Amazon Jihad:

To the Death

Written by Captain Fun

Based on Characters Created by Captain Fun and Shaun O’Donnell

©2006

 

Leave no one standing.

 

 


 

 

 

Part I

 

“And he piled upon the whale's white hump, the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.”

-Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

 

 

 


One

I have seen wars waged. I have seen leaders fall. I have seen empires end. I’ve looked into the eyes of a young man microseconds before his life was taken by my hand. I have fought and bled and cried and hurt for a cause that I believed was just and good. I’ve done these things, and I will do them again.

Victor Perez is sitting outside the restaurant in sunny Cuba drinking a cup of the finest coffee in the world. He has information on known terrorist Manuel Jorguez, whom I’ve been assigned by the most secretive part of the CIA to bring down. It wasn’t easy getting a hold of Victor. He’s one of Manuel’s closest business partners. However, Victor wishes to move to America, and believes I may provide a way out. I don’t care. All I want is Manuel.

I sat down at the table and Victor, an elder man in his fifties with thin balding black hair and a pencil-thin moustache, takes a sip of coffee.

“¿Cómo es su café?” I asked, “How is your coffee?”

Bien,” said Victor. Usted mira bien.” You look well.

“Gracias. Dígame donde está Manuel, y puedo asegurarle paso en América.” Tell me where Manuel is and you will have safe passage to America.

Tengo ya paso a América.” I already have passage to America, he said.

“¿Qué?” I said.

A van pulled up next to us and four men in bullet-proof vests wearing CIA hats came out and grabbed me. Before I knew it, I was in the van and we were moving somewhere.

“What’s going on?” I demanded. “He would’ve talked! I’m with you guys, division 6H dash 7, what’s this about?”

“We know about your mission, Johnny Terrace. 6H-7 was terminated this morning, all projects cancelled.”

“By who?” I asked.

“You’ll have to find out,” said the young man.

“Like hell,” I said, and kicked him in the throat, then I opened the door and jumped from the moving vehicle, rolling as I landed. I stood up and ran through the streets. I heard gunfire and the whizzing sound of bullets trying to get me, but I kept running. I ran through a market place and heard more gunfire after me. I turned down an alley and tripped over a trashcan. I got up, but there was no place to go. It was a dead end, and they had me cornered.

“Lie face-down with your hands out,” said an agent. I cooperated. They put me in cuffs and the last thing I remembered was the feeling of the back of a gun hitting me in the head.

I woke up in a small detention cell. I sat up and saw a black guard standing by the door.

“Good, Mr. Terrace. You’re up,” he said.

“Where am I?” I said.

“Officer’s holding cell, Langley. You’re in quite a bit of trouble.”

“What do you know?”

The officer entered the cell and closed the door, then got really close.

“All I know is, you and your division were sniffing is some places you shouldn’t have been in. I don’t know anything beyond that. But you are in some serious shit.”

The guard stood up.

“Now, I’ve been instructed to escort you to the debriefing room once you’ve found your strength. Can you walk?”

“I can walk,” I said, and I stood up.

The guard ushered me down a hallway, down some stairs, and through a tunnel into a highly-guarded area. He stopped at a closed door.

“Here you are, sir.”

“Thank you,” I said.

I walked into a small office. Sitting at the desk working on a laptop was an old comrade of mine, General Arnold Westlake. Westlake was about eight years older than me, but we had started boot camp together and had served together. Westlake was never a good friend, more like a rival. And now here I was getting ready to take orders from him.

“General,” I said.

“Sergeant,” he said. The word stung.

“Why was I so violently pulled from my duties? What happened to Martinson and my division?”

“Between you and me, Martinson is dead. You and your colleagues are a disgrace to this country.”

“According to who?” I asked.

“According to the President of the United States of America,” shouted Westlake. “You’ve duped around this institution for too long, young man. You’re careless, reckless, insubordinate, and you leave a trail of destruction wherever you go.”

“And I get results!” I shouted.

“You get mortalities!”

“So what, I’m fired now?” I asked.

“Expelled,” said Westlake.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

Westlake handed me a document in a manila folder which was signed by the Secretary of Defense.

“As of yesterday, the United States government has banished you to the ice prison of Rura Penthe in the frozen tundra of Alaska where you will live out the rest of your miserable existence until God sees fit to take your life.”

“But I have a wife…” I said.

“She is no longer of your concern.”

“Damn you Westlake!” I shouted. The guard came into the room with two other men. They grabbed me and sedated me. The drug began to take effect and I took on a state of euphoria. But the whole time, I could see images of my life passing before me. My wife Doris, my students where I taught, my friends and family. They would all be gone.

I have seen wars waged. I have seen leaders fall. I have seen empires end. I have fought and bled and cried and hurt for a cause that I believed was just and good. I have done these things, and I will do them again… this time it’s for me.

 

Two

The plane could only take us from Virginia to Toronto. From there we traveled by bus through the cold, clad in heavy coats that were standard-issue for prisoners. I was sitting next to a young black man who had the aisle seat. He kept quiet most of the way. I stared at my picture of Charla, my ex-wife who was killed in an explosion almost three years ago. I now wished I had a picture of Doris, my new wife, who was no doubt back at home learning of my supposed death. The young man turned to me after a few hours of silence.

“Is that your girl?” he asked me.

“She was,” I said. “She’s dead now.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Thanks.”

“You headed for the Ice Fortress too?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Who were you stationed with?”

“I was a SEAL.”

“Aw man,” he said. “You must’ve screwed up big time to go to the ice fortress.”

“Not really,” I said.

“Yeah, well, me neither.”

“That a fact?” I said, still looking deep into Charla’s eyes.

“I was in the Marines, sent in on a mission with four other guys. The intel was wrong, though, and the other guys got killed. I was the only one that made it out alive. Somehow the blame got pushed on me. So they sent me to Rura Penthe. What about you?”

“I did my job, served my country, and some asshole decided he didn’t like me.”

“Huh,” said the Marine. “Looks like we’re both not wanted by our country.”

“This is only temporary,” I said.

“I hate to tell you this, but you go to the Ice Fortress, you never get out.”

“We’ll see about that,” I said.

“My name’s Jake Peters.”

“Johnny Terrace,” I said. We shook hands. The bus continued to drive through the snow. It was almost twelve hours later when we reached Rura Penthe.

We all unloaded from the bus and went out into the cold. Rura Penthe, we discovered, was a large underground prison, hidden deep within Alaska. We all lined up against the bus and saw a door rise from under the ground. Out came three guards and two polar bears, who were leashed up. Behind them was a man who had an unlit cigar in between his lips. The man looked at all of us and allowed the bears to sniff us all. Then he spoke.

“I am Warden Phillips of Rura Penthe Penitentiary, known as the Ice Fortress. You may call me the Sheliak, which means ‘polar bear’ in my native language. I grew up in the Yukon, but my citizenship lies with the United States, as I joined the Alaskan National Guard at age 18. I love the cold. It is my sanctuary. And you will find it is the very temperature of my heart. Rura Penthe is my home, and you are guests there. You will treat my home with respect. You will clean it, you will complement the chef on his cooking, you will keep the toilets operational, and you will always be respectful of my rules.

“I lead a simple life inside this fortress. You will find that my inmates also lead very simple lives. You will be here the rest of your life, so my advice to you is learn to accept it. If you try to escape, great. I will send my bears after you and they will have a feast on your bones. If you still manage to escape, I will hunt you down myself, and that is a fury none of you wish to feel.

“Today is the first day of the rest of your lives. Make good use of your time here. Because you’re on my time now.”

The Sheliak turned and walked back down the steps and into the dark chasm of Rura Penthe. The guards then signaled us to follow.

We were directed down a long hallway and into a line forming at a desk, where we received our new blue uniforms, a towel, a Bible, and a toothbrush. We were also assigned cell mates. I got put with Jake.

Our cell was cement with a small enclosed gate for the toilet, to add some illusion of privacy, and two beds on opposite sides of the room. I took the right side, he took the left. Neither of us had anything other than what they’d given us, so we simply sat.

Jake said, “I’m only twenty-five. I wonder how long I can stand it here.”

“You’ll make it,” I said. “I’ll make sure of that.”

“We gotta stick together, like brothers.”

“Don’t worry, Jake. We’re brothers.”

“For life?” Jake asked.

I smiled. “For life.”

Jake and I clasped hands. It was the beginning of a good friendship. I knew if I was going to get out of there, I would need help. I figured Jake could be all the help I needed.

 

Three

It’s been two months, and life in Rura Penthe has been one day at a time. I miss Doris. I miss my life. I can’t move on. I keep thinking about what General Westlake said. The whole instance is going through my head, about Martinson being dead, and me being a disgrace to my country.

I replayed the whole mission, top to bottom. There was nothing wrong. The only thing I could think was that something was going on with Westlake that he didn’t want me or anyone else finding out about.

I worked out every day. And every day I read my Bible. I prayed for God to give me an opening. I prayed for forgiveness, but I knew one thing… if I ever got out of the Ice Fortress, I’d have to do some things that God wouldn’t be very proud of. Still, the Bible was a good book to read, if only for hope and guidance.

I was reading 1 Corinthians in the mess hall during lunch when a biscuit  landed on the back of my book. I set the book down and saw that one of the Air Force guys threw it at me. Air Force and Navy don’t get along very well. The Air Force figures because they know how to fly, they’re smarter than the guys who swim. It’s a lot more complicated than that, but mainly it comes down to them being ignorant. They don’t realize that a Navy SEAL can break your fingers twelve different places, making it hard to use the throttle in the cockpit, or whatever the hell those things are called.

But if there’s a friendly rivalry between the Navy and the Air Force in the real world, there’s a real one in prison. Air Force hates Navy in prison, and will do anything to make living hell even worse for them.

The biscuit thrower is a young pilot named Washburn, who’s about ten years younger than me and yet the leader of his group. I approach him with the biscuit.

“Is this yours?” I ask. Washburn, or simply “Wash,” just looks at me.

“Uh, no, no,” he says. “No, I think the forecast today said partially cloudy with a chance of biscuit.” His friends laughed.

I leaned forward. “Listen, ‘Wash,’ I know you think you’re hot shit, but I could rearrange your face in a matter of seconds to the point where even your mother, who probably doesn’t even know you’re alive, wouldn’t even recognize you.”

“What’d you say about my mother?” asked Wash.

Two pilots jumped up and grabbed me by the arms. I used them as leverage and kicked Wash in the face, then backflipped and punched the two pilots in the face.

When I turned around, I was hit in the face by a polar bear claw, which sent me back. The bear stepped forward and I took a fighting position. The bear went to claw me again. I grabbed the claw, blocking the blow, then rammed my fist hard into its chest. Just then I saw Jake get cornered by another polar bear. I kicked the first bear in the midsection, which sent it flying back on a table, then I grabbed a fork and dove on the second one, jamming the fork into its side. The bear roared and turned around, whapping at me with its mighty claw. I ducked the blow and sent an uppercut into the bear’s chin, breaking a tooth. The bear let out a squeal. Just then a guard came behind me and shot me in the back of the thigh. I feld the sting burn in my hip. I went down on one knee. The bear started to attack, but just then the Sheliak entered the room and whistled, signaling the bear to desist.

“Well now, a little bit of excitement for Loki and Cerberus. I hope you weren’t planning on killing my bears,” said the Sheliak. “I think three days of solitary confinement will be just fine for the two of you.”

The guards drug Jake and me out of the room and down the hallway, down the flights of stairs, into the basement, and into two solitary confinement rooms, which were wet and cold and made of concrete and smelled like shit.

“Jake,” I yelled. “Can you hear me?”

“Yeah, Johnny,” yelled Jake. “I hear ya.”

“We’ve gotta get out of here Jake,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Jake. “But how?”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “We’ll think of something.”

 

Four

It was a week later and Jake and I were in our cell during free time. I was in my bed nursing my leg. The Sheliak was kind enough to give me a crutch for it. I used it as sparingly as possible, which also meant I hardly left my cell, even for food. Jake was concerned about this.

“Johnny, you’ve got to eat. You’ve got to keep your strength up so we can escape.”

I grunted. “I’ve gotten out of worse situations in worse conditions.”

“No you haven’t,” said Jake. “We’re in the middle of a frozen wasteland. There’s nothing but ice in all directions for at least a hundred miles. You’ll need all your strength to get out of this one.”

I grunted and turned slightly, the pain in my thigh was excruciating.

“What were you before you came here?” asked Jake.

“A teacher,” I said. “When I wasn’t a SEAL, I was a teacher.”

“What did you teach?”

“Geometry.”

“Well maybe you can use some of that knowledge to plan our escape.”

“I can’t.” I said.

“Why not?” asked Jake.

I shifted in my bed. “I wasn’t a very good teacher. I was much better at killing people and saving the world.”

“Look, Johnny,” said Jake, and he sat forward, “you were sent here under some pretty fishy circumstances. Your whole life was stolen from you and you don’t even care why anymore because some chump with a gun shot you in the leg. You got a wife?”

I remembered Doris. “Yeah,” I said.

“Do you think she’d want you to waste away in some prison cell in a remote outpost in Alaska with a bunch of Air Force retards, or do you think she’d want you to stand up and fight and take back what’s rightfully yours?”

I didn’t have to think about this one, but I was quiet all the same. He was right, and I was being a quitter.

“Well?” he asked.

“What’s your plan?” I said.

“First thing’s first,” he said. “We get you back into shape.”

The next day during free time we went to the weight room and I lifted weights. Jake then helped me with some exercises for my leg, which hurt like hell, but needed to be done. We spent every other day in the weight room. On the other days, we walked around our floor during free time. Jake would keep a steady pace for us, and while I was limping, we made progress with each new day.

After about a month, my leg had begun to feel much better. I could put a good deal of weight on it without feeling any pain, which was good. But Jake said that wasn’t good enough. We needed to be even better.

Our walks around our floor turned into runs. I was getting faster. I began doing push-ups and sit-ups in my cell every morning and after every meal. I was beginning to get in the best shape of my life. Jake was too.

Then one day, Jake and I were resting in our cell. Jake turned to me.

“I think we’re ready,” he said.

“How long has it been?” I asked.

“At least four months,” he said. “You feel ready?”

“Definitely,” I said. “What’s the plan?”

At free time the next day, we approached the two guards by the personnel quarters and took them out quickly and quietly, without being seen. Then we broke into a guard’s living quarters and took two heavy coats and a loaf of bread. We then put on the two officers’ shoes and hats and went towards the loading dock, where Rura Penthe received all of its shipments. We nodded to the guards there, who probably figured we were going on a cigarette break.

We went up the lift into the blistering cold and were met with an unexpected surprise. The Sheliak, about twelve guards with guns, and the two polar bears were there waiting for us.

“Aw, shit,” said Jake.

One of the guards fired his rifle right into Jake’s chest. Jake flew backwards and slid in the snow, lifeless.

“Jake!” I yelled. The guards took aim and prepared to kill me.

“Wait,” said the Sheliak, “I have an alternative for him. Bring him to my chambers.”

The guards encircled me, while I looked desperately at Jake’s body, which was to be left out in the cold to freeze, a haunting memorial to the residents of Rura Penthe, the Ice Fortress.

 

Five

The Sheliak sat me down in his office and removed his coat, hanging it meticulously in the closet next to his desk, then he sits down.

“You could be in a lot of trouble, Mr. Terrace,” said the Sheliak.

“You killed Jake,” I said. “That puts you in a world of trouble you don’t even want to know about.”

The Sheliak motioned for his guards to leave. They hesitated, but left the room after a second look from the Sheliak. Once the guards were gone, the Sheliak leaned forward and looked at me right in the eyes.

“I could’ve had you terminated out there with your compadre and left you with all the other frozen corpses of those who’ve tried to escape. But I didn’t.”

“Yeah,” I said, “and I’m of course wondering why.”

“You are an excellent fighter, Mr. Terrace. I’ve seen you in combat. You’re good. Every few months, I hold a fight between my prison and another in Siberia. If I win, I make a lot of cash. I want you to fight for me.”

“What will I get in return?” I asked. The Sheliak smiled.

“If you win, you get my blind ignorance at your next escape attempt.”

“And if I lose?” I asked.

“Don’t,” said the Sheliak.

“What guarantee do I have?” I asked.

“Do you believe in yin and yang, Mr. Terrace?” asked the Sheliak.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s a Chinese philosophy. How in every bit of evil, there is good, and in every bit of good, there is evil. Do you believe in it?”

“I guess,” I said.

“What I’m trying to say is, I may be cold-blooded, but I’m not a monster.” He handed me a newspaper that was open to a national page. The headline said, “Kansas Schoolteacher Runs for Office.” It was dated three months ago. I scanned the first paragraph and saw my name. I looked up at the Sheliak, confused.

“Someone has taken over your life, Johnny,” said the Sheliak. “Someone wanted you out of the way, but still in the picture.”

“Why are you showing me this?” I asked.

“Because I work for a government that does these things to people like you and I’m tired of it. Sure, I get some people unfit for the uniform here, but most of my inmates were wrongfully put here. I’m tired of that. I already know God has no place for me in Heaven, but I’d like to show him I tried to do something right while I was down here. I want you to fight, win, and get out of here and take back your life.”

“What about Jake?” I asked. “What about his second chance?”

“I already said I’m going to hell. Let’s not remind me of it anymore. Are you in?”

I couldn’t come to grips with it. Someone was taking my life, sleeping with my woman, teaching my students. I vowed right then I would find whoever was responsible and bury him.

“I’m in,” I said.

For the next three weeks, I trained. I trained hard. The Sheliak had me on a strict diet of carbohydrates and vegetables. Suddenly, I was a popular face amongst the inmates. They were all cheering for me. One day, the Sheliak removed Jake’s bed and installed a punching bag in the room that hung from the ceiling. I practiced harder than any tournament I had ever fought in.

In the mornings, the Sheliak would take me running. I would run in light clothing, which would urge me to run faster so my body heat would keep me warm.

I did hundreds upon hundreds of sit-ups, push-ups, and jumping-jacks every day. I lifted weights, I ran, and when I wasn’t training, I was sleeping.

Finally, the night came. The guards had set up the ring in the old basketball court that was renovated into a large bomb shelter approximately fifteen stories below the surface of the ground, excluding ice. The inmates, Russian and American alike, filed into their seats around the ring and waited for the fight to begin.

Back in the shower room, the Sheliak was taping my feet and hands.

“Your opponent tonight is Olaf, one of the meanest Russian fighters I’ve seen. He’ll be a challenge for you, just stay sharp and fast. Keep in mind, elbows and knees are legal, but once your opponent is down, you must wait for him to get up. Now Johnny, listen to me.” The Sheliak knelt down and looked me in the eyes.

“Once you beat him, come to me. Don’t go to the guards, come to me. Otherwise, I can’t get you out.”

“You’re keeping your promise?” I asked.

“I’m a man of my word,” said the Sheliak. “Now go out and beat him.”

I stood up and walked out of the showers, wearing a pair of blue shorts and with white tape on my hands and feet. The room erupted in cheers. Johnny Terrace was in the house, and I was ready to kick some ass.

I stepped into the ring and stood in my corner. Soon, out came Olaf, a man I was fortunate to see was my height and weight, but looked much more worn. He had scars all over his arms and chest, and his black hair was long and messy. His teeth were horrid to look at as well. I stepped forward and stood face-to-face with him in the center of the ring.

He looked at me with a crazed look as the referee said the rules in English, then in Russian. Finally, the bell rang, and the fight began.

We moved around the ring in a sort of practiced dance, circling each other. I was waiting for him to strike. I wanted to know his power. He was thinking the same thing. So I went first. I did a spinning kick to the face, adding only a little force. This didn’t even mildly stun Olaf, who seemed amused. I jabbed him twice in the face with my left hand, still Olaf didn’t seem to be perturbed. Finally, I decided to add some force. I punched him twice in the chest, then elbowed him across the face hard. This sent Olaf staggering a little, and I could tell it surprised him.

Olaf then blocked my next punch and grabbed my throat, picked me up with one hand and slammed me right on the canvass, knocking the air right out of me. The ref began to count. He got to four and I was up.

I went for a punch, it was blocked, Olaf kicked me in the face, then did it again, then tried again, but I ducked and punched him hard in the ribs, then in the face. I went for a kick, but Olaf caught it and threw me down. I was up before the ref could count, and I went for a strong left punch. It was blocked, but I drove my right palm into his chest. This caused him to lean forward.

I then got him in a headlock with my right arm and with my left knee I began pounding his ribs. Finally, I flipped him over and both of us were on our backs. The ref started to count.

The ref was at six by the time we got up. Olaf did a hard right punch into my face which sent my head spinning. Then he grabbed me by the hair and began choking me on the top rope. I was being hung on that rope over and over, until finally he let go and I was sent flying back on the canvas, coughing up blood.

Sweat was in my eyes, blurring my vision. My face was already cut open by the blows to the head. I could barely hear the ref as he reached seven… eight… then I remembered the horrifying image of Doris sleeping with someone she thought was me.

I stood up at nine. The ref stopped the count. I was through with Olaf. I wanted to get my life back. I ran toward him and jumped, taking his head in between my legs. Then I twisted in mid-air and sent Olaf flying to the canvas. My legs were still holding tight to his head when we landed. I could feel the Russian’s neck snap. It was over.

I looked for the Sheliak. He was standing right at ringside with a towel. Everyone began to enter the ring, some cheering, some booing. I made my way out of there with the Sheliak. It was a quiet escape.

We went back to his office, where I changed into proper clothes for the cold. Then I turned to the Sheliak.

“Thank you for this,” I said.

“Don’t thank me,” said the Sheliak. “I’m a terrible person. But you, on the other hand, are meant for greatness. Get your life back, Johnny Terrace. Now go.”

The Sheliak signaled to the door and I made my escape, down the hallway, through the corridor, up the winding staircase, and into the cold. The bitter sting of the snow was the most warmth I had felt in months. But there was still coldness in my heart. And those responsible for my stolen life were going to pay… with theirs.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Part II

 

“Hear my cries, hear my call

lend me your ears, see my fall

see my errors, see my faults

time halts, see my loss

Know I’m lacking, backtracking

where I met you, pistol packing

itchy finger, trigger happy

try to trap me, bad rap

Wiretap me, backstab me

bring the faith, fall from grace

tell me lies, time flies

close your eyes

Come with me.”

-from “Come With Me” by Puff Daddy

 

 

 

 


Six

I’m not sure how many days passed because in Alaska, the sun never sets. I just kept walking in the direction I prayed would get me back to home. But I walked forever. It was an ocean of snow and ice, and I was freezing to the bone, my hands had gone numb, and my ears had all but given out. But still I trudged forward. I had to see home again, and nothing would keep me from it.

After what seemed like two weeks without any food or drink, I collapsed and blacked out. I lay there in the snow and I remember being ready to accept death. I felt the cold take over me. I didn’t fight it.

I went into a deep, dreamless sleep. Time ceased. Reality ceased. In a way,  I was dead.

When I awoke, I was in a large hut made of ice, an actual igloo. I was wrapped in four thick fur blankets, my head with a fur cap on it. I felt warm, but weak. I knew I had been rescued, but by whom?

A man came into the hut through a thin wood door. He looked to be in his fifties, with somewhat long brown hair and brown skin, resembling a Native American.

“How long?” I managed to say through an arid mouth. The man smiled.

“It’s been about a month since we found you,” he said. “You have the heart of a polar bear to have survived this long.”

“Water…” I whispered.

The man poured water from his canteen into my mouth. It was a wonderful feeling. I almost coughed on it, I was so eager to receive it.

“I will notify the others. We will make a salmon for you. I hope you like fish.”

He gave me his canteen and left the hut. I drank the entire thing, swishing the water around my crusted dry mouth. It was the first time I truly was grateful to be drinking water.

The man and another came back in a while later. This one looked older, in his seventies maybe. He spoke to me.

“What is your name, stranger?” he asked.

“Johnny,” I said. “Johnny Terrace.”

“My people have been calling you Boolrai, which means ‘hard to knock down’ in our native tongue. From now on, you are Johnny ‘Boolrai’ Terrace of the Hannauit tribe. I am Chieftain Nichka. You are welcome here.”

“Thank you, Chieftain,” I said. “I am honored.”

A woman came in just then with a plate of cooked salmon. It looked delicious. I devoured the whole thing with my hands in about two minutes. I didn’t realize I was being sloppy, but also didn’t care. I was starving, and this was the best-tasting food I’d had in a month.

“Where exactly am I?” I asked Nichka.

“On the Alaskan coast, near the ocean.”

“I see,” I said.

“Where are you from?” asked the woman.

Kansas,” I said. “Well, actually, Detroit, but I live in Kansas.”

“And do you have someone in Kansas?” asked the woman. “A woman?”

I remembered Doris and thought of her sleeping with that impostor who looked like me.

“I hope,” I said.

Roshi, too many questions for Boolrai. He’s still too weak,” said Nichka.

“No,” I said. “She may ask. It helps me remember who I am anyway.”

“And who are you?” asked Roshi.

“I’m beginning to wonder,” I said.

“What do you mean?” asked Nichka, now curious.

“I was a trained killer for the United States government for years. Then one day I woke up and found out my whole country was against me. So I found myself in jail wondering if it all was even worth it anymore. You people are the first people to be kind to me in a long while. I’m beginning to wonder if I should just abandon my old ways and stay here. Be Boolrai fulltime.”

“That is something which you will need to figure out for yourself,” said Nichka. “But for now, we have a celebration to attend to, and we want you to come.”

I stood up slowly and found my strength. Nichka handed me a crutch to lean on and I walked out of the hut.

Outside there were several huts all placed in a large circle around a huge bonfire. Several people danced and sang around the fire and ate and laughed. A child came up to me and handed me a beaded bracelet.

“Wear this in time of battle,” he said, and ran off. I smiled and slipped the bracelet on my left wrist. It fit perfectly.

Nichka approached me with another man who looked older than him with dark long hair and a scar under his right eye.

Boolrai, this is Mindo, my older cousin. I may be chieftain, but he is the wisest of us.”

Mindo smiled. “You are brave to have lived so long outside the cold without food or drink. This makes you worthy of the name Boolrai.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“When you are well, I hope you will join me in a climbing expedition. Do you like to climb?” asked Mindo.

“Yes,” I said, “when the opportunity arises.”

“Good. Until then, get your rest. You are welcome in my home if you wish to stay there.”

“Thank you, but I think Nichka is providing nicely,” I said.

“Well, the offer still stands,” said Mindo. “Now if you don’t mind, I must borrow Nichka for a few moments.”

Mindo and Nichka went away and I took a seat on a small bench outside the hut and watched the festivities continue. Just then Roshi came up and sat down beside me.

“You are doing well, Boolrai?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “Are you, Roshi?”

“Yes. The sun will finally go down soon, and then it will be night for a while. I have a question to ask you.”

“Shoot.”

“Shoot?”

“Ask,” I said.

“Is your woman in Kansas… is she pretty?”

I smiled. “Doris is very pretty.”

“Do you think you will see her again?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Right now she’s with an impostor who looks like me. I don’t know if I’ll be able to live with that.”

“So what will you do?” asked Roshi.

“I might stay here.”

“Why?”

“Because my life doesn’t want me anymore,” I said.

“What would happen if you go back to your old life?”

“That’s a tough question,” I said. “I’d probably get killed, or find that I was better off in jail. Things change without your permission, and that leads you to wonder if you’re really a part of the life process or just standing in its way. Does God want me in Kansas, or does he really want me out of the picture?”

“I can’t answer that,” said Roshi. I looked her in her beautiful brown eyes.

“Yes you can.”

I leaned forward and took her into my arms and we kissed a passionate kiss. Roshi embraced me and the two of us held each other tightly. At that moment, I knew, God didn’t want me in that life anymore. All that I had accomplished, all that I had learned and done was nothing now. I was Boolrai, and I was never going back.

 

Seven

I had stayed there for two weeks, enough time to find my strength. During that time, I had decided to stay amongst the Hannauits. Roshi and I had developed a strong romance, and the two of us had begun contemplating marriage. I had even accepted Boolrai as my name.

Then one day, after a long day of fishing, Mindo approached me with climbing gear and announced it was time.

“The glacier awaits,” he said. “Are you ready?”

I smiled, “Let me get some things.”

We walked several miles to the foot of a giant glacier which looked like a mountain of ice. We took our gear out with our ropes and various axes and climbing tools, and we began our ascent.

Then we climbed. And we climbed. And then we stopped for a cold fish sandwich. Then climbed some more. Finally we came to the entrance of a small cave, and Mindo went inside and helped me in.

“This is where we will camp for the night,” said Mindo.

We unpacked our gear and got out our blankets and sleeping ponchos, then we laid in the cavern. We were silent only for a few minutes, then Mindo spoke.

“What if we didn’t finish climbing this glacier?” he asked.

I sat up on my side and faced him. “What do you mean?” I said.

“What if we just decided not to do the rest and went down?”

“Then I guess the glacier would win,” I said.

“Ah,” he said. “Just asking.”

Mindo, I can’t go back to Kansas,” I said.

“It’s not what you can or can’t do,” said Mindo. “It’s something you have to do. It’s something you set out to do. You owe it to yourself to finish this quest you’ve set out on, just like we both owe it to ourselves to finish climbing this glacier.”

“It’s not that easy.”

“Of course it isn’t,” said Mindo. “But you seemed pretty up for the challenge when we found you half dead in the snow without the proper gear. You call yourself Boolrai, yet when given the opportunity to back down, you take it in a heartbeat. That doesn’t sound like Boolrai to me. That sounds more like chicken-shit.”

“Then what should I do?” I asked, angrily.

“Leave. This is no place for you. We will give you what you need, but you must get your old life back. Otherwise, what’s the point in finishing this ascent?”

“What about me and Roshi?” I asked.

“If Roshi loves you, she will understand. But you have to be a man. You have to step up and face this challenge. Then you will be Boolrai. Then you will be invincible.”

I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew Mindo was right. The next day, we completed our ascent, then made our way down. When we got back to the village, I told Nichka and Roshi the news of my departure.

Roshi understood. “You will never forget me, will you?” she asked.

“Never,” I said.

We rubbed noses, then I kissed her on the lips. Nichka then cleared his throat.

Boolrai, we will provide you with a kayak and a backpack full of food. There is a dock not far from here where we get some supplies. The journey will not be long, but we wish you the best of luck, and if you ever need our help, we will be there.”

“Thank you, Chieftain,” I said. “Thank all of you.”

I left the village a changed man. I was stronger, mentally, physically, and spiritually. I was born again. I was Johnny “Boolrai” Terrace.

 

Eight

I’ve ignored the fact that it’s been two years since I’ve been on the American mainland. What I do notice is that General Westlake is running for President and is high in the polls.

I’m in some nice clothes at a charity auction at a clubhouse in Los Angeles where I’m told Vice President-nominee Jonathan Terrace is going to be present. I figure spotting him will be easy, as long as there aren’t any rooms filled with mirrors.

I used an old contact of mine, Skippy, to get me an invitation into the party. Now I look nice, and I’m ready to kick some ass.

I find him on the balcony enjoying a glass of wine and looking out at the large swimming pool.

“Nice party,” I said.

“I’ve been to better,” said Jonathan.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” I said. “The name’s Johnny Terrace.”

He immediately went for his gun, which I kicked out of his hands, then punched him in the face, sending him staggering back. I went for another punch, but he blocked and caught two punches in my chest, then forced me down on the rail and tried to break my neck. I kicked upward and took hold of him and both of us went splashing into the swimming pool. It was about that time about twenty cops surrounded us. It was me they wanted. The imposter got off clean.

It had been two days in jail when the guard came over and said I was free. I went to get my things and saw Nichka standing there, wearing nice clothes and looking very different than before.

“Tried a little too early for your revenge I think,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said. “How’d you know?”

Nichka laughed. “I know things.”

Nichka took me to an old house in the Rockies where I could exercise and train myself. In the meantime, Westlake and Jonathan were high in the polls. I know I had to strike soon.

“I have to get him at home,” I said. “I have to get him when he least expects it.”

It took another month, but Nichka and I scouted the neighborhood and the house and came up with the best way to take down the fake Jonathan Terrace as well as clear my name.

Then the night came, and my moment was at hand.

I waited until 2 a.m. and went in through the back door thanks to the spare key under the lawn gnome. I carried a silenced pistol and only one magazine, figuring that would do the trick. I crept slowly through the kitchen taking each step carefully.

Then something happened I never thought could happen. A young boy, about two years old, came into the room wearing Whinee-the-Pooh pajamas. He looked up at me, a sweet face with Doris’ eyes and nose.

“What are you doing?” asked the child.

While I knew this was Doris’ son, I had no remorse for what I was about to do to his world.

“I’m going to kill your father,” I said.

The child scrambled to the telephone and dialed 9-11. I knew it was just a matter of time, so I ran upstairs and banged open the door. The impostor, sleeping with my wife, woke up startled, as was Doris, who covered herself with the blanket.

“Jonathan” stood up. “Alright you son of a bitch,” he said, “you want me, come and get me.”

I fired and hit Jonathan in the shoulder. Jonathan kicked my gun out of my hand and then punched me hard in the face, sending me staggering back into the hallway. We moved into the living area where the child was. He hid himself in the laundry room away from the action.

Just then sirens flared up and the police had the whole house surrounded.  We continued our struggle into the kitchen, where the imposter opened a cabinet and pulled out another gun. I bolted for the front door but Jonathan shot me in the side and I stumbled with the impact and went right through the door, into the sight of the police.

Jonathan stepped outside and stood over me.

One of the policemen ordered him to put the gun down.

“Hey, I’m Jonathan Terrace,” said the impostor. “I’ve got this under control.” Just then he accidentally pointed the gun at the policemen, a big mistake, because his body then received approximately forty rounds, all fatal.

Jonathan Terrace, the impostor, was dead. And now I, simply Johnny Terrace laid on his own doorstep a complete mess.

“Check his fingerprints and compare them to mine,” I said to one of the detectives. “I’m the real John Terrace.”

“We’ll get them,” said the detective.

Just then the little boy came out and knelt beside the fallen corpse of his father, tears soaking his face. I was put on a stretcher and put into an ambulance, but the sight of that child’s horrified anguish would forever haunt me.

But I had to stay focused. Objective one was completed. My name was cleared and the impostor was dead. The next objective would be even harder. Take down the presidential candidate General Westlake.

 

Nine

I got taken to the police, the police took me to the feds, then the CIA themselves stepped into our little interrogation room and excused the two federal agents who had been interviewing me. I sipped crappy coffee from a Styrofoam cup and tried not to move all that much. I was still pretty banged up from the fight with myself.

The first agent, a small white guy with a receding hairline, spoke. “Mr. Terrace I’m special agent Hauser, from Division 6H-7.”

I looked up from my coffee.

“I thought they closed that division,” I said.

The other agent, a larger black fellow who looked like he could take me on if we ever were on different terms, stepped forward, “It was reopened last night, after the discovery of the fake Jonathan Terrace and certain ties to former General Arnold Westlake, who up until two hours ago was in candidacy for President of the United States.”

My mind began racing. It was all making sense.

“So Westlake was using the fake me as a pawn,” I said.

“That’s correct. We’re just not sure what his scheme was,” said Hauser.

“That’s where you come in,” said the other agent. “You are the last survivor of Division 6H-7. Now, whatever business you were doing, you were about to uncover some seriously important information that would be dangerous to General Westlake.”

Hauser leaned on the table. “We need to know everything you know, and we need to know now. General Westlake is missing, and we believe he’s fled the country.”

I finished my coffee and sat back in the chair.

“If I figure out this puzzle for you,” I said, “you guys are letting me be the one who takes Westlake out.”

Hauser looked at his partner, who nodded.

“You’re with us a hundred percent.”

I leaned forward. My back objected, but I didn’t care. I knew I was close to getting Westlake and bringing an end to his existence.

“The day I was sent to Rura Penthe, I was on assignment in Cuba meeting with a man named Victor Perez, who worked for known terrorist Manuel Jorguez. I had been ordered to keep track of Jorguez and his contacts, but first I needed to get on the inside, and Perez was the guy who could help me.

“In order to get Perez to meet with me, I had to guarantee safe passage to America, which of course, I did. However just before I was captured, he told me he didn’t need safe passage.”

Hauser nodded, as did his partner, who’s nametag read “Rawlins.”

Hauser said, “Victor Perez is a gun runner out of Cuba. Should be fairly easy to get him.”

Rawlins smiled, “I’ll notify the pilot we are headed to Cuba.”

Hauser turned to me and leaned forward.

“You sure you’re up for this?” he said.

“Agent Hauser, my life has been shattered into pieces and thrown down a bottomless pit by these men. If I don’t do this, I’m not anyone but a coward.”

 

Ten

It’s a hot night in Cuba, and my Cuban cigar is just about out. We’ve been watching the guards of Victor Perez’s estate march to and from their positions as if they were actual professionals.

The team consists of me, Sergeant Tasha Wyle, and our sniper, Bill Fox. Tasha and I are itching to go in, so we signal Bill to take out the guards on the roof and in the yard. He does with excellent precision.

Tasha and I take opposite sides of the estate and go around to the front, where we quietly take out the guards. I then unsheathed my samurai sword before we went in.

“You’re going to fight with that?” asked Tasha.

“The combat gets a little close indoors. I like to keep it interesting,” I said.

We bust open the door and are met with silence.

Then, a woman screaming and a man at the top of the stair case with a .45 firing at us. Tasha fires back and distracts the man, who I recognize as Victor, while I sneak up from behind and chop off his arm, thus ceasing the fire. Victor screams in pain and the whole house is pandemonium.

“Silence!” I yell.

“Where is Manuel Jorguez?” I ask him.

Nuestro padre que está en cielo, santificado sea su nombre,” he squealed.

“I am your God right now,” I said. “Now speak English and tell me where the hell I can find Jorguez and Westlake, or Juro al dios I will cut your fucking head off!”

South Africa! South Africa! Now leave, por favor!” he said.

“Where can I find them?” I asked.

Victor’s breathing was rapid and he was growing faint and losing a lot of blood. “el diablo le encuentra…” he said, and he was gone.

I stood up. Victor’s blood was all over me. Tasha came toward me.

“Did we get a location?” she asked.

South Africa,” I said.

“We’ll have to put up some surveillance there.”

“We haven’t already?” I asked.

 

Eleven

You can’t slip on a banana peel in a bomb shelter without the CIA laughing about it. Sure enough, a transaction for stinger missiles came up from Manuel Jorguez in the sun-filled wonderland of South Africa. Further intelligence indicated that both Jorguez and Westlake were staying at the wonderful Wingnut Palace, which they had purchased by killing the previous owner’s favorite goat.

The mission was simple: find some idiot to jump from a plane onto the roof of the palace, sneak his way in, and snipe the two when they least expected it. All we needed was a volunteer.

So I was told that the built-in glider in my arms would help me to land safely. That was a comfort. They geared me up like a mixture between Batman and GI Joe, which actually sounds like a cool action figure.

I had grenades, two pistols, a shotgun, some spare clips, and my sword. I was set.

I looked down on the palace and felt butterflies in my stomach. This was a mission everyone knew would fail, which is why they sent me… because every time that happens, I pull through.

I jumped, then I glided, which was a great sensation. I tried not to have too much fun, and focused on my target: the roof of the palace. I landed safely on the dome and slid down, catching myself at the end. I squeezed through a window into a bell tower and caught the attention of the guard standing there.

No big deal, I though, and I slammed him into the bell and sent him falling a few stories.

Stupid idea. The bell woke up half the continent.

I scrambled down the stairs and just as I got to the bottom, another guard came at me. I elbowed him in the face, kneed him in the groin, then threw him aside and took care of he guy behind him.

I made my way through the hallway, but guards kept showing up. Finally I came to a sanctuary which was a really very beautiful place, except standing at the pulpit was General Westlake and Manuel Jorguez.

Quickly, I got out the shot gun and slammed a round into Manuel’s head, brain matter flying everywhere. But the guards came around me and seized my weapons and brought me down to my knees, so I was “bowing” to Westlake.

“Manuel wasn’t really much use anymore,” said Westlake.

“Yeah,” I said, “I’ve been there too.”

“Johnny, don’t be so sour,” said Westlake.

“You are such a coward Westlake.”

“I’m intrigued, Johnny, how is that?”

“You won’t try and kill me yourself. You send me to Rura Penthe so they’d kill me there. You’ll have these guards take care of me in a few minutes. But where’s your honor? Where’s your fighter’s spirit? Or do you even have any? I was framed, sent to an ice fortress, fought two polar bears and a monster from Siberia, survived subzero temperatures, then come home to find I’ve been replaced by some guy who’s now had a child with my wife? I can’t even go back to Doris, she’s so scared of me. So what can I do? I guess I can kill you. Because I’m not a coward. I’m not a man who just accepts that everything is fate, or that I’m not in control of things. You sir are a terrible person. You have wrecked my very way of living. And now you’re not even going to give me the decency of giving me a fighting chance against a lost cause. What a coward. What a piece of shit.”

I looked at Westlake. I stared deep into his soul. I wanted this fight more than anything. The last thing I wanted was to die on my knees in this sanctuary without ever been given the chance to fight.

“How is your martial-arts?” asked Westlake.

“Good, but not my best,” I said.

“I have a garden. You will be cleaned up and will meet me there, no weapons. No low blows. And this is to the death. I will meet you in an hour.”

An hour passed and I got dressed in a nice red kimono, then I meditated until a guard came to get me. I stepped out into a large clearing of grass surrounded by flowers and vines and trees. Standing in a black kimono was Westlake, both of us were barefoot.

“I told my men,” said Westlake, “if by some chance you win, they are to let you go free.”

“How can I trust that?” I said.

“You don’t have to. Just know that I said it.”

We both took a stance on the opposite sides of the garden. Neither of us took any fancy kung-fu stance. Just the American karate stance. We wanted this done quickly. We weren’t here to do a dance.

He went for a kick, I blocked. He waited a minute. Another kick, easily blocked. What was Westlake up to? We started to circle a little. Westlake went for a left jab, but I blocked. This was too easy.

I went for a spinning roundhouse kick to the face, it was caught, and Westlake physically lifted me and threw me against a tree, knocking the wind out of me.

He then got down in my face, giving me a headlock and punching me in the ribs with his spare hand, the whole time I was trying to breathe.

“You wanted to play the big boys’ game?” he asked me. Then he grabbed me by the collar and threw me into a stone birdbath, which broke upon impact and caused my forehead to bleed.

I rolled away from his laughter and tried to catch my breath. Blood was now streaming down my forehead. I struggled to my feet, but then Westlake caught me with two kicks, one to the chest and one to the face. I was now on my back. Blood was getting in my eyes. Westlake’s laughter was all I could hear.

But I had to keep moving. This was what I wanted. I wanted Westlake, and I wanted him one hundred percent. I stood up and took off the top of my kimono.

Westlake!” I yelled.

Westlake turned around astonished at the sight he was seeing,

“You’re really taking this thing as far as it’ll go, ain’t you?” said Westlake.

“To the death,” I said.

Westlake went for a punch, I caught his fist and twisted it down, then kneed him in the stomach a few times. Then, when he was crouched over, I chopped the back of his neck as hard as I could. This sent Westlake in a dazed condition and Westlake began crawling away. I grabbed him and pulled on the back of his kimono so to put him to his knees. I punched him hard. Then again.

Then he went for a punch, but I caught it, grabbed the arm, and twisted, dislocating his left shoulder. He fell back and held his shoulder in pain. I got to my feet and circled him. They say revenge is a dish best served cold. It’s very hot in this garden.

I picked him up and grasped his head in my hands and arms and twisted until I felt a large snap in the vertebrae. I threw down Arnold Westlake, and I grabbed my sword, and I left the palace.

 

Epilogue

Of course they gave me the Medal of Honor. And I got to shake the president’s hand. The ceremony lasted long enough. I had nothing to say about my experience.

Once the ordeal was over, I went to my limo, where my driver awaited. He opened the door for me and inside was Roshi, wearing a beautiful dress I had bought her and a nice diamond ring.

“So we’re going back to the tribe?” she asked.

“You bet,” I said. “I’m tired of all this.”

“Do you want the wedding to be of the Hannauit way?” she asked. I smiled and took her hand.

“What other way would I want it?” I said.

“To the airport,” I said to the driver. I was headed where no one could get me. Where I could be free. And start a new life and a new future. It was time to seize the day.

 

 

 

 


About the Author

Captain Fun is really known as Nick Varnau, movie critic and humorist in Central Indiana. His writing credits include dozens of essays, a few short stories, and some novellas. He is also creator/producer/star of the short-lived TV series “Cafeteria” as well as the host for a year for the show “Promoting Watchability.” Currently he writes movie reviews with long-time friend and fellow-writer Shaun O’Donnell for the online publication “Hollywood Blockbusters Weekly.”

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