11 Wounded

Wounded

© Copyright 2009

Written by Mr. and Mrs. Banzai Ben

banzaiben@gmail.com

 

 

Wounded Chapter 11

 

Flashback Natasha (Jens) – Kabul Afghanistan - Tuesday 16 October

 

Liz crashed through the garage door and was driving like a maniac. I was lying on the floor and couldn't see anything. After a big bump, Linus said, "Damn Liz you ran over one of the Seals."

 

"Those fuckers aren't Seals, I think they're Blackwater."

 

"Son-of-a-bitch, it's a good thing they didn't grab us. We'd be fucked!" Linus said.

 

"Why's that?" I asked.

 

Liz looked really quick at me but kept driving, "Natasha, they don't follow any rules. They even kept one of their own women locked up for months after some of them gang banged her."

 

Bernie added, "They kept her in a shipping container and she didn't get released until the US State Department got involved."

 

"Come on you two, isn't this a fabricated story?"

 

Liz replied, "I don't know. But I don't want to be the one to find out!"

 

Linus adds, "Those fuckers won't take me alive."

 

Liz and Bernie echoed, "Us either."

 

"Where are we headed Liz?"

 

"Someplace safer than here. I can't believe they found me. I'm so pissed off I didn't see them following me earlier."

 

Bernie said, "Liz, if they are BW it could be they found us because I contacted them."

 

Liz ordered, "Okay guys, and Natasha, it looks like we can't use BW. Start thinking about ops we can hire."

 

"Liz, I think I can get three guys, two Marines and a retired Marine." I said.

 

"I know a few guys who would help." Linus added.

 

"Hang on! I'm taking this corner fast," Liz yelled as the Humvee slid around the corner. "Oh shit! They've blocked the street." I felt the Humvee do a one-eighty and Liz floored it again.

 

"Damn Liz, how many of these fuckers do we have to deal with." Linus complained.

 

"They sure are motivated." Bernie added.

 

Liz sounded worried as she said, "Natasha, I guess Glen is desperate to find you."

 

"That bastard! He won't believe me when I say Ben's still alive. There's no way he's keeping me from finding Ben."

 

I felt the Humvee accelerate. "Good news Jens, we're finally out of town and you can sit up."

 

Bernie said, "Liz I forgot to tell you. We have the video back from the post production house."

 

I anxiously asked, "What the hell did it show."

 

I looked at Bernie and he smiled, "It's a person in BDUs who is thrown out of the helicopter. Unfortunately the roof of the building hides him as he hits the wall so we can't get a positive ID."

 

"I told you all I wasn't fucking crazy! I'm sure it's Ben." I wanted to get up and dance!

 

"Natasha this still isn't going to be enough proof for Glen. He's going to want more proof." Liz sadly said.

 

"I'll find him the proof and shove it down his fricken throat!" I grumped.

 

"How are you going to do that Natasha?" Bernie asked.

 

I thought for a couple minutes and said, "I bet we can calculate the size and estimate the weight of the object thrown from the helicopter and compare it to Ben."

 

"That will help, but probably won't be enough," Liz replied. "Oh shit! We've got a tail. How in the hell did they find us."

 

Linus started screwing around with some equipment, "I know how - someone tagged the Humvee with a GPS tracking unit. I bet one of those rounds which hit us was a tracker round."

 

"How do we get rid of it?" I asked.

 

"If I had time I could find it. But we're being tailed and I can't do it now. We need to ditch this Humvee." Linus said.

 

"I have a better idea, Liz take us back into Kabul." I ordered.

 

"Natasha what sort of crazy plan do you have?" Liz asked.

 

"Just get me back to Kabul and I'll show you."

 

Flashback Liz – Kabul Afghanistan - Tuesday 16 October

 

Well we escaped from the hideout, but it sucks that we are being tailed and we can't do anything about it. Natasha came up with one of her hair brained schemes and wants me to head back into the frying pan.

 

"Natasha, I think we should just keep going."

 

"Yeah and let them catch us? Liz, you know as well as I do they will have air support soon, if not already. We are sitting ducks out here in the open," she said.

 

I don't much like it but she's right! "Natasha what's your plan?"

 

She tells me her plan and I explode, "Natasha this is close to suicide. And I won't allow it!"

 

"Liz, this is dangerous but it will work. And if it doesn't work I'll die young and leave a really good looking corpse."

 

"What about rescuing Ben? How are you going to do it if you're dead?"

 

She thinks for a couple minutes and states, "If that happens you will have to rescue him."

 

I get distracted for a moment dreaming about how thankful he'd be when I rescued him and how heartbroken he’d be about Jens – of course I'd have to console him.

 

"Liz, Liz, did you hear me. Turn back around." Natasha yelled.

 

"Oh sorry, I was trying to figure out a different plan." When I spun the Humvee around, it surprised our tail and we blew past them. We made it back to town just as we heard the choppers.

 

"Okay Liz, let's switch places," Natasha said and she took over as driver. Once she was settled in she started driving even crazier than I was driving.

 

Flashback Natasha (Jens) – Kabul Afghanistan - Tuesday 16 October

 

I was driving the Humvee like I stole it, mostly because I guess we sort of did steal it. Besides, in a very short while we won't need it anymore.

 

"Liz, switch places with Linus, and Linus make sure you bring a rifle."

 

"Shit Natasha, it would help if you weren't driving even worse than Liz," Linus complained.

 

"Hey Linus, are you copping a feel?" Liz grumped as she tried to get past him.

 

He laughed, "I would but you'd like it too much."

 

"Pul-eze, I'm about ten times the woman you could handle." Liz teased.

 

"Sorry I like my merchandise with a lot fewer miles. Ouch, ouch, ouch, quit! Liz I was just teasing you. Let go of my ear!" he yelled as she pulled the hell out of his ear.

 

"If you don't apologize, I'm going to rip your ear right off the side of your head!" Liz yelled.

 

"I'm sorry. Now, let me have my ear back," Linus whined.

 

I'd already decided to get rid of Liz and Bernie. While I loved Liz like a sister, I didn't want her and Bernie to suffer for helping me escape. Besides, this was going to be a covert military operation and they were dead wood now.

 

"Okay Liz and Bernie, I don't see a tail behind us. As I slide around the next corner, you two and all your gear bailout.”

 

Linus added, "Don't let those BW fuckers catch you. I don't want to have to come and rescue your asses."

 

"Natasha, remember how we're going to communicate with each other and look for a message from me tonight. If you don't hear from me, you'll know BW caught us," Liz said.

 

I slid around the corner and locked the brakes. "Shit Natasha, are you trying to fucking kill me!” Linus complained.

 

"I knew we should have hired a Marine, not a cry baby Seal," I teased him. "Take care of yourself sister."

 

"You too Natasha!" Liz yelled and we sped off.

 

"Okay Linus, since it's just the two of us, here's the real plan," I say as I explain what we're really going to do.

 

Flashback Linus – Kabul Afghanistan - Tuesday 16 October

 

Natasha's plan is either fucking crazy or brilliant. It's crazy if it doesn't work and we die, and it's brilliant if it works because it will buy us the time we need.

 

"Okay Natasha, I know you're a tactical genius. What is our chance of surviving this crazy plan?"

 

"I'm not going to lie to you Linus I figure it's about seventy percent. So, are you in?" Natasha asks.

 

I thought for a bit: Seventy percent from Natasha was better than many of the Seal missions I'd taken. "You bet, this sounds like fun!"

 

"How many ex-Seals do you know?"

 

I started thinking about the ones who were still fit enough to do a mission like this. "I figure three aren't too torn up and are still fit enough to handle this mission."

 

"Good, I've got two Marines and one retired Marine. So that gives us a squad of eight counting you and me. That's the perfect size."

 

"Natasha, will the two Marines do this for you?"

 

"I'm pretty sure they will. They both got Glen pissed at them and he reassigned them to Thule. Shit they're the only Marines on Thule and are freezing their asses off."

 

I laughed, "Thule, that place is hell! Do you remember the joke about the airman and the commander?"

 

Natasha replied, "I don't think I know that one.”

 

I told the joke:

 

          An Air Force cargo plane was preparing for departure from Thule Air Base in Greenland. They were waiting for the arrival of the truck to pump out the aircraft's sewage holding tank.
        The Aircraft Commander was in a hurry, the truck was late in arriving, and the Airman performing the job was extremely slow in getting the tank pumped out.
        When the commander berated the Airman for his slowness and promised punishment, the Airman responded: "Sir, I have no stripes, it is 20 below zero, I'm stationed in Greenland, and I am pumping sewage out of airplanes. Just what are you going to do to punish me?"

 

Natasha laughs, "Well they aren't pumping shit, but I'm sure they're catching it from their wives."

 

I got serious, "So Natasha, tell me something. It seems to me Glen sometimes does things – well, I don't know how to put this – that are not quite right."

 

There was a long awkward silence then she glanced at me and bit her lip, "Yeah Linus, I don't know what's wrong with Daddy. But when Mom or I ask him something he really has a hard time saying no. I look back on some of the things I had him do for me and I'm sorry I had him do them."

 

"So why won't he believe you now about Ben still being alive?"

 

Again things became really quiet, finally Natasha looked at me and had some tears in her eyes, "Linus, the only thing I can think of is Mom has convinced him Ben is dead."

 

"I thought she was all in favor of your wedding?"

 

Natasha grumped, "So did I."

 

Flashback Natasha (Jens) – Kabul Afghanistan - Tuesday 16 October

 

I'd lost the tail and even the chopper and had dropped off Liz and Bernie. I could only hope BW didn’t catch them. It was time to put my plan into action.

 

"Okay Linus, where they hell is this warehouse you mentioned?" He then gives me the location.

 

"Make sure we're not being followed Natasha," he reminds me.

 

We picked up another tail but I lost them and we slid up to the warehouse door. Linus jumped out, opened the door and I drove in. While Linus humped all the gear to a remote corner, I put on my fucking burka.

 

Linus came over and laughed, "You'll make SM Blaine a good little Muslim wife."

 

I flipped him off, "But you'll look even better in your man-dress. Let's go, you can change in the Humvee." Thank God they hadn't found us again and we escaped from the warehouse. We were going to need the gear we dumped in there.

 

Linus crawled in the back and I saw him struggling to get into his man-dress. I teased, "You'd think an ex-Seal would know all about how to get into dresses. They sure used to try to get into mine."

 

I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw him flip me off and then noticed another fricken tail. So I kicked the Humvee in the ass. "Hey are you trying to make it harder?"

 

"No way, we keep picking up tails and I have to lose them. Hang on!" I yelled as I wrenched the wheel and slid us around a corner. We started heading into the Taliban controlled part of Kabul.

 

Linus climbed up front, "You'd better let me drive now. Good little Muslim bitches don't drive cars."

 

I slid the Humvee to a stop, jumped out, ran around to the passenger door and hopped in. Linus floored it.

 

The further we got into the bad part of the city, the less likely it would be for BW to follow us. They were motivated but they weren't dumb. Even though it was close to sundown, the Humvee was attracting a lot of attention. And an occasional gun shot!

 

We were close to our final destination and just needed to wait. Linus kept driving around until we heard the evening call to prayer from the fricken Taliban Mosque. We waited until everyone went inside and stopped two blocks away.

 

I jumped out, ran over to the side of the road and stood against a building. Linus jammed a stick down on the Humvee accelerator and kept the engine roaring. He pushed in on the clutch, put it in third, dumped the clutch and the Humvee took off like a rocket - right towards the front doors of the mosque. He walked over beside me and we watched the drama.

 

Bullets started slamming into the Humvee but didn't even slow it up. Someone fired and RPG at the Humvee right before it hit the doors and it caught fire and slammed into the doors of the mosque with a hell-of-a-noise.

 

Towel heads boiled out of the mosque like angry wasps out of a hive. They were shooting the hell out of the Humvee. I guess something punctured the fuel tank and there was a small fireball and flames engulfed the Humvee and the front part of the mosque.

 

We slowly turned and started walking away as everyone else was running towards the mosque. Linus whispered to me, "I still think we should have packed the Humvee with C4."

 

"Linus we talked about this. There might have been women in the mosque."

 

He spat, "Like that made any fucking difference to the towel heads on nine-eleven."

Flashback – Mira and Ira - Dushanbe, Tajikistan

 

We were so excited we didn’t fall asleep until late. Tomorrow we were going to sneak away to America. Papa and Mama were both university professors and we had a very good life in Dushanbe Tajikistan – until Papa started complaining about corruption in the government. After that we had to move out of our big flat and into this tiny little flat with three rooms. Ira and I had to sleep on old blankets on the floor. We even lost all our old girlfriends but it didn't bother us much because we have always had each other.

 

Papa had made arrangements with a friend in the American government to help us escape to America. They were going to give us political asylum and we would have a wonderful new life! We spent hours talking and dreaming of what our new life was going to be like. It was so exciting.

 

We were rudely awakened in early the morning when the door of our flat was broken down. Papa yelled at someone, Mama ran into our room and said, "Hide my little girls. The bad men are here."

 

We squeezed under the couch and tried to stay quiet. We heard a loud noise from the hallway and Papa stopped yelling. A bad man came into our room and said to Mama, "You did not think we knew about your plans to escape. You will never escape. Anotoli is dead and you are next."

 

Mama yelled a bunch of bad words at the man then we heard another loud noise and saw Mama fall to the floor. She was bleeding very badly. I crawled out from under the couch and held Mama's head in my lap, but I soon realized she was dead.

 

A bad man looked at me, "Ah you are one of the twins. Where is your sister?"

 

I cried, stood up and hit the bad man but he only laughed, "I am supposed to kill you and your sister. Just like your Papa and Mama. But I think I will have some fun first."

 

He grabbed me and put his hands on my private parts. I fought him very hard and kicked him in his private parts. He was very angry at me and hit me across the face and I fell asleep. I woke up later and we were in a big bed and Ira was holding me. I asked her in our special language.

 

"Ira, where are we and what happened."

 

"Mira, a bad man killed Papa and Mama and was going to kill us. Another man named Kostia yelled at him and hit him and has taken us to his flat. We are locked in his bedroom."

 

"My head hurts, how long have I been asleep?"

 

"Mira, your face has a big bruise on it and I was so worried because you have been asleep almost all day."

 

I touched my face and it was very sore.

 

"Ira, Where is this Kostia man?"

 

"He said he had some work to do and would come back tonight. I'm very hungry."

 

"Ira, what will we do without Papa and Mama? I do not want to live in the orphanage."

 

We both held each other and cried about Papa and Mama until we heard the front door open, "Mira he is back."

 

"Let us hide under the bed from him."

 

We both crawled under the bed, several minutes later he came into the bedroom, "Ah, my girls are playing hide and seek with me. Too bad, I have some wonderful food for them. But if they want to hide, then I guess I will eat it all myself."

 

 I whispered, "Ira, do you think we should eat?"

 

He said, "I even have candy for good little girls who don't hide from me."

 

Ira yelled at him, "Kostia, if we come out do you promise not to hit us?"

 

He laughed and looked under the bed, "I will not hit you unless you hit me. Do you remember I hit the bad man who hit you? Now come and eat your dinner, it is getting cold."

 

We both crawled out from under the bed. We were amazed at the size of his flat as he took us into the kitchen. We sat at the table and he gave us huge plate full of food and even some wine.

 

I looked at Ira, "Ira, he gave us wine. Do you think we should drink it?"

 

The Kostia man looked at me, "Tell me, why I don't even know your name, what did you just say to your sister?"

 

"I am Mira and my sister is Ira."

 

"Come now tell me what you said."

 

Ira looked at him, "Mr. Kostia, my sister asked me if we should drink the wine. Mama didn't let us drink wine very often."

 

I cried when Ira mentioned Mama. Kostia came over and said, "Come and sit on my lap and have a good cry about your Mama. I am sorry I could not save them from the bad men like I was able to save you."

 

I sat on his lap and cried, "Thank you Mr. Kostia for saving us. But now we will have to live in the orphanage because we do not have a Papa or Mama."

 

He looked kindly at me, "What about aunts and uncles. Do you have any other relatives?"

 

Ira started crying, "Mr. Kostia, we do not have any other relatives."

 

"How would you two like to live here with me?" He asked.

 

I smiled at him, "That would be very nice Mr. Kostia. Are you sure we would not be too much trouble?"

 

He looked at both of us, "It would be nice if you could help some around here."

 

"I can clean." Ira added, "And I can cook a little."

 

"Both of you stand beside each other, I want to look at you." We stood side by side. "I cannot tell which of you is Mira and which of you is Ira."

 

I raised my left hand, "I'm Mira because I'm left handed. Ira is right handed."

 

He gave us a loving smile, "You know, I am a very important special policeman. And I think you two would make excellent police women. Would you like it if I trained you to be police women? Then you could catch bad men like the one who killed your Papa and Mama."

 

I looked at Ira and she nodded her head, "Yes Mr. Kostia, we would like that very much."

 

He grinned at us and explained, "You two will have to do everything I say. Sometimes training will be very hard and might even hurt. Are you two strong enough?"

 

We were both excited about catching the bad man who killed Papa and Mama, "Yes Mr. Kostia we are very strong."

 

He smiled really big, "Good, here is my first order. Drink all your wine." We watched as he poured some clear liquid in with our wine. Then we drank it all. In a little while we were both feeling dizzy.

 

"Mr. Kostia, we feel a little sick," I said.

 

"Do not worry, it sometimes happens after you drink wine. Let me help you both into our bedroom."

 

He carried Ira into the bedroom and then came back and carried me into the bedroom.

 

Ira giggled, "Mira I feel so funny."

 

"I do to Ira, I'm so sleepy."

 

Mr. Kostia crawled into bed with us and I watched as he took Ira's clothes off. She started to fight him, he said, "No, this is a special part of your training. Do not fight me or you will go to the orphanage."

 

That was the first of many nights Kostia trained us and each time he did we hated him even more. We decided we would become better than him and someday we would make him pay for his training.

 

Flashback Liz – Kabul Afghanistan - Tuesday 16 October

 

I looked over at Bernie, "We need to get the hell out of here." We already had the gear and took off heading perpendicular to the path of the Humvee.

 

"You realize they dumped us?" Bernie asked.

 

"Yeah it wasn't hard to figure out. Natasha is just trying to keep us safe."

 

"So what are the plans?"

 

"I think we need to get to the base before BW catches us. After shooting four of them and running over another, it's not safe if they grab us."

 

Bernie said in amazement, "You shot four of them! Do you have a death wish?"

 

"Well now that you mention it, it feels like I might. But it seemed the right thing to do at the time." I shuddered thinking what BW would do to me if they caught me first.

 

"Hide Liz a vehicle's coming."

 

We ducked in a doorway and the vehicle stopped, "Ms. Morgan this is Captain Pierce of the Marines, we want you and your cameraman to step out of the doorway with your hands in the air."

 

I stepped out of the doorway and yelled, "Are we ever happy to see you! Someone has been chasing us and shooting at us." Bernie followed behind me.

 

His men came over, searched us and took away our side arms, "You know you shouldn't carry weapons when you're over here."

 

I smile at him and lie, "Once these guys in black started shooting at us, we needed to arm ourselves. It would be different if I had a big strong Marine like you to keep me safe."

 

He scowled at me and said, "Save the bullshit for the General. He might find it amusing."

 

I was shocked when they put tie wraps on our wrists, "Excuse me Captain Pierce do you realize the trouble you are going to be in for restraining an American citizen and a member of a news crew."

 

"Save your crap for the General. I have my orders."

 

I gave him a dirty look, "Okay Hawkeye, suit yourself." Bernie chuckled and Captain Pierce said, "If I had a buck for every joker who called me Hawkeye after the MASH character I'd be rich."

 

I threw some more fuel on the fire, "It must suck knowing you'll never make Major."

 

"One more smart assed comment out of you and I'll have you gagged!" he yelled.

 

I gave him an evil look, "I don't think your puny dick could ever gag anyone, let alone me." I fought like hell as the son-of-a-bitch gagged me with a nasty smelling and tasting bandana.

 

They loaded us in a Stryker and we headed towards the base. I was secretly happy the Marines caught us first.

 

Flashback Glen – Kabul Afghanistan - Tuesday 16 October

 

I'd come to Kabul to try to find Jens. Somehow she'd slipped off the base at Ramstein and I was pretty sure she'd come here to try to find Ben. It's a shame Ben got killed rescuing the Marines. Evelyn kept showing me the video proving he was dead. I don't know what the hell Stockman was doing, sending him on that mission, but once I found Jens, he was going to have a hell of a lot of things to answer for.

 

I'd just gotten great news: One of my patrols had found Liz Morgan and one of her cameramen, but not the other two members of her crew. I knew Jens and figured somehow Liz was involved in her escape.

 

Captain Pierce escorted Liz and her cameraman into my office: She was tied up, gagged, and pissed as hell. He walked over, gave me some information removed the gag and tie wraps from Liz and left. "General Donaldson, what are you doing having your Marines detain American citizens?" Something didn't seem right because she was too calm and collected and wasn't cussing me out.

 

I grinned at her, "Ms. Morgan, we are just keeping you and your cameraman safe in a potential war zone."

 

"General Donaldson, Kabul is relatively peaceful and you know it."

 

"Liz, I don't know where you've been or what you've been doing. But someone has BW all pissed off. They're running amuck and shooting up the whole city. Rumor has it they're looking for someone who resembles you."

 

She grinned at me, "General Donaldson aren't you controlling them?"

 

"Not this time Liz, I don't know who they're working for."

 

"So get on the horn and call them off. They'll listen to you."

 

"Normally they would, but the person they're looking for shot four of their operatives and ran over another. Now it's become personal to them."

 

Liz grinned, "It serves them right after what they've done. Turn us loose right now! I have news stories to shoot."

 

"I'm afraid I can't, not until things simmer down between BW and the Muslim population."

 

"General Donaldson, what got the Muslims all upset?"

 

"From what we can tell, a Humvee crashed into their major mosque and sat it on fire." I watched as she faltered and sat in the chair. "Then BW came roaring up in their vehicles and started a huge firefight. The Muslims are pissed as hell and blaming it on America. This fucking place is a powder keg just waiting to explode."

 

She looked at me with honest concern in her eyes, "Were there any survivors from the Humvee?"

 

I shrugged my shoulders, "Who the hell knows. No one can get close enough to tell."

 

I watched her and see she's obviously upset, "Okay Liz, let's cut all the crap. You know why you're really here. I think you helped Jens escape from Ramstein and I think you know where she is."

 

She glared at me, "If you would have just believed Jens about SM Blaine being alive, none of this would have happened."

 

"Liz I saw the video and no one could survive that crash."

 

She gave me a hateful look and replied, "But you haven't seen the enhanced video which shows the object coming out of the chopper was a soldier. We have it with us and I can show you."

 

I sat back and looked at her, "I'd love to see your video, but Captain Pierce told me as he brought you in that your equipment was destroyed by enemy fire."

 

She stood up and shouted, "General Donaldson! There was no enemy fire when he grabbed us! I hold the Marines responsible for the loss of our equipment. Now why don't you tell me what's going on!"

 

"Liz, simmer down - nothing's going on. There wasn't room for your equipment inside the Stryker so they threw it on the back. That's where it got destroyed."

 

She looked frustrated, "Don't worry Glen we have copies and extra equipment. I demand you let us go."

 

I grin at her and explain, "That will happen when you tell me where Jens is."

 

She smiled at me and said, "General Donaldson, I think you'll be letting me go much sooner than you know. I'm going to bring the whole world knocking on your doorstep demanding my release."

 

I smiled at her and return the threat, "Liz, that's a big threat for someone who's living in my brig. I pressed the button on my desk and Captain Pierce came in, "Please make sure Ms. Morgan and her cameraman are kept safe in the brig."

 

Liz yelled on her way out, "You haven't heard the last of me!"

 

I thought, I have for right now, bitch! Then I sat back and thought about the video she talked about. Could Ben still be alive?

 

Flashback Natasha (Jens) – Kabul Afghanistan - Tuesday 16 October

 

I think some of Ben's luck rubbed off on me. No sooner had the Humvee crashed into the mosque, when BW came flying up in their vehicles. The fucking Taliban started shooting at BW and they returned fire. This gave us the perfect cover to escape the area. We even ran without attracting attention.

 

We passed a bunch of Marine vehicles headed to the area and Linus said, "Fuck Natasha, I think we started World War Three."

 

"Shh Linus, we're supposed to be Muslim." But he might have been right, there was random gunfire everywhere. We stuck close to the walls and kept each other covered with the AKs.

 

We rounded a corner and a bunch of towel heads yelled at us and waved some rifles in our direction. It was the last thing they ever did. I remember the shocked look on their faces when a good little Muslim woman shot them.

 

We made it to the warehouse and Linus covered me as I went inside. The place was still empty. Linus bolted the door and threw off his man dress. "What's wrong, don't like wearing the dress in the family?” I teased.

 

"I don't know how SM Blaine puts up with you," Linus grumped.

 

"That's easy because he knows someday it will all be worth it, just like it will be for you."

 

He looked at me, "Jens I could never snake SM Blaine's woman."

 

"Silly man, I'd kill you or anyone else who tried to touch me. I meant financially, not physically. So tell me Linus does Liz, or anyone else, know about this warehouse?"

 

He grinned and said, "Nope, just us. I was going to tell her but never got the time. I didn't like the other place we had and thought this would be a great second safe house."

 

I thought for a few minutes, "You think BW will come sniffing around here? We did have the Humvee stopped here for a long time."

 

"I think BW has their hands full right now with the Taliban and the Marines. We're the furthest thing from their thoughts. By the way, your tactical plan worked better than I thought it would."

 

"Yeah I didn't expect them to RPG the Humvee and set it on fire. I still wonder what set off the fuel - I thought it was a bullet proof tank."

 

He grinned, "I did. I planted a C4 detonator on the tank with a delay timer. It was just small enough to blow a hole in the tank without blowing up the mosque."

 

"With that sort of improvisation, you'd almost make a good Marine. It gave us even more of a diversion without killing anyone."

 

"Thanks, I should have told you but I didn't have the time."

 

"Well that's the kind of surprise I like."

 

I started setting up the laptop. "Hey Linus, do you think they used the Sat phone to find us?"

 

"I'm pretty sure the spooks are in on this and they might be able to use their technology to find us."

 

I decide to scan the local area for wifi access. "Ha ha! I found a wireless access point." I messed around with it a bit more, "Shit it's WEP1 encryption." I started a packet capture program and five minutes later I had the key. I locked down the firewall to notify me of any intrusion attempts against my laptop, entered the key and had a great connection.

 

1Wired Equivalent Privacy is a deprecated algorithm to secure IEEE 802.11 wireless networks.

 

I left the laptop connected to see if it was a trap we had connected to and went over to see what Linus was doing. He was messing around with a bunch of his electronic stuff.

 

"What's all this?" I asked.

 

"Once I go outside and get it set up, this is going to be our perimeter defense system."

 

"Sweet, now all we need is another Humvee."

 

"I'll see what I can do after I get this working," he said as he took off to set up the perimeter defense.

 

I went back and checked the laptop, but no one had tried to hack into it. I went out to Google and tried to log onto the account Liz should have created. There was no account created yet so Liz must have been delayed. I setup the account, logged in and started a new email.

 

Subject: Where the fuck are you L?

 

Well sister, you've got me worried as hell. You should have had this account created by now and I should have a message about how you are sitting in the hotel picking up drunk soldiers.

 

Instead I have to create the account. Grrr!

 

Sorry to dump you and B, but we had a little change in plan and made quite an entrance at a mosque. Since this is turning into a covert action, you two were dead wood.

 

Take care of yourself and write soon.

 

XOXO N

 

I saved the email to the drafts folder and created another new account, logged in and fired up another email.

 

Subject: Assignment

 

How to use this account:

1.    Do not send emails to or from this account or we will have to close it.

2.    Write a message and save it in the drafts folder.

 

I am looking for a few good men to help me rescue a mutual friend of ours (BB) that's held prisoner and being tortured in the Middle East. The powers that be think he's dead so we won't have any help from them. In fact this will probably cost all of us.

 

But remember, NO ONE LEFT BEHIND!

 

Let me know if you are interested and we can discuss the details.

 

JJ

 

I saved the message, hooked up to two proxy servers and I fired up Skype2. I enabled the voice scrambler on my computer.

 

2 Skype is a software application which allows users to make telephone calls over the Internet. Calls to other users of the service, and in some countries to free-of-charge numbers are free, while calls to other landlines and mobile phones can be made for a fee. Additional features include instant messaging, file transfer and video conferencing.

 

"Who the fuck is waking me in the middle of the night?" Matt complained.

 

"Don't hang up! It's a friend from the time you went to the hotel and resort in Hawaii."

 

"Okay, I don't know who you are but you'd better make sense soon."

 

"Some things cannot be said over the phone and need to be said in person or by email."

 

"Uh I think I understand."

 

"Listen here jarhead, this had better make sense or I'll have Molly beat knots on your head. And do not say my name or I'll kick your butt."

 

"Okay I'm awake and I understand."

 

"Good now listen closely." It was going to be hell to get him to understand the account name and password.

 

"Do you know the first and the last name of the man who assigned you to your current station?"

 

"That son-of-a-bitch, yeah I know and hate his name."

 

"But I bet you didn't know his middle name was bastard."

 

"He laughed, "That's for sure. Tell me something new."

 

"Well there's an email account in his name with a message waiting for you. Do you understand?"

 

"Uh yeah, I think I do."

 

"Good make sure you contact your friend who's in the same place as you are. I can use him too."

 

Oh yeah you mean…" I interrupted him, "Hey don't say his name!"

 

"Oh yeah," he answered. "Don't I need a password?"

 

"Of course you fucking jarhead, it's the even letters of the friends who took you to the Kahala

Beach and Resort hotel, but don't say their names. Do you understand?"

 

"Oh yeah now I do."

 

"Well, get your ass moving and leave me a message." I hang up the phone, kill Skype and kill the two proxy sessions.

 

I now setup two different proxy sessions, launch Skype, dial a number and turn on the voice scrambler.

 

"Hello, whatever this is, this had better be important."Jack said.

 

"Some things cannot be said over the phone and need to be said in person or by email."

 

"Okay I understand."

 

I thought to myself, at least Jack has some smarts. "Do you know the first and last name of the man who cut you a deal?"

 

"You bet I know his name."

 

"I bet you didn't know his middle name is bastard."

 

Jack laughed, "I thought it was son of a bitch."

 

"Well there's an email account in his name with a message waiting for you. Do you understand?"

 

"Of course, I'm not a stupid jarhead."

 

"The password is the even letters of the friends who met with you for dinner in Hawaii."

 

"Got it, I'll let you know." and hung up the phone.

 

I killed Skype, logged out of the sessions and killed the wifi connection.

 

Flashback Linus – Kabul Afghanistan - Tuesday 16 October

 

I gave Natasha the code knock and she opened the door. I slipped in.

 

"Did you find us some wheels?" Natasha asked.

 

"Would you settle for almost a jeep?" I grinned in reply.

 

"Anything is better than trying to outrun them on foot."

 

"Follow me." We slipped outside and she saw a Suzuki Samurai without a top but with a mount for a fifty cal on the roll bar.

 

She laughed, "You've got to be shitting me. I think I can run faster than this."

 

"Like hell you can, this one has a V-six in it and with it being so light will run rings around a Humvee. You just have to be careful when you corner so you don't tip it over. It's a good thing it's fast because it doesn't have any armor."

 

Natasha said, "Let's get it inside." She went back inside, killed the lights, opened the door and I drove it inside.

 

Natasha walked around it, "You know, I like it. It's cute."

 

I looked at her and shook my head, "Just like a woman."

 

"Hey when you want sex, there's nothing wrong with being a woman, or perhaps you prefer ‘don't ask don't tell’?"

 

I gave her a dirty look, "You know better than that."

 

"So where did you get it?" Natasha asked.

 

"Don't ask and don't tell." I teased.

 

She changed the subject, "Linus, I didn't have a message yet from Liz when I went on the laptop. She hadn't even setup the account yet."

 

"You think BW grabbed her and Bernie?"

 

"That's one of about four things I can think of. I think I'm going to poke around and see if I can figure anything out." She headed over to the laptop and I kept working on the Suzuki. I was going to weld a shield in front of the radiator. It wasn't much, but it would help some.

 

Flashback – Matt – Thule - Greenland

 

I'd heard about Banzai Ben being dead and I heard about Jens escape from Ramstein. The fucking old man was pissed as hell and had everyone in the Middle East looking for her. But I'm still up here freezing my ass off. I don't mind taking punishment for things I did, but this wasn't my fault. Sometimes the old man is a real son-of-a-bitch.

 

Shit I heard rumors he even offered a reward for her capture. When I got the phone call I figured it was Jens.

 

It took me a bit to figure out what she was talking about but then I knew I needed to log into an account and read a message she left.

 

I wake up Jim and get his ass over to my bunk.

 

I started my computer and waited for it to boot - damn this thing takes forever. I log into the website and read her email. Damn, she says Banzai is still alive and is being tortured. Why the fuck aren't the Marines rescuing him? What happened to leave no one behind?

 

I write a new message to Jens.

 

J I understand what you're asking and if it is true that B is still alive you can count me and J in. We know what this means for us, but our careers are over anyway and we might as well go out in a blaze of glory instead of freezing our asses off.

 

Give us the details on where and when to meet.

 

M&J

 

I saved it in the drafts folder just like Jens told us and I looked at Jim. "Fuck me Jim, what do you think of this?"

 

Flashback – Jim – Thule - Greenland

 

"Matt, I don't believe Jens can't get the old man to believe her. I thought he did most anything she asked."

 

Matt replied, "Yeah, but you've heard the scuttle butt, about Jens escaping from Ramstein. Something is going on between those two."

 

I thought for a moment or two, "Matt, it's not right that Ben's not even being looked for. The old man should have at least done that."

 

Matt replied, "Fuckin' A he should have. There's too much more going on here that we don’t know about."

 

I looked at him, "Well he treated us fair and I don't plan on letting the fucking towel heads torture him."

 

"Jim, you think we'll be able to sneak off the base?"

 

"I bet Jens has it all planned out."

 

Flashback - Liz – Kabul, Afghanistan - Tuesday 16 October

 

The fucking bastard Glen had us locked up in the brig for our own protection. And 'somehow' all our gear was destroyed. I don't trust Captain Pierce fucker, he just doesn't seem clean to me. But they made a mistake when they didn't search us very well because they left me with my mobile phone. I had used it earlier to record the conversation with Glen - that's why I was so nice to him. I really wanted to cuss him up one side and down the other. The fat fucker deserved it.

 

We were being watched so I pretended to sleep on the fucking cot with my back towards the guards and pulled my phone out. I couldn't call anyone, but I sure as hell could send a few text messages. The first one went to Jens so she wouldn't worry.

 

Sister, I didn't want you to worry. The fat bastard grabbed us and has us locked in the brig for our own 'protection.' I know you dumped us and thank you for trying to keep us safe.

 

Sis, there is much more going on here than is evident. Our equipment was conveniently destroyed before we could show them the video. Don't worry about us, I'm going to send a few more text messages and bring down a shit storm on the fat bastard. Then I'm going to work on things from my end while you do the voodoo you do so well.

 

Watch your ass and don't trust anyone you don't personally know.

XOXO

 

 

I started my next message and sent it to all the news networks.

 

Kabul Afghanistan – Marine General Donaldson holds reporters against their will in the brig.

 

While working on news stories my cameraman and I have been forcibly detained in the brig by General Donaldson. Not only that, but all of our gear was conveniently destroyed. We have not been allowed to see a lawyer or to make phone calls to inform friends and relatives we are okay. And were told we would be held until we tell General Donaldson the whereabouts of his daughter. I have no idea where his daughter is, so please help us.

 

Attached is an audio clip of the conversation with General Donaldson. Please distribute the clip to all stations.

 

Ms. Elizabeth Morgan - Head reporter and part owner Truth Network.

 

I sent the message and then fired off one to all my friends in Washington DC.

 

HELP!

 

I'm being held prisoner in the brig in Kabul Afghanistan by General Donaldson. He won't release me until I tell him where his daughter is and I have no idea where she is.

 

Please call him and demand my immediate release.

 

Here is an audio file of the conversation.

 

I'm counting on all of you.

 

XOXO Liz

 

I looked over at Bernie and grinned, "I figure we're going to be here about one more hour at the tops."

 

"Damn Liz, remind me to never get you pissed at me."

 

"Bernie, I could never be pissed at you."

 

Flashback – Zarika  – Tajikistan Day Twenty

 

I was so happy and shocked little Yasmeen saved me from Sasha before he had sex with me. I hugged her tight, "Yasmeen, thank you very much for saving me from Sasha. I promised no one would ever do it with me again, no one but Ben."

 

She kissed me, "Zarika, it was scary when he was on top of you and I wasn't sure what to do. I just asked myself, if I was Zarika what would she do?"

 

You did the right thing little sister, but we need to leave and get out of here before someone finds us."

 

"Yes Zarika, I do not want to stay around these dead men. Seeing them makes me feel sick - especially Alexi."

 

I hugged her, "Yasmeen, you had to kill Alexi or he would have killed you."

 

She cried a little, "Zarika, do you ever see the faces of the men in your dreams."

 

I kissed her on the cheek, "Yes Yasmeen, all the time. Sometimes I even see them when I am awake. We had to do this and Ben will be proud of us when we tell him."

 

"Do you think he will?"

 

"Yes my little sister. We were good warriors."

 

Flashback – Yasmeen  – Tajikistan Day Twenty

 

We climbed into the truck and Zarika drove away. I was glad to be away from the men. But I still saw the blood and Alexi dying. I could not get it out of my mind. I know I had shot at men before but I do not know if I had ever hit any and none were as close as Alexi.

 

"Where are we Zarika?"

 

She looked over at me, "Yasmeen, I do not know. We are lost."

 

"How do you know which way to go?"

 

"I think if we go back the way we came we can find out where we are. Oh no! Yasmeen, check and make sure the money is still here."

 

I searched in the little box by the front seat, "It is all here."

 

I was very sad and wished Ben was here to cheer me up. "Zarika do you remember the song Ben always sang to make us happy?"

 

"I think I do, would you like to sing it with me?"

 

I smiled, "I would like that it would make me feel closer to our husband." We both began to sing.

 

On the road a gin.

I just wait to be on the road a gin,

 

Zarika stopped and grinned at me, I have a new part.

 

I love making babies with my two wives.

I can wait to be on the road a gin.

 

I laughed, "I like the new part but the whole song doesn't sound right."

 

"Something is not right but I do not know what."

 

"Zarika, maybe if we sing it more it will sound better?"

 

So we sang it a bunch more but it still sounded bad.

 

We came to a cross roads and I asked, "Which way do we go?"

 

Zarika stopped the truck and looked, "I do not know. Do you remember any turns the bad men took?"

 

"No, I feel asleep and don't remember anything."

 

Zarika pulled out the map, "Yasmeen, I watched Ben do this and it never made sense to me. Do you understand how to look at this?"

 

I lied a little, "He used the compass thing and it would tell him where we were."

 

"You are right, where is the compass thing?"

 

I searched and I couldn't find it, "It is not here Zarika. Do you think it was on one of the bad men?"

 

"Go check in the back and see if it is there." I checked in the back and could not find the compass thing. "I think it is lost Zarika."

 

She scratched her head, "This would be easy if we found the big highway because Ben marked where we should go. But I do not know how to find the big highway."

 

I looked at the road, "Zarika, it looks like more traffic uses this road, I think we should take it too."

 

"But which direction should we take Yasmeen?"

 

I smiled, "Ben was always right so I say we go right."

 

"That is a great idea Yasmeen. I'm glad I have such a smart little sister."

 

Zarika turned right and we kept trying to sing the song. We drove until it was almost dark going through several small villages. I was scared but said, "Zarika, I think we turned the wrong way. We should have been to the big highway by now."

 

"No problem Yasmeen, I will turn the truck around and we will drive the other way."

 

"I am sorry I made a mistake."

 

"Yasmeen, do not worry. I like driving the truck."

 

"Do you think we should drive when it is dark? Ben almost always stopped when it was dark."

 

"You are right Yasmeen. I will find a place to pull over so we can sleep. Will you help like you always did when Ben drove?"

 

I looked at the hills and said, "Zarika, how about over there?" and pointed to a canyon.

 

She slowed the truck and drove into a little canyon. Then she shut it off. "Good job Yasmeen, now we will sleep and tomorrow we will find the big highway."

 

We crawled in the back of the truck and hugged each other tight, "Yasmeen someday it will be Ben hugging us, not each other."

 

I kissed her on the cheek, "And it will be Ben kissing us not each other."

 

Zarika said, "Wait until I meet the ugly old Jens girl. I am going to punch her in her ugly face."

 

"I will help you Zarika, because we are Ben's real wives not the ugly old cow."

 

I mooed, we both giggled and fell asleep.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 SSN-22.

 

There was a knock on the door and the Captain stepped into our room. I jumped up and stood at attention. Jack slowly rolled out of the top bunk, stood up and came to attention.

 

The Captain looked at us, "Well this is different than what I expected. I figured LCpl Blaine would be the slow moving one."

"No Sir, I feel fine today."

 

He gave me a funny look, "LCpl Blaine, why is it you're not sore today?"

 

"Sir, I was when I first woke up. But I did some stretches and now I feel fine."

 

He chuckled, "I should have you show those to my three men. They are all sick today."

 

Jack looked at him, "Sir is it time for us to get ready?"

 

"It is. We will be at the drop point in three hours."

 

"Sir, permission to speak freely?"

 

The Captain replied, "I think you earned it after yesterday."

 

I reached back on the bunk and grabbed all the IOUs, "Sir, I wish you would return these to the men. I don't want to take their money."

 

He took them and looked at me, "Are you sure, there's many thousands of dollars here. You won two-thousand just from me."

 

"Yes Sir, I am sure. I do not need their money, and many of your men have families to support. I would not feel right taking it from them."

 

"Well LCpl Blaine, I think you have just made yourself a whole lot of friends on my boat. I'd love to shake your hand and count you as a friend."

 

We shook hands and I made sure it wasn't a Recon handshake. "Okay Marines grab your gear. A seaman will take you back to the airlock by the DDS3. We have your underwater gear waiting for you there."

 

3DDS – Dry Deck Shelter – Fitted aft of the sail structure and used to deploy SOF teams, SDVs (Swimmer Deliver Vehicles) or CRRC (Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts – Zodiacs)

 

"Thank you Sir." I said.

 

He left the room.

 

Jack turned and looked at me…

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 SSN-22.

 

"Well Banzai, you are full of surprises. Do you know how much money you just gave away?"

 

I watched as he shrugged his shoulders, "I don't have any idea, Jack."

 

"That was just over ten-thousand dollars."

 

He looked at me and grinned, "Good, I don't need it. Oh shoot Jack, part of the money was yours. I'll pay you back."

 

I pulled out my IOUs, "No need to I kept mine separate. But now since you've given yours back I will have to do the same."

 

"Sorry Jack, but you don't really need the money either. If you do I will make it up to you."

 

I was embarrassed because I'd only bet five-thousand on Banzai and I couldn't let him know. "You're right, I don't need the money, so it's no big deal."

 

"I'm going to the head first Jack and then I'll grab the gear." Banzai said.

 

"That sounds like a good plan. Once we're in the suits it's hard to use the toilet."

 

We came back and he started getting our gear and I reminded him to be as quiet as a church mouse moving stuff. We're close enough to our drop point you'll really piss off the submariners if you make any noise at all."

 

He grinned and whispered, "Okay Jack. Isn't this exciting Jack?"

 

I looked at him, "Yeah maybe the first time or two. But after that it's sort of a pain in the rear. I much prefer plane flights."

 

I watched and could tell he was thinking, then he started to blush and I figured he was thinking about our plane flight. I watched as he pulled out a pencil, looked at it and then put it back in his gear.

 

"Banzai, what was that all about?"

 

He looked guilty as could be and said, "It's-it's-it's my good luck charm."

 

I could tell he didn't want to talk about it so I left it alone. The seamen came and escorted us to the airlock area.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 SSN-22.

 

Jack caught me looking at the pencil and it embarrassed me. The little girl gave it to me and whenever I looked at it I felt at peace. She was such a funny looking kid. I bet being a general's daughter she'll be fat, ugly and a stuck up bitch when she grows up. Just like the stupid Beverly bitch at my school.

 

I was so excited! I pretended to be asleep, but I never could get to sleep. I was going to be tired but knew I would be okay.

 

I was proud when Jack gave his IOUs to the Captain. He was shocked. Word had spread through the whole crew and they treated us very nicely. Even the Chief who had given me crap earlier was nice to me and I didn't think they were nice to anyone.

 

The Captain even made a special trip to see us before we deployed. "You two are the first from my boat to use the DDS, and I'm surprised you're Marines and not Seals. When I first heard about this mission I was skeptical about using Marines, but after meeting both of you I expect great success."

 

Jack said, "Thank you Sir."

 

He leaned in closer to us, "We've had to stop further away from the target than expected. There are anti-submarine nets in the water and some mines. These guys are serious. I know we're only supposed to stay here for a day and a half, but we will stay for at least two days. With the improved tactical speed of my boat, we can make up the time on the return trip. God Speed to both of you." He shook our hands and left.

 

We were geared up and entered the middle compartment of the DDS, the transfer trunk and waited for the operators to flood the compartment. I was nervous as hell and was breathing too fast. Jack clapped me on the shoulder, motioned for me to simmer down and I tried my best. The air had a nasty chemical taste to it because of our rebreathers, but we couldn't chance the telltale bubbles from a normal scuba tank.

 

As the pressure came up in the DDS I made sure to equalize my ears. When it reached equilibrium the hatch opened and we exited the DDS. I looked in amazement at the Connecticut! It was incredible seeing a huge submarine in the water from the outside. I was tempted to knock on the sail but I knew they'd get pissed about it. Jack grabbed my elbow and we swam towards the surface.

 

We leveled off at about forty feet, Jack checked his compass and we started towards our target. The Captain was right. There was a boat load of stuff in the water. We saw about fifty nets at varying depths and a bunch of mines. It made our trip even harder and longer because we had to swim around some of it.

 

Flashback - Captain – Late 1999 SSN-22.

 

I was totally shocked by the two Marines who had just deployed from my boat. One was a young kid barely wet behind the ears but tougher and better than most men I'd met. The other was a grizzled old war horse who looked like his better days were far behind him.

 

When they first came on my boat I gave them about a ten percent chance of completing the mission. And that's another thing, this was one fucked up SOF mission if I'd ever seen one. No wonder they didn't send the Seals again. But the two of them made a great team, the old guy calmed the kid and the kid was, well phenomenal. There was a ton of synergism between them.

 

I was in the sonar room and listened as they swam away. They were sure quiet. Now all we could do was wait and hope they came back because we didn't have any Seals on board to rescue them.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 SSN-22 Deployed.

 

I sure as hell didn't like this mission and it had all the makings of being a huge cluster fuck. Two Seal teams had gone in and two Seal teams didn't return. But they were multi-man teams. They hoped a good two man team could get in and eliminate this bastard and then get back out. He was a very big target of interest, otherwise they wouldn't keep sending teams after him. The other missions were brute force attack but this time we were being sneaky as hell.

 

The Captain had done a great job getting us from Diego Garcia into the Persian Gulf without being identified. These new Seawolf subs were rumored to be quieter at tactical speeds than the old Los Angeles class subs when they were sitting at the dock. The Captain even let us watch as they tailed a Russian Victor Class sub. The Russian even did a Crazy Ivan4 a couple times but missed us.

 

4Crazy Ivan is a Naval term for a submarine maneuver, characterized by any number of sudden and sharp turns, used by submarine crews to "look behind" their boat using sonar.

 

Banzai was excited as hell about everything and I spent most of my time keeping him calm. In fact that and training seemed to be my major purpose on our team. The best thing was I only had to tell him something once and he had it. Soon my part in the training would be done. But I think it will be a very long time until he calms downs.

 

I could tell the Captain didn't care for us much at first. The crazy kid changed all that and for the first time I ever remember, we had the respect of the whole boat.

 

The worst thing about this mission was the time constraint - a day and a half. The Captain graciously extended it to two days and implied he might even give us more. He was sure putting his butt on the line for us. Getting in was the easy part, getting the kill and then getting back out were going to be a different story.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 SSN-22 Deployed.

 

I was getting light headed because I was still breathing too fast. I forced myself to slow up and the dizziness left. Jack made me study the heck out of this mission and come up with all sorts of different scenarios for almost everything. He even had me figure out what we would do if the sub left without us. That was one scary scenario to figure out.

 

I knew the other teams failed and I knew why they failed. You can't go after a major arms supplier with brute force because he's as well armed as you are and he doesn't follow any rules. Seeing all the crap in the water reinforced what Jack had taught me about this target, he was dangerous and well equipped. There were even rumors this guy had his own mini-sub which patrolled the area.

 

We headed to a small cove which was a hill away from his – well you can't call it a house it was more like a compound. We would drop our water gear and head up to the top of the ridge where we were supposed to have a great view of the compound. All we had to do was wait for the rat bastard to show his face and then pop him.

 

Then we'd slip back down the ridge, get back in our gear and get to the sub. They were supposed to come up to periscope depth every hour and scan for us. When we came close to the cove, Jack had me stop as we checked the area, very well. Where we wanted to land there was some equipment above us on the hill. Jack pulled out his mouth piece, "Banzai, I think that's some sort of remote monitoring gear." Jack said. "Let's move further up the cove and see if it's clear."

 

The cove got very shallow and there were a bunch of spikes planted in the floor, "Shit, this won't work, we need to try it further out."

 

We swam further out to the edge of the cove and the Gulf and found a good place to land. I pulled out my mouthpiece, "Jack this feels like a trap to me. It's the only place we can land and it seems like we're being herded in this direction."

 

"I think you're right Banzai, let me go first and look things over."

 

"Sorry Jack, this time I'm going first; because it's my feeling."

 

"I could order you." He said.

 

I looked at him, "And I could disobey those orders, so why don't you let me do it this time."

 

"If you kill yourself this is going to be a very short mission."

 

I slipped up on the beach and took off my fins, something didn't seem right. I lay down on the sand and I understood why. The whole beach had been mined but I could see the mines under the sand because they'd been in place for a while. I swam back out to Jack, "The beach is covered with mines but I think we can see all of them."

 

He looked at me, "You only need to miss one."

 

I smiled, "And you only live once. You wait here, I'm going to clear a path."

 

I went back to the beach and lay down, then I marked all the mines close to me. I moved past them, lay down again and did it all over again. It was hard as hell because I didn't have much room to lie down. Finally I made it to the hill and couldn't see anymore mines. I stood up and waved to Jack. He swam to shore and followed my path through the minefield.

 

"Banzai, excellent job, there were mines you saw that I missed. It must be nice to have young eyes."

 

I grinned at him as I took off my gear, "Jack, maybe you need glasses."

 

"Like hell I do."

 

We hid our gear under a couple bushes and took our weapons out of their waterproof bags. I had two rifles this time: My M40 and a new test rifle called the three-hundred whisper. It fired a thirty caliber bullet at subsonic speed, so with the suppressor it was virtually silent. The drawback was the range as it was only good for maybe two-hundred-fifty meters. Jack had his M-25 and a suppressed H&K MP5. I laughed at the rifle because it had an effective range of about a hundred feet.

 

We got into our ghillie suits and Jack took the lead as we headed up the ridge.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 SSN-22 Deployed.

 

Well Banzai surprised me when he cleared the path on the beach because he saw mines I would have missed. I figured it was time I earned my keep so I took lead up the ridge. We hadn't gone far when I ran into our first of many traps. He might have good eyes, but I have the experience to see traps.

 

After I'd found the forth trap I said, "Banzai, it's going to be hell when we bug out of here. We have a bunch of traps and a mined beach."

 

He looked at me and I could see he was thinking. We had gone over a bunch of scenarios, but nothing as bad as this. I wanted to see what he came up with. "Jack, I don't see any way we can come back this way in a hurry. I think I should go back and get at least our rebreather gear. There might not be the same level of protection on the ridge closest to the compound."

 

I smiled at him, "You're getting better all the time. This is our second mission and you're making the correct decisions. Soon you won't even need me. Let's go get the gear."

 

He gave me a very upset look, "Jack, you'd better take it back or I'll kick your butt."

 

I looked at him and he had his fists clenched and he was serious. "Banzai, don't get your dander in an uproar. I was just giving you a compliment and telling you how far you've come."

 

"Well then say it but don't tell me I won't even need you. Jack I'm your sniper and nobody else's. I can't do my job without you."

 

I didn't have the heart to tell him someday I'd be retiring and then he'd have to work with a new spotter. "Okay Banzai, sorry to get you upset, now let's go get our gear."

 

He looked at me, "Jack, take care of my rifles and take it easy. I'll go get the gear. And yes I know where all the traps are so don't worry."

 

I wasn't one to complain if he wanted to do a little extra work and let me rest. The kid was right; I needed to start working out more. "Okay, see you in a few."

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 SSN-22 Deployed.

 

Jacks rear was dragging some so I needed to pitch in and carry part of his load. But this was going to change when we got back home because I was going to work his rear off. Jack is more than a spotter to me - he's my Dad and I'm not going to let him get old, fat and lazy.

 

I humped it down to the beach and as I got closer I heard a noise. I ducked, froze and became very thankful I had my ghillie suit on. A zodiac which contained four heavily armed men came into the bay and one man scanned the area with a set of binoculars. I was glad Jack had the sense to wipe out our footprints as we came on the beach. They looked around for about fifteen minutes and then left. I was getting worried Jack might come down the hill, but he didn't.

 

I grabbed all the gear, not just the rebreathers and headed up the hill, making sure to miss the traps. When I got to Jack I knew why he didn't come down the hill - he was sleeping. "Hey Jack, wake up."

 

He jumped up, "What the heck is going on."

 

"Sorry Jack, I think you fell asleep."

 

He gave me an embarrassed look and apologized, "Sorry about that."

 

I smiled at him, "It's for the best. I had to wait about fifteen minutes because a zodiac full of guards came into the cove and scanned the beach."

 

He asked me all about the zodiac and the crew. I told him about the two tubes on the side and he said, "You know, those sound like torpedo tubes. I wonder if it will give the Connecticut any problems. I wished there was a way to tell them about it."

 

"Yeah, it would have been nice to have a radio on this mission."

 

Jack looked at me, "With the way this bastard scans things, he would have caught us right away."

 

"Banzai, let's get up to the top of this ridge and see what's going on."

 

We humped it up to the top of the ridge, setup and that's when, as Jack would say, the mission went to hell in a hand basket.

 

Flashback – Jens – About one year later from last ballet school flashback

 

This was my fourth boring ballet class in another new school. For some reason the schools kept asking Mommy to take me out of the classes. Other than ballet class my life was great. Daddy kept his word and found me a great gun club and I also talked him into letting me take Taekwondo.

 

It caused another big fight between Mommy and Daddy but in the end I got my way. I told them I needed to be able to protect myself from bad men. Taekwondo class was so much fun - almost as much fun as shooting. I loved being able to hit and kick things and playing with the weapons was great! I liked to pretend I was a samurai warrior on a mission to save Ben. I would rescue him, he'd fall in love with me and then we'd get married.

 

My days were full with school, shooting and Taekwondo and unfortunately – stupid ballet.

 

My sensei said ballet class helped me with Taekwondo so I decided to tolerate it for now. But Taekwondo also got me into trouble in ballet class.

 

"Miss Donaldson, will you please pay attention during class and stop daydreaming!"

 

"Sorry Miss Cranky." I said with a smile

 

"That's Miss Crunky," she corrected me.

 

"Yes Miss Crunky, sorry." Yes I was being my normal annoying self. It was funny I was only annoying in ballet class. I tried it once in Taekwondo and my sensei beat some sense into me. He was serious!

 

This ballet school had a couple of boy students. Were they ever G A Y! I laughed and thought my Ben would never be caught dead in a Ballet class. I had a vision of him in a pink tutu and started laughing out loud.

 

"Miss Donaldson, are you daydreaming again."

 

I wanted to say heck yeah, how many stupid grande plies do I have to do. "Sorry Miss Scrunky. I'll do better." She gave me a dirty look and I smiled at her.

 

I had to be more careful because Mommy was wise to some of my tricks. She never let me go into the bathroom alone anymore and I knew better than to use the 'missionary position' joke again. OMG when I found out what the missionary position was, I laughed so hard I almost peed in my pants.  No wonder Mommy was so upset.

 

"Jennifer, please come here." Mommy said.

 

Uh oh, she was upset at me. I walked over and smiled at her. "Jennifer, please pay attention in class. We are paying good money for you to learn ballet."

 

I said really loud, "Sorry Mommy, it's just grande plies are so boring. I've been doing them forever and I don't know why."

 

Miss Crunky overhead my complaint and said, "Miss Donaldson, if you're such an expert at ballet perhaps you would like to dance with Robert?" He pronounced his name funny, it sounded like ‘RoBear’. He was much older than the rest of us and thought he was hot stuff. The other girls warned me he liked to grab things when he danced with the girls that he wasn't supposed to grab and Miss Crunky didn't stop him.

 

I smiled really big, "I would like it very much Miss Skunky." Mommy swatted my rear, "Jennifer behave yourself! Her name is Miss Crunky."

 

I walked to the middle of the floor and ‘Robear’ came out and grinned at me, I gave him a dirty look. "Ah Mademoiselle Donaldson we have not had the pleasure to dance yet. I hope to know you much better after this dance."

 

I thought, you'd better not try touching me or else.

 

Ms. Crunky started the music and we began to dance. The first jump he helped me with, his hand slipped down and he grabbed my privates and started squeezing them. I slipped out of nasty ‘Robear's’ grabby claws, spun around and 'accidentally' hit him in the head with a roundhouse kick. He fell to the floor and I pretended to fall on top of him, hitting him in the gut with my elbow as hard as I could and slammed my knee into his privates.

 

He started rolling around on the floor and crying like the big baby he was. I stood up and said, "That's what you get for grabbing my privates."

 

"Miss Donaldson, what did you do?" Miss Crunky yelled at me.

 

I gave her a dirty look, "He touched my privates. He touches all the girls' privates, they warned me about him."

 

"Miss Donaldson, that's the way he's supposed to help you."

 

I was angry and should have kept my mouth shut, but I didn't. "Miss Crunky, I heard when you give him private lessons he does much more than just touch your privates."

 

The other parents gasped and she turned about ten shades of red, "Both of you, out of my school."

 

Mommy dragged me out of the school by my arm, "Jennifer I am so embarrassed at you. Now I have to find you another ballet school."

 

I looked at her, "But Mommy, he touched my privates and was even squeezing them. You told me to never let anyone touch my privates. And in all the other schools no one has ever touched me like that."

 

She looked at me, "Jennifer are you sure?"

 

I smiled at her, "Yes Mommy. He is one of the bad boys you always warned me about."

 

She was even more upset, but not at me. "I should call the police and report him."

 

"Yes Mommy you should. All the girls hated to dance with him because they said he has Roman hands and Russian fingers. One girl said he cornered her one day and made her kiss his privates. She said it looked like a tiny worm."

 

Mommy was so upset I thought we were going to have an accident on my way to the Taekwondo class. I couldn't wait to tell my sensei all about the experience. He was so proud of me.

 

I was glad because Mommy had a headache and stayed in the car. It seemed to happen a lot when I went to Taekwondo class. Today my sensei addressed the whole class with his funny oriental accent, "I am very proud of Miss Donaldson today. She was touched in a bad way by a boy in her ballet class (several of the kids snickered when he said ballet class and I made note of who they were so I could kick their rears later) and she used Taekwondo to defend herself. Ms. Donaldson, would you care to demonstrate what you did?"

 

I was excited and picked the biggest boy who snickered at me for my punching bag. The sensei walked up to use, "Make sure you do not really touch her private parts, and Miss Donaldson make sure you pull your kicks and punches."

 

I made sure we were in almost the same position, I did my roundhouse kick and he fell to the ground. I fell on top of him and pretended to hit him and then I whispered, "If you ever snicker at me again I'll do this for real." I saw the fear in his eyes and grinned at him and stood up.

 

The whole class clapped for me. The sensei came over and said, "Miss Donaldson, I think you need to test for your next belt." I passed the test and got my next belt.

 

I ran out to the car and jumped in the passenger seat, "Look Mommy, I have a new belt. The sensei said I did the right thing when the bad boy touched me."

 

She looked at me, "That's good dear. Let's go home I need to make dinner." Oh well Mommy wasn't very happy, but Daddy was so proud of me when I told him later what I did and how I got my new belt.

 

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

 

I woke up and it wasn't very cold, but I was very hungry and thirsty. The storm had passed and it was a clear morning. My watch told me I'd slept in today. The can of rainwater quenched my thirst but made my hunger worse. I took the lamb's quarters out of my possibles bag and ate them raw, but the wild onions were too spicy.

 

I put my still wet shirt on the spruce tree and did an abbreviated version of PT. Then I checked the map and figured out my new location, grabbed my shirt and took off at a trot. The storm kept me from reaching the stream last night and put me behind schedule.  There were ’miles to go before I sleep’ tonight.

 

As I trotted I recited the Robert Frost poem in my mind and thought someday I would memorize all of it.

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

 

The stream wasn't as big as I hoped, but it was a stream and there was water. There weren't any fish right now so I had a big drink and kept trotting.

 

’Miles to go before I sleep’

I'm so hungry I need to eat

 

Finally I saw a rabbit! He was staying still trying to hide from me. I slipped my throwing knife out of its hiding place, got as close as I dared, threw the knife and he went down. I ran over, cleaned my throwing knife and put it back in its hiding place.

 

I started a fire using the fire tube and realized I needed to add more inner bark to it. Then I cleaned the rabbit and put it over the fire to cook. I gathered more inner bark and stuffed it into the fire tube. I knew I should be doing things, but I was too hungry and decided to watch the rabbit cook. I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye, looked over and saw a coyote! The rabbit must have attracted it. The rabbit was done, I finished every morsel and tossed the bones to the coyote. He snapped them up and loped off with them.

 

I took a big drink and started trotting, it was better with some food in my stomach. I noticed the coyote came back, was following me but staying pretty far behind me.

 

‘Miles to go before I sleep.’

A hungry coyote at my feet.

 

Coyotes aren't my favorite animal, but it was nice having a running companion. And he had much better eyes and ears than I did so I felt a little safer. I knew I'd have to chase him off before I got home or dad would kill him - he hated coyotes.

 

Grandpa used to tell me Indian stories, many of them about coyotes. I always liked the coyote's humor and sometimes their cleverness but they were also greedy, reckless, impulsive and jealous. My favorite story was how the coyote stole fire. Grandpa used it to teach me how to make fire. I still remembered sitting by a campfire in winter with my head lying in his lap and hearing his deep voice as he started:

 

Long ago, when man was newly come into the world, there were days when he was the happiest creature of all. Those were the days when spring brushed across the willow tails, or when his children ripened with the blueberries in the sun of summer, or when the goldenrod bloomed in the autumn haze.

 

But always the mists of autumn evenings grew more chill, and the sun's strokes grew shorter. Then man saw winter moving near, and he became fearful and unhappy. He was afraid for his children, and for the grandfathers and grandmothers who carried in their heads the sacred tales of the tribe. Many of these, young and old, would die in the long, ice-bitter months of winter.

 

Coyote, like the rest of the People, had no need for fire. So he seldom concerned himself with it, until one spring day when he was passing a human village. There the women were singing a song of mourning for the babies and the old ones who had died in the winter. Their voices moaned like the west wind through a buffalo skull, prickling the hairs on Coyote's neck.

 

"Feel how the sun is now warm on our backs," one of the men was saying. "Feel how it warms the earth and makes these stones hot to the touch. If only we could have had a small piece of the sun in our teepees during the winter."

 

Coyote, overhearing this, felt sorry for the men and women. He also felt that there was something he could do to help them. He knew of a faraway mountain-top where the three Fire Beings lived. These Beings kept fire to themselves, guarding it carefully for fear that man might somehow acquire it and become as strong as they. Coyote saw that he could do a good turn for man at the expense of these selfish Fire Beings.

 

So Coyote went to the mountain of the Fire Beings and crept to its top. He watched the way that the Beings guarded their fire. As he approached, the Beings leaped to their feet and gazed searchingly round their camp. Their eyes glinted like bloodstones, and their hands were clawed like the talons of the great black vulture.

"What's that? What's that I hear?" hissed one of the Beings.

"A thief, skulking in the bushes!" screeched another.

The third looked more closely, and saw Coyote.   But he had gone to the mountain-top on all fours, so the Being thought she saw only an ordinary coyote slinking among the trees.

"It is no one, it is nothing!" she cried, and the other two looked where she pointed and also saw only a grey coyote.  They sat down again by their fire and paid Coyote no more attention.

So he watched all day and night as the Fire Beings guarded their fire.  He saw how they fed it pine cones and dry branches from the sycamore trees.  He saw how they stamped furiously on runaway rivulets of flame that sometimes nibbled outwards on edges of dry grass.  He saw also how, at night, the Beings took turns to sit by the fire. Two would sleep while one was on guard; and at certain times the Being by the fire would get up and go into their teepee, and another would come out to sit by the fire.

Coyote saw that the Beings were always jealously watchful of their fire except during one part of the day.  That was in the earliest morning, when the first winds of dawn arose on the mountains. Then the Being by the fire would hurry, shivering, into the teepee calling, "Sister, sister, go out and watch the fire." But the next Being would always be slow to go out for her turn, her head spinning with sleep and the thin dreams of dawn.

Coyote, seeing all this, went down the mountain and spoke to his friends among the People.  He told them of hairless man, fearing the cold and death of winter.  And he told them of the Fire Beings, and the warmth and brightness of the flame. They all agreed that man should have fire, and they all promised to help Coyote's undertaking.

Then Coyote sped again to the mountain top. Again the Fire Beings leaped up when he came close, and one cried out, "What's that? A thief, a thief!"

But again the others looked closely, and saw only a grey coyote hunting among the bushes. So they sat down again and paid him no more attention.

Coyote waited through the day, and watched as night fell and two of the Beings went off to the teepee to sleep. He watched as they changed over at certain times all the night long, until at last the dawn winds rose.

Then the Being on guard called, "Sister, sister, get up and watch the fire."

And the Being whose turn it was climbed slow and sleepy from her bed, saying, "Yes, yes, I am coming.  Do not shout so."

 

But before she could come out of the teepee, Coyote lunged from the bushes, snatched up a glowing portion of fire, and sprang away down the mountainside.

Screaming, the Fire Beings flew after him. Swift as Coyote ran, they caught up with him, and one of them reached out a clutching hand. Her fingers touched only the tip of the tail, but the touch was enough to turn the hairs white, and coyote tail tips are white still. Coyote shouted, and flung the fire away from him. But the others of the People had gathered at the mountain's foot. Squirrel saw the fire falling, and caught it, putting it on her back and fleeing away through the treetops. The fire scorched her back so painfully that her tail curled up and back, as squirrels' tails still do today.

The Fire Beings then pursued Squirrel, who threw the fire to Chipmunk. Chattering with fear, Chipmunk stood still as if rooted until the Beings were almost upon her. Then, as she turned to run, one Being clawed at her, tearing down the length of her back and leaving three stripes that are to be seen on chipmunks' backs even today. Chipmunk threw the fire to Frog, and the Beings turned towards him. One of the Beings grasped his tail, but Frog gave a mighty leap and tore himself free, leaving his tail behind in the Being's hand, which is why frogs have had no tails ever since.

As the Beings came after him again, Frog flung the fire on to Wood. And Wood swallowed it.

 

The Fire Beings gathered round, but they did not know how to get the fire out of Wood. They promised it gifts, sang to it and shouted at it. They twisted it and struck it and tore it with their knives. But Wood did not give up the fire. In the end, defeated, the Beings went back to their mountaintop and left the People alone.

But Coyote knew how to get fire out of Wood. And he went to the village of men and showed them how. He showed them the trick of rubbing two dry sticks together, and the trick of spinning a sharpened stick in a hole made in another piece of wood. So man was from then on warm and safe through the killing cold of winter.

 

A few tears trickled down my cheeks as I ran because I really missed Grandpa. I remember the day Grandpa told me, "Little Chief, I have seen that someday you will have two strong children. They will be mighty warriors just like you will be. Remember the sacred stories I tell you and teach them to your children." I told myself I will raise my children like Grandpa raised me, not like dad.

 

’Miles to go before I sleep.’

Grandpa's stories my children to teach.

 

There was a small pool ahead in the creek so I stopped and looked. Yes it had fish in it. I made a spear again with my knife tied to a branch and speared a fish. They were small rainbow trout so one would barely make a meal. I looked over and noticed the coyote and speared one more for him. I threw it next to him, he grabbed it and loped off. I cleaned mine, put it in a plastic bag, checked my location and started trotting.

 

‘Miles to go before I sleep.’

Rainbow trout tonight I'll eat.

 

I'd gotten used to Mr. Coyote and was a little sad when he never returned. But he had things to do and I had things to do. I continued to forage for food along the way for dinner, but there isn't much in the Rock Mountains to eat. So it was going to be fish and lamb's quarters again tonight, but it was better than going hungry like last night.

 

The day was getting long and light was fading so I started looking for a campsite. It took a bit longer today than the first day, but the one I found was great - it was an old abandoned cabin. At first I was worried someone might live in it, so I sat and watched it for a while. When I didn't see anyone, I went in and found it had been empty for a very long time. And I struck pay dirt.

 

There was an old fork, knife and plate and even a cook stove which hadn't been used for a very long time. I looked at the stove and decided the chimney was too old to use so I went outside, found a fire ring and started cooking dinner. While the fish and lamb's quarter cooked I went back in the cabin and looked around. I found some old books and magazines. I was really surprised when I opened a cabinet and found an old kerosene lamp. It was still half full.

 

I ran out to the fire, brought back a flaming stick and determined the lamp worked. I cleaned the plate and utensils really well and then went outside and brought my food into the cabin. I sat at the table and ate a fine sit down dinner by the light of a kerosene lamp.

 

After dinner I cleaned up and started looking at the magazines: One was about fishing and it was boring; one was about cars but it was old; the final one had nude pictures of women in it. I was shocked and a little embarrassed to see what some women would do. I quickly grew tired of the pictures and even went out and threw the magazine in the fire.

 

I looked at the book. It was Green Cognac: The Education of a Mountain Fighter by William L. Putnam. From the very first page I was fascinated by the story. Mr. Putnam told how he served, in 10th Mountain Division during WWII. It started with his basic training, right here in Leadville Colorado and finished with the Italian campaigns. It reminded me of the war memorial just north of town by Ski Cooper, I finally understood who the memorial was for. And I made a decision that night as I read his story: Some day I wanted to be like him.

 

There wasn't a bed in the cabin, and I'd seen a few mice so I decided to sleep outside by the fire. I blew out the kerosene lamp and took my new treasure with me outside by the fire, made sure I had enough wood for the night and dreamed about being in the 10th Mountain Division.

 

‘No miles to go before I sleep’

10th Mountain division dreams as I sleep.