There were five Gamma Strikers in addition to Captain Henry. Two were Marines from the President's security detail. Crisp-cut jarheads with black-striped war paint and dorky-looking headset radios with forehead stability points. One of them couldn't shut up about how many towel heads he had bagged in Gulf War One. The other, a strangely smiling black guy with a pair of impenetrably black Oakley sunglasses, never said anything. The third member of the new Gamma Strikers was a SWAT officer from NYC who had somehow been caught in Raylene's recruitment net. He was still wearing a suit of dusty SWAT armor and clutching a combat-taped MP5 and his nervousness made it seem like he was waiting to raid a crack house.
The fourth member was an elderly white guy in a double breasted business suit. Captain Henry guessed his age in the early sixties, failed to read his character, and fell back on marveling at the man's bizarre folding machinegun. At least it looked like a machinegun, the old man kept calling it a "Hellgun" and blathering on in technical jargon that nearly put Captain Henry to sleep. The fifth and final member of the Gamma Strikers was a slightly mannish but not entirely unattractive blonde woman with a taped up nose and two slight black eyes. She had a lantern jaw and a big thin-lipped mouth, but she also had the curves to make Captain Henry wonder what she looked like stepping out of a shower. Of course she was six inches taller than him and had the muscle mass to bench press a Volvo, but that could be nice if you got enough tequila in her and worked the right body parts with hot oil.
"Six minutes!" The pilot shouted over the roar of the rotor.
"Alright, listen up!" Captain Henry bellowed. "You all know that this is probably a suicide mission, but Al Qaeda and the Nazis have joined forces to take over Mexico City. They are planning to attack the United States of America again and again, because they hate us and they hate our freedom."
Captain Henry reached into a pocket on his combat vest and pulled out a folded photograph. He unfolded it and held it up for everyone to see.
"This is our target. He may be an old man in a wheelchair, but I have it from the President himself not to underestimate this guy. He's a mean and tough old son of a bitch, and he's got a whole arm of fascists and crazy Jihadis protecting him."
The Amazonian woman snickered.
"Go ahead and laugh it up Jill of the Jungle, but when he shoots missiles out of his wheelchair or something you're not going to be laughing quite so hard."
"I was just…uh, never mind." The woman began to explain herself and then gave up.
"Yeah, that's right, never mind. Never mind will get you killed. Never mind is what is going to be in your head when some teenager in a kraut helmet puts an RPG through your ear."
"Four minutes!" The pilot shouted back.
"You may not have all the fancy training I'm used to in the Gamma Strikers, but all the same you are Gamma Strikers. That means courage, honor, and kickin' ass. That means you will lay down your life to save a buddy or to protect Lady Liberty. The President has given us this mission because he thinks we are up to the task. I want you to help me prove him right."
"When you said 'Nazis' you mean like, Neo-Nazis, right?" It came from the SWAT officer who had stopped trying and failing to light a cigarette to ask the question.
"No, I mean like Hitler-Nazis. Like somehow, this big secret Nazi army appeared, probably with help from the Soviets, and then they joined up with Al Qaeda to fight against America and our allies."
"But what about the UFOs? I heard that more of them are on their way. Are there going to be aliens?" The SWAT officer jammed the cigarette back into a pouch on his cargo pants.
"Two minutes!" The pilot yelled.
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
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