On Tidying Up. Another Blog For Another Purpose.

Actions and Consequences

I recently joined a Writing Challenge which has been a rewarding experience on many levels. One of the topics which cropped up in responses / replies was avoiding falling into the trap of being ‘Preachy’ and spoiling a narrative; the possibility of your political or social views getting in the way of the plot and character development.

With this in mind it occurred to me it may be constructive to keep, this my original blog for the subjects associated with Writing and Whimsies, with the occasional side-swipe at WP and WORD. In consequence since I cannot keep my political mouth still to set up a quite separate blog for those subjects.

So in spite of WP, not because of it I do believe a suitable one has been constructed. Its spareness intentional.

My hope is not for this new blog to be an arena for my preferential views alone. Over recent years I have taken an interest in International Relations theories in particular the ‘Realist’ school, therefore there should be something of a detached analysis of how things are the way they are and also how they might go. The underlining theme will be the using of Historical Lessons and Examples.

Of course the site will be experimental and which direction it will go is something not to be predicted. Hopefully many subjects in a very broad arena will be covered. There will not be an aim to be inflammatory or suggest ‘this’ is the correct way. However it would be disingenuous to say these posts might not disturb, maybe challenge some conventional perceptions, on occasions sound bleak and others peculiarly optimistic, in a sardonic way.

The initial post will cover the first use of Nuclear Weaponry upon Japan. A subject redolent with opinions and beliefs. One which in its demonstration of Humanity’s ability to kill many, swiftly, caused a social shock wave which still resonates down the decades making it almost an article of faith that you cannot not have an opinion. I will not intend to justify, I will not intend to dismiss those who are still angered by its use. The intention will be to use this event as an illustration of one of Humanity’s Marches to a fearful outcome, mostly because of the near inevitability caused by a herding surround of circumstances.

The reader will be left to reach their own judgement.

A link:

A Question of Inevitability?

We Did Not Want To Be Here. And Yet We Are

War

A continuation of…

As Legions Before Us. We Will Be Tested

This not grandstanding; nor doomsaying; nor least of all a rallying call. We are moving past all of that. We are in the place where Reality is demanding our choices. This is how it is. You are being drawn to those choices, you will be asked to judge which paths.  For there are two human emotive tectonic plates grinding together and at some stage one will flip over the other, and there will be the quake. Those are National Domestic Pressures and The War  In Ukraine. Both remorseless, unavoidable, most of the elemental forces out of your control. Your reaction though will still be yours, along with tens of millions of others, each drop, each flake with its own weight and influence. Prepare yourself. And do not look for advice or guidance here I would not presume such arrogance.

The world is still dealing with a pandemic, the, medical, social and financial costs. Nations are facing domestic political upheavals in one form or another. The two closest to my heart being The Fracturing of Consensus in the USA and Brexit in my own UK. While now we have on the European Continent a full scale conventional conflict between two nations; The War that has been on hold since the Nuclear Sword of Damocles arrived. Both nations are locked in. One for survival, the other for a complex mix of motivations, some traditional, others recent. Both have invested great amounts of blood and treasure. One has massive resources, the other is in receipt of a steady stream of support. With each passing day, each shock of more death and misery. While in our own nations the domestic world goes on; at times you could be forgiven for briefly not thinking about Ukraine. But it will not go away.

War on the doorstep, be that literal, continental or geo-political in scope. War in one of its uglier industrial scales. No fast sweep of motorised columns; a hard version of commuter traffic, while folk stand gawping, some shaking fists, and then in a few days, it’s all over. ‘How shocking. I hope our government protests,’ you would have thought. Not this time, this was one militaries prepare for; well to begin with not so much The Russians. This was the grand demonstration to a horrified public what happens when the invaded supplied with latest weapons, trained for this happening, take a stand. The attacker very rarely gives out with a collective ‘Whoops’ and pulls back. Instead they revert using whatever they have in their locker, irrespective of the structural damage. While their troops on the ground, weary, low of morale, confused and angry take out their fear on the civilians. And there are the brutal mercenaries, bringing resonances of the WWII German SS police battalions .

Even so, after a while a certain adjustment can take place, what was in your mind, grabbing all of your attention, slips into the background. Back to the Domestic. Home news pushes to the fore, again. Ukraine: you’ve done all you can, you think; price rises, job security, polemical domestic politicians, they cannot be avoided.

However this war will not go away. The scenarios in which NATO is involved begin to take credible shape. Are you prepared for those? Are you ready to support such a step? Or would you judge it is best for all if the war is let to run down and Ukraine accept it has Fought the Good Fight, but must accept some compromise with Russia? Would you then hope the cost in men, material and economic damage would cause the downfall of the present Kremlin Court, then fences can be repaired, slowly and to salve our consciences money is poured into the surviving parts of the Ukraine. Money? Where from? Our own economies are suffering. National Debt is high. Some economists must be having sleepless nights, more so those in the various Financial Branches of governments. There again as we steer around the circle, NATO being involved would bring its own heavy costs. Unavoidable, pick one.

Whatever path is taken there will be prices to be paid. Militarily, Economically, Politically, Ethically even (Remember, every Ukrainian victory or defiant stance comes with a price in Russian blood, we also are now locked into that one way or another. Remember those days when you thought killing of anyone was reprehensible, but you still do. Except the World doesn’t allow you that detachment)

To re-visit. With the coming of Covid the world changed, though we got off lucky; a different strain could have brought an unmanageable death rate. But we are learning to live with it; just have to stop playing politics and silly conspiracy role-play games . A war in Europe involving Russia vs The West. Now that is no so easy to walk through; if it stopped tomorrow, all arms laid down the resonances would continue for at least the rest of the decade. How long before Russia and Russian stops being associated with brutality?

So far I have used the ‘?’ symbol six times. Could have been more. Strategies still developing in The West and Blindness to Consequences in the Kremlin. We are on a road in a fog, approaching something more than a crossroads.

You and I. We in our places. And we wonder or we resolve. If we take the latter  will we stay the course? (Seven ‘?’s and counting). When we look back all the other stances we took, seemed to have elements of simplicity. ‘We shouldn’t have gone there’; ‘We shouldn’t have got involved’ ‘We shouldn’t be doing this/that’. ‘We should be’; ‘We should be’…. Now, in these early months of 2022, ‘We should be doing…What?’ Your choice of Statement. (Eight ‘?’s and counting).

I did not bring in other issues, such as the catastrophic drought in the Horn of Africa, or the likely famine in Northern Africa due to the disruption of grain supplies from Ukraine & Russia, or…..

On reflection I was likely wrong to use the road, crossroads analogy.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say ‘Make your accommodations, or sketch out your own forecast so you may navigate through the storms ahead,’. Perhaps? (Nine ‘?’s and counting).

As Legions Before Us. We Will Be Tested

Child victim of War

Foreword: Two previous attempts at this post binned; five days of rehearsing paragraphs in my head before they made it to the page, and I still don’t know if  it is even close to the original intention. The drive would not let me rest though. Bear with me. Encapsulating these aspects of The Human Condition were never destined to be easy.

Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, then Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Northern Mozambique, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Niger (to name but seven of the approximately twenty plus conflicts in Africa), Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, (blink and you might miss those two) and now a war in Ukraine which is coming into its eighth year when shorn of the curtain of a fight for independence by minorities was elevated to one which cannot be avoided. These are the sometime headline ones; not the ones packaged into small items on the brutally repressive regimes and the bloody conflicts between communities or criminal gangs.

Ukraine. If we are starkly honest with ourselves, and this is a time to be so, this one takes hold of us by the heart and mind, because those folk and their towns look so very similar to our own. And in the next sentences I walk a literary minefield. Do we notice more because of the colour of their skins. Yes? For the simple reason that familiarity brings a greater degree of emotion. Deep inside lurks the feeling with a myriad of deeper causes ‘That could be me. Us,’  You can’t stop it. No more than someone native to any of the nations above would bitterly think ‘Welcome to our world. You, of The First World,’ Human nature: You might be blessed enough to have the gift of Thinking Before Speaking; dare anyone here claim they have the gift of Perception Before Feeling? You will have to accept, I don’t believe you. No person has that sort of Objectivity. The Invasion of Ukraine, an industrial powered, visceral, savage, unavoidable, twenty-four seven media reminder what has been going on non-stop somewhere, sometime, somehow. For some folk who follow the world news, maybe the last straw. If anyone out there and has been weeping, threshing, howling, shutting down their TV or laptop save for rom-coms, sports feeds, domestic themed shows, or wildlife documentaries….I for one don’t blame you. Just come back to us some time.

And of course there are those issues on your doorstep. Pandemic, voter suppression, job security, rising prices, civil rights, domestic and civic violence, environmental concerns; those for examples. We agonise and rage over what is happening in Ukraine, but we worry about doorstep issues. We even might taste fear over one or more of them, dread them starting to link up, like a series of small forest fires merging into one vast wall of speeding immolation.

A short while back, I wrote about the importance of Hope. A plea to not to give way to despair. In all honesty an easier work to write. This is about the application of Hope. … Firstly we can all Hope, and we can all believe we will sustain the intention in a good way. Until our own Reality comes in; the inescapable truth of a War in The First World. Not just in the fierce imposition of the media, or the stream of consciousness interchanges between others. It comes creeping up on us. Sometimes swirling about us when we planned on going to sleep, or maybe dragging us out of a restless half-place, or maybe hovering there while we go about our daily chores, worse intruding upon our leisure time asking ‘Should you be….’  

You will be tested. I cannot predict how, where or when. I can tell you those myriad of emotions you are feeling are part of rehearsal. Steady yourself for a journey into a Batman’s Gotham City grotesque warping of Doctor Suess’ ‘Oh The Places You’ll Go’. You could already be finding you are wishing one man dead, perhaps joyfully celebrating resistance and shrugging at the sight of dead Russian soldiers, bitterly seeing those in your country who are ‘soft’ on Russia as not just wrong or nuisances but traitors and possibly paid by Moscow. Be prepared to be feeling emotions beyond anger, to find callousness has become part of your prism. You will be drawn in. Conflict and War are most adept at justifying; the shock being you will believe, In This Case, it was right to embrace them. If you ever thought you were angry over something outside of your own personal life, now you are stepping up (or down-depends on your viewpoint) a piece. Beware how you tread; an emotional solution the Ukraine could became your template for problems at home. You might well feel fatigue at some stage, taking comfort when the news slips down the ratings…’Can’t be so bad anymore?’ Really?

Those words disturb you? Do you feel I have stepped too far into incitement, a tabloid rabble-rouser, safe in his age and home? Are you, instead nodding your head and invoking battle criesIf You Want Peace Prepare For War’, ‘Democracies Don’t Start Wars. We Finish Them,’ ‘Justifiable War. It’s In The Bible’ (it’s not actually -Augustine of Hippo might have been the first to write on the subject). Or are you shaking your head and thinking What is he on about? I don’t understand where he is going with this?’. Perhaps you are there gnawing on your lips and saying ‘Well. Yes. But there has to be a better way. There must be. Surely we can’t keep on killing. Can we?’. There we are then. You, me, others; drawn into in a confused internal conflict where principals, ethics we are told about and the ever raw emotions collide, maybe merging in pairs or a trio only to fly apart like some of the more exquisite subatomic particles, or remain in constant antagonism. Whichever; they will plague us with a constant restlessness, even if that be only a far off rumbling of someone else’s storm.

You might cryTested? I did not sign up for this!’ Well sorry soldier, The Human World’s dynamics has the monopoly on this particular conscription, switch on some communication,  step, outside the door. Yep. You’re drafted. Even trying to be detached is some kind of statement. Your only other option is Hermitage while trying to avoid the Media finding out about you and placing you in today’s circus side-show.   

Regrettably there are no test-papers, no Yes/No/Maybe forms to fill in or on-line courses for you to tackle to see if you have passed as an In-Tune Human. (We don’t count social media for this circumstance, there are too many opportunities for pollution by those who wouldn’t even qualify for consideration to try the test; they come from Right, Left and up underneath). Thus you justifiably ask ‘You are telling me an awful lot of grim stuff. Is that all you are dealing in this time. Some Old Testament prophet re-enactments?’ 

Well, maybe. Or look at it this way. This is a journey. The weather is unsettled, make sure you carry an umbrella, a hat, and a shower proof jacket in a back-pack. Ones woven with judgement, perception and reflection. Unsettled weather. Best carry a bottle of cool reason ease the parched feeling brought on by the sudden heatwave of anger. Take opportunities to find yourself some shelter to get out of the extremes; wait for the breaks, indulge yourself in the respite. If you can grasp a short span of calm and understanding, a wish to be charitable or helpful in some positive and constructive way, thus you are coping, you are not destroying. ‘So far so good’; ‘I could have done worse’ ;’I’ll know better next time’  Maybe not the most positive of statements or evaluations, but, in testing times perpetual excellence leads to burn out, or worse Arrogance – the doorway to…..too many bad choices.

To conclude The Testing will not end in the foreseeable future. Your continued, dogged, sanguine efforts to help the victims and stand against oppression mixed with the realisation we are all fated to stumble at times, not living up to expectations; these will be part of the way upwards and outwards. Surviving and then washing away this latest deluge of the dross of Ignorance and Aggression.

Take care of yourselves folks. You are a precious resource.

Today It Is Ukraine. Yesterday It Was Elsewhere. Tomorrow? This Never Rests.

Where do we begin? How do we explain?

24th February 2022. Another Date To Remember….So many events, actions and commentaries since the day Putin and his court decided to take the next step in their endeavours to bring The Ukraine back under Kremlin control. The avalanche into the medias has been such that I literally had to check the start date. It was as if Time measured in days had ceased to be a relevant method of recording, all that counted was The Narrative, every daily action is affected by The Narrative, even Sunrise and Sunset are but part of the backdrop. So many folk are asking ‘How could this happen?’ Understandable.

Under the lens of the seemingly disturbing and dispassionate study of International Relations’ Realism theories what is happening in the Ukraine is predictable, almost inexorable. However this is not the arena to be bandying terms such as ‘Anarchic World System’, ‘Biopolarity’ or ‘Interests’. Their uses are better suited to academic discussions of less vivid times and not against the scenes of raw death and suffering.

As with most events, cases and mindsets in Europe and East of the Dnieper into Russia to focus on How We Got Here is a long road. In terms of Ukraine one which requires a journeying back centuries. To Kievan Rus of the 9th Century (No Vlad you got that wrong about it not being a nation), its disintegration in the 11th to 12th centuries and the subsequent seven centuries of empires, nations and tribes fighting for territory until by the 19th Century it became part of the Russian Empire. There is a pause. Then with the intense industrial wars of the 20th Century the whole complexity of nations, peoples and beliefs starts again. For nothing is simple in Europe / Russia; arguably a portion of land which in terms of area and populations has been a place of more conflicts than any other part of the world. Heritages, folk memories, ethnicities ,injustices often correct, and always very selective run deep. No coincidence the arms industries and sciences settled then proliferated here. Blame America of the World’s ills? Blame its parents.

None of this excuses Putin and his court. They had enough recent lessons to know this would not be a swift walk in. Finland 1939. Ukraine Nationalist Insurrection 1944 to…1955?. Afghanistan 1979 to 1989; a toxic baton taken over by the West in 2001 to 2021. Chechnya (a running sore, still)  The USA / UK’s hubristic invasions of Iraq 2003 to 2011. To name the more prominent ones. And those were ones with military costs (aside from the minor fracas over the 1980 Olympics). Another big power, deluded by its apparent military might falls into another quagmire, an old, old story they never bother to read. They don’t get to walk away from this one though. This is happening in The First World.

And suddenly Western Europe is flexing financial, political, social, cultural and commercial muscles. China is concerned and arguably the USA is running to catch up. Where did that surge of anger and resolve come from? Two decades of teeth grinding frustration at the rise of suspect money? Two decades of seeing Russia is quite as capable of dishing out even more than The USA can in terms of military ‘solutions’. Maybe all those decades of The Cold War and what could happen if it turned warm and those echoes of two world wars came crashing back? Take your pick; mix and match? Though this is harder to fight against Putin. You can blow up a tank, it’s not so easy to destroy a series of expulsions from an international community; you can try to threaten to invade everybody, but you can’t be everywhere at once.

Not that this is of much comfort for those huddled in a cold basement somewhere in Ukraine, short of food, water and maybe important medicines; children crying, walls and floors shaking; the sounds of war getting nearer. Not much help when you have been on the road for days and are in a situation where you are grateful for the least of shelters and supplies which only go from day to day, uncertain of where you family are, not knowing what will be left to return to. War was ever like this. There will never be a clean, swift, surgical war. They tear, they grind, they are careless as they thrash around once the first plan and initial ideas burn up in the consuming destruction and counter destruction. What is happening in Ukraine is bad, it is unthinkable!… No. Think again. You know war did not stop with 1945, but was not just limited to those which made the nightly news. To a villager in some far away third world location to destruction visited by local security forces, militia or self-styled resistance groups, the horror and the suffering are the same. If you are distressed by one, then you should be equally distressed by them all. Selective outrage just does not cut it for the innocent. Ukraine is on TV, it is an example written in burning letters twenty stories high, laced with the choking tang that comes with the conflagration, the fuel of which you are advised not look to deeply at; your imagination will suit.

You should feel anguish. You should donate aid as best you can. You should shout against this invasion. You should also give some of your wrath to those who try and justify naked aggression or worse divert attention because it suits their own blinkered views. There are folk out there on all sides of the political divides who by default have blood on their hands because they could, but did not react or claimed reaction was wrong. A crime just as bad, in the dead or weeping eyes of the innocent. You see nothing is simple, we are fortunate this very visible one in Ukraine seems so. There are some in small shadowed corners of the world where the lines are blurred and twisted.

So we watch and we wait. But we don’t get to switch channels or turn to the sports entertainment or fashion pages so easily. This is First World ‘Business’. It demands and sucks in the attention of all. But remember, if we in the rest of the First World do get out, without a Covid-like spread, there will be a First World nation to repair, while across this Globe, the same miseries and sufferings will continue.

Lamentation For Someone Who Had No Choice

He was not the first to die this century, west of the border of his Motherland in some scrub land or small town.

He was, however, the first to die on the 24th February 2022 and perhaps someone had told him his duty was to free a land from a Nazis clique in Kyiv.

Maybe he believed it.

Maybe he didn’t want to let his unit down, seem weak.

More likely he was scared of his sergeant and his captain, loud bullying men.

And anyway the only hope he had had was to do as ordered and keep sharp.

Hope ran out though.

He’ll on his way back home, hopefully soon.

For relatives and friends to surrender the pieces to Mother Earth.

He did not have the consolation of knowing he was fighting on.

A Mid-Winter’s Tale…Pt VIII

A Mid-Winter’s Tale

A Mid-Winter’s Tale…Pt II

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt III

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt IV

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt V

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt VI

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt VII

 

A extra chill in the air, brought on by the cutting wind driving added discomfort in the form of a heavy drizzle. Of course he had known worse, though in those cases the circumstances had been familiar or at least understandable; there was a foe out there looking to harm you and you were willing to return the compliment. Not a village with an odd vibe, intelligence officers acting like local elders, and Her. He knew she was out there, there were types who got so absorbed in their work, that it became the only thing which made sense, and they became territorial about it, no one else could or should do it, so Command let them have their way until the odds played against them and worn out they made The Error. She wasn’t worn out though.

Despite the weather, or maybe because of her positioning the pungent odour of those smokes made her presence known. As he had expected she was signalling. Caution bred of experience would not allow him to look up, there was always that suspicion she was playing a long complex game to lull him, into one killing shot, the one she’d decided to play, not her commanders. Veterans; you could never tell. He started the long, careful process of moving along his right flank, just like she was hefting her sniper rifle, waiting, patient. Slovosskian women snipers had a deadly patience, lying still for a day or more.

An hour later he came upon her settled in a hollow, one she’d no doubt deepened, and she had a covering of local dirt, chin resting on flattened hands, peering contentedly into the gloom. He could not resist, he picked up a pebble and sent it to land just in front of her face, causing the mound which she was to twitch, quick though to turn in his direction.

‘Sergeant,’ she said softly as if greeting an old friend ‘That was very good. I am so glad it was you. Anyone else would have been mortifying,’ and she rolled out, not, he noticed trusting to stand up. She wasn’t sure either.

‘It’s only me. I swear,’ he said, then with the air of someone addressing a member of their own squad ‘Corporal. What the hell are you doing?’

She eased into a crouch.

‘Waiting for you Sergeant. I had to get you out here, by bothering the other patrols. You would eventually arrive. We should talk,’ This said she sat on her haunches hands gripped about her knees, now there was something of the wide-eyed waif about her. That was disturbing. He closed to distance to rifle length and knelt facing her.

‘Have you?’ the words came slowly, because his thoughts were still forming, ones which had a sort of sense, if you embraced what folk who’d never been in War thought of as weirdness ‘Been protecting that village?’ as he spoke he questioned his own perceptions and judgements. Where had that notion come from? Meanwhile she was nodding vigorously.

‘Yes,’ came the firm reply ‘My commanders think I am only out here patrolling. No one ever comes with me,’ she tapped the side of her helmet, her face growing taut  ‘Good.  But too dangerous to be with. It is a good guise for a girl in an army of men,’ the expression brightened ‘I have been sneaking out rations, bringing them to the village for Gadeer, so she can get her strength back for the journey. I’ve convinced her she has to leave,’

‘You convinced her corporal?’

‘Very well,’ she replied buckling under his sceptical tone ‘I volunteered to be an escort out of here, aid the new family to travel to a safer place,’ her face tightened ‘Don’t ask. So you won’t have to make any big lies to your commanders. I’m just asking you to delay that’s all,’

‘Now. Corporal, you are asking a great deal of me. Firstly, are you deserting?’

‘Yes,’ came the defiant retort ‘This is one time too many to shrug off. I don’t care about the politics, like all good soldiers I don’t understand them. Thinking too hard interferes with my fighting ability. This time I just want to see one family get a chance. Did you know most of the young folk have left, with their children. The local folk know full well what’s going to happen. The net is tightening though, more of both our sides coming in, and those who want Gadeer and Eyad removed as symbolisms of an Opposition,’

‘That opposition? Do you know where it leads?’

‘Don’t care. I just don’t want to see another baby die. I can do something good for once. You understand, don’t you Sergeant? Otherwise you wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of meeting with me again. We could have caused a lot of trouble that past night, but we didn’t,’

‘I can’t argue with that Corporal,’ he said, in the act of agreement feeling relief of a burden taken from him. When do you leave?’

‘If I do not tell you, you won’t have to keep the information from anyone. That is only fair to you,’

‘Thank you for that Corporal,’ a question came out, naturally after the years in The Wilds ‘Can you trust those Security Officers?’

She stood brushing off some of the less stubborn dirt. One of those expressions you saw too often on those who went out too often, and he assumed others saw on his face.

‘As much as they trust me,’

Faigai heard, saw and tasted the entirety of his service in the span of the few breaths following her her reply. Life had now come sniping him with that ammunition which did not miss…memories. Supressing a crowd of other emotions he fixed her with the exasperated air any sergeant would lay upon a soldier.

‘Corporal. Even in the short time I have known you I have you fixed as a damn nuisance. I don’t know what you have up there in that head of yours, but it is certainly not common sense as to how armies work,’

He did not appreciate the sly grin that comment caused, fired by the minor insubordination he forged on.

‘If you don’t go back, your commanders might be glad to be rid of you, but they will not be content with losing a scout. A patrol will be sent out. If they head in our direction there will be tension, stand off and maybe shots exchanged and generals will not be happy. If they head towards the village with the notion the locals took you there will be unhappy consequences and the politicians and diplomats will not be happy. Worse than that I will be questioned and interrogated by several layers of command and our own intelligences services, the latter I will not like at all, and they will not like my attitude. Since your people will be conducting them, someone who will not have to do it will decide we need to send out aggressive patrols, and we are back to shots being exchanged, with that village in the middle. Do I make myself clear?’

‘Yes sergeant,’ she said a little meekly because he had been very eloquent and persuasive in her native language. ‘May I ask what you think is the best course of action?’

Faigai had been obliged to carry out many an action most folk would not call ‘normal’. This was because battlefields were not normal. Here however was one which call for action way above and beyond what even was acceptable on a battlefield. But, when you scanned, considered and evaluated in the light of all you had experienced and reckoned could go wrong what other choice was there?

 

The villagers had been warned and prepared. When the patrols arrived, happily at different times they were greeted respectfully by a man of late years, who although dressed in the villages’ garb bore himself with an air that the two sets of soldiers felt might be more than just a village elder. He handed each group a document, the men recognised the writing on the one in their language. There was a heading with a soldier’s name, rank and number and the statement ‘In conjunction with…’ followed by details which obviously belonged to someone of the opposition. 

‘I have, of my own freewill and judgement resigned my position with the armed forces. I can no longer conduct my duties to the required standard and have therefore taken it upon myself along with this comrade in arms to seek out more productive and useful employment of my skills and experience. This will be carried out with the intention of causing no harm to soldiers of either of our armies,’

And was signed.

The documents were puzzled over by each patrol who became a small crowd expressing words of disbelief and astonishment, though not very eloquently. Resigned? Who got to consider they could resign? The conversations continued all the way back to the respective lines where the statements were handed over to officers who once they had recovered from the shock passed this onto other officers and so forth. Under guidance from political staffs of each the relevant hapless liaison officer with a local and unwilling official visited the village. They were advised by the elder, yes, there had been two strangers seen prowling around the village outskirts, but had avoided contact. Yes, their presence had frightened folk particularly when they had finally come in together and thrust the documents to him. Indeed they had bartered for food then, thankfully had left. There was a very delicate conference between officers of both sides, it was decided for the best that it was to be assumed the pair had actually been meeting for a while and since were of opposite genders had formed a relationship and gone rogue, no doubt to try their hands at banditry. It was agreed this sort of thing could happen with those who had been out too long as individuals patrolling. Thus the reports went back that both had deserted (resigned indeed!) and were officially disgraced to be court martialled on being apprehended, which those who knew them thought very unlikely.

It was just as Banner Sergeant Faigai had anticipated. And would have given them and the family a few days start on any attempt to follow. He and Corporal Jagerin shared one question neither could answer.

Who had fired off that star shell, to fall right where they had been?  

 

 

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt VII

A Mid-Winter’s Tale

A Mid-Winter’s Tale…Pt II

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt III

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt IV

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt V

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt VI

‘There was someone out there My Major. I could tell they were sneaking around. Maybe it was luck that blinded them too. Who set off that damn star-shell?’

This Major was used to The Corporal’s mix of respectful address to him and general hostility to anyone she had not met personally but she held responsible for some discomfort to her efforts.

‘I was not informed Corporal,’ he replied still unable to rid himself of the feeling he was always reporting to her and not the other way around ‘It was probably The Mitches. Then you didn’t encounter any reinforced or aggressive reconnaissance?’

‘No My Major. I got as far as the outskirts of the village,’ she pointed idly to the map ‘Saw some shepherds doing shepherding. Whoever was out there was doing the same as I was, I suppose. Only locals in the village and most of those all huddled up for the night,’

The Major’s aide, a lieutenant recently from some layer of higher command, still bridled at her slouch and when they were not active, hands hooked by thumbs into pockets, but The Major told him, for his own sake, she was off-limits when it came to the niceties of military convention and discipline. There was a specific reason why she worked alone, the lieutenant did not know what that was, all he had learned was no one wanted to work with Corporal Jagerin, even if she was reasonably approachable around the battalion lines.

‘I will go out again this night My Major, if you so wish,’ she offered ‘See if I can find out who is out there,’

‘You can Corporal. You will not engage in exchange of fire. You will only defend yourself if close combat arises. Now get some rest,’

‘Yes My Major,’

When she had left the command post The Lieutenant dared speak.

‘My Major. If I may ask. A soldier given orders, not to return fire, even when their life is in danger?’ he hoped from appearing to be concerned for her, he might find out something else.

‘Corporal Jagerin will not allow the situation to arise Lieutenant,’

It was a disappointing reply.

Banner Sergeant Faigai was sitting in the battalion commissary, true the construction was a rudimentary thing of plastic and metal sheets into which were fitted two folding tables and six chairs whose association with comfort was distant. The place had a coffee making machine and five containers holding sandwiches and tins of things claimed as edible, all supervised by a thick set sergeant renowned for being unsympathetic but inventive when he was in the mood for concocting hot meals . In comparison with many places Fergai had served it was luxury, particularly after three days of reports, visiting Brigade Headquarters and briefing members of scout teams on his week’s worth of exploring these Wilds. He had kept his comments about the slovosskian to a bare minimum ‘Someone from The Other Side was out there’ as for the village; ‘it’s another village, like any other, hoping we leave them alone…and watch out for those shepherds, there’s carrying guns folk,’ He swirled the black liquid masking as coffee, wondering what Jagerin had been up to.

‘Flags,’ at the familiar voice using the informal term for his rank he sat up, turning to the man, a thin, rangy fellow who had served five years and did not usually wear a wide-eyed and furtive expression, nor sound urgent, nor move that quickly to sit next to him, leaning across the table like a recruit about to confess some minor infraction.

‘What’s the hell is wrong with you Orolig? You got to take some colonel’s fresh-faced lieutenant son out on night patrol with strict orders to make sure he comes back with clean undershorts?’

‘Flags,’ the man was agitated enough to ignore the old banter ‘You’ve been out there for a full week. Did anything freaky happen. Y’know the sort, ones that don’t fit in reports,’

Faigai stiffened, of course a patrol would be sent out eventually, and he would tell himself he was not the only one trusted to  go out into Neutral Wilds.

‘You urban boys. Walk out side of the city boundaries and any half acre of land with three or more bushes, a tree and five rocks is freaky,’ You had to start with banter, this time it was to draw out what had troubled another long-timer.

‘Give us time Cookie,’ Orolig said with deference to the man, who could to be fair make something edible from the inedible contents of various tins, he nodded and left to stand outside the door to block it. When scouts wanted to talk in private places were off-limits.

‘You not gonna believe this Flags. There was someone out there sniping us with small stones and pebbles. We’d got to the trail beneath the hill. There was a clink and Benz hisses out ‘My helmet. Someone bastard’s throwing stones,’ . Next thing I hear is Longshot saying the same thing. Then there was this giggle,’

‘You were sniped with stones by kids?’ Fergai was sounding he was sounding surprised, surprise was not the emotion, he was already ahead.

‘Not a kid’s voice. Lower, and like they’d been smoking too much. Then a stone clips my boot, right on the heel, another giggle. Night Owl swears he can see someone sloping off, but they stop, turn, wave and then gone, like they dropped into the earth. Lucky none of my guys panic and start shooting, we spread out to trying and keep track but they had gone. The stones though. It was a triangulating pattern. Point, Right Flank, then patrol command. Like they read us, knew we were not in true combat readiness,’

‘Did you get any prints, tracks?’

‘Oh yeah. Tracks. Bare feet. Who professionally works over a patrol with stones and giggles, goes about it in bare feet, then waves you off? There’s either someone out there trying to provoke us into shooting first, or has long gone. Still got their skills, but their mind is lost.  Tonight it could be slit throats. I tell you Flags I can’t figure how to report this without sounding like a fresh intake,’

Fergai had let the the man go one, it gave him time to formulate his reply.

‘Sounds like the one I encountered might be getting cute. Which since there’s no such thing as a cute slovosskian we could have BDD trooper who has indeed long gone; maybe their commanders have let them loose to cause a ruckus. Tell your team to keep it to themselves, unless they want to look fools. Just report in you established a single scout. You due to go out tonight?’

‘Fitch’s crew,’

‘OK. I’ll have a quiet word,’

 

The next dawn, Fitch a stocky phlegmatic fellow whose reports normally bore the words ‘Nothing’, ‘Light’ ‘There’s trouble’  or ‘You don’t want to go there without support,’ approached Faigai in a very irritable mood.

‘Somebody is fooling with us. Throwing stones and giggling. Kept dancing away. I think they are looking to provoke. If we weren’t on this Look But Don’t Shoot routine I would’ve given them a taste of triangulated fire back,’

‘That’s provoking Fitch,’ Faigai pointed out mildly ‘And giving away a position,’

‘It’d would have shoot an’ scoot Flags,’ it was a reasonable reply, if the fellow hadn’t sounded like a teenager being told to clean their room.

By then it was impossible to keep the gossip and rumours from seeping out and command concluding the seeming routine replies to be veterans trying to hide their frustration and embarrassment. Faigai said he would go out alone again, and make sure there were no damn start shells this time. He was assured, once more than no one on this side had fired off a start shell that night.

He could sense the tension, so tight you could play a strong tune on it; this would have to stop. He needed to grab hold the scruff of her neck and figure out if; This was some new BDD trick, or maybe she had long gone and was fooling with everyone….

Or gone local???

To be concluded….   

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt VI

A Mid-Winter’s Tale

A Mid-Winter’s Tale…Pt II

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt III

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt IV

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt V

‘We are expected only to bring this sort of information back and let others make of it what they will. Is that not so Sergeant?’

‘If those Security types had expected us to do that, they would not have told us. Might even have taken the risk to put an end to us here and now corporal,’

‘Yes. Instead they tell us, mere rifle carriers and grenade throwers about a movement to involving part security services to support the opposition they are supposed to be hunting down,’

‘Yeah, well with an idiot of a Popular President of The People who thinks he can play the FDR off against the SDR and the other way around, it’s a survival response. Better you control your narrative than have others start writing it for you. It would be a general signal to both sides. ‘You know we have a fool at the top. Let us deal with it. Don’t try and bring your own hirelings into the game,’ . It’s an old part of an older game,’

‘Why tell us though? They should have used the soft, slow lines which get set up once our armies move in,’

The pair sat, for once not feeling threatened in the locality, looking out into the night, towards an horizon which in due course would smear with light.

‘They probably have. But,’ he turned and gestured with his vape ‘Not about this one small detail, though. The last two known members of a prominent opposition group whose leader,’ Faigai thought about the right word.

‘The way that girl tells it, he sacrificed himself so they had time to flee with the most sensitive information. I would have thought it a hard task to place on your pregnant granddaughter until I spoke with her and her husband,’ for an instant her teeth caught the moonlight as she grinned ‘Dedicated and,’ the next word she drew as a blade ‘Sharp,’ followed by a brief laugh ‘She told me everything like a briefing and her just a mother. You would not think her inoffensive nervous looking young husband, was the master tactician of the group, the could put together demonstrations, media attention. The Carpenter,’

‘One of those old foxes mentioned him with some admiration,’

‘Someone approaches,’ she said without turning around. All the headiness of the earlier part of the night was gone from her.

‘It’s the security trio,’ he said, with a sigh ‘What are they about to shovel on us?’

As one the duo turned about to face uncertainty. The fellow who had talked to Faigai was obviously the spokesman, his comrades were wearing the blank expressions favoured by those who were not wishing to intimidate, just judge. Or maybe evaluate. On the whole life would have been simpler if he had not be so good at this job and just another rifle carrier, he would have seen less options.

‘What conclusions have you reached?’ the spokesman asked and was rewarded with two expressions of disbelief. Who asked soldiers, rifle carriers for their thoughts?

‘We have nothing to report,’ the corporal said, ill-tempered as she flicked the remains of the vape away. ‘There is a small village, which our commanders knew about already, and I, for one knew there was someone from the other side creeping around but could not see them,’

Cocked one eyebrow to the sergeant.

‘Not one thing of any importance,’ he said ‘Nothing to do with us. We have our own problems. Which I may add will be coming this way soon. You should tell your people to move away. It’s only a question of time before the shooting starts here. Am I right Corporal?’

‘Ideal place,’ was her bitter comment ‘Two brigade sized forces in a desolate place can have a sparing match. Only light casualties and some civilians of course,’ she studied the skyline ‘I should be returning. You do not want a patrol coming out here to look for,’ more bitterness, this time as a laugh ‘My body. Do you?’

The Banner Sergeant recognised the sudden arrival of weariness arriving on her. The tension of starting a patrol, the rush of relief at a truce, then the puzzlement at the locals’ actions, with a finality with the usual no clear answer. Yeah, you got so tired of it all and worse knowing what was to come upon folk who were just trying to make something out a mess they were part of, and also not part of. 

‘You should try and get them to move,’ he said as a parting comment to the elder men ‘Whatever plans you have won’t stop this village being shot at. Someone will decide we need to take it,’

He could feel that weariness coming now, and sloped off following the corporal.

 

They reached the place they had first met, each facing the way they should go, briefly back to the other.

‘Take care Sergeant,’ she said, shaking her head and dropping low to merge into the cover before moving off.

‘Try and stay sane,’ he whispered and set off in the other direction.

 

To be continued… 

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt V

A Mid-Winter’s Tale

A Mid-Winter’s Tale…Pt II

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt III

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt IV

 

‘Hello sir,’ Jagerin said, for want to anything other than the need to say something.

‘Ah Long Range Reconnaissance Unit 12,’ the man said to her, in her own tongue ‘We are honoured to be receiving your attention,’

Jagerin wrinkled her face in displeasure, it was bad enough being on the end of sardonic humour instead of delivering it, having your outfit identified although, considering the man’s badge was predictable, was still uncomfortable. Elites were not supposed to be so easily named. The man meanwhile went back to the Mitch. Good, he could deal with the fellow, she needed another smoke and time to think.

‘So Banner Sergeant, 5th Rapid Deployment Brigade. Are you authorised to explain the origins and rationale behind this unusual co-operation?’

‘The FDS is here to monitor the activities of and assist in forestalling any aggression by the SRD forces,’ he hoped the man was sharp enough to appreciate the monotoned official response was simply a way of getting out of giving a straight answer. He was relieved the fellow broke into a wry smile. Meanwhile the corporal was fidgeting again. Faigai shrugged at her.

‘I am going into the village,’ she said getting up ‘There is a mother and a new born baby who may need help,’ she tapped the pouch hanging from her belt ‘The BDD always come prepared,’

The two men watched her walk off, the local security officer sighed.

‘As well trained as BDD troopers of the their Long Range Reconnaissance Units are, I very much doubt if she has mid-wife skills. Still at this stage Propaganda and Hearts and Minds are the games to be played. I expect she will appear helpful and that is what matters,’

‘Sir.’ Faigai asked ‘I do not suppose you can tell me why this event is the concern of the local Security Services?’

‘Since neither of you are obviously stiff necked liaison officers but soldiers whose pasts are whereas not as murky as mine or my colleagues do not bear examination and your teaming appears to something caused by chance; that was a very good veiling you pair did along the road by the way, we missed you completely. The shepherds appraised us. Taking all those factors into account are you ready to have a long conversation? We have coffee. Your sort of course. Not our strong sort to be slowly sipped,’

Fergai’s experience of being out in The Wilds had taught him that initial civility was no bad tactic.

 

He looked upon his wife with love, pride and of course some concern, she was weary from the labour and yet she tenderly fed their child. Their beautiful child. How would he keep them both safe with the regime and now two hostile armies to contend with…. and the lack resources?

One of the women who had aided his wife through the delivery bustled back in, there had been some strong conversation going on outside, when it came to labour and birth men deferred to the women who care for and surrounded the mother. The woman, tough stocky and weathered gestured to the new entrant.

‘It’s alright,’ she said brusquely ‘Despite all appearances she is a woman and allowed in,’    

He knew enough to tell the difference between this darker green of the SDR slovosskian and the mottle of the FDS, and so greeted her in her own language.

‘May I ask your reason for being here?’ at this her unsure expression eased and she started to rummage into a small bag hanging from her belt, before stopping and looking about the candle lit room.

‘Is there water to wash my hands?’ she asked very politely, not the usual abrupt demand of those carrying weapons, in this case all manner of weapons it appeared. ‘I have some modest gifts but do not want to give them with these being filthy,’ she gestured a little embarrassed by the state of her hands.

‘There,’ he replied taken aback and pointed to a pot of still clean water, at which she glanced to his wife and babe then to the woman guarding the room solely by her presence, this done she knelt and at the pot and vigorously washed her face and hands. The village woman observed that free of dirt the girl looked quite presentable, if she wasn’t one of the interlopers she’d make a presentable bride, her hands certainly looked used to hard work.

Jagerin  returned to him, now confidently rummaging in the bag.

‘These,’ she said bringing out five small green packs ‘Are concentrates. Empty them into boiling water, stir,’ she started to make the movements ‘And they will make a nourishing soup, for your wife, replace some of the loss the effort of birth has taken out,’ she placed them into his hands ‘These,’ smaller blue backs with a white star on each ‘Are to ease pain. Place in cold water. Stir. Only one a day and only when the pain is very bad,’ she nodded for his understanding which he gave ‘And finally,’ three white packs ‘In here are wet wipes for cleaning and cooling the face,’ she glanced to the woman ‘And other part of the outside of the body,’ she made some brief, possibly immodest gestures, to which she received a matronly grunt of understanding. Jagerin had not felt so nervous since her basic training. The gifts seemed appreciated though.

‘Thank you,’ he said ‘Are all slovosskian soldiers so generous?’ catching on the hesitancy and despite of himself he grinned, then all attention was on his wife asking if she could see the visitor closer and speak with them.

 

‘I expect you will be wondering how to explain this to your officers. If you try and leave out the cop-operation with a slovosskian elite scout they more experienced of them will notice certain gaps not usual in a man of your experience,’ and enjoying some sort of private, not so jolly joke the man left him. 

Fergai prided himself in a small way of having some political knowledge, not so much of this land, yet; but of how things worked in the broad way. This situation should be one of those you reported straight back followed by the expected interrogation by the bright intense eager young folk the colder sharper of The Cloaks liked to send out to test the lands. You would probably have to accompany your interrogator out into The Wilds and try to keep them alive. ‘Should be one of those’ . Here there were twists though and he would have to consult. Consult? The full weight of his twenty-six years, eight in this gig, dropped on his shoulders; he was definitely getting too damn old for this sort of…

She was wearing the sort of overwhelmed expression universal amongst soldiers on receipt orders. Not the stupid sort which caused sourness or the very complex ones that left the ranks in a derisive ‘Yeah, like that’s going to go well’ mood. She’d been told, something he reckoned similar to him, when someone actually bothered to sit you down and give you the whole picture, one which despite all previous experiences might just work… 

‘You look as I feel,’ she said drawing alongside of him ‘We need to exchange information,’ there was a fumbling amongst the nest of pockets, followed by a soft swearing ‘You have any of those dainty sticks you Mitches like to call smokes,’

‘I’ve got some vapes. Clear as a stream, will flush out those tars you’ve been coating your throat and lungs with,’

‘Like inhaling kettle water. Still, they will do,’

Together, left alone they sat against a shed and smoked, looking to the clear bright moon for inspiration to start.

To be continued…    

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt IV

A Mid-Winter’s Tale

A Mid-Winter’s Tale…(Pt II)

A Mid-Winter’s Tale… Pt III

‘Small to Middle-sized village,’

‘With deference to your rank Sergeant, why do you Mitches have to be so precise?’

‘It’s the small details which keep you alive corporal,’

‘And being fretful over the unnecessary can get you distracted and thus killed. It’s a village,’

From the rise with the aid of binoculars the pair had studied the possible source of so much interest to travellers and locals alike. Aside from the occasional animal sounds usually the villages would be silent and mostly dark, folk at their beds. You could expect a few muted watch lights and some nocturnal comings and goings. Here with nearly every habitation illuminated and knots of people in communal discussion the pair agreed there were more noteworthy facts than scrapping over the official area designate of the neighbourhood. Corporal Jagerin concluded the particular part of the observation with a brief and humorous puff of breath.

‘Now I am pressed on small details. Most of the attention is going on around a small place, almost a barn,’

‘Perhaps those elders are in closed council discussing if the villagers should move before the fighting starts,’ as soon as he had made the suggestion Faigai was dissatisfied with it ‘Although why would they wait for visitors to make up their minds for them is another matter?’

‘Maybe local priests or similar,’ she scratched the back of her neck ‘When you live out in The Wilds or even just the farming lands you grow up accepting all sorts of conventions. You have to in order to get by. Poor folk, Life is hard enough without us,’ she gestured between them ‘Turning up,’

‘It could have been worse. We could have come in from opposite sides and started a fire-fight,’

She looked at him very thoughtfully, chewing on one lip.

‘Some maybe Sergeant,’ and shook her head ‘Not us, though. Not on this narkomanskiy night. Rogue star shells, old fellows out riding, shepherds quitting their flocks. Narkomanskiy,’ she repeated shaking her head again.

He had to admit she had a point, and maybe the freakiest part was the two of them acting as if they were on the same patrol with the same concern not for their own lines but a remote village and locals wandering across their paths. The situation had fixed them with an uncertainty, and he could not figure out the whys of it either. Something was nagging at their differing instincts born out of the experience of these nocturnal patrols.

‘It’s unusual,’ he concluded ‘We should look closer,’

And they made their way crawling down the slope and into welcoming cover which led to the trail into the village, the trail being guarded by four men, two of them the shepherds. Both soldiers kept their own opinion to themselves, one they shared. They could drop those four with barely any effort. Her hands shook at the fleeting thought, his stomach clenched. Neither dared look at the other for fear of somehow giving away a thought once a simple assessment now turning into a reminder of what they had become. The nerves had their say and Jergain whispered.

‘We will have to be careful. We don’t want to scare them off into shooting into the night,’

‘No. The sound would carry too far. Make our own think we had made hostile contact,’

A conversation which once would have been a laughable gallows-humour parody acted as a communal balm and the pair slipped into a settled observation, once more uncertain of themselves.

The sounds of conversations and unsettled animals were suddenly subsumed by a very loud scream scything into the night, at which Corporal Jagerin’s head would have shot up had not Banner Sergeant Faigai’s hand not stilled it.

‘Steady corporal,’ he warned ‘ I’ve never come across a helmet that was bullet proof at short range,’

‘Damn it Sergeant. Adjust your ears. That was the cry of a woman in labour. They’ve all gathered to witness a birth. An important event?’

He was struggling on how to respond to her question being a demand, bordering on an order form him to give his latest opinion in this tangled-up journey, when there came another sound, which still the murmurings in the village and caused the outpost of shepherds to turn.

A thin, but persistent cry of basic protest.

‘Birth,’ Jagerin’s certainty had her wriggling into a low crouch and fumbling into another of those pockets, one hand holding something, with the other she flipped a small stone a short distance. Before Faigai could reprimand her for this act of blasphemous giving away a position taking advantage of the light from the village, still tucked down she was waving one hand as the guards turned, only to turn the gesture into an index finger gesture of ‘wait’. What followed was something he could only describe as the dexterity of a puppet show without the characters as with only her hands raised and visible she tied a packet to a stick and threw it out. Slumping back down once more she pressed a finger to her lips.

‘What in hell?’ he nonetheless hissed at her, and was gifted with a blank face, until from the night came a local voice with possibly as much irritation as his but with a layer of bemusement, at least she seemed to find the challenge funny. ‘Corporal. You might enlighten me since you have picked up some of the local’s language,’

‘They said,’ she failed to stifle a snigger ‘Come out little sore arse,’

‘What?’

‘The name those shepherds gave me, when I made up the incident with thistles,’ she said, scrambling over the cover and walking out rifle slung again and hands raised, while whistling some tune of a jaunty celebratory air. He told himself the whole event was no more different than those times when filled with the fury of battle you simply charged the opposition, certain you could take the place, all rational thinking gone. Satisfied he had made the skewed sort of sense which only existed in places of conflict he slowly made himself visible, also with weapon slung and hands raised.

Not expecting for Corporal Jagerin to take off her helmet and shake loose shoulder length dark hair, while continuing to walk towards the group of men. Whatever expression the girl had chosen it had frozen the men’s collective response into one of surprise. Two more steps and she jerked back a thumb over her shoulder to him, stopped and sat down on a stone looking up at the group.

Not too sure whether she was a sharp reader of situations or simply prone to bouts of craziness he strode forward narrowing the distance to the group, two of whom were fidgeting with their guns, stopped by a loud click of the corporal’s tongue her index finger wagging slowly back and forth, her free hand resting on her still slung rifle. Fixing the men with a hopeless expression he nodded to her tapping the side of his head. This seemed to satisfy them as one said something to another who sped off to the village whose inhabitants’ voices were now drowning out some of the new arrival’s protests. Faigai meanwhile scowled down at Corporal Jagerin who was now wearing a faint smile and a wide-eyed look.

‘I would suggest Sergeant, they’ll be getting one of those elderly riders,’

‘You were chosen you to go out on single patrols because no one would work with you. Am I right?’

‘I am only required to give you my name, rank and military number,’ she replied ‘You should know that,’

He told himself he shouldn’t be that angry, everyone who spent too long out in The Wilds was prone to crazy spells. The hell of it was, she was right. Her performance had broken the ice. Of course it made a another piece of skewed sense. In this conservative land a skimpy girl soldier would defer to a tall well-built man, to them obviously her officer, she simply being the expendable one who sniffed the ground ahead. She’d effectively promoted him from Banner Sergeant to Officer on a liaison mission. Maybe she was actually from her own army’s military security the VRN and he was being played. What for, he would have to wait and see. Meanwhile she lit another of those foul smokes, sitting patient only like slovosskians could do.

He didn’t have to wait long, one of those elderly men was accompanying the villager and moving at a spry pace, attention on Fergai, giving him the feeling he was being reconned in detail.

‘Not a word,’ he warned the corporal.

‘Of course not sergeant,’ she replied with a sincerity so heavy it could only be mockery.

‘Banner Sergeant,’ the elder man said in Fergai’s native Brittonic and not so heavily accentuated as the corporal’s version ‘May I be of assistance to you?’

Fergai was about to open with a general civic address to anyone of some station when his attention was drawn to the man’s upheld palm, the frost of the clear night lending a sheen to the inlaid metal of the badge.

Now there was a badge of a security and intelligence outfit.

The local nation’s own Security police.

Jegerin’s eyes were of saucer dimensions and the cigarette dropped out of her open mouth, causing her to jerk one leg away from its descent.

After her recent antics Fergai was sorry he could not take some enjoyment from her surprise

To be continued…..