Ruckus (SEAL Team Alpha #1)

By: Zoe Dawson


Turbo, Columbia, South America

Heading into the world’s most dangerous jungle hadn’t been on Dana Sorensen’s radar until months ago when she’d gotten an email from her dying mother asking Dana to do something for her. Tell these peoples’ stories. Let the public know what was happening. It had been the last correspondence Dana had received before her mom, her brave, beautiful, accomplished mom had lost her fight with cancer.

As a surgeon involved with Doctors Without Borders, her mom had met and married Dana’s dad, who was a nurse also serving with them. She often wondered if she could even live up to her mom’s ability to be so selfless.

Even as the tears moistened her eyes, Dana tried to tell herself that she had no way of knowing her mom was going to go so fast, before Dana could get home. And, with guilt pressing in from all sides, eating at her, the grief still fresh, Dana was going to fulfill her mom’s dying wish. Come hell or high water.

She’d pitched her mom’s story to the editor for Trek Magazine about migrants traveling through the Darién Gap to make it from Colombia to Panama, then up through the Central American peninsula with the final destination the US. It had all stemmed out of her mom’s last trip to Asia where she’d found out that a lot of migrants were heading through South America to bypass the routes that had dried up due to stronger restrictions. And it wasn’t just Asia, but a slew of foreigners looking for a better life free from war and persecution.

But here she was standing on a dock in Turbo, Colombia, a disreputable port town rife with violence on the coast of Colombia and in the horseshoe of the Gulf of Urabá to fulfill her mom’s wish. It was just before dawn, the sun nothing but a glimmer on the horizon. She waited for a boat that would take her and her crew into the Darién Gap, a place that was teeming with dense jungle, dangerous wildlife, impenetrable swamps, wary guerrillas, intense paramilitary, deadly drug traffickers, disreputable guides and no marked trails.

The Darién might be a ten-thousand-mile swath of inhospitable land, but Dana was a correspondent who, due to her mom and dad’s noble example, had given up reporting about the war in exchange for pieces on the human condition. She was now a writer, photographer, filmmaker and contributing editor to International Humanitarian Journal. From her war correspondent experience, she could handle stressful encounters and dangerous people as situations that were all in a day’s work. She’d had some harrowing experiences in her life, but had gotten the story every time. This piece was timely, a hot button and would allow her to showcase what people would do for freedom and a better life along with keeping her promise to her mom. But going into the Gap was risky. She was well aware of the dangers, but had never let that stop her before. These stories needed to be told.

She needed to tell them.

There were several people with her from her film company, along with porters heading to Domingodo to meet up with a representative from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC, Cuba-backed guerrillas who had been at war with Colombia since 1964. They controlled the most direct route through the Gap, and it would be her best chance of meeting and talking to migrants attempting the crossing. Permission had been obtained from an official in Havana to pave the way for her and her crew to do this timely story.

The soft drone of an outboard motor broke the predawn quiet. James Quinn, a freelance videographer she’d hired to document the trip leaned over and said, “Are you ready for this?”

She smiled. “I was born ready.” He and her South African producer and naturalized American, Liam Nelson were the two crew members accompanying her on the trip. Her cell chimed and she pulled it out of her cargo pants and read the screen. Jeffrey. He had been calling ever since she’d left San Diego and her office to make this trip. She hit the accept button and said, “Hi, there.”

“Dana, geez woman, you’ve been a hard one to get a hold of. I really needed to talk to you before you left. It was important.”

“I know, but the okays came through for this trip and I had to go. You understand.”

He sighed heavily. “I do. I know how much your mom meant to you.” At his words, her eyes filled, and she worked at not losing it. “Look I’d be the first one to say what you do is great. You have more courage than some men I know. I would never stand in the way of that, but—”

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