Read A New World: Taken Online
Authors: John O'Brien
Feeling like they have a little room, they stop to rest.
“One minute, no longer,” Vance says between breaths.
Although they bought some breathing room, they still hear a mass of people to either side.
“If we become separated, rally at the beach where we stashed our gear.”
No one answers verbally as their panting breath won’t allow it, but all nod.
Fifty meters further and they break into the open.
A small village appears ahead.
They have come out of the jungle on the edge of it.
The jungle road lies off to their right and runs through the middle with thatch huts lining both sides.
Shrieks rise on the night air.
Vance turns to look behind and sees a horde of people running up the road.
There’s no choice but to make their way directly through the middle of the village.
It’s that or through the jungle again and Vance doesn’t feel like they’ll make it far given how far they still have to travel and their weariness.
They were not to be observed on this mission but that is now secondary to their very survival.
“To the road,” he tells the others and they make their way over the muddy ground and begin running down the road.
Screams follow them.
Several doors open as the team passes; people rousted by the shrieks and coming out to see what is disturbing their quiet village.
Vance glances over his shoulder and sees the horde that was following them fall upon those that ventured outside.
Others change direction in mid-stride and pummel their way into other huts.
Vance and Blue Team reach the far side of the village and notice they are no longer being pursued.
Whoever, or whatever Vance thinks, was chasing them is now consumed with the village and villagers.
“Keep going but keep the pace to a jog,” he says.
They continue down the road as the screams, echoing through the jungle, slowly fade behind them.
Vance and his team make their way down the side of the muddy road, darting quickly into the brush as the occasional vehicle passes by.
Headlights are their early warning system and they watch from behind bushes as the lights shine on the slick surface of the road and head toward the village they left some hours ago.
They rest up and take their ‘energy’ pills.
Vance has no intention of stopping and replays the night’s events over and over without any of it making any sense.
He can tell by the quietness of the others that they are lost in their own thoughts and confusion as well.
Nothing is said about it during their rest and trek.
It’s as if mentioning it will bring it back down on their heads.
They continue to make their way out of the mountainous jungle toward the coast line.
They avoid any further contact with civilization staying well back in the jungle.
The light of morning slowly filters its way through the trees rising tall above them.
The jungle keeps its gloomy light as the triple canopy filters out most of the sunlight.
Every so often, a stray beam of light finds its way through and brings the dull green to a brilliant radiance.
Insects fly in and out of the beam, drawn to its light.
Vance tells his point to find a secluded place to rest.
They find a thick patch of bushes and settle down.
There is a little opening within for them to be comfortable.
They clear the small sticks and leaves from the middle and collapse in their little hideout; lying in a circle pattern with their toes touching.
“We have time before we’re due at the beach so we’ll rest here.
We’ll stand one guard with one hour shifts,” Vance says feeling exhaustion sweep over him.
He lays out shift schedules and is immediately asleep.
Not even the heat and humidity bothers him as he sinks into a coma-like sleep.
The pills have worn off leaving him feeling like he hasn’t slept in a week.
Normally his mind would play over the events of a mission but there is no staying awake this time.
Startled awake, Vance looks around in a panic.
The feeling leaves slowly as he becomes aware of where he is and the sight of his team lying on the ground around him.
The man on guard looks over his way and nods.
The birds chirp a symphony around their small thicket of bushes.
Brightly colored birds flit from branch to branch overhead.
His fatigues are bathed in sweat and his mouth feels like someone poured sand in it while he was asleep.
He sits up and takes a sip from his canteen, swilling it around his mouth before spitting it out.
He then takes a long draught.
Not so much as to bring on a stomach ache but enough to quench the great thirst he feels.
The calmness and spirited birds filling the air belies the events of last night.
It’s a surreal world Vance wakes to and he feels like he’s woken in another universe.
He’s used to that feeling – the one of an adrenaline-based mission followed by a cold beer – but not like what they experienced last night.
The loss of Gold Team and the LT hits hard.
They’ve lost people before, either due to action or accidents, but not a whole team.
Yeah, there was the one aircraft accident a while ago where they actually lost several teams, but not an entire team to action.
He runs the events through his mind expecting some of it to make sense but nothing of the sort materializes.
Vance wants to send a message letting command know of their disastrous mission but this was to be a silent op and communications were only to be made in the direst of needs.
A rescue effort or any communications would be known.
Even if the listening parties couldn’t know the exact content, they would get an idea that a team was in place by the coding.
This information could then be given to other parties if they were financing or supporting a certain operation in any way.
The thought of leaving the others isn’t sitting well and he feels a tightness in his stomach.
Both from leaving comrades in the field and from trying to explain what happened.
He doesn’t even know what happened so he’s not sure how his explanation is going to be taken.
, he thinks.
My team and I are still alive and that’s what counts for now
I’ll deal with that other shit later.
He pats his team member on the back and indicates for him to nod off.
He’ll take the remainder of the watch.
He lies on the warm dirt and contemplates their escape route.
He envisions scenario after scenario and how to counter them should the need arise.
His mind drifts back to the night prior.
Certain images stick in his mind.
The sight of a mass of people surrounding and huddled over the bodies of Gold Team.
How positive he was that they were biting and clawing at them.
In the light of the day, he’s pretty sure he mistook what he saw but the images don’t fade away with the unreality of it.
He trusts his eyes and knows that’s what he saw.
The sight of the pale faces, glowing in his goggles, scaling the ladder scant feet below him; their eyes seeming to shine in the night like some night animal.
That was freaky
, he thinks as the image stays locked in his head.
The next hour passes by with these images circulating in his mind.
He quietly wakes the others.
They take a quick bite and drink; burying their wrappers in the soft jungle soil.
They arrange the leaves and twigs leaving no trace of their being there and continue their trek.
They slowly make their way out of the mountains and down to the coast line without sighting a soul; or hearing one for that matter.
Vance doesn’t trust much of anything after last night.
They eventually come upon the supply cache they left upon arrival and he sends a coded signal.
The signal says in effect that they are in position and will head out at night and rendezvous at the appointed time.
The tail end of the coded signal tells of an unsuccessful mission.
He hates to send that but that is also part of his job.
Thoughts of looking into those instructor positions surface.
Yep, I’m getting too old for this shit
They find a concealed place to hole up and rest until the coming night.
With the night, they slip on their dry suits, inflate their rubber zodiac, known as a combat rubber raiding craft, and make their way out into the Philippine Sea.
Captain Raymond Leonard, USN, commander of the fast attack submarine USS Santa Fe, sits in the control room.
The freshly poured cup of coffee sits unnoticed beside him.
His attention is on the flash transmission from the SEAL teams on the beach.
They are in position and ready for recovery at the appointed time and place.
But that’s not what has made him forget the much-needed caffeine by his side.
It’s the second part of the message that clenches his stomach.
It’s the ‘mission unsuccessful’ that has his attention.
Rarely does he ever see one of those.
And to see one on this mission.
It was only a recon; more if circumstances allowed
He will send his own message when he recovers the crews.
He sets the transmission down and tells the crew to be ready to board the teams.
The time arrives and he brings the sub to periscope depth.
The periscope breaks the gently swelling waters of the Philippine Sea and he immediately sees one of the zodiacs.
He flashes the infrared light once and sees the rubber craft turn in their direction.
Scanning 360 degrees, he looks for the other boat but sees none.
Bringing the scope down to minimize their exposure, he waits for the report that the teams, or team, are safely on board.
He is definitely interested in the debrief although he also knows that some of the information may be limited.
It just depends on whether he is on the need to know list.
“Sir, Blue Team is recovered,” a crew member informs him.
“And Gold Team?”
Captain Leonard asks.
“No sign of them, sir,” the sailor answers.
Have the team’s leader report.”
He has the crew maintain position and depth until he clarifies the situation.
He’s not fond of staying so close to the surface as MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detectors) can easily pick his boat up here but he can’t leave without knowing where Gold Team is.
Captain Leonard looks up as a very tired and disheveled SEAL team leader stands before him.
“Where’s Gold Team?”
Leonard asks coming straight to the point.
He wants to know if he needs to stay here or they can get to a more comfortable depth.
“We were ambushed and they were overrun, sir,” the Chief Petty Officer reports.
He then proceeds to give a synopsis of the events as he saw them.
“You mean to tell me we have a team lying somewhere on that island?”
Leonard asks after hearing the story.
In the depths of his mind, he wonders about the authenticity of the story.
It’s an outlandish one that’s hard to believe.
He looks at the CPO standing before him wondering if perhaps there weren’t a little too many pills taken on this one.
The eyes of the team leader seem to be telling the truth but the truth will come out regardless of whether it is now or not.
It always does.
We couldn’t get to them and if we tried, there would be two teams lying there,” the team leader says.
“And no part of the mission was successful,” Leonard asks.
We didn’t get any verification.”
Get cleaned up and get some rest.
You’re sure Gold Team isn’t coming?”
The team leader swallows before saying, “I’m sure, sir.”
Leonard nods and the team leader departs.
He scribbles a quick message and heads to the communications room.
“Send this to COMSUBPAC,” he says handing the operator on duty the message.