What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Desperate Student, Episode 12: Mercenary

This post picks up where previous episodes left off. Make sure you're caught up before proceeding.

Well, I'm back from Africa. But this story will take at least two episodes to tell.

I awoke bright and early, ready to face the day. Then I got a wiff of room 7 in the It'll Have to Do Hotel, and life got dull and dreary right quick.

I heard a knocking outside my window and stumbled over. A black limousine was parked outside. A uniformed chauffeur with a massive forehead stood by the open door, staring at his watch with impatience. I pulled on my clothes, which were starting to smell pretty bad, and stumbled out into the parking lot. The chauffeur straightened and sniffed the air.

"Do you have any baggage, sir?"

"Only the emotional kind," I said, brushing past him into the car. "You're with Jane Goodall, right?"

"Yes, sir." The man dutifully closed the door and went around to the driver's side. I stretched myself out on the luxurious leather upholstery as the car pulled out of the lot and toward the highway. The ride was surprisingly bumpy. I had expected limos to be more comfy.

The ride to the airport was reasonably uneventful and mindlessly boring. We parked near the entrance in a reserved parking spot, and the chauffeur opened the door.

"I am to escort you to the plane," He said stiffly. I nodded and followed him into the main building. The chauffeur, whose name I later learned to be Jeeves, produced two boarding passes at the security checkpoint.

The TSA agents made me strip down to my underwear and put everything in ziploc bags, which were put into rather less-than-sanitary gray bins. The gray bins were put onto a conveyor belt and went under some hanging rubber flaps into a machine. Then came a beep, a flash, and a puff of smoke. I never saw them again.

"Step forward, please," Said an agent, motioning to have me go through a metal detector.

"Will that do the same thing to me that you did to my clothes?"

The agent frowned. His left hand slowly moved across his belt toward his baton. "Step forward, sir."

I stepped forward. Nothing happened. The agent winced and had me step through again. This time, there was a beep. I threw my hands up to my face reflexively and felt hot air rush over my near-naked body. I pulled my hands slowly away. They were covered with hair.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Sterilized you," The agent said casually. Then he frisked me.

Forty minutes later, we ran across the tarmac to a private jet painted with two apes grooming each other. I was wearing a plain blue jumpsuit that Jeeves had ingeniously produced the moment we got through security. Jane Goodall stood at the door of the plane in regal splendor, arms folded. She looked like Hera surveying her domain.

I ran up the steps quickly with Jeeves in tow. "Hey, I'm the Desperate Student."

"And I am Miss Goodall. I look forward to working with you."

I felt like I was in the presence of one of the greatest scientific minds of our age. "Uh ... likewise. Shall we go?"

"Not just yet. We're waiting for the other team members."

I went into the plane, which was luxuriously furnished, and took a seat on one of the couches. Two hours went by. Then tires squeeled outside, doors slammed, and a flurry of shouts and pounding boots sounded up the steps.

"Come on, come on! We're gonna be late!"

"You already are," Said Jane quietly as a dozen men in blue jumpsuits bustled past her into the plane. "You will never be tardy again." Her voice was packed with authority. The men skulked toward their seats with guilty expressions.

Jane took the front. "My friends," She said, "Thank you for your interest in this expedition. The information we are about to collect on orangutans will do wonders toward filling in the gaps in our understanding of these enigmatic and rare animals, and help us build a picture of what steps need to be taken to ensure their continued survival into the next millennium. The work will be difficult, dangerous, and dirty. Your total enthusiasm in this operation is its only hope for success. I'm sure I can count on your one hundred and ten percent effort." Everyone looked around. I got the sense that my fellow team mates were as stupid and lazy as I was. Jane nodded with a slight frown. "Very well. Off we go!"

I fell asleep during the very long ride. No one talked. Nobody really moved. One of the blue jump suit boys shook me awake as we landed.

"Hey, I'm Vince."

"Nice to meet you, Vince. Where are you ..." The wheels slammed into the tarmac, and the whole plane shook and rattled violently. Vince and I were thrown up into the ceiling. Then the couch slid out from under us and down the hall, and we landed face-first on the thick carpet. Vince got up slowly, nose bleeding. The plane had stopped.

"Crash landing?" He asked.

Jane materialized in the doorway, the picture of calm. "There's been a coup," She said. "The airport is in turmoil. Collect the gear and meet me at the cargo bay door in three minutes. We'll have to disembark under fire."

That didn't sound good. I followed Jane to the hold and helped her pack supplies into two rugged jeeps. The other crewmen, led by Vince, and the two pilots appeared soon after. I heard automatic gunfire outside. It didn't sound far off.

Jane took a position in the front passenger seat and pulled a briefcase from the glove compartment, from which she produced an easy-to-assemble sniper rifle. "Who knows how to use a machine gun?" She asked. No one raised their hand. She pointed at me. "Get in the back and ready the .50 caliber." I dutifully loaded up and pulled a massive gun and tripod out of the trunk. The tripod bolted to the floor and gave me an excellent position for laying down fire anywhere the jeep was pointing. Vince hopped up next to me and loaded a belt into the side. Someone else got into the passenger seat. Two more people hopped onto the back bumper armed with sub-machine guns.

"Did you know we'd need all this weaponry?" I asked nervously as our comrades piled into the other jeep and got the rocket launcher ready.

"This is Africa," Said Jane. She reached out with the butt of her rifle and threw a lever on the wall. The back of the plane lowered; the driver tromped on the gas.

We drove out into an open tarmac. We had the only plane on the ground. A dozen vans with red flags were parked alongside the chain-link fence that surrounded the airport, and men with red and white bandannas were shooting in toward the terminal, taking cover from behind their vehicles and the occasional rock or bush. I looked back over my shoulder and saw a desperate handful of Zimbabwean soldiers, most of them armed with pistols, making a stand on the roof. They were being massacred.

I heard a terrific cracking noise and looked down to see Jane calmly chambering the next round into her rifle. "You may fire as soon as you find a target," She said quietly. I squeezed the triggers to the machine gun. Long yellow streamers leapt from the barrel, shredding everything they came in contact with. The whole gun shook violently and my teeth chattered against my tongue. I had a hard time focusing as the jeep careened toward the fence, gaining speed by the second. A rocket whizzed by overhead, leaving a scorching hot exhaust trail, and pounded into the nearest van, sending shrapnel in all directions. I saw white and my ears started to ring. The jeeps raced through the new hole in the fence and off into the foliage beyond. I heard the people in jeep two hosing down the rebels from behind with their SMGs. I became dimly aware that my fingers were still on the triggers. I released them sheepishly and looked over my shoulder. The hail of bullets had decimated a hundred square feet of rain forest. Jane sniffed but said nothing.

Vince slammed the next bullet belt into position and cranked the gun. "This thing is hot," He said.

I nodded. "Well, I think we're done firing it for awhile."

I saw a flash of blue to my right and pivoted the smoking barrel, ready to unleash heck at the slightest provocation. Jane raised her hand and the driver stopped.

"We're being followed," She said. We all stopped and listened to the very loud and chaotic rainforest for several seconds. I wanted to fire in all directions at once, so I didn't fire at all. Finally, Jane nodded. "Continue."

Alas, we only made it a hundred more feet before the bumper riders were forced to walk ahead, slashing the trail with machetes. The going was unspeakably slow. The day was hot and sticky. The men (including myself) removed as much as we thought Jane would allow and guzzled water from the canteens. Jane sat calmly in the passenger seat nursing her rifle. She didn't even break a sweat.

Nightfall brought little relief from the heat. We turned on the jeep headlights and kept pushing, taking thirty minute shifts with the machetes. I don't think we went more than two miles per hour.

They attacked at sunrise.

The foliage was just starting to lighten when I heard a twang behind me. A bright blue arrow thudded into Vince, who fell to the ground, frothing at the mouth. It took me just four seconds to get the machine gun turned around and working. Hundreds of bullets tore the foliage, ripping the jungle to shreds. The air heated around me. I saw distortion above the gun.

Someone fired a rocket. It detonated against the wall of trees, and the blast lifted two unlucky crewmen into the air. Their flailing arms tangled in the vines overhead and stayed there. I saw a tall, half-naked savage jump into the path we had cut into the jungle. His aspect was hideous - his body smeared with blue paint; tooth necklaces dangling from his neck; a curious horn design tattooed onto his face. He raised his bow to the canopy above and released a savage yell. I swiveled and blasted away.

For about ten seconds, no one moved. The bullets seemed to hit anything and everything but the savage. Then Jane leveled the rifle and fired. The native yelped and ducked into the trees. A few moments later, he was gone. A few moments after that, the gun jammed.

"Report!" Jane ordered. No one moved for a moment. I noticed she was looking at me.

"Uh ... we were attacked. By savages. Can't have been less than a dozen. They killed three of our men. I think we nicked one. We should probably keep moving before they tell the others."

"You are an imbecile," Jane reported. She didn't say it maliciously. She just wanted to let me know. "There were two of them. They fired a single arrow, probably as a warning. No one was seriously hurt."

"... oh."

"In the future, you will emulate my accuracy in all your reports."


"You didn't recognize the markings?"

"Uh ... no."

"Those were contributors to the humor blog Really Funny Class Notes. I doubt they'll be back."

Vince got up, wiping his mouth, and pulled the shaft from his back. "Itches," He reported.

"Let us proceed to the campsite," Jane ordered.

We kept going until around noon. Finally, we reached a modest sort of clearing, which appeared to have been carefully situated in the exact middle of nowhere. Jane nodded approvingly and dismounted.

"Pitch camp," She ordered. "Tomorrow, the hard work begins."


Anonymous said...

UMmmm...Is this your alter ego or something? And....Jane Goodall does not look anything like Hera, that environmentalist wacko. I'm glad you decimated a hundred feet of rainforest.

Em said...

wow. that's quite an adventure!

Anonymous said...

are fcn and rfcn working together or somthing? look at rfcn's last post and fcn's last post!

Anonymous said...

Dear Desperate Student I advise you to use your .50 caliber to clear out the precious rain forest that way you can get away from those who are trying to kill you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Desperate Student,
I hope that next time you get shot by RFCN's arrows instead of one of your thug friends.

Guitarbob said...

hm, maybe jane goodall should sign up for secret service!!

Udontwannakno said...

I agree with guitarbob.