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.