The device led him along a crease in the mountain lined with conifers. Runoff from the high peaks had provided enough moisture for the trees to grow. Following the GPS directions, he walked into a valley with a grassy bottom, though the winds sifting from the peaks were like a frigid, but weightless avalanche.
Boyd took off his rucksack, found a canteen, sipped water and sat on the backpack.
She had come within minutes of tasting her blood from the crystal gem. Her appearance had distracted the Taliban soldier and saved me from being shot.
“I am here, but only in a form you cannot touch. I have chosen you as my beloved for this lifetime. I will never forsake you. You are my vampire warrior, my V-Trooper,” she said.
Her voice was not audible. It diffused through his mind and warmed his soul. How had he been chosen? What did she mean, “… this lifetime…”
Unaltered human ears wouldn’t have heard the helicopter as early as Boyd. He stood and pressed the beacon button on the GPS device.
“What’s his status now?” McCaskill said.
“He’s on a chopper coming back to base, Sir.” Vic said.
The men were standing in the Operations Center as the technicians and remote pilots were finishing their tasks.
“Don’t bring him here. Get in touch with the pilot and have him land at the MedEvac pad by the hospital. Check out a sedan and take Flynn with you to get him. Take a uniform for him. I don’t want anyone other than you, Kincaid and Flynn to see him or talk to him until he debriefs us in your office tomorrow,” McCaskill said.
“Sir, how are we going back to my headquarters?” Russell said.
“Kincaid will get a helo to taxi you back. I’ll be at your office by noon tomorrow. Since the SF and Rangers have the EGGSHELLS cargo and Dostrem in hand, I’m going
to try to catch a little slumber. After I get Boyd’s mission debrief, I have a few subjects I want to discuss with you privately.”
“Yes Sir. We’ll be ready, but can we wait until 1800 and have dinner in our dining facility before our business.”
“That’ll work. Vic, I knew you’d come through for me. I had no idea how you’d do it. Congratulations. Give my congratulations to Boyd. I’ll say it again tomorrow, but he’s phenomenal. He’ll be decorated.”
McCaskill shook Russell’s hand and left the Operations Center.
“What did the General have to say about the mission?” Flynn said.
“He wants a debrief tomorrow evening, but he’s deeply pleased at Boyd’s performance. He has some special instructions for tonight, so we’ve got to get moving.” Russell outlined the logistics of meeting Boyd and getting back to battalion
Both men began making the necessary arrangements.
“Passenger, is the asshole you’re sitting on still out?”
The question came through Boyd’s headphones as the stealth chopper was on final approach to McCaskill’s headquarters.”
“Roger. He started thrashing around a few minutes ago, so I tapped him again.”
“We’re going to drop you off at the hospital landing pad. Someone is meeting you
there. Don’t have any other info. We fly a lot of strange missions. This one is stranger than usual. Congratulations. You must’ve done well. You’re alive and don’t look too bad.”
“Just a few scratches.”
“Maybe that’s why we’re dropping you at the hospital. By the way, they want you to put on your hood before you get off. We’re taking the jerk you’re sitting on to another place. They’ll take care of him. Godspeed.”
As soon as the helicopter’s skids touched the hospital’s landing pad, Boyd slid out the door. As soon as he’d cleared the path of the blades, he waved to the pilot and the aircraft lifted and disappeared into the beginning dawn.
A green Army sedan rolled up immediately. Flynn was driving. Russell was in the front passenger’s seat.
“This is your taxi, trooper, hop in,” Flynn said.
“Thanks, can I take this thing off now?” Boyd said.
“Pull it off and let me look at you. Then change into this uniform. Congratulations, by the way. You did a fantastic job.” Russell said.
“I agree. You’re a combat trooper, now!” Flynn said.
A V-Trooper, Anna had said.
They shook his hand and slapped his shoulder. When Boyd had changed to the camouflage uniform and removed the balaclava, Russell inspected the cuts on his face.
“Should be okay. The chopper is picking us up from a hospital landing pad, after all, Russell said.
“As soon as our ride is inbound, I’ll take the car keys and leave them with the hospital’s front desk for the motor pool to pick up,” Flynn said.
“The other chopper’s on the way in,” Boyd said
Flynn glanced at Russell and received a nod. Neither of them had heard the aircraft and didn’t hear it for several more seconds.