Capitol Reef National Park

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bonus Chapter from The Rules of the Game - the first half of Chapter 6

6
Bart Doherty looked at Colin Jameson. The two men had known each other almost every one of Colin’s twenty-eight years. From his family’s early visits to see Bart to Colin’s first trip to Minnesota in 1999, there was a mythology, which reflected the life of his great uncle. After that, there was a hidden reality with what he never said when Colin was there. Since then, to include Colin’s time in S1, there were only the secrets that the two men shared about their combined realities of being a part of the secret unit known only as S1 and all they had been through together because of this.
In the years since he joined the group, Colin learned quite a bit about their history, though he wasn’t informed of everything since some of it was need to know or unspoken secrets and failures that Bart kept hidden.
Nevertheless, what he did know was amazing.
Way back when, Harry Truman’s handlers, who advised him to legislate decisively on threats foreign and domestic in order to bring about the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, created the group that would go by the name S1. These behind the scenes men were the original top dogs of the American black-ops special forces world, a tight-knit group who acted with the same stroke of genius decision-making that worked to realize that there was a need to have a completely off the books military unit operating at home and abroad. Unlike other overt military units, the military would still train the covert units. When they finished initiating the men into the ways of fighting forces, they would list their trainees as being in routine jobs within the armed forces. Where these forces differed from other elite fighting forces is that they would operate completely apart from the standard rules of engagement that the Geneva Convention listed. Since the verdict of their engagements represented an existential threat to humankind, the men had to complete them in ways that they could never expose to the everyday world. Civilization could not begin to understand what these villains and supernatural entities wanted to do to it. Whether these enemies appeared on their own or in tandem with recognized enemies of the state, it was imperative that they annihilated all of these people looking to fight alongside of these beings since they were an enemy to world peace and general order. Truman particularly liked feeling that he was responsible for saving the world with this decision. Truman’s handlers felt contented knowing that they had convinced the President of the United States to do the right thing despite the possible ramifications that it might cause if the groups were ever exposed to the light of day. Though his men did not brief him on all of the potential issues, Truman was aware of the need for such utter secrecy that he eventually turned all controlling authority of this group over to the infamous group known as Majestic 12.
At a time when multiple clandestine groups were starting to appear in this country, S1, Truman created S1, the first of these groups, to deal with many things Beyond Top “Secret” and all things “supernatural,” which put them in a category called “Magic Eyes Only.” Whether the S was for the former or the latter, the history is uncertain since nobody ever acknowledged this group in the light of day at that time, and in the end, it doesn’t really matter since the group performed both of these duties exceptionally. In fact, they did them so well in working to close loopholes and issues of concern that related to cryptids and ghosts that they became a model for other countries who had these concerns.
A second group, S2 was also set up at this time in order to deal with issues of the alien problem, which was rearing its head with the events of Roswell that occurred in the summer of 1947. As these alien visitation events have continued incessantly ever since, the group is also still active within various capacities in the United States and abroad, though they now operate under different protocols. Since the changes of the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administration. S1 implemented in a new era of clandestine efficiency in warfare. After Kennedy’s death, Lyndon Johnson’s men did not give him a chance to get upset about this by any ethical means necessary because his organization never briefed him on the organization. Rather than chance the worst, the handlers kept everything S1 and S2 to themselves instead.
For a short time, things between the groups went swimmingly when they needed to work together, but this tranquility and camaraderie did not last long when the infighting between S1 and S2 began to spill over after the latter group started to adopt more violent and oppressive tactics to conceal the “extra-terrestrial problem” from the population as a whole. There were numerous events killing and capturing various beings from other worlds, which caused tussles and screaming matches. Mostly these went on behind closed doors, but some of the events threatened to spill over into the mainstream with witnesses and news leaks as well as actual world events. In particular, there was an event at an archaeological dig referred to as Mormon Creek. This event, which occurred in Utah in 1995 right after the Timothy McVeigh bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Building, landed a pair of Native Americans named Solomon Owens and Donny White Feather, in jail, after S2 members infiltrated their group, the Pueblo Defense Fund in order to commandeer them as puppets for an incident involving evidence destruction.
The S2 brass considered this an ingenious plan designed to create fake ancestral heritage claims in order to convince a group of problematic Native American activists to destroy an archaeology site that would steal and desecrate their ancestors’ remains. What the Native Americans did not know was that the excavation would have exposed ancient alien relics and bodies at the Native American site. S2 could not allow this to happen, so they armed the Pueblo Defense Fund to the teeth for battle. If the Native Americans won, S2 would rat them out to police or execute them as soon as they were out of eyesight. However, if they were to die, it would be all the better since their actions would create hostility toward the claims that tribes were making about ancestral remains and lands. Besides, so much had been going on in the country at the time with anti-government attitudes at Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Oklahoma City, that when the courtroom decided the punishment, it was short, sweet, and to the point, and nobody really batted an eye.
Other than a few cantankerous rebels, society as a whole didn’t want angry militants exacting “revenge” on anyone, so the authorities quickly removed Owens and White Feather from public knowledge as quickly as they appeared on its radar. This worked out for S2.
It was almost hard to believe how quickly that an incident so violent could vanish, but since most people who know about eastern Utah only know about its National Parks, the proximity to Mormon Cross and the Middle of Nowhere helped put it out of people’s sight and out of their minds. Nevertheless, when this event transpired, the Native Americans battled with archaeologists and members of the Bureau of Land Management for two days in an incident that resulted in the destruction of the site, the death of many men and women on both sides, sexual assault, and kidnapping. Prior to the arrival of the Feds, the incident had been quietly going on for a week, but then the proverbial shit hit the fan with a murder charge, and this signaled authority intervention.
While the men in question were guilty on many accounts, the authorities were supplied “evidence” to frame them for other incidents that they had nothing to do with. With nobody willing to stand up for their innocence, they are currently sitting in prison at Uinta 1, where they sit in solitude to conceal an action that needed to transpire by any means necessary.
In comparison to this method of dealing with problems, S1 tended to look at any innocent “bystanders” they encountered as potential resources to utilize in their war against this parallel world. When word got out about this covert operation, things reached a boiling point. The divisions exploded, and soon, S2 negotiated a division from the original program when they refused to back down from operating under this type of rule of law.
Under their new authority, the name S2 metamorphosed into “Team Black. This change recognized their standard uniform, which was black suits, white shirts, black ties, dark glasses, a silenced pistol, and a black hat on top. For ages, they created a mystique for themselves when they emerged in public in places like Point Pleasant, West Virginia, during the Mothman days. Because of these situations, they gained the name Men in Black in popular culture. This name originally created a level of respect for the men and women in the organization, but soon, they felt it was just too comic book and humorous for its own good, so they called themselves Team Black instead.
It should be noted that after the Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones movie of the same name, their reputation stood out in the Special Forces community as something of a joke to S1, but that’s a very different story.
Despite their rare social emergences, S1 generally chose to stay more clandestine, even when their taunts and jokes were traveling back to S2. Since they were never had a name except by one letter and one number, they stuck with their original moniker, when they mentioned their name at all. Most times, the men called it “my team” or “my unit.” The officers who referred to the community of men and women who defended the world’s interests weren’t interested in names, but rather actions. If you were in the team, you were important and special, and this was something you knew, so you didn’t blow it. If you were caught slacking, you were either told about it or removed altogether. There was no halfway when the world’s interests were at stake.
Colin knew this right from the moment he found out at the post Hell Week meeting that his great uncle wanted him to be a part of the team. This was clear, but what wasn’t clear was exactly how intense and secretive his work would be in saving the world from the doom that could otherwise be inflicted by these savage beasts that they were set to fight.
On this day, Bart introduced Colin to the members of the team that he would be working with for his latest mission.
“Do you know any of these other guys, Colin?” Bart asked.
“Well everyone knows the Chief,” the nearly thirty-year old Colin responded.
And it was true that everyone did know Anthony Williams by his reputation and his appearance. Williams was a six foot four brute of a man who took on many of his mother’s Italian traits in both skin color and temperament. More importantly than those things, however, he took on his father’s muscular status.
Like his father, Anthony increased his size so that he would gain a protective layer to support an NFL quarterback through the entire scope of his offensive attack. However, just like what happened with his father’s life, Williams’ life had taken him other ways than to do battle on the gridiron.
In the case of Anthony’s father, his fate was sealed when his offensive line wavered, and instantly, two hulking Notre Dame players blitzed the University of Texas quarterback into the ground. Normally, this would be a cause for celebration, but both men saw that Anthony wasn’t getting up right away, and they immediately checked over him, staring in worry as he regained consciousness on the ground.
“Don’t sweat it. It’s the rules of the game,” he said, but he still couldn’t move, so he just waited for the athletic trainers, medics, and the stretcher crew to take him off to get x-rays to determine the extent of the damage.
The damage to this senior offensive juggernaut wasn’t catastrophic, but it was severe enough that no pro team would take a chance on the once great candidate for the Heisman. Instead, Anthony, as he insisted on being referred to, went to work for a trucking company out of Austin, where he never had problems with his back or spine again, but by that point, it was too late to be an NFL great.
Sadly, no Kurt Warner would rise from the ashes of the elder Anthony Williams’s failed opportunities in football.
As he got married and older, Tony dreamed many things for his son. Some of these were the fulfillment of his football dreams, but where he saw himself leading a sports team, his son saw himself leading a military unit, so as soon as he could, he enlisted.
For years, this was serving as a US Marine. Then, fate, as it does in many things, intervened and led the man and his fellow USMC sergeant, Samuel Lucas, to Bart Doherty’s attention. Within hours of Bart’s introduction to the Marines, the three men were together within the confines of an exploding Fallujah. From the start, they seemed destined to be on this mission together.
“Gentlemen,” Doherty said as he met the two Devil Dogs for the first time. “We have received word that something bad is going to be going down today. We have credible information, though we aren’t sure where. We only know that it is a deal struck between the Brigades of Martyr Ahmed Yassin and some very motivated ‘accumulators’ to make some bad things go down as a diversion while these looters, if that’s what you would call them, try to ransack certain historical and art collections in the city.”
“So you need a Marine to protect sculptures?” SSGT Lucas asked Bart an air of obvious disdain for his appointment to a job he felt wasn’t far away from being a mall security guard.
“No, I need a pair of well-trained jarheads to help execute some serious art thieves who are looking to profit on the black market with priceless artifacts of cultural, religious, and historic significance. This will be completely off the record, so you don’t have to worry about some of the legal entanglements from Switzerland, which would otherwise dictate the rules of this engagement.”
“So what does that mean for us?” Williams asked.
“It means that you will drop all rank and insignia from your uniforms. It means that you will go in with me in temporary ‘civilian’ capacity. Unfortunately, it means if you get caught and shit happens, well, shit really happens and you are officially missing in action never to return to the fold again.”
“Who are you in the employment of? You look too old to be military unless you’re a four-star general out of uniform,” Gunnery Sergeant Williams questioned the old man.
“Don’t worry. You never heard of the unit that I’m serving with, but I assure you all three of us take our ultimate orders from the President of the United States for this mission.”
“We get to hear GW’s voice?” Lucas asked.
“No, his handlers rubber-stamped this years ago, just in case.”
“Plausible deniability,” Williams added.
“Fair enough, Old Man,” Lucas said, and then he asked, “You got a rank even if you can’t wear it?”
“I did. It was full bird colonel. Now, I gave that up to get even with the nastiest of bad guys and things that go bump up in the night before they started pulling some serious shit.”
“I wish I knew more, but it works for me,” Williams said. “If these things are enemies to the world, I’m in it to take it out. Kill ‘em all. Let God sort ‘em out. These frickin’ Hajis are planning something. I can feel it.”
“What kind of serious shit do art thieves get into?” Lucas asked, cutting off his superior to address Bart on matters that were more serious.
“Mostly, desecrating religious artifacts in the name of a different sort of religion, which is a looser term than you might think of. I don’t know if I’d call them a cult, but people do tend to think of them in this manner. These men believe in the power of certain things in the past in an all-too dangerous way, and the sad part is that they’re right about the special powers that they are trying to accumulate. As they do this, other collectors are trying to get ahold of stuff with special powers in other places. In this way, they could be a terrorist group, but they’re not political in the way we tend to see ISIL and Al Qaeda. Thus, we try to avoid calling them something they aren’t generally in line with. Nevertheless, they are fanatics who engage in murder. That’s where my group comes into the equation,” Doherty informed the men.
“Like killing the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, who were on the hunt for paranormal and metaphysical objects,” Lucas added. “I’d like to get my hands on Belloq or Toht. I’d mess those dudes up. Rock and roll.”
“Yep. We have orders to shoot these bastards on sight. We don’t need to wait for them to engage us. We aim for the center of the skull, and kill the brain. We kill ‘em like zombies. The messier the better,” Doherty added. “Send a message to them not to mess with this stuff.
“Right through the eye socket, Colonel?” Williams said, making a gun out of his hand and pretending to fire it.
“Exactly. My employers want these guys dead in the most definite of ways. They do, however, expect the artifacts to stay safe.”
“They’re not zombies, are they?” Lucas asked.
“Not that I know of, nor are we worried about them coming back to life after death, though we are worried about them bringing something in a chest back to this world. As it never was alive, we aren’t sure exactly how to kill it, so we can’t let it happen.”
“So we’re dealing with real undead shit?”
“Those are your words, not mine, Sgt. Williams.”
“You’re not messing with me, are you? Just because I’m from Texas doesn’t make me slow.”
“I know,” Bart added. “Honest officer, if you can believe that. I wouldn’t be messing with two Marines by myself, especially ones as big as you boys. We need to take these people out efficiently and effectively.”
“That could be a tall order,” Lucas remarked.
“It usually is, but I have faith in you. Your C.O. does, too. He promised me the two baddest mofos in the business. I trust you are worthy of his compliments since you were at the top of a short list.”
The two Marines smiled.
“How’d you know to pick us?” Lucas asked.
“You were the only two on the list.”
“There’s a lot of good men in this unit. Why not Charleston?” Lucas responded. “That dude looks like the Hulk.”
“I asked for men who could kill and keep their mouths shut while taking orders to exterminate with extreme prejudice while keeping cool as the other side of the pillow.”
“Sounds like us,” the once quizzical man said with a boost of confidence
“Definitely not Charleston. That dude is on 24/7,” Williams said. “Let’s roll, home skillet. We’ve got a job to do.”
NNNN
Driving through Fallujah, there was a palpable air of a revolution waiting to decimate everything in its path when whatever had accumulated into this festering riotous attitude took over.
“Who are these pricks, Colonel?” Lucas asked.
“Ghazi Nasser is the name of the man who is orchestrating everything. Everyone with him is hired muscle. They plan to hit the collection of a wealthy businessman named Kawi Nader. He’s been buying historical statues and trinkets off random dealers and thieves for years. He generally seems to care about the materials he’s preserving. Before everything happened with the coalition forces going after Saddam, he had dreams of building a museum to showcase the history of Mesopotamia; at least he felt he could if Saddam ever ended up dead. I’d like to think he still does, but with all of the damage done to this city,” Doherty paused. “I don’t think this shithole will ever be livable again.”
“So who are these people looking to hit him? Private collectors or opportunistic suppliers who want to make money off of creating a museum?” Williams questioned the Colonel.
“Some of the items may be resold for funding, but mostly this is about the Following of Praznok, who was reckoned to be a vicious demon that existed in the days before the Prophet Mohammed.”
“So he was associated with Islam?” Williams asked again.
“Not at all. These guys hated all three branches of the tree. No Christian, Muslim, or Jew was safe from these men’s wrath. Fortunately, long story short, a brave group of men in the Crusades era captured Praznok and were said to place his spirit in a chest using some really hardcore magic.”
“So they’ve got a demon in a box. Well, ain’t that special?” Williams laughed. “Kind of ironic that they’re going to be the ones getting boxed up.”
“You could say that, but the good news is that they need to have a key to that chest as well as a stone tablet that reveals how to release Praznok.”
“Do they have the key?” Lucas said.
“Not on them or even in this country. However, we believe they are aware of where the key to open the box is located.”
“You believe that?” Lucas asked, smiling as he did.
“I’m here, right?”
“I guess we all are. Here’s to being a comic book hero,” Williams said.
“I already am one,” Doherty said. “You’re an American hero, but you’re not on my level, at least yet.”
“What do I need to do to get on that level?” Williams asked.
“Shoot a demon’s skull at close range so the beast incinerates into a white light explosion. Then you walk away and live to tell about it.”
“You have us killing demons? Isn’t that a little dangerous?” Lucas said.
“Maybe someday,” the ex-Colonel said, smiling mischievously at his two companions. “For now, I just need you to take out some wannabe thugs and terrorists.”
“You sure you aren’t messing with us? This isn’t a practical joke, is it?” Williams wondered.
“If it is, nobody told me, so we’re all in on somebody game. Until then, get your minds ready to execute a goal-line defense.”
The Marines smiled at their potential inclusion into Doherty’s ranks.
“So this dealer has the Chest of this demon?” Lucas asked.
“We only believe that he has artifacts associated with the beast. When they bring the entity into the world, it will be looking for these objects, so it’s important not to let him have anything associated with him.”
“At least that’s something,” Williams said.
“Here’s to that, guys,” Bart added with a serious look on his face.
NNNN
Twenty minutes later, the men were parking their truck behind a building that had never seen good days, and it was even worse now since it was crumbling under the weight of its own poor construction and lack of upkeep. As a result, even the filthiest rats of the city abandoned it. Five blocks out, they parked and hoofed it in, finally arriving at another building that made the houses on the street where they parked look like a mansion.
“This is where we wait,” Bart told the Marines.
“For what?” Lucas responded.
“All Hell to break loose.”
“Then what?” Williams asked.
“Then one of the three snipers on the roofs above us will alert me to Ghazi and his crew coming to that building across the street. At that point, they will start shooting down everyone they can. Our job is to use our M-16s and Beretta 9mm pistols as well as a few well-placed grenades to keep their escape route in one direction. We want them moving out the way they came in. If that happens, my other crew gets them; however, if it becomes necessary, we’ll have to call more of your Jarhead friends on the ground to intercept them up there. The Marines promised air support and tanks for when the situation came to that. Maybe they can make Charleston mad if he turns big and green like the Hulk!”
“That’s a well-thought out contingency plan, Bart,” Williams replied. “But are you sure that just us three can force them backward?”
“I’d say so. I designed it myself that we will dig in and be ready to burn them to the ground. Just like Sherman said during his infamous march, we will ‘make Georgia howl.’”
“So were you a Leatherneck when you were a Colonel?” Lucas asked.
“Army all the way.”
“You should have been a Marine,” Lucas said.
“You should be one of my guys. Well, if you’re as good as your C.O. says. We need people who know how to go door to door and keep their cool when they’re facing out of this world danger.”
“Where else you been in combat?” Williams said.
“Vietnam, Panama, and Iraq on official orders. All over Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, Central America, and even some unpleasant situations in America.”
“You had to take out Americans?” Williams asked, thoroughly surprised.
“Mostly, we take out people who infiltrate the country for nefarious purposes. If we take out Americans, they were collaborating with some serious bad things and needed to go anyway.”
“No Bill of Rights concerns?” Williams added.
“They forfeited them, and most likely, they’re nobody that will be missed.”
“Home grown terrorists do that?” Lucas chimed in while he was still surprised to be looking out at the emptiness of the street.
“Not really. We tend to fight against things with less of an earthly origin or master. Any American conjuring these creatures is considered dangerous and a high-value target that has no business discussing their concerns in a military or civilian courtroom.”
“So do you also hide UFOs after killing aliens?” Williams said jokingly.
“Only once. It happened in a small town in Pennsylvania. Now that was some stuff trying to get a huge flying saucer down a narrow logging road,” Bart reflected, and then began talking after a short pause. “For the most part, we fight against what you might call pagans and Satanists, but these aren’t bullshit kids looking to piss off their parents. These are people unleashing demons after swearing allegiance to destroy all of mankind.”
“I think I prefer crushing the insurgency,” Lucas said. “Marines were trained to be able to be especially dangerous at messing these wannabe martyrs up. We’ll send them to their seventy-two virgin camels.”
“I know you will. That’s why I like working with regular military guys on missions like this, but it’s why we need more of you who have the internal fortitude to go to the next level with our missions. Maybe when this is over, you should come up to my place in Minnesota. There’s a lot of great hunting and fishing to be had.”
“Yeah,” Williams nodded, contemplating the thought. “Maybe we will if we ever get back to the good ol’ U S of A.”
“That’s the thing about Marines. We make the best teammates around because we focus on unit, trust, and the mission. My brother is learning that now,” Lucas said.
“Your brother joined up, too?”
“No, he’s a police chief in Blanding, Utah.”
“Where the hell is that?” Williams asked his colleague.
“Middle of nowhere, but since they gave Tony a chance to run the show, he moved from our home in Naturita, Colorado, with his wife Katie to have a chance to get some leadership experience. He finally got to hire his own men now that the old timers retired. His pick was a guy named Littleman who served in the Marines as a military policeman. He won’t regret that choice. Our guys have some serious presence and skill.”
“Not to interrupt you, Sammy, but it sounds like Colonel Doherty’s phone is going off,” Williams said.
“Give me a second,” Bart said, and with that, he walked off to answer the phone while both men watched him.
When he came back, he looked into their inquisitive glances.
“We need to get our stuff ready to move. There is word that their diversion has begun. People are rioting. They are up at one of the bridges on the Euphrates with a crew of contractors that they captured and killed. Word is that they’re desecrating the bodies.”
Immediately, both men looked at him stunned.
“This is war. The bull is bucking back. It doesn’t want to be sat on. This is how it wins. You had to expect shit like this no matter how much you don’t like it.”
Lucas looked at the men and interjected the remark, “I don’t dislike it. I loathe the hell out of it.”
“There will be time for justice later,” Bart said. “Be patient.”
“I know, but I just think it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better,” Williams said. “Should we be there helping?”
“No. You need to be here. Where we’re going is it getting much worse before it gets better. You have to know this. Nevertheless, what I need to know is if you feel that you don’t have the heart for this,” Bart asked him.
“I’m saying that I want to know how much your promise of immunity covers me when I offer some serious payback to these dirt bags.”
“When it’s all over, you’ll be OK to put a series hurting on the Brigade. Trust me. Besides, you don’t have a uniform on, do you?”
The Marine looked at the civilian who had mysteriously come into his life and now changed it so much with such a bizarre mission. Could all of this really be true?
Sammy looked over, and he spoke out, “Where do you want us when we need to give these bastards the hot lead injection?”
“They’re going to be coming for this building,” Bart said pointing again to the warehouse. “Let’s set up in the front room of that building over there. Nobody fires until we get everyone into position to open up our attack on them, all at once. Let their fear of the rooftop triangulation scare the shit out of them. We’ll add in to the mix by gunning the masses down and blocking their escape.”
“Works for me,” Williams said. “But I still have a feeling we’re being watched.”
“Our men have been getting in place since we had word of what’s going on. They would have contacted us if something were out of place. Now grab the extra duffle bags, and let’s hurry. That bridge situation is going to last a while, but it’s not forever. Ghazi will be working out of a limited time frame.”
The men did just what Doherty asked, and with the time that the trio had left, they moved furniture and other objects in the way of the door to block any attack that might come through the door. Fifteen minutes later, the next call came from the rooftop crew.
“This place has been quiet today. In fact, it’s been all too quiet. We’ve seen nobody moving for the last hour since we got on the scene. It’s like the locals are deliberately avoiding this place,” the radio said.
“Maybe they were tipped off to stay inside,” Bart said. “In certain cases, these people do lay the law down.”
“This just feels different.”
“You’re not backing out are you, Terry?” Bart replied.
“We’ve got you covered. The main road is completely under our surveillance. Let’s do this,” the voice added.
“Good.”
“Watch out! I see vehicle movement. It looks like they’re about to come into the kill zone. Trucks are moving, and radio chatter is coming on,” the comlink blared.
“Out,” Bart said and the he looked at the two Marines who looked back on him. He could feel their intensity growing as they clearly overheard his words and knew what was coming. They had been in this moment many times before. They were professionals, armed to the teeth to be able to destroy everyone involved in this thievery.
“So we’re about to fire. Ready?” Bart asked his men rhetorically.
“When you give the order,” the lead sniper on the roof said.
“You didn’t need to answer. You’ve been down this path before. Have at it. Terminate with extreme prejudice.”
With that, the men watched the street as the trucks began their arrival. Soon, they were all inside of the area fenced off by the snipers.
That was when the first of the gunshots ripped out silently through the tense heat of Fallujah.
Soon, more of the silenced blasts from above claimed lives in the convoy of trucks, of which there were two HEMMT 8WD troop transports. In addition, there was a large moving truck, and there was a Chevy Impala wedged in between. Under the extreme time constraints, shot after shot rang out rather quickly, smashing into the drivers of the two troop transports and the moving truck. As the trucks halted in the vice of narrow streets and fire raining down, it was clear that these thieves and their guards with nowhere to escape to.
The scene on the ground was absolute chaos as at least twenty men poured out of the transports, screaming and yelling as they fired at the phantom attackers. Four more men ran out of the back of the moving truck, firing upward at the tops of the buildings, also shooting blindly, as they fought back to keep the snipers down and unable to continue their ambush. All the while, the two men in the Impala dodged through the whole scene to find cover down toward the building they had planned on looting and ransacking.
“Can you see anything down there?” Bart radioed.
“Not in this mess of gunfire,” the radio chattered.
“How about any of the rest of you?”
“Negative,” a different sniper stated.
“I have movement down the street. I think that’s Ghazi and his bodyguard, though the man doesn’t look very big. I didn’t expect to see him here. What’s he risking his life for?” the sniper asked while staring through the scope at the unknown man running between the transports and the car.”
“Do you have a shot so we can end this?”
“Negative. It’s too uncertain with the angle I’m looking from.”
“Well don’t let that stop you, Wilson. You’re a good shot. Light this bastard up.”
“Yes, sir.”
Almost immediately, the.50 caliber shot went off, missing the position the men were hiding in by mere inches.
“Did you get him?”
“Negative,” the radio crackled.
“Well, at least he’s pinned down. Fire again.”
Continued firing erupted. While it wasn’t finding a target, its omnipotent presence scared everyone on the ground.
Nevertheless, despite their fear, the hordes of other terrorists, who minutes earlier were set to be acting as moving men, were still firing up at the rooftops, however randomly and scattered that their counterattack was.
In the building, SSGT Lucas looked at GSGT Williams and Doherty, and he spoke, “I’m not sure how long our guys on the roof can wait. I’m thinking it’s time to bring on another avenue of fire.”
“We’re quite a distance from those guys. We’ll be making noise and wasting ammo instead of dropping thugs in their tracks,” Williams explained.
“What do you suggest?” Lucas screamed.
“Let’s move our show up from behind. We can move up a good block or so by going out the backdoor of this place and winding up from the street behind here to sneak attack them there. If we can move back left toward this street and hide behind those broken down trucks, we can relieve a lot of pressure on our sniper team,” Doherty added.
“This will still leave us exposed. Is it a good thing to put us all in danger?” Williams said.
“You got a better idea?” The former Colonel added.
“Their eyes are on those buildings, so yeah. Well, let’s take your plan, but instead of hitting them from the street, let’s get up on the rooftop, too,” Lucas said.
“That will give us a clear opportunity to throw grenades down on them while pulverizing them with a lot of 5.56mm hugs and cuddles,” Williams explained to the men.
“That could work,” Bart said, feeling uplifted by the prospects of the Marines’ understanding of how to control the situation definitively.
“Damn right it will,” Lucas said. “That’s Marine Corps know how. OOH RAH!”
With this, the men proceeded to grab their gear and head out the back of the building. As they moved out the back of the house into the barren street, they walked out and found themselves face to face with the building that these militant forces were coming to loot.
“So this is what we’ve been protecting,” Lucas mumbled.
“It seems so,” Williams began to say.
“Nondescript,” Doherty said, finishing his sentence. “I’ve got a feeling I don’t trust guys.
The Marines nodded in agreement. At first, it was an inconspicuous feeling regarding how abandoned that the streets were, but for the most part, there weren’t even birds peeping anywhere.
It was just then that they saw their first person on the street. This was a younger boy who was walking around down the street about forty feet from them as he came out of another building, which the townsfolk had abandoned. The body of the person in question wasn’t tall or muscular, but it was definitely a male from how he was dressed, though his clothing appeared bulky at first.
“Hey, you!” Williams screamed out in Arabic. “What are you doing here? Sit down now!”
The boy didn’t move from what he was doing at first.
Williams screamed again, but in English this time.
“Get out the ground now, Haji, or I will execute you right the hell now!”
With the increased aggression of Williams’ tone, the boy turned around to face the men. Even though he was a local, who would only know the language that the locals spoke, he should have at least understood the anger and immediacy of the tone of the words the men were saying and the presence of their guns pointed at him.
“I think he’s autistic. Look at the way his hands are stimming,” Lucas said. “My friend has a son who does that.”
“But what’s he doing out here in the middle of a war zone?” Bart asked. “Is he trying to get himself killed?”
“He’s not meant to be stuck inside, Colonel. He can come and go as he pleases,” Lucas responded to Bart until the colonel interrupted.
“No, I’m not trying to be an insensitive asshole. I mean we’ve got no other people wandering around out here. What’s a kid, much less a boy with autism, doing on this street?”
“Let me go see, guys. Out of all of us, I’d say that I’m the most used to working with kids with these problems. I know some tricks that might help him relax a little bit,” Lucas said, immediately walking up to the boy.
“Friend,” Lucas said in Arabic, pointing to himself and then smiling.
The boy continued to flap his hands while making repetitive sounds that appeared to show he was frightened.
Lucas stepped back and reached into his pocket, and he produced a Hershey’s chocolate bar, and then he took a bite before he spoke again, saying, “Mmm… good stuff,” as he rubbed his belly
Instantly, he smiled again, breaking off a piece of the bar, and then he handed it to the boy and repeated the Arabic word for friend.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Sam. You need to,” Williams said.

“Get the hell away from that kid!” Bart screamed in the moment of realization. “He’s rigged with a bomb!”Bart Doherty looked at Colin Jameson. The two men had known each other almost every one of Colin’s twenty-eight years. From his family’s early visits to see Bart to Colin’s first trip to Minnesota in 1999, there was a mythology, which reflected the life of his great uncle. After that, there was a hidden reality with what he never said when Colin was there. Since then, to include Colin’s time in S1, there were only the secrets that the two men shared about their combined realities of being a part of the secret unit known only as S1 and all they had been through together because of this.
In the years since he joined the group, Colin learned quite a bit about their history, though he wasn’t informed of everything since some of it was need to know or unspoken secrets and failures that Bart kept hidden.
Nevertheless, what he did know was amazing.
Way back when, Harry Truman’s handlers, who advised him to legislate decisively on threats foreign and domestic in order to bring about the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, created the group that would go by the name S1. These behind the scenes men were the original top dogs of the American black-ops special forces world, a tight-knit group who acted with the same stroke of genius decision-making that worked to realize that there was a need to have a completely off the books military unit operating at home and abroad. Unlike other overt military units, the military would still train the covert units. When they finished initiating the men into the ways of fighting forces, they would list their trainees as being in routine jobs within the armed forces. Where these forces differed from other elite fighting forces is that they would operate completely apart from the standard rules of engagement that the Geneva Convention listed. Since the verdict of their engagements represented an existential threat to humankind, the men had to complete them in ways that they could never expose to the everyday world. Civilization could not begin to understand what these villains and supernatural entities wanted to do to it. Whether these enemies appeared on their own or in tandem with recognized enemies of the state, it was imperative that they annihilated all of these people looking to fight alongside of these beings since they were an enemy to world peace and general order. Truman particularly liked feeling that he was responsible for saving the world with this decision. Truman’s handlers felt contented knowing that they had convinced the President of the United States to do the right thing despite the possible ramifications that it might cause if the groups were ever exposed to the light of day. Though his men did not brief him on all of the potential issues, Truman was aware of the need for such utter secrecy that he eventually turned all controlling authority of this group over to the infamous group known as Majestic 12.
At a time when multiple clandestine groups were starting to appear in this country, S1, Truman created S1, the first of these groups, to deal with many things Beyond Top “Secret” and all things “supernatural,” which put them in a category called “Magic Eyes Only.” Whether the S was for the former or the latter, the history is uncertain since nobody ever acknowledged this group in the light of day at that time, and in the end, it doesn’t really matter since the group performed both of these duties exceptionally. In fact, they did them so well in working to close loopholes and issues of concern that related to cryptids and ghosts that they became a model for other countries who had these concerns.
A second group, S2 was also set up at this time in order to deal with issues of the alien problem, which was rearing its head with the events of Roswell that occurred in the summer of 1947. As these alien visitation events have continued incessantly ever since, the group is also still active within various capacities in the United States and abroad, though they now operate under different protocols. Since the changes of the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administration. S1 implemented in a new era of clandestine efficiency in warfare. After Kennedy’s death, Lyndon Johnson’s men did not give him a chance to get upset about this by any ethical means necessary because his organization never briefed him on the organization. Rather than chance the worst, the handlers kept everything S1 and S2 to themselves instead.
For a short time, things between the groups went swimmingly when they needed to work together, but this tranquility and camaraderie did not last long when the infighting between S1 and S2 began to spill over after the latter group started to adopt more violent and oppressive tactics to conceal the “extra-terrestrial problem” from the population as a whole. There were numerous events killing and capturing various beings from other worlds, which caused tussles and screaming matches. Mostly these went on behind closed doors, but some of the events threatened to spill over into the mainstream with witnesses and news leaks as well as actual world events. In particular, there was an event at an archaeological dig referred to as Mormon Creek. This event, which occurred in Utah in 1995 right after the Timothy McVeigh bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Building, landed a pair of Native Americans named Solomon Owens and Donny White Feather, in jail, after S2 members infiltrated their group, the Pueblo Defense Fund in order to commandeer them as puppets for an incident involving evidence destruction.
The S2 brass considered this an ingenious plan designed to create fake ancestral heritage claims in order to convince a group of problematic Native American activists to destroy an archaeology site that would steal and desecrate their ancestors’ remains. What the Native Americans did not know was that the excavation would have exposed ancient alien relics and bodies at the Native American site. S2 could not allow this to happen, so they armed the Pueblo Defense Fund to the teeth for battle. If the Native Americans won, S2 would rat them out to police or execute them as soon as they were out of eyesight. However, if they were to die, it would be all the better since their actions would create hostility toward the claims that tribes were making about ancestral remains and lands. Besides, so much had been going on in the country at the time with anti-government attitudes at Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Oklahoma City, that when the courtroom decided the punishment, it was short, sweet, and to the point, and nobody really batted an eye.
Other than a few cantankerous rebels, society as a whole didn’t want angry militants exacting “revenge” on anyone, so the authorities quickly removed Owens and White Feather from public knowledge as quickly as they appeared on its radar. This worked out for S2.
It was almost hard to believe how quickly that an incident so violent could vanish, but since most people who know about eastern Utah only know about its National Parks, the proximity to Mormon Cross and the Middle of Nowhere helped put it out of people’s sight and out of their minds. Nevertheless, when this event transpired, the Native Americans battled with archaeologists and members of the Bureau of Land Management for two days in an incident that resulted in the destruction of the site, the death of many men and women on both sides, sexual assault, and kidnapping. Prior to the arrival of the Feds, the incident had been quietly going on for a week, but then the proverbial shit hit the fan with a murder charge, and this signaled authority intervention.
While the men in question were guilty on many accounts, the authorities were supplied “evidence” to frame them for other incidents that they had nothing to do with. With nobody willing to stand up for their innocence, they are currently sitting in prison at Uinta 1, where they sit in solitude to conceal an action that needed to transpire by any means necessary.
In comparison to this method of dealing with problems, S1 tended to look at any innocent “bystanders” they encountered as potential resources to utilize in their war against this parallel world. When word got out about this covert operation, things reached a boiling point. The divisions exploded, and soon, S2 negotiated a division from the original program when they refused to back down from operating under this type of rule of law.
Under their new authority, the name S2 metamorphosed into “Team Black. This change recognized their standard uniform, which was black suits, white shirts, black ties, dark glasses, a silenced pistol, and a black hat on top. For ages, they created a mystique for themselves when they emerged in public in places like Point Pleasant, West Virginia, during the Mothman days. Because of these situations, they gained the name Men in Black in popular culture. This name originally created a level of respect for the men and women in the organization, but soon, they felt it was just too comic book and humorous for its own good, so they called themselves Team Black instead.
It should be noted that after the Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones movie of the same name, their reputation stood out in the Special Forces community as something of a joke to S1, but that’s a very different story.
Despite their rare social emergences, S1 generally chose to stay more clandestine, even when their taunts and jokes were traveling back to S2. Since they were never had a name except by one letter and one number, they stuck with their original moniker, when they mentioned their name at all. Most times, the men called it “my team” or “my unit.” The officers who referred to the community of men and women who defended the world’s interests weren’t interested in names, but rather actions. If you were in the team, you were important and special, and this was something you knew, so you didn’t blow it. If you were caught slacking, you were either told about it or removed altogether. There was no halfway when the world’s interests were at stake.
Colin knew this right from the moment he found out at the post Hell Week meeting that his great uncle wanted him to be a part of the team. This was clear, but what wasn’t clear was exactly how intense and secretive his work would be in saving the world from the doom that could otherwise be inflicted by these savage beasts that they were set to fight.
On this day, Bart introduced Colin to the members of the team that he would be working with for his latest mission.
“Do you know any of these other guys, Colin?” Bart asked.
“Well everyone knows the Chief,” the nearly thirty-year old Colin responded.
And it was true that everyone did know Anthony Williams by his reputation and his appearance. Williams was a six foot four brute of a man who took on many of his mother’s Italian traits in both skin color and temperament. More importantly than those things, however, he took on his father’s muscular status.
Like his father, Anthony increased his size so that he would gain a protective layer to support an NFL quarterback through the entire scope of his offensive attack. However, just like what happened with his father’s life, Williams’ life had taken him other ways than to do battle on the gridiron.
In the case of Anthony’s father, his fate was sealed when his offensive line wavered, and instantly, two hulking Notre Dame players blitzed the University of Texas quarterback into the ground. Normally, this would be a cause for celebration, but both men saw that Anthony wasn’t getting up right away, and they immediately checked over him, staring in worry as he regained consciousness on the ground.
“Don’t sweat it. It’s the rules of the game,” he said, but he still couldn’t move, so he just waited for the athletic trainers, medics, and the stretcher crew to take him off to get x-rays to determine the extent of the damage.
The damage to this senior offensive juggernaut wasn’t catastrophic, but it was severe enough that no pro team would take a chance on the once great candidate for the Heisman. Instead, Anthony, as he insisted on being referred to, went to work for a trucking company out of Austin, where he never had problems with his back or spine again, but by that point, it was too late to be an NFL great.
Sadly, no Kurt Warner would rise from the ashes of the elder Anthony Williams’s failed opportunities in football.
As he got married and older, Tony dreamed many things for his son. Some of these were the fulfillment of his football dreams, but where he saw himself leading a sports team, his son saw himself leading a military unit, so as soon as he could, he enlisted.
For years, this was serving as a US Marine. Then, fate, as it does in many things, intervened and led the man and his fellow USMC sergeant, Samuel Lucas, to Bart Doherty’s attention. Within hours of Bart’s introduction to the Marines, the three men were together within the confines of an exploding Fallujah. From the start, they seemed destined to be on this mission together.
“Gentlemen,” Doherty said as he met the two Devil Dogs for the first time. “We have received word that something bad is going to be going down today. We have credible information, though we aren’t sure where. We only know that it is a deal struck between the Brigades of Martyr Ahmed Yassin and some very motivated ‘accumulators’ to make some bad things go down as a diversion while these looters, if that’s what you would call them, try to ransack certain historical and art collections in the city.”
“So you need a Marine to protect sculptures?” SSGT Lucas asked Bart an air of obvious disdain for his appointment to a job he felt wasn’t far away from being a mall security guard.
“No, I need a pair of well-trained jarheads to help execute some serious art thieves who are looking to profit on the black market with priceless artifacts of cultural, religious, and historic significance. This will be completely off the record, so you don’t have to worry about some of the legal entanglements from Switzerland, which would otherwise dictate the rules of this engagement.”
“So what does that mean for us?” Williams asked.
“It means that you will drop all rank and insignia from your uniforms. It means that you will go in with me in temporary ‘civilian’ capacity. Unfortunately, it means if you get caught and shit happens, well, shit really happens and you are officially missing in action never to return to the fold again.”
“Who are you in the employment of? You look too old to be military unless you’re a four-star general out of uniform,” Gunnery Sergeant Williams questioned the old man.
“Don’t worry. You never heard of the unit that I’m serving with, but I assure you all three of us take our ultimate orders from the President of the United States for this mission.”
“We get to hear GW’s voice?” Lucas asked.
“No, his handlers rubber-stamped this years ago, just in case.”
“Plausible deniability,” Williams added.
“Fair enough, Old Man,” Lucas said, and then he asked, “You got a rank even if you can’t wear it?”
“I did. It was full bird colonel. Now, I gave that up to get even with the nastiest of bad guys and things that go bump up in the night before they started pulling some serious shit.”
“I wish I knew more, but it works for me,” Williams said. “If these things are enemies to the world, I’m in it to take it out. Kill ‘em all. Let God sort ‘em out. These frickin’ Hajis are planning something. I can feel it.”
“What kind of serious shit do art thieves get into?” Lucas asked, cutting off his superior to address Bart on matters that were more serious.
“Mostly, desecrating religious artifacts in the name of a different sort of religion, which is a looser term than you might think of. I don’t know if I’d call them a cult, but people do tend to think of them in this manner. These men believe in the power of certain things in the past in an all-too dangerous way, and the sad part is that they’re right about the special powers that they are trying to accumulate. As they do this, other collectors are trying to get ahold of stuff with special powers in other places. In this way, they could be a terrorist group, but they’re not political in the way we tend to see ISIL and Al Qaeda. Thus, we try to avoid calling them something they aren’t generally in line with. Nevertheless, they are fanatics who engage in murder. That’s where my group comes into the equation,” Doherty informed the men.
“Like killing the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, who were on the hunt for paranormal and metaphysical objects,” Lucas added. “I’d like to get my hands on Belloq or Toht. I’d mess those dudes up. Rock and roll.”
“Yep. We have orders to shoot these bastards on sight. We don’t need to wait for them to engage us. We aim for the center of the skull, and kill the brain. We kill ‘em like zombies. The messier the better,” Doherty added. “Send a message to them not to mess with this stuff.
“Right through the eye socket, Colonel?” Williams said, making a gun out of his hand and pretending to fire it.
“Exactly. My employers want these guys dead in the most definite of ways. They do, however, expect the artifacts to stay safe.”
“They’re not zombies, are they?” Lucas asked.
“Not that I know of, nor are we worried about them coming back to life after death, though we are worried about them bringing something in a chest back to this world. As it never was alive, we aren’t sure exactly how to kill it, so we can’t let it happen.”
“So we’re dealing with real undead shit?”
“Those are your words, not mine, Sgt. Williams.”
“You’re not messing with me, are you? Just because I’m from Texas doesn’t make me slow.”
“I know,” Bart added. “Honest officer, if you can believe that. I wouldn’t be messing with two Marines by myself, especially ones as big as you boys. We need to take these people out efficiently and effectively.”
“That could be a tall order,” Lucas remarked.
“It usually is, but I have faith in you. Your C.O. does, too. He promised me the two baddest mofos in the business. I trust you are worthy of his compliments since you were at the top of a short list.”
The two Marines smiled.
“How’d you know to pick us?” Lucas asked.
“You were the only two on the list.”
“There’s a lot of good men in this unit. Why not Charleston?” Lucas responded. “That dude looks like the Hulk.”
“I asked for men who could kill and keep their mouths shut while taking orders to exterminate with extreme prejudice while keeping cool as the other side of the pillow.”
“Sounds like us,” the once quizzical man said with a boost of confidence
“Definitely not Charleston. That dude is on 24/7,” Williams said. “Let’s roll, home skillet. We’ve got a job to do.”
NNNN
Driving through Fallujah, there was a palpable air of a revolution waiting to decimate everything in its path when whatever had accumulated into this festering riotous attitude took over.
“Who are these pricks, Colonel?” Lucas asked.
“Ghazi Nasser is the name of the man who is orchestrating everything. Everyone with him is hired muscle. They plan to hit the collection of a wealthy businessman named Kawi Nader. He’s been buying historical statues and trinkets off random dealers and thieves for years. He generally seems to care about the materials he’s preserving. Before everything happened with the coalition forces going after Saddam, he had dreams of building a museum to showcase the history of Mesopotamia; at least he felt he could if Saddam ever ended up dead. I’d like to think he still does, but with all of the damage done to this city,” Doherty paused. “I don’t think this shithole will ever be livable again.”
“So who are these people looking to hit him? Private collectors or opportunistic suppliers who want to make money off of creating a museum?” Williams questioned the Colonel.
“Some of the items may be resold for funding, but mostly this is about the Following of Praznok, who was reckoned to be a vicious demon that existed in the days before the Prophet Mohammed.”
“So he was associated with Islam?” Williams asked again.
“Not at all. These guys hated all three branches of the tree. No Christian, Muslim, or Jew was safe from these men’s wrath. Fortunately, long story short, a brave group of men in the Crusades era captured Praznok and were said to place his spirit in a chest using some really hardcore magic.”
“So they’ve got a demon in a box. Well, ain’t that special?” Williams laughed. “Kind of ironic that they’re going to be the ones getting boxed up.”
“You could say that, but the good news is that they need to have a key to that chest as well as a stone tablet that reveals how to release Praznok.”
“Do they have the key?” Lucas said.
“Not on them or even in this country. However, we believe they are aware of where the key to open the box is located.”
“You believe that?” Lucas asked, smiling as he did.
“I’m here, right?”
“I guess we all are. Here’s to being a comic book hero,” Williams said.
“I already am one,” Doherty said. “You’re an American hero, but you’re not on my level, at least yet.”
“What do I need to do to get on that level?” Williams asked.
“Shoot a demon’s skull at close range so the beast incinerates into a white light explosion. Then you walk away and live to tell about it.”
“You have us killing demons? Isn’t that a little dangerous?” Lucas said.
“Maybe someday,” the ex-Colonel said, smiling mischievously at his two companions. “For now, I just need you to take out some wannabe thugs and terrorists.”
“You sure you aren’t messing with us? This isn’t a practical joke, is it?” Williams wondered.
“If it is, nobody told me, so we’re all in on somebody game. Until then, get your minds ready to execute a goal-line defense.”
The Marines smiled at their potential inclusion into Doherty’s ranks.
“So this dealer has the Chest of this demon?” Lucas asked.
“We only believe that he has artifacts associated with the beast. When they bring the entity into the world, it will be looking for these objects, so it’s important not to let him have anything associated with him.”
“At least that’s something,” Williams said.
“Here’s to that, guys,” Bart added with a serious look on his face.
NNNN
Twenty minutes later, the men were parking their truck behind a building that had never seen good days, and it was even worse now since it was crumbling under the weight of its own poor construction and lack of upkeep. As a result, even the filthiest rats of the city abandoned it. Five blocks out, they parked and hoofed it in, finally arriving at another building that made the houses on the street where they parked look like a mansion.
“This is where we wait,” Bart told the Marines.
“For what?” Lucas responded.
“All Hell to break loose.”
“Then what?” Williams asked.
“Then one of the three snipers on the roofs above us will alert me to Ghazi and his crew coming to that building across the street. At that point, they will start shooting down everyone they can. Our job is to use our M-16s and Beretta 9mm pistols as well as a few well-placed grenades to keep their escape route in one direction. We want them moving out the way they came in. If that happens, my other crew gets them; however, if it becomes necessary, we’ll have to call more of your Jarhead friends on the ground to intercept them up there. The Marines promised air support and tanks for when the situation came to that. Maybe they can make Charleston mad if he turns big and green like the Hulk!”
“That’s a well-thought out contingency plan, Bart,” Williams replied. “But are you sure that just us three can force them backward?”
“I’d say so. I designed it myself that we will dig in and be ready to burn them to the ground. Just like Sherman said during his infamous march, we will ‘make Georgia howl.’”
“So were you a Leatherneck when you were a Colonel?” Lucas asked.
“Army all the way.”
“You should have been a Marine,” Lucas said.
“You should be one of my guys. Well, if you’re as good as your C.O. says. We need people who know how to go door to door and keep their cool when they’re facing out of this world danger.”
“Where else you been in combat?” Williams said.
“Vietnam, Panama, and Iraq on official orders. All over Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, Central America, and even some unpleasant situations in America.”
“You had to take out Americans?” Williams asked, thoroughly surprised.
“Mostly, we take out people who infiltrate the country for nefarious purposes. If we take out Americans, they were collaborating with some serious bad things and needed to go anyway.”
“No Bill of Rights concerns?” Williams added.
“They forfeited them, and most likely, they’re nobody that will be missed.”
“Home grown terrorists do that?” Lucas chimed in while he was still surprised to be looking out at the emptiness of the street.
“Not really. We tend to fight against things with less of an earthly origin or master. Any American conjuring these creatures is considered dangerous and a high-value target that has no business discussing their concerns in a military or civilian courtroom.”
“So do you also hide UFOs after killing aliens?” Williams said jokingly.
“Only once. It happened in a small town in Pennsylvania. Now that was some stuff trying to get a huge flying saucer down a narrow logging road,” Bart reflected, and then began talking after a short pause. “For the most part, we fight against what you might call pagans and Satanists, but these aren’t bullshit kids looking to piss off their parents. These are people unleashing demons after swearing allegiance to destroy all of mankind.”
“I think I prefer crushing the insurgency,” Lucas said. “Marines were trained to be able to be especially dangerous at messing these wannabe martyrs up. We’ll send them to their seventy-two virgin camels.”
“I know you will. That’s why I like working with regular military guys on missions like this, but it’s why we need more of you who have the internal fortitude to go to the next level with our missions. Maybe when this is over, you should come up to my place in Minnesota. There’s a lot of great hunting and fishing to be had.”
“Yeah,” Williams nodded, contemplating the thought. “Maybe we will if we ever get back to the good ol’ U S of A.”
“That’s the thing about Marines. We make the best teammates around because we focus on unit, trust, and the mission. My brother is learning that now,” Lucas said.
“Your brother joined up, too?”
“No, he’s a police chief in Blanding, Utah.”
“Where the hell is that?” Williams asked his colleague.
“Middle of nowhere, but since they gave Tony a chance to run the show, he moved from our home in Naturita, Colorado, with his wife Katie to have a chance to get some leadership experience. He finally got to hire his own men now that the old timers retired. His pick was a guy named Littleman who served in the Marines as a military policeman. He won’t regret that choice. Our guys have some serious presence and skill.”
“Not to interrupt you, Sammy, but it sounds like Colonel Doherty’s phone is going off,” Williams said.
“Give me a second,” Bart said, and with that, he walked off to answer the phone while both men watched him.
When he came back, he looked into their inquisitive glances.
“We need to get our stuff ready to move. There is word that their diversion has begun. People are rioting. They are up at one of the bridges on the Euphrates with a crew of contractors that they captured and killed. Word is that they’re desecrating the bodies.”
Immediately, both men looked at him stunned.
“This is war. The bull is bucking back. It doesn’t want to be sat on. This is how it wins. You had to expect shit like this no matter how much you don’t like it.”
Lucas looked at the men and interjected the remark, “I don’t dislike it. I loathe the hell out of it.”
“There will be time for justice later,” Bart said. “Be patient.”
“I know, but I just think it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better,” Williams said. “Should we be there helping?”
“No. You need to be here. Where we’re going is it getting much worse before it gets better. You have to know this. Nevertheless, what I need to know is if you feel that you don’t have the heart for this,” Bart asked him.
“I’m saying that I want to know how much your promise of immunity covers me when I offer some serious payback to these dirt bags.”
“When it’s all over, you’ll be OK to put a series hurting on the Brigade. Trust me. Besides, you don’t have a uniform on, do you?”
The Marine looked at the civilian who had mysteriously come into his life and now changed it so much with such a bizarre mission. Could all of this really be true?
Sammy looked over, and he spoke out, “Where do you want us when we need to give these bastards the hot lead injection?”
“They’re going to be coming for this building,” Bart said pointing again to the warehouse. “Let’s set up in the front room of that building over there. Nobody fires until we get everyone into position to open up our attack on them, all at once. Let their fear of the rooftop triangulation scare the shit out of them. We’ll add in to the mix by gunning the masses down and blocking their escape.”
“Works for me,” Williams said. “But I still have a feeling we’re being watched.”
“Our men have been getting in place since we had word of what’s going on. They would have contacted us if something were out of place. Now grab the extra duffle bags, and let’s hurry. That bridge situation is going to last a while, but it’s not forever. Ghazi will be working out of a limited time frame.”
The men did just what Doherty asked, and with the time that the trio had left, they moved furniture and other objects in the way of the door to block any attack that might come through the door. Fifteen minutes later, the next call came from the rooftop crew.
“This place has been quiet today. In fact, it’s been all too quiet. We’ve seen nobody moving for the last hour since we got on the scene. It’s like the locals are deliberately avoiding this place,” the radio said.
“Maybe they were tipped off to stay inside,” Bart said. “In certain cases, these people do lay the law down.”
“This just feels different.”
“You’re not backing out are you, Terry?” Bart replied.
“We’ve got you covered. The main road is completely under our surveillance. Let’s do this,” the voice added.
“Good.”
“Watch out! I see vehicle movement. It looks like they’re about to come into the kill zone. Trucks are moving, and radio chatter is coming on,” the comlink blared.
“Out,” Bart said and the he looked at the two Marines who looked back on him. He could feel their intensity growing as they clearly overheard his words and knew what was coming. They had been in this moment many times before. They were professionals, armed to the teeth to be able to destroy everyone involved in this thievery.
“So we’re about to fire. Ready?” Bart asked his men rhetorically.
“When you give the order,” the lead sniper on the roof said.
“You didn’t need to answer. You’ve been down this path before. Have at it. Terminate with extreme prejudice.”
With that, the men watched the street as the trucks began their arrival. Soon, they were all inside of the area fenced off by the snipers.
That was when the first of the gunshots ripped out silently through the tense heat of Fallujah.
Soon, more of the silenced blasts from above claimed lives in the convoy of trucks, of which there were two HEMMT 8WD troop transports. In addition, there was a large moving truck, and there was a Chevy Impala wedged in between. Under the extreme time constraints, shot after shot rang out rather quickly, smashing into the drivers of the two troop transports and the moving truck. As the trucks halted in the vice of narrow streets and fire raining down, it was clear that these thieves and their guards with nowhere to escape to.
The scene on the ground was absolute chaos as at least twenty men poured out of the transports, screaming and yelling as they fired at the phantom attackers. Four more men ran out of the back of the moving truck, firing upward at the tops of the buildings, also shooting blindly, as they fought back to keep the snipers down and unable to continue their ambush. All the while, the two men in the Impala dodged through the whole scene to find cover down toward the building they had planned on looting and ransacking.
“Can you see anything down there?” Bart radioed.
“Not in this mess of gunfire,” the radio chattered.
“How about any of the rest of you?”
“Negative,” a different sniper stated.
“I have movement down the street. I think that’s Ghazi and his bodyguard, though the man doesn’t look very big. I didn’t expect to see him here. What’s he risking his life for?” the sniper asked while staring through the scope at the unknown man running between the transports and the car.”
“Do you have a shot so we can end this?”
“Negative. It’s too uncertain with the angle I’m looking from.”
“Well don’t let that stop you, Wilson. You’re a good shot. Light this bastard up.”
“Yes, sir.”
Almost immediately, the.50 caliber shot went off, missing the position the men were hiding in by mere inches.
“Did you get him?”
“Negative,” the radio crackled.
“Well, at least he’s pinned down. Fire again.”
Continued firing erupted. While it wasn’t finding a target, its omnipotent presence scared everyone on the ground.
Nevertheless, despite their fear, the hordes of other terrorists, who minutes earlier were set to be acting as moving men, were still firing up at the rooftops, however randomly and scattered that their counterattack was.
In the building, SSGT Lucas looked at GSGT Williams and Doherty, and he spoke, “I’m not sure how long our guys on the roof can wait. I’m thinking it’s time to bring on another avenue of fire.”
“We’re quite a distance from those guys. We’ll be making noise and wasting ammo instead of dropping thugs in their tracks,” Williams explained.
“What do you suggest?” Lucas screamed.
“Let’s move our show up from behind. We can move up a good block or so by going out the backdoor of this place and winding up from the street behind here to sneak attack them there. If we can move back left toward this street and hide behind those broken down trucks, we can relieve a lot of pressure on our sniper team,” Doherty added.
“This will still leave us exposed. Is it a good thing to put us all in danger?” Williams said.
“You got a better idea?” The former Colonel added.
“Their eyes are on those buildings, so yeah. Well, let’s take your plan, but instead of hitting them from the street, let’s get up on the rooftop, too,” Lucas said.
“That will give us a clear opportunity to throw grenades down on them while pulverizing them with a lot of 5.56mm hugs and cuddles,” Williams explained to the men.
“That could work,” Bart said, feeling uplifted by the prospects of the Marines’ understanding of how to control the situation definitively.
“Damn right it will,” Lucas said. “That’s Marine Corps know how. OOH RAH!”
With this, the men proceeded to grab their gear and head out the back of the building. As they moved out the back of the house into the barren street, they walked out and found themselves face to face with the building that these militant forces were coming to loot.
“So this is what we’ve been protecting,” Lucas mumbled.
“It seems so,” Williams began to say.
“Nondescript,” Doherty said, finishing his sentence. “I’ve got a feeling I don’t trust guys.
The Marines nodded in agreement. At first, it was an inconspicuous feeling regarding how abandoned that the streets were, but for the most part, there weren’t even birds peeping anywhere.
It was just then that they saw their first person on the street. This was a younger boy who was walking around down the street about forty feet from them as he came out of another building, which the townsfolk had abandoned. The body of the person in question wasn’t tall or muscular, but it was definitely a male from how he was dressed, though his clothing appeared bulky at first.
“Hey, you!” Williams screamed out in Arabic. “What are you doing here? Sit down now!”
The boy didn’t move from what he was doing at first.
Williams screamed again, but in English this time.
“Get out the ground now, Haji, or I will execute you right the hell now!”
With the increased aggression of Williams’ tone, the boy turned around to face the men. Even though he was a local, who would only know the language that the locals spoke, he should have at least understood the anger and immediacy of the tone of the words the men were saying and the presence of their guns pointed at him.
“I think he’s autistic. Look at the way his hands are stimming,” Lucas said. “My friend has a son who does that.”
“But what’s he doing out here in the middle of a war zone?” Bart asked. “Is he trying to get himself killed?”
“He’s not meant to be stuck inside, Colonel. He can come and go as he pleases,” Lucas responded to Bart until the colonel interrupted.
“No, I’m not trying to be an insensitive asshole. I mean we’ve got no other people wandering around out here. What’s a kid, much less a boy with autism, doing on this street?”
“Let me go see, guys. Out of all of us, I’d say that I’m the most used to working with kids with these problems. I know some tricks that might help him relax a little bit,” Lucas said, immediately walking up to the boy.
“Friend,” Lucas said in Arabic, pointing to himself and then smiling.
The boy continued to flap his hands while making repetitive sounds that appeared to show he was frightened.
Lucas stepped back and reached into his pocket, and he produced a Hershey’s chocolate bar, and then he took a bite before he spoke again, saying, “Mmm… good stuff,” as he rubbed his belly
Instantly, he smiled again, breaking off a piece of the bar, and then he handed it to the boy and repeated the Arabic word for friend.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Sam. You need to,” Williams said.

“Get the hell away from that kid!” Bart screamed in the moment of realization. “He’s rigged with a bomb!”Bart Doherty looked at Colin Jameson. The two men had known each other almost every one of Colin’s twenty-eight years. From his family’s early visits to see Bart to Colin’s first trip to Minnesota in 1999, there was a mythology, which reflected the life of his great uncle. After that, there was a hidden reality with what he never said when Colin was there. Since then, to include Colin’s time in S1, there were only the secrets that the two men shared about their combined realities of being a part of the secret unit known only as S1 and all they had been through together because of this.
In the years since he joined the group, Colin learned quite a bit about their history, though he wasn’t informed of everything since some of it was need to know or unspoken secrets and failures that Bart kept hidden.
Nevertheless, what he did know was amazing.
Way back when, Harry Truman’s handlers, who advised him to legislate decisively on threats foreign and domestic in order to bring about the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, created the group that would go by the name S1. These behind the scenes men were the original top dogs of the American black-ops special forces world, a tight-knit group who acted with the same stroke of genius decision-making that worked to realize that there was a need to have a completely off the books military unit operating at home and abroad. Unlike other overt military units, the military would still train the covert units. When they finished initiating the men into the ways of fighting forces, they would list their trainees as being in routine jobs within the armed forces. Where these forces differed from other elite fighting forces is that they would operate completely apart from the standard rules of engagement that the Geneva Convention listed. Since the verdict of their engagements represented an existential threat to humankind, the men had to complete them in ways that they could never expose to the everyday world. Civilization could not begin to understand what these villains and supernatural entities wanted to do to it. Whether these enemies appeared on their own or in tandem with recognized enemies of the state, it was imperative that they annihilated all of these people looking to fight alongside of these beings since they were an enemy to world peace and general order. Truman particularly liked feeling that he was responsible for saving the world with this decision. Truman’s handlers felt contented knowing that they had convinced the President of the United States to do the right thing despite the possible ramifications that it might cause if the groups were ever exposed to the light of day. Though his men did not brief him on all of the potential issues, Truman was aware of the need for such utter secrecy that he eventually turned all controlling authority of this group over to the infamous group known as Majestic 12.
At a time when multiple clandestine groups were starting to appear in this country, S1, Truman created S1, the first of these groups, to deal with many things Beyond Top “Secret” and all things “supernatural,” which put them in a category called “Magic Eyes Only.” Whether the S was for the former or the latter, the history is uncertain since nobody ever acknowledged this group in the light of day at that time, and in the end, it doesn’t really matter since the group performed both of these duties exceptionally. In fact, they did them so well in working to close loopholes and issues of concern that related to cryptids and ghosts that they became a model for other countries who had these concerns.
A second group, S2 was also set up at this time in order to deal with issues of the alien problem, which was rearing its head with the events of Roswell that occurred in the summer of 1947. As these alien visitation events have continued incessantly ever since, the group is also still active within various capacities in the United States and abroad, though they now operate under different protocols. Since the changes of the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administration. S1 implemented in a new era of clandestine efficiency in warfare. After Kennedy’s death, Lyndon Johnson’s men did not give him a chance to get upset about this by any ethical means necessary because his organization never briefed him on the organization. Rather than chance the worst, the handlers kept everything S1 and S2 to themselves instead.
For a short time, things between the groups went swimmingly when they needed to work together, but this tranquility and camaraderie did not last long when the infighting between S1 and S2 began to spill over after the latter group started to adopt more violent and oppressive tactics to conceal the “extra-terrestrial problem” from the population as a whole. There were numerous events killing and capturing various beings from other worlds, which caused tussles and screaming matches. Mostly these went on behind closed doors, but some of the events threatened to spill over into the mainstream with witnesses and news leaks as well as actual world events. In particular, there was an event at an archaeological dig referred to as Mormon Creek. This event, which occurred in Utah in 1995 right after the Timothy McVeigh bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Building, landed a pair of Native Americans named Solomon Owens and Donny White Feather, in jail, after S2 members infiltrated their group, the Pueblo Defense Fund in order to commandeer them as puppets for an incident involving evidence destruction.
The S2 brass considered this an ingenious plan designed to create fake ancestral heritage claims in order to convince a group of problematic Native American activists to destroy an archaeology site that would steal and desecrate their ancestors’ remains. What the Native Americans did not know was that the excavation would have exposed ancient alien relics and bodies at the Native American site. S2 could not allow this to happen, so they armed the Pueblo Defense Fund to the teeth for battle. If the Native Americans won, S2 would rat them out to police or execute them as soon as they were out of eyesight. However, if they were to die, it would be all the better since their actions would create hostility toward the claims that tribes were making about ancestral remains and lands. Besides, so much had been going on in the country at the time with anti-government attitudes at Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Oklahoma City, that when the courtroom decided the punishment, it was short, sweet, and to the point, and nobody really batted an eye.
Other than a few cantankerous rebels, society as a whole didn’t want angry militants exacting “revenge” on anyone, so the authorities quickly removed Owens and White Feather from public knowledge as quickly as they appeared on its radar. This worked out for S2.
It was almost hard to believe how quickly that an incident so violent could vanish, but since most people who know about eastern Utah only know about its National Parks, the proximity to Mormon Cross and the Middle of Nowhere helped put it out of people’s sight and out of their minds. Nevertheless, when this event transpired, the Native Americans battled with archaeologists and members of the Bureau of Land Management for two days in an incident that resulted in the destruction of the site, the death of many men and women on both sides, sexual assault, and kidnapping. Prior to the arrival of the Feds, the incident had been quietly going on for a week, but then the proverbial shit hit the fan with a murder charge, and this signaled authority intervention.
While the men in question were guilty on many accounts, the authorities were supplied “evidence” to frame them for other incidents that they had nothing to do with. With nobody willing to stand up for their innocence, they are currently sitting in prison at Uinta 1, where they sit in solitude to conceal an action that needed to transpire by any means necessary.
In comparison to this method of dealing with problems, S1 tended to look at any innocent “bystanders” they encountered as potential resources to utilize in their war against this parallel world. When word got out about this covert operation, things reached a boiling point. The divisions exploded, and soon, S2 negotiated a division from the original program when they refused to back down from operating under this type of rule of law.
Under their new authority, the name S2 metamorphosed into “Team Black. This change recognized their standard uniform, which was black suits, white shirts, black ties, dark glasses, a silenced pistol, and a black hat on top. For ages, they created a mystique for themselves when they emerged in public in places like Point Pleasant, West Virginia, during the Mothman days. Because of these situations, they gained the name Men in Black in popular culture. This name originally created a level of respect for the men and women in the organization, but soon, they felt it was just too comic book and humorous for its own good, so they called themselves Team Black instead.
It should be noted that after the Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones movie of the same name, their reputation stood out in the Special Forces community as something of a joke to S1, but that’s a very different story.
Despite their rare social emergences, S1 generally chose to stay more clandestine, even when their taunts and jokes were traveling back to S2. Since they were never had a name except by one letter and one number, they stuck with their original moniker, when they mentioned their name at all. Most times, the men called it “my team” or “my unit.” The officers who referred to the community of men and women who defended the world’s interests weren’t interested in names, but rather actions. If you were in the team, you were important and special, and this was something you knew, so you didn’t blow it. If you were caught slacking, you were either told about it or removed altogether. There was no halfway when the world’s interests were at stake.
Colin knew this right from the moment he found out at the post Hell Week meeting that his great uncle wanted him to be a part of the team. This was clear, but what wasn’t clear was exactly how intense and secretive his work would be in saving the world from the doom that could otherwise be inflicted by these savage beasts that they were set to fight.
On this day, Bart introduced Colin to the members of the team that he would be working with for his latest mission.
“Do you know any of these other guys, Colin?” Bart asked.
“Well everyone knows the Chief,” the nearly thirty-year old Colin responded.
And it was true that everyone did know Anthony Williams by his reputation and his appearance. Williams was a six foot four brute of a man who took on many of his mother’s Italian traits in both skin color and temperament. More importantly than those things, however, he took on his father’s muscular status.
Like his father, Anthony increased his size so that he would gain a protective layer to support an NFL quarterback through the entire scope of his offensive attack. However, just like what happened with his father’s life, Williams’ life had taken him other ways than to do battle on the gridiron.
In the case of Anthony’s father, his fate was sealed when his offensive line wavered, and instantly, two hulking Notre Dame players blitzed the University of Texas quarterback into the ground. Normally, this would be a cause for celebration, but both men saw that Anthony wasn’t getting up right away, and they immediately checked over him, staring in worry as he regained consciousness on the ground.
“Don’t sweat it. It’s the rules of the game,” he said, but he still couldn’t move, so he just waited for the athletic trainers, medics, and the stretcher crew to take him off to get x-rays to determine the extent of the damage.
The damage to this senior offensive juggernaut wasn’t catastrophic, but it was severe enough that no pro team would take a chance on the once great candidate for the Heisman. Instead, Anthony, as he insisted on being referred to, went to work for a trucking company out of Austin, where he never had problems with his back or spine again, but by that point, it was too late to be an NFL great.
Sadly, no Kurt Warner would rise from the ashes of the elder Anthony Williams’s failed opportunities in football.
As he got married and older, Tony dreamed many things for his son. Some of these were the fulfillment of his football dreams, but where he saw himself leading a sports team, his son saw himself leading a military unit, so as soon as he could, he enlisted.
For years, this was serving as a US Marine. Then, fate, as it does in many things, intervened and led the man and his fellow USMC sergeant, Samuel Lucas, to Bart Doherty’s attention. Within hours of Bart’s introduction to the Marines, the three men were together within the confines of an exploding Fallujah. From the start, they seemed destined to be on this mission together.
“Gentlemen,” Doherty said as he met the two Devil Dogs for the first time. “We have received word that something bad is going to be going down today. We have credible information, though we aren’t sure where. We only know that it is a deal struck between the Brigades of Martyr Ahmed Yassin and some very motivated ‘accumulators’ to make some bad things go down as a diversion while these looters, if that’s what you would call them, try to ransack certain historical and art collections in the city.”
“So you need a Marine to protect sculptures?” SSGT Lucas asked Bart an air of obvious disdain for his appointment to a job he felt wasn’t far away from being a mall security guard.
“No, I need a pair of well-trained jarheads to help execute some serious art thieves who are looking to profit on the black market with priceless artifacts of cultural, religious, and historic significance. This will be completely off the record, so you don’t have to worry about some of the legal entanglements from Switzerland, which would otherwise dictate the rules of this engagement.”
“So what does that mean for us?” Williams asked.
“It means that you will drop all rank and insignia from your uniforms. It means that you will go in with me in temporary ‘civilian’ capacity. Unfortunately, it means if you get caught and shit happens, well, shit really happens and you are officially missing in action never to return to the fold again.”
“Who are you in the employment of? You look too old to be military unless you’re a four-star general out of uniform,” Gunnery Sergeant Williams questioned the old man.
“Don’t worry. You never heard of the unit that I’m serving with, but I assure you all three of us take our ultimate orders from the President of the United States for this mission.”
“We get to hear GW’s voice?” Lucas asked.
“No, his handlers rubber-stamped this years ago, just in case.”
“Plausible deniability,” Williams added.
“Fair enough, Old Man,” Lucas said, and then he asked, “You got a rank even if you can’t wear it?”
“I did. It was full bird colonel. Now, I gave that up to get even with the nastiest of bad guys and things that go bump up in the night before they started pulling some serious shit.”
“I wish I knew more, but it works for me,” Williams said. “If these things are enemies to the world, I’m in it to take it out. Kill ‘em all. Let God sort ‘em out. These frickin’ Hajis are planning something. I can feel it.”
“What kind of serious shit do art thieves get into?” Lucas asked, cutting off his superior to address Bart on matters that were more serious.
“Mostly, desecrating religious artifacts in the name of a different sort of religion, which is a looser term than you might think of. I don’t know if I’d call them a cult, but people do tend to think of them in this manner. These men believe in the power of certain things in the past in an all-too dangerous way, and the sad part is that they’re right about the special powers that they are trying to accumulate. As they do this, other collectors are trying to get ahold of stuff with special powers in other places. In this way, they could be a terrorist group, but they’re not political in the way we tend to see ISIL and Al Qaeda. Thus, we try to avoid calling them something they aren’t generally in line with. Nevertheless, they are fanatics who engage in murder. That’s where my group comes into the equation,” Doherty informed the men.
“Like killing the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, who were on the hunt for paranormal and metaphysical objects,” Lucas added. “I’d like to get my hands on Belloq or Toht. I’d mess those dudes up. Rock and roll.”
“Yep. We have orders to shoot these bastards on sight. We don’t need to wait for them to engage us. We aim for the center of the skull, and kill the brain. We kill ‘em like zombies. The messier the better,” Doherty added. “Send a message to them not to mess with this stuff.
“Right through the eye socket, Colonel?” Williams said, making a gun out of his hand and pretending to fire it.
“Exactly. My employers want these guys dead in the most definite of ways. They do, however, expect the artifacts to stay safe.”
“They’re not zombies, are they?” Lucas asked.
“Not that I know of, nor are we worried about them coming back to life after death, though we are worried about them bringing something in a chest back to this world. As it never was alive, we aren’t sure exactly how to kill it, so we can’t let it happen.”
“So we’re dealing with real undead shit?”
“Those are your words, not mine, Sgt. Williams.”
“You’re not messing with me, are you? Just because I’m from Texas doesn’t make me slow.”
“I know,” Bart added. “Honest officer, if you can believe that. I wouldn’t be messing with two Marines by myself, especially ones as big as you boys. We need to take these people out efficiently and effectively.”
“That could be a tall order,” Lucas remarked.
“It usually is, but I have faith in you. Your C.O. does, too. He promised me the two baddest mofos in the business. I trust you are worthy of his compliments since you were at the top of a short list.”
The two Marines smiled.
“How’d you know to pick us?” Lucas asked.
“You were the only two on the list.”
“There’s a lot of good men in this unit. Why not Charleston?” Lucas responded. “That dude looks like the Hulk.”
“I asked for men who could kill and keep their mouths shut while taking orders to exterminate with extreme prejudice while keeping cool as the other side of the pillow.”
“Sounds like us,” the once quizzical man said with a boost of confidence
“Definitely not Charleston. That dude is on 24/7,” Williams said. “Let’s roll, home skillet. We’ve got a job to do.”
NNNN
Driving through Fallujah, there was a palpable air of a revolution waiting to decimate everything in its path when whatever had accumulated into this festering riotous attitude took over.
“Who are these pricks, Colonel?” Lucas asked.
“Ghazi Nasser is the name of the man who is orchestrating everything. Everyone with him is hired muscle. They plan to hit the collection of a wealthy businessman named Kawi Nader. He’s been buying historical statues and trinkets off random dealers and thieves for years. He generally seems to care about the materials he’s preserving. Before everything happened with the coalition forces going after Saddam, he had dreams of building a museum to showcase the history of Mesopotamia; at least he felt he could if Saddam ever ended up dead. I’d like to think he still does, but with all of the damage done to this city,” Doherty paused. “I don’t think this shithole will ever be livable again.”
“So who are these people looking to hit him? Private collectors or opportunistic suppliers who want to make money off of creating a museum?” Williams questioned the Colonel.
“Some of the items may be resold for funding, but mostly this is about the Following of Praznok, who was reckoned to be a vicious demon that existed in the days before the Prophet Mohammed.”
“So he was associated with Islam?” Williams asked again.
“Not at all. These guys hated all three branches of the tree. No Christian, Muslim, or Jew was safe from these men’s wrath. Fortunately, long story short, a brave group of men in the Crusades era captured Praznok and were said to place his spirit in a chest using some really hardcore magic.”
“So they’ve got a demon in a box. Well, ain’t that special?” Williams laughed. “Kind of ironic that they’re going to be the ones getting boxed up.”
“You could say that, but the good news is that they need to have a key to that chest as well as a stone tablet that reveals how to release Praznok.”
“Do they have the key?” Lucas said.
“Not on them or even in this country. However, we believe they are aware of where the key to open the box is located.”
“You believe that?” Lucas asked, smiling as he did.
“I’m here, right?”
“I guess we all are. Here’s to being a comic book hero,” Williams said.
“I already am one,” Doherty said. “You’re an American hero, but you’re not on my level, at least yet.”
“What do I need to do to get on that level?” Williams asked.
“Shoot a demon’s skull at close range so the beast incinerates into a white light explosion. Then you walk away and live to tell about it.”
“You have us killing demons? Isn’t that a little dangerous?” Lucas said.
“Maybe someday,” the ex-Colonel said, smiling mischievously at his two companions. “For now, I just need you to take out some wannabe thugs and terrorists.”
“You sure you aren’t messing with us? This isn’t a practical joke, is it?” Williams wondered.
“If it is, nobody told me, so we’re all in on somebody game. Until then, get your minds ready to execute a goal-line defense.”
The Marines smiled at their potential inclusion into Doherty’s ranks.
“So this dealer has the Chest of this demon?” Lucas asked.
“We only believe that he has artifacts associated with the beast. When they bring the entity into the world, it will be looking for these objects, so it’s important not to let him have anything associated with him.”
“At least that’s something,” Williams said.
“Here’s to that, guys,” Bart added with a serious look on his face.
NNNN
Twenty minutes later, the men were parking their truck behind a building that had never seen good days, and it was even worse now since it was crumbling under the weight of its own poor construction and lack of upkeep. As a result, even the filthiest rats of the city abandoned it. Five blocks out, they parked and hoofed it in, finally arriving at another building that made the houses on the street where they parked look like a mansion.
“This is where we wait,” Bart told the Marines.
“For what?” Lucas responded.
“All Hell to break loose.”
“Then what?” Williams asked.
“Then one of the three snipers on the roofs above us will alert me to Ghazi and his crew coming to that building across the street. At that point, they will start shooting down everyone they can. Our job is to use our M-16s and Beretta 9mm pistols as well as a few well-placed grenades to keep their escape route in one direction. We want them moving out the way they came in. If that happens, my other crew gets them; however, if it becomes necessary, we’ll have to call more of your Jarhead friends on the ground to intercept them up there. The Marines promised air support and tanks for when the situation came to that. Maybe they can make Charleston mad if he turns big and green like the Hulk!”
“That’s a well-thought out contingency plan, Bart,” Williams replied. “But are you sure that just us three can force them backward?”
“I’d say so. I designed it myself that we will dig in and be ready to burn them to the ground. Just like Sherman said during his infamous march, we will ‘make Georgia howl.’”
“So were you a Leatherneck when you were a Colonel?” Lucas asked.
“Army all the way.”
“You should have been a Marine,” Lucas said.
“You should be one of my guys. Well, if you’re as good as your C.O. says. We need people who know how to go door to door and keep their cool when they’re facing out of this world danger.”
“Where else you been in combat?” Williams said.
“Vietnam, Panama, and Iraq on official orders. All over Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, Central America, and even some unpleasant situations in America.”
“You had to take out Americans?” Williams asked, thoroughly surprised.
“Mostly, we take out people who infiltrate the country for nefarious purposes. If we take out Americans, they were collaborating with some serious bad things and needed to go anyway.”
“No Bill of Rights concerns?” Williams added.
“They forfeited them, and most likely, they’re nobody that will be missed.”
“Home grown terrorists do that?” Lucas chimed in while he was still surprised to be looking out at the emptiness of the street.
“Not really. We tend to fight against things with less of an earthly origin or master. Any American conjuring these creatures is considered dangerous and a high-value target that has no business discussing their concerns in a military or civilian courtroom.”
“So do you also hide UFOs after killing aliens?” Williams said jokingly.
“Only once. It happened in a small town in Pennsylvania. Now that was some stuff trying to get a huge flying saucer down a narrow logging road,” Bart reflected, and then began talking after a short pause. “For the most part, we fight against what you might call pagans and Satanists, but these aren’t bullshit kids looking to piss off their parents. These are people unleashing demons after swearing allegiance to destroy all of mankind.”
“I think I prefer crushing the insurgency,” Lucas said. “Marines were trained to be able to be especially dangerous at messing these wannabe martyrs up. We’ll send them to their seventy-two virgin camels.”
“I know you will. That’s why I like working with regular military guys on missions like this, but it’s why we need more of you who have the internal fortitude to go to the next level with our missions. Maybe when this is over, you should come up to my place in Minnesota. There’s a lot of great hunting and fishing to be had.”
“Yeah,” Williams nodded, contemplating the thought. “Maybe we will if we ever get back to the good ol’ U S of A.”
“That’s the thing about Marines. We make the best teammates around because we focus on unit, trust, and the mission. My brother is learning that now,” Lucas said.
“Your brother joined up, too?”
“No, he’s a police chief in Blanding, Utah.”
“Where the hell is that?” Williams asked his colleague.
“Middle of nowhere, but since they gave Tony a chance to run the show, he moved from our home in Naturita, Colorado, with his wife Katie to have a chance to get some leadership experience. He finally got to hire his own men now that the old timers retired. His pick was a guy named Littleman who served in the Marines as a military policeman. He won’t regret that choice. Our guys have some serious presence and skill.”
“Not to interrupt you, Sammy, but it sounds like Colonel Doherty’s phone is going off,” Williams said.
“Give me a second,” Bart said, and with that, he walked off to answer the phone while both men watched him.
When he came back, he looked into their inquisitive glances.
“We need to get our stuff ready to move. There is word that their diversion has begun. People are rioting. They are up at one of the bridges on the Euphrates with a crew of contractors that they captured and killed. Word is that they’re desecrating the bodies.”
Immediately, both men looked at him stunned.
“This is war. The bull is bucking back. It doesn’t want to be sat on. This is how it wins. You had to expect shit like this no matter how much you don’t like it.”
Lucas looked at the men and interjected the remark, “I don’t dislike it. I loathe the hell out of it.”
“There will be time for justice later,” Bart said. “Be patient.”
“I know, but I just think it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better,” Williams said. “Should we be there helping?”
“No. You need to be here. Where we’re going is it getting much worse before it gets better. You have to know this. Nevertheless, what I need to know is if you feel that you don’t have the heart for this,” Bart asked him.
“I’m saying that I want to know how much your promise of immunity covers me when I offer some serious payback to these dirt bags.”
“When it’s all over, you’ll be OK to put a series hurting on the Brigade. Trust me. Besides, you don’t have a uniform on, do you?”
The Marine looked at the civilian who had mysteriously come into his life and now changed it so much with such a bizarre mission. Could all of this really be true?
Sammy looked over, and he spoke out, “Where do you want us when we need to give these bastards the hot lead injection?”
“They’re going to be coming for this building,” Bart said pointing again to the warehouse. “Let’s set up in the front room of that building over there. Nobody fires until we get everyone into position to open up our attack on them, all at once. Let their fear of the rooftop triangulation scare the shit out of them. We’ll add in to the mix by gunning the masses down and blocking their escape.”
“Works for me,” Williams said. “But I still have a feeling we’re being watched.”
“Our men have been getting in place since we had word of what’s going on. They would have contacted us if something were out of place. Now grab the extra duffle bags, and let’s hurry. That bridge situation is going to last a while, but it’s not forever. Ghazi will be working out of a limited time frame.”
The men did just what Doherty asked, and with the time that the trio had left, they moved furniture and other objects in the way of the door to block any attack that might come through the door. Fifteen minutes later, the next call came from the rooftop crew.
“This place has been quiet today. In fact, it’s been all too quiet. We’ve seen nobody moving for the last hour since we got on the scene. It’s like the locals are deliberately avoiding this place,” the radio said.
“Maybe they were tipped off to stay inside,” Bart said. “In certain cases, these people do lay the law down.”
“This just feels different.”
“You’re not backing out are you, Terry?” Bart replied.
“We’ve got you covered. The main road is completely under our surveillance. Let’s do this,” the voice added.
“Good.”
“Watch out! I see vehicle movement. It looks like they’re about to come into the kill zone. Trucks are moving, and radio chatter is coming on,” the comlink blared.
“Out,” Bart said and the he looked at the two Marines who looked back on him. He could feel their intensity growing as they clearly overheard his words and knew what was coming. They had been in this moment many times before. They were professionals, armed to the teeth to be able to destroy everyone involved in this thievery.
“So we’re about to fire. Ready?” Bart asked his men rhetorically.
“When you give the order,” the lead sniper on the roof said.
“You didn’t need to answer. You’ve been down this path before. Have at it. Terminate with extreme prejudice.”
With that, the men watched the street as the trucks began their arrival. Soon, they were all inside of the area fenced off by the snipers.
That was when the first of the gunshots ripped out silently through the tense heat of Fallujah.
Soon, more of the silenced blasts from above claimed lives in the convoy of trucks, of which there were two HEMMT 8WD troop transports. In addition, there was a large moving truck, and there was a Chevy Impala wedged in between. Under the extreme time constraints, shot after shot rang out rather quickly, smashing into the drivers of the two troop transports and the moving truck. As the trucks halted in the vice of narrow streets and fire raining down, it was clear that these thieves and their guards with nowhere to escape to.
The scene on the ground was absolute chaos as at least twenty men poured out of the transports, screaming and yelling as they fired at the phantom attackers. Four more men ran out of the back of the moving truck, firing upward at the tops of the buildings, also shooting blindly, as they fought back to keep the snipers down and unable to continue their ambush. All the while, the two men in the Impala dodged through the whole scene to find cover down toward the building they had planned on looting and ransacking.
“Can you see anything down there?” Bart radioed.
“Not in this mess of gunfire,” the radio chattered.
“How about any of the rest of you?”
“Negative,” a different sniper stated.
“I have movement down the street. I think that’s Ghazi and his bodyguard, though the man doesn’t look very big. I didn’t expect to see him here. What’s he risking his life for?” the sniper asked while staring through the scope at the unknown man running between the transports and the car.”
“Do you have a shot so we can end this?”
“Negative. It’s too uncertain with the angle I’m looking from.”
“Well don’t let that stop you, Wilson. You’re a good shot. Light this bastard up.”
“Yes, sir.”
Almost immediately, the.50 caliber shot went off, missing the position the men were hiding in by mere inches.
“Did you get him?”
“Negative,” the radio crackled.
“Well, at least he’s pinned down. Fire again.”
Continued firing erupted. While it wasn’t finding a target, its omnipotent presence scared everyone on the ground.
Nevertheless, despite their fear, the hordes of other terrorists, who minutes earlier were set to be acting as moving men, were still firing up at the rooftops, however randomly and scattered that their counterattack was.
In the building, SSGT Lucas looked at GSGT Williams and Doherty, and he spoke, “I’m not sure how long our guys on the roof can wait. I’m thinking it’s time to bring on another avenue of fire.”
“We’re quite a distance from those guys. We’ll be making noise and wasting ammo instead of dropping thugs in their tracks,” Williams explained.
“What do you suggest?” Lucas screamed.
“Let’s move our show up from behind. We can move up a good block or so by going out the backdoor of this place and winding up from the street behind here to sneak attack them there. If we can move back left toward this street and hide behind those broken down trucks, we can relieve a lot of pressure on our sniper team,” Doherty added.
“This will still leave us exposed. Is it a good thing to put us all in danger?” Williams said.
“You got a better idea?” The former Colonel added.
“Their eyes are on those buildings, so yeah. Well, let’s take your plan, but instead of hitting them from the street, let’s get up on the rooftop, too,” Lucas said.
“That will give us a clear opportunity to throw grenades down on them while pulverizing them with a lot of 5.56mm hugs and cuddles,” Williams explained to the men.
“That could work,” Bart said, feeling uplifted by the prospects of the Marines’ understanding of how to control the situation definitively.
“Damn right it will,” Lucas said. “That’s Marine Corps know how. OOH RAH!”
With this, the men proceeded to grab their gear and head out the back of the building. As they moved out the back of the house into the barren street, they walked out and found themselves face to face with the building that these militant forces were coming to loot.
“So this is what we’ve been protecting,” Lucas mumbled.
“It seems so,” Williams began to say.
“Nondescript,” Doherty said, finishing his sentence. “I’ve got a feeling I don’t trust guys.
The Marines nodded in agreement. At first, it was an inconspicuous feeling regarding how abandoned that the streets were, but for the most part, there weren’t even birds peeping anywhere.
It was just then that they saw their first person on the street. This was a younger boy who was walking around down the street about forty feet from them as he came out of another building, which the townsfolk had abandoned. The body of the person in question wasn’t tall or muscular, but it was definitely a male from how he was dressed, though his clothing appeared bulky at first.
“Hey, you!” Williams screamed out in Arabic. “What are you doing here? Sit down now!”
The boy didn’t move from what he was doing at first.
Williams screamed again, but in English this time.
“Get out the ground now, Haji, or I will execute you right the hell now!”
With the increased aggression of Williams’ tone, the boy turned around to face the men. Even though he was a local, who would only know the language that the locals spoke, he should have at least understood the anger and immediacy of the tone of the words the men were saying and the presence of their guns pointed at him.
“I think he’s autistic. Look at the way his hands are stimming,” Lucas said. “My friend has a son who does that.”
“But what’s he doing out here in the middle of a war zone?” Bart asked. “Is he trying to get himself killed?”
“He’s not meant to be stuck inside, Colonel. He can come and go as he pleases,” Lucas responded to Bart until the colonel interrupted.
“No, I’m not trying to be an insensitive asshole. I mean we’ve got no other people wandering around out here. What’s a kid, much less a boy with autism, doing on this street?”
“Let me go see, guys. Out of all of us, I’d say that I’m the most used to working with kids with these problems. I know some tricks that might help him relax a little bit,” Lucas said, immediately walking up to the boy.
“Friend,” Lucas said in Arabic, pointing to himself and then smiling.
The boy continued to flap his hands while making repetitive sounds that appeared to show he was frightened.
Lucas stepped back and reached into his pocket, and he produced a Hershey’s chocolate bar, and then he took a bite before he spoke again, saying, “Mmm… good stuff,” as he rubbed his belly
Instantly, he smiled again, breaking off a piece of the bar, and then he handed it to the boy and repeated the Arabic word for friend.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Sam. You need to,” Williams said.

“Get the hell away from that kid!” Bart screamed in the moment of realization. “He’s rigged with a bomb!”Bart Doherty looked at Colin Jameson. The two men had known each other almost every one of Colin’s twenty-eight years. From his family’s early visits to see Bart to Colin’s first trip to Minnesota in 1999, there was a mythology, which reflected the life of his great uncle. After that, there was a hidden reality with what he never said when Colin was there. Since then, to include Colin’s time in S1, there were only the secrets that the two men shared about their combined realities of being a part of the secret unit known only as S1 and all they had been through together because of this.
In the years since he joined the group, Colin learned quite a bit about their history, though he wasn’t informed of everything since some of it was need to know or unspoken secrets and failures that Bart kept hidden.
Nevertheless, what he did know was amazing.
Way back when, Harry Truman’s handlers, who advised him to legislate decisively on threats foreign and domestic in order to bring about the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, created the group that would go by the name S1. These behind the scenes men were the original top dogs of the American black-ops special forces world, a tight-knit group who acted with the same stroke of genius decision-making that worked to realize that there was a need to have a completely off the books military unit operating at home and abroad. Unlike other overt military units, the military would still train the covert units. When they finished initiating the men into the ways of fighting forces, they would list their trainees as being in routine jobs within the armed forces. Where these forces differed from other elite fighting forces is that they would operate completely apart from the standard rules of engagement that the Geneva Convention listed. Since the verdict of their engagements represented an existential threat to humankind, the men had to complete them in ways that they could never expose to the everyday world. Civilization could not begin to understand what these villains and supernatural entities wanted to do to it. Whether these enemies appeared on their own or in tandem with recognized enemies of the state, it was imperative that they annihilated all of these people looking to fight alongside of these beings since they were an enemy to world peace and general order. Truman particularly liked feeling that he was responsible for saving the world with this decision. Truman’s handlers felt contented knowing that they had convinced the President of the United States to do the right thing despite the possible ramifications that it might cause if the groups were ever exposed to the light of day. Though his men did not brief him on all of the potential issues, Truman was aware of the need for such utter secrecy that he eventually turned all controlling authority of this group over to the infamous group known as Majestic 12.
At a time when multiple clandestine groups were starting to appear in this country, S1, Truman created S1, the first of these groups, to deal with many things Beyond Top “Secret” and all things “supernatural,” which put them in a category called “Magic Eyes Only.” Whether the S was for the former or the latter, the history is uncertain since nobody ever acknowledged this group in the light of day at that time, and in the end, it doesn’t really matter since the group performed both of these duties exceptionally. In fact, they did them so well in working to close loopholes and issues of concern that related to cryptids and ghosts that they became a model for other countries who had these concerns.
A second group, S2 was also set up at this time in order to deal with issues of the alien problem, which was rearing its head with the events of Roswell that occurred in the summer of 1947. As these alien visitation events have continued incessantly ever since, the group is also still active within various capacities in the United States and abroad, though they now operate under different protocols. Since the changes of the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administration. S1 implemented in a new era of clandestine efficiency in warfare. After Kennedy’s death, Lyndon Johnson’s men did not give him a chance to get upset about this by any ethical means necessary because his organization never briefed him on the organization. Rather than chance the worst, the handlers kept everything S1 and S2 to themselves instead.
For a short time, things between the groups went swimmingly when they needed to work together, but this tranquility and camaraderie did not last long when the infighting between S1 and S2 began to spill over after the latter group started to adopt more violent and oppressive tactics to conceal the “extra-terrestrial problem” from the population as a whole. There were numerous events killing and capturing various beings from other worlds, which caused tussles and screaming matches. Mostly these went on behind closed doors, but some of the events threatened to spill over into the mainstream with witnesses and news leaks as well as actual world events. In particular, there was an event at an archaeological dig referred to as Mormon Creek. This event, which occurred in Utah in 1995 right after the Timothy McVeigh bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Building, landed a pair of Native Americans named Solomon Owens and Donny White Feather, in jail, after S2 members infiltrated their group, the Pueblo Defense Fund in order to commandeer them as puppets for an incident involving evidence destruction.
The S2 brass considered this an ingenious plan designed to create fake ancestral heritage claims in order to convince a group of problematic Native American activists to destroy an archaeology site that would steal and desecrate their ancestors’ remains. What the Native Americans did not know was that the excavation would have exposed ancient alien relics and bodies at the Native American site. S2 could not allow this to happen, so they armed the Pueblo Defense Fund to the teeth for battle. If the Native Americans won, S2 would rat them out to police or execute them as soon as they were out of eyesight. However, if they were to die, it would be all the better since their actions would create hostility toward the claims that tribes were making about ancestral remains and lands. Besides, so much had been going on in the country at the time with anti-government attitudes at Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Oklahoma City, that when the courtroom decided the punishment, it was short, sweet, and to the point, and nobody really batted an eye.
Other than a few cantankerous rebels, society as a whole didn’t want angry militants exacting “revenge” on anyone, so the authorities quickly removed Owens and White Feather from public knowledge as quickly as they appeared on its radar. This worked out for S2.
It was almost hard to believe how quickly that an incident so violent could vanish, but since most people who know about eastern Utah only know about its National Parks, the proximity to Mormon Cross and the Middle of Nowhere helped put it out of people’s sight and out of their minds. Nevertheless, when this event transpired, the Native Americans battled with archaeologists and members of the Bureau of Land Management for two days in an incident that resulted in the destruction of the site, the death of many men and women on both sides, sexual assault, and kidnapping. Prior to the arrival of the Feds, the incident had been quietly going on for a week, but then the proverbial shit hit the fan with a murder charge, and this signaled authority intervention.
While the men in question were guilty on many accounts, the authorities were supplied “evidence” to frame them for other incidents that they had nothing to do with. With nobody willing to stand up for their innocence, they are currently sitting in prison at Uinta 1, where they sit in solitude to conceal an action that needed to transpire by any means necessary.
In comparison to this method of dealing with problems, S1 tended to look at any innocent “bystanders” they encountered as potential resources to utilize in their war against this parallel world. When word got out about this covert operation, things reached a boiling point. The divisions exploded, and soon, S2 negotiated a division from the original program when they refused to back down from operating under this type of rule of law.
Under their new authority, the name S2 metamorphosed into “Team Black. This change recognized their standard uniform, which was black suits, white shirts, black ties, dark glasses, a silenced pistol, and a black hat on top. For ages, they created a mystique for themselves when they emerged in public in places like Point Pleasant, West Virginia, during the Mothman days. Because of these situations, they gained the name Men in Black in popular culture. This name originally created a level of respect for the men and women in the organization, but soon, they felt it was just too comic book and humorous for its own good, so they called themselves Team Black instead.
It should be noted that after the Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones movie of the same name, their reputation stood out in the Special Forces community as something of a joke to S1, but that’s a very different story.
Despite their rare social emergences, S1 generally chose to stay more clandestine, even when their taunts and jokes were traveling back to S2. Since they were never had a name except by one letter and one number, they stuck with their original moniker, when they mentioned their name at all. Most times, the men called it “my team” or “my unit.” The officers who referred to the community of men and women who defended the world’s interests weren’t interested in names, but rather actions. If you were in the team, you were important and special, and this was something you knew, so you didn’t blow it. If you were caught slacking, you were either told about it or removed altogether. There was no halfway when the world’s interests were at stake.
Colin knew this right from the moment he found out at the post Hell Week meeting that his great uncle wanted him to be a part of the team. This was clear, but what wasn’t clear was exactly how intense and secretive his work would be in saving the world from the doom that could otherwise be inflicted by these savage beasts that they were set to fight.
On this day, Bart introduced Colin to the members of the team that he would be working with for his latest mission.
“Do you know any of these other guys, Colin?” Bart asked.
“Well everyone knows the Chief,” the nearly thirty-year old Colin responded.
And it was true that everyone did know Anthony Williams by his reputation and his appearance. Williams was a six foot four brute of a man who took on many of his mother’s Italian traits in both skin color and temperament. More importantly than those things, however, he took on his father’s muscular status.
Like his father, Anthony increased his size so that he would gain a protective layer to support an NFL quarterback through the entire scope of his offensive attack. However, just like what happened with his father’s life, Williams’ life had taken him other ways than to do battle on the gridiron.
In the case of Anthony’s father, his fate was sealed when his offensive line wavered, and instantly, two hulking Notre Dame players blitzed the University of Texas quarterback into the ground. Normally, this would be a cause for celebration, but both men saw that Anthony wasn’t getting up right away, and they immediately checked over him, staring in worry as he regained consciousness on the ground.
“Don’t sweat it. It’s the rules of the game,” he said, but he still couldn’t move, so he just waited for the athletic trainers, medics, and the stretcher crew to take him off to get x-rays to determine the extent of the damage.
The damage to this senior offensive juggernaut wasn’t catastrophic, but it was severe enough that no pro team would take a chance on the once great candidate for the Heisman. Instead, Anthony, as he insisted on being referred to, went to work for a trucking company out of Austin, where he never had problems with his back or spine again, but by that point, it was too late to be an NFL great.
Sadly, no Kurt Warner would rise from the ashes of the elder Anthony Williams’s failed opportunities in football.
As he got married and older, Tony dreamed many things for his son. Some of these were the fulfillment of his football dreams, but where he saw himself leading a sports team, his son saw himself leading a military unit, so as soon as he could, he enlisted.
For years, this was serving as a US Marine. Then, fate, as it does in many things, intervened and led the man and his fellow USMC sergeant, Samuel Lucas, to Bart Doherty’s attention. Within hours of Bart’s introduction to the Marines, the three men were together within the confines of an exploding Fallujah. From the start, they seemed destined to be on this mission together.
“Gentlemen,” Doherty said as he met the two Devil Dogs for the first time. “We have received word that something bad is going to be going down today. We have credible information, though we aren’t sure where. We only know that it is a deal struck between the Brigades of Martyr Ahmed Yassin and some very motivated ‘accumulators’ to make some bad things go down as a diversion while these looters, if that’s what you would call them, try to ransack certain historical and art collections in the city.”
“So you need a Marine to protect sculptures?” SSGT Lucas asked Bart an air of obvious disdain for his appointment to a job he felt wasn’t far away from being a mall security guard.
“No, I need a pair of well-trained jarheads to help execute some serious art thieves who are looking to profit on the black market with priceless artifacts of cultural, religious, and historic significance. This will be completely off the record, so you don’t have to worry about some of the legal entanglements from Switzerland, which would otherwise dictate the rules of this engagement.”
“So what does that mean for us?” Williams asked.
“It means that you will drop all rank and insignia from your uniforms. It means that you will go in with me in temporary ‘civilian’ capacity. Unfortunately, it means if you get caught and shit happens, well, shit really happens and you are officially missing in action never to return to the fold again.”
“Who are you in the employment of? You look too old to be military unless you’re a four-star general out of uniform,” Gunnery Sergeant Williams questioned the old man.
“Don’t worry. You never heard of the unit that I’m serving with, but I assure you all three of us take our ultimate orders from the President of the United States for this mission.”
“We get to hear GW’s voice?” Lucas asked.
“No, his handlers rubber-stamped this years ago, just in case.”
“Plausible deniability,” Williams added.
“Fair enough, Old Man,” Lucas said, and then he asked, “You got a rank even if you can’t wear it?”
“I did. It was full bird colonel. Now, I gave that up to get even with the nastiest of bad guys and things that go bump up in the night before they started pulling some serious shit.”
“I wish I knew more, but it works for me,” Williams said. “If these things are enemies to the world, I’m in it to take it out. Kill ‘em all. Let God sort ‘em out. These frickin’ Hajis are planning something. I can feel it.”
“What kind of serious shit do art thieves get into?” Lucas asked, cutting off his superior to address Bart on matters that were more serious.
“Mostly, desecrating religious artifacts in the name of a different sort of religion, which is a looser term than you might think of. I don’t know if I’d call them a cult, but people do tend to think of them in this manner. These men believe in the power of certain things in the past in an all-too dangerous way, and the sad part is that they’re right about the special powers that they are trying to accumulate. As they do this, other collectors are trying to get ahold of stuff with special powers in other places. In this way, they could be a terrorist group, but they’re not political in the way we tend to see ISIL and Al Qaeda. Thus, we try to avoid calling them something they aren’t generally in line with. Nevertheless, they are fanatics who engage in murder. That’s where my group comes into the equation,” Doherty informed the men.
“Like killing the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, who were on the hunt for paranormal and metaphysical objects,” Lucas added. “I’d like to get my hands on Belloq or Toht. I’d mess those dudes up. Rock and roll.”
“Yep. We have orders to shoot these bastards on sight. We don’t need to wait for them to engage us. We aim for the center of the skull, and kill the brain. We kill ‘em like zombies. The messier the better,” Doherty added. “Send a message to them not to mess with this stuff.
“Right through the eye socket, Colonel?” Williams said, making a gun out of his hand and pretending to fire it.
“Exactly. My employers want these guys dead in the most definite of ways. They do, however, expect the artifacts to stay safe.”
“They’re not zombies, are they?” Lucas asked.
“Not that I know of, nor are we worried about them coming back to life after death, though we are worried about them bringing something in a chest back to this world. As it never was alive, we aren’t sure exactly how to kill it, so we can’t let it happen.”
“So we’re dealing with real undead shit?”
“Those are your words, not mine, Sgt. Williams.”
“You’re not messing with me, are you? Just because I’m from Texas doesn’t make me slow.”
“I know,” Bart added. “Honest officer, if you can believe that. I wouldn’t be messing with two Marines by myself, especially ones as big as you boys. We need to take these people out efficiently and effectively.”
“That could be a tall order,” Lucas remarked.
“It usually is, but I have faith in you. Your C.O. does, too. He promised me the two baddest mofos in the business. I trust you are worthy of his compliments since you were at the top of a short list.”
The two Marines smiled.
“How’d you know to pick us?” Lucas asked.
“You were the only two on the list.”
“There’s a lot of good men in this unit. Why not Charleston?” Lucas responded. “That dude looks like the Hulk.”
“I asked for men who could kill and keep their mouths shut while taking orders to exterminate with extreme prejudice while keeping cool as the other side of the pillow.”
“Sounds like us,” the once quizzical man said with a boost of confidence
“Definitely not Charleston. That dude is on 24/7,” Williams said. “Let’s roll, home skillet. We’ve got a job to do.”
NNNN
Driving through Fallujah, there was a palpable air of a revolution waiting to decimate everything in its path when whatever had accumulated into this festering riotous attitude took over.
“Who are these pricks, Colonel?” Lucas asked.
“Ghazi Nasser is the name of the man who is orchestrating everything. Everyone with him is hired muscle. They plan to hit the collection of a wealthy businessman named Kawi Nader. He’s been buying historical statues and trinkets off random dealers and thieves for years. He generally seems to care about the materials he’s preserving. Before everything happened with the coalition forces going after Saddam, he had dreams of building a museum to showcase the history of Mesopotamia; at least he felt he could if Saddam ever ended up dead. I’d like to think he still does, but with all of the damage done to this city,” Doherty paused. “I don’t think this shithole will ever be livable again.”
“So who are these people looking to hit him? Private collectors or opportunistic suppliers who want to make money off of creating a museum?” Williams questioned the Colonel.
“Some of the items may be resold for funding, but mostly this is about the Following of Praznok, who was reckoned to be a vicious demon that existed in the days before the Prophet Mohammed.”
“So he was associated with Islam?” Williams asked again.
“Not at all. These guys hated all three branches of the tree. No Christian, Muslim, or Jew was safe from these men’s wrath. Fortunately, long story short, a brave group of men in the Crusades era captured Praznok and were said to place his spirit in a chest using some really hardcore magic.”
“So they’ve got a demon in a box. Well, ain’t that special?” Williams laughed. “Kind of ironic that they’re going to be the ones getting boxed up.”
“You could say that, but the good news is that they need to have a key to that chest as well as a stone tablet that reveals how to release Praznok.”
“Do they have the key?” Lucas said.
“Not on them or even in this country. However, we believe they are aware of where the key to open the box is located.”
“You believe that?” Lucas asked, smiling as he did.
“I’m here, right?”
“I guess we all are. Here’s to being a comic book hero,” Williams said.
“I already am one,” Doherty said. “You’re an American hero, but you’re not on my level, at least yet.”
“What do I need to do to get on that level?” Williams asked.
“Shoot a demon’s skull at close range so the beast incinerates into a white light explosion. Then you walk away and live to tell about it.”
“You have us killing demons? Isn’t that a little dangerous?” Lucas said.
“Maybe someday,” the ex-Colonel said, smiling mischievously at his two companions. “For now, I just need you to take out some wannabe thugs and terrorists.”
“You sure you aren’t messing with us? This isn’t a practical joke, is it?” Williams wondered.
“If it is, nobody told me, so we’re all in on somebody game. Until then, get your minds ready to execute a goal-line defense.”
The Marines smiled at their potential inclusion into Doherty’s ranks.
“So this dealer has the Chest of this demon?” Lucas asked.
“We only believe that he has artifacts associated with the beast. When they bring the entity into the world, it will be looking for these objects, so it’s important not to let him have anything associated with him.”
“At least that’s something,” Williams said.
“Here’s to that, guys,” Bart added with a serious look on his face.
NNNN
Twenty minutes later, the men were parking their truck behind a building that had never seen good days, and it was even worse now since it was crumbling under the weight of its own poor construction and lack of upkeep. As a result, even the filthiest rats of the city abandoned it. Five blocks out, they parked and hoofed it in, finally arriving at another building that made the houses on the street where they parked look like a mansion.
“This is where we wait,” Bart told the Marines.
“For what?” Lucas responded.
“All Hell to break loose.”
“Then what?” Williams asked.
“Then one of the three snipers on the roofs above us will alert me to Ghazi and his crew coming to that building across the street. At that point, they will start shooting down everyone they can. Our job is to use our M-16s and Beretta 9mm pistols as well as a few well-placed grenades to keep their escape route in one direction. We want them moving out the way they came in. If that happens, my other crew gets them; however, if it becomes necessary, we’ll have to call more of your Jarhead friends on the ground to intercept them up there. The Marines promised air support and tanks for when the situation came to that. Maybe they can make Charleston mad if he turns big and green like the Hulk!”
“That’s a well-thought out contingency plan, Bart,” Williams replied. “But are you sure that just us three can force them backward?”
“I’d say so. I designed it myself that we will dig in and be ready to burn them to the ground. Just like Sherman said during his infamous march, we will ‘make Georgia howl.’”
“So were you a Leatherneck when you were a Colonel?” Lucas asked.
“Army all the way.”
“You should have been a Marine,” Lucas said.
“You should be one of my guys. Well, if you’re as good as your C.O. says. We need people who know how to go door to door and keep their cool when they’re facing out of this world danger.”
“Where else you been in combat?” Williams said.
“Vietnam, Panama, and Iraq on official orders. All over Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, Central America, and even some unpleasant situations in America.”
“You had to take out Americans?” Williams asked, thoroughly surprised.
“Mostly, we take out people who infiltrate the country for nefarious purposes. If we take out Americans, they were collaborating with some serious bad things and needed to go anyway.”
“No Bill of Rights concerns?” Williams added.
“They forfeited them, and most likely, they’re nobody that will be missed.”
“Home grown terrorists do that?” Lucas chimed in while he was still surprised to be looking out at the emptiness of the street.
“Not really. We tend to fight against things with less of an earthly origin or master. Any American conjuring these creatures is considered dangerous and a high-value target that has no business discussing their concerns in a military or civilian courtroom.”
“So do you also hide UFOs after killing aliens?” Williams said jokingly.
“Only once. It happened in a small town in Pennsylvania. Now that was some stuff trying to get a huge flying saucer down a narrow logging road,” Bart reflected, and then began talking after a short pause. “For the most part, we fight against what you might call pagans and Satanists, but these aren’t bullshit kids looking to piss off their parents. These are people unleashing demons after swearing allegiance to destroy all of mankind.”
“I think I prefer crushing the insurgency,” Lucas said. “Marines were trained to be able to be especially dangerous at messing these wannabe martyrs up. We’ll send them to their seventy-two virgin camels.”
“I know you will. That’s why I like working with regular military guys on missions like this, but it’s why we need more of you who have the internal fortitude to go to the next level with our missions. Maybe when this is over, you should come up to my place in Minnesota. There’s a lot of great hunting and fishing to be had.”
“Yeah,” Williams nodded, contemplating the thought. “Maybe we will if we ever get back to the good ol’ U S of A.”
“That’s the thing about Marines. We make the best teammates around because we focus on unit, trust, and the mission. My brother is learning that now,” Lucas said.
“Your brother joined up, too?”
“No, he’s a police chief in Blanding, Utah.”
“Where the hell is that?” Williams asked his colleague.
“Middle of nowhere, but since they gave Tony a chance to run the show, he moved from our home in Naturita, Colorado, with his wife Katie to have a chance to get some leadership experience. He finally got to hire his own men now that the old timers retired. His pick was a guy named Littleman who served in the Marines as a military policeman. He won’t regret that choice. Our guys have some serious presence and skill.”
“Not to interrupt you, Sammy, but it sounds like Colonel Doherty’s phone is going off,” Williams said.
“Give me a second,” Bart said, and with that, he walked off to answer the phone while both men watched him.
When he came back, he looked into their inquisitive glances.
“We need to get our stuff ready to move. There is word that their diversion has begun. People are rioting. They are up at one of the bridges on the Euphrates with a crew of contractors that they captured and killed. Word is that they’re desecrating the bodies.”
Immediately, both men looked at him stunned.
“This is war. The bull is bucking back. It doesn’t want to be sat on. This is how it wins. You had to expect shit like this no matter how much you don’t like it.”
Lucas looked at the men and interjected the remark, “I don’t dislike it. I loathe the hell out of it.”
“There will be time for justice later,” Bart said. “Be patient.”
“I know, but I just think it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better,” Williams said. “Should we be there helping?”
“No. You need to be here. Where we’re going is it getting much worse before it gets better. You have to know this. Nevertheless, what I need to know is if you feel that you don’t have the heart for this,” Bart asked him.
“I’m saying that I want to know how much your promise of immunity covers me when I offer some serious payback to these dirt bags.”
“When it’s all over, you’ll be OK to put a series hurting on the Brigade. Trust me. Besides, you don’t have a uniform on, do you?”
The Marine looked at the civilian who had mysteriously come into his life and now changed it so much with such a bizarre mission. Could all of this really be true?
Sammy looked over, and he spoke out, “Where do you want us when we need to give these bastards the hot lead injection?”
“They’re going to be coming for this building,” Bart said pointing again to the warehouse. “Let’s set up in the front room of that building over there. Nobody fires until we get everyone into position to open up our attack on them, all at once. Let their fear of the rooftop triangulation scare the shit out of them. We’ll add in to the mix by gunning the masses down and blocking their escape.”
“Works for me,” Williams said. “But I still have a feeling we’re being watched.”
“Our men have been getting in place since we had word of what’s going on. They would have contacted us if something were out of place. Now grab the extra duffle bags, and let’s hurry. That bridge situation is going to last a while, but it’s not forever. Ghazi will be working out of a limited time frame.”
The men did just what Doherty asked, and with the time that the trio had left, they moved furniture and other objects in the way of the door to block any attack that might come through the door. Fifteen minutes later, the next call came from the rooftop crew.
“This place has been quiet today. In fact, it’s been all too quiet. We’ve seen nobody moving for the last hour since we got on the scene. It’s like the locals are deliberately avoiding this place,” the radio said.
“Maybe they were tipped off to stay inside,” Bart said. “In certain cases, these people do lay the law down.”
“This just feels different.”
“You’re not backing out are you, Terry?” Bart replied.
“We’ve got you covered. The main road is completely under our surveillance. Let’s do this,” the voice added.
“Good.”
“Watch out! I see vehicle movement. It looks like they’re about to come into the kill zone. Trucks are moving, and radio chatter is coming on,” the comlink blared.
“Out,” Bart said and the he looked at the two Marines who looked back on him. He could feel their intensity growing as they clearly overheard his words and knew what was coming. They had been in this moment many times before. They were professionals, armed to the teeth to be able to destroy everyone involved in this thievery.
“So we’re about to fire. Ready?” Bart asked his men rhetorically.
“When you give the order,” the lead sniper on the roof said.
“You didn’t need to answer. You’ve been down this path before. Have at it. Terminate with extreme prejudice.”
With that, the men watched the street as the trucks began their arrival. Soon, they were all inside of the area fenced off by the snipers.
That was when the first of the gunshots ripped out silently through the tense heat of Fallujah.
Soon, more of the silenced blasts from above claimed lives in the convoy of trucks, of which there were two HEMMT 8WD troop transports. In addition, there was a large moving truck, and there was a Chevy Impala wedged in between. Under the extreme time constraints, shot after shot rang out rather quickly, smashing into the drivers of the two troop transports and the moving truck. As the trucks halted in the vice of narrow streets and fire raining down, it was clear that these thieves and their guards with nowhere to escape to.
The scene on the ground was absolute chaos as at least twenty men poured out of the transports, screaming and yelling as they fired at the phantom attackers. Four more men ran out of the back of the moving truck, firing upward at the tops of the buildings, also shooting blindly, as they fought back to keep the snipers down and unable to continue their ambush. All the while, the two men in the Impala dodged through the whole scene to find cover down toward the building they had planned on looting and ransacking.
“Can you see anything down there?” Bart radioed.
“Not in this mess of gunfire,” the radio chattered.
“How about any of the rest of you?”
“Negative,” a different sniper stated.
“I have movement down the street. I think that’s Ghazi and his bodyguard, though the man doesn’t look very big. I didn’t expect to see him here. What’s he risking his life for?” the sniper asked while staring through the scope at the unknown man running between the transports and the car.”
“Do you have a shot so we can end this?”
“Negative. It’s too uncertain with the angle I’m looking from.”
“Well don’t let that stop you, Wilson. You’re a good shot. Light this bastard up.”
“Yes, sir.”
Almost immediately, the.50 caliber shot went off, missing the position the men were hiding in by mere inches.
“Did you get him?”
“Negative,” the radio crackled.
“Well, at least he’s pinned down. Fire again.”
Continued firing erupted. While it wasn’t finding a target, its omnipotent presence scared everyone on the ground.
Nevertheless, despite their fear, the hordes of other terrorists, who minutes earlier were set to be acting as moving men, were still firing up at the rooftops, however randomly and scattered that their counterattack was.
In the building, SSGT Lucas looked at GSGT Williams and Doherty, and he spoke, “I’m not sure how long our guys on the roof can wait. I’m thinking it’s time to bring on another avenue of fire.”
“We’re quite a distance from those guys. We’ll be making noise and wasting ammo instead of dropping thugs in their tracks,” Williams explained.
“What do you suggest?” Lucas screamed.
“Let’s move our show up from behind. We can move up a good block or so by going out the backdoor of this place and winding up from the street behind here to sneak attack them there. If we can move back left toward this street and hide behind those broken down trucks, we can relieve a lot of pressure on our sniper team,” Doherty added.
“This will still leave us exposed. Is it a good thing to put us all in danger?” Williams said.
“You got a better idea?” The former Colonel added.
“Their eyes are on those buildings, so yeah. Well, let’s take your plan, but instead of hitting them from the street, let’s get up on the rooftop, too,” Lucas said.
“That will give us a clear opportunity to throw grenades down on them while pulverizing them with a lot of 5.56mm hugs and cuddles,” Williams explained to the men.
“That could work,” Bart said, feeling uplifted by the prospects of the Marines’ understanding of how to control the situation definitively.
“Damn right it will,” Lucas said. “That’s Marine Corps know how. OOH RAH!”
With this, the men proceeded to grab their gear and head out the back of the building. As they moved out the back of the house into the barren street, they walked out and found themselves face to face with the building that these militant forces were coming to loot.
“So this is what we’ve been protecting,” Lucas mumbled.
“It seems so,” Williams began to say.
“Nondescript,” Doherty said, finishing his sentence. “I’ve got a feeling I don’t trust guys.
The Marines nodded in agreement. At first, it was an inconspicuous feeling regarding how abandoned that the streets were, but for the most part, there weren’t even birds peeping anywhere.
It was just then that they saw their first person on the street. This was a younger boy who was walking around down the street about forty feet from them as he came out of another building, which the townsfolk had abandoned. The body of the person in question wasn’t tall or muscular, but it was definitely a male from how he was dressed, though his clothing appeared bulky at first.
“Hey, you!” Williams screamed out in Arabic. “What are you doing here? Sit down now!”
The boy didn’t move from what he was doing at first.
Williams screamed again, but in English this time.
“Get out the ground now, Haji, or I will execute you right the hell now!”
With the increased aggression of Williams’ tone, the boy turned around to face the men. Even though he was a local, who would only know the language that the locals spoke, he should have at least understood the anger and immediacy of the tone of the words the men were saying and the presence of their guns pointed at him.
“I think he’s autistic. Look at the way his hands are stimming,” Lucas said. “My friend has a son who does that.”
“But what’s he doing out here in the middle of a war zone?” Bart asked. “Is he trying to get himself killed?”
“He’s not meant to be stuck inside, Colonel. He can come and go as he pleases,” Lucas responded to Bart until the colonel interrupted.
“No, I’m not trying to be an insensitive asshole. I mean we’ve got no other people wandering around out here. What’s a kid, much less a boy with autism, doing on this street?”
“Let me go see, guys. Out of all of us, I’d say that I’m the most used to working with kids with these problems. I know some tricks that might help him relax a little bit,” Lucas said, immediately walking up to the boy.
“Friend,” Lucas said in Arabic, pointing to himself and then smiling.
The boy continued to flap his hands while making repetitive sounds that appeared to show he was frightened.
Lucas stepped back and reached into his pocket, and he produced a Hershey’s chocolate bar, and then he took a bite before he spoke again, saying, “Mmm… good stuff,” as he rubbed his belly
Instantly, he smiled again, breaking off a piece of the bar, and then he handed it to the boy and repeated the Arabic word for friend.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Sam. You need to,” Williams said.

“Get the hell away from that kid!” Bart screamed in the moment of realization. “He’s rigged with a bomb!”Bart Doherty looked at Colin Jameson. The two men had known each other almost every one of Colin’s twenty-eight years. From his family’s early visits to see Bart to Colin’s first trip to Minnesota in 1999, there was a mythology, which reflected the life of his great uncle. After that, there was a hidden reality with what he never said when Colin was there. Since then, to include Colin’s time in S1, there were only the secrets that the two men shared about their combined realities of being a part of the secret unit known only as S1 and all they had been through together because of this.

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