unit, resembling an extremely well-armed tortoise.
"Where are the tanks?" Maudet asked out loud as the group of eight vehicles paused in a relatively good location for circling the wagons and making a last stand.
* * * * *
"Firecracker, this is Aladdin. There are a few trucks just north of the square. I see at least ten suicide vests. I believe their intention is to attack the BTR-80UPs," announced Evdal via radio, hiding in the entryway of a building with Ardalan. "There is a mosque just to the northwest and a two-story building with a large painting of Violeur al-Bigdaddy just to the northeast."
"Roger, Aladdin, ten vests. The painting is impossible to miss. Get clear of that area now. We'll hit it in five minutes," instructed Kasmirsky. "Firecracker out."
"Daesh's most common tactic is to use suicide bombers in their initial attack. It's their version of Blitzkrieg," explained Radaideh. "Sometimes they use truck bombs and sometimes they use individual vests. We can really interfere with Daesh battle plans if we eliminate the suicide bombers."
"Let's drop in and pay them a visit," said Kasmirsky as he pushed his aircraft's stick forward.
"Samer, I'll drop two Mark 77s on the near-left side and you drop two on the far-right side," instructed Kasmirsky. "These are the closest thing to napalm that we have in the inventory. They'll have a hot time in the city tonight!"
"Roger that, Captain," confirmed Radaideh.
Kasmirsky brought his A-10 down to 100 meters and pressed the weapon release button which allowed two Mark 77 bombs to fall from their pylons on the underside of his aircraft, expertly estimating the position on the ground to vaporize as many fighters as possible.
Radaideh copied Kasmirsky's actions, dropping his two 750 pound bombs containing 110 U.S. gallons of kerosene-based gel far enough inside the far-right corner of the assembled fighters to do the most damage.
"Muath sends his regards!" shouted Radaideh as the flaming gel coated all of the suicide bombers and their support personnel, resulting in secondary explosions as the suicide vests exploded.
"Firecracker, I confirm ten vests exploded," added Evdal via radio. "There's very little left of the bombers who were rather small to begin with. I think these were young recruits."
"So, as the Australians say, it was shrimp on the barbie!" joked Kasmirsky.
* * * * *
"Almost done?" asked Suwara Tayran as he watched Khana Ganjavi and Jalile Nebez string Claymore mines around the doors.
"This is the last. When they chase us through here, they'll get a dose of their own medicine, just not the suicide variety," answered Ganjavi as he nailed one last cord to the door jamb.
"Okay Ali, we've only got two of these Russian RPG-29s and there are two Daesh M1A1 Abrams tanks to kill, so we'd better not miss. They're already warming up their engines, so they'll depart soon," explained Tayran.
"You're sure these will work against M1A1 Abrams tanks?" whined Ali Jaziri.
"Stop being so negative. I thought you understood the warheads on these. They're two-stage, with the first blasting away any reactive armor and the second injecting a liquid jet of metal into the target. They have been tested against M1A1 Abrams, Challengers, T-72s, and T-90s with great success. The other thing to remember is that the rocket motor only functions from the time you pull the trigger until just before the warhead leaves the barrel, so you absolutely must keep the barrel perfectly still until the warhead is away," cautioned Tayran. "Brace it in the corner of the window frame."
"As a matter of fact, these missiles are so effective that the U.S. refused to allow the Iraq military to acquire them, which is very fortunate given how much of Iraq's weaponry was abandoned on the battlefield for Daesh to find," continued Tayran. "Like the tanks we're about to destroy."
"After we shoot, we'll have very little time to get away. Throw your tube over there and Khana and Jalile will attach preformed explosives to them and light a short fuse so Daesh won't be able to use them later. At the risk of sounding like your mother, pee now," concluded Tayran.
* * * * *
The radio crackled again. "Beth Horon, one Turkish F-16 crashed and burned. The pilot ejected just as the missile struck, but his parachute burned in the fire. Positive ID on Turkish aircraft. Remaining six continue in original direction. Rattlesnake out."
"Two down, six to go," said Goran.
* * * * *
Kaya's tank drove at a high rate of speed down the relatively deserted parallel road.
"What about this cross-street? Nope, it does not go through. Keep going, Tara," said Kaya.
The lone Challenger tank flying a Jordanian flag continued down the road with no one appearing to care.
* * * * *
Tayran and Jaziri were lined up from west to east in front of windows frames which no longer had any glass in them. The vehicles had been parked on a north-south road just north-east of them, pointed south, so they were virtually guaranteed to pass right in front of the missiles.
Just as the two M1A1 Abrams tanks passed directly in front of the missiles, a Daesh fighter saw the tubes sticking out of the windows. "Look, anti-tank missiles!" he shouted to his comrades.
But it was already too late.
Tayran waited until he had a shot at the rear and then fired.
"Oh no, did I miss? No explosion, no real smoke!" he thought to himself.
But then the vehicle drastically slowed down and came to a halt, with two trucks driving behind it having to slow down in order to avoid hitting it.
"Spalling? Did my warhead cause small ricochets inside the crew compartment, with many small pieces of hot metal making mincemeat of the crew?" pondered Tayran.
The second tank turned to the right in an attempt to go around the first disabled tank and that's when Jaziri fired, hitting it squarely in the comparatively lightly-armored rear. The tank exploded, with the turret rising up two meters before falling back down on the chassis.
Tayran just shook his head.
Both men turned around and dumped their tubes in a pile where Nebez and Ganjavi placed an explosive charge on each one and lit a sixty-second fuse. Then all four men climbed out of a window frame to avoid going through the door which had already been wired with a Claymore.
The Daesh fighter who had seen the tubes was at the front door just as Tayran was climbing out and activated its Claymore, with its steel balls being thrown directly into his torso, killing him instantly. More fighters followed him through the doorway, stepping over and onto his body. Somehow they missed the charges placed on the tubes, with one man opening the second door, activating its Claymore, killing him. The others then looked at the tubes on the floor and saw the explosives and ran out the front door before they exploded, giving the four Kurds enough time to make their escape.
* * * * *
Captain Munif looked at the Daesh fighter approaching his tank, motioning his column to stop. "Oh no, not again!"
* * * * *
Ardalan and Evdal were walking around the east side of town.
"That's the largest column we have seen in this town," said Ardalan. "T-72s are not quite the threat that T-90s and M1A1 Abrams are, but they can still destroy an armored personnel carrier. Firecracker needs to know about this. Look, over there, we can stand under that overhang."
They walked to the building. Ardalan stood on the street-side of Evdal to give her privacy.
"Firecracker, Aladdin here. We spotted a column of Hungarian T-72M1 tanks, Humvees, and Toyota pickup trucks coming from the south, heading to a point just west of the square, which would put them on a collision course with the raiders. This column must be eliminated or we're done," said Evdal via radio.
"I think we have enough fuel for one pass. Thanks for the info. Move perpendicular to the column to maximize your separation. Firecracker out," answered Kasmirsky.
* * * * *
"What's this? A major road, finally," said Kaya. "Tara, take a right here."
Their tank rolled down the relatively deserted road.
"Okay, guys, I see, maybe thirty fighters. Holy cow, some of them have suicide vests!" exclaimed Kaya.
"Gunner, machine gun, traverse ten o'clock to two-o'clock, troops!" ordered Kaya.
"Identified!" said Kendes to confirm that he saw the group of Daesh soldiers.
"Fire!" ordered Kaya.
"On the way!" said Kendes as he pulled the trigger and sprayed them with 7.62 mm bullets, moving the turret back and forth as necessary.
Some of the vests exploded as they were hit, but all of the fighters were mowed down as if they were blades of grass being cut by a large scythe.
Kaya spotted another flat-bed truck with blue barrels in it with tubes emerging from each one.
"Here we go again! "Cease fire!" ordered Kaya.
Kendes released his finger from the trigger and turned the turret slightly to the right in anticipation of firing a round to the truck.
Loader, heat!" ordered Kaya.
Moradi inserted a HESH round into the chamber of the 120 mm rifled gun.
"Gunner, one o'clock, truck!" ordered Kaya.
"Up!" said Moradi to confirm the loading.
"Identified!" said Kendes to confirm that he had the target in his sights.
"Fire!" ordered Kaya.
"On the way!" said Kendes as he pulled the trigger.
The truck blew up with less force than the previous one, but it was still enough to rock the tank back and forth.
"Cease fire," ordered Kaya.
"It's not a job, it's an adventure!" joked Kendes.
"Okay, Tara, let's move forward and see what else we can find," said Kaya.
* * * * *
The radio crackled again. "Beth Horon, this is Cobra. I can confirm one Turkish F-16, I repeat, Turkish, has been destroyed. The pilot ejected before the missile destroyed his aircraft. The remaining five have turned around and are heading in the general direction of Ancirlik. A PKK patrol is on its way to retrieve the pilot. Out."
"Perhaps this is the end of Turkish interference in Kurdistan," declared Goran.
"We can only hope," said Bernstein. "We can trade that pilot for some of the Kurds the Turkish president has imprisoned."
* * * * *
"Sandy, did you see that?" asked Hardy, as he watched the pieces from the exploded truck rain down on the ground.
"Not bad. I missed the last July 4th celebrations," answered McCormick.
Both men watched as a lone tank emerged from the smoke.
"It's got a Kurdistan flag, but it's riding solo," said Hardy. "Approaching tank, what is your call-sign?" he radioed.
"My entire group has the call sign of Armadillo, but it's just us," answered Kaya.
"This is Hornets. Where are the other seven tanks?" asked Hardy.
"You mean, they're not with you?" asked Kaya.
* * * * *
Ardalan and Evdal walked across the street to the circled BTR-80UPs. Aloyan ran out to join them, giving Evdal a hug.
"Zarifa, how are you, cousin?" asked Aloyan. "Did you have any trouble?"
"No, everything went without a hitch," answered Evdal as she removed the burqa, revealing a Kurdish military uniform beneath, with a H&K 416 strapped to her waist.
"Vian, no one even noticed us. We were just another married couple as far as they were concerned," said Ardalan.
The three walked to the center of the vehicles.
* * * * *
"Samer, we'll come in from their rear and aerate them using the rotary cannon. If 30 mm depleted-uranium, armor-piercing shells don't get their attention, nothing will. Follow me down, but stay on my right. They're not in a nice, perfect column, so both of us will be able to hit most of them. Use your rockets to take out tanks and large groups of fighters. Tally-ho," said Kasmirsky as he pushed the stick forward.
Both aircraft made their descent. Kasmirsky brought his aircraft down to twenty meters and started firing his rotary cannon. The shells sometimes went through the relatively soft skin of a pickup truck and continued into another vehicle. He fired his rockets at the few tanks in the convoy, destroying all of them.
Radaideh was not nearly as experienced as his wingman. He brought his aircraft down to almost the same altitude, but he kept his finger on the trigger, firing constantly, causing him to run out of shells before he ran out of targets. He fired all of his rockets before the end of the column. Even though his aircraft had run out of shells, his shaking finger remained on the trigger.
Both aircraft were hit a few times by small arms fire, but the 1,200 pounds of titanium armor prevented any of the bullets from reaching anything important. They both pulled back on their sticks and gained altitude before turning to the west.
"Sorry, Captain, I ran out of ammunition before I ran out of column. Two tanks were untouched," admitted Radaideh.
"We're at bingo fuel, so we cannot take another shot," said Kasmirsky. "Hornets, two T-72 tanks escaped the carnage. They're on the way, about six blocks south of the square."
* * * * *
"It's a good thing we have not suffered any serious casualties because there are no helicopters for evacuation or hospitals for many kilometers," said McCormick.
"You Americans do not know how good you have it," answered Pekgul. "When you suffer casualties, the person is at an aid station within an hour receiving serious medical attention. When we suffer casualties, the people around the victim must take care of it as best they can. Many of our casualties bleed to death before we can get them to a hospital. We could really use some donations of medical helicopters and sophisticated equipment for the aid stations."
"Yes, we cannot just rub a magic lamp and conjure up a helicopter," added Evdal.
"And Daesh recruits just keep coming. Reports are that well over one thousand of them arrive each month. They are all hard-core Islamists," said Hardy.
"Hard-core does not begin to describe it. Many of them are here for rape-tourism. And this situation is not new, contrary to the fantasies of the liberal press. Women were being kidnapped in Algeria in the 1990s and raped by Islamists. A recent issue of Daesh's color magazine, Dabiq, had an article titled 'The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour' with hour referring to Judgment Day. It detailed the many levels of sub-Muslims. Christians and Jews are kuffar, or infidels, but Yazidis like me are mushrikin, or polytheists, even though my religion is actually monotheistic. Kuffars are given the usual three choices, convert to Islam, pay the jizya, or fight, but we Yazidis are simply forced into slavery, sexual or otherwise," explained Evdal. "There is only one solution for Islamists and that is death!"
* * * * *
Tayran's group was still in the vicinity of the destroyed tanks.
"It worked out well that the only fighter who saw us was killed by the Claymores. I was worried that we would have to fight our way out of this town, but we can just walk out," said Nebez.
"They look like they're about to start moving again," added Ganjavi.
"Hornets, the column we hit on the east side has regrouped. It is headed straight for the square, which means that it will be at your position within ten minutes. The good news is that there are no tanks, only Humvees and Toyota pickup trucks. Zeus out," said Tayran via radio.
* * * * *
"Okay, Tara, let's go south two blocks and wait for them," said Kaya as his tank headed south on the first road west of the one the two T-72s were on, just before seven Challenger tanks flying Jordanian and Kurdistan flags approached from the west.
"Armadillo, we've been waiting for you," asked McCormick.
"Traffic is a bitch in this town," answered Munif. "Sergeant Kaya, where are you going?"
"There are two T-72s coming north to greet us. They're about six blocks south, so I think we'll go two blocks south and wait for them," replied Kaya.
"Slight change of plans. Go two blocks south and wait for them, but don't shoot as soon as you see them. Get in behind them without them seeing you and take a shot. Sergeant Barakat, take your tank one block south, hide on the cross-street, and shoot as soon as you see one," ordered Munif.
"Yes, sir," replied Barakat. His tank started to follow Kaya's.
"Lieutenant Talhouni, you and two tanks wait there. I will take the other two tanks east to neutralize the west-bound column. We'll be back soon."
* * * * *
"One more block, Tara. Okay, turn left. Oh, it's a perfect setup. Park as close as you can behind that kiosk that looks like it's ready to fall apart," said Kaya. "Kayhan, load a sabot round. We are going to shoot tanks, so there's no point in wasting time."
"Up," said Moradi to confirm the loading.
Kaya had a flashback to the woman he tried to get to know in Amman. He was trying to explain what he did for a living. She asked about the different types of tank rounds and he explained that a sabot round is a multi-piece projectile with fins for stabilization that fall off before impact and a center rod which transfer its energy via a smaller footprint than the complete round, thereby increasing the penetration. She slapped him and walked away because she thought he was referring to sex.
"I think I hear them now. Tara, I'm going to let them both pass as the captain said, and then we'll come in behind them. There's the first one. And. There's the second one. Go, Tara, get in behind them," urged Kaya.
Just as Kaya's tank made it onto the street and turned north, Barakat's tank fired a sabot round, hitting the lead tank in the left track. It immediately came to a halt, but its commander saw its adversary and ordered their turret to rotate left to take a shot.
"Gunner, eleven o'clock, tank!" ordered Kaya.
"Identified!" said Kendes after rotating the turret slightly to the left.
"Fire!" ordered Kaya.
"On the way!" said Kendes as he pulled the trigger sending a round to the rear of the tank which was almost in position to take a shot at Barakat's tank.
The T-72 exploded, sending the rear of the tank halfway to Kaya's tank.
"Loader, sabot!" Kaya ordered, but Moradi had anticipated the call and already had a sabot round loaded.
"Up!" quickly said Moradi to confirm the loading.
"Gunner, one o'clock, tank!" ordered Kaya.
"Identified!" said Kendes after the turret rotated slightly to the right.
"Fire!" ordered Kaya.
"On the way!" said Kendes as he pulled the trigger sending a round to the rear of the second tank, the turret of which had already started turning to the rear.
Their round hit a split second before a sabot round from Barakat's tank struck the middle of the T-72, with it exploding in all directions.
"Driver, stop!" ordered Kaya because they were about to run into the debris from the first tank explosion.
"Cease fire," ordered Kaya.
Kaya got on the radio. "Hikmet, don't shoot us when we go back the way we came. Both T-72s are destroyed. Time to return to Hornets."
* * * * *
"I'm tired of chasing vehicles. We're going to let vehicles come to us now. We're going to park on the western edge of the square, three abreast in a row. Wait until I fire, which will come after I see enough vehicles to destroy. Then we'll blast them with heat rounds," ordered Munif. "We'll all concentrate on specific vehicles at first, but I think we'll quickly have too much smoke to identify specific targets. At that point just estimate where a shot would do some damage and shoot. We won't stay long, maybe ten shots each. I want to disable this column so we can rejoin Hornets and get out of this town. If you see individual soldiers, switch to machine guns, especially since we have no infantry to back us up. Let's move out!"
The other two tanks followed Munif to the western entrance to the square where they parked in a row a few meters apart. Munif parked in the middle of the row.
"Loader, heat!" ordered Munif.
"Up!" said Suheimat.
"Gunner, twelve o'clock, truck!" Munif ordered.
"Identified!" said Raimouny.
"Fire!" ordered Munif.
"On the way!" said Raimouny.
All of the tanks commenced firing in a cacophony of death and destruction.
"Cease fire!" ordered Munif to his crew.
"Hmm, there's a lot more smoke than I anticipated," Munif mused to himself. He poked his head up and looked all around his tank, to the south, west, and north, to verify that no Daesh fighters were approaching.
"Gunner, machine gun, traverse eleven o'clock to one o'clock, troops hidden in the smoke!" ordered Munif.
"Identified!" said Raimouny, though he actually did not see any troops, but he was not going to disobey his commanding officer.
"Fire!" ordered Munif.
"On the way!" said Raimouny as he pressed the trigger for the machine gun, sending 7.62 mm bullets into the dust-filled maelstrom.
"Lucky guess!" exclaimed Munif as fighters appeared out of the cloud and fell a few meters in front of the tanks, some missing limbs with blood spurting out of the fresh amputations.
He let Raimouny shoot for a minute and then got on the radio to the other tanks: "Okay, shoot the round you have in the chamber and then order cease fire."
Two blasts ensued. "Cease fire!" ordered Munif to his crew.
"Driver, back, reverse, and move out. Let's rejoin Hornets," instructed Munif. He got on the radio: "We're done here. Follow me back to Hornets, first left tank, then right."
One by one the three tanks left the carnage and rolled to the west to join the others.
"Hornets, start moving and we'll catch up and cover your six," said Munif. "Lieutenant Talhouni, lead the column, have Sergeant Kaya follow you, and then two more tanks. Have Sergeant Barakat take the rear until we catch up."
"Yes, Captain," answered Talhouni.
* * * * *
Kasmirsky and Radaideh were walking away from their A-10s after landing at Prince Hassan Air Base.
"You did well for the most part, but when we raked the armored column you froze and just held your finger on the cannon trigger. And you ran out of shells before you ran out of targets. I realize you were being shot at, but that's why we're here. You have to be able to ignore the outside and concentrate on the task at hand," chided Kasmirsky. "We were lucky that the good guys were able to clean up our mess, but you won't always be so lucky."
"I know I screwed up. I will be much better next time," said Radaideh.
"I know you will," replied Kasmirsky. "Now let's get some chow. I wonder if they have any cupcakes."
* * * * *
As the convoy rolled on, an occasional blast from one of the many vehicle machine guns could be heard, eliminating someone pointing a weapon at the column.
Evdal was sitting in the forward-most passenger seats, along with her cousin, just behind the commander's seat and just in front of the gunner's seat.
"Do you mind if I switch seats with the gunner for a while? I've been trained in these vehicles and know how to use the machine guns," asked Evdal.
"Sure, why not?" answered McCormick. "Firat, take a break for a while."
"No problemo," answered Adab, proving that he had seen too many American movies. He climbed out of the gunner station.
Evdal climbed into the seat and slowly placed her hands on the controls. She expertly used the trigger, never firing more than a few rounds at a time to prevent the barrel from overheating. But unlike every other gunner in the convoy, she kept firing short bursts, over and over again, aiming at every bearded man holding any type of weapon.
McCormick looked at her cousin, Aloyan, who just sadly shook her head. Evdal kept firing even as the tears rolled down her face.
The sound of Evdal's firing the machine gun wasn't quite the same as Orpheus playing his lyre to drown out the sound of the Sirens attempting to lure Jason and the Argonauts into wrecking their ship on the rocks near the island where the Sirens lived, but nonetheless the sound continued until the column was out of Daesh territory.
* * * * *
Everyone climbed out of the vehicles as soon as the convoy neared the airfield in Rmaylan, Syria, in Kurdish territory. They were hot, sweaty, thirsty, hungry, and generally tired of sitting in cramped vehicles.
"I have been to Jordan and saw the enormous refugee camps," exclaimed Maudet. "How many people have fled to your country?"
"My country has absorbed over 1.4 million Syrian refugees. Jordan is overwhelmed, to be honest. We closed the border with Syria in April. The majority of the refugees are woman and children. We separate Palestinians from the others because there is a much greater chance of trouble with them. We only allow them to return to the country from which they arrived," answered Munif.
"Wow, it's like Europe after WWII with the many displaced persons," said Maudet.
"As you can imagine, both my country and the UN Refugee Agency are very busy. We might have the worst of it, but refugees are a problem in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey, though Iraq said that it cannot handle Syrian refugees and Turkey plays games due to its private war with the Kurds which has gone on for decades," added Munif. "Many Syrian Armenians have moved to Armenia, the land their ancestors left because of the Ottoman genocides of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Syria used to be a place where Christian Assyrians and Armenians, Muslims, and difficult to categorize people such as Yazidis and Druze, even Zoroastrians, lived in relative peace, but now Daesh kills or enslaves all those who do not subscribe to their intolerant world view."
"Clément, excuse me," Amar interrupted, "It's Jacob on the phone." Amar handed him the phone.
"Jacob, I think we can call this an unqualified success," said Maudet. "We rescued thirty girls and even kept the Ottomans out of it."
"Congratulations, Clément, I agree. And this raid was much better than paying Daesh to free slave girls because then they'd just use the money for more violence," said Bernstein.
Maudet continued his conversation as Hardy and McCormick walked by.
"I think I'm going to reenlist in the Marines. Care to join me?" asked Hardy. "This mercenary stuff is fun, but I think I need to start working on my pension again."
McCormick just laughed.
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