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Tasca understood the stark truth of the encounter between the creatures.  If the waraiiths found the zanchet a difficult kill, they could return to the outcropping seeking easier prey.  “Sergeant, take your stim and attach it to your utility belt, but don’t use it until I tell you.  Double check that your pulse rifle is armed and secured to your rucksack, then attach two pulse charges next to the stim.”



“Understood, Colonel, but what about our friends?


“As long as they’re concentrating on one another, we should be able to fade into the night undetected.  Make for the back of the outcropping, Sergeant while I make a final scan.  Once you’re in position, I’ll follow but continue scanning until I reach you.”


With Tasca’s attention focused on the creatures, Maseru carefully made his way off the outcropping and down its side until he was several meters from the Colonel.  Resting on one knee, he picked up a small rock and threw it at him.


Tasca heard the rock hit the outcropping.  Seeing the waraiiths were about to attack the zanchet, he made his way down the outcropping and towards Maseru who watched the deadly struggle unfold.  “The waraiiths are in a lower, tighter circle over the zanchet, Colonel.  It still doesn’t sense it’s being targeted.”


“It’s only a matter of time before it does.  I hope the waraiiths kill it quickly.  The last thing we need is them hunting us.”  Tasca had heard several stories from the Scavs of their children being attacked and carried away by the waraiiths never to be seen again.  He had no desire to see if they could so with a man.


“Who do you think will survive, Colonel?”


“Don’t know, Sergeant,” Tasca replied as he continued to study the zanchet.  “The waraiiths are over two meters long and highly intelligent.  Based on what I’ve witnessed from my first mission, they’ll attack from different angles until they’ve confused the zanchet, then go for its throat.  The zanchet can balance its weight on its hindquarters freeing its remaining legs to defend itself with its long claws.  With a mouth of razor-sharp teeth and a hide as tough as geradian armor it won’t make for an easy kill.  If waraiiths have any chance in succeeding they’ll continue to attack zanchet’s neck until it bleeds out.”


“Sir, I’d like to make a suggestion.  Would it be a better tactical move if we worked our way back on top of the outcropping and assess which creature presents the greater threat to our mission?  We’ll be traveling at night so I think it’s a risk worth taking.  Once we’ve determined which the greater danger is, we withdraw.  We’ll need to keep the outcropping between us and the zanchet until we can resume on our course toward the gorge.”


“Lowering his teledars, Tasca turned and gave Maseru an odd look. “You’re dead serious, aren’t you?”


“Yes, sir, I am.”


“Of that I have no doubt, Sergeant.  All right, change in plans.  We move forward to the mid-point of the outcropping and assess which is the greater danger to the mission. Once done we’ll move to the back of the outcropping.”  Neither the Colonel nor the Sergeant wanted to face either creature, but drew comfort from the fact, that if they were attacked they had the weapons to kill both.


“Should we inject the stims now, Colonel?”


Tasca looked at the moon.  Might be a good time to do so, Castille.  We’ve got a long hike ahead of us and who knows what we’ll run into.  “Do it, Sergeant.  When you’re finished, place the empty stim in your sleeve pocket.  No sense in leaving a trail marker.


“Yes sir,” Maseru said with obvious relief.  Holding the stim in his free hand, he pushed the end of it into his thigh then watched Tasca do the same with his.  “You’ve made the right choice, Colonel.  We’ll need to be jacked when we encounter the Scavs”


“Hopefully, Sergeant.  Remember, no sudden movement or noise.  The last damn thing we need is to have either creature lock us, instead of each other.”

Author Notes

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