New York Press Comando Story
By George Tabb
"How ya doin', Green?" asked my cell captain, as I stood in the Arizona desert wearing a green ski-mask, an army jacket, protective head-gear with goggles, black ladies stretch jeans, and an old pair of sneakers now entirely covered with sharp thorns.
"Hot as shit, Red," I said back to the head of my cell unit, as the ninety-plus degree weather baked my brains out, "and also pretty fucking miserable." No one had told me that there were things called "fire ants" in these hills of sand and bush. And no one had told me that they bit. Hard.
"Well," says Red, "Hang in there, and watch out for the ants. They bite."
"Thanks," I mumbled, as I brushed off the nasty little fuckers with the loaded M-16 I carried in my hands just like my guitar. As the minutes clicked by, I became more and more cranky. Not only were the ant bites beginning to swell, the thorns were making my feet hurt, and the heat and dust had triggered an Asthma attack. And I didn't have my Woofer
. "How ya doin', Green?" asked Red, again, a few minutes later as we patrolled our assigned area of the top-secret military base
. "Bored," I told him, as I looked over the miles and miles of empty desert, wondering if there were snakes or scorpions waiting to kill me.
"Well hang in there," said my cell captain, "we should see some action soon."
"Cool," I lied. Actually, I didn't wanna see any action. Being in a terrorist cell unit with "Red", and "Blue", was bad enough. Having someone from the S.W.A.T. team actually shooting at me would suck. I'd picked the bush for a reason. To hide. I could have been a sniper on a roof-top. Or been a hostage guard. Or even a door patrol guy. But they were all easy targets. With the twigs and leaves sticking out of my mask's headband, I was hard to see. And liked it that way. I just didn't like the heat. And the ants. Suddenly, to my left, I saw something move on the desert floor. I watched the object intently to see if it would move again. I had already almost opened fire on two trash bags, an old oil can, and a sock. It did move.
So, with all the nerve I had in my body, I rushed toward the thing, yelling "Die Motherfucker", and began to fire my rifle at it. It stood up. All six-feet, four inches of it. And returned fire. As I heard ammo whiz past my head, all I could think was that I had to kill him before he killed me. I ran faster and faster toward him, pulling the trigger as fast as I could. Our Special Forces trainer, Nick, had told us in these situations it was best to keep moving and firing. In order to stay alive. But what he didn't tell us was that it was important to wear belts. Because as I was running and gunning, my ladies stretch jeans began to slip below my waist, exposing my underwear, and those vile little bugs crawling on my legs. And all I could think was that I was gonna die like this. With my pants near my knees, thorns piercing my feet, and insects approaching my balls. In the Arizona desert. They'd have to put "Pussy" on my gravestone. *
It had all started a few weeks earlier with a mysterious message on my answering machine.
"Hello," said a mechanic voice, "you are needed for a top secret mission in the Arizona desert. You will be contacted soon with information regarding travel. Keep your ears open and your mouth shut."
When I played the message for Wendy, she was as confused as I was. For about a minute. Then she told me it was probably 989 Studios calling to fly me to God-Knows-Where, put me up in a fancy hotel, give me lots of free food and gifts, and have me do God-Knows-What. The last time the PlayStation video game company had called, I ended up driving in a Demolition Derby. This time, who knew?
"You better not be jumping out of any planes," said Wendy, after we discussed what the "event" might be this time.
"Why not?" I whined.
"Because it's dangerous and you could be killed, and then P.J. would be an orphan. Plus, I don't know how to set the VCR," she joked.
"What if we are bungie jumping?" I asked.
"Same thing," she replied.
A few days passed by, and I got a call from 989 Studios, the makers of Syphon Filter, the most kick-ass spy game for the console, asking if I was coming to the desert. "What's the event?" I asked, wondering how the hell they would top the last one. Would they buy me a plane?
"It's top secret, George," explained Kristina, who I understand was a little bit perturbed at me for writing that her breasts were TOO LARGE in my article about their last "event". "Can't you give me a hint, babe?" I asked my Californian friend.
"It will be rad," she said, "and we'll also show you our newest project, which is top secret as well."
"Can Wendy and my Yorkshire Terrier, P.J. come with me this time?" I asked her.
When I just got one round-trip ticket via e-mail, my question was answered. *
My flight landed in The Cactus State with my pal Alex, from Maxim, and I, zonked out on Clonopin. After dragging our shit through the airport, we found the limo guy who was to take us to our hotel. It wasn't hard. He had our names on a sign he held up. "You guys are here for 989," said the guy, as he carried our bags to the car, "right?" We told him we were as he took us to the longest stretch limo I have ever seen. "This car is for us?" I asked, in utter amazement. "Just you two," said the driver guy, as he put our bags in a trunk the size of my bathroom, and opened the car door which lead into the back of a limo larger than my apartment. On the way to our hotel, I opened the sky roof, and rode around like one of those high school prom idiots, while Alex fucked around with the two televisions, a loud stereo system, and wet bar.
After arriving at our hotel, which was actually a resort with a golf-course, two swimming pools, and the whole nine yards, we met up for drinks with people from 989, then went to bed. We still didn't know what "the event" was the next day, but we did know that we were to wear the 989 army jackets that they left in our hotel rooms, as well as the Dickies steel-toed boots, which were all left with a note reading "there are many things you must accomplish during your stay. Your mission objectives will be revealed in due time," and "trust no one".
The next morning I tried on the boots before breakfast, and decided I didn't trust anyone. The things were supposed to be a size eleven, but felt like a size thirteen. My feet swam in them. So I wore some old Nikes. I arrived at breakfast and met a nice guy named Ron who was dressed in full army gear. I mean, the hat, the vest, the pants, the boots. Everything. He asked me how I thought he looked. "Great," I told him, and then asked him why he was so dressed up. "I'm covering this event for The E! Entertainment Network," he told me. I asked him for which show. "The Gossip Show," he explained. I knew I'd recognized him. He was the guy who always talked about what hot chick was fucking who. Cool.
About an hour later, we all found ourselves in a hotel conference room, learning secret details about an upcoming game called Syphon Filter 2, which looked like it totally kicked ass. Big surprise. Then we went off into the desert. Punk Rock. *
As our bus full of 989 employees and assorted journalists pulled onto the secret military base in the middle of the Arizona desert, we were asked to sign waivers which basically said that if we died, 989 wasn't responsible. This was gonna be fun.
After we got off the bus, we were met by two older guys in army suits, who told us that this location was top secret, and we couldn't give out the location to anyone. They also told us that the base was active, and that some "experimental aircraft" was produced here. Putting two and two together, I began to understand why folks in The Cactus State always saw "funny lights" in the sky. We were then told the reason we were there. S.W.A.T. training. The old guys explained that we were on a base where S.W.A.T. teams from around the world came to train. That over 130 units had trained on this base alone. That one of the our teacher guys was still active with "Special Forces", and that what we would learn today was absolutely real.
Then they asked if any of us had ever used a paint-ball gun before. A few people raised their hands. "Good," one of the old guys said, "then you know, if you get hit by these suckers, they can really hurt you."
"Great," I moaned to Alex, as we stood there in the morning desert heat.
"Uh-huh," replied Alex.
Next, the 43 or so of us there were split into two different groups. One group was a team of about thirty, the other, thirteen. I was with the lucky thirteen. We were then told to go to separate training buildings where we would learn S.W.A.T techniques. As I followed Alex to our building, I imagined myself as a tough and rough Dana Andrews. That guy who used to star on the television show, "S.W.A.T." I imagined how I'd run around buildings, break down doors, and shoot bad guys. All while that silly theme song ran through my head. "Da, na-na-na, na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na-na!"
After arriving in our "classroom", which was a bunker with seats, my illusions were shattered. "You guys ain't gonna be S.W.A.T.," said Nick, our team supervisor, "You're gonna be terrorists." We all went into shock.
"That's right," explained Nick, in his camouflage army suit, "the other team is, at this moment, learning S.W.A.T. techniques. And they think you guys are learning the same. But I'm gonna teach you guys how to break down doors, take hostages, and learn the truth about negotiations." With that, Nick explained to us some of his history. Enough to scare the living shit out of us. It turns out he was in the Special Forces unit of the military. In fact, that he still is. That he goes down to South America as a security consultant on a regular basis to teach corporations how to protect themselves from kidnappers and other terrorists. That his friend was almost killed. Almost received "the coup de grace", a shot to the head, but the rifle jammed.
He also explained that we had to break up into smaller groups called "cells", so that we really didn't know what the other "cells" were doing if we were caught and tortured. That paint-balls fly at 200 feet per second, and will make us bleed. That we are to take commands from our cell leaders, and, most of all, to have fun. Then he gave us our guns. Most people took rifles, AND pistols, but I just wanted a rifle. A rapid fire rifle. The pistols were supposed to be used for "up-close" fighting, which, I had no intention of doing. Not at 200 feet per second, thank you very much. After I got my rifle, and loaded it with paint-balls, I got a feel for the thing. It was thick, long, heavy, and felt good in my hands. Better than a guitar, but not as good as my wienerschnitzel.
Then I got to practice firing it, as we were all issued ski-masks, face-masks with goggles, and names. I was "Green". Because that was the color of my hat. The other two guys in my cell were "Red" and "Blue". "Red", because the guy had red hair, and "Blue", cause, well, I dunno. But I understand that he is a designer of video games, so maybe it has something to do with the amount of time he spends in front of a computer compared to the amount of time his balls spend getting some action. Anyway, after a few practice shots, I found myself getting pretty good with my gun. In fact, so good, I walked around with a Tony Montana accent saying "Make Room For The Bad Guy!" a zillion times. Finally Special Forces Nick told me to "Zip it."
We then were taught how to take a hostage. How to break into a room, create confusion, grab the intended victim, and get out. All in under twenty seconds. The method Nick taught us was called "The S.A.S. Choo-Choo." "Choo-Choo" as in train. We were to all bust into the other building in a line formation and grab our "hostage" (actually, a 989 employee). We were to use the back and side doors, to yell and scream a lot, to fire into the ceiling, and create pandemonium. "If this was a real
Then he told us about clean-up crews. Guys who stayed outside, and "cleaned-up" anyone who really saw anything. He explained to us if we were to ever bystanders in a real situation like the one we were gonna try to pull off, that we should not "rubberneck". That we should do as the terrorist says and lay on the floor and DON'T LOOK. That terrorists are usually pros, trained by ex-military guys who were like in the KGB and shit, and they know what they're doing. Nick then taught us that there is no money in "a dead hostage", and how it takes about three guys to take care of one victim. How the hostage should be kept healthy, and if we were to cut off any body part, to mail it on ice, so that the part can be re-attached later.
That only amateurs let their hostages die.
We then heard some stories about kids wandering around in South America who are missing fingers, ears, and the like. Wonderful.
Then we practiced.
Then we went and took our hostage.
I was the first guy through the back door, as we staged our raid. The locomotive of the "Choo-Choo". As I ran into the other classroom full of 989 people, and journalists, I yelled "Everyone down on the floor, everyone down!" We all began shooting at the ceiling with our ski-masks on, as another cell grabbed the hostage and fled. As this was going on, I kept yelling and firing at the ceiling. While I thought I was yelling "Everyone Down!" over and over, it turns out I was saying "Get down you motherfucking pussies!" I was told this by a smiling journalist from "Good Morning America", who said she'd have to bleep that out. I was also told we pulled off our entire kidnapping in under 14 seconds. *
After lunch the real fun began. We had taken our hostage, and were now to protect him from the impending S.W.A.T. raid. I asked Nick who was supposed to win, and he told me "The S.W.A.T. team". It was then I felt like one of those red-shirted guys on Star Trek. Or one of those faceless guys working for Ernesto Blofeild in some Volcano, or on some island. Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and James Bond always survived. But the bad guys? Dog meat. And that's what I was. I was born to die. Born to be a faceless terrorist killed by Dana Andrews and his team, while the theme to S.W.A.T. played. "Da, na-na-na, na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na-na!".
I told Nick I would do my best, and die with honor. But I had other plans. And they didn't include the grim-reaper. And 200 feet per second paint balls. They involved the desert. And the bush. And me hiding in it. And so it was more than luck that my cell ended up "guarding the perimeter", as the "hostage" was held in a military base house.
I volunteered us for the job. Much to my cell's dismay.
The first hour or two in the sand and heat weren't so bad. Sure dust and sand went up my nose, and my throat was as dry as an A.A. member, but I was safe. I heard some shooting over by the army housing, but it wasn't anywhere near me. I was at least 100 meters out in the sand. Looking for those who would try to take us out from behind. Yeah, right. All that was behind us was sand. And more sand. And some shrubbery. And cactuses. Lots of them. So I felt okay.
As the afternoon wore on, I watched some fire fights from afar. I saw as terrorists fired at approaching S.W.A.T. team guys. I watched as S.W.A.T. team guys fired at terrorists. They were all yelling and having fun. But when one of them would get hit, they'd yelp in pain. Yes-siree, I liked it just fine where I was. That was until I thought I saw something move. I was standing, well, crouching, in some bushes, watching one of the 989 P.R. girls walk by, and wondering if I could nail her in her fine ass with my rifle. As I was doing so, I saw a flicker out of my left eye. I turned my head around and looked through my goggles, and the twigs covering my face, to see a black thing move. My heart leapt into my mouth. Someone had penetrated our perimeter, and was gonna take me out. I aimed my gun at the black thing, and waited for it to move again. It did. First backwards, then forwards. Then sideways. As I was ready to fire, I realized it was a plastic bag, and took my finger off the trigger.
I didn't want to give my location up to those S.W.A.T. guys. Then they might actually try and shoot me.
Time marched on, as my cell heard more and more firing near the military base. I think they were pissed at me for choosing the pussy way out, because the first time Red asked how I was doing, I heard a bit of anger in his voice. The second time he asked is when he told me about the ants. But it was already too late. Those little red fuckers were crawling all over my legs, biting the shit out of me. I shoulda known that stepping on little piles of sand with holes on top could have some serious consequences. But I was so busy sneaking around trying not to be seen by 200 feet per second paint balls, I wasn't thinking straight. I also wasn't thinking straight about all those bushes with the sharp thorns. Or the cactuses. Sharp motherfucking things.
That nature sure is evil.
So, there I was, in the middle of the Arizona desert, on a top secret military base, with a gun in my hand, and stretch jeans on my legs, fire ants biting me, having an asthma attack, when I saw another figure move that wasn't a bag, rock, or sock. Or cell-mate. It was a person. A S.W.A.T. person. With a 200 feet per second paint ball gun clutched tightly in his hands. I rushed toward the six foot four inch guy screaming as loud as I could. "Motherfucker, Make Room For The Bad Guy!" I yelled as I pulled the trigger on my rifle as fast as I could.
My heart was beating at one million beats per second, and as his return fire whizzed past my head, I cursed even louder.
"You fucking Pussy, I'm gonna waste your pansy-ass you motherfucking fuck!" I yelled. As I was doing this, I somehow managed to step out of my body and watch the whole thing.
There I was, a normally peaceful sort of guy, yelling and screaming, and shooting at someone. If only those draft guys who yelled at me for writing the words "consciences objector" on my draft registration card could see me now. I kept firing and yelling, and eventually hit my target. Then I hit him again, again, again, again, and again. "Enough," yelled the guy who I think works for CBS News Path, "you shot me enough"
. "Are you fucking dead?" I yelled, as I kept my gun trained on his head with one arm, and used the other to pull up my pants and also to check and see if my wallet was still in my rear pocket.
"You got me," he said, depressed, and in pain, "those damn things hurt."
"So you're dead?" I asked again.
"Yes," he replied.
"So if I turn around, you're not going to shoot me?"
"That's right," he answered.
But I didn't trust him. So I backed away from him, slowly, with my gun aimed at him the whole time. There was no way in hell he was gonna shoot me in the back. Eventually he walked out of my sight, and I backed into a small cactus which pricked the fuck out of my leg. Nature. *
After our second food and drink break, I returned to the desert with Alex as a new member of my cell. I told him that is was real fun running around in the desert, and that he'd love it. He told me he had been on the roof earlier, and had sniped quite a few people. But that he was afraid of getting hit by a paint-ball, because, he heard they really hurt. I told him the desert was the perfect place for him. But I didn't tell him about the ants. Or plants.
Time ticked by as Alex and I and some chick hid in the bushes waiting for what was supposed to be the final attack. The big one. The battle to end all battles. The one where the S.W.A.T. guys break into the guarded house, shoot the terrorists, and save the hostage. But, of course, my plans were different. The way I figured it was once they rushed the house, I'd just pick them off like ducks. Or geese. And it almost worked. The S.W.A.T. team ran up to the house, and prepared themselves to enter with the "S.A.S. Choo-Choo." As they did so, I just picked them off, one by one. So did Alex, and the chick. Eventually, they saw us and started shooting at us, but not before we hit everyone of them. I swear. But that didn't stop them from shooting at us all the more. I kept yelling that they were supposed to be dead, but they just laughed.
Moments later, I complained to Nick, our Special Forces Commander, that I killed all of those motherfuckers, and they were still gonna enter the house.
"Well go in and defend your unit," he yelled at me, "get in there and waste the guys coming in the front door."
"Me alone?" I asked.
"You seem to be the only guy left with ammo. Get in there," he screamed.
So I did. I ran into the house with my mask, hat, ladies stretch jeans, thorny sneakers and socks, and searched for the kitchen. When I found it, I also found the S.W.A.T. team kicking down the front door as glass began to shatter from paint-balls going through windows at 200 feet per second.
"Holy fuck," I yelled. "Freeze," yelled the captain of the S.W.A.T. team, who, as it turns out, was Ron, from The Gossip Show. I could tell it was him behind those goggles because of the green hat, green vest, and green pants he told me he purchased for two bucks in Compton. I looked at him and behind him, at his whole posse. There were at least five guys. With five guns. With paint-balls that traveled at 200 feet per second. And I was only about three feet away. So I knew what I had to do.
And I did it.
"Fuck you motherfuckers," I yelled and started firing at their faces. *
About an hour later, we all found ourselves near the bus, nursing our wounds. Tom, from Wenner Media, had welts all over his stomach and chest. Kristina, from 989, had welts on her arms and shoulders, and bloody hands. Ron Dovin from The E! Network had a huge bloody welt on his upper arm. And others had various welts and bloodied hands as well. But in the end, I think I got it the worst. I mean that. Literally. My underwear got all bloody and I haven't been able to sit comfortably for a week. My butt now has a third cheek.
So now, when I'm asked, "Hey George, what's it really like to be a terrorist?", I can tell them. "It's a pain in the ass." *