[ separations ]

by pfc kory

Sgt. Anderson paused momentarily, ducking a little lower behind the rock he was using for cover and glanced over his shoulder in the direction of the Ell-Tee.
Goldman hadn't seemed quite right for weeks, spending more time than usual in some quiet corner of the base brooding over something. Zeke had tried several times to get Myron to open up, let him in on what was eating him, but Myron would just throw one of his quirky little half smile at him and wave him off saying "no big thing, Zeke, don't mean nothing."

Zeke had puzzled over that response. It had seemed out place, like he was suppose to be in on something, 'cept the Lt. had forgotten to tell him what that something was.

At first the Sgt. decided to just leave Lt. alone, let him work whatever it was out, but then they'd been sent out. Couple of recons, no big deal, 'cept on both they come under fire as they'd headed for the LZ. That was nothing new, happened a lot these days. Lt.'s responses hadn't been quite what they normally were, however. Zeke had gotten pretty used to covering the rear when things got hot.

That was his job, covering his men's butts, getting them all back on those choppers. He always thought of the Lt. as one of his men, even though he figured Lt. would tell him he had that turned around. The last couple times they'd been out, Myron had signaled him to head for the choppers ahead of him, keeping a few yards behind to cover Sarge's butt as ran for it. No big thing, Zeke had told himself, everyone had made it. Still, he'd didn't like this sudden bravado that seemed to have taken over his friend. And now they were in it again.

Lt. Goldman could feel Zeke's brief glances his direction every few seconds. He knew Zeke was worried, but there wasn't time to worry about that now, they needed to get out of here. Inserting another clip into his M16, he fired off a couple of quick bursts. Hoping the NVA in front of him would keep their heads down for a second or two, Myron rose just enough to carefully make his way over to his Sergeant.

"We gotta get movin', Zeke. We're gonna miss our ride."

Zeke nodded his agreement, signally the guys to start pulling back in pairs. He watched for a second to make sure they were moving, then turned back to continue firing.

"You too, Zeke." the Lt. ordered.

"Go!" Goldman prodded, signally with a nod for him to follow the men back.

Zeke still hesitated. He didn't at all like leaving the Lt. to cover his rear.


Zeke fired off a couple more quick rounds before turning towards the LZ. He was still pivoting when he felt the fire slice past his bottom rib and burn it's way through his side. Losing his balance, he found himself pitching forward, heading towards a hard landing flat on his face.

"Can ya stand?"

Lt had managed to grab hold of his backpack and yank him back up to is knees, just as he was about to eat dirt. It struck him that he'd have never thought the Lt'd be strong enough to yank a guy his size up like that, especially with momentum working against him.

"'s nothing."

"Then go!" Lt. ordered, shoving the wounded Sergeant unceremoniously towards his retreating men.

"Come on, Sarge"

Johnson had been near enough to see Sarge go down and had come back to make sure he was alright. Taking his cue from Lt., he grabbed hold of Sarge's web gear, half-dragging, half-guiding Zeke toward the LZ.


Zeke wanted to turn and make sure Myron was behind him, but Johnson grip on him was too firm.

"He's right behind us! Come on!"

Zeke felt a shove from behind at the same moment Johnson jumped in the chopper, yanking his wounded Sergeant in with him. Twisting around, Zeke scanned the interior, taking a quick head count. Everyone was there. The tension in his aching muscles eased and he let himself relax against the vibrating hull. Johnson was right, the Lt. had been right behind them, and now sat dangling his feet absently out the doorway of the chopper. He looked more like a bored child than a man that who had just narrowly escaped death. Zeke definitely didn't like whatever was going on in his Lieutenant's head.

Myron could feel Zeke studying him from behind. He knew the Sergeant wasn't pleased with him. For the moment he didn't care, though. He'd deal with Zeke on ground, for now, he just wanted to enjoy these final minutes before returning to complicated, frustrating world of the base.

"So, you're gonna live?" Lt. quipped as he peered protectively over the shoulder of nurse that was stitching up his Sergeant.

"Yup, like I said before, 's nothing."

Zeke grinned flirtatiously at the cute little nurse, trying to distract himself from the frustrating man standing just behind her.

"Not too serious, Sergeant," the nurse volunteered shyly, "but I think we'll keep you here tonight anyway." she finished, blushing under the playful gaze of her patient.

"I'm fine, ma'm. Just as soon get back to my hooch."

The wound was hardly anything as far as Zeke was concerned, another quarter inch and the bullet would've missed him altogether. As it was, it'd just gone straight through without doing much damage, barely even hurt. He'd just lost some blood was all. Course, he was going to feel it tomorrow, but that was no reason to waste a bed in the infirmary. Besides, he really wanted to have a serious discussion with his Lt., and that'd never happen here.

Myron shifted to grab hold of an arm as Zeke slid off the table, the Sergeant finding himself a little more wobbly than expected.

"Won't hurt you spend the night, Zeke." Myron prodded, handing the patient off to the nurse.

"Get some rest, I'll see in the morning." the Lt. added quickly, before turning to rush out the door before Zeke could say anything.

Although thankful that the Sergeant wasn't seriously hurt, Myron found himself relieved that he'd been kept over night. He could tell the man had reached the limit of his patience, but Myron didn't really want to talk. The inevitable postponed one more night, he dragged himself wearily to his hooch. Perhaps he'd wait till tomorrow to shower, he thought to himself as he collapsed onto his bed still wearing his fatigues.

He cowered deeper into the corner of the alley as the group of boys advanced towards him menacingly. It had been stupid of him to take this route home this time of day. The neighborhood boys would still be congregated in the empty lot he'd have to walk past, just waiting for a good target to pounce on. Myron always made a good target. He was small and never seemed to quite fit in, not that he really bothered to try. The fist caught him right between the eyes, and he felt himself wobble.

Opening his eyes, he found himself staring up at the departing chopper. Taylor was hanging out the door, laughing. Myron could just hear him still.

"No, big thing, guys," he hissed, "only lost the Lt., he wasn't really one us anyway."

Myron just caught a glimpse of him turning to face his buddies before the butt of the VC rifle sent him into blackness.

Opening his eyes fearfully, he cowered deeper into the corner, focusing on the dead body of his mother lying so still only a few feet away as the boy's fist rammed into his ribs, knocking the breath from his lungs.

Gasping for air, the Lt. jerked up from his bed, twisting his wrist around so his watch faced him. Shit! It'd been less than an hour since he'd flopped onto his bunk. The nightmares were starting early tonight. Rising stiffly, he stripped off his dirty fatigues before grabbing a cigarette. Lying back down, he rested his head in the curve his arm and stared up at the ceiling. It didn't seem likely that he'd get much more sleep tonight, but it was late and he was tired, so there wasn't much point in doing anything else.

"Damn, Taylor!" he swore out loud, jumping back onto his feet to pace.

He'd been having these fucking dreams ever since he'd overheard Taylor mouthin' off. Taylor hadn't meant anything by it, and Myron knew it.

That was what was so infuriating. It bothered him, more than the dreams themselves, that he'd let it get to him. The guys hadn't been getting much personal time lately and tempers were short. Being their C.O., of course they'd vent their frustration his direction.
Besides, it wasn't their fault he wasn't really one of them, as Taylor had so eloquently pointed out to everyone. He was an officer, it wasn't his job to be their pal. There always would, and should, be a separation between them. Without it, he would be much of a commanding officer. In the bush it wasn't so bad. They trusted him to make good decisions, they had to. Trust, respect, loyalty. That's what kept them alive. The world was simple out in the bush. But back here, Myron was alone, just like he'd always been alone.

Feeling suddenly claustrophobic, Myron stomped out of his hooch. He'd go ask the nurse how Zeke was doing to get his mind off himself. Then maybe he'd walk for while, try to make himself tired enough to sleep, without anymore dreams, not that it ever worked.

Arriving at the infirmary, Myron stepped in quietly and looked around for the duty nurse. Not seeing anyone, he sneaked towards Zeke's bed, hoping to get a peek without Zeke noticing. As he neared the bed, he could hear the indistinct sound of softly spoken conversation, intertwined with burst of laughter. The guys had come to visit their Sergeant. Not wanting to break up the fun, Myron quietly retraced his steps, leaving the infirmary without anyone realizing he'd been there.

The affection the men had for Zeke always left Myron a little envious. He'd always been on the outside - even with his parents. His father'd never really been around and despite her constant love, his mom had always kept him distant. Then she'd killed herself. It had taken him completely by surprise, showing him just how far away she'd really been.

Zeke just had a way of getting close to everyone. The men liked to be near him, felt safer with him around. He was a good man, a good friend, a great Sergeant, the sort of man who was hard not to like. Myron certainly couldn't fault the men for their devotion. He felt it too. He wouldn't have lived this long if Zeke hadn't looked out for him so well. Of course, Zeke figured that was his job, looking after all his men. But it was Myron's job too, and lately he'd realized just how hard Zeke would be to replace. Lieutenants were a dime a dozen. So the way Myron saw it, the best thing he could do for his men was to take care of their Sergeant.

"Hey, Lt., let me buy ya a beer at my hooch." Zeke offered as he passed his young Lt. walking toward the infirmary.

Myron jumped, he should have known Zeke would be out of there the first minute he could. The Lt. hesitated for a moment, they'd finally been given a day off, but it was still early in morning.

"Sure, Sergeant." Myron finally agreed, shrugging his shoulders in resignation.

Stalling, the Lt. paused to light a cigarette, thinking to himself that he'd been smoking too much lately. Myron usually enjoyed chatting with the Sergeant over a beer, but the stuff going on in his head seemed ridiculous when he thought about trying to explain it all. He'd pull himself out of this melancholy on his own, eventually.
Besides, Zeke wouldn't appreciate finding out that Myron was trying to watch out for him. It wasn't the Sergeant's style to have other people looking out for him.

The Sergeant watched his friend's face closely as the Lt. paused to light his smoke, trying to get some idea what was running through the kid's head.

"Lieutenant! Sergeant! Major Darling would like to see you right away!"

Myron looked coolly at the stiff-armed Corporal as he paused to stomp out his nearly new cigarette. The Corporal shifted uncomfortably as he waited for the Lieutenant to return the salute, sighing with relief as the two men finally began moving in the appropriate direction.

"Sir." Lt. and Sarge reported in, saluted almost in unison.

"Lieutenant, Sergeant, this is Captain Parker. His company is going out on a recon in just over an hour. Unfortunately, he just lost a couple of squads to food poisoning. As you are available, you'll be taking two of your squad out as replacements."

In silence Zeke and Myron simply stood gaping at him.

"I'll let Captain Parker brief you on the mission," the Major continued, not really knowing how to react to lack of response.

"Lieutenant Goldman, Sergeant Anderson, it's sincerely a pleasure to meet you." Parker reached out to shake their hands enthusiastically as he tossed them a broad, toothy grin. "You've gotten yourselves quite the reputations. Especially for missions of this sort. I was delighted Major Darling agreed to loan you to me."

Great, Myron thought himself. The guy seemed real pleasant, but he thought they were fuckin' heroes.

"How's the wound, Sergeant? Not going to be a problem is it?"

"No, sir! It's fine, sir."

"Good! Good! I'd hate to break up a great team. We're going in here," Captain Parker paused to slap a spot on the map northeast of An Loc, near the border. "Our objective is to find a large truck park Intel claims is there. The birds haven't been able to spot it from the air, so we're gonna hump the area for a couple of days, and see if we have better luck. If we find it, we mark it and di di out of there. Let the flyboys take care of it. Clear."

"Yes, sir."

"Excellent, I'll see you boys on the flight line, one hour. Dismissed."

Myron and Zeke waited for a nod from Major Darling, then wasted little time departing the office. Zeke knew that he'd lost his chance to get to the bottom of whatever was eating his Lt. The Lieutenant was deeply absorbed in his thoughts, wandering off without so much as a nod, and Zeke had the guys geared up. He felt a chill run down his spine. This assignment felt like trouble. He had the feeling they were going to end up right in the thick of it, and he was suddenly not so sure about the kid giving the orders.

Several eyes darted in the Sergeant's direction as he stomped off muttering a string of superlatives that would have made the hardest of veteran's blush.

"Ell-tee ain't looking too happy," Ruiz commented as he watched as the Lieutenant stormed their direction.

Feet shuffled and hands absently rechecked equipment as Lt. Goldman's assembled squads waited nervously for whatever he was about to spring on them.

"Missions a no-go," the Lt. announced, tension resounding from every syllable. He paused to light a smoke. "Looks like you guys get the day off after all," he added, making a half-assed attempt at smiling, after taking a couple puffs on his cigarette.

It took a few minutes for the unexpected news to settle. The words coming out of his mouth were so contrary to the Lt.'s demeanor, the men weren't quite sure whether to believe them or not.

"Well, you heard the man," Zeke prodded the guys out of their stupor.

"Y'all better git before I start thinking you need me to find you something to do."

Sergeant Anderson waited patiently for the guys to scatter, then turned towards his agitated Lieutenant.

"So what's the deal, Lt."

"Brass decided there were too many troops, needing too many choppers, going too early in the day. Charlie'd seen us coming and guessed what was up. So they bagged the whole thing." The Lt. smirked, "Captain Parker's pretty p.o'd. Guy's really looking to get himself some fame and glory."

"Well, that may be," Zeke quipped, "but I'd just as soon he left my ass out of it."

"Yeah, well, I wouldn't wander off too far, Sergeant," Myron responded, "I've got a feeling we're not off hook, yet."

Zeke had the same feeling gnawing at his gut. He also had the feeling that the Lieutenant wasn't so concerned they might get sent out as that they might NOT.

"How 'bout that beer now, sir?"

Zeke was more determined than ever to get inside the kid's head.

Resigned to his fate, Myron shrugged his shoulders and followed the Sergeant towards his hootch. He registered that Zeke was continuing to chat as they made the short walk, but the Lt. wasn't really paying attention. He was too deeply absorbed in trying to sort out his thoughts enough to explain himself to the Sergeant, without sounding like a snubbed school boy.

Grabbing a couple beers, Zeke handed one to Myron before flipping a chair around and making himself comfortable. Folding his arms across the back of the chair, letting the beer dangle precariously between his fingers, he waited for the Lieutenant to find himself a cozy seat before pouncing on the young officer.

"No disrespect, sir, but what the hell's going on?" Zeke dove right in.

He knew he was pushing his limits with the Lt., especially as unpredictable as the kid was lately, but he had the feeling subtly wasn't going to get him anything.

"Ain't nothing, Zeke." Myron responded, flatly, avoiding eye contact. The more he went over things in his head, the more childish they sounded. Still, he couldn't shake himself out of it.

"Yeah, I know. 'Ain't nothing', 'no big thing.' We've HAD this conversation, sir," Zeke paused to see if the Lt. was losing his temper, but the kid was just sitting, staring at his feet and looking like he was in the principal's office hearing why he shouldn't throw spitballs at the chalkboard.

"There's obviously something eating at ya, sir, and it don't seem to be letting up," the Sergeant continued, trying to soften his tone a little.

Myron took a long swig of his beer before shrugging his shoulders and looking back at his feet.

"At least tell me what's got you thinking you ought to be covering my rear lately!" Zeke insisted, exasperated, not bothering to add the "sir" at the end.

Another shrug from the shame-faced schoolboy sitting before him.

"Guys need ya, Zeke."

The answer given with uncharacteristic meekness, left the Sergeant momentarily speechless. It had carried with it the very distinctly implied message that the guys didn't need the Lieutenant. Zeke struggled for an adequate comeback. Before he could find one, however, a knock thundered through the uncomfortable silence.

"Sergeant Anderson?" Darling's Corporal asked hesitantly as he opened the door, "Lt. Goldman!" The relief in the kid's voice was unmistakable. "You're both to report to Major Darling ASAP!!

The Corporal looked about as startled as if a VC had jumped out from behind the door when the Lt. promptly jumped up, tossed his beer, and moved out the door.

Myron laughed at himself as he praised the name of Major Darling for the timely interruption. Gratitude definitely wasn't an emotion Lt. Goldman ever expected to feel towards his illustrious c.o., but there it was.

Zeke's response was a little less enthusiastic. The Corporal kept himself a few paces behind as the burly Sergeant obediently followed his Lieutenant, cursing the interruption.

Lt. Goldman felt the tension in his body release as he boarded the chopper. Soon he'd be back to the simplicity of the bush, surrounded by his guys. Myron felt himself grin, ignoring the fleeting thought that it wasn't appropriate.

He had been correct in the assumption that Captain Parker wasn't going to easily give up the prize. The Captain had convinced the brass to let him take out a platoon instead of the company. He argued that four choppers going in at dusk wouldn't attract much attention. Myron wasn't so sure about that, nor was he quite sure how his two squads ended up being included in the mission. It didn't really matter to him, though. Tonight he'd be in the bush, part of the team, away from his nightmares, and that's what matter to him.

The ominous feeling that had been nestling in Zeke's gut all day stirred a little as the Sergeant watched the grin spread across his Lieutenant's face. Zeke kept his eye on the Lt., waiting for signs of the nervousness that built up in all of them as they neared an LZ, but the Lt. just continued to peer down contentedly at the passing scenery.

"'s all right!" Zeke muttered under his breath, exasperated. "Kid's not gonna do anything stupid," he desperately tried to convince himself.

The conversation between the Sergeant and his Lieutenant had been too brief for Zeke to get any real feel for what was up with the kid. It had been just long enough, however, to make Zeke real nervous about the possibilities. "The guys need ya, Zeke." The words kept replaying themselves in Zeke's head. The tone of Myron's voice had been so uncharacteristic of the normally confident, head-strong kid. It had sounded so lost. Zeke just couldn't shake the sound of it as watch his young Lieutenant crouching in the doorway.

The ground looked peaceful as their chopper began its descent, but Zeke didn't believe it. There wasn't going to be anything peaceful about this mission. He was sure of that, and he was sure that he was sticking extra close to the Lt. on this one.

"Stay alert!" the Sergeant shouted as his men tumbled off the choppers.

The choppers dropped off Lt. Goldman's two squads, and then took off with Captain Parker and the other two squads. Hopscotching a few klicks further north, they'd dropped of the other two squads. Captain Parker figured this would throw off any NVA or VC in the area. They would push towards each other, hopefully stumbling across the truck park along the way. That was the plan, anyway.

Moving quickly into the cover of the dense foliage, Lt. Goldman turned the squads north, keeping himself positioned within a few feet of his Sergeant. He'd half expected to be ambushed as they landed, but so far, the Captain's plan seemed to be working.


The single shot echoed through the valley and down the spines of every member of the two squads. They'd picked up a tracker.

"That was quick," Myron whispered to Zeke, "must have watched the choppers come in."

"Yes, sir," the Sargeant responded. "We gonna try to shake him?"

"Doubt we'll have much luck, but we might as well try. Let's move west for a klick, then double back."

"Ell-tee, maybe we ought to leave a few guys here, see if we can ambush him," the Sergeant suggested.

"Let's see if we can throw him off first." Lt. Goldman was feeling undermanned enough as it was, he didn't want to split up further.

"Yes, sir."

"One-six, this is two-six," the Lt. whispered into the radio, "we've picked up a tracker, turning west to try and shake him."

"Roger that two-six," Captain Parker responded. "Keep me informed. Out."

"Ready, to move, Ell-tee," Sgt. Anderson whispered, as Johnson turned the column west.

Fifteen minutes later, the second shot came, further away than the last, but not by much. Lt. Goldman and Sgt. Anderson made eye contact, but didn't bother to speak. Nearly holding their breaths, the column continued west, until the next shot fired. He'd caught up, maybe even gotten a little closer.

Myron shook his head wearily as Zeke stopped the column at the bottom of a shallow, densely-covered ridge.

"How about that ambush, sir?"

"All right," Goldman relented uneasily, still not keen on the idea of splitting up. "You turn the guys northeast; Johnson, Percell, Ruiz and I will set up on both sides of this ridge and see if we can get him."

"Don't you figure you ought to stay with the main body, sir?" There was no way the Sergeant was leaving the Lieutenant behind.

The Lt. opened his mouth, prepared to order the Sergeant to stay with the men. Seeing the determined look in Zeke eyes, however, Myron relented. "All right, all right. You watch your tail, Zeke," the Lt. ordered. "You haven't seen him by the next shot, you high tail it up to us. No heroics, you got it."

"Got it, sir," the Sergeant smirked.

"I'm serious, Zeke. Don't make me come back for you."

Anderson sobered up. Normally he would have assumed the Lt. was just talking, after all, Myron knew Zeke could take care of himself - Right? But Zeke got the feeling that the kid was serious - he really would come looking for him.

Lt. Goldman let the men rest while the ambushers squirreled deeply into cover, then signaled the new point man to move out.

Time seemed to have stopped as the sweat dripped into Roo's eyes. Rubbing it away with his shoulder, he noticed Percell having the same problem. He was sure the tension was thick enough that the tracker would feel them there long before they caught site of him. He blinked another drop of stinging sweat out of his eyes, holding them closed an extra second, trying to steady himself. His eyes flew open and his heart jumped into his throat as he heard the distant explosion.

Ruiz flipped his head around to face the Sarge, opening his mouth to speak. Anderson quickly held up his hand to silence him. He'd heard the explosion too and it was taking every ounce of restraint he had not to rush head-long after the rest of the column. The Sergeant knew the tracker was still out there, however, perhaps waiting for them to show themselves.

The Sergeant walked his fingers north and patted the air, signally Ruiz and Percell that they were to make their way SLOWLY and CAREFULLY towards the column. They could hear the sounds of the criss-crossing fire of M-16s and AK-47s, as they crept, with increasing speed, in the direction of the firefight.

Krump! Taylor fired this "thumper" just as Goldman caught sight of Anderson's group out of the corner of his eye.

"Ruiz, get over here," the Lt. bellowed.

"Sweep there," he ordered, pointing to a dense thicket to their left, as Roo set up his M-60.

The NVA had guessed they would zig back toward their original heading and set up to ambush them as they turned.

Finishing off his clip, Zeke took a quick glance around as he loaded his next one. Only their point man seemed to be down. Anderson inched his way towards the Lieutenant, pausing occassionally to let off a burst.

As he paused to grab a fresh clip, Lt. Goldman made eye contact with his advancing Sergeant. Moving his rifle back up, he paused. The thicket had gone silent.

No one moved as they waited breathlessly for something to happen. Nothing. The ambushers seemed to have moved off.

"I'll check it out, Lt." the Sergeant offered, moving forward before the Lieutenant could respond.


Lt. Goldman was in the air even before he heard the thud of the grenade hitting the ground a few feet from the Sergeant. Myron tackled his burly Sergeant, instinctively rolling him away from the explosion, before the warning cry behind him had finished.

The Lieutenant cursed himself for not moving quicker, and then cursed Anderson for his heroics, as he pressed a bandage across the Sergeant torn shoulder.

The Sarge listened shame-faced as his Lieutenant swore, not so softly, under his breath. Goldman threw up a rebuking glare, but Anderson turned away before their eyes met. He knew he'd moved out too quickly. It had been a careless thing to do, but in the back of his mind were his nagging doubts about the stabilitity of his Lieutenant.

Although he hadn't consciously thought it, Zeke knew he acted out of fear that Myron's increasingly unpredictable bravado would strike and the young officer would move out to check the ambusher's vacated position himself. Still, he was kicking himself for acting so rashly.

"One-six, this is two-six, we made contact, but they've di di'd, possibly headed your direction. I've got two men down." Lt. Goldman reported.

"Roger two-six, we heard ya from here. We're moving your direction. Keep coming towards us, maybe we can box them up."

"Roger, two-six out."

Or maybe we'll walk into another ambush, Myron thought to himself as he signalled the men to get ready to move.

"Think you can walk on your own?" the Lt. asked, sternly.

"Yes, sir!" Zeke responded, still unable to make eye contact the the Lt.

"Percell, stay with him," Myron ordered, peering down at the ashen face of his Sergeant.

"Yes, sir," Percell moved over to help the Sergeant to his feet.

"I've got it." Anderson blurted, stubbornly refusing Percell's assistance.

Percell backed off, being careful to stay within arms reach of his wobbly Sarge. The Sergeant had no intention of stumbling in front these kids, however, and managed by sheer-force-of-will to steady himself as the squads moved out.

"Two-six, this is one-six, we're aprox one klick to your november-echo. We've just spotted the truck park and are sending up the smoke, now. Turn due east, we'll rendevouz at LZ Echo."

"Roger, one-six. Two-six out."

Myron was relieved. LZ Echo was only 20 mikes from their location. Hopefully the NVA would head north towards the smoke, leaving him and his guys unmolested as they made their way. They'd have a little wait for Parker and his squads, but at least they'd be able to set up a defensive perimeter and hunker down, instead of walking in to who-knew-what.

"We're out of here, guys," the Lt. anounced.

Relief swept through the column as they moved out.

"Percell, Talyor..." Anderson began before being cut off by the Lieutenant.

"Just sit there and take it easy," the Lt. ordered his Sergeant, aware that his tension and concern had made his voice harsher than intended.

"I'll take care of it," Myron made an effort to soften his tone.

"Percell, stay with him," he ordered, handing Danny a fresh bandage.

"Better change that," the Lieutenant added before moving off to set up the perimeter.

Tension hung in the air like a think blanket of fog as the guys waited for Parker to show up. In the distance, they could hear the jets zooming in to strike the truck park. None of them had gotten even a glimpse of the thing, but they shared in the exhilaration of the success all the same.

Myron, however, was too focused on Zeke to feel any joy in the distant explosions. He resisted the urge to continuously check on his wounded Sergeant. HIS mission had been to take care of his Sergeant. He'd failed. The guilt and anger swelled in him as he silently ranted at himself.

Taylor glanced toward the Lieutenant, watching the emotion flicker across the officer's face. Risking reprisal, he crept over to the Lieutenant.

"Sarge'll be all right, sir. That ain't hardly nothing."

Myron waived him off, too angry at himself to want comforting.

Understanding the responsibility the Lieutenant felt for his men, Taylor ungrudgingly accepted the rebuff and moved silently back to his position. He'd watched, amazed, as Sarge had rashly jumped out into the open. Spotting the grenade flying through the air, Taylor'd been sure Sarge'd had it. But even more amazingly, Ell-tee was there, pulling Sarge away from the explosion. Taylor shook his head in wonderment as the event replayed itself in slow motion in his head.

"Two-six, this is one-six, where about 5 mikes from the LZ, keep a look out for us."

The Lt. moved over to Taylor and Ruiz.

"Hear that guys, keep your eyes open for them."

The guys nodded.

Seconds later they heard the sounds of AK-47s opening up. Before Lt. Goldman could react, the men from Parker's squads came running into view. Roo's fingered twitched against his trigger as the enemy guns fell silent.


The Lieutenant rushed over to help Parker with the wounded man he was dragging.

"Ambush. Didn't stick around though."

Parker left his wounded man in the arms of Lt. Goldman as he radioed the choppers to pick them up.

Myron passed him off to one of his buddy as he crept back to Ruiz and Taylor, silently cautioning them to stay on their guard. He wasn't as convinced as Parker that the danger was over.

Everything remained quiet, however, as the choppers swooped down. Parker had two wounded and four KIA. The Captain knelt grimly beside his dead as the buddies of the wounded men loaded them onto a chopper. Anderson insisted on staying with his guys, and the Lt. helped Percell get him on board the chopper after the rest of the squad had piled in.

"You comin', sir?" The Sergeant asked as Myron began to back away.

The Lieutenant shook his head.

"Gonna help Parker with the KIA," he shouted, giving the pilot the thumbs up to pull pitch.

The guys watched from the doorway as Lt. Goldman moved to help the men that had already begun lifting the lifeless bodies into the last chopper. Sgt. Anderson felt himself holding his breath, waiting for the Lt. to be safely aboard and in the air. He released it and relaxed as he saw his Lt. tumble aboard. Captain Parker and his man had climbed aboard last, pushing Myron out of sight.


Anderson felt it more than he heard it. Fixing on the RPG, he followed it as it flew towards the last chopper, just beginning to lift-off. The bird was banking to get into line with the others as the 40mm projectile exploded in the cockpit. The Sergeant watched, horrified, as the chopper spun wildly out of control, smashing nose first into the ground. The momentum of the whirling blades spun the bird wildly on the ground a few more times before it finally, mercifully came to a stop.

It had all happened to fast for Myron to grasp what was happening. Moaning, he shoved the bodies of the dead soldiers, that he'd just help load on board, off of him. Desperately clawing his way towards the doorway, now facing skyward, he wrapped his fingers around the edge of the frame and yanked himself over the side. Hitting the ground with a hard thump, Myron lay gasping for air, then choked as he breathed the dust and smoke produced by the crash. Rolling over, he retched as he sputtered and coughed, gasping for air in between.

Finally, he managed to stand shakily, using the frame of the bird for support. Waiting for a wave of dizziness to pass, Myron glanced around, looking for other survivors. The pilot and co-pilot were clearly dead, but it took him a minute to find Parker and his man. They'd both been thrown from the doorway as the chopper hit the ground. Myron was practically standing on part of the private sticking out from under the Huey. Parker, a few meters off, had been cut in half by the spinning blades. Myron crumpled to his knees as he retched.

He'd crumpled just in time, fire from an AK-47 whizzed over his head, hitting the body of the Huey where he'd been standing just moments before. He rolled to the ground, his eyes searching for some sort of cover.

Myron glanced towards the advancing NVA just in time to see them mowed down. Turning in the direction of the fire, he spotted the third Huey returning to the LZ. Picking himself off the ground, he ran, oblivious to the fire still coming from behind.

"Come on, sir!"

He could hear the guys from the squad cheering him onward. Stumbling, he caught sight of the NVA behind him.

"Come on, sir!"

Taylor stretched out his hand, just catching hold of the Lieutenant's fingers, and yanked him forward enough for Percell to help him pull the officer on board as the Huey hurriedly departed.


Lt. Goldman lay semi-conscious in the bed. He hadn't even felt the gash across his forearm, the dent on the side of his head, or the broken ribs. It wasn't until they'd landed back at base that Taylor had pointed the bleeding gash out to him, leading his dazed Lieutenant towards the dispensary.

"Hey, sir."

Myron started. He'd dozed off listening to the distant sounds of the men joking with their bandaged-up Sergeant.

"Sorry, sir, " Taylor apologized. "Didn't mean to wake you."

"S'alright," the Lt. mumbled, almost coherently, trying to wake up enough to focus on the soldier standing next to the bed.

"Just wanted to see how you were doing, sir."

"Fine, fine. Nothing too serious." Myron managed to respond, sleepily but clearly.

"Glad to hear it, sir," Taylor backed softly away as Myron drifted back to sleep. "Night, sir."

Myron cowered deeper into the corner of the alley as the group of boys advanced towards him menacingly, and waited for the fists to begin flying at him. The first fist caught him right between the eyes, and he felt himself wobble.

Opening his eyes, he found himself staring at the departing chopper only a few yards away. Picking himself up off the ground, he ran - reaching for the Taylor's outstretched hand.

"Come on, Lt.," he yelled, "you can make it!"

Myron stumbled again, and just caught a glimpse of the boys fists coming at him as more hands came through the doorway to yank him on board the departing chopper. Panting for breath, he closed his eyes and tried to force down the adrenaline that had left him shaking.

Opening his eyes hesitantly, he took a few more drags on the last of his cigarette as he stared at his mother's body lying so still only a few feet away. A hand clapped his shoulder.

"Come on Lt.," Zeke invited enthusiastically, "let me buy ya beer."

Taking one final drag before tossing his smoke on the ground and grinding it into the dry dirt, he turned away. Walking alongside the Sergeant, he listened as Zeke began a rambling commentary on the events of the day.

Stirring slightly, Myron hazily caught sight of Zeke watching him, before flopping over and falling peacefully back to sleep under the protective eye of his Sergeant.

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