Chapter 1: A Strange Arrival

December 11, 1989

Tobo was one of those island countries that had nothing going for it, except geography. It was just far enough away from Amra, and geographically large enough, that attacking the island would require a full naval task force. It was close enough that young enterprising individuals could smuggle products (agricultural products) to almost the whole eastern side of Amra. It also had a climate that was perfect for growing poppies. Its key exports to the world were opium and heroin, and its preferred destination was Amra.

There were at least thirty different key routes that led from Tobo to Amra. Some involved intermediate countries such as Teal, New Franc, and Termal. There were also routes that involved skimming the coastlines, going from small island to small island. There were three open water routes where the normal ocean traffic was enough to stress the 'board and inspect' capabilities of the Amran Navy.

It was on May 20, 1984 that the Amran government declared a 'War on Drugs' with the chief source being Tobo. This sounded great, in the newspapers. The only problem was that it was a war on drugs, and not on Tobo. This meant that Amra was not going to invade Tobo to stop the drugs at the source, so it was forced to work with the Tobo government. The Tobo military was sent into places to eliminate crops accompanied by Amran military advisers. This would have worked quite well, but it seemed as if every third recruit in the Tobo military had relatives who were growing poppies, were processing the opium into heroin, or were involved in smuggling.

After five years, the Amra's 'War on Drugs' was going nowhere. Farmers planted poppies, the Tobo military destroyed a few fields every season, cottage industries were manufacturing heroin, and smugglers were getting the drugs into Amra. In Amra, wholesalers were receiving regular shipments, distributing it to middle men, and then low level dealers were selling drugs to users. It was a nice little economy all on its own.

As a result of the basic consistency of production, refinement, shipping, and sales; a handful of individuals eventually gained almost total control over the drug trade. The process of centralizing the drug trade started well before the 'War on Drugs' had been declared. In a lot of cases, the raids by the Tobo military were used by one group or another, to eliminate some competitors. By 1989, control of the drug trade had distilled down to one group: the Tobo Drug Cartel.

It would seem obvious that if there is one group in control of the drug trade, that the war on drugs should have been easily winnable. Eliminate that one group and declare victory. The problem was that the group in question controlled the Tobo government; which, in turn, controlled the Tobo military. That meant, the military wasn't actually going to do anything that impacted the drug trade, regardless of what Amra wanted. It was rumored, but never documented, that the 'poison' sprayed to kill the poppy crops in some areas was actually fertilizer, or insecticides, or both.

The problem of political corruption wasn't only a problem inside Tobo, but was a problem in Amra, as well. There was a lot of money in drugs. Where there is there is a lot of money to be made, there is a lever to use in gaining favors from powerful people. The head of the Tobo drug cartel had even been an honored guest of the Prime Minister of Amra!

The corruption in Amra basically manifested itself in a form of schizophrenic multiple personality disorder. On one hand, politicians, law enforcement organizations, and the military all spoke out against drug trafficking, and the cost in human lives that resulted from the horrible practice of drug use. On the other hand, those same individuals were committed to keeping a form of status quo. If the 'War on Drugs' actually came to an end, they'd be out work. So the game was to get a little positive press, get more money to grow the department, and get bigger and better toys. It made for lots of interesting thirty second news bites on television.

Politicians wanted spectacular arrests while not wanting the people they knew, or who had donated lots of money to them, exposed as common criminals. So they threw lots of money at the problem and bought equipment for use by the Tobo military, but didn't really follow through on any of it. When some group got too aggressive, arms and legs were figuratively tied with bureaucratic red tape.

Then one day, a childhood friend of a minor director working within a branch of the Ministry of War which was tasked with ending the 'War on Drugs' died of a heroin overdose. With the death of his friend, the director, Mark Goodall, was upset and angry. He had always wanted to win the 'War on Drugs, ' but had found the political maneuvering necessary to accomplish something impossible. The more he pushed, the harder the system pushed back at him.

Mark had just about given up when he read a newspaper article about the release of four Amran businessmen who had been kidnapped. The companies involved had hired a mercenary group which went in, and ended a major kidnapping ring in Kale. He wondered if they might be able to help. He made a call. Much to his dismay and disappointment, they turned him down before he was able to fully state that he wanted to hire them and why. It left him disappointed, and he basically gave up on ever ending the drug trade from Tobo.

A week after making the call, he went for a jog in the park near his office during lunch, as was often a habit of his. He was taking it easy. He was not pushing himself that particular day, nor really paying too much attention to his surroundings. He was surprised when suddenly he was hit in the face with a soft juggler's bean bag. He stopped, and found that he was surrounded by laughing children. A woman with her face painted with flowers was standing in front of him with a large smile on her face.

She leaned towards him with a hand cupped over her ear. He stared at her thinking she was crazy. Then she turned to the children while jumping up and down excitedly. Her excitement was contagious and the kids were bouncing right along with her. He wondered if he was dealing with a lunatic.

"Kids! This nice man just asked me for date. Should I say 'yes?'"

There was a loud cacophony of yesses, nos, and oohs from the children. He stared at her in disbelief. He knew he hadn't done any such a thing. Yes, he was definitely dealing with a lunatic.

"I think he should have to wait for an answer. What do you think, kids?"

Yesses, and only a few nos, rang out. They were happy to be made a part of the whole thing, but didn't want their entertainment interrupted. For his part, he had no intention of waiting around for her. The sooner he put some distance between him and this crazy woman, the better.

"Well, Mark, it seems the kids think you should wait for my answer. Have a seat over on the bench and read the newspaper. There's a great article about how the Jade Force will join the 'War on Drugs, '" she said with a broad smile.

He stood there staring after her. How had she known his name? What was that about Jade Force? That was the outfit that had hung up on him. He glanced over at the bench where there was a folded newspaper just lying there. He had read the paper that morning and there hadn't been any such article in it.

She turned to the kids and, in an excited voice, asked, "What are we supposed to say to drugs?"

"No!" the kids echoed.

"That's right!"

She picked up her fallen juggler's bean bag and started juggling while singing a common children's song. With great enthusiasm, the kids sang along with her. She slowly moved away from him, juggling the whole while, with the kids following her. He noticed that there was a group of mothers watching their children at play from a distance.

He walked over to the bench and picked up the newspaper. It was today's newspaper. The front page was the same. He opened it to the second page. It was exactly the same as he had read, earlier. He opened it to another page, but this one was different. The type was the same, most of the articles were the same, and even the ads were the same, but the lead article had been replaced with instructions on how to hire Jade Force, to end the 'War on Drugs.' He couldn't believe what it was saying. He was to hire them to be scapegoats for major failures in the 'War on Drugs.' That didn't make sense to him at all.

A woman in a wheelchair rolled past. She paused and then said, "The park is not the place to read a newspaper. You should take it back to your office and read it there. Be sure that you follow the instructions on how to set up a contract for Jade Force."

"What?" he asked staring at the woman.

She wasn't the same woman who had told him about the newspaper. The crazy woman juggler was long gone, along with the kids who had been following her.

"Have a nice day," the woman said and then pushed away in her wheelchair.

Where he had received nothing but resistance before this, the proposal to hire Jade Force as a convenient scapegoat went through the system like magic. It seemed that everyone liked the idea of having an outside party who could be blamed for failures. The outlandish budget only gave it more credibility. A contract with Jade Force was signed in record time.

The Amran Army had a small base along the coast of Tobo where the 'Amran advisers' to the Tobo military were stationed. It was on the outskirts of a large town. There was a chain link fence around it with several gates staffed with guards. There hadn't ever been any kind of attack, so the guards were a little lax.

There was a lot of traffic in and out of the base, but it was basically a quiet place. Locals were hired to take care of the camp, doing things like gardening, laundry, meal preparation, and secretarial services. There were a couple of buildings no one was allowed into without proper clearance. There were guards at those buildings, but none of them had been challenged in years.

With the base abutted right against the beach, the most common pass time of the soldiers stationed there was to sit out on the beach, swim, and surf. It was a cushy place to be sent, probably one of the best duty stations in the whole Amran Army: no one was shooting at them, the locals were happy to do the daily grudge work for them, and they even had a guy who sold beverages on the beach.

Once a week or so, a handful of them rode along in a Tobo helicopter with the Tobo military looking for poppy fields. When they found one, they'd land nearby, discuss the matter, and then a plane would come by and spray the field, and some poor farmer would get hauled away for questioning. No one from Amra ever followed up on the field, or the farmer. That was Tobo's problem.

At a few minutes before eleven o'clock in the morning on December 11, 1989, everyone on the base, turned to look at the big four engined transport plane approaching the base from the city. It was flying very low, at just around four hundred feet altitude. The ramp at the rear of the plane had been lowered. Suddenly, two figures popped out the rear of the plane with chutes deployed. Everyone watched, impressed by the low altitude jump, as they floated down at a sedate pace landing in front of the headquarters building. It took only a few seconds for them to get their chutes under control, rolled up, and stuffed in their packs.

One of them looked at the stunned guard in front of the headquarters, and said, "We have an appointment with Colonel Byrd, for 1100 hrs. Would you inform him that we're here?"

There was no need to inform Colonel Byrd. He came charging out of the building shouting, "What in the hell are you doing pulling a stunt like that?"

Once Colonel Byrd started on a rant, he was good for a solid five minutes. He didn't even slow down to get some sort of answer from the Jade Warriors. He just bellowed about irresponsible behavior and how stunts like that could get them killed.

While he was ranting, six more Jade Warriors walked up and surrounded the group. Each gave a little hand signal and then took up a position. They were all facing different directions giving complete coverage of all approaches.

He ended just like he began, "What in the hell are you doing pulling a stunt like that?"

"What stunt? We said we'd drop in at 1100 hrs. Did you think we're little old ladies from Ingles, who 'drop in for a spot of tea?' We're Jade Warriors, when we drop in, we really do 'drop in!'"

That set Colonel Byrd back a little. On the telephone, they'd made the point several times that they'd drop in. He'd thought that meant pull up to the front and get admitted like most visitors.

"But..."

The other Jade Warrior said, "We are very concerned about the security on this base. There's no way we should have been able to do this without getting shot, particularly since it looks like you didn't warn your people to expect us to drop in like that."

The first Jade Warrior said, "I was just informed that your guards at the gate just stood there and watched us drop. Not one of them even touched his weapon. They weren't even aware that one of our people was standing right next to them when we were parachuting in, or that our people walked right past them once we were out of sight."

The second Jade Warrior said, "That level of security is not acceptable under the terms of our contract."

"We agreed to be a scapegoat if operations didn't go as planned, but we didn't sign up to be sacrificial lambs."

Colonel Byrd looked around noticing for the first time that there were now six Jade Warriors standing around them. Four of them were women. He knew that no one had even questioned them, because all of them were completely armed with rifles, pistols, swords, and knives. Some asses were going to get chewed over this!

"So what are you going to do about it?" Colonel Byrd asked.

"According to the contract, we can set up a separate camp inside your camp, if we have security concerns. I am formally informing you that we have security concerns."

"So where do you want your camp?"

One of the Jade Warriors pulled out a map. After unfolding it, he held it up. The first Jade Warrior pointed to a red square on the map.

"We've marked the location here."

"That's the beach."

"Yes. It is."

"We're using the beach for rest and relaxation."

"We're only going to use half of that beach, as is clearly shown on the map," the Jade Warrior said.

Looking closely at the map, Colonel Byrd was a little dismayed to see how much detail was on it. He didn't have a map of the base with that much detail. It even had the function of each of the buildings marked on it. He was starting to get a really bad feeling!

He asked, "Where did you get that map?"

"We drew it."

"You drew it. When did you have a chance to draw a map of the base?"

"We came onto this base two nights ago and drew a map of it. We spent hours walking around the base. As I said, we have security concerns."

"So do I," Colonel Byrd muttered.

The Jade Warrior pushed a button on the microphone on his uniform and said something that the Colonel didn't understand. He looked off to the side as if listening to something and then nodded his head.

"Our camp will be ready in an hour."

"Who are you?"

"I'm Sword Flavia. I am the liaison between Jade Force, and you, for all military matters."

"I'm Sword Howard."

Deciding that it was time to mend fences a little since they had gotten off to a bad start, Colonel Byrd said, "Well, Flavia, if we're going to be working together, maybe we ought to go in my office and get to know each other."

"Please call me Sword Flavia. I am a Jade Warrior working under a contract. I am not your friend. I'm the liaison for all military matters. If it is a military matter, then we'll meet. There's no need for us to get to know each other."

"I think there is a need. People work better together if they know a thing or two about each other," Colonel Byrd said feeling insulted.

Sword Howard said, "We don't fraternize outside of Jade Force, until the individual has proved his or her worth."

Now he was starting to get angry. "You're not being very cooperative."

Sword Howard said, "We are here so that we can be scapegoats for when your plans do not work out as expected. We've just given you evidence that can be used to build a case that we are non-cooperative. You can even use our unusual arrival as evidence that we are loose cannons. We are giving you plenty of material to support shifting blame onto us for any failure on your part. If you look at it from that perspective, we are being very cooperative."

That line of reasoning stopped Colonel Byrd cold. He had read the contract and believed that it was weighted heavily in Amra's favor. He really couldn't understand why they had taken the contract as it was written. Although it wasn't explicitly mentioned, the Jade Force was to serve as a scapegoat. The contract stated that they were willing to take the blame for any mission failures once they became part of the military operations. Contractually, they were accepting responsibility for the success or failure of any mission regardless of its source so long as at least one Jade Warrior was involved. The contract did not provide them with any authority over Amran or Tobo troops. The contractual specification of responsibility without authority made them the perfect scapegoat.

The exit clauses specified in the contract essentially gave the Jade Force two outs: they were fired or the Tobo Drug Cartel was destroyed. He didn't see how they could possibly get out as a result of the Tobo Drug Cartel being destroyed, since they had been fighting this war for so long with little progress. He decided that they had to be angling towards getting fired. There wasn't going to be a major screw up under his command unless they were responsible for it and he wasn't going to allow that to happen so he was going to be stuck with them for the duration.

There were clauses in the contract that made little sense, although there was some superficial merit to them in terms of being a scapegoat. A member of Jade Force was to sit in on all mission planning sessions that would involve them, but would provide no input unless specifically asked. That seemed reasonable, since they needed to be able to testify that they were aware of the mission parameters. There was also an independence of action clause that had to be there, to justify that they didn't act according to Amran Army plans, which contributed to the failure of the mission.

There were a few provisions that he didn't like at all. Jade Force was to be given access to all relevant intelligence that would allow them to protect their people from excessive casualties. He didn't like giving outsiders access to intelligence data. They were to be given that access beginning thirty days before their first operational deployment. They were responsible for their own security in the event it was deemed that Amra or Tobo was not able to provide sufficient security for their people. It all boiled down to the fact that they were willing to accept blame, but they didn't want their people to die.

Colonel Byrd said, "Have your people work with mine to set up your camp."

"The camp is being set up as we speak," Sword Flavia said.

On the beach, two Second Great War era landing craft landed. The front door/ramp opened and a stream of Swords exited with weapons at the ready. Amran soldiers who had been getting a little sun found themselves being forced off the beach at gunpoint. The Amran soldiers were not pleased at all about having loaded weapons aimed at them.

Once the first stream of Swords had cleared the beach, a third landing craft made its way to the beach. A stream of Shields came out to set up the forward operating base. Half of the Swords turned to help unload supplies from the first two landing craft. All of a sudden, there was a flurry of activity the level of which had never been seen before on that peaceful, beautiful beach.

Lieutenant James (Jimmy) Daniels II, wearing a sun hat, bathing trunks, one flip-flop on his right foot, and carrying a beach chair, ran up to where Colonel Byrd was talking with Sword Flavia.

He stopped short when three of the guarding Swords all aimed their rifles at him and shouted, "Halt!"

He dropped his beach chair and raised his hands over his head. He was convinced that the base had been taken over by a hostile force. Although he didn't consider himself to be a coward, he wasn't about to take on armed men when his only weapon was a beach chair. Surrender was the only choice.

Colonel Byrd did not need to see him in uniform, to recognize James Daniels II. He was the son of a very influential Member of Parliament, and there were big plans for his political future. He was stationed here to give him a 'Theater of War' experience without actually being in much danger of getting shot at, much less killed.

Furious, Colonel Byrd shouted, "What's the meaning of pointing your weapons at one of my men?"

Sword Flavia said, "That's a standard defensive action when an individual charges us on semi-secured territory. If there had been more than just one individual, we'd have shot them all. If this was unsecured territory, we'd have just shot him. As it is, we just told him to halt."

"Lower your weapons, right now."

There was a long pause before Sword Flavia said, "He's been vouched for as not being a threat."

Colonel Byrd had expected Sword Flavia to give an order, not an assessment of the situation. The Swords reacted to the statement with a speed and clarity that surprised Colonel Byrd. With an almost audible snap, their weapons returned to their original position. They were no longer pointed at Lieutenant Daniels, but were ready for use.

"What is it, Lieutenant Daniels?"

"Armed men dressed like these guys have taken over our beach."

Sword Flavia said, "We're just setting up camp. Our first act is to secure it. I assume that is what he is talking about."

"You forced us off the beach at gunpoint!" Lieutenant Daniels shouted.

"That's called securing the area."

"There was no need to bring weapons into play," Colonel Byrd shouted furious at having his men ordered around at gunpoint.

"We are Jade Warriors. Do you expect warriors to send out written invitations to leave the beach, post haste? If so, you're sadly mistaken. You are dealing with warriors. Never forget that!"

Edited By TeNderLoin

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