Chapter 36:

We Were Soldiers (Jack versus Colonel Ripper)


Jack ran up the tower block staircase leading to the Control Room. Dead Patriots, servicemen,  scientists, and engineers were everywhere. He panted. Of all the locations to go, he’d had to pick the one with stairs.

A giant burning wooden man floated up beside him. It was Wicker Man, his Spirit Beast. ‘IF YOU HAD A HEALTHIER DIET, THIS WOULD BE MUCH EASIER.’

‘Shut up, mom,’ said Jack.

Wicker Man floated away.

Jack reached the top floor and kicked open the door to the Control Room. Colonel Ripper was standing in the centre of a room full of beige computers with his hands behind his back. Scientists and engineers with missing fingers were lying around crying.

‘It’s too late, Jack,’ said Colonel Ripper. ‘These eggheads just gave me everything I need. The nuclear warheads are launching from the Nuclear Cooling Tower in T-minus ten minutes. I advise you to be in a nuclear bunker before that.’

‘It’s not too late,’ said Jack. ‘I can cause enough damage to the nukes to keep them from launching.’

‘That might cause them to explode onsite.’

Jack shrugged. ‘Beats World War III.’

‘I can’t let you stop me, Jack.’

‘Why are you doing this? You know this could end the world.’

‘I’d rather end the world than let the communists win. I lost too many good men in Vietnam to let that happen. You’re a soldier; you understand.’

Jack nodded. ‘I understand how you feel, but I disagree with your methods. I think we can settle the Cold War—all wars—peacefully through negotiation. I’ve decided that if I survive all this, I’m going to become a war dove at the GOP.’

Colonel Ripper laughed. ‘You’re nuttier than a five-pound fruitcake, but that’s what I’ve always liked about you. It’s a beautiful dream, Jack. Impossible, but beautiful. I suppose what our disagreement really comes down to is a young man’s optimism versus an old man’s cynicism.’

‘I suppose it does.’

They stood looking at each other in admiration for a moment.

‘Shall we?’ said Jack.

‘Let’s,’ said Colonel Ripper.

‘Zone: Wildfire.’ Jack caught fire.

‘Zone: Bomb.’ Little explosions rippled across Colonel Ripper’s body.

A hail of bullets ripped through the room. Missiles tore the roof off. A dozen Army attack helicopters were firing at the tower block. The scientists and engineers got cut to ribbons.

Jack and Colonel Ripper began a ferocious melee with their fire axe and buzzsaw. The fire and explosions they discharged destroyed the attack helicopters one by one. Colonel Ripper quickly overpowered Jack and disarmed him.

Got to think of something quick!

An attack helicopter rushed in all guns blazing.

Oh, that’s the last thing I need! No, wait!

Jack leapt up as the attack helicopter flew overhead, caught it by the tail, and swung its spinning rotor blades down on Colonel Ripper. 

Colonel Ripper’s chest burst open. 

He fell. 

The attack helicopter spun to the ground below and exploded.

Jack picked up his fire axe and aimed it at the Nuclear Cooling Tower. ‘Zone Special: Fire Devil!’ 

He threw his fire axe, which transformed into a flaming tornado.

‘Zone Special: Blockbuster!’ said Colonel Ripper. 

He swung his roaring buzzsaw up at the flaming tornado and produced a giant explosion to intercept it.

The resulting blast hit Jack like a freight train, racked his body with pain, and sent him flying across the power plant.



When Jack recovered, he was a bloody mess lying on the grasslands surrounding Blackfoot Nuclear Power Plant. The blast had destroyed much of the Nuclear Cooling Tower. By some miracle, the nuclear warheads hadn’t launched or exploded.

Thank God, Jack's eyes filled with tears. Thank you for your service, Colonel.

Joe Gold
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