[ welcome to the 'nam, ma'am ]

by cpt. sue

Sargeant Zeke Anderson entered the CP.
"You wanted to see me, Captain?"

Captain Rusty Wallace nodded, turned from the map he'd been examining that was on the wall.
"Yes, Sargeant. We have a new Lieutenant arriving today. I'd like you to go meet him. Supposedly he's some kind of specialist."

"Specialist?" Anderson frowned. Great, he thought, another officer who thinks he's a hot-shot and that everything has to go by the books. His LT had been like that at first. Now they were on better terms, after some pretty rocky roads.
"Er.... what kind of specialist, Captain?"

"Tactical and has soft hands with explosives." Wallace reached for a cup,taking a few swallows. The whiskey burned his throat going down, making him smile in appreciation.
"Oh, and Zeke? We're running low on men. Check outthe FNG's, will ya?"

Now Anderson grinned.
"Yessir!" With one last look he headed out. One thing he enjoyed doing was thinning the crop of hopefulls. And he was picky. Which was why the Captain trusted him to get the best.

The huey's blades churned up red dirt and debris, creating a red haze of dust and garbage as it lowered. Anderson shielded his face and turned partially away. When the whirl's pitch changed he straightened, and squinted in the settling dust to better see. Someone was hopping off, and carrying a bag as they neared.

"Lieutenant Knight?" he shouted.

"That's right!" the reply was also a shout as the huey's whine increased,and the blades whirled faster.
It began to lift, hovered, turned, and slowly moved on.
Waving a hand to clear the dust Lt. Knight removed a cap to wipesweat off a damp forehead.
"And you are?"

Anderson's jaw dropped. Long dark brown hair with gold and fire lights fell to the shoulders in unruly strands. His eyes fell. Jesus! The front of the uniform barely hid the curves of breasts. She gave a muffled curse and re-pinned her hair up neatly.

"Lieutenant Knight?" he asked again, just to be certain he'd heard right the first time.

She arched a brow.
"Yes....." the dust settled, and she saw the stripes on his sleeve. "Sargeant?"

"Sargeant Zeke Anderson, Ma'am." He blinked, shaking off the stunned dismay.
"Er..... with all due respect, Lt, you're a woman!"

Hefting her bag up she grinned.
"Good eyes, Sargeant! Means you don't miss much in the bush, I hope. Lieutenant Skye Knight, Sarge. And yes, I am female, and I am here."
She squinted off behind him. "If we're done discussing my sex, Sargeant, I'd like to get settled. Foreward Firebase Ladybird, right?"

Nodding mutely he inhaled. The Captain and LT were gonna have kittens when they saw her! And ~~ with a grin here ~~ he wanted to be there to see it!

"Gotta recruit me some FN..... er, I mean....."

Turning to glance at him she shook her head. "Sarge, I know what cherries are called, and I'm not offended. I was an FNG once myself, you know. Mind if I follow you to get 'em? Can tell a lot from the men you recruit. And I want to know what I'm getting into."
Shrugging he took her bag, and put it in a jeep.

"Well.... Ma'am......you just got yourself into hell, is what you got."
She climbed in and let him drive.

"'Bout as hot as hell here, I guess. And don't call me Ma'am, Sargeant. God, I hate that. Call me Sir, or call me Lt. No Ma'am, got it? It's too school-marmish."
His lips lifted in the corners, and his eyes glowed.
"Yessir, Lt!"

She hung back, just far enough to be out of the way, but still close enough to hear Anderson lay down the law right off and tear a few strips off the soldiers to let them know who was boss. Intently she watched him pick and choose the men, looking them over carefully, asking a few pointed questions,until he had a good twenty of them.
She was gonna like this sargeant. No-nonsense, sense of humour, intelligent, tough but fair, and she'd bet her rank he had the respect of all his men, including his senior officers. Good. She hated idiots. And alot of CO's were idiots. They forgot somewhere along the way how to be a soldier, a grunt. They forgot that their grand plans for victory were not always effective on the frontline. Paper wasn't a battle, and it wasn't men dying or unexpected events. That's why they sat behind desks puffing up their chests importantly and playing war games on a map.
The real soldiers were the pieces they moved like they were playing chess with other bigboys in a competition of skills and strength. Disgusting, really, but that's how the forces worked.

Anderson led the men to her.

"Ready here, Lt."

"Holy fuck! A woman!" one soldier exclaimed.

"Watch your mouth," snapped Anderson.

Lt Knight drew her chin up.
"Load 'em up, Sargeant. Let's get these cherries to the base. And a little cursing doesn't scare me. I may be female,but I'm not weak." She gave each man a hard look.
"You'll learn that. Some of you will learn it the easy way, and some the hard way. Don't make no matter to me how you learn it, so long as you do. And trust me, you WILL learn it."

"Get your gear, we're heading out!" shouted Anderson. "MovemovemoveMOVE!"
As they ran to obey he cast the Lt a look.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how my LT and Captain are gonna react to you."

Sighing she nodded. "They didn't know either?"

"No, Lt, they didn't," he grinned broadly.
"All's the Cap knew was you were some specialist in tactical and explosives." She headed for the trucks waiting for the recruits.
"This oughta be real entertaining," she snorted.

He followed, chuckling.

Anderson felt antsy. He really wanted to go with the new Lt, but he had to see to the new men.

"CP's over that way, Lt." She grinned. "Get these men settled, Sargeant. I know you want towitness the meeting so I'll walk real slow."

"Yessir!" he nodded. Turning he faced the men jumping out of the backs of the trucks.

"Alright, ladies! Welcome to Foreward Firebase Ladybird!..." he glanced back to see how far the Lt had gotten. Not far at all. She waswalking slower than a hesitant groom going down the aisle to his own shotgunwedding! One foot barely moved ahead of the other. It made him smile, which brought on a chuckle, and then a laugh as soldiers eyed the woman first in frowning query to why she moved so damn slow, and then in stunned dismay torealize it was a woman!

Shaking himself he faced the men.

"Follow me!"

Once the men were settling in he hurried to the CP to find the Lt just getting to the entrance.

"'Bout time, Anderson!" she sighed. "I was getting cramps from moving so slow! A snail passed me 'bout 5 meters back!"

Nodding he ducked his head to hide his grin.

"'Preciate it, Lt."

She entered, eyes not yet adjusted to the dark. Saluting smartly she stood ramrod stiff.

"Lieutenant Skye Knight reporting for duty, Sir!"

Anderson's eyesight adjusted to find two men staring with flared eyes and slack jaws. The Captain looked stunned, but his LT looked like a loud gaspfrom a fly would knock him over! Lt Knight was still at attention, saluting, waiting.

"Er..... Captain?" he nodded to her, gaze speaking volumes.

"Huh?" Wallace blinked a few times, saw her still holding her salute, and flamed. "Right..... sorry."

He saluted back. "At ease, Lt."

He shook his head. "Lt Knight?" he asked, needing to be sure. Her hand fell, and she stood relaxed.

"Yessir. Skye Knight. 1stLieutenant Skye Knight." LT's shut mouth fell open again, eyes nearly bulging out.

Wallace nodded,steadily regaining his composure.

"Welcome to Ladybird, Lt. I'm Captain Rusty Wallace, this is 2nd Lt Myron Goldman, and you've obviously met the Sargeant."

"Yessir, I have," she nodded. She cast a brief glance at the Lt. "LtGoldman? Any relation to......."

"She's a damn woman!" hissed Goldman, half turning away.

"His father," Wallace answered her. "I had no idea you'd be a woman, Lt."

"With all due respect, Sir, that's apparent." She neared, held out her papers and a file. "Sorry to disappoint you that I'm not a male, but I'm one of twelve women being sent out here, and the only officer. It's a new thing. Women fought in Desert Storm so..... If it all works out well there should be more sent out in the next few months."

He nodded. Shit! Sending women in combat? What the hell were the brassthinking?

"Any combat experience, Lt? You'll see lots of it here."

"All in my file, I gather, Sir. And yes, I have. In Sommalia." She glanced again at the Lt. "If that's all for now, Sir? I'd like to get settled in."

He nodded. "Dismissed." She was nearly gone when he looked up. "Oh, Lt?We're still a new base. You'll have to double up with Lt. Goldman, for now."

Goldman's head snapped up, and he swallowed hard. "I can double up with Anderson so she can have her privacy."

She frowned. "Up to you, Sir. I don't mind doubling up so long as I have my own cot."

Wallace faced the two men after she exited. "Thoughts?"

"I think the men are gonna follow testosterone and not orders," statedGoldman.

"I like her," Anderson announced. "She's cool, she's smart, and she's gota sense of humour. Wanted to watch me recruit. Said she can learn alot about me by the men I choose. I think she'll do fine."

"I don't know," Goldman shook his head. "We have a camp full of men who've been out here for a month with no...... distractions. She's a mighty big distraction! We're gonna have problems."

Wallace nodded. "I trust both of you, you know that. Keep an eye on the men, and make sure they know no one is touch her. I'm gonna read over her file."

Nodding both men left the CP.

"This heat has finally gotten to me!" whined Taylor. "I swear I just saw a female Lt walk by!"

Purcell cast his friend a dubious glance. "I know some people would say the LT is handsome, but he ain't pretty, Marcus!"

Ruis ran over. "Hey, Danny, Marcus! You seen the new LT? Whoooo, sheis fine! And she smells clean!"

Taylor shot Purcell an "I-told-you-so" look. "You sure it's a woman?"

Ruis nodded, teeth flashing in a wide grin. "She talked to me, man! She said; 'Soldier, can you point me in the direction of Lt Goldman's tent?' So Idid, and she smiled and said thanks! She's got white teeth, all real!"

"Okay, listen up!" Sarge neared them, his face grimly set. "I guess y'all have heard we got us a new LT. She's IS a woman, and you will show her the same respect you do me and the LT, and you WILL NOT lay a hand on her. Is that understood?"

"A woman, Sarge?" Purcell shook his head. "What the hell they sending women here for?"

Sighing Sarge glanced around. The defences would need work, he realized. "Some kind of new program, Purcell. Looks like this will be a co-ed war. Since you boys are so busy how 'bout we tighten up the perimeter and dig us some trenches?" A smirk flashed, and his eyes glowed. "Or would you rather do the latrines?"

"Trenches are good," nodded Ruis.

"Perimeter? Point the way, Sarge!" added Taylor.

Purcell rose to his feet. "Gonna tighten and dig, Sarge!"

"Thought so," smiled Anderson, turning away. "Get to work, ladies!"

Wallace set the file down, one hand rubbing his sore eyes. "Oh man....."Rising he reached for his bottle of whiskey, and poured a hefty amount in his tin cup. Head tilting back he swallowed half of it.


"C'mon in, Myron." He motionned to a chair. "Talk to the men?"

"All of 'em, but I doubt it'll do much good. Could already see the glint of lust in some eyes." He declined the bottle the captain held out. "I don't think warnings are gonna be enough to dissuade some from trying."

Nodding Wallace sat, heaving a heavy sigh. "I know. We'll make an example of the first offender."

Frowning LT eyed his superior officer. "Something wrong?"

"Just read her file. She's a damn good soldier, got a few medals for her tour of Sommalia. She comes from a military family, some in the navy, some in the army, one uncle in the Peace Corps..." Again he swiped a hand over his eyes. "She was engaged to a Captain, both of them 3 months away from a wake-upand their wedding when they hit the world. One night during a rather nasty attack she turned to him for orders. He had none."

"Killed?" softly asked LT.

"Cut to pieces," whispered Wallace. "She was in command. Had a handfull of men left who were still alive, but in bad shape. Nearly overrun she managed to get them all out and kept them running. They ran into another group of the enemy, a ragged bunch, and she and her men killed them. They spent a week on E. and E. Everyone considered them MIA, or KIA, or POWs. She came upon a platoon about 40 kliks from the base, and they were all Evacked. Her men refused to leave her. She kept them together, kept them alive. And they had 5 prisonners. She was promoted after that to 1st Lt. Her men are here in Nam. Once she's settled in they'll be sent here."

LT nodded. "How many?"

"Six," he replied. "We're also gonna get three more women."

LT watched him pour more whiskey. He didn't mention that fact. Everyone here had a crutch. Most had the booze, some had the whores, and the stupid ones had the drugs.

"I think we should request more supplies, get a tent for the women. Keep 'em out of the men's hootches."

"Good idea," nodded Wallace. "I want you and Anderson to keep a real close eye on the men. They may be female, but they are soldiers, and we are responsible for them."

She sat on her cot, shut her eyes, and took a few deep breaths.

"I should have retired when I had the chance," she whispered.

"Lt?" Eyes flying open she met the dark gaze of Lt Goldman.


"You said something?" he went to a desk and dropped his M-16 and a pack ofcigarettes on it. "You were talking."

"I said I should have retired when I had the chance," she told him.

"But I didn't."

"And now here you are, huh?" he sat on his bunk, and opened his canteen,taking a deep swallow of the metallic and warm water. "Maybe you should have retired."

Snorting she rose, stretched, and glanced out the netting at the activity in the camp. "I tried. Brass said they needed me. One last tour, you'll make Captain, and then you can retire, and we'll set you up wherever you want!"

She turned to the LT. "They can be very..... persistent."

"I'm sorry you're here," he told her. She watched him carefully. Here was a man who wore his heart in his eyes, she realized.

"Instead why don'tcha be sorry we all are? Easier that way."

He smiled. "Guess it is."

When he smiled he was almost boyish in his looks. She hadn't missed how handsome he was. Even dusty and grimy.

"Anywhere to buy a coffee around here, Lt Goldman?"

Rising he grabbed his M-16. "Just one. You like tar? I'll buy you a cup."


"Captain?" Lt. Knight caught up with him as he carried a cup of coffee to the CP. "Got a minute, Sir?"

"What's the problem, Lt?" he slowed down his long strides for her.

"I've been here three days, Sir, and you've yet to send me out. You send Sgt Anderson and Lt Goldman." She squinted in the bright sunlight to glance at him.

Sighing he stopped, faced her. "Just waiting, Lt. Your men are on their way, and........"

A strange look passed over her face. "My men, Sir?"

"Your team from Sommalia," he told her. "It was in your orders, to keep you here until your team arrived. Six of your men, and we're also getting three more women. I want you to handle them. The women will have their own tent, and you can then finally move out of Goldman's hootch and in with them. I'd like to keep you all together and safe."

"Yessir," she nodded. "They'll be my squad?"

"That's right," he started to walk. "They arrive today. I'll let you greet them."

"Yessir," she didn't follow. "Thank you, Sir." Turning she glanced around. Goldman and Anderson were out on patrol, had been for 24 hrs now. They were due back any minute. She slowly headed for the cleared spot reserved for the choppers when they landed.

It hadn't been an easy three days. Bunked with Lt. Goldman she had been maginally safe at night, but during the day was different, especially at the showers. Now she had Anderson or Goldman guarding her when she showered. And they were armed. One day she had gone to clean up after helping some of the men dig trenches. Not quite naked yet she saw two men slink near. Their hormones controlling common sense. And her fists and feet laying them low. In her underwear she stood over their unconscious forms and asked if anyone else challenged her. Captain Wallace gathered all the men, and cut strips off them vocally. He asked her what the punishment should be. Those two men were now relegated to latrine duty and mess hall duty and whatever other dirty job no one else wanted for a month. She had earned some respect from some of the men that day, but others still eyed her with grim lips and icy eyes.

Two choppers dotted the landscape, and neared. The whirring of their blades began to fill the air, and already red dust began to rise. Shielding her face with an arm she half turned away as they landed. Turning back as the men hopped off she searched for two men, Anderson and Goldman. Somehow she felt she could talk to them. Something about them drew her. And she needed a few friends here. She felt lonely and cut-off as the only female here.

"Hey, LT!" greeted a tired Purcell as he neared. "Waiting on someone?"

"You need a shave, Corporal!" she grinned, shaking her head. "You smell a little ripe too."

"I hear that!" he beamed, moving on.

"Man! I'm all up for a hot shower and hot food before a month of sleep!" cried Taylor, nodding to her as he went by. "Hey, hold up, Purcell! Save me some water, man!"

She neared Goldman. "Lt.... How'd it go out there?"

"Too quiet," he sighed, removing his pot and running a grimy hand through sweaty and grimy hair. "Here?"

"Same," she got into step beside him. "Listen, after you start smelling like roses can we talk?"

Halting he gave her a worried glance. "You okay?"

"Dunno. Just heard my old team is coming," she motionned for him to keep walking.

He did, and craddled his pot in the crook of one arm. "And you don't know how you feel about that?"

"Don't get me wrong, they're good men, and damn good soldiers...."

He nodded. "Sommalia."

"Sommalia," she sighed. "It was ugly out there, Lt. And seeing them might bring it all back. I tried real hard to forget it."

Stopping again he faced her. "Skye, I heard about what happened. Hell, war isn't pretty no matter where it is. The brass probably figured you worked so well before you'd work well here too."

Looking off in the distance she took in a ragged breath. "I admire those men, LT. And I do feel close to 'em, but...." She shrugged. "Probably nothing. I might see 'em and be happy. I hear we're getting three more women to the base. I'll be moving out. Cap wants me to bunk with 'em. Sorry you won't be dodging silk stockings anymore," she grinned.

"Or you hearing me snore?" he grinned back.

Chuckling she shrugged. "The snoring I can handle, LT. It's the smell that keeps me awake!" She started to walk off.

Blushing he looked down at his dusty and grimy self, sweat spots staining his fatigues. "It's not that bad, is it?" he called to her, and saw her look back briefly and grin.

Two choppers landed, and Lt. Knight peered throught the swirls of dust and grass to see people hop off and boxes get dumped out. Even throught the fog of dust she could recognize the stances of the men. Her heart raced. She hadn't seen them in years. Now here they were. Her men again. They had survived together by the skin of their teeth, and she had often wondered if she'd done enough that night. If maybe, just maybe, she could have done more. Saved more of them. Saved them all?

"So......" Goldman came to a halt beside her. "Those are your men?"

She nodded. They were nearing. "Haven't seen them in years."

"Lt?" one man squinted to better see. "Hey, Fox, it's the LT!"

Goldman arched a brow as six men hurried more, and beamed like children who'd just found Santa had left them a horde of gifts. The one who'd spoken was about 5"7 tall, no taller than Knight, and stocky. No fat on that man. He had the weathered face of someone of who'd lived alot. He saluted, and yet could not wipe that silly beaming grin off his face. All six of them were now saluting, ramrod straight, and beaming.

Lt. Knight's lips twitched, and she saluted. "Welcome to Foreward Firebase Ladybird." She stepped forward, and hugged the stocky man. "Damn, Sargeant! Don't you ever age?"

"Been too long, Skye." He stepped back, a misty look in his eyes. "We heard they were sending us here as a group, but had no idea you'd be here. Why aren't you retired yet?"

She shrugged, sighed. "I tried." She hugged each man, and then stepped back. "Jesus! Look at y'all!" She shook her head. "Men, this is 2nd Lt. Myron Goldman. LT, these are my men. That's Sargeant Rob 'Grizzly' Grishold, Thomas ' Fox' Reiner, Paul 'ETA' Mitchels, Andrew 'Mack' McEllewyn, Joseph 'Claymore' Maynard, and Peter 'Eagle' Carter."

They all saluted him so he saluted back. "Sargeant Anderson here can show you where to bunk, and then you can have more time reminiscing."

Anderson nodded, and led them away. Lt. Knight now faced three women who stood patiently waiting. She neared them. "I'm Lt. Knight, and this is Lt. Goldman. Welcome to Foreward Firebase Ladybird, Ladies. I'll be your tour guide for the duration of your holiday here. Follow me. We're setting up a tent for you, and I'll be your roommate."

One woman was a tall black woman with a scar on one cheek, another was a petite blond with a hard edge to her jaw, and the last was a redhead with lovely green eyes that still had a soft sheen to them. Knight felt sorry for her. They'd soon have that edge, that faraway look. Like everyone else's.

"Hey, Sarge?" Horne was watching the women set up the tent, the Lt included, and a group of six men helping. "Who are they?"

Anderson could hear the men chatting away as they worked, and the Lt laugh every now and then. "Those are her men. And the women are new recruits."

"Her men?" repeated Johnson, frowning.

"From her tour in Sommalia," he replied. "Seems the LT saved their asses, and they're very loyal to her. Might want to spread the word around to any soldiers who are still holding a grudge or wanting to help the LT shower. Those men won't take her being abused lightly."

"You talk to them yet, Sarge?" asked Ruiz. "Are they good men?"

Anderson nodded. "Yeah, I talked to 'em. Didn't get no gut feelin' that they'd get us all greased."

Horne frowned, turning to him. "But what about the women? They got any combat experience? Should we worry?"

"Well now, Horne, I dunno. The new LT will be discussing that with the Captain in a few." Anderson shrugged, and turned away. "Okay, ladies! We've got work to do! Don't stand here oglin', let's look like we're doing something!" he shouted.

"Well?" Wallace watched the reactions on her face. Problem was, there wasn't any reaction. The woman was good at hiding what she thought, when she wanted to.

Lt. Knight tossed the files down on his desk. "Hell, they either won't survive a week, or will learn real damn fast."

"Maybe both," Grizzly added, standing somewhat behind her. "I dunno, LT. Sending women is hard enough, sending cherries out in this area first off is asking for trouble. And that Pvt. Maurer, the black lady? She's gonna give us problems. She's too hard, too inaccessible. Giving her an order means she does it only 'cause she has to."

"I'm a little more worried about Corporal Haler. That little redhead? She's still got the glow of the world in her eyes." She sighed, rubbed a hand over her eyes. "It won't be easy, Captain. My men I can trust with my eyes closed and NVA running all over us, but these women worry me."

"Do the best you can, Lt," he told her, setting the files aside. "Hell, all you can do is the best you can. If they want to survive they'll learn. Meantime I want your crew out tomorrow on a routine recon. See how they measure up in the field. You'll depart at 06:00 hours, and return by 20:00 hrs. That oughta give you an idea of how they do."

"Yessir," she nodded, and they left the CP. "Grizz?"

"Men are all ready, LT." He glanced towards the tent his men were in. "You know you can trust us. We'll help keep an eye on the women."

"Go get some sleep, Sargeant." When he moved off she slowly headed for her new tent.

"Lt?" Goldman was headed towards her. "Skye?"

"LT," she smiled. "Just getting home from the late show?"

Falling into step beside her he chuckled. "Listen, if you need help tomorrow First squad and I will be out flanking you."

"I know," she nodded. "I'll be okay. Been there, remember?"

Catching her arm he halted her, made her face him. "Anderson's got a feeling about the women. I trust his judgement."

"Then he and Grizz are a pair 'cause he got one too. If I run into trouble you'll be the first I call," she promised.

"INCOMING!!!!!!!!! INCOMING!!!!!!!!!!!!"

The shout led to more shouts, and an ominous whistling ripped through the night. "OUTOUTOUTOUT!!!!!!" screamed Lt. Knight, already pushing women off their bunks and with her M-16 in her hands and her pot on her head. "Move it!"

Soldiers ran everywhere, and flashes from mortar hitting the base lit up the dark of night. Screams of pain tore that suspended moment between attacks, and Knight paused only long enough to ascertain if a body lying in her path was still alive. Finding none she led the women to the sandbagged bunkers.


"Here, LT!" he ran in a crouch to her. They ducked inside, and remained near the door. "Nice welcome, Sir. A card would have done just as well," he quipped.

A sob tore the bunker, and Knight glanced back at the people huddled against the sandbags. Face grim she marched to the redhead.

"Corporal, pull yourself together, woman!"

Another sob tore from her and she trembled. "I-I can't, Ma'am! I-I've never..."

"Wuss," Pvt Maurer, the tall black, spat.

Turning Knight pinned her with a glare.

"Not in my squad!" she shouted. "You understand me, Maurer? We are a team. And I won't have any of you cutting into any of my soldiers." Ignoring the haughty glare she got back she turned to the redhead. "Haler, you listen to me good now. I been in combat, and I know that if we stick together and if you do as I say we'll be okay. I know this ain't nothing like you imagined. You're right. And it's gonna get real ugly, but if you break down on me you'll get yourself killed and maybe even me, and I'm not gonna let that happen. Understand? When I say you pick up your weapon and you stick by me. Grizz? Out on patrol she's radio."

He nodded. And when the shelling stopped and they headed out he met up with Sargeant Anderson. "What do you think, Zeke?"

Anderson glanced about at the damage and dead. "Think Charlie's just tryin' to distract us for some reason."

Grizzly nodded, watched soldiers carry the dead and wounded by. "I think you and I better keep half an eye open while we sleep."

Lt Knight saw Lt. Goldman and neared him. "You're bleeding."

He touched his forehead. "It's nothing." Taking her arm he led her out of earshot of others. "Captain just got a call from brass. Reports have a large movement of VC and NVA Regulars sweeping down to the west of here."

"Not far enough west," she snorted. "Time to set up extra defenses. What do you think, LT?"

'I think you've never used my name,' he thought. "We got a way to secure outside the perimeter more? Something to give Charlie pause if he ever gets stupid enough to try and swarm us?"

"Claymore!" she let out a shrill whistle. A flame haired short and muscular man ran over. "Claymore, Lt. Goldman wants to know if there's any way of securing outside the perimeter and give Charlie hot balls?"

A wide grin split his ruddy face. "I be thinkin' there is, Sir." His voice was heavily accented, a real mix of Scots/Irish. "Och, aye, that we can do, LT. You and me, we done blew up lots of things in Sommalia. We can be doin' it here tae."

LT arched a brow. "That a yes?" Lt. Knight laughed, gave his arm a small touch as she called to her squad.

LT squinted, lifted the infra-red binoculars. Beside him Wallace peered out into the dark. "See anything?"

LT shrugged. "They're keeping pretty low, Captain. Hard to tell if I do see 'em or not."

Grizzly nodded. "Claymore and the LT won't be giving Charlie a target if they can help it. They know what they're doing, Sir. We don't call him Claymore for nuthin'. And the LT is almost as good as he is. Claymore's got this.... affection for explosives. He understands them, talks to them, and could take any bomb apart with his eyes closed and a sneeze ticklin' the back of his nose!"

LT and Wallace gave him amused looks. Anderson walked over, weapon slung almost negligently over one shoulder. "How's it goin'?"

"Here they come now," announced LT.

Two forms zigged and zagged at a fast crouch for the wire. They came through an opening, and ran towards the others. "Lt?" Wallace questionned.

"All done, Sir. If you don't mind, we'll get to the other side now." She and Claymore hefted up equipment and proceeded off.

Grizzly sighed. "I better go see the women are doing what I set 'em to."

"Go with ya," offered Anderson. "LT? Captain?" Nodding he left.

"What do you think, Myron?" Wallace asked, watching both Sargeants move away and talk.

"I think they're alot alike, and that Lt. Knight is lucky to have such good men. Then again, I have good men too," he stated.

"Sending a squad out now would be sending them out on a suicide mission," Wallace argued on the line. He ran a tired hand through his damp hair, sweat stinging his eyes. "Sir, we took some pretty heavy...... Yes, Sir, but...... No, Sir, I......... Colonel, it would be foolhard..... Yessir!"

Tossing the phone aside he let Horne hang it up. Hands on hips he eyed all four officers waiting patiently by the door. "We have orders to scout them out and get a prisonner."

"Are they crazy?" demanded Goldman. His jaw worked angrily, and his dark eyes snapped. Lips curling back he leaned forward some. "Sending anyone out there is guaranteeing they won't come back."

"Let me go out there," whispered Lt. Knight. "Me and my men. None of the women. They aren't experienced enough."

Goldman twirled on her. "Go out without a full squad? You're as insane as those idiots who want to send you out there! There could be a full platoon out in that jungle! You could be cut down in seconds!"

Lips thinning grimly she tossed her chin up. "We spent days on E and E in Sommalia. We survived. And we can move more quietly without anyone else. A full squad, and with cherries to boot, will get us killed. I can't guarantee you a prisonner, Captain, but we can take a looksee out there."

Wallace eyed the rising temper on Goldman, the grim set of Anderson's face, and the calm demeanor on Grizzly's. Knight's eyes flicked his way briefly. Scratching at his scalp in thought he finally let his arm drop in defeat. "Alright, Lt. You and your men. We'll hold radio silence."

"No offense, Sir, but we won't be taking a radio." She turned to Grizzly. "Get the men, Grizz. Tell Claymore and Eagle to get ready for action. I want us quiet but deadly."

Nodding he hurried out. Anderson snuk out after him. Goldman grabbed his weapon and pot, and with a last glare at Knight he twirled and marched out. "Lt...." Wallace neared her, looking down at her. "Come back alive."

"I plan to, Captain," she whispered back.

"This isn't Sommalia, and you don't have anything to prove." He took a deep breath. "I know what a good soldier you are. Brass knows it too."

She smiled, grabbed her weapon and pot. "I know. That all, Sir?"

Sneaking out had been alot easier then they had anticipated. Then again, they'd gotten good at it when they'd been on E and E in Sommalia. Eagle had point, and Claymore brought up the rear. Grizz picked up the slack. Lt. Knight was just before him with ETA before her, and Mack behind Grizz. She was proud of her men. She couldn't even hear them breathe, they were so quiet. Each step taken was precise, and they stepped into the other's print, to not give Charlie an idea of how many were out. One eye on the man before you, and one on the area. Hand signals only, and every man alert and ready to spring into action.

It was like switching tv channels, the way she shut out the base and concentrated on their mission. Lt. Goldman had grimly stood by as they prepared to leave, and if she let herself she could replay their last conversation to the word, but if she let herself do that she'd screw up out here, and get them all killed. So now the base didn't exist. They were on E and E, and they knew Charlie was here, somewhere.

Eagle, so named because of his awesome eyesight, held up a fist, and the line silently fell to one knee, weapons ready. Knight waited. Eagle moved off alone, and they waited. After a good five minutes he returned. Every man watched the hands, reading his signals precisely.
That had taken practice.
They had needed ways to communicate without expelling breath and one night, huddled together under bushes they had come up with their own brand of sign language. Squinting she read his message. Up ahead, about 500 yards, were a platoon with some heavy artillery. Turning slightly she began to message to Claymore. The two of them moved out quiet as church mouses during sunday mass.

Claymore took one flank and she the other. Each carried packs with explosives. Each began to lay down well hidden traps in a semi-circle to cut off any escape for the platoon at intervals of ten to twelve yards apart. Moving further out they met on Charlie's other side and proceeded to repeat the proceedure. Separated, and returned to the squad. Grizz motionned them to go a different direction, and they went further into the bush, avoiding the traps.

"LT?" Anderson neared the younger man who stood with binoculars looking out, a cigarette burning away in one hand. "She done told us not to wait on 'em. Said they'd circle the base, and that could take all day if they're moving slow."

"I know," absently replied Goldman. "I can't believe they did this. How in hell are we supposed to know if they're dead or alive? All day? They could be captured or greased and we wouldn't be any the wiser."

Intently eyeing his CO Anderson realized something. There'd be no calming his LT until Lt Knight returned safely. "Don't tell me you're falling for her, LT!"

When all he got was a glare he sighed. "You and me, we've been friends a long time now. I'd like to think y'all can talk to me. Falling for a fellow soldier is not a good thing, LT. She's also your superior."

"I know, I know," interrupted Goldman, face twisting in a grimace. "And I'm not falling for her....."

Anderson nodded. "No, Sir, you've already fallen."

"Anderson, don't you have something else to do?" he demanded, annoyed his Sargeant knew him so damn well. Was he that easy to read? Yes, he liked her. She was pretty, smart, and funny. And either brave or stupid, he wasn't sure which yet.

"Nosir!" grinned Anderson, turning to look out at the area outside the base. "All's done, and I weren't in the mood to scrape the fungus offa my feet today. Saving that for when I get me some R and R!"

Goldman tossed him a frustrated yet almost amused glare. "Fine. Just leave your impressions of what you think I feel about Lt. Knight out of any conversation you plan for us to have. 'Cause you're wrong."

Head ducked, grin threatening as his lips twitched and his eyes glowed Anderson nodded, shrugged. "Yessir... no impressions... you got it, LT..."

"Anything yet?" Wallace called from the door of his CP.

"No, Sir!" called Anderson. "All's we got so far, Cap'ain, is impressions, and the LT here don't want any of those!"

Goldman blushed and glared as Wallace arched a brow, considered a moment, and then re-entered his CP. "Gee, thanks, " muttered Goldman.

Shrugging Anderson grinned. His grin vanished and he grew serious.

"She'll be fine, LT. They're good soldiers, and they've done this before. Don't do no good standin' here worryin' 'bout it. How 'bout I buy you a drink?"

"No thanks, Sargeant. I'll just....." he sighed. "Okay, I like her. Something about her just..... but I'm not falling for her. Got it?"

Anderson eyed him intently. "They'll be fine. Iffen ya change your mind 'bout that drink ya know where to find me." He moved off.

Goldman sighed, tossed away his dead cigarette, reached for his pack and lit a new one as he lifted the binoculars to peer out again.

Lt. Knight froze, holding her breath, and watched as the booted feet of the NVA soldier stopped right in front of her face. Pressed flat to the ground under a bush she listened as a zipper was lowered, and wrinkled her nose as the soldier proceeded to relieve himself...... just inches away from where she lay.

Not turning her head she held up one finger to Fox who lay beside her, wriggled it a certain way. He didn't move. Lifting her eyes she could see almost to the Vietnamese's knees. Behind him, about several yards away, was a full squad of NVA regulars. All lounging around, chatting, cleaning their weapons, and eating. Their loud talk and laughter proved they did not fear to meet up with any Americans out here when they believed they had said Americans pinned down at the base.

The one soldier before her zipped up and turned around. Slowly and silently she let her breath out, and held up several fingers, wriggling them. This was the third sighting of the enemy. Two artillery platoons trapped by their explosives, and now this squad to patrol. No other patrols. Time to rock and roll, she knew. They'd nearly come full circle. They needed a prisonner. Moving her M-16 briefly she glanced about, but couldn't see her men except for Fox. They had spread out. She knew they'd be ready.

The sound of an explosion made her blink. The soldiers before her jumped to their feet as several more explosions rocked the silence. Excited chatter and confusion made the NVA pretty much run in circles. Taking aim she pulled the trigger, and one went down as more shooting announced her men followed suit. They never had a chance to aim and shoot. Waiting a minute to listen for re-inforcements they moved out and searched the downed soldiers. Maps, papers, and one soldier alive and holding his leg. More explosions erupted.

Claymore grinned, winked at her. She shook her head, grinning. Mack, the biggest of them, lifted the wounded soldier and settled him on his shoulder.

Goldman jumped at the first explosion, twirling to look where it had come from. Then came more of them, and the far off echoes of shooting. More shooting.

"Dammit!" he cursed, turning in circles and frustration. He wanted to be out there, helping them! Helping her! But he was helplessly stuck here.

"LT!" Sarge pointed out to where black smoke billowed in the far distance.

"Dammit!" he cursed again, not knowing what to do, fearing the worst. "Dammit! DAMMIT!!!!!!"

Wallace ran out, peering around. Seeing the smoke his jaw worked, no words came out, and he ran a hand through his hair. Nothing he could do. Sending out a squad would most likely guarantee they'd get killed, and yet could he let Knight's squad battle this alone? Cursing he watched soldiers curiously and interestingly stare and gather, whispering amongst each other. He felt helpless. What orders could he give? None.

Glancing at Anderson he saw the man shrug. The Sargeant wasn't any the happier for this, but knew nothing could be done. Goldman was another story altogether. He paced, raking a hand through his short hair, cursing aloud, and glaring at everyone.

"Anderson! Get first squad ready, but don't deploy until I say."

Sarge nodded. "Yessir! First squad, you heard the Cap'ain. Get ready, but sit tight," he ordered.

LT was already running to get ready. Anderson moved more slowly.

"DAMMIT!" she shouted, hiding behind a tree. "Where the hell did they come from?"

"Musta swept down on us from up higher," Grizz told her. "Heard the party goin' on and decided to crash!"

"Yeah, well..... I never invited 'em!" she muttered. "Eagle!"

"Way ahead of ya, LT!" he shouted, turning briefly with a launcher, and letting a grenade fly. They were rewarded with some screams. But not enough of them.

"We gotta get outta here," Grizz told her. "We don't know how many more of 'em are out there."

"That's what I like about you, Grizz, your penchant for under-statement!" she scoffed. Glancing back she saw Mack holding the prisonner down. "DAMMIT! I'm all up for any brilliant ideas."

"SARGE!!!!" Johnson pointed off.

First squad and Wallace turned, peered into the setting sun. A ragged group slowly limped towards them. Lifting the binoculars Wallace took a closer look.

"It's them!"

They rushed out to help with the wounded. Goldman felt a cold lump knot his belly to see Lt Knight being carried over the shoulder of Grizzly.

"What happened?"

"We trapped two artillery platoons and greased a squad except for one of them. Then on our way back we met up with a reserve platoon coming down to see what all the fuss was about. As we ran she took a bullet."

The medic ran to her as she was set carefully down on the ground.

"We need to evac her right now. It's not that bad, but she's lost alot of blood."

"I want a debriefing, Sargeant," ordered Wallace. "Let's call in for a medevac."

Grizzly stared down at the LT. "Hang in there, LT. You're gonna be just fine."

Anderson swallowed hard, put a comforting hand on the other sargeant's shoulder. "Go on. I'll make sure they take care of her."

LT swallowed hard several times. She lay so still, looked pale. When someone touched his arm he jumped. Dark eyes wide he shivered and turned away, ignoring everyone else, and stumbled for his hootch.

"He's got a flame for her," Grizzly stated.

Staring after his CO Anderson gave an abrupt nod. "Thing is he won't admit it, even to his own self. I better go see how he is. Hey, Grizz, buy you a drink after?"

"Oh man, Zeke! I could use a whole damn bottle after what happened out there." He glanced to where the four wounded prisonners were. "We had one of 'em, and now, somehow we got us four. LT's the only wounded one of us."

Anderson now realized the man was bleeding in the arm. "Not 'xactly. You're bleeding."

"Just a frag. Ain't nothing serious. A little bandage and some good ole rot-gut'll fix it just fine." He headed for the CP.

A squad was sent out to search out the hit platoons and squad for any other info and for survivors. Two Hueys arrived, one for the LT and the other for the prisonners. Grizz and Anderson watched them take off. Anderson touched his new friend's arm, and they turned for his hootch.

"Ain't nuthin' special like what y'all find at home, but it does the trick," Anderson told him, pouring two healthy cups of it.

Grizz took it, sat. "Hell, ain't nothing here like home. But you and me, we know all 'bout that. You just do what you gotta do to survive, keep your men breathing long as you can."

"I hear that," nodded Anderson, sitting. "She'll be fine."

"Talk to the LT yet?"

Anderson shook his head. "Boy was pukin' his guts out. Figure I'll leave him his dignity, much as we got here, and check on him tomorrow."

"Good idea." Grizz swallowed half the cup of liquor. "Officers are mighty strange 'bout their dignity. Learned that long ago." He grinned. "Old warhorses like us, we're quite the breed, Zeke. Hell alone knows why we're still standing, but we are."

"Only 'cause the devil hisself don't want us!" grinned Anderson. "Too tough for him to control!"

Grizzly lifted his cup. "To tough ole warhorses like us, and the tender CO's who have lived to talk about us!"

Anderson chuckled, lifted his cup. "Amen! And may the devil keep thinkin' we're too tough to control!"


Trying to block out the whimpers and groans of pain wasn't as easy as she thought. Especially at night. Her wound wasn't serious, except for loss of blood, but they still wanted to keep her confined to bed. Which was driving her crazy.
She'd been here three days already, and her men and some of Lt. Goldman's men had stopped by, but not the Lt. For some reason he hadn't come by to see how she was doing. Which, for some unknown reason, bothered her.


Opening her eyes she glanced towards the voice to find a Colonel and a General.

Sitting up she saluted.

"At ease, Lt. Rest that shoulder." The General neared her, stared intently.
"By God, Lt, we need more soldiers like you out here! You showed real courage out there. The fact you managed to get prisoners is remarkable. You've been recommended for a medal."

Just friggin' great! she thought, but kept her face neutral.
"Thank you, Sir. Just did what I had to do, Sir."

The General rocked back and forth on his feet for a second, glowing with pride and conceit.
"You and your men give this man's army something to be proud of. Highest traditions. Uncommon valor. Risking your lives for the lives of others. I'm proud of you, Lt."

"Thank you, Sir." Oh, man! she thought. Just what she needed a damn General praising her. That's what got her to Nam in the first place.

"How are you holding up, Lt?" the Colonel asked, voice softer, understanding in his eyes.

"Getting antsy, Sir. Wish they'd let me out of here," she confessed.

"That's the sign of a true American soldier," the General crowed, chest puffed out.
"Already wanting to go out there and fight this war." He held a tight fist up.

If I ever make it to General I want to be shot, she thought. No way I want to sound as maniacally devoted and proud as this windbag. A raucus in the hallway got all their attention. Some shouting, a scream, a shot, and more screams.
Jumping out of bed, and unmindful of the way she looked in the green pants and loose top the hospital had provided she peered out. Stepping out she leaned against the wall, following it down towards the sounds of whimpering.

Around a corner she saw a soldier holding a quaking man to him, his revolver pointed to others.

"That's my friend there on that table, and you're gonna help him," he hoarsely told them.

"Lt, he's dead!" one was stupid enough to argue.

> "HE IS NOT DEAD!" the distraught man shouted.
"Now you save him, or I'll put a third eye-hole in your face. You hear me?"

"Lt," hissed the Colonel. But she was already walking forward, her one free arm up.

> "Whoa, LT," she soothingly said, pausing in nearing.
"Watch where you point that thing. I already got me a hole that needs healing."

> He eyed her curiously, menacingly. "Who are you?"

She neared the body, felt for a pulse. Dead. She glanced at the armed man.
"I'm Lt. Skye Knight, and I was shot three days ago. Out on patrol with my men. Charlie decided to give me a souvenir."
She eyed the revolver, and the way his hand shook slightly.
"LT, you don't want to do this, do you?"

She took one step closer.
"I know how hard it is to lose a friend. This sargeant was your friend was he? I've lost good men too. Friends, and even a fiance. We were three months from a wakeup and wedding. Happened in Sommalia."

"Tom and I been friends for almost a year now," he told her. "He was two weeks away from a wakeup. Was gonna go home to his wife and two little babies."

Shit, she thought. That's rough.

"Would Tom want you to hurt others like this?"
She reached him, loosened his hold on the man, and the man scurried off like a rat heading for his hole.
"LT... " she took the revolver. "I'm sorry.... but Tom will be going home earlier."

A sob tore from him, and he fell into her. Grimy and sweaty and covered >in filth she didn't care. She knew the pain. This man was hurting. She held him, led him off, and let him sob.

Goldman eyed the hospital, swallowed hard, and debated going in. He was turning away to leave when his name was called. The voice calling it made him freeze. He wasn't ready for this. Not yet. Not now. Not here.

"Wondered if you'd ever show up," she said. Robe on, arm in a sling, she moved to go around and stop before him. A frown marred her brow.
"You weren't coming in, were you?"

Those dark eyes met hers.
"I didn't want to disturb you."

"Quit with the lies, Goldman!" she snapped. "You're the only one who hasn't stopped by. Except for Wallace, but he's the Cap, and he's out on the base. But I knew you were here."

"I don't want to do this," he told her, began to turn away and march off.

She grabbed his arm, turned him. "What the hell is wrong with you, Goldman? What? Did I step on your toes back at base? You pissed because I pulled rank on you? We never used rank before. We were both Lts. Period."

Jaw working, nodding, he glared. "Okay, you want to know what's wrong? You could have stayed on base. But no. Instead you go playing big war hero and get shot in the bush. No radio, no way to know if any of you are alive, and leave us wondering what all the fireworks were about. How's that for a start?"

"I did what I had to do," she ground out. "And it's a good thing we did. My men and I...."

"My men," he repeated in disgust. "It's always about you and your damn men. Yes, they're good soldiers. Yes, so are you. But going out there was suicidal and idiotic. And you know it. Look at you, Skye! You've got a hole in you! You never should have gone out there. No one should have. But you have to go play sanctimonious hero and risk the lives of good men....."

Stiffening she backed up a step, chin lifted stubbornly.
"You're a real ass, Goldman. You know that? If I hadn't volunteered? You would have gone."

"No, no I would not have. Why? Because I knew how stupid it was. So do you. This isn't Sommalia, Skye. You don't have to prove anything," he shot.
His temper was raging forth after being held back for days. Waving a hand and turning half away he ground his teeth.
"Never mind. Okay? It's over. Just.... never mind."

As he marched off, body stiff and pulsing with anger she glared.
"Thanks for the chat, Goldman! Really, visit again when have less time!" Growling she turned, saw some poor soldier in her path, and snarled.
"Get out of my way, soldier, or I'll grind you into the dust!"
He leapt out of the way, staring at her with wide, fearful eyes.

Anderson sat, barely blinking. Pacing angrily the length of the little hootch he'd been assigned to here at the base was his LT. And words spewed out of his mouth with the rapid fire of an M-16 heating up after a few clips.
No doubt about it, his LT was pissed. He was madder than a preacher preaching sin to a roomfull of hookers and stealers! The fires of hell followed this boy, and nipped at his behind!

"... And do you realize she's never once called me by my name? Not once!" said LT, puffing angrily away at his cigarette, the ash on the end threatening to fall any second now. Sarge found a small tin plate that could be used as an ashtray, and held it out. LT marched right by it blindly. Lips pursing Sarge tried again, blinked, and set it aside.

"She calls me LT when we're laughing, Lt when we talk business, Lt Goldman when she's annoyed or frustrated, and Goldman when she's pissed. But not Myron. Never Myron. You know that?"

He glanced at his sargeant, saw the man shrug, and kept pacing. Jaw clenching and unclenching he stopped long enough to put out his cigarette, and then ran a >hand through his hair.
"Just once I'd like to hear her say it. Just..."

Sarge knew the LT was now talking to himself more than to him.
"Ever ask her to?" he softly intruded. So... this was what was bothering him, was it?
The LT was in a bunch because the pretty new LT wouldn't get personal.

"What?" LT frowned at him, suddenly brought back to the present.

Patiently Sarge repeated it. "Did... you... ever... ask... her..."

LT scowled, straightening. "I'm not some cherry you need to play patient school teacher with, Sargeant. I'm not hard of hearing."

Hiding a grin Sarge nodded. Sighing he stood, finally.
"Look, LT, I don't know why she won't say your name. But you got to remember that the Lt lost a fiance in Sommalia. Maybe she don't want to get that personal with another soldier. We're a bad risk, you know."

He considered that. "Yeah," he nodded, still frowning, and reached for his cap.
"Yeah, maybe you're right. I don't know why it bothered me so much. It's only a name, right?" He glanced at the other man, saw him grin, and he turned for the door.
"'Night, Sargeant."

"'Night, LT. And don't you worry none 'bout the LT. I'm sure that one day soon she'll remember your name. Maybe y'all should get it tattooed on your forehead for her to read!"

The door slammed on that remark. Chuckling, Sarge lay on his bed.

They'd sprung her. Back in fatigues with her arm still in a sling she nodded to other soldiers and saluted higher officers on her way to the hootch assigned to her. Next day they would leave for Ladybird. It was ten am, and already she could feel sweat trickling down between her breasts, under her arms, and down her back. The heat here in Vietnam was atrocious. Either you were constantly damp from rain, or baked in the dry sun. No middle ground. It was one or the other.

Peering briefly to the left she saw Goldman heading her way. Halting she knew he hadn't seen her yet, and she waited.
"Lt...." Head snapping up from the papers he held he squinted in the bright sun, and nodded to her.

"Okay, listen, yesterday was a bad day. Let's forget it happened," she told him, falling into step beside him.

"That an order?" he asked, chin lifted, eyes ahead of him.

She skidded to a halt. "What's that supposed to mean?"

He kept walking, twirled to face her, and saluted smartly. Turning he kept marching away. She seethed.
"Go to hell, Goldman!" she shouted. Rattled she stood there shaking, teeth gritted. Twirling she went back the way she had been before.

Heads snapped up when the door opened, and some looked away once they were assured it was a GI who had entered. Some, the ones from Ladybird, arched brows to see their LT plop himself down at the bar, and order a drink.

Baker glanced briefly at Ruiz.
"What do you think is up with the LT?"

Shrugging Ruiz took a drag off his cigarette.
"Dunno, but he don't look too happy."

"I say stay away from unhappy officers," stated Taylor, leaning over to take his shot.
"Nine ball in the side pocket."

Johnson and Purcell turned back to the game.
"Something's obviously eating away at him."

"Lt. Knight."

Now several pairs of interested eyes turned to the soldier who had spoken.
Grizz grinned, and sat back more in his chair at the table not far away from them.
"You boys ain't noticed? Ever notice how distant Lt. Knight can be even when she's being friendly? Girl keeps her heart locked up tight. Lt. Goldman is a man who carries his on his sleeve."

"You're saying the LT has a thing for the LT?" asked Purcell, frowning.
"Ain't that like against some rule or something?"

"Nope," Grizz replied. "No rules 'gainst it. Your LT is trying to get some kind of close friendship going with my LT, but she holds him three steps away."

"Now that you mention it, Sarge, I did notice that!" Taylor frowned. "Why does she do that?"

"Maybe that's personal, Marcus," warned Johnson.

Grizz stood, shrugging. "She lost her fiance in Sommalia. He was her captain. We got overrun, and he was beside her. She turned to ask him for orders, but the man had none. All's he had was body parts all over." He eyed them all. Already their eyes were filled with sympathy and horror.
"That's enough to keep anyone from getting too close to anyone. They were three months away from a wakeup and wedding. She's a good soldier, a good woman, but knows getting close to another soldier is dangerous."

"Damn," breathed Horne who'd been quiet until now. Swallowing hard he shook his head.
"It's a wonder she didn't go crazy. Many do."

Grizz turned those intense eyes on him. "She had men to save. She never had the time to go crazy. In the world she saw some doc who helped her through it." Shaking his head he sighed.
"She shoulda retired like she wanted to."

They watched the grizzled man leave. Each man exchanged glances, no words spoken. What could they say?

Anderson arched a brow but grinned to see it was Grizz at his door.

"Well, c'mon in!"

"Can't, Zeke. Just left one of the local bars in Sin City. Your LT's out there, and he looked serious 'bout tyin' one on. I'm thinking we should go make sure he don't get himself so drunk he gets shot. Then again..... if he's that drunk Charlie won't be able to aim at him, he'll be all over the place!"

Nodding Anderson got ready. "Aw, hell, Grizz....... Boy could just easily get hisself in trouble with the locals!"
They left together, a jeep already waiting outside.
"Bless yer heart! You even got a limo!"

Grizz chuckled, switched gears, and drove out.
"Oughta know better'n be surprised, Zeke. Figured it'd be easier to load him in than carry him."

"I hear that!" grinned Anderson. "Boy's gotta get over this thing with Lt. Knight. Won't do him any good to mope about it."

"Ain't all his fault," Grizz said, sighing heavily. "She's stubborn and determined. She thinks she can shut off her heart. Someday it'll backfire, explode like C4, and all hell with break loose."

Anderson nodded, eyes out for any enemy activity. You just never knew here in Nam. VC could be anywhere, be anyone. And he hadn't survived this long by being negligent.
"And we'll be in the middle." Shaking his head he sighed.
"You'd think the war would be enough to keep 'em all too busy to fall in love."

Grizz laughed, parked before the club. "Ah, hell, Zeke, you know the heart don't care if you're under mortar attack or gunfire! And war creates bonds. Don't think I've ever forgotten a face I met in wartime. You?"

Anderson shook his head, sighed. "Some may be nameless, but the faces dance in your dreams every night."

They entered the club, and found chaos. Not a man wasn't fighting. Glass was shattered, tables and chairs broken, and fists flying. Both sargeants sighed heavily, exchanged glances, and forged in like two linebackers in a scrimmage.

Anderson stumbled back when a fist found his chin. Blinking he got his feet beneath him, and threw a punch of his own. Beside him Grizz was holding his own, lifting a smaller man over his head to toss into four others. Briefly he saw the LT twirl and fall, but he had his own problems trying to get through to keep his attention on him.

A shot rang out, and everyone hit the ground.
Everyone but Goldman who unsteadily got to his feet. All eyes went to the door. Lt. Knight held a pistol, aimed up at the ceiling. Fire burned her eyes. Her teeth were bared.

"ATTEN-HUT!" she commanded. "On your feet, soldiers! NOW!"

They struggled to their feet. Holstering her pistol she marched forward, glaring every soldier back.
"Sargeants Anderson and Grishold! Get Lt. Goldman to his quarters now. And sober the fool up."

Grizz and Anderson caught the swaying man by his arms but he pulled free. So hard, in fact, he stumbled back against the wall. Pushing too far forward he danced several steps into Lt. Knight.
"You never once called me Myron!" he slurred.

Disgusted she stumbled beneath his weight, and fought to get him off her.
"Dammit, Goldman! Show some dignity!" She managed to push him into the two sargeants' arms.
"Get him out of here." Turning to everyone else who were still stiffly at attention she glared. "You've got ten minutes to line up outside my hootch. We're gonna talk discipline. Now move! MOVEMOVEMOVE MOVE!" she ordered, and stood her ground as they all rushed out.

Heading outside she saw the jeep was gone, the men scattered. Tossing bills to the owner for damages, she left.

A good twenty men stood stiff and in lines. She eyed them all.
"Since you all seem to have nothing better to do I decided to help you battle the boredom. First line! Report to the mess hall now! MOVE!" Once they rushed off she eyed the next line.
"Second line! Report to Sargeant Myers at the hospital now!" They ran off.
"Third line!" This was Goldman's squad. "You disappoint me, men. Report to latrine duty now."

"But, LT....."

Her glare shut Purcell off. Nearing she shoved her face up to his.
"You can tell it to Anderson later, Corporal. NOW MOVE!" She watched them move off, grumbling but not wasting time.

Rubbing tiredly at her face she turned. Now for the two sargeants and Lt. God-damn! What had they been thinking? Heading for Goldman's hootch she didn't bother to knock, and now wished she had. Her rage evaporated to find Goldman in his underwear only, dripping water all over the floor. He looked a little less drunk now as black coffee was being forced into him. Anderson and Grizz were wet, but dressed. Goldman was angrily sputtering.

Clearing her throat she got all their attention.
"Mind telling me what the hell you were doing back there in that club?" Her eyes were straining as they stared above their heads. Trying not to look at Goldman again was hard. She'd never seen him in such a state of undress before.

Three pairs of eyes fell her way. Grizz and Anderson grinned to see the blush on her face. LT broke free and teetered towards her, eyes blazing.
"You had NO RIGHT to interfere like that, Lt."

Did he have to come so close when he was practically naked?

"I had every right, Lt. You were drunk and disorderly, and the club was getting destroyed by the brawl."

Eyes narrowing he peered closely at her. Her eyes wouldn't look at him, and her face was red. So... he had her feeling uncomfortable, did he?
"Why won't you look at me, Skye?" he whispered.

That whisper traced down her spine, and her breath caught.
"You're naked, Lt. Goldman."

Glancing down at himself he arched a brow.
"I've got underwear on."

"That's supposed to be decent?" she asked, stunned.

He grinned. "Better'n naked," he told her.

Twirling she reached for the door handle. "When he's decent and sober I want answers, Sargeants. Understood?"

Goldman scowled. "I am decent and sober! Ask me now."

Opening the door she shook her head. "One hour."
She escaped.

Eyes narrowing he stared at the door.
"Coward," he whispered.

Oh Dear Sweet Lord!
Lt. Goldman in wet boxers was NOT how she wanted to constantly picture him! That silly grin, those too dark and too emotional eyes, wetly spiky short hair, bare chest, bare legs....
"Stop it!" she ordered herself. "Get a hold of yourself, Lt!" Marching from his hootch she headed for her own.

His legs were too thin, so were his arms. The man was too thin. There, that helped. Her step lightened some.
'Ahhhh, but that doesn't stop him from having those beautiful brown eyes, or that kissable mouth, or....' She faltered a step. Where the hell did THAT come from?
'He's handsome,' that voice said.
'No, handsome is Anderson or Purcell!' she retorted.
'Fine, he's gorgeous! And don't deny it!' that voice again argued.

Halting she ran a tired hand over her eyes, and pictured herself strangling some shadowed demon which had that voice. Satisfied she'd succeeded she entered her hootch, and fell on her bunk, sprawling there with no intentions of moving.

'You're attracted to him,' that damn voice announced.
'Shut up! I killed you!' she argued.
'Can't kill the truth. Eventually it comes back to haunt you.'

"You're wrong," she whispered aloud. "I'm not attracted to him. I'll never be attracted to any soldier ever again." Rolling over she shut her eyes tight, but a tear still freed itself. "Eric...."

In her dream he stood there. Gorgeous and smiling. Short black hair, those awesome green eyes that crinkled when he smiled and glowed with emerald fire when he was being passionate, the dimple that creased his left cheek when he smiled.

"Wake up, babe!" he whispered, sitting on the bunk, a hand gently shaking her.

Rolling over she smiled. It was their first morning of R & R two months into their tour.
"Hi, soldier! GI want to buy me a drink?" she purred.

Those eyes darkened.
"Mmmmm...... GI have better ideas!" He leaned down, face a breath away from hers. One hand slowly started to lower the sheet that covered her nakedness.

Chuckling she threw her arms around him.
"Better than a drink?" He had a towel around his waist, hair still damp from his shower.

"Much, MUCH better....." he breathed, and his lips touched hers, fit perfectly over hers.

The night before he'd given her the ring, proposed romantically as they stood out on the hotel balconey of their room, both wrapped in the same sheet after christening the bed with some steamy lovemaking. He had nuzzled her neck, whispered how he loved her, how she had fulfilled him, and how he could never live without her. Here the fighting of Sommalia was a world away, and she could pretend they didn't have to go back. As she tearily breathed a yes he slipped the ring on her finger, and turned her to kiss her.

Eric lifted his head. "Skye?"

"I love you!" she breathed, eyes slowly fluttering open. They widened in shock. Not Eric! Goldman! His face, his eyes, his lips... his boxers!
Turning her head she saw Eric, limbs missing, a hole in one side of his face, blood all over. Blood was a mosaic of designs on the sheets and walls, and on her and Goldman.

"Nooooooo!" she screamed, reaching a hand out for him.

He began to disappear. "Skye...... Don't die with me!" he hauntingly said.

Goldman held her back. "He's gone, Skye. He's gone....."

Sobbing she tried to push him away. "No! Get away from me! Leave me alone!"

Goldman shook his head. "I can't. You don't really want me to."

Sitting up, cold sweat a second skin, she panted. Her heart raced a hundred miles per minute, and sudden nausea erupted. Jumping off the bunk she found a waskebasket, and retched. As her stomach calmed a knock sounded on her door. Slowly she rose, wiped her mouth.

The door opened, and the two sargeants and Lt.

Goldman entered. "You wanted us to report here."

Grizz saw the pale clamminess of her skin.

"I'm okay," she eyed Goldman. "So. What happened?"

As the story unfolded, and she knew Goldman held off on some parts, she listened. The cold shivers wouldn't go away. Rising she nodded.
"Lt Goldman, try not to be an ass anymore? Dismissed. I can't reprimand you for something you didn't do."

Anderson and Grizz left. Goldman eyed her intently one last time before he walked out. She collapsed on a chair, and spent the next two hours sobbing.

He knew something was bothering her. She'd been too pale, had been shaking. And he honestly didn't believe that crap about not doing anything to discipline them. Something was very wrong. But how to go about getting the answers is what was bothering HIM.

Goldman paused outside her hootch, and lifted a fist to knock. Soft sounds like crying made him freeze. Bringing his head closer he listened.
Damn! It WAS crying! Quietly he opened the door, and entered. She lay on the bunk, curled into a ball, sniffling. And trembling. Worriedly he neared, sat on the bed, and touched her shoulder.


"Go away, Goldman!" she hoarsely ordered.

"NO," he argued. Turning her he tried to glare, but her red, swollen eyes and trembling lips were too much to bear. Lifting her he held her to him, one hand gently stroking her hair.

God, Skye, what is it? What's hurting you so much? Talk to me!"

She was stiff and silent. He rocked her like he would a child, and crooned soft words. She soon relaxed, one fist clinging to his shirt, her tears soaking his shirt, her face buried against his chest.

"Pl ease leave me alone!"

"I can't," he thickly replied, swallowed hard. God she felt nice against him! Even despite the sweat that was a problem to all of them she smelled like a woman; soft and female and almost flowery. "I can't..."

"I don't want to get close to you," she hiccuped tearily.

Dark eyes filled with hurt. "Why? What's so wrong with getting close? Why do you hold everyone back like they're the plague?" His arms tightened about her. "Can't you see we care? Can't you see I care?"

That was the problem, she realized. "Caring leads to losing."

He paused, pulled her head back some to look into her face. "Is that it? I'm gonna survive this, Skye."

She pulled away, glared as she pushed off her bunk. "That's conceited. NO ONE can promise that! You can't, Anderson can't, Grizz can't, I can't, Eric.... couldn't......." Her shoulders slumped.

Eric. Her fiance! Rising he caught her shoulders in his hands, bent his knees to meet her lowered gaze. "I know it hurt to lose him, but you have to go on living!"

Snorting she mockingly glanced up. "You KNOW? Have you lost anyone?"

"I lose people all the time," he said, jaw tight. "Yeah," he nodded, dark eyes snapping. "Yeah, I've lost people. I lost the woman I loved, I lost friends, I lost people..."

She wiped her tears away. "Why are you here, Lt?"

His jaw worked angrily. "Is it so damn hard to say my name? It's Myron...."

"I know what your name is, Lt," she snapped.

"So say it," he dared.

"I think it's time you left," she said, shoulders squared, chin lifted.

He hesitated, took a step near her, and glared down at her. "You can't run forever. I won't let you." Twirling he marched out, slamming the door.

The huey pushed through the heat and humidity, flying towards the base. Knight was ignoring Goldman. The others had left yesterday for the base. She and Goldman had been detained by his father who had arrived in Nam. The General had wanted answers about that brawl, and his targets were the two Lts. He'd spewed out disappointment and anger, and they had taken it. She had seen first hand his reaction to his father. No salute, no kind word. Just a stiff demeanor, and tightly reigned anger.

Goldman watched her as intently as she watched the jungle going by outside the open side. He knew she knew he watched her. And he knew she knew he knew. And he'd be damned if he'd stop. Craddling his weapon against his chest he nudged her with his foot; once, twice, a hard third time to finally make her look at him. Which she did, with a glare. That glare intensified when he only grinned at her.

"Lt. Goldman, please restrain....."

Something hit the chopper's tail, and it began to whine as it dove. "We're hit! We're hit!" the pilot shouted.

They grabbed for purchase as the pilot faught for control. It was enough to make one nauseated the way the ground sped and spun. "We're going down!" he shouted. "Better hold on tight!"

The ground came too fast. Eyes shut, teeth gritted they hung on, and bounced around when it hit. Knight was thrown out of the chopper, and Goldman hung half out. Groaning he rose slowly, checked the others. The pilot and co-pilot were hanging out the windows, dead. The gunman groaned, lifted his head, and took a bullet. Goldman threw himself out the other side, landing by Knight who lay there.

The enemy were tearing holes into the chopper, and Goldman helped Knight up. "We have to run," he told her.

She nodded, and grimaced in pain. "I think I dislocated my shoulder."

Holding onto the front of her shirt he pulled her into the bush. They were quiet, trying to regulate their breathing, step lightly, and listen for any signs of Charlie around.

They stopped when they could run no more. He kept half an eye out for the enemy, and crouched beside her. "How you doing?"

"I'm dandy. Don't worry about me, Lt. I've done this before, remember?" she was gingerly feeling her shoulder, her arm hanging useless. "I have to set this. Hold my weapon?"

"What are you gonna do?" he asked. She stood, faced the tree, and swun hard into it. The pain brought her to her knees, made her gag, but she did not cry out. Eyes teary she gripped his arm with her good hand.
"Let's move. We can't stay long in one place. What we need is shelter, something to hide us."

His dark eyes scanned the area. He helped her up. "Looks like it's just you and me, Skye."

"Don't get any ideas," she warned.

He smiled. "Who, me? Do I look like Taylor? C'mon."

"What do you mean gone?" demanded Anderson.

Grizz shook his head. "Sorry, Cap'ain, but I don't believe that. I know my LT. She's out there, and she's on her way here."

Anderson cast the other sargeant a look, paused, and nodded decisively. "He's right. They're alive, and they're out there. I say we go look for them."

Wallace held up a hand. "There are reports of heavy numbers of enemy patrols and squads out there. We've already lost two platoons out there. I can't send anyone out just yet."

"No, but you can leave the Lts out there alone?" demanded Anderson, eyes glowing with anger. Shaking his head he stepped back. "Nuh-uh, Cap'ain, I can't accept that. Those are good soldiers, good officers, and they'd be out there right now to look for any of us if our roles were reversed. I don't buy this. I'm goin' out there."

"It would be against orders," Wallace told him.

Grizz backed up a step. He stood with Anderson. "We take only a few men, Zeke. No sense announcing ourselves to Charlie. Just enough of us to get the Lts out alive."

Anderson nodded. "Got that right, Grizz." He glanced sideways at his superior officer. His look said, 'Well?'

Wallace sighed. "Fine, I don't know where you are, who's with you, or how you got there."

Ready to pounce Anderson nodded. "Yessir!" He and Grizz were gone.

When she heard one small snap of a twig she lifted her weapon, squinting to see in the setting sun. A familiar form in green fatigues appeared, and she lowered the M-16. Goldman crouched. "We've got a platoon of NVA regulars headed this way," he whispered, panting slightly from hurrying to warn her. "I spotted them about half a klick due north. We have to find better shelter."

Pushing to her feet she winced as her shoulder sent out a stab of pain. "Our best bet is up high."

He paused. "Climb?"

One brow arched. "Lt, are you afraid of heights?"

Glaring he shouldered his rifle. "I'm not fond of them, okay? I have a spot, actually. C'mon. I saw it on my way here."

The spot was a cave. They entered, and both froze. Crates of ammo and weapons. Whistling low she neared a crate, peered inside. "LT, that platoon you saw? How much you wanna bet they're on their way here?" She examined another box as he kept a lookout. A low chuckle escaped her.

"What?" he whispered, glancing back briefly. She held up packets, and his eyes glowed. "How much is there?"

Grabbing a few more packets and some spools of wire she waved him near. "Enough to blow this cave wide open, and give even North Vietnam ringing ears!"

He neared, met her eyes dead on. "What do you want me to do?"

They got to work. Carefully they hid the C4 behind crates and he used a branch to wipe their boot prints away and sweep dirt over the wires she led outside. They moved slowly, and he kept an eye out as he swept until they reached a ditch-like area. There she used her knife to bare the wires, and attach them to a detonator. He peered over every now and then, keeping an eye out for the platoon.

"There it is!" the gunner shouted.

The huey came back around, and Anderson and Grizz peered out at the smashed remains of the huey the two lts had been in. "I'm gonna find us a spot to set down!" the pilot shouted to them. "I can't stick around, but radio me when you find them. I saw some Victor Charlies south-west of here, running for the trees. Be careful!"

The chopper didn't even touch down when eight men jumped out. Landing on their feet they rolled and came back up a few feet away, remaining crouched and running for the cover of bush and trees. Above them the huey turned and flew off.

They lay so still if he couldn't hear himself breathe softly he'd think he was dead! Casting a sideways glance at her he was amazed at just how good a leader and soldier she was. She should be back in the world, wearing pretty dresses and making babies and kissing her husband good night and good morning, not dirty and bloody in the jungles of South Vietnam with a detonator in her hands, searching for the enemy to blow them to hell.

"I see movement," she breathed, not moving.

His dark eyes swept to the area near the cave. Arrogant bastards to boldly walk up and not worry that their cache had been found. No worries of ambush or attack. They were also out of formation and talking rapidly and loudly. Barely shaking his head he considered how different they were to the Americans. He'd have one man peer in, the rest waiting, and silent. But that was him.

Something caught his eye, and he laid a hand on hers. Barely moving he nodded to her right. Her eyes turned that way. She hissed in a breath. There had to be at least 30 VC in their black pyjamas. "Family reunion?" she barely spoke.

He almost laughed. Almost. This was gonna be one hell of a blow to them. The VC were as loud if not louder, and met up with one of the NVA. They exchanged rapidfire chatter, and began to file in the cave. He let her hands go, and watched wrinkles appear at her eyes as they squinted in concentration. Her nostrils flared, and her breathing increased some. But her hands never shook, and she didn't move otherwise. Jaw squaring and tensing she waited until one soldier was starting to come out, and detonated.

Goldman threw himself over her as rock and debris spewed all over. The blast rocked the earth, and those few who had been outside the cave-mouth screamed. It was deafening as one blast created a domino effect, igniting ammo that went up in flames and exploded. Hot rocks fell on his back and legs, small burning debris landing on his arms. But he made sure she was well covered and protected.

Grizz and Anderson fell to the ground, eyes wide. The ground shook slightly, and the sound made their ears ring. The others lay still, listening. Finally Claymore grinned, and lifted his head. "That was LT's work," he whispered.

"How do you know?" demanded Taylor, shaking his head to rid himself of the buzzing sound filling it.

"I know," he said.

They rose; Anderson, Grizz, Claymore, Taylor, Eagle, Percell, Fox, and Ruiz. Eagle pointed down a side, and Grizz nodded. Eagle took point. Claymore picked up slack. They moved in silence, using hand signals only. Smoke already wafted down on what slight breeze there was in the humid heat.

Fox nudged Claymore. Claymore nodded. "C4. But it's got the smell of ammo to it," he breathed.

Anderson nodded, somehow knowing to believe the man. "And the smell of flesh," Fox added. Yeah, Anderson thought, he'd smelled it too.

Finally peering up he choked on the smoke and dust. Beaming he faced Knight as she sat up. "We did it!" he hoarsely whooped, and before he could think he pulled her face to his, and laid his lips on hers. They lingered, pressed excitedly. He realized what he'd done when one of her hands curled into his shirt, clutched at him. Pulling back he blinked, staring at her.

Blinking she shook off the kiss, and glared at him. "Don't do that again." She blushed under the soot and dirt on her face to hear her voice was husky.

Before he could reply an ominous click sounded, followed by others. Slowly their heads turned, and they stared in horror at a good six VC in black, AK-47's aimed at them. Even if they'd had their weapons in hand they never would have been able to kill them all before one of them bought it, they decided. Slowly they put hands on their heads, Knight wincing when her shoulder sent a stab of pain through her. They shuffled to their knees.

One VC grabbed her shirt on her sore shoulder and hauled her up and away from him. Goldman tensed, but did not move. She was shoved at two others who laughed and caught her, holding her. The one who'd tossed her neared her, shouldered his weapon and while she glared reached out a hand and grabbed one breast as he made some comment that made his companions roar with laughter.

"Bastard!" Shouted Goldman, lunging. "Get your filthy hands off her!" He tackled the man, and got a good three hits in before the others reacted and pulled him off, one of them using the butt of his weapon to knock him out.

"Myron!" cried Knight, stepping forward, remembered she was being held, and cried out in pain when one of her captors pushed hard on her sore shoulder to get her on her knees.

Goldman blinked, faught the darkening of his sight, and from somewhere far away heard her cry out his name, and then cry out in pain. She had called him Myron!

Anderson narrowed his eyes, stared at the tableau before him. His LT was out cold, and the VC had Lt. Knight bound with rope, her hands behind her. They were chattering away loudly as they pointed to the destruction nearby, and shoved Knight about. One of them went to LT, roughly sat him up, and hit him to wake him up. LT fell back, moved, and lifted a hand to his face. Glancing beside him he curiously glanced at Grizz.

Grizz growled low, and sneered. His LT had her shirt ripped, and pain was a grimace on her face. She was obviously hurt. He didn't see any blood, which relieved him somewhat. Goldman got his knees, and glared at the enemy, spatting out blood. These bastards were going to pay for this.

Anderson nudged him, waved a hand slightly. Grizz nodded, and turned to his men. They would flank them, spread out, and rescue the two LTs.

"You okay?" Goldman spoke.

"Just peachy," she tightly replied.

A VC snapped some order in Vietnamese, gave Knight a backhand that sent her falling back. Goldman pushed to his feet, and doubled over when the butt of a rifle caught him in the belly. He fell to his knees, gasping for air, fighting the nausea that threatened to make him throw up. "I'll rip you to shreds," he panted softly, glaring up at the man.

Two VC caught him, lifted him, and dragged him to a fallen tree. They tied him there. They dragged Knight near, but did not tie her to the tree. They made her stand before him, and one went behind her, holding her by the arms. She stood, staring ahead, teeth gritted. Goldman watched one of the men hand his weapon to another, and eye Knight. 'Oh God! They're gonna beat her!' he silently cried.

The man neared her, stood before her. Another eyed Goldman. "If you do not tell us what we want to know we will hurt her."

He spoke English! And very well. "Don't even think it, Goldman!" she snapped, eyes blazing.

For daring to speak she was given a blow to the stomach. She groaned, doubled over as far as she could with one man holding her up. Gasping she trembled, but then straightened. Chin lifted she again stared straight ahead.

"He will not stop," the VC warned him. "How many more Americans are out here? Where are they?"

Goldman swallowed hard, eyes on Knight. How could he live with himself if he knew he'd caused this to happen to her? Her eyes briefly met his, silently ordering him to remain quiet. He must have taken too long to reply because her head snapped sideways from a punch to the jaw. A trickle of blood escaped her lip, and already slight swelling appeared on her jaw. Jaw tight he fisted his hands, and wanted to scream and rail at the world for putting him in this position.

"Stop this," he hoarsely told the VC. "Take me instead."

The man shook his head, grinned. "It will not have same effect. We realized you care for her. If we hurt you she might not talk. But if you want to save her you will talk." He shrugged. "My men would prefer to rape her. Should I let them?"

Goldman strained against his bonds. Oh God! Not rape. Bad enough they were hurting her, but if they decided to rape her...... His stomach felt sick. It roiled and twisted. His conscience struggled with his training.

The VC knelt beside him. "Let us start easy. Name and rank to start."

That he'd do. "2nd Lieutenant Myron Goldman." His dark eyes flew to Knight who unsuccessfully tried not to wince as the man holding her jarred her shoulder.

"Very good, Lieutenant," the VC nodded. "Now hers."

"1st Lieutenant Skye Knight," he tightly replied.

The man's eyes widened some. "Ahhh... she is your superior!" He spoke in his native language, and the men laughed. "They find this amusing that a woman outranks you. She is pretty, yes? Even with all the dirt. But she does not like your kisses?"

Goldman glared. "Listen, let her go. She's a woman, for God sakes!"

"Yes, one you are obviously attracted to, yes?" The man rose, and his amusement fled. "How many and where?"

He hesitated. If he told them they were alone would they simply kill them? Take them prisonner? He didn't know. What the hell should he do? He cursed when another punch got her in the face. "Stop it!" he shouted. "Leave her alone!"

"Perhaps this will entice you to tell us what we want." The man turned to his men.

Goldman tried to lunge, and gasped when his restraints brought him right back. They had thrown Knight to the ground, and two men held her down as a third ripped her shirt wide open.


Anderson caught the man before he could tear out of their concealment and give their position away. Half rolled atop Grizz he growled in his ear. "Won't be doin' her no good to go runnin' outta here half-cocked. They'll kill her and Goldman if you go out there as angry as you are. Now don't get me wrong, man, I'm not happy 'bout this none either, but we have to move careful or else...... or else risk her life. And you and me both know we ain't ready to do that."

Grizz pulled himself together, and gritted his teeth. "I'll rip the little bastards to shreds for this, Zeke."

Anderson nodded. "Yep, figured you would. Ain't gonna stop ya, Grizz ole buddy."

Fox neared, careful not to make a sound. "Let me go out there, Sarge. You know I can do it. I can free Lt. Goldman."

Anderson doubtfully eyed him. Grizz grinned. "We don't call him 'Fox' for nothing, Zeke. Man could walk on seashells and not make a damn sound! He's quiet and sly. He'll free your LT."

Anderson nodded. "Your call, Grizz."

Fox didn't have to wait to hear it, he snuk out before anyone knew it. Going around he saw the VC were occupied with Lt. Knight, and barely paid attention to their backs and Goldman. Crawling like a spider at top speed he came up to the fallen tree, and began to saw the ropes with his knife.

Goldman nearly jumped when he felt something touch his arms. Not looking back he felt something sawing at the ropes. Before him Knight was struggling, kicking and biting at the VC, cursing them with language so foul he blushed himself.

"Well, Lt? Do they continue, or do you talk?" the leader asked.

Goldman felt the ropes give. "Go to hell," he spat, and lunged, catching the leader with an uppercut that made him wince himself. Howling in rage he leapt into the others.

Fox leapt over the tree, and into the fray. Goldman was trying his best, but he wasn't much in the hand-to-hand combat department. Knight took advantage of the fact the VC were distracted. Bringing her legs up she wrapped them around the neck of one, and squeezed. Screaming he clawed at her legs, but she gritted her teeth, and wouldn't let go.

Goldman grunted and fell to the ground, one VC atop him. They struggled with a knife he held. Problem was, he was on the bottom, and the little guy was stronger than he'd anticipated. Desperately Goldman grabbed a handfull of dirt and tossed it into the other's eyes. It worked, and Goldman stabbed him in the belly. Pushing him off he saw Anderson and a group of others were now into it also. Knight was only a few feet away. He crawled over.

"Let him go, Skye," he told her. "He's out cold." Carefully he eased her legs apart to free the man. Helping her to a sitting position he cut the rope binding her. "You okay?"

"GodDAMN!" she cried out as her shoulder protested, and fainted into his lap.

"LT?" Sarge eyed them. "You okay?"

Goldman didn't reply right off. He drew Knight more onto his lap, and held her. His throat worked, and his eyes were distant. Very gently he tried to close her shirt, hide the exposed flesh the torn material of the shirt and tee didn't cover. When it didn't work he quickly removed his own shirt and placed it around her as best he could.

Anderson nodded, understood. Kneeling he touched his Lt's arm. "She's okay, LT. She's gonna be okay."

LT blinked. "Help me cover her up, Sargeant."

Grizz neared, watched the scene. "We should radio for a chopper. Get back to base. She'll want a shower and will need some rest."

Goldman nodded, got up with help, Knight in his arms. "Animals," he cursed, walking away.

Grizz sighed. "That boy'll lose it if he ain't careful, Zeke."

"Boy's got a big heart, but he'll be fine. Hell, we all get disgusted by some of the things we see here. But we move on when we have to. LT will too," he vowed.

"Come in," called LT, cleaning his cuts and bruises.

She entered, paused. "Hey."

Startled he stared at her. "Hey. How you doin'?"

She shrugged. "I'm fine. Not like they got far. Thanks, by the way, for what you did."

Shaking his head he turned away. "I would have told them anything to make 'em stop, Skye. I could take the beating if it was me, but what they tried to do, and what they did do......"

"God, LT, how can you still have so much heart after all you've seen and heard and lived through?" she shook her head. "There was nothing to tell them, LT. Nothing."

Lips thinning, he shot her a vulnerable look, shrugging because he couldn't say anything yet. Running a hand through his short golden-brown hair he took a deep breath. "What they tried to do was wrong. I couldn't do anything else but tell them anything they wanted to hear to try and save you."

"They would have raped me anyways," she told him.

Shoulders slumping he fell on his cot. "I know," he whispered, tormented.

Hesitating she debated going to him. Damn man was getting to her! The hurt and helplessness in his eyes, the torment in his voice. He looked defeated. Before she could think she was crouched before him, looking up into those dark, emotional eyes. "LT..... I don't blame you at all. You have to stop blaming yourself."

Rising angrily he paced. "They managed to sneak up on us! Dammit! How could I let that happen?"

She rose slowly, squared her shoulders. "You were....... distracted. We both were."

His eyes turned to her, and his pacing stopped. "For what it's worth? I don't regret what I did. When I kissed you, that is."

Shaking her head she held up a restraining hand. "Stop right there, Lt. That never should have happened, and it never will again."

"I heard you call me Myron," he told her, eyeing her curiously. "When they first hit me."

"You got hit in the head, you were dillusional," she snorted.

A blush warmed her cheeks, and he knew he hadn't imagined it when she'd shouted his name. "No. I heard it. Started to think you had no idea what my name is. But you do. Why is it so hard for you to say it?"

"I don't go around calling others by their given names, Lt." She turned, and marched out.

"What?" she demanded, tired of the measuring stares Grizz was giving her.

Shrugging he shook his head. "Nothing, LT." He waited until her attention was back to the reports before her. "You ever call Lt. Goldman by his given name?"

Stunned she dropped her pen, and stared at him. "What the hell is this, the inquisition?"

His lips quirked. "Well? Do ya?"

"Why should I?" she grumbled, going back to the report.

"Even know what it is?" he asked, pressing.

"Yes," she tried to concentrate.

"Really? What is it?" he dared.

Sighing she lifted her face, met his amused gaze. "Lt. Myron Goldman. Happy?"

"Not yet," he was fighting his amusement. "Just Myron would be fine."

Eyes narrowing she bared her teeth. "Myron. There I said it."

"Not to me, to HIM!" he told her.

"Specialist, I'm trying to write out this damn report!" she snapped, face warming.

One brow arched. "Rank's Sargeant, LT."

"Not if you keep this up, Specialist!" she stressed, growling.

Shrugging he headed for the exit. Pausing he glanced back. "Betcha can't do it. Say it to him. If you do it means you're letting him get close. And you can't do that 'cause he's a nice looking man and has a big heart and is obviously interested. Saw the kiss," he grinned.

Rising slowly she headed for the exit, making it farther than he did. "I need a coffee," she growled, exiting.

He followed her. "You like him."

"Go away, Grizz!" she warned. "You liked the kiss."

She walked more angrily, more tensely. "Going away NOW would be a real good idea, Grizz!"

"Myron,." he said. "My-ron! Myron!"

Twirling she practically sizzled and hissed. "GO AWAY NOW BEFORE I FORGET I LIKE YOU AND HIT YOU, YOU PUSHY OLD GOAT!!!!!!" Twirling she marched off again, and snapped at a soldier who hadn't gotten out of her way fast enough.

Grizz chuckled, glanced over to find Anderson curiously staring. Laughing out loud he headed for his hootch. "BETCHA CAN'T!!!!!!" he shouted over his shoulder.


" HA!" he shot.

She let out a growl and kept going, disappearing from view. Soldiers leapt out of her way when they saw how her eyes blazed, and how she fairly crackled rage.

Goldman and Captain Wallace peered out the CP, curious about all the shouting. "Sargeant!" Goldman called to Anderson. "What's going on out here?"

Anderson shrugged. "Hell if I know, Sir!" Turning he headed away.

"Hey, Grizz!" Anderson caught the other man's attention, and lengthened his stride to catch up to him. "What was all that about earlier? Between you and the LT?"

Chuckling Grizz shrugged, shouldered his weapon. He always wore a green kerchief on his head to keep the sun off his balding pate. "Just a little goading, Zeke. I figured out something. My LT likes your LT. She won't admit it, even to herself. Which is why she won't call him by his given name. Makes too personal."

Anderson nodded. "I can understand that. She went through a world o' hurt when she lost her man in Sommalia."

Grizz scowled, stared ahead. He remembered that night. "Not to speak ill of the dead an' all, but the Cap'ain was a good officer, and a lousy fiance. But she won't admit that either. He loved her, don't get me wrong, but..... he had an itch no one woman could reach."

"I hear ya," stated Anderson. "You want her to get over him."

Grizz paused, squinted into the sun, and then looked at his new friend.
"Zeke, we been around, you and me. We seen alot, experienced alot. Probably a hell of alot more than most men our age. You ever been married?"

Anderson nodded. "Once. Got me a little girl, too. Katie. Her mama left, re-married."

"Then you know the importance of moving on. What good's it gonna do to cling to something you know ain't there no more? I had me two wives, Zeke. No kids. LT is like my daughter. Love her to death. And she can't live like this. Not grievin' over some man's memory for years. Time she lived again, felt again. And your LT is the man to get her feeling again. Problem is to make her admit she's feeling at all!"

"Hey, Eagle!" called Claymore. "Mail's in!"

Percell arched a brow. "Why y'all call him Eagle?"

"'Cause he can see like one," said ETA. "Man can see a speck of dust floating in the dark! Ain't never seen a pair of eyes like he's got."

"Call me Fox 'cause I'm so sneaky. I do all the jobs of infiltration. That's my MOS. I can get close when none others can. That's ETA, he could tell you the time of day in a blizzard with one eye blind! Claymore's got this talent with explosives. He and the LT are good at that. They could blow up your pocket without hurting you none. Mack is one hell of a driver and one of the best grunts I ever saw. He'd dive on a grenade to save the squad. He handles the radio and can read a map soaking wet and with half the map falling apart. He remembers terrain. Got a map in his head ain't no one can get rid of. Grizz, the Sarge, he's like a big ole bear. Piss him off and he'll claw you to shreds. Don't wake up the bear, man."

Ruiz shook his head. "What's the LT like, man? She don't say much."

"Would you if your fiance was blown to ribbons beside you?" asked Mack. "She's cool, man. Give her time. She's tough, but won't send a man out to do what she can't do herself. Sarge's got alot of respect for her. We all do. But they're real close, like father and daughter. Right now she's still trying to get her bearings here."

Just then she came around a tent, and neared them. "Boys! I heard the mail was in."

"'Morning, LT!" Taylor greeted, flashing a wide grin.

She grinned back. "Hide them teeth, Taylor. Save 'em for blinding Charlie, not me."

"You got a few letters here, LT," Horne told her, holding out a few envelopes.

"Thanks, Horne." She took them, eyed them all. "Listen... I like to get to know the people I work with. Tonight, mess tent. I'll buy the coffee."

"Sounds good!" nodded Percell.

"Good, 20:30 hrs," she went off.

A string of curses caught Captain Wallace's attention. He'd gone out to get some food, and was headed back to the CP when the sound halted him. Glancing around he saw her marching towards him.

"Problem, Lt?"

Halting she looked up. "Sir, can we talk?"

"Captain?" Goldman stuck his head out the CP. "Just got a call of a chopper about 5 minutes out. A new recruit arriving."

She mumbled to herself. "Sir? Permission to shoot the recruit if she doesn't head back to The World?"

Both men stared at her in dismay. "Lt?" Wallace slowly asked.

Raking a hand over her face she groaned. "It's the recruit, Sir. She's my fiance's sister. And I don't know if I handle her being here."

He thought a moment. "I'm sorry, Lt. Handle it."

Pvt. Maurer paused from digging, and eyed her two companions. "If one more soldier looks at me like I'm dessert I'm gonna cut his eyes out."

Corporal Haler used a grimy arm to wipe grimy sweat off her forehead. "Looking isn't as bad as doing what some of them might be thinking, Pvt."

Maurer sneered. "You sure like using rank, don't you, Corporal Coward?"

The third woman, a stocky blond, frowned. "Leave her alone, Maurer. Hell, I nearly dirtied myself that night too."

"Not me, Carter. I ain't like you wusses." Maurer went back to digging. "Hell, all we do here is dig and wire and do KP duty."

The blond frowned. "Well, I for one, don't mind that to going out there in the bush. Ain't you seen the bodies brought back? Ain't you heard what goes on out there? I'd rather dig a trench than dig someone's grave, or have someone dig mine."

Haler glared at Maurer. "Look, I made Corporal, okay? Not my fault you're just a Pvt. You don't hear Carter whining about her rank. She wants to work her way up, like all of us."

Maurer snorted. "Like you did? Right."

Haler was getting fed up with all this. "Hey, I did what I had to do, and so what if I got ROTC at school? We're all here, and the LT is right, we're a squad, and we need to work together."

Maurer laughed, humourlessly. "Save me the friendship attempts, Corporal." She used the rank like a curse. "When all's said and done you two pansies will eating a bullet, and I'll be working my way up to Sargeant."

Haler shook with anger. "Just dig, Private!"

Carter eyed Haler curiously. She, herself, preferred Haler. She was soft-spoken, but she did have guts. Maurer was just a mean loud-mouth who was angry at the world. "Don't pay no mind to her, Cathy. Let her rot in her own self-importance."

"Ladies!" Percell carried canteens. "Brought y'all some water."

Haler blushed. "Thanks, Danny."

"Thanks, Danny..." mimicked Maurer with a sneer.

Percell scowled. "You got a problem, Pvt?" he demanded in his best commanding voice.

Maurer snorted, turned away. "Just a problem with sucks, Corporal."

Haler sighed. "She's got a beef with the world, and we're her target."

Percell glared at the black woman. "If you need help with her let me know. Or tell any of the Sarges and LTs."

Carter grinned when he marched off. "He's cute. Me? I personally think Ruiz is cuter. But Percell is right for you, Cathy."

Haler blushed. "Nothing like that, Becky. He's just a nice guy."

"All the more reason for you to grab him," Carter told her, winked. "C'mon, let's build our arm muscles. We still got lots of digging to do."

Goldman, Anderson, and Grizz watched her angrily pace near the helipad. She was muttering to herself, body stiff and tense.

"Captain Boyd had a sister, this cute little thing. They were twins." Grizz shook his head. "This is gonna screw the LT up. After he died and after the funeral she pretty much stayed away from his family. Too many bad memories."

"Yeah, well, this isn't gonna help." Goldman sighed.

A chopper cleared the trees, and was nearing. When it hovered above the landing zone they all turned away with an arm up to shield themselves from the dust and debris flying. Once the recruit was off the huey lifted, and headed out. Knight straightened, and watched the slim woman in fatigues near.

"Pvt Erika Boyd reporting for duty, Lt." The woman saluted.

Knight didn't speak right away. It even took her a minute to salute back. "What the hell is this all about, Erika?" Same eyes, same color of hair, same features, only hers were more feminine. It was like seeing Eric all over again. And it hurt.

"I enlisted, Sir." She grinned. "I remember you never did like Ma'am."

Knight's jaw tightened. Her eyes crackled. "GRIZZ!" she shouted. "Show the Pvt. to the tent. I've got things to do." Twirling on a heel she stiffly marched off.

Pvt Boyd shook her head. Hiding was what the Lt was obviously doing. Running from a part of her life she had to face sooner than later.

"Pvt?" Grizz touched her arm. "There's a tent for you women. Keep you away from the men. Follow me. She'll be free later. She has a meeting with the Captain. The other first Lt was killed in a mortar attack a while back, and she now has to take over his duties."

She nodded. "Thank you, Sargeant."

"Who's the Cherry?" asked Maurer, watching the Sarge lead a new woman to their tent.

"No idea," Haler replied, frowning.

"Huh, she looks like she's as brave as the rest of you," the black woman snorted.

"One of these days, Maurer someone's gonna shut that mouth of yours up," Carter snapped.

"You?" snorted Maurer. "Get real. You couldn't shut the tent flap if it had instructions!"

Haler had had enough. "No..... me." And her fist flew out, catching the tall woman in the chin and sending her sprawling back on her butt in the dirt. "I've had it with your attitude, Pvt. You think you're so damn hot? We'll see how hot you are when we're in the bush."

Carter's jaw fell, and she had to snap it shut. "Damn, girl! Where'd you learn to hit like that?"

Haler drew herself up to her full height. "My dad. He's a boxer."

"You ladies done?"

Maurer shot to her feet, and the other two drew themselves up. Lt. Knight stared down at them. "What's this all about?"

"Guts, Sir," Haler replied. "Showing we have some. Some of us are doubting the courage of the others."

Knight let her gaze fall on each of them slowly. it stopped on Maurer. "Well, I got good news and bad news. Good news is you'll get to show your courage in the bush. We leave in the morning. A full two days of snooping and pooping. Bad news is..... Maurer you'll be carrying the radio. An extra few pounds shouldn't dampen that strength of yours. You'll be by me, and if you screw up once, just once, I'll shoot you myself. You got that, Pvt?"

"Yessir!" snapped Maurer, lips curling in a sneer.

Knight smiled. "Good. Get to work, ladies."

"Hey, LT?" Taylor neared her. "Cool idea to meet like this."

Knight smiled. "Thanks, Taylor. Go on in." Men filed past her and into the mess tent. She finally entered. "Okay, men! And ladies. I'm Lt Skye Knight. First off, I don't like Ma'am. Sir or LT or Lt is best. Secondly, I don't take no crap from anyone, and I'm asking all of you to respect the women in this unit. You'll have to deal with me if anyone hurts any of them. You don't want that. Trust me."

She motioned to the table that had a huge coffee perculator, one of those big silver ones, and plates of cookies. "Eat up, soldiers. I got those special for tonight."

As they mingled she took the time to answer questions, and talk to each soldier. After an hour she came face to face with Boyd. "How could you do this, Erika? Wasn't losing Eric enough?"

"Army runs in the family, Lt. You know that," she replied.

Knight shook her head. "You were supposed to stay in the States, get married, and have babies. Dammit, Pvt! I don't need this."

Boyd sighed. "I didn't do this to torture you. They sent me here."

"Well, it is torture. God, Eric must be rolling in his grave! How in hell did your parents take this news?" she demanded.

"Mom passed away four months ago. I wrote to tell you. The letter was returned," she accused. "And Tommy is out here somewhere too."

Tommy, her baby brother, 23 years old. "Oh God!" She turned away. "We're heading out tomorrow for a few days, Erika. I don't like this. I don't like this one bit. But I can't send you back."

Boyd nodded, lips tight. "Then let's work out a truce, Lt. I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere. Live with it."

Knight glared. "Just you live, Pvt. If I have to bring one more Boyd home in a bodybag....." Shaking her head she left the tent.

It had been a long day. In his boxers only Goldman looked forward to crawling into his cot and getting some sleep. Getting beneath the scratchy blanket he rolled to his side, and yawned, eyes falling shut.


He ignored the soft call from the area of his tent flap.

"LT? You awake?"

Sighing he never moved or opened his eyes. "No. I'm asleep. Now go away, Skye!"

She entered quietly, and crouched by his cot. "Goldman? I need to talk."

"Fine, talk. Don't get insulted if I start snoring during your one-sided conversation." He snuggled deeper under the blanket.

She gently shook him. "Goldman? You hear me?"

His eyes flared, and he stared right ahead. He didn't answer.

She shook him again. "Goldman!" Her teeth gritted. "MYRON!" she hissed, shaking him. "I need to talk to you!"

Swatting her hand away he rolled onto his side. "Can't this wait? It's 2200 hrs! I had a long day, and I'm tired!"

"It's about Pvt. Boyd," she began. "I don't know if I can handle..."

It hit him them. What she had called him. Myron. Pushing up on an elbow he leaned forward towards her. "You called me Myron!"

Blinking she paused. Had she? Putting hand to his forehead she pushed him back down. "Go back to sleep, Lt. You're dreaming."

Pushing back up he shook his head. "No, no I'm not. I HEARD you! You said Myron." He grinned. "That all I had to do to hear you say it? Let you sneak into my hootch at night?"

Jumping to her feet she glared down at him. "I've got a real problem here, and you want to discuss given names?"

Lying back he grinned smugly, head pillowed on one arm, the other thrown carelessly over his bare chest. "What about Pvt. Boyd? And I heard you right, you know."

"You were dreaming, and she's Eric's sister. I can't..." She deflated. "Eric was my Captain in Sommalia....."

Damn, this was serious! Sitting up he tugged her down to sit on the cot. "Your fiance? That new recruit is his sister? I'm sorry, Skye. I didn't know."

"Maybe I can get her transferred?" she asked hopefully.

"But should you? At least here you can keep an eye on her," he advised, rubbing her arm soothingly. "Lord knows where she'd end up if you sent her off."

She deflated more. "You're right. She could end up in the rear."

"No guarantee," he told her, shaking his head. "Once you send her out she's fair game for wherever the Brass want her to be. She could be sent further to the front."

Groaning she dropped her chin to her chest. "What am I gonna do? She looks so much like him! I don't want to relive Eric's death every time I look at her, Myron."

"Maybe you need someone else to think about," he whispered, drew closer. God he enjoyed hearing his name come off her lips, especially in the dark.

She snapped back to reality when she noticed his arm was around her, and his stubbled face nuzzled her ear, sending shivers racing up and down her spine and to every limb. His hot breath teased her. Eyes flaring she shoved him away, jumping to her feet and away from the cot. "GOLDMAN!!!" she cried, fighting a racing heart and heat flooding her.

When she shoved he fell back, rolling feet over head off the cot that also tipped. Pulling himself up some he sighed to watch her storm out. "Well... that went well!" Fixing his cot he got inside it again. "I think I'll stick to snoring."

"Sargeant?" she called.

Grizz nodded, and marched to the men and women lined up. Slowly and carefully he looked them all over. "Squad's ready, LT!"

Knight nodded. "Good. Get 'em loaded, Sgt." She saw Wallace and Goldman watching from a little ways off. Turning she headed for one of the choppers. "Maurer! You're with me. You stick to me like a leetch, Pvt. You got that?"

Goldman squinted into the sun as the choppers lifted and soared off. "Well..."

Wallace sighed. "Except for a few VC stragglers seen around it's a pretty routine mission, Myron. Nothing to worry about."

Goldman glanced at him. "Yessir. I'm not worried about the men or Lt. Knight, Captain. It's the women in the squad that worry me."

"Well, they'll get some experience, and find out how tough they are." Wallace turned back for the CP.

Goldman nodded. "Or how fast they can get killed," he sighed.

"This all we're gonna do all day?" whispered Maurer testily. "Walk?"

"Anyone ask you to talk, Pvt?" demanded Knight. "I don't remember anyone asking for you to talk."

Grizz chuckled. "Don't go askin' for trouble, Pvt. Trouble is always a shadow following close by."

"I hear that!" smiled Fox. "I think I married it a year ago too!"

Knight shook her head, kept walking. "Okay, let's take five while I check the map."

As the others rested she and Grizz and Mack looked over the map, discussed the terrain and how best to move ahead. Gunshots erupted, and Carter cried out as she fell. Everyone hit the ground, and took cover.

"Simple snoop and poop?" shouted Grizz. "Who told you that, LT?"

She tossed him an annoyed glance, and let a few rounds out. "Who's hit?"

"Carter is, Sir!" called Boyd. "She got hit in the leg." She pulled Carter behind a stump. "You okay, Carter?" She took out some bandages, and tried to stem the flow of blood.

Haler changed clips, and saw movement to her left. Turning she held her weapon up and fired, rewarded with a dying shout. Further off Maurer stared with wide eyes. Haler had saved her life, and now the Cpl turned back to the firefight ahead.

Knight glanced over. "Claymore!"

"Yessir!" he returned, and from his position behind a tree released a grenade.

There soon was no return fire, and Grizz ordered a cease-fire. Knight turned to the women as Grizz and Fox went to look for survivors and sweep the area. "Boyd? Carter? Maurer? Haler?"

"Carter's injured, but the rest of us are fine, LT!" Haler called back.

Knight neared Carter. "How is it?"

Boyd looked up. "She'll need medical attention. I stopped the flow of blood, but I can't do much more out here."

"Good job, Pvt. Carter, we'll evac you." She turned away. "Eagle, take Haler and one more man and evac the Pvt."

Grizz returned. "Nothing. A few bodies, but nothing else. No blood trail. I think they dee-deed as soon as it got too hot for them and they lost a few."

She nodded. "Mack?"

He neared. "About 7 klicks due east we should reach a spot to rest for the night. I can tell Haler and Eagle how to find us."

"Let's move out," she said. "I don't want to stick around and wait for more of them to find us."

Haler saw the men were ready, Carter between them. She'd take point. She listened to Mack outline how to find them afterwards. Nodding to Knight she started off.

Knight took the radio. "I'll radio for an evac to meet them." She eyed Maurer. "You're looking a little pale there, Pvt."

Maurer shook. "Yessir."

A healthy dose of reality wasn't going to hurt Pvt. Maurer, decided Knight. It could kill her if she didn't watch herself. Right now she was quiet and humbled, keeping a very close eye on the area as they filed down a small path, the jungle so thick they could not cut through it without alerting the enemy, if he was out there, that they were here.

"Red-Dog 2-6, this is Red-wing 6."

Knight stopped, and took the radio Maurer held out. "Red-Wing 6, this is 2-6. We are about 5 klicks from the appointed area. What do you spy from your point? Over."

"2-6... no movement apparent. You're clear, 2-6. We're headin' out. Over!"

"Roger that, 6. 2-6 out!" She handed the radio back. "Okay, let's keep moving. We don't want to take any chances. Jungle's thick out here."

Grizz nodded and waved the men and women on.

Haler kept a close eye on the jungle, only sometimes glancing back to be sure the others were still in view. Coming around a bend she halted and crouched, holding up a fist. The others halted, got down. Eagle silently went up to her. "What is it?" he barely spoke.

Silently she pointed ahead. "I saw movement. Heard a twig snap."

He grinned, and put a hand on her shoulder. "Got yourself an eagle-eye and cat-ears!"

Just then a man in black pyjamas came out, and behind him came a few more. They glanced around, and Haler and Eagle shrank back slowly. Eagle tapped her shoulder and nodded ahead. She nodded, lifted the muzzle of her weapon higher, and took sight. He did so also, over her shoulder. They waited, breath bated. There seemed to be only the three.

"Take the first, and I'll take the last. One shot, in the head, oughta do it." He was whispering at her ear so as not to be heard by the VC. She nodded, bent lower over the weapon, and let one shot go. Not a second later Eagle's single shot was heard. Then he let a second fly at the third man. Quick and simple, no retaliation.

She took in a deep breath. "My first kill."

Eagle eyed her closely. "It's them or you, Haler. Always remember that, and you'll be okay. War is dirty. It ain't throwing punches, it's spillin' blood. Them or you. You did good. Make a marksman outta you yet, girl!"

She nodded, but her stomach still felt queasy after seeing the back of the man's head blow away. She watched Eagle search the bodies and kept half an eye on the area, in case any others waited in the shadows.

"Let's move," he said, motionning to the others. "Take point again, Haler."

Boyd stiffled a yawn and blinked her eyes. This keeping watch business was boring as all hell! She'd only started, and already she was having to fight to keep alert.

"Keep alert, Pvt!" Knight knelt with her, and glared. "I know this isn't fun, but if you don't keep alert you could get us all killed."

"I know that, Lt." She shrugged, rotating her shoulders. "Y'know, this makes me wonder how Eric made Captain and you Lt! It's one extreme to another: first you get shot at and then you sit like a bump on a log."

"Were I you, Pvt I'd wish for more of the sitting. Getting shot at is no party." Knight rose and moved off.

Boyd sighed, and blinked again, rotating her shoulders. She kept an eye on the jungle, knew any time now the others should be returning, and hoping she didn't mistake the VC or NVA for their squad members.

Maurer silently hurried to the Lt. "It's Bravo 2-6."

Knight took the radio. "Bravo 2-6, this is Red-Dog 2-6."

Goldman's voice broke the static. "2-6, we're about 3 klicks to your sierra. Heading to your november. Will meet up with you for the night. Over."

She almost blushed at that. "2-6, say again? I thought this was a solo? Over."

"Duet now, 2-6. Reports of heavy November-Victor-Alpha in the area. 6 decided to send out re-inforcements. 2-6 out."

She sighed, "roger, 2-6. Out." Handing the radio back she cast Grizz a look. "Get extra, experienced security out at the perimeter. I don't want cherries blasting Bravo or our own squad."

Nodding he moved out. She ran a hand over her face, let out a few graphic curses under her breath. Great! Just when she thought she could forget about Goldman and spend a few days out in the bush here he was! For the night? Just goddam great!

"Lt!" softly called Boyd. She smiled to see the rest of the squad members, minus Carter, return.

Knight hurried over. "Eagle, we got Bravo meeting up with us. Heavy NVA sightings in the area. Make sure no one shoots 'em by mistake. Haler?"

Eagle grinned. "Got one hell of a soldier here with Haler, LT! She spotted two ragged bands of VC, and we disposed of 'em. Found these." He handed her some papers. "In Vietnamese, but from what I can gather they're plans to meet up somewhere around here."

She stared down at the papers, cursing, as he moved off. Haler went to eat, and check on the other women. Turning she nearly bumped into Grizz. "Did you hear from that far back, Sgt?"

Grinning he shrugged. "Gettin' old, y'know. Mind repeatin' what it was?"

"Go to hell," she snapped.

"Testy, aren't we, LT? Would it have anything to do with Bravo sharing our little piece of the Promise Land here for the night?"

She eyed his amused smirk and the glint in his eyes. "Sgt, I think it's time you had more duties to perform. How 'bout ..."

Chuckling he shook his head. "Perimeter is secure, and got men digging. Why? Something to do. I'll go help Eagle." He moved off.

She turned as Bravo entered their cleared spot. Goldman saw her and headed her way. "Lt," she greeted, nodding. "How was the trip?"

"Ran into a few roaming bands of VC. That's why we're late. Nothing big, but..... A platoon ran into a heavy number of NVA this morning. They were slaughtered. When they didn't check in word went out. The Captain decided to send us out to rendez-vous with you. We have orders to find the NVA."

She held out the papers Eagle had given her. "Plans. Looks like Charlie is having a party around here somewhere."

He squinted in the fading light to see them. "Looks like. We'll rest for the night, and head out at first light?"

She nodded. "Sounds good. My men will take first watch. Give you boys time to rest some."

"Lose anyone?" he asked, reluctant to stop their converstion. "I lost a few. Evacked them."

"Carter was shot, but she'll live. Other than that I think we'll be okay," she glanced around.

"We should prepare some plan for tomorrow. Don't want to go out there blind, and risk us shooting at each other." He motionned to a spot where they could sit.

Grizz and Anderson joined them, and all four bent their heads over a map and planned. She called Mack over, and he either agreed with a route, or disagreed. He also tried to see which way the enemy would go. After a good hour they were ready to settle down for the night.

Most of them were curled up against trees or stumps or back to back, a few stretched out on the ground. Knight yawned, and hugged her knees, head resting back against a tree. Something wet hit her cheek, and she frowned, opening her eyes just as the rain began to pelt them hard. Cursing softly she pulled her cape more around herself, and huddled deeper into it.

Someone came around her, crouched beside her, and a familiar voice spoke. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," she whispered back. "Thought you were asleep, Lt?"

"I don't usually shower in my sleep," he quipped. The flare of a light shielded by a hand made her blink as he lit a cigarette. "The rain woke me."

"I know the feeling," she sighed. "Is it just me, or is it actually colder out?"

"A little," he replied. "The heat will hit again with a vengeance after the rain stops."

She sighed. Somewhere, far in the distance, the sounds of a mortar attack echoed. God, how she hated this place! The heat, the humidity, the stench of rotting vegetation and death. Shivering, not from cold, but more from the emotional load this place and this situation pressed onto her she suddenly felt the insatiable urge to laugh and cry all at once.
"This your first war?"

His eyes turned to her at the sound of her voice. "Yeah. Why? Does it show?"

She trembled. "No. You're a good officer. This is my second." Swallowing hard she stared unseeing into the dark. "There's this smell to every war, Myron. This same smell. Kinda like..... brimstone and madness and death."

He tossed his cigarette away, and shifted closer to her. "Skye..." Worried about her he opened his cape, wrapped his arms around her, and held the cape closed around them both. "Get some sleep, Skye." He could feel her trembling. One of those core-deep shakings. It made her teeth rattle softly. His hold tightened, and his own teeth gritted.
"Let it go, Skye. Let it go."

"What the hell are we doing here?" she whispered.

He shook his head, pulling her closer, resting his chin on the top of her head. "Our duty."

"Already did mine once," she whispered. "My duty changed my life forever. It'll change yours too, and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it." She paused a second. "Soldiers are bad risks, Myron. And I can't lose another one....."

"Shhhh......" He shut his eyes. "Go to sleep. You're a damn good soldier, Skye. A good officer. I admire you for that. And I'm lucky, I don't plan to go anywhere anytime soon."

Silence fell on the group. The only sounds were the raindrops hitting their capes, hitting the vegetation and ground. The occasional sleep-sigh, the soft snore of a few, and the shifting of soldiers on guard.


Goldman's eyes snapped open when a hand shook him, a voice a harsh whisper at his ear. Blinking he scowled. Anderson's face was near his. Anderson held a finger up to his lips to indicate silence. "Eagle and Johnson spotted a whole battalion of NVA regulars and a few officers heading this way, moving fast."

Knight shifted in the Lt's arms, and pulled free. "Get everyone..."

Grizz ran over in a crouch, knelt by them. "LT! Percell and Fox spotted about 30 VC heading this way. They're close. Real close."

Goldman's jaw tightened. "Get the men down under cover and quiet. We'll let 'em all pass. There are too many to risk a fight."

Knight nodded. "No time to waste. Get moving, Sgts." As she put her cape away she glanced at Goldman. "About last night..."

Everywhere soldiers were quickly and silently putting away anything that could make noise, erasing any evidence of their presence. "It's okay. We all have moments."

She touched his arm. "Thanks."

His dark eyes met hers, and he swallowed as he nodded. Turning away he went back to his work. Knight moved off. "Turn off the radios!" she softly hissed. "We don't want any noise alerting them. Maurer.... follow me."

Goldman motionned Eagle and Johnson over. "Take Ruiz and Mack.... position yourselves somewhere where if you're needed to put crossfire you can. Get down, and under cover, and wait. If you hear gunfire..."

Johnson nodded, and they moved off. Before long four soldiers left the area, moving silently yet swiftly. The others rushed to find cover under bushes, and behind trees, lying flat, holding their breaths, keeping an eye out on the path ahead.

Maurer shivered, and swallowed hard. She could SEE their legs just ahead. So many of them! They seemed to go on forever! God! She felt like puking! Beside her Lt. Knight moved only her eyes, the rest of her so still she barely breathed. Only her strength kept Maurer from sobbing out loud and running off screaming.

Haler shut her eyes for a second, shakily moistening her lips. Sweat stung her eyes, and dampened her uniform, making her itchy. How she wished she could scratch!

Boyd slowly let out her breath, and inhaled just as slowly, afraid she was making too much noise doing even that. How many pairs of legs had gone by now? She'd lost count after twelve. And Eric had loved the military? He must have been insane. Then again, she'd enlisted so she had to be insane too!

Anderson's eyes flicked back and forth almost madly, edgily. He lay still, but was tense and ready for anything. Beside him Goldman craddled his weapon under him, his chin resting on the muzzle. He swallowed hard, but didn't move.

Across the way the others watched with bated breath as the VC and NVA met in the path. They faced each other, and two of them, one from each group, began to talk. Eagle blinked away sweat and kept his eye on the sight of his weapon. He had the leader of the NVA in his sight, and his arm, the one with the finger on the trigger, was tense and ready.

Knight had her breath regulated, and blinked several times, sweat dripping down her face. So many legs, some in the NVA colors, some in black. All right in front of her, just a few feet away. 'Just finish with the howdies and get goddamn moving!' she thought. If a battle erupted now they could face some very heavy casualties. They began to move. She breathed a mental sigh of relief.

Rolling over onto her back Knight let out a sigh. She grinned when Goldman neared and knelt beside her. "I never want to see so many of them that close up again."

Chuckling softly he held out a hand, helped her up. "I know the feeling."

Rising she sighed again. "We need to follow them."

Grizz and Anderson neared just as Maurer bent over near a tree and lost her breakfast. "Fox and Percell are following them."

"Let's get these men and women ready to move out," she ordered. "Maybe we'll be lucky, find the little bastards, and let Artie handle it."

Goldman pulled out a map. "Or the birds." He lit a cigarette. "Once Fox and Percell get back we can figure out the best approach."

She leaned in closer, looking over the map with him.

"Damn!" breathed Percell, blinking in dismay.

Fox almost let out a whistle. Below them was an abandonned village, and the NVA and VC were carrying out boxes of ammo and weapons. Some kind of trade was going on. There had to be well over 100 of them all together, in black and the tan of the army. "Time we got back and told the LTs."

"I hear that!" whispered Percell.

They turned, and froze. A good six weapons were trained on them. One of the NVA was spatting a volley of words at them, reaching out to take their weapons, and haul them up.

Fox glared. "I think we're in trouble." Percell could only snort at that under-statement.

She paced. "Something's wrong. Let's move out."

Goldman caught her arm. "We don't know which way to go, and you're too edgy to go anywhere. They haven't been gone that...."

She shot him a glare. "I know Fox. Something is wrong. I'm going. You gonna wait or go?"

He scowled as he put his pot on. "Going. Sgts get these soldiers moving."

They found the village. Sarge and Grizz came back from getting a closer look. "They have Fox and Percell, beat 'em up pretty bad. LT..." Anderson paused, took a few breaths. "They could know we're here already."

He hated to admit it, but nodded. "I'm all up for ideas."

Grizz flicked his gaze towards Knight who had been silent. Too silent. "LT?" he softly urged.

She lifted her eyes off the ground, and met his. "I refuse to lose a man, let alone two."

"So.... what do you suggest?" asked Goldman.

"Fox was our sneak, and he's taken," reminded Grizz.

"I need to see it, get a layout of the ville," she whispered, mostly to herself. "I think Claymore and I can distract them."

Goldman shook his head, caught at her arm. "Are you listening to yourself? Do you know what you're saying?"

"With all due respect, Lt..... you're talking walking in there when not even a rat can get past the guards," added Anderson.

Grizz nodded. "I'm with Zeke here on this one, LT. You're talking crazy."

Her eyes snapped fire, and her lips curled. "So what do you want, huh? We call the birds and let our men fry?" Shaking her head she rose, and glared at them. "I'm going to take a look."

Goldman gritted his teeth. "You know her best, Sgt."

Grizz sighed, ran a tired hand over his face. "She's over-compensating. Something's been bothering her, and she's trying to run from it by taking foolish chances." He bowed his head. "Anyone of us would crack under all she's been through."

Anderson touched his shoulder. "Hey, Grizz, ain't nobody saying she ain't a good officer. We all get tired. She's just needin' some rest."

Grizz sighed, a deep and heavy sound. "God, Zeke, I hope you're right."

"LT?" softly whispered Claymore, putting down his binoculars. "What do you think?"

Knight hesitated. "It's tight, but..... I'm thinking that hut of ammo would work. Get them scrambling. Someone can cut the men loose while they're still running around like chickens with their heads cut off."

Claymore nodded. "Problem is getting past the guards." His lips thinned. "I ain't looking forward to a repeat of........ "

She set her binoculars down. Blinking she shook. Sommalia. The things they'd had to do to survive. Christ, they were all a little crazy after that! "With your shield or on it......"

Claymore swallowed hard, and nodded. "Aye.....let's do it."

"This is crazy!" softly hissed Goldman, watching her prepare. He got a shiver, a deep down cold shiver that tickled his soul. "Don't do this, Skye."

She'd changed the minute her decision was made. The woman was gone. Now what remained was this icy and unemotional shell. Blank eyes, blank face, cold purpose. He caught her arm, made her face him, but those eyes were dead.
"Don't-do-this!" he softly stressed.

"LT?" Grizz stood before the men. "We're ready," he said, voice devoid of emotion.

"With your shield or on it," she whispered, turned from Goldman and pulled out her knife.

"It's a good day to die," one of them said.

Boyd shivered, and felt her stomach flip over. Was this what Skye had had to be to survive the night they were overrun and she lost Eric? The thought she might turn out to be like that scared her to her very soul. She'd never noticed that kind of killer attitude to Eric or Skye before. They were often withdrawn, but not like this. This was like setting your humanity aside to be some kind of deadly demon. Would God forgive that?

Anderson swallowed hard. The sudden change as they painted their faces and dropped weapons to use knives and wires. This was seeing people he'd considered friends in a whole new light. He'd been a soldier and been here long enough to know you did what you had to do to stay alive, but..... He'd known a few assassins, and they made his blood run cold. This made his blood run cold.

Pausing every few steps to be sure no one had heard Knight flicked a few fingers, and Claymore moved past her as she kept an eye out. He went so far, froze, and motionned to her. Off to their right were a few more, as well as to their left. Split into groups of two, they moved closer and closer. This was how they had remained alive in Sommalia. Silent killers. Get close, quietly rid the guards, and do what you had to do. Get out, and then slaughter them. Ignore the blood and guts you wore of the people you had had to kill, and move to the next. One at a time, slow and quiet, and move in more. Slow and easy.

Her nostrils flared, and her eyes caught the movement of one NVA who negligently held his weapon shouldered. His mistake. When he got before her where she crouched behind a bush she rose silently, put one hand over his mouth to keep him silent, and slit his throat with her other which held the knife, easing them both down as his eyes bulged and his life seeped out with the blood that gurgled from his throat. When he stopped twitching she motionned to Claymore, and as he passed she hid the body, not taking time to search it.

Eagle gritted his teeth, pulling the VC deeper into the trees and smashing a hand over his mouth to keep him silent as he twisted his head, hearing the snap of bones and feeling the body go heavy and limp. One hand lifted, and suddenly Mack moved past as he dumped the body silently under a bush.

Grizz sneered into the bulging eyes of the NVA he held to a tree, and held a grimy hand over his mouth as his other slit his belly open, stabbing up slantingly to pierce the heart. The soldier jerked and thrashed quietly and fell silent. Grizz let him slide slowly down and threw a fallen branch over him to hide him. Waving to ETA he kept an eye out for more guards.

Claymore reached the hut, and peered cautiously inside a hole used as a window. One guard, back to the window, and yawning in boredom. Smiling coldly he crouched, and took out the C4, and began to rig up a bomb. The LT moved to another hut, and peered inside, crouched, and moved on. She froze, and when a guard neared she flattened herself to a hut, and quickly grabbed him when he got close enough. His hands clawed at her face as she held a wire tight around his throat, pulling so hard his feet lifted off the ground. He couldn't shout with his breath cut off, and soon slumped, eyes bulging. She panted, eyes shut a moment, and then bent and hefted him up, carrying the smaller man to a stack of crates and dropping him behind them. Curiously she lifted the lid off one crate, paused, and lifted up a shell. Glancing to Claymore she waved it, and put it back, shutting the lid as he nodded. She moved on.

Percell spat out blood, and with his tongue pushed a loose tooth out which he spit out. At his back was Fox, who let out a groan, and let his head loll forward. "Fox?"

Fox hissed in pain. "These little mothers are gonna pay, Danny!" he moaned. "They put a hole in me, man!" He glanced down at where they had tried to get him to talk by poking holes into him with the tip of a knife. One time the torturer had gotten too into it, and now he had a dark spreading stain in his left side. "Little mother....."

Percell shut his eyes as the other spewed out curses. They had only kicked and punched him, hit him with their weapons. He was bruised, maybe had a few broken ribs, but he'd live. Fox's rantings were growing weaker. The man was losing blood. "Hold on, man! We'll get out of here."

Fox laughed, head falling back on Percell's shoulder. "I was just remembering when I first met the LT. Mortar attack late one night. She jumped into the trench beside me with her pot on and her weapon in hand, wearing only panties and bra!" His laughing began to turn to growling. "She saved my life, man. She threw me down, and lay over me as a mortar exploded nearby, and the guy on her other side has one arm fly across the compound and half his face blown away."

Percell swallowed hard. "She's a good officer."

"She's crazy, like we all are," he whispered. "Danny..... I'm not gonna make it, man. If you get the chance to get away....."

"You're gonna make it," hissed Percell, shivering at the thought of being left tied to a dead man. "Don't be talking that way! I won't leave you."

Fox shook his head. "Take it, man. Leave me. I'll slow you down. I'm dying, Danny. Promise me you'll take it. And tell LT I never told them shit? I held out."

Tears stinging Percell swallowed hard. "I'll tell her, Tom."

"You're a good soldier, Danny." Fox blinked, tears falling. "Good enough to be a friend, and part of my squad." He chuckled, and then moaned in pain.

A Vietnamese in the NVA uniform neared Percell and Fox. Snorting he grinned, knowing the two American soldiers were at his mercy. Viciously he pushed the toe of his boot into the bleeding hole in Fox's side, making the man cry out sharply in pain.

"Leave him alone!" shouted Percell, trying to turn and stop the soldier.

The soldier spat on him, and again dug his boot into the hole, laughing. Fox, sweating and with blurred vision, kicked a leg up, knocking the soldier down. "You mother-fuc....."

The Vietnamese rose, face enraged, and lifted the butt of his weapon, ready to strike. His eyes widened and he gurgled, falling beside the two tied Americans as blood spewed out of his mouth. Percell stared down at him with fearfully wide eyes. He jumped to feel someone touch him from the other side.

"Sgt?" he asked, voice hoarse, unsure the painted man was Grizz.

Grizz nodded. "Shhhh...." He pointed to a hole in the hut, and to someone crouched on the other side.

Percell helped Fox up. "C'mon, buddy. I ain't leavin' you."

Fox smiled weakly, and clung to his fatigue front. "God bless ya, Danny....." He fainted.

Knight peered into the hut, and a cold, deadly smile curled her lips up slightly. Inside were a few VC, and some high ranking NVA officer.
'Jackpot!' she thought. She waited for the VC to leave, and that the officer was alone. Silently she inched to the door, keeping half an eye out to be sure no one saw her. Slipping inside she stayed in the shadows, drawing nearer and nearer. The officer had his back to her, and was undoing his pants. The sound of his urine hitting a pot came to her.

While he relieved himself she snuk behind him. One arm around his throat she held the knife point to his groin. "Make a noise and I'll slice it off! Do you understand me?" she hissed softly.

"You cannot escape alive," he whispered back. "Too many soldiers."

She sneered. "How do you think I got in here, old man? You're short a number of guards. Both VC and NVA. Now.... Where are my men?"

"Dead," he replied.

She shook her head, laughed humourlessly. "No. I'd know it if they were." She jerked on his neck, turned the knife more. He winced, but did not cry out as a pinprick of blood appeared. "I'll only ask one more time. Where are my men?"

"You cannot harm me," he told her. "In your country women are not strong enough to kill."

Behind her someone entered, and she twirled, holding the old officer before her as a shield, and let her knife fly. The VC bringing in a bowl of rice dropped it and clung to the hilt sticking out of his throat, gurgling and stumbling forward. He fell to the ground, twitched, and lay still. A pool of crimson leaked from under him, and the stench of warm, coppery blood filled the hut to mix with that of the urine.

"What was that you said, General?" she hissed at his ear. "I don't need my knife to kill you if I have to. I learned that the hard way in Sommalia. So quit screwing with me. My men, where are they?"

"Oh, Jesus!" breathed Mack, bending over Fox and Percell collapsed and they both fell. "Fox?"

"Where's the LT?" asked Grizz in a whisper, seeing everyone but her.

Claymore frowned. "I thought she was headed back here?"

Eagle's eyes widened. "Shit! Think she went after the old bird?"

Grizz' teeth gnashed, and he picked up his knife. "I'll fuckin' kill her myself!" He moved off, heading back the way he'd come.

Claymore and Eagle eyed each other and followed. The others helped Percell and Fox, carrying the wounded man. They headed back to the squads.

Knight peered out of the hut, and saw several soldiers in groups or patroling. Alone she could sneak out relatively unseen, but with the General?

"You cannot do it," he spoke. "Leave me, Lt. I am not worth it."

"I dunno, General. I think my superiors would have a hay-day with you back at Tan Son Nhut!" She bent to the dead VC, rolled him over, and pulled her knife free, wiping it on his pants. "Very stupid to come this far south, General. Of course, it would perk your troops up you coming here, but... well... You weren't expecting a crazy female to sneak into your heavily guarded ville, were you?"

He eyed her curiously. She had tied his hands behind his back. He sat on a box. "All Americans crazy for coming to fight in war not in your country."

She snorted, looking out again. "As crazy as your country not able to get along?" She glanced to the back of the hut. "General, time we blew this popsicle stand." She went to the hole used as a window and peered out. "Come on, old man." She pulled him over, and onto a chair. It was rickety and wobbly, but she got him out. He grunted when he fell, and she leapt out, rolling and coming to a crouch near him.

Pulling on the rope she drew him to her, and lifted her face, sniffing the air, and searching the area. "Don't try to slow me down on purpose, General." She rose, and began to run.

Grizz glanced over a few crates, and saw Knight sprinting, leading some NVA officer by a rope. The old man stumbled, and when she was brought up short and turned to help him up chaos erupted. One soldier saw them, shouted, and soon several were running for them. Rising Grizz leapt over the crates and tackled the LT to the ground as gunfire sprayed the area.

Claymore cursed and ran in the other direction, heading back to the trees. He fell on the detonator, and turned it. Turning he stared with wide eyes to see crates and huts go up, ammo exploding from the heat and creating even bigger explosions. His eyes swung to Grizz and LT, but smoke and debris hid them.

Eagle ran at a limp, falling and clawing his way to the trees, and fell beside him. "You're goddamn insane!" he panted.

Claymore chuckled. It turned to a laugh. He wiped tears away. Eagle blinked, startled, and then laughed also.

Goldman jumped to his feet, eyes wide. His throat worked convulsively, and he swung his gaze to Anderson. "Sgt?"

Anderson's hands twitched. "Okay, everyone! Saddle up! Let's go!" he called, not caring if anyone heard.

Soldiers jumped to their feet, hefted weapons, and began to run out.

Coughing Knight wrestled with a soldier, turning him to make him shoot at his own companions. "GRIZZ!"

"I'm still alive!" he shouted back, kicking one VC in the groin and taking his weapon, aiming at the rush bearing down on them. "I think!"

The General lay, crawling for cover. Knight made him move faster, and kept aiming, dropping the soldier who was dead in her arms. Her eyes stung from the smoke, and she had to drag one leg some. They hit the trees, and she pulled the General up. "Claymore! Take him! Run!"

"We're insane!" shouted Grizz. "Oh God, we're insane!" He turned wide eyes to Knight. "I'm out! I'm out!" he tossed the weapon away.

She cursed, dropped her own, and turned. "RUN!!!!!!!"

They tore through the bush and trees, hearing the cries of angered and deadly soldiers following. Zigging and zagging they panted, ignoring wounds to put distance between them and the enemy. Down to a creek-bed, and up the other side, small branches whipping them along the way. Up ahead Claymore had the old man over his shoulders, and huffed as he ran.

"Oh God!" she panted, sides aching. "I should have retired!"

"You should have retired!" Grizz told her, wheezing.

"DOWN!!!!!!!" a shout sounded in front of them. "GET DOWN!!!!!!"

The dove, and lay with hands covering their heads as gunfire and grenades flew over them. The VC and NVA screamed. Knight and the men crawled, and froze, crawled and froze. They scurried like speeding spiders over a fallen tree and took cover, panting.

As the firefight kept going the wounded and tired soldiers exchanged glances and broke into hysterical laughter, the General scowling at them.

"Soldiers, good work!" the Colonel preened like a proud peacock as he eyed the filthy and bloody lot of them. "You'll all get medals for this."

As he turned away Knight glanced at Grizz. He rolled his eyes and she snickered. Turning she paused to see Goldman eyeing her warily. Shaking her head she limped towards him. "Soldiers, Lt. We're a lousy risk. And we're all crazy."

"No," he sadly told her. "I may be crazy, but you and your men are downright insane."

She cocked her head to one side, eyed him intently. "Kinda changes how you thought you felt for me, doesn't it?"

Taking a moment he swallowed hard, glanced down, and then back into her eyes. His were sad. "No. Somewhat. I dunno."

She nodded. "Probably better this way. Myron.... you're handsome, I'll admit that, and sexy, but.... I went down that road once before, and I can't do it again. I learned the hard way.... The battlefield is no place to make love." Tiredly she moved on by.

Goldman had done some major soul-searching and thinking during the night since they returned from the mission. Skye's actions had been crazy, yes, but he knew what a good officer and soldier she was. Hell, she'd been through hell and back, and who wouldn't be a little crazy. She was still lovely, and still he couldn't stop how he felt for her. The reality of that hit him like a fist to the gut. It took his breath away, and made him dizzy. Hell, she could run naked into an NVA battalion to save a damn dog from being dinner and he'd still love her. That was a sobering thought. Maybe, just maybe, he was crazy too.

When the sun came up he dressed and didn't bother with shaving. Who'd complain? The VC? "We not fight him, he stubble all over." He didn't think so. Heading out he drew on his cap, and shielded his eyes against the sun that momentarily blinded him. Another bright, hot, steamy day. Was there ever a damn difference? They got two kinds of weather here; hot and sunny, or hot and wet. Period. Turning to his right he headed for her hootch. Time to talk.... seriously. And if she tried to avoid it he'd use other methods other than words to tell her how he felt.

"She's not there," a voice, Grizz's, came to him when he knocked.

"Where is she?" asked Goldman, letting it slip the man hadn't addressed him as Sir or Lt or LT.

"Dunno, Sir. She hit the ville last night, and I guess she never came back." Grizz pursed his lips. "We tried to find her, but had no luck. We were just about to head out again."

Fear clutched his chest, making breathing hard. "I'm going with you."

Grizz nodded. "Yessir, we figured that."

Goldman saw who 'we' meant: both squads. Even Anderson. "Let's go."

Knight didn't want reality to intrude. She knew, from past experience, it would hit with a major headache, nausea, and that damn feel of your mouth being stuffed with raw wool. Every part of her ached, and she tried not to move. Where the hell was she anyways? Last she remembered was having a few drinks in the ville at some sleazy club. Not exactly the place for a woman, but she hadn't cared. The more out-of-the-way the better. She'd found it too. The bartender had leered and licked his lips, and she'd happily made him swallow some of his teeth with her fist. Then what? Oh yeah, some rowdy soldiers who'd started a fight, and she'd lurched into it just for the hell of it. Then? Then she couldn't remember.


Wincing at what sounded like a shout she cracked open an eye, hissed at the intrusive light that seared past eyeball to brain, and moaned as her stomach rebelled. She heard someone order someone else to get a bucket, and she leaned over, body heaving, losing all the poisonous booze she'd drunk the night before. Once calmed she fell back, and realized she was on a cot. She could tell now by the lumps. "Where am I?"

"My hootch," Goldman told her, pressing a wet cloth to her forehead. She was clammy and feverish. "What the hell did you drink?"

"A... cross bet... between kerosine and.... and swamp-water and ha..... hair tonic...... I think!" She groaned. "How...."

"We found you this morning in some alley, passed out on top of a pile of garbage with some scrawny mutt curled to your back." He wet the cloth again, and wiped at her grimy face. "You need a shower, Lt."

Her hand lifted, caught at his wrist. Her eyes fluttered. "Don't look at me like that, Lt. You should hate me by now."

His dark eyes softened more. "Maybe, but I don't."

"For what it's worth? Thanks," she whispered. "But maybe you should have left me where I was."

"Couldn't," he choked out, throat working convulsively. "I love you."

That's when her face turned pale and green again, and the bucket was held for her as she again lost the battle to nausea. Goldman sighed. Story of his life; admit you love a woman, and have her puke her guts out.

"How's the LT?" Anderson asked as he and Goldman stood outside in the fading sunlight.

Shrugging helplessly Goldman thinned his lips. "Resting. She finally stopped puking, which is good. I was getting a complex. She'd be sick every single time I tried to bare my heart."

Lips pursing to try really hard to hold back an amused grin Anderson nodded, and kept silent or else he'd laugh.

Goldman sighed, rubbed the back of his neck. "I think she finally got it all out of her system. She's not as hot to the touch anymore either. How are the men?"

"Percell and Fox are gonna be fine. Fox is being sent home. His LT might want to go see him soon before they ship him out," advised Anderson. "Grizz and the others are out cold, exhausted."

Goldman nodded. "I know how they feel. Go to bed, Sgt."

"Yessir!" Happily Anderson left.

Goldman faced the door to his hootch, and sighed again. Going in he eyed the woman who slept in her underwear on his bunk. She lay sprawled on her belly, face hanging over the edge of the cot, a bucket by the bed. Turning he eyed the ripped and wobbly chair in the corner, and went to it, ready to get some sleep.

Goldman was woken up by an angry curse. "Who ~~ or what ~~ the hell died in my mouth?" Eyes opening he found Skye standing by the bunk, swaying as she held a hand over her eyes. His dark eyes fell to the sleeveless tee and panties she wore. Swallowing hard he opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out.

She stumbled to the small sink and glared in the mirror at her reflection. "I need my toothbrush, and hairbrush," she thickly said.

"They're right there," he huskily replied, and cleared his throat with a blush.

Thankfully she began to brush her teeth, and finally glanced briefly at him, finding him still in his sweaty and dusty fatigues, eyes intently on her. Blushing she spit, and rinsed, and eyed him. "You're staring."

"I know," he replied. "Can't help it." Rising he winced, and reached back a hand to rub his nape. "Hungry?"

"Er..... how 'bout we leave food out of it for a few days?" she sheepishly grimaced. "I'm okay, but... the thought of food.... You look awful."


Holding up a hand she shook her head. "Don't."

Frustrated he caught her arms in his hands, and glared down at her. "You're gonna hear it, Skye, no matter what."

"No!" She strained to get away. She could remember him trying to pour his heart out to her last night. Thank God for nausea. She couldn't handle it right now. Maybe not ever. "I won't hear it. Just let it b...." His mouth stopped her, and in shock she stood there without struggling. His stubble scraped her, and his heat suffused her.

Suddenly letting her go he inhaled deeply. "It's too late to let it go, and you know it. I love you." Nuzzling her brow he urged her closer, now able to put both arms about her, settle her flush against him. She was rigid at first, and he could just envision the battle going on inside her: need vs fear. "Would Eric have wanted you to die with him that night? Or would he have wanted you to live on, love on?" Her shoulders slumped, and a small painful sound escaped her. Soothingly he rubbed her back, mumbled nonsensical words of comfort as small sobs sounded from her.

When it was over she hung limply in his arms. "You're a cruel bastard," she hoarsely whispered.

Smiling he kissed her brow, hugged her tighter. "You're just saying that because I made you love me, and now I have to leave you to go out on recon."

Pulling back she frowned. "I've got this really bad feeling about you leaving, Myron."

Grabbing his gear he paused, kissed her lips softly. "It's lingering effects of the hangover only. I'll be fine. I'll be back tomorrow."

"Myron....." she began, desperation lacing her voice.

He shook his head. "I have to go, Skye. You KNOW that. I'll see you tomorrow." He left the hootch.

The restlessness and sense of foreboding she'd had since morning intensified once the sun dipped behind the horizon and twilight gave way to night. Skye stared out her hootch's screen door, searching the dark of night, feeling like someone clutched her insides in an iron fist, squeezing harder and harder as time went back.

"It's a simple recon, LT," Grizz told her soothingly. The hairs on his arms rose. When she got that feeling in the bush he hurried to prepare everyone for anything. He'd learned she had great and accurate gut feelings, and to trust them.

"Grizz?" she whispered. "It's happening now," she panted. "I can feel it. Grim Reaper just touched my soul, old man. It's not Myron who's in danger, it's me........"

Those words sent a chill down his spine, but the ominous whistling he heard next froze the blood in his veins. "INCOMING!!!!!!" the scream tore through the base.

Flares lit up the night, and the mortar attack whistled and sprang up flames and screams. Everyone rushed out of buildings in different states of dress or undress, carrying pots and weapons. There had to be several big guns out there to shell so often, and do so much damage. Colonels and the rare General snapped orders faster than the machine guns could fire. Cherries cowered behind barrels and sandbags. The frequent booms of explosions were shadowed by screams of pain and dying. When there was a small reprieve the night was filled with the sounds of young boys crying for their mothers as they lay with limbs missing, their livesblood seeping from them and staining the ground and filling the air with the stench of metallic liquid and burning flesh. Smoke lay heavy over the base, stinging eyes and choking throats.

Skye peered over the sandbags, eyes watering, and stubbornly wiped them away to see better. Beside her panted Grizz, craddling his weapon like a baby against his heaving chest. "I wish I was back in the ville getting drunk," she mumbled.

He laughed, a sound that was laced with some fear and insanity. "I'm with you there, LT. How 'bout we go right now?"

Laughing she fell back down and eyed her bare feet. "Forgot my boots."

"Careful, or you might stub a toe or something," he warned her.

On Grizz's other side a Cherry eyed them from wide eyes, disbelieving the casual way they discussed stubbed toes when they were obviously under attack. Skye sighed. "Grizz, watch that kid. He's so cherry he still has a damn stem!"

Grizz turned to the kid. "Buck up, son. Keep your head low and your eyes open. Charlie will be coming real soon to visit, but we never invited him to the party."

Skye looked over the bags once more. "Do you feel it, old man?" She whispered in awe. "Do you feel HIM touching you?"

Grizz swallowed hard. "I ain't got no plans to die yet, LT. I re-married, y'know. Did I tell you? Young thing, 23, with perky breasts and soft thighs. I ain't done enjoying those yet."

"You old dog!" she affectionately smiled. "You bagged yourself a woman half your age? Do you even remember what to do with a woman?"

"Parts of me do," he leered. "When I left to come here she was 4 months pregnant. I wanna see my kid. So I don't feel nothing touching me. And I don't feel it touching you none neither."

Whistling got louder. "Here we go!" She shouted. "More fireworks!"

Another long volley of mortars, and more screams. Everyone jumped when the ammo shack went up, sending flames shooting to nearby areas, mortar and shells exploding in the heat and shooting out to hit other targets. More screams. The night was turned to day with flames.

"Not good," Grizz panted.

"Who knew the little bastards could aim," snorted Skye. The cherry gagged and puked when a soldier with no legs left clawed to get away from flames that licked at him, his screams tearing and ripping through the night. He halted, and lay still. The flames ate at him. Skye grimaced, turned away. "They oughta be coming after this next volley."

Goldman yawned, and blinked to clear his eyes. This had to be the most boring recon he'd ever been on. Not a soul in sight except his own men. Nothing but green vegetation, screaming monkeys, and dirt. Crouched against a tree he yawned again. It was no good, he was sore and tired and bored to death. To keep awake he began to replay his last moments with Skye before he had to leave. Her in her panties and sleeveless tee, held close to him, and finally admitting she felt something for him. He knew she did, and now she knew it too. When he got back he'd request a three-day leave for them, take her to Bangkok or Hong Kong. Maybe they'd take a real shower.... together. Maybe they'd crawl into bed and not leave the whole time they were there. Maybe he'd buy her some lovely dress she could wear for dinner, and later he'd help her remove it.

"Not a damn thing," grumbled Anderson, crouching beside his Lt. "It's so quiet out here even the crickets are bored to sleep."

Snorting Goldman smiled. "I heard that. Having problems keeping my own eyes open. Then again, sleeping in a chair all night doesn't help. Feels like I haven't slept in days."

Grinning Anderson nodded. "Yessir! Thought you'd be used to it by now after so many months sleeping in the bush?"

Goldman snorted once more. "Not likely."

The far off sounds of explosions faintly echoed in the still night. Anderson shook his head. "Someone's taking a beating."

"Yeah, and somehow I don't think it's our boys doing the beating," sighed Goldman. "Not that I want us to get mortared, but...."

"I know what you mean, LT," nodded Anderson.

They peered around until they could see the flares of light in the far distance where the attack was taking place. "Almost looks pretty," Goldman stated as he yawned. His yawn came to a sudden stop. "Sargeant?"

"Thinking the same thing, LT," Anderson tightly said. "That's around our base."

Fear clutched Goldman's chest, tightening it. "Oh God! Skye!" he breathed hoarsely, helplessness swallowing him up.

She dove for cover just as an explosion sounded behind her, the blast flipping her legs over her head so she landed hard on her back, breath knocked out of her. Groaning she wiped at her face, felt moistness on her lips, and saw the dark stain of blood on her fingers.
"Shit......" rolling over she groaned, and pushed to her hands and knees. Her body ached all over. Small burns from falling cinders, cuts and bruises, sweat stinging open cuts, dirt and smoke burning her eyes and throat.

Glancing up she could see soldiers scurrying like ants, carrying wounded out of the hospital, and trying to get them to safety. Those patients that were in the mental dispensary freaked and struggled with their helpers, screaming and blubbering like terrified children, running all over and eventually getting killed. What a bloody waste! Chopper pilots hid behind cover, unable to get to their birds and take off. One lucky shot hit a Huey, and it exploded, pieces flying everywhere, flames hitting the one next to it and so on...... a domino effect.

Pushing up to her feet she nearly fell again, and glanced back to see a jagged piece of metal no bigger than her finger embedded in her calf. Pain, searing and hot, stabbed all the way up to her head. Fighting the blackness that threatened to overtake her she reached back, grabbed the piece and yanked.
A scream tore from her, and she panted, nausea rearing, eyesight black. to control her breathing she forced the nausea away, forced her eyes to clear. Falling to her side she lifted her tee, ripped the filthy bottom with her teeth, and tore a long strip off. Reaching back she wrapped it around the bleeding wound and tied it tight. Pushing back up she gritted her teeth and hobbled along.

Skye paused. Ahead was a General and Colonel. They were heatedly debating what to do. She took a step, heard the whistling, and her eyes nearly bulged out of her head when the mortar landed right over them. They never even had time to scream. Turning away she shut her eyes, and swallowed hard, bile rising.

GRIZZ!" she shouted, coughing when smoke swirled around her.

Grizz hit the dirt, hands over his head, and felt the ground shake as another mortar hit. A scream cut off short pierced his ears. Glancing up he blinked in the smoke and saw half a man lying only a few feet away from him. Where the other half was he wasn't sure, and didn't want to know. Rolling he pushed himself to his feet.

LT!" he shouted. "KNIGHT! LT!"

"Goddammit!" the Colonel shouted in the phone. "We need support here! They're cutting us to ribbons, and we have a hospital here!"

Knight stumbled over, not bothering to salute. She listened as the Colonel raged and shouted and turned purple over his palor he was so shaken. Sudden silence eerily hit the base. Small whimpers and crying sounded a thousand miles off. The shelling had stopped.

r?" She touched his arm. "SIR!"

He snarled at her. "What the hell do you want, Lt?"

Her lips curled back in a sneer. "They're coming. Better take cover." Turning she headed back the way she'd come. "Grizz!" she saw him stumbling around.

He rushed to her. "LT! Thank God!"

"They're coming now," she told him. "Let's find a spot to take cover."

"I got our men together, this way." He led her off.

They came, wave after wave of them. Throwing grenades and shooting madly and blindly. They screamed in heated rage. The Americans screamed back in hatred, eyes glowing with a fire born of pain and terror and rage, shooting back. Muzzle flashes gave the Vietnamese away, and Skye's squad aimed for those and those who got too near.

"I'm out!" shouted Claymore. Tossing his useless weapon away he pulled out his knife, and let one of the enemy get close, tackling him down and plunging the knife deep into his throat. Wrenching his weapon away he took up his position and fired.

Action most of them had to take. Run out of ammo, wait for the enemy to get near, attack him with knife or hands, take his, and keep firing. The sounds of rifles going off deafened them. Their ears had a constant buzz that blotted out the screams and shouts of others. Retreat to another spot, and start all over. Bodies were strewn all over the ground that was muddied with blood and vomit and other bodily fluids. Sometimes tripping over a limb or body, scurrying like roaches hiding from the light in search for cover. Choking on smoke and the smells of death.

Skye's eyes widened when something hit her in the back, and sent her flying to the ground. She skidded in the bloody dirt and came up against a lump that used to be a human being. Her chest heaved, and she gagged, blood coughed up and trickling out of her mouth. Her eyes dimmed, and she clawed at the dirt. "Myron......." Her fingers went lax.

"Oh my God!" breathed Percell, eyeing the devastation. Bodies littered the ground everywhere, and each looked like a dark smear on red earth as the chopper slowly lowered. He could see some people moving slowly through what was left of the base.

Goldman swallowed hard, dark eyes radiating pain and grief and disbelief. As soon as the sun rose he ordered the men to move, and they had called in for a pickup. If he could have hurried back during the night he would have, but travelling in the dark was dangerous, and trying to land during a mortar attack was even more dangerous. Now here they were, and he felt so sick to his stomach at the sight of it he had to breathe deeply until the nausea passed. When the Huey landed he was first off, and his steps hurried the further in the base he moved.

Skye!" he called hoarsely. Panting he twirled in one spot, seeing only bodies and battered limping soldiers, and destroyed buildings.


"Lt Goldman?" Grizz limped over, one arm hanging limply at his side.

"Sargeant!" Goldman rushed to him. "Where is she?"

"We don't know, Sir. We haven't found her yet." The older man looked as if he'd aged 20 years, stood hunched over. "The men, those who can, are looking for her."

Anderson neared, throat convulsively working. "Oh man, LT, this is ugly." He eyed Grizz. "Grizz, old buddy, glad to see you still breathing."

"Barely, Zeke. Barely," he smiled tiredly. "We were lucky. By dawn we were down to hand-to-hand combat. One lucky shot got the ammo bunker. The choppers took it too. No air support. We'd kill Charlie, take his weapon, and keep fighting. Guess they ran out of men, and just a few hours ago there were some explosions out in the jungle, their big guns, I guess."

Goldman stumbled on, turning a body, moving on, directing his men to help the wounded. "She's here somewhere. We have to find her."

"We will, " soothed Anderson. "We will."

More choppers landed, more soldiers jumping out. The dirty task of lining up enemy bodies and gathering their own dead had begun. Clean up was underway, and the wounded were being evacked to other bases. A general stood by, two colonels at his side. "The kill ratio is gonna be high!" the general puffed out proudly. "We massacred them!"

Goldman rolled his eyes in digust when he overheard. "They massacred us too, Sir."

One of the colonels shot him a quelling look. "Don't you have work to do, Lt?"

"LT!" Anderson called him over. "We found her."

Fear was a tight knot in his gut. "Is she...."

"Barely," Anderson told him. "She was about 200 yards from the treeline... outside the base."

Goldman scowled. "What? But how...."

"She had empty C-4 packets in her hand, " he told him. Nodding he eyed his commander with some awe. "Grizz figures she went after the guns."

"Where is she?" demanded Goldman, but he was already heading for the area where wounded were being placed in choppers. "Skye! Skye!"

"Over here, LT!" Claymore shouted, sitting on a crate, head bandaged and one arm in a sling.

Goldman stumbled to a stop next to the litter where she lay. "Skye? Can you hear me?" Her lashes fluttered. "You crazy woman! You went after the guns, didn't you? Alone?" Tenderly he touched her blood-stained cheek. "Why?"

The fingers of one swollen hand lifted weakly. Her eyes opened, and she smiled, cut lip bleeding anew. "I'm crazy....." she croaked.

Laughing sobbingly he shook his head. "No, we're crazy. YOU, you're insane."

She laughed briefly, winced and groaned, and blood trickled out of her mouth. "Myron......"

"Shhhhh.... you save your strength. You're gonna make it, Skye. I promise. And then we'll go somewhere, just you and me, and we'll get married."

Her eyes grew sad. "I'm dying...."

"NO!" he shouted in anger.

"Lt...." Claymore shook his head. "She's got a nasty wound, and....."

Finger shaking as he pointed at the man Goldman sneered, dark eyes blazing. "I said no, soldier. You hear me?"

"LT.." softly interrupted Anderson. "Myron.... she's real bad off."

Rising Goldman faced them all with shaking fists. "The next one to say she's not going to make it is going to get shot...... by me."

Skye touched his leg. "Myron..." She coughed, and blood trickled out. "Okay.... Myron....."

He took her hand, fell to his knees. "You're going to make it."

Rain pelted the base as the soldiers stood lined up and silent, eyes blank, faces grim. A chaplain recited words of a last prayer, a bible in his hands. Before him were helmets mounted on weapons, many of them. The sky had grown darker as the day dawned, and had opened up as they gathered to pay final respects to the dead. The rain beat down onto them mercilessly, turned the ground to liquid mud, rivulets flowing and creating tiny creek-like beds to large puddles, washing away dirt and blood the last of the stains of the battle that had happened here three days ago.

Goldman stared unseeingly ahead, the effigies to the dead a blurr. Once the ceremony was over the Colonel called out dismissed, and they began to disperse. He didn't move. His feet felt rooted to the soggy ground. He kept staring ahead, hearing nothing, seeing nothing. He felt dull, listless, lifeless.

Anderson neared him. "LT?"

Shaking himself Goldman turned to him. "Yes, Sargeant?"

"The chopper's waiting, Sir."

"Oh, yeah." His poncho rustled as he faced the lane leading to the landing area. "Thanks." He didn't have to concentrate to move forward. His feet moved automatically. Like a robot programmed.

Percell held out his bag. "Here you go, LT."

Pausing Goldman eyed it, looked a little confused, and then took it. "Thanks." He moved to the chopper, and got in, sitting all alone against the back, bag craddled to his chest. His eyes were still blank, faraway.

Taylor watched the Huey lift. "Sarge? Is the LT gonna be okay?" he softly asked.

"Are any of us ever gonna be okay?" snorted Percell.

Ruiz sighed sadly. "Maybe not, but if we stick together we won't get too lost. Right, Sarge?"

Anderson eyed them curiously, smiled softly, and nodded as he walked away.

Grizz stood up, greeting the man. "Lt, thanks for coming."

Goldman nodded. "How are the men?"

"Holding up, Sir." He led him down a hall, the walls green and sterile. "How are you doing, Sir?"

Shrugging Goldman thinned his lips, vulnerability in his eyes. "Fine." They reached a door, and his heart thudded loudly, drowning out the sounds of the hospital. The older man pushed open the door, and the lt entered.

"Lt. Goldman....."

Turning towards the sound of the voice his face lit up for the first time. She looked so different in a hospital gown, hair down and falling about her shoulders, tubes attached to her, the back of the bed lifted some so she almost sat up. "Told you you'd make it," he stated, nearing the bed, reaching for her hand. "Have I ever lied to you?"

Smiling softly she curled her fingers around his. "What brings you by?"

He opened the bag he held. "I heard tell some general was coming by to see you. And I have this for you." He held out a package. Seeing she was still weak he unwrapped it for her, and pulled out a long white dress. "For you to wear when you become Mrs Goldman."

"Lovely, but you never proposed, you ordered." She touched the silky material. "Where in the name of God did you get this?"

"Called in a few favors," he shrugged, grinning secretively. "Marry me?"

"Got a ring?" she teased.

His hand went to an inside pocket, and he pulled one out. "Now you have no excuse."

Her eyes narrowed. "I'm not Jewish."

"Nobody's perfect," he shrugged. "Quit stalling and say yes."

Skye snorted. "You gonna order me around forever? Don't you remember I'm a 1st Lieutenant, and you're a 2nd? I'm the one who's supposed to give the orders."

Rolling his eyes he groaned in frustration. "Skye!" he growled warningly.

She laughed, wincing when it hurt. "2nd Lt Goldman, I order you to marry me! Better?"

Eyes glowing he leaned over and kissed her. "Yessir! With pleasure, LT!"

A cough made him back up, and his eyes hardened. "General," he coolly greeted.

General Goldman neared. "Myron... You look good, son." He turned to the woman in the bed. "Lt Knight?"

Skye listened as he began a long spiel, and then blinked in surprise when she was handed a purple heart and Medal Of Honor. He apologized that the president himself could not present it, and gave her a salute.

Goldman watched his father leave, and neared the bed once more. "So.. as soon as you're able we'll out of here....... future Mrs. Goldman."

She sighed. "Looking forward to it....... future Mr. Goldman!"

[ platoon ]           [ index ]