When I first showed up at Firebase Gung Ho, all those years ago, what really disconcerted me was not the incoming sniper fire - not even the round that wounded me - but the jet black water which came gushing out when you turned on a faucet.
Our BioWar guy assured me it was perfectly safe to drink, and mixed me up a medicinal dose of vodka (Finlandia, his favorite brand) and this liquid coal stuff which came guttering out of the tap.
More as a rite of passage than anything else, I drank it down, and woke up the next morning in a sleeping bag in the clinic. Woke naked as I' d lost everything, including my socks, my underpants and my boots, by playing Fatwa, a kind of poker we used to have back then, back in the days of the War on Terror.
The Good Old Days, let me tell you. The best was when we took down Sammy the Sniper, who had been harassing the firebas e for a solid seven years.
The Colonel told me that since I was on the books as the official counter sniper, it was my job to take out Slippery Sam.
Which I did.
I arranged for Ms platagenet, our dumb blonde medical officer, to covertly be given a massive dose of a disinhibiting rape drug. Once you have that drug running in your veins, you can say goodbye to caution.
I knew, approximately, which bombed-out bunker S the S was hiding out in, so I got a rifle with a big telescopic site and one single large-caliber round. I was going to be shooting at a range of over a thousand meters but, hey, I was the counter-sniper, right?
I arranged for a three-year-old kid to escape into the killing zone and for Ms Plantagenet to be on hand and to be enouraged to go to the rescue.
Which, drugged up to the eyeballs, she did.
In contravention of orders, the stuck-up bitch was wearing her captain'a crowns, which S the S would have identified through his own scope.
All he had was an AK47. aON balance, the best infantry rifle in human history, no doubt, but only really spot-on accurate out to 300 meters, so not exactly the optimal sniper rifle.
Still, she was an officer out in the open, so Sammy did his valorous best. I took my own sweet time lining up my shot, which smashed his shoulder, and that evening, after the Colonel left the communal bar and went to bed early, the guys gave me a small package which, when unwrapped, turned out to contain a knife (very small but very, very sharp), a knitting needle and a teaspoon.
"Careful," said one, "the edges are razor sharp."
Then they told me that Sammy was down in the generator room, and that someonewould drop by to wake me in time for my morning shift.
When I switched on the lights in the generator room, Sammy took just one look at me and, picking up on his situation, promptly started screaming.
He screamed a lot more before I was through with him, let me tell you.
I worked on him for a solid eighteen days until Father O'hare came in with a .44 and shot my poppet in the head so the Colonel could take a look and certify that the prisoner had died of an accdental gunshot wound.
I'm happy to say that the three-year old kid I'd used for my Sammy stunt survived, and that Ms Plantagenet adapted so well to her two artificial legs that she was ultimately able to swim (albeit only on the beginners slopes.)
Those were the good old days, believe you me. But they all came to an end after the fuss over the Abu Graib Reunion Conference, you know, when all those guys had those really big fish hooks shoved down their throats by special hand-crafted applicators, and were then dragged across cactus-infested minefield desert on thin wire ropes.
That was just after the election of Abraham Provo, if you remember. And, once Mr Mormon was in the White House, that was it.
He was the guy who instituted the Cheops Program, so every prisoner was welded into an individual cast iron pyramid and kept there indefinitely on a daily ration of one pannikin of vitamin-reinforced racoon's urine and two quarts of Lima Beans.
And the black watera? Oh, that was a kind of joke. By the time I joined, the outfit was alreay the FSF, the Federal Supplementary Force. But our roots were in a private corporation called Blackwater, run by the guy with the poncy name, you know, Royance Rajah, that was it ... in it? Pardon? Oh, the black water? Some kind of macrobiotic vitamin supplement that Paris was trying to get everyone to indulge in. That was the year before she made the mistake of banning hamburgers, and go assassinated by the nuke which took out her convoy on the road to Dallas.
Me? No, I never had the pleasure. Anyway, I don't begin to believe those rumors.
Mr Rajah? Is that a serious question? He's now the National Supervisor of North Korea.
You know, to tell the truth, when Paris won, I thought we were doomed. But nuking PyongYang, that made the whole North Korean weapons of mass destruction problem go away.
And nationalizing the North's organ donor resource, that was simply brilliant.
And then the simple way in which Bubble Girl wrapped up the whole ball of wax - have Rajah kidnap the entire Islamic leadership and Cheops the whole lot north of the Yalu River in Camp Macarthur, that was peerless.
What? No, I don't regret that and I never will. That baby was a bit too much on the bony side, if you want my honest opinion.S