The Lapis Lazuli Throne
SS Hampton Sr. Ed. Stephen Morgan
During the Iraq War supply convoys rumbled out of Kuwait every day, bound for Baghdad. These convoys traveled on MSR Tampa, one of the most dangerous roads in the world, battling insurgent ambushes and IEDs. It is on one such convoy that an IED took out a gun truck and wounded Specialist Ken Adams. His gun truck commander took the fight to nearby insurgents, but in the aftermath he committed a disrespectful act. In the following weeks the entire gun truck crew was stalked by something unknown, and they disappeared one by one, until only Ken Adams was left, cornered in Las Vegas…
The desert was alive. Damp foul smelling sand exploded in a white flash. Smoky red and yellow tentacles snaked out of the sand. He tried to scream, but the tentacles choked him. Other screams tore through the boiling smoke that stung his eyes and fouled his mouth. He was suffocating. He swung his arms wildly through the heavy hot air as the ground gave way beneath him. He was being pulled into the living desert...
Specialist Ken Adams, the Gunner of his gun truck, picked at his meal of cheeseburgers, French fries, and salad. The mess hall, no wider than a pair of double wide trailers and twice as long, was almost empty. Other than an evening kitchen crew, the only occupants of the mess hall were gun truck soldiers preparing to go out on another convoy security escort mission.
They were escorting another supply convoy of forty-five white trucks, the civilian manned eighteen-wheel tractor trailers that had arrived that afternoon at Convoy Support Center Navistar. The small, cluttered, dusty camp a mile south of the Iraqi border, a jumping off point for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was now manned by mobilized Army National Guard soldiers. After sunset, four HMMWV gun trucks would escort the supply convoy to Cedar, the first CSC on Main Supply Route Tampa. There, they would then turn the convoy over to other escorts, who would take the convoy further north. The gun truck crews would have time for a quick breakfast before they picked up an empty convoy returning to Kuwait.
It was just another typical mission for Ken and his buddies. He grabbed a pair of bananas on the way out the door.
They met their convoy of white trucks at the Convoy Movement Center, the dusty marshaling lot on the other side of a narrow dusty track across from Navistar. The soldiers checked the drivers’ paperwork and made a quick mechanical inspection of the trucks. It was a tedious but necessary process. Ken alleviated the boredom by raiding the packed bag of bubble gum Lenny had packed for the mission. Lenny loved bubble gum, and whenever care packages were put on the mail table for everyone to help themselves, he was one of the first to paw through them, searching for bubble gum…