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    C James
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Changing Lanes - 51. Changing the Game


Chapter 51: Changing the Game


 



 

  

The wedding party and Felecia’s force arrived at the hotel in Be’er Sheva, almost unnoticed due to it being the middle of the night.

Jansen made it clear that he and Eric would be sharing a room, which surprised no one, not even Jane, who had guessed at the relationship almost before it even began.

Exhausted, Eric and Jansen climbed into the room’s single bed, and before sleep claimed them, Eric said from the heart, “I’m sorry for everything I put you through. When it looked like I wasn’t coming back, the thing that hurt the most was the thought of never seeing you again.”

Jansen, barely able to keep his eyes open, gave Eric a hug and replied, “I get why you did what you did. I think it was insane, but I can understand, because if it was you or Keither that was missing, I would’ve probably done the same thing, if I’d thought of it. Just… talk to me first, if there’s ever a next time, okay?”

All Eric had time to do was nod, before sleep claimed him.

Eric awoke early, finding that he was using Jansen’s bare chest as a pillow. A light touch, and the change in Jansen’s breathing told Eric that the dancer was almost awake. Eric grinned in the dawn light, and began waking Jansen up in the most personal way possible…

 

 

Three doors down the hall, Keith woke up, alone in bed, and glanced over at Jon, who was still sound asleep. Keith crept over to the window, where he sat down to watch the sun rising over the Negev, though his mind was not on the view. He found himself thinking of Brian, and gave himself a mental kick for having a crush on a guy he thought was straight.

On the floor above, Brian padded out onto a balcony to watch the sunrise, rejoicing in the belief that he was out of imminent danger for the first time since his capture by the Iranians. Stretching out on a chair, enjoying the warm caress of the rising sun on his chest, Brian found himself wondering what Keith was doing. After a few idle daydreams centered on Keith, Brian shook his head in disgust as he thought, ‘Stupid, stupid, stupid. He knows I’m gay, so if he was interested in me, he’d have said something by now. He looked shocked when he thought he’d bumped into my morning wood, so probably straight… but straight or he’s not interested, same difference, so it’d be a lot better if I just avoid him until this is over.’” Moments after making that decision, Brian picked up the phone, giving himself a mental kick for stupidity as he did so, and dialed the front desk to ask for Keith’s room.

 

 

The ringing room phone caused Keith to jump, and he snatched it up, hoping that Jon could get back to sleep. He need not have worried; Jon was a sound sleeper and had not even stirred.

Putting the phone to his ear, Keith whispered, “Hello?”

“I hope I didn’t wake you up,” Brian said, and then, trying hard to sound casual, “This is Brian. I, uh, I’m going out to see some of the sights while we’re here and, uh, I wondered if you’d like to go along. Better to go with someone you know than alone, right? Masada is only thirty miles away…” Brian glanced again at the hotel’s information booklet on the table, which he’d scoured to find the most interesting nearby attraction. “It’s well worth seeing. And I–”

Keith found himself grinning at the prospect. He liked Brian’s company, and hoped he’d make a good friend. “Yeah, count me in, thanks,” Keith whispered, and then added, “Can I meet you downstairs, maybe grab some breakfast? Jon’s still asleep.”

Smiling, Brian replied, “Sure. See you in the lobby.”

 

 

Jansen and Eric, having sated one hunger, sought out the restaurant to satisfy another. After ordering, Eric looked into Jansen’s eyes and smiled. “No tequila involved this time. That was all me.”

Jansen grinned, blushing slightly as he replied in a quiet voice, “Yeah, that was great. Any doubts I ever had are gone. Actually, they were back at the resort on La Palma. I’ve got a theory about you and tequila; it makes you kinda wild and uninhibited, but it’s still basically you, and you only get into real trouble when people start freaking out on you, right?”

Eric grinned, surprised that Jansen had caught on so soon. “Pretty much. The only exception was Jerry. Even before I knew what he was, I hated him, more than I’ve ever hated anything or anyone. But, yeah, other than that, if I’m around someone who is relaxed and not stressing on me, I’m usually fine. It’s hard to explain, but sometimes I get a hunch what people are feeling, so I think I react to that more than what they say or do. You can ask Chase or Jon; they’ve been around me when I’m on tequila. Sometimes I’ve been okay. The trouble really started at a party Jerry had, when I kind of trashed the place.” Suddenly, Eric figured it out and asked, “So, when did you and Chase talk?”

Grinning, Jansen replied, “While you were off on your insane grenade mission. After we got the news that the plane had been taken and you and Brandon were safe, Chase and I started talking about you. I kinda started it, by the way, and we were both pretty pissed with you and Brandon at that point. Anyway, he told me about that knack you have for reading people. Then the subject turned to tequila, and he shared his thoughts on that, saying that you’d always been pretty much okay when it was just you and him when you were on it. I bounced my theory off him, and he said he’d always thought pretty much the same way. I guess now I know how you pegged me and Keither as brothers so damn fast. So, how come you never told me about that reading-people stuff?”

With a shrug and a smile, Eric replied, “Because I thought you’d think I was crazy if I said something like that.”

Jansen chuckled. “Eric, I’ve always considered you crazy. That wouldn’t have changed a thing.” Eric laughed, and Jansen looked him in the eyes before saying, “So, you know, you really know, that I mean what I’m about to say: I don’t want us to ever end, because I love you.”

Eric had no need to check; he felt the truth of Jansen’s words. Not caring who saw or what they thought, Eric reached across the table, took Jansen’s hand, and replied, “I love you too. I knew for sure when I was on Jerry’s plane.”

Jansen was about to reply when Keith walked up and, not noticing the joined hands on the table in front of him, asked, “Have you guys seen Brian? He was going to meet me in the lobby; he asked me to go sightseeing with him…”

Jansen recognized Keith’s anxious tone, and asked, “How long ago did he say that?”

Keith checked his watch, “Almost five minutes ago.”

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Jansen looked past Keith for a moment and then said, “Turn around, he’s heading this way.”

Eric and Jansen were sitting at a table for two, so Brian and Keith found a table of their own a few yards away. As they sat down, Jansen whispered to Eric in a serious tone, “I think Keither has a crush on Brian. Does your inner knack, or whatever you call it, work on Brian? Can you tell if there’s any chance the feeling is mutual? Keith said Brian keeps sending mixed signals... Keith tends to fall hard when he’s into a guy. I don’t want to see him set himself up for a train wreck.”

Remembering the vibes he’d been getting when he was around both Brian and Keith, Eric had a strong hunch that whatever attractions there were, were mutual. Looking over at their table, however, he could both see and feel the awkwardness. Angling his head slightly as a thought occurred to him, Eric asked Jansen, “I wonder if Brian knows that Keith’s gay? Second thought of the day: I remember Brian grumbling something about his dad being a damn public-address system, so… I wonder if Brian thinks everyone knows he’s gay. Did you tell Keith about Brian?”

Jansen shook his head, beginning to grin. “No I didn’t. I forgot until you mentioned it that he wasn’t there when you told me about Brian. I just assumed he knew. Let me get this straight; you think they are attracted to each other, but neither knows the other is gay, but assumes the other one already knows?”

Eric grinned and arched an eyebrow. “Nothing straight about it, and that pretty much sums it up. You know what we’ve got to do, right?”

Jansen nodded solemnly and then broke into a wicked grin. “Have some fun at their expense, of course. It’s my brotherly duty, after all. Let’s go barge in and join ‘em.”

Keith looked up with mild annoyance as Jansen and Eric pulled up chairs at the table, and invited themselves to join Brian and Keith. Brian too was slightly perturbed; he was looking forward to a one-on-one chat with Keith. Glancing at Eric, Brian said, “Good morning, oh thief of grenades. Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m grenadeless today.” Brian gave Eric a slight smile, to let the bassist know that he wasn’t angry over the theft.

Nodding at the good-natured dig, Eric replied, “Sorry about that, man. Anyway, Jansen and I just thought we’d stop by and cheer you guys up with a story. It’s pretty funny. I just found out that a couple of old friends of mine,” Eric used the term ‘old friends’ to keep Brian and Keith momentarily in the dark regarding the real subjects of the story, “have been dancing around each other for a while, all awkward and clumsy. Neither knew the other was gay, and they never actually discussed it. Hell, one even asked the other out on a date and they still didn’t know. They were both oblivious as hell.”

Jansen began to laugh, and Keith shook his head. “A date and they still didn’t know? Either of ‘em? How the hell can anyone be that damn dense?” Keith asked, before meeting his brother’s eye and seeing a mirthful twinkle, one he recognized as a sure sign that Jansen was pulling his leg somehow.

Before Keith could pursue that thought, Jansen said, “I dunno, Keither. You tell me; how can anyone be that damn dense?”

Eric began to laugh and stood up before chiming in to add, “Have fun on your date today, guys.”

Glaring at Eric and Jansen’s retreating backs, Brian snapped, “It’s not a date, shitheads, I just wanted some company to go sightseeing…” thinking that they were making fun of only him and putting him in a very awkward situation with Keith.

Brian was trying to think of something to say when he heard Keith ask, “Are they right? About us, I mean?”

Brian turned to face Keith, and saw only a hopeful look. Relaxing, beginning to see the humor in the situation, Brian nodded, “They are about me, anyway. I thought you knew. What about you?”

Keith glanced at Eric and Jansen who had returned to their table but were looking in his direction and obviously enjoying themselves far too much. “Yeah, I thought you knew, too. They’re never going to let us live this down. You know that, right?”

Brian chuckled. “Yeah, they probably won’t. I really thought you were straight.”

Keith angled his head, perplexed. “Why? I know I never said, but…”

“It was that first morning. I’d heard from both Eric and Felecia that they knew I was gay, so I figured my Dad had pretty much spread that bit of news to everyone. I was kinda pissed about that at the time. Then, you kinda freaked when you thought I’d bumped you with my morning wood. Your eyes looked like they’d pop out of your head, so I figured…” Brian said, letting his voice trail off.

Keith smiled. “That wasn’t why… it was the freaking grenade. You held the thing damn near under my nose, remember? And I’d just found out I’d been sleeping next to a live grenade all night.”

Brian shrugged, becoming slightly puzzled. “But the pin was in; it was safe.”

Rolling his eyes and laughing, Keith replied, “Dude, I’m a civilian. All I saw was a freaking grenade under my nose, and pin or no pin, that’s why I reacted that way.”

Brian blushed slightly, remembering. “Yeah, that makes sense. So, what about you? Why’d you peg me as straight?”

Keith rolled his eyes again. “Take a wild guess, mister tough guy macho Marine.”

Sporting a wicked grin, Brian replied, “Believing in stereotypes, huh? Shame on you.”

Keith laughed, and then replied, “So, is it a date today or not?”

With a confident smile, Brian replied, “I really didn’t intend it that way at first, due to my little misconception about you, but yeah, I’d like it to be.”

“Then it’s a date,” Keith replied with a smile of his own.

 

 

Helen ordered breakfast in her room, and then called General Bradson and Felecia to ask them to join her. There was still, Helen knew, a lot left to deal with.

The General arrived while Helen waited for breakfast to be set up. As soon as the waiter had left the room, Helen got down to business. “The check I was given appears to be good, so that resolves the money issue. However, we still have a few problems. Namely, I’m stuck with two nuclear warheads, and the U.S. Government is out for our heads.”

“They staked out a very public position on this. They can’t back down without humiliating themselves, and that embarrassment would extend to the entire administration, to a degree. Complicating the matter is that they already have a public black eye regarding the Iranian nuclear program. Therefore, to the bureaucratic mind, the answer is to double down and hope the other guy folds. That’s my read on why they put you and Instinct on the most-wanted list. This isn’t like the business world; less logic applies. Ego and public image are the primary motivators. They won’t back off because to their mindset, they can’t. They also probably believe that they control the rules of the game,” General Bradson said.

Helen nodded. “That’s about what I’d figured. At the moment, my thinking is that we give the reporter everything we’ve got and let him run with it, getting our side of the story out.”

General Bradson shook his head. “I don’t think that’ll work. They can stonewall, and they can also cloud the issue by making up new charges. The status quo plays into their hands by ceding the initiative to them. What we could do via the reporter would hurt, but I don’t think it would make ‘em back off. What we need is a game-changer.”

The General’s confident tone clued Helen in that he had a plan, so she arched an eyebrow and asked, “What do you have in mind?”

It took ten minutes, complicated by agitated interruptions from Helen, for General Bradson to explain his plan. After he’d finished, Helen sat glaring at him for over minute as she considered his plan, before breaking the icy silence. “General, my initial reaction was: you’re out of your motherfucking mind. After giving it a little thought, I’d say my first reaction was overly charitable… however, I do see that if this insane scheme works, it would solve all our problems. My problem is that it seems to require that the other side follow your script. For example, the part about the embassy… you expect them to just offer that up out of the blue?”

General Bradson surprised Helen by pulling out his satellite phone, along with a sheet of paper given to him by Levi Gold, which contained a phone number and an e-mail address. He dialed the number, which was a private line to the White House switchboard. When the operator answered, the General said, “This is General Walter Bradson. I am in the Middle East and have in my possession multiple Iranian nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them. Unless the current situation changes, I will, within the next seventy-two hours, launch a nuclear strike on Iran. Let me be clear, I need to speak to the President regarding a clear and present danger to the United States of America. This is most urgent.”

Helen blanched slightly, but General Bradson calmly resumed eating while on hold. A few minutes later, the operator came back on the line. The General listened for a moment, and then replied, “I’ll be there. In the meantime, I’ll be sending, within the hour, an e-mail to the President’s private e-mail account. It will have my name in the subject line. The President will want to listen to the attached recordings. One is of Deputy Undersecretary Graeme making illegal threats in the name of the administration, and the other is of Jerry Clump, shortly before I stopped him from getting away with the bombs on La Palma, boasting at having seized three nuclear warheads from Helen, and crediting the administration for giving him the opportunity. Oh, and by the way, have a nice day.”

General Bradson ended the call. Smiling at Helen, he said, “They already knew that we’re in Israel. I have an appointment at the communications room of the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. The President will speak to me over an encrypted comm link, and it was the White House’s idea. The mention of your tape of Mr. Graeme evidently made the impression I was counting on; they want to be sure the conversation is private and then they’ll really turn the screws. The embassy is one place they can be certain that I’m searched and electronically monitored, so there won’t be any chance of me recording the conversation.”

Helen exhaled, closed her eyes, and then replied, “Well, you just neatly wrapped up the part I thought was impossible. Count me in. What do I need to do?”

“Call that reporter. Tell him to examine Flight Two at La Palma airport, and that he’ll find Jerry Clump’s DNA on the bulkheads and on a knife, and tell him that Jerry Clump died while trying to get away with two nuclear warheads. Tell him to run his story about Deputy Undersecretary Graeme in twenty-four hours. Promise him whatever you need to in order to get him to hold on that long.”

Helen nodded. “One question; won’t they arrest you the minute you set foot in the embassy?”

General Bradson explained his contingency plan for that, and Helen rolled her eyes, feeling a migraine coming on. After a few minutes, she agreed, and then added in a resigned voice, “I guess that, if worse comes to worse, we can always stay in Israel.”

Shaking his head, General Bradson got up to leave. “Don’t worry,” he said on his way to the door, “By tomorrow, this will all be over.”

 

 

Three hours later, General Bradson strolled confidently along the busy Tel Aviv street and turned left. At the main entrance, he walked up to one of the Marine guards and said, “I’m Walter Bradson.”

The Marine had been alerted to expect him, and ushered him inside, where a waiting Deputy Chief of Mission said, “I’ve been instructed to take you to our communications center. However, there are classified devices in that room, so everyone is searched for any electronic devices. Please hand over your watch and any other electronic or metallic object.”

General Bradson had left his satellite phone in his hotel room due to expecting the search, which despite the Deputy Chief of Mission’s solemn words was not routine. The General smiled, and handed over his wristwatch, key chain, and then, with a flourish, a ballpoint pen. “Wouldn’t want me taking any notes either, I assume,” he said with a smirk.

The Deputy Chief of Mission didn’t react. He had orders, and followed them by leading the General to a small room next to the communications center. The General was scanned to check for any electronic devices by a three-man team, and then took a seat while a technician established a secure link to the White House via an STU-14 encrypted phone system, and then the Deputy Chief of Mission handed the General the phone. “The line is active. Just hang up when you’re done. I’ve been asked to give you privacy.”

As soon as the door closed, General Bradson took a deep breath and said, “Hello, Mister President. Thank you for speaking with me.”

The President’s tone was formal, reserved, and businesslike. “It seems I had little choice. I happen to believe that you are bluffing regarding Iran, but I’m prepared to put this entire matter behind us. Turn over those warheads in return for clemency, keep this matter quiet, and this whole thing can go away.”

“Clemency revocable at your discretion, no doubt.” General Bradson said, his voice firm. “No deal. We acted in good faith, only to have your State Department hacks try to make us into scapegoats. There’s also the matter of your policy in Iran. Sir, I view it likely that much of this was done without your knowledge,” the General said, using a convenient fiction that both men understood, “but there are aspects of this that you may be unaware of. I stopped Jerry Clump, as he was getting away from La Palma with two nuclear weapons. We recorded him before we took him down, and if you’ve listened to the copy I sent, he clearly implicates your administration’s mishandling of the situation with giving him the opportunity to get the bombs, and avows that Helen and Instinct got involved solely to keep the nukes out of his hands. It’s also proof positive that he was alive, despite your public assurances to the contrary. He used one nuclear warhead in an attempt to trigger the destruction of the entire coastline of the North Atlantic. A reporter has a copy of the conversation with Deputy Undersecretary Graeme, and that story will be breaking in twenty-four hours. I have not yet provided him with the tape of Jerry Clump. Also, regarding Iran... I asked you to speak with me today regarding a clear and present danger to the United States of America. That danger has been brought about by you and your policies. Unless you cease your opposition to the gasoline interdiction, I see the use of Iran’s own nukes against them as the least-bad option. Allow me to explain: Israel cannot allow that fanatical regime to become a nuclear power. The Iranian regime is run by religious fanatics of the worst kind, and they make no bones about wanting to wipe Israel off the map–”

The President raised his voice to interrupt. “That’s fear-mongering. Israel’s own nuclear arsenal would deter Iran–”

“And that, Sir, is where you are wrong. Deterrence only works against the sane. Enough of their regime believes that it is their religious duty to cause a new holocaust – Ironic, considering they deny the first one ever happened – and they do believe in martyrdom. There is also the matter of geography. Israel is just a little bigger than Connecticut, while Iran is the size of Texas, California, Montana, and New Mexico combined. Just a couple of bombs would effectively destroy Israel, but given Iran’s size, it would take a massive strike, more than even an intact Israel can deliver, to do the same to Iran, and that, Sir, assumes that the Iranian regime is deterrable at all. Israel therefore has no choice; failure to remove the threat would be national suicide. There is also America to consider. Iran may well seek to deter us by planting a bomb in one of our cities as a threat. We’ve seen how easy that is, and as you know, we came within moments of losing Los Angeles and New York. If you’ll recall, you fired me for going ahead without orders, but as we both know, even though the public does not, had I not done so, we’d have lost at least one of our two largest cities.” General Bradson let the implied threat of public disclosure hang in the air for a moment before continuing, “Sir, I can offer you countless reasons why a regime that has been the number one supporter of terrorists for three decades cannot be allowed to become a nuclear power. Suffice it to say that, in my judgment, it cannot, and I do have the means to stop it. If need be, I shall do so. Better by far, for all concerned, including the Iranian people, if their regime can be brought down via the current unrest.”

“Given where you and the bombs are, your hosts are up to their eyebrows in this and I’ll make sure they pay,” the President shot back in anger. He wasn’t used to any challenge to his authority. “I won’t tolerate any action–”

“You really don’t have a choice, Sir. We have one way out of this, and one way only. First, all charges against me, the band, the mercenaries, and anyone else associated with the effort to keep nuclear warheads out of Jerry Clump’s hands will be immediately and publicly dropped. You could use the excuse that you were distracted by the volcanic risk to the country and relied on bad information. To that end, you will issue an apology and announce the public firing of Deputy Undersecretary Graeme, his superiors, and everyone else involved in his clique at the State Department. Not a resignation, a firing. Next, you will declare your opposition to any gasoline shipments to Iran and you will not interfere with the efforts of others to interdict those shipments. You will do this within twenty-four hours or I’ll have no other choice but to release the tapes of Jerry Clump to the press a few hours before I nuke a couple of carefully chosen Iranian sites. Bear in mind that I still have these weapons solely because of your administration’s attempt to shaft us, and I’ll make that explicitly clear. I’d prefer not to have to do that, but I will if I must.”

A long silence ensued. General Bradson began to wonder whether the line had gone dead, when he heard the President’s voice, quieter now, almost subdued but dripping menace. “You’re playing a dangerous game, Bradson. I can make sure you never leave that embassy, not alive, anyway.”

“I’ll be blunt; I’ve taken measures regarding the eventuality that I don’t return. Unless I am free before the end of the day, the commander of the mercenaries – who by the way has nuked Iran once already – will launch the strike and release all the tapes. You don’t know the means I’ve planned for the strike and you can’t stop it. As you might guess, my hosts, due to being threatened with another holocaust by the Iranian regime, are not adverse to a third party solving their problem,” General Bradson said, and crossed his fingers, hoping that he would not need to follow through on his threat.

Another long silence ensued, and then the President, seeing that the path of least political damage appeared to be going along with the General’s plan, said, “I’ll be making a speech to announce the firings, the apology, and the Iranian policy adjustment early tomorrow. Now, how do I know you’ll keep your part of the deal?”

Graciously accepting the President’s surrender, General Bradson replied, “Within two hours of your announcement, I’ll render the bombs inert and deliver them to this embassy, Sir. Then, they are in American hands and this issue is behind us, provided that we are never bothered again, and you allow the pressure to remain on Iran until their regime folds.”

After the call ended, General Bradson emerged from the room to find himself face-to-face with three of the embassy Marine guards. The Deputy Chief of Mission stood behind them and opened his mouth to speak. Before he could do so, an aid gestured frantically, calling him aside.

Ten minutes later and five blocks away, General Bradson made a call from a pay phone, to Bill. Without preamble, General Bradson asked, “Did you get it?”

“Yeah, we did. I’ve listened to it, too. Being in the NSA has its uses, after all,” Bill replied. Tapping into a government STU-14 conversation had been fairly easy, given the resources Bill had access to at the NSA.

“You know what to do if I disappear or if he reneges on the deal, right? And then later...”

Bill took a long moment to consider his reply. If he did what the General wanted, he could end up in prison, or worse. However, what had gotten him involved in the first place was his higher duty. Making his decision, he said, “If there are any problems from him in the near future, I’ll act at once. If not, it’ll be like the leak when we detected the fallout from the nuke in Iran; a well-orchestrated and timed release of the information, in mid-October, I think, right before the election. That will torpedo any hopes he has of a second term. There’s enough here, combined with that tape of Jerry Clump that you sent me, to hang him out to dry and I’ll make damn sure it happens,” Bill replied, relieved that the showdown appeared to be over. He had no qualms over his potential role; his disgust with the administration ran long and deep.

General Walter Bradson, USAF, retired, strolled out into the Tel Aviv sunshine with a victor’s smile on his face.

 

 

The next day, Levi Gold joined Helen, the members of Instinct, Felecia, and General Bradson, as they watched the President’s speech.

Helen smiled as the President announced the firings at the State Department, and grinned as her boys began to cheer when the apology and lifting of charges was announced.

“It’s finally over, isn’t it?” Eric asked as he bounded to his feet.

The members of Instinct raced off to share the good news, and Helen followed, to make sure they didn’t inadvertently say too much. Felecia arched an eyebrow in Levi’s direction and asked, “Would you have really let me take the nukes and zap Iran?”

Levi shrugged. “I must answer carefully. I will tell you what we told your Secretary of State, who phoned us yesterday during your chat with your president, and tried to strong-arm us into detaining you and the warheads. We would have not objected when Helen reclaimed her legal property – which was one of the purposes of the legal procedure we insisted upon. From our point of view, the strike you proposed would have served us better than one of our own. We would have escaped much of the blame, and at worst, we would be left with going ahead with our own strike against their underground facilities. Now, let me ask you this; do you still wish to deliver those bombs to the embassy? I can arrange that easily enough, but once they are gone, what guarantees do you have?”

General Bradson glanced at Felecia and smiled. “We have some insurance. I won’t say how, but I have a copy, in the hands of friends, of the President’s conversation with me, including his threats. That, combined with the tapes of Jerry Clump, should be enough to destroy him, or at least cost him the election if he chooses to break his deal and run again. Same goes if he doesn’t keep his promise regarding Iran. You have my solemn promise that I’ll hold him to that. I do need one thing from you, just to be sure: An unconfirmed rumor, in a week or two, from the Mossad, that we captured five bombs in Iran, not four. Let them think I might still have one. That should give them pause if they suddenly develop any clever ideas.”

Levi nodded in agreement, and in spite of not being a military officer, he saluted General Bradson. “There are those who will condemn you if this story ever gets out, but to quote a passage from Theodore Roosevelt, It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat. That man is you, General, and you, Sir, by your intrepid triumph over impossible odds, have done your country, mine, and the world, a great service.”

That was the first time Felecia had ever seen General Bradson blush.

 

 

Later that day, Felecia stood in the hotel lobby, Horst by her side, as she bade her men farewell. Many, she would never see again. They had their money, and now their freedom. With mixed emotions, she watched the first groups of departing mercenaries filing out the hotel door.

 

 

After discussing the matter with Jon, Eric, Brandon, and Chase, Helen received their enthusiastic consent. She then went to see General Bradson and Felecia to make them a job offer. The only issue Helen was adamant on was one she reiterated three times: “No more nukes!”

 

 

Shortly before dinner, Keith knocked on Eric and Jansen’s door. He entered, beaming, when Jansen opened the door, and gave his brother a playful slug on the arm. “You jerks. I’ll get you for what you pulled this morning.” He pointed an accusing finger at Eric, and added, “I hope you guys had a good laugh at our expense.”

“Of course we did,” Eric replied deadpan. “Would you expect any less?”

Keith flopped into an armchair, and Jansen asked, “So, how did it go? You’re in too good a mood for this to be bad news.”

Keith grinned, looking first at Eric and then at Jansen. “Great, actually. We had a blast. We’re going on a dinner-date tonight. Turns out his home base is Camp Pendleton, so he’ll be close by once we get home, and yeah, I heard that we’re okay to go back. It’s been a great day all around. So, partners, does this mean we can still open the club?”

Eric toyed with the idea of making Keith suffer for a few minutes, but then he chuckled and replied, “We’ll start looking for a suitable place just as soon as we get back.”

Eric cracked open a bottle of Israeli whisky, and the three business partners drank a shot to toast their bright and beckoning future.





 

© 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.

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 and Talonrider for Beta reading and advice . Special thanks to MikeL for advice

I hereby dedicate this story to my friend Wildone, who has suffered a horrific accident, but due to his strength, perseverance, and courage has pulled through and is recovering. I wish you a continued speedy recovery, Wildone.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.


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

The General knew exactly what to do! He is sly...but the President really had no choice. Good for Bradson for getting Helen and the boys out of that mess! :)

 

Onto the Epilogue. :(:(:(

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