Art Adkins
Author & Leadership Instructor
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Mindwalkers - Chapter 6

Chapter Six

“Gunter has overstepped his bounds.  The situation is spiraling out of control.  There was no need to kill the physician, especially in broad daylight in a tourist town.  And now the authorities have the body of the assassin.  The locals are asking questions.”  The tall man had risen from his seat and moved to a window overlooking a villa.  Tiny beads of sweat were forming on his forehead.  He had already removed his jacket, but the heat was unbearable, suffocating.  The smell of decaying vegetation filled the room, the acrid odor everywhere.

“What about Sanibel Island?  There is another investigation under way there as well.  He had the physician’s family killed and destroyed their home.  Hardly the smartest of moves.  His arrogance will destroy us all.”  Frederick Salvatore, a short balding Italian poured a glass of water from a pitcher seated on the table.  The glass was wet from condensation due to the humidity.

The home was atop a small mountain in the remotest part of the forest in Colombia.  Birds could be heard calling to each other, their sound dying in the vastness of the jungle.  Generators hidden in separate out-buildings produced electricity, but not enough to sustain an air conditioning system.  The jungle was close around them, seeming to draw nearer as they gazed at the endless sea of green.  The encroaching trees and vines seemed to detest the intrusion of the men who had dared to invade the inhospitable environment.  It was not a world for humans, but for the creatures prowling in the depths of the trees and bush, obscured from the prying eyes of the civilized world.

The room overlooked the courtyard which was nothing more than some concrete that had been thrown down where the jungle had been hacked away to provide a temporary space for mankind.  Left un-kept the vegetation would reclaim the lost area, obliterating the tracks of the men seeking a hidden meeting post.  The remoteness of the location had been a must, a necessity, but it was without creature comforts.  Armed guards could be seen patrolling the perimeter, their watchful eyes peering into the green canopy lest unseen dangers materialize.

“What about the American Government?  What are they doing about this situation?” asked the oldest of the group, a grey haired gentleman speaking with a heavy latin accent.  Despite the heat, he showed no signs of discomfort, his brown eyes lazily drinking in the briefing. It was obvious he was in charge as all deferred to him.  Reaching for his cigar, he inhaled deeply from the rich stick of tobacco, allowing a plume of smoke to spiral to the roof and drift to the windows.   

“We don’t know Juan Domingo,” answered the tall man, Xavier Sanchez, who called the leader by his name, more out of respect than anything else.

“I’m making contact with our source tomorrow to determine their position on this changing development.”  Frederick Salvatore added additional comments.  “We should have moved against Gunter when we had the chance.  Now…”  He was cut off by the upraised hand of Juan Domingo.

“What we should have done and what we did are two different things.  We must now deal with the current scenario and address it properly.  Due to the element of time and the changing situation, others are involved.”  Juan Domingo glanced around at the other men in the room.  All told, there were nine of them, represented by seven different countries.  They were the ones who had the most to lose.  And their respective governments.  “Must I remind you gentleman that to act in haste would be the wrong course of action.  We resurrected a concept most think has been abandoned and we are reaping incredible results for our efforts.  We should always keep our eye on the prize.  To do anything less would be irresponsible.  Operation Oracle has been a success and it cannot be allowed to die because of the misguided concepts and efforts of a single man.”  Juan Domingo took another long drag from his cigar and allowed the men to contemplate the wisdom of his words.

“Perhaps the Americans will move against Gunter.  If not them, then maybe the Israelis.”  Frederick Salvatore spoke as he returned to his seat from pacing the room.

“The Americans are the very reason we have an opportunity.  And don’t forget, they fund over half the operation, albeit clandestinely.  There are those in American intelligence circles that feel as we do.”  Brian Adelain spoke for the first time.  Australian by birth, he had been raised in England, but had returned home to build an empire in specialized security services, both in his country and others.  The world was changing; old enemies were giving way to new ones and the rich wanted protection, assurance.  He provided both.  For a price.

“Let’s talk about our latest endeavors.  It’s too easy to dwell on things we currently cannot control.  Without control we lose focus.  It’s far more productive to evaluate areas where we are having success.”  Juan Domingo produced a lighter from his jacket pocket and torched the end of his cigar.  It must burn uniformly for the succulent aroma to be fully enjoyed.  Satisfied the cigar was lit to his satisfaction, he puffed on it several times before dropping the lighter onto the table.

“Agreed.  The reports from the army are encouraging.  Over sixty-five hours on patrol without sleep and they still scored above eighty percentile on dexterity tests.  Their ability to manipulate complex puzzles and mentally draw an accurate conclusion has set standards thought unattainable a year ago.  The new formula stimulates a certain area of the brain allowing them to push harder, longer and faster.  They are becoming super soldiers.”  Xavier Sanchez looked at the group seated in front of him.  For years military strategists had lamented over the frailty of the human fighting machine, yet every major war ever fought relied heavily on the infantry.  It was the foot soldier who had to occupy space, root out the last remnants of the enemy and must conquer the last den of hidden resistance.  Now they were producing a soldier who could exceed all previous established physical limits and they appeared to be just scratching the surface. 

“What about the other aspects of the experiments?  We know Gunter utilized a young boy to find precious metals.  Has there been any other break through not brought to our attention?” asked Juan Domingo.

“Our leading scientists are preparing the latest report for us and it should be ready within two weeks time.  The time-space continuum shows promise.  The Mind Walkers we removed from the Island have exceeded expectations.  There has been some startling data gleaned from them, some verifiable, some not.  Let’s say it’s speculative at best.  Maybe we should focus on the military component for now and after we have heard their report reconvene.”  Xavier looked at Juan Domingo for support and when the elder nodded his head in approval, he continued, “Then until next time gentleman.  If anything develops with the Americans concerning Gunter you will be notified in the usual way.”

Juan Domingo remained seated as he watched the other eight men file out of the room.  For the last fourteen years they had been working for this moment, building to this end.  From the tiny island in the Pacific to the research labs deep within Colombia’s border, research had been conducted nonstop around the clock.  With each successful move, the operation had grown.  There were now research centers in Venezuela, Brazil and in the inhospitable region of the Outback in Australia.  The time-space continuum was showing incredible promise.  They were on the verge of a new frontier, an expansion not thought possible by conventional science or understanding.  With the advances being made, soon all things would be possible.  The European continent was being exposed and soon they would be on line with the ideals.  The Mind Walkers had changed everything. 

Juan Domingo reached for his cigar and inhaled deeply, closing his eyes as he enjoyed the smell of the tobacco.  It could all be ruined by one man.  One greedy, insensitive man.  The future held more promise than Gunter realized. 

Rising from his chair, Juan Domingo watched the last of the men disappear into the jungle to start the trek back to civilization.  Too much was at stake.  Gunter had to be stopped.

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The men moved in formation, their faces painted black and a drab green, their clothes colored to match the jungle.  Their footsteps were silent, their movement slow, deliberate.  There were over thirty of them, spread out in a semi-circular line moving as one.  The leader, Carlos Ranchone, directly in the center of the arc, raised his hand and then extended it palm down toward the ground.  Immediately the men lowered themselves in the tall grass, becoming invisible.

The dense foliage had given way to a brief opening of tall saw grass, its stalks bending slightly in the stale breeze, deceptively concealing how thick it was.  The edges of each leaf was razor sharp and sliced at the men’s clothes, tearing at the fabric, tugging at loose boot strings, cutting unprotected fingers.  The men did not seem to notice.

It had been two days since they had slept; over twelve hours since they had eaten.  Each man had drunk from his canteen twice during that period, but they appeared to be just as alert if they had stepped out of the shower after being awakened for breakfast.  The only visible evidence they were not functioning ‘normally’ was the look in their eyes.  The whites of their eyes were clearly visible around the pupils and they had a tendency to stare.  The gaze was penetrating.  And unnerving.

Unknown to the soldiers they had been given an experimental mind cocktail three weeks ago.  The drug had been placed in their food.  The cumulative effect on the brain was staggering.  They could push themselves harder, work longer without sleep and crush their appetite.  But the affects on the body was just as significant.  The internal organs, most notably the heart, could not withstand the additional adrenaline boost the drug caused.  Each soldier’s blood pressure was skyrocketing and the stress placed on the heart was reaching a critical point.  They would either come off the effects or die of a heart attack.  Those were the only two scenarios that were plausible.

The other major side effect centered on their emotions or lack of.   Their compassion was gone, non-existent.  They were flesh and blood machines, with no sympathy for others, no feelings.  Killing did not bother them, nor would they hesitate to do so.  Their mind had been reduced to a primitive state, a ruthless set of principles built around survival occupied their mind and they did not entertain the difference between right and wrong.  They simply ‘were’ and nothing more.  They had a job to do and intended to do it.  Empathy did not exist for them.  It was a concept foreign, lost.

Their Commander had given them the strictest orders when they were in base camp and they had been fed the ‘drug’ once again before the mission.  Unknown to the men, the Commander had waited for the chemicals to have its desired effect before he addressed them.  To each of them his words had sounded hollow, but had been imprinted on them much like a stone is branded by the sculptor with the use of a chisel.  To question was out of the realm of possibility.  To act was everything.

They had been given the particulars of the assignment: find all the men who transported the drugs, find where they were manufacturing them and stop them.  Obtain prisoners if possible, but if the situation did not present itself, then kill anyone who intervened.  That was almost three days ago.  Now they were about to encounter the first group in the pipeline transporting the drugs and they were going to initiate contact.

For over forty-five minutes they remained crouched in the meadow, the sweat beading on their faces and running down their shirts.  The menacing assault rifles were pointed forward, their magazines full of rounds.  Bayonets were affixed to the tip of each weapon, the cruel piece of steel honed to a keen edge.

Each man stoically watched the grass in front of them and out of their peripheral vision kept the man on either side in sight.  Carlos would give the signal and they would move forward soon, confront the objective and accomplish the goal.  The mission had been simple: intercept the drug cartel, destroy the supplies and take prisoners, if any survived.  None of them cared if anyone lived.

Carlos was finally convinced they could move.  The hand signal was given and the men crept forward, easing through the grass as one.  The narcotic smugglers had made camp the night before on the banks of the upper Amazon River.  The river had not gained its magnificence this far upstream, the tributaries not having had time to swell the water to its prodigious size before it spilled into the Atlantic Ocean.  Here it resembled more of what you would expect a river to resemble; thin, ribbon-like, and sinewy, rushing along the banks to an unseen end. 

The outlaws had a dozen canoes and a flat barge, all loaded with cocaine.  Their rendezvous point was farther downstream, where they were to meet power boats who could quickly transport the contraband to mother ships that would haul the riches to America and other ports.  The canoes and barge held almost a half billion dollars worth of pure cocaine, its white powder safely secured inside water proof canvas.  The lab was deeper within the Amazon Basin, its whereabouts known to only a handful.  The cocaine was left at the river’s edge deeper in the jungle for the men in the canoes to pick up and ferry.  The jungle held many secrets.  This was just one of them.

The soldiers were at the edge of the grass and peered out at the smugglers.  There were nineteen dope runners in all, some no more than sixteen or seventeen years of age.  They were armed with the latest in high tech weaponry and Carlos surveyed the group with interest.  Amongst the dope dealers were hardened men, who had killed and fought their way out of many a dangerous situation.  They would not surrender easily.

Giving the sign to engage, Carlos moved forward in a crouch and then broke into a slight run, his finger flipping the switch to ‘automatic’ on his assault weapon.  The other soldiers broke free of the grass, synchronizing their advance with his.

It was a young sentry that first spotted them and he only had time to yell once.  He was killed before he could utter another word.  When the first gunshot rang out, bedlam erupted.  The smugglers reached for weapons, firing blindly until they located the advancing soldiers.  By then it was too late.  The soldiers had closed the distance and had located targets.  Their pinpoint fire made short work of the outlaws.  In less than five minutes they all were lying dead or dying.  Carlos walked through the camp, his eyes surveying the carnage around him.  He had not lost a man.

A cry from the edge of the water. Quickly, the soldiers converged to find one of their men ordering two of the smugglers out of the river.  Caught by the water without their rifles, the two dope dealers had hoped to hide by a canoe.  An alert soldier had spotted them. 

Carlos joined his men and he stared at the two men with contempt, his eyes turning red as he stared at them.  They appeared to be uneducated peasants, drawn to the dope smuggling by the allure of money, of riches.  Their language would be a broken Spanish-native dialect Carlos had learned as a little boy.  Without a second thought he started to interrogate them.

“Where did you pick up the cocaine?” 

No response.  Both men stared at the ground, refusing to lift their head to make eye contact.

“Again.  Where did you pick up the cocaine?  Up the river?” asked Carlos.  Again he was met with silence.

Turning to the soldier to his left, Carlos nodded once and stepped back.  The soldier stepped forward, removed the bayonet from his rifle, grabbed the prisoner closest to him and drew a quick, savage line across from the man’s right shoulder to his lower left ribcage.  The man’s scream was swallowed by the jungle.  The soldiers watched dispassionately as the man tried to hold his innards with his hands.  Blood spread across his shirt, through his fingers and ran down his trousers.  They all watched as he died before them, collapsing onto the ground.

“Throw him in the river,” ordered Carlos.

The dead man was thrown out into the water by several of the soldiers.  Within seconds his body could be seen bobbing like a cork as unseen predators started to dine on the corpse.  The second prisoner started to babble to Carols, fear painted across his face.

“Upstream…up the river.  We go to a place where they have the stuff waiting on us.  We never meet anyone.  It is there when we get there….when we get there…”

Carlos raised his hand to stop the man from talking.  “How will I know when I am at this place?”

“Only by canoe.  You can only get there by canoe.  You could walk, but it would be hard.  Dangerous.  Canoe is easier…”  The prisoner was bordering on hysteria and his extremities were shaking.  “Please…please don’t kill me.  I will tell you what you want to know.  Please….”

“You have already told me what I want to know,” said Carlos, as he turned and walked away.  A single gunshot was heard and a few moments later a splash, as the second prisoner joined his friend.

Carlos waked back to find the rest of his men ransacking the camp.  “Burn the dope and take anything we can use.  We move out within the hour.” 

A large fire was started and the bricks of cocaine were thrown onto the rising inferno.  It took longer than an hour to burn all the dope and Carlos was obviously impatient with the delay.  His men, sensing his irritation, hastened to burn the contraband as fast as they could.

Leaving the camp, they fell into a single file line and headed up the river.  The canoes had been sunk in the murky depths of the water.  They would walk to where the smuggler had told them the pickup location was located.  There they would start to back track and find the trail of who supplied the cocaine to the river canoes.  When they found them, they would kill them. 

Each man’s heart beat a little faster as chemicals raced through their arteries and veins.  

Read Chapter Seven