The two cars drove through the small Georgia towns and pulled into a residential development named SugarMill Plantation. Crossing over a small bridged stream, Lauren’s Green Ford Explorer turned left at the first main road in the community and followed it around to the back side of the development. Turning into the driveway the SUV parked and it was apparent that the two women were still in conversation as they sat and talked for a good five minutes or so. Larry and Gary parked on the street across from the Millers nicely built, contemporary style one level home.
“What do you think they are talking about?” Larry asked
“I have a feeling that Lauren Miller is hearing some things that she’s never heard before.” Gary paused for a moment “When you think about it…it just doesn’t seem real, does it?”
“No, it sure don’t” Larry said slowly
Lauren and April got out of the Green truck and motioned for Gary and Larry to come inside. Larry decided that he would wait outside in the car and listen to the CB radio to hear if any of his drivers were seeing anything unusual on their travels. Gary walked to the home and noticed that the shrubs and flowers were perfect. He wondered what having a normal life would be like, or if he would ever have a normal life again.
The front door opened into a wide and bright entry way which was ceramic tile floored. As he went inside Lauren and April came out of the dining room and welcomed him. “Come on in Gary, and make yourself at home.” Lauren said
“Lauren you have a beautiful home” Gary said admiring the photographs and art along the walls and looking up at the vaulted ceiling.
“Thank you” Lauren paused for a moment and thought about what to say to Gary “Can I get you all something to drink?”
Gary and April both said “Whatever you’d like Lauren” who decided to make coffee.
The two sat at the dining room and while Lauren was making coffee, they held hands and were both somewhat nervous. Lauren returned with strong Navy styled black coffee.
“Gary, I really don’t know what to say right now. What April has told me seems like the worst nightmare anyone could have.”
Gary looked at April “What did you tell her?”
“About my family and your family.”
Gary took a deep breath and nodded
“It’s so hard to imagine that happening to your family like that, I just couldn’t comprehend it” Lauren asked “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry”
“It is hard to comprehend, but in time things get easier and life goes on.” Gary paused and said “It’s the ‘life goes on part’ that’s tough to deal with sometimes.”
Lauren looked like she wanted to ask a question but held back.
“Lauren…” Gary smiled at her “…it’s ok to ask, it really is”
“When April was telling me about what happened to her family and to her…” Lauren took a breath “…she sounded like that you and her…”
“I don’t mean to interrupt you, but I think I know what you are asking, and it’s a valid concern…” Gary looked at April and them to Lauren “…about three and a half years ago, I was very happily married. My wife and daughter were everything to me. Cathi was pregnant with our second child, and Ruthie was four. “Gary looked up and away as the memories came back to him “…we didn’t know what we were having whether a girl or boy; and wanted it to be a surprise. I’ll tell you that I wanted a boy in the worst way, but the bottom line was; we just wanted a healthy baby…”pausing again “…when they were killed, my life was over. I really had nothing to live for, except the anger and hatred of the people that did this…”taking a sip of the coffee “… so, I started fighting. I became what they labeled me originally…a terrorist, that’s their term; to us we were and are patriots…” taking another breath “…anyway, I fought for a few years and eventually ended up in Maryland.”
Gary took the carafe of coffee and refilled his cup and Aprils’ then Lauren’s. Lauren and April were looking at Gary and processing everything he said.
“Anyway, I was at the end of my rope so to speak.” Sighing deeply “Well, I met this family, April’s family, and found something that I had lost. I found friendship and peace.
April reached over and rubbed Gary’s shoulder as he was painfully opening his heart.
“So, this family was really special to me. April was just part of their family, I didn’t really think of her as someone that I would be attracted to.” Pausing again “When they were attacked, I went into my previous ‘hate and kill’ mode and killed them all...” Gary had tears filling his eyes “…with the exception of the Predator which blew up the house and took my friends lives…” wiping his eyes “…April was the only one left and we escaped and went to this cave where I was just existing…” Gary looked down and continued “…I avoided coming to grips with my feelings about her, but she didn’t avoid her feelings for me.” Looking at Lauren “the long and short of it is this Lauren…April has given me a reason to live.” He waited for a question that didn’t come “So, I guess that it comes down to this…I am in love with her, and want nothing more than that.”
Lauren looked at Gary and she wiped the tear from her eye, as did April.
April kissed her man on the cheek and said “I didn’t know that Cathi was pregnant”
“Yeah, she sure was and I had high hopes that this baby would be a boy. We would have played football and gone fishing and…” Gary looked up and didn’t want to go any further with it.
Lauren looked at the two and said “Jack wants a boy too.”
“Are you pregnant?’ April asked
Lauren smiled which made the entire room brighten. “I’m due in November. We haven’t found out what we are having yet. Jack just found out”
“Congratulations! See…I think that’s proof that God wants us to go on.” Gary smiled at Lauren who agreed with his statement
Lauren said to the pair “I don’t know if you two have a place to stay the night, but I sure would like for you to stay with us. We have another spare room, Jack’s friend is in the one to the left down the hall…so the one to the right is yours” Lauren stopped and said “Please stay.”
April, who had thought that Lauren wouldn’t even remember her, was overjoyed at the reception “Lauren, we would love to.” April paused “We really don’t want to put you all out, and there is a motel down the road.”
“April, I didn’t ask to be polite, I asked because it‘s what I want.” Lauren won
April reached over to Gary and wrapped her arms around him “Gary would you get our bag, please?”
“Sure thing.” Gary turned and left. When he reached the Monte Carlo; Larry was talking on the CB to a trucker.
“There‘s nothing going on with the blue hats, that’s good news.” Larry said
“It looks like we are going to stay the night here. If you’ll write down your number, I’ll call you if we need any transportation. I think there’s a motel down the road…I’m going to pay you for this.”
“Pay me? The hell you say. I take care of my own finances.” Gary loved his friend’s southern pride “Here take the number anyway” Larry wrote it down on a small piece of paper and handed it to Gary
“Thanks man.” Gary took Larry’s number and retrieved the duffel bag leaving Larry sitting by the road, as he was involved in a conversation on the CB.
Gary brought the black duffel into the house and finding Lauren “Where can we put our stuff Lauren?”
“Down the hallway, it’s the last room on the right and next to the bathroom. “Lauren said
Jack carried the bag down the hall and found the bathroom and their room. Coming back Jack saw the recreation room off to his right. “Wow! This is really nice!” Gary said as he went into Jacks rec room. Inside he saw the large screened HDTV, shelves of books leather chairs and wet bar off to the side. The walls had photos of Jacks various Submarines that he commanded along with group photos of the crews. The photos covered the gamut of submarine history with some old black and white World War 2 photographs. Jack also saw another framed picture on the wall. “Hey April, check this out” Gary called out.
April and Lauren came into the room. “What is it?”
“Look” Gary said pointing to a framed cartoon drawing
“Dolphins and seals” April said and then the picture made sense “Oh, my gosh! Dolphins and seals!” April smiled at Gary “She did it again”
“What’s that? “Lauren asked
“My daughter Ruthie, Lauren…my daughter Ruthie” Gary said smiling and shaking his head
“I don’t understand” Lauren had a puzzled look
“I’ll explain it to you” April said as the two women left headed towards the kitchen
The crane had lowered the pallet stacked high with food through the large hatch in the top of the Nebraska. Food was the only thing that limited the patrol of any of the nuclear powered submarines. They could carry ninety days worth of food, but only needed to be refueled every twenty years.
“Captain, it looks like that was the last of it. We checked every can and box to make sure that there isn’t anything that could present a danger to us.” The Ensign said to his officer.
“Very good. I’m going home; I’ll have my phone on if anything comes up.”
The Ensign saluted and said “Aye, Aye, sir” then turned his attention back to the food pallets.
Jack left the Nebraska and walked with four of the SEAL’s in tow. The SEAL’s were carrying their M4 assault rifles and had their wireless communications gear attached to their ears with the microphones near their mouths. They passed orders and communications amongst themselves as the Captain left the quay. Commander Rob and the other four SEAL’s were in their vehicles, monitoring any possible traffic that could pose a problem to the Captain.
Jacks phone buzzed and he opened it up and answered “Captain Miller”
“Captain, Admiral Brown would like for you to come by his office before you leave this afternoon.” Ensign Marsh said
“Very well...” Jack looked at his watch “...I’ll be there in about twenty minutes.” and closed the phone up
Jack and Rob made the drive from the sub wharves to the Command offices where both Jack and Admiral Brown were headquartered. There were three cars in the procession and they all found spaces and parked as if on cue. Although Jack appreciated the SEAL’s professionalism, he knew that he would be glad when he shipped out and could go about his business on his own ship, without an armed guard shadowing him.
Bounding up the steps into his building Jack made his way to his own office first. Petty Officer 3rd Class Wanda Jones met him as he walked in “Good afternoon sir. You know that Admiral Brown is ‘requesting your presence’ ASAP.” PO3 Jones emphasized the ‘requesting your presence’ in a slightly sarcastic tone as Admiral Brown would call a meeting over anything and everything under the sun.
“Good afternoon to you too, Wanda.” Jack looked at his assistant with a skeptical eye “Do you know what this is about?” Wanda Jones somehow knew the scuttlebutt as most of the assistants exchanged information, commonly called gossiping.
“Sir, I think you’re…um…foreign guests are here.” Wanda said
Jack thought for a moment and mumbled “great” Jack left the office and headed down the hall to the Admirals office. The SEAL’s had taken positions outside the office and at the entranceway to the main doors. Jack walked into the Admirals office and was met by his assistant Ensign Jennie Marsh.
“Good afternoon Captain, I’ll let the Admiral know you’re here.” ENS Marsh buzzed the Admiral who immediately ordered him in.
“Captain Miller, reporting sir.” Jack stood at attention and saluted the Admiral who off handedly returned it.
“Come in Jack” the Admiral said “Jack I want to introduce you to your World Police Naval Observers. They will accompany you on the Nebraska.”
Jack looked around to his left and saw the two men, dressed in an officer’s uniform that he couldn’t place. Jack nodded to the two.
“Jack this is Mohammed Imani, and Ali Fazli from the former Iranian Navy, which as you now know is now part of the World Police Navy. Both Mohammed and Ali are officers in their respective countries Submarine Service.” The Admiral paused for a moment “I told them both that Submariners are all brothers, we just wear different uniforms.”
“Good afternoon” Jack said
“Good afternoon Captain” said the two almost in unison “It will be good to see your Nebraska and their crew in action.” said Fazli “Yes, we have heard much about the capabilities of the Ohio class submarines, although some say that those capabilities are overrated with the loss of so many of your submarines lately.” Imani said
“Well, I hope you find the Nebraska…acceptable” Jack said abruptly
Admiral Brown added “Jack, the West Virginia was recalled this morning to add their two World Naval Police Observers; they should be arriving within the week.” Admiral Brown paused and continued “This is how things are going to be from now on Jack; it’s a new world and whether we like it or not, are a part of it.”
Jack had heard the Admiral, but somehow didn’t believe that it would filter down to the countries most effective weapon, looking at the Iranians “We ship out 1000 hours on Thursday, don’t be late gentleman.” Turning to the Admiral “Sir, I still have some paperwork to do, do you mind?”
Paperwork was something that the Admiral thrived on. He dismissed Jack with a quick salute. Jack walked out of the office and was furious with the arrogance of the two Iranian officers. He thought to himself “Brothers in different uniforms...bullshit! It wasn’t too long ago that those two were operating enemy submarines with orders to take a shot at any US sub they could, and now with a wave of the hand, they were our buddies? What’s this Navy coming to?” Jack walked past the SEAL who opened the door for him; Jack didn’t even notice the soldier as he was consumed with anger over the apparent lack of operational security for the United States Navy Ballistic Missile Submarines, or the crews that run them.
Jack took a few minutes and walked around the parking lot to cool off. At the far end of the parking lot Rob came up to Jack. “Jack, what’s the problem?”
Jack went off on his friend “I’ll tell you what the fucking problem is Rob! “Jack said as he poked his finger into Robs hard chest “These stupid mother fuckers are trying to get us killed!” again another poke to the steely eyed SEAL “Just WHO do they think they are!? They let the fucking ENEMY on board MY ship and want ME to show them a good time, just like we were on a vacation or something!” another poke “This just pisses me off to NO END!!” Jack immediately cooled after his tirade. “Rob, I’m sorry bro…I didn’t mean to dump on you…I’m just really…I’m just really at a loss to describe how I feel about this.” Even though Jack was around the men who swore like the sailors they were, he usually didn’t talk in such an unsophisticated manner.
“You didn’t hurt your finger…did you?” Rob smiled
Jack laughed and said “Come on lets go home…I need booze…cigars…and my wife.” Jack and Rob laughed, to the satisfaction of the SEAL’s who had just witnessed Captain Jack do something to their Commander that not many men would ever get away with.
Lauren looked at her watch “Oh, I almost forgot. Jack and Rob should be home in a little while. I should get some dinner started” Lauren went to the freezer and pulled out some hamburger and popped it into the microwave to defrost. “We’re having hamburgers tonight, hope that’s alright.”
“Alright? It’s perfect” April said “Tell me what I can do to help.”
“Right now, not a thing…except, if it’s ok you can tell me more about what’s going on out there, and I really want to know more about Ruthie.” Lauren said somewhat sadly “Living this close to the base, we don’t really hear anything except what the news wants us to hear.” Lauren turned to Gary “Gary would you like a beer?”
“I would love one, thanks!” Gary took his beer and went out through the rear sliding glass door to the patio outside. The back yard was as nice as the front in that the grass was perfectly manicured and the flower beds were in very good shape. Gary noticed that the back yard bordered the road where Larry was parked. Across the road was a stand of pine trees with the ground underneath clear of any undergrowth due to it’s covering with the pine needles. It looked like a marvelous place for kids to play. Gary saw an expensive gas grill and thought about when the last time was when he grilled something, other than deer or rabbits.
It didn’t take long for the hamburger to defrost in the microwave, so Lauren and April made all of the side dishes for their dinner. Their conversation centered on what April knew of the outside situation, the dreams and Ruthie. The two women were completely engrossed in their talk; occasionally Lauren would stop and put her hand over her mouth in shock.
Lauren called Gary in to ask his help. “Gary would you do me a very big favor?”
“Anything Lauren, what do you want?”
“Would you be a dear and cook these burgers?”
“Are you kidding? I’d love to” Gary looked at April “Let’s see if these will be better than the deer.” Gary smiled
Lauren looked puzzled
“Do you know he had a dead deer in the cave?” pausing “A dead deer! Isn’t that gross?” April said and Lauren nodded in agreement
Gary laughed and walked out carrying the tray of patties to the grill. Gary hadn’t used a gas grill in many years, but quickly found the proper dials and buttons to get it started and warmed up. Gary laughed at Aprils comments again about the deer, and drank some more of his beer.
Jack and Rob were on their way home driving in the middle vehicle with four SEAL’s in a separate car in front and four others picking up the rear as the three vehicle convoy drove towards Jack and Laurens home.
Jefferson, Williams, David “Hebrew” Goldberg and Jason “JC” Campbell were in the trailing vehicle. Jason Campbell had an electronic device that he was showing David Goldberg. “What’s that JC?”
“I got this from Graham the Geek, when we were doing a security detail for some Chinese VIP. It’s a chip reader that the Secret Service uses for their VIP security. Basically it’s like the ones they use in the stores, but this one can scan from a distance. It’s very good for scanning a crowd to see if you have terrorists or any other nefarious types.”
“How does it work?” Goldberg asked
“It’s pretty simple, you just point and shoot. The reading is displayed on the back LCD panel. It gives you the same information that is programmed into the person’s chip.” JC took the pistol like device which looked very similar to a police radar gun and pointed it at a man walking along a sidewalk. The device registered the received signal and made a soft beep that it was finished. “If this guy was coded as a Terrorist or whatever, it would show up on here. This guy is clean.”
Taking the reader and turning it so the Goldberg could read it “James Dickson” was the name displayed, which was followed by his address and minimal personal information. “This is cool. I wonder if we could get girls names and phone numbers in a bar with it.”
Jefferson was driving and he turned to look at Goldberg in the rear view mirror “Hebrew, now you know that no female would ‘preciate you looking at her chip without askin first. You’ah startin to sound like Williamz heah”
“Cornbread, there’s no harm in looking, is there?” Williams said smiling and agitating his buddy.
“Jes remember what I tole you Williamz…”
“Yeah I know; John Thomas Jefferson…named after…”
All three SEAL’s joined in at once “…one of the Founding Fathers”
The grill had finally warmed up enough so that Gary could get a good sizzle on the seasoned ground meat. Gary was in another world as he was grilling the burgers. It felt like he was gaining something else that he had lost in the past three years, a sense of normalcy.
April and Lauren stopped their conversation for a moment and April seeing Gary out on the patio decided to sneak up on her love. Sliding the glass door open as quiet as she could, April walked silently out to Gary. Reaching up on her tip-toes she placed her hands over his eyes. “Guess who?” April felt the metal Kimber pistol in Gary’s back pant waist.
“Hmmm, let me see…” Gary joked and turned around, Aprils arms wrapped around him.
Lauren looked out the kitchen window at the pair and smiled. “They do act like they love each other.” saying to no one but herself and sighing and smiling over her friend April being in love.
“What’s up babe?” Gary asked as he turned back around to the sizzling burgers.
“Nothing. I just wanted to come out here and tell you that I love you.” April stood next to Gary “So…you love me too, huh.”
Gary looked her “Yep…that I do…that I do.” Gary kissed her and April turned around and skipped back into the kitchen.
The trio of cars had pulled into SugarMill Plantation and made the left turn onto the Millers street. As they were rounding the curve the first security vehicle noticed the parked red Monte Carlo where Larry was still sitting and talking on the CB. The team members were audibly connected with their wireless comm system.
“Looks like someone in a parked car near the Captains house” Billy Walton who was driving the first vehicle said.
Rob had his comm gear on and spoke “Car 1 and Car 2 go past this guy and see if you can get a reading on him. If he’s positive, then take him down hard…if not then let’s see what he is up to.” meaning that if Larry showed up as a terrorist, he would be immediately shot.
“Aye skipper” Car 1 and 2 acknowledged. The first car went by Larry and scanned him; he was not listed as a terrorist. The two vehicles went around the corner which bordered Jacks back yard, while Jack and Rob pulled into the driveway. Rob had Jack out of the vehicle and with his pistol in his hand, forcibly hustling Jack into the house. Rob and Jack then went by the dining room and down the hallway and stood still in a defensive position. Reassured that there were just two people in the house, Rob led Jack out into the dining room and headed into the kitchen with his H&K Compact at eye level and ready to fire.
The first car had turned around and went back to see what the Monte Carlo was up to. The second, as they were passing Jacks back yard, noticed Gary on the patio at the grill. JC quickly scanned Gary and read the information “What the hell is that?” JC was confused.
The second car pulled into the Millers driveway and the four SEAL’s immediately filed out of the vehicle with their M4’s at the ready. Single file, they poured through the front door silently and went directly into the kitchen, startling April and Lauren. “What’s this?” Lauren asked surprised
Jefferson paced his finger over his mouth signaling and intimidating the women to keep quiet. Looking through the kitchen window Jefferson saw the man standing out on the patio drop something and as he bent over to pick it up; saw the Kimber make a print of itself on Gary shirt. “Weapon!”
April had left the sliding glass door open and the four SEAL’s silently filed out of the kitchen. Williams and Campbell kneeled and leveled their M4’s at Gary, centering their optical sights on Gary’s head. Goldberg went a couple of feet further and knelt also, holding a similar bead on the center of Gary’s back. Jefferson silently walked out to Gary, who heard someone coming up behind him. Thinking that it was April again, he smiled at the thought of her next to him again, even for just a brief stolen kiss moment.
Jefferson had quickly slung his M4 around his shoulder and at the same time removed his pistol and placed it against the back of Gary’s head. “If you make one move…Mistah Gray Woof…you’ah dead man.”