The Commander waved me to a seat at the table, pouring tea as he did so.
“Ah, my little falcon. Now that you have finished your washing up with the other ladies, I believe that you may help us with some more washing-up, better suited to your particular skills.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but he held his hand up, silencing me. “Peace! The mayor here has told us all. No doubt you know now of the tragedy of this village, their young men taken. We will help, yes, Colonel?”
The commander of the tank regiment nodded, sagely. “Da. Together, we will end this outrage on these people. And send a message to the local mujhahid that he will not forget.” He unrolled a map of the area on the table.
“See here. This is their base, at the abandoned power station, to the east, on the other side of the river. A small IRLF faction holds this place.”
“The question, though, is how.” A major sipped his tea thoughtfully. “Perhaps this operation would be better trusted to special forces, the Spetsnaz?”
“Nyet.” The tank colonel shook his head. “We must strike now. And we do not need the special troops’ help. We have all the resources we need. This is my plan, if you approve, Colonel?”
He looked at the Commander inquiringly.
“Da. I do approve. And I agree, we do not need outsiders in this. Here, Sacha. See this place?”
Looking at the map, I could see that the abandoned power station was just south of the river, with low hills nearby. Many buildings in it, and open ground all around. I asked, “Would not a large force provoke the killing we wish to avoid?”
“This is why we will not initially send a large force.” The tank colonel lit a foul-smelling Turkish cigarette, inhaling the fumes deeply. “They are in strength of about thirty in the compound, with small arms. The problem is, however, that they have tanks, a Leopard — God knows where they got it — and two old Su-100 tank destroyers. Before I can send infantry into the compound, those tanks must be accounted for.”
“One tank, sir, could succeed.” My brother, Sergei, spoke with confidence. “My crew is proficient. The T-72 is proof against the Leopard, and those old Su-100s are no match for our gun. We will approach from the north, here along this road.” He pointed at the map. “One vehicle will not cause excitement. If they see us they will think that we are easy prey. Infantry can stealthily infiltrate behind us as we approach. But we cannot see the targets from the road so well.”
“That is where you come in, Sacha.” My Commander smiled, wolfishly. “One little falcon over their heads will make a perfect observation platform. Guide your brother close enough in to strike those tanks, and cover the infantry into the compound.”
“I could take the tanks from the air, would that not work as well?”
“Nyet. Precision is called for here, so we do not kill those we are trying to rescue, and your MiG does not carry precision-guided air-to-ground weapons.” Sergei was not about to let me steal his thunder! “We will use what the Americans call the ‘shock and awe.’ Striking quickly to kill the mujahids’ steel protectors, and then I will at once lead our soldiers into the compound. You, sister, will be the eyes, to tell me where they are, and cover us if any others come from the south. Once we take the compound, the trucks can come in to make the pickup.”
And so the plan was set.