It’s World Book Day.
And here to ‘celebrate’ that, is an extract from something I have been working on for about a year now. It’s a novel about a Multiple – a section of infantry – in Afghanistan. It’s fiction. Not real. I need to make that clear.
Anyway, I have a first draft off the book finished and I am starting work on a second, revised draft. It’s taking me a while as I have never written fiction, or put a book together before so I am sort of all over the place. But anyway, here is a stand alone piece that you can have a read of. And yes, I know there are a lot of abbreviations and jargon in the piece, but it’s part of a greater work and the terms are all explained elsewhere. I don’t think the language takes away from the content or the readability.
So, let me know what you think. After all, I’d kind of like all you good people to be the people who’d be buying a published novel of my work…
It had been a long couple of days for the Multiple. The final exercise had been wet and cold, with snow still on the ground that melted overnight to form huge patches of thick cold, wet, mud. They had moved locations twice in the course of the exercise so far and were tired beyond belief. They knew that end-ex would be called the following morning, and were already looking forward to the post-ex pint and pizza party that they would have.
But they were still there, in the mud and cold of Salisbury Plain at the moment. They’d been told that they were the advance party that would be moving into a new village that had, as yet, not had any contact with the British forces. They were up early and heading off over the hillside in the dark to get there. The route had been convoluted and difficult. Against Booty’s better judgement, they had stuck to the high ground, mainly to keep out of the mud and mire of the valleys, but this itself had meant that they had not been as stealthy as they could be, often being silhouetted against the skyline of the coming day.
They’d not made good time either as they’d been taking an extra man with them – an attached Navy man who would be acting as a Stabilisation and Reconstruction Officer when in theatre. He’d been a nightmare, he’d dropped a mag off his rifle, forgotten his NVGs and then had tripped over and fallen into some mud. He’d really held them up, hopelessly searching for the magazine in the dark. Without night vision, when walking through the tussocked grass fields he’d constantly tripped and couldn’t keep up with the pace of the multiple. All this meant that they’d arrived at the stepping off point to enter the village late.
‘Right,’ said Mason. ‘We go onto the square and we make contact with the local elder.’ He looked at the Navy man ‘That’s when you do your reconstruction bit – asking them what they want and such, whilst my lads proved point defence in the square. Booty, you run the cordon to the north of the square, Tee, you run it to the south.’ He continued to brief the team, as quickly as he could, trying to make up the time that had been lost.
From their viewpoint on a small rise overlooking the ‘village’ they could see that it was nothing more than three barns around a courtyard. This courtyard would be the market, and the barns would be playing Afghan compounds. There was an open entry from the south, with a track leading out to open fields to the north. To the east they could see a small alleyway that led away from the courtyard between two large walls. It was difficult for them to imagine that it was an Afghan village, with the red brick and the slate tiles of the barns and their walls standing against the green of the Salisbury Plain grasslands. It looked nothing like the landscape and construction of the buildings of the lands they had been fighting gin for 10 years. It had been built to train the British Army in the fighting of wars in Northern Europe an snow was obliquely out of place being used to pretend to be Afghanistan. Making it worse was they were of course training for a summer tour and the heat of Afghan in, in the freezing cold mire and mud of an English winter.
They slogged on. Slowly and carefully trailing down from the hillock towards the village. Badge led them along trying to avoid the worst of the mud and the filth. Tentatively they entered the ‘market square’.
This was populated by a motley collection of people. All in civilian clothes were volunteers from other units who were used as actors and locals to train the British. Some were actual Afghans there to push the military ‘terps, some ex and serving Gurkhas there just to speak their own language so they could confuse and hinder the British. There were even some soldiers there who were real amputees, set up to play injured people, with fake blood, but real absent limbs to focus the minds of the trainees. Mostly though there were just squad dies, of both sexes, there to act as villagers and local populace. Hardly actors but still playing a role.
There were about 10-15 of these ‘actors’, stooging about in the courtyard, trying to pretend to be doing their shopping, or just hanging out together in the way that Afghan men do at a market. They looked at the Multiple as it patrolled into the square. Booty went about setting up the defence, Badge, Smidge and Houseman went to the northern exit, and took up positions. Stretch, Bartman, Lambo and Tee stayed at the southern exit, as Horewood and Booty Moved to cover the alleyway; Horewood facing down the alley, whilst Booty faced back inside to the see Mason and the Crab start talking to a man who had approached them.
Booty looked to the south and saw a man in a green Snugpak puffa jacket come out of a doorway in the wall of the eastern building. The actor went across to where Bartman and Lambo were sitting crouched against the wall. He said something and the two uniformed soldiers shoo-ed him away. Suddenly there was a flash and a bang and a lot of smoke. The actor had detonated a Battle Noise Simulator and a smoke grenade and then threw himself on the ground. He screamed. There was chaos in the square. The locals running in every which way they could with the aim of confusing the Multiple even more. Another local who had been sitting near to Bartman threw a blanket off his legs and screamed and screamed.
He was one of those limbless injured ex-soldiers who was now playing a role he knew from first hand experience. The stumps of his legs had been made up to look injured and bloodied. He screamed at Lambo. ‘Contact IED – suicide bomber!’ shouted Booty.
Out of the door that the bomber had come from stepped a uniformed Captain in a high-vis jacket. He looked at Lambo and Bartman and said ‘Sorry lads, but he’ pointing at the pretend suicide bomber lying on the floor ‘has gone and killed you. Sorry. If you wouldn’t mind getting down on the floor.’
Bartman and Lambo smiled at each other, and relaxed onto their backs on the cold stones of the courtyard. They would have no further active part in this scenario and would be dragged and carried around from now on. Lambo gave a thumbs-up to Bartman.
Tee however, shouted ‘Man down, man down!’
Mason stood in the middle of the square and looked around. In front of him the man playing the local elder smiled at him and then started to shout into his face ‘Help us!’ over and over. He pointed at the amputee lying on the floor. He had been joined by a woman who was screaming at Tee to help her. To add to the confusion the RAF stabilisation man was now lying on the floor with his eyes closed. Booty ran over and kicked him. ‘Get up you stupid, fish-head. It’s not fucking real.’
Mason still just stood there. The smoke started to clear and he could see Tee and Stretch trying to pull Bart and Lambo into the middle of the square. ‘We need to get out of here’ said Booty.
Mason’s mouth opened but no noise came out. Booty took over. He turned to the northern exit and called Smidge and Houseman to go to the casualties aid. Badge slowly moved into the square, standing on the corner of the northern most building. From somewhere there came rifle fire, but given the confusion and the noise of the locals it was difficult to tell where it was coming from. ‘Contact small arms’ shouted Tee.
‘Yeah, thanks for that’ said Booty. ‘I can hear you know. Colour! We need to go.’
Smidge and Stretch dragged Lambo by his body armour straps, one on each side of him. ‘You fat bastard. Lambo’ said Smidge.
‘OI! Watch my ass on these stones,’ replied Lambo.
‘Aren’t you meant to be dead?’ asked Stretch. ‘You are the biggest moaning dead git I’ve ever come across.’
Mason was still standing there in the centre of the square. ‘We need to find out where the shooting is coming from’
‘Sod that we need to get out to the north, it’ll be coming from the south, from that hill over there,’ screamed Booty.
‘No. No…’ Mason looked to the north, to the wide exit, ‘They are pushing us up there…’
‘Don’t be daft man, if they are going to push us anywhere it’ll be down that alley.’
‘That’s where we are going.’ Mason turned in the direction of the alley. ‘Horewood, lead on.’
‘What?’ Booty was irate. His face flushing red with anger. ‘That’s a VP. It’s mental to go down there!’
‘The shooting is from the north, we…we go that way.’ He nodded to himself.
Horewood led on down the alley, followed by the Navy man, and then Tee and Houseman dragging Bartman, Mason the followed and then Smidge and Stretch with Lambo. Finally Booty and Bartman entered the alleyway. As Badge backed into the corner, one of the locals smiled a knowing broad smile and waved at him. The High-Viz wearing Captain appeared again at the head of the alley and stood in front of Horewood. ‘And stop there,’ he said to the Rifleman. ‘You are all dead.’ He looked at Mason and said ‘Wrong choice I’m afraid, Colour. The scenario has murder-holes along the walls of this alley with Insurgents chucking grenades in here. It’d be all a bit of a mess to be honest. Nasty.’
Mason closed his eyes and sighed. Booty looked at Lambo who was slowly getting up and trying to wipe the mud off the arse of his trousers. Booty shook his head. Lambo rolled his eyes and shook his head in return.
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