Danger Close
oblivious, into the prison. Shots began to crack and zip all over the facility. I grabbed Mo and Bang-Bang and hustled them to the safety of a revetment. Bang-Bang’s two little retainers had also tagged along with us and she was scolding them in Pashto. She kissed them both and then they grinned and ran down the fenceline.
    She turned to us. ‘They’re safer going the other way. They’ll get out, they’ll be OK.’
    We huddled and waited. In the distance the runway lights started flashing bizarre patterns. FlameLite was here and directing planes into each other. Without warning a taxiing USAF C17 ran into an Italian Air Force Aermacchi and blew up, turning the night into a blinding hellish day and throwing flickering shadows everywhere. Fragments hit the flightline of ISAF F16s and the first two exploded. Debris pattered around us in a patina of dust. All over the base prisoners and black-clad Afghan military police were boiling out of doors and gates and turning the place into a floodlit riot. As I watched, a star shell whooshed into the air and detonated, throwing this whole side of the base into a wobbly magnesium glare.
    Bang-Bang lit her homemade cigarette and took a long drag. She didn’t offer it around so it obviously had to be full of smack. She glanced at both of us. ‘Next time we go on holiday can we go somewhere safer, like the Congo?’
    We all cracked up. I looked down and checked we still had the kitbags with the uniforms. We did. I looked left. ‘Holly. Ambulance line. Let’s move.’
    She nodded. ‘Straight up this fenceline and right at that hangar.’
    I whacked Mo on the shoulder. We ran for the ambulance park. Two hundred metres later we were rounding the hangar. Bang-Bang skidded to a halt and put her hands on her head.
    ‘What’s the matter babe, I see a nice lovely line of ambulances?’
    She pointed at a line of shipping containers opposite. ‘It’s gone.’
    ‘What’s gone?’
    ‘That container. That Nazi container full of GUNS! It’s gone…’
    Sure enough, like a gap in a line of teeth, was an empty space in the line of containers. Just sand and dirt.
    I patted her arm. ‘Nothing we can do about it for now- let’s get an ambo started. C’mon.’
    I jogged to the nearest one. One thing I did know about the standard operational procedures at US detention facilities was that emergency vehicles could not be detained at the outer gates. We had a chance. Our noise was covered by a roar of a Chigo air conditioner set in the Portakabin by the trucks. I looked the vehicle over. It was a Unimog truck, in khaki with big red crescents on the side. This was a turnup. In my misspent teenage years I’d once stolen one of these to order, for a ‘Mog enthusiast. I thought I remembered how to start and drive one of these. Hopefully.
    I called to Mo. ‘Dude! Jump in the back and see if you can find any tools for me.’
    ‘On it.’
    The main cab was unlocked. I climbed in the driver’s side and Bang-Bang got in the other. We put the medic greens on over our clothes. I turned an interior light on and studied the spartan dashboard.
    Bang-Bang was rooting in the storage bins. She produced some water bottles and a Michelin map and grinned at me. She then grinned even more widely and produced the compass from her prayer mat. This was also, hopefully, a start. Mo reappeared by my opened door with a kitbag full of tools. ‘Waddya need Riz?’
    ‘Biggest hammer you got and maybe a screwdriver or a blade.’
    He rummaged in it and handed me a lumphammer and a set of wirestrippers. OK. Time to go to work. First I reached under my seat and flicked the battery master switch on. Then I half-stood in the cab and whacked the ignition switch with the hammer until it fell off. I reached inside the hole and yanked out all the wires I could. Now instinct and a short career in joyriding took over. I selected the correct wires and stripped the ends with the wirestrippers. The engine began to crank, then

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