Northern Afghanistan, 1030 local time January, 2002.

The war is well underway and things are simple. The rules of engagement are that there mostly are no rules, and that’s ok by most.

Command has one purpose and it’s known to everyone in country. Kill as many terrorists as possible, extract our American pound of flesh for the twin towers, and wipe out the training camps in the process.

It’s been mostly mission accomplished up until now. Those that haven’t died for Allah fled to the east, into Pakistan. The few that stayed are hardened Taliban and AQ fighters, including the legendary and feared Taliban leader “Bardhar” who was rumored to have a strange killing fetish.

They remained, and the Special Ops units left to hunt them down. But sometimes the hunter becomes the hunted. Lines are blurred, and morals are cast aside in the rage of revenge. The course of a community forever altered for good or bad. Out story begins…

The scene made grown, hardened men cry.

It was a mission gone bad, the kind where heroes die and are later written about, and some show runner profiteer in Hollywood makes a killing on the movie.

Hollywood 1 Hero 0.

A small SEAL sniper recon team, tasked with overlooking the active enemy valley, high up in the Hindu Kush mountain range, had inserted by helicopter on top of an enemy fighting position.

Bad intel.

Minutes later the whole team was under fire in waist-deep snow and getting their asses kicked real good.

The team’s top sniper, with exception of “JJ” was Torch. He took strafing RPK rounds to both heels, felt a sudden electric shock, the kind you get from a light socket that forces uncontrollable movement. Torch was cut down hard and fast before he could empty his first magazine.

He slunk into the snow, not wanting to call out and risk his teammates lives. Plus, everyone in Special Ops knows you win the firefight first then treat the wounded and care for the dead. He was hoping for the latter as his twin red-headed boys and beautiful wife flashed before his eyes.

The rest of the small squad returned fire in a center peel and escaped surprisingly unharmed except for some bullet burns.

“Where the fuck is Torch?” JJ asked Tom.

“Fuck,” Tom muttered under his breath.

They repositioned to get a satellite angle and called in for their QRF.

The Quick Reaction Force, comprised of Army Rangers, showed up 60 agonizing minutes later, fast by QRF standards. Tom and the Ranger commander came up with a hasty plan. Within minutes they were assaulting the Taliban position. Violence of action is often better than a carefully laid plan.

It worked. The Taliban were overwhelmed and caught off guard by the swift counter-assault, but it was too late for Torch.

Their teammate, husband, collector of rare coins, who one day dreamed to sail around the world with his family on the boat he was building in the backyard, and father of five-year-old twin boys had been mutilated by his Taliban captives.

All his fingers except his thumbs had been snipped off with gardening shears, and in one last humiliating act, his testicles had been cut off with a still visible, blood-stained steak knife and shoved down into his mouth.

A final act of brutal retaliation and a clear message to the SEAL Teams in Afghanistan. “Fuck with us and this will happen to you.”

Tom “Wedge” Peters and his team had hot, burning, tears of rage streaming down their faces in the below-freezing temperature.

The Rangers were solemn and said very little. They knew the routine by now. Sometimes not saying anything is best and says enough.

The SEAL team spoke in hushed tones to each other but the unspoken message that united them all was that the Taliban would pay for taking away Torch’s sailing dream. They would fucking pay.

Blood for blood.

Tom, unknowingly, was about to unleash something that would uncork the Genie and turn very dark for years to come. They were about to head “off the reservation.”

A reckoning was coming to the jagged mountains of the Hindu Kush and to the hardened Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists that fought their own version of Jihad against the free world.

Torch was a brother to her, the two of them finished at the top in their sniper class and he put up with her bullshit and, like the rest of the lost boys, she had plenty of it to go around. She also knew how to keep a secret, something Torch admired about her until he couldn’t anymore, and he had a big one.

“Stack the bodies to God,” Julia thought to herself as she swallowed the iron flavored blood in her mouth from biting her inside cheek.

“The Reservation” is a new experiment as a novel in progress shared with you weekly for the next year by Brandon Webb. Stand by for weekly updates as the story unfolds and our unit wanders “off the reservation.”

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