Stiller and Mathis reached the village.
The mortar-blasted area offered no shade from the mid-summer sun. Waves of heat radiated from the sandy soil and distorted everything in view. His troops faced a long, hot afternoon. Stiller removed his sunglasses and wiped the sweat from his face with his sleeve. He found a spot where he had a view of the slopes and established his command post. A quick assessment of the area told him the counter-attack would come from the woods closest to the village, either the north-western or western slopes.
“I want the first platoon facing west,” he told the assembled lieutenants, “the second fronting northwest and third due north. The woods on the east are too far away from the slopes, so I don’t expect any trouble from that direction. Any questions?” He looked at the two men and a woman. All much younger than he. “Okay, go and set up your troops.”
The referee walked over and gave him a signed form, the official tally. Fifty-two killed. Good. They found a few more survivors and he still had a great Kill-ratio.
He and his men lunched on cold rations while a convoy of ambulances transported the survivors. After the last vehicle left the hill, the referee displayed his wristwatch to Stiller. “The counter-attack can take place anytime after fifteen minutes from . . . now.”
Stiller nodded his understanding. The next event was deadly and involved a mob of people desperate enough to attack professional troops. Soon, five hundred bankrupt citizens, armed with machine pistols and high on booze and drugs would try to take the village from his company.
During the Terrorists Wars, Congress revamped the justice system and tilted it to benefit for-profit institutes. Insolvency was now a crime punishable by stiff prison sentences because individual bankruptcies lowered the profits of the lending companies. The Attorney-General then cut a deal with the entertainment industry to give the felons a chance to get out debt while reducing the number of expensive jail cells required. The Attorney-General proclaimed the arrangement a victory for the taxpayers.
“Captain?” Sergeant Mathis look worried. “I can’t get air support.” He waggled his cell phone over his head.
“All I get is a loud squeal.”
Stiller punched the power button on his cell phone. Nothing but noise. Not even a commercial! He leaned on a mound of rubble to keep his knees from buckling. Bile flooded the back of his mouth and left him with a horrid taste.
It had to be the producer! What was the fat fuck’s name? . . . Zephyr . . . Zachery Z. Zephyr. ‘Z-Cubed’, as he liked to be called. The sonuvabitch wanted more bloodshed so he blocked the requests for air support. Without the cell phone, he also couldn’t direct the fire of his weapons platoon at the base of the hill, and his riflemen had used most of their ammunition on the way up the hill. He looked around for the camera trucks that should be in the village with his men. Both crews were still at the bottom of the hill, drinking beers. Even worse, the hum-vee with the officials sped down the hill to join them. Stiller almost threw up his lunch.
He took a deep breath. The whole day was an outrage. First, he had to shell the illegal immigrants because it was too expensive to send them back to their native countries. Second, he had to fight off a frenzied mob of bankrupt people. Third, Zephyr put his men in extraordinary danger to punch up excitement and to increase the ratings of his reality show.
In the last year, his respect for the Pentagon had plummeted because they supported this gross and dangerous spectacle to placate the entertainment industry, amuse the public and earn money. He could take no more of this immoral charade and he resolved to resign his commission before the day ended.
If he survived.