4. So Builds An Absolute Trust

It’s 1986, and Sara O’Neill is pregnant. Jack and Frank are  on a top secret mission to Nicaragua, where they run into some trouble when Frank is wounded and Jack is captured by government forces. And that’s just the beginning of their problems…

There is no art
To find the mind’s construction in the face:
He was a gentleman on whom I built
An absolute trust.

— Shakespeare, Macbeth

Nicaragua, 1986


Several heads turned at the unexpected exclamation, as Jack O’Neill flung his pack into the back of the battered old truck, ignoring a dour look from the CIA agent overseeing this departure.

Frank Cromwell hid an amused smile, fanning himself with his cap. The rest of the men, most of whom spoke no English, continued loading crates into the back of the truck, apparently dismissing this latest outburst and Jack’s enthusiasm as typical American idiocy. They’d only been in Honduras two days, Frank reflected, and already the Nicaraguan contra rebels at this training camp had taken to calling his best friend “el Americano loco.”

Jack’s sense of humor didn’t always translate well into Spanish.

Hell, lots of times Jack’s jokes were incomprehensible in English, he thought, as the truck’s engine started with a reluctant growl. And he’d had years to get used to it.

He patted his jacket pocket for the third time this morning, where his fake identity papers were carefully hidden. Not that he thought anybody inside Nicaragua would believe two gringos carrying MP-5s were really Bob and Joe Valentine, clueless American businessmen who really thought they were going to make a fortune in a country in the middle of a civil war. It was hardly a secret anymore that the CIA was involved in helping the contras, although the extent of that help wasn’t public knowledge — yet. They both knew if the government authorities found out they were around, they were royally screwed, no matter how authentic their IDs looked.

All the same, Frank was as happy to finally be heading for action as Jack was. Even if he wasn’t quite as obvious about saying so.

“That’s it, then,” Jack told the CIA guy, whose name was Mark. Or at least, that was the only name he ever gave anybody at the base, but everyone knew it was a code name. Jack had wasted no time in telling anybody who’d listen that it was a damn unoriginal one. And had from then on referred to the man as “the Great and Powerful Oz”, claiming it was just as likely to be correct and a hell of a lot more fun to say.

‘Mark’ was not amused.

“We’re off,” Jack went on, opening the door to the truck cab.

“…to see the Wizard!” Frank finished with him, whacking the back of Jack’s head with his cap.

The expression on their commander’s face wasn’t exactly a strong vote of confidence in their ability to handle weeks undercover behind enemy lines. Sure, they had five years’ service in Special Ops and a Purple Heart each, but they’d also developed a certain reputation while training for their temporary duty in Nicaragua. Cromwell’s pretty much a straight arrow, their instructors at the Farm would say, but O’Neill… he’s a loose cannon, all right, you gotta watch him.

This was their first assignment with the CIA’s Special Operations Group, and none of the paramilitary types at this camp or back at the Farm had ever seen them in action. If it weren’t for the glowing recommendations they’d both gotten from former Air Force team leaders, they probably never would’ve been given this duty at all. But Frank knew, like their former COs all knew, that when the chips were down Jack O’Neill was a damn fine operator, for all his outrageous pranks in training. And sometimes in the field, when it all hit the proverbial fan, creative interpretations of the regs weren’t always a bad thing.

He watched as Jack threw a sloppy salute in Mark’s direction, before they both climbed into the truck. The spooks might be fooled by Jack’s casual attitude and never-ending quest to get on his superiors’ nerves. But Frank knew there was a hell of a lot more to Jack O’Neill than met the eye. And there was no one he’d rather have watching his six on a mission like this.

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