01 Prologue

Captured: Dreaming of home

© Copyright 2008 – 2009

Written by Banzai Ben

ben@banzaiben.com

 

 

Chapter 1: Prologue

 

Khudabah, Pakistan - First night of capture

 

SHIT SHIT SHIT!!!

 

Mother-fucking-son-of-a-fucking-bitch!!!!

 

Things were certainly not supposed to work out this way. I'm waking up for what must be the third time tonight, and the fucking rats are biting my feet and ankles again. How many of those bastards have I already killed tonight? How many are left to kill? I need to swing my legs up and hook them over my hands again.

 

Did I mention that my hands are tied to the ceiling and my feet are barely able to reach the floor? Ah yes, I should go back and explain to you why I'm in such a dire situation.

 

I'm Sergeant Major Bennie Blaine, known to all my friends and my enemies that are still living as BB (Banzai Ben), a proud member of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children (USMC), and a sniper currently based in Iraq. I'm around 28 years old, 5'10" tall, weigh 205 lbs, and have nine percent body fat. In short, I'm a lean, mean, fighting machine.

 

My father was full-blooded Cherokee and my mama was Brazilian, so I have a dark and mysterious look that drives women wild. This is my fifth tour of duty and I have an impressive number of one shot kills.(But those numbers are classified – if I told you, I would have to kill you. This tour of duty has been so very different than the rest because Jack, my longtime spotter, is gone. The bastard up and retired after our last tour of duty, so I had to break in a new – and green – spotter.

 

I tell you what, I don't know what the hell has gotten into the Marines, but they're not the same as when I joined ten years ago. They’ve changed and become all politically-fucking-correct. I couldn't believe it when they gave me a woman for my spotter last time I was stateside. Shit. And not just any woman, but the daughter of General Donaldson.

 

At first, I resigned over it, but after a couple of months of being bored, some serious begging from my old Commanding Officer, and a big bump in rank, I came back. Besides, where else can you get paid to go hunting for the “most dangerous animal in the world?”

 

They made me agree to at least try this woman out as my new spotter, which really sucked.  I figured she had used her daddy's name and pulled some strings to get this assignment, but I sure as hell wasn't going to let it fuck up my chances at setting a new kill record. So before they were going to ship us out, I requested two full months of training so 'we' could learn to work as a team. However, my real plan was to make it so fucking miserable and nasty for her that she would crawl back to Daddy and request a discharge. She’s just a little princess; shit, she’s Daddy's little princess.

 

I'm getting sleepy again, and the rats aren't bothering me right now. Maybe I can sleep and have dreams of home . . .

 

Sunday 25 August 2007

 

Leadville, Colorado

 

Oh, yeah. I was going to tell you how I got into trouble with the rats. I guess I should start at the beginning.

 

I reupped at the end of June and have been working hard all of July and August to make sure I'm in tip top condition. I also spent time at home; my home is a nice little cabin close to Leadville Colorado. It’s not fancy, but I keep it clean, and it's a great place to unwind after "work." Of course, I only get to come here once every 15 months, between deployments. There's enough land that I can go out and shoot whenever I feel like it. Perhaps that's how I got so good at my job.

 

As nice as this was, I started to go a little stir-crazy by the end of August, so on a whim I decided to enter the Leadville Trail 100. I know. What a crazy-assed thing to do. I never said I was sane. Besides – lately, I'd had sort of an antsy feeling around my place; the same feeling I get when someone or something (like a puma) is watching me. I thought maybe the run would be a great way to cap off the end of my civilian career, because after I got rid of “Daddy’s little princess”, I didn't plan on ever leaving my Marine family again; “Once a Marine, always a Marine!”

 

0330, 25 August 2007 found milling around the start area with about 450 other crazy people. I didn’t think there were this many crazies in the world that would even attempt something like this, especially since more than half of them won't finish. It looked like a freak show at the fucking circus. It never ceases to amaze me what some people will wear and the colors they'll combine. It reminds me of the time in Basic Training (hereafter referred to as BT) when I got drunk and puked all over my ex-girlfriend's car.

 

Did I mention that I've never run 100 miles at a time in my whole life? I'd been training by running around the Leadville area. I ran 25 to 40 miles a day. At first, I didn't carry anything, but later, I carried my ACU Alice pack loaded down with about 40 kg. I'd become very comfortable with running.

 

One thing I never did get comfortable with, though, was running in those garish, skimpy little nylon shorts, or even worse, the nasty-looking tights, not many things shouted fag to me more than seeing a “guy” wearing either of those.

 

I do have to say though; there were some damn fine-looking women there this early in the morning. I didn't think women woke up this early; my ex-girlfriend never did. I sure didn't have any problem with seeing them in skimpy shorts or tights, and at least most of them weren't wearing any nasty-smelling perfume.

 

I'm not that old, but I've figured out a couple things about women. First, they never dress to impress or even get a man. Otherwise, they would walk around in negligees or bikinis all the time, because let's be truthful – that's what a man wants to see. Second, it's the same for their perfume; they wear it to impress other women. If a woman ever wanted to attract me with perfume, it would work much better if she smelt like bacon or Hoppes #9.

 

My footwear was the one “strange” thing that I did wear. Normally, you would expect a Marine to wear combat boots. I do things differently. I either run barefoot or in Vibram five-fingers1. How did a gung-ho Marine end up running barefoot? That's a totally different story for a totally different time, but I'll tell you part of it now.

 

(1The closest to barefoot running you can get; looks like a very thin- soled sock with five toes.)

 

A few years back, Jack and I were loaned out to a three-letter branch of the federal government to help on drug interdiction in the Barrancas del Cobre area of Sierra Madre region of Northern Mexico. Some loco gringo that goes by the name of Caballo Blanco lived down there and made a big stink about the Mexican drug runners trying to wipe out some indigenous natives named the Tarahumara. Caballo Blanco's real name is Micah True and he used to live in Nederland, Colorado. He did some work for our federal government and had some connections.

 

The whole thing was huge cluster fuck from the start. The fucking Mexican federales just dropped us and then left us without any support. Not only that, they dropped us in the wrong fucking place. It took a couple of days for Caballo Blanco to find us, and when he did, I was sure that this clown was fucking crazy.

 

He came running up to us wearing some sort of stupid sandals on his feet made out of old tires and was followed by a couple of the Tarahumara Indians. They were all really happy to see us, and we had cordial greetings all around. We found out we needed to run for a 'few' hours to get to where our Forward Base of Operations (hereafter referred to as FBO) was. Damn, they sure run funny. It’s not the normal nice, long strides like I take. It’s a short, but very fast, gait. Five hours later, we dragged our butts into the FBO. I was fucking tired, but Caballo Blanco and the Indians don't even seem to be winded.

 

By the end of our mission, I had learned the running secret of the Tarahumara. They run like they are barefoot because essentially they are. The sandals or herache they wear don't offer any support for the foot, all they do is keep them from getting cut on the sharp stones. I’ve also learned some other things about running without shoes.

 

When you run barefoot, you run differently than when you're in shoes. You have to run on the balls of your feet, not the heels, causing three things to happen. First, you run with your knees slightly bent. Because your knees are bent, your legs end up absorbing the shock of running, not your shoes. Second, because the legs are your shock absorbers, your running becomes very smooth with short steps and at a much higher cadence (about 80 to 110 steps per minute) transmitting very little jarring motion up your body. Finally because the running cadence is higher and the jarring is less, you don't get as tired and can run further.

 

Getting off this rabbit trail and back to Leadville, I would just like to say that I guess I am just 'old school.' Give me my Vibram five fingers, MCCUU2 pants and Devil Dog t-shirt any day.

 

(2The Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform or MCCUU is intended for wear in the field or for working parties, but has become the typical working uniform for all deployed and most garrison Marines and Sailors. It is rendered in MARPAT digital camouflage that breaks up the wearer's shape, and also serves to distinguish Marine uniforms from those of other services. There are two approved varieties of MARPAT: woodland/winter (green/brown/black), and desert/summer (tan/brown/grey). To further distinguish the uniform, upon close examination, the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor can be found within the pattern.)  

 

The freak show continued as start time approached, and it seemed like everyone was going through some sort of weird gyrations they tried to call stretching. It looked to me like most of them just had ants in their pants. Don't get me wrong – I do believe in stretching, but I believe in functional stretching, such as a dog or a cat does. Watch an animal next time it gets up to move. What's the first thing it does? It stretches to prepare the muscles and the joints for any movement to come. I do exactly the same whenever possible.

 

I finished stretching and found myself a good starting position. I didn't really think I had any chance to win the damned race, but I sure don't want to be stuck in the back of the pack at the start.

 

I got tired of watching the freaks, so I lifted my gaze to the magnificent mountains. When I looked back down, I had to rub my eyes, thinking they were playing tricks on me, because I sure couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Walking towards me was this drop-dead gorgeous blonde. She was about 5' 8" and looked like the quintessential girl next door crossed with the buff Linda Hamilton from “Terminator 2”. No, I take that back; she was more buff than Linda Hamilton was. She was smiling a million-dollar smile, and wearing the exact same fucking uniform that I was – MCCUU pants, red Devil Dog t-shirt, Vibram five finger shoes (in pink, no less). Shit, she even has a USMC kabar3 knife on a web belt and a camo camelback. I was sure I was dreaming, because her violet eyes were trained on me.

 

(3The kabar is a 12-inch fighting and utility Bowie knife used by the United States Marine Corps and United States Navy. Its moderate carbon and low chromium steel mixture allows the blade to hold an edge very well. In combat, the knife has seen service opening cans, digging trenches, cutting wood and roots, and hand to hand combat.)

 

 

She walked right up to me, stopping about a foot and a half from my face, and yelled, "SEMPER FI MARINE!"

 

My voice caught in my throat, but I managed to get out an, "Orraaahhh!"

 

She looked around at the circus and shook her head. "It's a shame our nice run will be spoiled by these fricken freaks. I never did care much for all the crap they said you have to buy just to go for a little run. This is what I always wear. By the way, my name is Jens." She held out her hand.

 

"My name's Ben," I said as I took the hand offered.

 

Now, if you have never shaken hands with a Recon Marine, let me warn you about it; you aren't going to get some pansy-assed little squeeze. You can expect that they will put some serious hurt into the shake, so you had better be ready for it. I knew this, but since she was a woman I didn't bear down.

 

She squeezed the hell out of my hand as she looked me in the eyes, and said, "What sort of half-assed handshake was that? I thought you were a Marine, but maybe you’re a just another fucking poser!"

 

Son of a bitch.

 

The starting gun sounded, and we were nowhere close to the starting line. She took off running like her ass was on fire and shouted over her shoulder, "If you're a real Marine and not a fucking poser, you should be able to catch me!"

 

I have to say, Jens sure could run, and the view I had from the back was as good as the view from the front. This woman was crazy. She set a blistering pace, and by the time we reached the Turquoise Lake Road junction, we'd already passed over half the field. I think every one of them was upset at us. Jens didn’t politely ask the other runners to get out of our way, she yelled, ”Get the fuck out of my way,” sometimes even adding, ”asshole” to the end of her command. I would have laughed, if I wasn't doing my damnedest to stay up with her.

 

After the junction, we finally hit the first real 'trail' part of this trail run, and it became more of a challenge to pass the other runners. Because it was still a little dark, most of them had slowed up some, but not Jens. She was still running mach 1 with her hair on fire, and was even more vocal about the runners in our way. One old fool wouldn't move, and sure enough, she pushed him into the lake. Damn, was he mad. I was sure they would throw us both out of the race. That is, if they could catch us.

 

We caught the lead group about two miles from the May Queen campground on the west end of Turquoise Lake, and she finally slowed up at the back of the lead pack. As we came though the campground onto the pavement, she dropped back beside me and handed me two packets of GU energy gel and a food bar.

 

"We aren't stopping, so eat this shit, take a drink, and get ready. When the leaders slow up, we are going to sprint past them."

 

Sure enough, the whole lead pack slowed up to get some drinks, and Jens looked over at me and said, "Run your ass off you devil dog." As we blew by the aid tables she yelled, "What a bunch of fucking losers!" It scared the crap out of most of them. Several even dropped their drinks and started chasing us.

 

Over thirteen and a half miles done, and we were leading the race. Now on a road again, we ran side by side, and I would occasionally sneak a sideways glance at her, wondering what sort of psycho bitch I was running with.

 

She caught me looking once and ordered, "Hey Jarhead, keep your eyes on the road."

 

She looked back over her shoulder and laughed at the runners behind us trying to keep up. "My strategy worked," she said, "I figured that I could suck the leaders into chasing us if we blew by them at the aid station before they were hydrated." They were hurting now, starting to fall further back. “Ben, here: eat another energy bar and drink some more water. Then get ready to pick up the pace again.”

 

“I want to see if we can drop these losers before we hit FS#105. From there, it’s 3.5 miles to the top of Sugarloaf pass. Then it will be almost all downhill into the Outward Bound aid station. How fast can you run downhill?"

 

When Jens asked me, “How fast can you run downhill”, she was really asking me how fast I can move my feet. When you run like a Tarahumara, foot speed equals ground speed.

 

We dropped the rest of the pack and blew into the Fish Hatchery/Outward Bound aid station in just under 3.5 hours. Shit! That was 23.5 miles at almost marathon pace. It's a good thing that they have officials all along the route, because when we first came in, some dickhead started to come over and give us shit about cheating.

 

Jens looked at him and told him, "Go fuck yourself. We didn't cheat. You can check with your observers, dickwad."

 

He turned all red in the face and left to do just that. We reloaded our camelbacks and were gone so I never heard what he found out.

 

Leaving the Outward Bound aid stations, we were running on pavement again. Shit. Why do they even call this a trail run when we run so much on the fucking road? But, even on the road, the scenery in the Leadville area is some of the most beautiful in Colorado, and it didn't hurt that I had a beautiful companion running with me.

 

Then again, that's not quite the right term. Perhaps it would be better if I said she was egging me on.

 

The next aid station at Halfmoon campground was just a short seven miles from the outward bound aid station, so again, we didn't even stop. We were eating and drinking on the run, and weren't even tired. I was shocked to see a huge crowd cheering as they saw us come into sight. This got Jens really pumped, and she started singing:

 

"Up in the middle of the drizzle and the rain,
I packed my chute and I ran to the plane.
Mission top secret there's a mission unknown,
We don't know if we're ever comin home.
Stand up, buckled up, shuffled to the door,
Jumped right out and shout MARINE CORPS!
If my chute don't open wide.
I've got another one by my side.
If that chute don't open round.
I'll be the first one on the ground.

Orraaahhh!
Orraaahhh!"

 

Well, I'll be a son of a bitch. This psycho chick might be a Marine. When she was done I added the second verse,

"Tell my mama not to cry
In the Marine Corps you will do or die.
Pin my wings upon my chest
Tell my girl I've done my best.
Place a Kabar in my hand.
I'll fight my way to the Promised Land.
Orraaahhh!
Lean and mean
U.S. Marine
Orraaahhh!
Orraaahhh!"

 

As we passed the aid station the crowd joined in:

 

”Lean and mean
U.S. Marine
Orraaahhh!
Orraaahhh!”

 

I still wasn't totally sure that she was a Marine, and I had gotten into the whole cadence singing, so I started off with,

"Through the desert and across the plains." and stopped.

 

Jens sang, "Steaming jungles and tropic rains."

Then we both sang:

 

"No mortal foe can stop me now
This is gonna be my solemn vow
I have honor and I have pride
Winning serves me as my guide
This Corps shocks our enemies
Brings them crashing to their knees
Basic Training is plenty rough
To make it through you must be tough
Hey, Squad Leader, don't be blue
They're gonna make you a soldier, too."

 

The miles were melting away and the cadence was keeping our minds off any pain or fatigue. We rolled into the Twin Lakes Fire House at mile 39.5 to another huge cheering crowd. I guess they had found out from the last aid station at Halfmoon, because when they saw us they started chanting:

 

”Lean and mean
U.S. Marine
Orraaahhh!
Orraaahhh!”

 

We loaded up the camelbacks and slammed down two cups of nasty black coffee. Then Jens handed me two huge squares of a homemade energy bar I had never seen and said, "Eat this."

 

I took the first bite and the flavors of honey, oats, maple, and almonds exploded in my mouth. "Hey, this is the best damn energy bar I have ever had!" I wolfed the rest of it down.

 

"Thanks," she said, "I made it myself. It’s called Hudson Bay Bread. It has enough energy and nutrients in it that you could live on it for weeks. I'm glad you like it, because this and water is all we will have for the rest of the run."

 

It was time to go. I did my normal stretching as I stood up and felt pretty good.

 

Jens smiled and said,”Okay, Leatherneck Recon, we are about half way there and we are on a record pace. Don't get lazy on me now.”

 

As we started running I sang out and Jens joined right in:

 

"Mad Dog
Mad Dog
Mad Dog
Oh Yeah
M-A-D
D-O-G
Mad Dog
That's a me
Oh Yeah
Oh Yeah
My Grand mama was 102
She used to PT like me and you.
My grand mama was 106,

She did PT just for kicks.
My grand mama was 107,

Well the poor girl died and went to heaven.

My grand mama was 108;
She went side straddle hoppin’ through the pearly gates.
My grand mama was 109;
She had St. Peter doubling time."

 

The crowd went wild, and started barking at us like a bunch of dogs!

We hit the dirt road just outside of the Ghost town of Winfield, the half way point of the race. I'd heard that this road was busy, but we were both shocked to see a whole patrol of Marines waiting of us there. As we passed, they fell in right behind us singing cadence for us. Apparently, the Denver TV stations had reported that there were a couple of crazy Marines setting a record pace on one of the hardest trail races in the world, and one of them was a woman. I found out we were over an hour ahead. Unless we blew up, we pretty much had it won.

 

The brass, never wanting to miss a good photo-op for the Corps, did a parachute air drop of my old Recon patrol and secured permission for them to run behind us if they didn't render any aid. I tell you, it was fucking impressive, Jens and I running side by side with a full patrol of Marines in battle gear running behind us. The Colorado State Patrol was even leading the way in escort with lights and sirens. You would have thought it was a parade for heroes. In actuality, it was a parade for heroes back from Iraq, and it was better than any fricken bogus ticker-tape parade in New York Fucking City.

 

We rolled into the halfway aid station, and I'll be fucking damned if a USMC band didn't start playing the Marine hymn. Naturally, the patrol and the crowd started singing along. The news crews wanted to get stories and interviews and were being obnoxious; we still needed to resupply and move our butts. The race wasn't over, just halfway done.

 

Finally, some of my buddies from the patrol politely moved the press away from us. It was a good thing, because I think Jens was about ready to open her mouth and let them have it, and I was pretty damn tired of it, too. I was bent over finishing filling my camelback when someone tapped me on the shoulder.

 

This was just too fucking much for me to take. I spun around and opened my mouth to lay into the motherfucker bothering me.

 

“General Donaldson! Sir!” I snapped to attention and threw my best salute, wondering what the fuck the General in charge of the whole USMC was doing there.

 

“Sergeant Major Blaine,” He returned my salute. “The entire Corps would like to thank you today. You have done a great service for the Corps. We are receiving more good press from this race than anything else we have done this year. Keep up the good work, Sergeant Major Blaine. And one final thing: RUN YOUR DEVIL DOG ASS OFF AND WIN THIS RACE FOR THE CORPS!”

 

And the whole crowd shouted:

 

'Lean and mean
U.S. Marine
Orraaahhh!
Orraaahhh!'

 

It was all downhill from there, as they say. We won the race, running across the finish line together holding a Marine flag between us and setting a new record time of 17:01:39, smashing the old record for men by over an hour and the women's record by over three hours. When we hit Leadville the whole town had been waiting with all the Corps dignitaries and all the major news channels.

 

Somewhere in the process of all the accolades and the interviews, I lost track of Jens. The most common question was what motivated me to run as hard as I did. I had only one answer to that question – it was Jens. Later I would learn that she said the same thing about me. Finally, all the excitement wore off and I was ready to head back to my cabin, but before I did, I wanted to find Jens and thank her for making the last 18 hours of my life so memorable I looked everywhere, but she was gone.