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George Carlyle followed his sergeant’s lead into the underground bunker used for cutting product. His steely gaze stared through his assault rifle’s red dot scope; the crosshairs permanently burned onto his retinas.
Truth be told, this view of the world calmed him. He didn’t need to make choices that would end up fucking up his and other people’s lives. All he had to do was kill the enemy and keep his fellow army buddies from dying. Through any means necessary. Outside the crosshairs, civilians and innocent bystanders took his attention away from his mission. They should, but it made life so much more complicated.
George’s nickname in the platoon was “Ready.” He was always ready to look down his scope and pick off the enemy. The other members of the platoon wanted to be on his squad. They knew he would do everything in his power to get them home.
In the underground bunker, George surveyed his part of the room, making sure there were no armed “unfriendlies.” Several of the US soldiers had already taken down most of the armed guards and watchers. Inside were mostly women and children stripped to their underwear, as they cut the cocaine and packaged it for sale. This Mexican drug cartel was not only a wholesale distributor to drug retailers around the world but also sold their product in-country.
Despite firm orders from a green captain back at base, the grunts in the field didn’t see these civilians as a threat. Their FS – first sergeant – ordered the squad to let them go after they were searched for any small firearms.
George led the group of workers out of the bunker to dress. His head was on a swivel, continually scrutinizes and assessing their surroundings. The jungle encroached upon the clandestine operation even as the cartel tried to cut it back, making room for transport vehicles.
Nature always finds a way, George thought somberly. The jungle didn’t care who you were. If you didn’t conform to its living ecology, you were picked off quickly by its myriad of hidden dangers.
After six months in the jungle, the US Army squad was exhausted and ready to go home. Their “interdiction” assignment had slowed down drug supplies to the world but not by much. When one operation went down, another popped up in a different place only hours after the loss was reported to the jefe – the boss.
The drug war was one losing battle after another for the squad. The US soldiers were tired of small victories, knowing the strategic ones would never be fulfilled. People had an insatiable appetite for illicit drugs, especially the American people.
George didn’t blame them. To keep up with the American dream, its people worked hard and never stopped long enough to get any rest. The United States was low on the list of countries whose people took vacations. Everyone else in the world seemed to grasp the importance of resting the body and soul. Yet to remain an economic superpower, American citizens worked hard.
Drugs were their “vacation.” A weekend spent high on marijuana or cocaine felt like a two-week vacation. Time meant nothing. Heroin made time stop. It was a quick rest that wasn’t an adequate recess. Americans needed illicit drugs to keep their GDP the highest in the world.
The world was relatively peaceful at the moment. ISIS was scattered, and unconstitutional measures nipped lone jihadists around the globe, leading to incarceration and torture. However, the military-industrial complex needed a war to wage to sell its weapons. So, the “war on drugs” was re-authorized. Hence why George and his twelve brothers in arms were in the Mexican jungle hunting drug wholesalers and doing what they had to do to make it out alive.
While the women and children got dressed, George walked the edge of the cleared area, next to the exits of the underground bunker. The clearing was large enough to contain the twenty or so civilians and several soldiers. It was not large enough, however, to hold all of them and a jaguar.
As the big cat sauntered out of the jungle, everyone froze. Except for George. He aimed his AR at the beast and sighted it with his scope.
At the moment he was about to shoot, the jaguar looked straight at him through the crosshairs. While panting slightly, its fierce gaze captured George’s initially cold one. However, as they watched one another, George got goosebumps, and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. The intensity of the cat’s stare revealed the intelligence behind the animal façade.
Lowering his gun, George realized he couldn’t do it. He wasn’t “ready” to kill this majestic animal, no matter how dangerous. The jaguar watched him for a few long moments, before turning away and strutting out of the clearing, back into the jungle. George followed it until he couldn’t tell the cat from the trees.