Authors: David E. Meadows
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Joint Task Force: Africa
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David E. Meadows
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Electronic edition: June, 2005
Berkley titles by David E. Meadows
THE SIXTH FLEET
THE SIXTH FLEET: SEAWOLF
THE SIXTH FLEET: TOMCAT
THE SIXTH FLEET: COBRA
JOINT TASK FORCE: LIBERIA
JOINT TASK FORCE: AMERICA
JOINT TASK FORCE: FRANCE
JOINT TASK FORCE: AFRICA
To the men and women who serve on the nation’s reconnaissance missions
It is impossible to thank everyone who provided technical advice and support for this and other novels. My thanks for those who visited
and provided comments.
I do appreciate the encouragement and the honor from authors, talk-show hosts, and readers who provided reviews on my books—such as former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich; Stephen Coonts; W.E.B. Griffin; Joe Buff; Robert Gandt; Tom Wilson; Victoria Taylor-Murray; John Tegler; Milos Stankovic; Christy Tillery-French; John Hemry; and other fellow authors. If I have inadvertently missed someone, I apologize, but I would like to express my individual thanks for their technical assistance to Col(S) Marjorie Davis; Ms. Sharon Reinke (with best wishes in her retirement); Mr. Art Horn; Col(S) Randy Coats, USAF; LCDR Nancy Mendonca; CDR Scott Fish (helicopter warrior); Mr. Ed Brumit; Maj Howard Walton, USMC; a Royal Navy supporter, Stephen Barnett; the dy- namic LCDR Kevin “Moose” Missel; and Jeff and Yoko Brown. My respects to Col Gene Tyler and Col Cec Tyler, an Army family that represents what keeps America free; Bob “Mr. IA” Gorrie, retired U.S. Army colonel and leader of the DIAP. And, I can never forget the admin team who kept me organized at work. CWO4-ret Tim Bovill, LT Greg Klitgard, Petty Officer Michelle R. Nagle, Petty Officer Jennifer L. McGowan (our junior sailor for 2003), Petty
Officer Tashira L. Hadley (who is now dodging polar bears and snow birds), Petty Officer Mustafa K. Wilson (and may he get his wish to go to sea ASAP), and Petty Officer Regina E. Mitchem (who is surviving the wilds of West Virginia). My thanks to Ms. Terry Smith, Mr. Vincent M. Widmaier, and Mr. William D. Cross for their security insights. And, as always, my continued thanks to Mr. Tom Colgan for his editorial support, and to his able right-hand person, Ms. Sandy Harding.
Rest assured that any and all technical errors or mistakes in this novel are strictly those of the author, who many times wanders in his own world.
David E. Meadows
“LINE THEM UP, SERGEANT,” GENERAL FELA AZIKIWE OJO
ordered. For emphasis his finger waved at the boys.
The heavyset Guinean lowered his eyes in Ojo’s direction and with a huge stick prodded two young boys so hard that one of them fell. The young lad scrambled to stand. A nearby soldier kicked the lad, sending him tumbling across the dirt. None of the boys in line moved to help.
Ojo saw the tears. There would be more tears before he cleansed Africa of the enslavers. The boy scrambled to regain his footing and ran toward the soldiers aligned in front of Ojo. Ojo leaned back in the chair someone had pulled from one of the huts. He shifted the AK-47 so it lay across the chair arms, his right hand clasping the stock so in one smooth motion he could both swing the weapon and fire it at the same time. Around him, Africans from tribes throughout West Africa hustled, carrying out his orders. It hadn’t been much of a battle. But, then again, most of these villages
had few men of fighting ages. Africa was truly the continent of child warriors. What he was doing was disarming the future weapons Abu Alhaul and his Jihadists would create in these children. With the exception of a few, most of the lads standing in line were barefoot and wore short pants. Thin reeds emerged from the pant legs, attesting to the paucity of food fed to the students who studied ways to die. None of them wore shirts, the shirts having been torn from their thin frames by his soldiers as they rounded up the frightened lads.
A soldier swung his AK-47, cracking the fleeing boy across the temple. The boy fell, dust rising around him from the bare soil.
“Measure him,” Ojo said.
The two soldiers who had chased the boy grabbed the unconscious lad by this hands and feet, stretching him out on his back.
From Ojo’s side, the elderly man hobbled over to the prone boy. He lay the stick down alongside the lad, one end of it at the feet. The boy’s head was several inches above the other end.
The old man looked at Ojo who nodded at the two soldiers. The elder bent over and picked up the stick as the two soldiers rose, one of them carrying the hands and the other the feet. Ojo watched the boys who were staring intently at the soldiers carrying off their classmate. The soldiers quickly disappeared behind the burning schoolhouse with their burden and Niewu, the old man, shuffled back to his place beside Ojo, and eased himself down onto the dirt, laying the shaft across his knees.
“Nuts to butt!” Ojo shouted.
Single pistol shots, one after the other, broke the noise of the shouting troops running back and forth in front of him, forcing the boys standing in line closer together, so
close their chests touched the backs of the person in front of them.
Nuts to butt
was the military command he used to force the boys closer and reduce the chance of another one bolting.
Most of the young students continued to stare at the schoolhouse, now burning a couple of hundred yards away near the edge of the jungle, as if afraid of meeting his eyes. The smell of old wood burning, the thatched roof caving down into the center, drifted across the large open center of the village. Ojo glanced at the schoolhouse while reaching up to remove his khaki cap and wipe the sweat from his forehead. These were the bane of Africa—the dirge of terrorism. Schoolhouses where old evil men carved the weapons of terrorism. Every day mullahs canted religious nonsense to them, teaching them life was but a transition to a better place and the more nonbelievers they took with them, the better their position in the afterlife. Ojo wiggled in his seat, glancing at the setting sun on the horizon. August heat was atrocious. He put his cap back on his head and pulled the brim forward. He could have waited in the shade until the selection process was ready to begin. But it was important that the ones who survived the selection process understood who decided they would live. So, he sat in the center of the open court area between the thatched homes of the villagers, watching the scenario unfold as it had unfolded in African village after village as his forces moved eastward through Guinea.
He would catch Abu Alhaul. The man was on the run, hurrying westward, and soon they would enter the jungles of Guinea to give chase, but first he must disarm this village. Ojo recalled the incursion into Ivory Coast. They had been so close, but the Americans had caused him to retreat. This Egyptian terrorist was forcing an unwanted change in West Africa—changes that offended the beliefs of true
Africans, causing them to withdraw from their ancestors. He lifted a water bottle from beside the chair and drank deeply. There was a time, three years ago, when he was known as Mumar Kabir and served as the head African for Abu Alhaul. It had taken an American—a young American of about twelve years—younger than some of those who cower in the selection line—to nearly kill him to give him the opportunity to break from Abu Alhaul. He smiled, a thin, tight smile. Ojo doubted the Egyptian terrorist even knew who Fela Azikiwe Ojo was. It was better this way, and he hoped to be able to look his former master in the eye to see the recognition before he cut the terrorist’s throat.
Eventually, he would take on the Americans and the strong western powers. His encounter at Kingsville against the legendary American general, Daniel Thomaston, had taught him caution. Americans could be defeated in the court of world opinion, but he would be foolish to confront them on the battlefield. The Americans and the British were fierce warriors. You fought one; you fought the other. If he could only build a similar alliance with others, the freedom of West Africa would be assured. Ojo sighed, bent over, and retied the loose lace on his right combat boot. He would never live to see Africa as one country, but maybe one of his wives’ children would live to see it and honor him as the catalyst that made it possible.
“Ojo,” he said softly, enjoying how the name rolled off his lips. This African name was better than the Arab name bestowed on him at birth. An Arab name he carried until the disastrous defeat at Kingsville two years ago. The African National Army had started small, but as victory after victory piled up, it had grown and every day new recruits appeared. Ahead of him was his former master and nemesis of Africa—Abu Alhaul. During the two years since
he vanished into the jungle after the defeat at Kingsville, Ojo had convinced himself he had been a reluctant, brainwashed follower of Abu Alhaul; and that his ancestors had taken him from the terrorist camp and guided him to this place of honor, of power, of destiny.
Two soldiers pulled a taller youth from the line, screaming at the boy who covered his face with both hands. The soldier on the right struck the prisoner across face with the stock of his rifle, sending teeth and blood flying. A low wail rose from those in line. One of the soldiers turned and screamed at the boys to be quiet or he would kill them. The caterwauling increased in tempo. Several soldiers raised their weapons, their fingers tight against the triggers, prepared to fire if the boys ran. It had happened several villages ago. If the prisoners rioted from their fear, most would die, but with a hundred or more lads in front, some would survive. The boy fell to his knees.
Ojo nodded to himself. “Mumar Kabir” served him well in the Islamic concentration of Nigeria where his mother lived, but when he returned to Liberia—home of his father— few appreciated the holy implications of his name. Even he failed to appreciate it. He hated the name, but it plucked him from the crowd during the time he spent with the Islamic radicals bent on chasing Westerners from Africa and imposing a religious dictatorship on Africa. Africa has always been a slave under the mantel of those not African. Arabs weren’t Africans, though when it suited them, they would claim kinship based on North Africa. North Africa wasn’t really part of the Africa Ojo knew and loved. North Africa was never considered Africa, being separated from the real Africa by the Sahara Desert.
Niewu rose from the dirt beside Ojo’s chair, pushing his frail frame up with the rough yew staff. On thin legs, the aged man shuffled to where the two soldiers held the
unconscious lad upright by the arms. Niewu placed the staff on the ground. The two soldiers dragged the boy, his feet leaving two trails in the dirt, to stand beside the staff. This boy also was several inches taller than the staff. They looked at Ojo. He raised his hand off the stock of the rifle and motioned toward the building from where the shots were coming. The wailing increased as the two soldiers dragged the boy off, disappearing around the edge of the building. Other soldiers walked the line, using short whips on the boys, shouting for them to be quiet.
General Kabaka was behind the burning building in charge of the squads with their knives and guns. Ojo frowned, his eyebrows scrunching. Whenever he thought of Kabaka, he knew that he would eventually have to kill the mercurial general because the man publicly lusted for Ojo’s position. The only thing separating Kabaka from Abu Alhaul was that Kabaka was African. For this phase of the emergence, as Ojo thought of it, he needed the man and the Africans he brought with him. Kabaka was inept at treachery, failing to realize how transparent he was. As long as Kabaka had his victims, his ill-concealed plans would never reach fruition. The evil man was never more happy than when torturing someone. A slow kill would give Kabaka orgasms of pleasure. The lad would suffer more than the adults out of sight because Kabaka had a penchant for belts made from human skin and the younger the donor, the better the belt.
A few soldiers in front of Ojo had fashioned the whips individually with leather ends tipped with bits of metal. As the whips rose and fell, the late afternoon sun reflected off the various metal parts the soldiers had sewed, tied, or weaved into the straps. Bloody strips of skin flecked off as the soldiers moved along the line. Ojo looked at the ground beneath the boys and smiled where numerous wet spots
showed where a boy had lost control of his bladder.
Your bladder is your least worry right now, lads,
he thought. What was the use of a young soldier who couldn’t keep his water when desperate deeds such as this were necessary if Africa was to live in peace? An Africa where everyone had an opportunity to die peacefully in their sleep surrounded by relatives. Few had that opportunity today.
North Africa was different; separated by the protection of the Sahara Desert. Let them have this protection, for the Sahara also provided true Africans a boundary against those who would enslave them again.
Names are important. The stronger a name, the stronger the spirits that follow and support you; the stronger your link with your ancestors; and, the stronger your influence over those with less powerful names. Mumar Kabir never influenced Africans. Many times the name caused humiliation as other older boys teased him. The name
“Fela Azikiwe Ojo”
was African. It was strong. It was a name composed from different west coast tribes.
A commotion to his right caught his attention. A young boy bolted from the line, his quick feints and swerves narrowly avoiding the outstretched hands of the soldiers as he ran across the dirt of the open court area. A whip hit his back, but he kept running. His thin legs propelled up and down like some small locomotive determined to win against the odds. Even from a hundred yards away, moisture on the boy’s cheeks glisten in the afternoon sun. The boy dodged right to avoid a charging soldier, the action caused the fleeing prisoner to run directly toward Ojo. For a fraction of a second, their eyes met. In that second, Ojo saw anger echoing inside the boy. For that brief moment, he mentally cheered the boy and hoped the lad reached the safety of the thick Guinean jungles surrounding this
isolated village. The boy’s lips moved and though Ojo couldn’t hear what the boy was saying, he knew it was some sort of Islamic evil prayer for protection. The boy was shorter than the staff. If he had remained in the queue, he would have lived. What would he bring, if he was allowed to live? The spirit was too strong within this lad. If Ojo allowed him to live, one day in the future, the boy may try to kill Ojo.
His decision took less than a second and was based solely on the quick eye contact, but snap decisions had kept him alive in a world where death was a constant companion.
The boy changed direction, racing to the right of Ojo.
The boy must sense death is not far behind. Maybe he is going to try to kill me before death takes him? With what? Bare hands? Bare hands anchored to a body with protruding ribs and arms that are mere bones with skin stretched tight across them?
Ojo shifted the AK-47 across his knees.
Ojo started to raise his weapon, thought against it, and tried to remain impassive as the boy neared. A couple of soldiers jumped in front of Ojo. The boy’s feet dug into the ground ten feet from him, sending up a large cloud of red dust. The boy changed direction, his feet churning the dust behind him, the cloud rolling over Ojo turning his khaki pants redder. The lad had found an opening between the soldiers. The jungle was only yards away.
Fear and anger affected each person different ways. He had seen those who wet themselves and curled into a ball muttering “please, please, please,” over and over until someone put a pistol to their head and stopped the whining. Others he had witnessed stand straight and proud until someone put a pistol to their head and stopped the pride.