Monday, 29th May 2023 - 16:04:27 pm

Kincaid prepared for his next move. He replaced the clip in the Beretta, reserving the partially used magazine for emergencies. The still smoldering cigarette had told him that the main patrol was not far ahead of him. The first probe, the one that had alerted him by silencing the locusts, had probably been a single scout.

He put the pistol back into its snug holster under his left armpit.

The signs on the bank had told him that the hostile patrol had all climbed up at the same place.

He took two frag grenades from the pouch on his belt and placed them up on the bank, over his head. Slipping the safety off the assault rifle, he reached up and laid it beside the grenades.

He took one last look up and down the creek before lifting himself up the bank, using footholds that the ones ahead of him had established. Once on top, Kincaid crouched low, checking the situation as he recovered his weapons.

The recently dead Revolutionary Guard had told the truth one time, anyway. There were six men crawling through the tall grass. All the trails though the bent grass radiated from Kincaid's position so all six were clearly visible. They had separated, but not nearly far enough.

Kincaid stood up and looked for activity in the camp. Some of Ahmed's men were up and around. Ahmed himself came out of the tent he had shared with Yasin. Kincaid knew he didn't have much time. Some of the men in the camp would soon be strolling out into the grass, as men everywhere would do on rising.

Kincaid started forward just as one of the Kurds in the camp started in his direction. The Kurd happened to look up and see him before he had gone too far. Kincaid waved him back. The man stared blankly at him, having no idea what was happening.

The Revolutionary Guards were keeping their heads low in the grass. They couldn't see what was going on in the camp.

Kincaid held his rifle at the ready on his right hip while carrying the two grenades in his left hand. Not bothering to crouch, he stalked toward the middle of the group of Revolutionary Guards.

The Kurd who had stopped at the edge of the camp finally moved back. He found Ahmed coming out of his tent and pointed to Kincaid. Even from that distance it was obvious that Kincaid was not just taking a morning walk.

Kincaid held his rifle over his head horizontally and pumped it up and down six times. That was the universal signal that an enemy had been sighted and there were six of them. That had the effect he wanted. The Kurds scattered for their guns.

That didn't give Kincaid much time. He would soon be in greater danger of being shot from the camp where the men were facing him, than from these in the grass with their backs to him.

He was now close enough to pull the pins on both grenades. Kincaid advanced another three steps before laying his rifle down on the grass and switching a grenade to his right hand. He pulled the pins on both. With an underhanded motion, he lobbed the first grenade between the two men on the left. Before the first grenade hit the ground, he lobbed the second between the two guys on the right. The two grenades described a short arc, bounced softly one time, rolled a foot or two and came to rest in the grass. Kincaid couldn't have walked up and set them down to place them any better.

He hit the ground by his assault rifle and put it in position to fire. The grenades went off together, sounding like one explosion. The two Iranians in the center made the mistake of rising to their feet as Kincaid expected they might. He drove the first one toward the camp with two rounds in the middle of his body. The second had only completed a half turn toward him when the HK-91 found him with two rounds in his side.

Kincaid knew it was over but he stayed where he was, hugging the ground. Bullets from the camp crackled in the grass around him. He heard some shouts and the fire from the camp slowed.

"Are you done?" he shouted, still on his belly. "It's over you assholes!"

There were some more excited shouts in Kurdish then the firing finally stopped.

Kincaid raised his head cautiously. Two of the Kurds were coming toward him, their weapons at the ready.

"Ahmed!" Kincaid shouted. "Tell your men not to shoot."

"It's been done, old boy," Ahmed called back. "Terribly sorry about that."

'Yeah,' Kincaid said to himself, 'sorry.' He rose slowly to one knee, ready for anything. If the men coming toward him got excited he would have to drop them. He watched them closely as he made himself visible, prepared to do just that.

The two Kurds made no move to fire at him. He didn't draw any more fire from the camp.

Kincaid stood up, the Heckler & Koch still ready to go to work. He moved to his right a few feet to put the advancing Kurds between himself and the main part of the camp, just in case the others weren't quite done.

"Protect me from my friends," he said under his breath, "and I"ll take care of my enemies."

The two Kurds stopped and looked down at the Revolutionary Guards in the grass. Kincaid moved up and joined them. One of the Iranians was moaning and writhing on the ground. A grenade had peppered him with fragments. A glance was all it took to know the man would soon be dead. The attackers had kept only a three meter interval as they advanced on the camp. Not good tactics. Each grenade had taken out two men.

One of the Kurds put his AK-47 to the wounded man's head and blew his brains out. All the others were finished.

Kincaid slung the HK-91 over his shoulder and walked to the camp. The two Kurds remained to collect the weapons and ammo.

Ahmed met him by the trail. "What the devil happened, old man?"

"We've been had, that's what," Kincaid told him curtly. "We damned near got wiped out."

"Really, old boy." Ahmed sounded offended. Whether by his words or the events Kincaid didn't know or care.

"Get some men mounted up. There's probably some more of those people in the creek bed to the south." Kincaid pointed to where he guessed the Revolutionary Guards had been posted. "They may be on the run by now. You've got to get them before they get away."

Kincaid waited where he was until Ahmed had given his orders and returned.

Three of Ahmed's Kurds began to saddle up.

"You"ll find one of the guards you posted back over there." Kincaid pointed to where he had left the wounded Kurd. "I put a tourniquet on him that needs to be loosened about now."

Ahmed nodded wordlessly.

The three Kurds rode out to the south. Yasin went with them.

"Check along the creek bed," Kincaid said. "There's some more... What do you call it?... 'tidying up,'... to be done."

"Quite," Ahmed said.

"When that's done, post some experienced guards, and then we"ll talk about what comes next." Kincaid turned and went to his tent without waiting for a reply. He saw a rustle at the tent flap as he approached. When he entered, Sabrina was back in the corner of the tent, a goat skin rug around her, the M-16 in her hands.

"Get dressed," Kincaid said gruffly. He started unpacking and assembling the radio. As he worked he kept his ears attuned to camp sounds. The women were back at their pots. The smell of lamb cooking reminded him that he hadn't eaten in some time.

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