Categories > Original > Sci-Fi > Bug Run.

Chapter Four.

by Hussar 0 Reviews

Category: Sci-Fi - Rating: G - Genres:  - Characters:  - Published: 2013/01/13 - Updated: 2013/01/13 - 3199 words

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4.

Near Howardtown, Yanlor.

“Lance Corporal Smith, what the heck do you think you’re doing!?” Lt Henderson’s call came over Zoe’s comms so loudly that it made her jump in surprise and caused her to miss the bug she’d been aiming at.

“W-what…?” Zoe began but Henderson’s voice cut her off before she could explain ‘what the heck’ she was doing.

“I ordered you to ride heard on those colonists…” Henderson screamed into her ear piece.

“But…” Zoe tried to explain but was interrupted once again.

“Get the freck down off that hill and obey orders!” Henderson’s tone told Zoe that she better obey the order no matter how stupid she thought it was.

From their position, Brandi, Kandi and Zoe had been knocking down bugs as they’d tried to out flank the squad on the hill to their front. The hill girls seemed to be able to bring down a bug with every shot they fired and Zoe hadn’t been doing too badly either. Looking around to here the pretty blonde girls lay behind their rifles, Zoe saw them both looking up at her, they’d obviously heard the exchange on their own comms units.

“Wot ‘e needs is a good kickin’,” Kandi observed.

“Too bleedin’ right!” agreed Brandi.

“Wot ya wan us ta do, Zoe?” Kandi asked.

“‘Spose we better do as we’re told,” Zoe replied sadly, to tell the truth she’d been enjoying herself blasting the bugs from up on the hill; “Come on.”

Turning away from the battle, Zoe led Brandi and Kandi down to where the rest of the squad and the colonists waited. Although Zoe called it a battle it wasn’t much of one. After grabbing one of the riflemen the bugs hadn’t been able to get close enough to do the other men any harm. The fire from the rifle squad plus the supporting fire from Zoe’s ‘marks-women’ had been enough to hold the rest of the bugs back. When Henderson had sent the other two rifle squads up the hill to support the first the bugs started to drop like…well…bugs! It was more of a slaughter than a battle and eventually the bugs had stopped coming and the firing died down to nothing.

Getting back to the colonists, Zoe found that Lea had got them all to lie down so they wouldn’t be hit by any stray rounds. Standing there watching the colonists slowly lift their heads from the ground, Zoe did a quick head count. There were about thirty colonists, which included about a dozen children. At the moment they were in one big frightened pack, not so easy to control and too easily panicked into doing something stupid. Walking over to Lea, Zoe spoke urgently to her second in command.

“Lets break these up into family groups and put one of our people in charge of each group,” Zoe gestured to the colonists.

“I get it,” Lea nodded, “that way we can keep an eye on the bastards and stop them wanderin’ off.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Zoe nodded, “come on quick, before that dick Henderson starts yellin’ again.”

“Yeah I heard that,” Lea said quietly as she and Zoe hurried over to the main party of colonists, “he was totally out of order, Zoe.”

“Yeah but he’s the officer,” Zoe shrugged, “so that makes him right.”

It took Zoe’s squad almost five minutes to split the colonist’s up into family groups. When the soldiers had finished there were four unevenly numbered groups each with one of Zoe’s squad to lead them. This left Zoe and Lea to ride herd on the group and maybe do a little scouting. Just as they’d got themselves organised, Zoe heard Henderson’s voice come up on comms, he was ordering everyone to move on again with the three rifle squads leading, Zoe and her squad in the middle with the colonists; the RPG team, machine gun team and the two sniper teams bringing up the rear.

Moving forward Zoe found that Henderson was moving them over the hill and through the scene of the battle. Bugs lay thickly on the ground and while Zoe and her squad found the sight of the dead bugs interesting and in a way encouraging (they now knew that if the bugs attacked they could take them down) the sight of all the dead creatures didn’t do much for the colonist’s peace of mind. The hill was a pretty high one for Yanlor with steep slopes that made Zoe wheeze a little as she clambered to the top.

By the time the squad and its colonist charges had reached the summit, the leading squads where already half way down the other side. From her vantage point at the top of the hill, Zoe could see an almost perfectly flat area of grass in front of her and in the distance a group of three small habitats. More colonists, Zoe spat into the grass, or maybe the bugs had already got to the colonists and eaten them. For a moment Zoe wondered why she’d thought that, as far as she knew bugs only ate grass and the lower branches of the fern trees, there’d never been any record of bugs eating meat. Like there’d never been any record of bugs attacking people before, the thought sent a cold shiver down Zoe’s back.

“Okay people,” Zoe called out, “that’s enough sightseeing lets move out.”

With groans from the colonists and calls of ‘move it’ from the soldiers, the little column made its way down the hill and out onto the flat area where the grass swished against their legs and the little flying things danced in the hot air.

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Walking backwards for a while so she could check on the positions of her charges, Zoe didn’t notice Sergeant Burden trot over to her.

“Zoe!” Burden called as he slowed and started to walk along side her now she was facing the right way.

“Hi Sarge…I mean Ian,” Zoe looked at Burden really closely for the first time; she saw a man in his mid-thirties, very fit looking, with light grey eyes, good strong teeth and yes he was handsome in a non-flashy, non-entertainment-chip sort of way. She knew he was pleasant enough, in fact just the sort of guy a girl trapped on a frontier planet for the rest of her life would want in a life-partner…so why wasn’t she so interested anymore?

“Hey,” Burden grinned, “I heard what that asshole Henderson said…”

“Did everyone hear that?” Zoe tried to keep any trace of a whine out of her voice, had Henderson deliberately broadcast on the platoon frequency just to humiliate her?

“Sorry, but yeah,” Burden looked at her sadly, “but I’m here to tell you that Corporal Jenkins says he and his guys owe you and your girls a few beers when we get back to Tedium.”

“He does?” Zoe replied more than a little surprised.

“Yeah he said he didn’t noticed the freckin’ things until you guys started to shoot ‘em down.”

“Gee,” Zoe smiled, so she had done the right thing, she’d been beginning to doubt herself.

“Forget what that Whimpering-Nigel, Henderson said,” Burden told her, “everyone else says you called it right.”

“Tell ‘em thanks would ya?” Zoe was a little overwhelmed by Burden’s words and she was starting to feel all warm and fuzzy towards him again.

“But don’t let it go to your head, okay?” Burden said sharply and Zoe’s warm-fuzzy feelings disappeared almost as quickly as they’d reappeared. “Now,” Burden brought himself and Zoe to a halt as he pointed to the habitats up ahead, “see those?” Zoe nodded there was little else to see, “Henderson’s sending a squad to investigate, I’m betting there’s gonna be more colonists to look after.”

After slapping Zoe on the shoulder in an ‘atta-girl’ way, Burden jogged off towards the rear to check on the snipers and the RPG team.

“Hey, you an’ Sergeant Burden got a ‘thing’ goin’?” Lea asked as she walked slowly over to where Zoe stood.

“Yes…no…I…” Zoe shrugged defeated, she didn’t know what her emotions were telling her right now, “I don’t know,” she finally admitted.

“Y’could do worse,” the hooker-soldier pointed out with a knowing smile.

“Hey you’ve not…?” Zoe was wondering if Burden had ever been one of Lea’s ‘customers’.

“Hooker-client privilege,” Lea smiled, “I can neither confirm nor deny.”

“Which means ‘yes’,” Zoe pouted.

“Can’t say one way or the other,” Lea smirked, “but I will tell you this, if’n you do take him up on his offer you won’t be disappointed.”

“Whatever,” Zoe tried to clear the visions of herself and Ian Burden doing ‘it’ together and tried to get her mind back on the problem in hand (and it wasn’t easy). “Look, there’s more habitats up ahead which probably means more colonists…”

Before Zoe could say anything else, the sound of slow steady firing came from the rear of the column. She heard Burden start to give a contact report but his voice was drowned out as Henderson blanked out everyone’s comms by demanding to know what the hell was going on. There was a moment of near silence as the sound of firing got more intense before Burden came up on comms. He gave a textbook perfect ‘contact report’ as if Henderson had never spoken, as he said ‘…am engaging’ at the end of his report, Zoe heard the swish of an RPG being fired followed almost immediately by the CRACK! of its warhead detonating.

Quickly realising that if there were bugs behind them the safest place for her squad and the colonists were the habitat units up ahead.

“MOVE IT PEOPLE!” Zoe shouted to get things moving, she turned to Lea, “Lea, get behind this bunch of clod-hoppers and watch out for stragglers, okay?”

“Roger that!” Lea replied before running for the rear of the group of colonists.

“COME ON PEOPLE,” Zoe yelled as the colonists started to move like frightened sheep towards the distant habitats, “MOVE IT! MOVE IT!”

Running over to the nearest party of colonists, this group led by Judy, Zoe was just in time to grab hold of and steady a colonist woman who’d tripped on something in the long grass. Stopping for a moment, Zoe looked up ahead; she could see at least one squad heading for the habitats while the other two squads fanned out to form a corridor down which the colonists could run. Letting the colonist move past her, Zoe looked towards the rear. Of Burden and the rearguard there was no sigh other than the sight of bugs falling dead on the ground as they rose up out of their holes.

Dragging her eyes away from the scene of battle, Zoe was just in time to see a bug apparently pop up out of nowhere no more than ten yards away from her. Lifting her AR7A2 to her shoulder, she sighted on the creature and fired. The bullet hit the bug in its chest dead between its forelegs. The bug went down spitting blood and hissing angrily as its legs gave way under it. Zoe hardly had time to congratulate herself when another bug sprang, as if by magic, from the grass. A double tap from her rifle brought this one down just as a third and fourth bug appeared by the bodies of the first two.

Switching to full auto, Zoe brought them down with a controlled burst of fire, the heavy .30 calibre slugs knocking the bugs off their feet sending them staggering backwards until their legs gave out and they fell to the ground. Realising that there must be a bug hole somewhere in the grass, Zoe advanced as she shot down yet another bug. By the time she got to the hole there were seven or eight dead bugs lying in the grass around the hole. Another short burst chopped yet another bug to dog meat as it clambered from is hole. The bug’s body blocked the hole for a moment allowing Zoe to swap her almost empty magazine for a fresh one.

Like a cork from a bottle the dead bug popped from the hole, its limp body being followed by even more live bugs that scrambled over each other in their eagerness to get at the lone human. Firing on full automatic, Zoe advanced on the hole until she was firing directly down into it. Her bullets punched into the bugs chopping up their bodies as blood squirted from their wounds and drenched the other bugs as they tried to make there way to the surface. The bugs were still coming as Zoe’s magazine ran dry, frantically her fingers scrabbled at the fastenings of her ammo pouches. Walking backwards away from the hole she watched as more bugs climbed to the surface and turned towards her,

It was only now that she saw their long sharp teeth, only now did she notice their long whip-like tails. Seemingly sensing her helplessness the bugs hissed as they moved slowly to surround her. Her hands trembling so much it took her precious seconds to get one of her ammo pouches open, Zoe kept backing away from the bugs, something told her that they’d charge any moment now and when they did she’d be torn apart in seconds.

Just as her fear-numbed hands managed to slip a fresh magazine into the housing in front of her rifle’s pistol grip, Zoe saw the bugs start their charge. Almost at the same moment as they started to move the bugs were hit by a burst of fire from Zoe’s right. Nearly screaming with relief, she saw Judy firing from the hip as she cut down the bugs as they poured from their hole. Joining in, Zoe and Judy now had the bugs in a cross fre. Any bug above ground was instantly cut down while those still in the hole were hit before they could climb properly out onto the surface, their bodies effectively sealing the hole, at least for a while.

“Ur ye alrecht?” Judy called as she slipped a fresh magazine into her rifle, “Ye looked as if ye needed some help.”

“Fine,” Zoe gasped not really believing she was still alive.

“‘Main ‘en, we better gie back tae th’ others,” Judy trotted over to Zoe, grabbed her by the arm and gave her a tug to get her moving, she grinned at her friend, “Mah, ‘at was fin!”

By the time Zoe and Judy got back to the colonists, Lea had almost got them to the habitats. The firing from the rear of the column had died down a little as the snipers and RPG men withdrew slowly in front of the advancing bugs under the covering fire of the machine gun team. From what Zoe could see there were half a dozen groups of bugs each about ten creatures strong moving at a steady pace towards the humans. Fire from the sniper teams and the machine gun cut the bugs down never allowing them to approach to more than about fifty yards. However it looked from Zoe’s point of view that as soon as one group of bugs was cut down, another would spring from the grass and replace them. Another worrying thing was the bugs didn’t seem to be put off by casualties, they just kept coming.

Sure enough, Zoe’s worst fears were confirmed, there were about fifteen or twenty colonists in the three little groups of habitat units to look after. Taking Lea with her, while the rest of the squad tried to stop the colonists from panicking and running off in all directions, Zoe tried to organise the new colonists and spread them out amongst the ones she’d already got. If she hadn’t been there she felt sure that the colonists would have locked themselves into their habitats. Where the bugs would have, no doubt, winkled them out and eventually eaten them, or run off across the plain and let themselves be run down by the bugs and eaten in the open.

Trying to get through to the panicking civilians that they needed food, water and any weapons they might have before fleeing, Zoe felt like shooting them herself. It was only as she and Lea split the new colonists up amongst the old that she started to worry about ammunition. In her little run in with the bugs she’d fired about seventy-five rounds which was about half her full load. Looking around Zoe saw Sam trying to organise her refugees into some sort of order.

“Sam! Sam!”” Zoe called as she trotted over to the young woman, “Have you shot at anything?”

“No,” Sam turned to look at Zoe as she continued to push colonists into line, “Why?”

“Give me a couple of your spare mags, I’m getting low,” Zoe held out her hand.

“So what am I supposed to do when these bug-things get past you and start after me?” Sam wanted to know.

Zoe grinned and leaned forward so she could talk to Sam without the colonists overhearing.

“If they get past me,” Zoe shrugged, “you have my permission to throw the civ-pop at them and run!”

“Gee thanks,” Sam nodded, “I’ll bear that in mind.”

“Hey,” Zoe added, “if they get passed me we’re probably all dead anyway…” she glanced over to where the sound of firing was coming from, “…they don’t stop they just keep coming.”

“Just as well there’s not so many of them,” Sam pointed out.

“Yeah, I…” Zoe’s next words were drowned out as Henderson started to yell at everyone to get moving.

As Zoe’s squad herded the colonists away from the habitat units the sniper and RPG teams passed through their ragged formation and took over the lead from the rifle squads. The rifle squads spread out to cover the columns rear blocking off what appeared to be the bug’s main point of advance. The column set a good pace as it headed south across a wide flat area which was broken only by a few clumps of fern-trees. The firing from the rear of the column settled down into a steady crackle as the rifle squads thinned out the bugs before they could get too close.

After about twenty minutes of walking, Zoe caught sight of another low hill in front of the column almost completely surrounded by fern-trees. Halting for a moment, she shaded her eyes from the sun as it rose ever higher into the bright blue heavens, she’d seen movement on the brow of the hill. Had it been a trick of the light? Perhaps it was a dust devil moving across the sandy soil…no, it was more bugs!

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