Casey BentleyThe sun rose in the horizon of a cloudless sky which promised yet another bone dry burning hot day. Days like that often took Striker back to the deserts of Kuwait. Striker's ground reconnaissance division had been in the sweltering heat for almost three months with little hope of getting recalled back to the wonderful land of the United States.
Striker went through part of his extended basic training with the Marines elite fighting division, the Green Berets, but since the Iran hostages problem he had been transferred to the recon division. The head honchos in the Pentagon felt Striker could serve the U.S. better in the desert recon because of his special adaptations he had acquired growing up in the deserts of the southwestern U.S.
Abandoned as a youngster Striker learned quickly to survive on his own. Then on a lazy morning, when he was always sluggish, his life changed. All coiled up on a rock letting the sun warm his blood Striker felt a terribly sharp pain just behind his neck, as if a vice had closed on him quickly.
He struggled with all his might to get free but to no avail. Suddenly he found himself in total darkness inside what his keen sense of smell told him was a burlap sack. Striker knew the horrifying smell of burlap well. His entire family had been stolen from their home inside burlap bags just like the one he was in.
The next time he saw light it was the bright cold light of a laboratory. Striker was surrounded by other species of snakes each in their own cages and some human, who was showing him cards with scribbled patterns that made no sense. Then the words Mickey Mouse flashed before his eyes. Striker darted at the card only to be stopped short by his own cage.
A few days later a different human spoke to Striker in a tongue he recognized, the rapid rattle of the Diamondback Rattlesnake. The human explained to Striker that he was in a top secret laboratory on the campus of New Mexico State University. He was to be part of a Federal Government sponsored experiment to develop a new type of weapon.
This weapon was to be the ultimate fighting tool since the atomic bomb, but much more selective. Striker rattled," what is this incredible weapon and how am I involved in developing it?"
"You are the weapon Striker," replied the human, who Striker learned later was Colonel Smith the top warfare innovator in the country. Striker liked the thought of being the United State's most feared and deadly weapon, he also liked his new name. Colonel Smith explained to Striker that if things went well he would be ready for the combat zone in seven years, but first a lot of work must be accomplished. To be a more effective weapon Striker had to learn English. That way he could take orders from anyone not just the Colonel.
Striker learned to understand the new language but never was he able to speak it. His phonetic background of the special beat in language had helped him learn English in a little over three years. To refine it took the complete seven years of training.
The English language wasn't the only thing he learned in his seven year training period. Other things Striker learned were camouflage, both indoor and outdoor, the human anatomy so his venom could be placed in arteries that would kill his victims quickly, and some history of the Marine Corps so he would develop a sense of pride when he became a full fledged Marine. All of Striker's learning wasn't combat related however. The Colonel bought him a skateboard and he spent countless hours thrashing till his hearts were content.
In the desert with tension mounted daily Striker sometimes longed for those carefree days of learning and skating. He served the U.S. for sixteen years and was glad to serve every second. He was getting a little old and after Saddam Hussein, or the "crazy camel jockey" as he was affectionately known by the Marine troops, was dead Striker planned on retirement.
Since his training ended Striker had been stuck at the rank of private his entire career. There just wasn't any opportunity for being advanced as a rattlesnake in a man's army. When he started doing recon Striker was quickly promoted to Captain because of his success.
Once he got into the desert where he was most comfortable he either lead all recon missions or went alone. Many of the missions Striker did alone involved sneaking into Baghdad and even Hussein's office to steal military plans.
On his last solo mission Striker almost went to the big desert in the sky. Once again he infiltrated the office of Hussein. He was slithering across Hussein's desk for information on placement of troops when he smelled the creature approach. Striker looked and saw a mongoose hidden in the corner. When their eyes met the mongoose charged not knowing it was charging a Green Baret rattlesnake. Striker coiled up to protect his hearts from a lucky strike by the mongoose.
The mongoose stopped short and started running circles around Striker just outside his strike distance. The technique was done to get Striker dizzy. Then the attack would continue to its swift end. Striker was completely aware of the creatures tactics and played along. Slowly relaxing his coil to lure the mongoose toward him.
When the mongoose snapped at Striker he buried his venom dripping fangs into the mongoose's cranial artery. The animal was dead in a matter of seconds. The commotion alerted the guards that something had happened. Striker was lucky to slither out of there with his rattle intact.
His next solo mission he was told was not a recon mission rather a mission to seek and destroy. Striker loved it, he had always disliked repressing his natural instinct to hunt down and kill. To many lives had been lost in the four months of stalemate fighting. President Bush had given the go ahead for a U.S. supported assignation attempt.
Striker knew his attempt would not fail, but first he had to prepare. The preparation was exhausting, he had to know Hussein's personal habits, the layout of the grounds around Hussein's office and every nook and cranny inside his office building. After all the preparations were over the plan was drawn up and put into action.
On a night bombing maneuver Striker was going to parachute on to the grounds of Hussein's hideout. Once Striker hit the ground it was up to his knowledge of the area to complete the mission.
The bombing had begun and Striker was ready. With a black parachute strapped to his back he leaped into the blackness of the night.
The landing went perfect, Striker crawled out of the parachute and surveyed the area to get his barring. 150 meters across open sand to the buildings doors. Luckily the moon was covered by a cloud. The tower guard was preoccupied with the location of the dropping bombs.
Striker scurried the 150 meters with all of his hearts racing. He stopped at the doors to check for more mongoose. The coast was clear so he slipped under the door and quickly cut to the right. Just as the blueprints showed there was an air vent just around the right corner which Striker squeezed into.
The most difficult part of the journey was still ahead of him. A climb fifteen feet straight up an air shaft. The climbing proved painstaking because the traction on the galvanized steel was unsure.
Twenty minutes later Striker was looking down the shaft that led directly to Hussein's office. He reached the grate and peered down as his tongue flickered out to examine the room.
Hussein was seated directly below Striker so he dropped on to Hussein's head. Hussein proved to be quicker than Striker expected. Before Striker could bite Hussein flung him against the wall.
Disoriented and in extreme pain Striker fought to regain his senses. Hussein drove a chair down at him. One leg dead center on his head. Striker darted under Hussein's desk.
Striker was scared and had to fight off the urge to put his rattle into motion or he would give away his location. His senses were returning as Hussein walked toward the desk. Striker had something in mind and waited until the right moment.
Hussein made the fatal mistake Striker had been counting on. He knelt down, with his ear to the ground his eyes just below the bottom of the desk, to locate Striker.
As Hussein's left ear hit the floor Striker's fangs buried into his throat. It all happened so quickly that the only thing Hussein saw were two yellow eyes dashing at him out of the dark. Seconds later the rest of Hussein's body flopped to the floor unmoving, mission accomplished.
Striker still had to get out. The only escape was under Hussein's door into the main hallway. He started slowly under the door. There was a guard five feet to his left but he was walking the other way.
The coast was clear or so Striker thought. Then the nauseating smell of burlap hit him. He looked right as the soldier with the bag started to sweep him inside it.
Blindly Striker bit, hitting the soldier above the wrist. The soldier screamed in pain and dropped the bag. The guard on the left turned in time to see a blur head for the railing.
Striker dashed across the hall to the railing, up a dowel on to the banister. There he became the exact color of the wood, pulling his distinct diamond shapes deep inside him.
The guard to the left drew his butterfly knife and swung down at the wooden failing. Striker's camouflage saved his life. He did loose the last two rattles on his tail however. Quickly he slithered down the banister to the ground floor.
With a small but not inaudible thump Striker hit the floor. He was out the door speeding for the sewer across the street. In hot pursuit was Flying Death, Hussein's pet hawk.
He reached the sewer as a bullet bounced off the curb directly above his head, and into Flying Death's breast bone. Striker plunged into the sewer and the waiting arms of his contact. The burning in his side was enormous. His scaly flesh had been badly torn by the hawk as it was shot.
Striker is now a retired decorated war hero living in the dry heat of the New Mexico desert somewhere near Albuquerque. You can bet that if the U.S. ever has a seek and destroy mission that required a special forces Diamondback Rattlesnake, Striker will be ready.
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