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25 October 2026 @ 10:29 pm
After my fiance thought I had a second, secret LJ, I had an idea.

Why don't I get a second LJ and use it for writing?

See, I'm always getting distracted while openning MSWord and never actually getting anything on "paper"...

So, I figure I can write a story here, get feedback and maybe ideas from others and not spam my primary LJ!

So, here's the rules...

1. My LJ, My Story, My Rules.

That being said, I appreciate any input at all. If it's good and adds to the story, maybe I'll make it a team effort.

2. We're not using my name here or the fiance's

3. If you don't like something, tell me why and give ideas for changing it.

(More to follow)

Some notes:

This entry is dated 2026 so it stays on top. If it keeps showing up on your friend's page first, tell me and I'll try to figure out how to fix it here to stay on top.

Second, the backstory entries are backdated 10 years (1996) and character info is backdated to 1986...

...and friends locked so as not to get in the way or spoil the story.
27 December 2006 @ 02:31 am

  • abaya - long tunic
  • attabegs - governors, under Ottoman rule
  • bab - gate
  • bema - altar which symbolizes the place where Jesus prayed
  • caramat - miracles
  • cella - the section of the sanctuary where the gods were represented
  • chotts - in North Africa, a vast expanse of stagnant salt water
  • fatwa - a ruling by Muslim authorities based on their interpretation of Islam
  • hammam - bath house
  • imaret - people's kitchen
  • Iraq - ancient Aramaic for "black, muddy land"
  • iwan - semi-circular vaults that open onto the courtyard and are reserved for the study of the Qur'an and hadith
  • keleks - rafts made of inflated bags of animal skin
  • khan - inns for caravans and travellers that dotted the various trade routes in the Middle East and Asia
  • kunasa - depot
  • madrasa - school
  • majlis - gallery
  • mandi - Mandean temple
  • maqam - ancient modes upon which Arabic music is built and contain quarter tones
  • masgouf - the traditional Iraqi way of cooking fish
  • minbar - the chair from which the imam delivers his sermon
  • mirhab - niche built into the wall of a mosque to indicate the direction of Mecca
  • moudhif - guesthouse
  • musala - prayer room
  • norias - waterwheels that supply river water to networks of irrigation canals
  • oud - pear-shaped fretless lute
  • Qa'aba - the sacred black rock that pilgrims walk around in the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca
  • qala'a - citadel
  • qaqai - Kurds from the region of Khanaqin, or Kurds living in Kirkuk or Mosul
  • qassab - a kind of giant bamboo
  • rasta - Mandean traditional costume of a white cotton robe, tied at the waist with a burlap cord.
  • serai - palace
  • shabbut - carp from the Tigris river
  • takyah - religious center
  • tarada - flat boats made of reeds, tightly bound and covered in tar and petroleum
  • tariqa - a religious brotherhood
  • tell - archaeology term, from the Arabic word for hill. A mound formed by the accumulated remains of ancient settlements
  • temenos - a rectangular esplenade surrounded by a wall of cut blocks of stone along which the merchants of the time had their boutiques
  • umma - community of believers in Islam; the Arab world, without boundries
  • vilayat - province
  • zibib - a drink made from macerated raisins
  • ziggurat - a great tower, with steps winding around it
  • -
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Munier, Giles Iraq: an illustrated history and guide (2004)
21 November 2006 @ 12:03 am
Flies buzzed in the tepid mountain air, wandering from one pile to another pile of sheep and goat droppings. Narrow roads wandered along the underlying contours under the mountaintop village of painted mud daub houses with flat or angled sheet tin roofs. Few civilians were outside. Those few who were were armed and moving towards an road that ran along the north edge of the village.

"What's going on out there? Red? Tommy?" young Jack O'Neil yelled over the cacophony of incoming AK fire. Wearing Army ACU's, Interceptor vest, and a boonie hat, his shoulder patch was the one-winged bayonet of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and his collar wore the two chevrons of corporal. He wore aviator's gloves with the finger tips chopped and melted against unraveling and the long gauntlet portion rolled down into a cuff.

He crouched behind a low pile of weather worn lumber that masked him from the long axis of the narrow mountain roadway. Spotting a shooter peeking over the edge of the mud daub building across the dirt street and then crawling along behind the raised edge of the flat roof, Jack moved his head back and forth to gauge the range before raising his M4 carbine to his eye and waited.

The shooter popped his head up over the ledge, poking the muzzle of an AK over with it. Jack adjusted and squeezed off a single round. The shooter's head twisted to the left and he slumped out of sight.

"Let's go guys." he called toward the busted open door of a single story house. "It's getting a little warm out here. We need to be somewhere else... soon."

"Almost there, Corporal..." came a voice from inside.

A burst of AK fire chipped into the wall across the street, leaving pockmarks in the rock-hard mud construction.

"Got it Corporal!" Red said and came out the door a moment later with his carbine in one hand and a wooden box in the other. The other two members of Jack's Fire Team followed an instant later.

"Go that way." Jack said and indicated the direction away from the fire with a nod of the head. "Stuckey, drop half a box down the alley if anything moves."

"Can do." the big Iowa farm boy said and started moving out. Red followed but Tommy waited for Jack.

A new shooter appeared on the far side roof. Jack skeet shot him on the fly.

"Move out, Tommy. I got trail."

"Roger that." the black paratrooper said.

Jack waited about ten seconds for his troops to get ahead. He stood, thumbed his carbine to Burst, and emptied the magazine into the likely hiding places of shooters down the street. Dropping the smoking carbine onto the sling, he pulled two hand grenades off his vest, pulled the pins with his thumbs, lobbed one onto the far-side roof, and pitched the other down the street towards the corner.

Not waiting for the grenades to cook off, Jack turned and started towards his men at a jog, reloading his carbine on the move.

"Any problems, O'Neill?" Second Lieutenant Lyons asked as Jack led his team through the arch in the bottom edge of the camouflage netting and into the platoon command post.

"Just some pissed off locals and a microscopic increase in the defense budget."

The lieutenant scowled, trying to make the connection. Standing behind the clean cut, by-the-book 2LT, Sergeant First Class Rarrick hung his shaved head and shook it while grinning.

Jack let his carbine rest on its sling, his right hand still on the pistol grip in a relaxed sort of way. With his left, he motioned Red to put the wooden case on a folding field desk.

"It wasn't a problem, sir. With the detailed directions you gave us, it was a walk in the park."

The lieutenant walked to the desk and put a hand on the case and looked off toward the mountains to the south of their valley encampment. The sun through the camouflage net mottled his face with shadow and light, masking his eyes.

"You wouldn't happen to be willing to tell us how you knew exactly where that thing was? Would you LT? Just out of curiosity..."

"What? Oh... I didn't ask. Battalion didn't tell us. They only instructed the Captain to have someone go there and get it. Time was of the essence. We picked your team."

Jack pursed his lips and nodded slightly.

"I see. Thank you sir."

Jack turned to leave the CP.

"Jack?" SFC Rarrick said.

"Sarge?" Jack answered, pausing and turning towards the platoon sergeant.

"There's still some hot chow over at the SP for you and your men. Top's holding your mail until he comes back around later."

"Thanks, Sarge. I'll make sure my men get the message."

"Top's got a letter for you too."

Jack raised an eyebrow at that.

"Junk mail, probably." Jack joked.

SFC Rarrick shrugged.

Jack left the CP and rejoined his fire team.
20 November 2006 @ 11:25 pm
“I swear to God I’ve been here before, Sarge.” Corporal Jack O’Neill told the large Hispanic man lying on his armored stomach beside him on a desert ridge. “I just can’t place it…”

“Smartass, you are full of shit. The only white boys been to this part of Iraq in decades probably spoke Russian and you no speak Russian.”

The younger man, bulked up by tactical vest and Interceptor armor, still moved with an easy sense of energy as he backed away down the ridge and then stood up to walk towards the scrub tree his fire team sought the shade of. He grinned as he walked up, sometimes more a ring leader than the formal leader his chain of command preferred.

He only had three men under him so far, but they were good soldiers: a big Iowa farm boy named Stuckey on the SAW, an even bigger and more muscular black private named Thomas with an M203, and the redheaded Irishman Seay who everyone stereotypically called “Red”.


“I’m not quite sure… what I feel towards General West.” Jack stared intensely, a flash of anger in them. “Imagine you wanted to put an end to your life. You go to your, I don’t know, father… and he hands you a loaded gun and tells you to do a good job with it. That’s what General West did for me. He gave me what I wanted. What I wanted at the time.” Jack’s voice trailed off at the end and he looked away.

“He was a father figure to you?” Daniel asked in a soothing tone.

“More than my own in many ways.” Jack sighed and leaned back, making the air hiss out of his padded leather chair. “Yet, behind it all I knew all he wanted was what I could do for him, to accomplish the mission, to pull off the impossible without leaving a trace.”

It was odd for Daniel, it seemed so wrong for his comrade to talk so frankly about his past—the old trooper Jack was hid these kind of things. Yet, Daniel knew that Jack needed to share this and he needed to keep him talking.
“What did you get in exchange?”

Jack chuckled sadly.

“I got all the schools I wanted, promotions ahead of peers, and a never ending supply of adrenaline and combat.” Jack leaned forward suddenly, resting his elbows on the desk and got an alien countenance, an almost impish look. “Daniel, have you ever… Has there ever been anything for you, say a translation that no one else could crack or some… archeology whatever that you look at and just know that you are the only one who can crack it? Nothing easy… Something you really will have to work hard for, but only you can get it done? Then you do it, you feel great until you realize… I can do better?”


“I needed that. I lived for it. Everything else…” Jack sat back and visibly saddened. “…until Sarah and…”

Daniel felt like he should do something, but did not know what.

“Charlie.” Jack sighed as he said the name, almost as if a physical burden left him. “Until them… everything else was marking time until the next mission.” He sadly chuckled. “The accident… the accident pitched me back into the need, it was like ‘If I can get back on the trail, I can feel better, I can die doing it and the pain will be over.’” Jack looked Daniel in the eye. “Then you came on board here,” Jack indicated the base with a wave, “and old General West stepped back in and handed me exactly what I wanted… When I stepped through the gate, I was not coming back. Didn’t want to, wasn’t going to.”

“Then you started caring again.”

Jack smiled sadly. “I started caring and then I started seeing what I could do. No ‘kill subject blue’ and return with proof and never knowing why or what the fallout was. There… on Abydos… We made a difference and I could see it. It was redemption.”

“Must have been pretty nice to come back after that.”

Jack laughed and shook his head.

“Hell no. Sarah was gone and… I still wasn’t ready to face that down. General West… He was pissed beyond words. I had to get my stereo back from…” Jack’s voice trailed off. “It was hard to start over… I was a different person and no one… No one knew how to face me. Kowalsky tried and did a pretty good job. He’d seen the change. Mostly, I just retired again and spent a lot of time watching the stars. I never thought I would ever get another mission I could really feel good about.”

“Like Abydos?”

“Like Abydos.”

“So… What, if anything, do you plan on doing about General West missing in Iraq?”

“Unless and until it’s deemed pertinent to Homeworld Defense, I think I’ll be fine with staying out of it.”

Jack stood and tugged his Class A jacket down. “In the mean time, I have a lot of work to do.”

Daniel stood, put his hands in his fatigue pockets and made his unbuttoned fatigue blouse bellow out.

They stood and looked at each other for a moment in silence.

“So… Lunch?” Daniel asked.

“You buyin’…?”

Daniel bit his lip and scowled.

“I left my billfold in my BDU’s”

Daniel shrugged, acquiescing.

“Great, you get changed and I’ll meet you upstairs. I’ve really missed the steaks they serve at O'Malleys.”

...Archaeology dig...

...empty sarcophagus...

Ahead, in the light of his weapon light, he saw the squat half-clamshell shape of a cargo ship.

“Found you.”

The Fedayeen Saddam attack began in the morning.

...Fedayeen attack...

“Are you in the circle I showed you?” Jack asked into the radio.

His interteam radio squawked and he heard SSG Rios’ voice and carbine-fire in the background.

“We’re standing here. Maybe you could hurry a bit?”

Leaving the cargo ship’s controls on station-keeping, Jack keyed the transport rings and watched them rise from the floor and cycle. When they cleared, the survivors of his squad and General West, supported between Stuckey and Fernandez, stood in a rapidly dissipating cloud of fine dust.
“Well, Beam me up Scotty!” Stuckey said boisterously.

“Have a seat.” Jack ordered and returned to the controls. Bringing up the tactical display, he saw a pair of aircraft bearing down on them from the direction of Tehran. “We have incoming and I don’t think they’re friendly.”

He scanned the controls, looking for the button while chanting “Come on baby, have it. Have it. Have it. Have it.” Finding the button, he grinned and pushed it. “Got it.”

“Got what?” SSG Rios said as he came up behind Jack.

“Cloaking device.”

“Mi Dios.” The older NCO muttered and looked around, marveling.

Jack pushed the controls forward, picking up forward velocity as they sped down the cave and into the open, before pulling up and back. The little ship arced for the sky. Pushing into the blue until it faded into black. Moving into a low Earth orbit, he activated long range scanners until he found what he had hoped to find.

Opening a channel on the ship’s communicator, he said “Hello Prometheus, this is Corporal Jack O’Neill. Please connect me to Stargate Command.”

Seated across the briefing room table from one another, General West, his eye patched and his arm in a sling, faced the the young Corporal Jack O’Neil. Both wore OD fatigues and regarded each other distantly. Through the glass starchart separating the briefing room from the commander’s office, both could see Lieutenant General Jack O’Neill and Major General Hank Landry talking.

Young Jack bided the time with a comic book he paid an SF to bring him while patently avoiding the glare of the older man across the table.

Finally, the door opened and the other two entered.

Young Jack rose slowly, training fighting against the strangeness of the situation.

General West stayed seated.

General Landry paused at the door to his office, letting Jack go ahead.

“General West.” Jack nodded an acknowledgment.

“Jack.” West replied paternally.

The two men stared at each other. The underlying sense of hostility ran counter to the polite deference between the two men.
“I never thought I’d get to see you with a star on your collar. Let alone three, Jack.”

“Not command material, General?”

West shook his head. “No, Jack. I never thought you’d live long enough.” West said, totally deadpan.

Jack took a breath and held it for a moment.

Jack made eye contact with young Jack. “For a long time, I didn’t care if I lived or died, only if I completed the mission or not.”

“What changed?”

“I started to care about my people and started to see the results of the mission.” Jack said and stood straighter. My being around to help them became important. It’s all about the people now.”

General West nodded.

Young Jack’s eyes flashed anger for a moment towards his older self, his forced divorce from everyone he had known before. Then understanding set in and the look softened. He had his own people now.

“Look, General West. Technically, you aren’t even supposed to know about this facility...”

“I started the damn thing, Jack.”

“Yes, sir, you did, but the situation’s changed since you left.” Jack glanced back at Landry who shrugged. “Still, since you are here and have some clearances… We can put you up for the night and you can see your son tomorrow when he returns from off world.”

“My son?” General West asked, surprised.

Jack nodded.

“Frank’s one of mine. er... Landry’s. I can’t tell you anything else, but I figure you can see him tomorrow.” Jack beckoned the two SF’s by the spiral stairs to him. “Sergeant Todd, assist the General to Medical.”

“Yes, sir.” The senior SF replied before the two SF’s started moving in near perfect unison.

Jack waited for the General to leave. Turning to the SGC’s commander, he asked “Can I have a few minutes, Hank?”

General Landry nodded and motioned for the SF at the desk to follow him then went into his office and closed the door.

Young Jack and old Jack faced each other.

“We need to stop meeting like this.”

Young Jack, slouched in his chair, shrugged and put his hands behind his head.

“I really should nail you for breaking security.”

“And what? Bust me back to private? You know, with what we found and who West is, it was a righteous call.“

Old Jack half shrugged.

“Not your call. But, you do have a point.”

Both men looked away for a moment.

“What I said about ‘my people’... I didn’t mean...”

Young Jack smirked.

“It’s fine, old man. I’ve got my own people now. Still miss the ‘old’ team, but the new ones’ll do.”

The two men shared a smile.

“You need to lose the ‘old man’ bit.”

“Hey! What am I supposed to call you? Old Jack? Jack one? Dad?”

They looked at each other for a moment. The general seemed to fade for a moment.

“This is weird again.”


Lieutenant General Jack O’Neill made as if to say something, paused, and wandered back into General Landry’s office.

Corporal Jack O’Neill stood up, rolled up his comic book and put it in his thigh pocket. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he headed for the mess hall.

“Maybe they’ll have blue jello...”

Jack was delirious again, the ground felt like it was melting beneath his feet and he dropped to his hands and knees to keep from falling.

"Damn it--not again." He groaned and dropped his head, ready to vomit the goat meat he had eaten for breakfast. He shuddered and fell over.

There was no way for him to tell how long he lied in the sun, his lips burned and crisped. He couldn't move.

"So far..." he sighed. "Too damned far to give--"

A shadow fell across his face and he forced his eyes open.

A dark faced man in a uniform leaned over him, unshaven today and reeking of cigarette smoke.

"It's over." Jack mouthed to himself.

The dark faced shoulder stood--letting the sun blind Jack--and all Jack's brain could make out of what the soldier yelled was "American".

Another man appeared beside the first, looking quizzically at Jack. He knelt, taking a canteen from a pouch at his side.

"We have you now." the man said as he leaned in toward Jack and tried to put his canteen to Jack’s lips.

Jack tried to move—-tried to speak—-but the warm water stung even as it was welcome to his lips. Jack sipped.

The water stopped.

Jack blinked and finally made sound: “Iraq?”

The man laughed. “No, Turkey!”
20 November 2006 @ 11:06 pm

Two white Chevrolet Suburbans with limo tint armored glass cruised a dirt road freshly scraped into the hard packed desert soil. A half mile ahead, a Toyota four-by-four with a .50 Browning mounted to its roll cage and a bed-full of AK armed men in khaki left a cloud of dust as it led the American made SUV’s north toward a distant ridge and beyond to the city of Karkuk. To the east, the original highway, a jagged mosaic of asphalt slabs, disappeared here and again where sappers had cut it to string obstacles. On either side of both roads, scattered half-visible antitank mines marked this area as one of many Middle Eastern battlefields.

In the back seat of the second Suburban, a stern faced old soldier dressed in button down shirt, cameraman’s vest, khaki pants, and fine grained leather boots watched the terrain through the thick glass in air conditioned comfort. His moustache still met regulations though his current employers required no uniform standards. Old habits died hard in him, like the two veteran troopers in the front seats and the four in the Suburban ahead of them.

Only the fourth man, seated beside him lacked the discipline air of a soldier as he typed rapidly into a plasma screened laptop and wearing achingly new khakis and jungle boots.

“I’ve got a real-time feed from the Predator, General.”

The old soldier turned toward the young man.

“Here we are...” He watched the UAV’s camera pan over the dirt road from 15,000 feet. “There’s the escort truck...” his eyes widened and his skin blanched. “Oh shit!”

The explosion blew out the front left wheel of the Toyota, pitched it up and then back down where the truck caught the ground and planted the truck’s nose into the dirt. The truck flipped tail into the air flinging the men in the bed forward and out. Landing on its roof, the truck rocked slightly and settled. The first Suburban slammed on its brakes to drop slower than 35mph then flipped a J-turn to go back the way they came. The second vehicle followed suit.

“What air assets are in the area?” the team commander asked the young man.

“Stand by, I’m up-linking a secure channel to the regional AWAC.” He said as he worked the laptop’s thumbpad with one hand and jacked in a headset with the other. A few seconds later he was talking to the orbiting AWAC’s.

In the front passenger seat, the operator pulled his FN Para-SAW off the floor between his knees and cocked it. The team commander flipped his photographer’s vest open and drew a chopped .45 from a shoulder holster. He jacked the slide and applied the thumb safety then rested it across his right knee.

“Maybe it was a leftover mine?” the driver yelled over the engine noise. “Something they missed?”

The team commander looked at the man with the computer.

“I’m having the UAV fly over...” The young man paused. “Ummm... something just knocked down the UA...”

The truck violently twisted to the right and forward. Both men in the rear impacted the front seats but the two in the front weren’t so lucky. Unlike normal auto glass, ballistic glass doesn’t flex on the impact of a human body or break and ease some of the impact. The two men hit like rag dolls.

Heavy enough not to flip with the front passenger wheel blown off--the white SUV slid to a stop against the two foot high ridge of bulldozer spoil at road’s edge and was immediately masked by the cloud of dust that had been chasing it.

The other SUV made it little farther before a second recoilless rifle caught it and flipped it into the mines along the road. The mines blowing through the roof on contact killed the men inside.

Five men rose from where they had lain hidden in a covered trench among the mines dressed in Bedoin robes and shemagh. Moving quickly along a path laid open through patient, steady work with long bayonets, they approached the mostly intact SUV with AK’s held tight under their arms and tugged the door open.

A chopped .45 fell out into the dirt. Its gold plated trigger and a gold plate inlaid in the left grip glinted in the sun. On the grip plate, engraved in fancy script was “General Delmar F. West, USAF.”

The briefing room was dark and cool with stadium seating for fifty and an off center podium beside a pull-down movie screen. The seated men joked amongst themselves and traded jabs.

All except four of the twenty two men.

One sat in the front row, a wall of empty seats around him. A square jawed man with a buzz cut, he looked more like a Marine than the Air Force Captain his uniform said he was. Breathing in as he smoked, he stared at the blank screen. His pale blue Class B shirt bore only his rank, two pair of silver bars on the epaulets, jump wings on the left breast and a dark blue name tag bearing the name “O’Neill” on his right.

Another captain and a staff sergeant in olive drab fatigues entered through a side door carrying stacks of manila folders and transparencies. A man in a gray sport coat with elbow patches and tan pants followed them in and took a seat to the right of the screen.

Most of the men did not notice.

The two uniformed personnel began setting up their briefing.

A tall stern soldier of about forty wearing the silver eagles of colonel entered the room with two junior men in uniform.

“Attenshun!” called a man near the door.

The entire unit stood to attention and waited.

Colonel West crossed the floor with an easy stride and took a seat next to O’Neill.

O’Neill sat up straighter and tapped his cigarette out against the metal base of his seat.

“Carry on.” Colonel West said atonally to the room. Looking straight ahead as he spoke, he addressed O’Neill quietly. “How have you been Jack?”

“I’ve been well, sir.”

“How’s the wife?”

“Sara is fine sir. Studying for finals.”

The captain at the podium cleared his throat into the mike and started.

“Gentlemen, as of this time—eleven hundred hours Zulu, 17 August 1982—Jump Two is in isolation. Any communication with personnel outside this facility or without written authorization by the Commander is grounds for immediate confinement and courts martial. Any release, intentional or unintentional, of the contents of this briefing or associated materials is also punishable under the UCMJ. In all cases, violations are considered detriments to national security and the maximum punishment is death.”

The captain took a drink of water from a glass on the podium and looked at the men he was briefing.

“Now that we have the mandatory doom and gloom out of the way, we can begin.”

Some in the audience laughed, most stayed silent.

He nodded at the staff sergeant at the overhead projector. The enlisted airman clicked the Elmo projector on to reveal the first transparency, a cover sheet:




“Jump Two’s mission is to—on orders—infiltrate northeastern Iraq by air, establish a forward operating base, and accomplish three tasks. Number one, emplace a series of automated signal intelligence stations in the region. Number two, locate an Iraqi intelligence officer named Hamid Al Jiboori, eliminate him, and procure any and all files he may have in his possession. Number three, recon the local area for and stand by for follow on missions.”

The captain took another drink and the slide was replaced by a map of Turkey and northern Iraq.

“On orders, you will move via Military Airlift Command assets to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. There, Alpha and Bravo Squads will board a C-123 for the flight to Batman Air Base. At Batman, Alpha and Bravo Squads will be boarded onto OV-10’s for the infiltration flight over the mountains into Iraq. Alpha will be dropped static line from low altitude with a targetted dropzone is 12 miles northwest of as-Sulaymaniyah. Bravo will continue with the aircraft and establish a remote forward operating base Gecko further south. Upon confirmation of FOB “Gecko’s” establishment, the rest of Jump Two will board an Air America 707 regularly scheduled for flight into Kirkuk as technicians. They will exfiltrate Kirkuk and rendevouz at the dropzone 12 miles northwest of as-Sulaymaniyah before advancing to FOB Gecko”.

The map was replaced by another focussing on the area from Kirkuk to the Iranian border. The briefing continued at length with accompanying maps, slides, and timelines.

“Remember, as of this time, we are nominally friends with the Iraqis. This mission, if discovered, would be a serious embarrassment to the United States government. Do not get caught. I say again: do not get caught.”

A quartet of tan painted aircraft cruised low over rocky gorges of the Zagros mountains, one after the other. Twin engined and twin boomed with a central fuseladge with a long bulbous canopy, the twin props droned into the high mountain air. The rear nacelle of two of the aircraft were removed and in the open rear fuselages of the two lead aircraft Alpha Squad’s men sat front-to-back with their rucksacks between them puffing foggy breath into the cold air.

Staying low and avoiding the primary line of Iraqi air defense units, the flight wandered south southeast and down into the stony canyons. Swooping along them and crawling back up and over the ridges between, the pilots scanned the terrain ahead with night vision binoculars clipped to their flight helmets giving each pilot a pair of pale green raccoon eyes. Silently, they worked the planes’ controls with practiced skill.

O’Neill sat in the open rear of the number three aircraft and silently shivered through his field jacket and desert fatigues. Bug-eyed with goggles and parachutists helmet, he tried to keep his legs up and out of the airstream from below.

The aircraft rolled gently to the right to come up across a ridgeline. The engines throttled up for the climb.

A flight of startled birds leapt skyward from the ridge as the lead aircraft crossed. In the dark, they were practically invisible. The second aircraft’s pilot caught the blur of motion and banked away.

The third pilot never saw the bird that struck the right propeller.

The bird caught the tip of the propeller blade and it shattered. The asymetry of the rotation and the change of the propeller’s velocity made the aircraft buck. Even before he knew what happened, the pilot was already feathering the prop on the engine, trimming the rudder and bringing up the left engine’s power. By the time the pilot could glance over to his right, Captain Jack O’Neill’s parachute was openning.

The canopy openned automatically when the static line clipped to the airplane pulled taut then released, but the flight level was too low for a safe drop. The canopy snapped open a split second before O’Neil hit the ground and rolled. Rolling head over heels down the far side of the ridge, the shroud lines then canopy wrapped around him, cacooning him. A third of the way down, O’Neill rolled into the back of a rock outcropping and stopped.

Groaning, he started fighting against his canopy to crawl inside the canopy but passed out before he made progress.

As dawn came, the small Kurdish town in the valley below came alive with the sounds of men moving out to tend their livestock.

Bright winter sun shone down on the rough badlands of northern Iraq. The foot high grass couldn’t decide if it was green or dying except where it grew in the shade of the rocky outcroppings of the mountainsides. Ancient footpaths tracked back and forth up the slopes where herds moved to graze.

“I’ve been here before, Sarge.” Corporal Jack O’Neill told the large hispanic man lying on his armored stomach beside him on a low ridge overlooking a highland village. “But I just can’t place it—“

“Smartass, you are full of shit, son. The only white boys been to this part of Iraq probably spoke Russian and you no speak Russian.”

“I’ve seen this place before.”

“You keep telling us that shit and I’ll send you to the rear for a psych eval.”

The younger man, bulked with a load bearing vest and Interceptor body armor, still moved with an easy sense of energy as he backed away down the ridge. He stood to walk toward the scrub tree his fireteam sought shade under. He grinned as he walked up, often more ringleader than the formal leader his chain of command preferred.

His three men were good soldiers: a big Iowa farm boy named Stuckey on the SAW, an even bigger and more muscular black private named Thomas with an M203, and a redheaded Irishman, Seay, everyone stereotypically called “Red”.

“Whatcha’ see?” Stuckey asked. “We goin’ over the hill yet?”

“Not yet and not much. No… make that ‘not much and not yet’. There’s a ville on the the other side surrounded by sheep pens.” O’Neil explained to his fireteam. “Sargento says we’re pulling back to the hillside until dark.”

“Then what?” Thomas asked, shrugging to get his weapon sling off his first aid pouch where it was hung up. “Are we goin’ in in the dark?”

“You scared?” Stuckey asked his teammate. “You dark enough they can’t see you unless you smile at them,”

“Cut that shit out, you two.” O’Neil ordered. He glanced back down the ridge where his squad leader was motioning them toward him. “Mount up and let’s go. When we get back, we’ll start a rest rotation until stand-to at sunset.”

The four men, O’Neil in the lead and Stuckey with the squad auto immediately behind him, strode off at an easy pace toward their squad leader. The chill wind at their backs seemed to help them along.

"Oh God..." Jack groaned and tried to choke back his last meal. He clawed at the silk shroud. He retched and tried to suck in the hot moist air. "Ungh..."

He fell over sideways aginst the rock and vomited, covering himself and moistening the canopy. The sickly-sweet smell made him heave until his stomach was empty. Several long minutes later, he weakly reached for his combat knife. Punching it through the thin sheet, he tried to cut but the fabric slid along the blade until he pushed it out with one gloved hand and cut away from his hand.

He gulped in the fresh air and lunged for the opening only to be stopped by his harness. Dropping the knife, he popped the quick-release and crawled into the open.

Slumping forward, he gulped the clean air and passed out again.
26 October 1976 @ 12:56 am
"What’s that smell?" the woman asked her male companion.

They paused on the forest trail and he looked around and sniffed at the cold air.

"I don't know. Maybe rotting meat?" The man turned around in place, trying to look through the stands of black spruce on the gently sloped hillside. "It seems to be coming from up the hill a bit."

"Think there's a bear around, hon?"

"I wouldn't expect one this close to town so soon after the thaw. Especially without the fish spawning yet." He pointed toward a gap in the trees and said "This way."

They moved across the rough ground and into a clearing. In the middle of the clearing was an unpainted wood cabin with a sharply sloped roof clad in blue tar shingle. The storm shutters were closed except the attic windows’. The sun glinted off the grid of glass panes except a single pane in the center of the window.

The two moved toward the door and began calling "Hello!" and "Is anyone here?" as they walked up the stone and mortar steps onto the porch. Many parallel gouges showed where some form of wild animal had tried to get in.

"Oh!" the woman said, startled, as she stumbled over a snow shovel on the porch. "That's odd."

"Look at that." the man said, pointing out a rusted axe wedged into a stump by a cord of firewood along one side of the cabin.

The woman rapped on the door with her knuckles.

"Hello? Is anyone here?"

She tried the knob and it opened.

The odor of rancid meat rolled over them and the man turned to the side and retched twice before vomiting onto the porch.

"Stay here." the woman told him and, visibly bracing herself, walked into the cold interior of the cabin.

The only light in the downstairs were diamond shaped columns let in by the decorative shapes carved into the storm shutters. She blinked twice and waited for her eyes to adjust. She looked around and saw a pile of luggage, nice designer luggage, the kind with hidden wheels, piled neatly beside the door. There was a thin layer of dust on it. Across the living area, on the dining table were several mugs and a laptop computer with its screen off. There were several white ceramic coffee mugs on the table and one that was darker. She squinted and could make out the letters "MIT" on it.

There was no movement.

She moved across the room, carefully avoiding tripping over the rolled up edge of a large floor rug, and into the hallway beyond.

The odor got more intense, she retched but was able to control it.

There were stairs to her left as she entered the hallway, quickly rising stairs. She took them, having to find each step by feel in the shadow.

Above, she saw the doorway at the top of the stairs clearly because of the open window. She approached the top of the stairs and looked into the room. The first things she saw were legs.

"Hello?" she yelled.

She leaned in farther and saw them.

Three bodies sat side-by-side against a bed set against the flat rear wall of the room. The odor was emanating off them because they were rotting.

Their heads were on the bed behind them, eyelids draped over collapsed eyes, seemingly staring at a camera on a chair facing them.

She screamed and hurled.

A middle age man that looked like the bastard son of Steven King and Homer Simpson sat behind a large wooden desk in a blue carpet walled cubicle typing on a PC that had seen better days. Squinting and grimacing, he worked his glasses back up his nose without breaking stride on the report he typed.

"Here you go." said a tall black man wearing a pistol, handcuffs, and a badge holder on his belt. He dropped a manilla folded on a pile at the corner of the desk. He snorted and said "That would go faster if you learned how to type."

The first man leaned back in his office chair and grinned.

"Y'know Will, if you actually got out of the office, you might catch someone."

"Hrrumph. It's only just thawed--and you know what they say about blacks and snow."

"What do they say?"

Special Agent William Washington shook his head slowly and turned to go.

"Hey, Will..."


"What did you bring me?"

"Oh. Just came in on the fax line. They found four bodies in a cabin outside Nome."

"That's not much of a case file." he said, pointing at the folder.

"Not a case file. They tried to run three of the vic's names and they came back as federal employees. They want us to run their files for them."

"You can't...?"

"Not me, my man, I've got to skedaddle. Willy Jr.'s got a hockey game."

"Thanks, I think."

"Not a problem." Washington said and gave his buddy's shoulder a friendly squeeze.

Special Agent Adrian Zihlman reached for the file and openned it. There were two pages, a request for information from the Alaska Department of Public Safety and a xerox copy of three driver's licences with the names Steven Bowser, Emily Cameron, and Radislaw Dekownik.

He looked out the window, looking across the Steese Highway and Chena river towards the mountain just north of Fort Wainwright.

Sighing deeply, he set the folder aside and returned to his typing.

"We've almost got it..." a large beer-bellied maintenance man said as he looked over his partner's shoulder at the edge of the stage. His partner's replies were masked by the stage, but his were quite clear and quite loud as he offered the junior man his professional guidance.

"Goddammit, try the other one. That... THAT one... Yeah, whatever... Ya' always gotta' try every goddammned one of them, Joe."

The man stood up, hiked the back of his drooping pants up and took two booming steps towards the woman wiating patiently at the podium.

"We got it now, ma'am. You can try it if you like."

He grinned.

She smiled back politely and leaned in toward the microphone on the lecturn.

"Test. Test. Test."

Her words echoed back from the auditorium's speakers, sounding particularly loud because of the large number of empty plastic-backed seats. The bright spotlights focussed on the lecturn only added to the odd interaction between sound and sight in the auditorium.

"Thank you." she told the maintenance man with a smile that wasn't quite one around her blue eyes.

The maintenance man gave her the once over one more time before gathering up his tools and his drooping pants and heading for the door.

Dr. Deborah Theiss sorted her Power Point slide outlines into two piles and put them into seperate folders.

"Doctor Theiss?" a voice asked.

(More later)