"Goooooooood evening Hazlemere! It's 0800 hours. What does the "O" stand for? O my God, it's getting dark early!"
Kings Jungle swelters in the late evening sun and somewhere in the distance, a siren sounds. Clad in her special Black Ops gear, Jo clicks her fingers, and motions to the crack troops to gather round for the evening's briefing.
"Roger Dodger - I want you to run rear guard point; there's been a lot of activity in these woods recently so keep your eyes peeled. Roadrunner, Bigfoot - you go on up front and secure the route. I receed this area a couple of days ago and left some subtle signs; a broken twig here, some scuffed moss there…..nothing to attract too much attention, no visible flour this time"
The group mill nervously around as the trackers set off to find the trail. Private Mike pipes up nervously to break the silence:
Erm, Boss…what's the weather like out there tonight? "
"It's hot. Damn hot! Real hot! Hottest things is my shorts. I could cook things in it. A little crotch pot cooking."
"Oh, and are there any service stations nearby….you know…just in case I'm caught short?"
Mike's plaintive pleas are cut short by the cries of 'On On' as the trackers find the trail, leading the group through a small gap in the foliage to emerge at a nearby clearing.
[Roadrunner, bending down, touches the grass]
"Gippos - about 13 days ago Boss"
"Good work Roadrunner - how can you be so precise though?"
"They've left a betting slip - here, by the fire"
Double quick time, so as not to be caught out in the open for too long, the troops file along the contours of the clearing, before skirting the treeline and dropping into the steaming mass of foliage at the far side, sweat already dripping off their brows. Mike, panting for breath, doesn't give up.
"No honestly, what do you think it's really going to be like tonight?"
"Mike - it's gonna be hot and wet! That's nice if you're with a lady, but it ain't no good if you're in the jungle."
The conversation is interrupted suddenly by a sharp cry from the front of vanguard:
"STOP! Don't take another step!"
"What, is it a booby trap?"
"Well, it's a big lump of something but I certainly wouldn't step in it"
Jo decides the area might be mined, so calls an early split, sending the slower members of the group on a 'Short' route to outflank the enemy whilst the crack 'Long' troops continue up the hill following the original trail.
The going is cautious. The jungle seems to come alive at night, every sound magnified, spelling possible danger. The Longs stumble down a rocky trail, quietly past the village of Mickle-da song - a well-known haven for insurgents - then up the other side towards Penn-Sing before doubling back along down the valley, towards an enemy generator station, on red alert for signs of possible attack.
"QUICK! Down, down!"
The Longs hit the deck as one just before the inky blackness is lit up by powerful strobe lights. The sound of vicious animals, baying for blood, cuts through the heavy night air.
"It's alright guys - stand easy - it's just one of our Search and Rescue patrols"
Nervously, the group get back to their feet, some of them suddenly a few pounds lighter. Along the old river creek, followed by a sharp right up a narrow rat run right through the middle of the executive housing compound. The only sound is the troops' heavy breathing as the hill takes it toll….oh, and the sound of Ade's guffs as he drops one right into the face of the rookie, Friar Tuck - gotta toughen these virgins up, eh Ade?!
Heavy military traffic careers along the main road, rumbling past the local diner, The Crown-da-nang.
"Here's a little advice - never eat in a Vietnamese restaurant next to a dog pound. Bl***y good chips though!"
The Longs chuckle softly amongst themselves as they wait in a ditch to cross the road unseen, before sprinting to the other side and melting into the fields beyond.
"Good work guys - we're going to go diagonal now to confuse anybody trying to trail us"
"Diagonal Boss - what's that?! We've never done that before!"
"Just trust me, and follow my lead - it's not left, it's not right, it's somewhere in the middle…..and no, that's not a political statement!"
Soon, the lights of the base hove into view, and the Longs crowd the Mess Tent, happy at having beaten the Shorts, no doubt hampered by Private Mike being on map reading duties.....power station...generator station....service station....they're all the same to him!
Despite howls of protest, Roger Dodger then takes to the floor to present his after-dinner comedy routine, handing out various made-up awards for miscellaneous achievements and wrong doings. General Gerry makes the 'almost fatal' mistake of asking Roger to turn round so the other side of the room can hear him more clearly, and is nearly beaten to an inch of his life with glasses, plates and the odd overcooked chip.
Private Mike meanwhile, having hopped from table to table, hoovering up the leftovers, is still moaning about the weather to anybody who cares to listen. Jo calls him sharply to order:
"Mike - tomorrow, there is a chance of continued weather front coming down from the north. Basically, it's hotter than a snake's ass in a wagon rut. Now beat it, before I beat you. Hash Exercise #1364 is now official over - well done guys!"