Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Birthday - Part 5

    The dropship tore over the fog-shrouded wetlands. The twin engines roared loudly and scattered small creatures from their hideaways; their departure illuminated by the powerful floodlights that sliced through the darkness.
    The ship had stealth options, of course. A means of making them run quieter in exchange for minor loss in capabilities. But Coughlin had no interest in that now.
    If she could scare her quarry into the open, whatever the organism was, it would make it all the more easier to deal with it. Blowing something away from the sky while it was out in the open would be much easier than trying to stalk it through the salt marshes.
    "Anything yet?" she asked.
    "Nothing." Bullock confirmed.
    The five of them all had their eyes glued to their respective monitors. Video feeds from the hull cameras showed the darkened landscape lit up by the floodlights as water and trees rushed by. They could see lizards large and small as well as jakdus, the strange deerlike creature that inhabited the small continent, but nothing else showed its face.
    Nothing that appeared particularly dangerous and definitely nothing they didn't immediately recognize.
    "It'd be nice if we knew what we were looking for." Greer commented.
    "But ve wouldn't be marines then. Ve'd be qualified exterminators." Mikhailov remarked as she flipped through the cameras.
    They all chuckled a little bit at that but said nothing further. After another extended period of staring at the landscape rolling by, a tone chirped in her headset.
    "Talk to me."
    "We're approaching Calenburg again, sir." the pilot reported.
    She stared down at the screen. It was the fifth time they'd approached the little town and so far their patrols had been totally fruitless.
    "Alright. We're going to be making one more round and then rejoin Bravo and Charlie."
    "Yes, sir."
    Coughlin closed the channel and scanned the monitors again. She tapped the mic again.
    "Bravo. How are you guys looking?"
    "Quiet so far." Kuroba answered shortly, the sound of sloshing in the background and someone, probably Ludwig, speaking indistinctly.
    "Not sure, Staff Sergeant" Quinn said. "Found some tracks. Might be nothing, some kind of large pachyderm maybe, but we've got a bit of blood too so we're going to check it out."
    "Yea. We think it is blood anyway. Seems to lead to some sort of low cave structure in the marshes. We'll keep you in the loop."
    "Be careful, Quinn. And keep us informed if you find anything."
    "Yes, sir." 
    The mic went dead and Coughlin felt the dropship lurching to the side as they made their pass over the town. That was when Bullock spoke up.
    "Hey Mik, have you looked at Calenburg the last couple passes."
    "Da. Why?"
    Bullock remained silent, seemingly staring hard at his screen.
    "I'm not sure." he finally said.
    Mikhailov glanced at Brick and Greer who both shrugged. But Coughlin was the one to ask the question.
    "Sergeant." she said flatly; her request for more obvious in her tone.
    "I'm not sure, sir." he said again, answering the unasked query. "It might be nothing, it just seems like something's weird."
    "Care to elaborate?"
    "Can't, sir. Something's grabbing me about the images and I'm not sure why."
    Coughlin gave him the stink eye but said nothing further. Instead, she deactivated the live monitoring and started rolling through the recorded vids from their passes over the town. It was pretty easy to find their Calenburg passes just by how well lit the video was compared to the rest of the dingy media.
    She cued it up and watched it carefully.
    The first video didn't seem that interesting. Just the town. Bright lights, plastisteel buildings, civilian vehicles...
    Nothing outstanding.
    The second video was very much the same.
    So was the third.
    Actually, it was exactly the same.
    "Nothing's moving?"
    "Yea." Bullock confirmed. "That's definitely it. I knew I noticed something but I couldn't put my finger on it."
    "At the very least on this side of the town." Mikhailov added.
    "Small town. Quiet night." Brick suggested.
    Coughlin studied the monitor. There was logic to the statement and with a town of only ten thousand or so, one couldn't expect a lot of nighttime activity. This wasn't some dense urban area and it wasn't uncouth to expect the majority of the population to be asleep at night.
    But at the same time...
    "No. Bullock's right. We don't know what we're dealing with and we don't take chances. We need to investigate any possible leads. We'll make one more sweep and then set down a~"
    The sound of Quinn's panicked voice exploded over her headset and she nearly jumped in surprise. She could hear the jackhammer sounds of pulse rifles rattling off over his yelling and could indistinctly pick up the other soldiers in the background.
    She slapped the mic in response.
    "Quinn? What the hell is happening?"
    "They're coming out of the swamp!" he screamed, barely audible over the crashing roar of gunfire. "There! And there! GORMAN! Behind you!"
    Another explosion of gunfire.
    "Quinn? Corporal?"
    More static broken by screams and gunfire.
    "ZZZT~ Hands are full right now, Sarge!" was his only response before the line went dead.
    "Bravo?" Coughlin demanded quickly.
    "I heard it." Kuroba confirmed over the radio. "We're zeroing in on their location now. Sending the coordinates back your way. We should be to Charlie in five minutes."
    "Make it two. We're en route."
    A moment later, Coughlin felt the ship shudder as the afterburners kicked in and she sunk back into the seat as the dropship. They tore away from the silent town, the question of why it was so motionless slipping from her mind as she steeled herself from the coming combat.


  1. You are so good at holding our interest and racketing up the tension levels.

    1. 'Birthday' has actually ended up being longer than originally intended, but I'm glad I continue to hold your attention and that you still want more. :)

  2. better make it 45 seconds....no point in going back to town; me thinks...no one's ...left !

    ever think of showing//sending your stories to a sci fi network Robert? the collaboration of all of them together since "heat" would make for a great film ☺☺

    1. Would love to. Definitely a dream to see my stuff become better known. But, to your point, all if the short storis since "Lost" are going to be combined into the same book: a collaboration of short stories telling a single narrativr, looking at the fallout from the accident on the Icarus.

  3. This would make a great horror flick, Robert.

    1. Easily some of the highest praise I can receive. Thank you.

  4. It's always the "I can't put my finger on it" that should be paid attention to. It's something the subconscious sees. I'm afraid for the Charlie squad.

    1. Very true. The question is: is there something actually wrong at the town? Better yet, with theit attention elsewhere, can anything be done about it anyway?

  5. Hi Robert ... I have a feeling something's not right about the town - and it features heavily in someway or other ... now what are those swamp demons coming forth ... well done - cheers Hilary

  6. The town sure has a history one may be better off not knowing.

  7. I have a bad feeling for this squad. I don't think this will have a good outcome for most of them.

  8. I like how you keep the tension building.