The seven huts arranged in a circle appeared abandoned. “What do you think, Charlie?” asked Brackett.
Charlie's eyes surveyed every hut in the village while the rest of the team emerged from the jungle “I guess we ain’t the first ones here,” said Billy Gilroy.
Brackett pressed the mic to his throat. “Mister Miles, we found a village that appears to be abandoned.”
“Are you going in?” answered Gordon Miles.
“Yes sir, we’ll let you know what we find,” replied Brackett. He turned to the team behind him. “Alright people, it’s time to earn our money.”
The team checked the power gauges on their weapons and followed Charlie across the clearing.
“They were trying to keep something out,” said Brackett as they approached the battered bamboo and vine fence.
“This fence don’t look tall enough to keep nothing out,” said Billy.
“Maybe, they didn’t need a tall fence,” said Doc Hunnicutt, thinking about the little heads he’d seen on their rest stop.
They walked the perimeter of the fence looking for the gate, but found a ragged hole instead.
“Looks like what ever they were trying to keep out made it inside anyway,” said Cortez.
They fanned out into the village and cautiously searched the huts. Renita Cortez peeked in the window of The nearest hut and took a quick look around before entering through the doorless entrance. Beds lined the walls with a table and four chairs in the middle of the bamboo floor of the single room. She walked around the room looking under the grass mats on the beds. She took a last look around the room, then stepped toward the door.
“Help me, please.”
Cortez froze as she started to leave the hut and listened intently. “Please, help me.”
She turned back inside the hut. “Hello? Where are you?” She listened again.
“I’m under the bed by the window.”
There wasn’t a bed under the window she peeked in, so Cortez walked to the bed under the window across the room and pulled it out next to the table. A corner of a trap door peeked out from the corner of a grass mat on the floor.
She laid her rifle on the floor and pulled the knife from the scabbard on her web belt. She lifted one corner of the trap door with the knife, then pulled it open. A young girl shielded her eyes from the sudden light.
“Come out of there, baby,” said Cortez and held out her hand.
Unusually long fingers grasped her hand and the young girl climbed from the small cubed space in the floor. Her high forehead and long earlobes confirmed Cortez’s suspicion that she wasn’t human.
“Do you understand me?” she asked the girl, getting a nod of the girl’s head in return.
“How long have you been in there?”
The girl shrugged her bony shoulders and shook her head.
“You must be hungry,” said Cortez. She shook out of her ruck and unbuckled a pocket. Taking out a chocolate bar, she handed it to the girl. “It ain’t much, but it’ll help.”
The girl looked at the candy bar, turned it over in her hand and tried to bite through the wrapper.
“Hold on,” said Cortez with a slight giggle. She took the candy from the girl and slowly peeled back the wrapper and handed it back to her. The girl sniffed the chocolate bar and looked back at Cortez.
“Eat it,” said Cortez, making a gesture with her hand.
The girl bit a corner of the chocolate bar and an immediate smile spread across her face.
“What is your name?” asked Cortez.
“What do they call you?”
“Maia,” replied the girl and took a bigger bite from the chocolate bar.