Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
“I’ll take them all.” A patron says. “It’s debit.”
“That comes to $31.02” Says Alex, bagging the man’s bird cage along with some bird feed and a few cat toys. He double taps the total button and flips the pin pad over to the customer after swiping his card, the receipt prints and Alex rips it from the printer handing it to the man between his middle and index finger.
“Have a nice night.” He adds.
Alex works at a pet store owned by his uncle, one night at a family Christmas party he let him know his love for animals and the next morning he had him working. Alex has always been close with his family, he’s been good to them and they’ve been good to him. He practically runs the place. His uncle is always running out doing errands or when he’s actually at the store he doesn’t do much supervising, he sits in the back office going over papers. Alex is an honest guy and never pockets anything that doesn’t belong to him and his uncle knows that, and trusts him.
The bell over the shops door jingles and in his peripherals Alex sees a man wearing a top hat make his way over to the register.
“Sorry sir, we’re closed in 5 minutes so unless you’re just bu-“
Alex looks away from the register and up to the man standing in front of him.
“Oh Steiner wasn’t expecting you until… five minutes from now.”
“Yeah just came by a little early to see if you got cold feet.”
“Naw man you know I’m pumped for this.”
“Alright I’ll be waiting in the car.” He says making a gesture with his top hat. Alex has always liked that hat and he’s always been a little jealous. Not so much jealous of the hat itself but jealous of the idea of the hat. The type of hat Kid Rock wears has been Steiner’s signature hat since high school. Five years later he’s still rocking it and Alex can’t believe he isn’t as chic.
After closing up shop and getting his things together, he punches out, says good night to his uncle and heads out the back door to the parking lot. Parked beside a street lamp casting a halo on the thin sheet of snow covering the asphalt he sees the Lincoln, another one of Steiner’s things that contribute to his personality. Alex throws his backpack in the backseat beside a red motorcycle helmet and gets in the front seat. He clips in his seat belt and rubs his hands together.
“Jesus it’s 30 below zero in here turn on the heat a little.”
Steiner grins and puts his key in the ignition and waits for the car to warm up.
“Talk to Valerie?” Steiner asks.
“No… she doesn’t call me you know that."
“We had another fight and you know how girls are, they complain to their other girlfriends about their problems.”
“Shut up, maybe you’re just not cut out to be in a relationship.” Alex says in response to the insult.
“That may be so my friend, that may be so.”
Steiner turns up the heat, revs the engine and pulls out of the parking lot.
Alex doesn’t have any problems with money, he just doesn’t like letting opportunities pass him by. When Steiner offered him the chance to split at least 15K between the two of them for a two minute job he was game. Steiner has been doing stuff like this his entire life, never kept a job for more than two months and he’s fine. He lives in a condo downtown and doesn’t even know what a transit bus smells like. Even his criminal record is clean.
“We should stop and get something to eat.” Steiner says.
“You can think about food before something like this?”
“It’s essential to my survival.” He says rubbing his stomach vigorously giving Alex a flash of his white teeth.
“Man I hope you’re kidding.” Alex says, knowing that his friend is being dead serious.
“Besides I need gas, who knows we might be chased.”
“Oh so a couple minutes before all this you decide to tell me that ‘we might be chased.’?”
“Relax will you? It’s just a precaution don’t spread me your negative vibes.”
“Whatever let’s grab burgers up the street.”
“Remind me to flip the plates after we eat alright?”
Alex wants to give him the look but he knows it won’t do any good. Steiner’s the type of guy that you’d think is genetically lacking a few emotions. And in a way he’s calming. It’s like he has a comforting aura, when he talks there’s confidence in his tone. If Steiner told Alex that yellow is red, he’d dial his doctor and tell the man he’s been pissing blood.
They pull up to burger town and Steiner steps out of his car and pops the trunk, takes out a screw driver and unscrews the license plates while Alex buys a few meals inside. When he comes back Steiner is sitting inside his plate less car listening to AC/DC. Alex slips inside the front seat and they start work on the burgers.
“She said I’m not good for her.” Steiner says washing down a mouthful of fries with his cola.
“You’re probably not I mean she’s been to University, really worked hard at it you know? And you’re a criminal.”
“Ah who needs her, she’ll be back when she realizes she's the one that needs me.”
Alex laughs. “How does she need you, exactly?”
“Because I’m not by the book.”
“She can find another guy that isn’t by the book.”
“In which case you’d be contradicting yourself because according to you that’s the only reason she’s leaving me.”
Unwrapping his burger Alex lets out a sigh. “That’s not what I meant. Valerie’s a good girl you know that.”
“And I’m a bad guy, opposites attract my friend.”
“Well then I guess you have it all figured out.” Alex says sipping his ginger ale.
“I guess I do, it’s just weird without her, like something is missing, you know?”
“No I don’t.”
“That’s right, still a freelancer eh Alex?”
Alex sips some more of his soda and stares out the window watching a dad hold the burger town door open for his daughter. “Yeah.”
Steiner let’s out a burp and starts the car’s ignition. “Both tanks fully loaded, permission to depart?” Steiner stares at Alex with his foot on the break and hand on the shifter.
Alex plays along with a sigh, “Granted.”
They pull into a parking space on a downtown street and Steiner rolls a ski mask over his face and takes out a gun from the glove compartment.
“You ready to rumble?” He asks Alex.
“How am I going to hide my face?”
“I have you covered, pal.” He says gesturing with the back of his head to the red motorcycle helmet in the back seat.
Alex clips on the motorcycle helmet. “I feel ridicules.”
“You look ridicules, here take this.” Steiner hands Alex a pistol, he grips it and hides his hand up his sleeve. “Is there a safety?”
Steiner looks at him with eyebrows raised. “It’s not even real princess.”
“On three. One, two, three!” Steiner pops his driver side door and Alex follows through his. They look both ways and cross the street, power walking into a small lottery ticket shop. Guns raised they walk in, Alex grabs an old mans hand, takes the wallet out of his back pocket and slips it into his own then puts him in a headlock and points the gun at his balding head. Steiner sees this and comments. “Good idea might as well get the bang for our buck!"
He points his gun into a circular hole in the bullet proof glass and the guns muzzle touches the clerk’s forehead. “We’re in and we’re out lady just fill up this bag and no one gets hurt.” She starts to cry and fills the bag from the registers and throws it to Steiner and falls under the desk.
“Everyone on the ground wallets out in front of you, hands on your heads anyone dials the police and it’s a massacre!” Steiner shouts pointing his gun at one of the clerks making her way for the panic button, he freezes her with a wink. Alex runs around and collects the wallets.
“Alright now everybody counts to a hundred. Who knows there might be another one of us in the store, if anyone calls the cops before the count, you’re all dead!” Steiner says gun butting the youngest most punk looking kid in the shop, then whispers something in his ear. He bends over and picks up the money bag and holds it open for Alex to drop the wallets in, then they barge out the door. Crossing the street Steiner slides across the hood of a car, Alex sees this and regrets not thinking of it first. They spring into the car and take off, Steiner had left the ignition running.
Fifteen minutes later they pull into Alex’s apartment building's underground to count and split the loot.
“Seven thousand each not including the wallets, good thinking." Steiner says as he flips through a wad of bills. “Thanks.”
Alex stares off into his backpack now full of cash, he wants to correct Steiner and instead thank him. It just takes a little nerve to pull this sort of thing off, the kind of nerve that Alex has none of. He zips up his bag and smiles. He might not have the personality to be a great criminal but his best friend in the driver seat is the next best thing. Alex thinks back now and he’s glad he didn’t attempt to slide across a car on the way out of the lottery shop, he’d feel pretty bad for stealing Steiner’s fire right about now. Besides just like the planned robbery and his signature hat a hood slide is the sort of stunt that only Steiner can pull off.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
INT. ELEVATOR – DAY
ARTHUR waits for the elevator in a downtown office building. He’s fidgety as he buttons up his coat. The elevator door sounds and he looks up, steps inside and presses the lobby button. The elevator stops on its way down on the 23rd floor and OFFICER PLOUSKY steps in, puts his hands behind his back and rocks back and forth on his toes whistling to the elevator music. He makes eye contact with Arthur and smiles.
Arthur gives him a quick nod and a fake smile and pushes the lobby button repeatedly, as if he’s trying to speed the elevator up. It jerks and the lights turn off and then back on and then the elevators motor is heard, it sounds like its powering down.
Damn it, not now, please not now.
Ah relax these things are safe, they’ll explode before the cable snaps. They can practically haul jet engines.
That’s not what I’m worried about.
Plousky raises his eyebrows and nods at Arthur as he reaches across to where Arthur is standing to hit the “Push for help” button. An OLD LADY who sounds like she’s been smoking a pack a day since high school responds.
High and rise services, what’s your situation?
Good morning ma’am, we seem to be stuck.
Is everyone alright? No ones hurt?
Plousky glances over at Arthur whose scarf is lying by his feet as he unbuttons his coat, sweating, his hands are trembling.
Yeah we’re fine, buddy here is just in a hurry, and a little stressed.
Hold tight I’ve notified the buildings staff and they’re working on getting you out now, I’ll keep you posted. Arthur What do you know about stress? Sweat rings are now starting to appear on Arthur’s shirt around his neck and under his arms. Plousky I can tell you’re under a load of it, that or you’re terribly claustrophobic. Arthur You kidding, I love solitude. Cops just make me nervous. Plousky flips his badge into a small pocket on his vest and winks at Arthur. Arthur You’re still in uniform. Plousky Well if it’ll stop you from having a stroke I can undress, although I didn’t think you were gay. Arthur That’s alright, keep your cloths on officer. Plousky If it makes you feel any better I’m off duty, popped in to see the dentist after work. Doctor Genya Slavinta, best looking lady to ever stick her fingers inside my mouth. Arthur That’s too bad, now that she knows you’re a cop you probably blew your shot. Plousky Hey, I still love my kids pal. Arthur Yeah whatever you say. Arthur pinches the bridge of his nose and forces his eyes shut. Then he lets his hands drop to his sides and nervously starts tapping the side of his leg. Old Lady Are you still alright in there? They’re working on the problem. Have you out in no time. Plousky Hear that, nothing to worry about. Listen man we might be stuck in here for a while. My names Plousky, just ignore the uniform okay? Plousky offers his hand and Arthur shakes it. Arthur I’m Arthur. Plousky So what’s the matter Arthur? You look stressed. Arthur I just need a drink, man, I came here late today for my AA meeting. The damn bus driver got spit on, he had it coming. He threw everyone on the bus 20 minutes behind waiting for the cops to arrive. Didn’t let a single person off ‘till they showed up. Plousky That’s terrible. Althoug there’s nothing wrong with an early morning drink now and again, I mean it’s not even that early in the morning anymore. It’s practically noon. Arthur My doctor called last night when I got back from work, turns out my livers on the frits. Can’t have one even if I wanted to… which I do, badly. Arthur crosses his arms, lifts one up to his mouth and bites down on his curved index finger.
Hold tight I’ve notified the buildings staff and they’re working on getting you out now, I’ll keep you posted.
What do you know about stress?
Sweat rings are now starting to appear on Arthur’s shirt around his neck and under his arms.
I can tell you’re under a load of it, that or you’re terribly claustrophobic.
You kidding, I love solitude. Cops just make me nervous.
Plousky flips his badge into a small pocket on his vest and winks at Arthur.
You’re still in uniform.
Well if it’ll stop you from having a stroke I can undress, although I didn’t think you were gay.
That’s alright, keep your cloths on officer.
If it makes you feel any better I’m off duty, popped in to see the dentist after work. Doctor Genya Slavinta, best looking lady to ever stick her fingers inside my mouth.
That’s too bad, now that she knows you’re a cop you probably blew your shot.
Hey, I still love my kids pal.
Yeah whatever you say.
Arthur pinches the bridge of his nose and forces his eyes shut. Then he lets his hands drop to his sides and nervously starts tapping the side of his leg.
Are you still alright in there? They’re working on the problem. Have you out in no time.
Hear that, nothing to worry about. Listen man we might be stuck in here for a while. My names Plousky, just ignore the uniform okay?
Plousky offers his hand and Arthur shakes it.
So what’s the matter Arthur?
You look stressed.
I just need a drink, man, I came here late today for my AA meeting. The damn bus driver got spit on, he had it coming. He threw everyone on the bus 20 minutes behind waiting for the cops to arrive. Didn’t let a single person off ‘till they showed up.
That’s terrible. Althoug there’s nothing wrong with an early morning drink now and again, I mean it’s not even that early in the morning anymore. It’s practically noon.
My doctor called last night when I got back from work, turns out my livers on the frits. Can’t have one even if I wanted to… which I do, badly.
Arthur crosses his arms, lifts one up to his mouth and bites down on his curved index finger.
Well you know what they say, where there’s a will there’s a way but damn, from the looks of it you ain’t any will.
And now a cop is telling me I’m hopeless. I’m trapped in an elevator and I have to take a piss.
Sounds like You’ve got it rough. But you know, it can always be worse.
How can it possibly get any worse? How can my life become any more of a wreck? Do you have any idea how hard it is to be me right now? I have to get up every single morning and go to work, I come home late at night with a busted back from moving concrete to hear that I’m in the worse shape of my life and I’m about to lose a vital organ. I can’t even do the only thing that gives me some serenity in life anymore and I’m expected to make it on time to AA meetings in this hell hole of a city. For god’s sake I don’t even own a car. Much good that would do me, sure I’ll always be on time but do you have any idea how expensive car insurance is? I’ll be the punctual prick with a hole in his wallet who can’t find anymore joy in life.
You have a wife?
No I’m single, great surprise huh?
Well in that case go get married and have two kids. Then you'll have the right to complain about life. Top it off by becoming a cop and come home to see your wife sitting on some guys lap. He’s playing with your kids and from outside, in the cold after a 12 hour shift you struggle to unlock the door because your hands are too cold to grip your keys. As you step through the door you hear your kid laughing, calling this guy you've never seen before in your life "daddy". So you hp over to this guy and throw him out of your house, the next day your wife knocks your teeth out with a hammer and leaves you with divorce papers. Turns out the heartless gold digger is after half of what you own while all she did to contribute to the life you made for the two of you was stay at home, drink margaritas and take care of your kids while you bust your chops arresting crack heads and drug dealers.
That happened last night?
That happened two months ago, this morning after work my dentures fell out. Listen, pal, my advice to you is to stop worrying about yourself and stop complaining about everything that goes wrong with your life. The sooner you realize that you’re the one that’s caused everything you’ve complained to me about, the sooner you’ll start taking responsibility for your actions and then maybe you can sit down and not worry about having a drink. A smart person appreciates the time they spend sober. Plan how to deal or avoid the inevitable problems that come across you in life.
It’s not my fa-
It’s absolutely you’re fault that you became a washed up alcoholic without a family working his ass off as god knows what kind of construction worker, to support the addiction that you caused yourself to have. Arthur … I always wanted to go back to school. Plousky Well maybe if you stop drinking you’ll think about it and realize that that’s the right thing to do. Maybe a year from now you’ll be college thinking back about the cop that changed your appalling excuse for a life for the better. The two stand in silence for a beat and Arthur bends over to pick up his scarf, he clenches it in both fists. The lights turn off and then back on again the elevator doors open and the two of them walk out without saying another word. The door closes behind them as they step out of the elevator. Fade to black.
It’s absolutely you’re fault that you became a washed up alcoholic without a family working his ass off as god knows what kind of construction worker, to support the addiction that you caused yourself to have.
… I always wanted to go back to school.
Well maybe if you stop drinking you’ll think about it and realize that that’s the right thing to do. Maybe a year from now you’ll be college thinking back about the cop that changed your appalling excuse for a life for the better.
The two stand in silence for a beat and Arthur bends over to pick up his scarf, he clenches it in both fists. The lights turn off and then back on again the elevator doors open and the two of them walk out without saying another word. The door closes behind them as they step out of the elevator.
Fade to black.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I snap out of my day dream and realize that Senya, the chick sitting across from me, probably thinks I’m a pervert. Since the plane took off I’ve been desperately trying to get my ears to pop. Open and closing my mouth with a bare expression on my face gawking directly at her not conscious of my actions. I'm trying to remember what the exact speed limit of free falling is. Gravity pulls all objects towards the earth at the same rate. Physics that Alistair is probably grateful for, being plum as he is he won’t be the first of the three of us to set foot on enemy territory.
“Sorry, I wasn’t ugh… staring I was just-”
“Try chewing a piece of gum and swallow hard it usually does the trick.”
“10 minutes ‘till drop off.” The pilot of the Globemaster announces over the loud speaker. It’s a big plane and it does seem a little strange having it in use for this mission. There are probably no more than ten of us in here including the pilots. The Globemaster is a military transport jet. If not for the lack of sexy stewardess and exposed wiring it could pass for a Boeing, it’s defiantly big enough. I guess given the nature of the mission, all the way up here we’re supposed to look like one from all the way down there.
“Let’s go over the briefing notes one last time?” Alistair suggests.
“What’s there to go over?” asks Senya.
“The specifics, you know… mission details”
“Drop in, find the insurgent camp, take them out and wait for transport, how can it be any more specific than that for you?”
I grin when I realize that Alistair probably has an Xbox hooked up to his TV at home with a copy of Call of Duty sitting inside it.
“I don’t know conditions of failure… or something.” He says.
“Yes Alistair the obvious one is you die.”
“Hey come on Sen. Don’t be sour he was just making small talk.” I interrupt as a red light at the back of the carrier turns on and over the loud speaker the pilot instructs us to prepare for drop. This means we have about 5 minutes to make sure our parachutes are packed properly (I never bother, it’s too stressful, it’s not like we’d have enough time to fix any flaws anyways.) then we proceed to the back of the plane where we strap a metal hook thats attached to our harnesses to what I like to call the drop rail, before the announcer breaks out over the speaker with “Opening the hatch in 10… 9…”.
At the end of his countdown there’s a moment of silence followed by the sound of metal on metal and machinery working to lift the giant steel rear of the jet.
Senya went first, took the plunge like a champ, not thinking twice she didn’t even hook up to the drop rail. Alistair was second and I could tell that he was a little nervous, he tips over off the back of the jet like a glass figurine, stiff and fragile. It doesn’t look natural to see a man of his size being swept away by the wind like a weightless daisy.
I land hard, with an awakening thud I figure I split a bone, it felt like something went crack. Thankfully it's only my ankle that suffers a little bit of a sprain. After unlatching my parachute I get up and look around. We’re in
“Where’s Senya?” I ended up asking first, while squinting my eyes trying to make out her figure in the dark.
“GPS reads that we’re about 15 kilometres away from our target, we should start heading North.” Senya snuck up behind us with the briefing.
“We could clear at least 2 clicks before the suns up, lets start walking” after saying that I take my first step and a sharp pain reminds me of my ankle. Two kilometres in an hour is cake even in the sand but with all the dunes ahead and the state of my foot this could be a little difficult. Not to mention the other 13 we’ll have to conquer in the Pakistani sunlight today.
By the time the sun is up we’re taking a break. I wrap up my ankle with some bandages I take from Alistair’s pack, giving my foot a little less leverage inside my boot. I get up and make my way over to Senya who is studying a map. “How’s progress?” I ask her.
“GPS is fucked; it’s only picking up signal from two satellites.”
“And that’s not good enough?”
“We need at least three to get accurate readings… we could be up to a kilometre off.”
“Well let’s keep moving, once we get to the place we’ll only be that kilometre away.” I tell her, having dated this girl I know she has a tendency to make problems appear where they really don’t exist. I offer her a hand to help her up but she ignores it, putting the equipment back in her pack she gets up and starts making her way north after a quick stretch. Alistair catches my eye and from the look he’s giving me I can tell right away what he wants. Reluctantly make my way over to him and get him up on his feet. We’re off again and this time the suns beaming down on us. Alistair puts his arm over my shoulder and takes out a liquor flask with the other. He takes a swig then offers me one.
“Care for a drink, pal?” he says holding the canister up to my face with a smile on his.
“You bet I do.” I take it from his hand and take a sequence of big gulps, pass it back to him and try to conjure up some small talk until the liquor takes effect. When I feel the buzz I wrap up the conversation about our new issue rifles and speed up to only a few paces behind Senya, just to get a good drunken look of her ass under all those layers of military issue clothing.
We keep walking at a steady pace maybe for another three clicks before the sound of a bullet whizzing past my ear leads me to tackling Senya to the ground and opening fire. We dive behind a formation of rocks at the side of a hill and kept our heads down until the enemy starts reloading.
“Who’s shooting?” asks Alistair
“The Nazi’s you moron, cock your gun and shut up.” Senya coldly replies.
“That’s not what I mean, I wanted to ask how many of them there are… I know they’re Paki.”
“We call the insurgents” correcting him I take out a pair of binoculars and crouch between the rocks to get a better look at our attackers.
“They’re in uniform… it’s the army, Pakistani army”
“Let’s just take care of them quickly” Senya says as she adjusts the focus on Alex: A brand new 7.62x51mm bolt-action sniper rifle.
“We can’t just kill these guys, they’re just doing their jobs.” I protest.
“The hell did you expect when you joined the army, want to walk over to them and offer to have a game of ring around the rosy?” she asks.
“We’re here to kill terrorists’ not military.”
“They’re shooting at us!” she reminds me slamming me in the shoulder with her palm.
“So what? We’re wearing rags as camo, for all they know we’re the terrorists they have a right to shoot at us.”
“Look, Terry what other way would you suggest we deal with this problem then?”
“We’re ghosts permitted to use deadly force as necessary. There is no consequence so just do your job hey? I mean they’re shooting at us for god’s sake.” says Alistair. I sigh, because they both have a point, we are taking fire.
“And that’s the only reason I’m shooting back.” I say, just to clarify.
“How far?” Senya asks.
“No more than 100 meters, there are only three of them on top of that sandbank over there.” Senya takes the first shot, stealing my kill I watch her bullet pin the poor troop between the eyes. He goes down and the others realize they are in some serious trouble. They had just gone through at least three full clips failing to even graze one of us but we take one shot and it took out the biggest guy they had on their side. The remaining two both dropped to the sand, through my scope I could see one of the “insurgent” dig his chin into the sand as he closed one eye to focus his aim. He starts firing in bursts in our direction. The shots are way off mark but I still feel irresponsible for letting him take so many shots at my squad. I cock my gun and fire three shots, taking him out and before I get the chance to set my aim on the last target I hear Alistair fire. There was a silence. I don’t even bother to glance to see if he’d nailed him. The mans fat but he knows how to shoot.
“Let's go take thier stuff."
“Are you kidding Alistair?” Senya says almost laughing at him. “This wasn’t anything near a fair fight, their guns have crosshairs but they don’t work, their weapons were probably made around the time World War II ended.”
“How about the food?”
“Is that all you think about?” I ask him.
“Our rations taste better than any food they could be living off of, and what, you really want to wear bloodied ski mask with a bullet hole between the eyes?” she asks him.
“Alright forget it, let’s keep moving.” He instructs as he gets himself back up on his feet by himself this time. I flip the safety and strap my rifle over my shoulder, this time Senya takes my hand when I offer it. Alistair’s already a pace ahead. I used to be in
I used to be in
Pressing on in the suns rays against the sandy wind we make our way through the desert. Senya stops, drops her pack beside a group of dried out shrubs and crouches behind them. I follow her with Alistair, the three of us using the dead bushes for cover.
“That’s the camp down there.” she says pointing down to a small base surrounded by barrels and sand bags with a Humvee parked up beside a small lookout tower. Alistair shuffles through his pack and takes out his binoculars.
“This can’t be right.” he says, peering through the goggles. “They’re in U.S army uniform, that’s our Hummer.”
“GPS marks that as the base we’re here to clear.” Senya says.
“Didn’t you say the signal was weak?” I ask her.
“Not anymore, we’re picking up all the satellites we have in this region.” She says with a disappointed look on her face, and then adds “Listen guys I have to tell you a little more about this mission.” Alistair watches her with the kind of curiosity a cat watches a piece string when someone takes the time to play with it.
“These guys we’re here for are ex-army. The squad went AWOL stealing military property in
“Well then what the hell are we doing in
“They took it south and now they’re hold up in that base smuggling oil they steal from the factories in this area back to the states.”
“Bastards are posing as
“That’s right; I want you guys to understand that these aren’t U.S troops we’re dealing with anymore. They’re enemy insurgents on
“There are no other options here Terry.” She tells me. “They went rogue, they aren’t even welcome on their own soil anymore.”
“So let’s just do our job.” Alistair says eager to finish the task at hand.
For a second the two of them look at me as if they’re waiting for my approval. I consider telling them this is ridicules, the fact that the Colonel can call seemingly anyone an insurgent, marking them with death. We’re like his lapdogs doing the dirty work. All he has to do is point the finger. The idea of killing my own men makes me sick but I don’t have very much of a choice.
“Alright let’s just get this over with.” I tell them almost in a sigh. “When we get home I’m gonna become a teacher.”
We wait behind the same bushes until the sun begins to go down. The plan is to spread up when it’s dark. Attack them from all sides when they’re most vulnerable. I shuffle through the sand trying to keep as low as possible. It’s night now but if they have night vision we might as well be playing with glow sticks.
“I’m in position.” Senya comes over the talkie.
“Let’s give it a minute and we open fire.” By now I’m nervous, more nervous than I’ve ever been out on the field. For once there are stakes. We’re outnumbered, from here I can make out four of them but there could be more. Our first fair firefight and we’re shooting at Americans, now I can vaguely imagine how the real insurgents feel before attacking. They’ve got a;; the modern equipment we're using and top of the line guns. Bullets that explode on contact sending shrapnel flying in every imaginable direction, not to mention the 50 cal. machine gun mounted to the top of that Humvee.
“I have a shot for the machine gunner.” I radio over to my squad. Take a few calming breathes and line up the crosshairs with the Yankees skull. Flick the safety and before I can realign myself for the shot he goes down. There are bullets flying from the darkness and in the night all that could be made out is the heated shells tearing through the air.
“What the hell is going on out there?” Senya radios.
“Rebels got to them first, hold your fire don’t give our positions away.” I tell the two of them. The firefight doesn’t last very long. The AWOL squad didn’t stand much of a chance. Insurgents took them by storm. Screaming and charging firing their weapons automatically. I look through my night vision scope again just in time to see a rebel running with an AK, propelling his gun hand forward with every squeeze of the trigger as if the thrusting arm motion sends the bullets packing an extra punch. The fight was over in an instant, before the deserters manage to fall to the sandy ground that now marks thier graves the camp was already swarming with their attackers.
The three of us regroup at a hillside out of sight of the camp. Alistair sits against the wall of the hill with his legs crossed blindly polishing his rifle in the dark.
“As far as I’m concerned our job is done” he says. And he’s right, our job is done. We were sent to take out a squad of soldiers that turned on their own country and now they’re dead. Just by looking at her I can tell Senya is itching to fight, she wants to finish the job. She’s a real killing machine. It’s like her blood boils at the sight of an “insurgent”. She’s an American soldier bread for war three years in the army and for her taking a life is like popping an Advil.
Alistair can tell as well as I can that she’s nervous and he tries to calm her “Relax it’s over let’s go home.”
“They’re going to be out of the camp by sunrise, these insurgents mean nothing to us. The ones we were sent to kill are dead so let’s just radio for the chopper.” I tell her.
We sit in dead silence for the rest of the night. It went by quickly, the two of us sitting next to each other with Alistair’s legs separating us. Alistair, the only one who caught a few hours of sleep, his snoring a dead giveaway. I want to talk to her but there’s nothing to say. For a moment I feel ashamed of myself. I get sick to the stomach when I think back about killing the Pakistani soldiers. I hate myself for pulling the trigger on them because I don’t know if I’d be able to pull the trigger on the real enemy, the evil men who betrayed their country for an easy life in the desert. Does skin colour really mean that much? I mean an insurgent by definition is: a person who takes part in an armed rebellion against the constituted authority. So why would it have been so hard to kill a group of deserters when I could effortlessly fire at insurgents that speak a different language or look a different way. The saying carries a lot of truth… ‘You pick your fights.’ I don’t want any part of this one anymore.