Intercosmic - Chapter 6 - Madness of The Cave

 

“You’re a marine aren’t you?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then move your ass Gray!”

 

“Eww you’re gross. I’d never go out with you.”

“You could have just said no.”

“But the you wouldn’t get the message.”

 

“Sir he’s not breathing.”

“Gray it’s a dead body. Just leave it behind.”

“But he’s somebody.”

“Move your ass or die with him.”

 

“Don’t let me die tomorrow Sergeant.”

“I won’t.”

 

“I wish you were more like your brother.”

“The dead one or the one in jail?”

“Either one honestly.”

 

These are memories, they’re not real. I’m not dying or trapped in the past. I just need to keep my head and get through. We were probably dosed at some point on our trip. I’m not going to be killed by visions here in this hell hole. I’ll grit my teeth, and I’ll get through it. I have to. Just close your damn eyes Efrem and sleep, force yourself to sleep. Don’t give in.

It seems like the rest of my squad has gotten lost in their memories as well and not everyone is taking it too well. Habeeb is using the same method as I am. Closing his eyes and trying to think of anything else before hopefully falling asleep. Casey was in the fetal position, eyes wide, viewing his past as if it was happening right before him. But Faramund is taking it the worst. Rocking himself back forth, mumbling apologies to nobody that can hear them. I’d love to break the silence with a joke, but there’s no silence in any of our heads. I can’t help any of them now, I can’t help myself.

 

“You gutless fucking coward.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Sorry doesn’t cut it here.”

 

“You can’t even take an order.”

“I did what you asked.”

“Then do it better next time.”

 

“Just relax. Only a little more.”

“This hurts. It’s too much.”

“First time always does.”

“Stop, please. We can do something else.”

“You’re such a weakling Efrem.”

 

“I can’t do it.”

“I always knew you couldn’t.”

 

Faramund fires off his gun in the cave and yanks me out of the nightmares that now plague my waking hours. I just give him a look and he remove the ammunition from his rifle. I don’t even chastise him. I know what he’s going through in the moment. The cold sweat makes me want to turn off the temperature regulator on my suit, but I know the heat will kill me if I do. I’d been upset with the heat my entire time here, but the cold sweats do anything but cool me off. I damn near bite through my tongue to stop another memory. Forcing myself to try sleeping again.

“Did you have a nice sleep,” this time Creed wakes me up with a boot to the side.

“Like a baby.”

“Vaznian Sleep Powder did a number on you boys,” he jokes at a time like this.

I glance around the cave and the feeling of dread overcomes me. We started this with fifteen people, three squads with five people each. Now there’s nine of us in this cave. Even if there are a few outside playing lookout that means we still lost more than Eva. We’re screwed, nobody ever expected us to make it home. That’s why Creed sent us out to have a good time before the mission.

“Where is everyone else,” I demand of Creed more than ask.

“Who?”

“The missing people.”

“Jernigan and Falconer are on lookout, Readdie caught a bullet to the head, Nakano got crushed under a boulder and Rowbottom just up and shot himself in the head. Before you get all pissy as you’re prone to do, I’m sure you can tell me what Eva is doing.”

This is all one big game to him. He’s gambling with our lives and I can’t help but wonder if a knife in his back will be the best way to end this and get us home. I’m tired, mentally, pained physically and probably traumatized for the rest of my life. But to him, it’s all a chance to score points, and for what? There’s nothing left to gain here. We need to escape with our lives, that’s it.

“Listen up soldiers. We’ve been backed into a corner. They think they’ve done us in for. That’s not the case. We’re going to make this our new home base. A small team with accompany me to complete our initial mission. Do I have any volunteers?”

“No,” I mumble under my breath.

“Sergeant Gray, thank you for volunteering. Your enthusiasm is a beacon to humanity.”

“I said no. I’m not going with you. None of us should.”

“You looking for an insubordination charge,” Creed asks me, slightly confused.

“I’m looking for a way out of this damned jungle.”

“Then sit your ass down until the mission is done,” a vague threat.

“No. You need to know when to back off. We’ve already lost four people. You’re going to make us lose more,” I just need to tank his pride.

“You don’t have near enough rank or experience to question me.”

“Who the fuck cares? We’re all going to die here because of you. Rank means nothing.”

“It means everything, so fall in line and obey your leader.”

“I’m my own leader now. You lead us to nothing. This promised land of gunfire, traps and mourning. Thanks for that Creed,” I take my seat against the wall. I’ve said what I needed to say.

“Who is coming with me to save humanity,” Creed asks, completely shifting the mission initial intentions.

“Anybody who doesn’t want to die, join me on my side of the cave, we can plan to get home,” my counter offer.

 

“But I love you.”

“Sometimes people fall out of love.”

 

“Why are you leaving?”

“I lost the baby.”

“We can try again.”

“A baby can’t salvage this.”

 

“You really love her?”

“Yeah.”

“You still got me.”

“Different kind of love little bro.”

 

“Shut up! Just stop talking! Damn,” I realize I was yelling at the people in the cave, no my head. “We have our sides. Let’s just split up, and go our separate ways.”

When all the shouting is done Casey and Habeeb join me as I expected. Casey doesn’t want to be here and this is just a job for Habeeb. Faramund surprisingly decides to stick with the team. Whatever visions he saw really messed with his mind enough to break rank with Creed. Keegan Falconer and Maura Daniels are the new pickups in my group, both rookies so I only know what was in their reports prior to the mission. Maura is another medic, but not as experienced as Casey although she may be calmer under pressure. Keegan is a sixth-generation soldier, already earmarked for promotion but is probably here due to familial pressure.

Once Creed and his team leave we begin planning our exit. We’re not far from where we entered the jungle, but there could be new traps. The six of us will move in a modified “V,” formation until we’re free. The thermal adapters worked earlier, but Keegan has actual incendiary rounds so he’ll lead at the point. Maura has some slight psionic abilities herself, rare amongst humans but useful. She should be able to give us some slight protections from any hallucinations or mind tricks, but her abilities are useless in combat. Faramund and Habeeb are still our primary gunners. Casey will be watching our six for any followers and I’m on trap duty. It’s a straight shot and if I was a praying man, I’d send up a request. But nobody would hear my prayers at this point.

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