September, 2001 – Al Anbar Province, Iraq
“We jump in thirty,” yelled the team leader.
Chris leaned back, breathing deeply, preparing himself to drop from the air and enter “The X”. As the Bell UH-1N Iroquois, helicopter, better known as the ‘Huey’, floated up and over the low hills of the Iraqi countryside, the marines watched the faded brown landscape pass beneath them through the open side doors. The fresh air helped to offset the oily stale metallic air from the interior of the metal box. He and five others sat facing each other in two rows of three, strapped in hard chairs with their backs pressed up against the vibrating fuselage.
Dusk was creeping across the sky to the east, but it was not quite dark enough for night vision. The helicopter had been flying due north at over 150 miles per hour for roughly an hour.
When not in wartime operations, moving across the open ground of Iraq was considered an act of war, but the six man team of Force RECON Marines had been dispatched to rescue three “independent” contractors who had been gathering intelligence in the region. The commander was clear with his orders.
“Our overpaid mercs are pinned down in a dilapidated farm house on the edge of a wheat field. I have assured command and the press that we are not, I repeat, NOT, going to rescue them.
“You all have been chosen to be a Recapture Tactics Team, or RTT, because you are trained in close quarters battle. As the RTT, you will conduct an In-Extremis Hostage Rescue before these men are killed or captured. Get in, get them, get out. We can’t afford to have them running their damn mouths. If you are caught, well, you know the drill, Donovan.” He ended by making eye contact with the team lead, Donovan. “No one knows we are there.”
The RTT waited for the signal to rappel from the sides of the Huey. Using hand signals, Donovan motioned for the co-pilot to drop the altitude to a height of fifty feet.
Abruptly, the helicopter angled and curved to the south. The pilot spoke over the radio, “The LZ is hot! Repeat, the LZ is hot! Recommend that we abort.”
Through the open doors of the sharply banking helicopter, the marines could see Iraqi soldiers arriving at the edge of the rows of wheat, constantly firing to hold the contractors in place inside the old shack.
“Hell no!” Chris yelled.
They are never going to make it. Even if we land and approach on foot, we are too late. The failures of the past were ghosts that haunted Chris’ sleep and cast a shadow over his waking hours. Since losing Smalls and his entire team, with the exception of Deely, just less than twenty miles from where they now flew, his new unit had been moved frequently.
And each move seemed like a failure. They lost two UN workers in East Timor, two journalists in Kabul, four Afghan informers in the search for Osama bin Laden, the twelve engineers – . Again. I’m not going to be able to save the people that I am supposed to protect. But I can.
Anger began to stir. As the slack man on the team, he was there to assist. He had absolutely no input on the decision to stay or leave.
Then Chris felt the familiar sensation begin to grow. The adrenaline induced speed of thought.
If I can harness this speed and adrenaline, I can save those men.
He closed his eyes for a moment, and the world seemed to slow to a crawl.
Chris welcomed the warm feeling of blood pounding through his head and the shades of red that crept into the corner of his eyes. He reached his hand across his front and released the belts that held him to the chair. He heard his leader tell him to buckle his belt, but by that time he had stood to his feet. The jerking of the helicopter seemed more like the slow rolling motion of a dock rather than a platform jerking left and right at over 100 miles per hour.
This helmet is going to just get in my way. So is this pack.
In the briefest of movements, he tossed his helmet across the helicopter into the team leaders lap and shrugged out of his vest and gear, dropping them onto the floor.
Donovan saw Chris moving quickly and barked orders, “Parker, buckle your belt. Parker, this is an order, stay in your seat, put on your gear. Parker!” Every word was lost in the roar of the engine.
He knew that at the speed he was moving, he would be gone before they could even register what had happened. He made sure the rappelling rope was attached to a buckle, he dove forward, grabbing the rope as he jumped, and watched as the inside of the helicopter disappear as he rushed toward the ground.
The speed of falling was nothing compared to the speed in which his mind processed what he needed to hit the ground safely. The rope snapped as it held tight against the buckle, and he began to swing in a momentum driven arc like the playground game of tether ball.
“Land now!” Donovan yelled through his com to the pilot.
“Can’t land right now, the soldier is hanging below us.” The pilot yelled into his headset.
Chris waited for the swing of the rope to send him back in the direction of the enemy troops, and then let go of the rope and calculated the angle he would land and the necessary speed he would have to roll to keep from being injured in the landing.
Then there was a gentle shift in weight, and the Huey adjusted to the change.
A glance forward showed him that he would land on the south edge of the field, now some distance from where the enemy troops were beginning to sweep through the field under cover of the tall wheat, toward the farmhouse.
Upon landing, he rolled twice and then carried the momentum into his feet in a full sprint toward the back of the enemy.
Donovan watched through the opening in the back as he saw the blur that was Chris Parker run toward the field. “You can land!” Then he motioned for the men to exit the helicopter and lie prone at the edge of the low hill the low hill overlooking the field and shack from the far end.
Resembling the periscopes of submarines parting the waves, the Force RECON team could count fourteen hostiles spread out and approaching the cabin through the tall wheat fields.
At the nearest edge of the field just below the team, they could see a solitary something moving swiftly toward the enemy, parting the waves of light brown crops like a torpedo through the same portion of the sea.
They could only assume that it was Chris, although the speed that he moved toward the hostile farthest to the right was inhuman.
They watched as he approached, and one by one, the soldiers dropped beneath the waves as the blur of movement swept from right to left, eliminating anyone in his path.
Chris let the adrenaline flow freely, and it felt as if the more he wanted, the more he had. He knew that he was moving faster than he ever had before. With some extra focus, he could hear and sense every Iraqi hostile creeping through the field.
From his jump, he had been able to tell that the enemies plan was to surround the cabin at the edge of the field and take prisoners. Otherwise they would have blown the cabin up by now and moved on. He had no intention of allowing that.
Systematically he moved from hostile to hostile, taking each by surprise, and making sure that neither he nor his victims made a sound. He used momentum to take them to the ground while muffling them with their own scarves, and then used any manner of weapon they happened to carry to immobilize them.
He neared the edge of the field and realized that aside from the fifteen or so that he had dispatched in the field, there were four standing guard by the two pickup trucks that had carried the troops.
Chris pulled up and the edge of the field and paused, ever so slightly to consider his options. His mind was processing the surroundings along with possible scenarios for the way this should play out. His plan became clear and the resolution sound.
Donovan tapped Evans on the shoulder and gave the signal that he should take out the men by the vehicles. Chris was moving through the men in the field and would be finished in a matter of seconds.
Evans slung his M24 sniper rifle around and adjusted the scope for the distance and the gentle breeze.
Chris walked directly into Evans’ line of sight, standing in front of the most obvious first target.
“Parker is intentionally blocking my shot.” Evans said softly.
“What the fuck!” Donavan exclaimed. “What’s his plan?”
“He’s talking, using a lot of gestures, and pointing at us.”
“Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.” Donovan mumbled.
“Now he has his hands out in front of him. They are tying his hands and moving him to the trucks.”
“What the -?”
“Sir, he just winked at me.”
“Get to the Huey, get down there, and finish our rescue. When that asshole gets back I’m going to court-martial him all the way down to toilet cleaner. He’ll be wiping shit from my boots when I’m done with his insubordinate ass.”
The sky had turned dark purple to the east and the setting sun to the west cast an eerie glow. Sergeant Chris Parker bounced around the back of an old Toyota pickup truck. Two AK-47s and four dark brown eyes were pointed directly at him. He sat with his arms and legs bound tight, head down, and eyes closed.
The Iraqi soldiers had gladly agreed to take an American infidel Special Forces soldier as a hostage in exchange for the four contractors that had sought refuge in the dilapidated farm house. This gift from Allah had cost them fifteen of their best men, but in the end would be worth it. The intelligence and knowledge they would glean would be worth hundreds of soldiers.
Chris’ head bobbed back and forth as he brought his focus within. Rather than lose the adrenaline and anger that had fueled his rage, he was merely holding it back, like a foaming, growling dog on a leash, waiting for the moment he would be released.
The team worked efficiently to clean the area, leaving no trace of anyone ever being in the place, and strapped back into the helicopter.
The pilot turned and looked at Donovan, with a questioning glance in his eyes, waiting for direction. Donovan was conflicted: His mission was to rescue the contractors; his sworn duty was to protect his men.
But what do I do when one of my men surrendered himself, will be tortured, and has many secrets to share.
He glanced at his watch. They had been at the site for twenty minutes. He motioned to the pilot to take off and talked through the mic, “Head to the village where Sergeant Parker was taken. It is not more than ten clicks northeast of here.
Evans and Costas, get on the fifty cals and get ready to make a mess.”
The Huey jumped into the air and angled sharply forward, quickly accelerating to max speed.
Chris was sitting inside a one room house. Legs crossed, hands bound behind his back. The men had tied a blindfold around his eyes and still thrown a thick black shroud over his head.
His senses were peaked, and he could hear the conversations carrying on outside. The language meant nothing to him, but the intent was clear. They had no idea what to do with him next.
Then a voice broke through in broken English. “I talk. He talk.”
Several men entered the building, and the hood and blindfold was pulled from off his head.
“Look to me!” The man yelled. “You tell us everything we ass.”
Chris smiled to himself at the humor of the interrogators mixed up words, but didn’t look up to make eye contact, which confused his integrator and increased the volume of his yelling.
“You look, or we will torture. Where you from?”
Chris opened his eyes, head still down, and looked under his brows across the room at the interrogator. “The hood.”
“So you do understand. Teach now and we will kick you swiftly. What is hood? Is a fort?”
A broad smile spread across Chris’ face. The humor he found in the broken English and the mis-used words were beginning to diminish his determination to eliminate this enemy camp. He was losing focus in the simple way these rag tag soldiers seemed so helpless. Then he realized that his laughter could also provide energy to his anger. His smile grew even more, so much so that he took on the appearance of a grinning jack’o lantern. He slowly raised his head to make direct eye contact with each of the men in the room.
Chris held to this alertness and tension as long as he could. He knew they wouldn’t allow him to stay there for long without talking. He only had to be patient.
The interrogator stepped forward and swung the stock of his rifle at Chris’ face. Where it should have made smashing contact, it swung cleanly through the air, and then Chris’ face was again exactly where it should have been.
“You will shit still! We will perish you. You know not the hurt feeling we provide.”
And that was it. He couldn’t contain himself any longer, and he started to laugh uncontrollably. He laughed so hard his side began to hurt and he rolled sideways. Ever growing, the laughter moved into hysterics – the lost maniacal sounds of someone who has experienced the worst and doesn’t have the tolerance to stand for more, and just doesn’t care.
The laughter came from deep within, and seemed uncontrollable. Chris continued laughing while curling himself into a fetal shape, knees on the floor.
Two men approached.
Chris pushed backwards, launching himself directly at the interrogator.
The impact knocked the Iraqi soldier through the open doorway, Chris landing on top of him, wriggling and squirming. The interrogator had a knife at his waist, and by the time he could recover from the blow, Chris had grabbed the knife and cut himself free.
Knife in hand, Chris fell into a regular pattern of destruction and dominance. To those he assailed, he was less a man and more a wind of pain and loss. The Blur dodged and moved at a speed greater than the mind could fully comprehend. In his path he left blood and gore, shattered and broken bones, disarmed and disabled weapons, and dead soldiers.
The longer he let himself stay within the anger and adrenaline fueled frenzy, the more his reality seemed to fade. Every time he turned, he could see people, or beings, in the corner of his vision.
After a moment, everything he saw had the same look as when a storm is pushing dark clouds towards you from the edge of the horizon, but the sun is still casting a bright glow on everything in front of the clouds.
Shadows and silhouettes moved and shifted, and Chris fought against the confusion. He continued to see more of what wasn’t there, and less of what was real. Small figures all around his knees were moving quickly, back and forth, swinging weapons at each other. Some carried swords…other carried massive battle axes or large clubs. A bright flash of light flashed and sparked every time weapons collided.
Directly above the Iraqi village, the air changed. The sky turned from clear azure to a rolling mound of clouds. Two colors swirled continuously. A dark crimson fog was casting an angry glow over the landscape, and wrapped into that redness, a dark grey strand that seemed to writhe.
“Leave. Now!” a voice boomed from behind Chris.
He jumped forward and spun. The movement seemed effortless. Much like running with the wind at his back, everything moved at the speed that he chose. There was no limit.
A figure in dark cloak and hood jumped from behind Chris, covering the 20 feet in one leap. Mid-air, his right arm swung around, and from his fingers extended four sharp blades angling toward Chris’ head.
Even after all of the fighting that Chris had recently endured, his mind still slowed down to an even more thoughtful state that during his moments of rage.
In less time than it took for the warrior to reach the apex of his jump, Chris’ mind began to reel. He is not human. Really big, at least ten feet tall. Ancient battle armor. Knives for fingers, pale skin, pointy teeth grinning, jumping long distances, deep swirling liquid eyes. It needs to die.
Thoughts continued to pour as he was still air borne on the way to slice Chris into two. How did I get here? How did he get here? Man, he is big. Why would anyone have teeth that pointy? Why would he be wearing armor?
The creature’s feet landed. His legs bent to lower him with the swing of his talons. He bent at the waist to gather strength from his stomach and back. His arm muscles strained to pull the claws through the rest of their arc
Chris stepped back and to the right, spinning his torso to the left. Four talons swept through empty space. His right elbow struck down on the monsters wrist and he felt the sick crack of shattering bone. He continued to spin his body in a counter clockwise circle, swinging his left elbow backwards toward the monsters face connecting just below the ear.
Normally, when a connection has been made, especially with bone, momentum stops. This did not. Upon contact, the victims head spun away from The Blur’s elbow, the impact was similar to a baseball bat connecting with a bag of beans. He was dead the minute connection was made.
Chris stared in shock at the pile of bone and flesh that lay in a heap beside me. This is not right. This is not right!
When he looked up, he was surrounded by giants, all of them with the same look and stature of the one he had just fought, some of them bigger and bulkier than humanly possible, carrying swords, battle axes, and shields. They did not move toward Chris. They stared, with a level of disgust that caught Chris by surprise.
A massive, armor clad warrior stepped forward. He held no shield, but in both arms carried battle axes, one arm extended toward Chris.
He spoke in a low gravely tone, spit flying from his mouth every time he pronounced a word with his lips. The accent was thick, like words spoken by a mouth with no tongue.
“hhuuuee…whoo yought beyong here in Shan Beyamush. Eave us.”
The men parted, and one, thin figure passed between them.
He did not fit with the others. Clothed in black, but wearing no armor, this one carried a sword at his waist.
The man stepped softly toward Chris pulled his hood back enough to show his crystal eyes. He wore layered clothes that all were shades of grey. His boots were dulled leather, and looked to have been worn for a very long time.
A clear voice addressed Chris. “He is right, you do not belong here.” Then with a tilt of the head, he studied Chris for several seconds. Leave this San Bellumus now.”
Chris didn’t move. His face wore a mask of wonder and confusion.
A Cheshire cat smile spread across his face, and revealed razor sharp teeth“Ah, I see. You have no idea what you have done. This is a – a bellumus is a battle ground, I believe that is a word that will relate to you. This is a San Bellumus, meaning a great battle ground. Your impact here will have heavy repercussions. Leave this place.” He spoke. His voice was deep and laced with authority.
“We are done here.” He quickly glanced behind him and then back at Chris. “You don’t know how to leave, do you? You have no clue how you arrived. If you are still here when Savonarola arrives, I think it will be your end. I, on the other hand, would be greatly disappointed if we do not meet again in the future.”
He signaled to the giant warrior. A massive hand reached into a leather pouch producing a small round object, tossing it at Chris’ feet. Chris felt himself falling into a pink light, the adrenaline rush fading fast. His body began to shiver uncontrollably and he couldn’t seem to catch his breath. Then he collapsed into a heap. In the distance a soft repeating thud seemed to drift into his consciousness.
“We have the village in sight. Night vision and infra-red show no movement. Several heat signatures behind walls. One contact in the open, not moving, prone.”
“Are you positive it is the correct village?” Donovan replied to the pilot.
“Yes, sir. The vehicles from the farm are parked outside one of the buildings.”
The pilot flew one sweep around the compound before landing the helicopter in a defensive position while the team swept the village.
Five soldiers met together in the center of the area, standing over the unconscious body of Chris Parker.
“We have eleven hostiles dead, three wounded. Twenty women and children in scattered huts, all unarmed and cooperative.”
“And Parker’s condition?” Donovan addressed Costas.
“Seems unharmed, in shock. Need to get him back.”
“Any sign of a struggle?”
Evans shook his head, “No sir, no weapons discharged. Chris’ hands are bloody and bruised though.”
“Fourteen hostiles down, no shots fired?”
“Let’s get back to base. This hotshot bastard has some questions to answer.”
“I will report the mission was successful, sir. All accounted for and safe.” Summers, the radio man, replied.
“That is how I intend to write it up.”