Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers - Chapter 41

Chapter 41

“I assume we all have had time to evaluate options and come up with a proposal.  I need recommendations.”  Hal Prince shuffled some papers in front of him.

“Do we have the assets in place to take the Island?  It will involve a ground assault,” replied the woman, looking directly at Hal.

“And fire support.  We don’t have any ships or planes in the area.”  The youngest member spoke hesitantly.

“Not entirely correct.  The US Navy Cruiser Hercules is rushing to the scene as we speak.  And a group of Navy Seals are performing a small incursion in Colombia in preparation for the assault on the Island.  We have assets.  The question is do we have enough and will Gunter become aware of them before they can act.  We will have the fire power and ground forces.  We need time and some luck.”  Hal stared at the assembled group.

“What about Ralph and his mother at the White House.  I’m getting conflicting stories about their presence.  They sit there every day and stare.  Their conversation is being recorded.  How long are we going to let that continue?” asked the woman.

“What are they hurting?  If they want to sit there every day for the rest of their lives who are we to stop them?  That’s what our Constitution is all about isn’t it?  The freedom to do what you like,” responded Hal.

“I don’t need lectured on the rights our fore fathers gained for us, Hal.  I know them quite well..”  The woman was stopped before she could continue.

“Have you forgotten we don’t refer to each other by name here?  There is a reason for everything.  I am merely making a point that they are free to do as they please.”  Hal smiled at the woman to lessen the tension, but it failed.

“How do they tie into all of this?  I did some questioning on my own.  This whole Mind Walker premise is sketchy at best.  I know we conducted tests in the past that was probably unethical and illegal.  I still fail to see how any of this could be of importance.”  The woman leaned back and crossed her arms before adding, “Our real problem is Gunter and the information he could use to blackmail the United States and other governments.  That is our real threat.”

“Agreed.  But even if you discount the Mind Walker program or the research that has gone into it, Gunter hasn’t.  If there is a remote possibility he could resurrect the program and turn it into a weapon, we have to take that seriously.  We have no choice.”  Hal stared back at the woman.

“Reluctantly, I am forced to agree.  The Mind Walker program, though a dark stain on our history, is nonetheless real.  Ralph and his mother are nothing more than amusement at this juncture.”  A senior member, who seldom spoke, addressed them.  “However, I don’t share your confidence with respect to the Navy Seal team.  They have disappeared into the Amazonian jungle with two of Slade Lockwood’s friends.  They are searching for him and Shirley Waterbury is making fuss wanting to know where they are. Satellite reconnaissance located a flying boat on the upper Amazon River.  Only one sentry was posted.”

“That is interesting.  How much noise has Shirley made?” asked Hal.  The secret to success for their organization was that one person would not have all the information.  Even him.  Just like they fed different amounts of information to the identifiable intelligence community, the same was true here.  Trust dictated no one possessing all the knowledge. 

“She called the President last night.  I don’t have all the information but it was a friendly call, no demands, but she will not keep quiet for long.  Her past actions have indicated a stubbornness and willingness to go the extra mile when needed.  Especially for those close to her.”  The senior member closed his notebook.

“Do we send in another team to locate the Seals or do we wait?” asked the woman.

“We wait.  Gunter’s array is not functional.  He needs an additional generator and we had it ‘rerouted’ to Greenland.  By accident of course.  That should set him back a couple of days until we get our assets in position for action.”  Hal laughed and so did the others.

“Cody Garrett?” asked the woman.

“No word.  We assume he’s with Slade and lost. Hopefully they’ll both turn up soon.  As soon as everything and everyone is in place, we move on the Island.”

Hal stood up indicating the meeting was over.

               ***************************************

Ralph ate from the hamburger Rachael handed him while staring at the White House.  He had studied the building and could see it clearly in his mind’s eye when he went to sleep at night.  The columns, the hedges, the paint – everything about it was clear.

Reaching for his drink, he slurped from a straw and resumed eating before speaking to his mother.

“Soon…..come…..soon…Ralph…need..to be here.”  Ralph looked over at his mother as he rushed to finish the last sentence.

“Soon?  How soon?” asked Rachael, thankful for the personal time she was getting to spend with her son, even if it was on a bus bench across from the White House. 

In answer, Ralph shrugged his shoulders and resumed staring at the White House.

“Must be….ready…Mind Walker….will come….I know….I know…”

“When the Mind Walker comes will we be able to see them?” asked Rachael.

“Here.”  Ralph tapped his head, but did not look at his mother.  “Only….in…in.. here.”  Ralph tapped his head with his finger again.

“You will see the in your head?”

“Not…person….just….just…their thoughts….”  Ralph’s brow wrinkled as he tried to explain it to her. 

“How will you know when they come?”  Rachael was intrigued by the actions of her son.  Never had he been so totally focused for so long.  She had called her husband and told him, the excitement in her voice evident.  They both had committed to the idea of her and Ralph staying in Washington DC as long as Ralph wanted.  Ralph’s therapist, Jack, had agreed it would be the best thing.  Rachael smiled at her son and reached out and adjusted his collar.

“Feel them….feel presence.”  Ralph lapsed into silence for several seconds.  “Felt Slade….night….last night…”

“You felt Slade’s presence?  Is Slade a Mind Walker, too?” asked Rachael, closing her magazine.  Ralph had not mentioned Slade’s name in days.

“No…no…no Mind Walker….is Slade….felt him….okay….for now…” 

“He’s not going to be okay later?” asked Rachael.

Ralph shook his head before answering.  “No….no….will be hurt….bad…by..bad…man….might die….”

“Can you help him?” asked Rachael, staring at her son.  The information was bothering Ralph, she could tell by his reaction to his spoken words.  But he continued to stare at the White House.

“No…cannot….help….must stay….here…with President…..Slade knows….understands…..” 

The last statement by Ralph seemed to comfort him and he turned back to Rachael.

“Fries…more….french fries…”

“Sure, honey.  Here.  I knew you always liked extra.”

Rachael reached into a bag and pulled out another box of French Fries.  She watched as Ralph cupped them in his hand and ate them slowly, one at a time.  He had always eaten them like that as if they were the most precious thing on Earth.

Leaning back, Rachael joined her son in staring at the White House.  She did not know why they were there, what a Mind Walker was or what kind of danger Slade Lockwood might be in.  But she did know she would remain here with her son until it was all over.

Rachael picked her magazine back up and resumed reading.

               ******************************

The sun was setting by the time Slade awakened.  His throat was dry and his stomach growled repeatedly.  Cody had not regained consciousness and Slade did not think he would until they got him proper medical treatment. 

The more pressing priority was finding shelter and some food.  Water was abundant, but he had to find a clear stream or spring suitable for drinking. Hauling Cody around was going to be the more difficult task. 

Selecting some of the smaller vines, Slade rigged a portable type of sling he could use.  By fastening it to Cody it created support and would allow him keep Cody’s upper body off the ground while he dragged him. By dropping ends that had been formed into loops over his shoulders, he could get Cody partially off the ground to reduce the resistance and lean forward when pulling him.  It was crude but would have to do.

Identifying a viable path on the plateau was the bigger concern.  The jungle appeared to be impenetrable.  Dragging Cody was going to make progress difficult.  The route to safety still lied with the Amazon.  Slade knew he had to get there.

Approaching the dense wall of green, Slade pushed inside.  Surprisingly after about ten feet, the foliage lessened.  Lighting was limited due to the heavy growth above their head, but the walking was easier.  Aiming toward the bottom of the cliff, Slade selected a course that he thought would get them there.

Reaching the bottom of the rock face, Slade cautiously approached the river. It hd to be croc infested: it only stood to reason that if there crocodiles upstream, they were downstream.  Laying Cody down, Slade stretched his shoulders and rubbed his skin where the vines had bitten into his flesh.  He would have a nasty rash from it. 

Clearing a small stand of trees, Slade froze in his tracks.  In front of him was an oval pit fifteen to twenty feet in diameter.  The contents of the bowl shaped depression appeared to be a gooey mush, much like quick sand.  Clinging to what appeared to be a large type of pig was an adult jaguar. The cat had been in there for some time.  Its coat was plastered with mud.  The immediate area around the animal was displaced, indicating the cat had struggled to free itself but was unable.  The jaguar stared at Slade, but made no effort to move. 

Slade carefully walked around the pool.  It was impossible to tell how deep the pit was, but the slickness of the edges had probably doomed many an animal.  The only thing that could probably navigate the quick sand was a snake or crocodile.  The thought of both made Slade peer intently around the area to make sure he was not being sized up as a meal, the recent encounter with the young crocodile still vivid in his mind.

The jaguar had watched Slade but had shown no hostility.  Slade did not know if they were man eaters and was hoping they were not.  As tired and exhausted as he was, there was no way he could leave the magnificent cat to die. 

Returning to Cody he made sure he was safe and as comfortable as he could make him.  Leaving Cody, Slade started looking for anything that he could use to free the jaguar.  Finding a small sapling that had been knocked down seemed to be the ideal tool.  The effort to drag the dead tree to the edge of the quick sand was tapping his last reserves of energy.  The next tick would be getting the limb next to the jaguar so it could escape.

Pulling the tree along the bank, Slade anchored one end on side of the pit and started to circle around to the other side.  His hope was the dead tree was long enough to reach across and bisect the quick sand.  The jaguar watched as the tree came closer.  When the trunk was within reaching the distance, the cat reached up a massive paw and grasped the bark, pulling it loose from Slade’s grip.  Slade stepped back as the tree fell to the ground. 

Backing away from the pit, Slade watched as the jaguar slowly pulled himself out of the mud and onto the tree.  The weight of the cat bent the sapling and Slade was fearful it would break. Though exhausted, Slade was amazed at how nimble the large feline was in navigating the small escape route.  Reaching the bank, the jaguar stepped onto solid ground and turned to face Slade.  Slade made no furtive movement, but stood still.  The jaguar showed his teeth and snarled several times.  Regaining some strength, the cat turned and stalked back into the jungle.

“You’re welcome,” muttered Slade.

Walking back to where he had left Cody, he froze in his tracks.  Standing around Cody were over a dozen indigenous natives, armed with spears and bow and arrows.  Paint adorned their heads and several of them had tattooed designs on their faces and arms.  They were clothed in a combination of plant material and animal skin.  Their skin was a dark brown and the tallest of them was maybe five foot seven.  All of them were lean built, with not an ounce of fat on their bodies. 

“Does anyone speak English?” asked Slade, turning his hands palm up and moving them away from his side.

None of the warriors moved.  They stared at Slade, their eyes boring straight into him.  Slade heard a sound to his rear and turned to see several others coming to join the group.  The lead man seemed to be in charge and after closely studying Slade he turned to his comrades and spoke in a tongue Slade did not understand.  There were moments of gesturing and many times the assembled men pointed at Slade.

The Chief, for that was what Slade thought he was, walked over to Cody and knelt down by him.  He turned Cody’s face from side to side and placed the back of his hand next to Cody’s mouth.  Using his hands, he tore Slade’s bandage loose and stared at Cody’s wound. 

Standing up, the Chief turned and motioned to several of the men and spoke to them again.  The men gathered around Cody and started to pick him up.

“Hey, hang on a minute.”  Slade started to step forward and the Chief turned to him.

Motioning to one of his warriors the Chief spoke rapidly.  Slade took another step and heard a soft hiss and felt a sharp pinch hit his neck.  Reaching up, he pulled a small dart loose just above his collar.  The feathers on the end were from a small bird and brightly colored.  Slade remembered thinking it was a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. 

Spinning on his heel, he looked directly at the young warrior who had darted him. He saw the blow gun in the man’s hand.  Slade could feel himself entering darkness, consciousness all but gone.  He was in the middle of the Amazon jungle, thousands of miles from home and in the custody of a native tribe. The odds were not in his favor.

For a fleeting moment a smile crossed his face.  For one of the few times in his life, he knew he did not have the energy to resist.  Whatever would happen to him fate would decide.  Slade remembered his head falling forward and strong hands grabbing him.  His body was relaxing and he found himself drifting to a quiet place.

Darkness settled over him and he fell into a deep sleep.

Chapter 42