One of Ari’s worst fears was the inability to protect himself. Being captured then tied down, even in “escaping” the UNWG, exacerbated that fear. Listening to the inane chatter of his teammates, and what their remaining devotion to the Goonies could do, Ari knew it was time for an intervention. He just hoped it was fast and merciful if not good.
“Hey,” he shouted, thinking ‘In for an Agorot, in for a Shekel.’ “Hey, you eben ahbés! You just going to leave us tied up here? I may be crazy, but I’m not this kinky! If I’m getting reamed, at least kiss me!” Looking at his team, he softly continued “Well, mijn lads, we’ll know now one way or the other.”
The big rangy female came over and smiled like a wolf. “You can call me Peepers, Asshole.”
For a split second, Ari considered answering her but thought better of it as she launched into a more detailed introduction. He tuned her out, weighing the possibilities that this was a good turn of events, and if not, how to best get loose and fight back. His internal dialog was interrupted as she suddenly grabbed his face, forcing him to look into her eyes. They bored into him. “Do you want to live free?”
Locking on to her eyes, Ari felt a weight lift from his chest as things were finally getting somewhere good. “Does a Camel shit in the Desert; because this one does. You’re damn right I want to live free.”
To Ari, time seemed to stand still. Still locking eyes with Peepers his awareness expanded; the silent stares of his squad, the actions of the Colonists, the sound of melting snow dripping onto the floor, the smell of charred flesh and clothing. Clint, a UNWG True Believer, with his slack-jawed stare at the exchange, while Tomas and Alex tried to make themselves as inconspicuous as possible while still tied to the examination beds. Tomas was useful, a savant, but always a beat behind in picking up on the unobvious. Alex was competent, but otherwise a blank. Across the room, Blackfeather was having a bandage wrapped around her torso and receiving injections, while her teammates bandaged each other. ‘Interesting,’ Ari would later think, remembering the scene, ‘mixed doubles.’ The four, Blackfeather, Peepers, and the two males in old US military uniforms, would be gone in less than a minute, once Peepers made her decision. Time snapped back into motion, almost audibly.
“Let him up Sally,” Peepers said. “He’s an asshole but, he’s our kind of asshole.”
Thirty minutes earlier.
“You, Corporal, are an asshole.” Lieutenant Tregar didn’t vocalize that statement, but thought it very aggressively towards the team leader standing in front of him. Tregar had finally had a Rogon talk to him – something he dearly wished for, as it held the promise of more – only to find out that backstabbing son of a bitch platoon sergeant had already dispersed Second Platoon. “I’ll have to recommend to our Masters to abolish the multinational forces; I am positive my Dutch sergeant deliberately left me with this problem Dutch-Arab mongrel and the shittiest fire-team of the whole platoon,” he decided, as Corporal (recently demoted, if one did not take into account stasis-time) Ari al-Yamar threw a sloppy salute.
“At ease, Corporal. You and your team are to accompany me with our Shintok Masters,” Tregar, while a fine specimen of a sycophant, was unable to distinguish between one Rogon and another, “to the southwest where there is some type of bunker. I’ve selected you especially for this task so Don’t. Screw. Up. Do you understand me?”
“Ik begrijp en zal niet tevredenstellen. Boerelul.”
“What was that, Corporal?”
“Jawohl, Luitenant.” Ari threw out his left arm, clearly enjoying Tregar’s agitation.
“Corporal – if you make it out of this alive, so help me…”
“Follow,” the lead Rogon hissed, and began the trek towards the colonist’s bio-lab. Quickly, Tregar fell into place, with Ari’s team more than a few steps behind. “Hurry UP, Corporal!” Ari hand-signed for his team to move at full speed, all the while wondering “what the hell am I doing with these nebbishes?”
“Ari, how is it that you of all people get to be untied?”
Ari sighed and rose, not turning to look at his teammate. “Stuff it before I shove a sock in there, Clint. You really are a schmuck, aren’t you?” ‘Now,’ he thought, ‘what to do to be useful without looking suspicious doing it.’ His squad, still bound where they lay, hissed quietly among themselves. ‘I’m going to have to kill that one before he gets the others killed,’ he silently resolved. Looking around, Ari gained his bearings. There was activity around some of the wounded; Blackfeather’s team brought in some children that were apparently injured in the attack. Still more were being brought in by others, or more were about to be if he overheard right. There were already some twelve or so bodies already there, in death’s embrace.
A body off to the left moaned, one of the few wounded amongst the dead. On moving closer, it was a man, badly burned and bleeding. While there was an IV drip in what was left of his arm, as far as Ari could make out it was only a palliative, a morphine drip. “What did the klojo do to you, kerel?” Ari whispered. Second and third degree burns covered the body, or what was left of it. The left hand, and most of both legs below the knees, were gone, the burns all but cauterizing the amputations. The stench of burned hair and clothing clung to him, assaulting Ari’s nostrils.
“Karen,” the man moaned, mishearing Ari, “Karen…” He started moving, threatening the IV’s tenuous hold on his vein. “Easy now. She’ll be all right,” Ari tried, hoping to calm him, “Just hold still, the medics are coming.” There were women, or so it appeared, among the burned dead. Without more information, the safe presumption was she lay dead. Not for the first time that day, the thought ‘Vervloekte Rogons’ crossed Ari’s mind. Looking around, he saw a canister piled amid the supplies. Whispering a prayer, Ari grabbed it, and was rewarded with his find; a gel burn blanket, ready for use. “Neuken! Hold still,” he told the whimpering form while trying to get the blanket to cover him without disturbing the IV. When Ari was reasonably satisfied that all was secure, he crouched next to the form. “Hey, guy… hey kerel, what’s your name.”
No answer – no moans either.
Ari leaned in, barely an inch from the man’s lips. No sound of breathing. Maybe a feel… no, too much air movement in the room. He was gone. With a sigh, Ari stood. “I’m sorry. I tried. I’m … I’m sorry.” He looked around; not more than a few minutes had elapsed through it all, everyone else was engrossed in their own tribulations. “Well, Kerel, it’s just you and me. I don’t know what you believe, but I’ll give you what I can. “Yis’ga’dal v’yis’kadash sh’may ra’bbah…”