Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
Will was up until his elbows in grease, a smoldering cigarette stump dangling from his lips. His brow betrayed firm concentration, his eyes peering at the many parts the engine held.
“Will it run?” one of the soldiers asked.
“Oh yeah,” Will said, words the only acknowledgement he gave the other man. “But not for long.”
The soldier looked out at the approaching form of their commander, Truong, a small Vietnamese-American risen in rank due to his presumed knowledge of the Vietnamese jungle. Little did the folks higher up know that the man had been born and raised in the United States and knew nothing of his heritage. It made him very stressed, which in turn made him very nasty.
“Drive!” he commanded.
Will got up and turned to the man. “It’s not ready.”
“Drive! Drive!” Truong shouted, waving his arms around frantically and pulling a face you did not wish to argue with.
Will sighed and waved for the men to climb into the truck. Over the weeks, his attitude had become nothing short of indifferent. He wasn’t even impressed anymore by hails of gunfire, a situation Truong frequently got his men into.
“Keep going!” Truong shouted, bashing Will on his helmet for added effect.
“I can’t,” Will said, suppressing thoughts of breaking the man’s nose.
“We’re in the middle of the jungle. Drive!”
Will turned the ignition one more time, only to demonstrate the engine had really stopped functioning. The billowing smoke rising from the hood was obviously not evidence enough.
Truong was not easily silenced. “Fix it!” he commanded, jumping out and opening the lid. Within moments, his small shape was completely cloaked in smoke. His curses traveled far.
Will stayed in the truck, opening the hatch to the passenger compartment. Ten sets of eyes looked at him, all with the same indifference that occupied Will’s. “We’re sitting ducks again, guys. Arm yourselves and head for the rock formation we just passed.”
The words had just parted with his lips when the gunfire started, shattering the truck’s windshield. Will rolled out of his seat, landing with ease on the dirt road, making his way for the protection the rocks offered. He found his companions waiting, rifles in hand. A moment later Truong showed up, covered in soot, looking furious.
“Johnson,” he ordered. “Roof gun. Now.”
One soldier got up, stopped by Will.
“Don’t,” he told Truong. “You know it’s jammed.”
“You repaired it!” Truong shouted.
“No,” Will said. “You ordered me down. I didn’t have enough time.”
“What a surprise,” another soldier mumbled, rolling his eyes.
Truong waved his arms again. “It will have to work. Johnson, man it!”
Johnson faced Truong, his eyes cold. “I don’t think so.”
The little man staggered at the refusal. He gathered himself and started ordering others, all of whom formed a circle around him, shaking their heads.
“Fine!” Truong finally said. “I’ll do it myself. And you will all be reported!”
He ran to the truck, climbed on top, manned the gatling gun and fired. Or tried. The gun clicked a few times, then erupted in the man’s face, ending him.
The soldiers regarded their fallen commander not with indifference, but with relief. All turned to Will, their next in command.
“So what’s the plan?” a soldier asked.
Will lit a cigarette, letting it hang casually from his mouth, then gestured to the jungle.
“I guess we fight for a bit.” He exhaled a cloud of smoke, resembling the one still rising from the truck. “After that, we walk.”