Intercosmic - Chapter 5 - Quiet Pills

They’re playing games with us, finding Eva again was far too easy in all this brush. They led us here, and I should have picked up on it, but I was too eager. As soon as we neared Eva gunfire erupted around us from different directions. The Vaznians don’t use guns. They’re all psionics, all the time. As we huddle together on the ground I realize I’ve been hit. Nothing serious and the suit molds around the wound taking care of it. The gunfire goes uninterrupted, nobody is firing those guns. We’re taking hits and haven’t actually faced anyone yet.

During the gunfire Casey had been checking on Eva. She didn’t make it. She had new injuries before we returned and had died leaned against a log. For some reason, she was smiling. I’ll never know what she saw in those final moments, but I know I’ll see her face the next few moments I try to sleep. She was probably feeling some kind of hallucinogenic, at least they’re kind when they kill us, except when they have guns like us. I should have considered it earlier.

Vaznians don’t use guns, that means there’s either someone else working with them, or they took them from other people who tried to stop them. If I could see the guns, I could tell where they came from. I knew there was something more to this mission, we’re just pawns to them out here and now Eva is dead because they had to keep secrets.

“Keep low, and watch for trip wires or any other triggers,” the only advice I can give to the squad.

We move quickly towards the cave Creed had marked for me. My armor is actively fighting with me at this point. A small wound will ruin lightweight armor, but the medium gear I usually equip would have taken the shot like it was nothing. I’m just glad it wasn’t enough to slow me down more.

A group of trees bend and block our path right in front of ours. This is the Vaznians work, forcing us to regroup and find a new way around in unfamiliar territory. Gun shots start to ring out again and we rush for cover. Casey and I are pinned down behind a fallen log, Habeeb has his back to a tree and Faramund is ducking behind a boulder.

“Who has thermal adapters for their guns,” I ask the group.

“We can’t do that. We’ll burn the whole jungle down,” Casey objects.

“I’d rather burn this place down than die,” I equip my thermal adapter.

“Finally,” Faramund follows suit.

Habeeb doesn’t hesitate but Casey gives it thought before equipping his as well. Thermal adapters allow the bullets fired to carry heat forward from the barrel of the gun reaching temperatures as high as four-hundred degrees. I don’t know much about science, but that should be enough to start a few small fires. They’ll focus on the fires, allowing us to escape.

“Most of the gun shots seem to be coming from that way,” Casey points to a dense section of forest.

“Next time there’s a break in gun fire, light it up,” I scream as their guns growl at us.

As soon as there’s a pause I pop out and open fire, unsure if there’s anyone out there still. The rest of the squad fires alongside me. The brush doesn’t burn right away but slowly embers start to fill the direction. One thing is sure, there’s nobody shooting back anymore. I don’t wait until I need to reload, I take off running and shout for the others to follow me.

Earlier we had been cutting down vines and anything else in our way. Now we just run through without pause. Casey falls but doesn’t complain, he stands back up, grabs his gun and keeps moving. He doesn’t want to die here anymore than anyone else. He knows we view him as the weakest link, but he won’t be that right now. Faramund provides some backing fire. I still think he’s gun crazed but, in this moment, I appreciate his love of violence.

To me the gunshots are a fleeting reminder of the fact that death can be waiting for us at any moment. Any of us could end up like Eva if we’re not careful, or if we’re just caught off guard. Every gunshot is a reminder of the chaotic nature of this situation. We’re running for our lives through a foreign land on a mission that was a death sentence from the start. But to Faramund, the shots are ASMR, calming his nerves, likely erotic to him, better than sex. If it gets me to safety, then I’ll take it, I’ll play along in his fetish for violence. Still, they’re cutting us off at every turn. They don’t where we’re running, but they’re trying to lead us somewhere and I refuse to be led to my death. I am not cattle, I will not die without fighting.

“Fire in every direction,” I demand.

We’re running through the forest firing at no target in particular, starting fires in each direction. Our footsteps quickly filled with destruction. From the outside we look like a bunch of mad men firing at the thought of enemies, but in my mind we’re on our way to being survivors.

“Keep moving, the cave is near,” I yell over the firing.

They stop firing and keep moving, I’m sure they misheard me. My ears are buzzing with the world around me muffled from the sounds of the constant gun shots, and the sound of my heartbeat in my ears. I haven’t run like this since I was training and I can feel myself ready to vomit like my first time through the Hafengdan. These will not be the last moments of my life, I will not die reliving memories of the past. I will leave to make new ones.

“Go deep and watch for pursuers,” we reach the mouth of the cave and dive into the darkness.

We all take up firing positions. I’m laying on my stomach staring down the scope of my rifle ready to fire on anyone pursuing us. We stay there, peering into the darkness of the forest waiting for any monster to step through to be murdered by our will to live. Nothing comes, but we don’t relax, we don’t speak. There’s nothing to say, any injuries can wait, and there’s no snacks, so there’s no need to ask. If you wish to bring me death, I wish you the same. I have no illusions of immortality, they were stripped away long ago. I will leave this planet. Any act I make is an act of desperation. I’ll do anything to survive no matter if its impossible, or forbidden.

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