Monday, February 01, 2016

Death Merchant #63: The Pakistan Mission

Kill or Be Killed

The Russian Spetnaz - even the CIA feared them. The Spetnaz were nothing less than special assassin-commandoes trained in terror; marauders skilled in sabotage.

Now US Intelligence has discovered a seething Spetnaz base secreted in the rugged mountains of occupied Afghanistan. Poised to ravage unsuspecting Pakistan, only thirty miles to the south, the Spetnaz will spearhead a brutal Russian drive to isolate the crucial oil fields of Saudi Arabia, and bring the oil-dependant West to its knees!

Only a miracle can strangle the impending invasion - or a master of mayhem named Richard Camellion, the Death Merchant. He must rouse the troubled Pathan tribe of Pakistan to dare the impossible: a furtive thrust through the death-drenched Afghan frontier to surprise the Soviets and raze the savage Spetnaz base to the ground!


The Death Merchant and "Mad Mike" Quinlan are in Pakistan, helping a Pathan tribe led by Mujibur Ali Mirza-Khan forestall a Russian invasion from Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass. To that end, they plan on attacking and destroying a Soviet military base near Narang that houses roughly 1,800 Spetsnaz troops.

Author Joseph Rosenberger offers a ton of background information on the political and tribal situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and way too much information on geo-politics. It's more Rosenberger offering his opinions on the region than anything needed to move the narrative forward.

Camellion, Quinlan, and two members of Quinlan's group Thunderbolt Unit: Omega are meeting with Mizra-Khan in the village of Gubukil, in the Ismail Khan mountains. The appearance of low-flying Russian planes suggests to Camellion that the village has been pinpointed and an attack is forthcoming. Camellion urges the Pathans to abandon the village and hide out in some nearby caves. Sure enough, Soviet helicopters soon destroy the village from the air and Spetnaz troops come out to inspect the damage. However, they discover that the only things they killed were goats - and so they begin to charge up the hill to the caves. When the Russians are close to the top, the Pathans open fire. Camellion uses two Bren Ten autopistols (having apparently retired his beloved Auto Mags several books ago). The battle - "eyeball to eyeball", both sides firing at point-blank range - is over "faster than rain pouring down a gopher hole" and the Russians are defeated. The death toll: 96 Pathans and 164 Russians.
It was the last 10mm round in the`right Bren Ten [of the Death Merchant] that caught the young Russian while he was still in midair, the big bullet boring into the pit of his stomach and half doubling him over before he started to crash to the stone floor of the cave. Faster than the Cosmic Lord of Death could give a fatal coronary to a businessman, Camellion dropped the Bren Ten, stuck out his left foot, and, before the dying pig farmer could fall all the way to the floor, grabbed the AKS-74 from the man's hands, spun the weapon around and impaled another Spetsnazki leaping from the parapet of corpses in the mouth of the wide cave, the momentum of the Russian's body driving the blade as far as its muzzle. The man gave a loud gurgle. Blood poured form his mouth and his eyes jumped out as if attached to invisible stalks. Don't feel bad, pig man! Dying of cancer could be worse! ...

"Du kannst mir ma! an den Sack fassen!" snarled Bruckner, who stepped aside, let the blade slip by, jerked the assault rifle from Pripolhodov's hands, backhanded the stunned Russian, then picked him up the way a wrestler would pick up an opponent in preparation for a back body slam. Only Bruckner, holding the squirming man at waist level, shoved his back into the bayonet with which Vladilen Raina was trying to tickle Mike Quinlan's colon. Bruckner's shove had been so powerful that an inch of the bayonet protruded from Pripolhodov's stomach, much to the rage and astonishment of Raina, who, in a flash, thought of a giant worm squirming on a giant pin. Pripolhodov's weight forced Raina to lower the AKS assault rifle, yet he didn't have time to pull the weapon and its bloody bayonet from Pripolhodov's body. It wouldn't have made any difference. The Peppermint Kid, using a British Frogman's diving knife, stabbed Raina in the left side, just below the waist. Almost all in the same motion, he let another Russian have a TNT side kick in the back of the head. Under ordinary circumstances, such a kick would have snapped the victim's neck, but the Kid had been an inch off. All the blow did was rattle Galilik Alferin's brain and knock him toward Mike Quinlan, who promptly smashed in his left temple with a steel spring kosh.
(One of the Omega mercs is James O'Malley, aka The Peppermint Kid. He is British and the way Rosenberger lets you know that is by having O'Malley start most of his sentences with "I say ...". He is always referring to the others as "chaps" and he sometimes drops the "h" at the start of words, so he can 'ave a British accent, of sorts.)

After their victory, Mizra-Khan and the remaining Pathans head to Sirzihil, a village 19 miles away, while Camellion, Quinlan and two members of Thunderbolt Unit: Omega (and four guides) journey through the mountains to check out the Soviet Spetnaz military base in preparation for the attack (which Mirza-Khan now supports, thanks to a shitload of weapons airdropped to his village by the CIA). They trek for several days. At the end of one day ...
The conversation became philosophical after supper, Willy Bruckner maintaining that wars caused by differences in religious beliefs had killed more human beings than Hitler and Stalin combined.

"India is a good example," he said gruffly. "For centuries, the Hindus and the Moslems have been killing each other. Or the war between Iran and Iraq. More than half a million have already died. That crazy son of a bitch Khomeini is sending ten-year-old children into battle. The little fools go into battle thinking that they'll go straight to heaven when they're shot down—with Khomeini's permission! It does prove how stupid Moslems are. At least Jews and Christians have more common sense."

The Death Merchant said, "One has to go back in history to see why Christian belief conquered the ancient world. Christianity spread from the Middle East because it offered something that the Jewish and Roman and Greek religions didn't have: eternal life. Poor, deluded people still believe it. Life might be a hell on earth, but after death—provided one is a good little 'slave' and has more faith than reason—one can have a king's palace. This formula—promise of 'glory in the sky' still works and expresses itself through nationalism. That's one of the reasons why good old Ron Wilson Reagan acts like a celestial chairman who has the backing of God."

"Reagan may believe he's right, but he sure as hell is not keeping within Jeffersonian principles, is he?" Quinlan said with a lighthearted reflectiveness. He had brought a quart of Scotch along on the journey and now, carefully—his back to the Pathans—poured some of the liquor into his small, stainless-steel cup. "But what the hell! The world has never learned anything from history. It never will. Religious wars are still a part of our so-called civilization. Willy said it right. Look at Iran and Iraq."

"The war between Iran and Iraq is identical to the Forty Years War following the Reformation in Europe," Camellion said with a big sigh. "Identical in every way." ...

"I 'ave the feeling that the end of our civilization is shaping up in the Middle East," O'Malley said, "and that when it's all over with only the cockroaches will inherit the earth. Something 'as to give. There's more medicine than ever in the world, yet more sickness. More religion, yet more evil. All the talk about universal brotherhood, yet 'alf the population of the world is hungry." He uttered a small laugh. "It must be Mirza-Khan's Iblis! He's the bloody blighter responsible for all the misery in this world, all the pain and suffering this world 'as."

The Peppermint Kid had intended his remark about Iblis to be a joke. He hadn't expected Mad Mike to comment. He had expected die-hard atheist Willy to grin and Willy had. But he was surprised when Camellion didn't so much as smile. He was almost shocked when Camellion said, "Iblis, Ahriman, Set, Loki, Mahadeva, or Satan—whatever one wishes to call the supreme spirit of evil, it's only a human term. Another thing is that the idea might not be as superstitious as we might think. Truth is often implausible. Forty years ago, many scientists laughed at the atomic theory. They are no longer laughing. Today we have proof that the entire external world is made up of electrical charges, or points of energy which in themselves have no color or taste or smell or shape. Everything, including our own bodies, is merely the mind's interpretation of electrical excitement. What then is reality? For that matter, who are we, what are we?"
One night the guides try to sneak up on the Death Merchant, planning to murder all four men, but Camellion, alert to the slightest sound, wakes up and (in "4.099 seconds") kills the guides.
Medicine tries to postpone it. Religion tries to soften it. But in the end. the Cosmic Lord of Death drums his bony fingers on all of us. Hah hah. hah! That silent conspiracy of Nature that prevents terrified humans from knowing Reality!
They continue on and spend only about ten minutes spying on the Soviet base. Then they leave, with the knowledge that it's heavily guarded. (Like Camellion wouldn't have expected that!) They hear copters from the base land nearby as they are leaving the area. They end up circling around and stealing one of the copters (after killing a bunch of "pig farmers" first).

Back at the Sirzihil village, Camellion believes he'll need about 500-600 men to attack the Spetsnaz base. Even with ground-to-air and ground-to-ground missiles, the mission is "going to be trickier than a coon dog tiptoeing away from a skunk." Camellion radios Grojean and he okays an airdrop of 15 tons of cargo, weapons, and random supplies. The planes use the infamous Gf mechanism so they are rendered invisible to both radar and the naked eye. It takes 17 days to open all of the crates and prepare the weapons. At one point, Camellion notes that he can see the "auras" of some of the men: "Bright green auras radiated from Kuuls and Chaudhriy's faces. Slowly the green changed to a dark brown, then to black. I'm looking at dead men!"

Hundreds of Pathans are able to sneak up on the base without being noticed - and they start firing 82mm HE shells into the base, destroying buildings, fuel tanks, and planes. When other planes take off, they shoot them down with missiles. The Pathans storm the base. The Death Merchant surmises that 80% of the Russians' resistance is coming from three buildings, so he concocts a plan to drive a huge truck past two buildings (where he will toss out blocks of RDX explosives) and into the main building, causing it to collapse. In the ensuing battle, Rosenberger rises to the challenge with some excellent play-by-play.
Vlad Zhikin and Georgi Guchin, the last two Spetsnaz alive, had made the always fatal mistake of attacking the Death Merchant and Willy Bruckner. Doing his best to thrust the muzzle of his AKR into Camellion's stomach, Zhikin was confident that he would make short work of the enemy with the strange device over his face. Suddenly, he found Camellion expertly blocking the thrust with his Galil and shoving the AKR to one side. The Russian didn't have time to become worried. The Death Merchant let him have a lightning-fast snap kick in the scrotum. A world of pain and hurt exploded in Zhikin, his shriek automatic. Total blackness was dropping over his consciousness as Camellion put three Galil projectiles into his body.

Georgi Guchin was next to get a surprise. Bruckner did not attempt to push away the Russian's assault rifle with his Galil. He merely let it fall from his hands, sticking out his left foot to break its fall, grabbed Guchin's AKR with both hands and jerked the weapon from the now-worried Russian who tried to knee him in the groin. He failed. Bruckner sidestepped, slammed him across the jaw with the butt of the weapon, then jabbed him in the solar plexus with the barrel. Even more contemptuous of the Russians than the Death Merchant, Bruckner didn't intend to waste ammunition on the Schweinerei. As the tormented Russian gagged and doubled over from the blow to his solar plexus, Bruckner tripped him, slammed him in the right kidney with a left elbow stab and knocked the pig farmer to the ground, the dazed man falling on his face. Moving very fast, Bruckner didn't give him time to even partially recover his senses. He jumped on Guchin's back with both feet, all 240 pounds of him, his heels crashing into the lower part of the man's spine. There was a snapping sound, as though a twig had been broken. Guchin shuddered and lay still. He was dead, his back broken, the spinal cord severed.
Finally, in several footnotes, Rosenberger offers a bit of what some readers refer to as "gun porn", excessive detail about the various weapons:
Suppressor and "silencer" are one and the same. Silencer is actually a British term—the blokes called automobile mufflers "silencers" in Britain. it's the Americans who came up with "Suppressor." Silencers work because of metal baffels and "wipes." round rubber or plastic material. Silencers do wear out. Rubber wipes are good for only 50 to 250 rounds. Aluminum baffels are subject to erosion, a problem that is rapidly being solved by the use of stainless-steel. Suppressors/silencers are never totally silent. although a lab-built special assassination weapon—for example the AWC Ruger RST-4—can be made so quiet that the shot cannot be heard in the next room with the door closed or. if the door is open. during conversation. Factory-built military silencers will erase only half the report. ...

The inventor of the Glock-17 9mm autopistol, Gaston Glock, would not permit his military pistol to be entered in the 1984 XM9 Personal Defense Weapon trials. Used by the Austrian army, the Glock-17 has a plastic frame, with four steel rails integrated into the molding to accommodate the slide. The staggered box-type magazine, also made of plastic, holds seventeen rounds. Some experts rate the Glock-17 as the finest military pistol in the world today.
After the battle, Camellion thinks to himself:
Anyhow, it would all even out in the end, no matter what the CIA or the GRU and the KGB might do. What none of the people in government realized—in both the United States and the Soviet Union—was that their respective nations were a part of a plan, of a cosmic scheme that mortal man was not meant to comprehend. The paradox was that if man could comprehend such power and even manage to get the barest glimpse of the hidden force motivating people and orchestrating world events, he would not be man! He would not stand on his crooked little legs and scream at the stars that I am a special creation in this universe, I and I alone.

Pathetic. If man were not man, he would realize that all he really had to lose was his ridiculous pride. He would realize that of all the creatures on the planet, he was the most cruel and the most immoral. He would also know that he was responsible for the world's mess because he had lost all sense of good and evil.

The Death Merchant was a realist. What is to come will be. Italy will drop out of NATO after a severe economic crisis. Before that happens many problems will close in on the Vatican. The pope will reveal the third secret of Fatima, and even the "good people" will refuse to believe him. Much worse will be the decline of U.S. prestige in the world and the political and military pressure that the Soviet Union will exert upon Europe. The USSR will become more of an open partner of the Arabs in their hatred of Israel, and this alliance will lead to a further deterioration of East-West relations. He will be assassinated and the world will be astonished. Some will be happy. Many will be sad and accuse the wrong people. . . .

At the beginning of the book, Rosenberger quotes Thomas Hardy: "While much is too strange to be believed, nothing is too strange to have happened."

First sentence: "Modern Pakistan is a cesspool of confusion, barbarism and backwardness ..."

"The Death Merchant was uneasy. Even if he and Quinlan killed every pig farmer in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union would remain intact and, eventually, slaughter all the dreams of mankind and turn the world into a planet of pallbearers."

"Why do I get myself into these messes? To watch that Swiss bank account grow, that's why!"

Quinlan "let out a stream of purple prose that would have horrified an Algers prostitute". (However, the only curses we hear Mad Mike yell are: "Buffalo balls!", "Croc crap!", "Possum poop!", and "Burn my butt on a broken broomstick".)

Conversation with CIA chief Courtland Grojean:
"Don't call me the Death Merchant!"
"Sorry, Camellion. It's just that the tag the KGB gave you, years ago, seems to fit."

"With his shoulderbone cracked, he was out of action, his right arm as useless as sunglasses on an oyster."

"In his early twenties, Shamspir was slightly cross-eyed, with a face that was one big mess of ugly. Looking at him made Camellion think that Shamspir's mother had conceived him during a nightmare and had lived in a state of constant terror all the time she had carried him."

"The pig farmers had a lot in common with high blood pressure: what you didn't know about it could kill you."

"The peculiar blend of roasted flesh* and burning rubber drifted to Camellion." (Footnote: "Smells like pork roast, but sweeter.")

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