Before I came to this place, it never really occurred to me that goats were edible. Now it seems that the few times we do get much meat, it's always some sort of sheep. Local herders far and wide across Azerbaijan. We get more stuff from as “nearby acquisition” than should be allowed in any modern army. If we could be called that anyway – most of our weapons are the same ones our grandfathers used thrifty-five years ago during the world war! You can get an AK-74 on the Chinese border, but we have PPSh submachineguns?
Someone knows we're here, and ships stuff constantly. Locked box cars and tankers full of unknown chemicals make their way to underground storage facilities. A pair of An-12s sit in one of the hangers, a half dozen Mi-8s sit in shelters not far from the runway. They rarely move, yet always seem stocked and ready for combat. BMD-1 infantry fighting vehicles are loaded in their retro-rocket cradles ready to be drooped into a fight, and two of the helicopters are equipped with rockets and napalm tanks. Yet this just a refueling stop airport, not home to a unit of desant nor air-transport. According to the official papers, we're just a border patrol and internal security unit – glorified riot police, subordinate to the KGB, not the army.
Pale scientist looking types occasionally bubble up from somewhere underneath the strip like an artisan spring. They wander around for a bit, sun their livid bodies, and then disappear into the siding where the trains go. I never see the trains leave. I wonder where the exit is.
Perhaps the direct opposites of the scientists are the odd soldiers we see around here. Not part of our group at least. Everyone of them has the stature and movement of an Olympic athlete – prime candidates for spetznaz troops. Yet a second glace makes it seem as if they are somewhere past dead. Their faces are usually dark – almost burned – black veins run close under the skin, eyes red, and every centimeter of their arms show injection scars. They sound like other soldiers, a few are even friendly on the rare chances the airport staff talk to them. Yet they also disappear into the train tunnel.
Overall, this is a pretty easy assignment. Its hot, but a dry heat. You're not going to get a promotion out of this, but you don't have to spit shine your boots daily either. Just keep in mind a few simple rules. Do not ask about what is on the trains. Do not ask what the numeral 2552 means. Do not ask about Biopreparat. And for gods sake – if anyone mentions the term “Manor House” avoid eye contact, do not speak, call attention to yourself, or volunteer!. Those who do go into the train tunnel.
Plenty of worse places to be than Azerbaijan. Very few quite as odd however.