Pala Pala Pa'ani

By Cokie

~~~H50~~~

This was a dream. Way back, last summer, I believe. I didn't know what I would do with it, but it was a very vivid dream… even down to the color of the cargos, so I took the time to write it down while it was still fresh in my mind. And it has set on my thumb drive until now.

Thanks so much to Sym64, Sherry57, Sockie1000 and Rogue Tomato for reviewing all of this and giving me the gumption to post. I am anxious to hear what you think of this idea!

Sym also made the cool bookcover. In fact, she made 5 of them and wanted me to choose… yeah, right, I couldn't do that so I asked Sherry57 to pick one. She picked a great one, but let's be honest, there wasn't a turkey in the bunch!

Be sure to read the author's notes at the end of the page!

~~~H50~~~

It was sheer luck that we found him.

Or a miracle.

I didn't really believe in either of those options, but Gracie did. And Grace was right… she told me this morning that we would find him today.

After 46 hours of searching and hoping she knew we would find him.

Thank God for little girls and their undying faith. But find him, we did.

Which was a total fluke. We have been traipsing through this gully-washed jungle for the past nine hours, having had to leave the pitiful excuse for a path way too many times to count. This last time, a giant tree was down on the path blocking our way, its dead, tangled branches now jutting toward the sky.

After veering first to the left, which was dense with undergrowth, we chose to head to the right, around the tree, in hopes of reconnecting with the path very soon. Chin's machete cut through the brush ahead of us while Kono and her trusty flashlight brightened the way; I remained at our six.

Six. His word, not mine. It seemed that in the past couple of years, I've learned a lot of military speak.

I wondered why? Early on, he had managed to get under my skin, his very thoughts sometimes dictating my life. Now… well, it was just normal.

And now we found him again.

Kono tripped on what she had thought was a root. Until she shone her flashlight over the spot so that I wouldn't trip as well.

And we saw the mud-caked brown boot jutting from the brush. After staring at it for a moment, realizing what we were actually seeing, we both shouted. Whatever we said caused Chin to rush back to our sides and we all three stared at it in shock. I reached down and placed two fingers beneath Steve's boot… there was no doubt as to whose foot that was… to search for a pulse. After a few panicked moments, I picked up a beat. It was by no means steady or strong, but it was there.

We all began trying to remove the dense brush as it scratched our hands and thorns pricked our skin. We shouted his name, trying to reach him. The once-charcoal gray cargos were caked in both dry and still sticky mud. Reddish stains were also mingled with the dirt. What amazed me was how he had managed to tunnel into this thicket of brush, thorns and branches. Chin had to go easy with the machete for fear of cutting him in the process.

Finally we were able to get closer and Kono set down her light and crawled as far as she could into the space.

"Still can't see his face," she told us. "Steve! Hey, Boss, can you hear me?"

After all we had gone through in the search for our friend, there simply weren't any other options but for him to make it out of this okay.

"He's on his stomach; his arms are above his head and I can't get in far enough to see his face," Kono yelled to us. She paused and then added, "Guys, I think he's been shot in the back."

I had just finished calling in the troops giving them our coordinates when I heard that news. "What mess did he land in the middle of this time," I wondered more to myself than anyone else.

"Here, hold the light for Kono," Chin told me. "I'm going to try cutting away from the opposite side."

I looked up from the hole he had cut away. "Good idea, be careful. Kono, can you see anything else?"

She was still trying to slither into a space not big enough for a body to enter. "Oh, God. Danny, there's blood everywhere."

I could hear the panic in her voice; knew she dreaded what she was going to find.

"Hey, Danny?" Chin called. "I can make headway on this side. Come over and help me pull away the brush when I chop it."

"Yeah, coming." I slid as far into the space as I could and pushed the flashlight toward Kono. "Kono, take the light; we'll meet you from the other side."

"Thanks, Brah," she called back, then added, "We found him Danny. He'll be OK."

"Yeah, of course he will."

He has to be. Gracie is never wrong.

~~~H50~~~

Five days ago…

To be continued…

~~~H50~~~

Author's Notes: Like I said, this was a dream. I have thought long and hard on it and don't know where to go from here. I have *no* clue what happened to Steve, who did this or whether he was on a case or if this is something personal.

The title means "Writing Game" and I thought it would be fun to write this story together with all of you. I am going to ask some questions for you to answer by using the "Review" feature. I will take your responses and attempt to write the next chapter. At the end of that chapter, there will be more questions for you. It will be in YOUR hands where this story goes. It will be up to you to decide what Steve and friends have to endure on the way. And hopefully, we will mesh together an entire story this summer.

So, what do you think? Will it work? Will you help? Can we pull it off, creating an exiting adventure? Please don't make me beg… it isn't pretty.

You can answer both questions or just one of them. I will try to use as many of your ideas as I can in the plot line, so you'll have to read the next chapter to see if you recognize any of your input!

The questions for this chapter are:

1. Was Steve the hunter or the hunted?

2. Was Steve alone when this happened?

Please send your replies to me by Thursday, June 20 at 5:00 p.m., Eastern time zone (1700 hours). Give me as much detail as you like to help flesh out the story. I will review every comment and use as much as I can throughout the chapters. I will have chapter 2 for you as soon as I can.

Thank you! Now… get busy!