22 Kaneohe Bay Hawaii - Friday

Captured: Dreaming of home

© Copyright 2008 – 2009

Written by Banzai Ben



Chapter 22 – Sniper Competition Friday 21 September 2007


Khudabah, Pakistan – Evening of Day twenty-two


I can’t sleep. At least I'm awake before the guard and can do a bit of exercise in the bed by pulling against the ropes and doing isometric exercises for other parts of my body. When my shirt is off and I look down at my chest all I see are ribs. I feel as if they’ve ruined me. I've lost so much muscle and weight these last weeks. I wonder if I will ever gain it back.


I feel sick about half the time I'm awake. I suffer with bouts of chills and headaches and have diarrhea all the time. I've tried to figure out what I have, but the symptoms aren't like anything I've ever had before. But with all the crap they've done to me and fed me and the rat bites, there's no telling what sort of nasty bugs I've contracted. I'm still bullshitting the guards and pretending to be even sicker than I am.


Ah, I hear the other guards coming and sleepy-head guard is waking up. Good. Zarika is with them and is smiling. It's not as good as a smile from Jens would be, but she is the only one here who smiles.


The daily routine starts that I've been going through for the last few days, and the boredom sets in.


There is one difference today. Zarika seems to have the twinkle of anticipation in her eyes. Damn. I can't wait until we can talk.


Finally, I'm tied to my chair and Zarika is back with our food. As we’re eating, she tells me she found what I need, but it will take several days for her to bribe the guards so they will give it to her. My stomach turns. I know what she means when she says, "bribe the guards." She's going to have to let them fuck her again. I guess we're each going through our own hell.


The Imam comes again with more of his religious bullshit. I feign a little interest today just to keep him on my side. As he is leaving, Hussein comes in and they have a long conversation. My little spy Zarika is listening intently, so I know I'll get a report when they leave.


 When they're finally gone, Zarika hurries over to me with a big grin. "Ben, you have the Imam totally fooled. He thinks that you're considering becoming Muslim. And he told Hussein he needs to treat you even better."


It takes all my strength not to spit on the floor. "The only thing I want to join to the Muslim faith is the Imam and all his followers. They can join their god in hell."


She's heard it before, but it still makes her giggle whenever she does.


We spend the rest of the day talking. She asks more questions about America than before. And this time I ask her questions about Tajikistan.


At dinner, she surprises me by bringing in a pomegranate and feeding it all to me. It’s the first time I've had fruit since I was captured, and it tastes like candy to me. I make a total pig out of myself, making slurping noises. Zarika finds this incredibly funny and giggles like a child.


I have another surprise tonight when the guards take me upstairs. Zarika lies down beside me for about ten minutes. She told the guards I am sick and need to be kept warm. It was a sweet thing for her to do. But it has flooded my mind with memories of similar times with Jens. After she leaves, it takes a very long time for me to chase my memories into sleep.



Kaneohe Bay Hawaii – Friday Day Twenty-Two


I awakened that morning to the realization that I'm a different man. The changes have happened so gradually that I didn’t realize what was happening; at least, not until last night, when it all reached a tipping point.


For the first time in years I didn't fall right to sleep. I was holding Jens close to me with my hand on her breast. She wouldn't let me remove it, and she dropped right off to sleep.


I struggled for most of the night with the demons in my head, but these weren't the demons of the many men I had killed come back to haunt me. The battle I fought was much harder – it was between my love for Jens and wanting to wake her up and act on that love, against the promises I'd made and my honor.


Early in the morning, when the night was old, the promises and the honor won out, and I drifted off to sleep.


Buzzzzzzz! Damn. It's the fucking alarm clock. Where's my Kimber? I want to shoot that damned piece of shit. I think I just went to sleep ten minutes ago. It can't be time to get up already.


I smacked the alarm clock with my cast, breaking the hell out of it. The clock that is, not the cast.


At least this fucking cast is good for one thing – breaking shit.


I reached for Jens, but couldn’t feel her.


"Good morning, my love," Jens said cheerily as she walked into the room in her robe with two cups of coffee.


I opened one eye and groaned at her.


"Someone said I shouldn't wake up grumpy. So I let you sleep in," Jens teased.


I opened the other eye and croaked, "Coffee. Please."


She handed me a cup and sat on the bed beside me watching me closely as I took my first sip. Ah, what a girl. It was the perfect temperature. I gave my attention to slurping the hot black elixir, feeling the caffeine course through my system and chase the fatigue away.


Finally, I looked at Jens and smiled. "Thanks, Hon. I really needed that." I almost laughed because she still looked like a raccoon.


She smiled, but then her brow wrinkled and she looked into my eyes. "Ben, I'm so worried about you this morning. I know you didn't sleep well last night; you were tossing and turning all night long. And now you're blocking your feelings from me. I've gotten so used to being in touch with your feelings, when I can't do it, it's like I'm going through drug withdrawals. Do you want to talk about it?"

I looked at her. How in the hell could I explain to her what kept me awake last night when I wasn't sure, myself? I opened my mouth to speak, but closed it again. Tried the same thing three more times.


Jens giggled trying to lighten my mood, "Are you pretending to be a fish? Because if you are, it's a great imitation."


It worked. We both started laughing and almost spilled our coffee. She took the cups and sat them on the nightstand and crawled into bed pulling me down beside her. She gazed deep into my eyes and I could feel her trying to penetrate my soul.


Finally she punched me in the arm, "Dammit. Stop blocking me and let me feel you."


"I wish that I could, my love. But I'm not sure that I can right now," I replied and looked away.


She punched my arm again, this time harder. "Hey, what sort of shit is this? First you block your feelings, now you can't even look me in the eyes?"


I wrestled with it in my mind. If I did this, things would never be the same. I had never let anyone see this part of me. What if I let her see it, and she hated me for it? I couldn't live if I lost her.


Jens kept trying to feel me and I kept blocking her. Finally, she got pissed off and barked at me, "What are you afraid of letting me find out? Dammit! Why won't you let me be close to you again? First you wake up grumpy as an old bear and break the fucking alarm clock. Now you're acting like a damned turtle that has pulled inside its shell. You're so frustrating sometimes. Just when I think we're getting close, you pull this shit on me."


She glared at me, and anger and hurt took turns on her face. She looked so much like she was going to slap the hell out of me that I almost flinched. She just kept looking at me, and then her expression changed.


Her lower lip started quivering as she said to me, "Remember. In for a penny?"


Shit. Now I'm going to make her cry. Dammit-to-hell! I hate it when she cries.


I took a deep breath and let it out in resignation. In for a pound. I'd come this far with Jens. I needed to trust her and go all the way. God, I hope I'm doing the right thing. I hugged her tight and let down all my defenses.


Jens looked relieved that she could finally feel me at me. I was exhausted, but I heard her mumble as I drifted off.


“Shit, isn't this just like a man. You finally get what you want out of them and they fall asleep. Well, my love, at least I can feel you now.”


The next thing I remember, Jens was lightly kissing me on the eyes to wake me up. Damn. I barely remembered falling asleep, I was so tired.


Then I remembered her words and felt a sharp stab of alarm. Shit! I stopped blocking her from feeling me. But after the initial fear, I realized, she was still there and she was still kissing me. I guess I didn't scare her off. I still don't know what the hell happened to me. But at least I feel better knowing that whatever it was Jens didn't leave me.


"Wake up, my lovely dark-haired man. It's time to eat a quick breakfast and head over to the competition." The love in Jens’s voice filled me with joy. I smiled and opened my eyes.


She was beaming at me.


"Sorry I fell asleep,” I mumbled. “I was really tired."


"Don't worry about it. It was all my fault that you couldn't sleep. I'd love to stay here in bed with you and talk about it, but we need to get moving. Don't worry, though; well discuss this tonight." Jens answered.


Oh great. Not another night without sleep.


"Don't worry, my dear. I'm sure you'll sleep tonight. But I might not." Jens said.


Yes, it was back. She could feel my feelings. It wasn’t quite as scary this time, but it’s a tough thing to get used to.


I nuzzled her hand and kissed it. "So while I was asleep you were wandering around in my mind? Should I be worried?"


"The only worries that you should have is not becoming totally spoiled. Because I'm going to treat you like a king for the next seventy or eighty years of our lives together," Jens declared.


Damn. She confuses the hell out of me.


"I know that I confuse you, my love. And it's all my fault. I'm going to change that and we'll talk about it tonight. But we really have to get moving." Jens jumped up and helped me out of bed.


I did feel better, and Jens seemed even better than her old self. She was happy and excited and dancing around as we went into the kitchen for a quick breakfast of yogurt and coffee.


We humped the gear out to the Humvee. Jens didn't even argue with me when I helped. She looked at me and said, "I've asked you not to do anything that will hurt your arm. And I know you'll listen to me. We're a team and if either one of us needs help we ask each other. And before you say or think it: Yes, I know I confuse you."


The drive to the training area was uneventful with our escort following us. They sure paid a lot more attention since my fight with the bikers. I heard the General chewed some ass and sent some Marines packing to Thule. Rumor had it that if anyone fucked up again there were even worse assignments waiting for them.


Finally at the training area, we took the weapons to the RSO table so that they could be fitted with the Sniper Simulation System. Security was tight; they didn't want any accidents on the last day of the competition.


Jens had a big lead over the second-place Canadians, but today's competition was worth fifty points. Damn. If she could have won the martial arts yesterday, it would have been all over.


We had run some scenarios on her computer, but there were too many variables to get consistent results. We would just have to get it done the old-fashioned way – hunt or be hunted. It was Jens’s competition and Jens’s call. She decided that we would hunt.


Rather than wait around for snipers to come to us, we would be actively hunting for them. It was the right decision, and I was proud of Jens for making it. Our goal was to find the damned Canucks and kill them without being killed ourselves.


Here are the rules of engagement for the day's competition: The top ten teams were going to be dropped in different parts of the training area by helicopters; No one in the competition knew where the others were going to be; the last team standing won the fifty points; the other teams won decreasing points for lower places. If the Canadians won the snipe-off and we came in lower than third place they would win the trophy.


While her rifles were getting set up, I took her over to the side to talk to her. "We can win this today. We need to be smart and careful."


"Yes, my love, I know. The Canucks are good snipers but terrible hunters. They're going to hunker down and wait for teams to come to them," Jens said.


I went on to tell her some information about the Canucks that she didn't know. I told her the sounds that they made and that we would be able to hear with our bionic ears.


When I was done, Jens said, "Damn! You never cease to amaze me. We need to figure out some way to get all this data from your head into a computer."


"Oh no. I'm not going to let you put any of my information into your square-headed boyfriend. You spend enough time with him already," I answered.


"Are you jealous?" She teased.


"What would you say if I answered yes?" I challenged, arching a brow.


"I'd tell you that you don't have to worry. I'd much rather push your buttons," Jens answered.


"Shit. You do that all the time right now." I grumped, giving her a sidelong glance.


"Don't give me that grumpy crap. I can tell when you're trying to yank my chain." Jens replied.


I smiled. "Damn. I can't put anything over on you."


"That's right. And don't forget it." Jens smiled back.


The RSO was done with Jens’s rifles, so we grabbed our gear and climbed aboard the chopper. My luck held out – our drop site was close to our original alpha location; the one from our training exercise with the retired BG. It was the highest mountain in the training area.


We couldn't move until all the teams were dropped, but we didn't waste time. We put on our bionic ears, tactical radios, ghillie suits, and face paint. I started scanning the area to make sure no one else was close. When I was satisfied that we weren't a target, I relaxed.


I guess I relaxed a bit too much. Jens woke me up. "Hey, sleepyhead. The competition has started."


I looked over at her. "Damn. You look beautiful. I love a woman in face paint and a ghillie suit."


That comment earned me a huge smile. The contrast between the dark face paint and Jens white teeth was brilliant.


"Well. Since we’re so close to the top of the hill, I think we need to change strategies. Let's get to the top and check things out," Jens ordered.


After reaching the top of the hill, we hunkered down and I did my job, pulling out the spotting scope and scanning the entire training area. I wasn't looking for snipers; I knew that we were all wearing ghillie suits. I was looking for movement or something that looked out of place.


Jens had set up her 98 Bravo just in case we got lucky and there were any close targets.


"Jens," I said, "Look at the main entrance and tell me what you see."


She took a look and replied, "There are a couple new bushes that weren't there before. Wait, they're moving. That's one team. Can you tell which team?"


I kept watching them, and finally said, "Yep. It’s your favorite competitor: The Mossad team."


I really wanted to find the Canadians, so I kept scanning. Because we had been spent so much time in the training area, we knew it very well. I knew that the Canadians would most likely be trying to find high ground close to a trail where they could wait for passing teams.


I was scanning the distance while Jens was keeping an eye on the local area.


Finally, I saw something that looked promising and zoomed in the scope. "Jens, I think I found them." I read off the degrees and elevation.


She moved her rifle to look at the target, and I took over her job scanning the local area.


Jens watched them for a bit. "That is a team. Why do you think it's the Canadians?"


I told her the idiosyncrasies of the team she was observing and how it fit what I know about the Canadian team.


She watched them awhile longer and agreed with what I saw. "Let's go get them,"

I replied, "But I think we should take out this team coming up the hill first."


I was so proud of Jens. Instead of reacting by moving, she froze and whispered, "Range me, my love."


I slowly moved the spotting scope around to our targets and reported, "Right target is the sniper. Range, eight-seven-five meters; elevation, minus thirty; wind, four at one-eight-five."


Jens had the BORS system on her 98 Bravo. She cranked the range knob to eight-seven-five and adjusted the windage, slowly moved and acquired her target, and took one shot and then the second shot. The sniper and the spotter were dead.


"Good shooting, my girl. I'm proud of you. One down and eight to go," I said.


"I couldn't have done it without your spotting. We make a damn good team." Jens replied.


We had drawn first blood, but now our position was compromised and we had to move. But before we moved I needed to make sure there weren't other teams in the area. We were just getting ready to move when I saw a flash of light.


"Freeze, and don't move," I ordered.


I scanned the area where I saw the flash. Then I saw it again. "Shit. It's another team. I guess this hill is popular today.


We watched as the team kept heading up the hill. This didn't make sense. They weren't moving like snipers, and weren't even trying to conceal themselves.


"Jens. Something isn't right here," I said.


"You're right. It's like they're not even trying to hide. Let's shoot these idiots and be done with it," She answered.


"What if they're civilians?" I worried.


"Well, this isn't live ammo, so it's not like we will kill them." Jens replied exactly as I would have.


We waited, and when they got close enough I ranged her. "Range, nine-two-five meters; elevation, minus three-four; wind, four at one-eight-five."


She made the adjustments and fired two shots. Nothing happened, no tactical vests went off. "Shit. Did I miss them?"


"Not at that range, you didn't," I replied, starting to feel nervous.


Then all hell broke loose. Several live rounds hit close to us. "Son of a bitch! That's live fire from a Russian SV-98!" I exclaimed, and reached for my tactical radio. I pressed the radio button to make the emergency call reporting live fire in the training area, and got nothing. The tactical radios were jammed.


I looked over the top of the hill, and the bastards were still coming. They were both shooting.


"Ben, I didn't bring the Kimbers and real ammo today. I never figured we would need it." Jens said, horror seeping into her voice.


I pulled out my Kabar, glanced over at Jens, and started cutting off my cast. "Don't give me any shit about this."


She didn't. In fact, she crawled over close to me and helped, making sure not to cut my arm.


It felt good to have my arm out of the fucking cast. I flexed it a couple times. It was stiff, but I could use it.


Then I reached in my pocket and pulled out two cartridges – One .338 Lapua, and one .338 Whisper – and held them up. "Dad taught me: you always keep one round in your pocket."


I scrambled in my pack and started pulling out tools to remove the sniper simulation system. My heart was beating a mile a minute as I worked. If we didn’t hurry, they would be here before we could get the rifles serviceable. They were firing the whole time, and the shots were getting closer.


I was getting ready to order Jens out of the training area. She felt what I was going to do and warned, "Don't you dare order me out of the training area. We fight as a team. We die as a team."


It was frustrating, but it felt good. It also felt heavy. I got the system loose on the 98 Bravo and threw Jens the tools. She started working on the M4 Whisper.


I was ready, and ordered, "Let me know when you're ready. We've got to get both these bastards at once." Jens kept working on the M4 while the shots grew closer.


She was almost done when a round hit my spotting scope. We both jumped. That was too close.


"Ready!" Jens shouted.


"I'll take the left. You take the right," I commanded.


We were just getting ready to fire when a round hit the M4. Luckily, Jens wasn't hurt; but she was sure spooked. "Shit, shit, shit. The M4s toast." Jens cried.


"Jens, this is an order. Drop all your gear and scoot back. When I fire, you'll have some time to run. Wait until the guy I don't kill stops firing, then head north and get the hell out of here. I'll jump up and head south. If we're lucky, at least one of us will make it."


"You can fucking court martial me when this is over, but I'm not going to leave you. We're both going to run to the south because it's downhill," Jens barked at me.


There was no more time to argue. The bastards were closing in.


I estimated the range and made the scope adjustments. I looked over at Jens and said, "I love you," looked back, lined up the scope, and took the shot.


All the shooting stopped, and we jumped up and started running to the south. The silence lasted about ten seconds, and then the shooting continued. Damn. We were almost to the trees when I felt a round graze my upper back. It felt like someone had taken a red hot fireplace poker and seared my flesh. The force of the round made me stumble and fall. Jen slowed up.


I jumped up and barked at her, "Jens! Move your ass. We need to get into the trees."


We made it to tree line and kept running, not slowing up. I could feel the sticky wetness spreading across my back and starting to seep down into my pants, but we needed to keep going.


I lost track of how long and how far we ran, but it was far enough that we didn't hear any shooting.


Jens stopped running and turned around in the trail. "How bad is it?"


"Don't worry, it's only a mosquito bite," I replied.


"Listen, jarhead! I've told you once not to lie to me about shit like this. I can feel your pain, and I know it's more than a fucking mosquito bite," Jens spat. "Turn around and let me see it."


I turned around, and she started crying. "Shit! Your whole back is covered with blood; even your pants."


She ran over to me to hug me. I started feeling light headed and dizzy. First my vision went red and then started going black, and then the trees slipped away . . .


. . . The cave filled with the sweet-smelling smoke of burning sage grass; the type that had been used to cleanse my Cherokee ancestors for thousands of years. I breathed deeply, letting it bring back the memories of the days of my youth and campfires with my father. Then I heard the drums, beating out the heartbeat of the Indian nation and finally I saw the immortal drum circle of the Great Ones, the great warriors of the Indian Nations for thousands of years, all lifting up their voices as one and praising the Great Spirit.


Finally, out of the center of the circle came a great black wolf, huge in stature. Somehow, I knew he was my spiritual guide.


He walked up to me and I heard him say, “Ben Inali (wolf), you have been chosen to fight a great battle; a battle to rid the world of a terrible evil that threatens to destroy it. This battle will not be an easy battle for you, and you will suffer many losses. You will lose some things that you cherish and care for the most."


"There will come a time when you will feel that all is lost and that you have failed. When that time comes, you will find strength from one who is weak. Then, use your wisdom and training and overcome that which holds you down."


"We cannot help you physically; we are but dust in the wind. But we can give these words to you. Do not give up; you are the only one who can stop the coming destruction. Do whatever you need to do to prevent it. We leave you now, but know that if you are willing to pay the price, you can conquer anything.”


I slowly opened my eyes in the hospital. Holy shit! What sort of crap was that? I'm not sure if that was a dream or a vision. Damn, that seemed real; it almost seems like I can still smell the sage. I hope I'm not going fucking crazy.


This book ends, but the story continues in "Escaped."