The last thing that Ari had expected was to be summoned to Ft. Stuart, nor to be directed to the Office of General Stuart by a Bot calling himself SFC Nug.
“Come in Cpl. If you drink the Bar is in the back right corner if not, the Coffee and Tea is in the back left corner. Pick your poison and have a seat.”
Ari bowed slightly to the General, then looked over the beverage choices. As he mused over the eclectic collection of home-brewed alcohols, he considered what he’d heard about the aftermath of the Company’s Tennessee operation: most of the troops got far too wasted on the fumes, even for the UNWG standards. Not wanted to be rendered impaired for the interrogation he knew was coming, Ari selected a variety of teas. Mentally grinning at the bloody murder his aunt – a tea aficionado – would have been screaming for the offense, he blended them together, and set the cup to steep on the edge of the General’s desk as he sat down.
“OK Cpl, what I have here is a massive contradiction staring at me in these records. On the one hand I have a massive career frack up, who just managed not to get clapped in irons or busted out; coupled with an intelligence that kept getting him sent to school after school. The pattern being you would manage to get busted out just before getting the rating but, not before you had time to learn the trade.
“Add that to Robert telling tales about how you got busted a couple of times for defending your troops but, never made a friend with any of them. Then there is Connor telling me about how the old Desert Warriors worked, never knew that even though I fought alongside one once.
“Then there is also this,” Andy said reaching into a drawer and pulling out Ari’s sidearm. It was in a new speed rig of a leather that Ari did not recognize. “IMI Jericho in .40 S&W, damn fine fine weapon. The Baby Eagle was as tough as they came and reliable as a rock; put it in .45 ACP and I would carry it. Thing is that it dammed sure ain’t UNWG issue and is a crime to carry because of the IMI markings. The rig is a gift from Jai Benjamin, she has better these days.
“Now, you may not know that I was an SFC when we launched Second Tehran out of Jerusalem and a full Bird Col when we took down asteroid 5488. I have seen, served with or Commanded every brand of Military Frack Up that ever existed. You strike me as only one of two types.
“You are either a deep cover Intelligence plant or the poor low level Op who got caught in a draft sweep trying to stay alive. In either case you have been using the borderline frack up cover to stay the hades out of leadership positions that might get you noticed. Take your sidearm and try to explain which you are.
Ari reached forward, taking the cup of tea rather than reaching for the sidearm. After taking a sip, he held the cup as if warming his hands. “Only two types, General? Surely there are other combinations you could think of.” He then help up his hand to forestall any reply. “My apologies. It comes naturally now, the casual insubordination to authority. Surely Abba would not have let me out of his tent without learning proper manners and deference – even if such civilized behavior would have me killed by those eben ahbés ruling and raping haEretz.”
He smiled, then looked the General in the eye. “Generaal, my father, my Abba, has been fighting the enemies of our people for as long as I was old enough to begin to understand. To outsiders, we are as one would expect; those expecting semi-literate Muslim Bedouin nomads, we are. Those expecting Israeli Bedu, staunch defenders of freedom, we are. Those rare few expecting us as we are, find us as Adonai would hope to, albeit wearing a guise that would fool those not looking beyond the obvious. After all,” he chuckled, “it’s not every Bedu tribe that recited the Sh’ma thrice daily. If you don’t know the language, you’d never know.”
Ari set the half-full cup on the desk, taking the holstered weapon from the other side. “I would not have taken this immediately; as you have said, I could have been a plant. I was very young when I saw how Abba treated one. It was quite a while before I could run the errands to the Shochet for cuts of steak and veal. I expected you may have had similar precautions taken.” He shoved the whole rig into an empty cargo pocket. “I appreciate the gift, and shall endeavor to repay the kindness.”
“I was sent, when I was of age, to the Netherlands, where Ema was raised. That is not in my ‘official’ dossier, nor my degrees in economics, as we worked to keep those out of sight of any overly inquisitive power-that-be. And, using Ema’s maiden name, none of the functionary schlemiels thought to put the two together. I then ended up in the UNWG forces for three reasons: the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was remiss in supplying recruits, Bedu, Philistine, and otherwise; Mossad needed another contact and information source ‘inside’ – so far as I could glean from Abba; and Abba thought it was a good idea, so long as I didn’t get caught with my hand in the cookie jar. Then again, the way Abba acted, he might very well have been the actual Mossad chief. Am I a ‘pool low level Op;’ perhaps, though only because I can read between the lines and know that I do not know much of the organization – by design. Am I ‘deep cover? Yes, absolutely. As for the rank… I did hold the rank of Technical Sergeant for all of,” he paused, calculating, “four months, twenty-seven days, three hours, and one really creative insult to a Captain that unfortunately understood Arabic.”
“About what I figured,” Andy grinned, “so what I need is a guy who can play a punishment detail carpenter going into Coronado North Housing to do some repair work. We are going to Covert Insert and Extract from Earth with some serious Precious Cargo. So are you ready to do some thing really stupid mashoo Benzona?”
Ari chuckled. “I do have to report in. It’s been years, and I really should see how Bubbie and Zaydeh are doing. Count me in – so long as I can do a long distance call at the very least. A personal visit would be better, though.”
Andy grinned, “I think we can get you that phone call at least. As a matter of fact, it might even help. What you need to do now is wander downstairs and find LTC Jai Benjamin, you have not met her so ask around. She will be the one pouring over maps of Coronado. She also has an Ingram we conned out of Hunter, it’s a lower profile that our CAW’s. Get out to the range and get qualified with it, get with Walt about a concealment rig for the Jericho. UN LT Benjamin is going to be your Escort Officer to do a little infiltration. Details to follow.
“Welcome to Alchibah and Strike Force. ”
“Todah rabah.” Ari stood, collecting his now-empty cup. “One last thing – I’d like to register a complaint about all of the pistol barrels my nose has been introduced to since arriving here.”
“Well Ari, do try not to show up in the Uniform of the assholes who are trying to shoot up the place and it might go easier. As a partial apology I will just say, consider what we were feeling about that time.
“On the other hand when you are not undercover from now on you will be wearing Black and Silver; if someone outside our group pulls a gun on you, don’t blink!”
He deposited the cup back with the tea service and stepped out of the office. “Oh, sorry, Generaal,” Ari turned, waived the barest of salutes, and wandered off.