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Original stories by Shmolnick that humorously explore the dark side of humanity.

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African Patrol

Part One - Damn Jungle Flies

Captain Vic Horizon sat in the hastily erected command tent, swatting jungle flies from his reddened face. The Fearless Rangers were busy setting up camp, testing the communications equipment, and griping about the jungle heat. "Shit, what a fucked up mission," he thought.

Major Joe Shmolnick hunched over the wrinkled map of central Africa, spread out on the rickety bamboo table. The tall lean CIA agent scratched at his neck. "Captain, we're here," he said, marking the patrol's present location on the map with a red marker.

"Mmm-hmm," replied the sweating Captain. "I wonder where all those diamond mines are," he thought.

"Now, Colonel Safooma and his men are reported to be in this vicinity." Shmolnick pointed at another location, deep in the jungle to the east of the red mark. "Damn jungle flies!' he muttered, slapping at an insect that had taken up residence on his neck.

The paunchy captain stood up and looked at the map. "So how many men does this Safooma have with him again?" Captain Vic was already thinking of the business opportunities that lay ahead.

"Our last reports, had you read them," Shmolnick said, looking up pointedly at the Captain, "put Safooma's men at around 50 or 60. Of course, that was after they were run out of Mobutuland proper."

"Look Major, me and my men are ready for action. I don't waste my time reading bullshit intelligence reports. Just point me in the right direction, and we'll deal with the sumbitch."

Shmolnick smirked. He was very familiar with the Fearless Rangers' history of "action,", as the red-faced captain had put it. In his opinion, theirs was a history of needless violence, a complete and utter disregard for authority, and complaints from various local populations about alleged criminal activities. Nobody had ever proven any of the criminal charges against the maverick group, and his superiors back in Washington were enamored of Captain Vic's record of successful missions. They had been chosen for this mission exactly because of that history. Colonel Safooma was a nasty character and this mission was certain to be dangerous and violent. Sholnick was going to be there to catch Horizon and his Rangers in the act should the reports of criminal activities turn out to be true.

"Captain Horizon, I am well aware of your men's capabilities." SLAP!! "DAMN these jungle flies! Colonel Safooma and his men pose a major threat to the stability of this entire region. He's at his weakest right now, so we need to take him and his little army out, ASAP!"

Captain Vic grunted, the way he always did when he was faced with bureaucratic assholes like this Shmolnick. He didn't want to insult the CIA man outright, but in the back of his mind, he was hatching plans to deal with him in his own unique way. "Yeah, WE'll take him out alright." He swatted at another fly. "Man, these things are everywhere."

"Yes, if your man Jones hadn't lost the insect repellant on the way down, we wouldn't have to deal with this added annoyance, Captain."

Horizon scowled. Sure, Junior Jones had fucked up, but goddamn it if he would let somebody else criticizes his men. "Junior's a good kid. Everybody fucks up, Major."

"Yes, well, let's make sure we don't fuck up THIS MISSION." replied Shmolnick. " Now look here." He pointed to a gap in the jungle on the map. "Our intelligence says this is the only way through to the eastern jungle. There's sure to be some kind of trap there, Safooma's a clever bastard."

"Don't you worry about us, Major, we'll do our part. You just try to stay out of our way."

"Captain, I don't like your attitude. I am your commanding officer on this mission, don't you forget that." He pointed the red marker at the Captain.

"Well, you may be a commanding officer in your little office back in cozy Washington, but me and my men have a lot of REAL missions under our belt." Horizon stared angrily at the CIA man, who wasn't sweating despite the uncomfortable jungle humidity. "Yeah," he thought, "you ain't sweating now, but you will be soon enough."

The major stared back confidently. "Just don't pull any of your SHIT here, Captain. And you know what I mean." He bent over the map and resumed tracing possible paths to the jungle pass with his finger.

The Captain scowled. SLAP!!! He swatted another insect. "FUCK, I hate these damn flies!!" He looked at Shmolnick, hate burning in his eyes. "Oh, you ain't seen any of MY shit yet, major. Oh no, you ain't seen nothin' yet."

Part Two - The Fearless Rangers

While the two officers fenced with each other in the command tent, the Fearless Rangers were busy checking weapons and equipment. The grizzled Sgt. Pickle sat on a rotting tree trunk massaging his knees, paying only half of his attention to the other Rangers. Although Pickle was nominally in charge, most of the men had gotten into the habit of ignoring his rank.

Private Humanos DeShield was inspecting his pack and automatic rifle, peering down the business end of the gun while swatting at flies. "Hey Peekle, how you knees, man?"

Pickle looked up, frowning. "None of your fuckin' business, Chico."

"Aww, why you gotta be that way, man? It's only cuz I LOVE you." DeShield make loud kissing noises with his lips, eliciting laughter from Privates Bubbelli and Krotz, who were inspecting their own equipment nearby.

Pickle glared at the two. "Fuck you too," he said angrily, still massaging his knees.

Vinnie Bubbelli said, "You really oughta have a doctor take of those knees when we get back to the States, man. Modern medicine is really advanced, you know."

"Fuck you, modern medicine sucks." The sargeant reached into his pack, which was sitting on the ground next to him, and pulled out a small pillbox. "I got all the modern medicine I need right here." He opened the pillbox, took out two yellow pills, and popped them in his mouth, using his spit to ease the pills down his dry throat. "Fuckin' bugs. This is worse than Costa Rica." He used the pillbox to swat at some flies, then returned the box to his pack, groaning as this knees buckled under the strain.

Private Hung Lo Chow poked his head out from the bushes. "Perhaps you tly Eastern medicine, eh? Chow knees not pain rike Sahgeant."

"Shut up, Confucious," replied Pickle.

Chow looked at Bubbelli. "Hey Vinnie, terr Pickre about meditation exercise I show you. Works velly good, yes?" He laughed. The grizzled sargeant tossed a pebble at Chow, who quickly ducked back behind the bush.

Bubbelli shrugged, then went back to the task at hand. Krotz, meanwhile, was inspecting the various explosive devices, arranging them in neat rows, carefully making sure each row of explosives were perfectly aligned with the next row.

Suddenly, Private Junior Jones walked up to him. "Hey Krotz, whatcha doin'? D'ya need any help?" he asked, accidentally kicking one of the carefully arranged grenades a few inches.

Krotz jumped up in a panic. "JESUS CHRIST JUNIOR DON'T TOUCH MY BABIES!!!!!"

"Uh-oh," muttered Humanos Deshield under his breath.

Krotz grabbed Junior by the shoulders and dragged him away from the neat rows of explosives. Sticking his nose close to Junior's stunned face he started shouting. "You stupid GRUNT, don't you know NOBODY touches my BABIES but ME!! NEVER!!! EVER!!!! Don't EVER come near them again or I'll RIP YOUR UGLY FUCKIN' HEAD OFF AND SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS!!!!!! GOT THAT!!!"

Pickle looked up, his hands on his knees. "Quiet down, Krotz. Unless you want Safooma and his Mandinka warriors, or whatever the hell they're called, down around your ears. And Junior, go help Private Chow, and try not to FUCK UP AGAIN."

"Gee, okay Sarge." Junior retreated to rear of the little campsite, his head bowed. Krotz, his face still flushed, started mumbling to himself, then bent down to resume caring for his precious "babies."

The men continued to work silently, the only sounds being the steady buzzing of the omnipresent flies, the argumentative voices of the officers from within in the command tent, and an occasional CAW CAW of a jungle bird. Every few seconds, one of the men slapped or swatted at a fly, his annoyance proclaimed out loud to the group. "Shit!" "Fuckin' bugs!" "God DAMMIT!" "Fuckin' Junior!"

Deshield completed his equipment inspection, stood up, and stretched. "I hope we meet some African babes, man. I always wanted to have some a dat." He started singing. "I got a black magic woman. I wanna black magic woman. I really need a black woman, a black magic woman under me, la la la."

The other men snickered. Junior's voice could be heard from behind the bush. "Gee, I really like that song."

Part Three - Briefing

Captain Vic, red-faced, sweaty, and obviously uncomfortable in the jungle heat, stood with Major Shmolnick facing the men in the small clearing. The CIA agent seemed unaffected by the heat. Captain Vic slapped a fly away and said, "Okay men, gather round. It's briefing time." The men formed a tight circle around the two officers.

Major Shmolnick addressed the men. "Rangers, the mission we're about to begin is extremely dangerous. You have been chosen for this mission because of your past successes."

Humanos Deshield elbowed Junior Jones in the side and whispered, "Dat don't count you, Chunior." This was, in fact, Junior's first mission with the Rangers.

Shmolnick cleared his throat and frowned at Deshield. "Our goal is simple - remove Colonel Safooma and eliminate his army's ability to destabilize this region." He looked around at the men. "Now, Safooma was recently driven out of the capital city of Mobutuland, along with what's left of his private army. He has vowed revenge on the loyalist faction that drove him out."

Vinnie Bubbelli spoke up. "How many men does this Safooma have anyway, major?"

Captain Vic quickly spoke up. "We're not sure, Bubbelli. Could be 30, could be 40."

"At any rate," said the major, "our intelligence has pinpointed Safooma's secret base of operations, just east of our present location. It's a small area, so most of his army should be concentrated in that one spot."

"Making them an easy target," said Krotz, "ba-BAMM! Me and my babies are ready!!!"

The major cleared his throat again. "Now it won't be so easy as that, soldier. Safooma's men are well-armed and the Colonel is planning a counterstrike against the loyalists holding the city within days. Unfortunately, the loyalists are not well-armed and their will to fight is at about zero. We can't intervene directly, international politics being the way they are, so the only way is to take Safooma and him army out before they retake Mobutuland. Intelligence reports say they just received a new shipment of arms a few days ago, probably from French sources."

"Fuckeen froggies, man!" said Deshield.

"Jeez," said Junior Jones.

"Shut up, Junior."

"And their compound is well-guarded. We've had preliminary reports from our sources in Mobutuland that Safooma is quite skilled in setting traps in the jungle. And you can bet that his compound is surrounded by all kinds of nasty things. Captain?"

"Okay, men, so listen up. This Safooma fancies himself some kind of Zulu chieftain or something. Word is, he's been known to kill his enemies slowly, then cut up and eat the parts. So I don't have to tell you the consequences is we fail."

"Oh man, fuckeen cannibals!!!" Deshield said.

"Yeah, I wonder if he ever had Spanish food," laughed Bubbelli.

"I-yi-yi!" complained Deshield.

"Betta not rike Chinese food, I use kung foo on his brack ass." Hung Lo Chow said, karate chopping the air.

"Chow, if he ate your yellow hide, he'd be fuckin' hungry in a half hour," said Sargeant Pickle.

All the men laughed, including Captain Vic. The major, however, was not amused. "Laugh now, gentlemen. I assure you that you will not be laughing if you run into the Colonel personally."

"Yeah, he sure sounds like an evil fuck, Major," replied Captain Vic. "Now we're gonna do this in two groups. There's one small pass that leads to a ridge overlooking this bastard's camp. The pass is sure to be boobytrapped. The major here'll take one group, Bubbelli, Krotz, and Jones-"

"Aw shit, I gotta go with Junior?!!" complained Krotz.

"Shut up, Krotz," said the grizzled Pickle. Krotz just shook his head and muttered something about his "babies."

"The second group," continued Captain Vic, "will be me, Pickle, Deshield and Chow. Chow and Deshield, since you guys are so good at rooting out shit, you'll be in charge of finding those traps. No different from Costa Rica."

Humanos Deshield wiped sweat from his brow. "Captain man, I almost got my foot blowed off in Costa Rica!"

"Gee, what happened in Costa Rica, anyway?" asked Junior.

"Junia, shut up and risten to Captain Vic!" scolded Chow.

Captain Vic continued. "The major's group'll provide cover for Chow and Deshield, and Krotz, you're gonna work your magic with your babies. We're gonna booby trap Safooma's booby traps. Now, I'm gonna create a diversion when Krotz is done, and when that black bastard comes running, it'll be like shootin' fish in a barrel."

"Yeah," agreed Bubbelli, "black fish."

Part Four - Jungle Passage

All gear in place, the men paired off for the initial trek through the jungle to the eastern pass. Chow and Deshield took point, as always, owing to Chow's incredible sixth sense about finding danger before it found him. Junior Jones and Krotz followed, Krotz patting the sack of explosives hanging from his belt while giving Junior a strange look. Junior nervously looked away. Bubbelli and Major Shmolnick were next, Bubbelli frequently wiping sweat from his worried brow. Captain Vic and the grizzled Sargeant Pickle brought up the rear, which gave the Captain an opportunity to bring Pickle into his plans.

The men moved sluggishly through the thick jungle growth, sometimes silently, sometimes whispering to one another nervously, always swatting at the everpresent flies. Sargeant Pickle winced as each step over an obstacle caused his knees to complain.

"Pickle, hang back a bit," whispered Captain Vic. The sargeant gratefully slowed his pace, giving his knees a little rest.

Captain Vic put his hand on Pickle's arm, then released it when he judged that the major and Bubbelli were far enough ahead of them. "Pickle, I see some opportunity in this mission."

"Yeah Cap, what kind of opportunity?"

"Well, I was reading about all them diamond mines they got around here."

Pickle's eyes widened.

"Yeah, that's right, mother lodes and all that shit," said the Captain, correctly reading the sargeant's interest. My guess is that this Colonel Safooma's got a line on some of that action, and I mean to earn my retirement, if you catch my meaning."

"Captain, you know I'm in, but what about the others? And that asshole major."

"We'll cut the others in when the time is right. As for our major here, well, that's where I'm gonna need your help, Pickle." Captain Vic smiled.

Pickle wiped sweat from his forehead and let out a small whistle. "Captain, I don't know, this major seems like a tough nut."

Captain Vic poked a stubby finger at Pickle's chest. "Listen Pickle, you want in or not? Shmolnick's no different from that prick in Costa Rica. Remember how easy that was? Remember the haul you got from that one? Shit, son, you were ankle deep in cocaine for months."

Pickle shook his head slowly. Yes, that HAD been a great time. And that little Washington shit didn't even make a sound when the sargeant slid a knife blade between his ribs while he slept. To be able to return to those carefree days and retire in style, now THAT would be worth the risk, wouldn't it?

Captain Vic looked at his sargeant's eyes. "That's right, Pickle, think about all the coke you could buy with uncut African diamonds. Man, we could both retire and be done with this mercenary crap once and for all." The captain smiled at the sargeant and put his hand on the man's shoulder. "I need you, son."

Pickle set his mouth straight as he weighed his options and, looking nervously around, quietly said, "Okay Cap, what do you want me to do?"

Captain Vic patted the younger man's shoulder. "Atta boy, I knew I could count on you. Now, keep this one quiet for the time being. When you get an opportunity, you know what to do."

"What about Colonel Safooma? You sure he'll come through?"

"You leave our african friend to me, Pickle. Everyone's got a price, remember that. Now, if your damn knees can take it, let's move back up." The stocky captain move swiftly for someone his size. Pickle struggled to keep up.

Meanwhile, at the front of the line, Humanos Deshield and Hung Lo Chow were stepping carefully over every twig and leaf, while moving thick hanging overgrowth out of the way with their arms. "So Chow, what joo think about dis Safooma guy? You think he really eats people?" asked Deshield.

Chow answered without looking up. "Many stlange custom in world, my fleind. Chow not surplise if story tlue. Chow not worry."

Deshield wiped sweat from his face with his sleeve. "Man, I just know dis is gonna get fucked up somehow," he muttered to himself.

Junior Jones, a few steps behind him, had heard Deshield's comment. He turned to Krotz, who was busy shoving jungle branches aside, one hand periodically finding its way to the pack of explosives, gently patting it to make sure it was still there. "Gee, Krotz, ya think they're really cannibals out here?"

Krotz turned to Junior with an evil grin. "Yeah, Junior, and I hear they LOVE to eat raw recruits, heh heh."

"Oh shit," replied Junior, tightening his grip on his gun.

Krotz snickered at Junior's discomfort. "Of course, they make you do shit, first. Before they KILL you."

Junior face turned pale. "Oh man, what kind of shit?"

Krotz looked around, his eyes narrowed. He moved closer to Junior and whispered, "Well, I'm not an expert, Junior, but I've heard that they make you stuff yourself with fatty foods just to fatten you up, then torture you with wires and wild animals."

Junior's eyebrows went up in alarm. "Really? Oh shit!" He rubbed his stomach. "And I'm really thin, too!" Krotz turned away from the frightened grunt and laughed to himself.

Behind them, Vinnie Bubbelli was quietly chanting an oriental relaxation mantra that Chow had recently taught him. "Kwi gong, kai gong, mucka mucka gong," he chanted.

Major Shmolnick heard him and commented, "Private is that the Kwi Gong you're chanting?"

"Uh, yessir. You know it?"

Shmolnick looked away as if to some far-off place. "In another time and place, Private, yes, I learned the art of Kwi Gong from one of the great masters, Lee Kee Kim. Of course, that was before he went bad."

Bubbelli suddenly had newfound respect for the CIA agent. "Chow, uh, Private Chow taught it to me, sir. I find it helps, uh, relax me." He wiped some fresh sweat from his forehead.

"Well, don't get too relaxed, Private. There's going to be some action pretty soon. We're getting close to the pass." He looked away from Bubbelli.

Bubbelli nodded and resumed chanting. The chanting did nothing to stop the profuse sweating, however. The private looked behind him and noticed that the Captain was sweating too, and Pickle was limping along, batting away flies. They seemed to be talking together. Bubbelli sighed. No doubt the captain and Pickle were hatching some scheme.

Suddenly a loud "PSST" followed by two whistles from up front halted the group. Both Major Shmolnick and Captain Vic moved quickly to the where Chow was kneeling in a thick grassy patch.

Chow slid his fingers in the grass and slowly, carefully lifted up what appeared to be a trip wire. "Tlip wire, Captain."

The major bent down. "Can you trace it, Private?" he asked quietly. Captain Vic glared at him.

Chow smiled. "Chow tlace." He then meticulously ran his slender fingers along the wire through the heavy grass, up through a clump of bushes. He stood up, the trip wire still resting on his fingers, and began following the wire through more bushes for several feet, until he finally came to a stop at a tree. "Chow find," he said proudly.

The men moved to where Chow was standing to get a better look, all warily avoiding the trip wire. Junior hung the farthest back. "What the fuck is that?" he asked to nobody in particular.

What he, and the rest of the men saw, was a ten-foot high wooden contraption with numerous pointy spikes sticking ominously out. Many of the spikes were colored red and contains congealed bits of some dark material, evidence of previous unwary travellers.

"Hey Chow, a little acupuncture maybe?" Deshield commented.

"Nice job, Chow," said Captain Vic.

The major moved away from the nasty-looking device. "Okay, men, let's go. Private Chow, can you keep that wire up while we all step over it?"

Chow beamed. "Chow keep wire up, Major."

The men carefully stepped over the trip wire while Chow held his end up. When they were all through the trap, Chow defly stepped under the wire and gently set it back on the ground.

They resumed their trek through the jungle, but only for a few minutes until Major Shmolnick stopped them again. He pointed at a very narrow opening in the heavy undergrowth up ahead. "Gentlemen, prepare yourselves. There's the pass up ahead."

Junior spoke up nervously. "You mean we gotta crawl through that? Oh shit."

Part Five - Through the Pass and Over the Ridge

Chow was first through the narrow opening, followed closely by Deshield. The ground in the opening was wet with jungle ooze and all sorts of crawling things, and the pass itself continued on for about 20 yards like a tunnel through thick jungle undergrowth.

Chow crawled swiftly through the pass, seemingly unfazed by the heat and ooze. Deshield tried to keep up with the small oriental, but kept slapping at the ground beneath him at various real and imagined creeping things. "Madre mia, dey all kinds of nasty beetches in here!" he exclaimed.

The latino soldier's comment was not lost on Junior Jones, who followed him. "Hey wait up, Humanos," he called out ahead of him, falling behind in his haste to keep the bugs off himself.

"Shhh, quiet Junior," hissed Krotz from behind. "Get your ass moving, you idiot."

"I'm tryin', I'm tryin'," gulped Junior, and spurred on by fear and Krotz, he increased his crawling speed.

Krotz was close behind Junior, and was muttering to himself, "Fuckin' Junior's gonna fuck this up, I just know it."

Vinnie Bubbelli entered the pass next, followed by the major, then Pickle, and finally, Captain Vic. All except the major were having difficulty navigating the slimy wetness of the pass. Bubbelli renewed his Kwi Gong chant quietly, feeling his blood pressure rise with the tension. Pickle peeked behind him, and Captain Vic nodded at him, then the grizzled sargeant watched the major ahead of him and fingered the sharp blade strapped to his ankle.

Suddenly, Junior Jones felt something thick and slimy started moving against his legs, and he jumped up.

"OH SHIT A SNAKE!!!!" he cried, and he started to thrash through the thicket, his face getting cut up by brambles on the low hanging branches. "Owww, oh shit, oh shit!!" he kept crying, until finally he toppled into Deshield.

"What da fuck, man, get your muthafuckin' ass DOWN!!!" said Deshield, who promptly grabbed Junior's belt and hauled him roughly to the ground.

Major Shmolnick called out from behind, "KEEP THAT IDIOT DOWN, DAMMIT!!!" and Deshield started crawling again toward the passage's exit just up ahead, dragging the sniveling Junior Jones behind him. "You fuck up again, Junior, and I keel you myself, eh?" he whispered.

Chow had made it to the exit, ignoring Junior's careless outburst, and instantly rolled out and flattened himself on the ground. A few feet ahead of him lay a short ridge. Not very high, but enough for cover. Chow turned around, expecting to see Humanos Deshield.


All the men in the tunnel heard the rustling sounds that followed.

"What the fuck was that!?" said Krotz, who stopped at the sound coming from outside the passage.

"Private Deshield, go check that out, NOW!" ordered Major Shmolnick, crawling rapidly past Krotz toward the exit.

Humanos Deshield turned to Junior, still held by Deshield's grasp, and whispered harshly, "Junior, stay here." Junior nodded his head vigorously.

All the men were crowded near the exit, their weapons at the ready, as Deshield slowly poked his head through the opening. "Pssst, Chow. Chow, man, joo there?" he called out quietly.

There was no response. Deshield shook his head and sighed heavily, then quickly rolled out and flattened himself on the ground. He looked around. Very quietly he called out again. "Hey Chow, quit fuckeen around, man, where are you?" He looked around. The grassy patch immediately preceeding the ridge a few feet ahead looked dissheveled and disturbed. A path could be seen leading to the crest of the ridge. Deshield poked his head back into the hole. "Captain, Chow's gone!"

"Oh SHIT!" murmured Junior.

"Shut UP," hissed Krotz and Bubbelli.

Pickle turned to Captain Vic. "What now, Cap?"

Captain Vic was about to give orders when Major Shmolnick interrupted. "Safooma's men must have gotten him. We continue as planned, Captain."

Captain Vic's eyes blazed. "Goddammit, Major, that's my MAN out there!"

"I'm well aware of that, Captain. We have our orders."

Captain Vic pursed his lips to stifled a reply, then looked at Pickle, who nodded back. Krotz and Bubbelli frowned at each other, in silent agreement with the captain's sentiments.

Deshield called back. "Hey man, let's GO!"

Shmolnick turned to Krotz. "Bubbelli, Krotz, Jones, you're with me."

Captain Vic moved through the slimey jungle floor to the opening. "Major, my group goes first. I wanna find out what happened to Chow." He quickly moved through the opening before Shmolnick could respond.

Sargeant Pickle glanced at the major and followed his captain through. The major signalled Krotz and Bubbelli to follow.

When they were all on the ridge, the two officers took out their binoculars and peeked over the grassy ridge. They saw a primitive looking campsite in a large clearing. Six small thatch-roofed huts arranged in a circle surrounded an open area. A much larger hut sat outside the circle on one side. Many armed guards patrolled the perimeter of the camp, and a large cluster of guards stood at the entrance to the larger hut. There was some activity outside one of the smaller huts that was difficult to see. A pickup truck was parked just outside the perimeter of the camp, another cluster of armed men standing around it, unloading crates from the truck. Various functionaries moved from place to place in the apparently busy camp.

Pickle spoke. "Cap, do you see Chow?"

"Yeah, Captain, what's goin' on, man?" Deshield chimed in.

"Shhhh!" ordered the major. "Alright, everybody stay down. Six huts in a circle, larger hut outside the circle. The larger hut must be Safooma's. Guards everywhere. Captain, you and your men need to get down there and create a diversion just outside the camp. Once most of Safooma's men get to where you are, Krotz will plant his charges in the camp. Krotz, Bubbelli, Jones and I will cover you."

Krotz smiled and patted the sack of explosives. "Soon now, babies, pretty soon it'll be your turn." Junior looked at him nervously and shuddered.

Sargeant Pickle took out his pillbox and popped three yellow pills into his mouth. "Gonna need an extra dose for this," he thought, and swallowed the pills.

Captain Vic looked at Major Shmolnick. "Okay, we'll be expecting you, major. You'll know when." He looked at Pickle, then at Deshield, then pointed at the ridge and nodded. The three men scrambled over the ridge.

Part Six - Assault

Captain Vic Horizon, Sargeant Pickle, and Private Humanos Deshield quickly made their way down the hill around to the left side of the woods that ringed the campsite below. The tall grass hid their movements from the guards. Pickle's knees groaned under the pressure.

When they arrived at a covered spot with a clear view of the camp, Captain Vic ordered Deshield to move forward for a better look. When the wiry latino was out of sight, the Captain turned to Pickle. "What happened back there, Pickle?"

Pickle frowned. "Cap, I almost had him in that tunnel, but that fuckin' Junior freaked out and I never got another chance."

"Yeah, well, you better get another chance, and soon. I don't want that major to get in my - uh, our way when I make this deal with Safooma. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yessir, Captain, loud and clear." Pickle massaged his knees.

Meanwhile, Major Shmolnick, Krotz, Bubbelli, and Junior had descended the grassy hill to the woods on the opposite side of the camp, closest to the large hut. Shmolnick ordered Bubbelli and Junior to get a better look at the structure, and hopefully return with a more accurate enemy count.

As Bubbelli and Jones moved silently through the tall grass, the sounds of the African guards drifted toward them. The unintelligible gibberish was nerve-wracking for Bubbelli,and he silently chanted the Kwi Gong to himself, increasing his chanting speed as he and Junior got closer to the hut.

Junior Jones was sweating and his heartbeat quickened as he felt fear like he'd never known before. Junior knew that he was not a brave man, and he very much wanted to turn and run out of this place as fast he could, but he didn't want to let the Rangers down. So he moved very slowly and cautiously toward the large hut. The guards' gibberish conversation was now much louder and Junior was so nervous that he could hear his own breathing over the sounds of the guards.

Bubbelli watched Junior get closer to the hut and the guards. "Now what is that idiot doing," he thought. Junior was just a few feet from what looked like the rear of the hut. One open square served as a window, and the frightened private could now make out gibberish coming from inside. He gripped his automatic rifle tighter, and took one step closer.


Junior just had time to look down at the trip wire that had caught his boot. He didn't see the heavy wooden board spring up at him from the ground, its surface covered in long, sharp, iron spikes, until the last second of his life. "OH SHI----!!!"


Bubbelli winced as he watched the trap spring up and pinion poor Junior to the ground. He started to back away. "Kwi gong kwi gong kwi gong kwi gong," he chanted silently but frantically.

The guards at the hut had turned around at the first CLICK, and rushed to the trap, their rifles at the ready. They saw the back of the trapboard on the ground, and two white man's arms, blood dripping from them in rivulets, flailing from beneath the board. The guards looked at each other and mumbled something, then threw their weapons aside and lifted the board up and back to its resting position. Junior Jones' life was ebbing away, the spikes driven through his body filling his mind with unbearable pain.

Seeing the two dark figures through a fuzzy haze of sweat and blood, Junior tried to speak. "Gggghhh--heh- heh-hehllllll-gllllgggl--llllppp mmmghllllmmee."

The two africans looked at one another and laughed, then one reached from behind his back, pulled out a large serrated knife, and swiftly cut Junior's throat from ear to ear. Junior's head slumped. The guard wiped the blade on his own dusty cream-colored pants, then replaced the knife.

As both guards took up their rifles, more guards appeared. Excited gibberish and increased activity now filled that part of the camp. Guards moved quickly toward Bubbelli's location. The nervous private tried to back away, but when he turned his head around, he found himself looking directly into the barrel of a rifle being held by large callused black hands. Bubbelli dropped his head and retched.

Major Shmolnick looked through his binoculars as Bubbelli was roughly made to stand up, had his hands tied behind his back, and marched into the camp. He turned to Krotz. "Private, it's time for you to work your magic. I want charges placed all around that hut up there. MOVE!"

Krotz smiled grimly. "Yessir!" He patted his sack of explosives and said quietly, "Here we go, my pretties." He moved off through the tall grass.

Across the camp, Captain Vic watched the increased activity on the other side of the camp through his binoculars with growing disgust. "Goddammit!" he spat, "what's that sonofabitch doing!?" He turned to Pickle. "Pickle, get over there and take that prick out NOW!!"

The grizzled sargeant sighed and, his ruined knees grinding, forced himself forward through the grass. Humanos Deshield had secreted himself in a small low patch just outside the perimeter of the camp. Although he couldn't see any details of what was happening on the far side of the camp, he could hear the shouting and sounds of increased activity in that general area. He crossed himself. One small hut was several feet in front of him, with a small opening for a window, and no guards in sight. He kept quiet, and was able to hear a strange sound coming from within the hut in front of him. Curious, he moved slowly forward, his hand tensed and ready on his gun.

The sound grew slightly louder, and Deshield cocked his head like a confused dog. The sound became light and lilting, almost like - a woman singing? Deshield shook his head as if to erase the sound from his head. He moved closer, the window in the hut now just a few feet above and in front of him. "Santa Maria, a woman out here?" he thought. Yes, it was clear now, it definitely was a woman's voice. Deshield licked his lips and crept up to the building. The humming had stopped. He lay on the ground for several minutes, listening for the intriguing sound.

Suddenly, a large warm hand covered his mouth, a hand so large that it covered half of Deshield's face. Before he could move, another large hand pulled his arm behind his back and twisted it. Deshield's cry of pain was muffled by the hand covering his mouth. He struggled wildly, but could not seem to move. As consciousness left him, he thought he felt himself being carried away.

Major Shmolnick lay low for a long time, waiting for the activity near the large hut to die down. He felt truly sorry about Private Jones, but the kid just didn't have what it takes. He wondered for a brief moment about the fates of Chow and Bubbelli. He shrugged off such thoughts. He would just have to wait for Krotz to plant his charges, then all hell would break loose.

Suddenly he heard a shuffling sound from behind him. He turned around and the grizzled Sargeant Pickle was upon him, a large knife slashing through the air. Shmolnick rolled aside, and Pickle just narrowly missed him, his knife blade stabbing the ground instead. Pickle yanked the knife from the ground and launched himself at the major again.

"Sargeant," grunted the major, "what the FUCK do you think you're doing?!" He kicked out,and his heavy black boot caught the determined Pickle square in the face.

"OOF!" Pickle fell back, his hand rubbing his face. He was breathing heavily, and sweat soaked his green and brown jungle fatigues. "FUCK YOU!!!" he cried, and slashed forward with the knife again.

Shmolnick rolled away again, but could not avoid the knife blade completely. He felt its edge slice through his side. A superficial wound, but it caused him to grunt in pain. Pickle smirked when he saw that he'd wounded the major. He redoubled his efforts, and the two now wrestled in the grass, both grunting and hissing insults at each other.

"Ha-hah, you're fucked now, you - GRUNT -Washington prick!"

"Did the captain - OOF - put you up to this, Sargeant - GRUNT!"

The grizzled sargeant was beginning to get the upper hand, his desire fueled by hatred, greed, and presciption pain killers. He started forcing the knife down toward the major's chest. The major was weakening. The pain in this side grew as he began to lose the battle for the knife. In one last desperation effort, he swung his boot wildly, and the steel toe connected with the furious sargeant's knee.

"OWWWW SHIT MOTHERFUCKER!!!" The sargeant shouted, grabbing his knee.

Seeing his chance, Major Shmolnick jerked the knife free, tackled the groaning sargeant and plunged the knife deep into the surprised man's chest. Grimacing, Shmolnick grabbed the knife handle and twisted it hard. Pickle grunted, and blood flowed from the corner of his mouth. Looking up the man that had killed him, the grizzled sargeant took one last rasping breath, then his eyes glazed over.

Shmolnick slowly got up. "Nice try, Captain Vic."


Major Shmolnick pitched forward under a hail of bullets, a stunned look on his face. He fell face down next to the prone sargeant.

Captain Vic Horizon lowered his rifle and wiped sweat from his forehead. "Hmm," he said to himself, " if you want something done, you gotta do it yourself."

He hadn't seen the group of big black guards surround him, guns all trained on his head. Captain Vic looked around and slowly lowered his own rifle, then raised his hands in the universal gesture of surrender. "Okay you fuckin' gorillas," he thought, "now take me to see your Colonel Safooma."

One of the men, judged by Captain Vic to be an officer by the red marks on the sleeve of his shirt, grunted harsh gibberish at him. "DA BEEBO!!!! TUMA PEEBO!!! ENGA!!! DUBA!!! DUBA!!!!" Another guard poked the sweaty captain in the side with his gun barrel. "TUMA PEEBO!!!!! DUBA SAFOOMA!!!!!"

Part Seven - Colonel Safooma

The large hut that served as Colonel Safooma's makeshift headquarters was lit by the fading sunlight through two openings. The main entrance was a high doorway with a bead curtain serving as a door. Armed guards lingered outside the door. A young black serving girl, dressed in a simple cotton shift was lighting several torches mounted on carved wooden staffs. A long simple wooden table sat in the middle of the hut, its surface littered with several empty plates and some forks and steak knives. The table was surrounded by several low stools. At the back of the hut, a large ornately carved chair, painted and decorated with varieties of local flora and other native art, sat half in shadow atop of a pile of beams. It looked like a throne.

Sitting on this throne was a very large black man dressed in army fatigues, a golden crown atop his shiny bald head. A diamond shone from the front of the crown. He sat still, his large thick beringed fingers crossed in front of him. He looked up from the shadows at the young black guard standing nervously before him.

"Beduba?" asked Colonel Safooma, his melodious deep voice echoing in the hut.

"Beduba Rangers, Oka Safooma," replied the guard, gesturing behind him in the direction of the doorway.

Safooma pursed his lips and gazed at the rings on his fingers. After several moments, he looked back at the guard and ordered, "Didubay kuma, Libato. Beduba "Rangers," enga mo." The guard bowed, then retreated quickly from the hut. Safooma smiled, his white teeth in sharp contrast to his dark clean-shaven face. "At last, the Rangers," he thought.

A brief commotion outside the hut was followed by two guards, followed by three American soldiers, their hands securely tied behind them, followed by two more guards, their rifles trained on the captives' heads. Safooma barked an order and the first two guards roughly pushed the captives forward and down on their knees.

Captain Vic was seething, but he'd been in tight spots like this before. Now was the time to deal with this african shitheel, he thought. He cleared his throat. Deshield, his fatigues curiously ripped up, looked nervously at the captain while Bubbelli looked on silently, chanting to himself.

"Ahh, the famous Rangers have come to visit Lord Safooma!" said Colonel Safooma, looking directly at Captain Vic. "Now quickly, tell me why I should not have you slowly killed, eh?"

Captain Vic tried to stand, but a guard pushed him back down. Safooma shook his head and the guard, disappointed, took a step back.

The sweaty captain stood up. "Ahem, great Lord Safooma, I am Captain Vic Horizon. I have come to pay you great honor and tribute. It is with deep regret that I apologize for this untimely intrusion on your, uh, sanctuary."

The Colonel looked at the captain for a moment in silence, then slapped his knee and with a great guffaw, exclaimed, "Ha hah hah, well my little Captain Vic Horizon, you are a most amusing fellow! And what tribute have you for the great Lord Safooma today?"

Captain Vic blinked his eyes repeatedly, trying to avoid the annoying flies buzzing at his face. "Great pardons, Lord Safooma, but perhaps your lordship could get me untied?" He looked squarely at the large black man. Deshield and Bubbelli looked at each other and shook their heads.

"Ah, hah hah hah!!! Yes, a most amusing fellow indeed! Captain Vic Horizon, Lord Safooma shall of course have you and your men untied, if he likes what it is you have to say to him. Now SPEAK!!" he thundered.

Captain Vic Horizon weighed his words carefully. This guy was a real nutjob, he thought. "Oh great Lord Safooma, I have many friends, many powerful friends. Friends who are, uh, sympathetic to your noble cause. Perhaps your lordship could see the advantage of allowing me to serve his military needs." He waited for the Colonel's response.

"Hmmm, :Lord Safooma would like to have powerful friends. Your offer is intriguing, Captain Vic Horizon. Continue."

The bound captain cleared his throat again nervously. This was it. "Well, I, uh, Lord Safooma, I could uh, guarantee a large supply of modern weaponry, guns, explosives, you name it, at reasonable rates. In exchange, perhaps for my freedom and uh, a small fee to cover costs."

Safaooma looked at the Captain, his face expressionless. "Hmmm," he said, touching his chin with both thick index fingers. "Very interesting proposal, Captain Vic Horizon. However, my stomach grumbles." He stood up and descended the makeshift throne. He clapped his hands together twice, and the young serving girl, who had been busy performing menial tasks in the corner of the hut, quickly came running and bowed before him. Safooma said something to the girl, who muttered back softly, her head bowed, then ran out the hut.

"Lord Safooma is in a generous mood, so you and your men shall dine with Lord Safooma." The big black man gestured to the guards, and they approached Captain Horizon, Bubbelli, and Deshield with those large serrated knives.

As Deshield prayed to himself in Spanish, Captain Vic shut his eyes, and Bubbelli chanted, the guards knelt down and cut the ropes binding their wrists. All three Rangers breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

In moments, several serving girls and other guards were breezing into the hut carrying various steaming pots. The pots were placed on the table and the Fearless Rangers were bidden to sit down on the low stools. The guards had their rifles trained on the men's heads, so they complied quickly if tentatively. Having arranged several steaming pots on the table, the serving girls took up tall fans made of local tree branches. They stood around the table and began fanning Colonel Safooma and his guests.

"Hey man, I teenk da Captain's gonna work dis out? Waddya teenk, Vinnie?" Deshield whispered to Bubbelli.

The breeze from the fans felt good to Bubbelli and blew the smell of the hot food to his cooling face. His stomach growled. For the first time today, Bubbelli started to relax. "I think I'm starving," he replied to Deshield. "This shit smells great."

Captain Vic made a big show of deeply inhaling the food's aroma. "Your lordship, this all looks delicious. And if I may be so bold, you speak English without an accent."

The Colonel smiled at him. "Ahh, Captain Vic Horizon, Lord Safooma attended your great Columbia University! A fine institution indeed. Ha-hah, you will truly enjoy traditional Mobutuland food." He leaned forward from his seat at the end of the table. "But first, you must know of Lord Safooma's dream."

Deshield licked his lips. "Man, dis food smells delicioso!" he thought. "Dis Colonel ain't such a bad nigga."

Safooma closed his eyes and began, "The people of Mobutuland are poor and uneducated. They have been forced from their great traditions by foreigners and interlopers. All in the name of progress, but in reality, all for greed. Yes, friends, even the great Lord Safooma himself once succumbed to such modern ideals. But Lord Safooma has seen the light. Lord Safooma will lead his people into Mobutuland and re-establish traditional Mobutuland society." He stood up, eyes still closed, and stretched his arms out. "Lord Safooma will lead Mobutuland to great glory and riches! This is the dream of Lord Safooma and all of Mobutuland people! ALL HAIL - MOBUTULAND!!!"

"MOBUTULAND!!!" shouted all the guards, their guns raised.

The hut grew quiet. Safooma opened his eyes and looked at his guests. The three men looked at each other, and all were thinking the same thing - "This guy's nuts." They wisely said nothing, however.

"And now, Lord Safooma will dine. Dabeebabo!" Serving girls not fanning rushed to the table and began uncovering pots. First, some steaming local vegetables were revealed and spooned out to Lord Safooma, then to Captain Vic, Bubbelli, and Deshield. Then, varicolored fruits were served. Bubbelli's mouth was watering. Deshield reached for a piece of fruit on the large plate in front of him, but Captain Vic stopped him with hand gesture. The Captain correctly guessed that Colonel Safooma ate first.

Assorted other foods, such as soup and a delicicious smelling stew, were uncovered and served, and finally cool juices were poured for Safooma and the men. Bubbelli and Deshield looked at the captain hopefully. Finally Safooma waved his hand and the serving girls retreated from the table. "And now Captain Vic Horizon and the Fearless Rangers, you shall taste the traditional Mobutuland feast, ha-hah." He reached his long arm across the table for the last convered pot on the table, also the largest. Captain Vic and the men were all very hungry now, their noses having enjoyed the teasing aromas of Colonel Safooma's feast. "Behold!!!" Safooma announced, removing the pot's cover with a flourish.

There, sitting in green leaves and boiling juices, was the head of Private Hung Lo Chow, his deathly yellow face staring back at Captain Vic and his men in stunned suprise.

Part Eight - All Hail Mobutuland!

Vinnie Bubbelli gasped at the ghastly mean dish sitting in front of him, then promptly vomited the spare remains of his stomach onto the table. Deshield crossed himself, then fell off the stool holding his head, moaning in Spanish. Captain Vic Horizon's eyes grew wide with terror, and the portly officer had to stifle a retch. Anger flashed in his eyes and he turned to Colonel Safooma.

The normally quick-thinking captain lost his composure and turned to the grinning black man. "You, you, why you -" he sputtered, "you fucking cannibal, you!" He stood up clumsily, knocking over the stool. The guards moved closer to the angry captain and the serving girls all gasped in horror at this break of protocol.

Safooma's smile turned to a frown and he stood up. "Captain Vic Horizon, you have insulted Lord Safooma, even at his royal feast in your honor!! Lord Safooma's patience is at an end!!! There will be no transaction!"

Captain Vic's face fell and he vainly tried to recover. "Jesus Christ, no, uh, great Lord Saf-" his words were cut short as Safooma reached over and slapped the man, knocking him over.

The black man was fuming. "Silence!!! Your insult must be punished." He spoke some angry gibberish to the guards, who quickly picked Bubbelli up roughly by his arms and ushered him, now chanting incomprehensibly, out of the hut.

Captain Vic's head was pounding. The big black colonel packed quite a wallop. "Got to think straight, got to make that deal somehow," he thought frantically. "Where are taking my soldier?" he sputtered, trying to get up.

"SILENCE!!!!" shouted the colonel, who started to stalk the captain. Captain Vic tried to back away, still on his knees. "Lord Safooma has heard enough of your snivelling!!" The black man strode menacingly to the shaking captain, then lifted his foot, holding it in the air. "You are nothing but a worm, a worm to be CRUSHED!!!!" he growled, and stomped his heavy boot down on Captain Vic, striking him viciously in the shoulder.

Captain Vic's shoulder exploded in pain, but his mind was still working. "Pppleease, yo-our lo-ordshipp," he begged, the sweat on his face now mingled with tears. Safooma raised his boot again and this time connected with the top of Captain Vic's head with a loud THUD.

"Now CRAWL, crawl like the pitiful worm you are!" shouted Colonel Safooma.

The captain's head was on fire and blood trickled down his forehead. He looked up at the fearful sight looming above him and dropped to his hands and knees, shaking. As he started to crawl, the awful boot came down again, this time on his back, knocking him to the ground, then landed again on his back with a loud thud. Captain Vic tried to look up at the monster, and weakly cried, "Mercy, pl-pl-please, mer- mercy!!!"

Safooma smiled, then calmly said, "No mercy for you, Captain Vic Horizon." He kicked the beaten man over onto his back, then stood over the prone man, a victorious sneer on his broad black face. Captain Vic thought of all those diamonds. Safooma raised his boot, then brought it down with all his prodigious strenght on Captain Vic's face, smashing the man's ungly face back into his skull with a horrible crunch. Bits of brain and blood flew from what was once the captain's head. Safooma wiped his boot on the dead man's clothing, then turned to face Humanos Deshield.

"Santa Maria, no," cried Deshield, huddled in the corner of the hut. He had pissed in his pants.

"YOU, crawl to your master like the worm that you are!" ordered Safooma. Deshield hastened to obey, shaking violently with fear.

"It seems my little Fifi has taken a liking to you, little man. Lord Safooma has decided to be generous and grant you your miserable life."

Deshield stared open-mouthed at Safooma. He could not believe his luck!!! He just may get out of his alive yet! "Tank you, tank you great lord," he sputtered, tears of joy streaking down his face.

Safooma gestured to the guards, then went back to the table and started eating, making ugly grunting noises as he chewed and swallowed. Bits of food and juice trickled down his shiny black chin as he ate. The guards dragged the crying Deshield out of the hut and across the camp to another smaller hut. There was something familiar about this particular hut, but the wiry latino could not remember what is was.

Private Krotz had been busy, unaware of the events transpiring in the large hut. As ordered, Krotz had carefully crept around the camp, meticulously preparing and planting his "babies" around all the huts in the camp. He thought of himself as a master craftsman, and indeed, his expertise in explosives had always been highly regarded by Captain Vic and the other Fearless Rangers.

By the time Krotz had reached the far end of the camp, near the truck where guards had been unloading the weapons, he had but a few charges yet to plant. Laying in the tall grass, he watched the camp. He frowned when he saw the guards drag first Bubbelli, then later Deshield out of the large hut. Fearing the worst, he quietly slipped back a few yards. "Alright, my babies, Papa's gonna show you the way to heaven," he thought. He grimly stripped off his shirt and shoes, and painted his face, arms and body with green and brown camouflage paint. He reached into the near-empty bag of explosives, and removed the remaining charges.

Grabbing his gun, the wildly painted Krotz crept through the grass toward the truck, and was able to plant the explosive charges under the far side of the truck. He ducked low when he heard shouts from camp. Luckily, the guards left the truck and ran back to camp. He peered around the truck at the camp and wondered how he would rescue his fellow Rangers.

A crowd was gathered in the center of the camp. A few guards sat cross-legged, native drums in their laps. They began pounding the drums with steady "BOOM bim bim BOOM," and the crowd starting swaying back and forth to the beat. Suddenly a naked chanting Bubbelli was dragged into the center of the camp, and the crowd formed a circle around him. Colonel Safooma strode purposefully into the middle of the circle.

He raised his arms to the sky and shouted, "ALL HAIL MOBUTULAND!!"

The crowd responded, raising rifles and knives over their heads. "MOBUTULAND!!"

Safooma lowered his arms, and the crowd grew silent. Bubbelli, sweating and wincing at the painful cramps in his stomach, stopped chanting at the fearful black colonel approached him with two grinning guards. "Lord Safooma has promised you to the gods of Mobutuland," he said to the frightened white man. He raised his voice and turned to the expectant crowd. "And you shall be delivered to them in the great JIBBO!!!"

The crowd erupted in wild cheers. "JIBBO JIBBO JIBBO!!!" they shouted. Bubbelli could only wonder fearfully, what's a jibbo.

Safooma nodded to the guards, who roughly pushed him down on his back onto a large oblong wooden platform that had been pushed into place. They tied the naked Bubbelli, who now resumed his kwi gong chanting, spread-eagle to the flat drum-like structure, his wrists and ankles securely fastened to cords attached to the sides of the drum.

Bubbelli felt himself being hauled into an upright position and now a new group of men had formed across the camp opposite him. They stood aside to reveal a ten-foot stone block, as wide as it was tall. He now felt himself being pushed back against some kind of resistance, then he heard a click, and the guards pushing the Jibbo drum retreated from him. He was directly facing the stone block across the camp. Safooma raised his arms again and shouted, "JIBBO MOBUTULAND!!!" then dropped his arms.

Bubbelli chanted frantically, and noticed the broad toothy smiles of the crowd. Suddenly he heard a POP, then felt the Jibbo drum lurch forward, knocking the wind out of him. He was moving!

Safooma and the crowd watched the Jibbo drum as it propelled itself toward its target with surprising speed. Bubbelli felt the air rush by his naked face and body, saw the onrushing stone block and chanted, "Kwi gong, kwi gong, kwi gong, kwi-"


The crowd exploded with glee. "JIBBO JIBBO JIBBO!!! MOBUTULAND!!!" and jumped wildly around. The drums took up their BOOM bim bim BOOM beat again, and the people began dancing. Bits of Bubbelli leaked out from around the seal between the Jibbo drum and the stone block. He never knew what hit him.

Krotz had been holding the remote trigger in his hand and gulped when he witnessed Bubbelli's execution. He simply snapped. Jumping up with a harsh cry, and still clutching the trigger for the explosives, he ran shouting into the center of the crowd, flailing his arms.

The crowd stopped its chanting and dancing when the crazy painted white man ran into their midst waving his arms. Several guards opened fire on Krotz, who in his haste had unfortunately forgotten his gun. Wave after wave of gunfire hit Krotz all over, sending his body into a herky jerky spastic dance of death, head back, arms akimbo. The remote trigger flew from his hand and landed unseen.

The crowd resumed its celebration. Colonel Safooma smiled a satisfied smile and walked away toward his hut.

EPILOGUE - My Man Elroy

Night had fallen. Safooma looked down at the body laying face down in the grass. He nudged the body gently with his boot.

Major Joe Shmolnick grunted, and slowly stood up. He unbuttoned his shirt and began removing the heavy bullet-proof vest he had been wearing.

"Ahh, Brother Joseph!!" exclaimed Safooma happily.

Shmolnick threw the vest aside and grinned at his old college roommate. "Elroy, my man, what's happening?" he asked, using the two friends' traditional greeting. The two men hugged.

"Ha hah hah, Brother Joseph, it is good to see you well!!" Safooma looked around and frowned supercifially. "You see the mess you have left in my camp, Joseph."

"Ahh, sorry about that, Elroy, not too much trouble I hope?"

Safooma smiled. "No trouble at all." The two men walked to the center of the camp. "You have provided great sport for my army, just as you promised." Shmolnick nodded and smirked at the celebration. Safooma gestured to a guard waiting nearby. The guard ran into the large hut and quickly emerged holding a small bag. He handed the bag to Safooma, who held it out to Shmolnick.

"And as I promised, here is a small token of my appreciation. For the sport and for those lovely weapons you have so generously provided."

Shmolnick took the bag and opened it. He whistled at the sparkling diamonds inside. "Lovely." Closing the bag and putting it in his pants pocket, he said smiling, "Nothing's too good for my man Elroy!" He looked around and his eyes spotted something in the grass. "Well my friend, as much as I'd like to stay and chat, I do have to be going."

Safooma looked disappointed. "Ah well, Joseph, perhaps we will catch up on old times another day. Farewell to you, my friend." They hugged again, and Safooma rejoined the celebration.

Shmolnick walked over to the grass, bent down, and picked up the remote trigger that had flown from Krotz' hand when he died. "Hmm, a souvenir," the major thought. "Thank you Private Krotz" He put the device in his shirt pocket and left the camp, passing the truck and easily finding the trail that led back to Mobutuland. He looked at his watch. "Right on schedule," he said to himself.

When he was a good distance from the camp, the sounds of celebration still hanging in the jungle air, he took the device from his pocket.

"Mission accomplished," he said, and pressed the flashing red button.

Colonel Safooma's camp exploded.


2006 Michael S. Cohen

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