The backs of fifty-five members of the British Parachute Regiment vibrated as they sat against the walls of the payload area of the Chinook CH2 helicopter as it flew over the border between Canada and the United States. The men, ranging in age from early twenties to forty, wore multi-terrain pattern camouflaged combat fatigues. Their gear was nestled on the floor around them. Half an hour earlier, a contingent of the British Armed Forces personnel and vehicles flying on two Chinook helicopters and two massive Hercules transport planes had left Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington State. Their destination: Kamloops Regional Airport, now completely under the control of the Federal Government.
Lieutenant-Colonel Allister Mullen sat pensively on either side of his staff, Lieutenant Raymond Brown and Captain Sean Wynne. Brown was dozing off while Wynne had his nose tucked into what appeared to be a very intriguing novel. All of the other Paras sat in relative silence, the roar of the chopper making conversation challenging. Like many in the British Armed forces, Mullen had decided to follow a long-standing family tradition. He’d attended the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, becoming an infantry officer.
Mullen was a grizzled combat veteran in every sense of the word. He’d seen action in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq as well as Eastern Europe. Prior to being sent to North America, Mullen had watched three of his comrades massacred fighting Russian forces in Polish territory. Taking over a small city in western Canada that most of the members of the platoon had never even heard tell of before seemed like a waste of resources to Mullen. He had mixed emotions about this one particular mission. Not that he was a huge fan of working for the UN in the first place. But orders were orders. And he would do whatever it took to keep this section of the republic free of anarchy and lawlessness, even if it meant sacrificing Canadian citizens. He hoped that it would not come to that.
Sitting across from Mullen was Brian Vance, a young private who hailed from the lush green countryside around Nottingham in the Midlands of central England. Vance had a youthful, almost-baby face, like that of a choirboy. He’d sung with the choir and served on the altar at Saint Paul’s, his home parish. Bored but at the same time a little nervous about his first mission, Vance, who had just recently completed the rigorous training to be a Para, fiddled with his L85A2 rifle. The novice soldier was aware of all the conflict taking place around him. He had nothing against Americans or Canadians and the thought of having to potentially pull the trigger on any innocent person disturbed him deeply.
Beside Vance sat Peter Huggins, a close friend whom he had known since basic training, was half-asleep.
“Hey Pete.” Vance punched his shoulder playfully.
Huggins snapped out of his groggy state.
“Wha…we there yet?”
“Another twenty minutes. Colonel wants us loaded up and ready to move.”
Private Brian Vance breathed in the warm, dry air. This was a region of Canada he could never have imagined even existed-an arid, semi-desert area surrounded by high mountains and rife with sagebrush, tumbleweeds and cacti. Vance and the fifty-four other members of the Parachute Regiment had been sent into Kamloops to assist the militarized police forces who were poised to lock the city down completely. They stood at half-attention in front of Lt. Colonel Mullen and his staff officers. The two Chinooks and two Hercules aircraft were grounded on the runway of the Kamloops Regional Airport. Parked in a neat row were the vehicles the Paras would be using while occupying the city: Eight Jackal MWMIK reconnaissance vehicles and four Foxhounds. An additional twenty-five support personnel, mainly logistics and communications specialists, were getting set up in their new headquarters at the airport.
Mullen rubbed the quarter-inch of hair atop his nearly bald scalp before setting the black beret back onto it.
“Good afternoon gentlemen. We don’t have much time to get settled into our new home. As our orders stand currently, you men will be working on alternating shifts manning checkpoints on the Overlander and Red bridges, as well as those that cross the South Thompson River on the southern Yellowhead Highway and Halstrom Street. A small contingent will remain on guard duty at the airport here.” Mullen cleared his throat. “Captain Wynne would like to speak briefly before you are sent on your assignments.”
“Alright men,” the tall, stocky British officer barked. “You will be staying in the barracks that have been set up on base for you. It isn’t fancy, but according to what officials from the regional government have told us, your living accommodations are only temporary until better ones can be found. It may appear to be a bit of a culture shock, but you will soon get acquainted with the local area. As the predominant United Nations force in the district, you’ll sooner or later be working alongside your counterparts in the North American Police. I expect all of you to show the same type of respect to NAP officers as you show to your own.”
Being his first mission, Vance was a bit apprehensive. He said a silent prayer to help get him through this trying time.