Intercosmic - Chapter 4 - It's a Trap

When we briefed on this mission we were told it would be a short walk through the jungle before we reached our location. We’ve been walking through uncharted and unmapped jungle for several hours, according to my wrist comp, we’ve gone about nine miles, which wouldn’t be an issue normally. Unfortunately, the temperature is 143 at the moment and we’re fighting nature just to reach our target. The conditions are horrid and I think the heat is starting wear on our mind.

Hallucinogenics, this whole planet is full of them. I’m wondering if we’re really this tired or if one of these strange plants is the cause of our fatigue. My bet is on the yellow ones that spit out the light blue mist if you walk too close. 

“Should I try to reach Eva,” Faramund asks.

“Sure, see what’s up ahead of us,” I wave him off.

I don’t care for Faramund, he wouldn’t be in my top ten for squad member picks. The man is combat crazed. He swears he just wants to protect people, but all he ever talks about is potential fire fights. We see combat, but generally it’s light and doesn’t have any casualties. The man is a serial killer who joined the marines for a murderous output. He isn’t the first, he isn’t the last. On top of that, he’s extremely loyal to Creed. Any change of plan will be reported to Creed before we can complete it. I’m willing to bet that’s why he’s on my team.

Habeeb, I don’t know much about him, but I’m not sorry to have him around. He’s a family man. Nothing flashy, does his job and goes home. This is just a nine to five for him. He’s gone out for drinks with the boys and girls less than I have. This is work, and I can deal with that mindset. I’m not going to be giving performance reviews, but if he wants a mid-level manager, then I’ll give him that and he’ll give me employee of the month.

Eva, I don’t know anything about her other than she’s a go getter. She hasn’t been with us long, just got her certifications. I know she’s eager to prove herself, a little to eager, but all of us were as rookies. I’m sure she’ll make a great soldier as long as she calms down and takes things slow.

“I can’t get Eva on the radio,” Casey whispers to me.

I thank him for the information and keep moving, now I’m more alert and watching for traps. This civil war has been fought primarily through guerilla warfare by the rebel group. It makes sense, they’re basically cultists who know these jungles and deserts better than anyone else. I wouldn’t be surprised if Eva fell into some trap and couldn’t reach her radio. My wrist comp says she’s not far ahead of us, but she’s not moving either and her heart rate is lower than normal but still steady.

“Be on the lookout, Eva is supposed to be around her somewhere,” I warn the team.

It doesn’t take much work to spot Eva Hanging by her legs upside down from a tree about six feet above us. She’s bleeding from a wound in her side, but she responds when she sees us. Warning us of possible traps. Habeeb gets her down from the tree and Casey provides some first aid. She can still walk, but she’s lightheaded and her armor is malfunctioning. The mechanical joints meant to help movement are locking up on her. Any walking would render her much slower than the rest of us. We need to abort and regroup for a later attack. I radio creed with an update.

“We need to turn back, Van der Beek was shot and caught in a trap. We’ve stopped the bleeding, but she’s lost a lot of blood.”

“Leave her, and push on,” Creed responds.

“We can’t just leave her die,” Creed is out of his mind.

“I didn’t say leave her to die. Leave her, and return when the job is done. Her suit has a tracker.”

“What?”

“Did you not understand your order?”

“I understand the order, what I don’t understand is the reasoning.”

“Then you are relieved of duty Sergeant Gray. Private Faramund will lead your squad now.” 

“What?”

“You heard me. Faramund will lead now.”

“You heard the commander, push forward team. Anyone who doesn’t will be charged with disturbance of military procedure and court-martialed. Van der Beek knew the risks,” Faramund steps in without hesitation or confirmation from Creed.

“It’s okay, he’s right. I’ll be safe. I can still shoot,” Eva assures us.

“Move out,” Faramund leads the march.

I expect Habeeb to follow, he’s by the book, but I don’t expect Casey to follow. I reassure Eva we’ll be back for her and she promises she’s fine. She’s fallen for the ideology of sacrifice for our solar system. She repeated claims she knew the risks, but she didn’t know the risk. None of us knew the risks, we were misled. This was supposed to be a quick hit and run mission. Clearly things aren’t shaping up to be that way. This is an ambush, we walked into a trap, but why? Why were they willing to sacrifice us so easily? What’s really the goal of this mission?

We move through following Faramund, who has truly become Creed’s dog at this point. He’s quickened our pace, no regard for any dangers we might face. Casey and I exchange glances occasionally. Silently disagreeing with the way Faramund is pushing us forward at such speeds. With no scout, we have no clue what awaits us.

“Get down,” Habeeb raises his voice.

I duck to the ground immediately. Casey is frozen, I snatch him down with me. A few seconds later a sharpened stone silently speeds through the location he was standing and impales itself hallway through a tree. A psionic attack, we wouldn’t have known what hit us if Habeeb hadn’t saved the day. At first, I don’t recognize how he saw that coming but then I notice a thin piece of line wrapped around Faramund’s ankle. That bastard stepped in a trap and almost got us killed.  

“Team, we’re making a retreat,” I command as I stand.

“I’m in charge now. You heard, Com,” he doesn’t finish his sentence before my rifle butt is in his mouth.

“Keep him quiet,” I say the words and Habeeb acts. I knew I liked him. “This is Sergeant Gray. Private Faramund has been injured after falling victim to another trap. We’ll be making a retreat as the enemy seems to have us surrounded.” 

“There’s a cave about one and a half klicks to the west of your location. We’ll meet you there,” Commander Creed responds without argument this time.

“You heard the man, let’s grab Eva and get out of here.”

“I’ll have you arrested for this. Creed will hear all about it,” Faramund starts to yell once free.

“Not if I break your jaw next time. Fall in line private,” I make sure he breaks eye contact first. “Let’s go.” 

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