The sky was a radiant blue as two F-22 “Raptor” jets soared over the impenetrable jungle, leaving the stains of their vapour trails in their wake. A sudden detonation from the unfathomable depths of the green canopy unhinged the tranquil scene. From the cloud of smoke rose a large missile, spurting flames as it headed towards the first of the jets. The infallible formation of the jets was interrupted as they veered away from each other in a desperate attempt to evade the missile. As a fireball erupted from one of the jets, a small plume of white smoke rose from the acrid fire. This plume stopped as a parachute appeared and revealed itself to be an ejector seat. As the remaining jet accelerated away from view, the parachute floated gracefully towards the earth, with a small survival bag suspended beneath it. The unfortunate pilot, Lieutenant Shaun F. Hanson, knew it was going to be a long day.
As the missile was approaching his jet, Shaun was surprisingly calm. He reported that the patrol was under attack and deployed his counter measures in a vain attempt to evade the missile. As his dashboard erupted into a raging inferno, Shaun pulled the striped lever between his knees that he never thought that he would have to user. No sooner had he smashed through the glass canopy, than the jet disintegrated and fell to earth. Despite the parachute’s automatic release having not yet being deployed as he was still at a considerable altitude, Shaun pulled the cord and a white canopy exploded from the depths of his seat and reduced his velocity immediately.
As he drifted leisurely towards the luscious green jungle below, Shaun remained calm. He had plenty of experience from his “living off the land” survival course; he could survive from eating the multitude of food available in the jungle for months. Contrary to regulations, he had not deposited all his personal artefacts aboard the aircraft carrier USS Washington. He gazed at the somewhat creased photograph of his wife and his son, who was in a US Marines’ uniform. Prior to his impact with the tree canopy, Shaun remembered the reason for leaving personal possessions behind. As he careered into a minute opening in the canopy, he lowered a hand to his pistol; he was going to need it.
When Shaun awoke, he felt a stab of pain above his chest. He suspected that the source of his discomfort was a broken collarbone from the impact with the canopy of the jet when he ejected. His first thought was to hide his parachute from sight and stuffed it into a hollow tree. He chuckled to himself at the irony of his situation. During survival training, the instructor had told the pilots to hide their parachute into a hollow tree after landing and Shaun had pointed out that the chances of their being a hollow tree in the vicinity were very small. The effort had made Shaun’s collarbone seethe with pan and he retired to his pile of equipment where he treated himself to a sip of the precious water. He reminded himself that he must ration the water until he was able to create a funnel to collect dew and rainwater.
For the first time since he had been stranded in the jungle, Shaun was rested enough to explore his surroundings. A long, green snake wound its way up one of the monstrous trees. There was very little foliage about apart from the area that he had landed in because the canopy blocked most of the light. He was about to use his hunting knife from the survival pack to hack off some wood from the fallen tree in the clearing but remembered that he must be careful, smoke from a fire could reveal his location.
As the radio crackled into life he [do I need to make any amendments here?] switched to secure mode and relayed his status and code name, “This is Hotel Alpha Tango, marooned in Jungle, need help.” There was an eerie silence until the radio came to life.
“Hotel Alpha Tango received, this is Foxtrot Echo Delta, what is your condition?”
“Collar bone injured, suspected broken, in need of medical experience,” replied Shaun.
“You’re breaking up, re-establish radio contact at 19:00 hours, over and out”
He [do I need to make any amendments here?] placed the microphone on the radio and munched at some dried prunes that he had found in his survival bag. As he was burying the bag in the sodden earth, he could hear the distant sound of a dog barking followed by two muffled gunshots. He was being hunted.
He fixed the silencer onto his pistol and ventured away from the clearing. His camouflage clothing was already streaked with dirt and his face paint and black cap ensured that he would not be seen easily. He hid in a mound of dirt and waited.
Shaun was boiling a joint of fresh meat with an aerosol and a cigarette lighter when he heard a voice on the radio, “Hotel Alpha Tango, this is General Jackson, please respond”.
“Hotel Alpha Tango online Sir,” replied Shaun.
“I want you to listen carefully. In two days time at 13:00 hours, Operation “Buzzin’ Hornets” will be launched and two jets will fly over the jungle. I want you to reveal your location using the orange flare in your survival bag. At 14:00 hours we will come to collect you. Be prepared, over and out”.
After hearing this message, he sat in a daze for a few minutes. The marines were coming to rescue him and he had only been here for four days. He noticed that the muffled sound of gunshots was coming nearer. Could he really survive for two days before they found him? Only time would tell.
His parched lips felt like paper but he forced himself to drink the rainwater. With only 24 hours to go until Operation “Buzzin’ Hornets” was launched, Shaun listened for the sound of the approaching rebels. He dreaded to think of what they would do to him if they found him. Those that were lucky escaped with a leg or an arm missing but usually prisoners were tortured for information until they died. His photo would induce abuse about his family and so he cremated it and buried the ashes. As the tears streaked down his chin, Shaun said a prayer for his family.
During his time in the jungle, his sole method of keeping the time was to look at the sun. As he glanced at the scorching sun, he heard a faint rumbling sound. He opened his survival bag and, as requested, pulled the string to trigger the flare. The two jets roared over his head and he released is breath. His mind began to wander, what if the jets hadn’t seen his flare, what if they had? He put those thoughts aside and packed his bag.
He woke with a startled, jump. He shouldn’t have allowed himself to sleep at such an important time as this. He looked above his head and he could see a helicopter with the rotor blades spinning wildly. Four jets streaked over the helicopter and he noticed an Apache strike helicopter standing nearby. Operation Buzzin’ Hornet was well underway. Nearby there was the sound of shouting and gunfire, followed by a cloud of smoke from the Apache as the mini-gun let loose a hail of bullets. The jets passed over once again and fired a volley of missiles. The strident explosion revealed that the SA-9 missile launcher that had brought his aircraft down was out of action. The helicopter landed and the loadmaster directed the U.S. Marines to Shaun’s position.
As the Marines encircled the aircraft, a soldier collapsed as a cascade of bullets hit his body. Shaun ran towards the injured man but was blocked by a Marine. As he was lead towards the helicopter, the remaining Marines returned fire while the medics clambered onto the helicopter with the wounded Marine on a stretcher. As the fighting ensued, the Marines crawled back to the Helicopter, firing and covering each other as the retreat progressed. Finally the Marines were all aboard and the helicopter took off. Instantaneously the Apache opened fire and screams could be heard as the rebels appeared, falling as soon as they entered the clearing, clutching various parts of their bodies where blood was spewing out.
On board USS Washington, Shaun’s wounds had been attended to. With one arm bandaged up to protect his collarbone, Shaun left his living quarters and headed for the Medical Bay. His lip trembled at the thought of denying a young man his life so that he may live. As he arrived, he headed for a bed surrounded by soldiers. The crowd around the stricken man parted and Shaun wondered if he should have come at all. This man who had saved his life by putting his own at risk deserved more than Shaun could offer him. How would this man feel? Would he be vengeful? Shaun walked forward, past the expensive equipment to the heavily bandaged man. As he caught sight of the man’s face he burst into tears as the soldier said, “Hello…father”.