Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 16...Part 2

   They followed the road up the hillside stopping occasionally to listen to the hill’s night sounds. Half way up the hill, Brackett grabbed Charlie’s sleeve.

   “Listen,” whispered Brackett. Charlie listened intently with his head down, then looked up at Brackett.

   Brackett nodded at Charlie and they continued their trek up the hillside. Just below the summit, they bellied down and crawled to the top. Winking fires lit up a section of the valley below them and Brackett took his field glasses from the case on his web belt.

   “Wasn’t this planet supposed to be uninhabited?” said Charlie.

   “Yeah, fifty years ago,” said Brackett and put the field glasses up to his eyes.

   A chain link fence surrounded a small settlement of tents and shacks. Occupants milled around two big fires in the center of the enclosure. Smaller fires flickered outside a few of the tents and shacks. Outside the enclosure a number of the long haired horses were tethered near a ragtag collection of vehicles. The night breeze would carry an occasional holler up to them.

   “Looks like some kinda small town,” said Brackett and handed the field glasses to Charlie.

   Charlie looked intently at the scene below and handed the glasses back to Brackett. “We goin’ down there?”

   “Rather do it in daylight. Less chance of something bad happening,” said Brackett.

   Hodges had the perimeter fence open for them when they came back down the hillside.

   “I guess you boys are in one piece, I didn’t hear you screamin’ for help,” said Hodges as Brackett and Charlie walked past him. He closed the perimeter fence and followed them back through the camp.

   “Well, what did you find out, Sergeant?” asked Gordon Miles when the threesome approached the fire outside the command vehicle.

   “We ain’t alone,” said Brackett bluntly. He and Charlie sat down across the fire from Miles and Hodges stood behind them. “On the other side of that hill, there’s a settlement. Me, Charlie and Hodges will visit it tomorrow.”

   “I’ll go with you,” said Miles.

   Brackett shook his head. “You’d be better off here. We don’t know how hostile they are and if we have to fight our way out of there, we’ll have our hands full enough without having to worry about you, Mister Miles.”

   “You have a point, Sergeant,” said Miles. “I’ll be waiting to hear from you when you get back.”

   “We’re hoping, Mister Miles,” said Brackett.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 16...Part 1

The small convoy made a steady advance along the jungle road, slowing only to allow Charlie to hack through a roadblock. During these lulls Maia and Cortez made jaunts through the jungle to fill plastic bags with the miracle plants, taking them back to the mobile sick bay where Kenzie and Doc Hunnicutt took turns filling jars with the valuable sap.   

   The daylight was slowly beginning to fade when Brackett throttled back the battle car. The road left the cover of the jungle but continued on across a narrow clearing, up the jagged terrain of a large hill and disappeared over the top.

   “What’s the problem, Sergeant?” crackled Gordon Miles through Brackett’s earpiece. He pressed the mic to his throat.

    “We’ve come to the edge of the jungle, Mister Miles. I would suggest stopping here in the clearing for the night and continuing on in the morning.”

   “Very well, Sergeant.”

   Brackett moved the battle car into the clearing and went about the now routine task of setting up camp. He pulled his weapons from the battle car when the last of the vehicles pulled into line and waited until he could hear the soft hum of the perimeter fence. He walked up beside Charlie Two Sons who stood scanning the side of the hill. He looked up at the moon starting to emerge in the darkening sky.

   “I wanna see what’s on the other side of this hill before we go charging over the top,” said Brackett.

   Charlie looked at Brackett, nodded and returned his gaze to the hillside. “I’ll be ready.”

    Brackett noticed fires beginning to sprout up when he walked through the camp in search of Gordon Miles. He met Cortez and Maia coming from sickbay trailing plastic bags behind them.

   “Stay close to the road. The jungle ain’t a pretty place to get lost in at night,” said Brackett. He spotted Billy Gilroy walking up from the trail vehicle. “Billy, you’re with Cortez and Maia.” Gilroy waved at Brackett and fell in behind the two  scavengers. Brackett found Gordon Miles standing with Max outside of the command vehicle.

   “Good evening, Sergeant Brackett,” said Max.

   “Max,” Brackett replied, nodding at the android. He turned to the expedition leader who rose from the fire.

   “Mister Miles, Charlie and I are going to recon the hill. I don’t want any surprises tomorrow.”

   “You think that’s wise in the dark?”

   Brackett pointed up at the moon. “We’ll have plenty of light, plus I’ll have Charlie with me. Corporal Hodges will be here if you need anything.”

   “Happy hunting, Sergeant,” said Miles and returned to tending the fire.

   Brackett walked back through the camp and found Hodges leaning against the front of the battle car.

   “Charlie and me are gonna do a little recon,” said Brackett. “You’re in charge until we get back.”

   “Sure thing,” said Hodges, “and I’ll be waitin’ right here until I see your smiling faces coming back down or I hear you screaming for help.”

   Brackett smiled, slapped Hodges on the shoulder and walked over to where Charlie waited patiently. “Ready to go?”

   Charlie hit the top of a post and opened a section of the perimeter fence. They both walked through into the clearing and Charlie hit the post again securing the fence. They checked the power cells on their pulse rifles.

   “Let’s do this,” said Brackett.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 15...Part 3

   She examined Hodges’ leg and found no signs that the gash had even been there. “I guess you can have him back,” she said to Brackett standing behind her.

   “Okay, you’re back with me, Corporal,” said Brackett.

   Hodges hopped off the examining table. “Thanks, Doc.”

   “Don’t thank me, thank Maia,” replied Kenzie and waved at the two Freelancers as they left the sick bay.

   She looked over at Hunnicutt who had broken open another plant stem and let the sap trickle onto a cut he had on his hand. They both watched as the cut slowly healed over, faded and disappeared. He moved farther up his arm and trickled some sap on an old scar on his forearm. Just like the cut, the scar slowly faded and disappeared.

   “What the hell is this stuff, Doc?” he asked Kenzi.

   Kenzi shook her head. “I don’t know, but I’m going to make sure we have plenty of it.”

   They both turned when Maia walked through the door ahead of Cortez dragging the bag of miracle plants behind her. Kenzie reached up and removed a glass jar from a cabinet above their heads. Maia dropped the bag at their feet.

   “Do you wanna drive or do you wanna fill?” Kenzi asked Hunnicutt and held up the glass jar.

   “Have a good fill, Doc,” said Hunnicutt.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 15...Part 2

   The Freelancers followed their young friend as she searched the jungle floor. She stopped under one of the large trees and began pulling up the plants growing at its base.

   “What are you doing, Maia?” asked Cortez.

   Maia ran past them with a handful of plants. Cortez and Brackett jogged after her as she ran from the jungle and into the mobile sick bay. She was handing the plants to Kenzie when they came through the door.

   “What are these, Maia?” asked Kenzie.

   Maia took one of the plants, broke the stem in half and squeezed it. A clear sap ran out of the stem over her hand. “Put this on Corporal Ken’s leg. It will help him.”

   Kenzie broke open the plant stems and smeared the sap over the infected gash on Hodges’ calf. Within minutes, the ugly red pucker of the gash disappeared.

   “Wrap it up,” said Maia, handing Kenzie a roll of gauze.

   “Where did you find these, Maia?” asked Kenzie, holding up one of the plants.

   “They’re all over, they’re everywhere,” replied the young alien.

   Kenzie reached into a drawer and pulled out a large plastic bag. “Can you get me more?”

   “Sure.” Maia grabbed the bag and ran out the door followed by Cortez.

   Kenzie turned to Hodges. “How’s your leg?”

   “It don’t hurt no more.”

   Kenzie unwrapped the bandage on his leg and to her surprise the gash on his leg was gone and so was the swelling. There wasn’t even a scar where the gash had been.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 15...Part 1

   The light faded as the canopy thickened and the jungle slowly enveloped the road making it almost impassable. Brackett stopped the battle car and pressed the mic to his throat. “Billy, keep your eyes open back there.”

   “Can we get through this, Sergeant?” crackled Gordon Miles.

   “What do you think, Charlie?” said Brackett, turning toward the big Indian.

   Charlie picked up the machete from beside his seat, pulled it from its scabbard and stepped from the battle car onto the soft jungle floor.

   “We’ll get through,” he said and started hacking at the thick jungle.

   “Hang on, Mister Miles, Charlie’s working on it,” replied Brackett.

   The convoy of vehicles made slow progress behind Charlie as he hacked his way along the jungle road. They’d gone a quarter of a mile before Charlie finally broke through the roadblock.

    “We’re through, Mister Miles,” said Brackett when Charlie returned to the battle car and replaced the machete in its scabbard.

    “We’ll stop here, Sergeant. I’m sure everyone could use a bite to eat,” said Miles.

    All the vehicles were past the roadblock before Brackett throttled down the battle car. Charlie volunteered, as usual, to keep watch while Brackett and Cortez walked back to the team’s transport vehicle to retrieve the cooked snake left over from the night before.

   “How’s the leg?” asked Brackett when Hodges hobbled toward him.

   “Same,” replied Hodges.

   “It hurts him a lot,” interrupted Maia and got a glare back from Hodges.

   “Let’s see it,” demanded Brackett.

   “It’s nothing, Sarge,” said Hodges.

   “I ain’t gonna ask you again.”

   Hodges put his boot up on a nearby seat and lifted his pant leg. The sutured gash on his leg was now red and festered and the calf swollen.

   “Go to sick bay, Kenzi will want to see that,” said Brackett.

   Hodges lowered his pant leg and limped from the transport.

   “I can help him,” said Maia.

   “Help him how, Maia?” asked Cortez.

   “Come,” said Maia, beckoning Cortez and Brackett to follow her.

   “Maia, where are you going?” asked Cortez when Maia started into the jungle.

   “Come,” Maia beckoned again.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 14

   “Hop up here, Corporal, and let’s have a look at that leg,” said Kenzi, patting the examining table as Brackett helped Hodges through the front door of the mobile sick bay.

   Hunnicutt removed Hodges’ boot and rolled up his pant leg. “Hodges, ol’ buddy, you’re gonna have to stop playin’ with the wildlife around here.”

   Kenzi examined the wound then washed it with an antiseptic solution. “Was that the object of your affections?” she said and pointed toward the window where they could see Charlie put the snake over his shoulder and drag it from the bed of the battle car.

   “Yeah, if it wasn’t for Charlie I would have been breakfast,” said Hodges.

   Kenzi bandaged Hodges’ calf and patted him on the thigh. “Your gonna have to take it easy for a few days until the stitches fall out, but then you should be as good as new.”

   “You’re gonna have to talk to Sarge about the take it easy part,” said Hodges, jerking his thumb back at Brackett.

   “I’ll have him take over Cortez’s nanny duties until he feels better,” said Brackett.

   Hodges put on his boot and hopped off the examining table. “Thanks, Doc,” he said and waved at Kenzie as he limped out the door.

   Gordon Miles hailed Mike Brackett when he stepped from the mobile sick bay. The Freelancer leader took leave of Corporal Hodges and waited for the expedition leader.

   “Where do we stand, Sergeant? asked Miles.

   “Pretty simple. We have one road to follow once we cross the river. We’ll cross in the morning.”

   “In the morning?”

   “Mister Miles, I almost lost a man today. But, somehow we managed to escape with just a few stitches. Yes sir, we’ll cross in the morning.”

   Brackett turned and followed Hodges.

   The morning was just starting to clear out the darkness when Hodges sat down next to Brackett at the fire and poured himself a cup of coffee.

   “How’s the leg?” asked Brackett.

   “It’s a little sore, but I’ve felt worse,” said Hodges, flexing his ankle.

   “Cortez is riding the battle car today. Doctor said she wanted you to take it easy ‘til the stitches came out,” said Brackett.

   “Come on, Sarge, as much as I like Maia and all, I ain’t no nanny.” Hodges looked over at Maia sitting across the fire from them next to Cortez. “Honest, kid, it ain’t nothing against you.”

   Brackett looked at Cortez who shrugged her shoulders at him. “Kenzi will skin me alive if somethin’ happens to you, Hodges.”

   “It ain’t like I’m gonna be walkin’, Sarge. I’ll be ridin’ with you. And if somethin’ happens, I’ll take the heat,” said Hodges.

   Brackett jerked his head in the direction of the team’s transport vehicle. “You and Cortez are swappin’.”

   Hodges looked back at Maia. “Looks like it’s me and you kid.”


   Mike Brackett started the battle car’s fan engines as Renita Cortez climbed up into the back of the battle wagon and hooked herself into the harness behind the pulse cannon.

   “Ready when you are, Sarge,” said Cortez and tapped Brackett on the shoulder.

   Brackett alerted the rest of the vehicles and then throttled the battle car forward, down the bank and across the river. He stopped at the treeline and stood up on the battle car’s seat to make sure all the vehicles navigated the river safely. Billy Gilroy waved his arm over his head when he powered his trail vehicle safely on the bank. Brackett acknowledged Billy’s wave and returned to his seat. He looked over at Charlie.

  “Let’s do this,” he said and throttled the battle car onto the road and through the vined tree line.