Sons of Anarchy Season Zero: The Crow's Nest

Loc and Load

CHAPTER 3: LOC AND LOAD

POW HOLDING AREA, NORTH VIETNAMESE FIELD HQ

“Dammit, Lawson,” JT said as he saw his friend and fellow soldiers writhing in pain through his chains and shackles. While JT himself was in excruciating pain from the savage beating at the hands of the enemy and already carried scars on his body that would be there for life, he knew what Lawson was going through was even worse. The snake that Truong, the sadistic North Vietnamese officer, had poisoned him with contained some of the deadliest venom in all of the world’s tropical rainforests, yet was slow acting, and Truong had controlled the bite so that it was just enough to kill Lawson, but at a slow pace. The antidote was just outside the door, available if any of them betrayed their country and their fellow soldiers by revealing their battle plans and base layout to the communist enemy.

“I……I won’t talk…..I swear to God,” Lawson said, hyperventilating and shaking as the venom began to spread further into his body. They won’t let us go anyway. I know they won’t. We just all need to hold on while….while our boys get us. To hell with these bastards.”

JT wanted to tell some white lies, make his friend feel better. But he knew that Lawson’s life would end soon, and he owed him the truth. He simply nodded. “Yes, I know.”

“At least…..at least I’m getting it easy…..please….please stay strong, JT. Don’t tell them anything. Promise me.”

“I promise,” JT said sincerely. He knew what was in store for him and why Lawson knew the enemy never intended to release them, not even if they were defeated. It was the open presence of Yevgeniy Gavrilov and how the Soviet Red Army advisor showed no compunction about murdering Steve Tucker in cold blood right before their very eyes. He didn’t care that the other Americans clearly knew his name and the fact that he was in the Soviet military despite the Soviet government’s official line they were not involved in Southeast Asia. This only meant that Gavrilov and the North Vietnamese never intended for any of them to return to America and reveal this. Thinking of the slow death that awaited him in North Vietnam or the Soviet Union, JT had to agree that Lawson was probably the lucky one.

OFFICERS HOUSING AREA, DA NANG AIR BASE, SOUTH VIETNAM

“Colonel, sir,” Private Clay Morrow said, getting out of the Army jeep driven by Otis Cross as it pulled up next to the officers’ quarters which resembled some of the nicer trailer parks in Charming, mostly prefabricated doublewides with all of the modern amenities, spacious interiors, and most importantly in Southeast Asia, powerful AC units that the soldiers’ barracks lacked. Loc Bui also got out of the jeep, still dressed in his South Vietnamese Army uniform.

Colonel Adkins was just putting the key in the lock in his quarters when he turned the voice and turned around. “Dammit,” he muttered to himself then began walking toward the soldiers. “What is it, Morrow? I’ve already spoken to your friends back there. You know I would like nothing more than to get JT and the rest of them boys back but the order comes from the State Department. They won’t allow an operation that risks provoking an international incident with the Soviets.”

“We have a way around it,” Loc said, “I’ve spoken with General Nguyen, my battalion commander and he’s confirmed it with our leaders in Saigon. I have permission to lead this operation, and to request assistance from the United States as needed. We will take responsibility for whatever happens.”

“It will still be a hard sell to the higher ups,” Adkins said with a sigh, “The people in the White House an Capitol Hill have tied our hands behind our backs this entire war. They don’t intend to stop anytime soon. They’ll find a way to fault us, say if the Soviets…..”

“We have a way to handle the Soviets,” Otis said, “We know how to run this operation so that none of the blame falls back on us and where we can have complete deniability, especially if technically we’re simply assisting our allies from South Vietnam. If we fail, you can disavow all knowledge of our actions. This won’t require any additional American soldiers especially since Loc here has his own team that knows the area well. If we do get JT and Piney back, the credit will be yours for dispatching us to assist Sergeant Major Bui. Please, sir, allow me to walk you through our plans.”

GO NOI ISLAND, SOUTH VIETNAM, SOUTHWEST OF DA NANG

Otis knew that without massive amounts of armor and air support, mounting a direct attack on Hoi An was out of the question. Even if the Pentagon had somehow approved a major push into the town to rescue a handful of Americans, the fierce street fighting that would follow would allow the commies to either execute the prisoners or move them. Otis and Loc had to definitely think outside the box. Otis, Clay, Loc, and their team of twelve men used Zodiacs to cross the Communist lines on the Song Thu Bon River and make landfall on the island of Go Noi, where the enemy had set up several base camps and staging areas so they could invade further into South Vietnam. Instead of wearing their regular uniforms, Loc and the other South Vietnamese soldiers were dressed in the ragged peasant clothing favored by the Vietcong paramilitaries in the south.

Suddenly, a bullhorn sounded and a searchlight moved across the dark expanse of the river, illuminating the approaching zodiacs. Unknown to the enemy, a US Army helicopter was also approaching, flying low enough along the jungle treetops to avoid detection by any radars the commies might have.

“Who is approaching? Identify yourselves!” a harsh voice said through the bullhorn. Otis looked up and saw that the commies had several machine guns trained on them from a large watchtower as well as more armed commies on the shoreline of the island.

“We are loyal cadres of the Paramount Leader, Comrade!” Loc shouted loudly, “We serve under Comrade Commandant Le!” This was one of the notorious leaders of the Vietcong in the Da Nang area.

“This is General Minh,” another voice came, and they saw a man in a fancy North Vietnamese Army uniform taking the bullhorn. “Why in blazes did you not report to me you were coming? What business do you have here?”

“We captured these Americans, sir, less than an hour ago! Comrade Le and his commissars wanted them brought here. We are still engaging the Americans inside Da Nang, Comrade General! Communications may be difficult in the battle area!”

There was a pause. “Bring them!” General Minh ordered. “Escort them to the detention facility!”

“Shit, man, that was close,” Otis remarked, turning around to look at Clay, who just stared ahead silently. The South Vietnamese made a show of taunting and brandishing their guns at the “prisoners” in order to keep up the charade that they were Vietcong. Five minutes later, they pulled up to a rusty dock with a narrow gate through a barbed wire fence that they were led through.

They were met by a small number of enemy soldiers who began leading them toward the general’s quarters near the middle of the base camp.

“We’re in range now,” a helicopter pilot said from a short distance away, the rumbling of vehicles on the island and the sound of rolling thunder masking the sound of the rotors.

“Hold your fire, repeat hold your fire,” Otis said, “We need the strike after we’ve already engaged the enemy in order to further throw them off balance. We have one shot at getting to the general.”

“Roger that.”

Otis waited until they were deep into the enemy camp before giving the silent signal. Then in a split second, the Americans took out weapons from underneath their rags while the South Vietnamese soldiers turned their weapons on the commies. Loc quickly gunned down all three commies escorting them from behind while Otis and Clay each killed two enemies with quick bursts to the chest.

“What is going….” They heard a voice shout in Vietnamese. They saw five commies running toward them from the general’s headquarters. Otis and Clay both turned in that direction, unleashing heavy machine gun fire that quickly cut down all five commies in a heap.

“Take cover and fan out!” Otis shouted as the commies returned fire from several windows, firing platforms built into the trees as well as the watchtower.

“Come on, this way,” Otis whispered to Clay who nodded and followed him between two large tents. A commie stepped in front of them and Clay shot him down with a round through the neck, nearing decapitating him. Loc took cover behind a vehicle as more commies arrived. Soon they were facing off against at least two dozen enemy troops. A group of hostiles approached from a truck parking area lit up by fluorescent lamps, which also illuminated a large gasoline storage tank.

Loc opened fire on the gas tank, and it finally exploded in a fiery blaze after several seconds, sending a large fireball spreading in all directions. Several commies were swallowed up by the explosion as the force several more into the air. Even more were disoriented, allowing Otis and Clay to come out from behind a tent and mow down seven more enemy soldiers. The South Vietnamese soldier next to Loc took a round through the face and fell over dead.

“We got more shooters in the windows!” Loc shouted, opening fire then taking fire behind the vehicle again. The commies’ return fire was furious, riddling the vehicle with bullets.

Otis finally radioed the chopper. “Engage all targets now, repeat, engage!”

The US Army helicopter launched at least six missiles into the communist camp. Two of them struck the commies’ temporary barracks, killing over thirty enemy soldiers instantly as one fireball after another turned night into day. Another one struck a weapons cache near the perimeter. The resulting explosion shook the entire island and the flames reached up, swallowing up the watchtower and the two commies inside it. Some of the shore batteries began opening up but the crew on board the American helicopter laid down some furious suppressive fire, leaving the shoreline littered with over a dozen enemy casualties. After that run, the aircraft turned back to the east. After all, deniability was a priority on this mission, and that wouldn’t be possible if it was somehow shot down.

“Let’s move!” Otis yelled, motioning for his men to follow him. They quickly approached the general’s quarters, where several commies out front were moving around dazed by the explosion. Otis opened fire again with his assault rifle until his clip was empty, then switched to his pistol, shooting down two commies while Clay gunned down another one before he could even aim his weapon at the Americans.

GENERAL’S QUARTERS, GO NOI BASE CAMP

“Loc, I need you and your men to secure the perimeter!” Otis said as they converged on the local government building housing the general’s quarters. “Myself and our guys are gonna move in and take the general. Remember, we need the general alive for our entire plan to work.”

“Understood,” Loc replied, “If its anyone else but the general coming out, we shoot to kill.”

“Damn straight. Alright, Clay, guys, let’s get those motherfuckers.”

The commies were able to regroup and put up some heavy resistance at the building, opening fire from several elevated positions. Three South Vietnamese soldiers were cut down by enemy fire but the Americans quickly opened up on the windows and balconies the commies were firing from. Two commies plunged off a balcony dead. Clay fired a full automatic round into two windows from below. He didn’t see his target get hit, but a voice that had been shouting platitudes to Ho Chi Minh turned into a dying scream then fell silent.

Otis and Clay led one team through the front while another American team entered through the rear of the building. Two commies opened fire from the porch as Otis approached the front. Otis took cover behind a coconut tree, several bullets whizzing by. Clay stepped forward and sent the commie falling to the porch with a burst of fire. Another commie opened up but Otis flattened himself on the ground, the commie’s bullets hitting the wet grass behind him instead. Otis aimed quickly and blasted the commie all over the front of his body, pieces of flesh flying in all directions as the target collapsed to the floor.

An American soldier was wounded in the shoulder as they burst into the building but they still had the momentum going. The sudden attack along with the helicopter strike had left many of the commies in disarray. Otis and Clay found their target upstairs as the other American team took care of the commies on the lower level. A North Vietnamese sergeant did try to make a run for it, but he made it less than three feet before Loc and his men gunned him down.

They heard shouting and some footsteps coming down the stairs. Otis could tell from the footsteps that it was just one man. He whispered for the others to be quiet. “Maybe this bastard might be able to make things easier for us.”

Otis whirled around and sure enough a single commie soldier was rushing down the stairs, not expecting the Americans to already be this far into the building. Otis shot him in both feet, causing him to lose his balance and tumble down the stairs. Clay took out his knife and held it to the commie’s throat. At that moment they heard more hostiles coming and shot down another hostile at the top of the stairs.

“Where’s the general?” Clay demanded, drawing blood with the knife.

“Second door to the right!” the commie stammered.

Clay nodded. “Thank you. Now this is for being a commie bastard.” Clay then jammed the knife so deep into his throat that it came out the other side. For good measure, Clay also stabbed the commie again through the heart, sending his body falling down the stairs. Otis hated the enemy but a part of him was just slightly uncomfortable about what he had witnessed though he knew it was necessary. There had to be no witnesses to the American presence. The commies had brought this upon themselves by casting their lot with the Soviet enemy, waging war against the free world, and capturing American soldiers. Otis and Clay both knew that the lives of JT, Piney, and the other GIs were worth infinitely more than any of the pinkos they had killed here and will kill later.

Not expecting a direct assault on his quarters, General Minh only posted a handful of guards on the upper floor, which was his mistake. Otis took down another commie in the hallway then burst into the general’s office where only two more commies stood guard. Clay saw one of them rush into the general to protect him and blew his head off while Otis saw the other commie reaching for his weapon and killed him with a bullet through the heart before he could open fire. General Minh reached into his desk for his weapon but Otis fired several shots right next to his hand as well as the wall and ceiling around him.

“As you can see, we don’t miss, so you best do as you’re fucking told,” Otis said.

“You fucking American shit. All of you!” Minh sneered.

Clay took his gun and shot Minh in the inner thigh. “Ahhhhhh!” the communist screamed, clutching his leg as blood seeped through his fingers.

“Next one’s in your dick, Comrade,” Clay said as Minh stared at him with a face contorted with pain, fear, and pure loathing.

POW HOLDING AREA

It took Lawson over an hour to painfully succumb to the venom, his body twisting in indescribable agony as the venom paralyzed his lungs and then finally his heart. There wasn’t the barest amount of sympathy in the eyes of any of the commies, who constantly mocked and ridiculed the dying American in Vietnamese and Russian. Truong returned for the next interrogation session, accompanied by Colonel Gavrilov and two other Soviets. JT felt he was about to break through his handcuffs as he saw the Russian monster who had expressed so much pleasure in killing a defenseless, injured American only a few hours earlier.

“I see Lawson here did not care about his own life. I also see that none of you cared enough to save him,” Gavrilov said in his thick, intimidating Russian accent. “Now, we will see just how resistant the rest of you will be when you are not watching, but experiencing the interrogation.” He turned to Truong and said in English for the Americans’ benefit. “We will start with Corporal Teller.” Gavrilov then switched back to Russian. “With their leaders defeated, the rest of these men will crumble. Trust me. I have done this many times in Hungary.”

Truong came forward, obviously relishing his words as he spoke. “You are proud, brave American soldiers. What are you so proud of? The people of the united socialist Vietnam do not want you here. Your own people do not want you here!” Troung had a glint in his eye as he walked over to JT with a copy of the New York Times, showing a large newspaper picture of anti-war protestors in Times Square holding up North Vietnamese and Soviet flags while stomping on the American flag. Behind them was a large banner denouncing capitalism and American imperialism. Many of the protestors had signs calling the GIs war criminals, baby killers, and worst of all cowards. The world was indeed upside down. The Pentagon’s efforts to limit its bombing campaign against North Vietnam in order to minimize civilian casualties had already cost American lives by extending the war. Yet American soldiers were still “baby killers”. The biggest irony is that the same protestors probably celebrated the rapid proliferation of abortion clinics across America. “This is why Lawson died? Will you die for this as well?”

Gavrilov came forward as two commies, one Soviet and the other North Vietnamese grabbed JT from his position and dragged him away from the wall, making sure his hands were still cuffed behind his back. The North Vietnamese soldier brutally kicked JT in the back, sending him first to his knees then face first to the floor while the Soviet simply laughed in sadistic pleasure and let out a string of Russian insults.

“Hold him down!” Gavrilov ordered.

Da, tovarich!” the Soviet said and did as he was told. Gavrilov came over with a cart full of bottles of vodka, imported directly from the Soviet Union. “What is more fun that drinking this, American,” Gavrilov said to JT, “Is doing some waterboarding with it, or shall I say, vodka boarding!” His mouth opened into a sadistic laugh and the other Russians and North Vietnamese followed suit. “You will experience what it feels like to drown….in this!”

Gavrilov blindfolded JT and tied a cloth around his nose and mouth. He took a swig of the vodka then held the bottle over JT’s face, slowly pouring the vodka down onto the cloth. JT immediately felt his nose and throat burn as it they were on fire. Gavrilov then kicked JT in the chest, sending him flying backwards and sliding along the ground. He ripped the cloth and blindfold off.

“You think that was an entire bottle, American? Let me tell you, Corporal Teller, that was less than a quarter bottle. You will die of the alcohol poisoning when this is over, Teller! You will tell me the information I demand from you, suka!” Gavrilov screamed, drunk with both alcohol and revolutionary fervor.

“Go fuck yourself, Ivan,” Teller spat. No matter what happened, no matter what the radical leftists and hippies back home thought, America was worth fighting and dying for. It was men like him that gave those traitorous idiots their right to wave enemy flags in the faces of American troops returning home from the battlefield.

Gavrilov tilted JT’s head backward and began pouring down more vodka but a few seconds later, Major Truong came over. “Comrade Gavrilov, pardon the interruption but this is critical. Comrade General Minh is on the line from Go Noi, he says the Americans are attacking the island and demands to speak to me immediately. You may want to be present as your advice is always honored.”

Gavrilov stopped pouring the vodka and set the bottle down on the table, leaving JT to suffer some more before removing the cloth again. JT retched, spitting out as much of the harsh alcohol as he could. Back home he could hold it down as good as the next man. He chugged Budweisers and took shots of Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, and Southern Comfort but not to the almost fatal level that Gavrilov wanted to give him. Besides, this off-brand concoction produced in a state-owned Soviet factory with ingredients grown in a collective farm was the most disgusting alcohol he had consumed in his entire life.

“You are right. We must find out what the American aggressors are up to.”

Of course all this was said in Russian, but JT knew from the expression on the commies’ faces that something was not going right for them. Inwardly he smiled, knowing that victory would be on his side, because if there was any divine justice in the world, America would triumph over these people.

HOI AN FISH MARKET/ GO NOI COMMUNIST BASE CAMP

“This is General Minh. What in blazes took you so long?” Minh demanded loudly, his voice reaching out through the static on the radio. Clay and Loc continued pointing their weapons at Minh while Otis nodded as if saying “you’re doing well, keep it up.” Minh did his best authoritative tone, knowing his own life depended on how convincing he was in getting Truong and Pham to do whatever these Americans and Southern capitalists demanded.

“I apologize for the delay, Comrade General! We are dealing with capitalist resistance here in Hoi An, we are still clearing the town and hunting down Western spies!”

“You think you are the only ones in battle, Major? The capitalists are attacking us right now here in Go Noi! We believe some of their teams have infiltrated the island and that the Americans may begin a major assault with airborne divisions and marine landing craft. Have the Americans in your custody revealed anything?”

“No, Comrade General. They are showing more resolve but they will not resist forever.”

“I want them transferred here to Go Noi immediately!” Minh ordered under duress, putting on his best authoritative voice. Loc listened carefully to the Vietnamese language conversation, nodding to Otis and Clay that it was going well so far. “I need to obtain the Americans’ battle plans from them. Hundreds of brave revolutionaries died securing this island from the capitalists, I will not allow an inch of it to fall into American hands!”

“Yes, as you command, Comrade General,” Truong said, “What are my orders regarding the general interrogation….”

“They will continue here! We have the means to break them faster. We must learn of the Americans’ planned counterattack on this island. We also need them as hostages to deter their pilots from attacking us from the air!”

“Yes, Comrade General! Where would you like us to deliver the Americans?”

Otis pointed to an isolated spot on the map on a small jungle highway in between the holding facility and their current location. Minh nodded and spoke rapidly in Vietnamese, Loc continuing to confirm the translation.

“So, what now?” General Minh demanded after he disconnected the call with Truong. “Are we done here?”

Clay stepped forward with a smirk. “Yeah, we’re done.” He pulled out his Glock sidearm and put a bullet through Minh’s brain, the communist general’s body first slumping over onto the table and then tumbling out of the chair into the ground.

“Remember, we don’t have a choice here,” Clay said to Otis just in case he was still having doubts. “We can’t risk any of this getting out cause like Adkins told us, if we screw up, we get the blame, and I’m not about to get a dishonorable discharge not to mention go to prison.”

“That was also for my brother,” Loc said.

NORTH VIETNAMESE TEMPORARY HQ

JT could see how Piney was still traumatized by almost having to watch the torture session that was thankfully cut short by the emergency radio call from higher ups in the North Vietnamese military. They both wondered what the hell that call was about and prayed it was word that the US was counterattacking. He knew in a kidnapping, the thirst 72 hours were crucial, and this was what it was really, a simple kidnapping and hostage taking. The commies wore uniforms and had ranks, but they were no different than common criminals.

Soon afterward, the metal door to the holding area burst open and a dozen North Vietnamese soldiers filed in, aggressively approaching the American POWs. One of the soldiers kicked Lawson’s dead body and laughed. “Ah, we need make sure he dead!” the commie taunted JT in broken English. Pham then followed his men in and spit on Lawson.

“Get this American bastard out of here. Put him with the other capitalist scum!” he ordered.

“Yes, Comrade Sergeant!”

“The rest of you will come with us!” Truong said to the Americans, “You are lucky you are being given some extra time to reflect on your decisions to resist us.”

OBJECTIVE HUNTINGTON, WEST OF HOI AN

Dawn had broken by the time the South Vietnamese spotters reported that the transport convoy carrying the American prisoners was approaching Objective Huntington, the name Otis and Clay gave to the stretch of road through the swampland surrounding by steaming jungle where the rescue assault was to take place. This was not the flamingo colored tropical sky that Otis and Clay had seen in Florida. In fast the actual sunrise was blocked by the thick clouds and mist and another torrential downpour was brewing. Everything, even the fog and the rain, about this place had an eerie quality to it. They arrived several hours before the prisoner transport was to reach the location so they can set up surveillance and plant the two remote controlled mines underneath the dirt trail. Clay Morrow and two spotters were hidden in the woods to observe the convoy and detonate the explosives at just the right spot while the other Americans and SVA soldiers hid in the deep foliage, the way the commies typically did. In order to bag a deer or a fox, you had to beat it at its own game. Otis figured it was much the same with the commies, since they were never going to play by the rules of war as it applied to civilized nations.

The North Vietnamese convoy arrived only ten minutes behind schedule. Communist efficiency did exist behind the barrel of a gun and the threats of punishment by the superior officers so Truong and Pham moved things along pretty quickly, even delaying their interrogation of Piney for the future. Yevgeniy Gavrilov also rode along with them. There was no way he was going to leave these American prisoners, and he also wanted to see how the offensive was going given that it was critical his revolutionary socialist brothers here didn’t love their foothold in South Vietnam. None of them had any way of knowing they would never have a chance to ask JT, Piney, or any of the other Americans any questions again.

“Alright, convoy is in position!” one of the spotters said to Clay.

“Look closely into the lead vehicles. Confirm no friendlies.”

The spotter zoomed in further with his binoculars and confirmed that all the Americans were being held in the center truck, and that the other vehicles. “The Russians are here indeed. I see at least three Soviet soldiers in the lead vehicles, fourth one is riding with our men.”

Clay pushed the buttons on the two detonators simultaneously. A firestorm engulfed the first two vehicles of the convoy while a giant fireball rose from the back too, reaching almost as high as the treetops. Several trees were blown off their roots and the Americans took cover as the shock wave spread out in all directions. Truong and Pham, who rode in the Soviet-made jeep behind the truck with the American prisoners, slammed on their brakes and dismounted from their vehicle, barking commands in Vietnamese.

JT too was briefly disoriented by the explosion, but not nearly as much as Gavrilov and the other commies. JT suddenly headbutted one of the North Vietnamese soldiers in the chest, slamming him into the tarp, both men tumbling out of the truck into the muddy strip that passed for a shoulder on this isolated roadway. Piney did the same, grabbing one of the dazed commies’ guns and pointing it across the truck. Several commie soldiers from the other vehicles began opening up but one by one they were taken out by Otis, Loc, and the other Americans and South Vietnamese firing from concealed positions in the forest. Otis saw a commie take the mounted machine gun on a jeep and turn it in the general direction another team of Americans was firing from. He sent a grenade flying toward the commie, timing it so that there was no way his enemy could escape or toss it back. The grenade exploded in the air, turning the commie into a collection of body parts and damaging the machine gun beyond repair. Otis saw another commie leave a vehicle and gunned him down with a long burst.

Clay and Loc now moved toward, approaching the convoy. The commies were under fire from all sides

“Get down!” JT shouted for the Americans’ benefit then squeezed the trigger, killing two commies. JT swept the commie off his feet and kicked him in the face grabbing his weapon. In the corner of his eye he saw Pham approaching, holding his assault rifle. JT pointed the gun at the commie had had just tackled, blowing him away then focused on Pham.

“You will never stop the Communist Revolution!” screamed Pham as he charged forward with his AK-47 blazing. "Death to America!" Then one of JT’s rounds hit him in the stomach, following by another round by Clay and even more by Otis and one of the other American soldiers. More than a hundred bullets riddled Pham’s body before it hit the ground. At the same time, Truong reloaded and rushed toward Piney.

Piney’s eyes narrowed with rage as he was his tormentor coming at him in a blind charge. Truong rushed forward, shooting one bullet after another from his Makarov pistol, letting out a primal scream. One of his bullets grazed Piney on his arm but Piney kept coming, firing his own gun in return. Truong knew he was not getting out of this alive, but he wanted to take as many Americans down as he could. Piney’s next few bullets struck Truong center mass, sending blood squirting out of his chest as fell down screaming.

Piney turned away to deal with the remaining commies, not knowing that the dying Truong still had some fight left in him. Even as he coughed up blood, Truong cursed Piney and crawled slowly to his gun, preparing to aim at Piney’s back as Piney walked away, like a scene out of an old Western movie. After killing a Soviet soldier running toward Clay’s position, Piney saw Otis motioning for him to watch out for something behind him. Piney whirled around just as Truong leveled his pistol. Piney discharged a single bullet that flew straight into Truong’s brain.

JT now hid behind a large rock by the road and saw the half-drunk and dazed Gavrilov stumbling around. He emerged from behind the rock and violently tackled the Soviet colonel. JT punched Gavrilov in the face and swung him over onto the ground, kneeing him in the chest. The Soviet advisor barely grunted in pain but then JT took the gun and shot him in the hand, then in his right leg so that Gavrilov couldn’t move too quickly. He could have easily killed Gavrilov with the shot, but there was no way JT was going to make it that easy for him, not after what he had done to Tucker and Piney and the perverse pleasure he had shown through it all.

“What is this? What are you doing?!” Gavrilov demanded in a mix of fear and indignation as JT and Piney forced him back onto his feet and shoved him through the woods, his feet getting bogged down in the mud several times. JT shoved him forward and before him lay a large, fetid pond filled with quicksand, an ubiquitous scene in this part of the world. Buzzards and flies filled the surface of the quicksand pond. The next things to come out of his mouth would have been funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. “You have no right to do this to me! This is a war crime! I demand to speak to my government!”

JT gave Gavrilov a vengeful smile. “I want you to look at me, you sick son of a bitch,” he said. “And its funny you just brought up the Soviet government. You know we have a saying in America, even a broken clock’s right twice a day. Your embassy claims there is no Soviet military presence in Da Nang. Most of the time your government’s full of shit, but this is one of the times when they’re actually right. Suka!

With that, JT gave Gavrilov a violent push, sending him hurtling forward uncontrollably until he landed with a splash in the quicksand. Gavrilov desperately tried to get up and swim but the downward force of the quicksand was far too powerful. Piney also looked with his lips clenched in hatred and satisfaction as he watched Gavrilov scream in pain as the force of the quicksand crushed his legs and he sank slowly, screaming in unintelligible Russian as his head disappeared below the surface.

JT turned around and embraced Otis first, then Clay. “Thankfully y’all showed up a lot quicker than I expected. I didn’t know how much longer we could have made it.”

Otis nodded. “You know we got you, brother. Always.”

“I know,” JT said as relief washed across his face despite the pain and grief. “I’ll never forget this.”


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