Sinking its fangs into Hodges’ calf the second he dove for the cover of the battle car, the snake dragged the struggling Freelancer back toward the river.
Charlie dropped his rifle and sprinted from the treeline. With machete in hand, he dove into the river where Hodges’ head disappeared below the surface an instant before. The river soon became a boil of coiling snake and flashing steel.
Hodges reappeared from the river and Brackett helped him up the bank and they both watched the boil subside when a red stain grew on the water’s surface. A few seconds later, Charlie’s head appeared and he stood up trailing the giant snake’s headless carcass behind him. He dragged the snake from the river and dropped it on the bank.
“There’s dinner for tonight,” he said. He sheathed the machete and walked back to the tree line to retrieve his rifle.
“Let’s get you back and have the good doctor look at your leg,” said Brackett.
Hodges realized, then, he wasn’t standing on his leg and looked down at his bloody pants. He leaned against the front of the battle car and pulled up his pant leg revealing a severely gashed calf.
“Ah, it’s just a scratch,” said Hodges.
“Let’s go, Corporal, that’s an order,” said Brackett, jerking his thumb toward the camp.
Hodges hobbled to the back of the battle car and Brackett helped him up into the rear seat. He came back and helped Charlie throw the snake into the bed of the battle car. When Charlie slid into the passenger seat next to Brackett, Hodges slid across his seat behind the big Indian and slapped him on the shoulder.
“Thanks, Charlie. Don’t I owe you some kind of life debt now?” said Hodges.
Charlie looked at Hodges and then at Brackett. “Let’s go before I throw him back in the river.”
"What?" said Hodges as Brackett laughed and started up the engines of the battle car.