1991, Saudi Arabia
had been in the camp for two weeks, sharing accom with
the Brits who were stationed in Eastern Saudi Arabia,
close to the Persian Gulf. Just like everyone else he
was going stir crazy, the waiting for something to happen
was getting on all of their nerves.
wasn't even part of the gang, didn't belong to a unit
nor regiment, wasn't a member of the British Forces
anymore. Instead he had special permissions and passes
and was regarded as the odd one out. Merc. Dog Soldier,
or PMC, as they were starting to call the glory hounds.
The weird one; the old one; the one where no one knew
why he was there, who'd given the clearance and who
was behind it all. His employer? Dan never answered,
just shrugged and cleaned his weapon. Truth was, he'd
be buggered if he himself quite knew why he was there,
other than that Maggie had wanted him in the Gulf and
that the British High Command for Operation Granby was
fully aware of his presence and the reason for it. Which
was? He didn't have a fucking clue, just kept his profile
low and beasted his body. He could be found in the gym
tent every free second, and if he wasn't lifting weights,
sparring, or running, he was sometimes seen talking
to the older Forces guys. Mostly Sergeants and WOs,
rarely an Officer. He still regarded them as poncy wastes
hung onto his water bottle like an alcoholic to his
booze, smoking fags, and shoving mountains of chocolate
and anything sweet down his gob, while being eager to
get out and do something - anything, as long as it gave
an adrenaline kick and got him into the heights of danger
and sheer survival that were the only thing that could
make him feel alive.
forty-one year old geezer, ancient by Infantry standards,
but hell, he'd show them he was insane enough and physically
fit for two. Not just buttfucking mad - also motherfucking
good at what he was doing. Scarred, reckless, without
scruples nor fears. A man who had no emotions left,
nothing that could disturb a mission, thus focused on
the task unlike anyone else. A tough bastard.
moment it all blew up, in the early hours of January
17, he was called into HQ and finally briefed by the
British Commanding Officer. If the necessity arose,
the allied command would use him and a few others for
the most sensitive missions, the ones that were crucial
and yet in the current political climate couldn't be
executed by official troops.
grinned, nodded, hoping those necessities would arise
soon, even uttered an "Aye, Sir, about bloody time."
Then spent the day getting his kit ready, waiting for
orders. He'd be on stand-by, whenever he was needed.
was wearing polarised shades, despite the murky light
in the makeshift pub or 'bar' as the yanks called the
place in the compound. He always wore his shades, no
matter when nor where, even at night. The other guys
had been taking the piss for the first few days, but
he either took no notice, or grinned, or shrugged, or
simply delivered an un-pulled punch so close to the
pisstaker's nose, the guy would recoil and shut up,
knowing a quarter inch closer and he'd be coughing blood
into the sand.
as a hatter, a fucked-up nutter, or, as some had begun
to call him in the few short weeks he'd been there,
a mad dog. 'Mad Dog' Dan. He could live with that. Question
was, for how long. Live, that was. He had promised the
Baroness he'd stay out of suicide missions, but it was
all a matter of definition. He called them challenges,
not death-traps, and that was that.
walked up to the bar, nodding in greeting at some of
the guys that he'd got to know over the past weeks,
and ordered a beer. Or whatever this Budweiser piss
was meant to be, which came in pathetically small sized
bottles. He turned to face the room and leaned against
the bar, always preferring to have barrier in his back
and be less of a target. Old habits died hard, and he'd
be damned if he went down in a puddle of booze instead
the rag-tag of patrons, some of them battle-worn bastards
like himself, others fresh-faced soldiers, but mostly
guys who'd seen their fair bit of combat. A multi-national
crowd of those lucky enough to get enough time off and
permission to get themselves a non-alcoholic drink.
Except for the PMCs who didn't wear anyone's flag, they
drenched their thirst with the measly excuses of booze
that were available, since the place had special permission
from the government. The guys with bottles were the
mercs, who, like him, were as hooked on the adrenaline
thrill, out of Infantry, Marines, Para or Special Forces.
He wasn't sure for whom they worked, similar to himself,
but he sure as hell didn't give a fuck anyway.
down some of the foul lager, he looked around the room.
Still hadn't had a chance to let off steam, stuck on
the ground while tension grew, coiling in the pit of
his stomach, with every day of air strikes and nothing
noteworthy to do. Couldn't call the jobs 'missions'
they sent him out to, didn't deserve the terminology;
just tasks, partly under - mostly friendly - fire, never
sufficient excitement. Never enough to sleep nor to
finish the numbness with a spark of something that resembled
feeling alive. He needed action. Ground action, right
there in the middle of things. Dan knew the Americans
had done the recce, but Operation Desert Sabre was still
waiting in the wings.
for something-anything that cut through this
goddamned morass of an utter absence of feeling.
gulp of the cold bear's piss that labelled itself 'beer',
before lighting another fag, continuing to watch the
patrons. He nodded to a guy he'd bunked with, exchanged
a few words, 'mate' here and 'yeah' there and an 'aye'
and 'fucking hot' on top of it, before he settled back
to smoking. Trying to dispel the tension, but not finding
any damned outlet willing to take the full force of
the strain. Wankers.
door opened, but Dan didn't bother looking up. Would
be just another git, considering himself lucky to have
got out of the boredom behind the lines, either waiting
impatiently for the combat stress right in the middle
of the battlefield - or with shit in their pants. He
guzzled his Bud, smoked his cigarette and minding his
own business, leaning against the bar. Tense as a coiled
spring, but seemingly slouching.
newcomer marched up to the bar, Dan caught the motion
from the corner of his eyes, but the shades were hiding
most of the guy. Made out the attire. Yank. Standing
right beside Dan, too close, into his personal space,
and demanding a large coke with a jarhead's unmistakable
drawl. Dan knew what kind of arsewipe it was the moment
the fuckwit opened his over-confident gob. He could
read the fucktard like an open book and tension increased
a notch. The yank's elbow almost touched Dan's arm,
but he didn't budge, just smoked his cig and took another
swig from his beer. Not much bothered him these days,
except for that damned boredom.
buddy, what the fuck are all those fucking faggots doing
in here?" The guy sneered to the bartender, his
voice cutting through the general noise of the jam-packed
bartender shrugged, "what faggots?" wiping
a glass, while Dan listened. Fingers tensing around
the bottle. His head lowered, eyes shielded behind the
The yank boasted. "They're all faggots." He
smirked, knocking back the coke, demanding another.
atmosphere in the place changed, a sudden aggression
as several of the British soldiers pushed their chairs
away, standing up.
grinned to himself, slowly raised his head and pushed
his arm against the idiot's elbow. Too close quarters,
but exactly what he needed. Perfect. Just perfect, he
hoped that arsewipe would bite.
got a problem with fags, yank? I'm a fucking fag. Got
a problem with me?" Dan bared his teeth in a dirty
grin. "Not just a Brit, but a full-blown shit-stabbing
fag." He didn't bother pushing the shades off his
eyes. "Want me to spell it out for you, dickhead?
Got. A. Problem. With. A. Fucking. Fag. You. Fucking.
Arsewipe?" He put the bottle down on the bar and
turned to face the braggart.
whole place fell silent.
want to get your teeth kicked in, asshole?" The
yank's head had turned an interesting shade of purple.
"I suggest you fuck off, back into your camp."
Seemed he hadn't swallowed the bait, yet. No reaction
to the 'faggot'.
sissy, want me to sashay off? Frightened?" Dan's
smirk showed teeth, each and every one of them. Noticed
the other Brits from the corner of his eyes, even recognised
one or two of the soldiers. They stood, waiting, ready,
but fuck, he didn't want their intervention.
pulled the shades off, neatly folded them, still grinning
into the yank's face, while stepping closer. "Got
a mouth bigger than your courage? Or dying to get that
mouth of yours stuffed with a juicy cock?" Stashing
the shades in his shirt pocket, he wiggled his hips
in a lewd gesture, licking his lips exaggeratedly before
making smacking kissing noises.
yank's head had grown redder, close to exploding, shaking
his fists. "I warned you, dickhead, you're getting
on, then, or are you just a big girl's blouse?"
Dan suddenly shoved his palms hard against the braggart's
chest, watched him stumble backwards. "You want
to mouth off, or are you frightened all of a sudden?
Worried the faggot could get your pretty hair out of
order, or you might break a nail?"
didn't get another push in, when the yank finally got
the message the faggot really was a faggot and threw
the first punch, so angry he was almost foaming at the
mouth. Angry and bloody careless, piece of cake for
Dan to dodge the straightforward right fist. "Ooohhhh,"
Dan squealed in a high-pitched voice, "the big
brute's getting angry, eh?"
fucking kill you!" The yank threw another punch,
lower, but Dan blocked the fist, delivered one of his
own, only clipped the bastard, who laughed, streetwise
enough to retaliate with two hits in rapid succession.
Hitting Dan, this time, and he felt pain exploding behind
his eye, on his chin and jaw. Yes, fucking yes! That
was what he wanted, adrenaline, anger, pain, and a whole
fucking lot more. Only now starting to feel alive.
dear, that almost hurt
" grinning, Dan shook
the hits off, ignoring the split eyebrow and the fact
he'd felt teeth rattle in his mouth. "Guess I've
got to get to business, now." He pulled back, delivered
a no-holds barred punch into the yank's guts. Nice,
low, and the man doubled over with a grunt, holding
his middle, unable to breathe.
grabbed his shirt, hauled him close and up, pulling
the guy into a head butt that smashed the nose, grinning
with satisfaction at the scream. "Time to suck
my cock, fucker." He snarled, finishing the yank
off with a right elbow to the side of his head. Legs
giving up, the man crumbled to the floor, stopped in
mid-motion when Dan took hold of the collar, keeping
the yank's bleeding nose at crotch level, thrusting
his hips once, twice, into the man's face, before finally
dropping him like a sack of potatoes.
that was that." He turned, wiped his hands, as
if nothing had happened, despite the other Americans
in the joint but the Brits were in the majority. Searching
for his beer bottle on the bar while fishing for the
obligatory shades and ignoring the stunned silence.
Dan was about to order another Bud, when he suddenly
had two bottles shoved into his hands. One right, one
left, and hands clapping his shoulders, with laughter
of "well done, mate," and "you're fucking
just grinned and shook his head, adjusting the shades.
He said nothing before guzzling down half of one of
the beers, hardly taking notice of his opponent who
was helped up by some others.
great joke, mate, the 'faggot' thing." One of the
The guy was still laughing. "Taking the piss, aren't
Dan smirked, proceeded to finish the first of his beers.
you really are a faggot?" Another guy piped up
from behind Dan's shoulder.
right." Dan added after he'd wiped his lips with
the back of his hand, turning round so the bar was once
again in his back. Still grinning, this time he pulled
his lips away from his teeth. "Got a problem with
all around him, despite the dark shades in the already
murky place, he could read what was going on behind
some of the faces. Disgust, anger, surprise, amusement,
and most of all the rather fresh memory of the way he'd
just turned the yank braggart into a simpering puppy
with its proverbial between its legs.
got two options, guys." Dan lifted his chin, back
slightly arched, both hands on the bar counter. Seemingly
relaxed, but he'd be off like a bullet within less than
a second. "You can either drink a beer with that
aging faggot and forget about the fact that I shag blokes,
because the small matter of who or what I fancy has
not a fucking thing to do with the rest of me and most
of all my job, or you can get yourselves ready for a
fight because if you want to show that aging faggot
that you're ten times more of a man than that boasting
yank with the broken nose, you'll find yourself being
used as a mop with which I'm wiping the floor."
A feral grin flashed across Dan's face, "Aye, damn,
I almost forget the third option, you just ignore everything
and simply avoid the aging faggot and pretend I don't
exist. What's it gonna be, mates?"
silence continued, until one of the guys, a Jock like
Dan, started to laugh his head off, taking a step forward
and thumping Dan on the shoulder. "You're fucking
priceless, haven't laughed so hard since Saddam got
his knickers in a twist. At least you're a real Scotsman
and that braggart's got some dandruff in the teeth."
Calling out to the barman in the broadest Glaswegian
accent, "get that man his beer!"
broke the ice, and the ensuing commotion of laughter
and beer bottles clinking allowed those who wanted,
to slink away and ignore the prat, and some others to
turn away with distorted faces of seething dislike,
unable to do anything about it. Yet.
1991, The Persian Gulf
the CO stood straight in his uniformed glory, name tag,
stripes, crowns and all, "have you ever done a
grinned, baring his teeth. He stood with his arms crossed
before his chest. No longer bound to standing at attention
and catering to those goddamned poncy overblown egos.
"I was in The Regiment, Sir. Of course I did."
dozen jumps, a dozen measly fucking crazy bastard jumps
amongst an endless string of normal ones. Still, he
remembered the thrill of High Altitude - Low Opening
and the maddening surge of adrenaline as his body had
half-frozen with the air rushing by until he'd almost
Sitting down, the Officer indicated a plastic chair
in front of his desk. Dan took the invitation, a rare
honour to be asked to sit, it was a well-established
fact that the commanding bastard hated his guts.
need a man with enough balls and experience to jump
into Iran." The Officer's expression turned outright
nasty. "And you seem to have the balls at least,
you've been brandishing them around in camp, after all."
merely grinned again. Wasn't going to take the bait.
"If you say so, Sir, but why Iran and why HALO?
This doesn't make sense here."
Officer glared, seemed eager to start a fully-blown
tirade, and Dan expected to get a proverbial second
one ripped, but the man visibly bit down on the intense
dislike he'd never made a secret out of. 'Mercenary
faggot' had been one of his kinder descriptions.
McFadyen, as even a man like you can imagine,"
The Officer continued and Dan let the insult slip by
without comment, "jumping into Iran, right in front
of everyone's noses is not a particularly clever idea."
Dan shrugged, "would have thought they had enough
of Saddam and his cronies after years of being at war
Officer's frown was growing steeper by the second. "Mr
McFadyen, you'd be well advised to listen before rushing
to conclusions. This is a most delicate situation."
Sir, too delicate for SAS or Delta?"
And you should bloody well know that!"
I?" Dan smiled ever so sweetly, "and what
about other PMCs? Surely, there are armies of private
military contractors swarming across the country by
now." Dan blinked straight into the other's scowling
face. "But what do I know, I am not a member of
the British Forces anymore, thus hardly privy to all
the ins and outs in camp."
the crap, McFadyen!" Thoroughly pissed off, the
CO was fuming. Dan just grinned, slouching in his chair
while revelling in knowing the man needed him. McFadyen,
know damn well, McFadyen, that certain operations require
extraordinary sensitivity and should not be carried
out by military personnel, and you happen to be the
only one here at this moment in time with the required
experience, so stop taking the piss. We have a window
of no more than twenty-four hours according to intelligence,
and there is no time to get other trained personnel
here before the window of opportunity closes."
much as Dan disliked that gay-hating pompous bastard,
he could do with a hefty dose of adrenaline that went
beyond bar fights.
we're talking." The CO rifled through a stack of
papers on his desk, pulled out a couple of photographs.
"This opportunity." Pushed them in front of
Dan's nose. "Ibn Al-Jazaal, one of the highest
ranking generals. He has been spotted in a town close
to the Iraqi border."
peered at the photo, saw yet another bushy moustache,
black hair and dark eyes. Good thing he'd learned to
distinguish Middle Eastern features, back in Afghanistan.
"Unless I'm mistaken, he is the one linked to the
Iraqi's stupid-arsed stunt of flying their remaining
air crafts to Iran." The Officer nodded and Dan
raised a brow. "I gather it's also the same man
who has been accused of war crimes, such as murder,
torture and genocide?" The Officer nodded while
Dan continued, "and who has been pursued by the
combined Allied Forces but without success? And, who
managed to escape and hide somewhere in Iran, even though
one would assume that this was the last place an Iraqi
general would want to go to?" Dan flashed a brief
smirk, "Is that the man, Sir?"
guess the 'window of opportunity' is that this Ibn chap
has been spotted, aye? And of all places in Iran, which
sounds a rather unlikely choice, despite that air force
exploit, unless he's more clever than we thought."
CO just nodded.
you need someone to go and extricate good old Ibn, preferably
alive and without getting caught himself, while being
unable to offer anything but covert military assistance
from a distance, while that someone is in the country."
was the plan, yes." The man's annoyance was almost
was starting to really enjoy himself. "And you
haven't got anyone insane and experienced enough, and,
of course, not a member of the British or Allied Forces,
to attempt this mission with a fair chance of actually
being successful. Is that right, Sir? No one
"Dan smirked, teeth and all, "except this
McFadyen! You had to rub it in again, didn't you?"
The CO's fist came slamming down onto the desk, fuelled
by Dan's impetuous grin.
Sir." Dan didn't mean it, and it was bloody obvious.
"But I am right, am I not?"
CO glowered. "Yes." Snapping, "feel free
to gloat. You're the only one currently available with
enough experience, who speaks the lingo, knows the terrain,
has done a HALO jump before and thus is able to get
into Iran without stirring up a fuss. Who is used to
operating on his own, has even a vague chance of getting
back out of the country alive and, hell, you're the
only one who can get away with going native." Growling,
the Officer added, "and by God, I wish I didn't
have to ask you."
crossed his arms, if possible at all, grinning even
wider. "I'm glad to hear. I was getting cabin fever."
The plastic chair squeaked as he shifted his position.
"That mission sounds just like the thing I am going
Officer was rolling his eyes. "Enjoy?" He
huffed, "You are the most obnoxious person I have
ever met. If I had been your OC I'd busted your arse
out of the Army and into Collie. But you'd probably
enjoyed prison too much."
shrugged and kept grinning. Wasn't giving a shit about
the insult, preferred to start figuring out his chances
instead. "Thankfully, Sir, I am not under your
jurisdiction and never have been and am thus not imprisoned.
Instead ready to pick up dear Ibn and deliver the parcel
right into your hands. Ready and rolling for interrogation."
pissed off as the CO was, he could do nothing but glare.
Dan unfolded his arms and leaned forward, "let's
get down to business, then." Turning from sneering
bastard to fully-fledged professional within an instance.
"I gather you want me to get on with it as soon
as possible. Twenty-four hours, aye?"
I want you out there before dawn."
being put together as we speak."
nodded, "We've talked about getting in, anything
planned for getting out?"
be on your own," the CO's gaze had become intense,
leaving the dislike aside for a moment, "but preferably
with your target."
problem, I drive anything." Dan shrugged, his own
flashed a smirk and raised his brows. "I'm an ex
SAS blade. What do you think."
CO looked at him for a moment, then pulled out some
papers and a map. "You don't want to know what
shrugged with a lopsided grin, "let's start the
briefing, then. No time to spare for pleasantries."
Mission. Lone operation. Behind the lines. No backup
until whenever they could arrange a rendezvous point.
HALO jump. He hadn't even done a standard one in years
and his knees were thoroughly fucked these days. His
chances weren't the best and the adrenaline would be
couldn't wait to get out there.
was standing at the edge of the airfield, looking towards
the black sky. At least a couple more hours before dawn
and he had hardly managed to get any sleep at all. No
time, and, if he were honest with himself, too many
nerves. It would be just about turning light shortly
after the jump, if all went well. A night jump was even
more dangerous, but the risk of detection was less.
Despite the cool of the early hours, he started to sweat,
the multi-layers of thermal underwear beneath the jumping
overall were roasting him like a foil-baked potato whilst
on the ground. Yet it would save his life, keeping his
body from freezing to death in sub zero temperatures,
while plummeting through the sky.
was strapped into his harness, carrying his helmet in
one hand, with goggles and gloves stuffed inside of
it. He frowned at the sky, wondering for no more than
a second if he was either too fucking insane, or simply
didn't care anymore about his life, or, indeed, if he
enjoyed this shit far too much and always had, and had
missed danger - with a capital D - during his job for
the Baroness more than he had thought. Fiddling subconsciously
with the fixture on the strap across his chest that
meant life - or death, connecting mask with oxygen bottle
and both of them with the aircraft oxygen console.
moved one leg, annoyed with the tightness around his
knee, both of them strapped up with bandages that provided
casing, designed to keep his knee caps in place, while
his feet were boiling in specialist boots that were
meant to protect his ankles from the impact. He'd hoped
so, anyway, but the worry was less oppressive than the
weight of the parachute on his back. Rigging carefully
stashed, canopy perfectly folded, and he'd just have
to hope to hell and back that he'd make it down in one
piece. If any of his equipment was going to fail, he'd
be toast and Ibn would have a happy Ever After.
way, he'd hurt like the motherfucker despite protective
clothing, precautions, and sheer and utter bravado,
and yet he couldn't wait to get up into the air.
right?" The voice behind him brought his head round.
Dan nodded at the approaching two men: pilot and co-pilot.
as ready as I'll ever be." He grinned, got a shoulder-slap
by the co-pilot in return.
get you up there, mate."
uttered a sharp "Aye!" picked up his backpack,
which would be strapped to his legs. He'd checked and
re-checked the contents, native clothing, inconspicuous
bag, belt kit, couple of 24 hour survival rations, map,
as much water as was feasible to carry, personal radio
and a selection of weapons. He knew exactly where every
single item was stashed.
the harness once more and going over webbing's fastening,
Dan had made sure he could survive out there with nothing
but his belt kit and trusted knife, even if he lost
the bergan. His hand patted the bailout oxygen flask,
strapped to his left thigh, as he trotted behind the
crew. He'd have to get through at least twenty minutes
of pre-breathing before take-off, and once he'd boarded
the Herc, he got himself geared up, dropped the bergan
and helmet on the floor beside him.
himself hooked up to the plane's oxygen console when
the last safety check was finished, the jumpmaster inspected
the breathing equipment, before Dan sat down with the
mask in front of his face. The 100% oxygen was flooding
into his lungs, creating unbidden memories of helplessness
in a hospital in India, but he fought to instantly discard
all thoughts. He needed to be sharp; needed all his
senses and every ounce of strength, cunning and fitness
that his aging body still possessed. Fighting fit, but
no longer young - twenty-one years too late for the
foolishness of youth.
sat on his bergan, legs crossed, while the oxygen flushed
the nitrogen out of his blood. No way in hell was he
going to end up with the bends like a scuba diver.
and rechecking himself and his kit through the next
half hour, the Herc finally roared to life and before
long they were steadily climbing towards the desired
height of 30,000 feet. Dan checked his automatic opening
device once more, knowing it was his last defence should
anything go wrong in the air, such as getting into a
spin which could cause him to blackout. All seemed fine,
and the adrenaline was starting to course through his
system. Not much longer and he'd be on his own again.
To prove once more what he was capable of: defying death.
interior of the Herc was just as noisy and cold as he
was used to, in addition to being dark. Only the red
tactical lighting was on, and he huddled into himself,
remembering the exhilaration of jumping from high altitude
and the dangerous moments of possible giddiness and
memory loss, which were the last damned thing anyone
would want when plummeting to the ground at 120 miles
per hour. He'd be dead within forty seconds of coming
off oxygen and with that insane falling speed he'd barely
have three minutes flying time.
was no way he was underestimating the dangers. Mad Dog,
perhaps, but not an idiot and Dan was determined to
get through with this mission, no matter the cost. He
would show that bastard CO what a faggot was capable
of doing, and he'd come back with Ibn in tow.
was pulled out of his reveries when the loadmaster waved
a card into his face, giving the order to get ready.
He immediately got up, strapped the heavy bergan onto
the back of his legs, while he went through the safety
checks one last time. The Hercules was still climbing,
and Dan sat back down once more.
the tailgate was released, and with the ice cold stream
of air the noise increased to deafening levels. Dan
stared at the open tailgate, focussed, concentrated
and waiting for the green light. Despite his twenty
years in the Forces, most of which as part of the Special
Forces, he couldn't help the sweat, adrenalin and the
fear building up. In fact, he figured while he was staring
into the darkness, that he wouldn't be alive if he hadn't
respected fear. What distinguished a frightened coward
from a frightened soldier was courage: the courage to
go in and do it, despite and even because of the danger
disconnected his oxygen line from the main supply at
a signal from the jumpmaster, switching over onto his
own oxygen bottle. He was lucky, it went without a hitch
and he stood up. It was bloody black and freezing outside
and he was about to jump into this hell. He had to be
mad. A strange grin crossed his face as he readjusted
his goggles and helmet, smoothing the gloves firmly
onto his hands. Finally! The red light went on and he
moved forward, towards the rear of the tailgate. His
goggles were misting up within seconds and he could
hardly see what was in front of him. Two seconds, one,
and ... green on!
the slightest hesitation, Dan threw himself out of the
goggles froze up the very moment he launched himself
into the sky, and he was spinning so violently, not
only could he not see anything, he was getting rapidly
dizzy. The bergan strapped to his legs dragged like
a heavy sack of potatoes, and he felt as if ice water
was being sprayed into his face. Just another second
of dizzying freefall, and his protective gear was covered
in sleet while his goggles were completely blinded by
spread his legs, attempting to steady his fall, worried
he'd be drifting too far off his target, and simply
riding out the spin, while trying to glance at his altimeter,
which went through zero once, then twice, and he figured
his AOD should be opening just about now, at 3,500 feet.
He felt it pop off that very moment, and the canopy
deployed with the familiar pull. Before he knew it,
he was gliding down through the dark sky, feeling himself
pass through warmer layers of air and steering to a
suitable landing place once he got further down.
ground came faster towards him than he had hoped, and
even though the landing wasn't too bad, Dan lost his
balance at impact, which rattled his knees. At least
he had the presence of mind to let himself roll onto
the other side of the bailout bottle. Lying there for
a moment, just breathing, while listening to the canopy
fluttering to the ground, and then nothing. Stillness.
No one except himself and the sounds of the night.
he was. Iran. And about to do something neither side
would find acceptable.
checking through his body, every bone and joint seemed
to be in working order, before patting himself down.
His goggles were filmed with ice and his jump suit covered
with sleet, and he groaned as he sat up.
getting too old for this shit." Murmured to himself,
he had no time to lie around aching. Gloves, helmet
and goggles came off before he got onto his knees, pulling
on the rigging lines to gather the canopy. He wouldn't
need the parachute anymore, on the contrary, he had
to hide all his gear. He stood, got the webbing off
and undid the straps for his bergan, in complete relief
when all of the heavy weight fell off his body.
parachute gathered, he spread it out and dropped his
jumping gear into the middle. Undid the wrap around
his neck, then stepped out of the military jumpsuit,
throwing it onto the pile before undoing his boots and
pulling the thick socks off, finally climbing out of
the normal jumpsuit he'd worn underneath. Boots and
socks left to the side, he wiggled out of a turtleneck
sweater before reaching the last layer, the thermal
underwear. Discarding that as well, thrown on top of
the pile, Dan stood in his skivvies. Time for a change
of identity, and he'd be buggered if he couldn't fit
as much into an Iranian marketplace as he had fit into
an Afghan one.
in his bergan, all done with speed but avoiding haste,
which would make anyone clumsy, he pulled out the kit
that would get him through this mission. Stepped into
a pair of BDUs, rolling them up to knee height, securing
the hem with a couple of safety pins. Then t-shirt,
flak vest over it, throwing the long native gown on
top of it all, hiding the Western gear. Dan smirked
a moment to himself at the almost white material. Nightgown,
just where was his night cap.
the kit belt securely around his waist and strapping
all his weapons to his body, until everything was effectively
hidden, he slipped barefoot into the sandals, stuffing
desert boots and socks into a heavy-duty shoulder bag
that someone had found on the market, together with
a shawl, which he wound around his head. He had no mirror,
but he'd done this often enough, back in Afghanistan,
that his haphazard job looked more convincingly native
than the most thorough attempt could have been. That
was it, time to fix the personal radio so that he could
hide both radio and battery, the size of two bloody
heavy house bricks, in his voluminous shoulder bag,
slung across his back, and almost as comfortable as
checked over the equipment once more, damn glad they
hadn't provided him with the bog standard radio, too
heavy to carry on a mission like that and the standard
issue British kit would have been too dangerous should
he be detected. The high tech version for Special Forces
was considerably smaller and lighter, even though it
still weighed more than the water bottles he was lugging
around. He fiddled with cables and headpiece, stashing
them away securely, then bundled the canopy up with
its treasure, and threw the bag over his shoulder. He
stuffed as much of the parachute into the camouflage
bergan as he could, before dragging it to a spot close
by that offered a drop and enough stones and debris
to pile on top of the gear. If anyone ever found it,
they'd be none the wiser and he'd be long out of the
country by then.
then did he switch on the radio, the headset haphazardly
close to ear and lips, hindered by the rag around his
head, and waited for the static to clear before making
his announcement. "Calling HQ." Waiting another
moment, relief ghosted across his face when he heard
the confirmation from the other end. At least the technology
worked, what a miracle for the usual British crap, held
together with sticky tape and spit. "The eagle
has landed. About to fly out of the nest." Once
more awaiting conformation, he nodded to himself and
checked his watch that was hidden beneath the long sleeve
of the gown. "Roger. Over and out." Hiding
the radio inside the bag, he slung the whole heavy thing
across his back before glancing at the sky that began
to turn light. "Let's go get Ibn." Muttered
to himself in broken Arabic, then set off towards the
town where he hoped to find his target.
at a fast pace despite wearing nothing but sandals,
Dan was covering the terrain in under two hours, getting
towards the town in the cool of the morning, just as
the muezzin called the faithful to fajr prayer. He hid
in a derelict shed near the outskirts of the town during
prayer, couldn't afford to get caught wandering around
as an able bodied man, if he wanted to pass as a native.
sheltered from prying eyes, Dan checked out the radio
and contacted HQ. Voice low, using a few chosen code
words that let them know he was close to the town and
about to go in. Careful not to give away his position
nor intention for any prying ears, should the communications
line get compromised. Waiting his turn after shutting
down the comm link, Dan emerged from the ruins into
town had come to life, bustling with activity, and once
he'd reached the central market place, the world was
bursting into colours, smells and sounds. Dan felt himself
teleported back to Afghanistan and into Kabul, but the
closer he got the more intense the stink became. He
wasn't sure where it came from, guessed a combination
of rotten vegetables, open air butcher stands, raw sewage,
and burning waste. Yet despite the stench he didn't
twitch a muscle and walked stoically on. Severed sheeps'
heads to his right, laid out on a cart; baskets with
fruit of every colour; crates and boxes overflowing
with vegetables; animal carcasses laid out in the sun
and attracting thick, black flies that made an incessant
noise; freshly caught fish, gutted in another corner,
and casks and barrels of spices and dried herbs and
powders, masking the stench the further he got into
the market and towards the indoor part, which offered
shelter from heat and blinding sun.
sauntered around the stalls, on high alert while keeping
a low profile. Eyes cast down, darting around from beneath
his lashes, as he checked out his surroundings. The
dark shadow of stubble on his deeply tanned face helped
with the illusion of being one of the natives, same
with the clothing that hid anything Western beneath
knew that he was in the right place, the Brits' informant
had been adamant, and since he had nothing else to go
from, all he had to do was be there and wait for the
target to arrive. When, however, within the next twelve
hours, that was anyone's guess. Insh'allah.
his meandering path from stall to stall, Dan moved further
into the bowels of the bazaar, stopping at a cloth merchant's
stall that sold brightly coloured and intricately patterned
traditional clothing. Getting his bearings, Dan feigned
interest in a particularly gaudy headscarf, bright red
with gold coins around the edges, fondling the fabric
to bide his time while communicating in monosyllabic
replies with the merchant, to steer clear of the danger
of giving himself away by his accent.
motion in the narrow passageway between the stalls,
when a group of men came through, all of them dressed
native with several of them talking, while the man in
the middle walked purposefully and in silence. Dan barely
twitched when he recognised his target. Ibn Al-Jazaal,
without a doubt, he had memorised the photos all through
the night. But who the fuck were all those other guys
doing there, surrounding him? Bodyguards, Dan thought
with a frown while trying to hide his facial expression
by rifling through the headscarves. The stall holder
had noticed, though, taking the frown for a complaint
about the price of the fiery red headscarf, and lurched
into a lament of falling prices, hungry children, demanding
wife, scolding mother-in-law and wouldn't the customer
make up his mind already, he'd even be willing to haggle
the price. Dan shook his head while keeping track of
the target's progress from the corner of his eye.
left the stall without a sale the moment he almost lost
Ibn's entourage from his sight, followed by angry shouts
from the merchant, but he paid no heed, instead following
his target plus cronies while keeping a safe distance.
Watching them pass through the rug-hung curtains that
closed off the back part of a carpet stall, Dan stopped
close by, glancing around and finding to his relief
a tea stall, conveniently nestled in a nook no more
than a few feet away.
ordered tea in the same carefully economic style, sitting
and soon sipping the hot and overly sweetened dark brown
brew, just as he had done many times in Afghanistan,
while monitoring the entrance without appearing to do
so. Leaning forward after a while, he pretended to look
through his bag, while checking on the radio. Too dangerous
to activate it there and then, he'd have to wait for
a more convenient moment and just see how things went
until then. Nothing he could do except continue observation
while sipping tea and waiting, appearing as relaxed
as someone who had no worries and nothing else to do
than drink tea in the market.
sat there for the good part of two hours, going through
several teas and handfuls of accompanying sweets, beginning
to worry if somehow he'd overlooked a secret back entrance
and he'd missed Al-Jazaal's exit, when his target reappeared,
still protected by those bodyguards.
observed from his seat, masking his interest behind
the raised tea glass, then emptying it, with deceptive
leisure, before throwing some money onto the table and
taking his leave. Following at a distance, he had to
concentrate on appearing unhurried and unconcerned while
keeping tabs on Al-Jazaal.
he'd left the bustling market and turned a couple of
corners, Dan came to an abrupt halt at the end of a
narrow street, suddenly confronted with all of Ibn's
men. All seven of them, standing in groups around three
cars, seemingly debating something. Dan spotted one
head through the window in the middle car: his target.
slunk back into the shadows of the next alley, watching
and straining to listen. He only managed to catch snippets
of the conversation, their Arabic too fast and too far
away, but from what he could make out they were deciding
who should take the front and rear vehicles. Dan nodded
to himself, he would bet those guys were ex Republican
guards, Saddam's very own and very best soldiers, who'd
managed to flee together with Al-Jazaal. They seemed
to be on their way 'home' whatever that meant, but clearly
fitted into plan and movements that he'd been briefed
with by the CO. Twenty-four hour window, and someone,
somewhere, was going to pick Ibn up in a few hours,
probably around dawn, if Dan didn't find a way to grab
him before that. Preferably without getting riddled
with bullets or perforated with blades in the process.
frowned when they seemed about to get into the vehicles.
If he didn't get himself some transport in the very
near future, something like two minutes tops, he'd probably
lose the target for good. Not only had it been too risky
so far to kidnap Al-Jazaal from within the midst of
his bodyguards, but simply impossible. No, he had to
bide his time and wait for another chance - within the
next twelve hours or so, and only if he could get his
arse onto a set of wheels and follow those cars.
if he didn't come up with something in the next
fuck, the men were moving now, getting into the cars.
Dan was looking around, desperate for any kind of transport
that was faster than a donkey and his cart, when he
heard the tell-tale puttering of a motorbike coming
closer. Just in time, even though it sounded asthmatic
and slow. Keeping one eye on the cars that had started
their engines and the other on the advancing sound,
Dan slunk further back into the shadows.
The motorbike came into view, two men sitting on it,
one dressed native, riding piston, the other in westernised
clothing, laughing and chatting while turning his head
backwards towards his passenger, trundling along in
barely more than swift walking speed. Two. Damn. Dan
had to be quick or his target would be irretrievably
lost, plus if he got caught in Iran, there'd be far
too many questions and none of which he wanted to answer.
they got to his level, Dan jumped out of the shadows,
swinging the heavy shoulder bag as a makeshift weapon,
he knocked the passenger off the bike. He was fast,
too fast for the rider to call out for help, when the
next second the man had a fist flying towards his head,
hitting the right spot on the temple which knocked him
out cold, slumped on the bike. The engine was still
running and the machine bucked, but Dan held it in a
vice grip. "Get off already!" Hissed beneath
his breath, he delivered a kick to the unconscious driver,
finally getting him off.
saw the cars had moving off from the corner of his eyes.
No more time. Hitching up the native dress until the
BDUs almost showed at the knees, he swung one leg over
the bike, praying he hadn't forgotten how to ride it.
Old bike. Ancient. Vibrating beneath and between his
legs, and when he glanced down he almost laughed at
the make: an old British classic, so old it would be
a rare catch, back in Blighty. He didn't give a damn,
though, as long as it was faster than a bloody donkey
Forcing himself to remember all he had ever learned
about motorbikes, it felt a lifetime ago, the last time
he'd been on a one. Letting go of the clutch, Dan revved
up the tortured engine and managed to keep his balance
as he sped away, as fast as the old lady allowed, while
the two men on the street behind him began to shout
- but no one was there to listen.
was pushing the bike as much as he could, following
the three cars that he could just about make out in
the distance. Readjusting his shoulder bag in mid-ride
when it threatened to slip off and entangle in the spokes,
Dan opened the throttle fully, finding his bearings
once more, as it all came flooding back from his youth
in the Forces. Whoever had come up with the proverb
it was just like riding a bike - impossible to forget
- had been damn right.
road was winding its way through a landscape of dried
out semi-desert. At least it was still mild in February,
as opposed to the sweltering heat of summer, and the
bike was doing its best to keep up with the cars, while
Dan carefully kept his distance to avoid being detected.
He was partly cursing the flat plateau that stretched
all around him and offered no notable cover, but without
the lowland terrain he'd probably have lost his target
was forced to slow down when the moment he noticed the
cars had lost speed and were turning towards the right
into an area that was less open than before, with several
low-level rock formations. He wouldn't be able to drive
much further, couldn't take the risk of being detected.
Slowing down and keeping a low profile, Dan got as close
as possible, when he realised the cars had pulled into
a sort of compound, or whatever the shabby cluster of
buildings could be called. A one-storey building, white
washed and mud built, with several small outhouses and
what appeared to be stables, now deserted and in a state
off the engine as soon as the cars had stopped, Dan
moved immediately behind an outcrop of rocks, throwing
the bike down. He was still a long while away, could
barely make out the individual men, but if he was going
to get any closer, he had to do it on foot, and bloody
up the radio on the relative safety of his hiding place,
he contacted HQ, quietly reporting his whereabouts and
his intention, being fed back that the latest news from
their informant within the country emphasised he had
to strike before the morning. Al-Jazaal would be taken
to a safe place in the early hours, whatever that meant.
Dan frowned to himself, acknowledged the message and
settled behind the rocks for a while longer. After some
time it became clear that the target had no intention
of leaving the compound, at least not for the night.
It would be far too dangerous trying to get any closer
in daylight, thus there was no point in being any more
uncomfortable than he had to be. Getting some of the
rations from his pack, together with the water he had
been carrying, Dan kept as hydrated as he could and
was not going to go hungry either.
into observation mode, he used the small binoculars
he'd packed, keeping the house under surveillance. Nothing
noteworthy happened, except for the regular appearance
of a man, usually a different one, making their way
over to one of the small wooden outhouses, remaining
inside for a minute or two before reappearing. A pattern
seemed to emerge and Dan grinned, no doubt he'd just
located their loo and he started to whistle under his
breath when the target himself came out of the main
building, accompanied by two of his bodyguards. Al-Jazaal
seemed to be agitated and shouting at them, waving his
arms to shoo them away. The next moment he got into
the hut, on his own, with the two men slinking back
into the house and not reappearing. The target made
his way back into the house after a while, on his own.
watched and wondered. If he was to have any chance
it might just as well be the shitter.
long hours of the day passed uneventful, as he stayed
hidden behind the low outcrop of rocks, keeping the
compound in focus and biding his time. It was getting
towards dusk when he finally made a move again, checking
in with HQ first. "Eagle going in. Target in cross-hair.
Extraction imminent before zero." The acknowledgement
came swiftly, together with an evaluation of his coordinates.
be on his own, but they'd pick him up at a yet unknown
rendezvous point, if he made it.
out of his native clothing when the sun began to set,
Dan pulled down his BDU's, getting rid of the safety
pins, and shook his head once his hair was freed from
the scarf. Taking off the dusty sandals, he couldn't
wait to get his feet back into socks and army boots,
at least he knew how to run in them. Properly dressed,
the native kit stashed in his bag, he looked down at
himself. No way he would be mistaken for an Iranian
now, weapons, kit, clothing all too obvious, but he'd
have to be quick and rely on his wits, more than the
deceit or disguise. He had a plan, ludicrous as it might
be, but it might just work.
was settling in and darkness advanced rapidly. With
the darkness Dan approached as well, making his way
closer towards the compound. Moving behind cover as
much as he could, then getting down onto his knees and
crawling the rest of the way until he was near enough
to make out some of the voices from inside. Throwing
himself down the moment a strip of light announced the
door opening, Dan hardly dared to breathe, keeping absolutely
still behind a straggling patch of dried grass, praying
he was invisible. The man who came out went to one of
the cars and it took an eternity before he vanished
in the outhouse to presumably take a piss, finally returning
back into the main building. Only then did Dan dare
to belly-crawl closer, towards the dilapidated barn
whose ruins would give some shelter.
later it got the colder it became, but Dan had survived
the freezing winters in the Afghan mountains, he wasn't
going to be thwarted by a measly February on the Iranian
plains. Keeping watch, alert despite the encroaching
tiredness, he began to see a pattern that continued
on from the day. It was obvious that the guards had
no intention of letting up on their watch and go to
sleep, but what about Al-Jazaal himself? Dan was wondering,
he had not seen him for at least two hours and the night
was moving on.
didn't dare contact HQ, lest even a whisper alerted
the men inside. Besides, he couldn't be sure what kind
of equipment they had. Despite the run-down building
and the wrecked looking cars, he wasn't going to take
any chances. Thus staying crouched, keeping movements
to a minimum, just enough not to seize up in the cold
and to stay functional.
track of time and movements, he had been hiding for
several uneventful hours when it got towards 1 AM and
the door of the main building opened again, with none
other than the target stepping out. Carrying something
under his arm with a couple of his bodyguards following.
From his vantage point Dan could clearly see and hear
them arguing, deciphering some of the heated interchange
that came down to the one thing: Al-Jazaal was not going
to be escorted to the outhouse loo but was going to
have his privacy and the guards should not be so annoying
or they'd find themselves back in Iraq and in the hands
of the American swine.
Dan grinned, it was obvious to him that with whatever
he had rolled under his arm, and it looked remarkably
like reading material, the guy was up to spending some
time in solitude on the shitter. Most likely having
a good old satisfactory dumb before the early hours
of the morning when they were meant to move on and thus
out of reach of the Allies.
expected, Ibn was eventually left alone, with the two
guys vanishing back into the main building. That was
Dan's cue. He moved silently out of the ruined shed
once the target had locked the door behind him, crawling
over to the cars. He wasn't sure how much time he had,
but was betting on at least five minutes. No man, no
matter which colour or creed, was ever going to take
a dump without sufficient leisure, certainly not when
carrying reading material.
the cars over, he swiftly ascertained their state, deciding
which one was the best of the lot, while praying the
guards had done their job properly and left all of them
filled nicely with fuel. Trying handles and boots -
unlocked, he grinned triumphantly to himself. Bloody
stupid bastards were far too smug, unable to imagine
someone was after them and had gone to the length of
checking out their hide-out. In Iran. Of all the impossible
places an Iraqi ex-general could go.
on the largest of the vehicles, the one Al-Jazaal had
been riding in, it had a voluminous boot and seemed
the best kept of the lot. Dan crawled over to the others,
meticulously slashing the tires, one after the other,
even though he would have much preferred disabling them
by cutting the wires off the alternator or slitting
them off the spark plugs, but he didn't have the time.
Most of all, he couldn't take the chance to make any
noise by opening the bonnet.
that all vehicles were sufficiently disabled except
for the big galleon itself, he stopped, looked around,
ensuring no one was listening nor watching, then crawled
back, this time all the way to the shit-house. Adrenaline
surging, his heart was hammering just like in the old
days when he was out on his own and fighting to survive
the impossible: in the midst of Russian gun fire or
between warring Afghan tribal lords. Or, indeed, in
Northern Ireland, back in the seventies, or Belize and
any other shitty place Britain had ever sent him to.
Alive, that's what he felt: alive. Despite or because
of the danger.
drawing himself up to full height, if any of the guards
stepped right now out of the building he'd be toast,
but this was his only chance and he'd bloody well use
it. Peering at the lock, a brief smirk crossed his face,
and his favourite knife was in his hand without a sound.
The latch was nothing but wood and the crack in the
door large enough to slip the blade through. A rickety
piece of shit for a crappy shithouse that housed one
of the biggest pieces of shit.
had one try, and if he fucked it up there was no escaping.
Taking in a deep steadying breath, Dan slid the blade
with his left into the crack of the door, pushed it
upwards and the latch out of the way. The door sprang
open, he tore it wide ajar, the same moment his right
fist connecting hard with the target's temple. Al-Jazaal
had looked up in shocked surprise, mouth open, but never
managed to get a sound out. Dan pulled back when the
man slumped forward, steadying the descent with his
left hand, knife still in it, and delivered another
punch with his right for good measure. Wouldn't do if
the bastard woke up too early. Breathing hard, Dan was
moving swiftly. One sound, a few seconds delay and he'd
be so fucked he wasn't going to be able to keep his
promise to the Baroness.
had his trousers round the ankles, sandals on his feet
and the long shirt hitched up. No time for niceties,
Dan simply dragged the unconscious body upwards and
hoisted the dead weight over his shoulder in a fireman's
lift. Suppressing a groan as his knees wanted to buckle
under the strain., he turned, hurrying over to the car
that he'd left in working order. He let the body slide
down to the ground behind the car and pulled cable ties
from his belt kit, binding Al-Jazaal's wrist tightly
behind his back and lashing his ankles together. It
was bloody dark, the only light came from moon and stars,
but Dan managed to gag the man with a part of the headscarf
he still carried with him in the shoulder bag. Looking
down at his bundle, then at his watch. No more than
one minute had passed since he'd opened the shitter
and knocked the target out cold. If he were lucky the
building stayed quiet until they'd hear the noise of
boot opened without a hitch and barely a sound, proving
to be as large as he'd hoped, and nicely empty. Dan
stooped and picked up the trussed-up body, wrestling
it into the car as fast as he could. Closing the boot
before he threw the shoulder bag inside, Dan hurried
to get into the driver's seat. He was racing against
time. Any moment the guards could come out to look for
Al-Jazaal, and he hadn't even started the damned vehicle.
belt kit proved once again his life saver, something
he had learned from a battle worn sergeant in The Regiment
when he'd been nothing but a young grunt, Dan searched
for his all-tool, a handyman's sturdy version of the
Swiss army knife. He knew in theory how to get the damned
car started without a key, and was fumbling in the dark
until he found the plastic panel. Levering the screwdriver
into the panel, he broke it off, wincing at the noise
and sweating despite the cold. Feeling around, he found
two screws and undid them in haste while cursing under
his breath when he slipped twice. Pulling the tumbler
out, he stuck the flat headed screwdriver inside. Now
came the hard bit, he didn't have a crowbar with him
and his knife had to do, as he pulled on the ignition,
using the handle as leverage. Employing all his strength,
he finally managed in what felt like an eternity to
pull down hard and the ignition fell to the floor. Dan
turned the screwdriver in the tumbler and with a triumphant,
"fuck, yes!" the engine started.
was it, the noise would get them out of their hiding,
and now he had no more than split seconds to get out
of their range of bullets once the door opened. Revving
up the engine, Dan turned with screeching tires, kicking
up dust. He saw as clearly as day in the glare of the
headlights, how the door opened and several men came
piling out. Shouting to each other, barely heard above
the noise inside the car, and raising their weapons.
pushed the accelerator down to the floor, the pedal
almost going through the metal, and the car shot off.
Fast despite its size, with the cargo in its boot. Racing
away from the compound and along the small dirt track,
Dan kept his head as low as he could when the bullets
came flying. Hitting the car, possibly entering the
boot, but he couldn't hear muffled screams from inside
and even if, at least he got the target alive, whatever
happened to him from 'friendly fire' wasn't really his
had to get to the rendezvous point, somewhere at the
coast of the Persian Gulf. No way could he try and get
out of the country by crossing the border, HQ had set
up a plan to pick them up by chopper.
was driving like a madman once he had reached the main
road. Not too worried about the target, since he heard
the man kicking against the boot, probably hoping to
open it from the inside and throw himself out, but no
fucking chance. Not with Dan speeding along the dusty
road in the darkness of the night.
was making good progress, disabling the other two vehicles
had paid off, because he wasn't followed, and even if
the guards managed to get their hands on a car, it was
unlikely they'd catch up any time soon and they sure
as hell couldn't count on help from the native population.
activated the radio while driving. Fiddling one-handed,
eyes always peeled on the blackness in front of him
and constantly checking the rear view mirror, he called
HQ. Announcing the mission had been successful, the
target extracted, and he was on his way to the rendezvous
point, no more than an hour away. The disembodied voice
in the ear piece of his headset acknowledged his report,
as they tried to ascertain his exact location before
finalising the pick-up by helicopter. Right at the Gulf
and as close to the border as they dared.
on, Dan still couldn't quite believe his luck, but nothing
happened. Nothing except for every mile racing by, getting
him closer to the coast, until finally saw the coast.
As agreed, he alerted HQ to be ready with the chopper.
hardly stopped the car when he heard the well-known
noise of rotor blades coming closer and Dan got out,
opening the boot, to find a bound and gagged man with
his trousers around his ankles and the shirt ridden
up, twisted in the confined space and glaring with utter
rage at him while making noises into the cloth in his
mouth. Dan sneered, the nastiest sort of grin he managed
as he shrugged, pointing to the helicopter above. "Time
to go 'on vacation' Ibn. They say the U.S. of A. is
a nice place to be this time of year."
was still grinning when he heaved the struggling man
out of the boot, waving into the search light of the
chopper before the equipment was lowered and he strapped
the trussed up bundle into the straps. He watched them
hoist the target inside, before the bird lowered further,
one of the marines inside held out heir hand and Dan
grabbed it, being pulled inside as the helicopter went
on board, Mad Dog." One of the marines grinned,
helping Dan scramble to a crouch from where he had lain
flat on the metal floor.
kind of glad to see you lot." Dan laughed, and
his first action was to search for his shades, slipping
them on despite the darkness. Jesus fucking Christ,
he needed a fag. Glancing over to where they were dealing
with Al-Jazaal, he shrugged once more and scooted back
to sit against the wall, as the bird made its way back
through the night. Back into Saudi Arabia and back into
camp, where he'd sleep for as long as they'd bloody
well let him - after one of those damned debriefings
that the wanker of a CO would be adamant on.
predicted, Dan spent the rest of the night and the early
hours of the morning in debriefings, being grilled by
the CO and his cronies, while struggling to stay awake,
until they finally let him off with three days paid
extra leave, which he decided to spend sleeping, working
out and sleeping some more. Oh, and drinking in the
story of his crazy stunt was spreading like wildfire
when Dan was on his way to hit the showers in the morning,
and he could hardly get on with all the shoulder slapping
from well meaning lads - mercs and soldiers alike, who
were queuing up for breakfast. The ones who hated his
guts and would have liked to show the faggot a hard
wall in the face, kept quiet to the cries of "well
done, Mad Dog," or "you fucking lucky bastard!",
and "good one, mate."
last, when Dan managed to get through the crowd and
into the shower, they left him alone and he managed
to sleep the entire day long into the afternoon without
so much as waking once.
spent the early evening in the bar as one of the few
who could legitimately indulge in booze and had a hard
time not to get too pissed with all the free rounds.
Dan called it a night, early on, wondering if that meant
he was getting old: too tired to get rat-arsed after
nothing but one measly mission.
was grinning to himself as he walked along, on his way
back into camp for another round of mercifully dreamless
sleep, not paying any attention to the shuffling sounds
behind his back.
stopped, turned, raised his brows above the shades and
looked at the man who had come up to him. Made an inventory
of the guy within a split second. Yank. Jarhead. Typical
stupid buzzcut. Buff. Young. No older than twenty
one or two. Fucking good looking if he were into kids.
"What the fuck do you want. A broken nose?"
guy raised his hands, took a step back. "Hell,
no. Just thought I'd, you know, catch you. I was in
the bar. Saw you."
brows rose even higher. "So, you wanted a chat
with the aging fag, eh?"
didn't expect the yank's answer and neither the broad
grin. "Yeah, buddy, that's exactly why."
Dan didn't try to hide the surprise, even gave the kid
the honour to push the shades off his eyes, securing
them in the tangle of his dark and grey-speckled unruly
mane. "Guess you best tell me why."
kid nodded, looked left then right. "Can we go,
like, somewhere else to talk?"
Dan mimicked the yank's furtive glances. "You worried
to be seen with me, is that it? Think I'm contagious?"
Sure not." The kid shook his head, held out his
hand. Good, strong handshake when Dan took it, mildly
surprised at the formalities. "I'm Matt. C'mon
buddy. Can we talk? Over there." He gestured to
a secluded corner right behind a couple of generators.
shrugged, returned the firm handshake and nodded. "Sure.
I'm Dan, but I guess you know that."
started walking, Matt grinned, glancing sideways at
Dan. "Sure thing. You're Mad Dog. I already heard
of your stunt in Iran." Once they'd reached the
generators, shadows engulfed them and they were undisturbed.
great," Dan leaned against one of the camo-netted
metal boxes, "but you're not here to talk to me
about the HALO jump, are you? Could have done that in
slipped into the narrow space between Dan and the next
generator, bodies almost touching. "You're right.
Wanted to talk to you about
" paused, and
caused Dan's brows to creep back up towards the hairline.
about, you know, what you are."
kid nodded. "Yeah."
Dan knew all of a sudden, still asked. Wasn't an idiot
but not a charity either.
," silence, then a loudly swallowed gulp,
seemed the yank was desperate enough to continue, "cause
I'm, too. Just can't say it, can't come out of the closet,
or I'm thrown out of the Marines, OK?"
Dan crossed his arms in front of his chest. "What's
that got to do with me?"
you're gay? And so am I?" Dan's answer apparently
Dan insisted. "What does that mean?" He was
enjoying himself entirely too much. Revelled in the
stunned silence, could hardly hold back his laughter.
Old geezer - fit lad. Surely the spread of cards was
laid out to give only the one reading: him gagging for
it. Perhaps he did, but he wasn't going to tell, and
the yank was squirming far too prettily. "Want
me to jump your bones, kid?"
silence, audible breathing in the dimness, then finally
a flash of teeth and a slightly unsure grin. "Yeah.
Dan smirked, watched the fish dangling on the hook and
thought it was a damn good catch. Out of the blue, bloody
unexpected and all the better for it. The catch was
fairly tall, definitely just as broad as he was young,
and if the other yanks he'd seen were anything to go
by, the kid would be a beefy prize to behold. "How
desperate are you?"
buddy, I've been here for weeks, haven't seen my boyfriend
back home for four months, seem to be, like, the only
gay within the entirety of Iraq. Have to lie about my
sexuality and watch straight porn with the other guys,
bored to death of damned pussies. How fucking desperate
do you think I am?"
Dan commented dryly, pushed forward and pinned the kid
between generator and himself. Ground his hips into
the other's groin. Far, far too entertaining. Seemed
he got lucky tonight. Mission and sex. He'd won the
groaned, silenced himself, grabbed hold of Dan's hips,
pushed hard. Dan was somewhat surprised at the reaction,
but sure as fuck didn't complain, letting himself be
seems you want to get off." He chuckled, relishing
the sense of control, while the kid was losing it. Had
been a long time since he'd been on top of that age-old
game of bodies against bodies. "How much, kid?
Enough to risk it here, in camp?"
" Matt breathed, husky. "You have no
fucking idea how desperate I am
against Dan, fumbling for his belt, all the while trying
to reach the evasive face and find Dan's lips to kiss.
do, kid, I do
" Dan moved his head and turned
his face away from the searching mouth, away from a
kiss. Shades slipping off and falling with a faint clatter
into the dust, as he found and conquered Matt's exposed
neck. He was shoving against the other's groin, crushing
their cocks. He'd done it many times before, yet it
was all different now. Not thinking, just revelling
in having made it out of a suicidal mission, celebrating
life by pressing against a muscular body. Young, alive,
fucking perfect, and suitably strong. Good.
felt on top and clearly in charge, as if disconnected
from his own body, watching both of them and listening
to the kid, who was rapidly losing it. The yank threatened
to make too much noise until Dan pushed his arm into
the kid's face. Winced when teeth bit into sleeve and
biceps, but at least the groans were muffled.
was too fucking easy, almost like playing a cheap arcade
game. Pushing all the right buttons and stroking the
cut cock, while rubbing against his own, both in his
right hand, while grinding into the buff body that willingly
moved with him, against and together. The kid hadn't
lied, was too bloody desperate to last long, and Dan
enjoyed that knowledge. Cool, superior, in charge and
in fucking control of himself and the other's body.
It felt good. Easy, a kind of sex he'd never had.
grabbed the back of the yank's head the moment he felt
the convulsions starting to wreck the other's body,
forced the face against his chest, arm, sleeve, and
all, muffling any sounds the kid might make, before
closing his eyes for just a moment and simply letting
go, allowing himself to come with an almost completely
suppressed groan. Controlled, measured, but a bloody
lot of release after pent up months of shit and nothing;
anger and blood; numbness and pain.
listening to the kid's panting when he had himself back
under control, he kept the head pressed against his
chest. Murmuring, lips touching the shaved skull, "Better,
Breathless, the yank made no attempt to move. Neither
body, spent cock nor head. "But I'm not a kid."
chuckled quietly. "Sure you are. I could be your
daddy." Letting go of the other's head, watching
it come up, grinning at him.
me to call you Sugar Daddy, not Mad Dog?" Matt
smirked, drew in a shuddering breath, obviously enjoying
a last moment of aftershocks.
clipped the shaved head with the palm of his hand. "Don't
get too cocky, kid."
sniggered, stretching in the confines of their bodies.
"Guess I just did. 'Cocky', that is." Looked
down between them, wiggled his hips. "Urgh, shit.
me to call your nanny, kid?" Dan laughed under
his breath, careful to keep the noise down, as he stepped
backwards and into the other metal box.
Matt was wiping at his trousers.
that's me." Dan didn't care about the cum, just
tucked himself in and closed his belt, would deal with
the trousers later. "I resemble that remark."
..." Sound of metal and rustling of fabric as Matt
put himself back into order. "Guess they're right,
you know, calling you Mad Dog."
had stooped down, searching for the shades that he'd
lost. "Guess they are." Glanced up, suddenly
found himself face to face with the yank again, who
was crouching beside him, the shades dangling from his
something, old man?"
sneered, took bait, shades and taunting, and slipped
them back onto the top of his head. "Cheers, kid.
Good thing you children are still playing hide-and-seek."
was laughing, just as quietly as Dan earlier, then stopped,
his hand suddenly on Dan's shoulder. "Seriously?"
what?" Dan queried, marvelled for a moment
at the sheer untainted freshness of that face before
like, can we meet again?"
nodded without a second thought, surprising himself.
It had been easy, painless, the most light-hearted bit
of sex he'd ever had in his life. No depth, no feeling,
just a few words, a lot of grinning and a body that
ground itself against his own. "Sure."
nodded, relieved. "When? Where?"
know where to find you." Dan grinned, stood back
up, time to get some sleep. "In the nursery."
Matt retorted, but Dan was already leaving, and his
subdued laughter was heard all the way to the gates
of his camp.
made an effort in the following week to actually greet
the guys he knew and who weren't avoiding the maniac
self-confessed fag like the bubonic plague. Nodded to
some, chatted to others, and his efforts at being matey
paid off when ten days later his beefy jarhead reappeared.
Matt looked even more like a kid in the murky light
of the bar, especially when Dan pushed his shades up
to study the yank for a moment, before letting them
fall back down over his eyes and getting a fresh drink
from the bartender.
over, he nodded to Matt, then indicated with his chin
towards a corner, to have a word. No one noticed, Dan
had been talking to most guys at some stage or another,
him chatting was a normal thing by now. Mad Dog had
got friendlier, but he'd never lost his bite.
desperate?" Dan murmured when Matt was close enough,
before chugging some beer.
grinned, nodded, scratching the back of his neck. "Fuck,
yeah." Nursing a bottle of coke. Nothing but coke,
and not even the full-fat variety.
I got a safe house."
Saudi Arabia?" Matt almost snorted the last mouthful
of his drink back out through his nose. "How the
fuck did you do that?"
tapped the side of his nose, grinning. "Resourceful.
Besides, I went through nine years of shagging in Kabul
and the Gulf can't be as tricky as the Afghan mountains,
but that's another bedtime story. I gather you're off
duty tomorrow morning?"
do you ..." Matt trailed off, faced with Dan's
full-toothed grin. "Course you'd know. Bastard.
Mad Dog and all that shit." He nodded. "Where?"
turned away, pretending to get bored having a half-arsed
conversation with that fresh-faced yank kid. "Here."
Ended the motion with a piece of paper slipped into
the other's hand. "See you at 1000 hrs. Sharp."
daddy." Matt grinned, stuffed the paper into his
tunic and would have earned himself a clip over the
head again, if Dan didn't have to avoid the sort of
familiarity that could rouse suspicion.
raised the middle finger of his scarred left hand, mouthed
'fuck you', then turned and walked back to his customary
place at the bar. Finishing his Bud then heading back
to his bunk to get some shut-eye for the night. He slept
without waking for once.
hrs and Dan heard a light rap on the door of the building
he'd found in a slightly more up-market category than
the rickety pieces of muddy shit that he'd used in Kabul.
Build from brick, it housed a fully grown bed instead
of a rolled-out bergan and even had extra space that
was used as loo with a sink. Positively luxurious compared
to the shitholes of his past, but back then his bones
hadn't been creaking, his body hadn't protested and
no. Not going there. Refused to think of
the past in any more broader terms than 'back then'.
late." Dan opened the door, alert but not wary,
watched the yank slip in and look around till he found
the Brit standing in his back.
Dan said casually, a finger posing as a gun, grinning.
"You got a lot to learn about healthy paranoia."
you." Matt retorted, went straight to the bed and
that's wasn't quite my intention."
Matt looked up, fingers on the buttons of his tunic,
"what did you have in mind, then?"
shrugged, walked over, pulled the only chair in the
room close until he sat opposite to the yank, watching
him undress. "No plans. Just things I don't do
and others I do do."
as?" Matt glanced up from the bed, "in case
you wonder, I'm clean. Can show you my latest test."
that's OK. Same here." Dan watched him through
the customary shades, grinning and nodding, amused at
the speed with which the kid was getting himself out
of his tunic and t-shirt, sitting bare-chested on the
bed while reaching for his boots to unlace them. And
what a chest it was. Fuck, so young. Unflawed. Not a
goddamned scar. Too healthy, too
it would do; would do just nicely.
what do you do and don't do, man?"
you'll find out." Dan grinned, evasive, stretched
his legs out and crossed both arms over his clothed
chest. Watching the show before him while he felt remarkably
at ease. Saw the boots come off, then the socks, the
camo trousers remaining, or 'pants' as the yank would
you going to undress?" Matt stood up, hands on
his belt, looking down at the sprawled man on the chair.
"Show me the goods. Is only fair, buddy."
laughed, shoved the shades off his eyes and chucked
them on top of a rickety table behind him. "That'll
rolled his eyes, but kept looking at the freshly bared
face for a while longer. "Dunno why you cover them
up." Muttered to himself while stripping out of
the trousers and standing in his briefs.
said nothing, his brows raised at the murmur, then shrugged
and started to take off his own boots, then socks. Was
a good boy, remembered the correct order. He glanced
up. "Afraid it's damaged goods, kid."
yeah, sure, old man." Matt grinned, fingers beneath
the waistband of his brief. Dan saw the kid pull them
down and step out of them, before his shirt covered
his eyes for a moment while he pulled it over his head.
Then bent down to undo belt and slip down trousers,
while the jarhead was fumbling with the pile of his
clothes, bent over the bed. Firm arse in his vision.
Smooth, damned perfect as well, and Dan almost forgot
to step out of the trousers that pooled around his ankles.
Holy shit, he didn't quite know where they made those
kids so buffed-up fresh-faced flawless, but he didn't
was naked when he came back up, slumped himself once
more onto the chair, as sprawled as before, and watched
Matt turn. Presented with the full view of a nicely
sized cock. Dan hadn't had a cut one before, in fact
he hadn't ... not go there.
Matt exclaimed, staring at Dan's naked body. "You
didn't exaggerate. Holy Christ, you got a fucking impressive
collection." Pointing at the scars, most of all
the large ones crossing Dan's abs. "Time for an
laughed, shaking his head. "What's that, eh? Your
idea of foreplay?"
it what you like." Matt stepped closer, cock at
Dan's eye level, who enjoyed the view. "Let's start
on the top. Face?" Index finger running along the
knife scar that crossed from left temple to the corner
of Dan's mouth.
was still laughing, but his head stilled at the touch.
He couldn't help being drawn into the light-hearted
banter. Unable to remember when last he'd laughed like
that, not even grin, other than smirk or sneer. He'd
been in a damn dark place despite his promise to the
Baroness. "Bloody Afghans. Thought I'd eyed up
their women." He pointed at another knife scar
on his biceps. "Got that at the same time. Took
some convincing to calm them down." He grinned,
couldn't help himself again, the way the kid was throwing
his head back and laughing at his explanation was goddamned
infectious. Didn't point out the collection of thin
knife scars in his upper back and on top of his shoulders.
Hardly noticeable, even though he always remembered
that young German soldier's face when he caught a glimpse
of the white lines on his skin. Not go there.
ironic." Matt sniggered.
" Dan hadn't ever really thought about
it, and now that Matt pointed out the obvious, he felt
a wave of hilarity roll up from deep inside. They'd
almost killed him during those nine months in the mountains,
because they'd thought he had impure thoughts towards
their women. Back then he should have pissed himself
with laughter instead of kneeling in a cave and letting
an enemy shave his face.
this one?" Matt's finger rested on the neat round
scar at the left shoulder.
frowned. "Bullet. Close range. In an odd way that
bullet saved my life." A Russian cunt. A raid on
a house and a chance to get out alive.
Matt stepped even closer, made his way between Dan's
legs, who felt invited to grab the smooth and muscular
arse with both hands, rather enjoying himself while
copping a feel.
mind, kid, long story." Squeezed the buttocks,
elicited a squirm that made Dan chuckle. The yank's
growing interest was undeniably obvious, right there
in front of his face.
enough." Matt moved his hips until his cock brushed
Dan's lips, while his hand ran up and down the other's
left arm. "I've seen that one before." Fingertips
bumping over the V-shaped scar on the biceps. "Thought,
like, whoa, what a strange motherfucker. 'V' for victory."
shook his head, caught the tip of the cock with his
tongue a couple of times, with utmost deliberation.
He grinned, despite the memory, focussed on marvelling
at lack of foreskin instead. "Not for Victory,
but it's an even longer story." Snatching a taste,
"let's just say I'm a kinky motherfucker."
Matt grinned, looked down, stooped, and ran a hand between
Dan's pecs down to the heavily scarred abdomen. "I
bet that one's a fucking big story."
well is. Car bomb while I was guarding the British ambassador
in Kabul. Tore me into enough pieces to have me in ICU
for weeks. The hand's a result of that as well. Fucking
hospital in India. Darkness, fear and pain, and then
a promise. A promise that couldn't be kept.
man, you've been around. No wonder they call you Mad
Dog." Matt squirmed closer to touch the scar on
the thigh, his cock brushing against Dan's cheek in
the process. "That one?"
rubbed his face against the hard flesh, chuckling at
the eager jump and the groan that followed. "That
was a scary one. Flesh wound, Soviet patrol. They thought
I was dead, covered in blood and shit, and left me lying
under a pile of Muja corpses."
How did you get out?"
tapped the side of his nose, grinned. "That's my
can read you on my skin.
laughed and Dan could feel the vibration of that laughter
run through his own body before the yank was about to
turn to the other side to try and find more scars.
Dan stopped him, steadied Matt's hips with both hands,
while shaking his head. "Enough foreplay. Time
didn't manage to answer anything resembling speech before
his cock vanished between Dan's lips, being pushed further
in and down the throat. He didn't say anything either
a few minutes later when all he could do was groan and
mutter nonsensical sounds. Sometimes his eyes closed,
head fallen into the back of his neck, rhythmically
riding the sensations; other times his head fell forward,
eyes open, staring down at the way Dan's checks hollowed
before pushing forward, swallowing as much of the length
as he could. Matt's hand tangled in the dark hair, almost
losing balance a couple of times, bracing his legs further
while losing himself amidst moans and shuddering tremors.
bloody well enjoyed himself. In fact, hadn't enjoyed
himself that much since ... since he didn't want to
remember. Sucked that fresh-faced buff-bodied jarhead
with the same enthusiasm with which he had tasted the
Russian's cock. Used the tricks he'd acquired in all
those years, blowing the kid's brains out while giving
him the blowjob of his young life.
was rewarded soon enough, with a spectacular show of
orgasm, convulsions, breathless groans, and trembling
loss of balance. Followed by buckling knees and completely
spaced out keeling backwards.
that was good. Dan grinned and wiped his lips, watching
the yank collapse on the bed behind him. Bloody hell,
he'd missed that, could get used to this again. The
taste, the feel, plus the whole hog of light-hearted
out there?" Dan smirked at the kid, who took a
moment to come back round to the land of the living.
What a way to spend an off-duty morning.
groaned, waved a hand at Dan, then scrambled into a
semblance of sitting. "Guess so." He grinned
as stupidly as only a young guy could. From one ear
to the other. "You're kinda good at that."
laughed, slouching even further down in his chair. "Cocksucking
fag, I know."
wanna fuck me now?" Matt's lingering breathlessness
gave his voice an interesting shade of husky, even smoothing
his accent. Dan figured the kid should always talk like
that and he'd be quite willing to do his occasional
damnest to make sure it happened.
Matt's disbelief made Dan chuckle and shrug. "Don't
get it, thought that's what you wanted."
Dan mimicked Matt's question, grabbed the plastic water
bottle close to the bed and had a good swig before handing
it to the kid.
that's what guys do. Especially older ones." Matt
chugged down half the bottle in one go, wiped his lips
and grinned at Dan. "Why you laughing?"
I figure you're buying into that sugar daddy shit a
bit too much."
Matt huffed, put the water safely out of reach, ran
a hand over his shaved head. "Then what do you
want? I'm pretty easy."
laughed, "I got that. The 'easy' bit."
I be, like, offended now?" Matt grinned with teeth
and all, leaning forward and getting hold of Dan's hand.
With the surprise on his side he managed to pull him
out of the chair and over to the bed, where Dan let
himself fall down onto his side. Torso on the bed, legs
partly on the floor. Sprawled once more.
choice, kid, but if it were me, I wouldn't be offended."
Dan wanted a fag, glanced over at the bergan, so fucking
far away, couldn't be arsed.
buddy." Matt's hand wandered across Dan's chest,
then up, and down again, ending on the scars. Suddenly
grinning, he leaned forward, intending to kiss. His
lips touched Dan's for a mere split second, before Dan
turned his head away.
Matt frowned, "what's up? Just want to make out."
He tried again, got the same reaction. "Fuck that,"
Matt pulled away, rolling his eyes. "I'm not a
You're not." Dan paused, "but perhaps I am."
frown smoothed and he started to grin. Seemed nothing
could piss on this guy's parade for long. "What
do you mean? You got cooties?" He smirked, "go
on, how many blokes did you have? See if you can freak
shit. Bull's eye. Dan felt like an idiot for the sudden
embarrassed squirm that set in before he could stop
Matt sniggered. "Twenty? Thirty? Fifty or even
a hundred? You're old enough to have fucked yourself
through a whole regiment."
" if his face was going to flush now, Dan
would kill that kid. Seriously. "Guess I could
did you?" Matt prodded him, then poked Dan's chest
when he didn't get an answer. "Did you? Did you?"
quite." Dan sighed, no point in further
evasive action, he could tackle the junior marine and
punch his lights out, but what a waste of muscles, skin,
body and opportunity that would be.
fuckin' hell, man, you gonna tell me how many or not?"
Another poke and a double effort prod, and Dan relented.
Open mouthed disbelief.
sighed, nodded, scratched his groin. "Aye, you
heard right. One."
why? You're, what, forty-something?"
Forty-one, mate. Too old to be a monogamous prick.
I know, no need to say it."
shook his head. "You really are fucking mad. But
whatever has rocked your boat, bit too late now, buddy.
For the monogamy." He pointed at Dan's face with
a huge-ass grin. "You tell me why we shouldn't
shrugged. Why. Why the fuck shouldn't he? "Guess
there's no reason, really."
had just about spoken the last word aloud when he was
grabbed and drawn into a full-blown snog with the enthusiasm
of a twenty-one year old. Dan barely managed to catch
a breath here and there, assaulted by lips, tongue and
teeth, while chuckling in the back of his throat. Damn,
the kid was a good kisser, and he allowed himself to
just enjoy the ride, which eventually took him to use
those condoms after all and shag the delicious arse
of his baby-yank.