Authors: Bruce George
Tags: #space opera, #sci fi, #starfighter, #military science fiction, #space ship, #alien contact, #military sci fi
This story is copyright 2015 by Bruce George.
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places and incidents are solely the product of the author’s
imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be
made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business
establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Table of Contents
Mike cautiously moved out into the shallows, pleased
that his prosthetic legs held up well against the rapidly moving
current. He’d been fishing here for years and knew this part of the
river quite well. By very carefully placing his feet on the rocky
bottom, he became one with the crystal clear waters.
With a flick of his wrist, the thin filament line
traveled back and forth three feet from his head. The sound of it
pleased him and evoked a memory of time spent here in his youth.
That had been many years ago and it remained one of his favorite
He didn’t care if he caught anything or not. That
wasn’t entirely true, because he did like to win. Where fishing was
concerned, winning meant pulling in as many trout as the law
allowed. Still, just being there, standing awkwardly in the shallow
rushing water, was reward enough for him that day.
Fly-fishing at this spot had been one of his most
cherished recollections, as he recovered from that horrible
explosion during the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq. He was one of three
survivors in a squad of eight men, who had helped take Kuwait back
from Sadam Hussein’s army.
Mike’s company had seen little action in the drive
north, into Iraq. On the forth day, they had been tasked with
providing perimeter protection for Forward Operation Base (FOB)
Viper, which was primarily a helicopter refueling and rearming site
for the 101st Airborne Div. The worst of the fighting was over.
But, just a few miles south of their position, the northern
outskirts of Al Busayyah had been bypassed for the most part and
could still be a threat to the FOB. So it had to be double
The company commander, Capt. Parker, had summoned
him. When he walked into the tent, Mike saluted sharply,
announcing, “Staff Sergeant Hurst reporting as ordered, sir.”
The CO held a sheet of paper in his hand, looked
Mike in the eye and said, “Staff Sergeant,” he paused and chuckled,
before saying, “I’ve got good news and bad news. This piece of
paper just arrived telling me that you were promoted to Sergeant
First Class eight days ago.” Capt. Parker held out his hand,
saying, “Congratulations, Mike. You’ve certainly earned it.”
“Thank you sir.”
After a brief pause, The Capt. told him, “And now
for the bad news. You know Sergeant Kilgore busted his kneecap. He
was just walking over to get some chow and he tripped on a damned
tent peg and landed knee first on a rock. He made me promise not to
put him in for a purple heart.”
Mike smiled, but kept his mouth shut. He knew that
the bad news was still to come.
“Well Sergeant First Class Hurst, I need you to take
over his squad for the rest of this operation. I know it’s unusual
to drop you down a peg, but the alternative would be to put a less
experienced Corporal in charge. I want a combat vet with some savvy
to take his group into northern Al Busayyah and be sure there’s not
any substantial force that could threaten the FOB.
“Check with Lt. Simak, for the details and the exact
location we need checked out. Intelligence says there doesn’t seem
to be anything sizable hanging around out there. But, I’d feel
better if we took a look for ourselves.”
“Will do, Sir.”
So, he took seven men out to see what was what. He
knew these men, but not as well as their squad leader, Sergeant
Kilgore. Still, they seemed to have their shit together.
Five hours later, Iraqi snipers had quickly killed
two of the men and the remaining six had taken refuge in the
It had been foolish for all of them to bunch up like
that, defying all of their training. The men should have known
better. But when two members of their squad fell so suddenly to
snipers, everyone jumped to the safest looking place they could
find. He screamed for them to quickly clear the other rooms. That’s
when a woman came running out of a back room, screaming as she set
off the explosive device she wore.
He vaguely remembered a blinding light. The next
thing he recalled he was lying in a hospital bed, with a tent over
his legs and feeling heavily medicated. Mike was in and out of
consciousness for several days, before he was able to realize that
he had lost both legs, just above the knees. The bandage over his
left eye indicated that was gone as well.
The doctors kept telling him he was lucky to have
survived, but that didn’t make the reality of it any easier to deal
with. The most frustrating aspect of being wounded was that no one
could tell him what had happened to the others in the squad. He
knew he was in a hospital in Germany, although he had no memory of
being transported there. It was so frustrating that none of the
doctors or medics had the answer to that question, which he
After four days of drifting in and out of sleep, his
sedatives were reduced and he began to face reality. A corporal
came by, holding a clipboard and introduced himself. “I’m Corporal
Tagert and you must be Staff Sergeant Michael Hurst.”
“Yeah, I’m Hurst. Actually, I was promoted to
Sergeant First Class.”
“Oh. Sorry for the mistake. I’m with recovery
services and I am here to help you adjust to your new situation. Is
there anything I can do for you…anything I can get you?”
“Yeah there is. What happened to my men.”
Tagert flipped a few pages on his clipboard and told
him, “That’s one of the most common questions I get from the
wounded. We try to gather this info as quickly as possible for all
of the men involved. We do that for the wounded and for the troops
still in the field who want to know your status, as well.
“I see here that there were eight men in your squad
and all but three of you survived. The report they sent is rather
lean on details. It does say a suicide bomber charged into a room
and lit you up. You, Corporal Alphonso Benson and Private First
Class Denerious Jackson were the only survivors.
“I’m sorry about the other men, Sergeant. It’s
always difficult when you lose men in combat.”
He tried to recall a face for those two men, but
Benson was the only one he could picture. “Benson and Jackson, the
only others to make it? Damn, I barely knew them.”
Then he asked, “What about my wife? Has she been
notified about my condition yet?”
Tagert looked down at his clipboard, and then told
him, “The Army has notified her that you were wounded and now in
Germany. She was not told about the extent of your wounds.”
Tagert was about to ask him whether or not he wanted
her to be informed as to the nature of his wounds, when Mike
explained, “I was with that squad, but it wasn’t really mine. I was
a replacement. Their Sergeant was injured and I got assigned to the
Mike looked away and mumbled, “I didn’t really know
any of them, but they were sure as hell my men to my way of
thinking. I should have immediately had the men spread out to the
other rooms. I might have saved a few lives.”
Tagert smiled and told him, “You did save lives,
Sergeant. You saved yours and Benson’s and Jackson’s. Corporal
Benson told me that you tripped the woman who came running into the
room. When she fell, most of the explosives were facing down at the
floor. So, the force of it went out from beneath her.
“You lost both legs and an eye, because you were
closest to the blast. Benson lost his left foot and Jackson lost
both of his. If you hadn’t reacted as quickly as you did, everyone
in that room would have been killed. According to this report, what
did the most damage was an RPG that hit the room after the suicide
bomber got to you guys. If you weren’t already down, you would have
bought the farm”
Mike hated hearing some rear echelon pencil pusher
try to sound like a combat veteran.
Still, on that day and in that theater, the squad
was his and he was supposed to see that they came back alive. The
weight of responsibility weighed heavily on him and his expression
must have revealed that.
Tagert told him, “I see this sort of emotion all the
time. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s called survivors guilt.
That feeling that you didn’t do enough and that you don’t deserve
to be alive. But you’re wrong to think that way. Under the
circumstances, you did what you could and did it in a microsecond.
You’re a hero, Sergeant, although you don’t feel like one at the
moment. You saved your life and the lives of two good men.”
Mike asked, “Where are they now? Is Jackson near
“Jackson’s here. Benson flew out two days ago. You,
Jackson and several others will be going back home in a few weeks.
The docs just want to be sure you’re stable and strong enough,
before they fly you out of here.”
His fishing line jerked slightly, bringing him out
of his daydream. A trout nibbled at the fly and spit it out, before
hitting it hard. Mike instinctively pulled on the rod, sinking the
hook firmly in the fishes jaw. He had to allow the fish to run with
the line. If he didn’t, the powerful trout would snap the thin
line, or more likely, yank his mouth free of the hook.
But Mike was an experienced trout fisherman and he
loved to play a fish. He enjoyed the game of give and take, before
he reeled it in. Once he had it in his net, he looked at it and
announced, “Welcome home big boy.” Then he dumped it in his creel
and attached a new fly to the end of his line.
After two more fish had joined their brothers in his
basket, he carefully withdrew from the water and sat on a felled
tree trunk to remove the waders he wore. His prosthetic legs fit
nicely into them, but it was hell getting them out. With several
fishing trips under his belt, he had given up on trying to pull
them out of the tight fitting rubber waders, while they were still
attached to his thighs. He detached each one, and then took his
time removing the prosthetic legs from the boot portion of the
As he reattached his artificial legs, the continuing
muscular atrophy of his right leg made getting a good fit with the
prosthetic difficult. He mumbled, “Looks like it’s time to get
another leg fitted. Damn I hate going to the VA hospital for that.
I’ll be waiting in line for hours, just to get it sized, and then
I’ll have to go back for a final fit. Sometimes I wish the damn
suicide bitch had killed me. It would have made things easier for
He chastised himself for such thoughts. His son
would certainly disagree and so would his late wife.
Sherry, Mike’s wife, had passed away nineteen years
after Desert Storm. She had been his rock for most of his adult
life. Being the wife of a career Army enlisted man was a challenge
for any woman. When he was on deployment, the long periods were
hard on both of them. To stay busy, she had gone back to college
and earned a degree in history, and then began teaching at a local