Going to ‘Gotham City’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

&uot;Gentlemen, this will be an undertaking of grand proportions, but we can do it. We have good information that many of the high-level targets we have been looking for are located here.&uot; My commander points to a map and identifies a medium-size city I’ll call Gotham City.

&uot;That’s a pretty bold plan,&uot; someone murmurs under his breath from the back of the briefing room. He has a point. Gotham City is rife with bad guys, but that’s not what worries me.

What worries me is that the local government is dirty. Most of the local politicians are &uot;in bed&uot; with a lot of the bad guys. This is what we have to deal with every day.

&uot;Sir, don’t you think the local government will announce that we are coming as soon as they hear about our plans? After all, they have to be notified, per current operating procedures,&uot; I add with some concern.

&uot;We won’t tell them until the very last minute. We won’t say anything about this until you are all in position to engage the targets,&uot; our commander assured us.

That’s right. He said targets, as in more than one. It’s not really that crazy, but it’s definitely ambitious.

Multiple high-level bad guys are staying within Gotham City. These bad guys are responsible for acquiring weapons that are used against coalition forces. My team and I will go into Gotham City and acquire said individuals, preferably in the wee hours of the morning, so as to catch them unaware.

&uot;We launch tonight. Good luck, and good hunting,&uot; he says to us.

I feel a little uneasy about this. I don’t know why, but I just feel like something’s wrong. I just can’t place what it is. The intel is good. I know that for a fact. Many of us do. We’ve looked over the information a thousand times. We know the deal.

We race along dusty roads toward Gotham City. The heat is even worse than the daytime, because I have on all my body armor and am sitting inside one of the British &uot;Warrior&uot; vehicles. It’s basically an armored personnel carrier. I absolutely despise closed spaces, if only because there’s no place to run if you get into trouble.

&uot;Good grief, it’s hot,&uot; says the Brit sitting next to me. &uot;This isn’t hot; it’s the setting for London broil,&uot; I reply. Then things get a whole lot hotter.

We’re all shaken from our own thoughts, when a thunderclap as loud as anything I’ve ever heard throws all of us around the inside of our sardine can.

The report comes in over our headsets: &uot;Contact IED. No. 5 has been hit!&uot;

Our convoy stops and, amidst the chaos, we all go through our practiced assignments, and exit the APC. We quickly set up a defensive perimeter around the vehicle, which is engulfed in flames.

I’m supposed to be concentrating on keeping my eyes peeled for secondary attacks. It’s a typical ploy for the bad guys to set off one improvised explosive device: Wait until everyone is confused, and then launch a second attack.

I can’t help but hear the screams behind me, both from the victims and from my teammates trying to render aid. My heart is hammering unbelievably fast. The smell from the burned victims is something I refuse to describe here, but I will remember it always. I hear the sound of a fire extinguisher being used. I keep my eyes front.

I’m there for about 10 minutes, listening to the chatter over my headset. Three Brits are dead, one is severely wounded and two others suffer minor wounds.

The injured personnel are stabilized. Then the inevitable happens. Over the headset we hear, &uot;Abort mission. I say again, abort mission.&uot; The watch commander back at headquarters has scrubbed the mission. I can’t say that I blame him, but we all feel quite a bit of resentment.

We destroy the remaining gear left in the inoperable vehicle and set low-level demolitions to take care of what we can’t get out. The dead are loaded into another APC, and we fall back into the remaining vehicles for the ride back.

I’m numb, and so are my comrades. The Brits are especially devastated. I can see that by the looks on their faces. Then, my numbness turns to anger and my anger turns to resolve.

I look to my left and see my buddy Cam and the hot tears streaming down his face. I won’t soon forget the look on Cam’s face. I don’t want to. That’s an image I will need. This can’t be over.

After the ride back, I go through my debriefing, which doesn’t add up to much, as the operation never went down. I finish and make my way back to my hooch to chat online with a friend from Franklin, hoping to free my mind from this place for just a little while.

Just as I finish typing, my work-issued cell phone rings. I look at the caller ID. It’s my workspace. I hear the clipped British accent on the other end speak just two words: &uot;Tomorrow night.&uot;

The call ends, and I feel a smile start to form at the corners of my mouth. This isn’t over by a long shot.

&uot;Hey girlie,&uot; I type. &uot;I think I’m going to be busy tomorrow night.&uot;

To be continued….

THOMAS MORE is the pseudonym of an intelligence analyst with the U.S. Navy, who makes his home in Franklin and serves in Iraq. He has been granted anonymity in order to avoid compromising his security or that of his mission or the nation. Questions for More may be sent to res.spears@tidewaternews.com.