Episode 9 - He who doesn't fear death dies only once

It's been two long weeks. Daniel E. Hughes is gone for sure. With no shelter and food he couldn't have made this far alive. He wasn't that smart either, he left his compass back in his tent. Roy, who was in charge of Dan, is doing a bit better after Sgt. Palmer told him it was Daniel's own fault. I have to agree with the sarge. Dan was as selfish as they come; since we arrived at the ridge he only cared about himself. A week after Dan disappeared, Major Munsch assigned another EPA researcher to the Pond Patrol Team. Dr. Jeff Johnson arrived last Wednesday morning, wearing a bright yellow jacket and a M9 MM pistol. He served with the Coast Guard in the late 1980's and is also a Wildlife Biologist with a major on Molecular Toxicology. Dr. Johnson seems interesting, always eager to help and really sure of himself. He even offered to help unload the cargo from the helicopter, but of course I ended up doing it by myself. Earlier this week I served as Captain Schneider's co-pilot on a search and rescue flight. Beside the awful circumstances of our time together, I really enjoyed her company. We talked about her days in the Marines and the Pond Patrol Mission. She found the "giant reptile story" to be hilarious and told me I could use a new razor blade pointing at the knicks on my chin. She's a beautiful woman. I took this picture of Roy and Ben while flying over the valley. Back at Base Camp the past week was tough. Search expeditions intensified as the weeks went by. Even Professor Evgeny was involved. We were dispatching groups of 3 and depending on the terrain to be covered, sometimes a single group. Somedays we would cover over 15 square kilometers. On Friday while searching the north banks of the pond, I found footprints of civilian shoes leading towards a stack of rocks, just east of the waterfall. Sitting on top of a flat mossy rock there was Dan's shoulder bag and camera. I immediately radioed my position and Dr. Johnson who was close by, was the first to arrive. The camera had only 2 shots taken, it looked like he just left his stuff there. But the most disturbing part was in his sketch book; several drawings of pre-historical turtles and field notes. If I wasn't the first one at the scene I would've probably never got to see his eccentric theories. I gotta tell the rest of the men about it. With day light becoming shorter this time of the year, cold night temperatures and about three weeks of rescue efforts, Sgt. Palmer decided it was enough. Major Munsch gave the bad news to Dan's parents this afternoon, I heard they were close friends. - If Daniel is anywhere around here, he is at the bottom of the pond - said Dr. Johnson. - It will take months to find a body down there - said the Professor, remembering the clean up and decontamination process of the Mulberry Pond back in 1983. I'm mentally exhausted and physically worn-out. The sky is clear tonight. The stars are just hanging up there, looking at me. I feel bad, almost guilty. Rest in peace Dan. At least, I hope you found what you were seeking.

by Corporal John Harris, November 03, 2005