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Maria Marine

By

Katherine Mary Young


Copyright Katherine Mary Young 2013 This is a legally distributed free edition from www.obooko.com The authors intellectual property rights are protected by international Copyright law. You are licensed to use this digital copy strictly for your personal enjoyment only: it must not be redistributed commercially or offered for sale in any form.

Prologue
With a hot cup of tea in hand, I sat down on the couch to watch the local news. When commercials came on, I cocked my head to the right to gaze out the wall of glass leading out to the balcony. I slowly turned to look at the clothes rack standing next to the dresser. Inside one of the plastic covers was my Marine uniform, all dusty inside from being empty for so many years. It was adorned with a few medals, including the Silver Star. Just as the news came back on, there was a knock on the door. I put the cup down and staggered to the door where I discovered a tall, dark haired woman standing in my presence. Cradled in her arms were a notepad and a pen. "Can I help you, ma'am?" I asked. "Are you Ms. Kimalov?" "Yes ma'am." "Hello, my name is Mrs. Dunn. Im a journalist from the New York Times. May I come in for a minute? Yes maam. I didnt know what this was about, but I didnt want to be rude. I showed her to her seat in the kitchen and offered her a cup of tea. She politely declined. No thank you, Ms. Kimalov. I dont drink much tea. Thats fine. Do you mind telling me why youre here? My editor wants to cover the events of the Chinese Nuclear War. Each of my colleagues chose their own project. I want to write a biography on a soldier who fought in that war. After extensive research, youre name came up. Why do you want to write about me? Didnt you win the Silver Star? Yes maam. People love to read about heroes, especially when they are awarded the highest decorations. I dont know. Ive been trying to forget about all that for many years. My only reminder is my uniform. I normally wouldnt step beyond my boundaries, but could you show me your uniform? I walked over the clothes rack, pulled out the plastic covered uniform and held it against my body as if I were going to put it on. The first thing she was the Silver Star. What a beautiful medal. That mustve been a proud day for you. It was, but that honor came with a price. Did you lose your comrades? Of course. Virtually everyone who goes to war loses their friends. It was awful the way mine left me. Im almost seventy now, and I still cant get the images out of my head. This uniform brings back those memories. Why do you still have it then if you want to forget about the war? Its complicated. I didnt want to live with myself knowing that I was still wondering the earth while my comrades were buried under it. Yet, I cant find it in my heart to just throw out my uniform. It would be like throwing out a part of me. Is it too troubling for you to tell me what happened? Wouldnt you like to tell the country and possibly the world about your experiences? Yes and no. 3

Which one? Look, I told you its complicated, just like this uniform. I dont want to recall the memories, but I also dont want to forget about the men who sacrificed everything for me. It would be selfish to do so. You dont have to give me the story if you dont want to. Im afraid Ive taken too much of your time. Ill leave now. She slowly got out of her chair. Before she could even put her hand on the door knob, I stopped her. Wait, come back and sit down. Ill give you the story, and I wont spare any details. Yes Ms. Kimalov. She settled back down, pulled out a pen, and prepared to write on her notepad. Where should I start? Wherever you want. I want to know everything.

Road to Madness
Communism was once again rising in Asia, and it first blossomed in China. Lu Tang, the new dictator of China, was a man who strongly embraced the same political ideology as Moa Zedong. He took control over the government, and elected his own delegates for the new communist party. In 2028, Chinas population was rapidly increasing, and the only solution was to expand the borders. India and Russia were out of the question since they were the only allies who supported the communist movement. However, Mongolia was a weak target. Mongolia will fall as a country and become part of Chinese territory, Tang vowed. He was lucky that the Mongolian president and his people were pushovers; they surrendered their country without putting up a fight, hoping that the Chinese wouldnt take them prisoner. They were wrong. Tang made all the Mongolians into slaves, and the president was executed during a public celebration for Chinas victory. This did not satisfy the great dictator; he wanted more land. The next neighboring country to become threatened by the commies was Kazakhstan. President Botu Abzal was recently inaugurated, and after seeing the destruction of Mongolia, his first act of leadership was to tighten security along the borders. Tang didnt want his troops to fight an unnecessary battle, so he tried to negotiate a treaty that would bring down the tension between the two countries. I will not have any part in the communist movement. If Tang wants to take over Kazakhstan, he will have to answer to our border patrol! Botu announced to his people. At the same time, Kazakhstans economy was collapsing from the investments Botu made on the extra security. Most people werent worried about the crisis, for the only problem they were concerned about was their safety from the Chinese. Unfortunately, not ever Kazakh believed that border patrol was a priority. Ivan Markov, a Russian immigrant who worshiped communism, insulted the president and his ability as a leader.

Markov gathered followers and formed a militia known as the KFF (Kazakhstan Freedom Fighters) to fight against the capitalist government. In his speeches, he always glorified the days when Kazakhstan was under Russian Soviet rule and how the capitalist revolution destroyed everything that made the country great. We are losing our jobs because our president is fighting AGAINST communism! I say we let the Chinese in so they can show us what it means to be great again! In all his rage, he eventually led a violent riot in Astana that ended up killing twelve politicians.

Where my story begins


I never met Markov until the economic crisis of 2029. He was already leader of the KFF at that point. I lost my job a few days prior to our acquaintanceship. To make ends meet, I sold my house and started living by my wits on the street. I had to steal bread from the bakery, and I drank from puddles left from the morning rain. It was a struggle just to stay alive, never mind finding shelter from the harsh weather. One day when I was wondering around the market place, I stumbled across one of Markovs demonstrations. At that time, I was too blind by my financial problems to see that he was up to no good. He wanted to get rid of Botu by force, not by peace. I joined the KFF thinking he was going to provide me with a home and a sense of security. I never believed in communism, nor did I want the Chinese to take over my homeland. I dont really believe that Markov was on Tangs side. His loyalty to the Chinese regime had to do with communism; he just conveyed his alliance through respect towards the great dictator. He truly had love for Kazakhstan, but his thirst for superiority literally drove him insane. An election for congress was about to take place that same year and a campaign rally was held in Astana. To the KFF, every government official was the enemy. Markov devised a massacre that would unleash his furry on the campaign. It will be a shot heard around the world, he described it. Let it be a lesson to the capitalists. Let them hear our message that the border battles are sucking us dry of our money! The madness had crossed the line, and I had to stop it. An hour before Markovs plan was to be executed, I sought out to find the rally to warn them. However, my journey came to a halt when I intercepted Markov in the forest. Out of my way! I demanded. Where do you think youre going? I am going to Astana to alert the authorities. You will do nothing of the sort! Why are you doing this? Its not right to slain innocent lives to prove a point! What youre doing is completely barbaric, and you need to be stopped. Several of my colleagues pinned me against a tree and allowed Markov to pull his pistol out on me. You may think warning the authorities and ruining my plans is easy, but you dont know who youre dealing with. Ive been working too hard and too long to

get this movement going, and no one, not even you is going to stand in my way. He cavalierly shot me in the stomach, and the men dropped me. I mumbled and groaned with agony. One of the men pulled out his machine gun and pointed it at me. Shall I finish the job, boss? No, let her die slowly. Let her think about her betrayal to us. Lets go, we have a campaign to attend, and we are the guests of honor. Just like that, my so-called comrades left me there with a bleeding wound and a broken heart. I couldnt believe that my own people would abandon me and treat me like a traitor. Markovs violent riot against the rally ended up killing twelve politicians and wounding several others. From then on, Kazakh authorities declared the KFF as a terrorist group, and Markov became one of the most hated men in Asia. I stumbled through the forest with a bullet wound in my abdomen. I had one hand trying to stop the bleeding while the other was holding on to shrubs and branches. It was getting darker and colder, and as time went by I began losing hope of someone finding me. Is anyone out there? I shouted, but there was silence. Help! Ive been shot! I finally collapsed on the ground. The pain from my wound became sharper. Please! Im wounded! Ive been shot! My screaming got softer until I couldnt say anything at all. I had never feared anything in my life until that moment. Is someone out there? a man shouted. I turned my head to the left and saw a Kazakh soldier holding a flashlight. I banged my fist on the ground to get his attention, for I was unable to call him. He pointed the light directly in my face. He was shellshocked to find me resting in a pool of blood. Without a word, he swung my arm over his shoulder and escorted me to the hospital. I was rushed to the emergency room where the doctors conducted a series of operations to take the bullet from my stomach. Awake from my anesthesia, I found myself rested in a hospital bed. As I looked around the room, I noticed that the soldier who rescued me was standing at attention at the door. He heard the sheets moving, so he turned around to see if I was awake. Good morning, maam. How are you feeling? he asked as he leaned over the bed. Much better. Youve just been treated for a gunshot wound. The doctor said you will be back to normal in a couple of days. If I didnt find you when I did, you wouldnt be here. He said that you were just seconds away from death from loss of blood. Thank you for saving me. No problem maam. Its my duty to rescue people. May I ask for your name? Ha, where are my manners! Im Lieutenant Arman of the Kazakh military police. Im Maria Kimalov. Nice to properly meet you, Maria. Now, do you mind explaining to me what happened to you in the forest? I was hesitant to answer him because the incident was tied to my dark side. Ivan Markov was the one who shot me. Ivan Markov? You mean the KFF leader? What is your connection with him? I dont want to talk about it. Im trying to forget about it. 6

We cant run away from our problems. Please tell me everything. I explained to him my affiliation with the KFF, and he listened carefully. I was running away from him when you found me. If he knew I was here, he would kill me for sure. Its only a matter of time. If you are in that much trouble, you should be evacuated. What are you talking about? Kazakhstan is taking a turn for the worst, and president Botu has given us the goahead to evacuate as many people possible. Because of the circumstances, I will see to it that you take the next plane to America. Oh thank you sir, thank you so much! Three days later, my wounds were healed, and the hospital gave me permission to leave. I gathered my personal belongings and Arman drove me to the airport. Listen to me, Maria. When you get to America, never mention the KFF. Its reputation as a terrorist group may make the Americans believe that you are there to cause trouble. Thanks for the heads up. Other than that, I wish you the best of luck. Youre starting a new life. I know sir. Thanks again for your kindness. Dont mention it maam. Now hurry before you miss your flight.

Kazakhstan goes downhill


China began its advance towards Kazakhstan. The border patrol was already waiting for them by the time they arrived. Tang gave out one last warning to Botu, and of coarse it was in vain. Thus the invasion began. For days, Tang was unable to push through the security line. He received a message from one of his generals that their ammunition supply was running low. Without ammunition, his soldiers were useless. Markov knew that the Chinese were failing at their invasion, and he wanted to help them. Using a series of underground networks, the KFF were able to supply Tangs army with new arsenal and ammunition. After that, the Kazakh soldiers had no prayer; they were defeated, and Tang made himself at home on his new territory. Like Mongolia, Kazakhstans soil was handed to China, and Botu was their trophy. The people were also sent into slavery to work in concentration camps. Impressed with the KFFs cooperation, Tang appointed Markov as the leader of a new communist organization known as the KCU (Kazakh-Chinese Union). Plans for world domination came into consideration with Tang; he wanted China to not only control most of Asia, but to have Europe at his mercy. He moved his troops westward. The Russians aided their journey by giving them easy access into the Ukraine. Within a month, China had taken over yet another country. News about the invasion in the Ukraine spread even further west to the European Union. Britain was the first to declare war on China after receiving threats from Tang. Germany, France, Poland, and Italy joined in the fight to push Tangs forces back to Asia. 7

By June, 2030, the Europeans were hopelessly outnumbered. Tangs soldiers were able to make it through Poland where the Polish army was pulverized. In desperation to win the war, Britain and Germany sent a distress call to the United States for assistance. It has long been in the favor of Americans to fight off communism, so due to the situation in Europe, the U.S. president declared war on China. General George Legault, head of the pentagon, issued a draft notice; everyone, whether male or female, citizen or not, had to join the military and serve at least two months of active duty. New immigrants who came to America to escape the war also had to join the fight, no exceptions. At first, people protested, but once they figured out that their allies in Europe were being butchered, they put their own opinions behind obligation.

Becoming an American citizen


My plane arrived at a New York airport fourteen hours after my departure from Kazakhstan. All the refugees that were on my flight gathered in the main terminal. All immigrants please report to wing 18, the loud speaker announced. Everyone moved to their designated checkpoint like a herd of cattle. I followed behind them carrying my little suitcase (which was the only thing in my possession). I was more depressed than excited, probably because I was missing my homeland, and wondering how it was going to survive. The immigration agents took us into their offices individually. It made me nervous to sit down in front of his desk, for it made me feel like I was being interrogated. I had to keep my KFF experience silent; otherwise the Americans would reject me for sure. Your name? he asked while thumbing through paperwork. Maria Kimalov. You are part of the Kazakhstan immigration movement, am I correct? Yes sir. You and the others are temporarily going to be relocated to an apartment just up the street from here. Here is your room number and key. He handed me a card with the room number on it and a little envelope. I would also like to discuss the process of citizenship with you. Is there a test I need to take? Yes and no. Every immigrant in the past had to answer U.S. history and political questions in order to gain citizenship. Now because of the war on China, we are encouraging new immigrants to enlist in the armed forces, namely the Marine Corps. Ive been told that this option is mandatory. You mean I HAVE to join the military? Theres no other way? Im sorry maam; Im just following what the charter says. There is a Marine recruit station not far from here. Contact Sergeant McCormick and he will help you enlist. The man gave me another card; on it was the phone number of Sergeant

McCormick. I had no other choice; joining the Marine Corps was the only way I was going to gain citizenship. I set up an appointment with the recruiter, and he put me through the process of enlistment. Because of the draft, the only aspect of my requirements I had to worry about was the physical fitness. When he saw that I was in good enough shape, he shipped me to Parris Island where hundreds of other men and women were already training. The drill instructors, showing their own twisted version of compassion, taught me all the basics of becoming a United States Marine.

The Marine Corps shark team


On graduation day, I stood shoulder to shoulder with the newly trained jarheads. We completed every challenge the instructors threw at us, and we were rewarded with the Eagle Anchor and Globe. I put my emblem on my hat and I wore it proudly. I graduated first in my platoon, and my company commander assigned me to the Shark battalion; a special brigade of Marines who only accepted those who finished at the top of their training platoon. At the Shark headquarters, I was immediately put through an initiation by Major Parson. It wasnt the kind of first impression one would want, but in the end he bestowed upon me a shark tooth necklace and a nickname. From now on, you will be known as Kim. Welcome to the Shark family. Family was not a word I would use to describe a military squad, especially one that got finished torturing me. However, I was interested in who else was on the team. As I got my bed ready in the barracks, I noticed one of my comrades was on the computer sending an e-mail to someone. Nonchalantly I walked over to him. Hey, who are you sending a message to? My father. I havent been able to e-mail him for several days because of training. Hes probably angry with me for doing so. After he sent the e-mail, he turned around. Youre the new girl in our squad, right? Yes sir. My name is Maria Kimalov. So thats why Bones nicknamed you Kim. Its a shorter version of your name. Whos Bones? The Major? Yes maam, thats his nickname. In the Shark team, we refer to each other by the nicknames we have been given. Whats yours? Skunk. I had to laugh at that one. I know, its funny, but Bones didnt pick it for me. Skunk is what the other recruits called me in boot camp after I got sprayed by one. It followed me here and into my initiation. Apparently my drill instructor told Bones about the incident before I was assigned to this team. Im sorry, I didnt mean to laugh. Its alright, I get it a lot. May I ask who our other comrades are? 9

Skunk ranted on about the Marines in our squad as if he had kept personal files on each of them. He knew every detail and every characteristic. I tried to remember everything he told me that day: Maj. Peter Bones Parson - One of the founders of the Shark battalion. He established the squad in 2020 where it had already been part of counter-terrorism operations. His colleagues say that he is the toughest man in the Marine Corps because of his decorations and achievements. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, two Navy Crosses and several Purple Hearts just during the Syrian conflicts of 2023. His former occupation was a drill instructor to Navy Seals. The recruits called him Bones because of his weightless appearance. Cpl. Daniel Raze Hunter - An explosive ordinance expert, better known as a demolition geek. Before joining the Marine Corps, he was a police officer who worked alongside the SWAT team. His expertise on bombs was used during hostage situations. He enlisted in the Marines shortly after the draft notice, and he was in the same platoon as Skunk. The drill instructors assigned him to the Shark battalion. Sgt. Joshua Scope Thompson - A skilled sniper who graduated first in his class. He was in the Syrian conflict long enough to get five confirmed kills, and his precision earned him the reputation as one of the best snipers in the Marine Corps. I hope that helps, Skunk added. Yes sir. Its interesting to know who Im working with. They all have their own story to tell. What about you? What did you do before joining the Shark team? Im an aviator. When I graduated boot camp, I took aviation courses. By the time I was accepted into the Shark battalion, I was put at the controls of a black hawk. Why did you join the Marines? My father was a Marine. He took me onto his base in North Carolina ever since I could walk. I wanted to be just like him. When I was eighteen, he brought me to the recruiting office. To this day, I absolutely love my career.

The war heats up


Meanwhile, the Americans and their European allies were pushing east, forcing the Chinese into a retreat. Tang was furious that his men were leaving the battlefield. One of his generals told him that they were losing soldiers at an alarming rate, and the supply shipments were at an all time low. The first option that came to the dictators mind was creating a nuclear war that would involve weapons of mass destruction. China had possession of atomic bombs, but from past experience they proved to be duds. To enhance the nuclear power, Markov took full responsibility of an operation he called Nuclear Projects, in which KCU scientists would revolutionize how Chinas weapons were manufactured. They also studied how the Russians constructed their nuclear bombs by trading with them all the necessary material. Rumors regarding the Nuclear Projects leaked to the pentagon. Colonel Wilson assigned Operation Nuclear Halt to Shark team 4; an elite squadron of the Shark 10

battalion. Their mission was not only to end the Nuclear Projects, but to also bring Markov into custody. His reputation relating to Chinas nuclear power made him one of the most wanted war criminals. The KCU was also on Americas wanted list. The U.S. Army was in Kazakhstan by early 2031. On their way towards the Chinese defense barrier, they liberated a chain of concentration camps. To show their gratitude, the Kazakhs joined the war and quickly went to work on rebuilding their own army. Military bases were made out of the derelict camps. Cities ranging from Aktau to Balqash were once again free. Our teams deployment was scheduled on March 15. We stood at attention on the runway waiting for Bones to inspect us. He walked up and down the line, and we saluted him as he passed by. Does everyone have their equipment packed? All uniforms in order? Yes sir! we yelled at once. Excellent. The plane will be touching down in just a few short moments. Aboard the plane in a single file manner and we will be on our way to Kazakhstan. Colonel Wilson told me that we will be stationed at the Tunishk base in Aral.

Return to Kazakhstan
The Tunishk base was in the Kazakh desert steppe. It was a small facility that was home to Kazakhstans newly trained soldiers. Several units of the U.S. Army and Marines were stationed there as well. It was 2300 hours when our plane arrived. We were greeted by the bases two commanders. Welcome Americans! Weve been expecting you. My name is Captain Arman, and this is Captain Fatima of the female division. We will be in charge of you during your stay in Kazakhstan. One by one we shook hands with Arman. There was something familiar about him, but I couldnt put my finger on it. Im Major Peter Parson of the Shark battalion. These are my men: Scope, Raze, Skunk, and our newest member, Kim. Shes a Kazakh like you. Arman smiled at me. Its nice to see you again, Maria. I couldnt believe it; it was the same Arman that rescued me in Astana two years prior. I also couldnt believe that he revealed my name in front of my comrades. Before I left Kazakhstan, we took a vow to keep our relationship secret as I started a new life as an American. That secret was out now, and it raised eyebrows. You know this man, Kim? Bones asked. Yes sir. We use to work together when I lived here. I winked at Arman, and realizing his mistake, he winked back. Fatima interrupted the conversation. If yall are hungry, I can take you to the mess hall. Dinner has been over for five hours, but Im sure there are leftovers. If not, I can get the chef to cook you something on short notice. No thank you maam, Bones replied. I think I speak for all of my comrades when I say that we would like to turn in for the night. 11

I understand. A fourteen hour plane ride can make one tired. Ill take you to the barracks then. In the morning, you can meet at the mess hall for a hearty breakfast. I agreed with Bones; my eyes were so heavy that I couldnt keep them open. Unfortunately, I had to be separated from my squad to sleep in the womans barracks. Just before Fatima left, she told me where her office was. Let me know if you need anything. Wait Captain Fatima, theres something I would like to ask you. What is it? Where is Armans office? Its located next to mine in the locker room. Is there something you need from him? I would just like to talk with him. You can probably catch him before he goes on night duty if you go there now. Would you like me to escort you to the office? No maam. Ill find it on my own. I would like to talk with him in private. Fatima was a little suspicious, but she didnt question me.

A talk with Arman


After I had my cot ready for the night, I walked down to the offices. Through the window I could see him sitting at his desk reading a book. I let myself in, and his eyes lit up as I made my grand entrance. Maria, what a pleasant surprise, he shook my hand just as he did when we arrived at the base. You know you already greeted me an hour ago. I know, but I didnt get a chance to do it in secrecy. So, what brings you to my office? Is there something wrong? No sir. I just wanted to see how you were doing. Its been a long time since we saw each other. That it has. I remember the day like it was yesterday. Enlighten me Arman, why did you say my name in front of my squad? Do realize you blew our cover? I know, and Im truly sorry about that. It slipped out. I guess my mouth was moving before I could think. I really didnt mean to say your name. Good thing you had a lie to redeem yourself. That was a close call, but I forgive you. Things have changed so much in the past two years. The vow we made didnt matter to me after you left. Ive been through tough times. What happened to you after the Chinese took over? I thought for sure you were going to move to the States, but you never did. What happened? Botu wanted all military personnel to stay behind and fight to the bitter end. If I wasnt in the army, I wouldve moved to America with you. Anyways, Tang took over Kazakhstan, and he ordered all Kazakhs into concentration camps. I was a prisoner in the Changhoa camp in Emba. 12

Not that I wouldve wanted you to get butchered, but why was your life spared? I thought Tang killed all the Kazakh soldiers. Thats a myth. We were the important prisoners because of our military expertise. We made homemade rifles and bombs for the Chinese. It was only until the Americans came to liberate Kazakhstan when our camp finally decided to rebel against the guards. Now look at youa captain! When did you get promoted? After the liberation of our camp. We have been training a new line of warriors to rebuild the Kazakh military, and my rank went up. I see you found your place among the U.S. Marines. I must say Im very proud of you. Well, truth be told I didnt choose this life. What do you mean? When I went to the States, they MADE me enlist. Apparently there was a draft due to the war, and if immigrants wanted citizenship, they had to join one of the branches. A Marine recruiter was the first to rope me in. Even if you didnt chose the Marine Corps, arent you happy to be in it? Im proud to accomplish the challenges they gave me, but at the same time Im not impressed with the way of life. When I joined the military, I longed for the sense of brotherhood. That is the most precious feeling in the world, one that no civilian can understand. Arent you happy to have the feeling? I guess, but I know the Marines wouldnt see me as one of them if they knew about my life in Kazakhstan. The only reason they care for me now is because they think Im an innocent immigrant looking for a new life. Youd be surprised just how far there love stretches. Who knows, maybe they would still care for you if they knew about your KFF connection. Even if thats true, I dont feel comfortable letting them in on it. Im not telling you to spill the beans, but if they do find out, they may surprise you. Dont be afraid to be yourself around them. If I were you, I wouldnt live my life in a secret. The best thing to do is let it go. Youre the one telling me never to tell anyone. I know, but there will come a time when it will be for your own good to let it all come out. Trust me. Holding a secret for a certain period of time isnt healthy. "I'll keep that in mind. I think it's best I wait for the right moment."

A wounded Marine
Colonel Wilsons special Marine squadron found a possible location of the Nuclear Projects in Baikonur. Their spy drone picked up images of the Cosmodrome; a launch pad that was established by the Russians during the Cold War. Major Newman, head of Shark team 4, deduced that Markov was using the site as a stronghold for weapons of mass destruction. To be certain that the theory was correct; Newman and his army of Marines began their trek south to Chinese territory.

13

They reached their first checkpoint at a village in Leninsk. They stopped to refuel their Humvees and tanks when they were ambushed by KCU soldiers. It started out as a simple skirmish, but eventually it turned into a bloody massacre that took the lives of almost the entire squadron and twice as many KCU soldiers. A female Marine was captured in the chaos. One of her comrades, Corporal Jack Scott, attempted to rescue her when a grenade was thrown at him. We were on our way to Leninsk for supply shipments when our convoy came across the village where the massacre occurred. A Navy Corpsman was kneeling next to a Marine who lost his right leg. What happened here? Bones asked. A shootout between the Marines and a fleet of KCU soldiers. I came here after receiving an emergency call from the locals. Are there any other survivors? No sir, just this young Corporal. Whats his name? Jack Scott. Bones examined Jacks wounds. Has anyone else been here yet? Youre the first to pass by here. We can take Mr. Scott to our base for medical treatment. I would appreciate it if you will give me a hand in loading him onto the jeep. Skunk, Raze, and Scope immediately assisted Bones and the Corpsman in bringing Jack to our vehicle. I noticed a piece of paper fall out of his pocket, and on it was a jumble of numbers and letters that didnt make sense to me: 45.9650 N, 63.3050 E. I wanted to tell the others, but they were too busy. Instead, I put the paper in my pocket to show them later. There was no time to waste; the Corpsman requested a stretcher, and Jack was rushed to the medical center. Bones stood guard at the door, waiting to receive the latest news on his conditions. Do you think hes going to be alright, sir? I asked. Im not sure. According to the Corpsman, Mr. Scott lost a lot of blood, and it will take a miracle for him to make a recovery. I fear that he wont even last the night. I shook my head in disbelief. It was hard for me to comprehend the sadness and pain Jack was going through, and how much it would hurt his family if they found out. The technology here is outstanding. Theres no way he can die with professional doctors taking care of him, is there? All the technology in the world cant keep a heart beating when it wants to stop, Kim. Im afraid we have to wait and pray that he will live. Until then, dont get your hopes up. This is one of the many lessons of war that you need to understand. Do you? I nodded. Yes sir, I understand. The rest of my comrades were at the mess hall when they saw me talking to Bones. Still upset by what happened, I plopped down in one of the chairs and starred at the table. What did the Major have to say? Scope asked. He doesnt know if Jack will make it. Bones is a very wise man, and typically hes always right in these situations, Raze added. Hes been in many battles and has seen many of his friends get killed. From what Ive been told, he stands guard at any medical center when one is wounded, just like 14

a father waiting to hear the news about his sons critical condition. Hes usually the first one to know if a wounded Marine dies. If he says that he fears for Jack, then there is good reason. He knows what hes talking about; this is nothing new to him. Its just not fair! Its not fair that were sitting here with two legs and Jack has one! I feel so guilty, and I dont even know the man! Raze put his hand on my shoulder to calm me down. At first I flinched, but my hysteria faded away. Listen, perhaps Bones could be wrong in this situation. There have been cases where men make a full recovery, even if their limbs were blown off. In time, the nurses will give him a mechanical leg so he can walk again. I wasnt feeling so terrible anymore. There was new hope that Jack would pull through. Do you really think he has a chance? Everybody has a chance, Scope said. It all depends on how determined they are to hold on to life. So far, Jack has proven hes not ready to give up.

Trooper joins the squad


The next day brought good news to the barracks: Jack was going to recover! I got my clothes on and ran down to the medical center for a visit. Bones was sitting at the foot of Jacks bed. Kim, what are you doing here? I just wanted to see how Jack is doing. Mr. Scott is fine. The nurse told me this morning that he will be okay. After he recovers in a few weeks, they will give him a mechanical leg and send him home. Thats wonderful! Im so glad hes going to make it! I am too, Kim. Do the others know? They are eating breakfast right now, but when theyre finished theyll be here. Why dont you go to the mess hall and get something to eat? Skunk, Scope, and Raze were sitting at a small table. I took the last empty chair beside them. Hey Kim! I take it you heard the good news? Scope said. Yes sir! Im so glad hes going to be okay. Did you have breakfast yet? Raze asked. No. Bones sent me here just now. The first thing I did was visit the medical center. Well, were about done with our meal. Well meet you there once youve finished. They all got up and left. I stayed behind to order my breakfast. I ate fast. There was no way I was going to be late for the big moment when Jack woke up. I got to the medical center five minutes later and saw everyone circled around the bed. Jack yawned, rubbed his eyes, and began to examine his surroundings. He was confused. How did I get here? Who are you? Youre in a hospital on the Tunishk base. We brought you here after you lost your leg in a massacre, Bones explained. 15

I remember it well. Would you tell us what happened to you and your squad? Do you remember what you were doing in Leninsk before the shooting? Yes sir. I was in Shark team 4, the one instructed to execute Operation Nuclear Halt, which was a task made by the Colonel himself. We were on our way to a possible location of our target when we were ambushed. You were on your way to destroy the Nuclear Projects right? Yes sir that was the mission. What was the location? Our spy drones radar picked up a nuclear signal coming from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. I wrote down the coordinates in case we needed to consult our GPS. We were in Leninsk for a pit stop when the shooting began. Do you have the coordinates with you? I should have. I put the paper in my pocket. Bones took Jacks jacket off the night stand and searched the pockets. Theres nothing in here, Mr. Scott. Are you positive you put it in your jacket? At that moment, I remembered the piece of paper I took. I pulled it out of my pocket and showed it to Jack. Are these the coordinates? Yes maam, those are the Cosmodrome coordinates. Bones took the paper from me and read the numbers. You say this is where Markovs Nuclear Projects are? Thats one of the theories. We werent sure, thats why we had to go there personally. There were civilians working there. We couldnt just send in an armed drone to wipe out the entire facility without knowing who were bombing. The government would never allow it. I have to let the Colonel know about this. Your mission needs to be finished; unfortunately your squad has been completely eliminated. Well let him decide what happens next. In the meantime, its only best that we send you home. Im afraid I cant send you back in the battlefield in your condition. No sir! I refuse to go home when I have unfinished business! I have to stay here and finish what my brothers started! Not to mention the KCU took one of my comrades! Slow down! You didnt tell me someone was captured. Her name is Private Jane Underwood. She was taken away by a black van. I tried to rescue her, but the kidnappers threw a grenade at me. I failed her, and I have to set things right. Not in your condition you cant. I have to. Who else will look for her? I promise you, I will set up a search party as soon as possible. Right now you need to worry about your health. Are you still going to send me home? I cant force you to go home, Trooper. If you want to stay, then I can appreciate that. Let me call the Colonel and let him know whats going on. Did you just call me Trooper? Thats your new nickname from now on. My squad refers to each other by nicknames. I welcome you to join Shark team 37. I remember when Bones said that to me when I joined, only I had to be initiated. I will be right back. 16

Bones stepped outside and telephoned Colonel Wilson on his cell phone. Colonel, this is Major Parson. I have something very important to tell you and you need to give me your undivided attention. What is it, Major? There was a shootout in Leninsk yesterday afternoon, claiming your Shark team 4. There was only one survivor: Corporal Jack Scott. From what hes told us, he was on the verge of wrapping up Operation Nuclear Halt, the task you gave them to stop Markovs nuclear weapon production. The entire team was wiped out? What happened? Mr. Scott told us that they were ambushed. The KCU obviously knew they were on their way to the Cosmodrome and decided to head them off. My question is whos going to continue the mission? This is a dilemma. I suppose your squad can finish what they started, seeing is how you have all the information he gave you. One more thing, Colonel. Yes? He told me one of his female comrades was captured during the skirmish. I will be setting out a search party to find her. What about the mission? Ive got it under control, sir. While Im busy with the search & rescue, the rest of my squad will go on with the mission. Alright Major, I officially reassign Operation Nuclear Halt to your squad. Can I trust you to inform me of any updates? Yes sir. Good. Ill do the same if the course of this war changes. Over and out. Bones came back in the room. What did the Colonel have to say? Trooper asked. Hes reassigning Operation Nuclear Halt to us. That means we will be carrying on the mission starting tomorrow. As for my search party, Im afraid I have to cut our visit short so that I can get it rallied. Get a good, long rest, Trooper. Youll need it for your recovery. By tomorrow, you can help the others with the mission. Ill be gone by early morning, perhaps around 0200 hours. Will you let me know if you find Ms. Underwood? Yes Trooper. Ill call the base when and if I find her, and they will pass the news to you. Thats a promise.

Sorting out the details


At the crack of dawn, Bones left to God-only-knows where with his search party. Joining him was a fleet of Army Rangers, Kazakh soldiers, Arman, and Scope. Raze, Skunk, Trooper, and I were put in charge of Operation Nuclear Halt. Granted, we were stumped on how to move on with the mission, so we gathered in the barracks to discuss 17

our plans. "You're positive that the weapons of mass destruction are being held at the Cosmodrome?" Raze asked. "Yes sir," replied Trooper. "Our UAV gave us quite a signal when it passed over the facility." "Somehow we have to destroy the projects." "Any brilliant suggestions?" Skunk asked no one in particular. For a while, we were all silent. It was a tough subject to brainstorm. I finally broke the silence by throwing out the first thought that crossed my mind. "How about demolition?" Every stared at me. "Demolition?" Skunk said in confusion. "What if we blew up the Cosmodrome?" "How do you propose we do that?" "If we went down there and planted explosives all over the facility." "I don't think we have the amount of explosives needed to do such a thing. Besides, we can't just waltz in there without scoping the place out. We need to be more stealth if you know what I mean." "She may have something here. You're absolutely right; we don't have enough C4 to bring down the entire Cosmodrome. However, if there are nuclear weapons there like Trooper has claimed, their energy will do most of the work. All we have to do is plant the explosives in the correct area," Raze commented. "There's just one tiny detail you've left out..." "And that would be?" "We need proper authority to go on with this mission." "Obviously we weren't going to do anything without telling Fatima first." "I'll talk to her. Perhaps she'll let us use one of the helicopters. It's not going to be easy explaining this operation to her." "Would you like us to help?" "No, I can handle it. Wait here." Skunk was right; trying to explain our predicament to Fatima was difficult. "You've got me confused, Lieutenant. Please, start from the beginning and talk slowly. What is this Operation Nuclear Halt you keep referring to?" "It's an important mission that can change the outcome of the war. The primary goal is to end the Nuclear Projects. My comrades and I formally request permission to go on with the mission. We need to fly to the Cosmodrome where the weapons are being harbored. I also ask to borrow one of the helicopters you have here on the base." "It's fine with me, but don't you think that your Major would like to hear about this?" "He knows what we're up to. We told him we would do whatever it takes to complete the operation before he left for his search and rescue campaign." "Alright, you take one of the helicopters. Shall I send some reinforcements to go with you? I don't think it would be wise to go in enemy territory by yourselves." "I don't want to endanger the lives of your men, especially since this is only our business."

18

All of us were still sitting in the barracks waiting for Skunk. When he came back, we stood up with concern on what he had to share with us about his conversation with Fatima. "What did she have to say?" Trooper asked. "She gave us the go-ahead, and she is letting us use a helicopter." "Did you ask for reinforcements?" I asked. "No Kim, I didn't want to take responsibility for more men." "Are you out of your mind!? We can't go there alone, that's suicide," Raze said. "I know, but if we sent Kazakhs there with us, this whole operation can turn into an international disaster. Operation Nuclear Halt is American business and only that." "What about some of our own men?" "Raze, I already told you, I don't want to endanger others who weren't assigned this mission. It's best that we go on ourselves." "So, what is our next move? Im going to fly you guys to the Cosmodrome. You and Kim will plant C4 around the compound and press the button when weve cleared the area. If Troopers hypothesis is right, there will be enough nuclear energy there to light the place up like the fourth of July. It all depends on where you put the explosives. What shall I do while youre gone? Trooper asked. Know how to work the communications? Yes sir. Then that will be your job. Youll have to connect the communication between all the headsets in order for us to contact each other. As for us, we better get our supplies ready. Make sure you bring everything necessary for the mission.

Baikonur Cosmodrome
The helicopter landed about two miles away from the Cosmodrome in order to avoid attracting attention. Just as Raze and I stepped out into the desert, Skunk gave us last minute advice. If you need immediate evacuation, let me know. I will be standing by ready to fly the bird if you get into trouble. Yes sir, Raze replied. Do me a favor; be careful out there. This is dangerous work. Dont worry, sir, well be more careful than a tightrope walker. We inched our way through the sand in prone position. We stopped when we were three hundred yards away from the target. Raze pulled out his binoculars to view the activity on the platform. There are dozens of scientists, and watching their every move is the MP. Trying to remain undetected by them is going to be more difficult than I predicted. He looked the left and saw something suspicious. Thats odd. What is it? I asked. He gave me the binoculars. Look over there. Do you see what I see? In my view was a train hauling a giant rocket. Yes, it looks like their continuing their space work like usual. Lets not forget that this is the Russian space program. 19

Thats no space rocket. He took the binoculars back. Thats a missile. Theyre using the Cosmodromes launch pad to direct missiles. It could be one of Markovs finished nuclear weapons, and they are probably preparing to fire it upon our front line. We should get a closer look. I started to crawl further, but Raze grabbed me by the boot. You cant just waltz over there. This place could be wired with cameras. We wont be getting passed the front gate without securing the security office. Follow my lead. We slithered up to the little office building just outside the gates. I peeked into the window. Theres one guard in there. Hes just sitting in his chair. Leave him to me. Raze opened the door wide enough to fit his body. He snuck behind the guard, slit his throat, and then gave me the all-clear signal. Its safe now, you can come in. There were twelve monitors that were the size of a 32 inch screen TV. They would display one camera for ten seconds, and then switch to another one. By the looks of it, there were cameras in every corner of the facility. There was even one in the laboratories where the nuclear weapons were being manufactured. We hit the jack pot! They really ARE holding the nuclear projects here! I was excited, because if our plan proved a success, we would crush Markovs attempts to start a nuclear war. Trooper, do you read me? Loud and clear, Raze. Whats the situation? Did you make it to the Cosmodrome? Yes sir and we found the Nuclear Projects. Your Major was right after all. Excellent! Now I suppose youll be carrying out phase two of our plan? Yes. Ill radio you once its finished. Raze turned to me. Were going to have to split up. You will plant C4 in random spots inside those laboratories. I suggest you focus on the building on the monitor. The explosion from the nuclear weapons there should send a chain reaction. Ill put my blocks on that missile before it launches. On the way out of the office, Raze took the keys from the dead guard and locked the door. It wouldve been unwise if we left the door wide open for another guard to go in and see us through the monitors. I was on pins and needles as I entered one of the laboratories through the ventilation. The first grater I passed overlooked the testing room. The scientists were conducting experiments on the result of putting nuclear energy inside mundane weapons such as rifles. It was the perfect spot to put my first C4 pack. The tunnel seemed to go on forever, but it eventually came to a dead end. About every ten feet, I would put my C4 on the side. Raze, I finished planting all my explosives. I have at least six packs running along the vents, I whispered into my headset. Im currently working my way up the platform to put more on the missile. I have been moving slow because its crowded over here. I suggest you get out of there before someone sees you. When Im finished, Ill meet you by the security office where we started. Then well get Skunk to pick us up. Yes sir. On my way out now. 20

Mission compromised
Outside, there was a guard standing right next to the vent. I stayed in my position, hoping that he would leave his post for a second. Another guard approached him. He spoke in Kazakh. Have you radioed Rasol lately? Not recently. Why do you ask? Because I cant get a response. Theres nothing but static on the other end. I thought it just might be a malfunction in my radio. The other guard pulled out his. Rasol? Come in Rasol. There was no answer. I cant get him either. We better go check on him. That was my chance. Once they left, I crawled out of the grater and immediately dashed to the security office. In total shock, I found the two guards there. Raze! We have a problem, I whispered into the headset. Whats going on down there? There are two MP guards at the security office. Meanwhile, the men were trying to open the door that Raze locked. One looked into the window. Somethings wrong; Rasol is on the ground! At the same time, they bashed the glass with their clubs. Oh no! What? What did they do? I think theyre on to us! No sooner did I say that, an alarm was triggered. A loud voice echoed through the compound screeching INTRUDER ALERT repeatedly. Raze climbed down from the platform. Skunk! Weve been compromised. Bring your helicopter over to the signal. What signal? Youll see. Kim, get over to the outer fence. Skunk will get us there. I ran to where Raze sent up a flair signal. We had to keep on the move because the MP were after us. The helicopter appeared over the horizon, and Skunk let down a rope latter. There was no time for him to land, so we had to leap up and grab the latter while airborne. Raze and I sat down. Are you guys alright? Skunk asked. Were still in one piece, Raze answered. Hang on to your boot straps. Im going to give her all shes got. The birds speed excelled, and the Cosmodrome got smaller and smaller as we flew back into the desert. Raze pushed the button to detonate the C4, and nothing but a giant mushroom cloud reached for the sky. Our mission wasnt going to end that easy. During our flight, we came across of convoy of enemy soldiers who were on their way to the Cosmodrome to answer the emergency call from the intruder alarm. Raze took the controls of the 50 Caliber and fired. We wouldve made it out of there hadnt been for the RPG that one of the soldiers had. Look out! RPG! RPG! I yelled, but it was too late. By the time my warning slipped through my lips, the rocket had hit the cockpit, and the helicopter swirled violently to the ground.

21

Skunk was killed instantly. Razes leg was fused to the crushed metal. I was thrown from the helicopter completely with shrapnel scars on my face. Raze tried to pull his leg out of the wreckage, and he moaned at every attempt. My leg! I cant pry it from the helicopter! I crouched beside him and put my hand on his shoulder. Youre going to make it, just hang in there. Trooper? Are you there? Yes maam. Our helicopter was downed by an RPG rocket. Skunk is dead, and Raze is in critical condition. He needs a hospital immediately! Whats the news on your condition? Forget about me. The important thing is that Raze needs help! Dont panic. Ill send a medical chopper to your position. While youre at it, get Bones on the radio. He needs to know what happened. Please hurry! The Chinese are. I stopped, for we were surrounded. The Chinese soldiers held us at gun point. I stood in front of Raze to protect him, and I brought my rifle up to my shoulders. I knew there was no chance of me fighting off an entire convoy, but I had to hold them at bay for as long as possible. A man circumnavigated around the wreckage, and pistol whipped me behind the neck. That man was none other than Markov. I fell down unconscious, and my headset detached from my ear and buried itself in the sand. Kim? Are you there? Answer me! Trooper was concerned because the microphone was nothing but static. Markov picked the headset up and answered. Maria has an appointment with me. We have unfinished business to take care of. He crushed the headset in his fists, and then turned to his soldiers. Put her in the trunk of my van. Well take her to the prison camp. Kim! Raze yelled with a hoarse voice. Markov drew his pistol. Theres only room for one prisoner today. The rest are of no use to me. He shot Raze in the forehead. Bones! Ive got terrible news! Trooper couldnt contain himself. What is it? Raze, Skunk, and Kim were out on their mission in Baikonur. They were compromised, and the helicopter they were flying was gunned down. Skunk was killed, and Raze was wounded. What about Kim? Thats the worse part. A mysterious voice told me that he and Kim had unfinished business, and he referred to her as Maria. Thats odd. How could the enemy know Kim by her real name? They would have to know her personally. I dont like the direction this is going. Me neither, sir. Did you send any backup? I recently sent two medical choppers to the desert to find them. Ill go there with them to review the damage. If Kim was captured, Ill have to hold a search and rescue mission for her too.

22

Facing my nightmare
When I woke up, my hands were cuffed behind my back, and my mouth was sealed with a thick piece of cloth. Not only that, I was inside of a dark, damp cell that had small, narrow windows at eye level. Even from sitting on the ground I could see the sunset painting the sky an ominous yellow and gray color. The ambience was eerie as well; there were no birds chirping, just the occasional screams of a person in the torture chamber. I was inside a POW camp. Markov, accompanied by two guards, came into the cell to greet me. Maria Kimalov. We meet again two years later. He ripped the cloth out of my mouth so that I could talk. Not for nothing, but I was hoping that we wouldnt see each other again, not after what you did. What I did? You heard me correctly! Youre one to talk! You betrayed me! Maybe I did, but at least I didnt try to kill you like you did. I have no use for traitors; thats why I had to get rid of you. Obviously it didnt work, because here you are in my presence insulting me. I see youve also joined alliance with the enemy. I say thats a typical move on your part. At least the Marines are more of a brotherhood than the KFF. Lets not forget that the KFF saved you from starvation in the gutter! I never fit into the KFF, and I wouldnt of in a million years. You know that. True. I dont think I wouldve wanted you in it anyway. The KFF doesnt need to have traitors like you working for it. We strived to make Kazakhstan great, and you tried to stop us when we were at our peak. Look around Markov, there is no Kazakhstan. China took it over. Then you viciously attack my Nuclear Projects, which by the way took years for me to organize. You not only destroyed the Cosmodrome, but you destroyed all the weapons I had stored there. Youre more trouble than youre worth, but that will all come to an end by late evening? Do you honestly think that you scare me? My comrades are probably already on your trail, and they wont rest until theyve rescued me. When they raid your little camp, youll be in the fetal position begging for mercy, and they wont give it to you. Is that so? As far as theyre concerned, Im family. Tell me this, Maria. Would they be willingly to risk their life to save you considering the fact that you were once a member of a terrorist group that has been on Americas most wanted list since the beginning of the war? Actually, they dont know about that. I didnt think so. If they found out, I would be willingly to bet that they wont care if you live or die. In fact, they would be happy to hear youve become a POW. Thats not true! Theyll be looking for me. You dont have a prayer. I beg to differ. Come with me; theres something you should see. The guards grabbed me by the arms and dragged me through the camp grounds to a derelict building that had a signal gallows inside. Hanging by one of the nooses was a 23

female Marine. On the right breast pocket was the name Underwood. That was the name of the Marine Trooper said was captured, and it was the same one Bones was searching for. There I was standing in front of the gallows gazing at her dangling body. Markov pointed at her. Take a good, long look, Maria. Thats what happens when a Marine wonders into our midst. This will be your fate in a couple of hours. Youre a monster! A sorry excuse for a human being! You know, I regretfully admire your spunk. Despite your lose-lose situation, you still have the nerve to bad mouth me. It seems youve forgotten who has the upper hand. Im not going down without a fight! I think you might after you see what I have waiting for you. What are you talking about? Picture if you will: youre standing in front of a crowd consisting of all those you betrayed, including the Chinese army of whom youve weakened. Theyre there to see you get beheaded at the new guillotine we installed in the courtyard. I couldnt comprehend being beheaded, let alone being the center of amusement. Guards! Take her back! They tossed me into the cell like a rag doll, and Markov just stood at the door. Unfortunately for me, I wont be there for the glorious moment of your beheading. Good! I dont want you being the last beast I see before my death. He rested my chin in the palm of his hand. Its a shame you werent on our side during the Kazakh revolution. We couldve used a mouth like yours in our protests. I tried to bite his fingers off, but he had quick reflexes. You little devil! Look in a mirror if you want to know what a devil is! I rest my case. Have fun losing your head tonight. My men will have to fill me in on the highlights. I hope you rot in hell! I wish you would do the same! He slammed the door shut.

The truth comes out


The sun went down early, and the only source of light came from the lamp posts scattered through out the camp. I was sitting on the floor gazing up at the stars. I couldnt understand how something so beautiful like the night sky could be present in such a horrific place. It didnt seem fair that I was stuck in a cell while life went on undisturbed. A gentle wind agitated the sand. My imagination formed the little tornado into the shape of a human. It was an image of Bones and the rest of my comrades. The figures stood there at the bars looking into the cell with vacant expressions. I walked up to them, and I extended my hand through the bars. Bones did the same. We held hands for a sentimental moment until the wind blew the figures away. I was beginning to think that Markov was right; they would never find me before my execution. Bones, Arman, and Scope arrived in Baikonur to where the helicopter wreckage was reported. The Corpsmen were already there collecting the bodies of Raze and Skunk. It was hard for them to identify Skunk because his body was singed from head to toe. They had to read his dog tags. Was there a third Marine here? Bones asked. 24

No sir, there were no others, the Corpsman answered. However, we did find tire tracks heading east. Shes been captured, no doubt about it. The Corpsman took him to the tracks. The sand hasnt eroded over them yet, which means theyre fresh. Captain Arman, come over here. Yes sir? You know Kim more than the rest of us. Youre the only one who knows about her life in Kazakhstan. Tell me, does she know someone on the enemys side? Why would you even ask such a question? Trooper said that there was a mysterious voice that claimed to have unfinished business with Kim. He also called her by her real name. Do you know who it may be? Arman was hesitant. He didnt want to reveal my darkest secret, but Bones forced it out. She knows Ivan Markov. The leader of the KCU? I dont know of any others. She was part of the KFF when she lived in Kazakhstan. Why didnt she tell us she knew Markov? She knows that she cant keep secrets about her identity from the Marines. She was scared to tell you. How come? She thought you would reject her as a comrade if you found out. She didnt think you would care about her. Even if I knew about it, I wouldnt just turn my back on her. Shes still a Marine, part of my band of brothers. Come on, we have to get back up if were to rescue Kim. They returned to their Humvees and drove off into the desert following the tire tracks. The Corpsmen proceeded on carrying the bodies to their medical choppers.

A close call
Markovs henchmen opened the door. Its time, one said. They took me to the courtyard where an angry throng was gathered. Their jeering was silent, and the only thing audible was the sound of my boots taking slow steps. They were louder as I climbed the stairs of the platform, and then came to a halt at the guillotine. A Chinese soldier wearing a ski mask raised his hands for stillness. He went on with my sentence. Markov has marked this woman, Maria Kimalov for treason against Kazakhstan and the communist regime. She has foiled the Nuclear Projects, and is responsible for the lives of fellow KCU members. I hereby sentence this witch to beheading. May her corpse rot forever and her soul suffer in the fiery depths of the underworld! The crowd went wild. Soldiers waved their AK47 rifles in the air. I was pushed onto the board where my head was locked inside a wooden block. One of the audiences who was right in front of me threw dirt in my face and started cursing at me. 25

With both hands, the executioner grabbed the lever, and was about to pull it when suddenly a low rumble made everyone stop. It was a miracle; my comrades had come to the rescue! They busted the fence as if there was nothing standing in their way, and gunners on the roofs of the Humvees opened fire on the crowd. I noticed that Bones, Arman and Scope were inside one of the vehicles. The Chinese soldiers panicked. They scrambled in northerly groups as bullets rained upon them. Not one of the guards survived the skirmish, making the Marines victorious in securing the camp. Scope helped me out of the guillotine. Are you alright, Kim? Yes sir. You had us worried. Good thing we got here on time. Bones came over. He took my hands out of the cuffs, and then walked away without saying a word. Whats wrong with him? Hes upset right now. Because of Baikonur? No, its you hes upset with. Me? What did I do to make him angry? Lets not worry about that right now. We have to get you back to the base to treat those scars on your face. He took my hand and led me to the Humvee they were driving. Bones was notified by his search party that they found Ms. Underwood at the gallows. Well take her back to the base. Well have her body sent home right away. Yes sir. Jane was put in a body bag and taken to another jeep. They were going to prepare her for the long ride home where her family would get the horrible news. Bones never spoke to me the whole ride back to the base. He would glare at me every two to three minutes, and then he put his eyes on the road. Somebody mustve told him something while I was gone, and I feared that it was about my past. Sir? I tried to start a conversation, but he ignored me. He brought me to his section of the barracks when we got back. You and I need to talk right now! He was angry, but I didnt know why. Sit down! I sat in one of the empty cots. Do you know why Im upset? No sir. Someone told me that you have an affiliation with Ivan Markov. Who told you that sir? Arman. It wasnt easy getting him to confess, but he came around. He said that you were a member of the KFF when you lived in Kazakhstan. Tell me, is what he told me the truth? Yes sir. Its all true. Do you have any idea how serious this is? You were in a terrorist group that has had an infamous influence on this war, yet you want to become a U.S. citizen? I never thought Id see the day when such a person would have the audacity join the Marine Corps! Never! Bones calmed himself down, casually lit a cigar, and leaned back. But, you have proved to me that you dont belong in the terrorist category. For that, I will not spread your past any further than it already is. Instead, I would like to hear the story. How did you get mixed up with such people?

26

The first time I heard Bones chastise me for being in the KFF, I thought for sure he was going to throw me in the Brigg. Now to my surprise, he was giving me the opportunity to redeem myself; tell history the way I've endured it. I was below the poverty line when the economic crisis hit. I sold my house for what little cash I needed to stay alive. When that money ran out, I had to live like a wild animal on the streets. When did you meet Markov? About a few weeks after the uprising began. The KFF was already present before I became homeless. I stumbled across one of his rallies, and thats how I met him. Why would you trust such a man? He wasnt the terrorist people labeled him to be when I met him. He promised me food and shelter. Like every other schmuck who joined the organization, I wanted a hand out; something that the government never gave us. He basically brainwashed you. Yes sir. I was blinded by the promises he made, and it was like leading the lamb to the slaughter. Did you participate in the Astana protest? No sir. On the contrary, I tried to stop it from happening. I was in our hideout when he went over the plot to the rest of his minions. That night I headed them off through the forest to reach the rally. I was going to warn the people, but Markov found me first. He shot me and then left my body there to rot. If it hadnt been for Arman, I wouldnt be here. He rescued me, brought me to the hospital, and evacuated me to the States. I never meant to hurt anyone, and that marked me as a betrayer. He finished his cigar and smashed it in the ashtray on his lap. Its amazing how someone like you can get caught in a web of hatred like that. I dont think Ill ever be a U.S. citizen. On the contrary, you will be. What do you mean, sir? Youre right, the United States cant harbor terrorists, but as I said before you dont belong in that category. In my eyes, youre a hero. You went above and beyond the call of duty trying to warn the politicians. You wouldve been successful too if it werent for Markov and his mercenaries. I predict that when this war is over, you will gain citizenship, and you will return home as an American. I never thought of myself as a hero, but there was Bones telling me that I was one.

Battle of Taraz
The Germans decided to advance north to stop the Russian trade route. As for the British and the Americans, they traveled south to the last communist city in Kazakhstan: Taraz. Other squadrons of the Shark battalion closed in on the outer entry and crumbled the defense line. Tanks, bombers, droneseverything was used against the city. Civilians were trapped, and their only hope of survival was to be captured by the Americans.

27

It was shameful to the Kazakhs that they had to endanger their ancient temples for the sake of the war. Several Chinese soldiers took shelter in the ruins, and they had to be blasted out of there. In the end, it was worth the loss. The British fought against a Chinese battalion attempting to stop the allies from crossing the Chinese border. They were able to take one prisoner into custody to question him. With the help of a translator, General Croft spoke to the POW. State your name. Xioali Khan. You understand that you will be in the custody of Britain until youve given us solid information about Tang. You wont get anything out of me! No cooperation means years in prison on British soil. Do you understand? Xioali was silent. Do you understand!? The dear leader is none of your business! Where does he reside!? Xioali went into a chant. Long live Lu Tang! Let the world bow before him! Communism will prevail! China will win the war! Croft punched him. Im giving you a chance to redeem your self, and youre foolishly wasting it! Tell me what I need to know and I promise you wont be executed! I will not take orders from you Brits! You are beneath me! Rotten Europeans, thats what you are! Youre American friends arent impressive either. I wouldnt waste my breath on you people! Thats it; I cant take anymore of this! Croft pulled out a pistol and shoved it against Xioalis head. This is your final shot, no pun intended. Where is Tang!? Xioali, frightened by the gun pressed to him, started to sweat. Croft was about to pull the trigger when he squealed. Tang is in Beijing! Where? In a bunker underneath his palace. Hes down there with Chinas inner circle, including army and navy Generals and the KCU. Croft put his pistol back in its holster and turned to his men. Gents, we now have our next destination. Bring Xioali to the jailhouse for temporary confinement. Our allies will be pleased to know we found Lu Tang. Colonel Wilson called Bones a few hours after the British gave the report. Major, I just received a call from General Croft of the Royal Army. He captured a Chinese soldier who spilled the beans on the whereabouts of Tang. .And? Hes underneath his palace in Beijing. Our men are already moving to the capital to fight the last battle of the war. Seal team 7 will be performing a raid on the palace. I need you to assist them since my Shark team 4 is gone. Whos the commander of Seal team 7? His name is Lieutenant John Moose. I will send a wire to him that your squad will be joining him in the assassination of Tang.

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We met with Seal team 7 at the Seal headquarters at the Alkry base in Dunhuang. Moose was in the conference room standing in front of his Seals. In his hands was a document with the layout of his assassination brainstorm. Major Parson! The Colonel told me you were coming. Its a pleasure, sir. I suppose youve already come up with a scheme? Yes. I have it right here in my hands. Please be seated, and I will give you all the details. We gave him our undivided attention as he spoke of the plans he had written the documents he was holding. It was as followed: - Enter Beijing by a fleet of five helicopters. Each will land in a different location around the palace. - Flush out the soldiers and infiltrate the palace. - Find the bunker. Enter Tang's room and kill him along with his inner circle. Are there any questions regarding my plans for the mission, Moose asked. Scope raised his hand. Yes? How many reinforcements does Tang have at the palace? Enough to make it difficult for us to find the bunker. Hes got his own private army in there, but it wont help him.

Assassination of Lu Tang
The final showdown burst in Beijing. China's army was dwindling in numbers, and with the same ammunition crisis as when the war began. They figured they could win with their massive size, but once the allies rolled into their city, they were petrified. The Germans arrived from the north. They had successfully crushed the Russians in their trade with the KCU, and on their way to China they liberated Mongolia. The British and Americans came in from the west. They were aided by the Kazakh army that they helped build since they victory in Kazakhstan. The bloodiest battle of the war was taking place below us as went flew over the buildings in a helicopter fleet. We were on our way to Tang's palace, which according to soldiers nearby, was still untouched by the war. The KCU and most of Tang's bodyguards were awaiting us at the front gates, but we were also prepared to face them. "Remember, the palace will be crawling with Chinese. Our job is to get it and find the bunker. Tang isn't going to get out of this alive," Moose said as the helicopter lowered into the chaos. Two of the helicopters flew over the roof to land on the other side of the palace. Those Seals were going to flank the KCU guarding the bunker and strike before they have the chance to stop us from getting through the front doors. Bones and Moose were the first to step off the helicopter once it landed. They charged bayonet first towards the officers who were standing in our way. They had no fear. the rest of us followed with our bayonets erect. To me, the moment seemed to go by in slow motion. I didn't feel like I was running. Gradually I was drawing nearer to the man I was about to stick my bayonet it. When it happened, it seemed unreal. One could never explain the feeling of killing another person. Me neither for that matter.

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The Seals that flanked the opposition came through the front doors. "Area is secure, sir," one said. "Excellent. This gives us time to look for the bunker. Remember, we don't know what kind of mess is down there. We can run into an entire army or just one or two guys. One thing is certain; Tang is down there, and it's going to be the last place he'll be. Keep a sharp eye. Once we get inside, we'll have to split up. Check each room thoroughly and notify me immediately when you find the entrance to the bunker. Fall out!" Moose ordered. I was hunting for the bunker in the library. The time and effort put into the rooms design would put all other libraries to shame. The book shelves alone were meticulously handcrafted, and the art was inspired by ancient Chinese culture. There was a little fountain in the center of the room. Standing on a perch in the water was a life sized statue of Tang. It almost looked like he was giving the Hitler salute. One who doesnt have a sharp eye would miss the crack on the statues neck, but I had keen sight. I stepped onto the perch and examined it. As my hand rubbed the neck, the head started to detach from the crack. Thats when the sound of a slide door came from the behind one of the book shelves. I turned on my headset. Bones, I think you and the guys should see this. When they came over, all their jaws dropped. I had found the entrance to the bunker. Good work, Kim, Bones said as he patted me on the back. Alright men, keep a sharp eye on your surroundings. As I said before we dont know what to expect down here, Moose said as he got his rifle ready for point. Ill go in first. Follow my lead. Remember, our mission is to find Tang. We wont attack until weve found his headquarters. It was dark and cold as we descended into the depths. Everything about the construction of the bunker made it obvious that it was built within the past few months of the war. All of us had our rifles at ready, and we walked in a stalking matter, keeping our backs hunched and our knees bent incase we need to attack. The tunnel seemed to go on forever. Cheap light bulbs flickered from the rumbling of the battle. Explosions outside and the tapping of our boots on the cement were the only sounds. Suddenly, a voice came from one of the doors. Moose pressed his ear against it and held his hand up for us to be silent. Is that Tang talking? Bones asked. I recon, Moose answered. It sounds like his generals are in there with him. Another voice was having a conversation with Tang. I recognized it to be Markovs. Ivan Markov is in there too, I added. This is it madam and gents; get ready to make history. When I give the signal, open this door. You guys will take care of the peanut gallery while I put my crosshairs on Tang. Hell have no hope for escape. The voices behind the door turned into laughter, and thats when Moose decided to strike. Bones and another Seal kicked the door in, and we peppered bullets onto the people. Tang was killed before he could even run to the exit.

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Area secure, hold your fire! Bones ordered. He and Moose went inside while we waited in the hall. Tangs body was face up, his eye wide open, and a trickle of blood streaming from his mouth. Hes dead, Moose said. The world is now rid of another dictator. What should we do with the body? I think the Kazakhs and the Mongolians would love to have custody over it. Will bring it to the authorities and have them decided its fate. There was no sign of Markovs body. He wasnt among the dead, nor was he hiding underneath the furniture. Somehow he got away.

My war ends with Markov


On the way out, I noticed a hidden passage around the corner of Tangs room. In it was a long spiral of stairs leading to an emergency exit. When no one was looking, I took the detour to see where the passage led to. Meanwhile, Markov was heading up the spiral stairs. Outside waiting for him was his black van and several of his remaining minions inside. We have to get out of Beijing pronto! The Americans are still inside! They killed Tang! I opened the exit door and caught a glimpse of the van as it drove off. I unloaded several bullets into the back window, but the vehicle kept moving. Bones. I found Markov, I said into the headset. Where are you? In a back alley. We have to move quickly. Markov is driving off in his black van, no doubt on his way to the borders of Beijing. Ill send one of the helicopters after him. Go back to the courtyard. Moose and I will handle the situation. In the driveway where the van was parked, there was an abandoned military truck. Bones turned off his headset, so I couldnt tell him that I had a vehicle of my own to chase Markov. I hopped in, adjusted the clutch, and drove full speed ahead in the direction of the van. One of the helicopters had Markov in its sight. Moose and a couple other Seals were inside with their 50. Caliber heated up and ready to strike. Bones was in another helicopter that was trying to keep up. Black van. Kim says thats Markovs escape car. Moose was about to spray the ground with bullets when my truck came into view. He was confused. Whos truck is that? It doesnt look American or British. Is it hostile? I dont know, Bones replied. Kim? Are you there? Aye sir. Did you happen to see another vehicle with Markovs when you were in the alley? Yes, and Im driving it. I thought I told you to go back to the courtyard! I know sir, but I couldnt just stand there and let him escape. 31

The van went into a parking garage so the helicopters would lose him. Kim, stay on his tail. Whatever you do, dont lose him! Aye sir. I stayed on that vans bumper through out the garage. The driver panicked and started to drive up the levels into a dead end. He crashed into the wall, and I crashed into him. Bones heard the noise from the headset. What happened, Kim? Are you alright? The force of the collision put me in a daze, and I couldnt answer him. Hang in there Kim. Were coming down. Two minutes later, I was out of the daze. I found myself trapped inside my truck; it was laying on the drivers side, and the only way out was the passengers door, which from wreckage had been crushed. I couldnt budge it, and the angle I was in didnt help. Bones was the first to find me in the garage. With all his might, he tugged on the damaged door. It only opened a few inches, big enough for him to reach in and grab my hand. Markov broke his leg in the crash. In his hand was a piece of metal that broke off the car, and he slowly approached Bones who was still prying me out of the truck. He stabbed Bones in the stomach, tossed him aside, and then forcefully pulled me out of the crushed door. He pinned me against the underbelly of the truck and held his metal against my neck ready to slice it. How many times do I have to kill you? Bones was still alive, and he had enough energy to pick up his rifle and shoot Markov. He only hit his shoulder, but Markov was in so much pain that he released me from his grasp to hold his wound. That was my chance to turn the scrap metal on him. He didnt die instantly. As I worked the metal into his abdomen just as he did to Bones, I watched the life leave his eyes. His motionless body seemed to fall in slow motion. Thats when I realized that the man who made my life miserable was no longer a threat, and it gave me a sense of relief. Bones breathing was labored. I cradled his head in my lap and tried to stop the bleeding with my jacket. Dont worry, well get you back to the medical center. The doctors will save you, I tried to assure him. Dont bother. If you move me, Ill die for sure. Just leave me here. No! I wont leave you. Ill get you out of this. Stay with me! His pupils started to roll upward, and his eyes were almost totally white. Blood was discharging from them. In seconds, he was dead. He died in my arms, and it troubled me that I couldnt do anything to save him. Moose and the other Seals found us at the top level. They were stunned to see the wreckage and the carnage that came with it. I looked up at Moose with tears in my eyes. Hes gone. He put his hand on my shoulder and kneeled down next to me. Im sorry, Kim. He was a fine officer, and he died with honor. He stood back up. Seals, take Major Parsons body to the helicopter. Well bring him back to the base.

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Homeward bound
With Tang and Markov out of the way, there was a tremendous victory in Beijing. The allies pulverized the Chinese army, and the remnants of its soldiers surrendered. China had to sign a treaty that would prevent them from future military build-ups and nuclear power manufacturing. At 0900 hours, the cargo plane taking us back to America landed on the runway. What started out as two lost comrades going home was now three: Raze, Skunk and Bones. The Kazakhs helped us load all the equipment into the storage compartment. I have to give my final goodbyes to Arman, I said. Alright, but hurry. Our plane will be shoving off in exactly ten minutes, Scope replied. Ten minutes was enough; I just wanted to see Arman one last time before leaving Kazakhstan for the second time. I went over to his office where he was busy organizing his desk. Ah, Maria. I was just about to go to the runway to see you off. You should be in the plane right now before it leaves without you. Dont worry about it. Scope says I have ten minutes. Thats no excuse. Come, I walk with you. Arman, I need to tell you something. What is it? You are a really amazing person. I wouldnt even be alive if it werent for you. Every good thing that has happened to me was because of you. Going to America, joining the Marine Corps, and meeting my new comrades. That all may be true, but youre the admirable one. It was your fighting spirit that got you this far. Youve made your comrades proud. I know I am. Our walk ended on the runway where everyone was already seated in the plane. I turned around and gave Arman a friendly bear hug. Ill miss you. He hugged me back. Ditto. Why dont you come with us to America? Id love to, but my work is here. I still have young Kazakh soldiers to train. Trust me, if I didnt have an obligation here, I would move to America. He pushed me away gently and looked me in the eye. Listen to me, dont get involved with any other cults. Ill have to fly over there and bail you out again. We both chuckled. Dont worry. My days of being nave are over. I wont make the same mistake twice. I know you wont. Youve grown wise in your experience. Itll be a waste of my time to worry whether or not you will make the right decisions. In America, there was time for celebration. Not only was the war over, but all members of the armed forces were reunited with their loved ones. The streets were filled with overly excited people who were anxious to see the returning soldiers. Scope immediately found his wife, and for the first time got to see his newborn son. Trooper, who was finally blessed with a mechanical leg, met with his girlfriend. Though she was notified what happened to him, she was still surprised to see his fake limb. On the other hand, she was happy to see that he was still healthy. 33

The worse part of this event was having to unload the body bags. The families of Bones, Skunk, and Raze were grieved to see their beloved Marines in such a state. It hurt me too. The women had tears rolling down their cheeks, and the men embraced and consoled them. I couldnt describe the emotion, but it was as if I too lost someone close. My comrades meant as much to me as blood brothers. A funeral service was held a week later. Most of the Shark battalion attended. There were others being buried along with our squads Marines. Scope and I had the honors of folding the flags while the bugle played somberly in the background. We gave the triangle to the General, and he presented it to the families. As the caskets lowered into their final resting place, we saluted. Six Marines fired shots into the air; one for every Shark lost in the war. Never in my life did I feel so strongly about someone else. I never knew that sense of brotherhood. I stood at attention with the other Marines lined up along the grave stones. My mind fled to another time when Skunk, Bones, and Raze were still alive. In a way, those memories made me feel happy inside. I had the pleasure of knowing them. Not many people would have the privilege for working alongside such brave men, but I did. They were like family to me. Bones was right; there is no bond stronger than Marine brotherhood.

Epilogue
I took Mrs. Dunn to the cemetery where Bones, Skunk, and Raze were buried. The flags next to their grave stones were torn and faded, and weeds were starting to overrun the roses that I had planted on the graves. I kneeled down to pluck them. "These are your comrades?" she asked as I was tending the flowers. "Yes ma'am. The two who were killed in Baikonur and my Major who was killed by Markov. These are my comrades, the ones who taught me that there is more to being a Marine than gaining benefits." "I'm sorry about your loss, Ms. Kimalov." "I've learned to overcome it. Like Bones said, it's a fact of war that we all must face. It's because of him I don't feel the same sorrow that I did when it all happened. They're all in a better place now." What happened to you after the war? I stayed a Marine for twelve years. I retired as a Master Sergeant. What about the others? Scope and Trooper? I havent heard from them in twenty years. Last year I attended Troopers funeral. As for Scope, I dont know how hes doing. Arman? Theres a man I tried to stay in contact with after the war. As the years went by, I talked with him less. Hes still in Kazakhstan just like he said. I miss him a lot. Have you ever tried to go back to Kazakhstan to see him?

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I did, but my life here kicked off. My life as a Marine was becoming prosperous, and I never had time to take my leave and have a vacation. Mrs. Dunn reviewed her notes and nodded in satisfaction. Everythings in order. Thanks again Ms. Kimalov for allowing me to me to record your memories. I know its hard for you to bring them back. To tell you the truth, Im glad I got it off my chest. They were building up inside of me for many years, and it was becoming burdensome. Its about time Ive let them go. Once my editor checks my notes and turns them into a book, Ill send you a copy? Unless you dont want one Id love to have one. Are you sure? Yes maam, Im positive. Alright Ms. Kimalov. I must be going now. It was a pleasure talking with you. Six months passed by. I had woken up earlier than usual, so I made myself some coffee to get me through the morning. I barely touched the chair when the mail bell rang. In my apartment, a pager rings whenever a residents receives a package or letter in their inbox. I trundled downstairs to the lobby. Good morning, Ms. Kimalov, the lady at the front desk said pleasantly. Good morning, Mrs. Paulson. I believe my mail bell rang. Yes maam. She turned around and unlocked my mailbox. From it came a small yet heavy package. Here you go. Its from Mrs. Dunn. Oh, it must be my biography. I shall waste no time in reading it. Quickly I back upstairs. I put the package on the couch, got an envelope opening, and started tearing away the tape and the cardboard. There it was, my biography. It was a small, thick book. On the front cover was my boot camp picture, and above it was the title Maria Marine; Through the eyes of an American heroine. If you enjoyed reading my book why not send me a quick message via the Feedback link on my obooko.com download page? I will be delighted to hear from you.

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