I'm supposed to be asleep now. Can't sleep. The sky is a strange, red color I've never seen before. Like too much dust, only I can see everything from up here.

Everything but where we came from.

Fred had watch, thought he heard movement and got us up. It was nothing. Some animal, following us. Maybe.

Joe laughed. He said we were protected for the night. "Go back to sleep. We can hunt in the morning."

Something about how he said that word, "hunt" scares me worse than landmines and shooters.


Marty argued with Joe, this morning. Tried to pull rank as Fire Leader of his team. But no one helped him, so he looked really stupid, arguing. Looked really stupid on the ground, with his mouth bloody and a few less teeth, too.

And he looked three times as stupid staring up at Joe, and at what Joe's got hanging from his belt. His damn trophies.

"You will be a good soldier," Joe said. "You will obey my orders. You will not question them. Not again."

He said it to Marty but he said it to the rest of us, too. Without looking at us he said it to us. He meant every word.

I think know we're all afraid of Joe, now. I know it. And there isn't a damned thing I can do.

John-Samuel could control him, somehow. It wasn't just that he was Squad Leader. He had some kind of hold over him. Not fear. Respect, maybe. Something else.

Now there is no controlling Joe. Joe controls us, through fear. Fear of him. Fear of what he's already done. Fear of what he might yet do.


"Hunting," Joe said. Jesus.

Joe led us right to them. A whole group, hidden in the rocks below, waiting over the passage between this mountain and the next.

All over in a few seconds. A firefight can't last more than a few minutes at most with these kinds of weapons, anyway. I think I got two of them. Hard to be sure.

Could have ended it all with the launcher, but Joe said no. No grenades, just our rifles and SAWs.

He said they "got a chance." What is he playing at?

Afterwards, there was only one still breathing. Not in great shape for the holes in his gut, but still alive.

Joe went down there and showed him his knife. Then he took his scalp, while the other guy was still alive. Poor asshole screamed loud enough to bring reinforcements running.

Maybe that was what Joe wanted, too. Call out the shooter. Get him to swing that .303 at us so we can take another bead on him.

Nothing came, though. Or maybe he's out there, and just not showing him. I've felt eyes on us since John-Samuel died. Sometimes I think I can smell the bastard, too, or hear him laughing at us.

Joe finished the Tali off by shoving the knife into the guy's temple. All the way to the hilt. The guy flopped and gasped as his brain shut down. And Joe stared at him the entire time - looking him right in the eyes...

Talked to him, too, and this time I was close enough to hear what he said.

"My Gods are bigger than your God, and your death feeds them. Go to them on your knees, and they may take pity."

Then he got up and pissed on that guy's face, too.


We're hunkered in the rocks down the mountain, checking how much water we scored from those Talis while Joe's gone ahead.

We've got enough for another day's slow crawl, which probably means we're within a day's cock walk to the enemy. Or maybe there's a hidden spring. Who knows?

The wind's worse today than it was last night. Probably why the guys we did back there were caught by surprise. Couldn't hear us. Strangely enough the wind doesn't whip up that much dust or sand. It just whistles past us and makes our uniforms whip about us.

Sam taps his half-empty canteen and asks what we do when we run out of water. Fred tells him, straightfaced, and Marty retches at the thought. I guess he wasn't paying attention in Basic, either, or maybe he blocked it out. Some Fire Leader.

And Kevin picks that moment to say what we've all probably been thinking since this morning. He says it clearly and calmly, and looks at each of us in turn. And then he looks back to the direction we saw Joe disappear in.

No one says anything, and he doesn't expect them to. Maybe not today, or tonight, and maybe not tomorrow.

But the thoughts are there. Taking root in the mind.


{Scene 3}

Larry: Look, I've told you. I've told you a thousand times. A thousand thousand times.

Jenny: And you've always looked away when you said it. You've never looked me in the eyes.

Larry: Is that what this is about? Me telling you I love you and not looking you in the eyes?

Jenny: Yes. That's what this is about. Yes.

*Larry strides to her, quickly, takes her shoulders in his hands and pulls her right up to his face*

Larry: I. Love. You.


Larry: I. Love. You. Jenny.

Jenny: That scares me.

*Larry sighs, and lets go. Then he slaps her.*

Larry: You're fucking impossible, someti


That should be 'sometimes.' Would have finished, but was writing by moonlight, and the clouds came back for a while.

They are beautiful, in a way, but they are too alien for me to fully appreciate. I'm in too alien a landscape, and I'm in no shape to admire them properly. Fighting for your life will do that, I guess.

But I really feel like I'm trespassing, here. Not just in terms of invading a foreign country, either - I feel like I'm walking across the front lawn of some ancient, forgotten God. And this God doesn't like strangers.

I feel like we're taking more than our lives in our hands by being here.

Is that why the dreams have become more vivid? Is that why the vision of the man walking down those stairs is more real? Is something trying to warn me?

Or is it already too late?


Frank is gone. He


Frank and Marty are gone, now. We lost Frank to the shooter, up in another hill, just after wake up. And Marty lost it on Joe.

Jesus, Joe was right there when Frank took it in the skull. It had to have been a .303 because Frank's head just fucking exploded. Brains and blood all over him. Didn't even blink, or jump, or... didn't anything.

Marty lost it as soon as we were under cover. We thought we might tag and bag Frank, and leave him for backup to find. But Joe had other ideas. He wanted to do something to the body, but he wouldn't say what.

Nothing right, anyway. Just like his fucking trophies on his belt. Nothing proper or sane.

So Marty went postal and said pretty much what we all were thinking. Joe's leading us in the wrong direction. We're no longer in-country. We're heading in the wrong way so we can all go out fighting, or something stupid like that.

Marty said Joe had always been like this. Even in Boot and Basic he was going on about this. He should have been Section 8, but...

That's as far as Marty got. The shooter's .303 called out again, and down Marty went, on his knees, clutching the red, bone flower that had opened up his sternum. The blood blossomed beneath his shirt, larger with each pulse.

And he wouldn't look up, because Joe was right over him. The fucking shooter was up in the hills and Joe still stood there, looking down instead of up.

"This is what you get," Joe said: "Doubt means death."

And then Marty died on his knees in front of Joe. Fell right over, dead. And Joe stood there, looking at him.

Then he looked up, from where the shots came. He pointed there, saying nothing, and pulled out his knife. It was congealed with yesterday's blood and brains, and still hair wisps of hair stuck to it.

He held it up high, like he was giving the shooter a sign. Then he laughed his wolf-laugh, louder than ever, and licked the blade clean.

He does want to get himself killed.


I guess two hits in one day is more than Joe wants to risk pushing.

We hunker down here, under cover, for the rest of the day and for the night. Tomorrow we're going down the way to get the shooter. Then we can go back to the firebase.

But Joe is going to do something with Frank and Marty, and no one is going to say otherwise. Not to him, anyway. He's made up his fucking mind on how to deal with the remains and no one is going to say anything.

Kevin looks at each of us in turn. He doesn't repeat himself, but he doesn't have to. The idea already took root, and now it's sending up shoots.

Not tonight, I don't think. But maybe tomorrow.

Whenever, we'd better make that firebase soon after we hit that shooter. The water we scored from the Tali isn't going to last forever, and the ammo and c-rats are getting low. We'll be down to knives and fists after a few more payback runs.

The wind hasn't died down. The Sun doesn't feel right, either, and I think it's more humid than it should be. Even the sky seems to be more wrong than before, somehow. Is it too red, or too green, now?

Can't be sure. Maybe I just need some water.