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    The Ghosts of Piscium Valley, Part Five: Nascent Saboteur

    My apologies in the delayed posting of this Chapter. This segment has actually been written for a while now, but I have had my hands full with writing what follows. (among other things.)

    A bit of news concerning this story, it is officially now the longest thing I have written to date... it has doubled in size in the past two weeks since getting this new computer and surpassed 100 pages earlier this past week. For reference: MS Word, Calibri 12pt, default margins, paragraph, ect. This chapter begins on page 32... so there is loads more to come. A better comparison might be that it is nearly 50k words... dialog tends to chew up the page count after all.

    I have set my self a new goal with this. By June 1st, 2015 I intend to have a 300 page, ~150k plus word manuscript complete and worthy of submission for publication. Submitting may or may not happen... I would just like to see this thing through to a state I can call it "done."

    Now, without further adieu, Part Five:



    He traveled for the rest of the afternoon and into the night, partly fueled by the rush of taking down the bridge, but also due in part to not finding a suitable spot to hole up for the night. A few hours after sundown, he stopped to rest and have a bite to eat. As he finished, he heard voices shouting in the distance. He couldn't make out what was said, but the dialect sounded Consortium. He quickly packed away his trash and leaving his ruck behind, crept closer to investigate. He neared a tree line and halted.

    He was able to make out a pair of fuel trucks and several soldiers loitering nearby. He could see that a hasty fighting position had been dug out but no one was manning it, the machinegun that was likely there, unattended. He tried to listen in on their banter, only picking up a few words here and there. One of them, probably the senior one, seemed to be berating another one concerning a faulty radio. The words he picked up from the other two were convoy, late and go back.

    He wondered if he should try to take them out and then destroy the tankers. There seemed to only be four of them, two to a truck and he could make short work of the tankers. He returning to where he dropped his rucksack, he decided to take them out. He pulled out his ghillie suit and after putting it on, rolled around on the ground to pick up debris from the forest floor. After finishing that, he hastily smeared on some face paint. While he checked his carbine, ensuring that it was loaded, he paused and thought about the silencer in his ruck.

    He contemplated using it, the rifle it was meant for and the carbine were both based on the same parent design and he had heard that some had even tried it out. The stories were always of the 'in my last unit, I knew this guy' variety and most were never sure if they were to be believed. He had also heard stories of discipline being meted out for trying. Not necessarily for safety, just improper and unauthorized use of equipment. He pulled it out and test fitted it on the carbine, pleased that they seemed to mate together fine. Deciding to use it, he recognized that he might need to quickly remove it should his range or accuracy be affected. He knew that it was of no consequence on the intended rifle, but he hadn't used a carbine in this fashion before.

    Back at the tree line, he assumed the prone position and began to creep ever so slowly toward the four of them. As he neared, he could hear a radio playing what passed for pop music in the Consortium… music that was current in the Republic perhaps twenty or thirty years ago. These soldiers were still carrying on in the same fashion they were before, oblivious to their surroundings. Horse playing and smoking… none of them were wearing their gear. He could see the shadow of it hanging from the bumpers of the fuel trucks. Rank amateurs, he thought.

    He guessed that he probably could have just walked right up to them and wondered about the skill and discipline level of the unit and if these soldiers were representative of them as a whole. He wondered how in the world could a unit so undisciplined been able to take down his. He considered that the primary unit may have been an elite one and that now the regulars were starting to land for the invasion.

    He angled himself so that he would be coming up to their 'rear' and would nearly be between them and their hasty fighting position. Reaching about fifteen meters, he stopped and slowly pulled the carbine up to his shoulder, disengaged the safety and placed it on burst.

    Drawing on his close quarters training, he managed to get rounds into the first two before the other two realized what was happening and managed to engage the third before the last soldier even reacted. The last soldier started to make a run for the hasty position but was stopped short by another three round burst. The oversize silencer was meant for far more powerful rounds and rendered the carbine nearly silent.

    After collecting and counting his spent brass, he rose to his feet and checked that all four of them were dead. After confirming they were, he collected their rifles, tore off one of their unit patches and proceeded to investigate the hasty. There, he found a light machine gun and ammo which he also collected. Turning his attention to the trucks, he quickly searched them and found a map that he stuffed into his load equipment. As a precautionary measure, he smashed the radio to ensure that it was truly nonfunctional and exited the truck.

    Turning his attention to sabotage, he contemplated how to best accomplish it. He settled on using both fragmentation grenades and the incendiary grenades he salvaged from the wreck earlier in the day. Setting it up in a fashion similar to the booby trap from the night before, he played out his line and prepared to set it off. With a yank, he heard a series of four pops and he set off at a sprint for the tree line. He had set the fragmentation grenades in the chassis where they would do the most damage and the bulk of the fragmentation would be absorbed by the truck itself, but he did not want to be in the area when the whole thing went up.

    Briefly amused by the thought that 'cool guys don't look at explosions,' he was more concerned by ruining his night vision acclimation. Having shorter fuse times, by the time the incendiaries burned through the tanks, the fragmentation grenades would just about be going off. With the sound of twin explosions behind him, he felt a blast wave of heat on his neck and ears and the sound of a roaring fireball bloomed behind him. It cast a dancing orange light and his shadow onto the trees ahead. At the tree line, he ran a few meters in and took cover behind a tree. After waiting a few moments, he closed his aiming eye and took a peek around the tree.

    Sure enough, both trucks were engulfed in flames. The tanks torn open, they were pouring burning fuel onto the ground, a dark black stream of smoke pouring into the sky, evident even by the feeble moonlight. Hearing a snap of a twig, he turned his attention to the back into the trees.

    "Psst, over here," he heard a vaguely familiar voice urgently whisper.

    He rapidly scanned the forest and saw a face peeking out from behind a tree some ten meters away, illuminated by the burning fire. Readying his carbine, he approached.

    "Over here," the voice repeated.

    Rounding the tree where he saw the face, he trained his carbine on the figure crouched there. Recognizing him, he quickly lowered the weapon.

    "Henthorn? Holy shit, you made it. How the hell are you doing? I mean, are you OK, are you injured?" He asked as he reached down to help him up.

    "Corp… I mean Sergeant Huygens? Yeah, I mean no. I'm fine I'm, uh, good," he replied.

    "How did you know it was safe to call out to me?"

    "Well, I saw those Consort fuelers pull in earlier today and I've been keeping an eye on them. I've been taking shelter at a rock fall near here and I've been coming down here every hour or so to see if there was anything new happening. Then I saw them explode and figured that anyone that did that must be on my side. How did you know I was safe?"

    "I figured that a Consort would have been running to the explosion, not loitering in the trees," he replied, "let me grab my ruck and we'll move out for that shelter of yours. I don't want to be near here if the Consortium sends anyone to investigate."

    "Roger that Sergeant, it's over that way."

    After securing his rucksack and captured equipment to the skid stretcher, they proceeded into the woods. Exhausted by the day's events, he was still encouraged by finding one of his squad's solders alive.

    "Tell me Henthorn, what have you been doing since landing?"

    "Well Sergeant, not much really. Got banged up landing in a tree, think I broke my rifle on the way down… it won't chamber a round properly anymore. I can single feed manually, but that's not a whole lot of good. Once I got down, I oriented myself and started hoofing it. Thought that I might try to make it for one of the rally points. I figured that's where they would start looking for us. Except for sleeping last night and watching those Consorts, I’ve been marching since planetfall.

    "Not much else to report really, I heard a series of explosions last night that I think were reentry vessels and two more this afternoon, that's about it."

    'Yeah. Those explosions were reentry vessels. I watched them come down, Apollyon class, I think," Sergeant Huygens replied.

    "Apollyon? That's trouble isn't it?" Henthorn asked, his voice faintly fearful.

    "Yes it is. Company level transports and they put a few of them down, meaning a battalion or larger element. They've got artillery with them too."

    "Well, at least that's kind of a good thing right?" Henthorn asked.

    "That’s right. If they are bringing in arty, then that probably means that the air defense of the city is still good. Air defense is holding off air traffic and their arty is meant to take it out… City's probably still holding."

    “Well, I guess that means that if the rally points are a bust, then we can at least turn to the city. I mean, it’s something,” Henthorn said with a shrug.

    “Something else that might cheer you up is that I was responsible for those explosions earlier today. That was me taking out a bridge, from right under the artillery convoy."

    "Holy shit Sergeant, you took out a bridge?"

    "Sure did."

    "Wow," Henthorn exclaimed as they reached the rock fall, "Oh, here we are. There's a sort of a cave over here."

    "Nice digs, not bad," Sergeant Huygens said as they climbed inside.

    Sergeant Huygens filled Henthorn in on the rest of his story as they stowed their gear and settled in.

    "Yeah, I think I saw that wreck. I stayed away. I'm sorry Sergeant, but I was afraid of what I might find."

    "I understand. There's no need to apologize for that. How are you for food and water? You doing alright?"

    "Yeah, I guess," he said regretfully with a comical grimace, "I mean, I have plenty of food for another two, maybe three days… but their mostly flavors I don't really like."

    "I tell you what, I'll give you some of mine. I salvaged a whole bunch from that crash site and you can have some of them, I have plenty in my ruck and on this stretcher. Take some water too, if you need it," he said as he opened his rucksack and pulled some of the ration packs out.

    "Thanks Sarge, that's awesome, He said as he browsed through the pack and selected a few of them.

    "Here, let me see your rifle. I grabbed some tools from the wreck, maybe I can fix it."

    "Sure thing," he said as he cleared his rifle and then handed it over, "here."

    He field stripped the rifle down and started to inspect the parts as Henthorn opened one of the rations and started to eat.

    "So, Sergeant," Henthorn asked between bites, "what now? We going to carry on and head for one of the rally points?"

    "You got it. With one small addition to that. We are going to try to sabotage the Consortium wherever we can, in any way possible."

    "Sure thing, you can count me in. Speaking of… how did you take down that bridge?"

    "Crash site recovery training. Partially dismantled the bombs and drug them out there on that skid stretcher. Hotwired a detonator into them and bingo… no more bridge."

    "Will you teach me that?"

    "You bet. Though, you'll have to remember that we won't be able to catch them on a bridge again. They'll be expecting it now."

    "Of course. Any other tricks in mind?"

    "Nothing yet… We'll need to find another crash site. Finding one so close to a target was just dumb luck really. I figure we could also crater the main road or a rock cut if we get lucky again.

    "Think I found the problem… hand me the pry bar from the bag," Sergeant Huygens said pointing.

    "Sure thing," he replied as he rummaged for it, "here you go."

    To Sergeant Huygens, it looked like the upper receiver had been almost imperceptibly dinged near the ejection port, causing the bold to jam up as it tried to cycle. Placing the rifle between a rock and his boot, with a grunt he pried the ding out. After reassembling it, he cycled it a few times, then loaded a magazine and dry fed a few round through it. Satisfied, he collected the rounds and after brushing them off, reloaded them in the magazine.

    "Here you go," he said handing it back smiling, "no guarantees though, I'm no armorer, but it seemed simple enough."

    "Thanks Sergeant. Speaking of armorer, I think what you did would probably have given ours a heart attack," Henthorn said, taking the rifle. He checked it over himself and satisfied with it, he stowed to the side.

    “Well Henthorn, we’ll just not tell him then… and if he figures it out, he can send me the bill,” Sergeant Huygens said with a shrug as Henthorn let out a laugh.

    “Alright, let’s see here,” Sergeant Huygens said, turning his attention to the stretcher. “Henthorn, do you have any experience with Consort rifles?”

    “Not really Sarge. I mean, I know what they look like and a couple of the basics… but not much.”

    “Well, I captured a couple from that tanker site along with an LMG. I’ll trust my equipment first, but in a pinch we have them as backups.”

    “Nice. May I?” Henthorn asked, indicating the rifles on the stretcher.

    “Go ahead, help yourself. I’ll share what I know about them. Careful though, be sure to clear them. I left in a rush and I don’t know if they are loaded.”

    “Of course Sergeant… that’s one of the few things I do know. Part of POW training y’know.”

    Sergeant Huygens proceeded to give Henthorn a basic class on the rifles, the basics of loading, firing, unloading and inspection. After going over the first two, they proceeded to inspect the next two.

    “Well, as far as Consort equipment goes, these aren’t in too bad of shape. I think we can trust them to a degree if we find that we ever need them,” Sergeant Huygens said when they finished.

    “Now what Sergeant?”

    “Bed down and move out at dawn. I am considering moving out well before then though.”

    Private Henthorn was quiet as he nodded silently. A few times he seemed to be about to say something. He would take a breath and open his mouth to speak, only to close it and look away. After a few moments of this, he finally broke the silence.

    “Sergeant?”

    “Yes?”

    “You think we’re gonna make it out?”

    Sergeant Huygens paused and looked around the cave before looking back to Henthorn to answer him.

    “I want to tell you we are going to make it out of here just fine. That it’s only going to be a bit of trouble and some hard work in the meantime and that we will be home and dry in a week. Media depictions of Non Com’s tend to show them lying to their juniors, that ‘everything is going to be fine,’ but I don’t think I can do that. I don’t want to feed you a line of bullshit. After what we have been through… what we are about to go through, you deserve better than that.

    “The bottom line Soldier, is that I just don’t know,” he said, emphasizing the last three words, “That’s the best I can do, I’m sorry. I can tell you one thing though; we are going to give it a one hell of a fight.”

    “Thank you Sergeant. I guess that’s really the best we can hope for, isn’t it?”

    “It’s all we got now. The Consortium tried to kill me on this rock once before and I’m not going to give them a shot at a second chance. They are going to pay very dearly for this and every inch of this valley.”

    “Do you remember being here? I mean, um, is this like a homecoming of sorts?”

    “No… and I don’t know if I should be thankful either. Growing up, I had dreams of a valley. I think this is where they came from. I think I was remembering this place.”

    “You know Sergeant… this place isn’t that bad. Other than getting shot down of course. It’s kind of a nice place, the weather’s beautiful.”

    “Yeah, it was colonized for that reason. A few people had hoped it would become a vacation spot, a frontier paradise. Then, Rare Earth metals were discovered up here in the valley. The concentrations are so high, in some places you can literally pick nodules up off the ground of remarkably high purity. Colony growth exploded with that discovery… but that was also about the same time as the rise of the Consortium. They have attacked this place during nearly every Territorial War since.”

    “Not that much of a vacation spot then,” Henthorn stated flatly.

    “Not really. Though some do… well, did.”

    “Hmm. Have you gotten anything on your radio Sergeant?”

    “No. I seem to have lost it when Echo Three One broke up. I think a piece of the fuselage clipped my helmet and broke it off… You?”

    “Negative. I’ve been keeping it turned off, I only turn it on every couple hours to check but I keep getting ‘No Signal’ on the read out,” he said as he demonstrated by pulling the control dongle out of his load carrying vest, showing it to him.

    “See? I guess that means Echo bugged out then? I don’t know a whole lot about these radios, but I didn’t want to get tracked down by the pinger.”

    “It’s possible, probably a good idea you did that.”

    They were silent for a few moments while Henthorn played with the radio controls before putting it away.

    “Sergeant, I got in a few naps during the day, do you want to catch few winks?” Henthorn asked him, “I’m probably good for a few more hours.”

    “Hmm. I don’t know. I got a hell of a rush from taking out those tankers. I don’t think I could sleep now. How do you feel about moving out?”

    “Fine with me. You gotta admit, taking out those tankers was pretty awesome Sarge.”

    Merely laughing in response, he pulled out his combat computer and began to review it looking it over for their next destination. He saw that there was one nearby, a few kilometers, but it was one of the ones he had marked off on his map as probably being burned out. Keeping that detail to himself, he stood.

    “Let’s go ahead and move out. I’m not going to be getting any sleep for a few hours.”

    “Alright. Tell you what Sergeant, you’ve been dragging that thing around all day, let me have a go. I’ll be able to get my ruck off for a bit too.”

    “If you’re volunteering, I’m not going to stop you,” he replied with a chuckle.

    Henthorn secured his ruck to the stretcher and tested the weight.

    “Bear in mind that if you start to lose it down a hill, ditch it. You don’t want it dragging you down with it.”

    “Got it Sarge. Ready?”

    “Yup, let’s move out.”

    After a quick check of their surroundings and gear, the two of them set off into the trees with Sergeant Huygens taking point.
    Last edited by Red Shirt; Jun 27th, 2014 at 12:54 PM.
    "I've got tons of great ideas. Trouble is, most of 'em suck." George Carlin
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