Episode 62 - We're all lonely for something we don't know we're lonely for

The fact that I ignored the Mulberry Ridge National Lab for this long was driving me crazy. It wasn’t too long ago that our fire team visited the ruins of the old laboratory. There was nothing there: a few standing buildings, but mostly rubble and wreckage everywhere. I felt like an idiot. I had to spend 13 weeks out in the boonies to finally find out that Dr. Ivanov was this close from me all along. Thank God for Baxter’s loud mouth. I was still intrigued though. What was he doing at the Lab? And did any of the other Marines know about this? It was no use to over think the answers. After my ambush to Baxter’s supply truck, I spent a few days hiding in the cave. By the radio chatter, there were lots of patrols around the area. They were probably looking for me: John Harris, the looter. But it was hard to seat still. On the second evening after the ambush, I decided to take a hike down to the old Lab ruins. It was supposed to be a short visit, a little reconnaissance visit, nothing more. The late-afternoon sun painted the stacks of monolithic clouds from a shy pink to a startling orange. As I geared up for my trek along the river, I began to get butterflies in my stomach. I grabbed a smoke grenade from one of the stolen cases and started to follow the red river down, towards the Wolf Rock trail. The night came quickly and the ensuing blackness made my stomach hurt even more. At some point a stick behind me cracked, breaking my concentration for a moment. I started doubting if I was ready to do this. Just before 1700 hours, I came around a corner and spotted a glare behind a hill. Lights: I had to be close. Distance to the top of the hill proved to be deceptive in the dark. I crossed a semi frozen swamp and halted on the other side to make sure I still had all my gear. When I finally reached the top, I peered over the hill and gasped in horrified terror: A two-story building, surrounded by a fence and crawling with personal stood in the middle of a clearing. A sign a few feet away warned any intruders: “Area 48 - Mulberry Ridge Research Facility - Use of deadly force authorized”. Even though I saw people in front of me, I never felt so alone in my life; out there by myself, just me and the enemy. My mouth went so dry my tongue stuck to my teeth. - God protect me. I’m going in - I thought afraid, while jumping the fence. This time, I was outnumbered by many. A single mistake and I could’ve been done. Through the dry brushes I spotted a few guards standing by the front entrance of the building. They talked quietly unaware of my presence. As slowly as I could, I shortened the distance between me and the building. An old MB Willys Jeep sat on the north side of the decrepit structure. - It would make good cover…- I thought. I raced out of the brushes and reached the Jeep. The guards didn’t detect me at all. The wind was on my side and the light was low. I looked around and assessed the situation. Equipped with night vision goggles, three guards hung by the entry way. Above me, a sentinel looked out from one of the balconies. Amongst the guards by the front entrance, a man wearing civilian clothes told jokes away, keeping the guards entertained. The old lab was well guarded. The only visible way in was through the portico. The sentinel on the second floor stood right on top of the door way, making my approach almost impossible. - This can’t be good… so many guards… what are they hiding in here? - I wondered. For a long time I just watched them, patiently hidden behind the old Jeep. Their laughter echoed through the thin cold air and a feeling of disdain took over my aching stomach. Finally, around 2230 hours, things started to change. The sentinel above me disappeared inside the building. Not long after, one of the guards by the front door went inside as well: change of shifts. My curiosity grew bigger. I found myself walking towards the front of the Jeep, getting closer to a window on the northeast side of the building. I peeked inside: the building was empty! Except for an elevator shaft on the left corner there was nothing there. - Perhaps they rebuilt the lab underground…- I imagined. My mind went for a spin:

- I should go in.
- Are you nuts? They will shoot you before you make it to the elevator.
- Yeah, but there’s no one on the ground floor. This could be a chance in a million!
- Good Lord, you’re a crazy fool John…!

So much for a “little reconnaissance visit”. The civilian and one guard still remained in front of the building. Before I knew it I was throwing rocks on the other side of the building trying to get the two men away from the door. One of the rocks hit the south end of the building startling the men. As I predicted, they walked away from the door and went looking for the cause of the noise. With the two of them gone I approached the entry. But it was a little too late. A shrieking noise coming from the metal balcony above told me that the sentinel was back on the first floor. Terrified I watched him as he turned a bright search light on. I ducked. The beam of light circled around the Jeep, missing me by a few feet. I hardly had any cover anymore. I was so close from the door that the only plausible solution was to actually get inside. I got on my feet and propped the door open. The rusty door hinges grinded and struggle to overcome their lack of lubrication. A subtle squeak was enough for the sentinel to notice me. The beam of light hit my back just as I was getting inside. Bullets flew inches away. I had been discovered. I hugged the building. I was so close to the wall I could taste stucco. If I could I would’ve burrowed myself into the wall and pulled it around me. I heard yelling outside while more bullets hit the metal door from the left. I looked at the elevator and panicked again. Several guards were heading my way. There was more yelling. I kissed the gas block of my machine gun and fired a burst of bullets up to the balcony. The sentinel hid back inside the building momentarily. Some of the guards who left the elevator opened fire. Chunks of concrete hit my face as bullets perforated the walls beside me. I stepped outside of the building and shot again at the balcony. I prayed for the best and leaped away from the building running straight for the fence. Seriously, there were bullets flying all over the place. My ears rang as buzzing projectiles soared by my head. I fired back a few rounds not bothering to look back. I needed cover badly. It was then that I remembered the smoke grenade. I eased it out from my bag and held tight to its cylindrical shape. I was getting close to the fence. I threw the grenade behind me and as soon as the smoke curtain started to conceal my actual position, I took a sharp left turn and jumped the fence. The guards followed me into the woods for quite sometime. In order to shake them loose I ended up inside the cold river, walking the shallow banks till almost sunrise. Again my curiosity almost cost my life. I keep wondering if anyone at Base Camp heard the gun shots. It would be nice to have a little help. Besides I don’t know if I can keep doing this alone. Not long ago, I used to have friends.


by Corporal John Harris, December 16, 2006