Categories > Original > Sci-Fi > Bug Run.

Chapter Six.

by Hussar 0 Reviews

Category: Sci-Fi - Rating: G - Genres:  - Characters:  - Published: 2013/01/13 - Updated: 2013/01/13 - 3274 words

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6.

Kneeling in the grass, Zoe clutched her rifle tightly as she watched the bugs approach. There were about four or five packs of them loping across the plain towards her position. However, they were still a good five hundred yards off so she didn’t tell Judy or Sam to open fire. In the distance she could hear rifle and LMG fire as the other squads engaged their own targets. Every now and again there’d be a WHOOSH-BANG! as the RPG team saw a target valuable enough to use one of their limited supply of rockets on.

Glancing back towards the bugs, Zoe guessed they were now about four hundred yards away, she’d not tell anyone to fire until they were at about two-hundred yards.

After recovering from the effects of the orbital bombardment (Zoe’s ears were still ringing but otherwise she was surprisingly unhurt), Zoe had rejoined her squad and they had continued to herd the colonists to the north-east. After about a mile Sergeant Burden had called a halt and the platoon had taken up defensive positions around the colonists. The bugs had eased off their attacks so it seemed like a good time to rest and reorganise.

Taking the opportunity to swap people around, Zoe found her squad being given a more combat orientated role. Instead of being left to guard the colonists (this job was now the responsibility of some of the walking wounded) her unit was redeployed as an active rifle squad. Zoe wasn’t sure how she felt about this; sure she’d wanted to see some combat and she’d had her wish granted. But to be stuck in the frontline like this, she wasn’t so happy about, after all she and her squad were just glorified truck drivers. Yes, they’d all been given combat training, but never in her wildest dreams had she expected to have to use those skills.

The most she’d ever thought she’d ever be faced with was a few rounds directed at her truck or a minor ambush. Quite happy with the idea of having to fire off some rounds to protect herself and her truck, Zoe wasn’t so sure about all this ‘life or death’ stuff. However, needs must, or at least that’s what she told herself.

Looking towards the bugs again, Zoe now saw they were about two-fifty yards off; it was time to get ready. Looking to her right she saw Judy kneeling about ten yards away; glancing over her should she saw Sam lying on top of a slight rise.

“Okay people,” Zoe called calmly, “get ready, another fifty yards or so and we take ‘em.”

Watching the bugs getting closer, Zoe found herself trying to puzzle out the bug tactics. They appeared to launch their attacks in pulses, they’d come right at you with little thought about trying to outflank or taking a more covered route. Then once they’d launched an attack they just kept coming until they were all dead or they’d over run your position.

“Ready!” Zoe called as she hauled back on the charging handle of her rifle, “Okay stay cool…” Zoe sighted on one of the lead bugs, “…wait for my word…”

Just as Zoe was about to give the order to fire something saucer shaped and grey swooped down out of the sky towards the bugs. Relaxing the hold on her rifle, Zoe looked up to follow the drone’s course with her eye. The drone was travelling at less than a hundred mile per hour probably more like eighty. It flew over the bugs at around fifty feet or so and sprayed them with some bright green mist-like liquid. As soon at the first droplets hit the bugs they lost all control of their limbs and fell and sprawled helplessly in the sand and grass unable to move other than to trash about feebly.

Laughing for the first time that day, Zoe realised this must be the Tanglefoot gas she’d heard about. Developed when humanity had first arrived on Yanlor and no one was sure whether the bugs were dangerous or not. The gas had been designed to be ineffective to humans and incapacitate bugs, it sure looked as if it worked. Getting to her feet, Zoe watched as the drone finished spraying the bugs in front of her and flew off to the west, no doubt to give another swarm of bugs a dose of Tanglefoot.

“Okay guys!” Zoe called as she brought her rifle to her shoulder, “remember single shots…take ‘em!”

Firing steadily, Zoe, Sam and Judy killed the helpless bugs with single shots. Yes the gas would take the bugs out, but it didn’t kill them and it only had a limited effect. After about five minutes the bugs would recover and be no worse for their adventure. But, in the mean time, bugs that were thrashing about on the ground unable to move or kill were much easier to shoot than ones charging at you intent on your destruction.

0=0=0=0

Looking over to the north-west, Zoe saw that the local sun was slowly heading towards the horizon. With the planet’s axial tilt added to the fact that in the northern hemisphere it was summer, Zoe knew that it would be awhile yet before it was actually dark. Would the bugs keep attacking in the night? Now that was an interesting thought. The accepted wisdom was that the bugs didn’t like the chill of the night and retreated into their bug holes around dusk. However, the same accepted wisdom said that the bugs were docile and weren’t a threat to mankind. These little thoughts didn’t convince Zoe that she’d be having a quiet night.

After the drone and its gas had done its job, Zoe and her team had shot all the bugs that they could see and then headed back to where Lea and the hill girls were holding a section of gully. They’d hunkered down in the shelter of the gully and snatched some time to eat some rations and deal with their other ‘personal needs’; in other words they’d dug themselves ‘cat holes’ and taken the opportunity to take a pee or take a dump in the sand!

Refreshed and comfortable again, Zoe listened in on the platoon net as Sergeant Burden sent a squad south to see if there was a way out of their present mess in that direction. Unfortunately the squad had soon bumped into trouble; they’d found several large depressions that had looked the perfect place to stash the colonists. But no sooner had they found the depressions than a recon drone reported a large area of plain just to the east of the depressions that was riddled with bug holes. It appeared that the bugs could sense the recon drone from inside their holes and they were soon crawling out of their homes and started to search for any tasty humans that might have come their way. Very soon the southern squad was fighting for their lives as the bugs swarmed around them. Unable to hold against such overwhelming numbers the squad had started a fighting retreat. By now the platoon’s RPG team had used up all its HE rockets and Burden was unwilling to use their only Mini-nuke to support the squads retreat. So, the squad was forced to fight for their lives unassisted until it got closer to the main force.

They’d been resting in the gully for nearly an hour before Sergeant Burden called Zoe up on her squad frequency.

“Zoe?” Burden sounded tired.

“Receiving,” Zoe replied and realised just how tired she must sound, they’d been fighting nearly all day and it was starting to take its toll.

“Look, Zoe there’s what looks like a large habitat about a mile and a half east of you position…”

Zoe got out her map and looked at it, sure enough there was what looked like a group of habitat units, “Got ‘em,” she reported back.

“…right, I want you to take your squad and check them out,” Burden explained, “make sure there’s no more colonists skulking in them and see if the way’s clear of bugs.”

“Roger that,” Zoe replied as she folded away her map, “any news of that rescue shuttle?”

“Nothing good,” Burden admitted, “looks like it won’t get to us ‘til tomorrow morning…and Zoe…”

“Yeah?”

“Look out for yourself, okay?” Burden paused before speaking again, “Look you’re gonna be out there on your own I can’t spare anyone to watch your back, but on the good side…”

“There’s a ‘good side’?” Zoe asked her voice full of the disbelief she felt.

“Yeah,” Burden gave a tired laugh, “if you see anything out there the chances are it’s a bug so you can shoot it no worries!”

“Gee, thanks Sarge!” Zoe laughed resignedly.

“Okay, get moving and like I say, watch your back, kid, Burden out.”

“Roger that,” Zoe called back, “Smith out.”

0=0=0=0

Walking at the front of her squad, Zoe watched her elongated shadow stretch out in front of her. The sun was well down behind her causing her shadow to stretch out towards the darkening eastern horizon where the sky had turned a deep dark blue. For a moment Zoe remember how she’d had a blouse that colour when she’d been about twelve, her mother had bought it for her before…well before her life had turned to crap and she’d started on the path that had led her here.

Glancing to her rear, Zoe checked on the position of her squad-mates and also on the position of the sun. Estimating that it would be another half-an-hour before it set and another half-an-hour before it was dark, she sighed. For the next hour they were going to have trouble seeing anything. Their night vision aids would be useless until it was almost full dark and good old ‘eyeball, mark one’ wouldn’t be much help either. Dusk and dawn were still the most dangerous times of the day. The human eye and so far any vision aid that science had come up with was unable to adapt quickly enough between a light sky and a dark earth to be of much use. Perhaps if they had those new thermal imagers that were being issued to the combat arms it would make a difference; but it would be a long, long time before mere truck drivers got any fancy kit like that.

For just a moment, Zoe found herself feeling very bitter. Why shouldn’t she have the most up-to-date kit? Why couldn’t women go into combat? They’d kicked butt today and just look at the mission she’d been given now; this was a fighting patrol to find an escape route for the entire force. Hey, if that wasn’t an important combat role then what was? Zoe found herself thinking that once she got off this dust bowl she was going to transfer out of motor transport, find herself a posting that gave her a chance of a more combat orientated career path.

Her thoughts almost brought her to a complete halt, Zoe did in fact pause for a moment. What she thinking of? Only yesterday (was it really only twenty-four hours ago? It felt like a lifetime) she’d been wondering who she’d end up with as a life partner, how many kids she’d have and all girly stuff like that. How she was thinking about the best ways of seeing more combat. Whatever, she sighed heavily, this was all stuff to think about later, assuming there was a later and she wasn’t eaten by a bug in the next half hour.

“Halt,” Zoe whispered and lifted her left hand in the air to signal everyone to stop, “Lea, to me!”

Crouching down in the grass, Zoe took her map out of her pocket and watched as the rest of the squad hunkered down and turned outwards so they could spot trouble before it spotted them. Just for a moment a feeling of intense pride in her guys washed over her, only yesterday none of them would have thought of doing what they were doing now. Lea appeared out of the dusk and knelt down next to Zoe.

“Look,” Zoe pointed to her map; with the light almost gone it was hard to make out but the two women could still just make out enough detail to make it worthwhile having the map in front of them. “The habitats should be over that ridge,” Zoe pointed to where a long, low ridge blocked their view to the east. “There’s some lakes to the north and hills to the south, further east it looks like more plain. Looks like this might be a good place to hold up for the night.”

“Roger that,” Lea agreed with a nod, “any bugs trying to get to the main force are likely to have to go by the habitat.”

“That was my thinking,” Zoe agreed, “we can fort up and block the easy route between the water and the lakes. Now what we’ll do is this,” Zoe began to explain, “you take Brandi and Kandi and set up in ‘overwatch’ on the ridge here. You should be able to use your night glasses by the time we move in. You watch my back while I take Sam and Judy down into the ville and check it out.” Zoe noticed the look on Lea’s face, “You got a problem with that?”

“Look, boss,” Lea said in a low whisper, “I mean Sam and Judy? Okay Judy’s not so bad but Sam? Not the best soldiers in the galaxy.”

“Yeah I know,” Zoe realised that this had been the first time Lea, or indeed anyone had called her ‘boss’, “but its what we’ve got. I trust you to save my ass if needs be. The busty-bandits are the best shots we’ve got and I’ve gotta be the one to go down and check that place out so…”

“Yeah okay,” Lea agreed reluctantly, “just don’t get ya ass shot off, right? I mean I don’t want to end up in charge.”

“Okay,” Zoe smiled, “just so you don’t have to take command I’ll try not to get killed, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Right lets do it,” Zoe got to her feet and signalled for everyone else to stand up.

“Judy, Sam, to me,” Zoe called softly, “Lea you take your people over to the left flank there and call when you’re in position.”

“On it, Boss,” Lea called back before collecting up Brandi and Kandi and moving out.

“Where are they going?” Sam wanted to know a little too loudly.

“SHHH!” Hissed Zoe, “Keep it down…”

“Why? The bugs can’t understand us…” Sam continued.

“But they can hear us!” Judy snapped.

“Oh!” Sam suddenly went very quiet and looked around nervously, “Sorry,” she whispered.

“Right,” Zoe started to explain the mission, “just over that rise is a habitat, we’re going down to check it out and Lea, Brandi and Kandi are going to watch our backs, okay?”

“Why can’t…OWW!” Sam hopped about on one leg as she rubbed her ankle.

“Shut yer gob, huir!” Judy snapped before turning and smiling innocently at Zoe.

“Why me?” Zoe muttered to the stars that were just appearing in the night sky, “Okay guys lets move, quick and silent.”

Leading her team over the ridge line, Zoe paused and crouched down once she was fairly sure that she wasn’t sky-lining herself on the ridge.

“Glasses,” she ordered in a loud whisper; fumbling with one of her pouches, she pulled the night vision aids out and fitted them to the clip on the front of her helmet.

Flipping the glasses down over her eyes Zoe switched them on and watched as the world swam into green and black focus. She could now see fairly clearly out to about five-hundred yards. Beyond that she could see lights and shapes but no detail. About one-hundred yards to her front she could see the habitat. It was quite a big, well ordered looking place with enough room for maybe fifty colonists. Her night glasses flared a little as they picked up the light from a few maintenance and security lights around the perimeter, but there was no movement and nothing to suggest that the colonists were still at home.

“Anyone see anything?” Zoe asked.

“No,” replied Judy.

“Nothing,” agreed Sam.

“Okay,” Zoe turned to her squad net, “Lea? You in position?”

“We’re firm,” Lea replied, “no sign of life no sign of bugs.”

“Roger that,” Zoe turned her head to look at Judy and Sam, “lets move.”

Getting to her feet, Zoe started to make her way rapidly towards the habitats, her footsteps muffled by the sand made almost no noise. Stopping with her back to what appeared to be an old cargo container, she waited for Judy and Sam to catch up and join her. Once they were all together, Zoe signalled for them to move towards what looked like a main door. Pointing to either side of the door, Zoe watched as Sam and Judy took up covering positions while she advanced cautiously towards the door. The door was big and metal obviously intended to allow vehicle access to the interior of the habitat unit; Zoe guessed that there was a workshop on the other side of the door. It was only when she could look at the door closely that she noticed that it had been welded shut and the weld looked new.

“Listen up everyone,” Zoe spoke urgently over the squad net, “looks like there might be someone at home so check your targets before you fire, okay?”

“Roger that,” Lea’s voice came over her earwig.

Both Judy and Sam nodded and gave a ‘thumbs up’ sign to show they understood.

Okay, Zoe looked at the door, if there was someone inside, how was she supposed to get in when all the doors and windows were welded up tight. So, were all the doors and window locked tight? Zoe smiled; bet there was one they’d missed, there was always one. Signalling, ‘follow me’, Zoe led her team around the buildings stopping to check doors and windows as they came to them, all appeared to have been efficiently welded shut. After about five minutes they came to another big door, once again Zoe moved in to check it out.

“Locked but not welded,” Zoe told everyone as she hit the actuator and waited for the door to open, nothing happened. “Judy, can you hot wire the door?”

“Ay coorse Ah can,” Judy gave Zoe a hurt look as she moved in and ripped off the cover to the electronic lock that secured the door.

“Lea,” Zoe whispered into her radio as Judy worked on the door, “Looks like we’re goin’ inside, you might as well come down now, can you see where we are?”

“No,” Lea replied, “but I watched you disappear around a corner I should be able to find you.”

“Good,” Zoe looked to see that Judy had two pieces of wire held in her hands ready to press them together, “we’re goin’ in…”

“Roger that,” Lea said as she signed off.

“Okay,” Zoe nodded to Judy, “open the door…”

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