Ian Slater: Force of Arms

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Ian Slater Force of Arms
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    Force of Arms
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    Триллер / на английском языке
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Force of Arms: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Three Chinese armies swarmed across the trace, with T-59s providing covering fire. The Chinese armor,T-60 tanks 85mm guns and 90,000 PLA regulars rush in. Through the downpour the American A-10 Thurnderbolts came in low, their RAU-B Avenger 30mm seven-barreled rotary cannon spitting out a deadly stream of depleted uranium, white-hot fragments that set off the tank's ammunition and fuel tanks into great blowouts of orange-black flame. Four sleek, eighteen-foot long Tomahawk cruise missiles are headed for Beijing. It is Armageddon in Asia…

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Ian Slater




It happened in the last forty minutes before the latest cease-fire.

The Medevac choppers came in and found themselves almost immediately “bracketed” by heavy ChiCom 82mm and light 60mm mortar fire, a dozen U.S. Blackhawk helos either afire or unable to take off with the wounded — some of whom were ChiComs who had been gathered up and put in the wire litters that were carried both in and astride the helos.

One such wounded was Wan Zhang, a private from Shenyang’s Sixteenth Army who had been hit by an unexploded American 60mm mortar round that passed into the man’s body via his shoulder girdle, penetrating the pectoralis major and entering the axilla, the unexploded mortar bomb, seen clearly in the X ray, finally lodging subcutaneously down outside the rib cage in the patient’s right side just above the crest of his right hip.

The only other case on record of an unexploded round in a soldier had occurred in Vietnam. Even without the X rays, the surgeon at the inflatable MUST — Medical Unit Self-contained Transportable — hospital behind the lines at Orgon Tal could see the bomb’s outline bulging in the patient’s right side. They injected Zhang with morphine and left him on the stretcher well outside the MUST, lest the round go off and kill other patients as well as the ChiCom.

The operating table had to have sandbags all about it to a height of five feet in case something should go wrong and the mortar bomb explode.

“All right,” said the chief surgeon, Colonel Walter Paine. “The operation on the prisoner is purely voluntary. I’ll welcome any help I get, folks, but it’s your call. Anyone want out?” One of the nurses looked at the other, but no one moved in the team of two doctors, two nurses, and the anesthetist.

“All right, let’s do it,” the colonel said. Despite the sandbags and the Kevlar vests and helmets they would be wearing, Paine said he would allow only one nurse near the sandbagged area at a time. Meanwhile, another blast wall was being erected between the operating room and the patient area of the MUST and around the anesthetist.

“Should let the mother die!” one of the patients opined, a sapper next to the operating room’s wall.

“That’d make us just like the Communists,” the Medevac corporal said. “Makes me damn proud to be American.”

“Yeah,” the sapper said, “well you aren’t near the fuckin’ wall!”

“I’ll stay here then,” said the corporal, who’d been passing through. “We can play a round of gin rummy.”

“Please yourself.”

Everyone except two men who’d been blinded in action saw the trolley slowly pass through the ward, the only noise the flapping of the inflatable hospital’s sides like some huge kite in the threatening wind. Several men involuntarily held their breath as Wan Zhang passed them.

* * *

Fresh from the States, an eager young logistics captain was assigned to the Khabarovsk headquarters of General Douglas Freeman’s Second Army, the spearhead of a U.N. task force sent to prevent any further annexation of territory in the Far East by either the newly declared Siberian Republic or China.

Freeman, his forces now on the northern plain 280 miles north of Beijing and the Great Wall, was absorbed in studying a relief map of China’s northern and central provinces. Even so, he took time to acknowledge the major’s salute with a friendly, “Welcome to Second Army.”

“Thank you, sir. I—”

“What’s the gauge of the Trans-Siberian?” Freeman asked without looking up from the relief map.

The captain was nonplussed — of all the questions — still, he kept his cool. “Fifteen twenty millimeters, sir.”

“Chinese railways?” Freeman asked.

“Ah — the same, sir.”

“Son,” Freeman said, still immersed in studying the relief map, moving about the table, as intent on a possible artillery position as a pool player lining up his cue, “with that information you’d be responsible for the biggest logistical fuckup since Arnhem — where they dropped spare berets to the commandos instead of ammo. Take you days instead of hours to move a division. And what are you going to do with a sixty-ton Abrams M1? Carry it across from one rail to the next on your back? Chinese gauge is fourteen thirty-five millimeters. You’ll be assigned patrol duty along the trace. Dismissed.”

“Yes, sir.” The captain saluted and walked out, his ego shattered. But soon — when he got to the trace, the DMZ between the People’s Liberation Army and the U.S. — he was glad he’d been fired from the HQ logistics job. No way he wanted to work for a pickass like Freeman.

The incident, small enough in itself, was another example of Freeman’s command of even the minutiae of logistics that added to his legend as America’s foremost fighting general. But railway gauges weren’t the only thing General Freeman was sure of. He believed, like the Taiwanese, that the truce agreed to by the diplomats of the U.N. and China would not hold and that there were many Chinas — none strong enough by itself to overcome the oppressive Beijing regime but all wanting more freedom — waiting.

General Douglas Freeman’s Second Army stood on the northern plain beyond Beijing following a fierce tank battle with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army from the Amur River south across the Gobi Desert. Sent to head the U.N.’s peacekeeping forces along the Amur River, the Americans, with some help from the British and underground fighters in the Siberian border area known as the JAO — Jewish Autonomous Oblast, or region — were now the only players in the Allied push south. Meanwhile, Admiral Kuang’s Taiwanese invasion fleet lay poised a hundred miles across the Formosa Strait — eager to regain power in Beijing after all these years, should the opportunity present itself.

* * *

In the MUST operating room, surgeon Colonel Paine had called for forceps and gingerly begun to extract the 60mm mortar bomb from Wan Zhang, pulling it by its stabilizer fins, when it exploded, killing Paine with shrapnel that passed up under his chin, through the roof of his mouth, into his brain. One nurse was blinded in one eye, the anesthetist suffered multiple lacerations to the face, and the other doctor and nurse were badly burned about the head. The explosion, hitting the oxygen feed, immediately started a fire that was quickly extinguished, but not before it had rendered the MUST OR a burned-out shell. The story quickly passed down the line and was taken as a bad beginning to any kind of truce, the ChiComs quickly claiming that Wan Zhang had been tortured to death. With this in mind, it was clear to each and every ChiCom that it was better to die than fall prisoner to the Americans.


Bangor Base, Washington State

Halfway around the world, a combination Hunter-Killer/ICBM sub, a Sea Wolf II, the USS Reagan, was about to get under way. Some of the crew had been joking about making love — a dawn breaker — on the day they were to leave. Others said nothing about it, the tension of their impending goodbyes having inhibited rather than released sexual passion. And the older members of the Reagan’s gold crew said little, for most of them were married and had children, and trying to make time for lovemaking on the day the Sea Wolf was about to slip out of Bangor was like trying to arrange a kid’s birthday party. In the end, it defeated you, and so they hugged a lot, knowing they would have to wait until their six months of duty were complete and it was time for them to return to base and hand the Reagan over to the blue crew for the next six months.

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