Chapter 27

October 23, 2011 at 11:11 pm (The Job)

Hinckley felt as though he was blinking through dirt. His skin itched and crawled with bugs he couldn’t see. The agony in his mouth was nothing compared to the abuse his body had taken when they’d brought him into the village. The gorilla that had dragged him off dumped him down in the centre of their village, trumpeting and pounding on his chest to gain attention. The beast had stepped on Hinckley’s chest to show his dominance and had damn near crushed him into the sand.

Some of the younger apes had ambled over and started poking him in the side, their strong fingers stabbing with amazing force. They’d picked him up and tossed him around as though he were a rag doll. His captor had allowed this for close to ten minutes before wrenching Hinckley away and tossing him in the pen. He’d remained untouched after that. He had no idea what the gorillas intended to do with him. He’d lost his radio and couldn’t contact his team.

He’d gotten a fairly good look at the village. His pen was ten feet square, constructed of steel and concrete. It looked as though it had originally been used to transport large animals and must have been left in the jungle once the gorillas had taken over. If the delivery men had been killed, Hinckley did not see any remains nearby. The floor and ceiling were concrete, as well as the back wall, and the walls were made of steel bars set six inches apart. One wall was obstructed by earth. The cage had been butted up against a natural slope in the terrain. The front, where the only entrance was located, was angled away from the village facing the jungle. To lock the door, the gorillas pushed an enormous boulder in front of it. Hinckley had tried, but he couldn’t get the rock to budge.

When a commotion started, he peered through the bars of the pen to see what had happened. He only had a partial view of the village centre, but he thought he saw another soldier on the ground. The man didn’t move when the beast stepped on him and he didn’t react when the children poked him. Hinckley thought he might already be dead, but that the gorillas hadn’t noticed.

After several minutes he spotted movement closer to his pen. The gorillas were coming. Scrambling back against the far edge of the pen, he waited to see if they would haul him out to finish him off. The pen door opened and a gorilla stepped inside. He wasn’t the one who had captured Hinckley. He dropped his package and then turned to leave. Three others did likewise before closing the door on the pen and rolling the boulder into place.

Hinckley crawled over to the first soldier and checked him for a pulse. He found one, strong and true. The man rolled over and grinned at Hinckley.

“Good to see you alive, Hinks.”

“Tucker? What the hell are you doing here?” Hinckley couldn’t quite put it together. Tucker had been halfway around the island from his position. Had the apes been surveilling the entire perimeter?

“We got ambushed on our way to the boats. Bruner saw they weren’t taking anyone who looked dead, but they’d already gotten us before we could act it out.”

Hinckley looked at the other two soldiers who had turned over once Tucker started chatting. Preston and Mule had been stationed next to Hinckley, in the tiny cove. Tucker filled him in on the ambush and who he knew was dead or wounded.

“It was damn near a fucking slaughter. If Bruner hadn’t started sniping them and noticed their behaviour we’d probably have a few more buddies in here with us.”

“Any idea what they want us for?” Preston asked.

“No clue. After presenting me to the village, like they did with you guys, they dumped me in here and left me alone.”

“I don’t like it,” Mule whispered. “They’re cooking up some plan, you gotta know it.”

“Are we food for them?” Tucker asked.

“I didn’t think apes ate anything but bananas, but that’s probably just a myth,” Hinckley replied, half joking. “Besides, these ones are different. They’re bigger than anything I’ve ever seen before and they act different. I didn’t think males allowed any other males around them, but these ones not only fight together, they appear to live together, too. They all appear Alpha.”

“I hope Caputo makes it here before we discover what they’re planning to do with us.” Tucker would have thought Caputo would be there by now. The apes could move quickly, but Caputo had had several hours to reach this place. Of course the island was quite large and if Hinckley hadn’t left a trail of blood for him to follow that would make tracking a pain in the ass.

“Can we move that boulder?” Mule asked.

“It takes two gorillas to move it. We can try, but I’m not holding out much hope.” Hinckley stood and walked over to the bars. He couldn’t see any apes in the area. He motioned the rest over. Reaching through the bars, each man placed both hands on the upper section of the boulder. On a count of three they put all their strength into pushing it, but the boulder didn’t budge an inch. There were no tree branches nearby to get any leverage underneath it. Mule, the strongest, got down on his back and reached over his head through the bars to a lower portion of the rock. Trying a rocking motion this time, they heaved and huffed but couldn’t get it to give.

Retreating to the back of the cage once more, he sat down and tucked his arms around his bent knees. “Looks like we’ll have to wait for Caputo,” Hinckley said.

***

Donovan hacked his way through the jungle wondering just what else Wagner had dumped on the island. He was amazed that none of the creatures had made their way up to the cliff top. He had no idea how Leinster had managed to hold them at bay. It wouldn’t be a tremendous challenge for a giant gorilla to climb to the top. There was an electrified fence blocking the short landing strip from the jungle, but it would be an easy matter to slip in when the gate was opened to allow sea planes to come ashore. Donovan wondered if the gate’s electric field was deactivated when a plane was approaching. The gorillas were smart. It wouldn’t take them very long to figure that out. Besides, the electrified fence only spanned mid-way along the cliff face. The entire west half of the cliff, at the ground level, butted up against open jungle.

An hour after their crocodile adventure, Donovan started hearing noises in the distance. At first it sounded like hollering, but as they got closer to it they realized it was just the general din of a very large village. They approached the edge of the gorilla village from its northwest side. Parker and Simon watched the treetops as well as the ground, in case they had sentries posted.

The gorillas were gathering in the centre of the village, to surround several other gorillas that had apparently just arrived. Several gorilla bodies were gently placed on the ground, for family members to mourn over. The mated females of the dead nudged the bodies in hopes that their mate would rise. When they remained lying on the ground, the females started to wail. The cacophonous yowling noise was startling for the degree of melancholy it projected. The females ignored the remainder of the show, preferring to remain with the bodies of their dead mates.

The rest of the village watched as several other bodies dropped to the ground. These were much smaller. Simon removed the binoculars from his pack and trained it on the men on the ground. He watched carefully, searching for any sign of life. After a few minutes, one of the younger apes started to poke one of the men and Simon saw his quick grimace.

“They’re still alive.”

Donovan took the binoculars and looked at each of the faces. He didn’t recognize any of the men, but he did recognize the gear they carried.

“They’re ours,” he said. “We’ll have to get them out of there.”

“That’s not our priority,” Simon argued.

Before they could get into it, Parker held up her hand for silence. “We don’t leave men behind, period. We have to go that way to get around the crocs. We’re going to get noticed anyway. We may as well make a big splash and get our guys out at the same time. More men, means more backup.”

Donovan nodded in agreement. Outnumbered, Simon easily gave in. Leaning over to Parker he whispered in her ear.

“You’re cute when you’re logical.”

“I’m always cute. I’m not always logical,” she winked at him.

“You got a plan, Ms. Logical?” Simon asked.

“Yeah, go down there, blow shit up and get our guys out.”

“That’s a half baked plan, at best,” he muttered. He had capitulated to risking his neck for their men, but he wanted a better plan than the one she suggested, even if she was being sarcastic.

“Looks like they’re putting them in some sort of pen.” Donovan handed the binoculars back to Simon who took a look.

“That thing looks like it’s made of concrete. Where did that come from?”

“Probably Wagner Pharmaceuticals. I’ll bet it’s an animal cage and they just left it here once they’d dropped off the animal. You got any ideas?” he asked them.

“We have any C4?” Simon asked.

“None,” Donovan replied.

“Then we’ll have to get them out the old fashioned way. Shoot the locks. Let’s get down there and see what we’re dealing with.”

“How does a gorilla manage a lock?” Parker asked.

“No idea. That’s why we’re heading down there.” Simon led the way down the slope.

Parker couldn’t think of anything else that would work, so she gestured for Donovan to follow and she would take the rear this time. The only weapon they had with any real explosive properties to it was the RPG, but if they lobbed that thing at the pen it would kill their guys. Better to save the RPGs for getting out of the gorilla village.

***

As Donovan’s team approached from the north, Caputo’s team made their way toward the gorilla village from the south. The gorillas that had hit the beach and attacked their perimeter team had not passed by them. Caputo assumed they had returned from further east than his team was. The perimeter team had been twice the size of his volunteer team and they’d been nearly decimated. The information that Bruner had passed along would aide their infiltration of the village. If at all possible, Caputo wanted to get in quietly, grab their men, and get out again.

The village was different from what he was expecting. He assumed gorillas mainly hung out in trees. This pack had burrowed small caves into the dirt and sand. A quick count showed close to fifty caves. If each one had a male gorilla in it, that meant a tremendous force to be reckoned with. Caputo was still assessing the situation when he spotted movement off to his left.

In a cage at the edge of the village, he spotted his missing soldiers. Their attention was drawn to something beside their cage, in the jungle. Caputo focused his binoculars on the area and recognized Donovan accompanied by two other people. Caputo motioned to his men to circle around the village, to the left, to rendezvous with Donovan and their men.

Caputo led the way and Billis brought up the rear. Billis had seen just how many gorillas were in that village as well. Any noise they made would bring those beasts charging. It made better sense to wait and kill Donovan once they’d made it away from the gorilla village. He quickly changed frequencies on his radio and conveyed his message to the rest of his team. Once he’d gotten consent all around, Billis switched back to the common channel and returned his attention to watching their backs.

They spent fifteen minutes trekking around the village before they were close enough to Donovan’s team for the woman to start searching the woods for them. Caputo stopped and waited. He stepped out from a tree to present himself to her, keeping his weapon at his side. She nodded and whispered into her radio.

Donovan looked over and immediately recognized Caputo. Pointing to his radio, and raising a finger to point at Caputo, he silently asked which channel they were on. Caputo responded and waited for them to change.

“How many of you are there?” Donovan asked.

“We have nine including me. We’re carrying rifles and grenades mainly, though I do have a small amount of C4 in my pack.”

“We may need it to move the boulder in front of that cage,” Donovan motioned him over.

Caputo held up his hand for his men to remain where they were. He stepped around the tree to view the front of the cage. The boulder was easily as tall as he was. There would be no moving that enormous rock without a little extra force.

“We’ll need a diversion, or we’ll have the entire village crashing our party before we can get our men out.” Parker had her binoculars trained on the village and didn’t notice Caputo’s raised eyebrows.

“What do you suggest?” Donovan asked her.

“The men in the cage are all fit enough to move under their own steam, so we give them weapons now, before we blow the boulder.” She drew a crude map of the village in the dirt. “Split our team in two and send one half here,” she pointed to the southeast corner of the village. “We’ll take the RPGs and other incendiary devices. You’ll blow the boulder at the same time as an RPG hits the largest grouping of gorillas. The team with the prisoners makes their way straight across the village to rendezvous with us on the east side, here,” she gestured to an area beyond the village, almost due east of their current position.

“We have to hit as many of the gorillas as we can, obviously, or the fuckers will just keep stalking us.” Parker waited for comments on her plan.

“You sound like you’re leading the hit on the southeast side,” Caputo said.

“I am,” she replied, waiting for complaints. She sensed he might have difficulty following a woman.

Caputo wasn’t sure how he felt. As a SEAL, he’d never had to take orders from a woman, because there were no women SEALs. There were women in the regular Navy, some were of higher rank than him, but he’d never been in a fighting situation with one and didn’t know what to expect. His impression of women was from his own family and his mother was an emotional wreck. Probably because his father was so tyrannical. So far, Parker didn’t appear to be emotional, but you never knew when it would happen.

“What do you know about tactics and strategy?” he asked instead.

Parker looked him up and down. There were a few tells, not the least of which was his carrying C4 as part of his gear. “SEALs, right?”

He didn’t answer. He gave her the same perusal she’d given him and made up his mind. “You’re Army, all the way.” He sneered, for good measure, and all for show.

Parker decided she liked him. She ignored his initial question about tactics and got down to business. She, Simon and Donovan had enough extra weapons on them to outfit the prisoners. Donovan and Simon would stay with Caputo and free the prisoners. She called two of Caputo’s men over to collect the extra weapons. They took the RPGs and a fair number of the grenades. Simon and Donovan would use the remaining grenades, if necessary, to ward off any attacks while they worked their way over to the rendezvous point.

When the soldiers had the gear collected, they returned to the others, where they waited for Parker to join them. She motioned to the boulder. Looking at Caputo, she offered her own sneer. “You go play with your Silly Putty. The rest of us will do the real work.”

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