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Chapter Fifteen

"I heard we had some excitement today," Adams said, coming into Mike's office after a knock.

"This is getting out of control," Mike said. "I just picked up seven more waifs. The only thing to do with them is kick them out or make them concubines. I thought about trying to just keep my hands off them but that would make things weirder in the long term."

"You're due, buddy," Adams said. "Something about fifty college coeds if I recall."

"Forty-nine," Mike said, sadly. "Forty-nine."

"Yeah, well we got forty-nine out," Adams said.

"Besides, I screwed twenty of the forty nine," Mike admitted.

"Twenty?" Adams shouted. "Damnit, I only got six!"

"Six?" Mike snapped back. "When the hell did you get six?"

"Well, there was the hotel in DC," Adams said, ticking off on his fingers. "Two there, separate times, mind you. Then there was the party at the Kappa Alpha house, that was three . . ."

"Yeah," Mike said, shaking his head. "I heard about that one."

"Those Kappa Alphas can party," Adams admitted. "Then there was the visit I made later. That was the last one, a Chi O, but then there were two more of her sorority sisters over the weekend . . ."

"Christ," Mike said, shaking his head. "You were bent on taking over UGA weren't you?"

"Dude, it was only a plane hop away," Adams pointed out. "And all I had to do was get one of the girls to introduce me as a SEAL and it was pussy city. And you got twenty. Don't give me any shit."

"Well, it took most of a month," Mike admitted, grinning. "But I think I potted all the girls that were recovered enough. It was fun. Good for them, good for me. But that doesn't cover the present problem. I wasn't planning on having a harem."

"Wah," Adams said. "Not a problem most guys want to listen to somebody complain about."

"Well, if a certain team name ever gets tagged to me the area around me is going to get really exciting," Mike pointed out. "Having a bunch of potential hostages around is not my idea of a good plan."

"You've got the Keldara around you," Adams pointed out. "Both as defenders and as potential hostages. A few more bunnies running around won't matter."

"I suppose," Mike said. "But doesn't it bother you a bit?"

"Nah," Adams replied. "You always over analyzed. Go get it stuck in and forget the rest. It won't matter in a hundred years anyway. But you need to get you a harem manager, you know that."

"I can just see that advertisement," Mike pointed out. "Wanted, harem manager for group of teenaged concubines. Must be female. Send photo and resume."

"Mike, I've had teenaged daughters," Adams said. "Well, stepdaughters. You don't want to put up with them most of the time. They should be raised in a barrel. Oh, the screaming fits and the sulks and the pouts and the whines. Get a professional."

"And where, exactly, does one find a professional harem manager?" Mike asked, smiling.

"Uzbekistan comes to mind," the chief said, seriously. "We were there for a refit in-between jobs in Afghanistan. The team had a night off so we went down to the local club. Some dude with heavies was sitting in the corner with a girl about thirteen on his lap and another that looked like a damned model, maybe twenty-three or so, sitting next to him. Turned out he was one of the local sheiks and the twenty something was his harem manager. There were about ten girls out on the dance floor shaking it, all in a group, not one over seventeen I swear. The harem. That's what you're shooting for, man, trust me."

"I'm not so sure," Mike said, frowning. "Sounds fun, but I'm sure there are headaches. Besides the dealing with teenaged girls. I've noticed that if they're getting laid on a regular basis they're less prone to the sulks at least."

"Braces come to mind," Adams replied, shaking his head. "You're going to be going through a ton with an orthodontist, if you can find one in Tbilisi."

"Braces," Mike said, wincing. "You had to mention those."

"Okay," Adams replied, shrugging. "So they're a turn-on. This is a good thing."

* * *

"Klavdiya," Mike said, sticking his head in the girl's room after knocking.

"Yes, Kildar, is it time?" the girl said, standing up. The bed had been made up but the room was still awfully Spartan, no more than a bed and a nightstand, not even a chair.

"I've been called out of town," Mike said, shaking his head at her expression. "Try to keep your hands off the trainers while I'm gone, okay?"

"Yes, Kildar," the girl said, nodding.

"Is Cottontail giving you any trouble yet?" he asked.

"No, Kildar," the girl said, looking at him in a puzzled manner.

"Odd, that," Mike said. "I guess she's biding her time. I may be gone for a week or so. You just listen to Mother Savina. She'll manage things 'til I get back. If there are any questions she can't answer, get ahold of Sergeant Heard, she's the senior female militia trainer. Questions?"

"No, Kildar," the girl said.

"Good girl," Mike said, sighing. "I need to get going."

* * *

"Chatham Aviation, Gloria speaking, how may I help you?"

"Hi, Gloria, it's Mike Jenkins again," Mike said. "I don't know if you recall me chartering . . ."

"It's been the talk of the office for the last year, Mr. 'Jenkins,' " the receptionist said, giggling. The quotes on the name were evident in her voice.

"Great," Mike said. "I hope it stayed in your office. Look, I need another charter. I don't suppose Captain Hardesty is available?"

"As a matter of fact he is," Gloria said. "And as far as I know the discussion hasn't left the office. I certainly haven't talked about it; our clients' actions are considered privileged for very good reasons. Your travels were rather . . . interesting, however. Other than that, I won't discuss it over the phone."

"Maybe another time," Mike said, chuckling.

"Where are you this time?"

"Georgia," Mike said. "The country not the state. I'll pick up at Tbilisi Airport and be going to Uzbekistan. A layover there and then back. I need to see a man about a harem manager."

"In your case, Mr. Jenkins," the receptionist said, the humor in her voice evident, "I won't even bother to guess if that's the real reason you're going to the Stans. When do you need the jet?"

"Yesterday?" Mike asked. "In other words, as soon as possible."

"Captain Hardesty will be in the air in an hour or so," Gloria said. "Always a pleasure, Mr. Jenkins."

"The same, Gloria," Mike replied. "Nice dealing with professionals."

* * *


"Jenkins," Mike replied. "Go scramble code seven."

"I'm on," Steinberg said. "What can I do for you, Mr. Jenkins."

"I need a very discreet conversation with your opposite number in the Uzbek embassy. Can that be arranged? I'll add that it's a private matter rather than purely business."

"Sure," Steinberg said. "What you need to start learning is that at this level, personal and business are interchangeable. Want him to call you or vice versa?"

"If he could call me, soon, that would be good," Mike said, stuffing the sat phone into his jump bag. "I'm hoping to head to Uzbek sometime today."

"Any business reason you're headed for Uzbekistan?" Steinberg said, curiously.

"Nope," Mike assured him. "Purely personal. I'm hoping he can arrange a discreet conversation for me with someone there. I need some advice and contacts."

"I'll call him as soon as we get off the phone," Steinberg said. "But you've got me curious."

"It's a long story," Mike said. "And one that needs to stay very close to the vest for the time being. In other words, not to be discussed with your bosses. Personal, as I mentioned."

"Okay," Steinberg said. "Talk to you later."

"Come on out to the house," Mike said. "We'll hoist a few."

"I've heard of Keldara beer," Steinberg said. "That's a pretty good invitation."

* * *

Mike was in the middle of discussing what had to be done while he was gone with Nielson when the sat phone rang.


"David Wangen," a male voice said. "Scrambler code nine, please."

"Go Scramble," Mike said, punching in the code.

"Mr. Jenkins, I'm the intelligence coordinator for the American embassy in Uzbekistan," Wangen said. "Bob Steinberg suggested that you needed something and indicated that it was worth my time to help."

"I don't know about worth your time," Mike said. "It's purely personal."

"Anyone who can pick up the phone and call the President is worth helping, Mr. Jenkins," Wangen said, chuckling.

"I haven't talked to the boss in . . . months," Mike said. "And for reasons that are going to be really obvious this is something I'd rather never get to his ears. So, Mr. Wangen, exactly how discreet are you?"

"If it's not a matter of national security I can be very discreet," Wangen said, curiously. "What's the problem?"

"I inherited a damned harem," Mike said, rolling his eyes at Nielson who was grinning. "The reasons are complicated and I'll explain it when we're together, if you want. But I need a harem manager. One of the guys I got for training the locals said that there are a couple of guys around Uzbek that have traditional harems. I need to talk to one of them about where in the hell you get a harem manager. I'm not going to try to keep a bunch of teenage girls in line myself. I don't have a big enough club around the house."

"My heart bleeds," Wangen said, chuckling. "My wife is pushing fifty and going through the 'change.' But I know a guy that fits the profile. I'll give him a call. When are you planning on coming out?"

"I've got a plane on the way from England at the moment," Mike said. "I figured I'd be there by tomorrow morning. Sometime tomorrow work?"

"Probably," Wangen said, hesitantly. "I'll have to call the sheik and check on his schedule."

"I can hang out for a day or two," Mike said. "I just need to be back by Saturday."

"That can be arranged," Wangen said. "Let me give the sheik's people a call and see what I can arrange."

"Thanks," Mike said, hitting the disconnect. "The plane's on the way. Given how long it takes to get to Tbilisi I probably should be leaving," he continued to Nielson.

"We've got it handled," Nielson said. "Take off. You realize you're running away from a group of teenage girls?"

"Oh, certainly," Mike said, standing up and folding away the satellite phone. "Women are the root of all evil. And teenage girls haven't learned to use their power for good. There is a reason that harem doors had bolts on the outside."

* * *

"I need to get a helicopter," Mike muttered as he bumped over the road to Tbilisi.

"Pardon, Kildar?" Vil said. Mike had brought the Keldara along to drive the Expedition back to the caravanserai. But he wasn't about to trust him to actually drive with Mike in the car. The Keldara had many traits Mike had come to admire, but their driving style was pure third world.

"I said I need to get a helicopter," Mike replied. "This road is awful. But maintaining the damned thing in the valley would be a pain in the ass. And taking the Expedition means the reaction team has to use one of the Family's. Stop by the Ford dealer and tell him we need two more SUVs. They don't have to be Expeditions, Explorers would do, but they have to be four wheel. And black or red."

"Yes, Kildar," Vil said. "May I ask a question?"

"Always," Mike said.

"I know you intend to use the vehicles for the militia," Vil said, hesitantly. "Black I can understand, but why red?"

"Red is nearly as hard to see in the dark as black," Mike said. "Not that with their reflective coats that they're camouflaged or anything. But that's why red or black. You guys ready for issue and zero on Friday?"

"Yes, Kildar," Vil said enthusiastically. "We're looking forward to it. The Keldara are farmers, yes, but at heart we are warriors. We have been kept from the warrior path for too long."

"I won't get into the difference between the warrior and the soldier," Mike said. "These days the definitions are getting a bit blurred, anyway. But to be a true modern warrior requires learning to be a soldier. At the same time, being a soldier will not be enough, I want all the Keldara to make the jump to modern warrior, a fighter who can both use initiative and obey orders."

"We will try, Kildar," Vil said uncertainly.

"I sort of hit the difference, there," Mike said in explanation. "A warrior fights for honor and glory and to show that he has courage. He takes rash chances so that he can stand out. A soldier fights for the honor of a cause and, in the heat of battle, so that he doesn't let his comrades down. They don't take chances but, on the other hand, they'll soak up the casualties if that's what it takes to perform the mission and they don't run.

"Warriors tend to have plenty of reasons to leave the battle and tend to get whacked when they don't. They don't work well in teams, don't think of their fellow fighters as worth taking chances for, so they tend to fight badly. The mujahideen are warriors. They hit and run and when they try to stand up fight they get slaughtered by soldiers and modern warriors.

"Most American forces fall into the category of modern warriors. They fight for all the reasons of soldiers, they fight well in teams and stand to their salt when the chips are down but they don't have a problem going the extra mile. If they see a better way to achieve the objective they'll use initiative and courage to do so. They don't take stupid chances but they don't have a problem taking the hit if it means the mission gets accomplished.

"That's what I'm hoping to find in the Keldara. You find it in some tribes around the world, the Kurds and the Gurkhas are the best known. The Keldara seem to have that same basic ethos. I hope I'm right because what we're going to try to accomplish will require that you guys be beyond good."

"I think I see," Vil said, nodding. "There are things about the Keldara . . .  I think we will be good for this. Give the Keldara guns and an enemy and the problem will be holding us back. We have a great hate in us and more courage than you might think for farmers."

"And plenty of things you're not discussing with your Kildar," Mike said, apparently paying close attention to the twisting mountain road. "Like what that cross you wear actually means. It's not a standard cross. It looks one hell of a lot like an axe. Maybe a hammer, but that would be really odd."

"An axe would not?" Vil asked, carefully.

"There's a tribe in southeastern Georgia that has various practices," Mike said, shrugging. "Among other things, they have a spring festival that celebrates something like the story of the Golden Fleece. Medea was near here, it's possible that they're a remnant of the Medean tribe. You're familiar with the story of the Golden Fleece?"

"Yes, Kildar," Vil answered.

"Interesting," Mike said. "I'd love to hear your version. 'This asshole from Greece and a bunch of his drinking buddies showed up one day, seduced the king's daughter, killed her pet dragon, stole the Fleece and made off with it and the girl. Then he dumped the girl, the bastard.' But the point is that they also have an axe that is a symbol of authority. That path probably traces through the Greeks or the Medeans. A hammer, though, that's pretty unusual. Assuming a Greek descent it would relate to Hephaestus, the Greek god of smiths. But I've never actually seen that motif in ethnology. Now the Norse used an axe as a symbol, especially in reaction to Christianity. Not like yours, but similar. However, the only Norse that got down here were the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors. And I've scanned a couple of online sources and they don't have that particular motif anywhere. For that matter, Constantinople is a long damned way from here. Most of the hammer symbols were late Norse. Early Norse hardly had any specific god symbols at all. The Gallic tribes used an axe as a symbol of authority for a while, but that's a pretty long shot. And while you guys have some evidence of Norse characteristics, they're awful muted. Cultural memes can hold out for a long time in isolation, I suppose. I'd love to get a gene typing of you guys, though. You're either classic Caucasian types, the very base of the Aryan gene pool, or you're some very odd transplants. I haven't figured out which. On the other hand, I have figured out that you know, or think you know. Close?"

"Very," Vil said, uncomfortably.

"You've got your secrets; I've got mine," Mike said. "Don't expect to find mine out any time soon. I don't expect to find out yours."

* * *

"Mr. Jenkins," Hardesty said as Mike got out of the Expedition. "It's good to see you. Will you be changing names again?"

"Not this time," Mike said, grabbing his bags out of the back. "Nice simple visit to Uzbekistan. We may have to sit around for a couple of days."

"I'll attempt to restrain my enthusiasm," Hardesty said, smiling faintly.

"Been to the Stans, have you?" Mike asked. "Vil, head back to the valley," he continued as the Keldara took the keys to the SUV. "Don't forget to stop by the Ford dealership. And get the oil changed and whatnot if you've got time."

"Yes, Kildar," Vil said, getting in the driver's seat.

"And don't ding it," Mike shouted as the Keldara sped away.

"You have a minion," Hardesty said as Mike boarded the Gulfstream.

"I do indeed," Mike replied. "Minions, actually. Which is a different kind of headache than I'm used to. But now we're away to Samarkand and I get to forget the minions for a while."

"We're preflighted," Hardesty said. "If there's nothing keeping us."

"No," Mike said. "Get me out of here before someone figures out a reason I have to stay. Let us waft to storied Samarkand."

"You haven't been in Uzbekistan lately," Hardesty said, chuckling.

"Au contraire," Mike replied, sitting in one of the front seats and buckling in. "But I can hope it's improved."


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