Episode 31 - Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth

Twenty years ago, life at the Mulberry Ridge came to a halt when the government, under former President Ronald Reagan presidency, turned the area into a nuclear dump site. The maneuver drove a third of a million birds away from their homes and triggered an epidemic of thyroid cancer in most mammals living in the region. Over the years, economic losses, health and cleanup costs have mounted into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Nowadays, even the almost extinct Gold-Chested Jack Rabbit populates the area again. As evidence of government bungling and secrecy, the Mulberry Ridge Pond has always been watched closely by the press. Because of the constant pressure by leading Media outlets over the years, Major Munsch finally agreed in letting a reporter pay a visit to the Ridge. Apparently a photographer from the National Geographic Magazine would arrive next week to document the changes in the area's ecosystem. Sergeant Palmer was furious. Although we haven't spotted the giant turtle in almost a month, there's always a possibility of a surpise encounter. - What if the photographer sees it? What am I supposed to do? Tell him the turtle is a new generation of amphibious vehicle? - said the sarge while talking to the major on the radio. We all knew what had to be done. Professor Evgeny started taking down his makeshift lab. All the classified equipment used for radiation readings had to be hidden somewhere. Private Brian and Ben had taken the Jeep to the watchtowers to hide the Ma Duces Machine Guns. I was instructed by the sarge to make sure the boat and the kayak were in top shape for the photographer's visit. Dr. Johnson had to retrieve some of his instruments from the pond and shut down Argo3 (the mini sub), so I got stuck with him all day. We had arguments right from the start. The motor for the boat was still in the woodshed. Without the Jeep it was going to be hard to move it to the pond, unless he gave me a hand. - I'm not lifting a thing! - said the doctor when I asked for his help. Since I'm not the kind of guy who asks for anything twice, I dropped my M60, picked up my much lighter M1 Rifle and grabbed the 60 lbs outboard motor myself. As I walked down the trail towards the pond, Dr. Johnson kept asking me to wait for him. - What a jerk! - I thought to myself. Once we arrived at the docking site, I made sure Dr. Johnson looked out for the giant turtle while I installed the motor onto the boat. I was almost done when he screamed: - Harris! The turtle, behind you! I almost had a heart attack. I reached for my rifle and looked down, only to see a small Spiny Softshell Turtle, basking at the shore of the pond. -Dammit, Jeff! I said furiously while throwing my screwdriver at him. He laughed for a while. After the motor was in place. We agreed that it was best if I stayed on shore while the Doctor retrieved his instruments and looked for Argo3 in the water. We then pushed the motor boat into the pond. While I checked my ammunition, the doctor got in the boat. He looked like an old man, with his fishing hat and his shotgun, almost loosing his balance as he climbed over the rubber sides of the vessel. He then turned the motor on, held his hat and took off in search of Argo3. Thankfully he didn't take more than 15 minutes in the water. After docking the boat back on shore, he pulled out a piece of his "Gamma Ray Flux Sensor". - Looking good, looking good...- said the doctor while inspecting what seemed to be honey combs made of lead. We finished our trip by sealing a hole in the back of the kayak. What worries me about having a reporter/photographer here is the herd mentality that media outlets have; they give us a billion stories about Scott Peterson and very few stories of any relevance. If the Mulberry Ridge story gets out there, I sure hope it doesn't get blown out of proportions. Dan's death, the missile, the radiation leak. Oh, boy... I hope the giant turtle keeps on hiding.

by Corporal John Harris, April 12, 2006