13 Wounded

Wounded

© Copyright 2009

Written by Banzai Ben and Amazing Anastasia

banzaiben@gmail.com

 

Wounded Chapter 13

 

Flashback Natasha (Jens) – Kabul Afghanistan - Wednesday 17 October

 

Liz had me worried as hell because she should have contacted me by now. I searched with the computer to see if I could find information on her and I got a popup which announced an e-mail from her. It blew my mind because it was WAY outside our established protocol.

 

I read her e-mail and called Linus over. "Linus, it looks like Glen grabbed Liz and Bernie. She sent me an e-mail to my normal account. How would you assess the security risk?"

 

He stopped messing with the cute little Suzuki, came over and looked at the e-mail. "Well it's not good that she sent it to your email account. But it was from a mobile phone and you did go into the account through the web interface and a few proxy servers. I think you're okay but make sure you don't reply to her."

 

"Come on Linus, you keep forgetting I'm not a newb."

 

He laughed and explained, "No I remember, I just like to tease you about it."

 

I gave him a nasty look because it reminded me of an unpleasant chain of events early in Ben and my relationship which we hadn't mentioned it before. "You remind me of an old guy who liked to do the same thing. He was always trying to be funny in e-mails to me. I don't know if I took it wrong or read more into what he said than he meant, but his e-mails either upset me or offended me. We were like oil and water: He loved to tease me and wouldn't back off."

 

Linus gave me a serious look and asked, "So what did you do?"

 

"Well, the last time he bothered me was the final straw. He ordered me to do something so I stopped answering his e-mails and blocked his address on my account. I won't ever correspond with him or see him again."

 

Linus was shocked. "Damn that's pretty severe isn't it?"

 

"Linus, I warned him multiple times and Ben warned him multiple times but he still wouldn't listen. He just kept after me. I had to do something because I would get angry at him and then Ben would suffer."

 

Linus said, "So you're warning me in a nice way not to go overboard with teasing you."

 

I smiled at him and responded. "Please, especially right now. I have enough stress without you adding to it."

 

"I'm amazed you just didn't kick his butt. That's what I would normally expect you to do."

 

"Believe me, I thought about it. But I didn't do it out of respect for Ben and respect for him."

 

Linus gave me a funny look and added, "Jens, sometimes you amaze me. I need to get back to work on the Suzuki."

 

I felt much better knowing Liz was okay and even chortled a little. She was going to kick Glen's ass so hard he wouldn't be able to shit for a month - and he deserved it. I almost wanted to be there to see it.

 

I checked the drafts folder of the account and found the reply from Matt and Jim but didn't find anything from Jack yet. I decided to wait on a reply until he contacted me. I decided to get some sleep and said, "Hey Linus, I'm going to crash for a while." I lay down on the cot but couldn't get to sleep right away because I could sense what was happening to Ben.

 

Flashback Glen – Kabul Afghanistan - Wednesday 17 October

 

Things were royally fucked up now! All hell broke loose because somehow word leaked I had Liz and her cameraman locked up in the brig. Phone calls poured in from DC and I was getting my ass chewed off on every one. They even had audio of the conversation I had with the fucking little bitch. And now other news crews were outside asking to talk to me. I pushed the button on the intercom and ordered, "Get Liz Morgan and her cameraman up here right now."

 

I told my secretary to tell everyone I was in a meeting. I was so tired of talking to the DC dickheads. I was pissed as hell as I waited for her to show up. They showed her and the cameraman into the office and she sat right in the chair. She looked at her watch, gave me a shit-eating grin and added, "Well Glen this took about a half hour longer than I estimated."

 

I knew I needed to be more careful this time. "Ms. Morgan, it seems we had a misunderstanding and I'd like to apologize to you. I just wanted to make sure you and your cameraman were safe."

 

She looked at me and responded, "Glen we know that isn't the truth. We need to talk in private."

 

I looked at her and asked, "Ms. Morgan, I've already been burned by you. How do I know it won't happen again?"

 

She stood up and said, "Bernie, here's my mobile phone. Take a hike but stay close." The cameraman took the phone, left the room and she continued, "Just so you know Glen, I don't totally trust you. If I'm not out of here in thirty minutes Bernie contacts everyone again." Then she gave me the shit-eating grin and said, "I'm sure you don't want that to happen."

 

"Liz that was a sneaky trick you pulled on me," I barked.

 

She shook her head and then explained the situation, "Glen getting Marine on me isn't going to work. I'm not afraid of you so knock it off. We can either talk or you can get your fucking ass chewed some more by my friends."

 

I thought for a few moments and relented, "Okay Liz. I want to know where Jens is."

 

"Glen, this isn't a lie. I don't know where she is right now."

 

"Do you know where she was earlier today?"

 

"Glen, I will answer this question for you honestly, but then you have to listen to me and answer my questions. Do we have a deal?"

 

I thought about it and decided I can always BS her later so I answered, "Sure Liz we have a deal."

 

"Yes Glen, knew where she was earlier today. But she dumped Bernie and me because we're dead weight."

 

"Liz, do you know what she's planning to do?" I was getting pissed because she kept grinning at me.

 

"Glen, she's doing what you refused to do - she's going to rescue Ben."

 

"Liz cut the crap, Ben's dead. Evelyn keeps showing me the video."

 

The smile continued as she answered with a question, "Glen, did you see or find a body?"

 

"No. We can't get into the area."

 

Liz next asked, "What about the object that flew out of the chopper?"

 

"Liz, we can't tell what it is."

 

She smiled even bigger. "Glen I can. We sent the video to the best post production house in the country. The object is a Marine. Jens says it's Ben."

 

"Liz there's no proof it's Ben," I continue to argue.

 

Finally the grin left her face but instead she looked upset. "And there's no proof it isn't Ben. What about Jens, don't you believe her?"

 

"Evelyn says she's just consumed by grief. We need to find her and bring her home for therapy. So if you know where she is, I would appreciate it if you would tell me."

 

"Glen, I've been truthful with you before and I can truthfully say now, I have no idea where she is. Now I've answered your questions it's time for you to return the favor."

 

"One more thing Liz, if you hear from here do you promise to contact me?"

 

"Glen, you've used up all your favors with me today. It's time for you to answer a few questions."

 

I originally thought Liz knew where Jens was but I now believe she doesn't. I’m not real happy about the whole situation but I reply, "Okay Liz, I'm ready."

 

I watched as she almost physically transformed and she became a hard-assed news reporter. "General, first you should know I don't really trust you and I never have. I tolerate you because you're Jens' father. All my reporter instincts tell me something is going on, something dirty. You'd better hope you're not involved because I will hang you if you are."

 

"Liz," I started but she interrupted me, "That's Ms. Morgan to you right now."

 

"Ms. Morgan. I don't know what you're talking about."

 

"General, let me lay it out for you. First Jens and Ben almost get killed at the sniper competition. Did you investigate who hired the Russian hit men masquerading as snipers?"

 

"Ms. Morgan, we just assumed it was Middle East terrorists."

 

She grinned at me and asked, "You know what happens when you assume? You make an ass out of u and me. I would suggest you have it investigated, because it doesn't feel right to me."

 

"Liz…." She gave me a dirty look and I changed the wording, "Ms. Morgan, we didn't think it was worthy of investigation."

 

"General, who the hell gave you that bit of bad advice?"

 

I didn't want to tell her the truth so I lied, "one of my advisors."

 

"You need to fire their asses and get someone decent. Next, they get sent on a FUBAR mission by General Stockman. You need to investigate the hell out of him because he's crooked as a dog's hind leg. Did you even know about or authorize the mission?"

 

She is treading on dangerous ground so I hide behind security and answer, "Ms. Morgan, because of national security I can't answer the question."

 

She grinned again and replied, "Okay, you just told me with your answer you didn't know about the mission. So the bastard Stockman had some sort of ulterior motive. I guess it doesn't matter that Jens almost died on the mission?"

 

I got pissed and retorted, "It sure as hell mattered. If it wasn't for Ben she would have died."

 

"That's fucking right! Ben saved Jens life and you leave him in a piece of shit country to be tortured and probably killed. What the fuck happened to no man left behind?"

 

"Ms. Morgan, we can't afford to go in right now and recover the bodies. Besides they were burnt to hell in the chopper."

 

Liz stood up pissed as hell and yelled at me, "You stupid fat bastard, except for the one Marine who was thrown out of the chopper! It was Ben and he's still alive!"

 

I stood up and answered her, "Ms. Morgan, I will not be insulted in my own office by some stupid whore pretending to be a two bit news hack who fucks anyone to get her stories. Get the hell out of my office and don't ever come back."

 

She grinned at me. "General, you've just made the biggest mistake of your life. I'm leaving and I will be back when I have proof of the conspiracy. You'd better pray to God your ass isn't involved or I’ll hang you. By the fucking way, I expect the Marines to pay for my damaged equipment."

 

As she started to storm out of the office, I yelled, "don't let the fucking door hit you in your flat fucking ass." Son of a bitch! I don't believe she called me a stupid fat bastard. I hope the fucking Taliban catch her and torture the hell out of her. Stupid whore!

 

Flashback Bernie – Kabul Afghanistan - Wednesday 17 October

 

I was in the outer office with Glen's secretary and Captain Piece and we heard the whole exchange between Glen and Liz. She ripped him a new asshole and then came flying into the outer office and got right in Captain Pierce's face. "You'd better have my purse and it had better have all the money in it or I'm going to chew your ass worse than I chewed the fat bastard's."

 

He held out her purse and she snatched it out of his hands and looked inside. She caught my eye and grinned and winked. She was happy with the purse and we walked out of the office. She paused before we went outside as she fixed her makeup and hair, took the money and her IDs out of the purse and threw it in the trash.

 

"Bernie, take all you valuables and IDs out of your wallet and throw it in the trash too. I'm almost sure they put bugs or tracking devices in my purse and probably your wallet."

 

I did as I was told and started to say something but she held her finger to her lips and smiled. We walked outside and there were several news crews waiting. They all ran up and Liz went into her actress mode. They were asking her bunches of questions and she held up her hands, "I want to personally thank each and every one of you for reporting this story and helping us to get released."

 

One of the reporters asked, "Ms. Morgan, why were you detained."

 

She replied, "It's an obvious case of abuse of power. General Donaldson thought we knew where his daughter Sergeant Jennifer Donaldson is hiding. We have no idea where she is and he wouldn't take no for an answer."

 

"Is it true they destroyed all your camera gear?" another asked.

 

"Yes it is. They told us there wasn't room for the equipment in a Stryker. Come on those things are huge! So they put it on the back. When it got here it was full of small caliber bullet holes. I told General Donaldson I hold the Marines responsible for replacing our equipment. I would love to talk longer, but we need to find a safe place to stay where megalomaniacs like General Donaldson won't arrest us."

 

We walked away and I said, "Damn Liz you sure got Glen pissed off."

 

She smiled at me, "Yes it worked perfectly. Thanks for letting me borrow your phone and then taking it back from me."

 

"You recorded the whole thing again."

 

"I most certainly did Bernie. You don't think I'd lose an opportunity like this. You would think some day he would learn."

 

"So Liz, what's the plan? With BW and now the Marines pissed at us are we heading back to America?"

 

"No fucking way. I'm not letting them chase me out of this country. We'll leave when I'm damn well ready to leave and not a minute sooner. But first we're going to get our back up gear and then we're going underground."

 

Liz pulled out her phone and dialed a number.

 

Flashback Liz – Kabul Afghanistan - Wednesday 17 October

 

I didn't let Bernie know, but I was seriously concerned about our safety. Once things simmered down between BW and the Muslims they'd be after my ass again. And after my little discussion with Glen I knew the Marines weren't going to help us.

 

I only knew of one place to go, so I made the call. "Greetings Dariush, I bet you didn't think you'd hear from me again."

 

"Ms. Morgan, it is indeed a fortunate day for me to hear from you again so soon. I wish I could hope it was to accept my earlier proposition. But I know better."

 

"Dariush, you smooth talker you. No wonder all your Muslim wives love you. I called today to ask you for a favor."

 

"Ms. Morgan, I feel honored. This is the first time you have asked me for a favor, what may I do for you?"

 

"Dariush, it seems I've gotten a few people upset at me and I need a safe place to stay and a couple of fearless body guards would be nice."

 

"Ah yes Ms. Morgan, it seems like you and your friends being here have greatly helped my business. I had visits from both sides asking for information, so tell me which one is upset at you?"

 

"Well, it would be BW and also the Marines."

 

I hear him chuckle as he said, "So it's true. You are the one who shot four BW ops and ran over one in a Humvee. Yes, they are very upset at you. But what did you do to the Marines since I thought you were good friends with them."

 

"It seems their General and I had a heated discussion," I said.

 

He laughed, "Ms. Morgan I will gladly find you a safe place to stay. And I think we will be able to find men to be your body guards."

 

"Dariush, we are picking up our gear and I was wondering if we could get safe passage to your place and some side arms?"

 

"Ms. Morgan, I will send Ahmil in my Mercedes to pick you up. He will also know the correct response."

 

I hung up the phone and we walked towards the gate.

 

Flashback Jack – Wednesday 17 October

 

The phone woke me and I was a little sleepy until the heard the disguised voice. It was as good as a cup of strong black coffee for making me instantly awake. It took about two seconds to figure out it was Jens and to also figure out the website and the password.

 

I hung up the phone and Masha said, "Jack honey, who was that?"

 

"Masha it was a very strange phone call from Banzai's fiancé, Jennifer Donaldson, and I need get on the computer."

 

"Jack, can't it wait until morning? Come back to bed."

 

"No Masha, I think this is important." I'd heard Banzai was dead and Jens was AWOL. I needed to get to the bottom of this.

 

I fired up the computer and went to the email account and read her message. I couldn't believe it because she said Banzai was captured and the Marines weren't doing anything about it.

 

God Dammit! I could not believe it. I spent the rest of the night checking out her story and after the hours I spent researching, it checked out.

 

I logged back into the email account and started a new message.

 

I must say I am fucking surprised and upset. I couldn't believe it so I verified things and you are correct. J, I am so sorry and you can count me in. Let me know when and where ‘cause I want to kick butt and take names.

J

 

I went back to bed, "Mmm, Jack I missed you. The bed was cold as a Moscow night without you."

 

"Masha, I hate to tell you but I need to go away for a while."

 

She quickly sat up. I recalled the day we met and how I became the luckiest man in the world. "Jack, is it about the phone call?"

 

"Yes Masha, it looks like Banzai needs my help."

 

"Jack, I thought he was dead?"

 

"Masha, the Marines think he's dead. But Jens says he's been captured and the terrorists are torturing him."

 

I saw a few tears in her eyes as she said, "Poor Jennifer, she must be going crazy. Jack he saved you many times, and is responsible for us meeting and marrying, you must go and help. But please take care of yourself. Our baby will need a father when he is born."

 

She is such a good woman and I am so lucky I thought as I promised, "Masha, I will be back for the birth of our first child." I went into the second bedroom and made sure my go bag was ready. Then I went back to the computer and waited for Jens' reply.

 

Flashback Natasha (Jens) – Kabul Afghanistan - Wednesday 17 October

 

I slept like crap for about two hours and woke up with stabbing pains in my legs. It felt like something was eating them or biting at them. The pain disappeared when I woke up - I guess it was a bad dream.

 

Linus had finished the shield on the front of the Suzuki and was sawing logs on the other cot. I sleepily shuffled over to the computer and checked the email account. I wanted to jump up and down because Jack was on board. I created a new message and posted it in the drafts folder.

 

Okay guys, here's the deal. We need to move very quickly on this.

 

M&J tomorrow morning you two need to tell everyone you are going on a training run and accidentally get lost. You will really board a private jet at 0700 and be here tomorrow night. Make sure you leave everything so it looks like you are coming back. Do not tell your wives.

 

J, tomorrow a jet shows up for you at the same time. I know you've already told M but I know she can be trusted.

 

I look forward to meeting you all tomorrow night. We will pick you up at the airport.

 

Semper Fi J

 

I set up the flights, leaned back in the chair and relaxed for the first time in weeks. I was almost asleep when the perimeter alarm started beeping. Linus was up in a flash and turned on the outside IR monitors. We both watched as a dog ran away from the building.

 

I looked at Linus and admitted, "Damn, that scared the crap out of me."

 

"I was having such a good dream and the damn dog ruined it."

 

"Linus, it looks like my three guys are on board. They should be here tomorrow night. How's it coming with your guys?"

 

"Let me check the computer." He went to check his site. "It looks like only two can make it. One guy messed up his knee. I'll make the arrangements to get them here."

 

He finished and I asked, "Linus, will these guys be able to follow instructions?"

 

He replied, "They should do well. Are you going to run the op?"

 

"I think we'll run this as a team and all have an input. It would be a shame not to use all the experience we have on the team. In the field I'd like to make Jack the lead and you the second."

 

He looked astonished, "Natasha, I figured you'd run the op in the field."

 

"Linus, I'm too emotionally attached to this to make good decisions. I trust Jack and you to make the right decisions."

 

"Natasha, I'm honored you'd trust me."

 

"One more thing, Linus, I'm going to ask you to watch me and make sure I don't do something crazy. I-I-I can't trust myself not get captured," I admitted and started crying.

 

Flashback Linus – Kabul Afghanistan - Wednesday 17 October

 

Jens was very upset and I didn't know what to do. I wanted to hug her but was worried she'd kick the shit out of me. I needed to get her mind off things.

 

"Natasha, I'll get to work on the gear. Why don't you look at Stockman's files?"

 

She looked at me and cursed, "Shit, I forgot all about those!"

 

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

 

Dammit! I just wasn't thinking straight! Too much worry, too little sleep and I'd forgotten all about the files from Stockman's computer. I opened the folder and realized we needed to save this somewhere in case this computer was lost. I went into Liz's secure server and uploaded the whole folder. Then I tried to unravel this convoluted mystery.

 

There was so much data it was almost overwhelming, so I sat back, closed my eyes and analyzed the data. Sometime later I heard someone yelling, "Hey Natasha wake up, you're snoring."

 

It reminded me so much of Ben I opened my eyes and expected to see him. I was disappointed when I saw Linus and he must have seen it on my face. "Gee Natasha, you don't have to look like you're upset to see me."

 

"Sorry Linus, I hoped to see Ben. He used to tell me I snored." Then I realized, while I was sleeping my mind came up with a plan. I started a recursive sort on the folder and sub-folders by date and copied the results into a new folder. I watched as the screen and hard disk flashed, shit there were a bunch of files. But now I would have them in a chronological sequence.

 

After ten minutes I had the results and started looking at the older data first. There were shipping records, sales records, yield records, emails but nothing described what the hell it was they were selling. I pulled up the web browser and brought up a map and looked at the areas the records talked about. Slowly I could see things start to make sense - and I was pissed as hell!

 

I stood up, walked to a stationary bag Linus had hanging and started beating the shit out of it. Linus came over, waited for me to finish and asked, "Natasha what has you so pissed off?"

 

I was sweating up a storm, all my clothes were soaked but I answered, "Linus go over and look at the sorted folder and the map I pulled up and let me know what it tells you."

 

I wasn't done so I attacked the bag again. A half hour later he came over as I collapsed to the floor, exhausted.

 

"I hope the hell you left something in the bag for me to beat!" he yelled as he laid into the bag.

 

Twenty minutes later he was done and said, "Natasha the bastard's been running a fucking drug operation."

 

"Linus I came to the same conclusion, but neither of us has looked deep enough. There's other things going on that I can't quite figure out and I need to do more research."

 

I went back to the computer and started pouring over the data again. It was all the same, the bastard had been growing, refining, shipping and selling drugs ever since he took over the base. There were emails between bunches of people, many of which had IP address information so I knew the DEA could figure out who they were. This was going to be a major bust.

 

About a year ago the records showed a dip in their sales and I wondered what was going on. I found the answer in an email - a competitor started operating close to his turf. The new group furnished drugs for less money in order to steal their customers. His group was pissed because they had to cut the price and profit of their fucking drugs to compete.

 

There were a bunch of emails between people trying to figure out what to do. Finally one from the account I had tagged as Stockman said he had a solution: He was going to send in a two person team to recon and maybe take out the building. Someone asked if he was going to hire mercs and I could almost hear Stockman laugh when he answered he'd been asked by a friend to find a mission for a couple of Marines. I about shit my pants when I looked at the date and I realized it was the mission Ben and I went on!

 

I went back to the bag and beat it up some more, "You fucking son of a bitch, sending us on a fucking mission to destroy a fucking-son-of-a-bitch drug plant. I'm going to kick your ass so hard your nose will bleed…" I was swearing and kicking and hitting the bag until I couldn't even move. I fell to the floor crying so Linus came over, picked me up and carried me to the cot.

 

I was crying a steady stream of tears, "Linus, the bastard sent Ben and me on a mission to destroy the rival drug factory. That was where I got appendicitis and Ben saved me."

 

"Natasha, we'll fry his ass for this. Don't worry, once it gets out he is a major drug supplier, everyone I know will be gunning for him. We hate fucking drug runners."

 

I turned over the other side of the cot and tried to puke but I only had dry heaves. Then I rolled back. Linus covered me and gently said, "Natasha get some sleep."

 

Flashback Linus – Kabul Afghanistan - Tuesday 16 October

 

I went over and looked at the intel Jens just got through reviewing. Shit! She was right! He sent them on the mission she talked about. I looked around some more and found an email I was glad she didn't see. It was a request for Stockman to find some dangerous mission for SM Blaine. The next email cussed the hell out of him for sending Jens on the same mission and threatened to 'take him out' if he didn't 'take care of SM Blaine.' Finally there were congratulations for a job well done and a big payment.

 

I hid the emails from Jens because she couldn't cope with them right now. I emailed a few of my other hacker friends with the IP addresses from the emails and asked if they would trace the computers. The addresses were old, but the hackers were really good and I thought they might be able to pull it off. If so, we'd know who all the bastards involved in this fucking drug operation were.

 

I sat back and thought about what happened to this information if I died. I went into my personal email account and created an email describing everything, even attaching the hidden emails as proof. I set the send date to one month from today and sent it to my entire address book. If I didn't die, I would go back into my email and delete it and it would never be sent.

 

I knew Jens had copied the data to Liz's server, but I decided it wasn't enough. I needed someplace safe and hidden to store the data. I racked my brain because it needed to be the last place someone would look. Then I remembered the old VAX1 server from my college days. I wondered if it was still online and if I still had an account. I also wondered if they'd left BSD Unix on it. I tried to remember my logon information and digitally headed to where the server used to be.

 

1VAX (Virtual Address eXtension) server – It is an established line of mid-range server computers from the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). It followed DEC's PDP-11 in 1978 and also introduced a new operating system, VMS. With BSD Unix installed it is a favorite of hackers for its especially large and programmer-friendly set of assembler instructions.

 

I was greeted with the familiar screens and started filling them in.

 

Username: LinusT

Password:*******************

 

      Welcome to OpenVMS on node CMellon

Last interactive login on Friday, 11-DEC-2000 08:41

Last non-interactive login on Thursday, 10-DEC-2000 11:05

$_

 

I checked the server and noticed no one had used it for years, but they still kept it running. You have to love old forgotten systems because they are such good places to stash things. I checked to make sure there was enough disk space - there was. Then I uploaded the original encrypted file to the VAX server. After it uploaded I touched2 the date on the file to make sure it looked like it was stored when I went to school. I setup a process to email me if anyone messed with the file and then hacked my logon date, time and the logs to erase any traces of me being in the system.

 

2touch command – Only worked because BSD UNIX was installed (otherwise you'd need GNV(GNU's Not VMS) installed). A UNIX command lets you change the create time and access time of a file.

 

Now I felt better. Very few people would think of looking on the old server for anything.

 

I looked over and Jens was still sleeping but not soundly. She wriggled and made a bunch of noise when she slept and snored occasionally. It wasn't as bad as the other Seals I used to work with. I checked the perimeter one more time and then crawled off to sleep in my cot.

 

Flashback Liz – Kabul Afghanistan - Wednesday 17 October

 

As we waited just inside the gate of the base you could hear random and sporadic gunfire coming from Kabul. I guess we had opened up a real can of worms. I had BW and the Marines pissed off and Jens and Linus have the Muslims pissed off. God I hope those two weren't in the Humvee when it slammed into the mosque. It wasn't the plan Jens described - it was even more suicidal.

 

Bernie looked at me and asked, "Liz can we trust Dariush? Isn't he an arms dealer? His walls are covered with weapons."

 

I looked at him and replied, "That's just a front to confuse people because he never really sells arms to anyone. He's a gun nut and loves collecting weapons so that's why his walls are covered with them. He's actually an information dealer. I went to see him and that's where I picked up the BW tail. I think right now he might be the only one we can trust."

 

We watched and even though I'd never seen Ahmil, I could identify the car when it drove up. "Let's go Bernie, our ride's here."

 

We walked out the gate and up to the car. The driver lowered the window of the Mercedes six-hundred. "Ahmil?" I asked.

 

His eyes darted around and he finally looked at me and said with a heavy Arabic accent, "Ms. Morgan?"

 

"Yes. Let's see if today is Wednesday – tell me how is the weather in Warsaw?"

 

He eyes darted around again, "The weather in Poland is perfect for making pierogi and potatoes." I heard the doors unlock and we jumped in the back seat.

 

He glanced at us in the rear view mirror, "Where to Ms. Morgan."

 

I gave him the address of the hotel where our rooms were and he looked relieved. "Sorry, Ms. Morgan I do not like coming so close to the Marine base."

 

I looked around at the inside of the Mercedes. "So is this one armored?"

 

"Yes Ms. Morgan. You are totally safe once I lock the doors. Do you mind if I lock the doors?"

 

I worried for a moment but asked, "Will I be able to unlock them?"

 

"Yes, you will not be a prisoner. Mr. Faisal would not be happy if you were unhappy."

 

He locked them and I unlocked them right away without problems, so I locked them again. "I think you're supposed to have a package for us."

 

He handed a bag through the window for us. I opened it up and laughed: Right on top was a Desert Eagle .50 A&E3 and a note.

 

3 Desert Eagle is a fifty caliber gas-operated semi-automatic pistol designed by Magnum Research in the U.S., and manufactured primarily in Israel by IMI (Israel Military Industries, now Israel Weapon Industries).

 

I unfolded the note:

 

Ms. Morgan,

I hope you enjoy my LITTLE joke. I thought you might need something to smile about. But a woman as beautiful and sexy as you will know how to handle such a big gun.

 

Dariush

 

I looked underneath and found two Jericho 941's4  in .45 ACP. Just for fun I put both holsters on my web belt, the Desert Eagle on the right and its baby brother on the left. I handed the other Jericho to Bernie and he slipped it on his web belt.

 

4 The Baby Eagle/Jericho 941 is a double action/single Action, semi-automatic pistol developed by Israel Weapon Industries and introduced to the market in 1990 as the Jericho 941.

 

Bernie grinned at me and commented, "That's a hell of a hog leg he gave you."

 

I chuckled and said, "Dariush gave it to me as a joke, in fact two jokes - An Arab giving us weapons manufactured in Israel. I've fired the Desert Eagle before and it kicks like a mule. But people will think twice about messing with us when I have this cannon on my hip."

 

Ahmil cleared his throat, "Excuse me Ms. Morgan, but you are only partially correct. Yes the Desert Eagle was a joke, you are being videoed and he will get many hours of laughter out of your response. However Mr. Faisal wanted you to have the best pistols he had. That is why he personally chose the Jericho's."

 

I looked up and saw the video camera. I pulled the Desert Eagle out of the holster and gave it a big, sexy kiss and caressed it with my fingers. Then I put it back in the holster, smiled and waved.

 

Ahmil laughed and said, "Very good Ms. Morgan, Mr. Faisal will laugh very hard from that."

 

I watched as we sped through the streets and noticed how everyone got out of our way. Ahmil pulled up in front of our hotel and I was shocked at how fast the doorman came to the car. He didn't let him open the door until he confirmed the identity of the doorman. Then we all walked inside, picked up our keys from the desk and went upstairs to our rooms.

 

I opened the door to my room and was instantly pissed off! Someone had tossed my room and it was a huge mess. Clothes, equipment and luggage were strewn everywhere. There was a note written on the mirror in my lipstick, 'Eat shit and die BITCH!'

 

Ahmil grabbed his mobile phone, stepped out of the room and made a phone call. I started picking things up and was grossed out because they had used some of my best undies for nasty things. This means, if they were like most men, they had been in my room for only a couple of minutes at the most.

 

I started picking up the stuff which wasn't ruined and putting it in my suitcase, the other stuff I threw in the trashcan.

 

I was pretty sure BW visited my room and oh were they going to pay for their childish pranks. They should know better than to fuck with the best – because when I get done with them, they're going to beg to be allowed to die like the rest.

 

Flashback – Zarika  – Tajikistan Day Twenty-one

 

I heard a noise and it woke me up. I whispered, "Yasmeen, wake up. Something is outside the truck."

 

For once she did not complain but looked scared. I grabbed my rifle and whispered, "Yasmeen, get your rifle and cover me."

 

I moved to the back of the truck and looked outside. It was a bunch of sheep. I relaxed and said, "Yasmeen, it is just a bunch of sheep. I'm going outside to see what is going on."

 

I crawled out the back and looked around and saw it was a huge bunch of sheep with two boys taking care of them. They looked scared when they saw my rifle. I smiled and waved at them and they looked more relaxed."

 

Yasmeen came out of the back, the boys looked at her and started talking to each other.

 

"Zarika, who are the boys?"

 

"They are shepherds. It was so funny; they were very scared when they first saw my rifle."

 

"Maybe you could ask them where the big road is Zarika."

 

That was a great idea so I went and got the map. "Yasmeen, just in case, you stay here and cover me."

 

I walked up to the boys, "Hello, I am Zarika."

 

The older boy said, "I am Arian. What are you two girls doing here?  You are trespassing because this is where we graze our sheep."

 

I did not like his tone and thought about kicking his butt. I decided I needed more information first so I answered, "We were driving last night and needed a place to sleep."

 

He laughed but didn’t believe me, "A little girl like you driving a big truck like that. I think you are lying."

 

I thought about pointing my rifle at him but decided it would be too easy. "I should have known better than to ask a simple stupid shepherd anything."

 

He bristled and boasted, "You would not talk so big if you did not have a nice rifle."

 

I walked over to Yasmeen to hand her my rifle and he bragged some more, "See Alisher, I told you she was a just a little girl and a coward."

 

Yasmeen said. "Zarika, be careful he is bigger than you are."

 

I smiled at her and added, "But he did not have Ben to teach him how to fight." I handed her the rifle and the map and walked back towards the boys.

 

I yelled, "Arian, I do not have the rifle now. So you stupid son of pigs what do you plan to do about it?"

 

He yelled in response, "You had better take it back!"

 

So I oinked at him. It was not as good an oink as Yasmeen would have made, but he knew what I meant. I yelled back to Yasmeen, "I smell pigs here!"

 

He got very upset and came running towards me. "I will teach you worthless girl to talk to me that way." I waited for him to run close, he tried to grab me and I moved to the side and he missed me. I tripped him when he ran past and he fell to the ground very hard.

 

Alisher yelled, "Get up Arian. She is embarrassing you!"

 

I laughed at him, "What is wrong Arian, is a little girl better than you?"

 

He jumped up and came at me again, this time slower and more carefully. "Ha silly girl, why are you standing so funny? I do not think you know how to fight."

 

I waited until he got close enough and showed him why I was standing funny when I kicked him in the chest. He fell backwards on the ground and Alisher teased, "Arian is getting beat up by a girl."

 

I started oinking at him again and Yasmeen even joined me. Arian jumped up and ran at me again, "I will kill you, you worthless infidel."

 

I did not move fast enough and this time he grabbed me. I locked both my hands together and slammed them down on in the middle of his back as hard as I could. He fell to his knees and I brought my knee up under his chin. He fell over and did not move.

 

Alisher yelled, "Did you kill my brother?"

 

I yelled back, "No I just made him go to sleep. Come over here and see."

 

He replied, "First you have to promise you will not hit me."

 

"I will not hit you if you do not hit us or call us names."

 

He slowly walked up and looked at his brother who was starting to move again. I walked over by Yasmeen and took my rifle. "Zarika, look a man is walking this way."

 

"Yasmeen, you hide behind the truck and cover me. I will wait here and see what he wants."

 

Yasmeen hid behind the truck and I watched the man walk up. Arian was awake now and said, "That is Papa you will be in big trouble now."

 

I watched him as he walked up and Arian lied to him, "These girls were parked on our grass and then she attacked me."

 

He looked at me with the rifle, looked at Arian and then hit him in the mouth. "Do not lie to me Arian. I can tell she did not attack you. Tell me the truth or your back will feel my rod."

 

I felt sorry for him and said, "Excuse me sir. We just had a little disagreement and things became crazy. I am not hurt."

 

He looked at me and looked at his son, then he walked towards me. I made sure I was ready with my rifle. He noticed and stopped about ten meters away. "I have heard rumors about a strong warrior with two warrior girls who killed many Taliban in Afghanistan and came into Tajikistan in an ugly truck. Do I have the honor of talking with one of them now?"

 

I did not want to tell him the truth as I replied, "I might be one of them. Why do you ask?"

 

"Because if you are one of them, then I think my stupid son is lucky to be alive."

 

I needed to say something good but not really answer his question so I said, "Your son is strong, but he is not wise like you."

 

I watched his eyes and chest like Ben taught me. I saw him relax and knew we would be okay. "I am sorry my stupid son bothered you and I am grateful you did not kill him but taught him a lesson. Feel free to stay here in your truck as long as you wish. My boys will not bother you again."

 

I lied and said, "My husband and his second wife thank you for your hospitality. But we will leave now."

 

"Not many people come here. Are you lost?"

 

I did not know if I should trust him, but we needed to find the big highway. "Yes sir. We are looking for the big highway."

 

He pointed down the road in the same direction we were going after we turned around. "The big highway is about a half a day drive in that direction."

 

"Thank you sir, now please back up and we will leave."

 

He backed up and I walked backwards towards the truck so I could watch him. Yasmeen said, "I am getting in the truck do not be worried when you hear me."

 

I heard her get in the truck and start the motor. I opened the passenger door and we drove off.

 

Flashback – Yasmeen – Tajikistan Day Twenty-one

 

It was fun watching Zarika beat up the mouthy big boy. I said as we drove away. "Zarika, you fight very well. I was worried he would hurt you."

 

"I knew he would not. But it was hard not to hurt him badly when we fought."

 

"I would like to drive for a while. Is it okay?"

 

"Yasmeen, I do not trust the man and his sons. I am worried he or other bad men might try to follow us. I think it would be better if you watched out of the back of the truck to make sure we are not followed."

 

I looked at her and agreed, "I think you are right. I will pull over up here."

 

I stopped, we both took care of some business then we jumped in the truck. "At least we know where we need to go. I am sorry I told us the wrong direction yesterday."

 

"Do not worry Yasmeen, it was the right road. Will you get in the back now and use your good eyes to watch for us?"

 

"Okay big sister. I guess we cannot sing today."

 

I crawled in the back and kept watch. I was excited because soon we would be to the big road and then we could go to the special place Ben told us about. Once we were there we could start working on my plan.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 SSN-22 Deployed.

 

We stopped short of the top of the ridge to take care of some business and make some adjustments to our ghillie suits since they needed to blend in perfectly. Banzai did a good job with his so I made a few little adjustments and we were ready. Leaving the water gear below the top we inched our way up to the top of the ridge. It was about fifteen minutes until we had eyes on the compound.

 

I wasn't worried about them hearing us so I said, "Banzai freeze, I want to make sure no one noticed us." It was still early enough in the morning and the guards might still be waking up. We waited for another fifteen minutes and I said. "Okay let's set up."

 

We slowly moved our gear into position. Banzai had his M40 and I had my M25 and spotting scope. Because he only had one thing to setup, he was scoping the compound long before I was.

 

"Jack, quick take a look at about two o'clock and tell me what you see."

 

I moved the spotting scope and watched as some guards escorted three men across the compound to a different building. The men were in shackles, dirty looking and tired. "Son-of-a-bitch Banzai, I think those men are part of a Seal team." I zoomed in for a closer look and saw, blood on their BDUs and bruises on their faces.

 

I glanced over at Banzai and he said. "Jack I'm not sure if they're Seals, but they're sure as hell prisoners. We can't leave them there."

 

"Banzai, I hate to tell you this, but we have our orders. And as much as I hate to say it, he has a whole army and all we have is each other. Yes they're prisoners, but we can't do anything about it. We need to kill the bastard if we can and then get back to the boat and see if they can mount a rescue mission."

 

"Jack, it's not fucking right." I was shocked when he swore because he almost never swore. "You know as well as I do when we kill the rat bastard they will kill all the prisoners. We need to rescue them."

 

I looked at him and hated to do it but I ordered, "LCpl Blaine, we have our orders and we will follow our orders. You will obey me on this, you understand?"

 

He said in the most sarcastic tone I'd ever heard, "Yes Sir!"

 

We spent the rest of the day mostly in silence waiting for our target but he never showed up.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 SSN-22 Deployed.

 

I spent all fucking day mad as hell at Jack. We saw them move the prisoners around several more times and I wanted to tell him we needed to rescue them, but he had made up his mind and done a piss poor job. To me, rescuing the prisoners was more important than killing the bastard. I didn't like it, but Jack went all Marine on me.

 

He tried a couple times to reason with me.

 

"Banzai look, I know you're upset at me. But you know this is the right decision."

 

"Yes sir, I know you say it's the right decision."

 

"You know there's no chance of rescuing the prisoners?"

 

"Yes sir, I know you know it."

 

"You're a hard headed bastard sometimes."

 

"Yes sir I am."

 

He said. "Smart aleck Son of a bitch," and then didn't say anymore.

 

It was fine with me, because I was working on my own plan to get those prisoners out of there.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 SSN-22 Deployed.

 

I'd been waiting for Banzai to take more command and initiative and he chose the wrong fucking time to do it. I felt bad as hell about not rescuing the Seals. Yes they were Seals, but this mission was FUBAR enough. At least the kid listened to my orders. I worried every time they moved the prisoners. He tracked them with his M40 and looked like he was going to start popping the guards.

 

He was royally pissed off at me and wouldn't talk at all. The only thing he did was answer my questions like a smart ass. I finally gave up and let him stew for the rest of the day.  He watched everything in the compound like a hawk, when he wasn't yawning. I guess he was tired and hoped that's why he acted like he had a bug up his butt.

 

Night was coming and we needed to make plans. "Banzai, make sure your NV gear is all setup on the scope and catch some shuteye, you look tired. I'll wake you up at midnight and you can take the morning shift."

 

He said with a cold tone to his voice. "Sir, the NV gear has been setup since we came to the top of this fricken hill."

 

I tried to inject some humor. "Don't call me sir I work for a living."

 

He looked at me, "Sorry sir I didn't know you worked at all."

 

If we weren't in the middle of this FUBAR mission I'd kick his butt. But then again, he did show me he could take me. If we get back from this mission, I'm going to have to be sneaky about kicking his butt for being so sassy.

 

I watched as he curled up and went to sleep.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 SSN-22 Deployed.

 

I figured Jack would take first watch so I baited him by faking yawns all afternoon. Well, they weren't all faked. I was tired because I didn't sleep well last night on the sub. I curled up and went right to sleep since I needed my rest for my plan to work. For the first time I can remember, no dreams haunted my sleep.

 

I heard Jack's voice, "Banzai wakeup, it's your turn to take watch."

 

I stretched a little and replied, "Thanks Jack, wow did I ever sleep well. Is anything going on?"

 

"It's as lit up as a Wal-Mart parking lot and quiet as a cemetery. You don't even need your NV gear."

 

"Sleep well Jack, I'll wake you at dawn."

 

We switched places so I could use the spotting scope. Jack was right - it was so bright I didn't need the NV gear. But looking at it killed my natural night vision so I didn't look at it.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 SSN-22 Deployed.

 

Well I guess I was right about Banzai being upset because he was tired. When I woke him up he seemed his abnormal self. We had a decent conversation, switched places and then I went to sleep.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 SSN-22 Deployed.

 

I waited all night until it was two hours before dawn. I pulled out a piece of paper, my lucky pencil and wrote Jack a note.

 

Jack,

Sorry to disobey your direct orders, you can bust me if I make it back. But sometimes you have to do what's right, not what's Marine.

 

I have a plan to rescue those hostages and I hope it works. I'm counting on you because you have my back on this one.

 

Banzai

 

I pulled off my Seiko watch, set the alarm on it for dawn and placed it on the note. I grabbed the new whisper rifle, Jack's MP5, all the ammo for both and my wet gear and slowly moved down the hill to the water. It was just light enough I could watch for traps.

 

I slipped the rifles and the ammo into the waterproof bags and geared up for the swim. So far the plan worked perfectly, I didn't think they'd have any traps in this cove because it was so near the compound and I was right. It was pretty dark when I entered the water so I took my time swimming across the cove to the dock. I waited under the dock for the sunrise. I tied the mask and fins to the rebreather, and let them sink to the bottom of the cove.

 

I found a ledge under the dock and pulled out both weapons and locked and loaded both. I slipped to the end of the dock and pulled myself up. There was a guard, but he was asleep. One shot from the whisper and he was gone. I moved along the edge of the dock and right before the end crawled up on the dock and hid behind some gear and watched and waited.

 

I glanced up at the ridge and hoped Jack was awake by now and had my back.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 SSN-22 Deployed.

 

Something's going ding, ding, ding and woke me up. It was the kid's watch and he was gone. I fumbled with the note he left and almost shit my pants. The stupid little shit went after the hostages. The whisper rifle was gone, my MP5 was gone but he left me the M40 and the M25.

 

I scanned the compound with the scope on the M40 and saw him hiding on the dock behind a bunch of gear. He even looked up at me, smiled and waved. I should shoot his ass right now, but it's a ballsy and right thing he's doing. I just hope we both make it back from this one.

 

I watch him and the compound to see if I can figure out his plan. I wish he had given me some clue about what the fuck he's going to do. I figure it out when I see the guards start to move the prisoners. He rises up and pops the two guards with the whisper as the prisoners are trying to figure out what's going on. He stands up and runs towards them. I scan the compound and see he's attracted the attention of a guard in the tower, so I shoot the bastard.

 

I watch as he reaches the prisoners and searches the dead guards for the keys. Another bastard looks out a door so I send him to hell. I look back and he has the prisoners free, has given one of them the MP5 and the others have the guns from the guards. I'm thinking it’s time to get your ass out of there before all hell breaks loose. I want to shoot him when they all start running towards a building in the back not towards the dock and the zodiacs.

 

But I'm too busy taking out bastards swarming out of the buildings. I empty the M40 and haul the M25 next to me and continue. They make it to a building and enter it so I keep firing at any target I see.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 SSN-22 Hostage rescue!

 

My plan worked great. I killed the guards and released the Seals. I wanted to book it to the zodiacs.

 

One Seal said, "Wait there are still two more of us in cells in that building."

 

I yelled at him, "Orraaahhh! Let's go get them!"

 

I heard them say behind me, "I thought he was a Seal, but he's a Marine."

 

Jack was doing a great job covering my back. We hit the door to the building and it was a huge firefight to get to the prisoners. But shit! I had three Seals to help me and it was as good as having a whole army.

 

They took the keys off the dead guard and opened the cell doors. Then they helped the two wounded Seals out of the cells and armed them with liberated weapons. One of the Seals asked me, "Where's the rest of your team?"

 

"He's up on the ridge sniping anyone who sticks their head out of a building."

 

"He! Are you telling me there are just two of you?"

 

"That's right. We're a Recon sniper team. I'm his sniper and he's my spotter."

 

"What's the rest of your plan?"

 

"Well, I thought we'd make it to the zodiacs and then head over pickup Jack. We have a sub waiting for us out in the bay. I guess they will have to surface to load all you guys. Let's move it."

 

The firefight getting out was even worse than getting in but I'd gained two more Seals and these guys were pissed off and motivated. We'd work our way up the hallways and covered each other. They used hand signals for everything but I figured the signals out right away.

 

We finally made it to the door and one Seal looked at me and said, "You're bleeding."

 

"Yeah I caught a round on the edge of my arm but it's nothing. Better let me go first so my spotter doesn't shoot you guys.

 

I slowly opened the door.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 SSN-22 Hostage rescue!

 

I had my fucking hands full because Banzai stirred up a hell of a hornets' nest. There were so many targets I was firing as fast as I could. The good news was the targets were firing everywhere and making so much noise no one heard my shots. So they still didn't know I was up on the ridge.

 

I switched over to the M25 because I had fifteen rounds in each mag and could fire faster. And at this range it was accurate enough. It seemed like a lifetime ago Banzai went into the building with the three Seals but it was probably only ten minutes.

 

Things were slowing up outside because they didn't know where I was but they knew if they stuck their heads out they were getting shot so they went turtle on me. Then I got lucky! I scanned the main house and saw the rat bastard target looking out the window. I slipped over to the M40 and ranged him. Damn I wished Banzai was here for this shot but I took the shot and watched him fall.

 

The unfortunate thing was the M40 didn't have a flash suppressor so some of the targets finally made my location. But their M16's didn't have quite the accuracy at this range as my M25. It did bother me that some rounds were occasionally coming close. If they have any sniper rifles, and I bet they do, things were going to get dicey.

 

I finally saw the door inch open on the building Banzai went into. I watched closely as he stuck his head out. It was easy to tell it was him because he still had his wet gear on so I started giving him covering fire hoping they could make it to the dock and the zodiacs.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 SSN-22 Hostage rescue!

 

I opened the door and heard the distinctive bark of Jack's M25 and knew we had some cover fire. "Okay guys, it looks like Jack's giving us some cover but it's going to be hell getting to the zodiacs."

 

One of the wounded Seals said, "Let me go first. I'm all tore up anyway."

 

I yelled at him, "Like hell you will, I didn't risk my life for you guys so one of you can throw theirs away. Cover my back and then follow me."

 

We had an advantage I didn't think about since this building was towards the back of the compound. The ridge was all the way across the compound so the guards were hiding behind things from Jack, but were exposed to me. I handed the M16 I'd taken to a Seal, pulled up the whisper and said, "Time to do the voodoo I do so well." I braced it against the edge of the door and started taking down the guards.

 

"Damn, that's the quietest rifle I've never heard!" One of the Seals said. It made me laugh and I missed a shot. "Hey, you missed that one," A Seal chided me.

 

I looked at him and threatened with a smile, "Don't make me miss another or I'll get really pissed off."

 

I emptied the first mag and jacked in another. A Seal yanked me inside just as some rounds slammed into the door frame. He let go a burst with his M16 and took a guy off the roof. "Thanks," I said.

 

"No problem."

 

Things were thinned out enough so I grabbed my M16 and said, "Okay guys, cover me as I run to the truck over there."

 

Two of them moved to the doorway and I took off running, they were laying down a hellacious cover fire for me. I made it to the truck and fell and rolled underneath it.

 

I grabbed the M16 and started providing cover fire as the Seals made their way to the truck. Jack was helping and I felt like we had things well under control. We would work our way to the zodiacs using all the cover we could. When the last Seal arrived at the truck I took off for a bunch of crates, again Jack and the other Seals were peppering the area with rounds.

 

I was in a hurry, didn't pay enough attention and I ran around the side of the crates right into a guard and fell on top of him. We started fighting and struggling with each other, then his head exploded and he went limp. I looked up and could imagine Jack grinning at me - it was a hell-of-a shot.

 

The Seals caught up with me, "Damn you blew his fucking head clean off."

 

I grinned and replied, "It was my spotter who did it."

 

We worked our way to the last good cover before the dock and the zodiacs. I looked at the Seals and said, "Okay guys, don't laugh but I don't know how to run one of those boats. So you guys go first, get the zodiac ready, and I'll be last and cover you." To their credit they didn't laugh but they did smirk.

 

It was hard as hell for them to make it to the zodiac and a couple of them got hit. My time came as I threw down the M16 and ran for the zodiac as fast as I could. It hurt like hell when...

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 SSN-22 Hostage rescue!

 

Banzai and the Seals were kicking ass. They'd made it as close to the dock as they could using cover but now they had a long run to get to the zodiacs.

 

The barrel of my M25 was smoking because I'd fired it so much, but fuck, it's just a rifle and I can get another. I ran out of mags and was using stripper clips from Banzai's rifle to keep reloading. I'd reload, wait for the next Seal to run, I'd empty the mag then reload again. Damn, he rescued five fucking Seals and he should get a medal for this. But it's a covert mission so there will be no medals for my boy's chest, just a handshake and the undying gratitude of five men.

 

I see him take off for the zodiac and I'm doing my best to keep him covered when I see him grab his leg, roll and fall. Shit! He's been hit! Get up dammit! I watch as he struggles, gets back up and limps to the zodiac! One of the Seals runs back to help him and they pile in the boat and take off towards my side of the cove.

 

Time for me to move my ass! I grabbed the weapons, left the rest of the gear and started running down the slope. The bastards could see me well now and were trying their best to shoot me. I was zigging and zagging and falling and rolling and made it to the beach with some time to spare so I returned fire. Whoever was driving the zodiac was dodging even more than I was. They got close, I ran out in the water and yelled as something went through the sole of my boot and into my foot. The zodiac roared up and the Seals just grabbed me and hauled my ass aboard. Then they spun it around and headed out of the cove.

 

I looked over at Banzai and he said, "Jack what the hell is wrong with your foot, it's bleeding?"

 

I look at him and he looks like hell, his arm is bleeding and so is his leg. The Seals improvised a field dressing for it out of some pieces of their BDUs. "Banzai, you're a great one to talk. You look like hell!"

 

He smiled and looked at the Seals, "But I feel like a million bucks. I love it when a plan comes together!"

 

"Well then you're really going to like this. Not only did you rescue the Seals, I killed the fucking rat bastard target!"

 

The Seals started cheering, "Damn that's the second best news we've had all day!" One shouted.

 

I asked, "What's the first."

 

"They sent you guys to rescue us."

 

Ben looked at him and said, "Sorry guys, they didn't even know you were alive. We were sent in to kill the rat bastard and that was all."

 

One Seal looked at me, "So you just decided to rescue us?"

 

Banzai piped up, "Yes this was Jack's plan. Our orders were to kill him, but Jack did the right thing and we rescued all of you."

 

I pretended to wipe some water out of my eyes, but it was really tears.

 

"So where the fuck is the submarine?" the Seal driver asked.

 

I did my best to try to direct him where it was. I looked at my watch, it was half past. "Shit, they won't surface to periscope depth for another thirty minutes."

 

There was a crack as a round whistled past us. Banzai said, "Looks like they had zodiacs we didn't destroy. Jack hand me my M40."

 

The Seal driver was juking the zodiac all over the place. "You can't expect to hit them with your sniper rifle?" he said.

 

Ben motioned one of the seals to sit on the back edge of the zodiac and put the rifle barrel over his shoulder. Banzai said, "When I tell you hold the zodiac straight."

 

I watched as he lined up the target the best he could then he yelled, "NOW." The driver stopped swerving, Banzai aimed and pulled the trigger and took out the driver on the other zodiac. Their zodiac started careening wildly across the water until another driver took his place.

 

Flashback - Captain – Late 1999 SSN-22

 

It was early morning and fifty minutes until time for us to run up to periscope depth again to check for the Marines. I paced the deck and waited as the Sonar room announced, "Sir, we have unusual sounds. I don't think it's in the water, it sounds like hail hitting the water."

 

I walked into the sonar room, listened then ordered, "Get Riggs up here now, I want his ears on this." Riggs was my best sonar operator.

 

I kept listening trying to figure out what it was. It did sound like hail but not quite like hail. Riggs walked in looking sleepy. He'd been running extra shifts because he was worried about the Marines. The kid gave him back a thousand dollars and had won a real friend. "What do you have, Sir?" he asked.

 

I don't know Riggs, "It sounds like hail hitting the water."

 

He took over the sonar, slapped on the head set, listened, then he ran it through the audio analyzers and listened some more. Finally he looked at me, "My best guess Sir, is small arms fire, and a lot of it. It's coming from the cove where the base is and sounds like a war going on."

 

I looked at him and thought to myself: Riggs is really good and I've never known him to make a mistake. But this was supposed to be a covert operation. Surely those two Marines wouldn't have attacked the base.

 

I ordered my crew, "Run us up to periscope depth and hold."

 

"Riggs, keep me apprised of the situation," I said and continued pacing. If it was small arms fire, it was thousands of rounds of small arms fire.

 

Twenty minutes later Riggs announced, "Sir we have a fast moving zodiac in the water - it sounds like it's from the cove with the base."

 

I paced some more and noted to myself this was a deviation from the norm. We heard zodiacs all the time, but they never moved fast. They were all slow moving patrols.

 

I walked into the sonar room and Riggs said, "It's still in the cove Sir."

 

I put on an extra set of headsets and listened. The sound of the zodiac changed and the small arms fire decreased. Riggs said. "Sir the zodiac has left the cove. It sounds like it's headed straight out in the gulf."

 

I heard a new noise and Riggs said, "Sir, a second zodiac is leaving the cove. It sounds like the first zodiac is heading towards us."

 

I pulled off the headset, walked over and raised the periscope. I did the required three-sixty and then focused on the zodiac and zoomed in. It was the Marines and five others in the front zodiac and a bunch of others in the back zodiac. The front zodiac was weaving and bobbing and going crazy. I couldn't figure out what the young Marine was doing, but it was strange. The front zodiac stopped weaving and the next thing I know the back zodiac lost its driver and almost capsized.

 

I step away from the periscope and lower it. "Riggs, what's the last known contact on the mini sub?"

 

"Sir, four hours ago as it docked."

 

We'd spent the last day listening to an incredibly noisy and annoying 525 mini sub as it patrolled the area. The minute they fired up the electric motors and left the dock Riggs knew right what it was. Intel said the mini sub was retrofitted by some Russian engineers to turn it into a mini attack sub.  It was assumed to have four forward torpedo tubes so we had to be careful. The crew on the 525 wasn't trained very well, they were noisy and several times they turned too fast and cavitated5.  And their sonar operator had to be an amateur. He pinged the hell out of everything and never found us.

 

5 Bubbles created around a submarine screw. This happens when the screw exceeds a certain speed at a certain load. Incredibly noisy.

 

I looked at my XO and ordered, "Battle stations and get this boat on the surface now. We have a zodiac coming in with the two Marines and five others. We also need an armed deck crew prepared to repel boarders."

 

"Riggs, keep listening for the five-two-five. I want to know if someone even farts on the five-two-five."

 

"XO, load forward and aft tubes with MK-48 ADCAPs6."

 

6 MK-48 ADCAP (for advanced capabilities) wire guided and self homing torpedo. One of the three major torpedoes in the Navy inventory. Wire guided and self homing.

 

"Fire control, I want a fire solution on the five-two-five when we hear it."

 

I paced the deck and proudly watched my crew operating like a well oiled machine.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 SSN-22 Hostage rescue!

 

Banzai nailed the zodiac driver and gave us some time, but it was still ten minutes until the sub was supposed to look for us.

 

I was totally surprised when a Seal yelled, "Sub off the port side!" I turned and there she was sitting on the surface waiting for us. I watched as the hatches opened and armed crewmen started boiling out on the deck.

 

The Seal swung the zodiac around and headed towards the boat at full speed. The other zodiac gained on us, until the crew on the sub fired at the second zodiac. I guess they figured they didn't stand a chance and turned around. The Seal drove the zodiac right up to the side of the boat, and tossed them a line.

 

The driver yelled, "Lieutenant Graves, Seal team two reporting and asking permission to board."

 

The XO grinned, "Permission most certainly granted!"

 

"Sir, requesting assistance for the wounded."

 

It lit a fire under the crew and we had so much help they almost swamped the zodiac. Ben and the Lieutenant were arguing which one was going to be the last off the zodiac. We heard from the sail, "XO, get those men on my boat now. We have a positive contact on the five-two-five."

 

The Lieutenant said. "Marine, I order you to get on the boat now." Banzai grabbed his hand and said, "We'll do it together." I practically laughed because it was more like the Lieutenant hauled Banzai's ass on the boat.

 

We were hustled below, the hatches slammed and the sub dived.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 SSN-22

 

The Captain came over and shook Jack's hand and said something I didn't hear. He came over to me and shook my hand, "Marine, LCpl Blaine I want to thank you for going above and beyond the call of duty and rescuing the Seals. Now get to sickbay and stop bleeding on my deck."

 

I figured they were going to fight the mini-sub and I wanted to see it. "Sir, sorry about bleeding on your deck but if you are going to fight the mini-sub I request permission to watch."

 

He looked at me and grinned, "Shit I guess you've earned the right to bleed in my boat. Just stay out of the way and let us do our job. Chief, get someone up here to take care of this Marine's wound."

 

I moved back in the corner and watched in total fascination.

 

Flashback - Captain – Late 1999 SSN-22

 

We were on the surface longer than I wanted, the 525 was on the move. It pinged and acquired us but I was surprised they hadn't fired torpedoes yet. I looked at the XO and asked, "Thoughts on why they haven't fired torpedoes?"

 

"Sir, I think there's too much junk out here for a fire solution." I smiled at him and thought he's going to make a good Captain some day.

 

"Good job XO, that's the same reason we can't get a clear fire solution on them."

 

They were pinging the hell out of us and it was annoying. We needed to get clear of the junk, acquire a fire solution and blow these bastards out of the water. We weren't in any danger right now so I walked back by the LCpl. "Bored yet?"

 

"No Sir, this is incredible. How do you know where the mini-sub is?" I smiled at him, "Follow me Marine." I walked him into the sonar room, "This is Riggs and he's the ears of our boat and the best. He can tell me everything the other sub is doing by listening. Give it a try." He takes a pair of headphones and listens.

 

"Helm back us out of here slowly."

 

"Riggs, let me know what's going on with the five-two-five."

 

"Fire control I want the solution."

 

Riggs said, "Sir torpedoes in the water. They are Russian five-five-threes7, most likely TT-1's"

 

7 533mm TT-1 Multipurpose wire guided and self homing torpedo. Designed to defeat modern submarines of any type sailing at any depth and speed, as well as large displacement surface ships in any area of the World Ocean.

 

"Fire control, do you have a solution?"

 

"No Sir, still too much junk."

 

I thought to myself, then they can't have a fire solution on us yet. "Steady crew, I think they're just wasting fish."

 

"Riggs, tell me about those fish in the water."

 

"Sir, they are still on wire and.." We heard a couple of explosions. "And they just ran into some junk."

 

I smiled and ordered, "Deploy countermeasures. Back one half." I knew these guys weren't very good and thought the bubble canisters and cavitation might confuse them. I heard the bubbles from the counter measures as we passed through them and the screws were making a hell of a noise.

 

"Full stop. Take us to three feet from the bottom."

 

Now we needed to wait and see how sloppy these guys were.

 

Riggs reported, "Sir, they're moving outside the junk area."

 

"Fire control! I want the solution."

 

"Sir, we have a solution."

 

"Fire tubes two and four."

 

I felt the boat jump as the fish were away.

 

Riggs said, "Sir two more five-five-threes in the water."

 

"How close?"

 

"A minute and a half."

 

"Fire control, time to target on our fish?"

 

"One minute Sir."

 

"Okay crew, let's put some distance between us and those fish. Come up to fifty back one third." I knew I was chancing cavitation going one-third backwards, but I wanted some distance between us and those five-five-threes.

 

"Fire solution, cut the wires at thirty seconds. I want to be able to maneuver."

 

"Riggs, what's going on?"

 

"Sir the five-five-threes are still headed at us."

 

"Fire solution, have the MK forty-eights self homed?"

 

"Yes Sir."

 

"Cut the wires, Helm hard about, one third forward speed after turn and dump full counter measures."

 

"Sir, fish running free and self homed."

 

"Sir coming about."

 

Riggs reported, "Sir five-five-threes still coming, forty-five seconds to impact."

 

"Sir, turn, finished one third ahead. Full counter measures deploying."

 

I heard the counter measure firing. "Helm, give me fifteen seconds of full speed, dump full counter measures again and then chop the speed."

 

I felt my boat lurch and the screw cavitate from the huge speed increase. I watched the clock and right at fifteen seconds they chopped the speed and deployed the counter measures. Then there were two whumps.

 

"Riggs?"

 

"Sir both MK forty-eights hit the target. I hear the escape of air from the five-two-five."

 

"What about the five-five-threes?"

 

"Sir, they lost acquisition and are hunting." I knew the 553's were circling and pinging just trying to find something big like my boat. I hoped they wouldn't acquire again on us, otherwise my command of this boat was going to be very short.

 

"Sir, they acquired, but not on us. They are headed away from us." We waited and there was a huge explosion followed by several smaller explosions.

 

"Riggs, what the hell was the explosion?"

 

"Sir, the five-five-threes acquired the minefield and just set off a bunch of mines."

 

My crew cheered and I said, "Excellent job! Stand down. XO take us back to Diego Garcia."

 

I walked over and LCpl Blaine and Riggs were talking. When I walked into the sonar room LCpl Blaine stood up but faltered some. "At ease LCpl Blaine. Did you enjoy it?"

 

He was so excited it was all I could do to not laugh. "Yes Sir. It was incredible. Thank you very much."

 

Riggs looked at me, "Riggs?"

 

"Sir, if he ever decided to quit the Marines, he'd make an excellent sonar operator."

 

I looked at him, "Well, what do you say LCpl Blaine, want to be a sailor on my boat."

 

He looked down, "I don't want to insult you or your fantastic boat. But it would drive me crazy not seeing the sun, feeling the breezes and hiking in the forests."

 

I smiled at him, "Then what are you still doing bleeding all over my deck Marine. Get your butt to the sick bay. Riggs, give him a hand."

 

I watched as he hobbled off to the sick bay, and looked over at the Chief. He walked over and said, "Sir I will clean up all the blood."

 

I addressed my crew, "Many of you were with me when our boat was christened and saw the champagne break over the bow. As proud as I was of the christening that day, I am even more proud today because the Seals and LPCl Blaine have christened our boat with their blood."

 

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

 

I slept so good, right up until a branch snapped and woke me up. I sat upright and knew what it was right away from the smell – a bear! Oh no, I-I-I didn't throw the fish bones far enough from camp last night, I'd slept too long and the fire was out.

 

I strained my eyes and couldn't see him, but my ears could hear his breathing and huffing. I grabbed my possibles bag and slowly stood up. There was just enough waning moonlight to make out the cabin so I started moving towards it. The bear heard and started towards me. I ran, just made it inside the old cabin, slammed the door and dropped the crossbar. The bear ran up on the porch, crashed into the door and it shook the whole cabin. He pushed against the door, roared, and then stuck his nose against a crack and sniffed.

 

I'd seen bears before but they'd never bothered me. Most times I just yelled at them and they ran off like a scalded dog. I yelled at this bear, and he started banging on the door and roared even more. I backed away from the door as he went back to the pushing and sniffing.

 

Hard Ben tried to come and take over the situation but I fought him because I didn't want him to do something stupid or crazy.

 

I took my knife and tiptoed to the door. He was still sniffing at the door. I looked, figured out where he liked to sniff and waited. The next time he sniffed at the crack, I jammed my knife through the crack. He let out a huge roar and banged against the door. I rammed the knife through a different crack where his paw was and he let out another roar. He moved away from the door and he walked around the cabin and roared some more. He'd then stop and bang against the side of the cabin and roar.

 

I needed to do something to make Mr. Bear leave me alone because I wasn't sure the cabin door would keep him out forever. He came to the back window, broke it out by sticking his head through it and roared and snapped at me. I noticed some blood and a cut on his nose.

 

At first it scared me, but once I knew he couldn't get in I started teasing him by throwing things at him. I grabbed a rock and bounced it off his nose. He let out a huge roar and backed away from the window. Then his paw came through the window. He could either stick his head or his paw through the window but not both at the same time.

 

He took his paw out and stuck his head back in and continued to snap and roar at me, I kept throwing things at him and when I'd hit him he get even more upset. There was a big stick in the corner so I ran and grabbed it and moved to the side of the window where he couldn't get me. I hit him on the head with it and he roared and pulled his head back out. I waited and he stuck his head back in so I hit it again. I laughed because it reminded me of this game I played at a circus called 'Whack a Mole.' I had my own version called 'Whack a Bear.'

 

He was sure intent on getting me! I don't know why, perhaps it was personal with him. He stuck his head in the window so I whacked it but this time he bit the stick and started shaking his head. He pulled the stick out of my hand and snapped it in two. Then he started slobbering and biting at the window frame of the cabin.

 

Finally I remembered something and had a plan! I took the plate and set it on the table, pulled some of the inner bark out of my possibles bag and put it on the plate. Used my fire tube to start a little fire, rolled up one of the magazines I found and made a torch. I ran over to the cabinet, pulled out the kerosene lamp, removed the top and waited. Mr. Bear stuck his head in the window and I threw all kerosene on him. It must have stung some because he roared really big. Then I took the magazine torch, ran as close as I dared and threw it at him.

 

I watched as he slowly caught fire. Once he figure out he was burning he roared real big and took off out the window. I heard him continue roaring as he ran into the woods. I sat down on the floor, trembled and realized how scared I was. But I beat Mr. Bear without hard Ben's help.

 

I leaned up against the side of the cabin, fell asleep and woke up several hours later when the sun was up. Scratching my head I wondered if my ordeal with Mr. Bear was real or a bad dream.  I looked at the broken window, the blood on the floor, the mess on the table and the teeth marks on the window frame and knew it was real.

 

I strained my ears but didn't hear anything but the normal forest noises. I got up, went over the window and carefully looked outside - still no bear. I finally got brave enough and went to the door, put my ear against it and listened: No bear. I grabbed my possibles bag, opened the door, went outside and saw the big claw marks on the door. I didn't want to look around anymore because I thought the bear might come back. So I took off running down the creek and towards our cabin.

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