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Open Season

A Breed Thriller

Cameron Curtis

To Rudyard Kipling and Danny Dravot

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Contents

Maps

Foreword

Chapter 1

Executive Protection

Chapter 2

The Contract

Chapter 3

Return to Bagram

Chapter 4

The General

Chapter 5

Infil

Chapter 6

The Rescue

Chapter 7

SAMs

Chapter 8

Broken Arrow

Chapter 9

On the Run

Chapter 10

Robyn’s Capture

Chapter 11

Sniper Duel

Chapter 12

Rear Guard

Chapter 13

The Bridge to Lanat

Chapter 14

Flight from the Bridge

Chapter 15

Deep Reconnaissance

Chapter 16

The Caravan

Chapter 17

Soviet Outpost

Chapter 18

Zarek’s Base Camp

Chapter 19

Robyn at Base Camp

Chapter 20

Robyn’s Plan

Chapter 21

Robyn’s Escape

Chapter 22

Exfil and Ambush

Chapter 23

Zarek’s Entrance

Chapter 24

The Swim & The Hunt

Chapter 25

Zarek’s Tales

Chapter 26

The Trail to Arwal

Chapter 27

The Battle

Chapter 28

The Warranty

Chapter 29

The Secret

Chapter 30

Debrief

Chapter 31

The Bonus

Chapter 32

The Assassin

Chapter 33

The Survivors’ Club

Chapter 34

Safe House

Chapter 35

Puzzles

Chapter 36

On the X

Chapter 37

West Wing

Chapter 38

Watches & Time

Inkubator Newsletter

Acknowledgments

Also by Cameron Curtis

Rights Info

Maps

Afghanistan and Surrounding Region

Afghanistan Northeastern Provinces

Kagur Valley

Foreword

I wanted to write a novel that was a war story, a thriller, and a love story. Most of all, the plot had to be a chase. What if Taliban hunted an American unit sent to rescue a captured officer and a woman soldier? An unrelenting hunt over an unforgiving obstacle course. The story had to be contemporary, hence the war in Afghanistan. Not the arid desert of the south. The high mountains of the northeast—the Hindu Kush.

Those mountains and the hardy mountain men who inhabit them have beaten would-be conquerors since Alexander the Great. He told his mother about that land. Easy to get in, not so easy to get out. The Afghans beat him. Then they beat the Moguls, the British (three times over), and the Soviets. Now they are fighting America and a multinational coalition to a standstill.

The action takes place where Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan and China to the east, and Tajikistan to the north. The three northeastern provinces of Afghanistan are Badakhshan, Nuristan, and Kunar. They are stacked one on top of the other with Kunar at the base. The capital, Kabul, lies a hundred miles west of Kunar. To the east, Kunar is bordered by Pakistan.

A reader of Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King will be familiar with Kafiristan. Kafiristan did exist—it has been renamed Nuristan. It lies above Kunar.

Badakhshan is the northernmost of the three provinces. It is also the largest, butting up against Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the east. One other feature of Badakhshan is remarkable. Like a long panhandle, the Wakhan Corridor extends from Badakhshan, between Tajikistan and Pakistan, and reaches into China.

The harsh mountains of the Hindu Kush dominate these three provinces. Altitude varies from 3,000 to 25,000 feet. High mountain valleys, thousand-foot cliffs, hot days, and freezing nights. The Soviets learned armored forces could not secure that terrain. Only helicopters gave them an edge. An edge eliminated when America supplied the Mujahedeen with man-portable air defense missiles—MANPADs.

The terrain is so disorganized it defies description. In general, major rivers run north-south, but that is not always true. Major rivers are fed by numerous smaller ones and have multiple tributaries. Where the mountains run north-south, small rivers run east-west and feed larger rivers that flow north-south. Over the millennia, these rivers have cut the mountainsides into steep ridges.

Look at a map and search for Nangalam. You will find it on the Pech River, in Kunar. Over the years, American forces held Nangalam and used it as the hub of a network of forward operating bases and outposts in the Korengal and Waygal Valleys. In many ways, Nangalam is the base of a network of rivers and valleys extending north from Kunar.

The geographical features described are an accurate description of the northeast. In this wild country, I created my obstacle course. The land of Open Season is a closed abstraction, true to the spirit of Afghanistan, but designed to create a pressure-cooker battlefield. The terrain is so brutal the pace of a hunting party and their human quarry is measured in hours per mile rather than miles per hour.

The Kagur River is fictitious, as are the mountain and the valley for which it is named. It runs north-south through Badakhshan, straddling the boundary with Nuristan. The Arwal River is equally fictitious. In fact, it is the Kagur River, renamed as it continues further south into Kunar.

Surrounding the Kagur valley are three fictitious mountains of interest. Shafkat lies to the west, Kagur-Ghar to the east. North of Kagur-Ghar is Lanat. A fourth mountain, Parkat, lies east of Kagur-Ghar. The bridge from Kagur-Ghar to Lanat is my homage to Kipling and Danny Dravot.

The Kagur valley tapers as one approaches the origins of the river. In the northern reaches of Badakhshan, it provides access to Tajikistan, China, and Pakistan’s Kashmir region.

Such is the obstacle course for Open Season. Battles around three mountains, long-range reconnaissance patrols to Tajikistan and China, base camps hidden in northern Badakhshan. The Kagur and Arwal provide a highway from the north all the way to Nangalam.

Following the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, Afghanistan descended into a civil war. The area described was dominated by the Mujahedeen of the Northern Alliance. The remainder of Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban. The character Zarek Najibullah is a Mujahedeen warlord. He has no love for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

The war in Afghanistan is America’s longest war. There are many in America who would like to withdraw. There are also those who are passionately committed to maintaining a military presence. The politics of this dynamic provided motivation for the hunt. As America has drawn down its presence, other countries have taken on more of a role. These include Germany, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, and Turkey. These, and other countries, have not been named in Open Season because of my desire to maintain a tightly focused plot… not out of any lack of appreciation for those countries’ considerable contributions.

I hope

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