Cover image for Peacemaker
Kent, Gordon.
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Publication Information:
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, [2001]

Physical Description:
406 pages ; 24 cm
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Gordon Kent, the pseudonym of a father-and-son writing team, both of whom have served in the U.S. Navy, brings back Alan Craik in this second tour de force of a thriller. This time, Alan has just returned from sea duty and is stuck behind a desk in the Pentagon. When he learns that his best friend, a CIA agent, has been kidnapped in central Africa--just as Rwanda is about to be engulfed in violence--he doesn't need an excuse to set out on a rescue mission. After flying out to join a Mediterranean-bound U.S. fleet that is covering the growing Africa crisis, he soon finds himself stranded, along with his wounded friend, in the middle of the continent as war rages all around. Taking the reader on a roller-coaster ride--from a nighttime helicopter raid in snow-covered Bosnia, to a wing-and-a-prayer flight in a single-engine plane over the African jungle, and a marathon mission on board a Navy jet--this multilayered tale of betrayal, conspiracy, and modern espionage confirms Gordon Kent as a major new voice in contemporary military suspense writing.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gordon Kent is the pseudonym of a father-son writing team. Both authors are former intelligence officers and pilots in the U.S. Navy. The book's protagonist, one Alan Craik, is the navy pilot and intelligence officer who was the hero of Kent's first novel, Rules of Engagement (1999). In this new novel, Craik sets out to rescue a colleague, a CIA agent, who has been kidnapped in Uganda. Kent then moves the setting from Washington to the deck of an aircraft carrier, from a submarine base in Russia to Sarajevo, from Zaire to Naples. And even Beijing, Cannes, and Belgrade are included as locales. There is lots of flying--helicopters, a single-engine plane, and a navy jet--and enough military jargon to fill a trilogy. The action is nonstop and the violence gets pretty gruesome, but Peacemaker is a rousing sequel to Rules of Engagement. --George Cohen

Publisher's Weekly Review

This fireball of a military thriller will send those new to the author racing to get Rules of Engagement, the sleep-erasing debut novel by Kent (the pseudonym of a father/son writing team). Few authors integrate multiple plots in such dazzling 3-D realism and technical accuracy,; here, Kent pits the stalwart Rules heroes against viperous villains on three continents. Naval Lt. Alan Craik is resigned to sitting out a Washington office job while his wife, Lt. Comdr. Rose Craik, prepares to direct the shipboard launch of Peacemaker, a top-secret military satellite, in the Gulf of Sidra off Libya. Thrilled when a high-level shakeup lands him the post of information officer on the launch support flagship, Alan had barely established himself onboard when a report comes in that his best friend, Harry O'Neill, a black rookie CIA agent, has been kidnapped by Hutu rebels backed by a sinister, hawk-nosed Serb terrorist known as Zulu. Setting out with a tough navy SEAL, Alan rescued the gruesomely injured O'Neill, and the three attempt a near-impossible escape across Africa, pursued by cold-blooded mercenaries. Meanwhile, Rose learns that her duplicitous American superiors are concealing crucial peacemaker information, and faces down not only a Russian nuclear submarine but also an attack by the Libyan and the French right-winger Lascelles, Zulu's main backer. Harrowing shipboard battles, nail-biting emergency plane flights and riveting action in Sarajevo, central Africa, Washington and France drive this turbocharged thriller. A tour de force with near hypnotic pull, Kent's second outing scores a bulls-eye and saves rocket fuel for a sequel. (Apr) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One BOSNIA, FEBRUARY 1996 The sea was gray, the sky near the horizon pink, between them a line of silver. It looked as cold as dawn in Canada, but this was the Mediterranean in February. Cold.     He felt the bucking of the aircraft, under it the surge of the deck, under that the throb of the ship, felt these things without feeling them because he had been there so long these were normal, and when he got on shore the lack of vibration would feel wrong, something missing in the universe.     "Ready back there, Lieutenant?"     Fatigue perched on him like a big, obscene bird. Crow picking at roadkill . He roused himself, realized he had been half asleep, the pilot's voice in the comm waking him. Was he ready? Ready for one more of Suter's punitive jobs, one more of his humiliations, one more of his demonstrations that he, Suter, was a lieutenant commander and Alan Craik was only a lieutenant and it had been a big mistake for Alan to show that he thought Suter was an asshole?     "Yo," he said.     "O-kay! And they're off, as the monkey said--"     When he backed into the lawn mower , Alan finished for him. The puck dropped and the cat whacked him in the chest with Gs and the aircraft threw itself at the horizon. It was like the old days for a moment, and he felt the thrill of it, and then it was gone.     They flew into the rising sun, up toward thin strands of cloud like combed-out hair. Alan Craik looked back and saw the carrier, already small, a destroyer just visible in the haze a couple of miles away. Bitterly, he thought that he was off to do an ensign's job, and behind him on the ship Ensign Baronik would be trying to do Alan's job and screwing it up because he was only an ensign, and LCDR Suter would be on him like a weasel on a chicken, pleased that this nice piece of warm meat was there for him to savage. Ensign Baronik hadn't been savvy enough to put space between himself and Alan, and so he was warm meat by association. And he was too young and too scared to tell Suter to back off, as Alan had done.     Alan sighed. God, he was tired. Four hours' sleep in three days, and now this. A lose-lose situation: if he didn't work his ass off, Suter gave him every shit detail that came along; if he did work his ass off, Suter took the credit--and gave him every shit detail that came along. For Alan, who loved the job and for whom work was life, it was better to work himself to death and know that at least he'd done his best, but helping Suter's career was bitter medicine. And it was made worse by Suter's having control of his life--of his orders, of his job, of his fitness reports. And Suter hated him. "You're supposed to be God's wet dream," Suter had hissed at him. "You're supposed to be hot shit, Craik, and I know you're not! I see through you! You're just luck and bullshit wrapped with a ribbon, and I'm gonna untie it. People been hanging medals on you like Christmas ornaments--well, no more, mister. No more! You're not even gonna get close to glory this trip--no way!"     What was worse, Suter was good at his job. And smart.     "You wanna sleep back there, Lieutenant, go ahead. We got a couple hours, no scenery."     "Would you ask the stewardess to turn down my bed?" Alan said.     "Jeez, I would, but she's busy in first class just now."     Alan smiled, the smile of habit, the sea-duty smile. He started to think about his wife, and home, and what it would be like when this rotten tour was over. He must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he was aware of was the pilot telling him they were five minutes from going dry and he could wake up now.     "Must have dozed off."     "Hey, I thought I had a corpse back there! Feet-dry in four minutes, man. We're coming in over the islands now--" He started to give a guided tour but clicked off to deal with the comm. Alan consulted his own kneepad: Split was off somewhere in the haze to his left; to his fight would be Dubrovnik, down along the coast that was now like a smudge from a dirty thumb. Directly underneath, the island of Brac, one of a series of former resorts that step-stoned down the coast to Dubrovnik. Not resorts now, he thought. He had no intel of fighting down there, but the war had been everywhere, the gruesome agony of a nation turned in on itself. Down there were perhaps only shuttered hotels and distrust; ahead on the mainland were horrors. He had already seen some of them. A so-called peace accord had been signed a few weeks before, but people who looked alike and had a common history and common problems were still killing each other, like a trapped animal chewing off its own leg.     The weather inland was lousy. Sarajevo was socked in, as usual. The UN food flights had just ended, and NATO had taken over the airfield. Alan watched the cloud tops, felt his eyes close, nodded forward--     "Cleared for landing. Check your straps, Lieutenant. You know how this goes--ejection position SOP. Make ready--" He felt the familiar turn and sink, deceleration, pressure as he came against the straps, but nothing like a carrier landing--no hook here, and a runway long enough to land a commercial jet. Alan saw the too-close bulk of Mount Igman, acres of dirty snow, low, dark cloud cover obscuring dark slopes, houses flashing underneath, a burned-out car--     A bang and a screech and they swiveled a degree and back and were down. A radar installation flashed past, two trucks angled to it in a plowed space, high snowbanks all around, a French logo. The plane was rolling now, no longer seeming to scream; they swung left into a taxiway, slowed some more and began the long taxi to the intake building. When Alan climbed down, a cold, wet wind slapped at him: welcome to Yugoslavia.     He blew out his breath. Six hours here. To do ten minutes of an ensign's work. As he humped his pack toward the warehouse building that served IFOR as a local HQ, it started to snow.     The French officer signed for his package and gave him coffee (damned good--bitter, fresh) and asked him to stay for lunch (also damned good, probably, with wine), but a Canadian major with the worried look of an old monkey looked through a doorway and shouted, "That Craik?"     The Frenchman grimaced, winked at Alan. "Just arrived, Major."     "In here, Craik." The worry lines deepened, and the major turned away, then looked back and said, "Welcome and--so on. Kind of a mess."     Alan was supposed to sit for six hours and then get a lift to Aviano, sit for four hours, and then get something that might put him near the carrier. Suter's idea. Nothing was supposed to happen here except turning over a lot of clapped-out aerial photos. "Uh--" he said stupidly at the retreating back, "--my orders have me going to--"     "Orders have been changed!" the voice floated back.     Suter again?     Alan shrugged himself deeper into his exhaustion and went through the door where the major had disappeared. There was a battered corridor, black slush on the floor, hand-lettered signs on pieces of notebook paper drooping from map pins like old flags--"G-3," "S&R," "Liaison." He passed a make-shift bulletin board, most of the postings in both English and French. Well, they were Canadians, after all. At the top of the bulletin board, it said "UNPROFOR," the acronym of the UN Protection Force that was in the process of pulling out.     "In here!" The major sat in a tiny office that had been a toilet before the sinks were ripped out. An unusable commode was almost hidden by a pile of pubs. "Francourt, Major, Canadian army. You know about all that." He handed over some message traffic: his orders. Alan's eyes flashed down it--"... temporary duty ... CO UNPROFOR/CO IFOR Sarajevo ... liaison and intelligence support and acquisition...." What was this shit?     The major was talking again. "You know UNPROFOR, what we do--?"     "I thought you were IFOR."     The major shook his head. "UNPROFOR. We're going, they're coming." He jerked his head toward the front of the building where the French officer was. "Unfortunately, some of us are still here."     "Yes, sir."     "French and Canadians down here, mostly us and the Italians up above." He looked at Alan. "Tuzla." That was "up above," he meant. There had been a lot of fighting. "We were keeping the peace, ha-ha. You know all that. It says here you speak this African Kissy-willy, that right?" He rattled a piece of paper.     "Kiswahili? A little--"     "Good. And Italian, it says. Good, just the guy I want. We got a problem up there, I don't follow it, but there's a Kenyan medical unit making a hell of a noise, and I haven't got time to deal with it. You've been asked for. Dick Murch--know him?"     His mind was slow because of no sleep, and it was all coming too fast--Yugoslavia, winter, snow, then all of a sudden Kenyans and Swahili. Murch. "Murch. Yeah--Canadian Army intel--"     "He asked for you by name." The major rattled the paper again. "Your boss messaged us you're just the man for the job." The major, a man with decent feelings, glanced a little unbelievingly at Alan. It would be, after all, a shitty job, whatever it was--cold, uncomfortable, fruitless. Alan saw the major understand that Alan's boss hated his guts. The major's voice was almost apologetic: "Well--won't last long. And it's just being a good listener, eh? And you can take those photos you brought in right up to Murch and save us a step."     Well, Alan thought, at least there would be wine with lunch before he left.     "There's a plane going up in--well, it was supposed to leave a half-hour ago, but they never get out on time. One of yours." He meant that the United States had reopened the airport at Tuzla and was moving there in a big way. Alan doubted the jab about being late; the Air Force, like the Navy, ran a tight operation. The major was just pissed because he was still here. "Dalembert'll show you which one." There went wine with lunch. And lunch, probably. A voice in his head said, This is another fine mess you've got us into! The voice would have been Harry O'Neill's, doing one of his imitations. God, he wished O'Neill was with him! The bond of friendship would have got him through this crap. He and O'Neill had been two first-tour IOs together five years ago, winning the Gulf War on brilliance and brashness (with a little help from some pilots). O'Neill would have known how to deal with Suter. O'Neill would have known how to deal with Alan, for that matter. You're good, Shweetheart--you're really good --     "Got a weapon?" the major said.     Weapon. Weapon? Alan had to concentrate. "Got an armpit gun in my pack."     "Wear it. They're shooting at us up there. I mean, at us . Take off your rank, anything shiny." He held up a finger. "Lesson: If you try to help some poor sonofabitch who's being killed by his brother, they'll both kill you, instead." He made a gun with his hands and pretended to squint into a sight.     Alan gave another long, fatigued sigh. He unstrapped the pack and began to feel for the Browning nine-millimeter. This was a fine mess. FORT MACARTHUR, NORTH CAROLINA The Georgian brick buildings, the green lawns, and the old trees looked like a university campus. The classroom looked like a university classroom. The students, in their thirties and forties, might have been university graduate students. But they weren't. This was the toughest school in America, with the highest rate of flunkout, dropout, and just plain exhaustion. This was what people inside the intelligence community called The Ranch.     Harry O'Neill sat relaxed at one of the student desks. Unlike the rest, he was attentive to the briefing on Africa. The rest were in body positions that suggested that Africa didn't exist for them. The teacher, himself a case officer no longer active, was pointing a laser pointer at a map with the outlines of countries but no names and asking questions with the resigned tone of a man who knew that he wouldn't get answers.     "What's this?" he snapped. When there was no answer, he said, "O'Neill?"     "Rwanda," O'Neill murmured.     "This?" Silence. He nodded at Harry. O'Neill said, "Burundi."     The bright dot moved. The teacher waited, flicked an eye at O'Neill. "Zaire." Then, "Central African Republic. Chad--"     The teacher snapped the pointer off and leaned his butt back against a table, arms crossed, and said, "Okay, okay. You know what's going on there? Want to do a little Central African brief off the cuff, Mister O'Neill?"     Harry smiled. "Off the cuff, sir, let's see--two years ago, there was a crash--some folks say a shootdown--of an aircraft with the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi aboard. All hell broke loose, with the two major ethnic groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis, massacring each other. Tutsis came out on top, drove the Hutus into eastern Zaire, where they're now living in big refugee camps that are being run by their own militias, who got out with their weapons and a big blood lust. When the other shoe drops, there'll be hell all over again."     "How come you know all this and the rest of these guys don't, O'Neill?"     Before Harry could reply, a voice behind him said, low and with a snicker, "'Cause dat's his home , man!"     O'Neill was the only black man in the class.     The teacher snapped erect, face flushed. "All right--who said that?"     But Harry O'Neill hadn't stirred. He only smiled and said softly, "Oh, that's okay, sir. I know who said it."     When the class ended, most of them stirred and stretched, but a man named Richmond hurried out the door and started down the corridor. Harry O'Neill was just as fast, however; within a few strides, he had caught up and fallen in with the man, draping one arm around the other's shoulders with what seemed perfect friendliness.     "Richmond, Richmond!" he said. He smiled. He squeezed Richmond's shoulder. O'Neill had been both a Phi Beta Kappa and a starting defensive end at Harvard; the squeeze had authority. "Richmond, next week we have Close Combat Drill three times, did you know that? And, because I'm near the top of the class, I get to pick my partner, did you know that?" He gave another squeeze. "And Richmond--" His voice took on the same thick, fake-black tone that had been heard in the classroom. "Ah picks yew-- man! " TUZLA Alan tried to sleep on the short hop to Tuzla, but it was no good. They'd put him in a "crash-resistant" seat with enough straps to hold back Hulk Hogan, but they hadn't given any thought to comfort. Most of the huge aircraft was loaded with cargo. The French coffee had lifted him for a little, but that was gone now. He had already had the second surge that comes with real fatigue, the time of being wired, with crash to follow. Except he hadn't been able to crash. At Tuzla, they made one big turn and went in, with another aircraft on the runway ahead of them and another right behind. Like cyclic ops. Alan tried to find an office for UNPROFOR and finally learned that what was left of it wasn't at the airfield; it was beyond the city, and he'd need transport. It was like a demonstration of Murphy's Law. Somebody found him a truck.     The driver was Italian, one of those people who dedicate their lives to not being impressed, so he was not impressed that Alan spoke Italian with a Neapolitan accent. Still, he was willing to talk, so long as it was clear to Alan that he was not impressed by officer rank, either. When they had gone a few kilometers, he stopped.     "Good place to piss," he said in Italian. "No snipers." Alan didn't recognize the Italian word for "snipers," but got it from a pantomime. The second time somebody had pretended to shoot him that day. He got out, and they stood side by side. Lots of other trucks had stopped here for relief; the place was an outdoor toilet, in fact. He climbed back up into the cab, higher than climbing into the old S-3 he had flown in for two years, and they coughed and clanked along. It was an incomparably gloomy scene, as so many land-war scenes are, all dirty snow and mud and artillery damage, and one woman with no teeth and a head scarf and a cowlike stare, watching them go past. Early in the war, a mortar round had landed in a square in Tuzla and killed seventy-one people, most of them children.     The trucker dropped Alan at what had been the UNPROFOR HQ. That was not where Murch was, of course; Murch was in the intel center, in a former school three rubble-strewn blocks away. When Alan had finally humped his pack to the right doorless office, Murch looked at him and said, "Is this the best the States can send us? You look like the meat course in an MRE."     "I'm wiped."     "You'll fit right in." Murch looked worn out, himself. Alan had met Murch a couple of months before down on the coast; they had done a job together and had hit it off. They had found a shared interest in fishing. Murch was convinced there would be fishing nearby when spring came. His only evidence was that Tito had been a fisherman. "Eaten?"     "Somebody gave me a box lunch. I think I ate it. The French were going to give me real food. With wine."     "You want to be walked through the chow line first or you want to crash?" There were cartons and fiber barrels everywhere. Murch was in the middle of moving.     "I'm running on empty, man."     Murch handed him a tan plastic cup of acidic coffee and said, "Ten minutes. Got to brief you. Then--" He looked at his watch. "You can get eight hours and you'll be off."     "What the hell is `off'?"     Murch jerked his thumb toward the sky. "Up the hill. We'll give you a Humvee and a driver and a gunner. You're going up on a peacekeeping mission--between the Italians and the Kenyans."     Thirteen minutes later, he was asleep. EASTERN ZAIRE The air was damp from rain that had come out of season, making halos around the gas lamps in the cinder-block building. Insects flew in and out of the halos. Out in the camp, somebody laughed; somebody screamed. Peter Ntarinada, sitting in the building in the scruffy room he called his office, pushed the gift bottle of Glenlivet across the rickety table. "I want more money and I want more arms," he said.     The Frenchman poured himself some whiskey. He gave a kind of shrug with one eyebrow. "We don't give something for nothing, Colonel. Lascelles himself said that times are tight."     "Something for nothing! Look how I'm living! Is this nothing? " Peter snatched the bottle back, poured more into his own glass. "I'm living like a peasant! I live in this fucking camp that is paved with shit because we don't have toilets--you call that nothing? Anyway, when we get back into Rwanda, you'll be repaid. Lascelles knows he'll be repaid. I have a scheme, you see? To move diamonds out of Angola--"     "Yes, yes." The Frenchman nodded in the way that means, You told me that three times already . "We want you back in Rwanda, Colonel. We want you in the government there. But, we think--Lascelles thinks--in order for us to, mmm, underwrite you again, we need to have, mmm, insurance."     "Insurance." Ntarinada, a man at war, didn't seem to understand the concept of insurance. In fact, he laughed.     "We want to put in a company of real soldiers, Colonel. Oh, I know, I know! Your men are soldiers, yes, yes, they are very good at beating up civilians and fragging people in churches, but frankly, the Tutsis are trained now, and we have intelligence that the Ugandans and the Tanzanians are helping them. So--we need insurance, and you need real soldiers."     Ntarinada's face was drawn tight. He licked his lips. "White soldiers, you mean."     "One company. The best. They'll go through the Tutsis like a knife, then you come behind. Yes, white. Sorry--it's the way the world is, Colonel. They have the guns, they have the training, and they have the recent experience. We'll give you money and guns if you'll accept one hundred of the best. To ease things a little, Lascelles will send a man you already know to run things. A friend of yours. Okay?"     Ntarinada was furious, but he contained his rage. "Who?"     "Zulu."     Ntarinada stared. He was surprised. And impressed.     "Zulu," the Frenchman said again. "The guy who was here two years ago and shot down the--"     Ntarinada held up a hand. "Not even here--don't say it out loud." He let his hand fall with a little slap on the table. He pushed his glass about, picked it up and drank off the rest of it and lifted the bottle to pour more. "A lot has happened since Zulu was here."     "A lot has happened to him. Bosnia. He's been fighting in Bosnia."     Ntarinada nodded. He understood perfectly well how a man like Zulu could be fighting in his own country. "Zulu is a good man. Okay. Tell Lascelles I said okay. But get me money and some guns!" He drank. "I keep overall command," he said.     The Frenchman shook his head. "Sorry. Zulu."     "Never!"     "Insurance." The Frenchman smiled. "How about-- shared command? You're both colonels now."     Ntarinada looked away into the little room's shadows. He was looking into a century of colonialism, the bitter darkness of working for the whites. "All right," he said. "I'll share command with Zulu." He ran his hand over his thin face, sighed like a man dying of exhaustion. "You bastards." ABOVE TUZLA The Canadian driver loved the Humvee and couldn't stop demonstrating it. Alan got the hairiest ride he'd had on dry land since a drunken Italian had taken him on the Amalfi Drive. He found it oddly exhilarating, maybe from having had eight hours of sleep so deep he didn't even dream. Still, it was nice to know it was a trip he'd have to make only once.     Except that he made it three times--three times up, three times down. And the last time wasn't until the next afternoon.     The trouble up there wasn't something that needed a linguist; it needed a good listener. And Alan was a pretty good listener, like anybody who wants to make it in intelligence. The fact that he knew both languages helped, sure; to the Kenyan doctor in charge of the medical unit, there was a plus in hearing a non-African say that it was baridi, baridi kabisa --bloody cold, man. And Alan had been in Kenya and could at least talk as much as a traveler can about the coast and Nairobi and problems up on the Sudanese border. So he learned that the real trouble between the Italian soldiers and the Kenyan medics was not that the Italians were racists or the Kenyans were bad nurses, but that they had all been there too long and none of them felt he had done shit to help the peace and now they were being pulled out and replaced by NATO. To make it worse, the unarmed Kenyan medics felt isolated by language and color and abandoned by the very people who were supposed to protect them, and they took it out in gallows-humor jokes, and some of the jokes were about how the Italians had got their asses whipped twice in Ethiopia--once by the Ethiopians and once by the Brits and the Kenyans.     For Sale: Like-new Italian rifle. Only dropped once.     The jokes had gone stale, then bad; there had been shouting--and, the doctor admitted, a bad fight, a punch that had emptied the benches and become a brawl. Bad.     So Alan got several of the officers from both units together and badgered them into eating their MREs in the same tent--it was lunch, and partway through, one of the Italians produced some wine--and, when a shouting match broke out, he got the doctor to calm down enough to snarl that they, the Kenyans, were catching hell from the Serbs, who were just over the newly drawn border two miles away, and the Italians were doing nothing to stop it.     "We can't do anything to stop it, you cretin!" the Italian screamed. Alan translated this as "We do everything we can, sir." The Kenyan hollered, "You were afraid in 1942 and you're afraid now!" which Alan didn't translate at all. Another Kenyan, a senior surgeon named wa Danio, shook a finger at the Italians and told them that it was the civilians, the civilians over there, they were being tortured, maimed, massacred, and the Italians were doing nothing. The senior Italian, Captain Gagliano, threw his hands up and said, "Nothing, nothing--there is nothing we can do! Anyway, we are leaving." After lunch, Doctor wa Danio insisted that Alan come with him to the ward, where he showed him an old man who had had his feet cut off with an axe and who had crawled the three miles to the Kenyan unit.     "You know, Lieutenant, we Africans are supposed to be uncivilized, but this is a horror. This is not stupid men swinging pangas; this is deliberate, organized hell. The Italians think we are savages, but we know those bastards over there are monsters!" He showed Alan a woman who had been gang-raped and beaten. A child with one hand, the other lost when he had tried to keep his already wounded father from being beheaded. Alan had a child. He felt sick, then thought what it would be like to sit here week after week, helpless to stop it....     So Alan went down the mountain. On the way down, he figured how it could be done. A warning bell went off in his head but he turned it off, paid no attention, and instead he listened to an inner voice that said, Okay, Suter, you want liaison and intelligence support and acquisition. I'll give it to you, right up the nose .     He told Murch that the problem up there was not language or jokes or nationalities, it was frustration, fighting men and medical personnel who were frustrated and angry and unappreciated. They wanted to go in and make one hit on the Bosnian Serbs who were committing the atrocities before they were pulled out.     "We can't go in there," Murch said. "We're protectors. Not aggressors." Murch's mouth seemed to lose some of its muscle: he was afraid.     "They say there was US armor up there a week ago and it got turned back."     "Mm, yeah, all the women and kids in a Serb village blocked the road, lay down in front of a tank--they're fanatical up there. Leave it."     "Going in to get war criminals would be allowed."     "I'm not at all sure of that, and we don't know anything about war criminals over there."     "The Kenyans say that they know for certain of a house ten miles in that serves as a command center for the butchery. They say it's used for torture. Everybody knows it, they say."     "Oh, Christ, Alan, `everybody--'" He was afraid of his place, his next evaluation, his career. Fuck him.     "Look, the Italians are good guys and they're hot to trot. They've been sitting up there for two months and their hands have been tied and they've had to watch--to watch --while civilians get slaughtered, because of this phony `border.' They want to do something."     "We all want to do something. Alan, there's nothing--"     "Yes, there is." He was feeling pretty good, still. He thought he'd start to sink, but he hadn't. It was two in the afternoon; he felt really good. Not wired, but charged. "Hit that two-bit torture center in Pustarla."     "We can't do that! Al, look, you're exhausted, you're not thinking clearly--"     "If we have intelligence that the house is a center for war crimes, we can go in and hit it. In and out."     "I don't have the authority." Murch's face got stiff. "Canada prides herself on not involving UNPROFOR ground forces." His voice became pleading. "We're out of here! IFOR has the responsibility now!"     "UNPROFOR hit Udbina and took out the airfield! UNPROFOR used artillery in Sarajevo! What the fuck, you're making noise about a goddam hit on one house?"     "Udbina was part of Deny Flight. Alan, please! Go see IFOR."     They both knew that was bullshit. IFOR command was back in Sarajevo, and they'd say it was an UNPROFOR problem, because weren't the Italians and the Kenyans the remnant of UNPROFOR? "The Italians are fed up. Their colonel might say no, but he's taking a few days R and R in Dubrovnik. A company-level hit, that's all they want. We'd need choppers; I think two would do it." He was thinking of his own experience, of being pulled out of a firefight by two marine helos. Of course, these guys wouldn't be US marines. And Alan wouldn't have his wife in command of the choppers this time. "Who's got big choppers? You guys have two brand-new Griffons. No? I'll check the order of battle."     "Alan--we don't have the intelligence!"     Alan stared at him, saw a man who wasn't fed up with bullshit yet, maybe wanted to dedicate his life to bullshit. Why had he thought he liked this guy? He went to the outer office and got the package of photos he'd brought in that morning--all photos that had already passed through his hands once--and pulled a couple and went back to Murch's, got a grease pencil, and began to make small circles.     "What the hell is that?"     "This is intelligence."     Murch leaned in close. "Fuck, man--"     "I could do better with a stereo magnifier."     Murch provided one. In fifteen minutes, Alan had marked the house that they said was a torture center, five "suspected gravesites," an outbuilding that the Kenyans' patients told them was a torture chamber. "Crematorium," he said, circling something with a chimney.     "Aw, shit--!"     "You been there?"     "No, but--"     "It's as good as the crap the CIA gives the president." He handed the photos to Murch. "Copies to whoever has to okay the choppers, plus the Italians, plus me, plus the chopper crews; give us blowups of the house and surroundings. You got a problem?"     Murch shook his head. "Man, you're something else." He looked as if he might cry.     "You asked for me." He was checking the order of battle. "The French have five Pumas; they're pretty ballsy--they picked those SAS guys out of Gorazde."     It turned out that Murch wasn't such a bad guy, after all: he said, "Don't ask the French." Alan stared at him. The French had been part of UNPROFOR, were now in IFOR, but a different sector. What was wrong? Murch dropped his voice to almost a whisper. "Just don't ask the French right now, okay?" The two intel officers looked at each other.     Problem--he means there's a problem. Leak?     "Gotcha."     While he was getting his materials together, Murch bent over the aerial photos. When Alan was ready to leave, Murch handed him one with grease-penciled circles. "There's two armored cars by a building down the road--has to be the police station. One's in the snow, no tracks around it, so I think it's down. Probably parts; the embargo's hurting them bad." Murch tapped the photo and Alan put it down and looked at it with the magnifier. "I think it's an AML, maybe French-made, but they've licensed countries all over the place. Old, but one of there's operational--look at all the tracks." Alan grunted. "Scout car configuration," Murch went on. "just machine guns, no cannon--see the shadow?" Alan punched Murch on the shoulder. "We'll need a couple of shooters. Good catch." Murch, he decided, was a really okay guy. Just a little--let's use a polite word-- cautious .     He went back up the mountain. The nineteen-year-old driver was beside himself. The gunner, hanging on the back, was not so delighted; he didn't even get to fire his weapon. Up on the mountain, the Italians were skeptical and the Kenyans wary, but Alan explained how it could be done and asked them to say yes. Two squads plus medics. "Plus me," the Kenyan surgeon said.     "And you?" the hawk-faced Italian captain said to Alan. It was a challenge. These guys were ready to dislike anybody.     "You want me?"     "I want you to believe in your intelligence. Enough to go along, I mean."     What had Suter said? He was going to keep Alan away from anything that even smelled like glory? He grinned. "Count me in. As an observer, of course." He didn't say that he might be risking a court-martial.     The Kenyans and the Italians looked at each other.     "When?"     Alan thought about his own orders, about how long it would take Suter to figure something out. "Soon," he said.     The Italian officer murmured, "If I give my colonel time to hear about it before we do it, well--"     The Kenyan surgeon said, "Tomorrow."     "Tomorrow dawn," Alan said.     The three of them looked at each other. They shook hands, He turned the problem of the helos over to the Italian captain and went back to the Kenyan hospital and spent time interviewing the civilians, getting as much hard data as he could on the house in Pustarla. Murch would be putting together a route, he hoped; he should have the latest data on Serb positions and air defenses. Alan's belief from shipboard intel was that there was no air defense, but out in the Med he hadn't paid a lot of attention to this hate-filled line where Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs were supposed to divide themselves, and people who happened to be in the minority on either side were being terrorized.     Then he went down the mountain again and used Murch's computer to write a report on suspected war crimes and criminals in the Bosnian-Serb Pustarla region, pulling in this and that from Intelnet, creating a nice little package of the kind that admirals liked to be briefed from--maps, pretty pictures, juicy quotes from victims. Murch had marked out a route and made a real briefing packet he could use with the troops. He was liking Murch again.     "You got a journalist in your pocket?" he asked Murch.     "Are you wacko? Jesus, Craik--!"     "Wassamattayou? You never heard of PR? Nothing covers your ass like a news report, Murch."     "Suppose this bombs out?" (Continues...) Copyright (c) 2001 Gordon Kent. All rights reserved.