The next morning Doug, Roger, Shawn, John, Charles, Mark, Frank, Jack, Jake, Nick, and Corporal are standing around making sure that they have everything they need. None of them has slept since they saw the vines fall down last night. The adrenaline is keeping going. Doug, Shawn, Nick, Charles, and Corporal are used to going for days without sleep. Before they take off towards the closest vine Linda Johnson, Doug and Mark’s mother, drives up. Doug invited her here to look after his house and Lucky. But to everyone’s surprise she brought along Miranda, Jake’s girlfriend. Jake told everyone last night that she had broken up with him a month ago. She walks past everyone straight up to Jake. Miranda has everyone’s attention. She is a very attractive woman. Even Roger and Shawn have difficulty not looking at her.
“What are you doing here Miranda?”
Miranda suddenly lunges at Jake and kisses him. Jake is so surprised that he is knocked off balance but quickly regains his footing. Several of the guys, including Doug, whistle at them. After a couple of minutes, Miranda parts away from Jake’s lips.
“I thought that we were finished.”
“I love you Jake. I cannot stand the thought of being away from you.” Miranda replies.
“I love you to Miranda.”
Charles leans in to Doug and whispers.
“Ok, just when I think things can’t get any stranger they do.”
“I know, but at least one of us is getting some action.” Doug whispers back.
Jake surprises everyone by getting down on his knee.
“Miranda there is something I need to tell you.”
“What is it Jake?” Miranda asks.
“The day that you broke up with me was the day that I was going to propose to you.”
“And now you want to propose to me?”
“Yes, will you marry me?”
Miranda kneels down and kisses Jake again. There are tears in her eyes.
A few minutes later, Doug is showing his mom around the house telling her important information on how to take care of the house and Lucky. This is the first time that Linda has been to his house. She doesn’t like the location of his house. The whole time Doug can tell that Linda doubts this mission.
“Doug are you a hundred percent certain about this?”
“Yes mom I am. You are not the first person to ask me that.”
“As long as you believe that this is what God as planned for you I will support you.
Doug hands Linda the keys and gives her a few instructions about Lucky and his house. Linda can tell that Doug is trying to get rid of her. Not because he doesn’t want her here. Doug wants to get up on Jeremiah as quickly as possible.
“You better call me every day while you’re up there.”
“I cannot promise you that but I’ll try.”
Frank, Chelsea, and Brian’s goodbye is by far more emotional. Chelsea and Brian are both crying. Frank is having a hard time not crying.
“I am sorry for everything I’ve done to you. I hope that you can forgive me.”
“I forgive you.” Chelsea replies then kisses Frank.
“I promise you that I will change. When I get back I will be a better man.”
“I know you will. But you better call me as often as you can.”
“I promise” Frank responds.
Doug, Roger, Shawn, John, Charles, Mark, Frank, Jack, Jake, Nick, and Corporal load up all their equipment and start their hike to the vine. Doug and Charles both look back and see that Jake and Miranda are still talking. Doug and Shawn halt the group. They wait for Jake and Miranda to finish. Finally after ten long minutes, Jake and Miranda kiss and separate. Doug calls Jake up to the front.
“What were you and Miranda talking about?” Doug asks.
“We were talking about the wedding.”
“Good for you. So when are you and Miranda going to get married or have you two even gotten that far yet?” Shawn asks.
“We are going to get married as soon as I get back.” Jack answers.
“You do know that may be a month or two?” Doug asks.
“Yes, and so does she. Miranda is willing to wait.”
“And you trust her?” Nick asks.
Everyone on the team knows about Nick’s opinion of women. Nick views women as nothing more than sex objects. Jake gets infuriated at Nick’s comment. He rushes at full speed at Nick. Charles and Frank grab a hold of Jake and hold him back.
“Come on guys let him at me. Let him teach me a lesson.” Nick taunts Jake.
Doug walks up to Nick and punches him in the face as hard as he can. Nick falls down to the ground, his nose bleeding.
“What did you do that for?” Nick shouts and tries to get up.
“I will not allow that kind of talk as long as I am in charge. If you say anything like that again I will personally beat you within an inch of your life, understand?” Doug angrily replies.
“Yes, it will not happen again.”
“It’d better not.”
The hike to the vine takes the team almost an hour. They have to hike up and down a tall, steep hill and swim across creeks before they make it. It doesn’t take long before several of the guys, Jack, John, Shawn, and Roger, are exhausted and sweating like crazy. Jack, Jake, and John are not used to this kind of exercise. Shawn and Roger are just getting older. Doug, Charles, Nick, and Corporal are not having any difficulty. Their military training prepared them for this kind of work.
When they get about halfway to the vine, Shawn looks at Doug and notices something. Something appears to be depressing Doug. Only Shawn notices it.
“What’s wrong Doug?”
“Doug I know that something is wrong. Now do you want to talk about with just me or with everyone else?” Shawn asks, indicating that he will shout to the others that something is wrong. Doug knows that he will do it. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s done it him.
“You know Uncle Shawn there are only five people in the world who can get me to talk about my feelings. You and my dad are two of them.”
“Who are the other three?”
“Colonel Patrenski, my mom, and Charles”
“That makes sense. They are all smart people.” Shawn replies. “So are you going to tell me what’s wrong or what?”
“Ok I’ll tell you. Just so we’re clear, what I am about to say stays between us.”
Doug takes a deep breath to calm his nerves. Shawn can tell what Doug is about to tell him is very personal.
“You’re lonely ain’t ya?” Shawn says before Doug can reply.
“Yes, is it really that obvious?”
“Yeah it is. I hate to say this Doug but you have terrible taste in women. Every girl that you have dated has either cheated on you or turned out to be a real b (blank).”
“I know” Doug interrupts. “But I also know that the woman God has planned for me is out there. But I am getting a little tired of waiting for her.”
“I don’t blame you. “My advice is to be patient. You will meet her someday.”
By the time the team makes it to the vine they are all tired, some more than others. Jack, Nick, and John almost back out of the mission when they get a good look at the vine. The fact that they have to climb a mile just to get up on Jeremiah is almost enough to make them quit.
“So Cobra, how do you plan on getting up there, besides the obvious reason?” Nick shouts.
Doug walks up the vine and pulls out his climbing equipment.
“I don’t see any other way up.”
“Why can’t Colonel Patrenski just fly us up in a helicopter?” Mark asks.
“No aircraft is allowed to fly within one mile of Jeremiah. And Colonel Patrenski doesn’t want to arouse any suspicion with the media.” Corporal answers for Doug.
Each of the guys has climbing axes for their hands and climbing picks attached to their feet. They also have ropes, harnesses, and other safety and climbing equipment. They decide not to connect to each other in case one of them falls. If they decided to connect to each other one guy could cause the rest of them to fall. The adventure would be over before it began. Doug walks up to the vine, bends his knees, and jumps as high as he can. He thrusts the axes deep into the vine. Once Doug has a good handle on the vine, he moves up. Doug wants to make sure that the climbing equipment would work on the vine before he lets the rest of the guys start climbing. Turns out the vine’s surface are soft allowing the axes to pierce deep enough to get a good hold for the guys to climb.
“It’s stable come on up.” Doug shouts down when he gets fifteen feet up.
Roger, Shawn, Charles, Frank, Jake, Nick, and Corporal start climbing up the vine. John, Mark, and Jake hesitate a little bit before they start climbing. They let the others get a little ahead of them before they start up.
An hour later the team is about a quarter of a mile up the vine. Some are higher up than others. They don’t want to move to fast and waste the energy and as a result not be able make it all the way up. The team pauses and rest at this point. The possibility of falling to death is in the back of each of their minds, except Doug and Charles. Out of everyone on the team they are the only ones who have no doubts in their hearts.
“Okay now this is a work out.” Jake yells for all the guys to hear.
“You need to be in good shape to be able to do this.” Doug yells back at him.
Each of the guys pulls out their canteens to get a drink. As Shawn pulls out his canteen his stake comes loose. Shawn starts to lose his grip on his axe. Roger grabs Shawn’s arm before he falls to his death.
“I’ve got you”
Shawn thrusts his stake into the vine again. He pulls to make sure that he has a good grip. Once he is sure that it is deep enough, he relaxes.
“That was close, I owe you one brother.”
“What just happened down there?” Doug shouts to Shawn and Roger.
“My stake came loose and fell out. Roger grabbed my arm and helped me stabilized myself before I fell.” Shawn yells up to Doug.
“Good, I think we can take a little break.” Doug answers back.
Twenty minutes later the guys are back climbing up the vine. It is a slow and exhausting process. The team has to take several breaks. Each of them is carrying at least a hundred pounds of gear. For Doug, Charles, Jake, Nick, Mark, and Corporal it is easy work because they are in good shape. John has trouble because of his weight. It takes all he has to keep up with the others. Roger and Shawn have trouble because of health problems.
About three – fourths of the way up the vine, they stop to rest again. Even Doug and Charles are exhausted. The exhaustion they are feeling has slowed the pace down to a crawl. All the sudden Mark, who is up in front, his pick axe come loose and he starts falling. Corporal and Jack reach out to grab him but they both miss. Mark flies past several of others each of them tries to grab him but misses. Deep in his mind is the fear of death. He feels at peace with himself. He closes his eyes and prepares himself for death. Mark feels a sudden jerk on his waist.
“I got you Mark.”
Mark looked up and saw that Doug has grabbed the rope around his waist. To him it felt like he was falling forever when he actually only fell for about a couple of seconds.
“Why did you just save me, after all we’ve done to each other?”
“Because we’re brothers Mark and that’s good enough for me.”
Doug pulls Mark up and holds him up while he gets his foot hold on the vine. The rest of the guys stop and wait for Doug and Mark to catch up. The team takes another ten minute break when they catch up.
“You’re not tired are you Doug?” Nick shouts at Doug when they start climbing again.
“No I still have some energy left.”
“How about a little race then?”
“Okay, first one to the top . . . . Is not the loser.” Doug shouts back.
Doug, Charles, Nick, Frank, Jake, Jack, Mark, and Corporal start racing up the vine as fast as they can. Roger, Shawn, and John stay back and keep going slow. They don’t have the energy to keep up with the others. Doug and Charles stay close to the back and let Nick, Frank, Jake, Jack, Mark, and Corporal get ahead of them. At the speed Nick, Frank, Jake, Jack, Mark, and Corporal are going they will run out of steam before they reach the top. Doug and Charles hold back to reserve their energy. Nick takes the lead almost immediately. He keeps his place above the others. Nick’s time in the Rangers gave him the endurance he needs to keep going. Corporal and Frank keep close behind him, but they are not able to overtake him. With a hundred yards remaining to the top, Doug and Charles finally decide to kick it into high gear. It takes about a minute for them to pass Mark and Jack. The speed that Mark and Jack used at the beginning exhausted them. Doug and Charles easily pass Jake and Corporal next. Then they pass Frank who was just right behind Nick. Doug and Charles stay side by side most of the way up, but Doug is still holding back. He finally decides to push himself all the way when there is only fifty yards left. He easily passes Charles and leaves him in the dust. Doug closes on Nick who is just ten feet above him. Jeremiah is just fifty meters above them. Nick looks below him, and sees Doug just right below him. He tries to push himself even faster. But it is not enough. Nick pushed himself too hard in the beginning. Because Doug has reserved his energy, it allows him not only to catch up with Nick, but to pass him. Doug manages to beat Nick by a yard. Doug looks down at Nick and smiles sarcastically at him.
“Better luck next time Nick.”
The vine leads up into a cave. Doug climbs up into the cave. It is so dark inside that Doug cannot see five feet in front of him. He pulls out a flashlight and shines it around the cave. The edge of the cave is just a few feet away from the vine. Doug has to jump from the vine to the edge. He puts both feet on the vine and uses the strength of his legs to propel himself to the edge. Doug easily makes the jump. However he puts too much strength into the jump and lands on his face in a puddle of water. He gets up soaking wet and covered in mud. Doug gets up just in time to see Nick do the same thing, except that he slams his shoulder into a rock.
“How does it feel to lose Nick?” Doug said jokingly.
“Not too good.” Nick says when he lifts his head up.
Doug and Nick warn the others as they come up. When the whole team has made it into the cave, about thirty minutes, they take the opportunity to turn on their flashlights, catch their breath, and to look around them. The cave around them is huge. The Statue of Liberty could easily fit in the cave. The guys just stand around looking at all of the amazing cave formations. Words cannot describe the beauty of the cave.
“Dad, we’ve seen a lot of caves in our lives, have you ever seen anything like this?” Doug asks.
“No, I don’t think there is anything like this on Earth.”
Frank looks up and spots a hole in the ceiling.
“Hey guys, I think I found a way out of here.”
Everyone looks up and sees a small ray of light coming through the hole. The hole is at the top of one of the cave formations. . But all of the guys notice that the hole is at least two hundred feet up. Doug immediately takes charge. They will have to climb up on top of one of the cave formations to get to it
“Okay, Charles, Nick, come with me. We’ll climb up there and try to get out. Once we are out we’ll drop a rope through the hole so the rest of you guys can climb up.”
Doug, Nick, and Charles start climbing up the rock. There is a crevice going up the rock where water erosion had worn the rock flat and left a few places for them to grab a hold on to. Doug, Nick, and Charles have to put their backs on one side and their feet on the other and use the strength of their legs and arms to hold them up. There are a few spots that are big enough for them to grasp. The water makes it slippery and dangerous to climb. All three of them slip and almost fall several times. After half an hour they come to a spot on the rock where is large enough for all three of them to sit down on. Nick looks down to see how high they are. They are a hundred and fifty feet up. Doug and Charles both notice Nick freeze in fear.
“I didn’t know you are scared of heights Nick.” Doug says jokingly.
“Doug, do you know how many combat jumps I have?”
“Not as many as me.”
“Save it for later you two, we still have fifty feet to go.” Charles interrupts.
The rest of the rock is not as steep and it has more handholds. However, it is not as stable. The rocks easily come loose and fall at the slightest movement. Doug, Charles, and Nick move at a much slower and cautious pace than before. It takes them almost an hour to make it to the top. Doug is the first to make it. The top of the rock is smooth and large enough for two people to stand on but the hole is a good six feet above them. One wrong move can cause all of them to fall to their deaths.
“Hey Nick, boost me up carefully so I can get up there.” Doug calls to Nick.
Nick climbs up on top of the rock and squats down. Doug places his foot in Nick’s hand and then Nick lifts Doug up through the hole. He grabs the edge of the hole and uses his arms to lift him up onto the surface. Doug slowly rolls over to get his whole body through the hole. When Doug is all the way through, he takes a moment to look around him. He is in the middle of a thick forest. Giant trees, vines, and bushes surround him. It reminds him of home. Doug can even see a waterfall in the distance.
“Hey Doug, do you mind to pull me up?” Nick calls from down below.
Doug snaps out of his trance and walks back to the hole. He grabs Nick’s arm and pulls him up and out of the hole. They both lift Charles through the hole. After all three of them are through, they took a moment to look around. Nick and Charles have the same expression as Doug.
“I don’t believe what I’m seeing.” Nick says in awe.
“I know Nick. This place is even more beautiful than how I saw it in my dream.”
Doug, Charles, and Nick walk forward a little bit. They push their way through the bushes. When they got through the bushes, they pause in awe of the sight before them. They are standing on top of a mountain. They could see for miles in every direction. A mountain range covers the forests and a river in the middle with streams following down the mountain. In the clearings, they could see large, deer like animals grazing.
“Hey Doug, Charles, Nick, have you guys forgotten about us. We’re still down here.” Roger shouts on Doug’s radio.
“No, we’re still here. We’re just amazed at the beauty of this place.” Doug answers back.
Doug, Charles, and Nick head back towards the hole. They pull out the rope and tie one end around a large tree. Doug attaches a pulley to the rope so that the others could hook onto the rope so that if they should slip they won’t fall to their death. The rope is just barely long enough to reach the others.
“Okay guys, you can come up now.” Doug calls down to them.
It takes two hours for everyone to make it out of the cave. Doug, Charles, and Nick have to pull them out of the cave one at a time. Everyone has the same sense of awe when they get out of the hole. When everyone is out of the cave they take an hour break to admire the scenery.
“So Doug what do we do now?” Nick asks.
“I guess we find a place to set up camp in one of those clearings.”
By now it is late in the afternoon. They decide to try to set up camp in the closest clearing. Just in case everyone takes out their primary weapons. They do not know anything about this place. They split into two teams of five and six for hiking. Doug, Roger, Corporal, Frank, and Jack form one team. Shawn, Mark, Jake, John, Nick, and Charles form the other. Doug’s group is in front of Shawn’s group. Doug wants the smaller group to be in front in case they get attacked. It’s a modern military strategy called the “bounding overwatch”. If the first team gets attacked the larger numbers of the second group allows them to support, flank, and overwhelm the attackers. Shawn’s group stays fifty meters behind Doug’s group. Doug moves his group slowly through the forest. As they move to the clearing, they are surprised to see that it is identical to the forests of the Ozark Mountains. They are also surprised on how warm it is here. They expected it to be like Antarctica because of the elevation. As they come closer to the clearing, they have to cross a large, rapid flowing stream. The stream is too deep and the water is flowing to fast to swim across. Doug, Nick, Charles, and Shawn do what they are trained to do in the military. Nick, Charles, and Shawn tie a rope around a tree close to the stream. Doug makes a harness out of a piece of rope and connects it to the rope that Charles and Nick tied around the tree. He starts swimming across the stream. Nick, Charles, and Shawn hold on to the rope in case the current sweeps him away. Doug wades across the stream holding his M4/M203 rifle above his head. When it gets too deep for him to walk, Doug starts swimming. The current keeps on pulling him down stream, but the rope and harness keeps Doug where he is. It takes Doug about five minutes to make it across the stream. Doug pulls out of the stream exhausted. It took all his strength to make it across. Doug gets up and starts tying the rope to a tree when he hears a twig snap behind him. He jumps up with his rifle ready to shoot. He stays still, listens, and watches for the smallest hint of danger. To a normal person all they would see are trees and bushes. But a person who is at home in the woods, like Doug, knows to pay attention to every little detail. It’s the small things that point of danger, not the big things. At first Doug sees nothing that indicates danger. But he keeps on scanning. Then he sees something in the trees. Doug sees a strange figure standing on a tree branch. It has a human shape, but he can see that the figure has a tail, dark fur, and Dog – like ears. Doug also notices that the creature is wearing clothes, carrying a staff, and has a bow strapped to its back. He focuses harder on the figure. He can tell by the body shape that it is a female. But he cannot make out her facial distinctions or the clothes that she is wearing. The figure just stands there watching him. It has been his experience in the military that if there is one, more are close by. Doug looks around for any more but doesn’t see any. Even though the guys are only thirty meters behind him, Doug knows that the wood is too thick for them to do much good. Doug has a strange feeling inside of him. He feels that this creature is not here to harm him, but is looking out for him. Doug lowers and puts his weapon on safe. He stands up and looks back at the stream. Doug sees that the others have noticed that something is wrong. They are all kneeled down with their weapons pointed across the river. Doug is glad that they didn’t fire. He probably would have been killed in the crossfire. Doug looks back to see the figure but she is gone.
Katrina quickly and quietly pushes her way through a thick cluster of bushes and comes to a small opening surrounded by bushes. Three Rottweilers and a blue tick hound that Katrina calls Lady are waiting there for her. The three Rottweilers are Zathora, Judas and Lucas. Katrina chose Zathora because of her stealth. Very few Dogs are as stealthy as Zathora. Judas is an old friend of the Katrina’s family. He is the oldest one in the group. Judas is here to look after Katrina and Zathora. He has watched them grow up and considers them to be his own children. Lucas is an old friend of Katrina and Zathora. The three of them have trained alongside each other since they were kids. Lucas is a talented guerilla fighter. That’s why Katrina chose him.
“Well Katrina what is the situation?” Lucas asks.
“The humans are here. One of them crossed the river by himself and set up a rope on a tree so that the others could cross. I tried to get a closer look at him, but he sensed me somehow. When he heard me, he picked up his gun, but he didn’t use it. He just sat there looking around, watching very carefully. When he spotted me, he just sat there. The human didn’t do anything except try to get a better look. I don’t know how he spotted me. I was pretty well hidden. I’ve never heard of a human having senses like that. I wasn’t close enough to tell if anyone of them had the qualities of the chosen one. I just know that one of them is the chosen one. I won’t know which one until I can talk to them.” Katrina answers.
“Let’s not reveal ourselves just yet. I propose that we just watch them and see what they do.” Judas recommends.
“I agree with Judas, let’s stay back and watch.” Zathora replies.
“Alright, stay close enough so that you can observe them but stay out of sight.”
It takes half an hour for the whole team to cross the stream. Just like the cave they have to cross one at a time. When all the guys are across the stream Roger and Shawn pull Doug aside to talk to him.
“What did you see Doug?”
“I don’t know. It looked like one of the people I saw from my dream. As far as I know, it was female. I had a feeling that I wasn’t supposed to shoot, so I didn’t.” Doug answers.
“Okay, so what do you think?” Shawn asks.
He had been eavesdropping on their conversation.
“I say we just get to the clearing and set up camp. We’ll deal with them if we have to, but I don’t think they are going to be hostile to us. The figure would have tried to kill me if it was.” Doug responds.
It takes about ten minutes from them to get to the clearing. Doug orders them to be as quiet and as cautious as possible. When they get to the edge of the clearing Doug sees two creatures at the far end about a hundred yards away. The creatures look like large deer. They have the body and antlers like the White Tailed Deer, except these Deer are much bigger. Doug radios the second group about the deer.
“What do you plan to do about it?” Shawn asks.
“I plan on providing us with tonight’s supper.”
Doug lays down his assault rifle, takes out his bow, and moves along the edge of the clearing. He stays as low as he can and moves very slow along the edge of the clearing to keep the deer from seeing him. It is a slow agonizing process. Doug has to crawl under the bushes a couple of times. He manages to get within thirty yards of the deer. It took Doug ten minutes to move a hundred yards. Both deer are as big as an Elk. He aims his bow at the biggest deer. Doug aims, takes a moment to get his breathing under control, and then releases the arrow. The arrow flies straight and true hitting the deer right in the eye. The deer drops down dead. Doug shot the deer in the eye to get an instant kill. He didn’t feel like chasing after something that big through these woods. However, the other deer does something Doug did not expect at all. The deer lowers its antlers and charges at him. Doug is at disadvantage, he has already fired an arrow and the deer will be on top of him and kill him before he can even load another arrow. Amazingly, Doug didn’t feel any fear in him at all. Instead he feels a large burst of adrenaline. He grabs the .44 magnum strapped on his right side, aims, and fires at the deer’s head. The deer is about five feet away from him when he fires the pistol. The bullet hits the deer in the face. The .44 magnum bullet tears the deer’s face up. The deer drops like a stone and slides across the ground. The body stops sliding just inches from Doug’s feet. Doug put his pistol back in his holster. He lets out a deep breath. Doug looks up at the guys and sees them running towards him with their guns aimed and ready to fire.
“Whoa, guys, whoa, it’s alright, I’ve got us enough food to last us for a couple of months.” Doug yells at them.
The guys halt and put their weapons on safety. Roger slings his AR – 15 over his shoulder and walks toward Doug. Doug walks toward the big deer and pulls his arrow out of its eye socket. He then puts the arrow back in the quiver and slings his bow over his shoulder. Out of the corner of his eye, Doug sees something deep in the bushes. He pulls out the.45 just in case. He turns his head to get a better look. It is the same figure that he saw earlier down by the stream. This time he has a better view. He sees that she has bright, green eyes, long, black hair, and a pretty, sharp face. A strange feeling suddenly comes over Doug. He feels a connection with her. It is an unusual feeling for him. He’s had feelings for women before but nothing like this. This feeling comes close to the feeling that he felt when he gave his life to Christ. Doug takes a step toward her, but she disappears into the bushes. One second she was there the next she is gone.
“What is it Doug?” Roger shouts to Doug.
Doug doesn’t respond at first, he is still mesmerized by the woman. Doug shakes his head and snaps out of his trance.
“I saw someone in the woods. The same person that I saw by the stream.” Doug answers.
The others run up to Doug and congratulate him for his two kills. It takes Doug a few moments to shake himself out of his mesmerized trance. Frank, Jack, Mark, Corporal, Charles, Nick, and John immediately get busy setting up camp in the middle of the clearing. Doug, Roger, Shawn, and Jake skin the two deer. Frank, Mark and Charles and John set up the two tents while Jack, Corporal, and Nick set up the cooking tarp and the fire pit. The tents are Army style tents that are big enough to fit ten people. Jack, Corporal, and Nick find several large rocks and place them in a circle to build a fire ring. They put the tarp up about ten yards away from the fire. Doug, Roger, Shawn, John, and Charles take one tent while Corporal, Jack, Jake, Mark, and Nick take the other. It takes about two hours to skin and gut both of the deer. After they get done, Doug, Shawn, Rogers, and Jake take the carcasses far away from the campsite so that the smell doesn’t attract other predators. They take the meat, wrap it in the deer’s fur, and place it in a nearby cold stream to keep the meat from going bad. Doug, Shawn, Roger, and Jake wrap the meat in the fur to protect from fish. They take one of the legs with them for supper. It is getting dark by the time they start cooking supper. Shawn and Frank are the ones who do the cooking. They have a small, foldable cooking grill that they place over the fire and place the meat on top of it to cook the meat. Shawn adds several spices to the meat to add flavor. The guys love the flavor of the meat so much that they eat the whole thigh.
The next two days go by with very few events. The guys mostly stay around the camp site. Doug and Shawn both agree to take it slow when it comes to exploring. They do not know anything about the area. Plus they are also resting from the climb up the vine. Even Doug and Charles, the two most physically of the team, were exhausted when they got up. Doug and Shawn come up with the plan that to move the whole team after three days of exploring. They send out groups of four to explore the area. The group mostly goes to some nearby cliffs just to look out and see the beauty of the forest. Doug and Charles go on just about every trip. Most of the guys spend their time in camp checking their weapons, sleeping, sharpening their knives, eating, and joking around with each other. Things get boring real quick. But when they go exploring, it’s a completely different story. They are amazed at everything they see. The environment they are in is a lot like the forest of the Ozarks. Even the same kind of animals exists here. However, they are still a little shocked at the size of the animals on Jeremiah.
On the morning of the third day, Roger get up to find Marks the night guard, asleep. He wasn’t at all that surprised. What really surprises Roger are the two monkeys running around the campsite looking for food. They are tearing the place apart. Roger reaches for the .38 strapped to his side when he hears a gunshot behind him. The monkeys take off running into the forests. Roger turns around and sees Doug behind him with his .45 pointed straight up and the barrel smoking. The gunshot wakes up everyone.
“Why didn’t you shoot them?” Roger asks him.
“There was no need to shoot them. They were just hungry.”
“I’m surprised at you Doug. Two years ago you wouldn’t have hesitated to shoot them.” Mark says.
“I’ve changed a lot since then. Plus we’re being watched.”
“How do you know that?” Nick yells at him.
“Remember me telling you guys about that figure I saw in the woods a couple days ago?” Doug asks everyone.
“Yes.” They all answer in unison. Doug has brought her up several times. She is all that he talks about.
“I have a feeling that she and others is watching us right now.”
That afternoon Doug, Roger, Charles and John are hiking in a part of the forest they have not yet explored. Shawn, Mark, Frank, Jack, Jake, Corporal, and Nick are back at camp. This part of the forest is unlike the other parts of the forests. It is a lot like a swamp. Hardly any light reaches the ground because of tall, thick trees. It rained the night before and this part of the forest is at the bottom of the mountain making the water is running down to where they are. The water level is up to their knees. Doug and Charles army boots are soaking in the water, making it difficult to walk. All four of them spend time slipping and falling into the water.
“I really wish I had brought my waders.” Charles complains.
“Join the club Charles.” Roger replies.
Doug, Charles, Roger, and John decide to find some higher ground to get out of the water. They come to a small mound just barely above the water. They climb up on top and take a break. The water is not making it any easier for them. They climb, sit down, take their clothes off one piece at a time and wring the water out of them. Then they put their clothes back on and rest for a few minutes. Out of nowhere, a strange and horrible smell hit Doug’s nose. It almost makes him vomit when he first smells it.
“Okay, who cut the cheese?” John shouts.
“Whoever smelt it dealt it.” Charles answers.
“No, that ain’t the smell.” Doug says.
Doug gets up and walked towards the smell. It is coming from behind a bush. The bush moves when Doug gets close to it. Doug freezes in his place. He holds up his hand and points toward to bush. Roger, John, and Charles aim their weapons at the bush. Doug waits a few seconds then continue towards it. He pulls out his .44 magnum and aims at the bush. Doug signals for Roger to get on the right side of the bush with his AR – 15 and for John to get on the left side of the bush with his shotgun. He signals for Charles to get behind him and aim the M249 to the rear just in case they are attacked by a larger force. Doug quickly pulls the branches back and looks behind it. What he sees surprises him. A baby wolf is there hiding. It is frozen with fear. But Doug doesn’t see why. The baby wolf is easily the size of an adult Labrador. It possesses the power the kill him. But the wolf just stands there cowering from him. Doug knows that this is a bad sign.
“Uh oh, we’re in trouble.” Doug whispers.
They all know that the mother has to be close by.
“If a baby wolf is this big imagine how big a full grown wolf is.” Roger says.
They are answered by a howl in the distance which is followed by several more. Doug and Roger both count at least ten different howls. But they know that there is a lot more than just ten. Doug backs away quickly, holsters the .45, and shoulders his M4/M203.
“Check that your weapons are loaded and the safety is off.” Doug orders.
They all quickly check their ammo and turn their weapons off safety. They get back to back, kneel down, and form a defensive circle on the mound. Charles tries to get Shawn on the radio.
“Shawn, come in. We are about to be attacked by a large pack of wolves. I do not know how many. Our location is about a thousand meters, northeast of your position. Please get here as fast as you can.”
“We’ll be there as soon as possible.”
Doug quickly assesses their situation. He looks for a good position to defend themselves from the wolves.
“This mound is a pretty good place. The wolves will have to run through the water, which will slow them down. Let’s just hope that there are not more than fifteen of them. Just keep your knives and side arms where you can reach them.” Doug tells Roger, John, and Charles.
There is complete silence for a few moments. All of the sudden they can hear the pack closing in on them.
“I see several wolves coming from my position.” Roger shouts.
Doug, Charles, and John turn and face out in Roger’s position. To their surprise, there are only ten wolves coming from that direction.
“There has to be more of them out there.” John says.
Doug sees movement in his peripheral vision. He turns around and he does not like what he sees. Doug sees a large number of wolves coming. There are so many that it just looks like one large, furry, scary mass. To make it even worse, they are coming up faster than Doug expected. The only advantage that Doug can see is that water is clinging to the wolves’ thick hair and the thick underbrush. Both will slow the wolves down, but not by much.
“Charles,” Doug shouts, “Aim the big gun of yours at that large pack of wolves on our right. Dad, John, aim at those coming at us from the front. We have a fight on our hands.”