[ through proper channels ]

by lt. mac

"In time of war, killing a man is an honourable thing to do. If you kill enough, your country may pin a medal on your chest. You may even come home a hero. In time of war, some men take to raping the women and children of their enemies. What part of that is honourable . . . ?"

Suffocating heat. Bugs this enough to drive a man crazy. Their own week-old smell strong enough to keep the smell of others gratefully at bay. Aches, pains, blisters. Suspicious sores from some festering creek theyíd slogged through two days ago.
The men of Team Viking were exhausted.

Lieutenant Goldman was getting tired of trying to ignore the asinine bickering going on up and down the line. But gritting his teeth against his won exhaustion, he realized that the men werenít so much fed up with each other as they were with this mission. Theyíd been sent out nearly a week ago and it was getting to everyone. He was dead tired and hoped he could sleep for a week when they got home. Home, ha, prefab huts with hot and cold running vermin. Vermin or not, theyíd be 'home'in a few hours. He was going to be happy to see Mackayís ugly mug when that bird comes for them.

Johnsonís suddenly raised fist and squat had him back in the field with a jolt. He hurried along the line in a crouch and squatted as Sargent Anderson joined them.

"Lt. listen." whispered Johnson.

At first Goldman didnít hear anything and was about to snap at Johnson but as the hot breeze changed direction again, he heard it, but couldnít place it.

"Might be an animal, sir." offered Johnson, to cover up how creeped out he was.

"Not an animal Iíve ever heard before." quipped the Lt.

"We oughta have a look-see, Lt." suggested Anderson as the noise reached them again.

"Okay. Fan 'em out, weíll go in 3 metres apart, semi circle. Maintain eye contact at all times. All right, Sargent. Move 'em out." Lt. rose and worked his way into the trees to get to the outer edge of their arc theyíd be moving in.

Spc4 Ruis nodded to him, confirming that the positions all down the line were ready to move. They worked their way cautiously through the trees watching for wires, mines and traps, all the while the sound growing in volume. Myron noted that there seemed to be an increased urgency and pain in the sound.

An increase in the intensity of the sound sent the line to its knees. One soldier looking to the next, their imaginations beginning to figure out what they were hearing.

Ruis stared wide-eyed at the Lt. who, for a moment held his hand over his mouth in shock, when he returned Ruisís questioning stare, his eyes burned with fury. As he rose and began to advance, Ruis came to his feet looking around to Sargent Anderson and motioned to him to see the Lt. weaving through the trees ahead of the line. Anderson gestured wildly for Ruis to 'cover him'as he himself barged into the tree line parallel to the Lt. to try and catch up to him.

"Damn foolís going to get himself killed." he grumbled to himself.

Rifle gripped at his side, finger hooked and ready around the trigger, Lt. Goldman stepped into what was left of the village.

'Not again'he thought back on the slaughter. He followed the noise. It grew louder and more distinct as her neared. It was behind the collapsed remains of a smoldering hut. His imagination did not prepare him for what he saw.

Two women, clothes ripped from their bodies lay on the dung covered ground, bound and beaten. He had to tear his eyes away from all the blood between their legs. Their stomachs and breasts were covered in scratches and bite marks. He dragged his eyes away from the three children that cringed against the hut wall roped together by intertwined nooses. Before him lay a little Vietnamese girl of no more than eight. On top of her lay what looked like a 300 pound American soldier. The sounds theyíd heard on the breeze were the two of them. With each of the big manís thrusts he emitted an vile primal growl. With each ripping drive the little girl screeched in agony and terror. Goldman made a chocking sound, unable to move.

"You wanna piece 'a this? Iíll, be, done, in, a, oh, yeah, second" grunted the hulk of a man as he rammed his engorged cock into the too tiny canal.

Myron shook with rage and disgust. He threw down his rifle and grabbed the man. Wrapped his arm around his thick greasy neck to pull him off.

"Whoa, Iím almost done. Hold your pecker, boy." barked the bull as he was slowly pulled off the girl. Once free of his weight she curled into a little foetal ball, hands pressed between her blood smeared legs.

Furious and with penis still erect, the monster grabbed at Goldman.

"You sick Fuck!" shrieked the Lt. squeezing tighter. The brute reached up and grabbed the Lt. by the shoulders and pulled him off over his head like he was pulling off a t-shirt.

The Lt. landed suddenly on his back, not sure how that happened, but he rolled away from the ham-like hands and came up on a knee reaching for his chest holster. He froze when he found a pistol leveled at his face.

"I wasnít finished." grumbled the crazy man.

"Noooo!" screamed Goldman and dove for the little girl, thinking he could protect her as the madman shifted his aim over at her.

The pistol report was deafening and Goldman gagged as the little girlís chest exploded and he was splashed with her hot blood.

"Next oneís got your name on it, soldier."

"I beg to differ. . . Carmichael." growled Anderson as he laid the barrel of his rifle behind the manís ear and leaned over to read his name.

Wisely Carmichael dropped his pistol and stayed where he was, kneeling over the girlís body, a cocky grin on his grimy face.

Goldman, finally remembering to breath, practically snarled as he leapt at the man, hands going for his throat.

"Lt! Lt! Stop!!" yelled Anderson to no avail and ended up circling around behind him, wrap his arms around his waist and physically lift him off the ground and carry him away.

"Let go of me!" grunted Goldman, squirming in Andersonís powerful arms.

"No, Sir." he said, maintaining his bear hug around the Ltís struggles.

"Put me down, Sargent." ordered Goldman trying to find the ground with his boots.

"No, Sir." he adjusted his grip.

"Zeke, for Christsake! . . . Okay. . . All right, Iím calm."

"Donít mean no disrespect sir, but I disagree."

"What are you going to do? Carry me back to Barnett?"

"Well now, that depends, Sir." answered Anderson honestly.

"I promise?" the Lt. tried.

Anderson released him and Myron nearly fell on his ass.

"Iím going to kill him." promised the Lt. heading back.

"Lt., just let it go." he stepped in front of the Lt.

"What?. . . Are you crazy?!!"

"Lt., take this one through the proper channels."

"Aw, donít give me that crap, Zeke! That pig doesnít deserve to be alive."

"Myron, Iím begging you. Do this by the book." Zeke rarely used Goldmanís first name, but when he did Goldman had a tendency to listen.

"He raped and killed a little girl!!!" said the Lt. through clenched teeth, pointing back over Andersonís shoulder.

"Yes sir, I hear you."

"Gawddamnit!!" yelled Lt, spinning and storming off away from the village, heading for the trees.

Anderson spun around, glanced at Doc working with the women and girls.

"Hey, peckerwood! Put it away!" he snapped pointing at Carmichaelís limp dick.

"Percell, Johnson, tie him up. Tight. Roo, Taylor, watch the perimetre, that shotís gonna be bringing us some uninvited company."

"What about the Lt., Sarg?" asked Ruis nodding at Goldmanís disappearing back.

"Iíll take care of him, you keep an eye on them trees."

Goldman knelt by a tree wiping at his mouth with leaves. Heíd been upset enough by what he saw to puke. Thank God the guys hadnít seen this too. Heíd totally lost it back there, in front of his men. He would have killed that animal if Zeke had not stepped in when he did. He wasnít sure if he was glad he had.

"Lt?" called Anderson, keeping a respectable distance.

Goldman groaned, head hanging, not wanting to talk to anybody.

"Go away, Sargent." he finally answered over his shoulder.

"We gotta get a move on, Lt." he moved a little closer.

"Yeah, well, Iím not ready to 'move oní." snapped Goldman, turning and plopping down against the tree.

"What about us finishing the mission?"

The Lt. glared up at him before answering. "Iíve decided weíre going to fucking abort."

"Lt. , . ." he began.

"Sargent! Back off. Right now." the simmering pot was beginning to boil again.

"Donít do this now, Lt."

"Didnít you see what he was doing?!" eyes flashing.

"Yes, sir. I did." nodded Anderson gravely.

"This Fucking country!!" He hollered, pounding a fist into his thigh.


"Itís turning us all into fucking animals!"

"Not all of us . . ."

Goldman climbed to his feet and began prowling, too wound up to sit.

"I canít take this shit anymore, Zeke." he faced the Sargent arms held out in defeat.

"Yes you can."

"Why . . ? Huh?. . . Why? Because 'you'can? Because the wise old Sargent Zeke Anderson can stomach that kind of shit?!"

"Now Lt., I can see youíre upset here, but . . ." began Anderson.

". . .Or is it because you understand guys like that, Sargent? Maybe could even do something like that? Jesus Christ Zeke. That little girl, could have been Katie!!" Myron was screaming now, knowing he was hurting Zekeís by what he was saying but he needed someone to grasp the hurt he was feeling. He didnít save that little girl, he got her killed.

Zekeís jaw twitched from the restraint he was maintaining under the Lt.ís tirade.

"Get the hell out of here, Sargent." snapped Goldman, dismissing Anderson with a back handed wave as he turned his back on him.

This was adding insult to injury and before he realized his own intentions, Anderson grabbed the Lt.ís shoulder and yanked him around to face him. His fist struck and a second later, Goldman sat down hard, mouth bloodied.

"No disrespect, Sir." he said down to the top of the Lt.ís head then turned and walked away, ignoring the throbbing gash across his knuckles.

"Doc, how they doin.?"

"They need a real doctor, Sarg."

"Can they walk?"

"I think so."

"Good. Get 'em ready, weíre moving out."

"What about the Lt.?"

"Heíll be along directly." he answered glancing down at his knuckles.

Goldman got up and spat out a wad of blood, tongued gingerly at his torn lip.
'Shit! I guess I deserved thatí. He thought, feeling like crap about the things heíd just screamed at Zeke. 'Shit!í He stood a moment, head bowed, hands on hips.

"Man, can I be an asshole sometimes." he mumbled to himself, shaking his head. He spat out more blood and pressed his towel against his lip. He took a deep breath, let it out and then another before he could bring himself to go back into the village.

The terrified women and children stood huddled together in silence, not knowing what was happening to them now. Goldman hesitated a moment by a toppled animal pen before he made a wide detour around the now poncho-covered body.
He was pleased to see that Johnson and Percell had trussed Carmichael up nicely, noticing the ropes digging into the manís grimey flesh.

"Hey, Lt." acknowledged Johnson nervously as Goldman headed straight for their prisoner, not realizing that he looked like a crazed man with the dead girlís blood splashed across his face and clothes.

"Oh, oh." murmured Percell, tonguing his toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other, readying himself for who knew what.

"Just so itís perfectly clear. I am going to be bring you up on charges, Carmichael. Youíre never going to see sunshine again by the time Iím done with you!" spat Goldman glaring up into the indifferent face looking down at him.

"You wonít see the end of your tour if you do." countered Carmichael.

"Is that a threat?!" snapped the Lt. getting right in the guyís face, before noticing the serious eyeballing Johnson was giving him.

"All depends on whether youíve got the balls to go through with it. Lieutenant," he rumbled back glancing at the shorter manís ranking.

"Your Army career is over." Myron said slowly, reining in his temper.

"And youíre a dead man."

Goldman swallowed his retort, turned and walked away before he boiled over again. He had to apologize to Anderson. What he had said to him was totally uncalled for. He found him with two of the little girls clinging to his neck.

"Sargent, could I have a word?" he approached sheepishly sinking his hands into his pockets.

"Yes, Sir. Doc, watch 'em now, yíhear." said Anderson setting the little ones down.

"You got it, Sarg." Doc took a double take when he saw the Lt.ís cut and bruised lip.

"Zeke, I want to apologize for. . ." started Myron awkwardly.

"Does that mean youíre not gonna write me up?" he pointed at the Lt.ís mouth.

"I think we both agree that I had that coming."

They relaxed, the tension between them gone.

"Get the guys moving. Weíve . . , 'Iíve'wasted enough time already."

Yes, Sir." he headed off " . . All right, ladies! Weíre movin'out. Letís go. MoveIt, MoveIt, MoveIt. We got a date with a chopper." he hollered across the village.

The ragtag party squinted up into the sky to watch the chopperís graceful approach, the thwop-thwop- thwop of its rotors slapping the still air.

"What the hell happened?!" yelled Mackay over the roar of the engine, looking down at Goldmanís bloodied face as he came up to his window.

"Long story."

Mackay looked over at the cluster of people standing watching them.

"Are you thinking of getting all of them on my bird?"


"Too many, Myron, some are go . . ."

"Come on Mackay, theyíre just three kids and a couple of half starved women."

Johnny looked down at the weary face below him, wondering what the hell was going on.

"Okay, load 'em up."

"Thanks, Mackay." he gave him a tight, tired smile and Mackay watched as Goldman herded the women and children into the belly of his bird.

Zeke shoved Carmichael into the helicopter, cramming him into a corner.

"Carmichael, have you ever met Free-Fall Fontaine?" asked Anderson, a sinister smile on his face, his men all stared at him with suspicion.

Myron was the last to climb in and found a spot to squeeze into.

As the helicopter lurched and lifted off the ground one of the little girls squealed in fear and leapt at the nearest adult and clung to him; Lieutenant Goldman. Reflex made his arms come up around her to comfort her as she climbed into his lap for protection. He squinted down his nose at her and patted her reassuringly on the back.

"She feels real good squirming all over your dick donít she?" hollered Carmichael before lewdly licking his fleshy lips.

Most heads whipped around to see what the Lt.ís reaction would be. Tensing, Anderson was ready for a physical outburst from Goldman.

"Shut it, or Iíll shut it for you Carmichael." growled Anderson not taking his eyes off the Lt.

Goldman met the manís taunting gaze, jaw working as he bit back what he wanted to say. To his credit, he just looked away dismissing him, staring out over the trees. He was through talking to this piece of shit. So he lowered his head and rested it on the little head buried in his shirt front.

The Huey touched down on the helipad blowing up clouds of dirt and grit. The men unfolded themselves and hopped from the bird picking up a child or supporting one of the damaged women. The Lt. handled his little bundle over to Johnson and waited for Anderson to get Carmichael to the ground.

As the big man emerged a couple of grunts from Delta Company, Corporals Blake and Stockton hooted excitedly and ran towards them, whooping with joy and surprise.

"You made it!! I fucking knew youíd make it, Sarg!!" yelled Blake excitedly.

Goldman and Anderson exchanged curious looks.

"Man, we were sure you were a gonner, Sarg!" added Stockton beaming.

"Whatís with the fucking ropes, man?" asked Blake angrily looking at Zeke.

"This manís a prisoner, soldier. I suggest you move along, now."

"Thatís bullshit! Carmichaelís a fuckin'hero, man!"

"Go away. . . man." said Goldman flatly stepping between the two grunts and his prisoner.

"Fuck yo, . . ." he stopped when he spotted the Lt.ís rank.

"Thatís right boys, this little ass-wipe lieutenantís thinking of bringing major grief down on me." Carmichael laughed this insult over Goldmanís shoulder like he wasnít even there.

Anderson grabbed his sweaty collar and dragged his ass off before things got ugly.

"Donít worry about it, Sarg. Nothing sticks to you, man." called Blake.

"This will." promised Goldman, glaring at the two Delta Company grunts.

The two stood before Major Darlingís desk staring with glazed eyes, at the map behind him while he went on about procedures and protocol and proper channels.

"The report has to be filed before we can proceed with any charges, Lieutenant."

"Sir, we came right here from the mission to report the incident. I didnít think radioing back to base about an American soldier raping an eight year old girl was doing it through the proper channels, Sir." said Goldman just knowing Anderson smirked at that one.

"What were you doing going into the village in the first place?"

"Sir, we were following suspicious noises that led us to the Sargent and his 'actionsí." answered Anderson speaking up and taking some of the responsibility.

"Youíll have to put all this in writing."

"In triplicate, Sir." agreed the Lt., enthusiastically.

"Youíre going to ruin a manís career."

Goldman glanced at Anderson in disbelief then turned flashing eyes on the Major.

"Sir? Is the army using rape now as a means to fight the enemy?"

"That will be enough, Lieutenant." warned Darling.

"Sir, there were at least 5 witnesses to this crime. We literally caught him with his pants down." argued Anderson, not believing the Majorís stand.

"Write your reports. Thereíll be a tribunal. Dismissed."

"When, sir?"

"When what, Sargent?"

"When can we expect the trial?"

"Thatís on a need to know basis. Youíll be contacted if you are to be called to testify."

"Yes, sir." he answered seeing the futility and seeing the Lt. struggling to keep a civil tongue in his head.

"Dismissed. And this stays under wraps, tell your boys to keep a lid on this."

The two saluted and clomped out.

As they stepped from the Majorís office, their exhaustion hit full force, they could barely carry their weapons and gear.


"Yes, Sargent?"

"You going to be okay with all this?"

"Ask me that again when Iím awake will you."

"Yes, sir, I hear you."

Myron gave him one of his tired lop-sided grins.



"Yídone good."

"It looks like it might have been for nothing." he said, looking at the man sadly.

"Yes, Sir." he nodded wearily.

In a sparcely furnished detainment room, Corporals Blake and Stockton sat across from Sargent Carmichael who busied himself sawing into a thick juicey steak.

"Just do what you can to persuade him he should rethink the charges." shrugged Carmichael.

"You have anything in mind?" asked Blake excited about their plans.

"Letís just say he should feel the heat if I gotta..."

". . . Understood." nodded Blake grinning. He slapped Stockton on the leg motioning that he follow him. He lead his buddy to their barracks. The two huddled over his footlocker and he pulled out a plastic film canister and rattled its contents. Stockton gave him a puzzled look as he opened it an shook out two little white pills.

"Now we need some beer."

Myron dragged his ass into his hootch, dropping his gear by the door as he went and grabbed a towel and clean skivies, and headed for the showers before he fell asleep on his feet.

He jerked to a stop when he caught sight of his own reflection. Five days worth of stubble, God knows what kind of filth and grit and dried splattered blood stared back at him. Quite a sight. He swallowed back the bile that threatened and fled.

He stood under the water, head bowed, a hand gripping the showerhead for support, letting the water cascade over his skin that heíd scrubbed so hard it now tingled. He stood there nearly an half an hour, feeling his anger washing away, feeling his tired aching muscles beginning to relax and literally dozing off under the blessed heat.

With cigarette dangling from his lips, Goldman was toweling himself off as the two Delta boys sauntered over to him.

"Hey, Lt."

He squinted at them through a snake of cigarette smoke.

"Look, Lt. No hard feelings, okay?"


"You look like you could use a beer, sir." Blake held out the open beer like a peace offering. The Lt. gave him a tired smile and, gullible to a fault, accepted the beer.

"Bottoms up." toasted Stockton, eyes riveted to the bottle in Goldmanís hand.

"Sorry about earlier, Lt." purred Blake kissing ass.

"Yeah, well, Iíd put some distance between myself and Sargent Carmichael if I were you. When he goes down he may take a few with him."

"Sir." said Blake in all seriousness, clicking his bottle against the Lt.ís in agreement.

"Well, if youíll excuse me, Iíve got a date with a lumpy mattress."

The two saluted. Goldman, stifling a yawn, flipped them a sloppy one in return as he trudged off.

He let the door bang behind him. Feeling a little light-headed, took a sip of beer as he tossed his damp towel on a chair and crossed the room on wobbly legs to his clean, cool, inviting bed. He parked the bottle on the side table and peeled back the blanket and top sheet and fighting increased lack of coordination, crawled in, unconscious before his head hit the pillow.

Blake and Stockton sat in the shade of their barracks, a satisfied smile on Blakeís face as he watched the smoke rings he blew slowly float away.

"How longís it gonna take?"

"Heíll be out cold soon and then a grenade wouldnít wake him."

"So now we wait?"

"Now we wait." he said taking a final swig of his beer before tossing the bottle away.

After six or seven hours sleep, the Team Viking members succumbed to their growling stomachs and were up in time for supper. Looking like two little boys that just woke up, Taylor and Ruis joined the guys in the mess tent. Percell and Doc sat working indifferently at the meals on their trays. Johnson, growing boy that he was, shoveled in the food like he hadnít eaten in a week.

"I got outta bed for this?" whined Doc pushing his tray away.

"You!? I was gettin'it on with a fine little piece of brown sugar when Ruis here is shakin'me awake telling me the slopís ready."

"Sheíll be there when you get back, Taylor." assured Percell stabbing at a piece of mystery meat.

"No she wonít." bleated Taylor, getting a laugh.

"You gonna eat that, Doc?" asked Ruis plunking down across from him and pointing at a lumpy grey pile on his tray.

"No, help yourself."

"Ruis, you queer for mashed potatoes now?" called Taylor.

"Fire!" came a disembodied voice from across the compound.

"What . . ?" began Percell as they all rushed for the door.

They spilled out spotting the smoke immediately.

"A hootch is burning!" called a soldier, stating the obvious.

"Shit! Itís Lt.ís!!" shouted Ruis over the hubbub as they trotted over.

"Anybody seen him?" asked Johnson looking around at the crowd that stood watching it burn.

"Iíll get the Sarg." said Doc before he bolted.

The Lt. woke himself gasping for air. He sat up blinking away burning tears. Disoriented, he couldnít understand why he couldnít make anything out around him. He clumsily kicked his way out of his covers and got up. His head spinning, the room tilted away and he toppled to the floor with a thud. He lay there on his side sucking in the scorching smoke growing weaker. His eyes fluttered shut and he sank into darkness.

Anderson sat up bolt straight in bed as the door rattled under Docís urgent knuckles.

"Sarg! Sarg! Ltís hootch is on fire!"

Anderson couldnít believe his ears. He got up and yanked the door open. Docís concerned face stared up at him.

"Hootch. Fire." he gestured wildly over his shoulder and Anderson saw the thickening smoke.

They got there to find a bucket brigade going and fire extinguishers burping out clouds of CO2.

"Anybody find the Lt. yet?"

"No, Sir." answered Percell launching another bucket of water.

"Heís still inside." Anderson mumbled to himself. He just knew it. He looked at where the flames were chewing their way up the front and side walls, getting a hold on the roof.

"Get me a blanket. Somebody get me a blanket." Anderson said looking around for protection.

With dripping blanket draped over him like a cloak, Anderson rushed up the stairs. He banged open the door and was forced back as a wall of black smoke belched out over him. He dropped to his hand and knees to get below the thick smoke. He reached in a yanked out the Lt.ís rifle and gear, feeling how dangerously hot the rifleís metal was. It clattered down the stairs as he began to crawl into the burning building.

"Lt!!?" he called, smoke nearly choking him.

"Myron?" he found the bed and pawed his way across the blankets.

He held the wet blanket over his mouth going back to the floor and began to blindly feel he way around. His throat was on fire and his eyes streamed. Wouldnít be able to last much longer.
His hand found flesh. He crawled along side Myron and peered down into his face.

"Lt." he croaked, no response.

He lowered an ear over the unconscious manís mouth. Couldnít hear any breathing. Awkwardly tilting the Lt.ís head back and pinching his nose, Anderson placed his mouth over Goldmanís and made a half-assed attempt at artificial respiration, sending two quick breaths into the manís mouth.

The Lt. coughed weakly and sucked in smokey air, setting off a racking coughing fit.

"Come on, Lt." Anderson, too weak now himself to rise, unceremoniously dragged Goldman across the floor behind him as he crawled to the door.

They tumbled out onto the top step into the waiting arms of their men.

"Okay, Sarg. We got him. Come on now, let go." encouraged Percell prying the Sarg.ís fingers from the Lt.ís wrist, as Doc and Taylor lifted the unresponding Goldman onto a waiting gurney.

Percell helped a hacking and wheezing Anderson across the compound to the dispensary.

"I donít care, Sarg. I ainít lettin'you leave until you get someone to look you over too." ordered Percell, assertively out of character.

The guys hovered over Anderson as he sat hunched under a dry blanket holding an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. "How ya doiní, Sarg?" asked Percell squatting beside him.

"Well, now Percell, my chest is powerful sore, but I think I am going to live, thank you." he wheezed with a smile.

They turned towards the swinging doors as a painful sounding burst of hacking coughs and retching erupted.

"Fucking Hell!!" Goldmanís distinctive voice reached them clearly. Anderson just smiled and inhaled deeply.

"He sounds in fine form." commented Hockenberry.

"Yíall, go on now. Finish your dinner, yíhear. Lt.ís going to be fine." he couldnít help smirk thinking of the Lt.ís colourful language lately.

As the men from Team Viking filed out, Anderson pushed through the swinging doors, wheeling his oxygen tank with him and followed the hacking, spitting and wheezing till he found a shakey Goldman sitting on the edge of a bed. Anderson thought the Lt.ís expression, under all the soot was one of indecision; whether to reach down his throat and rip his lungs out or hack one out instead. And he understood. His lungs were burning and he didnít breath in half of what the Lt. did.

"Hey, Lt." Anderson grinned behind the mask and eased down on the bed opposite.

Myron grimaced back, eyes watering.

"Didnít take you for such a heavy sleeper, Lt."

Myron shook his head.

"Must have been plumb exhausted."

Goldman screwed up his face as another spasm of coughs shook his body.

"Want a hit?" offered Zeke handing the mask over. Myron barked out a laugh and ended up hacking until he was gasping for breath.

"Yes, Sir. I always thought you were the lightest sleeper I ever met. Iíve seen you wake up cause someone, namely me, was looking at you too long."

Myron flopped backwards across the bed, sides aching.

"Puzzling, Lt." commented Anderson.

Taylor and the boys sat around the noisy bar nursing beers and contemplating the recent excitement.

"Thatís just too weird for me, man." said Taylor, shivering.

"We heard you the first two times, Marcus." groaned Ruis.

"I donít understand how it could catch on fire." commented Percell.


"Not Lt." The others nodded in agreement.

"Almost had yourselves a crispy critter for an Lt." laughed Blake standing over the SOG team. Johnson gave him the eyeball.

"Whatís it to you?" countered Taylor.

"Nothing, man. Itís just that we were nearly lucky enough to have one less ass-wipe lieutenant to put up with."

Taylorís warm, liquid brown eyes narrowed into slits.

"Hey, watch what youíre saying about our Lt., buddy." Percell said in his smooth Southern good-ol-boy drawl, trying to avoid the confrontation the comment invited.

"I ainít your 'buddyí, pal. Wouldnít be caught dead with the campís circle jerks."

Ruis slowly set his bottle down on the table before him.

"No, heíd rather hang out with a baby killing rapist!" he said getting to his feet and turning to face the Delta man.

"Whoa now Puerto Rico. Donít wanna start nothing in here."

"Then lets step outside." suggested little Ruis, full of spunk.

"Hey, Ruis." Lt. Mackay elbowed his way 'innocently'between the two.

"Can I talk to you guys a minute," he gave them one of his best car salesman smiles, "Uh, could you excuse us, Corporal." he spoke over his shoulder to Blake, clearly dismissing him.

"That guyís cruisiní, Lt." warned Ruis.

"Yeah, well, steer clear of him."

"What did you want to tell us, Lt?" asked Johnson.

"Actually itís more like what you can tell me."

The guys looked at one another.

"What happened on your mission?"

They all looked anywhere but at him, shuffled feet, cleared throats, plainly avoiding the question, stalling, until Doc spoke up.

"Lieutenant Goldman is pressing charges against Sargent Carmichael of Delta Company."

"That big guy we brought back in the chopper?"

"Yep." answered Doc before taking a swig of beer.

"Guess you werenít here about half an hour ago were you, Lt."

"No, I was deliv, . . . what?!" the curiosity killing him.

"Lt.ís hootch burned down."

Mackay gawked in disbelief.

"Lt. was still in it." added Taylor.

"Is he all right? Where is he?"

"He and the Sarg. are in the dispensary."

"Iím gonna go see them. Try and stay outta trouble, guys."

The guys looked at one another and just shook their heads.

"Iím dying for a cigarette." joked Goldman hoarsely lying in surgical scrubs an orderly had dug up for him.

"How did this happen, Myron?" asked Mackay.

"All I remember is coming back to my hootch from the showers and thatís it." he shrugged.

"Where you bunking tonight?"

"Weíre both being kept in here over night for observation."

"Slow night, for 'em, we reckon." threw in Anderson.

"Does anybody know what started the fire?" persisted Mackay.

Goldman shook his head, lost in thought.

Zeke watched the emotions pass across the young Lt.ís features. His heart went out to him. The expression on his face made him look like heíd just lost his only friend in the whole world. Looked like he could use a fatherly hug, he didnít get too many of those growing up.
Anderson looked away dismissing his thoughts of pity. This kid was resilient. Didnít get where he was in the army being soft, generalís son or not.

"Were you able to save any personal stuff?"

Goldman gave him a dejected shrug.

"Everythingís gone. Oh, Zeke managed to same my kit and rifle though." he finished with an exagerated roll of the eyes, making the other two grin.

"That sucks man." said Mackay feeling sorry for Myron.

"Well, I can go out and start collecting new junk without fear of it clashing with any old stuff." Goldman forced a joke trying to make light of a crappy situation.

"Well, guys. Iíve got a squad to drop off in the middle of hell tomorrow so I better get myself some shut-eye. Take care of yourself, Myron." Mackay strolled out, shaking his head at the whole thing.

"Lt." Anderson nodded towards the cabinet across the aisle from their beds.

Goldman glanced over and saw a pair of little black eyes peeking at them from around the cabinet. He grinned, looking back at the Sargent.

"Hi darliní, what are you still doing up?" asked Anderson crossing to squat beside the little girl that had been watching them from behind the cabinet.

She shrugged shyly as he smiled at her. He held his arms out to her in a universal parental 'want up?'gesture, and the little girl happily climbed into his comforting hold. He carried her back to his bed and sat with her. He grinned patiently as her little fingers softly traced the wrinkles, laugh lines and fading scars on his face.
Goldman watched his sargent with the little girl and could imagine how he would have been with Katie if heíd chosen a less insane career.
The little girl squirmed out of Zekeís arms and padded across the floor to the Lt.ís bed and held her arms out to him in the universal child 'up'gesture. Myron glanced nervously at Zeke when his bachelor brain finally figured out the universal translation.

"Go ahead, Lt. she ainít gonna bite you." encouraged Zeke.

"Why does she want me to hold her?" he asked as he did what he was told and pulled her into his arms.

Zeke watched as the little girl stared up into the Lt.ís face before she wrapped her arms around his neck and proceded to fall asleep snuggled up under his chin.

"I think sheís got a bad case of puppy love, Lt."

Goldman gawked at him.

"Donít be ridiculous! Sheís eight years old for crying out loud." he protested but he thought it was kind of cute to be the subject of a little girlís attention.

"So sorry we disturb." Anderson and Goldman both jumped when a quiet voice came from the shadows.

The girlís mother, or perhaps her sister came up to them and lifted the little sleeping bundle from the Lt.

"We no want to make trouble you." she apologized shifting the girlís weight so that it did not rest on her bandaged wounds.

"Let me take her back to bed." offered Goldman getting up and taking the sleeper back. He followed the young woman as she returned to their beds.

Goldman woke up feeling uneasy and a little disoriented. He raised sleepy eyes across at Zekeís bed to find the man stretched out on his side, head propped up on his hand, watching him and smiling.

"What?" asked the Lt., blinking.

Zeke casually glanced at his watch.

"Took 4 minutes, Lt."

"Stop doing that." he tried to give him a stern look.

"Lt. Iím just proving a point. I just donít get how you could have slept through all that."

"Tired I guess." suggested Goldman settling on his back folding an arm under his head.

"I donít buy it, Lt., uh, uh, no sir."

"All right, listen. One. I dropped off my gear. Two. I hit the showers. Three. I headed. . ." he stopped and sat up. "Lt?"

Goldman turned and looked across at Anderson.

"Those two Delta grunts . . . they came up to me 'apologizing'for their behavior. Gave me a beer."

"Beware of grunts bearing gifts . . .Spiked?" said Anderson.

Myron glanced at him, anger rising.

"Iím going to find out!" he said tossing back the covers.

Zeke was up and holding up a cautioning hand.

"Now, Lt. Slow down just a minute here. Itís the middle of the night." reasoned Anderson.

"I donít care."

"Yes sir, I can see that, but the rest of the camp just might."

Goldman backed off realizing he was going off half-cocked.

"Why do I hear 'proper channels'coming up again?"

"Well, Sir, I know things ainít always fair but, Iím figuring that they canít question your actions if you do it within their boundaries."

"What if you donít like the end results, Sargent?"

"Then you question the actual intelligence of this army, sir, more than usual and swear never to re-up."

Goldman and Anderson got two thumbs up from medical and were outta there and they made their way over to the mess tent for some grub.

They wandered over to a table commendeered by Team Viking.

"Hey, Lt. How ya doiní?" asked Doc.


"You guys see Carmichael yet today, Sarg?" asked Taylor.

"See him?"

"Yessir, heís over at the motor pool."

"What?! . . . What do you mean heís over at the motor pool?" asked Goldman still standing over them.

"Been strutting around shaking hands like a politician looking for votes," said Percell, ". . . all he needs now are babies to kiss."

"People like Carmichael shake babies and kiss hands." grumbled Goldman, glancing around, not understanding the higher ups anymore. "You mean kill babies, Lt." said Ruis.

"I hear that." answered Goldman, realizing heíd just used a Zeke-ism when Anderson snorted and looked away, to hide his grin.

"We been thinking about the fire, Lt." started Percell.

"Yeah, Lt. It just didnít start all by itself." added Ruis.

Goldman looked at Anderson, who gave him an 'Iím-not-the-only-suspicious-one'look.

"What conclusions did you come to, Spc4?"

"A couple of Carmichaelís men had an 'opinion'about it last night, Sir."

"Blake and Stockton?"

"Yeah, how did you know, Lt?"

"Just a guess," he gave Anderson one of his looks.

"Excuse me Lieutenant, but, Major Darling would like to see you, sir." announced a young fresh faced soldier as he saluted up into Goldmanís face.

"All right." he set his coffee cup down and followed the corporal away.

"Well, now. What yíall got planned for this bright sunny day?" smiled Anderson.

The men of Team Viking exchanged curious looks.

Blake let the door bang shut behind him as he followed Sargent Carmichael into his hootch.

"We gotta 'frag' the son of a bitch!" snarled Carmichael turning to glare at Blake.

"Do what ever it takes to get that 'fuck'out of my life!"

Blake casually lit a cigarette as he CO prowled his hootch, livid about a date being set for his conduct hearing.

"Got it covered, Sarg."

Carmichael stopped his pacing and squinted at the man.

"Give me some good news, soldier."

"Well, sir," started Blake, helping himself to a beer from the sargentís personal cache, "Our very own Lt. Wingate has managed to come down with a 'violent'case of food poisoning. . ."

"So . . . ?" Carmichael cracked open a beer for himself.

"Well, sir," he repeated, "Lieutenant Goldman and his bum-buddy Sargent Anderson, have been selected to take Delta Company out in the morning for a routine recon mission."

"What???!!" roared the huge man, missing Blakeís point.

"Sargent, Yo! Carmichael, man, Ease up. Thatís a good thing."

"That snot-nosed little bastard," grumbled Carmichael, before asking;

"How you figure it being a good thing?"

"All us guys . . . and just them two . . ? Accidents happen, Sarg." he shrugged innocently.

Carmichaelís little pig eyes darted back and forth as his brain processed this morcel. Blake took a long pull on his beer as a smile spread across his Sargentís big sweaty face.

Myron sat cooling his heels outside Major Darlingís office for nearly three quarters of an hour before the self-important little man summoned him.
The Lieutenant stepped to attention before the Majorís desk and snapped into a regulation salute that the Major deliberately took his time acknowledging.

"At ease, Lieutenant." he said flapping a dismissing hand at him.

"Heard about your quarters. Have you got gear?"

"Yes sir, Sargent Anderson was able to save my army issued belongings."

"Good. You and Anderson are going out on a recon mission at 0700 hours tomorrow morning."

"Sir, the men arenít on the roster for another four days, sir."

"Thatís because Viking isnít going out tomorrow." he left that comment hanging between them as he shuffled through papers on his desk.

"Sir?" asked Goldman, finally, not following the Majorís logic.

"You and Anderson are, what you would call, out on loan." Darling smiled to see the confusion on the Lieutenantís face.

"Delta Company is stuck without a sargent, and their Lt, has come down with a bad case of 'food poisoningí. So, youíre it."

"Yes, sir." accepted Goldman, trying to hide his distaste.

"Youíre out for the day, Iím sue you can handle one day, lieutenant."

"Yes, sir." he answered, consciously making an effort not to curl his fingers into fists, to not give away the anger that boiled just below the surface.

Darling smiled to himself as he watched Goldmanís too expressive face tell everything the young officer was feeling. "That will be all, lieutenant."

It took a moment before Myron realized heíd been dismissed.

"Yes, sir." he snapped a tidy salute, With jaw muscles twitching, he waited for the major to do his little power trip before he returned the salute.

He stormed blindly from the building, muttering to himself, oblivious to the looks he was getting.

He stopped so quickly he sent up a cloud of dust from the parched earth and stood dumbly facing the sagging remains of his quarters, that heíd automatically headed for after leaving Darlingís office.
He glanced around feeling he was being watched and saw Blake and Carmichael lounging against some oil drums, smirking, Blake flicking absently at a lighter. He eyeballed them a moment debating whether to get into it with them or not then decided against it. He turned and headed off in the opposite direction only to collide with Sargent Anderson.

"Lt., can I talk to you a minute?" asked Anderson steadying the man.

"What is it, Sargent?" he asked glancing over his shoulder to see the oil drums abandonned.

"Are the rumours Iím hearing true? Weíre taking Delta Company out?"

"íFraid so, Sargent."

"Now donít that just beat all." he shook his head in amazement.

"Donít it." agreed Goldman, turning a disgusted look at him.

The day's weather was questionable. It was 0700 hours and the heat and humidity were already oppressive. The old dogs of war were predicting the coming rain by the aches and pains in their bones. Sergeant Anderson and Lieutenant Goldman stood before Delta Company taking in the men they were spending the day with. Blake and Stockton hung back away from most of the men, exchanging only the odd acknowledgement to any other soldier's comments directed at them.

"There's an example of team work, Lt." said Anderson nodding at the two men.

"I want a close eye kept on them."

"Unnerstood, sir." Anderson shouldered his carbine and sauntered over to the cluster of soldiers.

"Good morning ladies. In case you don't all know it, I'm Sergeant Anderson and the officer over there is Lieutenant Goldman. We're your babysitters today. What we say goes. Is that understood?" Anderson glanced at the Lt.

"What's up with Sergeant Carmichael?" called Blake from the back.

"We ain't here to discuss Sergeant Carmichael, soldier, we're here to get this recon underway. Now you all know the routine. It's what we all do best. So climb in that bird and lets get to work. Move it."

Anderson just shook his head as he watched the men lumbered lethargically into the Huey. He turned when Goldman stopped the RTO.

"Stockton. Take the radio." called the Lt. forcing the stunned radio man to peel off the gear.

"Lt, I don't carry the radio." he glanced quickly at Blake.

"You do today." said Goldman giving the man a look that dared him to press the issue.

Goldman followed the last of the men in and found an inch of floor to perch on. Anderson sat beside the gunner and slapped the side of the helicopter to signal the pilot.

"Charlie Brown, this is Snoopy 0-1, do you copy? Over."

~ 'Go ahead Snoopy 0-1, over.' ~

"Charlie Brown, we are 10 klicks Sierra of the ville. e.t.a. 30 mikes. Over."

~ 'Roger, Snoopy. Proceed to check point Charlie. Radio back with intel. at that location. Over.' ~

"Roger. Snoopy 0-1, over'n'out." he handed the receiver to Stockton.

"Sergeant, get them moving."

"Yes, sir. All right now, time to earn our MPC, gentlemen. Move out and watch your intervals . . . Blake, take the point."

The Delta men all exchanged looks in silence as Blake glared at Anderson.

"Is there a problem here, Sergeant?" asked Goldman enjoying seeing Blake pale slightly.

"No, sir." answered Anderson, keeping a leveled stare at Blake.

"Good. Move 'em out."

"Blake. Point. Now."

Blake looked around at the faces that stared at him. He shot a murderous look at the Lieutenant's departing back and headed off to take point position.

"Keep an eye on him, Sergeant." mumbled Goldman as he passed Anderson heading further back in the line.

Sweat soaked and nerves drawn taut, Blake raised a fist and sank to one knee. The line of men behind him

followed suit like The Rockettes. Anderson trotted up to the front of the line and squatted beside the point man.

"What is it, Blake?"

"Ville's just 'round the next bend, Sarg." he said licking drops of nervous sweat from his upper lip as he nodded looking up the trail.

"All right. Nice and easy. You've done this before. It's routine."

Goldman made his way up the line and joined them. "What's wrong?" he asked going down on one knee propping the heel of his rifle on his thigh.

"The ville's just around the next bend."

"All right, let's do it." Goldman signaled for the men to get moving.

Blake, stepping out of the tree line, finger ready on the trigger, sweat trickling down his back, relaxed as the rest of the men fanned out into the clearing around him facing the village.

"All right, now, ladies. Nice and easy, 'hear. They might be friendlies. But be thorough." lectured Anderson.

"Stay alert, people." added Goldman.

The villagers stared at them with a mix of open hostility and fear.

"Blake! Check that hootch! . . . You. make sure you check those pens," deligated the Lieutenant, " . . . Stockton, stay with me. Sergeant get these villagers rounded up."

They began working their way cautiously through the village. Blake ducked into the tiny hut to see a young woman grab for . . . he didn't wait to see and levelled his M-16 at her, its bullets practically cutting her in half.

The place errupted in panic. Animals, villagers and soldiers scattered. The VC that had been laying in wait for them sprang from doorways firing on the American soldiers. Blake charged from the hut mowing down anything in his path. He stopped, stood still and watched the melee before him.

Smiling, he watched Lieutenant Goldman pinned down behind a stack of grain bags returning VC fire while Stockton cringed in fear at his back. Blake's smile widened as he raised his rifle and took aim.

Goldman pressed himself flat against the bags as AK-47 rounds whizzed by him, sparked off the radio and chewed through Stockton's neck, nearly severing his head. He grimaced as he watched the man topple over in the dust, limbs twitching. He glanced around, just in time to see Blake's muzzle flash and then he lost his rifle and his helmet went flying as he was smacked backwards into the pile of grain sacks by a blinding pain exploding in his head. The bags toppled away from him under the impact and he sagged, in a daze to his butt, exposed and in the line of enemy fire.

Anderson screamed orders, cajoled, threatened and encouraged as he tucked and rolled, ran, scrambled and crawled from man to man. He was nearly hit when he skidded to a stop mid-sprint seeing the Lt. half sprawled across the burlap sacks with blood spreading down his face.

He rolled behind a rusty oil drum nearly toppling the cluster of soldiers crouching there like bowling pins.

"Cover me. I'm going for the Lt!" he shouted at the closest frightened face and bolted from the cover as soon as the soldier lifted his rifle.

He made a bee-line to the tumbled pile of sacks and dropped to his belly. He peeked over the Lt's body to see Blake sauntering towards them reloading, oblivious to the artillary zipping by him.

"Blake!! Take cover!!" roared Anderson as he reached up, got a hold of the Lt.'s web and yanked him to the ground beside him.

He looked up at the soldier approaching and saw the madness. Saw him, as if in slow motion, raise his weapon and aim it right at him and the Lt.

"Don't do this, Blake!" yelled Anderson, rolling onto his back bringing his own gun up.

"Accidents happen, Sarg." he said flatly, nearly on top of them.

Anderson jumped as a bullet from his 6 o'clock hit Blake square in the chest knocking him off his feet and killing him instantly.

He turned only to see the company medic belly-crawling towards him.

"Is he alive?" asked the medic, wondering if he was wasting his time.

"Think so . . ." hoped Anderson, noticing that the fire fight was dying out. That they'd either killed most of the VC or they had them on the run.

"Don't let him die, Doc." said Anderson springing into a crouch and running to the men behind the oil drum.

"Get some men together and follow them. Get as many as you can."

"Yes, Sir." answered the soldier enthusiastically.

"Tell me something soldier . . , you wouldn't happen to be the company sniper, would you?"

The young man looked away nervously.

"Uh, yes sir..."


"Anderson, Sir." he grinned sheepishly.

Sgt. Anderson looked at the boy's name tag and grinned.

"I'll be damned. Y'done good son."

"Yes, Sir."

Anderson touched base with all the men in Delta company who'd survived the ambush, giving them pep talks, praises and pats on the backs that eased their pains and fears some. He pulled the radio off the remains of Cpl. Stockton and radioed in their intel.

"Charlie Brown. This is Snoopy 0-2, over."

~'Go ahead, 0-2. Over.'~

"Request dust-off at our target location. Over."

~'What is your Zulu, 0-2. Over.'~

"4 k.i.a. 3 wounded. Over."

~'Target was hot then?'~

"10-4. Over."

~'Sending in choppers, 0-2. e.t.a. 45 mikes. Over.'~

"Snoopy 0-2. Roger. Over and Out." he dropped the receiver and made his way over to the medic.

"How is he?" he nodded towards the Lt.

"He was very lucky. bullet grazed him. He'll be fine. May need a half a dozen stitches though."

"Thanks, Doc." he went and squatted beside the Lt. who sat on a bag of rice holding a compress to his head, elbows on knees, a cigarette dangling from his mouth.

"Hey, how y'doin'?"

"Which one of you two asked that?" he tried joking, squinting to get only one Zeke into focus.

"Chopper should be here soon."

"Good . . ." he slowly looked around the village.

"Blake . . ." Anderson began before Goldman silenced him with a glare. Zeke shrugged realizing he better drop it for now.

The chopper was met by dispensary personnell who whisked the severly wounded away. Still a little wobbly on his pins, Goldman welcomed the tight grip Anderson had on his upper arm as they made their way to the dispensary.

"You two again?" teased a cute little brunette.

"Yeah, we're becoming regulars ain't we?"

"Lets have a look at this." she backed Myron onto an examination table. He pulled a face as she pulled at the dressing.

"Ouch. I bet someone has a pretty nasty head ache."

"I'm fine." he put on false bravado for the attractive nurse.

"Are you, now. . ? How about we put a few stitches in that to make sure."

"Uhhh. . ." he stalled.

"Come on, Lt. Let the little lady do her job." prodded Anderson.

"There. How does that feel?" she asked pressing the last of the tape to his forehead.

"Great!" he was such a bad liar, pale under all the grime, he slid off the table and stood swaying a little.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." he assured her, turning to go and walked straight into the wall.

"Whoa, now Lt. Take it easy." laughed Anderson grabbing him before he fell.

"I think you better rest up here for a little while." suggested the nurse.

"Okay, but just for a couple of minutes." agreed Goldman a little disoriented.

"Okay." she agreed, knowing he'd probably sleep through the night.

Anderson steered the Lt. through the dispensary maze behind the nurse to a quiet corner with a free cot.

"Here y'go, Lt." Anderson lowered him into the cot.

"Just a couple of minutes . . . half hour, tops . . ." he said, curling up hugging the pillow and he was out for the count, oblivious to the holster and gun still strapped snuggly to his chest.

"He's not going anywhere, you can collect him in the morning, Sergeant." she said smiling warmly at Zeke.

"Thank you, m'ame." he bobbed and twitched nervously.

"And Sergeant, If you're free later, you can collect 'me' at 2100 hours if you'd like." she suggested openly, taking him completely by surprise.

"Uh, I'd like that just fine, m'ame. 2100 hours." he left, palms sweating before he sputtered all over her.

Time took for ever to pass as Zeke waited for 2100 hours to come along. He'd showered, shaved and tried his best to smooth out the porcupine quills he had for hair. Wearing a path in his floor, he decided to head over to the dispensary early and check in on Goldman before he met his little brunette nurse.

Anderson set a chair down backwards beside the cot and straddled it, resting his muscular forearms on the back rail. He glanced at his watch with a grin then turned his attention to the sleeping Lieutenant who was sprawled all over the bed on his belly, a foot dangling over the edge, face crammed contentedly into the pillow.

Anderson snorted with humour as the young man suddenly propped himself up on his elbows, hair cork-screwing in every direction, blinking sleepily.

"Anderson?" he croaked.

"Not bad for someone who just got clunked on the noggin."

"What?" he sat up scratching, squinting at him.

"It only took 6 1/2 minutes." said Anderson double checking his watch for accuracy.

Goldman narrowed his eyes at the man.

"Were you watching me sleep. Again?!"

Anderson giggled.

"You know I . . ." he started in at him.

The two suddenly understood the expression 'blood curdling' when it was attached to the word 'scream'. It echoed through the dispensary halls as a tray of surgical tools crashed to the floor. They were both on their feet in a second and storming in its direction.

Zeke's little nurse stood motionless before the closed swinging doors to the supply storage room with a hand clamped over her mouth, face deathly white.

"What's wrong?" asked Zeke as he rushed to her and pulled her into his arms.

"They're all dead!" she finally managed to say.

"It's all right, now. Everything's going to be just fine."

As the medical staff began to crowd her, Goldman noticed the trail of her bloody footprints exiting the supply room. Circling the crowd, he cautiously approached the doors, pulling his gun from his chest holster. He stepped over the bloody trail and slowly shouldered the door open, clutching the revolver in both hands.

"Oh, Jesus!" he gasped staggering back, banging the door against the wall. He swallowed hard, stomach heaving.

"Lt?" Zeke passed the nurse off to an orderly and hurried over.

"Oh Dear Lord." he groaned raising a hand to his mouth.

The tiny bodies of the village children lay piled in a heap in a growing pool of their own blood and gore. They'd had their throats cut, their bellies gutted. Goldman blinked back sudden tears and side stepped around the medical staff that milled about just outside the room and headed purposefully for the exit.

"Lt. . .!" Anderson called trotting to catch up to him.

"Lt., hold up here, now. I know what you're plannin' on doin."

"Then don't bother trying to stop me." answered Goldman checking the chamber in his pistol.

"Lt." he grabbed Goldman's arm.

"Sergeant . . ." he tried to pull free but Anderson held on, stopped him from heading outside.

"Lt. Don't throw away two careers here, now."

Goldman's deep brown eyes flashed a warning at the Sergeantnt.

"I am going to kill him." and he again unsuccessfully attempted to break from Anderson's grip.

Anderson shoved Goldman up against the wall and pinned him there hoping to talk some sense into him when Ruiz and Doc hustled a bleeding Taylor into the dispensary.

"Sarg! Carmichael! He's gone crazy!" yelled Ruiz.

Anderson rushed to help his men.

Seeing Taylor, Goldman, more determined than ever, slips from the dispensary to hunt down that bastard Carmichael. He tightened his grip on the gun as he moved across the compound, searching, listening.

"All right, now settle down, Taylor. Much to our great regret, you're gonna live." joked Anderson easing the tension in the room patting Taylor's shoulder.

"Very funny, Sarg. I might still die from the fright." whined Taylor watching the nurse lay the gauze down over his stitched up belly.

"Where'd this happen?" Anderson directed the question at Hockenberry and Ruiz.

"Mess tent. He just come stormin' in there, Sarg. Covered in blood." grimaced Ruiz dramatically, picturing it again.

"He had the knife and was ranting and raving. Total psycho." added Doc.

"He's looking for the Lt., Sarg!" blurted Ruiz looking around for Goldman.

"Oh Lordie. Doc, stay here with Taylor, Ruiz, you come with me, now." ordered Anderson as he headed off.

"I'm gonna be just fine, Sarg, thanks for asking!" yelled a petulant Taylor. Doc grinned and patted his head.

"Listen, Sarg . . . we gotta sit down and talk about it." pleaded Johnson, eyes wide with fear to see Carmichael clutching Percell against his chest with a knife pressed against his throat.

"Too late for talking now."

"But, Sarg . . ."

"Shut the fuck up!" screeched Carmichael. Danny grunted and squeezed his eyes shut as the blade popped the skin and blood oozed over its steel.

"Let me get you some help, Sarg." offered a desperate Johnson, licking nervously at his lips, trying not to watch the blood run down Percell's neck and soak into his t-shirt.

"Help? Help? What kind of fucking help do I need, huh?" he asked adjusting his hold on Percell as he moved closer to the crates at his back.

"Maybe a doctor."

"I don't need no fucking doctor!!" Percell cringed as the huge man roared right beside his ear. "And you . . ." he jerked Danny like a rag, "don't fucking try anything. . . I'll slit your throat from ear to ear if you try anything."

"Ain't gonna do a thing, Sarg." answered Danny calmer than her really felt.

Goldman moved quietly through the motor pool depot hearing but not seeing the trio. He glanced around seeing soldiers and MP's prowling about all hunting for the same monster he was.

He checked his pistol again, took in a shakey deep breath and stepped into Carmichael's sight line, only a few feet behind Johnson.

"Well, well, well . . ." wheezed Carmichael. Johnson chanced a quick glance back over his shoulder.


"Let him go," was all Goldman said, then added, "Johnson, get out of here. go!"

Percell's ice blue eyes stared at the Lt. as Johnson side stepped by him and bolted.

"The snot-nosed, ass-wipe Lieutenant lives to preach another day." Carmichael draped an arm over Percell's shoulder like they were the best of buddies.

"Let him go, Carmichael." said Goldman again flatly.

"You fucked everything up, Lt. Should have just let it go." said Carmichael bitterly, bringing the knife up under Percell's jaw, the blade laying across the beating artery.

Myron raised his pistol at arm's length and leveled it at Carmichael's head.

"You okay, Percell?" asked the Lt., ignoring the Sergeant's taunt.

"As well as could be exp. . ."

Carmichael thumped Percell painfully in the chest. "Shut the fuck up!"

"This is between you and me, Carmichael, let him go."

"Maybe I'll kill him for you, ass-wipe." he threatened, pressing against Percell's neck.

"It'll be the last thing you do." promised Goldman through clenched teeth.

Carmichael's little eyes darted about as he madly sought an escape route.

"Give it up, Sergeant." encouraged Goldman, fearing for Percell's life.

Percell grunted in pain and his knees buckled as Carmichael thwacked him in the head with the bone handle of his knife.

Goldman reached out to catch him as he pitched forward, not seeing Carmichael's knife coming at him until it was too late. Goldman squeezed the trigger, the shot went wide and he squawked in shock, dropping the gun as the blade sliced into his side, skittering off ribs. Clutching at his side, he collapsed in a heap beside Percell.

He looked up grimacing in pain to see Carmichael raising the knife above him. A blur streak by him and Anderson was there leaping over him tackling Carmichael, driving him backwards off his feet. They skidded to a stop in a cloud of dust, wrestling, kicking, punching, each trying to overpower the other.

Anderson gradually got the upper hand and managed to straddle the crazed man and pin his wrists against the ground as he writhed and bucked his substantial bulk beneath him.

Goldman climbed painfully to his feet, gun clenched in bloody hand and stood a moment weaving dangerously as he watched the two men kicking up clouds of dust. He stumbled closer and took aim at Carmichael's face, hand trembling. Anderson chanced a surprised glance over his shoulder as the Lt.'s boots shuffled into hie peripheral vision.

"Lt.!! Nooo!!!" he shouted, "Don't do it!"

"You'd shoot a mad dog . . ." said the Lt. flatly, cocking the hammer.

"Please, Lt., don't."

Goldman squinted an eye shut, sighting down his arm.

"Drop your weapon, Sir." came a calm warning from behind him.

Pressing his lips together in determination, ignoring the order, Goldman got a better grip on his pistol, preparing for the kick when it discharged.

"Drop your weapon NOW, Lieutenant." came the warning again, punctuated by the cold muzzle of the MP's service revolver pressing against the base of his skull.

Reluctantly, Goldman dropped the gun at his feet and a swarm of MPs charged in to relieve Anderson of his burden and haul him away.

Anderson moved to Percell's side, rolling him over on his back.

"Percell? C'mon now, son." he pulled a face seeing the discoloured lump on his temple. "Percell." he shook him gently.

Danny groaned as he came to a little disoriented, batting at Zeke's hands and sitting up ready to bolt, startled eyes searching for Carmichael.

"Whoa now, son. It's Zeke. Steady." reassured Anderson grabbing Percell's hands and pulling them into his chest.

"Oh man, Sarg." he rasped wincing at the throbbing in his head. He brushed at his throat and came away with blood. He looked up at the sarg, eyes getting big.

"You cut yourself shaving again, Percell?" Anderson winked at him and helped him to his feet, "Go get yourself checked out."

"I'll be all right, Sarg." Percell assured him, feeling lucky to be alive.

"Danny!" Johnson rushed to them, "You okay, man?!"

"Yeah, I'm all right."

"Dispensary! That's an order." said Anderson pointing over Percell's shoulder.

"I'll make sure he goes, Sarg." offered Johnson wrapping an arm around Danny's shoulder, leading him away.

Anderson did a 360 realizing the Lt. was nowhere in sight.

"Oh, Lord." he sighed to himself. The kid had come close to stepping over that edge tonight, he was going to be some messed up by all this.

Thinking of other times the Lt. wandered off to think or brood, he usually found him hunkered down in a relatively isolated part of the camp.

Irritated, he found him this time perched on a stack of sand bags by the perimetre fence, a perfect sitting duck for any night snipers to pick off. Damn fool kid! Damn.

"Lt . . !" he called curtly as he trotted towards him. Goldman lost in thought and in shock, didn't hear him call.
Anderson marched up behind him, grabbed Goldman roughly by the collar and yanked him off the sand bags.
The Lt. tumbled to the ground all arms and legs, hissing at the searing pain in his side as the knife wound pulled open and blood bubbled out. He lay where he landed at Anderson's feet unable to move.

"You stupid kid! You're gonna get yourself killed, damn it!" Anderson barked down at the officer, "What the hell were you thinking? Of all the stupid thick-headed things I've seen you do, that has got to be the stupidest! Y'unnerstand?!" the barking turning into screaming, knowing he was crossing the line with the Lieutenant but couldn't stop now if he wanted to releasing the pent up stress they'd both just lived through.

"Damn it Lt. . ." he stomped away and squatted against the wall of bags, huffing and glaring at the man lying in the dirt.

"Lt. . . . ?" he watched him, waiting for the usually predictable outburst of anger from the Lt.'s short fuse.

But nothing.

"Lt.?" Anderson duck-walked closer to Goldman and, squinting in the shadows, noticed for the first time the dark spreading stain over the Lt.'s shirt.

"Oh Lord. Oh Jesus! Lt." his hands moved over his body searching for other injuries.

"I'm okay, I'm okay. You just knocked the wind out of me, Sergeant, that's all." downplayed Goldman, not wanting to give Anderson another reason to yell at him.

"No disrespect, now Lt. But I can plainly see that you are bleeding, and doing it all over yourself."

"Are Taylor and Percell okay?" he asked worried about the men.

"They're fine. Now let's get you to the dispensary." insisted Anderson.

"Why didn't I kill him, Zeke?"

" . . . Cause you ain't like him, Lt." answered the Sergeant.

"I should have." said Goldman weakly, angry with himself.

"Now, listen to me, Lt. You done the right thing. You ain't got nothin' to beat yourself up about, y'hear me? Now, if we gotta, we can discuss this at length after we get you to the dispensary."

"I don't think I can walk, Zeke." admitted Myron no longer able to block out the scorching pain across his side.

"S'alright, just lean your weight on me . . ," Zeke leaned in an wrapped an arm carefully around Myron as Myron wrapped a shakey arm around his neck, " . . . alright, now on three, okay?" Myron nodded, not looking forward to it.

"Okay. One. . . Two. . .Three." Zeke hauled Myron to his feet, and had to take the man's full weight as his eyes rolled back in his head and he passed out. Anderson wrapped his hand around the Lt.'s waist and felt fresh hot blood ooze into his hand.

"Come on, Lt." he said with a grunt scooping Goldman up into his arms.

He kicked his way into the dispensary with the dazed Lt. draped across his arms.

"Medic!" he hollered stepping inside.

Two orderlies ran to his aid and got Goldman to an examining table. Anderson stood off to the side watching as they peeled the blood soaked shirt away from the knife wound. He winced and turned and walked out when he caught a glimpse of the Lt.'s injury. He sat out in the little 'waiting' area while they sewed Goldman up.

Zeke came to his feet as the orderlies wheeled Goldman from the room, hooked up to an I.V., transfering him to a bed for the night.

"Doc?" asked Anderson, a little worried.

"Oh,Sergeant, he'll be fine. He's just spending the night for observation."

"Again." mumbled Anderson watching the gurney disappear around a far corner.

"Pardon?" asked the doctor.

"Uh, mind if I sit with him a spell?"

"Suit yourself, Sergeant, but all he's going to be doing tonight is sleep."

"That's okay, Doc. I'm just gonna sit and watch him sleep." Anderson smiled to himself checking his watch.

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