Episode 21 - If the enemy is in range, so are you.

It was Tuesday afternoon. Argo3, the mini-sub, had stopped working the day before. With the underwater cameras malfunctioning, Argo3 was our only way to retrieve images and assure the Cobalt Bomb was secure without moving the warhead out of the water. So our mission that morning was to recover the mini-sub and do it as fast as possible. According to our last reading, the water temperature in the pond was 43 F degrees, a little too cold if you ask me. Ben and I suited up. Our diving suits would take care of the cold water for a while but hypothermia was a concern. The professor gathered his tools and we loaded the Jeep with our gear. Roy came along with us to make company to the Professor while Ben and I were in the water. It was a risky mission. We were diving under ice and the possibility of an encounter with our "turtle monster" was frightening. We followed the trail to the old waterfall and stopped by the only ice opening in the pond's surface. I made Ben double check his scuba equipment. We were only diving 35 meters down but everything had to go perfect. I then plunged into the icy pond followed by Ben. The water was clear and our descent was flawless. Once at the bottom of the pond we had to locate Argo3. I signaled Ben to proceed behind me. We came across an old tree trunk and I spotted a whitish fragment beneath its roots. I signaled Ben again, this time to stop. I swam to the other side of the tree trunk and almost choke on my mouthpiece: There, sitting at the bottom of the pond was a human skeleton. I got closer. Ben was swimming right behind me. And then I saw that the skeleton still had a watch around its wrist. It was Dan's watch! We started to collect some of the scattered bones, including a femur showing signs of trauma. I knew Dan's remains weren't part of our mission. But I felt the need to do something about them. I think Ben thought the same. All of a sudden most of the fish around us disappeared. I picked up my knife and signaled Ben to do the same. Out of nowhere the giant turtle angrily lunged towards Ben. He jerked his body to the right fast enough to miss the turtle's mouth. The turtle turned around and dove one more time in our direction, but this time I hit the beast with Dan's femur right at the side of its head. The turtle, making an escape, sunk its claws on Ben's left arm. I could see the blood floating in the water. We had to get out of there. Ben gave me an O.K. sign and we started to swim to the the surface. - Is everything alright? - asked the professor. It was just too much information to share in one phrase and honestly, I didn't have much of a breath left to speak. Roy spotted the injury on Ben's arm and started the Jeep. I got the walkie-talkie out of the dashboard and radioed the sarge to get the first aid kit ready. Ben insisted he was ok but by the amount of blood on his wet suit I didn't want to take any chances. Sgt. Palmer didn't ask a word. Upon arrival at Base Camp, the sarge had the whole table ready for the worst, full of medical supplies. - Let's see that arm private! - said the sarge to Ben. With a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a huge cotton ball the sarge started to clean Ben's wound. It was a minor cut but deep enough to need some stitches. Since Ben was the only man in our team trained on Emergency Medical Treatment, I had to assist him with the suture of the wound. We told our story to the others. Unfortunately we didn't bring any evidence or remains of Dan's skeleton. The sarge asked me several times if I was sure about the watch. - How can you be so sure Harris? - asked the sarge for the fifth time. So I told him I remembered seeing Dan's watch off his wrist many times when he washed his clothes. I even told him about the argument I had with Dan last year, about not doing his chores around camp and how the men used to joke about the watch. It was Dan for sure. I had no doubt about it. Argo3 had not scanned that part of the pond probably because of the tree trunk. And speaking about the mini-sub, it still is at the bottom of the pond to be recovered. And that's not good, man.

by Corporal John Harris, February 02, 2006