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In the Creech cafeteria, Forrester was blowing on a bowl of beef stew until it cooled. He was alone at the table, as he usually was on base these days. Five weeks had passed from what was now being called "Forrester's folly", and he was back on the team getting some good kills, but he knew things would never be the same. 

A young man, about 30 years old, appeared at the other side of the table with a tray of food, cottage cheese and melon slices, hot water with lemon. "Mind if I sit here?" 

Forrester looked around, saw at least 30 empty seats around him. "Suit yourself." 

"Ohh, this food is a blessing, isn't it?" 

"It's OK," Forrester said. Actually, it was awful. 

Forrester looked across the table. There, looking back at him intently, was a young man with fair, close-cropped sandy hair and a face that looked like its skin had never seen fuzz, although through the facial talc Forrester could see where he had just cut himself shaving. What was most noticeable were his eyes, deep and rich and as blue as the sky before one trips into space. 

His navy blue blazer looked like it could have just been traded in at the Goodwill store by an out of work real estate agent, and his pastel blue Polo shirt had a freshly starched crispness to the tight, well-honed figure it presented of his torso. His elasticized Sansabelts were pure desert fairway plaid, and his artificial leather Velcro fastened shoes were the best to be had at JC Penny.

"You know what else is a blessing? Good friends. You've got a lot of friends, don't you, Brian?" 

So that was it. This guy carried no "base visitor" pass clipped to his lapel; they sure were making it obvious. Not only had this guy been sent out for god knows why, they had provided him with his picture as well, or else somebody in the room had just marked him. 

"Do I know you, pal?" 

The man reached into his blazer for his vinyl blue business card holder, revealing three small tandem crosses where others would have an alligator. "Dr Mark Steven Tolliver, at your service, captain." 

"Doctor? Of what?" 

"Psychology. University of California Riverside. Also, doctorate of biblical studies and pastoral counseling, Abilene Christian University." 

Abilene Christian University

"Got all the bases covered, ehh, padre?" 

"I don't know anything about that. If I have gifts, I place them before the Lord to use as He desires. Can we go back to talking about your friends?" 

"What about them?" 

"They're worried about you, Brian, very worried." 

"About what? Ohh, let me guess, Could it have something to do with what happened last month in a trailer in a part of the base that you're not cleared to be, or over the skies of Kunduz?" 

"Do you want to give me your side of the story?" Tolliver asked, and Forrester noted how soon he had given up any and all pretense of this being anything but that day. 

"Suffer the little children to come unto me; the Book of Mark, isn't that how its supposed to work? I had the opportunity to deliver some pretty extreme suffering to some kids, but I screwed it up, right padre?" 

"I can't believe you think that's the meaning of that passage. It really means that no child is too young to hear the message of the Lord." 

"Even the way I do it? With the message of the Lord duct-taped to a Hellfire?" 

Tolliver paused a minute. "Wow. You're pretty angry aren't you." 

Forrester throws the spoon down into the soup. "Angry? Why should I be angry? Five weeks ago I think I'm doing the Lord's work, you know, curtailing collateral damage in a Just War? My life has been hell ever since, all the way up to this meeting here with you, who should be most on my side." 

"Just War is not a Christian concept, it's a Catholic one. Many respected Baptist and Fundamentalist clergy have much trouble with its precepts." 

"Bullshit. Your boys at Corncob Christian just suffer one two many butt kickings on the gridiron from Holy Mary Seminary?" 

Tolliver closes his hands and prays out loud. "Dear Lord, help me. Help me deal with a man with so much fury and hatred in his heart. Help me bring him out of the dark into the light." 

Forrester chuckles, then picks up his knife. Putting the look of a monomaniacal killer on his face, he makes the slightest, almost imperceptible move towards Tolliver with it, then uses it to cut a particularly large piece of stew beef. Tolliver, showing no fear or concern with the threat, was impassive in body and affect. 

"I think I may know what the problem is. That day, what did you really think you were doing in not firing that missile?" 

"I dunno. Maybe saving six kids' lives." 

"But you can't save any lives, my son The power of life and death belongs only to God." 

"In this business, sometimes I don't get that impression." 

"Then you have fallen for a lie, Satan's great lie." Tolliver's voice rose, as if he was trying to fill a large church or maybe just a small roadside revival tent with the saving power of his voice. "Only God gives or takes lives; it is for that reason your superiors pledge their obedience to the Lord." 

"Even Colonel Ross, out doing his girlfriend at the motel while his third wife waits at home?" 

"For the same reason those under you are the sheep to your shepherding. 'Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's'. Your problem is that you think you're mentioned in there as well. The true Christian, the true well-adjusted officer, knows that at the pinnacle of every command organization is our Lord Jesus Christ, not our Lord Jesus Christ and Captain Brian Forrester." 

"So it's like what they used to say in Nam, right Padre? 'Kill them all; let God decide'?" 

Tolliver arose, put a gentle, pastoral hand on Forrester's shoulder. "Don't you think he had the power to, my son?" 

On Forrester and Carilyn's bed are three duffel bags, which Lily is helping her mother fill with her father's clothes. 

"But why does Daddy have to go away, why? He promised he'd be here for my recital!" 

"I don't know, Lily, I don't know." 

"Why can't we all come?" 

"Because there's no billeting for children at his new post. Now give me those sweaters." 

Downstairs, Captain Forrester is, while randomly flipping through channels, on his third Molson six pack. Upstairs, the two women keep packing. 

"Take this folder," Caroline orders, "Put it in the front pocket there. It's got important papers." Including his transfer, effective immediately, to become deputy operations director at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Graf-Ignatievo airbase in Bulgaria. 

"When will we see him again? Will he come home for Christmas?" 

"I don't know," her mother replied. "All I know is that your father's going to be away for a long time."

Three Pashtun boys who narrowly escaped a drone attack in  Waziristan in Pakistan on the Afghan border