"Your Holiness, highness or whatever you are; I don't think you and your little empire, soon to be a pile of rubble, have anything me and my men want. As beautiful as you look, that does not pay our bills. I will give you one thing, your brother may be able to pay and in gold, but we generally try not to 'sleep with snakes. I don't trust him, my men, women too, don't trust him, so you will not be fighting any of my people. As far as beautiful women, we can drown our sorrow at loss of your vast payment in Bangkok. None will match your beauty true, but they may be eager to try. There are no hard feeling on our part, frankly we hope you win this upcoming skirmish with him."
She gave a deep sigh. From the swell of her chest and her almost popping out of her top, I wanted to change my mind. "Mr. Smith or Jones or whatever you call yourself, is there not a song with the words You done me wrong?"
"Yes Madam, Miss, your bounce-fullness I do believe you are correct. Serenading us will just get you tip money, not the $500,000 you indicated."
Handing me something. "And what, pray tell, will this get me?"
I unwrapped the cloth and saw the largest Emerald I had ever seen, set in a golden crown and said: "This your Ladyship, gets us to call you 'Boss'. Just tell me where you want us and if you will join us for dinner someday?" I handed her back the crown.
"Keep this, I think we may be able to 'liberate' an item or two from our 'little tussle' with your brother. Something like that crown deserves to remain with someone like you. If you will allow me to make a call, my men are in planes overhead and will land nearby."
"You are a very unusual man Mr. Smith!"
"You are a very unusual woman also, soon to be Queen Of Tarsus."
"You will not need my troops?"
"Perhaps they could better serve to ready this land for your coronation. Above I have 500 men, the finest 'shock' troops money can buy. Unless I am mistaken, we only have to 'liberate' the Royal Palace. I will hold back the men to allow you time to assume your new role and 'obtain' some compensation for my men and I. Unless your brother spouts wings and flies away, your new home, old one rather, should be ready by tomorrow."
"Then Yes indeed, I shall join you for a meal, perhaps even more. You are very, very unusual Mr. Smith.
Ten planes with 50 men on board landed. A half-dozen transports with armoured cars, two with arms and munitions and another packed to the brim with helmets, vests and clear shields. They might have not gained any numerical superiority against the 'enemy' but Mr. Smith knew the people watching his men mount up were already going to be his best weapons. He could almost smell the fear they must be feeling. He would, was willing to match each of his men with 10 or 20 of the irregulars, conscripted by Raj. He would be surprised if even 500 men would stand and oppose him at the Palace. There was something about the girl too. He had not been able to put it into words until now. Unlike the flowery promises and images of great wealth for he and his men from her brother, he felt un-clean. It was as though he was covered with the leavings of a pig in some sty. This was not the feeling his sister left him with.
Her 'promise' for an amount of money was backed-up with everything she had. He knew not having access to her home resources had to be limited, yet she gave him all she had. She was committed, not some casual observer.
Some rode, some walked and from the reports he got from the scouts the 'Road To Mandalay' was clear. His men were what he had called them; 'The finest shock troops money could buy!' He wondered if he himself was becoming like them. The leads, or officers, had been with him through various campaigns. They were a mix of Legion, South African Mercs, Laotian fighters and some Russian 'Spetnaz' who decided they would not run from Kabul. He tried to keep old and new mixed in groups of ten. Half of them were being paid less than what a Western Business made in a week, but to them it was a lot of money. They had a policy in his command that if they did take casualties, monies would be sent to their families.
The things they made no compromises on were food and equipment. They were provided the best of everything. This to some of them who thought an AK shoved into their hands with not even a full clip readied them for battle.
There was the sound of 2 or three explosions up ahead, he could not determine exactly the number. He was still thinking of the girl. Damn she almost lost the top part of that outfit. He had better get his mind back onto work.
Yes, death and destruction had become work. Another day, another few thousand bucks. In his case maybe a little more. He was finding fewer and fewer situations where one could say one side was good or bad. It had become who paid better. That was one reason he was glad the girl came through with something of value. If he was honest with himself, he knew there was another reason, maybe two and they had almost popped out of her dress today.
Two more explosions. The report came back that they were 'clearing mines' another blast, this time a report in French. A flare, a green flare went up from ahead. The Royal Palace was within sight and no contact with opposition forces.
Man, Rodger hated that. You never knew if they were hidden, waiting for you or really run away. He called for a break. Rest, water and ready in 10 he radioed. Mobile skirmishers could be used, but they had two drones with then and it was like a walled city. The drones would not see that much but if they took fire, it was a safer option to use. Besides, they had not cost him anything. The Arabs 'liberated' some, he 'liberated' some from them in Syria. This was one of those times he would have liked better 'Eyes in the sky', Oh Well.
He called out, "Eyes". That was followed by a call for 30 minutes rest.
In a few minutes into the flight of 'Sitting Duck One', the name his un-armed drone was christened with, he got his visual. There was a definite reception party waiting behind the wall of the Palace to receive him. 1,000 men, maybe more. There would be some empty dinner spots in 'Mud Hut Ville' tonight. These men were mostly conscripts. He doubted if they all had modern weapons. He knew his men would walk right through them, still some would get 'lucky' maybe kill a few of his men.
He remembered an old movie he has seen. True he was not fighting an Arab or maybe not even Moslems today but, if it saved a few lives, he could live with some things.
Wood, brush, fallen trees, packing crates, whatever would burn was brought out to a place which was within view of the Palace. Several large pyres erected, a stand or upright stanchion on either side of each. There were a few captives, soldiers of a sort. They wee chosen at random, their own sort of 'Decimation'. A live hog was brought out, the carcass skewered onto a iron rod them placed above the roaring fire. It looked more like they were preparing a Texas sized BBQ.
The first captive was drought out. Dripping grease from the pig poured all over him. His yells attested the grease was hot. In a few minutes he was all cried out and covered head to toe. The next part may seem harsh. This was a kind of War and War is Hell, right?
I nodded to Ishmael. The bound prisoner was hoisted up between two of my men and placed on a second pyre. Oh, he too was skewered on a rod. His screams started again, I guess he found his voice, as the rod slowly pierced his body. He stopped shortly after he started roasting. A second man was brought out, he received the same BBQ invitation. Three or more pyres were erected but not lit. I ordered more to be slowly erected. We would soon run out of wooden things to set afire.
Surprise, surprise, a 'white flag' appeared atop the front wall of the Palace. Three men stopped in front of the now opened gate. Remembering that the first to blink usually lost, I had a third man readied to roast. That got the three to ride up regardless that we had ignored them. They were yelling. Not all in English or French but the "Stop, Stop" part came out pretty clear. Number 4 needed to get started.
My guys never let them get within 100 feet of me. Even when the dismounted and started yelling, crying, wailing even. When number 5 was brought out, all three fell to the ground. One, in English asked. "What do you want?"
Ishmael walked over to the man, looked at me, I nodded.
"It is simple we saw you had more food waiting behind those walls so we needed time to prepare so many meals." He took a bite out of a piece of meat that looked like it came from a nearly overcooked number one. "As I said it is simple, you new Queen wants her palace back, with everything in it, I mean everything. We want her brother Raj and all you can go home, safe and sound and we shall have our BBQ elsewhere. You may bring him to me in say, 10 minutes.
Number 5 met the skewer. The man buckled at his shrieks. It looked like he was going to say something. Ishmael said, 9 minutes now. Number six was brought out. It was a child. More pyres were being made but not lit. That comment about being committed took on another meaning. The man saw it in my eyes. He did not hesitate any longer, one of the other men called and said something on the device he carried. Before or friend even had time to ride back, four more men were leading someone to meet our friend. I assumed it was Raj. It was.
I radioed back to the Palace. I told the new Queen I had misled her. Her Coronation would not be happening tomorrow. Could she possibly get everything in order and have it today instead?
There had been some looting, some damage, maybe venting of frustration. OK! I turned to the men who had brought Raj. "Your new Queen will soon be here. Ishmael perhaps did not make things clearly understood. I shall try again and keep it up until you all understand. The Palace MUST be exactly as it was when she had to leave. EVERYTHING, that was there MUST still be there. Until that is the case, I will just have to keep up your instruction."
I turned back, nodded and number 6, 7 then 8 hit the spit. You could swear the kid's screams were still in the air when he was spun around the fire. Numbers 7 and 8 were girls. I had a dozen more roasts readied and more pyres built but not lit. The looks on all the faces were that of shock.
I handed each man a playing card. On the face of each was a sketch of 'The Grim Reaper'. They had worked in Nam, there, with only ears missing.
Harsh, Yes. When you consider 1,000 empty places that night for dinner as an alternative though, the few so sacrificed was not an unreasonable price for rebels to pay. God, now I was as bad as my enemy. I had learned something though from 'Idi Amin Dada', or was that a tactic from British colonial regiment fame, the King's African Rifles I believe, fear can be a more powerful motivator than brute force.
I don't know what or how they did fix things but by the time the new Queen arrived, I was informed important areas of the Palace seemed to be in 'Ship-Shape'. That was all that mattered. I think our new Queen must have heard about the BBQ we had set up. She had not been in the Palace 25 minutes (I would have waited an hour) before a small delegation approached bearing gifts, she remembered, bless her heart; no further instruction would be necessary. I thought of those 'Three Wise Magi' from folklore. The stench of burning flesh did not give me much of an appetite however. Our dinner date would have to wait.
Oh, and Raj. There was one more pyre lit that day. His squeals were louder than the pig's had been.