24 Season Zero: Day of Reckoning

Chapter 3

AMERICAN BARRACKS / BEN GURION AIRPORT, TEL AVIV, ISRAEL

Jack was just in a lounge on his base checking e-mails and Facebook messages from friends in California when he got the message alert from Rachel. For days Jack had also been checking up on her profile and updates (thank God for the built-in Google translator) and thinking of how to start talking to her, what he would say and now here she was, contacting him first. All the sleepiness immediately left him as he read her message even though he wasn't getting his hopes up. Her messaging style was to be expected for a bubbly 20 year old female including "heyyyyy" with a smiley face. After some pleasantries and some catching up she got to the point and asked him for some advice on her college essay.

This exchange wasn't what he had expected, but at least he was communicating with her. He saw Rachel's small photo in the Facebook message and pictured her sitting by the food court fountain typing into her laptop while enjoying her salad. Before long, almost an hour had passed as they got distracted by side conversations. After all, the essay was about describing herself, her outlook on life and all that good stuff so he was definitely happy to oblige. Behind her uniform, Rachel was just a young, witty, fun loving girl with an independent spirit. Very different than Marilyn, who loved Jack for his wild side but was overly quiet for Jack and super moody at times. She was a little exotic in that foreign kind of way but comfortingly familiar at the same time and her background was not completely alien like the Orthodox Jews he saw on the streets here sometimes, not to mention the veiled and headscarved locals in Saudi Arabia.

"Okay…..how does this sound?" Rachel asked him, reading her words aloud as she typed. The elderly café owner grinned at her as if saying these young people and their technology. "Because of my country's history, from the Holocaust thru all the regional wars, many Israelis have developed a very narrow comfort zone. However, working at Ben Gurion Airport and my recent summer in America have allowed me to see the world out there with curiosity and hope. Once of my most striking experiences in Edgemere, Maryland was meeting the local pharmacist, Mr. Siddiq, who was born in Iran. One day he asked me where my accent was from and probably noticed my nervousness when I said I was Israeli. Mr. Siddiq told me he was an American now and there was no need to bring the past here. America was about starting over and finding your own way". She paused. "Is that too sappy, Jack?"

"Hell no that's great. That's exactly the kind of shit the college professors and admissions people love." Jack truly was impressed by her writing and that window into her life. "Trust me," Jack typed into the message, "You really come across as a complex person in your essay. That really is much deeper than your typical American applicant by far. Nobody can actually fault you, not even those misguided academics on the left who naturally support the other side. You're a genius."

"Well I think I got enough done tonight," Rachel typed, "Thanks again for your help Jack." Smiley face.

Jack didn't stop himself this time. "How about we grab a drink, and just hang out a little, unwind. Had a long day myself, crazy training regimen."

There was long pause where Jack's Facebook showed Rachel was typing and hesitating, then typing again. Finally she replied, "How about that new bar right by the base? I'll swing by on my way home. Let me get your phone number, I'll text you when I'm almost there."

NEXT TWO WEEKS

Rachel picked Jack up from the base and they had gone to a local bar frequented by the American and local soldiers stationed there along with some of Jack's squadmates including Lance Sizemore and Darius Greene. He knew this wasn't a date and didn't mind having some friends around, if only to make himself seem cooler. Plus it increased his confidence. He didn't want to rush into things.

Somewhere as the night went on, he decided that they really were considered friends by now and that at the very least it was safe to assume they would be constantly in touch as long as he was in Israel. Neither of them got shit faced, just a little buzz going, but soon they were on the dance floor moving along quickly to the mix of American, European, and Israeli rock and hip hop music. Being American, Jack didn't recognize most of the music they played but just danced along to the beat. He noticed that Rachel could definitely let loose. Finally the DJ played another familiar American dance hit, "I Whip My Hair" by Willow Smith. To his own surprise, he was able to convince her to whip it back and forth. If only their commanders could see them like this, Jack thought.

Their first date wasn't particularly planned either. Rachel had planned on seeing the Mockingjay Part 2 movie with her best friend but they had to cancel at the last minute and she was acting disappointed on Facebook. She didn't know when she would have another chance to go so Jack offered to take her. Jack was glad it wasn't some chick flick based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Of course she liked those too but at least for a first date they saw a movie that didn't put him to sleep. Since it was the most action packed of the trilogy, Jack felt the last installment was better than the first three parts of the Hunger Games film series. After the movie, Jack took Rachel to an upscale seafood restaurant close to the movie theater at the Dizengoff Center, one of Tel Aviv's large Western-style shopping malls. Jack's finances were kind of tight given his father's hesitance to support him anymore and the fact that the Army wouldn't pay him for another y couple days but he needed to splurge once in a while. He also felt bad depending on Rachel for a ride again given her insistence that he not take the public bus due to the ever present risk of suicide bombings. Above all, of course, he wanted to impress her.

On her part, Rachel felt unexpectedly attracted to this brash young American soldier as they feasted on the fresh succulent Mediterranean seafood. She had given him that ride from the airport just to be nice and felt he was a fun friend, but maybe there was something more. She hoped he didn't get the wrong impression of her from his interrogation session. Rachel had been as surprised as Jack was when it was revealed to have been a test run for her team at the airport. She truly thought Jack was suspicious and uncooperative and that it was one of those times where she had to be firm. Just like there are times when a teacher needed to lay down the law, she thought to herself.

Rachel was genuinely surprised as Jack told her about his wealthy, privileged upbringing in Southern California and the expectations Philip Bauer had of his son becoming a leader at BXJ Technologies. She knew about BXJ Technologies since they also had a presence in Israel, the company's logo prominently displayed at the entrance to an office park near her parents' house. It was her understanding BXJ Technologies was a high-tech supplier to both the IDF and civilian entities here. Unlike Lance Sizemore or Darius Greene, Rachel showed empathy with Jack over his predicament with his father. Jack was beginning to realize that while she was not as wild as he was, she was at least free spirited enough to understand him, unlike most of his peers who were either resented or envied the wealth and power he had been born into.

"You know I'm not all about getting super rich. If I was I wouldn't be interested in teaching elementary school," she said, "But is working for BXJ really that bad, or is it that rebelliousness in you? What do you see in the future?"

Jack admitted to himself she had a point there. Here he was, further into his last tour of duty and no closer to figuring things out. He wasn't sure he wanted to stay in the military long term. He had explored so many things in college, majoring in English literature which many derisively referred to as a "useless major" and taking online classes with UC Berkeley to get his master's in criminology. But he didn't think he wanted to be a cop either. "To be honest I really don't know. It must be really amazing for you, having everything planned out by yourself and a family that supports you. And you're right, sometimes I don't know why I'm so against working for my father. I….I've just always rejected it. Like being a rebel just because I can."

"Why not just give it a try?" Rachel asked him. Jack took a sip of his tropical drink and looked at her. "You're always going to be your own person, and since your time in the army's also up soon and you're not extending your enlistment, you could just give it a shot. If it doesn't turn out well, you can always leave. At least your dad will know that you considered what he wanted for you, but that it's still your own choice in the end."

A month ago Jack probably would have just let that kind of talk go in through one ear and come out the other. But Rachel was right. Jack really didn't know why he didn't want to join BXJ. He really, honestly didn't have a good answer for that. It really was just that resentment of the time his father put into the company vs with the family, and the entire upper class scene that he felt so stifling. But a job was a job, right? He could still be himself. He could still do things differently than his father. Maybe one day, he would get Philip Bauer to respect him.

He nodded. "I really never thought of it that way. You know, maybe I just wanted to do something meaningful with my life."

Rachel thought for a little bit. Jack obviously grew up in one of those families where life and work really meshed together. She was glad that he rejected that part but there's got to be an in-between. Maybe all his life Jack really never had anyone put things in perspective for him. "My American uncle works in the tin mill at Sparrows Point Steel outside Baltimore," she told him. "Nothing glamorous but he puts in his 40 hours and that plus my aunt working part time for Baltimore County was enough to support their family. Just spending time with my aunt and cousins and volunteering with community events is what makes him happy. My dad's plumbing business is doing pretty good but it's not what defines him. You just enjoy life, raise a good family, try to help those around you, that's meaningful enough. If you know exactly what you want to do that's great, but otherwise, a job's a job it's not your life."

All in all he had a great time with her and they already set up their next date. She was actually the one who told him they should definitely do it again. Jack wanted to kiss Rachel and hold her close as he looked into her deep green eyes, but he didn't want to rush into it. Something about this was different. For the first time in his life, a girl had actually made Jack Bauer consider settling down and he didn't want to ruin it by pushing too hard too early.

COMMAND OFFICE, GIVITAYIM MILITARY BASE

"What's the threat assessment and the readiness of your forces?" General Justin Long inquired from the videoconference from Camp Patriot in Kuwait.

"The local authorities still have the terrorism threat level at Orange," Christopher Henderson replied. "Last terrorist attack in this country was a month ago, a suicide bombing at a marketplace in West Jerusalem. Nine civilians were also killed and dozens wounded in a rocket attack on an Israeli settlement outside Jericho in the West Bank last week. I do recommend renewing the travel warning for American citizens visiting Israel and in particular the Jerusalem area. There's been multiple attempts to breach the West Bank barrier and it's likely American citizens, including Christian tour groups, may be targeted by Muslim terrorists."

"Your recommendation is noted, please continue. What's the status on Gaza?"

"I'm extremely troubled by the recent developments there, especially the coup within Hamas. The Hamas spiritual leader Muhammad Ajaz was deposed and publicly beheaded by his second-in-command, a fanatical zealot named Nakkash Bin Rahal in a bloody coup that left over 30 people dead. Sharia courts are now handing down death sentences for several of Ajaz's loyalists. Our sources in the Gaza Strip report that Bin Rahal hasn't been seen or heard from for more than a week which is unusual. We believe he may be preparing an attack."

"From hiding?" General Long asked.

"Yes, based on previous experiences, he is most likely in a secret location because he's expecting Israel to retaliate with airstrikes and attempted assassinations in the wake of whatever he has planned. Which means whatever Bin Rahal is planning it's going to be something big. I've already advised our Israeli friends to boost security at the checkpoints and to have extra surveillance in Jerusalem at the holy sites. The Defense Minister is pushing for a complete closure of the West Bank border but the leftist members of the Israeli government are against that."

"And you believe Nakkash Bin Rahal is uniquely dangerous. C'mon, we all know Ajaz wasn't exactly known for his pacifism or religious tolerance."

"As radical as Ajaz was, he was a local Palestinian militant focused on fighting Israel. Our intel suggests Nakkash Bin Rahal has been influenced ideologically and financially by Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi sheikhs. We believe he may have traveled to Pakistan for additional guerrilla training. In addition one of his known associates is Imam Amjad Ravid, a Pakistani al-Qaeda terrorist who set up shop in Gaza City and opened a mosque there."

"If the wider global jihadi movement is taking root in Gaza this indeed is dangerous. I'll definitely pass all of this on to the Pentagon," General Long promised.

"Sir, any updates from Washington about the new anti-terrorist outfit? We both know President Ryan can't rely on the Campus anymore, that outfit with his son in it. His son was nearly exposed and killed in Ukraine by the Russians."

"We're still working on that. Trust me, President Ryan fully understands the terror threat to the American homeland but the Democrats are threatening a filibuster, demanding that the money would be better suited providing in-state tuition for illegals and expanding Medicaid and Section 8 housing."

During President Jack Ryan's first term, the US had begun participating in a multinational anti-terrorist task force called Rainbow, based at Hereford RAF base in England but that proved to not be enough as one terrorist crisis after another struck the nation and the world. During Ryan's second term, he supported a covert, privately funded special ops team called the Campus, of which his own son, Jack Ryan Jr. was a member. However this group was nearly exposed by China and had suffered heavy losses in other operations, including the recent covert NATO intervention during the Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine. President Ryan had recommended the formation of a new counterterrorist agency that would operate domestically on U.S. soil, kind of like a domestic CIA mixed with the high-tech capabilities of the NSA along with special ops teams.

All that had been bogged down in committee in Congress with heavy opposition from liberals and Democrats. This new outfit would be Henderson's ticket out of the army into a promising civilian career stateside. He had already been vetted by his superiors to lead this agency once it was formed and he went with the current sacrifices, one tour after another far from home. Believe it or not, Israel was his best post so far aside from a brief stint in Kansas. His deployments with rapid response teams had taken him to the most godforsaken corners of the globe, places like Bolivia, Nigeria, and Uzbekistan. Hopefully, President Ryan and the Republicans would finally get the ball rolling in Washington so he can get what he had been promised.

MEDITERRANEAN BEACH, SOUTH OF TEL AVIV – FIVE DAYS BEFORE DAY ZERO

Rachel stopped the car a few hundred feet from a cliff overlooking the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea. They were in a secluded residential area south of Tel Aviv, away from downtown's beachfront hotels. As they walked walk the sandy path to the top of the cliff, Rachel told Jack this was one of her favorite spots in the area, and that she would sometimes come here by herself to get some sun and some quiet time when she didn't go on duty until the afternoon. Traffic was light on the coastal road, and the loudest sounds were the seagulls and the ocean breeze blowing in from the sea. Jack was flattered to hear that even many of her friends from the IDF and high school haven't come here with her and took it as a good sign. While she could party it up like a normal 20 year old girl, there was also a quiet side to her. He also discovered she liked relaxing evenings watching a movie or chatting with friends online. Some balance wasn't bad, and Jack hated to admit that even though Rachel was two years younger, she was smart and much more settled down than she was.

The early January day was too chilly for Jack to show off his surfing skills but he promised he would do that once it warmed up. For their picnic, Rachel had cooked a traditional Israeli meal with hummus, falafel, and matzo ball soup. Jack had honestly not had too much of the local food since the American division had their own mess hall serving the typical military grub, but the hummus was better than the Sabra and Tribe stuff appearing in Walmarts and supermarkets back home. As for the rest, he found it tasty too, even if he had nothing to compare it to. Jack smiled contently as they lay on the beach, watching the seagulls fly above in the cloudless blue sky. He truly wished this moment would last forever, seeing Rachel's hair flickering in the ocean breeze. They had only seen each other a few times but she was really opening up, sharing so much of her life with him.

"I didn't know you were such an amazing cook," Jack told her as they finished their meal.

"So everyone tells me," she replied with a smile. "Learned it from my mom, passed down from generation to generation. If you want to taste more of the Friedman family recipes, you should join us for Hanukkah. My folks would love to meet you. I know it's not your holiday, but it's still something for you this holiday season while you're so far from home."

"You told your parents about me already?" Jack asked, surprised.

"Yeah, and I showed them our pictures from our time downtown too. We were actually talking about Mockingjay when I mentioned I'd seen it with you."

"They don't…um…..you went out with a foreigner, a goyim, isn't that the term people here use for….."

"It's totally cool!" she exclaimed, "We're not like those Orthodox people. My folks like you a lot based on what I've told them about you. Besides they're surprisingly supportive of me moving to the US. Just submitted my applications yesterday, by the way."

"Will it be hard for you, living so far away?"

"All the places I'm applying to are close to my cousins, the University of Maryland campuses close to Baltimore, plus WVU and NC State. Yes I'm proud to be serving in the army, but I wish we didn't have to. Every time I go on duty at the airport, I think about how lucky I am. Several people from my high school were sent to Lebanon and never came home. I have friends in Jerusalem right now having rocks and Molotov cocktails thrown at them by the Palestinians. There was another suicide bombing that killed six of our soldiers in Bethlehem. You never feel truly safe anywhere in Israel, the wall can't stop every attack, and more and more rockets are reaching Tel Aviv every year. I just want a normal life in a normal country for myself and my future kids."

"I've also been thinking about the future," Jack said, "And BXJ Technologies does have offices around Baltimore, Morgantown, and Research Triangle. They've also perfected the work from home thing. I haven't talked to my dad yet but at least he'll be happier than when I left Los Angeles. I thought about what you said, I can be in BXJ, but I'm not going to make that my life. That's where I'm going to be different than my father and Graem. That is, if you don't mind seeing more of me stateside."

Jack was surprised all this came out, but Rachel wrapped her arms around him. She massaged his neck and gently pressed her forehead against his. Jack felt nervous because he had so much more invested in this moment than he had wooing the girls back in Santa Monica but he kissed her gently on her lips. "That won't be a problem, Jack. I do enjoy your company."

DEFENSE MINISTRY, JERUSALEM, 15 HOURS BEFORE DAY ZERO

"So you printed all the tickets for tomorrow's concert? Everyone will be there?" Nakkash Bin Rahal said into his phone as he paced around his safe house, a large, sprawling warehouse complex in the Arab district of Jaffa.

"Yes, finally. Can't wait to see the show. I will talk to you soon."

Israeli Military Chief of Staff Timur Sokolow disconnected the call and stared out the windows of his seventh floor office at the lights of Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock was lit up brightly as was the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This land had been a scene for fighting since the beginning of time. The soil of the Holy Land was soaked with the blood of Israelites, Philistines, Samaritans, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Crusaders, Ottomans, the British colonialists, and now the Israelis and Palestinians. Yet what he would help achieve soon would change this land, and the entire world forever.

Timur Sokolow was not Israeli by birth. He was born in Warsaw to a Polish Jewish family. During the Cold War, his father had been a political officer with the Polish Army, making sure the military officers and enlisted men he was assigned to continued to support their revolutionary socialist comrades in Moscow. His mother was a mid-level employee with the health ministry, diverting Poland's scare medical resources to the ideological elite and away from the proletariat that the Communist Party claimed to serve. Sokolow was sixteen when the Solidarity movement led by Lech Walesa overthrew Poland's Communist regime. One day, authorities from the new democratic government sought out the elder Sokolow's arrest for the torture and murder of over a dozen political dissidents. Refusing to be taken alive, he went out in a blaze of gunfire in the streets of Warsaw, holding off police and shouting Communist slogans for several minutes before finally being cut down in a hail of bullets.

With the Soviet Union in its death throes and Red Square itself filled with anti-communist demonstrators, Timur Sokolow's mother knew their time in Eastern Europe was running out and the West was not an option. The atheist Sokolow family never had a strong Jewish identity, but their Jewish ancestry qualified them for automatic Israeli citizenship. Timur Sokolow already had combat experience with Polish paramilitaries, so he quickly excelled after joining the Israel Defense Forces in his new country. Sokolow joined the IDF special forces, received several combat medals in Lebanon, and quickly rose through the ranks. After all, ever since his childhood in Poland, killing was what he was best at. However, the son of revolutionary socialists never completely fit in here.

Sokolow was greatly influenced by his father's socialist beliefs and hated Israel's free market economy and the Western influences that permeated this country. He was disgusted watching middle class Israelis in shopping malls and fast food restaurants while people elsewhere in the region starved. It was like a dagger piercing his heart to think that his native Poland would one day be similar, with billboards of Communist leaders replaced by the logos of multinational corporations, with the youth embracing American style consumerism the way people in Israel did. Due to his father's influence, Sokolow felt a connection to the Arabs and Muslims in Israel, and especially to the Palestinians living behind the checkpoints and barriers in the impoverished territories. In Sokolow's socialist worldview, Israel was a neo-colonialist nation dispossessing the indigenous Palestinians. Timur Sokolow was gradually drawn to Islam. It was a channel for his alienation and rejection of Western society, as it was for many other converts. It was in Islam, and the Koran's accounts of victorious jihad, that Sokolow found purpose and inspiration. He became Hamas's highest sleeper agent and mole inside Israel. He had offered to use his rising position within the IDF to help fight what he saw as injustices against Muslims but his contacts in Hamas told him to just hang in there, and be patient, for the day shall come. It had been a long wait, Sokolow thought, but inshallah the day was finally here.

11 HOURS BEFORE DAY ZERO

"You know I gotta be a good role model and leader tomorrow!" Rachel laughed, clearly having a slight buzz going on. The next day, instead of her usual airport duties, she would be going to Ariel Sharon High School in suburban Tel Aviv to give the students an intro on their required military service. There would also be a Birthright Israel group from the United States joining them. For the 20 or so Jewish American college students from across the country, it was an added immersion activity, to visit an Israeli high school and get a crash course on how the IDF worked.

"Tomorrow's another day," Jack said, downing another shot of Jim Beam, "Plus you basically live upstairs!" He went back up to the crowded bar but the bartender immediately went to Jack after he put some US dollars on the bar top. "Another one?"

"No, I'm getting this round!" Rachel said, squeezing next to him. "What you want this time? C'mon I insist!"

Jack thought for a moment. "Soco lime." Rachel nodded but the bartender looked confused.

"Southern Comfort and lime," Jack clarified.

The bartender still had a blank face. "You mean, a lime inside, or lime juice or….."

On a different night, weeks ago, Jack might have grown frustrated. What kind of bartender didn't know how to make a SoCo lime? But Jack was approaching the line between buzzed and slightly tipsy. He also realized he was in a foreign country and he should consider himself lucky Southern Comfort was offered at all. Above all, Jack needed to stay classy for her. Maybe it was the alcohol talking, but Jack saw Rachel there with her playful look and knew he had to not be so brash. He needed to remain calm, and chill out. She had already seen him upset when she first met him, and Jack wanted to convince her that was an especially bad day completely atypical for him. "Just Soco straight for me, and another Malibu pineapple for her," Jack told the bartender politely.

"You don't think I can do it, Jack?" Rachel challenged him. "Two Southern Comfort shots," she told him in Hebrew, then added with a smile, "Top it off good, okay? He's U.S. military." The bartender nodded respectfully and got one of the larger cups that mixed drinks were typically served in. More than either them bargained for, for sure. The bartender actually them a discount but she made up for it with a generous tip.

"You sure?" Jack asked but Rachel was so intent on having a good time. Jack's mind had never been so clouded and clear at the same time. There was no past, no future, just the two of them, right here, right now. Maybe he shouldn't drink any more, but the two large shots were already there. Sure, she had drank much less than him that night, but he didn't want her to miss her assignment at the school tomorrow.

"Of course!" she said with a flirtatious grin. "What are we gonna drink to, Jack?"

"How about to the sweetest, funniest, most beautiful girl I've ever been interrogated by?" Jack said, looking into her green eyes as she brushed back some of her wavy hair.

Rachel blushed and added, "And to us doing this again in America year. I'll be 21 by then!" She brought the cup to her mouth and took the entire shot. Jack did not even flinch but grinned at the expression on her face. He handed her his half finished Budweiser bottle as a chaser and she gratefully took a large gulp. She then took some change and went over to the jukebox.

"Got a song in mind?" Jack asked, forcing himself to stay as sober as possible.

"Heck yeah! I don't think they'll ever play it on the radio here, but my cousin sent it to me, said it's very popular in the U.S. right now." She did the Super Search on the jukebox and pulled up one of the new additions, "Roller Coaster" by Luke Bryan.

"I've never heard of Luke Bryan before," Jack admitted. "Must not my usual kind of music. People in L.A. don't listen to this kind of stuff." Jack was mostly a fan of punk rock and heavy metal.

"C'mon I can't get it out of my head! Plus when I go to America it won't be California." The song began to play and as the bartender saw the two of them still together he turned up the volume on the audio slightly. A slow contemporary country-pop song began playing. The melody was far softer and gentler than the stuff Jack typically listened to but eased up. He couldn't make sense of the lyrics, just something about a guy and a girl at a beach. But the beat and the slick, polished instrumentation was perfect and Jack and Rachel held hands and embraced as the music played. Jack could taste the SoCo on her lips as they began kissing in the middle of the dance. It was not like that kiss after their second date. This was passionate. She leaned her head against his chest and shoulder as the two swayed back and forth amid the flashing disco lights and lasers of the dance floor. Jack's face was soothed by her soft hair which was fragrant with the strawberry shampoo she had showered with before coming out. As the song ended, however, the lights came on all over the bar and the bartender announced last call.

8 HOURS BEFORE DAY ZERO

"Obviously, I'm in no position to drive you home," Rachel said as they left the bar. "Just stay with me tonight. My roommates are both out of town so it should be nice and quiet." Amid the alcohol in his system, Jack didn't how to feel. It was already clear she was different than Marilyn, who had made love to him the night of their first date. Rachel was different. Maybe she didn't want to rush into it too quickly. She was probably one of those girls who wanted to wait until it was a more serious relationship. She came from a quite secular Jewish background, but her religion still might play a role, perhaps not too different that many Christians back in the United States.

Maybe that wasn't so bad, Jack thought. Despite being younger than him by two years, Jack was taken aback by her maturity sometimes. Maybe it didn't hurt to wait and make it more meaningful. Besides she wasn't just a hookup or a fling. He was falling for who she was as a person, and just wanted to spend more time with her. This was certainly unexpected. Jack had absolutely no idea what was in her head. I better not think about this right now, not when I'm like this.

"Thank God my R and R continues all the way through tomorrow," Jack commented.

"Oh so you don't even have to be there in the afternoon?" Rachel asked in surprise. "In that case just tag along with me tomorrow."

"That's okay, I can catch a taxi in the morning."

"Nah, you'll get to meet some of your fellow Americans, and we get to spend more time together. The local kids will also love meeting an American."

Rachel lived on the 15th floor of a modern high-rise apartment building with a concrete and glass façade in downtown Tel Aviv. He was impressed they rode the elevator up, one of those that announced the floor number as the doors opened.

"IDF must pay their soldiers much better than the US Army," Jack remarked as they entered her contemporary apartment. "This place is amazing." The place was not much by American standards but not bad for Tel Aviv. They had a big screen plasma TV, a neatly arranged kitchen, lots of feminine features like flower pots, and a large floor to ceiling window overlooking the skyscrapers of the financial district.

"My dad does help out a little bit," she admitted, "But mostly I had a lot saved from my summer in America. And don't forget we split the rent three ways." American dollars always was great with currency exchange anywhere in the world except Western Europe.

The alcohol was definitely taking affect now as the later shots began to register in Jack's system. He followed Rachel as she entered her bedroom. When he was halfway to the bed, however, she tossed him a large pillow.

"That blanket should still be on the couch," she told him, "Sweet dreams, Jack. We have a long day tomorrow."


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