Monday, 29th May 2023 - 15:14:43 pm

The fresh horses and the pack animals were tied together. Sabrina, protesting, was left to guard them.

Yasin with three men rode off to the right. Kincaid, Ahmed and the remaining four tribesmen, together with one pack horse, went to the left.

Kincaid's group had only to ride a couple of hundred meters to be out of view of the roadblock. But, to be on the safe side, he led them half a kilometer to the left before cutting down to the creek.

The creek bank was high, six meters in some places. They searched to the left and found a place where the bank had caved in recently. By dismounting and leading the horses down slowly, they were able to reach the creek bed.

Ahmed with one man and the pack horse set off back toward the caravan trail. Kincaid and the others were able to climb the far bank easily. Rain water, running off from the slope on that side, had cut it in many places.

They remounted on top of the bank and rode in a wide circle away from the roadblock. From the information he had gathered, Kincaid had a map of the area fixed in his mind. He knew their location on that mental map at all times. When they reached a point he knew to be opposite the roadblock he turned and led the way directly toward it. They spotted the truck first. It was pulled off on the far side of the trail.

Yasin and his men were nearly in position on the other side. Ahmed waved from the creek bottom near the trail. He was ready.

Kincaid motioned to his men to remain where they were. He turned and rode away from the trail until he was well out of sight. Then he turned the horse to the right and set out to intersect the road.

The road was the key. What numbers were there in reserve" General Whalen's words came back to him. 'The President has said you will be free to abort this mission any time you see fit.' Steve Kincaid knew this might be the time. But not before he made it interesting.

He topped a rise and was suddenly looking down on the road. A civilian truck was disappearing to the east. To the west the road curved out of sight but nothing was on it as far as he could see. He couldn't see far enough.

Kincaid loosened his grip on the reins and nudged the horse with his heels. He walked toward the caravan trail, staying on top of the rise. As he reached the curve another armored personnel carrier came into view. It was parked off the south side of the road covering the caravan trail in that direction. There were a dozen soldiers in sight, none of them looking very alert.

'They don't know which way we're coming,' he said to himself. That improved their chances. He'd have to put the second armed vehicle out of action before they discovered what was happening.

Kincaid wheeled the horse and rode back to where he'd left the three tribesmen. Everyone was in position and ready. He grabbed his M-16 by the magazine and pumped it in the air twice. There was an answering signal from Ahmed and another from Yasin. Kincaid checked his watch. According to the plan he had outlined, he had two minutes from the time he signaled.

He wheeled the horse again and returned to the vantage point above the second APC. Still no guards out. He dismounted and tied the reins to a rock. Kincaid could feel the blood pumping through his veins and it felt good, more than good, it was elation. Again, for a brief second, he wondered if these could be the emotions of a sane man. He thrust the thought aside and fed a high explosive grenade into the launcher. Holding the weapon in both hands across his chest, he started down the slope.

He kept the curve of the bank between himself and the soldiers on the road as he moved smoothly down the slope. At the bottom, he kept to the toe of the bank as he worked his way toward the road block. The Iranian soldiers came in sight while he was still over a hundred meters from the APC.

Kincaid flattened himself on his back against the grassy bank. He hadn't been seen. By raising his head he could see three soldiers across the road. One was standing, one sitting and the third was on his back smoking a cigarette. The one sitting was facing Kincaid but was too busy talking to see anything. The one standing was carrying an M-1 Carbine. He couldn't see what the others had.

Kincaid glanced down at his watch. He would have to wait for Ahmed to create a diversion. Thirty seconds to go. He wasn't sure of the angle he would have on the APC but he knew it would be more to the side than to the back. It was a shot at the back that he needed and he needed to be closer. There was only one way to get closer.

He checked the grenade in the launcher to make sure it hadn't bounced loose. Ten seconds to go. He slowly raised the M-16 to firing position and drew a bead on the soldier facing him. He barely had to aim the weapon. The assault rifle was like an extension of himself. The touch of it was so comfortable in his hands that he could feel the line to his target. He counted to himself, 5" 4" 3" 2" 1" 0" 99" 98.

The explosion shook the ground. The two shots Kincaid put into the sitting man blended into the sound. The soldier was stopped in the middle of a word when the high velocity .223 slugs exploded in his chest and blew him open. Kincaid didn't wait to see the effect of the first two rounds before he tracked to the standing soldier. He was looking toward the explosion, his mouth agape, when two rounds tore through his right arm, nearly taking it off and plowed deep into his lungs. The soldier was dead before he spun around and hit the ground. The sounds of the shots weren't even noticed in the echo of the explosion and the general confusion.

The third soldier had risen up to a sitting position, his back to Kincaid, when his next two shots snapped his spine. He pitched forward, his back bent at an acute angle, and came to rest with his head on the ground between his knees.

Kincaid heard the sound of automatic weapons up on the slopes. His Kurds had opened up. He set out at a dead run around the toe of the slope. After ten strides, the whole of the road was in view. The soldiers, about a dozen of those that had been lounging around, were all going toward the caravan trail and the source of the explosion. Some had their weapons ready but most looked as if they were going only out of curiosity. None of them was in a position to see Kincaid.

The APC across the road started to back up to turn around and cover the other direction. The driver made a bad decision. He started turning the back end toward Kincaid. Kincaid saw his opportunity and ran quickly up the slope to gain some elevation. At a point about six meters higher he turned and dropped to one knee. He was looking down into the back of the vehicle at a range of fifty meters. Two gunners were in the back looking around in confusion. Kincaid let the can fly. The HE shell detonated between the two men, scattering their parts over a wide area.

Kincaid had to hit the dirt when some ammo in the back of the APC went up. While he was down there was another blast around the corner on the caravan trail. Ahmed had fired another missile. Kincaid fed another high explosive grenade into the launcher. He came up on one knee, ready to fire.

The soldiers running toward the first explosion had met the soldiers running away from the two explosions and the gunfire from the slopes. They were knotted together where the caravan trail met the edge of the road. A sergeant was in the center of the group waving his arms and shouting, trying to restore order. Kincaid rocketed the missile toward him. The HE grenade hit the sergeant square in the chest. He disappeared in the tremendous blast. The soldiers around him were blown in all directions.

But there were many survivors; too many. One spotted Kincaid. The soldier raised his carbine and took aim. Kincaid put two shots in his chest before the man could squeeze the trigger.

The sound of those shots exposed his position to more of the soldiers. Kincaid watched the scene without focusing his eyes on any one place. To the right three soldiers caught his attention. They had seen him and were bringing up their weapons. Kincaid fired a long burst from the hip. The slugs smashed into the left hip of the first man then across his abdomen and into his waist on his right side. The second man took the burst across his lower chest. The third man caught it across his breast and left shoulder. They spun backwards and fell into a single pile.

A bullet whizzed by Kincaid's ear. He dove forward and rolled down the slope, discarding the magazine from the M-16 as he went. When he reached the bottom a fresh magazine was in place. He fired a burst without aiming, moving the auto-rifle fast to spray a wide area. A scream told him he had found at least one target. There was no immediate return fire so the blind burst had done what he wanted.

Kincaid stayed flat on the ground and looked for a target. One soldier had taken cover behind part of a body lying on the road. Kincaid saw the man's head rise up as he sighted down his M-1 carbine. Kincaid blew off the top of his head with two rounds form the M-16.

One soldier stood up and started running up the road, away from Kincaid's position. He was followed by two more and then another. Three horsemen suddenly rode out from the caravan trail and went after them. There were four short bursts from automatic weapons and it was all over.

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