CHAPTER THIRTEEN PART ONE INTO THE LATAL GORGE
One kilometer from the mouth of the gorge, Tasca and Maseru stopped to finalize their plans, the Sergeant being the first to speak. “They’re nothing on the scanner, Colonel. I thought by now I would have seen some Scav movement.”
Tasca looked out past Maseru and onto the terrain ahead. “Yeah, it’s a bit odd, Sergeant, but don’t worry I’m sure they’ve seen us.” A sense of the unknown forced its way into Tasca’s thoughts. Though he had anticipated they would have seen Scavenger signs by now, he was not overly concerned. The Scavs would avoid being seen until it was to their advantage.
“I don’t like it, Colonel. We don’t know where the bastards are hiding. It feels like an itch I can’t scratch.”
Tasca understood his Sergeant’s frustration, having experienced the same on his first mission into Worlar territory. Tasca realized he must channel his Sergeant’s impatience, to focus it not on the moment, but on what awaited them once they reached the site.
“Unless I’ve missed my guess, you’ll be able to scratch your itch soon enough. I have no doubts the Kingdom has ordered the Scavs to kill us,” Tasca said turning his back towards Maseru. “Sergeant, remove my scanner and hand it to me.”
“Yes sir.” With one fluid move Maseru grabbed the straps holding the scanner to the rucksack and with a quick jerk detached the device and handed it to Tasca.
“I’m activating the holo map to get a fix on the containers exact position. If the map’s accurate the site should be about three kilometers up the gorge, buried behind a large outcropping where the gorge widens. Ah there it is. Just as I said.”
Both felt a small twinge of relief at locating the DBS only to feel it fade, the growing weight of their situation ending any sense of respite “At least it’s behind the outcropping which should provide some cover while we empty it, sir.”
“Provided the Scavs aren’t on the other side when we reach it. If they are….well it’s going to be a long afternoon.” Every encounter Tasca had with the Worlar Scavengers always ended in a blood bath. His gut told him this encounter would be no different.
Maseru grinned. “With a positive attitude like that there’s no way we can fail, right, sir?”
Tasca allowed himself a brief laugh. “Yeah, right. When we’re in a kilometer we’ll activate the scanners’ meglar pulse units which should take us to the DBS.” Tasca held no illusions the Scavs wouldn’t attack once they were at the site. He pinned this hope on the Scavenger’s curiosity that they wouldn’t attack until he emptied the container.
Maseru rolled his neck until it cracked. “I’m curious, sir. Why two k’s from the site? We didn’t activate the units for the first DBS until we were five-hundred meters out.”
Tasca smiled. “It’s the terrain, Sergeant. The floor of the gorge is very uneven and strewn with rocks. To overcome this, the site’s meglar pulse is vertical which we can detect farther out. Since the terrain at the first DBS was flat, it sent a horizontal pulse.”
“Will the Scavs be able to hone in on the pulse, Colonel?”
Resting on one knee Tasca unhooked the water bladder tube and took a long drink. “No,” he said wiping his mouth. “Pulse technology has been operational for only three months; this and the earlier site being the first use of the tech in real time. Once we’re at the DBS you’ll be my eyes and ears as I activate the container’s hydraulics then remove the supplies with our final orders.”
Maseru gave Tasca and odd look. “Final orders, sir?”
Tasca looked up at Maseru. “You heard right, Sergeant, final orders. Assuming we’ve reached the second site, Command issued three orders. Based on the mission’s parameters and our current status, we decide what order to follow to reach endpoint.”
Maseru’s eyes locked with Tasca’s. “Damn, sir, it just keeps getting better the deeper we go into the mission. Did command factor in the entire Scav nation trying to kill us?”
Tasca held no illusions regarding the Scav’s intent: Ordered by the Kingdom to hunt and kill them their fight would be to the death. Though both had clashed with various Scavengers during earlier missions, the Sergeant had yet to experience the savagery the Worlar would bring once they attacked. The Colonel, knowing there was a grain of truth in what Maseru had said, pushed himself up. “Yes, Sergeant, they planned for just such a contingency.” He grinned. “I can always count on you to overestimate the danger. At best we’ll face one possibly two Scav clans, not the entire population, but enough gloom and doom. I want you to remove the long black container from my rucksack and lay it on the ground next to me.”
© 2017, Raymond Tobaygo. All rights reserved.
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