Authors: James Rouch
Tags: #Fiction, #Men's Adventure
The Chieftain mounts a long barreled 120mm cannon as well as 2 7.62mm
machine guns, one coaxial and one anti-aircraft. The Chieftain solved the
problem of ranging the main gun by using a ranging machine gun with similar
ballistic characteristics as the cannon. When the machine gun rounds hit the
target, the gunner could be reasonably assured that his cannon round will hit.
The Chieftain succeeded the Centurion and was in turn replaced by the
Challenger. Early Chieftains and some later modified tanks mount the 50. Cal
M2HB machinegun over the main gun as a ranging gun. The HESH round is
used for antitank chemical-energy (CE) antiarmor missions, and for HE effects
against personnel and materiel. A variety of fire control systems and thermal
sights are available for Chieftain. At 324 Chieftains have been upgraded with the
Barr and Stroud TOGS thermal sight system. The 1R26 thermal camera can be
used with the 1R18 thermal night sight. It has wide (13.6°) and narrow (4.75°)
fields of view, and is compatible with TOGS format. GEC Sensors offers a long
list of sights including: Multisensors Platform, Tank Thermal Sensor, and
SS100/110 thermal night sight. Marconi, Nanoquest, and Pilkington offer day
and night sights for the Chieftain. Charm Armament upgrade program, with the
120-mm L30 gun incorporated in Challenger 1, is available for Chieftain.
THE ZONE Series by James Rouch:
THE ZONE 8
Copyright © 1989 by James Rouch
An Imprint Original Publication, 2005
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without permission of the publishers.
First E-Book Edition 2005
Second IMRPINT April 2007
The characters in this book are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
THE ZONE E-Books are published by
IMPRINT Publications, 3 Magpie Court
High Wycombe, WA 6057. AUSTRALIA.
Produced under licence from the Author, all rights reserved. Created in Australia by Ian Taylor © 2005
A war crime is a breach of the laws or customs of war. —Dictionary definition.
The only crime in war is getting yourself killed. — Sergeant-Major Patrick Wilson.
It is only a war crime if it is discovered. —Colonel Boris Tarkovski.
When we do it, it's an operational necessity. When they do it, it's a war crime. — Peter Manteuffel. Journalist.
All war is crime. — Pacifist leaflet.
“But Comrade Commissar, my orders ...”
“Screw your orders.” Colonel Tarkovski reached out and gripped the corner of a filing cabinet to steady himself. Vodka slopped from the tumbler in his free hand, running down his wrist to soak the cuff of his soiled jacket. “Your tanks stay here until I've finished with them. Understand?”
“Yes, Comrade Commissar.”
The young tank major of the Soviet 3rd Shock Army offered no further dissent. It would have been pointless and dangerous to argue with a senior officer, especially one as drunk as the colonel, but literally suicidal with one who also wore the insignia of a KGB political officer.
“Then clear out and have those clanking wrecks of yours do that little job for me. When my battalion pulls back I don't want so much as a scrap of used toilet paper to be found by the NATO troops.”
“They will find nothing of value, Colonel.”
“I don't care if they get their hands on the treasures of the Kremlin.” Tarkovski swilled the contents of the glass around, watching the last struggles of a large fly in the clear alcohol. He drained it, without bothering to remove the insect. “What I don't want them to find is evidence of a little going away party held by me and my men. Now get on with it.”
Ignoring the tank major's salute, Tarkovski replenished his glass. He did so from a near empty bottle that stood on a long table crudely improvised from oil drums and rough planks. Setting the bottle down again, he had difficulty finding a space for it among the clutter of chains, wire, and tangles of stained rope. The unplaned timber was further littered with sticky heaps of pliers, metal shears, and knives.
The heavy chemical-screen curtain at the entrance to the dug-out had hardly ceased flapping from the major's abrupt exit when a junior sergeant entered.
“What do you want?” Almost losing his balance, Tarkovski lurched a half step sideways and collided heavily with the cabinet. Its top drawer slid open. He slammed it hard shut but it opened again.
“All the other bunkers have been cleared, Colonel. Shall we remove this equipment now?”
Absently Tarkovski rippled his stubby, dirt-ingrained fingers along the tops of the exposed close-packed index cards. “Yes, you may as well. Have it put in the back of my field car.”
The sergeant waved two men into the room and they began to gather up the tools. One of them reached beneath the table and lifted onto it a large truck battery. From its terminal posts trailed long leads that ended in rusted crocodile clips. It was heavy, and he almost dropped it.
“Watch what you're doing, shithead.” Dribbling saliva as he snarled, Tarkovski glared at the soldier. “You, I can replace in minutes. Good batteries take forever.” “Shall I have the bodies removed, Colonel?”
“Hmm?” Making the effort to switch his bleary focus to the corner the sergeant indicated, Tarkovski took a moment to collect his thoughts. “Oh, them. I'd forgotten them.”
The naked body of a middle-aged man was sprawled in contorted fashion on the tamped dirt floor. Masses of burns, deep cuts, gouges, and contusions showed on his pallid and slightly blue-tinted flesh. His wrists were almost severed by the fine wire tightly binding them, and his eyes were gone. Wedging open his toothless mouth was a piece of splintered timber and filling the cavity between the bloody gums was a ragged wad of torn tissue and matted hair.
Beside that corpse hung that of a woman. The razor wire by which she was suspended from a hook in the wall had bitten deep into the skin beneath her arms and across the tops of her big breasts. The tips of her toes just brushed the floor.
She had been a disappointment to the colonel, a great disappointment. He'd had his eye on her for weeks, had been saving her. Then, when she'd witnessed a little bit of routine work before her own turn, she'd thrown up, and choked. He'd tried to save her, shoving his fingers down her throat to clear the obstruction, but it had done no good. She had drowned in her own vomit. Her bladder had emptied all over him as she'd died, but that thrill was small compensation for the loss of what he'd actually been looking forward to.
Even in death she'd still managed to spoil things. First washing her down with vodka and crumpled pages from Pravda, he'd tried cutting her, but she'd hardly bled. When he did things to them he liked to slide about on their blood but even that had been denied him. He'd had to finish himself off by hand, be content with doing it over her.
“Shall we remove them, Comrade Colonel?” Putting off a reply with a negligent wave of his hand, Tarkovski squinted into the open drawer. Riffling through the dog-eared cards he finally extracted two. Slowly and deliberately he tore them into tiny pieces and let the scraps run through his fingers.
“No. No need to bother with them. They do not exist any more.”
The tree line was a wild tangle of broken branches, interspersed with splintered stumps and the battered empty cases of cluster bomb dispensers.
Sergeant Hyde's squad had dug themselves in along the fringes of the war- ravaged woodland. Several times he had walked out into the open to check their concealment. At last he'd been satisfied with their camouflage and they'd settled down to wait.
There was no movement, no conversation. Each man was encased in the private stifling world of his respirator and NBC suit. Laid mostly in individual shallow holes, they were so still that even from close up mere was little to reveal that they were not just another small group of, forgotten bodies, left over from some minor action.
A rare slight movement as a cramped muscle was carefully flexed, or as a fractional adjustment of position was made, to further improve a field of fire, was all that there was to betray that they were not corpses.
Before them the ground sloped gently down toward a long straight stretch of Autobahn three hundred feet away. The road surface was sprinkled liberally with the craters of direct hits by bomb, rocket, and shell, and smothered in soil and lumps of clay thrown from near misses in the fields alongside. At irregular intervals, sometimes singly, sometimes in small clusters, stood the fire-seared wrecks of trucks and trailers. All rested on their axles, tires burnt away. Most had been reduced to virtually unidentifiable condition. Only the occasional outline of a partially intact cab gave any clue as to their origin.
On the far side of the broad highway, flat meadow-land had become a sodden morass where drainage ditches had been obliterated by a carpet of explosives.
Gradually sinking into the cloying mire were the flame-ravaged hulks of a troop of T84 Warpac tanks that had attempted to escape the carnage on the road. Their thick composite armour had offered scant protection from top-attacking terminally guided munitions. Now, minus tracks and every external fitting, even turret and gun in one case, they were gradually disappearing into the mud. They were taking with them the charred remains of the crews.
But it was not the pounding and the churning of high explosives that had killed every last blade of grass in the fields. After that violent tilling the soil had been drenched with toxic and defoliant chemicals. It was those ugly, indiscriminate weapons that had crudely sterilized the land.
In the remains of a drainage ditch alongside the Autobahn the still water was coloured not with the green scum of stagnant growth, but with the life-leeching taint of a cocktail of chemical agents.
“We're in business.” Sergeant Hyde gave Dooley a jab with his elbow. He pointed to where indistinct dark outlines were beginning to emerge from the smoke-filled air a kilometre away.
Swinging the thermal imaging sight of the Milan rocket launcher to bear, Dooley was able to make out the distinctive bulk of a heavy truck, and then more as others followed it into vision. “All right! I owe you fifty marks.”
Without taking his eye from the target, Dooley reached out. His gloved hand patted across the two-round reload case to check it was unfastened. No matter how much they wore the all enveloping NBC suits it was never possible to become completely used to them. They made every action clumsy, restricting vision and hearing and communication. Even the cologne doused muffler he kept tucked inside couldn't mask all the other odours from the long hours, sometimes days, they were forced to wear them. He'd have given anything to rub his eyes, scratch his nose, but that meant lifting the respirator, and that was out of the question. The contamination monitor strapped to his wrist was showing a reading almost off the scale. Contact with any twig or stone, or any unfiltered breath could prove quickly lethal.
The drifting perpetual pall that so reduced visibility in the Zone had been thickened in this sector in the last month by non-stop battles, as the NATO forces had maintained pressure on the retreating Warpac forces rear guards.