That day the unit knuckled down and continued mapping the patterns of the city in fine detail. Like the previous two days back on top of the apartment building it was quiet but while watching the small airport a mile to our south I spotted the opportunity I had been looking for.
“Junior, come here.”
“Setup here beside me and take a look at the airport out there.”
“See the hanger at the west end of the runway?”
“And see next to it there’s a brick building?”
“I’ve been watching this place all morning and that’s where the fuel truck is housed.”
“I’m sending Longshot and Big Brin out tonight to find us some river transport, but when the time comes to leave tomorrow we’re gonna need a distraction. You read me?”
“I’m all over it. Can I take Murphy with me for backup, Sir?”
“You’re a good man Junior. You can take whoever you need.”
“I can put a delay on the fuse but it won’t be more than a few minutes. We’ll be doing well if we get half way back before it goes off.”
“I know, that’s why I’m gonna setup cover posts between here and there to cover your retreat. As you fall back the posts will roll back with you until you get to just down there,” I said, pointing down to an open space near the river.
“Once you get to the last covering post the rest of us will dash to you as the boats rendezvous with all of us, then we’ll all get the hell out of dodge.”
“Are Pretty Boy& Co. back up top yet?”
“Good, go get your gear ready for the airport job and send Toddy and Al over to me.”
“Take a pew, gentlemen,” I began “Tomorrow night I’ll be sending Junior and Murphy out to sabotage the fuel truck at the airport for a distraction while we exfiltration via Syr Darya and I need two volunteers to sit in covering posts between here and there.”
“You can count on us, Sir” said Al as Toddy nodded in agreement.
“Thank you, Gentlemen. I want one of you at five hundred yards out and the other at a thousand. As our saboteurs fall back I want you to fold in with them and make it to over there. See, the clearing half way between the fencing and the river there?”
“It’s gonna be tight and we’ll only get one shot at this. If anyone spots our guys you’re to shoot to kill. No exceptions. Understood?”
“Sir. Yes, Sir!”
“Good. Longshot and Big Brin will be bringing up transport and the rest of us will move to the clearing once the all four of you are on the move. Obviously this means you won’t have any cover fire once the four of you are moving together.”
“It’s a standard operation. You’re done this in training many times and I have absolute faith in you both. Just watch your area and don’t get caught. Any questions?
“Thank you, Gentlemen. Go get you gear ready.”
And so I waited, watching the sun arch across the sky and taking what sleep I could manage in the usual disgusting heat. A mixture of anticipation and concern for my men clung to me, but I’d learned to use it long ago. If I was to be kept awake by my subconscious then I’d use the time I had well and examine every detail I could imagine. Over and over I replayed the four manoeuvres that needed to roll together to get us out of Kyzylorda. I studied each rooftop between the hospital and the airport with Al, Toddy, Junior and Murphy, discussing routes. Then I assigned shooters to give cover fire from the hospital roof. I checked with Longshot and Big Brin about contingency locations for collecting us. I lived and relived the following night’s operation until at last I fell asleep.
“Sir. You up, Sir?”
“I’m up” I croaked.
“Sir. It’s nineteen hundred, Sir.”
Grabbing a bottle of water I sat up but Kegs didn’t return to what he was doing.
“What can I do for you Kegs?”
“Sir, I want to go out with Longshot and Big Brin tonight. I can’t take the waiting around. Can I tag along?”
“It’s a two man operation, Soldier. I’m sorry, but I’ve filled those two slots.”
“Sir, how do you stay so calm? I mean, you can sit back and keep your cool but I feel ready to explode some nights when we’re waiting to start an operation.”
“I see. It might surprise you to know I’m not calm at all. I can barely sleep. My trick is focusing what energies I have on what’s at hand and grab what rest my body lets me get.”
“All day while everyone but us has been resting off watch, I’ve been preparing. I’ve used every second I had at my disposal until my body decided it was time for some sleep. So don’t ever think you’re alone in feeling restless. We’re all on tenterhooks.”
“I know how you feel, Solider. Just stay focused and remember to get your head down where and when you can. Once we move out it’ll be a mad dash for the river and it could be under fire. I need you in top condition.”
“Sir. Yes, Sir.”
“Go on, get your rest. Longshot and Big Brin are moving out around midnight and if you want to watch then you’re more than welcome.”
“I know it’s frustrating, Kegs. Believe me I know! I’ll call you at midnight?”
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey