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I want to know what you guys think about the way I'm writing it. If it's good, bad, in the middle. I just want to know. Is it going to fast? Should I make the chapters longer? Constructive criticism is always welcome, because I feel I'm under my usual par. Thanks anyway.

Chapter Five

Try To Breathe

Every moment my feet touched the leafy ground, Stackhouse's image was in my mind. He was always falling, always in that never ending spiral that led to nowhere except death. He was always being shot, always being mangled, always falling. He never stopped falling.

The trees in front of me were opening up, marking an open plain. No bullets had flown since I had started this suicide run. No mines had exploded, no bombs had fallen, no sniper had decided to take me out. Where was the effort, people? I was one man, on the run from mere hundreds, and they couldn't find me racing through this incredibly thin forest? Come on, man, where was the effort?

Maybe they couldn't see me. But the plain was in front of me now, its dead grass and stalks like a carpet to heaven. Yes, I'd be in one of the most exposed and vulnerable positions I could be in. They'd have to find me. One bullet and I'd join Stackhouse where I deserved to be and he didn't.

But as I started across the open field, my mind started to wander.

What am I doing? I can't do this. I'm not stupid. I have a family back home, a family who loves me and wants me back. I am an American soldier. I don't give up and kill myself. Just because Stackhouse died, does it mean I must join him and ease my conscious?

Yes, another voice hissed, painfully. Yes, and I know it. It dosen't matter what others have done before me. They are not I and I am not they. They are alive, but the guilt of what they've done has eaten at them everyday. I am not going to be like that.

Who are they?

I thought only crazy people talked to themselves. I was perfectly sane, wasn't I? Perfectly sane with a death wish, that was all.

Be a fighter. I'm being a coward.

A coward?

I was halfway across the empty field and still no shells had been fired upon me.

Yes, a coward. I'm taking the easy way out.

The line of trees was so close to me now, the dead field almost completely behind me. And still, no shots had even reached my ears.

The other way would be to die, the other voice screamed. If I end it, I will avenge Stackhouse's death, the death that I cause and wrought for being stupid and trying to be hot shot.

I breached the line of tress, breathing hard.

No bullet. No bomb. No mine. No sniper.

Foxman, Foxman, whispered a voice.

I kept running, kept applying pressure to my lungs and legs. If I kept running, I'd eventually reach another empty, wide, open field. And if I didn't get shot at there, there was always another empty, wide, open field. Eventually, a bullet would find its way into one of my vital organs. Eventually, I'd be taken prisoner and be forced to suffer a horrible death. Like the death I had handed Stackhouse on a golden platter.

Breathing raggedly, I stopped, my head spinning from the crazy run and lack of oxygen. I reached down to one of my pockets and unearthed my map. Flipping it open, I pinpointed the rendezvous. I checked my position and then checked it with the one on the map.

I was half a mile away at a slow jog that would take me six minutes at the most, four if I ran my heart out.

I might as well make contact with Reigart and tell him of my suicide plans before he sent out another 20 million bird and lives. He'd probably be happy to hear about it. One less cocky, arrogant pilot to worry about. I'd tell him of my mistake, the Serbs, and why Stackhouse had died, for my error. He'd get the full story out of me and then I'd either take my own life or run until the Serbs found me.

I remembered the military code of conduct. An American soldier would never willingly give himself to the enemy. Well, I was breaking the code now. They'd have me and take me prisoner or kill me. The latter was more tantalizing at the very moment. Hopefully they'd be cruel, selfish bastards and take me as they did Stackhouse. That was the ideal death.

I shoved the map back into its respectable pocket and started running again.

"Alpha Whiskey, come in. This is Arc Angel 0-6. Hear me."

Reigart looked at Marine Captain Rodway, then at his Master Chief O'Malley. Taking a breath, he nodded at the specialist to bring Arc Angel up on his radio.

"Arc Angel, this is Alpha Whiskey," she said. "Go ahead, 0-6."

"Alpha Whiskey," Burnett said. Reigart tried to pick his condition from his voice. He was panting and breathing hard. "This is 0-6. Am at the rally point and . . . . . . . . . . . .. Awaiting your arrival."

"0-6, current Intel says that your rally point is currently undoable for pick-up. You gotta hump it out to the safe zone. I repeat." He started to hammer out the code without waiting for a reply from his navigator. When he finished, there was no sound on the other end. Not even the sound of heavy breathing. "0-6?"


Reigart winced. "You heard me, soldier."

"I don't understand. I repeat, I am at the rally point and awaiting pick-up."

Reigart winced again. "No, you're not. You have to get to the safe zone."

There was silence again and this time, it stayed that way for a long time.

I checked my map over, not believing I was hearing Reigart correctly. This was my rally point! I frantically checked my maps, then my position, and then my maps again.

Suddenly I wondered why I wanted this so bad. I wanted to die anyway.

But suddenly the words coming from my mouth were out of impulse, not though decision.

"I don't understand. Why is this spot not doable for pick-up? I am ready to go, I repeat, I am good to go."

What? Where were the words of the suicidal man? It was just the taste of freedom, that was it. It didn't matter. If I had to hump it out to the safe zone, I'd get shot at in the process.

And suddenly again, I found some inner part of me coming through a black lake, reaching for the surface, struggling for breathe and right to exist.

No, I wanted to die.

Was I suddenly second-guessing my decision to end my life? No, I had thought this out long and hard. Stackhouse had died because of my error and now I'd kill myself of my own accord, whether it be death or otherwise.


Reigart's sharp, nasty voice brought me back. I stared at the radio.

Was he commanding me?

I grew angry. Where did he get the authority to command me and tell me I couldn't be rescued here? Goddamn, I was down and it was their job to get me out. That's what their job had trained them to do. I flinched at the radio and tried to keep myself from slamming it into the forest floor in frustration.

"0-6," he said, catching himself, but his voice was still despicable and full of contempt. "You are a naval combat aviator. You are trained for this. Now use your head! Think above all things. Use you training and your head. Create some angles between you and your pursuers. Get yourself to the safe zone."

"What-" I started, enraged, allowing the fire to feed me and enhance my lust for the end.

"Don't question. Just do it. Get yourself to the safe zone and we will bring you home, I repeat, we will bring you home."

I almost threw it against the log I was sitting on.

How could they do this to me? How? I was asking for my life when I had already decided to take it and they were dangling it before me, pulling me back again into where I didn't care. What more did they want from me? I'd already given Stackhouse's life. Did they need mine too?

I suddenly stopped, frozen on the train of though.

And a sound.

A sound of voice and rumbling and clatter.

The sounds of a force.

The sounds of an army.

"Someone's coming," I whispered into the radio, creeping towards another log and peeking over it. When nobody on the radio answered, I clicked it shut and put it in my pocket. It would create too much static.

The Serbs were coming.

My wish was right before me.

I couldn't help myself. I leapt up and bolted.