Episode 50 - Knowing the truth made you a traitor as it often does in a time of scoundrels

Being out on patrol by Mount McMillan's Cliff was a welcoming change. It made me think of the day we arrived at the Mulberry Ridge. I can’t believe one year has passed. It’s much colder this September and the rain has visited us every evening for the past week. Rodrigues, Malloy and Brian followed me through a muddy ravine 5 miles north from the old Mulberry Ridge Laboratories, home of the extinct 1980’s Space Reactor Program. I was feeling pretty good that morning. Sun rays lit up the reddish rocks. We could hear the bugling from bull elks in the distance, a sign that their breeding season had started. Yep, autumn is certainly around the corner, I thought to myself. To change things a bit, I took the patrolling team uphill to get a better view of the ravine. We had hiked just about 2 clicks when Rodrigues spotted something down the ravine side. Using combat hand signals, he pointed towards a blue blurry silhouette of a man. - It’s Dr. Johnson! - said Malloy, almost giving up our cover behind the tall grass. - What is he doing out here? Alone? Wasn’t he supposed to be at Base Camp with the Professor and Redman? - I whispered, looking to Brian for an explanation. He just gave me a blank look. Was he pretending not to know anything? Well, maybe he didn’t but I couldn’t trust him anyway. The doctor loved his company. To make me more curious, Dr. Johnson was carrying that metallic box, which contained the tracking device Malloy and I saw last week. I had to investigate but I needed to get rid of Brian first. He would blow our cover, I just knew it. I instructed Rodrigues to go back to Base Camp and take Brian with him. - If Private Harvey makes a noise, shoot him. Understand? - I told Rodrigues, who looked confused but nodded in understanding. - But Sir!? - said Brian stomping on some dried twigs, making excessive noise on purpose. - Listen, follow my orders or I’ll make sure you never use those legs again! - I hissed while pointing in his face. I was within my rights to send Brian back and he knew it. Rodrigues and Brian started to walk up the trail. Brian tried again to make noise by brushing against a dead tree branch but Rodrigues shoved him with his rifle. Right then, I knew it was safe to proceed down to the ravine with no worries. Malloy and I found cover behind a massive boulder a few yards from the Doctor. He kept walking, as if looking for something, undisturbed. - Didn’t he know we were going to be on patrol in this area? - I asked Malloy. - Probably not. I don’t remember seeing him at breakfast. - she replied. Dr. Johnson stopped. He pulled his binoculars out and started looking towards the top of the ravine. - What’s he looking at? - Malloy asked me. I leaned on the boulder trying to get a better view of the doctor. - Something up there, I’m not sure - I whispered looking up to the crest of the hill. I looked back at Dr. Johnson and saw he had a faint smile on his face. Without my binoculars it was hard to see what he was seeing. I felt Malloy pulling on my jacket furiously. She then pointed straight above us. My heart probably skipped a few beats. There, 12 yards above us, a raggedy looking soldier, his face covered in bandages, stared at us. - It’s my friend Ben!!! - I said to Malloy excitedly. I tried to get a response from Ben with some hand signals but he ignored me. He slowly backed up ‘til he finally disappeared behind the hill top. The doctor looked satisfied and started to make his way west, towards Base Camp. I was speechless. Ben was alive; it made me happy. But seeing him in such bad shape made me feel nauseous. After Dr. Johnson disappeared through the reddish rocks, Malloy and I tried to catch up with Ben up on the hill. He was long gone. - I believe Willis was doomed to share Ben’s fate when he was attacked by the turtle at the pond. But he never made it out alive. I wonder who’s going to be next?… - I asked Malloy on our way back to Base Camp. - How about Daniel, the other EPA guy? What do you think happened to him, Harris? - Malloy asked me, suddenly understanding the whole plot. - I’m starting to think it was no accident. I replied. - And…what are we doing about the Doctor? - asked Malloy again. - I have plans for him, but first, I need to take some precautions - I told her. Back at Base Camp, I went straight for my duffle bag, where I kept Ben’s x-ray and the turtle scute. - Gone! Everything’s gone! The letter… Baxter!!!- I said, infuriated. Inside the bag, I found a few of my clothes and a sneaky little mouse. - The bastards got me! It’s just a matter of time now. What am I going to do? - I asked Malloy while grabbing the little mouse and setting him loose. Malloy lifted her right boot and the little fellow vanished between the wooden crates. That night, I packed my bags and hid them behind the mulberry tree.

by Corporal John Harris, September 14, 2006