Authors: J.B. Hadley
Murphy stood a good six inches above his opponent and weighed almost twice as much. He charged into the Soviet serviceman
before he could free his automatic pistol from its holster. Both men tumbled to the ground.
Murphy knelt on his struggling victim's chest, grasped a handful of his hair in his left hand and twisted his head back and
to one side. With a quick easy motion, he drew the blade of his combat knife across the man's throat. The slit on his throat
opened like a wide mouth.
As the Russian wrenched his body beneath the Australian's massive strength and weight, bright red blood squirted from the
severed arteries in his neck.
He died slowly, struggling
like a farmyard chicken…
THE POINT TEAM
THE VIPER SQUAD
WARNER BOOKS EDITION
Copyright ©1986 by Warner Books, Inc.
All rights reserved.
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First eBook Edition: October 2009
Their only warning was a burst of machine-gun fire. The door gunner had opened up on them too early, giving them all a chance
to dive for cover before the helicopter gunship swooped low over their position and strafed the ground. The chopper had appeared
out of nowhere and disappeared again in seconds over the steep wall of the valley.
“Keep down!” Aga Akbar yelled in English to the three Americans. He had no need to warn his fellow Afghan tribesmen. They
knew how the Russians operated.
In a few seconds more they saw a pair of jet fighters rise over the back rim of the valley, drop into it, and skim over the
terrain. A white vapor trail squirted ahead of the lead plane, seeming to come right at them. A missile slammed into the ground
one hundred and fifty feet from the prone, unmoving men, deafening them with its explosion and showering down stones on them
like hail. A second missile hit maybe thirty feet closer to them than the first, and they felt the ground under their bellies
tremble from its impact before the dirt and stones scoured by its explosion thumped down on their backs to tell them it had
missed and they were
still alive. The men waited a couple of slow, suspenseful seconds for the other plane to deliver its pair of missiles. They
landed off the mark but close enough to shower their loads of stones on the prostrate men. Then the jets were gone. Silence
returned to the valley.
“Everyone all right?” Aga Akbar shouted, but meaning only the three Americans, since he spoke in English. It was only after
hearing that they were unharmed that he checked with his own men. No one was hurt.
“You see their accuracy?” Aga Akbar said to the Americans. “Those MIGs aimed their missiles exactly on the position where
the helicopter door-gunner opened fire. If they had not made that mistake about our position, they would have nailed us for
sure. All the same, the Russians are stupid—they do the same thing all the time. If the helicopter clears off after only one
strafing run, you know it has called in MIGs. If the gunship comes back at you again, there are no planes close by.”
“Won’t the chopper come back?” one of the Americans asked anxiously, looking around the sky.
Aga Akbar shrugged. “Why should they? It will be easier for them to report us all as destroyed. If they come back, they might
have to report that their attack was not a complete success. Why would they want that? We might even fire on them—if we had
the weapons to do it. We don’t, but they can’t be sure of that. America might have sent us weapons. You haven’t. But you might
have. Someday maybe you will.”
The Afghan tribesmen were standing again, readjusting the loads on their backs, which had become awkwardly positioned after
their sudden dive to the ground. Dust raised by the four missile strikes still hung in the air, and four fresh gouges in the
stony earth stood out like wounds in flesh. The tribesmen spoke among themselves and laughed, obviously at the unsuccessful
Russians, then moved out in a long line on the path halfway up the valley’s steep side. Aga Akbar gestured to the Americans
to stay near him, about midway in the line of men, and they obediently fell in behind him.
Having spent eight years in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which
resulted in a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Michigan, Aga Akbar spoke very good English with a distinct
Midwestern accent. Though the three Americans had known him almost a week now, they still found themselves startled from time
to time to hear a home-grown American accent from this tall, skinny man with bronze skin, fierce dark eyes, and a flowing
black mustache, who wore at all times an Afghan headdress that looked like two cloth pancakes flopped on top of his hair and
a Kalashnikov automatic rifle hanging by its strap from his right shoulder.
By now the Americans were used to his bitter references to the scarcity of sophisticated weapons from the West, chiefly of
rocket and missile launchers capable of downing choppers and jets. Indeed, Western countries had been very stingy with all
weapon supplies while at the same time being very generous in verbal support for the rebels, words being cheap. Communist
China gave the rebels as much aid as any Western country, so the rebels liked to point out. They knew that Peking was not
helping them out of any real sympathy but only to irritate Russia, yet aid was aid and a helping hand still a helping hand,
no matter what the real motive behind it was. The only trouble with aid from Peking was that the Chinese themselves did not
have the surface-to-air missiles the Afghan rebels so badly needed. Without these weapons in the hands of the Afghans the
Russians ruled the skies and selected their prey on the ground beneath without much fear of counterattack.
The line of men moved laboriously along the narrow path. In a little while they came to a ruined village. The mud-brick walls
of the one-story houses were half collapsed, and their corrugated zinc roofs were stove in. Nothing moved in the single street
lined by the tumbledown houses, and weeds grew knee-high in the middle of it.
“Only a year ago,” Aga Akbar explained, “this was a busy village. Women kept their houses clean, their children played here
in this street, the men worked the fields on the valley slopes. Today the ones not killed by Russian air strikes live as refugees
in tent cities across the border in
Pakistan. The younger men still come back to fight as guerrillas. So long as any still live, they will fight”
The Americans listened sympathetically and tried to picture in their minds what daily life in the valley was once like for
these colorful mountain people before the Russian communists reduced it to a desolate ruin. The Americans knew about the new
“scorched-earth” Soviet policy in Afghanistan, by which the invaders hoped to destroy the food supply of the mountain guerrillas
who resisted them so successfully and to break the fighting spirit of these brave warriors. Those they could not kill, they
hoped to drive into exile. The Russians were determined to add this territory to their empire, with or without the people
who lived there. And yet these hardy mountain tribesmen continued to defy the Soviet Union’s massive war machine with mostly
antiquated weapons and with hardly any outside help.
“This place looks deserted,” Aga Akbar informed them, “but it is not. The Russians are meant to think that all the men have
gone forever.” He laughed contemptuously at the stupidity of such a notion.
Then he turned and shouted several times up the overgrown street between the two lines of mud-brick houses that were now mostly
rubble. A thin form appeared from behind a heap of rocks and stopped, covering them warily with a rifle. Aga Akbar shouted
some more, and the thin figure came forward again, only to stop once more and measure them with his rifle sights. Only when
the lone villager was quite close did the Americans see that he was a boy hardly more than twelve. His rifle had a bolt action
with a heavy wood stock, of World War II vintage at the very latest. Aga Akbar spoke with him and pointed to four goats high
on a rocky slope above the village. There was much arguing between the two of them for some minutes as they pointed first
at one goat and then another. Finally Aga produced a wad of Pakistani rupees, peeled off some notes, and handed them to the
youth, who immediately raised the heavy rifle to his puny shoulder and picked off the second goat from the right in a single
shot. The boy then went back up the village street toward the pile of rocks whence he had come.
“We’ve just bought our evening meal,” Aga told the
three Americans. He added with a sly smile, “I hope you like goat. The boy says the men are all away attacking a government
garrison two days march from here. He was left to guard their possessions. At first he thought we might want to rob him.”
They climbed the hill to recover the carcass of the goat. None of the Afghans seemed to find it at all remarkable that the
twelve-year-old with the cumbersome rifle almost half a century old had hit the goat in the eye and brain with his single
bullet. The Americans had a feeling that this had not been just a lucky shot.
They waited till dark before lighting a fire in one of the wrecked houses so the smoke would not give away their presence
to planes. They roasted and ate the goat, along with dry, hard bread they had to soak in water to make chewable. Then they
slept deeply on the stony floors of several houses, their weariness so great and the comfort of warm food in their guts so
strong, they were untroubled by the cold of the mountain night or the rough surfaces on which they slept. They woke before
dawn, ate more bread soaked in water, drank warm tea. The three Americans walked a little distance away to watch the sun rise.
“I got to be the only preppie in Afghanistan this morning,” David Baker said, massaging a stiff shoulder.
“Just what the poor Afghan mothas need right now—a fucking preppie from Yale,” Clarence Winston said with a grin. He had once
told David that Yale had turned him down on a football scholarship, which was about the only way the son of a black clergyman
in Mississippi could hope to go there. Football hadn’t worked out for him, anyway, and he ended by taking a doctorate in political
science from Howard University. He had worked in the unsuccessful election campaign of a black Republican candidate for the
House of Representatives before joining the Nanticoke Institute, which described itself as a nonprofit defense research foundation
and which had sent all three of them to this part of the world.
The third American, Don Turner, as usual said nothing. He was more than twice the age of the other two, fifty-four,
a retired Marine Corps sergeant who saw no reason not to be freshly shaved and neatly turned out even though they were thousands
of feet up in the Hindu Kush Mountains. He was the last man anyone would have expected to find in a Washington think tank
like the Nanticoke Institute. He explained his role there by saying: “All the clever shitheads here think everything they
dream up is gold. Me, I’m strictly copper or lead. I graduated in Korea and did two tours of postgraduate work in Nam, and
I just love to hear bright ideas from curly-headed children.”
“You know, it’s just beginning to occur to me,” David Baker said. “That was a real Soviet gunship yesterday, those were real
MIGs, that was the Red Army we were messing with. You ever find it hard to believe, Don?”