Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons living, dead, space aliens, goats, forum posters, editors, beta readers, musicians, or writers are purely coincidental. There may be sexual content so if this, in any form, offends you, please cease reading this lest it send you screaming from the room. If you are not of legal age to read this, please don't.

 

Chapter 13: Falling to Earth

 


As the sun sank well past its zenith over the Canary Islands, Eric’s search wore on. He cast a bemused, melancholy glance through the taxi’s window as they departed yet another resort. Again, he’d judged that it would do, but again, it just wasn’t right.


 

Falling above the clouds for the first time in years, General Bradson felt the wind whipping at his clothes as he arched forward, angling his body into the hundred-mile-an-hour slipstream, leaving him prone, in the classic skydiver’s position, face-down relative to the fast-approaching ground. Squinting against the glare, the General saw only the wispy white blanket of fog three thousand feet below. A quick glance around gave him a spectacular view of the cleaved and craggy green-shrouded mountains walling the valley. He was already below the nearest peaks, and seconds later below the ridgelines as well. General Bradson glanced straight down again, at the onrushing unbroken veil of misty white. He spared a fleeting glimpse at his watch and its altimeter readout, but he well knew that it wasn’t relevant. Not this time.

Had the General been able to see the ground, he would have picked out a landing zone, made a guesstimate of its distance from his ballistic trajectory, and gauged his parachute-opening altitude accordingly, using the ‘chute’s limited gliding ability to reach his target. The other reason to open a parachute at a higher altitude was safety; it would give the jumper time to cut away a tangled main ‘chute and deploy the reserve, though that was an option the General did not have. Now, with no reserve ‘chute and the ground obscured, there was nothing to be gained by opening his parachute above the fog layer. Indeed, the opposite was true; every moment that he lingered in his parachute above the fog exposed him to being seen from the surrounding high ground: an unlikely occurrence, but one there was no reason to risk.

With the ground racing towards him, the General had only seconds to wait. Five hundred feet above the cloud deck, he pulled in his right arm, reaching across his chest as he retracted his left arm for balance, and seized the red handle of his ripcord. With one smooth and practiced motion, the General pulled the cord. For a fleeting moment, his blood ran cold as he felt exactly nothing, but then, to his relief, he felt and heard the fluttering deployment of his pilot ‘chute, followed by a jarring wrench as his main parasail unfurled.

Grasping the left and right hand steering toggles of the ram-air parachute, General Bradson spilled a little air to test directional control. Satisfied that his parachute was under control, he focused on his upcoming landing as he descended at a thousand feet per minute through the grey shroud of fog.

Staring downwards, General Bradson saw the grey veil begin to part. Instead of the uniform grey, the scene below him began to reveal shape and contrast, but far closer than he’d feared. At three hundred feet above the ground, he was able to distinguish scraggly trees clustered between winding bands of open ground. Landing in a tree could be a disaster, as could a wayward branch snagging his canopy from the side during his landing glide. Seeing that one narrow, clear area was the only option within his remaining range, General Bradson tugged on the left steering toggle, spilling air to turn the parachute to the left, and lined up on his chosen landing zone, which was now a hundred feet below and two hundred feet ahead.

Spilling air from the front of his chute by using both steering toggles, the General increased his rate of descent to pick up forward speed as he glided towards his landing.

Flaring ten feet above the ground, he prepared for a running landing. Too late to avoid it, he glimpsed a bare, craggy branch protruding from the tree canopy to his left, and winced as he heard the rip of it snagging his parachute as his feet touched the ground. His running landing lasted all of two strides before the snagged parachute yanked on his harness, pulling him to the side, and he came down hard on the unforgiving rocky soil.

Opening his eyes, the General, lying on his side, moved with exquisite care, testing to see if he was badly hurt. His first concern was for his legs; a break, or even a bad sprain, could prove disastrous. He winced from the pain in his right leg, moving it slowly, relieved to find that it was merely a bruise from a rock that had caused the pain. Stumbling to his feet, he glanced around to find he was alone under the grey sky, in a silence filled only by the distant, plaintive bleating of a few goats.

Disentangling himself from his harness and goggles, the General reeled in his parachute, wadding up the ruined canopy and then stomping it flat. His first priority was to hide it, which he did by tossing it under some thick bushes and weighting it down with a few of the ubiquitous basalt rocks. He retrieved the small carry-bag that had occupied the reserve parachute housing, and tossed his harness under the same bush before adding a few more rocks.

With that task accomplished, he set out at a fast walk in order to clear the area, on the off chance that his landing had been seen. After several hundred yards of hiking on the slightly sloping ground, the General turned downhill, towards the valley floor. He soon found a suitable thicket of trees, and availed himself of its cover to unpack his bag.

Carefully, General Bradson freed his handheld GPS and map from the shirt he’d used to wrap it. Turning it on, he watched impatiently as it acquired signals from the orbiting satellites, locking onto several, and began calculating its position. As soon as the latitude and longitude popped up, he unfolded his topographic map and traced the coordinates.  

To General Bradson’s slight dismay, he found that he was one valley north of his intended target area. He also discovered that he’d been very fortunate; he had come down within a thousand yards of a small village. Landing in it would have been disastrous from his covert perspective, but its proximity ensured that he was close to a usable road.

Unwrapping his camera, the General hung it around his neck, completing his planned image. He’d dressed in jeans and a polo shirt, and the camera and tote bag completed his tourist attire. The next thing to emerge from his bag was a satellite phone, one he’d borrowed from a friend.

After acquiring a signal, he dialed the number from memory and waited with decided unease as he heard it ring on the other end of the line.

The line picked up on the third ring, and into the resulting silence the General repeated the phrase he’d been given, “Hi, Alex. I’m at the resort, just checked in. Where shall we meet?” With that, a sound much like static filled the line as General Bradson activated the encryption device that Yuri had given him.

On the other end of the line, Yuri smiled dryly as he engaged his own encryption set, and into the now-secure line said, “I take it you have arrived safely. Are you at the port?” Yuri had assumed all along that General Bradson would be arriving by ferry.

“I’m inland, in the north of the island. I’m near a village called Caculi. I can’t see it from here, but it’s about two thousand yards from me,” the General replied.

Yuri’s eyes opened wide in surprise. He remained silent for a moment as he tried to figure out how the General had gotten there, and why. Surprises were not something to be taken lightly in his line of work, but Yuri was not inclined to break security with potentially revealing chatter on a satellite phone, encrypted or not. Restraining his curiosity and figuring that he’d find out soon enough, Yuri said, “I know the place. There is a little square on the road, in the center of the village. You cannot miss it; there are only a handful of buildings. I will be there in approximately an hour.”

Ending the call, Yuri glanced up at the disfigured face of The Scar. “Our guest has arrived, and he’s less than five kilometers to the north of us, in Caculi.” 

The Scar would have arched an eyebrow, if he had one. Instead, he asked rhetorically in a puzzled voice tinged with concern, “How did he get there? And why? That’s miles inland, in the middle of nowhere. It is also discomfortingly close to our location.”

“I am eager to find that out myself. I told him an hour to give me time to approach with care. Perhaps he somehow found out where we are, and is displaying his prowess in this way?” Yuri speculated.

Shrugging awkwardly with his one remaining arm, The Scar replied, “If so, we must find out how. Check him for tracking devices and then bring him here if you are certain it is prudent to do so.”

Yuri strolled out of the ramshackle building, walking to the Land Rover sheltered beneath a copse of trees. Transferring his pistol from his waistband into his pocket, Yuri wondered again if the General’s inexplicable location portended trouble. Thinking it through as he wheeled out of the compound and onto the dusty, rutted track down the mountain, Yuri decided that if the General intended them ill, he would be unlikely to telegraph his intent via such an incongruous location. However, a vague ghost of lingering worry kept Yuri on edge.  

 

 

General Bradson checked his watch for the twentieth time, impatiently observing the passing minutes. At last, forty-five minutes had passed, and the General emerged from his thicket of trees under the clearing sky, and began a casual stroll downhill. Five minutes later, he arrived at an ill-kept dirt road, and turned left, unslinging his camera as he did so.

General Bradson turned right as he reached the dirt road, and trying his best to look like a rubbernecking tourist out for a walk, he began pretending to shoot pictures during his unhurried stroll.

The village square was nearly deserted in the mid-day heat, and the few locals about, accustomed to seeing the occasional tourist strolling around, paid General Bradson no heed as he walked to the square, and found himself a seat on a low stone wall, under a stunted tree. There, he ostensibly focused on his camera while keeping track of his surroundings, scrolling through menus via the LCD screen, which helped pass the time and fit well with his current cover.

 

 

Yuri returned to his Land Rover after making a wary reconnaissance of the village from the nearest tree line. He’d spotted General Bradson, sitting right where he was supposed to be. What Yuri hadn’t seen was any sign of trouble. Deciding that he’d taken every reasonable precaution, Yuri drove the remaining five hundred yards to the village square.

Putting on an act of his own, Yuri pulled to a stop a dozen feet from General Bradson and sounded a couple of beeps on his horn as he waved. The General approached, playing the roll of meeting an expected ride from a friend, and together the two left the dusty village behind.

Not wasting any time on formalities or any attempt at concealment, Yuri placed a small black box on the center console, nestling it into the vehicle’s cup holder. The General knew what it was: a bug scanner, to detect any transmissions from a listening device. He had no objections. 

Absent any warning red light on his detector, Yuri felt free to speak. “Welcome, General. I trust that you had a pleasant journey?” Yuri said, hoping to prompt the General to explain his mysterious arrival.

Knowing full well what Yuri was after, General Bradson decided to make him work for it a little, thinking that it would serve as a gauge of Yuri’s professionalism. “Fine, thank you. I had a very pleasant flight,” the General said in a relaxed, conversational tone.

“A flight? There is no commercial service to this island and the one small airport is many miles north of where you were,” Yuri replied, feeling slightly relieved. In his opinion, if there were anything untoward going on, the General would have lied rather than giving perplexing answers.

“I couldn’t take a commercial flight due to the passport issue, couldn’t risk my government tracking me,” General Bradson replied, as he studied Yuri for any reaction. Yuri mulled over the General’s reply for a few moments. If he had to avoid going through any form of government checkpoint, that left few options. Yuri took his eyes off the dirt road to give General Bradson a puzzled look. “Some friends dropped me off. LALO,” the General said, pronouncing the acronym as a word. 

As a former Spetznaz – Soviet Special Forces – Yuri knew what HALO was. High Altitude, Low Opening: a method for covert aerial insertion where the jump occurred at high altitude but the parachute was not opened until the jumper was close to the ground. Yuri recognized the term ‘LALO’ as a variation: Low Altitude Low Opening. A risky procedure at the best of times, and one he had, until that moment, been sure the General was not trained in. There was nothing in his available record to indicate otherwise. After digesting the information, Yuri asked, “Any chance you were seen?”

Satisfied that Yuri had the knowledge, and thus the likely experience, to understand the veiled replies, General Bradson replied, “Unlikely. We came in under the radar in a small business jet. The valley floor had a fog cover, and I delayed opening until I was in it.”

That reply sent an unwelcome shudder down Yuri’s spine. Having jumped in limited visibility on one occasion due to an aircraft fire during his paratrooper training, Yuri knew the dangers involved in such a near-blind landing all too well., The idea of jumping from an unfamiliar, unequipped jet was almost as disturbing. Breaking into a sincere smile, Yuri said, “General, that was very creative. Dangerous, but creative. I admire that.”

Answering with only a nod, the General relaxed a little and paid careful attention to the passing scenery, committing it to memory.    

 

 

Arriving at the fifth resort, which was situated on the island’s rugged west coast, Eric liked what he saw: a private, gated compound in an isolated location, and according to its website, right on the sea. Surrounded by palm and banana trees, hemmed in by the sheer, looming volcanic mountainsides inland, the resort’s location couldn’t, in Eric’s opinion, be better. The style was to his liking: Old Spanish, with terra-cotta tile roofs and low buildings strung out around courtyards. It looked luxurious without being formal – Eric had no love of formality – and it just felt right. He was happy with it as he toured a selection of suites and standard rooms, the restaurants, and then the various swimming pools. His mood lasted until the manager led them across the lawn to a separate building, which he said was their reception hall, and let them in.

Eric walked a few feet past the opened door and stopped cold. His mood changed in a heartbeat, from happy to ecstatic, as he took in the reception hall. It wasn’t a hall at all. The entrance door was at one corner of an enormous rectangle, measuring one hundred feet by two hundred feet. Arching across one corner and covering a third of the area was an open-beam tile roof. In the back of the covered area was a formal, old-world bar, and on the tile floor a scattering of small tables surrounded by chairs. Under the apex of the arch of roof, just back from the edge, was a circular hardwood dance floor twenty feet in diameter. The entire area was open to the rest of the rectangle, an area that glittered in the sunlight. The tiles ran out past the roof, continuing to the edge of a large swimming pool, which formed the seaward side of the rectangle. The seaward side was a ‘disappearing edge’, where the pool waters cascaded over a wall on the far side, which from Eric’s vantage point gave the illusion of this pool blending into the sea. The small deck and railing beyond the pool were hidden from Eric’s angle, so the illusion was spectacular, almost magical. The effect was stunning, doubly so in that it managed to mask the fact that the pool was over a hundred feet above sea level. Two small fountains bubbled at the closer end, but Eric paid those no heed; he was far more interested in the dance floor, the bar, and the absolutely perfect setting. Thinking of one last detail, he asked the hovering manager, “What about at night? Do you have tiki torches, and stuff to keep the bugs away?” 

Nodding in the affirmative, the manager replied, “Yes, sir, we do, and insects aren’t much of a problem here. We also have experienced bartenders and in-house specialty-catering. There is a built-in multichannel digital sound system or we can also provide a quartet of strolling violinists and other formal accouterments–”

Eric had no interest in strolling violinists or other formal claptrap, so he, in his excitement, cut the manager off and said, “Could you wait for us at the front desk? I need to talk to my friends alone for a minute.”

Wondering what that was all about, but knowing better than to ask, the manager replied with a courteous, “Of course, sir,” and then turned smartly on his heel and departed.

As soon as the manager was gone, Eric turned to Jim and Linda. “So, what do you think? I think it’s perfect!” Eric exclaimed with ill-concealed excitement. 

Jim was the first to reply, “From a security standpoint, the location and layout are excellent. The way the suites are laid out in separate little buildings means more ground to cover, but other than that, it’s ideal from a security perspective. The resort is big enough to house all your guests, assuming you made tentative reservations?”

Grinning like a cat who had just dined on a canary, Eric replied, “Yeah, I did. I held a slate of rooms open at each of my candidate resorts. It’s off-season and two weeks away, so they did it, no problem. Thanks for the reminder; I’ll need to cancel the others. This place is perfect for the party, don’t you think?”

Jim and Linda both nodded. Linda took another look around before saying, “I’m sure they’ll love it. It’s got a unique feel, not like the conference rooms at the other places, and I think the pool is a big plus. Yeah, this looks like a great place for a party! So, what do you have in mind? I’m betting it’s something wild.”

After swearing them both to secrecy, barely able to restrain himself, Eric said, “Yeah, I sure do. I’ve got a couple of surfers who happen to be professional male exotic dancers working up a good act, really classy, not the cheesy stuff. They’ll be covered as bartenders probably, and I think Brandon and Chase will love ‘em; they’ve got the look they both like. There’s a bar, we’ll have music, food…”

“And strippers,” Linda finished Eric’s sentence with a chuckle.

Jim gave a disgruntled snort, and then complained in a good-natured way, “Male strippers. Damn, that’s not the kind of entertainment I was hoping for.”

Laughing, Eric punched Jim lightly in the arm. “Yeah, Jon feels the same. Don’t worry, it won’t be anything raunchy. And this place is perfect for ‘em, got a dance floor and everything.”

Nodding, Linda asked, “Is this for the wedding too?”

Shaking his head, still focused on the party, Eric replied, “Nah, they want to get married on the beach.” That, Eric thought in passing, was another good point for this resort: it had a beach. Taking one last look around the misnamed reception hall, Eric said, “Let’s go make the arrangements and check in. Do you guys like this place, for your honeymoon I mean? If not, I’ll get you a place anywhere else you like.”

Exchanging delighted, lingering smiles with her new husband, Linda replied, “This will be perfect, Eric! I love it! I’ve always wanted to stay at a place like this, but never thought I would.” 

By the time Eric had gone to the front desk and handled the reception hall and related bookings, it was time to check in. Eric took the liberty of giving Jim and Linda a suite for their honeymoon, rather than the regular room they were expecting. Once they were all in their rooms, it was already late in the day and jetlag was becoming an ever-increasing factor.

Eric settled in and checked his to-do list. He now had the top items all taken care of: the party venue, the resort bookings, and the catering – the resort was providing the latter. That left him a few major details, such as ground transportation and other support services. He still had to make air arrangements, but that could be accomplished just as easily from home. Further down Eric’s list were the wedding items he’d thought of: a location, and catering. He now found himself able to cross off both. Eric then made a round of calls to cancel his reservations at the other resorts.

Fatigue winning out in the end, Eric climbed onto the bed and was asleep within minutes.

The following day went by in a blur; he didn’t have much time left. His return flight to the U.S. was scheduled for that evening and so he tried to prioritize: setting to work on the ground transportation first. He’d never handled anything of this nature before, so he overlooked the obvious solution: get the resort concierge to help. Instead, Eric consulted the phone book, which he discovered was printed in Spanish, which he did not speak at all. He remedied that in part by calling information, but this all took time. By early afternoon, he had the limousines and taxis booked, but nothing else.

With only hours remaining, Eric slumped at his desk, having grown heartily sick of the phone and the frustrations of the language barrier. He decided to take a break for a few minutes, to clear his head. Standing up, he stretched, and then began digging in his small duffle bag for a pair of shorts.

Wearing just a pair of boardies, Eric strolled through the resort, heading for one of the many sprawling swimming pools he’d seen. Enjoying the warm caress of the sun and sultry air on his bare skin, Eric arrived at the pool, finding it almost deserted. He kept walking, not breaking his stride, using his last step to launch into a hands-first dive into the cool blue water.

Surfacing, squinting against the reflected glare, treading water, trying to relax, Eric brushed his hair back away from his face. At that moment, he realized what it was he was looking at, and launched into a freestyle crawl to cover the intervening dozen yards.

An arm’s length from the pool’s sunken bar, Eric slowed, raised his head, and parked himself on one of the bar’s underwater stools. The bartender was ready and waiting, “What can I get you, Señor? He asked.

With visions of a tall piña colada filling his thoughts, Eric opened his mouth to order, when his gaze fell upon a bottle in a rack behind the bar. The label was a familiar one: José Cuervo, one of Eric’s favorite brands of tequila. Without conscious direction, his tongue traced his lips, and the observant bartender asked, “Tequila, sir? Perhaps a margarita or a tequila sunrise?”

Eric opened his mouth, only to close it again, as desire did battle with his conscience. ‘Who’s gonna know,’ he thought, ‘I’m alone, and one drink can’t hurt.’

 

 

Standing next to the Land Rover he’d just parked, Yuri let General Bradson have a moment to glance around. The General made full use of it. The first thing he noticed was that the ‘compound’ was nothing of the kind; located on high, relatively flat ground, it was simply a small semi-cleared area of a hundred yard’s length, containing patches of overgrown weeds interspersed by low grass, all of it unevenly hemmed in by the surrounding forest and jagged mountains. A few decrepit buildings dotted the perimeter, and off to the side, partially sheltered by some trees, stood a small obstacle course. Near the far end of the ovoid clearing, the General saw a few shredded targets propped up by sticks. One small house, with peeling paint and a crooked door, stood further back. The only other things to catch his eye were a few rickety storage sheds. The General felt near-instant despair; this was nothing like the professional establishment he’d been led to expect.

Quite literally on cue, Felecia – the commander of the mercenaries General Bradson had encountered in the Cayman Islands – broke cover, standing up in her shaggy Ghillie suit in the middle of weed patch less than a dozen feet from General Bradson’s side. “Good to see you again, General,” she said, smiling politely at him over the barrel of the sniper rifle she had trained on his head.

General Bradson, momentarily startled by Felecia’s sudden appearance, knew instantly that if they wanted him dead, there was nothing he could do. Turning to face Felecia, he glanced at her Ghillie suit and nodded approvingly as he said, “Nice to see you again, Fel.”

It was the Ghillie suit, not the rifle pointing at his head, that now held the General’s attention. It was obviously modified, due to having varied tufts of the local weeds painstakingly attached to its thick matting of burlap strands, giving Felecia the appearance of a weed-covered lump. When lying prone, she’d been virtually undetectable. What impressed the General the most was the degree of customization; it took hours to do, and bespoke of a meticulous and professional sniper.

Her first point made, Felecia lowered her rifle. Standing at parade rest, she said, “This facility does not look like much, and there’s a reason for that, sir. The local government turns a blind eye to us, so long as we pay them to do so and keep a low profile. Our storage and transshipping operations are elsewhere. For the kind of work we do, this serves us well for a training facility. Now, General, do you remember Horst and Wilhelm, my platoon leaders who you met in Grand Cayman?”

The nature of the question, combined with the apparent absence of Horst and Wilhelm, made the General suspect that he was about to be treated to a further demonstration of prowess. Felecia’s smile was confirmation enough, so the General decided to try to impress her with some prowess of his own. The only problem with that plan was that he had little experience with ground operations, so he was slightly out of his depth. Thinking it through, he glanced to Felecia’s right and left, eyeing the nearer clumps of weeds, but seeing no indication that the men were there. He knew they couldn’t be behind him; if they were, they would be in Felecia’s field of fire and visa versa. The Generals’ mind raced. ‘No, a circular firing squad would not be a good way to impress me. They aren’t stupid. So, they are somewhere to her sides, a distance apart, and close,’ he thought.

Taking his best guess, the General looked at Felecia. “The clump to your left, ten yards out, and the one ten feet over.” 

Felecia shoved the hood of her suit back, and spared a moment to shake out her long, black hair. Giving the General a nod, she said, “Yes on one of ‘em sir, but you didn’t see him, you reasoned it out. Not bad for a flyboy and desk-jockey, but you fucked up. You made a bad assumption; that all three of us are in Ghillie suits. Look up.”

Looking skyward into the tree, General Bradson took a few moments to find what he was looking for, and found himself staring down the barrel of an AK-47, held by Wilhelm, who was wearing standard camouflage fatigues and ensconced in a thick clump of leaves and branches. It had been a perfect set-up; they’d known that Yuri would park under the tree, and had taken positions accordingly. Felecia, however, had one more surprise to give. “Break Cover!” she yelled in a voice accustomed to command.

A muffled thud to his left caused the General to turn, and he had to concentrate to appear unruffled as he saw three rocket-propelled grenade launchers aimed in his general direction from five feet away. Far too close to be useful against him, but that, he knew, wasn’t the point of this new demonstration. The sound he’d heard was a foxhole cover being tossed aside. It was just weeds stapled to plywood, but it had been very effective and expertly emplaced. Beyond that foxhole, he saw seven others staggered back across forty yards in a rough arc, each containing three men, some with AK-47’s, but two with 50-caliber machine guns. Remembering his lessons from the Air Force Academy, General Bradson nodded approvingly. “Well done. Expert concealment and a classic fire sack, per Soviet Tactical Doctrine.”

With more than a little pride, Felecia strode forward. Coming to a halt beside General Bradson, she said, “We’ve got two platoons, organized into squads under Horst and Wilhelm. All ex-groundpounders and they know their shit. I’ve made damn sure of it. Most of ‘em have worked with us before at one time or another. We’re training up, and we’ll be ready.” It did not escape the General's notice that the size of the force was over twice what he'd requested, and also appeared to be made up of well-trained conventional ground troops rather than the special-operations types that he needed.  

Yuri took Felecia aside a few paces, and once out of the General’s earshot he gave Felicia a brief rundown on General Bradson’s airborne arrival.

Returning to the General’s side, Felecia gave him an apprising glance. “I don’t impress easy, and your jump isn’t enough to do it, but it’s a start,” Felecia said, as she reached into her Ghillie suit and retrieved a small blue object. She handed it to General Bradson, and he flipped it open to see his picture in what looked to be an authentic U.S. passport.

“It was a test,” General Bradson said, stating the obvious.

Nodding, Felecia replied, “You bet your ass it was, and it won’t be the last. I needed to see if you were as hotshot a thinker and tactician as I’d been told, so I figured I’d hold onto this passport and see if you could find a way to get here. So far, so good. But this doesn’t mean jack shit when it comes to going in with us on the ground. You’ve got to earn that, to my satisfaction, and you haven’t got a chance in hell. I can’t afford to haul any deadweight brass along.”

“I’ll do whatever it takes,” General Bradson replied, noticing that the word ‘sir’ had disappeared from Felecia’s vocabulary.

Felecia said with a shrug, “Fair enough, your funeral. For a start, you’re going running with us in the morning. Then we’re going to do a mission, one platoon against the other. Alpha platoon will be the defender and pick the ground. Bravo will attack. You’ll accompany Bravo. I’m warning you, I’ll put you through hell and wash you out the first time you can’t cut it. We need you in the air, not on the ground.”

“You need me in both. This is my mission and I’ll be in command. That’s my son they’ve got, and in case you’ve forgotten, I’m the guy paying for this damn party,” General Bradson said, his own temper beginning to show. One option that he had was to explain the tactical plan, which amongst other things made staying in the air decidedly unwise. Toying with that thought, he dismissed it, preferring to earn his billet, and the respect that doing so would hopefully entail.

With a dismissive wave, Felicia walked away, saying over her shoulder, “We’ll see, but my men are under my command no matter what. At most, you have overall command and I’ve got a veto on the tactical and operational side, and that’s final. You’re paying us to do a mission, not take your over-the-hill ass joyriding.”

 

 

Eric’s inner battle raged, but only long enough for him to remember giving his word. Stifling his desires, Eric sighed. “Make it a piña colada, extra rum, thanks.”

A minute later, Eric had the oversized drink, topped with the cliché paper parasols, in hand. Discarding the trimmings, he climbed out of the pool and made his way across the hot concrete to a deck chair. There, he sprawled out in the hot sun, his tan skin still glistening from the pool, and finally relaxed a little as he took a drink of his cocktail. The bite of rum was, in his opinion, perfect, and a good sign that the bartender knew his business.

After reaching the bottom of his piña colada, Eric stretched back, soaking up the sun for a while, trying not to dwell on how much he still had to do, and how little time he had left in which to do it.

The rum, combined with the warm breeze and jetlag, compounded by the relaxing gurgling of a nearby fountain, soon had their effect, and Eric, ever so softly, began to snore.

 

 
 

© 2008 C James

Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.

Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"  

 

Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading, support and advice, and for putting up with me.

Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice. 

A big "thank you" to to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice , and to Captain Rick for his advice. 

Any remaining errors are mine alone.

 C James' Home

Chapter 1
Wedding Bells
Chapter 2
Mission to Idaho
Chapter 3
Pursuits and Auditions
Chapter 4
Islands in the Sea
Chapter 5
Expeditions
Chapter 6
Travel Plans
Chapter 7
Laying the Groundwork
Chapter 8
Telluride
Chapter 9
Train Wreck
Chapter 1O
Dance with the Devil
Chapter 11
Morning Serenade
Chapter 12
Departures
Chapter 13
Falling to Earth
Chapter 14
Prelude to Battle
Chapter 15
Worth a Thousand Words
Chapter 16
Surfer Strip Show
Chapter 17
The Show Must Go On
Chapter 18
Errors of Omission
Chapter 19
Revelations
Chapter 2O
Explanations
Chapter 21
Surprises
Chapter 22
Prelude to Ragnarök
Chapter 23
Unseen Eyes
Chapter 24
Confrontations
Chapter 25
Satan's Own Thunder
Chapter 26
The Scorpion and the Frog
Chapter 27
Drums out of Darkness
Chapter 28
Blood and Time
Chapter 29
Ignition
Chapter 3O
Feelings
Chapter 31
Wings of Fire
 
Chapter 32
A Favor to Ask
Chapter 33
 Rendezvous'
Chapter 34
 Miscommunications
Chapter 35
 Special Delivery
Chapter 36
 Convergence
Chapter 37
 The Best Laid Plans...
Chapter 38
 Fallen
Chapter 39
 Zeus Triumphant
Chapter 4O
 Trapped
Chapter 41
 Pushing the Limits
Chapter 42
 Passion in the Dark
Chapter 43
 Nemesis
Chapter 44
 Countdown to Ragnarök  
Chapter 45
 Ragnarök  
Chapter 46
Out of the
Frying Pan...
Chapter 47
Fatal Mistakes
Chapter 48
Desperate Measures
Chapter 49
Falling
Chapter 5O
Refuge and Allies
Chapter 51
Changing the Game
Epilogue