Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
Your Subtitle text

Mindwalkers - Chapter 43

Chapter 43

“Captain we have a squall dead ahead.   We either need to reduce speed or go around.”  The XO of the US Naval Cruiser First Contact looked over at Captain Richardson who had remained impassive during the briefing.

“Full speed ahead, XO.  Do not deviate from our plotted course and don’t make us late.  Is that clear?”

“Sir, it’s clear, but we could hit some pretty serious seas.  We could sustain damage, Sir.  As XO it’s my job to point out…”  The XO was cut off by the Captain.

“You’ve made your point, XO and now I’m making mine.  We have our orders directly from the Secretary of the Navy.  I want maximum speed and I don’t care if there’s a hurricane in front of us.  Is that clear?”

“Sir, yes, sir.”  The XO turned to a lieutenant staffing the bridge.  “Lieutenant, ensure our course does not deviate per the Captain’s orders.”

“XO we may need to let everyone know we are in for some rough seas and it could get a little pitchy.  Tell them to batten everything down and rig for foul weather.  They say this boat can handle anything Mother Nature throws at her.  Well, we’re about to find out.”  Captain Richardson stared directly at his XO, his face impassive.

The orders had come from the highest seat in the Navy.  Get to an island near Tahiti and get there as fast as possible.  Regardless of the conditions, the First Contact was to be in Tahitian waters by this time tomorrow.  They still had a lot of open ocean to cover.

Captain Richardson walked to the window on the bridge and stared at the sea. A dark grey loomed on the horizon and he could see the waves beginning to white cap.  A storm was coming in, but he couldn’t let it stop him. 

Why the First Contact?  Was it his relationship with June Stenger?  A friendship he may have destroyed because of orders.  And why had the Secretary of the Navy entrusted him of all the Captains?  There were other ships near the target location.  Why had his boat been singled out above all the others?  What really was the end game? 

“Sir?”

The XO had been talking to him. 

“Yes?”

“Sir, would you care to enlighten us as to our mission so we can be prepared.”

“I haven’t forgotten my duties as commander of this vessel, XO.  When the time is right, I’ll brief senior staff. Until then, make sure we arrive on time.  We have to rendezvous with destiny.”

Captain Richardson walked purposefully from the Bridge.  He had to make sure no other messages had been sent from HQ.

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

The smell of cooked food was the first thing Slade was aware of.  That and something soft beneath his head.  Rising to a sitting position, he found he was inside a grass hut.  His clothes were missing and he had been dressed in attire similar to what he had seen the natives wear.  From what he could tell he had not been tattooed or had his face painted.  A smile flirted across his face at the thought.

He did feel rested and wondered how long he had been asleep.  Cody!  Where was Cody?  It took him several attempts before he could gain his feet, the effect of the dart still wearing off.  Whatever drug they tipped their darts in was incredibly effective.

Walking out of the hut, Slade was confronted by several of the warriors he had met in the jungle.  The Chief was seated near a fire in the center of the courtyard.  Waving to Slade, he motioned for him to come over and take a seat.  Slade sat down on a small piece of log and rubbed his eyes.

The smell of the cooked food came to him again and he looked at what remained of the piece of meat that was still on a spit above the fire.  He had no idea what type of animal it was, but obviously it was edible.  A young native girl approached him and handed him some of the meat on a banana leaf.

“Thank you,” said Slade.

The young girl bowed her head and backed away from him.  The meat was gamey, but tasted very good.  He did not know if it was because he was hungry or if it was that good.  Within a short period of time he had devoured the food.  Another banana leaf full of meat was brought to him and he ate most of it. 

Looking over at the Chief, Slade smiled and said, “Thank you.”

The Chief nodded his head and rose to his feet.  Several of the warriors did the same.  The Chief again motioned for Slade to follow him.

The village was small, covering about three acres.  It was hewn out of the jungle and everything the natives needed was supplied by the rain forest.  From material for their huts, to clothing, to the food they ate.  It was a simple life, but everyone appeared to be well fed and there was an order about the community.  Slade saw several children playing but they stopped when he drew near. 

The Chief stopped near a large hut and indicated Slade should follow him inside.  A small fire was burning inside the enclosure and the smoke was escaping through a small hole in the roof.  Lying on a pile of animal skins and banana leaves was Cody.  Slade walked over and knelt down beside him.  Two older women were sitting next to him as well.

Slade reached out his hand and touched the FBI agent’s face and forehead.  The fever had broken.  Raising a small animal skin, Slade could see that Cody’s wound had been cleaned and was being treated with some type of salve.  Though not pleasant to smell, it seemed to work well.  The redness around the wound was disappearing and the swelling had gone down tremendously. 

Turning to the two women, Slade nodded a thank you to them.  Gaining his feet, he smiled to the Chief and nodded his appreciation.  The Chief led Slade back outside and to the fire.

Communicating with the natives was impossible.  None of them spoke English and they did not appear to have a written language.  His deduction that the man he identified as being in charge was the Chief was correct, as numerous other warriors conferred with him during the day.  Slade watched as men and women disappeared routinely from the camp only to return with food or items from the jungle they needed.  He was particularly fascinated by a half dozen women weaving baskets from a plant with a long leaf.  The pattern was so tight it could hold water for a brief period of time. 

Standing up, Slade smiled at the Chief and started walking around, looking at what people were doing.  Two warriors accompanied him as he strode around the village.  The kids followed him at a distance, jabbering amongst themselves and pointing at him.

As night came upon the village, Slade was shown to the hut where he had awakened.  Lying down, he evaluated his position.  He did not know where he was and Cody was in no shape to travel.  The natives did not appear to be hostile, but it was clear they did not want him leaving the village.  He had no way to communicate with the outside world.  For all intents and purposes he was a prisoner. 

Rolling over, Slade closed his eyes and went to sleep.  Better to be rested so he could address matters tomorrow.  Within minutes he was dreaming.

Slade felt his arm being shaken and was instantly awake.  Two warriors were in his hut, both armed with spears and bow and arrows.  Paint adorned their faces and they were pulling on his arms and pointing toward the door.

Slade rose to his feet and walked outside.  The Chief was in the center of the courtyard, near the fire, but the flames were much higher than before.  Everyone in the village was awake and standing near the Chief.  All the men were armed and Slade glanced around him.  The children were in the back of the group or on the sides. They were all intently peering at the jungle.

It took Slade several moments to ascertain what was missing and then it hit him.  There was no sound.  The natives were incredibly quiet.  Aside from their breathing there was no sound.  No one rustled weapons, no one moved and no one whispered.  All their energy was focused on the jungle.

Snapping of twigs.  Sounds of approaching men.  Slade could hear it now.  The jungle where the Chief was staring was alive.  Out of the darkness walked some soldiers, their rifles slung low on hips, their eyes darting from side to side.  Behind them were two familiar figures Slade recognized and a huge smile burst across his face. 

However, he did not move.  A woman was with the soldiers and she walked up to the Chief first and spoke softly.  She held her hand up and the soldiers had stopped.  The woman broke into conversation with the Chief, speaking his language.  A young native boy had entered the village with the woman and he now moved alongside the Chief.  The Chief motioned towards Slade and the natives parted, allowing the soldiers and Dustin Zane and June to see him.  After several moments, the woman raised her voice and addressed them.

“It is okay.  The Chief will allow us to enter his village and remain for the night.  We must leave before the close of the next day.”

Slade walked forward and shook hands with Dustin Zane and June.

“Good to see you guys,” said Slade.  “How did you find me?”

“First things first,” replied June.  “Slade, this is Colonel Torres of the Colombian military.  He’s been helping us look for you.”

“Colonel, pleased to meet you.”  Slade shook his hand.

“You have very two determined friends.  They were convinced you were alive.”  The Colonel had gestured toward Dustin Zane and June.  “What about Cody?  Is he with you?”

“He’s in the large hut over there.”  Slade gestured toward a large hut located in the center of the village.

Before anyone could say anything the woman turned and spoke rapidly to the Chief.  She nodded her head in understanding and looked back at Slade.

“Your friend has been tended to.  They are treating him with some native medicines from the jungle.  He will be fine.”

“And you are?” asked Slade.

“Angelica Capistrano.  I work with the university in Bogata.  I have spent the last three years doing field expeditions in this part of the jungle and that’s how I met the Chief.”

“But how did all of you find us and know we were here?” asked Slade.

“I would like to rest and get something to eat and then we’ll tell you all about it.  I have a feeling we all have a lot to talk about,” said June.

“Next time could you find a place that’s not so remote?”  Dustin Zane smiled at Slade as they all gathered around the fire. 

Angelica and the Chief had been in non-stop conversation and several times the Chief had gestured toward Slade.  The soldiers had some rations they shared with Dustin Zane and June.  Colonel Torres sat down next to all of them.

“Well, seems you made quite an impression on the Chief,” said Angelica, addressing Slade.

“How so?”

“They watched you climb up the cliff, pull your friend to safety and battle the crocodile.”

“The crocodile?” interrupted June.

“It’s a long story,” replied Slade.

“But when you freed the jaguar from the quick sand that cemented you as a man of honor with the tribe.  You see, the Chief and his warriors were returning to that very site to free the great cat.  This tribe, or clan, is known as the ‘People of the Cat.’  They hold the jaguar in high esteem.  One of the young hunters had discovered the cat earlier in the day and they were going to rescue him.  Whoever can save a creature so great must be held in honor.  When you used the tree to rescue the jaguar and placed your own life in peril to do so, the Chief knew you were a man destined to become a member of his tribe.”

“Uh…that’s nice, but he knows I can’t stay.  Right?” asked Slade.

“I think you would look great in your native garb all the time,” laughed Dustin Zane.

“He knows.   Kind of an honorary thing.  You will always be welcome here.”

Slade looked over at the Chief and smiled.  “Tell him ‘thank you’ and that I appreciate very much what he did for us.  Without him and his men we would have died.”

Angelica spoke to the Chief and he nodded his head in understanding. 

Angelica looked back at Slade.  “He says you are welcome.  He asks that you not tell others about his village.  Bad men have come in the past to imprison them.  They take away his bravest warriors and make them work to make the ‘white powder.’”

“Tell him his secret is safe with us.”  Slade stared at the people around him.  This community lived the way they desired, with no violence and a sense of honor, each doing their part to help their survival.  It was a shame the rest of the civilized world could not do the same.

“Tell him I will make sure the men who make ‘white powder’ will not bother them again.”  Colonel Torres spoke for the first time. 

Angelica relayed the information to the Chief.  She turned back to them.

“He said he understands.  And he and his people are very appreciative.”

“Now, we have some catching up to do.”  June drew his log closer and everyone leaned in.

They talked until the early hours of morning and each told their story and the events that had led them to the tiny village in the heart of the Amazon jungle.  When the last man had spoken, one thing was very clear.  They all wanted to go to an island and meet Gunter Gutenberg.

Chapter 44