Episode 77 - Because there were no expectations

After dashing forward in the face of murderous enemy fire, we rallied our team at the pond’s shore. Ivanov and a few of his men, who had wavered and staggered through out the beach, finally disappeared into the woods. Rodriguez and I then swept over the woods routing and pursuing the enemy deep into the forest unsuccessfully ending the chase at 1600 hours. Baxter was made prisoner and taken to Base Camp were we later rendezvoused with Redman, Dr. Walker and Roy. It was somewhat of a relief to be back at our encampment in one piece. Malloy had suffered minor shrapnel and burn wounds to her legs, but after Dr. Walker care, she was up and about in no time. But it was no occasion for rest or celebration. We needed to make decisions fast. The longer we stayed at the Mulberry Ridge, the harder it would be for us to get out. Sergeant Palmer and I spent almost an hour with Baxter and the captured helicopter pilot. Both of them kept their mouths shut, except for the occasional shouts of profanity. - We’re not getting anything from these two… get the others, we have something to discuss - said the sarge walking towards the middle of the campsite. In a few minutes, we gathered around the sarge eager to hear what he had to say. - I don’t expect everyone to be happy about this, but I have decided to go look for reinforcements at Fort Carson. Unfortunately I can only take five of us. We’ll drive in the Jeep, since the abandoned van won't start. The Humvee has hardly any diesel. Flying the helicopter out of here is out of the question too. I’m not taking any chances with the captured pilot. The professor will come along. I’ll need volunteers to stay a few more days at the Ridge till ground support arrives - finished Sergeant Palmer. We stood quiet for a moment, and then Rodriguez stepped up, followed by me and Dr. Walker. Redman attempted moving forward, but Malloy held him back and took his place. - Are you sure you want to stay, Dr. Walker? - asked the sarge. Susan Walker nodded. - So it’s set then, bring me the pilot and Roy. We should leave now! John, you’re in charge… - ordered Sergeant Palmer. Redman went back to the barracks and grabbed Roy while I took care of the pilot. I felt bad for Roy. After all, he was only looking after his ill mother. Roy had this look on his face that suggested he was trying to process what was going to happen to him. Noticing Roy struggle, I said a few words: - You’re a good man Roy. I’ll put in a good word for you, don’t worry, everything will be fine - Redman, who was the last one to board the Jeep, looked at Roy and reassured him: - We’ll take care of you… - And just like that, the sarge revved up the Jeep's motor and sped out of Base Camp leaving us in the dust. Nightfall came fast for us remaining soldiers. After a nice warm meal by the tents, I volunteered for the first night guard shift. Despite the silent evening, Ivanov was still out there. Sitting by my tent, under the starry night, I pondered about the last few days. I tried to enjoy the early chirping of crickets and the rustling trees in the light breeze, but I was still too edgy. At 2100 hours a crackle by the other tents caught my attention. Afraid that Baxter had gotten loose, I rushed out of my chair - I can’t sleep…- said Dr. Walker getting out of her tent. Breathing a little more easily I sat back in my chair and ask her to join me. We talked about her life back in California, about her family and mine. We also talked about the future and Ben’s fate. - Can I ask you something? You could’ve gone with the sarge this afternoon, why didn’t you? - I asked her. She didn’t respond. Instead she got up. - I should go back to bed… - said Susan. Politely, I got out of my chair as well. We stood in front of my tent silently for a moment. For a second our eyes locked. Unexpectedly, she floated towards me, and then it happened. She leaned into me and our lips touched; everything within me fluttered. She pulled away, her right arm still around my neck - I stayed because of you…- she said tenderly. She turned around and left, quickly disappearing into her tent. Trying to understand the events that had just taken place, I stood frozen by my chair, perplexed. I had butterflies in my stomach, the good ones. I was so fascinated by Dr. Walker’s actions, that Rodriguez’s arrival startled me good. - Are you alright? You should get some sleep, Harris. I can take over now… - said Rodriguez worried. I acknowledged it. I tapped him in the shoulder and thank him. I got in my tent soon after. I felt like I was released from chains I never knew were there. I floated around my tent and for the first time in months, I slept like a rock.

by Corporal John Harris, May 24, 2007