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Approx. 5500 words

All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2015   SJ

The Chaos Begins:

The Black Laser  


written by  SJ






    Generally, Cornucopia was a much cooler planet than Cheyenne; it was almost a constant 70 degrees during the day, cooling down only slightly to about 60 degrees during the night. But the Space Marines were not here to enjoy the weather, they had a job to do. Once their one day off was over, it was time for the Scout squads to go back out into the field.
    Scout squads one and two were assigned to check out the Marine Base...gather as much information as possible about the Base's defenses and defending personnel. As it stood, and as far as Gallardo knew to the best of his military intelligence, the Marine Base only had about ten total Space Marines, not counting the Base commander. Gallardo was hoping the Marines had been captured or were dead, dreading the alternative of--firing on fellow Marines, friendly or not. But he had no choice but to give the order: fire if fired on.
    The Marine Base on Cornucopia, unlike Camp Cheyenne, was not a training base; it was a combat base, there to protect the colonist of their assigned planet. It was not supposed to be anywhere near fully operational–-but, so far, it had proven to be operational enough. Reynolds had already uncovered, the hard way, one pop up, heavy bolter turret. There might be more.
    The way events were currently unfolding, Gallardo knew the Marine Base was going to have be assaulted and retaken; that's why he, as he put it to Lana earlier, was bringing in the big guns. He had two Whirlwind missile-launcher vehicles and a Predator battle tank. Plus he was going to add twin-linked bolters to all the Land Speeders and Rhinos, bring in two more squads of Marines, a few more heavy bolters, plus a butt-load of missile launchers, all he had, twelve of them, with plenty of, what were called, tank-buster missiles; two direct hits with one of those was more than enough to take out a heavy bolter turret. That was the reason he needed to locate every turret defending the Marine Base. Surprises got Marines killed--and he was determined not to have that happen.
    It would take the military troop transport, a little slower spacecraft than the corsair, carrying the reinforcements and supplies, 3.2 days to make the jump to the Proxima Altair system, then land on Cornucopia...and, at least, one more day after that to unload and prepare. Major Taliaferro would be with them. The Colonel had already discussed tactics with him using HQ's FTL com link before his departure.
    Gallardo had already handed out his orders: Squads one and two were to gather information on the Marine Base, squads three and four...well, he had another mission for them.
    During the Colonel's earlier discussion with Taliaferro, he had happened to mention the same thing he had talked to LaFong about, concerning the finding of the strange book: The Blood of Khorne. Upon hearing it, the Major wanted that place found. The civilians in charge at that time might not have found anything, but he wanted another search, this time by Marines, escorting a couple civilians that had actually worked in the power plants at one time or another.
    The location for a combat Marine Base was not chosen for it scenic beauty, or for its close proximity to shopping centers and golf courses; they were positioned to be defendable, and this Marine Base was no different.
    It was located a little less than two hundred kilometers northwest of the quarry, on the coast of an inland sea. There it was positioned on the highest point located on the tip of a long peninsula where it was mostly surrounded by water. The land approach to the base was a six-hundred-meter wide stretch of land with no cover. The Marine Base and its unknown complement of heavy bolter turrets overlooked all the land and sea for as many kilometers as they had maximum range.
    Before sending in his two Scout squads, Gallardo was hoping he could gather a little advanced intelligence by using a satellite...and for the most part, he did. The Marine Base's planetary defense gun, a heavy lascannon, had already taken out the satellite he had sent to do the job.
    Reynold's first squad was told to approach the Marine Base straight on, directly east, where there was a narrow column of woods they could take cover in while aboard their Land Speeders. From there they would dash across some open ground, coming up behind a long hill, which at its south base was formed like a horseshoe. In the center of the hill was a strange-looking, F-shaped building, supposedly empty and never used. After gaining entry to the structure, they would have good view of the Marine Base and could make their scouting report unseen, while their Land Speeder, now empty of their passengers, could pose as a target hoping to expose more pop up, heavy bolter turrets.
    Land Speeders were just about the fastest and most maneuverable vehicles any land troops had. Moving in the open using evasive maneuvers, the way they were trained, they were almost impossible to hit at ranges of over two kilometers, and difficult to hit even then, depending on the skill and accuracy of the crew and weapons firing at them, and also depending on the length of time the Speeders remained exposed. The short dash the Land Speeder had to make from the woods to the base of the hill, would barely give pop up turrets time to...pop up. The only reason fire from the turrets got as close to Reynold's Land Speeder as it did, several days earlier, was because he wasn't ready for them; he wouldn't make that mistake again, nor would anyone else.
    Gallardo had to make a guess on the number of vehicles the Marine Base had. They could have none–-they could have as many as two Land Speeders, with unknown armament, and maybe, two Rhinos, again, with unknown armament.
    As for the Land Speeders transports assigned to each the Scout squads, if they were attacked by an enemy vehicle with a main weapon, they had orders to flee, leaving a trail of blind smoke behind them if necessary, even if it meant abandoning their squad. Their assigned Scout squads were trained to defend themselves...even if it meant simply taking cover and hiding until it was clear enough for the Land Speeders to return and pick them up.
    The hill Reynold's squad was going to hide behind was the only real cover for many kilometers east, northeast, and southeast of the Marine Base, so Melinda's second squad had to make a different approach.
    Coming in low in fly-mode, second squad's Land Speeder swung in from the north, over the sea, the smell of a salty mist blowing around them. Once they reached the northern coast, at the tip of the longest peninsula, they made their way through a tiny, abandoned, fishing village, before coming up behind a wide, but shallow hill with some sort of walled enclosure on top.
    From there, they followed the road mostly, using the cover of numerous partially-constructed, prefab, buildings and a couple low-lying hills until they came up behind a long, thick, stony hill that had a narrow row of tall stones as its peak.
    It was at this time, Melinda wanted to make contact with first squad. After a few seconds, she got a response.
    "Reynolds, here. Dion?"
    She responded, affirmatively, then sent him her squad's current map grid location.
    "'re making good time. We're right in the middle of the horseshoe hill; we've been ready for some time. Now that you've called in, we're gonna make our move to the building."
    "Understood." Melinda acknowledged. "We're getting ready to go to our final location right now. I am going to leave the Land Speeder here...were I am now. The area between us and to where we're going has a lot of know, eucalyptus-like trees, real short slender ones, with the real thin leaves. They didn't show up on our map."
    "I think they call them Euco trees." Reynolds commented. "There's some of those over here also. I think they're just coming into bloom, or something. Normally they don't have that many leaves. So you're gonna run over there? Oh...I see the hill–-it's about three hundred meters away from where you are now, right?"
    "Yeah...the nice tall one. On the map it shows a little stream coming from it."
    "That's a good hill–-you'll be able to see everything from there. Reynolds, out."
    "Dion, out."
    Melinda, Lana, Hank, and Reggie took off west around the base of the hill, then sprinted out into the open for about 40 meters before they entered the cover of the Euco trees. Melinda and Lana were carrying Scout bolters and a couple grenades each, Hank had his usual sniper rifle and pump shotgun, Reggie had a normal size bolter and a couple grenades.
    Once Melinda's squad was within 200 meters of the hill they were going to use to spot from, all hell seemed to break loose three kilometers away, coming from the location of first squad. They had slowed down to a quick walk, but then sped up again so they could get to the hill to see what was happening.
    Within several minutes they were on the reverse slope of the hill. Hank had already spotted an excellent sniper location up near the top of the hill, a place with plenty of rocks and trees for cover and was on his way. Lana, Melinda, then Reggie, took prone positions on the reverse slope, spaced out by about 10 meters between them. Each one then popped up the periscopes on their binoculars, and looked over the crest of the hill to see smoke coming from were first squad was located.
    The reason quickly became clear: Three heavy bolter turrets on the Marine Base's high ground were up, two located directly in front facing east, and another back, further west, located on the highest point of the hill all firing at first squads location. Even worse, the third turret had been upgraded to have two missile launchers attached. After another minute, the firing stopped, and the turrets slowly retracted back into the ground. Melinda and Lana took as many pictures as they could using their binocular's digital camera ability, up and until the turrets had disappeared into the ground.
    Something must've gone wrong, was Lana's first thought. Both squads were supposed to send out their Land Speeders at the same time to draw fire and spot turrets. But before she had time to guess on what had gone wrong, her squad now was in danger.
    Ramcke spotted it first, then the others. A Land Speeder had left the Marine Base and was now coming straight for them. It was a combat Land Speeder.
    The Land Speeder transports Scout squads used were, at best, able to be armed with a twin-linked bolter. The Land Speeder coming toward them was a combat Land Speeder; it had only two seats in front with the same configuration as the transport. However, along with heavier armor, it could mount a single heavy weapon.
    "I see a driver, one crew—-no twin-linked bolter," Ramcke quickly reported using his sniper scope. "They all seem to be wearing Marine battle suits. It looks like it's mounting a main weapon underneath it, but I can't figure out what it is. Wait. It looks like a lascannon, no–-hell, I don't know what it is. But, it's not firing--"
    "The weapon might not be powered." Melinda added in.
    Nearby the squad's current location were a number of tall, broadleaf trees. They didn't block view, the foliage was too high, but only Lana noticed that the two nearest to them seemed to be raining black leaves...leaves that with a puff, turned into dry, black, ash after floating to the ground, along with the occasional tree limb, severed and blackened similar to the leaves.
    "The Marine in the front seat is firing a bolter at us." Ramcke made the call at the same time they heard the zip of bullets over their heads.
    "I give authorization to return fire, guys." Melinda quickly stated just before sending an order to their Land Speeder transport. "We are under attack from a Land Speeder possibly armed with a lascannon. Fall back to rally point A. I say again...fall back to rally point A. Melinda out."
    Lana was still carefully examining the main weapon of the enemy Land Speeder as Melinda gave her orders. A second later she spotted it.
    "Black's firing a BLACK LASER!" Lana announced seriously.
    At the same time, she heard the zip of Ramcke's sniper rifle go off several times.
    "Black Laser?" Melinda questioned, anxiously waiting an answer.
    Lana had no time to explain. "We need to take more cover!" She attempted to explain...her voice becoming more serious as she slid further down the slope of the hill, Melinda quickly following her lead.
    However, Reggie, who had been at the far end of the hill, had already slid down, then had gotten up and had just completed a quick dash to get behind a large, heavy, boulder that was almost a meter thick.
    Lana spotted him. "NO! That's no good!" She shouted to into her com, desperately trying to warn Reggie.
    But it was too late. Ramcke was watching from above, the women from the side on the slope. If they looked closely, they could almost see the distortion line which marked the invisible beam of the Black Laser. However, they all could plainly see it's devastating results.
    Like someone using an giant invisible marker, a black line, thirty centimeters thick, ripped across the ground in front of the large boulder, then through the rock, though Reggie, continuing on until it hit the Euco trees, turning the once pale-green vegetation to ash just before the invisible death ray suddenly ceased its one-second, smouldering rampage. Reggie had slumped over and wasn't moving.
    Ramcke had a birds eye view of the destructive event. "WHAT the hell was that?" the women heard him exclaim over their coms.
    But Lana didn't have time to answer. Sliding closer to Melinda, she pointed southeast, shouting with increasing urgency. "There...the stream bed. We need to get down in there."
    A little in front of the hill, on the other side, was the stream Melinda had located on her map earlier. They had all spotted it earlier when they first arrived at the crest of the hill. It turned out to be a fairly deep gully with only a trickle of water in it; but it wound eastward, getting almost a meter deep in some spots.
    Just then, the enemy Land Speeder slowed down, only 75 meters away, then made a quick left turn, swinging west along the base of the hill in front, disappearing behind it. As soon as it did, the two women made their move for the stream bed, running past Reggie, who was still lying motionless, him, and much of his clothing, smoking.
    "Whoa...that thing spun out into a bunch of Euco trees!" Ramcke exclaimed loudly.
    Lana and Melinda ran sliding into the stream bed, hearts pumping quickly. The squad leader quickly got out her oPOD, which had the bio-sign readings of all her squad.
    "How's Reggie?" Ramcke asked concerned, his attention still focused on the Land Speeder, which was now almost completely concealed by dust and the pale-green leaves of the shattered Euco trees.
    "He's dead." Melinda answered unhappily.
    "Where's that Land Speeder?" Lana needed to know.
    Ramcke responded quickly as he caught a glimpse of the Land Speeder regain control then disappear into the Euco trees behind them. "I tried to shoot the driver, but had to settle only for a couple snap shots. I tell you–-that Speeder's going fast...and it's swerving around like the driver doesn't hardly know what he's doing." He had to repeat his earlier question. "Are you sure Reggie's dead?"
    "Yes!" Melinda snapped, then sighed. "He's very bio-sign readings at all. He's lying over here smoking like a burnt pot roast." It was obvious the squad leader was upset.
    As the two women quickly changed bolter ammunition to AP rounds, Ramcke only caught a glimpse of the enemy Land Speeder as it left the concealment of the Euco trees and dashed out into the open for a second, then went behind the same hill their Land Speeder had been parked, now gone as per Melinda's orders. The sniper tried to get off couple more quick shots, which he was sure missed.
    "Ramcke, switch your ammunition to AP." Melinda strongly suggested.
    "Understood...switching now."
    "We need to knock that thing out before it fries all of us like it did Reggie." Melinda spoke with grim determination. She remained angry, speaking to herself...upset at losing a squad member. "A damn Black Laser." She looked at Lana. "You knew because of your, Special Ops studies, didn't you?"
    Lana sighed. "It was just something I remember running across in one of the older manuals--"
    "Here it comes!" Ramcke's sudden warning caused the two women to duck, then lay down, flattening themselves on the bottom of the stream bed as the Land Speeder roared right over the top of them.
    Ramcke tried to get off a couple shots, but had to issue an urgent warning instead. "Be advised ladies–-the Marine that was in the front seat of that Land Speeder is NO longer there!"
    "Where is he? Do you see him?" Melinda asked quickly as both women got up and readied their bolters.
    " should keep an eye on that speeder." Lana was quick to suggest. "Punch it full of holes if you can. We'll deal with that Marine. But if that thing spots you, crawl down in the deepest hole you can find. Those rocks won't be much cover."
    "I agree." Melinda approved. "Let's us know if it starts to return."
    "Understood." Ramcke responded formally.
    The patch of ground to the north, now looked like a disaster area; Euco trees had gotten flung about like twigs left on a spaceport runway. There were pale-green leaves floating around everywhere in the mist of swirling clouds of dust; somewhere in all that was an enemy Space Marine.
    Melinda had moved west inside the stream bed. She knelt down, switched her ammo to Ball-1, then dropped the bipod on her bolter, setting it up facing northeast on the edge of the stream, prepared and waiting. Lana was further east, where the stream bed was almost over her head...listening carefully.
    A second later, Lana heard one, then another object hit the earth about five to ten meters in front of her, shortly afterwards, in the same order, both exploded, frag grenades, blowing dirt and pieces of Euco trees down on top of her.
    Melinda began firing bursts into the dust, estimating the Marine's location. Shortly after that, Lana spotted another frag grenade fly overhead, landing on the far side of the stream bed, followed quickly by a second one hitting the ground several meters in front of her to the northeast. Lana had time to duck down just as the first frag exploded, the shock wave knocking her against the stream bed wall, then down to her knees. She barely had time to get up when she saw the second frag bounce into the stream bed only two meters away in front of her.
    The woman acted quickly, running around a bend in the stream bed just as the grenade went off, the blast flinging her forward, face first into the mud, the bend in the stream bed wall absorbing most of the frag's deadly shrapnel.
    "LuLu, are you alright?" Melinda asked hurriedly after firing another burst of bolter fire.
    "Yeah..." Lana got up spitting. "Just got a mouth full of mud." She spoke, staggering to her feet, her voice suddenly sounding very annoyed. "This grenade crap is–-really pissing me off!"
    Standing up straight, Lana peeked over the top of the stream bed, seeing as she did, in the mist of the swirl of dust and Euco leaves, the dark shape of a Space Marine battle suit, running forward, wielding a bolter; the enemy Marine began firing, burst fire, sweeping the area in what seemed like, Melinda's direction, until he spotted Lana.
    The woman ducked back down just as large holes were blown in the stream bed above her, the high-powered bullets putting equal size holes on the opposite side. Without hesitation, she dashed forward about two meters and knelt down, leaving the explosions of dirt behind her, while she quickly prepared a krak grenade.
    Holding her Scout bolter in her left hand, grenade in her right, she rose, then took a quick peek over the stream bed; the Marine was coming right toward her now, no more than fifteen meters away–-charging, still firing. With one quick stride, Lana stepped forward, then leaped on a rock in front of her, bringing the upper part of her body above the stream bed while at the same time reacquiring her target and throwing her grenade, then ducking back down into cover. After taking another step, she looked back up again just in time see the grenade hit its mark.
    The krak grenade hit the Marine's battle suit high, near his left arm. The explosion was loud, with an almost blinding flash, knocking the Marine backwards, where he landed in a twisted heap of smoke and blood. Lana was sure she spotted the bolter the Marine was carrying fly through the air to her right–-It looked like it was still firing. When she saw it land, then bounce into the stream bed ten meters away, she saw she was half right; it was his bolter...but, with most of his arm still attached. The weapon fired twice more before finally dislodging the lifeless limb.
    Turning back around, Lana heard Melinda's bolter let out another burst, which send tall spires of dirt high in the air very near where the Marine's tattered and bloody battle suit lay. Firing again, this time the burst fire hitting its mark, the now lifeless body of the Marine rolling over several times, blood spattering all over the soft, surrounding, ground.
    "He's dead!" Lana breathed deeply, catching her breath, then repeated, "he's dead...very dead."
    "What happened, LuLu?" Melinda's voice was urgent. "I saw an explosion over there...a big flash."
    "I hit him with a krag grenade." Lana sighed with relief.
    "Nice throw, LuLu." Melinda complimented as she folded up her bipod, then got up and headed toward her squad mate. When they met, she compliment her again after taking another look at the distant, still smoking battle suit.
    "I hate to rain on your victory celebration down there ladies, but here's comes that Land Speeder again." Ramcke's voice didn't sound real urgent, but it was very serious.
    Both women ducked back down inside the stream bed without hesitation. Looking at each other, they both were thinking the same thing: One enemy Marine down, one enemy Land Speeder with a death ray, still to go.
    The two women, heard the faint zip of multiple sniper rifle shots above them before he exclaimed, "damn! That driver's a lunatic. He swerved away from us, then back, he's going east–-FAST. He must be redlining that thing." It was several seconds before he spoke again. "He's turning around...wait--whoa, he clipped that tree then spun out into a prefab. Now he coming right for you guys...
    Lana and Melinda were already kneeling down inside the stream bed. If the stream ran straight, the Land Speeder, on its present course would be able to fire right down inside. But the stream wound, like a snake. Still, even Lana wasn't sure if two meters of soft earth was dense enough to absorb the ray.
    "Wait a minute!" Ramcke finally detected a line of distortion...then, a black line across the ground only one meter south of the stream, Euco trees turning black in its wake. The beam stopped, then another black line appeared on the stream's north side, further away this time, about ten meters south of his location, across the side of the hill, and right through one of the larger broadleaf trees. He watched as the tree trunk turned black, then as a rain of black leaves and twigs floated down.

    The women had flattened themselves on the floor of the stream bed, hearts pumping anxiously. Lana felt something land on her back; flipping over, she noticed it was a small tree branch, burned black at one end. Looking up she also observed the sight of black leaves floating down from the large tree above them, like an eerie, black, snowfall.
    "It's slowing down." Ramcke's informative voice was heard clearly. "'s blocked, I can't get a shot."
    Lying on her back, Lana readied her bolter. If it came over head, the AP rounds she had loaded in her bolter would cut through that Land Speeder's underside like a cheap, aluminum, prefab.
    "It's turning north...speeding up!"
    As soon as the Land Speeder's sound confirmed Ramcke's new direction, Lana jumped to her feet. Spotting it in the distance kicking up dust and Euco leaves, she rattled off about a half dozen shots before it disappeared behind a hill. She frowned, not knowing whether she hit it or not.
    Lana and Melinda stood waiting, facing north...eyes wide, weapons ready. The area of ground containing Euco trees, the ones they had used for cover during their earlier run, was now mostly open, a graveyard of small, broken trees.
    They waited. If the Land Speeder came right at them, they'd have to drop down again. Lana kept her eyes pealed as she mentioned an alternative. "If it comes at go left...I go right. Stay down--Shoot it as it goes by."
    "I have my krag grenade." Melinda offered. "You think you can hit it when it goes by, LuLu."
    Lana thought a second, but had to answer, joking a bit. "Yeah...sure, give me a pair of magic bracelets and I'll give it a try."
    Melinda smiled, understanding Lana's gist.
    "Here it comes!" Ramcke's voice crescendoed. "Right for you."
    The two women glanced at each other just before each of them ran in opposite directions for about ten meters each. They waited...Melinda kneeling, Lana crouching slightly, just below the top edge of the stream bed.
    The area along the top of the stream bed, where they had been, as seen from where they were now, began turning black, and blacker...smoking. They could hear the Land Speeder coming, but it blew by way too fast to get off a shot, the ground literally exploding into swirls of dust, blackened tree limbs, and leaves.
    They heard Ramcke fire a couple times, then he exclaimed, "that thing is going...FAST! Hey...wait, look, it venting coolant–-now it's smoking."
    "Did you hit it?" That was Melinda.
    "I don't know...maybe once or twice." Ramcke answered modestly. "I think he blew the engine." Several seconds, then a few more ticked by, as he continued his observation. "It's NOT stopping! It's...out of control–-heading straight for the Marine Base. It's over the water now...getting lower. It's gonna hit!"
    Ramcke watched as the Land Speeder's back end skimmed the water, flipping it over. It was like watching one of those racing boats wipe out. The Land Speeder flipped violently, end over end, ripping itself apart until there were no more pieces left to flip, the remaining bulk, twisted and smoking, eventually coming to a halt, then sinking, leaving nothing more than steam to mark its watery grave.
    The remaining men and women of the Cheyenne Ranger's second Scout squad sat back and took a long breath of relief. Melinda's squad leader com had been blinking...the signal that another squad was trying to contact her for sometime now; she finally noticed it, then responded, wearily, "Dion, here."
    "This is Reynolds." He paused. "Are you guys alright...what's your status. It looked like you where under attack."
    Melinda let out a long, beleaguered, sigh. "Yes...we were under attack. One combat Land Speeder, one Space Marine in a battle suit...all now terminated." She sighed again. "We have one casualty, Private Martin...KIA."
    "We saw that Land Speeder hit the water from our new position." Reynold's began to explain. "The turrets blew away our building. We had to bug out. Eventually, we found a new location, a hill next to the swamp...lots of high grass. So far we have no casualties. Well...I got stung by a bee, if that counts."
    "Private Martin got stung by a Black Laser." Melinda mentioned, informing first squad of the weapon they had encountered.
    "Black Laser?"
    Melinda was a little surprised when Reynolds didn't readily recognize the term.
    He continued. "Sounds familiar. Is that what their Land Speeders are armed with?"
    "Well...ours was." Lana added in.
    " that you? How are you doing?"
    "I'm feeling a little fraged. How are you?" Lana jested, after a fatigued sigh.
    "Did you guys get any pictures?" Reynolds asked.
    "Affirmative." Melinda's answer was formal.
    "Those front two turrets are still looking for us. Do you see, them?"
    "Yeah...there they are." That was Ramcke. "The two in front, right?"
    "Why is one of them turning toward us?" Ramcke was more than curious.
    "One's turning toward you?" Reynold's voice sounded startled. "Get the hell out of there!"
    "Another one's popping up on our side!" The sniper was beginning to panic. "CRAP!" Ramcke quickly dislodged himself from his current position, and ran down the back slope of the hill; he then ran like a bat out of hell to join up with his other two squad members as heavy bolter fire began.
    Lana and Melinda were there waiting for him, kneeling down at one of the deepest points of the stream bed. The heavy bolter fire of solid shot and explosive rounds were tearing apart the country side and rearranging what was left of the flora above them.
    As the man made his way inside the stream bed, eventually joining up with the two women, Lana watched the place on top of the hill, where Ramcke had been so content to stay during their recent altercation, get blown to pieces.
    The man looked at the women, sweat covering his forehead; he smiled, then jested, " seems I've been evicted from my penthouse suite."
    Lana smiled back. "I'm glad you weren't in it at the time."
    "You guys gotta get out of you hear me?" Second squad heard first squad's leader strongly suggest. He made it an order. "You gotta get out before that other Land Speeder decides to pay you a visit. Anyway, Gallardo wants us to fall back to Base. We cannot get over there to help you. We are leaving right now. Our com vector position is now void. Good luck. See you at Base. Reynolds out."
    "Understood. Dion out." Melinda quickly answered while examining the area's map on her oPOD.
    "What about Reggie?" Lana asked concerning their deceased squad member. It would be awhile before they, or anyone else, would get back here.
    Melinda was still looking at her map. There was a delay before Ramcke, sighed, then answered. "If someone can carry my sniper rifle, I'll carry Reggie's body."
    "No...leave him here." Melinda responded. "I am NOT losing another member of my squad!"
    Melinda had already determined their route of escape. Much of the heavy bolter fire had died down...but, it was still sporadic. She called the driver of their Land Speeder, telling him to meet her at the base of the same hill they had been dropped off at earlier.
    Staying inside the stream bed, she lead her squad east, then north to the hill, following the stream itself, which remained two to three meters deep most of the journey. At the end, they followed a small branch of the stream east, then up and out behind a small hill, then across a little open ground to get behind the larger hill where their transport waited.
    Melinda sat silently with her arms folded as the Land Speeder made its way back to the fishing village, then across the open sea, and then eventually, back to Base at the bauxite quarry.













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