While the rest of the crew got very busy with the equipment, the chief led Franklin and the boy to a desktop display screen.
For the lad, the technology was all new. Franklin first showed him a satellite view of their area, magnifying it until the buildings were distinct. Then he stroked the screen until the viewing angle was from the ground just outside the village where they sat. The boy’s eyes widened in wonder as he chattered too fast for Franklin to follow.
This is where we are, he told the lad. Where is your mother?
The boy touched the screen tentatively but quickly got the hang of it when Franklin demonstrated a couple more times. Spinning the display quickly up over a nearby ridge, the lad indicated a village perched just above the narrow wadi floor on the other side. It was too far from the pipeline project to get much attention. But it was a village hardly any larger than where they sat at the time. Where would the rebel soldiers hide?
Franklin asked a few more questions about where the soldiers were staying in the village. The boy pointed to a cluster of rocks jutting out of the side of the hill. They have a cave.
When Franklin relayed that to the chief, the other man clapped his hands. “So that’s why we couldn’t track them after their last attempt!” Turning to the crew behind him, “Joe! Have you got the trucks loaded up? We gotta get out of here!”
The specially built trucks were indeed ready to roll with the crawlers hidden inside the cargo boxes mounted on the frames. The garage doors were already open, and the trucks didn’t make too much noise. Compared against his memories, Franklin marveled afresh how recent technology had changed so very many things. The chief hastily folded the back cover over the front of the computer they had been using, picked it up and headed for the lead truck. Franklin took the lad with him and headed back to the building upon which his sniper nest stood.
With very little clue what he was seeing, the lad watched as Franklin collapsed the sensor into a box, then folded the large solar panels and placed them on top. He latched the hard plastic crate and reached up to pull on something hanging down from the semi-shading tarpaulin over their heads. Franklin fingered something on the end of the cord and the whole thing went limp, falling down on their heads. It seemed to shrink of it self into a rather small, thick fabric about the size of a small blanket. Folding it up neatly, the man stuffed it into a bag. Suddenly the previously shaded rooftop was bathed in ambient light from the thin overcast skies.
In just a few more minutes, Franklin had everything packed and stacked at the top of the stairs. He walked over to one edge and pointed below. Peering over the edge, the boy saw a Hummer hidden in a shaded spot between two buildings. Help me carry these things down there.
Descending the stairs, the boy put his load behind the armored Hummer just outside the entryway on the ground floor. Stepping out away from the buildings, he was surprised at how this thing was almost invisible behind the trees and shrubbery. He was still staring when Franklin came down the stairs with a load. Popping open the rear hatch, the man loaded what they had brought down. A couple more trips and they had the back of the vehicle packed and ready to roll.
From what the boy had told them, he pretty much had all day to deploy the grenade. The chief decided it was unlikely any of the rebels were actively watching from the ridgeline, since that would expose them to the various sensors deployed around this particular valley. However, they could have laid a surveillance device without being noticed; they were cheap and readily available. The trucks were already in convoy heading out of the village. Franklin escorted the lad back to the small square in front of the now empty shop. They retrieved the grenade from the open doorway on one side of the square. Franklin said a few more words while he led the boy behind a low wall facing the shop. He knelt down and had to boy throw the grenade into an open bay of the shop and they both ducked.
The detonation was more powerful than Franklin expected. It was likely the lad would have been hurt or killed had he succeeded on his first try. Peppered with concrete fragments and covered in dust, they were otherwise unharmed. Making their way back to the Hummer, Franklin sat the lad in the passenger seat, and then climbed into the driver’s side and cranked it up. He drove around the backside of the village to a different road from the trucks, barely discernible in the rugged terrain. The trucks were already rolling down the valley on the cratered gravel road that the locals referred to as a “highway” in their language.
Franklin steered the Hummer along the more tortuous track close up along the base of the ridge. Eventually they were just below a pass where a well used goat path was visible zigzagging up the face of the rise. He let the boy out.
The boots were slung behind his neck, swinging under his arms on both sides. Franklin felt good that they had done as much as possible for the boy. He was on his own now.