Summary: The title says it all
Captain Roger Southworth looked over at the staging area as he lowered his Huey into the landing area in Da Nang. The personnel he was picking up were milling around in front of the pilots' admin building. They were the usual odd assortment of grunts, officers, and support staff.
But there was one who stood out. A lieutenant fresh out of Special Forces training, if the green beret and shiny bars on his neatly-pressed uniform were any indication, with blond hair to match the gold rank insignia. Young, with a lively smile, but eyes that were dead, like someone who had seen too much grief in too short a period of time. He shuddered at the thought.
Templeton Peck shouldered his duffel bag and ran for the chopper, one hand holding his green beret in place in the downdraft. He slung his bag inside, then scrambled in after it, followed by the rest of the out-going personnel. Once he was settled, using his bag as a seat, he waited while the other men piled into the crowded space. Finally, the sound of the rotors changed, and he watched as the world dropped away.
What am I doing here? he asked himself. He sighed and leaned back against the bulkhead, pulling out and lighting a cigarette as he did so. But he knew damned well why he was there. The world no longer held anything for him, not since the night Leslie had disappeared from his life.
What have I got to live for. anyway? He knew it would be hard on Father Magill, but even the thought of hurting the one person in the world who cared about him was not enough to keep him in it.
The others, the ones who only wanted him because of his good looks or what he could do for them, could join him in Hell.
The world flashed past below him, mountains, rivers, trees, and what few dwellings there were whizzing by in a blur. Heading in-country again. Well, maybe being Special Forces meant he'd be able to accomplish his ultimate objective easier and faster. Lord knew he hadn't done it as a regular grunt. The added risks taken by Special Ops might just do the trick.
Peck only realized that he'd dozed off when he was shaken awake as the chopper changed direction. A half-hearted rattle of gunfire rose towards it, which the pilot dodged easily. By the lack of intense fire, he knew they must be approaching their final destination - Delta Base.
A quarter-hour later, he could see the outskirts of the camp, heads turning up to watch as the bird came to a halt, and then sank onto its designated spot. The curious among the old-timers hastened towards the landing pad, trying to catch a glimpse of the newcomers.
Peck let all the others get off first. He was in no hurry. Death would come in its own good time. But he did have to report to the base commander, and learn where his new unit was billeted. He sighed as he jumped to the ground.
Bag on his shoulder, he trailed the group headed for the base commander's office. As he went, his eyes scanned the crowd as it drifted away.
One figure didn't move.
Glancing at the tall man with blond hair going silver at the temples, Peck saw deep blue eyes that glinted like the heart of a glacier. As he trudged wearily past, he noticed that the stern, world-weary gaze softened, making his heart thud in his chest and his stomach churn like the blades of the chopper he'd just left.
It would be too much to hope for that this was his new CO, but perhaps - just perhaps - life was still worth living after all.
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