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Authors: Steven L. Hawk

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Peace World

BOOK: Peace World
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PEACE WORLD

Book #3 of the Peace Warrior Trilogy

 

 

Steven L. Hawk

 

 

Peace World

Book #3 of the Peace Warrior Trilogy

 

Copyright © 2011 by Steven L. Hawk

 

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.

 

 

First Paperback Edition – October 2011

 

ISBN-13: 978-1466388215

ISBN-10: 1466388218

 

Cover art by Sabrina C. Kleis

 

www.SteveHawk.com

 

The Peace Warrior Trilogy:

Peace Warrior

Peace Army

Peace World

 

 

 

This book is dedicated to the families of the men and women who serve in their country's armed forces.  Your sacrifice may be different, but it is just as important – and often more painful. 

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

"So, General, how many men have you killed?"

 The surrounding conversations stumbled, ceased.  The silence that followed was awkward, but did not deter eyes and ears from turning Grant's way.

The six-hundred-plus-year-old soldier looked up from his food tray to the twenty-something soldiers seated across from him. 

Freakin' Conway.

Grant often ate with the men and women in the mess hall of the mothership.  He wanted to be accessible and open to the soldiers he commanded, and sharing a meal gave him that opportunity.  To many of them, he was untouchable—someone to be avoided.  He had experienced it before.  Troops who were too much in awe of, or in fear of, their commanding officers.  But for him, it was amplified.  He wasn't just their leader; he was also Earth's hero.  He was the ancient warrior who had been resurrected for the sole purpose of rescuing humankind from the Minith. 

Blah, blah, blah. 

The unwelcome distinction set him apart, isolated him, made him lonelier than he already was.

Breaking bread was an excellent way to show them he wasn't just their general, but someone like them.  He was a person with a job to do.  A man with a family waiting for him back on Earth.  A man stuck on a spaceship for months, hurtling toward unknown danger and potential death.

Grant sighed. 

Conway was an excellent soldier.  She had proved that on Telgora and had been promoted to sergeant as a result.  She had good instincts, wasn't afraid to take initiative, and had more courage than was good for her long-term health.  Grant would not hesitate to put her in charge of a critical mission or task.  But her interpersonal skills weren't the best.

"That's not something I like to discuss, Sergeant Conway."  His tone should have dissuaded further inquiries.  Did not.

"Come on, General," the newly promoted foot soldier persisted.  "A hundred?  A thousand?"

Grant gently laid his fork on the tray and pushed it away, no longer hungry.  He assessed the looks on the faces of those seated around them. Most had glanced away, obviously in tune with their commander's mood.  The few who had not already turned their faces away did so once he looked in their direction.

Becka Conway looked directly at him.  Undeterred.

"It's not important, Sergeant," he replied.  "My days of fighting men are over.  All of my attention is focused on the Minith."

"That's it, General?" she asked.  All semblance of Earth Standard language was long abandoned, as it was for most of the soldiers in Earth's new Peace Army.  "You won't give us anything more than that?  You're the only link we have to our past.  If you won't tell us what it was like when nations fought other nations, how are we going to learn?"

Dammit.
 

She had a point. 

If human beings were to avoid the mistakes of the past, they had to know what those mistakes were. 

He also had his troops to consider.  If he closed down now, word would get around and damage the progress he had already made.  If that happened, he might as well take all his meals in his room.  No one would ask him anything for fear of being shut down.

Grant had to give them
something

Resigned, he sat back and smiled.

"Conway, I like you.  You're a good soldier and you're not afraid to call me on my bullshit."

The young sergeant snorted a laugh.  The gaze of the soldiers returned.  The scene between the new sergeant and their hero general was too good to ignore.

"I'm not going to tell you how many men I killed," Grant announced, his voice rising above the silence.  If he was going to tell war stories, he wanted anyone who was interested to be able to hear.  "But how would you like to hear about my first experience with combat?"

"I think we'd all enjoy that, General," Conway said.    She glanced at the soldiers around her and received several nods and "yeah's" in return.

Grant simply nodded and thought about where to start.

"Okay," he began.  "The first thing you should understand is this:  Soldiers fight other soldiers, but nations rarely fight other nations."  

"What does that mean?" asked one of the pilots sitting at the end of the table.

"Good question.  Let me explain…"

 

*     *     *

 

"PFC Justice, you okay?"

Grant felt sick.  His head pounded.  His stomach sent angry warnings of bad things to come.  The ragged up-and-down motion of the helicopter as it followed a nap-of-the-earth course fifteen feet above the trees did not help. 

"Fine, Sergeant."  He offered a weak thumbs-up to the rappel master and pasted a fake smile to his face. 

Dual trails of sweat rolled from his armpits down the inside of his camouflage uniform.  The undershirt he wore was soaked, useless.  His asshole—incapable of passing a single, tiny turd for the past three days—threatened to suddenly end its work strike and return to the job.  With a vengeance.

The churning in his stomach and the sudden looseness in his bowels fought for Grant's attention.  He wondered which opening would spew its contents first.  Hoped for the stomach.  His position next to the open door would at least allow him to retain some shred of dignity.  If he soiled his pants, he would never hear the end of it from the veterans in the platoon.  They already gave him a boatload of grief at every opportunity.  Crapping his drawers during an insertion would gain him a nickname he would not want and could not escape.

He surveyed the faces of the men around him.  Stoic, resolute, focused.  This was not their first dance.  No, he was the cherry of the bunch. 

Desperate to avoid a future of humiliation, Grant clamped down tightly on his sphincter, checked his equipment for the hundredth time, and glanced out the door. 

The landscape flew by so rapidly it was difficult to pick out individual features of the jungle below.  Green, tree-covered hills rolled away in the distance.

How much longer?

How much longer would the trip last?  How much longer until he tossed his cookies?  Worst of all, how much longer till he crapped his pants?

"Ten minutes!" his sergeant cried out over the din of the wind and blades.

Well, there was one answer.  Hopefully the others were at least eleven minutes.  With the subsequent notifications that the helicopter was five minutes, then one minute out from their destination, Grant felt more confident he would not embarrass himself—at least, not while in the air.

He looked down and saw the faintest patch of opening in the jungle canopy.  This would be a tight one, he knew.

"Get ready!" The rappel master extended his arms to the front, clenched his fists, and pointed his thumbs upward.

Grant forgot the anguish his body was sending his way and started the process of exiting the craft.  He re-checked his equipment, then made a final check of his hookup, rappel seat, and snap link. 

"Throw rope!"

Grant looked below the craft.  The slight opening in the trees showed a small clearing.  He tossed his deployment bag out and away with his guide hand, aiming for the opening.  The rope disappeared through the trees.  He would have to trust that it reached the ground.

What a clusterfuck.

"Rope okay," he shouted to the rappel master, hoping it was.  Either way, he knew he would be leaving the helicopter.  Their earlier briefing left no doubts that this rappel would take place, regardless of the conditions.

 "Position!"

Kneeling with his brake hand in the small of his back, Grant turned his body ninety degrees so he faced the interior of the ancient UH-60.  He then placed his heels on the edge of the helicopter doorway and leaned out into an L-shape.  His feet were shoulder-width apart, his knees were locked, and he was perched on the balls of his feet. 

The sergeant inside the helicopter made a final inspection of the connections, then extended his right arm and hand toward Grant.

"Go!"

Grant reacted at once.  He flexed his knees, jumped backward, and threw his brake hand out at a forty-five degree angle, letting the rope run through both his brake and guide hands.  He immediately closed his legs, supremely aware of the trees below.  The last thing a soldier wants is to take a branch in the groin when dropping at a rate of eight feet per second. 

Within moments, Grant passed safely between the tops of several large, towering trees.  The relief at having passed the upper branches was not insignificant and he started his initial braking action. 

Seconds later, his feet hit the ground and he cleared his rope. 

Three minutes after touching down, Grant heard Staff Sergeant Coleman calling his name.  The twang of his team leader's north-Georgia drawl cut through the jungle.  He was not happy one of his charges was missing.  Throwing his better judgment and common sense out the window, he grabbed the nearest large leaf, made a single pass across his backside, and yanked his pants up.

"Where the hell you been?" his team leader asked when he stumbled out of the jungle back into the clearing.  The rest of the team was already saddled up and ready to beat feet to their destination point.

"Um, sorry, sergeant," Grant offered.  "Had to go."

"Well, how'd evahthang come out, troop?"  The jibe got jeers from the rest of the team, but Grant ignored the comment.  It was nothing new to the youngest member of the group.  In the month since joining Sergeant Coleman's team, he had learned to enjoy the good-natured ribbing that went along with being the newb. 

Without a word, he took his place near the end of the file.  Only Sergeant Burns, who would cover the rear during the hours-long march, followed him.

The tiny clearing sat within the ghost of an old logging road.  The road had been reclaimed long ago by the jungle; a thin, obscure path leading east and west was all that remained. 

Lieutenant Hoffman, a newly pinned first lieutenant, sat apart from the enlisted soldiers.  He had his map spread open and was scanning it like it held the keys to the universe.  Grant supposed that in some ways it did.  This was also his first mission with the team, and Staff Sergeant Coleman kept glancing toward the untried officer with apprehension.  He appeared to be waiting for the lieutenant—finally gave up.

"We ready, sir?"

The young officer looked up, seemingly surprised that the rest of the team was assembled and ready to go.  He hastily wrestled the map into his pack, ignoring the preset folds and creating new ones as he rushed to get himself together.  He lifted his pack onto his back as the rest of the team watched.  Once the cargo was settled into place, he gave a curt nod to his lead NCO.

"Let's move out, Sergeant Coleman," he ordered.  The command was accompanied by a forceful wave toward the pathway leading east—the direction the team was already facing.  Coleman nodded in reply and turned his attention back to the team.

"Any questions a'fore we move out?"

He received none, which was good.  Grant knew the veteran soldier hated repeating himself and would expect the briefing he provided them before they boarded the UH-60 to suffice. 

Their mission was fairly simple.  Make their way to a nearby village and observe activity.  According to recent intelligence, the village was being used as a regional headquarters and supply location for enemy forces.  If they validated the report, they were to call in for air support and then hightail it out.  All of this was to take place without the enemy ever knowing they were in the area.  Stealth was the name of this game.

 "A'ight," he drawled.  "Five-meter intervals.  Stay alert.  Hostiles are out there."

The ten highly trained soldiers, fully armed and carrying as much ammunition and supplies as they could shoulder, set out on a brisk, easterly course.  The dark, clammy heat of the jungle floor swallowed them within seconds.

BOOK: Peace World
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