21 November 2007

Ranger - Caduceus


One month in the Congo is interesting. Two months are torture. The fighting in the south has returned. Sarge was an unexpected casualty.

It wasn’t too hard to pick out the august white man the Red Cross brought into town after a tip by a Spanish photojournalist. “Lambchops” was the tipoff, though I had no idea how the Spaniard knew the idiom. He came into town with the remnants of the militia unit which had days later toppled Kabamba in North Kivu. What the hell he was doing there, I have no idea. But as always he was surrounded by an attentive crew – locals who he had somehow managed to charm while barely being able to draw breath and without knowing anything more than pidgin Kiswahili. One man in particular, gaunt, dark and battle-hardened was keeping a keen eye on him until I arrived.

“Fucking lung.” Were his first two words. “Had to borrow cigarettes from Zico to use the cellophane as a field dressing…flutter valve Corporal said.” As he lightly pretended to tap his chest. “Too bad…Project X…not real, hunh?” Asshole. I couldn’t help but laugh. I hadn’t stopped smiling since I saw the attractive field nurse look over at him four times. Four goddamn times.

His eyes started to roll back in his head. I checked his arms just in case. I have no idea where he was or how long it took him to get here, but I also remember your stern lecture about pneumothoraces. Bad survival rate, if its not handled right I thought. He mumbled something about Leopold and Mobutu, but I have no idea if he was still trying to make me laugh, if it was some kind of code, or if he had latched on to some kind of conspiracy theory.

They took him to the nearby hospital where I was replacing U-joints last week. The roads here are murder. I am recognized there and so was allowed to stay nearby during the surgery. I don’t recall how long went by before I was overtaken by fatigue. Three days passed and Sarge and I were able to discuss some of what has been happening here. “You know what the Romans did with wounds like this don’t you?” was one of his more memorable quips. And I haven’t read Dumas enough to have any idea what he was talking about half of the rest of the time. Then he took a turn for the worse again. After another long wait, the doctor came out to tell me Sarge was recovering and that I would be able to see him soon. But I was troubled, the man who I had seen before had reappeared to me in my dreams, or in something like a dream. I went straightaway to his room, which was empty.

“We did everything we could” a new doctor told me “but we cannot save your friend.” Show me the body, I asked. Given the new doctor’s genuine look of surprise on our visit to what passes for a morgue here, I decided not to kill him.

“Well you will certainly be hearing from the blue helmets for loosing this body” I told him, not knowing why. That bastard left a picture of Cody in my room before taking off again. I haven't seen the cute nurse either. I’m sure he will fill you in on the rest.

So long,


08 November 2007

In Which Sarge Pleads Mercy From Dark Clouds...


Abdul was screaming, an endless wail of suffering that connected him horribly to a distant past of jealous gods and the harsh duties of desperate faiths. Africa hangs on to these gods even as it puts up cell towers and hunts those animals to extinction that once made this land sheer wonder even to those who would be Caesars. The rain fell in thick sheets, tearing at trees and pummeling the tall grass. I had carved a place in the mud for myself and set up a field of fire hoping to ride the storm into the morning, hoping it would not come to shooting, for if my place was discovered my final battle would be an empty gesture prelude to the cyniade pill. I felt for its vial and caressed it as one would a sad lover. I was wet through and my clothes clung to me like paste. Calrissian's incursion team lay dead like breadcrumbs for the last six miles or so. I had not liked radioing that one in, and had argued against their inclusion. I know Medicine Man has contacts in too many places not to connect the dots, for his shadow is long and his claws are sharp. I imagined that their bodies must be flung and buried by the consuming jungle and idly to myself I sang grimly a song from my youth:

When the green dark forest was too silent to be real
And many are the dead men too silent to be real.

But the morning came and with it birds' song and some strands of sun. The rain had past and Medicine Man had left me once again, a plaything for an old cat seemed my destiny. Was I to be killed by such a man? Even after all this?

I endeavor most to get my dog back, and then perhaps to kill Medicine Man. But before that, I think we should meet, as you are so close, and we should decide what it is that we are up against. What it is we must do. Perhaps the dead will rest easier, as Hamlet supposed, if there is vengeance. I know this, that Medicine Man deserves nothing so good as hell.

I will make my way north over the next few days. I will check in on Cody and perhaps make a few contacts and set myself up for future operations. This land, scarred as it is, acts as a deranged New Lanark of sorts for that dark figure. I am beginning to understand the local predisposition not to name him.

You will receive this from the man with three birds and one eye. Please pay him beyond the normal price as he once did a favor for me. We must not forget our friends of the longest nights.

with best wishes and anticipation at meeting an old friend after so long again,

I remain