Sargeant Zeke Anderson entered the CP.
"You wanted to see me, Captain?"
Captain Rusty Wallace nodded, turned from the map he'd been examining that was on the wall.
"Yes, Sargeant. We have a new Lieutenant arriving today. I'd like you to go meet him. Supposedly he's some kind of specialist."
"Specialist?" Anderson frowned. Great, he thought, another officer who thinks he's a hot-shot and that everything has to go by the books. His LT had been like that at first. Now they were on better terms, after some pretty rocky roads.
"Er.... what kind of specialist, Captain?"
"Tactical and has soft hands with explosives." Wallace reached for a cup,taking a few swallows. The whiskey burned his throat going down, making him smile in appreciation.
"Oh, and Zeke? We're running low on men. Check outthe FNG's, will ya?"
Now Anderson grinned.
"Yessir!" With one last look he headed out. One thing he enjoyed doing was thinning the crop of hopefulls. And he was picky. Which was why the Captain trusted him to get the best.
The huey's blades churned up red dirt and debris, creating a red haze of dust and garbage as it lowered. Anderson shielded his face and turned partially away. When the whirl's pitch changed he straightened, and squinted in the settling dust to better see. Someone was hopping off, and carrying a bag as they neared.
"Lieutenant Knight?" he shouted.
"That's right!" the reply was also a shout as the huey's whine increased,and the blades whirled faster.
It began to lift, hovered, turned, and slowly moved on.
Waving a hand to clear the dust Lt. Knight removed a cap to wipesweat off a damp forehead.
"And you are?"
Anderson's jaw dropped. Long dark brown hair with gold and fire lights fell to the shoulders in unruly strands. His eyes fell. Jesus! The front of the uniform barely hid the curves of breasts. She gave a muffled curse and re-pinned her hair up neatly.
"Lieutenant Knight?" he asked again, just to be certain he'd heard right the first time.
She arched a brow.
"Yes....." the dust settled, and she saw the stripes on his sleeve. "Sargeant?"
"Sargeant Zeke Anderson, Ma'am." He blinked, shaking off the stunned dismay.
"Er..... with all due respect, Lt, you're a woman!"
Hefting her bag up she grinned.
"Good eyes, Sargeant! Means you don't miss much in the bush, I hope. Lieutenant Skye Knight, Sarge. And yes, I am female, and I am here."
She squinted off behind him. "If we're done discussing my sex, Sargeant, I'd like to get settled. Foreward Firebase Ladybird, right?"
Nodding mutely he inhaled. The Captain and LT were gonna have kittens when they saw her! And ~~ with a grin here ~~ he wanted to be there to see it!
"Gotta recruit me some FN..... er, I mean....."
Turning to glance at him she shook her head. "Sarge, I know what cherries are called, and I'm not offended. I was an FNG once myself, you know. Mind if I follow you to get 'em? Can tell a lot from the men you recruit. And I want to know what I'm getting into."
Shrugging he took her bag, and put it in a jeep.
"Well.... Ma'am......you just got yourself into hell, is what you got."
She climbed in and let him drive.
"'Bout as hot as hell here, I guess. And don't call me Ma'am, Sargeant. God, I hate that. Call me Sir, or call me Lt. No Ma'am, got it? It's too school-marmish."
His lips lifted in the corners, and his eyes glowed.
She hung back, just far enough to be out of the way, but still close enough to hear Anderson lay down the law right off and tear a few strips off the soldiers to let them know who was boss. Intently she watched him pick and choose the men, looking them over carefully, asking a few pointed questions,until he had a good twenty of them.
She was gonna like this sargeant. No-nonsense, sense of humour, intelligent, tough but fair, and she'd bet her rank he had the respect of all his men, including his senior officers. Good. She hated idiots. And alot of CO's were idiots. They forgot somewhere along the way how to be a soldier, a grunt. They forgot that their grand plans for victory were not always effective on the frontline. Paper wasn't a battle, and it wasn't men dying or unexpected events. That's why they sat behind desks puffing up their chests importantly and playing war games on a map.
The real soldiers were the pieces they moved like they were playing chess with other bigboys in a competition of skills and strength. Disgusting, really, but that's how the forces worked.
Anderson led the men to her.
"Ready here, Lt."
"Holy fuck! A woman!" one soldier exclaimed.
"Watch your mouth," snapped Anderson.
Lt Knight drew her chin up.
"Load 'em up, Sargeant. Let's get these cherries to the base. And a little cursing doesn't scare me. I may be female,but I'm not weak." She gave each man a hard look.
"You'll learn that. Some of you will learn it the easy way, and some the hard way. Don't make no matter to me how you learn it, so long as you do. And trust me, you WILL learn it."
"Get your gear, we're heading out!" shouted Anderson. "MovemovemoveMOVE!"
As they ran to obey he cast the Lt a look.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how my LT and Captain are gonna react to you."
Sighing she nodded. "They didn't know either?"
"No, Lt, they didn't," he grinned broadly.
"All's the Cap knew was you were some specialist in tactical and explosives." She headed for the trucks waiting for the recruits.
"This oughta be real entertaining," she snorted.
He followed, chuckling.
Anderson felt antsy. He really wanted to go with the new Lt, but he had to see to the new men.
"CP's over that way, Lt." She grinned. "Get these men settled, Sargeant. I know you want towitness the meeting so I'll walk real slow."
"Yessir!" he nodded. Turning he faced the men jumping out of the backs of the trucks.
"Alright, ladies! Welcome to Foreward Firebase Ladybird!..." he glanced back to see how far the Lt had gotten. Not far at all. She waswalking slower than a hesitant groom going down the aisle to his own shotgunwedding! One foot barely moved ahead of the other. It made him smile, which brought on a chuckle, and then a laugh as soldiers eyed the woman first in frowning query to why she moved so damn slow, and then in stunned dismay torealize it was a woman!
Shaking himself he faced the men.
Once the men were settling in he hurried to the CP to find the Lt just getting to the entrance.
"'Bout time, Anderson!" she sighed. "I was getting cramps from moving so slow! A snail passed me 'bout 5 meters back!"
Nodding he ducked his head to hide his grin.
"'Preciate it, Lt."
She entered, eyes not yet adjusted to the dark. Saluting smartly she stood ramrod stiff.
"Lieutenant Skye Knight reporting for duty, Sir!"
Anderson's eyesight adjusted to find two men staring with flared eyes and slack jaws. The Captain looked stunned, but his LT looked like a loud gaspfrom a fly would knock him over! Lt Knight was still at attention, saluting, waiting.
"Er..... Captain?" he nodded to her, gaze speaking volumes.
"Huh?" Wallace blinked a few times, saw her still holding her salute, and flamed. "Right..... sorry."
He saluted back. "At ease, Lt."
He shook his head. "Lt Knight?" he asked, needing to be sure. Her hand fell, and she stood relaxed.
"Yessir. Skye Knight. 1stLieutenant Skye Knight." LT's shut mouth fell open again, eyes nearly bulging out.
Wallace nodded,steadily regaining his composure.
"Welcome to Ladybird, Lt. I'm Captain Rusty Wallace, this is 2nd Lt Myron Goldman, and you've obviously met the Sargeant."
"Yessir, I have," she nodded. She cast a brief glance at the Lt. "LtGoldman? Any relation to......."
"She's a damn woman!" hissed Goldman, half turning away.
"His father," Wallace answered her. "I had no idea you'd be a woman, Lt."
"With all due respect, Sir, that's apparent." She neared, held out her papers and a file. "Sorry to disappoint you that I'm not a male, but I'm one of twelve women being sent out here, and the only officer. It's a new thing. Women fought in Desert Storm so..... If it all works out well there should be more sent out in the next few months."
He nodded. Shit! Sending women in combat? What the hell were the brassthinking?
"Any combat experience, Lt? You'll see lots of it here."
"All in my file, I gather, Sir. And yes, I have. In Sommalia." She glanced again at the Lt. "If that's all for now, Sir? I'd like to get settled in."
He nodded. "Dismissed." She was nearly gone when he looked up. "Oh, Lt?We're still a new base. You'll have to double up with Lt. Goldman, for now."
Goldman's head snapped up, and he swallowed hard. "I can double up with Anderson so she can have her privacy."
She frowned. "Up to you, Sir. I don't mind doubling up so long as I have my own cot."
Wallace faced the two men after she exited. "Thoughts?"
"I think the men are gonna follow testosterone and not orders," statedGoldman.
"I like her," Anderson announced. "She's cool, she's smart, and she's gota sense of humour. Wanted to watch me recruit. Said she can learn alot about me by the men I choose. I think she'll do fine."
"I don't know," Goldman shook his head. "We have a camp full of men who've been out here for a month with no...... distractions. She's a mighty big distraction! We're gonna have problems."
Wallace nodded. "I trust both of you, you know that. Keep an eye on the men, and make sure they know no one is touch her. I'm gonna read over her file."
Nodding both men left the CP.
"This heat has finally gotten to me!" whined Taylor. "I swear I just saw a female Lt walk by!"
Purcell cast his friend a dubious glance. "I know some people would say the LT is handsome, but he ain't pretty, Marcus!"
Ruis ran over. "Hey, Danny, Marcus! You seen the new LT? Whoooo, sheis fine! And she smells clean!"
Taylor shot Purcell an "I-told-you-so" look. "You sure it's a woman?"
Ruis nodded, teeth flashing in a wide grin. "She talked to me, man! She said; 'Soldier, can you point me in the direction of Lt Goldman's tent?' So Idid, and she smiled and said thanks! She's got white teeth, all real!"
"Okay, listen up!" Sarge neared them, his face grimly set. "I guess y'all have heard we got us a new LT. She's IS a woman, and you will show her the same respect you do me and the LT, and you WILL NOT lay a hand on her. Is that understood?"
"A woman, Sarge?" Purcell shook his head. "What the hell they sending women here for?"
Sighing Sarge glanced around. The defences would need work, he realized. "Some kind of new program, Purcell. Looks like this will be a co-ed war. Since you boys are so busy how 'bout we tighten up the perimeter and dig us some trenches?" A smirk flashed, and his eyes glowed. "Or would you rather do the latrines?"
"Trenches are good," nodded Ruis.
"Perimeter? Point the way, Sarge!" added Taylor.
Purcell rose to his feet. "Gonna tighten and dig, Sarge!"
"Thought so," smiled Anderson, turning away. "Get to work, ladies!"
Wallace set the file down, one hand rubbing his sore eyes. "Oh man....."Rising he reached for his bottle of whiskey, and poured a hefty amount in his tin cup. Head tilting back he swallowed half of it.
"C'mon in, Myron." He motionned to a chair. "Talk to the men?"
"All of 'em, but I doubt it'll do much good. Could already see the glint of lust in some eyes." He declined the bottle the captain held out. "I don't think warnings are gonna be enough to dissuade some from trying."
Nodding Wallace sat, heaving a heavy sigh. "I know. We'll make an example of the first offender."
Frowning LT eyed his superior officer. "Something wrong?"
"Just read her file. She's a damn good soldier, got a few medals for her tour of Sommalia. She comes from a military family, some in the navy, some in the army, one uncle in the Peace Corps..." Again he swiped a hand over his eyes. "She was engaged to a Captain, both of them 3 months away from a wake-upand their wedding when they hit the world. One night during a rather nasty attack she turned to him for orders. He had none."
"Killed?" softly asked LT.
"Cut to pieces," whispered Wallace. "She was in command. Had a handfull of men left who were still alive, but in bad shape. Nearly overrun she managed to get them all out and kept them running. They ran into another group of the enemy, a ragged bunch, and she and her men killed them. They spent a week on E. and E. Everyone considered them MIA, or KIA, or POWs. She came upon a platoon about 40 kliks from the base, and they were all Evacked. Her men refused to leave her. She kept them together, kept them alive. And they had 5 prisonners. She was promoted after that to 1st Lt. Her men are here in Nam. Once she's settled in they'll be sent here."
LT nodded. "How many?"
"Six," he replied. "We're also gonna get three more women."
LT watched him pour more whiskey. He didn't mention that fact. Everyone here had a crutch. Most had the booze, some had the whores, and the stupid ones had the drugs.
"I think we should request more supplies, get a tent for the women. Keep 'em out of the men's hootches."
"Good idea," nodded Wallace. "I want you and Anderson to keep a real close eye on the men. They may be female, but they are soldiers, and we are responsible for them."
She sat on her cot, shut her eyes, and took a few deep breaths.
"I should have retired when I had the chance," she whispered.
"Lt?" Eyes flying open she met the dark gaze of Lt Goldman.
"You said something?" he went to a desk and dropped his M-16 and a pack ofcigarettes on it. "You were talking."
"I said I should have retired when I had the chance," she told him.
"But I didn't."
"And now here you are, huh?" he sat on his bunk, and opened his canteen,taking a deep swallow of the metallic and warm water. "Maybe you should have retired."
Snorting she rose, stretched, and glanced out the netting at the activity in the camp. "I tried. Brass said they needed me. One last tour, you'll make Captain, and then you can retire, and we'll set you up wherever you want!"
She turned to the LT. "They can be very..... persistent."
"I'm sorry you're here," he told her. She watched him carefully. Here was a man who wore his heart in his eyes, she realized.
"Instead why don'tcha be sorry we all are? Easier that way."
He smiled. "Guess it is."
When he smiled he was almost boyish in his looks. She hadn't missed how handsome he was. Even dusty and grimy.
"Anywhere to buy a coffee around here, Lt Goldman?"
Rising he grabbed his M-16. "Just one. You like tar? I'll buy you a cup."
THREE DAYS LATER.
"Captain?" Lt. Knight caught up with him as
he carried a cup of coffee to
the CP. "Got a minute, Sir?"
"What's the problem, Lt?" he slowed down his
long strides for her.
"I've been here three days, Sir, and you've
yet to send me out. You send
Sgt Anderson and Lt Goldman." She squinted in
the bright sunlight to glance at
Sighing he stopped, faced her. "Just
waiting, Lt. Your men are on their
A strange look passed over her face. "My
"Your team from Sommalia," he told her. "It
was in your orders, to keep
you here until your team arrived. Six of your
men, and we're also getting
three more women. I want you to handle them.
The women will have their own
tent, and you can then finally move out of
Goldman's hootch and in with them.
I'd like to keep you all together and safe."
"Yessir," she nodded. "They'll be my
"That's right," he started to walk. "They
arrive today. I'll let you
"Yessir," she didn't follow. "Thank you,
Sir." Turning she glanced
around. Goldman and Anderson were out on patrol,
had been for 24 hrs now.
They were due back any minute. She slowly headed
for the cleared spot reserved
for the choppers when they landed.
It hadn't been an easy three days. Bunked
with Lt. Goldman she had been
maginally safe at night, but during the day was
different, especially at the
showers. Now she had Anderson or Goldman
guarding her when she showered. And
they were armed. One day she had gone to clean
up after helping some of the
men dig trenches. Not quite naked yet she saw
two men slink near. Their
hormones controlling common sense. And her fists
and feet laying them low. In
her underwear she stood over their unconscious
forms and asked if anyone else
challenged her. Captain Wallace gathered all the
men, and cut strips off them
vocally. He asked her what the punishment should
be. Those two men were now
relegated to latrine duty and mess hall duty and
whatever other dirty job no
one else wanted for a month. She had earned some
respect from some of the men
that day, but others still eyed her with grim
lips and icy eyes.
Two choppers dotted the landscape, and
neared. The whirring of their
blades began to fill the air, and already red
dust began to rise. Shielding
her face with an arm she half turned away as they
landed. Turning back as the
men hopped off she searched for two men, Anderson
and Goldman. Somehow she
felt she could talk to them. Something about
them drew her. And she needed a
few friends here. She felt lonely and cut-off as
the only female here.
"Hey, LT!" greeted a tired Purcell as he
neared. "Waiting on someone?"
"You need a shave, Corporal!" she grinned,
shaking her head. "You smell a
little ripe too."
"I hear that!" he beamed, moving on.
"Man! I'm all up for a hot shower and hot
food before a month of sleep!"
cried Taylor, nodding to her as he went by.
"Hey, hold up, Purcell! Save me
some water, man!"
She neared Goldman. "Lt.... How'd it go out
"Too quiet," he sighed, removing his pot and
running a grimy hand through
sweaty and grimy hair. "Here?"
"Same," she got into step beside him.
"Listen, after you start smelling
like roses can we talk?"
Halting he gave her a worried glance. "You
"Dunno. Just heard my old team is coming,"
she motionned for him to keep
He did, and craddled his pot in the crook of
one arm. "And you don't know
how you feel about that?"
"Don't get me wrong, they're good men, and
damn good soldiers...."
He nodded. "Sommalia."
"Sommalia," she sighed. "It was ugly out
there, Lt. And seeing them
might bring it all back. I tried real hard to
Stopping again he faced her. "Skye, I heard
about what happened. Hell,
war isn't pretty no matter where it is. The
brass probably figured you worked
so well before you'd work well here too."
Looking off in the distance she took in a
ragged breath. "I admire those
men, LT. And I do feel close to 'em, but...."
She shrugged. "Probably
nothing. I might see 'em and be happy. I hear
we're getting three more women
to the base. I'll be moving out. Cap wants me
to bunk with 'em. Sorry you
won't be dodging silk stockings anymore," she
"Or you hearing me snore?" he grinned back.
Chuckling she shrugged. "The snoring I can
handle, LT. It's the smell
that keeps me awake!" She started to walk off.
Blushing he looked down at his dusty and
grimy self, sweat spots staining
his fatigues. "It's not that bad, is it?" he
called to her, and saw her look
back briefly and grin.
Two choppers landed, and Lt. Knight peered
throught the swirls of dust and
grass to see people hop off and boxes get dumped
out. Even throught the fog of
dust she could recognize the stances of the men.
Her heart raced. She hadn't
seen them in years. Now here they were. Her men
again. They had survived
together by the skin of their teeth, and she had
often wondered if she'd done
enough that night. If maybe, just maybe, she
could have done more. Saved more
of them. Saved them all?
"So......" Goldman came to a halt beside
her. "Those are your men?"
She nodded. They were nearing. "Haven't
seen them in years."
"Lt?" one man squinted to better see. "Hey,
Fox, it's the LT!"
Goldman arched a brow as six men hurried
more, and beamed like children
who'd just found Santa had left them a horde of
gifts. The one who'd spoken
was about 5"7 tall, no taller than Knight, and
stocky. No fat on that man. He
had the weathered face of someone of who'd lived
alot. He saluted, and yet
could not wipe that silly beaming grin off his
face. All six of them were now
saluting, ramrod straight, and beaming.
Lt. Knight's lips twitched, and she
saluted. "Welcome to Foreward
Firebase Ladybird." She stepped forward, and
hugged the stocky man. "Damn,
Sargeant! Don't you ever age?"
"Been too long, Skye." He stepped back, a
misty look in his eyes. "We
heard they were sending us here as a group, but
had no idea you'd be here. Why
aren't you retired yet?"
She shrugged, sighed. "I tried." She
hugged each man, and then stepped
back. "Jesus! Look at y'all!" She shook her
head. "Men, this is 2nd Lt.
Myron Goldman. LT, these are my men. That's
Sargeant Rob 'Grizzly' Grishold,
Thomas ' Fox' Reiner, Paul 'ETA' Mitchels, Andrew
'Mack' McEllewyn, Joseph
'Claymore' Maynard, and Peter 'Eagle' Carter."
They all saluted him so he saluted back.
"Sargeant Anderson here can show
you where to bunk, and then you can have more
Anderson nodded, and led them away. Lt.
Knight now faced three women who
stood patiently waiting. She neared them. "I'm
Lt. Knight, and this is Lt.
Goldman. Welcome to Foreward Firebase Ladybird,
Ladies. I'll be your tour
guide for the duration of your holiday here.
Follow me. We're setting up a
tent for you, and I'll be your roommate."
One woman was a tall black woman with a scar
on one cheek, another was a
petite blond with a hard edge to her jaw, and the
last was a redhead with
lovely green eyes that still had a soft sheen to
them. Knight felt sorry for
her. They'd soon have that edge, that faraway
look. Like everyone else's.
"Hey, Sarge?" Horne was watching the women
set up the tent, the Lt
included, and a group of six men helping. "Who
Anderson could hear the men chatting away as
they worked, and the Lt laugh
every now and then. "Those are her men. And the
women are new recruits."
"Her men?" repeated Johnson, frowning.
"From her tour in Sommalia," he replied.
"Seems the LT saved their asses,
and they're very loyal to her. Might want to
spread the word around to any
soldiers who are still holding a grudge or
wanting to help the LT shower.
Those men won't take her being abused lightly."
"You talk to them yet, Sarge?" asked Ruiz.
"Are they good men?"
Anderson nodded. "Yeah, I talked to 'em.
Didn't get no gut feelin' that
they'd get us all greased."
Horne frowned, turning to him. "But what
about the women? They got any
combat experience? Should we worry?"
"Well now, Horne, I dunno. The new LT will
be discussing that with the
Captain in a few." Anderson shrugged, and turned
away. "Okay, ladies! We've
got work to do! Don't stand here oglin', let's
look like we're doing
something!" he shouted.
"Well?" Wallace watched the reactions on
her face. Problem was, there
wasn't any reaction. The woman was good at
hiding what she thought, when she
Lt. Knight tossed the files down on his
desk. "Hell, they either won't
survive a week, or will learn real damn fast."
"Maybe both," Grizzly added, standing
somewhat behind her. "I dunno, LT.
Sending women is hard enough, sending cherries
out in this area first off is
asking for trouble. And that Pvt. Maurer, the
black lady? She's gonna give us
problems. She's too hard, too inaccessible.
Giving her an order means she
does it only 'cause she has to."
"I'm a little more worried about Corporal
Haler. That little redhead?
She's still got the glow of the world in her
eyes." She sighed, rubbed a hand
over her eyes. "It won't be easy, Captain. My
men I can trust with my eyes
closed and NVA running all over us, but these
women worry me."
"Do the best you can, Lt," he told her,
setting the files aside. "Hell,
all you can do is the best you can. If they want
to survive they'll learn.
Meantime I want your crew out tomorrow on a
routine recon. See how they
measure up in the field. You'll depart at 06:00
hours, and return by 20:00
hrs. That oughta give you an idea of how they
"Yessir," she nodded, and they left the CP.
"Men are all ready, LT." He glanced towards
the tent his men were in.
"You know you can trust us. We'll help keep an
eye on the women."
"Go get some sleep, Sargeant." When he
moved off she slowly headed for
her new tent.
"Lt?" Goldman was headed towards her.
"LT," she smiled. "Just getting home from
the late show?"
Falling into step beside her he chuckled.
"Listen, if you need help
tomorrow First squad and I will be out flanking
"I know," she nodded. "I'll be okay. Been
Catching her arm he halted her, made her
face him. "Anderson's got a
feeling about the women. I trust his judgement."
"Then he and Grizz are a pair 'cause he got
one too. If I run into
trouble you'll be the first I call," she
The shout led to more shouts, and an ominous
whistling ripped through the
night. "OUTOUTOUTOUT!!!!!!" screamed Lt. Knight,
already pushing women off
their bunks and with her M-16 in her hands and
her pot on her head. "Move it!"
Soldiers ran everywhere, and flashes from
mortar hitting the base lit up
the dark of night. Screams of pain tore that
suspended moment between attacks,
and Knight paused only long enough to ascertain
if a body lying in her path was
still alive. Finding none she led the women to
the sandbagged bunkers.
"Here, LT!" he ran in a crouch to her. They
ducked inside, and remained
near the door. "Nice welcome, Sir. A card would
have done just as well," he
A sob tore the bunker, and Knight glanced
back at the people huddled
against the sandbags. Face grim she marched to
yourself together, woman!"
Another sob tore from her and she trembled.
"I-I can't, Ma'am! I-I've
"Wuss," Pvt Maurer, the tall black, spat.
Turning Knight pinned her with a glare.
"Not in my squad!" she shouted.
"You understand me, Maurer? We are a team. And
I won't have any of you
cutting into any of my soldiers." Ignoring the
haughty glare she got back she
turned to the redhead. "Haler, you listen to me
good now. I been in combat,
and I know that if we stick together and if you
do as I say we'll be okay. I
know this ain't nothing like you imagined.
You're right. And it's gonna get
real ugly, but if you break down on me you'll get
yourself killed and maybe
even me, and I'm not gonna let that happen.
Understand? When I say you pick
up your weapon and you stick by me. Grizz? Out
on patrol she's radio."
He nodded. And when the shelling stopped
and they headed out he met up
with Sargeant Anderson. "What do you think,
Anderson glanced about at the damage and
dead. "Think Charlie's just
tryin' to distract us for some reason."
Grizzly nodded, watched soldiers carry the
dead and wounded by. "I think
you and I better keep half an eye open while we
Lt Knight saw Lt. Goldman and neared him.
He touched his forehead. "It's nothing."
Taking her arm he led her out
of earshot of others. "Captain just got a call
from brass. Reports have a
large movement of VC and NVA Regulars sweeping
down to the west of here."
"Not far enough west," she snorted. "Time
to set up extra defenses. What
do you think, LT?"
'I think you've never used my name,' he
thought. "We got a way to secure
outside the perimeter more? Something to give
Charlie pause if he ever gets
stupid enough to try and swarm us?"
"Claymore!" she let out a shrill whistle. A
flame haired short and
muscular man ran over. "Claymore, Lt. Goldman
wants to know if there's any way
of securing outside the perimeter and give
Charlie hot balls?"
A wide grin split his ruddy face. "I be
thinkin' there is, Sir." His
voice was heavily accented, a real mix of
Scots/Irish. "Och, aye, that we can
do, LT. You and me, we done blew up lots of
things in Sommalia. We can be
doin' it here tae."
LT arched a brow. "That a yes?" Lt. Knight
laughed, gave his arm a small
touch as she called to her squad.
LT squinted, lifted the infra-red
binoculars. Beside him Wallace peered
out into the dark. "See anything?"
LT shrugged. "They're keeping pretty low,
Captain. Hard to tell if I do
see 'em or not."
Grizzly nodded. "Claymore and the LT won't
be giving Charlie a target if
they can help it. They know what they're doing,
Sir. We don't call him
Claymore for nuthin'. And the LT is almost as
good as he is. Claymore's got
this.... affection for explosives. He
understands them, talks to them, and
could take any bomb apart with his eyes closed
and a sneeze ticklin' the back
of his nose!"
LT and Wallace gave him amused looks.
Anderson walked over, weapon slung
almost negligently over one shoulder. "How's it
"Here they come now," announced LT.
Two forms zigged and zagged at a fast
crouch for the wire. They came
through an opening, and ran towards the others.
"Lt?" Wallace questionned.
"All done, Sir. If you don't mind, we'll
get to the other side now." She
and Claymore hefted up equipment and proceeded
Grizzly sighed. "I better go see the women
are doing what I set 'em to."
"Go with ya," offered Anderson. "LT?
Captain?" Nodding he left.
"What do you think, Myron?" Wallace asked,
watching both Sargeants move
away and talk.
"I think they're alot alike, and that Lt.
Knight is lucky to have such
good men. Then again, I have good men too," he
"Sending a squad out now would be sending
them out on a suicide mission,"
Wallace argued on the line. He ran a tired hand
through his damp hair, sweat
stinging his eyes. "Sir, we took some pretty
heavy...... Yes, Sir, but......
No, Sir, I......... Colonel, it would be
phone aside he let Horne hang it up. Hands on
hips he eyed all four officers
waiting patiently by the door. "We have orders
to scout them out and get a
"Are they crazy?" demanded Goldman. His jaw
worked angrily, and his dark
eyes snapped. Lips curling back he leaned
forward some. "Sending anyone out
there is guaranteeing they won't come back."
"Let me go out there," whispered Lt. Knight.
"Me and my men. None of the
women. They aren't experienced enough."
Goldman twirled on her. "Go out without a
full squad? You're as insane
as those idiots who want to send you out there!
There could be a full platoon
out in that jungle! You could be cut down in
Lips thinning grimly she tossed her chin up.
"We spent days on E and E in
Sommalia. We survived. And we can move more
quietly without anyone else. A
full squad, and with cherries to boot, will get
us killed. I can't guarantee
you a prisonner, Captain, but we can take a
looksee out there."
Wallace eyed the rising temper on Goldman,
the grim set of Anderson's
face, and the calm demeanor on Grizzly's.
Knight's eyes flicked his way
briefly. Scratching at his scalp in thought he
finally let his arm drop in
defeat. "Alright, Lt. You and your men. We'll
hold radio silence."
"No offense, Sir, but we won't be taking a
radio." She turned to Grizzly.
"Get the men, Grizz. Tell Claymore and Eagle to
get ready for action. I want
us quiet but deadly."
Nodding he hurried out. Anderson snuk out
after him. Goldman grabbed his
weapon and pot, and with a last glare at Knight
he twirled and marched out.
"Lt...." Wallace neared her, looking down at
her. "Come back alive."
"I plan to, Captain," she whispered back.
"This isn't Sommalia, and you don't have
anything to prove." He took a
deep breath. "I know what a good soldier you
are. Brass knows it too."
She smiled, grabbed her weapon and pot. "I
know. That all, Sir?"
Sneaking out had been alot easier then they
had anticipated. Then again,
they'd gotten good at it when they'd been on E
and E in Sommalia. Eagle had
point, and Claymore brought up the rear. Grizz
picked up the slack. Lt.
Knight was just before him with ETA before her,
and Mack behind Grizz. She was
proud of her men. She couldn't even hear them
breathe, they were so quiet.
Each step taken was precise, and they stepped
into the other's print, to not
give Charlie an idea of how many were out. One
eye on the man before you, and
one on the area. Hand signals only, and every
man alert and ready to spring
It was like switching tv channels, the way
she shut out the base and
concentrated on their mission. Lt. Goldman had
grimly stood by as they
prepared to leave, and if she let herself she
could replay their last
conversation to the word, but if she let herself
do that she'd screw up out
here, and get them all killed. So now the base
didn't exist. They were on E
and E, and they knew Charlie was here, somewhere.
Eagle, so named because of his awesome
eyesight, held up a fist, and the
line silently fell to one knee, weapons ready.
Knight waited. Eagle moved off
alone, and they waited. After a good five
minutes he returned. Every man
watched the hands, reading his signals precisely.
That had taken practice.
They had needed ways to communicate without
expelling breath and one night,
huddled together under bushes they had come up
with their own brand of sign
language. Squinting she read his message. Up
ahead, about 500 yards, were a
platoon with some heavy artillery. Turning
slightly she began to message to
Claymore. The two of them moved out quiet as
church mouses during sunday mass.
Claymore took one flank and she the other.
Each carried packs with
explosives. Each began to lay down well hidden
traps in a semi-circle to cut
off any escape for the platoon at intervals of
ten to twelve yards apart.
Moving further out they met on Charlie's other
side and proceeded to repeat the
proceedure. Separated, and returned to the
squad. Grizz motionned them to go
a different direction, and they went further into
the bush, avoiding the traps.
"LT?" Anderson neared the younger man who
stood with binoculars looking
out, a cigarette burning away in one hand. "She
done told us not to wait on
'em. Said they'd circle the base, and that could
take all day if they're
"I know," absently replied Goldman. "I
can't believe they did this. How
in hell are we supposed to know if they're dead
or alive? All day? They could
be captured or greased and we wouldn't be any the
Intently eyeing his CO Anderson realized
something. There'd be no calming
his LT until Lt Knight returned safely. "Don't
tell me you're falling for her,
When all he got was a glare he sighed.
"You and me, we've been friends a
long time now. I'd like to think y'all can talk
to me. Falling for a fellow
soldier is not a good thing, LT. She's also your
"I know, I know," interrupted Goldman, face
twisting in a grimace. "And
I'm not falling for her....."
Anderson nodded. "No, Sir, you've already
"Anderson, don't you have something else to
do?" he demanded, annoyed his
Sargeant knew him so damn well. Was he that easy
to read? Yes, he liked her.
She was pretty, smart, and funny. And either
brave or stupid, he wasn't sure
"Nosir!" grinned Anderson, turning to look
out at the area outside the
base. "All's done, and I weren't in the mood to
scrape the fungus offa my feet
today. Saving that for when I get me some R and
Goldman tossed him a frustrated yet almost
amused glare. "Fine. Just
leave your impressions of what you think I feel
about Lt. Knight out of any
conversation you plan for us to have. 'Cause
Head ducked, grin threatening as his lips
twitched and his eyes glowed
Anderson nodded, shrugged. "Yessir... no
impressions... you got it, LT..."
"Anything yet?" Wallace called from the
door of his CP.
"No, Sir!" called Anderson. "All's we got
so far, Cap'ain, is
impressions, and the LT here don't want any of
Goldman blushed and glared as Wallace
arched a brow, considered a moment,
and then re-entered his CP. "Gee, thanks, "
Shrugging Anderson grinned. His grin
vanished and he grew serious.
"She'll be fine, LT. They're good soldiers, and
they've done this before.
Don't do no good standin' here worryin' 'bout it.
How 'bout I buy you a drink?"
"No thanks, Sargeant. I'll just....." he
sighed. "Okay, I like her.
Something about her just..... but I'm not falling
for her. Got it?"
Anderson eyed him intently. "They'll be
fine. Iffen ya change your mind
'bout that drink ya know where to find me." He
Goldman sighed, tossed away his dead
cigarette, reached for his pack and
lit a new one as he lifted the binoculars to peer
Lt. Knight froze, holding her breath, and
watched as the booted feet of
the NVA soldier stopped right in front of her
face. Pressed flat to the ground
under a bush she listened as a zipper was
lowered, and wrinkled her nose as the
soldier proceeded to relieve himself...... just
inches away from where she lay.
Not turning her head she held up one finger to
Fox who lay beside her,
wriggled it a certain way. He didn't move.
Lifting her eyes she could see
almost to the Vietnamese's knees. Behind him,
about several yards away, was a
full squad of NVA regulars. All lounging around,
chatting, cleaning their
weapons, and eating. Their loud talk and
laughter proved they did not fear to
meet up with any Americans out here when they
believed they had said Americans
pinned down at the base.
The one soldier before her zipped up and
turned around. Slowly and
silently she let her breath out, and held up
several fingers, wriggling them.
This was the third sighting of the enemy. Two
artillery platoons trapped by
their explosives, and now this squad to patrol.
No other patrols. Time to
rock and roll, she knew. They'd nearly come full
circle. They needed a
prisonner. Moving her M-16 briefly she glanced
about, but couldn't see her men
except for Fox. They had spread out. She knew
they'd be ready.
The sound of an explosion made her blink.
The soldiers before her jumped
to their feet as several more explosions rocked
the silence. Excited chatter
and confusion made the NVA pretty much run in
circles. Taking aim she pulled
the trigger, and one went down as more shooting
announced her men followed
suit. They never had a chance to aim and shoot.
Waiting a minute to listen
for re-inforcements they moved out and searched
the downed soldiers. Maps,
papers, and one soldier alive and holding his
leg. More explosions erupted.
Claymore grinned, winked at her. She shook
her head, grinning. Mack, the
biggest of them, lifted the wounded soldier and
settled him on his shoulder.
Goldman jumped at the first explosion,
twirling to look where it had come
from. Then came more of them, and the far off
echoes of shooting. More
"Dammit!" he cursed, turning in
circles and frustration. He wanted
to be out there, helping them! Helping her! But
he was helplessly stuck here.
"LT!" Sarge pointed out to where black smoke
billowed in the far distance.
"Dammit!" he cursed again, not knowing what
to do, fearing the worst.
Wallace ran out, peering around. Seeing the
smoke his jaw worked, no
words came out, and he ran a hand through his
hair. Nothing he could do.
Sending out a squad would most likely guarantee
they'd get killed, and yet
could he let Knight's squad battle this alone?
Cursing he watched soldiers
curiously and interestingly stare and gather,
whispering amongst each other.
He felt helpless. What orders could he give?
Glancing at Anderson he
saw the man shrug. The Sargeant wasn't any the
happier for this, but knew
nothing could be done. Goldman was another story
altogether. He paced, raking
a hand through his short hair, cursing aloud, and
glaring at everyone.
"Anderson! Get first squad ready, but don't
deploy until I say."
Sarge nodded. "Yessir! First squad, you
heard the Cap'ain. Get ready,
but sit tight," he ordered.
LT was already running to get ready.
Anderson moved more slowly.
"DAMMIT!" she shouted, hiding behind a tree.
"Where the hell did they
"Musta swept down on us from up higher,"
Grizz told her. "Heard the party
goin' on and decided to crash!"
"Yeah, well..... I never invited 'em!" she
"Way ahead of ya, LT!" he shouted, turning
briefly with a launcher, and
letting a grenade fly. They were rewarded with
some screams. But not enough
"We gotta get outta here," Grizz told her.
"We don't know how many more
of 'em are out there."
"That's what I like about you, Grizz, your
penchant for under-statement!"
she scoffed. Glancing back she saw Mack holding
the prisonner down. "DAMMIT!
I'm all up for any brilliant ideas."
"SARGE!!!!" Johnson pointed off.
First squad and Wallace turned, peered into
the setting sun. A ragged
group slowly limped towards them. Lifting the
binoculars Wallace took a closer
They rushed out to help with the wounded.
Goldman felt a cold lump knot
his belly to see Lt Knight being carried over the
shoulder of Grizzly.
"We trapped two artillery platoons and
greased a squad except for one of
them. Then on our way back we met up with a
reserve platoon coming down to see
what all the fuss was about. As we ran she took
The medic ran to her as she was set
carefully down on the ground.
need to evac her right now. It's not that bad,
but she's lost alot of blood."
"I want a debriefing, Sargeant," ordered
Wallace. "Let's call in for a
Grizzly stared down at the LT. "Hang in
there, LT. You're gonna be just
Anderson swallowed hard, put a comforting
hand on the other sargeant's
shoulder. "Go on. I'll make sure they take care
LT swallowed hard several times. She lay so
still, looked pale. When
someone touched his arm he jumped. Dark eyes
wide he shivered and turned away,
ignoring everyone else, and stumbled for his
"He's got a flame for her," Grizzly stated.
Staring after his CO Anderson gave an abrupt
nod. "Thing is he won't admit
it, even to his own self. I better go see how he
is. Hey, Grizz, buy you a
"Oh man, Zeke! I could use a whole damn
bottle after what happened out
there." He glanced to where the four wounded
prisonners were. "We had one of
'em, and now, somehow we got us four. LT's the
only wounded one of us."
Anderson now realized the man was bleeding
in the arm. "Not 'xactly.
"Just a frag. Ain't nothing serious. A
little bandage and some good ole
rot-gut'll fix it just fine." He headed for the
A squad was sent out to search out the hit
platoons and squad for any
other info and for survivors. Two Hueys arrived,
one for the LT and the other
for the prisonners. Grizz and Anderson watched
them take off. Anderson
touched his new friend's arm, and they turned for
special like what y'all find at home, but it does
the trick," Anderson told
him, pouring two healthy cups of it.
Grizz took it, sat. "Hell, ain't nothing
here like home. But you and me,
we know all 'bout that. You just do what you
gotta do to survive, keep your
men breathing long as you can."
"I hear that," nodded Anderson, sitting.
"She'll be fine."
"Talk to the LT yet?"
Anderson shook his head. "Boy was pukin'
his guts out. Figure I'll leave
him his dignity, much as we got here, and check
on him tomorrow."
"Good idea." Grizz swallowed half the cup
of liquor. "Officers are
mighty strange 'bout their dignity. Learned that
long ago." He grinned. "Old
warhorses like us, we're quite the breed, Zeke.
Hell alone knows why we're
still standing, but we are."
"Only 'cause the devil hisself don't want
us!" grinned Anderson. "Too
tough for him to control!"
Grizzly lifted his cup. "To tough ole
warhorses like us, and the tender
CO's who have lived to talk about us!"
Anderson chuckled, lifted his cup. "Amen!
And may the devil keep
thinkin' we're too tough to control!"
Trying to block out the whimpers and groans of
pain wasn't as easy as
thought. Especially at night. Her wound wasn't
serious, except for loss
blood, but they still wanted to keep her confined to
bed. Which was
She'd been here three days already, and
her men and some of Lt.
Goldman's men had stopped by, but not the Lt. For
some reason he hadn't
by to see how she was doing. Which, for some unknown
reason, bothered her.
Opening her eyes she glanced towards the voice
to find a Colonel and a
Sitting up she saluted.
"At ease, Lt. Rest that shoulder." The General
neared her, stared
"By God, Lt, we need more soldiers like
you out here! You
real courage out there. The fact you managed to get
You've been recommended for a medal."
Just friggin' great! she thought, but kept her
Sir. Just did what I had to do, Sir."
The General rocked back and forth on his feet
for a second, glowing
pride and conceit.
"You and your men give this man's
army something to be
proud of. Highest traditions. Uncommon valor.
Risking your lives for the
lives of others. I'm proud of you, Lt."
"Thank you, Sir." Oh, man! she thought. Just
what she needed a damn
General praising her. That's what got her to Nam in
the first place.
"How are you holding up, Lt?" the Colonel asked,
understanding in his eyes.
"Getting antsy, Sir. Wish they'd let me out of
here," she confessed.
"That's the sign of a true American soldier,"
the General crowed,
"Already wanting to go out there and
fight this war." He held
tight fist up.
If I ever make it to General I want to be shot,
she thought. No way I
want to sound as maniacally devoted and proud as this
windbag. A raucus in
hallway got all their attention. Some shouting, a
scream, a shot, and more
Jumping out of bed, and unmindful of the
way she looked in the
pants and loose top the hospital had provided she
peered out. Stepping out
leaned against the wall, following it down towards
the sounds of
Around a corner she saw a soldier holding a quaking
man to him, his
pointed to others.
"That's my friend there on that table, and
you're gonna help him," he
hoarsely told them.
"Lt, he's dead!" one was stupid enough to argue.
"HE IS NOT DEAD!" the distraught man shouted.
"Now you save him, or
put a third eye-hole in your face. You hear me?"
"Lt," hissed the Colonel. But she was already
walking forward, her
free arm up.
> "Whoa, LT," she soothingly said, pausing in
"Watch where you
point that thing. I already got me a hole that needs
> He eyed her curiously, menacingly. "Who are
She neared the body, felt for a pulse. Dead.
She glanced at the
"I'm Lt. Skye Knight, and I was shot three days
ago. Out on patrol
my men. Charlie decided to give me a souvenir."
She eyed the revolver,
the way his hand shook slightly.
"LT, you don't want
to do this, do you?"
She took one step closer.
"I know how hard it is to lose
a friend. This
sargeant was your friend was he? I've lost good men too.
Friends, and even a
We were three months from a wakeup and wedding.
Happened in Sommalia."
"Tom and I been friends for almost a year now,"
he told her. "He was
weeks away from a wakeup. Was gonna go home to his
wife and two little
Shit, she thought. That's rough.
want you to hurt others
She reached him, loosened his hold on the
man, and the man scurried
like a rat heading for his hole.
"LT... " she took
the revolver. "I'm
sorry.... but Tom will be going home earlier."
A sob tore from him, and he fell into her.
Grimy and sweaty and
>in filth she didn't care. She knew the pain. This
man was hurting. She
him, led him off, and let him sob.
Goldman eyed the hospital, swallowed hard, and
debated going in. He
turning away to leave when his name was called. The
voice calling it made
freeze. He wasn't ready for this. Not yet. Not
now. Not here.
"Wondered if you'd ever show up," she said.
Robe on, arm in a sling,
moved to go around and stop before him. A frown
marred her brow.
coming in, were you?"
Those dark eyes met hers.
"I didn't want to
"Quit with the lies, Goldman!" she snapped.
"You're the only one who
hasn't stopped by. Except for Wallace, but he's the
Cap, and he's out on
base. But I knew you were here."
"I don't want to do this," he told her, began to
turn away and march
She grabbed his arm, turned him. "What the hell
is wrong with you,
Goldman? What? Did I step on your toes back at
base? You pissed because
pulled rank on you? We never used rank before. We
were both Lts.
Jaw working, nodding, he glared. "Okay, you
want to know what's
You could have stayed on base. But no. Instead you
go playing big war
and get shot in the bush. No radio, no way to know
if any of you are
and leave us wondering what all the fireworks were
about. How's that for a
"I did what I had to do," she ground out. "And
it's a good thing we
My men and I...."
"My men," he repeated in disgust. "It's always
about you and your
men. Yes, they're good soldiers. Yes, so are you.
But going out there
suicidal and idiotic. And you know it. Look at you,
Skye! You've got a
in you! You never should have gone out there. No
one should have. But
have to go play sanctimonious hero and risk the lives
of good men....."
Stiffening she backed up a step, chin lifted
ass, Goldman. You know that? If I hadn't
volunteered? You would have
"No, no I would not have. Why? Because I knew
how stupid it was. So
you. This isn't Sommalia, Skye. You don't have to
prove anything," he
His temper was raging forth after being held back for
days. Waving a hand
turning half away he ground his teeth.
Okay? It's over. Just.... never mind."
As he marched off, body stiff and pulsing with
anger she glared.
for the chat, Goldman! Really, visit again when have
less time!" Growling
turned, saw some poor soldier in her path, and
"Get out of my
soldier, or I'll grind you into the dust!"
out of the way,
her with wide, fearful eyes.
Anderson sat, barely blinking. Pacing angrily
the length of the
hootch he'd been assigned to here at the base was his
LT. And words spewed
of his mouth with the rapid fire of an M-16 heating
up after a few clips.
doubt about it, his LT was pissed. He was madder
than a preacher preaching
to a roomfull of hookers and stealers! The fires of
hell followed this
and nipped at his behind!
"... And do you realize she's never once called
me by my name? Not
said LT, puffing angrily away at his cigarette, the
ash on the end
to fall any second now. Sarge found a small tin
plate that could be used
ashtray, and held it out. LT marched right by it
blindly. Lips pursing
tried again, blinked, and set it aside.
me LT when we're
Lt when we talk business, Lt Goldman when she's
annoyed or frustrated, and
Goldman when she's pissed. But not Myron. Never
Myron. You know that?"
glanced at his sargeant, saw the man shrug, and kept
pacing. Jaw clenching
unclenching he stopped long enough to put out his
cigarette, and then ran a
>hand through his hair.
"Just once I'd like to hear
her say it. Just..."
Sarge knew the LT was now talking to himself
more than to him.
her to?" he softly intruded. So... this was what was
bothering him, was
The LT was in a bunch because the pretty new LT
wouldn't get personal.
"What?" LT frowned at him, suddenly brought back
to the present.
Patiently Sarge repeated it. "Did... you...
ever... ask... her..."
LT scowled, straightening. "I'm not some cherry
you need to play
school teacher with, Sargeant. I'm not hard of
Hiding a grin Sarge nodded. Sighing he stood,
"Look, LT, I
don't know why she won't say your name. But you got
to remember that the
lost a fiance in Sommalia. Maybe she don't want to
get that personal with
another soldier. We're a bad risk, you know."
He considered that. "Yeah," he nodded, still
frowning, and reached
"Yeah, maybe you're right. I don't know
why it bothered me so
It's only a name, right?" He glanced at the other
man, saw him grin, and
turned for the door.
"'Night, LT. And don't you worry none 'bout the
LT. I'm sure that one
soon she'll remember your name. Maybe y'all should
get it tattooed on your
forehead for her to read!"
The door slammed on that remark. Chuckling,
Sarge lay on his bed.
They'd sprung her. Back in fatigues with her arm
still in a sling she
nodded to other soldiers and saluted higher officers
on her way to the hootch
assigned to her. Next day they would leave for
Ladybird. It was ten am, and
already she could feel sweat trickling down between
her breasts, under her
arms, and down her back. The heat here in Vietnam was
atrocious. Either you
were constantly damp from rain, or baked in the dry
sun. No middle ground. It
was one or the other.
Peering briefly to the left she saw Goldman
heading her way. Halting she
knew he hadn't seen her yet, and she waited.
Head snapping up from the papers he held he
squinted in the bright sun,
and nodded to her.
"Okay, listen, yesterday was a bad day. Let's
forget it happened," she
told him, falling into step beside him.
"That an order?" he asked, chin lifted, eyes
ahead of him.
She skidded to a halt. "What's that supposed to
He kept walking, twirled to face her, and
saluted smartly. Turning he
kept marching away. She seethed.
"Go to hell,
Goldman!" she shouted. Rattled
she stood there shaking, teeth gritted. Twirling she
went back the way she had
Heads snapped up when the door opened, and some
looked away once they were
assured it was a GI who had entered. Some, the ones
from Ladybird, arched
brows to see their LT plop himself down at the bar,
and order a drink.
glanced briefly at Ruiz.
"What do you think is up
with the LT?"
Shrugging Ruiz took a drag off his cigarette.
"Dunno, but he don't look
"I say stay away from unhappy officers," stated
Taylor, leaning over to
take his shot.
"Nine ball in the side pocket."
Johnson and Purcell turned back to the game.
eating away at him."
Now several pairs of interested eyes turned to
the soldier who had spoken.
Grizz grinned, and sat back more in his chair at the
table not far away from
"You boys ain't noticed? Ever notice how
distant Lt. Knight can be even
when she's being friendly? Girl keeps her heart
locked up tight. Lt. Goldman
is a man who carries his on his sleeve."
"You're saying the LT has a thing for the LT?"
asked Purcell, frowning.
"Ain't that like against some rule or something?"
"Nope," Grizz replied. "No rules 'gainst it.
Your LT is trying to get
some kind of close friendship going with my LT, but
she holds him three steps
"Now that you mention it, Sarge, I did notice
that!" Taylor frowned. "Why
does she do that?"
"Maybe that's personal, Marcus," warned Johnson.
Grizz stood, shrugging. "She lost her fiance in
Sommalia. He was her
captain. We got overrun, and he was beside her. She
turned to ask him for
orders, but the man had none. All's he had was body
parts all over." He eyed
them all. Already their eyes were filled with
sympathy and horror.
enough to keep anyone from getting too close to
anyone. They were three months
away from a wakeup and wedding. She's a good soldier,
a good woman, but knows
getting close to another soldier is dangerous."
"Damn," breathed Horne who'd been quiet until
now. Swallowing hard he
shook his head.
"It's a wonder she didn't go crazy.
Grizz turned those intense eyes on him. "She had
men to save. She never
had the time to go crazy. In the world she saw some
doc who helped her through
it." Shaking his head he sighed.
retired like she wanted to."
They watched the grizzled man leave. Each man
exchanged glances, no
words spoken. What could they say?
Anderson arched a brow but grinned to see it was
Grizz at his door.
"Well, c'mon in!"
"Can't, Zeke. Just left one of the local bars in
Sin City. Your LT's out
there, and he looked serious 'bout tyin' one on. I'm
thinking we should go
make sure he don't get himself so drunk he gets shot.
Then again..... if he's
that drunk Charlie won't be able to aim at him, he'll
be all over the place!"
Nodding Anderson got ready. "Aw, hell,
Grizz....... Boy could just easily
get hisself in trouble with the locals!"
together, a jeep already
"Bless yer heart! You even got a
Grizz chuckled, switched gears, and drove out.
"Oughta know better'n be
surprised, Zeke. Figured it'd be easier to load him
in than carry him."
"I hear that!" grinned Anderson. "Boy's gotta
get over this thing with
Lt. Knight. Won't do him any good to mope about it."
"Ain't all his fault," Grizz said, sighing
heavily. "She's stubborn and
determined. She thinks she can shut off her heart.
Someday it'll backfire,
explode like C4, and all hell with break loose."
Anderson nodded, eyes out for any enemy activity.
You just never knew
here in Nam. VC could be anywhere, be anyone. And he
hadn't survived this
long by being negligent.
"And we'll be in the
middle." Shaking his head he
"You'd think the war would be enough to keep
'em all too busy to fall
Grizz laughed, parked before the club. "Ah,
hell, Zeke, you know the
heart don't care if you're under mortar attack or
gunfire! And war creates
bonds. Don't think I've ever forgotten a face I met
in wartime. You?"
Anderson shook his head, sighed. "Some may be
nameless, but the faces
dance in your dreams every night."
They entered the club, and found chaos. Not a
man wasn't fighting.
Glass was shattered, tables and chairs broken, and
fists flying. Both
sargeants sighed heavily, exchanged glances, and
forged in like two linebackers
in a scrimmage.
Anderson stumbled back when a fist found his
chin. Blinking he got his
feet beneath him, and threw a punch of his own.
Beside him Grizz was holding
his own, lifting a smaller man over his head to toss
into four others. Briefly
he saw the LT twirl and fall, but he had his own
problems trying to get through
to keep his attention on him.
A shot rang out, and everyone hit the ground.
Everyone but Goldman who
unsteadily got to his feet. All eyes went to the
door. Lt. Knight held a
pistol, aimed up at the ceiling. Fire burned her
eyes. Her teeth were bared.
"ATTEN-HUT!" she commanded. "On your feet, soldiers!
They struggled to their feet. Holstering her
pistol she marched forward,
glaring every soldier back.
"Sargeants Anderson and
Grishold! Get Lt. Goldman
to his quarters now. And sober the fool up."
Grizz and Anderson caught the swaying man by his
arms but he pulled free.
So hard, in fact, he stumbled back against the wall.
Pushing too far forward
he danced several steps into Lt. Knight.
once called me Myron!" he
Disgusted she stumbled beneath his weight, and
fought to get him off her.
"Dammit, Goldman! Show some dignity!" She managed to
push him into the two
"Get him out of here." Turning to
everyone else who were
still stiffly at attention she glared. "You've got
ten minutes to line up
outside my hootch. We're gonna talk discipline. Now
move! MOVEMOVEMOVE MOVE!"
she ordered, and stood her ground as they all rushed
Heading outside she saw the jeep was gone, the
men scattered. Tossing
bills to the owner for damages, she left.
A good twenty men stood stiff and in lines. She
eyed them all.
you all seem to have nothing better to do I decided to
help you battle the
boredom. First line! Report to the mess hall now!
MOVE!" Once they rushed
off she eyed the next line.
"Second line! Report to
Sargeant Myers at the
hospital now!" They ran off.
"Third line!" This was
Goldman's squad. "You
disappoint me, men. Report to latrine duty now."
Her glare shut Purcell off. Nearing she shoved
her face up to his.
can tell it to Anderson later, Corporal. NOW MOVE!"
She watched them move
off, grumbling but not wasting time.
Rubbing tiredly at her face she turned. Now for
the two sargeants and Lt.
God-damn! What had they been thinking? Heading for
Goldman's hootch she
didn't bother to knock, and now wished she had. Her
rage evaporated to find
Goldman in his underwear only, dripping water all over
the floor. He looked a
little less drunk now as black coffee was being forced
into him. Anderson and
Grizz were wet, but dressed. Goldman was angrily
Clearing her throat she got all their attention.
"Mind telling me what
the hell you were doing back there in that club?" Her
eyes were straining as
they stared above their heads. Trying not to look at
Goldman again was hard.
She'd never seen him in such a state of undress
Three pairs of eyes fell her way. Grizz and
Anderson grinned to see the
blush on her face. LT broke free and teetered towards
her, eyes blazing.
had NO RIGHT to interfere like that, Lt."
Did he have to come so close when he was
"I had every
right, Lt. You were drunk and disorderly, and the
club was getting destroyed
by the brawl."
Eyes narrowing he peered closely at her. Her
eyes wouldn't look at him,
and her face was red. So... he had her feeling
uncomfortable, did he?
won't you look at me, Skye?" he whispered.
That whisper traced down her spine, and her
Glancing down at himself he arched a brow.
got underwear on."
"That's supposed to be decent?" she asked,
He grinned. "Better'n naked," he told her.
Twirling she reached for the door handle. "When
he's decent and sober I
want answers, Sargeants. Understood?"
Goldman scowled. "I am decent and sober! Ask me
Opening the door she shook her head. "One hour."
Eyes narrowing he stared at the door.
Oh Dear Sweet Lord!
Lt. Goldman in wet boxers
was NOT how she wanted to
constantly picture him! That silly grin, those too
dark and too emotional
eyes, wetly spiky short hair, bare chest, bare
"Stop it!" she ordered
herself. "Get a hold of yourself, Lt!" Marching from
his hootch she headed
for her own.
His legs were too thin, so were his arms. The
man was too thin. There,
that helped. Her step lightened some.
that doesn't stop him from
having those beautiful brown eyes, or that kissable
mouth, or....' She
faltered a step. Where the hell did THAT come from?
'He's handsome,' that
'No, handsome is Anderson or Purcell!'
gorgeous! And don't deny it!' that voice again
Halting she ran a tired hand over her eyes, and
strangling some shadowed demon which had that voice.
Satisfied she'd succeeded
she entered her hootch, and fell on her bunk,
sprawling there with no
intentions of moving.
'You're attracted to him,' that damn voice
'Shut up! I killed you!' she argued.
'Can't kill the truth. Eventually it comes back
to haunt you.'
"You're wrong," she whispered aloud. "I'm not
attracted to him. I'll
never be attracted to any soldier ever again."
Rolling over she shut her eyes
tight, but a tear still freed itself. "Eric...."
In her dream he stood there. Gorgeous and
smiling. Short black hair,
those awesome green eyes that crinkled when he smiled
and glowed with emerald
fire when he was being passionate, the dimple that
creased his left cheek when
"Wake up, babe!" he whispered, sitting on
the bunk, a hand gently
Rolling over she smiled. It was their first
morning of R & R two months
into their tour.
"Hi, soldier! GI want to buy me a
drink?" she purred.
Those eyes darkened.
"Mmmmm...... GI have better
ideas!" He leaned down,
face a breath away from hers. One hand slowly started
to lower the sheet that
covered her nakedness.
Chuckling she threw her arms around him.
than a drink?" He had a
towel around his waist, hair still damp from his
"Much, MUCH better....." he breathed, and his
lips touched hers, fit
perfectly over hers.
The night before he'd given her the ring,
proposed romantically as they
stood out on the hotel balconey of their room, both
wrapped in the same sheet
after christening the bed with some steamy lovemaking.
He had nuzzled her
neck, whispered how he loved her, how she had
fulfilled him, and how he could
never live without her. Here the fighting of Sommalia
was a world away, and
she could pretend they didn't have to go back. As she
tearily breathed a yes
he slipped the ring on her finger, and turned her to
Eric lifted his head. "Skye?"
"I love you!" she breathed, eyes slowly
fluttering open. They widened in
shock. Not Eric! Goldman! His face, his eyes, his
lips... his boxers!
Turning her head she saw Eric, limbs missing, a hole
in one side of his face,
blood all over. Blood was a mosaic of designs on the
sheets and walls, and on
her and Goldman.
"Nooooooo!" she screamed, reaching a
hand out for him.
He began to disappear. "Skye...... Don't die
with me!" he hauntingly said.
Goldman held her back. "He's gone, Skye. He's
Sobbing she tried to push him away. "No! Get
away from me! Leave me
Goldman shook his head. "I can't. You don't
really want me to."
Sitting up, cold sweat a second skin, she panted.
Her heart raced a
hundred miles per minute, and sudden nausea erupted.
Jumping off the bunk she
found a waskebasket, and retched. As her stomach
calmed a knock sounded on her
door. Slowly she rose, wiped her mouth.
The door opened, and the two sargeants and Lt.
Goldman entered. "You
wanted us to report here."
Grizz saw the pale clamminess of her skin.
"I'm okay," she eyed Goldman. "So. What
As the story unfolded, and she knew Goldman held
off on some parts, she
listened. The cold shivers wouldn't go away. Rising
try not to be an ass anymore? Dismissed. I can't
reprimand you for something
you didn't do."
Anderson and Grizz left. Goldman eyed her
intently one last time before
he walked out. She collapsed on a chair, and spent
the next two hours sobbing.
He knew something was bothering her. She'd
been too pale, had been
shaking. And he honestly didn't believe that
crap about not doing anything to
discipline them. Something was very wrong. But
how to go about getting the
answers is what was bothering HIM.
Goldman paused outside her hootch, and
lifted a fist to knock. Soft
sounds like crying made him freeze. Bringing his
head closer he listened.
Damn! It WAS crying! Quietly he opened the
door, and entered. She lay on the
bunk, curled into a ball, sniffling. And
trembling. Worriedly he neared, sat
on the bed, and touched her shoulder.
"Go away, Goldman!" she hoarsely ordered.
"NO," he argued. Turning her he tried to
glare, but her red, swollen eyes
and trembling lips were too much to bear.
Lifting her he held her to him, one
hand gently stroking her hair.
God, Skye, what
is it? What's hurting you so
much? Talk to me!"
She was stiff and silent. He rocked her
like he would a child, and
crooned soft words. She soon relaxed, one fist
clinging to his shirt, her
tears soaking his shirt, her face buried against
ease leave me
"I can't," he thickly replied, swallowed
hard. God she felt nice against
him! Even despite the sweat that was a problem
to all of them she smelled like
a woman; soft and female and almost flowery. "I
"I don't want to get close to you," she
Dark eyes filled with hurt. "Why? What's
so wrong with getting close?
Why do you hold everyone back like they're the
plague?" His arms tightened
about her. "Can't you see we care? Can't you
see I care?"
That was the problem, she realized. "Caring
leads to losing."
He paused, pulled her head back some to look
into her face. "Is that it?
I'm gonna survive this, Skye."
She pulled away, glared as she pushed off
her bunk. "That's conceited.
NO ONE can promise that! You can't, Anderson
can't, Grizz can't, I can't,
Eric.... couldn't......." Her shoulders slumped.
Eric. Her fiance! Rising he caught her
shoulders in his hands, bent his
knees to meet her lowered gaze. "I know it hurt
to lose him, but you have to
go on living!"
Snorting she mockingly glanced up. "You
KNOW? Have you lost anyone?"
"I lose people all the time," he said, jaw
tight. "Yeah," he nodded,
dark eyes snapping. "Yeah, I've lost people. I
lost the woman I loved, I lost
friends, I lost people..."
She wiped her tears away. "Why are you
His jaw worked angrily. "Is it so damn hard
to say my name? It's
"I know what your name is, Lt," she snapped.
"So say it," he dared.
"I think it's time you left," she said,
shoulders squared, chin lifted.
He hesitated, took a step near her, and
glared down at her. "You can't
run forever. I won't let you." Twirling he
marched out, slamming the door.
The huey pushed through the heat and
humidity, flying towards the base.
Knight was ignoring Goldman. The others had left
yesterday for the base. She
and Goldman had been detained by his father who
had arrived in Nam. The
General had wanted answers about that brawl, and
his targets were the two Lts.
He'd spewed out disappointment and anger, and
they had taken it. She had seen
first hand his reaction to his father. No
salute, no kind word. Just a stiff
demeanor, and tightly reigned anger.
Goldman watched her as intently as she
watched the jungle going by outside
the open side. He knew she knew he watched her.
And he knew she knew he knew.
And he'd be damned if he'd stop. Craddling his
weapon against his chest he
nudged her with his foot; once, twice, a hard
third time to finally make her
look at him. Which she did, with a glare. That
glare intensified when he only
grinned at her.
"Lt. Goldman, please restrain....."
Something hit the chopper's tail, and it
began to whine as it dove.
"We're hit! We're hit!" the pilot shouted.
They grabbed for purchase as the pilot
faught for control. It was enough
to make one nauseated the way the ground sped and
spun. "We're going down!" he
shouted. "Better hold on tight!"
The ground came too fast. Eyes shut, teeth
gritted they hung on, and
bounced around when it hit. Knight was thrown
out of the chopper, and Goldman
hung half out. Groaning he rose slowly, checked
the others. The pilot and
co-pilot were hanging out the windows, dead. The
gunman groaned, lifted his
head, and took a bullet. Goldman threw himself
out the other side, landing by
Knight who lay there.
The enemy were tearing holes into the
chopper, and Goldman helped Knight
up. "We have to run," he told her.
She nodded, and grimaced in pain. "I think
I dislocated my shoulder."
Holding onto the front of her shirt he
pulled her into the bush. They
were quiet, trying to regulate their breathing,
step lightly, and listen for
any signs of Charlie around.
They stopped when they could run no more.
He kept half an eye out for the
enemy, and crouched beside her. "How you doing?"
"I'm dandy. Don't worry about me, Lt. I've
done this before, remember?"
she was gingerly feeling her shoulder, her arm
hanging useless. "I have to set
this. Hold my weapon?"
"What are you gonna do?" he asked. She
stood, faced the tree, and swun
hard into it. The pain brought her to her knees,
made her gag, but she did not
cry out. Eyes teary she gripped his arm with her
"Let's move. We
can't stay long in one place. What we need is
shelter, something to hide us."
His dark eyes scanned the area. He helped
her up. "Looks like it's just
you and me, Skye."
"Don't get any ideas," she warned.
He smiled. "Who, me? Do I look like
"What do you mean gone?" demanded Anderson.
Grizz shook his head. "Sorry, Cap'ain, but
I don't believe that. I know
my LT. She's out there, and she's on her way
Anderson cast the other sargeant a look,
paused, and nodded decisively.
"He's right. They're alive, and they're out
there. I say we go look for them."
Wallace held up a hand. "There are reports
of heavy numbers of enemy
patrols and squads out there. We've already lost
two platoons out there. I
can't send anyone out just yet."
"No, but you can leave the Lts out there
alone?" demanded Anderson, eyes
glowing with anger. Shaking his head he stepped
back. "Nuh-uh, Cap'ain, I
can't accept that. Those are good soldiers, good
officers, and they'd be out
there right now to look for any of us if our
roles were reversed. I don't buy
this. I'm goin' out there."
"It would be against orders," Wallace told
Grizz backed up a step. He stood with
Anderson. "We take only a few men,
Zeke. No sense announcing ourselves to Charlie.
Just enough of us to get the
Lts out alive."
Anderson nodded. "Got that right, Grizz."
He glanced sideways at his
superior officer. His look said, 'Well?'
Wallace sighed. "Fine, I don't know where
you are, who's with you, or how
you got there."
Ready to pounce Anderson nodded. "Yessir!"
He and Grizz were gone.
When she heard one small snap of a twig she
lifted her weapon, squinting
to see in the setting sun. A familiar form in green
fatigues appeared, and she
lowered the M-16. Goldman crouched. "We've got a
platoon of NVA regulars
headed this way," he whispered, panting slightly from
hurrying to warn her. "I
spotted them about half a klick due north. We have to
find better shelter."
Pushing to her feet she winced as her shoulder
sent out a stab of pain.
"Our best bet is up high."
He paused. "Climb?"
One brow arched. "Lt, are you afraid of
Glaring he shouldered his rifle. "I'm not fond
of them, okay? I have a
spot, actually. C'mon. I saw it on my way here."
The spot was a cave. They entered, and both
froze. Crates of ammo and
weapons. Whistling low she neared a crate, peered
inside. "LT, that platoon
you saw? How much you wanna bet they're on their way
here?" She examined
another box as he kept a lookout. A low chuckle
"What?" he whispered, glancing back briefly. She
held up packets, and his
eyes glowed. "How much is there?"
Grabbing a few more packets and some spools of
wire she waved him near.
"Enough to blow this cave wide open, and give even
North Vietnam ringing ears!"
He neared, met her eyes dead on. "What do you
want me to do?"
They got to work. Carefully they hid the C4
behind crates and he used a
branch to wipe their boot prints away and sweep dirt
over the wires she led
outside. They moved slowly, and he kept an eye out as
he swept until they
reached a ditch-like area. There she used her knife
to bare the wires, and
attach them to a detonator. He peered over every now
and then, keeping an eye
out for the platoon.
"There it is!" the gunner shouted.
The huey came back around, and Anderson and
Grizz peered out at the
smashed remains of the huey the two lts had been in.
"I'm gonna find us a spot
to set down!" the pilot shouted to them. "I can't
stick around, but radio me
when you find them. I saw some Victor Charlies
south-west of here, running for
the trees. Be careful!"
The chopper didn't even touch down when eight men
jumped out. Landing on
their feet they rolled and came back up a few feet
away, remaining crouched and
running for the cover of bush and trees. Above them
the huey turned and flew
They lay so still if he couldn't hear himself
breathe softly he'd think he
was dead! Casting a sideways glance at her he was
amazed at just how good a
leader and soldier she was. She should be back in the
world, wearing pretty
dresses and making babies and kissing her husband good
night and good morning,
not dirty and bloody in the jungles of South Vietnam
with a detonator in her
hands, searching for the enemy to blow them to hell.
"I see movement," she breathed, not moving.
His dark eyes swept to the area near the cave.
Arrogant bastards to
boldly walk up and not worry that their cache had been
found. No worries of
ambush or attack. They were also out of formation
and talking rapidly and
loudly. Barely shaking his head he considered how
different they were to the
Americans. He'd have one man peer in, the rest
waiting, and silent. But that
Something caught his eye, and he laid a hand on
hers. Barely moving he
nodded to her right. Her eyes turned that way. She
hissed in a breath. There
had to be at least 30 VC in their black pyjamas.
"Family reunion?" she barely
He almost laughed. Almost. This was gonna be
one hell of a blow to them.
The VC were as loud if not louder, and met up with
one of the NVA. They
exchanged rapidfire chatter, and began to file in the
cave. He let her hands
go, and watched wrinkles appear at her eyes as they
squinted in concentration.
Her nostrils flared, and her breathing increased some.
But her hands never
shook, and she didn't move otherwise. Jaw squaring
and tensing she waited
until one soldier was starting to come out, and
Goldman threw himself over her as rock and debris
spewed all over. The
blast rocked the earth, and those few who had been
outside the cave-mouth
screamed. It was deafening as one blast created a
domino effect, igniting ammo
that went up in flames and exploded. Hot rocks fell
on his back and legs,
small burning debris landing on his arms. But he made
sure she was well
covered and protected.
Grizz and Anderson fell to the ground, eyes wide.
The ground shook
slightly, and the sound made their ears ring. The
others lay still, listening.
Finally Claymore grinned, and lifted his head. "That
was LT's work," he
"How do you know?" demanded Taylor, shaking his
head to rid himself of the
buzzing sound filling it.
"I know," he said.
They rose; Anderson, Grizz, Claymore, Taylor,
Eagle, Percell, Fox, and
Ruiz. Eagle pointed down a side, and Grizz nodded.
Eagle took point.
Claymore picked up slack. They moved in silence,
using hand signals only.
Smoke already wafted down on what slight breeze there
was in the humid heat.
Fox nudged Claymore. Claymore nodded. "C4. But
it's got the smell of
ammo to it," he breathed.
Anderson nodded, somehow knowing to believe the
man. "And the smell of
flesh," Fox added. Yeah, Anderson thought, he'd
smelled it too.
Finally peering up he choked on the smoke and
dust. Beaming he faced
Knight as she sat up. "We did it!" he hoarsely
whooped, and before he could
think he pulled her face to his, and laid his lips on
hers. They lingered,
pressed excitedly. He realized what he'd done when
one of her hands curled
into his shirt, clutched at him. Pulling back he
blinked, staring at her.
Blinking she shook off the kiss, and glared at
him. "Don't do that
again." She blushed under the soot and dirt on her
face to hear her voice was
Before he could reply an ominous click sounded,
followed by others.
Slowly their heads turned, and they stared in horror
at a good six VC in black,
AK-47's aimed at them. Even if they'd had their
weapons in hand they never
would have been able to kill them all before one of
them bought it, they
decided. Slowly they put hands on their heads, Knight
wincing when her
shoulder sent a stab of pain through her. They
shuffled to their knees.
One VC grabbed her shirt on her sore shoulder and
hauled her up and away
from him. Goldman tensed, but did not move. She was
shoved at two others who
laughed and caught her, holding her. The one who'd
tossed her neared her,
shouldered his weapon and while she glared reached out
a hand and grabbed one
breast as he made some comment that made his
companions roar with laughter.
"Bastard!" Shouted Goldman, lunging. "Get your
filthy hands off her!" He
tackled the man, and got a good three hits in before
the others reacted and
pulled him off, one of them using the butt of his
weapon to knock him out.
"Myron!" cried Knight, stepping forward,
remembered she was being held,
and cried out in pain when one of her captors pushed
hard on her sore shoulder
to get her on her knees.
Goldman blinked, faught the darkening of his
sight, and from somewhere far
away heard her cry out his name, and then cry out in
pain. She had called him
Anderson narrowed his eyes, stared at the tableau
before him. His LT was
out cold, and the VC had Lt. Knight bound with rope,
her hands behind her.
They were chattering away loudly as they pointed to
the destruction nearby, and
shoved Knight about. One of them went to LT, roughly
sat him up, and hit him
to wake him up. LT fell back, moved, and lifted a
hand to his face. Glancing
beside him he curiously glanced at Grizz.
Grizz growled low, and sneered. His LT had her
shirt ripped, and pain was
a grimace on her face. She was obviously hurt. He
didn't see any blood, which
relieved him somewhat. Goldman got his knees, and
glared at the enemy,
spatting out blood. These bastards were going to pay
Anderson nudged him, waved a hand slightly.
Grizz nodded, and turned to
his men. They would flank them, spread out, and
rescue the two LTs.
"You okay?" Goldman spoke.
"Just peachy," she tightly replied.
A VC snapped some order in Vietnamese, gave
Knight a backhand that sent
her falling back. Goldman pushed to his feet, and
doubled over when the butt
of a rifle caught him in the belly. He fell to his
knees, gasping for air,
fighting the nausea that threatened to make him throw
up. "I'll rip you to
shreds," he panted softly, glaring up at the man.
Two VC caught him, lifted him, and dragged him to
a fallen tree. They
tied him there. They dragged Knight near, but did not
tie her to the tree.
They made her stand before him, and one went behind
her, holding her by the
arms. She stood, staring ahead, teeth gritted.
Goldman watched one of the men
hand his weapon to another, and eye Knight. 'Oh God!
They're gonna beat
her!' he silently cried.
The man neared her, stood before her. Another
eyed Goldman. "If you do
not tell us what we want to know we will hurt her."
He spoke English! And very well. "Don't even
think it, Goldman!" she
snapped, eyes blazing.
For daring to speak she was given a blow to the
stomach. She groaned,
doubled over as far as she could with one man holding
her up. Gasping she
trembled, but then straightened. Chin lifted she
again stared straight ahead.
"He will not stop," the VC warned him. "How many
more Americans are out
here? Where are they?"
Goldman swallowed hard, eyes on Knight. How
could he live with himself if
he knew he'd caused this to happen to her? Her eyes
briefly met his, silently
ordering him to remain quiet. He must have taken too
long to reply because her
head snapped sideways from a punch to the jaw. A
trickle of blood escaped her
lip, and already slight swelling appeared on her jaw.
Jaw tight he fisted his
hands, and wanted to scream and rail at the world for
putting him in this
"Stop this," he hoarsely told the VC. "Take me
The man shook his head, grinned. "It will not
have same effect. We
realized you care for her. If we hurt you she might
not talk. But if you want
to save her you will talk." He shrugged. "My men
would prefer to rape her.
Should I let them?"
Goldman strained against his bonds. Oh God! Not
rape. Bad enough they
were hurting her, but if they decided to rape
her...... His stomach felt sick.
It roiled and twisted. His conscience struggled with
The VC knelt beside him. "Let us start easy.
Name and rank to start."
That he'd do. "2nd Lieutenant Myron Goldman."
His dark eyes flew to
Knight who unsuccessfully tried not to wince as the
man holding her jarred her
"Very good, Lieutenant," the VC nodded. "Now
"1st Lieutenant Skye Knight," he tightly replied.
The man's eyes widened some. "Ahhh... she is
your superior!" He spoke in
his native language, and the men laughed. "They find
this amusing that a woman
outranks you. She is pretty, yes? Even with all the
dirt. But she does not
like your kisses?"
Goldman glared. "Listen, let her go. She's a
woman, for God sakes!"
"Yes, one you are obviously attracted to, yes?"
The man rose, and his
amusement fled. "How many and where?"
He hesitated. If he told them they were alone
would they simply kill
them? Take them prisonner? He didn't know. What the
hell should he do? He
cursed when another punch got her in the face. "Stop
it!" he shouted. "Leave
"Perhaps this will entice you to tell us what we
want." The man turned to
Goldman tried to lunge, and gasped when his
restraints brought him right
back. They had thrown Knight to the ground, and two
men held her down as a
third ripped her shirt wide open.
Anderson caught the man before he could tear out
of their concealment and
give their position away. Half rolled atop Grizz he
growled in his ear.
"Won't be doin' her no good to go runnin' outta here
half-cocked. They'll kill
her and Goldman if you go out there as angry as you
are. Now don't get me
wrong, man, I'm not happy 'bout this none either, but
we have to move careful
or else...... or else risk her life. And you and me
both know we ain't ready
to do that."
Grizz pulled himself together, and gritted his
teeth. "I'll rip the
little bastards to shreds for this, Zeke."
Anderson nodded. "Yep, figured you would. Ain't
gonna stop ya, Grizz ole
Fox neared, careful not to make a sound. "Let me
go out there, Sarge.
You know I can do it. I can free Lt. Goldman."
Anderson doubtfully eyed him. Grizz grinned.
"We don't call him 'Fox'
for nothing, Zeke. Man could walk on seashells and
not make a damn sound!
He's quiet and sly. He'll free your LT."
Anderson nodded. "Your call, Grizz."
Fox didn't have to wait to hear it, he snuk out
before anyone knew it.
Going around he saw the VC were occupied with Lt.
Knight, and barely paid
attention to their backs and Goldman. Crawling like a
spider at top speed he
came up to the fallen tree, and began to saw the ropes
with his knife.
Goldman nearly jumped when he felt something
touch his arms. Not looking
back he felt something sawing at the ropes. Before
him Knight was struggling,
kicking and biting at the VC, cursing them with
language so foul he blushed
"Well, Lt? Do they continue, or do you talk?"
the leader asked.
Goldman felt the ropes give. "Go to hell," he
spat, and lunged, catching
the leader with an uppercut that made him wince
himself. Howling in rage he
leapt into the others.
Fox leapt over the tree, and into the fray.
Goldman was trying his best,
but he wasn't much in the hand-to-hand combat
department. Knight took
advantage of the fact the VC were distracted.
Bringing her legs up she wrapped
them around the neck of one, and squeezed. Screaming
he clawed at her legs,
but she gritted her teeth, and wouldn't let go.
Goldman grunted and fell to the ground, one VC
atop him. They struggled
with a knife he held. Problem was, he was on the
bottom, and the little guy
was stronger than he'd anticipated. Desperately
Goldman grabbed a handfull of
dirt and tossed it into the other's eyes. It worked,
and Goldman stabbed him
in the belly. Pushing him off he saw Anderson and a
group of others were now
into it also. Knight was only a few feet away. He
"Let him go, Skye," he told her. "He's out
cold." Carefully he eased her
legs apart to free the man. Helping her to a sitting
position he cut the rope
binding her. "You okay?"
"GodDAMN!" she cried out as her shoulder
protested, and fainted into his
"LT?" Sarge eyed them. "You okay?"
Goldman didn't reply right off. He drew Knight
more onto his lap, and
held her. His throat worked, and his eyes were
distant. Very gently he tried
to close her shirt, hide the exposed flesh the torn
material of the shirt and
tee didn't cover. When it didn't work he quickly
removed his own shirt and
placed it around her as best he could.
Anderson nodded, understood. Kneeling he touched
his Lt's arm. "She's
okay, LT. She's gonna be okay."
LT blinked. "Help me cover her up, Sargeant."
Grizz neared, watched the scene. "We should
radio for a chopper. Get
back to base. She'll want a shower and will need some
Goldman nodded, got up with help, Knight in his
arms. "Animals," he
cursed, walking away.
Grizz sighed. "That boy'll lose it if he ain't
"Boy's got a big heart, but he'll be fine. Hell,
we all get disgusted by
some of the things we see here. But we move on when
we have to. LT will too,"
"Come in," called LT, cleaning his cuts and
She entered, paused. "Hey."
Startled he stared at her. "Hey. How you
She shrugged. "I'm fine. Not like they got far.
Thanks, by the way, for
what you did."
Shaking his head he turned away. "I would have
told them anything to make
'em stop, Skye. I could take the beating if it was
me, but what they tried to
do, and what they did do......"
"God, LT, how can you still have so much heart
after all you've seen and
heard and lived through?" she shook her head. "There
was nothing to tell them,
Lips thinning, he shot her a vulnerable look,
shrugging because he
couldn't say anything yet. Running a hand through his
short golden-brown hair
he took a deep breath. "What they tried to do was
wrong. I couldn't do
anything else but tell them anything they wanted to
hear to try and save you."
"They would have raped me anyways," she told him.
Shoulders slumping he fell on his cot. "I know,"
he whispered, tormented.
Hesitating she debated going to him. Damn man
was getting to her! The
hurt and helplessness in his eyes, the torment in his
voice. He looked
defeated. Before she could think she was crouched
before him, looking up into
those dark, emotional eyes. "LT..... I don't blame
you at all. You have to
stop blaming yourself."
Rising angrily he paced. "They managed to sneak
up on us! Dammit! How
could I let that happen?"
She rose slowly, squared her shoulders. "You
were....... distracted. We
His eyes turned to her, and his pacing stopped.
"For what it's worth? I
don't regret what I did. When I kissed you, that is."
Shaking her head she held up a restraining hand.
"Stop right there, Lt.
That never should have happened, and it never will
"I heard you call me Myron," he told her, eyeing
her curiously. "When
they first hit me."
"You got hit in the head, you were dillusional,"
A blush warmed her cheeks, and he knew he hadn't
imagined it when she'd
shouted his name. "No. I heard it. Started to think
you had no idea what my
name is. But you do. Why is it so hard for you to
"I don't go around calling others by their given
names, Lt." She turned,
and marched out.
"What?" she demanded, tired of the measuring
stares Grizz was giving her.
Shrugging he shook his head. "Nothing, LT." He
waited until her
attention was back to the reports before her. "You
ever call Lt. Goldman by
his given name?"
Stunned she dropped her pen, and stared at him.
"What the hell is this,
His lips quirked. "Well? Do ya?"
"Why should I?" she grumbled, going back to the
"Even know what it is?" he asked, pressing.
"Yes," she tried to concentrate.
"Really? What is it?" he dared.
Sighing she lifted her face, met his amused gaze.
"Lt. Myron Goldman.
"Not yet," he was fighting his amusement. "Just
Myron would be fine."
Eyes narrowing she bared her teeth. "Myron.
There I said it."
"Not to me, to HIM!" he told her.
"Specialist, I'm trying to write out this damn
report!" she snapped, face
One brow arched. "Rank's Sargeant, LT."
"Not if you keep this up, Specialist!" she
Shrugging he headed for the exit. Pausing he
glanced back. "Betcha can't
do it. Say it to him. If you do it means you're
letting him get close. And
you can't do that 'cause he's a nice looking man and
has a big heart and is
obviously interested. Saw the kiss," he grinned.
Rising slowly she headed for the exit, making it
farther than he did. "I
need a coffee," she growled, exiting.
He followed her. "You like him."
"Go away, Grizz!" she warned.
"You liked the kiss."
She walked more angrily, more tensely. "Going
away NOW would be a real
good idea, Grizz!"
"Myron,." he said. "My-ron! Myron!"
Twirling she practically sizzled and hissed.
"GO AWAY NOW BEFORE I
FORGET I LIKE YOU AND HIT YOU, YOU PUSHY OLD
GOAT!!!!!!" Twirling she marched
off again, and snapped at a soldier who hadn't gotten
out of her way fast
Grizz chuckled, glanced over to find Anderson
curiously staring. Laughing
out loud he headed for his hootch. "BETCHA
CAN'T!!!!!!" he shouted over his
" GO TO HELL, OLD MAN!!" she shouted back. "I
CAN DO WHATEVER I DAMN
WELL FEEL LIKE DOING!"
" HA!" he shot.
She let out a growl and kept going, disappearing
from view. Soldiers
leapt out of her way when they saw how her eyes
blazed, and how she fairly
Goldman and Captain Wallace peered out the CP,
curious about all the
shouting. "Sargeant!" Goldman called to Anderson.
"What's going on out here?"
Anderson shrugged. "Hell if I know, Sir!"
Turning he headed away.
"Hey, Grizz!" Anderson caught the other man's
attention, and lengthened
his stride to catch up to him. "What was all that
about earlier? Between you
and the LT?"
Chuckling Grizz shrugged, shouldered his weapon.
He always wore a green
kerchief on his head to keep the sun off his balding
pate. "Just a little
goading, Zeke. I figured out something. My LT likes
your LT. She won't admit
it, even to herself. Which is why she won't call him
by his given name. Makes
Anderson nodded. "I can understand that. She
went through a world o'
hurt when she lost her man in Sommalia."
Grizz scowled, stared ahead. He remembered that
night. "Not to speak ill
of the dead an' all, but the Cap'ain was a good
officer, and a lousy fiance.
But she won't admit that either. He loved her, don't
get me wrong, but..... he
had an itch no one woman could reach."
"I hear ya," stated Anderson. "You want her to
get over him."
Grizz paused, squinted into the sun, and then
looked at his new friend.
"Zeke, we been around, you and me. We seen alot,
experienced alot. Probably a
hell of alot more than most men our age. You ever
Anderson nodded. "Once. Got me a little girl,
too. Katie. Her mama
"Then you know the importance of moving on. What
good's it gonna do to
cling to something you know ain't there no more? I
had me two wives, Zeke. No
kids. LT is like my daughter. Love her to death.
And she can't live like
this. Not grievin' over some man's memory for years.
Time she lived again,
felt again. And your LT is the man to get her feeling
again. Problem is to
make her admit she's feeling at all!"
"Hey, Eagle!" called Claymore. "Mail's in!"
Percell arched a brow. "Why y'all call him
"'Cause he can see like one," said ETA. "Man can
see a speck of dust
floating in the dark! Ain't never seen a pair of eyes
like he's got."
"Call me Fox 'cause I'm so sneaky. I do all the
jobs of infiltration.
That's my MOS. I can get close when none others can.
That's ETA, he could
tell you the time of day in a blizzard with one eye
blind! Claymore's got this
talent with explosives. He and the LT are good at
that. They could blow up
your pocket without hurting you none. Mack is one
hell of a driver and one of
the best grunts I ever saw. He'd dive on a grenade to
save the squad. He
handles the radio and can read a map soaking wet and
with half the map falling
apart. He remembers terrain. Got a map in his head
ain't no one can get rid
of. Grizz, the Sarge, he's like a big ole bear. Piss
him off and he'll claw
you to shreds. Don't wake up the bear, man."
Ruiz shook his head. "What's the LT like, man?
She don't say much."
"Would you if your fiance was blown to ribbons
beside you?" asked Mack.
"She's cool, man. Give her time. She's tough, but
won't send a man out to do
what she can't do herself. Sarge's got alot of
respect for her. We all do.
But they're real close, like father and daughter.
Right now she's still trying
to get her bearings here."
Just then she came around a tent, and neared
them. "Boys! I heard the
mail was in."
"'Morning, LT!" Taylor greeted, flashing a wide
She grinned back. "Hide them teeth, Taylor.
Save 'em for blinding
Charlie, not me."
"You got a few letters here, LT," Horne told her,
holding out a few
"Thanks, Horne." She took them, eyed them all.
"Listen... I like to get
to know the people I work with. Tonight, mess tent.
I'll buy the coffee."
"Sounds good!" nodded Percell.
"Good, 20:30 hrs," she went off.
A string of curses caught Captain Wallace's
attention. He'd gone out to
get some food, and was headed back to the CP when the
sound halted him.
Glancing around he saw her marching towards him.
Halting she looked up. "Sir, can we talk?"
"Captain?" Goldman stuck his head out the CP.
"Just got a call of a
chopper about 5 minutes out. A new recruit arriving."
She mumbled to herself. "Sir? Permission to
shoot the recruit if she
doesn't head back to The World?"
Both men stared at her in dismay. "Lt?" Wallace
Raking a hand over her face she groaned. "It's
the recruit, Sir. She's
my fiance's sister. And I don't know if I handle her
He thought a moment. "I'm sorry, Lt. Handle
Pvt. Maurer paused from digging, and eyed her two
companions. "If one
more soldier looks at me like I'm dessert I'm gonna
cut his eyes out."
Corporal Haler used a grimy arm to wipe grimy
sweat off her forehead.
"Looking isn't as bad as doing what some of them might
be thinking, Pvt."
Maurer sneered. "You sure like using rank, don't
you, Corporal Coward?"
The third woman, a stocky blond, frowned. "Leave
her alone, Maurer.
Hell, I nearly dirtied myself that night too."
"Not me, Carter. I ain't like you wusses."
Maurer went back to digging.
"Hell, all we do here is dig and wire and do KP duty."
The blond frowned. "Well, I for one, don't mind
that to going out there
in the bush. Ain't you seen the bodies brought back?
Ain't you heard what
goes on out there? I'd rather dig a trench than dig
someone's grave, or have
someone dig mine."
Haler glared at Maurer. "Look, I made Corporal,
okay? Not my fault
you're just a Pvt. You don't hear Carter whining
about her rank. She wants to
work her way up, like all of us."
Maurer snorted. "Like you did? Right."
Haler was getting fed up with all this. "Hey, I
did what I had to do, and
so what if I got ROTC at school? We're all here, and
the LT is right, we're a
squad, and we need to work together."
Maurer laughed, humourlessly. "Save me the
Corporal." She used the rank like a curse. "When
all's said and done you two
pansies will eating a bullet, and I'll be working my
way up to Sargeant."
Haler shook with anger. "Just dig, Private!"
Carter eyed Haler curiously. She, herself,
preferred Haler. She was
soft-spoken, but she did have guts. Maurer was just a
mean loud-mouth who was
angry at the world. "Don't pay no mind to her, Cathy.
Let her rot in her own
"Ladies!" Percell carried canteens. "Brought
y'all some water."
Haler blushed. "Thanks, Danny."
"Thanks, Danny..." mimicked Maurer with a sneer.
Percell scowled. "You got a problem, Pvt?" he
demanded in his best
Maurer snorted, turned away. "Just a problem
with sucks, Corporal."
Haler sighed. "She's got a beef with the world,
and we're her target."
Percell glared at the black woman. "If you need
help with her let me
know. Or tell any of the Sarges and LTs."
Carter grinned when he marched off. "He's cute.
Me? I personally think
Ruiz is cuter. But Percell is right for you, Cathy."
Haler blushed. "Nothing like that, Becky. He's
just a nice guy."
"All the more reason for you to grab him," Carter
told her, winked.
"C'mon, let's build our arm muscles. We still got
lots of digging to do."
Goldman, Anderson, and Grizz watched her angrily
pace near the helipad.
She was muttering to herself, body stiff and tense.
"Captain Boyd had a
sister, this cute little thing. They were twins."
his head. "This is gonna screw the LT up. After he
died and after the funeral
she pretty much stayed away from his family. Too many
"Yeah, well, this isn't gonna help." Goldman
A chopper cleared the trees, and was nearing.
When it hovered above the
landing zone they all turned away with an arm up to
shield themselves from the
dust and debris flying. Once the recruit was off the
huey lifted, and headed
out. Knight straightened, and watched the slim woman
in fatigues near.
"Pvt Erika Boyd reporting for duty, Lt." The
Knight didn't speak right away. It even took
her a minute to salute
back. "What the hell is this all about, Erika?" Same
eyes, same color of
hair, same features, only hers were more feminine. It
was like seeing Eric all
over again. And it hurt.
"I enlisted, Sir." She grinned. "I remember you
never did like Ma'am."
Knight's jaw tightened. Her eyes crackled.
"GRIZZ!" she shouted. "Show
the Pvt. to the tent. I've got things to do."
Twirling on a heel she stiffly
Pvt Boyd shook her head. Hiding was what the Lt
was obviously doing.
Running from a part of her life she had to face sooner
"Pvt?" Grizz touched her arm. "There's a tent
for you women. Keep you
away from the men. Follow me. She'll be free later.
She has a meeting with
the Captain. The other first Lt was killed in a
mortar attack a while back,
and she now has to take over his duties."
She nodded. "Thank you, Sargeant."
"Who's the Cherry?" asked Maurer, watching the
Sarge lead a new woman to
"No idea," Haler replied, frowning.
"Huh, she looks like she's as brave as the rest
of you," the black woman
"One of these days, Maurer someone's gonna shut
that mouth of yours up,"
"You?" snorted Maurer. "Get real. You couldn't
shut the tent flap if it
Haler had had enough. "No..... me." And her
fist flew out, catching the
tall woman in the chin and sending her sprawling back
on her butt in the dirt.
"I've had it with your attitude, Pvt. You think
you're so damn hot? We'll see
how hot you are when we're in the bush."
Carter's jaw fell, and she had to snap it shut.
"Damn, girl! Where'd you
learn to hit like that?"
Haler drew herself up to her full height. "My
dad. He's a boxer."
"You ladies done?"
Maurer shot to her feet, and the other two drew
themselves up. Lt.
Knight stared down at them. "What's this all about?"
"Guts, Sir," Haler replied. "Showing we have
some. Some of us are
doubting the courage of the others."
Knight let her gaze fall on each of them slowly.
it stopped on Maurer.
"Well, I got good news and bad news. Good news is
you'll get to show your
courage in the bush. We leave in the morning. A full
two days of snooping and
pooping. Bad news is..... Maurer you'll be carrying
the radio. An extra few
pounds shouldn't dampen that strength of yours.
You'll be by me, and if you
screw up once, just once, I'll shoot you myself. You
got that, Pvt?"
"Yessir!" snapped Maurer, lips curling in a
Knight smiled. "Good. Get to work, ladies."
"Hey, LT?" Taylor neared her. "Cool idea to
meet like this."
Knight smiled. "Thanks, Taylor. Go on in." Men
filed past her and into
the mess tent. She finally entered. "Okay, men! And
ladies. I'm Lt Skye
Knight. First off, I don't like Ma'am. Sir or LT or
Lt is best. Secondly, I
don't take no crap from anyone, and I'm asking all of
you to respect the women
in this unit. You'll have to deal with me if anyone
hurts any of them. You
don't want that. Trust me."
She motioned to the table that had a huge coffee
perculator, one of those
big silver ones, and plates of cookies. "Eat up,
soldiers. I got those
special for tonight."
As they mingled she took the time to answer
questions, and talk to each
soldier. After an hour she came face to face with
Boyd. "How could you do
this, Erika? Wasn't losing Eric enough?"
"Army runs in the family, Lt. You know that,"
Knight shook her head. "You were supposed to
stay in the States, get
married, and have babies. Dammit, Pvt! I don't need
Boyd sighed. "I didn't do this to torture you.
They sent me here."
"Well, it is torture. God, Eric must be rolling
in his grave! How in
hell did your parents take this news?" she demanded.
"Mom passed away four months ago. I wrote to
tell you. The letter was
returned," she accused. "And Tommy is out here
Tommy, her baby brother, 23 years old. "Oh God!"
She turned away.
"We're heading out tomorrow for a few days, Erika. I
don't like this. I don't
like this one bit. But I can't send you back."
Boyd nodded, lips tight. "Then let's work out a
truce, Lt. I'm here, and
I'm not going anywhere. Live with it."
Knight glared. "Just you live, Pvt. If I have
to bring one more Boyd
home in a bodybag....." Shaking her head she left the
It had been a long day. In his boxers only
Goldman looked forward to
crawling into his cot and getting some sleep. Getting
beneath the scratchy
blanket he rolled to his side, and yawned, eyes
He ignored the soft call from the area of his
"LT? You awake?"
Sighing he never moved or opened his eyes. "No.
I'm asleep. Now go
She entered quietly, and crouched by his
cot. "Goldman? I need to talk."
"Fine, talk. Don't get insulted if I start
snoring during your one-sided
conversation." He snuggled deeper under the blanket.
She gently shook him. "Goldman? You hear
His eyes flared, and he stared right ahead.
He didn't answer.
She shook him again. "Goldman!" Her teeth
gritted. "MYRON!" she hissed,
shaking him. "I need to talk to you!"
Swatting her hand away he rolled onto his
side. "Can't this wait? It's
2200 hrs! I had a long day, and I'm tired!"
"It's about Pvt. Boyd," she began. "I don't
know if I can handle..."
It hit him them. What she had called him.
Myron. Pushing up on an elbow
he leaned forward towards her. "You called me Myron!"
Blinking she paused. Had she? Putting hand
to his forehead she pushed
him back down. "Go back to sleep, Lt. You're
Pushing back up he shook his head. "No, no
I'm not. I HEARD you! You
said Myron." He grinned. "That all I had to do to
hear you say it? Let you
sneak into my hootch at night?"
Jumping to her feet she glared down at him.
"I've got a real problem here,
and you want to discuss given names?"
Lying back he grinned smugly, head pillowed on
one arm, the other thrown
carelessly over his bare chest. "What about Pvt.
Boyd? And I heard you right,
"You were dreaming, and she's Eric's sister. I
can't..." She deflated.
"Eric was my Captain in Sommalia....."
Damn, this was serious! Sitting up he tugged
her down to sit on the cot.
"Your fiance? That new recruit is his sister? I'm
sorry, Skye. I didn't
"Maybe I can get her transferred?" she asked
"But should you? At least here you can keep
an eye on her," he advised,
rubbing her arm soothingly. "Lord knows where she'd
end up if you sent her
She deflated more. "You're right. She could end
up in the rear."
"No guarantee," he told her, shaking his head.
"Once you send her out
she's fair game for wherever the Brass want her to be.
She could be sent
further to the front."
Groaning she dropped her chin to her chest.
"What am I gonna do? She
looks so much like him! I don't want to relive Eric's
death every time I look
at her, Myron."
"Maybe you need someone else to think about,"
he whispered, drew closer.
God he enjoyed hearing his name come off her lips,
especially in the dark.
She snapped back to reality when she noticed
his arm was around her, and
his stubbled face nuzzled her ear, sending shivers
racing up and down her spine
and to every limb. His hot breath teased her. Eyes
flaring she shoved him
away, jumping to her feet and away from the cot.
"GOLDMAN!!!" she cried,
fighting a racing heart and heat flooding her.
When she shoved he fell back, rolling feet
over head off the cot that also
tipped. Pulling himself up some he sighed to watch
her storm out. "Well...
that went well!" Fixing his cot he got inside it
again. "I think I'll stick
"Sargeant?" she called.
Grizz nodded, and marched to the men and women
lined up. Slowly and
carefully he looked them all over. "Squad's ready,
Knight nodded. "Good. Get 'em loaded, Sgt."
She saw Wallace and Goldman
watching from a little ways off. Turning she headed
for one of the choppers.
"Maurer! You're with me. You stick to me like a
leetch, Pvt. You got that?"
Goldman squinted into the sun as the choppers
lifted and soared off.
Wallace sighed. "Except for a few VC
stragglers seen around it's a pretty
routine mission, Myron. Nothing to worry about."
Goldman glanced at him. "Yessir. I'm not
worried about the men or Lt.
Knight, Captain. It's the women in the squad that
"Well, they'll get some experience, and find
out how tough they are."
Wallace turned back for the CP.
Goldman nodded. "Or how fast they can get
killed," he sighed.
"This all we're gonna do all day?" whispered
Maurer testily. "Walk?"
"Anyone ask you to talk, Pvt?" demanded
Knight. "I don't remember anyone
asking for you to talk."
Grizz chuckled. "Don't go askin' for trouble,
Pvt. Trouble is always a
shadow following close by."
"I hear that!" smiled Fox. "I think I married
it a year ago too!"
Knight shook her head, kept walking. "Okay,
let's take five while I
check the map."
As the others rested she and Grizz and Mack
looked over the map, discussed
the terrain and how best to move ahead. Gunshots
erupted, and Carter cried out
as she fell. Everyone hit the ground, and took cover.
"Simple snoop and poop?" shouted Grizz. "Who
told you that, LT?"
She tossed him an annoyed glance, and let a
few rounds out. "Who's hit?"
"Carter is, Sir!" called Boyd. "She got hit
in the leg." She pulled
Carter behind a stump. "You okay, Carter?" She took
out some bandages, and
tried to stem the flow of blood.
Haler changed clips, and saw movement to her
left. Turning she held her
weapon up and fired, rewarded with a dying shout.
Further off Maurer stared
with wide eyes. Haler had saved her life, and now the
Cpl turned back to the
Knight glanced over. "Claymore!"
"Yessir!" he returned, and from his position
behind a tree released a
There soon was no return fire, and Grizz
ordered a cease-fire. Knight
turned to the women as Grizz and Fox went to look for
survivors and sweep the
area. "Boyd? Carter? Maurer? Haler?"
"Carter's injured, but the rest of us are
fine, LT!" Haler called back.
Knight neared Carter. "How is it?"
Boyd looked up. "She'll need medical
attention. I stopped the flow of
blood, but I can't do much more out here."
"Good job, Pvt. Carter, we'll evac you." She
turned away. "Eagle, take
Haler and one more man and evac the Pvt."
Grizz returned. "Nothing. A few bodies, but
nothing else. No blood
trail. I think they dee-deed as soon as it got too
hot for them and they lost
She nodded. "Mack?"
He neared. "About 7 klicks due east we should
reach a spot to rest for
the night. I can tell Haler and Eagle how to find us."
"Let's move out," she said. "I don't want to
stick around and wait for
more of them to find us."
Haler saw the men were ready, Carter between
them. She'd take point. She
listened to Mack outline how to find them afterwards.
Nodding to Knight she
Knight took the radio. "I'll radio for an
evac to meet them." She eyed
Maurer. "You're looking a little pale there, Pvt."
Maurer shook. "Yessir."
A healthy dose of reality wasn't going to hurt
Pvt. Maurer, decided
Knight. It could kill her if she didn't watch
herself. Right now she was
quiet and humbled, keeping a very close eye on the
area as they filed down a
small path, the jungle so thick they could not cut
through it without alerting
the enemy, if he was out there, that they were here.
"Red-Dog 2-6, this is Red-wing 6."
Knight stopped, and took the radio Maurer held
out. "Red-Wing 6, this is
2-6. We are about 5 klicks from the appointed area.
What do you spy from your
"2-6... no movement apparent. You're clear, 2-6.
We're headin' out.
"Roger that, 6. 2-6 out!" She handed the radio
back. "Okay, let's keep
moving. We don't want to take any chances. Jungle's
thick out here."
Grizz nodded and waved the men and women on.
Haler kept a close eye on the jungle, only
sometimes glancing back to be
sure the others were still in view. Coming around a
bend she halted and
crouched, holding up a fist. The others halted, got
down. Eagle silently went
up to her. "What is it?" he barely spoke.
Silently she pointed ahead. "I saw movement.
Heard a twig snap."
He grinned, and put a hand on her shoulder. "Got
yourself an eagle-eye
Just then a man in black pyjamas came out, and
behind him came a few more.
They glanced around, and Haler and Eagle shrank back
slowly. Eagle tapped her
shoulder and nodded ahead. She nodded, lifted the
muzzle of her weapon higher,
and took sight. He did so also, over her shoulder.
They waited, breath bated.
There seemed to be only the three.
"Take the first, and I'll take the last. One
shot, in the head, oughta do
it." He was whispering at her ear so as not to be
heard by the VC. She
nodded, bent lower over the weapon, and let one shot
go. Not a second later
Eagle's single shot was heard. Then he let a second
fly at the third man.
Quick and simple, no retaliation.
She took in a deep breath. "My first kill."
Eagle eyed her closely. "It's them or you,
Haler. Always remember that,
and you'll be okay. War is dirty. It ain't throwing
punches, it's spillin'
blood. Them or you. You did good. Make a marksman
outta you yet, girl!"
She nodded, but her stomach still felt queasy
after seeing the back of the
man's head blow away. She watched Eagle search the
bodies and kept half an eye
on the area, in case any others waited in the shadows.
"Let's move," he said, motionning to the others.
"Take point again,
Boyd stiffled a yawn and blinked her eyes. This
keeping watch business
was boring as all hell! She'd only started, and
already she was having to
fight to keep alert.
"Keep alert, Pvt!" Knight knelt with her, and
glared. "I know this isn't
fun, but if you don't keep alert you could get us all
"I know that, Lt." She shrugged, rotating her
shoulders. "Y'know, this
makes me wonder how Eric made Captain and you Lt!
It's one extreme to another:
first you get shot at and then you sit like a bump on
"Were I you, Pvt I'd wish for more of the
sitting. Getting shot at is no
party." Knight rose and moved off.
Boyd sighed, and blinked again, rotating her
shoulders. She kept an eye
on the jungle, knew any time now the others should be
returning, and hoping she
didn't mistake the VC or NVA for their squad members.
Maurer silently hurried to the Lt. "It's Bravo
Knight took the radio. "Bravo 2-6, this is
Goldman's voice broke the static. "2-6, we're
about 3 klicks to your
sierra. Heading to your november. Will meet up with
you for the night. Over."
She almost blushed at that. "2-6, say again? I
thought this was a solo?
"Duet now, 2-6. Reports of heavy
November-Victor-Alpha in the area. 6
decided to send out re-inforcements. 2-6 out."
She sighed, "roger, 2-6. Out." Handing the
radio back she cast Grizz a
look. "Get extra, experienced security out at the
perimeter. I don't want
cherries blasting Bravo or our own squad."
Nodding he moved out. She ran a hand over her
face, let out a few graphic
curses under her breath. Great! Just when she
thought she could forget about
Goldman and spend a few days out in the bush here he
was! For the night? Just
"Lt!" softly called Boyd. She smiled to see the
rest of the squad
members, minus Carter, return.
Knight hurried over. "Eagle, we got Bravo
meeting up with us. Heavy NVA
sightings in the area. Make sure no one shoots 'em by
Eagle grinned. "Got one hell of a soldier here
with Haler, LT! She
spotted two ragged bands of VC, and we disposed of
'em. Found these." He
handed her some papers. "In Vietnamese, but from what
I can gather they're
plans to meet up somewhere around here."
She stared down at the papers, cursing, as he
moved off. Haler went to
eat, and check on the other women. Turning she nearly
bumped into Grizz. "Did
you hear from that far back, Sgt?"
Grinning he shrugged. "Gettin' old, y'know.
Mind repeatin' what it was?"
"Go to hell," she snapped.
"Testy, aren't we, LT? Would it have anything to
do with Bravo sharing
our little piece of the Promise Land here for the
She eyed his amused smirk and the glint in his
eyes. "Sgt, I think it's
time you had more duties to perform. How 'bout ..."
Chuckling he shook his head. "Perimeter is
secure, and got men digging.
Why? Something to do. I'll go help Eagle." He moved
She turned as Bravo entered their cleared spot.
Goldman saw her and
headed her way. "Lt," she greeted, nodding. "How was
"Ran into a few roaming bands of VC. That's why
we're late. Nothing big,
but..... A platoon ran into a heavy number of NVA this
morning. They were
slaughtered. When they didn't check in word went out.
The Captain decided to
send us out to rendez-vous with you. We have orders
to find the NVA."
She held out the papers Eagle had given her.
"Plans. Looks like Charlie
is having a party around here somewhere."
He squinted in the fading light to see them.
"Looks like. We'll rest for
the night, and head out at first light?"
She nodded. "Sounds good. My men will take
first watch. Give you boys
time to rest some."
"Lose anyone?" he asked, reluctant to stop their
converstion. "I lost a
few. Evacked them."
"Carter was shot, but she'll live. Other than
that I think we'll be
okay," she glanced around.
"We should prepare some plan for tomorrow. Don't
want to go out there
blind, and risk us shooting at each other." He
motionned to a spot where they
Grizz and Anderson joined them, and all four bent
their heads over a map
and planned. She called Mack over, and he either
agreed with a route, or
disagreed. He also tried to see which way the enemy
would go. After a good
hour they were ready to settle down for the night.
Most of them were curled up against trees or
stumps or back to back, a few
stretched out on the ground. Knight yawned, and
hugged her knees, head
resting back against a tree. Something wet hit her
cheek, and she frowned,
opening her eyes just as the rain began to pelt them
hard. Cursing softly she
pulled her cape more around herself, and huddled
deeper into it.
Someone came around her, crouched beside her, and
a familiar voice spoke.
"I'm fine," she whispered back. "Thought you
were asleep, Lt?"
"I don't usually shower in my sleep," he quipped.
The flare of a light
shielded by a hand made her blink as he lit a
cigarette. "The rain woke me."
"I know the feeling," she sighed. "Is it just
me, or is it actually
"A little," he replied. "The heat will hit again
with a vengeance after
the rain stops."
She sighed. Somewhere, far in the distance, the
sounds of a mortar attack
echoed. God, how she hated this place! The heat,
the humidity, the stench of
rotting vegetation and death. Shivering, not from
cold, but more from the
emotional load this place and this situation pressed
onto her she suddenly felt
the insatiable urge to laugh and cry all at once.
"This your first war?"
His eyes turned to her at the sound of her voice.
"Yeah. Why? Does it
She trembled. "No. You're a good officer. This
is my second."
Swallowing hard she stared unseeing into the dark.
"There's this smell to
every war, Myron. This same smell. Kinda like.....
brimstone and madness and
He tossed his cigarette away, and shifted closer
to her. "Skye..."
Worried about her he opened his cape, wrapped his arms
around her, and held the
cape closed around them both. "Get some sleep, Skye."
He could feel her
trembling. One of those core-deep shakings. It made
her teeth rattle softly.
His hold tightened, and his own teeth gritted.
it go, Skye. Let it go."
"What the hell are we doing here?" she whispered.
He shook his head, pulling her closer, resting
his chin on the top of her
head. "Our duty."
"Already did mine once," she whispered. "My duty
changed my life forever.
It'll change yours too, and there isn't a damn thing
you can do about it."
She paused a second. "Soldiers are bad risks, Myron.
And I can't lose another
"Shhhh......" He shut his eyes. "Go to sleep.
You're a damn good
soldier, Skye. A good officer. I admire you for
that. And I'm lucky, I don't
plan to go anywhere anytime soon."
Silence fell on the group. The only sounds were
the raindrops hitting
their capes, hitting the vegetation and ground. The
occasional sleep-sigh, the
soft snore of a few, and the shifting of soldiers on
Goldman's eyes snapped open when a hand shook
him, a voice a harsh whisper
at his ear. Blinking he scowled. Anderson's face was
near his. Anderson held
a finger up to his lips to indicate silence. "Eagle
and Johnson spotted a
whole battalion of NVA regulars and a few officers
heading this way, moving
Knight shifted in the Lt's arms, and pulled free.
Grizz ran over in a crouch, knelt by them. "LT!
Percell and Fox spotted
about 30 VC heading this way. They're close. Real
Goldman's jaw tightened. "Get the men down under
cover and quiet. We'll
let 'em all pass. There are too many to risk a
Knight nodded. "No time to waste. Get moving,
Sgts." As she put her
cape away she glanced at Goldman. "About last
Everywhere soldiers were quickly and silently
putting away anything that
could make noise, erasing any evidence of their
presence. "It's okay. We all
She touched his arm. "Thanks."
His dark eyes met hers, and he swallowed as he
nodded. Turning away he
went back to his work. Knight moved off. "Turn off
the radios!" she softly
hissed. "We don't want any noise alerting them.
Maurer.... follow me."
Goldman motionned Eagle and Johnson over. "Take
Ruiz and Mack....
position yourselves somewhere where if you're needed
to put crossfire you can.
Get down, and under cover, and wait. If you hear
Johnson nodded, and they moved off. Before long
four soldiers left the
area, moving silently yet swiftly. The others rushed
to find cover under
bushes, and behind trees, lying flat, holding their
breaths, keeping an eye out
on the path ahead.
Maurer shivered, and swallowed hard. She could
SEE their legs just ahead.
So many of them! They seemed to go on forever! God!
She felt like puking!
Beside her Lt. Knight moved only her eyes, the rest of
her so still she barely
breathed. Only her strength kept Maurer from sobbing
out loud and running off
Haler shut her eyes for a second, shakily
moistening her lips. Sweat
stung her eyes, and dampened her uniform, making her
itchy. How she wished she
Boyd slowly let out her breath, and inhaled just
as slowly, afraid she was
making too much noise doing even that. How many pairs
of legs had gone by now?
She'd lost count after twelve. And Eric had loved the
military? He must have
been insane. Then again, she'd enlisted so she had to
be insane too!
Anderson's eyes flicked back and forth almost
madly, edgily. He lay
still, but was tense and ready for anything. Beside
him Goldman craddled his
weapon under him, his chin resting on the muzzle. He
swallowed hard, but
Across the way the others watched with bated
breath as the VC and NVA met
in the path. They faced each other, and two of them,
one from each group,
began to talk. Eagle blinked away sweat and kept his
eye on the sight of his
weapon. He had the leader of the NVA in his sight,
and his arm, the one with
the finger on the trigger, was tense and ready.
Knight had her breath regulated, and blinked
several times, sweat dripping
down her face. So many legs, some in the NVA colors,
some in black. All right
in front of her, just a few feet away. 'Just finish
with the howdies and get
goddamn moving!' she thought. If a battle erupted now
they could face some
very heavy casualties. They began to move. She
breathed a mental sigh of
Rolling over onto her back Knight let out a sigh.
She grinned when
Goldman neared and knelt beside her. "I never want to
see so many of them that
close up again."
Chuckling softly he held out a hand, helped her
up. "I know the feeling."
Rising she sighed again. "We need to follow
Grizz and Anderson neared just as Maurer bent
over near a tree and lost
her breakfast. "Fox and Percell are following them."
"Let's get these men and women ready to move
out," she ordered. "Maybe
we'll be lucky, find the little bastards, and let
Artie handle it."
Goldman pulled out a map. "Or the birds." He
lit a cigarette. "Once Fox
and Percell get back we can figure out the best
She leaned in closer, looking over the map with
"Damn!" breathed Percell, blinking in dismay.
Fox almost let out a whistle. Below them was an
abandonned village, and
the NVA and VC were carrying out boxes of ammo and
weapons. Some kind of trade
was going on. There had to be well over 100 of them
all together, in black and
the tan of the army. "Time we got back and told the
"I hear that!" whispered Percell.
They turned, and froze. A good six weapons were
trained on them. One of
the NVA was spatting a volley of words at them,
reaching out to take their
weapons, and haul them up.
Fox glared. "I think we're in trouble."
Percell could only snort at
She paced. "Something's wrong. Let's move out."
Goldman caught her arm. "We don't know which way
to go, and you're too
edgy to go anywhere. They haven't been gone that...."
She shot him a glare. "I know Fox. Something is
wrong. I'm going. You
gonna wait or go?"
He scowled as he put his pot on. "Going. Sgts
get these soldiers moving."
They found the village. Sarge and Grizz came
back from getting a closer
look. "They have Fox and Percell, beat 'em up pretty
bad. LT..." Anderson
paused, took a few breaths. "They could know we're
He hated to admit it, but nodded. "I'm all up
Grizz flicked his gaze towards Knight who had
been silent. Too silent.
"LT?" he softly urged.
She lifted her eyes off the ground, and met his.
"I refuse to lose a
man, let alone two."
"So.... what do you suggest?" asked Goldman.
"Fox was our sneak, and he's taken," reminded
"I need to see it, get a layout of the ville,"
she whispered, mostly to
herself. "I think Claymore and I can distract them."
Goldman shook his head, caught at her arm. "Are
you listening to
yourself? Do you know what you're saying?"
"With all due respect, Lt..... you're talking
walking in there when not
even a rat can get past the guards," added Anderson.
Grizz nodded. "I'm with Zeke here on this one,
LT. You're talking
Her eyes snapped fire, and her lips curled. "So
what do you want, huh?
We call the birds and let our men fry?" Shaking her
head she rose, and glared
at them. "I'm going to take a look."
Goldman gritted his teeth. "You know her best,
Grizz sighed, ran a tired hand over his face.
Something's been bothering her, and she's trying to
run from it by taking
foolish chances." He bowed his head. "Anyone of us
would crack under all
she's been through."
Anderson touched his shoulder. "Hey, Grizz,
ain't nobody saying she ain't
a good officer. We all get tired. She's just needin'
Grizz sighed, a deep and heavy sound. "God,
Zeke, I hope you're right."
"LT?" softly whispered Claymore, putting down his
binoculars. "What do
Knight hesitated. "It's tight, but..... I'm
thinking that hut of ammo
would work. Get them scrambling. Someone can cut the
men loose while they're
still running around like chickens with their heads
Claymore nodded. "Problem is getting past the
guards." His lips thinned.
"I ain't looking forward to a repeat of........ "
She set her binoculars down. Blinking she shook.
Sommalia. The things
they'd had to do to survive. Christ, they were all a
little crazy after that!
"With your shield or on it......"
Claymore swallowed hard, and nodded.
"Aye.....let's do it."
"This is crazy!" softly hissed Goldman, watching
her prepare. He got a
shiver, a deep down cold shiver that tickled his soul.
"Don't do this, Skye."
She'd changed the minute her decision was made. The
woman was gone. Now what
remained was this icy and unemotional shell. Blank
eyes, blank face, cold
purpose. He caught her arm, made her face him, but
those eyes were dead.
"Don't-do-this!" he softly stressed.
"LT?" Grizz stood before the men. "We're ready,"
he said, voice devoid of
"With your shield or on it," she whispered,
turned from Goldman and pulled
out her knife.
"It's a good day to die," one of them said.
Boyd shivered, and felt her stomach flip over.
Was this what Skye had had
to be to survive the night they were overrun and she
lost Eric? The thought
she might turn out to be like that scared her to her
very soul. She'd never
noticed that kind of killer attitude to Eric or Skye
before. They were often
withdrawn, but not like this. This was like setting
your humanity aside to be
some kind of deadly demon. Would God forgive that?
Anderson swallowed hard. The sudden change as
they painted their faces
and dropped weapons to use knives and wires. This was
seeing people he'd
considered friends in a whole new light. He'd been a
soldier and been here
long enough to know you did what you had to do to stay
alive, but..... He'd
known a few assassins, and they made his blood run
cold. This made his blood
Pausing every few steps to be sure no one had
heard Knight flicked a few
fingers, and Claymore moved past her as she kept an
eye out. He went so far,
froze, and motionned to her. Off to their right were
a few more, as well as to
their left. Split into groups of two, they moved
closer and closer. This was
how they had remained alive in Sommalia. Silent
killers. Get close, quietly
rid the guards, and do what you had to do. Get out,
and then slaughter them.
Ignore the blood and guts you wore of the people you
had had to kill, and move
to the next. One at a time, slow and quiet, and move
in more. Slow and easy.
Her nostrils flared, and her eyes caught the
movement of one NVA who
negligently held his weapon shouldered. His mistake.
When he got before her
where she crouched behind a bush she rose silently,
put one hand over his mouth
to keep him silent, and slit his throat with her other
which held the knife,
easing them both down as his eyes bulged and his life
seeped out with the blood
that gurgled from his throat. When he stopped
twitching she motionned to
Claymore, and as he passed she hid the body, not
taking time to search it.
Eagle gritted his teeth, pulling the VC deeper
into the trees and smashing
a hand over his mouth to keep him silent as he twisted
his head, hearing the
snap of bones and feeling the body go heavy and limp.
One hand lifted, and
suddenly Mack moved past as he dumped the body
silently under a bush.
Grizz sneered into the bulging eyes of the NVA he
held to a tree, and held
a grimy hand over his mouth as his other slit his
belly open, stabbing up
slantingly to pierce the heart. The soldier jerked
and thrashed quietly and
fell silent. Grizz let him slide slowly down and
threw a fallen branch over
him to hide him. Waving to ETA he kept an eye out for
Claymore reached the hut, and peered cautiously
inside a hole used as a
window. One guard, back to the window, and yawning
in boredom. Smiling
coldly he crouched, and took out the C4, and began to
rig up a bomb. The LT
moved to another hut, and peered inside, crouched, and
moved on. She froze,
and when a guard neared she flattened herself to a
hut, and quickly grabbed him
when he got close enough. His hands clawed at her
face as she held a wire
tight around his throat, pulling so hard his feet
lifted off the ground. He
couldn't shout with his breath cut off, and soon
slumped, eyes bulging. She
panted, eyes shut a moment, and then bent and hefted
him up, carrying the
smaller man to a stack of crates and dropping him
behind them. Curiously she
lifted the lid off one crate, paused, and lifted up a
shell. Glancing to
Claymore she waved it, and put it back, shutting the
lid as he nodded. She
Percell spat out blood, and with his tongue
pushed a loose tooth out which
he spit out. At his back was Fox, who let out a
groan, and let his head loll
Fox hissed in pain. "These little mothers are
gonna pay, Danny!" he
moaned. "They put a hole in me, man!" He glanced
down at where they had tried
to get him to talk by poking holes into him with the
tip of a knife. One time
the torturer had gotten too into it, and now he had a
dark spreading stain in
his left side. "Little mother....."
Percell shut his eyes as the other spewed out
curses. They had only
kicked and punched him, hit him with their weapons.
He was bruised, maybe had
a few broken ribs, but he'd live. Fox's rantings were
growing weaker. The man
was losing blood. "Hold on, man! We'll get out of
Fox laughed, head falling back on Percell's
shoulder. "I was just
remembering when I first met the LT. Mortar attack
late one night. She jumped
into the trench beside me with her pot on and her
weapon in hand, wearing only
panties and bra!" His laughing began to turn to
growling. "She saved my life,
man. She threw me down, and lay over me as a mortar
exploded nearby, and the
guy on her other side has one arm fly across the
compound and half his face
Percell swallowed hard. "She's a good officer."
"She's crazy, like we all are," he whispered.
"Danny..... I'm not gonna
make it, man. If you get the chance to get away....."
"You're gonna make it," hissed Percell, shivering
at the thought of being
left tied to a dead man. "Don't be talking that way!
I won't leave you."
Fox shook his head. "Take it, man. Leave me.
I'll slow you down. I'm
dying, Danny. Promise me you'll take it. And tell LT
I never told them shit?
I held out."
Tears stinging Percell swallowed hard. "I'll
tell her, Tom."
"You're a good soldier, Danny." Fox blinked,
tears falling. "Good
enough to be a friend, and part of my squad." He
chuckled, and then moaned in
A Vietnamese in the NVA uniform neared Percell
and Fox. Snorting he
grinned, knowing the two American soldiers were at his
mercy. Viciously he
pushed the toe of his boot into the bleeding hole in
Fox's side, making the man
cry out sharply in pain.
"Leave him alone!" shouted Percell, trying to
turn and stop the soldier.
The soldier spat on him, and again dug his boot
into the hole, laughing.
Fox, sweating and with blurred vision, kicked a leg
up, knocking the soldier
down. "You mother-fuc....."
The Vietnamese rose, face enraged, and lifted the
butt of his weapon,
ready to strike. His eyes widened and he gurgled,
falling beside the two tied
Americans as blood spewed out of his mouth. Percell
stared down at him with
fearfully wide eyes. He jumped to feel someone touch
him from the other side.
"Sgt?" he asked, voice hoarse, unsure the painted man
Grizz nodded. "Shhhh...." He pointed to a hole
in the hut, and to someone
crouched on the other side.
Percell helped Fox up. "C'mon, buddy. I ain't
Fox smiled weakly, and clung to his fatigue
front. "God bless ya,
Danny....." He fainted.
Knight peered into the hut, and a cold, deadly
smile curled her lips up
slightly. Inside were a few VC, and some high ranking
'Jackpot!' she thought. She waited for the VC to
leave, and that the officer
was alone. Silently she inched to the door, keeping
half an eye out to be sure
no one saw her. Slipping inside she stayed in the
shadows, drawing nearer and
nearer. The officer had his back to her, and was
undoing his pants. The sound
of his urine hitting a pot came to her.
While he relieved himself she snuk behind him.
One arm around his throat
she held the knife point to his groin. "Make a noise
and I'll slice it off!
Do you understand me?" she hissed softly.
"You cannot escape alive," he whispered back.
"Too many soldiers."
She sneered. "How do you think I got in here,
old man? You're short a
number of guards. Both VC and NVA. Now.... Where are
"Dead," he replied.
She shook her head, laughed humourlessly. "No.
I'd know it if they
were." She jerked on his neck, turned the knife more.
He winced, but did not
cry out as a pinprick of blood appeared. "I'll only
ask one more time. Where
are my men?"
"You cannot harm me," he told her. "In your
country women are not strong
enough to kill."
Behind her someone entered, and she twirled,
holding the old officer
before her as a shield, and let her knife fly. The VC
bringing in a bowl of
rice dropped it and clung to the hilt sticking out of
his throat, gurgling and
stumbling forward. He fell to the ground, twitched,
and lay still. A pool of
crimson leaked from under him, and the stench of warm,
coppery blood filled the
hut to mix with that of the urine.
"What was that you said, General?" she hissed at
his ear. "I don't need
my knife to kill you if I have to. I learned that the
hard way in Sommalia.
So quit screwing with me. My men, where are they?"
"Oh, Jesus!" breathed Mack, bending over Fox and
Percell collapsed and
they both fell. "Fox?"
"Where's the LT?" asked Grizz in a whisper,
seeing everyone but her.
Claymore frowned. "I thought she was headed back
Eagle's eyes widened. "Shit! Think she went
after the old bird?"
Grizz' teeth gnashed, and he picked up his
knife. "I'll fuckin' kill
her myself!" He moved off, heading back the way he'd
Claymore and Eagle eyed each other and followed.
The others helped
Percell and Fox, carrying the wounded man. They
headed back to the squads.
Knight peered out of the hut, and saw several
soldiers in groups or
patroling. Alone she could sneak out relatively
unseen, but with the General?
"You cannot do it," he spoke. "Leave me, Lt.
I am not worth it."
"I dunno, General. I think my superiors would
have a hay-day with you
back at Tan Son Nhut!" She bent to the dead VC,
rolled him over, and pulled
her knife free, wiping it on his pants. "Very stupid
to come this far south,
General. Of course, it would perk your troops up you
coming here, but...
well... You weren't expecting a crazy female to sneak
into your heavily
guarded ville, were you?"
He eyed her curiously. She had tied his hands
behind his back. He sat on
a box. "All Americans crazy for coming to fight in
war not in your country."
She snorted, looking out again. "As crazy as
your country not able to get
along?" She glanced to the back of the hut.
"General, time we blew this
popsicle stand." She went to the hole used as a
window and peered out. "Come
on, old man." She pulled him over, and onto a chair.
It was rickety and
wobbly, but she got him out. He grunted when he fell,
and she leapt out,
rolling and coming to a crouch near him.
Pulling on the rope she drew him to her, and
lifted her face, sniffing the
air, and searching the area. "Don't try to slow me
down on purpose, General."
She rose, and began to run.
Grizz glanced over a few crates, and saw Knight
sprinting, leading some
NVA officer by a rope. The old man stumbled, and when
she was brought up short
and turned to help him up chaos erupted. One soldier
saw them, shouted, and
soon several were running for them. Rising Grizz
leapt over the crates and
tackled the LT to the ground as gunfire sprayed the
Claymore cursed and ran in the other direction,
heading back to the trees.
He fell on the detonator, and turned it. Turning he
stared with wide eyes to
see crates and huts go up, ammo exploding from the
heat and creating even
bigger explosions. His eyes swung to Grizz and LT,
but smoke and debris hid
Eagle ran at a limp, falling and clawing his way to
the trees, and fell
beside him. "You're goddamn insane!" he panted.
Claymore chuckled. It turned to a laugh. He
wiped tears away. Eagle
blinked, startled, and then laughed also.
Goldman jumped to his feet, eyes wide. His
throat worked convulsively,
and he swung his gaze to Anderson. "Sgt?"
Anderson's hands twitched. "Okay, everyone!
Saddle up! Let's go!" he
called, not caring if anyone heard.
Soldiers jumped to their feet, hefted weapons,
and began to run out.
Coughing Knight wrestled with a soldier, turning
him to make him shoot at
his own companions. "GRIZZ!"
"I'm still alive!" he shouted back, kicking one
VC in the groin and taking
his weapon, aiming at the rush bearing down on them.
The General lay, crawling for cover. Knight made
him move faster, and
kept aiming, dropping the soldier who was dead in her
arms. Her eyes stung
from the smoke, and she had to drag one leg some.
They hit the trees, and she
pulled the General up. "Claymore! Take him! Run!"
"We're insane!" shouted Grizz. "Oh God, we're
insane!" He turned wide
eyes to Knight. "I'm out! I'm out!" he tossed the
She cursed, dropped her own, and turned.
They tore through the bush and trees, hearing the
cries of angered and
deadly soldiers following. Zigging and zagging they
panted, ignoring wounds to
put distance between them and the enemy. Down to a
creek-bed, and up the other
side, small branches whipping them along the way. Up
ahead Claymore had the
old man over his shoulders, and huffed as he ran.
"Oh God!" she panted, sides aching. "I should
"You should have retired!" Grizz told her,
"DOWN!!!!!!!" a shout sounded in front of them.
The dove, and lay with hands covering their heads
as gunfire and grenades
flew over them. The VC and NVA screamed. Knight and
the men crawled, and
froze, crawled and froze. They scurried like speeding
spiders over a fallen
tree and took cover, panting.
As the firefight kept going the wounded and
tired soldiers exchanged
glances and broke into hysterical laughter, the
General scowling at them.
"Soldiers, good work!" the Colonel preened like a
proud peacock as he eyed
the filthy and bloody lot of them. "You'll all get
medals for this."
As he turned away Knight glanced at Grizz. He
rolled his eyes and she
snickered. Turning she paused to see Goldman eyeing
her warily. Shaking her
head she limped towards him. "Soldiers, Lt. We're a
lousy risk. And we're
"No," he sadly told her. "I may be crazy, but
you and your men are
She cocked her head to one side, eyed him
intently. "Kinda changes how
you thought you felt for me, doesn't it?"
Taking a moment he swallowed hard, glanced down,
and then back into her
eyes. His were sad. "No. Somewhat. I dunno."
She nodded. "Probably better this way.
Myron.... you're handsome, I'll
admit that, and sexy, but.... I went down that road
once before, and I can't do
it again. I learned the hard way.... The battlefield
is no place to make
love." Tiredly she moved on by.
Goldman had done some major soul-searching
and thinking during the night
since they returned from the mission. Skye's
actions had been crazy, yes, but
he knew what a good officer and soldier she was.
Hell, she'd been through hell
and back, and who wouldn't be a little crazy.
She was still lovely, and still
he couldn't stop how he felt for her. The
reality of that hit him like a fist
to the gut. It took his breath away, and made
him dizzy. Hell, she could run
naked into an NVA battalion to save a damn dog
from being dinner and he'd still
love her. That was a sobering thought. Maybe,
just maybe, he was crazy too.
When the sun came up he dressed and didn't
bother with shaving. Who'd
complain? The VC? "We not fight him, he stubble
all over." He didn't think
so. Heading out he drew on his cap, and shielded
his eyes against the sun that
momentarily blinded him. Another bright, hot,
steamy day. Was there ever a
damn difference? They got two kinds of weather
here; hot and sunny, or hot and
wet. Period. Turning to his right he headed for
her hootch. Time to talk....
seriously. And if she tried to avoid it he'd use
other methods other than
words to tell her how he felt.
"She's not there," a voice, Grizz's, came to
him when he knocked.
"Where is she?" asked Goldman, letting it
slip the man hadn't addressed
him as Sir or Lt or LT.
"Dunno, Sir. She hit the ville last night,
and I guess she never came
back." Grizz pursed his lips. "We tried to find
her, but had no luck. We
were just about to head out again."
Fear clutched his chest, making breathing
hard. "I'm going with you."
Grizz nodded. "Yessir, we figured that."
Goldman saw who 'we' meant: both squads.
Even Anderson. "Let's go."
Knight didn't want reality to intrude. She
knew, from past experience, it
would hit with a major headache, nausea, and that
damn feel of your mouth being
stuffed with raw wool. Every part of her ached,
and she tried not to move.
Where the hell was she anyways? Last she
remembered was having a few drinks in
the ville at some sleazy club. Not exactly the
place for a woman, but she
hadn't cared. The more out-of-the-way the
better. She'd found it too. The
bartender had leered and licked his lips, and
she'd happily made him swallow
some of his teeth with her fist. Then what? Oh
yeah, some rowdy soldiers
who'd started a fight, and she'd lurched into it
just for the hell of it. Then?
Then she couldn't remember.
Wincing at what sounded like a shout she
cracked open an eye, hissed at
the intrusive light that seared past eyeball to
brain, and moaned as her
stomach rebelled. She heard someone order
someone else to get a bucket, and
she leaned over, body heaving, losing all the
poisonous booze she'd drunk the
night before. Once calmed she fell back, and
realized she was on a cot. She
could tell now by the lumps. "Where am I?"
"My hootch," Goldman told her, pressing a
wet cloth to her forehead. She
was clammy and feverish. "What the hell did you
"A... cross bet... between kerosine and....
and swamp-water and ha.....
hair tonic...... I think!" She groaned.
"We found you this morning in some alley,
passed out on top of a pile of
garbage with some scrawny mutt curled to your
back." He wet the cloth again,
and wiped at her grimy face. "You need a shower,
Her hand lifted, caught at his wrist. Her
eyes fluttered. "Don't look at
me like that, Lt. You should hate me by now."
His dark eyes softened more. "Maybe, but I
"For what it's worth? Thanks," she
whispered. "But maybe you should have
left me where I was."
"Couldn't," he choked out, throat working
convulsively. "I love you."
That's when her face turned pale and green
again, and the bucket was held
for her as she again lost the battle to nausea.
Goldman sighed. Story of his
life; admit you love a woman, and have her puke
her guts out.
"How's the LT?" Anderson asked as he and
Goldman stood outside in the
Shrugging helplessly Goldman thinned his
lips. "Resting. She finally
stopped puking, which is good. I was getting a
complex. She'd be sick every
single time I tried to bare my heart."
Lips pursing to try really hard to hold back
an amused grin Anderson
nodded, and kept silent or else he'd laugh.
Goldman sighed, rubbed the back of his neck.
"I think she finally got it
all out of her system. She's not as hot to the
touch anymore either. How are
"Percell and Fox are gonna be fine. Fox is
being sent home. His LT might
want to go see him soon before they ship him
out," advised Anderson. "Grizz
and the others are out cold, exhausted."
Goldman nodded. "I know how they feel. Go
to bed, Sgt."
"Yessir!" Happily Anderson left.
Goldman faced the door to his hootch, and
sighed again. Going in he eyed
the woman who slept in her underwear on his bunk.
She lay sprawled on her
belly, face hanging over the edge of the cot, a
bucket by the bed. Turning he
eyed the ripped and wobbly chair in the corner,
and went to it, ready to get
Goldman was woken up by an angry curse.
"Who ~~ or what ~~ the hell died
in my mouth?" Eyes opening he found Skye
standing by the bunk, swaying as she
held a hand over her eyes. His dark eyes fell to
the sleeveless tee and
panties she wore. Swallowing hard he opened his
mouth to speak, but no words
She stumbled to the small sink and glared in
the mirror at her reflection.
"I need my toothbrush, and hairbrush," she
"They're right there," he huskily replied,
and cleared his throat with a
Thankfully she began to brush her teeth, and
finally glanced briefly at
him, finding him still in his sweaty and dusty
fatigues, eyes intently on her.
Blushing she spit, and rinsed, and eyed him.
"I know," he replied. "Can't help it."
Rising he winced, and reached
back a hand to rub his nape. "Hungry?"
"Er..... how 'bout we leave food out of it
for a few days?" she sheepishly
grimaced. "I'm okay, but... the thought of
food.... You look awful."
Holding up a hand she shook her head.
Frustrated he caught her arms in his hands,
and glared down at her.
"You're gonna hear it, Skye, no matter what."
"No!" She strained to get away. She could
remember him trying to pour
his heart out to her last night. Thank God for
nausea. She couldn't handle
it right now. Maybe not ever. "I won't hear it.
Just let it b...." His
mouth stopped her, and in shock she stood there
without struggling. His
stubble scraped her, and his heat suffused her.
Suddenly letting her go he inhaled deeply.
"It's too late to let it go,
and you know it. I love you." Nuzzling her brow
he urged her closer, now able
to put both arms about her, settle her flush
against him. She was rigid at
first, and he could just envision the battle
going on inside her: need vs fear.
"Would Eric have wanted you to die with him that
night? Or would he have
wanted you to live on, love on?" Her shoulders
slumped, and a small painful
sound escaped her. Soothingly he rubbed her
back, mumbled nonsensical words of
comfort as small sobs sounded from her.
When it was over she hung limply in his
arms. "You're a cruel bastard,"
she hoarsely whispered.
Smiling he kissed her brow, hugged her
tighter. "You're just saying that
because I made you love me, and now I have to
leave you to go out on recon."
Pulling back she frowned. "I've got this
really bad feeling about you
Grabbing his gear he paused, kissed her lips
softly. "It's lingering
effects of the hangover only. I'll be fine.
I'll be back tomorrow."
"Myron....." she began, desperation lacing
He shook his head. "I have to go, Skye.
You KNOW that. I'll see you
tomorrow." He left the hootch.
The restlessness and sense of foreboding
she'd had since morning
intensified once the sun dipped behind the
horizon and twilight gave way to
night. Skye stared out her hootch's screen door,
searching the dark of night,
feeling like someone clutched her insides in an
iron fist, squeezing harder and
harder as time went back.
"It's a simple recon, LT," Grizz told her
soothingly. The hairs on his
arms rose. When she got that feeling in the bush
he hurried to prepare
everyone for anything. He'd learned she had
great and accurate gut feelings,
and to trust them.
"Grizz?" she whispered. "It's happening
now," she panted. "I can feel
it. Grim Reaper just touched my soul, old man.
It's not Myron who's in
danger, it's me........"
Those words sent a chill down his spine, but
the ominous whistling he
heard next froze the blood in his veins.
"INCOMING!!!!!!" the scream tore
through the base.
Flares lit up the night, and the mortar attack
whistled and sprang up
flames and screams. Everyone rushed out of buildings
in different states of
dress or undress, carrying pots and weapons. There
had to be several big guns
out there to shell so often, and do so much damage.
Colonels and the rare
General snapped orders faster than the machine guns
could fire. Cherries
cowered behind barrels and sandbags. The frequent
booms of explosions were
shadowed by screams of pain and dying. When there was
a small reprieve the
night was filled with the sounds of young boys crying
for their mothers as they
lay with limbs missing, their livesblood seeping from
them and staining the
ground and filling the air with the stench of metallic
liquid and burning
flesh. Smoke lay heavy over the base, stinging eyes
and choking throats.
Skye peered over the sandbags, eyes watering, and
stubbornly wiped them
away to see better. Beside her panted Grizz,
craddling his weapon like a baby
against his heaving chest. "I wish I was back in the
ville getting drunk," she
He laughed, a sound that was laced with some fear
and insanity. "I'm with
you there, LT. How 'bout we go right now?"
Laughing she fell back down and eyed her bare
feet. "Forgot my boots."
"Careful, or you might stub a toe or something,"
he warned her.
On Grizz's other side a Cherry eyed them from
wide eyes, disbelieving the
casual way they discussed stubbed toes when they were
obviously under attack.
Skye sighed. "Grizz, watch that kid. He's so cherry
he still has a damn stem!"
Grizz turned to the kid. "Buck up, son. Keep
your head low and your eyes
open. Charlie will be coming real soon to visit, but
we never invited him to
Skye looked over the bags once more. "Do you
feel it, old man?" She
whispered in awe. "Do you feel HIM touching you?"
Grizz swallowed hard. "I ain't got no plans to
die yet, LT. I
re-married, y'know. Did I tell you? Young thing, 23,
with perky breasts and
soft thighs. I ain't done enjoying those yet."
"You old dog!" she affectionately smiled. "You
bagged yourself a woman
half your age? Do you even remember what to do with
"Parts of me do," he leered. "When I left to
come here she was 4 months
pregnant. I wanna see my kid. So I don't feel
nothing touching me. And I
don't feel it touching you none neither."
Whistling got louder. "Here we go!" She shouted.
Another long volley of mortars, and more screams.
Everyone jumped when
the ammo shack went up, sending flames shooting to
nearby areas, mortar and
shells exploding in the heat and shooting out to hit
other targets. More
screams. The night was turned to day with flames.
"Not good," Grizz panted.
"Who knew the little bastards could aim," snorted
Skye. The cherry gagged
and puked when a soldier with no legs left clawed to
get away from flames that
licked at him, his screams tearing and ripping through
the night. He halted,
and lay still. The flames ate at him. Skye grimaced,
turned away. "They
oughta be coming after this next volley."
Goldman yawned, and blinked to clear his eyes.
This had to be the most
boring recon he'd ever been on. Not a soul in sight
except his own men.
Nothing but green vegetation, screaming monkeys, and
dirt. Crouched against a
tree he yawned again. It was no good, he was sore and
tired and bored to
death. To keep awake he began to replay his last
moments with Skye before he
had to leave. Her in her panties and sleeveless tee,
held close to him, and
finally admitting she felt something for him. He knew
she did, and now she
knew it too. When he got back he'd request a
three-day leave for them, take
her to Bangkok or Hong Kong. Maybe they'd take a real
Maybe they'd crawl into bed and not leave the whole
time they were there.
Maybe he'd buy her some lovely dress she could wear
for dinner, and later he'd
help her remove it.
"Not a damn thing," grumbled Anderson, crouching
beside his Lt. "It's so
quiet out here even the crickets are bored to sleep."
Snorting Goldman smiled. "I heard that. Having
problems keeping my own
eyes open. Then again, sleeping in a chair all night
doesn't help. Feels like
I haven't slept in days."
Grinning Anderson nodded. "Yessir! Thought
you'd be used to it by now
after so many months sleeping in the bush?"
Goldman snorted once more. "Not likely."
The far off sounds of explosions faintly echoed
in the still night.
Anderson shook his head. "Someone's taking a
"Yeah, and somehow I don't think it's our boys
doing the beating," sighed
Goldman. "Not that I want us to get mortared,
"I know what you mean, LT," nodded Anderson.
They peered around until they could see the
flares of light in the far
distance where the attack was taking place. "Almost
looks pretty," Goldman
stated as he yawned. His yawn came to a sudden stop.
"Thinking the same thing, LT," Anderson tightly
said. "That's around our
Fear clutched Goldman's chest, tightening it.
"Oh God! Skye!" he
breathed hoarsely, helplessness swallowing him up.
She dove for cover just as an explosion sounded
behind her, the blast
flipping her legs over her head so she landed hard on
her back, breath knocked
out of her. Groaning she wiped at her face, felt
moistness on her lips, and
saw the dark stain of blood on her fingers.
"Shit......" rolling over she
groaned, and pushed to her hands and knees. Her body
ached all over. Small
burns from falling cinders, cuts and bruises, sweat
stinging open cuts, dirt
and smoke burning her eyes and throat.
Glancing up she could see soldiers scurrying like
ants, carrying wounded
out of the hospital, and trying to get them to safety.
Those patients that
were in the mental dispensary freaked and struggled
with their helpers,
screaming and blubbering like terrified children,
running all over and
eventually getting killed. What a bloody waste!
Chopper pilots hid behind
cover, unable to get to their birds and take off. One
lucky shot hit a Huey,
and it exploded, pieces flying everywhere, flames
hitting the one next to it
and so on...... a domino effect.
Pushing up to her feet she nearly fell again, and
glanced back to see a
jagged piece of metal no bigger than her finger
embedded in her calf. Pain,
searing and hot, stabbed all the way up to her head.
Fighting the blackness
that threatened to overtake her she reached back,
grabbed the piece and yanked.
A scream tore from her, and she panted, nausea
rearing, eyesight black. to control her breathing she forced the nausea
away, forced her eyes to
clear. Falling to her side she lifted her tee, ripped
the filthy bottom with
her teeth, and tore a long strip off. Reaching back
she wrapped it around the
bleeding wound and tied it tight. Pushing back up she
gritted her teeth and
Skye paused. Ahead was a General and Colonel.
They were heatedly
debating what to do. She took a step, heard the
whistling, and her eyes nearly
bulged out of her head when the mortar landed right
over them. They never even
had time to scream. Turning away she shut her eyes,
and swallowed hard, bile
GRIZZ!" she shouted, coughing when smoke
swirled around her.
Grizz hit the dirt, hands over his head, and felt
the ground shake as
another mortar hit. A scream cut off short pierced
his ears. Glancing up he
blinked in the smoke and saw half a man lying only a
few feet away from him.
Where the other half was he wasn't sure, and didn't
want to know. Rolling he
pushed himself to his feet.
LT!" he shouted.
"Goddammit!" the Colonel shouted in the phone.
"We need support here!
They're cutting us to ribbons, and we have a hospital
Knight stumbled over, not bothering to salute.
She listened as the
Colonel raged and shouted and turned purple over his
palor he was so shaken.
Sudden silence eerily hit the base. Small whimpers
and crying sounded a
thousand miles off. The shelling had stopped.
She touched his arm.
He snarled at her. "What the hell do you want,
Her lips curled back in a sneer. "They're
coming. Better take cover."
Turning she headed back the way she'd come. "Grizz!"
she saw him stumbling
He rushed to her. "LT! Thank God!"
"They're coming now," she told him. "Let's find
a spot to take cover."
"I got our men together, this way." He led her
They came, wave after wave of them. Throwing
grenades and shooting madly
and blindly. They screamed in heated rage. The
Americans screamed back in
hatred, eyes glowing with a fire born of pain and
terror and rage, shooting
back. Muzzle flashes gave the Vietnamese away, and
Skye's squad aimed for
those and those who got too near.
"I'm out!" shouted Claymore. Tossing his useless
weapon away he pulled
out his knife, and let one of the enemy get close,
tackling him down and
plunging the knife deep into his throat. Wrenching
his weapon away he took up
his position and fired.
Action most of them had to take. Run out of ammo,
wait for the enemy to
get near, attack him with knife or hands, take his,
and keep firing. The
sounds of rifles going off deafened them. Their ears
had a constant buzz that
blotted out the screams and shouts of others. Retreat
to another spot, and
start all over. Bodies were strewn all over the
ground that was muddied with
blood and vomit and other bodily fluids. Sometimes
tripping over a limb or
body, scurrying like roaches hiding from the light in
search for cover.
Choking on smoke and the smells of death.
Skye's eyes widened when something hit her in the
back, and sent her
flying to the ground. She skidded in the bloody dirt
and came up against a
lump that used to be a human being. Her chest heaved,
and she gagged, blood
coughed up and trickling out of her mouth. Her eyes
dimmed, and she clawed at
the dirt. "Myron......." Her fingers went lax.
"Oh my God!" breathed Percell, eyeing the
devastation. Bodies littered
the ground everywhere, and each looked like a dark
smear on red earth as the
chopper slowly lowered. He could see some people
moving slowly through what
was left of the base.
Goldman swallowed hard, dark eyes radiating pain
and grief and disbelief.
As soon as the sun rose he ordered the men to move,
and they had called in for
a pickup. If he could have hurried back during the
night he would have, but
travelling in the dark was dangerous, and trying to
land during a mortar attack
was even more dangerous. Now here they were, and he
felt so sick to his
stomach at the sight of it he had to breathe deeply
until the nausea passed.
When the Huey landed he was first off, and his steps
hurried the further in the
base he moved.
Skye!" he called hoarsely. Panting
he twirled in one spot,
seeing only bodies and battered limping soldiers, and
"Lt Goldman?" Grizz limped over, one arm hanging
limply at his side.
"Sargeant!" Goldman rushed to him. "Where is
"We don't know, Sir. We haven't found her yet."
The older man looked as
if he'd aged 20 years, stood hunched over. "The men,
those who can, are
looking for her."
Anderson neared, throat convulsively working.
"Oh man, LT, this is ugly."
He eyed Grizz. "Grizz, old buddy, glad to see you
"Barely, Zeke. Barely," he smiled tiredly. "We
were lucky. By dawn we
were down to hand-to-hand combat. One lucky shot got
the ammo bunker. The
choppers took it too. No air support. We'd kill
Charlie, take his weapon, and
keep fighting. Guess they ran out of men, and just a
few hours ago there were
some explosions out in the jungle, their big guns, I
Goldman stumbled on, turning a body, moving on,
directing his men to help
the wounded. "She's here somewhere. We have to find
"We will, " soothed Anderson. "We will."
More choppers landed, more soldiers jumping out.
The dirty task of lining
up enemy bodies and gathering their own dead had
begun. Clean up was underway,
and the wounded were being evacked to other bases. A
general stood by, two
colonels at his side. "The kill ratio is gonna be
high!" the general puffed
out proudly. "We massacred them!"
Goldman rolled his eyes in digust when he
overheard. "They massacred us
One of the colonels shot him a quelling look.
"Don't you have work to do,
"LT!" Anderson called him over. "We found her."
Fear was a tight knot in his gut. "Is she...."
"Barely," Anderson told him. "She was about 200
yards from the treeline...
outside the base."
Goldman scowled. "What? But how...."
"She had empty C-4 packets in her hand, " he told
him. Nodding he eyed
his commander with some awe. "Grizz figures she went
after the guns."
"Where is she?" demanded Goldman, but he was
already heading for the area
where wounded were being placed in choppers. "Skye!
"Over here, LT!" Claymore shouted, sitting on a
crate, head bandaged and
one arm in a sling.
Goldman stumbled to a stop next to the litter
where she lay. "Skye? Can
you hear me?" Her lashes fluttered. "You crazy
woman! You went after the
guns, didn't you? Alone?" Tenderly he touched her
blood-stained cheek. "Why?"
The fingers of one swollen hand lifted weakly.
Her eyes opened, and she
smiled, cut lip bleeding anew. "I'm crazy....." she
Laughing sobbingly he shook his head. "No, we're
crazy. YOU, you're
She laughed briefly, winced and groaned, and
blood trickled out of her
"Shhhhh.... you save your strength. You're gonna
make it, Skye. I
promise. And then we'll go somewhere, just you and
me, and we'll get married."
Her eyes grew sad. "I'm dying...."
"NO!" he shouted in anger.
"Lt...." Claymore shook his head. "She's got a
nasty wound, and....."
Finger shaking as he pointed at the man Goldman
sneered, dark eyes
blazing. "I said no, soldier. You hear me?"
"LT.." softly interrupted Anderson. "Myron....
she's real bad off."
Rising Goldman faced them all with shaking fists.
"The next one to say
she's not going to make it is going to get shot......
Skye touched his leg. "Myron..." She coughed,
and blood trickled out.
He took her hand, fell to his knees. "You're
going to make it."
Rain pelted the base as the soldiers stood lined
up and silent, eyes
blank, faces grim. A chaplain recited words of a last
prayer, a bible in his
hands. Before him were helmets mounted on weapons,
many of them. The sky had
grown darker as the day dawned, and had opened up as
they gathered to pay final
respects to the dead. The rain beat down onto them
mercilessly, turned the
ground to liquid mud, rivulets flowing and creating
tiny creek-like beds to
large puddles, washing away dirt and blood the last of
the stains of the battle
that had happened here three days ago.
Goldman stared unseeingly ahead, the effigies to
the dead a blurr. Once
the ceremony was over the Colonel called out
dismissed, and they began to
disperse. He didn't move. His feet felt rooted to
the soggy ground. He kept
staring ahead, hearing nothing, seeing nothing. He
felt dull, listless,
Anderson neared him. "LT?"
Shaking himself Goldman turned to him. "Yes,
"The chopper's waiting, Sir."
"Oh, yeah." His poncho rustled as he faced the
lane leading to the
landing area. "Thanks." He didn't have to
concentrate to move forward. His
feet moved automatically. Like a robot programmed.
Percell held out his bag. "Here you go, LT."
Pausing Goldman eyed it, looked a little
confused, and then took it.
"Thanks." He moved to the chopper, and got in,
sitting all alone against the
back, bag craddled to his chest. His eyes were still
Taylor watched the Huey lift. "Sarge? Is the LT
gonna be okay?" he
"Are any of us ever gonna be okay?" snorted
Ruiz sighed sadly. "Maybe not, but if we stick
together we won't get too
lost. Right, Sarge?"
Anderson eyed them curiously, smiled softly, and
nodded as he walked away.
Grizz stood up, greeting the man. "Lt, thanks
Goldman nodded. "How are the men?"
"Holding up, Sir." He led him down a hall, the
walls green and sterile.
"How are you doing, Sir?"
Shrugging Goldman thinned his lips, vulnerability
in his eyes. "Fine."
They reached a door, and his heart thudded loudly,
drowning out the sounds of
the hospital. The older man pushed open the door, and
the lt entered.
Turning towards the sound of the voice his face
lit up for the first time.
She looked so different in a hospital gown, hair down
and falling about her
shoulders, tubes attached to her, the back of the bed
lifted some so she almost
sat up. "Told you you'd make it," he stated, nearing
the bed, reaching for her
hand. "Have I ever lied to you?"
Smiling softly she curled her fingers around his.
"What brings you by?"
He opened the bag he held. "I heard tell some
general was coming by to
see you. And I have this for you." He held out a
package. Seeing she was
still weak he unwrapped it for her, and pulled out a
long white dress. "For
you to wear when you become Mrs Goldman."
"Lovely, but you never proposed, you ordered."
She touched the silky
material. "Where in the name of God did you get
"Called in a few favors," he shrugged, grinning
secretively. "Marry me?"
"Got a ring?" she teased.
His hand went to an inside pocket, and he pulled
one out. "Now you have
Her eyes narrowed. "I'm not Jewish."
"Nobody's perfect," he shrugged. "Quit stalling
and say yes."
Skye snorted. "You gonna order me around
forever? Don't you remember I'm
a 1st Lieutenant, and you're a 2nd? I'm the one who's
supposed to give the
Rolling his eyes he groaned in frustration.
"Skye!" he growled warningly.
She laughed, wincing when it hurt. "2nd Lt
Goldman, I order you to marry
Eyes glowing he leaned over and kissed her.
"Yessir! With pleasure, LT!"
A cough made him back up, and his eyes hardened.
"General," he coolly
General Goldman neared. "Myron... You look good,
son." He turned to the
woman in the bed. "Lt Knight?"
Skye listened as he began a long spiel, and then
blinked in surprise when
she was handed a purple heart and Medal Of Honor. He
apologized that the
president himself could not present it, and gave her a
Goldman watched his father leave, and neared the
bed once more. "So.. as
soon as you're able we'll out of here....... future
She sighed. "Looking forward to it....... future