Author's Note - I want to take a second and explain my title. It's taken from an unofficial designation given to American women on deployment. Sometimes they're called 'Queen for a year' or 'Deployment Queen' it is usually used disparagingly for a female who takes advantage of the enhanced gender ratio and the increased male attention that goes with it. Here I'm just using it to refer to my OC as one of the only females in a predominately male environment.
Any who, I won nothing but SGT Julia Marren, SSG Derek Jackson, SGT Tyler Jamison, and 1SG Stevenson
By the time I finished my laps the Delta were gone. I managed to get back to the barracks just in time to shower for chow. All through dinner I kept asking myself what exactly had I had been thinking when I told Hoot 'yes.' The position of being a woman in a sea of men, though entertaining at times, was not always easy. You either got a reputation for being a slut or a frigid bitch. I really didn't mind being known as a bitch, it was less of a hassle. This little date was going to ruin it all. Most guys left me alone because of my reputation.
If that changed, it would be nothing but 'work, work, work all the time.' But maybe the guys wouldn't find out. I'd have to tell Jacks of course and Jamison was pretty good at figuring things like that out. But why would the others know? Why would they care? Oh yeah, anything in the name of entertainment. Whoever said that men don't gossip?
"Marren!" A loud voice rudely snapped me out of my nervous musings.
"What?" I shouted back, more startled than anything else.
It was a slightly irate Jamison. "Damn, you're out of it tonight. You better get your head in the game or Jackson will have your ass." He plopped down in a chair opposite her, already in full gear, tapping the table with his Kevlar.
"What the hell do you want Jamie?" Marren was rather confused why he was bothering her at all.
"Wake up sunshine, we're up. Get your shit, we leave for the airfield in 20."
"Fuck! Why the hell didn't you say so?" I yelled at my friend as I jumped up from the table, dumping the dining tray on the way out of the DFAC, the Dining Facility. I raced to my room to throw my gear on. It was game time. By now the Delta would be in place so Jamie and I could scope out the situation and report back to those who would be making a decision on the plan of attack.
Thirty minutes later, Jamie and I were climbing into a chopper, greeting the pilots and flight crew. The SOAR group handled most of our transport needs so we got to know them pretty well. We hooked up our safety lines as well as the comm lines. Jamison motioned to me to turn my radio to a private channel once the bird had taken off. "What's up with you today Jules?" He was one of the only ones to use my nickname. Well, a nickname that could be repeated in polite company.
I glanced nervously out the open chopper door, before glancing back to my partner. "I, um, met a new friend today." I could barely make out the raised eyebrow underneath the kevlar, the combat helmet that Jamie wore but it was there. "He's nice, has a good sense of humor and he, uh, kinda asked me out…and I said yes."
"He WHAT? You did WHAT?" Jamison demanded. "Give me his name, rank, and serial number."
I fixed him with a glare. "Don't even think about it! I'm a big girl, I can decide who to date on my own." And I added a little quieter, "His file is classified anyways."
Jamison's voice came crackling over the comm. "I don't know about this Jules. Doesn't sound good to me."
"Oh hell." I swore at him. "I've got a classified file and for that matter so do you. Now calm the fuck down. It's just dinner, nothing serious."
"Right…sure." Jamie sounded far from convinced. But they were approaching the target area and now was not the time to push it.
The two made their report and waited for the LT's to decide what to do. The Commander was sitting this one out. Fortunately 1SG Stevenson took charge after the LT's finally decided how to begin. Though the LT's were basically good guys, they didn't do so well when put on the spot. Like that old Army joke; one of the most dangerous places is behind a lieutenant with a map who says, 'I know where we're going.' If you ever hear that be afraid. Be Very Afraid.
At 22:00 we got the green light and loaded up on three UH 60L Blackhawks, the Ranger bird of choice. The newer design allowed it to carry a fully geared Ranger chalk as well as an external load up to 9,000 lbs. It also had a pretty decent range as a utility transport. It was far better than any truck with rusted out shocks in my opinion. So through the quiet of the Georgia night we flew to the mock battle scene, scaring only a few cows as we went deep into the wilderness.
It just figures that I'd get captured. A group of Delta I didn't recognize had set up an ambush en route to the target. The others got away, but a position at the rear of the team and a badly placed foot in a tree root that tripped me up sealed my fate. I was relieved of my paintball gun and other weapons, and my hands were zip tied behind me. The Delta was silent beyond the one order for me to not say a word. So naturally I clomped loudly through the underbrush under guard.
Finally at their base of operations, I was very relieved to see that I wasn't the first to get captured. There were eight of us all together. It was previously arranged that any attempt of rescue would occur after we secured the Delta flag. So our little group of 'prisoners' whispered among ourselves how to escape on our own. We had been searched and relieved of any sharp objects before being thrown together inside the camouflaged hut. However, I had long ago recognized a very large tactical advantage due to my gender in combat. Men tended to underestimate the females. They would forget to disarm us completely or leave us unrestrained or unguarded. Though these Delta had done an admirable job of resisting those particular urges. However, there were some places that the men just didn't think to look for weapons.
I grew up a tomboy and had developed an affinity for throwing knives and the like. My aim was still not what it should be but I kept practicing. Now an all-purpose kbar (knife) was standard issue for us and the most common place to keep them is either on the shoulder or on the calf. Delta boys knew this, they did the same themselves. However, I tended to keep at least two extra knives on me just in case. It might have been a little overkill, but it was a good policy being the only woman out here.
As much as I hated to admit it, physically I'm usually at quite a significant disadvantage. Guys grow bigger muscles. It was a fact. So I always kept another knife strapped to my thigh that I could reach through a strategic hole in my pocket. It was the reason that I always wore spandex shorts under the uniform pants, chaffing is such a bitch. The problem here was that I couldn't reach my pocket. But I did have a small, third blade on my forearm, under my sleeve that I just might be able to grab. The zip tie had secured it painfully to my wrist but after about 45 minutes of uncomfortable twisting and yanking, I managed to work it free. After some more unnatural bending of the wrists, I was able to cut the painful zip ties.
I looked down and swore softly to myself, I'd have to wrap up my wrist. The blade had slipped while I was trying to saw off the zip tie and was now oozing blood. That would make an awkward scar later.
My team mates had been engrossed in trying to break off a piece of metal from an old desk in the corner for a sharp edge to cut the plastic handcuffs. So much so that they hadn't paid attention at all to what I had been doing. Once my hands were free, I stood up and stretched. Everyone went quiet.
"So," I whispered. "Who wants to get out of here?"
The highest ranking person there, SGT Sanchez, quickly took charge. "Marren, free up Schmid first. Schmid, stand guard, warn us if anybody approaches." I nodded and went to work to free our medic.
In the meantime, the Delta had been repelling the Rangers at random intervals, keeping attention to their dark surroundings, waiting for the next attack. It left them almost no time for observing their prisoners who, after all were supposed to be secured. That left us unbound but still inside the enemy compound, surrounded by friendly fire. We were being kept in the back corner but there was still a few Delta to get by. The fates seemed to be with us tonight. It wasn't long before a team radioed that they were coming in to reload.
Now Delta pack ammo like nothing anyone has ever seen, so if these boys were out the Rangers must have taken one hell of a beating. The fact that this team was returning told me that the Delta were using a revolving system. One team goes in, does what damage it can then pulls out for another fresh team to do its damage. It was an opportune moment, so SGT Sanchez decided to rush them in the confusion. I was sent outside to be sure there were no more coming in just then. In my excitement, I ran headlong into the apparent team leader who was covering the last of his men. Those men who were now out of ammo and otherwise engaged with Rangers inside the compound. Inside was chaos, the team leader would have joined them had not the unfortunate collision with me sent us both tumbling to the ground.
I recovered first, swiftly kicking his weapon out of his hands and held him down with a knee on his chest before putting the knife to his throat. It was then and only then that I realized whose chest I was holding down. It was the smell that gave him away, that same scent of exertion and power that he gave off at the pool. At nearly the same time Hoots eyes lit up with stunned recognition. We both stayed there, it seemed like forever, frozen to the spot. Actually it was only a few seconds before a gleam in Hoot's eye, clear as day to me despite the dark night, warned me what was coming. My teammates began tactically retreating out of the door behind us when Hoot flipped me off his chest and over his head. I was ready for the move and rolled with it, careful to remove the knife from his throat safely. I rolled to my feet just in time to see the back of Hoot's form disappearing around the side of the building.
The last of the guys were out safely and pulled her back away from the target building into the dark woods. We moved slowly through the underbrush trying to be as quiet as possible. With the exception of my two knives and the one paintball gun Renault was able to swipe, we were unarmed and vulnerable. One gun was not going to hold back a team of Delta. So SGT Sanchez took a much longer route than strictly necessary. It took us almost another hour to return to Rendezvous Point A safely.
It seemed like it had taken days to get back into our own territory. Our position had a back entrance much like the OPFOR did and our little former prisoner band used this entrance to skirt the Delta still trying to retrieve the Rangers flag. After identifying ourselves we walked in, apparently, into plans for our own rescue. The Delta flag had been successfully taken in the aftermath of the distraction we prisoners had unwittingly provided.
"Sanchez! Renault! How the fuck?" 1SG Stevenson, our head NCO bellowed as we walked through the door.
Sanchez sauntered up to his superior "We escaped on our own, Sir." Both sported huge grins and clapped each other on the back.
Then 1SGStevenson barked out his orders "All chalk leaders, account for your men." By this time I had long been used to being referred to as a "man," it actually made for more equality if you didn't point out one in a particular group. Sometimes 1SG would catch himself and say 'soldiers' or 'rangers' instead, not trying to sound like an ass but I never insisted on it. Being singled out like that is not necessarily a good thing; in fact it can have some pretty annoying consequences.
After a few moments of general buzzing and roll calls, LT Beals announced, "All men present and accounted for Sir!" 1SG Stevenson then radioed our CDR, who was waiting for word on base.
"India 1-1 this is India 2-3."
The Commander buzzed back. "This is India 1-1, go ahead 2-3."
"Sir, objective secured and all accounted for. Requesting signal."
It was a moment before he responded. "Acknowledged 2-3, pop smoke and send signal. Proceed due east 1 click. We're trucking you out. Good Job Rangers!"
Three LT's grinned like maniacs as they pulled out the smoke grenades that declared victory. They lined up behind the Rendezvous Point, pulled the pins, and then lobbed the grenades on top of the camouflaged structure. It was a little disturbing how energetic they seemed watching the smoke rise through the trees in the early morning light. I was too tired to do much except cover my ears when the 1SG raised the air horn, to signal an end of the maneuvers.
It was an hour and a half and a debriefing later before any of us ecstatic but weary soldiers could find our rest. I stopped Schmid, the medic on the way back to the barracks for some gauze for my wrist before I ruined my pants along with my uniform blouse. I didn't take up much of his time. He looked ready to drop on the spot and I don't think I looked much better.
Finally turning the key in the lock, I dropped my gear unceremoniously on the floor and kicked it to the side. I peeled off my top just before collapsing on the bed.
The Commander had been more than pleased with our performance, so he gave us a 0900 work call. That meant that we could sleep through PT and first formation. Thank god! The Commander was hard and exacting but he did unbend every now and again, especially since we had given him bragging rights over the most elite unit in the army. But once 0900 rolled around, it was business as usual. More than one hand in the company common area nursed coffee specially made by the enthusiastic Grimes. He was really obsessed but I could complain much. It meant that we were usually treated to the best coffee in the whole Army.
I sipped the magical brew quietly as I contemplated the events of the previous night. I knew Hoot would be there but I never imagined that in the whole exercise area I would actually run into him. And I never imagined that I'd be able to take him down. I had to admit that dumb luck had been on my side. The question was, would Hoot even show up for our date? I knew a lot of men who didn't take kindly to be beaten by a girl. One conversation did not give me the first clue in figuring out what to expect.