09 Wounded

Wounded

© Copyright 2009

Written by Mr. and Mrs. Banzai Ben

banzaiben@gmail.com

 

 

Wounded Chapter 09

 

Monday 10 December

 

Present – Ben - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

It's great to be back with Jens again! I've really missed our shared closeness. There are still things I haven't told her and I can tell there are still things she needs to tell me, but none of that makes any difference anymore. Nothing will keep us apart.

 

I'm a little disappointed the girls can't be here to see our wedding, but I understand Jens's feelings and I honor her decision. I want to move to the mountains and raise babies with Jens, but I can't right now – there's some unfinished business to take care of and his name is Hussein.

 

We cuddled for a while and I announce, "Okay Jens, let's call the chaplain and get married."

 

She pulls away from me, grins and says, "Honey, I'd love to do that. But – and I hope I'm not going to disappoint you – I want a big wedding."

 

I look at her a bit puzzled, "Jens, I guess I thought the wedding wouldn't really matter."

 

She gives me a pissed look, "Now who's being dense! The wedding just doesn't matter? The wedding really matters. After all I'm only getting married once and that means you're only getting married once. I want the whole world to know and watch when we tie the knot."

 

I realize I’m on really thin ice as I say, "Jens, I'll marry you now or I'll marry you later or I'll marry you twice. There's nothing to keep us from getting married."

 

"Goodie! I can't wait to plan our big wedding. Oh, I need to call Liz," she gushed.

 

"That reminds me, where is Liz?"

 

She shrugs her shoulders, "I have no idea. She was here and then all of a sudden she needed to take off and do something but wouldn't tell me what it was."

 

The minute the next words are out of my mouth, I wish I could take them back, "So are you inviting you're parents?"

 

I feel Jens go stiff as she spits, "Those fricken sons-of-a-bitch! There's no way in hell I'm letting them come to my wedding! In fact, I thought I told you I don't ever want to talk about them."

 

So much more went on between her and her parents than I was told. If what she said earlier is true about them being happy when I was 'dead', and I have no reason to believe it isn't, then I'm pretty pissed at them too. I need to talk to someone about this, and it can't be Jens or her parents so I need Liz here.

 

"Jens, I think you should call Liz, tell her the good news and ask when she's going to be back."

 

She smiles at me and says, "You're finally making some sense. Invite my damn parents to the wedding - that will happen when pigs fricken fly!"

 

Present – Jens - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

Ben wants to marry me right now, today, THIS MINUTE! This starts an intense battle inside of me. I have a feeling I should take him up on it and marry him NOW! But I have this dream of a big wedding and walking down the aisle in a white dress. I hug him tight and I know he's back with me forever so I decide on the big wedding with the white dress. Still, for some reason I really don’t know if this is the right decision.

 

Then he brings up my fucking parents. I think I'm more pissed at them then he is at Hussein. Every time I hear their names or think about them I want to break something! He finally makes sense when he suggests I call Liz.

 

"Ben, did you see where they put my purse?"

 

He looks at me, "You're purse? I don't remember seeing it."

 

"Oh shit! It was on the bench next to me." I jump out of bed and start anxiously looking around the room. I heave a sigh of relief when I find it in the closet. That lasts until I open it and find a note from fucking Glen. I pull the note out and throw it in the trash without reading it.

 

Ben gives me a quizzical look, "What's all the attitude about?"

 

I give him an angry look and snap at him, "That was a fucking note from Glen."

 

"Well excuse the hell out of me for breathing the same air as you do," Ben grumps at me.

 

Oh shit, now I've been bitchy and hurt his feelings. I grab my phone and hop back into bed with him. I almost laugh as he tries to scoot away from me. With his injured arm he can't escape me. "Sorry my love for being so bitchy, but I hate Glen and Evelyn as much as you hate Hussein."

 

He continues trying to pull away from me and spouts, "Jens, how dare you compare your parents with that – that – that fucking animal! I don't know what they did to you, but it cannot even be close to what Hussein did to me!"

 

I want to argue since many things they did to me seem like torture, but he's so upset at me I need to fix things so I start biting on his neck.

 

"Leave me alone," he grumps as he tries to squirm away from me.

 

I just hug him tighter and whisper, "Come on Ben, forgive me. I'm sorry." I then attack his neck and give him a big love-bite. At first he's squirming as he tries to get away, but then he starts squirming because he likes it.

 

I finally release my lip lock on his neck and grin at him. "There, now I've marked my man!" I proudly announce.

 

"You gave me a hicky? I haven't had a hicky in years."

 

"I prefer the term love-bite. And I've given you a world class love-bite. Better than any of those bitches you dated ever gave you. I want to let you know what to expect when we're married. Everything is going to be better than you've ever had before."

 

He gives me a quizzical look and I can tell he wants to say something. He opens his mouth but then closes it again. I patiently wait until he finally says, "Jens, you already made my life better than it's ever been before."

 

I grin at him, "Now tell me what you were going to say before you changed your mind."

 

Oh boy! Ben gets so uncomfortable he even tries to pull away from me. "Uh – Jens – I'd rather not talk about it right now."

 

There's no way in hell I'm letting him off this easy, "What's wrong, don't you think everything will be so much better for you? Tell me what you think was better in your past. Was it the hugs?" I ask and give him a huge hug while running my hands across his chest and pretending I'm going to slip them lower.

 

He moans, "No, your hugs are the best ever."

 

I giggle, "Well then is it the kisses?" and I give him a toe curling kiss.

 

As I pull away and look in his eyes he answers, "No, your kisses are the best ever!"

 

I snuggle up close to his ear and whisper, "That just leaves the sex. Ben, you're going to be my first and my last so it's going to be the best for me. And know I love you and will do anything and everything to make it the best ever for you!"

 

I look at him and watch the blush slowly rise in his cheeks. I love it! I can still make my big strong man blush. I giggle and whisper, "God, I've missed you and I've missed those blushes." I fall on top of his good arm and start attacking him again since there's a lot of lost time to make up. I'm well into giving him a matching love-bite on the other side of his neck so he's squirming and thrashing and moaning on the bed. Then someone clears their throat behind us.

 

Present – Glen - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

I'm hoping Ben has been able to talk some sense into Jens. Evelyn has been chewing my ass so hard about her I almost don't have an ass left. I walk into their room and things look really good for them as Jens is making out with Ben. I clear my throat to let them know I'm here.

 

Ben looks at me and for the first time I can remember he doesn't try to salute. "Good morning Glen," he says in a tone I can't quite place.

 

Jens turns around in the bed, "What the fuck are you doing here?" Uh oh, it doesn't look like Ben's done anything about her attitude yet.

 

"Is that any way to greet your father?" I snap back at her.  I respond with more anger than I feel, but she certainly knows how to push my buttons!

 

I expected an answer from Jens, but I'm surprised when Ben takes charge. "Jens shut your mouth and let me talk. Glen, Jens tells me you and Evelyn were happy when you thought I was dead because neither of you felt I was good enough for her,"

 

"Is that anyway to talk to your commanding officer?" I snap back in anger.

 

I don't believe it when he starts laughing, "Glen, thank you! Your response confirms that what Jens told me is the truth, not that I had any doubt. As far as you being my commanding officer," he says as he looks down at his arm, "This wound has ended my career as a Marine. I want a medical discharge."

 

"Be reasonable Ben, there's still many things you can do for the Marines."

 

I watch a coldness slip across his face, "Sure there is. I could shuffle papers for a living, I could train snipers for a living. I could step and fetch and kiss your ass whenever you told me to for a living. But I've asked myself this question many times - why would I want to do any of that for an organization which left me for dead in a God forsaken country and has a leader I no longer respect."

 

"Ben, it looked like you were killed in the helicopter."

 

Jens interrupts, "Glen, you know I proved to you Ben survived the helicopter crash."

 

Ben looked at her, "Jens, keep your mouth shut and let me finish." I expect her to lay into him, but instead she just snuggles close to him and sighs.

 

He rises up in the bed, "Glen don't bullshit me! I'm not some stupid recruit who will swallow the shit you're feeding me. Jens hasn't told me everything and it's probably a good thing. Otherwise, I'd jump out of bed and use this worthless arm as a club to beat you senseless. What Jens told me is the only thing that makes logical sense."

 

I start to open my mouth and Ben interrupts, "Glen shut the fuck up and listen. The only thing we want out of you is my medical discharge. If you're good we might even invite you and Evelyn to our wedding." I see Jens start to sit up and complain, Ben says to her, "Jens, I told you to keep your mouth shut."

 

My mouth falls open a little as she replies, "Yes dear, anything you say." She cuddles back with him. But my mouth hits the floor when Ben grins at me and says, "Glen, you're dismissed." God damn, Evelyn's going to chew my ass for this! I turn and walk out of the room.

 

Jens yells after me, "Don't let the door hit you in the fat ass."

 

I turn and see her yelp as Ben spanks her. "I told you to keep your mouth shut." "Sorry dear!" she replies.

 

Evelyn's looking at me in the hallway, "Well, what went on in there?"

 

I walk over to a chair, sit down and Evelyn joins me. "Evelyn, it's worse than ever. Ben didn't help at all. In fact it's just the opposite. Jens told him enough so Ben hates us too."

 

"I told you to keep those two apart until we could work on Ben. But no! You wouldn't listen to me," She scolds.

 

I look at the floor, "It's worse than that, Ben wants a medical discharge. And with his wound there's nothing I can do to stop it."

 

Evelyn looks at me with alarm, "Okay what else aren't you telling me?"

 

"One more thing, they're still getting married and Ben threatened they wouldn't invite us if I give him any problems."

 

Evelyn pokes me in the side, "You'd better figure out a way we can go to their wedding. Otherwise you're going to learn the meaning of hell."

 

I thought to myself, you've already taught me that, bitch.

 

Present – Jens - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

I am so excited! My Ben is more than back, he's back and in control like I've never seen him before. When Glen walked into our room I was going to rip him a new asshole, but I didn't have to because my MAN took care of it perfectly.

 

He even told me to shut up five fricken times. Normally I would have jumped his shit for doing that. But it was more fun to cuddle and watch the expression of utter surprise on Glen's face. Sometimes there is a benefit to acting like a submissive wife.

 

When Ben dismissed Glen, it made me so excited and hot I considered calling the chaplain and getting married right away so I could screw his brains out. Then I looked at his arm and figured we'd better wait - what I have in mind for him on our wedding night would kill him in his current condition. So I cuddle up tight against my MAN! I sense he's in turmoil inside so I wait for him to talk.

 

"Jens, sorry about telling you to shut up. It was hard enough for me without you interrupting."

 

I pull away and look at him and see a few tears on his cheek, I start kissing each one of them away and apologize, "sorry I interrupted you, my love."

 

He looks down at me and says, "And I'm really sorry for spanking you. By the way, I don't know what you've been doing for exercise, but your butt's so hard it hurt my hand."

 

I sit up and grin real big at him. "Ben, I was acting like it hurt because it made Glen upset. You're little love tap didn't hurt my buns of steel." I jump out of bed and drop my hospital gown to the floor and pirouette in the nude in front of him. "So do you like the new and improved Jens?"

 

I have his total attention. "I most certainly do like the package. Wow is that the scar from your appendectomy?"

 

I grin, walk close, take his hand and put it on the scar, "It sure is. So tell me do you dig chicks with scars?"

 

He runs his hand over the scar and the excitement builds in me, he's so close to...

 

The door opens and the doctor walks into the room, I scramble to get back in my hospital gown but not before the doctor gets a good look at everything.

 

Present – Ben - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

I start laughing my ass off at Jens scrambling to cover up as the doctor walks into our room. He doesn't make it any easier by watching her the whole time. Normally I'd get pissed off and tell him to look away, but this is too much fun.

 

Jens jumps back into bed with me and complains, "What the hell are you laughing at?" That sets the doctor off and soon we're both laughing like hyenas.

 

The doctor finally regains his composer and explains, "Don't worry Ms. Donaldson, it's not like I haven't seen it all before."

 

"Yeah, but you didn't have to try to memorize everything," Jens grumps.

 

I remark, "You should have taken a picture, it would have lasted longer." We both start laughing again.

 

Jens pokes me in the side, "You'd better behave. And doctor, I would have expected you to act more professionally!"

 

He winks at me and Jens didn't notice, "Well, it's not like I walk into the middle of an orgy every day."

 

Jens is flabbergasted and doesn't know what to say so I just hug her close, "We're just teasing you my love, don't worry about it."

 

The doctor looks at both of us, "You two are both doing very well. SM Blaine I can't believe how fast you've recovered. Ms. Donaldson, your MRI just came back and you're head looks fine. There are no broken bones and your face should heal with no problems."

 

I chuckle and ask, "Did the MRI find a brain?"

 

He starts laughing, "Yes, but unfortunately it looks abnormal."

 

Jens looks at me and says, "If you weren't sick I'd kick your butt!"

 

I grin and offer, "Well, since I'm sick maybe you should kiss it instead."

 

She turns about four shades of red and demands, "Doctor, I want a new room."

 

I hug her tight. "Oh no you don't, you're not leaving me again. Jens, let me introduce you to Dr. Crispin, he's worked on me before."

 

Jens looks at me in frustration then says, "You- you- you sneaky devil dog. I should have known."

 

Dr. Crispin came up, "Ms. Donaldson, it a pleasure to meet the woman that's going to finally settle down this Marine." They shook hands.

 

"Okay Crispy (my nickname for him) tell me about my arm."

 

He gets a serious look on his face, "Banzai, you've really fucked up this time…."

 

I interrupt, "Look I've already figured most if this out. I just want to know about the nerve issues."

 

He rings the buzzer for a nurse, "Let's remove your dressing and take a look."

 

The nurse comes in and he sends her out for supplies. We shoot the breeze and catch up on things until she comes back.

 

"You want something for pain?" Crispy asks.

 

I look at him, "You know me better than that."

 

"Good it will make the tests more valid." He replies. "Jens, I want you to get up and come over here." He makes her stand so I can't see my arm then I feel him start his examination.

 

"Yes, it's looking much better. We finally have the infection under control and we kept it out of the bones and the joint capsule. You're lucky you didn't lose your arm, we came within a half a day of taking it."

 

I'm distracted by the opening in the back of Jens gown - damn her butt looks better than ever. She turns, catches me then smiles, "See honey things are looking better."

 

"Things do look pretty good from here," I reply and watch her blush.

 

"Okay Ben, we're going to do some tests and I want you to tell me when you feel anything," Crispy says.

 

I don't feel anything at all and then suddenly I jerk, "Hey, that felt like someone poking me with a pencil."

 

"Good, just concentrate and let me know when you feel anything." Dr. Crispin says.

 

It seems like it takes forever and finally I feel a needle, "Son-of-a-bitch stop poking me with the needle." I yell.

 

"Just a bit more Banzai," he says.

 

I keep moving, "You know I'm getting pissed off being poked in the upper arm with the needle. Don't you think I've been tortured enough?"

 

Crispy leaves the nurse to dress my arm, "Okay Banzai, I'm not going to lie to you. You have serious nerve damage in your right lower arm."

 

Jens turns around and I see the tears in her eyes, "Ben, he was pushing a needle into your ring and pinky fingers and you didn't even feel it."

 

Dr. Crispin continues, "Some of it could be because the wound is still so aggravated, but I think it's more than that."

 

I gulp, "It's okay Crispy, just tell me everything."

 

"Ben, I've consulted with the best doctors I know and we all think you have two issues. The first is limited use of your elbow. We don't think we will be able to give you full range of motion back. Second even when the bones are fixed we're pretty sure you're going to have significant nerve issues."

 

I see the tears roll down Jens's cheeks. I motion her into bed beside me. "How bad will the nerve problems be?"

 

He looks at me, "Ben, it's hard to tell. My guess is half sensation at the best."

 

I look at my fingers and wiggle them, "Well that explains why things don't work right any more. I tried to practice playing piano earlier and they wouldn't move right. What about physical therapy?"

 

He shakes his head, "It won't help the nerve damage. All it will do is help you keep things loose."

 

I swallow, "Okay Crispy, how about you start the paperwork for a medical discharge."

 

"It's a little premature. Normally we wait to determine your total disability. But in your case I don't think there will be any issues," He replies.

 

Jens cuddles up close to me and Dr. Crispin smiles at both of us. "So when do you want to take Ben back to the states?"

 

Jens grins, "Is he well enough to travel?"

 

Dr. Crispin laughs, "If he can beat up half the hospital looking for you, then I'd say he's well enough for a little plane flight."

 

"I'd like to get him back as soon as possible so we can get surgery on his arm," Jens says.

 

"I'll see what we can arrange for tonight," Crispy answers.

 

"Let us know if you can't arrange transport because we'll just lease a jet," Jens answers.

 

"I'll leave a bunch of instructions along with a list of the best surgeons for his lower arm. If you need anything don't hesitate to call." He turns and leaves the room.

 

Jens squeezes me, "Are you ready to get back on American soil?"

 

I squeeze her back, "Hell yes!"

 

Present – Dr. Crispin - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

I finish talking to Ben, walk out into the hallway and lean against the wall. I feel like shit for not telling those two everything, but we aren't sure yet. Until we can run more tests we won't know. And there's no need to run those tests here, they can wait until stateside.

 

God those bastards who tortured him, what the hell did they do!

 

Flashback Natasha (Jens) – Kabul Afghanistan - Monday 15 October

 

Damn, Liz hasn't come back yet and it's getting late. Linus is working on the file we downloaded from the Jalalabad server, Bernie's screwing around with some video gear and I don't have anything to do but sit around and worry. Worry about Ben and Liz.

 

I heard a yell from Linus and ran into the side room. "Jens, I cracked the encryption on the file. Someone sure wanted to keep people from looking at this. The file was encrypted using Truecrypt1. It was even a hidden volume."

 

1 Freeware data and hard drive encryption program. It works great and we use it on all our computers.

 

I looked over his shoulder at not a single file but a whole folder of files. He browsed the directory.  I wanted to ask him how in the hell he was able to sort this all out because it was a major hack but first, I wanted to see those files. "Linus, let me take a look at those files." I sat down at the computer and poured through the data, oblivious to everything else. An hour later I'm pissed – no I'm extremely pissed – no I'm more pissed than I've ever been in my whole life! I walked into the other room, "Guys, I hope there's a punching bag around here because I need to kick the shit out of something. If we don't have a punching bag I may have to start kicking your butts."

 

They both looked up at me and Bernie said, "Jens, what's wrong?"

 

I open my mouth to tell them what I found, but just then we heard gunfire from outside. The door flew open and Liz ran into the room with her burka missing. Linus throws me an AK and I start shooting out the door. "We need to get the hell out of here! They followed me!" Liz shouts.

 

The guys jumped up and started humping gear into the back room as I kept the door covered, "I need some mags." Bernie ran up and gave me a gear bag full of mags. I reloaded and kept firing.

 

Linus ran up, "Let's go Jens."

 

"Did you get the laptop?"

 

"Fuck the laptop. There's a squad outside and we can't hold them off forever. I think they're Seals."

 

"I'm not leaving without the damn laptop! We need the proof on it. Linus cover me because I'm going to get it." I ran towards the room grabbed the laptop, the sat phone and booked to the back of the building. Linus followed me and we all hopped into a Humvee.

 

"Jens lie on the floor and hide. They don't know for sure you're here," Liz ordered and I hugged the floor.

 

Liz floored it and we crashed through the garage door. There was a hail of gunfire, but it's all aimed at the tires and the engine. Liz looked over, "This one's armored and their piddly M4 rounds won't stop us!" She laughed and drove off into the night.

 

Present - Liz - Friday 07 December – Dushanbe, Tajikistan

 

I don't want to work for Kostia because I don't like to answer to others - well except for Jens and Ben. I swore after what I've been through, I'd never fall in love and then I go and fall in love with a couple. And a couple I know will never return my love. Kostia is a good looking man and he is mature enough to be a good lover. But this time I won't be using sex to get information. My guess is he won't tell me anything while we're in the sack.

 

Matt and Jim are in deep shit! Ira and Mira are going to be a handful, and the guys aren't the sort of men to mess around much on their wives. I can tell Kostia planned to keep them busy. It makes me wonder how much he really knows about me and my crew. I hear a bunch of noise from the back seat and turn around to see what's happening.

 

Matt is wrestling with one of the twins, "Quit it and keep your hands to yourself!"

 

I grin and ask, "Having problems Matt?"

 

"She is trying to hug me and I'm telling her I'm a married man. My wife Molly's from Texas and she'll kill me if I mess around on her."

 

I look over at Jim but he doesn't seem to have near the problems Matt has.  His twin is hugging the hell out of him and his hand is on her leg - pretty far up. I knew he was somewhat of a lech, but then his wife Sally is a real East Coast bitch. It still doesn't mean he should cheat on her. "You look quite cozy Jim."

 

He looks ashamed and tries to pull his hand back, but the twin clamps her legs on his hand and he can barely move it. She pouts and says, "Ms. Morgan, you need to leave us alone and let us have fun. I promise we won't break your cameramen."

 

I'm think ‘yeah right!’ If you two have your way there will be blackmail pictures we'll have to deal with. I turn back around and say, "Kostia, I need to have a private conversation with my cameramen. How about you pull over and let us talk?"

 

"I'm sorry Liz, but we're not stopping until we reach the office."

 

I turn back around and give Matt and Jim a look which says they'd better behave themselves and I hope they understand. I feel Kostia's hand on my leg. I wondered when he was going to start. I grab his hand and slide it all the way up my leg because I want to see if I can control the situation. It startles him, he swerves the car and starts swearing. I hear the twin's laughter coming from the back seat. One of them asks him if I'm too much woman for him and he snaps at her. So, I am having some effect on him.

 

I want to see how far I can push things so I pull my phone out of my purse and call Jens. Kostia gives me a dirty look and says, "Hang up the phone, I didn't give you permission to call anyone."

 

I hang up the phone and decide to have some fun, "I've decided I don't like our deal so I'm calling the American Embassy."

 

He pulls his hand out from between my legs and says, "Ms. Morgan, you should know better than to lie to me. I can tell you called a USA phone number."

 

Ah, that's what I thought. He can tell what numbers are dialed from the tones on the phone. I smile at him and say, "You're right Kostia I was just teasing you. I'm calling Jens to give her the good news about the girls."

 

"Ms. Morgan..." I interrupt and say, "Don't you think you should call me Liz, all my boy toys do."

 

I hear the twins giggle from the back seat and again he tells them to shut up. "Liz, please clear all phone calls with me before you make them."

 

I am not going to stand for this, and I don’t think he'd ever been put it his place. "Kostia, like hell I will! We may be working together and if you're a really good boy I might screw you till you can't walk. But I'm not a blonde bimbo you can control. I will call whomever whenever I want. If you don't like it then I'd suggest you go fuck yourself and throw us all in prison."

 

I hear the twins gasp from the back seat. He swerves the car to the side of the road, slams on the brakes, turns and looks at me. "Ms. Morgan, you will never talk to me that way again."

 

I grin at him and say, "Kostia, are you deaf or did you just not hear me? I might agree to work with you, but I'm not your fucking slave and I will talk to you however you deserve to be talked to." I look at the guys, "Come on we're leaving the deal is off." I open the door and Kostia grabs my arm, "If you don't let go of my arm, I'll break your fucking wrist," I spit at him.

 

"Liz, let's be reasonable. There are many benefits to working together." He says.

 

"Are you going to let go of my arm?" He releases my arm. "Kostia, I don't see any benefit for me if we work together. Yes you could lock all three of us up in your prison for about a day. But when my friends in America and here find out about it they'd fry your ass. And yes I'm sure you’re an adequate lover and would amuse me for a night, maybe two." The twins interrupt with giggles from the back seat so he yells at them again. "Let's be realistic, you're much too old to keep up with me for very long. You need us because you think I can lead you to the girls. And frankly we don't need you to find them. I'm sure SM Blaine knows right where they are."

 

I decided to take it to the limit so I step out of the Porsche and open the back door, "Come on guys we're leaving."

 

Kostia is now at my side and says, "Liz, don't do this! Let's be reasonable."

 

I step back, look at him, cross my arms and tap my foot, "You have two minutes to tell me what's in it for me otherwise we walk."

 

The twin closest to us grins up a storm because I don't think she's ever seen him treated this way. She winks at me in a way which lets me know I've got him. She then gets out of the Porsche to let Matt and Jim slide out. The other twin slides out and they still sandwich my guys. 

 

Kostia comes up with a bunch of lame reasons, but I grow tired of it, "Kostia, this is a bunch of bullshit! We're leaving." I turn and walk away. Jim takes the lead, Matt follows and surprisingly enough the twins bring up the rear.

 

After about three blocks, I turn and look at the twins, "What the hell are you two doing following us?"

 

They both grin at me and one starts, "Ms. Morgan, we want to thank you for the way you treated Kostia." The other continues, "He is an arrogant bastard and we are tired of working under him." They switch again, "He is old but thinks he is God's gift to women." And the other finishes, "But we are tired of being forced to have sex with him, he is old and it is boring!"

 

They look at each other then back at me and said in unison, "We respect you and would like to work for you." Then they grin, "But we hope not under you. We do not like that and will only do it if it is our assignment."

 

It's a surprise I am not expecting so I ask, "How do I know you won't still be working for Kostia or the Tajik government?"

 

"This is how," one of them says. Then they come over and each whispers in one of my ears. I step away and look at them, "You knew and didn't tell Kostia or your government. Why?"

 

They both grin, "We were waiting for you. Mira and I have wanted to work for you for years and we knew this was going to be our only chance."

 

I look at the guys and then I look at the twins. "You're hired. Just do me a favor and don't sleep with my guys. They are both married and don't cheat on their wives."

 

They both come over, kneel in front of me and kiss my hand, "Ms. Morgan we are not your slaves, but will gladly do whatever you tell us to do. We promise to keep you safe even if it costs us our lives."

 

We walked on as I try to figure out when to call Jens and what I am going to tell her.

 

Present - Kostia - Friday 07 December – Dushanbe, Tajikistan

 

Son-of-a-bitch! I messed up this time because I underestimated Ms. Morgan. I thought I had her under control and then like a wild horse she broke free. Not only that, she has taken Mira and Ira with her - two of my best agents and nice little play toys in my bed.

 

She played me like I was a violin and she a concert mistress. Then when she was done with me, she put me back in my case. But she did make one mistake. And this one bit of information is worth all that has happened and will help me save face before my superiors and maybe make me rich.

 

Present – Mira and Ira - Friday 07 December – Dushanbe, Tajikistan

 

Our dream is finally a reality - we are both escaping this backwards country and will work for our idol, Ms. Elizabeth Morgan. We have watched and worshiped her for years and talk all the time about how we want to work for her. She is so smart and so confident. Some day we both want to be just like her.

 

Kostia holds us back because he knows how good we are and is afraid we will eclipse him. We would if we had a chance. He has been taking credit for things we have done for years. We are very sure where the girls are but decided not to tell Kostia. He is pretending he is interested in their welfare but he only wants the money and then he will make the girls disappear. He's done it before by selling women into slavery – we hate him.

 

We are walking on each side of  Ms. Morgan and I say to Ira in our special language (we started talking when we were just over a year and a half old but it was in a special language we created) "Ira, we need to tell Ms. Morgan about the mistake she made with Kostia."

 

Ira replies, "Yes, she doesn't know the mistake she made and how Kostia will use it."

 

Ms. Morgan stops, turns and looks at us. "I've been around the world many times and I've heard almost every language in the world. But I have no idea what you two are saying, other than it's about me and Kostia. So come on and tell me what you're saying."

 

Ira grins at her, "Ms. Morgan do not be alarmed. What you heard is a private language Mira and I created when we were children."

 

She smiles at us, "I've heard about that happening with twins but this is the first time I've witnessed it."

 

I continue, "We use it when we want to talk privately and I hope we didn't offend you. I was asking Ira about the mistake you made with Kostia."

 

She gets very serious looking, "I made a mistake with Kostia? What do you think I did wrong?"

 

Ira explains, "You should have never told him SM Blaine knows where the girls are. You have put SM Blaine in danger."

 

She looks at us in disbelief, "Are you telling me he will go after SM Blaine? That would be suicide."

 

I reply, "Not to argue with you Ms. Morgan but we know Kostia very well. Because you have embarrassed Kostia, he will give the information to his superiors and there are many leaks in our system. Soon the whole world will know SM Blaine knows where the girls are."

 

Ira finishes, "Kostia is right, many bad people are looking for the gold and they will do anything to find it. SM Blaine and anyone he knows are in grave danger."

 

Ms. Morgan looks at us, "Shit you two are right, I really fucked up. I need to call Jens. You two have just earned my friendship and undying gratitude."

 

We smile at each other as she pulls out her phone and hits a speed dial number.

 

Present - Liz - Friday 07 December – Dushanbe, Tajikistan

 

I am just getting ready to call Jens when a van comes screeching up to the curb. One of the twins throws me up against the wall and shields me with her body. Damn! She's so tall I can't see past her but I hear a bunch of yelling and screaming.

 

I hear pfft, pfft, the sound of two suppressed pistol shots and the twin shielding me grunts twice. Then I hear four quick shots, so fast they sound like they're from a machine gun. Then the van speeds off. The twin not shielding me yells something in her language and the other replies. She steps back, "Ms. Morgan, are you okay?"

 

I look past her and see two big bodies lying on the ground; each one has two holes in their forehead. The other twin is holding a pistol and has her badge out chasing the gathering crowd away. Jim and Matt are standing there looking like idiots.

 

I shiver and look at her, "Did you get shot?"

 

She gets an upset look, "Yes, I am afraid they ruined my best dress." She turns around and I see two marks in the middle of her back. I reach out and touch the dress and feel the body armor underneath.

 

"I couldn't tell you had on body armor." I reply in amazement.

 

She turns back and looks at me, "A girl always needs to be prepared. This is special armor we have made just for us so it doesn't ruin our figures."

 

I grin, "I think I need the name of your tailor. So those shots were meant for me?" I watch the other twin check the clothes of the dead men.

 

She walks over, "Yes, I think their orders were to either kidnap or kill you. Just as I figured, no ID but I can tell by their smell they are Russian mafia." Then the twins start talking in their language.

 

I look at one of them, "You're Mira?"

 

She smiles, "Yes I am, most people cannot tell, how did you know?"

 

I look down at the pistol in her left hand, "You're left handed and Ira's right handed." They both grin at me.

 

Under these circumstances, they seem too calm and collected so I ask, "Are you both okay?"

 

Ira says, "I am very upset. They ruined my best dress and I will have two bruises on my back from the rounds." Mira finishes, "I am upset too, I broke a nail and put a run in my nylons." They finish in unison, "But most of all we are upset you almost got hurt. Please forgive us for not taking better care of you."

 

I look over at Matt and Jim and realize how lucky I have been meeting the twins. Then I have to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. They may be deadly killers, but they're women first and are concerned with their clothes and their looks.

 

I hug both of them, and it surprises them, "I need to thank you for saving my life. And there's no better way I can think of to thank you than to take you clothes shopping. It's my treat."

 

I watch the twins faces light up. Matt and Jim groan, they hate going clothes shopping with me. I look at them, "It's okay boys, I don't think I'll be needing either of you in Dushanbe anymore. I'm going to send you to Ramstein to keep an eye on Ben and Jens. This time pay attention and keep your heads out of your asses."

 

I look at the twins, "I need to find a safe place to call Jens." Mira takes me into a shop and orders the owners to leave. Ira stands guard out front.

 

Mira says, "Ms. Morgan, do not be too hard on Matt and Jim, they are good men and above average bodyguards. It is just Kostia has been training us for twelve years, ever since we were ten." She gets a sad look and her face and continues, "There is no one better than we are. I want to apologize because we didn't hear the van sooner. We were too excited working for you, but it will not happen again."

 

That bastard Kostia! Are all the men in this fucking country perverts who go after young girls. I look at her, "More than you know, I understand what you mean by 'training you.' I also had many 'training lessons' when I was younger." I see some tears in her eyes and I hug her, "Make sure you tell Ira this hug is for her too. I promise you, you will never have to be 'trained' again. You have my permission to kill anyone who tries to forcibly 'train' you."

 

She smiles at me, "Ms. Morgan, you are an even better woman than we believed." Then she gets a twinkle in her eyes, "But sometimes, if the man is right we like 'training'."

 

I laugh, "And sometimes if the man is right, I like to be 'trained' too!" That makes me think of Ben and how I'd like him to 'train' me until I couldn't walk.

 

I look at Mira, she's giving me a quizzical look and then smiles, "Ah, Ms. Morgan is in love."

 

Oh shit, the cat's out of the bag. I give her a stern look, "Mira, you can never tell anyone. It's a huge secret."

 

Mira's face shows her concern, "Ms. Morgan. We would never tell anyone about your love for SM Blaine."

 

My mouth drops open, "How in the hell do you know?"

 

"Ms. Morgan, I added up the clues. When you talk about him your voice subtly changes and shows your affection. You do things for him you wouldn't do for anyone else, even risking your life. Then you got the faraway look of love in your eyes and I could see the wistfulness of you wanting to be 'trained' by someone you never could be 'trained' by - If you would like we could arrange for Ms. Donaldson to have an accident."

 

"Oh hell no! That would kill me," I yell.

 

She scrunches up her face, "Oh now I understand. You're in love with both of them. "

 

I look at her and start crying so she comes over and hugs me. It feels good to have it partially out in the open. "Ms. Morgan, do not worry. When we knelt in front of you we swore an oath to always keep you and all you love safe. It would hurt you if they ever found out about it, so they never will. But it must be very hard knowing you can never have what you really desire?"

 

I pull myself together, "I have decided if I can't have their love, then I'll be the best friend either of them will ever have."

 

Mira smiles, "And now you have us to help you with your mission. You need to call Ms. Donaldson."

 

She's right and I finally make my phone call to Jens.

 

Present – Jim - Friday 07 December – Dushanbe, Tajikistan

 

We had just had our asses handed to us by a couple of girls. I'm embarrassed as hell and walk over to Matt. "I don't fucking believe what just happened. I feel like a fucking amateur."

 

Matt answers, "I didn't even have time to draw my weapon before it was all over. Did you know they were wearing body armor?"

 

"Hell no, I was too busy looking at their bodies and never noticed."

 

Ira walks up, "Do not scold yourselves, our best weapon is how distracting we are. We are very upset we did not notice the van sooner. Ms. Morgan almost got hurt."

 

"Can I see the bullet holes in your dress?"

 

She turns and I see the holes. I ask, "Do you mind if I touch the body armor."

 

Ira replies, "Thank you for asking. Yes but be careful I think one of the rounds broke a rib."

 

I look at Matt and we both shake our heads. Here she has a broken rib and is acting like it doesn't bother her. Most women would be crying their fool eyes out if they had a broken rib. I gently touch the holes and feel the rounds still stuck to the body armor, she groans a little on one of them.

 

"Maybe we should take you to the hospital?" I ask.

 

She turns and gives me a dirty look, "What for, it is just a broken rib. After we are done protecting Ms. Morgan today I will take care of it. Besides I would never miss a chance to go clothes shopping with Ms. Morgan. I need a new dress since this one is ruined."

 

There's a huge moment of awkward silence between all of us and finally Ira says, "Do not be upset because you didn't react to the attack on Ms. Morgan. Both of you are very good body guards and did an excellent job saving her earlier in the garage."

 

We both look at her, "How did you know?"

 

She gave us a devastating smile, "We had your backs the whole time. We have been keeping Ms. Morgan and both of you safe ever since your plane landed."

 

Present – Matt - Friday 07 December – Dushanbe, Tajikistan

 

Well fuck me! I just found out two women were tailing us the whole trip and we didn't even know it. Liz's bodyguards had bodyguards - this day just keeps getting worse. I hang my head in shame.

 

Ira walks over and gives me a big hug, "Matt do not be so upset. You and Jim have been doing this job for under a year and are very good. Mira and I have been doing this job for twelve years. The rescue in the garage was perfect. We just went in after you and made sure there were no loose ends."

 

"Were there any loose ends?"

 

She smiles, "None, both of you shot perfectly and took out your targets. And the rounds you took in the body armor would have hit Ms. Morgan." She turns again and shows me her dress. I reach out and touch the holes, "You see we have many things in common. We both offered our lives to save Ms. Morgan."

 

I look down at the ground, "Well, it's just my job."

 

She pulls up my chin, looks me in the eyes and gives me a big kiss which surprises the hell out of me, "Matt, that is bullshit, you are a hero. I wish you were single, then I could show you my appreciation. You're wife is a very lucky woman."

 

And I thought if my wife had seen the kiss, I would be a very dead man.

 

Flashback - Liz – Kabul, Afghanistan - Monday 15 October

 

I was sure I was being followed and then knew it when I saw one of them about half a mile from the house. I used my mirror and got a great look at him. He was a black-ops, probably Seal. And we know since seals always travel in a rookery, there had to be more.

 

I slipped into a doorway and ripped off my burka. Let's see if those assholes can keep up with a former track star from Berkley. I jumped out of the doorway and sprinted down the street. I heard a bunch of shouts behind me, "Asshole, I told you she made you."

 

"Ms. Elizabeth Morgan, halt we need to ask you some questions."

 

I looked over my shoulder and shouted, "Fuck off and die Seal squids. I'm an American citizen and I know my rights."

 

They weren't chasing me very hard so I figured they had someone or many someone's ahead of me. I came to a side street with a market and ran hard right into the market. It raised hell with the vendors, especially when I started tipping things over.

 

"Shit she turned, let's go get her." I heard one of them yell.

 

I thought, these guys are morons if they don't have tactical radios. They're broadcasting everything they're doing. I'm not sure who fired the first shot, but it wasn't me. I think it was one of the vendors, probably a Taliban. Next thing I knew the whole area was filled with gunfire but it didn't seem to be directed much at me. I laughed as I remembered Richard Prior's quote about catching himself on fire, "Fire is inspirational. They should use it in the Olympics, because I ran the hundred in four point three." He should have tried gunfire, because I was running the hundred in about three point nine.

 

I didn't even slow as I ran around the next corner and almost hit a black-op. I ducked and blew right past him, "Ms. Elizabeth Morgan, halt or I will fire."

 

I yelled, "That's big talk for a little man with a tiny dick." But the son of a bitch did start firing at me. Now I know they're not Seals… Shit! That leaves Blackwater! If these bastards catch me I'll never see the light of day again. They don't follow any rules except their own.

 

I was really pissed off so I pulled my sidearm, ducked into a doorway, stuck my hand around the side of the doorway and started randomly spraying the street with rounds. "Help, I'm hit. It went right through my body armor, she's got armor piercing rounds!" he yelled.

 

Yeah smug bastard! It's amazing what an AP round will do to Kevlar body armor. I emptied the mag, reloaded, jammed the pistol in it's holster and took off running again. I had to juke from side to side to avoid the gunfire so it slowed me up, but there was no way in hell these bastards would catch me. I turned randomly and almost got lost but had the BW-ops so confused they didn't know where I was going. I came around a corner and saw three looking the other way. I pulled the pistol, dropped to the ground and shot all three. They rolled on the ground as I ran past, "Take it easy boys, they're just flesh wounds."

 

I started to get winded - damn I'm not in as good shape as I used to be. I'd better get back to the house. I beat them to the front door, ran into the main room and shouted, "We need to get the hell out of here. They followed me."

 

Flashback – Zarika  – Tajikistan Day Twenty

 

I woke up and my head hurt badly, it reminded me of the times Hussein used to beat me. I tried to move and realized I was tied up and in the back of the truck. Then I remembered how badly things went at the Embassy and how the bad men in uniforms stole Ben from us. Then the guards called us bad names so I punched him. After that I didn't remember anything until now. I felt myself start to cry.

 

Yasmeen was over on the other side of the truck. "Yasmeen, wake up!" she didn't move. "Yasmeen, wake up now," she still didn't move.

 

I heard laughter from the front of the truck and then voices, so I strained my ears to listen. "Alexi, I can't believe our good luck. With Ben out of the way we can take the gold for ourselves." It was Oleg; I could not believe he would say that.

 

Alexi replied, "What about the girls."

 

Sasha laughed, "Zarika, is such a little suka, she treated me like shit. I'm going to beat the hell out of her and then teach her the only thing women are good for."

 

Sergei added, "I want Yasmeen, I bet she's still fresh."

 

They all started laughing, "Yasmeen, wake up we need to get out of here." I said as loud as I dared, she still didn't move.

 

Sasha said, "There's no reason to wait, I'm going in the back."

 

Sasha came into the back, "Good, you little suka you're awake. It will be better for both of us if you are awake."

 

"Leave me alone you bastard or I will have Ben kill you!" I yelled.

 

He laughed, "Ben is probably dead by now because I never gave him any antibiotics. Besides he is at the Embassy and you are here with me. Be a good little bitch and show me all the things Hussein's men taught you and I might not beat you too much. If you are really good I might even keep you around."

 

"Do not you touch me bastard or I will kill you!"

 

He laughed at me, "Guys, she is awake and says she is going to kill me."

 

They started laughing and one of them yelled, "Do not use more than one of her holes. I want her after you and I do not like sloppy seconds."

 

"Now my little bitch which way would you like it first?" He teased. I started crying. I promised myself after Ben saved me I would never let any other man touch me, no one but Ben.

 

He started running his hands roughly over my body, pinching and poking me. I struggled to get away, "Yes fight me little one. I like it when women fight me."

 

He climbed on top of me and I screamed and cried and fought as much as I could but he just laughed in my face.

 

Flashback – Yasmeen  – Tajikistan Day Twenty

 

I woke up and realized something was very wrong. Sasha was on top of Zarika trying to make love to her. She was screaming and crying and fighting. The men up front were laughing about it like a bunch of animals. I grabbed a big piece of wood beside me and hit Sasha over the head with it as hard as I could once, twice, three times. He moaned and stopped moving.

 

Alexi yelled from the front of the truck, "Sasha are you okay?"

 

Zarika whispered, "Yasmeen be quick and untie me."

 

I pushed Sasha off the top of her, found his knife and cut her ropes. "Sasha, can you hear us? Is everything okay?" Oleg yelled.

 

Sergei said, "Maybe Zarika was too much woman for him and he needs some help?" They all laughed. Zarika sat up, found her AK and pointed it towards the front of the truck.

 

"I am going back to see what happened." Oleg said. He opened the curtain and Zarika shot him. "Oh shit one of them has a gun. Where are our rifles?"

 

"They are all hidden in the back."

 

"Zarika and Yasmeen, we did not mean anything. We were just playing around." Alexi said. Zarika fired into the front of the truck.

 

"I am getting out of here," Sergei said. "Do not leave me," Alexi added. The truck stopped and the doors opened.

 

Zarika said, "Yasmeen find a rifle and cover me." I hunted around, found a rifle and aimed it up front. Zarika crawled towards the front of the truck. I heard a noise at the back of the truck and turned my rifle. Alexi opened the back and I pulled the trigger. Blood was everywhere as Alexi fell backwards.

 

I heard a big fight from the front of the truck. Zarika was fighting with Sergei and he was trying to get her rifle. I could not fire or I would hit Zarika so I grabbed Sasha's knife, ran up front and poked Sergei in the eye with it. I did not know a man could scream like he did. He let go of the rifle and fell out of the truck. Zarika shot him three times.

 

She went back and looked at Sasha, "Good the bastard is still alive. Help me get him outside of the truck."

 

We dragged him to the back of the truck and pushed him out. We both jumped out of the truck and looked around. We were no longer in Dushanbe because the truck was on a little dirt road.

 

"Yasmeen, give me his knife." Zarika said.

 

I handed her the knife and she cut off his private parts and stuffed them in his mouth, blood was everywhere. Then she started kicking him, "You bastard! That will teach you to try to rape me." I had never seen Zarika so angry! She kicked him for about five minutes then fell down on the ground and started to cry.

 

I went over to her, sat beside her and hugged her. She cried on my shoulder just like a little baby. Zarika had never cried before, she was always the strong one and I was scared.

 

"Zarika, what are we going to do. Ben is gone."

 

She stopped crying and looked at me, "Yasmeen, we are going to go where Ben told us to go. He will come for us like he promised."

 

"But what if he doesn't come?" I whined. She looked very angry at me and I thought she was going to hit me, "Ben promised us he will come for us and he never breaks a promise."

 

"Zarika, what will we do when we get there?"

 

She smiled, "Yasmeen, we will train very hard to be his girl-warriors." Then her smile got really big, "And we will start working on your plan."

 

I grinned at Zarika, "We will be Ben's brides."

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 SSN-22.

 

I woke up and looked at my watch, it's O'dark thirty - time for me to get up and do PT as I do every morning. I glanced around the room and realized we're still on the sub. Sometimes my dreams are so real…

 

Jack snored and muttered some words above me on the top bunk. I wanted to wake him and get him to work out too but decided to have mercy on the old man. But when we get back from this mission he's getting a taste of Ben's boot camp.

 

I was surprised they didn't turn out the lights on the sub, then I noticed the switch on the wall and figure Jack left it on last night. I sat up and noticed a bunch of papers at the foot of my bed. Wow, they were IOUs. It looks like I made a lot of money yesterday. That was such a fun competition - I hoped Jack was proud of me.

 

I jumped out of bed and felt a bit sore and stiff. I needed to warm up first so I started doing my martial arts. My movements disturbed Jack and I sensed him watching me. He waited until I was finished. "Banzai, you're up and doing a workout?"

 

"Yes Jack. I work out every morning. You should too."

 

"After yesterday I didn't think you'd be able to move today. How do you feel?"

 

"Well, I'm a little bit sore and stiff so I thought I'd loosen up with my martial arts. I was just getting ready to do the physical part of my workout, care to join me?"

 

"I think I'd rather sleep some more." He answered.

 

"Okay Jack, but just remember, I'm not letting my spotter get all fat and lazy. When we get back from this mission we're going to start working out together."

 

I laughed as he muttered some words and rolled over.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 SSN-22.

 

The kid woke me up doing exercises. I couldn't believe it! Here I was worried about the mission and he's acting like nothing happened yesterday. But much more happened than he realized - I noticed the change which came over him part way through the pushups. It looked like he was exhausted and in pain, and the next minute it was like he was Superman. I needed to talk to Anna about this.

 

I yelled at Banzai, "Hey, make sure you get some sleep after your workout. Our mission starts soon."

"Okay Jack, thanks." He replied.

 

He finished his workout, hit the bottom bunk and fell right to sleep. I took awhile longer for me to find sleep.

 

Flashback – Ben – Nine years old my 'bar mitzvah' Day two

 

I was right, it got cold last night and I could see my breath. The fire would last about two hours and then die down. I would get cold, wake up shivering, feed the fire, warm up and fall back to sleep. Some might think this was torture, but not for me - this was a minor inconvenience. I was really in heaven, but then I guess anyplace other than the cabin was heaven.

 

The cold was the worst just before the dawn and I couldn't get back to sleep, so I decide to get an early start on the day. I grabbed the can, went down to the stream and filled it with water. Then I grabbed the rabbit from yesterday, cut it into pieces and threw it into the can. There were a few left over pieces which I put on a stick to place over the fire. I ran back up, put the can on the coals and the rabbit-kabobs over the fire. Then I sat back and tried to get warm.

 

I couldn't get warm so I knew I needed to get up and move. Even though dad wasn't here, I got up and did my morning PT while I kept an eye on the food. I wasn't going to burn it like last night. The rabbit smelled great and my stomach growled but I forced myself to finish PT first.

 

I dropped off the tree branch after doing pull-ups, went over and looked at the stew. It was ready and smelled wonderful. I set it off the coals to cool and looked at the rabbit-kabobs. They weren't quite done so I turned them and decided to make something called a fire tube Grandpa had told me about. It's a way the Indians used to carry fire with them so they wouldn't have to waste time starting a fire each time they stopped.

 

I found another cottonwood tree and stripped off a bunch of inner bark. Then I took the outer bark off an aspen tree and wrapped it around the inner bark very tight. I sacrificed one piece of rope to wrap around it and tie it. I looked at it after I finished: It was about a foot long and looked like a big cigarette but it might work. I took it over to the fire and using my knife I slipped a single coal into the end of the fire tube and watched as the inner bark started to smolder.

 

The stew was cool enough to eat and it was almost as good as Mom's stew at home. I took my time and savored every bite. The rabbit-kabobs were done and I was still hungry so I almost ate them, but decided I would leave them for lunch. I had one more clean plastic bag so I threw them in the bag and put them into the top of my possibles bag.

 

It took me forever to put out the fire because all I had was the little can to carry water in. I tried to think of what I could have done without the can: How would I have put out the fire but I decided it was too much to think about right then.

 

Once I was sure the fire was dead, I double checked my landmarks and took off at a trot heading towards the cabin. I thought as I ran, this wasn't so hard: I had food, water and animal trails leading mostly in the right direction. I wished dad had taken me even further into the woods.

 

A couple hours later I stopped and looked at the map and was doing well. I checked the route and looked twice at the map because if I kept up my current speed, I wasn't sure I'd have water at my camp tonight. The more I looked the more I decided not only would I run out of water tonight, I wouldn't have water for over a day maybe a day and a half. I sat dejectedly on the ground - I'd made a big mistake because I didn't think I could trot for a day and a half without water.

 

I kept looking at the map and trying to find a solution. There are ways to find water in the mountains of Colorado, but they all take time, work and energy. The work was fine but I didn't want to waste the time and the energy to find water. I kept looking at the route and realized, if dad had dropped me where he marked on the map, I would have water all the way to the cabin. There was one big ridge which separated the valleys so if I could just get over the ridge I'd have it made.

 

This was a huge decision and I wished I had Grandpa to help me. If I tried to climb the ridge and got caught on the top I might freeze to death tonight. If I didn't climb the ridge I wouldn't have water. I ran over the three essentials of survival in my mind: First shelter, then water, then food. I had no shelter but I could still make a fire. And as long as I could find a sheltered place the fire would keep me warm. I had no water on this path and that seemed like the most important thing to me. I needed to climb the ridge and get into the next valley to have water.

 

This time I studied the map and contour lines with my entire mind so I would make no more mistakes. If I ran about one more hour, it looked like things weren't as steep and it would be easier to climb. But if I saw a game trail earlier I might take it. I made a mental note of the landmarks I should see when I needed to turn towards the ridge and took off at a run because there was no time now to waste on just trotting.

 

I'd run about fifteen minutes when I saw a big game trail heading towards the ridge. I stopped and studied the map. This wasn't a very good spot, but if the trail held it would help. I ran over and drank as much out of the creek as I could and filled up the can with water trying to seal the top with a plastic bag. Once I left the creek I wouldn't have anymore water until I made it over the ridge and down into the next valley. It wasn’t going to be easy since it was over twelve miles away and half of those twelve miles were up! I took off at a moderate run on the game trail.

 

It didn't take long for the trail to start climbing. After another hour it was very steep and my running had turned into trotting. Another hour and I cleared the timberline. Trotting in the tundra gave me a great view of the valley I had just come from: I scanned the horizon and noticed some clouds in the distance. It could mean rain later tonight but more importantly I didn't want to be caught above the timberline in a lightning storm since I would be the tallest object and a natural lightning rod.

 

There were many false summits so I'd clear one and then see another ahead. I kept moving forward, watching the building weather behind me. It had gotten so steep I was down to almost crawling up the trail, using my hands and feet. The only thing which could use these trails would have been a Mountain Goat! I'd began to wonder if I'd made another mistake. My arms and legs started to ache and then, I felt hard Ben start to take over. He'd never come before when I wasn't being beaten and I was scared!

 

But he wasn't scared so the next thing I knew I was running again. Bouncing up the slope like it wasn't even there and taking risks I normally wouldn't have taken - jumping from boulder to boulder and pulling himself up from ledge to ledge with his arms. When hard Ben reached the top of the ridge, I turned and looked behind me at what he had just climbed and shook with fear. I'd never climbed anything like that in my life - some of it was straight up. I looked at my hands and they were a bloody mess with some missing fingernails. I glanced and saw the approaching thunderstorm and knew I needed to get off the ridge.

 

I was lucky because this side wasn't nearly as steep and I found a game trail to follow right away. I took off at a run. I reached in the possibles bag for the rabbit and it was gone! Oh yeah, I remembered hard Ben ate it. The water was gone too - yes hard Ben again. He was strong, but he wasn't always smart like me. I laughed because hard Ben was hard in the head and didn't listen to Grandpa. But he did save me when I needed saving.

 

I made it past the timberline and back into the forest before I checked the compass. This was a great game trail as it headed at a slight angle right in the direction I needed to go. I dropped into a trot and kept my eyes open for food.

 

There was another old campsite I stopped at and I found a bunch of fishing line. It was all knotted but I might be able to use it so I threw it in the possibles bag. Thunder rumbled in the valley and motivated me to keep moving, hoping I could find a dry place for tonight. I stopped at a couple places to pick up some more lamb's quarters and wild onions but that was all I found today.

 

The clouds were dark and black overhead. It was going to rain and I needed someplace dry for the night. I kept looking everywhere hoping for a cave or an overhanging rock but couldn't find a thing. The first drops which fell were huge and made big splat noises as they hit the ground. The size decreased as the frequency of the drops increased and soon I started to get wet.

 

Finally I saw a rock next to a spruce tree with the branches touching the ground. I ran up and crawled into the depression made by the branches. The depression was mostly dry but I wasn't. I was very cold and started to shiver. I took my shirt off and covered myself with the little piece of blanket - it helped some but I was still shivering. I took the cleanest plastic bag I had and put it over my head like a hat and wrapped the ends tight. Then I beat my arms trying to stay warm. Slowly I warmed up and the shivering disappeared.

 

I was still thirsty so I took my wet shirt and squeezed all the water I could out of it into the can and drank what little water there was. I slipped the can out from under the spruce tree and waited for the rain to fill it. Even though I couldn't start a fire right now, I checked my fire tube and it still had a glowing coal in it. I sat back and enjoyed the growing warmth and wonderful smell of my temporary spruce tree lodge and began to get sleepy. I lay my head down on a rock and drifted off to sleep.