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50 Foot Ant's Second Story

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Original story:
All credit goes to 50 Foot Ant of Something Awful.

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Chapter 1

2/19th Special Weapons Group
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Late Fall/ Early Winter - 1989

I leaned against the tank and lit a cigarette, my eardrums aching from the blasts of the 120mm cannons. The tank rocked backwards against my back, but I ignored it. We weren't supposed to be on the firing line, but that was commonly ignored because the C-DAT's made us carry the rounds ourselves, and if they were going to make us carry the rounds then we did it our way. It'd worked well for nearly a month, why change anything?

The 168th Armor commander was a cool dude toward us, even if his men thought he was total cock wrapped in an complete asshole. He let us have our own GP Small tent, let us set our own hours, and pretty much left us alone unless his tanks needed ammo, or he needed us to go out and get him something that we could get him and didn't really want it to be tied to him. We had our own vehicle, CUC-V 15, the Gypsy Wagon, but he gave us fuel coupons, and we went and "acquired" things like candy, porn mags, booze, real food, whatever he wanted.

We didn't ask questions why someone wanted something.

Nancy went by, carrying a box of 120mm APDSFSDU-T in her arms, glaring at me as she went by, but I just smiled at her, and blew smoke at her.

"I oughta set this down and kick your ass." She snarled, but kept walking.

The tanks all fired three rounds, then silence settled down on the range. Normally range control would be yelling to the training NCO's who would be yelling to the various people who needed to know the information. The C-DATs used their onboard radios to talk back and forth, which made the range have an odd silence even with the roar of the turbo diesels from all the tanks.

"Hey, Corporal Ant!" Came from above me. 1LT Victors, a tank commander in however the fucking C-DATs did their rank structure. I'd had it explained to me like a dozen times, but I'd probably know how it worked if I'd cared enough to pay attention.

"More ammo, coming up." I called out, pushing off the tank and heading toward the area where we'd stacked the rounds.

"And put out that cigarette on the range!" He yelled.

"Then get out of your fucking tank and get your fucking ammo yourself!" I tossed over my shoulder. He yelled something back, but I didn't catch it and didn't much care. The BCO had made it pretty obvious that as long as we didn't piss him off, nobody else could touch us, which pissed off some of the more strak officers.

When I walked over the ammo stack, the reason why we did what we want was obvious. Boxes of 120mm APDSFSDU-T were stacked neatly on the pallets, over two dozen pallets were left, each pallet with 40 boxes, each box containing two foil wrapped 120mm armor piercing discarding sabot fin stabilized depleted uranium tracer rounds.

168th had been out of training funds, had just enough to get to the range and use training submunition shot, which no tanker liked to use. He'd told us, privately, that he had a lot of new men that had never handled the hot rounds, and I'd told him that maybe something could be done about that, as long as he'd understand my crew was a bit "eccentric".

So instead of five hundred practice rounds, I'd hauled over 500 war shots, 750 submunitions, and over 15,000 rounds of .50 cal API-T rounds that had been marked condition code H down to him instead of it being shipped back to the States for use, and gotten it for him without him blowing through the rest of the training budget with some creative fast talking to a few people.

Which meant, to the BCO, that I could dance naked on top of the tank with a whiskey bottle in one hand and a naked Nagle in the other, covered in paint and chem light, with a fire built on the back deck of the tank, and he'd bang the drum.

I grabbed two boxes and hefted them, waddling over to the tank. The rounds were heavy as hell on their own, in the box, in the foil, with two of them, they weighed a goddamn ton, but I was used to the weight.

It beat when we were out with 2/27 Field Artillery and had to hand pack FASCAM rounds for the lazy fucks. 200+ pound rounds, and they just stood and watched us hand-hump the fucking things while they kicked back between each firing set.

Only thing lazier than an artilleryman was an officer's driver.

I dropped the boxes, then heaved them one at a time on the side of the tank, scrabbled up onto it, and used my knife to pop the metal bands on the wooden box. I ripped open the foil, pulled out a round, and handed it up to the PFC who was staring at me.

"Don't chew on them or stick them in any orifices." I warned him. He gave me a nasty look and passed it down. Considering he was in shirt sleeves and I could see the heat billowing out of his little mobile fox-hole, his opinion of me didn't matter for shit. I handed off the other three, then jumped down and collected the boxes, heading back to the little ATP we'd built. He yelled something, but I ignored it. It was probably gibberish anyway, it seemed like most tankers could barely speak any recognized language.

Only thing dumber than a tanker was a finance clerk.

Nagle thumped her shoulder into mine when she caught up with me. Her auburn hair was sweat matted, and she snagged my cigarette and took a couple of drags before handing it back as we walked into the ATP. Now, by regulation, you shouldn't smoke in an ammunition transfer point. You could catch the ammo on fire, or if my instructors at AIT were to believed, you'd spontaneously combust and explode with the force of a thousand suns and kill a bunch of Dutch orphans. Oh, wait, the Dutch orphans were what Blackhawks crashed on, my bad. But the chances of a cigarette butt causing fucking depleted uranium on fire was right up there with Nagle suddenly becoming a virgin.

It ain't happening.

It isn't to say she was loose, or a slut, she just liked fucking. It was an open secret in the unit that she was as bisexual as she was predatory, and would chew up someone of either sex and spit them out. As pleasantly as possible of course. A lot of people cut her slack about it. She worked hard, she never complained more than a soldier was expected to, never rode the cotton pony to get out of work, everything a female in the Army should be. A soldier.

Bomber was talking to the 168th BCO, and I could tell by how thick his accent was that he was upset, and when they saw me, they both waved me over.

"Tell him, Ant." Bomber said.

"Uhhh, tell him what?" I asked.

"To tell our new CO that he needs us down here, that we can't be sent back to the unit." Bomber told me, and I knew I'd just gone pale.

Oh fuck. A new commanding officer. That was, what, the third in six months? I just knew he was going to be as stupid and as "We did things this way in my old unit, and since we jammed oranges into our assholes before PT there, why, we should do it here!" as only a new CO for our unit could be.

Not to mention he'd be mad as fuck to be sent out to our own special hell.

We'd been without a CO since the CO had backed his car over half of 1st Platoon, backwards down the hill, crashed into a tree, then fought with the arresting MP's after giving us a "don't drink and drive" speech. He'd blown a .25 at the MP station.

The next guy who'd been grabbed to be our CO had resigned his commission in Frankfurt rather than be sent up to us.

The guy after that had gone AWOL.

The guy after that had been arrested for physically assaulting the 21st Replacement officer who assigned him to our unit. According to the rumor mill he'd rather do time being pounded in the ass at Leavenworth than be our CO.

The guy after that had shown up, taken one look at the company records, and drove off screaming profanity at us. He'd stolen CUC-V 9 and left it in the parking lot of Frankfurt airport.

Gee, you'd think people didn't wanna hang with us.

Every time, the new CO pulled us out of the field, had our rooms inspected, brought some of us (Like my brother and his knuckle dragging thugs, SGT Nalls and his crew, and of course, me, Bomber, and Nagle) and told us that things would be different now that they were in charge, inspected the equipment, changed all kinds of shit around to make it "more efficient", then usually flamed out spectacularly.

And then things went back to normal the way we'd done things since the unit had been reactivated.

My favorite CO had been screaming at my brother after calling both of us in to figure out which one had done it, in front of another unit's CO, when he suddenly got a bloody nose, began barking at us, bit my brother on the leg, and was hauled off barking and howling.

Oh, yeah, and he'd peed on Daffs. Jumped right up on her desk, yanked out his cock, and peed all over her, barking at her the whole time.

Oh, yeah, and humped the file cabinet.

"Sir, someone has to supervise the handling of the ammunition." I told him.

"Someone from 144th Ordnance is on the way." He told me, and shook his head. "Sorry, gentlemen... ummm... and lady, but you've got to return to your unit immediately."

Aw, fuck. Not those assholes. Every. Goddamn. Time. I could have sworn that they had a squad on standby, just hanging out in the dayroom smoking cigarettes and pumping iron, just drooling over the chance to fuck up my plans.

"Goddamn it." Nagle swore, pulling off her helmet and throwing it across the ATP so that it bounced it off a stack of empty boxes. Bomber was already in the GP Small, and I could hear him breaking down the cots.

"Hope that this doesn't harm our working relationship." The Colonel told me. I grinned at him and told him that it didn't, that it had been a pleasure working with him. "Good, good, men who understand how this man's army works are hard to come by."

He bid the three of us goodbye and left. I went over and got 5-Ton 35, affectionately nicknamed "Growler" because of a bad tranny gear that made the lower gears sound like a large beast growling. It just made noise, so the mechanics didn't bother replacing it. Not when there was 5-Ton 29, which had a tranny that burst into flame every time you threw it in reverse. Or 5-Ton 16, which the mechanic had gotten into, hit the starter button, and the engine promptly blew up with enough force that the hood had gone through the roof of the motorpool bay and the grill through the wall. Or Deuce-16 which every time it went faster than 10 miles an hour the bed fell off. Or... well, you get the point.

Yeah, 2/19th sucked. Every goddamn thing about 2/19th sucked.

Bomber was working hard, something that he was good at. A Texan boy, born and raised on leather and barbed wire. Honest where it counted, a good drinking buddy, and a man to have your back in fight. I'd once seen him ride and then fuck a bigfoot. When you share that with a person, you kind of become friends. He was as crazy as me, but was my right hand man.

Working fast and hard, it took us about an hour to break down our little camp. To pull down and repack the camo net, take out the tent liner and then fold up the tent and the liner, to start throwing all our gear into Growler. Some of the tankers helped us out and we tossed them the pogey bait we still had and the stack of German hardcore porno mags, along with the two cases of beer we had left.

I fired up Growler, Bomber and Nagle jumped into the Gypsy Wagon since it didn't smell like Satan's asshole after a night of bad Taco Bell when it started moving, and away we went.

Three fucking hours back to post.

And of course every goddamn Indy-500 driver in all of space time was on Autobahn 5 and wanted to roar around me shaking their fists and jabbering German at me. Or maybe they were trying to tell me that the vehicle was on fire, or that William Shatner was fighting a gremlin in the back, how the fuck would I know? I was doing 70 MPH in a truck built by Mattel and GMC in 1952, they should have been glad I didn't explode into shards of burning metal as soon as I hit 44 MPH. About the only thing you'd see from the Growler when it hit 88 MPH (downhill with a tailwind) was smoke pouring from underneath and then me by the side of the road with a fire extinguisher. Again.

No matter how much I tried, I couldn't understand German anymore. It all sounded like garbled chattering to me, teasingly familiar but just out of reach. Which really pissed me off, since I'd been working fluent in it the year before. Being around people speaking German for too long, without having anyone speaking English at all, had a tendency to give me a migraine that would make me go blind if it went on for too long. I could read some words, but other words swam and looked like they were made up of alien characters.

Some asshole in a little car cut me off, blaring his horn, but I didn't care, it was the exit anyway. Nagle and Bomber passed me, pointing and laughing, but I knew that they weren't getting the last laugh.

About an hour later we were at the gate of the closed post, with Bomber and Nagle sitting on the bed of the Gypsy Wagon smoking cigarettes. And glaring at me.

The gate guards checked my dispatch, my ID card, then waved me through.

I went about 100 yards then stopped the truck, getting out of it and walking back.

And handed the guards the Gypsy Wagon's dispatch.

"Eat it, Ant." Nagle snarled.

"How about after dinner at the NCO Club?" I shot back. She blushed, Bomber laughed, she punched him in the chest, the gate guards looked at us like we were crazy, we ignored them.

The top of the mountain was hidden, roiling black clouds concealing the snowpack at the top. There was a weird fuzzy look to it all, and I cleaned my glasses to make sure it wasn't my eyes.

"Hey, guys, how's the weather on post?" I asked. Nagle and Bomber were getting in the truck behind me.

"Upper helipad is shut down, it's snowing up there." The NCO said.

I looked up at the mountain again, at the clouds that I knew would be completely covering the top of it, hiding the year round snowpack, and what lay on the other side of the mountain, in an area marked as restricted and off limits on all the maps. We had to return to the unit, for God knew how long, while some new poor sucker figured out how the unit worked and made our lives a living hell till he got with the program.

A place where the winter before we'd lost 38 personnel due to "Death by Misadventure" and other fun causes. A place that was cut off for days or weeks at a time by the snow when it started to fall.

Where it was snowing.


I drug my field jacket and the liner out of my rucksack, threw on my cold weather cap and gloves, then climbed back into my Korean War veteran mechanical mule and fired it back up.

I ran in granny low the whole way up the back hill, the stink of Satan's scorched asshole filling the cab as the tranny roared like a T-Rex who'd just gotten slammed in the ass while it was sleeping. I knew better than let the automatic transmission try to do it itself, the Growler would shift up to third gear and the engine would scream like an orgasming banshee while I rolled backwards down the hill and the tranny went "hurrrr".

Deadman's corner had snow blowing, but there was a rescue crew from main post. An M-113 was overturned, and they were loading body bags into the ambulance. They'd have to change the sign again. During the summer, during REFORGER 88, some asshole had taken the corner with a load of troops in the back of a 5-ton and rolled it, killing like 30 poor bastards. The funny part? An ambulance crew from a unit that was from Stateside taking part in REFORGER took the corner too fast, rolled the ambulance, and died when the ambulance exploded. Well, it seemed funny when I heard it. Maybe you just had to be there.

We stopped at the wire, and I unlocked the gate, walking over and taking a leak on the pole that held up the sign "RESTRICTED AREA" and all that good shit. I hated the goddamn place, which is one of the reasons I lived out of my rucksack and duffle bags. Sure, I had some sweet shit in my barracks room, but my room mates and my brother and his knuckle-draggers got more use out of my shit than I did.

After about an hour Bomber and Nagle caught up while I sat in the cab of Growler and smoked a cigarette. Both of them were smoking, and Nagle was drinking a beer. Assholes had gone onto main post and grabbed beer, booze, and probably some yummy goodies to munch on. They both gave me the finger as they went by, so I dragged the gate shut and fired up Growler again.

Hopefully my brother hadn't grabbed the car and left post already. If he hadn't, I wouldn't ask the platoon sergeant or my section leader for shit, I'd jump in the car and be fucking gone till Monday without saying a word to anyone aside from signing the CQ log and turning in my sensitive items and weapons. I didn't want to spend the night in the barracks any more than I wanted to have my balls replaced by rabid howler monkeys.

The snow was crackling as I drove through it, heading steady up in elevation, bouncing off the windshield, more ice crystals than real snow, with visibility dropping to about 50 feet.

I took a left at the little branch and hit the gas to surge up the heavy duty incline to the motorpool, and saw Nagle outside the vehicle arguing with some peach fuzz faced guy and an ugly chick, neither of which I'd ever seen before. Everyone broke off arguing and stared at me as I brushed the fence with the side of the vehicle, left it idling, and climbed out the passenger door.

And promptly fell on my ass.

Bomber, of course, laughed at me.

Walking over, dispatch in hand, I saw that ugly girl and the Beav were looking at Nagle's dispatch like she was trying to teach them hyperspace physics, and sighed to myself.

"Problem?" I asked, stopping next to Nagle.

"This is a restricted area, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to take your vehicles and leave or we'll have to call the MP's." the kid told me.


"No shit it's a restricted area, genius, unlock the fucking gate so I can get the fuck out of here before the abominable snowman rapes me or something." I growled at him. "I need to turn in my vehicle and get back to the company."

"Sir, I repeat, you must leave this area." The girl said.

"Look, I'll say this once. I'm this god forsaken unit, I'm tired, I have to turn in my weapon, and I want to get drunk. Unlock the fucking gate, let me return my fucking vehicle, and get out of my way." I told her.

"Sir, I know virtually everyone in the unit, and I can safely say I've never seen you before." She sneered. "And since this bitch here..." She nodded at Nagle, who got that 'it's killing time!' look of hers "Claims you're in my platoon, I can safely say that you need to return to your vehicles, and leave this restricted area, or we will detain you until the MP's arrive."

"Who the fuck are you?" I asked. "Get the Sergeant of the Guard out here right fucking now."

"Sir, we must insist you take your vehicles and return the way you came or we will use for to detain you, this is your last warning." Ugly Girl told me, and began bringing around her weapon.

One thing about 2/19th, is that weapons on guard duty and on CQ were not just for show. Every soldier on guard duty and on CQ carried a basic combat load. Back in the day, that meant six 30-round magazines, bayonet, four grenades, and at least 1 flare. If you carried a pistol, you carried four magazines. We never got the M-9 9mm PoS, so it was all .45's. You were only required to give 2 warnings, a warning shot, another warning, and then lethal force. We were literally taught to do this: "HALT! HALT HALT!" all as fast as we could if we were in danger. Sergeants of the Guard were told it was better to error on the side of caution.

Which excuses what Nagle and I did next.

Peach Fuzz was dropping his weapon off his shoulder, and Ugly Girl had dropped the Gypsy Wagon's dispatch on the ground and was bringing her weapon up. Both weapons had magazines in the wells.

Nagle kneed Peach Fuzz in the nuts and picked his rifle up off the ground.

I punched Ugly Girl in the face and snatched her weapon out of her hands, turning it around and pressing the muzzle in her throat.

"Are you fucking retarded?" I snarled, shoving hard enough she gagged. She went to grab the upper receiver and I leaned harder. "Who's the goddamn motorpool Sergeant of the Guard?"

"Fuck you..." She gasped, her lip starting to bleed.

"Wrong answer..." I glanced at her collar on her field jacket and her hat then her nametag. "PFC Oakes." I yelled without turning around. "BOMBER!"

"Dude, what?" He asked, stepping up next to me. "You don't need to yell."

"Take the fucking rifle." I told him, and he reached out and pulled it out of my hands, grinning at Ugly Girl.

"Don't fuck with my boy." He said, then twitched the rifle. "Hands behind your head." She glared as she did so, and I reached down and scooped her radio off her belt, keying it. Nagle looked down at Peach Fuzz and then kicked him in the stomach before looking at me like she was innocent.

"Looks like the Private fell down and hurt himself." She told me.

"Yup, I saw it, he slipped on the ice." Bomber answered, and then winked at Ugly Girl. Fucking Bomber, holding an assault rifle in a woman's face and still all Texas suave. "Break net. This is Corporal Ant, need Sergeant of the Guard at motorpool main gate, over." I said, keying the radio.

"Get up, face the fence, dumbass." Nagle ordered, prodding the kid. He groaned and followed instructions.

"Don't worry, PFC Oakes, I'm sure that Sergeant Roberts will forgive you." I said, squinting into the snow. It looked like someone was on their way.

"Who?" She asked, glancing at me real quick.

"Sergeant Roberts." She still looked at me blankly. "Sergeant First Class Roberts, Third Platoon Platoon Sergeant?" Still stared at me. "What about Lieutenant Turner?"

"I don't know either of those people, and I've been in Third Platoon for almost nine months." She told me, glaring.

"Really?" I asked. She nodded. "Both of them are gone? Wow." I looked at Bomber. "Wonder why they got put out?"

"Probably gay lovers." Bomber laughed.

Someone was coming out of the snow, limping on crutches.

"Probably refused to reup when they were told they mission essential." Nagle snarled. She was still carrying a grudge over being told she couldn't PCS as part of reenlisting. They'd forced her to request a Permanent Duty Station or be Article 15'd. They didn't say what for, but Nagle wasn't exactly a good girl.

"Who's in charge of first squad?" I asked her.

"The arrogant asshole you're pretending to be." Ugly Girl told me.

"Well, at least that asshole's still here." Bomber laughed. "She's probably mad because he fucked her."

"Fuck you!" She yelled.

I didn't recognize the guy who was walking up to the gate on crutches, but still waited, Bomber holding the rifle on Ugly Girl, and Nagle pushing the rifle into the back of Peach Fuzz's neck. I bent down and picked up the Gypsy Wagon's dispatch and put it in the same hand as mine.

"What the fuck is going on here?" The guys asked. A Staff Sergeant, by the name of Kellman according to his nametags.

"Your gate guards are retards." Nagle snarled.

"We're robbing them." Bomber added.

"Shut up, both of you." I tossed off, then looked at him. "We tried to tell your little Privates that we're in this unit, and they drew down on us."

"Who the fuck are you?" He asked me. Oh, great, more Who's on First? bullshit.

"Corporal Ant, Fifth Squad 3rd Platoon." I told him.

"Since I'm the Section Sergeant for that squad, I doubt that." He told me.

"Just look at my dispatch." I said, pushing them through the gap in the gate. He looked doubtful but picked it up and opened them.

"You checked these vehicles out in March?" He asked, looking through the pages. "You've put over 10,000 miles on them?"

"Yes, Sergeant." I told him.

"What about maintenance." He asked.

"Host unit handled it. Paperwork is in the dispatch." I told him. "So, can we put these two pieces of shit up and go back to the barracks?"

"Gonna let go of my privates?" He asked. Nagle and Bomber snickered and I glared.

"Lettum go." I said. "And give them back their weapons."

They handed back the weapons while the SoG opened the gates. We got back in the vehicles, and pulled them in. I drove over to the line of 5-ton trucks, watching the bumper numbers, looking for the gap where The Growler went and stopped.

5-Ton 34... 5-Ton 35... 5-Ton 36...

Wait... what?"

Sitting there, looking all spiffy, was a 5-Ton truck. With the same bumper number. Nice of those assholes to tell me they were going to replace my Korean War piece of shit with one made sometime in the last 20 years.

I just pulled it to the end of the line, parked it, turned it off, chained the steering wheel, threw down the chock blocks and oil pan, then ran a half-assed PCMS before heading in with my shit.

I was fucking freezing.

Bomber and Nagle were standing outside the guy's office waiting on me. I turned in the dispatch, and we headed back out.

On the way out the gate, Nagle grabbed Ugly Girl by the front of the field jacket and yanked her forward and up so they were nose to nose.

"You ever call me a bitch again, you ugly little shit, and I'll break my foot off in your ass, got me?" She snarled. The cold had paled her skin, but her fury made the long thin scar down the side of her face turn purple. Ugly Girl nodded, and I just smiled at Private Peach Fuzz. "You see me in the hallway, you turn around or get against the wall, you understand?" Ugly Girl nodded again. "You don't even speak to me unless you have to, and you don't even mention my name to anyone, got it?" The girl nodded, and Nagle threw her hard against the fence.

"And if you ever try to point a weapon at any of us, I'll shove it up your ass." She tossed over her shoulder. On the way down the footpath to the barracks she snarled "I hate Privates."

I chuckled, keeping an eye on the yellow painted railing that was on the side of the path. That was new, and a good idea. Till the snow got too high, you wouldn't get lost on the way to the motorpool.

We walked down to the company, the big building looming out of the snow, and I shivered. The repairs from last winter were finished, but then we'd been gone since March, so even the Army was able to get shit done at that speed. The white picket fence was back, and cars were back across the street where people should know better to park during the winter.

I grinned, remembering the day a Private got in a 6K rough terrain forklift, and accidentally backed it through the fence and down onto the cars below, totaling 2nd Platoon's Platoon Leader's brand new car. In my defense, I thought it was funny since he'd been bragging that it would take us enlisted ten years to save that kind of money.

Karma was alive and well in 2/19th.

The middle stairwell door was open a crack when Bomber checked it, so we headed to our rooms by unspoken agreement. Nagle kept going toward Titty Territory, Bomber and I headed up the stairs to the second floor.

My room, good ol' Room 255, had music coming from it. Fucking figures, my room mates were in and using my stereo, or my asshole brother was in there and had probably drank all my booze. Bomber waved, kept going toward 279, while I stopped at my room, dug out my key, and unlocked the door.

When the door swung open, I saw 3 guys sitting in chairs, listening to a little boom box, and drinking beer.

Great, new room mates.

I drug my two duffel bags behind me into the room and stopped in front of my locker. The three guys were staring at me while I grabbed the standard US Army brass lock and stuck the key in.

It didn't work.

"Hey! What the fuck are you doing?" One of them said, jumping up from his chair.

"Putting my fucking gear away, why?" I asked, turning around and dropping my ruck and rifle on the floor.

"Wrong room, asshole." Another said, standing up.

"Room 255, right?" I asked.

"Yeah, so?" The first one said. All three of them were in civilian clothing.

"My room, you little dickweed." I snarled. "Who the fuck took my lockers?"

"I don't know who the fuck you are, but get the fuck out!" The leader told me, stepping forward.

"Make me, you little shit." I answered. I was sick and tired of the bullshit. I didn't want to come back to the unit anyway, and now someone so fucking new he squeaked was giving me a rash of shit?

He walked up, went to push me, and I punched him in the throat, throwing a right into his gut then smashing a knee into his face when he doubled over.

"How about you two little assholes?" I asked, staring at the other two. "Get the fuck out of my room. Go sleep in the dayroom." I grabbed Bleedy McBigMouth and slung him out in the hallway, bouncing him headfirst off the door across from me. Simon's door.

"Fuck you, this is our room." One of them said.

"Fine, we do this the hard way." I told them, walking forward. Both of them held up their hands and went past me.

"We'll be back with the CQ, you asshole." One told me.

I kicked the door shut behind them, grabbed my shit, and went into the room.

Nothing of mine was on the walls. My posters were gone, my awards were gone, everything was gone. Even the Amiga 500 I'd bought to replace my busted one and my IBM were missing.

Hearing a racket in the hallway I grabbed my rifle on the way by and went out the door. At the end of the hallway Bomber was fighting with three guys, two of them holding them and one beating them.

"HEY!" I yelled, running down the hallway, "Get the fuck off him."

One of them turned and looked at me. "Beat it, asshole, this doesn't concern you." He looked back at his buddy.

So I clocked him in the kidney and kicked the legs out from under his buddy.

Bomber and I finished with the three guys who had beating on him, Bomber dragging one of them to the end stairwell and throwing him bodily down the stairs before stomping back.

"What the fuck was that about?" I asked, looking at the two moaning guys at our feet.

"Beats the shit out of me. They started yelling at me to get out then drug me out in the hall and started kicking my ass!" Bomber yelled.

"Fuck this, grab your gear, let's go down to the CQ Area." I told him. "I think they changed our rooms."

"Nice of them to fucking say something." Bomber bitched, running in to grab his rifle. He paused to kick one of the guys. "You better hope that they changed my room, you little cocksucker. I'm gonna remember you."

"Cool it." I told him. We went down to my room and grabbed my gear. Down the hallway when we reached the double doors we saw the three guys I'd thrown out of my room coming back with like 10 guys, so we took a quick right then took the stairs to the first floor and cut through Titty Territory in time to see Nagle slam the door behind her.

"They moved our rooms, Ant!" She yelled. She looked pissed.

"Yeah, me and Bomber figured that out." I said.

"Judging from your eye, Ant, looks like you solved it like boys." She snarled. "Let's go get the CQ and turn in our weapons."

In the CQ Area was a four man crew that was sitting there reading books. When I walked up everyone turned and stared at us.

"What are you doing in these barracks?" The CQ asked.

"We live here." Bomber said.

"We're part of the unit." Nancy offered.

The CQ stared at my nametag for a long time, then looked up at me. "I know Sergeant Monkey, buddy, and you ain't him."

"That's my brother." I told him, Nagled laughed.

He looked doubtful.

"Look, man, just get the armorer so we can turn in our shit, sign in, find out where they moved our shit and get some sleep." I said.

"Run up and get the armorer." The CQ said.

"He's in the dayroom watching TV." The PV2 said, heading toward the dayroom.

What the hell was Clance doing in the Dayroom? That motherfucker had a palace for a room and lived like a king.

The guy that came out of the dayroom was someone I'd never seen before.

"Who the fuck are you?" He asked. Man, I was getting tired of this shit.

"Corporal Ant, Specialist Bomber, Specialist Nagle, 5th squad, 3rd Platoon, 2/19th Special Weapons Group." I answered. "We need to turn in our weapons and NVG's."

"And gas masks." He added.

"Nope, I work at a live point." I told him.


"My ammunition site has chemical weapons on it. My mask stays with me." I told him, patting it.

"We'll see about that." He answered, but led us downstairs to the armory anyway. We all cleared our weapons walking down the stairs, and I checked my 203 to make sure I didn't have anything alive in it. Like a big hairy spider like last time. A big hairy jumping spider. A big hairy biting jumper spider. That liked officers.

He unlocked the cell door, unlocked the main door, then slammed the cell door behind him, closing the lower half of the main door, then stared at us.

"Well?" He asked.

I handed him the magazines first, and then handed him my weapon. He turned to the racks, stood there for a second, and came back.

"This isn't ours." He told me.

"What?" I stared at him for minute. "Yes it is. Number 171, see, right there!"

He pointed at the weapon rack. "Number 171, right there!"

I turned and looked at Nagle, who just shrugged and handed her weapon.

Same thing.

Bomber leaned forward. "Say, pardner, mind checking to see if number 172 is there?"

The guy checked, then came back. "Yes it is." He thought for a moment. "Let me check your weapons against the serial numbers, see if anything comes up. I've only been the armorer about a month." He smiled at us as we handed over our weapons and he took them over to his desk, taking a few minutes to situate himself.

"What the hell?" Nancy asked.

"Dunno. Maybe they lost us?" Bomber suggested.

We stood there, lighting up cigarettes and eventually sitting down.

"How's it going?" I called out.

"I've got 500 serial numbers to check, Corporal." he told me, "Just be patient."

"Hey, what about our pistols?" Bomber suggested.

"I'll check them, let me see them." The armorer said. I handed my pistol to Nagle, who took Bombers, and handed them over. He checked for a moment, then said: "Nope they're already turned in."

"Fine." I grumbled, lighting about the third cigarette.

After a few more moments I heard a boot squeak out in the hallway and turned to look.

Something popped into the room, skittering across the floor, and my brain registered it before I even knew what it was consciously.

"GRENADE!" all three of us yelled at once, throwing ourselves away from it.

It went off and the world vanished in a white flash and a high pitched ringing noise.

I was thrown out on the ground, face first on the floor, my glasses coming off, and a rifle was jammed in my ear. Before I could even figure out what was happening, my arms were wrenched behind my back and cuffed. Hands patted me down and I felt my extra magazines pulled from my pockets, my two knives removed, and the grenades we hadn't handed back plucked from my ammo pouches. Someone dragged me up by my collar, forcing me on my knees.

My vision came back with purple splotches, everything blurry.

A half dozen Rangers stood in front of us.

All of them pointing their weapons at us.

"Now, just who the fuck are you?" A lieutenant I'd never seen before asked me, folding his arms and looking down at us.

"Oh, shit." Bomber breathed.

Edit: Fuck, it's snowing. Hard. Visibility of maybe 100 feet. There's only 5 of us left. THIS IS WHY I DON'T TALK ABOUT IT!

Chapter 2

"Corporal Ant, 5th squad, 3rd platoon, 2/19th Special Weapons Group." I answered, looking at.

"Mister, I'm the platoon leader for that platoon, and I've never seen you before in my life." He told me. One of the Rangers handed him my wallet and he opened it, then pulled out my ID cards. "Geneva Convention ID, Military ID, Washington State Driver's License, German Driver's License, meal card, key cards for FSTS 317, call sign card." He handed them to the Ranger and looked at me.

"Only one problem, whoever you are." He told me.

"You're an asshole?" Bomber suggested. There was a smack and Bomber groaned.

"We just had a company inspection for the new company commander, and I don't recall there being two Monkeys in this unit." He told me. "We had 100% accountability, and I would have remembered someone like you, and would have remembered if there were two trouble makers with the same last name."

"That's my brother. Get him, he can verify me." I said.

"Hey, what about me?" Nagle asked.

"I think I'd remember someone like you too." He sneered.

"Yeah, she's got nice tits, don't she." Bomber helped. Another smack. The LT looked like he had to pee.

"SGT Monkey is currently deployed, as you would know if you were indeed his brother." The LT said.

"What do you want done with them, sir?" One of the Rangers asked.

"Personally, I say throw them out in the snow without any gear." The officer smiled nastily. "However, the CO is on his way up, along with the Sergeant Major and the XO."

I named all three and he shook his head. "Sorry, but it looks like your information is out of date. None of those men have been here in at least six months."

"Who sent you?" The LT asked.

"V Corps told 168th Armor that we were supposed to come back." I said. "We loaded up our gear and headed back, dropped off our vehicles at the motorpool and came back to the barracks."

"We heard about that stunt." The LT sneered. "You assaulted the two gate guards, lied about your vehicles, which the Sergeant of the Guard discovered when he went to put the dispatches back and found that those vehicles had not left the motorpool. You returned here, broke in to three rooms, assaulted several soldiers in this unit, then tried to pass off fake weapons to the armorer, who realized what you had done and stalled you after hitting his panic button." He smiled like he was Sherlock fucking Holmes and had just caught Moriarty with a Tijuana hooker, a donkey, and two midgets.

"The vehicles and weapons aren't fake. We drew them when we left in March." Bomber shot. "For fuck's sake, you've been bouncing us from field exercise to field exercise."

"What do you mean, fakes? Did we just hand them drawings or something?" Nagle asked.

"I'm in this goddamn unit! Check the fucking records! I'm in charge of FSTS 317, for God's sake." I told him.

"Wrong. FSTS 317 was shut down in April of this year." He told me.

"Bullshit. We were out there less than a week ago to do inventory." I told him. "For a place that's shut down there's a fuckton of ammunition there."

"Hey, can I have a cigarette?" Bomber asked. Someone smacked him again.

"I assure you, according to company records, that place was shut down long before I got here." He sneered.

"Well your company records are full of shit. I've got the keys to the whole goddamn place in my rucksack, the keycards to it, and less than a week ago we inventoried about 10,000 fucking 8" VX rounds." I told him, my voice raising as I went on. "Your records are fucking WRONG! Call V Corps, ask them! WE JUST FUCKING INVENTORIED IT!"

That got me a smack on the back of my head and I groaned. That shit hurt. My skull was a hell of lot better than it had been a year before, but it was still a little sensitive when someone hit me in the back of my head.

They made us wait until the CO, XO, and CSM came in. The LT showed them our ID cards, showed them the stuff they'd pulled out of our gear, including my keybox, and my inventory sheets.

The CSM left, and came back about five minutes later with the unit group photo from REFORGER the year before and looked at it really close and then checked the paper behind it. Then showed the CO and the XO, then they came over to me and looked down at me.

"Son, when was the last time you were back in garrison?" The Colonel asked me.


"You know it's October, right?"

"Yes, sir."

"And you've been supporting other units this entire time? On who's authorization?" He asked.

"Brigade. We couldn't get a hold of the unit, so we were contacting Brigade." I told him. "They'd tell us where to go next and who to work for."

"Uncuff them." The Colonel said, and waited for as we stood up, massaging our wrists.

"I'm going to remember you." Bomber threatened one of the Rangers. The guy curled his lip and Bomber smiled.

"Cool it." I warned, then followed the Colonel into his office. He was pulling out files out of the desk drawer.

We sat there for over two hours, the Rangers left, Bomber threatened the guy that kept smacking him again, and Nagle went to sleep.

Our weapon serial numbers weren't on the lists, but they were listed in older files as "destroyed", same with the rest of our stuff. The vehicles were marked down as "wrecked" and "depot", and our names had been erased out of the company's records. Our weapons, gear, and vehicles all had the same "Destroyed" date, and there was an accident report in the files that we'd been killed in on Dead Man's Curve. In April.

A quick call to Brigade, and they confirmed we did exist, and they'd been hearing from us regularly. The description of Nagle as a "large breasted woman with brown hair, a scar on her face, and a nasty attitude." cinched it.

They called in Second Platoon's platoon Sergeant, who came in, looked at us, confirmed we were who we said they were, and told us: "I thought you guys were dead."

The story around the unit was we'd been killed back in April. They even sent our shit home.

As near as we figured out, between one CO and the next, someone panicked when they couldn't find us, couldn't find ANY of the shit for the site, couldn't find our gear, so they did some creative paperwork to keep the new CO from climbing up everyone's asses.

And then forgot about us.

Even my brother thought I'd been killed.

But still, some nights, when the wind and the snow howled, we had to wonder...

Were we in the right place? They had us listed as dead. Some people claimed to have seen the wreckage of the vehicles get towed back to post. Our shit had been shipped back to the States.

Did we take a wrong turn?

Every time something strange happened, they all looked at Nagle, Bomber, and me. Our Platoon Sergeant told us that if he could authorize a co-ed room, he'd put the three of us in the same room because we "creeped everyone else out" and he didn't trust us.

It made the whole winter surreal.

One month later

Chapter 3

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: One

Rear Detachment was drawn up while the strutting martinet they'd left in charge walked back and forth in front of us in his Class-A uniform, and the rest of us stood at attention in our Class-A's waiting for him to get done with his lecture on just how Rear-D was going to be run.

"...not having any of you fuck this up..." he was blathering. I was only paying half-assed attention to him, instead checking the faces of the other eighteen people around me aside from Bomber, Nagle, the LT, and Sergeant Tee. Bomber stood on my left, Nagle in between us. He'd arranged us into 5 man "squads" (which was like half the fucking size of my squad) and put what few NCO's there were in charge.


"...check in at 2100, and CQ will be doing bed checks at zero hours, formation every morning down here at zero six for PT." He stopped and turned to face us. Only thing worse than an ROTC butterbar was a shiner (1st LT, a nice shiny silver bar to replace the hunk of butter. Most of them seemed to spent a lot of time shining it on their softcap) with a bright new rank pin. He tried glaring at all of us, but it looked more like he had to take a leak real bad then anything else.

"Everyone will stay in their rooms, unless I personally authorize a switch in rooms." He said, then nodded at Staff Sergeant Terrance. "Go ahead and assign them details from the list I gave you." He told him. T saluted him, which he seemed pleased about, and we all watched as he returned the salute then walked away.

"All right, guys and girls, the Lieutenant has some barracks maintenance he wants done. I'm going to divide you up by squads to go ahead and handle it." T said. "First squad?"

"Here, Sergeant." I snapped out.

"You, Specialist Nagle, and Specialist Bomber are to report to his office." He told me, and Bomber groan beside me.

That was never good. I didn't know jack or shit about the LT, except since he'd shown up right after the roads got cleared and everyone abandoned us to go on Christmas leave he'd been nothing but a Grade-A asshole. Some Worst Cav fucker with a serious attitude that seemed to say "We did it differently in First Cav..." right before he gave some retarded suggestion that fucked everything up.

I hated him with a passion.

Formation broke up, with people getting assigned jobs that were vital to national security like buffing the first floor hallway or scrubbing the tile in the stairwell to get the stains out of them (HAH! Fat fucking chance!) or taking inventory and readiness inspection of... the chairs in the day room.

"What do you suppose LT Wondurbar wants?" I grunted.

"Probably wants to know if Nagles tits taste as nice as they look." Bomber suggested.

"I'm going to kick you in the balls." Nagle snarled.

PFC Kebble was sitting behind her desk, sneering at us when we walked into the orderly room. She was sitting there in her Class-A's, showing off the AAM's and ARCOM's she gotten for sucking dick above and beyond the call of duty.

Oh, yeah, and losing everyone's paperwork.

Only thing dumber than an orderly room clerk was a tanker.

"Acting CO in?" I asked, unnecessarily. It was fucking snowing again. Ain't none of us were going anywhere.

"I'll check." She said, her voice all sweetness and light. I restrained an urge to lean over the desk and punch her in fucking face. I couldn't prove it, but I knew she was the bitch who'd falsified the paperwork on us. Her sweet little smile while I tried to straighten everything out and the nasty little smirk she got when she thought I wasn't looking told me that.

She picked up her phone and slowly dialed the number, taking her sweet fucking time like the numbers kept shifting and she hate to wait for the randomization to finish. Her nails, easily an inch in length, were painted bright crimson, with a rhinestone on each one. By contrast, Nagle's nails were chipped, blackened, and she avoided fingernail polish unless it was the weekend or we were going on leave.

"Sir, Corporal Ant and his men are here to see you." The emphasis she put on the word and the way she looked at Nagle let us all know what she thought of Nancy.

Fuck. You. Whore. Nagle mouthed, then made a little O with her mouth and pushed her tongue against her cheek a few times.

"I'll tell them, Sir." She said sweetly, her face hard and eyes smoldering with hate. She hung up and looked at us for a long moment. "He said he's ready to see you."

Nagle opened her mouth and I grabbed her by the elbow, pulling her along with me. "Just leave it." I put my Class-A envelope hat into my left hand, thumb along the crease, knocked three times on the door and waited.

"Enter." Oh boy! I was being let into the promised land! I opened the door, marched neatly into the office, and stopped two paces from the front of the desk, came to attention, and saluted, holding the salute.

"Corporal Ant, Specialist Nagle, Specialist Bomber, reporting as ordered." I stated, staring at the window behind him.

It was blank white. The snow was over it by about 10 feet.

He stared at me for a long time, making me wait, before finally returning the salute. A petty way of letting me know who was in charge. He had my Smith file and my PRP report on his desk, along with Bomber's and Nagle's. They were spread a hand width apart, each Smith File rotated just enough that we could tell it was our PRP report underneath it.

They were supposed to be secure documents. The PRP file was the Personnel Reliability Program file, a mandatory little piece of Cold War Bullshit containing everything from how we liked to fuck to who our teacher was in 3rd Grade, along with mental health analysis and all that fun stuff. It was supposed to be Eyes Only and required a special side clearance to be able to read. The Smith File was the notes that the CO took on you during your time in the unit. The PRP file was kept in the vault in the supply room, the Smith File in the CO's safe. At least he didn't have the Top File, which was the First Sergeant's file on you.

They were supposed to be for the commander of the unit only. I just knew he was going to spend the day down here reading everyone's file.


We waited, he should have told us to stand at ease, or invited us to sit in one of the chairs, it was common courtesy.

A shiner never bothers with that, and First Cav probably didn't do it that way.

"You might be wondering why you are in here..." He started.

You want to fuck me?

"There are certain... details... I want to discuss with the three of you that I have found in your files." He smiled, and it wasn't a nice one.

Nope, you want to fuck us.

"Fucking asshole." Nagle snarled as we headed up the stairs. "I oughta stab his ass."

"Who the hell does he think he is asking me that?" Bomber growled, slamming a fist against the top of the railing and making the whole thing vibrate.

"He's just a goddamn shiner. Let it go." I said. I was still angry enough I was shaking. "Fucking Cav shithead. This ain't the World, this is goddamn Hell's Icebox."

"Confined to our rooms until further notice." Nagle snarled. "We'll be ready to kill ourselves before a week is out." She snatched open the door to Titty Territory and stomped through without a word, leaving Bomber and me to head up the stairs to the third floor.

"Think we'll have time to hide our contraband?" Bomber asked when we pushed through the door and into the hallway. We hugged the wall so we didn't get in the way of the guy stripping the floor with a buffer and the green stripping pad. He nodded to us as we went by.

"We'll need to work fast." I told him. I opened the door to our room and Bomber headed to the dresser right off the bat, grabbing bottles. "Leave some of the open ones, he knows we drink." Bomber nodded and grabbed a chair so he could climb up to the wall lockers set into the wall. I pulled unlocked and pulled open the top drawer of my 3-drawer chest, grabbing out a handful of my knives. I left the ones that didn't matter that much, making sure I grabbed the Russian bayonet and my Gerber, then moved over to the fridge, laying down on the floor. Bomber had pushed up the top of the wall locker and was setting the alcohol on top of the locker next to it. I reached back into the fridge and felt around till I found the gap above the compressor and began shoving my knives into the space. Barely enough room for the five of them, but better than nothing.

"Grab my uniform, I want to change real quick, it'll look like we were wasting time." I told him. He nodded and grabbed my keys, pulling open my wall locker and pulling out a fresh set of cold weather BDU's. They were ironed and creased, nicely starched and hardly worn. I always kept 4 sets of BDU's for garrison separate from my work uniforms. First trick I'd learned.

We hid what we could as fast as we could, then hid stuff we didn't care about in the obvious places. Under the mattresses, in our laundry bags, at the back of the bathroom cabinet, under our bed. Places any dipshit knows to check.

Not finding anything would make him suspicious.

We'd barely gotten dressed when the door opened up.

Bastard didn't even bother to knock...

Sergeant Tee followed him in, giving us an apologetic look at the breach of etiquette. The way he strutted into the room just pissed me off. He spent time checking the room for dust (HA! Fat chance!) then tossed the place, dumping out laundry bags, digging through our wall lockers, and opening up the mouthwash bottles to sniff them for alcohol. (Please, a real pro mixes vodka and cherry jello in a strawberry shampoo bottle... amateur)

"Why haven't you thrown this jacket away?" He asked at one point, standing in front of my civilian clothes locker. He was holding the sleeve of my old Levi jacket, holding the cuff between his thumb and forefinger with an expression of distaste. The sleeve was stained with old faded blood.

"Souvenir, sir." I answered.

He pulled it out of my wall locker by the hanger and looked at it. It had been stitched back together, but it was obvious that it had been cut apart at one point. Under the jacket was a T-shirt that was bloodstained. He made a noise of disgust and tossed it on Bomber's bed, then swept his eyes over the pictures I had taped to the inside of the wall locker.

Moving to Bomber's personal locker he stared for a long time at the pictures on his locker before giving it a cursory once over and walking back into the main room.

The whole time we'd stood at parade rest at the end of our respective beds.

"The two of you don't have a room mate?" He asked, somewhat unnecessarily, since the third bed was stripped.

"No, sir." We chorused.

He smiled again, and I felt my stomach drop out.

"That's perfect. That solves one of my problems neatly." He told us, that nasty smile reappearing.

The kicks to the bottom of the door shook it, and it took Bomber a minute to get up and reach the door, during which time the door kept getting kicked. Bomber yanked it open, and the person on the other side pushed past him, dragging dufflebags, rucksack, and blankets behind them.

Outside the door PFC Hendricks from Motor Pool Platoon stood outside, his expression carefully blank. Bomber shrugged and slammed the door as the person stomped into the center of the room and threw their gear onto the bottom bunk of the sole set of bunk beds in the room.

"This is fucking bullshit." Nagle snarled, throwing herself into a chair.

"Yup." Bomber agreed. He dug out a pack of cigarettes, lit one, tucked the lighter back into the pack, and tossed it to Nagle.

"Thanks." She lit one and tossed the pack to me.

"What did he tell you the reasoning was?" I asked, lighting one up and tossing it back to John.

"This way he only has to put a guard on one door, instead of having two guards." Nancy said, blowing smoke at the ceiling. "I am soooo going to JAG when I get a chance. This is against fucking regs."

"Yup." John said again. I pulled a bottle of beer out and tossed it to her.

"Did you guys hear what's going on downstairs?" She asked, cracking open the beer and taking a pull off of it.

"Nope." John again.

"He's officially closing the Day Room, all the Rec Rooms, the library, and the Game Rooms. Outside of duty hours, everyone is restricted to their rooms." Nancy told us, then took another deep pull of the Tucher. "God, this is going to be a cluster fuck."

"If it snows tonight, we lose the roads." I grunted, opening a Tucher for myself and taking a pull off of it. "It was sunny today and the snow looks pretty wet."

"Shit." Bomber grunted, setting down his own beer and walking over to the window. He opened the curtains and looked outside. "Icicles look soft."

"You guys wanna help me move out of Titty Territory?" Nagle asked, polishing off the beer. Both of us nodded.

"What about chow?" Bomber asked, closing the curtains.

"MRE's." She shrugged.

"Is he stupid?" Bomber asked. I just sat and watched.

"He said something about A-rats, but I don't know how he plans on heating them." Nagle told us, and I tossed her another beer. I couldn't believe he hadn't looked under the beds. We'd stashed over eight cases of beer under there. She cracked it open and tossed the cap into the trash can. "I saw Cock Sucking Kebble coming out of the supply room with the room logs."

I groaned at that. One thing the supply sergeants always seemed anal retentive about was making us tell them the serial numbers of anything expensive. TV's, stereos, VCR's, stuff like that. It was supposed to be in case of theft, but I doubted that was what our wonderful shiner was planning.

"Fuck, how much do you want to bet he's going to take my computers?" I bitched. "What the fuck is he thinking?"

"He wants to keep a repeat of last year from happening." Nagle shrugged.

"That was a goddamn psycho." Bomber growled, stomping over and sitting on his bed. He finished his beer and grabbed another one. "It's not going to happen again." Bomber kicked the dresser again. "Goddamn it, he can't do this shit to all of us. This is bullshit!"

"He doesn't think he'll be here." I grinned. "He doesn't know what's going to happen in a few hours."

"We'll lose the roads before eighteen hundred." Bomber agreed.

"Finish your beers, I need to finish moving." Nagle told us, polishing hers off in one long drink. We finished our beers, setting them on top of one of the dressers.

"Bastard confiscated my vibrators." Nagle bitched as we headed to the door.

When we went to step out, Hendricks stepped forward, putting his arm in front of Bomber and me. "Sorry, guys, you two can't leave your room."

"You gonna help me move?" Nagle asked, stopping and putting her hands on her hips.

"No, but they can't leave." He insisted.

"I'm gonna remember you." Bomber told him, and the two of us went back to our room.

I drug the chair over to the window and opened the curtain. The icicles had that weird look they got when it was sunny enough to melt ice, but snow was still pounding hard against the window.

"Think we'll lose power this year?" John broke into my dark thoughts of cold and bloodshed.

"Depends. We didn't 'lose' it last year, that fucking psycho cut the power lines." I told him. "Besides, they installed the generators and the fuel tanks while we were gone."

"It's going to be a long winter." Bomber said.

"Amen, brother." I answered, still looking out the window.

We'd be cut off before dark.

Chapter 4

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Five

Nagle reached forward and hit the C key on the keyboard of my computer. We waited a minute, and then she smiled, leaning back and taking a drink out of her beer. I watched, hoping she'd hurry the hell up, when her eyes suddenly widened. She leaned forward, tapped the F1 key on the side of the computer, then typed rapidly.


The Commodore 64 obediently turned the letters one at a time while the TV speakers blared the static that was supposed to pass for applause. Bomber and I reached forward and picked up two of the three shot glasses and snapped down the Ausbach, racing to tap our glasses back down. I beat him by split second, and he glared at me.

"This game sucks." Bomber said, reaching out and grabbing the third one and pulling it down. Nagle smiled as she refilled all three. All three of us were in boots, BDU bottoms, and brown T-shirts. Our BDU tops were laying on Bomber's bed. We weren't supposed to be drinking, but fuck it. What was he going to do, bend our dogtags and send us to Germany to live on a fucking mountain?

"Yeah, well go down and tell the LT to give us back the rest of my shit." I grouched at him. He glared at me for a moment while the wheel spun on the screen. "That's what I thought." I nodded at the screen. "Your turn."

He stared at the screen for a moment, then hit F1 and typed in "I HATE THIS GODDAMN PLACE" into the prompt.

Cue the letters turning and the applause, with "WORLD WAR TWO" appearing on the screen. Nagle and I each tossed down a shot, and I grabbed the third one before she could and pulled it down.

"Goddamn, Ant, he's right." Nagle said, laughing and wiping her mouth. "How much did you pay for this game at the PX?"

"Nothing. I copied it from a dude in another unit." I answered. I reached out and flipped the switch on the side, sighing and leaning back in the chair.

"You got ripped off." Nagle laughed.

"Think he's still flipping his shit?" Bomber asked, picking up the box of 5 1/4" floppies and thumbing through them.

"I don't know. Apparently they had to hold Hendricks back when they took his stereo after breakfast." I told them.

"What the fuck for?" Nagle asked. She turned and looked at our room. "Seriously, why is he taking all our shit?"

"Took Hendricks' stereo for playing it too loud. Claimed there were complaints about his music." I told her.

"Fuck. Take TV's and VCR's if you have the volume too high. Take computers for security risks. Take stereos for playing music too loud." Bomber said, pulling out a floppy marked "SUSPENDED" and waving it at me. "This any good?"

"Yeah, it's like Zork. Try the Impossible setting. You'll like it." I told him. His eyes brightened at the mention of his favorite game.

I nursed my beer while John flipped back on the computer, which saved because we'd convinced the LT that the Vic-20 in my wall locker was nothing more than a fancy cartridge game system and not really a computer by plugging in Pirate Island, one of the text game cartridges, before flipping it on and telling him that the C-64 was just the next step up. It was a suck game, but hey, it let me keep the computers, and it wasn't like I didn't have a million fucking disks for them. The Amiga and the IBM were long fucking gone though. Bastard.

After about five turns, John turned to me while Nagle laughed and pointed at the screen.

"Nice going, John. You suck at that game." I told him. "Everyone died. You're supposed to save them, dumbass."

"You're a dick." John told me, starting the game over.

"You'll need the map and the counters." I told him, pulling open the desk drawer and digging them out.

After about 10 minutes, he was lost in the effort of trying to save people and cursing as he tried to figure out what the robots were fucking saying. Nagle was listening to her Walkman and watching, and I got bored pretty quick. I reached over and grabbed a copy of the AD&D Player's Handbook off the desk where we'd tossed it the night before and started thumbing through it.

A beer bottle cap bounced off my chest and dropped into my lap. I looked up, and Nagle had her T-shirt pulled up and no bra. She wiggled her tits at me and raised her eyebrows. I jerked my head at the bathroom and she nodded.

"Hey, John, we're gonna hit the showers." I told him, standing up. She jumped up and ran over by the door to the hallway and the door to the bathroom, stripping her shirt off and bouncing up and down.

"Shhh." He told me, waving one hand at me and studying the TV screen closely. Patting his shoulder to let him know I was going, I walked toward her, pulling off my shirt, and she vanished into the bathroom with a laugh. I hurried toward the bathroom, undoing my belt real fast. I reached the door, my eyes on her naked torso and her large breasts. She smiled at me and reached forward.

And slammed the door then locked me out of the bathroom.

John didn't even look up as I dropped back into my chair, grabbing the book again. We sat in silence while she showered, Bomber mumbling to himself as he tried to figure out how exactly each robot worked and swearing under his breath at the one that spouted poetry. When she came back out, Bomber had a tablet of paper and a pencil and was jotting notes, staring at the screen, and I had my notebook out and was taking notes for an idea I'd had while John and I had to listen to her masturbate loudly in the shower. Ruffling our hair as she passed, Nagle walked to the fridge to grab another beer.

She'd put on her clothes in the bathroom.

"Gonna restart. Better score." He mumbled, and I nodded, still thumbing through the book. Nalge put her Walkman back on and laid on the bottom bunk of the bunkbeds, laying against her pillows and staring at the drawers above her and sipping on her beer.

Outside the wind howled and my ears popped. I looked up to see Bomber looking at me, and I could hear Nagle sitting up.

"Storm." Bomber said, and I nodded, getting up and walking over to the window. I pulled open the curtains and saw one of those surreal sights that were so common up where we lived. You could see the slate gray clouds lowering, watching them come at you, and up the mountain I could see a solid wall of white devouring everything in front of it.

"Oh, shit." Nagle said.

"So much for the roads getting cleared." Bomber told me. He'd stepped up right behind me.

We watched as the wave of white swept over the motorpool, and then crashed against the window, and almost solid wall of big fat snowflakes covering the window almost instantly.

"Think he's out there?" Bomber asked quietly, reaching forward to touch his fingers against the glass.

My shoulder throbbed, a cold spike driving deep into the joint.

"It's snowing." Nagle answered softly, and took another drink off her beer.

"And he knows we're separated." I said. "Today's Friday. That means nobody will expect to hear from us till Monday."

"Blizzard." Bomber breathed. There wasn't really anything else to say.


"Wanna play D&D?" Nagle asked, pulling off her headphones. I could hear Pink Floyd faintly from her headphones.

"Why not. Might as well pass the time till they do bed check." Bomber said, turning around and walking back to the computer. "Let me save my game and hook back up the Vic."

I grabbed the map and flipped it out on the floor why Nagle grabbed the box of figures, then we spent the time rolling dice and arguing over the rules while we nursed the few beers we rationed ourselves. Beer was running low, but we had plenty of hard alcohol.

Outside the wind was howling, and several times our ears popped as the pressure changed suddenly. At 1645 we took turns swishing Listerine and went to head out the door.

PFC Oakes stood outside the door, with some asshole I didn't really know but recognized. She had a nasty smile on her face, and an M-16A1 in her hands.

"Get back in the room." She said, lifting the rifle and pointing it at my face.

"The CO said you guys aren't allowed to leave your room." The other guy said.

"You got about two seconds..." I warned her.

"Or fucking what?" She asked me, taking a half step forward and bringing it up to her shoulder. She laid her face against the stock, looking at me through the sight.

"Or I'll fucking feed it to you." I told her, stepping forward so it was against my throat. "What now, bitch?"

She stared at me for a long moment, then stepped back. "The LT's gonna fix your ass."

"Whatever." I told her, stepping back into my room. "One of these days you're going to point a weapon at me and I'm going to kill you."

When she opened her mouth to reply I slammed the door and locked it.

"What the fuck is going on?" Nagle asked.

"Who fucking cares." I snarled, stomping back to sit down. "Fuck it, let's play."

Nagle and John nodded, and we went back to playing D&D.

The banging of the door opening wasn't a huge surprise, my alarm clock said it was 9:00 PM, twenty-one hundred hours, time for "check in" to use the LT's phrase. We'd already put the gaming stuff away and hidden the alcohol again. He'd smell it, but so far he'd contented himself with just searching our wall lockers. We jumped off our beds and stood at the end of the beds at parade rest, Nagle standing in front of the bunk beds.


In strode our Lord and Master, the King of the Mountain, the Tyrant of the Rock, 1LT Reginald Gregors, ROTC graduate, class of 1988. I was pretty sure that some jackass in 1st Cav was laughing his ass off every time he thought about how he dumped this goddamn moron on us. I was pretty sure they'd offered him a waiver for promotion if he agreed to take the slot here and from what I'd seen of the asshole, he struck me as the type that would have jumped on the waiver like a hooker onto a cock wrapped with $50 bills.

He stopped in the middle of the room, looking around, then checked the room for dust, kicked at the laundry bags near the floor and hefted mine, staring at all of us the whole time. His uniform was starting to show a bit of wear from being the only one he had, but his rank was gleaming.

The radiator groaned and rumbled, and he broke off from staring at Bomber and fingering his rank to stare at the heater for a long moment. I could almost hear the wheels turning in his head as he tried to figure out a way to blame this on us.

"Enjoying your vacation, soldiers?" He suddenly asked, breaking the silence and turning away from the radiator.

"Yes, sir." We chorused. We'd learned. Only answer yes or no, that's all he wanted, anything else he broke in and mocked you.

He stopped in front of me and leaned forward until he nose was almost touching mine. "I read your files. I don't trust the three of you." His voice was low, soft, and deadly. "I think that you're KGB plants, and that the Soviets replaced three soldiers they killed with you three fuckups. Do you hate America, Corporal Ant?"

"No, sir." I answered.

"No, sir." He mocked, twisting his voice into a high pitched whine. "I've looked at the pictures and read the files extensively and I don't understand why people seem to think you are who you are pretending to be."

He moved over to Nagle, stopping in front of her and reaching up a finger to trace it down the scar on the side of her face. "For example, the soldier in the pictures contained in the PRP file of one Nancy Nagle has no facial scars. Where did you get that scar, comrade? Georgia?"

He turned back to me, and I could hear Nancy breathing through gritted teeth. He licked his middle and index finger before he reached his hand up and pressed his fingers against the lenses of my glasses, rubbing the fingers on my lenses.

"Corporal Ant didn't wear glasses, comrade." He told me, smiling. He turned away from me and I had to restrain an urge to wrap my left arm around his neck, grab my left wrist, and rotate my arm to the left. Hard.

He stopped in front of Bomber and smiled at him. "You remember the Alamo, comrade?"

"Yes, sir." Bomber answered, and I could see his knuckles whitening.

"Learned all about that Alamo in those Texas schools, didn't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Who was in command of the Alamo?" Gregors asked.

"James Bowie and William B. Travis, sir." John answered.

"Who was in command of the Mexican forces?"

"Santa Anna, sir."

"Over five hundred Mexicans were killed, weren't there?"

"Yes, sir."

"Name them." Gregors demanded. There was silence for a long moment, the LT smiling at Bomber and reaching up to rub his silver rank pin. "That's what I thought." Gregors hissed, turning away and walking toward the short hallway that led to the door. He stopped, did a perfect about face, and stared at us.

"You may have fooled everyone else, but you don't fool me." His eyes swept over us. "From here on out, you will not attend any formations as I previously instructed and you will not leave this room under any circumstances, I don't want you contaminating my men or reporting what we are doing to your masters in Moscow."

With those words, he grabbed up the Vic-20, swept out of the room and locked the door behind him.

Nagle screamed, kicking a chair across the room, and scrubbed her cheek with one hand. Bomber was standing there shaking, and I pulled off my glasses and slowly cleaned them on my shirt.

"I'm going to fucking kill him. I swear to God, I'm going to fucking kill him." Nagle screamed. I took a step forward and grabbed her.

"For fuck's sake, shut up." I hissed. "If he hears you he'll take it as an excuse to have us fucking shot." I saw her eyes widen. "Yeah. I don't think he's all fucking there."

"Gee, Ant, you think?" Bomber asked, sitting down on his bed. "Name them. Jesus, he's just looking for shit, isn't he?"

"What are we going to do?" Nagle asked, staring at me. Her nostrils were flared and she was breathing heavy.

"We're going to behave ourselves and hope that someone higher ranking than him comes back before he has us put against a wall and shot." I answered, pulling up the chair and sitting down. "Christ, what a lashup."

"Think he'd go that far?" Bomber asked, looking up. "I mean, seriously, he can't just fucking start shooting us."

"Like anyone would notice until it was too late." Nagle said, her voice thick and hoarse. "They didn't exactly come roaring to our rescue last winter."

Bomber and I nodded.

We sat in silence for awhile, each thinking our thoughts, until the key could be heard in the lock. I jumped down off my top bunk while John and Nancy stood up, and together we walked over to where we could see down the short hallway.

Five guys stood there, all of them from the unit. One of them had a pistol in his hands, and he looked kind of sheepish about it. The others had three or four boxes of MRE's in their arms, which they set down in the entryway before backing up out the door.

The LT stepped into the doorway, smiling. Behind him, Oakes was sneering at me, her eyes hard in the reflection of the lights.

"Don't think you can go anywhere, we'll be checking on you now and then." He told us, then shut the door. The key was loud in the lock and he locked us in the room. Faintly we heard: "Then shoot the communist bastards." I looked at Bomber and shrugged. It wasn't like I couldn't just unlock it from our side.

Except PFC Oakes and her rifle on the other side.

"It's going to be a long winter." Bomber repeated.

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Nine

Nancy was on all fours, my legs over her back, her left arm looped back to hold onto my ankles. Bomber was sitting on the weight bench we'd reassembled sipping a beer and watching the two of us intertwined together. I grunted and pulled another five situps out before collapsing back, breathing hard. Nancy let go of my ankles and I rolled off and onto all fours, still breathing hard, and let Nancy throw her legs over me, looping my arm back and around her ankles. She started pumping out the situps while I struggled to get my breathing to slow down. The light flickered for a second and then steadied, while a crash sounded out from above us.

Bomber sipped the beer slowly, watching the two of us do PT. While I held Nagle's legs he set his beer down, laid back on the bench, and did another group of reps on the weights. He was staring at the ceiling during the reps, and except for the breathing and the clink of the weights, he was silent. Silently, Nagle switched to being on all fours and I put my feet on her back and began pushing out the pushups. A low moan sounded from the bathroom, but we ignored it. I switched from diamond pushups to widearm pushups, doing 20 of each, then got down and got on all fours so that Nagle could take her turn. Sweat was dripping off of us and onto the floor as we kept going.

The weights clinked as Bomber added another 20 pounds to the bar and went back to doing steady reps, and I glanced over to see if he needed a spotter. He shook his head, and I nodded. If he got in trouble we'd know pretty quick and could move to spot him before anything happened to him.

I'd bought the weight bench back in March, before we left, so that if we got trapped in the barracks we'd be able to hit the weights and stay in shape. Pumping iron could help pass the time, and Bomber and I had figured that we'd use the winter to see if we could keep in shape so that we didn't end up out of shape from not being able to do our normal jobs. The weights had cost me about a half month's pay, but it was worth it, having the equipment for the leg work as well as barbells to do arm curls, which was something that Nagle did more than us.

A glance at the clock showed me that we'd been at it for about an hour, meaning we would keep it up until we hit the two hour mark, something we'd all agreed on three days prior. For one thing, it kept us from just sitting there staring at one another, for another we it meant we'd burn off energy and maybe some of the aggression that was the biggest threat we'd be facing in the room. We'd finish PT, take turns showering, then eat our dinner of MRE's before kicking back and continuing our AD&D game.

When we weren't pumping iron, doing PT, eating, or playing AD&D, we'd spent a long time talking. About our pasts, about our childhoods. We had already known a lot about each other, but now we knew more about each other than anyone else. We knew how each other had lost our virginity, why we'd joined the military, knew about our school time, and even know about the darker stuff, the nastier stuff. Stuff that you normally never talk about had come out during the long discussions we'd had in the dark.

PFC Oakes liked to come in and take away our light bulb at about 2200 hours, not giving it back until the next day when she'd come in and yell at us to get up at various times. Over the last four days she'd come in at widely varying times to tell us to get up at any time between 0400 and 0800. She seemed to be reveling in her power of us more and more, and Nagle had commented after she had left that morning that Oakes was probably going to get worse before anything got better.

The rattling of our lock brought the three of us up on our feet, Bomber dropping the beer into the drawer and closing it real quick. We'd been ignored for four days, except when Oakes came on duty. She'd broken the knob off of our door lock the day before, telling us that the LT had ordered it done. It wasn't exactly a surprise. She'd come in the room, march around smiling at us, and making sure we could see that she was packing while we were just standing there. She hadn't done anything more than just walk into the room whenever she damned well pleased and strut around despite breaking our ability to unlock the door, but I had a feeling that sooner or later she'd start feeling brave. That she'd move from strutting to outright trying to smack us around.

She'd probably come in with backup to hold us or keep weapons on us.

When she came in, dressed in her BDU's with E-5 rank on them, her LBE and flak vest, I felt my heart drop. She had PFC Marks with him, a scumbag shammer that anyone with any brains hated to no end. He was a weasel, a liar, a thief, and had a face like a child molester. He was wearing E-5 and packing a rifle too.

The two of them strutted around the room. Marks stopped by the weight bench, slipping the strap of his weapon onto his shoulder real quick and lifting at the weights, his face turned red as he obviously had to put some effort into lifting the weight that Bomber had been pressing only a short time earlier.

Bomber snorted, and Marks turned to face Bomber, his face turning red. Two steps and Marks backhanded Bomber across the face. Bomber looked down at the other soldier, ignoring the blood leaking from his lower lip, and stared at the shorter man. The corner of Bomber's mouth twitched but he kept a straight face. I knew that look, it was the look he normally gave someone he'd left laying on the ground bleeding.

I'd reverted to the jmax mindset and Bomber and Nagle had followed right along with me.

Oakes stopped in front of me, looking me up and down with a sneer on her face. I just stared above her head. She leaned forward and sniffed.

"You stink." She sneered.

I just stared above her head.

"You smell like an ape." She told me. "The CO wants to see the three of you. Get moving." She twitched the barrel of her rifle and we meekly followed. We'd all three agreed in the darkness of the night to hold back our more violent instincts so we didn't get anything worse than we'd gotten. The LT hadn't come back in since he'd confined us to the room, but Oakes had gleefully told us all about how the LT had told everyone that he was convinced we were Russian spies, and as soon as he had the proof he'd make sure that we were court martialed.

"Marks, start packing up those books and crap." Oakes said, her eyes watching my face. She looked a little disappointed at the fact my expression didn't change. I'd known that one was coming. "The CO said to make sure they don't have anything they shouldn't, and I don't think they really need all this crap they've got in here." She walked over and tapped the stack of AD&D books on the top of the dresser. "Take this devil worship shit out of here."

It might sound weird, but we'd made sure to hide the core 3 AD&D books and the dice. It was going to be a long winter, and playing D&D was keeping us from each other's throats.

Upstairs something crashed to the floor and a shriek floated down the hallway. Oakes jumped and I was tempted to laugh at her, but knew all it would do is bring me some pain. Oakes had been looking for payback since I'd punched her in the face outside the motorpool when we'd first come back to the unit.

We walked out into the hallway, Bomber and Nagle wearing running shoes, me in my combat boots. I didn't like running shoes, they hurt my feet, so I usually wore my combat boots, even during PT tests. Oakes twitched her weapon down the hallway, so we headed down, passed through the dividing doors, and walked down to the stairwell. Several times we heard crashing noises above us, and when we opened the door to the stairwell a shriek sounded from below us, echoing in the tight space. We moved down to the first floor CQ door and I pulled it open, a second shriek sounding from above us.

The rest of Rear-D was drawn up in the CQ area and were facing the CQ counter and the clocks on the far wall, the LT standing in front of everyone in his Class-A's. He was glaring at everyone, and when Oakes marched the three of us to the formation, he took a quick headcount.

"Did you leave Sergeant Marks upstairs to clear their room of non-essential material?" He asked Oakes.

"Yes, sir." She said. "He's going to remove all that crap they have in there." She waited for a moment, "They set up a weight bench, should I have that removed?"

"Did they steal it from the rec room?" The LT flushed. "I gave orders that the rec rooms were off limits without permission."

"No, sir, I saw them setting it up the day you confined them, it was in a box behind one of the dressers." Oakes actually told the truth.

"Hmph, then they can keep it." The LT made a moue and ran his eyes over the formation before turning back to SGT-Tee with an expression on his face like he had to piss. "Sergeant Terrance, what is the head count again?"

"Private Glouse is still missing." Tee said, "Sir, I really doubt..."

"Well I don't." The LT said, waving one hand dismissively as he turned to us, where we'd been marched up in front of the Rear-D. He turned and faced the three of us, looking us up and down in our PT sweats.

"So what did you do with him?" He asked.

"Do with who, sir?" Bomber asked, staring over the LT's head.

"Private Glouse." The LT waved his hand in the vague direction of the rooms. "He didn't show up to formation and he's not answering knocks at his door."

"Sir, I doubt any of these soldiers know what happened to Private Glouse, they've been confined to their room under guard." Sergeant Tee said. "And there's no reason why we can't just use the master key to check on the Private."

"My soldiers are entitled to a right to privacy, Sergeant." The LT said, reaching up with his left hand to his shoulder to rub his rank between his thumb and index/middle finger. "Private Glouse is a good soldier that I'm proud to have serve under me. And your continued defense of these three is beginning to make me suspect that you might not be as reliable as I originally believed."

I glanced at Sergeant Tee, noticing the expression on his face. I'd known Tee about 2 years, and he might as well have been screaming at the top of his lungs that something was wrong. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that there was an odd division in the people left back. A few people seemed to be promoted recently, and about half of the Rear-D seemed to have a strange smug aura around them.

He let go of his rank and turned back to the three of us. "So, comrades, what have you done with Private Glouse?"

"Sir, we've been confined to our room, none of us left the room." Nagle answered.

The LT sniffed at us, his expression souring. "Why do you three stink so bad? When was the last time you showered?"

"Sir, we all showered this morning." Bomber said.

"They were lifting weights." Oakes put in, her tone making it sound like she'd caught us doing something illegal.

"Where did you get a weight set?" The LT asked. It was like he'd forgotten that Oakes had told him about it already.

"I bought it at the PX for the winter." I told him.

"Why?" He asked me. I prayed Bomber would keep his smart mouth shut, and for once, my prayers were answered when he stayed silent.

"To stay in shape." The truth shouldn't hurt.

"What did you do with Private Glouse?" He asked me suddenly as if to surprise me, stepping in front of me and leaning forward again.

"Sir, I haven't left the room." I answered, staring above him.

"I haven't left the room." He mocked me, leaning back. He dug in the pocket of his Class-A pants and pulled out a ring of keys. "Sergeant Terrance, we'll check Private Glouse's room." He glared at me. "You better hope that you're telling the truth." He motioned at Oakes, "Bring them along."

We walked down the hallway, and upstairs I heard someone run down the hallway, boots pounding from ahead of us and back toward the platoon areas.

We moved down through Titty Territory, Sergeant Tee leading, the LT right after, the three of us following, and Oakes following. I heard bootsteps behind us, but wasn't sure who all had followed. When we pushed through the doors separating the two halves of the hallway, I heard something banging in the laundry room.

"What the hell is that?" The LT snarled, stopping and pushing open the laundry room door. Cold air blew into the hallway from the darkness beyond, and when he reached forward and flipped on the light we could see the washers and dryers beyond. The lids were up on the washers, the dryer doors hanging open.

And the windows at the far end open, allowing snow to fall onto the counters and onto the floor in a soft billow. There was nothing beyond the window but solid snow, which meant that there was at least 15, maybe 20 feet of snow on the ground on the back side of the barracks.

I heard Nagle suck in her breath through her teeth, John growl slightly, and knew I went stiff.

Someone let the winter in...

The LT stared for a moment, then turned to Sergeant Tee. "Detail someone to clean that snow up."

"Yes, sir." Sergeant Tee answered as the LT shut the door.

We headed down the hallway to one of the rooms, the LT banging on the door and calling out for Private Grouse. After a few moments of hammering on the door the LT used a key to open the door. He and Sergeant Tee walked in, the LT calling out to Private Grouse.

"I've got a bad feeling." Bomber whispered.

"Shut up." Oakes snarled, and I heard Bomber grunt as something struck him.

I turned around, and Oakes was just stepping back from Bomber, who was standing stock still, his face reddening. Oakes turned toward me, lifting her rifle, smiling at me with a cocky look on her face.

"Jump, go ahead." She told me, and I thought for a second about feeding that fucking rifle to her. Fear flashed on her face as she realized what I was considering doing, and her rifle started to come up as I tensed.

The LT came back out just then, reaching out and grabbing my arm, pulling me toward him and into the room.

"I want to know what you did to Private Grouse." He said, pulling me into the room, down the short hallway, and into the main part of the room. He pointed at the windows as he finished. "I know how you got in here, I want to know what you did with him."

The windows were broken, and snow had fallen into the room. Ice covered the wall, frost coated almost every surface, and clots of frozen mud were in the middle of the floor. The bedding were off the bed, laying on the floor, in a lonely strip of green and white that pointed from the bed to the broken windows. The glass was hidden by the snow that had fallen from the window, and the room was cold, our breath pluming out in front of us. The snow was over the window, not a trace of light coming from above.

There was a crash from above us as something fell to the floor.

"Where is he?" The LT asked me again, yanking at me again.

My shoulder suddenly felt as if something freezing cold had slid through the flesh and into the joint.

"Answer me." He yelled, letting go of me and pointing at the snow that had tumbled into the room. "Admit it, you broke into his room from outside, now what did you do with him?"

"Sir, I've been in my room the whole time." I told him.

He stared at me for a long time, his left hand moving up to rub his rank, then grabbed me by the front of my shirt, pulling me forward until we were standing nose to nose. "I know you did this, took one of my troops who understood how things need to be run in these barracks, and when I can prove it, you're gonna burn, understand?"

I just stared at him.

"Think you're tough, Ant?" He sneered at me. "Been through some special KGB training or some shit that makes you think you're tough?"

I didn't bother answering him. I'd heard that tone before from other people. He looked over my shoulder and squinted for a moment, obviously thinking hard, going back to rubbing his rank. Suddenly his eyes opened and he stepped back, smiling.

"No, you aren't KGB, Ant, and neither are you, Bomber." He said, his voice soft and deadly. I turned to watch as he moved past me to stand in front of Nagle. "No, she's KGB, you two are Spetsnaz, aren't you? You're her thugs, in case someone figures out who the three of you really are, aren't you."

We just stayed silent. Nothing we could say would matter. Nothing we could say.

"Sergeant Oakes, take them back to their room, put them under guard. No contact with anyone else unless I or Sergeant Terrance tell you personally." He thought for a second. "I want you to select four people that you feel we can trust, two men on the door at all times, and check on them every two hours or if you hear anything suspicious."

"Yes, sir. At once, sir." Oakes said from behind us.

"Take them back." The LT said, turning around and looking at the window. "I'll figure out what happened here."

"Let's go." Oakes said from behind us.

Oakes made a big show of taking the weapon off of safe when I turned around, smiling broadly. We headed toward the door, and I noticed that Oakes liked poking us with the barrel as she had us move forward.

"And Sergeant?" The LT said from behind us.

"Yes, sir?" Oakes poked me in the back with the muzzle of the rifle.

"If they give any trouble, feel free to use force to ensure their compliance." He said, almost distractedly. I knew he was staring at the snow that had pushed in through the open window, trying to figure out what had happened.

Above us there was a muffled, wordless shout followed by a crashing noise.

On the way up the stairs to third floor Oakes slammed the butt of her rifle against my back, the sling bracket thudding against the muscle over my ribs and I just ignored it. Despite what she probably thought, I'd been hit harder in bar brawls. It was more along the lines of a light tap than a really hard blow, and I doubted that I'd even have a bruise to show for it. I just kept moving, following Bomber and Nagle down the hallway, through the double doors, and stopping in front of our room. Kebble, now sporting new looking flat black sergeant rank on her collar, was supervising three other troops taking boxes out of our room. Oakes ordered us into our room, and we went in and sat down on the chairs, watching as they finished taking the last few things out of our wall lockers.

"Take their civvies too." Oakes said, looking at us and smiling. "Just leave their uniforms, take their TA-50 too, they won't be needing it." She walked up and stood in front of me. "That piss you off, Ant?" She asked, I just looked down at her, keeping silent. "Aw, you don't like it when someone takes away your stuff?" She walked over to my desk and picked up the crystal Porsche 911 that Nagle had gotten me for my birthday. "Oops." She said, and dropped it on the floor, putting her hand over her mouth in mock shock as it hit the floor and shattered.

"You should take better care of your stuff." Oakes laughed, picking up a stein I'd stolen during a beer fest. She smiled and dropped it on the floor, the handle breaking off. Above us there was the crashing of boots on the floor and another wordless shout.

"What the fuck is that?" She asked suddenly, looking up. "It's been going on for a week, what's making that noise?"

I smiled, nice and slow, and looked down at her. "Death, 'cruit, that's what it is."

"What the fuck does that mean? Who's doing that?" She asked. She stepped back from me, then looked at the three of us. "What are the three of you smiling at?"

"Do whatever you want, you cum breathed whore, it's already started." Nagle sneered. "You can't even run."

I love you, Ant! echoing down the stairwell...

"First winter is always the funnest." Bomber told her, sounding like he was about to start laughing. "One down, pretty soon a few more of you are going to vanish."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Oakes stepped forward, her face reddening. The privates that were putting the last of my stuff off of my shelves, desk, and dresser into boxes were staring.

"Then it's going to get colder in here." Bomber finished.

"You're gonna love it." I added.

"What the fuck are they talking about?" One of the privates added.

"Nothing, they're just talking shit. Finish up." She told them, then turned back and looked back up at me. She took two steps back, staring at us and smiling, fingering the front handgrip of her rifle as we stared back at her silently. The privates finished loading up our stuff in boxes, and when one of them went to sweep up the broken crystal on the floor, Oakes told them to leave it.

On her way out, she grabbed the broom with a nasty smile.

"Bitch." Nagle said softly when the door shut and locked. "Probably got that promotion sucking that shiner's cock." Bomber chuckled without much humor.

"I think it's a little uglier than that." I said, digging out an old towel that was stained with boot polish. "I think that she's one of the LT's cadre and he's forgotten he's not really in charge of this unit." I tossed over my shoulder as I went in and got the towel damp. When I walked back into the room and began carefully cleaning up the shattered crystal Bomber was standing at the window, the curtain open, and staring out at the snow on the window. Nagle was sitting on the end of Bomber's bed, untying her tennis shoes.

"This is bad." Bomber mused, staring at the snow blowing on the glass. "He's crazier than a shithouse rat."

We stayed silent, taking turns going in and taking a shower, until all three of us were done and sat eating our MRE's. We'd been in the field often enough and long enough to know better than to dig through the MRE's and grab out only what we wanted. We'd each chosen a box and were slowly working our way through it. The grape jelly was important, or you ran the risk of getting constipated. That was a big enough risk when eating them as it was, but you had to eat everything, since they balanced well enough, and then plenty of water would help even more.

"You know that we're all in trouble." Nancy broke the silence.

"Yeah. We'll be lucky if he doesn't fucking shoot us." Bomber answered. I just shrugged.

"That's not what I mean." Nancy tossed her empty dehydrated pork patty wrapped into the garbage and looked at us. "It's started, he's already going after victims."

"Don't talk like that." Bomber said. "Let's not bring him into it."

"Too late. You know as well as I do what happened to Grouse." Nancy answered. There was a crash from upstairs, and Nagle jerked her head up, "It's already starting, and now we've got someone missing. How long do you think it's going to be before he takes out his next victim?"

"As soon as he gets hungry again." I answered, breaking my crackers into quarters and then tearing open the foil.

"Why break into rooms now? Why not when the snow first started? All he did was just lurk around the barracks scaring people." Nagle asked, tossing away the last part of her MRE and popping the gum into her mouth. "Why wait to physically break into the barracks and take someone until last night?" I shrugged.

"The blizzard." Bomber answered. "It can't be the snow, it's been snowing since October off and on, so it's gotta be the blizzard."

"You might be right." Nagle said, getting up and walking up to look out the window.

"No." I said, finished with smearing cheese all over my crackers and making a cheese and cracker sandwich. Both of them looked at me. "The barracks are empty, that's what did it. Winter, empty barracks, and the roads have been out for a few days." I took a bite and chewed on the crackers as they chewed on the idea. I swallowed, took a swig of the Koolaid I'd mixed in the canteen cup from the mess kit they'd been nice enough to leave each of us with. "Nobody is going to get here in time, and it's going to get bloody before anyone comes to rescue us."

"They came and rescued us last time." Bomber said.

"Except last time we didn't have an officer and his little cabal answering the phones and giving all the right answers to anyone who might come up here." I told them. Bomber shook his head, not denying what I had said, but in realization that what I was saying was the truth. "Now he is on the loose, in this abandoned barracks, and the body count is going to climb. Soon."

"What's his problem with us?" Nancy asked, spitting her gum in the garbage can and standing up. She began pacing back and forth. "For fuck's sake, we underwent the polygraph, they checked out fingerprints, almost fifty people verified who were were, why is he bringing up this Russian shit?"

"He's a fucking nut." Bomber answered.

"Remember that briefing you get when you first get here?" I asked, both of them nodded. "The whole 'Ivan is listening' and warnings about what we talk about outside the barracks, and the fact that MI has found taps on our phones a couple times. Hell, the fact that Chambers was shopping around to sell the site locations and inventory sheets last year when CID busted him."

"Which means he reads about that bullshit with the falsified paperwork, and his paranoia ramps way up and he immediately latches on to us being Russian spies." Nagle added. "Is it really paranoia when they really are watching you?" Bomber and I chuckled.

"He's probably convinced himself that he's going to get a promotion and a chest full of medals for 'busting' us." Bomber said, reaching out and tapping the window with one finger.

"So what do we do?" I asked Nagle. She sat silently for awhile.

"We just hold out until they clear the roads and hope that someone comes home from leave or one of the other officers come up to check on us." She told me.

"In the meantime, how many people are going to 'vanish' as he starts working his way through the buffet that LT has nicely laid out for him." Bomber said, pounding the bottom of a closed fist on the painted cinderblock wall. "Each person who vanishes, the LT is going to become more and more paranoid, and he's already fixated on us."

"Can we make it out of the barracks and to main post?" Nagle asked. "Your brother made the run to post in November, can you?"

I shook my head. "No way. It was just snowing, not like it was out there, and he took the War Fighter tunnels to the lower access point." I pointed out the window. "I wouldn't make it a mile in that weather, and I'd be lost in less than a hundred feet." I waved at the lockers. "Plus, they took most of our TA-50, and Oakes was pretty careful to grab our cold weather gear, I'd be dead in ten minutes."

Nagle sighed, still pacing back and forth. Bomber stood silently, still looking out the window. "You know, there is another option." He said softly.

"Let's not jump to that." Nagle answered.

"Ant and I could kill the whole of Rear-D if we went on the offensive, weapons or not." Bomber kept speaking. "We could kill everyone we needed to in a single night and have done with it."

"I'm not killing anyone. They're just scared of the LT and his cheese eating suckups." I told him. "Just forget that bullshit."

The lock interrupted us, and Nagle stopped and leaned against Bomber's dresser while Bomber himself turned away from the window, letting the curtain fall to cover the snow covered glass. The door opened and bootsteps thudded as Oakes, Kebble, and PV2 Nelson came in the room, all three of them carrying weapons. All three were sporting Sergeant rank, and Kebble was carrying a pair of pistols on her LBE instead of a rifle and sporting a nasty smirk.

Nelson and me had tangled before, he'd joined when he was in his late 20's, and he hated everyone younger and higher ranking than him. He had a nasty mouth, was frequently insolent, and I'd had problems with him several times in the few weeks we'd been back in the unit. Mainly because he'd resented me being put in charge of a couple details that we'd been assigned to pull the pre-winter inventory on the various war stocks that stuffed the unit's basements and attic.

"Get over here, bitch, the CO wants to talk to you." Oakes said, smiling.

"About what?" Nagle asked.

"He can tell you." Oakes replied, hefting her rifle. "He told us to drag you down there if we needed to."

Nagle pushed up off the dresser, spreading her feet apart and bring one hand in a half fist by her beltline and the other knife edged in front of her. Bomber took a step forward, and I jumped to my feet.

"No. Nagle, just do it." I said. Nagle looked at me, then dropped her hands.

"Fine." She said.

"What?" Kebble asked, tapping her rank.

"Yes, Sergeant." Nagle answered, her eyes flashing.

Bomber and I watched them leave, the door closing and locking.

"What do you think he wants?" I wondered aloud.

"He's going to ask us who we report to. Ask us about our supposed Russian contacts." Bomber said, and I nodded. "Probably ask us more about the shit in our files."

"Yeah." I grunted as he sat down.

We sat in silence for a long time, the only sound aside from the ticking of the clock was the various noises our barracks made in the winter. Faint screams. The thudding of boots running down the hallway outside. Crashing from above us. Shouts that carried the snap of command. Long groans like the building itself was in pain. Once in awhile we could hear the guys outside the door talking.

The key rattled in the lock, and we both looked up. Footsteps preceded Oakes, Kebble, and Nelson coming back into the room. Nelson looked serious, but Oakes and Kebble were both smiling widely. Bomber and I looked at them, then looked at each other, both of us nodding. We'd both seen the same thing.

"You. Up." Kebble said, drawing one of her pistols and aiming it at Bomber while Nelson aimed his weapon at me. Bomber looked at me as he stood up. "Don't try anything stupid, tough guy, or we'll shoot you." She smiled real wide. "Bull rider or not, a bullet in the knee will make you nice and docile."

"I'll see you, Ant." He told me, turning and looking at me.

"See you, brother." I told him.

"Aw, ain't you two cute. You want a minute to kiss each other goodbye?" Nelson asked, the two women laughed.

He looked at the three the LT sent to gather us. "I'm going to remember you."

They walked out with my best friend, and the room was empty, smaller, without the two most important people in my life there.

The snow whispered against the window. The clock kept ticking. Above me boots thudded. A low moan sounded from the bathroom.

Finally the door opened, and bootsteps marched into my room. I took off my glasses and left them on the 3-drawer chest next to my clock.

"You. Up." Oakes told me, pointing her weapon at me. She smiled. "The CO wants to have a little talk with you before you join your friends."

All three of them laughed at that as I stood up.

"Watch this one, he likes to fight." Kebble said, and I didn't bother looking at her.

"Let's go, Ant." Nelson told me.

I didn't say a word, just stood up and let them take me to where the LT was waiting. I didn't bother talking, there was nothing to say.

All three had blood on their cuffs, spatters on their BDU blouses, and Oakes had a smear of blood on one cheek.

Bomber's blood. Nagle's blood.

And soon, my blood.

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Twelve

The tiny little chrome bead snapped off the chain with a click and I swept it into the little hole on the bedframe. The beds in the barracks were designed to be made into bunk beds by dropping pegs into the holes on the head and foot boards, then stacking the next bed. Normally Bomber and I used them to hang things from the bed, but this time we were using the one on my bed to keep track of the days by dropping a metal bead taken from my long dogtag chain each morning.

"And a metal bead in a bunk bed." Nagle said softly, imitating the Christmas carol.

"Six more days till Christmas." Bomber added. "Provided we live that long."

"I want Santa to bring me 10 minutes with Oakes in the laundry room." Nagle snarled, flexing her fingers. The scar on her face deepened in color. It'd become a sure gauge of her real temper over the last year, and it gave her a look I'd found more and more attractive.

"I'll take three minutes with the LT." Bomber chipped in. "Break him like a fucking maverick."

I nodded, sitting down on the weight bench and staring at my hands. Bomber was standing at the window, staring out at the snow. Nagle was sitting in the chair by the desk. We were wearing our PT uniforms, one of the guys guarding us had agreed to wash our uniforms for us, and they were in the laundry room. Logan seemed like too good of a guy to be one of the LT's minions, and his lack of sudden promotion had me thinking I was probably right.

"What do you want for Christmas, Ant?" Bomber asked me after a few moments of silence.

"The Rangers to show up again." I answered, laying back. "Before it gets much worse."

"Much worse? We had the shit beaten out of us, how can it get much worse?" Nagle snarled.

"Him." Bomber answered, tapping the glass. "It's only a matter of time now."

The building punctuated what Bomber said with a low groan that I could feel under my feet. There were a few pops, as loud as nearby pistol shots, above us.

"Cheap ass contractors." Bomber said.

"Lowest bidder, baby. Trucks by Tonka rifles by Mattel." Nagle added. I just snorted. "Ant, come here, I want to see your front teeth."

I sighed theatrically and got up, moving over to kneel in front of her. She pulled my lower lip down and shook her head. "They hurt too bad?"

"No." I told her, running my tongue over my broken teeth when she let my lip go. She pulled me close against her chest, hugging me tightly, then pushed me away and waved at the weight bench. I moved over to sit back down on the weight bench.

"You still want to do this the easy way?" Bomber asked. "I'm not too willing to take another ass kicking while some paranoid fucking nutcase screams questions at me."

"That bitch Oakes touches my face again, and I'll tear her tits off, Ant, I'm not kidding." Nagle added.

"We open that door, there isn't any going back." I said. "We start spilling blood, and Tandy will go into a fucking frenzy again. He goes into a frenzy, things will get really bad really fast."

"It's already really bad, Ant." Bomber said, slamming the bottom of his fist against the baby-shit yellow painted cinderblock. "It's fucking bad for us." He turned from the window and pointed at his nose and the heavy bruising under both eyes. "Why should we be the only poor bastards who it gets bad for?"

I sat silently for a long time, staring at the floor.

"Answer me, goddamn it." Bomber said, taking two steps forward.

"Private Taggart is pregnant." I said. I looked up into his face. "You want that on your soul, brother?"

Bomber turned away from me, going back to looking out the window. "Shit."

"Why is she still back? I thought we sent the preggo's TDY." Nagle added.

"Didn't find out until the day before that shiner bastard ended up in charge, so take a fucking guess what happened." I tossed out. "She was supposed to be shifted to Darmstadt."

"Any idea which side she's on?" Bomber asked.

"John, she's 17, what do you think she's doing?" Nagle said softly. "She doesn't belong here, she thought she was joining the Army, not being sent to Hell. She's 17, chained up in Hell's Icebox, pregnant, and has a madman in charge. What would you do?"

"I'd just try to get through." Bomber admitted. "All right, I see your point, Ant. Still, think he'd really go after a pregnant woman?"

"How the fuck should I know?" I asked. "It's not like we're pen pals." Bomber snorted in amusement. "What do I do, write 'Dear Tandy, please don't kill and eat the pregnant girl. Thanks, Ant. PS: Get a manicure.'?" John and Nancy both laughed.

"What do you think he is?" Nancy asked, stretching. I got distracted watching her boobs lift up. She didn't have on a bra, and her nipples stood out.

"Revenant?" Bomber suggested.

"Who knows?" I shrugged. "All we know is that he vanished in the old barracks, vanished while being transferred back to the States, either the coffin got to the States empty or he disappeared from the morgue here depending on who you believe, and he shows up when it gets cold."

"I hate this fucking place." Bomber said. "Hey, hand me the bar, will you?"

I took the weights off the ends and then handed it to him. He opened the window, the snow and wind blowing in, and held on the end to lower the bar, leaning way out the window. My stomach clenched, and my hands twitched to pull him back in before long white arms snatched him out the window. He lowered it as far as he could then pulled it back up. There was snow on the last two feet.

"Shit, it's only about five, maybe six feet down there." He said. "This snow keeps up or gets worse, and it's going to be over our windows."

All of us turned to look at the door when someone started screaming. Not out in the hallway, but further away. We could barely hear it, but it was unmistakable. Someone was screaming in horror and agony.

"Boots on, now." Nagle said, grabbing hers. I turned and grabbed mine from beside the bed, pulling them on. Bomber moved over and pulled his own, and the zzzziiiip of us pulling the speed laces through was in unison.

We moved up to the doorway, standing there silently. The screaming was still going on. It was too loud to be in a room, but too faint to be in the hallway.

The three of us were really familiar with the way screams carried in the building.

We heard pounding bootsteps heading away from us, and I leaned my head against the wall, wondering what I was going to hear next. Nagle was leaning her ear against the door, listening closely.

The screaming stopped.

"Wait for it..." Bomber murmured.

Another voice screamed, louder, and someone fired a rifle on full auto. The scream changed, becoming higher pitched, and the weapon fire stopped. I knew by how long it took it wasn't because they'd let off the trigger, but because the magazine had run dry.

"Rob! Rob!" A voice outside our door. "Fuck, Rob!"

An icicle slid through my skin and lodged in my shoulder joint.

"Hit the light." I whispered, crouching down. Nagle flipped the switch, dropping us into darkness. I swore. "On, turn them on." I whispered urgently. "For fuck's sake, turn it..." Nancy hit the switch, turning it back on.

"What?" Bomber asked quietly.

"No light under the door. The lights are off in the hallway." I answered, keeping my voice low.

"Who's there? Who is that?" The voice on the other side of the door asked. "Identify yourself. I'm armed."

"It won't help." Nancy whispered.

Slow, plodding footsteps we could hear, and the building felt like it was holding it's breath.

"Halt! I'm not kidding you! Don't fucking..." Our guard said, his voice rising.

"Get back from the door, move move move." Nagle said, and we all scrambled into the main room. "Get down." We all laid on the floor, listening, straining to hear.

There was a single shot.

"Don't come any closer." Our guard shouted.

A low, liquid chuckle answered him.

"RUN YOU IDIOT!" Nagle shouted.

"Stay back! I'll shoot!"

I looked at Bomber. He had his eyes squeezed shut. I looked at Nagle, and her eyes met mine, wild and terrified eyes.

There was another shot.

Another cold, liquid chuckle that sounded almost like a cough.

My brother had gotten pneumonia in November, and it took him almost two weeks before he was released from Darmstadt. When he'd coughed, it had been a thick, liquid thing.

The laugh sounded more like that.

"Who are you?" The guard's voice trembled.

Another shot.

"RUN!" We all shouted at the same time.

Something clattered, and we could hear him running away.

"Whew." Nagle breathed. "I was worried he'd go down shooting and we'd take one through the door. I know they're steel, but why take the chance?"

Footsteps moved up slowly to the door, and we stood up, moving so we could see the door.

"That door opens, I'm out the window." Bomber said softly.

The handle turned, and the door shook, then the handle slowly went back to normal.

That chuckle again.

Footsteps moved away from us.

"Christ, look at the door..." Nancy breathed.

The middle had frost in the middle, slowly spreading out.

The lights flickered, dimmed, and settled into a sullen glow that did little to provide any light.

Someone else began screaming.

Chapter 7

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Twelve

The screams faded, not cut off, and silence settled over the room. Nagle shivered and rubbed her arms. We stood there silently for a long time, until we heard footsteps, slow and steady ones, thudding up the hallway. Our eyes had adjusted to the dim light thrown off by the bulb, letting us see the small entryway. The door handle turned slowly and the door seemed to flex strangely for a moment before the door handle slowly returned to where it started. There was a tapping sound at the door, a brittle sound like ice cracking.

"The floor..." Nagle hissed. I looked down and saw frost slowly spread under the edge of the door.

"Christ, he's right out there." Bomber breathed.

There was a scraping noise, like nails on a blackboard, and the door shivered in its frame.

Another liquid sounding chuckle, and footsteps slowly paced away.

"He's in the fucking barracks." Bomber said softly, one of the more unnecessary things he'd ever said.

"Knives?" Nagle asked.

"No. Knives won't do shit against him, trust me." I replied. My shoulder gave a dull throb at the memory of a chunk of ice sliding into the stab wound and a sucking sound right after it withdrew. I shuddered, and rubbed my shoulder.

"Then what?" Bomber asked.

"Eat. Two MRE's if you can handle it, and use the bathroom." I said, heading over to the box and pulling out two MRE's. Bomber and Nagle joined me, grabbing two MRE's out of their boxes and following my example by wolfing it down as quick as possible. Squeezing the peanut butter, jelly, and cheese straight out of the package. The bathroom was rank by the time we were done, but I figured it was better to be fully fed, bladder and bowels empty, than to just go into whatever we were looking at only half fed.

"Now we wait." Nagle said, sitting down on the bed. I sat down next to her, and when Bomber went to sit on the weight bench Nagle patted the bed next to her. She took both of our hands, and we sat there silently, in the dim light, waiting, watching the glow in the dark hands of my windup alarm clock.

Less than a half hour went by before we heard voices at the door. I let go of Nagle's hand and sat in the desk chair, Bomber moved over to sit on the weight bench. I watched as the handle turned after the key rattled in the lock, just waiting.

Oakes, Kebble, the LT, and Nelson stood in my doorway. The LT stared at me for a long moment, and I smiled at him, letting him see my broken front teeth.

"Where is he?" The LT asked, stomping into the dim room. "Sergeant Oakes, turn on the light." Oakes flipped the switch. The light didn't change, just a faint dim yellow. Weird. The LT grabbed me and pulled me to my feet. "Where is Sergeant Martins?"

"He's gone." I said simply. "If that was him in the stairs, with the rifle, he's just gone."

"Bullshit. You three did something to him!" Oakes yelled. "Your shitty Scooby-Doo costume might have fooled Private Logan, but we know that it was you three!" Her voice held the edge of hysteria, and I smiled at her.

"How much blood was in the stairwell?" Nagle asked. She smiled when the LT looked.

"Was it frozen?" Bomber added his smile when the LT looked at him. "It was frozen, wasn't it?"

"Grab them, take them down to the My Office." The LT snarled, letting go of me and turning around to walk out of the room. You could hear the capital letters in the way he said it.

When Oakes stepped forward and grabbed my arm I just went along with it, instead of doing what I wanted to do, which was break her fucking face in. She was pinching with her fingernails, deliberately digging them into me. Rather than actually respond to her, I just ignored her and it, staring at her like nothing was going on.

"Did you want something, Private?" I asked her. She yanked harder, and I just swayed slightly. "Yes?"

"It's Sergeant, asshole." She said. I glanced back, seeing Bomber and Nagle standing there behind me, and smiled at them.

When she pulled again I just curled my lip, then stepped forward, letting her know I was letting her tugging me toward her.

My door had deep scratches in it, through the paint, and into the metal. It was also covered with a thick layer of frost. Frost glittered on the walls, the lights in the hallway and the emergency lights were out, the lights on the other side of the doors were dim. The door to the stairwell, when we passed it, was closed and the stairwell was dark.

We took the front stairwell down to the orderly room, and when we left the stairwell the windows were dark where the snow had piled over the bottom floor. The temperature was pretty bad, our breath pluming out in front of us, but that was normal.

And it was better than the winter before.

The door to the outside, where I could clearly remember an axe-wielding maniac standing in the snow attached to a tether, was closed and completely blocked by snow. The windows were completely blocked by white, and I wondered just how deep the snow was. Skiers and tourists were probably enjoying the mountain below us, completely unaware of what was going on up here.

I briefly wondered if Tandy sometimes snacked on tourists.

We took the right, past the copy machine, and a left into the orderly room, where the Sergeant Major's office and the CO's office was. Sergeant Tee was sitting behind the Sergeant Major's desk, reading paperwork, and when we were marched in, he closed the manila folder he was reading and began to stand up.

Nelson already had the door to the CO's office open, grinning nastily, and waved us inside. The LT was standing up behind the desk, still dressed in his Class-A's, and I wondered just how bad they were starting to smell. He kept alternating between his Class-A's and a single uniform, and the uniform was starting to look pretty bad. When we came in, he was still looking out the window, not even bothering to turn around and face us.

"Take a seat in the chairs, we'll begin in a moment." He told us, tracing a finger across the glass.

I took the middle chair, Nagle on my right, Bomber on my left.

"Tie them down." The LT said, turning from the window and reaching out to pick up his Class-A gloves off the desk.

"No." I said, standing up. Bomber and Nancy followed smoothly.

"Sit down, or be put down." He smiled.

The only one not behind us was the LT, but it was pretty easy to keep track of them. Situational awareness was what it was called, and I'd always been good at it. Keeping track of your surroundings and the things in your surroundings that move, as well as estimating how they'd move.

Behind us, someone flipped the selector lever on their rifle, the click loud in the silence.

I tensed to turn around, my plan involving kicking the chair at Nelson, who was directly behind me. I'd take Kebble down with a strike to the throat, then turn and hit Oakes in one of her floating ribs twice, then finish off Nelson before moving on to the LT.

"What is going on in here?" Sergeant Tee's voice stopped me, and I heard Nagle exhale sharply.

"I'm going to question these three about the disappearance of two soldiers." The LT said, still pulling on the leather gloves as if the whole room wasn't poised at the knife's edge of violence.

"And they need to be tied up for that?" Tee wondered, coming into the office and standing in front of the desk. "So it is true that you had the three of them beaten to extract a bullshit confession out of them?"

"They're Soviet agents, we need to interrogate them to find out how many people they are working worth, to find out who is killing people in my barracks." The LT answered, clenching his fists in the leather gloves.

"Sir, nothing in the UCMJ requires these soldiers to submit to any type of interrogation outside of an MP station." Sergeant Tee snarled, stopping in front of us. "Nothing in the UCMJ give you the right to..."

"The UCMJ says what I say it says, Sergeant!" The LT suddenly bellowed, his face turning red. "Vigilance against agents of the Soviet Union is required in this unit!"

"Nagle, Ant, Bomber, return to your room." Sergeant Tee said. "The LT and I need to have a small talk."

"Stop right there." The LT snarled, "Sergeant, you don't want to try to countermand my authority."

"You do not want to get in a pissing contest with me." Sergeant Tee shot right back. "You're a pissant little Lieutenant with delusions of grandeur who can't even handle a Rear-D assignment." He glanced back at the three of us. "And I doubt that First Cavalry Division would have approved of you beating up three soldiers for some imaginary crime."

"I'm sure I'm a better judge of what goes on in First Cav than you are, Sergeant." The LT's tone was frosty.

The three of us were just staring at the exchange. You never saw an officer and an NCO going eye to eye.

"Since I've been with the Cav twice, once when you were still in High School, you're sadly mistaken." He turned slightly. "The three of you, go back to your room." He turned back to the Lieutenant. "We're going to talk about what's going on."

I turned around, smiling at Nelson, and pushed by him, deliberately shoving him with my shoulder, using my greater mass to knock him a step back. Nagle and Bomber followed me into the orderly room, and I kept an ear out.

In the stairwell, heading between the first and second floor, we heard the stairwell door open and boots thunder up the steps. We stopped on the landing and let them catch up.

Nelson, Oakes, and Kebble came up the steps, glaring at us, and stopped on the landing with us.

"The LT told us to make sure that the three of you get to your room all right." Oakes smiled. "He's going to arm everyone and put them into search parties."

"We'll find out where you're hiding them, and then your ass is grass." Nelson added.

"Whatever." I grunted, heading up the stairs. Fuck 'em.

They locked us in the room and we all three looked at each other.

"He's going to arm them." Nagle breathed.

"Fuck." I agreed.

Bomber grabbed the desk chair and drug it over to the door, wedging the chair under the handle so it couldn't turn and be used to open the door.

I had a bad feeling.

Chapter 8

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fourteen

"Open the door." The command was yelled through the steel door of the room.

"Go fuck yourself, Kebble!" I yelled back.

"Open this goddamn door, the CO wants to see you!" She yelled again.

"Fuck him too!" I yelled back. "I ain't comin' out!"

The handle jiggled, unable to turn all the way because of the top of the chair blocking it.

The room was brighter, the light bulb having gone back to normal the night before. We still had heat, we still had MRE's, and we still had water. The bruising on my face was fading pretty quick, but my teeth still ached. Nagle was standing behind me, as naked as I was, watching me and Kebble scream at each other through the door with a smile on her face.

"We'll break it in!" She warned.

"Go ahead and try! We'll be waiting!" I bellowed back.

They'd been trying to get us to unbarricade the door for 2 days, trying every couple of hours. Our uniforms were still in the laundry room, and after wearing our PT's constantly for the last couple days, we'd stripped naked, washed them in the shower, and now had them hanging from the shower curtain rod and drying. Nagle walked around naked, no body modesty at all, and Kebble had started banging on the door, interrupting our poker game. We were playing for matches and cigarettes, and I was ahead by a handful of match stick and almost a full pack of smokes.

"We should let them in." Nagle smiled. "Let Kebble see what a woman actually looks like, instead of that sorry excuse she sees in the mirror."

"I don't want her staring at my junk." Bomber tossed out from the main room.

There was some argument on the other side of the door that I didn't catch. Nagle stepped up behind me, pressing her breasts against my back, her hands going around my waist to clasp together below my belly button. She breathed softly in my ear and then licked the bottom of what had been my ear lobe before most of it was cut away due to frostbite.

"You know, you could open the door and let her see something else." She whispered into my ear, the hot breath tickling.

"Be good." I murmured, playfully slapping her hand.

"Sooner or later we're gonna kick in the door!" Kebble yelled, and we could hear her stomp off. She'd forgotten to lock it after her.

"Fuck that bitch." I snarled.

Nagle's hand dropped lower. "How about fuck this bitch?" She teased.

"That sounds like a good..." I started, just before someone knocked on the door.

"Open the door." Sergeant Tee's voice.

Nagle's hand stopped moving. "What's he doing up here?"

"Hurry up, open the door."

I pulled the chair away from the door and pulled on the handle. I opened the door, the cold air blowing across my naked body. The lights were still off in the hallway, and the light from my room flickered as the lightbulb buzzed and suddenly dimmed. The darkness was almost a palpable thing as it pushed into the dimming room.

There was nobody in the hallway.

"What the shit?" I asked.

It was risky, but I stuck my head out the door, looking first left, then right. Bomber, me, sometimes Nagle, and sometimes some others played a game. You knock on the door, stand to the side. When they look out the door, you wait till they look at you, then you punch them in the face.

I half expected a punch when I looked to either side of the door.

Toward the mid-way doors there was nothing but darkness, not even light in the glass of the double doors. To the other side there was nothing but darkness. Not even the emergency light was kicked on.


"Ant, get our uniforms." Nagle whispered. "I'll stand in the door."

"No way." I answered, trying to pull back. Nagle put one hand on the small of my back and shoved hard, sending me half stumbling into the hallway.

"Go, Ant..." She hissed, but I was already moving, running as fast as I could in the darkness.

I'd walked these halls drunk so often I could navigate them concussed, black out drive drunk, or half asleep.

I slid to a stop, bumping into the double door, my bare feet skating across the thin patina of ice on the floor. I almost busted my ass, but managed to turn it into a (hopefully) suave looking slide into the laundry room, opening the door by slapping the handle and the edge of the door simultaneously.

Ice coated the ceiling, frost down the wall, and while all of the washer lids were open, three of the dryers were closed.


I hurried to the dryer, shivering, and dug in the dryer for the laundry bag. In the moonlight streaming in through the window high up in the wall I couldn't tell who's uniforms they were, but I could tell they were uniforms, and that's all that mattered. I opened the laundry bag and started jamming everything inside. When I caught bras, I figured this was Nagle's shit. I hurried as fast as I could, feeling my feet go numb and my toes start to hurt. I'd broken my toes at various times over the last few years, so they all had stabbing pains in them as the old breaks started complaining. Halfway through the second dryer my nose felt like it was going to break off and my ears were throbbing. By the time I got done jamming everything into the laundry bags, I couldn't even feel my genitals, ears, nose, lips, toes, and my fingers were clumsy.

I yanked open the door, and the darkness of the hallway enveloped me.

"Nancy." I hissed into the darkness.

"Hurry, Ant." She hissed back, and I moved down the hallway, my bare feet slapping on the frost covered tiles.

"Aaaaaaaaaahhhhnnnnt" The sound was sibilant, more like a low bubbling exhalation than anything.

"Oh, God, RUN ANT!" Nancy yelled. I could faintly see her arm waving back and forth in the dimness of the hallway, and I took off sprinting.

The double doors behind me crashed, and I heard the wire strengthened glass shatter behind me.

"Aaaaaaahnt" that exhalation again.

Cold air washed over me, making me stumble as it felt like I was frozen all the way into my core. My breath froze in my lungs, it felt like ice covered my eyeballs, and my lips felt like chunks of ice.

Darkness was next, the light vanishing, and I was stumbling, trying to keep ahead of my feet, the three laundry bags being drug on the ground. I wasn't sure exactly why it was so important to keep my hand in a fist, to hold onto the barbed wire laced across my palm.

Between one step and the next a hand shot out of the darkness and grabbed my arm, yanking me almost off my feet and out of the hallway.

Chapter 9

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fourteen

I got yanked into the room, the door slamming behind me, the hand slinging me into the hallway between the entryway and the main room, wall lockers on both sides of me. I could make out Bomber standing there in my blurred vision and realized that Nancy had grabbed me as I had stumbled by and pulled me in from the hallway.

"C-c-c-old." I shivered. Bomber turned away in the dim light and then turned back holding a blanket that he wrapped around me.

There was a knock at the door.

"Open up." The voice was one I didn't recognize.

Nagle moved away from the door, pulling me deeper into the room. There was another knock at the door, but I was too busy trying to get warm again. Nagle grabbed the laundry bag's strings off the floor where I dropped them and pulled the bags after her as we moved into the main part of the room.

"Come on, man, open the door." The voice said.

Nagle dumped the bags on the bed into three different piles, picking up the BDU tops and naming who's they were. I stood there, teeth chattering, while Bomber and Nagle got dressed pretty quickly, Nagle leaving her top, bra, and T-shirt off. Nagle pulled out a uniform and underwear for me while I just stood there.

"What the hell happened out there?" Bomber asked, moving around behind me to rub my back through the blanket.

"Tandy's out there." Nagle answered for me, moving in front of me to open the blanket and then press against me. I wrapped the blanket around us, basking in the heat radiating from her body.

"Fucking great." He snarled. "A psycho officer, again, and Tandy running loose, again. Shit, at least I don't have to worry about getting my appendix popped this time." He slapped my shoulder, making the old stab wound ache. "Guess it's your turn, Ant."

"Bite me, John." I chattered. I nuzzled Nancy's hair. "Why'd you push me out the door?"

"You're a boy." She told me.

"Oh." That was all she needed to say.

"How you feeling?" She asked.

"Better." I lied. She went to pull away, and I held onto her for a moment, until she pinched me hard, so I kissed the top of her head and let her go. She poked me in the belly button as she backed away, but she was smiling at me.

"Get dressed." She told me, tossing me a pair of boxers and picking up a bra. While she got dressed I hurriedly pulled on my uniform, checking the color real quick to make sure my rank was sewn on with that uniform and not pinned on. I was good, although the nametag was getting worn. Probably about the fifth uniform I'd used it on. I was a little rough on BDU's, or to be correct, my job was a bit rough. It wasn't uncommon to catch some banding or the edge of an ammo container and tear a hole in it or tear a huge rip in it.

I grabbed my softcap off the top of the fridge, putting it on. For some reason, the simple act of putting my softcap on made me feel a metric fuckton better.

"Knives?" Bomber asked simply.

"Knives." I agreed.

Nagle and Bomber pulled the fridge away from the wall, and I climbed behind in, reaching into the space where the compressor was to find the blades I'd hidden in there. I pulled them out, handing them out, and strapped one to my boot. It wasn't tied on with the laces, but rather designed to sit on a combat boot. A metal loop that went around the heel and a clip that went into the top of the boot. Another Gerber went on my hip. Nagle put hers on her waist, clipping it to her belt, so that her BDU shirt hid it. Bomber put his at the small of his back, letting his BDU blouse fall to cover it.

The others I put in the underwear drawer that Nagle was using, hiding them under her panties and bras. It wasn't as good a place as under the fridge, but they would be easy to get to.

"Now what?" Bomber asked, leaning against the wall lockers.

"We go down to the CQ area, find out what the fuck is going on in here." I answered. "It's been too quiet lately."

"What if he is still in the hallway?" Nagle asked.

"Then we run like hell." I answered.

We walked toward the door, Nagle bumping me affectionately with her shoulder.

"Where's the rendevous point?" Bomber asked from behind me.

"Third floor stairwell, second floor landing. If that fails, meet up in the ops center on four, we'll jump." I finished, reaching for the door.

Nobody stood outside of it, in the darkness, and the hallway looked clear.

But then, it wouldn't be the first time that someplace looked clear when it wasn't.

We deliberately stayed quiet, walking down to the CQ area down the dark hallways, the frost dark and cold on the walls. A crashing noise came from above us as we pushed through the middle stairwell doors, the wire reinforced glass in the frames shattered. Our boots thudded against the tile as we made our way to the stairwell, above us boots thudded as someone ran down the hallway. Pulling open the stairwell door, cold air swirled around us and a shriek echoed from below. There was ice, not frost, on the walls and the steps had icicles hanging from them. We watched our step heading down the stairs and when we pushed open the door, the scene in front of us made us stop and stare.

Rear-D was divided in half. Almost a dozen stood around with weapons, staring at the rest of the detachment, which stood there unarmed, glaring at the ones with weapons. The LT was in all his glory, wearing his Class-A's, and Sergeant Tee was wearing his BDU's. They were standing face to face, obviously arguing, but whatever they were saying was lost in the crash of the door opening, and every eye turned to stare at us as a scream ripped down the stairwell.

We walked just outside the door, letting it slam behind us, and stared back at everyone.

"Just what do you think you're doing outside of your room?" The LT asked. His hand was rubbing his rank, same as it had been when we had entered the CQ area. "Nobody gave permission for you to leave."

I gave him my best Billy Idol sneer. Nagle always joked I looked like the love child of Gary Busey and Billy Idol, and I sure as hell was able to curl and lift my lip in the same way. I saw a couple of Rear-D flinch.

Being ugly had its advantages sometimes.

"It seems like PFC Kebble was pretty insistent we come down and join you less than fifteen minutes ago." I answered.

"Return to your room, you are still under confinement." The LT answered. He'd turned away from Sergeant Tee to stare at us.

"How many have you lost?" Nagle asked, stepping up to my left. Bomber moved next to me on my right, shifting to parade rest. He didn't fool me, I knew that it put his hands closer to his knife.

"Five." Sergeant Tee answered before the LT could do much more than flush and open his mouth.

"He's stalking the barracks, you idiot." Bomber said, his voice flat and harsh. Above us there was a shout and the crashing of boots. "You don't understand what Winter is like here."

"Go back to your room!" The LT shouted at us. I curled my lip again. "I refuse to allow Soviet spies to contaminate my soldiers with their very presence!"

"Who are you going to have make us?" I asked. My juvie instincts told me to shut up and do what the Head Screw ordered, to not rock the boat, to keep my head down and do my time.

But Green Hill Juvie never had something like Tandy stalking J-Max.

"We're done listening to your paranoid bullshit." Nagle added. "I've been in the Army since you've been in high school, you jumped up little punk. Unlike you, I've been promoted three times."

"And unlike you, we've survived a winter here." Bomber finished. There was a shout and another crash from above us, and I saw several people flinch out of the corner of my eye.

"Guys, please." Sergeant Tee asked. "Not now."

I stared at him for a long moment, then nodded.

"We're going back to our room. We don't open the door unless we want to, we get hot meals with the rest of Rear-D, and no more of Oakes' retarded intimidation shit." I answered.

Everyone was staring at us as Nagle turned around and opened the door back to the stairwell. The cold wind whipped over us and a sobbing noise could be heard drifting down the stairwell. I smiled at the LT before I turned to walk away, pushing into the wind swept stairwell.

We walked back to our room in the darkness, not bothering to be quiet. Behind us the stairwell door crashed, but we ignored it as we pushed through the midway doors. The warmth of our room enveloped us when we went in, closing the door behind us.

"Well, that was useless and dramatic." Nagle laughed. "You know, we could have spent our time fucking, at least that would have been fun."

The door shuddered in the frame as someone hammered on it. Anger surged in me that the LT had decided to come up and follow us, to continue the argument.

I whipped open the door, my eyes seeing a shape in the darkness, one hand raised up, only eyes and teeth visible in the dim light of my room.

Before whoever it was could even move I was in motion, hand locking on the forearm of the upraised him, using my size and weight to drive them back against the door across from me. There was a squawk as I brought my knee up into their stomach, then brought my forehead down into their face. I spun in place, letting them go partway through the arc so they slammed into the far wall, but before they could do much more than bounce, I grabbed the back of their head, driving them face first into the wall, and slammed two punches into their back, one into each kidney, bringing out a garbled scream as I threw them on their back on the floor, stepping forward, planning to bring my boot into the center of their chest to destroy the sternum.

Nagle's hand grabbed my BDU shirt, pulling me back and off balance. Bomber grabbed me, holding tight.

The lights came on, illuminating the hallway as I stood there, breathing heavy, not because I was winded, but to fuel my body with more oxygen, feeling the adrenaline trickle down my spine, and the warm tingling in my extremities as my body responded to the demands of combet.

Kebble lay on the floor, writhing and sobbing, blood streaming down her face from her nose. I knew she'd be pissing blood in a few hours.

"Kebble!" Oakes' voice. I turned to see her standing less than 10 feet away, her eyes and mouth wide.

"Sic' em, boy." Nagle said, pushing on me lightly, gently tapping me in Oakes' direction. Bomber let go of my sleeve as Oakes started raising her rifle.

Without hesitating I walked toward her, flexing my hands with the crunch of knuckles that had been broken too many times. Her rifle came up, swiveling to point at my face.

"I warned you." I growled out, still walking forward, my pace deliberate and slow.

"Stay back, Ant!" She yelled, taking a small step backwards. Not that it mattered, in the time it took her to say that and take her tiny little step I'd taken two long ones. She opened her mouth to continue, but whatever she was going to say vanished.

My hand wrapped around the barrel, just behind the flash suppressor, my other hand wrapping around the spot where the stock merged with the forward receiver, and I snatched the rifle hard, pulling it away from her, then slammed it back, driving the butt plate into her face. She stumbled back and I kicked out with my foot, the rifle spinning in my hands so I held it at port arms. She went down in a heap and without a pause I slammed the toe of my combat boot into her crotch, then dropped one knee into her gut before leaning forward with the rifle across her throat.

"Hello, Oakes." I whispered, smiling at her. "Didn't quite work out like you thought, did it?" Blood was running down her face as she stared at me in hate.

"The CO's going to..." Her words choked off when I leaned forward, putting weight onto the rifle.

"Go the same way you are." I whispered gently. "We're tired of being pushed around, we're tired of being threatened, and if we're going to die, we're going down our way."

The knife whispered as it cleared the sheathe, the honed edge gleaming in the lights of the hallway. Oakes' eyes opened wide as I brought the knife up where she could see it.

"Oops." I told her, laying the cold blade against her face. "For all your strutting and Betty Badass shit, you've forgotten one thing."

"Open your mouth, bitch." Nagle said behind me.

Oakes didn't answer, just stared at me. I could see her pulse beating in her neck and had to restrain the urge to nick that pulsing spot in her neck with the point of the knife.

"You've forgotten the same thing your precious little shiner bitch has forgotten." I told her, leaning forward until our noses touched.

"Start sucking, bitch. Impress me." Nagle said. "This time you're not doing it for rank, you're doing it to survive."

"We're killers. You assholes aren't." I whispered. I slid the knife down her side until the point was just below her ribs. I pressed the knife hard enough to make it felt, but not enough to slide through the cloth of the uniform or break the skin.

The lights clicked off and I sat up quickly. There was a lewd sucking sound behind me. The emergency lights kicked on, strobed for a half second, then dimmed to a sullen red glow. Beyond the double doors the emergency light was just bright enough to make the crazed white of the shattered windows turn blood red. Footsteps pounded above us, and a shriek sounded from deeper into the building.

"Back in the room." Bomber hissed as I scrambled up, knife in one hand, rifle in the other.

"Hurry, Ant. Stab her ass and be done with it or come on." Nagle said to me. "You bitches better run." She told Oakes and Kebble.

We slammed the door, quickly sliding the chair under the handle.

"Aaaaand, we're back in the room." Nagle said, and the light flickered in agreement before dimming almost all the way down.

"There's a difference now." Bomber said.

"Yeah, what?" Nagle snarled. Tempers were starting to flare.

"We have weapons." I could feel Bomber smiling in the dark.

Outside our door there was a liquid chuckle, and in the dim light we could see frost creeping under the door and spreading out, tentacles of frost leading the way. An icicle pushed its way into my shoulder.

"Aaaand it might not matter." Bomber said.

Something chuckled in agreement on the other side of the door.

Chapter 10

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fourteen

"You know," Nagle said, holding up the pistol in the dim light. The barrel glinted wetly. "I would have made her lick my pussy like a prison bitch instead of sucking this if we'd had more time."

"Yeah, but then that tongue would have been in your cunny, think about that." Bomber told her. Nagle made a face, and Bomber grinned. "Yeah. All the officers and NCO's dicks that she's scraped that tongue across, the same tongue flopping around in your gash."

"I get the point. Ew." Nagle shuddered theatrically.

The frost at the door had stopped spreading, the tentacles that led the way melting away.

"He left." I told them.

"Thank God." Nagle said, moving up next to me and putting her arm around my waist. I pretended not to notice her wiping the barrel of the .45 off on my uniform.

"There's no God here." Bomber said. "Well shit, now what do we do?"

"No more of this passive crap." I snarled, pulling away from Nagle and stomping into the middle of the room. Something upstairs mocked me, the footsteps a split second behind my own, starting and stopping when I did. I tossed the M-16A1 on the bunk. "I made a mistake, figuring that if we just kept our heads down all of this would blow over."

"Ant, don't..." Nagle started.

"We could have spoken..." Bomber said at the same time.

"Save it. I'm the one who wanted to avoid violence, I'm the one who just said go with it, I'm the one who wanted to wait until we got rescued." I pointed at the window. "Rescue isn't coming. I didn't want to say anything, but look outside. We've already got thirty feet of snow, at least, on the windward side of the barracks. It's still snowing. Last year we got sixty feet dumped on us. How much are we going to get this year?"

I walked over to the window and opened the curtains, staring at the swirling snow that was dimly illuminated by the failing light bulb. I opened my mouth to say something, then stepped back from the window, cocking my head and rhythmically opening and closing my right hand, the knuckles crunching each time.

Bomber sat on the weight bench, watching me, and Nagle leaned against the desk, setting the pistol on the desk before folding her arms beneath her breasts.

Yes, there was at least thirty feet of snow. The motor pool was twenty feet higher than the front of the building. That meant that the wind could have pushed the snow flat, into a gentle incline. The motor pool roof was twenty feet above the floor, and peaked up another twenty, making it forty feet total. We didn't have snow shoes, but that wasn't that big of a deal, if Ogg the Caveman could make the fucking things, I sure as shit could. We could walk from the window of our room to the motor pool, and hole up there if shit got bad. Let Tandy have the barracks, pull back to the motor pool, and hole up in the bay there. There was showers, war stocks, bathrooms, emergency generators, fuel, everything we needed to survive.

And skis.

One of the mandatory training courses we had to take was cross country skiing. I was a for shit downhill skier, more likely to kill myself by running face first into a tree than anything else, but as far as cross country went, I was good at it. As a long distance runner, I had the endurance to make it and thanks to mandatory training, the training to make it. Nagle was better at downhill, and Bomber was competent at both. We could take the skis, a compass, cold weather gear, and ski to main post.

The idea was perfect.

Except that Tandy was out there. We wouldn't get more than a mile before he took all three of us out.


Still, the motor pool was a good idea. Right now it was dark, and trying to make it was going to be hard enough, trying to do it in the dark would be suicide.

"Dammit." I whispered. "Goddamn that Tandy."

"I think he's already damned." Bomber said. "Let me guess, any plan you come up with ends up with him feasting on our flesh?"

"Yeah." I admitted.

"Kind of makes the plan seem suboptimal." Nagle said. She started unbuttoning her shirt. "Hit the weights to pass the time or play D&D?" She asked. "If we just sit here staring at each other, we're going to go crazy."

"Weights." Bomber and I said together.

We spend awhile doing PT, and I was glad to work off the adrenaline and aggression. I'd wanted to cut Oakes, slice up her face, give her the same scar that she mocked Nagle for having. Situps helped work off the image of the knife slicing through her skin to expose her skull. Cut the little bitch's throat and slap my hand over the wound and stare her in the eyes as she went down. Pushups sent my muscle's thrumming and the look I wanted to see in her eyes went away. I'd gotten sick of the little bitch strutting around my room, breaking my shit, acting like a little tin God as she reveled in her power over us. Pressing the weights, I used my rage, my anger at Oakes and everyone like her I'd encountered in my life.

In my head I heard the cold voice telling me to stay down at the bottom of the stairwell, remembered the way it felt laying in the snow bleeding out with a bayonet stuck through my shoulder.

The weights felt good, the burning in my muscles as I pushed myself harder and harder, letting the rage flow out of me, aware that I was verging on the edge of losing control. I hated everyone but the two people in the room with me. My mother for the years of torture. My father for leaving all the time. My country for taking him from me when I needed him to protect me. My brothers for tormenting and beating on me, and for not protecting me. My sisters for either joining my mother or refusing to lift a finger to save me. Backwoods sheriffs who used their badge to do whatever they wanted and then hid behind the shield and their brothers when someone called them on it. The NCO's that viewed me as nothing more than a high school dropout and an inbred hick. The officers that dismissed me as a knuckle dragging thug. My fellow enlisted for the whispers, the looks, that they thought I didn't notice. Myself for being what I was. The mountain for being there.

God for all of it.

"Ant, enough." Nagle said, putting her hand on my forehead. "Come shower with me."

We stripped in the bathroom, underneath the dim yellow light of the bulb. She was more shadow than anything else, but she still felt good in my arms as we waited the handful of seconds for the shower to heat up.

In the shower she was hot, firm, and soapy. Her skin under my hands pushed the pounding rage back, the noises she made reminded me of how wonderful the flaws of being human were, the way she sagged in my arms letting me know that I wasn't just an animal in a cage.

I held her, standing in the spray of the shower, surrounded by steam, cloaked in dimness, and buried my face in the curve of her shoulder. She held me, rubbing her hands on my back, and making wordless sounds that were more important than any speech.

"Better?" She finally asked me.

"Yeah. I can think straight." I told her, my voice muffled.

"I'm sorry." She told me.

"For what?"

"For doing that to you. For pushing you into the hallway, for siccing you on Oakes." She sighed, rubbing my skin under the hot water.

"I'm just a boy." I told her, relishing the feel of the steam billowing around us.

"Doesn't make it right." She told me, then drew back, her face serious. "Ant, what do you know about cabin fever?"

"That it's real and deadly." I chewed on my lower lip for a moment, thinking. "It's probably what's going to spark off the first murder in the barracks, and be what's behind the explosion that the murder will cause."

"It's getting a little more real for us." She told me. I was silent for a moment, waiting, and she continued. "Bomber."

"What about him?" I asked.

"There's a very real chance the two of you will kill each other over me." She told me. When I shook my head in denial she pushed me against the wall of the shower, leaning back herself. She was against the shower knobs, her face out of the water, partly concealed by the steam, and barely visible in the dim light.

"You two are..." she thought for a second. "Very physical. Aggressive. He hasn't said anything yet, and he might not even know, but it won't be long before he begins to fixate on me. He's started staring at me the last couple of days, and it was really noticeable when we were working out."

"Vain much?" I asked, still smiling.

"I'm not kidding, Ant. This is very real." She put her hand on my chest. "We can either nip this in the bud, or we can face the consequences of ignoring it."

"It's no big deal if you guys fuck." I told her, smiling. "Hell, it isn't like we haven't gotten drunk and taken turns on you before."

"That's not what I'm talking about." She said, smiling for a moment. "Sex is part of it, yeah. But he's going to need affection, attention, not just be a walking talking vibrator I use to satisfy myself."

I knew I was frowning.

"Either that or go down and kill the LT and have me move back in my room." She told me. "He's your best friend, but you need to be realistic. If we end up in here long enough, the two of you will try to kill one another, either over me or over some imagined slight." Her hand stopped over my heart and put faint pressure on the skin.

"We aren't boyfriend and girlfriend, and it's my decision who I fuck, who I spend time with, and what I do." She told me. "Ant, don't look like that. I don't want you two trying to murder each other, I don't want to lose either one of you." Her hand moved up to my lip and pressed softly, making my broken teeth twinge. "I spent too much of myself keeping the two of you alive. Nobody on Earth is more important to me than the two of you."

"I got it." I told her. Bomber and her had slept together before, hell, we'd fulfilled some of her pretty nasty fantasies after the last winter, felt her groan and strain between us. But for some reason, instead of it being amusing, the thought of Nancy's arms and legs around John made me angry.

"You gonna be OK?" She asked me, stepping up and putting her arms around me.

"It doesn't matter. I'm just a boy." I answered.

"Don't say that." She said. "Admit how you feel, please, for me."

"I'm afraid you'll stop loving me." I admitted.

There, it was out in the open.

"No, Ant, I won't stop loving you." She told me, lifting up her chin and kissing me. "Nothing could do that." I nodded.

"Then I'll be fine." I told her. I wasn't lying. Knowing she'd still love me made the idea of her and Bomber together, of them laying there whispering to one another, bearable and not something that made my fists clench and my gut tighten.

We turned off the shower, toweled off, and dressed quickly, bumping into each other and laughing.

When she opened the bathroom door, John was standing in the darkness, the dim light from the bathroom washing over him. It made him into a creature of shadow, barely recognizable, something different than my friend.

"Having fun?" He asked. I hadn't noticed before the way his stance had changed before, the tightness in his voice, the hard glitter in his eyes, and the almost betrayed feeling rolling off of him.

I realized that Nancy might have taken too long to bring it up.

Chapter 11

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fourteen

John was a big guy, something that was easy for me to forget after the years we'd spent as good friends. He was over six feet of Texas rawhide and iron, thick muscle from pumping iron and throwing around heavy ammunition turning what would have been a tall lanky Texan into a 225 or more pound monster. I'd seen a bull throw him, drag him around as it whipped in circles, and then land with both feet on him, and John just pop up like a jack in the box as soon as he got free. I'd been back to back with him in fights, spotted him while pumping iron, and sparred with him. I'd seen him take an axe to the gut and survive his appendix being ruptured.

He was big, he was mean, and he was tougher than bad beef jerky.

I felt the spit dry up in my mouth as his tone and body language dawned on me. His eyes, pale slits in the dimness, were locked on me, not Nagle, and the twisted look of anger and betrayal on his face was more than imagination, more than the dimness, but a real thing aimed at me.

"Fun's just started, John." Nancy said, her voice low, husky, and dripping with sexual appeal. When he opened his mouth to reply, she stepped into him, her arms going around him, and she pressed her mouth to his. His eyes widened, and he looked at me. I smiled, slapped him on the shoulder as I walked past, grabbed the rifle off the bed, and drug one of the chairs over to the window and looked outside.

I stared at the snow, ignoring the sounds behind me, and broke the weapon down by rote habit, setting the pieces on the three drawer chest without taking my eyes from the window, finishing up by pulling out the cleaning kit from the butt of the weapon. I dug a cloth out of drawer to put on the top of the dresser to put the parts on when I was done, then dug another piece of torn brown T-shirt out of the drawer and got up.

Nancy was holding Bomber down, her back arched, eyes closed, hips rocking. Her hands were tight around his wrists and had them pushed into the blankets. I walked past, grabbed the rubbing alcohol and the CLP/breakfree and came back in.

John was looking at me, and I reached down and tapped him in the middle of the forehead hard with my finger, grinning at him while I did it. He glanced at Nagle's breasts swinging above his head, then at me, and I chuckled, tapped him again, and walked back over to the chair, scooping up the pistol as I moved by.

Both weapons had a slight bit of rust on them. Oakes' weapon was particularly bad, the bolt filmed with it. I set to work, stripping the hand guards away, and pulling the weapon down further than was usual, taking off the butt plate, the trigger guard, the bolt cover, everything.

"You cum too early and I'll wrap my hands around your throat and strangle another hard on out of you." I heard Nancy growl, gasping sharply a couple times.

Knowing she was perfectly willing to do that made me grin as I kept cleaning the weapons, laying each piece on the cloth. I ran over our options, thought my way through the decision trees that each action opened up, and tried laying out plans.

All of them ended with all three of us dead from our fellow soldiers or frozen in the snow or dead at the cold hands of Tandy.

No matter how I ran the numbers we were likely to come out the same way. Dead.

When I heard Nagles war-like cry as she orgasmed I began snapping the .45 together, checking the action as Bomber finished. Satisfied on how the pistol operated, I set it aside and began assembling the M-16A1, the whole time staring out the window as they whispered to one another.

That was the hard part. The two of them whispering, the giggles from Nagle you only heard after she came, the chuckling from both of them, and the rustle of their movements.

Being excluded.

I realized what had driven Bomber to the edge. Not that Nagle and I were having sex, but that we were excluding him from what came afterward. The sharing, the small talk, the affectionate byplay. Watching and hearing your two best friends excluding you from something when you were right there.

It hurt worse than anything else, but I pushed it down ruthlessly, snapping together the upper and lower receivers. Now I knew what I'd accidentally and carelessly done to my best friend. I hurt, but I'd get over it. The pain was more out of embarrassment and guilt than anything else.

I ran SPORTS a couple times on the rifle, then disassembled the magazine, checking the spring, before snapping it together and then reloading it. Thirty rounds of copper jacketed 5.56mm NATO rounds.

Thirty kills.

I heard footsteps padding behind me as I set the magazine down and drew my knife, moving slower when I heard the footsteps.

"You all right, Ant?" John asked, dropping his hand onto my shoulder.

I set the knife on the table, reaching up to put my hand on top of his.

"Yeah, John, I'm OK now. You?" I slid open the drawer and pulled out the whetstone.

"Better." There was a long pause, during which I let go of his hand and picked up the CLP to squirt a little on the stone. When I started running the edge across the stone as if I was cutting into it, he broke the silence again. "Sorry."

"It's OK, man. Perfectly normal." I reassured him. "You should have said something, brother."

He sighed, his hand still on my shoulder. "I know. I don't get it how it happened. First it didn't bother me. Then I started thinking how it wasn't fair that you got her. Then I started thinking about how I had had her a few times. Then it got to the point where all I had to do was take care of you and I could have her."

"How long?" I asked, switching hands with the stone and the knife. I was still splitting my concentration between the blade and stone in my hands, the window, and his voice.

"This morning. It dawned on me while you two were having sex that all I had to do to take your place is take you out." He heaved a deep breath. "Then, when you came back from getting our laundry, it dawned on me how easy it would be. Finally, in the hallway, I knew that if I didn't take you out, you'd take me out." On the last part he sounded embarrassed.

"You two going to be all right?" Nancy asked from behind me. I could picture her in my mind, legs crossed, propped up on one arm, the other arm underneath her breasts, sweat covering her and a faint smile dancing on her lips.

"We're working on it." I answered, keeping my tone gentle.

"Give us a few, will you, Nancy?" John asked.

"Yeah, I'm gonna hit the shower." She told us. We stayed silent till the bedsprings creaked and the bathroom door shut. Bomber let go of my shoulder and padded away, coming back after the bathroom door shut, dragging the chair from in front of the door with him. He sat down beside me, his knife in his hand, and held out his hand.

"Hand me another stone and the break free, will you?" He asked. I nodded, pulling open the drawer and pulling out the ceramic sharpening rod, then handed him the stone.

"I'm done with that." I told him. We sat silently for a moment, sharpening our knives, the only sound the water and the scrape of our knives.

"I miss you, you know." He told me.

"I've been right here." I told him.

"Yeah, but we quit talking after the LT had us tuned up." He stopped sharpening and turned to look at me. "Ant, we talk all the damn time. After the LT got done having our asses beat, you kind of shut me out."

"Sorry." I told him, setting aside my knife. "I just felt bad for having us walk right into it. I mean, shit, I didn't know what they were planning when they took Nancy away, but I sure as hell knew when they came back for you."

"I didn't think they would actually do it." He chuckled, then touched his throat. "Thank God for amateurs."

"No shit." I agreed. I reached over and put my hand on his shoulder. "You're right, I've been withdrawing. I don't know why. And I'm sorry."

"I know why, and I understand." Bomber told me. "Hell, for the first few months we worked together you barely talked at all. You were just reverting to back how you were before we met." He laughed, and things felt all right again. "Your brother is the one who never shuts the fuck up." I laughed too, and he smiled.

"We good?" He asked.

"Yeah, brother, we're good." I told him, picking my knife back up.

"Listen, you call the play, I got your back." He told me, picking his back up and going back to sharpening his knife. He did it with little circles, I always ran the edge of the blade into the stone. Pulling away curled the edge, while running the blade down the edge kept it from curling or folding.

"Thanks." I told him. "We're going to have to talk with Nancy about how we're gonna handle this." He opened his mouth and I held up the knife, not threateningly, but to stop him, then continued. "I'm not talking about the fucking part, I'm talking about the three of us talking, being honest with each other. Admit it, you were ready to kill me."

"I don't know what I was planning." He admitted. He made a noise, and I turned to look him, and he blushed. "To be brutally honest, I was pissed at her too. Angry at her for taking my best friend away from me."

"Fag." I said, punching him in the shoulder.

"You wish, hick." He grinned, punching me back.

"At ease that shit." Nancy's voice came from behind us. Neither one of us had noticed she'd finished her shower and come out. "It'll start like this, then I'll be kicking you apart while you roll around on the floor trying to stab each other."

"Naw, we're good." Bomber said.

"I'd rather not take the chance." She said, sitting down naked on the weight bench. "Does this mean I can finally quit wearing clothing around the two of you?"

I chuckled and John blushed.

"I'm serious. I've hated having to wear clothing constantly." She sighed. "And I miss touching myself. You guys are just fine, but I really like touching myself."

"Fine with me." I told her.

"I think I'd like that." John added.

"Fine, one rule." I looked over, seeing her straddling the bench, and felt a surge of lust at the way she looked.

"What?" John asked, his voice suddenly rougher.

"I say who I fuck and when. You can ask, but no planning who gets me when behind my back bullshit." She told us. "Plus, you two need to learn to walk around naked too."

"Why?" I blurted out.

"It'll keep the two of you vulnerable, less likely to start something with each other. I want the two of you nice and docile while we're locked in here." She said, and her tone, expression, and the flint in her eyes brooked no argument. "Besides, you aren't the only one who likes to look at the opposite sex." She smiled.

She turned around, then laid back, putting her feet against the pads for the leg lift.

"Finish sharpening your knives, there's no hurry." She grinned.

"Pssst. Ant." Bomber's voice was barely audible over the wind shrieking outside.

"What?" I asked. I was tired and my teeth hurt.

"You awake?"

"No, dumbass."

"Nancy awake?"

I checked, pinching one nipple. She only moaned slightly and shifted slightly, but nothing else.


There was silence for a long moment, broken only by the sound of the wind outside.

"It's her, isn't it?" He asked suddenly.

"What is?" I honestly had no clue where he was going with it.

"Why you don't want to go on offense." I leaned up slightly, as if it would help me see him in the darkness. "You don't want her to see you like that."

"Don't be stupid." I answered, laying back down.

"You've said you saw her take down psycho-boy with that axe, chopped his ass good." He said. Something crashed above us. "She won't turn away from you, Ant."

"Whatever, man. Just drop it." I said into the darkness.

"Think too long, you're wrong, brother." He told me.

Outside the wind howled, the snow swirled, something dark and evil lurked, while inside I tried to get to sleep and ignore the memory of the sick joy I felt at the fear in Oakes' eyes when I laid the cold steel against her cheek.

I tried to pretend that there wasn't a part of me that enjoyed it.

I snuggled up to Nancy, my Nancy, and tried to pretend I was someone I wasn't. Tried to ignore the reality of what I was. Who I had always been.

Chapter 12

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fifteen

Breakfast was hot, sausage and eggs out of a tin that had been dunked in boiling water for 15 minutes then handed out. The PFC who dumped the mess on my green mess tray had glared at me, but I'd glared back and he'd looked away. I was eating the same way as a lot of my fellow Rear-D troops. Tray in my lap, left arm curled protectively around it, constantly watching my surroundings, and spooning it into my mouth quickly.

We were divided into four groups. The smallest was Sergeant Tee, who sat by himself, his back against the wall, staring at everyone. I didn't like the way his eyes looked. Too glittery, moving around too much, narrowing too often. I half expected a sound track to start playing villain music. Every crash, scream, moan, or sobbing wail made him flinch.

He was all alone up on the NCO section of the 4th floor.

The next smallest was Nagle, Bomber, and me. I had my knives hidden, Nagle had the pistol, and Bomber had the M-16A1 on his lap. Nagle ate demurely, staring down at her tray, smiling slightly to herself, snuggled up close to Bomber. Bomber and I glared at the others and each other, and when I glared at Bomber or looked at Nagle for too long her put one hand on his weapon till I looked away.

It looked like we couldn't trust each other any longer.

The second largest group was sullen. Not speaking to each other or anyone else. Just eating quickly and leaving as soon as they were done, back to their room. The sullen attitude, the silence, all hit my mental alarms. A bitching soldier is a happy soldier. These guys and gals didn't say a word. Just left in a trickle.

Most of them were in their room by themselves.

The largest group was the LT's. Eight of them all gathered up, smiling at everyone, laughing and talking among each other. They had chairs that the LT had allowed them to pull out of the dayroom.

They had the run of the barracks.

Sergeant Tee stood up, sliding the tray across the floor to bump into the stack, glancing at the LT and his little group of flunkies, his lip curling.

"Hey, Sergeant Tee." I said, and he jerked like I'd just shocked him.

"What?" More snarl than speech.

"Who's responsible for the generators?" I asked.

"Ask super-troop." He sneered, then went by me, his boots thudding. When he pulled open the stairwell door, cold air wafted across us and a sobbing moan drifted down the stairwell.

"What do you want?" The LT was polite, barely.

"Who's handling the generators?" I asked pleasantly. "We found out last winter that the fuel lines can freeze up if you don't run anti-ice measures at least every other day, and the big 80K generator has a tendency to accumulate ice in the secondary fuel filters, as well as the oil filter freezing up if you don't hit the heating coils every couple of days."

I was pulling it out of my ass. I didn't know jack or shit about those generators except that they were supposedly there this time.

"What?" Oakes asked.

"Yeah, if you don't run maintenance on them every couple days, it could throw a main buffer spring, or even the primary whang-bearing." Bomber popped in. "Hell, last winter Generator-Six caught on fire, part of what happened in here. We almost lost the south side of the barracks."

Everyone in the LT's group looked at each other.

"Which one of you knows how to do maintenance and PMCS on the generators?" the LT asked. He'd started rubbing his rank while I was talking. None of his little cadre volunteered, and I smiled widely, letting him see my broken teeth. "None of you?" He looked at me, narrowing his eyes. "Ant knows. Oakes, Kebble, Nelson, Marks, you four take him down there, have him run PMCS on the generators."

I smiled at them.

"Hey, Ant, be safe, man." John said, getting up suddenly. Nagle followed him, and they took hands. "We'll be in the room."

"Sorry, Ant, you know how it is. Girl's gotta have variety." Nagle threw over her shoulder. Bomber gave me a mean, victorious grin and kissed Nagle before they opened the stairwell and vanished into the darkness.

Oakes and Kebble barked out a nasty laugh as they stood up.

"Aww, poor widdle Ant wose his girlfwiend?" Oakes said, moving toward me as I stood up. She poked me in the stomach with her rifle. "Took the weapons and cut you out, didn't they?" She laughed at her own joke. "When I went up there to let them out of their room, he was laying there clothed while that inbred hick and the slut were naked on the bed." The others laughed.

"Shut the fuck up, Oakes, you ugly little bitch." I told her. I was tired of taking other people's shit. Oakes flushed, and pulled back her weapon to drive it into my stomach like she was making a bayonet thrust. I stepped into it, tensing my stomach muscles, and just stared at her.

The flicker of fear in her eyes both sickened and thrilled me.

"Let's go before you accidentally jam that thing in your ass or Kebble accidentally mistakes hers for a cock and starts sucking on it." I sneered, turning away.

Halfway down the hallway someone drove the butt of a weapon into my back, and I stumbled forward purposefully, putting one hand against the wall, the other against my back, and groaning loudly.

Dumbass had missed the kidney by about three inches.

"Get up, you asshole." Oakes snarled, kicking me in the side. I groaned loudly and stood up slowly. Nelson stepped up and drove a fist into my side, missing the ribs completely, then quickly patted me down, telling them I was unarmed.

"Look at that, take away his buddy, his slut, and his weapons, and he ain't that tough." Marks laughed.

I slammed open the door to the stairwell as hard as I could, letting it crash against the wall. In front of me a thin layer of red frost glimmered in the faint light filtering down from waaaay upstairs. I turned and faced them, one hand on the door, slamming it repeatedly against the wall, smiling at them.

"Fuck are you doing?" Oakes asked.

"You guys know what happened here last year?" I asked, pausing for a second. I thought I heard something and I slammed the door a couple times more against the tile wall.

"That bullshit about the axe killer? It's all crap." Nelson said, reaching forward and pushing on my chest. "Stop fucking with the door and hurry up."

"Fine. Don't say I didn't warn you." I told them, heading down the stairs. "Hunted us in the dark, killing us one by one in the cold. Damn near killed me and Bomber and Nagle."

When we got to the bottom floor, I led them to the basement room and waved my hand at the door. "Open it. It needs a master key." Oakes cursed and unlocked the door, struggling with the door for a moment before it opened with a blood curdling scream that threw the door to the stairwell open and made my hair stand on end.

The smell of decay washed over us, and I gagged a little at it.

"What the fuck is that?" Kebble asked, coughing.

"Death." I answered, walking in and hitting the light switch beside the door, lighting up the massive basement. The war stocks sat silently beneath their tarps against one wall. The massive water heaters and furnaces stood like massive sentinels against the other wall.

I ignored the smell and walked over to the large double door across from the oil tanks.

"Unlock this too." I said.

"Christ, it reeks in here." Kebble bitched as Oakes unlocked the door. When she opened it the rich thick smell of decay got worse, so bad you could nearly taste it. The lights in the basement flickered, and over half of them didn't come back on, those that did staying dim. From the far side of the room, in the darkness, a scraping sound started.

"Down we go." I told them, smiling. As we went down the stairs, I couldn't resist. "Did you know that when we first got here, before the barracks burned down, we found Nazi stuff down here?"

I stopped in front of the door to the generator room.

"This too." I said, then looked around after Oakes opened the door. "You know, I got jumped by that axe wielding fucker right there." I lied, pointing deep into the room, by the massive generators. "He was hiding behind the fuel tanks, and when I went over there, he jumped my ass with an axe. I got out of the way but he hit the guy with me in the chest. Damn near killed me, but I managed to chase him off after I stabbed his ass."

"Yeah, right." Marks sneered, then stopped, looking around. "Did you guys hear that?"

"Hear what?" Oakes asked. She was pale faced and trying to watch everywhere at once.

"I thought I heard something behind us." Marks said.

"Tandy, probably, trying to decide if he can take us all, if we're worth killing all." I tapped my shoulder. "He likes blood."

"Shut the fuck up!" Kebble yelled, pushing me into the room. I stumbled slightly, and when I recovered my balance I reached up, getting a cigarette pack out of my pocket. I lit one and put the pack away while they watched.

"Hurry the fuck up, it stinks down here." Nelson bitched. A sobbing moan agreed with him.

"I'll need you guys to help me." I told them, walking toward one of the bigass generators that I didn't know shit about. I looked back and frowned. "Seriously, this is at least a two person job, and goes better with more." I waved at all the massive generators. "You need about twelve people to do this fast."

"Fuck you, do it yourself." Kebble told me.

"Fine, then we'll be here about two hours." I told them, blowing smoke into the thick air. The oxygen level was for shit in the room, but I'd figured on that.

I walked all the way back to beside one of the big generators. To me it looked like the engine of a goddamn tank, hell, it could have been a nuclear fucking reactor for all I knew. Hell, for all I knew all that really powered it was a Mr. Fusion or a goddamn Twinkie or maybe a dozen Korean kids on bicycles.

They followed me, more out of an unwillingness to let me get too far away than anything else. Still, when I stopped by the generator and grabbed the datasheet out of the plastic envelope, they all stopped a little further from arm's length from me.

When I turned around, Bomber was standing in the doorway, the M-16A1 in his hands, a grim look on his face.

"What the fuck do you want?" I snarled, flicking my cigarette at him. He nodded slightly.

Kebble, Nelson, Marks, and Oakes turned to look.

"Move. I'm just here to shoot Ant." Bomber said, taking a step into the room and letting the door close behind him with a crash.

The looked at me, then looked at him, then looked back with dawning comprehension. Oakes was smiling nastily as she turned back to Bomber. Marks was already grinning at me and stepping to the side. Kebble had a frown, and was facing Bomber.

Their weapons were pointing everywhere but at Bomber or me.


2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fifteen

Bomber was walking toward them, pointing the rifle right at me, his expression blank. Oakes, Kebble, Nelson, and Marks were either staring at Bomber or turning away from me, only Nelson turning toward me.

They didn't even see it coming.

I hit Nelson right on the edge of the jaw, with his mouth open to make some comment, and I felt something crunch under my knuckles, and drove my left into his stomach. I turned slightly and hit Marks on the bottom of the rib cage with my right, feeling something pop and shift under my fist and knowing what that unmistakable feeling was, kicked his feet out from under him, and kept turning, my eyes seeing Bomber breaking into a run.

Oakes was turning, and Kebble had made the mistake of grabbing for her pistols by crossing her arms, slowing her down. Oakes was starting to backpedal, mouth opening, naked fear on her face, so I ignored her and went at Kebble next, putting my fist low into her stomach. She doubled over, and I grabbed her by the back of the LBE and slammed her headfirst into the generator casing on the corner, letting go and turning away before I even saw the full results, although the way she spasmed told me that she was out of the fight. Oakes I moved into, putting my foot behind her ankle and pushing hard. She went down on her ass and I kicked her in the face, knocking her backwards, and once in the crotch, before spinning away and stopping.

Bomber was sliding to a stop next to Nelson and he flashed me a smile. "Christ, people are fucking gullible. Like I would shoot my boy."

Marks groaned, his hands at his side, and went to get up. I put my boot on his neck, leaning on it slightly. "Stay down, dumbass." He choked and slapped at my boot and I smiled at him, pressing lightly.

Bomber gathered up the weapons and ammo, and then checked Kebble real quick. "She's alive, but goddamn." I glanced over to see Kebble was in a pool of blood and smiled.

"I'll fix that." I told him, releasing Marks and taking a step forward. I'd stomp on the back of her neck, right below the base of the skull, then move on to Oakes, and finish off with Nelson and then let Marks see what was coming.

I was sick of taking other people's bullshit.

Bomber stepped between me and Kebble, putting his hand against my chest. "Ant, stop." He told me. I glared at him for a long second, I was shaking, my stomach knotted, and I wanted nothing more than to kill all four of the people on the ground. I wanted it so bad I could taste it.

"Get out of my way, John." I growled at him, knocking his hand away.

"Ant, stop. We're going to have to answer for everything we do." He pointed at Kebble, "Just like they're going to have to answer for what they did to us."

"It'll be worth it." I told him, smiling.

Just one stomp with my size 11W...

"Fine. Throw away your fucking career, leave Nagle and me alone next winter." He told me. "Prove to the fucking world your mother was right about you."

I whirled around on him, reaching out for him, and he just stood there looking at me. I took a half step toward him.

He's your friend, you hammerhead...

My hands dropped, and I shook my head, trying to clear away the thoughts, push the rage back where it belonged.

"Fine, what do you want to do with them?" I asked him.

"We follow through with the plan, and deal with them. Get the keys." He told me. I nodded jerkily, still thrumming with the fight reflex, and patted down the four of them, taking all the keys they had. Oakes stirred, and I restrained the urge to kick her in the side of the head. Nelson was moaning and holding onto his jaw, not really conscious when I pulled his keys out of his pockets. I really really took sadistic pleasure in what had happened to his jaw after what he'd done to my mouth and face. He'd thought it was funny to see me hang forward in the chair drooling blood down my shirt, bet he didn't think it was funny now that he had a broken jaw.

"Ready?" Bomber asked me, breaking me out of dark thoughts.

"Yeah." I told him. "Nagle already moving?"

"Yup. Let's do this." He answered.

We headed into the stairwell, out of the basement with the water heaters and the furnaces, and then headed up to the fourth floor. It was freezing in the stairwell, and the silent evidence on the second floor landing that someone got ganked was chilling in a different way.

The fourth floor was chilly, the emergency lights making Bomber and me look ghastly as they painted us red. We hustled down to Sergeant Tee's room and knocked on the door. After a few moments Tee answered and waved us in, closing it quietly after him. Nagle stood in the middle of the main room, her hands behind her back, rocking back and forth on her heels.

"There's no going back if we do this." He told us.

All three of us looked at each other, then nodded.

"Lead the way." Nagle said. Bomber handed him a pistol.

"Let's go arm the others, then go have a talk with the Lieutenant." Sergeant Tee said.

Offense time.

Chapter 14

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fifteen

Bomber, Nagle, Sergeant Tee, myself, and two others moved down the hallway through Titty Territory. Everyone was armed, the pistols and rifles taken from the LT's little minions passed out to make sure everyone was armed with firearms. Everyone but me, that is. Four of the other people helping had went to the generator room to take Oakes, Kebble, Nelson, and Marks into "custody" and lock them in Oakes' room. Sergeant Tee had sent four, when Bomber had told him that at least two of them would probably have to be carried, and that Kebble would need immediate medical attention at least. Since Pvt Raleigh was a combat lifesafer, she was the one who got to go. Nagle had more medical experience, more training (including an SF Medical correspondence course series), but Sergeant Tee figured it was better to keep Nagle away from Kebble.

Bomber and I walked into the CQ area, looking around. I moved around the CQ counter and looked at where the phones should have been. Nothing, just the empty sockets where they were supposed to be plugged in. According to the clock it was 0200 at NORAD, and I grumbled curses that not even the dedicated lines had been left plugged in. Using my key, which still doubled as a master-key for some weird reason, I opened up the closet and checked the gauges to see how much trouble we were in.

I didn't know what the shit the readings meant beyond the fact that the barometer was dropped, windspeed was up over 30 mph with 50 mph gusts, and it was 20 below outside. Killer weather. I knew that a barometer was measure of atmospheric pressure, but being at the top of a goddamn mountain made it so that I didn't understand how the low pressure mattered that much. I didn't understand that kind of stuff, give me good ol' Net Explosive Weight any day. According to the cheat sheet, though, the settings meant that if it wasn't snowing out there, then it was going to start doing it soon.

I popped back out of The Closet, and shook my head. "If it isn't snowing out there, it's going to soon." I told him. "We're stuck here still."

"Dammit." Bomber growled, setting the M-16 on the counter and scrubbing his face with his hands. "I'd almost prefer being stuck in here with the psycho from last winter."

"Everything will work out, gentlemen." Sergeant Tee told us, checking the locks on the doors. Like most people who'd been in the company and believed rumor control, he avoided the bathroom door that was identical match for the one Tandy had disappeared out of. Sure, the barracks had been rebuilt once and refurbished after last winter, but the floorplan was damn near exact.

The lights buzzed and flickered, and two of the privates who'd arrived at the unit since September looked nervous.

"Anyone who doesn't want to take part in this, this is your last chance to return to your rooms." Sergeant Tee said, looking over everyone's face. "This might get really bad, and there's already been deaths and injuries. If you choose to return to your rooms, nobody will judge you for it." He looked at Bomber and me. "You two in?"

"Yeah." Bomber said.

"I'm in, Sergeant." I growled.


"On line, on time." She smiled, hefting the rifle in her hands.

Sergeant Tee checked with each of us, making sure that we were willing to go along with what we were planning.

"Remember, it is your duty, under the UCMJ, to disobey illegal orders. As of this time, we will attempt a peaceful resolution, and I will attempt to force the Lieutenant to step down. However, the UCMJ does make provisions for having no other choice than to use force to disobey illegal orders." He looked older, hell, all of us looked older. "All of us will undoubtedly undergo investigation" Nagle, Bomber and I laughed at that, but he ignored us and kept speaking "and possibly court martial to determine the circumstances and whether or not the orders that the Lieutenant has been giving are illegal."

Nobody backed down, and it felt like we drew closer although we didn't move. The temperature felt like it dropped, and there was a shout followed by a crash above of us.

"All right, Nagle, Bomber, Ant, you're with me to try to convince the Lieutenant to step down, the rest of you, secure the armory, secure items storage, and supply room." Sergeant Tee finished.

We headed down the stairs, Bomber and I were taking the lead, Bomber with his rifle, me with empty hands. As we went down, Bomber bumped me with his shoulder, and I bumped back. I eased the door open and Bomber ghosted through silently, rifle butt socketed into his shoulder, but the barrel pointed at the ground. I followed, and we moved past the mailboxes, took a right, and stopped at the mail room. The sound of the lock clicking as I unlocked the mail room sounded like thunder, and we froze, but there wasn't any reaction to the noise. I grinned at Bomber, then we slipped past the copy machine, and stopped right before the open doorway to the Orderly Room.

It was silent, but that didn't mean anything. There would be a dozen reasons that twenty people could be sitting around the corner silently. From being in the CO's office, to reading the various files to sleeping...

To Tandy having killed every fucking one of them and vanished with their bodies into the snow.

Sergeant Tee moved up behind Bomber and I, Nagle beside him, and my best friend and I looked at Tee, waiting. for him to give the nod. He took a deep breath, then nodded.

I cut the corner, staying next to the wall's end, Bomber went wide, his rifle coming up to ready. Two soldiers were in the Orderly room, Logan and Taggart, Logan sitting on Kebble's desk and reading an FM, Taggart turning away from the white covered window, where she'd drawn a smiley face in the frost. Logan's rifle was on the desk, Taggart's was dangling from the sling.

Four steps took me to in front of Taggart, deliberately and obviously drawing my knife as I moved, slapping the M-16 off the desk as I passed. I heard the FM thump to the ground, Taggart's eyes were widening as I moved up into her, stopping a bare pace away, the knife held point down and my fist level with my chest.

"Give me the weapon." I told her, my voice as gentle as I could make it.

"Stand up." Bomber ordered. "Hands behind your head."

"Don't kill me." Taggart whispered. She looked so young, her hand fumbling at the sling of the weapon.

"Move away from the window, now." I told her, pulling the weapon off her shoulder and setting it on the desk. She nodded jerkily and moved by me.

"Over here, Private, nothing is going to happen to you." Sergeant Tee told her in a soothing voice. "Ant, let her by."

I moved out of the way, and Taggart scrambled past me to stand by Sergeant Tee. I waited as Nagle took both of them to the mail room and locked them in. The only threat was in the weapons, Nagle and Tee's voices were soft, gentle, and the two other soldiers were treated with respect and gentleness.

"Were you afraid Tandy was going to come lunging through that window and snatch her?" Bomber whispered. I nodded, feeling my stomach unclench. "Same here."

Sergeant Tee motioned at the CO's door, and Bomber and I moved up next to it. So far we'd accounted for all but 2 of the LT's little minions, and there was no doubt in my mind where they'd be. I used my key on the door, making sure it was unlocked. I'd prefer to kick it in, but Sergeant Tee had wanted to do it with minimum force, and was worried that having me or Bomber kick in the door would start bullets flying.

Sergeant Tee opened the door and walked in, without bothering with the customary knock required by military courtesy, Bomber and I following him. Like we'd agreed, Nagle stayed outside to keep an eye out, in case the four we'd put down in the generator somehow overpowered the four we sent down to retrieve them, or anything else strange happened.

The barracks seemed hushed, almost as if it was waiting.

Lieutenant Gregors was sitting behind his desk, with a PRP file open in front of him, a pistol sitting on the left side of the desk. I couldn't see the name on the file, and didn't much care. He was dressed in his Class-A's, and part of me wondered just how badly they smelled since he couldn't clean them, Class-A's were dry clean only. Everything on the desk was nicely arranged, and the LT had replaced the CO's name with his own on the nameplate on the desk, further proof that he believed himself the Company Commander rather than just the OIC of Rear-D.

On one side of his desk stood Jefferson, a soldier I didn't really know, who was wearing Sergeant rank on his collar that was dark black and looked newer than hell. Sitting in one of the chairs against the far side of the wall was Clifton, who I'd seen around the barracks but barely knew him by sight. All of them were turning to stare at us as we walked into the middle of the room, Bomber moving over to stand in front of Clifton, lifting up his rifle and looking down the sights. Jefferson was holding an M-16 in his hands, had been obviously reading over the LT's shoulder, but now his head was turning, his eyes opening wide.

"Hands on the arms of the chair." Bomber told him, moving toward him.

"Lieutenant Gregors, I am hereby relieving you from command as unfit..." Sergeant Tee told him, stopping in front of the desk.

"You fucking traitor!" The LT yelled, shooting upright, his hand grabbing for the pistol on the desk.

Everything slowed down.

Chapter 15

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fifteen

The LT came up from behind the desk, unfolding from the chair, his hand reaching for the pistol. Jefferson was trying to bring his weapon into play, his eyes widening as I came him with steel in my hand, the sneer that had been forming on his face vanishing as he realized I wasn't playing around, this wasn't a game, this wasn't training, that someone was coming at him that rumor control whispered had killed more than once with that knife.

Two steps and I knocked the rifle away as it went off into the floor, my hand coming up and wrapping around Jefferson's throat, squeezing tight as I kneed him in the balls. His rifle fell to the ground and I shoved him hard against the window, the glass shattered as he bent backwards into the window frame and out into the snow. I let go and spun, still moving.

I turned, seeing the LT aiming his pistol at Tee, Tee ducking slightly and moving to the right. Bomber's rifle was caught in mid-swing, Clifton flying away with blood spraying away from his face. I grabbed the LT by the back of the neck and put my hips into it, pivoting at the waist.

The LT's face smashed into the desk, the pistol flying from his hand as he tried to stop himself by getting his hands onto the desk. Before he could do anything else, I let go of the back of his neck and drove my fist into the base of his skull, just as he was pushing his face off the desk, smashing him face first into the desk again.

Everything snapped back to normal speed, Clifton sprawling across the chair, Bomber driving the butt of the rifle into the side of Clifton's face. Jefferson was screaming that I'd stabbed him, and Sergeant Tee was crouched with the pistol in both hands, pointed at either the LT or me.

"Step away from him, Ant." Tee told me. I realized I was smiling, and when I looked at him he flinched a little. Everything in me screamed at me to drive the knife into the base of the LT's skull and finish it once an for all.

I looked at the LT again, feeling the urge to kill him. A dead enemy was no threat, a living one could return at any time. The LT groaned, only half conscious.

"Ant..." Bomber's voice.

Shaking, I moved away, sheathing the knife, and standing next to Tee, who had his pistol pointing at the floor.

"Goddamn it, Ant fucking stabbed me!" Jefferson was shrieking. Bomber moved away from Clifton, who was sagging over one arm of the chair, unconscious, blood drooling from her mouth onto the floor. Jefferson was still screaming when Bomber grabbed him and slung him out of the broken window, snow and broken glass falling in afterward to spill onto the tile.

"The glass cut you, you fucking moron." Bomber told him, kicking the rifle away. "Get the hell up, go into the orderly room and have Nagle check you out."

Sergeant Tee picked up the LT's pistol from where it had landed on the floor, dropping it into his thigh pocket. The LT wasn't moving much, and Tee peeled back his eyelid to check him. The LT's nose was squashed and he was pushing blood bubbles past his lips when he breathed. I took sick satisfaction in the damage I'd done to his face, remembering how he'd took joy in my face being worked over. The difference was: he cared about his looks, my face was just to keep the front of my skull warm.

"Goddamn, Ant, you almost fucking killed him." Tee told me as I came back around to stand next to him. Bomber dragging Jefferson away was peripheral in my awareness, I was still focused on the LT, still feeling the urge to throw myself at him and start stabbing, or to throw him on the floor and take my fists to him.

I hated the son of a bitch. He's stood over me, gloating, asking questions, while his little minions had worked over my face. He'd laughed when I'd spit pieces of my front teeth and blood onto my chest. Smiled when Oakes had pulled tight on the belt that had been wrapped around my throat until I almost passed out from the lack of oxygen. He'd thought that beating on me and my two best friends had been funny, and I wanted to return every twinge of pain tenfold.

"You two take out Jefferson and Clifton and lock them in the mail room, I'll handle the Lieutenant." Sergeant Tee told me. He offered the pistol to me but I just shook my head, patting my sheathed knife.

"Let's go." Bomber told Jefferson as I walked over and heaved Clifton to his feet, wrapping his arm over my shoulders so I could drag him. He moaned, blood running down his face, as I drug him out of the CO's office.

"Christ, Ant, what did you do to him?" Nagle asked me when she saw Clifton. It hurt a little that she assumed automatically I was the one who had busted Clifton up.

"I did it." Bomber admitted.

"Ant goddamn stabbed me." Jefferson said. He was holding his arm, and I could see blood seeping between his fingers.

"You got cut on the window." Bomber said, "Quit your bitching."

Nagle opened the mail room, and I drug Clifton in so I could drop him in the chair at the mail room clerk's desk.

"Strip." Nagle ordered. Jefferson sneered, and she shook her head. "I'm gonna patch up your cuts, stupid." She looked at Bomber and then me, and handed me her weapon. "You two apes stand outside and practice breathing and thinking at the same time."

We both grinned and walked out.

"What do you think they're talking about?" Bomber asked, nodding at the CO's door. I shrugged, pulling a pack of smokes of out my pocket, lighting two, and handing him one. "Think he's awake yet?"

I shook my head. "We'd be able to hear him screeching about our mutiny, he'd be calling Tee a traitor."

"Think Tee's cutting his throat?"

"Naw, he'd have had me do it."

Bomber opened his mouth to say something else, and the lights went off, the emergency lights just starting to click without coming on. Glass shattered somewhere and the temperature dropped with an almost audible snap. My hand fumbled at my chest for my flashlight, and Bomber got his turned on a second or two faster than me. I was kicking backwards at the mailroom door with the heel of my boot, trying to pan my flashlight everywhere at once.

The stairwell door crashed, and wind shrieked around us, tiny ice chips biting at our cheeks.

"For the love of God, Nancy, open the goddamn door!" I yelled. Bomber was cursing, his flashlight beam locked on the far windows like the yellowish circle had been nailed to them. White glimmered back at us.

From the CO's office there was a single gunshot.

I felt more than saw the door open as Bomber swore again.

"What's going on?" Nagle asked, her voice tight.

"I don't know, get them out of here, Nancy." I told her. "Bomber, go with them, don't let him take preggo."

"What's going on? What happened to the lights?" Taggart's voice from out of the darkness.

"You don't wanna know, kid." Bomber answered. "Form up on my light, we'll head upstairs." I heard the shuffling of boots as I moved away from the mailroom, torward the CO's office.

"Don't do anything stupid, Ant." Bomber told me as they all moved past.

From the CO's office, another gunshot sounded. Taggart screamed, and another gunshot went off.

"Fuck!" I snarled out, moving to the door. I checked the door handle and yanked my hand back cursing. The metal door handle was so cold that I left skin behind on the bare metal. "Sergeant Tee! Can you hear me?" I bellowed out. "Nagle, Bomber, get them out of here!" There was some quick discussion as I stood in front of the door, debating on whether or not to just kick the door in. If I did, I couldn't close the door if there was a bigger problem than the LT and Tee fighting over the pistol. If the problem was what I had a sinking feeling that it was.

"John, stay with Ant!" Nancy said. I could tell by the way her voice sounded they were headed for the stairwell.

"At ease that, stay with them, John." I yelled back, reaching forward and hammering on the door. "Tee, answer me, goddamn it!"

"Luck, brother!" John yelled and I heard the stairwell door crash.

I was alone, unless Tee and the LT were still alive.

The darkness pressed in on me, my flashlight's beam seeming to grown pale and wan, unable to push back the darkness.

They say that darkness is just the absence of light. Scientifically, this is true. I knew it then, I know it now. But the darkness in the barracks of 2/19th was different. It wasn't the absence of anything, it was a living, breathing thing that wrapped around blasphemous things that hungered with dark desires. It pushed on me, it caressed my skin with cold fingers that made my joints ache, and it actively tried to suffocate the tiny bit of light my flashlight cast. The darkness in 2/19th was alive and hated us. I knew it then, I know it now.

The only sounds I could hear was my own breathing, nothing from the other side of that heavy door.

I hammered again on the door and repeated my demand for Tee, the LT, someone to answer me.

There was a long moment of silence, I stood in the darkness breathing shallowly, trying to ignore the burning pain in my lungs from the cold air. My knuckles were throbbing and I had lost feeling in my fingertips. My knife felt more like an icicle in my fist.

From the other side of the door the silence was broken by slow deliberate footsteps.

I backed away from the door, my stomach clenching.

The footsteps stopped on the other side of the door, and I was suddenly aware of how dry my mouth was, how bad I had to pee, and my shoulder throbbed painfully around the old stab wound. The handle turned slowly, and frost spread from around the handle, coating a good foot around it with a delicate tracery that glittered in the wan pale light of my flashlight.

Run, you idiot! my Father's voice sounded in my head, but I was rooted to the spot.

The door handle turned again. Slow. Deliberate.

Even though I heard the mechanism click, the door wasn't pulled inward.

The handle slowly moved back to the neutral position. The thick coating of ice glimmered on the door handle.

"Open this door right now Ant." came from the other side of the door.

My mother's voice.

Chapter 16

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fifteen

"Open this door right now, you worthless little boy." My mother told me, her voice clipped and dangerous. "Five dry..."

Oh God, she was counting. My legs went warm and then freezing cold.

"Ten wet..." She continued. So far I was up to ten lashings with a wet leather belt.

I stumbled forward, my hand reaching for the door knob. I didn't want another beating, I didn't want to kneel down, my hands flat on the floor, my head bowed, while she brought that thick and cruel notched leather belt onto the flesh of my back, the wet leather cutting into my flesh and spattering me with first water, and then blood if I waited too long and the number got too high.

I'd taken 100 lashes with a wet leather belt more than once.

"Hurry up, you worthless little boy, it's cold out here, and I'll punish you severely for making me wait." My mother told me. "You're in trouble already, you nasty lazy worthless ignorant violent little boy, without making me wait in the cold."

It was that word that stopped me. "cold" My mother would no more admit to cold or heat than she would pass up an opportunity to humiliate or beat me.

I took a step back, pulling my hand back just millimeters before I would have touched the door handle again. My dogtags were chunks of ice against my chest, my chest hurt from breathing in the cold air, and I was losing feeling in my fingers, toes, nose, and what little was left of my earlobes. My hand hurt like the blazes where it was wrapped around the hilt of the knife, the old breaks in the bone feeling like they had been rebroken.

"Ant. Open this door right this minute!" My mother screamed from the other side of the door.

I whirled around and ran in the darkness, my flashlight jerking across the walls and floors, leaving the door to the CO's office and my mother's voice behind me. I might have been sobbing, and her wordless scream of rage behind me made my knees buckle, causing me to fall against the wall leading to the stairwell. I pulled the door to the stairwell open, ignoring the shriek of the wind and the feel of ice crystals biting on the numbing flesh of my face, and pounded up the stairs as if the Devil himself was on my tail.

When I stumbled into the CQ area everyone turned to look at me. Nagle was looking up from where she was stitching a deep cut on Jefferson's arm, who was staring at me with wide eyes as I fell to my hands and knees. Bomber was by the Day Room, where he was talking to Taggart, smiling and laughing, his laughter cut off as someone or something screamed in the stairwell, a scream full of hatred and rage that didn't sound like anything human.

"Christ, Ant, you all right?" Bomber asked, rushing forward. I was shivering from the cold, from the reaction of a voice that I'd thought I'd put years and thousands of miles behind me, from all the adrenaline, from the raw naked terror.

"Where's the LT and Sergeant Tee?" Jefferson asked. The hostility in his voice was gone, he sounded worried as another shriek sounded just before the door closed behind me and cut it off.

"They're gone." I managed to get out past chattering teeth. "He's down there, He got them."

"What about Carstairs and Durret?" Bomber asked, kneeling down and pulling me to me feet. He glanced down, then shifted over a little. "You all right, Ant?" he whispered, glancing down again. "You pissed yourself." I shook my head and he nodded, willing to let it drop.

"Fuck." I grunted. "I left them down there. Shit." I turned around and reached for the door, yanking it open. "We gotta go get them."

"Ant, wait." Nagle said, and I paused, letting the door close again.

"All right, everyone, down to Room 138, wait for us to come get you." Nagle said, snipping off the end of the thread and tucking the needle into her little pack and shoving the pack into her thigh pocket. She grabbed her weapon and patted her pockets real quick.

"Who put you in charge?" Jefferson asked, glaring at her.

"Do what the fuck you want then." Nagle tossed over her shoulder, coming over next to me. "Let's go."

I pulled open the door, ignoring the scream down the stairwell, and the three of us moved into the cold, a steady draft trying to worm beneath our clothing.

"We need to go up to the room, Ant needs to change." Bomber said.

"Why?" Nancy paused in the act of heading down the stairs.

"His pants are wet." Bomber said. Nancy gave me a look, but didn't say anything.

"We can't waste the time, I'll just deal with it." I told both of them, pushing past Nancy and heading down the stairs.

"What happened?" Nancy asked, her voice soft but still carrying over our bootsteps.

"I don't want to talk about it." I answered, reaching the bottom of the stairs and staring at the door that led to the supply room, secure storage rooms, the orderly room, and the offices for the high ranking that ran the company.

It was freezing cold in the room, and our flashlights picked up that the windows were open, along with the door to outside, snow mounded in the end of the short hallway where it had spilled into the building from the snow heaped over twenty feet around our building.

Nagle swore softly when she saw the snow.

"We're in trouble." John said, his breath pluming out in front of him in the dim light cast by our flashlights.

I just grunted, and we moved out of the short hallway and into the fairly large room where the Arms Room, the NBC Room, the Secure Item Vault, and the Supply Room were. The Supply Room was on our right, everything else was on the left.

Icicles hung from the ceiling, frost glittered on the barred doors that covered the heavy security doors of the secure rooms. The darkness swallowed our flashlight beams, pressing in on us. The cold burned my throat and lungs as I breathed, and I knew I was shivering from the cold and a delayed reaction of hearing that voice through the door.

"CARSTAIRS! DURRET!" Bomber shouted, he nodded at the supply room door and dug his keys out of his pocket. His room key did the same thing mine did, so he'd be able to unlock the Supply Room and check it out. He went right while I went left, Nagle following me. She was whistling while I checked the cage door on the Arms Room, then yanked my hand back, cursing at the cold.

"Let me, stupid, I've got gloves." Nancy told me, shouldering me aside. She smiled at me in the dimness. "Silly boy."

I kept watch on the door that joined the bay to the hallway, my flashlight dimly lighting the mailboxes. My flashlight flickered a few times and I smacked it to remind it that it was supposed to work right. I could hear Nagle trying each of the cage doors, rattling them, and heard Bomber stomping around calling out for Carstairs and Durret.

...they're gone... slithered through my brain.

"Nothing." Bomber said, stomping back into the bay. He leaned against one of the tables we stood at to clear and clear our weapons or check our masks and lit two cigarettes, passing them to Nagle and me before lighting one of his own.

One was OK. Two was fine. Three was still bad luck.

"Check the CO's office?" Nagle asked. Bomber glanced at me and shook his head.

"Let's not." Bomber answered. I nodded, feeling guilty, feeling about 3" tall, feeling 9 again, and I followed the two of them out and back up the stairwell.

"I'm going to change real quick." I told them at the CQ landing.

"I'll come with you." Nancy said. "Bomber, we need to move to the 2 man rule if he's running loose in the barracks."

Bomber nodded and went into the CQ area. I could see Taggart and Jefferson standing behind the counter before the door closed.

When we pushed our way into the second floor hallway Nagle grabbed my arm in the darkness, stopping me next to the double doors that led to the platoon area.

"You OK, honey?" she asked me, putting one hand on my chest.

"I will be." I told her, starting to turn around.

She let it drop, following me down the hallway, through the double doors. She stood there silently as I unlocked the door to the room and went inside. The light flickered and then went dim when I hit the switch, and I sighed, pushing the frustration away.

Why the fuck didn't anything work right in this goddamn unit?

Nagle went into the bathroom and I heard the water start in the shower. I knew I was blushing in shame as I pulled off my boots, then peeled off my socks, pants, and boxers and then unwrapped my laundry bag strings from the end of my bed before shoving everything into the bag and putting it back.

I pulled off my BDU top and brown T-shirt, letting my dogtags bounce against my chest, then laid down on the weight bench, wrapping my hands around the bars. Bomber had left the weights on from the morning PT we did, and I did a dozen reps without even bothering to warm up, the heavy weights moving up and down while I strained. I let the bar clink back, inhaled deeply a few times, then started pumping the weights again.

My mind had delved into dark thoughts, memories of fear, of pain, of humiliation, of that cold cruel woman who ruled over my life with an iron fist while showering all of my siblings but one with affection. Warmth pulled me out of the robotic movements, the dark thoughts, as Nagle straddled me, her buttocks resting against the tops of my thighs.

"Ant, stop." She said softly, resting her hands on my chest. "Come back to me, Ant, I need you, we need you."

I let the bar settle and laid there, feeling her warmth covering my groin. She leaned forward in the dimness and kissed me, her lips hot and gentle, her hands coming up and wrapping around my wrists to press my wrists against the struts that held up the bar.

She shushed me, kissing my cheeks, laying on me. I started shivering, and knew I was crying, but all she did was kiss my face, holding my wrists against the struts. After a few moments she sat up and scooted down my legs, pulling me up by my wrists.

"Let's go shower, wonderful boy." She whispered in the dimness.

I followed her into the bathroom, the steam thick in the darkness, and then into the shower, stepping under the hot water and feeling the sting of the heat on my skin.

Her skin was hotter.

We were quiet when we dressed again, and when I reached for the door she grabbed my arm.

"She can't hurt you any more." She told me. "Don't let Tandy use her against you."

"I won't." I said.

"You're still my Ant." She said. She kissed me, then bit my lower lip sharply. "Let's go before Bomber kills them all or knocks up Taggart."

I followed her back to the CQ area, where everyone was gathered up. Nobody turned to look when we opened the door, everyone's attention was fixated on someone else who was standing at the far side of the room in front of the trophy case, pistol in his hand, and rage on his face.

On the LT.

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fifteen

The LT was standing across from the two sets of double doors that led outside, or would have led outside if the snow hadn't piled up over the second floor windows. At his back was the trophy case, with all the trophies the unit had taken in everything from Combat Cross Country to marathons to flag football. He was still wearing his Class-A uniform, his nose was bent and swollen, with both eyes blackened. His lips were cut, and his mouth had blood around it. In his right hand he held a pistol, his eyes wild.

In front of him John Bomber was kneeling in front of the LT, Oakes holding one wrist out straight, Marks holding his other. He was slumped, only held up by the other two soldiers, his head bowed, and I could see blood dripping onto the floor and knew that he'd been pistol whipped. Nelson held the rifle that Bomber had been holding, a large purple knot on the side of his jaw.

The LT was in full tirade, screaming about traitors, about how he was going to execute John in a second for treason and mutiny.

Nagle grabbed my arm and I shrugged her off as I stepped all the way into the CQ Area, my knife in my fist and a smile on my face.

The LT stopped in mid sentence when he saw me, and I could see naked fear on Oakes' and Marks' faces, which just made me smile wider. The rest of the Rear-D shuffled aside, opening a path between me, Bomber, Oakes, Marks, and the LT.

"Stop right there, Corporal Ant." The LT said, staring at me. I ignored him, sneering at him, and walked toward him with hunched shoulders, my eyes fixated on him but aware of what Oakes and Marks were doing, which was nothing more than just staring at me.

"I'm not kidding, Corporal Ant, stop right now!" The LT said, backing away until his back hit the trophy case. The pistol wasn't pointing at me, but rather at the floor, and I knew that he'd forgot the first rule of bringing a knife to a gunfight, if he'd ever known it. The only way the guy with a knife wins is if the guy with the gun lets him get close. I was willing to take a gunshot if it meant killing him, if it meant stopping whatever he was going to do to my best friend, to everyone on Rear-Detachment. Screw my career, screw my life, screw safety, it was time to end it.

I couldn't even understand what he was saying, it was all just meaningless noise as I stepped around Bomber and up into his face, wrapping my hand around the top of the pistol and feeling the ice cold metal.

"Release the pistol, sir." I told him, staring in his eyes. I wanted to stab him, low in the gut, twist my wrist, and leave him on the floor to scream and bleed out, but all that would do is guarantee me a stint in Leavenworth, Charlie's Chicken Farm at the least. He smelled, bad, of unwashed body, decay and something else I couldn't put my finger on. He still held onto the pistol, and I pulled it out of his hand with a twist of my wrist.

I stepped back and flicked the point of my knife further into the CQ Area, staring at him. His mouth finally shut, and the stench of something foul lessened. He turned around, and I followed suit, turning to stare at Oakes and Marks.

"Let him go." I told them. Bomber looked up at me, a bad cut across his forehead sheeting blood across his face. He smiled at me, his arms still held out by Oakes and Marks.

"Hey, brother." He said.

"Hey, brother." I answered back, then looked at Oakes. "You got about two seconds before I slit your throat, you ugly little bitch." I looked at Marks. "Wanna guess what I'm gonna do to you if you don't drop the rifle when you back up, you shamming fuck?"

Both of them let go, stepping back and moving up next to the LT and staring at me. Bomber barely caught himself with both hands, his head hanging down, still dripping blood. Nancy moved out of the stairwell and knelt next to Bomber, lifting up her chin with one hand and peeling back his eyelid the other.

"Damn, John, you're concussed again." She said, pulling a cravat out of her pocket and pushing it against his forehead.

"Least I'm not dying." Bomber shot back, wincing as she put pressure on the cut.

I was shaking as the moment passed without bloodshed, feeling like I'd just run 10 miles.

"Shabazz, you're next highest ranking." Nancy said, after having Bomber hold the cravat to his forehead. She had pulled out a field dressing and was opening the plastic packet. "You need to decide what we're going to do next."

"I'm the Officer in Charge, this is mutiny, and I'll have all of you shot." The LT snarled.

I took two steps toward him, and he flinched back. "Shut up." I ground out. "So far you've fucked up every step by the numbers." I stopped in front of him. "Last winter we were locked in here with a psycho axe-killer, the winter before that this place burned to the goddamn ground, and if you had been there either time, we'd have all died because you're a goddamn Worst Cav retard."

" the game rooms, the rec rooms, the day rooms..." Shabazz was saying to everyone, but it was background to me.

"When all this is over, you're going to hang, you little punk." LT Gregors told me, smiling. "You'll see."

"What do you want done with the LT?" I asked, still staring in the other man's eyes.

There was silence for a moment.

"Lock him in 221." Shabazz said, his voice low and cold. I felt my stomach clench and an icy tingle run down my back. "Let's see how he likes that."

"What about Oakes and Marks?" Bomber asked. I was still staring at the LT, willing him to do something stupid.

"Just disarm them, they're smart enough to realize that they've got no chance without the LT to back them up." Shabazz answered. "Ant, you stay here, along with Nagle and Bomber. The rest of you, go up to your rooms, get your blankets and rucks, then get back here as fast as you can. Private Raleigh, you go back and check on your patients, see if Kebble is awake. Oakes, Marks, you can go get your stuff, don't do anything stupid."

I watched as everyone left, a few glancing at the LT, who was standing there silently fuming.

"Sergeant Shabazz, this is your last chance before you do something that you'll regret." The LT said, lifting his nose into the air.

"Ant, Bomber, it's time to introduce the LT to the building properly." Shabazz told me. I smiled and grabbed the LT's arm, when he went to jerk his arm away, I squeezed hard, deliberately squeezing the skin between my thumb and fingertips, and yanked him off balance.

"What did you do with Sergeant Tee?" Bomber asked as we led him through the double doors and into Titty Territory.

"I didn't do anything with him, traitor, he was gone when I woke up after Ant assaulted me." The LT told us, then looked at me as we passed under the emergency light. "Your little plan to have me freeze to death by breaking the windows didn't work too well."

"If I wanted you dead, you'd be fucking dead." I told him. He snorted in disbelief, and briefly thought about slamming his head in someone's door. We pushed through the stairwell door, the cold wind slapping us in the face, and trudged upstairs.

"You'll never get away with this." The LT told us, and I shook my head. We moved through the stairwell door and took a right, pushing through the double doors and heading for room 221. "I'm the Company Commander, and any usurpation of my authority is punishable under the UCMJ." Bomber jerked him to a stop in front of the door to 221.

That flat brown door, the scratches on the edges vanishing underneath the door jam, the fact that someone had carved "221" at eye level into the door, that flat brown door that behind was a normal looking room.

Where over a dozen people had died since the barracks had been built.

Murder. Suicide. Insanity. Disappearances.

All of them had taken over a dozen lives. People had been found hung in the shower, two men had locked themselves in wall lockers and stabbed themselves to death, a man had crawled into the refrigerator and strangled himself with a bootlace.

When the door opened, revealing that dark room, and the cold air washed across me, smelling of rotting blood and decayed meat, I wanted to run back to my room and stay in there till either rescue came or spring arrived to melt the snow. Preferably with Nancy in my arms and/or standing shoulder to shoulder with Bomber.

"Sir, as of this time, you can consider yourself under arrest." Sergeant Shabazz told him, walking into the room. He turned around, just inside the room, and faced the LT, Bomber, and me. "I'll have a full list of your charges once I consult the UCMJ, but in the meantime..."

The door slammed shut and the lights went out in the hallway as the temperature plummeted and my right shoulder went completely numb.

From somewhere in the darkness a low, liquid chuckle sounded.

Chapter 18

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fifteen

Bomber swore softly under his breath in the darkness, and I could hear all three of us breathing as the hallway got noticeably colder. Another strange chuckle sounded out in the hallway and I felt the edge of panic fluttering around in my stomach.

Ahead of me, in the darkness, the door thumped once, twice, three times.

The chuckle sounded again, and this time I was able to tell it was coming from our right, in the other half of the hallway.

"Run for it!" Bomber yelled, and I felt him move past me.

"Not yet." I hissed, reaching out in the darkness to where the LT had been standing. I grabbed him by the back of the neck and heard him squawk as I slammed him face first into the wall with one hand and opened the door to Room 221 with the other. Cold air and the smell of rotting flesh mixed with the unmistakable scent of hot blood wafted over me. I could dimly see the inside of the room, see the blood smear that led from the door to the wall lockers on the right.

To my right, the double doors shrieked as they opened and icy wind blew against me.

I shoved the LT into the room and slammed the door, plunging the hallway into darkness, then whirling around and running for the stairs at the far end of the hallway. I saw the light ahead of me as Bomber reached the stairwell door and waited, turning on his flashlight and shining it toward me.

"Run faster, Ant!" He yelled, and I lowered my head, putting everything I had into it. I was a distance runner, not a sprinter, and I knew without a doubt that I'd never make it to the flashlight before long arms grabbed me and talons sunk into my flesh just above my collar bones.

A scream sounded behind me, long, drawn out, almost inhuman, reaching the higher registers where a human voice shouldn't make those kinds of sounds, and I slid across the waxed floor tiles, trying to keep my momentum up to make it into the stairwell but slow down enough so I could actually make the corner. Bomber moved as I scrabbled into the stairwell, and he slammed the door behind me.

"Where's the LT?" He asked as we headed downstairs.

"Making an acquaintance with 221." I told him. "Who's next highest ranking?"

"You are." Bomber answered, pausing right in front of the door. "Think we'll make it?"

I thought for a moment. The LT had done some serious damage to our cohesiveness, serious damage to military discipline, and there was more than just me aching for some payback with the LT's little minions.

"Depends on if someone pops." I answered. "If nobody pushes anything, we'll be all right. If someone snaps, then all bets are off."

"Then lets hope nobody snaps." Bomber answered, pushing open the door to the CQ Area.

Everyone left was gathered up.

We'd lost a lot of people so far.

Glouse, gone from his room. Martins, killed in the stairwell. Corman, vanished when he went on a security check of the barracks. Lewis, who'd been sent to the Motorpool during the daytime with Littles and never come back. Carstairs and Durret, who vanished between the Orderly Room entrance and the Supply Room. Sergeant Shabazz, who'd been in Room 221 when the door slammed shut. Sergeant Tee, who'd vanished in the CO's office while the LT had been left alive. And hopefully the LT, murdered by whatever it was that lived in Room 221.

Out of 23 of us that had been here when it had started, only 12 of us remained.

Twelve Little Indians, trapped in the snow.
Twelve Little Indians, with nowhere to go.

Everyone, even Kebble (who was sitting in a chair with a pressure dressing on top of her head), turned to look at Bomber and me when we burst into the room.

"What?" Nancy asked, "What happened."

"The door to 221 slammed shut on Shabazz and the LT." I lied. In a way it was true, just not the way I presented it. I knew, without a doubt, that the blood smear that led to the wall lockers was from Shabazz, and that he was inside of them, dead by his own hand.

"You aren't highest ranking, Ant." Oakes sneered. "Since I outrank you, and I'm ordering you to..."

Nancy didn't say a word, just turned around and slapped the other woman, the backhanded strike throwing the other woman to the ground to land in a heap. She shifted her weight like she was going to kick Oakes in the stomach, then rocked back on her heels before turning back around.

"It's all you, Ant." she told me, shaking out her hand.

"We go with Sergeant Shabazz's plan. We hole up here, wait for rescue." I told them all. "We'll get sleeping bags, cots, and supplies from the War Stocks and everyone will gather up in the Game Room. We'll push the video games and pinball machines against the far wall and hope for the best."

"How long will we be there?" Taggart asked. Her voice was small.

"The Rangers will come up and get us soon, honey." Nagle said, moving next to the younger woman. "They rescued us before, they'll rescue us again."

But how many little Indians will remain? I wondered.

"Nagle, Bomber and I will go get the cots and grab War Stocks rucks." I said, putting on my best command voice and attitude. "Taggart and Logan, you stay here in the CQ Area and keep an eye on the doors. The rest of you, push the pool tables against the wall and do not open the door for anyone but me."

They looked startled at that, then saw Nancy and Bomber both nodding along. Out of the remaining soldiers of Rear-D, we were the only three who had spent a winter there.

I was in charge, something I hated with a passion. I'd tried to hand my rank back a couple of times only to get told to shut up and go back to work. I didn't like being in charge of people's lives that weren't in my squad, men and women I didn't know like I knew my crew.

But the Army didn't care about what I liked or didn't like. It just laid duty on me and told me to do my best.

We headed down the hallway toward the middle stairwell, into the darkness of Titty Territory that the emergency lights did nothing to penetrate. We were silent as we walked, both of them spread out enough to give themselves fields of fire around me, the weird way we'd started walking after the previous winter.

I gotchur back, brother...

I had Nancy and John with me, we'd made it through the previous winter, we could make it through this one. Last winter there had been a psychotic with an axe stalking us through frozen hallways, this winter there was only a tin god and Tandy. We could ride that out, right?


Opening the War Stocks area reminded me of the year before, where we'd set up a pathetic little 1.5K generator to power the furnace so we didn't freeze to death.

There was a patch of tiles that were stained from where a friend had taken an axe between the shoulder blades and bled out. Usually I was able to ignore it, but it really bothered me at that moment.

Goddamn you, Ant, you coward! sounded out in my mind.

Bomber used his key to unlock the door, and we trudged into the large basement room, heading for the War Stocks against the wall. The entire section was full of everything each platoon would need to fight and survive for 72 hours if the Soviet Union rolled for the Fulda Gap. Rucksacks, uniforms, sleeping bags, TA-50, but the most important to us were the platoon stocks.

Cots, extra blankets, space heaters (gas fired heaters you had to assemble, one had saved our asses the year before), tents with liners and floor sheets, the first aid bags that Nagle had campaigned to be included until they were (even though they were locked in a locker, a hit from Bomber with an axe opened the locker quick enough), and the food stocks.

We worked in silence. Bomber lashing six cots to a rucksack frame twice, Nagle strapping four boxes of MRE's together and lashing them to the bottom of the ruck frame on the two John had loaded and the one I was loading. I put a pair of aid bags on a ruck, then grabbed two cans labeled POTABLE WATER.

"Give me the cans, Ant." Nagle told me. I handed them to her as John went over and grabbed the axe back up.

"We'll come back and grab the rest of the shit we need." I told them, pulling my knife from my hip. They both nodded, and we headed back up to the CQ Area. The whole way, all I could think of was that the other dime was gonna drop, that our problems were just beginning.

Trudging through the darkness of Titty Territory, the light of the CQ Area did little more than make the windows on the doors at the end of the hallway glow faintly. I held up my hand, stopping John and Nancy, and footsteps continued above us for three or four more steps before stopping.

Bomber swore softly and I nodded.

Twelve little Indians, cut off by the snow
Twelve little Indians, with nowhere to go
Twelve little Indians, huddled against the night
Twelve little Indians, which will survive the fight?

My brain kept spitting out nonsense as we trudged down the hallway, our shoulders slumped, our heads hanging, and our footsteps heavy. The spark was gone out of Nancy's eyes, and Bomber's wit seemed to have dim.

I wondered how I looked in the darkness.

When we reached the CQ Area, we dropped everything off, Nancy telling Taggart to fill the cans with water and put them near the radiator, and we went back to the War Stocks, grabbing more equipment. Blankets, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, all of them made the trek, requiring almost a dozen trips before the three of us got everything.

The last load seemed to take the longest. Twelve sets of extreme cold weather gear and twelve sets of snow shoes, just in case we had to make a run for it.

When the first light went out, I heard Nagle sigh, and glanced at her to see her shaking her head. I glanced at Bomber, who grinned at me.

"Same shit, eh? Seems like the building would get some new tricks, don't it?" He asked, shoving another field jacket liner into a rucksack.

I opened my mouth to tell him to shut the fuck up when the rest of the fluorescent lights, fifteen of them in all, exploded, showering sparks down into the room.

"Nice going, John." Nancy snarled from the darkness. "I'm going to take one of Stokes' dildos and kick it up your ass."

"At ease that shit." I told them, digging in my thigh cargo pocket for my flashlight. The beam was faint and yellow, a dim circle that barely lit up anything. I panned it across where Nancy had been, closest to the door, and breathed a silent sigh of relief that she was still there, caught in the motion of scratching her ass. Sweeping the beam back across, Bomber was standing up and shrugging the rucksack onto his chest, so he had one on his back, one on his chest, then he bent down and grabbed the two at his feet by the top straps.

"Let's get the hell out of here before John accidentally opens a portal to hell." I groused, and the others nodded.

Our footsteps echoed in the darkness, my flashlight not even able to penetrate the darkness all the way to the door. We couldn't tell if it was open or shut, even though we'd left it open that didn't mean anything. For all we know, it was still open and the hallway lights had gone out when the War Stocks room lights had failed so spectacularly.

Still, I'd walked through this room enough times, in far worse circumstances, that I was pretty well aware of the direction I was walking. Water heaters and furnaces on my right, flat echoes from my left where the wall was pretty much bare, a thumping sound from behind me where the noise of the generators bounced off the walls.

It took a bit, but the wall showed up in the light of my flashlight. I could tell by the poster that I'd drifted to the right too far and corrected, the beam sweeping away from "IVAN IS LISTENING" that someone had defaced with "Then pay my fucking phone bill, Ivan!" in a piss poor attempt at humor.

The door was closed, and my fears proved unfounded when it swung open easily.
To the right the stairwell door was open, and wind swept down through the hall and into the War Stocks Room with a shriek. Small ice crystals and snowflakes stung against my face, driven by the wind that was howling down the stairwell, into the hallway, and past us.

The hallway was pitch black, my light faintly showing the mailboxes set into the other wall. On the ground snow had covered the tile, almost three inches thick against the door and featureless in the hallway. I panned the flashlight up to expose icicles as long as my hand hanging from the ceiling, then to the left, showing that the door was thrown wide open and snow had tumbled from outside and into the hallway.

"What the shit?" Bomber asked, stepping past me and into the snow. "How long were we fucking in there?"

"Not this long." I said, the snow crunching under my boots as I joined Bomber in the hallway.

"It's just more bullshit tricks. John pissed it off with his smartass comments." Nancy said, elbowing John in the gut as she passed him and moved up next to me.

I shrugged, and we headed into the dark stairwell. Our boots crunched on the icy steps as we headed up to the first floor. Pushing on the door to Titty Territory, all three of us could hear ice crackle, and I stepped back as a thin sheet of ice fell off the door and shattered on the tile.

Halfway down the hallway Nagle stuck her hand out to stop John and grabbed my arm. "Hold up."

"What?" I asked, clicking off the flashlight to save the batteries.

Three little Indians, standing in the dark...

"Things are already bad, Ant." She said. "There's a bad division in Rear-D already, thanks to the LT having the three of us beat up, not to mention that people are afraid of you, Ant."

"Me?" I asked. "Why me? I'm just a drunk and a slut."

John snorted, and Nancy continued in the darkness. "Ant, I love you, you know that, but trust me, while we've been gone they've been talking all about what went down in the generator room, you watch."

"Fuck 'em." I snarled. Like I gave a fuck what they were talking about. If they had any issue with it, we could go discuss it somewhere private. Where there weren't any cameras or witnesses.

"Just watch it, both of you. Things are going to get ugly if the Rangers don't show up soon." Nancy warned us, then let go of my arm. "Let's get down there and find out what's going on."

We pushed our way into the CQ Area, ice falling from the doors to shatter on the tile on the Titty Territory side of the doors. Only Taggart and Logan were still in the CQ Area, Taggart's cheeks were shiny with tears, but she was silent and pale faced behind the CQ counter. Logan was staring through the doors to the Day Room, watching the snow fall through the windows. There was a foot of snow on the windows, only about six inches below where the windows would open up to. That meant that there was a shitload of snow on the ground.

"We can't find the phones." Taggart said, her voice small.

"Yeah, I figured as much." I told her, smiling. She flinched back and I looked at Nagle, who nodded knowingly at me and mouthed "see" at me.

We walked up to the door to the Game Room, and I hammered on the door, bellowing at them to open the damn door. Nagle was telling Taggart and Logan to go ahead and come on with us.

The pool tables and pinball machines were against the wall, and Jefferson was using a Leatherman and a crescent wrench to take the legs off of the last pinball machine. The others had put together the cots, laying sleeping pads, then sleeping bags, then two wool blankets on the sleeping bag. Twelve all in all. We dropped the gear we were carrying on the floor with a crash, and everyone turned to look at us for a moment before going back to what they were doing. I waved Taggart and Logan into the room, and locked the door behind them.

I grabbed a cot and pulled it over to the other side of the room, sitting down on it and putting my head in my hands while I tried desperately to figure out what to do. All of my instincts told me to leave the dead weight behind and grab the cold weather gear and the snowshoes and hike out of there for rescue, but I had a bad feeling that I'd come back to an empty barracks. But it wouldn't matter if I made it through the wind, cold, and snow, since the Rangers or any other rescue force wouldn't be able to get through until the snow eased up, and by the time that happened, they'd know something was wrong anyway.

Nagle and Bomber dragged cots over by mine and sat down, Nagle leaning back with a sigh. Bomber dug in his pocket and drug out the coverless, dog eared book he always carried in one of his pockets, opened it up to a random spot, and started reading. It was either I, the Jury or Bolo, the same two books he'd been reading the whole time I knew him.

After a few minutes, I looked up, noticing that everyone but Logan and Taggart were sitting on their cots silently, pointedly not looking at each other. Kebble was lying down, her head bandaged and the field dressing bloody.

"All right, people," I started, and everyone turned to look at me. "Two man rule. Nobody goes anywhere alone. If you have to use the latrine, you take someone with you, I don't give a damn how shy you are. Keep each other in sight at all times."

"He's serious." Nagle piped up when the muttering started. "We saw last winter that anyone who goes out alone usually doesn't come back."

"Bullshit." Oakes sneered from her cot. "I'm not letting someone follow me into the bathroom so they can perv on me."

"I'm not kidding, Oakes, everyone adheres to the two man rule." I told her.

"Or what?" She asked. I stood up, and she flinched back, causing a few others to laugh. She turned beet red and stared at me, her eyes full of hatred. "What are you going to do?"

"If you can't adhere to the two man rule, I'll lock you in the Day Room." I threatened. "You'll get fed twice a day, shower every other day, and you will only use the latrine three times a day." I glared at everyone. "Anyone have a problem with the two man rule?"

Nobody answered, and most of them looked away.

"Goddamn it, people, I'm just trying to keep you alive until rescue comes." I told them, throwing up my hands in frustration. "This isn't a goddamn game! Think about how many people we've already lost! For fuck's sake, listen to the barracks, does it sound like I'm bullshitting you all?"

The thud of boots on the floor above us punctuated my words, followed by a scream that wafted through the vent.

"Hear that? It's only going to get worse." Nancy told them. "To top it off, we've got a killer stalking us."

"That Tandy bullshit?" Jefferson asked. "That's just a bunch of shit."

"Look, this is our best chance of staying alive. The two-man rule will keep you from just vanishing." I interrupted, ignoring Jefferson. Taggart raised her hand, and I nodded at her.

"Does that mean someone has to watch us shower?" she asked.

"To be honest, I'd rather that someone watched you in the shower, but I doubt you guys will listen to me." I told her.

"Like someone's going to vanish out the shower or something?" Oakes sneered. I was getting sick of that tone of voice, and the urge to throw myself across the room and cut her throat reared its ugly head.

"It's happened before." Bomber put in, kicking my boot. "Last winter, a guy went into the shower, and after an hour, his roommate went in to check on him and he was gone. We never found him."

"Bullshit." Oakes said. "Think I'm some fucking 'cruit?"

"Here? You are." I told her. "Look, believe us or don't, but stick with the two man rule, I'm fucking serious."

I could tell by the expressions that most of them didn't believe me, but I figured a couple of casualties and the opinions would change.

Oakes opened her mouth for another sneering comment when a hard knocking on the door interrupted her. She paused comically as we all turned and faced the door.

"Open the door, it's cold out here." Martins said as the lights in the Game Room flickered and went out.

"Don't. Open. The. Door." I breathed into the sudden silence.

Chapter 19

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fifteen

I managed to get my flashlight out my pocket bare seconds before anyone did. The beam slid across the door, the shaking of my hand making it dance, and it revealed that the center of the door had a blob of frost slowly spreading on it. As I watched the yellow tendrils of frost spread out, rapidly filling in, until in the space of a few heartbeats the frost had spread a foot from the crack in the middle of the double doors. Another flashlight clicked on from my right, Nagle, and it danced to the floor in front of the door, revealing spreading frost.

"It's Martins!" Oakes said, and Bomber's flashlight beam landed on her, revealing her standing up.

"No, it isn't!" Taggart shrieked, scrambling down her cot until her back was against the wall, more shadow than human in the wash of Bomber's light.

"Don't open the door!" Bomber yelled.

I was already coming to my feet, my knife in my palm, the flashlight beam flashing arcing around.

"Guys, it's cold out here, and I'm going to get in trouble. Please open the door." Martins begged from the other side of the door.

"Get fucked, Tandy!" Nagle yelled.

"Hang on, Martins!" Oakes cried out, unaware that I was coming in on her.

"Oakes, don't!" Logan yelled at her.

"It's Martins, we can't..." she started. She was two paces from the door, her hand reaching for the handle, and a low liquid chuckle filled the room and the temperature seemed to drop twenty degrees.

I stepped up behind her, my left arm slipping under hers, my hand coming up and grabbing the back of her neck, my flashlight falling to the floor to bounce and go out, and my right hand came out and around as I yanked her hard against me. The edge of my Gerber hovered in front of her face.

"Don't think I won't." I hissed in her ear, using brute force to lift her off of her feet, twisting her so her butt was against my hip. "For fuck's sake, be quiet." I hissed into the darkness.

Taggart was crying behind me, and I heard a weapon go off safety behind me, then Nagle's flashlight beam vanished off the door and I heard another safety move.

"Lay the weapon down, now, or I'll shoot you in your face." Nagle ordered.

The door thudded as whatever was using Martins' voice hammered on it again and a weapon clattered to the floor.

"You don't have the guts." Oakes gasped. I knew the half-nelson was probably hurting her, but didn't give a shit. Hell, it might break her neck, but if it was a choice between her dying or that door getting open...

Oakes would have to die.

I'd managed to drag her two steps back when she started kicking, the heels of her boots banging into my shins but I ignored it, instead tightening my grip until I could feel her neck creak and she groaned.

"Guys, come on, let me in, it's cold out here." Daniels voice. Goosebumps covered my skin, remembering the last time I saw Daniels, saw him snatched out of his boots and into the bathroom by inhumanly long arms that ended in claws of sharpened fingerbone and blackened flesh.

"Who the fuck is that?" Someone whispered.

"Someone dead." Bomber whispered back.

Another chuckle sounded out, full of dark mirth, and there was a scraping sound at the door like someone was peeling metal off of it with a screwdriver.

"Who the fuck's out there, Freddy Krueger?" Jefferson asked. All of the belligerence was gone, replaced by naked fear. I could hear Taggart sobbing in the darkness. There was another screech of something on metal and the door shuddered while the temperature dropped even further.

Then nothing.

The seconds dragged by, and I noticed that Oakes had stopped kicking me and was limp against my chest. I poked her hard in the side with the knife before I lowered her down till her boots hit the ground and slowly released my hold on her, a little surprised that she didn't turn around to try something as her boots thudded softly onto the tile. She grabbed her throat, gasping, but was still standing in front of my till I kicked the back of her boot.

"Don't. Open. The. Door." I repeated, sheathing my knife. Oakes bumped into me, her footsteps hurried as she rushed to her cot and back into the light of Bomber's flashlight. I knelt down and felt around until I found my flashlight, then slid the clip into the little hole at the top of my breast pocket as I stood up.

Someone bellowed a sharp command in German and footsteps thudded above us.

"Ant, come over here and hold me, please." Nagle pleaded. Her flashlight came back on, shining at the floor instead of my face, and I moved over to stand behind her, reaching out and touching her before throwing one leg over her cot and sitting down. I put my arm around her waist and she leaned against me, shivering, one hand wrapped around the pistol grip of her M-16A1 and the other holding onto the flashlight.

"Why won't the lights come back on?" Taggart asked.

Twelve little Indians, shivering in the dark and fear
Twelve little Indians, knowing that Death is drawing near...

"Maybe a breaker blew?" Hendricks suggested.

"Mommy? I'm scared Mommy, it's dark, and I'm scared." Kebble's voice, slurred and weirdly disconnected.

"You need to check on her." I murmured in Nagle's ear, nuzzling the back of her neck. "Raleigh hasn't dealt with injuries like that before."

Nagle sighed and sat up, and I let go of her as she disappeared into the darkness.

"Why didn't we take the Day Room, at least we could see out the windows." Jefferson asked in the darkness.

"Trust me, man, having windows to the outside is a bad idea." Bomber answered. "Last winter we made that mistake and paid for it."

"Taggart, honey, I need you to help me." Nagle said. "I need you to help Kebble sit up, and hold this jug in case she throws up."

"What are you going to do to her?" Oakes asked, the hostility back in her voice.

"I don't think it's just a concussion, I need to check her." Nagle answered.

"Like you know anything about medical shit." Oakes' voice had that sneering tone again, her natural arrogance and bitchiness overcoming her fear.

"She kept me from dying from appendicitis last winter." Bomber told her. "Think you could do better, you stupid little bitch?"

"Don't call me a bitch, you ignorant fucking redneck." Oakes said.

"Both of you, shut the hell up." Nancy snapped, shining her light in Kebble's eyes. She looked at Taggart, who's face was still shining with tears. "Honey, I need you to lean her forward, but hold her up. Don't let her pull away, and she might scream."

Taggart nodded jerkily, swallowing, and I kept one eye on what was going on, and my other eye on the door. They leaned her forward, and Nagle began unwinding her bandage. I felt more than saw Bomber leaning toward me.

"We should sleep in shifts, brother." He said softly.

"Yeah, probably." I answered, pitching my voice low. Nagle pressed the top of Kebble's head with two fingers and the other woman suddenly leaned forward and threw up, Taggart managing to get the sawed open jug in front of her mouth just in time.

"What the fuck did you hit her with, Ant?" Nagle asked.

"The corner of the generator. I slung her into it." I answered.

Nagle snarled something that I didn't catch when Bomber told me he was going to grab some shut-eye and to wake him when either me or Nagle got tired.

"Is she going to die?" Taggart asked after a few moments.

"No, honey, she's just got a bad concussion, not a skull fracture." Nagle told her. "Help me lean her back. Who has a glow in the dark watch?"

"I do." Jefferson said.

"Wake her every hour." She dug in her pockets. "Here, here's a couple of Percocet, take them once ever three hours, I'll take the stitches out in week if we're still stuck here." She held her hand out to Jefferson and dropped something in his hand.

"Where did you get Percocet?" Jefferson asked.

"Ant's got a shitload of them, I just took some of his." She told him, standing up. "Taggart, honey, I need to pee, will you come with me?"

"Is it safe?" Taggart asked. I heard a cot creak and knew that she was standing up.

"You'll be safe with me." Nancy assured her. "Ant, stick by the door, I want that door to open if we start hammering on it."

"Roger roger." I said, getting to my feet. I moved over to the door and stood there, waiting for her.

"Give me a kiss before I go, but don't squeeze me, I really gotta pee." She told me, and I wrapped an arm around her and kissed her. She bit my lip when I went to pull away, hard enough I could taste blood, but that was Nancy.

I opened the door, revealing the CQ Area, and the darkness that filled it seemed to press into the Game Room. I could smell something that stunk of rot, dead flesh, and unwashed body.

Taggart screamed, so did two other voices. Bomber bellowed in shock, and Nancy swore.

I turned to see what everyone was yelling about, the beam of the flashlight clipped to my BDU shirt swinging away from Nagle's face, across the wall, sliding across the door, to illuminate what Nagle's flashlight had already revealed.

Three snowmen sitting in the inch or two of snow that filled the CQ Area.

"Oh. Fuck." I breathed.

Chapter 20

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fifteen

The three snowmen sat there, button eyes innocently staring at us. I snarled and stepped forward to kick the middle one as hard as I could, rage at the memories of the last time we'd seen snow men boiling up inside me and my fury lending strength to the kick. The snowman exploded, and I waded into the two others, kicking and punching, snarling curse words.

The front doors of the CQ Area were covered in snow that had piled up around the building. The temperature had dropped to below freezing and when I stood amid the wreckage of the three snowmen, panting, my breath plumed out in front of me. I felt the building shudder around me, and a low creaking groan sounded from Titty Territory direction. The sign next to the double doors was covered in frost, obscuring the sign one of the female soldiers had put up that read "You must have titties 'this big' to live here!"

"Who the hell built those snowmen?" Someone behind me asked, but I ignored them, prowling through the CQ Area, my boots crunching in the snow.

"Watch my six, Nagle." I said, before pushing open the doors to the female's bathroom and walking inside. One look in the dim flickering light from the ceiling told me all I needed to know. Thick ice covered the walls, the toilets were overflowed and frozen, hanging icicles of water and urine and pink hanging from the seats. A splash of blood was frozen on the far wall, and the window high in the back wall was coated in thick ice that bulged out from the window's alcove and ran down the wall nearly a foot in thick runnels of white ice.

I stomped back out, grinding my teeth, and shook my head at Nancy before going over and pushing the door open to the male bathroom.

The bathroom was dark, pitch black, and all my flashlight did was cause the ice and snow in the bathroom to glow faintly and sparkle. I could tell from long years living in 2/19th that the window had broken, snow covering what little floor I could see, and ice coating the window. The sinks were full of snow, and thick ice from where water had mixed with snow and then frozen surrounded the doors to the toilet stalls. The mirrors were shattered, with ice covering where the glass had been.

A single boot was in the darkness and snow, sitting in the middle of the snow, with a splash of blood across the ice covered doors of the stalls. I was still standing there, silent in the doorway, when the door swung closed, my flashlight laying a bright spot of light in the middle of the door.

"What about that bathroom?" Taggart asked.

"No, honey. Don't even touch that door. Please get away from it..." Nagle said from behind, and I spun around, my mouth opening to yell.

But Taggart just stepped back from the closed doorway to the unisex bathroom, looking at the two of us like we were crazy. I let out an explosive exhale and moved toward her as she moved toward Nancy, putting myself between the pregnant soldier and the door to that bathroom.

The lights turned off and the emergency lights came on, bathing the snow and us in blood red light. Taggart gasped, and Nancy reached out and took her hand when a low liquid chuckle floated into the room from the vents.

"Who is that?" Logan asked from the door to the Game Room.

"You don't want to know." Bomber told him, moving up next to him. Bomber looked at me and shrugged. "What's the plan, Chief?"

"I really need to pee." Nancy bitched.

"Stokes' room?" Bomber asked.

"Stokes' room." I nodded.

"Why that one?" Nancy asked as I moved to the door and pushed it open.

"Because." I stated, looking at the hallway.

Ice glittered on the walls, icicles hung from the ceiling, and a thick layer of snow covered the tile floor. We'd walked down the hallway less than an hour before, and the hallway had been cold but clear.

"Why is there all this snow?" Taggart asked.

"Do you really want to know, honey?" Nagle asked, following me, tugging Taggart along by one hand.

There was silence for a moment, then Nagle kept speaking. "This barracks was an old SS training barracks, away from the rest of post. Back when Ant first got here, there was less than 20 of them in the unit." She paused for a long moment while I pulled my key out and opened the door to Stokes' room. "One day a man vanished from that bathroom I told you to get away from. There isn't a window for him to get out of, he went into the room in front of almost 20 people, and he never came out. Only his shaving kit and his boots were found..."

Only his shaving kit sat on the sink, opened and ready for use, the bathroom cold and empty. He was wearing his boots when vanished... I corrected her silently, remembering that day.

"...Nobody saw him for months, until the unit went to the field, when some guys manning an observation post found his body. It was on the other side of the mountain, five miles from here, and after they came and got him, his body vanished from the morgue." The two women followed me into the room. Stokes' lights came on when I hit the switch, the feeble light stronger than any light I'd seen all day. I turned and nodded, and Nancy opened the bathroom door, quickly checking the shower and leaving the shower curtain open, still talking the whole time.

"Last year, we had an axe murder stalking all of us, but Tandy came back. He killed at least two people, snatching one of them out of his boots right in front of Ant and another guy." I heard Nancy continue from the bathroom as she peed. "Now, windows have been opened, the Winter let into the barracks, and he's stalking these barracks looking for a chance to kill us all."

I looked at Taggart, who looked greenish in the lights. She looked at me, and I nodded, and her eyes grew wide.

"Someday, he'll come for Ant." Nagle finished, and I heard her belt jangle and knew that she was pulling her pants up and buckling them. "Someday, he'll come for all of the people who were in the First Twenty, who escaped when the barracks burnt down, and one by one hunt them down and kill them."

I felt goosebumps erupt on my skin, knowing in my gut that she was right, that someday Tandy would come for me, my brother, Stokes, and everyone else. I could almost feel it echoing down through the years, and I closed my eyes at the sudden feeling of dread that almost overwhelmed me and made my knees weak.

Nancy came out of the bathroom and waved Taggart in, turning and shooing me back a few steps, keeping her right leg in the bathroom, her thick thigh against the doorjam. I heard Taggart's belt jangle, and wondered briefly how the woman's ass looked, and how it would feel in my hands. I looked at Nagle, who shook her head and waved a finger at me. She knew what I was thinking, she always did, and was warning me off.

"I can't pee with you looking at me." Taggart said after a moment.

"Would you rather Ant watch you?" Nancy asked.

"No, but do you have to watch me?" Taggart asked.

"I turned around for five seconds one time, and the person vanished." I broke in, "It went dark once, only a seconds, all I heard was a scream and a crunching noise, and when the lights came back, there was nothing there. He picks off the most vulnerable, he attacks when you're at your weakest and most vulnerable, when your most afraid. Do you still want her to look away?"

"No." She whispered, and I smiled at Nancy, who was glaring at me.

asshole she mouthed at me, but I smiled as I heard her start to pee.

"We're going to need to have everyone go to the bathroom in shifts." I told Nancy, partly to preserve Taggart's modesty, and I could tell by the warmth on my cheeks that I was blushing.

"Break into two groups?" Nancy asked. I nodded. "We can use Sergeant Micheal's room, since her room is right by the doors." She saw me shake my head. "What?"

"My key doesn't work on her room." I told her.

"Damn." she grumbled. "Perfectly good plan down the shitter." I nodded.

"I'm done." Taggart said. Nancy grabbed he hand and tugged her out of the bathroom.

"What?" She asked, when I sighed in relief.

"He was just afraid that the door would slam shut and you'd be gone forever, weren't you, Ant?" She smiled at me and I nodded. She turned toward the door, then stopped and looked at Taggart. "You're pregnant, and you have no idea what that means as far as Ant's concerned." She looked at me and smiled again. "But I do understand what it means to my wonderful boy."

I knew I was blushing when she opened the door. Taggart screamed, Nancy started to turn around, and I started moving when my flashlight illuminated what was standing in the doorway.

My knife whispered as it cleared the sheathe, the weight of the Gerber comfortable, the grip fitting my hand like a part of me, and I held it low as I moved toward the two women.

The LT stood in the doorway, his face pale, his eyes wide and crazy, his perfectly groomed hair wild.

And a fireaxe in his hands that had 2/19 MOTORPOOL burned into the haft.

"YOU FUCKING TRAITORS!" he screamed, raising the axe.

Chapter 21

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Fifteen

Nagle's hand snaked out and grabbed Taggart by the sleeve, pulling the pregnant woman toward her, and I veered to my left, coming in fast. I could see his arms tighten as he prepared to bring it down on the two women in front of him, and I doubted he could see me in the dimness coming at him with steel in my fist and murder in my heart. Nancy was turning around, shielding the other woman with her own body as the axe started coming up.

The axe came down just as I stepped in front of Nancy and Taggart, the handle connecting with my shoulder as I stepped inside the arc of the weapon and took the blow meant for the two women. Pain flared in my shoulder and my entire right arm went numb. I drove a punch into his stomach, driving my forehead into his face when he whuffed bad breath into my face, hearing his nose crush and feeling blood spray into my face.

"Get her out of here!" I yelled, trying to bring my right arm into play and getting nothing in response but blinding pain. I pushed the LT into the door across from us, my boots getting traction despite the snow and wet tile, and I almost passed out from the pain when my right shoulder drove into him.

"I'm not leaving you again!" Nancy yelled back.

"Fucking communist traitors!" The LT screamed, punching at me with one hand.

"Get her out!" I yelled back, releasing slightly then driving back into him with my shoulder. I felt more than saw Nancy and Taggart move by me as the LT grabbed me and slung me against the wall, my right shoulder leading the way, and when I hit I almost passed out from the pain, but somehow managed to keep on my feet.

I ducked down and spun in place, the axe whipping over my head to strike the far wall, concrete chips showering me as I drove into him again, forgetting against about my right shoulder, and bellowing in pain as I hit him first then we both slammed into the wall. I put a left into his gut, and he pushed me away. I lost my balance and hit the wall again, the pain so bad I almost passed out. My vision swam and I could feel tears running down my face from the pain as I sagged against the wall and felt my head swim.

Move, dumbass! my father's voice roared in my head, and shook my head and growled before I pushed off the wall and dropped down as the axe arced toward me, but not quite fast enough, pain and confusion slowing my reflexes. The cruel bit of the axe missed me, but the shaft of the axe slammed into the top of my head, my world vanishing in sparks and a roaring rushing noise. I managed to get one hand out to try and break my fall, but my right hand refused to work, and I ended up falling to one side, my face crashing into the tile.

The lights had gone off, and I couldn't see the LT or anything else as I popped back up in a desperate, scrabbling lunge that crashed me into the LT. I kicked his feet out from under him just like the Rangers I pal'd around with had taught me, then kicked out, feeling my boot thud into something.

"Hold on, brother!" sounded from down the hallway, punctuated by the crash of the double doors leading into Titty Territory. I turned toward the noise, still seeing nothing but blackness, but the LT grabbed one of my feet and yanked. The ice and snow betrayed me and I pitched over backwards, my head bouncing off the tile with a white flash. I kicked out, trying to find the LT in the darkness, then felt him scrabble up me, kicking and punching as he went, my knee hitting his chest, then his thigh, as I punched him twice with my left hand. When his boot hit my shoulder I screamed, and I heard Bomber roar a threat as he pounded down the hallway toward us.

Instinct told me to roll, and I knew that if I rolled left I'd hit the wall and stop, so I rolled right, the white bar of fire that had replaced my arm getting trapped underneath me.

The axe whistled by my ear and hit the tile with a thunk. I kicked out and felt my heel hit something solid, making the LT scream in pain. I was trying to lever myself up when my fingers found something familiar.

My knife.

The LT, overbalanced by his swing, fell on top of me as I wrapped my fingers around the hilt. He reached up, wrapping his fingers around my throat, and pulled me toward him, his fingers tightening and cutting off my air.

"You little traitorous..." he started to snarl.

I drove my knife into his side, and he screamed. I twisted the blade, yanked it out, and slammed it into his side again. He threw himself away from me, but I rolled on top of him, stabbing again and again. I got my hand on his face, ignoring the screams, and drove the knife under his chin, slicing my thumb as I did so, and felt him convulse underneath me and then go still.

"Ant, stop!" Nagle yelled, and I sat up, using my left arm to lever myself up. "Bomber, get Ant off of him!" she called out as boot steps came up next to me.

"He's dead, Ant!" Bomber growled, stopping next to me and pulling me to my feet by the back of my BDU blouse.

"Ant, are you OK?" Nagle's voice was right behind me.

"Did I get him?" I asked them, looking around.

"Yeah, you fucked him up. Can you see me, Ant?" Bomber asked.

"No, the lights went out when I was fighting the LT." I answered honestly, then groaned, trying to gather up my arm and hold it close. "I think he broke my arm."

"Aw man, he's dicked." Nagle said, and I could feel her hands on my shoulders, turning me around to face her. "Bomber, help me get him back to the Game Room." She took my other hand, and led me through the snow and darkness.

"Watch for the LT." I said, then stopped and threw up in the snow. "Fuck... I don't feel good."

"You'll be fine, brother, twisted steel and sex appeal, right?" John said from behind me. "Don't worry about the LT, I don't think he's going to be a problem."

"Right." I told him, straightening up. When I went to wipe my mouth with my right arm the pain made me groan, and almost made me throw up again. Nagle took my left elbow and led me down the hallway.

"Bomber, get the doors." She said, and I head the doors open in the darkness.

"Shit, the generator isn't out, is it?" I asked.

"Ummm, maybe." Nancy said. I heard Bomber hammer on the door.

"Who's out there." Logan's voice.

"Me, Nagle, and Ant." Bomber answered. I heard the lock clatter, then the door squeak open.

"Shit, why haven't you guy's lit lanterns?" I asked. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Had the LT wrecked the generators? Did the power completely fail in the barracks? Had a windstorm wrecked the power lines? Did the breaker box fail or had someone wrecked it?

"We will in a minute, Ant. Just sit down, honey." Nagle told me, guiding me down till my butt hit the cot. "Honey, did the LT hit you with the axe?"

"He got me in the shoulder, which really hurts, and hit me in the head." I answered. My stomach heaved. "I don't feel good."

"Holy shit, he's covered in blood." Hendricks said from the darkness. How the fuck would he know? Maybe Nancy had passed out the NVG's I'd taken from... where? Where had I gotten NVG's? I could remember getting them, taking them off a desk, but where had that been, and what did I do with them?

"I don't think it's his, but I need to check." Nancy answered. "Give Bomber your knife." I felt someone's hand on mine, and let go of the Gerber. I felt hands at my belt, and could feel the knife being slid into the sheathe.

"Ant was fighting with someone in the hallway." Taggart piped up.

"Taggart, sit here with that jug, he might throw up." Nancy warned. "I need to get his BDU top off. Ant, just sit there and let me take it off." She kissed me quickly, biting my lower lip. "I need you to be a good boy and hold still and be quiet.

"Nancy, where's your flashlight?" I asked. Why wasn't she going to use a flashlight to check my shoulder? Why weren't there any lights on? What the hell...

aw... shit.

"I'm blind again, aren't I?" I asked.

"Don't worry about that right now, honey, I need you to stay awake, stay still, and stay quiet." Nancy told me, "Bomber, hold him, Ant, bite this." She pushed a belt into my mouth, and I bit down, noticing a small sparking of pain from my broken front teeth. I felt my BDU top being pulled off first my left arm, then carefully slid off my right arm. I groaned with the pain, biting hard on the belt, feeling sweat cover me.

"Christ, Nancy, look at..." Bomber started.

"Hush, Bomber." I felt her fingers trace the skin on my shoulder. "Shit, it's dislocated at least, maybe broken, and I'm not sure about his collarbone."

"Set the fucking thing, then, bitch." Bomber said, and I choked back a laugh through the belt.

"Fine, lay him down on the floor." Nancy ordered. "Ant, I need you to hold still."

It took a moment to get me on the floor, my head wound and my injured shoulder making it hard. I groaned loudly when I slipped and landed on my shoulder, and Nancy quickly rolled me over, kissing my face and telling me I'd be all right. She leaned her cheek against mine and whispered in my ear that she was going to hurt me, but she knew I could take it.

My Nancy...

"OK, I need some of you to hold his legs. Logan, sit on his stomach. Bomber, hold his left arm." I felt her hands wrap something around my wrist, and I gritted my teeth and groaned when her foot slid into my armpit. "Hold him tight, he might go berserk when I set it and he's got a bad head wound." I heard the others murmur, but I was lost in trying to figure what had happened to me.

A fight with someone wielding an axe.

Was he out there, right now, building snowmen? Or was he using the distraction of injuring me to destroy our little 1.5K generator? Had he retreated to the motorpool, or to his lair up in Officer Country? He'd killed Bomber, ruptured his appendix and left him to die in the snow. He'd sliced Nagle's face and stabbed her through the breast. He didn't know what was going to happen to him, but I did, and soon Nagle would...

"Now!" Nancy barked, and the foot pressed into my armpit while whatever was wrapped around my wrist bit tightly. Fiery pain exploded in my shoulder and there was a crunching feeling.

The pain in my shoulder suddenly vanished, to be replaced with a splitting headache. I just groaned slightly and went limp, my head and chest aching. It felt so good, that absence of pain, that it felt like I'd cum, almost a post-orgasmic release as my shoulder popped back into the socket.

"I thought you said that he'd freak out?" Logan said. "Did he pass out?"

"I'm still here." I said, shivering. I was having hot and cold flashes, and wasn't quite sure where I was.

"He's going into shock, get him on the bunk." Nagle ordered, and I felt hands lift me up and into the cot, wrapping blankets around me. "Ant, can you hear me?"

"uh-huh" Her voice sounded far away.

"I need you to stay awake, honey, you can't go to sleep." She told me.

"What are you doing?" Oakes asked. "Put your clothes back on."

"She's keeping Ant from dying, shut the hell up." Logan's voice.

"Jefferson, Logan, I need you two to come with me." Bomber said.

"Where are we going?" Jefferson asked. The was silence for a second. "You're trusting me with a weapon?"

"I want to check on something." Bomber said. A hot body slid under the covers, and arms wrapped around me.

"Stay awake, silly boy." Nancy whispered, her tongue gliding around my ear.

"When we go out this door, if you see anyone that doesn't look right, shoot to kill and fall back here." Bomber warned.

"Shoot to kill?" Logan asked.

"Pray it works." Bomber said. "Let's go. I'll lead the way."

I heard the doors open and shut, but was paying attention to Nancy's whispering. She was rubbing her hands on my skin, telling me to stay awake, to stay with her, asking me when my birthday was, asking me my brother and sister's names, asking me things about my past. I focused on her voice, the feel of her hands and skin against mine. She pushed my pants down and pulled me close, the heat of her body warming me and her hard nipples against my chest. I murmured the answers, often speaking into her open mouth as she kissed me and danced her tongue across my lips or teeth.

The door suddenly burst open, crashing suddenly and making me groan when I jerked in surprise and the pain flared in my shoulder.

"What's wrong?" Taggart asked.

"He's fucking gone!" Bomber said, and I heard something heavy being dragged across the floor.

"Who's gone?" Oakes asked, I could hear the sneer in her voice and felt the heat inside as rage bloomed and the urge to grab her lower lip in one hand and twist until she screamed filled me. Nancy raked her nails on my back and bit my lip.

"The LT, he's fucking gone!" Bomber said, and I could tell by the sound of his voice that he was the one pushing. I tried to raise my head, but Nancy's hand kept me from lifting it, and her teeth pulling on my lower lip brought me back to her.

"There's blood all over the place. But there's nobody there!" Logan said.

"Where?" Hendricks asked.

"In the hallway, there's blood on the walls and in the snow, but there's no body." Jefferson added.

"Ant killed the LT?" Oakes asked. There was no sneer in her voice, this time I could hear fear. "Are you sure it was Lieutenant Groves?"

"It was." Taggart's voice was small. "He had an axe, and he tried to kill me."

Oakes scoffed. "Yeah, right."

"Maybe Ant didn't kill him." Nelson suggested. I could hear a slur in his voice and felt vicious satisfaction over that.

"Trust me, he was fucking dead." Bomber said.

"How the fuck would you know?" Oakes asked.

"I've seen dead people before." was all Bomber told her. I felt Nagle snicker against my cheek. Her hands were moving, and I shivered at her wicked touch.

There was silence for a long moment, and I heard bootsteps come toward us. I tried to raise up, but Nancy bit my lip and pulled my head back down. A hand grabbed mine, and a cold rag started rubbing against my skin. I tried to jerk again, and Nancy rested one hand against my cheek and shushed me.

"Is the radiator still working?" Nancy suddenly asked, leaving off kissing my face.

"Still hot." Marks said after a moment.

"We need to get the power back on." Nancy told them. "Do any of you know where the breaker cabinet is?"

There was no answer, and she sighed. "Bomber?"

"Yeah?" He asked, and I could tell he was the one wiping my hands off.

"The breaker box?" She asked.

"No. I'm not going down there with any of these guys." He paused. "No offense."

"Chickenshit?" Oakes asked.

"Yup." Bomber said, and went back to cleaning my hand.

"You need to go down and turn back on the breakers, Specialist Bomber." Oakes said after a minute.

"Nope." Bomber said, starting to wipe down my left forearm.

"I'm ordering you to go down there and fix the breakers." She snarled.

"Go yourself." Bomber told her. I could tell by the way his hand moved my arm that he had shrugged. "But if you go out that door alone, I'll kill anyone who tries to open the door when you ask to come in."

"You wouldn't dare." She said.

"Like Ant wouldn't dare?" He asked. He stopped washing off my hand and shifted, still holding my hand. "Seriously, Oakes, you're going to push me? Would you push Ant if he was still in good shape? You're pretty fucking brave."

"Both of you stop it." Nancy said, then kissed the tip of my nose. "We stay here, we wait for awhile. Nobody goes out that door."

"The LT is gone?" I asked. "There's no way, I fucking killed him." I remembered the way he shuddered.

"He's gone, brother." Bomber said.

"Footprints?" I asked. My head was feeling better, and I didn't feel so disconnected from my body.

"Nope, didn't see any but ours." Bomber told me, squeezing my hand. "You sound better."

"He's feeling better." Nancy said, squeezing her naked thighs together, squeezing part of me that made me shiver.

"Can you see yet?" Bomber asked.

"No." I said. Not quite true, there was white spots that kept swimming across my vision, and every couple seconds I kept seeing weird... static... for lack of a better word.

"How's his head?" Bomber asked, and Nancy let go of my lower lip.

"He's got a bad bump on the top of his head, but his skull isn't popped this time." She said. "Wake Kebble up." She nuzzled the tip of my nose with hers. "Bomber, pull his boots off, will you?"

Bomber let go of my hand, and after a moment I felt his hands on my boots. I heard Kebble protest being woken up, then Raleigh shushed her. Someone tore open an MRE, and someone else farted.

I yawned, and Nancy hugged me.

"Go to sleep, Ant, I'll be right here."

My Nancy...

Chapter 22

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Ground Floor Game Room
Day: Sixteen

Someone touched my face and I snapped awake, reaching out with my left hand and grabbing their BDU top, my right hand whipping across to my left hip. I was about to yank them forward when I realized my hand had found nothing but bare skin and the face above me was framed in brown hair.

"Nancy." I said, my voice thick with sleep.

"Yup." Nancy said, coming close so her face came into focus. "How ya feelin', silly boy?"

"I've got a splitting headache and my arm feels like shit." I told her, letting go of her top. She smiled, leaned further down and kissed me, biting my lower lip and letting go after the kiss.

"Sit up, I need to put your arm in a sling." She told me. I sighed, but did as she asked me, swinging my legs off the cot and wincing as my feet hit the cold floor. She moved around and straddled the cot, sitting beside me. She handed me my glasses, which I put on, and while she stripped the plastic packing off of two cravats, I looked around.

"How long have I been out?" I asked, sucking in a breath as she moved my arm to loop the cravat behind it.

"About eight hours." She told me.

Bomber was asleep in the cot next to us, curled up slightly and sucking his thumb. Taggart was asleep on the other side of him, looking young as hell. The lights in the Game Room were on, but dim, even so I could make out the others. Logan eating an MRE, Oakes sitting on a cot along with Nelson and Marks, the three of them away from the others. Kebble was sitting upright, and Raleigh was shining a flashlight into her eyes. Jefferson was staring at the ceiling, his hands behind his head, Clifton was stripping an M-16, while Hendricks was stirring something in his mess kit cup.

The doors were unblocked, a pinball machine near them, but no longer blocking them shut.

I looked down at my shoulder and winced when I saw that band of bruising that surrounded it, making the scar from where I'd been stabbed through the shoulder and they'd repaired the joint with surgery stand out. Nancy had put one cravat around my stomach, then looped the other through it.

"Why's the door unblocked?" I asked.

"People had to pee. Turn and face me, Ant, so I can put this on you right." She told me. I swung one foot over the cot and held still while she looped the cravat over my neck. She was tying it off after making sure it was supporting my arm but not pushing the shoulder too high when I heard Oakes' voice.

"What the fuck happened to your back?"

"Mind your own business." I snarled.

"Is it some kind of disease?" She sneered. "It looks fucking gross."

"Fuck you, it's burn scars, you ugly little bitch." I growled back, starting to turn on the cot. Nancy grabbed my nipple and pulled me back around so she could adjust the cravat around my waist to keep my arm pinned to my stomach.

"What, your mother throw boiling water on your?" She asked, her tone mocking. "Ant's Mommy not love him..."

One second I was on the cot, the next minute Jefferson was between Oakes and me, and Bomber was pulling me back with his arm around my throat, lifting me off the floor while I kicked and yelled. Nancy screaming at Oakes and holding her off the ground by her throat with both hands, with Taggart trying to pull Nancy off of the other woman as she pulled Oakes back and slammed her against the wall. Logan had Marks on the ground, one arm twisted behind his back and a knee in his spine. Nelson was sprawled out on the floor, blood running from his nose. Hendricks was backed up till he was standing a few feet from the door. Kebble was looking around, confused, and Raleigh was sitting in front of her, staring at everyone with her mouth hanging open.

"Get off me, goddamn it!" I yelled.

"Not until you calm the fuck down." Bomber yelled back. "Nancy, let go of her."

Nancy let go of Oakes, the other woman sliding down to the floor, coughing and holding her throat. Taggart was pulling Nancy back toward us, and Logan let go of Marks and moved quickly next to us, Hendricks joining us. I quit kicking and went limp.

"You assholes stay over there." Hendricks said. Bomber set me down.

"Ant, get dressed, for fuck's sake." Logan told me. I nodded and turned back to my cot, grabbing my pants and pulling them on. I turned back just in time to see Marks glance at the rifle that had fallen on the floor.

Before I could say something, Jefferson jumped forward and grabbed the rifle, then skipped back next to us.

"That fucking dyke bitch tried to kill me." Oakes coughed, pointing at Nancy. Nancy flushed and stepped forward, but Taggart grabbed her arm.

"Please, stop, don't." Taggart pleaded, and Nancy looked at her for a long moment.

"You scar faced whore, I should kick your ass." Oakes choked out.

"That's it!" Nancy yelled, and went to lunge forward. Taggart grabbed her arm, and Bomber lunged from behind me, grabbing Nancy's belt and dragging her backwards.

I opened my mouth to say something, to pour more fuel on the fire, wanting nothing more than to feel Marks' face break under my knuckles. I could remember ducking under Nelson's looping roundhouse and throwing a punch right into the middle of his face, could remember the feeling of his nose breaking.

The lights clicked off, and the emergency light clicked a couple of times before the red lights kicked in.

Everyone had frozen, not moving, their eyes wide in the bloody light. It was completely silent in the room, none of us speaking, none of us even breathing.

We all turned to look at the door at the same time, dreading what we knew was coming. Hard knocks on the door. A voice from someone dead and gone. Frost spreading on the door.

The double doors burst open, swinging wide and exposing the CQ Area and the layer of snow on the floor that was smooth and unblemished by bootmarks or footsteps.

In the doorway stood Lieutenant Groves, standing there in his Class-A uniform, mud and frost thick on his pant legs. His medals were slightly skewed, and his tie was outside his uniform. His hair was wet, his face was pale, and his eyes shined in the middle of the black circles that surrounded them. His teeth were bloody in the light, his smile exposing more teeth than it had any right to.

The axe held in his hands read 2/19th MOTORPOOL, the edge glinting in the emergency lights as it swung from behind him.

And hit Hendricks in the chest.

Chapter 23

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Ground Floor Game Room
Day: Sixteen

It was all a dream. It had to be. I had to be laying there on the cot, unconscious from having my head thunked with an axe handle, dreaming concussion nightmares. There was no way the LT could be there, I'd felt him die under my hands, I'd rammed the knife under his chin and into his brain, twisting it twice before pulling it loose. I'd felt him die!

But it wasn't, even as I stood stock still in disbelief, my brain unwilling to accept what my eyes were seeing, the LT still stubbornly refused to vanish into nightmare.

That axe came around, the cruel edge tearing into Hendricks' chest with an obscene sound. Hendricks had tried to throw himself out of the path, away from the axe, but his reflexes had been slowed by the sudden shock of the LT's appearance, of how he had kicked open the door, and the impossibility of the figure in front of us. He'd thrown his left arm up, but the axe whipped below it, slamming into his ribcage, and the sound was loud in the silence as his ribs snapped and the axe head sunk deep into the meat of his torso. Blood sprayed across my face, flecks of it hitting my glasses.

Nancy screamed, a sound of loss and pain, and I knew what she was reliving in that split second.

Jacobs. Dying on the table in an office, with Nancy powerless to do anything.

The blow spun Hendricks around, the axe tearing loose with another spray of blood.

I still hadn't moved. I was still focused on the LT, my brain trying to deny what was in front of me.

The LT's expression hadn't changed, still that maniacal grin, those glittering eyes set in the middle of circles of blackened flesh, the mud on his pantlegs, frost and ice in his hair and on his pant legs.

The axe continued its arc, and the LT pulled it back around so it crossed his body at port arms, still staring at us with that grin.

Hendricks was falling, a gurgling scream torn from him by the hideous axe wound I could see for a split second before his body spun.

Weaponsfire sounded out next to my ear, and the LT didn't even flinch, blood flying out from his back. The wood of the axe handle splintered as two rounds hit it.

The doors slammed shut, without the LT touching them, and the lights came back on so strongly that my eyes watered. Two rounds punched into the door, right where the LT had been, and I saw that Bomber was the one holding the weapon, his cheek pressed against the stock. The room was awash in white light, every light bulb on, and heat roared through the vent next to me, washing up my legs and almost burning my bare skin. Like usual, I barely felt anything on my back.

"WHAT THE FUCK?" At least five people yelled that in the brightness of the room.

Nancy had lunged forward, yelling Bomber and my names, pulling at Hendricks, getting his arm out of the way with almost brutal urgency, tearing his uniform open with one savage wrench to expose the wound.

"RALEIGH!" She shrieked, "Taggart, get my aid bag!" her voice was still an out of control scream as I ran forward, and grabbed Hendricks' legs. He was bucking, flailing, and my shoulder screamed in raw pain as I looped my arms so I had his ankles under my armpits, locking my hands on my wrist and flexing in order to pin his legs.

"Hold him, goddamn it!" Nancy screamed. "Taggart, hurry your pregnant ass up!" Raleigh had dropped down next to Nancy on her knees, her eyes wide and face pale as she saw the horrific wound on Hendricks' chest. Nancy didn't even look at her. "Raleigh, get in there, hold him down, goddamn it!"

Bomber dropped the weapon the floor and grabbed him, pulling his right arm out straight, slamming his foot into Hendricks armpit. Hendricks screamed again, and air bubbles boiled up in the wound. Taggart's face was wet as she dropped to her knees beside Nancy, the big aid bag with the medical symbol stenciled in white on it in her hands. Nancy didn't even look, just grabbed the bag with one hand and tearing it open as she narrowed her eyes, her gaze raking over the wound.

"Someone hold his other arm." Nancy's voice was flat, devoid of anything, the brittle edge of hysteria gone as if it had never existed. SHe pulled out the gloves, tossing a pair to Taggart and one to Raleigh, then pulling them on herself. Nobody moved, and her voice lashed out again. "Hold his other arm, goddamn it, you worthless bitches."

Logan dropped down and grabbed his arm, pulling it straight out, his hands slipping on the blood that had run down the other man's arm. Nancy's gloved hand picked up his dogtags and glanced at them.

"Anyone O-Positive, start eating MRE's and drinking water. You're about to have some fucking use." Nancy snapped.

"I'm O-positive." I said.

"Shut up, Ant. I'm busy." She snapped, digging out a scalpel. "You're going to be doing something else. I need someone to sit on his hips, hold him down." She began slicing away the uniform. "Hendicks, stay with me, babe."

Hendricks screamed again, and Kebble staggered up, her eyes glazed and unfocused, and she sat down on Hendricks, grabbing his belt to keep her balance. She retched once, turning her face away, but didn't throw up.

"Do you know what you're doing?" Raleigh asked, her voice tight and thin.

"Yes." Nancy answered.

I couldn't see what was going on, but the sounds were horrible. Hendicks screamed as Nancy went to work. Taggart turned green, doing what Nancy told her. Kebble kept swaying back and forth, mumbling to herself. Raleigh vomited once, and Bomber just gritted his teeth and held tight. Logan gagged a few times, but never let up.

Nancy would toss little splinters of yellows bone to the side, snap at Raleigh to pour more water into the wound, and ordered Taggart to move the small battery powered suction tube around, snapping at her more than once that she couldn't see.

The doors shook when something outside beat on them. Screams and sobs sounded from outside or floated through the vents. The crashing of boots came from upstairs. But the lights never flickered, and the temperature did nothing but climb. Nelson came over to wipe Nagles' face off, hold a water bottle for her to drink out of, and to shine a flashlight where Nagle ordered.

Oakes was O-Pos, and when Nagle ordered her to lay on the cot and told Raleigh to run a line from Oakes to Hendricks, Oakes refused. Marks' surprised me by grabbing Oakes and wrestling her over to the coat, holding her in choke hold.

"Hendricks is my friend. Lay down on that cot, bitch, or I'll knock your ass out and tie you to it." He snarled, throwing her onto the cot. He leaned down into her face, snarling. "I'll squeeze your ass like a wet rag if I have to."

Oakes shrank back from Marks, who came over next to me. I was sweating from holding Hendricks' legs. The guy was strong, and Nagle working on him without anesthetic or mercy lent agony fueled strength to his struggles to get loose from us, from who was torturing him. He'd stopped screaming, lapsing into sobs and to pleas not to hurt him any more.

"Stay with me honey, stay with me, babe." Nagle kept repeating in between snapping orders for this tool, spray water, do suction, or yelling at us to hold him tighter.

"Give me his leg, Ant." Marks said, and I groaned when I let go of his leg, my right shoulder nothing more than white agony. My head was pounding, my headache making me sick, and my shoulder ground with each of Hendricks' struggles.

"Ant, get your ass up here, boy." She snarled. I looked at Marks, who nodded, and I let go Hendricks' legs as Nancy pulled back and slapped Hendricks hard. "Stay with me, goddamn it. Open your goddamn eyes, you little pussy."

I moved up next to Nancy, looking down into the wound. I couldn't pull my eyes away from her hands. I couldn't even figure out what she was doing, her hands busy with a thread and needle and weird instruments poking out of the tissue.

"Ant. Ant!" She got my attention. "I need you to go up to the platoon area, go to the NCO office, and break open the Platoon Sergeant's locker." I nodded. "Get me my other aid bag." She looked down at the injury. "Hurry, but don't end up giving me another patient."

I looked around real quick, noting that only Clifton and Jefferson weren't directly involved in what was going on. "I need you two to come with me. Two man rule." I grabbed a brown T-shirt and a BDU top out of my rucksack and pulled them on.

"I can't, I'm O-Pos." Jefferson said. I grabbed my field jacket, my black gloves, and my cold weather cap.

"Same here." Clifton added.

"Jefferson, go with him, you were bleeding pretty bad earlier." Nancy said, not looking up. "Taggart, honey, I need you to give me some more suction next to the scalpel."

Jefferson paled, but grabbed his field jacket, gloves, and cold weather hat. He pulled them on and then followed me. I grabbed an M-16 off the table and tossed it to him, then grabbed another one for myself.

"Ant, please hurry." Nancy said.

"Come on, man." I told him, racking a round in the chamber and walking toward the doors. "One of us has to get back and give Nancy her bag." I put my hand on the door, but it was merely cold.

"Ready?" I asked Jefferson. He shook his head and I grinned. "Open the door, I'll cover you."

His hand shook as he reached out and grabbed the handle. Behind us, Hendricks screamed again and Hendricks paled, but he still pulled open the door.

Beyond the door the CQ Area was only dimly lit by a few of the ceiling lights behind the CQ counter. Icicles, some almost a foot long, hung from the ceiling, the ice hazy and brownish from whatever the liquid had touched before it had frozen. Ice coated the double doors and the walls, the trophies behind the glass only vague shapes behind the glaze of ice. Our breath plumed out in front of us, an almost tangible razor line of cold in front us preventing the rising heat of the Game Room from penetrating the room. The snow was flat, blameless, almost unmarked, a pure white blanket that coated everything in the room. Almost.

Spatters of blackened fluid marked the snow from where Bomber's shots had punched through the LT's body. Or what was using his body. And two boot prints showed in front of the doors where the LT had stood.

"Where is he?" Jefferson asked as we moved into the room, the snow crunching under our boots.

"Gone." I answered, pulling the doors shut, muffling the sounds of Hendricks screams, Taggart's soft sobs, and Nancy's crisp commands.

The snow crunched under our boots as we walked over to the stairwell door. It was coated in ice, almost an inch thick, the handle buried under a mass of ice the size of a football. When I slammed the butt of the weapon against the ice, all it did was make a dull thump and chip a small chunk of the ice.

"Shit." I said, stepping back and looking at the other set of double doors. "We'll have to go through Titty Territory."

Jefferson nodded, trying to watch everywhere at once.

The doors to Titty Territory were covered in ice, and shoving at the doors just made a crackling noise.

"Now what?" Jefferson asked. "The doors are covered."

I leaned back and slammed my boot against the middle of the door seam, and the doors burst open, ice flying around us and stinging my face. The doors bounced off the walls and I moved through them, keeping my weapon up and ready. The emergency lights were on, and I was sick of red light. Who's bright idea had it been to bathe everything in blood when the shit hit the fan? Yeah, yeah, optical purple and all that shit, saving our night vision, but after a few days of living under the red lights, I was tired of the ghastly look to everything.

The wall where I'd fought with the LT was spattered in blood, chunks knocked out of the wall where the axe had missed me.

"What's going on?" Jefferson asked.

"We're in trouble." I answered, bending down and running my fingers over the snow. The blood had frozen, creating sharp chunks, and I broke off a chunk, rubbing it between my gloved fingers till it melted, then smelling it. It smelled like blood, fresh blood, not like the clotted shit that marred the snow behind us.

"Did you really kill the LT?"

"Didn't have a choice. He tried to kill Taggart and Nancy." I stood back up. "Let's go."

I had to kick open the doors at the middle of the hallway so we could leave Titty Territory, ice shattering and falling to the snow covered floor. Above us a shriek cut loose and bootsteps thudded away from us, heading toward the other end of the building. Jefferson cursed and raised his weapon at the ceiling, but I grabbed it with my free hand and pulled it down.

"Don't waste your ammo. It's just the building playing games." I told him.

"Who's doing it?" He asked as I looked at the handle to the stairwell door. Once again it was covered in ice, which spread out from the door to cover it in at least an inch of hard ice.

"I don't know. Tandy, dead Nazis, something." I told him, trying to break the ice with the butt of my weapon. Three hits and I gave up. "My personal belief?"


"This mountain hates us and wants us to die." I told him, turning away from the door and heading down the hallway. Like the rest of the hallways, icicles hung from the ceiling, the walls and doors coated in ice, and snow at least three inches deep on the tile that a week before had been polished to gleaming.

Jefferson didn't scoff, just moved closer to me as we moved down the hallway.

"Was it this bad last winter?" He asked at about the halfway point. The building was almost a block long, normally it didn't seem that long, but in the ice and snow and cold it seemed like forever.

"Yes and no." I told him, shivering. "Last year we had a psycho hunting us with an axe. Killed about a dozen people, almost killed Bomber, almost killed Nagle, damn near killed me." I held up my left fist, stopping him.

At the end of the hallway the window had broken, spilling snow into the hallway. Snow was packed in, the door to the stairwell almost covered by it and the door outside completely covered.

"Shit. Now what?" He asked me as we turned around.

"We do this the hard way." I told him. I closed my eyes, running over the plan I'd come up with. It was risky, really risky, but it was Hendricks' only chance.

We were silent for awhile, until he broke the silence after I kicked the refrozen doors to Titty Territory back open.

"How many of you were left alive?" He asked.

"Six of us." I told him honestly.

"Oh man." He said. "That counting you, Bomber, or Nagle?"

"Yup." I answered.

"Shit." I knew what he was thinking. Bomber, Nagle, and I would all have each other's backs. There's no way any of the three of us would leave the others behind. I'd come pounding to the rescue more than once. Bomber had proven it time and time again. Nagle had proven her loyalty in blood.

"Ant, I love you!" shouted down a cold stairway echoed in my mind.

The three of us would do what we could to protect everyone, but if it came down to it, a choice between one of the others or Nancy and/or Bomber, well the others were shit out luck.

Except Taggart.

I knew Bomber, knew how his Texas mind worked, and I knew Nancy Nagle inside and out, just like they knew me. Bomber wouldn't let a pregnant woman die if there was an ounce of life left in him, Nancy was looking for redemption, and me? Well, I was just a boy.

We'd die, the three of us, before we'd let whatever it was that lived in the barracks to take her.

He was wondering which of the others would survive, if there'd be more or less than last time. I wasn't thinking that far, focused on just how I'd get Nancy's bag from the Platoon Office. That SF Surgical bag she'd begged, borrowed, stolen, or blown someone to get.

I kicked open Titty Territory and moved into the CQ Area, noting how it looked like another inch of snow had fallen in the room. The lights behind the CQ Counter dimmed then came back on, and the emergency on strobed a few times. Above us boots crashed to the floor in response to some shouted command.

"Jesus." Jefferson breathed.

"Has left the building." I added, pressing the ice covered doors to the Day Room. They flexed, and I knew I'd be able to kick them open. "Knock on the door, get some snowshoes." I told him.

"I don't know how to use them." I turned to look at him. "I missed out on that training."

"Just get a single set them." I told him, turning and facing the double doors. They were covered in white, and I wondered how far the snow was piled up out there on that side of the building.

He knocked, answered Clifton's shouted question, and went into the Game Room. I heard Hendricks scream again, and Nancy yell at them to hold him, that she'd gotten a lot of the bleeding stopped. He came back with the snowshoes, the doors mercifully muffling Hendricks' cries for mercy, begging Nancy to stop hurting him, calling out for his mother.

"You're not going to..." Jefferson asked, but I just ignored it, leaning back and kicking open the doors. The keyhole was filled with ice, almost mocking me, so there was no chance of unlocking it.

The doors crashed open, revealing snow covered chairs. The windows were dark, and my flashlight beam reflected back at me, which made me smile. I stepped in, knowing that the blackness on the windows meant that the snow hadn't covered them. I could hear Jefferson breathing as he followed me in. Against the far wall the projection TV burst to life, was showing static, the speakers howling.

Jefferson cut loose with a burst from the M16, shredding the projector and making the screen shake. The lights died with a shower of sparks, and feedback screamed through the room for a second before it cut out.

"Sorry." He said in the darkness.

"Just take it easy." I told him, stopping at the windows. The glaze of ice was thin, less than an 1/8th of an inch, and it cracked and fell away when I turned the handle to the middle position and pulled the window open.

Wind whipped around me, snatching my breath away, howling into the room and sending loose snow flying. Jefferson cursed, but handed me the snowshoes when I held my hand out.

"You can't go out there!" he shouted. I ignored him and put my foot into the snowshoe binding, quickly lacing it up.

"Two man rule!" He yelled in my ear.

"My rules, my decision." I yelled back. "When I go out this window, go back to the Game Room, do not stay here by yourself." I put on the other snowshoe and straightened up.

"You're crazy!" He yelled as I dug a braided length of 550 cord out of my pocket. One of the Rangers had taught me the braid, a way to pack over 500 feet of cord into a thick braid only about eight inches long, or like mine, almost a 1,000 feet in a double thick ten inch long braid. The good thing about it was you could tie it off and feed out the 550 cord without it all suddenly coming loose. The loops would snap through, the braid would steadily shorten. Tension on the D-ring I'd woven into the end of the braid wouldn't pull it out, making it about as close to a spool as I could carry around.

I tied off the green cord to handle of the window, snapped a D-ring on it, then snapped the D-ring at the other end to my belt loop. I turned to Jefferson, nodded, then carefully put one foot outside, tapping for a moment, then swung out my other leg so I was sitting on the window. Wind howled around me, snow and ice crystals biting my exposed face, as I stared into the darkness.

"Shut the window but don't lock it." I told Jefferson, holding my weapon out to him. He took it and I pushed off from the window.

I only dropped about eight inches, relief flooding me. To be honest, I'd expected a twenty foot fall to the cement below, expected my legs to snap like twigs, to leave me bleeding out from compound fractures, shivering, in the darkness as I died.

Jefferson shut the window, and I put one hand out to touch it, wondering if the sudden thump of my open hand had startled him. I looked up to see stars, clear twinkling star, with clouds surrounding me. I turned and looked down the sight of the mountain and saw a sight that made my stomach plummet in disappointment. Beyond me the mountain normally dropped away into forest, with the ski resort five hundred vertical feet below us. Now, maybe two hundred feet below us, I could see the tops of the clouds, spread out like a rumpled plain of gray. The clouds hazed away as the clouds surrounding the building and me thickened up enough to block my vision. It made me look like I was in the middle of a round gray cup.

I knew I only had a few minutes to get around the building before hypothermia began to set in. I should have gotten my cold weather gear, should have put on long johns, but I knew that Nancy or Bomber would have protested, and that Bomber would have tried to go with me, Nancy would have tried to stop me.

The Army was all about acceptable casualties, and while the goal of any commander was to minimize casualties, when it came down to it, people died to accomplish objectives. You sent one across the road to check for ambushes. Men pulled point to get the enemy to fire earlier and trigger the ambush. Someone had to charge the machinegun with a pistol, attack the tank with a grenade, or rush the bunker with a knife. Someone had to go outside to get the SF aid bag.

That's what boys were for.

I kept one hand on the wall, following it around. Walking with snowshoes on was exhausting. Step, lift the foot, shake it, then put it down, repeat. You had to shake the snow off the snowshoes each time, or it made your traction worse, made the snowshoe heavier, and would exhaust you faster. In heavy winds, the wind just whipped through the laces of the snowshoe, and if you didn't shake the snow off, the wind would pull at the snowshoe, throwing you off balance.

After a few moments I reached the corner, and immediately had to climb. The angle was pretty steep when you were just walking along the ground during the clear seasons, but climbing the snow in the darkness, the wind, one hand trailing the side of the building, it felt like the snow was an almost vertical wall.

Finally it leveled out, and I turned the corner, right before tension on the 550 cord yanked me to a stop. Cursing, I reached down for the D-ring, unclipping it and letting it fall to the snow. I kept going, keeping my hand on the wall as I kept moving along the wall until I found some windows.

I didn't even bother with finesse, just bent my arm and slammed an elbow into the glass, shattering it. I carefully knocked the shards out of the frame, then climbed in the window, my flashlight beam illuminating desks and chairs, paperwork and phones, and heavy lockers where platoon level secure items were stored.

Above the platoon sergeant's desk was a framed pistol, a legacy of her time in the Big Red One, and my snowshoes clattered as I crossed the room to stare at it. A Colt M1911A1 .45 pistol, with two magazines bracketing it. I took it down, turned to the desk, and brought the frame down sharply. The glass shattered, and I pulled the pistol and the two clips from the frame, quickly loading it and checking the action, then dropping the other clip into my back pocket, next to my wallet.

Above my desk was a bayonet, an award from 101st Airborne for doing my job during REFORGER '88, and that frame shattered too. I stuck the sheathe against the small of my back, clipping it to my belt, but didn't sheathe the bayonet. The bayonet felt good in my hand as I walked up to the locker behind the Platoon Sergeant's desk. I jammed the blade into the locker, first pulling the blade toward the door to open a gap, then twisting the blade to keep the door open before popping the door open.

The bayonet slid into the sheathe as I panned my flashlight over the contents of the locker. There were ten combat lifesaver bags, and Nancy's SF bag on one side. I bent down and took off my snowshoes quickly, slinging them across my back. I slung Nancy's aid bag over my shoulder, then grabbed as many of the combat lifesaver bags as I could, looping them around my neck and over my shoulders. My right shoulder screamed at the abuse, but I didn't have a choice.

I walked across the NCO office to the double doors, my flashlight's beam glittering on the seam of ice between the double doors. If I went outside, I was a dead man. I'd lucked out, made it through the snow and wind, but if I tried again, I knew that Tandy would be waiting for me.

When I moved to my desk, I pulled open my top drawer, grabbing out a pack of Malboros and lighting one, my hands shaking from the cold. When I moved back around my desk and went to walk away, the phone began to ring.

The sound was loud in the stillness, pounding at my ears, and I stopped and stared at the phone as it rang again. I reached forward, my right shoulder grinding as my hand moved, and I ignored the pain that flared in the joint as my fingertips grazed the plastic of the phone and it rang again.

Piss on it. I thought, turning away from it. We'd be better off if I didn't answer it. No contact meant they'd get a Ranger team up here to save us. If I answered, and they heard a living voice, there might be enough static to misunderstand me, or perhaps they'd only hear a single syllable and figure we were still fine up on the backside of the mountain.

I moved up to the doors, tried to unlock the door but the knob wouldn't move because the ice, then shrugged and kicked them open. The lock broke and tore away part of the door, and I thought to myself that they could just bill me for it.

The platoon area was covered in snow, the lights buzzing and clicking as they faintly illuminated the snow that sat thickly on the tile floor that I'd buffed myself a little over three weeks before. The little school-like desks that we all sat at and smoked cigarettes waiting to be tasked with a mission were covered in snow. Behind me, the phone stopped on the sixth ring.

The stairwell door was clogged by ice, but the door to the hallway gave it up after a few quick kicks. That let me turn to the stairwell door in the hallway, which opened into the stairwell, and I pushed on the bar but it didn't move. I kicked the bar twice, and something broke inside of the door, the handle just slamming against the door without disengaging the lock. I shrugged and looked down the hallway. My flashlight chose that time to go out, and when I slapped my cargo pocket I realized I was out of batteries.

It's only dark and snow... I told myself, hefting the comforting weight of the pistol.

Ant, hurry... I could hear Nancy's voice over the shriek of the wind ripping through the window I shattered.

The snow crunched beneath my boots as I headed down the hallway, feeling the cold leech my body heat away. I hated the cold, I hated winter, and I hated snow. I let my hatred warm me, wrapping it around me to keep my arms and legs moving, letting it help me ignore the pain in my shoulder.

As I passed room 221 there was someone sobbing on the other side of the door. I briefly thought about opening the door, checking the room to see if the LT and Sergeant Shabazz were still in there.

I was willing to bet that they were.

The double doors that separated the two halves of the building pushed open pretty easy, the doors hanging crookedly on their hinges. I kicked open the door to the middle stairwell, catching a break when it flew open, ice chips bouncing off my field jacket and spraying against the walls.

It was still pitch black in the stairwell, and it took a minute for my fingers to find the railing. My breathing sounded like a freight train, my bootsteps thundered on the steps, and the whole staircase shook with each step. Snowflakes and ice chips kept showering down on me as the staircase vibrated from my bootsteps.

The LT's dead body attacking was new. Did it mean that the building, and by proxy, Tandy, was getting stronger? Or was it the fact it was getting further and further into Winter, and nobody had ever stayed in the barracks this deep into the darkness of Winter? Or was it really new? Was the LT used just like Tandy was used, or was Tandy something different, something special?

I turned at the first landing, pausing for a moment before heading down the next set of stairs. Bootsteps took another two steps above me, and something chuckled below me in the darkness, and I forced back the memory of Tandy on top of me, pushing one finger into the stab wound in my shoulder.

At the end of the steps, I felt the door, feeling the ice on the inside of it, and said a short prayer before leaning back and kicking the bar. The door flew open, crashing against the wall and ice shattering as it bounced off. Snow was swept aside by the door, and I almost jumped through the opening, convinced if I waited that it would close and trap me in the stairwell.

From behind me, in the darkness of the stairwell, the footsteps kept approaching and something chuckled again. The hydraulic cylinder at the top of the door that normally pulled it closed gave a small animal noise of pain and stopped, the door mostly open. The door had refrozen, and it took a hard shove to get it open again so I could slog through the snow on the floor of Titty Territory. The emergency lights clicked off the minute I stepped into the room, forcing me to walk down the hallway in the blackness.

How long was the goddamn hallway? How many steps had I taken? How many more to go? It was only a quarter block, how fucking far could it be? I kept trying to count my steps, but I was shivering hard enough that I kept losing count. When I bumped into the doors, they took me by surprise, and I almost fell through, my eyes drinking in the dim light from behind the CQ counter.

I knocked on the door of the Game Room, shivering in my boots. "It's Ant, please open up, I've got the Aid Bag for Nagle!"

The door opened, to reveal Jefferson pointing the M-16 at my face. He looked relieved to see me, and dropped the rifle down, waving me inside and closing the door behind me.

Hendricks was unconscious, in the middle of a pool of blood, and Nancy was busy, her head bent down, sweat matting her hair.

She was beautiful to me.

"I need my bag, Ant." She said, not even looking at me. I had no idea what her hands were doing, working on that dreadful wound in Hendricks' chest. I nodded, moving up and unslinging all the bags until I could hand her the SF bag.

"Raleigh, get in there and get me the package marked chest tubes. I think I've got the bleeding handled and the lung stitched up, but I need to put a tube in his chest to keep him from suffocating." She said. I turned away, and nodded to Clifton, who was laying on the cot with a tub running out of his arm and into Hendricks.

"Go get warm." Raleigh told me, and I moved away to strip off my jacket and then my BDU top. The heat of the room wrapped around me, and it was only moments before I was covered in a thin layer of sweat.

Raleigh was tapping her hand, a rapid steady beat, and I knew that it was a field expedient method for keeping track of Hendricks' heart beat. As long as she kept tapping, Hendricks was alive, and Nancy would keep working.

Oakes was sitting on a cot, staring at me, and I stared back. She held my gaze for a moment, then looked away, the sneer gone from her face. I didn't know what she saw on my face or in my eyes, and I didn't care. I turned and faced the wall, staring at it, and listened to Nagle, Hendricks' unconscious groans of pain, Taggart's sobs, and everyone breathing.

"Give me the stapler out of the SF bag." Nagle ordered. I closed my eyes as the metallic snapping sound started. I knew that sound, remembering from when they'd used staples on my forearm, on my leg, on my shoulder. She was closing him up, and I knew without a doubt that she'd done all she could, and probably taken risks, fully intending on saving Hendricks' life.

It was long moments after the snapping stopped that I heard Nagle tell the others to lift Hendricks up and put him on a cot, for Clifton to sit up so she could take out the IV line. Hendricks cried out once when they laid him down, and I closed my eyes, balling my fists.

Laying Jacobs on the table, Nancy crying out that she didn't know what to do, Jacobs screaming as Nagle straddled him and began packing the wound savagely, ignoring his screams.

Nagle came up to me, blood streaking her top, spattered on her face, her hands without gloves but just like her forearms blood covered them. I wrapped her in my arms, pulling her close, as she began to sob quietly.

The lights suddenly dimmed, and there was a shout from above us and boots crashed into the floor.

"You OK?" I asked her.

"Yeah, just have the shakes." She told me. I bent down to kiss her and she bit my lower lip.

"We need to get you showered." I told her. "You're covered in blood."

"So do Raleigh and Taggart." She told me. I nodded.

"Which room?"

"Stokes again. We know it's clear." She told me. "I want you to go with us, I'd feel better knowing you were there." I nodded, pulling back on my BDU top and field jacket and waiting for them by the door. The three of them followed me out in the snow, Taggart huddled up close to Nagle as we moved into Titty Territory and down to Stokes' room.

Stokes' room was cold, but at least there wasn't much more than frost on the walls and the floor was clear. Raleigh showered first, with Nancy watching her, and I stood there staring at Taggart.

"Is Hendricks going to die?" She asked me.

"Not if Nagle has anything to say about it." I told her. "You going to marry the father?" I nodded at her belly.

"God, no." She made a face. "It was just some guy I fucked at AIT, and he didn't even make it."

I chuckled and smiled.

"Thank you." She told me, smiling.

"For what?" I asked.

"Saving me." She blushed a little in the dim light.

"Don't worry about it." I told her, turning away from her to look down the short hall. Steam was billowing out of the bathroom, Nancy had left the door open, and Raleigh came out, a towel wrapped around her and her hair wet.

"God, that felt good." Raleigh said. "Taggart, you're next."

Taggart walked by me, moving over to stand so she could see into the bathroom. Her eyes went wide and she blushed. Stokes was probably either masturbating or putting on a show for her, that was just her, love it or leave it.

"Did you really kill the LT out there?" Raleigh asked me, and I turned to look at her, nodding.

"I saw Bomber shoot him, there was no way he was alive." She said, pulling the towel off to scrub her hair. My mouth went dry at the sight of her small, wine-glass sized breasts topped with pink nipples. I jerked my gaze away, staring at Taggart, who was blushing and giggling.

After a moment, Nancy came out of the shower, stark naked and dripping, smiling for me. "Taggart, Ant is going to have to watch you shower while you get dressed." She smiled at the other woman. "Don't worry, I keep him on a short leash."

Nagle walked up, grabbing me by the neck and hauling my head down so she could first kiss me, then bite my lower lip hard enough to make it bleed. "You be good, you rotten boy." She told me, her eyes sparkling in the dimness. I just nodded silently, and she swatted my ass as she went by and told Raleigh to toss her the towel.

I kept my eyes away from Taggart as she got undressed and got into the shower. Nancy yelled at her to leave the shower curtain open, and she turned a deep red at the reminder of the two-man rule. I couldn't really see her in the steam, and paid more attention to the tile wall beside her than the woman herself.

Hands went around my waist and someone cuddled up behind me. I felt a tongue run down my ear and shivered.

"You want her, don't you?" Nancy asked me, her breath tickling the hair on the back of my neck. "Not now, but when her belly's swollen and her breasts are all full of milk." I shook my head, but Nancy chuckled, reaching up and grabbing my chin, moving my head so I could see Taggart plainly in the shower. "I know you, Ant. You want to take her on all fours while she licks my pussy, you want her to scream into my pussy while you pound into hers." That tongue ran down the back of my other ear. Taggart's skin was pink in the spray of water, her nipples brown and dime sized. "You want to lay your dick between those milk swollen tits and cum all over her face." Taggart had raised her face and stepped into the water, the spray bouncing off her face to roll down her breasts. "You want to pull it out of her ass and shoot it all over her back." Taggart's ass was firm and tight from all the PT, with thick thighs and broad hips, her pink skin pale and the blue veins under the skin. "You want to pull out of her and splatter it all over her belly." The tongue ran down the back of my neck. Taggart turned around, and I noticed the color of her pubic hair. I didn't want to watch, but I didn't want to pull my eyes away either, not with what Nancy was whispering to me. "You want to watch me lick it off her tits." Her hands moved lower, cupping my crotch. "You can lie to me, but that doesn't." She chuckled from behind me, letting me go. I turned around, pulling my eyes from Taggarts' naked and water gleaming body to answer Nagle, or maybe push her against the wall lockers and take her right there, wrapping my hand in her hair to pull her head back after I slammed her face first against the lockers, kicked her feet open, and took her right there.

"Goddamn you, Nancy." I growled, turning around to face her, my head pounding with lust and pain.

Nobody stood behind me.

"Who the hell are you talking to out there?" Nancy called out from the main room.

With a sickening feeling filling my stomach I whirled back around to the bathroom and Taggart, just in time to see the door to the bathroom slam shut and hear Taggart scream in fear.

A low chuckle sounded from the other side of the door, in that frozen hallway.

Chapter 24

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Sixteen

No no no No NO FUCKING NO! rang through my brain as the door slammed shut with enough force that it shook the doorframe. Somehow the pistol was in my hand, even though I was unaware of how it got there and didn't even remember bringing it with me, as I took a half step forward and smashed my boot just to the side of the door handle. The force of my kick threw me against the wall lockers, I bounced off and kicked again, putting everything I had into it. My size 11-W hit the door on the hinges side and this time the door was torn off of its hinges, the lock torn free of the door. I saw the mirror in the dim light, saw the twisted and ugly face wearing a set of BDU's in the mirror, saw the hand reaching out toward me, and my reflexes put two bullets into the mirror as I moved into the bathroom as the shattered mirror began falling from the frame and into the sink.

You think too long, you're wrong... was a motto pounded into us from Basic Training on. That meant that when your instincts screamed at you to do something when the chips went down, you went with your instincts, because your instincts were hardwired impulses that had kept people alive for eons.

With one hand I grabbed at the shadowy figure in the shower, my hand wrapping around soft, warm skin, and I yanked her out of the shower, out of the suddenly freezing water, and slung her out of the bathroom, following her, putting my body between her and whatever was in the bathroom. She grabbed onto me as I drug her, able to tell I was dragging her by her breast now that we were in the light, pulling her bodily into the room where the other two women were standing.

Nagle had a straight razor in her hand, her face twisted with a snarl, and even though malice rolled off of her I knew it wasn't aimed at me. Raleigh looked scared, but was standing with Nagle as we stumbled into the room.

Dark, bubbling laughter mocked us from the other side of the door.

"What happened?" Raleigh asked.

"I told you to keep your eyes on her, goddamn it!" Nagle screamed at me.

"Drop it." I snarled back at her. She looked me in the face, and I saw her nipples harden and the lust flare in her eyes, but she just nodded. When I looked at Raleigh she flinched back.

"There was someone in there with me!" Taggart screamed. Nagle stepped forward, pulling the other woman out of my grasp, and put her hands on either side of her face.

"Deep breaths, honey, deep breaths. Calm down, for your baby." Nagle's voice was soft. Taggart jerked as if slapped, and she took a deep breath. She opened her mouth and started to scream.

Nancy kissed her, grabbing the other woman's wet hair and pulling her into it, and I could see Nagle's mouth open and knew what she was doing. Taggart got her hands up, accidentally cupping Nagle's breasts, and she pulled her hands away like Nagle was covered in hissing spiders rather than push her back.

"Umm..." Raleigh said, reddening.

Nancy broke the kiss, stepping back and smiling at Taggart. "Stop screaming." She said simply. Taggart nodded, her eyes wide and shocked, blushing deeply.

I chuckled and turned back around, just in time to see the room door slowly swing open to reveal the snow covered hallway.

"Get dressed. Now." I ordered, stepping forward to put myself in between that door, the door that I locked, the door that led to the hallway, and the three women behind me.

"Give me the pistol." Nancy said, coming up next to me. I nodded, handing her the pistol, and pulled the bayonet out from behind my back, the dim lights of Stokes' room glinting on the honed edge of the blade.

"If anything happens, you get Taggart back to the Game Room, understand me." I told her without taking my eyes from the door.

"I'm not leaving you again, Ant." She told me.

Ant, I love you! echoing down a cold stairwell.

"You'll get her out of there, and you'll leave the boy behind, understand?" I growled.

"Yes, dear." She said softly, her voice meek. I'd rarely heard that tone from her, and memories of the last time she'd had that tone made my groin tighten. The memory of her, in leather, wrists bound, kneeling in front of me and looking up at me, sprang into my mind and was harder than it should have been to push away.

I could hear footsteps, thudding impacts and crunching snow, coming toward us from our left, from deeper in the building. The emergency light clicked on, held steady for moment, then began flickering, the red light strobing across the snow and making my already sore and tender head pound even worse, and there were white sparks floating in my vision.

"Who's out there?" Taggart squeaked.

"You don't wanna know who it might be, honey, now finished getting dressed." Nagle ordered behind me. I blinked, my eyes watering and tears starting to run down my face, but kept watching the snow out there in the hallway. Something was coming, and I dreaded what it might be.

The footsteps stopped, just to the left of the door, and a low liquid chuckle sounded out, making my already painful shoulder throb. I didn't know how much more punishment it could take. It was already grinding when I moved my arm and I had shooting pains from my chest all the way down to my wrist. The sudden throbbing made me wince, and I couldn't feel my fingers wrapped around the haft of the bayonet.

"Ant, we're ready." Nagle told me, her footsteps warning me that she was coming up behind me. How the fuck had I missed that? I should have heard her bare feet slapping on the tile, but instead I got distracted by Taggart's naked body in the shower and had never noticed that there had been no footsteps coming up behind me.

Stupid ignorant lustful boy. Defiler of women always thinking with your penis. worthless little boy

I pushed away the sound of my mother's voice and turned to look at the three women, blinking away the mental image of each of them stark naked and glistening with water. Blinking brought back the white sparkles, and for a second my center of balance vanished and I wobbled where I stood. I shook my head and growled, almost throwing up from the vertigo.

"I'm going out there. Nagle will be right behind me, if anything happens, Nagle will shut the door." I stared in Nagle's eyes, and she nodded to me but frowned slightly. The frown vanished, her Nancy expression was gone and replaced with the meek expression I'd only seen a few times. "If that happens, don't open the door for anyone but Bomber."

"Yes, Ant." Nagle said, her voice meek. She looked up at me through her eyelashes, a smile playing around her lips, and I knew right there that what she was doing was for the other two women's benefit, otherwise she'd be fighting me tooth and nail. I kissed the tip of her nose and turned around, facing the door.

"Be careful, please, Ant." Taggart whispered from behind me.

I stepped out into the hallway, jerking to my right as quick as I could and going down in a crouch, the bayonet held up at face level pointed away from me and my other hand up to block. I knew my lips were drawn back in a snarl, my muscles thrumming, the pain in my mouth, head, and shoulder forgotten and my nerves sparking with the wet fire of adrenaline. It didn't matter who was out there, Tandy or the LT or even someone else, I was sick of the bullshit and it was time to finish it.

"Holy shit, man!" Marks yelled, jumping back and slamming into Nelson, who was right behind him.

"I almost fucking killed you." I snarled at him, lowering the knife slightly, but not much.

I didn't trust either of them.

"What the fuck are you doing out here?" I asked.

"We were told to go get the painkillers out of your room, and the whiskey out of ours." Nelson said, stepping back. All their tough guy attitude was gone, both were unarmed and facing me in a dark hallway holding a bayonet with murder in my eyes. I knew at that second that Nagle had been right, that they had been talking about me.

"Who's out there?" Nancy yelled. Marks and Nelson briefly went double and took several heartbeats to go back to just blurry.

"Nelson and Marks. They've got whiskey and painkillers." I tossed back into the room. "It looks clear."

The three women came out, Nagle holding the pistol down and low, her eyes narrowed with suspicion as she looked at the other two men.

"Who sent you to get the painkillers?" She asked.

"Bomber." Marks answered.

"Follow Ant, stay in front of us." Nagle told them, motioning with the pistol. "Either of you turn around, try to drop back, or make a move on Ant, and I'll shoot you fucking dead."

I started walking down the hall, twisting my wrist so the blade lay against my forearm. My breath plumed out in front of me as we moved down the hallway, snow crunching beneath our feet. I had to kick the door open again, ice shattering as the doors flew open. I shook my head again, trying to clear both the "static" in my vision and the nausea that filled me when I rocked back.

We knocked on the door, and Bomber opened it after being a dick and asking me stupid shit. When the door opened, I saw everyone had stripped down to brown T-shirts that were soaked in sweat. The heat billowed out of the room, hitting me like a hot pillow, heat the enveloped me when I stepped into the room and caused beads of sweat to pop out on my entire body. My head started pounding harder, and I had to swallow to keep from throwing up.

I shed the field jacket and the gloves, moving over to my cot and sitting down. My head was pounding, and my vision was going double and staying that way. Nancy moved over and checked Hendricks, checking his pulse, checking the bag attached to the drainage tube she'd left in his chest, then kissing his pale forehead gently. I looked down at my boots, trying to decide if I wanted to take them off or not. I was bone weary. My fingers fumbled as I unlaced the speed laces and pulled my boots off, wiggling my toes and sighing. I pulled off my T-shirt, folding my shirt up and putting it under the end of my sleeping bag, while putting my boots at the head of my cot.

I laid back on my cot, staring at the ceiling in the dim light for a long moment before closing my eyes.

Chapter 25

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Seventeen

The bottom of the stairwell was cold, and I was laying in the dark and cold, my eyes staring upward unseeing. I was blind, bleeding out from a stab wound through my shoulder, if I didn't freeze to death first. I couldn't even shiver, my body completely unresponsive.

Even when a weight settled on my chest.

A frozen icicle pushed into my shoulder, into the stab wound, digging around for a moment before pulling free. There was a lewd sucking sound a moment later, and I was dimly aware of footsteps thudding down the steps.

Boots were pounding down the steps...

I took off running, my boots pounding against the dirt, the cliff edge coming up fast. Behind me my twin sister urged me on and two of my brothers gave a loud yell. I reached the cliff and launched myself into space, hands reaching out, grabbing onto the rope and swinging out wide, the river below me.

I let go, flying through the air, the water sparkling as I headed for it, throwing my arms and legs wide as I fell almost thirty feet, tucking in at the last moment and plunging into the cool water. My legs flexed when my feet hit the bottom...

and I was running across the grass, the entire world nothing but fire in front of me, and I plunged into it, desperate to reach anyone I could find and pull out of the flames. The roar of the fire, the screaming of the crowd that moment before had been enjoying the air show. I plunged into the flames, holding my breath, my hands reaching out for anyone I could find and get a hold on. I grabbed a woman's arm, pulling hard, and the skin ripped, sliding down her arm as I reversed direction to pull her from the flames...

Nancy fell on me, giggling, as I pulled her down onto the sand of the Spanish beach and on top of me. She was bare naked, as was I and everyone else on the beach, enjoying the summer sun in Barcelona. She kissed my face, biting my lower lip before pulling away, leaving me tasting blood, and smiled down at me.

"Nasty boy." She giggled, all traces of the hard and cruel woman missing. "Come swim with me."

I let her pull me up, and we ran into the ocean holding hands, laughing as we did so. The water was cold, the sand was hot, the beer crisp, and Nancy firm.

We dove into the water, and I plunged beneath it...

My mother pulled my head out of the water in the sink, and I gasped loudly and choked, crying from the pain where she had a hold of my hair and the fear that she would drown me.

"I saw you kissing that girl, defiling her." my mother spat, "Now I have to wash away your sins."

I tried to push away from the sink, but my nine year old arms didn't have the strength to overpower her as she plunged my head back into the sink, back under the water, and her other hand began swatting the belt hard across my buttocks. I began kicking, and she struck me harder, pinning my chest against the edge of the counter and forcing air from my lungs.

My mouth opened and I began to scream under the water of the sink...

I lunged up, my left hand reaching up, my right bound to my chest, and I inhaled with a whooping gasp, my body insisting I was drowning. I realized where I was and fell back against the cot, wincing at the pain in my head, and reached under my pillow with my left hand, looking for my glasses.

"Morning, brother." Bomber said. "Here, you might need these." He waved my glasses in front of my face and I took them, opening them and pulling them onto my face with a practiced motion. The world came into focus, and I sat up.

"How you feeling?" He asked me as I looked around.

Nancy was asleep, her face innocent, her lips gently parted, and one arm hanging off the cot. Her brown hair was disheveled, sweaty, and I could see that she had a streak of blood on her cheek. Taggart was on the other side of her, her eyes closed and breathing slowly. Marks was asleep next to Hendricks, sprawled out in a chair and snoring softly. Raleigh was sitting in a chair on the other side of Hendricks, in the middle of taking his pulse. Jefferson was on the other side of Taggart, reading a book in the dim light with Kebble leaning against his back and listening to a Walkman. Oakes and Nelson were at the far end of room, Clifton huddled up with them. They were whispering together, and Clifton glanced at me and quickly looked away.

"All right. How long have I been out?" I went to push my arm out of the sling and Bomber reached out and grabbed my arm, preventing me from getting it loose.

"Nancy wants you to leave that on. You've got some nasty bruising, brother." He shook his head. "You've been asleep for awhile, Nancy wanted you to get some rest, she's worried about your head."

"She shouldn't be. My head's fine." I told him, then pulled off the sling and began working on the cravat around my waist. "And I want this goddamn thing off." My shoulder burned, but the feeling of being tied down was more than I could take.

"You gonna be OK?" Bomber asked me, stretching and yawning. "I'm fucking beat."

"Yeah, yeah, get some sleep." I told him. "Anything I should know?"

"Someone's been trying to get in. Knocking and banging on the door." He told me, stripping off his BDU top and T-shirt. The scars that Texas life, bull riding, and 2/19th had carved into his skin were red against his pale skin. He was covered in sweat, and he grinned at me when he slid into his sleeping bag and laid his head on the pillow. "Other than the fact you're a dumbass, nothing else."

"Eat me, hick." I told him, smiling back.

I turned and watched the room around me, quickly becoming bored after a few moments. I saw Kebble looking at me and smiled, thinking maybe to bury the hatchet, but she just looked away. After a few more minutes, I got up and went and sat next to Raleigh, checking my cigarette pack to see if Bomber had smoked them all while I'd been asleep.

"Kneel down, Ant." Raleigh told me, and I grinned at her. "Nagle wants me to check your eyes, you jackass." I could see she was blushing in the dim light as I knelt in front of her and let her shine the flashlight into my eyes. "Your eyes look clear."

"That mean I'm cleared for duty, doc?" I asked, folding my legs and sitting down.

"I guess, whatever duty there is here." She shrugged, and we were silent for a long moment, broken only by Oakes, Clifton, and Nelson whispering, the snores of those asleep, and Bomber coughing. I lit a cigarette, offered it to her, then lit myself one when she took it.

"You cry in your sleep, you know?" Raleigh broke the silence, blowing smoke into the air.

"I've been told that." I answered, looking over at Hendricks. "How is he?"

Raleigh looked at Hendricks, who was moaning and shifting on the cot. "As best as can be expected. I can't believe that Nagle saved hhim." She was silent for a moment. "Are you two going out?"

The whispering trio fell silent at my laughter, and Raleigh looked surprised. "You don't date Nagle, you just survive her." I smiled. "Nancy is... well... Nancy. I wish we were dating." I finished softly.

"You love her, don't you?" Raleigh said softly, bending down and touching the side of my face. I nodded silently.

"Oh God, I hurt." Hendricks said, breaking the silence. Raleigh turned to him and I turned to stare at his face. "What happened?"

"You got hit with an axe." I told him.

"Can I have a drag of that?" Hendricks asked me.

"No." Raleigh said.

"Sure." I told him, holding it out and putting it against his lips. He inhaled deeply and I watched the chest tube. No smoke wafted out of it, even after his second drag, and I leaned over and whispered in Raleigh's ear.

"No smoke." I told her, and she nodded.

"I feel like I'm going to die." Hendricks groaned.

"Swallow these." Raleigh told him, shaking a few pills out of a bottle that I could see my name on. She tipped them into his mouth, then held out a squirt bottle. "Drink."

"What were they?" Hendricks asked.

"Ant's hydrocodone seven point fives. Four of them to put you back under." Raleigh told him, picking up a rag and squirting some water into it and then mopping off his brow.

"Am I going to die?" He asked.

"No, silly, you're going to be just fine. It just broke a few of your ribs." Raleigh lied. I moved my hand over and took her hand as she lied to him, telling him that help was on the way, that they'd be here in hours, that it was only broken ribs and a broken arm, that he was tied down to keep him from rolling onto his ribs. He didn't notice the tears that covered her face, his voice getting muzzier and muzzier as the hydrocodone took effect, dragging him down into sleep.

When he finally stopped mumbling, I opened my arms and let Raleigh fall into them, rubbing her hair and telling her quietly that things would be all right. I rocked her back and forth on the floor, letting her cry, letting her get it all out.

"We're going to the bathroom." Oakes said. I looked up and she curled her lip at me. "Planning on fucking her?" Raleigh jerked, but I held her tight, keeping her face buried in my BDU top, glaring at Oakes.

"I wouldn't fuck you with a stolen dick, Oakes." I growled. "Now get away from us."

"What would your whore say, if she knew you were planning on fucking her?" Oakes asked, her eyes gleaming in the dimness. Nelson and Clifton smiled darkly.

"I'd ask if I could lick his cum out of her pussy." Nagle snarled, stepping up next to Oakes and putting the pistol I'd taken from the office against her temple. "Now step off, you ugly little bitch, or I'll splatter your brains all over the fucking floor."

Oakes backed up, away from the pistol, edging around Nagle with Clifton and Nelson following her. She watched them, the pistol tracking them, until they opened the door and vanished into the darkness outside.

"Some day, I'm going to kill that ugly little bitch." Nagle snarled, sitting down next to me. Raleigh went to pull away from me, but Nagle wrapped her arms around both of us, squeezing tightly for a long moment.

"Hold her, Ant, while I check Hendricks." She told me. I nodded, rocking the other woman back and forth gently. Great silent sobs wracked her body, and I just held onto her while Nancy checked over her patient. When she looked at me, I told her that when I'd let him have a couple of drags off my cigarette, there hadn't been any smoke out of his chest tube. When she was done, she came back over and sat down next to me.

"You should have told me your head still hurt." She told me, her voice hard and clipped.

I opened my mouth to answer when the door burst open, Clifton half falling into the room.

"They're gone! I heard Oakes scream, and when I went into the room, they were both gone!" he yelled.

Raleigh jerked out of my arms, and everyone but Hendricks sat up, staring at Clifton, whose hair was wild.

"You've got to do something!" He yelled. "You've got to save them!"

Aw fuck, can't we let him keep them?

Chapter 26

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Seventeen

"You've got to do something." Clifton yelled, looking at all of us. Kebble flushed and looked away, her eyes dropping to the floor. Marks looked at Clifton, then turned back to Hendricks, reaching out and taking his friend's hand, hunching his shoulders.

"I'm staying with my boy." He said. He looked at me, almost as if he was pleading with me to understand. "We joined up together, man. He wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for me."

I nodded and looked at Jefferson at Marks went back to looking at his friend.

Jefferson looked at Kebble and put an arm around her. "Sorry, Ant, but Kebble needs someone to look after her." I nodded as he continued. "No offense, but she's afraid of you and Bomber, she's afraid you're going to hurt her some more for what the LT made her do."

"Just keep her safe, man." I smiled, and Kebble flinched. "No hard feelings, Kebble, not even for having my ass kicked."

It was time to pull together. The only way we'd make it is if we all worked together, the building was out to kill us, and only God knew how long the generator would keep going since nobody had checked on it in days.

"I'll go." Taggart said in a small voice.

"No." Nagle said. "Absolutely not. The building's gone for you once, I'm not giving it another shot at you. Sit back down." She turned to Logan. "Keep her here, keep her calm, Logan." Logan nodded.

I moved Raleigh away and stood up, rolling my shoulders. "I'll go." I told Clifton. I looked around, trying to catch everyone's eyes. "Nancy?"

Bomber and Nancy stood up, and I smiled at them both before turning back to Clifton. "What happened?"

"We couldn't use Oakes' room because the lock wouldn't work, so we went up to Nelson's room. I went to go get my sweats and when I was out in the hall, I heard Oakes scream. When I ran back, there was nobody in the room and blood on the floor." His words tumbled out over one another, and I nodded along as I walked up to Bomber.

"You stay here with the wounded, in case we don't come back." I told him, then pulled him into a hug, the M-16 between us, whispering to him real quick. I felt him nod and we broke apart. "Be careful, brother."

"You too." He told me. Nagle was grabbed her field jacket and pulled it on, and I copied her, getting dressed quickly.

"Are all three of you going?" He asked.

"No, Bomber's going to stay back with the wounded, just in case, to help out Raleigh in case Hendricks gets worse while we're gone." Nancy said.

"Why are you going after them?" Logan asked. "Oakes wouldn't go after you."

"Because I'm not leaving anyone for this building that I might be able to save." I told him. "I don't wanna live with what Tandy might do to them." Nancy and Bomber nodded. I pulled on my LBE belt and clipped a knife and another braid of 550 cord to it, then grabbed a flashlight. "Let's go."

The Game Room was still warm, so the transition from the Game Room to the CQ Area was almost shocking. The snow was almost six inches out there, and looking at the "airlock" glass door I saw that something had given. The snow was packed against the inner doors.

"Which stairwell did you use?" I asked, thinking quickly. I'd had to kick open the doors, but if I remembered right the middle stairwell was still accessible.

"The middle one." He told us, and I nodded.

My flashlight illuminated the area where I'd killed the LT, the was the snow was broken up and only a few streaks of pink snow gave any hint that for a few endless seconds we'd fought. My shoulder throbbed, but I ignored it.

The middle stairwell was pitch black and freezing, icicles hanging from the steps above us, and we tromped silently up the stairs. I put my two hands behind my back as I walked, ignoring Clifton's glance at me, and kept trudging up the stairs. He moved a little ahead of me and I flicked my fingers a couple of times before taking a couple of steps to pull slightly ahead of Clifton so I could push open the door to the second floor.

Snow was on the ground again, with wind whipping past us. The laundry room door was chocked open, and the dim lights showed me that the window was open. From the feel of it, the window at the end of the hallway was open, bringing the wind from outside straight down the hallway and snow with it. Visibility was for shit in the hallway, the wind swirling the loose snow around, the ice chips and the snowflakes biting into my cheeks.

"It's fucking cold up here." Nancy observed, waving a hand at the hallway.

"Got worse last winter." I reminded her, looking at the snow.

"Watch for the LT, we don't have his body on ice yet." I added. Clifton glanced at me, slowing a bit, and I turned to him. "Last year we thought that the guy stalking us was dead at least six times. We shot him, we stabbed him, we cut his throat, he kept coming at us." I glanced at Nagle, who was nodding, but I saw the amusement in her eyes as I lied my ass off. "He even killed two of the sweep team that came up after they evac'd us who were looking for any other survivors. The Rangers shot the shit out of him, but he staggered off into the snow and vanished."

"So the Lieutenant Gregors might still be around." he asked.

"If it's still Lieutenant Gregors, he could be like Smith." Nancy added as we passed my room. "During WinTex that he got, what, six of us?"

"Yeah. We'd kill him. He'd drop. He'd get up and start killing again. Fucking Rangers had to take him down, bag him, tie him up with cargo straps, and haul him off." I tossed in, trying not to laugh.

Smith had just been some whacko who'd stabbed his girlfriend with a broken bottle then cut his own throat. Nothing more, nothing less, but it was working on Clifton, who looked nervous as hell as we tromped down the hallway.

"What about Tandy?" He asked.

"Tandy hits at you when you're alone, or he can cause the most fear. Trust me, if Tandy got them, you'd have seen at least one of them get taken." I told him. "He likes to play with his food." I stopped and waited for him to stop and look at me. "If it was Tandy, you'd have seen him. He gets off on the fear."

He opened his mouth as Nagle moved past us, and I talked over him. "You didn't believe in it, and now he's hunting you, me, all of us." I smiled grimly, "The only thing we can do is keep going and try to survive until someone evac's us." I snarled silently for a second. "If it was just Bomber, Nagle, and me, we could snowshoes or cross country ski out of here, but with you 'cruits, we wouldn't make it a mile."

"Which room?" Nagle called from about ten steps in front of us.

"Two ninety-eight." He said, turning from me and running up to Nagle.

The hilt of the knife felt right in my hand as I trudged forward to catch up. Clifton was paying more attention to Nancy than me, since Nancy was telling him that we'd be going in hard and fast, but be ready to run.

Nancy opened the door to the room and walked in, Clifton behind her, and I paused for a moment outside the door.

"Clifton, you're sure they weren't just fucking with you?" I asked.

He just shook his head, moving in the room, and I followed. Nancy had almost reached the main part of the room, hurrying forward.

There were blood streaks on the floor, smeared around the entryway, like someone had tried to run but had been drug back and left bloodsmears. They glinted, pink, in the dim light put off by the bulb of the room, which barely lit the room. I could see the fridge, put where most of us put it, in the corner of the room. The desk was on the side of the room, next to the wall, by the three shelves, with two three drawer chests, one on each side of the desk. That meant the bed and the dresser were in the main room against the other walls. Neither lamp was on, just the light on the wall by the entryway hallway on, casting a feeble glow across the room.

Two steps in, and I turned suddenly, one arm coming up to block, the other coming up with my Gerber.

Nelson stood there, a baseball bat in his hands, already swinging at me.

The shock ran up my left arm when the bat hit the heavy muscle, but my arm wasn't fully in position, and the bat still hit me in the side of the head.

His eyes, which had begun to widen in shock, narrowed in victory when it hit me, but then widened again in pain as the knife sliced across his face, laying open the skin under his eye and across his nose.

Everything went sparkles and gray, but I still came in, not giving up my ground.

There was a thunk from in the room, and Nancy gave a cut off sound of surprise.

The sound of Nancy hitting the floor was ignored as I came in on him while he was dropping the bat, one hand going to his face, the other coming out to try to push me away.

I grinned as I slashed him across the palm, twisting the blade to bite it in deeper. I ignored my throbbing head, stepping in on him further as he pulled his hand in with a shout.

His eyes were wide, and he was starting to scream as I put my left hand out and palmed his face, slamming his head against the closed door that he'd been hiding behind when it opened. I stabbed him low in the left side, where Bomber's appendix scar was, giving the knife a half turn before pulling it out and stabbing him again, this time into his right biceps. He was starting to sag, the scream turning into sobs, when I brought the knife down high on the right side of his chest, angling it down to slide between the ribs.

Letting go of him, I turned, my left hand coming back up into guard position, the knife held ready, having heard a boot squeak against the waxed tile.

Clifton saw my face and began backing up, the rifle he had over his shoulder suddenly dropping down when he saw my face and the knife in my hand. He started to fumble at the rifle he had in his hands, the rifle that Nagle had been carrying, when he would have been better off stepping into me to buttstroke me in the face instead of trying to take the weapon off of safe to shoot me. I already too close for him to be able to shoot me easily, to ready for him.

I took a step forward, ignoring the sight of Nancy's legs and feet being dragged further into the room, everything focused on the man in the man in front of me and how I was going to hurt him.

I'd underestimated Nelson, who lunged forward and wrapped his arms around my upper thighs, giving out a Basic perfect war cry, tripping me so I went down in front of Clifton. I kept hold on the knife, twisting so I landed on my left shoulder.

Clifton's feet shifted, one coming toward me, and I slammed the knife into the top of his boot, twisting it and yanking it free. Clifton screamed as I glanced down my body to see Nelson trying to climb up me, and I whipped the knife across his face again before turning back to Clifton's legs.

I looked up in time to see the rifle butt come down in the middle of my forehead.

Everything flashed, and I jerked, the knife flying from my hand. Another impact, this one on the top of my head, and my vision went gray. My cheek hit the cold waxed tile and I couldn't feel my legs any more. Another hit, pinning my head between the tile and the floor, made everything snap back into focus.

A final hit, and I was laying on the cold floor, my eyes open and staring at the bottom of the wall lockers, able to feel the blood flowing from the pressure cuts on my scalp.

Nelson had let go of my legs, I could hear him sobbing, could feel one of my legs twitching in a steady tic. Nelson sat down, grabbing his foot. He held it for a moment, then looked at me, laying in front of him unmoving, my eyes open, one leg twitching rhythmically.

"You fucking bastard!" Nelson yelled, taking the M-16 by the flash suppressor and smashing it across my head and body. I lost count of how many times, each impact digging the sling holder into my back. It should have hurt, probably would later, but at the time, I was only dully aware of it.

"Is he dead yet?" Oakes asked from the room.

"He looks pretty fucking dead." Clifton said, bending down to look in my eyes. He reached out and put his fingers on my throat, missing the artery and pressing on the thick muscle on my neck. "He doesn't have a pulse."

"Then get in here and help me with this bitch." Oakes said. Dark pleasure filled her voice. "Let's have ourselves a little fun before we go back down and take care of that fucking inbred hick, just like we planned."

"Oh God, I'm really hurt." Nelson said. "It hurts to fucking breathe."

"Can you get up?" Clifton asked. He waited while Nelson coughed and groaned.

"I think so. Oh, God, he stabbed the shit out of me." Nelson gasped. I saw Clifton's boots go by me, and heard him helping Nelson up.

"Goddamn, he fucked your face up." Clifton said. "Come on, I'll give you some painkillers and then we can have some fun with that scar faced bitch."

"Fucking bastard." Nelson snarled, kicking me in the ribs twice. I didn't move, just laying there as the boot thumped into me. If he'd been in better shape, he might have popped my ribs, instead he just bruised the muscle that lifting artillery shells for a year had layered on my body. He moved by me, and I could tell that he wasn't doing good. He kept gasping, as if he wasn't able to breath easily.

I'd wanted to disable him, not kill him, and I'd made an arrogant mistake. I should have just killed him quickly, I could have, it would have been easier than what I'd done. I should have finished him quick, then moved on to Clifton and Oakes.

"Get his knife." Oakes called out. "I want to use it on this bitch."

Clifton bent down and grabbed my knife, Nelson kicked me in the head as he went by, then headed out of my field of vision, coughing. All I could feel was cold, and my head throbbing in time with my heartbeat. My vision kept flickering, tunnelvision, and I couldn't blink even when I tried.

"Get her clothes off, use her belt to tie her wrists together." Oakes ordered. "Dammit, you dumbass, I told you to watch out for that fucking psycho. Groves told us that he was a fucking Spetsnaz. Why didn't you just take him out instead of fucking with him?"

"I tried." Nelson coughed. "Fuck, I can't breathe."

A pill bottle rattled. "Goddamn, I need these." Nelson groaned. "Hand me that bottle of whiskey to wash these Vicoden down with."

I heard cloth tear and buttons bounce on tile. One clattered across the floor and skidded to a stop in front of my face. There was more tearing cloth. "Like her titties?" Oakes asked. "She got big ones, don't she? Help me cut off the rest of her shirt and you can have at them."

Anger started pulsing in my head, my body going from warm to cold. I knew what they were in there doing. That they were stripping Nagle so that they could rape her, and that Oakes was going to urge them on and take pleasure in seeing a woman she hated get raped.

There was a couple of sucking noises, and some laughter.

"Enough, get her fucking boots and pants off." Oakes said. "We stick with the plan. We rape this bitch, then go down and kill that fucking dick Bomber and make her watch, then blame it all on these three psychos."

I heard her boots thump onto the floor, then a belt get undone. There was only the sound of them breathing, and I could hear Nelson wheezing. "Damn, look at that bush on that bitch." Nelson said, then coughed again. "Shit, I can't fucking breathe."

My Nancy...

"Don't worry, you two will get your turn, just like I promised." Oakes laughed, an ugly thing, "I'll wake her up, then you two can take turns on her. Then we'll take her down, and we'll make her scream to get Bomber out of the Game Room, and you two can kill him." I heard a belt buckle rattle. "I want to hear her scream before I use Ant's knife to cut her throat."

Goddamn, Ant, you gotta quit getting your ass kicked... my brother's voice.

"Time to wake up, you scar faced slut." Oakes chuckled. I heard water splashing.

Get up, Ant, you aren't hurt that bad... my twin sister's voice.

Both Nelson and Clifton were laughing, Nelson suddenly coughing.

ON YOUR FEET! my father's voice.

My body jerked as the pain returned.

My eyes blinked.

Chapter 27

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Seventeen

Oakes suddenly screamed, and I heard her boots squeak on the tile. "The fucking bitch just licked me!"

"If you didn't want my tongue, you shouldn't have stuck your gash in my face." Nancy laughed. "You wake me up with something nice like a golden shower and don't expect me to show you how much I like it?"

"You disgusting bitch." Oakes hissed.

"I'm the one tied up on the floor and getting peed on, and I'm the disgusting one?" Nancy laughed. "You going to bring that gash back, or just wave it around for everyone to stare at?"

I heard a belt rattle. "You sick little slut." Oakes sneered. "Let's see how much fun your having in a minute. Clifton, you're first."

My torso muscles screamed as I curled up, shuddering for a second, and tried to get my body to get up. I heard a belt rattle and then clatter as the pants hit the floor.

Nancy started laughing. "That's it? At least shove it in my ass. If I'm going to get raped, I'd like to at least have a chance to feel it." She laughed harder, and I heard someone kick her, maybe hit her, and she laughed harder. "I got all wet for that?"

I got to my knees, and reached behind my back to pull out the bayonet, ignoring the shriek of pain from my shoulder.

"Shut your mouth, you fucking bitch." Clifton said, and I heard the smack of flesh on flesh and the slap of Nagle's bare back hitting the tile. She let out a long moan.

"Oh yes." She gasped. "Now you're getting what Mama likes. Try not to slap me like you're a little girl for the next one if you want to get me hot." There was another slap and Nancy groaned again. "Oh yes." She gave a shuddering sigh.

I used the wall lockers to brace myself as I got to my feet.

"You like this, don't you, Clifton? It gets you hard slapping me, don't it?" She said.

"Shut up, you fucking slut!" Oakes shouted, and there was another slap, and Nancy moaned again.

I closed my eyes, willing the world to hold still. Bomber would be up if we were gone longer than 10 minutes, by himself if he had be. I could lay back down, go to sleep on the floor, and he'd come to the rescue like he had before. I knew I could depend on him, knew that he'd come through the cold and snow in the hallway, locked and loaded with blood in his eyes.

"Maybe this won't be so funny if I shove the barrel of this rifle up your ass." Oakes sneered.

"Oh please, you think I haven't had Ant do that before?" Nancy laughed, lying, but they wouldn't think she was. "Rifle up my ass and a cock in my pussy feels pretty goddamn good, almost as good as a cock in each hole or the rifle in my pussy and Ant in my ass." Someone made a sound of disgust, and Nancy laughed again. "You just going to stand there, Clifton, or are you actually going to do something with that little shrimp dick?"

I opened my eyes, the world stabalizing as I heard another slap.

"Shut up, slut." Oakes was almost screaming.

"What's wrong, Oakes, it get you hot when I licked your gash?" Nancy laughed again. "We both know they're going to enjoy fucking me more than you." There was another slap, and Nelson started coughing again.

"Oh God, blood." Nelson gasped. "I can't fucking breathe."

"Shut up, Nelson." Oakes yelled. "Clifton, lets see how funny she thinks this is when you fuck her in the ass."

"I'm really hurt." Nelson whined.

"At least slap me again." Nancy said as I began moving forward.

The pain didn't matter, the nausea and dizziness didn't matter.

My Nancy...

"I like it hard back there." Nancy said, and I could hear her in her voice she was grinning. "Come to Momma, baby, make me bleed."

I came around the corner in time to see Nancy lick her lips, staring at the three in front of her with glittering eyes. One swipe across the lower lip, two across the upper lip, the last swipe into the blood leaking from her nose. She was naked, her uniform torn and cut and tossed on the bed next to another baseball bat, her wrists tied with a belt in front of her. Her hair and face were wet, with liquid all over the top of her breasts and still dripping from her face.

She saw me and spread her legs open wide, rolling her hips to expose herself, looking at all three of them. "Are you going to fuck me, or stare at me, because that shallow pussied bitch Oakes isn't going to put out for you and I'm horny from all the foreplay." She kept talking, seeing me put my hand out to steady myself against the wall. My left eye was swelling shut, and blood was running down my face, down the sides and back of my head, and my vision was blurry.

At least they'd left my glasses on me.

Clifton had his pants around his ankles, his boots still on, and my knife held loosely in his hand. He was staring down, and I knew he was staring at Nagle's exposed crotch. Nelson was coughing again, blood spattered on his hand, wheezing as he tried to breathe. I'd stabbed him in the lung, his chest was filling with air and would collapse first one, then the other, if he didn't get medical treatment. Oakes was in front of me, the rifle I'd been carrying in her hand, she was staring at Nancy, rigid with anger or shock.

Nancy lifted her breasts by squeezing her arms together and lifting her bound wrists, and I saw their attention shift to her breasts. I could see the red bite marks around each nipple from where one or both had bitten her hard. She had seen me push off the wall and take a single step forward, keeping the knife low by my waist and my other arm in front of me at a 45 degree angle, my fist up by my jaw.

"Roll over, bitch, stick your ass..." Oakes started, but finished with a scream when I stabbed her low and to the right of her spine, just dipping the tip of the blade into her back an inch or so. The rifle fell from her hand as I yanked it out, dark blood immediately staining her uniform. I rotated back around to face Clifton, who was still staring at Nagle's big tits. Oakes was reaching toward her back, shrieking, when I stabbed Clifton low and to the left of the spine, just dipping it in, I wanted to twist it out of long training but over rid muscle memory, and grabbed him by his short hair, pulling him backwards. My knife fell out of his hands, bouncing on the floor, as his body arced backwards and my arm came up, my shoulder screaming as I raised the blade over my head.

Nagle lashed out with her feet, hitting Nelson's knee, which suddenly bent backwards with a liquid crunch. Nelson was screaming as he went down, his body weight folding his leg backwards under him, and Nancy kicked again, hitting him in the face with her bare foot.

In the meantime I'd brought the bayonet down, burying it in the right side of his chest, in the middle of the ribcage, and I felt the blade jar on a rib, but it still crunched into his body. His scream turned bubbly when I yanked the blade out in a spray of blood that spattered all over Nancy and drove it in again just under his collarbone, letting him fall off of it as he fell to the ground.

Nelson was screaming and coughing, blood spraying out of his mouth and onto the tile. Nancy lashed out with her feet again, hitting him square in the nose, which broke under her heel with a crunch. His screams stopped, but the bubbles around his nose told me that he was still alive.

Oakes was still screaming when I bent down and grabbed her hair, pulling her up. She screamed louder at the sight of my face, and I knew I was grinning, exposing the shattered teeth that filled my mouth.

"Ant, we need them alive!" Nancy yelled as I brought the knife up and into position.

Clifton was screaming, bubbling sounds audible from the punctured lung, still bare from the waist down, trying to fold around his chest and hold his back where I'd stabbed him in the kidney and the chest.

"Does it hurt, Oakes?" I whispered, dipping the blade down to point at her breast. "Does it hurt?" She screamed, from the pain and from the knife coming down.

"ANT! NO!" Nancy yelled. "I need you, Ant. Come get this belt off me."

"Move, and you'll take hours to die." I told the other woman, throwing her away from me so her head bounced off the tile.

I turned from Oakes to Nancy, who held her hands out to me. I grabbed the long end of the belt, pulled, then flipped the little clip so Nancy could pull the loop open and pull her hands free. Behind me, Clifton went silent, but a glance back told me that he was still alive, just passed out from the pain.

"Did you have to stab him so much? I gotta fix him." Nancy bitched, rubbing her wrists.

"Fuck 'em, leave 'em here." I said, spitting blood on the floor. "Or we can throw them into the snow." A tooth bounced out of the wad of blood and skipped across the floor.

"Did you hit the artery?" She asked me, standing up and looking around.

"No. Kidney shots, although Nelson might not make it." I told her.

"Fuck him, he's the bastard who kicked me in the twat." She said.

"You can't leave us here." Oakes whined, her eyes almost shut and tears running down her face. "You can't just leave us to die." She began to sob, probably from the pain, but I didn't care.

"You're right, I could have Ant kill you first." Nagle said, grabbing a blanket off the bed and wrapping it around herself. "You fuckers even cut off my socks, you lazy shits."

I took a step forward, lifting up the knife, and Oakes flinched back, but still was sitting up.

The door burst open behind us, crashing off the wall.

"NOBODY MOVE OR YOU ALL DIE!" Bomber roared, charging into the room with his M-16. Oakes turned to look as Bomber came into the room, and slid to a stop behind Oakes. "Shit, too late again."

Taggart came in next, pistol held in her hands, and Logan right behind her holding an M-16. Both of them saw the blood everywhere, Nagle obviously naked under the blanket, and me standing in the middle of all of it, swaying back and forth.

Bomber stood there, breathing heavily.

"You're early." Nancy snapped.

"Marks told me not to trust it. Told me that Oakes had been bragging that she was going to kill you." Bomber said, looking hurt. He looked at me. "Damn, brother, you gotta quit getting your ass kicked."

"Fuck you." I snapped back.

"Get Oakes on her feet, Logan. Taggart, you've got Ant, keep him on his feet, don't let him sit down or stop." Nancy snapped out. "Bomber, pick up Nelson, I'll get Clifton."

Taggart moved up next to me, grabbing my left arm and pulling it over her shoulders. "Give me the bayonet, Ant."

I shook my head. "No. We're not safe." I told her.

"I can fucking walk." Oakes said, pushing Logan away. Logan turned to Nancy, who nodded at Clifton.

"Help me drag his ass. Oakes, march." Nancy had stepped into her boots, the laces cut apart, and was wiping her face off with the wool blanket. "Taggart, let him keep the bayonet, honey. You won't get it from him now without killing him."

I watched Bomber pick up Nelson and sling him across his shoulders, Nelson moaning as his leg flopped. Nancy and Logan picked up Clifton between them, and Clifton's eyes fluttered and he groaned, blood running from the corner of his mouth.

"Let's go. Oakes, you're in front, you try to run and I'll let Ant hunt you down." Nancy snapped. I growled, and Taggart squeezed me against her.

Oakes walked in front, her boots crunching in the snow in the hallway. Clifton was sobbing between Nancy and Logan, and Bomber was behind me with Nelson slung over his shoulders. The goddamn hick wasn't even breathing hard.

"Are you OK, Nancy?" Bomber asked from behind me.

"Yeah, my head just hurts where that ugly little bitch hit me with a bat." She laughed. "Incompetent whore couldn't even knock me all the way out right."

Halfway down the hallway Oakes stumbled and gasped, her hand flashing back to back as she sagged against a doorway.

Which opened up as soon as she got near it.

Two pale arms, the tattered cuffs of the BDU's that went halfway down the arms smeared with frozen mud and ice, the fingers blackened and ending in gleaming white bone, lashed out, grabbing Oakes by her head. They tensed, flesh tearing and exposing the side of her skull, and the too long arms suddenly yanked back.

The door slammed shut, Oakes' screams echoing in the hallway, and we heard the door thud as her feet kicked against it.

Taggart and Logan screamed, Nancy and Bomber swore, and I tried to pull away from Taggart to get at the door but she was holding onto me too tight. Bomber didn't push by me, and Nancy kept going down the hallway, dragging Clifton with her. I pulled Taggart with me, following Nancy's blanket wrapped back.

The screams turned high pitched as we passed, the register climbing and climbing, an animal sound of agony and pain that couldn't be coming from a human throat. We all kept moving, following Nancy and Logan, staring at the door as we passed, the door that shook while Oakes' boots thumped against it and she screamed. We could hear the crunching and tearing noises, even through the door, as she and Tandy got acquainted.

After an eternity, the screech twisted weirdly and stopped.

"Aren't.. aren't you..." Taggart stuttered, breaking the silence and stillness. "Aren't you going to try to save her?"

"Fuck her." Nancy said. "Let's go, and stay away from the doors."

"He might still be hungry."

Chapter 28

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Seventeen

We struggled down the stairs, and I almost fell at one point but Taggart kept me on my feet somehow. My vision was blurry and I was having a hard time thinking. Our boots echoed in the stairwell, coming back menacing from below somehow.

"What the fuck was that?" Logan asked as we moved into the first floor hallway. His voice was unsteady, and I could tell he was barely holding off panic.

"Tandy." Bomber answered simply, and I nodded, leaning against Taggart and staring at the snow.

"What the fuck is a Tandy?" Logan asked as I pushed through the doors. The snow in Titty Territory was thick, smooth and unblemished. "What the fuck, Bomber and I just ran through here?"

"Tandy is Tandy. A guy who vanished the first year this unit was reactivated." Bomber answered him. "The hallway is typical. It's just the building fucking with us."

"How can a building fuck with us?" He asked.

"Sick." I managed to grunt, right before I threw up into the snow. Taggart held onto my belt and rubbed my back while the MRE I'd eaten earlier landed in the snow.

"Keep him on his feet, Taggart." Nagle ordered.

"Don't you fucking listen?" Bomber asked. "This fucking building hates us and wants us to die."

"But why?" Taggart asked, pulling me up and throwing my arm back around her shoulders when I tried to slump down into the snow. "What did we do?"

"You didn't do anything." Bomber told them. "The Nazi's were here before us, the Templars before them, the whole goddamn mountain is covered in blood. It likes blood."

For once, nobody scoffed.

"Nagle, Ant's bleeding really bad." Taggart said.

"He's a boy, he'll be fine, keep him on his feet." Nancy added from behind us. "Keep him moving."

I pushed against the doors into the CQ Area, stumbling slightly, but Taggart kept me on my feet. The snow was perfectly smooth, the windows and glass on the interior doors to the "airlock" were cracked and covered in ice.

Bomber moved by and kicked on the door.

"Open up, we've got wounded out here. Ant's hurt bad and Nagle's naked." He shouted.

"Naked?" Jefferson opened the door and his eyes widened. "Holy shit!" Nagle was supporting Clifton and the blanket had fallen open to reveal she was completely naked, one breast and her crotch totally exposed. "What happened?"

"Move, jackass." Bomber said, pushing forward and through the doors.

"Get the table from behind the CQ counter, and hurry." Nagle snapped. "Marks, you help him. Lives depend on it." She followed us in, her teeth clattering. Marks and Jefferson ran by us and outside. Taggart moved me toward a cot and started to sit me down.

"I said, keep him on his fucking feet!" Nancy snapped, "What part of that sentence does your pregnant ass not understand?"

I groaned when she yanked me back up, almost throwing up.

"Walk him around. Find that whiskey, give it to him." Nancy ordered, dropping the blanket without a hint of modesty. She grabbed a T-shirt and pulled it on quickly while Bomber told Taggart that there was a bottle of Wild Turkey beside his bunk.

"What happened?" Raleigh asked.

"They tried to rape me and kill Ant, Ant stabbed all three, Tandy took Oakes." Nancy snapped, pulling on a pair of pink panties. "Treat Clifton for two sucking chest wounds and put a pressure dressing on his back. Ant stabbed him twice in his right lung and once in his left kidney."

"Stabbed him?" Kebble blurted.

"They were about to rape me, they're fucking lucky that he didn't kill them outright." Nancy had grabbed a wetnap out of Taggart's box of them on her cot and was wiping her hands off. A disconnected part of my brain noted that she was doing a chemical wipe, from wrist to fingertips, first right and then left.

"Rape?" Kebble asked.

"Yes, rape. Oakes wanted them to shove it up my ass. She'd pissed on my face already." Nancy yanked up her shirt and pointed at the rings around her nipples that were already seeping blood. "Those two fucks bit my tits."

"I didn't... I mean..." Kebble stuttered.

"If I thought you knew, I'd be slitting your fucking throat." Bomber interjected. "You sided with the LT, but that's as far as you went. I'm willing to put aside you taking part in beating our asses, but that's about as far as I'm going to go."

"Hurry up with that fucking table!" Nancy yelled. She had scrubbed off her face and pulled a cravat over her hair.

Taggart leaned down and picked up the bottle. I switched the knife to the hand that was at the end of the arm around her shoulders, grabbed it greedily, uncapping it with my thumb and forefinger, then drinking deeply.

"He shouldn't drink with a headwound." Raleigh said. She was pulling Clifton's shirt up and she pulled back. "Oh God, I don't know what to do."

"Do what I fucking told you. Ant will be fine." Nancy snapped, tying off the cravat. "Kebble."

"Yes?" She asked, her voice small.

"You've had enough time to heal up. Get up, help Raleigh. Raleigh, how does the wound look?" Nancy snapped. "Ant, swish it around before you swallow it. Taggart, when he swallows, open his mouth and tell me how his teeth and the inside of his mouth look."

Marks and Jefferson brought in the table. Bomber moved over and dropped Nelson onto the table.

"Fuck this guy, Nancy, let him fucking die." Bomber said.

"It'll look good at our court martials if I at least tried to fucking save him." Nancy said.

"The wound's about an inch wide, the blood is dark red and steadily flowing." Raleigh said. "What do I do?"

"Put a pressure dressing on it. It doesn't sound like Ant hit the artery." Nancy snapped, she held up a scalpel. "Put the dressing on him, then treat him for sucking chest wounds. I thought you had an FMB."

"I do." Raleigh said. "It's just..."

"Now it's the real fucking thing." Nancy said, her voice softening. "Honey, there's going to be a lot of blood, a lot of screaming, but you need to do exactly as I say. OK?" Raleigh nodded. "Good."

"Open your mouth, Ant." Taggart told me when I lowered the bottle, swished it around, and swallowed it. I followed her order, and she looked into my mouth. "All the teeth on his right side are broken, most of the molars at the gum. His front teeth are all broken, and he's missing a bunch of teeth on his left side."

"Bomber, get about 12 or 13 salt packets, put them in a canteen cup, pour some water in it, and give it to Taggart, then get your ass over here and help me." Nancy snapped.

"What do I do?" Kebble asked.

"Help me tied this around his waist." Raleigh answered.

"Goddamn it, Ant, how many times did you stab this asshole." Nancy bitched.

"Lots." I answered, taking another long pull off the bottle.

"Logan, put your hand on his neck. Not there, you retard, there. Tap your foot to his pulse. Marks, shut that goddamn door." Nancy was all business, brisk.

Bomber handed Taggart the canteen cup, and she pushed it up to my mouth.

"No." I told her, turning away.

"Nagle, he won't drink it." Taggart snitched me off.

"ANT!" Nagle yelled. "I'll come over there and sew your asshole shut. Swish it and spit it back out. Taggart, I don't care if you have to blow him, keep him on his fucking feet. He sits down, he's fucking dead, he dies, and I'll rip your tits off and you can feed that baby by hand." By the time she finished I was already swishing the salt water in my mouth, my eyes watering from the roaring pain that the salt brought out. "Kebble, take this, put it over his face, every fifth time Logan taps his foot, squeeze the bag. Bomber!"

"You don't have to shout, I'm right here." Bomber said. I spit it into the canteen cup Taggart held out for me.

"Set me up an IV, saline, do you remember how to do a tap?" Nagle asked. She was holding a small tube with a valve on one end, and after she finished speaking she stripped away the cover with her teeth to reveal a long needle. Bomber told her that he remembered and she started pressing near the wound on Nelson's chest. "Taggart, check behind Ant's ears, tell me if he has bruising on either side or is leaking pink fluid, not blood, but pinkish crap."

She pressed the needle in with a crunch while Taggart moved my ear. "I can't tell, he's bleeding everywhere." She said. Her voice was shaky. "The skin on his ears is all white and waxy."

"That's frostbite. Take him up to his room and give him a shower." She twisted the valve and there was a sharp hiss of air. She pulled up another valve and needle combo. "Keep him on his feet and awake, I don't care if you have to jam your fist up his ass and use him as a puppet, do not let him go to sleep." She set a small packet on the table next to her and she climbed up on top of the table, straddling Nelson. "Use these to close the bad cuts, they're butterflies. Raleigh!" Raleigh looked over at her as I swished around another mouthful of salt, saliva, blood, and water. It hurt, but I'd stopped caring.

"Yes?" Her voice was tight.

"Put this just beneath the wound, press it until there isn't resistance. Count to three, then turn the valve, let out the air, then close it. It'll keep the lung from collapsing and keep him from suffocating." Nancy told her, tossing it to her. "And this one too." She tossed the woman a second one. "Kebble."

"Here, here's my keys and the buttefly bandages." Bomber told Taggart, coming over and handing them to her. "Don't let anything happen to my boy, but if something does go down, let him fight." Taggart nodded and he smiled, getting a shaky smile back from her. "He won't let you down. If he tells you to run, then run back here and get me." She nodded again, even though she looked doubtful at the last part.

"Yes, Nagle?" Kebble asked.

"Quit with the bag. Get into that big kit, you'll find a set of leather restraints, tie his arms and ankles to the table legs with them." Nancy shook her head. "Somebody stole the fucking morphine powder out of my bag, we'll have to do this the hard way. Marks, get Ant's hydrocodone, grind up five tablets as fine as you can, then mix it with the water from an IV bag from one of the Combat Lifesaver bags."

"Ant, come on." Taggart said, pulling me toward the door.

"No. Gotta take care of Nancy." I answered. "Not safe. Tandy."

"Nagle!" Taggart dimed me out.

"Ant, go with Taggart, she's gonna take you up, get you cleaned off so you can help." Nancy snapped, holding up a scalpel. "Do as your told and guard the pregnant girl, boy." She looked down at Nelson's belly wound. "Shit, time to see if I can remember my training."

"Ant, let's get you cleaned up, Nagle needs you." Taggart said, tugging on me again. We moved over to the door, and I took another long hit off the whiskey bottle as she opened it.

"And don't take your eyes off him for a second!" Bomber yelled as the door shut.

The cold of the CQ Area was like a slap in the face, the freezing air lighting off the nerves in my mouth. I groaned and sagged, but Taggart pulled me up and ruthlessly started moving.

"Walk, Ant. Come one. Left, left, left right left..." She muttered to me. "Which one's your room?" I mumbled it as she pushed through the doors and she just nodded, still counting cadence to keep me moving. A scream floated up from the darkness when she opened the door to the stairwell, but she dragged me up the steps to the landing.

"Sick..." I managed to groan out. We stopped for a second, and I threw up again, Wild Turkey and stomach acid. I tried to go down on my knees, but she held me up as I retched and dry heaved for a long time. When I was down there was blood all over the snow, dripping off my face.

"Come on, Ant, just a little further." She told me, pulling me up the stairs again. I almost fell twice climbing that half-flight of stairs, but she kept me on my feet, even when we pushed through the door and into the wind-swept hallway.

"Please don't. Please stop..." we heard Oakes whimper as we passed by the room Tandy had lunged out of. "...please..."

"FUCK YOU, BITCH!" I screamed. Taggart pulled me when I tried to reach for the door.

"It's just a trick, Ant." She sobbed, our feet kicking up puffs of snow as we kept going. "It's just the building playing tricks on us."

She held me up when she unlocked the door to my room, nudging it open with the toe of her boot when it was unlocked, so that it swung open to reveal my dimly lit home. I took another long drag off the bottle after she pulled me into the bathroom, letting her slide out from under my arm so she could pull open the shower curtain and start the hot water.

"God, you're covered in blood." She complained, only half to me. "Let's get you out of this uniform." She started unbuttoning my BDU top, her fingers slipping on the top few because of all the blood that coated them.

"You need to put down the knife and the bottle." She told me, pulling my T-shirt out of my pants.

"Nuh-uh." I answered, reaching down and hooking my fingertips under the edge of my T-shirt, pulling it over my head and off in one easy motion, letting it fall off my arms and past the bayonet and the whiskey bottle. "I want a cigarette." I slurred, weaving slightly. She looked at my chest, her eyes flicking back and forth, and her mouth opened and then shut.

"Then you'll need to put down the whiskey bottle or the bayonet." She told me, kneeling down and starting to unlace my boots. Seeing her kneeling in front of me, hair falling across my face, I started wondering how her cupid bow of a mouth would feel around my cock.

I looked at the mirror, seeing my reflection. My left eye was almost swollen closed, my right eye was blackened and bloodshot. I had a cut on my forehead and a goose egg, my right cheek was swollen, and I had a purplish-red knot on the side of my jaw. Both my lips were swollen, and I had four splits in my lips. My nose was crooked, drooling blood onto my face. Blood covered my whole face, my neck, and my chest was bloody and covered in bruises. From just to the left of my right nipple, all across my chest, on the right side of my neck, and on my right arm to almost to the elbow was nothing but a huge purple and red and yellow bruise, my collarbone invisible.

"Shit." I said, knocking the bar of soap beside the faucet away and setting the bottle down in its place. The bayonet clattered when I dropped it into the sink. She looked up at me.

"What's wrong?" She asked. "Are you going to pass out?"

"No." I told her, raising my hands and putting two fingers on either side of my nose. I couldn't even feel pain any more, just a weird warmth and flickers of cold down my spine.

With a twist and a crunch that brought another flood of blood, my nose was straight again. Well, straight enough.

Good thing I was never good looking.

"What was that?" She asked, standing up. "Are you all right?"

"Fine." I grunted, picking the whiskey bottle back up and taking another long drink. It was almost empty. "Help me into the room, I need to get into my dresser."

"Let me get your boots off first." She told me, kneeling back down. I took another long swig off the bottle and lifted first one, then the other foot out of the boots when she told me to.

She helped me into the main room, keeping me from falling with how bad I was swaying, and I had her open the middle drawer of the dresser, move Nagle's underwear and bras, and get me the carton of cigarettes and the unopened bottle of Wild Turkey. I drained the last of the Wild Turkey in the bottle I had, left the empty of the dresser, and grabbed the other. At my motion, she grabbed the carton of cigarettes.

"When we go back in, I'm going to put the butterflies on you." She told me, dragging me toward the bathroom. I just grunted. "Lean against the sink, I'm going to put these on you, hopefully they won't come off in the shower."

"Cigarette." I mumbled. She nodded, and I opened the carton, pulled out a pack, packed it, then flipped one in the back row before pulling one out and lighting it.

"You ready?" She asked me, smiling slightly. I leaned my butt against the sink and nodded, bending my head down so she could reach it easier. She grabbed one of the washrags off the towel rack, stuck it in the water, then mopped off spots before pulling off a butterfly, pinching the wound, then putting the bandage on.

I was done with the cigarette and halfway through a second one by the time she was done, and she'd used over 20 of them on my head and face. I was feeling better, a little buzzed from the booze, lightheaded from my head wounds, and the nicotine working its magic. There were little flickers of pain, but not much.

I'd found out after Ramstein that the body could only take too much pain before biological circuit breakers in your brain kicked in and shorted out your ability to feel constant pain. New pain would "spark" a little, but quickly recede.

Thank God for evolution.

"Let's get you cleaned up." Taggart told me, reaching toward my belt. "Stand up." I pushed off the sink and almost fell against her, sagging as my knees went out. She managed to grab me and push me back against the sink. "OK, then. Let's get you undressed." She undid my belt, unbuttoned my BDU pants, then tugged them down, kneeling in front of me to pull my pants then my socks off. I stared at the top of her head, idly wondering what she'd look like doing certain things. "Take off the boxers." She told me, standing up. I hooked my thumbs in them and dropped them off while she turned and fiddled with the knobs, adjusting the temperature.

I lit another cigarette.

"Get in." She said, waving at the shower and standing back. She was blushing, her face and ears a cute pink. It even covered what little of her chest wasn't covered by her brown T-shirt.

My legs were unsteady as I wobbled into the shower, turning away from the water so my cigarette didn't get wet, keeping my hands up so they didn't get wet. I kept one hand against the wall, leaning my head against the tile with a groan.

The shower was hot and the spray was painful for a moment on the edges of my back. I jerked, the stench of burning jet fuel filling my nostrils and pain flaring across my back and the backs of my upper thighs.

I groaned loudly, the cigarette falling from my lips. My knees buckled and my hands fell to my sides as my burn scars started screaming, as the pain of the burns set in and the screams filled my ears.

"Are you OK?" She asked me, but her voice was far away, behind the screams of the injured and dying. Flames lept up around me, and I went down on my knees.

I'm outta gas...

The bottle fell from my numb fingertips as I slumped forward, things going dark around me but flames leaping up.

...up... up... get up...

I tried to get up, get back to my feet, to charge into the flames again in hopes of pulling just one more person out, but my body wouldn't move, all I could do was twitch.

"Ant?" it came from far away, on the other side of the fire, the pain, and the stench of burning flesh and jet fuel.


Chapter 29

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Seventeen

I was laying on the grass at the Ramstein AFB airshow, badly burnt and going into shock and dying. People were holding me down, and someone was slapping on me with a jacket, but all I could see was the fire, the people dying. I was cold, shivering, even the pain was gone.

Someone's hands were on me, pulling at me.

I'd been too weak. I'd ran out of gas. I didn't have what it takes. People were dying and I was too weak to do anything. I'd failed. Failed all those people. Failed my unit. Failed as a soldier. Failed my Father. Failed as a man.

Someone was screaming my name.


I was being drug to my feet.

Someone was screaming at me to get to my feet.

My eyes opened and I saw the shower tile, realized who was screaming at me.

"Taggart." I croaked. "Get me to my feet. I gotta get up."

"Just stay up, just for a second." She said, letting go of my arm. I reached out and grabbed the soap dish embedded in the wall, using it to keep my balance.

"Drink." She said, pushing the bottle into my other hand. I raised it up and drank deep, the burn rushing down my throat and into my stomach. My stomach tried to rebel, tried to purge everything. I heard a belt rattle then clank.

"Where did you go to Basic Training?" She asked me, reaching out and slapping my ass sharply.

"Fort Leanordwood" I answered, taking another drink.

"What was your unit in Basic?" She asked, slapping my ass again.

"Bravo two ten, bravo bulldogs, bravo two ten." I muttered, leaning forward and pressing my face against the hot tile. It felt good, the heat seeping into my face.

Hands wrapped around me, holding me up as I sagged again. I struggled for a second, unsure of what was happening, but one hand came up to press against my chest while holding onto a bar of soap, the other stayed around my waist.

"Easy, Ant, easy, it's me, Taggart." She said softly, rubbing my chest with the soap. "You've gotta stand up, stay on your feet."

"Tired." I grunted. "I hurt, really bad."

"I know, but you gotta stay on your feet, I gotta clean you off." She said, the hand on my chest moved to my head. "Close your eyes, Ant, I gotta clean the blood off you."

I held still while she washed my head, hissing in pain when her fingernail snagged one of the cuts and pulled it open. She let go of me and soaped up my back, rinsed off my head and back, then had me turn around to face her, putting my back against the shower wall. She washed off my face, ignoring my outcries of pain, then washed off my face and caught me when my knees gave out.

I opened my eyes to see a small brown nipple in front of my face. Almost instinctively I moved over and latched onto it with my mouth, sucking gently while I twirled my tongue around it. I felt the woman lift up on her tiptoes and heard her moan, her hands touching my head.

"Ant, no." She said suddenly, pulling me up. "Stop. You need to be cleaned off." She rubbed soap on my crotch and started rubbing, and I fell against her again, burying my face in the junction of her shoulder and neck, wrapping my arms around her. "Stand up." Her tone hit a part hat had become spinal reflex and I jerked up, wobbling a little. She rinsed me off, her hands gentle, and when I looked at her I saw her blushing at what she was doing.

I grabbed her hair, pulling her head back, and kissed her, pushing my tongue into her mouth when it opened. I wrapped my left arm, still holding the bottle, around her and pulled her close, breaking the kiss to move to the side of her neck.

And she bit me on the bad shoulder.

"Ant!" She yelled when I jerked back, catching me before my head hit the shower wall.

I opened my eyes again, seeing Nancy's face in front of me.

"Nancy." I said, reaching for her breast with my right hand.

She grabbed my hand, pulling it away, and grabbed my other wrist, lifting it up so I could see the bottle. "It's Taggart, Ant, now drink."

I shook my head in denial, but her hand let go of the hand I'd grabbed her breast with and grabbed my jaw, squeezing, the pain forcing my mouth open. She lifted the bottle and twisted my wrist so that the whiskey poured into my mouth.

The pain snapped everything into focus, and it was suddenly Taggart in front of me, not my Nancy, and I went to jerk back but her grip on my jaw prevented me. She let go of my jaw and I took another drink.

"Taggart." I slurred.

"Good, you remember." She said. "Stay with me." She smiled and I nodded. "How old are you, Ant?"

"Twenty." I told her, taking another drink, dropping my eyes to stare at her breasts. They were ski-slopes, tipped with brown, dime sized nipples surrounded by quarters. She had a few stretch marks, which I traced with my eyes.

"I thought you were older." She told me. "I'm a year older than you." I was surprised at that, I thought she was 17, 18 at the most.

"Hard living." I grunted, looking lower. She had a little poof that some women kept no matter how many situps they did that kept me from seeing her pubic hair.

"Where did you get this?" She asked, touching the scar that went almost all the way around my shoulder, a large wide spot in the middle.

"Got stabbed, got frostbite in the wound." I told her, looking back up at her face. She looked so young, and the lust that was pulsing through me vanished. "I almost got my arm torn off this summer, tore all the ligaments from the anchors and they had to rebuild it."

Taggart smiled, running her fingers across my chest to a scar over my heart. "This one?"

"Border patrol." I said, reaching for her crotch, cupping it. Her hand moved mine away and put it on her hip.

"This one?" She touched the cross shaped scar on my shoulder.

"Ex-wife." I told her, closing my eyes. She twisted my nipple, hard, and I opened my eyes again.

"Drink, Ant." I nodded. "And keep your eyes open."

She kept touching scars, asking where I got them. Every time I closed my eyes she twisted my nipple. She asked me where I was born, where I grew up, when I went to AIT, what my class standing at graduation was, the name of the girl who took my virginity and how old I was, how long I'd been sleeping with Nancy, if I loved her, did she love me, how long I'd known Bomber, question after question, keeping me on my feet, feeding me whiskey, and at one point standing behind me and half holding me up so I could smoke while standing in the shower and swilling alcohol.

She checked behind my ears for bruising, cleaned my ears and then looked in them for any pinkish fluid leaking out, then checked the cuts on my head and face.

"How do you feel?" she asked after looking up my nose and in my mouth.

For an answer I pushed my hips forward, rubbing myself on her lower belly and smiling down.

"No." She told me, but smiled. "The last thing I want is Nagle chasing my down the hallway with one of your knives in her hand."

I chuckled.

"Stay standing up, I'm going to dry off and get dressed." She told me. "Then I'll help you. Your eyes are still real bad."

I nodded, watching her openly, admiring how thick her thighs were from all the rucksack runs we did, how thick her waist and wide her hips were, and everything about her body. She blushed, but didn't ask me to turn away, and when she bent forward to dry off her calves and shins, facing away from me, I had to wonder if it was for my benefit, but didn't want to ruin the moment by asking.

"Come on out, let's get you dressed." She told me, holding out the towel. She was still naked.

"My uniforms are in my wall locker." I told her.

"I'm not supposed to look away, and after what happened earlier, I don't want to take the chance of you sitting down." She told me. She flapped the towel. "Come on, let's dry you off."

I went to take the towel and she pulled it away. "No, I don't want you bending over and passing out, you're still a little wobbly on your feet."

She patted me down carefully, going easy on the bruising, until she cleared her throat, blushed, and knelt down to do my legs and feet. I looked down at her, the way she ignored the fact my erection kept bouncing off the top of her head or grazing her face. She looked up at me, smiled, and dried off my happy little friend, her bright green eyes locked with mine.

The two soft, slow strokes surprised me.

"All done." She said, standing up and smiling. "I'll be right behind you." She told me, bending down and picking up my uniform. For a minute, I stared at her butt, tempted to reach out, grab her hips, open her up, and bury my face between her legs.

"You know, Nancy said to do whatever you have to in order to keep me awake." I whispered, my voice thick with something that had nothing to do with the pain and injuries.

"And have you go to sleep as soon as you're done? She said keep you awake." She smiled, standing back up. Her smile died suddenly when she reached out and picked up the bayonet. "Besides, there's three reasons why you don't really want me."

I stared at her as she motioned for me to leave the bathroom. I walked out, steadying myself on the wall lockers when the world tilted and waving her off. "I need you to unlock my wall locker." I said, pointing at my duty wall locker.

She stood there, gloriously naked, smelling of clean woman, and I tried to think of any reason I wouldn't want her. She got it open and stepped back, and I moved up to pull down a hanger. I kept a full uniform on each hanger, socks and underwear hidden under the T-shirt.

When we went into the room, I went to sit down and she stopped me, tossing my bloody uniform on the floor before holding out her hand for my uniform. I handed it to her and watched her start to undo the buttons of the BDU blouse.

"What are the three reasons?" I asked her.

"Number one: You're with Nancy, and you really want her, I'm just convient." She said, setting the BDU top aside and getting the T-shirt off. "Second: I'm not very pretty and I'm fat." I looked over her body again. The fat she had was where it was supposed to be, the rest was Army muscle, and sweet woman. She took the pants off and tossed them over where the T-shirt and top were. "Third: I'm pregnant, and nobody really likes fucking pregnant girls unless there's nobody else around." She took off the socks and underwear and tossed the underwear on Bomber's bed with the rest of my clothing.

The growl that I didn't bother to try to stop made her look at me. "What?"

"You're wrong, about all of it, except that I'm with Nancy." I told her.

"Yeah, right." She told me bitterly, kneeling down. She opened the underwear and looked up at me. "Lift."

I was tempted, so tempted. She looked so sweet, so luscious, so delicious, kneeling in front of me, face up, my hard cock inches from her face, breasts right below, glittering green eyes looking at me. I wanted to put my hand on her cheek, stroke myself, then lift her up and kiss her, to whisper all the reasons she was wrong about, and all the things she was right by just being her, into her ear.

But I could see the bitterness in her eyes, and knew that words wouldn't mean anything at that moment.

So I lifted my foot, holding eye contact with her while she slowly dressed me. She let me put the bayonet sheathe back behind my back and put the bayonet away, then follow her in and watch her get dressed. I got my extra field jacket out, grabbed another bottle of Wild Turkey, and left the laundry on the floor.

When we went to leave I reached out and touched her back. She stopped, her hand on the door handle.

"You're wrong, you know." I told her. "I don't care who told you those thing about you, but they're wrong."

"Just words, Ant. Just words." She told me, her voice harder than I'd ever heard it before. She turned around and opened the door, revealing the hallway, the snow, the ice, and the wind ripped at us both. When we were walking down the hallway, I reached out and took her hand in mine, surprised when she didn't pull away.

We heard Oakes pleading, sobbing, when we passed the room again, and I pretended not to notice how hard she squeezed my hand. In the stairwell we stopped long enough for me to catch my breath, my head swimming again.

"If we'd have done anything, it probably would have killed you." She said softly at the ground floor landing, when I stopped to retch. It wasn't the alcohol, I'd been in 2/19th long enough to develop an alcoholic's tolerance for booze.

Could have been because, like everyone else I knew in the unit, I was an alcoholic.

I didn't answer, and we went into Titty Territory silently.

I let go of her hand when we reached the CQ Area, the room dimly lit by the lights in the trophy case, the thick ice diffusing the light. The snow was blank and soft, mid-calf deep, and one of the windows on the air-lock had given out, spilling snow into the room. When I knocked on the door, I told Bomber to open the door or he'd never fuck a Bigfoot again, and when the door opened, the heat slapped at us like a hot blanket. John looked tired, blood all over his hands.

Behind him, Nelson and Clifton were laying on cots, bandages covering their chests. I could see tubes and bandages on them. Nancy was pulling a blanket up around Clifton and tucking it in. As Bomber shut the door, she looked up and gave me a tired smile.

"Took long enough." Bomber said, coming up next to me and pulling me into a hug. "Another hour and we would have gone up to see if Tandy got you."

"He's busy." I told him about hearing Oakes' voice on the other side of the door and his smile went away.

"Ant, come here, honey, I want to take a look at you." Nancy called out, moving over to the table. I staggered over there after Bomber let me go. "Lay on the table." She squinted. "I'm going to need to stitch those up, you're bleeding again."

I did as I was told, laying down.

"Taggart, he seems to like you, hold his hand." Nancy ordered. I felt her small hand in mine. "Raleigh, get your stuff together, when I'm through with him, you, me, and Kebble are going to go take a shower."

I held still while she put in the stitches, just staring at the ceiling and pretending it was just another beating at the hands of my mother, who wore heavy rings on her hands to "better discipline nasty little boys" and liked to use her hands on us.

When she was done, she sighed and rubbed her face.

"I'm fucking exhausted." She told me, smiling. She bent down and kissed me, not biting my lower lip but just dancing her tongue across the stitches she'd put in my lower lip. She leaned down further, her mouth near my ear. "Am I going to like the taste of her pussy?" She whispered.

My Nancy...

"I don't know. She's afraid of you and thinks she's ugly and fat." I whispered back. "Nancy, she kept me from dying in the shower."

Nancy straightened up, smiling down at me. "Go over and get some sleep." She told me.

She helped me up, helped me to my cot, and tucked me in after taking my boots off.

"Kebble, Raleigh, Bomber's going to guard you." My eyes were closed, exhaustion washing over me. "Taggart, you're with me. We'll use Ant's room, Bomber, take them to Monkey's room. See if you can find anything that'll help us."

"Logan, Jefferson, keep an eye on my patients. If anything happens, Marks, you and Logan come up and get us." She ordered.

I drifted off to Kebble saying that she was afraid of Bomber.

Screaming woke me up. High pitched sounds of animal agony, mixed in with sobbing and pleading.

"Please... stop... OH GOD! STOP!" rang out in the room, and I sat upright, grabbing for my glasses and putting them on. "Please don't bite me any more!"

Everyone was staring at the door as the voice screamed again right outside the door.

As Oakes screamed again.

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Eighteen

Oakes was screaming outside, long drawn out shrieks of agony and terror. Everyone but Hendricks, Nelson, and Clifton were staring at the door. Kebble was staring with an open mouth as Oakes began pleading for mercy, her pleas suddenly turning in shrieks of torment. I felt at my back, the comfortable presence of the bayonet under my fingers, then grabbed my glasses and stood up. Bomber and Nancy did the same, both coming to their feet. Bomber handed me an M-16 and I handed it to Taggart, who was pale in the bright light of the room. Bomber nodded, and handed me a pistol, which I checked the action on and put the bullet into my pocket. Nancy was pulling at the ends of her laces and tying them, while Bomber was pulling on his field jacket.

I'd fallen asleep in my boots, so all I had to do was pull on my field jacket and grab my BDU cap.

"We open this door, it might get ugly." Nancy said, standing up and grabbing her field jacket. I nodded, moving up to the door. Outside, Oakes shrieked again.

"Let's just finish it, one way or another." I said, my words slurred. Nancy frowned at me, but nodded.

"Let's do this shit." Bomber said, coming up to stand next to me.

"Just leave the door shut." Kebble whispered.

"Don't. Open. The. Door." Logan said.

"Fuck that, I'm not leaving anyone, even Oakes, to Tandy's mercy." Nagle said, reaching out and putting her hand on the door knob of the left hand door. "Ready?"

I nodded, Bomber grunted, and Nancy yanked open the door. As Oakes screamed and pleaded not to be drug back into the darkness.

Beyond the door, the snow had piled almost a foot deep, mounded here and there, covering the counter, spattered with dark red steaming blood streaks and spatters. Scraps of uniform, dark red and steaming, were scattered around on the unmarred snow. The lights were bright, illuminating that the left hand window had broken and snow had fallen in, while the right hand window and the glass on the double doors was just cracked.

"Shut the door." I said, stepping back.

From the hallway Oakes pleaded for help.

"Aren't you going to save her?" Kebble asked.

"It's a fucking trick." Bomber said, stepping back from the door.

"I can hear her." Logan added.

"Look at the fucking snow! There's no boot prints, no foot prints, no place where Oakes would have been laying while Tandy tore into her." I yelled. "It's a fucking trap! The building is playing tricks on us!"

The lights in the CQ Area snapped off, two of the fluorescent lights behind the CQ Counter exploding in a mass of sparks that drifted down onto the snow. Somewhere in the building a fire alarm blared three times and cut off.

"Fuck this." Nancy said, and slammed the door, turning the lock. Not that it would do much good after the LT had kicked it open.

"Raleigh, how are our patients?" Nancy asked, turning around and walking back to her bunk. I yawned, stretched, then winced as pain blazed up in my shoulder when I tried to lift my arm to shoulder level.

"Hendricks is sleeping pretty good, the wound stopped seeping." Raleigh said, yawning. "Nelson doesn't look good, there's a lot of blood in his chest tube, but Clifton would probably be awake if we weren't putting Hydocodone in his IV."

"Keep Clifton and Nelson asleep." Nancy ordered, taking off her boots. "They'd probably run their fucking mouths and end up getting killed for being mouthy fucks."

I sat down and felt around under my bunk, my fingers finding the Wild Turkey bottle while Nancy was still speaking. I uncapped it and took a deep drink off of it, relishing the burning sensation as it went down my throat and into my stomach. It made my damaged teeth ache, but who gave a shit, it was just pain, right? Pain is just weakness leaving the body, even if it does run you over with a freight train on its way out.

"How ya feeling, brother?" Bomber asked me, sitting down next to me and pulling out a pack of cigarettes.

"Like shit's ugly cousin." I told him, accepting the cigarette he lit for me. "How long have I been down?"

"Probably 12 hours. You were raving for a little while." He told me. "Nancy's worried about you."

"I'm right fucking here." Nancy snapped, zipping up her sleeping back and staring at us.

"Really? I didn't notice past those big titties." John grinned. Nancy stuck her tongue out at him, and I laughed.

The lights started to dim even further, then slowly brightened. I looked up at them as they did it again.

"What the fuck?" Marks asked.

From the vent came the sound of screaming as the lights dimmed and went out.

"Who's near the vent?" I asked, a sinking feeling in my stomach.

"I am." Kebble answered.

"Is their air coming in?" I asked. It already felt colder.

"Ummm... no, there isn't. Why?" She asked.

"We're in trouble." I said.

"The generator." Bomber, Nagle, and I all said at once.

"But the heater's oil! The LT said so." Kebble blurted out.

"The LT was wrong about a lot of shit." I snarled, standing back up. "Bomber, you with me?"

"I'm with you." He told me.

"So am I." Nancy said, unzipping her sleeping bag.

"You stay here, try to come up with a plan in case we can't get the generator fired back up." I told her. I turned to Kebble. "What did the LT do with our cold weather gear?"

"He had us box it up in the supply room." She answered.

"Which room? The draw and turn in area, or deep storage?" Bomber asked, zipping up his field jacket.

"The big one." She answered.

"Then you're coming with us. We need the cold weather gear." I told her. She shrank back, and Logan looked up.

"No way. I'm not going with you." She said. Logan nodded.

"Either you come with us, or we all fucking freeze to death." I told her, staring at Logan.

"I don't want you to hurt me." She half-whispered.

"Or for fuck's sake." she flinched at my raised voice. "We have bigger problems than whether or not you tuned me up a week ago." I pointed at the door. "This building is out to fucking kill us, and you're afraid of me? Be afraid of some dead fucker kicking in the door and swinging an axe! Be afraid of goddamn Tandy out there in the snow! Be afraid of fucking freezing to death because you're a fucking chickenshit!" I screamed the last part. Logan stood up, opening his mouth, and I turned on him. "Stop fucking protecting her. She's a goddamn soldier just like the rest of us, and unless she's pregnant or can do surgery, I don't wanna fucking hear it."

"I'll go." Logan said.

"Good, get your shit. Kebble, get fucking dressed." Both of them stared at me. "Marks has to stay to protect Raleigh, Nagle, and the wounded. Nagle and Raleigh have to stay here to take care of their patients. Taggart's pregnant and the building's already gone for her once. I'm sick of Kebble just sitting around while we get beaten up, stabbed, and freeze our fucking balls off."

"What if I refuse?" She asked.

"Then I'll throw your ass out in the snow." Bomber snarled, stepping forward. "We all pull together." Logan had opened his mouth and Bomber pulled the charging handle on the rifle, one round flying out to bounce on the floor, the clack of the weapon loading stopping speech.

"We aren't fucking around." I added.

The temperature in the room had dropped noticeably, and Taggart was shivering, rubbing her arms. Nagle told her to put on her BDU top and be quick.

Bomber and I stood and glared at Logan and Kebble as they got dressed. I didn't know how Kebble got Logan to defend her, and I didn't care. For all I cared she could have sucked his dick constantly.

She had her duty, just like we had ours.

"Do we get weapons?" Logan asked.

"Feel free." Bomber waved at the rifles laying on the empty cot.

"You aren't going to take a rifle?" Marks asked me, he blushed when Bomber and Nagle burst out laughing.

"God no, he sucks with a rifle." Bomber laughed. "How many times did it take you to qualify last time, brother?" He asked me.

"Three times. I scored a 28." I answered. "I can't hit shit with a rifle."

"That's why he carries the pistol." Nancy added. She'd zipped back up in the sleeping bag, only her face and a few wisps of hair visible.

I nodded. She was right. I scored perfect with the pistol every time, practiced with it all the time. Why I couldn't hit shit with a rifle, but was a dead shot with my 203 or the .45, I had no idea. Kind of like Bomber couldn't hit shit with an M-60 or Ma Duece, but was a 40 out of 40 shooter with the rifle.

When Kebble and Logan got dressed and moved up next to them, I put my hand on the door.

"We go out this door, we stay together. You get separated, you come right back here and give Nancy the password." I told them.

"What's the password?" Kebble asked.

"I don't wanna die?" Bomber suggested, I shoved him.

"Peanut brittle." I told them. Nancy, Marks and Raleigh all nodded. "We're going to the supply room first for the cold weather gear, then we're going to the generator and see if we can get it restarted."

"If that fails?" Kebble asked. Her arrogance seemed to be returning, her tone challenging, as if daring me to not have the right answer.

"You guys stay behind and die, Nancy, Bomber, Taggart and I snowshoe out of here." I shot back, turning to the door.

"Hey, why does she get to live?" Kebble asked.

"She has nicer tits than you." I told her, pulling open the door.

When I opened the door, Kebble, Raleigh, and Taggart screamed.

I turned and faced the door, feeling the blood draining from my face.

Three snowmen stood in front of the unblemished foot deep snow. One with breasts, one with a bull riding belt buckle, and one with a knife hilt for a nose. They were streaked with pink from blood mixed into the snow.

That wasn't what made me step back and raise the pistol up, what made Bomber whip the rifle to his shoulder, what made Kebble piss herself, and Logan drop his rifle.

Standing in between the snowmen were two figures, both silhouetted by the flickering red emergency light.

On the left, still in his Class-A uniform, his face smeared with blood and his eyes little more than white slits, stood the LT, his black leather Class-A gloves on his hands.

On the right stood a figure in a parka and cold weather pants and boots, a cold weather mask covering his face.

Both of them held axes.

Chapter 32

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Eighteen

"JUST FUCKING DIE!" Bomber and I bellowed together, both stepping forward into the snow, left foot first, at the same time, fingers both pulling triggers.

Two in the chest, one in the head on the LT, swivelling my sight picture, so that I put two in the chest and one in the head on the figure wearing the cold weather mask. Bomber had pulled back the trigger on the rifle, firing two quick bursts into the chest of the masked figure, then his fire crossing mine and dropping two bursts into the LT.

Both figures staggered back, the axe falling from the LT's grip, black fluid spattering on the unblemished snow.

"Get back, get back!" Nagle yelled. The LT snarled, revealing yellowed teeth smeared with blood. The figure in the cold weather mask seemed to grow in size, almost looming, as the shoulders lifted and steam plumed out past the cold weather mask.

I put two more into the figure in the cold weather mask as Bomber slammed shut the door, my third and fourth bullets slamming through the door.

"What the fuck was that?" Kebble shrieked as the door slammed shut. "Who the fuck was the guy in the mask?

We both stepped backwards, slamming the door as soon as we were clear of the doorway.

"He's who was killing us last winter." Nagle said, her voice low, defeated sounding. "We're fucking finished."

"What the fuck was with the snowmen?" Logan asked, pointing at the door. "What the hell was that shit?"

"He's telling us he's going to kill us." I added, turning away from the doorway and dropping the smoking pistol by my side.

"Fuck." Bomber muttered, walking toward the back of the room and the supplies. He set the rifle on the table that Nagle had operated on, and I followed with the pistol, both weapons clacking loudly in the silence. "We're fucking boned."

There was whispering behind us as we dug in different boxes of MRE's, looking for food. Bomber was looking for ham slices, which were usually grabbed first, I was looking for something soft, like Chicken-ala-King, which was usually just thrown away.

I found it before he found his, and tore into it, dropping the package and then the cardboard box on the table before ripping open the food and starting to squeeze it into my mouth.

"Get up, Nagle." Logan suddenly said. "Now."

I turned around, the foil pocket of food still in my mouth, and saw Logan pointing the rifle at Nagle, who was sitting up with an angry expression on her face.

"Logan, what are you doing?" Raleigh asked.

"You saw the snowmen, they want Ant, Nagle, and Bomber, not us." Logan said. Kebble was pointing her weapon at Bomber and me, the arrogant nasty expression back on her face. "So let's give them to them."

"They'll be killed, you can't do that." Taggart said, staring at both.

"Logan, I don't know if I can keep them alive." Raleigh half-pleaded, referring to Hendricks, Nelson, and Clifton. Logan ignored her, glaring at Nancy.

"Go over the with them, if you like them so much, you little slut." Kebble snarled, motioning with her weapon. Taggart stood up, paling, her left hand covering her belly protectively.

"Put on your field jacket, honey." Nagle said, grabbing hers and glaring at Logan. "I oughta feed you that fucking rifle."

Logan aimed the barrel at the ceiling and pulled the trigger, the shot punishingly loud in the enclosed room. "NOW, BITCHES!" He bellowed.

Kebble moved over and pulled the weapons away, yelping when she grabbed the pistol by its hot barrel. I shifted, one hand sliding behind my back, under my field jacket, but she dropped the pistol onto the floor, kicking it away as she leveled the rifle at me.

"Go ahead and try it." She said softly. The rifle barrel was unsteady, but her eyes weren't.

She was willing and ready to shoot me.

Nagle stood up and stomped over by the door, Taggart following her quietly, her face pale and tears running down her face.

"Don't do this." she pleaded.

Kebble just laughed. "Shoulda thought about that before you sided with them, slut."

"Next time I see you, I'm going to kill you." Nagle said, her voice a deadly hiss. Kebble paled but didn't back down.

"You two, get over to the door." Logan ordered. "Slowly. Keep your hands where I can see them."

Bomber and I moved over by Taggart and Nagle. My head was pounding with the urge to kill both Kebble and Logan. Marks just stared at the floor, holding onto his friend's hand, removing himself from the situation by ignoring it all.

"Don't worry, buddy, we'll be fine." He whispered to Hendricks. Kebble snickered, and I glared at her.

"Open the door." Logan ordered.

I reached out, grabbing the handle and whipping open the door. The floodlight was still on, dim, but casting enough light to let us see.

The snowmen were gone, the snow smooth and blameless, glimmering in the dim red light from the emergency light. Not even footprints remained of the two apparitions we'd shot the shit out of minutes before.

"Get out." Kebble ordered.

We crunched out into the snow, Nancy pulling right quickly and pulling Taggart with her, stopping when she was out of the door's field of view. Bomber and I turned around to face the door. Logan had moved up next to the door that we'd opened, grabbing it with one hand and staring at us.

"Goodbye, assholes." He snarled.

And slammed the door.

Above us, someone shouted, and boots thudded on the floor. From the ice sealed stairwell a shriek sounded. From the darkness of the hallway of Titty Territory Oakes screamed in agony.

The door to the bathroom where Tandy had vanished stood open, revealing nothing but darkness.

From the darkness came a low, liquid chuckle.

"Run." Nancy breathed.

We ran.

Chapter 33

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Eighteen

"Come on." I barked, turning and heading toward the Day Room. I didn't even pause, not bothering with a key, stepping forward and kicking the door down the center seam and stepping through in the same motion. The three followed me in, Bomber slamming the door and pushing a chair against the handles before dropping the chocks so it couldn't be opened from the outside. At least not by those pussies.

Light was flooding in through the windows, the outside white, but I could tell that it was only up to the base of the windows, maybe a foot more than it had been since I'd gone outside. My D-ring was still attached, the 550 cord closed into the window. I moved up quickly, turning the handle and opening the window.

"The rope only goes a ways up the side, go right, put your hand on the building, follow the building around. It'll get us to the second floor windows." I told them, mostly speaking to Taggart. "Don't fucking stop, don't pay attention to voice, and above all, keep moving." Bomber held out his hand when I pulled my braid out of my pocket, pulling one out of his cargo pocket. It was longer and thicker than mine, and he let me know it with a grin.

Texas asshole.

"Bomber, when you reach the end, tie yours to the cord, then pull sharp 3 times, I'll take the D-ring, you keep leading the way to the window. I broke one of the windows so we can get into the platoon offices." Bomber nodded, stepping out of the window and into the snow, sinking knee deep. When Taggart walked up to the window I grabbed her arm. "Listen, do not let go of that cord, do not stop." She nodded, her face pale.

"Go." I said, slapping her on the ass. She squeaked and climbed out the window.

"Be careful, naughty boy." Nancy told me, kissing me and breaking the kiss with a bite to my lower lip. I nodded, pecking a kiss at the end of her nose, and watched her climb out before putting my hand on the cord and watching the door. It seemed to take forever before the three sharp pulls came.

I unhooked the D-ring, then stepped out the window and into the snow. I left the window open out of a bit of pique, knowing that it would cause the temperature to drop. The snow was knee deep, but Bomber had blazed a trail.

The wind bit the snow into my face, and I knew that the ice crystals were abrading the skin. I kept winding the cord up around my forearm, slogging through the snow. Total whiteout conditions, nothing visible beyond a few feet. The pale cream of the building vanished into the snow if I got more than a foot away, but brushing the building with my shoulder caused it to flare in agony.

The cold seeped into my flesh, and when my teeth started chattering I wanted to scream as the broken enamel of my busted teeth clicked together. Gritting my teeth was barely bearable, still pain, but a steady pain that I could handle. Every time I bumped against the building it hurt from my wrist all the way to my sternum. My balls hurt like I'd been kicked square, even the head of my dick hurt.

My toes burned, then went numb, my fingers grew clumsy and felt like they weren't even attached to anything. Watching them move was like watching someone else's fingers pull the 550 cord up and wrap it around my forearm. My neck burned for a few steps, then went dead. My ears gave a whimper and then were just nothing. My nose actually felt better, the pounding ache that I'd been feeling since I'd been hit in the face vanishing.

When a hand came out of the white surrounding me, grabbing my right arm, and yanking me, I screamed and starting fighting, aware I was being pulled through something.

"Ant!" Bomber's voice. I looked dumbly at Nagle in front of me, the broken window behind her. The snow was almost two feet deep near the window, and everything in the office was covered in snow.

"Now what?" Nagle asked.

"Motor Pool." I said, moving over to my desk and yanking open the top drawer. My compass was sitting right where I'd always left it.

"I can't make it." Taggart shivered, hugging herself. "I'm not you three."

"You are now." Nagle told her, moving over other to the window. She clipped a D-ring from her belt onto the end of the cord that was wound up at the window. I unwound the cord, letting Bomber wind it onto his arm.

"I can't do this." Taggart whined.

"You don't have a choice." I told her.

Outside, in the platoon area, Oakes screamed long and loud. There was a scraping sound on the door to the platoon office we were hiding in.

"We gotta move." Bomber said, taking the last of the cord and moving to the window. I nodded and tossed him the compass, he smiled and jumped out into the snow. I pulled a D-ring full of more D-rings. I pulled one off and threw it to Nagle. She nodded and clipped it to her belt loop and then onto the cord leading out the window.

"You're next, Nancy." I said. She opened her mouth and I glared at her.

"Taggart, follow Nagle." I said, moving up to her. I clipped a D-ring to her belt loop, then to the cord. "Keep moving."

She swallowed, nodded, and went out into the snow, vanishing less than a foot from me.

I moved over, grabbing a chair and putting it under the handles of the door, which was shaking as something began pounding on it.

"Just stay in there." I muttered, moving over to my brother's desk. In the bottom drawer I found what I was looking for, shoving it in my back pocket, then moved quickly over to the window.

I took a couple deep breaths, screwing my courage to the sticking point, and clipped my d-ring on before climbing out the window and into the snow.

For a little while the cord vibrated in my hand before it stopped, and I wondered if they'd reached the motorpool fence. I kept slogging through the snow, putting one foot in front of the other, following the trail that Bomber had made that was already filling with fresh snow. My face felt sunburnt, and my cheekbones felt like they were sticking out of the skin. My head was swimming, and I went down on one knee, retching into the snow.

Looking up, I blinked away the snow, my sister appearing in front of me, her lip swollen and her eye blacked from where the cop had put two punches into her face.

"Are you going to leave me, Ant?" she asked me, crying.

"Tammy..." I said, crawling forward.

"Get up, Ant." My father said from behind me. "ON YOUR FEET!"

I struggled up, kicking at the snow, adrenaline flooding my system. I trudged through the snow, ignoring the warmth, ignoring the urge to close my eyes.

"Give up, Ant." My mother said from the snow. I could see her shadow out there. "Just lay down and give up, stupid boy." She sneered at me.

"Fuck you." I grunted, anger pounding at my temples. I used the anger, like hard eyed drill sergeants had taught me to do, then officers and NCO's in the unit and the units we supported.

I stumbled over something in the snow, going down on my knees, then face first into the snow. If it hadn't been for my D-ring I would have lost my grip on the cord and gotten lost in the snow. I kicked out, hitting something that I'd fallen over.

Something that moaned softly.

Almost blind I patted my way back over until I found a figure covered in ice and snow, finding out that it was a person.

I pulled one arm up, pulling it over my shoulders, and started moving again. Whoever it was started moaning and batting at me, and their legs tangled in mine and we went down in the snow.

It took me a little while to struggle to my feet, my head pounding, and spitting coppery taste into the snow. I reached down and pulled on an arm, Taggart's face swimming into my vision.

"Wake up!" I screamed, slapping her hard.

Her eyes flickered, her eyelids opening to reveal eyes that had rolled back in head.

"Taggart, wake up!" I shouted again, slapping her once, then bringing my hand back and slapping again, and then repeating it again.

She moaned, pushing at me.

"Wake up, troop!" I screamed over the wind and snow, jamming one hand down her shirt and putting my frozen hand against her stomach. She stirred, and I pushed harder, into her pants and cupping her crotch, squeezing mercilessly, bunching up the sensitive flesh in my hand.

Taggart came awake, screaming at the top of her lungs and pushing at me. I pulled my arm out and slapped her before pulling her close.

"You've gotta keep moving!" I shouted.

"I can't." She said, her eyes rimmed with ice. It was too cold for her to even cry.

"You have to." I said, pulling on her. "I can't carry you."

"I can't." She repeated, sagging.

I turned back to her, seeing her go down to her knees, and I put my hands on either side of her face.

"You have to get up!" I shouted again. "You have to get moving."

"I can't, I'm not like you guys." She said, her eyes fluttering.

"Tandy is out here! He'll kill you, he'll tear your baby from your stomach and eat him!" I yelled. I slapped her hard, her skin too cold to even welt up. "Get up!" I grabbed her ear and pulled.

She screamed and lunged up, and I drug her behind me, struggling up the hill. When my hands found the wire I knew I'd started to cry. I slipped through the wire, pulling Taggart after me, and followed the cord as it wove between the vehicles.

She kept going down on her knees, and I kept pulling her up, screaming at her to go on, slapping her face, dragging her by her hair when her softcap came off and was whipped away by the wind. She screamed in pain, she tried to go down on her knees, but I was merciless.

Just two more steps...

She slumped against a vehicle, rocking back and forth, and I moved back, grabbing her hair and wrapping my hand in it, and then yanking her to her feet to stumble behind me.

Just two more steps...

We were moving up the back hill behind the motorpool building when I fell, still pulling her by her hair. She shrieked and went down next to me, sobbing as I kept crawling, yanking her head forward with each movement.

"Stop, please..." I heard over the wind.

"Two Nineteenth Special weapons!" I bellowed out, struggling to my feet. I grabbed her arm and pulled it over my shoulder.

Just two more steps...

"Born to fight!" I shouted, dragging her uphill through the waist deep snow.

"I can't..." she whimpered.

"Trained to kill!" I yelled, yanking her forward.

Just two more steps...

"Willing to die!" She shrieked, lunging up, scrambling forward.

"BUT NEVER WILL!" Both of us yelled, stumbling face first into the wall.

The cord ended in a wall, and I was staring at it when the door opened, a yellow rectangle with figure standing in it.

"FINISH THE FIGHT!" The figure bellowed into my face, grabbing Taggart and pulling her into the yellow square. Another figure stepped up and pulled at me.

"Two nineteenth!" The second figure yelled into the snow, pulling me in.

I blinked stupidly at the woman in front of me, standing there, swaying back and forth.

"Get them under the heater." The woman said, grabbing my arm and dragging me toward the middle of the room until I was standing underneath a warm downrush of air. Fingers pulled my field jacket off.

"Get the showers started, they're hypothermic." The woman said, stripping off my shirt and dropping my pants around my ankles. "Stand at attention, goddamn it!" she barked before she turned to another woman, stripping off her field jacket, top and shirt to expose her breasts. "Hurry up, redneck!" she turned back to me. "You call that attention! Back straight, chest out, shoulders back!" Bleerily I followed her instructions, wondering whether or not we were going to be inspected.

"Stay on your feet, brother." A man said, kneeling down to unlace my boots. "Kick 'em off. Stay up, Ant, stay on your feet."

"Two nineteenth." I mumbled, kicking off first one boot then the other. He peeled off my boots before he stood up.

"Finish the fight." he answered, grabbing my arm. "Come on, brother."

My bare feet slapped on the pavement, the chill in the concrete and the frost not even noticed as he pulled me.

"Get up, troop, get up!" came from behind me. "Bomber, get him in the shower and come back and help me."

I could smell steam when the door was pulled open, and the figure pushed me into the showers, and I stumbled and went down on one knee.

"Twisted steel and sex appeal." I mumbled, pushing myself to my feet to stand under the scalding water.

I screamed as the flames leaped up and the stench of burning flesh and jet fuel filled my nostrils. I bulled forward, bouncing off the tile wall and back under the water. I bellowed again, charging forward, and bouncing off the wall again. Pain blazed up my arm, but I ignored it as I caught my balance and charged again, toward the heat, not away from it.

"Shit, he's going apeshit. Get in there, Bomber, we gotta warm her up and he's freaking out." The woman said.

Someone tackled me, and I tried to fight them, the flames roaring in front of me. I tried to kick them off, but they got their arm under my neck, sat on my butt, and pulled me backwards.

"Ant! Ant!" Someone yelled.

"GET OFF ME!" I screamed, reaching back and trying to grab whoever had me.

"Bring her in, I got him." the man yelled. "Goddamn it, Ant, it's me, John!"

"Let! go!" I said, kicking, my feet slipping on the tile. "Let! Me! Go!"

"Not until you calm down!" The man yelled. "Nancy, I need you!"

I got my hands on him, grabbing under his jaw, and pulling forward, yanking him over my head and onto his back. Before he could move I lunged forward, smashing a fist into the center of his chest then driving my elbow into his face. I got to my feet, stepping back.

Someone grabbed me and hot lips clamped over mine, a tongue pushing into my mouth. One hand grabbed my crotch, squeezing gently, and the other hand went around my neck. Breasts pressed against my chest, and someone sighed into my mouth. When the kiss broke I felt a sharp pain in my lip as white teeth pinched into it.

My Nancy...

I blinked, the flames gone, and started shivering.

"You OK?" Nagle asked me.

"Yeah." I answered at the same time as Bomber, who had rolled and was getting up.

"Help me get Taggart up." She said, pulling my arm over her shoulder and pulling me close to her.

"Roger roger." Bomber said, moving over to Taggart, who was curled up in the fetal position under the shower. She was unresponsive as Bomber pulled her to her feet and drug her over beside us. Nancy grabbed her arm and pulled it over mine, looping her arm so it was around Taggart's waist.

"Huddle up, we gotta get the hot water on her belly." Nagle said. "We can't let her core temp drop too low."

We stood there, all four of us naked, under the hot water for a long time. Nagle started asking questions, trying to get Taggart to answer. It took a long time before her eyelids fluttered and opened, and even longer for her eyes to focus.

"Welcome back." Bomber smiled at her.

"Where are we?" Taggart asked, her teeth still chattering.

"Motor pool showers." Nagle answered. "Motorpool has its own generators, its own fuel, its own emergency supplies."

"Its own QRF armory." I said, smiling.

"What?" Taggart asked, leaning back and letting the water sluice across her face.

"It means, preggo," Nagle said, an ugly smile on her face, "That we can go back and kill every last motherfucker in that barracks."

"Do we have to?" Taggart asked. "Can't we just stay here?"

"No." Bomber said, his voice flat.

Nagle looked down and smiled before she looked up. "You boys are warmed up enough, go find us some clothing." Taggart looked down and turned beet red.

"Let's go, brother." Bomber said, and I followed him through the steam to the door.

"You two don't get dressed. I want you nice and docile around the two of us." Nagle called after us, and we grinned at each other.

"You check the lockers, I'm going to check the offices." I told him.

"Why?" He asked.

"Lieutenant Young is a control freak, and I happen to know he's gotten his swipe card replaced four times in the last two months, as well as claims one of his NCO's lost the warbook." Bomber nodded, and slapped me on the shoulder as we separated.

I went up the stairs, shivering in the chill, since the heavy duty heaters hadn't gotten to the stairs yet. The offices were warm, and I quickly tossed the desk, smiling when I found what I was looking far in the bottom drawer of his desk.

The fact he'd left his eight digit code on the back of the card made me thank God for paranoid control freak lifers. Even the warbook was there, and I scanned it real quick. They were supposed to be kept in the sensitive items locker, but LT Young was the type that wanted it right where he could get at it whenever he wanted.

I headed back down after tossing the other desks, finding a couple bottles of hard alcohol and two cartons of smokes. Smiling as I cradled them in my arms. Bomber was just coming over to the locker room off the showers, nodding when he saw me. He had a couple uniforms in his hands, along with some towels.

"We're back!" I yelled, sitting down on the bench. I passed Bomber a bottle and he took a long drink off of it before passing it to me.

"I'd rather you two stay nice and naked and docile." Nancy told us, exiting the steam, smiling at us. "But I need you two ready, and we need to plan." She paused, looking over her shoulder at Taggart, who was just exiting the steamy showers. "Plus, I don't want her staring at what's mine."

Taggart giggled, then got dressed with the rest of us, blushing bright red. I was smiling when the others finished getting dressed, running the swipe card across my cheek so what little stubble I had rasped.

"You have a plan." Nagle said, breaking into a smile.

"I've got a plan." I told her.

"Kurt Russel again?" Nancy asked.

"No." I answered, still smiling.

"What's a Kurt Russel plan?" Taggart asked.

"Ever seen The Thing?" Bomber asked.

"No." She answered.

"Then you wouldn't understand." Nagle said gently, reaching over and squeezing the other woman's hand.

"What's the plan?" Bomber asked.

I filled them in, and all three just stared at me.

"You're serious?" Nancy asked when I was done explaining.

"Goddamn right I am." I answered, still smiling. "Let's eat and get some sleep. When we get up, we go on the attack."

"Do you really have to do this?" Taggart asked.

"Enough!" Nagle shouted at her. "Don't you get it? They tried to kill us. They put us out in the dark and the snow. This is the second time the LT's little minions have tried to kill the three of us."

"You're one of us now." Bomber told her.

"You in, or out?" I asked.

She stared at the three of us, one hand going to her stomach. She was silent for a long moment, looking down twice. Finally, she looked at us.

"It's the only way I'm going to live to have this baby, isn't it?" she asked. We all nodded, and she took a deep breath.

"I'm in." She told us.

Chapter 34

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Nineteen?

I snapped the retainer onto the magazine, put my thumb over the top round, and pressed down sharply, the bullets snapping quickly into the magazine. I handed it to Bomber, who slid it into the magazine pouch, and picked up another magazine while Taggart handed me another clip of 10 bullets. Nagle mimicked my actions, handing the magazine to Bomber, who put it away, and Taggart handed him another clip, reaching down and picking up another box to open it with her teeth.

"How did you know that the you'd find the keys to the armory?" She asked. It was warm in the QRF armory, the heavy heaters keeping the entire open bay warm. We'd slept in the back of a 5-ton that had its engine scattered all over the bay after preparing, and I felt better than I had in days.

"Sergeant Austins served in Vietnam." I told her, taking her offered bullets. She gave me a curious look and I went on. "During the Tet Offensive, he had a CO who didn't let anyone carry around loaded weapons, only the guys on guard duty, and they only got to carry one magazine."

"Why?" She interrupted.

"Because he was a cock." Bomber answered.

"Anyway. When the Tet Offensive happened, they got overrun, and the CO got killed in first couple minutes. They ended up using knives and enemy weapons and a shitload of his buddies got killed. The VC cut his throat and left him for dead." I told her.

"Wait, he's the one with that bad scar on his neck." Taggart asked.

"The very same. Because of that, I knew he'd have the arms room keys in his desk somewhere." I told her.

"How did you know about it?" She asked.

"You know how there's that little group at the back of the NCO club?" Nagle asked, handing a full magazine to Bomber.

"Yeah. I tried to sit with them once, but they just glared at me until I left." She looked kind of sad at that. I took the bullets she was offering.

"You aren't old enough to sit back there." I told her.

"I'm older than you." She said, sounding confused.

"It ain't the years, it's the miles, baby." Nagle answered, reaching up and running a black fingernail down the scar on her face. "Ant's one of the old men."

"Gimme another one." I told her after I stuck my tongue out at Nancy, then handed Bomber the magazine and picked up another.

"The magazine pouches are full." Taggart said.

"Silly boys carry extra ones in their back pockets." Nagle told her, smiling. She held up a full twenty round magazine. "Girls carry them too."

I finished loading up the magazine and handing it to Bomber, who put it in his back pocket. Nagle had stood up and strapped on her LBE over a kevlar vest, before picking up the rifle. Taggart was busy trying to fill her 20 round magazine, and I put my magazine in my back pocket and pulled on my Kevlar and LBE. Nagle strapped on her gas mask, and we all copied her, waiting while Taggart caught up. While Taggart was tying on her mask, the three of us slid cot ends into the cravats we'd tied earlier.

"Do we need to do it this way?" Taggart asked.

I opened my mouth just an explosion went off. Someone began screaming, and a weapon fired full auto.

"Looks like someone else had the same idea." I grinned. The weapon fired again, this time creating bright spots in the heavy steel as rounds punched into it.

"You knew." Taggart accused me.

"I wanted to set up a Claymore." I told her, walking over to the door and waiting.

"I'm glad you didn't." She said.

"You need to grow some fucking ovaries, troop." Nagle told her, punching her in the shoulder. "We're going to survive this."

There was another loud bang, and more screaming. I chuckled and scratched my ass. Bomber popped in a piece of MRE gum with a grin. Nagle leaned over and kissed Taggart on the cheek. More gunfire from the in the room, this time lasting only a split second.

"They're out." I said.

The others nodded, and I reached out pulled open the door, hitting the lights at the same time. Kebble and Logan were backing up, holding onto their eyes, waving their rifles around with one hand.

"Give it up!" Nagle yelled.

"Scatter!" John yelled. He'd seen the same thing I did, that Kebble's bolt wasn't locked back.

Kebble raised her rifle, still backing up, still with her hand over her eyes.

Nagle shoulder blocked Taggart out of the way and followed her in the same motion.

The rifle wasn't even halfway up when flames erupted from the barrel and bullets began flying. She had it on semi, and was yanking back the trigger as fast as she could.

Bomber dove at the same time I did, and I hit the ground, curling up in a ball as Bomber kicked the door shut.

The rest of her magazine hit the wall.

"Get me up! Get me up!" I started yelling, holding my hand up. Bomber looked at me for a second, then heaved me up. I gasped and then snarled, hatred, rage, and adrenaline pushing away the agony.

"Give 'em another flashbang!" I yelled, snatching open the door when the gunfire stopped.

Taggart pulled it off her LBE and tossed it through the door, her expression full of rage.

"YOU FUCKS TRIED TO SHOOT MY BABY!" She shrieked as I shut the door. Her rifle was coming up, but Nagle knocked it out of the way with the handgrips of her own.

"Save it, troop." Nagle told her.

The grenade went off, but we didn't hear any more shouting.

"Shit, they're back in the tunnels." I growled, yanking open the door. The heavy steel blast door was slowly swinging shut.

"Flashbang out!" Bomber yelled, tossing it through the opening as he ran forward, letting the rifle fall on the sling, pulling out the cot end and slamming the steel bar into the crack of the door, stopping it with almost three feet of space. He lunged back and bullets just missed him. The flashbang went off with a crack and someone started swearing as Bomber high crawled out of the way.

"I'm going to kill you, Kebble!" Nancy yelled, rolling into the doorway and shooting over Bomber's legs.

"Fuck you, bitch!" Came back from the War Fighter Tunnels, followed by another burst of gunfire.

"Run, bitches!" I bellowed, leaning around the corner and firing three quick trigger pulls. Two voices screamed, and I laughed at them. "This is my game now, you fucking REMF's!"

"Nancy, he's bleeding." Taggart said.

"Leave him." Nancy answered, firing another two rounds to richocet and spark.

"Grenade out!" I yelled, pulling it off my harness and throwing it. It vanished into the darkness and I heard someone scream. I pulled two grenades out of my fag bag and put them back in my LBE.

"Grenade out!" Bomber yelled, throwing one of his own into the hallway.

There was a light pop, and I turned and grinned. Nagle already had her gas mask on, and was Taggart was pulling her hood back and pulling the drawstring. I looked back and Bomber was pullng his on. Yellowish smoke was drifting out of the War Fighter tunnel as plastic shattered and metal groaned.

"Ant, Bomber, hurry, the door is closing." Nagle yelled.

She was right, the hydraulics were massive cylinders designed to pull closed a concrete wrapped in steel door that weighed (as near as we could figure) almost two tons, designed to withstand a near nuclear hit. The cot end had held for a few moments, but it was already flexing.

"Moving!" I shouted, charging into the smoke. I could hear someone coughing, and I dove through the door and into the smoke. The CS gas made my eyes sting a little, but not much.

I was used to handling the raw powder for the last 3 years. Nagle thought it was funny more than a few times to throw it in my face or line my mask with it. More than one time I'd be taking a hot shower and she'd throw a handful of the powder on my bare skin then run off laughing.

I hit the floor and rolled to the side of the tunnel, bullets whipping over my head, and I hosed a burst back before I lifted the barrel, shifted my hand, and fired my M-203 down the tunnel. The tunnel curved, more blast deflection, but I'd angled my shot so I heard it bounce a couple times before it went far enough to arm the fuse. Someone screamed when it popped and I started laughing, crawling through the tear gas.

"We're in!" Taggart yelled.

"Ant, hold still." Nagle said, crawling up next to me and pulling my first aid pouch off my LBE. I nodded, firing off carefully spaced shots while Bomber crawled up and past me on the other side of the tunnel.

We were at a major disadvantage. The tunnels had designed for the contingency that we needed to hold off a dedicated assault after the nuke burst. It was a reality, outlined in plans that some MI dwonks had gotten a hold of when a Spetz commander had defected one drunken night. Bomber and I had poured the whiskey into him, Nagle had blown him, and by the time he sobered up he was in the clutches of MI and we were debriefing everything he'd drunkenly admitted. The fact was, we were going to be nuked at the opening of hostilities to deny V Corps and III CosCom as well as 8th ID the munitions and special weapons we handled. The Soviet Union intended on following it up with a full assault to clean up the survivors, since they knew about the tunnels thanks to a fucking douche who'd sold them the site coordinates, maps of the tunnels, and our fucking METL.

Someone had strangled him in his room with a length of commo wire.

Still, we had to keep moving, they had cover and we were wide open, the tunnel widening and narrowing, with curves and interlocking fire points.

"Goddamn it, Ant, can't you do anything right?" Nagle bitched at me. I felt her tighten down the field dressing straps. I kicked twice and started crawling when she slapped my ass, changing my magazine while Bomber kept plinking shots forward, then quickly pulling a 40mm grenade off my bandoleer and loading my M-203, the empty shell ringing off the tile.

"203 out!" I called out, pulling the trigger. The 203 thumped against my shoulder and the round rang off the cement before popping. I heard more coughing, and it sounded like someone was vomiting. My nose was starting to tickle.

Bullets rang on the corner, whining and bouncing away, and I heard Taggart cry out as I reloaded my M-203.

"We're going to fucking kill you!" someone shouted, hacking and coughing. It sounded like Kebble, but I couldn't tell through the choking. I reloaded my M-203 again.

"Eat this, bitches!" I yelled, firing another CS grenade and pulling back right before more bullets shattered tile and howled off the roof.

"You're fucking dead!" Logan yelled.

Bomber rolled across the hall, thudding off the far wall of the tunnel as I fired spaced shots down the hallway. Someone screamed, and I fired three times rapidly, hoping to follow up the hits, then pulled back.

"Oh God, I'm fucking hit." Logan groaned.

"Like that, bitch?" Bomber yelled, and hosed an entire magazine down the hallway, bringing out screams. He reloaded real quick while I kept firing, and I reloaded as he began spacing shots down the hallway. "We got more where that came from!"

"Give it up! You're outgunned!" I yelled down the hallway, crawling quickly around the corner while Bomber spaced shots.

Another spray of gunfire lashed out of us and Bomber jerked his head around, the filter exploding out of his mask. He pulled off his mask, his snarling face a mask of blood. I could see his teeth through the hole in his mouth as he turned back around.

"It takes more than that to stop me, you fucking REMF bitches!" He bellowed, his Texas accent thick enough to cut with a knife.

Up ahead was the first crossways, one tunnel leading to the mess hall, the other looping back around to a blast vent. If they were to the right or left, and we tried to cross, they'd cut us apart.

"Just fucking die!" Kebble screamed, and I could see the muzzle flashes of her weapon ahead of me, the bullets whining over the top of my head. Bomber crawled over to the left hand side, rolling over to the side of the corner. Nagle high crawled next to him, pulling his field dressing off his LBE. Bomber snarled and pushed her away, firing two more shots down the corridor.

Taggart slapped my boot and I reached back, grabbing what she was pushing toward me. I pulled it up, socking the butt against my shoulder, the steel recoil plate solid against my sore flesh. Taggart crawled past me, stopping twice to fire her weapon in spaced shots before she was in the right hand corridor

"Bomber, Ant, charge!" Nagle howled, rolling across the hallway to the right hand corner.

Bullets howled down the corridor ahead of us, and Taggart yelped as I rolled into the middle of the hallway with a grin.

"Eat this!" I yelled, yanking down the trigger.

The pig roared to life, throwing 7.62mm full metal jackets down the corridor, the belt rattling through the feed tray as the roar of the light machinegun hammered at all of us. I kept the trigger down until it ran out, then threw it aside and started crawling again. Bullets were still howling from the pig, I could barely hear Nagle and Taggart popping off rounds behind us from where they were kneeling at the intersection in the hallway.

Ahead of me, through the CS gas, loomed the door to the main complex.

I jumped up and run, my knee buckling once, and pounded down the hallway, diving through the door to land and slide on my LBE vest. It knocked the breath out of me, but let go of my weapon, drew the cot leg, and jammed it into the door frame.

"Bastard!" Logan snarled, firing at me as I rolled behind the barricade he was hiding behind, pulling the knife out of my boot. When he leaned over to shoot down at me, I lunged up, my knife getting hung up in his Kevlar vest, and I stabbed again, the point digging into his skin and laying open his face until the blade ripped through his ear. He screamed and fell back, dropping his rifle, which I grabbed and threw it away from me, popping up over the barricade just in time to see him disappear over the next barricade and into the hallway.

"Clear!" I shouted, ducking back down. I could hear someone sobbing as boots thudded in the short hallway that led to the main command center of the War Fighter Tunnels. Bomber hammered up next to me, vaulting over the barricade and clumsily rolling next to the next barricade. Taggart came up next to me, dropping the M-60 and opening the loading tray to slap the lead end of another belt into it. Bomber started banging more bullets down the hallway, tears running from his eyes and snot running out of his nose.

"Keep up the pressure." Nagle yelled, her voice muffled by her mask, emptying her magazine into the short hallway. Bomber crawled around to the door and knelt next to it. Blood was running down his face and staining the Kevlar vest. Bullets howled into the room, bouncing on the walls and smashing the tile. Something slammed into my shoulderblade, but I ignored it. I looked back at Taggart, seeing that there was a melted rip in her mask hood, and I could see that Taggart was bleeding, blood running from a notch missing out of her left ear, but through the lenses of her mask I could see her eyes were bright, her lips parted as she panted, and she was flushed.

Combat high.

There's nothing like it. Nothing in the world. Your whole body fires up, every nerve and muscle alive, everything sharper, clearer, more real than it ever was before or ever will be again. It's better than booze. Better than money.

Better than sex...

"Give up or we'll kill you both!" She screamed out, and I knew I wanted her, right then, on the floor, and when I looked up at Nagle, I could see the same thing on her face that I knew was on my own. Her eyes were bright through the lenses of her mask, and I knew by the way her mask flexed she was panting too. I grinned, and both women's eyes crinkled, letting me know they were both smiling.

"Fuck you then, we'll just kill you both and throw you into the snow!" Nagle yelled after another flurry of bullets tore through the air. She handed me my weapon, the buttstock cracked, and I racked the charging handle to make sure it operated smoothly. "Lock bayonets!" she bellowed. "Two nineteenth!"

"Finish the fight!" All four of us answered, our shouts drowning out the gunfire.

I pulled the extra bayonet off my LBE, locking it on, then yanking the scabbard away and throwing it to the side.

"Grenade!" Taggart yelled, coming up in a Basic Training perfect pose, one leg behind her, the other brought up, her hand cocking back before throwing the grenade down the hallway to bounce. We all turned away as the flashbang went off, and Bomber was up and moving while they were still screaming in the main room. I scooted around both barricades, my leg feeling like it was about ten times its size, running after him. My foot squished in my boot as I ran, keeping close to the opposite wall of Bomber. Something tugged at my uniform sleeve as I moved forward, and I could see both of our quarry flee through the far door, abandoning the command center. I pulled the trigger on the M-203, the grenade flying down the hallway, through the door, across the command center, and through the other door before exploding beyond. Someone screamed, and I laughed as I crouched down behind a desk, looking at Bomber. He was flushed, grinning despite the gaping hole in his cheek and his shattered front teeth, his eyes just as bright as Taggart's and Nagle's.

"Goddamn I missed this!" Bomber yelled at me. I could barely hear him, my ears ringing with all the gunfire and explosions in the close confines, but I grinned back.

Explosions and tunnels did not mix.

"Don't forget this!" I yelled, popping back up from behind the desk and firing the M-203 again, pulling it down just far enough that the 40mm grenade wouldn't scrape the roof.

It impacted against the heavy steel door at the far end, and someone screamed.

"Bomber, the door!" Nagle yelled, she tossed him her cot end, which he caught in one hand, only glancing at it. "Go left!" she finished.

Bomber jumped up, running down the hallway while Nagle banged rounds down the hallway on the other side He flattened against the wall and pulled his fist down twice.

"Flashbang out!" I bellowed, leveling the M-203 and firing it.

There was a reason I won every competition for the M-203 I'd ever been in.

The grenade went off on the other side of the door, bringing out more screams. Bomber fired a long burst through the doorway as the three of us came pounding up.

The door on the other side of the room slammed shut, and I turned to the three others.

We owned the War Fighter tunnels.

But it wasn't enough.

We were pumped up, the adrenaline was flowing, and blood had been spilled.

We had steel in our fists, and blood in our eyes.

I hit the door controls, and Taggart and Nagle pulled grenades from her LBE's. As soon as the hydraulic system pushed open the door far enough, both women threw the flashbangs through the crack, Nagle a heartbeat after Taggart. They both pulled back and we all turned away as they went off, and we all dug into my bag, reloading our grenade holders on our magazine pouches.

There were no screams, but ice and snow blew back through the door.

A door slammed further up.

"RUN, BITCHES, RUN!" I bellowed up the stairs as I stepped into the snowy stairwell, under the stairs. Ice was still tinkling down from where it had been blown loose by the two flashbangs.

I could faintly hear boots thudding on the stairs as Kebble or Logan kept running up the stairs.

Bullets whined in the stairwell, hitting nothing, although tile chips, ice, and snow tumbled down around me.

"Let's go kill them." I said, turning and grinning at the others.

"Fucking finish the fight." Taggart snarled. She'd pulled off her mask and stowed it, and blood was all over her face, a cut across her forehead.

"You heard the woman." Nagle said, stepping into the alcove and then into the bottom of the stairwell.

"Let's finish this up." Bomber growled, blood still flowing down his jaw and off the point of his chin.

"We're coming for you, bitches!" I shouted up the steps, and began stomping up them.

2/19th Special Weapons. Born to fight.
Trained to kill.
Willing to die.
But never will.
Finish the Fight!

Chapter 35

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Nineteen?

I was halfway up the stairwell when something clunked against the wall and clattered on the steps. Ice chips flew from the wall it had hit, and it was a green sphere with a yellow stripe around the middle.

"Grenade!" I yelled, spinning and jumping off the steps while I was still shouting. Nagle slung Taggart through the open door, and Bomber landed on her, covering her with his body. Nagle followed and I was counting seconds as I slammed on top of her right as my inner count reached four, my hands lacing across the back of my neck like the other three soldiers with me.

The grenade went off with a roar, the concussion slapping against us, and I felt a wirelike burning across my legs, ass, and back of my arms. My right hand felt like it was broken, and when I pulled my hand away it was covered in blood.

"You'll pay for that, you fucking assholes!" Taggart yelled. "Get off me, you goddamn Texas fuck!"

Bomber rolled off her, groaning, blood starting to stain his BDU's.

"Keep up the pressure!" Nagle yelled, pushing to one side so I rolled off her. "Get 'em up, get 'em up!" She was pulling on my arm, grabbing my bleeding hand and squeezing it tight.

"You fucking bitch!" I roared, coming to my feet. She slammed my rifle against my chest and spun me around.

"Sic 'em, boy!" she said, pushing me toward the stairwell.

Above us, someone was sobbing. I started laughing as I mounted the steps, stomping hard with each step. Bomber joined me, moving up next to me, laughing with me as we climbed the stairs.

"Logan, get up, please get up!" Kebble was begging.

"We're coming for you, Barbara!" John yelled, still laughing.

"We're horny, Barbara!" I added, my side starting to hurt.

"We've been dead a very long time!" Taggart yelled from behind us. The girls were laughing too, their laughter full of darkness and blood.

Above us we heard thumping, and I knew that Kebble was trying to get Logan on his feet.

But Logan had never trained with the units Nagle, Bomber, and I had. They'd never done the things we had. They'd never seen the things we had. They'd never survived a winter here.

And they never would...

"Fifth floor." John grunted, spitting blood on the ice covered steps. I grunted in agreement. People instinctively moved up if they could, took high ground if they could.

"Ant, Bomber, fall back." Nagle snapped, and we let her move ahead of us. We kept moving up the stairs, our throbbing eardrums paying attention for any telltale sounds of someone tossing another grenade at us. We'd stopped laughing, and moved in grim silence.

Nancy kept her weapon at high ready, swiveling quickly as she reached each landing, her finger white on the trigger and her face, wet with fresh blood, grim and set.

My Nancy...

The building seemed hushed, expectant, almost eager.

There was blood on the third floor landing, and I touched it, pulling back wet fingers. Someone got hit by their own grenade when the shrapnel went bouncing around the stairwell like angry hornets in a jar.

"Up." Nagle hissed, her lips pulled back into something that was only remotely related to a grin, exposing her teeth.

We kept moving up the stairwell, Taggart watching behind us, keeping an eye on our six in case there were other surprises waiting for us.

We hadn't accounted for Marks or Raleigh, and until further notice, anyone not us was the enemy. The building was the enemy. The mountain was the enemy. The snow and wind were the enemy. Tandy and whatever the fuck the LT and the axe crazy fuck were the enemy.

There was only the enemy.

My side still ached from laughing. A throbbing, pulsing ache that I ignored.

"Scatter!" Taggart yelled.

There wasn't exactly any where to go on a stairwell, but I threw myself over the railing, dropping to the next flight of steps below us. Nagle threw herself against the wall and up two steps. Bomber threw himself flat on the landing, rolling to put himself against the wall.

Taggart was two steps down, down on one knee, facing the opening door that was revealing Logan snarling through blood smeared teeth, his rifle coming up to his shoulder, and a gasping Kebble, her pants stained with blood, pushing the door open for him. She had nowhere to go, no place to take cover, and was caught in the open.

Rifle fire hammered.

Chapter 36

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Nineteen?

Taggart was caught out in the open, kneeling down, facing the door that revealed Kebble and Logan, Kebble pushing open the door, Logan leveling a rifle. Taggart's rifle was against the hollow of her shoulder, her left hand wrapped around the hand grip, her cheek against the butt of the weapon.

Her finger pulling the trigger.

Logan's rifle shattered, the upper and lower receivers flying apart, the buttstock shattering, and Logan screamed and fell back.

She kept pulling the trigger, and Kebble screamed, throwing herself away from the door. The bullets hammered into the door, and Taggart stopped shooting only three shots into the door, coming to her feet and screaming profanity at the top of her lungs. She took a step forward as I scrabbled up the steps.

"Halt!" Nagle yelled, and Taggart instinctively stopped just before her hand hit the door. "Don't do it, Taggart."

"They fucking doubled back." Bomber snarled.

Up above us the stairs shook as heavy footsteps started down. The light coming in through the windows dimmed, and a shriek boiled up from further downstairs, back the way we had came. The blood on the landing crackled and glittered, and the air hurt to pull in.

"Down! Down!" Nagle yelled, jumping to her feet. I turned around and hurried down the steps, taking them two at time. My side still hurt, but I ignored it, my leg throbbed, but it didn't matter.

Snow blew down the stairwell, and the wind bit into us as it howled down the stairwell. Nagle gasped, and Taggart stumbled against me, her rifle falling to hang from the body sling we'd showed her how to use. My ears had turned to throbbing chunks of ice, and the wind seemed to strip away all the body heat I'd built up, the sweat from fighting in the darkness freezing on my skin, my shirt burning the small of my back from where the sweat had frozen. My balls felt like two hot coals dumped into my belly as I hit the second floor stairwell with my shoulder, falling into the snow filled hallway.

Taggart landed on top of me, her rifle barrel hitting me in the face. Before the door could shut, Bomber stumbled through, falling to his hands and knees, his teeth chattering. He wasn't bleeding any more, the wound gray and sickly looking, the blood frozen to his face.

Nagle came next, slamming the door behind us, and began kicking us, avoiding Taggart's belly and instead concentrating on her thighs.

"Get up! Get up! ON YOUR FEET!" She bellowed, kicking at us until we started getting up. "Tandy's coming!" she yelled, grabbing Taggart by the arm and pulling her.

I rolled over, and Bomber grabbed my LBE, pulling me to my feet. He leaned forward and slammed his forehead against mine, grinning at me when he pulled back. "We got this, brother."

"Twisted steel and sex appeal." I grinned back, starting to feel better.

"Run, you idiots!" Nagle yelled from further down the hallway. She was standing next to a door, and Bomber and I stumbled after her. When we got to her, she grabbed me, pulled me close, and dug into my top to grab my dogtags, pulling them off me and jamming the key into the lock.

Bomber and I stood there grinning at her.

When the door swung open, she pushed Taggart in, then turned and grabbed both of us by the front of our LBE's and yanked us into the room.

"Get in here, you two morons." She snarled, slamming the door.

Bomber and I started laughing, leaning against the wall lockers where we had fallen. He leaned forward, putting his hand behind my neck and slamming his forehead against mine.

"WHOO! WE FUCKING MADE IT!" he yelled.

I started laughing, holding my side.

Taggart had crawled further into the room, collapsing on the floor, sprawling out. She started laughing too.

Nancy slumped against the door, letting her rifle drop, and joined us.

"I can't fucking believe that shit! You fucked them up, Taggart!" Bomber howled, holding his side with one hand and pointing at Taggart with the other.

"I dropped the M-60 when the grenade went off! They're gonna fucking bill me for it!" Taggart laughed, rolling onto her back.

"What are they gonna do, bend your dogtags and send you to Germany to live on a fucking mountain?" Nancy laughed, slapping the floor.

"They're gonna take away her birthday, put her in full battle rattle and camou, and make her do standto in the shower!" I laughed, holding my aching side and laughing.

That got us all howling, the image of Taggart standing in the shower like that sending us further into hysterics.

"Nancy, the boys are losing a lot of blood. Are you sure they'll be able to get it up without all that blood?" She laughed.

"It's not like they use it for their brains!" Nancy laughed.

"You know, those two are going to try to kick in the door and kill all of us." I laughed, which caused the others to howl with laughter. Taggart raised her rifle and fired over all of our heads, putting four bullets into the door in rapid succession, and we all started laughing harder.

"I've got an idea." Taggart hiccuped after a long moment.

"We're gonna die here?" Bomber laughed, making the wound on his cheek crack and bleed again.

"No, you dumbass." She hiccuped again, pointing at the window. "We go out the window, down to the mag office, and come at them from behind while Tandy can have the stairwell all to himself."

We all stopped laughing, looking at the window, then at each other.

"Fuck it, let's do it." Nagle said, struggling to her feet, Taggart doing the same. They'd left a bloodsmear on my floor where they had each been sitting.

So did Bomber.

So did I.

We opened the window, the wind and snow blowing into our faces. Without even bothering with D-rings, cord, or any safety measures, we stepped out in the snow, still giggling and hiccuping.

Behind us, as the window vanished into the snowfall, something hammered on the door loud enough to be heard over the wind.

The snow enveloped us, isolating us from each other, only our hand on the wall keeping us from wandering out into the storm and vanishing.

Four little Indians...
Struggling through the snow...
Four little Indians...
With nowhere left to go.

Chapter 37

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Nineteen?

The wind whipped around me, the blood soaked parts of my BDU's quickly getting stiff and sticking to me. My side hurt from all the laughing, and my knee kept bucking. I could feel the loss of the adrenaline that had powered us through the combat in the tunnels, and part of me knew we were goddamn lucky.

Logan and Kebble wouldn't have trained to use the tunnels properly. That, and they were two dipshits facing off against three stem winding motherfuckers and a motivated titty slinging bitch.

Things kept whispering at me from the snow. The kid who beat the shit out of me in the Junior High School because his mom was friends with my mom and I couldn't fight back. The girl who took my virginity who was hit by a car. My mother. Voices in German. Voices I didn't know.

I ignored them and kept slogging through the snow, following the trail Bomber was blazing.

How the hell had a nice boy... oh... wait... I wasn't a nice boy. This is what I deserved.

I needed a nap.

I was getting really tired.

My hand found the windows for the mag office, and I jerked realizing I'd been stumbling along without really paying attention. I hurried forward, finding the broken window.

When I climbed in and turned around I smiled at Nagle, who was sitting on my desk lighting a cigarette.

"Close." I said, shaking myself to get the snow off of me.

"My rifle's frozen up." Bomber said, pulling on the charging handle, which stubbornly stayed where it was.

"Take mine." I told him, handing it off. He looked doubtful, but took it anyway, and I drew the .45 I'd taken out of the QRF armory.

"Warm up later, let's go." Nagle said. Taggart nodded, her teeth chattering, but didn't argue.

"You see them, fucking waste them." I said, and the other three nodded.

"Boys, you're pulling drag, Taggart, you're with me." Nagle said, moving over to the door. "Anything happens, Taggart, kneel down so the boys can add their firepower. Go left against the wall, if it's too ugly, go prone." She smiled. "Welcome to 2/19th, troop."

Taggart smiled, a fiercely joyous expression that seemed out of place on the young woman that only a little before had pleaded for everyone to step back and stop before things went too far.

Now that things were too far, she was hanging in with us. No flinching, no backing down,

We went out into the mag area, where the desks were piled up by the window, trudging through the six inch deep snow, which crunched under our boots. The lights were flickering, and one of them went out with a pop that showered down sparks that hissed as they hit snow.

Nagle kicked open the door to the first hallway section with one good kick, ice shattered off the doors. I was panting, a bad case of dry mouth, and my side hurt like I'd just ran a marathon. The hallway was dark, the light dusting of snow unmarked by bootprints. Icicles hung from the ceiling and frost coated the walls. The emergency light was just a pale dull yellow that shed no light on anything, still flickering but doing nothing to illuminate the hallway. The snow got deeper as we trudged through the hallway, passing room after room, and almost halfway down the hallway to the double doors when we heard them.

"They aren't in their room and the war stocks rooms are still locked, maybe they went down to open the armory." Kebble was saying.

"I'm going to kill that pregnant bitch, she fucking shot me..." Logan was saying.

We were already moving as the double doors opened.

Taggart went left, dropping down on one knee, firing as she moved. Nagle went right, dropping down at the same time. Both women tucked into the doorways, which were sunk almost six inches into the wall, which was double cinderblock thick. Bomber threw himself forward and down while I dropped down and fired the pistol.

Logan grabbed Kebble before we could even move, swinging her in front of him as we fired. Kebble screamed, and Logan shoved her away, throwing himself out of the line of fire and behind the double doors.

Kebble stumbled forward and went face first into the snow. We lunged up and pounded down the hallway, sliding to a stop in front of Kebble. She was laying in a spreading blood pool, moaning and moving feebly.

Nancy leaned down, pulling her head up by her softcap.

Kebble had been shot twice in the face, one bullet tearing a furrow across her temple, the other one having hit her under the right eye and exited at the right jawbone. Blood was drooling out of her mouth, a bright red trickle that thickened when she exhaled, blood bubbles roiling out from between her lips and pouring from her nose.

"Hello, Cock Sucking Kebble." Nancy said, squatting down. "Remember when I told you I was going to kill you." She smiled. "I kept my promise." She dropped Kebble's head with a thump and stood up.

"Please. Help me." Kebble whispered, blood pouring out of her mouth and onto the floor.

Taggart squatted down lifting Kebble's face up and cradling it in her hands, ignoring the blood that poured down her fingers, steaming in the cold.

"You tried to kill me and my baby, Kebble." She said, then spat in the other woman's face before snapping her face downward so that Kebble's face hit the tile with a splat. "Bitch." she snarled as she stood up.

Bomber stepped forward, kicking Kebble in the ribs. "That's for losing my goddamn paperwork all the time."

The other three looked at me, and I just looked down as Kebble raised her head again and pleaded with us to help her.

"Goodbye, Kebble. Enjoy the snow." I said, moving past her and pushing open the double doors before stepping into the hallway beyond.

From further down the hallway, behind us, came a low liquid chuckle and a scraping noise.

"I don't think you'll have much time to enjoy it." I threw over my shoulder as the others quickly moved by me into the hallway.

"Let's head to the Game Room and finish this." Taggart said. We all nodded and Nancy pushed open the stairwell door, leading the way down the icy steps that were covered in shattered ice, snow, and blood.

When we reached the first floor and opened the door, Kebble began to scream.

Chapter 38

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Nineteen?

Nancy kicked the doors of the Titty Territory open, the snow on the other side of the door churned up and splotched with blood. Someone had crawled down the hallway, and we could see the doors at the far end were open. No bullets heralded our arrival, but like me, Nagle knew that Logan didn't have a weapon, Taggart's weaponfire having destroyed it.

"RALEIGH!" Came Logan's bellow, echoing down the hallway. "RALEIGH! I NEED YOU!" The hallway echoed with his cries.

From above us, Kebble was still shrieking, noises that no human should ever make.

I had my left arm wrapped across my stomach, holding my gut, pressing one hand against the stitch in my side. The weapon was heavy in a hand that I could only feel because it was throbbing in time with my heartbeat, on the end of an arm that was nothing but a bar of fire. Bomber hawked and spit out a gobbet of blood into the snow, the blood dripping off his face again. Taggart put one hand on the wall, and it left behind a smear of blood. Nagle was wobbling as she walked.

All four of us left blood in our bootprints as we stalked down the hallway.

"Raleigh, help me! They've gone crazy, they're going to kill all of us!" Logan screamed.

I shoved the pistol back into my LBE and drew my knife, quickening my footsteps.

"Raleigh, please! I can't walk!" Logan screamed.

We were halfway down the hallway. The blood on the snow had frozen, there were icicles hanging almost a foot off the ceiling, and the walls, doors, and alcoves were covered in ice.

"Raleigh, please..." Logan begged.

The hallway snow was churned up, as if the marks of all of our passage had suddenly appeared.

Or like Tandy had drug someone down the hallway.

"Raleigh, you fucking coward!" Logan screamed. "Help me!"

Two thirds of the way down the hallway.

Bomber and I brushed past Taggart and Nagle, who waved Taggart back after glancing at both of us. Bomber was grinning, and he flexed his left hand as we kept moving. I went to roll my shoulders and hissed in pain as my right shoulder ground and crunched in the socket.

"Sons of bitches. Tried to kill my baby. Should have cut her tits off. Goddamn bastards." Came from behind me and I chuckled, breaking off in a gasp as the stitch in my side pinch really badly.

"Raleigh! Please!" Logan's voice was weaker.

Above us, someone ran down the hallway.

Behind us a little girl giggled.

Music came from Stokes room, Nightmare on My Street with the Fresh Prince rapping, and Bomber chuckled, low and growling.

I love her to death, but has the worst taste in fucking music... my brother bitching one drunken night to Bomber and me.

The crunching of the snow under our boots was louder than the gunfire in the stairwell. Nancy groaned and swore "...keep it together, bitch..." to herself. Taggart was still snarling under her breath. Bomber was chuckling, having moved onto some private joke or in anticipation. I was smiling, clenching my fist and relishing the sweet agony that rolled up my arm.

"Marks, goddamn it, I swear to God, if you don't help me, I'll fucking kill you and your butt buddy!" Logan screamed.

As we drew up to it, Kebble began screaming from inside the stairwell. I looked over in time to see her bloody face slam against the glass, her face distorting as something pressed her ravaged face against the ice and glass. Blood bubbled from her nose and sprayed from her mouth as she screamed again.

"Mother of God." Nancy breathed.

"Fuck that bitch." Taggart snarled.

Bomber just chuckled, hawked, and spit blood onto the window as Kebble was suddenly yanked away from the window. She was still screaming as darkness filled the window and the blood that Bomber had spit on the window froze solid.

I shoved Bomber out of the way when we reached the doors, stepping through, ignoring Kebble's fading shrieks.

It was snowing in the CQ Area, the doors to the Day Room open and snow blowing in from outside. You could barely see, the room dark and filled with whirling flakes. The wind bit into my exposed skin, but I could barely feel it any more.

Logan had crawled almost to the game room doors, and was on his side in over a foot of snow. The snow around him was bloody, the crimson slush around him steaming in the cold air.

"GODDAMN YOU, RALEIGH, HELP ME, YOU BITCH!" Logan screamed, the tendons in his neck standing out.

The crunching of snow under my boots made him look toward me as I loomed out of the snow, looking down at him with my Gerber in my bloody hand.

"No..." he whispered, rolling onto his stomach. "NO!" he screamed, trying to crawl away.

I didn't say anything, just took another step. Bomber stepped up beside him.

"Please don't." Logan sobbed. "I'm sorry." His legs weren't moving right, kicking spasmodically at the snow as Bomber and I took another step forward. "It was Kebble's idea, I swear."

I leaned down and swiped my knife across the back of his knee, twisting it savagely and feeling it bit deep.

Logan shrieked then, kicking with one leg, the one I'd slashed just flopping.

Bomber stepped forward and put his boot on the back of Logan's neck, pressing him slowly, inexorably pushing him down into the snow.

"No, please, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..." Logan whined as his face was pushed into the snow.

"You fucking shot at my baby!" Taggart yelled, lunging forward.

Nagle grabbed her by the back of her LBE, yanking her back.

"This is a boy thing." She smiled.

Bomber pressed until Logan was flat on the ground, his boot pressing hard into the back of Logan's neck.

"MARKS! RALEIGH! OH GOD, HELP!" Logan screamed. "PLEASE! DON'T!"

I dropped one knee into the middle of his back, and Bomber moved his foot as I grabbed his head and pulled him backwards, exposing his throat.

"No!" Logan screamed.

The Gerber flashed, and blood sprayed across the snow. I let go, Logan grabbed at his throat, but Bomber stomped on one hand and I grabbed the other. He struggled, making bubbling and choking noises, but I just watched, wiping the knife off on the back of his field jacket.

He went still, just muscle trembling in one leg, and I stood up, turning to face the girls. Beside me, Bomber shot him twice in the back of the head, then turned with me to face the girls.

Nagle's eyes were bright, and she licked her lips, staring at me. Taggart's eyes held the same thing, her lips slightly parted, her pale face flushed at the hollow of her throat and her waxy cheeks.

"Raleigh, honey, everything's OK." Nagle called out, moving over to the door, her eyes still on Bomber and me. "I left my peanut brittle in there, honey!" she gave the code phrase, turning the handle.

The door swung open.

Only Nelson and Clifton remained, coated in frost like everything else in the room.

Nobody alive was in the room.

"Where are they?" Taggart asked as Bomber and I stumbled into the room and went to sit down. Nagle grabbed both of us by the back of the LBE and yanked us up.

"Stay up, you two." She snarled, then moved around the table. She took one look down, then straightened up, her face ugly. "Bitch took my fucking aid bag!" She looked at Bomber and me, standing in the room, swaying gently back and forth, and swallowed. "Oh shit, I need that bag."

She looked around the dim room, her lip held between her teeth, chewing at the skin the cold had started to peel, her eyes wide and vulnerable.

"Oh fuck... I need my bag..." she mumbled. She looked at me, tears glittering in her eyes. "I don't have my bag."

"It's OK." I told her, sitting down. Well, more like my legs went out from under me and I landed on my ass, groaning as it made the twinge in my side pinch really hard. "I'm just gonna sit down for a couple minutes, while you look for the bag, OK?"

"Yeah, it'll be OK, Nancy." Bomber said, moving over to sit on a bunk. He was swaying side to side. "Everything will be just fine. I trust you." The rifle fell from his hands and clattered on the ground as he leaned forward, his head hanging down, blood dripping from his face onto the frost covered floor.

Nancy jerked like she'd been slapped, the confusion, uncertainty, and fear vanishing from her face to be replaced by determination, anger glimmering in her eyes.

My Nancy... I smiled at her, then closed my eyes, leaning forward so my head was bowed, my hands in my lap. Droplets were landing on my hands, and I sighed, licking suddenly dry lips.

Just a quick nap

Chapter 39

2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Early Winter - 1989
Day: Nineteen?

I was being drug through the snow, cruel hands under my armpits. My boots were dragging in the snow, my legs sliding along the tile. Whatever was behind me was panting, talons digging into my flesh. My right hand was leaving bloody streaks in the snow, swollen and purple with a hole in both sides, my pinky rotated 90 degrees so the underside of it pressed against my ring finger. My left hand was purple, one finger twisted, and the under the fingernails of both hands were black. My pants were covered in blood, a hitch in my side like I'd sprinted the last part of a 2 mile PT run.

My fingers didn't even twitch, my hand didn't even move when I tried to move my right arm and draw my knife, which I could see still clipped to my LBE belt.

A sharp pain in my side drew a groan from me.

I kicked one foot, trying to get to my feet under me, but they just flopped around, the toe of my right boot kicking up a spray of snow. My blurry eyes focused, and I realized I was being drug down the hallway of Titty Territory.

I heard ice shatter, and I was pulled through the doors, out of Titty Territory, and into the stairwell, the door bumping against my legs before whatever was dragging me pulled sharply, the talons digging in under my armpits.

I was being drug down the stairs, my boots bouncing.


With a scream I tried to fight, tried to grab the banister bars with an unresponsive right hand, bucking and kicking. The talons let go of me and I landed on my back, sliding down the steps, still screaming and kicking.

"Are you done?" Nagle asked, her voice dry enough to strip the ice from the hallway.

"Huh?" I asked, staring up as Taggart came into my field of vision.

"We're going to try to evac out through the tunnels." Taggart said. She nudged me with the toe of her boot. "Get up, you're fucking heavy."

"Try having him laying on you." Nancy shot back, and I heard thumping as she moved out of my field of vision.

"Come on, get up." Taggart said, holding out her hand. I took it with my left hand, my right arm refusing to even move, and she heaved me to my feet. She went to pull my arm over her shoulder and I pushed her away, staring at her sleeve.

It was dark with blood.

"You're wounded." I mumbled.

"So are you and Bomber. Can you walk?" she asked, pointedly looking at my left hand, where I was holding onto the banister. I nodded, stumbling down the steps, more keeping ahead of falling down than actually walking. When I slumped against the wall of the first floor Taggart grabbed my LBE and yanked me back up. Dragging me after her down the stairs to the bottom floor.

Bomber was laying on the floor, limp, pale, blackened flesh over his cheekbones, and a pressure dressing on the side of his face. Nancy was inside the War Fighter Tunnel, checking out the entry room.

"Get up, John." I mumbled, kicking him in the side with the toe of my boot and then groaning when my side twinged. He moaned and I kicked him again, harder. "Get up, hick."

"...bull... stomped..." he mumbled, twitching, and I kicked him again, harder.

"Get up, Hammer Head." I grunted, kicking him again. He groaned, his eyelids fluttering.

Someone tried to pull me back, but I was grinning down at him and kicked him again in the side. "Get up, John." He opened his eyes, one pupil wide open and the other a pinprick.

"Aw fuck, I'm in Hell and you're still here." He groaned.

"Get up." I grinned again, kicking him again. Blood was falling onto the floor next to him.

"Help me up." He told me, holding out his hand. I took it with my left hand and he pulled hard, yanking me down on top of him, one hand grabbing the back of my head and slamming my forehead into his.

I collapsed next to him, both of us laughing.

"Get those two idiots on their feet." I heard Nancy say. Despite her words her voice was warm and full of affection. Taggart reached down and pulled Bomber up, then me, and I leaned against Bomber, both of us using the other to hold ourselves us.

"Hey, Big Titties." John grinned at Nagle.

"Let's go." She said, turning around and vanishing into the room. There was a pause, and the lights kicked on. She was standing in the room, tapping her foot, her arms crossed on top of her Kevlar covered breasts, her rifle slung over her right shoulder. Her face was bloody, and she had a black eye.

My Nancy...

"Let's go." Taggart said, pushing us.

We moved through the War Fighter Tunnels, where a lifetime ago we'd fought for every inch we gained against members of our own unit. Bomber and I often stopping to start laughing, to try to catch our breath, and once while I threw up and then dry heaved. Every once in awhile Kebble or Oakes, it was hard to tell when the screams were almost inhuman, would start shrieking, and Bomber and I would join in before busting up laughing. Sometimes Nancy let us get it out, other times she slapped us until we stopped laughing.

We started to round the blast corner when Nagle held up her hand, then turned with her finger pressed against her lips. Me and Bomber had been giggling, sliding two fingers into the blood running down our faces or arms and flicking it at the other, spattering each other, smearing it on the wall, or once chasing Taggart for a few steps before I stumbled, fell on all fours, and threw up when my right hand hit the floor and my right shoulder took the impact, Bomber tripping over me and falling face first into the steaming bile.

That had caused us to lay on the tile of the War Fighter Tunnel and laugh for a couple of minutes before the girls could get us to our feet.

She shushed us, and me and Bomber covered out mouths to smother the giggles at her expression. She rolled her eyes and crouched down, pulling the rifle off her shoulder.

"What's wrong?" Marks. His voice was loud, tinged with hysteria.

"I don't know how to open it!" Raleigh. She sounded like she was crying. "The map said this was an auxiliary egress and I can't open it!"

"Raleigh, honey, it's Nagle." Nancy called out.

"Get back, you pale faced bastard!" Marks shouted. Bullets whined and ricocheted in the deflection curve, shattering tile. One of the lights exploded and went dark.

"It's me, Marks, Nagle. You've got my peanut brittle!" Nagle yelled back. "Cease fire, goddamn it!"

"Peanut brittle?" Marks asked.

"Oh God, the pass phrase!" Raleigh yelled. "Marks, stop shooting, it's really them!" Her voice sounded like he was sobbing.

"Is Hendricks with you?" Nagle yelled back.

"Yes. We carried him on his cot." Raleigh answered.

"Marks, Taggart and me need your help. Ant and Bomber are hurt really bad." Nagle yelled.

"We're fine." Bomber yelled back. His fingers had been smearing the blood around on his face, and he looked up, made a face at me, and went "Rwar!" which sent me into laughter.

Marks came around the corner, his rifle held in high ready, looking at us down the sight. When he saw Bomber and I standing there, grinning at him, he dropped the rifle down and ran forward.

"What the hell happened to them?" He asked.

"Don't ask." Nagle sighed, slumping against the wall. Blood was dripping off her fingertips on her left hand. "That way you won't have to testify at our court martials."

"Nagle, we're trapped, and there's something in the tunnels behind us." Raleigh sobbed. "We kept hearing screaming."

"It's OK, honey. Give me a second." Nagle moved up to me, while Marks was trying to keep Bomber from smearing blood on his face. "Where's the swipe card?"

"If it was up your ass, would you know?" I giggled.

She slapped me, and I glared at her, then burst out laughing, slapping her chest with my left hand. She patted me down, then dug in my front pocket, pulling the swipe card out of my pocket and the code book out of my thigh pocket. She glared at, watching the blood drip off of it.

"Shit. Figures." She grumbled, and drug me by the LBE around the blast deflection corner and to the heavy steel door that separated the War Fighter Tunnels from outside.

She handed the code book to Raleigh, while I sat down and looked at Hendricks. He was covered with blankets, another cot end taped to the end of the cot with two IV bags hanging from it. I patted his blanket covered foot.

"'Sup, Hendricks?" I asked.

He just laid there.

"Feelin' OK, man?" I asked him. Nagle was talking to Raleigh, something about as soon as she swiped the card Raleigh had to find the cross code as fast as she can, that the book pages were color coded, and she'd call out the color and then the numbers and letters.

Hendricks didn't answer me.

"The LT really fucked your ass up, didn't he?" I said, rubbing his leg. "Don't worry, man, Nancy's got you, you'll be good."

Bomber was laughing hysterically and Marks was yelling at him to cut it out.

There was a loud CLACK and cold air blew in at us. I looked up in time to see the heavy door being pulled the side. I could hear the huge chains rattling, the motors and hydraulic pistons thumping as the door was drawn slowly to the side.

Outside there was five feet of snow, but what was sitting in a pool of yellow white only about a hundred feet away made me push myself to my feet, Bomber cut loose with one of his bullshit ass Texas yells, and everyone else yell with victory.

A 5-ton truck and a CUC-V, covered in snow, next to the lower egress guard shack.

"Ant, you and Bomber stay with Hendricks. Taggart, Raliegh, Marks, let's see if the keys are in the guard shack or if we have to this the hard way." Nancy said, tromping out into the snow.

"Fuck that, we stay together." I mumbled, picking up the end of Hendrick's cot, the surge of adrenaline at the sight of the vehicles letting me blow through the pain and somehow wrap sausage-like fingers around the end of the cot. "Bomber, grab the other end."

"Aye aye, Crap-tan!" he laughed, stumbling in front of me. His face was pale, his lips were dry and peeling, and the dark circles under his eyes were gone, just pale skin. He wrapped his hands around the end. "One, two..." Both of us heaved up on three and staggered out into the snow.

Five hundred vertical feet. That's all the tunnel dropped down in a gentle slope, six hundred vertical feet.

We were below the clouds, the snow just falling in a light dusting, hardly any snow on the pad, although snow was piled around the pad in drifts over my head.

"This is it? That's all that's down here!" Bomber shouted as we stomped up into the snow, packing it down, sinking almost waist deep.

"It's because God knows you touch yourself!" I yelled back over the wind. Nagle was coming out the guard shark, shaking her head, and Taggart was digging out the door to the CUC-V. Bomber and I were slogging toward the 5-ton, the snow packing under our feet.

"Ant, Bomber, come back!" Raleigh yelled, slogging and cursing after me. Marks was trying to catch up.

Bomber and I grunted, and I went down on one knee when I tried to lift it up above shoulder height, retching. Marks was there, though, catching the end and lifting it as Bomber staggered backwards dragging the cot with Hendricks on it into the back of the heavy cargo truck. The canvas was flapping in the wind, a familiar, comfortable sound.

"There's no fucking keys!" Taggart yelled. "What the fuck are we going to do?"

"Handle it, brother." Bomber said, and I nodded, wading through the snow to the driver's side of the 5-ton and pulling open the door. The chain was wrapped around the steering wheel and then around the handle on the frame, keeping it from being stolen easily.

"Give me a sixteen!" I yelled, my damaged mouth, swollen and dry lips slurring my words. Taggart came over to me, handing it to me.

"I was going to shoot off the lock on the CUC-V." she told me.

"Don't ever fucking do that." I told her seriously. I looked over my shoulder at her and giggled for a second at her expression. I didn't know what it was, but it was funny for some reason. "The bullet will hit, and at the very least blow through the lock and destroy the tumblers, keeping it locked. Usually it blows into shrapnel, bullet fragments and the lock itself hitting you."

"Then why do you want a rifle?" She asked.

"This." I said, pulling it back over my shoulder and slamming the butt plate into the lock.

Cold is an amazing thing. Steel locks and weeks of sub-zero temperatures had done fun things to the metal.

The lock's hasp snapped with a crack.

I pulled the chain off the steering wheel, getting in and hitting the switches. Lights and dials came on, and I could hear the ticking of the glow plugs.

"YES!" I shouted, trying to pump my fist. The pain my shoulder made me groan and curl around it.

"Ant, get out." She said.

"No." I said, listening to the click of the glow plugs.

"Who's driving?" Taggart yelled to be heard over the wind.

"I am." Marks said, climbing into the cab. "Move over, man, you can't drive with that hand." I nodded, lifting up my hand and staring at it while I scooted across the street.

"Ant, stick your hand in this." Nagle said, yanking open the door. She had her softcap, pulled out of her pocket, filled with snow. I nodded, taking the cap and jamming my hand into the snow.

"Can you feel that?" She asked. I shook my head. "Goddamn it." She turned away from the truck. "Raleigh, you're with Bomber and Hendricks in the back. Hammer on the back of the cab if we need to stop!"

"What about me?" Taggart asked.

"You're in front." Nancy said, climbing up next to me.

"How am I going to..." she asked, then saw Nancy pull back the ringmount hatch and stand up.

The 5-ton fired up with a roar, and Taggart jumped in, panting heavy. Her and Marks slammed the door at the same time. Taggart touched Nagle's leg, keeping her fingers against the pant leg for moment, and when she pulled her fingertips back they were covered with pink.

The truck jerked as Marks threw it into gear, the snow bunching up, falling over the hood.

"Windows up!" Marks yelled, and Taggart reach out, grabbing the lever and pulling, raising the window. Marks did the same, and the snow pushed across the hood and fell into the cab.

"Yes! Yes! Yes!" Taggart sounded like she was orgasming, and I started laughing again. When she punched me in the shoulder I screamed, and she laughed.

We stopped every so often to sweep off the hood, or for Marks and Raleigh to get out and use the shovel in the back of the cargo truck to shovel the snow out from in front of the vehicle. I kept going to sleep, but Taggart would either slap me, or grab a handful of snow off the hood where it was dropping into the cab and either push it into my face or dump it down my shirt.

At Dead Man's Corner Raleigh got out and walked, running engineer tape from each of the yellow markers by the side of the road so that Marks could tell where the corner was. Raleigh told us that Bomber was laying on the bed of the truck, asleep, and she couldn't wake him. Nagle yelled back to cover him up, pull him over the transmission, and we kept moving.

Taggart was huddled up next to me when Nagle's knees suddenly buckled and she limply slid into the cab. Taggart managed to catch her as Nagle fell into her lap, getting her hand between Nagle's head and the dashboard. She winced at the crack, and when she pulled Nagle onto her lap I could see a blue line on the pale flesh of her hand. Marks slammed on the brakes, glanced at Nagle, then hit the gas again.

"Is she breathing?" I yelled, then saw the plume of her breath.

"Keep going!" Taggart yelled, unzipping her field jacket. Nagle's face was white, the tip of her nose black, her lips blue, her eyes closed. Her eyebrows, hair, and eyelashes were coated in frost. Taggart brushed off her face as she unbuckled her LBE and yanked open her field jacket with one hand.

Marks glanced over, then turned his attention to the road.

Nancy's leg was kicking spasmodically, and Taggart just ripped open her BDU top, yanked up her brown T-shirt, and pulled Nagle's face against her breasts before wrapping her field jacket around her.

"Jesus, she's cold." Taggart said, her teeth chattering.

I nodded, staring at my lap. My hand was still in the snow filled cap, the snow red. My pants were covered in frozen blood, the right side of my LBE stiff with frozen red rimmed with white frost.


I drew in another breath, the stitch in my side finally gone.


I closed my eyes.


John, brother...


My Nancy...


We kept our promise, preggo...


And went to sleep.


Nuremberg Army Hospital
Western Germany
Late Winter - 1990
January 11

I was laughing with Bomber, lifting up a stein of beer, Nancy cuddled up next to me and sucking on my ear where my earlobe used to be, alternating between ticking me with her tongue and biting me. Her hand was under my shirt, in my open zipper, and was gently caressing me. Around us people moved, singing like we were, and on the stage the German band played.

My watch started beeping, and I set down my beer stein and hit the button.

It kept beeping.

Glaring at it, I tried again.

It kept beeping.

Bomber started laughing, sputtering into his beer, as I started slamming the face of my watch against the edge of the table.

It kept beeping.

I pulled off my watch, and dropped it in my beer.

It kept beeping.

Nancy stopped sucking on my ear, Bomber set down his beer stein, all three of us cocked our heads and looked at the 1 liter mug the beeping was coming from...

The beeping woke me up. It was annoying, and wouldn't stop.

When I opened my eyes, I remembered where I was, where I'd woken up only a few hours before. They'd transferred me to a new room after unhooking me from the respirator, the catheter, and everything else. They wouldn't tell me my injuries, just telling me to rest, that rest was what I needed. I'd gone to sleep when the nurse had turned my light off and left me in the dark.

The drugs flowing into me from my IV had done their work, dragging me down within minutes. But I was awake again, and I remembered where I was and how fucked up I was.

The room was in Nuremberg Army Medical Center, I was laying there with both legs and both arms in casts, staples in my stomach and shoulder. My left eye didn't work, apparently it had stayed open due to blood loss, hypothermia, and a concussion, and the cold had done the rest. The eye itself looked fine, the pupil moved, but it no longer fired into my brain.

"You awake, boy?" The voice was rough, gravelly, and sounded like Sam Elliott after a night of whiskey and stripper bars.

"Father." I said, rolling my head to look at him.

He was sitting in his Class-A's, his rank on his upper arm sleeves, hashmarks climbing on both arms toward his elbows. A rack of medals that you'd need a howitzer to penetrate.

His life in bits of metal and cloth.

Lines and scars on his face made him look old to me, but his green eyes, just like mine, were just as penetrating as I remembered. He smiled, and he suddenly looked younger.

"I'm here, boy." He told me, pushing himself to his feet. I'd forgotten how tall he was. Taller than me, taller than Monkey, and even old he was built like a linebacker.

"Father." I choked out.

"Son." He said, putting his hand on my forehead.

I started crying.

"Let it out, boy, there is no shame for a real man to cry." He told me, putting his other hand on my chest. He stood there, letting me be a child again, letting me be his son, letting everything be all right now that he was there.

I tried to speak, and it came out as a croak. He picked up a brown pitcher with a lid and a straw, moving it so I could sip out of it. I drank greedily, and he pulled it away.

"Easy, boy." He told me.

"Nancy. Bomber." I croaked.

"Alive." He told me. I started crying again in relief. He didn't shush me, didn't tell me to stop crying, just smoothed my hair back and kept his hand on my chest, telling me that there was no shame, to let it all out.

"How..." I croaked, and he gave me more juice. "How bad?"

"You're friend, Nancy Nagle, she woke up a few hours ago. Your friend, John Bomber, he woke up about an hour ago. They're moving them both down here." he told me. "I insisted that they move them down here, so the three of you can be together."

It didn't surprise me that the Old Man had that information or that kind of power. He'd been in the Army since before most of the people in the hospital had probably been born.

"How bad?" I repeated.

"Not good." He rubbed my hair, his face grim. "She saved you, boy." His voice got softer. "She saved my boy."

"Father, please." I said, and he jerked, his eyes moving from whatever he was looking at to my face.

He sighed, and looked old again. "It's not good." The first honest answer I'd gotten. "The three of you were hypothermic, four of you had suffered a lot of blood loss, had shrapnel and bullet wounds. The guy with the axe wound is out of ICU and recovering."

He waited a moment.


"She's fine. She was released, and placed under arrest pending an investigation." He smiled again. "That's why I wasn't here when you first woke up. I got her released and to her debriefing when I arrived from Bragg, then I came straight here."

Of course he would see to her. She'd been there, stood with us, and survived. My Father believed in loyalty. I felt nothing but satisfaction that he'd done what he did. I'd have done the same, and I was glad he had seen to her and not left her in a cell somewhere.

"Her baby?" I croaked.

"Fine." he told me. I knew it was the truth. My Father never lied.

I started crying again, and fell asleep to my Father stroking my forehead.


Nuremberg Army Hospital
Western Germany
Late Winter - 1990
January 21

The door opened, and the four us stopped speaking. Bomber and Nagle were in the same position I was, laying upright in the hospital bed. John's face had been put back together with staples, Nancy's nose was bandaged from where the Army had given her a nose job to repair it after the frostbite. Taggart was sitting in a chain, her legs in braces and a fresh scar on her forehead, the hair having barely grown back from where it had been shaved away so they could put twenty two stitches into her head.

My Father stood there for a moment, waving someone away, and then walked into the room. Despite his age he was still unbent, and his BDU's were bare, no rank, no patches, no jump wings, no name, no nothing, just US ARMY over his heart. His gray hair was in a flat top, and he looked the model of exactly what he was. The grizzled Sergeant Major come to visit his wounded troops.

He pulled our beds so we all faced the middle of the room, waved Taggart to a chair, and then pulled one out so it was in the middle of the room. He sat down, pulled his notebook out of his pocket, flipped it open, then took out a pen before he looked up.

The silence was thick. Despite his kindness, he intimidated all of us.

"No bullshit, soldiers." He broke the silence. "Nothing you tell me will be put in the hands of JAG, but I want to hear what happened. There's more to it than what you all told JAG and CID."

Nancy, John, and Cathrine all looked at me, and I pretended not to see my Father's smile at the loyalty as I nodded.

We told him, the full, uncensored version of what had happened. The way the LT had gone power mad, gone crazy if he ever was sane. How Bomber, Nagle, and I had been tied to chairs and beaten in an attempt to extract a confession that we were Soviet agents. The fact that the Rear-D had become divided up into factions. How it had ended in an orgy of retributive bloodshed and murder.

We even told him about Tandy, how the LT had come back, how the guy from the year before had come back, how people had just vanished.

How we'd killed one another in the snow, the cold, and the dark.

Through the whole thing, he just sat there, nodding, making notes, asking for a few clarifications, but just accepting everything we told him.

When the story was over, he snapped the notebook shut and leaned back.

"JAG is not going to be pressing charges against you." He said. We all breathed sighs of relief, and he nodded, looking serious. "The doctors say that you three are safe to be released from the hospital, so when we're done here, I'll be signing you out on my own authority, and we'll be going back Stateside."

"Where will we be going, sir?" Taggart asked, her voice small.

"I'm not an officer, soldier, I work for a living." My Father told her, smiling. "You'll be going back to Bragg with me, and then you can go wherever you want."

He stood up while all of us looked at one another, unable to believe our luck. He began walking toward the door, but stopped when Taggart asked a question that hadn't even crossed my mind. After all, he was my Father, his reach was unlimited, and if he wanted something to happen, it did.

"Why did JAG drop the charges?" She asked.

His shoulders hunched, and one fist clenched, his knuckles popping in the silence. Without turning around, he spoke.

"JAG sent four MP's and two CID, as well as a crime scene team in through that tunnel you soldiers came out of." He opened his hand, then closed it again, his knuckles crunching again. "I told them to take a Ranger squad, and insisted on being there when they went in, even though they turned down a team of my own men."

"What happened, Father?" I asked. I didn't want to know, but I had to.

He was silent for a long time. One of the ceiling lights flickered.

"One of the last things we heard was screaming." He said, and took two steps toward the door, reaching out and grabbing the handle. He paused, one hand on the handle, the other clenching again, the pops loud in the silence.

"The last thing we heard was the sounds of something eating." He told us. "I refused to send in my boys, and despite my advice, the OIC sent in a five man Ranger team he had pulled from a nearby unit." He was barely visible, the room lights dim.

The temperature seemed to drop in the room, and my shoulder suddenly throbbed.

"We waited twelve hours. None of them came back." He said into the dimness, and opened the door. The room seemed to brighten. "None of them will come back if there is a God." He said before he stepped out the door. He turned to face us.

"One of my men will bring you PT uniforms. Get dressed." His face was expressionless. "We're leaving for Bragg as soon as you're all dressed."

"Captain Stevens, have the nurses get them dressed, call Frankfurt and tell them we'll be there in a few hours while the nurses take them downstairs to my car." My Father told someone outside the room. "I want these soldiers Stateside now that JAG is done with them."

"Roger that." Someone said. They came in the room, carrying four folded PT uniforms. He was in BDU's, a 75th Ranger tab on both shoulders, airborne, air assault, and combat infantry badges on his chest. He had Captain on his collar, and his nametag read "STEVENS", he looked every inch one of my Father's men.

"The Old Man wants you ready." He stopped and looked over all four of us. We just stared back at him. The nurses came in behind him and stopped.

"Well?" He asked. A voice of command and authority, used to being obeyed.

"Leave the PT's, get the fuck out, and take them with you." I snarled. He jerked as if I had slapped him and he turned beet red. I swung my legs off the bed, letting my casts hit the floor.

"The Old Man said..." He started.

"I know what my Father wants." I told him, looking at him. Bomber had followed suit and Nagle was getting help from Taggart. "Did all those years eating snakes damage your fucking hearing? GET OUT!"

"Leave the PT's." Nagle added.

He flushed and turned around, waving the nurses off.

He left the PT's, and Taggart limped over to get them before coming back.

Taggart helped us dress, and blushed when Nancy kissed her on the cheek.

I knew that the Captain was running to my Father to tell on me. His minions had been doing that since the day my oldest sibling was born. Later my Father might lecture me about proper military courtesy, but that would be all, and I knew he'd secretly be pleased at the way we stuck together and done what needed to be done on our own.

"Where are we going to go when he lets us go?" Taggart asked as her and Nagle helped me into a wheelchair.

"We could go to John's parents." Nagle suggested.

"No." He said.

"What about Nancy's?" She asked.

"No." Nancy answered.


"Are you kidding?" I asked.

"How about my parents?" She asked.

"Where's that?" I asked, looking up at her.

"Nebraska." She told me.

"On a farm?" Bomber asked. She nodded.

"We'll be able to enjoy ourselves? Get drunk and laid without your parents getting mad?" Nagle asked. "Because the first thing I'm doing when they take these bandages off my hands is masturbate till I pass out."

"We can stay in the old bunkhouse, my father renovated it into a guest house when I was little." She answered, smiling at Nancy.

"Nebraska it is." I smiled.

"Corn is nice." Nagle said.

"I wouldn't mind milking a cow again." Bomber tossed in.

Bomber pulled open the door, and Taggart wheeled me out.

We might be put out over our injuries. We might be put out over what had happened. Despite my Father's assurances, we might go to jail.

But that was the future, and the future would take care of itself.

It always did.


Hotel Room, Fulda
Western Germany
Summer - 1990

The liquid was sweet, and warm, and tasted good as it squirted into my mouth. I swallowed and teased the hard little nubbin with my tongue again, sucking as I did so, and was rewarded with another squirt.

Taggart moaned, tossing her head as I swallowed and looked up, my mouth still attached to the nipple on the end of her milk swollen breast. Across from me Nagle smiled around the nipple in her mouth.

All three of us were naked, laying on the bed.

Her belly was swollen, her child almost ready to be born, but that didn't matter, what mattered is our touches on one another, soft words, and the sounds we all three made. She had been sent on TDY to 11th ACR for her pregnancy once we got off convalescent leave. Every time we saw her, her belly was bigger. Every time she saw us, she held out her arms for hugs and kisses.

Nancy brought her hand up, her fingers glinting wetly, and I opened my mouth and sucked on them for a moment, tasting Catherine, before going back to the nipple.

The milk was sweet, but life was sweeter.


Commander's Office
2/19th Special Weapons Group Barracks
Restricted Area - Western Germany
Late Summer - 1990
August 2

Colonel Howard walked into the room, stopping in front of his desk and turning to face us. My squad was there, with Major Archer between me and Monkey, who's squad was next to him.

"Gentlemen, six hours ago the nation of Iraq invaded the sovereign nation of Kuwait with tanks, infantry, and artillery. Casualties are rising, and units from the Iraqi Army are moving toward the border of Saudi Arabia." He began without any preamble.

Someone sucked in a breath. Monkey, the Major, and I all pulled out notebooks and started writing.

"You men and women are 2/19th's advance party, and as Iraq is a known NBC nation who has used chemical weapons in conflicts before, you are going to be deployed to Saudi Arabia immediately. You will draw full combat gear, two weeks rations, and will immediately go to the upper airfield, where a Chinook is waiting to take you to Ramstein Air Force Base with a Ranger team." He began, and we all sat and listened, making notes.

At the end of the briefing he asked us if there were any questions and I raised my hand.

"Corporal." He nodded.

"Does this mean that we won't be here this winter?" I asked.

"Since this may very well lead to war, I think that the fact that you may be engaged in chemical weapon combat should exceed your concerns about whether or not you will be here in the winter." He said. "But no, I expect that we will be there for at least a few years."

I smiled.


Log Base Echo
Saudi Arabia
Late Winter - 1991
January 10

I climbed out of the CUC-V, limping as I went into the TOC. Not from anything that had happened since I'd deployed to what was being called Desert Shield, but because my leg had healed crooked, my foot at an obvious off angle. They'd have to break my leg to fix it, and I refused, and could still pass the PT test in under 13 minutes, gimped leg or not.

It was freezing outside, which always made my leg and shoulder ache, and going into the TOC I was enveloped by warmth.

Taggart was sitting in the tent, having returned to the unit after her maternity leave, having left her baby with her parents and marched off to war without complaint. She saw me and waved me back out of the tent, grabbing her helmet and following me.

"What's going on?" I asked. Her face was tight with something I hadn't seen on her face in a long time.


"The CO's flipping his shit." She told me. Between the time I'd deployed and the unit had arrived Colonel Howard had sat down in his office, picked up his .45, stuck it in his mouth, and blown his brains out the window behind him. Now we had someone who had never even been to the unit prior to our deployment, having joined us and replaced Major Archer.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Rear-D." She told me, and my blood went cold.

Rear-D had been picked up by another unit, and they'd left a sixty man detachment there. The three people who had been sent back to Europe due to injuries had refused to return to the barracks, signing in 11th ACR's Read-D and refusing to go back to the unit.

"Spill." I said. Bomber and Nagle had come up behind me.

"They lost contact with them four days ago." She stared at us as we shrugged.

We knew that was going to happen, but a chill wind still blew through my bones at her words.

"He had you guys called back. He thinks you'll tell him what happened to Rear-D." She stared past us, through us. "He already asked me."

"Fuck him. We'll stick to the 'we don't remember' story." Bomber said.

"That's what I used." Taggart told us. "Marks just kept repeating his name, rank, and social security number. Raleigh just shut up and isn't talking."

"Why's he flipping his shit so bad? What could we have to do with it?" Nagle asked.

She stood there, silent for a long moment, rubbing her forearm that they'd taken three chunks of grenade shrapnel out of.

"Catherine, what?" I asked.

"One of the Rear-D, a PFC, was found about eight hours ago." She said.

We all shivered.

"Oh..." Bomber started.

"Fuck." The three of us finished.

"He staggered into the Ranger barracks while they were gearing up to mount another rescue mission, delirious. He was raving, but the CO found out something that looks pretty bad." Taggart told us.

"What, what did he find out?" I asked, not even looking, instead staring at the ice cold darkness.

"He had Oakes' and Kebble's dogtags in one hand, and an empty pistol in the other." Taggart answered.

The thought of going into combat, of fighting on the chemical battlefield, seemed a small trade for not being in those barracks for a fourth winter.

Our chances of survival were better.

Final Note

In 1991 they deactivated 2/19th Special Weapons. The sites were emptied and destroyed, the barracks blown up to our cheers, our vehicles scrapped, our records burned in barrels in front of us, our records redacted, and then we were scattered as orders were handed out or it dawned on us that we were forgotten or had been erased.

In my 201 file, my place of duty is redacted for the entire length of my stay there. My medical records are redacted.

Today, 2/19th is spoken about in whispers by the few in the know.

I hope you guys enjoyed it. Some things were spiced up, other parts were deleted or downplayed, some things are probably wrong. I left out some things at the request of three other people, making the story a bit disjointed in places.

That year forty people in the unit died in the barracks. Seven of us got out alive.

Jefferson had stayed behind with Nelson and Clifton, to guard them until a rescue mission arrived.

His body was never found. A thing I feel bad for.

Cariad posted:
"Like, what do they do now? What's Taggart's now nearly 21 year old kid like? Why aren't you married to Nancy etc..."

John Bomber is doing good. Like me, he's over 40, married, with kids. He lives on a ranch that he inherited from his parents, collecting his Army pension and working his ranch. He quit bull riding in 2005 after he broke his back breaking a horse. We talk often in email and on the phone, and last summer I threw him in the lake for laughs. He mailed me a release to use his likeness in the story, without being asked, and nagged me today about turning the first one into a script. Again. (Hi, John!)

Nancy Nagle never settled down. She's been married and divorced five times and only had one child in 1996. She got out in 2001, but was recalled to Active Duty a month later, and got out this summer. She comes over every few years, spends a month or so at my house, then vanishes back into the military again. My wife and kids love her like she was part of the family. She plans on moving often, living off her 100% VA rating, touring the country and the world, the northern hemisphere from April to September, the southern hemisphere from September to April, never stopping for long. I talked to her on the phone last week, when she called me to nag at me to turn the first story into a script like John wants. She told me she wants Kathrine Stewart of Twilight to play her so she can "watch that bitch get the shit kicked out her." She threatened that if I don't do it, she'll come by and stay with me for a couple months, then run off with my wife until the script is done.

Her and I never married. We weren't good that way. Too much shared fear, too much shared darkness. She was predatory, vicious, and mean as a rattler with a sore tooth, with the sexual morals of an alley cat in heat and unapologetic bisexual (although that wasn't a problem for me, it was usually a problem for the women in her life that I was in her life). We love each other fiercely, but she loves my wife too.

Her son has green eyes.

Catherine Taggart lives on a farm in Nebraska with her six kids. Like Nancy, John, and I, she's over 40, and when we get together, like at her husband's funeral in 2009, we talk about everything but that winter. She's still beautiful, and her hugs still make me feel wonderful.

My Father died in 1994. Catherine and Nancy cried as the rifles fired and they lowered him into the ground.

Raleigh died in 2004 of breast cancer. She is survived by her husband and two children. It rained the day of her funeral. Hendricks wept.

Marks and Hendricks live near each other in New York. Both are married, with children. We don't talk often. They just want to forget.

None will ever go to a 2/19th reunion.

Badger Pudding posted:
"I'm pretty sure he married a hippy."

She went through a hippy phase when she got out of the Army to have a child. She earned it the hard way, as a combat medic attached to a medevac unit. She introduced Monkey to his wife a year later when she went back on active duty.

When Nancy or Bomber visit, she gives us privacy the first night. When we pass out, she covers us with blankets. And when we cry, she lets us. When we talk, she listens. She isn't jealous or threatened by the bond we have. More than once she's walked into the room to see Nancy sitting on my lap, facing me, holding my face in her hands and kissing me, tears running down our faces. She simply comes over, hugs us all, and tells us to be gentle with one another, and not to scare the children.

When John broke his back and his wife called, I was at work. When I got at home, she handed me the keys, a plane ticket to Texas, and told me to go to him, and to hurry.

She's a good woman.

I don't deserve her.

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