15 Kaneohe Bay Hawaii - Friday

Captured: Dreaming of home

© Copyright 2008 – 2009

Written by Banzai Ben

ben@banzaiben.com

 

Chapter 15 – Sniper School Friday 14 September 2007

 

Khudabah, Pakistan – Evening of day sixteen

 

Mustif was smiling and whistling when he came in to see me this morning. "Good morning, Sergeant Major Blaine. Perhaps I will just call you Bennie since we are becoming such good friends. I trust you slept well last night, and the rats didn't bother you too much.”

 

He laughed. "I haven't decided what I will do to you today. Perhaps you would tell me what you would like me to do to you?”

 

I didn't say a word.

 

"Come on now, Bennie. You need to speak to me. If you don't, we can always go back to the tortures,” Mustif threatened.

 

I still didn't answer him.

 

Mustif stopped smiling. "Okay then. You won't talk to me, then I might as well kill you.” He pulled out his pistol, cocked it and put it against the side of my head. I wasn't worried because Zarika had told me that he couldn't kill me. Mustif was looking at my face. I knew he was hoping to see fear, and I just smiled at him. He pulled the trigger and the pistol clicked. I didn't even flinch.

 

His brows knit as he tried to work through this.

 

Finally, I said something. "Today is a good day to die.” It was a lie – Jens had made me promise to never say that again and mean it – But Mustif didn't know that.

 

It put him at a loss, so he just injected me and left, coming back every few hours to give me another injection. I’m sure that he’s trying to get me addicted to whatever drugs they’re injecting me with. They cause a sense of euphoria.

 

Zarika came in again. It was later than normal, and she had a black eye. I asked her about it and she told me that the leader beat her last night. I asked her why, but she just looked at the floor. That damned bastard. Nothing burns me up more than the abuse of women and children.

 

She cleaned me up, gave me a clean pair of pants, took care of the bruises on my face, and redressed the rat bites on my feet and legs. She smiled most of the time, and said that the bites were doing much better.

 

She also mentioned that Mustif told the leader about the fake execution and what I said. The leader beat him for his stupidity and said, “He is part American Indian, and with what you have done to him, he wants to die. You’re just building his hopes. Stop being an ignorant goat fucker. Keep drugging him and figure out a way to turn him against America and to become his friend.”

 

Zarika fed me some more stew tonight and even gave me some bread, and all the water I could drink.

 

I thanked Zarika and told her that some way, someday, I would find a way to pay her back.

 

She looked me in the eyes and said, "I know that you will escape. When you do, take me to America with you.” At least she had faith that I was going to escape.

 

The guards came in and leered at Zarika. God, what she must be going through just to help me. I felt humbled that someone I don't even know would sacrifice so much for me, and it made me even more pissed off at the bastards that force her to do it. They’ve tied me up to the ceiling and left the lights on. I guess the only rats that will bother me tonight are the ones that are brave, and I’ll kill them.

 

I turned my thoughts toward home.

 

 

Kaneohe Bay Hawaii – Friday, Day Thirteen

 

 

The birds were singing when I woke up. I looked at my watch and I couldn't believe that we had slept until O-five hundred without anyone finding us. I peeked under the bushes the best I could, and my movement woke Jens.

 

I kissed her ear, and she shivered. "Good morning, sleepyhead,” I whispered, "Any good dreams last night?”

 

"Mmm,” she answered with a small smile, "I slept like a baby, dreaming of our babies. I never did ask you, how many babies can we have? How about eight or nine?”

 

"Uhh, uhh, uhh,” I tried to find words.

 

She laughed, "Don't worry, my love, I was just teasing you.”

 

I finally found my voice. "That's a terrible thing to ask a man the first thing in the morning. I could’ve died of a heart attack.”

 

"Then I would have to give you mouth to mouth like this,” Jens answered, kissing me deeply.

 

When she finally let go of the lip lock, I said, "Wow, keep kissing me like that and we might have ten kids,” and we both laughed.

 

Jens finally got serious. "So what happened last night? I was sure we would be bothered. I'm going to check the computer.”

 

We both rolled over and checked it. "Very strange,” Jens mused, "Everything looks fine, just like yesterday. I don't understand why a patrol didn't find us.” Jens ran a playback from the time we were asleep.

 

"Shit, shit shit!” she swore. "Honey, please forgive me, I made a terrible mistake. I made a mistake turning on the watchdog program last night. Three patrols walked right past us. Thank God they didn't find us.” I’d never seen so many wrinkles in her forehead.

 

I held her close and whispered in her ear, "Don't worry, my love, we all make mistakes. It’s a good thing that I’m so lucky; otherwise, this could have been serious.” My laughter broke the tension in Jens.

 

"It's a really good thing that you don't snore,” Jens answered. "Otherwise your luck wouldn't matter.”

 

"And it's a good thing you weren't snoring very loud,” I said. "Otherwise my luck wouldn't matter.”

 

Jen arched one brow."I don't snore.”

 

I answered, "Yes, and there’s an Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and of course honest lawyers.”

 

Jens tried to tickle me and I just let her until I got tired of it and grabbed on the sides for a good tickle. That’s when Lassie barked, playing the Addams Family.

 

"You’re so lucky that we have work to do,” I assured her. “Otherwise, I would have tickled you until you peed.”

 

"I smell bad enough already without adding that to the mix,” she answered, wrinkling her nose.

 

I leaned over and sniffed her."You smell very healthy and wonderful to me. At least you didn't wear any perfume.”

 

"Puh-lease,” She said. "Most of that crap smells nasty.” She turned back to the computer. “We need to stop screwing around and figure where this patrol is so that we can go get them.”

 

We both looked at the real-time data on Lassie. Jens said, "It looks like we’ll be busy today. The BG must have retrieved all the weapons. There are even more patrols today than yesterday. The one that set off the alarm was just moving past us, so we don't need to worry. Let me have a few minutes to do some analysis.” Then she was off in her own little world with her square-headed boyfriend.

 

I took care of my morning business, made the MREs and handed one to Jens, and checked our weapons. We had plenty of .223 ammo for the standard M4s, but we only had one mag each for the suppressed M4s. This was going to make things much harder today.

 

Finally Jens came out of her trance and looked at the empty MRE in her hand, "Oh, thank you, my love. I didn't even realize I ate.”

 

"Don't worry, you were busy saving our asses,” I replied. "I do have some bad news for you; we only have one mag each for the suppressed M4s.”

 

"Shit,” she answered. "There goes any hope of being stealthy about what we’re doing. I'm going to have to come up with some new plans.” Then she was busy thinking again.

 

After another ten minutes she looked at me. "Tell me if you have any better ideas. This is all I could think of. We need to go commando today.” I was going to make a wise-ass comment, but Jens beat me to it. "No, I don't mean taking off our underwear. Although I suppose if I ran around in the nude it might be a distraction.” She smiled at me.

 

"After thinking about and looking at everything, here's the plan. I figure we’re in better shape and are more rested than any other troops. We dump all the gear, even Lassie, back where we left George's sniper rifle, and we load up with just mags for the M4s. Then, avoiding the snipers and using your bionic ears, we run through the training area and attack any patrols that we find. We take out as many as we can, and then take off running. Sort of a run and gun plan.”

 

She bit her lower lip and gave me a questioning look.

 

I replied, "Well, that was what I figured we had to do. We do know the training area better than anyone else, and we still have the traps that we can set. If we travel light and keep moving we can outrun anyone else. What are the odds of us living through this?”

 

"I knew you were going to ask me,” she answered, "Not good; it's eighty percent that one of us will survive, and only fifty percent that the other will survive.”

 

"That's not acceptable,” I said. "How does this affect the odds: I give you one bionic ear and we split up?”

 

Jens entered the new data, "That's better; we both have an eighty five percent chance of surviving.”

 

"That's all I can think of,” she said.

 

"I have one more idea,” I said. I called the RSO on the radio, "RSO, this is Unit Bravo Juliet. I hope that you and all the troops had a good night’s sleep. I know that we did.”

 

"Unit Bravo Juliet, we were wondering if you left. We haven't heard from you for a long time,” The RSO replied. "Why are you calling?”

 

I continued, "I had a question about the rules of engagement. It doesn't seem fair to me that dead men can carry their own weapons out of the training area. They’re dead, and unless someone else in their patrol or platoon carries the weapons, shouldn't they be left where they died?”

 

"That's a good question, Unit Bravo Juliet; give the referees a few minutes to discuss this,” The RSO replied.

 

Jens gave me a squeeze. "Honey, that's brilliant. It’ll force the BG to expend resources to carry out the weapons. Otherwise he will run out of weapons again.”

 

"It's even better than that,” I said. "It's hard as hell to fight when you’re carrying multiple packs and weapons. If we attack a platoon and run away, we can come back to the same platoon in ten or fifteen minutes and hit them again. They won't be able to fight as well carrying all that crap. Eventually the BG will figure this out and then he’ll leave the weapons; it's the only thing he can do.”

 

Jens started typing commands on the computer again.

 

The RSO called back. "Unit Bravo Juliet, the referees have looked at your request, and they all agree that it’s valid. In fact, they can't believe we haven't been doing this all along.” With that, he called all the troops in the training area and informed them of the addition to the rules of engagement.

 

Jen looked up from the computer and smiled. "My love, you have just raised the odds to ninety percent. And we’re now able to fight together again.”

 

"Well,” I said, "Let's get out there and kick butt and take names.”

 

"Uh, my love,” Jens asked, "Can I go take care of my morning duties first?”

 

I just laughed and said, "Take your time, my love.”

 

I waited until I was sure she was in a compromising position and typed some keys on her computer. It started playing the Pac Man death song. She came running out of the bushes trying to pull up her pants, and saw me laughing my ass off.

 

"Hey, that wasn't nice. I thought you were dead,” she cried.

 

I stopped laughing long enough to say, "No, but it was funny as hell.”

 

"When did you learn how to operate the computer?” Jens asked.

 

"I have been working on computers since I was a little boy. My first computer was a four-eighty-six, with one Meg of RAM and a forty-Meg hard drive. You didn't know this?” I answered.

 

"Uh, no,” Jens said, "I never saw you on one, and I figured you didn't know how to do much. I guess there are still some things that I need to learn about you. Now can I go and finish my business in peace?”

 

"Sure,” I said. Of course as soon as I was sure she was 'busy' again I typed a few more keys and the computer played the wedding march. I waited a bit too long, and Jens came out of the bushes pretending she was walking down the aisle at our wedding.

 

"Thanks, my love,” She said with a smile, "I need all the practice I can get for our wedding. You like what you see?”

 

"You look lovely in camo, but you'll look even better in a white wedding dress,” I replied.

 

"You say the nicest things. But I guess I’ll have to make sure to lock the screen the next time I leave the computer,” Jens said.

 

We packed up everything and headed down the edge of the training area to location delta, the new name for where we left George's rifle. Jens took a few minutes setting up the site, she even set up the laptop and satellite dish, turned them on, and hooked up the solar charger. She had been using the charger whenever she could to keep the laptop batteries charged. I set up our web belts with as many mag holders and mags as I could. We weren't taking any packs other than our camelbacks. I did throw the last of the Hudson Bay Bread into our camelbacks; I figured we would need something to eat. I also set up the Alice packs so we could grab them in an emergency. Last, we even took off our ghillie suits.

 

"Damn,” Jens said. "I feel almost naked without my gsuit.”

 

"If you were, you’d be in your bsuit,” I replied.

 

"What's a bsuit?” she asked.

 

"You know – the clothes you were born in – your birthday suit.” We both laughed. I changed the subject. "It would be nice if we had a wrist computer that could give us the information that Lassie gives us. Perhaps they could communicate over some sort of secure wireless network.”

 

Jens gave me an amazed look. "That's a great idea. I bet I could modify a PDA to run Linux. The problem would be–”

 

I cut her off. "That’s something for later, my love. We need to get moving.”

 

We took one last look at the sniper locations, I gave Jens one of my bionic ears and she whittled on it with her Ka-Bar until it fit her ear. She looked at me.

 

"Sorry, my love. I’ll buy you a new one when we get home.”

 

"Don't worry; I have extras,” I said.

 

Jens had been quiet the day before, but was much better today. I whispered, "The bionic ear makes you realize how noisy you are, and you are doing much better today. When we get yours, you and I will practice; it’ll help you distinguish sounds better. When you get really good, you can tell who certain people are just by the noises they make.”

 

"That's how you knew about George?” She whispered.

 

"Yes,” I replied in a whisper, "I can tell most of the snipers by their sounds. They think they’re being quiet, but they really aren't. We will work very hard on the noises that you make; I want you to be better than I am. Hey, listen close now and tell me what you hear.”

 

She did and answered, "I heard someone sneeze. There’s a patrol close by. I also hear some gear rattling and something creaking.”

 

"Good. The gear is someone's dog tags; they didn't put covers on them. Learn that sound, because this is a common mistake. The creaking comes from the straps on someone's Alice Pack. They need to get a new one. What you did miss was the water sloshing in a canteen, and the Marine cracking his knuckles. But that's really good for the first time. It will be even better when you have two bionic ears.” I replied.

 

"Ah, I hear those now that you mention them. This is so cool! I can hear so many things,” she gushed.

 

"The trick is not getting distracted by all the background sounds. Learn to filter them out and listen just for the sounds that don't belong. Shall we go get this patrol?” I replied.

 

"I'm ready for anything,” Jen answered.

 

Even without our ghillie suits, we were able to get quite close to the platoon – twenty-five meters from the back. It was a large platoon; they had to have at least twenty Marines. We ducked down in some bushes beside the trail and started shooting them with our M4s, killing five before we took off running, dodging as we ran. We ran for ten minutes and could hear that no one was chasing, us so we stopped beside the trail.

 

"Damn, that was too close,” Jens said, and continued. "Next time we need to be at least fifty meters away. This is the trail they have to take to get to the entrance. Shall we find a good place to hide and see what they do?”

 

We ended up hiding in some trees. About thirty minutes later the four “dead” came walking back towards the entrance with four Marines following them carrying their gear. I whispered to Jens, "Shit, this is better than I thought – they divided up the platoon.” At one hundred meters we opened fire and killed the four ”live” platoon members. They dropped all the gear and kept moving for the entrance.

 

"Damn,” I said, "They look really tired and worn out. I hate to see the men like this. The BG has pushed them too hard. Tell me, my love, does he have any combat experience?”

 

Jens whispered back, "He was at Grenada, but didn't see any real action. He has men in his command that know what to do, but I think that we hurt his pride, so it's become personal with him. Both Daddy and I thought this would happen. When this is over, I’m sure that he will be reassigned to a job back in Washington. His men love him and will do anything he tells them, but he doesn't have any idea what to do. You know, we’ll have to spend weeks preparing our analysis of what happened and our recommendations on how we would have handled the situations.”

 

“Oh great,” I thought. “more meetings.”

 

Jens said, "Don't worry, my love. I’ll protect you from the dreaded meetings.”

 

"Right now, I need you to cover me,” I said. "I’m going to go and make a mess of the gear the dead Marines just left.” I jumped down out of the trees and went over to the gear. I wanted to field strip all the M4s and throw the bolts into the undergrowth, but that was technically destruction of government property, so I didn't do it. I did dump out all the packs and scattered stuff everywhere, and then did the same trick with some grenades that Jens did yesterday. I made it back to the trees just in time.

 

After I was back close to Jens I whispered, "Listen and tell me what you hear.”

 

"Ah, I hear someone that doesn't know how to walk quietly; I hear a squeaky noise I don't know what it is; I hear someone humming a song; I hear someone slapping a bug.” Jens replied.

 

"Very good, 'but did you hear the grasshopper at you feet?'” I quoted from the Kung Fu TV show and trying to keep from laughing.

 

Jens replied, "Are you trying to make me laugh? Besides, my name is not Kane, and I am not a Shaolin Monk . . . although sometimes I feel like one.”

 

"You might look cute with a bald head,” I joked.

 

"You must be thinking of that Demi Moore bitch in GI Jane. She was such a poser,” Jens replied.

 

We fell silent because the rest of the platoon had just found the equipment. They were tired and bitching about the mess that I made. Finally, one of the Marines picked up a pack and the grenade went off, taking out three more. Jens and I opened fire and took out another four before we jumped out of the tree and started running further down the trail.

 

This time, we only ran five minutes and then stopped. I said to Jens, "Let's throw them for a loop and sneak around behind them.”

 

We headed off the trail and looped around behind them. They had just finished picking up the extra gear and started towards the entrance. Each Marine had at least one extra pack and gun, which would mess with their ability to fight. They were also focusing their attention on where they thought we were, rather than checking behind them. We walked up to 25m and shot them all. They all dropped the gear and headed towards the entrance. Jens and I went over and resupplied, picking up a bunch more M4 mags. We then booby trapped the hell out of the rest of the gear.

 

We did this four more times with great success. It was early evening, and in another six hours this exercise was done. We were walking along a trail looking for more platoons when we came upon weapons and gear in the middle of the trail. Jens whispered to me, "That isn't one of ours; this is a trap.”

 

I said, "Sniper. Hit the ground.” We both dove in the bushes just in time; a shot went off right after we hit the ground.”

 

"Damn, that was close,” Jens said. "How did you know?”

 

"I heard the rustle of the spotter’s ghillie suit,” I replied. "I’m not sure who it is yet. They’re pretty quiet. But I do know where they are – they’re up on the hill at three o'clock. Wait– no, it sounds like they are leaving.”

 

Jens said, "Heard that, but it only sounded like one person.”

 

"Very good, my love, you're right. It was only the spotter that left; I bet he’s going to try to flank us. The sniper is still up there waiting for us.” My voice was filled with pride for Jens.

 

The brush was deep where we were so we crawled some to try to find better cover.

 

Thirty minutes later Jens said, "What's that I hear?”

 

"It's the spotter again. He's over where we were. I guess they didn’t realize we moved. That means the sniper has no idea where we are,” I said. "We should be able to jump up, each take a shot at the spotter, and be back down before the sniper can hit us.”

 

We moved further apart to make it more difficult for the sniper. I said, "On three. One, two, three.” We jumped up each fired a shot at the spotter, heard his tactical vest go off and were back under the cover before the sniper got a shot.

 

I yelled to the spotter, “Make sure you leave everything including your ghillie suit,” to which we heard some choice swear words. Now it was time to deal with the sniper. We’d started working our way up the sides of the hill, Jens took on one side and me on the other, when we heard a patrol coming. I called Jens on the radio, "Shit, I think the sniper called in our position. We could be really fucked now.”

 

Jens replied, "You know, let's not screw with this guy. How many grenades do you have?”

 

I answered, "I have five.”

 

"Good,” Jens replied. "I have another five. We’re close enough, let's just grenade the hell out of this sniper and then get out of here.”

 

"Sounds like a plan,” I replied.

 

Jens said, "On three. One, two, three.” We started throwing grenades like crazy. On Jens’s second throw, we heard the tactical vest go off. The patrol wasn't there yet, so I called Jens.

 

"Follow me; we're going to take over the sniper position and kill this patrol.” I jumped up and ran to where the sniper was with Jens following. He was still getting out of his ghillie suit. We fell down beside him. He was just a kid, probably nineteen years old. He looked at me and looked at Jens, smiled real big and said, "This has been the best day of my life meeting both of you. I just wish I would have hit you on that first shot. I’m Josh, and you're the reason I became a sniper.” He looked at me. "I know you're going to take out the patrol with my rifle, and I know that I’m supposed to leave the training area, but would you please let me stay and watch?”

 

Jens said, "He's cute, Banzai. Let him stay.”

 

"Okay, kid, you can stay, but you need to stay out of our way,” I replied. He was ecstatic.

 

I crawled behind the rifle, looked at it, then I looked over at the kid. "This is a damned nice rifle that you have. It’s set up perfect.” The kid was grinning from ear to ear.

 

The patrol moved into range. I asked Jens, "Please range me, my sweetheart.”

 

"You say the nicest things, my love. Range, six seventy-four meters; elevation, minus seven; wind, two at thirty.”

 

I made the adjustments on the scope, found my target and fired, racked the bolt, and did it four more times. Then I loaded up the M40 with another stripper clip and fired, “killing” the other five.

 

Josh remarked, "That was smooth shooting. It's been my dream to watch you; you've just made it come true. Thank you. I can't wait to tell the other snipers that I got to watch Banzai Ben,” he left and went down the hill.

 

Suddenly I felt old – very old. Josh was the wave of the future; he was only nineteen and already a damned good sniper.

 

"Don't worry, my love,” Jens said, knowing what I was thinking, "I'll still love you when you’re old and gray. I'll even push your wheelchair.”

 

I said the only word I could think of – "Shit!” and Jens started laughing.

 

The hilltop wasn't safe; if we could kill a sniper up here than anyone could. Before another patrol could come, we bugged out. It was almost dark, and we need to get back to location delta; without our ghillie suits on, it was too easy to see us at night with NV gear. We ran into one more patrol on our way back and harassed the hell out of them until they were all dead.

 

Jens made some MREs after we arrived at delta. We’d run out of Hudson Bay Bread at lunchtime. "Damn, this tastes good. I’m really hungry. All this running and killing raises my appetite,” I said.

 

"What doesn’t make you hungry?” Jens teased.

 

I said the only thing I could think of – "Throwing up!”

 

"Ew. That’s gross, but it’s a good comeback,” Jens said with a smile."So, my love and my boss, what are we doing for the rest of the night?”

 

"Darkness has fallen and the snipers like modern day vampires come out to play,” I answered in my best scary voice, and continued, "To move among mere mortal men like wraiths and shadows and to inflict their blood toll on all.” I ended with an evil laugh.

 

"Wow, that’s really good. Who’s the author?” Jens asked.

 

"I just made it up,” I answered.

 

Jens replied, "Perhaps you should write a book?”

 

"No fricken thank you!” I answered "I have real work to do, and we need to get to it right now. I thought that since we’re almost invisible in our ghillie suits, we would sneak up on the patrols and use our suppressed Ruger MkIIs. They don’t even make enough flash for the snipers to see.”

 

"Mmm, I love it when you take charge,” Jens said. "But don’t you think this is risky?”

 

"Ask Lassie and see what she thinks,” I said.

 

Jens checked her computer and ran a couple of test scenarios. We heard the wedding march each time. "Wow, not bad. I guess my old man can come up with a good plan occasionally.”

 

"Oh well, if I’m so old, then I guess I better withdraw my marriage proposal. I wouldn’t want you stuck with a toothless old geezer,” I said, and laughed.

 

"Hey, you’d better not!” Jens said, "You remember what mom said she would do to you, and after she was done with you, I would do even worse!”

 

Then we both laughed because we knew we were joking. At least I hoped that Jens was joking. When she gets pissed, bad things happen, and there are certain parts of my anatomy I’m quite fond of.

 

"Don’t worry, my love, I was joking.” Jens said. "I’m fond of those parts of your anatomy, too. And someday I hope to fondle them.”

 

I blushed. Damn. I keep forgetting that she can feel my emotions.

 

We moved out. We only had three more hours until this exercise was over, and we could’ve hunkered down somewhere to wait it out, but that just wasn’t in me. The plan was daring, and we wouldn’t have done it normally, but we knew the men were tired and making mistakes. Plus, Lassie the computer barked her approval. We could always fall back on our M4s if we found ourselves in real trouble.

 

With all the patrols out, it didn’t take long to run across our first one. We worked our way close to the back of the patrol, and when we were within range, we started firing our suppressed Ruger MKIIs. They had no idea what was happening or where we were. All they knew was that they were “dying.” The smarter ones dropped to the ground, but every time they rose up, we shot them. Fifteen minutes later, they were all “dead” and walking towards the entrance without their gear.

 

We were able to find two more platoons and eliminate them before we heard the RSO over the radios. "It is now twenty-four hundred. The exercise has formally ended. All troops except for Unit Bravo Juliet pick up your gear and any gear that you find and return to the entrances.”

 

Jens ran over to me, jumped up into my arms, and smothered me with kisses. "We did it, my love. I was sure that we could. This was so much fun. I wish we could go home and get cleaned up and go to sleep. I don’t understand why we can’t. Dammit, when will daddy call me?”

 

"Let’s not wait for him to call, "I said."Let’s head back to location delta and pickup our gear.”

 

We turned off our bionic ears, and as we started walking towards delta, Jens’s phone vibrated. She almost broke her arm getting it out of her pocket. She sat down and talked with the general for awhile and then she motioned me over to sit beside her. She hit the speaker phone button.

 

"Jens, is this phone encrypted? And good morning, Son. Can you hear me?” The general asked.

 

"Yes, it is, Daddy, and we can both hear you,” Jens replied.

 

The general continued. "First, I would like congratulate both of you. While the exercise has been an embarrassment for the Corps, it has shown us that we need to place the proper commanders at our training bases. It has also shown us that with the proper training and motivation, two Marines can defeat an entire army.”

 

We both said, "Thank you.”

 

"On a side note, Son, I made the bet that you asked me to make. I was able to get five to one odds. You and Jens just made two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Don’t spend it all in one place.” The general laughed.

 

"I’m sorry for making both of you stay in the training area until tomorrow morning at oh-nine hundred. I’m also sorry I didn’t tell you this earlier, but I didn’t want to distract you. As you know, this training mission made it to MILNET. In fact, it was all over MILNET. Everyone became interested in watching you two, and we couldn’t get anyone to do any work. Shit, even the President was asking about you two.”

 

 “Wow,” we were thinking. “The President.”

 

The general wasn't done yet. "Somehow it was even leaked to the press; they put two and two together and figured out that you are the ones who won the Leadville race. They’re eating it up – especially when you two took out the Seal platoons. Somehow they even got a copy of Jens telling the Seals they were 'pussy-whipped'. Of course, they had to bleep part of it on the news report.”

 

I almost started laughing, remembering how funny that was. I’m sure Jens was blushing.

 

"You know how this country is right now. They need heroes, and you two are the closest thing that we have. The networks have been driving everyone crazy and have been interviewing anyone they can to get information. They found one couple you took with you last weekend and the Sergeant's wife spilled her guts about you two. Shit, she even told them that you two were engaged but were going to wait until you were married to 'do it.' Well, that sealed the deal, and the press is calling you two 'The All-American couple.'”

 

We were both feeling really humbled.

 

The general had still more to tell us. "Shit, we’ve had to hire an advertising firm so that they could protect your rights. There are talks of GI-Joe dolls of both of you, and we released a poster. It's one of pictures I took when Ben proposed. They can't keep it in the stores. You two are going to be very rich from this. Young boys are pretending to be soldiers again and young girls are starting to dress like Jens and saying they’re going to wait until they’re married.”

 

I heard Jens sniffling. I hugged her close to me.

 

The general wasn’t done. "This is much bigger than Leadville was; it’s international. We’ve had four sniper teams withdraw from next week’s sniper competition. France was the first, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, and even Germany. They don’t want to come here and be embarrassed.”

 

We were speechless; this was unbelievable.

 

The general said, "So, why are you staying in the training area until oh-nine hundred ?”

 

Jens answered, "Yes, dammit, we want to go home!”

 

"I can understand that, and you deserve to go home. You have earned that and more. Let me explain why I’m ordering you to stay.

 

“When you come out of the training area tomorrow morning at oh-nine hundred, it will be an international news event. Right now we have all the major news organizations trying to get set up at the entrance to the training area. It’s a real zoo. An opportunity like this has never happened for the Marines, and we are going to get the most out of it that we can. There is no way that we could set this up before oh-nine hundred tomorrow; the logistics of a Presidential visit take some time to work out.”

 

We both thought, “Damn. The President is coming tomorrow.”

 

"Pay attention, you two,” The general said. "Here are my orders: we have dropped all the supplies that you will need to get cleaned up and look presentable, including new pairs of MCCUU and old-style ghillie suits, by the lake with written instructions. You will also find a hot meal and cots. Sleep well tonight. The first thing in the morning, get cleaned up in the lake, dress in the new MCCUUs, and follow the rest of the written instructions. These are my orders. Do you have any questions?”

 

I can never keep my mouth shut, so I said, "Sir, Jens and I would like to say what you’ve told us is almost unbelievable. I would like to make one more request: if you didn’t include our M107 Barretts and our Barrett 98 Bravos in the gear, I would like them to be dropped off at the lake. I want to walk out of here with all the weapons we came in with.”

 

Jens squeezed my hand in agreement.

 

"That’s an excellent idea, Son. I’ll make sure that the rifles are there. Now let me talk to Jens some more.” The general finished, and Jens took the phone off speaker and talked for awhile longer.

 

We ran to location delta and picked up the rest of our gear, and then ran back to the lake and enjoyed our hot meals. Jens pushed both the cots together so we could cuddle, and we talked about what the general had told us well into the zero hours.