17 Wounded


© Copyright 2009

Written by Banzai Ben and Amazing Anastasia




Wounded Chapter 17


Flashback Linus – Kabul Afghanistan


Natasha paced back and forth for hours, swearing like a sailor the whole time. She stopped every ten minutes or so to beat the shit out of the bag. She was a caged tiger and I needed to distract her. I asked, "Hey Natasha, you want to do something useful?"


She came near me and replied, "I am doing something useful, I'm figuring out how I'm going to kill the bitch."


I didn't like it because she's begun calling Evelyn the 'bitch.' I continued, "Since you're pacing so much I thought it might be a good idea to practice walking in a burka."


Her eyes shot daggers at me as she spat, "I'm mad as hell about the bitch and you're trying to upset me even more by having me wear that fucking medieval torture device?"


I tried to reason with her, "Look you have every right in the world to be pissed at Evelyn."


She interrupted, "You mean the fucking bitch."


I jumped up, walked over and got in her face, "Listen here Sgt. Donaldson! You made me second in command and I'm going to execute the privilege. You've lost sight of the primary goal of this mission which is rescuing Ben! Instead you're focusing on getting revenge for what Evelyn's done to both of you while your fiancé, who you claim to love, continues to go through Lord only knows what. Get your head out of your ass, get your ass in a burka and strut your ass like a good little Muslim woman!"


I stormed away and sat back down at the computer. Jens started crying, but she walked to her bunk, grabbed a burka and carelessly threw it on.


I ordered, "Sgt. Donaldson get your ass over here so I can show you how you're supposed to wear the burka."


She walked over and I yelled, "Damn! You'd better learn this stuff or we're leaving your ass here on the rescue mission." I stood up, adjusted the burka and continued, "This is how this fucking burka is supposed to fit, go look in the mirror and memorize it. And while you're at it watch how you're walking in the mirror and get it right."


She answered, "Yes Sir!" Then she walked to the mirror.


I laughed internally as she walked away and thought – at least she had something to distract her now.


Flashback Natasha (Jens) – Kabul Afghanistan


I'm thankful Linus chewed my ass - he was right and now I felt like shit. I'd been planning all morning how I was going to get even with the bitch and totally forgot about Ben. What the fuck sort of fiancée was I? I hated wearing this burka, but Linus was right there too. I needed the practice because this was going to be my disguise. And I knew he was serious about leaving me here if I couldn't get it right. If we don't rescue Ben there will be no need for revenge and the bitch will have won. The best revenge will be to rescue Ben and then shove our wedding so far up her ass she chokes on it!


Linus yelled at me, "Hey get your mind back on how to walk!"


I teased him, "Sorry my worthless, slave driving, infidel, pretend husband."


He yelled back, "You forgot good looking."


I teased, "Yes you're an Adonis in your own eyes."


Damn this walk is harder than it seems and this burka is nasty smelling. This submissive Muslim wife crap is for the birds.


Flashback Linus – Kabul Afghanistan


Good! Natasha listened to me and has her mind back on the mission. She practiced her walk now and was much better. Now to see if she learned anything else, I ordered, "Natasha, take off the burka, fold it and then put it back on again."


She yelled back, "I have such a perverted pretend husband. But he's going to be surprised because I still have my clothes under this burka."


I watched as she followed my orders. I waited until she had the burka on and almost adjusted right and yelled, "Are you going to wear your burka without your body armor under it?"


I heard her swear, "Son of a fricken fracken bitch! Now I have to take it off and put it back on again."


This was too much fun but at least it kept her busy until we needed to go pickup the guys. She put on her body armor, slipped the burka over the top, adjusted everything then walked over in front of me and said in a sassy tone, "Ready for inspection Sir!"


I nonchalantly glanced up from the computer and answered, "Do you have your sidearm and extra ammo under your burka? If not take everything off, including the body armor and do it all again."


She spat, "You bastard." But she left and did as I ordered.


I noticed the files from Evelyn's hard drive were uploaded to the server, but I wanted to keep Natasha focused on the task at hand. I looked at the files and watched Natasha out of the corner of my eye. Ten minutes later she came back over but I hid the files before she got close enough to see them. She stood in front of me and said in a respectful tone, "Ready again for inspection Sir."


I looked up at her and decided it wasn't perfect, but it was good enough. Now I needed to surprise her with our 'secret' weapon. I stood up and said, "You forgot something."


She snapped back at me, "Like hell I did. Let me show you." She pulled up the burka and there was her sidearm and all the extra ammo and her body armor.


I answered, "You forgot this." I turned, walked over to a table, opened a box and pulled out a package. I continued, "Go take it all off again and put this on too."


She yelled, "Like hell I will!"


I got in her face, "Yes like hell you will, we need these supplies for the mission and you're the only one who can carry this. Now, do the fuck as you're told or we'll find someone to take your place."


She took the package and almost dropped it, "What the fuck's in this, it feels like lead." Then she went back to her bunk and took everything off. This time I watched as she opened the package. I fought a laugh when she looked at it and finally figured out what it was.  It took her a little longer to get into the new gear, then she walked over in front of me and said again, "Ready for inspection Sir."


I stood up and said, "You look perfect and did a great job with the new gear. How does it feel?"


She answered, "It's heavy but not bad and I think I will get used to it. All of this gear will be great on the mission."


I looked at her and said, "You're not going to like this, but you're going to have to learn to walk differently all over again. I've pulled up a bunch of videos of walking on the computer. Sit down and study them. Once you're done, I want you to practice walking for thirty minutes. Then, I want you to practice thirty minutes of Taekwondo on the bag in full gear."


She struggled to sit at the computer and said, "Linus I feel like a fat fucking cow with this crap on me."


I replied, "Good because you look like one too."


She tried to turn and see me and couldn't do it very well so she just flipped me off and sassed, "At least I'm not barefoot."


I chuckled as she watched the videos, knowing it would keep her busy. Then I remembered to tell her, "Just so you know, you have a test tonight."


I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing as she tried to turn. She gave up and shouted over her shoulder, "What sort of fucking torture test do you have planned for me now."


I walked around front so I could see her eyes through the slit in the burka and answered, "If you can't fool Matt, Jim and Jack when we pick them up at the airport tonight, you're off the mission."


Flashback Natasha (Jens) – Kabul Afghanistan


Holy crap! Linus had been hell on me since I pissed him off. I kept forgetting he was a Seal and if the rumors were true perhaps a whole lot more. I'd be pissed at him if I didn't know it was for my own good and the good of the mission.


Just when I finally figured out how to adjust the burka and walk the fricken walk, Linus had me put on a fake pregnancy belly which was Massive, heavy and chocked full of ordinance. To have a belly this big I'd need to be fifteen-fricken-months pregnant. Naturally it came with another fucking new burka and I had to figure out all over again how to adjust it and now it was worse because I had this huge fricken belly hanging out in front!


Finally I had to learn to walk – I should say waddle - like a pregnant woman. Shit! But the worst insult was I had to pass a test with all this crap to be on this mission. I sure as hell didn't want to be support so I'm going to study my ass off! Fooling Matt and Jim won't be hard, but Shit! Jack will be hard as hell to fool because he's a smart, cagey old bastard.


I studied the videos then I got up and attempted the walk as I watched the mirror. The first time I did such a poor job Linus laughed his ass off.


I turned and flipped him off, "Don't you know better than to laugh at a pregnant woman? We're all hormonal and with this belly full of ordinance I might go off half cocked."


He grinned and answered, "Natasha, I have a camera and we can video this. Maybe it would help."


"Linus, that sounds like a great idea. I'll go back and watch some more videos while you get the camera set up."


It was tiring hauling all this crap on my belly and the pull of it made my back sore. I was getting just a little taste of why so many pregnant women I met were so crabby. Plus I was sweating like a pig under this burka. I'd always wanted lots of kids and thought twins or triplets might be nice, but after this short ordeal I think I'll leave the litters to dogs and cats.  One baby at a time is plenty for this girl!


Linus announced, "It's all ready to go."


I took one more look at my favorite video, struggled to stand up and waddled towards Linus and the camera. He grinned at me and I wanted to kick his butt or at least fall on him with this belly.


He ordered, "That wasn't bad, now turn around and walk away from me."


I did and he yelled, "Pregnant women don't wiggle their butts so take smaller steps and keep the motion out of your backfield."


I yelled back, "What sort of pervert watches a pregnant woman's butt."


He snapped at me, "Someone who's been out in the desert with only a camel for the last six months."


I giggled but thought he was probably right.


I turned, walked towards Linus and he asked me, "Did you hear the joke about the Captain and the camel?"


This was Linus, so I knew the joke had to be ribald but funny, "Do I want to know the joke about the Captain and the camel?"


He told me anyway,


A Captain in the foreign legion was transferred to a desert outpost. On his orientation tour he noticed a very old, seedy looking camel tied out back of the enlisted men's barracks. He asked the Sergeant leading the tour, "What's the camel for?"

The Sergeant replied "Well sir it's a long way from anywhere, and the men have natural sexual urges, so when they do, uh, we have the camel."

The Captain said "Well if it's good for moral, then I guess it's all right with me."

After he had been at the fort for about six months the Captain could not stand it anymore so he told his Sergeant, "BRING IN THE CAMEL!!!" The Sergeant shrugged his shoulders and led the camel into the Captain's quarters.

The Captain got a foot stool and proceeded to have vigorous sex with the camel. As he stepped, satisfied, down from the stool, and was buttoning his pants he asked the Sergeant, "Is that how the enlisted men do it?"

The Sergeant replied, "Well sir, they usually just use it to ride into town where the women are."

Linus laughed and I said, "That was almost funny, but not as funny as if it had been about Seals."


He gave me a dirty look and said, "Let's put these videos on the computer and see how you look."


He walked and I waddled over to the computer. I watched as he connected the camera and downloaded the video then played it on the screen.


I yelled "Shit! I thought cameras only added ten pounds to what a person looks like. This makes me look like I'm twenty pounds heavier than in the mirror. Do I really look this huge?"


Linus laughed, "Yes you do but everyone who sees you will be extra special nice. Now go practice your Taekwondo."


I whined, "Linus you're going to fucking kill me if I have to do Taekwondo with all this on. How about at least letting me take off the burka?"


He told me, "You can take off the hood and do a couple more walks for me, one towards the camera and one away. But no way in hell are you going to practice Taekwondo without the burka and belly on. You might have to fight in the disguise so get your ass over there and beat the shit out of the bag. And you'd better be serious or I'll come over and kick your ass."


I grumbled as I waddled towards the bag, "Should have known a fucking Seal would beat up a poor defenseless pregnant woman."


Flashback Linus – Kabul Afghanistan


As I watched her do Taekwondo, I considered - poor defenseless pregnant woman my ass. If anyone gives you shit you're going to kick their butts! I turned on the video camera and ordered, "Natasha take off the hood and see if it helps." She did and it did help, but I really had an ulterior motive for having her remove the hood. These videos of her were just too funny and too good not to keep. Liz was going to love me for saving them.


The more she moved in the disguise the better she got and was far above average on the bag by the time she was worn out.


She dropped to the ground and said, "Linus, I'm beat and stinky and need a shower and a rest. You need to put up some fricken shower curtains for me." I hurried and threw up a couple pieces of metal as a shower partition. I was glad she asked because seeing her shower would have been as gross as if I watched my kid sister.


 After Natasha left to take her shower, I uploaded the videos to the Truth Network's secure server and then copied them over to my server too. She finished the shower and walked around the side of the partition without her fake belly. I ordered, "Sgt. Donaldson, where the hell is your belly and burka?"


She whined, "Linus I thought I was done with this crap until later when we pick up the guys."


I had figured out with the extra weight of the belly, she needed some additional exercise to get ready for carrying it. And I knew of no better way than to have her wear it all the time.


"Sgt. Donaldson, you will wear the belly continuously until this mission is over. But I will be nice and only make you wear the burka when we are out in public. However, if you continue to whine, then you will wear the burka everywhere too."


She grumbled some as she went back and put on the belly, but not enough to warrant a burka punishment.


She waddled over and said, "This is hell and I hate it. If I was really this way at least I would have had some fun getting this way. Move the hell over and let me see my videos."


I said, "Make sure you don't delete them. I want to keep them so we can compare your progress."


I left and got the Suzuki Samurai ready because we'd be leaving soon to pick up Matt and Jim. Jack would be in several hours later.


Natasha sat at the monitor and was swearing at her size and at the computer. I almost laughed and wondered if perhaps women became bitchy when they were pregnant because of their size and not their hormones.


Flashback Jens – Kabul Afghanistan


Linus and the belly made me cranky as hell. I don't know, perhaps I was PMS – nah I was just so damn tired. Every time I tried to sleep, I had dreams or visions of whatever was going on with Ben. Well it wasn’t like they were complete dreams, it was as if you only saw every twentieth frame of a movie – just enough to know something was going on, but not enough to be able to figure it out.  And then there were all these weird phantom leg pains I kept getting. It was so bad I wondered if I had restless leg syndrome. My legs jumped around on the bed and woke me up. Wow, I was really whiney and cranky, maybe I did have PMS – yeah I was PMS!


I yelled over to Linus, "Hey I've figured out what's wrong with me."


He stopped messing with the cute little Suzuki and said, "Okay what's wrong with you?


I giggled and replied, "I'm PMS."


He looked away and complained, "Natasha, that's too much information."


I added, "It means Putting up with Mother f'in Seals!" Then I giggled some more.


He flipped me off and continued working on the Suzuki.


I messed around on the computer and tried to jump up for joy because the files were here from the bitch's computer. I was so excited I forgot about the fricken belly and fell off the chair. Linus looked over and cautioned, "Don't break your ass."


I teased, "Don't worry because if I did I sure as hell wouldn't let you kiss it to make it better. Why didn't you tell me we have the files?"


He glanced at me, "Hey Natasha, we have the files but you can't look at them right now. You're supposed to be looking at videos of pregnant women. Make sure you open the one named fifteen.flv."


I hadn't looked at that one yet, so I opened it and blushed like crazy. It was some sort of perv video from some fricken place called pregnant women gone wild. Even though I only saw a couple of seconds of it - it was all I wanted to see – it was fricken sick.


I looked over and Linus laughed then yelled back, "I thought you'd appreciate it."


I'll fix you, you bastard! I went to my server and downloaded a program I wrote when I was a little girl called black hole. I hacked into his user account and put it in his startup folder. Then I put on a microphone and recorded a little audio file to run right after black hole finished.


That should fix Mr. Wannabe Computer Hacker – mess with the best and die like the rest!


Flashback Linus – Kabul Afghanistan


Natasha was being too quiet so I concluded she had planned something to get even with me for being a pain in the ass today. I bet she's trying to hack my account on the computer. Boy will she be surprised if she does. She's not a bad hacker and given enough years she will be as good as me.


I pulled the .50 Cal machine gun out, put it between the seats and hid it under a tarp. Then I humped ammo cans in the back of the Zuk. I next yelled over to Natasha, "Gear up and let's roll!"


She shut down the computer, struggled to get out of the chair as I fought back laughter. I got in my disguise and she went to put on her burka. I waited for her by the Zuk and commented as she walked – I mean waddled up, "I thought since you didn’t have to put on all your makeup crap it wouldn't take as long to get ready."


She shot back, "Fuck you! But you certainly look cute in your man dress. It's so flattering for even for a full figured guy like you. Or are you just big boned?"


I teased back, "You know Muslims wives get beat if they say stuff like that."


She stepped back in a defense posture and replied, "Linus, I've put up with a bunch of shit from you today and I know you did it for the mission and to distract me. But I've had my fill of it and that's the last straw. You want to try to beat me? Come on 'cause I'll kick your sorry Seal ass. No one threatens me with violence."


I knew I'd pushed her too far but I hoped I could back out of this before we both got hurt. I answered, "Natasha, I apologize for the last comment and I would never seriously threaten you with violence and you know it. So cut the crap and let's go pickup Matt and Jim."


She held out her hand, "Shake on it?"


I went to shake her hand and she put me in an arm lock, shoved me up against the Zuk and said, "Just remember, I might be smaller than you but I'm twice as fast. Plus I'm pissed as hell almost all the time. Besides, as you just found out I can be a sneaky little bitch. So you cut the crap and get in the cute little Suzuki and I'll get the door."


She gave me one more good twist on my arm to make her point. Then she released me, turned, walked towards the door and said, "Don't even think about jumping me from behind because it will get me really pissed off. Besides it wouldn't work."


I walked around to my side of the Zuk and thought, well, I think she's ready. Now if she can just fool Matt, Jim and Jack. She opened the door as I fired up the Zuk and drove outside. She shut the door, climbed in and said, "Get driving chauffer."


I headed to the airport and Jens' statement brought back memories of another time…


Flashback Linus – TSIFFTS Mission


I climbed into the passenger side of the semi, grinned at Thom and said, "Get driving chauffer."


Thom matched my grin and answered, "You're sure cocky for one so young. Keep it up and you'll find out how devious old guys can be."


I was riding shotgun today and not happy about it. Thom was good at many things, but driving this rig wasn't one of those. I'd much prefer to have been in the trailer where I couldn't see my impending death. Not that he ever hit anything, but he sure did come close. Riding shotgun was considered punishment when he was driving.


I held my breath as we made it out of the parking lot and onto the interstate. I could finally relax some so I asked, "Hey Thom when do I get to drive?"


He looked over, swerved just a little and replied, "Don't tell me you're going to start complaining about my driving?"


I foolishly replied, "Hell Thom you scare the shit out of everyone when you drive. We all draw straws to see who's going to sit up front with you because it's not any fun."


Thom got upset, "Fuck it, if you think you can do better I'll pull over right now and let you drive." He swerved onto the shoulder and almost hit a car. The car driver honked, drove by and flipped us off. Thom yelled, "Damn idiot almost hit me!" Thom opened the door to the cab, looked over at me and said, "I'm headed in the back to catch some shuteye have fun figuring out how to drive this thing."


I yelled after him, "Send Byron up to ride shotgun!"


I jumped in the driver's seat, made some adjustments, then looked at all the controls and shifters. I had no idea what most of the stuff did but I knew Byron would help me. I jumped when the passenger door opened. Byron crawled in and yawned.


Flashback Byron – TSIFFTS Mission


Thom came in the trailer, kicked me in the ass and said, "That damn Torvalds complained about my driving so I told him he could drive this damn truck. He wants you for shotgun." He headed over to a cot and sacked out.


I sat up, rubbed the sleepers out of my eyes, and fought back a laugh. Since we brought Linus on, he and Thom had butted heads several times. I'm glad he finally called Thom on his driving because he couldn't drive this rig worth shit.


I grabbed a cup a joe from our always full coffee pot and headed up to ride shotgun. I opened the door and Linus jumped. I crawled in the seat, yawned and said, "Damn that was a short nap."


Linus commented, "Damn Thom sure is touchy sometimes."


I laughed and added, "Just sometimes? He's touchy most of the time. It's much better now he's doing something again, but when I first met him I could hardly talk with him." I changed the subject, "By the way I thank you and I'm sure everyone else will thank you for getting on Thom about his driving. We've tried to tell him before but he wouldn't listen to us."


Linus asked, "Then why did he listen to me?"


I wondered why Thom listened to Linus and not us so I replied with, "I'm not sure. I think he's got a lot of respect for you. Or perhaps it's just because you're the new kid on the block."


He came back with, "Well I guess you'd better teach me how to drive this rig."


I answered, "I know you don't have your CDL so you really can't drive this until you do. But since Thom has his titty in a wringer you're going to have to go to school and learn how to drive a big rig. We can start your lessons right now by having you watch me."


We switched places and I adjusted the seat and I started Linus' lessons.


Flashback Linus – TSIFFTS Mission


I was concerned about this mission because it – well it seemed risky. I asked Byron as we drove off, "Have you guys ever done a mission like this one before?"


Byron glanced at me (at least he didn't swerve the truck) and asked, "You're worried about this one, aren't you?"


I nodded and said, "Yeah it seems like a high risk mission."


Byron replied, "You're smart and right to be worried. This is a very high risk mission." He paused and then asked, "Do you think the target is big enough to warrant the risk?"


I answered, "Most certainly, but it doesn't mitigate the risk."


Byron said, "Yeah that's why we're changing things a bit on this mission."


I glanced in his direction and asked, "So it's not me as primary and you as backup?"


He replied, "This time it's you as primary, Thom as backup and I'm the cover sniper."


I inquired, "Why the change Byron?"


He chuckled as he answered, "Two reasons: Thom's better with a pistol than I am and you might need it on this mission; and number two, I'm way better than he is with a rifle."


I commented, "Well that makes sense because you are a Marine."


Byron said, "Thanks for getting it right this time."


"Yeah, yeah, I know. Once a Marine - always a jarhead."


Byron teased back, "That's Jarhead Sir, to a squid like you."


Before this got out of hand, I changed the subject and asked, "So it looks like once you get this rig rolling it's not too bad to drive."


Byron chuckled and replied, "Does Thom drive a car or van okay?"


I answered right away, "Yeah, he's not the best driver, but I can sleep when he drives a car or van."


He continues, "So what does it tell you about your question?"


I laughed because Byron is always making me think, "It tells me my question was full of shit. Even when this rig is rolling, there are things which are different from a car."


Byron chuckled as he said, "You'll learn all about those when you go to truck driving school after this mission."


I sat back and considered the mission and wondered how in hell I was going to keep from getting busted on this one.


Flashback Thom – TSIFFTS Mission


I'd wanted this bastard for a long time, but we didn't have the resources until Linus signed on. With him on the team it would be a hard mission but one we should be able to pull off.


But we did butt heads frequently - quite frequently. I pretended he pissed me off complaining about my driving of the big rig – but secretly I was happy because I scared myself driving this thing. I would never admit it to anyone, but now we can move Linus into one more area of TSIFFTS. His youth has infused our group with new life and we've all noticed it. Plus he has dogged determination. He hacked on this guy's computer system for two days straight without sleep until he was able to penetrate it.


I'd had too much coffee to sleep, so I lay on the cot thinking about our mission and refining the mission plan. I knew we'd be stopping soon so there was no reason to sleep anyway. Shit! I never could sleep before missions and I'm too old to learn that trick now.


I felt the truck rumble to a stop and knew we were at the final truck stop and the guys would be coming into the back soon. I looked over and Jim and Todd were waking up. Soon we'd be set up and monitoring this guy to make sure his habits hadn't changed.


I waited as Byron and Linus came into the trailer. Byron shot me a knowing grin which told me he really knew why I let him drive. Jim and Todd were up and checking our monitors. Linus walked up and said, "Sorry Thom about getting you all bent out of shape about your driving."


Jim yelled from his post, "Hell, I'm not sorry. He can't drive this rig worth shit!"


I stood up and announced, "That fucking does it. I'm not driving this piece of shit anymore. You three have licenses and can figure out the schedule between yourselves."


Everyone started clapping and cheering. I pretended to be upset and announced, "Fuck you all, I'm going to go eat." As I headed into the truck stop, Byron and Linus followed me.


Flashback Linus – TSIFFTS Mission


I didn't like the friction between Thom and me because a team needs to run smoothly. So I wanted to nip the problem in the bud. Byron and I followed Thom into the diner and I sat across from them in the booth and said, "Thom after this mission I'm quitting."


His mouth dropped open so far in surprise it almost hit the table. Thom said, "Linus, what the hell is going on?"


I answered, "Thom, I don't like the fact you and I butt heads so much since it's counterproductive for the team. I will gladly work with TSIFFTS, but not with your team."


Byron was grinning like hell and I wasn't sure why. Thom said, "Linus! I don't understand."


I looked at him, "Thom, I already told you. We butt heads too much and it's not good for the team.


He was flabbergasted and couldn't say anything but Byron answered instead, "Thom and Linus both of you need to calm down. Linus, Thom just likes to keep things stirred up and you need to learn to either ignore him or kick his butt. And Thom, Linus is right and you need to keep your weird sense of humor under control so it doesn't affect the missions."


I stood up and said, "I'm putting you on notice. If we can't find a way to smoothly resolve our differences, then I'm changing groups." Then I left.


Flashback Byron – TSIFFTS Mission


I slid over, sat across from Thom, looked at him and asked, "Well Thom, Linus is serious. What are you going to do?"


He looked at me and stated, "Damn! It was sure easier in Nam to deal with shit like this."


I thought, yeah because you defined the problem – you're not in Nam and you can't order everyone around. I grinned at him, because I knew he hated it when I did, and answered, "Thom, you can't order people around here like you did there. We all put up with it because we know you. But Linus and you are two Alpha males and he's not going to put up with your shit. You wanted him on this team so bad, now you've got him on this team. I suggest you figure out a way to fix things so you can keep him on this team. I'm going to go find him and do damage control while you think about things."


With my mission over with Thom, I needed to go find Linus and get him calmed down.


Flashback Linus – TSIFFTS Mission


I needed to blow off some steam and decided a good run was the perfect solution. I went back to the rig, climbed inside the cab and crawled into the sleeper. The sleeper on all these rigs wasn't really a sleeper because we had bunks in the trailer. The bed had been replaced with dressers and it served as our clothes storage and changing area. I found my gear and changed into my workout clothes.


I thought about what Byron had said and decided he was right - Thom liked to keep things stirred up as a means of control. And I had been a bit cocky with Thom so I was part of the problem. I analyzed the situation and concluded: when Byron and Thom disagreed, Byron didn't become confrontational, he just told Thom what he thought and then left Thom to think about things. To promote team peace, I needed to start treating Thom the same way. But I also needed to get even for a few of the tricks Thom had pulled on me – he thought he was God's gift to pranksters. An idea hit me and I ran back into the truck stop, found what I wanted and purchased it. I then came back in the cab and implemented my plan.


As I stepped out of the cab, Byron was there and commented, "Looks like you're getting ready for a run?"


I replied, "I need to blow off some steam and think."


He asked, "You mind if I come too?"


I had been waiting for Byron because I knew he would come. Where Thom was the instigator in the group, Byron was the peacemaker. I said, "That would be great, then I can run your sorry ass into the ground."


He laughed at me and answered, "Yeah like that will happen! Give me a few minutes to change."


I did some stretches until he came out of the cab in his gear and I asked, "You need to stretch first?"


Byron smiled at me and said, "What's wrong? Trying to postpone the ass whipping I'm going to give you? Let's run and I'll stretch when we're done."


He said, "Come on squid, try to keep up with me!" as he headed out of the truck stop down the side road at an easy trot.


I fell in beside him and waited for him to start the conversation. We'd gone about a mile and he finally asked, "Linus are you really thinking of changing groups?"


"Byron, I don't like the way Thom and I relate to each other and I either need to change the way I treat Thom or leave."


He continued, "Are you still pissed about his last prank where he replaced all your underwear with women's panties."


I remembered the prank and I replied with a chuckle, "Well Byron, I was pretty pissed because the panties were all used and some were quite nasty. I had to wash all my clothes and buy new underwear. By the way, how in the hell did Thom get so many used panties?"


Byron laughed, "I've asked myself the same question and I don't have an answer. Perhaps we need to track Thom when he leaves the trailer. And you’re right, some of those panties were disgusting. But you don't sound like you’re pissed about it anymore."


I grinned at Byron, "Let's just say payback's a bitch that's going to bite Thom in the butt."


He looked at me and asked, "You pulled a prank on Thom?"


I replied, "Hell yes I did. I'm fed up with his pranks."


Byron asked, "Are you going to tell me what the hell you did or make me suffer."


"Tell you what Byron, if you can beat me to the next mile marker I'll tell you!" Then I took off. It didn't take long for him to catch and pass me. For an old fart he was still fast, shit he was too fast! I caught up to him at the mile marker, fell in beside him, we continued to run and he said, "You know you can't outrun me so you might as well give it up. So tell me about your prank."


I described what I had done and he laughed so hard he fell over. "You okay Byron?"


He didn't answer because he was laughing too hard. Finally he sat up and said, "Now that's a prank, how long are you going to let him suffer until you tell him?"


I answered, "Byron, I don't know. But it's going to be awhile. You can tell the other guys, but you'd better not tell him."


He came back with, "Linus there's no way in hell I'm telling Thom, but it's going to be hard not to laugh the whole time. Let's head back to the truck stop, catch a shower and let Jim and Todd get some exercise."


He kicked my butt on the way back to the truck stop and I wondered how in the hell he kept in such good shape.


Flashback Thom – TSIFFTS Mission


I sat and stewed about what Byron and Linus had said and couldn't even enjoy my fucking breakfast. Dammit, I hated it when I messed up and got people upset. Byron was right I have a weird sense of humor and it gets me in trouble. But I don't want to lose Linus so I'm going to have to do something to fix the mess I made of things.


The waitress came with the bill, I threw a twenty on the table and left. I headed to the trailer, climbed inside and only found Jim and Todd. I asked, "Where are Byron and Linus?"


Jim answered, "You pissed Linus off again so they took off for a run. You should join them."


I realized that was the problem with working with these guys: They know everything. It's worse than working for a fucking spook. I answered, "I think I'll let breakfast settle first. Can I spell one of you?"


Todd signed he wanted a break so I went over and manned his console. He was tapped into a surveillance camera located just outside the property. Watching this bastard's compound was a good way to get my mind off the shit I'd just been going through.


I watched as their members went about their daily – well I can't call it business since it was more like slavery. And then got even more pissed and decided I'd do whatever I needed to do with Linus to make things right so we could keep targeting bastards like this.


Thirty minutes later Byron walked into the trailer and I motioned him over. I asked, "How was your run?"


He replied, "You should have come with me because I would have kicked your butt too." Then he looked over at Jim and said, "I'll spell you so you can get in your PT."


Jim answered, "Thanks Byron. You two have fun and behave yourselves." He took off and left us alone.


I started by asking, "Byron, is Linus really leaving our team?"


He chuckled and replied, "He's got you worried, doesn't he? I think he's going to stay with us, but he is planning on relating differently to you."


I was going to ask him what he meant when Linus walked into the trailer, looked at me and said, "Good morning Sir! I will take over your station so you can get some exercise."


I looked at Byron and he grinned his fool head off. I replied, "Come on Linus, cut it out."


Linus answered, "Cut what out Sir?"


I stood up and declared, "Fuck it all! I'm going to get some exercise. Byron, work on this hard headed son of a bitch."


He grinned and replied, "Yes Sir!"


I walked towards the door and yelled over my shoulder, "Fuck both of you!"


Linus shot back, "I'm sure you'd like that Sir!"


I wanted to say something but I bit my tongue. I headed up to the cab and changed into my workout clothes and headed off for a short run to clear my head. This 'Sir' crap had better end real soon because I hated being called sir. Dammit! Today sucked, Linus, and now Byron, have bugs up their butts and to top it off something's wrong with my workout cloths.


Flashback Byron – TSIFFTS Mission


I almost laughed at Linus when he walked into the trailer and called Thom 'Sir' – he hated it. I fell right in with his plans and called Thom 'sir' too. Thom got upset as usual and left swearing at us the whole time. As soon as he left I laughed, "Linus, that was priceless! You know he hates to be called 'sir.' It's an insult to him."


Linus looked at me with a straight face and stated, "Yes Sir, I know it."


I was going to lay into him when he laughed, "You guys sure hate to be called sir. Switch positions with me, because I don't need to see anymore of the crap this bastard is responsible for. I want to mess with the fucker's head some."


We switched consoles and I monitored the video feed while I watched Linus. Then I asked, "So what are you going to do?"


Linus answered, "I think we need to mess with this bastard's mind and get him ready for tonight. I hacked into the electrical grid, so first I'm going to give him a brownout, which should get his attention."


Yes, with Linus onboard we sure had more options than before. I watched as he slipped on a computer headset and started typing away at the computer station. I glanced at the camera feed and watched as the ever present lights dimmed substantially at the compound.


He looked over at me and said, "I figure this brownout will render his high-tech gear inoperable." He didn't finish his conversation with me, because he started talking into the headset.


Flashback Linus – TSIFFTS Mission


Yes sir! Nothing like a little brownout to fuck with the bastard's video gear! I was waiting for his phone call, intercepted it and put it over the speaker in the trailer. "San Francisco County Utilities, how may we help you?"


The caller replied, "Hello, this is Jim Jones and we seem to be having problems with our power today. All of a sudden the lights got dim and some of my equipment stopped working."


I answered, "We're sorry for the problems Mr. Jones. Let me take a look and see what's going on."


I noticed all the other guys were now in the trailer so I had an audience. I made Mr. Jones wait and finally said, "I think we've located the problem and we should be able to fix it momentarily. Is all your equipment still on?"


He answered, "Hell yes it's on! We were in the middle of an important taping when it sort of stopped, but the cameras still have a little bit of a display."


I typed the commands at the keyboard, got ready to press the enter key and said, "Yes Mr. Jones, I've found the problem and I'm fixing it right now." I hit the enter key and we heard a bunch of yelling.


Mr. Jones screamed into the phone, "I don't know what you did, but you just blew up all my equipment and there is smoke is coming out of it. Even the light bulbs all burned out. Someone's going to pay for all this."


I looked and the guys fought back the laughter. I said, "Glad we could fix your problems. If you need anything else please call back and have a nice day." I hung up the phone and typed a few more commands, rolled away from the console and looked at the group. They all grinned.


Thom spoke first, "Damn that was too funny. I don't know all you did, but it sounds like it was fun."


I answered, "Yes Sir! It was a lot of fun and he won't be shooting anymore videos for awhile." I looked as Jim and Todd smiled when I said ‘sir’.


Jim spoke up next, "That was a sweet hack. I didn't know we had control of the power grid."


I replied, "I hacked into it just a bit ago. With the size of his compound I knew he'd have his own drop. So I isolated it and played around some." I was going to say more when we were interrupted by a phone call over the speaker.


"Hello, San Francisco County Utilities this is Jim Jones."


The voice on the other end answered. "This isn't San Francisco County Utilities, I'm afraid you have the wrong number." Then the line went dead.


Todd did a bunch of signing and Thom translated, "Todd wants to know if you hacked into the local phone company?"


I didn't get a chance to answer because there was another call over the speaker and a voice came up with an obvious Indian accent, "Hello this is Paul, thank you for calling the Microsoft product activation service, how may we help you?"


Jim Jones said, "This isn't San Francisco County Utilities?"


The voice said, "No sir, this is the Microsoft product activation service. Do you wish to activate a product with us?"


The phone went dead and I replied, "Yes, I did hack into the local phone company and all his calls are being sent to random phone numbers."


Thom said, "I don't know how you did everything you just did. But it's great to give the bastard some grief before he dies. Especially after all the pain and torture he's caused others."


I answered, "Sir! Do I understand you approve of my unauthorized actions?"


Jim and Todd looked at me and then looked at Thom, and I could tell they understood. Thom gave me a dirty look and replied, "Linus, I know what you're doing so cut out all the ‘sir’ crap."


I grinned and asked, "Is that an order Sir?"


The other guys completely lost it and laughed. Thom just shook his head.


Jim said, "Linus I'd like to see what you did." Then he looked at Thom and continued, "If it's alright with you Sir!"


Todd signed to Thom, saluted, grinned and waited - Thom flipped him off and left the trailer.


Byron laughed, "Damn! That was funny. Linus, you've got everyone calling Thom sir and he hates it. Show us what you did to this Jones bastard."


They all gathered around and I proudly displayed my handy work to them and showed how I was still causing power fluctuations at the bastard's compound and randomly rerouting his phone calls. I grinned at the guys and said, "Watch this!" I intercepted the next phone call, disguised my voice, and answered, "This is Qwest customer service, how may I be of assistance."


"Hello, this is Jim Jones and I'm mad as hell. My phone isn't working right!"


I answered, "Yes sir! We have had some line issues in the area. Will you please describe your problems?"


He replied, "Well, it seems like my phone calls are going to different phone numbers than the number I dial."


I asked, "Are you sure you're dialing the numbers correctly?"


He swore, "You son of a bitch!"


I interrupted and declared, "Sorry, we do not allow profanity on our calls!" I then cut him off. The guys were rolling on the floor laughing.


He called right back and I picked it up, "You sorry sack...." I hung up on him again. The phone rang again and I waited and heard, "Hello, is this Qwest customer service?"


I replied, "Yes it is, is this the same gentleman who's been swearing at us?"


He controlled himself this time, "Yes this is Mr. Jones. I want to apologize for it. Now will you please help me with my phone problems?"


I grinned at the guys and winked, "Yes sir, we are here to help you. Now are you sure you're dialing the numbers correctly?"


I waited and could hear some swearing in the background, finally he said, "Yes sir, we are dialing the numbers correctly."


I continued, "Then it must be an issue with the length of the line. But don't worry because there's an easy way to fix this. All you have to do is to grab the cord on your phone where it comes out of the wall and pull on it very hard. It will make the line shorter and your phone will work just fine."


He sounded skeptical but replied, "Are you sure about this?"


I fought back laughter and said, "Oh yes sir, I am a professional and this will take care of all your phone problems immediately. However if you don't feel you can do this, I can dispatch a repair technician. But there will be a two-hundred dollar fee."


He quickly said, "Oh no, if you stay on the line and give me instructions, I'm sure I can do this."


I had to put the call on hold because I almost laughed. "Okay Mr. Jones let me walk you through this procedure. First, find the wire which connects your phone to the wall. Do you have the wire?"


He replied, "Yes, I'm holding the wire."


I continued, "Good, wrap your hand around the wire and on the count of three I want you to pull on it as hard as you can on your end. At the same time I will pull on it at this end. Are you ready?"


He asked, "You're sure about this?"


I answered, "Oh yes sir, this will take care of all of your phone problems - I see it all the time. The line is so loose it's brushing up against another line and this will fix all your phone problems. Now are you ready?"


He replied, "Yes, I'm ready."


I started counting, "One-two-three." And his phone went dead. Byron, Jim and Todd laughed so hard they fell on the floor and couldn't catch their breath.


While they laughed, I came up with a great idea.


Flashback Thom – TSIFFTS Mission


Damn Linus had everyone, even Todd calling me ‘sir’ and I hated to be called ‘sir’. I needed to cool down some before I said something I'd regret. So I decided to get out of these workout clothes. Something was wrong with them anyway, so I’d take a shower and get into some clean clothes. I wished we could fit a shower and workout gear into the trailer, but it was completely packed as it was. I grabbed my clean stuff out of the sleeper and headed into the truck stop for a shower.  I laughed on the way thinking about the hell Linus gave the bastard Jim Jones - the SOB deserved it.


The shower felt great and took away some of the itchiness I'd been having. I threw on my new clothes and headed back to the trailer. When I walked inside I thought there must be a clown convention going on because the only one not laughing was Linus. He was busy as hell on the computers.


I asked, "What the hell is so funny?"


Byron finally caught his breath and said, "My God Thom, you have to hear this tape. Linus talked Jim Jones into ripping his phone line out of the wall." He started playing it for me and was just getting to the good part when Linus yelled, "Shut it down now, I need silence in the trailer!"


The speaker was on and Linus answered in a different sounding voice, "Qwest customer service, how may we be of assistance?"


We heard yelling on the speaker, "Hello, this is Jim Jones and I'm pissed as hell. I just talked to one of your technicians on my land line. He gave me some bullshit story about my phone line being too loose and talked me into pulling the phone wires completely out of the wall."


I don't know how Linus held it together and didn't laugh, but he answered, "Ah, I wondered why you were calling us from a mobile phone. We are very sorry sir. But we've had issues lately with high school students pulling this prank on our customers. Most customers know it's a prank and don't damage anything. Would you describe the extent of the damage to your phone lines?"


Jim Jones answered, "Hell yes I will, everything's tore all to hell. There's a big hole in the wall where the phone plug used to be and there's wires hanging out. It's a fucking mess."


Linus replied, "Sir, I know you're upset. But you will need to control your language or I will be forced to hang up on you."


"Sorry, it's just that I'm very upset. First San Francisco County Utilities destroys a bunch of my video gear and now my phones are messed up. What's next?"


Linus said, "Sorry sir, I didn't know you wanted to talk to San Francisco County Utilities. I will forward your call."


We hear Jones yelling a swearing up a storm. Linus waits and then changes his voice again and says, "San Francisco County Utilities service department do you wish to report a problem."


Jones was swearing up a storm and Linus interrupted, "Sorry sir, we do not take abusive phone calls." Then he hung up the phone and laughed.


I started to say something, the phone rang again and Linus held up his hand and said in a sexy voice, "You have reached San Francisco male escort services. You are speaking with Long Dong Silver, can I service you today?"


Jones yelled, "You bunch of fucking perverts." Then the phone went dead.


The phone rang again and when he picked it up he answered, "Qwest customer service, how may we be of assistance?"


You could tell by the stress in Jones's voice he was on the edge of losing it. "Finally I've gotten back to the telephone company. Please do not forward me again. I'm Jim Jones."


Linus interrupted, "Hello Mr. Jones, I took your last mobile phone call when you wanted to be forwarded to the Utility company. I remember you also had some phone line issues. I talked to my supervisor and told him what happened. If you would like, he offered to dispatch two technicians to fix your problems free of charge."


I looked at him, figured out what he was doing and it was brilliant.


Jim Jones said, "That would be wonderful. Now you're sure it's free of charge?"


Linus answered, "Oh yes sir. We all feel very bad about what happened. If it's okay with you our technicians will be there in a big truck later this evening. I wish we could make it sooner, but we have a couple of lines crossed."


He answered, "Yes I know about the problem, it seems like every time I make a phone call I get some goofy number."


Linus grinned as he said, "Are you absolutely sure you're dialing the numbers correctly?"


We heard a bunch of swearing in the background and then Jones came back on the phone, "Yes I'm absolutely sure I've been dialing the numbers correctly. A couple things though, make sure your men bring flashlights because the power is all messed up too. And tell them they will have to check in at the front gate before they are allowed in."


Linus said, "Yes sir, I will add it to the service ticket. Since you are still having problems with your power would you now like for me to forward you to San Francisco County Utilities department?"


Jones replied, "Thank you, you've been very helpful. Yes if you could forward me I'd appreciate it."


Linus grinned and entered some commands, we listened and heard on the speaker, "Hello this is Linda, thank you for calling the Microsoft product activation service, how may we help you?"


Linus rolled away from the computers, leaned back and laughed his ass off. Byron started clapping and soon we all joined in. We heard another call from his mobile phone go to a different wrong number. Linus reached over and killed the speaker and then he looked at me.


He stood up and said, "Permission to speak sir!" The guys laughed and I got pissed.


I thought about decking him but wasn't sure I could take him. "Look Linus, you've made your point. I'm a bossy, crabby, son of a bitch and I've been riding your ass. Please forgive me and let's talk about these mission changes."


He grinned at me and said, "Thom, you're right and for the sake of this mission I will let it go for now. But you need to know things aren't over between us because there are still some things we need to settle."


He headed to the briefing table and we all followed. He sat at the head of the table and I wanted to complain but I didn't. He figured out the changes to the mission, so this is now his show.


Flashback Linus – TSIFFTS Mission


I looked at Thom as I took the head of the table and could tell he wasn't happy, but he wasn't pissed. His mission plan wasn't the best, and while I was giving Jones shit, I came up with a brilliant idea on how to get us in the compound. It was much safer than his plan.


I needed to clear the air some first with Thom so I said, "First I want to apologize to you Thom for not filling you in on my mission changes. It all happened so fast I didn't have a chance."


Byron added, "Besides you were off pouting."


I watched as Thom shot him a dirty look and waited for Thom to reply. He finally said, "Linus, I can guess what your plan is and I think it's going to be a great way to get us into the compound."


I nodded at him and continued, "Okay here's how we're getting in but let me know if you guys think anything needs to be changed. As you guessed we are going to use the cover of repairing his phone wiring to get in. Thom, you need to procure us a large phone van and uniforms. It needs to be large enough so you and I can hide inside. Jim and Byron will be the repair crew while Todd watches the monitors and alerts us if there are any problems. Once we get in we follow the original plan. What do you guys think?"


Todd does a bunch of signing and Byron said, "I agree with Todd. I think he and Jim should be the repair crew while I monitor the situation. Todd's much more deadly than anyone else."


Jim laughed, "That's why I like to call him SBD – Silent, But Deadly."


We all laughed and Thom added, "Byron, I thought you were going to be our sniper cover?"


Byron replied, "I can move to cover you guys after Jim and Todd come back."


I looked around the table and finally said, "We still have the huge issue of how we're getting out of the compound. Any new ideas?"


Jim said, "If we could cause a diversion it might help. But I'm not sure what sort of diversion."


Thom came up with an idea we all liked. Thom took off to get the phone company van and uniforms. I started going over the gear Thom and I were going to take and added a few more things I thought would help. I looked and Byron was checking his .50 BMG sniper rifle and Jim and Todd were manning their stations.


Jim yelled, "Hey Linus, I think we should let his mobile phone work soon, otherwise he's going to run into town and complain."


"Yeah Jim, you're probably right. Why don't you take the phone call this time because he might recognize my voice."


I went over and showed Jim my hack and set the computer to intercept his next mobile call. I cranked up the speaker and waited for a call to come in. It came in and was directed to San Francisco County Utilities.


Jim answered the call, "San Francisco County Utilities service department do you wish to report a problem."


The phone was silent for a moment and then Jim Jones said, "I'm so happy to get through to you guys. I've been trying for hours but I'm having problems with my phone."


Jim grinned and followed my lead, "I'm sorry Sir, this is San Francisco County Utilities not the phone company, let me forward your call to the phone company."


Jones yelled, "Don't you dare forward my phone to the phone company. They're already coming to fix my phone problems. I called San Francisco County Utilities because I have power issues."


Jim replied, "Sorry sir I thought you said you were having phone issues. How may we help you?"


Jones yelled, "You sons of a bitch destroyed a bunch of my equipment…"


Jim said, "Sorry sir we do not allow profanity on these calls!" And hung up the phone.


As much as I enjoyed giving Jones crap it was more fun listening. We waited until he called back and Jim answered the call, "San Francisco County Utilities service department do you wish to report a problem."


This time it was a different voice and the voice sounded a little scared. "Hello, I'm calling for Mr. Jones to report a problem with our power."


Jim replied, "Would you please describe the problem to me."


The voice said with uncertainty, "It's like the power goes down and then up. If we plug a light into the wall it first gets very dim, then it gets very bright and burns the bulb out."


Jim replied, "Give me a moment to look at things for you." He muted the phone and I came over and entered the commands to stop the power fluctuations. Then I nodded at Jim and he said, "Yes, there was a huge problem with your power, try a light bulb now."


The voice responded, "Okay, one minute." We waited while they came back on the phone and said, "It looks like everything is working now. But we have one more issue Mr. Jones would personally like to tell you about."


We waited on the phone and he came on with huge attitude, "It's about time you fixed the power. But I wanted to tell you the power fluctuations destroyed some very expensive equipment and I expect you to pay for it."


Jim answered, "Did you have the equipment plugged into a surge suppressor?"


Jones answered, "Hell no! I've never needed one before."


Jim grinned, "Then I'm sorry we can't do anything about your loss."


Jones yelled, "Let me speak to your supervisor."


I motioned for Jim to move and give me the headset, he said, "One moment Mr. Jones and I will connect you to my supervisor."


I took over and un-muted the call, "San Francisco County Utilities this is David, how may I help you."


Jones said, "Not you again you mother fucker…"


I interrupted, "Mr. Jones, I would think a preacher wouldn't use such words. You know we don't allow profane phone calls. I'm terminating this call and forwarding a recording of it to the proper authorities." I killed the call and set his mobile phone up to connect to random numbers again.


Jim took back over and said, "Thanks, it was too fun."


Todd signed and Jim translated, "It looks like we have a vehicle leaving the compound."


I was worried Jones was heading to the utilities to complain, but when we checked, it was just some flunkies. I asked, "Will someone please contact Thom and have him tail these guys, since he has the car."


Byron stopped loving on his rifle and said, "I'll walk outside and do it."


Flashback Thom – TSIFFTS Mission


Byron called and told me a couple flunkies from the compound were coming into town. With all the shit Linus had been giving them I wanted to make sure they weren't going to the utility or the phone company.


I waited in a parking lot on the road leading into the city and pulled in behind them. They drove like a couple old grandmas, I guess Jones had them scared about getting a ticket or something – the fucking bastard.


I watched as they drove into the parking lot of the closest hardware store, I pulled in behind them and followed them inside. I almost laughed as they grabbed a big cart and rolled over to the light bulb section, took out a list and started stacking the cart full of light bulbs. Damn! Linus must have destroyed every light bulb in the whole place.


I noticed movement out of the corner of my eyes and spotted another guy who watched and tailed them, he was younger but really good and I could tell had extensive military training. They went to the checkout stand to pay and I headed out to the car.


I walked to the car, pulled my .40 out of my back holster, opened the back door and said, "I see your sorry ass. You'd better come up slowly, let me know who you are, or you're going to die."


He sat up and it was the guy I saw tailing Jones's men in the store. He said with a heavy Scottish accent, "I knew you'd see me and planned on it. I don't mean you any harm mister. I was just wondering why you were tailing those men."


I replied, "Keep your hands where I can see them and slowly get out of the car." I took a couple steps back to give myself some operating room, just in case. I saw the Jones's truck leave out of the corner of my eyes.


He slowly got out of the back with his hands up just enough so others wouldn't notice. I pulled a pair of handcuffs and locked him to a shopping cart and took off after the truck.


I called Byron as I was catching up to them. "Hey Byron, we might have an incident. I caught a guy tailing the Jones men in the hardware store, when I came out of the store he was waiting for me in the back of my car. I left him handcuffed to a shopping cart in the parking lot so call the police and report him. I'll send you a picture of him I took with my mobile phone, see if we can figure out who the hell he is."


I hung up the phone and caught up with the truck as it was headed back out of the city to the compound. I pulled over and e-mailed the picture to Byron, spun around and headed back to the hardware store, but the mystery man was already gone.


Dammit! This could fuck up our whole plan. Now I wished I had kept him so we could have determined who he was.


I went over and picked up the phone van and uniforms for later and drove back to the truck stop.


Flashback Glen – Kabul Afghanistan


I thought, Dariush had gotten too big for his britches and needed to be taught a lesson. But he monitors all the communications too well for them to be secure. So I grabbed my helmet and walked over to the MACCS1 building. I walked in, went to the officer in charge and said, "Do you still have eyes on Dariush."


1Marine Air Command and Control System


"Sir! He left the tank and is in his Mercedes. We have one Predator2 following the tank and one following the Mercedes."


2 Predator - is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which is a MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV system. It can serve in a reconnaissance role and fire two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.


I said, "Do you have a probable end location for the Mercedes?"


"Sir, we think he's going to his mountain house."


I ordered, "Take out the tank. He's used it to fire on Blackwater operatives so it's become a possible threat and a hostile target."


"Yes Sir, would you like to watch?"


I replied, "Affirmative."


I went over and saw a young Marine remotely piloting the predator. He locked on a hellfire missile and pressed the fire button. We watched as the hellfire destroyed the tank.


There was a big cheer in the building and the young Marine turned and said, "Thank you Sir. That's the first time I've ever done it."


I answered, "Good shooting Marine."


I pondered how to get a message to Aaron without Dariush finding out. I finally decided the only way was to have a courier deliver it. I typed up the message myself, had my new secretary call in a Private and sent him out with orders to deliver the message to Aaron. And make sure he watched Aaron destroy the message before he left.


I sat back and waited because sooner or later Dariush would either tell me where Jens was or he would keep losing things like his tank. After all bad things do happen in Afghanistan, especially to bad people.


Flashback Liz – Kabul Afghanistan


Ugh, I opened my eyes and tried to figure out where I was and what the hell happened. I had a huge pounding headache.


I looked around and it was a very opulent bedroom with silk and satin everywhere. I'm half buried in a wonderfully soft and luxurious bed. I blinked my eyes and looked down at myself. My normal clothes are gone and someone dressed me in smooth silk pajamas. I sniffed to make sure and I think they even washed me.


I fought my way out of bed, stood up and noticed all my clothes and belongings nicely folded on a table. I walked over and picked up my pistol, I heard a noise at the door and turned.


Bernie walked in, dressed in a new pair of clothes, laughed and said, "Damn Liz, I wish I had a picture of the look on your face right now."


I was not amused and answered, "Bernie what the hell is going on?"


He continued the laugh and said, "Liz, calm down. You didn't have anything to eat all day and passed out from the champagne. Dariush was so upset I thought he was going to kill himself. He brought us here and took care of you."


I scowled at Bernie, "Are you telling me he's the one who undressed and washed me?"


Bernie chuckled some more, "I should let you believe he was the one, but you'd probably kill him and we need him. No he called all his girlfriends and told them if they didn't take the best care of you they were out on the street. Did you look at your fingers and toes?"


I quickly glanced and noticed I'd had a manicure and a pedicure. I replied, "So Dariush never saw me naked?"


I was interrupted when Dariush ran into the room, "Good Ms. Morgan you are finally awake. I was so worried about you."


Bernie replied, "No he didn't."


Dariush asked me, "I didn't do something you needed me to do?"


Bernie laughed and answered, "Dariush she was worried you were the one who undressed her and took care of her."


I watched fear spread across Dariush's face and he said, "Oh no Ms. Morgan it would not be right. I ordered your servants to do it." He clapped his hands and ten beautiful women came into the room. "Ms. Morgan, as long as you are my guest these women will take care of you and do whatever you tell them to do."


My head still pounded and I wasn't sure this was real.


Flashback Bernie – Kabul Afghanistan


I shook the hell out of Liz's shoulders and yelled, "Liz, are you okay? Wake the hell up."


She opened her eyes and gave me a confused look, "Bernie, we aren't in Daruish's bedroom?"


I replied, "Hell no, we're in a bomb crater beside the road and I just woke up myself."


She sat up and held her head, "Shit my head hurts. What the fuck happened?"


I replied, "Stay here Liz and I'll go take a look." I crawled to the top of the crater, looked around and then I slid back down by Liz.


"Liz, Dariush's Mercedes is a mess on the other side of the road. There are two destroyed Blackwater Humvees, one that's just sitting there empty and a crapload of dead Blackwater operatives. It looks like we might be the only ones alive."


Liz asked, "How did we get out of the Mercedes? Last thing I remember was drinking champagne."


I answered, "I sure the fuck don't know. But it looks like our gear is here too."


She said, "I think we need to get the hell out of here."


Flashback Liz – Kabul Afghanistan


I guessed it was some sort of dream I had about Dariush's bedroom because the only thing which was real was the headache and it was a mother fucker.


We grabbed the gear and carefully crawled out of the crater. I took in a deep breath when I saw the carnage around us: A fucking war happened when we were unconscious.


The Mercedes was blown to hell! I looked at it and decided Dariush had somehow escaped, but was puzzled why he left us. Perhaps Blackwater scared him off. Then I decided that wasn't right because someone had ripped Blackwater a new asshole. The two Humvees were in worse shape than the Mercedes and the operatives who survived had all been shot. I looked closer and they were all head shots right through their helmets.


I looked at Bernie and said, "Grab some quick video of the scene and then let's get the hell out of here. I don't know what happened, but I don't want to hang around here for reinforcements to show up."


He shot the video and I went over to the Humvee and opened the door. The keys were in the ignition and… Huh! It's a strange smell to be on the inside of a Humvee. I yelled for Bernie, "Let's get the hell out of here!"


He ran over, jumped in the passenger side of the Humvee, I started it up and we took off. I looked over at Bernie and said, "Bernie, I've had many strange things happen to me, but this is one of the strangest things ever."


He replied, "I have no idea what happened. I remember a big flash and noise and then I finally wake up in the crater beside you. So where are we going now?"


I replied, "I have no fucking idea. I thought we were safe with Dariush but it looks like Blackwater got to him."


Bernie replied, "But who got to Blackwater? I know you saw the bullet holes in their helmets. That wasn't from the Taliban."


I replied, "I know Bernie, those were way too accurate for Taliban shots." I noticed a GPS unit on the dash of the Humvee and said, "Hey Bernie, fire up the GPS and let's see where we are."


He fired it up and said, "Shit Liz look at this." I glanced at the GPS screen then slid the Humvee to a stop.  There was a route on the screen to a location marked 'safe house.' I looked over at Bernie and asked, "Bernie, what do you think, is it a trap?"


He answered, "Liz if it was a Blackwater trap they'd already have us. I don't know who did this but I say we go pay them a visit."


I floored the Humvee and we took off for the 'safe house.'


Flashback Glen – Kabul Afghanistan


My secretary said it's an emergency phone call from Aaron, the Blackwater commander. I thought what the fuck does he want now since I just got through giving him Ms. Morgan one more time.


I picked up the phone, "Aaron, you've become quite the pest. What the fuck are you bothering me for now?"


He yelled at me over the phone, "Glen that was a God damn dirty trick you played on me and my men. Sending us after the Morgan bitch and then waiting for us with two of your damn Recon snipers. All my men are wiped out and we're missing a Humvee and worst of all, the Morgan bitch escaped."


I bristled at his accusation, "Aaron, you've got a hell of a lot of nerve calling me up and accusing me of doing something I didn't do. I have no fucking idea what in the hell you're talking about. And I've had my fill of you and your pansy assed operatives screwing the pooch and getting everyone upset. If you lost men and equipment it wasn't my fault. I don't want to hear from you again unless you've found my daughter. And if you find her she'd better come back to me unharmed." I slammed down the phone and yelled for my second. He came running into the office.


I ordered, "Get a recon squad moving up road four-two-five towards the mountains. I just heard something happened up there and I want to know what went on." He lit out of my office like his ass was on fire.


Then I remembered the second Predator. I threw on my helmet and headed towards the MACCS building. The next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital with a splitting headache.


Flashback Liz – Kabul Afghanistan


We followed the GPS directions to the 'safe house.' As we drove I realized we were heading into one of the nicest areas of Kabul. The GPS took us right up to the guard house of a gated community. A guard came over, I rolled down the window, he looked at me and Bernie and then at his clipboard. He waved to the guardhouse, the gate opened and he said, "Welcome Ms. Morgan and her cameraman. We've been expecting you." He handed me an envelope and said, "Here are the directions and key for your apartment."


I took the envelope and handed it to Bernie then asked the guard, "Do you know who did this for us?"


He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Sorry Ms. Morgan. I am just a simple guard."


I drove into the gated community and Bernie directed me to the apartment. There was a garage so he jumped out, unlocked the door, raised it and I drove the Humvee inside.


I climbed out of the Humvee, drew my sidearm and headed towards the door to the apartment. I called to Bernie, "Grab one of the Blackwater rifles in the Humvee and cover me."


While Bernie covered my ass we checked the apartment - it was clear, incredibly nice and very upscale. I looked at Bernie and said, "Bernie, this is the nicest place I've ever seen in Kabul. Do you know where we are?"


He answered, "Isn't this the gated diplomatic community?"


I replied, "It sure is. I wonder who pulled the strings to get us an apartment in here."


Bernie answered, "I don't know, but I hope they have some aspirin here for my headache."


We went to the kitchen and I opened the cabinets finding they were fully stocked. I pulled out a bottle of aspirin and shook out two for each of us. Then I went to the fridge, opened it and saw it was fully stocked with food and drinks. I yelled to Bernie, "You want a beer with your aspirin."


He was in the living room and yelled back, "Sure, I'm thirsty as hell."


I grabbed two Baltika number nines (one of my favorite beers) and the aspirin, walked into the living room and handed them to him.  He grinned at me and said, "Liz you'd make a piss-poor wife."


I looked at him and asked, "Why the hell is that?"


He twisted off the top on the beer bottle and said, "You didn't open the beer before you brought it to me."


I slugged him in the arm and said, "Perhaps I thought you needed the exercise."


We both laughed and looked at the apartment. I was totally confused and had no idea who set up this safe house for us.


I opened my beer, popped the aspirins in my mouth and took a long drink of beer. Then I said, "I'm hungry as hell and will heat up some of the food in the fridge after I first take a shower and change out of my clothes.


We walked down the hallway and towards the bedrooms, the first one was the smallest and I joked with Bernie, "This one must be yours." The next was the master bedroom so I went in, looked around, opened the closet door and yelled, "Bernie!"


He came running into the room with the rifle and I laughed, "Look in this closet! It's all my clothes and even a few extras."


He looked and then said, "Liz, don't ever yell like that again. I thought you were in trouble."


The bathroom was just as surprising, but I didn't yell for Bernie. It had all my makeup set up just the way I liked. I dropped my clothes on the floor, stepped into the shower and washed off what felt like a lifetime of grime.


The shower felt so good I took an extra long time and tried to figure out what was going on, I think I finally had an idea and wanted to run it by Bernie. I jumped out of the shower and sure enough, all my underwear was placed in my normal dresser drawers. I grabbed a pair and slipped them on, grabbed a nice silk kimono out of the closet and walked into the kitchen.


Bernie was sitting at the table. I pulled out a container of golubtsi3 from the fridge, popped them into the microwave and punched up two minutes. I grabbed a nice finely chopped potato salad out of the fridge, put some on two plates and waited. The microwave dinged, I divided up the golubtsi, sat at the table and slid a plate to Bernie.


3 Golubtsi are cabbage rolls stuffed with ground meat.


He grinned and said, "I take it back Liz, the way you can microwave you'll make some guy a great wife."


I flipped him off and dug right in to the food. It was wonderful! When I started to get full I took a break and said, "Bernie, I think I have it figured out. I think Dariush did all this to get Blackwater off our backs."


He answered, "You know, I've been thinking the same thing." Then he grinned and said, "Damn Liz, he sure must love you to go through all this hassle."


I gave Bernie a dirty look but said, "Yeah he sure went through a lot of work to pull this off and hide us from Blackwater."


I saw Bernie's face turn white as he said, "Shit Liz, what about the bugs and tracking devices in our gear."


I jumped up from the table and ran back out into the garage, grabbed the microphone scanner Linus gave us, ran it over the gear and it was all clean. I looked at Bernie and said, "Wow he covered all the bases."


We walked back into the apartment and I decided it was time to start earning my keep and giving Blackwater some hell.


Flashback – Mira and Ira – Dushanbe, Tajikistan – Sometime later from them running away - Another day another lesson


The beast opened the door, pushed us into a dark room and said as he left, "This door will be locked, and if you two want out of this room you need to make your way to the other side of the building."


As he slammed the door, I looked at Ira and whispered, "Ira, what do you think of this lesson?"


"Mira, I think we will need to be very careful because each lesson he has given us has been harder than the last. There will be many traps for us."


I heard a crack and yelled, "Duck Ira." She barely ducked in time as a pellet slammed into the wall behind her. I returned fire with my paintball gun and heard laughter. Then a voice said, "You should not waste your ammo, you will need it later."


Ira whispered, "Mira, the beast has given our adversaries pellet guns and we only have paintball guns. We are at a very big disadvantage."


I whispered an answer, "I am not sure our face masks or body armor will stop a pellet, they are designed for paint balls. Be careful my sister and don't get shot!"


Ira said, "Still the pellets will not hurt as bad as the beast's tortures if we fail. We need to move because our adversaries know our position. Follow me."


 We slowly crawled off to the side hoping not to be seen. Ira held up her hand and we stopped, she motioned and I saw the thin piece of wire across the floor. I watched as she pulled a spool of wire out of her fanny pack, hooked it to the trip wire and motioned for us to crawl in the opposite direction.


I took the lead while Ira slowly un-spooled the wire making sure not to pull it at all. We had some crates for shielding so we crawled about ten meters and I stopped. I pulled out my compact and used its mirror to look over the top of the crates. I whispered to Ira, "I do not see anyone at all. They are hiding very well. Pull the wire and let us see what happens."


We closed our eyes and Ira pulled the wire and there was a big bang and flash. I looked in the mirror and saw two people move. I rose, shot one with my paintball gun and marked the position on the other one. The beast's voice came over a speaker and we both shuddered, "Very good my girls, you found one of many traps and used it to your advantage. But you still have a very long distance to get to the other door."


"Ira, I know the position of one more adversary. Stay here and pretend to be me and let me move into a different position so I can get a clear shot at them."


I crawled further, heard a noise, froze and listened. Someone was close to me, very close. I heard them breathing and phew even smelled their rotten breath. Ira watched me, I sent her hand signals telling her what was wrong and what I wanted her to do and waited. She made a bunch of noise and the adversary stood up on the other side of the crates. He didn't have on a paintball mask so I shot him in the face with a paintball. He started screaming and dropped his pellet rifle right on top of me. I quickly stood up and grabbed the pack off his waist hoping it had the extra ammo. I barely ducked before three pellets hit the crates in front of me.


Ira scooted over by me and I whispered, "Great job my sister. Now we have the advantage. They don't have any body armor on at all."


"Mira, I am sure the beast is using it to motivate them. We need to move or our adversaries will hunt us down."


The adversary I shot was rolling around on the floor making a bunch of noise. I gave Ira the pellet rifle and motioned for her to cover me. I tied a long piece of string to the crate beside me, jumped up and ran to a new bunch of crates. Pellets were bouncing off the floor all around me, I heard a scream and a bunch of swear words from the far side of the room and smiled knowing Ira had shot one of the adversaries. Someone yelled, "Watch out they have a pellet rifle."


I dove behind the crates, held the string and waited. I felt two tugs and then pulled the string over to me dragging the pellet rifle with it. I made sure it was loaded and motioned for Ira to proceed. She jumped up and started running towards me. I watched and saw two more adversaries, so I popped up and shot one of them. She started screaming like a baby.


Ira slid in beside me, smiled, then yelled, "Stop crying like a bunch of babies." A bunch of pellets slammed into the crates and I popped up and shot at the other adversary but missed.


Ira whispered, "Mira, we only have ten more pellets so do not miss anymore."


"Sorry Ira, I will not miss again. What else was in his fanny pack?"


She started looking in his fanny pack then she threw it as hard as she could. One second later there was a big boom and a huge flash.


"Mira, the fanny pack was a trap and we almost died. The beast is very sneaky this time."


"Then we need to be sneakier." I was going to say more when something hit the floor beside us. We both jumped up and ran as fast as we could and just escaped the flash grenade. We dove behind a table. I felt a pain in my leg, looked down and saw I'd been hit by a pellet. Ira looked at it and said, "How bad is it Mira?"


"It does not hurt as bad as the beast's tortures. I will be fine."


Our adversaries all of a sudden changed tactics. They must have decided to work together and were constantly firing at the bench. The pellets were bouncing everywhere. We were halfway across the room but now it was more dangerous because the pellet rifles were more accurate. Ira said, "Let me have the rifle."


I gave her the rifle and she slipped the barrel up over the table. Then she took her compact and used it to sight the rifle, she made several small adjustments and squeezed the trigger. An adversary started screaming and cursing us. I laughed and said, "Good shooting Ira, I am glad we have been practicing this when the beast is not around."


She answered, "Unfortunately I cannot see anymore adversaries. I think they have gotten wiser." Then she yelled, "Run Mira, a bunch of grenades."  Ira ran one direction and I ran the other, a bunch of grenades were falling everywhere and pellets bounced all around me. A box fell down in front of me. I tripped over it, fell behind a truck, looked up and shot an adversary on a catwalk above me with my paintball gun. I crawled under the truck, scanned the rest of the room and couldn't see Ira, I hoped she was okay. I looked at the box I tripped over and smiled, it was a bunch of the flash grenades our adversaries were using.


I was worried it might be a trap so I carefully took out each grenade and was surprised when it wasn't a trap at all. I silently laughed because the beast was going to seriously torture someone for this mistake. I jumped when I heard a crack from the far side of the room followed by some screaming and swearing at the back of the room. I knew Ira was okay and had shot another adversary with the pellet rifle.


Flashback – Ira – Dushanbe, Tajikistan – Sometime later from them running away - Another day another lesson


I had not heard anything from Mira and was very worried. I did not like being separated from her because we hunted much better as a team. I saw an adversary and shot them with the pellet rifle. Then I moved back to where I thought Mira should be. I listened and heard a shot from a paintball gun and knew she was alive.


Mira yelled in our language, "Ira, I have a bunch of flash grenades. Find a good place and I will start throwing them at the adversaries."


I smiled and wondered how she got those but I wasn't going to complain. This lesson was getting old and I was getting hungry. I moved some more and yes they shot at me some more but I found a very central location. I setup the pellet rifle and my paintball gun and then I yelled to Mira, "I am ready."


Next thing I knew there were a bunch of flashes and bangs and the adversaries started yelling, but it was too noisy to hear them. I jumped up and the adversaries were all confused so I started shooting them as fast as I could. I used all but one of the pellets and saved it. I then switched over to the paintball gun and killed the rest of the adversaries with it.


When the grenades ended I ducked back behind the crate and started over to where Mira I thought Ira had found the grenades. I almost shot her because she was coming to find me. We both ducked behind some crates and hugged each other.


I whispered, "Great job Mira, the grenades confused them and I shot ten more."


"Thank you Ira, it was so much fun. I used all the grenades but one."


"And I used all the pellets but one. I wonder how many more adversaries there are. Let us start moving towards the back door. Perhaps they are all dead."


We slowly crawled towards the back door and no one shot at us so I thought we had killed all the adversaries until we heard the beast's voice, "Very good my girls, this lesson is now over. Come on out."


Mira went to stand up but I held her down and said, "Mira, it is a trap. I can tell he is lying from his voice."


"Thank you Ira, you are right. We are not to the back door so the lesson cannot be over. He is a very sneaky beast this time."


We worked our way closer to the back door and the beast kept saying, "Come on my girls, come on out. The lesson is over."


I used my compact to look over a crate and I saw him standing by the back door with a microphone and three more adversaries. I handed my compact to Mira, she looked and I whispered, "Mira, throw your flash grenade and then we will shoot the beast and the other three. Then this lesson will be over."


We both got ready, she threw the flash grenade, and we jumped up and shot the three adversaries, but the beast was gone. We both knew where he was when we felt the sting of pellets hitting our back and we fell to the floor writhing in pain.


The lights came on, he walked up to us, pulled out his real pistol and pointed it at Mira. I went to shoot him with my paintball gun but it was empty. He looked over at me and laughed, I held my breath and waited, he pulled the trigger, his pistol went click and I could finally breathe again.


He laughed evilly and said, "You would both be dead now because you did not watch your backs."


He walked outside, we followed and he yelled at the agents we had just beaten. I looked over at Mira and smiled, because for once we were not the ones being yelled at.


Flashback – Zarika – Tajikistan Day Twenty-two


We drove all day, it was early afternoon and we needed to find a place to stop for the night. I looked at Yasmeen and said, "We need to stop. I am tired and need a bath."


"Yes Zarika, I would like to take a bath too and wash our clothes. Would you like for me to start looking for a safe place?"


This was going to be harder because there was more traffic on the big road and many people looked at our truck. I was sure it was because of our paint job so I asked Yasmeen, "I think we should find a very hidden place and take tomorrow off and paint our truck. It is attracting too much attention."


Yasmeen answered, "Yes it seemed like the bad men at the last stop knew all about the gold. I was thinking they must have recognized our paint job. Look there is a village ahead. Stop here and I will walk into town and see if I can buy some green paint for our truck?"


I saw the village and said, "That is a good idea Yasmeen. Take some money and buy the paint and wait along the road. I will drive in and pick you up in about an hour." I pulled over, stopped the truck and she walked up the road.


As she walked away I thought - even though she is sometimes a little suka, I really miss her when she's not with me.


Flashback – Yasmeen – Tajikistan Day Twenty-two


Even though I had the money and Ben's pistol I didn't feel very safe as I walked up the road to the gorodok. First my strong husband Ben kept me safe, but since he was gone, I had come to depend on Zarika. She was a ferocious fighter!


Other cars and trucks honked at me as I walked and it scared me. Sometimes men would yell nasty things at me as they drove by. When they did I became even more afraid and gripped Ben's pistol tighter.


Finally I reached the edge of the village and was surprised because they had many nice stores. I went into a clothing store and the lady in the store sniffed at me, since I am sure she smelled the nasty fuel on me, and ignored me. I started touching the clothes and she said, "I do not allow street urchins like you to touch the things in my store. Leave now or I will call the police."


I was upset because she thought I was a street urchin so I walked over in front of her, pulled out our money purse and shook it at her. The coins jingled and her eyes lit up. I said, "To bad you have insulted me by calling me a street urchin because I was going to buy new clothes for myself and my husband's first wife. But now I will take my business elsewhere."


She cried and followed me as I left the store and walked into the next store. The sales lady in this store was much nicer, she came over and said, "It looks like you have had an accident in your travels and have ruined your clothes. Let me show you some nice new clothes we just received."


I found two nice outfits for myself and two nice outfits for Zarika. The sales lady helped me figure out Zarika's size. She even talked me into getting some very tiny underwear for both of us. Mama would have spanked me if she knew I bought them, but I was a married woman now and I could wear them and not be called a prostitute. 


I looked around and found a gift for Zarika I know she would like. The sales lady wrapped it all up and I was surprised how little everything cost. I asked the sales lady, "We need a few things for our truck, is there a store where I can get truck supplies and paint?"


She answered, "If you stay on this road there is a store about half a kilometer down the road. My brother owns it and I will call him and tell him you are coming."


I replied, "Thank you, you have been very helpful."


I walked out of the store and down the street with my packages. It was tempting to wear some of my new clothes, but I wanted to wait until I had a bath first so I didn't get them stinky.


I saw the store she told me about and walked in. It was sort of messy and dirty but I guess that was because it was a men's store. It was also very confusing because there were many things inside I had never seen before. A man walked up to me and said, "Hello young lady, are you the patron my sister just phoned me about?"


For some reason he made me shy and I blushed, "Yes sir, I just bought some new clothes from her and my husband asked if I would stop and purchase some things for our truck while he was busy having some work done to it."


He answered, "Did your husband tell you what he needed?"


I did not totally trust him so I wanted to get more than just paint. I replied, "He said he needed some of the oil stuff for the motor and also some paint for the body."


He smiled and said, "We have both of those, do you know what sort of oil and what color paint?"


I answered, "He said just normal oil, our truck is an old military truck and he wanted military color paint."


He answered, "I will get both of those for you. How much oil and how much paint will you need?"


This was getting difficult and I wasn't sure of the answer so I said, "He said two normal sized containers of oil and enough paint to repaint the whole truck."


He asked another question, "How big is the truck?"


I didn't know so I said, "It's this long," as I stepped of the distance. I added, "It has one set of wheels in the front and a double set of wheels in the back and is as tall as the tall shelf."


He told me, "Oh it is a very big and nice truck. I think I know how much paint you will need. Are you sure you want it in military color? I have a very nice blue paint."


I smiled at him, "Oh no! I would never disobey my big strong husband. He wanted military color."


He answered, "I will be right back young lady with your order."


I was tired and wanted to sit, but everything looked dirty so I waited. He came back with two small containers and two very large buckets on a cart. I looked at it and thought it was very heavy.


He told me how much it cost and I was a little surprised because it cost more than our clothes. But we still had plenty of money so I paid him. He asked, "Where would you like your oil and paint?"


I answered, "My husband should be by soon to pick me up out front. Will you please move it out there for me?"


He replied, "Yes young lady. I will do it for you." He took the cart out front and sat it by the side of the road. I stood by it and waited for Zarika and the truck.


Flashback – Zarika – Tajikistan Day Twenty-two


A truck honked its horn and woke me up. I looked at the watch and was shocked because it was so late. I was tired, had fallen asleep and it was two hours later than when I said I would pick up Yasmeen. I started the truck and drove as fast as I could into the village because I was worried about Yasmeen.


I was halfway through the village when I saw here by the side of the road and I got very angry! She was being bothered by a group of young men. I drove up, stopped the truck, grabbed my AK and jumped out. I heard one of the men say, "How much money for you to come home with me little girl?" Yasmeen was crying and waving Ben's pistol at them as she said, "Do not come closer or I will shoot you!"


They laughed at her and taunted her to shoot them. I yelled at them, "I do not think my big strong husband would like you bothering his second wife."  One of the men started saying, "It must be another prostitu…" he stopped and never finished when he saw me standing behind them with a rifle pointed at them.


Yasmeen cried, "Zarika, where have you been. These bad men have been bothering me."


I yelled, "These bad men will be dead men if they do not leave right now!"


The mouthy bad man said, "You are not much older than she is. I do not think you will shoot me." He walked towards me so I shot him in the leg. He fell down screaming and his friends all ran away. Yasmeen ran over to me and gave me a big hug - she was shaking.


I pushed her away from me because I was still angry so I walked up to the bad man, put my gun right in his face and said, "I should kill you for bothering my husband's second wife. But I think I will leave you for him to kill. He will come some night when you do not expect him and will torture you for many days before you die."


We both watched as he screamed, wet himself and fell to sleep. Yasmeen giggled and ran over to me, "Thank you again Zarika, it seems like you are always saving me."


I looked at her and said, "It seems like you are always getting in trouble."


Yasmeen said in a grumpy voice, "If you would have been here on time I wouldn't have gotten in trouble. Where were you?"


I did not want to tell her I fell asleep so I said, "Yasmeen, we need to get everything in the truck and leave because the bad men might come back."


It was very hard to move the big cans of paint into the back of the truck because they were very heavy. Once they were loaded we started driving away and I looked at the bags Yasmeen held. I asked, "What else did you buy?"


She smiled and said, "We each have two pair of new clothes and some very special underwear. And I bought a special surprise for you."


I looked at her and she yelled, "Zarika, stay on your side of the road." I looked back at the road. We were on the wrong side and there was another big truck coming right at us!


Flashback – Jens – Late 1999 Navy Cross for Ben


I was up early the next day to complete my medal mission for Ben. I looked in the mirror and my camo hair looked great! I took extra special care brushing it today. I didn't understand why Mommy didn't like it.


The first thing I did was my PT. I found out Ben did PT every morning and I decided if I didn't want to look like the fat cow Susan I needed to work out every morning. I showered after my workout because Mommy yelled at me if I didn't shower every day. Then I went down and made myself some breakfast, Daddy was already gone to work and Mommy was still sleeping so I had a couple hours on my own until she woke up.


I took the bowl of cereal up to my room and started my computer. Once it was up I checked things and saw that Mommy hadn't messed around on the computer yesterday. Then I started my e-mail program to see what my friends had been doing and to see if I had any assignments for the day from our computer spy club. I had an e-mail from Meg



y0Ur m0m C4Ll3d MY mOm 4ND y3LlED 4+ her 48ou+ y0ur h@1R. BuT M0M w45 k3Wl ANd +0ld h3r i dIDN'+ H4ve @nyThIng t0 D0 with Y0Ur d3CI5IOn 4Nd TH4T Y0uR Mom n33dEd t0 No+ 8E $o CONtr0LL1n9. I d1D WHa+ j00 4Sk3d 4ND Ch3CKEd w1tH my FR13Nd, 5h3 w1lL G3T US 4 keY +0 bEn'5 H0us3 LAtER +0D4Y. c4n't w4I+ +0 S33 Y0UR H@1r!





Your mom called my mom and yelled at her about your hair. But Mom was cool and told her I didn't have anything to do with your decision and that your mom needed to not be so controlling. I did what you asked and checked with my friend, she will get us a key to Ben's house later today. Can't wait to see your hair!



I replied to Meg.



Y0U'R3 +he 8om8 @nD W3 w1ll me3+ La+eR +0D@Y wh3n m0mmy I5 bu5Y Wi+h HEr H4ir 4pP0iN+Men+.




You're the bomb and we will meet later today when Mommy is busy with her hair appointment.



Great, now I needed to finish my part of the medal mission. I went out to the Internet and found the picture of the Navy Cross, got out a nice piece of paper and my crayons and started copying the design for Ben. I messed up twice and had to throw it away and start all over again. But finally it looked great, I added some words at the bottom and then I added something really special just for Ben. I put Ben's Navy Cross in a folder and slipped it into my backpack and then cleaned up.


Rats! It was still too early to wake up Mommy so I needed to do something because I was bored. I decided to research some new tricks to play on my new ballet teacher. If I used the same tricks too often, Mommy figured it out and then she grounded me – and I hated being grounded.


I found a really cool one where I could have an online place which sold books call any phone number for customer support. So I messed around with it for a bit and had them call Meg's number a bunch of times, Daddy at work and a few of my other friends. Finally I decided it was time for Mommy to get up, so I had them call our phone number. I waited and the phone rang and rang and rang but finally I think Mommy answered it.  Then I heard her walk down the hallway and decided I'd see how she was doing.


I ran into the kitchen and said, "Good morning Mommy, I love you!"


She looked at my hair and frowned and answered, "Good morning Jennifer, I see your hair wasn't a bad dream."


I twirled around and said, "No, isn't it great. Who called you so early?"


She was getting a cup of coffee (Daddy said she was a real bear until she had her first cup of coffee) and she replied, "It was some dumb Internet book store. They wanted to know what problems I had with my last book order from them."


I giggled, Mommy gave me a dirty look and then I said, "I didn't know you ordered any books. Which books did you order?"


She grumped, "That's the problem. I never ordered any books from them."


I grinned at her and added, "I guess I should have answered the phone so it didn't wake you up. But I know you don't like me to take calls from your friends. Can I go to Megan's while you're at your hair appointment?"


She gave me a funny look and said, "Jennifer, I'm not sure she's a good influence on you. I don't know if I want you seeing her."


I whined, "But Mommy, she's my absolute bestest friend in the whole world we are BFF's!"


Mommy frowned and answered, "Jennifer, speak English to me, what are BFF's?"


I giggled and said, "You know Mommy, Best Friends Forever! I would D-I-E if I couldn't see her." I was really worried about Mommy not letting me see Megan and needed another idea.


She smiled and replied, "You will find a new BFF."


I grinned and said, "So then you will take me to the hair dressers with you today! Goodie, maybe they can dye your hair to match mine and then we will look like sisters."


Mommy was drinking her coffee when I said that so she started choking and spit her coffee everywhere. Once she caught her breath she said, "Jennifer, I will not take you to the hair dressers today and I will never have my hair dyed like yours."


I started my protest: I walked around the kitchen and yelled, "I want to go to Megan's – I want to go to Megan's – I want to go to Megan's."


Mommy grabbed my arm and said, "Jennifer do you want a spanking?"


I pulled my arm away from her, dropped back into a Taekwondo defense pose and said, "My sensei says no one has the right to hurt me, not even my parents. You will not ever spank me again."


She yelled at me, "Go to your room, I'm calling your father."


I ran up to my room, picked up my camo princess phone and listened to the call.


Mommy said, "Glen she's being unreasonable again. She wants to go to Megan's house and I don't think Megan is a good influence on Jennifer."


Daddy answered, "Come on Evelyn, Megan's a good kid."


"Glen, her mother lets her wear scandalous clothes."


"Evelyn, all the girls other than Jennifer are wearing those clothes now days. Perhaps you need to let Jens start wearing them too? Come on Evelyn, what's the real reason you called me today."


Mommy said, "Glen Jennifer threatened me today with the damn Taekwondo of hers."


I was very upset and I blurted out, "Daddy that's not the truth! Mommy was going to spank me and I told her the sensei said no one, not even my parents had the right to hurt me!"


Mommy yelled, "Young lady what are you doing on the phone? Hang it up right now."


Daddy said, "Jens, you need to hang up the phone and let your mother and I work this out."


I answered, "Okay Daddy, but remember she was going to spank me! And Megan is my bestest friend and I will D-I-E if I can't see her anymore."


I hung up the phone and worried what was going to happen. At least Daddy knew the truth about Mommy threatening me. I hoped he could talk to Mommy so I could still see Megan and finish my medal mission.