CHAPTER NINE PART THREE
PAGES 5 WORDS 859
FROM PART TWO
“No, Sergeant. Remain here and scan towards the south but don’t stand on top of this rock. You’ll make too tempting a target. You’ll be moving from one side of the outcropping to the other, so maintain a low profile, Tasca said, voice coarse, forceful. “We have no idea of what in hell moves about here at night.”
“And I don’t want to find out, sir.”
“Neither do I, Sergeant.” From Tasca’s first missions into the Atacama, he remembered stories from the Scavs about the creatures inhabiting this area and it gave him cause for alarm. Based on their encounter with the stalkers, he wanted to avoid any contact with the apex predators that made it their home.
“All right, Sergeant, let’s do this.”
With a quick salute Maseru watched Tasca climb over the outcropping and disappear from sight. He smiled. He had forgotten just how fast the Colonel could move. Turning so most of the outcropping was behind him, he raised the teledars to his eyes, searching the area stretching out towards the horizon. Man, nothing but sand and rocks, rocks and sand. How the hell can anything call this place home? He continued to search the area until he heard Tasca approach from behind.
“See anything, Colonel?” Maseru said as Tasca drew even with him. “I sure as hell didn’t. Not one damned thing, sir.”
“The same here, Sergeant. No life signs or movement, just silence, the moon and the stars.” Tasca lowered himself into a sitting position. Both realized this peaceful moment wouldn’t be the case for long, for the deeper they went into the night they would eventually find what creatures called this slice of desert home. Tasca wanted to avoid a firefight until they reached Scavenger territory. Ever since their encounter with the Hunter Killers, he understood the mission didn’t need further complications. The very nature of their mission all but guaranteed conflict the type ending with their deaths if they made any miscalculations regarding the severity of their unfolding situation.
“And I hope it stays that way,” Maseru said looking past Tasca and out over the sand surrounding them. “We could use with a few hours of sleep, Colonel.”
“You’ll get no argument from, me, Sergeant,” Tasca said softly. “I’ve checked both scanners for range. We should be able detect anything on the ground to eight k’s and above us to three-thousand meters, giving us enough time to react. Questions, Sergeant?”
“None at the moment, sir.” Maseru’s calm reply belied the feeling churning in his gut that as time passed fate would again play havoc with their lives.
“Sergeant the first watch is all yours.” Tasca was conscious of one crushing fact, that if they didn‘t sleep now, complete mental and physical collapse would be their fate. Of his thoughts at this moment, it was the one that preyed on Tasca’s mind the most.
“Yes, sir. Enjoy the rest. I’ll wake you at twenty-three hundred.”
“Unless there’s anything irregular. And don’t make yourself a target when you’re on top, Sergeant.”
“Understood, sir.” Maseru followed Tasca to the far side of the outcropping. Satisfied the Colonel’s position was secure he scrambled to the top of the outcropping to check the scanners. Relieved that nothing approached, he carefully made his way to the right side of the outcropping and searched the area with his teledars. After five minutes of seeing nothing but desert Maseru climbed to the top, and after checking the scanners made his way to the other side. He continued this routine until it was time to wake Tasca.
“Colonel,” Maseru said touching Tasca’s arm. “As of twenty-three hundred I’ve detected nothing, sir. And I pray it stays this way.”
“Can’t argue with that,” Tasca said his voice still hoarse from sleep. “I want you to rest here, Sergeant.”
Maseru gave a weary nod. “I’m so damned tired, Colonel I could sleep on broken glass and not feel a thing.”
Tasca smiled. “No doubt, anyway enjoy your beauty rest. I’ll wake you at the zero three hundred. How do you feel, Sergeant?”
“For some reason I feel so damned stiff and sore.” Though his ribs no longer hurt, the constant grind of carrying so much weight over sun-baked sand took its toll.
“Well if it makes you feel any better, so do I, Sergeant. Now get some sleep.”
Maseru nodded and watched Tasca climb over the top of the outcropping. He knew this would be easier said than done. Though his mind and body craved sleep, his warrior’s mindset would fight to stay alert. Fatigued to the point of numbness, with the mental damn that kept his weariness in check, broken, Maseru tried to find a comfortable position to get a few hours rest. He knew he must sleep, must turn off the flow of questions seeking answers he couldn’t give. He looked up at the full moon surrounded by stars and smiled. Such beauty, so calm, so peaceful, so what the hell does this place feel like a shithole? Lowering his head until it touched his rucksack he gave the night sky a final look and closed his eyes.
© 2017, Raymond Tobaygo. All rights reserved.
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