Serialized Science Fiction.

Batter Up
Tom Haynes

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This guy was munching down on my neck, why? Hell, I know he's a vampire, but of all the ball players in the world, why was he feeding off of me?

I knew one way or the other my life was over. You know that old cliche, that your life passes before you at the end, well it's only partially true; I got the highlights. I'm thinking it had something to do with too many late night rehashes of my life on either ESPN or the Biography channel.

My father was weird, on the one hand he liked Joseph Heller, and on the other, he liked Frank Sinatra, hence, my name. My mother was too wise to "Von", but in a fit of desperation, "Vaughn" stuck. At least I didn't have to find out in school that I wasn't who I thought I was.

Anyway, I can't carry a note if my life depended on it, but I did join the Army for a little while. I spent four glorious years leading the cadets on the diamond and cruising through an EE degree. I'm one of the only people in the world who got drafted to get out of the Army. I went in as a mediocre shortstop/pitcher and emerged as the darling of the College World Series. Since West Point had never even won its conference, my hitting stood out even more. My fastball was called "The Express".

The Yankees drafted me in the first round, hoping to get me out of my commitment as an Officer and a Gentleman. While the rest of my class were honing their skills in farm clubs, I was eating up Airborne and Ranger training - I had gone 11 Bravo. I spent the next season in Iraq and took a bullet to my throwing shoulder. My wound even made ESPN, but not how I got it. Luckily, by then, the media was jaded by the whole Jessica Lynch thing and Sammy Sosa's corking at that point. I got the Silver Star for the first part of the action and shunted into black ops for the second part of that action. If it hadn't been for the second part, when I got wounded, I probably would have gotten the Congressional Medal of Honor. To this day, the SARS virus is still the officially listed cause of wiping out that base, and the village next to it.

I spent all of the next season training and working in Afghanistan. The training was pretty basic, just don't feel anything as you kill your fellow man. Anyway, they rushed me through their brainwashing too fast - parts of it didn't stick. I'd already lost all qualms about killing, it was the win at all costs attitude which I had trouble condoning. The training I had gotten in the Regular Army all stressed team work and not letting your buddies down. The CIA training was supposed to wipe that crap out of my system.

I had been sent back to Iraq and joined up with an established unit. We had been sent in to torture some brother of a palace guard into revealing information that should have lead to Saddam. They strung out a platoon of Rangers as a perimeter and told them we were raiding a "Weapons of Mass Destruction" site. Anyway, we had barely started pulling this guy's fingernails when all hell broke out; guess he really knew something. As a mob of guerrillas opened up on us, the first shot went through the brain of our prisoner. We pulled out, the Rangers, hell it was my old unit, providing cover fire.

We got back to the LZ and the real Company man told the LT in charge of the Rangers that their chopper was late, but on the way. We had struck pay dirt, the first real lead on the weapons, and by the way, could they provide a perimeter as we took off? The greenie saluted and order his men back into the night.

As we took off, I heard the pilot ask the man if he was to go back for the platoon after dropping us off; the other chopper had been called away to deliver some steak to some General's party. The man

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