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Vietnam May 17, 1967
The sky had opened up and dropped at least a hundred gallons of water on Craven and his men alone. Craven turned his face up to the sky from his crouched position by a tree, keeping his eyes closed, as he remembered how the rain felt back home. There was something cleansing about it. Here it was just as tainted as the war he was fighting. He was convinced there was something in it that made everything stick to you. And it was times like these that Craven wished he could crawl under a rock and stay there. But he had to hold his position. He heard some of his men groan their discomfort, which would have put a twist of a grin on his face any other day but not today.
He had purposely put them in a precarious position on the outskirts of a village on an informant's word, and the knot that was usually his stomach was making him wish he'd reconsidered. The informant told him that the VC here were so secure, they actually met out in the open for all to see. So, Craven remained still, uncomfortable and sticky, dreaming of Virginia rain.
A large black man under his command, by the name of Trelaine, joined him. Craven always thought he was a good man, and called him friend even in these racially heated times. He watched Craven's back and Craven in turn did the same in lieu of the practice of " fuck your buddy." The friendship was a quiet understanding between them, as Craven was his commanding officer.
"Anything? Everyone's getting twitchy." Trelaine inquired, hunkering down.
"Ten more minutes, then we turn back." Craven answered quietly.
"Come again?" Trelaine exclaimed in a strained whisper, with genuine surprise.
"The hell I let some fucking snitch get us killed. If it's a trap we're not going to just walk into it. That's why we're all still in one piece, I know when to back off."
"Yes Lord ... Mama's prayers were with me when they put me under your command." Trelaine smiled and Craven shook his head. Suddenly a bright light ended their exchange. Both men looked in the direction of the village that was bathed in it. The intensity of the light made the middle of the night look like the middle of the day. If Craven had his men any closer, the radius of the light would have compromised their position.
Trelaine looked to Craven but he was mesmerized by what was happening in the village. Six men poured into the village clearing, following the appearance of what Craven could only describe as a giant. Even from their position and without binoculars, Craven could make out every detail of the being. It was massive, covered from head to toe with form-fitting platinum colored armor. A mask, with an intricate filigree design, covered its face. The giant pulled a large golden disk from behind its back and handed it over to the men that came out to greet it. It took three of the six men to receive it. And when it spoke, Craven and Trelaine shuddered from the power of its voice. Its words lingered, lacing the air with electricity. Craven looked to Trelaine for translation since it was speaking Vietnamese.
"Son of a bitch ..." Was the only reply Craven received from the astounded man.
Craven chanced a glance back to see his men staring mindlessly at the display before them. He hoped no one was coming up from behind, as he turned back to stare in disbelief himself.
Craven looked on, and watched the giant disappear but not before it filled the air with a few more power laced words. The light quickly faded away following its departure. Everything was incredibly quiet and the men in the village took the disk into the nearest hut, while their leader remained outside looking up into the night sky. Craven's wide eyes settled then cut to the men behind him as he held up his hand. Like the well-trained soldiers they were, they snapped out of their amazement and waited for his next order. Even Trelaine, who looked as if he could have pissed his pants, was ready. Craven gave an "advance" signal as the leader of the village started for the hut. Craven's men advanced quickly and began the brutal systematic massacre that left villages leveled. It was a stupid way to engage the enemy but that was their training. And right now Craven couldn't afford to question orders, establishing his career was all that mattered. But the events that just unfolded before him might have just established it for him.
Craven moved up behind his men, whose loyalty to him always made him less of a target. The disk the thing gave the villagers now stood on its side in front of him, while Trelaine held the leader by the collar. The other villagers were either dead or dying. Craven gave the order to return to base camp, letting two of his men take the disk back with them, without question. The Vietnamese man looked fearful, not from the gun being held on him, but from them leaving with the disk. He reached out in protest, but Trelaine held him steady. His protests quickly turned to begging when the disk was out of sight. He begged them not to take it.
Trelaine asked why. The man shook his head and continued to beg for them to give it back. Craven's eyes narrowed as he walked up to him. "Ask him why it's so important!" Craven demanded loudly so Trelaine could soften the question, and he'd be able to coax more information out of him.
The Vietnamese man started to give an answer, but when Craven pulled a knife, the man's answer changed to a more fluid truth.
Trelaine listened asking more questions, while Craven continued the role of bad cop, sharpening the knife while Trelaine proceeded with the interrogation. Trelaine gave a slight nod when the man began to repeat himself.
"Head back, I'll catch up." Craven said quietly, and Trelaine looked at him. Trelaine never questioned him but he wondered if what Craven was about to do was really necessary. Trelaine moved away from the man who began to feel his impending fate. He took a step toward Trelaine and started rattling off additional details, but Trelaine turned his back. The man still called out to him as Craven led him away. A quick and single shot ended the man's chattering. Trelaine shuddered then jumped at the sound of two more shots. He remained still until Craven walked past him, then let out the breath he'd been holding, and took in the sour air around him.
"You coming?" Craven asked, looking over his shoulder.
Trelaine caught up quickly.
Before they reached the base, Craven stopped him.
"What did he say?"
Trelaine took a deep breath. "A lot of things. I've been trying to make sense out of it but it ..."
"I didn't ask you to make sense out of it. I asked you to tell me what he said."
Trelaine looked into Craven's eyes, and saw a strange cast in them, something he had never seen before. He could only describe it as fear. Deep, primal, fear.
"He called that thing Captain. He said that the Captain comes to the village every few days, but when he was little, he'd only come once a year to help them with the crops, but since the war, he came more often to protect them, so they could help him."
"Help him? What kind of help could that thing possibly need?"
"That's the thing Lieutenant; they were helping him find others.
That's why he didn't want you to take the disk. It's some kind of tracking device to detect them."
Trelaine shook his head. "Yeah, others like the Captain. He needs them to fill his depleted ranks. See the Captain's fighting a war and he's losing. The others he's looking for are soldiers who were forced into exile long ago after something called the Final Engagement. They think it was some kind of great war. The Captain told them that his people believed the soldiers acted strange once it was over and didn't want them around anymore. What kind of shit is that?"
Craven frowned, waiting for the rest of the translation. He knew this was Trelaine's way of dealing with what he had seen but it was taking longer for him to get the information he needed. "So they exiled their soldiers —"
"They exiled them to Vietnam?"
"No, man, Earth."
"That little shit was out of his mind! We would have ..."
Trelaine held up his hand to stop him. "Wait, this shit went down over 35,000 years ago."
"That's what he said. It went down 35,000 years ago, somewhere out there ..." Trelaine pointed at the sky. "They sent the soldiers here. Problem was not everyone was happy with the exile idea, and the soldiers still at home rebelled. Caused a civil war. The Captain helped put the rebellion down, but not before his people's leader and his closest General went missing."
Craven frowned. Even as fantastic as it all was – it didn't ring true. Something was seriously off about the story. Maybe something got lost in the translation or maybe there was a misunderstanding on the dead Vietnamese's part. No way of finding out now.
"Things settled down, but the Council that replaced the leader was uneasy. They didn't trust the military. And then they had to deal with the people wanting their leader back. To shut them down, the Council said the leader was dead. The military heads, including the Captain, weren't buying it and neither were a lot of officials. They started openly supporting and/or looking for the leader. Then they started turning up dead. The Captain knew that in order to survive they were going to have to retaliate against the Council.
"A lot of his people gave up hope, but the Captain's still looking. He thinks that finding the leader and the general are the only way to stop the bloodshed. The real messed up part is the Captain is running out of time. The Council's out to get him, and it is only a matter of time before they find him."
Craven crossed his arm. Too many holes, and that had nothing to do with the translation. Something else was definitely going on here, something that he had been exposed to all of his life prior to going to Vietnam. "This thing can find their leader?"
"He thought so, but the Captain had tasked them to find soldiers. And that's what they were doing before the war broke out here. He brought them a replacement because the last one was destroyed by mortar fire during one of the searches." Trelaine stared out at the jungle beyond. "Serious shit ..."
"Agreed, and best to keep it to ourselves."
"Trelaine, think. Who's going to believe us?"
"But we've got proof!"
"We don't have shit. We have a gold disk with some hieroglyphics on it that some asshole will say is part of some local tradition we don't know anything about. Another asshole will say the bright light we saw was the result of fireworks and the man we saw was in ceremonial dress."
"I'm sure that's the same thing they said about the Weather Balloon crashing in Roswell. Listen to me, if they don't say it, I will. Aliens and bright lights will land us a Section Eight discharge with a special room waiting to go with it. Clear?"
Trelaine's eyes widened, stunned.
"Trelaine, I sure as hell hope I wasn't just talking to myself right now."
He remained quiet a little too long causing Craven to shift forward.
"Is that what you're going to tell the others?" Trelaine said slowly, obviously sensing Craven would make sure he got his point across.
"New VC weapon." Craven threw off, searching Trelaine's face for any hint of opposition. "Trust me; by the time I'm through with my report, we won't even have been here."
"And you think —"
"I don't think. I know they'll believe anything I say. Questions lead to body bags. Now get your shit together and keep your mouth shut, until I can figure this out."
Trelaine closed his eyes, shaking his head. "My Granddaddy will be spinning in his grave after what I'm about to say. I trust you Craven. Don't make me regret it." Trelaine said with the same intensity Craven attacked him with. It was a show of force Craven had never seen from the man. Trelaine in the one statement let him know that he would do whatever he had to do to make sure the matter didn't just disappear.
"You have my word." Craven flashed his boyish smile and held his hand out, Trelaine took it and for a moment the sweat on both men's hands seemed as thick as blood.CHAPTER 2
Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, August 2, 1967
Trelaine flexed his fingers protruding from the cast on his arm. Craven looked on with a slight grin.
"Bastard ..." Trelaine mumbled.
"He did what he was trained to do." Craven returned, knowing the remark wasn't aimed at him.
"Bullshit! You told us how to survive."
"I told you to trust me and I would get you out. If you didn't, well ..."
Trelaine looked past him and saw a bundle of government issued envelopes sticking out of the top pocket of Craven's duffel bag. Though notices had already been sent, Craven always sent personal notes to let their families know that their boys had been brave during their final moments whether it was true or not.
"We could have all made it."
"Possibly ..." Craven threw off, looking out of the transport's window.
The VC had come looking for the disk after finding Craven's snitch. They bought him off permanently; Craven discovered later. His "possibly" became a maybe. Unfortunately, one of his men, Karlin, didn't have it all together. Craven didn't think he ever did. One night, Karlin got twitchy and ran off. Craven had wondered in the past couple of days if he should have seen it coming.
It wasn't the first time he'd done it, but in the past he had always managed not to get caught. This time Karlin not only got caught but he gave them up thinking that was the only way he was going to make it out. They found what was left of him just before they were ambushed. Craven almost lost the disk and Trelaine. Now, out of the dozen men he had managed to keep alive for over a year, he and Trelaine were the only ones left and that had not been an easy feat. And now they were heading home. Trelaine with shrapnel in his arm and him with three bullet wounds, two in his right leg and one in the right shoulder. Getting around was a bitch. But they were both lucky they didn't lose their arm and leg respectively.
Craven shifted in his seat cautiously. The throbbing in his leg made it almost impossible to get comfortable.
"So, I guess you're going to head straight to the big house when we hit stateside?" Trelaine changed the subject.
"No one's there." Craven answered quietly not interested in discussing it.
"Your old man knew you were coming home?" Trelaine asked surprised.
"He told me I couldn't have picked a worse time." Craven threw off with a bittersweet smile.
Trelaine looked him over, wondering if he was detecting a touch of loneliness in his voice. "Lieutenant, listen, I didn't know what was going to happen once we got home but maybe you could come to Baton Rouge, meet my family and my girl. Ya know ..."
Craven looked at him coolly. It was one of those looks Trelaine had seen him make when contemplating the consequences of his actions.
"Trying to figure out what socializing with the colored is going to do?" Trelaine threw off feeling a little hurt by the change in the man he thought of as his friend.
Craven frowned, narrowing his eyes. "Trelaine, a man is a man. I was brought up never to believe differently. I was just trying to think if I knew anyone who could get us down there a little faster. My mouth's been watering over your mama's gumbo and cornbread since you told me about them in 'Nam."
Trelaine smiled. Thankfully, he'd been wrong and felt a little embarrassed. "Lieutenant, it's Remy."
"Paul ..." Paul extended his hand. "Nice to meet you, Remy."CHAPTER 3
3 Miles outside of Baton Rouge, August 5, 1967
Paul adjusted his sunglasses, before kicking the seat of the Private that had been assigned to be their driver. Paul was annoyed with the boy's insistence on looking in the rearview mirror to watch them. Remy opted to look out of the tinted window, instead of laughing in the clear view of the Private or Paul.
Paul was amazed at how excited Remy was when he saw his house coming into view. For Remy, it had been like an eternity since he had seen the porch with its hand-built chair swing that probably had more secrets to tell about his family than the walls of his house. While he was in 'Nam, when he was homesick or scared, he would think about his porch, the swing and his girl. And now he no longer had to imagine any of them, two of the three were coming into view. The dream of them and Craven's instincts had brought him home. And he was looking forward to sitting down and enjoying a drink without worrying about getting killed by someone rightfully defending their country.
Yeah, Remy wasn't a believer in the war, but he had served his country and now he was back. A little worse for wear, but alive. On the way back, both he and Paul had heard about what was happening to soldiers, showing up in commercial airports, and he was thankful that Paul had been able to call in a few favors to avoid the trauma of the hippies. Remy knew that if one of them spit on him, he would have knocked the shit out of them.
As his home grew closer, Remy wondered how much the war had changed him. He had never intentionally wanted to hurt anyone, not even out of revenge, but that was different now. And the sinking feeling in his gut let him know he would never be the same again. After all, he had made the mistake of thinking he would get a decent night's sleep once out of Vietnam's jungles. That first night, he had to be sedated, and even then, he wound up talking to Paul, who was a little out of it, but still managed to listen. He told him his sister would be turning sixteen August 6th and he was hoping they'd be back in time to be there. He told Paul about his home, his parents and the woman he was going to marry. All this just to calm his nerves. It helped a little but nothing would beat actually seeing them, just to feel the love he always bragged to Paul about. And he wasn't let down as they pulled up to the house. There they were, his mother, father, and sister, along with an uncle and a cousin, all waiting for him out front, almost the way he had left them, when he had gone off to war over a year prior. With the way Paul looked at him, Remy knew he was grinning like a fool the moment they came into view.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Convergence Catalyst Part 1: The Lost Soldiers"
Copyright © 2019 Ariana D. Harris.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Lost Soldiers' Dedication, v,
May 17, 1967, 1,
August 2, 1967, 7,
August 5, 1967, 9,
August 25th, 1967, 25,
August 28th, 1967, 61,
August 31, 1967, 80,
September 2nd, 1967, 109,
September 8th, 1967, 140,
September 9th, 1967, 177,
About the Author, 189,