“Sign here,” the lieutenant told me. I didn’t see why I should in an operation such as this, afterall, we aren’t supposed to be here. It was then it dawned on me that this was a test, so I shook my head. “Good, follow your commanding officer to your station. Your team of scientists will be waiting for you and you are to protect them at all costs. Further details as to why will be with them. Good luck, soldier.”
He saluted me grimly and I followed suit before leaving the small building and walking with Officer Lion, a name he adopted for these ghost operations.
“You are to be equipped with a standard assault rifle and handgun,” Lion explained, “You will be stripped of all identification documents and tags, that includes your dog tags. Don’t worry, if you don’t return your family will be informed, so there is no need to go out there and get you, is that clear?”
“Sir, yes, sir,” I replied, but my voice had lost all major confidence. Still, I maintained professionalism and gave the situation my best game face.
We arrived at a small tent where there were plain dressed men with glasses. One was short and chubby and the other was trying to brush the mud off his boots. I looked at Lion and he rolled his eyes. Our feelings were mutual on dragging these two through the jungle, but we kept it to ourselves. At least for now.
“Tell me there aren’t snakes in this place?” the short one asked.
“There are snakes, doc,” Lion replied as he gestured for them to followed. I collected my guns on the table and marched with them.
“Oh, I’m not a doctor. I am an expert in the field.”
“Shouldn’t an expert have a doctorate?”
“This field isn’t taught in universities, officer.”
It was getting on into the night and so far we didn’t hear any complaints from the scientists as we left camp. Lion had the official coordinates to the site, memorized of course. The scientists were the only ones with any recording equipment. We made no mistake in their value to the government and what they didn’t seem to understand was that they outranked us in respect to our superiors.
Lion was one who respected authority, but I could see how he was struggling to find respect for these two. The stick figure danced between bushes and always seemed to keeping himself from falling over. The short one had already worked up a sweat that drenched his shirt.
Soon we entered the edge of the jungle and from there Lion began enforcing a rule of silence.
“You two are to remain silent,” Lion explained. “Not only are there snakes, but other predators will more than likely like to sink their teeth in you.”
“And assault rifles are how you are going to deal with them?” the stumbling one asked.
Lion didn’t respond, but like me, he knew well enough that nothing could be ruled out in this operation. Even the ammunition we were using was specially made to avoid any affiliation with the US. I think if they didn’t realize now, the scientists would soon realize that if push came to shove they would be terminated on the spot.
If they did realize it, they sure had a pair for acting so confident throughout this experience.
“Ryan, are you seeing this?” the tall one asked. I rolled my eyes, they were already breaking protocol in using their real names.
“I see it, but keep your system ready for spotting the signatures, not hearing them,” the short one replied. “It is great having the recordings, but we need some footage.”
“Don’t worry, I am.”
We were nearing an hour in the jungle, Lion was silent the whole way. It made me more tense, the silence. Lion was listening, but not hearing what he wanted to hear, but we soon arrived.
Entering a small patch of darkened clearing, the scientists saw what we found a week before. The grass was black, coated with what appeared to be oil and above us was a machine so foreign it couldn’t be identified by Russian and Asian forces.
It would be shipped back to an American facility where the worlds specialists could study it, but until it was moved the landscape needed to be examined. The scientists picked their jaws up and all fear of mud and snakes vanished. The two fell to their knees and began setting up their many devices.
“It isn’t toxic, but the structure of the liquid is…” the tall one murmured.
“It could be a mixture of carbon based fuel, but that is…” the chubby one replied.
I turned to Lion was the scientists had their mini field day. He seemed to be watching the tree tops, but I found my attention was drawn more to the shadows in the forest. As dark as it was, there seemed to plenty of areas that were void of any light. It would have been perfect for someone to watch us from. It was these areas that made us expendable.
Twenty minutes later and our patience was finished.
“Pack your stuff up, we’re leaving now,” I told them. Lion pulled them up after they grabbed their tech.
We marched them in the opposite direction of the site, but my eyes were watching that area closely. My rifle was raised and safety off.
“Jeez, we were just getting some great data,” the short one complained.
“You had your twenty minutes, now shut up,” Lion grunted.
“Lion, I see movement,” I murmured as a shadow crossed from one bush to another, definitely humanoid.
“We are a thirty-minutes run from base camp, this is not the time to be fast. Silence, now.”
All four of us fell silent and continued our walk back to base. As we neared the edge we picked up the pace and left the jungle. Returning to base our tension was slowly eased. At least until we found them all. Every soldier and officer in a pool of their own blood.