Friday, March 20, 2015

The Trendy #LtDan

Undisclosed location, US Navy Special Warfare
March 20, 2015/1928 Zulu

The dawn of the apocalypse started like any average day in the neighborhood. I got up, worked out, and ate breakfast with my family.  Then I got in my truck and came into the office, got my usual cup of coffee, sat at my desk and started to work.  I didn’t have too much or too little to do today.  It was an average day.  The XO had sent me a couple of emails with a few things to take care of while he was gone TAD for the week.  So being the good Lieutenant that I am, I jumped right on it and started to knock out his list. 

Like most disasters, you have a tendency to overlook the small things.  What happened, you ask?  My dive buddy Lt. Harman came in and sat down in front of my desk.  When he did this, I realized, the chairs I’d moved out of my office were back.  I should have known then my day was about to go straight to hell, but I missed the sign and kept right on going. 

The first sign of the apocalypse…

“Have you been on Facebook today?” 

“No, I’ve been busy.  Working.” 

“You have got to be kidding me!  You need to get on there now and see what’s happened.” 

“I don’t have time for that shit right now.  Cobra left me a list from hell to get done while he’s gone.  I’ve jumped on that.  I’ll get on Facebook later.” 

“Man, you really need to see what’s happening!”  Shaq insisted.

“Not now—“

“Boy, what the fuck did you do?” 

The second sign of the apocalypse…

“Come back with that Master Chief?  I just got here.” 

“Have you seen Twitter and Facebook, numb nuts!”

“No Master Chief, I’m busy.  Working.” 

“What the fuck good are you Combat Systems Department Head?  Isn’t that what you’re supposed to be doing?” 

“Master Chief, the XO left me a list I’m working through.  It’s long and tedious, and none of it looks like anything I can put off.  Since the captain probably gave him most of this list, I figure that ought to go to the top of my to-do list.” 

Master Chief backed up and gave me a wild almost crazy-ass look.  I knew the shit was about to hit the fan but before it did …

The third sign of the apocalypse…  

They say that bad news travels in threes, and today it certainly did.  A notification popped up in my email.  It was an alert notifying me of any ping words that showed up in Bella’s email.  Of course the information I was looking for related to Bella’s new release, Tightrope.  I opened the notification and read the following: 

Hello Bella,Thank you for sending your series sequel, Tightrope [Black Ops Brotherhood 6]. We would like to publish it. We have set the projected electronic publication date for May/June 2015.
I think I blacked out for a minute because a sharp sting to my face woke me up.  Shaq and Master Chief were both around me. Master Chief looked worried and had backed up.  Shaq was shaking me.
“Wake up!  What the hell happened to you?” 


“You got all pale and limp.  Master Chief had to slap the shit of out of you to bring back.  You okay, man?” 

I opened my mouth and flexed my jaw, “What the fuck did you hit me with, Master Chief? A brick?” 

“It was just a slap,” Master Chief scoffed, “you scared the crap out of me, boy, I thought you’d quit breathing, I was trying to help.”

“You do know that’s striking an officer and that’s a Captain’s Mast offense, Article 15.”    

 “Won’t be the first time,” Master Chief shrugged, “ I think the last one I had involved your captain and he was standing next to me, getting his ass chewed.”

“So what happened?”  Shaq asked. 

“Nothing.  I really need to get on this list Cobra left me.”  

“You really need to check out Facebook,” Shaq said resuming his seat.

“Fine …” 

I opened my browser and logged into one of my many Facebook accounts.  One of which is a member of Bella’s so called BlackOps Babes Street Team.  When I got to the news feed I saw a whole bunch of posts from all kinds of people.  All of them had snippets from books one through five of the BlackOps Brotherhood.  I saw the book covers, caught a few lines of the story and then I saw …  

The final sign of the apocalypse…  

                   Babes: Today is ‪#‎LTDAN‬‬‬‬ day... Let's get his attention and hashtag his
                   name all day …

Every ounce of blood in my body drained to my feet.  Was she serious?  

H-o-l-y S-h-i-t o-n a S-h-i-n-g-l-e…. #LTDAN was trending on Facebook, Twitter and Google!  

Of all the hell she’d inflicted on our unit.  This had to top them all.  And, why me?  Somewhere in the distance I heard.  

“I think it happened again.”  

“Should slap the shit out of him, again?”  

“Maybe …”  

“Okay, but remember, if you have to testify at my Court Marshal, I did it out of love and concern.”  

“Maybe, you ought to knock him out this time.  Then we’ll both leave.”  

“Don’t you fucking dare!”  I snarled, “I heard you.  And I’m still here.  Get out.  Get out of my office.  Now!”  

When I opened my eyes my office was empty.  Even Master Chief knew better than to screw with me when I’m genuinely pissed off.  I sat staring at the news feed as it filled up with #LTDAN posts for I don’t know how long.  I had to do something to stop her and stop the publication of this book and I had less than six weeks to do it.  

I’ll get you Bella and your little Babes, too.  

Bella's Latest:  

Aaron Rosencrantz’s architectural firm is thriving—thanks to his brilliant and tough-as-nails COO, Natasha Rodriguez. But every day, they deny the powerful attraction raging between them. Corporate meetings and contracts rule their lives—not to mention a string of promises and commitments made to family. However, all bets are off when he catches a sexy glimpse of her desire for him. His hopes soar…only to be dashed by a horrible misunderstanding. So when mysterious and renowned Madame Eve sets up these two powerful personalities to come together at the Las Vegas Carnivore Club, which one will bend? 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Undisclosed location, US Navy Special Warfare
February 4, 2015/1802 Zulu

“Meeting.  In my office.  Now.”  The captain barked into the phone.

“Yes, sir.”   

The captain only got that tone when it involved someone special so I turned around and headed back toward the building. 

“What the fuck is wrong with you?  Did you forget something?”  Master Chief called after me.

“No, captain needs to see me ASAP.   You guys go on without me.”

I was headed to lunch with Master Chief, Doc, and my dive buddy, Shaq.  As I made my way toward his office, I’d lost my appetite.  When I stepped into the command suite, I nodded to the captain’s yeoman in a silent what’s up?  Friday pointed his thumb toward the captain’s office.

“Captain’s got a meeting in a few minutes with a commander from an outside unit.” 

When you’re in a Special Ops unit, you learn real quick how to read your teammate’s expressions, hand signals – basically, how to read between the lines.  It clicked.  Thank you, Friday.  I nodded and quickly got a little more prepared to see the captain.  I could add I had a feeling I knew exactly who was coming to see him.  Bella had started dropping bombs all over social media about her latest, and this commander was about to get clotheslined. 

“You needed to see me, captain?” 

“What’s the status on Bella’s mole?” 

“I don’t have one, sir.  Whoever it is isn’t talking to her from this building.” 

“We have a problem, Dan.  I’ve been hit up by another group out of Barksdale, Louisiana;  the commander thinks she may have infiltrated their group.” 

Oh shit! This woman was relentless.  Didn’t she have anything better to do?  Then I remembered our last mission over Christmas. 

“Hold on, isn’t she on our side?  I mean that last op and all?”

“I don’t know what the hell she does.  All I know is this guy’s dick is in a knot and he has friends who are pressing for answers.”

I knew what had this guy’s dick in knot – the same thing that had mine in the same twisted mess.  I remembered reading his book when the edits came through on Bella’s email.   This poor guy had it worse than I did.  I was just the commander of a unit – this dude was the commander of an Air Force Reserve RED HORSE battalion, and he owned a very well-respected company in San Antonio.  If our books came out, both of us would lose our man cards in a huge way.  

I also knew what was coming in the next few weeks, and I’d ramped up my investigation out of self-preservation. At last check, I was next on Bella’s hit list of exposed SEALs.  I really didn’t care about the guy whose book was coming in early February.  That was his problem.  Not that I didn’t understand his plight:  we could sit down, have a beer, swap stories, and not judge.  That’s how much we had in common.  Bella had to be stopped.  Right in her high-heeled tracks.  Maybe teaming up with someone would give me the edge I needed.  The captain was right about one thing:  Bella’s spewing didn’t need to see the light of day. 

I had to find the motherfucker spilling all of these secrets and take him out — with extreme prejudice. 

The door opened again, and an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel stepped inside the office.  

“Colonel,” the captain said as he and I stood to greet the man.

“I won’t waste your time, Captain.  I know where you are on your investigation.  I need to identify patterns to see if I can find a mole in our organization.” 

“I wish I had something for you, Colonel.  What we do know is she’s an expert at hacking government communications systems, being an IT security professional, she’s been able to get in and read about some of our operations and—“

“I don’t give a damn about operations, how the hell is she finding out about my personal life?” 

I cringed when this man cut my captain off in mid-sentence.  Obviously, he’s never heard of the Rock.  I remembered hearing about a throw down between the Rock and the base commander at our duty station.  That was one for the record books, and Bella managed to capture it word for word in Rock’s book Dominant Deception.

“Calm down, colonel.  I know how you feel.  I’ve had the displeasure of being a character in one of her books.  I understand the urgency.” 

The man sat back in his chair, and it was obvious to anyone with eyes that he was trying to get a grip on his paranoia.  At this point I was really feeling for the guy—until he asked the million dollar question.

“What sort of progress have you made?"



I couldn’t believe my captain threw me under the bus then backed it up over me.  I cleared my throat and sat forward. 

“Well we managed to gain access to some of her mail and some of her systems.  Since she’s an IT professional, it can prove challenging to stop her at times.  But we did manage to shut her down for about a year.” 

“Stop the presses, Lieutenant.  Shut down servers, put publishers out of business, I don’t give a fuck what it takes,” the Lieutenant Colonel said. 

The captain spoke, “She has rights, colonel; we have to work within the confines of the law.  I have the FBI—“

“You’re not hearing me, captain.  Stop the fucking presses and the release of this book.  Am I clear?  This is a matter of international importance.” 

The captain’s eyes narrowed.  “Lieutenant, go back your office and continue monitoring our tango.” 

He didn’t have to tell me twice, “Yes, sir.” 

I got up and left, closing the door behind me.  I didn’t want to think about the throw down that was about to happen.  I know the poor guy was desperate, and I didn’t blame him.  I opened up this guy’s book to do some research.  I’d intercepted it while it was in edits and going back and forth between her and the publisher.  Before I could read two sentences, a voice out of my nightmares called out to me. 

"What kind of no good fuckery are you engaged in now?”

“Excuse me Master Chief,” Shaq said elbowing him out of the way and taking a seat.

Oh Shit!  Whenever Master Chief came around asking me what I was up to and my dive buddy took a seat in my office – the day was going to hell in hand basket.  Now all I needed was for Doc to come in and tell me I needed some kind of exam.   

“What the hell?”  Master Chief glared at Shaq. 

“I need to help him.” 

“Help him do what?  Hold his dick?”

“No, Master Chief, the project he’s working on.” 

“Oh?  And what project is that?”  Master Chief asked folding his arms. 

I shivered when I caught a glimpse of Master Chief with arms folded and staring down at me.  I hated when he’d do that in SQTs.  It usually meant the shit was going to hit the fan and go viral. 

“You’ve drawn a slot in Operation Golden Shower, 1500, today, at the clinic,”  Doc handed me a sheet of paper.  “What’s going on in here?”

Yup, my day was headed for the seventh level of hell aaannnyyy second now. 

“I hope you ain’t on drugs, boy,” Master Chief growled. 

Not right now, but I must’ve been high when I signed up for this shit …

“No, Master Chief, no drugs here,”   I opened up my calendar and saw that Friday had scheduled the meeting thirty minutes before my appointment.  “Doc, I have something really important I’m working on.”

“The only one who can get you out of this is the captain,” Doc said.

“Shouldn’t be a problem, he’s the one that gave me the project.” 

“What the hell is so important that he’d need to get you out of this?” 

“I didn’t ask, Master Chief.  He said I needed get something done and I didn’t question him.” 


“Ask him, Master Chief.”

“What the hell are you doing anyway?” 

“Research, for a project.” 

“OW!”  Shaq screamed grabbing his face.

“What the fuck?”  Doc said rushing over to him, “What the hell happened?” 

While we were talking, I noticed my dive buddy trying to peek around to what was on my screen.  I had a rubber band on my desk and while everyone was distracted talking, I slowly picked it up, took aim, and fired.  I got him in face

“Something stung me!  Damn, Doc!  Quit feeling me up,” Shaq said fighting him off. 

“Then die motherfucker. The next time you get shot, dig the fucking bullet out yourself.” 

“I need to jump on something for the captain,” I said.

“Bullshit!  What‘s going on with the IDF?”  Master Chief growled.

“Say what?  IDF?  He’s USAF not IDF, ” I said.

“Boy, wake the fuck up, how in the hell did a USAF Lieutenant Colonel walk in here and give Rock the what the fuck for?”  

“Master Chief—“

This dude was Israeli Defense Force?  No wonder he was freaking out so bad. 


Back up the fucking bus

How the hell did Master Chief know about the closed door conversation with this guy?  Could he be …?

“Yes?”  Master Chief asked with a sly grin. 

“Nothing,” I said.

Master Chief always had an uncanny way of finding things out.  The smallest details would come back and bite me in the ass with him… details no one should know.  I never could figure out how he did it maybe, just maybe …

“What?  What’s going on?”  Shaq said looking between us.  

“Stay clueless will you?  It’s for your own good,”  Master Chief said. 

“I think Rock and that guy are having a throw down.  It got pretty heated,”  I said stirring up the scuttlebutt to find out what else would come out of Master Chief’s mouth.

“Oh, Lieutenant?  Enlighten us will you?”  Master Chief said.

“I didn’t hear it, I could feel it coming.  You know how the captain gets that look.  Kind of like what happened with the former base commander over Doc running exercises on the flight line.” 

“I never ran —“ 

“Yes you did,”  I said.

“No I — OW, fuck!  What the hell?”  Doc yelled grabbing his arm and scratching.

“See I told you, some little bug is going around sting people.”

“Shit!  I’ll put in a request to get this place fumigated.”  Doc said leaving. 

Those rubber bands on my desk were coming in pretty handy.  I managed the distraction I needed to change the subject.  Once everyone had left, Master Chief and I just looked at each other.  That slick bastard was up to something and I had the feeling I knew what. 

“We both know that Rock didn’t have any throw down about medic drills on the flight line, so what’s up?” 

“I don’t know, you tell me.”

Master Chief’s eyes narrowed, “There something you want to say, boy?” 

“No, Master Chief.  I have a project for the captain I need to get done.”

“You take care of that project, lieutenant.  I’ve got a couple of projects of my own I’m working on.” 

Master Chief vacated my space.  I sat back for a moment and thought before I started working on trying to find a way to stop Bella.  There was nothing I could do for the guy sitting in the captain’s office and I felt sort of helpless, kind of like when you watch a train wreck.  You just can’t look away, he’d live, just like Badass, the Rock, Master Chief and Doc all had.  I noticed as I dug that she had a new folder in her BlackOps Brotherhood file.

What’s this… Counter Strike… BlackOps Brotherhood seven… humm…

I clicked the file and read the first few words… 

“LT I need you to look at something for me…  What the hell’s wrong with you?” 

I almost jumped out of my skin.  It was the guy I was reading about, our executive officer, COBRA!  Bella was upping her game, Cobra was one bad motherfucker.  He told me what he wanted and I assured him I would have it by the end of the day.  I went back to reading.  The book was half done and it was a doozie!  Cobra was going to be one pissed off snake if this ever saw the light of day. 

Oh Bella, I have to stop you—for your own safety.  I have to stop you. 


Unedited Excerpt
Counter Strike, Book Seven of the BlackOps Brotherhood Series: 

“What the hell were you thinking?” He demanded.
            “We’re not aboard ship, Captain. If wanted to fuck that skanky son-of-a-bitch that was my choice, not yours. I’m on liberty. So go to hell, you ain’t my daddy, and I don’t have to explain a damn thing to you!”
            “No? Well I’m tempted to do something your daddy should’ve done to you a long time ago. Now, why the hell were you at that place dressed like that.”
            Cheryl took a step back to get control of her anger. She knew she wasn’t dressed any type of ‘way.’ She had on a black dress with heels; she’d dressed to go out for a nice dinner. She’d read online that the place was a nice wine bar and it was near the hotel where she’d planned to stay. When she’d arrived at the place, it was just as advertised—a nice, quiet wine bar with soft music playing in the background. Could she help it if some man-skank walked in and thought it was a pickup bar?
It used to piss her off when Rafe acted like this. A guy couldn’t even talk to her without him exploding into some kind of rage. He’d always accuse them of something dirty. Maybe those were their intentions, but she never got a chance to make the judgment call. During the years at the boarding school and later at the academy, he always interfered—never mind that he’d fuck anything that moved. She’d blamed his outbursts on the fact that for the first few years of their lives, Rafe had to take care of her. While they were at the orphanage, when the other kids would pick on her, he’d go bat shit crazy defending her. Back then she had to rely on someone to defend her; now she was capable of taking care of herself, her son, her dad, and anyone else that came along. Lance was picking up right where her brother had left off, and this man had no excuse; he had no claim and was acting like a jealous boyfriend.
            “Get out!” she said pointing to the door.
            “You’re welcome, Cheryl.”
            “You haven’t given me five minutes of peace since you got on my boat. You interfere with my job, you go behind my back and change my decisions without telling me. You make me look like an idiot in front of my crew! And now you think you’re my self-appointed knight in shining armor?” She laughed ruefully at him. “I’ve had men think that before, they all turned out to be assholes in tin foil.”
            Suddenly she found herself in his iron grip again. “I do what I have to do. And I don’t want any man-skank son-of-a-bitch fucking you ever again!” 
            Before she could respond, he took her mouth in a searing kiss.  He released her only to snake his arms around her body in a tight, possessive embrace. She suddenly understood what it meant to be claimed by a man and why it drove some women crazy with lust whenever a man went Neanderthal on them. Time seemed to stop as she found herself an observer watching as this man took what he wanted with impunity. In her mind’s eye, her arms went around his neck and her hands raked through his hair pulling him even closer. He responded by nipping at her lower lip and she opened her mouth to let him get closer yet. No man had ever kissed her like this. They’d always treated her like spun glass, fragile and delicate.
There would be nothing gentle about this encounter. This man was different.  She knew for certain that Lance was going to show her the dark side of desire, and the way her body responded was frightening. Her nipples beaded to hard points aching for his touch, and her pussy creamed in anticipation of the rough, thorough fuck that was in store for her. Her body arched into his in a silent dare to carry out his forbidden promise. Visions of a dark, dangerous passion she didn’t know she had in her played out like a movie her head. He’d force her to discover it, taste it, live it. The need he drew out of her was intoxicating. He groaned and her eyes flew open.
Seizing her last shred of reason, she remembered who he was and why she hated him so much. Pushing on his broad shoulders, she moaned and he broke the kiss long enough to look at her. She fought to catch her breath, every inch of her filling with fury at the way he’d just assumed he could take another man’s place. There were no words for her anger and the only thing she could do to retain a shred of her reputation was to raise her hand as she screamed at him, “I hate you!”
            Before she could feel the sting of her hand connecting with his face, he’d grabbed her by the wrist and stopped her. The fury in his blue eyes matched hers. Holding her arm behind her back, he pulled her roughly against him. An angry growl rumbled in his chest. Her body’s reaction to the sound shocked her. Her whole body was on fire with desire for him. Her body’s adulterous reaction to his manhandling pissed her off even more than she thought possible.  Struggling against his hold, he shook her and pinned her with the most dangerous don’t fuck with me look she’d ever seen.  
            “Do you?”


Coming 2/11 

Aaron Rosencrantz is the owner of Rosencrantz Architectural and his firm is thriving thanks to his brilliant and tough as nails COO Natasha Rodriguez.   They deny a powerful attraction for one another where family promises and business seem to always interfere.  When Aaron catches a glimpse of Tasha’s attraction, his hopes soar only to be dashed by a misunderstanding.  When their two powerful personalities come together in Las Vegas Carnivore Club thanks to Madame Eve’s 1NS which one will bend?

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Undisclosed location, US Navy Special Warfare
December 25, 2014/0408 Zulu

I’ve seen some strange shit in my day, but this one tops the list.  Two days before Christmas we were getting ready to stand down and have a nice couple of days off.  Christmas was falling on Thursday this year, and the skipper decided to give most of the group liberty the day after.  The nice long weekend would be a welcomed break after all the traveling I’d been doing and give me a chance to catch up with my family. 
The command staff had planned a big outing today, and our mission would be one that didn’t have us armed with weapons; we would be carrying presents to a few places in town where the kids were having a rough Christmas.  Our group would divvy up the work with a Marine Recon group who had recently stood up at a nearby base.  My dive buddy and I were in the break room wrapping presents right before the shit hit the fan. 
               “So what’s the plan for Christmas Day?”  Shaq asked. 
               “Give me a few with the family in the morning, we’ll get Christmas between us out of the way then come on over around noon,” I said.
               “Are you finally getting an Xbox One?” 
               “I don’t have to, you’ve got one.  I’ll use yours.”
               “Man, you suck. You’re so behind the times. By the time you get one, something else will be coming out.”  
               “When in hell are you getting a PlayStation 4?  Every time you come over that’s all you want to do.”
               “Because that’s the only decent gaming system you’ve got.” 
               “If you lame dicks go any slower, we’ll be delivering these next fucking Christmas!  Move it!”
               Shaq and I looked toward the door.  Master Chief stood there looking like a Christmas nightmare.  Since he already had the white hair thing down, the captain decided he could be Santa.  There he stood, full white beard in a Santa suit.  He wasn’t thick like Santa but the rest came pretty close. The crazy thing about this whole get up was he loved being Santa.  I make that sound nice; he begged to be Santa.  
               “Nice suit, Master Chief,” Shaq said. 
               I started praying that my dive buddy didn’t get me into some serious shit.  I didn’t like the tone he’d used, and any second now his mouth would get us into trouble.  Master Chief’s eyes narrowed.  Nothing slipped past him, and he’d caught it, too.  I looked at Shaq and shook my head and gave him a don’t fucking do it look.
               “You think so?”  Master Chief asked as he walked toward us. 
Correction, stalked toward us.  I felt like a rabbit about to be pounced on by one mean hungry wolf, and there’d be nothing left of me when he was done. 
“Would you like to be one of Santa’s elves, JG?” 
FUCK NO!  I’ve been one of his elves before, and I still have nightmares about it. 
“Aren’t we?  We’ve been wrapping presents for two days straight,” Shaq said.
Master looked the mountain of presents up and down. 
“You call that wrapping?  I’ve seen better wrapping by blind two year olds.   I should tear that shit up and make you two rejects start all over again,” he said reaching for one of the presents.
               “OW!  Son-of-a-bitch!” 
               As hard as I could, I came down on Shaq’s boot with my heel.  I’d managed to get Master Chief’s attention.  My dive glared at me, but I’d done it to keep Master Chief from carrying out his plan of making us rewrap over three hundred gifts.
               “What the fuck’s wrong with you now?”  Master Chief growled.
               “Hey!  You three in the briefing room, now!”  The captain said from the door. 
               Thank God!  The captain disappeared from the doorway and left us staring at each other.  I dropped what I had in my hands and reported as ordered.  When we got to the briefing room, several of us had already arrived.  In all there were about thirty people, and while Shaq and I sat waiting, I overheard the captain tell the XO that the Recon Marines were on their way.
 A sinking feeling came over me as I waited to find out what the captain wanted.  I just knew my Christmas would be spent away from my family, again.  Last year, I’d been in Afghanistan and had missed so much.  I scanned the room and met a beautiful set of brown eyes across the room.  She sat next to Badass and they were huddled talking with their little group.  My heart sank because I didn’t want her to miss Christmas at home, too.  Over the years, we’d missed too many Christmases together, and this would be a first and very special one.  The Force Recon Marines arrived, and the XO went to the front of the room.  
               “We’ve been tapped to support a mission.  I will be your mission commander.  Our liaison will arrive shortly and brief you on what needs to be done,” Commander Corbin said. 
               “What the hell’s going on?  Do you know?”  Doc asked.
               “No clue, captain showed up at the break room and told us to report here,” I said. 
               “Man, this is not the way I wanted to spend Christmas,” Shaq complained. 
               “Then get another job, JG.  You signed up for this,” Master Chief said. 
               The XO glanced behind us and waived the person in the back forward.  I didn’t turn around but there was something familiar about the footsteps.   I shivered and Doc’s jaw dropped, when our liaison passed by.   
               “Good morning ladies and gentleman.”
               Bella? What the…
               Could I be seeing this right?  I had to be.  The tension in the room amped several notches as we waited for the rest.  If this was someone’s idea of a joke, I can tell you the humor was lost on the group gathered in the room.  The room got unnaturally quiet and no-one moved.
“Holy crap on a cracker …” Master Chief whispered. 
               “What the hell is she doing here?”  Doc said. 
               “Thank you for volunteering for this mission,” she said. 
               And was Bella Juarez really standing here without the whole room erupting in a riot?  Wait a minute…  Volunteer? Mission?  I hadn’t volunteered for shit! I especially hadn’t volunteered for anything having to do with HER!  What the fuck was she doing here, and what the fuck was happening to my world? 
               “Wake me up, mama.  This is a bad dream,” Shaq said in disbelief. 
               “Shut up dumbass!”  Master Chief said.
               “Yesterday, at 1652 Zulu, the NSA intercepted a distress signal coming from 89.97 degrees north and 0.0 degrees west.  Contact was made with the station and the threat assessed.   Information was passed on to the JCS who recommended that the President sign an executive order to take action in the region. The President signed an executive order authorizing action code name Operation WHITE OUT.    Our Canadian allies have agreed to assist by allowing us to utilize RCAF Station Gimli …”
               Shaq and I exchanged glances because those coordinates were a long friggin’ way from where we sat.  In fact, those coordinates were at the top of the world, the North Pole.  What the hell kind of distress signal could be coming from there?     
               “A terrorist group calling themselves the GAC has taken hostages and your mission will be two-fold:  free the hostages while securing their compound, and isolate the enemy.  Our goal is to attempt to capture as many of the GAC as possible for interrogation.  Senior Chief Walsh, your team will be needed for interviewing all captured enemy.  Lieutenant Colonel Thompson, your Marines serve as the hostage rescue team.  Master Chief Jones, your SEAL teams will responsible for securing the compound and rounding up as many hostiles as possible.” 
               “Did you say GAC?”  Badass asked.
               “Yes, I did …”
I couldn’t believe it.  Badass and Bella Juarez were having a civil conversation.  Captain O’Malley sat as if this were a normal everyday occurrence, and who the hell was the GAC?  I felt a little out of the loop here.  Had I been dropped into the Twilight Zone?  Bella is an NSA liaison?  Really?  
Oh yeah, I’d landed deep in the Zone.
Our briefing ended, and we went gathered with our respective teams to do some mission planning and determine how to take this enemy down.  After several hours I found myself along with my team on a C-130 with Recon Marines heading for one of the coldest places on the planet.  The weather forecast for Gimli was twenty-four degrees with snow and for 89.9 degrees north and 0 degrees west, it was negative two with definite snow.  We’d be fighting in the dark, and I still wasn’t clear about the enemy they called the GAC, no-one seemed to be talking about that.  Our intel had been limited, making our planning broad and our time tables loose.  That was the worst kind of mission planning.  The intel on the compound and hostages seemed solid, but fighting in the dark against an unknown enemy wasn’t my idea of fun.   
Before I knew it, we were fast roping in front of the Recon Marines into a snow covered compound at the top of the world.  The icy wind that hit me as I shimmied down the rope and made me quit breathing for a second because it was so cold.  When we hit the ground we went around sweeping what seemed like an empty compound.  We reached the first building and waited a beat before going inside. 
When we poured inside after kicking open, the door the sight in front of us made the six of us responsible for securing that area pause.  The long building had three long wide tables with stations that lined the tables on both sides.  There were bins behind each one of the stations filled with toys.  Several rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows were on rolls at each station.
“What …” Friday said behind me.
               Passing me, he walked to one of the stations and pulled out wrapping paper that had the old time Transformers images on it.  He stared at it for a while.  I walked up next to him and asked,
               “What is it, man?” 
               “This paper…” 
               “What about it?” 
               “It was the wrapping on all of my Christmas gifts until I was ten.  No matter what home I went to, it was always the same paper,” he said staring at the wrapping. 
               Friday had it rough growing up in foster care.  He’d never known his mom or dad and had been bounced from home to home until he’d joined the Navy when he turned eighteen. 
Before I could look up, all hell broke loose.  Something came pouring out from the walls and under the tables but before we could figure out what the hell we were dealing with they’d attached themselves to our legs. 
“What the fuck!”  Friday said shaking his leg to try and get them off. 
“Do we shoot? What the hell do we do?”  Shaq yelled from behind me. 
When I looked down to figure out what had attached itself to me, I blinked and shook my head.  It looked like something out of Lord of the Rings or Gremlins; something out of a fantasy movie.  When they opened their mouth to scream, they had pointy teeth.  They were greenish gray with very little hair. 
“OW!  Fuck!” Friday screamed.
I watched him use the butt of his weapon and bop one of the creatures on the head.  The thing released him and ran away.  Suddenly I saw stars and felt blinding pain to my shin.  Son-of-a-bitch had bitten me!  So taking a cue from Friday, I did the same thing rifle butted the little bastard on the top of the head.  I couldn’t shoot myself, and our orders were to take as many of them alive as we could. 
“The bait!” 
Throwing the bait we’d been given to the center of the table seemed to get them focused somewhere else.  The shiny silver and gold balls bounce around as the creatures tried to catch them.  We’d been given nets to throw over them and to catch them but there were too many.  I had to think this thing through and stop reacting.   Then I remembered during our briefing we’d been told our enemy didn’t like bright lights.  I dug out a flare from my vest and threw it at the door so those little fuckers couldn’t get out.  It worked, they huddled together shying away from the light.
“Use the flares to get them bunched together,” I called out to my group. 
After we’d figured out how to capture them and rounded them up, we met at our designated landing zone or LZ.  It was the biggest building at the compound.  We walked inside and met Master Chief who was talking to guy in a camo Santa suit.  Now that I had time to think about the mission we’d just completed, I realized how surreal this whole thing had been.  I went to one of the crates where these little things were being kept to see if this was real.  The first word that came to my head to describe them was … goblin
The Recon Team leader came in with a creature who was human sized but looked just like the little ones we’d captured.  I joined Master Chief near a big table in the hall where we gathered.
“Kris, this is our SEAL team leader­–“
“Ah yes, red autobot transformer fire truck with a changeable spare tire, 1987.  Daniel you’ve grown into a fine man,” he said holding out his hand. 
I blinked.  The man had just described my favorite Christmas present, ever.  I remembered asking for that autobot when I was six years old.  My mom had set me up for disappointment because when they went back to get it, the store had sold out.  That had been the only Christmas I’d written a letter to Santa Claus begging for that truck.  I promised that I would donate all my other toys to kids who wouldn’t get any that Christmas if I go that Transformer.  Christmas Eve I had my mom take me to the police station where I gave away all of my toys to Blue Santa.  I remembered my mom and dad trying to talk me out of it because they’d told me I wouldn’t have anything to open but I’d seen it through.  Christmas morning, my autobot was there and so were all of my other presents.   
“Sir,” I said taking his hand.  
“Thank you for saving Christmas.” 
“I wouldn’t go that far, sir.  Christmas was coming no matter what.” 
“Not for everyone, Daniel.  It nice to see the goodness in some people never changes, you still put others before yourself.  You’ll never know how much you impact the world every time you put on your uniform and leave your family.  Thank you.”
               A lump formed in my throat at the thought of my family at home without me.  There was nothing for me to say so I nodded and moved away. 
God, how I wanted to be home...
“LT, we need to decide what to do with this one, he’s the leader of the GAC,” the Recon Team leader said. 
“Gabriel, why?”  Kris asked. 
“Why?  Why indeed! “ 
 “I don’t understand…” 
Kris looked confused and hurt.  Gabriel shook with rage, and I prepared to get in the middle.  I just knew the green monster would go for Kris’ throat.
“Mother favored you, always giving you all the glory while she banished me to a life in the shadows!”
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Kris turned to us and asked, “Gentlemen, may I have a private moment with my brother?”
Brother?  Holy shit!  Something got into that DNA woodpile and went south.  We shrugged and gave them some space.   We watched as they had a heated discussion then the green guy’s shoulders slumped and he put his face in his hands.   Kris put his hand on the guy’s shoulder and Gabriel nodded. 
“Master Chief, what’s going on?” 
“Family feud.  Gabriel is the Goblin king and the leader of the GAC.  We still need to take him in and have Badass talk to him to find out if he’s still a threat.”   
“Okay, what the hell is the GAC?” 
“Goblins against Christmas, a terrorist organization we’ve been tracking since ’89.  We’ve been able to contain the other threats.  The GAC was the only unknown until now.” 
By now I had accepted the fact that I was either dreaming or completely delusional.   I knew my Navy career would be coming to an end and I’d be locked in a room with lots of comfy pillows around me.  But I figured if I was going totally crazy, I needed to at least have a complete story. 
“Other threats?  What other threats?”
“Boy, have you been living under a rock?”  Master Chief growled. 
I knew he was already certifiable so this conversation seemed perfectly natural now. Master Chief sighed and shook his head. 
“In 1955, we had a first confirmed sighting of Kris Kringle.  NORAD verified that he was a friendly and an ally. We set up a listening post here in 1960.   In ‘69, the compound was attacked by the Abominable Snowman, then six years later, by Jack Frost.  We’ve been able to neutralize all threats except this one,” he said pointing to Gabriel. 
“You mean to tell me Santa Claus, the Abominable Snowman, and Jack Frost are real?” 
“What the hell do you want me to do?  Throw you in the Ivan’s cave?  After he bites you in the ass, maybe you’ll be convinced.  And Santa Claus is standing right fucking there!”  Master Chief said pointing at Kris. 
“Master Chief, I’m losing my fucking mind right now so you’ll excuse me if I want to hang on to what little sanity I have left!” 
“I know, I felt the same way the first time I had to deal with this.  But believe me, this is real and you’re not crazy.  Ask yourself something, who else knew about your bebot?”
“My what?” 
“You know that truck bebot thing Kris told you about.” 
“You mean autobot?  That’s Optimus Prime!  He’s not a bebot–
“Whatever, the point is how many people know the details of that story?” 
No one knew, not even my wife knew and I’d known her since the second grade.   By the time I’d come into the SEALs, I’d forgotten all about it until now. I had to admit, he had a point.  This was also Master Chief, and he had a way of finding things out.    In a very uncharacteristic move, Master Chief put his hand on my shoulder and said,
“Before we leave here, you’ll know it’s real and so is Santa Claus.”
Before I could say anything, Kris interrupted us.   
“Jimmy, we’ve worked everything out.  Gabriel will be staying here. He and his goblins will run the night crew.  Let Gavin know as soon as the rush is over, Gabriel has agreed to meet with him and debrief.  But right now, I can’t do without him. Tell Charlie, he has my word that the GAC has officially been changed to the GFC,” Kris said taking out his watch and shook his head, “I’m so far behind schedule.  He’ll be making the deliveries to the north and I’ll go south.  Line up the men who’ve come so that I can thank each one privately before I leave.”
“Yes, sir, I’ll get right on it,” Master Chief said. 
I grabbed Master Chief’s arm before he could move, “Wait a minute, we’re leaving our tango and those … things here?  What happened to our orders?”
Master Chief frowned and took out his satellite phone. 
“Dixie?  Kris says ‘hey’ and he also wants me to tell you that he and his brother have worked things out.  Gabriel has agreed to talk to Badass right after Kris gets all of his presents delivered.  He’s behind scheduled and needs some help.” He listened for a minute and said, “All right, I’ll tell Kris, Badass will be here on Tuesday.  Merry Christmas, admiral,” he said as he ended the call. “Are you okay with that, Lieutenant?”  
“Yeah,” I said shaking my head, “Whatever the admiral wants.”   
“Come on, boys.  Line up, we’re burning daylight!”  Master Chief shouted as he gathered the teams up and led us to the back part of the building. 
I felt like a kid again standing in line at the mall.   Only this time there was no way in hell I would consent to sitting on Santa’s lap.  I turned around and looked at my dive buddy behind me.  He was surveying the building.  By trade he was a structural engineer and whenever we went somewhere he always studied the buildings around us. 
“This place is old.  Look at the timbers, they’re almost petrified.  Early Norse engineering, like the great halls, it’s built to withstand the weather and keep the heat in,” he said.
“Shaq, are we dreaming, or have we gone nuts?”  I asked. 
Frowning, he asked, “What do you mean?  Don’t you believe in Santa Claus?”
“When I was a kid but seriously do you?”
“I never stopped believing.  Well I guess I did for a while, and those Christmas’ were the worst ones of my life.  They were empty.” 
“What do you mean?  Like no presents?”
“No, I always get presents, but sometimes they don’t mean anything, its stuff.  Real presents come from the heart.  The best present I ever got was the scarf the little kids from that tribe of nomads we rescued made.  I’ve never gotten anything so valuable in all my life.  They didn’t celebrate Christmas, but they understood the meaning.  They loved the idea of Santa Claus and unconditional love.”     
My dive buddy had a point.  I still had that autobot at my sister’s house.  Of all the presents I’d ever received, it was one of the few things I’d kept from my childhood.  When had I stopped believing in Santa? I was a little ashamed of myself because it had to be about the time I started taking things for granted.  Somewhere along the way I’d grown up and had stopped counting the blessings in my life.  Before I knew it, I got ushered into a room where Kris sat in a chair that looked right out of the Middle Ages. 
“Come here Daniel,” Kris said. 
“Sorry Santa, I’m not sitting on your lap.” 
Kris burst out laughing, “You haven’t lost your sense of humor.  Give me your hands.  I want you to think about what you really want for Christmas.” 
Reluctantly I put my hands in his. I swallowed hard because all I could think about was being home with my family.  That was all I wanted at the moment.  He bowed his head and closed his eyes then he suddenly raised his head. Letting my hands go, he reached into a bag beside him.
“Still thinking of others,” he said handing me something small.
I know my jaw dropped when I looked at what I’d been given.  It was the diamond bracelet I wanted to give my wife for Christmas. 
 “She’ll love it, not because of the price tag but because of the sacrifice behind it.”
At just past two am, I walked through the front door of my house.  Before doing anything else I went to the room down the hall from mine and knelt next to my son’s bed.  I watched him sleep for a little while before I kissed the top of his head.  This was why I wanted to be home.  This Christmas was the first one he’d understand.  I couldn’t believe how incredibly blessed my life had turned out.  I was proud that I had career that allowed me to protect the future of my family.  I curled up next to the love of my life and wrapped my arms around her.  Cuddling next to her warm body after being so cold was heaven.  I realized that since she’d come back into my life, I had everything I’ve wanted every day.    
I must’ve woke her with all my moving around.
“Go back to sleep, babe.”
“I’m so glad you made it home in time.” 
“Me too,” I said kissing her shoulder. 
As much as I wanted to enjoy being close to her, I passed out before taking another breath.  When I woke up the next morning, my bed was warm and so was my soul mate lying next to me.  Her eyes opened and when she smiled at me I leaned forward and kissed her good morning.  Before I could even think of getting the Christmas present I really wanted, I heard little footsteps running down the hall.  Then …
“Daddy!  Daddy!  Daddy!”  My son screamed as he jumped in the middle our bed. 
Before he could really do some damage with all of his jumping, I lifted him so he could go into his Superman pose. 
“Take me to my presents,” he said squirming.
“Is today Christmas?”  I asked him.
“No! Not yet.  I think its tomorrow.”
That statement made him go still and disappointment crossed his face.  He looked to his mom for reassurance.
“Danny!  Stop it.  Come on mijo, let’s go open your presents,” his mom said getting out of bed. 
I remembered that feeling.  I’d be up before anyone and itching to open all my presents.    No-one had to tell me it was Christmas; I knew.  While I followed my wife and son down the hall, I wondered when I’d lost that excitement.  This last mission had changed the way I see Christmas and why it was so important.  The gifts didn't matter but the thought and love behind them did.  This needed to be a time when everyone took a time out and just enjoyed being close to the people who mattered in their lives.  Mostly I learned it was about reconciliation and starting a clean slate for someone who is lost.  While I watched my son drink in the magic of Christmas I knew I had a new mission, and it would be to make sure that he always believed and never lost his way like I had.  After he’d opened all of his presents, I dug into my ready bag that I’d left by the breakfast bar and took out the present from Kris. 
“This one’s for you, babe.” 
“Wow!  Did you wrap this?” 
I laughed and said, “Na, I had some help.”
Kris had his crew wrapped it so beautifully that the box could’ve been used for a decoration.   When she opened it, her eyes widened and her jaw dropped.  She’d told me not to get that bracelet because it had been a little beyond our budget.
“Why?”  She whispered.
“Because you deserve it.”
“We have to pay for school ­–“
I leaned over and kissed her before she could finish. 
“Don’t worry, it’s paid for.”
My wife quickly wiped away a couple of tears.  That was something to see because my lady is strong.  When I saw the gift had touched her that much, I knew Kris had been right and it really was special to her.   
“Daddy, yours,” My son said pushing a box toward me. 
My wife giggled when I picked up the heavy box. 
“What’s this?”  I asked before opening it. 
“It’s something Mikey and I picked out for you and the real reason I didn’t want you to get me the bracelet.  I’d already bought this.” 
When I opened the box, I swear my heart must’ve stopped for a minute.  It was something I’d wanted so bad when it had come out a couple of months back.  During my single days, I wouldn’t have thought twice about going out and getting it.  Now with a mortgage, a kid, and paying for her to finish college the almost seven hundred dollar Xbox One collector’s bundle had been out of the question.  When my heart started again, I said,
“Jeez, babe, this is a seven hundred dollar gaming bundle.  We couldn’t afford it when it came out, remember?  What about paying for school?” 
“I found one in the original wrapping at a Game Stop, the person who ordered it never came for it so the store called me.  The gift cards I got from my family covered some of it and I’d put aside the money for the rest–“
What had she just said?  I remembered what Kris said about sacrifice.  And yes this gaming system no matter how old and outdated it got would stay with me.    Running my hands over the box, I realized she’d spent the most of we’d set aside for our presents and used her gifts from her family on me.  To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. 
I couldn’t do that to her… she deserved a nice present and I was so glad he’d given me that bracelet.  Now I understood why it had touched her so much.  She’d given up a lot to give me something I’d wanted but had put aside. 
Putting her finger to my lips she said, “You deserve it.” 

What did I tell you at the beginning?  Think I’m making this up? Nope, not one word.  I don’t think even Bella could make this one up… and she has one hell of an imagination… 

It really happened that way – Lieutenant's honor – it really happened that way. 

Gotta go!
Merry Christmas!