Chapter 02

Wanderer Chapter 02

 

Flashback – Ben – Jack's house

 

Jack and I had one big difference: I hated the down time between missions and just wished I could stay in the field all the time, while he really enjoyed the downtime the best. Anna was the cause of the positive feelings in Jack and the negative feelings in me.

 

When we got back from a mission, Anna did her best to screw Jack's brains out and if the almost constant noises from their bedroom were an indicator Jack would be brainless in a few more days. Just in time for our next mission.

 

The negative was that Anna tried even harder to find a girl for me. Don't get me wrong, I like women! But none of the ones she found for me filled the empty gaping hole in my soul. Take as an example the girl-de-jour she provided last night. It was another damn setup dinner: Anna talked me into cooking a great meal and a friend just happened to show up at dinner time. She couldn't fool me, her friends were always dressed to the nines and expected to have me for dessert.

 

The conversation was always banal and inane. I had to fight boredom and feign interest in her conversation the whole dinner. Blah, blah, blah do you like this new dress? Blah, blah, blah do you like..? I always wanted to say, "Fuck No! I don't like any of that shit and I like your skanky ass even less." But I couldn't disrespect Jack and Anna by being that rude.

 

Then like magic, the extra bottle of wine would appear and I would be expected to whip up after dinner drinks. Most of the time I cut way back on the alcohol in them. There's nothing worse than a one night stand combined with a hangover the next morning.  I glanced at what's her name, soundly sleeping beside me. She was tired from a couple hours of lovemaking and I knew she meant nothing more to me than just a way to release my natural urges and was an annoyance in my bed while I tried to sleep. Why did all women steal the blankets? Well, at least I got about four hours sleep last night.

 

There were some great advantages to being a sniper, and learning stealth was one of them. It was always so awkward the next morning waking up in bed with them. It was even worse when they wanted to repeat the performance of the night before. It was better for me to just leave and I had the perfect excuse (one which Jack and even Anna couldn't complain about) - the required morning PT.

 

I slipped out of bed and didn't even wake the current "sleeping beauty" beside me, set my alarm clock for 0800, jumped into some workout gear, grabbed my go bag1 for the gym and headed out the door for the run to the base.

 

1 Go bag – a pre-packed bag you keep ready for emergencies. And believe me, getting out of the house before she woke up was a hell of an emergency.

 

The hardest part of my whole plan was deciding how long to stay away from the house. If it was awkward waking up in bed with them, it was a hundred times worse coming home to them and Anna discussing why I dumped their skanky asses. That's a mistake a man only makes once - just like asking a woman "when she's due" and finding out she's not pregnant.

 

I knew I should just move out and find my own place, but Jack had become my surrogate family and I knew it would affect our relationship if I moved out. So I did what all good Marines do, I improvised, adapted and overcame. Last night's girl was really clingy and had even told me she loved me in the middle of her passion. That was always a very bad sign! I figured it wouldn't be safe to come home until about 1500 today. So, I was going to have an even better workout today than I had last night.

 

The run was good and I started to sweat her skanky smell off me so I really looked forward to a hard workout today. I'd do some body weight exercises, break for breakfast, then come back and do some free weights. I’ll take a break for lunch and then I hoped I could find someone to spar with. After that I'd spend a long time stretching and then run home. And tonight Anna wouldn't be able to capture me since I had a gig at a local bar. Now this was my idea of a great down day.

 

Flashback – Jens – Marine gym

 

I was nervous as heck today! I told Mom and Daddy I wanted to spend the weekend at my BFF Megan's house, but really I had a better plan. I'd just finished my Master's degree and was heading off to college in a week to start my PhD. I wanted a fricken fling with Ben before I left! Shoot I was still the only v-i-r-g-i-n I knew of in my class and I hoped to end that today.

 

Megan and I woke up early. She applied my makeup the way we practiced so I looked much older than my seventeen years of age. When she finished I looked in the mirror and stuck my tongue out at my ugly brown hair - why did I ever let Mom talk me into changing the color of my hair? I looked much better as a natural blonde. Shoot I even looked better the one time I had camo hair. I just, well didn't look at all like me with ugly, poopy-brown hair. I wanted to get it changed right back, but the fricken h-o-m-o hair dresser told me all my hair would fall out if I died it again so soon.

 

Megan gave me a big hug and said, "Jens, you look great. I can't wait to hear how this all works out for you." I hugged her back and answered, "Megs, thanks so much for everything. I'll call you later."

 

I snuck out of her house and ran to the gym. Mom and Daddy would kill me if they knew what I was doing, but I had no choice. I knew Ben was back from a mission and would be there for a workout. As I ran, I dreamed about the day he would ‘work me out’ and secretly hoped it would be today.

 

Oh yeah, I'd studied the heck out of my Ben and I knew his routine by heart. But today I was going to throw a monkey wrench named Jennifer Donaldson into that routine! I was fricken ready for him and I could do the heck out of his routine! But either I was early, or he was late; and the wait was truly terrible.

 

Finally when he came into the gym, my knees got all shaky and I almost lost my courage and ran away. He put his gym bag in the corner and then walked to the pull-up bar beside mine. I looked over at him, smiled and said, "Good morning."

 

He barely glanced at me and replied, "Good morning."

 

I jumped up, grabbed the bar and did ten perfect pull-ups, then dropped off the bar. I was a little peeved he didn't notice me, but he was busy doing fricken pull-ups. So I did another ten perfect pull-ups. Again he didn't notice me. Rats, this wasn't working out at all like I planned. He was supposed to see me, be so enthralled with my beauty and my body that he'd ravish me right on the gym floor. Then I'd tell Mom and Daddy I was preggers so Ben and I would get married and we'd live happily ever after.

 

I needed a new plan so I put my mind to work and I sort of figured out something sneaky, but it was too early to put the whole plan into effect. I did get his attention when I announced, "You aren't doing those pull-ups correctly."

 

He stopped, hung on the bar, turned his head, looked at me and challenged me. "What are you talking about?"

 

Oh boy! That got his attention. I explained, "You have a flaw in your form and you are cheating."

 

He said, "Like hell I am!"

 

I acted real big and said, "You sure as fuck (oh boy, I barely said that word) are."

 

He dropped off his bar and said, "Okay Miss Smarty pants let's see you do better."

 

I looked at him, hid my worry and said, "Just watch me." I jumped up, grabbed the bar and did another ten perfect pull-ups. My heart fluttered the whole time because he was more than watching me, he was analyzing me. I dropped off the bar, looked him in the eyes and said, "That's the way to do pull-ups Marine. My form was perfect and I didn't cheat like you did."

 

He said, "Let's see you do that again."

 

I challenged him, "Couldn't see the difference between my form and yours?"

 

He answered, "I think I did but I want to observe your form from all sides."

 

I was getting tired, but I jumped up, grabbed the bar and did ten perfect pull-ups. Ben stepped very close to me and walked around me while I did them. I was so stinkin excited I barely held on to the bar. He was behind me as I finished. I dropped off the bar, turned around and there he was only about a foot away from me. I almost jumped onto him and gave him a big kiss, but I controlled my emotions, smiled at him and asked, "Well, did you enjoy the show and did you see the difference?"

 

When he smiled at me, I almost fainted as he answered, "You're right, I did notice a difference. Would you be able to do them again, only this time slower?"

 

Oh Boy! My arms were so tired, but I had to try again. I acted nonchalant and said, "Sure thing." I jumped up, grabbed the bar and started another ten perfect pull-ups.

 

Ben interrupted and asked, "Can you go slower?"

 

I tried doing them slower, but I was just too tired so I said, "My arms are getting too tired."

 

He answered with, "Let me help you." When he grabbed my waist, it tickled so I giggled and fell off the bar - right into Ben's arms. I almost passed out I was s-o-o-o-o excited! He lowered me gently to the ground, blushed and said, "Uh gee Miss I'm so sorry I didn't know you were so ticklish."

 

I grinned at him, came up with a great idea and said, "How about if you do the pull-ups and I adjust your form?"

 

He said, "I'd really like that, and just so you know, I'm not ticklish." He grabbed the bar and started doing pull-ups.

 

I got behind him, reached out, pulled back a little on his arms and said, "See, you're letting your arms get too far forward on these and you don't work your lats as much."

 

He pulled his shoulders back and asked, "So I need to be like this?"

 

I was so stinkin distracted, because the muscles in his arms felt like heaven to me and his cutie booty was right in my face. I could almost take a bite of it, it was s-o-o-o-o cute.

 

He tried to again get my attention by asking, "Excuse me Miss, so my arms need to be like this?"

 

I nodded my head and replied, "Yes Sir, that's how you want your arms on these." He did twenty-five more and said, "Watch this." He let go with one arm and then did five one armed pull-ups, switched arms and did five more with the other arm. Then he dropped of the bar, turned around and I thought he was going to kiss me - but he didn't.

 

He had worked up a sweat and I noticed he had a funny smell. I figured out it was some fricken female-dog's perfume. I decided to have some fun and asked, "Nice cologne you're wearing but it's a little more feminine than I like. What's it called?"

 

Oh boy! Ben turned about a hundred shades of red, sputtered and said, "Uh-uh-uh, to be truthful my kid sister wore this t-shirt and it's her perfume."

 

He was the absolute worst liar I'd ever seen! I thought about asking him about his "kid sister" but I wasn't sure I wanted to know who or what he'd done last night. So instead I said, "Well ask her what perfume it is next time you see her." He looked up at me and I saw the relief creep across his face. He asked, "Are you any good at pushups?"

 

I grinned at him. "I know a little about them."

 

Flashback – Ben – Marine gym

 

Wow! Today's workout sure turned out differently than I expected. Normally I had the gym to myself, but this time there was a young woman Marine working out when I got there. She seemed awful young to me, but she wouldn't be in the Marines if she wasn't at least legal age. I ignored her at first, then she informed me I wasn't doing my pull-ups right - that got my attention!

 

I watched her do a set of pull-ups and noticed right away she was correct. I'd become lazy and let my elbows slip forward. But I wanted to have some fun with her so I had her do sets until she was tired and then I asked her to do them really slow. She complained her arms were tired, so I grabbed her waist to help. I didn't know she was ticklish until she fell off the bar into my arms. I wanted to kiss her, but for some reason I didn't.  Then she helped me do some pull-ups but it seemed like she was distracted. The hour I spent with her was better than all the dates Anna tortured me with. I started sweating and she noticed the perfume from last night’s bitch on me and asked me about it. I was sure I was busted, but was able to BS my way through it. I didn't want her to leave so I asked, "Are you any good at pushups?"

 

She replied, "I know a little about them." Her answer reminded me of a Lynyrd Skynyrd song I planned on doing tonight. I grinned and offered, "Ladies first."

 

She dropped to the floor and did ten of the most perfect pushups I'd ever seen.

 

I whistled, "Wow watching you do pushups is like watching ballet."

 

She stood up, grinned at me and said, "You mean like this." Then she did a bunch of ballet moves, ending with a spin right in front of me and questioned, "I didn't think Marines watched ballet?"

 

I turned red, looked at the floor and answered, "Well, I never really watched ballet in real life, but I did see it a few times on television."

 

She reached out, raised my head and said, "That's nothing to be ashamed about. Ballet is almost as hard as learning how to shoot well."

 

I grinned at her and said, "Don't tell me you know how to shoot?"

 

She giggled and replied, "Silly, I'm a Marine and all Marines, even women Marines know how to shoot. So are you any good at shooting?"

 

I smiled and answered, "Oh I know a little about shooting."

 

She stepped back and said, "Oh Really. So, what's your name Marine?"

 

I answered, "I'm L.Cpl. Bennie Blaine."

 

She squinted at me and flirted outrageously, "Don't tell me I've been in the presence of Banzai Ben and didn't even know it? I've heard about you and I'd say you know more than just a little about shooting. From what I hear you're one of the best the Corps has ever seen." Her praise made me blush, then she started doing some sort of little dance.

 

Flashback – Jens – Marine gym

 

Oh boy! This went better than I ever dreamed it would, except he hadn't even kissed me yet! As I'd become more calm and comfortable, Ben became more nervous. I felt s-o-o-o-o-o much like a grown woman now! Megs told me Jack or his fricken girlfriend was responsible for setting Ben up with women, but I didn't totally believe her until now.

 

I finally worked the conversation around to one of Ben's favorite things, shooting. And he's s-o-o-o-o modest, so I bragged the heck out of him, it made him blush and I did my little dance. I held out my hand, shook his hand as hard as I could and said, "Pleased to meet you Banzai Ben."

 

He sort of sang, "So what's your name little girl?" And I recognized it as a Lynyrd Skynyrd song.

 

Oh shoot! I never came up with a fake name, I quickly said, "I am PFC Maria Gonzalez, but my friends call me Speedy Gonzalez."

 

He looked me over and replied, "You're the whitest Latino I've ever seen and you don't have a trace of a Spanish accent. ¿Cómo son usted Maria?"

 

Son of a gun, I didn't know much Spanish so I needed to bury this quickly as I replied, "Soy Banzai Ben fino." I added, "Grandfather was a Spaniard so that's why I'm so white and we always spoke English at home so I think you've exhausted my knowledge of Spanish."

 

He changed subjects with, "Well I haven't done any pushups yet. How about I do some pushups and you watch my form to make sure I haven't been lazy with them too?"

 

He started his pushups. I l-o-v-e-d watching his body move and secretly wished I was under him and he was doing pushups on me! He snapped me out of my dreams when he asked, "So how am I doing and why do your friends call you Speedy?"

 

I watched him do several more and answered, "You look perfect to me." Then I blushed as realized what I said, so I added, "I mean your pushups are perfect. My friends call me Speedy after the cartoon character Speedy Gonzalez, because I can run really fast."

 

Ben answered, "I thought that might be why they called you that. I've heard many Latinos are offended by that cartoon and I'm amazed you aren't."

 

Rats, this lie had started to become a problem so I needed to shift the focus. I replied, "I'm really not sensitive about my Latino heritage. In fact you look more like a Latino than I do." Then I joined him doing pushups.

 

He replied, "Everyone tries to tell me I look Latino but I'm not. Mom was from Brazil and dad was a Cherokee."

 

I asked the next logical question, "Are you sensitive about your cultural heritage?"

 

He stopped doing pushups, looked at me and said, "I don't know why you're so easy to talk to, but you are. I used to be very sensitive about it, and was teased all the time when I was a boy. Some of the kids in school called me half-breed." Then he looked at the floor and added, "But that was beaten out of me and it doesn't bother me anymore."

 

For the first time in my life I felt waves of pain and sadness, flowing from Ben. I wanted to hug him, kiss him and tell him everything would be okay. But I was too afraid, so instead I touched his shoulder and said, "Hey Ben, kids can be really cruel. Don't worry, I think it's cool you're Brazilian and Cherokee."

 

He shrugged his shoulders and offered, "Not too many people tease me about it anymore."

 

I grinned at him and replied, "Of course not, people know better than to tease a Marine."

 

I got real embarrassed when my stomach rumbled. Ben looked at it and said, "That sounds like an order from your stomach telling us we need to eat. I'd love some company for breakfast."

 

He stood, helped me up and I said, "Lead the way."

 

He turned and replied, "Hey, I'm Recon not Ranger."

 

I wasn't sure what he meant but we both laughed about it.

 

Flashback – Ben – Mess hall

 

I had such a great morning, especially after meeting Maria. At first she was annoying, then I was intimidated but now I was really comfortable with her and found myself talking to her about things I don't normally talk about. She had such a cute blush when her stomach growled, but I'd been hungry and used it for an excuse to grab some chow. I grabbed my go bag, she grabbed her gym bag and we walked out of the gym. I looked over at her and said, "So your friends call you Speedy because you're so fast?"

 

She smiled at me, "You bet, one of the fastest."

 

I answered, "I bet I can beat you to the mess tent."

 

She grinned. "And what are we betting?"

 

I knew what I wanted to bet with her: I wanted to bet a kiss, but it didn't feel like it was time yet. So instead I offered, "Well, I'm playing a gig tonight at a local bar. If I win, you come as my date."

 

Her eyes twinkled as she answered, "And what do I get if I win?"

 

Before thinking, I replied, "Almost anything."

 

She thought about it and looked so cute when she bit her lower lip as she said, "How about you take me out for a fancy dinner tomorrow night?"

 

I couldn't believe it! This was a win-win situation for both of us. I held out my hand and said, "Deal."

 

Maria shook my hand, said, "Deal" and then the sneak took off running and yelled, "See you at the mess tent."

 

Yeah she was pretty fast, but I wasn't in much of a hurry because I was enjoying the view. There's something about watching a woman with long hair run, I love the way their ponytails flip around, not to mention the movement of other things. For a minute I thought about letting her win, then I got a better idea and blew right past her. She yelled, "Hey! Slow down."

 

I yelled, "Run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me."

 

She yelled back, "What are you the fricken Gingerbread Marine?"

 

I was a good two blocks ahead of her when I reached the mess tent. I stopped, turned and waited for her. She ran up, a little winded and said, "Rats! I guess I owe you. I was really looking forward to dinner with you tomorrow night."

 

I looked at her and offered a compromise, "Well, how about I fix dinner for you tonight before our date?"

 

She grinned and said, "As long as you can cook more than MREs."

 

I smiled and asked, "Is there anything you don't like food wise?"

 

She laughed and said, "Nope as long as there's enough food, because I'm usually a hungry-hungry hippo. You want me to stop by your house?"

 

I answered, "Sure come by about five."

 

Flashback – Jens – Mess hall

 

Shoot! I have my first date with Ben and he's taking me to a fricken bar. How in the heck am I going to get into a bar since they will surely ask for ID. I thought I could outrun him to the mess tent and then he would take me out for dinner tomorrow night.

 

I got really bold and grabbed his arm as we walked into the mess tent. I put my mouth close to his ear and said, "I need to visit the ladies room and I'll be right back. Would you please get me a tray of food just like yours?"

 

He smiled at me and answered, "Sure thing, how do you take your coffee?"

 

I became real bold, flirted and replied, "With a little bit of cream - you know about the same color as you and just as hot." I squeezed his arm and took off for the ladies room.

 

I went past the ladies room, over to the phones and called Megan. She answered the phone and said, "Hello."

 

I frantically said, "Megs, it's Jens and this is a red alert!"

 

She laughed and answered, "Jens calm down. What did he do, kiss you?"

 

I replied, "Not yet but I expect it anytime. He asked me to go to a bar with him tonight and watch him play guitar."

 

Megan giggled, "I think that's going to be a huge problem Jens. You're too young to get into a bar."

 

I said, "Duh Megs that's why I'm calling you. Do you still have the friend that makes fake IDs?"

 

She answered, "Natch, and I bet you want me to get one for Jennifer Donaldson. How old should we make you?"

 

I said, "No, I need one for Maria Gonzalez. And make me twenty-one."

 

Megan laughed, "Maria Gonzalez, Jens you don't look Hispanic at all."

 

I answered, "Yeah Ben told me that already and I told him a huge fib but he believed it. Before I forget, can I wear one of your nice, sexy dresses tonight?"

 

She laughed, "I should make you wear one of those dresses your mom likes to buy for you."

 

I yelled, "Come on Megs, this is serious and you know I wouldn't make my dog wear one of those."

 

There was a short pause and she answered, "Of course you can wear one of my dresses. And Jens you need to think like a Canadian Mountie."

 

I questioned, "Megs what the heck do you mean."

 

She laughed, "Well, they always get their man. Don't worry. I'll have everything all ready for you." The phone went dead.

 

I headed back towards the mess hall and froze in my tracks because Daddy was there and was talking with Ben. Rats, double rats and triple rats!!!

 

Flashback – Ben – Mess tent

 

General Donaldson came into the mess tent and caused a big uproar. He liked doing this because it made him feel closer to his men. What it really did was make most of us uncomfortable.

 

I was shocked when he came over to me but I stood at attention as he said, "As you were L.Cpl. Blaine." I relaxed as he looked at the table and continued, "It looks like you're not eating alone today. Is Sgt. Reynolds here?"

 

I replied, "Sir No Sir! He's still at home. I am eating breakfast with a new friend I just met."

 

He gave me a look and asked, "Female friend?"

 

I blushed but answered, "Sir Affirmative Sir!"

 

He laughed and said, "Well, you two have a good time. And tell Sgt. Reynolds I want to see both of you in my office bright and early Monday morning."

 

I knew we had another assignment so I happily replied, "Sir Yes Sir! I certainly will. "

 

He said, "Son you'd better sit down - your food is getting cold."

 

I answered, "Sir Yes Sir!” I sat down and looked for Maria. Finally after General Donaldson left, she showed up and asked, "Was that General Donaldson I saw talking to you?"

 

I stood up, helped her into her chair and excitedly replied, "Yes Maria it was. He wants to see and my spotter Jack in his office on Monday. I think we have another mission."

 

I watched as she frowned and said, "Shoot, I was hoping I'd get to spend more time with you before I leave."

 

The joy I had about the mission disappeared and I asked, "Son of a gun, I didn't think about that. When do you leave?"

 

Maria answered, "In one more week. I'm not sure where I'm going yet."

 

I looked down at the plate and picked at my food, Maria said, "Hey come on Ben, we've got the rest of the weekend and I can't wait for our date tonight. I might even have a surprise for you."

 

I grinned at Maria and said, "Let's finish breakfast. I was going to suggest we go for a run, but I really need to start getting ready for the meal I'm cooking for you tonight."

 

She smiled and asked, "What are you, some sort of gourmet chef?"

 

I shoveled food in my mouth, but took a break long enough to say, "You'll just have to wait until tonight and see."

 

She giggled and commented, "Well, the way you're eating now tells me all I need to know about your cooking skill."

 

I finished and threatened, "I'm going to make you eat those words!"

 

Maria replied, "Men and their promises."

 

I looked at her and added, "If tonight isn't one of the best meals you've ever eaten, I'll give you a hundred bucks."

 

She answered, "And what do I owe you if you're right?"

 

Again I thought about a kiss, but at the last second I changed my mind and said, "How about a big thank-you?"

 

She took the bet by saying, "It's a deal!" Then she giggled and finished her food. I helped her with her chair and she teased, "Wow a Marine and a gentleman. I thought those were mutually exclusive."

 

I grabbed both trays, and as we headed towards the door I answered, "Maria, I think you will find I am a little different type of Marine."

 

She smiled and asked, "Different in which way?"

 

I teased back, "Can’t you tell?"

 

She grinned and answered, "I hadn't noticed."

 

I looked hurt but she punched me in the arm, laughed and said, "Hey, I'm just teasing you."

 

I winked at her and added, "So was I." So she giggled all the way to the door.

 

It was awkward leaving her at the door since I could tell neither of us wanted to part. But I had a bunch of shopping to do and even more cooking - she was going to eat her words!

 

We stood there, looked at each other but finally she hugged me and said, "So, I guess I'll see you at five tonight?" Then she turned and ran off. I watched her until I couldn't see her anymore. Then I ran back inside and called Jack.

 

When he answered the phone I said, "Hey Jack."

 

He interrupted, "You know Sally and Anna are all upset by you leaving this morning."

 

I stated, "Tell them I'm sorry, but I had to do my morning PT - it's a Marine requirement."

 

Jack grumped, "Cut the crap, Banzai! We both know you didn't want to be here when she woke up. You've got to stop doing this."

 

I got upset and grumped back, "Then you tell Anna to stop trying to set me up with every woman she meets. Jack I'm tired of it and I'm going to move out if she keeps it up."

 

Jack was quiet for a moment and answered, "Listen Banzai, I'll have a talk with her, but she's worried about you. She feels if she doesn't set you up on a date, you'll just sit in your room and play music all the time."

 

I offered, "Well tell her that's changing tonight. I'm bringing someone home for dinner and then taking her with me to the club tonight."

 

He laughed, "Banzai, you aren't shitting me are you?"

 

I said, "Jack, she's a Marine and seems almost perfect for me."

 

He chuckled, "So what's wrong with her?"

 

I replied, "Well, she's pretty young and to be truthful, she has the worst hair color I've ever seen. It's sort of shit brown and just doesn't seem right on her. She'd look a lot better as a blonde."

 

Jack was quiet for a moment and teased, "Yeah you've always had a thing for blondes. Whatever you do don't tell her about her hair color. If it's that bad she probably doesn't like it, besides women change their hair color as often as they change their minds. So can Anna and I meet her?"

 

I thought a moment before I answered. "Yeah, I'd really like it if you and Anna could meet her. Just make sure Anna behaves since I don't want her to scare Maria off."

 

Jack chuckled again, "Banzai, trust me! Anna will be so happy when she hears this I'm going to get lucky again. This will be the first woman you've brought home to meet us. I'll also make sure Anna cleans up the house some."

 

I had a thought and added, "Thanks Jack, this is sort of important to me. I'm headed home now to cook up a special meal."

 

Jack added, "And I'll make sure Sally's leaves now."

 

I questioned, "Who's Sally?"

 

Jack laughed, "She's the girl you dumped last night."

 

I felt guilty and apologized, "Sorry I forgot her name."

 

Jack said, "Don't worry about it! You have someone else on your mind." I heard him laugh as he hung up the phone.

 

Flashback – Jack – Early Sunday Morning my house

 

The phone rang and woke me out of a deep sleep. I pushed Anna off my arm and answered it, "Hey Jack, sorry to wake you up."

 

I sleepy answered, "Banzai, where are you and why are you waking me up so early?"

 

He answered, "Well Jack, they said I only get one phone call and I didn't know who else to call."

 

Shit that woke me up completely so I sat up in bed and said, "Don't tell me you're in jail."

 

He laughed and replied, "Okay, I won't tell you that I’m in jail. But it would be nice if you could come down here and bail me out."

 

I thought, well if I can bail him out at least he didn't kill someone, so it's not that bad. I asked, "So what the hell did you do this time?"

 

He chuckled and answered, "Disorderly conduct. I started a fight at the club."

 

I chided him, "Dammit Banzai, one of these days you're going to go too far."

 

He interrupted, "Jack, you know me well enough to know I don't normally start fights. But this time it was called for. I was playing and some bastard came up to Maria and started to hassle her. When he grabbed her arm, well, I dove off the stage and kicked his ass. I guess his five friends didn't like it, so I kicked their asses too. Then it sort of escalated from there. The next thing I knew the whole bar was in a huge fight. The police came in and arrested all of us. I was going to ask you to bail out Maria, but I guess someone already posted her bail. But you should have seen her Jack. She was kicking ass right beside me! We were a hell of a team!"

 

I thought, this is all I need, a female Banzai to look after. We'd met her at dinner last night and she was cute as hell, but seemed really young. Banzai was right, she had the worst hair color I'd ever seen – shit brown. They were so funny it was all Anna and I could do to keep from laughing as they were making eyes at each other all night long. And both shy as hell! I felt guilty because we were supposed to go with them, but Anna got all excited about the two of them so we stayed home and had our entertainment in the bedroom.

 

I answered, "Okay Banzai, I'll be over in a bit to get your sorry ass out of jail. But you really owe me for this one."

 

He replied, "Thanks Jack, and tell Anna I'm sorry for waking her up."

 

Anna had flipped on the light, looked at me and demanded, "Jack, what the hell is going on?"

 

I replied, "I need to go bail Banzai out of jail."

 

She gave me the look and said, "Jack, you know better than to give me a half-assed answer like that. I'm not letting you out of this bed until I get the whole story."

 

So I repeated everything Banzai said to me. When I was done she exclaimed, "Dammit! Those two were perfect for each other and I hoped Ben would be fixing the four of us breakfast this morning. Well what are you still doing sitting in bed. Move your lazy ass, bail him out of jail and find out what happened to Maria."

 

I thought, well if you had not made me tell you everything, I'd already be half way to the police station. Anna gave me the look and said, "I know what you're thinking and you'd better not say it. Now move your ass."

 

Flashback – Anna – Early Sunday Morning Jack's house

 

Dammit! Ben finally brought home a real winner of a girl. I say girl because she was young as hell – I wasn't even sure she was legal. I didn't want Ben getting a SQQ2 and ending up in trouble, so I asked to see her ID.  She whipped it right out and it looked really good, it even had some wear on it. But if she's twenty-one I'm a Chinese aviator.

 

2 San Quentin Quail = Underage female

 

Young love was sure grand, and maybe in this case was ten-grand! They made eyes at each other all night long and touched hands. Maria gave Ben so many compliments on dinner I thought his face was going to be permanently red from blushing. Shit I bet if we weren't here he'd do her right on the table… and the floor… and the couch…

 

All their shenanigans got me hot and horny as hell so instead of going to the bar and dancing, Jack and I stayed home and did the horizontal tango - several times. The lazy old fart made me do most of the work. I needed to get his ass out of the bed and make him train more with Ben. And now I was scolding the hell out of myself since we should have gone to the bar with them. I bet with Jack around no one would have bothered Maria.

 

And now things were fucked up. Ben's in jail, Maria's gone and…

 

Shit the phone rang, I answered, "Jack, is that you?"

 

There was a pause and I heard on the other end, "Is this Sergeant Jack Reynolds house?"

 

I grumped, "Who wants to know?"

 

The unknown voice answered, "This is General Donaldson's aide. I need to speak with Sergeant Reynolds as soon as possible."

 

I replied, "He's out for a while can I take a message?"

 

There was a short pause and the aide replied, "Tell Sergeant Reynolds he's to bring L.Cpl. Blaine and report to General Donaldson's office as soon as possible."

 

I answered, "I'll let him know when he gets home." As I hung up the phone I wondered what the hell was going on!

 

Flashback – Jens – Sunday Morning on the way to college

 

One of the policemen who broke up the bar fight was an ex-Marine and somehow recognized me. I guess he owed Daddy a favor, called him in the middle of the night and somehow kept my real name off the records. Shoot they didn't even put me in the same holding cell area as Ben. They put me in a private office with two female-dog policewomen to watch me. I was even handcuffed to one of them like a common criminal. Since when did it become a crime to be in love? Then I remembered another story of love and how tragically it ended. I grinned and thought how much my life resembled Juliet and my parents the evil Capulet's. Then I daydreamed and wondered if I died tonight, would Ben buy a vial of poison and kill himself as Romeo did for Juliet?

 

The policewoman yanked my handcuffed wrist and said, "What are you grinning about princess?"

 

I wasn't about to tell her the truth so I looked at the policewoman and said, "I need to go to the ladies room."

 

She chuckled and said, "Well, we don't have no ladies room here but I can take you to the can."

 

We walked to the ladies room, through the door and she said, "Okay, which stall do you like."

 

I gave her my dirtiest look and answered, "You need to take off my handcuff first."

 

She grinned and explained, "I was told by the desk sergeant to make sure I didn't take these handcuffs off you until your father showed up to get you and I'm sure as hell not going to disobey him. Beside, you think you have some sort of special equipment down there I don't have or haven't seen?" Then she laughed.

 

I bit my lip and answered, "I-I-I guess I don't need to go after all."

 

She laughed and replied, "That's what I thought. Suit yourself princess - let's get back to the office."

 

She yanked on the handcuffs some as we walked back and I complained, "What did I ever do to you to make you mad at me."

 

She stopped, looked at me and unloaded, "You know I'm sick and fucking tired of snotty-nosed rich bitches like you sneaking out on the weekends and getting into trouble! Then my partner and I get stuck babysitting your sorry bony asses until your parents show up and bail you out. If you were a black sister, there wouldn't be any of this special treatment."

 

A tear slowly slipped down my cheek and I answered, "Well, I sure didn't ask for special treatment."

 

She laughed, "No, none of you ever have to ask for it. It's just expected."

 

We sat down in our chairs. I pouted and wondered what Ben was doing. Tonight sure didn't end like I thought it was going to end. I hung my head, dreaded the time when Daddy would show up and secretly wished I could die.

 

Well death didn't come, but Daddy sure did and oh boy was he ever mad at me! He stormed into the office and commanded the policewomen to, "Take the handcuffs off her!"

 

The nasty policewoman grinned at me as she took off the handcuff so I wanted to stick my tongue out at her, but I was already in enough trouble. Daddy sat down across the table from me and I started to cry. I expected Daddy to do something, but he just drummed his fingers on the table. I snuck a look at him and he said, "Jennifer, your tears aren't going to work this time."

 

Rats this was the very first time my tears ’aren’t going to work’! I looked at Daddy and said, "Daddy, I'm sorry. Please forgive me."

 

He kept drumming his fingers and slowly replied, "That's not going to work either. You're in very deep trouble this time."

 

Double Rats! That didn't work. I had one last thing to try so I looked Daddy in the eyes and said, "Daddy, I know what I did was wrong, but I'm in love."

 

Well, he stopped drumming his fingers and replied hotly, "I bet it's that young L.Cpl. Bennie Blaine! I heard all about you meeting him at the gym this morning. And when I'm done punishing you, I'm going to send him so far away they'll have to deliver his mail by dogsled."

 

Triple Rats! Daddy was going to do something terrible to Ben and I had to stop him. I looked straight at Daddy and stated, "Daddy, I don't think you want to do that."

 

He bellowed in reply, "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't!"

 

I pulled myself together and bravely promised, "Because if you do that to Ben, I will run away and you and Mom will never see me again."

 

He blinked his eyes, looked at me closely and said, "You wouldn't dare do that to us."

 

I smiled and said, "Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, if you do that to Ben I will run away."

 

We continued the argument for another ten minutes, I won a couple battles but so did Daddy. Finally we came to an agreement and Daddy said, "Your mother can never know about this."

 

I agreed, "Daddy, I would never tell her, she'd kill Ben.

He added, "And then kill me right afterwards."

 

Daddy stood up, opened the door and in walked a Marine. Daddy said, "Jennifer, this is Lieutenant Dunbar. He's going to be escorting you to school and making sure you're safe. Remember our agreement. If you leave school then the agreement is terminated."

 

I didn't like this one bit so I sassed, "So Lieutenant Dunbar, are you going to throw me over the saddle on your horse to take me to school."

 

He didn't even smile as he replied, "No Miss Donaldson, this is the real world not some dumb movie like Dances with Wolves."

 

I wrote a letter to Ben (part of the agreement with Daddy) and Lieutenant Dunbar and I left immediately for graduate school.

 

Flashback – Jack – Sunday Morning General Donaldson's office

 

Well the Old Man was in a huge uproar and was chewing and kicking ass all over the place! He called the house while I was gone bailing Ben's ass out of jail. When we got home we had to change and head right over to his office. Now we're waiting outside and so far he's yelled at everyone that went in.

 

Banzai almost got arrested again as we left the jail. He was going to kick the desk sergeant's ass because he wouldn't give him any information about Maria. Then, on the way home Banzai was all fired up and wanted to find her - that's all he talked about. Once we got home and he found out we needed to go see the Old Man he became sullen. Normally he loved going to see the General because it meant we were headed out on another mission, but not this time. Anyone who said love is grand had it all wrong, love isn't grand, it's retarded.

 

Now he was in a nasty mood and sulked in the corner. I went next to him and said, "Hey Banzai, listen to how the General's chewing ass. You'd better get your head out of yours before we go into his office."

 

He gave me a dirty look and snarled, "Why should I? We're going to leave on a mission and I won't have a chance to spend time with Maria before she leaves."

 

I got in his face and threatened, "Yeah if you don't fix your attitude, you'll end up in the brig and I sure as hell bet you don't want Maria to see you there."

 

His eye flickered for a moment, the fire went out of them and he said, "Yeah you're right about that. It was fun when we both got arrested, but I'd hate for her to have to come and visit me in the brig."

 

I attempted to add some more guilt with, "If she will even visit you in the brig."

 

He gulped and questioned, "You think she'd be so upset she would never see me again if I got thrown in the brig?"

 

I knew I had him and replied, "You can never tell with a woman, especially a young woman. I could make this an order, but I won't. I would suggest you totally control your emotions in the Old Man's office and not even say a word. Something has him more pissed off than I've ever heard and I know how you have a penchant for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Whatever he says, agree with it and let me do the talking."

 

He looked at me and softly said, "I'd really like to see Maria before we leave."

 

I looked at him and lied, "I'll try my best to see if we can get the two of you together.” I really had no idea how I was going to get them together.

 

It was finally our turn and we walked into what I was sure was going to be hell…

 

Flashback – Ben – Sunday Morning General Donaldson's office

 

The second we walked into General Donaldson's office, Jack tensed up. I wanted to get in General Donaldson's face and ask him where the hell Maria was, but while I didn't promise Jack I would keep my mouth shut, I sort of implied the promise. I finally noticed another man in the office: He was in suit but was certainly not a civilian. Then I tensed up.

 

General Donaldson opened his mouth and asked, "So Sgt. Reynolds and L.Cpl. Blaine how are the two of you this morning?" I was stunned because he was being nice (too nice) to us. Jack replied, "Sir, we are both fine and reporting as you requested. Sir!"

 

He looked at me and asked, "And how about L.Cpl. Blaine."

 

I looked at Jack and understood he wanted me to speak. I said, "Sir, it's an honor to be in your office on a Sunday morning. Sir!"

 

He gave us both a smile but I'm sure it was the same smile a mongoose gives a cobra right before he kills the snake and said, "Sergeant and Lance Corporal, I'd like you to both meet Mr. Smith." He stood up and we both shook his hand, I gave him a hell of a Recon handshake and saw the pain in his eyes as I did.

 

The General continued, "How many mission has your team been on Sgt. Reynolds."

 

Jack replied, "Sir, I'm sure you know how many missions we've been on Sir!"

 

The General looked at me and smiled, "And L.Cpl. Blaine, how many of those missions have failed."

 

I proudly answered, "Sir! None of those missions failed. And on many of the missions we exceeded expectations. Sir!"

 

He looked at both of us and tapped his fingers together. Then he said, "Mr. Smith works for the Federal government and has been asking for the benefit of your expertise for several years. He finally convinced me that you two would be a better asset to him than to the Marines. So effective immediately you two are being reassigned. You will both do exactly what Mr. Smith tells you to do."

 

Jack's mouth fell open and I'm sure mine was even worse. Mr. Smith said, "You have two hours to muster your gear and put your situations in order. Meet me at the gate because there's an immediate emergency assignment we have for you two."

 

Jack looked at me, then back at the General and said, "Sir! I just want to understand. We are being temporarily reassigned to work with Mr. Smith and we are to follow his orders?"

 

General Donaldson smiled and said, "I'm not so sure about the temporary part. But yes, for right now you two will follow Mr. Smith's orders."

 

I could tell Jack was mad as hell and I waited for him to lay into the General because I was going to be right behind him. Jack looked around the office and then like a miracle I saw the anger leave. He looked at the General and said, "Sir! We understand and will follow your orders. Sir!"

 

The General looked me and said, "Lance Corporal your dismissed."

 

I looked at Jack and he gave me ‘the don't fuck with things’ look and I replied, "Sir! Yes Sir!"

 

I turned, walked out of the office and fumed while I waited outside in the hallway.

 

Ten minutes later Jack came out. I looked at Jack and demanded, "Jack what the hell's going on?"

 

He looked at me and for once he looked really old, tired, sad and then said, "Banzai when you're as old as I am you learn to choose your battles wisely. And this was one battle we couldn't win. The Old Man decided to farm us out to the spooks and there's nothing we can do about it."

 

I got in his face and answered, "There sure the fuck is! We can quit the Marines."

 

Jack gave me his old looking smile and said, "Did you forget how long you signed up for, because I sure as hell didn't. I can tell you the Old Man isn't about to let us resign for any reason."

 

I was frantic and grabbed at a straw, "Then I'll go fucking AWOL. I need to find Maria."

 

I saw the saddest look I'd ever seen creep across Jack's face as he handed me a letter. I looked at the envelope, noted it was addressed to me and I ripped it open. My heart sunk through the floor as I read.

 

Ben,

 

I wanted to thank you for a wonderful time last night. I will always remember it and cherish it in my heart. Fighting in the bar beside you was the best time I ever had and will ever have in the future.

 

Unfortunately, I had to deploy early this morning without getting a chance to say a proper goodbye to you. I'd hoped we'd become very close friends, but unfortunately I don't think that will ever happen now.

 

Just know, when you're lying on your bed at night, I will be thinking of you and praying for you. Perhaps someday in the future we will be together again.

 

Your friend,

 

Maria

 

Flashback – Jack – Sunday Morning

 

I watched as Ben read the note and watched as his whole demeanor changed. He became that hard bastard I'd see occasionally. He angrily crumpled the note, threw it in the trash and I asked, "What did the note say Banzai?"

 

He stoically replied, "It doesn't matter anymore! Fuck her and fuck the world! Let's get the hell out of here and get our gear. We have a fucking assignment." He walked out the door in front of me, slammed the door in my face and headed towards my car.

 

I opened the door and yelled after him, "I'll be right there, I need to make a phone call first."

 

He didn't turn but acknowledged me with the finger. Damn, was he ever pissed off! I should kick his ass for the finger, but not now, not when he's in this mood. I went over to the phone and called home. Anna answered in a bitchy mood, "Jack is that you? It's about fucking time you called."

 

I replied, "Don't interrupt me and you'd better fix your attitude! We're headed home and Banzai's more pissed off than I've ever seen. But that's not all. When I was in the Old Man's office I noticed a picture of his family. Maria is his fucking underage teenage daughter. She left a note for Banzai and after he read it he said 'fuck her and fuck the world' and stormed out to the car."

 

She couldn’t believe it. "Ben swore? Did he see the picture and notice it was Maria? And what in the hell did the note say?"

 

I answered, "Yeah he's so upset he swore. I don't think he noticed the picture and I don't know what the hell the note said because he wadded it up and threw it in the trash."

 

She said, "Damn Jack, you're too old for me to have to teach you everything. Get the fucking note out of the trash and read it to me." I dug the note out of the trash read it to her and she replied, "That sneaky little bitch, breaking Ben's heart like that. If I ever see her again I'm going to kick her ass worse than that slut Susan's. So, are you guys in trouble with the Old Man?"

 

I hadn't figured out yet how to tell Anna the whole truth, so I just replied, "Anna, he's being stranger than I've ever seen him. He didn't seem angry at all, but he temporarily reassigned us. I can't tell you all the details over the phone, but start making sure my go bag is ready."

 

I hung up the phone, headed out to the car, opened the door and got into the driver's seat. Banzai looked to be asleep and I figured it was better to leave angry devil-dogs lie rather than wake him up. I started up the car, took off and Banzai stated, "It's about fucking time you got here."

 

I thought to myself, I'm going to fix his fucking attitude. I pulled over to the side of the road and lied, "Damn! I think something's wrong with the car."

 

Banzai sighed and answered, "Damn Jack, you need to get a better fucking car. This thing is a pile of shit. Let me take a look at it."

 

As he jumped out of the car, I threw it in gear, took off and yelled, "I hope running back to the house puts you in a better mood."

 

I watched in the rear view, saw him flip me off. Then he bent down, stood back up and the next thing I knew the rear window of the car exploded. The fucker threw a rock through it. Oh well, he's right this car is a pile of shit.

 

Flashback – Ben – Sunday Morning

 

The son-of-a-bitch bastard Jack left me by the side of the road to run home. I looked at my watch and realized I needed to haul ass or I would make us late for our next assignment. My gear was ready - it was always ready. But I needed to do a few other things to get ready and I think one of them was to kick Jack's ass.

 

I ran like my ass was on fire, and Jack was right: By the time I reached his house I was in a better mood. I'd been a fucking fool to think a girl like Maria could ever love a guy like me. Shit! Mom was the only one who'd ever loved me and even then dad ruined that for me. I hit the door and flew into the house. Anna waited for me and threatened, "Ben don't even think about going after Jack or I'll kick your ass!"

 

I held up both hands and surrendered, "Shit! After seeing aftermath of what you did to Susan I don't want to tangle with you. Yeah, I was pissed as hell for him leaving me at the base to run home, but it did help me to get things straightened out in my head."

 

She gave me a look and replied, "Ben, I'm sorry about what Maria did to you…"

 

I interrupted, "Anna, don't bother. It was stupid of me to think about…"

 

She interrupted right back, "Ben shut the fuck up and listen to me! Don't you dare go off on some sort of self-pity trip! You're a damn good man and if I wasn't exclusive with Jack, I'd be all over you like white on rice. You deserve a good woman and someday you will find her."

 

I looked at her and sarcastically argued, "Yeah right!"

 

That was the wrong thing to say as she came over, got in my face and scolded, "You bet yeah right! Do you know every woman I've ever brought home for you is upset as hell when you're not interested in them? It's hell on me in the morning trying to make them calm down. What a chicken shit thing you do to them. You give them a wonderful and romantic dinner, screw their fucking brains out, then they wake up and never see you again. Do you realize how fucking cheap you make them feel?"

 

I'd never totally thought about it from the woman's point of view and I could see how what I thought was a good thing, was only a good thing for me and the woman deeply resented it. I took a deep breath and said, "Shit! I thought I was doing them a favor, but I can see they didn't see it that way. I guess I have a hell of a lot of apologizing to do, how about you give me their phone numbers."

 

She shook her head, "You really don't have any concept about women. If you call even one of them now it would be worse than what you already did to them. Do you have any concept of what opening an old wound means?"

 

I shuddered remembering the times I had that physically done and answered, "Okay Anna, you made your point now I need to make mine. I really dislike you bringing women home to meet me."

 

Anna got ready to answer when Jack walked in and said, "I don't think you're going to have to worry about that again."

 

We both looked at Jack, he cleared his voice and continued, "Listen both of you. The Old Man told me our reassignment was going to keep us 'in the field' virtually full time."

 

I looked at Jack in disbelief! Anna cried out, ran over to Jack, jumped into his arms and asked, "Jack, what does this mean for us?"

 

I was uncomfortable with the scene and headed to my room. I looked at the place I'd lived for a few years and realized I might not see it for a very long time and then it hit me. I wasn't ready for this long a deployment. I went to the closet, pulled out a couple more bags and packed everything I would need for a long term deployment.

 

Flashback – Jack – Plane flight Morocco

 

I sat in the plane seat and couldn't believe things were really over between me and Anna. We had a huge discussion and tried to figure out some way to keep a very long distance relationship going. Shit! I even offered to resign as Banzai's spotter but she wouldn't hear of that and said he needed me more now than ever. In the end we both realized our relationship had run its course. At least we both parted as friends and Anna agreed to take care of the house, whenever I decided what I wanted to do with it. There's not much sense owning a house when you're never going to be around to live in it. Damn, I was going to miss her! She was a good kid and a hell of a lover.

 

Banzai sat in the seat beside me deep in thought. I looked over and said, "Well, you know what I'm thinking of. What the hell are you thinking of, Maria?"

 

He looked at me and laughed, "Shit no I'm not thinking about that bitch. I was just thinking about the mission."

 

I blinked, looked at him and was going to smart off when I realized he was serious. I pulled my head out of my ass and said, "When did you become so gung-ho about prepping for a mission. That's usually my job."

 

He gave me a serious look and replied, "I know you were distracted so I needed to pick up the fucking slack so you don't get killed."

 

I shot right back, "Don't you mean so we don't get killed?"

 

He shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Yeah I guess that's what I meant. That was sure a piss-poor briefing we got on this mission."

 

I concurred, "Yeah, and I've got a feeling that's the only sort of briefing we're going to get from Mr. Smith. You know we're going to do all the dirty work and he's going to get all the glory for it."

 

Banzai gave me a blank stare, "But I'll see the red mist and get the notches in my gun."

 

I looked at Banzai and realized he'd become very different. So I changed the subject, "So what do you think of us having to go through spook training when we're done with this mission."

 

He looked at me and I felt the coldness, "If it makes me a better killer then I'm all for it. But I think it will mostly be a waste of time."

 

I corrected him, "You mean sniper?"

 

He sarcastically replied, "Yeah right."

 

I offered, "Well perhaps they'll give us some spy missions."

 

He leaned back in his seat, handed me our briefing packet and said, "Yeah that would be even a worse waste of time. Now that your head is out of your ass start figuring out this mission for us. I'm going to sack out for a while. When I wake up we can compare notes."

 

He drifted off to sleep as I looked at him and wondered what the hell was going on with my sniper. But I did what Banzai asked, I looked at our mission - well the little bit of shit that Mr. Smith gave us. I tried to fill in the holes but this was so full of holes it looked like Swiss cheese. Finally I got a headache, so I kicked back the seat and got some sleep.

 

I was jostled awake when the plane touched down so I looked over but Banzai was gone. He was already all geared up and was sitting in the front of the plane talking to the first officer. I yawned, stretched and went up beside them. I overheard Banzai ask, "So tell me more about when you used to take R&R there."

 

I was shocked and asked Banzai, "What the hell are you doing."

 

He cooly looked at me and replied, "Roman, the first officer, spent a bunch of time on R&R in Morocco and I'm just picking his brain for information. Seeing as what we got from Mr. fucking Smith is worthless. By the way, you need to gear up since we're on the ground."

 

I looked at Banzai with shock: Overnight he'd become the sniper I always knew he could be - it just happened much faster than I expected. I guess the days of being his nursemaid were over. He looked at me and barked, "Jack move your ass and get geared up. I want to get off this damn jet ASAP and you're holding us up."

 

I headed back and got into my combat gear. When I was done Banzai came back, looked me over and said, "Good to see you still remember how to gear up."

 

I barked back, "Hey who the fuck taught you to do it."

 

He smiled and said, "I was trained by the best, you! I just want to make sure you don't get killed because it would be hell to do my mission without you."

 

I replied, "Well at least you still need me."

 

Banzai answered, "Jack, of course I need you. You're like a father to me and I don't want to see you get hurt. Now let's get out of here."

 

We went down the ramp, into a waiting HumVee and drove off. Ben nudged me in the side, pulled his pistol, put it to the back of the head of the driver and said, "Pull over and get the fuck out of the HumVee."

 

The driver complained, "Hey, I'm supposed to drive you to your rendezvous point."

 

Banzai replied, "Do what I ordered or die. We know our mission and we will complete it without any fucking help from any fucking spooks."

 

He pulled over and quickly jumped out. Banzai got in the driver's seat and we took off. I barked, "Banzai what the hell did you do that for?"

 

He answered, "Jack, while you were asleep I did a bunch of research and I don't trust Mr. Smith or any of the spooks he works with. We know our target. I've got a good idea where he is and the fewer that know about our plans, the better."

 

I complained, "Well at least you can tell me our plan."

 

He said, "Once we ditch this spook vehicle I will because I don't trust it either."

 

I demanded, "Well who the fuck do you trust?" He glanced in the rearview mirror and replied, "I only trust you Jack. Everyone else has screwed us over." I thought about it and he was right, even the old man had screwed us over. I answered, "So it's you and me against the world."

 

Banzai replied, "That's pretty close to right! We'll do to the others exactly as they've done to us. We'll use them only as much as we need them and then throw them in the fucking trash." Banzai pulled over to the side of the road and said, "We run from here. I hope you're in better shape than you look old man."

 

We jumped out of the spook HumVee. I watched as Banzai pulled a grenade, chucked it inside the HumVee and ordered, "Let's roll." As we ran the HumVee exploded and Banzai said, "Now I can tell you about our mission plan. Let me know if you have any better ideas."

 

Flashback – Dwight Regan – Morocco

 

Things were certainly fucked to hell! The Air Force sent my team in to exfiltrate a downed pilot held by a terrorist cell. It was a common thing for our Air Force STO3 group to do, and we prided ourselves on being just as good as the best. But this mission was fucked from the beginning! It was almost like they knew we were coming and were waiting for us. Our com gear was destroyed, I'd lost my other two team members, had the hell shot out of my leg and was barely able to keep the fucking bastards off me. I vowed to myself they wouldn't take me alive.

 

3 Special Tactics Officers – Air Force equivalent of the Seals or Special Forces.

 

Ammo was getting low and it was just a matter of time until it was over. God I hoped they'd at least recover my body. I popped up and fired another two bursts at the bastards, they answered with a fusillade of automatic fire. It pepper the hell out of the building wall I was hiding in and even kicked up pieces of plaster through the window. I hate plaster falling on top of me! The bolt was locked back on my M4 so I slammed home a new mag, released the bolt. Son of a bitch, only thirty more rounds!

 

Then I heard the crack of a high power rifle not once, but five times about twenty seconds apart - it had to be a bolt action sniper rifle. And I could tell by the report, they were very far away. The fucking terrorists returned fire. As I popped up, the bad guys looked confused and fired in multiple directions. They weren't looking at me any more so I touched off two more bursts and took out two of them. Their attention focused on me again and they let go with several long bursts.

 

The high power rifle cracked several more times. I glanced over the window and the terrorists fell like flies. Again they couldn't figure out what was going on. I figured command knew I was in trouble when they couldn't reach me by radio and had sent in another recovery team. I wondered who the fuck it was because they were damn good.

 

I let go another couple bursts but only nailed one this time. Twelve out of thirty rounds gone - whoever the fuck they sent to help better get here damn fast. The high power rifle kept firing and I decided I'd save my ammo and hunker down until help got here. It sounded like a game of cat and mouse. The sniper would fire several times; then the fucking terrorists created a hell of a noise with their return fire. Then it would get quiet and the sniper would fire again and it would repeat itself.

 

I was thankful for the break and took a drink of water. I heard a noise at the door, dropped my canteen, raised my M4 and covered the door. Someone said in English, "Listen I don't know who the fuck you are in there, but if those fuckers are firing at you then we must be on the same side. I'm a Marine and I'm coming in the room so don't shoot my ass."

 

I yelled back, "Damn am I happy to hear your voice, I'm STO and I've been wounded."

 

The sniper rifle cracked several more times and an old looking Marine came into the room. He took one look at me, at the rest of my team and said, "Shit you guys had a hell of a fight!" Then he ran up to the window, pulled up his M25 and started giving the bastard terrorists hell. He ducked just in time because the terrorists let go again. The sniper rifle cracked five times, the Marine popped, fired and said, "That damn M40 only holds five rounds so I have to give the fucking terrorists something to think about while he reloads."

 

He dropped back down beside me the rifle cracked two more times and I asked, "How far away is your sniper, six-hundred yards?"

 

He looked over at me, grinned and said, "Shit no! Try eight-hundred meters."

 

The rifle cracked three more times, the Marine beside me raised up and fired his M25 then ducked back down as the wall was peppered again. I did the math and stated, "Shit that's like eight-hundred-seventy-four yards! How many times has he missed his target?"

 

He looked at me and answered, "I don't think he has missed. He normally doesn’t take a shot unless it's a kill." There was a long pause without a shot and the Marine said, "Just a minute." He raised his head, looked over the wall then said, "Well it looks like the bastards might be gone. Just to be on the safe side, let's wait for a bit and then I'll look at your leg."

 

After a few minutes, he moved over, looked at the tourniquet and said, "How long you had this on?"

 

I looked at my watch and answered, "Too long."

 

He shook his head and said, "Well, I think you're fucked. But let's see if we can at least save the leg." He tore my pants and started working on my leg. I asked, "Hey, what's your name?"

 

He looked at me and answered, "Sergeant Jack Reynolds. This is going to hurt some." He worked on a field dressing on my leg, I bit my lip until it bled but finally he finished."

 

He said, "This is going to hurt like hell when I release the tourniquet." He released it and it felt like my whole leg was on fire as the blood rushed back into the dead and dying tissue, things went black and I passed out.

 

Flashback – Jack – Morocco

 

Our mission was to eliminate Zuher Al Tbaiti: A fucking money courier for the al-Qaeda bringing funds from our ever so loyal friends Saudi fucking Arabia. He'd been running money from Saudi to Morocco to fund the ever growing insurgency. They'd tried arresting him at the Mohammed V airport in Casablanca, but they didn't find any money on him and let him go.

 

Banzai somehow figured out he'd be at this terrorist cell and that's where we headed after destroying the fucking HumVee. Banzai had become paranoid as hell and was sure it was bugged. He damn near ran me to death until we heard a shitload of weapon fire. He hauled ass to the top of the tallest building we could find. He had his rifle setup and was firing long before I reached the roof.

 

I crawled over beside him and asked, "Damn Banzai, that's almost eight-hundred meters. What the fuck are you firing at?"

 

He reloaded and said, "There's a shitload of terrorists firing at someone in that building down there." He pointed at the building and as I looked, I replied, "How do you know they're one of ours."

 

He got smart with me and said, "Duh, who else would those fuckers be firing at." Then he ordered, "Jack, I'm fine and will keep the bastards busy. Get your ass down there and see who the hell is in that building." He then fired off another three rounds.

 

Shit Banzai was safe at eight-hundred meters, and he sure didn't need me to range the fuckers for him. It was as good as any plan I could come up with so I beat feet to the building and found the wounded STO. I took care of his wounds and knew Banzai would be here soon. We still had a mission to finish and with all the shit that went on, I wasn't sure how we'd finish it.

 

The STO guy woke up and said, "Shit I thought it was a fucking dream but you're still here."

 

I replied, "Yeah, you passed out when I let the tourniquet loose." I looked at his leg and continued, "Well, I don't think you're going to lose your whole leg, but you'll never walk right again. So what's your name?"

 

He said, "I'm Dwight Regan and I'm just thankful command sent you two in when they did. But I'm surprised you guys are Marines."

 

I answered, "Command didn't send us here. We were sent in to kill Zuher Al Tbaiti."

 

Dwight said, "I know that fucker, we shot him heading into the building and that's what started this mess."

 

I asked, "Why did you shoot a fucking money courier?"

 

Dwight answered, "Shit he was no money courier! He was a fucking assassin and was going to decapitate the pilot we were sent in to rescue. We had standing orders to shoot that bastard on sight so we did."

 

I was deep in thought about this when Banzai interrupted me, "Hey Jack, are you in this room?"

 

I answered, "Yeah Banzai, come on in."

 

He walked in with the biggest grin on his face and said, "Nineteen fucking kills today. It was like shooting fish in a barrel." Then he looked at Dwight, the two other dead STO guys, his demeanor became serious and said, "Sorry Sir that we didn't get here in time to save your team." Then Banzai walked over and knelt by each of them and touched them.

 

Dwight replied, "Son they were dead before you fired your first shot so don't feel bad. But your shooting sure saved my ass. I was down to one mag and figured I was a goner."

 

I introduced Banzai. “This is Dwight and he says they took out Zuher Al Tbaiti and that he was an assassin not a money courier."

 

Banzai got angry and said, "I told you something didn't feel right about this mission. I'm never going to trust that Smith bastard again."

 

I ordered, "Banzai, take my M25 - Dwight and I will cover you and make sure Zuher Al Tbaiti is dead." Dwight added, "He should be just to the right of the entrance. While you're at it do you mind checking the building for the pilot?"

 

Banzai looked at me and replied, "No offense Jack, but I'd rather you keep your M25. Cover me while I go and recover a couple of their AK's and some mags."

 

Ben left his sniper rifle, pulled his pistol and went out the door. I covered him from one window and Dwight covered him from another window. Dwight said, "Damn, he's going out there with just a pistol."

 

I replied, "Yeah, and he's damn good with that pistol too."

 

We watched as he got close to the first AK, one of the tangoes on the ground moved a little, then Banzai dove, rolled and came up firing his pistol. He yelled, "Dammit Jack I thought you two were covering me."

 

Dwight whistled, "Shit he's fast. He shot that bastard before I even had a chance to move."

 

Banzai came back with the weapons and ammo. I asked, "Dwight, you think you can take care of yourself while we go clear the building?"

 

Dwight looked at me and said, "Yeah, but don't get into trouble because I don't think I can come and save the two of you."

 

I nodded my head at him and thought, just like a cocky STO bastard to say something like that especially after we just saved his ass.

 

The building was empty except for dead terrorists and the dead pilot, someone had hacked at his head, never decapitating it, but made a huge mess out of his neck. Banzai knelt beside him, touched him, it almost looked like he prayed, and said, "Jack, you need to cover me while I carry this soldier out of here." He put down his AK, picked up the pilot, we walked out the door and almost had our asses shot.

 

Dwight yelled to the new STO recovery team, "Don't shoot them, they're Marines."

 

The team leader ordered, "Hold your fire." As they rushed up to us, one started to grab my rifle and Banzai stepped in front of him and said, "If you take my spotter's rifle I will kill you!"

 

The team leader ordered, "Murphy stand the hell down. Look who he's carrying."

 

Murphy froze! The whole team froze! And Banzai carried the hacked body of the pilot through them and into the clearing. He gently laid him on the ground and then sat down beside him.

 

Dwight yelled, "I'm wounded and the rest of my team is in here. Banzai jumped up and said, "I'd like to get them and bring them here if you don't mind." No one said anything so he headed into the building and brought out the other two bodies and gently placed them beside the pilot. Two of the new STO team went in and helped Dwight out into the clearing and one asked Banzai, "You want me to go and get your rifle for you?"

 

Banzai jumped up and said, "No one ever touches my rifle unless they want to die." Then he headed into the building. The new STO leader asked, "He's kind of touchy isn't he?"

 

Dwight replied, "Shit he has a right to be, look at these kills. He did them at eight-hundred meters."

 

And for the first time I really looked at the kills: They were all clean kills and I was proud as hell of him. Banzai walked out with his rifle and one of the other team said, "I don't believe he did those at eight-hundred meters." Banzai walked up to him and said, "Well, how about you stand here." He pointed at the roof he was at and continued, "I'll go up there and we'll see if I can shoot your prick off. I'm sure with the size of your prick it won't hurt much." He lunged towards Banzai, but the new team leader grabbed him and said, "Didn't I tell everyone to stand down. That includes you Marine." Banzai gave him a look, so I walked over and whispered in his ear, "Listen Banzai, don't fuck with these guys anymore. They're our ride out of here."

He smiled at me and whispered, "Jack, sometimes you ruin all my fun." Then he went over by the bodies and I wondered what the hell had happened to Banzai…

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