In a world such as ours, it takes great courage and sacrifice to protect and defend freedom and democracy. Sometimes we see stories of heroism and
bravery on the ten-o'clock news, but most of the time that just isn't the case. Most of the time, it's the unsung heroes: the nameless, faceless
warriors and defenders of liberty who do what must be done in the name of justice. People you never hear about, people like me, are often quietly
working behind the scenes, unseen and undetected, carrying out the most top-secret assignments that are required to keep America safe.
On June 1, 1998, I found myself in the midst of just such an assignment. The brakes my surveillance vehicle, a specially modified 1992 Mitsubishi
Eclipse, needed replacing, and in order to do this I would need the help of another fellow undercover operative, Brian Baxter. After pulling into the
driveway at his house, I cautiously looked around before approaching the door. Having become satisfied that I was not under enemy surveillance, I
knocked, and it opened.
There stood Brian, barefoot, dressed in a t-shirt and a ragged pair of sweatpants. At first I was surprised by his rather unorthodox choice of
uniform, but then I remembered that maintaining a low profile was the cornerstone of effective undercover technique. Clearly, I was seeing a genius
"What do you want?" Brian asked.
Considering the urgency of our assignment, I decided to get straight down to business. "Good, you're awake." I said. "We need to fix those
brakes today. This is an important mission - our orders come straight from the top."
"Oh, yeah, your car. I forgot. Did you bring the equipment?"
"Got'em right here." I held forth a paper bag, reached inside, and held up two martini glasses.
"Uh, I don't get it." Brian said. "What does this have to do with your car?"
"Beer isn't acceptable for this type of assignment." I replied. "We're covert operatives, and we have to do what covert operatives do - drink
vodka martinis. I've brought olives and a bottle of vermouth. Here, you take these, get some Vodka, and start setting them up while I get the brake
pads out of the car. We don't have a lot of time."
"Uh, that might be a problem." Brian said. "My girlfriend's brother was over last night and finished the vodka off. There's the empty bottle
over there." He pointed toward the plastic wastebasket in the kitchen. The sight of the empty bottle caused stomach to turn. Without vodka, the
success of our mission - and the safety of the world - was in serious jeopardy. In sheer desperation, I gripped Brian's shirt and said "Tell me you
have another one! It can't end like this!"
"Ok, Ok, calm down." he replied. "There might be another bottle in the aircraft hangar out back, where we keep the ultra-lights. We can take a
look if you want."
"Thank god" I said, relieved by the sudden turn of events. "Now let's get to that hangar!"
The journey to the hangar took at least a minute, and when we got there Brian slid the aluminum double-doors apart. Then my jaw dropped in despair.
Although I could clearly see the bottle of vodka sitting on a shelf against the wall on the far side, it was at least eight feet above the ground, and
there was no ladder in sight. Was this the end? Had we come this far only to be defeated by the dastardly trick of some elusive enemy?
Before I could say a word, Brian sprang into action. With the agility of an Olympian, he crossed the distance between me and the other side of the
hangar, then jumped toward the shelf, retrieving the bottle in mid-air. As he brought the Vodka back outside, I stared in awe at his courage, his
"Nice job" I said. "When this is over, I'm putting your name in for a medal. Now let's get to work!"
We returned to the house, went to the kitchen, and within minutes we had mixed the martinis. I raised a toast in the air, and Brian followed with his
own. "To the freedom", I said, and downed the martini. "To the U.S.A.", Brian replied, and did the same. After consuming the olives, I said
"Maybe we should make a couple more, just to be safe." Brian nodded in agreement.
Before long, we found ourselves finishing off our third set of martinis, and it was time to get to the business of repairing the Mitsubishi. The
clock was ticking, but our determination was great, and our eyes were firmly focused on the objective. Unfortunately, we found ourselves unable to
focus our eyes on the door, as the vodka had dulled our senses to a significant degree. Groping around the room proved useless, and we realized that
the only thing we could do was wait. And watch NASCAR.
Within a couple of hours, sobriety began to assert it's corrupting influence, and we finally managed to make our way out of the house. After that,
we succeeded in retrieving the brake pads and jacking up the vehicle. The plan seemed to be coming together nicely, so as Brian set about removing the
rear tires, I mixed a couple more drinks, and brought them outside. I knew that daylight would be working against us, and we needed to work fast. By
two-o'clock, we had removed the brake pads and the calipers, and were ready to install the new pads.
Then, without warning, disaster struck. The mid-day sun overhead was blazingly hot, and I noticed that the ice in my martini was melting. How could
I tell Brian such devastating news? With a deep sense of despair, I informed him of our situation.
"This blows." he said in a somber tone. "Maybe we should just give up."
But I wasn't ready to give up. This wasn't the time for defeat - instead, I knew this was the time for leadership and determination. Looking
Brian in the eyes, I announced "Dammit, this will not stand! I'm not giving up on this. We're just gonna have to drink the martinis without ice,
and to hell with the consequences." As I looked at Brian, I could tell that my speech had filled him with renewed confidence.
"You're right." he said. "If that's what it takes, that's what it takes. On to victory!" He downed the martini. "Now let's finish this
thing." I grinned, finished my drink, and we set about putting on the new pads. Within minutes, the job was done and we were ready for a test-drive.
I got behind the wheel, and Brian buckled himself into the co-pilot's seat.
The trip down the driveway was hazardous and very uncomfortable. The vehicle groaned in protest, and Brian turned to me to say "These are new pads,
and need to be broken in."
"Right!" I said. "Let's give it some more gas, and see what this thing can do!" As I turned onto the street, I accelerated the front-wheel
drive coupe to cruising speed, and the vehicle shook violently, as if it were caught in the jaws of some enormous beast. Not to be deterred, I
gripped the steering wheel tightly while maintaining our course, and before long we were heading down the road toward town. Only then did I see the
flashing blue and red lights of the patrol car behind us.
A police car? What could this be about, I wondered? Did he need our assistance for another critical assignment? Or was he trying to warn of us
some unseen danger ahead? I applied the newly installed brakes, and slowly pulled to a stop by the side of the road. Behind us, the patrol car came
to a stop as well, and the officer stepped out, then slowly walked up to the side of the Mitsubishi. As I rolled down the window, I offered him a
"Do you guys know why I pulled you over?" he asked after requesting my driver's license and registration.
"I hope it wasn't for speeding, officer." I replied. "My colleague and I are on a top-secret mission involving national security. If you're
here to offer us an escort, then by all means, proceed."
"Really?" the officer said. Glancing toward the rear of the Mitsubishi, he asked "Do you mind telling why you're driving this vehicle without any
rear tires on it?"
I looked out the window, and what I saw made my heart stand still. On the roadway I could clearly make out the pair of deep gouges in the asphalt
left by the Mitsubishi's bare rotors, which were now reduced to unrecognizable hulks of metal. We would have to call a tow truck. After leaving me
with a one hundred dollar ticket, the officer left the scene.
"Ok, this REALLY blows." Brian said to me.
"This is but one defeat." I replied. "We'll just have to live to fight another day. By the way, did you bring a cell phone with you?"
"#." I said.
In our line of work, casualties such as this sometimes happen - it's the nature of the game. As we walked back toward the house, I knew we had lost
the battle, but not the war, and no matter how great the odds, we will continue the fight. Whenever freedom is at stake, whenever terror comes to
our shores, and whenever tyranny rears it's ugly head, unsung heroes like us will be prepared for battle. You can count on it.
[edit on 10-6-2006 by Flatwoods]