A Novel by John O’Brien

This book is dedicated to my uncle, William Nelson Park Jr. (Bill Park). Thanks for being there.

Author’s Notice

The New World series is a fictional work. While some of the locations in the series describe actual locations, this is intended only to lend an authentic theme. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Running Through the Jungle

“Are you still alive? I need help.”

Those words, emblazoned on the small screen of my phone, knock me for a loop. The tiny words are in stark contrast to their meaning. I feel rocked, not only because of whom the text is from, but because of what it means. I had been prepared that we would start right away on creating a place of haven once we landed. The words on the screen means another trip, in addition to everything else that needs to be done, is necessary. Physically and mentally exhausted from this last trip, I slump into the pilot seat as I don’t think I can stand up for another minute.

Mike, our rescued canine friend, is sitting by my side looking at the glowing screen as if he can read the text or help. “What do ya think, boy?” I ask looking at his big head almost at the same level as mine. At the sound of my voice, he turns and licks my face once. I guess that’s his idea of helping.

I glance at the still glowing screen in disbelief hoping the words will disappear; becoming just a hallucination. Nope. They are still there. The words above the text speak as loudly, if not more than, the text itself - ‘From: Kelly.’ That would be my second ex. Oh boy! As if I didn’t have enough going on. The additional stress that has suddenly built up inside with the arrival of the message is because there is so much to do in the immediate future. I have to check on Mom and bring her to safety and we have to find an immediate semblance of protection as we cannot just sit inside the aircraft every night. We must also find and gather supplies as our water levels can only sustain us for a couple more days. So much to do yet the message on the screen beckons.

“Jack, Robert, is that someone out there?” Michelle asks as we all sit in the cockpit exhausted from our trip half way across the world and back.

“Huh,” I answer looking up and out of the front cockpit window.

Dark shapes move rapidly on the edge of the ramp through the moon-lit night. My heart rate accelerates slightly but the sight is not unexpected. We made enough noise coming in and visitors at night are not uncommon based on our previous experiences. I slowly rise to head back and let Lynn and the others know that company is arriving. Just as I turn, my tired mind stops. It’s one of those feelings that something is not or was not quite right with what I quickly glimpsed. I sit back down and slide the NVG’s on bringing the ramp, night, and movement into more clarity.

“Shit!” I say surveying the scene in front.

“What?” Robert asks, sitting alertly up and sliding his own NVG’s down. “Holy crap!” He says as he takes in the scene outside.

“What is it?” Bri, Nic, and Michelle ask simultaneously.

“There are night runners chasing someone,” Robert says as I scramble out of my seat.

“Bri, bring the electrical system up on battery,” I say moving quickly by her and into the cargo compartment.

“Lynn! Get yourself, Alpha and Bravo Teams armed and ready with NVG’s on. There’s someone in trouble outside,” I shout throwing on my own gear and checking for ammo.

“What’s going on?” Lynn asks after seeing to her own gear and making sure the teams are ready.

“Come up and I’ll show you,” I respond.

In the cockpit, Robert is still looking out of the window through his NVG’s. The instruments are dimly lit confirming that the aircraft still has electrical power. I reach down and turn on the landing and taxi lights. The brilliant lights stab into the night and over the ramp catching the unfolding scene. Scores of night runners are running on the ramp across our path but some distance away. The ones closest throw their arms up in front of their eyes in an attempt to block the blinding glare from our lights. Ahead of them, streaking across the ramp in desperation, a single person is running for their life. The night runners are a short distance behind and the distance is closing quickly.

The person running looks at us as our lights spill into the night and changes direction towards us. The turn is more out of hope and desperation as the night runners will close the distance and be upon them before they can make it to the source of lights.

“Oh My God!” Lynn exclaims seeing the event first hand and darts back out of the cockpit.

“Robert, get the radios on the ground frequency,” I tell him as I leave on Lynn’s heels. Alpha and Bravo Teams stand ready in the compartment as I enter.

“There’s someone being chased by night runners outside,” I say upon entering.

“I have the landing lights on and I’ll have Robert turn them off once we’re in position. We’ll set up in a firing line facing the front of the aircraft. Alpha closest to the doors, Bravo to their left. NVG’s on once the lights go out. Watch your fire as the person is heading towards us as well. Let’s move,” I brief and open the crew door.

“Shouldn’t we have all of the teams out?” Lynn asks in my ear as the door lowers.

“No, we may have to return quickly and too many people outside will create a bottle neck at the door. Plus, we don’t have enough goggles.”

The door hits the ground and the teams exit. Alpha Team forms a line directly outside by the open door, kneeling on the pavement. Bravo runs behind them, forming up alongside to their left. I exit with Lynn directly behind; my helmet is still on giving me night vision capability. The perspective from the ground is a touch different than the view from the cockpit. From the height of cockpit, I could get an overall picture of the scene. Here on the ground, I only see the front line of night runners stretching across the ramp and heading our way. The brightness of the landing lights makes everything appear as if in black and white with a few toned-down colors from the clothing. The gray skin of the night runners seems to glow in the light being reflected back. In front of the line, one man is running for all he’s worth. Terror, fear, and determination are etched on his face. The look is one of knowing he has cast his lot on whatever is creating the bright light; that it will be his saving grace or his demise for, with his turning towards it, he gave the night runners an angle to cut him off.

“Robert, kill the lights,” I say into the radio.

The lights wink out a moment later leaving the ramp covered in darkness. Even the moon shining down from above cannot compensate for the loss of night vision the lights caused. Only the howls from the night runners and the sound of their feet on the pavement remain.

“Goggles on. Open fire,” I yell to the teams as I stand behind their kneeling forms.

The sound of goggles clicking into place is followed a second later by the first rounds being fired into the mass of night runners closing in. The tarmac and side of the HC-130 blink rapidly from the strobe effect as the bullets leave the muzzles and streak outward.

* * *

Captain Greg Petersen sits in the darkened room reflecting on the sudden change in the world. The sound of

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