Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mind Walkers-Chapter 11

  Chapter Eleven

The flat terrain of Australia stretched forever or so it seemed to the men walking with Gary.  The young boy would stare off at a distant horizon and stop, standing as still as the rocks littering the Outback, their color baked to a red richness by the blazing sun.  Each man had wiped at his brow several times to stem the sweat from beading and running into their eyes.  On this day, nothing moved.  Everything living had sought shelter from the heat.

“Why are we here with this boy?  The site we’re interested in marketing to your company is the other way, miles from here.  I read the needs of your organization and those goals will not be located here.”  Howard Tinsdale spoke distastefully to the group assembled with him. Longingly he turned and stared at the Land Rover parked over a hundred yards away, already mentally feeling the cool air from the air conditioner rushing over his body. 

“Because he doesn’t want to go that way.  He wants to go this way,” smiled Lou Anne Lancaster, Gary’s doctor.   She had been assigned to the Island, but had been asked to become Gary’s handler and personal physician.  The offered compensation had been staggering and she had jumped at the opportunity.

“What’s he doing?” asked Howard, failing to keep the disgust out of his voice.

“Only he knows.”  Lou Anne smiled at Howard and rejoined Gary, taking his hand and pressing it reassuringly. Gary looked in her direction, past her, beyond her and pulled free of her grasp. 

Stumbling forward, Gary kept walking, picking up the pace before breaking into a slow awkward run, lumbering over the uneven terrain.  Lou Anne and the two men with her easily kept up with him.  Gary had gone the length of several football fields before stopping and collapsing to his knees.  He immediately cradled his head in his hands and rocked back and forth, tears springing forth from his eyes and running down his cheeks, tracking tiny lines in the dust that had settled on his face. Lou Anne knelt down beside him and slipped her arm around his shoulders.

“Show us where it is and the pain will stop.  I’ll give you something to help you,” droned the Doctor, rocking her patient to and fro.  From a distance her act of sincerity appeared genuine.

Pulling from Lou Anne, Gary started to dig with his hands, much like a dog uncovering a bone.  Sand flew around him and covered his clothes.  He had pulled away several inches of dirt when he stopped and clutched at the earth squeezing the dirt until his knuckles turned white.  Lou Anne reached over and grabbed his hand and gently unfurled his fingers.  Lying within Gary’s palm was a large pink stone the size of a walnut.  One of the men with Lou Anne took it from him and dropped it in his pocket.  Nodding at her, he turned to leave.

Slipping a syringe from her pocket, Lou Anne inserted the bright tip of the needle into Gary’s left shoulder, shoving the plunger to the stop, dispensing a yellowish liquid into his body.  It only took seconds and she could visibly notice the difference in her charge.  His shoulders drooped and his head sagged toward his chest, the pent up energy fleeing from his frame.  Tearfully he stared at her before his eyes rolled back in his head.

Lou Anne motioned to the man standing near her and with his help they moved Gary to his feet.  Supporting his weight, they led him back to the Land Rover and seat belted him inside.  Lou Anne adjusted an air conditioning vent so the cool air would blow onto him.

The other man with her had produced a hand held GPS unit and was busy scribbling the notes onto a pad that he slid back in his pocket. He joined them back at the sport utility vehicle.

“We’re ready to go now.”  Lou Ann looked at Howard, jumped inside and slid over next to Gary. 

“Go where?  I still haven’t shown you the land my client is interested in selling,” said Howard, turning in the seat to stare at her.

“We have what we need.  My employer will contact you.  Take us back to the hotel please.”  Lou Anne ignored Howard.  Picking up Gary’s wrist, she checked his pulse before releasing his arm.  Satisfied her ‘charge’ was okay she leaned back in her seat and dropped a pair of polarized sunglasses over her eyes.  The drive back to the hotel would be a long one.  There were no paved roads and the terrain was uneven.    

Without another word, Howard turned the Land Rover around and headed back the way they had come.  The drive was done in silence.

Carlos and his soldiers had found the cocaine lab deep within the Amazon forest where the young smuggler had said it would be.  It had been carefully hidden in the remotest part of the jungle.  It was more of a series of huts than anything else, but functional and elaborate in design.  The largest of the shanties was in the center, with the smaller shelters spiraling out from it in a cone shaped pattern.  The surrounding structures handled the extracting of the alkaloids from the coca leaves that would in turn be used to make the cocaine powder.

The main lab was housed in the center building, which by even modern standards was expansive.  The circular hut was the size of a small gymnasium, with rows upon rows of modern equipment used in the making of the cocaine, all tended to by indigenous tribes.  The entire operation was capable of producing four thousand tons of pure cocaine per month.  The finished product was sealed in heavy plastic bags and sewn inside hundred pound burlap sacks for transportation.  Several pallet size loads were at the end of the assembly lines, neatly stacked and secured and awaiting transportation to the river to start its long journey to civilization.  The markings on the exterior of the sacks indicated coffee beans were stored inside.  It was an age old smuggler’s trick.

The compound housing the operation was a virtual stronghold.  The Amazonian Indians working at the plant spoke a combination of Spanish and their native tongue, which was extinct except for the two or three tribes who had kept the language alive.  Living deep within the interior had isolated them and modern expansion had not corrupted their dialect.  Most had been forced into labor by the cartel running the cocaine factory and paid very poorly for the wealth of powder they produced.  As long as they were not treated too cruelly, they worked and chewed on the coca leaves, entering a state of bliss that suited them and pleased the owners.  The isolation of the location served both parties well.

Armed guards patrolled the perimeter and a sophisticated network of bunkers to protect the camp had been installed should a raid from a rival faction occur.  The problem of course was locating the lab to begin with.

Carlos and his men had walked for two days, finally needing rest on the third day.  Sleep consisted of a four hour nap and then they were up and moving again.  It was by sheer chance they found the hidden location.  Spotting a young Indian, they had followed him to the outskirts of the facility remaining unseen.  When the young boy had been allowed to enter through the security checkpoint, they had started the painstaking process of surveillance to determine the weakness in the defense.  The soldiers had chronicled the movement and changing of the guards over a twenty-four hour period.  Based on their analysis they had determined the best way to attack and a quick plan was formulated.

The assault had commenced just before dawn when the guards were the least alert.  Fatigue from standing watch all night had sapped their energy and they were vulnerable.  Taking advantage of their Achilles’ heel, Carlos and his soldiers had pinpointed the weakest area of the perimeter and launched their offensive.

The two mercenaries hired by the drug cartel to staff the outer defense died as they dozed, a knife slid quietly across their throats.  The second lookout post suffered the same fate.  Securely inside the compound, Carlos split his squad into two groups, sending half to attack the remaining perimeter lookout positions and the other half to destroy the main body of mercenaries sleeping inside a string of huts near the jungle.

It was Carlos who initiated the bloody fight, firing a burst from his weapon when a surprised mercenary was caught in the open returning from the latrine.  With the firing of the assault rifle, bedlam commenced.  Unable to ascertain where the enemy was, the hired guards fired upon themselves, aiding the soldiers who leveled a deadly stream of bullets in their direction.  The main body of guards was killed within the first few moments of the skirmish.  Some of the mercenaries on the perimeter posts escaped, but most put up a valiant battle.  Before they could be subdued, over half of Carlos’s soldiers were killed.

When the early morning sun cast the cocaine laboratory complex into daylight, the remaining survivors were huddled in the middle of the compound, all on the ground, securely bound and facing the soldiers.  Carlos walked amidst them asking questions and when he was dissatisfied with a response, he casually pulled his pistol and shot them in the head.  Tiring of the game, he moved to the side of his soldiers and nodded.  Without a word, they swung their rifle barrels on the helpless prisoners and opened fire.  Screams quickly died as the bullets tore into their defenseless bodies.

Picking up a torch, Carlos threw it onto the thatched roof of the nearest hut and his soldiers quickly did the same.  In less than twenty minutes every structure within the compound was ablaze.  Not bothering to bury the dead or bring his dead comrades with him, Carlos turned and left the camp, his soldiers falling into line behind them.

The chemicals firing in their brain had destroyed millions of cells, turning the men into death hunters.  Their eyes blazed intensely and they walked like robots, no feeling or compassion on their faces.  They had lost who they were.  They were no longer human; just flesh and blood machines doing a job.  A bloody job.

Inside their bodies, their internal organs were beginning to shut down, slowly killing each man.  The chemical cocktail they had been given by their commanding officer had contained a compound that closed the brain to pain, inhibiting its ability to detect or transmit a message to other parts of the body.  The nerve connections detecting discomfort had been bypassed.  Without pain as an early warning system, there was nothing to alert each individual they were building up an overload of toxins in their organs.  The soldiers marched on oblivious to death walking with them.  The end was predictable.

They had marched almost eleven miles when the first man’s heart imploded.  Without a sound he fell to the ground and lay still.  The other soldiers walked past him and did not even look down, their eyes riveted straight ahead.  One by one they fell over a three mile walk, until the last one standing was Carlos. 

Pulling his shirt open, he ran his fingers across his chest.  He could feel his heart beating faster, trying to burst from his body.  Opening and closing his mouth, he wanted to spit, but no saliva formed.  His tongue felt twice the size it should have been.  What was wrong?  Was he dying?  Had they ingested something back at the cocaine camp?  What was happening to him?  Sounds to his left!  Men moving toward him, calling to him.  Who were they?  Unable to focus he tried to raise his weapon but his arms would not respond.  He watched in horror as his rifle fell from his fingers and hit the ground.   

Colonel Montoya motioned for the soldiers nearest Carlos to grab him.  A medic rushed up and slipped a syringe into Carlos’s arm and within seconds he was unconscious.  Turning to a captain standing next to him, the Colonel said, “Take a detachment of men and backtrack.  Find where they have come from.  See if there are any more survivors.”

Without a word, the Captain motioned for two squads and they moved out, forming a line until they located the path Carlos had taken.  Within minutes they found the next soldier in Carlos’s squad who had died and quickly located another.  The Colonel stood silent for some time before he spoke.

“Is this what you and the others had hoped for?” asked the Colonel, the disgust lacing his tone.

“Be careful, Colonel.  Without us, you would not have the equipment and technology you currently possess.  Sacrifices must be made.  More importantly, we need to get these bodies back to the facility so they can be evaluated.”  Xavier Sanchez knew Juan Domingo would want to know what went wrong. 

“Bodies!” hissed the Colonel.  “These were my soldiers, Xavier!  Not cattle to be experimented with.”  The hatred was in the Colonel’s eyes when he addressed his fellow countrymen.  “Some were my friends.  They were all under my command.”  The Colonel and Xavier had moved away from the others so they could not be overheard.

“I meant no disrespect, Colonel. I understand this must be a tough loss for you, but we must know what caused this.  The formula must have been too strong.  We will learn nothing out here in the jungle.  We must get them back to the facility where our doctors can perform an autopsy.” Xavier had lowered his voice and spoken softly to the Colonel.  The man was military through and through and had reluctantly agreed to the tests that had now resulted in the deaths of over twenty of his men.

“No more tests until we know what went wrong.  Understood?” asked the Colonel, though it was not formed as a question, but as a statement.

“Of course, Colonel.  But remember, these men functioned better than any soldier could have ever been expected to perform.  Let us not lose site of the goal we are trying to attain.”  Xavier watched as Carlos Ranchone was lifted onto a stretcher and carried away from the scene.

“That has not been lost on me, Xavier, but you tell Juan Domingo I will not lose any more men.  I, too, believe in the cause, but not at the expense of my soldiers.”  The Colonel turned and stared at his fellow countryman.  “Do I make myself crystal clear to you?”

“You’re wishes are clear and understood, Colonel.  Now can I have a detachment of men to help get Carlos back to base?  Our doctors need to examine him.”  Xavier waited for the military man to answer.

“Yes.  Take four of the men and go.”  The Colonel dismissed Xavier without another word and started to walk down the trail to find the rest of the squad.  The price for the technology was growing at a cost he had not anticipated, nor could accept. 

Read Chapter Twelve

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