Mike Brackett and Charlie Two Sons climbed into the front of the battle car and started it up while Corporal Hodges hooked himself up in the gun harness.
“I’m ready when you are,” said Hodges and Brackett pointed at Billy. Gilroy opened up a section of the perimeter fence and waved as the battle car glided through.
Brackett guided the battle car up the hillside and throttled down at the top to get a daylight view of what they’d seen the night before. There was only one horse now tethered outside the fence and the array of vehicles from the night before had dwindled down to a scattered three.
“Sure don’t look like much,” said Hodges after surveying the meager dwellings inside the compound.
“Let’s go see,” said Brackett.
Curious onlookers dotted the fence when he shut the battle car down in front of the compound. Brackett punched the four number code into the ignition box, grabbed his pulse rifle nestled beside his seat and climbed out of the battle car.
“You stay here,” Brackett said to Hodges. “If something happens and we need to get out of here quick, you punch that ignition switch and get harnessed up. We may not have time to waste.”
“You’re in goods hands, Sarge,” said Hodges.
Brackett surveyed the onlookers along the fence as he and Charlie walked toward the open gate. All of them were armed with a variety of weapons, but the absence of a sentry seemed odd. He took a quick glance behind them and saw they were quickly gathering a following as they strode through the compound.
A bearded, gray-haired man appeared in the door of the largest of the shacks. Wearing a worn military uniform, he stepped out into the sun and shaded his eyes with his hand.
“Welcome, gentlemen,” he said and held his hand out to Brackett and Charlie. “I’m Malcolm Taylor and we,” he opened his arms to the gathering behind the Freelancers, “are the descendants of the Chosen Ones.”
Brackett and Charlie shook the hand of Malcolm Taylor. “The chosen ones? We were under the impression this planet was uninhabited.”
“Come, let me show you, it might help explain it,” said Taylor and led Brackett and Charlie to the large tent next to the shack. He untied the flap and held it open.
“They were true,” whispered Brackett when he stepped into the tent. A bewildered smile crossed his face. “Charlie, all the stories were true.”