CHAPTER NINE PART EIGHT
PAGES 5 WORDS 768
FROM CHAPTER NINE PART SEVEN
Both men withdrew from their position until they reached the back of the outcropping. “All right, Sergeant, double time, five meter interval. Go.”
With their stims kicking in, and keeping the outcropping between them and the zanchet, they quickly covered the two-hundred meters.
Sucking in air through their teeth, they dropped to one knee and immediately trained their teledars on the zanchet. They needed to make the Latal gorge without incident. Their mission would call for every ounce of strength and guile to fight the Scavs, to remain one step ahead of the pursuit that would use every resource possible to track and kill them.
Several waraiiths continued their tight circle above the zanchet now oozing blood from two deep gashes in its neck. The unfolding scene, eliciting neither fear nor awe but a sense of self preservation, that it was better the zanchet die than them. Eyes fixed on the carnage; Maseru was the first to speak. “Why haven’t the waraiiths from the first group joined the attack, sir?”
“Best guess. They’re wary of the newcomers. Maybe some kind of backup to prevent from being attacked by the second group. I told you they were intelligent.”
Maseru lowered his teledars. “It might not matter, sir. For some reason the second cluster is leaving and flying towards the west.”
“That they are, Sergeant,” Tasca said his voice carrying a hint of relief. “We’ll stay here until they’re out of range, then head toward the gorge at a slow walk for three-hundred meters then stop and assess the attack. Make it so, Sergeant.
“Yes sir. Slow and steady.”
Though the distance increased between them and the outcropping, the still night air carried the haunting roar and shrieks from the unfolding slaughter.
Out five-hundred meters from the outcropping, they stopped and trained their teledars on the bloodbath.
Lying about the zanchet were the mangled bodies of five dead waraiiths. Using the teledars thermal lens they could see the zanchet was bleeding profusely not only from its neck but from several deep cuts on its back. Sensing their prey was near death the waraiiths flew towards the zanchet close enough to make it lunge at its tormentors. They continued their attack in this manner until the zanchet, weakened from blood loss, crumbled to the ground. Seeing its prey was near death, the waraiiths dove on the hapless creature, biting it while others slashed at its flesh with long, sharp talons until the zanchet was dead. With several high-pitched shrieks, the waraiiths landed on the zanchet, tearing large chunks from its neck while others began ripping through its stomach.
“They’re ripping it apart as if it were made of cella paper. I’ve never seen anything like it, Colonel.”
“And let’s hope we don’t during the rest of the mission, Sergeant.”
“Yes, sir.” For the first time since their encounter with the stalkers, both men felt a brief moment of reprieve, but as experience had taught them, it would be fleeting at best.
“I think it’s safe to resume our original course, Sergeant. Five-meter interval, steady walk until we’re on the other side of the rise, then four hundred run, four hundred walk. We need to place as much distance as possible between us and the outcropping. You can bet the condors will spot the remains once they catch the morning thermals. And then who the hell knows what they’ll attract?”
“How long before we enter Scavenger territory, Colonel?” Maseru said, knowing once they set foot inside Worlar territory, conflict would be unavoidable. He and Tasca, having faced Scavs on earlier missions, held no illusions the fight would be savage, unrelenting, not ending until they had killed every Scav.
“Factor in two short layovers and maintaining a steady pace with no interruptions, about thirty seven-hours, Sergeant then the fun begins. There’s no way the Worlar aren’t allied with the Kingdom. If you ever had your ass wired tight, this is the time to make sure it is.” He looked at Maseru, smiled and motioned him to move out.
The gorge lay forty-five kilometers due west of their position. Tasca looked in the direction of the gorge and swore: the sun would be in their eyes from twelve hundred until nightfall. He knew the sun would add to the inherent dangers they would encounter. They had endured deserts before, but it was the Atacama they hated with a growing intensity, an intensity that Tasca relied on to help them complete the mission.
© 2017, Raymond Tobaygo. All rights reserved.
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