Episode 3 - The arrival

Sgt. Palmer, Ben and Roy were the first group to leave this morning to survey and patrol the landing site before bringing the researchers. Those were their orders. I stayed with the second group which included Dan and the professor. We left around 1500 hours. It wasn't till then that I met Jill Schneider, our pilot. A girl, like Roy had said. She was brief but polite. Dan sat in the front. The professor and I sat in the back with some of our gear . Dan's so rude. If you ever flew in the back of a Littlebird helicopter you know what I'm saying, it's way to small. And to let the oldman fly in the back was just wrong. I'm not sure why they call it the Mulberry Pond. On our fly by this afternoon it looked more like a lake. When I asked the professor why, he told me that there are no official definitions for generic terms when it comes to geographic names. He said the only area of general agreement is that perceptibly, a pond is smaller than a lake, but even that's not always true. Oh, well. When we arrived at the landing site, Sgt. Palmer had Ben and Roy scouting the outside limit of the forest. The Sgt. himself was sitting on a rock. After unloading the rest of the camping gear with Roy, I was properly introduced to "Captain" Schneider (she's a non-combatant but Sgt. Palmer ordered us to use her retired military rank). She will deliver the supplies and equipment needed for the mission, as well provide air support for research and recon maneuvers. She joked about being able to participate in the mission without having to sleep in a tent. "I wish I was that lucky!" - I replied, rousing a mean look from Sgt. Palmer. She also apologized for not dropping us off closer to our camp site. I thought she was nice and honestly, quite beautiful. I never expected to see such a pretty face in the military, specially on a helicopter commander. This makes the mission a little easier, not to mention it will distract me from thinking about Abey. After talking to Sgt. Palmer about the next supply drop off point, she flew away. We regrouped by the Wolf Rock trail and started to make our way to Camp Kowal, our future home for the next months. Sgt. Palmer led the way, followed by Dan, the professor, Roy and I. Ben protected the back of the line. Roy and I got stuck carrying the heavy wooden box with Professor Evgeny's lab materials. The walk was quiet and we kept a good pace since most of the hike was downhill. "What a great part of the country!" - said Dan. Everyone agreed. Including myself, to my surprise. To the left we had Wolf Rock, a massive ledge projecting a shelf on Mount McMillan's cliff. A rock climber's dream. To the right we could see parts of the Abrams River, coming in and out of the forest. With sunset approaching, the clouds over the west sky were tinted red, making the whole view even more impressive. It was a great day for terrain intelligence. About 1900 hours we were caught by a light thunderstorm. Sgt. Palmer decided to set camp with only 7 miles left to reach our destination. It was getting dark and professor Evgeny was showing signs of exhaustion, although he insisted he was fine. Nobody said much around dinner. Dan told us how his dad used to make mac&cheese with little smokies. It made me remember that Abey used to cook an awful pasta dish with Velveeta. Back then it was cute. But now, I can believe I ate it. It's really quiet in here. Too bad Roy's guitar didn't make it yet.

by Corporal John Harris, September 22, 2005