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In Homecoming, Rose and Dimitri travel back to his hometown of Baia , Russia to see his family for the first time since being restored from a strigoi. He voices his worries about seeing them again due to his transgressions as a strigoi, but Rose reassures him that his family won't concern themselves with his past and will only be happy to see him again.

When they get there there is a Homecoming party until the local Alchemist , Henry , comes in and says that more and more people are getting killed by a strigoi called the Blood King. The Blood King is an old Strigoi who has become a legend around the area, causing many delusional humans to believe that they can kill him and become the next big-shot vampire hunter. Yeva makes a prediction where she says, "Only someone who has walked the road of death can kill the Blood King," prompting Dimitri's younger sister Viktoria to comment that Dimitri has walked the road of death and returned, referencing to his time as a strigoi.

Dimitri agrees to go after the Blood, only accepting Mark's request to join him. Rose immediately starts to protest that she go too, only for Dimitri to respond affectionately that "[He] figured it was a given".

Homecoming and Identity: A Short Story

Mark, Dimitri, and Rose consult the maps and surveys Henry has brought to plan out a course of action on the cavernous mountains. After Henry comments that the area is small and he can't figure out why no one can track him in the caves during the day, Rose realizes that the caverns are all connected underground, allowing him to move around during the day. They make the trip to the mountain, scale the cliff face, and then plan to wait in an open area until nightfall in an attempt to draw the Blood King out into the open.

As they wait, the three converse until Dimitri hears a noise behind a rock pile. He signals to Rose and Mark to keep talking while he sneaks around to check it out. A few minutes later, Mark and Rose hear a 'yelp' and run to see what Dimitri found. A young human from the local village, Ivan Grigorovitch , scaled the mountain in an attempt to find and kill the Blood King. Dimitri tells him to leave, but Ivan adamantly states that he can aid them in the fight.

Rose tells him they have it under control, and Mark and Dimitri both tell him again to leave. They watch as he makes his way back down the mountain, and then resume to wait and talk until the sun goes down. As they wait in the darkness for the Blood King, they begin to believe he is bidding his time until they all hear an earsplitting scream. Ivan never really left, and becomes a prisoner of the Blood King in the caves, forcing the trio to enter and search for the strigoi and Ivan just as the Blood King wanted. Waiting for the main element to arrive would have cost far too much precious time.

We are from the United States military and are investigating a bomb explosion that happened here two days ago. I am so sorry we barged in here. Can you explain why you have this rifle in your house? Leila translated the exchange and was shocked to find both Price and the Captain enraged. The violent act forced the father to crumble to the ground but not lose consciousness. The little girl shrieked. The mother began to tear silently. Tell the fucking hajji to stop lying! Hajji was meant to connote a sense of respect for a Muslim man that had completed the pilgrimage to Mecca.

HOMECOMING and Other Short Stories

Throughout the deployment, however, the Soldiers began to use the term pejoratively, a catchall term for the enemy. A shrill would be incredibly counterproductive as she wanted to de-escalate not heighten the situation. Emotions most strongly resembling hatred flowed through his words, emanated from his hardened facial expression.

Do you know where the materials came from? The father could only shake his head in confusion. This did not appease Price and the Captain, who heaved the father onto his feet and forced him outside. This act shook the mother, a woman just slightly older than Leila, from her quiet and composed stance. Tell them not to bring him away! We had nothing to do with the bomb, we know nothing!! By the time Price returned, the team had completed their search of the house.

There were no explosive materials, no electronics out of the ordinary and no dangling wayward wires. You are breaking international law. These are not enemy combatants, but civilians. Civilian children. As the Civil Affairs team escorted the boys outside, the mother started a scene. She plied herself against Leila, and once she recognized that Captain Bauer was the one in authority, she threw herself at his feet and without any semblance of self-consciousness or shame began to kiss his combat boots. The Baathists had never taken any of her family away. We are on your side! Please have mercy on us.

This was frankly unbearable. The feet kissing prompted Brett Bauer to release the boys, but not the father. After relaying the requisite reports back to the TOC, the team gathered together, verified that there was nothing to collect as evidence against the family and cut the zip-ties off the two sons. As the convoy left to return back to the Compound, Leila looked back after the convoy had created some distance and observed, with no room for question, the boys bent over a bush retching violently. These were unpleasant memories, Leila acknowledged, as she shook her thoughts back to the present.

For his troubles, Jusef Aboona was released with a few thousand dinars in paltry compensation, approximately the same amount that Wisam had received almost 36 hours prior. Leila had to wonder if there was a separate orchestrated plan by the locals behind the scenes. After that mission, Leila had no choice but to view her team and its mission in the country differently.

She had joined the military six years prior with noble ideations of pubic service and duty to country, grandiose notions of Americana that were just about laughable at this point. Back then, America was in a heady state of global prestige and undisputed dominance. No one could possibly imagine that America would be sucked into war, and certainly not by a transnational non-state organization, one without even a standing army.

She remembers participating in a land navigation class. She was huddled around a military map with Specialist Judy Preston and Sergeant Suzy Davey when the TAC Training and Advisor Counselor came into the room and announced that America was under attack and to promptly return back to their barracks.

The attacks had filled her with rage. Who could do this to her homeland? For while credos are infallible, institutions and the fragile personnel within are not. What did this all mean? Right as Leila drifts off to sleep, she feels the pull of the C descending into Ramstein Air Base to refuel.


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The abrupt landing jolts her and the rest of the passengers from their daze. As the group makes their way into the terminal, they are immediately assaulted with celebratory shouts, bright posters and applause. It is an all-volunteer group from the USO, a group that had tracked their flight and was ready to receive them when they landed. One particular gentleman with a VFW cap stops each Soldier as he passes with a handshake and a pat on the back. He stops at Leila and the smile turns into a restrained grin.

Leila returns the grin with a small degree of discomfort. Is that what her deployment would boil down to? She shakes off the slight and sits down in a chair, counting down the minutes before she can board the bird again and receive a real nap. As she reaches into her duffel bag for a bag of Skittles, she feels a gentle tap on the shoulder.

Miss… Miss nothing.


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My name is Chuck. Listen, I apologize for that… that… eh… glitch back there. See, my grand daughter — her name is Shirley — just signed up for the Army yesterday. The fact that she might get sent to the sandbox. She was worn-out and in no mood to handle senior citizen frailties and emotions. She had enough on her plate already. Furthermore, she was tired of always serving as a general reference point for service members of the perceived genteel gender.

Most days, she resigned herself to the simple fact that she would have to demonstrate her own merits, her own personality, in her own time. But today, right at that moment, she has had enough. She stares at Chuck, wondering how her response would be received. He remains apologetic.

She is in American air space, landing on American ground. She is home. For the first time in what feels like ages, she feels completely unified with everyone in the aircraft, her brothers and sisters in arms. Standing to her left is Private First Class Edkins holding a basket of white roses. You will pick up exactly one white rose from Edkins and drop it in the basket held by Mrs. Tellers and express your deepest sympathies in whatever way you feel is appropriate. One team, one fight. Have I made myself clear? The drunken elation quickly sobers.

The group exits the plane slowly and somberly, each Soldier carrying a duffle bag on the left shoulder and keeping the right shoulder free to conduct this rather peculiar ritual. The June North Carolina air feels sticky, already saturated with voracious mosquitos. Humidity had become an unfamiliar acquaintance by this point.

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In the far distance, as Leila starts walking down the staircase, she can see the crowd of happy family members and friends eager to finally reconnect with their loved ones. She squints her eyes but is not sure if her friends Shavonne and Suzanna are meeting her here. She needs a ride back to her apartment. Leila reaches into the basket and plucks a perky white rose from PFC Edkins. She takes two steps and sees Shandra Tellers, pale with dyed brown locks, eyes already streaked from tears causing her mascara to scurry down her cheeks.

Shandra is dressed in all black, as if attending a funeral. They both watch the rose tumble on the ground haphazardly out of line. Leila scampers to pick it up and attempts to return and correct the situation, but by the time she returns to Shandra, she is already engaged with Sergeant Kramer and receiving his emotional condolences for her loss. While in the military she deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. Since leaving the uniformed service, she has continued to seek opportunities for public service by interning with the Office of Under Secretary of Defense — Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics and the U.

Embassy in Beijing. She received her undergraduate degree in international studies with a minor in women and gender studies from The College of New Jersey. In her free time, she enjoys competitive karaoke and running.

Audrey grew up in Ramsey, New Jersey. Hsieh, Audrey.

Short Story: The Homecoming

Humanity in Action, Inc. An S2 is the Intelligence Staff Officer for a military unit. This abbreviation is commonly used in military bases as well as posts overseas. An Army Specialist is an E-4, or three pay grades higher than the most junior Private. Army Specialists are traditionally expected to be technical experts within their Specialty in imminent preparation for their promotion to the Non-Commissioned Officer NCO Corps, a promotion that will place them in direct supervision of Junior Soldiers.

Civil Affairs soldiers serve as the link between U. Forces and the local population. As the Senior NCO, Leila has the responsibility for ensuring good order and discipline within her own ranks. A few thousand dinars would equal approximately a few U. EOD service members are responsible for mitigating the risks of explosive hazards within a predetermined area. United States. Introduction and Acknowledgements This story blends my experiences in the U. Baghdad, Iraq As the C aircraft cleared Iraqi air space, Leila heaved her Individual Ballistic Armor vest over her head and slowly rubbed the indents on both shoulders.

I need to help pack his belongings Citation Hsieh, Audrey. References 1. Share this Article. Audrey Hsieh Senior Fellow. Browse all content.