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Approx. 2400 words

All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2015   SJ

The Zone:

Captain Bant'ra


written by  SJ



    Lana woke up on the same recovery-room bed she did the last time. Only this time she was fully covered with a blanket, her arms by her side, wearing just underwear, and a medical patch covering the surgical incision on her abdomen. However, even with her vision blurry, the recovery room looked different, and the men were not standing around her.
    The sedation from the surgery made her feel lethargic, but in very little pain. When she tried to move, she felt weak, her body laying on the bed like a lead weight. When her vision cleared, she was surprised: She was obviously laying on a bed which had been placed inside the showers, the curtains drawn closed on her left side.
    She couldn’t understand why she was the showers. But, for the most part, she didn’t care. She was just to tired and out of it. Laying still, she could barely hear voices far away--then someone shouting, then someone answering...
    Frowning, she had to ask herself: “What the hell’s going on?”
    But, there was nothing she could do about it...
    All four scientists, and Berry, sat around the table in the laboratory...frightened. Captain Bant’ra stood over them wearing torn, dirty, Tau Pathfinder, fatigues, a Tau long-knife, a magnum auto pistol, and an insane glare in his eyes as he asked again, “where’s that woman that came over to the Facility and shot a bunch of my Kroots? TELL ME!”
    Bryan tried to remain calm. “Like we tried to tell you. She was very badly wounded. We lost communication with her when she tried to return to us over on the eastern side of the Facility.” He sighed, putting on an act of sorrow. “We think she died over there.”
    “Why did you send her over to shoot my Kroots?”
    “We sent her over ONLY to turn off the Mont’ka.” Dave explained again, then frowned, “why did your Kroots attack her?”
    The Special Forces officer slapped Dave, then shouted. “NO! She attacked my Kroots!” He glared at Bryan. “And I’ve already sent two Kroots over to look for her body. If it was over there, they would’ve found it.”
    “The fio’kuls probably already dragged her body into the swamp.” Bryan tried to explain...then repeated his earlier request, “listen, Captain Bant’ I asked before, why don’t you wait for twenty-four hours. Let the affects of the Mont’ka wear off--”
    The Captain only became more irate. “I’M NOT UNDER THE AFFECTS OF ANY DEVICE! I’ve never been able to think more clearly in my entire life! And most of all--I WAS HERE FIRST! I didn’t spend all this time defending myself from kod’gels, getting chewed on, sleeping in trees, foraging for food after losing my supplies just so some Terran woman could slip in and get MY 100,000 credits.”
    Bryan and Dave sighed. They had a feeling money was Captain Bant’ra's motive. And it was obviously the real reason he wanted to find Lana: in his delusional state, he wanted to remove his competition.
    Bryan tried to be rational, again. “Listen, Lana is dead, so why don’t you just go out and collect your money. We’ll be willing to say it was YOU who turned off the Mont’ka--”
    “NO!” He shouted. “But, I didn’t turn it off, did I. That would be lying.”
    Bryan and Dave sighed again.
    Then Ho’sarn became upset, speaking his mind. “He’s gonna kill us all, anyway. He has to if he wants to take credit for the mission.”
    “I’m NOT going to murder, anyone!” Bant’ra insisted.
    “Yeah, you’ll just have your Kroots do it for you.” Ho’sarn replied angrily, unconcerned about the consequences. “Either way, it’ll still be murder.”
    The Captain seemed to think, as if, in his delusion, processing the conundrum...
    Berry then stood up, starting to leave.
    “Where do you think you’re going?” Bant’ra scowled at him.
    “I have to go to the bathroom,” the young Terran/Tau frowned back. “Or do you want me to go right here.”
    The Captain gestured with his head, allowing it.
    Berry took off quickly, turning right at the door. At the end of the hallway, the door was open. He could see four Kroots standing there, blocking any way of escape. Then he thought of something. After they had taken Lana’s belt and clothes off preparing for surgery, they had placed them in the last room, Berry’s room. He walked quickly, turning inside the room, then looking around. Her belt was still laying on a chair with her bloody clothes on top of it. He found the pistol in her right holster first, but it felt light, unloaded. The left pistol felt heavier, so he took that one, hiding it. Then he headed toward the other side of the hallway, the showers/bathroom. But, before he reached it, he was called.
    “Hey, what they hell are you doing?” Bant’ra spoke forcefully.
    Berry pointed. “The bathrooms are this way. I forgot.”
    The Captain sighed. “Well, hurry up.” When he turned back to the scientists he spoke with disgust. “Stupid kid.”
    After Berry had entered the shower/bathroom area, he made sure the door was closed before he went to the shower section, pushing aside the curtains. Lana was a little startled as she looked up at him. He quickly showed her the pistol, then spoke as he handed it to her. “Captain Bant’ra is here. He’s crazy...he wants you dead. I think he’s going to kill all of us. Here’s your pistol. At least you’ll have a chance to defend yourself.” He then shut the curtains and headed over to one of the urinals. He really did have to go.
    When Berry was almost done, he heard Bant’ra shouting in another language, yelling down the hallway, making the young man almost wet himself; he then zipped up and returned to the laboratory, sitting down with the sooner doing so when two Kroots entered the room carrying their kroot rifles.
    The Captain began speaking to them in their language...the scientists preparing for the worst. Then one of the Kroots began sniffing, afterwards speaking to Bant’ra, then stepping out into the hallway, pointing toward the showers/bathrooms. The Captain shouted some orders down the other side of the hallway, then, as soon as two more Kroots ran up, he ordered them inside the room with the scientists. Then he and the other two Kroots headed toward the showers.
    The scientists lowered their heads, knowing what was up, Ho’sarn eventually saying it, “damn, they found her.”
    Lana quickly figured out what was happening when she heard the stomping of feet coming toward her, then the shower curtains being ripped open. She lay on her back, in no condition to object, and too weak to move, still partially sedated, looking up at a tall Tau Pathfinder with two Kroots behind him. She eventually recognized the Pathfinder as Captain Bant’ra.
    “Well, it’s the supposedly dead Terran woman that walked into my Facility and killed my Kroots.” He stood, gloating.
    The woman lay helpless, too tired to respond, thinking it the best idea, anyway.
    “Who are you?” The man asked, simply.
    She took a breath and responded back, meagerly, “does it matter?”
    He shrugged. “I guess not.”
    Then, after pulling her covers off, checking to see if she had any weapons, he began speaking to the Kroots, while pointing at Lana. One of the Kroots moved forward while Bant’ra moved back, giving the Kroot some room. The Kroot, then seemed to hold his rifle with the blade pointed down at her, like he was going to strike. She had slid her 9.1 underneath the mattress of the bed, out of sight, with her hand laying limp, but close by. If she wasn’t so weak, she might’ve be able to shoot the closest Kroot. However, even then, the act would be futile to save her life.    
    The Kroot’s blade could’ve easily cut her belly open like a rip melon, and she was helpless to stop it, gasping slightly when the Kroot seemed to get ready to strike; but, then he stepped back, speaking to the other Kroot, who stepped back also. Bant’ra began arguing with them, and even though it was clear that the Kroots wanted her dead, they were reluctant to kill a helpless victim, something the Captain realized as all three of them left the shower room. She sighed with relief as she pulled the covers back over her body, cold.
    As Bant’ra started to leave, Lana heard the shout of a Kroot from, what sounded like, the far end of the hallway. He answered, then all three of them moved quickly away, as if it was some sort of emergency.
    After that, Lana just lay still...wondering what was going to happened next. She wanted to get up and see what was happening, but felt too weak.
    Then there was silence as the minutes ticked by...
    Finally, she heard footsteps coming down the hallway. At first she thought it might be one of the scientists, but then she heard Berry shout, warning. “ out!”
    The footsteps quickened, then a Kroot appeared next to her. However, this Kroot didn’t look normal. Kroot physiology still had mutations from time to time; when it happened, they usually took care of them and tired to treat them well. The Kroot that stood next to her was obviously one of those mutations-–but, it was also obvious, he had not been treated well.
    The Kroot was armed with a kind of crossbow strapped over his back, a quiver of bolts in a pouch on his belt. His eyes became even more crazier as he drew a jagged knife; when he leaned over to strike, Lana shot him in the face twice.
    The woman took a deep breath and sighed. Then she made herself get up and out of bed, using pure adrenaline alone. She staggered to the wall, keeping herself upright against it, then slid along until she reached the door, there, sliding down to a kneeling position, switching the pistol to her left hand and pointing it down the hallway.
    She didn’t see Bant’ra or any Kroots. But, when she spotted Berry looking at her from the door of the laboratory, she waved him forward as if to say, “get everyone over here!”
    Berry disappeared...then reappeared leading the scientists behind him. Soon, they were all inside the room with her. They waited for awhile, then, when some Kroots appeared at the end of the hallway, Lana fired twice, making them back off and take cover...then it sounded like they left the lab.
    The metal door was apparently open now. She could hear the faint sound of gunfire for a little while. Then there was silence...
    Lana had relaxed a little; she found it hard not to. When she heard footsteps again at the end of the hallway, she readied her 9.1 again.
    Then she heard a very familiar voice.
    “Lana, are you in’s me, Corporal Zane!”
    She lowered her pistol and sighed, then leaned against the wall, tired.
    He called again, informing, “Lana, I’m here with some Pathfinders. We have the situation contained out here. Is it okay if I come in?”
    The woman was simply to tired to shout back, telling the scientists to respond for her...then asking someone to please take her back to bed.    
    The next day, Lana felt quite a bit better, Doctor Irahirn telling her it was just like he thought: The shotgun pellet had been lodged inside one of her intestines; he didn’t even have to resect the bowel to remove it.
    Zane recounted yesterdays events: “When the Tau were sure the device had been turned off, they sent in two Piranha light skimmer teams.” He shrugged, speaking hesitantly. “Well, I got on one of our Scout bikes carrying my heavy bolter and decided to follow them. When I spotted the Kroots, I dismounted. Then I saw an EMP grenade go off; it took out both the skimmers. I had connected your enhanced Special Ops optics to my binoculars; then I used it to spot a Tau stealthsuit firing on the skimmers with a burst cannon. That’s when I fired and took it out.” He sighed. “I’m sorry I disobeyed your orders, but...”
    “A good Special Ops team member knows when to disobey orders.” Lana smiled. “You did fine.” Then she thought of something else. “What happed to the Kroots?”
    “They all began wandering around confused. Then they started surrendering.”
    “What about Captain Bant’ra?”
    “Oh, I tried to shoot so I wouldn’t kill him. But, they told me he was still badly wounded.”
    “A Mk. I heavy bolter will do that. And it was a good thing to use against a XV25 stealthsuit.” She approved very much.
    He was not ready smile, yet. “So, have I made up for my mistake on Terra Aurigae?”
    She sighed and made a face. “You didn’t do anything that you had to make up for. Geez, I’m sorry. Back then I thought you had been blown into orbit.” She smiled. “I’m glad the Major made you a member of my team.”
    He finally smiled.
    Lana sat in Major Taliaferro’s office, listening to the wrap up of her contract mission.
    “Well, it looks like the Tau are taking Captain Bant’ra back to the Sept Worlds for trial.” The Major summed up.
    She sat curious.
    “He’s not in trouble for any of the things he did while inside the Zone. However, before he entered, he ordered those Kroots to go inside and garrison the Tam’yaldar Research Facility until he got there...and he DIDN’T warn them about the possible mental affects. He’s being held accountable for the Kroots you had to shoot.” He grinned. “Yes, he’s in a lot of trouble, and he might even be tried by Kroot law as well.”
    Lana nodded, then quipped, “just as long as he doesn’t become a Chaos Lord and come back and try to kill Boseman.”





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