“Here is what I need to happen,” Deckard ordered. After a pause the Sergeant Major translated to the platoon sergeants. “Two five-man assault teams constituting a squad. Three assault squads per platoon plus one weapons squad.”
One of the Kazakhs spoke up, a confused look on his face.
“He wants to know what you mean by weapons squad. All squads have weapons,” Korgan translated.
“Weapons squad will consist of three, three-man machine gun teams. Three PKMs per weapons squad.”
As the Sergeant Major translated, the younger NCO frowned, the two speaking rapid fire Russian for several seconds.
“But we have no machine guns…”
“Give me a week.”
Korgan again spoke to the platoon sergeant, and now his frown was replaced with approval.
“I want four radio operators, two snipers, and five medics per company, in addition to the first sergeant and company commander. These positions will be filled by those who show the most ability as we continue to train. Monetary bonuses will be put into place, based on duty positions and performance.
“At the battalion level I want one mortar section and one anti-tank section, manned and ready to begin training once the necessary equipment arrives. Until then have these men continue to train as assaulters.”
The meeting went on deep into the night with Deckard outlining what would be the battalion’s new Table of Organization and Equipment before launching into weapons and equipment procurement and requests, living facility upgrades, training schedules, and attracting and recruiting more Kazakh veterans to the unit, until he realized it was nearly four in the morning.
* * *
Everyone was grateful when the sun finally began to crest the horizon and break the oppressive cold that lingered in their bones. Even with their bodies warmed up from running several miles, the cold stung at their faces. Somehow, Deckard couldn’t help but feel that he was the only one who wasn’t used to it.
The dusty road seemed to go on across the steppe forever until finally the firing range could be seen in the distance. Alibek, the Alpha Company Second Platoon Sergeant, took the lead by picking up one of his privates and slinging him over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.
Deckard followed suit, picking up the nearest Kazakh mercenary, a private named Oraz. He was one of the younger troops in the platoon, but like the others he had the Asiatic features typical of many Kazakhs. Once the entire platoon had paired up, Alibek took off running towards the range. Again, the American was impressed with the level of leadership shown by the young military veterans he had under his command.
Maybe it was the culture. Maybe it was a meal ticket.
Whatever they may have lacked in hard skills, they made up for in enthusiasm. It was no fault of their own that their military wasn’t as developed as in the West, but then again, maybe it was an asset. The technology and bureaucracy of modern armies often led to a loss of focus on combat proficiency.
Quadriceps burning, he was relieved when Sergeant Alibek finally set his partner down halfway to the range and switched positions. Oraz hefted Deckard’s weight with a grunt and began charging down the road. Finally they arrived at the shooting complex, little more then flat ground with some stakes stuck in the dirt to indicate range fans and meter distances, every member of the platoon with a cloud of hot steam coming off their bodies.
Alibek began shouting commands in Kazakh and pointing to the targets posted down range. Deckard needed no translation and simply followed along as the mercenaries began racking charging handles and loading magazines into AK-47s.
The next twenty minutes were spent sprinting across the range in buddy teams, bounding while the other remained in over watch, laying down a suppressive fire on targets. Next, they repeated the same maneuver in four-man fire teams, Deckard joining in with an odd group of three. The drills continued until each soldier had expended sixty rounds on the targets down range, not much but for now it was their allotment.
Alibek and his peers made an impressive display of making the best with what little they had, but Deckard knew it was going to take a lot more for them to pull off what he had in mind.
* * *
“No, dammit, that’s not what I want!”
Rapid fire Russian was spat back and forth on the other end of the line.
“Hold on,” Deckard sighed, picking up the other phone.
“Yes, this is O’Brien.”
“This is Raul Fernandez. My supplier is inquiring about end user certificates for the merchandise, and we are already at the loading bay with three pallets. I-”
“Is this about the surplus GME-FMK2-MO grenades that Argentina dumped in your country and you’ve been trying to sell at marked up prices to the Iraqis for the last three years?”
“Yeah, I know about that. Listen, you tell those fuckers that the Ministry of Defense provides the EUCs, not myself or Samruk. They have already been forwarded to your people, and I have a signature of delivery, so you need to start communicating with them.”
“I will call them immediately after I hang up, but we still have the issue of-”
Fernandez rattled on about the HAZMAT reportable quantity of Research Developed Explosives and the proper markings and packing materials for the pallets while Deckard stared at his email’s inbox. It was filling up at an alarming rate, with messages from manufacturers and dealers all over the world.
These days Deckard’s credit card had a triple A rating that went straight to the top. Some items would be procured in a more clandestine manner through front companies, but for some of the major end items, there just wasn’t time for any kind of elaborate subterfuge.
The voice on the second cell phone switched from Russian back to English.
“Give me a second here, Fernandez,” Deckard ordered, grabbing the line with the Russians on the other end.
“What’s the deal Niko?”
“We have agreed to your proposal for the AK-103 rifles, Mr. O’Brien; however we request that you also buy the corresponding M43 ammunition, using us as your broker.”
“Which plant do you go through?”
“The old factory 21.”
“Copper washed steel?”
“I also need T-45 green tracer.”
Niko paused. “How about type Z red tracer?”
“Sounds like a deal, and listen, tell your brother I need someone to source some M-23 vests.”
“About a battalion’s worth.”
“You can’t do it?”
“Uh, give me two days.”
“Alright, Nico, don’t fuck me on that ammunition. I want you to test fire each lot number before you ship.”
“No one likes a smart ass,” Deckard said before hanging up and going back to Fernandez.
“Fernandez, you track down those EUCs yet?”
“My secretary is faxing them to our export control office right now.”
“Good, let me know if you find those Portuguese commando mortars I asked about, okay?”
“No problem, Mr. O’Brien.”
Deckard hung up and turned back to his laptop. He was making international arms dealers shit themselves with delight these days.
Beginning with the first emails, Deckard began to work his way through his inbox. There were emails from a guy who ran a small business in North Carolina sewing together custom nylon gear for Special Forces teams at Ft. Bragg. Samruk needed some chest rigs made for their sniper and recon troops that couldn’t be sourced elsewhere.
There were a few more messages from the manufacturer of holographic reflex gun sights. Deckard had put in a mass order several days ago. They wanted the business, but now his order was competing for space on the factory floor with several government contracts. With Deckard sweetening the deal, the owner agreed to run his workers on twenty-four hour shifts until his order was fulfilled.
Next came emails from a representative of Glock in Austria. After attempting to go through an Italian arms dealer, Deckard ran into a wall when he discovered the guy had actually been jailed by Interpol for a dirty deal he acted as the agent for between the Chinese owned Liho Inc. and the Libyan Government. Not willing to waste more time, he was now was going directly to the source, and they were not fucking around with the letter of credit transaction or insurance costs for shipping.
There were more messages from South Africa about 40mm grenades and an American based company building PKM machine guns with titanium frames, but it was the misspelled email from a textile plant in Wujaing City that really gave Deckard a headache.
Most First World military forces now outsourced production of their uniforms to China, and through several contacts, Deckard had managed to find one textile plant that was printing off rolls of fabric for Canadian desert uniforms as well as Italian ‘vegetato’ woodland camouflage fabric. Mr. Yao had understood that once the freight forwarder sent the bill of lading to the textile company’s bank, that the documents would then be forwarded to Deckard’s accountant and the monetary transaction would then occur.
Now he was asking for a down payment. Deckard was already paying a huge overhead for Yao to source and supervise the cutting and sewing of the fabric by a third source. He had contemplated having the fabric shipped to Tamil Nadu where the old ladies could take some time off from sewing lingerie and deliberately trashing pairs of jeans to make them look more trendy for American kids and construct the uniforms. Once again it was an issue of time.
He just didn’t know how much or how little he had.
* * *
“Why have you fucking done this!” Djokovic hissed. “I already had an arrangement.”
Deckard’s Executive Officer had cornered him coming out of his office.
“Regarding?” Deckard said, refusing to allow himself to be baited out.
“You know what,” the Serb practically spat. “The AK-47s I ordered.”
“That was a bad call,” Deckard shot back. “The Century Arms AK-103 rifles are superior to those Bulgarian made ones you had your eye on.”
Djokovic’s resistance proved to Deckard what he had already suspected.
“I had made deal!”
“And I canceled it.”
“You are still new here, O’Brien. It is not good idea for you to make trouble.”
“Tough titties. I run this outfit and I’ll be damned if I have my boys running around half-cocked carrying rifles made with frames that are not properly riveted and will fall apart in a year.”
The truth was that Deckard had made some phone calls regarding his second in command. His real name was Dejan Serbedzija, wanted by the International Criminal Courts for war crimes in the Balkans. He knew he recognized him from somewhere but couldn’t quite place him until now. Deckard had been part of a task force charged with apprehending several war criminals in the region years ago.
Of course after the UN brokered cease fire, all that went away. The under-the-table deal for peace was amnesty for many of those responsible for the ethnic cleansing that had taken place. Since then Serbedzija had bounced around, a no job to dirty gun for hire.
The Serb sneered at Deckard. Clearly the conversation was not going as Serbedzija had expected.
Now he also understood his irrational argument for the Bulgaria deal. He could only be this passionate about such a non-issue if he was getting kickbacks from the manufacturer.
“You had better watch yourself,” Serbedzija said, turning on his heel and skulking off.
He knew the corporate offices would never let him fire the Serb. He was clearly a plant put inside Samruk by the old men at the Grove to keep tabs on Deckard and what he was up to.
No, he couldn’t fire him, but he could sure as hell arrange a friendly fire incident.
As the Serbian war criminal must know from personal experience, the best place to hide a murder is on the battlefield.