13 Escaped Afghanistan - Saturday

Escaped: Fighting my way home

© Copyright 2009

Written by Banzai Ben and Amazing Anastasia

ben@banzaiben.com

 

 

Chapter 13 – Saturday 06 October

 

Afghanistan – Saturday Day Thirty-six

 

Thank God, there were no more attacks and we reached the base at Jalalabad without further incident. As we drove up to the base I could tell it had gone through some hell of its own. They were still cleaning up a mess of dead bodies and destroyed suicide vehicle bombs. Damn! This had to be some sort of organized offensive - the type that hadn't been seen before. Some of the buildings had been hit with rockets and the remains were still smoldering. Now I understood why it took so long to get help last night.

 

When we pulled into the motor pool, LCpl. Brown parked the truck and jumped out. "Shit! What a fucked up mess. I can't believe they attacked this base."

 

I climbed down off the gunner’s station and looked around, "This is different than I've ever seen.

It looks like they destroyed about a fourth of the base. Their rockets are more accurate than I can remember."

 

Jens and Liz walked around front. As they had their first good look at the base, their mouths dropped open, "This place is tore to hell! It looks like they had a worse time than we did." Jens remarked.

 

"Liz, before you and the crew start taping we need to check in with the BCO and make sure he authorizes it. LCpl. Brown, you're responsible for all our gear."

 

Jens and I grabbed our rifles, slung them over our shoulders, signaled to Liz and walked towards the BCO's office. We hadn't gone very far when we ran into the BCO's second, we shook hands and he said, "I'm Cpt. Kast. You must be SM Blaine and Sgt. Donaldson. The BCO sent me over to meet you two. The FOB where you were headed was overrun last night, so you two are assigned here."

 

"Yes Sir! If you would tell us where our barracks are we'll start moving our gear."

 

He looked at Liz and the crew, "Is this the crew from the Truth Network?"

 

Liz walked up, "Yes Sir we are. We would like to start videoing if we could and would like to request interviews with the BCO and other Marines when it can be arranged."

 

"Right now we're ass deep in alligators, but I think interviews can be arranged in a few days. Feel free to tape what you want but we need to approve anything before it's shown or sent out. SM Blaine, you, your spotter and the news crew were assigned to the general barracks. However, a request has been made that you have separate barracks. We have an old concrete bunker that has never been used for anything and is dirty as hell inside. If you want to clean it out and run power to it, then it’s yours. Mention it to your driver and he'll know what I'm talking about. The BCO also requested that you two be ready for a mission in two days, so I'd suggest you move your ass."

 

We shook hands and he left, Jens looked at me, "Sounds like we have our own little house. Remind me to really thank Daddy when we get back."

 

"Well, let's head back to the truck and get LCpl. Brown to drive us to our new house." I replied.

 

LCpl. Brown laughed when we told him about it, "That old bunker is nasty and dirty inside and I'm not sure they did you guys a favor."

 

Jens answered, "Anything is better than the barracks. I'm sure we can whip it into shape."

 

We climbed back in the truck and LCpl. Brown drove us to the bunker. I jumped out the back, opened the steel door and almost closed it again - it smelled worse than ass! LCpl. Brown came up beside me, "I told you it was nasty, that's why no one ever wanted to live in it. Tell you what, let me go grab some chow and then I'll come back here and give you two a hand."

 

Liz, the crew and Jens walked up. They over heard LCpl. Brown. "Thank you LCpl. Brown, from the looks of this we can use all the help we can get," Liz said with a smile.

 

"Good, I'll be right back. Would you like to come with me Liz?"

 

"That would be wonderful! Would anyone else like some food?" Liz asked.

 

"None for me right now, I'd probably lose it from the smell and my upset stomach." Jens answered.

 

"I'll grab some later." I replied. LCpl. Brown and Liz took off I looked at Jens, "So what's going on with your stomach? Are you still having problems?"

 

"I don't know, I think I ate something bad and it has to work its way out of my system." Jens replied.

 

Something didn't feel right to me, but I wasn't sure what it was and I didn't want to ask right now. Next time I get her alone I'm going to see what's really going on. "Well, it's time for the brawn of this group to start earning his keep," I said and jumped into the bunker. The smell was stifling but I started cleaning it out despite being light headed.

 

"SM Blaine, please come here a minute." Jens asked. I came back out of the bunker and Jens handed me a bandana, "Put this over your face and mouth, it will help."

 

I tied it over my face and it reeked of the musky smell of Jens, I looked at her and she was grinning at me. I walked close to her and whispered in her ear, "This smells just like you."

 

She leaned in close and replied, "I thought you might like that and it might motivate you. The quicker you finish the sooner we can cuddle. Why don't you get busy cleaning up and I'll go find us some furniture."

 

"I was going to ask you where this bandana has been, but I'm not sure I want to know," I commented.

 

"It's better if I just leave it to your perverted imagination," she said as she took off.

 

The bandana was a great improvement - the smell and what Jens said had my imagination going wild! I spent so much time trying to figure out if she had really had it there that I lost track of the time spent cleaning.

 

I'm not sure what they'd been using this place for, but it must have been a trash dump. I was finding all sorts of crap: Broken office chairs and bunks, old rotten mattresses, empty crates and boxes, and someone's stash of porno magazines. I finally figured out what smelled so bad - someone had been using the bunker for a crapper! I had just improvised a shovel out of some junk when LCpl. Brown showed up, "Looks like I'm just in time, I brought a shovel and some other things."

 

"Thanks, I can really use that." I took the shovel and started filling up a couple abandoned trashcans.

 

"I'm going to run and get you a dumpster," Brown said as he took off.

 

A few minutes later, he was back and we started throwing stuff into the dumpster. We worked hard for three hours and all the crap (some actual) was out of the bunker. It smelled much better and I was proud as I stood inside and looked around. This was going to make us a nice and very safe place to stay. Even if a rocket hit here we'd be safe inside. I grabbed a flashlight from my gear and started inspecting the bunker. It was already wired so I just needed to tie it into base electricity and we'd have all the comforts of home.

 

"LCpl. Brown, do you think you can find me a mop, bucket and sanitizer?" I asked.

 

"I'll be right back. I'll see if I can find some wire and we can work on getting lights in here."

 

I used the shovel and scraped the rest of the floor - the place was looking really good! Brown came back with the mop and a bucket, "Here you go Sir - now to get this place wired." He took off again and I had to chuckle. He was a big help in the acquisition department, but sure wasn't doing much manual labor. I got a wild hair up my butt and decided to wash the ceiling and the walls before I started on the floor. I went out and got the cleanest rag I could find and a beat up chair to stand on. I finished the ceiling and the walls but needed more water and sanitizer. This place was nasty and the water in the bucket was an ugly black.

 

Jens and Liz came strolling back and walked in the bunker. "Holy Shit!" Jens remarked, "you must have really listened to me as this place is looking much better."

 

"Good job hero. It's good to see that you aren't afraid of a little soap and elbow grease. When you get done with the bunker, how about washing my car for me," Liz teased.

 

"I tell you what, I need a couple more buckets of water and sanitizer and then I'll be done. How about you two do a step and fetch and get them for me." I asked.

 

Jens looked around and noticed we were the only ones here, "I love and live to serve you! Liz and I will be right back with the buckets."

 

They took off and LCpl. Brown showed up with a couple of guys. "Sir, these are my friends Cpl. Newton and LCpl. Benyak. They've come to hook up the electricity for you."

 

I shook their hands, "It's great to meet both of you. While you're hooking up the electricity, I think that Sgt. Donaldson has an antenna she needs installed on the roof. She'll be back in a few minutes."

 

Cpl. Newton, "Sir, it's an honor to meet you. We just saw the video of the convoy and how you took out the mortar placement and rescued the pilot."

 

"Yes Sir. I'm glad we can help. I was on the same base as you during your last deployment and saw some of the missions you went on," LCpl. Benyak added. "You should have power in about an hour. Digging the trench to bury the cable will take more time than anything else."

 

They all took off and I took a short breather waiting for Jens and Liz. I must have been tired and they must have taken longer than expected because the next thing I knew Jens was waking me up. "SM Blaine, you're tired and stinky. Why don't you grab a shower and some chow and let us finish the mopping."

 

"That sounds like a great idea to me. Make sure you teach Liz which end of the mop goes on the floor." I teased.

 

"If you're not careful I'll show you where I can put the other end of the mop." She shot back.

 

I gave her an evil look, "You have more places to put that than I do."

 

Liz blushed and Jens said, "Hey you need to save that nasty talk for me, or did you forget I'm your fiancée. Now get out of here, let us work and don't come back for two hours."

 

I knew better than to disobey a direct order from Jens so I grabbed a change of clothes, my shower gear, my Barrett, my M4 and took off. The shower felt great and I spent so much time in there that I looked like a prune when I stepped out. I left the shower and headed to the mess hall to grab some chow. I'd forgotten how hungry I was as all I had to eat in the past day was the Hudson Bay bread.

 

I was just finishing dessert when an old friend walked up, "Son-of-a-bitch, they let any sorry-assed-bastard eat in this mess hall. Now I'm going to need to find someplace else to eat."

 

I saw the wrinkled smiling face of Gunny Horton standing in front of me - one of the best Marines I'd ever met! No one knew how old he was or how many tours of duty he completed. Rumor had it his family was killed right after he became a Marine and he never went home again. He just went from one tour of duty to the next and then to the next. I stood up and shook hands, "It's good as hell to see you Gunny Horton. What's it been, three years and a couple thousand miles?"

 

"Try four years and at least a million miles. You're looking good, shit really good. I guess civilized and engaged life is treating you well. So what's a fucking hero like you doing here with a bunch of lowlifes like us. I thought you'd be home drinking champagne and eating caviar." He grinned at me.

 

"Shit! I'm still a jarhead and always will be, I didn't do anything that any other Marine wouldn't have done. And if you weren't so old and feeble I'd have you drop and give me fifty."

 

"Yeah, I heard about the extra stripes. So how in the hell did you talk them into letting a Sergeant Major get his hands dirty with real fighting?" Gunny asked.

 

"They wanted me back and I wanted the stripes. I told them the only way I'd take them is if I could keep doing real work." I laughed.

 

"At least they didn't take any away this time," he laughed. "So what's this shit I hear about your spotter and fiancée being the Old Man's daughter. Word is all over the base about her, is she as beautiful as the rumors?"

 

I grinned, "No! She's more beautiful, and you and all the other horny old reprobates on this base had better steer clear of her. I'd hate to have to gut one of you."

 

He stopped laughing, "You're fucking that serious about her - aren't you?"

 

I looked him square in the eyes and nodded my head.

 

"I'll put the word out to everyone else, don't worry no Marine would every try to snake another Marine's woman."

 

"Thanks Gunny, I owe you one." I motioned to him and we moved to a table in the far back away from everyone else, "So Gunny, tell me what the fuck is going on over here."

 

He leaned in close to me, "The brass is confused as hell about what's going on, but I have some ideas."

 

"Shit! When isn't the brass confused. So are you going to spill the beans or am I going to have to beat it out of you?"

 

He laughed, "You know if I was a little younger, I'd kick your ass for saying that. Just remember, I may be old, but I'm devious as hell and I don't fight fair." He leaned in even closer, "These rat bastards aren't like any towel heads I've ever seen. First off, they're not a bunch of rag tag shit heads, they're organized as hell. Someone has been training these bastards."

 

"You must have some idea who's doing it?" I questioned.

 

He leaned in closer, "You never heard me say it but I think it's a two word country that the last word rhymes with labia."

 

I sat straight up, "You're shitting me!"

 

He motioned me back in, "If I'm lying, I'm dying. I had a chance to spend a little quality time with one of the bastards before he had an accident and that is what he told me. I went to the brass and told them my suspicions, but they dismissed them because that fucking cunt-ry is our 'friend'."

 

I leaned back and rubbed my chin, I needed to wrap my mind around what Gunny had just told me. I thought back to my previous tours and compared them to the battle last night. The bastards last night were well trained, well armed, and fought like drug-crazed fanatics.  I leaned forward, "I think you're right, but only partially. There has to be others involved."

 

"You might be right, but I couldn't say who." Gunny replied.

 

I started thinking: It could be one of many countries that would like nothing better than to see America disgraced by failure. I decided to file this away for later thought and ask Jens what she thought about it.

 

"So how in the hell are they moving the troops and supplies without us seeing them?" I asked.

 

"That's the big fucking mystery that no one can figure out. When they attacked the base we didn't have any warning, one minute things were calm and the next rockets were falling all over hell. I'm not supposed to know this, but we recovered one rocket that didn't go off and it had some sort of rudimentary guidance device. Plus they must have spotters because the longer the rockets were falling the more accurate they were getting. A few minutes after the rockets started the fucking suicide car bombers arrived. And right after them the crazy idiots sent in foot soldiers."

 

I thought about our trip into the base and I remembered all the abandoned building about a klick away. Gunny looked at me and said, "I know what you're thinking, it has to be the buildings. I told the fuckers when they put the base here that they needed to raze those building but no one listened to me."

 

I leaned back and became very thankful for the bunker that we'd been given.

 

He grinned, "I can still read your emotions like I'm reading a book. You can thank me for getting you guys the bunker. I told the brass that they wouldn't want that Morgan woman or the Old Man's daughter in the barracks. For once they listened to me."

 

I reached across the table and shook his hand, "Gunny, once again I owe you a big one."

 

"Shit, I've been keeping your ass out of trouble for so long you've become sort of a son to me. You take care of yourself and that fiancée of yours; I hear she's a real hellcat when she gets angry."

 

I laughed and rubbed my head, "That would be putting it mildly."

 

He looked at me and laughed, "Don't tell me she beat some sense into that hard head of yours, I've been trying to do that for years. I'm going to have to thank the hell out of her when I meet her."

 

"That she did Gunny. It's been good as hell seeing you again but I think I need to check out the rest of the base. When we get the bunker all done well have you over for 'dinner' some night. Jens makes a mean MRE." I said.

 

He laughed, "Anyone that can make a MRE taste good is worth keeping. Watch your ass as much as everyone's watching hers."

 

We both stood up shook hands and walked away in different directions.

 

I had killed about an hour and needed to waste another hour before I could go back. Shit! I might even make it an hour and a half just to be ornery. I thought I'd walk around and check things out. I walked into the barracks and ran into a bunch of Marines I knew. They were sitting around shooting the shit.

 

"Oh my god look what the cat drug in. It can't be Mister Hero himself!"

 

"Looks like someone that's been roped and hogtied to me!"

 

I didn't laugh, I didn't even smile, they got worried and shut up. "Hey don't get your panties in a bunch, we were just funnin' you."

 

I walked over and stood in front of the last guy and glared at him, "In the first place, I don't wear panties like you do. In the second place, I asked her, she didn't ask me and in the third place I didn't do anything that any of you wouldn't have done. All of you, ten-hut!" They snapped to attention. "Now that I have your attention fall out and tell me how the hell you all are doing."

 

We all started laughing. They sat back down and I joined them, "Gee SM you had us worried, we thought that you'd become all serious on us." Sgt. Grim said.

 

"Yeah, we thought you were going to bust our asses for that." Cpl. Cooper added.

 

"Well I seem to remember a certain MSgt. Pulling some of the same shit on me once." I looked over at MSgt. Donnelly. "Payback's a bitch that's biting at your butts boys. I should make you all drop and give me a hundred but I'd probably laugh myself to death watching the spectacle."

 

"You're still letting your mouth overload your ass I see." MSgt. Donnelly teased.

 

"At least my ass hasn't gotten so big that I need to wear a wide load sign on my back." I quipped.

 

"Shit, his ass has gotten so big they make him wear a beeper for when he walks backwards, you know sort of like a garbage truck." Sgt. Grim added.

 

The laughter and banter of my friends was sweet music to my ears.

 

"So where's Gilroy?" That question killed all the laughter. "He bought it on a mission about six months ago. Damn IED blew his Humvee to hell." Sgt. Grim answered.

 

"Shit! Sorry, I didn't know. He was a hell of a Marine and a great warrior," I answered.

 

"That's not the half of it. He left a wife and a young baby at home. We've been sending her some money each month because you know how shitty the survivor benefits are." Cpl. Cooper said.

 

I looked down at the floor; he'd been a good friend and a hell of a fighter. "Make sure I get her name and address, I'd like to send her a little something."

 

Sgt. Grim changed the subject, "So SM all joking aside is all the shit we're seeing on TV true?"

 

I grinned, "Don't tell me that you three bozos have started believing the crap they show on TV."

 

"Well we do when it's on the Truth Network. I tell you what, I used to hate that Morgan bitch and wanted to kill her sorry ass. But since she's started working for that new network she's changed," Cpl. Cooper answered.

 

"You do know she's here on the base." I said.

 

"No way! I'd love for her to give me a horizontal interview." MSgt. Donnelly said.

 

"Shit! You're so ugly you'd have to put a litter bag over your head and sneak up on her to even get a kiss." I teased.

 

"He's so fucking ugly that when he was born the doctor got confused and slapped his face instead of his butt." Cpl. Cooper added.

 

"No you're both wrong, he's so incredibly fucking ugly that when he was born the doctor slapped his mother." Sgt. Grim finished.

 

The three of us were laughing our asses off - Sgt. Grim always had the best come-backs. MSgt. Donnelly looked at the three of us, "What a fucking pack of laughing hyenas I've found. I guess you three are too busy laughing to drink a beer."

 

I looked at him, "Shit! You have beer here."

 

"You bet but it's only for my friends, and I'm not sure you three are my friends." He teased.

 

I looked at Grim, he smiled and said, "Then I guess you're going to be drinking it alone; because if we're not your friends then no one else is."

 

"With friends like you three I don't need enemies." He replied.

 

Sgt. Grim added, "I've heard it said you keep your friends close and your enemies even closer, so you'd better give us a damn beer."

 

He opened a cooler and threw us each a beer. We popped the tops and I said, "To Gilroy!"

 

The other three replied in unison, "To Gilroy!"

 

We had a great time shooting the shit and I lost track of time until I heard the fricken evening call to prayer from the mosque. At the end of the call a new rocket barrage started and I booked it back towards the bunker. Damn! They were correcting their shots too well and had to have a spotter somewhere. I started past the motor pool when I was called, "SM Blaine, get your ass over here we need you." It was Cpt. Kast. "There has to be a spotter around here somewhere, we're sending a group to find him and you're going too. You'll be working with Pvt. Jones and you two need to get up on the highest building that you can and provide support." We jumped in a Humvee and took off.

 

The Humvees headed out the gate with the rockets still coming in. We stopped at the tallest building next to the base and the Cpt. threw me a radio, "Get your ass on the roof and let me know what you see." The roof gunner started firing, we bailed out and beat feet to the building with bullets whizzing past us. I pulled my M4, breeched the door and ran into the building. There were a couple mother fuckers with AK's, we beat them to the draw and sent them to hell.

 

We found the staircase and started quickly but carefully working our way up it. "Jones, since we don't have time to clear the rooms, you watch our backs." We hit one floor and heard some firing, I motioned for Jones to follow, we slipped up to the door and I kicked it open while Jones fired. When the dust cleared the bastards were dead.

 

We ran back to the stairway and started up. We were almost at the top when some bastard above us started shooting at us. He had us pinned down until Jones fragged him. As the dust cleared we jumped up and made it to the roof door. I motioned for Jones to hold position and we both did a tactical reload. On three Jones opened the door and all hell broke loose, Jones barely made it behind the wall as AK rounds came streaming into the doorway. "Shit Sir! There must be twenty of them on the roof."

 

"Do you have any smoke?" I asked.

 

"Yes Sir,” he replied. I smiled, slid the M4 to my back, pulled out the Barrett and fired up the IR part of the scope while cranking the BORS system to 100 meters - I'd have to aim low.

 

"Pop smoke and then give me some cover fire." On three he popped smoke and started firing, I squatted and slipped the muzzle of the Barrett out the door. I could see the bastards through the IR scope and started firing. The fucking towel heads were so close that they were exploding when the .338 Lapua rounds hit them. They were firing wildly where they thought the door was. Every once and awhile they would get lucky and a round would come through the door.

 

I'd taken out five but the smoke was dissipating so more rounds were coming through the door. I ducked back inside and nodded to Jones, "This is my last smoke Sir."

 

I needed to improvise, so I pulled the M4 and put it against the side of the Barrett. I was going to use the IR scope on the Barrett to target the towel heads and the M4 to take them out. I nodded again and he popped smoke. I waited for the fire to slow and fell through the doorway lying on the roof. Using the IR scope on the Barrett worked great and I was ripping the hell out of the rat bastards. Jones was getting lucky and took out a few. I emptied the M4 mag, flipped it and kept going. A gust of wind came up and blew the smoke away. Jones jumped out and shot one and I shot the other rat bastards left on the roof.

 

We slammed the door and wedged a grenade in the handle. If anyone opened the door, they'd get a hell of a surprise and we'd know they were there. I called the Cpt. on the radio, "Alpha Tango, this is Bravo Juliet, there was fierce resistance but we have finally achieved our objective. Expect a sitrep soon."

 

Jones started on one side of the roof and I took the other. We checked the other building that had line of sight on the base. "Sir, I see something over here." I ran over to his side and I saw a bastard on the roof of the next building with binoculars. I pulled up the Barrett, ranged him and dialed in the BORS. I estimated the windage, did a mildot hold for it and fired - he crumpled.

 

We started looking for more when the grenade went off at the door. I dropped and pulled the M4 around and started waiting. Jones was on the other side so we'd have them in a cross fire. One stuck his head around the corner and we both took him out. I motioned to Jones to frag the doorway while I covered him. He ran close enough and chucked a grenade into the doorway. It went off as we both charged the doorway and found five more dead rat bastards.

 

The door was now blown to hell. "Jones, give me a frag and get your ass back out on the roof and see if you can find anyone else." He took off and I dragged two of the dead towel heads halfway down the stairs and positioned them so they'd have to be moved if someone was going to come up the stairs. I pulled the pin on the frag and slipped it under one of the bodies and then booked it back up to the roof.

 

"Sir, I have a target on the other roof." Jones announced. I ran over and saw another spotter. Shit how many did they have. I brought the Barrett around, did the range and windage calculations and sent him to hell.

 

We didn't see any more spotters, "Jones, see if you can get eyes on the site they're launching the rockets from."

 

He ran to the other side of the roof and the grenade went off on the stairs. I pulled the M4 and ran towards the doorway. I wanted to keep the bastards from getting on the roof. I edged to the wall where I could look down the stairway and waited for the dust to clear. When I could see, I started firing. Jones ran up and said, "I only have one more frag."

 

"Save it for later and cover the door for me."

 

I grabbed the radio, "Alpha Tango this is Bravo Juliet, we have control of the roof of this building and the two adjacent buildings. There were spotters on all three buildings."

 

"Roger, Bravo Juliet. Charlie Mike1 until further orders."

1 Continue Mission

 

Jones was controlling the doorway and I was checking the adjacent buildings for spotters. Every time one would show up, I'd take them out. Finally, they got wise to the situation and started spotting from inside the other buildings where I couldn't fire at them.

 

"Alpha Tango, Bravo Juliet reporting that the spotters are no longer coming on the roof - they're using the upper floor windows and I cannot neutralize them."

 

"Roger Bravo Juliet. The buildings are being targeted, you're ordered to bug out and call again when you're out of the building."

 

"Roger, Alpha Tango." I jumped up and headed to the doorway. "Jones, they've targeted the building and we need to bug out."

 

We both did a tactical reload; he pulled his last frag and dumped it through the doorway. After it went off we both jumped through the doorway and started firing. We alternated, covering each other as we leapfrogged down the stairway.  There were a shitload of terrorists and I wasn't sure what would happen when we got to the ground floor. We were halfway down the last flight of stairs and there was a huge battle going on. The fucking terrorists were busy shooting at Marines outside the building and didn't even know we were there. We both jacked in new mags and started firing. We had them in a crossfire! Some of the towel heads got so confused they ran out of the building to be taken by the Marines outside. The others died where they were.

 

Finally, there was no one was left to kill and things became amazingly quiet. I yelled out the password of the day received the response as we ran out of the building. There was Jens with a squad of Marines. I wanted to run up to her and give her a hell of a hug and kiss, but that would have to wait for later. I called in on the radio, "Alpha Tango, Bravo Juliet has exited the building."

 

"Roger, good job! Take command of the squad and get your asses back to the base."

 

We skirted the buildings and started leapfrogging our way back to the base. Our trip was interrupted as the airstrike took out the three buildings and all other buildings that were on the perimeter of the base. It was a beautiful sight seeing the buildings crumble and belch dust. As quickly as the battle started it ended and the streets were mostly quiet with just an occasional burst of gunfire. We still followed procedure and worked our way back to the gate. It had been another major attack, with rockets, foot soldiers and suicide car bombers. There was carnage everywhere. We ran into a few small pockets of resistance and kicked their asses.

 

The main gate was ahead and had suffered major mayhem. There were destroyed vehicles and bodies (mostly fucking terrorists) everywhere. They had the T-5 bulldozers clearing the wreckage after the bomb squads made sure it was safe. For right now the gate was closed and it appeared it would stay that way for a while. We skirted the vehicles and headed to the gate. We met the sentry, gave the password for the day and walked into the base.

 

Naturally, the base looked terrible! But there was a major difference with this attack - we could tell the rocket strikes weren't as accurate. We found the Second, "Sir, SM Blaine and squad reporting."

 

"SM Blaine, you and the squad did an excellent job. Stand down and get some chow and some rest. You and Sgt. Donaldson report to the BCO's new office in the morning."

 

"New office?"  I questioned.

 

"Yes, his old office was destroyed." Then the Second gave us directions to the new office. We turned and left.

 

I shook each of the squad's hands and thanked them and we parted ways. Jens and I started heading towards the bunker. "Sgt. Donaldson, it was sure good to see you when we came out of the building."

 

"SM Blaine, I told you I had your back. Besides I wasn't going to let you have all the fun." Jens grinned at me. Then she leaned close and whispered, "But if you ever take off again without me I'm going to kick your ass so hard that your lips will be brown."

 

I was going to complain that it was her fault for kicking me out of the bunker, but one look at her told me I'd better keep my mouth shut. She continued whispering, "I guess I can teach old devil-dog new tricks. It is a good thing you kept your mouth shut."

 

We were back at the bunker and Jens turned and looked at me, "I hope you're ready for this." She pulled the door open and it looked great inside. It didn't look like a home - it looked more like miniature barracks. Most of the bunker was a large open area with a couple of desks and all the supplies we brought.  Jens's laptop was on one of the desks and there was a bunch of other crap on the second desk. There was a small area cordoned off with blankets hanging from the ceiling and two cots right next to each other. "This is our room," Jens proudly announced. There was even a smaller area with one cot, "That's Liz's room." With another area the size of ours, "And that's for the crew." She remarked.

 

That reminded me, "Speaking of the crew, where the hell are they?"

 

Jens closed the door and jumped into my arms, "I told them I wanted some time alone with you so they're off doing something. They'll be back in a few hours."

 

We took advantage of the time the crew was gone to make-up for all the cuddling and kisses that we'd missed.

 

All too soon we heard a bang on the door as Liz and the crew walked in, "I hope you two are decent." Liz quipped.

 

Jens shot back, "We're not decent we're wonderful."

 

"How's the base looking?" I asked.

 

"It looks like hell, but not as bad as it did earlier. They've been working hard on clearing it up and they have the main gate open again," Liz answered. "By the way, we got some great video of both of you and the rest of the base today. I talked with Cpt. Kast and I think he's going to let me show most of it."

 

"Talked with him, hell! I bet you charmed the hell out of him." Jens remarked.

 

"I was thinking more like screwed his brains out." I laughed.

 

"Hey hero! He's a captain so he doesn't have brains." Liz retorted.

 

The crew started pulling off their gear, "Damn! It feels good to get out of this." Liz complained. "It does work well though." Jens shot her an evil look and Liz laughed, "I'm teasing I didn't take any hits today." Liz took the cameras and walked over to the second desk, "Now to show you two how we create our magic."

 

Jens and I jumped up and went to watch as Liz downloaded all the videos into some sort of computer thingy and started moving parts of the videos around. It was fun watching her but I grew bored and maneuvered Jens back to our beds.

 

"Damn! I've missed holding you and really missed your kisses." I said. "So tell me what's going on with your stomach."

 

"I don't know my love. I still think I have problems from that bruise I got when I tumbled into Liz. It's sore in that area and I have an occasional upset stomach." She replied.

 

 I looked her in the eyes and could tell it was the truth, "Shit! I wish we were back in the states. I'd take your ass to the doctor right now. Promise to tell me if it gets worse."

 

"You'll be the first to know." She promised.

 

"I forgot to tell you. I ran into four of my friends here on the base. What are the odds of that happening? I only have about ten people in the whole Corps that I consider real friends." I said.

 

"That's pretty high odds. So why do you only have ten friends in the Corps? I hope that I'm one of the ten!" She said.

 

I smiled, "I finally found something you don't know about me, and I don't know if I'm going to tell you."

 

She faked a major pout and I started laughing, "You still pout better than anyone I know. Perhaps if you asked me nicely I would tell you."

 

"Please tell me?" She pleaded.

 

"Okay, but I’ll tell just because you asked nicely - not because you pouted. You know that being a sniper is a lonely job and that makes it hard to make friends. When I call someone my friend, it means that I am instantly willing to die trying to save them. While I have ten friends, you are my only FRIEND!" I said.

 

She gave me a big kiss, "And I hope to be your only FRIEND with benefits someday!"

 

"You can bet on that." I replied.

 

"Hey! If you two are through playing tonsil hockey, I have something to show you," Liz yelled.

 

"One minute Liz," I called back. "One more thing my love, I found out one of my friends died and left a wife and baby. We need to do something for them. I have her name and address in my pocket and will give it to you later."

 

"I'll take care of it personally my love." She replied and we went out to see what Liz wanted.

 

"This had better be fricken awesome or I'm going to kick your ass for disturbing us." Jens threatened.

 

"Do I do anything that isn't awesome? Watch this..." Liz answered and showed us the video from today. I was shocked at how comprehensive it was. It was like watching a TV show of our life. No, it was way more than that – it was like watching a TV show about life on a Marine base and how everyday life, the mission in Afghanistan, and the terror of war are intertwined. They showed us cleaning up the bunker, the mess hall, the showers and all the other little parts of the base. The destruction from the first attack was tactfully covered.

 

They showed my interaction with Gunny but thankfully no audio, "What were you two talking about?" Jens questioned.

 

"I'll tell you later." I replied.

 

It showed the meeting with my other three friends and even included the beers.

 

When the attack hit the video was phenomenal. Jens squeezed my hand when she saw the Second divert me from returning to the bunker, "I should kick his butt for that." She grumped.

 

I saw Jens talking to the BCO and getting a squad together to come and "rescue" me. She was quite upset and in his face. I chuckled, "Thanks honey. But if you keep talking to the BCO like that you're going to get your ass in trouble."

 

"The bastard wasn't going to give me a squad and I simply explained to him he'd better." Jens grinned.

 

I thought to myself, Jens is going to push it too far someday and even though her daddy's the General she's going to have to pay.

 

The video of the rockets hitting the base showed how they were bracketing the targets and then narrowing the pattern and hitting them. I'd never seen an attack this accurate. Then we saw a swarm of vehicles approaching the base like a cattle stampede. But the base was ready and the approaching vehicles were being destroyed with .50 cal machine guns. It switched back to the rockets, and showed they were no longer bracketing the targets but instead appeared totally random. One took out the BCO's office and Jens squeezed my hand, "Serves the bastard right!" It finished with the squad (including us) returning to the base.

 

Liz spun around in the chair, "Well what do you think?"

 

"I think that it was great Liz! I've never seen anything better." Jens gushed.

 

"It wasn't bad, but you need to take out the part with the beer." I teased.

 

"Wasn't bad! If you weren't my best friend's fiancé I'd kick your butt." Liz complained.

 

I grinned, "Gotcha! It was the best war video I've ever seen, but you do need to edit out the beer scene."

 

Liz gave both of us a big smile, "I'll do that and send it off tonight. I'm tired and hitting the hay." We looked over and the crew was already in their area sawing logs. "Shit! Am I the only one in this bunker that's not going to snore!" I said.

 

"What the hell do you mean Marine! Jens and I don't snore!" Liz said.

 

"That's right! And if you don't like sleeping in here you can go sleep in the barracks." Jens added.

 

I looked at them, didn't know what to say so instead challenged, "Last one in bed is a rotten egg." Then I beat feet towards the bed.

 

Afghanistan – Day Thirteen

 

AK fire wakes me - I should know I'll never get a decent amount of sleep around here! It sounds different this time, not like a firefight but more like – well like I don’t know what! I roll out the back of the truck with my Dragunov to see what the girls have found to fire at. I look towards the entrance to the canyon and I see a shepherd and a bunch of sheep heading into the canyon. The girls are firing trying to keep them away from the improvised claymore I set part way into the canyon. Instead of having him retreat, they have him confused and the sheep scared.

 

I take off running towards the claymore, hoping to beat him and the sheep to the tripwire. Yelling like a mad man, I also hope to scare them back. The bastard must think I'm a demented mad-man because he pulls out an old rifle and starts firing at me. Thank God he’s a bad shot and I don’t have to dodge much. I try to remember exactly where the trip wire is and calculate whether I'm going to get to the wire first or one of his sheep.

 

Oh, no! One of his sheep is almost ready to hit the tripwire so I pull up the Dragunov and blast the hell out of the sheep. This pisses the shepherd off even more and he's yelling and firing at me more than ever. I reach the claymore just in time to grab the tripwire so it won't go off. The shepherd is running towards me, yelling, and waving a big knife - I guess he ran out of ammo.

 

He is almost on me as I disconnect the tripwire. I wait for him to reach me. He runs up and swings the knife, I dodge it, grab his arm, throw him to the ground and hold him there. He's saying something - probably just cussing up a storm at me. Yasmeen runs up and then starts talking and he begins to settle down.

 

"Ben, you can let him up now." Yasmeen tells me.

 

I let him up and he gives me a very dirty look and then spits on the ground in disgust. From the tone in her voice, I can tell Yasmeen is ripping him a new asshole. She grabs him, points to the improvised claymore, and makes a bunch of motions with her hands. I can tell by his expression that he finally understands and says some things to Yasmeen.

 

"Ben, he says he is sorry for shooting at you and for trying to kill you with the knife. But these sheep are how he feeds his very large family."

 

"Yasmeen, ask him for his name and tell him I'm sorry I had to kill the sheep." Their conversation continues.

 

"His name is Elhaam and he is glad you saved his life."

 

"Tell him we will pay him for his sheep and he can have the meat for his family."

 

"Ben that is a very good thing and he will be happy." Yasmeen tells him and he is very happy, shaking my hand and jabbering at me.

 

Breaking off the handshake I comment, "Yasmeen, we need to have something to eat and get ready to travel for the night. Start making dinner and I will take down the rest of the booby trap."

 

She says a few more things to Elhaam and takes off. As I disassemble the improvised claymore and start walking back to the truck, he follows me - jabbering the whole time. We reach the truck and I tell Yasmeen, "Pay Elhaam so he will leave me the hell alone. I'm tired of hearing all of his yammering."

 

She laughs, goes in the truck, comes out with some money, and hands it to him. They both start jabbering again, annoying me. I interrupt, "Yasmeen, I'm going to go relieve Zarika so she can help you with the cooking. I go to the back of the truck, load up with some more weapons, and head up the hill towards Zarika.

 

"Ben, thank you for coming up here, I need to take a break," she says.

 

"Zarika, please go down and help Yasmeen with dinner and I'll stand guard." She starts to pick up all her weapons, "Don't bother with those; I'll bring them down later."  Zarika hugs me and leaves. Finally, I have some peace. I turn as I scan the area with my binoculars and see a large amount of dust coming up the road. This canyon is quite a way off the road and we hid the tracks well, (so well the shepherd didn't notice them) so I'm not too concerned about being discovered. I hunker down and decide to just watch and wait. The closer the dust gets, the more unsettled I feel because this is way too much dust. I am so preoccupied watching the dust, I don't even hear the signal from the girls that the food is ready. I turn around to check on the truck and see Zarika climbing the hill with a plate of food. It's comical to watch her trying to negotiate the hill and not to spill the food.

 

She finally reaches me, "Ben, why did you not come to dinner, we signaled you many times."

 

I point to the dust, "That plus a bad feeling is why."

 

She turns and sees the dust, "That has to be many trucks, do you think we are safe?"  I signal for Yasmeen to come up. She has the best eyes and I need them now. I shovel down my food, "Ben, do not eat so fast; you do not even take time to taste your food and you will get sick." Ignoring her, I finish dinner in thirty seconds.

 

Yasmeen reaches the top of the hill, "Oh, look at all that dust. Ben may I have the ben-oculars."

 

I chuckle under my breath, "Here are the binoculars. I hope you can see more with them than I can."

 

Yasmeen spends a couple minutes looking and finally says, "I see a big bunch of trucks, what do you call that a voycon?"

 

"I think you mean convoy. Can you see anything else about them?"

 

She keeps looking and announces, "They have a sort of round blue thingy on the door."

 

I take the binoculars, look and can barely see what she sees. Damn! She has good eyes. I hand the binoculars back to her, "I need to think. Zarika, please take some weapons and go to the other side of the canyon. I don't think they will come in here but I want to be ready just in case."

 

"Yes Sir!" Zarika says with a laugh and takes off.

 

I scratch my chin and think to myself that something just isn't right. Those look to be UN trucks, but my gut tells me they wouldn't have a convoy in this part Afghanistan. The whole area is still under Taliban control.

 

"They are close enough that I can sort of see the drivers, they look to be chewchemeks." Yasmeen informs me. "I count ten trucks and at the front they have a, what do they call those… a dummer."

 

"I think you mean Hummer or Humvee. Thank you Yasmeen, your eyes have given us an advantage again." I take the binoculars back and look closely, Damn! My eyes must be getting bad, I do see that they look something like UN vehicles and she's right - the drivers don't look quite right either.

 

We watch as they pass by the front of the canyon and continue down the road. They are definitely not UN troops driving the vehicles. I’m sure they are Taliban and my curiosity is piqued about what they are carrying and where they are going. However, I'm not stupid enough to chase after them to find out. We wait until the light has almost faded and head down to the truck.

 

"Ben, who were those chewchemeks driving the trucks?" Zarika asks.

 

"Those were UN trucks, but I think it was Taliban that were driving them. We will need to be careful that we don't run into them. Well, let's hit the road."

 

Yasmeen says, "Would not that hurt your hand if you hit the road?"

 

Zarika says, "That's a saying meaning let us go."

 

"I do not think I will ever learn all these funny sayings." Yasmeen pouts and reminds me of Jens.

 

We climb into the truck, the girls settle in and we head out for tonight's drive. Zarika smiles at me, "Ben, sing us a song so we can go to sleep."

 

I tuck the blankets around the girls and start:

 

Stars shining bright above you;
Night breezes seem to whisper I love you?
Birds singing in the sycamore tree.
Dream a little dream of me.

Say nighty-night and kiss me;
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me.
While I'm alone, blue as can be,
Dream a little dream of me.

 

The girls are tired and fall right to sleep and I decide that this song is definitely the wrong song to sing tonight. My mind starts remembering Jens - and how much I miss her. It hurts so badly that I feel physical pain in my heart. My mind wanders and it's almost like I can see her again. But the same sad image of her in being upset, being in a small gray room and exercising seems to appear before my eyes. I cannot get this image out of my mind! What the hell does it mean and why do I keep seeing it?

 

Reality snaps me out of my vision (or whatever the hell it is). There's another gorodok ahead. I can't make up my mind whether to wake the girls or not, so I decide I'm going to let them sleep. I slow slightly as we head through the gorodok and this time we make it through with no problems. I relax and heave a sigh of relief. I keep a very close eye on the rear view mirrors to make sure that we don't pick up a tail.

 

I scold myself for forgetting to ask Yasmeen about the truck scaring the locals and traveling during the day. It seems as if I forget too many things lately. Jens would bite my butt if she was here. I round a blind curve hidden by a hill and see a bunch of vehicle lights ahead. I quickly kill our lights, kick the truck out of gear, and let it roll to a stop so the brake lights don't alert anyone ahead of us.

 

The stopping truck wakes up Zarika, "Ben why are we stopping?"

 

"I think the convoy we saw earlier is ahead of us."

 

She sits up and sees the lights of the vehicles, "Did they see us?"

 

"They're pretty far away, probably two klicks, so I don't think so. Otherwise they'd coming after us."

 

"What are we going to do?" She asks.

 

"First I'm going to disable the tail lights on this truck and then we’ll talk about the rest of my plan." I make sure to turn off the dome light on the truck and hop out the door. I rummage around behind the seat in the toolbox, find a pair of wire cutters, and cut the wires for both tail lights, I scold myself again for not doing this when we first commandeered the truck. I find my flashlight with the red lens and instruct Zarika, "Get in the driver's seat. I'm going to get some gear out of the back and then I will use this flashlight very close to the ground so others can’t see the light. You will turn the truck around and follow me until we're past the hill and they can't see us. If you see any of the trucks move, get the hell out of here."

 

I load up as much gear as my still weak body will let me carry and walk around to the front of the truck, put the flashlight close to the ground and scan the area. The road is good here so I don't think we will have any problems. Zarika turns the truck around and we slowly drive back down the road. I keep a close eye on the convoy until we can't see them anymore. Finally I heave a sigh of relief and walk up to the driver's door.

 

"Zarika, wake up Yasmeen - we need her to hide the truck tracks. Turn the lights on and let's see if we can find someplace to hide this truck." Yasmeen grumbles as she's awakened, "Do not tell me something else is happening. I will look old if I do not get enough sleep."

 

I chuckle to myself thinking how can anyone so young be thinking about beauty sleep. "There seems to be a little road over here, let's follow it," I tell Zarika and hop on the running board of the truck. She slowly maneuvers the truck onto the side road. We travel about three klicks and find a nice place to hide the truck.

 

"I'm climbing to the top of the hill and I'm going to reconnoiter the convoy." I tell them.

 

"Ben I will come with you!" Zarika says.

 

"Me too, me too!" Yasmeen repeats.

 

"Who's going to stay here and guard the truck if you both come with me?"

 

"I am faster than Zarika so I should come." Yasmeen announces.

 

"I am a better shot so I should come." Zarika counters.

 

"Yasmeen, I think you will stay and guard the truck. It's a bigger honor and you did such a good job last time."

 

"Maybe I should stay?" Zarika says.

 

"Too late I already made up my mind. Yasmeen will guard the truck a Zarika will be my pack donkey – I mean Zarika will come with me."

 

Yasmeen says in a sing-song voice, "Zarika is the pack donkey! I get to guard the truck!"

 

"I am not the pack donkey!" Zarika announces.

 

I don't want this to degenerate into a full blown argument so I interrupt, "We've wasted enough time. Let's get some gear and get moving."

 

We move to the back of the truck and I load Zarika with a bunch of gear. I hope we don't have to take off running because we are both carrying our limit. "Yasmeen, make sure you stay awake and keep the lights off. If anyone comes up to the truck, shoot them," I say as Zarika and I head up the hill.

 

When we've gone far enough from the truck that Yasmeen can't hear Zarika says, "Ben, you did not fool me with the guarding the truck is a bigger honor and calling me the pack donkey. It was nice that you did that for my little sister so she wouldn't feel left out."

 

Damn! Did that remind me of something Jens would say. "You're half right. I wasn't going to bring either of you but decided I wanted you to help carry some ammo so you are sort of the pack donkey. After we get to the top of the hill I'm sending you back to the truck and I don't want any arguing."

 

"Bullsheet!" Zarika says.

 

"Hey! It's not good for young ladies to swear and besides you said it wrong!" I scold her, "You will go back to the truck."

 

We're almost to the top and I hit the dirt and start crawling - Zarika does the same. We reach the top of the hill and I can see the lights from the convoy. I un-sling the Chinese M99 sniper rifle and mess around with the scope until I figure out how to turn on the night vision part. I look through the scope. Shit! It's only gen-one night vision. Oh well it is better than the IR scope on the Dragunov.

 

"Ben,, what do you see?" Zarika asks. I turn on the IR scope on the Dragunov and hand it to her, "Here you go, look through this and let me know what you think."

 

As we're both looking through the scopes she says, "Ben it looks like they are loading things into the truck from an airplane."

 

She's right! I see them moving what looks to be boxes of weapons from an airplane into the trucks. I scan the trucks and it doesn't look like there are very many troops - I estimate maybe thirty.

 

"Zarika, get back to the truck and help Yasmeen guard it. I'm going to start shooting these chewchemeks," I order.

 

"I will not! I am going to shoot them too." With that statement she fires the Dragunov and surprisingly hits one of the chewchemeks. There will be time to spank her butt later -now I need to get busy! I have no idea how this piece of crap Chinese rifle will work or even how it is sighted in, but I give it my best guess and fire. Amazingly, the rifle doesn't blow up and I hit the chewchemek about a half a foot lower than where I aim. It doesn't much matter since the 12.7 mm round blows him to hell - tossing him up in the air just like shooting prairie dogs on the plains of Colorado.

 

I fed another round into the rifle, damn this bolt is stiff as hell, line up on the next chewchemek and fire. Again hoping this rifle holds together! It does and he goes flying through the air. This is just like using our .50 BMGs in Operation Anaconda. Zarika keeps firing and is hitting about every fourth shot.

 

They are able to figure out our position from the muzzle flash of this piece of crap Chinese rifle. As start returning their fire I order, "Zarika, you get the hell out of here right now and don't give me any shit!" She ignores my order, grabs an RPG and blows the hell out of one of the trucks. It must have ammo in it because as it starts burning you can hear the rounds popping off. I grab another RPG and nail another truck - this one must have been carrying explosive ordinance because the truck and the adjacent trucks on either side erupt in a huge explosion that shakes the ground and lights up the whole night with its fireball. It dazes the chewchemeks that are close.

 

With the flash from the RPGs they no longer have any doubt about our position and are making a hell-of-an effort to shoot us - the rounds are getting closer all the time, "Zarika you need to leave now!" She still ignores my order and keeps firing the Dragunov at the chewchemeks.

 

I decide that the RPGs are the best way to take out the trucks so I load up the launcher and take out another truck. This one must have carried supplies because it just caught fire. They get wise so the front trucks start taking off and the plane starts its engines. Shit, I want that plane! "Zarika, we need to destroy that plane. Do you have any more rockets?"

 

"Yes Ben, I have one." She scoots close to me with the rocket. I load up the launcher and take aim as the plane is starting to move and let it fly. We both watch as the rocket slams into the plane, blows a big hole in the side and the plane shudders to a stop. We watch as the remaining trucks disappear into the night. I bring up my M99 and start finishing off the chewchemeks left behind. Some of them finally give up trying to shoot us and run off into the desert, I hit as many as I can as they are running away.

 

We wait for a while looking for movement but don't see anything, "I think we need to get out of here. And you young lady are in serious trouble for not listening to my orders."

 

Zarika give me a raspberry, "If you were my husband I would do as you told me, but you are my big brother and I do not have to listen to you. Did you forget what the chewchemeks did to me? I have more reasons to kill them than you do."

 

She is right. But she also has to obey orders so I'm not sure how I will handle this. I was so sick from spanking them the last time that I don't ever want to do that again. About the only thing I can think of is banishing her to the back of the truck. As we head down the hill and I don't even talk to her.

 

"Ben say something to me." Zarika asks. I decide that maybe I’ll try the silent treatment. I remember when Jugs (Shit, I haven't thought about her in a long time) used to pull the silent treatment on me, it really bothered the hell out of me! That’s it!  I won't say anything!

 

"Ben, why won't you talk to me?"

 

She keeps pleading with me all the way to the truck but I totally ignore her. Dawn is coming as we get to the truck. Yasmeen runs up, "I heard all the noise and was worried you two might be hurt. I am so happy to see both of you. Was it a good battle?"

 

"It was an excellent battle and we sent many chewchemeks to hell." I answer.

 

Yasmeen looks at Zarika and sees she is upset, "What's wrong big sister?"

 

"Ben won't talk to me."

 

Yasmeen also gets upset, "Ben, why are you being mean to Zarika?"

 

"Yasmeen, don't get me upset with you too! Zarika was a very bad girl, did not listen to my orders and put us both in danger. I am very angry with her and if I say anything to her it will be ugly. So I have decided since she will not listen and follow orders then there is no reason for me to talk to her." I then take the weapons to the back of the truck. Of course I listen to what the girls say.

 

"Zarika, did you do what Ben said?"

 

"Yes I did. He wanted me to come back to the truck and I wanted to stay and help him. I did not want to just be his donkey."

 

I don't remember ever hearing Yasmeen get so angry before. I wish I knew what she said, but she slipped into their native language. It sounds like she ripped her up one side and down the other. She keeps it up for about five minutes and finally comes to the back of the truck.

 

"She was a very bad girl and I told her on for you!"

 

I puzzle for a few moments with what she said but finally figure out the problem, "You mean you told her off for me."

 

Yasmeen sighs, "I do not think I will ever understand these crazy American sayings."

 

Zarika walks up, "Ben I am sorry for what I did."

 

I look at Yasmeen, "Tell Zarika that I do not believe she is sorry and until I am sure she is sorry and I am convinced she will always obey my orders I will not forgive her or talk to her. Tell her she will be riding in the back of the truck until then."

 

Yasmeen looks at me as if I am crazy and then figures it out and repeats my words to Zarika.

 

Zarika defiantly says, "I heard him and you don't have to repeat his words!" Then she climbs into the back of the truck.

 

"Yasmeen, we destroyed several trucks from the convoy and damaged the airplane. We will need to be very alert as we drive by them because there might be chewchemeks that are still alive."

 

"I will be alert too!" Zarika grumps from the back of the truck.

 

I chuckle under my breath as I walk towards the driver's seat. Hell yes, I'm being mean! But I have to teach her to obey me and this is my form of giving her 'office time.' I would do the same thing with any Marine under my command. We were lucky with the convoy since there were so few soldiers. If one of those trucks had been carrying troops it might have ended differently. I did smile as I thought about what a hell-of-a little-warrior she's become.

 

We climb in the cab and I say loudly, "Yasmeen, I'm very proud of you! You followed my orders and did an excellent job guarding the truck. I know you wanted to come and help when you heard the fight, but guarding the truck was more important."

 

Yasmeen smiles, at me (Damn it reminds me of Jens), "Ben you are right. I almost came when I heard the fight. But I knew if we lost the truck we would die."

 

I hear a little sniffle from the back of the truck and Yasmeen gives me a sad look. I shake my head no and start up the truck.

 

"Ben will we stop and look at the trucks and airplane? I've never seen an airplane up close." Yasmeen asks.

 

I had been wondering that myself, "I think we will play it by ear and see what things are like when we get there."

 

Yasmeen starts pulling on her ear, "I do not understand about playing with my ears. How does that answer my question?"

 

Zarika yells from the back, "It is another silly saying. It does not mean playing with your ears, it means that we will wait and see what happens and decide what to do then."

 

"Oh, then why did you not just say that? These sayings are so confusing. Someday I hope to understand them like my big sister does." Yasmeen announces.

 

There is enough daylight to see and since I don't need the truck lights anymore I turn them off. We round the hill and I stop, "Yasmeen, you drive. I want to climb on the roof and watch for any live chewchemeks. You can tell Zarika she needs to sit up front with you." I barely make it out of the truck before Zarika is climbing into the cab, I can tell she does not like riding in the back.

 

I walk around back, grab a couple of RPGs, some grenades, some mags for my Dragunov, and climb up on top of the truck. I stand up and scan the destroyed convoy with the binoculars. It's a fucking mess and will not be easy to drive through. I watch closely and see some movement but it’s only an injured chewchemek.

 

I hop off the roof, "Yasmeen it's a big mess and we need to change plans. I will drive and you will ride in the passenger seat and Zarika will be in the back. There are some chewchemeks that are wounded but still alive and they will probably fire at us."

 

She looks over at Zarika; Zarika flips me the bird and climbs in the back of the truck. "Zarika, shame on you!" Yasmeen scolds. Zarika's hand comes back into the cab and she gives Yasmeen the finger.  "Bad girl!" Yasmeen scolds.

 

I bite my lips to keep from laughing because it will encourage Zarika and offend Yasmeen. It's damn complicated with these two and I always feel like I'm a half step behind them. I should have known that Zarika would not listen to me and follow orders.

 

"Okay Yasmeen, get ready and tell Zarika that she needs to be ready."

 

"I have been ready longer than you have." Zarika yells from the back of the truck.

 

"Ben, will we help the hurt chewchemeks?" Yasmeen asks.

 

Damn! I don't want to deal with the wounded. "Yasmeen, I think the ones that will survive took off into the desert already."

 

She looks at me and I know I cannot let her see the wounded. Damn what to do? "Yasmeen, I have changed my mind again. You will drive us close to the convoy and I will get out and check things out by myself. When I signal, you two will come and pick me up. You will need to switch places, Zarika will drive and you will be in the back of the truck and watch for anyone coming up from behind."

 

I drive us about a klick from the destroyed convoy, stop, climb in the back and start loading up. I'm glad to be done for a while with the M99, I don't trust that rifle.

 

"Yasmeen, use those eyes of yours to watch behind the truck, and tell Zarika not to sleep but to watch in case the convoy comes back. You will probably hear some gunfire, do not get worried."

 

I bail out the back and start trotting up the road. My strength is gradually returning and I can feel it now. I've barely had any time to do exercises so it must be all the fighting we've done. I slow as I approach the convoy and start working my way closer using natural cover. Things are really fucked up and I'm glad the girls, especially Yasmeen, can’t see this. I see some movement off to the side and crouch behind some bushes to watch - it's a wounded chewchemek trying to crawl. I bring up the Dragunov and put him out of his misery. The report wakes up the others that are wounded and I hear a bunch of calling. I count four distinct voices and try to mark their locations.

 

I slip closer and a shot rings out almost clipping my shoulder and reveals his location. I work my way around until I can see him. I'm close enough I can pull my pistol to dispatch him. That stirs the rest of them up and they are yelling which just makes them easier to find, but I'm going to be more careful this time. The next chewchemek is so badly injured he can't even move. I sneak up on him and pull my Ka-Bar to end his misery.

 

The other two are still making noise so it's easy to find them. I come up to one of them and he starts firing, I wait until I hear a click of an empty weapon and jump out and nail him. The last one stops making noise and I figure I can find him later. Since I want to check out the plane, I carefully head towards the hole in the side of the plane and peer in. The plane is full of weapons and supplies with Chinese markings on the boxes. I throw a couple of incendiary grenades into the plane and take off running.

 

I just start searching for the last survivor when I hear our truck coming with the horn beeping. Zarika slides the truck to a stop and I jump in, "Ben, there's dust coming behind us." She floors it and takes off.

 

"Yasmeen what do you see back there?"

 

She sticks her head into the cab and scares the crap out of me, "I see a big cloud of dust coming up the road. Give me your binoculars and I will look more."

 

"Ben, it looks like another big bunch of trucks are coming up the road." Yasmeen announces.

 

As we drive by the mess of convoy and burning plane, the last wounded chewchemek starts firing at us and Yasmeen shoots from the back of the truck, "Ben I killed the chewchemek."

 

"Good job Yasmeen, he was too sick to live anyway." I say trying to make her feel better.

 

"Zarika, we need to switch places while we're driving like you did with Yasmeen."

 

"Okay Ben, I am ready."

 

I grab the wheel, start steering, and slip my foot on the accelerator, Zarika pushes herself up and I slide under the wheel, she plops on the seat and starts to ready her AK. I need to get far away from the convoy and the plane so we can hide until dark. I'm sure the plane had a radio and they must have called for help.

 

"Yasmeen, tell me what you see."

 

"The dust is gone; I think the other trucks stopped at the convoy."

 

I feel relieved, "Okay Yasmeen I need your eyes up here to look for a place to hide. Zarika, you keep a watch behind us. I don't think they will stay stopped for very long."

 

I look over and this time Zarika looks like she really is sorry. I say, "Zarika you did a very good job driving the truck to pick me up." She turns and smiles at me, "I am very sorry Ben and I will try to listen to your orders again. But I get so excited when we fight the chewchemeks."

 

We travel for an hour and a half until we find a good place to hide. This one is even further off the road than we've been before. Even so I have Yasmeen and Zarika wipe out our tracks. After they’re finished, I go back and double check it while they fix a meal. I set two improvised claymores before heading back to the truck.

 

I sit down to eat and realize how tired I am, and just play with my food instead of eating it. "Ben, you need to eat your food." Yasmeen tells me.

 

"I'm not hungry; I'm just tired and I want to go to sleep."

 

"You will sleep better with some food in your stomach. Now don't complain and eat all of it." My heart is breaking because she reminds me of how Jens takes care of me. I force myself to eat and then fall asleep in the back of the truck and the dreams of Jens continue.