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The following short story is a prequel to
Peace Force.  It's a more detailed account
of events that were briefly recounted in the
book, which took place almost ten years
before the storyline of
Peace Force,
beginning on Friday, August 13, 2041.
Dark Friday
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       Lieutenant Turner Andrews was huddled in the dense jungle with the five
squad leaders from his platoon and the sergeant who had led the recon
mission.  Turner had already seen video of everything that Sergeant Milkin had
seen, thanks to the tiny camera on the front of every soldier’s helmet.  Their
objective was a well-defended hilltop half a mile to the north, the enemy’s local
command center.  It was the final target before they could declare victory and
return to camp.
       The enemy knew that an attack was imminent, probably just after sunset.  
That was pretty much what Turner’s own commander was expecting, that they
would wait to attack under cover of darkness.  The enemy had the advantage of
being dug in with dirt mounds reinforced with sandbags for cover, but they were
in fixed positions.  Turner’s soldiers would be able to attack from anywhere.  
Colonel Whitman’s final order had been, “I want that hill taken before midnight.”
       But Turner intended to be sipping a beer by midnight.  They would attack
them in the daylight and take them by surprise.  There was a deep crevice to the
west that led right up to the base of the hill before it ran into a monolithic boulder
jutting up out of the ground like a gigantic jagged tooth.  The split in the ground
was overgrown with brush at the top, so it was almost like a tunnel leading right
up to the hill.
       “Is that crevice big enough for us to get through it?”
       “Yes sir…in single file.”  Milkin replied.  “It’s at least three feet wide at the
narrowest and seven or eight feet deep.”
       “Perfect.  They’re not going to have as much defenses behind that rock
because they can’t see downrange.  We take out that heavy machine gun on the
south side of the rock and swarm up the hill, flank their defensive positions.”
       Thirty minutes later they were in position, lined up in the narrow trench just
yards from the nearest enemies.  Two soldiers with rocket launchers were
boosted up above the rim to fire their rounds at the machine gun position
nearby.  That was the signal--all of the troops scrambled out of their cover and
began their charge up the hill.
       Turner was near the front of the loosely staggered formation that dashed
up the incline as they fired to the left or right.  They were receiving fire from
nearby foxholes and he could see a lot of enemies scrambling around in the
trees above them, looking confused.  Suddenly an enemy soldier ran out in front
of Turner, weapon raised, taking aim.  But Turner shot first.  A red laser light
from his weapon hit the other man’s chest and little red light started flashing on
the center of his vest.
       “Son of a bitch!” The enemy soldier looked down at his weapon and
cursed, as if it was the weapon’s fault that it had deactivated.
       Turner chuckled as he continued his charge up the hill.  He took out ten
more “bad guys” before his troops were surrounding the command tent at the
summit. When Turner pushed through the flap into the tent the six people inside
were standing with their hands on their heads.
       One of them was Lieutenant Glover, his friend and fellow platoon leader.  
“You’re early, Turner.”  He smiled.  “I guess the first round’s on me.”

       Within an hour they were back at the World Peace Force base on the
outskirts of Panama City.  The Battalion’s headquarters was filled with the
soldiers returning from the field exercise, rushing around to complete their
tasks.  Whitman’s rule was that nobody leaves until everybody’s weapons and
equipment were cleaned and checked in, so there was a lot of peer pressure to
move with a purpose.
       The Colonel stopped Turner as he made his way through the crowded main
hallway.  “Lieutenant!  Nice job on that final assault.”
       “Thank you, sir.”
       “But--” he emphasized the word, “I think the daylight raid was a little rash.  
Now, your platoon’s casualty rate was only twelve percent and anything up to
fifteen would have been acceptable for an attack on that hill.  But think how low it
might have been if you did the same attack under cover of darkness.”
       “My plan was to take them by surprise, sir.”  He refrained from adding that
just about every military force in the world has night vision technology so in the
real world darkness doesn’t provide such great cover.  Just because they don’t
let us use it in these exercises doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
       “Plus you made it back in time for the big speech, yeah?”  Colonel Whitman
smiled.
       “That is today, isn’t it?”  Turner asked innocently.  He knew full well that it
was scheduled to start in about ten minutes and he had been making his way to
the day room to claim a good spot in front of the big TV.
       The “big speech” was going to be delivered by his grandfather, the
venerable James Vincent Andrews Sr., who was in the middle of his third four-
year term as the chairman of the World Peace Council.  He had led the world
government since its inception ten years ago and had done an incredible job.  
He seemed to enjoy unprecedented levels of admiration and respect throughout
the world.  But very few knew the great man as well as Turner.  He had spent a
lot of time with this incredibly wise and compassionate man at the family estate
near Denver, in the same house where his father the Senator now lived.
       He had seen his grandfather give many speeches before, on television and
even in person.  But tonight’s speech promised to be historic.  Chairman J.V.
Andrews was going to speak outdoors, on a stage set up in front of the
Brandenburg monument in Berlin, and the media was predicting that more than
a million people were going to fill the square and surrounding streets.  By far the
largest crowd ever gathered voluntarily to hear a politician speak.
       There was already a crowd gathering in the dayroom.  After all, this guy
was also their commander-in-chief.  Aside from representing Earth‘s interests in
the Intergalactic Confederation of Planets, the world government‘s main
responsibility was enforcing global law and order and the Peace Force was their
big stick. It was an enormous multi-national military force that operated under the
authority of the World Peace Council.  They had never been called into action,
but that was the idea, to be a deterrent against international aggression.  A
tyrant would have to be really crazy to attack his neighbor knowing full well that
the Peace Force would inevitably get involved.  
       Turner managed to find a spot on a couch just as Germany’s president was
introducing the Chairman.  It was already dark there, but the stage was brightly
lit.
       J.V. Andrews was greeted with several minutes of thunderous applause as
he made his way to the podium, waving to the sea of faces that was spread out
before him.  Finally he began, “I’m glad to see so many of my friends made it out
tonight.”
       Turner smiled as he watched his grandfather speak.  He had this way of
connecting with people.  Even people who disagreed with him would describe
him in the most respectful of terms.
       The chairman was saying, “It has been my distinct pleasure to serve the
citizens of Earth for these past ten years, and for the rest of my term I will
continue to do everything in my power to give the people the kind of government
that they deserve.”
       The crowd erupted in applause.  Then, suddenly, the chairman fell. Others
fell who had been on the stage behind him.  Deafening screams could be heard
as the camera was jostled and then panned down to show people crowding
around the figures that were lying on the stage, bleeding.
       A reporter’s voice broke in, “Oh my God, shots came out of nowhere!  
Chairman Andrews and several others have been shot!  The crowd has become
hysterical, people running and screaming everywhere!  My God, how could this
happen?”
       Turner and his fellow soldiers sat in shocked silence as the television
reported on the panicked crowd and the police and security forces attempts to
control it.  After several minutes a voice reported somberly, “I’ve just been told
that Chairman Andrews has been declared dead at the scene.”
       Turner was in as a fog as he was led from the dayroom and placed in
Colonel Whitman’s office.  Once he was alone he allowed himself to cry.  It
seemed like he was in there for a very long time before Whitman entered.
       “Hey Turner…how ya doin?”  The colonel’s gruff drawl was quieter than
Turner had ever heard it.
       “I’m all right, sir.  I mean…considering…”
       “I know.  I thought you might want an update.  There was a team of five
assassins shooting from a penthouse a few blocks away.  The security forces
trapped them in a parking garage and killed them all in a shoot-out.  The press
is reporting a rumor that they were Libyans.”
       “Khaku was behind this?”  Gaifi Khaku was Libya’s self-appointed
president.  If any government could have been behind the Chairman’s murder, it
was his.
       “There’s no official word on that, but I just got the order that our whole base
is going on alert.  Probably the same as every Peace Force base in the world.”
       “You think we’re going to go after Libya?”
       “That’s not for you to worry about.  Rebecca called a few minutes ago and I
told her I’d be sending you right home.  I spoke to your old man too, he said your
family would be gathering in Denver for the funeral.  You need to go be with your
family, son.”  Coincidentally, Whitman and Turner’s father had worked together
as young officers in the U.S. Special Forces.
       “Yes sir.”  He replied numbly.

       Within ten minutes he was walking in the front door of their little pre-fab
cottage in the on-post officer’s housing area, exactly identical to all of its
neighbors.  His wife Rebecca immediately wrapped her arms around him tightly
and buried her face in his chest, crying.  “I can’t believe this, Turner.”  She
sobbed.  “How could this happen?”
       “I don’t know, Becky.  I just don’t know.”
       He did his best to comfort her for a time, then he convinced her to start
packing a bag while he made phone calls to his father and grandmother.  They
didn’t exactly agree with his decision, but they understood it and they knew that
he had made up his mind and nobody was going to change it.  He was a lot like
his grandfather that way.
       He put Rebecca on a flight to Denver and headed back to the base.  Just
three hours after he had left he was walking back into the Third Airborne Infantry
Battalion’s headquarters building.
       Colonel Whitman passed him in the hallway, and then spun around when
he realized whom he had just seen.  “Andrews!  What the hell are you doing
back here?  I signed you out on leave.”
       “Sign me back in, sir.  I can’t take leave with the base on alert.”
       They were face-to-face now and the Colonel spoke softly but sternly.  “You’
ve suffered a loss son, and I’m putting you on emergency leave.  You need to go
grieve with your family.”
       “Sir, I have a duty to be here and lead my platoon.  And if the Peace Force
is going to avenge my grandfather’s death I’m not giving up my chance to play a
part in it.”
       For several long moments the Colonel stared into Turner’s eyes.  Perhaps
he saw the determination there, or maybe he was just thinking about what he
would do in Turner’s place.  When he finally spoke he sounded exasperated,
“Okay, you win.  Check out your gear and make sure your platoon has all of
theirs.  We need to be ready to go on a moment’s notice.”

       The moment didn’t actually come until the next evening.  In the meantime all
of the soldiers had to stay in their Battalion area, keeping their weapons and
other gear with them at all times.  Turner spent most of that time monitoring the
news.  The entire World Peace Council had rushed to New York to mourn their
fallen leader.  Then they elected Rudolph Guilliame, another representative from
the U.S., to complete Chairman Andrews’ term.
       Shortly after dinner, just a little more than twenty-four hours after the
assassination, they started loading up in buses for the short drive to the airfield.  
They didn’t receive the final briefing until they had been airborne for nearly an
hour, with Turner and the other officers crouching around a map in the back of
the crowded cargo jet.  The target was indeed Libya.  No surprise there.
       “The initial attack has already started.”  Whitman informed them.  “Right
now there are hundreds of cruise missiles coming in, taking out the power grid,
communications and AA defenses.  Soon their skies will be filled with bombers
and their fighter escorts, hitting every conceivable target.  By the time we jump in
their defenses should be pretty well softened up, but be ready for anything.  Our
drop zone is this park,” he made an X on the map with his grease pencil, “and
our first objective is to secure and search the president’s main residence, over
here.  If Khaku’s still alive, there’s a good chance he’ll be hiding in there.  Once
we’ve secured a perimeter around the palace two platoons will go inside to
search room-to-room for the rat bastard--or his body.”
       “I’m going in.”  Turner met Whitman’s steely gaze.  “Sir.”

       It was well after sunrise when they parachuted onto an empty, grassy
expanse of the private park within Khaku’s compound.  Fortunately the bombing
had been incredibly thorough.  As he floated down to earth Turner didn’t spot a
single building that didn’t bear scars, and many were nothing but smoking
skeletons.  Their target was missing half of its roof and a large section of one
wall, but it was still standing.
       They didn’t meet any resistance as they moved out toward the palace,
which wasn’t too surprising.  There were paratroopers dropping all over Tripoli
and in every other city in the country.  The Libyan troops that survived the
bombings had their hands full.
       But as they approached the walled estate shots rang out.  There were
several dozen of Khaku’s elite guard firing from windows and from behind
crumbling sections of the walls.  These guys were fanatically devoted, sworn to
protect their president or die trying.  Within minutes they did the latter as the
thousand-strong infantry battalion overwhelmed them.
       Once the palace was surrounded Turner led his platoon through a hole into
the building.  They rushed from room to room, declaring each one clear before
moving onto the next.  Walls were cracked and glass broken from the force of
the earlier explosions that had rocked the palatial building.  They kicked around
the broken furniture and chunks of plaster to check for casualties or hiding
enemies.
       In a walk-in cooler in the commercial-sized kitchen they found several
members of the kitchen staff huddling on the floor.  As Turner pushed open the
door with the barrel of his weapon they all screamed and threw their hands up in
the air.  A couple of them yelled, “Please no!” and “Don’t shoot!”  All of their
terrified eyes were glued on the opening at the end of that rifle.
       Turner stepped forward and placed the end of the barrel against the head
of the oldest and largest man in the group.  He looked like he was in charge and
seemed to speak English.  He demanded, “Where’s the basement?  How do we
get downstairs?”  He was sure that if Khaku was here and alive, he was going to
be below ground level.
       The kitchen manager’s hand shook terribly as he pointed toward a set of
double doors on the other side of the enormous kitchen area.  “Through the
doorway are the stairs.”
       “Sanchez, guard the prisoners.  If they move, shoot ‘em.”
       “Should I let them out of the cooler?  They look cold.”
       “Negative.  They stay in there until the whole building is cleared.  Let’s
move out!”
       At the bottom of the stairs they found a warehouse-sized storeroom
containing not only food and other dry goods but also a large cache of weapons
and ammunition.  There were two other staircases going up and a small suite of
offices.  Then they found a door that was marked with the words “wine cellar” in
Arabic.  Behind it was a spiral staircase that took them down for a surprisingly
long descent--at least two stories.  At the bottom was a large, well-stocked wine
cellar.
       But Turner was sure that this had to be it.  He started examining the racks
along the walls until he shouted, “This is it!  See those tracks on the floor and
the ceiling?  This rack is made to slide over on rollers.”
       The rack wouldn’t budge, however, and they couldn’t find a mechanism to
unlock it, so Turner ordered, “Tear it down!”  That, too, was easier said than
done.  They beat at it with rifle butts and pried with knives and entrenching tools
but it was built even more solidly than it looked.  Finally they stuck a hand
grenade underneath it and then tore the pieces away.  Behind it they found a
big vault-like door.
       Fortunately he had the foresight to bring along a couple of demolition
specialists with plenty of plastic explosives.  “Let‘s get it open, guys.  Set some
charges to blow that door.”
       The platoon took cover behind the racks of wine as they detonated the
charges and knocked the thick steel door off its hinges so that it crashed down
onto the floor.  Turner moved cautiously toward the doorway and called out,
“Gaifi Khaku!  This is the World Peace Force!  Lay down your weapons and
come out with your hands on your heads!”
       Turner’s orders were to take Khaku alive to stand trial if possible, but he
was secretly hoping that it wouldn’t be.  Whoever was inside the bunker
responded to his command by spraying gunfire through the doorway and Turner
smiled slightly.  He gave them their chance.  Everybody heard him.
       “If that’s the way you want it.”  He gave a signal and four of his soldiers ran
forward and took turns tossing a grenade through the doorway, two concussion
grenades thrown far across the room and two smoke grenades lobbed in close
to the door.
       Then he led the rush into Khaku’s underground command center, spraying
every part of the room with gunfire.  By the time the entire platoon was inside the
president and all of his top aides lay on the floor or draped over their consoles,
bleeding from numerous wounds.  Turner found Khaku and nudged his body
with a boot to make sure he was dead.  He noted with some satisfaction that he
was in the area where Turner had been firing.
       “Any survivors?”
       The troops that were standing over the bloody corpses all answered
negatively.
       Turner remarked, “Nice work, people,” before he unclipped his radio to
report to Whitman.  “Big bird, this is Mongoose.  We’ve found the viper’s nest
and all of the snakes have been exterminated.”
       Of course, the Colonel could see the images from their helmet cams.  
“Good job, Turner.  Finish sweeping the building for enemies and then report
back to me.  We’ll let the medical team take care of those bodies.”
       “You heard him, guys.”  Turner called out as he clicked off the radio.  “Let’s
finish our sweep so we can get out of this dump.”

       He didn’t really expect to get a medal.  They didn’t do anything incredibly
heroic or brave, they just carried out their orders in a proficient manner.  But a
month later, less than a week after his unit returned to Panama, he was flown to
New York to receive a Peace Force Medal of Valor during a special ceremony at
the World Peace Council Building.  It didn’t take him long to realize that the
whole thing was just a big photo op for the new Chairman, who presented the
award after giving a lengthy political speech.
       Also at the ceremony was Turner’s father, who had been appointed by the
President to finish his father’s term as a U.S. Representative to the World Peace
Council, as well as his mother, grandmother and wife.  They all sat together in
the front row of spectators, beaming proudly.
       As Turner stood on the stage and listened to Chairman Guilliame’s long,
self-serving speech he decided that he didn’t much like the new commander-in-
chief.  He was such a consummate politician, blathering on and on while actually
saying very little.
       After the speech Turner stood at rigid attention as Guilliame pinned the
medal to his chest and then he saluted the Chairman.  After returning the salute
he smiled warmly and said, “You’re grandfather would have been proud.”
       Turner bristled a little at that.  He replied with a curt, “Thank you, sir.”  But
he was thinking, “My grandfather was always proud of me and I don’t need a
preening politician in an expensive suit to tell me that.”
       Then he spoke to the audience, “I didn’t do anything spectacular, I just did
my job like all of the other fighting men and women who keep our planet safe
and secure.  It’s my honor to serve with them.”  Then he snapped to attention
and saluted the generals who were seated in the front row next to his family.

                                                       THE END