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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
    C James
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  • 6,197 Words
  • 2,744 Views
  • 6 Comments

Changing Lanes - 35. Special Delivery


Chapter 35: Special Delivery


 



 

 

Standing on the tarmac of the deserted La Palma airport, General Bradson turned and said to Eric, “Drive safely. Not too fast. See you soon.”

Eric nodded, and then waved at Jansen, calling him over.

Jansen arrived at a jog, wondering what was going on. He’d seen the two cylinders loaded onto the truck, but his angle had concealed Brian from his view.

Suddenly realizing that he had yet another issue on his hands – how to tell Jansen – Eric said, “We’re heading back to the resort in the truck. General Bradson is taking the car. I’ll explain on the way.”

Growing ever more puzzled, Jansen nodded and climbed into the passenger seat of the truck.

“You’re doing your country and the world a great service,” General Bradson said, just before Eric fired up the truck and gingerly shifted into first gear.

As Eric drove forward, two mercenaries pulled apart the break they’d cut in the airport fence. As he entered the airport tunnel, Eric said, “Jansen, could you move the barriers again, please? I’ll start explaining in a minute.”

Jansen did as he was asked, and once back in the truck, he waited while Eric hesitantly pulled away, easing the truck into second gear. Glancing at Eric, Jansen saw the sweat on his brow and the pallid look on his face. “What’s wrong?” Jansen asked.

Taking a deep breath, Eric said, “You recognized General Bradson, right? You know who he is.”

Jansen nodded, “Yeah, the ‘nukes in the cities’ thing you guys were mixed up with and nearly got killed in. I remember seeing him on the news a bunch of times.”

Not knowing quite how to get to the point, Eric continued, “His son was a prisoner in Iran. The General flew over on my plane when I first came to La Palma. Then the flight crew dropped him off somewhere, but you know that part. That’s why I was looking for him. I had no idea he’d show up today. Him and those people he’s with went in and got his son out. They’ve just come here, direct from Iran.”

“Whoa. You sure do get mixed up in some weird stuff. Never a dull moment with you, is there?” Jansen said, looking at Eric with astonishment. “But why are we in this truck?”

Eric glanced in the cab’s rearview mirror, looking through the small rear window, where he could see, under the tarp, the edge of one of the nuclear bombs. Still having no idea how to tell Jansen about that little detail, Eric simply said, “They stole the truck.”

“From Iran?” Jansen asked, growing even more perplexed.

“From the airport here.” Eric replied.

“So you’re telling me we’re in a stolen truck? Dude, do you have any freaking idea how much trouble you could get in?”

Eric glanced in the mirror at the nuke again, and said. “That’s really not all that big of a deal, considering…”

Growing more alarmed by the second, Jansen said, “Spill it Eric, what the fuck is going on?”

Taking another deep breath, Eric replied, “The General’s son, Brian, is right behind you. You’ll see him if you open the window and stick your head through. Do it slow though, because he’s got an assault rifle… and a grenade launcher.”

“Yeah, right,” Jansen said with a sarcastic laugh, thinking that Eric was playing a prank. Twisting around, Jansen slid the little window open. As he eased up to stick his head through he said, “You had me right up until you mentioned the grenade laun­–”

“Hi,” Brian said, looking up at the blond head that was staring at him, or more precisely, staring at his AK-47 and RPG.

“Hi,” Jansen replied in a shaken tone and then, his eyes wide in shock, he slid back down in his seat and completed his sentence to Eric. “Launcher.” After a couple of seconds, Jansen asked, “Is that really a grenade launcher?”

Brian could hear through the now-open window, and wrongly assuming that the question was directed at him, said, “Yeah, RPG-7.”

“Why,” Jansen asked Eric, his voice barely above a strained whisper.

“You wouldn’t believe me. It sounds nuts. Hell, it is nuts,” Eric said.

“Just… Just swear to me that you’re telling the truth and I’ll believe you,” Jansen said, placing his hand over Eric’s on the stick shift.

Feeling the reassuring warmth of Jansen’s hand, Eric said, “I swear I’m telling you the truth. It’s a little… complicated.” Raising his voice a little, Eric said, “Brian, could you please tell Jansen what you’re guarding.”

Seeing no harm in doing so – his father’s plan called for breaking the news worldwide via press conference within hours – Brian said, “Two Iranian uranium-core gun-assembly nuclear warheads.”

Jansen’s face froze in place and Eric said, “Now you see why I said you wouldn’t believe me. I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t believe me either. I swear it’s true though.”

“Oh, shit,” Jansen mumbled.

“That pretty much sums it up,” Eric replied.

Jansen sat in stunned silence, and after a few seconds, as if to reassure himself that it was all real, Jansen stuck his head through the window again, and looked at the two nondescript metal canisters, then at the grenade launcher, and then at Brian, who said, “Don’t worry. It’s just temporary. We’ll be having a big press conference tomorrow and telling the world.”

Jansen turned around and sank back into his seat, returning his hand to its place on Eric’s and staring blankly out the windshield. He then turned to look at Eric, seeing that he was sweating profusely. That, in addition to his trust of Eric, caused Jansen to accept that, at least, Eric believed what he was saying. A few seconds later, as they entered the La Cumbre tunnel, Jansen said in a numb tone, softly enough that only Eric could hear, “We’re driving atomic bombs through an erupting volcano in a stolen truck.” Feeling more than a little manic thanks to the news, Jansen added, “That’s it. From now on I plan our dates.”

 

 

They drove on in silence, exiting the tunnel and then turning south for the resort. As they neared it, Eric said, “I think the truck will fit through the doors into the party pavilion. We need to park it somewhere safe.” Jansen only nodded in response. The one thing Eric had forgotten was the resort’s security gate. He breathed a sigh of relief when he found it open and unmanned, thanks to the resort being direly short-staffed due to the volcano.

It was a tight fit, and Eric managed to tear off a side view mirror and crush the dance floor in the process, but Eric parked the truck in the private, walled party pavilion, between the dance floor and the pool. As Brian eased himself out, Eric locked the entrance door and walked to the house phone and dialed for Helen. As soon as she answered, he said, “We’re where we had the party. We need you, right away.” Without waiting for Helen to answer, Eric hung up and sat on a barstool as Jansen joined him. Brian settled into a chair near the truck, the AK-47 nestled casually in his lap. Eric glanced at Jansen and said, “Sorry for getting you mixed up in this. I didn’t know when we left, honest.”

Still staring at the tarp, Jansen said, “It’s okay. It’s just… Shit, this is weird.”

Helen rushed in, accompanied by Jim, Jon, Brandon, and Chase. They stopped when they saw Brian and his assault rifle.

“Hi, I’m Brian Bradson, pleased to meet you,” Brian said with a smile, wondering how they would take the news. “Your collateral is on the truck, under the tarp.”

Putting business first, Helen looked under the tarp, and upon seeing the two big metal cylinders, she turned to ask Eric, “What the hell are those?”

Brian answered, “Two uranium-core gun-assembly Iranian nuclear warheads–”

“From Iran,” Eric added in a shaky voice.

Brian smiled and nodded. “The third is with Dad. You’ll get it after the mercenaries are paid.”

Helen’s visceral reaction, for a moment, was that it was all some kind of insane joke, but then she remembered the General’s words and looked at Eric and Jansen’s pallid faces. “Eric, what the fuck? Not even you could–”

“Blame my Dad, he talked him into it. It really is important. We had to get the nukes out of the mercenaries’ hands. Giving you the bombs serves that purpose and gives you collateral that the U.S. Government will be sure to pay you to get. Dad said to tell you that the mercenaries still have one nuke, so please hurry. The nukes are safe, they aren’t armed. I’ve got to stay with these. Dad said to make sure you call the press conference. He’s coming here in a few hours and then the two of you announce what’s going on.”

Helen glanced at Brian, then the nukes, and then at his weapons. “I’ve arranged it, but the press is up north, we have to go to them.” Glancing around, she said to the four members of Instinct, “We need to talk, now.” To Brian and Jansen, she said, “We’ll be right back.”

Helen led Instinct, plus Jim, away.

As soon as they were out of Brian’s earshot, Helen rounded on Eric and snarled, “Are you completely fucking insane?” Calming down slightly, Helen added, “I need to know, right now, what your gut read was on General Bradson. All of it.”

Deciding that he’d done the right thing, Eric straightened his back, met Helen’s eye, and replied, “I don’t know him well, but I felt that he wasn’t lying. I also thought you knew about this, but I guess not. I think they’re real, and I think the General is telling the truth. If we don’t do this, they could auction off those nukes. That’s why I did it, because I believe the General is telling the truth.”

Helen felt dizzy for a moment, and leaned against a wall for support. Looking at the other band members, Helen asked, “What do you three think? Your call.”

Jon looked Eric in the eye and said, “If Eric says the General is telling the truth, he probably is, and that means those damn things are real. I say we do it; the government will cough up the cash fast because they won’t want the bombs floating around. If we don’t do this, we could end up with nukes in our cities again and this time somebody might set ‘em off.”

Brandon and Chase shared a look. Both were still somewhat shell-shocked by the news, but they turned and nodded. The deal was set. Chase glanced at Eric and said, “Bro, I hope you realize that, assuming we live through this, no way in hell are you ever going to live this down?”

The four band members shared an awkward but much needed laugh, and Helen said, “Okay, we’ll get everything ready, but we’ll hold the actual transfer until after I speak with General Bradson.” Helen was not yet convinced, not enough to risk thirty million.

 

 

Brian felt and heard his stomach growl. “Hey Jansen, could you do me a favor? The Iranians starved me and all I had on the plane was granola bars plus coffee. I haven’t had a hot meal in over a month. Does this place have a restaurant?”

Jansen nodded, still feeling severely rattled. “Yeah, I can order room service sent here.”

“Not a good idea,” Brian said, nodding towards his weapons. “They might not appreciate the truck, either.”

“Let me call my brother and ask him to bring something over. What do you want?” Jansen asked, so badly rattled that he didn’t even realize that he’d omitted the usual ‘cover’ of referring to Keith as his boyfriend.

Brian licked his lips and then answered, “Two… no, three, steak dinners with baked potatoes. Medium well. Oh, be careful what you say on the phone.”

“He wouldn’t believe me anyway,” Jansen said, and then dialed the phone. When Keith answered he said, “Keither, order three steak dinners, medium well, and then bring them to the party pavilion. Don’t tell anyone and don’t ask why, please?” Jansen hung up before a puzzled Keith could ask any questions.

When Helen, Instinct, and Jim returned a few moments later, Helen cut to the chase. “Brian, we’ve decided, in spite of everything, to go through with it. The money is ready for transfer after I speak with your father again.”

Smiling, Brian said, “Could you please call Dad and let him know?”

Shaking her head, Helen replied, “Two problems with that. One: his number never showed up on my caller ID and I never had it. Two: the phones are intermittent here, due to the ash. The further you get from the main switching station on the east side of the island, the worse it is. Cell phones are even worse than land lines. I’m assuming that you have his phone number?”

Brian’s smile quickly faded. “Uh, no. I guess he didn’t think of that. We’re all tired and things have been pretty hectic. Everybody’s a little punch-drunk, I think. He should be here soon though.”

Wondering what else might have been forgotten, Helen asked pointedly, “I assume someone told him where ‘here’ is? Or at least the name of the resort, so he can get directions?”

Brian shrugged, and Eric replied, “Yeah, I wrote it down for the General. Only he has it.”

Sighing in exasperation, Helen said, “First things first. I’m going to the front desk and make sure we have exclusive access to this pavilion. We’re lucky no one has shown up already. I’ll be back as soon as I can. Lock the damn doors behind me.”

Eric returned to his seat next to Jansen, and Jon went over to talk to Brian. Brandon and Chase, along with Jim, not knowing what else to do, sat down at a table and stared at the truck.

Keith’s attempt to open the door, followed by his knocking, caused them all to jump. They only relaxed when they heard his voice. Eric let him in and closed the door behind him. Carrying a tray, and with his vision blocked by the entryway, Keith could only see Eric. Assuming that the steaks were for himself, Jansen, and Eric, Keith smiled as he strolled into the pavilion, asking, “So, did you guys have fun on your date…” Keith’s voice trailed off as he caught sight of Brandon, Chase, and Jim sitting at a table, and then he noticed the truck off to his right.

Keith stopped in his tracks and Jansen called out, “The dinners are for Brian, he’s over there.” Following his brother’s gesture, Keith spotted Brian and the AK-47 slung across his shoulder, and then noticed the RPG-7 resting on the floor beside his chair.

“Food!” Brian said with an ear-to-ear grin and glee in his eyes as Keith approached.

Wondering what the hell was going on, Keith set the tray down on the table by Brian’s side and glanced at the truck, then back at Brian’s assault rifle.

Brian immediately began to tear into the first steak, and between mouthfuls he told Keith, “Don’t worry, everything’s fine.”

“Uh huh,” Keith said, his gaze finally taking note of the grenade launcher under the table. Brian’s nonchalant demeanor seemed to preclude the possibility that Brian was holding Instinct hostage, but that left Keith more confused than ever. He turned to glance at his brother, hoping for an explanation.

Jansen gave his brother a confused shrug, having no idea where to begin.

Chuckling, amused by the absurdity of the situation, Brian said, “Sit down and I’ll explain everything. I’ll be talking with my mouth full though, because I was a prisoner in Iran until yesterday and the bastards starved me. Thanks for the chow.”

Keith nodded, taking a seat in stunned silence, shocked by what Brian had just said. As Brian, between mouthfuls, filled Keith in on the rest of the story, Keith kept glancing at Eric and Jansen, who merely nodded each time, in confirmation of Brian’s words.

Brian’s nonchalant conclusion, when he mentioned what was under the tarp and why, did absolutely nothing to help Keith’s composure. Looking in turn at Jansen, Eric, and the rest of the people present, all of whom merely nodded, Keith began to wonder of they’d all lost their minds. His golden tan began to fade from his face as he concluded that he wasn’t being pranked.

Helen’s return did little to help. Keith let her in and asked in a stuttering voice, “Are… are… those really…”

Ignoring Keith, Helen said, “We’ve got the pavilion to ourselves. Now, we’ve got to wait for General Bradson, because I want to make damn sure his plan will work. Brandon, Chase, go wait for the General at the main entrance. Even if he knows where the resort is, no way will he know where we’ve stashed the nukes.”

“Nukes,” Keith mumbled, suddenly turning an even lighter shade of pale as he remembered that Instinct had been mixed up with nukes once before and thus the possibility that it had done so again became even more chillingly real.

“Don’t worry, they should be gone by tomorrow,” Brian said in a cheerful tone, his attention focused on his second steak.

“I’ll make sure the press conference is all set. Fortunately, there is a large press contingent in Tazacorte, ten miles up the coast from here, because of the eruptions. They’re there anyway so they’ll hear us out, assuming the damn volcano doesn’t act up.” Helen paused to think for a moment before adding, “No one outside of this room is to know what is going on. That means especially Jane Carlshitski: she’s on edge enough about the volcano. I’m sure she wouldn’t be pleased to know what we’ve got in here.” With that, Helen stomped off to make some phone calls to the press, hoping that the intermittent phone system would cooperate.

Jon and Jim sat together, staring at the truck for a while, and then Jim asked Jon, “I’ve got to check the other van to make sure it’s up to the trip tomorrow. Want to give me a hand?”

Eager to be away from the bombs and the unreal situation, Jon nodded and followed Jim quickly out the door.

Keith watched Brian eat for a while and then walked over and took a seat beside Eric and Jansen. His head still swimming, Keith asked without thinking, “So, how was the date?”

“Aside from the mercenary army, the guy with the gun and grenade launcher over there, driving through an erupting volcano, and the nukes, not bad,” Jansen replied.

Brian made it halfway through the third steak and then leaned back, rubbing his stomach, feeling decidedly overfull. Looking up at the three nervous guys, Brian said, “Hey, do I stink that bad? Y’all don’t have to sit way over there.” Brian then took a whiff of his own armpit and added, “Uh, maybe I do. I haven’t had a shower since I was captured, and all I could do on the plane was wipe off with a wet towel. Man, I can’t wait to get a shower, clean clothes, and a clean bed. I just gotta hold out until Dad relieves me.”

Eric got up, and as Jansen and Keith followed, took a seat near Brian, though still six feet away. Relaxing a little, Eric said, “Anything we can get you? More food maybe?”

Brian shook his head, “No thanks, I’d explode if I ate another bite. I’ve got to wait until Dad gets here to relieve me. Man, it has been one hell of a day.”

Glancing at the nukes, Eric said, “Yeah, I can see that.” Looking back in Brian’s direction, Eric looked past him, at the pool, and to the open showers at the far end. Pointing, Eric said, “If you want to take a shower, there’s some over there.”

Brian turned to look, and began to smile at the thought of how good it would feel. “Close enough to keep a watch on the truck, I guess. Any chance one of you guys could rustle me up some clean clothes and shampoo?”

“We’re about the same size, I’ll see what I can find,” Keith said, and turned to leave.

Once Keith was gone, Brian asked Eric and Jansen with a grin, “So, a date, huh? How long have you two been going out?” Brian was a little surprised. He’d heard, via his father and the news media, about Brandon and Chase, but he’d always heard that Eric Carlisle had a huge reputation when it came to women.

Jansen glanced at Eric, feeling a rush of concern as to how Eric would react to the disclosure.

Seeing Jansen’s look of unease and misinterpreting it, Eric said, “Relax, Brian’s like you.” Eric turned to aim a knowing grin at Brian and missed Jansen’s fleeting change of expression in reaction to his words. “General Bradson told me about you,” Eric said to Brian.

Brian rolled his eyes. “My old man has a big mouth sometimes,” Brian said, just a little irked that Eric knew about him via his father, but not the other way around. Brian had no way of knowing that to the best of his father’s knowledge, Eric was straight. After a moment’s pause he added, “Yeah, that’s true. No worries here.”

“Jansen said he won’t let me plan any more of our dates,” Eric said with a mock pout.

“Today was our first date,” Jansen said, and then glanced at the nukes before continuing, “It’s sure one to remember.” For the first time since hearing about the bombs, Jansen smiled. A little crookedly, but he smiled.

 

 

At the airport, Felecia and the General were busy making preparations to abandon the C-130. They were both well aware that, sooner or later, it could draw the attention of the local authorities. The plan they’d come up with was simple; Horst would take the remaining nuclear warhead on a truck and find a safe place to lay up overnight. The remaining men, after sequestering most of their weapons on the C-130, would camp on the beach near the runway. It was, they all hoped, only for one night. Then, the General had an idea. Hefting his phone, he began making calls, first to information, which did not involve the local phone system in any way, and then to a nearby travel agent. The call, routed via a satellite ground station on Tenerife and from there to La Palma by undersea cable, went through. It was a matter of luck more than anything else; the cell towers – the ones serving the resort’s area were located on the volcano itself – had been the hardest hit by the ash, followed by the land lines. The travel agent happened to be close to the main telephone switching station and was serviced by a line that was still in working order. To the General’s pleasant surprise, he found a small hotel three miles away that was still open, though nearly empty. Glad that he’d retained some cash, he made reservations under an assumed name, booking the dozen available rooms. Grinning, he said, “I think your men will prefer a hotel to a tunnel and it’ll be less suspicious.”

Felecia nodded, and then deciding it was time, she said with a shy smile, “You sure are a good planner, Walter.” Turning to the copilot, who was the only other occupant of the flight deck, Felecia said, “Time for you to take a break.”

Rolling his eyes, the copilot got up to leave but was irritated enough to say, “I already know what’s going on.”

Chuckling, Felecia replied, “This isn’t business, it’s personal,” and added a wink that the General could not see.

The copilot figured it out, it wasn’t hard, and smiled as he left the C-130’s flight deck for the final time.

Slipping into the vacated copilot’s seat, Felecia said casually, “You’re pretty good at predicting things, so did you predict this?” She quickly leaned over and pulled Walter Bradson into a deep, passionate kiss.

A minute later, when they came up for air, she caught sight of the stunned look on the General’s face and said with a laugh, “I guess not in this case.”

“I’m twenty years older than you,” General Bradson said, wondering if he could possibly…

“Closer to thirteen actually and so what?” Felecia said.

The General felt a disjointed cascade of conflicting emotions. He’d been alone for so long, just him and his son, ever since cancer had sent his wife to an early grave. The Air Force had partially filled the void, but now that was a thing of the past for him. In that moment, Walter Bradson realized how empty his life was, and how much he longed for more. Looking at Felecia, he saw a woman whom he’d grown to admire and respect, on both a professional and personal level, in spite of the fact that she’d done a few things of which he did not approve. Her fiery temper so reminiscent of his late wife, her calmness under fire and dedication to her men making her someone with whom he was honored to serve. He well knew that she could have killed him, but hadn’t. From camaraderie and shared peril came something more, and the General’s response came from the heart; he leaned over and kissed Felecia.

 

 

At Horst’s direction, the mercenaries stole another truck, a small pickup, which was barely able to handle the long, heavy nuclear warhead, now guarded by Private Johnson. Horst drove it to the hotel, while Felecia led her troops there on foot after sealing up the C-130. General Bradson brought up the rear in the little Mercedes he’d borrowed from Eric.

 

 

They’d waited in Tindouf, Algeria, for a message that never came. During their sojourn on the ground, The Scar recalled that Yuri had been able – via Eric’s credit card number, gleaned from the jet charter manifest – to identify the hotel in La Palma. He ordered Yuri to do so again. Yuri was thankful that he had brought his laptop along, and thus still had a record of Eric’s credit card number. A few minutes on the phone, once again posing as a personal assistant concerned over a charge, were all that was needed. Yuri ended the call and told The Scar, “A credit card charge, most recently two days ago, at the same resort he was at when the General arrived in the Cape Verdes. The airport is still closed so it would seem likely that they are still there.”

The expected call from The Scar’s former cook never came. Seething, suspecting further betrayal, The Scar had ordered Flight Two into the air.

Flying low, they approached La Palma from the east. Ten miles out, The Scar studied the island through binoculars and found what he sought on the seaside runway. “Turn south immediately, I see them,” he said to the pilot, and then told Yuri, “The C-130 is parked near the terminal. I doubt there are many with that paint scheme and unlike the other aircraft, it is not coated with ash. It is Flight Three; it has to be; it all fits. It will be dark within the hour. Prepare the men for a night drop.” Turning to the pilot, he said, “After the drop, land at Tenerife. It is under a hundred miles away so it is close enough. You have the needed paperwork and there will be nothing suspicious on the plane. Merely say that you are standing by for a supply airdrop into La Palma. Await our calls for instructions.”

“Where will we be dropping?” Yuri asked as he unfurled a map.

“Inland from the airport, about three miles,” the Scar said, and then added, “Most of the men, in any case. Their mission will be to reconnoiter the C-130 and seize the weapons if the opportunity presents itself. You, ten men, and I will drop on the other side of the island, near the resort. I will need your help, Yuri. I have only jumped a few times, never at night, and not since I lost my arm. We have to find the bombs and then get them back. If, as I suspect, Felecia is using Instinct as a go-between or perhaps even as a purchaser, it may be best to kill them first, once they have told us all that they know.” ‘It never hurts to mix business with pleasure,’ the Scar thought with a crooked smile.

 

 

The troops, some at least, had greeted the news that Horst would drive off with the remaining bomb unenthusiastically. François spoke for that faction when he said, “That bomb is our guarantee. We want it with us; there have been enough double-crosses for one day.” That left Felecia and Horst with a problem, for they did not wish to alienate any of their men. It was Horst who thought of a solution. He went to the little hotel’s desk, and asked if they had any garage space, explaining that he had industrial equipment that he wished to keep out of the ash. The innkeeper’s shaking head quickly became a nod as Horst produced a thick roll of American banknotes – still the most widely accepted currency on the planet and thus the mercenary’s preferred choice. Ten minutes later, the truck was concealed in a small detached garage that had, until moments before, housed the innkeeper’s car, and Horst made plans to sleep in the vehicle. It would do for one night, he hoped.

General Bradson checked on Felecia one more time, and then spontaneously asked, “Come with me, Fel. I’d like you to meet them and I want you with me.”

Felecia shook her head. “I can’t leave my men. If I leave, it might look–”

“Like you’re bugging out on them,” the General said, and then nodded. “I see your point but I think you’re wrong. Horst and the bomb are here. Also, it makes sense for you to go with me to secure the money.”

Felecia called Horst in from outside to ask his opinion, and he agreed. Her mind made up, Felecia said, “Okay, but I’m driving. I’ve seen how you fly.”

With a laugh, the General threw Felecia the keys. “Let’s go.”

It was half an hour after dark when they left, and General Bradson did remember the name of the resort and knew that it was somewhere on the west side of the island. After passing through the tunnel, they stopped to ask for directions. It was then that the General learned a detail he’d been previously unaware of; the resort was on the flank of Cumbre Vieja. That did not sit well with him but there was little that he could do.

Driving south along the coast road, the darkness, coupled with the glare of the occasional roadside light, prevented them from noticing the dark parachutes coming down a mile southeast of the resort.

 

 

When Keith returned, Brian greeted him in an ecstatic voice. “Thanks so much, man. This is going to feel so fucking good…”

Keith handed over the clothes: flame-print boardies, a concert T-shirt, boxers, and socks, stacked on top of a towel. “I thought these might help you blend in a little better,” he said.

Brian accepted the clothes with a grin and said, “I’ve been dreaming about this for weeks.” As Brian stood up, Keith handed him a bottle of hotel shampoo and a tiny bar of soap. Brian again glanced around the private walled pavilion. Seeing that most of it was concealed from view, he left the clothes on the table so they wouldn’t get wet. Taking the AK-47, RPG-7, and shampoo with him, he trotted over to the shower and began to strip.

Keith joined Eric and Jansen, and sat with them as Brian, keeping the weapons in easy reach, finished stripping naked and began to shower. From a distance, they could see that Brian had a lithe, well-toned build, and it was obvious that he wasn’t shy.

Brian finished rinsing his hair, and called out, “Could somebody throw me that towel?

Keith walked the towel and clothes over, and as he handed the towel to Brian, he noticed the bruises and contusions still marring Brian’s handsome body. “Whoa,” Keith said as Brian toweled his hair, “What happened to you?”

Shuddering at the memory as it took him back to a place he was trying hard to forget, Brian said, “The guards in Iran liked using me for a punching bag. I’m still pretty messed up, huh?”

Keith could only nod in stunned agreement. “Is there anything I can get for you? Bandages, maybe some aspirin?”

Pulling on the boxers and shorts, moving slowly due to his battered ribs, Brian replied, “Nah, I’ll be okay. These clean duds are the best medicine I could have. That and the chow you got me. Thanks, Keith.” Keith was a little surprised; he hadn’t known that Brian knew his name.

Brian left the T-shirt in his hand and slung the AK over his bare shoulder, intending to let himself air-dry for a while, and carried the grenade launcher back to his seat. Once there, he transferred the contents of his pockets, which included a grenade, to his shorts, and then tossed away the dirty clothes.

 

 

Two miles from the resort, General Bradson relaxed in the passenger seat, feeling the reassuring warmth of Felecia’s hand in his own. With a depth of emotion he hadn’t known he still possessed, he returned the gentle pressure while wrestling with his concerns. Deciding to meet the issue head-on, he said, “Fel, I like what’s happening between us, I really do, but there’s something we need to talk about first. Brian is my son and there’s something I’d like to talk to you about… Something I need to make sure you’re okay with… It’s about Brian–”

Concealing a laugh brought on by General Bradson’s tongue-tied state, Felecia patted his hand and said softly, “It’s okay, Walter. I already know he’s a jarhead.” The General’s words had given Felecia a good hunch what he was about to say, so she’d decided to have some fun with it. Glancing over at her slack-jawed passenger, she added with a wink, “And if I can accept that, plus the fact that you’re a freaking fly-boy wing-wiper, there’s not a lot that can bother me.”

“Even if he’s gay?” General Bradson asked, beginning to relax.

Laughing, Felecia replied, “Like I said, if I can accept someone being a jarhead or a wing-wiper, I can accept anything. However, there are treatments available, you know.” Felecia watched as the General’s face began to cloud, and, judging the timing just right, she added, “An inter-service transfer might cure him of being a jarhead, though there’s a school of thought that it’s some kind of genetic thing and not a choice… not as bad as being a wing-wiper though, as that’s caused by brain damage…”

Laughing hard, General Bradson looked at Felecia with newfound respect. He was seeing a very different side of her. Gone for now was the mask of a hard-nosed combat commander, supplanted by a woman with a great sense of humor. With a wry grin, General Bradson said, “Like I once told the people you’re about to meet, Brian made a lifestyle choice, one I strongly disagree with.” The General let that statement hang in the air for a moment. “He joined the Marines instead of the Air Force. That came as one hell of a shock to me and it’s still a bone of contention between us. However, I’ve never had any issue with him for being gay, and he came out to me when he was fourteen.”

Felecia laughed, and as they neared the resort, she said, “I agree with him about not joining the Air Force, but becoming a jarhead? That’s just way too much.”

“I think we’re going to get along just fine,” General Bradson said with a heartfelt smile.





 

© 2009 C James

Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.

Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"

 



 



Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading, support and advice, and for putting up with me.

Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.

A big "thank you" to to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice , and to Captain Rick for his advice.

Any remaining errors are mine alone.


Copyright © 2009 C James; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Jansen said in a numb tone, softly enough that only Eric could hear, “We’re driving atomic bombs through an erupting volcano in a stolen truck.” Feeling more than a little manic thanks to the news, Jansen added, “That’s it. From now on I plan our dates.”

LMMFAO!! :rofl:

:worship::worship::worship:

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Damn cliffhangers. Glad we aren't waiting for chapters at least. I haven't been posting but wanted to throw out how much I am enjoying this. As always lots of drama of all varieties and some real sweet parts too. Great geographic info too. Hopefully a magical ending. Thanks.

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I agree with Mikie; I was cracking up when Jansen said this! :)

 

And I SO did not see the whole Felecia-Bradson thing!

 

Let's just hope the US government pays for the nukes. Otherwise Instinct will be too broke to even hire the General and Felecia. lol

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I’d say, the ONE thing you don’t want to have - with nukes on an unstable volcanic island nobody can easily get away from - is a freaking press conference about the matter! Not until the bleeding things are safely away...

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