Episode 45 - It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong

Hard rain hit the Mulberry Ridge through out the last two weeks. Our satellite communication link was broken when a huge branch knocked down a parabolic antenna from one of the watchtowers. We were incommunicado for almost 12 days. The rain must’ve disabled the “Sonic Transducers” as well. The Giant Turtle vanished without a trace within the first day of our radio problems. It could’ve been a clue. Perhaps the “Sonic Transducers” were linked directly into our satellite signal. The rain finally stopped on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning a new antenna was delivered by Captain Schneider, and reconstruction of the communication network started at 0900 hours that day. The sarge assembled a team, which included him, our communication officer Roy, Private Willis and I. The others stayed at Base Camp cleaning up the mud from our equipment. As the designated driver, I stayed by the Jeep, while Roy and Willis worked on the parabolic antenna under sergeant’s supervision. The broken antenna was located about 50 meters from the pond. The water was murky and the pond had a lot of debris floating on its surface. I was bored. I was playing with the safe of my M-1 rifle when my radio came alive. At first I didn’t think much of it, since the guys were working on the satellite dish. But then I realized my radio was still on the frequency that Ben and I use. Ben and I talked briefly. We decided to meet at 1900, that evening at Penn’s Cave. It was going to be hard, especially with so many people around. The sarge noticed the radio in my hand. - Harris? Getting’ anything? - he screamed from the top of the watchtower. I switched radio frequencies and heard Henry Willis’ metallic voice through the speaker. - Operator Maintenance complete, Sir! BA-30 batteries are fully charged, Sir! - said Private Willis as he closed the LNB converter. After a quick call to Mission Control, the sarge sent Roy and I back to Base Camp while he stayed with Private Willis for a quick inspection of Argo3. Upon our arrival at the campsite, everything looked done. Tents were cleaned, some blankets were hanging to dry and I found Redman, Malloy and Dr. Johnson sitting at the dinner table. Private Rodrigues was cleaning his rifle by his tent. I took my vest off, helped myself to some fresh coffee. Roy made himself comfortable and picked up his guitar. Malloy and the Doctor were having a heated argument over the USMC and the Coastguard which Dr. Johnson was enlisted with in his young age. - The difference is the pride, Doc! How many Coastguard stickers do you see in car bumpers? Not a lot. But how about the Marines? The bumper stickers are everywhere! - said Corporal Malloy as she shook her index finger. She was right. But I already knew that. I decided to walk to my tent and plan my visit to Ben. I had to go alone and I had to find a way to leave Base Camp undetected. On my way to my tent, Dr. Johnson made an awful remark while poking me in the back: - What’s the matter “Johnny Boy”, gonna go back to your tent and cry about your nut case friend again? - said the Doctor almost singing. My face turned red. My chest inflated like a beach ball. I lost it. I clenched my fist and hit the doctor right in the nose. I haven’t punched anyone since Bobby Klauser, who tried to cheat me on a pool game back in Buffalo, NY. I was furious. The punch was so hard that the Doctor fell out of his chair and landed on the ground forcefully. Malloy and Redman were in shock. The Doctor was still on the ground when I jumped on top of his chest. - I ‘m sick of you and your cockiness, pal. I know what you’re up to. Better watch your back, Doc. - I told the Doctor with my fist still up in the air. Redman and Malloy were already up and ready to get me off Dr. Johnson’s face. Private Rodrigues just stared at the scene while Roy kept playing his guitar, as if the fight had its own theme song. Before I could say anything else, Malloy had my arm twisted against my back away from the doctor. - You’re gonna pay for this Harris. I swear! You better start packing your things up - said the doctor while spitting blood out of his mouth. That made me even madder. I tried to break free from Redman and Malloy. - We’ll see about that Doc. If I leave this place I’ll make sure you’re coming with me, preferably in a plastic bag. Get it? - I told the doctor as Redman pulled me away. Things calmed down for a while. The sarge arrived from the pond with Willis. I was counting that the Doctor would tell the sarge what happened. I thought I had a better chance to sneak out to meet Ben that way. But he didn’t say a word. Neither did the others. Later that evening Brian wouldn’t stop looking at me from the corner of his eyes. I got stuck washing the dinner dishes with him and he never let me out of his site. I screwed it all up. I never made it to the cave.

by Corporal John Harris, August 10, 2006