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The Coup

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  • #16
    A sudden flurry of explosions on the extreme left end of the stop line along with a garbled radio transmission in a stressed tone abruptly cut off mid-sentence caught my attention. Barney picked it up too and came on the net calling for a sitrep, only to receive static as an answer.
    Instinctively I began moving towards that flank at a trot, Hun gun shouldered at the high ready. I could feel the boys shaking out to either side forming an arrow head.
    The vegetation grew thicker towards the watershed of the river and as a result visibility diminished.

    I slowed to a patrol pace as we entered a haze of dust and smoke. I caught sight of a sprawled body in MCU and coyote brown plate carrier on the edge of the treeline to my right a second before the muzzle flashes strobed out of the murk to my left front.
    I pivoted and dropped to one knee, simultaneously shouldering the Hun gun and double tapping the indistinct outline in my sight picture several times before falling flat and yelling ‘Contact left!’. Ram thumped down next to me and Bhan took a knee using a trunk as cover past him. I scrambled to my feet and stalked forward with my barrel riveted on the slumped shadow. Using my peripherals I caught Craig moving to my right. I didn’t have to look to know that Ryan was bringing up the rear.

    Reaching the area I found a dead Caucasian guy, ruddy complexion with a long scraggly beard, dressed in jungle greens and a saffie chest rig. He was slumped across the old school FN FAL he’d taken a shot at me with. My rounds had hit him across the upper chest and face, killing him instantly.
    I put another round into his head point blank, we didn’t need any threats to our back, and took a knee next to the corpse.
    Looking over the body more carefully convinced me that this was one of Van Neikerk’s instructor cadre. Caucasian, mid to late 50’s, he had that Boer look about him. Probably 32 battalion, Parabat or maybe Recce Commando.

    Craig took a knee behind me facing back the other way to cover an arc. “Three of the boys are back there. Pretty fucked up but still alive, treating themselves. Their position got RPGed to fuck.”
    The mob of fleeing rebels had been weighted to the North just as I expected, but we’d received fuck all fire throughout the rout. Where had this come from? Putting the pieces together I quickly realised that this was likely Van Neikerk himself attempting to breakout of the encirclement with his most trusted guys.
    A low whistle brought the guys in on me, all facing out but close enough to me whisper. “Boy’s I reckon this is Van Neikerk’s crew trying to squirt out. And we’re right behind them. Ryan, sitrep to Barney, casrep for those men down and demand a couple of teams to back us up and reinforce this end of the line.
    Bhan - Ram, do a quick cast and get me a trail and then gun dog it. Hot pursuit. We get contacted, assault straight through, full noise. Craig watch our arse as we go. Alright, let’s hunt these ****’s down and fuck them up.”
    We split for our different tasks. I sucked down some fortified water from my camel back as I swapped out the Hun guns half empty mag for a new one. I then pulled out the Grid Reference Graphic and quickly scanned the topo detail for this area, such as there was. Within thirty seconds Bhan got my attention by softly clucking his tongue twice.
    Shaking out into a tracking formation; two up and three on line behind, we took off after our quarry. Bhan lead, concentrating on the ground immediately to his front. Ram acted as his cover scout, scanning the ground to Bhan’s front and sides. The trail was so obvious even I could have followed it.
    Broken pieces of vegetation; crushed stems, ripped leaves, scuffed ground cover, etc clearly indicated a hasty passage by a number of people.

    Less than a hundred metres into the pursuit Bhan froze. Ram who was a couple of metres to his rear took two slow paces to his right and eased to a knee. The rest of us propped where we were, Ryan and Craig facing the flanks. I scanned the bush to my front, looking at ground height between the vegetation and at the bases of trees, etc. Nothing.
    As I stepped forward to query the halt, Bhan shouldered his Hun gun and opened fire immediately to his front. Ram joined him and repeatedly shouted “Contact front!” Rounds cracked past us coming from the other direction. Craig was already off to one flank, with a clear field of fire. He simply dropped to a knee, braced the big Pech against a tree for stability and opened fire with burst after burst of 3-5 rounds in an arc across our frontage. I dug out three M67’s and threw them in fan about twenty odd metres out to our front, yelling “GRENADE!” as I did so. The scouts used the covering fire of Craig’s Pech to change mags in preparation for the assault.
    Three spaced detonations threw up eruptions of red dirt and green shrubbery. I scrambled to my feet and yelling “ASSAULT!” sprinted a couple of metres past Ram on the right and threw myself to the ground, Ryan matched me on the far left. I fired a couple of rounds and shouted GO!
    Bhan and Ram leapt up and charged forward themselves. We continued on like that; bounding forward in pairs, firing and maneuvering, dash down crawl observe sights fire, towards the enemy.

    As I got up for my third bound I saw a guy to my front in the prone at a slight oblique angle to me hammering away at the boys to my right. He noticed me at the same time and as I stamped my foot into the ground to stop and take up a CQB stance. It became a race as to who would fire first. Muscle memory borne of years of repetitive drilling had me squared up and letting go a double tap using the rapid alignment/instinctive technique, as opposed to carefully sighting in on him for a deliberate shot which would have lost me critical time.

    As I fired I was rewarded with flash of a muzzle blast seemingly into my face followed by trip hammer blows to my body dropping me in my tracks. I flailed around on the ground for a couple of seconds as my nervous system fought to overcome the effects of the hydrostatic shock. Close ranges hits from rifle rounds had suddenly dumped thousands of kilojoules of kinetic energy into my body. Even though the ceramic plate stopped any penetration there were still physical consequences to deal with.

    Through strength of will I collected my senses, fumbling for my Hun gun and orientating myself back into the fight. Ryan ran up to me yelling ‘MAN DOWN!’ at the top of his lungs. I shook my head and managed to croak out “I’m good.” More hopefully than knowingly. Looking beyond him I saw Bhan and Ram lurking over several motionless bodies, Craig covering them. Ryan did a blood sweep of my arms and legs, then my front and back, looking for major bleeds. Finding none he gave me a thumbs up and helped me to my feet. I fought to get my breathing back under control and managed to croak a winded “Ammo, cas?” out. Craig answered that we were all good. I took a knee next to him and concentrated on my breathing. Swilling some water to moisten my dried out mouth I asked for a sitrep.

    “Three dead enemy, and that guy wounded.” Craig said pointing at the guy who’d shot me. “I saw it from behind you, you both shot each other at the same time. Wicked shit, man.” His blackened Face split into a wide grin.

    “Oh yeah” I rasped sarcastically. “Really fucking cool”


    • #17
      The three dead were all Caucasians. But Van Neikerk wasn’t amongst them. They matched the general physical characteristics of the first dead Boer. Same equipment and dress. The wounded guy was a black African though. I sent Ram and Craig off to conduct another cast for sign.
      Bhan searched him roughly, pulling off his webbing and turning out his pockets. Every item found was dumped in a pile out of arms reach. Not that there was that much chance of the guy reaching for them considering his condition.
      My double tap had hit him in the right shoulder, smashing the socket, and the right side of his mouth shattering his jaw and ripping out most of the teeth on that side of his face. He was a fucking mess. 7.62mm for the motherfucking win. Still, Ryan followed SOP’s and covered Bhan as he searched.
      I absently rubbed my chest under the plate where his rounds had hit - Fuck that’s gonna bruise like a peach - as I toed through the pile of belongings next to him. Bhan flipped him over, ignoring his choked scream as most of his weight came onto his ruined shoulder. A jolt of adrenaline shot through me as I got a good look at his face, fucked up as it was.

      Jabulani Ndlouvu. Jacobus Van Niekerk’s right hand man.

      I kneeled down next to his head, grabbed a fist full of dreadlocks and twisted his face to look at mine. “So tell me blackarse, where’s your boyfriend, Jacobus?” Ndlouvo could only mumble liquidly in response.
      Glancing into his facial wound it looked like my round had clipped part of his tongue off as well. Pity. I would have enjoyed TQing the **** vigorously. But being unable to readily communicate he wouldn’t be worth the effort. Dropping his head I turned back to his pile of shit and noticed a smart phone. A thought formed. Still, maybe he would be useful for something after all.

      Ram and Craig arrived back from their cast. “These guys were a rear guard for another group trying to escape. Three of them, two wounded, one badly. We found him at the river’s edge bled out with some discarded kit; rifles and webbing. The sign we found shows the other two entered the water, we cast along either bank but they didn’t reappear on our side.”

      I kicked Ndlouvu in the shoulder which elicited a choked off scream. “This **** is Van Niekerk’s second. The one who ran the orphanage hit. What’s the bet he was covering for his mate so he could get away?”
      I flexicuffed Ndlouvu wrists together and dragged him to his feet. Even though he was well into his 50’s the guy barely had an ounce of fat on his broad shouldered, powerful frame. Shock and blood loss had taken the fight right out of him though. Handing him off to Ryan to guard I grabbed the smart phone and led the way to the river. Ram pointed out the sign and the bled out corpse, yet another Caucasian. He and Craig gave me their appreciation of the situation. I explained what I had in mind to the guys and their faces lit up in anticipation.

      Hitting the power button on the phone I was glad to see there was no password protection. I navigated to the call log and scrolled through its history before searching the contacts. There was one frequently used number for a JVN. Not even a cursory attempt at coding the contact with a nickname? I shook my head. These guys weren’t stupid as such, their operations thus far had proved that much, but they certainly had become complacent. I checked the reception, three bars, then pressed the green handset icon for JVN.

      Craig gave me a bemused look. “It’s ringing”, I mouthed with a smile. He snorted in response. Five double tones later a connection was made. There was a pause and some indistinct rustling noises before a deep voice, scored with pain answered in that coarse southern African English accent; “Jabu, where are you, boet?”

      I closed my eyes and stayed silent, reading the emotion in his words. Tiny sounds leaked out around the edges of each breath he took. The shock and pain manifesting itself with little noises in each laboured pause confirming that he was the wounded one of the pair that had escaped. Excellent.

      “Jabu? Are you there boet? We’re across the river, just south of the bridge. We’ll RV with you here, but you’ll…..” He ran out of words as he realised.

      I could see the remains of the bridge almost two hundred metres up stream. “No Jacobus. Your brother won’t be RVing with you. Not today.” No answer. “But should I send a medic over Jacobus? You sound pretty fucked, bru?” Still nothing. I continued, “Tell me boet, did you appreciate the tactics I used this morning to beat you? Do you recognise them? I bet you did. Fireforce vertical envelopment. Straight out of the Rhodesian Bush War history books. Obviously I’ve updated it for the 21st century, added a few modifications of my own of course. Adapted it to local conditions and the resources I had at my disposal, but I followed the principals faithfully. Pretty impressive, yeah? And effective. Certainly fucked your plan up, chap. There goes your little terrorist army.”

      Flat rage whispered out of the handset; “You fucking ****. You have no idea what you’re dealing with.” I sighed inwardly and relaxed. For a minute I thought I’d overdone it, and that he’d hang up.

      “Aw c’mon, Jacobus. Don’t be ridiculous. I understand you’re wounded and in shock, but emotional outbursts like that make you sound like a fucking idiot. I really expect more from you, chap. Obviously I know what I’m dealing with, why else would I have attacked this camp? You really can’t imagine how much I know, though. Let the enormity of that sink in for a second, boet.”

      “I’m not your fucking boet! I’m going to fucking cut your heart out, you prick!” He hissed back.

      “Ah see, now you’re just taking this personally. What was it you said about me? ‘This western soft cock doesn’t understand Africa. Deep down underneath a pretense of supposed operational experience, in pathetic wars such as Iraq or Afghanistan, he’ll be no different to every other bleeding heart western culturist, soldier or aid worker, that’s come to this continent believing they know better than us natives.’ I’m paraphrasing obviously but it was words to that effect.”

      He didn’t answer. No doubt the dawning realisation of who my source of information was, and therefore just how much I really knew had rocked him on his heels.

      “You thought Jacobus that by attacking the orphanage, by raping and killing those kids, by executing and mutilating my men, you thought you’d teach me a lesson, yeah? You would show me what I was really dealing with. T.I.A! This Is Africa!”

      I put the phone on speaker and walked over to Ndlouvu. “Come to the riverbank and look back down to where you crossed over, Jacobus. I’ve got something to show you.”


      • #18

        I stuffed the phone into the top of my vest. Grabbing Ndlouvu by the dreads, I kicked him in the back of the knee to drop him to the ground at the water’s edge. It was like kicking a tree trunk. He refused to budge. Hard bastard, I’ll give him that. I looked back up towards the bridge and could just make out some movement, well back into the tree line.

        “You believe my thought processes are constrained by western concepts or morality and civility? Let me teach you otherwise.”

        I drew my P226 and shot Ndlouvu through the back of both knees. He dropped onto the wrecked joints and screamed wetly, blood, spittle and shards of teeth and bone spraying everywhere. He tried to fall to the side and take the pressure off his new wounds but I holstered the pistol and grabbed his hair with both hands, forcing him to remain upright. Through the speaker I heard the tinny voice of Jacobus yelling in rage.

        “Oh, you don’t sound convinced that you were wrong about me. Here, let me strive to even greater lengths.”
        With that I stomped on the back of Ndlouvu’s legs behind the knees. The screaming reached new heights. The skin of his broken face flapped liquidly as he bellowed, his agony rebberverated across the water and echoed through the trees on the far side.

        I held him like that for long seconds feeling his ruined body vibrate in abject pain; before drawing my pistol again, taking careful aim and shooting him at the base of his neck. His screams were cut off abruptly and I released him to flop face first into the water, his lower half remaining on the bank as his nerveless legs drummed the red earth.

        I took up the phone again, “You there, boet?” I could still hear his breathing. “Did you watch that? Of course you did. How could you not have? To explain that last part though because you aren’t close enough to see the detail, it might have looked like I shot him in the back of the head. But I didn’t. I actually shot him in the base of the neck through the spine. He’s not dead yet, but he soon will be.” I looked down at the bubbles floating past. “Paralyzed from the neck down and drowning in six inches of water at my feet.”

        “So tell me Jacobus? Did my torture and summary execution of your best friend convince you of my willingness to ignore those quaint concepts of morality and civility?” I glanced down. “Ah, the bubbles have stopped, chap. I’d say Jubalani has shuffled off this mortal coil. You wanna say a few words in memoriam?” Nothing but laboured breathing. I sniggered “No? I guess there’s no honour amongst war criminals then.”

        A world of pain enfolded his voice. “I’ll kill you for this.”

        I laughed, a genuine full throated chuckle. “Yeah, you’ll try, chap. But from what I’ve seen of your mediocre abilities so far that’s not gonna keep me awake. On the other hand, I’ve only just begun to take you and yours apart, boet. By the way, you can have the rest of his body but I’m keeping Juba’s head. I’ve got plans for that. Catch you later old man.”

        I hung up without waiting for a response and stripped the battery out of the phone. The geeks could check over it later to strip any useful data. Reaching down to grab Ndlouvu’s still legs I hauled him back onto dry land and then turned to Bhan.

        “Bag his head, leave the rest for the dogs.”

        As the little Ghurka unsheathed his Kukri, I took one last look up the river and flipped him a middle finger before turning back towards the burning camp.