John Ringo: Choosers of the Slain

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    Choosers of the Slain
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Former SEAL Michael Harmon (Ghost, Kildar) has a pretty good life. He’s settled down in the country of Georgia and built a solid commando-quality militia out of his local retainers. The Keldara have an ancient history of being first-class mountain warriors and all they needed was a few million in modern weapons and training to bring them up to speed. Now, with the Keldara keeping the area safe from Chechen raiders, and the various other terrorists that want Ghost’s head on their wall, he can settle back, relax in his harem and drink a few beers. However, a US senator has a problem. A “major financial contributor’s” daughter has been kidnapped into the labyrinthian depths of the Balkans sex-slave trade. The US government has been unable to find her and the Senator is “very” interested in changing that condition. Five million dollars interested. As Ghost and his Keldara warriors blast a gaping hole through the middle of the trade, it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to the mission than a “poor missing waif.” There's a rot underneath, and the stench is coming from the very floor of the Capitol. Being at war with Albanian gangs is one thing. Taking on Washington is a different ball game. But Ghost never believed in fighting fair.

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Choosers of the Slain

by John Ringo

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. This book and series has no connection to reality. Any attempt by the reader to replicate any scene in this series it to be taken at the reader’s own risk. For that matter, most of the actions of the main character are illegal under US and international law as well as most of the stricter religions in the world. There is no Valley of the Keldara. Heck, there is no Kildar. And the idea of some Scotts and Vikings getting together to raid the Byzantine Empire is beyond ludicrous. The islands described in a previous book do not exist. Entire regions described in these books do not exist. Any attempt to learn anything from these books is disrecommended by the author, the publisher and the author’s mother who wishes to state that he was a very nice boy and she doesn’t know what went wrong.

Chapter One

“Colonel Kortotich,” Mike “Jenkins” called out as the unwounded Chechen prisoners were being unloaded at a Georgian military prison.

Mike Harmon had been a college student at the University of Georgia when he’d witnessed the kidnapping of a coed. Most college students would have picked up their cell phones, or run to someone who had one, and called 911. But before he was a college student he’d been a SEAL and a SEAL instructor. So he just jumped on the kidnapper’s van and rode it to its destination.

That move, and a series of similar decisions, had led him to an underground bunker near Aleppo where terrorists backed by Syria had brought American girls to be used as hostages. And their plans didn’t just include holding them, but torturing them for the cameras to force American units to leave the Middle East.

Mike had lost one of the hostages before he realized what the plan was, but he’d fought his way through to the rest and held the position until relieved, along the way wiping out a chemical weapons factory, the Syrian president and Osama Bin Laden.

This had earned him the grateful thanks of a nation, quite a bit of money and a price on his head from every Islamic terrorism group on earth. “Mike Harmon,” Team Name “Ghost,” had quietly disappeared, maybe alive, maybe dead, and “Mike Jenkins” had reappeared in his place.

After being the wrong place at the wrong time too many times, Mike had settled down in the Republic of Georgia, using part of his reward money to buy a pleasant little farm with a group of tenant farmers already in place. However, the security situation in the area being what it was, he’d taken the opportunity to train the retainers as a local “militia.”

The retainers, called the Keldara, had taken to it like so many ducks to water. A little digging turned up the fact that the Keldara were anything but simple farmers. According to his interpretations, they were, in fact, the last remnant of the Varangian Guard, the Viking guards of the emperors of Byzantium. The group had apparently descended from a small force of mixed Norse and Scots-Irish that had drifted down through the Mediterranean until encountering the Byzantine Empire.

They farmed quite well but at heart, like the Kurds and the Gurkhas, they were warriors first and foremost. A couple of million dollars in equipment and a similar amount in payroll for trainers and training had turned them into a formidable, if small, fighting force. They had taken on a Chechen “battalion” at nearly three-to-one odds and the prisoners and dead now being loaded into the Georgian military trucks were the result.

Mike suspected it wouldn’t be the last such battle for the group called “The Tigers of the Mountain.”

“Mr. Jenkins,” the Russian attaché replied, nodding. “Quite a battle for a little militia.”

“Untrained militia,” Mike pointed out. “They were only in their third week of training. The teams fought them straight off of their first days of range training.”

“How many did you kill?” Kortotich asked.

“One hundred and three KIA,” Mike replied. “Including some who got froggy when we were in the capture phase. Forty-two WIA, including some the doctors don’t think will survive. And twenty-one prisoners, unwounded.”

“And Breslav?” the Russian asked.

“He, unfortunately, did not survive the encounter,” Mike said, slipping a picture out of his jacket pocket and handing it over. Breslav had, apparently, been directly in the area of effect of a claymore, since his torso and right arm were missing. However, his head was still attached and the expression of surprise was clear on his face. As was the expression of satisfaction on the face of the Keldara who was holding his head up by its hair. “I would have liked to capture him for intel purposes, but you can’t always get what you want.”

“We are glad enough that he’s dead,” Kortotich replied, smiling at the pic. “Can I keep this?”

“Certainly,” Mike said. “It’s a photo quality printout, anyway. We only use digital cameras.”

“Three weeks of training, you said?” Kortotich asked. “I think that my bosses will be impressed. Very impressed.”

“And, of course, the intel we forwarded you,” Mike pointed out. “That stopped his team from entering Chechnya. Can I take it we might be able to avoid a border war?”

“There is still the matter of the Paniski Gorge,” Kortotich pointed out. “That is where their main bases are.”

“I don’t think the Keldara will be up to taking that on any time soon,” Mike replied. “But we’ll start interdicting their movements as soon as our training is complete. The Gorge will be a matter between you and the government of Georgia.”

“I’ll pass all of this on,” Kortotich said, pocketing the picture. “And I give you the thanks of Russia, for what it’s worth.”

“Oh, I’m sure it will have some use in the future,” Mike said, smiling faintly. “You scratch my back, I scratch yours. Take care, Colonel.”

* * *

“Back into training again,” Nielson said in a satisfied tone. “Nothing like a little live-fire exercise to get the blood pumping and the troops motivated, but now they’re going to think they know it all.”

Colonel David Nielson was the senior officer of the group Mike had hired to train the Keldara. The colonel’s field credentials were impeccable but he was, at heart, a trainer. He loved taking soft clay and molding it into soldiers. As such he’d been a very good choice to lead the training, although some of the trainers, notably the SEAL and Marine Recon members, had questioned having a regular Army guy in charge. That was until they started to see the results.

Mike had been flown back to the serai, courtesy of the Georgian government, which was being remarkably friendly at the moment. He’d consistently tried to downplay the Keldara, but having a fraction of their force wipe out a Chechen “battalion” was, he was told, being discussed at the highest levels. It had also made the international news, although the story for press consumption was a special Georgian commando group. Which, in a way, they were.

“Get that out of their system with a good, solid after action review,” Mike said. “I’ll be on the grill, too.”

“Everyone was involved,” Nielson pointed out. “Who conducts it?”

Mike started to answer when his sat phone rang.

“Jenkins,” he said.

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