On the plane in, some guys fingered their crosses, but I didn’t have one, so I fiddled nervously with my signal clicker, breaking it. By then we were on our feet and hooking up.
I had joined the airborne because I wanted to know that the guy fighting next to me was the best, but I’d never liked jumping. Waiting for that green light, though, I’d watched one of the other planes break up after taking a hit, flaming paratroopers, guys I certainly knew, spilling from its door. After that, all I could think of was getting off that plane.
When I finally landed I was so surprised to be alive I momentarily forgot where I was, surrounded by the enemy, my weapon and leg bag torn from me by the plane’s prop wash, with no idea if I was anywhere near my drop zone. I crouched next to a tree, listening to the anti-aircraft guns, which didn’t sound nearly so frightening now that I was on the ground. Compared to inside the plane, where the noise had been deafening even before the shelling started, this grove where I hid was almost peaceful.
I heard movement close, but with no weapon, I feared using the password, feared giving away my position. Then I heard the sweetest word in the English language.
“Flash,” said the darkness.
“Thunder,” I said, emerging from the shadows. “Thunder.”
“One ‘thunder’ is sufficient, Trooper,” came the voice of my lieutenant. I could tell he was smiling.