Jim and Blair were telling Dean of the first time they met – when Blair pretended to be Doctor McCay and Jim threw the ‘neo-hippie’ up against the wall. Both of them could laugh about it now.
Both of them had completely forgotten they had met before – a full decade earlier.
It was 1985, and Covert Ops and the Rangers had been kept jumping by a spate of hijackings and other terrorist activities.
Division Bravo-Ten was kept so busy they were lucky to have three days between missions. Their last two had dealt with what Sarris called “religious whackos” – and now here they were again.
One of these ever-increasing New Age Gurus had holed himself up inside a compound in Virginia with a ‘select handful’ of his followers. He had released a statement saying they would create Armageddon and each and every one of them would willingly sacrifice themselves for this ‘glorious cause’.
The Rangers – specifically Bravo-Ten – had been called in when the powers that be had read ‘lighting the sky with terrible fire’ as an indication that ‘Lunatic LeRoy’ (as Ellison was irreverently calling him) had somehow gotten his hands on a nuke.
The Rangers of Bravo-Ten had surrounded the compound. Ellison was checking his equipment and discovered a nasty surprise. “Shit,” he hissed. “Sarris, I dropped my damned gun!”
“Again?” Sarris’s voice came through the radio. “Shit, Ellison—“
A tap to Ellison’s shoulder, and the gun was handed to him.
“Thanks,” was his automatic response.
“No sweat,” came an automatic reply.
Ellison whirled, to find himself looking into the grimy face of a teenage girl. Her long curls were pulled back into a tight ponytail. Her natural-weave clothing was soiled and torn.
She looked right into the hardened soldier’s eyes – and white teeth shone in a dazzling grin. “Hi,” she said calmly. “I’m Bl—“
“I don’t care who you are,” Ellison snarled. “You could be arrested for interfering and obstructing just—“
“My mother is in there,” she interrupted calmly. “I’m not leaving without her.”
Ellison shook his head. “Kid, this is beyond your scope! It’s not your fight now – I don’t want you to get hurt because your mother and all those in there want to play martyr!”
Her nostrils flared and her brows jerked together as her shoulders straightened. “My mother is not a martyr!” she shot back. “She wanted to leave LeRoy, and she was going to take ten of his inner circle with her!”
Ellison frowned at the girl. “Wait a minute! Are you telling me that eleven of those are not in there of their own free will?”
“That’s exactly what I’m telling you!”
Ellison met her eyes for a long moment. He wasn’t certain why she did, but he believed every word she said. Still holding her eyes, he keyed his radio. “Sarris! New info on the whackos!”
“What new info do we need, Ellison?” Sarris shot back.
“We don’t have twenty martyrs in there!” Ellison barked. “We have a hostage situation times eleven!”
“Say again, Ellison?” Sarris gasped.
“We have a hostage situation times eleven! I’ve the daughter of one of the hostages here!”
“Let me talk to her.” Ellison handed the radio over. “Talk to me, honey.”
“I’m not your honey,” she shot back, and Ellison felt himself grin. Succinctly, she repeated what she’d told Ellison.
Sarris swore. “That changes things. Now we have to find a better way in!”
She looked at Ellison. “Would a blueprint help?”
Ellison blinked at her. “You got one?”
“I can get one.”
“Make it fast. Meet me at the large boulder a mile away.”
“You got it!” and the girl crept away.
Fifteen minutes later, the girl appeared at the boulder. Once Ellison agreed this was the girl he’d spoken to, she lay out a blueprint.
The compound was not as large as it seemed. The rooms were large and open. “Perfect to hold hostages,” Sarris growled.
“Or a nuke,” Baker agreed solemnly.
“A nuke?” The girl frowned at him. “LeRoy doesn’t have a nuke. He’s got enough conventional ammo to blow a hundred-foot crater in the ground, but he doesn’t have a nuke. He says that radiation will impede their souls en route to the Celestial Bridge.”
Ellison blinked. “No nukes.”
The girl shook her head.
“But all this about starting Armageddon….”
“He’s another Manson. He wants to start a civil war with himself as the John Brown – the martyr killed for a cause.”
Bravo-Ten looked at each other. The situation had just become a great deal lighter for them all. A nuclear suicide mission had become a multiple hostage rescue – period.
“Whose side are you on, kid?” Sarris asked.
She met his eyes unflinchingly. “Mine.”
Sarris stared at her, then laughed. “Damn, kid! I like you!” He turned back to Ellison. “So what’s next?”
“We need a diversion of some kind to get in there –“
“I’ll do that,” the girl spoke up. “My mother won’t be expecting me to return. And they’ll let me in. Once I’m in, you can see how to get in.”
“No,” Ellison said. “We don’t need twelve hostages.”
“You won’t have twelve hostages. If I can swing it right, you won’t even have ten!” Her eyes snapped at him. “If I know my mother – and I know my mother – she is just looking for an excuse to kick LeRoy in the –“
“We get the point,” Ellison laughed. “I think that’s our best shot right now.”
Looking back on it later, Jim would always remember the sight of walking into a miniature civil war. The girl and her mother had instigated a hostage uprising against LeRoy and it was in chaos.
Bravo-Ten had come in, gotten all out, and destroyed the ammo without killing a single person. LeRoy came out of it dead – by his own hand.
His final words were, “Let it begin!”
Sixteen years after – the war LeRoy had envisioned had still not come to pass. Jim and the plucky girl were now together – as best friends – and neither of them had yet made the connection that they had shared one crazy adventure before they had officially met.
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