It feels like forever until the timer goes off, the sound of the truck disappearing a long time before hand. When it finally does, I pull off my blindfold and blink my eyes trying to adjust to the brightness. Taking a look at my surroundings, I see Seb, Ethan and Kyle doing the same as we work to get the rope off our wrists.
We are sitting under a desert oak tree, providing a little bit of shade against the harsh red dirt, around us is desert, nothing more for the eye to see. I finally rid myself of the rope and move to the large pack in front of me, opening it up and pulling out 4 flat backpacks, all the food rations, water, first aid kit and other supplies.
Tossing the kit of random supplies to Seb, I go about sorting the rations and water into backpacks, distributing the weight evenly and taking a mental inventory of what we have.
Ethan and Kyle are already checking out our surroundings, despite Kyle only being on the team for a short time, we work seamlessly together, each of us knowing our tasks at hand. When Ethan and Kyle return we all discuss the situation.
“We have two days rations, though we can stretch it to four.” I tell them. “And if we come across a water source, it could be longer.” They nod in understanding before Ethan speaks up.
“Going by the exit they would have taken from the base, and the few turns they did, we are northeast of the base, we were travelling for seven hours by road. We could easily just follow the tyre tracks back to the main road, though if we head south west and cut through we will reach the base quicker.” Ethan states, looking out towards where the truck would have been.
“Alright,” Seb starts, “We have a compass, couple of hunting knives, rope, and a full first aid kit. Sundown will be in about four hours, so I say we walk until then, set up camp and then start out again at sun up.”
We nod in acknowledgement and each grab a pack, slinging them onto our backs. The sun is brutal, already burning our skin. But this is what we are trained to do, no doubt we will make it back before they are expecting us. Seb sets our course with the compass and we head off in silence.
“Argh, damn it.” Kyle mutters under his breath, breaking the comfortable silence we have been walking in for the past 2 hours. I turn my head in his direction, raising my eyebrow in question.
“What is it?” Seb asks from the other side of me.
“Had a hot date tonight… guess I’m standing her up.” Kyle mumbles. I chuckle quietly, poor girl. That’s the drawback for what we do, it doesn’t allow much of a social life. And when they randomly spring dropping us in the middle of the desert without giving us a chance to let our family and friends know, it can be hard to come back and justify our disappearance. It’s never really bothered me before, my dad was in the army, so my family knows what to expect.
“I was meant to hang out with Jane.” I think out loud, not at all comfortable with just ditching her.
“Lucy will let Jane know.” Seb states, she will figure that we are out training or on a mission. I nod my head in acknowledgement, feeling slightly better. “And just call your date when we get back, I’m sure she will understand.” Seb says to Kyle.
“Yeah, and if she doesn’t, there’s plenty of other chicks.” He chuckles in reply. That’s one thing I’ve discovered about Kyle in the 6 weeks he’s been on the team, he goes through women like he goes through socks. I know he’s only 23, and the job we do doesn’t always allow for relationships, but it’s not impossible. Look at Seb and Lucy, or Chris and Tammy. They made it, even throughout the two and a half years they were missing. But then again, it takes a pretty special woman to be an army wife. I can’t really criticise him though, I haven’t had a serious relationship since high school. There’s just never been someone who I thought I could commit to.
We descend into silence again as we plod towards the base. The sun slowly starts to dip lower in the sky. The trees are sparse, spotting the landscape providing little shade. It’s a common misconception that the desert is baron, there are plants and shrubs that are scattered around, hardy plants that can take the harsh environment.
“We will set up here for the night.” Seb states as he stops amongst a couple of trees, dropping his pack on the ground. I follow suit, undoing my pack and pulling out one of the hunting knives.
“I’ll find some fire wood.” I state as I walk towards the shrubs and trees to our left. Despite the gruelling heat during the day, the desert gets freezing at night, often catching out unprepared people who decide to camp out here. It’s not unheard of for people to suffer from hypothermia when stuck in the desert overnight.
I collect some fallen branches and loose bark from the desert oaks, bundling it in my arms and carrying it over to the middle of where the others have set up. Kyle has set up a makeshift shelter between two of the trees, enough to squeeze all four of us under there. We don’t have much to protect us from the elements, but with our combined body heat and a small fire, we should be fine for the night.
Ethan has found some rocks to surround a small hole his dug as a fire pit, dropping my supplies next to him, I stack the broken branches and bark into the hole, careful to leave some room for the air to flow through.
“They didn’t pack us matches.” Seb grumbles as he makes his way over to us. I groan under my breath, hating having to start a fire the old fashion way. Kyle plonks down next to me, pulling off his left boot and rummaging in his sock.
“They also forgot to check us over properly.” He chuckles as he pulls a lighter from his sock as well as a small pocket knife. I shake my head with a grin and grab the lighter, putting the flame against a piece of bark I lower it into the pile of wood and wait for them to catch alight.
I’m not sure how he got away with them, they made us all pull off our shoes and socks and turn our pockets, as well as the usual groping pat down we received. He must have still managed to keep them hidden, not that I’m complaining.
The sun slowly disappears, the fire in front of us providing the only light source. We eat our rations, it’s not much taste wise, but it’s something I’ve become accustomed to over the years. Sitting around the fire, we talk for a few hours, mostly just getting to know Kyle better. Despite my early concerns, he seems like a stand-up guy, easy to get along with and the usual sense of humour that comes with what we do.
Slowly, we all move to the makeshift shelter one by one, getting what little sleep we can before heading off when the sun comes up.