The Second Chance

Major Dean Johnson looked out of his military transport as it swept over the South American landscape.  As his hard brown eyes glinted in the sunlight, he thought about why he was here.  Frank Mason, the president of the United States, was pursuing an aggressive stance against the drug cartels that were spreading in influence on the southern continent.  Despite the heated debate back home, the president was already putting his agenda into effect.  As he prepared the troops and fleets back in the U.S., he dispatched a few troops as a vanguard to prepare the land for the main army’s arrival.  Dean was part of that vanguard.  Whether America liked it or not, apparently they were headed for a massive armed conflict in South America.

The helicopter landed on a makeshift base that a few troopers had set up.  Dean jumped off the copter and ran towards where the supplies were.  A young soldier stood at attention near them.  As he approached the man, the soldier said, “Major Johnson?”  Dean nodded. “Very well, sir. Could you step this way please?  I’ll take you to the Colonel.”  Dean followed the soldier into a temporary building.  There wasn’t much set up yet, but supplies were stacked up against the wall.  Weapons, food, water… anything you’d need to set up a large military base.  Another soldier, the Colonel, was standing and looking at a map on one of the walls.  Eyeing the supplies, Dean said, “So, the war’s definitely going to happen, then.”

The Colonel raised an eyebrow. “Major, I don’t know what they’re saying back in Washington, but for all intents and purposes the war has already begun.  Just two days ago we intercepted a radio transmission between cartel members.  They’re planning on hitting our base in about a week.”

Dean nodded. “So we need to find out how they’re going to go about it.”

“Yes, we find out what they’re planning and prevent it.”

Suddenly, Dean found the room stifling.  He motioned toward the door. “I’m sorry, sir, but I need to step outside for a moment.”

The Colonel stared. “Of course, Major.”

Dean walked out of the building and breathed deeply, trying to clear his mind.  The Colonel also walked out of the building and came up to Dean. “I’m sorry, Major, but what’s the matter?  We’ve got to plan for the assault.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I just got reminded of my last assignment.”

“Your last assignment was Washington…”

An explosion suddenly filled Dean’s mind.  Struggling to stay in the conversation, Dean muttered, “I was only in Washington for a month.  I was in active duty in South Korea before that.”

The Colonel nodded slowly. “I remember there was a firefight there recently… it made tensions in that region exceptionally high for a while.”

Almost visibly struggling, Dean nodded, “I was part of the firefight.”  He saw the greenery around him, and he heard the gunshots that were fired half a world away… but he knew it would pass in a little bit.  It did before.

The Colonel looked a little concerned. “Major, are you all right?  If I had to hazard a guess—.”

“I’m fine, sir,” said Dean suddenly, almost snapping at his superior officer.  He couldn’t allow the Colonel to say what he was about to say.  He could get through this.  As his head cleared slightly, Dean said, “I’m all right now, sir.  We should get back to planning.”  The two men started to walk back into the building, when suddenly an explosion hit the ground twenty feet from where they were standing.

Gunfire quickly followed.  Dean instinctively hit the ground and crawled behind a pile of supplies for cover.  He pulled out his handgun and furtively looked around for the source of the attack.  He saw that the Colonel had also gotten behind the supplies.  The Colonel said, “We were wrong about when they’d attack.”

“You don’t say,” muttered Dean.  He saw a flash from a patch of forestation and quickly pulled up his gun and fired repeatedly in that area.  The attackers responded with heavy machine gun fire, forcing Dean to get behind cover again. “And they’re well armed, too,” he commented.  He saw the rest of the small U.S. force at another supply pile, engaging in the firefight.  One soldier shouted over to them, “Colonel, we’ve got a man pinned down by enemy gunfire!  He was hit in the leg, so he wasn’t able to fall back.”  Dean saw another explosion rock the earth… and then it happened.

He was in a small ditch, machine gun in hand, firing at a group of enemy soldiers.  Some twenty yards away, more American troops crouched on a small hill, using boulders as their cover, as they also targeted the enemy.  Both sides were pinned down.  The enemy was dressed in simple country-folk clothes, and Dean knew that they probably would never be connected to North Korea, but he had no doubt in his mind that they were from the north.  Suddenly, explosions rocked around him as the enemy engaged in mortar attacks.  A man near him dodged the debris of the mortars only to get hit by a bullet.  Dean covered his face, praying he wouldn’t get hit…

“Johnson!”  Dean struggled to come back to the present.  He realized that he had dropped his gun and was curled in a ball.  The Colonel was shaking him. “We’ve got to get that man back to a safe zone!  We’re going to distract the enemy so that the other men can charge and take down their front line and drive them back.  Then we grab the soldier.”

Half of his mind was still filled with mortar attacks, but he was able to say, “Sir, judging by the amount of fire we’re taking, we don’t have enough men to storm them.  The risk of casualties is too high!”

“We’ve got no choice, Major.”

“Sir, we do.  Cover me!”  Without waiting for a response, Dean pulled two grenades from his belt, armed them, and lobbed them into the patch of forestation where the attack was coming from.  Without skipping a beat, Dean jumped out of cover and sprinted in the direction of the wounded soldier, firing his gun into the forest.

Dean rolled out of the ditch to help the man.  The mortars just seemed to intensify…

The grenades exploded, and Dean saw the Colonel and the rest of the Americans intensifying their fire.  The enemy was in chaos.  He sprinted even harder.

Dean had almost reached the man, when a mortar round exploded right in front of him.  The force of the explosion made him fly back, flailing helplessly.  He landed in an awkward position and skidded back five feet…

Dean slung the man’s arm around his shoulders and helped him up.  As they started their way back, bullets started whizzing around them.  Dean returned fire randomly in the direction of the attack, more concentrated on getting the man out of harm’s way.

Even as the Americans charged and routed the attackers, Dean felt despair and shock cling to him as he once again headed to the man.  He found him with some serious wounds.  He had lost a lot of blood, and there was definitely shrapnel in him.  Dean looked helplessly at the wounded man.  He muttered, “If I had just gotten here a minute sooner, the mortar would’ve missed us entirely.”  Dean literally dragged him over to the army doctor.  The doctor said grimly, “He’s in bad shape, but we’ll do what we can for him…”

Dean and the man tumbled behind the supplies, gasping for breath.  There was the roar of a transport overhead, and Dean looked up, confused.  The Colonel smiled grimly, “I called out for reinforcements when the attack began.  That transport has more troops, and we’ll be able to rout the enemy.  Congratulations, Major, you saved this man’s life.”

Feeling exhausted, Dean leaned against the supplies and closed his eyes. I saved him.  That’s all that matters.

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4 thoughts on “The Second Chance

  1. Alex Nieves

    Great job on the story. Good suspense and action, a few places that need a little editing, but other than that I’m really impressed!

    Reply
  2. Hank Vanderfin

    Great story with suspenseful action and relevant aspects of psychology. What day is the novel coming out again?

    Reply

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