Chapter Eighty One IV

MARINE
Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Non-Essential


Next morning, the Lt. General finds his Deputy General waiting outside his office, “Sir, may I ask what the fuck’s happening here? We’ve got people with no orders we are privy to running around redecorating a building, on top of the guys who, for the last year, answer to no one on this base.”
The Lt. General smiles, “My friend, there are things in this man’s army that are on a strict need to know basis. Since you don’t need to know, I suggest you carry on with your normal schedule. I presume you have enough work to keep you occupied?”
The Deputy immediately understands his role is not to understand, “I’m a blank slate, sir. And, yes, my roster is full to overflowing. My apologies for wasting your time.”
“You are never a time waster. It’s a fair question, just one I’m not able to answer. Maybe one day, not today.”
It isn’t an outright lie, he isn’t able to answer it; he lets his Deputy draw his own conclusions as to why.
Chan and Black are overseeing the additions to the building, I set up scramblers and jamming devices. Anyone trying to tap into our computers would get a notice on their screen that their computer had been infected with a virus and an offer to 'scan' the computer for malware. That bullshit will keep them busy, as it would not let them shut down their computer, shy of pulling the plug. Sis had created it, and also gave it the edge of encoding the IP address of the newly 'infected' user. A little research, and we could, if we wished, narrow it down to exactly what computer. All eight of us carry an encrypted Iridium satellite phone, conversations are not only scrambled, but are held mostly in Chinese and Japanese.
Nobody can connect to the invisible mental network between Janah, Nikko and me, we only carry phones so the others can reach us.
Janah, “You guys wander the base, catch the vibe. I’m going for a stroll past the targets’ quarters. Tonight, Daphne will see if there’s any conversation she can pick up. If nothing interesting arises, monks are setting up listening equipment now. I’d be surprised if our targets didn’t take some precautions, maybe not as elaborate as ours, but I suspect they do common distractions, turn up televisions, play loud music, use code words.”
Nikko heads off to the obstacle course, I come across what’s labeled as hand to hand training.
In fatigues with no sign of rank, I stand at the entrance. A corporal approaches me, “Help you, ma’am?”
I give him the Daphne smile, “Thank you, Corporal.”
I flash ID.  It told him he best pay close attention, it said Special Ops, Military Intelligence, no rank indicated.
“I’m a bit out of practice, too much desk jockey, where can I find hand to hand training?”
The Corporal, “Right behind those double doors, ma’am. It’s just getting started, I hope you know what you’re doing…ma’am.”
“Guess I’ll find out soldier, thanks again. Who’s in charge?”
“Staff Sergeant Franks, ma’am. May I make a suggestion?’
I smile again, the Corporal thought he might melt, he says, “Mean no insult ma’am, but Sarge, well, he’s old school. He don’t like training the women with the men. You might want to come back Thursday, that’s female self defense.”
“Thank you Corporal. I’m much obliged,” I stride to the double doors and pop them open.
The twenty men in the room turn as one, except for the two demonstrating a technique, one man hits the mat hard, the other does a fake punch to his throat. Then they too look at the woman in fatigues standing just inside the doors.
A voice booms, “Ladies self defense training is on Thursday. This is Tuesday, not Thursday.”
I walk over to the voice, a black man about five nine, slight and tight. Muscular, but not like Black. Franks is more wiry. I show him my ID, and say low, so as not to embarrass him, “I don’t like to play with girls, Sergeant, I like to play with the big boys.”
Sarge has no choice, I outrank everybody he knows, “Ma’am, it is my duty to warn you, this is full contact hand to hand. Everyone here is the enemy when they’re on the mat. They will hurt you, hurt you bad….ma’am. We don’t defer to rank here, not in this training.”
“Then I have a great deal to learn. Let’s not waste any time.”
The Sergeant shrugs, “Benson, get up here. Lady wants to train. ID say she’s Special Ops, probably did the ladies self defense course someplace, so take care she don’t go for your balls. Otherwise, she wants a beating, she gets it.”
Benson stands. He is my height, five-ten, thick, not fat, just blocky.
We face each other on the mat, catcalls from the observers, “Bust her ass man, and let’s get on with real practice.”
“Take her down dude, we don’t need to babysit the chippie all day, I got shit to do.”
Benson swings, I let him graze my cheek, turning with the punch so fast he actually thought he’d made contact.
He steps back smiling, the smile evaporates. I’m unmarked and unfazed. He starts a kicking onslaught, I back around as if I’m dancing, one kick comes directly to my abdomen, I let it hit, cries of, “Go for it man, she’s doubled over, take her down dude!!”
I’d folded into the kick, thought, ‘Geez, Chris hits harder barefoot.’
I grab his boot and twist hard to the outside, then, while he’s off balance, sweep my leg under the one he has planted to the floor. He’s down butt side first. 
I’d twisted his ankle hard, didn’t break it, but he’s done, he can’t stand without help. Two guys pull him up and he hobbles over to the side of the mat.
A voice, “Bitch got lucky, thass all. Just fuckin’ lucky.”
Sarge says nothing. He has a well practiced eye. And his eye told him that luck had nothing to do with it.
He booms, “Ain’t nobody here named bitch, cept Benson, who was just unlucky, got some bad karma or something. You Dawson, you said it, so now you get to demonstrate how lucky she was.”
Dawson grins, “My pleasure, Sarge.”
Dawson is the loudmouth. He’s big, six-two and steroid built, which gives him undue respect. He looks like the average street cop, all tight uniform, thick chest, arms that dangle off his lats.
Dawson, “Lady, you in for a world of hurt.”
I’m stone still, Dawson looks in my eyes, nothing. It is as if I’d swallowed the light. Dawson isn’t going to try finesse, he doesn’t have any. He charges, going for a ground fight.
I skip back with every lunge, just enough to let his fingertips within a hair’s breadth. Three times he goes to the ground, reaching for my knees. Three times I skip to the side or backwards. We’d circled the entire mat. Dawson is getting winded just getting up over and over.
Dawson, “Speed is good, but it ain’t forever. I’m getting to you sooner or later.”
I reminisce about the psycho sex dyke Nikko demolished a while back, “Somebody told a friend of mine the same thing, Lieutenant.”
He is surprised, he doesn’t know me, they don’t wear insignias of rank during hand to hand. I heard Janah in my head with his rank, a few details about his career.
“You were in Iraq, but spent most of the time in the gym. Steroids are practically free there. Bet you brought back quite a supply. Do you shoot yourself, or does one of your girlfriends here help?”
Howls from the audience, “She jivin’ you all to be damn, man.”
Dawson is so pissed he glows red, he charges again, shoulders down, full on. I let him get within knee distance, then crack open his face. I hit him hard, he’s annoying. He flips over backwards, arms splayed. I’m on him before anyone in the room sees me move. Astride him, my knees jammed into his elbows. He tries to lift me using his legs, I feel like a thousand pounds on his chest. I snap his cheek with an elbow, then rested my straightened fingers on his throat and press. Dawson began to gag. He taps out.
I stand, look over at Franks, “Next? Maybe you should try two, or three. One at a time is boring.”
Franks, “Jefferson, Bulldog, front and center!!”
Franks is bringing out his heavy artillery, but I can see he’s impressed. Damned if he’d let me know it, not in front of the men.
Jefferson is the tunnel rat, small, lean as a whip, mongrel mean. Bulldog looks like it. He’s going to be hard to make any uglier, any adjustment to his face can only be an improvement.
The whip slides in, he catches me in the side with a hard roundhouse. I feel it, but I’d felt a lot of hard kicks, this wasn’t the worst. He hadn’t even managed to crack a rib with a boot on.
“Thanks for insisting on the constant Qi training.”
Janah, “Get this over with, I need to talk things over and I can’t do it while you’re playing soldier.”
Jefferson tries another roundhouse, I let him almost hit my other side, then snap his shinbone with the heel of my palm so fast nobody understood why he is on the ground writhing, “My fucking leg is broken,” blood seeps through his fatigues.
Bulldog is on me, I let him wrap me and lift me off the ground. He tries to throw me over his head, I go weightless, he propels me straight up, surprising him, nobody could be that light. His problem is, I don’t go over his head, I do a back flip and land with my boots on his shoulders, one leg against his neck, and use the heel of the other to smash him in the mouth. Blood spurts.
I plant the foot back on his shoulder, hard, do a front flip. I stick the landing, and before Bulldog can get his mouth wiped, I shoot a back kick just below his sternum. As he doubles over, I turn like a ballerina on meth and whack him on the temple with my boot, as he falls to the side, I crack him on the other temple just for the hell of it. He hits the mat and doesn’t move.
“Sarge, it’s been a real treat. And I didn’t even kick any of your boys in the balls. Gotta go. Can I come back for another session?”
Franks has a half smile, “Might not be any soldiers left to go to war.”
“Then maybe I’ve saved some lives.”
Franks has seen combat, a lot of combat, too much combat, he moves in close, voice low, “Ma’am, I hate it every time I see these men deploy. I can’t tell them that. I got to do the best I can to teach them how to stay alive in close quarters. All’s I know how to do.”
“Sarge, your men are tough, well trained. I can’t give you much about me, I can tell you I’ve been doing this, hard, every day since I was five. Unfortunately for your guys, I have more experience than all of them put together, squared. Fortunately for them, they will likely never run into anyone like me anywhere, anytime. Hopefully they learned there’s a difference between confidence and ability, confidence and overconfidence. Overconfidence will get them killed.”
Franks, “Ma’am, I don’t know your mission, don’t know you, don’t know how long you’ll be around. If you have time, maybe you could spend some of it with these men, boys most of ‘em, teaching them how to stay alive.”
“I’d be honored, Sergeant. When’s the next class?”
Franks, “Every day, four o’clock sharp, cept Sunday. Thursday is the women’s class. No disrespect, ma’am, but I’d like to see them stay alive too.”
“I’ll be here every day possible. Other days, someone else will show up. They will introduce themselves and ask permission to observe. That means they are with me. They can help your people, no disrespect to you, Sergeant. Give them a workout first, anyone in your class you choose. There might be a woman. Do not make the same mistake you made with me. I trained her, hard case doesn’t cover it.”
Franks, “Ma’am, one thing this old boy knows. I take all the help I can get. You got skills I can’t teach, that you can’t teach. They’s your skills. But you got the eye, and the stillness it takes to stay alive. My men will do as instructed, I guarantee it. None of ‘em wants to be a dead hero.”

Chapter Eighty Two IV

“See you bought yourself something to do.”
“Well, I might throw Nikko in the mix, two of the other Shaolin are women, them I don’t know. Can they handle the men’s class?”

Janah, “Send them to the women’s for now. Black and Chan will want a turn with the men.”
“The ultimate goal is to get them to sit still for qi training. I’ll bring it up tomorrow, we’ll see.”

I bow to Franks, turn and walk out the double doors. The Corporal is still at his post.
“You don’t look any worse than when you went in. Franks didn’t let you practice?”
“A little. Guy named Benson, two others, Jefferson and something named Bulldog.”
The Corporal looks sideways, doubtful, “Excuse me, ma’am, did you say you fought Bulldog?”
“That’s what they called him, looks like one, that’s for sure.”
The men start filing out of the training area, Benson has a crutch, Jefferson and Bulldog are being hoisted by each shoulder by four of the others. As Bulldog is dragged past, he stops his two supporters, “Hol’ up.”
He struggles, but walks over to me, he bows, left fist in right hand, “Never see nothin’ like you ma’am. My privilege to have you kick my ass.”
I lean over and whisper in his ear, “Good friend of mine looks like a sumo version of you. I call him the most handsome bastard I know. Now I know two. Keep working Dawg, you’ll be fine, better than fine. I’m going to show you how, deal?”
Bulldog grins, nobody had ever seen him do that, nobody had ever seen him get his butt kicked either. He shuffles along on his own, suddenly energized.
The Corporal is dumbstruck, he looks at me, then at Bulldog walking stiff legged, but steady, towards quarters, he finally finds his voice, “Ma’am, you just ass-kicked two of the toughest sumbitches I’ve ever known. Benson, he’s okay, but not great. But Jefferson and Bulldog, never seen it happen.”
“First time for everything, Corporal. Now I’ve got some orders for you.”
“Ma’am?”
“You don’t know dick, you didn’t see dick, you stood your post and class went on as usual. Got it, son?”
The Corporal, “It’s been a normal day ma’am. Glad you happened along just now, right after class let out. I got to lock up the building now, so if you’ll excuse me ma’am….”
I smile, stroke his young cheek, “Good, soldier. I’m going to watch your career. Don’t disappoint me, Corporal.”
“No, ma’am.”
I leave to join Janah, the others are with her, Nikko comes in shortly after me, “What in hell you been up to? You are a total mud hog, geez, what a mess. Get out of that slop and into the shower, I need one myself. All the boys go someplace. Get food or something, and bring back something for us.”
Black and Chan hit the door. The two Shaolin women stay with us, the two men go outside to patrol the perimeter.
Showered and in monks’ robes, we sit together, discussing Nikko’s day. Black and Chan walk in, a box full of other boxes of Chinese food.
Black, “Figured it might be better to stay out of the mess hall. Too many eyes.”
Janah, “Tomorrow we’ll get groceries, this is senior officer’s quarters, got a big kitchen, refrigerators, washer dryer. We don’t need to be mingling much. We have work to do. Mingle just enough to make the targets think we’re here for something else. Special ops groups come through here all the time. No reason twelve guys will think we’re looking at them. By the way, who’s taking first watch?”
One male Shaolin and one female raise their hands.
Janah, “Okay, four hours, then swap, then it will be daybreak. If they leave the barracks, just note the time, hit the button on this watch, then note the time they return, if they return. No need to follow them off base. When you hit the button on the watch, it alerts Surveillance. They’ll do the following, stay in your spots in case another group leaves. Same drill. We have three Surveillance teams out there. These boys can’t go for a beer off base without us knowing where they went and how many beers they drank.”
One of the Shaolin asks, “What is our duty during the day?”
Janah, “Stay inside, rest, practice, work on qi skills. We’ll be in and out. While we’re out, we don’t want anyone else in. Your job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. Anyone tries to get in, you take them to the empty bedroom, and make sure they stay there until I get back. I’ll have a few questions.”
“Oh, I also volunteered you for hand to hand duty. Women do hand to hand on Thursday. Sgt. Franks is the instructor, he’ll be looking for you. They know some techniques, but they don’t know stillness under pressure. You do. Show them, explain qi meditation, how it will develop that stillness and internal energy which can keep them alive. Then do a session.”
The Shaolin leave for their posts or to rest. Black and Chan to rooms down the hall to sleep.
Nikko, Janah and I are alone. We undress and lay in bed.
Janah asks Nikko, “I take it you decided to play on the obstacle course?”
“No wonder you were such a pig when you came in. How’d it go?”
Nikko shrugs, “Easier than parkour course we have on the roof. Miyako could have beaten any of the soldiers.”
Janah giggles, “I can’t imagine you getting that dirty.”
“Have to crawl through a muddy stretch under barbed wire. No way to avoid it, go through on the way to the end, then turn around and go back.”
“What’s it consist of?”
“Typical movie stuff. Big tower, climb to the top, rappel down, sprint across logs, climb a wall up a rope, make it across a rope bridge, hanging bars, like on a kids’ playground. Let’s see, fight a guy with a stick, padded on each end. I guess they’re afraid to get hurt. Walk a long, narrow bridge, like our balance beam, just longer and fatter. Climb more ladders, swing on a rope across a pit full of mud.”
“I’ve been inspecting your body very closely, you don’t have any bruises or abrasions, so I presume you didn’t fall off anything.”
“Just had to crawl through the mud. I went through hard for the workout. You were busy beating up soldiers. The Sergeant in charge of obstacle course asked me to go home, so I left.”
“I heard you had the best time ever. No wonder he wanted you out of there. You were an embarrassment.”
“Men should practice harder, then they wouldn’t be embarrassed. I just ran across logs and climbed up towers. Mistress beat up three guys. Mistress has all the fun, nothing but work for Nikko.”
“Lay back, Janah and I will see if we can help you have a bit of fun to end the day.”
Nikko has about an hour’s worth of close order drill, after which she actually is smiling, “Such filthy girls, Nikko must sleep now,” she curls against Janah.
Janah, “Despite her nonchalant attitude, the obstacle course was not a walk in the park, more like a climb and crawl through hell. She must have given the men quite a demonstration of speed, strength and balance.”
I, on the other side, smile, “Silence, my student is resting,” I use a well trained finger to give Janah a lovely orgasm, we become one in the process, then the two as one fall asleep as well.

Chapter Eighty Three IV

Too much blood
And too much hate
And too many fools,
That just can’t wait
Rob Zombie, Everything is Boring Now


Our group of eight is having breakfast, toast, scrambled eggs with spinach and feta, buttery grits and cut fruit.
Janah, “Anything to report from last night?”
Janine,  “Two left at midnight. Returned at five thirty. Everyone else remained in barracks.”
The phone rings, “Good morning, my dear. We’ve heard that Daphne has garnered the high praise of Sergeant Franks, and the dear Nishiko has raised the bar for the obstacle course.”
Janah, “You are well informed.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Naturally.”
“And our two targets wandering in the early hours?”
“Appeared to be checking out a string of stores in downtown Killeen, also visited a retired Major who still lives in the area, about five miles out of town.”
“You listened in on the conversation?”
 “We tried. They have a jammer, high end. We got static.”
“Good. That means they bear closer observation. What’s the deal with the retired Major?”
“Don’t know yet. We have the pressure on. What we have learned is curious. He went inactive for at least six months before he was honorably discharged. Hung around Ft. Hood, did nothing, didn’t push paper, didn’t issue an order, nobody hung with him, never went to the OC. He was a zombie. We can’t find anyone, yet, who knew why he’d been tattooed. Whatever disease he had, nobody else wanted to catch it.”
“The twelve showed up before or after he was officially discharged, or retired?”
“Since we had no prior connection between him and the twelve, nobody has looked in to that. We know when he retired, a year ago. You’ll have to ask around about when the twelve showed up. Could be dangerous to ask…but you’ve thought of that already.”
“Daphne’s made a buddy of one of the hand to hand instructors, Sergeant named Franks. She’ll ask him. She’s also got a new pal called Bulldog. A somewhat smaller version of Mini. If Franks clams up, or just doesn’t know, Bulldog will find out just because she asked.”
“You’ve only been there a couple of days, what did she do for him?”
“Beat him up.”
“Why would he…..ohhhh, I get it. She earned his respect. Guy named Bulldog probably isn’t used to being whipped. He has the sense to know when he’s outclassed. Good for him,”
“I thought so too. And the Sergeant asked her to help instruct. He told Daphne he wanted his men alive, he’d seen enough dead heroes.”
“By tomorrow, I’m going to know what out retired Major did to earn the silent retirement. I suspect when we figure that out, we get a line on what the others are up to.”
Janah, “I don’t want Daphne asking too many questions if we can unravel this out without raising suspicion. The General who runs this place doesn’t know squat. There are thousands of soldiers, they come and go daily. He's a good guy, straight arrow anyway. He’s a soldier, does what he’s told, issues orders by the book. I got no sense from him he’s hiding anything of interest to our project.”
“Well, you read them, our other Social Workers don’t have your skills. You get the more elevated projects, and the consequent dangers.”
“Daphne and Nikko like the consequent dangers.”
Mrs. Epstein laughs, “Ring if you need anything.”
They click off.
Janah relays her conversation, “Sit still for now. No questioning the troops. Be soldiers involved in a vague operation, it’s not that unusual. Chan, there is a gym near the hand to hand area. Go there, workout, make it clear you can lift heavy things. Somebody will notice and make conversation. Bring back your observations. If there’s nothing, you got in a workout. The monks will stay with me, I have plenty to work on.”
Chan goes off to the weight room an hour later, he’s sliding plates on the squat bar, a voice says, “Gonna have to wait a bit, bud. We use that rack this time of day. Just take a rest, do curls or something.”
Chan nods slightly, it’s one of our targets, his buddy behind him. Chan moves off to the side and sits cross legged on the floor. The two men are big, as in tall and muscle bound. They’d been for a light jog before coming, they’re ready to work out. Chan labels one ‘A’ and the other ‘B’ for convenience sake. 
Black shows up. Parks next to Chan, “Wanted to press a little weight before this afternoon’s hand to hand. It’s only eleven now, rest up after lunch, go see what the Army has to offer in martial arts.”
Chan, “Don’t think they’re much on art.”
Black, “Well, I can stick with the martial part if that’s what they want.”
A and B swap a set of squats, light for men their size, think Dolph Lundgren, about two thirty. But these are warm-up sets Chan presumes. They add a couple of plates, push it to three fifty for ten reps each. They look over at Chan, spot Black. They swap glances. Neither of them could sit cross legged period, not for more than a couple of minutes, much less in full lotus.
A asks, “You boys into yoga?”
Black. “Flexibility, no yoga shit," reverting to street slang. He doesn’t need them to think he’s smart.
They crank out another five reps with three fifty, struggle with the last couple.
B, “Enough, let the yoga boys have a go, you want the rack?”
Chan and Black stand from cross legged effortlessly. The two men glance at each other again, “Want us to take off some weight?”
They grin stupidly.
Black, “Nah, good warm-up weight,” he brushes past them, a head taller than either, Chan nearly as wide as both together.
The men smirk, “No ladies to impress here.”
Black says, without turning around, “No men either.”
He does five reps with three fifty, Chan follows. Black adds fifty pounds to the bar, they each crank five more reps. Neither has broken a sweat.
Chan puts fifty more pounds on the bar, four fifty for five reps, then finish with five hundred. The bar arches across his shoulders, but the locks hold.
A and B adopt a fake nonchalance, pay closer attention. They move as a group to the bench press. Black and Chan wait while they press two hundred, then two fifty then three hundred. They had to spot the last three of eight reps.
Chan slides under the bar, still carrying the three hundred, ten reps, followed by Black. They add fifty for five each, then four hundred. No spots.
Black hits four fifty for five, Chan spots him the final two reps. Chan under the bar for five, he sits up, nods at Black, who adds fifty to the already straining bar. Chan does five with five hundred, no spot, Black leans against the wall.
B can’t take it, has to open his mouth, “Weight ain’t combat, strong ain’t tough.”
Black, “Hand to hand’s at four. You wanna take a shot then, I be there.”
A, “We got shit to do then.”
Black, “Lemma know when you got time. I’ll handle it with Franks, us bein’ bruthas and all. He’ll enjoy the show, maybe you can give me some tips, you bein’ so fuckin’ tough.”
B gets red, A pulls his arm, “Let’s go, just a big nigger and a chink. Show some discipline.”
B, “Tomorrow, ten o’clock. Bring the chink, case he needs to carry you to the medics.”
Black, “I don’t tell him what to do, he outranks me. But I’ll see your cracker ass at ten tomorrow.”
They sneak a look over at Chan doing curls with a pair of hundred pound dumbbells.
Black says to Chan, “You gonna mess around with warm-up weights all day, sir?”
Chan shrugs, picks up a set of one fifties and starts in again.
A and B decide they have other stuff to do and shuffle out of the weight room.
A looks at B on their way back to their quarters, “You are too stupid to live above ground.”
B, “What? I can take that nigger left-handed, blindfolded, with my ankles tied.”
A, “Better keep all your limbs free, and your fuckin’ eyes open. You see the marks on their arms?”
B, “So what, tattoos, every cocksuck in the world has tattoos.”
A doesn’t say anything. B has been a loose cannon since they came together. Better if he becomes indisposed, seriously indisposed. His mouth runs when it should be corked. That he’s the retired Major’s son makes him an inconvenient nuisance.
I spend the afternoon demonstrating avoidance techniques. Avoiding getting hit is the best way to walk away from a confrontation. Black does a few rounds with three guys, demonstrating that getting hit sometimes doesn’t mean much. Particularly if the guy you just hit has hands the size of basketballs and golf balls for knuckles. Black softens them up, but doesn’t send anyone to the infirmary.
Franks, “Today, you have been shown two invaluable lessons. One is to avoid confrontation, be a sneaky bastard, and, if confronted, slip and slide until you have a clear shot. The other is that some people, nodding to Black, have a pain tolerance far above your capacity to inflict it. There are people you don’t hand to hand with. When they are the enemy, shoot them, with big ass bullets….several times.”
The men leave, Franks stays, “Thank you for the reality check. These men, boys really, well, they take hand to hand from me, some are really good, some just plain mean enough to deal. They can get attitude instead of confidence, it ain’t the same thing. Confidence knows it’s limitations, attitude dies.”
“So, what did you do in the war, soldier?”
Franks black face is worn leather. His cheek is scarred, one ear mostly gone. I take his hands, look them over.
“You’ve dealt a bit of punishment with these hands, two knuckles fused, one’s been broken along the back, surprised you can make a fist with it.”
Franks grimaces, recalling the rehab pain, “Took a long time. I got it to bend a millimeter a day, sometimes a week. Eventually it made a fist. Took a year, a hurtful year; but I still got it. Lot of boys come home, ain’t got no arm at all.”
“And that thought took you through the pain.”
Franks, “Which is why I want these kids to learn smart from tough.”
“You’re a good man, Franks.”
Black, “By the way, a friend of mine and I were in the weight room this morning. Couple of guys came in, commandeered the squat rack, we let them do their thing. However, the end result is that one of them and me are going to have a bit of a hand to hand workout tomorrow, at ten. You got time, maybe you can sit in. Won’t be no referee, he thinks I’m just a big jive nigga who can pick up a lot of weight. I didn’t disabuse him of the notion. Just arranged to have a little smack down here tomorrow.”
Franks eyes Black, he described the men, “Two big blond Nordic types?”
Black, “Got snake tats on the bicep.”
Franks, “Fuckin’ vermin Nazis. He ain’t comin’ alone.”
Black tilts his head to me, “Got some company of my own.”
Franks, “Heard about your friend, bring him too.”
Black, “How many guys they got?”
Franks, “Twelve, shitheels all.”
Black, “My workout buddy is too much for only twelve guys. My superior officer here, has her own friend. Not quite as polite, but she’s got skills, beat each other until neither of them can stand straight. They’ll be my corner. It’ll be okay.”
Franks eyes me, “There’s another one like you, here on base? Shee-yit! Not the Japanese girl who kicked everyone’s ass on the obstacle course, set a new godamn record?”
“That would be her.”
Franks, “Damn and double damn. All the same, ain’t likely twelve will show anyway. They don’t interact with the rest of the base, the guy you described is the big mouth. Son of a retired major lives off base. My sense is, the other eleven don’t much like him. Seeing his ass kicked isn’t going to hurt their feelings any. If I may suggest, Colonel Smith and her pal can stay in my office,” his thumb points to a window, inside there is a desk and little else.
I’m Colonel Smith, we just plucked common names out of the air for our IDs, Black is Washington, Chan is Wong, like that.
“If he comes alone, do what you gotta do. I’ll be here. If any of the others get into it, then your friends can do what they gotta do.”
Black, “Good, see you then.”
Franks, “Wait, lemme think. I didn’t bring the unknown into the equation. The Major. He won’t take kindly to his son getting his ass whipped and the others letting it happen. He’s retired, but these are his boys. Frankly, I ain’t sure he’s really retired. I think he might have been ‘retired’ for show. I’m not supposed to know shit. But rumors roll around. I think at least some of the other eleven will show, just to cover his ass.”
Black, “Then my superior officer and her associate will deal. You keep out of it. If these are military special ops, or CIA drones, I don’t want you getting tagged. We need you to do what you do, train your men to stay alive.”
Franks, “Even those chumps can’t fuck with me. I’ve got twenty five and still alive. I can retire tomorrow. Been thinking about walking anyway. I did my duty, I want to chill, sit in the hills, fish, never fill out a report ever again.”
Black, “Good. Do it, Sarge. You get bored, open a little school for kids and their moms. Build the kids confidence the right way, train the moms to go for an eye, throat or balls, hard and fast. You know how to do it so you don’t create a bunch of punks. It’s good work, honest and useful.”
Franks smiles, “You may be on to something, not bad for a semi literate nigga.”
Black, “Miss Boss Lady, she don’t let us get all uppity, pretend we’s white folk.”
Franks laughs out loud, then gets serious, “Remember what I said ‘bout them Aryan fruitcakes.”
Black and I part with the Sergeant, walk back to our anonymous building, Janah and Chan are on the floor, Nikko is in the shower.
Janah, “Chan says you’re going for a little workout tomorrow.”
Black, “Hope I didn’t screw any plans up.”
“Actually, I’ve been wondering how to stir the pot, bring it to a boil without burning the evidence. This is a stroke of luck. Just deal with this punk and avoid injury to yourself. I mean, we can fix up cuts and bruises if he gets a lick or two in, but broken bones, that’s going to send you back to Sonia early.”
“Might sound tempting if it was anyone but Sonia. She see me before the job is finished, she’s just going to get pissed.”
“Good. Remember that when the fight starts.”

Chapter Eighty Four IV

Get it on, done
Get it on, done
Get it done
Get it on, done
Get it on, done
Ain’t it fun
Rob Zombie, Everything is Boring Now


I take a walk with Black around the base, we spot a transport truck filling with soldiers going to the rifle range.
I flip open the ID for the instructor, "I'd like to fire a few rounds, my desk job made me a little stale with a rifle."
It isn’t like he has a choice, he shrugs and I hop in the back of the transport with two dozen privates, twenty men and four women. Black continues his tour of the base.
I make light of my job with the DIA, say I’m an analyst and desk jockey, the truck rumbles and bounces, I go into Janah’s brain and retrieve the specs on the M4 carbine they’ll be using for today’s practice.
I also get a briefing on the NCO instructor, Jonas Saunders, while the first group lines up and are issued their weapons, he asks, “When was the last time you were on the range ma’am?”
“You were on your second tour of Iraq, let’s see, two years ago. I was on the range at Langley while you were covering a squad on a raid in southern Iraq. Three men were injured, you killed four enemy and wounded three others. Then pulled the injured out with the rest of the squad. Everyone lived. One has a prosthetic arm, another will be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, the third got a clean hole through his side and is working happily in his father-in-law’s plumbing business this very day.”
Sergeant Saunders is nonplussed, “Hope you know your rifles as well as you appear to know me and my squad.”
He takes his place behind the first line of shooters. They go through a clip prone position, stand, Saunders and another spotter make checkmarks on sheets on a clipboard. The next group gets in position, same drill, then the third. I hadn’t been handed a weapon.
Saunders asks, “No insult intended ma’am, but what can you tell me about this weapon?”
“It’s the M4 carbine, standard model, semi-auto, can fire a three round burst. I’m a bit more used to the M4-A1full automatic and the M4 MWS, lots of toys come with it, grenade launcher, laser sight, but that’s not what we’re here for. Shall I dismantle and reassemble?”
Saunders smiles, “Won’t be necessary, ma’am. Care to give it a go?”
He hands me an M4 with an empty clip, testing whether I could tell by the weight.
There is a one pound difference in total weight with thirty rounds than with none.
“I’ll have better luck with it loaded.”
Saunders hands me a full clip, I eject the empty one and slap in the full one without glancing at the weapon itself.
The soldiers fired from the prone position, settling in, sighting and firing off in the semi-auto mode.
I wait while a fresh target is set up a hundred yards away. The men in training had been firing at fifty, I smile inside. Saunders isn’t going to cut the DIA desk jockey any slack.
“Do you mind if I stand, it seems more…..real?”
Saunders shrugs, “If you can hit the target from a standing position at a hundred yards with more than two shots, I’ll buy the beer.”
I stand alone on the line, switch to eagle eye, the target looks like a billboard, shoulder the weapon and fire, “Sight’s off a quarter inch left at a hundred yards.”
While I tweak the mechanism, Saunders glances at the spotter, “Bull’s-eye Sarge, quarter inch off center left.”
Saunders stares at him.
I fire the remaining rounds in under ten seconds. No dust kicks up around the target, which is set against a mound of dirt.
Saunders blinks, he’d never seen anyone empty a thirty round magazine box in ten seconds, one shot at a time. The gun can handle it, but the finger can’t, not any finger he’d ever seen.
Saunders asks his spotter, “She hit anything?”
The spotter looks closer, “Uh, Sarge….”
Saunders, “Fuck son, you look like you dropped a load in your boots, what the hell did she hit?”
Spotter, “Dead center, every shot…..there’s only one hole, next the first one.”
Saunders, “Gimmie them goddamn binocs!”
He looks, lets down the binoculars, then pulls them up to his eyes again in the hope he’d see something besides what he’d just seen, “Christ in a casket.”
He looks over at me, I’m taking apart the weapon and cleaning it on the assembly table behind the firing line.
Saunders stomps over, “Ma’am. How come I never heard of you? I never knew a female sniper, ever. I never knew a sniper period that could hit center with thirty rounds in ten seconds. What the hell you doin’ behind a desk looking at computer shit?”
 “Sarge, I’ve been wondering the same thing for years. Military sexism I suppose. Shame isn’t it?”
Saunders isn’t buying it, “You ain’t no desk jockey. You can’t say, and I ain’t gonna ask,” he turns to the others, “I don’t know how she is at a thousand yards with a strong wind, but I’ll tell you this. Don’t be in this soldier’s line of fire at the end of a football field. Saddle up, you just got treated to the finest exhibition of marksmanship this cranky old bastard has ever been privileged to witness.”
I ride back, the truckload of privates know enough to know that jawboning me isn’t going to get any answers. I overhear one of the men at the front end of the truck talking to his buddy, far enough away that he presumes I can’t hear.
“I’m telling you man, it’s the same woman who was in hand to hand the other day. I was fucking there man. She took out two men, one of ‘em Bulldog Berkowitz. That woman is so special ops even special ops don’t know she’s special ops.”
“I wouldn’t mind taking some punishment from her. Even in fatigues, hair all tied up under that cap, you can see she’s hotter’n hell.”
I’m chatting with one of the female soldiers about military life, the constant barrage of testosterone; I feel the two men glancing my way, a mixture of respect, envy, and a fair measure of lust. We arrive at the mustering point, I say goodbye to my seatmate and disappear into the maze of buildings. Saunders looks around for me, thinks, ‘shit, she can make herself invisible, too.’
The next day, B shows up at ten with A, C and D, no point in changing Chan's coding system. The other three letters don’t look thrilled to be there. Still, there’s a whisper of anticipation in their eyes, but not of sympathy for B. More the anticipation that he may finally get his mouth shut for him.
Still, they make a show of it, and would likely triple team Black if things went badly for the Major’s sonny boy.
B takes off his shirt, no doubt to try and scare Black to death. To give him his due, he’s a pile of rippling muscle. His buddies range from as big to bigger.
The guy looks askance at Black and around to his pals. Black isn’t moving, isn’t in fighting stance, apparently isn’t breathing. He also isn’t stupid. Keeping his own shirt on would give the man an advantage. Something to grab on to. Black takes it off, throws it just off the mat.
B’s eyes widen, the rest of his crew had seen lots of big men, but not this man. He doesn’t qualify as big, he doesn’t qualify as human.
B gives it a go, “I like a big target, easier to hit.”
Black says nothing, stands like he’s bored, pays no attention to his opponent.
B, “What’s the matter nigger, fear got your tongue? To many honkies in the room, not enough rap music?”
Black blinks, his attention now on his opponent, “You gonna talk me to the ground, jive ass?”
B moves in, quick, pretty light on his size fourteen feet. He shoots a straight jab at Black’s jaw. Black lets him hit it, twisting his head enough to have it glance off. B fakes another jab, then hits Black with a right to the gut.
Black, “When the fight gon’ start?”
A, C and D can’t help themselves, they laugh. B realizes he’s way over his big head, but he’s fucked now. He comes with a flurry of punches and a few kicks. Black bats away everything and still hasn’t changed his position. Except now, he doesn’t get hit. B’s next punch earns a palm heel block that damn near breaks his forearm. When he kicks, Black’s massive fist cracks into his shinbone.
In two more minutes, B can’t lift his arms and is limping in a circle.
A, “You’re done, soldier. This guy hasn’t drawn a deep breath since we walked in here. Hell, he’s still standing in the same damn spot. You ain’t moved him a quarter inch.”
B, “One of us ain’t walking out of here upright. You don’t want to jump in, I’ll remember that, so will other people.”
C, “Fuck it, let’s stew the nigger and go home.”
Black hits B in the jaw so hard teeth fly and he’s face down on the mat. The other three jump him. Well, try to jump him.
Nikko heads for the office door, I rest my hand on my sister’s arm, “Not yet,” Nikko stays put.
C tries to distract Black with some halfhearted jabs and kicks while D circles around his back. Black allows D bear hug him from behind, while A moves in to lay on some punches. Black waits until he’s in range, kicks him in the chest so hard he goes airborne and sails off the mat. His sternum is cracked, he isn’t going to stand straight for a long time.
Black spreads his arms and D’s grip evaporates. Black’s elbow connects hard with D’s cheekbone, pulverizing it.
Only C is left standing, Black says, “Pick up your friends that can walk, and get the others to the medics.”
C, “Can’t do it. They couldn’t deal, you’re a tough one. But you ain’t infuckingvincible,” extracts a long blade from his ankle sheath, “gonna cut you boy, see some red on that black skin.
C swipes twice, Black doesn’t move. C comes closer, knife in fighting position, handle first, blade behind, edge pointed out. Good defensive posture, any block with the knife hand would mean a cut. Black can see it’s a Benchmade. One of the finest, sharpest, hardest cutting tools in existence. Not our katana, but bad enough.
It’s a matter of waiting for an opening. C swipes the knife in a figure eight. Stupid. Halfway through the third eight, at the bottom left of the curve, Black grabs C’s wrist with his left hand, crushes it, the knife drops to the floor, Black’s right fist fibrillates his heart. C keels over, dead before his head hits the mat.
“Goddamn and goddamn,” Franks walks out from a shadowed corner of the room.”
Black, “Honkeys, can’t see a black man in the shadows. No wonder most of ‘em scared of us.”
Franks, “Be on the lookout for the eight you ain’t seen yet. They gonna want revenge. I’ll deal with the MPs, you were having a hand to hand session with one guy, his buddies were watching, decided to teach the wrong nigger a lesson. Won’t be a problem, you got one old warhorse and two top kicks as witnesses.”
Nikko and I join them, “Thanks Sergeant, won’t be necessary though. Won’t be any MPs, won’t be any investigation. Your name will never be mentioned. Go have lunch, fill out your discharge papers if that’s what you want, or stay here and teach soldiers. Nobody is gonna ask you jack.”
Franks, “How you…..? Never mind. It’s been fun jawing with you, but I’m hungry and got paperwork to do,” he sticks his hand out to Black, “pleasure son,” he shakes my hand, then Nikko’s.
Franks, “I’d salute, but you three ‘bout as military as I am white. Tiger and dragon a whole different level of discipline.”
He turns and walks out the door.
“Good job, big man.”
Black, “Sorry about the dead guy.”
Nikko, “Nishiko is sorry she didn’t get to kill him. You have all the fun, I have to stand down as my military Mistress commands.”
Black looks puzzled, I said, “She wanted to jump in when the three started up. I wanted to see if you had kept up your training. I can report favorably to the Abbess, in fact I have already reported favorably to the Abbess, who says we need to come have lunch.”


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