Ch12: Pressing On

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
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No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Twelve: Pressing On

Dust billowed in the air, and tree limbs cracked from their trunks before crashing to the ground. The treetops whirled overhead as the rotors of a flying machine beat the air with fury. Heated shells fell from the machine’s guns which unloaded its chambers into the trees.
Arius hunkered beneath a rocky overhang where he hoped the machine wouldn’t be able to see him. The group had been scattered in the night due to the air ambush. The leather clad soldiers must have been using infrared vision technology. Otherwise, Arius knew not how they tracked them in the dark, but if this were the case, then they would stand out like flares under the forest canopy.
Arius could feel the vibrations from the machine, and the flurry of leaves beneath it. The guns stopped their thundering, and soon the machine moved on. The dust settled, and Arius didn’t know where the others were, but he feared to move from hiding. Exposing himself could attract anything from the air, but he knew there were foot soldiers in the area. He had seen them, and even now could feel them among the surrounding trees.
Moving forward he risked it. All he had was the assault rifle he stole from the soldier in the building earlier that day. It fell cool against his clammy palms, and he swept it back and forth against the trees ahead.
His eyes were attuned to the dark, but he wondered if the darkness would conceal him from the ground troops. If they too had infrared, then his camouflage was useless. He had to find safety, but where upon the island could he go?
He felt a soldier a few yards to his right. Taking cover behind a wide oak, Arius prepared to attack if needed, but he could identify three soldiers together. He would have to attack with cunning.
“They could be anywhere,” one of them said, in a rough voice. “Stick close and we’ll fare the better.”
“They can’t hide forever,” another one said, while sweeping the perimeter with its rifle. “They have no place to run, and the commander is certain that we will scour this island until they turn up. He thinks they’re from the outside world, perhaps spies.”
“They’re not from the outside,” the first one nearly barked. “These things came out of the shadows like ghost. Whatever they are, they’re not human.”
“Then what?” asked the third.
“I don’t know, but they ghosted me before I had a chance to fight back,” the first one replied before letting out a curse. “I’ve died enough this month, and I’m not going to die again. Next time, I’ll be ready.”
Arius felt a chill down his spine. Were these soldier immune to death, only to rise again after death? It would explain their hideous appearance if it was due to death time and time again. These were soldiers who saw the horrors of battle unto death several times over. Their scars would bear testimony of the fact.
The three moved on, and Arius stepped past the tree. He could see their back’s glistening in the soft moonlight which his eyes could pick up. Surgery had changed his eyes to mimic those of the planets residence, but in the dark they reverted back to their original light sensitive state.
A tremor brought him to spin to his right where he spotted a leather soldier twenty feet off. Its infrared scope glistened under the moonlight, and its rifle aimed for him. Arius sprayed the surrounding trees with the pull of a trigger while return fire pelted the tree behind him. The soldier sought cover, but took several hits to the chest before tumbling back.
Spinning back around, Arius knew that the other three would return, and thus they were through the bushes. Spraying the area with his rifle, Arius moved for cover back behind the tree as return fire shattered the other side. He knew more would be closing in, and he had to get out before they surrounded him.
Another rifle thundered several yards up the hill from the three soldiers, and Arius identified a fourth figure. The three soldiers took cover as one of them fell wounded. It was an ally, and Arius stepped around the oak, thundering the remainder of his clip toward the enemy. They scattered further, one taking a mortal wound to the head, and the second finding himself pinned behind a tree.
Arius sought cover behind another tree to reload while the soldier fired toward the other figure. With a click Arius hurried forward to press the soldier back. The fourth figure descended the hill and planted a knife into the wounded soldier, before Arius finished off the final one.
More were coming as he could feel them bearing toward them. The fourth figure made for Arius, before grabbing him by the arm. It was Brockumus.
“We must head for the harbor,” he said.
“What of the others?”
“They will take care of themselves. We must find safety and regroup later.”
The night pressed on as did they, but Arius felt the makings of a trap. 

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