Episode 44 - If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there

I had a hunch that Dr. Johnson was up to no good. His secret radio transmission last week, confirmed my suspicions. I know now, that he is somewhat responsible for Ben’s condition. It explains why he never followed up with Ben after seeing the huge scab on his neck some time ago. The doctor saw it and didn’t do anything about it. Apparently, after the night I caught Dr. Johnson speaking with Dr. Ivanov on the radio, he turned the “sonic transducers” on. Whatever these things are, they certainly changed things around. The Giant Turtle started to show up here and there and as the week went by, things got worse. Base Camp was visited by the turtle quite a few times since Saturday. Private Harvey had a close encounter with the animal last Monday night, forcing our entire team to be on high alert day and night. Over the week, I tried to contact Ben with no success. If the “sonic transducers” were doing something to the turtles, it was possible they could be affecting Ben as well. But I’m just guessing. It seems I’ve been doing lots of that lately. Our fire team was spreading itself too thin. Patrolling the pond and protecting Base Camp from another turtle attack became too much for only 4 marines. Hearing about our troubles, Major Munsch dispatched another fire team to the area. Coming from Camp Lejeune, where our platoon is stationed, Pond Patrol’s Third Force Recon Team 2 arrived yesterday morning. Our helicopter cruised down atop the Abrams River, while Sgt. Palmer and I drove the Jeep to the rendezvous point. Upon our arrival, the new team had already unloaded their gear out of the helicopter. Their team leader was Corporal Dalton James Malloy, a cute girl I had met back when I was taking my Combat Diver classes in Panama City. At the time she was stationed with the NCSC (Naval Coastal Systems Center), as a corpsman. She walked to the Jeep and introduced herself to the sarge. She didn’t remember me. In fact she didn’t even bother to acknowledge my presence. Looking at the new jarheads, I also recognized another familiar face: Private Carlos Rodrigues, the Communications Officer who had broken his arm in one of the watchtowers, back when Roy and I were gone for Christmas. Among the others, there were Private Henry Willis, a quiet kid from Washington, DC and a Private First Class called Joel Redman, who was trying his best to look cool. We haven’t had the presence of a lady in the Mulberry Ridge in quite sometime. So it was obvious that even the sarge was thrilled to have Corporal Malloy around. On our way back to Base Camp, he insisted on driving, having Dalton James by his side. The cool kid, Private Redman, made himself comfortable on the back of the Jeep. The others followed behind, having me astern, guarding the back of the line. We all got along well. But at night when Sergeant Palmer decided to have me as a Team Leader instead of Dalton James, things got a little ugly. - What’s wrong with me? Is it because I’m a woman? - Corporal Malloy asked furiously. - I’m sure you’re very capable, but Corporal Harris has a lot more knowledge about this area, besides John is a Corporal First Class and you just turned a Corporal not too long ago, am I right, Miss Dalton? - said the sarge in a very polite manner. Dalton James, shook her had and acknowledged the facts: - Aye, aye Sir! - she responded frustrated. She looked at me and gave me the meanest look I’ve seen from a woman. We finished setting up the new tents and planned a few things for the next day. The sarge split up the new Recon Teams, having Roy, Willis, Redman and himself up at Base Camp with the doctor and the professor. The remaining team members formed the pond patrolling unit: Malloy, Harvey, Rodrigues and I. Next day, following hydrographic recon protocols, I took my newly assembled team to the pond. I had Malloy and Harvey as my gunners; Rodrigues worked the radio and helped me with the binoculars. Within a few hours, Rodrigues spotted the turtle: - There, 20 meters at 3 o’clock! - said Rodrigues quietly. And there it was, sitting by pond’s shore, underneath a shady marsh; the Giant Turtle seemed to be waiting for prey. Rodrigues was shocked. That was Brian’s first time seeing the turtle after being attacked. - Where? I don’t see it! - said Malloy baffled. I pointed my index finger towards the marsh. Looking through the machine gun’s scope she made visual contact. - Oh, my God! Look at the size of that thing! - she whispered. Our orders were not to shoot, unless things got out of hand. But the turtle didn’t move. It just sat there for hours, like in a trance. We kept our position. But after a long 30 minutes, slowly, the turtle disappeared in the water. For safety we kept an eye on the pond for another hour. It was now 2000 hours and the sun was just going down, painting a thick red line on the clouds above the mountains. It was time to get back. On the trail to Base Camp, Brian made a joke: - Man, you could feed turtle soup to an entire Battalion for days! - he said smacking his lips. We all laughed nervously. Rodrigues, who hadn’t said a word yet after seeing the turtle, then asked me: - When I got my arm checked up in Twentynine Palms before deployment, some nurse told me there rumors about a “turtleman” running around this area. Is it true? - I chocked. I didn’t want to answer his question. - I’m hungry and tired, Rodrigues. All I see is a bunch of turtle ladies! Let’s get moving people! - I yelled. Dalton James looked at me with sympathy. She knew that the “turtleman” was my friend.

by Corporal John Harris, July 27, 2006