Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I'm borrowing her characters, dressing them up in MARPAT, and giving them some guns.

For those of you reading OPERATION: Break the Dawn, you might remember some hints being given about a specific operation in 2007 that brought the team together. You also might remember some things Edward said to Bella after he'd interrogated and shot Colonel Laurent. This "extra" provides a little glimpse into some of what happened in 2007. A little bit of back-story, if you will.

Any warnings given in the main story (see Ch1) certainly apply here. Approach carefully if you're squeamish.

Scooterstale, as always, did her beta magic.


Early February, 2007
Somewhere Deep in the Safēd Kōh (White Mountains)

"What is your name?"

Edward didn't answer.

Instead, ignoring the bearded man in the off-white lungee, the captain kept his eyes glued to the dirt floor, took a slow, even breath, and fought against the wave of nauseating pain that came when his chest expanded.

It was a losing battle, however, as he knew it would eventually be, and after a few more agonizing breaths, Edward's forearms flexed in involuntary response. The moment he shifted, the coarse rope binding his wrists slipped, and a second man on the other end of the pulley – another tribesman, but this one barely twenty – tugged out the slack, yanking Edward up to his toes, stretching his arms toward the ceiling until his left shoulder popped with a sickening crunch.

Hands behind his back, his interrogator slowly paced a faded red and black patterned rug, waiting until Edward's breathing turned to harsh, shallow pants. He nodded once to the younger man holding the rope, and the tension vanished.

As Edward's knees hit the ground, the man repeated his question in heavily accented English, "What is your name?"

"Last name, You," Edward rasped, bent in half at the waist. Glancing up for the first time, he glared at the Taliban elder in open disgust and spat. "First name, Fuck."

The elder's eyes flitted back to the younger man, and with no other warning than that, the rope pulled taut, jerking Edward off his knees and back to his toes. There was another grating pop! in his left shoulder, and for a split-second, the world went black. When his eyes opened again, spots of color danced across Edward's vision, but in his periphery, he still caught the reflection of torch light off a thin rivulet of scarlet racing down his bare arm from where the rope bit through his skin at his wrists.

"Let's try this a different way, shall we?" The interrogator resumed his slow pacing, eerily calm despite the damage being inflicted on the Marine before him. "Your shirt had two bars on its collar when you were captured. You are a captain in the United States Marine Corps, correct?" He paused. "You may nod if speaking is too difficult."

Edward gritted his teeth. "Yes, I am." He coughed up something metallic, and the room spun. "So that's Captain Fuck You to you."

A third man that Edward hadn't realized was there stepped forward, and he instantly recognized him as the tall, wild-eyed militant who'd delivered the hard, booted kicks to his ribs when they'd finally taken him down in the canyon. Now, this same one smiled a row of crooked teeth that promised nothing but more of the same. Before he made it to Edward, the older man waved him off with a harsh command in Pashto that Edward only half understood.

"You Jarheads, I think they call you… such belligerence," the elder mused, swapping back to English as he stroked his pepper-gray, wiry beard. After a moment of consideration, he turned and reached over to a simple, handmade wooden table positioned against the adjacent wall of the carved out mountain cave. On it were a dozen sharp metal implements that made Edward want to vomit. When the elder turned back, in his hand, a thin, jagged blade gleamed bright.

"We'll get to your name in a moment. For now, Captain, tell me how many men were with you."

Despite the penetrating cold of the cave and the fact that he'd been stripped down to only his utility pants, fat beads of sweat rolled down Edward's forehead, dripping into his eyes. Twisting his neck, he wiped his face on his bicep. "None," he said.

The forked tip of the scaling knife touched bare skin between the cracked ribs of his left side. "You're lying to me. I do not like liars."

"No, I'm not." Edward flinched when the blade began to part his flesh, and when he looked up, he stared into a pair of shrewd black eyes that he knew he couldn't fool.

But he lied anyway, because there was no way in hell he'd give up that information.

"I was alone." Edward's Adam's apple bobbed. "Out for a stroll. You know… taking a little hike through the mountains. Getting some fresh ai–"

Late February, 2007
Somewhere Deep in the Safēd Kōh (White Mountains)

It was sometime before dawn when Edward woke. He knew it only because the mouth of the corridor that led from his small chamber – a space not much larger than the closet in his bedroom back in Vienna – to the other, larger chambers in the network was still pitch black. It was quiet, too, with only the muted hum of the distant diesel generators reverberating through the cold stone floor beneath his back.

Without permission, as it always happened when he was alone, a dozen faces flashed through Edward's mind, a never-ending circuit of people he knew he'd never see again. The Marines he'd known for years and led into these godforsaken mountains. The only family he had left – Carlisle and his caramel-haired Aunt Esme with her subtle smile and slight stature. When the soft voice of the aunt he called his second mother started gently speaking in his ear, reciting the books they'd read together when he was six, alone and afraid of the dark, Edward slammed his mind shut.

Gingerly placing his palm over the maze of wet, seeping wounds to his abdomen he'd earned over the past few weeks – gashes and gouges that wouldn't heal because they weren't allowed to – Edward attempted to sit up. Mid-way, as his muscles contracted, hot, razor-sharp pain shot up his spine, searching out every part of him that still functioned.

"Fuck!" he gritted out, collapsing back to the ground, sucking down lungfuls of stale, pungent air spiked with diesel exhaust. As his torso expanded, fresh trickles of warm wet slid down his sides, no doubt further staining the thin, ragged, mite-ridden pallet they called a bed. The other wounds – the burns across his back, the fractures, the multitude of purple-black bruises that covered his body and went bone-deep – were now just dull background noise to the viciousness of the slashes and stab wounds that the elder seemed to favor when he refused to cooperate.

Blindly – out of will more than anything – the captain reached to his left, skimming the floor until his fingers found a small, pointed rock at the base of the wall. His fingertips crawled up the wall, pausing on each small, quarter-inch long tick. "Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen," he counted, finally stopping when he hit twenty.

"Twenty days…" Eyes watering, Edward swallowed as he picked up the rock to mark yet another day in hell. "God, if you're listening, please help me…" His fingers trembled and his head fell back, popping against the floor. "Or just kill me… Have mercy and let me get it over with."

Late March, 2007
Somewhere Deep in the Safēd Kōh (White Mountains)

"Bring Captain Cullen."

A pair of young, olive-skinned twenty-somethings, both in a mix of traditional Pashtun dress and secondhand camouflage, hauled Edward up by the armpits, uncaring of the barely-healing injuries that split back open and gushed fresh blood when he moved. When his head lolled against a thin, bony shoulder, Edward's eyelids fluttered against the light.

"Put him there," the interrogator said, pointing to a narrow, olive drab canvas cot in the center of the room. The block, white Cyrillic script still littering the center said the thing was as old as Edward.

Edward hit the canvas hard. Working up enough saliva to speak, he stared at the cool, unperturbed elder who settled into the chair beside the cot. "Seen Osama lately?" he slurred, as the man produced a slim glass syringe filled with the clear, viscous liquid that made Edward's skin burn. When the needle punched into the blue vein inside his elbow, the captain didn't even wince.

"While it does feel a bit like cheating, you're much more forthcoming this way," the elder explained, as though they hadn't done this already before. "You're less of, as you like to say, an asshole, as well."

Edward's eyes rolled. "Fuck you."

The man chuckled, and the sound of it was like razor blades slicing across Edward's nerves. "I like that you still have some spirit, Captain. You are more interesting than others I've encountered. You're resilient. A tough nut to crack, if you will. I like challenges."

"Good luck with that." Edward's eyes narrowed. "Maybe if you'd give me a name, I'd be more willing to talk. You finally got mine after all."

The interrogator folded his hands in his lap. "You may call me Teacher."

"How about goat fucker?" Although Edward had his suspicions that he'd somehow stumbled onto Mister Pain himself, the current Minister of Intelligence.

The man's angular jaw ticked, which as far as Edward was concerned was a win, but all he said was, "As I said, you have spirit. I respect that."

As the chemical surged through his body, fire lit through his limbs and his gut churned. A minute or maybe a day went by, Edward wasn't sure, but then abruptly, his muscles locked. With a gentleness that repulsed, the elder or Minister or whoever he was rolled him to his side, just in time for him to expel the thin, foul-tasting broth he'd just gulped down to the floor.

"How do you feel?"

Another violent spasm hit Edward's gut, forcing a hard shiver through his limbs. Fighting the nausea, counting silently back from ten, he stared up at the stone ceiling, following the dark striations that cut through the soft beige. "Just peachy, Teachy. May I have another?"

Mouth curving at the corners, the elder didn't address his sarcasm, but instead changed direction. "You speak in your sleep. Did you know this, Captain?"

Weak, but still with enough strength to turn his knuckles white, Edward's fists tightened around the edges of the cot. "Nope. Guess I do now. Good thing I'm boring."

"For instance, last night, you conversed with your father."

Increasingly sluggish and dizzy from the heavy cocktail of barbiturates, Edward's head tilted to the right toward his interrogator, but his eyes overshot and landed past him on the now-familiar table of metal implements. Licking his lips, dry and cracked from dehydration, the captain spoke before he even realized it. "He's dead."

The man's bushy eyebrows lifted.

Edward shifted back toward the ceiling, trying to make sense of a pattern that really wasn't there. A familiar set of bright green eyes, set in a blurred, indistinct face and framed by dark coppery hair stared back at him. "Died when I was 15," he said after a moment. His fist curled tighter around the cot's frame. "Killed in action."

When the man didn't speak, instead urging him on with a minute nod, Edward's lips began to move again. "He was a major. Was doing a unadvertised recovery op in the Balkans during the war."

"What about your mother?" the interrogator asked, as Edward felt something tacky being spread across one of the long, fresher gashes along his side. Something hot prickled his skin, but the sensation barely cut through the haze. One of the few advantages of the serum, Edward noted, and just as quickly, the thought floated away.

"You have a thing for knives, by the way," he said. "You should talk to someone about that. Not healthy."

The man laughed, and again Edward fought to suppress the chills that wanted to race down his spine. "Perhaps I do. I find them to offer a more intimate type of contact. More flexible too."

"And quieter. Guns are loud."

"You're stalling, Captain."

"Died when I was 5," Edward told him when he pushed again. His voice dropped to a low, gravelly whisper as his focus turned inward, reaching back to memories that no longer came so readily. "Car accident. Dad was away, deployed in Lebanon after the bombing."

"Where did you go after your father died?"

Edward swallowed. "Carlisle and Esme." He frowned. "But I was pretty much living with them half the time anyway after Mom died. He tried, but Dad got moved around a lot. Carlisle, he's been at Quantico for years. He and Esme couldn't have kids and wanted them. So it worked out."

"How tragic." Insincerity dripped off his tongue. "What a bad life you have had."

"No." Despite the heavy sedation, Edward managed to shake his head. The room blurred, morphing into a watercolor of browns and beiges, and threatened to empty his stomach once more. "I've had a really good life. I had two mothers and two fathers who loved me."

"Wife? Is there a pretty little blonde waiting back home?"

Edward shook his head again and this time, he did lean to the side, heaving nothing but air. "Nope. Not many women can tolerate my job." He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "And I prefer brunettes anyway."

Something between a scoff and snort hit Edward's ears. "What about brothers?"

"Many. And some sisters. We do that, you know."

Rising from the chair, the interrogator went to the table. As he sorted through his equipment – purposefully clanging metal against metal – he called over his shoulder. "Ah, yes, your Marines." It came out like an vile epithet.

Eyes closing, Edward sagged against the canvas and softly said, "Semper Fi."

Picking up a wicked-looking blade, as well as a lighter, the elder asked, "And just how many of those brothers were with you when we captured you?"

When Edward's shoulders shook in silent, bitter laughter, fluid gurgled in his lungs. "Took you long enough to get around to this." His eyes remained closed, but he smiled. "Zero."

"Lie." The elder's voice dropped in pitch, and his accent grew more pronounced, a sign that nothing good was coming. "Tell me from what direction you came. I want to know what information about my mountains that your team knew. I want to know what you transmitted back to your commander."

"Told you a hundred times, Teachy. I was alone. Like to hike."

The interrogator made an angry, frustrated sound, and then there was the high-pitched zing! of metal rasping against metal. "Still lies, though I don't know how you're managing it. You are at double dosage already." Another angry sound. "You will know this, Captain Cullen, or as you are sometimes called, The Ghost. I ask these because I want you to be truthful. I already know how many of your brothers were in my mountains. I know because we killed them all and left their bodies for the vultures." Metal rasped against metal again. "Your little stunt to draw us away did nothing. Your… sacrifice is meaningless, so just tell me what I want to know."

Something froze inside of Edward's chest, and his heart pounded his sternum like a drum, but "No, you didn't," was what he said, because he'd made sure of it, and he couldn't think of the alternative right now. That they got out was what made all this okay – bearable and worth it in the end. "No fucking way you caught up to them."

The elder's voice was at his ear, a sick, singsong melody, and the stench of stale coffee washed across Edward's face. "Your friends, your brothers… all dead. And the plus is that I still have you."

Unable to stomach the stench anymore, he turned away. "So what?"

"Don't you think your government will want you back?" That knife-edge laugh again. "Don't you think that they would give much to have back a decorated young captain, and better yet, the beloved near-son of one of your generals?"

The captain turned back. "We don't negotiate with terrorists. And if you're too stupid to realize it, you fit right in the middle of that category. You're getting nothing for me."

"You think your life is worthless then."

Edward shrugged. "Not worthless. But it's not worth giving you or anyone like you a fucking thi–"

The man slammed his fist down on the Edward'd thigh, cutting him off with a choked grunt. At this point, Edward was only surprised that no knife came with it. Growling out something either too fast or in a dialect Edward didn't recognize, the elder reached across to Edward's left side.

And then he drilled his forefinger deep into one of the wounds.

A loud, wrenching scream tore out of the captain's throat before he could stop it, and his back bowed off the cot. Sweat beaded across his forehead, and inside, his lungs seized as he gasped for the air that wouldn't come.

"That's it, Captain," a low chuckle, "breathe through the pain. You knew I would eventually make you scream like a little girl. Accept it. Let it out. We're only starting today."

"Fuck," Edward's chest expanded, shuddered, and collapsed, "you."

"You said that one already." The grin that stretched across his interrogator's face was feral, stripped bare of all its usual cool, unruffled detachment. "Why don't you ever beg me not to kill you? I think I should like to hear that."

"Why?" Edward forced out, as another round of red and green spots floated across his eyes and nearly took him under. A high frequency whine buzzed his head – a new symptom – and for a second, he wondered if it were possible to stroke out or die just from the misery of being tortured. "We both know you're going to anyway," he said through chattering teeth. "Starve me, bleed me out, shoot me, whatever. Today, tomorrow, next week… Why should I give you any satisfaction? The only thing I get out of all this is denying you what you want." Blood flooded Edward's mouth, and he wasn't sure if it was because he'd bitten his tongue or something worse. "Why do you have such a hard-on for me anyway?"

The interrogator leaned back for a moment, as if pondering. He finally answered. "Did you know that during your little firefight, you killed someone very important to me?"

"No idea who you're talking about." Delirious by this point, Edward sifted through the memories – the unexpected firefight along the ridge, the explosions coming from all around, dozens of militants approaching their small recon team. "He probably deserved it." That finger dug in deeper, twisting now, but instead of ripping a scream out of him again, the sharpness of the sensation gave Edward a moment of clarity. "Ah, yeah, I remember now… He looked like you, right?"

With jerky, halting motions, the elder grabbed the freshly honed filleting knife he'd selected. "So what did you feel when your bullet entered my brother's brain?"

Edward's eyes flashed open, and in them was a split-second of emerald fire. One corner of his mouth pulled up, his lips stained by his own blood. "Recoil."

Early April, 2007
Somewhere Deep in the Safēd Kōh (White Mountains)

An earsplitting rat-tat-tat! yanked Edward into some semblance of consciousness.

Eyes opening to shadows and the sliver of dim light creeping toward his mat on the floor from the bare fixtures lining the corridor, he shook his head and tried to decide if the sound was real, or just another one of his hallucinations. By now, the translucent images and whispers in the dark were a familiar madness.

A second later, Edward had his answer, as a countering barrage of heavy-caliber machine gun fire echoed through the caverns, accompanied by the chaos of men yelling. Even with the distortion of the walls, he knew the crack of that weapon anywhere, and that weapon wasn't one the Taliban had.

Instinct more than real thought had the captain rolling to his side, despite the broken ribs, and as another long gunfire exchange ripped through the caves, he struggled to his hands and knees. When he tried to lift off his hands, every cell in his body lit on fire as the ugly, gaping wound that stretched diagonally across his entire torso pulled open. Gritting his teeth, biting back most of the responding scream, Edward scrabbled for the wall, battling just to keep himself vertical.

When he would have stood, a loud, pissed-off female voice suddenly bellowed from one of the front chambers. "Back here! Move it!" There was another round of heavy fire. "You asshole. You want to shoot at me?" A triplet of shots said he wouldn't any more. "Corporal, you and your buddy clear that goddamned weapons room right the fuck now. Sergeants, sweep those up there. Take out anything that moves." She spat. "And you other two go right and see if you can find him. I got this way."

Bloody, beaten, broken, and shaking, Edward collapsed back to his knees. As he opened his mouth to call out, a wide beam of bright white light lit the tiny room. It passed over him where he hunched over the corner, and then whipped back like lightning.

"Mother of God,"the woman muttered, frozen in a split second of stunned stillness. When Edward squinted and lifted a hand to block the light, she snapped out of it, crossed the short space in a pair of quick, purposeful strides, and dropped to her knees beside him.

"Captain Cullen?" the Marine said, latching onto him by the elbow to keep him from falling over. "Sir? Is that you? Are you Edward Cullen? My name is Rosalie Hale. I'm with the United States Marine Corps. Sir, we're here to take you home."

Edward blinked.

A different kind of dizziness swept through his body. He swayed for a moment, opened his mouth, and then slumped to the ground.

"Sir? Okay. We're going to get you out of here." Simultaneously shifting the captain's limp body to begin taking inventory of his injuries – and there were too many to count, she realized – Rosalie thumbed the radio button on the mike clipped to her collar. "Staff Sergeant McCarty, get your ass back here. Take the left fork. I got him and I need a medivac right the fuck now!"

Edward came back to the low, angry rumble of a man's deep baritone and the contrasting sensation of very large, but very careful hands gently prodding his ribs. "Shine that light down. I need to see what all they did to him so I can figure out how to get him out of here."

"Is he going to be okay?" Rosalie asked the other man as she redirected her flashlight, centering in on the very center of Edward's chest.

The big man made a strangled kind of noise. "Fuck. me."

"Sorry," Edward mumbled, as he argued with his eyelids to open. "Not quite my type. I like hair."

The other man froze and when Edward's eyes dragged up to finally meet his, he gulped and said, "Sir, I'm Emmett McCarty. I need to take a look at you, okay?" Edward and Emmett both winced when the man grazed the Taliban's elder's last bit of hell. "Do you know where you are?"

Glimpsing the chevrons and rocker on the Marine's collar, the captain eased back down. "Do your worst, Staff Sergeant." He squeezed his fists into tight hammers when Emmett began to probe, but he managed to ramble through an answer. "I know I'm in a fucking cave somewhere on the north side of the White Mountains. It stinks like dog shit, or maybe that's me. It's cold. I want to eat but I'll probably puke my guts up and that would suck right now."

Edward exhaled a curse when the Marine hit one of the scorch marks on his back, but as the reality of this single point in time began to descend, physical pain wasn't what made his eyes burn. Something warm and wet slid down his cheek. "And… I know I'd kind of like to leave."

Emmett glanced over to Rosalie with a quick nod. "You got it, sir. Do you have any known injuries besides the obvious? I don't think I can get a litter or a board through these holes. At least not quick. Anything that would prohibit us carrying you out?"

Numbly, the captain shook his head. "No. Shoulder was dislocated, but one of them popped it back in."

Rosalie's mouth settled into a hard, flat line, and she muttered something under her breath that sounded a whole lot like, I shouldn't have killed him so quick.

"Okay," Emmett went on. "Hold on to my arm and let me see if I can bandage you up a little before we try to get you up. We'll check the rest of you out on the way back and I'll pump you full of some pain meds." He grimaced. "Captain, but right now, this shit's going to hurt like a bitch, so hold your breath or bite down on this." He gave him a strip of webbing. Without a hint of struggle, the big man carefully lifted Edward to a sitting position, continuing even when a strangled groan came out, and then he motioned for Rosalie to help keep him steady while he wrapped the captain's chest and stomach.

Five minutes later, with one emaciated arm slung across each set of shoulders, the two Marines slowly lifted Edward off the ground and began the halting, stop-and-go trek through the maze of tunnels and chambers. On their way out, as they gradually traversed out of the cave onto the rough, dry, rocky terrain now blanketed by a fire-lit evening sky, a dozen other Marines stood watch, silent and saluting as they passed by. When his arm gave out, Edward nodded to each one.

"Staff Sergeant?" Edward asked when they reached the closest Humvee. Its back door already stood wide open and ready, and Emmett didn't waste any time positioning the captain inside where he could set up fluids and start dressing the multitude of lacerations. Up front, Rosalie climbed into the driver's seat and motioned for two of the other Marines to get in right now and take gunner positions.

"Staff Sergeant?" Edward asked again.

"Yes, sir?" The big man chucked his helmet into the back seat and jumped in. He turned away for only a second to dig through the medical supplies, but by the time he turned back, Edward was already moving to prop himself up. "Damn it, stop that! Don't make me be an asshole that has to restrain you. Trust me, I'll win."

One brow arched, but then the captain hesitated, and as he opened his mouth to ask the single most important question, it felt like every bit of the blood in his body solidified. "My team." His throat bobbed twice. "What is the status of my team? Did any of them make it back?"

Emmett's eyes shot up to the front, to the mirror, where Rosalie's ice blue ones stared back in a copy of his own surprise. When he answered back, there was a hint of wonder in his voice. "That's right, of course, you don't know…" When Edward's jaw locked, the staff sergeant's big palm cupped his shoulder, and he quickly added, "They're okay, sir. They're all okay. Because of you."

Every bit of the air in Edward's lungs left in a sudden, powerful rush that made his body screech in agony, but he didn't care. For the first time in two months, something akin to peace settled in as his head fell back against the rolled-up blanket that Emmett had set behind his neck as a makeshift pillow.

The tough-as-nails staff sergeant at the wheel chimed in. "They lost all radio contact and with no pick up, they had to hoof it back. Made it in… record time." In the rearview, she offered him a rare, bittersweet smile. "Sir, first thing, before they even took off their gear, was to grab the base commander and tell him they needed to come get you ASAP."

"Those fuckers moved you to a different area in the mountains," Emmett said. "Took us a while to find you."

Edward looked him in the eye. "Thank you."

"You'd have done the same. It's what we do."

Emmett slid his wraparounds to the top of his shorn head. As he inserted the IV, he cleared his voice, looked up to the vicious, take-no-prisoners, sexy-ass blonde he'd met only a month ago, and grinned. "Alright, Blondie," he yelled. "What the fuck are we doing? Let's move it, will ya? Move, move, move!"

Gunning the engine and peeling out across the gravel, Rosalie's subtle smile morphed into a glare that would make any drill instructor step off. "I told you not to call me that. You do it one more time, and I swear I'm going to break your dick off. You got that?"

A loud, painful bark of a laugh tumbled out of Edward's mouth before he could stop it.

Her glare shifted to the injured man in the back. "Are you laughing, Captain?"

Edward's bleary gaze flew to the massive staff sergeant hanging his IV bag, and the man shook his head in warning. "No, ma'am, I wouldn't dream of it."

"Good thing someone has some intelligence in here," Rosalie grumbled. Stamping on the gas, she wordlessly directed the wide-eyed twenty-two year old lance corporal in the passenger seat to call up Command. The kid moved fast.

"Operations Command, do you copy?" she said into the radio.

Static pulsed once, then twice, and then a familiar, clipped voice came on the line. "Copy that. Staff Sergeant Hale, do you have the package?"

Rosalie glanced back, fighting off a wave of unexpected emotion when she saw the other staff sergeant and the captain arguing about whether or not he was allowed to sit up. "General, yes, sir, we have the package."


"Pretty rough, sir. Some broken bones, dehydrated. Lost a shit ton of weight. And…" She paused, only going on when Edward waved her the go ahead. "Burns, multiple, deep lacerations from God only knows what kind of fucked up, I mean, messed up interrogation techniques those assholes used…. But sir," she smiled this time for real, "the first thing out of his mouth was an order to Staff Sergeant McCarty to give him an update of his team. And on the walk out, he also wanted to relay intel to air support. So… I think status is as best as can be expected."

There was a long, drawn-out pause, where for a moment, Rosalie thought they'd lost the secure connection, and then Carlisle came on, his voice muted and thick. "Thank you. Thank you, Staff Sergeant. Tell my nephew that his aunt is… really pissed."

As the staff sergeant signaled her affirmative, the deafening roar of an F-16 came from somewhere high overhead. Twisting toward the wide back glass of the Humvee, Edward looked out, instantly pinpointing the gray spec in the orange sky.

Before he could ask, a high-pitched, out-of-place soprano came on the radio. "Attention K-mart shoppers, this is your friendly fairy in the sky." Emmett and Rosalie both groaned and said something about Peter Pan and needing a sidewinder missile. "For your enjoyment and delight this evening, we have a fine and varied assortment of hellfire and damnation. I think I may have a little sulfur and spicy brimstone left, too." The unfamiliar voice paused. "Captain Cullen, I'm pleased to finally make your acquaintance. Would you care to place an order?"

Not quite sure what to make of the almost-cheerful pilot overhead, he watched her dove gray F-16 streak across the sky, drop into a belly roll, and come out, only to slide through a narrow mountain pass that only a handful of drivers could ever even dream about executing. When he saw her circle the mountain they'd just left, his smile was grim and deathly cold. "How about a little of everything, Tinkerbell?"

"With pleasure, sir."

June 15, 2007
Battalion update on Mission: Ghost

At exactly 6:30 pm, April 5, 2007, two dozen Marines – specifically selected for the mission – stormed the small mountain cave complex of Mullah Abdul Akhund, commonly believed to have been the latest Taliban Minister of Intelligence, in search of captured Marine, Captain Edward Cullen.

Thirty-four minutes later, reporting no casualties, nothing remained of the complex after significant bombing by mission air support on loan from the 455th and Mullah Abdul Akhund was declared dead.

Captain Cullen is currently recovering from injuries sustained during his two-month captivity at Walter Reed. When asked what his plans were – if he still planned to remain with the Corps – the Ghost just said, "Semper Fi," and that his plans involved a new kind of Force Recon team and that he already had his team in mind.

Note 1: Monday is Veterans Day here in the US, Remembrance Day in Commonwealth Nations, & Armistice Day in several other countries. If you have a chance and know a current or former member of the armed forces, take a second and say thank you.

Note 2: Mullah Abdul Akhund is a fake person. I used names from other Taliban leaders and combined them into an evil SOB.