CHAPTER THIRTEEN PART FIVE
SNOW KINGDOM SYNOPSIS: Two soldiers from the United Northern Alliance, Colonel Castille Tasca and Master Sergeant Rambika Maseru, have undertaken a clandestine mission deep into Snow Kingdom territory to test a new agent designed to kill coca plants the source of the Snow Kingdom’s cocaine, the very foundation of its power and wealth.
WORDS PART FIVE: 1004
DBS: Acronym for Drop and Bury Site.
Scavenger: General term referring to various groupings of people living outside the areas of the predominate cultures. Found primarily in South America south of the Amazon River with smaller groupings living within various sectors and zones in Northern and certain zones within Sub-Sharan Africa. Used by the Snow Kingdom to guard their more remote areas from Alliance raids. Used by the Greater Kingdoms to raid surrounding War Lord and Tribal territories.
Scav(s): Abbreviation for Scavengers
THOPTER: Ground-controlled airborne surveillance craft used by Alliance warriors, infantry and mechanized unites to obtain real-time visual information. Field assembled with a one hundred and forty-centimeter wing span with six lens settings. Uses solar power during the day, functioning on gigat and dorian batteries at night. In theory, could remain airborne indefinitely in a sun-drench environment
So far: Tasca and Maseru, having made their way towards the Latal Gorge, are preparing to enter. Maseru’s frustration increases at not seeing any Scavengers.
Maseru was annoyed beyond words, his growing frustration barely tempered by the knowledge conflict would come soon enough. “As ever, Colonel.”
“Excellent, Sergeant. On me.”
Even with the inherent danger closing in from all sides, due to his faith in the Colonel and the surveillance the thopter would provide, Maseru felt, despite his growing frustration, a grudging calmness settle over him. The thopter won’t leave a blind spot on either flank. With a little luck, we should make the DBS within the hour, kill the Goddamed Scavs, collect our supplies, eat, drink, and get the hell out here to complete the mission.
With scanners at full range, they moved towards the gorge, each conceding nothing to the Scavs lying in wait. As the meters towards the gorge faded they found their composure slowly replaced by a controlled anxiety.
“Sir, we’re near the launch point.”
“All right, Sergeant, let’s get this thing airborne. Once it’s above the gorge let me know what you see on the screen.” Tasca felt a twinge of doubt. Tech had tested the thopter under all possible conditions but never in real time. Tasca needed to believe the thopter would exceed all expectations. This damn thing better work. We have to find them or it will make for a long day.
“Got it, sir. I’m damned curious to see what’s ahead of us.” For Maseru, the feedback couldn’t come fast enough. He desperately sought to rid himself of his frustration. He had to know where the Scavs were hiding.
“That makes two of us, Sergeant. Ready?”
“Yes, sir,” Maseru said as he watched the thopter move straight up and disappear from sight. “You’re right about it being invisible. I know it’s up there but I still can’t see it.”
“That’s exactly what we want, Sergeant. Just give me a few seconds. There, that’s better. The thopter’s over the middle of the gorge. Do you see anything on the screen?”
Maseru’s voice couldn’t hide his disappointment. “Nothing but sand, rocks and stunted plants, sir. I know the bastards are watching us.”
“Unfortunately, but like I said, we’ll wait for them to make the first move. The deeper we penetrate the gorge the sooner we’ll make contact. Does this satisfy you, Sergeant?”
“For the moment, sir.”
“Excellent. All right, move out.”
“With pleasure, sir.” If the Colonel was correct about the Scavs waiting for the right moment to attack, well it couldn’t come fast enough.
Having covered the remaining distance to the mouth of the gorge without contact, they stopped and studied the terrain ahead. Judging the opening of the gorge no more than one-hundred-and-fifty-meters wide, it was the high, dark, ominous looking walls that projected a feeling of foreboding. Within the gorge the sand appeared to stretch endlessly down its length, odd, pock-marked patches of gravel vying for attention with brown-stunted plants and scattered outcroppings of various size, the latter seeming placed haphazardly by some giant hand without any forethought of symmetry.
“Do you see anything, Sergeant?”
“Nothing, not a goddamned thing, Colonel. Just as before, sand, rocks and plants. I wish they would show themselves.”
Tasca couldn’t agree more with his Sergeant. He understood Maseru’s growing anger at not being able to confront the enemy. Maseru was a warrior in every sense for which he was eternally grateful. “Be patient. You’ll see them soon enough.”
“That a promise, sir?”
“Yes. Have I ever let you down?”
“Not to my knowledge, Colonel. I don’t think that’s possible.”
“And I’m not going to now. You’ll get your wish to kill them. Be patient and let them come to us.” Tasca understood Maseru’s deep, seething hatred towards all Scavengers. When the Sergeant was a child living in the Sudan, his family was attacked by Scavengers. Those not killed outright, were sold into slavery to be worked to death in the Snow Kingdom’s diamond mines. Had he not been rescued by an Alliance raid into the Sudan, Maseru would have suffered the same fate.
The thopter, detecting nothing on the top of the left side of the gorge, crossed over to the opposite side. Agonizing minutes passed slowly, the thopter endlessly crisscrossing the floor of the gorge to search the tops of both sides. Moving through the gorge, knowing the Scavs were watching their every move, might have led inexperienced soldiers feel uneasy. What should have weighed heavily on their minds, did not. Due to years of serving side-by-side, coupled with their absolute faith in one another’s abilities, they felt an odd calmness settle about them.
“Colonel, with your experiences with these Scavengers, is this normal for them to wait this long before attacking? It makes no sense to me.”
Based on his earlier experiences with the Worlar Scavenger’s hostile nature, their behavior puzzled Tasca. “I agree, Sergeant. Logic would dictate, with only two men, they would have fired on us if nothing more than to assess the type and strength of our weapons.” Though he didn’t share Maseru’s growing impatience, he found his anticipation of a full-blown Scav attacked tempered by the possibility the Worlar might not attack until they reached the DBS.
With a slow, methodical pace they entered the gorge. Hugging its left side, they moved forward, waiting if their next steps would bring the Scavs out from hiding. The deeper they penetrated, the more Maseru fought to control his temper, but strengthened by the realization, as they closed in on the DBS, he would get to spill Scavenger blood.
One thousand meters into the gorge Tasca stopped and waited for Maseru to pull even with him. “Sergeant, switch your scanner to the thopter and tell me if anything strikes you as unusual.”
“Yes, sir. Let me adjust the clarity. There, that’s good. No, sir. Nothing jumps out at me but judging by your question, you do.”
“I’m not sure, Sergeant. My gut tells me the number of Scavs watching us has increased significantly since we entered. I’ve never known them to remain hidden this long. We should have seen them by now, especially with only two men.”
© 2017, Raymond Tobaygo. All rights reserved.
The author has granted WritersCarnival.ca, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.