Jones almost had him. After chasing him toward the Tharthar Canal, he was gaining on the man in a black man-dress. Though dehydrated and overburdened with armor, the soldier ran faster to close the gap.

A crackle of radio traffic pierced the throbbing in Jones’ ear as he glanced at the brown rubber watch on his left wrist. With weapon drawn, level to the exhausting desert sand, Jones squinted through sweat to see the target when a deafening wall of earth pushed him out of consciousness.

His body moved against his will, fighting gravity. A blow to one cheek, and then another, echoing the tinnitus in his ears. A sharp pain in his leg, and his body was set aflame. The burning engulfed his nervous system and he jumped. Gasping for air.

Jones’ eyes shot from face to face. His buddy stood over him, laughing. The medic knelt by him, syringe in hand. Detecting a carotid pulse, the medic nodded and Jones was flying. Numb.