(The characters in this story are not mine. They are the property of New World Entertainment. If this seems to be an unusual show for a woman to be setting a fan fiction story in, its an attempt to express some of the feelings and thoughts that my Vietnam Veteran husband has shared with me over the years and to give some closure to a character I felt strongly about. The song lyrics are from "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" by Credence Clearwater Revival, copyright Fantasy Records.)
Sergeant Zeke Anderson moved cautiously down the side of the trail, his CAR-16 at the ready, the selector switch in the "full-auto" position. Up ahead of him Taylor was carefully scanning the bushes and behind him the rest of the platoon was following their lead. He could hear Lieutenant Goldman on the radio, advising their progress, or rather lack of it, to the Command and Control helo high in the sky.
An hour previous to the platoon's insertion, someone here had fired on a Scout helicopter. The Bubble-top had pulled up and away as the observer sprayed the area with the M60 machine gun and dropped the ever-ready smoke grenade. The two Cobra gunships riding high cover had torn the immediate area up with rockets and mini-gun fire. When the dust settled, the returning scout had spotted a blood trail. The platoon had been inserted to follow the trail.
For two hours they had cautiously followed the streaks of blood. Someone, probably more than one someone from the marks in the dusty soil of the trail, had been seriously hurt. They had found nothing else though. There had been no bodies, no weapons, no supplies.
Taylor held his hand up in an alert signal. The entire platoon froze. Then "Get down" came from the point man and a burst of AK47 fire swept through the area.
Even as the platoon reacted, one section following Zeke to the left and the other following Goldman to the right, Zeke noted that the fire had come from no more than two weapons and had been high over their heads. There was no point in taking chances though, as the platoon executed an anti-ambush drill. Swinging around to both sides the men advanced, firing rapidly to ensure fire superiority.
"Cease fire," the Lieutenant ordered once all return fire had stopped. A sweep of the area revealed almost nothing. The blood trail had petered out. Two shinning piles of expended cartridges indicated to Zeke that his original estimate had been right on the money.
Goldman waved to Zeke, who joined his young officer. The two of them knelt together on the jungle floor and checked the map.
"Zeke, I don't see any point in going on. Whoever was here is long gone. There's no point in calling in the Quick Reaction Force."
"I agree El-Tee. All we had was a couple of stay-behinds who were probably doing nothing more than Landing Zone watching." Zeke shaded his eyes and checked the sky. "A couple more hours until dusk and I think I'd rather be back at the base camp by then."
Goldman nodded. Had they found anything at all in their search, a company size Strike force was standing by to reinforce them. If necessary an entire battalion or even larger force could be brought in. But there was nothing to indicate that any of that would be anything more than a waste of time and manpower. He conferred briefly with the Command ship and the platoon began a quick but careful pull back to the Landing Zone.
The LZ was small enough so that only two helo's could land at one time. The platoon established a circular perimeter and gave the go for extraction. The first two squads had boarded their assigned Huey's and lifted off. The second pair settled into the LZ as Zeke pulled his part of the perimeter back. He knew without looking that the El-Tee was doing the same on the other side.
"Let's GO," Zeke heard Goldman order. He waved his men past him as he watched behind them. Once he was sure they were all at the helo he turned to join them.
For one long moment time seemed to stand still. The El-Tee's helo was lifting off, just appearing in sight beyond the other. His was hovering about a foot off the ground. The elephant grass was whipping wildly in the downwash from the rotors. The sun was behind him as he raced towards the chopper. He felt the heat burning away the sweat soaking his back and bringing more to replace what evaporated. The metal and plastic grips of his rifle almost burned his hands and the scent of the hot lubricating oil and the reek of cordite filled his nostrils.
Zeke broke the spell and leaped into the helo, facing outward with his weapon trained on the treeline. The pilot pulled pitch and the ship lurched forward and then up into the air. The door gunner beside him had a transistor radio tuned to Armed Forces Radio and the words of the song ran through his consciousness.
"I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain? I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain? Coming down, on a sunny day."
His mind flew back over his stateside leave and all that had seemed to go wrong and how it seemed that here was the only place he belonged. Suddenly the tenseness seemed to evaporate from Zeke's body and he relaxed, swaying with the motions of the helo.
It was time. Time to go home. Time to try to rebuild the part of himself that he kept at bay. He remembered advising another friend to do that and that friend's reply "War is all I know." It had been all Zeke had known for too long. It was time to try to let himself know peace. A slight smile crossed his face, remembering what a certain woman told him to do "after the war". It was time for that.
The years would go by. Sergeant First Class Anderson would become Master Sergeant Anderson, then First Sergeant Anderson and finally Command Sergeant Major Anderson. He would remarry to a woman who listened when he spoke, held him when he cried, and was quiet when he was silent. He would manage to forge a bond with his daughter and with the other children that life would bring him. He would managed to understand that the war was a part of him and would always be, but that it was only a part. He would find happiness and peace with himself.
But for the rest of his life, whenever Zeke Anderson heard that song, he would pause and get a far-away look in his eyes. He would once more be crouched in that field, with the hot sun and the blast of the rotors and the sounds and smells of that distant land. He would recall with sorrow and with pride what he had done and what he had seen and what he had lost. Then he would gather himself and return to the present and what he had kept and what he had gained. And he would blink his eyes and smile.