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|Chapter 26: The Scorpion and the Frog|
The soft touch of Jansen’s hand on Eric’s bare shoulder sent a shiver down his spine. Turning to face Jansen, Eric looked him in the eyes and smiled, as the hand remained in its place.
“Does that bother you?” Jansen asked in a soft voice, indicating his hand with a glance, and wondering if what he desired was possible.
“I like to be touched,” Eric said, lost in Jansen’s sapphire-blue eyes.
Eric took a slow step forward, closing the gap between them to nothing. The rattle of the door cause both guys to take a sudden, instinctive step back, and they both spun to face the door as Keith walked in.
“Hi, what’s up?” Keith asked, looking slightly uneasy.
Jansen, suspecting the reason his brother had returned from the disco so quickly, said in a slightly irritated tone, “You’re back early. I was just teaching Eric some moves. I think we’ve got something he can use.”
Smiling, ignoring his brother’s tone, Keith plopped down in a chair. “Show me,” he said, pretending to be oblivious to the daggers in Jansen’s eyes.
Aboard Flight Three, General Bradson, decked out in his black jump gear, stood in the cockpit door waiting anxiously for Bill’s report over the satellite phone. Bill had promised to find out, via a friend at the National Reconnaissance Office, whatever he could about Iranian alert levels. General Bradson was depending on that information in order to confirm the stand-down he desperately needed.
The awaited call arrived, but Bill’s words in the General’s ear did little to lift his mood. “No luck so far General. My contact does not have the data yet. The only intel I have is that we did see an enormous thermal signature at Abadan, which indicates that you hit your initial target. I hope to have the alert level data within the hour,” Bill said with sincere regret, unaware of the battle in Somalia and believing that he’d just handed General Bradson the first major hiccup in the General’s battle plan.
From the safety of his living room, Bill could only imagine the tension at the far end of the line, and was surprised to hear the General reply casually, “Don’t worry about it, Bill. You tried. We’ll handle it from here.”
General Bradson didn’t let his disappointment show. He knew that the report would be too late to matter so there was no point in Bill or his contact putting themselves at further risk. Ending the call, he glanced at his GPS navigational display, and knew they’d be finding out, one way or the other, in a few minutes. Biting his lip, he decided to roll the dice and proceed with the mission.
Ten minutes later, five miles from the first delivery zone, General Bradson checked his GPS again and smiled. Satisfied, he turned to Felecia and said, “So far, so good. We’ve got confirmation that they’ve issued stand-down orders.”
Arching an eyebrow due to having heard nothing of the kind, Felecia asked, “How do you know that?”
With a casual shrug and a nod towards one of his blinking radar detectors, the General replied, “Those SA-6 batteries we just flew near. They’re tracking us, and if it wasn’t for the stand-down orders they would have blown us out of the sky by now.” Without waiting for a reply, General Bradson walked aft. What he hadn’t said was that he’d have picked up – via a change in the detector’s display – any shift to the higher frequency fire-control mode. He might even have done so in time to evade a missile, maybe, but he kept his silence on that, not wanting to spoil the effect he hoped he was having on Felecia.
After running Eric through the moves a few times, Eric was getting better and faster, and Jansen’s mind turned to dealing with his brother.
Keith nodded approvingly. “That’s not half bad, Eric. Keep working on that and you’ll get it down.”
Eric could sense the tension between Jansen and Keith and suspected that he himself was the cause, though he was unsure as to why. The sudden change in Jansen’s demeanor left no doubt that something was wrong between the two dancers, and Eric decided that he should leave them alone to talk. “I’ve got a song in mind for this; I think it’d be perfect. I’ve got it on CD – be right back.” Without waiting for an acknowledgment, Eric hustled out the door.
As soon as Eric was gone, Jansen glared at Keith. “Why the hell did you come back early? Tell me the real reason.”
Dropping his fake smile, Keith replied, “Calm down Janse. I was just worried that something would happen that we’d all regret. He’s been drinking, remember?”
Slamming himself down into a chair, Jansen shook his head. “He had one drink when we were at the pool. He’s sober damn it, and I think you know that. You’re just worried about the club deal –”
“Fine, he’s sober. Janse, if something happens now and it doesn’t work out, we lose the club deal. You’re right, that’s part of what’s bothering me. Without that, we’re screwed; it’s back to scummy clubs for us, if we’re lucky. The other part is… I’ll just say it; he’s either straight and wanting to experiment, or bi. Either way, what if he just wants a one-time thing? I know you’ve got feelings for him, so how would you deal with that? Would it tear you up like your first time did?”
Calming down, Jansen replied, “Yeah, I know, I know, but I don’t think he’s like that. I don’t think he’d yank the club deal from us, and I don’t think he’d screw me over. Keith, I appreciate your concern, but this is my life. I know the club deal is yours too, I get that, but I want to see where this goes.”
Nodding, Keith let out a sigh and then replied, “Okay, I’ll butt out. Just be careful, okay? So, what happened?”
“Nothing… you barged in before it could. I was–” The ringing phone interrupted Jansen, and due to being the closest he answered. After listening for a few seconds, he replied, “Sounds like a plan. I’m on my way. ”
Returning the phone to its cradle, Jansen said, “That was Eric. He wanted to know if I wanted to use the dance floor where we had the stag party. I think it’s pretty obvious that he knows something’s up between you and I, and that’s why he doesn’t want to come back here.”
“Okay, I get it, I fucked up. Tell him I’m sorry, will ya? That goes for you too. Sorry, Janse,” Keith said. He still had his reservations, but he knew he’d done all that he could.
Jansen stood up, grabbed the black shirt Eric had been practicing with, and said, “Okay, see ya later. Wish me luck.”
Jansen dashed off to meet Eric, and Keith, very much alone, listened to the silence for a while.
In the cockpit of Flight Three, the former copilot was now ensconced in the left-hand seat, the pilot’s seat. That, by both custom and mission rules, made him the pilot, for the time being. The pilot continued flying the gradual s-turns designed to obscure their destination from any observers. Four miles south of the initial point for the bombing run he eased back on the throttles and turned due north, heading directly towards it. Concentrating on his instruments, he called out, “Two thousand feet AGL, speed one fifty, course zero-zero-zero, ground track is drifting east. Westerly wind confirmed. Lowering the cargo bay door.”
Felecia, sitting in the navigator’s seat, watched the changing latitude and longitude readouts. She glanced once for confirmation at the slip of paper in her hand, where the General had written,
A quarter of a mile before that point – the initial point of the bombing run – was reached, Felecia began to yell over the intercom, “Initial point in seven seconds…. three... two… one… NOW! Drop, Drop, Drop!”
The aircraft, its engines throttled back for relative silence and in a shallow dive to maintain airspeed, was on a ground track that approached from the south and ran due north, passed half a mile west of the Revolutionary Guard’s compound. .
The three men on each side of the first pallet shoved it down the drop rails and into the dark, moonless desert skies from two thousand feet above the ground.
Four paratroopers, whose mission was to mark the C-130’s landing strip, counted off five seconds and jumped, directly over the eight buildings that stood on the western edge of the rows of earthen hollow squares. Their ram-air parachutes unfurled as they emerged from the plane and they steered to the east, trying to get as close as possible to the C-130’s planned landing point.
After counting off five more seconds, the men in the cargo bay hurled another pallet into the darkness. Every five seconds thereafter they dropped another, six in all. When the last cleared the cargo bay, they relaxed a little; the risk of a ruptured jar releasing noxious gas into the aircraft had been very real, and they were glad to be rid of the last of the chemical jars.
The Iranian base was vast, laid out in essentially a giant square two miles on a side. Approaching from the south, the first sign of the base was a row of guard towers, a quarter mile apart, running east to west along the base’s southern perimeter. The western perimeter was similarly equipped. The western perimeter was formed by a small mountain range running north to south, and along the range’s eastern flank was a winding dirt road, serving a series of deep bunkers. Near the southwesterly corner was a large area, itself roughly square, used by the Iranians as a semi-secure temporary storage area. It consisted of earthen embankments, ninety feet across. Essentially earthen levies a dozen feet high, they served to shelter a square area open to the sky within. Long straight access roads bisected the northern ends of the squares, whose purpose was to protect, both from view and air attack, munitions and equipment as it was prepared for bunker storage. There were eighty-one of these square embankments, lined up in rows, forming what was roughly a square, three quarters of a mile wide. At the northeastern corner of the base stood a cluster of large buildings that formed the compound of the Revolutionary Guard battalion tasked with the base’s defense.
The first pallet had been targeted upwind of the line of guard towers on the base’s southern perimeter, using the base’s southwest corner as the initial point. The remaining five pallets had hit, one every few hundred yards, along the base’s western perimeter.
This time, there were no grenades in the three thousand falling mayonnaise jars. They contained the chlorine, and within the smaller jars nested inside, ammonia and sulfuric acid. Plopping down amongst the tinkling sound of shattering glass, the chemicals mixed. The result was simple; the intermixing chemicals reacted to produce chlorine gas and chloramine gas, along with several highly volatile sulfur and nitrogen compounds. The intent was to form a noxious cloud that covered the base and also to create an obvious escape route for the Iranians in the Revolutionary Guard’s compound: north, away from the C-130’s landing zone. The gas concentration was not quite high enough to kill, but it would be more than enough to send men running and choking as the cloud drifted over the base. It also needed to be strong enough to trigger sensors in the Iranian’s chemical-detector vans, which was the primary intent.
The cloud took time to drift east on the gentle wind as Flight Three, once clear of the base, continued on for three minutes before banking to the right, circling back and rolling out on a course that would take them directly over the Revolutionary Guard’s compound.
Few things are as frightening as a chemical weapons attack, and several of the older men on the ground had lived through them during the Iran-Iraq war. Like their comrades, they had heard no explosions – there were none to hear – only this distant tinkle of shattering glass, heard by just a few. Most of the men knew some of what they guarded; chemical weapons, in an array of bunkers south and west of their base. They drew an obvious, though false, conclusion: there was a major leak. The chemical warfare detector vans, deployed on the site mainly for that purpose, sent out their wailing alarms. Several shouted warnings later, the base’s defenders, already in position due to the recent alert, turned their minds to their own survival. Only a few men had even rudimentary chemical protective gear available. The rest sought the safety of distance, and taking notice of the westerly wind, followed their training and ran north to escape what they thought was the lethal plume. This was not cowardice; it was a logical reaction to a perceived situation they could do nothing to aid.
From the C-130’s cockpit, Felecia watched through infrared night-vision goggles and called out on the intercom as soon as she was sure. “Approaching the target. They’re bailing out like rats from a sinking ship, heading north. Jump point in fifteen seconds. Good luck, General, see you at the rendezvous,” she said, and then began giving them a countdown to zero.
In the back of the C-130, as Felecia’s voice on the intercom counted down, General Bradson waved Wilhelm close. The General had guessed, prior to the mission, that the mercenaries were after something, though he was unsure as to specifically what. He’d played along, due to needing them. There was also the fact that they needed him to get out, though he wondered if they realized it. He needed to make certain that they did, in order to prevent the double-cross that he was expecting. Pulling a piece of paper from his pocket, he thrust it into Wilhelm’s hands and said over the howl of the engines and wind, “For Felecia’s eyes only. No exceptions.”
Felecia’s voice reached zero, and the General, along with his five men, rushed aft, leaping off the cargo ramp in ragged formation. In near unison, they pulled their ripcords three seconds later.
In the cockpit, Felecia turned her attention to her real mission, unaware that Wilhelm was racing forward to give her the General’s message.
The one remaining Iranian sentry, safe from the noxious cloud by virtue of being on a mountaintop two miles to the west, heard the howling sirens and used his night-vision gear to scan the bunkers, looking for signs of the non-existent leak.
As General Bradson had intended all along, they arrived well after the moon had set. In the near panic raised by the assumed chemical weapons leak at the base, no one noticed, under cover of darkness, the blacked-out parachutists descending from the sky over the almost-empty installation.
General Bradson and his five ex-special-forces troops glided towards the building the General had selected. Landing one after the other on the flat roof, they shrugged their way out of their parachutes and jump coveralls, exposing the Iranian uniforms beneath. No one expected to be able to blend in well – none of them spoke more than a dozen words of Farsi – but from a distance, they hoped the uniforms, along with the chaos, would avoid raising suspicion.
Carrying AK-47s slung over their shoulders and relying on silenced nine-millimeter pistols at combat-ready, the rescue team, with the General in the lead, advanced down the stairs. Listening for any sound, they traded caution for speed. At the foot of the roof stairs, General Bradson eased open the door, nosing through gun first, blinking against the harsh fluorescent lights, his heart sinking as his eyes scanned the rows of stainless-steel countertops for any sign of opposition.
As his troops followed him in, one stated the obvious. “I think this building is the base kitchen.”
General Bradson knew he’d guessed wrong regarding the base layout. Ignoring the comment, he said, “Let’s head outside. Look for any sign of a jail or guardhouse.”
Exiting the kitchen, they edged cautiously out into the darkness of the largely deserted base. A few stragglers still raced north – two wore gas masks, but masks alone are of no use against blister agents such as mustard gas, a large component of the Iranian chemical arsenal. The General glanced around the compound, matching up the buildings with the satellite photos he’d memorized. He noticed light streaming out from a window of a building fifty yards away, and taking it as his best bet, indicated it and led off in that direction, hoping that he was right. The clue he’d seen was shadows on the window glass that looked to him very much like bars mounted inside.
Advancing single-file at a jog, trying their best to appear as just a few troops who belonged there, the rescue team followed the General towards the guardhouse.
The main door stood ajar, which the General took as a good sign, and walked inside, his nine-millimeter pistol lowered but ready at a moment’s notice. Inside, he scanned the room and called out, “Clear,” in Farsi, the signal for his team to enter.
The mercenaries followed the General in, briefly illuminated by the light streaming out of the buildings open door. They were unaware that they had been seen entering by one of the few remaining Iranians on the base.
“Full flaps, now!” the pilot of Flight Three called out to his copilot. Felecia, seated in the navigator’s position, kept quiet; she knew there was nothing useful she could do. The pilot, with night-vision goggles strapped to his profusely sweating head, stared out into the darkness as he continued to descend. He was certain that they had overshot, but then he saw them; two pairs of glow sticks, marking the threshold of the stretch of access road he’d be using as a runway. He banked hard to starboard, lining up on the threshold and the trail of glow sticks beyond it, which denoted a few hundred feet of centerline.
What the pilot saw rushing up in the darkness terrified him; the square earthen embankments on the left side of the service road looked taller than he’d been led to believe.
The service road he was landing on was graded dirt, fifty feet wide. The problem was that the C-130’s one hundred thirty two foot-wingspan meant that a perfect centerline landing would leave about forty feet of wing overhanging on each side. The wingtips only had thirteen feet of ground clearance, and the embankments to the left looked to the pilot to be higher than that. The team that had checked and marked the runway was supposed to have checked that, but the pilot hadn’t had confirmation, so he trusted his eyes rather than the team on the ground.
The pilot was painfully aware that if the aircraft was damaged and unable to take off, they were all dead.
Easing to the right of the centerline as far as he dared, the pilot eased back on the yoke, then cut the throttles as he entered ground effect, struggling to keep the plane level as it began to shudder from stall buffeting. The nose began to settle, and as he felt the plane drop, the pilot hauled back on the yoke. The main gear hit first, raising a thundering noise as it came into full contact with the uneven road surface.
Using nose-wheel steering and brakes, the pilot held the aircraft as far to the right as he dared, and rammed the throttles forward as he reversed the pitch of the props to generate reverse thrust: standard short-field landing procedure.
The massive amounts of dust kicked up by the propwash momentarily blinded the pilot, and he kept the aircraft on course by guesswork. The plane shuddered to a halt, fourteen hundred feet down the improvised runway, and Felecia gave the order; “Shut her down. Good landing.”
Soaked in his own sweat, the pilot left the engines idling and replied weakly, “They say any landing you can walk away from is a good one. Now I believe it.”
After confirming that the cargo bay door was lowering, Felecia at last was able to take the time to glance at the General’s note. Flicking on a map light, she unfolded it and began to read,
Fel, I know that your real mission does not involve me or the two Marines I’m here to rescue. I won’t interfere with your mission, but don’t try interfering with mine. I’m taking no chances on a double-cross; you cannot get out of Iran alive without me. If you try to complete my plan as you know it, you will be blown out of the sky. See you at the rendezvous.
Folding the paper and shoving it in her pocket, Felecia grumbled under her breath, “I know that, you ass.” Setting that thought aside, she headed aft.
“Saddle up and move out,” Felecia ordered as her men formed up, “The bunkers and tunnels are just to the west. Follow the plan; six man elements, take out any opposition, blast your way into the bunkers, and the first one to find the entrance to the underground complex, report in immediately.” Felecia stooped, retrieving the four Geiger counters from their hiding place. She distributed them, two apiece, to Wilhelm and Horst, and said quietly, “I don’t expect it to be hot in there, but be sure. Use ‘em to confirm our goal, and get in and out as fast as you can. Every second counts. Report in as often as you can. Good hunting.” With that, and a wave of her arm, she sent her men off on their mission, wondering how many would not return.
Felecia wished she could go along, but she knew that in some cases, a good commander gave the orders and got the hell out of the way. Her job was to guard the C-130, and stand by in case of trouble. That task entailed the thing she hated above all else: waiting.
Felecia descended the cargo ramp, flipped her night-vision goggles down into place, and scanned the terrain. To one of the two five-man teams who had been tasked to remain with her, she said, “Set up a perimeter to the north, about a quarter mile out. At the first sign of an Iranian force, sing out.” Without another word, Felecia clambered up the nearest earthen embankment and lay down prone in the dust of Iran, and focused on scanning the horizon, on the lookout for any sign of the Iranian response which she knew must come. It was, she was certain, a matter of when, not if.
The square earthen embankments caught her eye, and she recalled what she’d been told might be in them; chemical weapons and other munitions, in transit for the bunkers her men were currently attacking, or items it was deemed best to store in a place of unrestricted ventilation. Keying her radio, she ordered two of her men on the C-130 to head north and identify the contents of the westernmost row of square embankments, running north.
Sartip (Brigadier General) Qassem Jaffari-Reza was a singularly humorless man, and the events of the previous hour had only served to further sour his already acerbic demeanor. The pell-mell evacuation of the base he commanded had left him with an organizational nightmare: He’d drilled his men often for a chemical leak, but as he now realized he should have expected; reality bore little resemblance to the drills. Thousands of men had fled the assumed poison gas leak, himself amongst them, heading for the pre-designated rally point to the north that he’d designated for a leak during a westerly wind. Less than a third of his men had taken the time to grab weapons, radios, or other needed gear. The one bright spot was that one of his two chemical detector vans had, per his procedure, joined them. It was now his first line of defense against a shift in the wind, and his first order of business was to prepare the men to move out if that occurred.
Trying to mold chaos into order, he had called out for his senior officers, and though it had taken a while – too long, in his opinion – they were now making headway in organizing the men. The Sartip knew that keeping the men busy served to keep them calm, and it served his motto as well: be prepared. The Sartip glanced around, nodded once to himself as he judged the progress somewhat acceptable, and spared a moment to remove and clean his gold-rimmed glasses. As he wiped the lenses clean, he decided that getting a communications net up was now his most immediate concern and sent three men off as runners, seeking what communications gear they could find.
Jansen jogged through the resort grounds, sparing an automatic glance at the looming bulk of Cumbre Vieja. He couldn’t see it in the darkness, but for Jansen, as well as almost everyone else in the resort, looking in its direction had become second nature.
Strolling into the party pavilion, Jansen heard the familiar notes of Instinct’s ‘Believe’, and spotted Eric, practicing on the dance floor. Jansen had to admit it was a great spot; the party pavilion was private and they had it all to themselves.
Eric paused to grin at Jansen, “I figured this song would be perfect for the club opening, so I wanted to practice with it. Everything okay with you and Keith?”
A little rattled by Eric’s sudden shift to that particular subject, Jansen cocked his head shyly and said, “Yeah. Sorry about that. I’ll explain later, but everything’s fine now.”
The butterflies in Jansen’s stomach prevented him from saying more, so he tossed Eric the black shirt.
Jansen stood a few feet to the side as Eric ran through the routine three times, moving in better – though far from perfect – time with the music. As Eric completed the third set, Jansen grinned and clapped.
Eric angled his head looking sideways at Jansen. He had no doubts how Jansen felt about him, but warred within himself over taking a very big step, one that could change his life in unexpected ways, and also, if it didn’t work out, imperil a friendship that had became a major part of his life. Eric contemplated Jansen for a moment, and one thought fought its way to the surface, conquering the others, ‘I have to know….’
With his mind settling, Eric took a step closer to Jansen. “Why don’t you show me what it should look like. I could use the inspiration,” Eric said, adding a wink as he tossed Jansen the shirt.
Jansen tugged on the shirt, waited for the beat, and ran through the move with practiced ease, snatching the shirt off and tossing it in the air, his lithe muscles rippling.
Eric took a step closer before saying in a quiet voice, “You make it look so easy. The way you move, it’s… mesmerizing. You know just how to turn, just what the right angles are… and a perfect body and look.” Eric reached out, the corner of his mouth curling up into a faint smile, as his placed the palm of his hand on Jansen’s chest. Feeling the warm skin and the racing heart beneath, Eric repeated Jansen’s own words from before they’d been interrupted, “Does that bother you?”
The guardhouse’s main entry hall appeared deserted, but a clamor from a corridor to the left caught the General’s attention. Someone was yelling in Farsi, and aside from the angry tone, the General couldn’t understand a word.
“See any keys?” he whispered to his team, barely intelligible through the gas mask. Two of the team moved off, rifling through desk drawers. To the remaining men, the General whispered, “I doubt we’ll get that lucky, but it’s worth a shot. On me.” With that command, the General led the remaining three men down the corridor.
The first occupied cell they came to held an obviously frantic prisoner, who was still yelling in Farsi and clutching the bars of his cell’s door. General Bradson was about to pass by when a memory caused him to spin and face the prisoner, and he recognized a face he’d memorized from a file photo. The prisoner, seeing only the men in Iranian uniforms and gas masks, looked up with hate in his eyes. Leaning forward, General Bradson raised his gas mask to whisper, “Private Johnson, keep it quiet and we’ll have you out in a few.”
Shock, then hope born of realization, filled Private Johnson’s face, and he whispered back, “There’s another of us, two cells behind you. Got some spare gas masks?”
With a nod, the General unclipped a spare from under his coat, and handed it over, along with a folded Iranian uniform, “Put them on fast. The gas isn’t theirs, it’s ours, and it probably isn’t that dangerous, but cover up anyway.” The main reason for the masks was to conceal their faces, but the General was also well aware that both chlorine and chloramine could be deadly. He didn’t think the concentrations at this distance from the release point were dangerous, but saw no reason to take chances.
As Private Johnson began to change, the General spun around and raced back, to a cell he had thought was empty. Staring in, his heart in his throat, he saw his son, curled up in the shadows. Brian wasn’t looking at him, but instead was staring at his own feet. As loudly as he dared, not wanting the Iranian prisoner a few yards away to hear him speak in English, the General said, “Come on, we’re getting you out of here.”
Brian Bradson gazed out through the bars, still slightly delirious from sleep depravation. He blinked a few times and shook his head, not believing what he was seeing. “Dad, is that you? When did you join the Iranian Army?” he asked in a bemused, slightly slurred voice.
General Bradson could tell that his son was not thinking clearly, and guessed the cause. “Brian, focus. I’m here to get you out. We’re looking for the keys right now.” He tossed his son a uniform and gas mask, and reached into his pocket for a small shaped charge, in case the search for the keys was fruitless.
Brian pulled off his filthy shirt as he struggled to his feet. Fighting off the effects of sleep deprivation, he began to accept that what he was seeing was real. As fast as he could, he changed into the clean uniform, savoring the feel of clean cloth against his skin.
One of the two men who had been detailed to search for the keys returned, shrugging with open hands to indicate the failure of their search. General Bradson didn’t hesitate. “Blow the doors,” he said, as he affixed the shaped charge to the cell’s lock, and one of the mercenaries did the same to Private Johnson’s cell.
General didn’t pause. “Now,” he said as he lit the fuse and the mercenary followed suit. “Stay back,” he said, as he darted aside.
A muffled thump and a sharp explosive snap, followed a split second later by another, heralded the destruction of the locks.
General Bradson seized the cell door and pulled, jarring it free on the third attempt. Brian rushed out, a euphoric look on his face, and moved to his father. General Bradson swept his son up in his arms, appearing to all as a relieved father as he hugged his son.
Even the hardened mercenaries found the scene touching, and completely missed the sudden brief expression of stunned surprise that appeared on Brian’s face as his father began to tap his fingers on his son’s back, spelling out, in Morse code,
S - C - O - R – P – I – O – N
General Bradson felt Brian tense slightly, but only for a moment. A subtle nod of his son’s head let him know that the message had been received. The General was relieved; he hadn’t been sure that Brian would remember the old story of the scorpion and the frog.
General Bradson pulled away, straightening his arms, and placing a hand in each of his son’s shoulders. They locked eyes for a moment, and then the General gazed pointedly at the left breast pocket of Brian’s Iranian uniform.
As his father turned and gave the order to move out, Brian tried to make sense of the private message. His Morse, learned as a child, was rusty enough that he was less than certain he’d understood. It was the look in his father’s eyes that had spoken more clearly, and Brian became sure that the word his father had relayed was indeed ‘scorpion’.
As a child learning to read, Brian’s favorite story had been The Scorpion and The Frog. It had been in a book of fables, one of the last gifts from his mother before she died. He could still recall her reading it to him, her voice raspy and weak, during the final days of her life.
One day a scorpion arrived at the bank of a river he wished to cross, but there was no bridge. He asked a frog that was sitting nearby if he would take him across the river on his back. The frog refused and said, “I will not, because you will sting me.”
The scorpion replied, “It would be foolish for me to sting you because then we would both drown.”
The frog saw the logic in the scorpion's words, and agreed to carry the scorpion across, but when they were halfway across the river, the scorpion stung the frog. The stunned frog asked with his last breath, “Why did you sting me? Now we will both die!”
The scorpion replied, “Because it is my nature…"
Stunned by the sudden reality of what had once been but an idle dream, Jansen lost his studied composure. His breath ragged, Jansen edged closer to Eric, the blood racing through his ears, and to other places as well. Jansen paused for a moment, his excitement becoming obvious, and part of him hoped that Eric wouldn’t look down, while another part of him wished that he would. With desire, Jansen placed his hand on Eric’s bare shoulder, taking a moment to caress the warm skin and smooth muscle. Stilling his hand, locking eyes with Eric, Jansen said, “It’d bother me if you didn’t.”
Eric could feel the bond of emotion between them, and with a clarity denied to most, he knew the heart of another.
Jansen let his hand roam down Eric’s bare back, tracing his fingertips in lazy circles. Lost in the rush of the moment, he said in a whisper, “This is a surprise. I didn’t know you were into guys.”
Grinning, leaving his hand on Jansen’s chest and letting the other come to rest on the side of his torso, Eric edged closer as he murmured with a subtle grin, “I never said I was straight. I’m bi, I guess, just never been with a guy for more than a kiss.”
Old fears welled up inside Jansen, and seeking to quell them, he asked in a casual tone, “Are you sure about this? If you’ve never been with a guy before…” Jansen let his voice trail off and fought to keep the tension from showing on his face.
Eric felt Jansen tense, and on a deep level could feel that something was wrong, but not what. Pulling Jansen closer, Eric said, “I just want to try, with you.–“
Pulling himself free of Eric and stumbling back, Jansen let fly a rage he’d long suppressed as he yelled, “You just want to try with me?”
Storming from the dance floor, heading for the exit, Jansen left a stunned Eric is his wake as he yelled, “I’ve got a suggestion for you to try, Eric – go fuck yourself!”
Author's note: The Iranian
base described above is real. So are the
To see it in Google Maps, just click here.
© 2009 C James
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.
"The Scorpion and the Frog", seen above, is not my own work. I merely reworded it slightly. It is believed to be one of Aesop's fables, though its provenance has not been confirmed.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.