The platoon moved through the woods the way only soldiers can – quickly, urgently, but also with a sense of quiet caution. The air was oppressive – almost unbearably hot and humid, even under the protective canopy of the trees. They brandished their rifles, prepared to fight off any assault. Each member of the team knew that their mission was critical; each was willing to lay down his or her life to ensure its success. The sergeant, a grizzled fox with many years of service behind him, led the troops through the underbrush. Every soldier carried a large black backpack. In the center of the formation, a muscular wolf carried a pack that was larger than all the others. Inside, their precious cargo awaited delivery. Time was short. If they failed to return to base in time, all their efforts would be for naught.
Suddenly, the wolf cried out in pain and fell to his hands and knees. His left foot appeared to be trapped in the ground. A lithe female cat next to him called out, “Johnson’s down!”
“Get the medic! What happened?”
“I’m not sure. He stumbled all of a sudden.”
The medic ran up and began a quick examination. “It looks like he stepped in a natural sinkhole. Johnson, can you pull your leg out?”
“I don’t think so Doc. It just explodes with pain if I move it even a little.”
“I heard a loud pop when he went down,” added the cat
“Damn, his ankle is probably broken.”
“Alright, we’re going to have to get Johnson out of this hole,” said the sergeant, taking charge. “We’d better start
“No, sarge, it’ll take too long,” Johnson said with a grimace. “The mission’s more important. Go on without me.”
“We can’t leave you here!”
“I’ll be fine for a little while. You need to hurry. We’re almost out of time!”
The fox paused for a moment, conflicted. But he knew what had to be done. “Alright. We’re moving out!” he called to the group. He addressed the cat next. “Barneby, switch packs with Johnson. Doc, stay with him. We’ll be back as soon as possible.”
Barneby hoisted Johnson’s pack with a grunt. The remainder of the platoon took off at a brisk pace. There was barely any time left. They might not make it.
They fought through the woods for several more minutes before coming to a river. They splashed across and climbed the steep muddy banks on the other side. More tense minutes followed. Would these woods ever end?
Finally, they broke through into a large field. The gate of the home base waited only a few hundred yards away. Everyone broke into a full run. They signaled to the sentries, who opened the gate for them. They ran through the streets of the base, making a beeline for a large, important building – the mess hall. Moving around to the rear entrance of the kitchen, they encountered a chef idling by the door.
“Open that door, soldier!” shouted the sergeant.
“I’m sorry, I can’t. It’s jammed shut. No one’s been able to force it. We’ve been waiting for the maintenance crew for hours.”
“We don’t have time for this. Demolitions, go!”
“I’m on it!” replied a stout beaver. He threw off his pack and pulled out several large charges of C4, which he placed around the doorway. “Everyone clear!”
Everyone moved to a safe distance before the beaver activated the detonator. The door blew off its hinges and fell to the ground.
“Go! Go! Go! Let’s move it!”
At the sergeant’s command, two quick wolves rushed into the smoky entrance, making sure it was safe. Barneby followed when they motioned it was clear. The soldiers rushed into the kitchen and found their target – a gigantic freezer.
Barneby set the pack down, opened the freezer door, and began unloading the contents of her pack. She shoved tub after tub of ice cream onto the shelves, briefly lifting the lid of each one to ensure that it had survived the journey with minimal melting.
All of her fellow soldiers watched intently, hoping fervently that they had succeeded. A captain walked up, eager for a report. “Sergeant, what’s the status of your mission?”
The fox saluted and answered, “We’ll know in a moment, sir. Barneby, how is it?”
The cat placed the last tub of ice cream in the freezer and stood as she closed the door. She saluted to the captain as well. “All flavors accounted for, sir. It appears we suffered less than five percent melting.”
“That’s well within acceptable parameters. Excellent work, everyone.”
A great cheer went up as relief washed over the assembled soldiers. Everyone traded handshakes, hugs, and hi-fives. They were all ready to celebrate a job well done. The platoon filed out into the mess hall, where the captain announced their success. The other soldiers of the base cheered as well, welcoming them back as heroes. The excitement went on for a while, but eventually a wolf sidled up to the sergeant and whispered, “Um, shouldn’t we go back for Johnson?”