Active Duty is a tastefully executed erotic 4th of July celebration of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Men in camouflage have always done it for me. Two or more hot, sweaty, dirty warrior types getting off and falling in love on the pages of this book — What can I say? I like it. I like it a lot.
If I had to pick a favorite story as appetizer to make you guys hungry enough to go out and buy a copy? — Hmmm, it’s hard, but my favorite would be the editor Neil Plakcy’s own A Voice In The Dark. Two soldiers, locked up in a dark cellar like cage, held somewhere in Afghanistan. All the angst in trying to figure how where they are and how to escape, mixed with the intense emotions of first connection chemistry — It’s the kind of heat this book was designed for.
A Voice In The Dark
by Neil Plakcy
The male voice came out of the dark. “You speak English?”
I rubbed my wrists where they’d tied me up with rope. It didn’t feel like the skin had been broken on either arm, but it was too damn dark in the room to tell. “American. You?”
The voice was rough, as if he had something stuck in his throat. “Seventy-Fifth Ranger Regiment,” he said.
“I’m impressed. Regular Army here.” My eyes began to get accustomed to the lack of light in the windowless cell, and I made out the shape of another man sitting on the floor across from me. I stepped over and extended my hand downward. “Captain Jeremy Groom, First Infantry.”
He didn’t stand, but shook my hand. “Lieutenant Alec Macpherson.”
His grip was strong beneath the ragged bandages that covered his hand, and the warmth of his hand in mine sent an immediate and dangerous message to my groin.
“How long have you been here?” I asked. I looked around, finally able to see where I was. The cell was about eight feet long and four feet wide; the floor was packed earth but the walls were concrete blocks. No windows. No furniture, just a foul-smelling bucket in the corner in lieu of a toilet.
Summer in the Afghan highlands was ending, and the outside temperature had been in the high sixties. It was warmer inside than it had been outdoors, probably the result of mountain sun heating the corrugated roof.
I shucked my soft-shell jacket, leaving me in a camo shirt and pants, with wool socks and boots and a light-green T-shirt and boxers underneath.
“What day is it?” Alec asked, as I dropped my jacket to the ground.
“Then I’ve been here about two weeks,” he said. “I was captured in the mountains outside this nowhere town called Fayzabad. But then I spent a couple days tied up in the back of a truck.”
“No idea where Fayzabad is,” I said. “I got separated from my convoy on a trip from Kabul to Jalalabad.”
“You think we’re close to Kabul now? Or Jalalabad?”
“Not sure. Like you, I spent a couple of days in a truck.”
“So we have no fucking idea where we are.”
“Maybe.” I sat down across from him. When I’d been pushed out of the back of the truck, I’d seen the building we were in; it was squat and single-story, with a front windows that had been boarded up, and a faded sign in Arabic lettering. “When they brought me in I recognized the word for school over the front door,” I said. “It was in Dari.”
The Dari language, also known as Farsi or Afghan Persian, dominated in the north, western and central parts of the country. It was the lingua franca of Afghanistan, though Pashto dominated in the south.
“You can read it?”
“I’m a tactical linguist. Dari, Pasto and Farsi. Don’t you get language training in the Rangers?”
“I can speak a little Dari but can’t read shit. How’d you get caught?”
“I was attached to a UN-sponsored mission with family planning information for native women. I was translating at an information session at a village when bombs started flying. I was taken while I was helping some women get away. How about you?”
“Mission failure. Pinned down while providing cover.” Alec struggled to sit up against the wall. I could see he was hurt but couldn’t tell how badly. “You able to see anything else that might tell us where we are?”
I shrugged. “We’re at the base of a mountain. Dusting of snow at the top. Early afternoon when they brought me in.”
“Which side of the mountain?”
“West side. We’re in kind of a bowl — lower mountains to the north and south. Open plains to the east.” I hesitated then figured that very quickly there would be no secrets between us. “How bad are you hurt?”
“Cut the bad-boy bravado. Specifics?”
He grunted. “I thought at first that my left ankle was broken, but I can’t feel any broken bones, and as long as I don’t put pressure on it there isn’t much pain.” He held up his hands, which were wrapped in grimy cloth. “Knife wounds to both hands. They sting but I think they’re healing. Hard to see anything in here.”
I looked up. Daylight filtered through a tiny gap where the flat metal roof rested on top of the highest course of concrete block. “Can you stand?” I asked.
“As long as I don’t put too much weight on my left side. But the ceiling’s low — in some places I have to duck my head an inch or two.”
“Perfect. Stand up.”
“See that gap up there? If we can make it bigger we’ll have a better idea of day and night.”
“Tried that already. The concrete’s too hard.”
“But you didn’t have what I do.” I reached down and took off my right boot. A month before, the insole had begun separating from the base. Instead of requisitioning a new pair, I had tucked a tiny file with a sharp edge into the gap. I reached inside and dug my finger around until I found it.
“Resourceful,” Alec said. He struggled to get up, and I grabbed him under one arm to lift. He was a big guy, with powerful biceps. His raw masculinity sent a thrill of desire through my body.
Once he stood, I had a better sense of him. At least six-four, broad shouldered and deep chested, with a narrow waist. His camouflage T-shirt hung loosely, indicating that he’d lost weight in his captivity. I handed him the file, and when our hands touched I felt the electricity again.
Go out and get it now — That’s an order!