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Authors: Tom Kratman

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Countdown: M Day

BOOK: Countdown: M Day
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COUNTDOWN:

M DAY-ARC

TOM KRATMAN

Advance Reader Copy

Unproofed

Baen Books by Tom Kratman

Countdown

Countdown: The Liberators

Countdown: M Day

Carrera’s Legions

A Desert Called Peace

Carnifex

The Lotus Eaters

The Amazon Legion

Caliphate

A State of Disobedience

Legacy of the Alldenata
(With John Ringo)

Watch on the Rhine

Yellow Eyes

The Tuloriad

COUNTDOWN: M DAY

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2011 by Tom Kratman

A Baen Books Original

Baen Publishing Enterprises

www.baen.com

ISBN 13: 978-1-4391-3464-1

Cover art by Kurt Miller

First printing, September 2011

Distributed by Simon & Schuster

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY10020

Printed in the United States of America

10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1

For Nezi

PROLOGUE

The fate of the world economy is now totally

dependent on the growth of the U.S. economy,

which is dependent on the stock market, whose growth is

dependent upon about 50 stocks, half of which

have never reported any earnings.

—Paul Volcker

Miraflores Palace, Caracas, Venezuela

In a boomerang-shaped green park west of the palace, bounded by it, by
Avenida Sucre
, and by
Avenida Urdaneta
, Ernesto “Che” Morales and Michael Antoniewicz, sometimes called “Eeyore,” stood wearing red shirts amidst a sea of red shirts Between them stood a very tiny, very pretty, and very young-seeming, milk-skinned girl She, Lada, was by background a spy, of sorts, though she often described her job in more pungent terms: “I’m an organizational whore.”Morales and Eeyore were former U.S. Navy SEALs All three now worked for M Day, Inc., or, as its members and friends called it, “The Regiment.”Lada was a veteran of some years service with Russia’s FSB.

On the other side of
Avenida Sucre,
where the park continued and transformed into a baseball diamond, were still more people and still more red shirts
Lots
of red shirts It was a political rally The sound of that rally was deafening and the smell defied precise description, being composed of a mix of flowers, exhaust fumes, garbage, the sea undulating some miles to the north, sweet-smelling, dark and beautiful girls wearing perfume and as little else as minimal modesty permitted, all overlaid with the greater aroma of a human sea, much of which hadn’t seen water for bathing in a while.

“I don’t know about you, Morales,” said Eeyore, who was an aficionado of science fiction, “but these red shirts give me the creeps.”He plucked at the material for emphasis.

Morales shook his head “You and your science fiction bullshit There’s nothing magic or fated about red shirts.”

The two men were much of a type, being short, stocky, immensely strong, and swarthy If Eeyore looked more eastern European than Latin, and he did, Morales was so typically Puerto Rican in appearance that any given, up-to-date, encyclopedia might have had a two-by-three color glossy of his face next to the entry for Puerto Rico For all that, neither looked especially out of place in the cosmopolitan capital of Venezuela, a city of such mixed genetic heritage that it could produce both a string of Miss Worlds, Miss Universes, and Miss Internationals,
and
the —as the regiment’s Chief of Staff and executive officer, Boxer, had phrased it—“short, fat, neckless, baboon-faced, wannabe Stalin-dancing-a-Joropo” who currently occupied the palace on the other side of the street.

For that matter, the Russian girl with them, Lada, wasn’t entirely out of the mainstream, looks-wise, and she was chalk-white, raven-haired, and looked about fourteen years old.

“It’s still creepy,” Eeyore responded, speaking literally over the girl’s head.

“Shut up, Eeyore,” Morales said, his face scowling “Listen to the crowd The bastard’s about to speak.”

The forty thousand people crammed into the park across the street and the Plaza to the south represented less than one percent of the metropolitan area’s population Still, as they chanted, “Hugo!Hugo!Hugo!Hugo!” they sounded like all of it, together They were, in fact, so loud that they filled the palace itself with sound, making the windows rattle and contributing mightily to Hugo Chavez’s already crushing headache.

I suppose I have to speak to the rabble
, thought Chavez, seated at his desk, elbows upon it, rubbing his temples for whatever relief that might bring To his credit, thinking the word, “rabble,” made him immediately ashamed He put the unkind thought down to the headache.

What is it?The third time today?Or maybe the fourth, if we count that midnight rally And don’t count the TV time Fuck Like I don’t have enough troubles.

And troubles the president of Venezuela had in plenty Some were of his own making Others had come from events far outside of his control Of these, the worst, the most insuperable, was the state of the world’s economy and the absolutely crappy price for oil Oil built Venezuela It funded it It had funded Chavez’s military buildup, such as it was It had bought him allies on several continents and any number of islands.

And I’m lucky when I can get twenty freaking United States dollars a barrel when I need a hundred Oh, sure, it might cost the never sufficiently to be damned gringos and Euros twelve or fifteen dollars a gallon for gasoline, the few of them that can afford it and a car, but that’s all tax, and it goes to their government, not to me And the more they tax, the less they use The less they use, the more the price drops And at some point, and we’ve reached that, the price drops to where survival kicks in, and the rulers of OPEC countries can’t keep production down and the price up, or they’ll all end up dangling from lampposts As I will, in time, if I don’t find some way to divert people from the fact that my Bolivarian Revolution is close to
bankrupt,
that I can’t pay for the giveaways anymore Shit I don’t want to end up like Evo, down in Bolivia, kicking my life away, and shit and piss off my toes, at the end of a length of telephone wire.

And the bloody army? Can’t trust the bastards Bitch, bitch, bitch, all the time “We’ve got these shiny new toys, Mr. President, but no money to train with them.” “We can’t guarantee to stop the gringos for five minutes, Mr. President, if they decide you have to go.”Worst of all, “Mr. President, there are some currents among the junior officers that are worrisome, at best They’ve lost faith in the Revolution.”

They try to sound sincere when they say that, their voices all full of concern, the hypocritical swine But they mean it as a threat Crap!

The chanting outside reached a crescendo again, causing Chavez to wince with the pain in his head

Oh, well, time to meet my “public.”Again Maybe I can find some way to distract them, preferably
before
they try to make me a date with the hangman.

Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves, the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela waited for the liveried guard to open the glass doors before emerging to speak to the crowd.

CHAPTER ONE

I can picture in my mind a world without war,

a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking

that world, because they’d never expect it.

—Jack Handey,
Deep Thoughts

Ring Road, Camp Robert B. Fulton, Guyana

From somewhere in the distance a macaw shrieked with indignation at having its repose interrupted by gargantuan, smelly, noisy creatures that had, so far as it was concerned, no business whatsoever in
its
jungle

Indifferent to the bird and its complaining, Wes Stauer tapped his foot against the floor of his Land Rover impatiently He was a big man, Stauer, six-two, unbent, still with a full head of hair, though now gone completely gray Pale blue eyes were framed by deep crow’s feet If he’d once been considered a son of a bitch, and he had, that had mostly abated since he’d been able to stop dealing with the politicians, and politicians in uniform, who had been, so he thought, as much the enemy as anyone who ever popped a cap in his direction.

The Rover carried standard Guyanan license plates, but the bumper was painted with, “M Day, Inc.” and the regiment’s logo, a diving raptor It sat, engine humming, on a two lane, black asphalt road, just shy of a broad, whitish, concrete pad set into that same road Stauer, like his driver, wore pixilated tiger-striped jungle fatigues, with little in the way of insignia On both their heads were perched broad-brimmed jungle hats of the same material.

Fucking Reilly
, Stauer fumed silently
Had to take his battalion out—all of it, naturally—and had to do it at precisely the time I need to get back to base.

Antennae whipping, a camouflage-painted tank-looking low, mean, and predatory—ground its way across the white concrete pad on the road and down into the jungle-lined, dirt tank trail to the west The concrete shuddered as it passed, little bits of gravel bouncing with the vibration Not for first the first time, Stauer though that the tank looked less like the T-55 that had provided its basic body, and more like an American M-1 that had somehow suffered fetal alcohol syndrome.

As if on cue, a turretless Eland armored car, with loudspeakers mounted to the sides, nosed up onto the road Standing in the open-topped back of it, broad grin written across his face, rocking with the motion, Seamus Reilly gave a mock-serious salute and then waved happily at Stauer’s scowl The grin and the wave made the middle-aged Reilly appear much younger than he was.

As the Eland followed the tank to disappear into the perpetual twilight of the Guyanan jungle, Reilly turned his face back to the front Stauer was pretty sure he was singing one of those awful Irish or German songs he inflicted on his command

As that armored car disappeared, it was immediately replaced by another vehicle, this one a turreted Eland, its 90mm gun pointing generally in Stauer’s direction Stauer couldn’t be sure, what with the helmet and boom mike half covering the Eland commander’s dark face, but he thought it was one of Reilly special pets, Sergeant Towns, commanding the thing And singing.

Stauer sighed
Twenty tanks—assuming they’re all working and he’s pulled none from the operational float—twelve turreted Elands, twelve antitank Ferrets, nine scout Ferrets, fifty-two turretless Elands, carrying infantry and mortars, mostly, and about sixty-five wheels …at twenty-five kilometers an hour …I’ve got quite a wait

“I can take a chance going in between them, sir,” Stauer’s Guyanan driver, Corporal Hosein, offered, sensing his colonel’s impatience Hosein was a tall, dark, frankly skinny, Bihari-descended corporal handpicked for unflappability by the corporation’s, which is to say the regiment’s, Sergeant Major, RSM Joshua “Or get out and stop traffic Sir.”

Stauer shook his head “Nah, Hosein Fuckers would like as not just run you or us over and then where would we be?”

“Pretty flat and low to the ground, sir,” the corporal agreed, white teeth flashing in an ashy, dark face “Still, sir, it’s going to be a wait.”

“Yeah,” the colonel agreed as the muzzle of another tank began to jut out from the trees. “But let the bloody harp have his fun.”

Suddenly, the muzzle stopped its advance and began to swing up and down. The mechanical roar coming from the right of the road likewise dropped in volume. A few moments later a uniformed man wearing a tanker’s helmet appeared on the side of the road and began waving the Land Rover to pass. The free end of a detached communications cable ran from the helmet down past the signaling tanker’s waist.

“Colonel Reilly must have radioed to let us through,” Hosein observed as he put his vehicle into gear and began to roll forward.

“You never really know with Reilly,” Stauer said softly as the Land Rover rolled forward. He glanced to the right at the tank vibrating half-hidden in the murk, adding, “It could be a trap.”

“Headquarters, atten …shun!” shouted Joshua from his office several doors back from the front entrance. There’d be hell to pay for someone, later on, that he was the first one to see the colonel enter the building.

“At ease,” Stauer called out.
I was hoping nobody would notice I’d come back. Should have known better. Now the RSM is going to ream somebody’s ass for it.

He stuck his head inside Joshua’s door. The RSM said, without being asked, “Your interview is waiting in your office, sir.”

“Thanks, Top. Has he been waiting long?”

Joshua shook his gray-haired head, a smile briefly lighting his deeply seamed black face. “Nah. As soon as I heard the plane and realized Reilly would be tying up the roads, I told the duty driver to take his time about getting back. Colonel Von Ahlenfeld’s been here maybe five minutes.”

“Great. I’d tell you ‘good thinking,’ but you already know that.”

Stauer turned away and walked past the adjutant, seated now at his desk in the open area surrounded by the offices of the rest of the regiment’s primary staff. The adjutant, DeWitt, just nodded greetings as he went back to his paperwork, muttering dark imprecations at—to Stauer’s complete lack of surprise—Reilly and the First Battalion.

Stauer shook his head, thinking,
Anybody who can piss off the adjutant daily can’t be all bad.

At his own office door, Stauer stopped, spent a second composing himself, and then bellowed inward, “And no, Lee, you can’t have a company. Company commanders I’ve got coming out the wazoo. What I need is a
battalion
commander.”

“I just
knew
you were going to be difficult about that,” von Ahlenfeld said softly, as Stauer entered the office. Taller, at six-three, than even Stauer himself, blond where he wasn’t gray, and mustached, the newcomer stood in front of a map of the newly built up areas, studying it.

“Forget the map,” Stauer said. “I’ll give you the guided tour in a little bit.” He stuck out one hand, which von Ahlenfeld took warmly. “How have you been, Lava, you old bastard?” Stauer asked.

“Bored,” Lee A. von Ahlenfeld answered, frowning. “Bored out of my frigging mind.” He sighed, adding, “Which is rather why I’d have preferred the excitement of a company.”

“You’re too old,” Stauer replied, “too capable, and—as mentioned—I’ve got company commanders coming out my ass. I need somebody for my Second
Battalion.

“If it’s any consolation, that’s only about the size of a big company. Sorta. Kinda.”

“Sorta? Kinda? Care to explain?” von Ahlenfeld asked.

“Second Batt’s got five companies,” Stauer replied. “In theory, A through C are lane walker and instructor companies for the jungle training we provide here, while D Company handles our internal training, from basic to leadership to special combat skills. The last one’s the headquarters. Strength is two hundred and thirty Euros and gringos and seventy-nine locals.”

“Big company,” von Ahlenfeld said skeptically.

“Yeah …well. In a sense, it’s bigger than that,” Stauer admitted. “The three predominantly local battalions, Third and Fourth Light Infantry and Fifth Combat Support, each have their own command and staff at battalion level, but the cadre of each of the four companies of those are also what amounts to A teams, detached from or affiliated with—depending on how you want to look at it—one of Second Battalion’s companies. So while your line companies might look like big platoons, with fifty-one men each, three A detachments and a fifteen man headquarters, in fact they
can
have seven teams and a headquarters, if we stripped every spec ops man out of the Guyanan battalions. Course, the Guyanan battalions would be useless then, so we never do that.

“And, no, before you ask, that’s
not
racist. We’ve got them—some of them—up to being fairly good squad and team leaders. But we haven’t been at it long enough to make good senior noncoms. And officers have to be made by society long before the military gets its hands on them.”

“Why set it up that way?” von Ahlenfeld asked.

Stauer shrugged. “Few reasons. I don’t want the SF types going altogether native, so I have them stay affiliated, regimentalized, if you will. And it gives us some fair flexibility in assignments. Plus …well …one of the problems with SF types is we forget we’re part of the army—not that
we’re
part of
the
Army anymore, mind you—and forget how to do our primary mission, which is to train locals to fight as regulars and lead them in so doing. That half of Second Battalion’s operatives are detached …or attached …or whatever …are doing just that means they won’t forget. And it’s awful damned convenient that the company doing lane walking for the jungle school has a close, intimate relationship with the leadership of the battalion playing guerilla for our rotational unit. Cuts way down on problems in the field.

“And, yeah,” he admitted, “it is kind of a personnel management pain in the ass for Second Battalion’s commander, since he ends up assigning people to the Guyanan battalions and quasi-managing them.”

“My ODAs?” von Ahlenfeld asked. “They’re up to strength?”

“Strength, yes. But we’ve got shortages in MOS’s”—Military Occupational Specialties; jobs—“and ranks that are persistent and difficult to overcome. We barely manage to have one Delta”—18D; Special Forces medic—“or corpsman per team. The alternate’s usually a weapons guy that we put through a course here and at one or another of the local hospitals. They’re good; but they’re not Deltas. We did give Second Battalion all the navy corpsmen but two. Engineers and communications aren’t quite as badly off. We’ve got a surplus of weapons guys, though some of them are just regular infantry, albeit tabbed. Most of your teams are led by noncoms, not officers. They are not a bit less capable for that lack.”

I can probably live with that
, von Ahlenfeld thought, then asked, “How are your Guyanan battalions?”

Stauer made a so-so gesture, shaking his wide-spread fingers, palm down, and hand held low. “Technically and tactically, they’re pretty fair,” he explained. “Morally? For battle? Not so great. Not awful. Not great, either. But they’re getting better Cazz’s Third, in particular, shows promise.

“See, there’s not a lot of military tradition here. Sure, they did what they could for the old Empire, but that was very damned little. When we had that little dust-up with Suriname, maybe a quarter of them deserted. Naturally, we didn’t let the deserters back afterwards. We’d probably have lost another quarter if the Surinamese hadn’t folded as quick as they did. To be fair, they were newer then.”

“What happened with Suriname, anyway?” von Ahlenfeld asked. “I mean the whole thing. I read about it in the papers, but those were long on condemnation and short on facts.”

Stauer pointed to a different map on his wall than the one von Ahlenfeld had been studying previously. This map showed the entire top and northeast corner of South America.

“This place,” he said, “is in the possibly unique position of having almost its entire territory claimed by its neighbors. It’s Poland, but without the tradition of
nationhood
.”

Stauer’s finger shifted left. “To the west of the Essequibo River, Venezuela claims better than half the country. Bad as the fucking Palestinians with Israel, Venezuelan maps in school kids’ textbooks show the place as part of Venezuela. Hell, back about 2006, Venezuela even added another star to their flag to represent Guyana, or the portion of it they claim, and that’s
always
a bad sign.”

The finger flicked to the right. “To the east, Suriname claims a good deal of what’s left. And it’s been arbitrated—repeatedly arbitrated—and all parties have agreed on the current borders. And those agreements are simply discarded almost as soon as the ink is dry on them and the claims get raised again.

“There was a Canadian energy company that tried to do some exploratory drilling in one of the disputed zones, out to sea. The Surinamese navy showed up and carted off their drilling platform. That was the second time that had happened, so the Guyanan government asked us for help. I said we were willing, but we extracted some serious concessions out of them for it. Like our own legal system and laws, recognized and accepted by them, right to use their defense establishment, such as it is, to recruit locally, to order arms and equipment, that sort of thing, plus an official status.

“One of the side effects of recruiting locally is that we’ve essentially wrecked Guyana’s own Defense Force, by the way. All the best recruits come to us and even some of their leadership has defected over to us because we train better, live better, and can pay a
lot
better. You will find a number of former Guyanan captains wearing sergeant’s and corporal’s stripes here.

“So we sank Suriname’s navy, then landed Second Battalion at their major base and killed or captured most of what was left, people-wise. Then we crossed over the border with Reilly and his band of cutthroats, wrecking the Surinamese land force, too. About the time we were halfway from the border to Paramaribo, the Surinamese government decided that, since the Dutch Marines wouldn’t get here in time to help, maybe the old border and offshore drilling were just fine, after all. However, given the history and nature of boundary disputes here, the Canadians pay us a retainer to keep ready, because there will be a next time.”

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