07 Kaneohe Bay Hawaii - Thursday

Captured: Dreaming of home

© Copyright 2008 – 2009

Written by Banzai Ben



Chapter 7 – Sniper School Thursday 06 September 2007


Khudabah, Pakistan – Day eight


I made it through another night without the fucking rats eating me alive. I’ve gotten better at killing the bastards – got fifteen of them last night. Too bad I can't add them to my kills.


I’ve lost track of the days I’ve been here. It must be over a week now. Since it’s morning, they will start the tortures again soon. At least they’ll take me down from the ceiling and tie me to the chair.


After the morning guard beat the shit out of me for kicking him and left me hanging all day, I decided that I have to pick my battles better, save my strength and watch for a chance to escape.


I’m not sure what they’re planning on doing with me. At first when they tortured me, they’d ask me questions, but I didn't answer any of them. Now they just torture me during the day just for the joy of it, when they don't have some other amusement like the girl they raped and killed. I know they get off on hanging me up at night to let the rats continue trying to eat me alive.


I hear the guards coming, and their laughter sends a current of apprehension through me. What sort of evil have they planned now? Uh-oh. I don't think this is good; they have a big box with them. Even knowing they’re doing it so that they can apply some new torture, I’m relieved when they take me down and over to the bed to tie me up. My shoulders hurt in a way I didn’t think was possible, and now that I’m on the ground, I find I’m getting weak and can't walk very well.


Son-of-a-bitch! Those bastard towelheads just dumped three or four pissed off scorpions on me. They're big and brownish-black, and they’re stinging the hell out of me. Shit! It makes them more pissed when I move. I make myself stay still.


Ah, that's better. Now they’re just crawling on me without stinging. Listen to those fucking camel jockeys laughing at me. The venom is taking effect. I feel sick, and my heart is racing.


I wonder if this will kill me . . .


No. I will not die today. I can’t escape in body, but I can in mind.


Kaneohe Bay Hawaii – Thursday Day Five


Jens and I woke up at the same time in the morning, still holding each other. I remembered the previous night and wondered for a moment whether it had really happened, but there we were, still holding each other.


I looked into Jens' eyes, “Good morning, my beautiful fiancée.”


“Good morning, my handsome fiancé,” she replied, and continued, “Can't you hold me for just a little while longer?” and batted her eyes.


 “I could hold you all day.” I gave her an extra squeeze. “But we have to get ready for the sniper contest. Today, we will start with PT – it’s shoulders, chest, and triceps again – and then we’re going to practice our concealment and stealth techniques. DI Anderson and his platoon are going to be our targets. They’ll have full weapons and we’ll have knives only.” I petted her back while I spoke.


“Mmmm,” she sighed. “I like this style of morning briefing.” She gave me a smoldering kiss.


I returned the kiss with heat of my own, swatted her on her butt, and said, “Up and at em:


'The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And people to kill before I sleep',” paraphrasing a Robert Frost poem.


Jens laughed. “You know, I thought gung-ho Marine Recon snipers weren't supposed to read poetry. But you just quoted Robert Frost to me, and earlier it was Shakespeare. Are you sure you aren't a poser?”


That earned her another swat, this one a little harder. “You know I spent a lot of time alone and I read a lot. I have a few favorite poems that I’ve memorized.”


“Well, I guess you still have some surprises for me,” Jens answered. “How about another poem – one of your favorites?”


“Just part of it because we don't have the time.” I started reciting:


“'Half a league, Half a league, Half a league onward,

All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!' he said:

Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!' Was there a man dismay'd ?

Not tho' the soldier knew Someone had blunder'd:'”


Jens purred, “Oh, I love Tennyson.” And she continued:


“Their's not to make reply, Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die:

Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them Volley'd and thunder'd;

Storm'd at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well,

Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,

Flash'd as they turn'd in air Sabring the gunners there,

Charging an army, while All the world wonder'd:

Plunged in the battery-smoke Right thro' the line they broke;

Cossack and Russian Reel'd from the sabre-stroke Shatter'd and sunder'd.

Then they rode back, but not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon behind them Volley'd and thunder'd;

Storm'd at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell,

They that had fought so well Came thro' the jaws of Death,

Back from the mouth of Hell,

All that was left of them,

Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade ?

O the wild charge they made!

All the world wonder'd.

Honour the charge they made!

Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!'”


I smiled. “Yet another thing we have in common.


“Well, my love, let's get moving. If you're really good I might recite some more poetry for you tonight.” I said.


We jumped up and headed to our separate bathrooms. I beat Jens out, so I started coffee and breakfast. We were having oatmeal again that morning with fresh blackberries and raspberries, and of course the toast with butter and honey. Jens came out with a different t-shirt, another one of my favorites:  “Kill them all, let God sort them out.”


“Thanks for making breakfast, my fiancé,” Jens remarked. “Tell me, am I your honey?”


“You’re my honey and you’re my fiancée,” I replied.


“So, if I sit on this toast . . . will you eat me?” She laughed.


I was taking a drink of coffee when she said that and it made me choke. I thought, “I’m going to fix her this time.”


I pretended to keep coughing and acted like I was choking.


Jens came over and started whacking me on my back trying to make me better, so I decided to keep up the charade and I fell to the floor. She knelt down over me, didn't know what to do, and then decided to give me mouth to mouth.


Once she got her mouth on mine, I hugged her tight and gave her a huge kiss with lots of tongue. At first she protested and tried to pull away, but then she was making moaning noises and was kissing back enthusiastically.


Finally we broke for air, “You big faker, you. You really had me worried,” Jens chided.


“Turnabout is fair play,” I answered. “Besides, I know how hard it is to get you to give me a good kiss.”


She answered by lying on top of me and giving me one that curled my toes, “Well, Marine, was that good enough for you?”


After I caught my breath I answered, “Just barely,” and smiled.


Jens whacked my arm. “See if I give you another one then.” She pretended to act all huffy.


I pulled her down and gave her my best kiss, and after we both caught our breath, I said, “Unfortunately, we can't do this all day. We need to get moving.”


I let go of her, and she sat up on my chest and grabbed my hands as I pulled them off her back. She forced them over my head, pinning them to the floor, and announced, “I have you now, and I'm not going to let you go!”


I easily slipped her grip and flipped her over so that I was on top, and pinned her arms the same way. “Now I have you!”


She wrapped her legs around me and pulled me close. “I wondered what you’d feel like on top,” and batted her violet eyes at me.


I switched both of her hands into my left hand and started tickling her with my right hand. She started squirming, trying to get loose. She was very ticklish. I filed that away for later use.


“Hey, no fair. You’re fighting dirty,” she complained.


“Everything is fair in love and war,” I said before I stopped tickling her, gave her another small kiss, and got up.


“Well, it looks like your little Marine liked that,” she said as she eyed the bulge in my crotch.


My cheeks burned. She looked at me and exulted, “You’re blushing. I won!” I helped her up and we finally headed off to the gym for PT.


As we were jogging to the gym, I looked over and noticed that her finger was bare. “So you're tired of me already? I see you aren't wearing our ring,” I cajoled.


“I'll never grow tired of you, my love. You’re the most wonderful and exciting man in the world. The ring is right here, next to my heart.” She reached into her t-shirt and pulled out the ring on a very stout gold chain she wore around her neck. “I wanted to keep it with me always, but I didn't want it to get damaged. So when we’re in the field, I’ll wear it here. Otherwise you can bet it will be on my finger. I want everyone to know that I’m taken.”


That's my woman – smart and practical.


Today may have been shoulder, chest and triceps again, but we used a different workout from Monday. We switched the routine so we worked the muscles differently, boosting growth. Seated Arnold presses, standing multi-shoulders, incline hammer presses, and decline dumbbell presses worked for strength, but there’s nothing better functionally for the shoulder than hand stand pushups, so we did those just like Monday. We finished off the functional exercises with rotation wing pushups. Then, going back to strength workouts for the triceps, we did close-grip bent barbell presses and single-arm dumbbell skull-crushers.


Since Jens was with me, we sparred for awhile. Jens bugged me until I finally started showing her some Brazilian Capoeira, but we needed to get back to the house and get our ghillie suits1 for the fun we were going to have with DI Anderson's platoon, so pretty soon, we called it quits.


We stopped by the motor pool and picked up a Humvee to haul all our gear for the training this afternoon. When we got back to our house, Jens took my hand, led me into our bedroom, and pulled me down beside her on the bed.


“Jens,” I said, “We don't have time for this.”


“Oh, yes we do. This is our strategy and briefing session,” She punctuated her reply with a kiss and continued. “Today's rules of engagement are that DI Anderson's platoon will be using M4's with the new USMC Sniper Simulation2 on them. They'll look, feel and sound just like the real M4 but will fire a laser beam. If it hits our vests it's counted as a kill.  We will have our ghillie suits and kabars. It will take two touches with the knife to count as a kill. The platoon will be using normal platoon and searching techniques. That’s their weakness. We're allowed total freedom in tactics. We're seriously out-manned and out–gunned, and DI Anderson has a bet with all the other DIs that his platoon is going to kill us easily.


I looked at her and kissed her. “So where did you learn to be such a tactician?”


“I studied military tactics in college and spent all my spare time playing paintball. After I got really good at paintball, I had a standing bet, anyone that shot me, got me. No one ever won that bet, but they sure tried.” She continued. “Actually, the bet worked to my advantage because it got the guys all hot and bothered. You should know that in a tactical situation I’m always looking for the advantage. Let’s get back to this training exercise.”


Well, I was flabbergasted. Not only was she incredibly beautiful, she was incredibly intelligent. I gave her a kiss on the nose.


“Ben, if you were to go running in there like you normally would do, you would be dead in about thirty minutes with odds like this. I’ve run the scenario through my computer and using your normal tactics, that’s what happens every time.


“Marine, that is not acceptable odds to me. I want to grow old with you and have our children, so if you don't want to sleep in the barracks tonight, you’d better listen to me and follow the tactics that I’ve come up with. And get this macho Indian bullshit out of your head: that, 'today is a good day to die'. If I hear you say that ever again I'm going to kick your butt!


“DI Anderson and the platoon will be looking for us in our ghillie suits, that's their tactical advantage. But we won't be in our ghillie suits for the entire exercise. We'll have them out there as a decoy. We’ll be wearing . . . she jumped up and opened her closet – the exact same gear as the platoon, even down to the M4's, but our M4's will not be functional. Follow me into the extra bedroom, my love.”


She led me into the extra bedroom. Damn, it was nice walking behind her. She walked over to a small corner table, started it up (It was running Ubuntu Linux), and logged in. A couple of clicks later she had an overhead map view of the training area showing all the trails and footpaths. She went to the menu and executed a command called Banzai. I could see representations of Marines moving through the training area.


“You're the sexy red heart; the ghosts are DI Anderson's platoon. She explained. This is running at ten times normal speed. Watch what happens.”


Son of a bitch if 'Banzai' didn't do exactly what I would've done and in three minutes “Banzai” was dead. As he died, I heard the Pac Man death song. She ran it three more times. Each one was different than before other than Banzai doing what I would have thought was the best, and each time Banzai died. Damn, I was beginning to hate that music.


“Tell me, Marine, do I have your attention?” she asked, and I nodded my head affirmative. “Okay, watch this.”


She executed a different command, Jens's BP1, and the screen reset. There were two red hearts sitting at the entrance to the training area. The ghosts walked right past the red hearts. As the last ghost passed, the red hearts moved out, and the last ghost disappeared. The red hearts moved up, and the next ghost disappeared, then the red hearts moved off to the side and crossed over to another trail. The ghosts passed the hearts on this trail, and again after the last ghost passed, the red hearts moved and took out that ghost and moved up and took out the next one. They moved again. The red hearts looked like they were standing in the middle of a different trail, but they were now flashing.


She looked at me and paused the scenario. “According to the rules of engagement, we could just take the rifles off the dead men and use them, but that would be too easy. By now the ghosts are going to be wise to this tactic, so we have to change. The hearts have moved into the trees over the trail and we're in our ghillie suits.”


She continued the scenario. The rest of the ghosts finally walked under the trees and something that looked like a net dropped on them. The hearts stop flashing, and four of the ghosts disappeared. The hearts moved away to a lake and started flashing again.


She paused the simulation, looked at me, and smiled. “How many times have you ever attacked anyone from the water?”


“None,” I replied.


“Most people don't even think they can be attacked from the water. That's a huge tactical advantage. The lake here is only waist deep, and sooner or later, DI Anderson's platoon will cross it. When they do, we're going to take the last seven.


“We will have masks, fins, and snorkels, so we won't even have to come out of the water. Two touches on the ghosts' legs and they will be dead.” She had an evil gleam in her eyes.


She continued the scenario. It took a bit, but the last seven of the platoon spread out and started across the lake. The hearts continued to flash and move to each ghost and then the ghost would disappear. Finally, the last ghost was gone and the computer started playing the wedding march.


I looked at Jens, one brow arched.


She gave a little giggle. “I like that song, so I thought it would be the best for when we win. Because we’ll really win when I walk down the aisle to that song.” she smiled at me. She ran the simulation three more times, and each ended with the wedding march.


“Unfortunately, this plan isn't totally foolproof. It is successful only ninety-eight percent of the time. This pisses me off, but I haven't been able to figure out anything else to make it one hundred percent,” she said.


I had a million questions. I had just started to speak when she cut me off.


“My love, I know you have a bunch of questions, but we don't have the time for them right now. We need to get to the training area. We’ll have a thirty-minute head start to get everything set up. I think DI Anderson going to be buying a lot of beer tonight.”


She stood up and I hugged her and kissed her. “My love, I don't know what to say. I'm speechless.”


“Wait until tonight when I show you the analysis of your past missions, there’s one mission that only has a ten percent survival rate. I was so pissed at you when I ran the simulation and saw that. You were damn lucky.” she returned the kiss again.


“I guess it’s better being lucky than good.” I quipped.


She slapped my face, hard. “That's an unacceptable answer for my fiancé to make. You’re too good to rely on luck. This is not a joke; this is life or death for both of us. We won’t go on a mission unless we have at least a ninety percent success rate.” She looked at me with fire in her eyes.


“Yes, ma'am,” was all I could think of to say as I put my hand to my cheek.


We hauled the gear out to the Humvee and threw it into the back. I tossed her the keys. “I need to get my mind around all that I’ve just seen. You drive today.”


I leaned back and closed my eyes, seeing the red hearts and ghosts again and running through her scenario. I couldn't find anything wrong with it, and found a whole bunch of things right. I opened my eyes as we pulled into the training area, looked over and smiled at her, “This is going to be like–”


She cut in, “–shooting fish in a barrel.” We smiled at each other.


DI Anderson was already there, strutting around. “Well here comes the dead meat, ready to die, you two?”


Jens walked over and got right in his face. “DI Anderson, we’re going to kick your ass. When we’re done with you, you won't know what hit you. In less than two hours you and your whole platoon will be in body bags and you won't even have touched us.”


DI almost smiled. “Pretty big damn words for such a small lady. Put up or shut up,” he answered. If anyone but DI Anderson had said that, I would’ve kicked their butt. No one talks to my fiancée like that. But I could tell this was part of her plan, so I kept my mouth shut and just smiled.


Jens pulled out a thong and waved it around, “Okay, big boy. You win, you get these and a picture of me wearing only them to hang on your wall. I win, I get your new Smoky Bear hat.” The whole platoon started whooping and hollering.


“Damn, those are going to look good on my wall. It's a deal.” DI answered.


She just smiled at him.


“Sergeant Donaldson, let's move out,” I said. We beat feet and set up the nets and extra ghillie suits in the trees and the water gear at the lake, and then slipped back over to the entrance to wait.


Within ninety minutes, the whole platoon was dead. Jens’s plan worked even better than expected because the platoon got nervous as we started killing them. In the parking lot, DI Anderson handed Jens his new Smoky Bear hat.


He looked over at me and said, “Son of a bitch, Ben. That was one hell of a tactical plan you came up with. I never expected the water attack. I’ll always be ready for that from now on.”


“Shit, DI.” I grinned. “I wish I was the one who came up with that plan, but I was just along for the ride. Jens came up with the whole thing. She has some sort of computer program that simulated the whole exercise. When she ran it with the way I would’ve fought the platoon, I died in thirty minutes every time. She deserves all the credit for our victory.” I looked at her with pride.


“Damn, I would like to see that sometime. I’m going to be buying so much beer tonight for the other DI's.” DI Anderson looked pretty glum.


“And you don't get these,” Jens waved the thong around, “Or the picture.” Jens and I both laughed.


We headed over to the BCO to turn in our report, and were sent right in. Brigadier General Thompson started, “Damn, I just got off the phone with Major Lapworth. Not only did you kill the whole platoon, it was almost a disgrace to them. DI Anderson is so pissed at them that he not only made them run back to the base, he ran back with them. I’ve never heard of tactics like that, and I was told that we need to thank Sergeant Donaldson for coming up with the plan.”


“Yes, Sir,” I said. “All the credit goes to Jens; she came up with the entire tactical plan without any help from me. She has some sort of computer program that she used to analyze the whole training mission. If we would have gone with my plan, the simulation had us dying in thirty minutes.”


The Brigadier General looked at Jens. “Jens I’ve never heard of a program like this. Please tell me more about it.”


“Brigadier General Thompson, I wrote the program for my doctoral thesis as a way to predict the outcome of battles if parameters are changed. I rewrote and modified the program for smaller and more accurate results. It’s still a work in progress. I own the copyright for it and I’m not ready to hand it over to the Marine Corps yet.” She gave him a look that let him know he better not argue about it; after all her daddy was the General. “I’ve been refining it and our strategies for use during the upcoming sniper contest. So far we have an eighty percent chance of winning the final snipe-off, but I won't be happy until we have at least a ninety and preferably ninety-five percent chance of winning it.”


The Brigadier General nodded. “I see. Well, good work, Sergeant Donaldson. Keep it up. Dismissed.”


I drove us home in the Humvee and we unloaded the gear. “Jens, I guess I don't know what to say. You have a doctorate. With that degree, why aren't you an officer?”


“You never finished my service record or you would have seen that,” she replied. “But I knew you would stop within the first few pages.


“Because I didn't have the distractions of boys in my life – since I knew you would be my husband – I concentrated on school, shooting, and physical fitness. I knew I’d need to be very strong in all three of these areas if I was going to be your wife. I graduated advanced placement high school when I was sixteen. That counted for two years of college.


“I finished my bachelor's degree in one more year, when I was seventeen. My master’s took a year, and I was a little over eighteen when I finished it. It pissed me off because my PhD took two years, I had planned on one, but the computer program was harder to write than I thought it would be.


“I was offered jobs in all the Washington think tanks, but turned them all down and joined the National Guard when I was nineteen. My analysis showed me that it was the only branch of the service that would let me go to sniper school. They offered to enlist me as a Second Lieutenant because of my education, but I knew if I did that they would never let me go to the sniper school. They were happy to take me in as a PFC. It was hell, and I had to be better than everyone else to even get in. Finally, I made it, passed at the top of my class, and even talked them into one tour of duty in Iraq.


“Dad was so pissed at me after I joined the National Guard, he didn't even see me off to basic training. After my first tour of duty, I heard rumors that the National Guard was going to move me to Washington to do analysis for them, so I went to daddy and I offered him a deal. I would enlist in the Marines for ten years if I had a chance to be your spotter. If I couldn't convince you that I would be the best damned spotter you’ve ever had, then I would do whatever job daddy gave me for the ten years.


“Daddy looked over your service record and gladly took the deal, thinking that he would finally be able to control me. Once he accepted it I knew that he’d lost. He wanted to let me come in as a captain, and I told him no way in hell would I ever join the Corps if I outranked you, and asked that he make me a sergeant. He didn't understand it, but agreed. I knew that if I ever outranked you that we would never be able to have a relationship. I like you outranking me, and I like you being in control.” Jens finished her long history, looked at me, and gave me one of her huge smiles as my mouth hung open.


 “Close your mouth, or flies might get in it.” She giggled. “You’re so cute when you don't know what to say.” She gave me a huge hug and kiss. “I'm going to the kitchen to start dinner. While it's cooking I'll clean up. You need to do the same.” She scampered off to her bathroom.


I wandered into my bathroom in a daze and sat on the side of the tub. I shook my head. What the hell had I gotten myself into? I mean, it didn't bother me that Jens was smarter than me and that she had her PhD. I’ve always known that she’s exceptional; I just didn't know how exceptional. All of a sudden I felt very unworthy of her love; she had accomplished so much in her twenty-four years. I was still sitting there ten minutes later when Jens knocked on the bathroom door.


 “Are you decent? Can I come in?”


“Come on in, it's open,” I mumbled.


“Hey honey, don't be so glum. I know that you’re feeling bad right now and I know why; after all, I’m a 'witch.' You don't feel like you're good enough for me and I’m here to tell you that you're the only man in the whole world who is good enough for me. Actually, I don't feel like I’m good enough for you.”


Is she fricken crazy?


“I’m very good at many things, but you’re the best at what you do. There’s not another sniper in the world that’s better than you. When I found out about you when I was twelve, I decided that I would become the female version of you. I analyzed you to find your strengths and weaknesses and starting on Christmas Day of my twelfth year, I started training. I don’t know how I knew I wanted to be your wife, but I did, so everything I did from then on was toward that goal. I made your weaknesses my strengths so that we would be the perfect team and the perfect couple.


“Daddy and Mom thought that I was just going through some weird teenage thing; I never told them I had a plan to marry you until much later. I studied some of your missions, and I knew enough to know that you made some mistakes, but that you got lucky. I realized I wasn’t sure exactly why the missions were so close, and that’s when I decided to study military tactics so I could help you and so that I could keep you safe. I worked my hardest and became one of the best tacticians in the world.


“I knew there was a chance that you would find someone and marry before we could meet, so I balanced my education to create an alternative life as a military tactician. I want you to know that so you know that I can take care of myself if I need to. But I have my heart set on you.” She paused.


“I was so upset when you were with 'Jugs'; I thought you might marry her. But then she dumped you, and that made me happy. I was even going to get bigger breasts for you because I knew that you liked them, but they would bother my shooting so I didn't do that.


“I prayed every night that God would keep you safe until I could help Him, He answered my prayers and now we’re together. I may have missed out on a lot of the “normal” teenage events because of my single-mindedness, but I’m so glad I did. You make me the happiest woman in the world. I’ll love you and I’ll serve you forever, if you’ll love me for who I am.” She started to cry.


I stood up, realizing then why I found Jens so attractive. She was everything I was plus more; shit, she even talked like me part of the time. I could finally see myself living a real life, with a house and a white picket fence, two cars, a dog and two-point-five children. The many long years of being a lonely sniper would be gone. Jens understood me, Jens cared for me; Jens loved me.


I pulled her into my arms and held her close. “My fiancée, please forgive me. I’ve been very foolish. Instead of enjoying what we have, I let my insecurities mess with my head and get me upset. Of course I love you. You’re the one and only perfect woman for me. We're perfect for each other and only for each other.


“You make me better at everything I do, and I make you better at almost everything that you do. We’re the definition of a symbiosis. I can’t live without you. Thank you for all the sacrifices that you made for us, I promise you that I’ll always honor those in my heart and that I’ll find a way to pay you back.” I kissed away every last tear.


About that time, the smoke alarm went off in the kitchen. “Shit,” she said, “Dinner’s burning.” She ran out of the bathroom into the kitchen with me close behind. “Shit, shit, shit,” she cursed, stamping her foot in anger. Dinner was ruined, and so was the pan that she had cooked it in.


I started laughing. “I guess that means I need to take you to the NCO club for dinner.” That was the right thing to say.


 “Whooo hooo! My man's taking me out for dinner. Is this our second date?”


“You bet it’s our second date. Let me get cleaned up and changed. Besides, I think we can get DI Anderson to buy us at least one beer.” I answered.


I finally got a shower, and when I came into the living room dressed in my service uniform, Jens was waiting and was in hers, too. She’d amazed me yet again.


She saw the look on my face and shrugged. “I knew that was what you would wear.”


We made quite the couple as we walked into the NCO club. The party was in full swing, with DI Anderson paying for the beers. Jens walked up to the bar and produced DI Anderson's Smoky Bear hat with her thong pulled over the top of it.


She gave him her sweetest smile as she made her request. “Will you please hang this over the bar?”


He thought it was a great joke, and hung it up right away, bringing cheers from everyone in the club.


DI Anderson walked up and gave us both a big hug and a beer. “Damn, this is some fine party, even if I have to pay for it. But I won't fall for that water trick ever again; especially not tomorrow when we do it again. Tomorrow we'll kick your butt.”


Jens looked at him, took a big drink of her beer, and smiled. “You wouldn't want to bet on that would you?”


“Uhhh, maybe I’d better not. I couldn't afford another party like this if I lost,” the DI mumbled and walked away.


As soon as he’d disappeared in the crowd, I reached in my pocket and pulled out five hundred dollars and handed it to bartender. “This is to help out DI Anderson. He has a family to support, and I don't want him hurting for money. But don't tell him that I did this.”


Jens reached in her purse and did the same. “Great minds think alike.” She gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek.


Jens walked over to the juke box and selected a song and walked back to the bar to finish her beer. She looked at me when the juke box finally started playing and, “Dance with your fiancée in the pale moonlight?” holding out her hands to me.


The song she had picked was 'Desperado' by The Eagles. As we started dancing, she sang along:


“Banzai Ben, why don't you come to your senses?
You been out ridin' fences for so long now
Oh, you're a hard one
I know that you got your reasons
These things that are pleasin' you
Can hurt you somehow

Don't you marry the queen of boobies, boy
She'll beat you if she's able
You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet

Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can't get

Banzai Ben, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger
Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home
And freedom, oh freedom well, that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walking through this world all alone

Don't your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine
It's hard to tell the night time from the day
You're losin' all your highs and lows
Ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?

Banzai Ben, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it's too late.”


“Damn,” I said. “You have a really nice voice. Is there anything you can't do?”


She shook her head, her eyes shining, and then laid her head on my shoulder.


I held her against me as I said, “Now that I’ve, 'let somebody love me,' I guess I’ll have to change my anthem.”  I kissed her on the cheek. “Thank you for the dance.”


Our table was finally ready, so I held her chair as she sat down. We looked over the menu and made our choices and settled back, drinking a nice glass of wine and talking about the day. DI Anderson came over to say good night and finally noticed the engagement ring on Jens's finger.


“Damn. That's one beautiful ring. Who’s the lucky devil that caught you?”


“It's more like I caught him,” Jens said, pointing at me.


“Son of a bitch.” DI Anderson’s jaw dropped. “So Banzai has finally been roped and tied! Damn. I didn't think it would ever happen.” He continued in his loudest voice, “Marines, I hate to interrupt your dinner, but I have an announcement of huge proportions that I can't even believe myself. It seems that our longtime friend, Sergeant Major Bennie Blaine – known to most of you as Banzai Ben – has finally, after all these years, been caught by no other than Sergeant Jennifer Donaldson. Yes, it’s official. She even has the rock on her finger to prove it.”


Jens held her hand up high and wiggled her fingers as DI raised his glass.


“Please join me in a toast to the newly engaged couple.” Everyone raised their glasses and the DI Anderson continued:


“May your life be long and happy,
Your cares and sorrows few;
And the many friends around thee
Prove faithful, fond and true.
May your voyage through life be as happy and as free
As the dancing waves on the deep blue sea.”


The whole NCO club shouted, “Orraaahhh!”


DI Anderson pulled up a chair and sat down. “So, how’s this going to work. You two can't still be a team can you?”


I replied, “We’ve talked to the General about it, assuring him that there will be no inappropriate behavior, and he doesn't have a problem with it.”


Jens added, “Besides, I’d kick his butt if he tried to separate us.” She laughed.


Most everyone came over to congratulate Jens and, of course, tease me.


Finally, Jens said, “We need to get back to the house and come up with a new tactical plan for tomorrow. None of the stuff we did today will work again.”


We said our goodbyes and drove back to our house in the Humvee. “Let's change and get working on the new tactical plan. Meet you in the extra bedroom in five minutes,” Jen said. I sat at the computer with Jens on my lap, and we worked a couple of hours, coming up with a new plan that looked good.


Then, as if I hadn’t yet had enough surprises that day, she selected the menu and started bringing up all my missions in Iraq and other places.


I stared at her. “You do know, most of these missions are classified?”


She nodded, all business. “Yes. It was hard getting the clearance so I could get the files for these missions – especially the ones that you did for the three-letter branches of the government. There were several they wouldn't give me, so I hacked into their computer systems and took them.” Her tone never changed as she revealed this, as if it didn’t matter that she’d risked her career and, perhaps, imprisonment.


“Let's look at a few of them. This one in Baghdad right at the start of the war was one of the worst.” She ran it ten times at high speed, and I died eight times. “That one had a fifteen percent rate of success. You were very lucky. But it's not as bad as this one.” She pulled up one of my missions in a South American country and ran it ten times. I died every time. I shook my head and counted my blessings for being so lucky.


“There's between a five and ten percent success rate for this mission. You and Jack just happened to catch everything just right. I was so pissed off when I first ran this mission; not just at you, but also at the Agency, that I wanted to kick all your butts.” She made some changes as she spoke and ran the two missions again. “Let's see what happens on both those missions with a change in tactics.” They were successful nine out of ten times.


She continued, “The good news is, if we throw out those two missions, you had a predicted success rate of about eighty percent. But with as many missions as you’ve had, that means you’re now statistically cheating death. That's why it’s so important for us to be together now. If we run all our missions through the simulator and refine the tactics, I figure it will give us another eight to ten years of missions before things become too dangerous. At that point we’ll retire and make babies. So, my love, do I have your attention?”


I nodded, still a little bit dumbfounded.


She covered my hand with hers. “I know there might be an occasional time when you have to go on a mission without me, but don't ever go on a mission without first running it through the simulator and refining the tactics.”


Then she switched gears, yawning and stretching. “I don't know about you, but I’m tired and ready for bed.”


I picked her up, carried her into the bedroom, put her on the bed, and crawled in beside her.


She looked into my eyes. “Goodnight, my fiancé. Thank you for another wonderful evening. I wasn't planning on having our engagement announced in such a public manner, but I’m happy that it was. I’m sure by now the whole base knows about it. It’ll be nice not to have to hide it anymore.”


I played with her hair. “Goodnight to you, my fiancée. It looks like I was worried about nothing. Everyone accepts our engagement without a problem. And I think I’m even more glad about it being out in the open than you are.” I replied.


We kissed several times and drifted off to sleep holding each other, and I dreamt of red hearts fighting ghosts all night.



1A ghillie suit, or yowie suit, is a type of camouflage clothing designed to resemble heavy foliage. Typically, it is a net or cloth garment covered in loose strips of cloth or twine, sometimes even made to look like leaves and twigs.


2Sort of like a very upgraded laser tag system – totally fictional unfortunately