No Alarms and No Surprises

"It"s like he wanted to die."

"Maybe the sign means look out, fucking nutters about."

#

Now they had moved on to the outskirts of a small town, a dusty little place built of mud brick on the edge of the eternal desert which had switched back and forth several times between British and Taliban control. Mickey watched as Porteus, described colourfully by Dook as "a two-faced prick, as useful as a worm's hole to an elephant", hovered while Muldoon studied a map with the Khadamdar, or platoon sergeant, of the Afghani unit they were working with.

The Section was strung along the bottom side of a dusty little square which the main road cut straight through. On the opposite side, about twenty metres away, was the village bazaar. Metal-shuttered shops behind them were set up in a row of mud-brick buildings. The more security conscious local businessmen set up their businesses in shipping containers nearby. Bloody skinned carcasses, presumably of sheep and cows, hung in the open on filthy hooks. Black clouds of flies swarmed about them. Mickey wondered if this marketing ploy could work anywhere else.

After reaching some decision of vital strategic importance Muldoon and the Khadamdar moved off down the main drag between mud-brick compound walls and across a battered bridge over a dusty nullah about fifty metres away. Porteus jogged after them leaving Mickey and the others sitting and waiting for orders, and feeling vulnerable.

While they were waiting for orders Mickey was having a little rest in the shadow of a decaying wall which, like every other structure in the whole sorry country, could have been there for ten years or a thousand. On the radio someone was moaning that half the locals in the unit they were working with were doped out of their heads again and more of a danger to Mickey's mob than to the Taliban.





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