It was clear to Till that Odour knew more than he was portraying to him. More so, he was not completely sold on the idea that the Somalian government was the one attacking the civilian population. Sure it could be true as well, but in the event that it was not, Till was going by another saying: ‘…keep your enemies closer’.
Odour led them out of the congestion of trees and into a bare field. The field was vast, spotting arid soil, sprouting a dry bushes among the open area like a balding man. They soon came upon a village thriving with people: There were children playing with a poorly inflated ball, women carrying baskets of supplies, while some elderly folk simply sat around lazily.
The village itself was mainly made up of shacks of wood heavily consolidated into one area. The mass collection of shacks reminded Till of the cities of Iraq.
Out from one cluster-f**k to enter another, he thought.
A few of their feeble frames held thin cloths acting as curtains or even makeshift doors. Like poorly constructed webs, clotheslines stretched from the shacks decorated with an assortment of garments. A few chickens annoyingly scurried in between the heels of passing people, picking at treats seen only by their eyes.
“It is because of us, villages such as these can live their days in peace,” Odour brought up suddenly. “We provide them with protection and food.”
“And what do you get in return?” Till asked.
Odour smirked. “We ask nothing in return, except quarter for my men if we need it and information on the government cowards.”
“Seems like a fair trade-off, almost too fair,” Snow retorted.
“What are you saying? That my men and I have ulterior motives?” Odour spat.
One of the trailing Somalians threw a mean glare towards Snow. Till shot one as well.
“We are here for the people. We are the people,” Odour continued.
“We understand that,” Till interjected.
“Yes, we know you have the people in mind. That’s also the reason why you want to get a hold of those ‘powerful’ weapons as well, right?”
Odour returned a twisted face in confusion. “I told you, I do not know what you speak of.”
“Cut the s**t. Your eyes gave you away twice already,” Till retorted, getting impatient.
Odour scoffed. Tinsley and Ryder kept a close eye on the Somalian men who grew tighter in pace to Till. Jones remained in the rear with his own pair of escorts.
“Fine, we have seen these weapons, so what? I want the weapons to protect these people. Is that too much to ask?”
“I suppose not,” Till replied, “but before I guarantee anything, I want to know everything – about the weapons, about what’s happening to these people, the government, everything.”
After another salty glare, the man eventually complied.
“About seven months ago, a young Somalian woman was walking home after fetching water from the river,” he started. “The water was for her family – her two sons and her sick mother. However, she never made it home that evening. When several villagers attempted to find her…”
His words began to trail off.
“Did they?” Till inquired.
“Unfortunately, they did. Not without discovering a horrifying truth,” Odour went on. “They found the woman lifeless and stripped of her clothing. She had been defiled – her hair shaven and stab wounds were all over her body. When asked around, nobody saw what happened to her.”
“That’s sick,” Ryder stated, overhearing.
“Sick?” Odour scoffed. “That is only the half of it. The same thing began to happen to more people, even small children.”
“The people attacked,” Till began. “Any chance there was a family or friend connection between them? It’s possible someone had a grudge.”
“That is the crazy thing,” Odour answered. “This happened to random people, sometimes villages miles away from each other. Like I said before, we tried to take our pleas to the government to help us solve what is going on. What did they do? They ignored us. After several more days, we stood out in front of the President’s office hoping he would hear us there. What was his reaction? He had his soldiers line up in front of his office as if we were terrorists or something. Then one day, they open-fired on us killing seven unarmed people.
“After that day, we swore to them that we would protect ourselves with or without their help. They took that as an act of rebellion, stating that they would wipe out any who brought forward the same fruitless accusations. On that day, they declared war on us. We understood that this was the only true way to get our voices heard,” Odour stated.
“And you’ve been fighting ever since then,” Till concluded.
“Yes, and those bastards have the nerve to say we are attacking our own people, calling us the cowards when they attack unfairly.”
“How so?” Till inquired.
Odour was silent.
“Odour, you ask me to believe your side, but you won’t give me all the facts,” Till continued. “I need to know the whole story. What have you seen?”
After another minute of silence, he answered, “I’ve never seen anything like it. They began to use a strange weapon with enough power to blow a hole through a man the size of a guava fruit. It is no bigger than our own weapons here. When fired though, lightning flashes as if it is the wrath from Allah himself, filling the air with a stench like hot gunmudka.
“I do not know where they get these weapons from, but they are unstoppable. Because of them, we were pushed back out of Somalia and into Kenya.”
Till’s brow furrowed. Skepticism filled his eyes. “Lightning? Are you sure that’s what you saw?”
“Yes, of course. Do you think that I am lying?”
“Well it does sound a little far-fetched. It at least explains why you’re in Kenya. Is that everything?” Till questioned.
“No, one of my men reported seeing something,” Odour continued. “He claimed there were bright lights in the sky during a shootout. He said the lights came down and literally reached out and snatched up our men as if it were alive. Tell them, Abasame,” he said, gesturing to the big guy from earlier.
The man’s earlier scowl was absent. Instead, a face resembling a feeble child was before them. He spoke with an accent even stronger than Odour’s. “It is true,” he replied, “they were there in one moment and gone in another. I only got away because – I fled.” He lowered his head in shame.
Till was silent, unable to come up with a response.
“I don’t know, Sarge. You buying all this b******t?” Tinsley asked over the comms.
“Yeah come on, Sarge. GL is right,” Jones said, piggybacking. “Sounds like some b******t to me as well. The dude’s probably just b**t-hurt for getting taxed by these weapons and doesn’t want to admit he’s been outmatched by ‘real’ soldiers.
“Instead, he wants to spit up some African ghost story about some ‘living’ light, the f**k? Then, he wants us to feel sorry for him too. Don’t get me wrong, it is sad, but that’s f*****g life. That doesn’t mean we hand over whatever weapons we find to a bunch of pissed-off villagers. Today’s friend could be tomorrow’s enemy,” he finished.
Till could not believe Jones was actually saying something worthwhile. Even so, what if the things Odour said were true?
Odour came to halt. “I know this may be hard for you to believe, but it is the truth, I swear. I need to know if I can rely on your word. You promise that we can have these weapons and I will safely guide you to your aircraft. Know, that I am not lying. There are many soldiers posted in the area, heavily armed with these weapons. The same soldiers that shot down your aircraft because of what they do not want your country to know. They are the enemies, not us. If you run into them, they will surely gun you down no matter how skilled you think you may be. We are your only hope.”
Till exchanged a glance from Odour to Snow.
“Go,” Odour said. “Talk it among your men. I will wait.” He gestured for his men to pull away, leaving Till to his thoughts.
Till made his way to Snow signaling the others to keep watch. For a minute, Till remained silent. He felt his mouth open to speak but Snow spoke up first.
“You remember that one mission back in Afghan?” he started. “It was a simple Intel gathering mission, reconning the nearby village. It was you, me, Casey, Shepard, and Garcia. We spent the entire day out until we got to the village. And not a single soul was willing to tell us anything, too afraid to speak. That is the last thing any of us wanted to hear. We were all exhausted and pissed-off, you especially.”
Till was unsure why Snow was bringing this up, but he remained silent and listened.
“And then out of nowhere, we got hit by an on-passing convoy of Taliban,” Snow continued. “They had us pinned down in a firefight. You took cover behind a house with a mother and her eight-day old daughter. In the midst of all the bullets firing, the mother was hit, but the daughter was unscathed.
“I remember what you told me. You said as the mother was dying, your eyes both met. It was a brief, but powerful moment. Her wounds didn’t allow her to speak. Yet, through that simple encounter you were able to understand what she desired. You could read it. She wanted you to take her daughter – to get her to safety. Despite everyone’s better judgment, even my own, you took the girl with you.
“After a long strenuous fight, and by the grace of God, we managed to kill every – last – one – of those bastards. After it was all clear, there it was. It was you and that girl. The other villagers either fled from the scene or were shot in the crossfire. She was a quiet one, but somehow even she knew and simply remained by your side.
“You gave her water, hell even bits of your MRE when she was hungry. You even carried her when she couldn’t walk anymore until we finally returned to the refugee camp. And as if the story wasn’t strange enough, you were able to reunite her with her father. By some miracle, he was already there trying to make future arrangements for his family.
“My point, Joe, is that despite what others think, you’ve had your moments. All from what I’ve seen, you seem to always know the right choice. Your gut instinct has served you fine up till now. We’ve been through hell and back together, and I’ve never abandoned you during any of your decisions, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I here with you to the end,” Snow finished. “Let’s just try to keep my good looks intact this time though,” he joked.
Till was only able to cough up a light chuckle. He felt a few tears tease his eyes, but immediately choked them back. He gave Snow a simple nod, placing his hand firm on his shoulder.
“What’s it going to be, Big Sarge? Jones interjected. “I can’t lie, Taskmaster has ‘me’ tearing up a little over here, and I’m catching mostly static.”
The smile grew wider on Till’s lips as he shook his head at the comment. “Everyone bring it in, we need to make sure Mr. Odour is on the same page as us.”
Snow smiled back, rendering a nod of approval.