12.Valkyrie Station, Neda.
“Hello any US station on this frequency,” Cordelia spoke into the microphone as she sat in the little dark room, “this is Valkyrie report my signal, over…” sitting hunched up next to the radio she listened intently before adding to herself, “…please.”
Over the last few minutes the firing outside had got heavier as someone either tried to get in or blow them to kingdom come. Whatever was going on Cordy had listened with concern to Faith’s increased return fire, she was just about to give up on the radio and go and help when she heard something faintly over her headphones, it sounded like an American voice answering her call.
“Hello American station this is Valkyrie receiving you strength five, over,” urgently Cordelia fiddled with the tuning dials trying to get a stronger signal; her heart jumped into her mouth as the signal suddenly got clearer.
It was definitely an American station although Cordy had no idea where or what it was, she was just about to congratulate herself on being such a radio-genius when the voice started to ask her questions. It asked her; what her full name was, what her social security number was, her mother’s maiden name, where she’d gone to school and so on. Quickly Cordy realised that whoever she was talking to wanted to confirm who she was before taking things any further.0=0=0=0The Whitehouse Situation Room.
“General Allyson,” an aide said quietly, “we’ve made contact with someone I think you should talk to.”
The General took the telephone the aide offered him and listen to the radio operator explain what was happening before telling him to put the call through.
“Hello, Lt Chase?” General Allyson waited a moment for the voice at the other end of the telephone to confirm her identity, “This is General Allyson at the Whitehouse, how’re you doing Marine?”0=0=0=0Valkyrie Station, Neda.
“FAITH!” Cordelia yelled over the sound of the continuing firefight.
“WHAT’S UP?” Faith called back; gunfire punctuating her words, “LITTLE BUSY OUT HERE!”
“I got through!” Cordy stopped yelling as there was a pause in the firing, “I got through to the freakin' Whitehouse!”
“Say what!” Faith turned away from the window she was covering and stared for a moment at the doorway to the room containing Cordy and her radio, “You’re screwing with me!”
“NO!” Cordy replied, “I’m…hold on wait….there’s more…”
Looking back out of the window, Faith was just in time to see half a dozen figures trying to move into firing positions on the other side of the street, she fired and saw two of them fall before a burst of fire impacted the mud brick wall just inches from her head.0=0=0=0The Whitehouse Situation Room.
“Madam President,” still holding the phone General Allyson turned to where President Allen was standing watching the battle feed from the recon drone a concerned look on her face; the marine rescue mission was still five minutes out. “I have Lt Chase on the line if you’d like to speak to her.”
“Lt Chase?” for a moment President Allen had to think about what the old soldier was telling her, after only a seconds hesitation she took the phone from his hand. “Lt Chase this is President Allen, I’m so glad to hear your voice we all thought you were dead…how are you doing…?”0=0=0=0Valkyrie Station, Neda.
“…Madam President! Ma’am! Erm…” for one of the few times in her life Cordelia Chase was lost for words, however she soon found them again. “Well Ma’am,” Cordelia began, “considering we’re surrounded by bad guys who are out to kill us and we’re trapped in a mud brick house which is slowly being blown up around us I’d say we’re doing just peachy…Ma’am.”
Cordelia listened carefully to what her Commander in Chief had to say.
“Well, duh, Ma’am,” Cordy smiled, “of course we can hold, Chief Lehane is out there now making their eyes water…if you want I could grab the kids and lead a counter attack!”
Once again Cordy paused to let the President get a word in edgeways and tell her there was no need to launch any counter attacks.
“Yes, ma’am,” Cordy replied a little more soberly, “glad to hear the Marines are on their way, we’ll hold here, ma’am wait for them to arrive…thank-you ma’am…right back at you ma’am…gotta go now ma’am.”
Taking off the head phones, Cordy picked up her rifle and hopped over to the door, she saw Faith firing out the window as the kids loaded magazines and passed them to her.
“FAITH!” Cordy yelled over the sound of firing, “MARINES…FIVE MIN…!” Cordy was blown off her feet before she could finish what she was saying.0=0=0=0
Even her super-soldier eyes couldn’t quite penetrate the clouds of dust and smoke that swirled up and down the street outside. Gunfire seemed to be coming from every direction as the battle ebbed and flowed around them. Lifting her rifle to her shoulder once more Faith fired a short burst at some dimly seen figures on the other side of the street, however she couldn’t see if they’d fallen. Deciding not to fire again, Faith looked down to check her ammunition. Sitting by her feet the two Neidermyer kids swapped rounds from magazine to magazine so she always got a full one; Faith noticed that the pile of full magazines was very small now. Well it couldn’t be helped she told herself before looking outside again just in time to see the RPG rocket heading towards her.
“FAITH!” Faith heard Cordelia’s voice from behind her, “MARINES…!”
“RPG!” Faith yelled just before the world exploded around her.0=0=0=0
Flying low over the town the lead Super-Cobra gunship chewed up the roadway with the 20mm rotary cannon in its chin turret, banking away to the left the Cobra made way for the next gunship in line. The second helicopter reduced the group of hostiles who were firing up at the choppers to roughly butchered lumps of meat with the merest touch of its cannon before it too banked away to the left.
The lead UH1 flared for a landing as Lt Ring saw the ground come up to meet it.
“GO! GO! GO!” He yelled as he jumped from the helo and sprinted through the dust and smoke until he crashed into the wall of a house.
Within seconds of landing the helicopter was in the air again leaving Ring with a momentary feeling of isolation. Shaking off these feeling he glanced around to see the rest of his platoon deploy around him. Looking up into the sky he could see the Cobras circling his position like hungry sharks.
“COME ON YOU DEVIL DOGS!” Ring shouted what had become his battle cry, “FOLLOW ME!”0=0=0=0
Finding herself lying on the floor, Cordy pushed herself upright and searched around for her rifle. The room was full of dust making it hard to see more than a few inches, she could just make out the hole in the wall were the door used to be, but the only thing she could hear was the painful ringing in her ears; of Faith and the kids she could see nothing. Forcing herself to stand up, Cordy caught the shapes of several figures entering the room through the hole. Not knowing if the figures where friend or foe Cordy lifted her rifle to waist height and prepared to defend herself.
“U-S MARINE!” Cordy yelled hearing herself like she was shouting through a layer of cotton wool; her call was answered by a wildly directed burst of fire that brought down half the ceiling.
Returning fire Cordy saw a couple of the man-shapes fall to the floor, the next moment the room was full of the sound of yelling and firing as more shapes piled into the room. Finding her rifle had stopped firing, Cordelia hopped towards her foes and used her weapon as a club. A big Arab in camouflaged fatigues loomed up in front of her and she noted how white his teeth looked before smashing them out with her rifle butt.
“BASTARD!” Cordy yelled as blood and teeth flew like shrapnel across the room, “USELESS FUCKERS…MESS WITH QUEEN ‘C’ WOULD YA!?”
Again she swung her rifle butt this time hitting someone on the side of the head. Just as she was about to smash her rifle into her opponent’s face and finish him off, Cordelia was hit from the side and forced to the floor. Suddenly she found herself fighting for her life against the heavy body on top of her. Biting, kicking, punching and gouging, Cordelia fought on, she’d told the President of the United States that they could hold, she wasn’t about to let her Commander in Chief down.0=0=0=0
Shaking her head to rid it of the church bells that were stopping her from hearing properly, Faith pushed herself to her feet just in time to hear a burst of fire impact the ceiling above her, a moment later it was answered by a burst of fire that took the first firer down. Registering the figures trying to get into the room and recognising them as hostiles, Faith reached out to the nearest man, she grabbed him by his chin and the back of his head. With a shrug of her shoulders she twisted his head violently to the right and felt his neck snap. Letting her first victim fall to the ground, she punched her next target in the throat, gasping for breath the man fell to the ground where he quickly choked to death.
Grabbing another man she used his body as a shield as yet another enemy fired blindly into the room. Faith felt rounds impacting the body she was holding in front of her as she pushed it towards the firer. Slamming into the man with the gun, Faith dropped her shield, wrapped her hands around her target’s neck and lifted him off his feet and smashed his head into the top of the door frame. Letting him fall limply to the floor, she realised that there were no more men trying to get into their refuge. Satisfied it was safe to turn her back on the door, at least for a while, she turned to see Cordelia struggling with two men on the floor.
“Way to go, L-t!” Faith muttered as she strode across the room and grabbed the two men by the collars of their jackets.
With a grunt she heaved them off the struggling Marine, throwing one man into the wall she broke the neck of the other and let him fall in time to catch the other man as he bounced off the wall and back into her deadly embrace. There was a dry branch snapping sound as she broke his neck before letting him fall to the ground to join his comrade.
“You okay L-t?” Faith reached out to take hold of Cordelia’s hand and pulled her to her feet.
“Just fine,” Cordelia admitted as she spat, hair, blood and pieces of ear from her mouth.
“Kids?” Faith turned to look for the children.
“We’re okay, ma’am,” Simon called as he and his sister appeared from behind an over turned table.
“Okay people,” Faith said determinedly, “just because we kicked their asses doesn’t mean we can slack off, lets get this place into a state of defence, okay L-t?”
“Right on Chief!” Cordelia nodded as she hobbled over to a rifle and picked it up off the floor; just as she was straightening up she saw more figures in the door way, “Oh shit,” she sighed, “Give me a break would you?”
“U-S MARINES! U-S MARINES!” Yelled a multitude of voices as men in the uniform of the United State Marines burst into the room.
“U-S-A FRIENDLIES!” Faith called back as she raised her hands.
“Corpsman!” a voice that Faith thought she recognised called out.
Lowering her hands as a Navy Corpsman gave her a perfunctory check before moving on to Cordelia and the kids, Faith looked closely at the Marine Staff Sergeant who was grinning at her like a fool.
“Stitch?” Faith asked uncertainly, “Stitch Jones?”
“That’s Staff Sergeant Stitch Jones,” Stitch replied, “Lt Ring’s around here somewhere…”
As if by magic the man in question appeared in front of Faith.
“Outstanding, Chief,” Ring pumped Faith’s hand, “Outstanding, but nothing I wouldn’t expect from an honorary Marine.”
“Thanks L-t, but Lt Chase had a lot to do with it too,” Faith smiled, “but it’s no more than I’d expect from an honorary Ranger!”
“Yeah sure,” Lt Ring smiled, “now lets leave the congratulations ‘til later, I’ve got some choppers to take you to hot showers and hot chow…lets move it Marines!”0=0=0=0A Ridgeline over looking Neda.
The sun was sinking over the hills behind them as two men stared down at the smoke shrouded town below. The Pasha’s forces had been defeated, but the cost had been so high there would be no Jihad this year. But at least the Americans had come and taken back their people so something had been achieved and the Raisuli’s honour had been restored.
“My friend,” Sawalha said quietly to the man standing next to him, “we have lost everything…all is drifting on the wind as you said,” he shook his head sadly before repeating, “We have lost everything.”
“Sawalha,” El Raisuli smiled his teeth white in the dusk, “is there not one thing in your life that is worth losing everything for?”
Both men began to laugh before turning their backs on the burning town and walking back into the desert.0=0=0=0The Epilogue.The Whitehouse, One month later.
“How y’doin’ L-t?” Faith smiled as she walked into the room and saw Cordelia sitting in her wheel chair by the window.
The two women looked at each other in silence for a moment; Faith admired Cordy’s dress blues and felt a little dowdy in her own dress uniform. They were here to see the President, have their photos taken and have medals pinned on them.
“Not so bad,” Cordy forced a smile, “they had to re-break my leg and set it properly but I’ll be up and about again before the months out.” Cordy’s smile became a little more genuine as she looked Faith up and down, “You look disgustingly healthy!”
“Ha!” Faith laughed, “I’ve been sittin’ on my butt for the last month with my mom feeding me milk ‘n’ cookies until I nearly burst.”
“So,” Cordelia changed the subject to something that had been puzzling her, “what I don’t understand is why I’m getting a medal? All I did was crash, get my legs broken, get captured and sit on my butt for nearly six months…”
“You survived,” Faith pointed out, “ya never gave up and when you saw an opportunity for escape that had a chance of succeeding ya took it.”
“Okay,” Cordy shifted uncomfortably in her chair, “but that was mainly you, Faith.”
“And ya saved my butt when I was down an’ out at the end there,” Faith smiled down at her friend, “an’ the way you were beatin’ on those two guys…”
“Yeah I did that didn’t I?” a big toothy smile spread across Cordelia’s face all doubts forgotten, “Hey, I am good aren’t I?”
“Ya sure as hell are, L-t,” Faith nodded and then turned as a door opened behind her.
“The President is ready for you now,” announced an aide as he walked across the room to take hold of Cordelia’s chair.
“Hey,” Faith got to the chair before the aide did, she gave the guy a warm smile, “I’ll do that.”
“There’s no need Chief,” the aide replied, “I can…”
“Hey look,” Faith lost some of the warmth from her eyes, “she’s my friend an’ it’s an honour to push her around.”
“What’d you mean?” Cordelia asked quietly catching Faith’s double meaning, “Push me around?”
“Look,” Faith started to push Cordelia towards the door as she followed the aide, “I’m a Ranger you’re a Marine you’d do the same for me so live with it.”
Stepping towards the door, the aide signalled them to wait for a moment as he opened the door to the Oval Office.
“Madam President,” called the aide, “Lieutenant Cordelia Chase, United States Marines Corps and Chief Warrant Officer Faith Lehane, US Army Rangers to see you.”
“Show them in Vincent,” replied the President.0=0=0=0
After their medals had been pinned on their chests and their photos taken, President Allen spoke with Faith and Cordelia for a few minutes before having to get back to her more mundane work, she did however show them to the door herself and as she did so she glanced at Faith’s other medal ribbons.
“Just how often have you been wounded, Chief?” The President asked in a low voice.
“Too often, Ma’am,” Faith replied with a shrug, “I lose count sometimes, it comes with the territory, ya know?”
“I think I do,” President Allen shook both Faith’s and Cordy’s hands again, “I’m very proud of you, both of you…”
“Oh Ma’am,” Faith paused before leaving the Oval Office, “I have something for ya…”
”For me?” President Allen replied a little surprised.
“El Raisuli musta slipped it in my pocket,” Faith handed a stained and crumpled envelope to the President, “I think he wanted you to read this, Ma’am.”
“Thank-you,” President Allen took the battered piece of paper, “I’ll be sure to do that.”0=0=0=0
After the two women had left her office, President Allen sat at her desk and looked at the note that Faith had given her. She knew she shouldn’t, her Secret Service protection detail would have a fit if she just opened it here in her office, they’d want to X-ray it and check it for poison. But, from everything she’d been told, El Raisuli was an honourable man, he wouldn’t try to poison her she felt sure. Casting caution to the wind, President Allen picked up a letter opener and slit open the envelope and pulled out the single sheet of note paper inside. After putting on her glasses and unfolding the note she started to read;To President Allen,
You are like the Wind and I like the Lion. You form the Tempest. The sand stings my eyes and the Ground is parched. I roar in defiance but you do not hear. But between us there is a difference. I, like the lion, must remain in my place. While you like the wind will never know yours.
Mulai Ahmed El Raisuli the Magnificent, Defender of the Faithful, Lord of the Riff.The End.