Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 13...Part 2


   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.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 13...Part 1


   The camp was just starting to wake up when Mike Brackett kicked the boot of Corporal Hodges. “Let’s go, Hodges, saddle up. You been elected to come with me and Charlie.”

   Hodges threw off his blanket and looked up at Brackett. “Who elected me?”

   “Me and Charlie,” replied Brackett.

   Mike Brackett fired up the fan engines when Hodges hopped into the bed of the battle car. He hooked himself into the harness behind the pulse cannon and tapped Brackett on top of his head.

   “Let’s get this show on the road,” said Hodges.

   He gripped the gun support and Charlie grabbed the frame of the windshield when Brackett throttled the battle car forward. They got a thumbs up from Billy Gilroy as they glided through the open section of the perimeter fence.

   They raced down the bank and across the top of the river before Brackett finally throttled back on the opposite side. He settled the battle car into the grass halfway between the river and the tree line. Hodges unhooked from the gun harness and jumped from the back of the battle car.

   “We’ll split up here,” said Brackett. “Hodges, you head west along the river and I’ll go east.” He pointed to a road leading into the trees. “Charlie, head up that trail north and see if we can get the vehicles through it. We’ll meet back here in an hour.”

   Charlie pulled the machete from the scabbard on his waist and ventured toward the narrow road leading into the jungle-draped tree line. Brackett and Hodges turned and headed in opposite directions along the river.

   As Brackett made his way along the bank, the wide clearing slowly narrowed into a small path until it finally disappeared and he stood looking into a great walled tangle of vines. He thought they’d seen the last of the jungle, but none the less, here it was, beckoning them again.

   He turned and walked back toward the battle car wondering if Hodges had met the same obstacle. As he neared the battle car, he saw Hodges returning back along the river  bank.

   Abruptly, Hodges swung around as the largest snake Brackett had ever seen rose from the plant life growing along the edge of the river. Hodges, his pulse rifle on full auto, fired as he back pedaled.

   Realizing the rifle had no effect on the snake, Hodges turned and ran toward the battle car. Like a giant bullwhip, the snake reared back and struck at the fleeing Freelancer.

   

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 12...Part 2


   The three of them looked up when Gordon Miles approached the fire.

   “Good evening,” said Miles and pointed to the last remaining seat at the fire. “May I?”

   “Help yourself,” said Cortez.

   “I’ve come to get better acquainted with our newest member. Maia, wasn’t it?” said Gordon.

    Maia nodded her head. “Yes, sir.”

   “Call me Gordon. Please.”  Maia nodded again.

   “Is this your home, Maia?

   Maia shook her head. “Oreadan is my home. We were trying to get away from the big war there, but, something happened to our ship and we had to land here.”

   “Where is everyone from your ship?”

   “Gone. The Mukmows took ‘em.”

    Gordon looked over at Cortez.

   “We found her in an abandoned village hiding under the floor of a hut. We met the Mukmows later. Mean little bastards.”

    Gordon patted Maia’s hand. “Well, you don’t have to worry, you have friends here.”

    He rose from his seat. “Ladies, we have another big day ahead of us tomorrow and I will bid you all adieu. I will see you in the morning.”

   “Well, that’s my cue,” said Kenzi. She gathered her two mugs and rose from her place by the face.

    “See you tomorrow, Bells,” said Cortez. She could hear Kenzi laughing as she disappeared from the firelight.

   

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 12...Part 1


    Doctor Kenzi Sheppard walked past the Freelancer’s fire carrying two steaming mugs. Renita Cortez motioned her toward the far end of the perimeter where Mike Brackett leaned against the front of the battle car. It was fairly obvious the attraction the Doctor had toward their leader and the Freelancers were doing what they could to help it along.

    Kenzi held the mug in front of Brackett. “Thought you might like some cocoa.”

   Brackett looked at the mug then at Kenzi. “Go ahead,” she said, lifting the mug, “it’ll help take the chill out of the night air.”

   “Thank you, Doctor,” said Brackett, taking the mug.

   “Kenzi.”

   Brackett smiled. “Okay…Kenzi, I’m Mike.” He held out his hand. Kenzi giggled as she shook his hand. “There now we’ve formally introduced,” said Brackett.

   They stood for a moment sipping their cocoa and listening to the night sounds. Kenzi looked up into the night sky, nudged Mike and pointed to the shooting star overhead.

   “They say you get a year of good luck and a wish if you see a shooting star."

   “We could use a year of good luck right about now. What are you gonna wish for?” asked Mike.

   Kenzi smiled at Brackett and shook her head. “They say if you tell your wish it won’t come true. So, I’ll just wait and see.”

   She, sheepishly, smiled again and sipped her cocoa, looking at Brackett out of the corner of her eye. Mike chuckled and drained the cocoa from the mug and handed it back to her.

   “As much as I’d like to stand here and chat, I do have a job to do. Thank you for the cocoa and we’ll have to do this again sometime.”

   “Anytime, Mike, you know where to find me. Maybe next time you can stay a little longer.”

   Brackett smiled at Kenzi, shouldered his rifle and gave her a wave as he resumed his walk along the perimeter.

   Kenzi shook the few drops of cocoa from the mug and walked toward Renita Cortez who poked at the Freelancer’s fire with a stick causing a flurry of sparks to dance up into the night air.

   Maia, sitting next to Cortez, smiled at Kenzie when she took a vacant seat at the fire.

   “Hi, Doctor Kenzi,” she said, her big brown eyes sparkling in the fire light.

   “Hello, Maia.”

   “How’s things with you and the Sarge?” asked Cortez.

   Kenzi sat back from the fire with a wide-eyed surprised look on her face.

   “Oh, come on, Doc, you been fawning over Brackett ever since we woke up,” said Cortez.

   “Is it that obvious?”

  “Kenzi, you light up like a Christmas tree every time he comes within fifty feet of you. Everybody sees it but you. But, don’t worry, all the guys are with ya.”

  “Oh my,” said Kenzi, “you think Mike noticed too?”

  “If he didn’t he’s blind.”

  “It’s that obvious, huh?”

   Cortez nodded. “Jingle Bells.”


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 11...Part 2


     The flat, grassy lowland soon turned into an endless series of hills and valleys as the column of vehicles made their way across the landscape. They glided over the top of one of the hills and scattered a herd of the long haired horses the Freelancers had encountered earlier.

    Mike Brackett throttled down the battle car when they approached a swift flowing river in the valley between two of the hills. He stopped the battle car, set it down in the tall grass and scanned the looming treeline on the opposite bank of the river.

    “What do you think, Charlie?” asked Brackett.

    The big Indian slid from his seat and walked to river’s edge, looked up and down the roiling river, then studied the treeline on the far bank. He cocked his head and tried to listen to the forest sounds muffled by the river.

    “Camp here,” said Charlie, “recon the other side tomorrow.” He turned and walked back toward the battle car.

    “What’s the hold up, Sergeant?” crackled Gordon Miles.

    Brackett pressed the mic to his throat. “We’re camping here, Mister Miles.”

    “We still have daylight left, Sergeant. We’ll cross the river and camp on the other side.”

    “No can do, Mister Miles. Charlie thinks it would be better to cross tomorrow.”

    “Is Charlie running the show now, Sergeant?”

    “He is today. We’re camping here.”

    “Very well, Sergeant. Set up the perimeter.”

    Billy Gilroy was setting up the perimeter stakes when Corporal Hodges spotted Gordon Miles striding toward them. “Here comes trouble,” he whispered, leaning toward Mike Brackett.
    “Sergeant,” shouted Gordon Miles when he spotted Brackett, “I want to talk to you.”

    The Freelancers stopped what they were doing and watched as Mike Brackett waited for Miles to reach them.

    “Sergeant…” started Gordon Miles. Brackett held up his hand to silence the expedition leader.

    “Let’s clear something up here, Mister Miles,” said Brackett. “We were brought along to provide security for you and that’s what we’re doin’. If any of my people, at any time, have a problem with continuing on, for any reason, we stay put until the problem has been taken care of.”

    “But, I’m in charge here,” said Miles.

   “Then charge yourself right on across that river, but you’re gonna do it without us. At least, until such time as Charlie feels comfortable with moving on. And right now, Charlie wants to recon the other side before we cross the river. You’re in charge of the whole shebang, Mister Miles, but I’m in charge of getting’ us wherever we’re going in one piece. Do we understand each other?”

    Gordon Miles scanned the faces of each of the Freelancers standing around their leader. His gaze settled back on Brackett.

   “Very well, Sergeant, keep me informed as to when Mister Two Sons deems it safe to move on.” He spun on his heels and strode back the way he’d come.

    Brackett looked up at the hum of the perimeter stakes as they lit their way around the camp. When the last stake lit and the hum died away, Brackett looked over at Corporal Hodges.

    “I guess we understand each other.”




Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 11...Part 1


     Gordon Miles sought out Mike Brackett when the last vehicle glided down the cargo bay ramp late the next morning. He waited nearby while the sergeant directed the final vehicle into its spot in the convoy.

     “We’re ready to go when you are, Mister Miles,” said Brackett.

     Miles looked down the line of vehicles gently floating over the sea of grass. “You can get the convoy moving, Sergeant, Max and I will take care of the last minute details.”

     “I’ll leave Billy and the trail vehicle for you since you’ll probably have to scoot in a hurry,” replied Brackett.

     Miles waved at Brackett in acknowledgement and returned to the transport where Max waited at the top of the ramp. The sergeant hurried to the front of the convoy and slid into the driver’s seat of the battle car where Charlie Two Sons, sitting in the passenger seat, and Corporal Hodges, standing behind the big gun, waited. He punched the four number code into the control panel. The slight vibration of the battle car dissipated as the fans wound up from a groan to a whine and settled into a soft hum.

     “Ready to go?” asked Brackett.

     “Onward and upward,” replied Hodges. “I know someone famous said that, I just don’t know who.”

     Mike Brackett chuckled as he throttled the battle car forward, setting the convoy into motion. The command vehicle, the biggest in the convoy, fell into line behind Brackett followed by Doc Hunnicutt driving Doctor Sheppard’s mobile sick bay. The project’s supply vehicle came next with Renita Cortez driving the Freelancer’s war wagon bringing up the rear.


     Billy Gilroy drummed on the steering wheel of the trail vehicle humming a tune, while he waited for Gordon Miles and Max to return. He looked over at the android when he slid into the passenger’s seat and the expedition’s leader vaulted into the seat in the bed of the vehicle.

     “Make haste, Mister Gilroy,” said Miles, buckling his seat belt.

     Gordon grabbed for the roll bar above his head when Billy slammed the throttle forward sending the trail vehicle scooting across the field of grass. The rear of the war wagon was in sight when he looked behind them to see the bright flash just before hearing the thunderous explosion.

     “You two are getting pretty good at this,” joked Billy. “Maybe, I’ll talk to Sarge about signin’ you up as demolition experts.”

     He throttled back the trail vehicle as they closed in on the war wagon and fell in line at the rear of the convoy.

     “That was a most exhilarating ride,” exclaimed Max. Billy looked over at the android and smiled.

     “Got our two demolition experts back safe and sound, Sarge,” said Billy, pressing the mic to his throat.

     “Copy that, Billy,” replied Brackett.

     Billy Gilroy shifted in his seat. “Might as well get comfortable, boys, and enjoy the view. It’s definitely different from what you’re used to.”

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 10...Part 2


     “Hodges, you can do the honors,” said Brackett.

     Corporal Kenneth Hodges strode back up the ramp, climbed into the first camouflaged vehicle and slid carefully into the driver’s seat. He punched the four number code into the control panel and started the ignition. The groan of the six large fans increased to a soft whine and slowly lifted the death dealing battle car off the deck.

    Hodges guided the vehicle down the ramp and drove it to the far end of the perimeter before setting it gently in the grass. Brackett sent Cortez, along with Maia, next for the troop transport that contained all of their weapons and equipment. She parked it next to the battle car.

     Hodges, untying a tarp in the bed of the battle car, looked up when Renita Cortez and Maia strolled up from the troop transport. The battle car, designed to hold a driver, a passenger and a gunner in the bed of the vehicle, was the newest weapon in the freelancer arsenal.

     Cortez watched with interest when Hodges climbed into the bed of the battle car. He reached down, grabbed the end of the tarp and removed it from around the pulse cannon.

     “You’re kiddin’ me, right?” asked Cortez.

     “Not kidding,” replied Hodges and grabbed the handle on the top of the weapon, turning it upright. “Help me with this.”

     Cortez climbed into the back of the battle car and helped Hodges lift the pulse cannon and secure it to the crossbar of the gun support.

     “We coulda used this a couple of days ago,” said Cortez.

     The painstaking job of unloading the transport ship continued until the slow descent of darkness caused Gordon Miles to call a halt to the day’s activity. The soft hum of the security fence and the methodic patrol of the freelancers soon surrounded the flickering fires and makeshift shelters.

     Charlie Two Sons stopped and looked out into the darkness when the familiar bellowing roar pierced the night air. Gordon looked over at Brackett sitting next to him around the fire.

     “Some of the planet’s wildlife?” .

     Mike Brackett looked over at Gordon Miles and smiled.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 10...Part 1


     “Here they come,” said Billy Gilroy, shading his eyes and pointing to the object in the distant sky.

     Sergeant Mike Brackett put his field glasses up to his eyes and scanned the horizon.

     “Pop smoke,” ordered Brackett his field glasses still locked onto the object in the sky.

     Billy Gilroy popped an orange smoke flare and threw it into the landing zone. Brackett pressed the mic to his throat.

     “We’ve popped smoke, Mister Miles.”

     “Yes, we can see it,” Gordon Miles crackled back.

     The freelancers spread out around the perimeter of the landing zone and watched as the transport ship loomed larger until it blocked out the sun and hovered above them.

      “Put ‘er down, Mister Miles,” said Sergeant Brackett into his throat mic and watched as the big ship settled gently into the grass.

     The freelancers gathered behind Mike Brackett as the transport engines whined down and the cargo bay ramp slowly started to lower. Gordon Miles, the first one down the ramp, looked around in wonderment.

     “What a beautiful place,” he exclaimed as he stepped from the bottom of the ramp.

     “I wouldn’t be so quick to say that,” whispered Doc and got a soft nudge in the ribs from Cortez.

     Doc feigned a painful look at Cortez. “It’s true.”

     Gordon spotted the new face in the group and walked over to where Cortez stood with her ward.. He leaned over and held out his hand.

     “You must be Maia,” he said with a smile, “I’m Gordon Miles.”

     Maia looked up at Renita Cortez who gave her a gentle prod with her finger. She looked back at Miles and shook his hand.

     “Hi, Gordon,” she said, barely above a whisper.

     “It’s nice to finally meet you. Welcome to our group,” replied Miles. He turned to Mike Brackett who was reuniting with Corporal Hodges and the rest of the freelancers.

     “Sergeant, shall we get this show on the road?” asked Gordon.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 9...Part 2


     “Don’t be getting’ all misty eyed on me, Max.”.

     “Sir?”

     “Don’t get all emotional,” explained Miles.

     “I am incapable of emotion,” replied Max.

     “Well, thank goodness for that. Now, what do we have to do to get this destruction sequence going so we can get out of here.”

      Max flipped up the red cover over three switches on the end of the control panel.

     “The first switch activates the system,” said Max, “the second switch activates the countdown clock and the third switch confirms the activation of the system and starts the clock.”

      “How long do we have once you flip the third switch?”

     “Thirty minutes.”

     “That should be plenty of times to get us safely away from here.”  Gordon punched the commlink button.

     “Corporal Hodges, are we ready to go?”

     “All wound up and waitin’ on you, Mister Miles.”

     Gordon turned to the android. “Let’s do this, Max.”

     “You go to the transport, I’ll be right behind you,” said Max.

      Gordon Miles slowly shook his head. “We’re leaving here together, Max. Get on with it.”

      The android flipped the first switch and a red glow encircled the switches. He then flipped the second switch and a similar red glow encircled the countdown clock. Max looked over at Gordon.

     “Do it,” said Miles, nodding toward the final switch.

     Max flipped the final switch and a pulsing red glow enveloped the cockpit.

     “Destruction sequence has been initiated. Thirty minutes to detonation,” announced the computer-generated voice over the intercom.

     “After you, Max,” said Miles, pointing toward the door.

     They hurried to the lift at the end of the pulsing red hallway and rode it down to the cargo bay. They jogged across the empty deck to the open hatch where Corporal Hodges waited for them.

     “Twenty five minutes to detonation.”

     Hodges secured the hatch while Max and Gordon hurried toward the transport’s cockpit.

     “Get us outta here, Max,” said Gordon, buckling his seat belt.

     The android gave the control panel a quick scan, and then backed the transport away from Genesis I. He turned her nose toward their looming destination and pushed the throttle forward sending the transport hurtling away from the sleeper ship.

     Max activated the rear view screen and watched Genesis I disappear behind them. He kept a vigilant watch on the screen until a bright light abruptly appeared on the screen, intensified, and quickly vanished. He didn’t throttle back the transport’s engines until the dissipating shock wave of the detonation gently jostled them as it passed over.

     Miles settled back into his seat and looked over at the android.

     “Take us home, Max.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 9...Part 1


    Doctor Kenzi Sheppard followed the small cargo mover out of sickbay and stopped at the door to take one last look around to make sure they hadn’t forgotten anything. Satisfied, she had taken everything she needed, she slapped at the light panel and left sick bay for the last time.

     She strolled down the quiet passageway on her way to the cockpit, looking into the empty rooms that not so long ago were full of life. For the past twelve hours cargo movers had crisscrossed through the halls of the sleeper ship taking necessities to the cargo bay for transfer. 

     Opening the door, she stepped into the cockpit where Gordon Miles sat with Max watching the bank of surveillance cameras that gave him a bird’s eye view of the transfer of equipment and supplies from the cargo bay of Genesis I to the transport.

     “They just took the last of the medical supplies,” Kenzi informed the expedition leader.

     “Good, as soon as Corporal Hodges loads his vehicles we’ll be ready to leave,” replied Gordon. “You might as well get aboard, Doctor.”

     “Do we have a place to land?”

     “Yes, Sergeant Brackett called a couple of hours ago. He said he would pop a flare when he sees us.”

     “See you on board, Gordon,” said Kenzi. She turned and walked back through the cockpit hatch.

     When the doctor closed the door behind her, the android pilot held out his hand to Miles. “It has been a pleasure getting to work with you, Mister Miles.”

     “What are you talking about, Max?”

     “I am to remain on board and initiate the destruction sequence when the transport is a safe distance away.”

     “No, you are not. You’re coming with us?”

     “Sir?”

     “You’ve piloted this ship for fifty years to get us here. You’re coming with us.”
    
     When the android started to object, Gordon Miles held up his hand.  “I’ll not argue with you, Max. If I have to hit your kill switch, shut you down and carry you to the transport, that’s what I’ll do. You’ve earned this as much or more than anyone here.”

      Gordon stared at Max and smiled as the android’s ever present, quirky smile seemed more pronounced than usual..

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 8



     Renita Cortez turned and looked at Billy Conroy when he slapped at his neck. She smiled as he swatted at the bug buzzing around his head.

     “They’re big enough to suck the blood right outta ya if ya let ‘em” said Billy, seeing Cortez looking back at him.

     Sergeant Brackett raised his hand to halt the group when he saw Charlie Two Sons coming back toward them.

     “I think we’ve reached the edge of the jungle up ahead,” the big Indian told Brackett. The sergeant nodded and waved the group forward, following Charlie to the break in the jungle ahead. They stopped at the outskirts of a huge clearing that extended as far as they could see.

     A herd of what looked like small, longhaired horses grazed on the sea of grass that lay ahead of them. The bellowing roar that the group had been hearing periodically during their time in the jungle caused the herd to stop grazing and raise their heads. Their twitching ears and searching eyes sought out the first sign of danger.

     The herd bolted a second before the gigantic, lizard like creature crashed through the edge of the jungle and raced across the clearing in pursuit. The lizard’s surprising speed closed the gap between it and the fleeing horses quickly, setting its sights on the smallest horse struggling to keep up with the herd.  Stretching his neck, the predator lunged at its prey.

     The lizard rolled in the short grass, kicking up a light dust cloud, and rose from the ground with the flailing horse clamped tightly in its jaws. With one violet shake of its head, the lizard flung his prey to the ground, securing it with a clawed forefoot. The giant raised its head to the sky and bellowed a roar of triumph.

     Maia wrapped her arms tightly around Cortez’s thigh and looked up at her guardian. The freelancer patted the young girl’s shoulder and leaned over to Billy Gilroy standing beside her.

     “And you’re worried about big bugs,” she said and turned her attention back to the scene unfolding in front of them.

     The giant lizard flicked his forked tongue and looked at the herd disappearing in the distance. It lowered its head, picked up the horse in its jaws and moved slowly back toward the jungle.

     The freelancers stood motionless until the crashing movement of the big lizard faded in the distance. A final triumphant roar echoed through the jungle marking the predator’s exit and broke the tension of the tight group looking on.

     “Again I say, welcome to our new home, people,” said Mike Brackett, setting the safety on his pulse rifle.

     “Lord, help us,” said Doc Hunnicutt, slowly crossing himself, “we don’t know what we’ve gotten ourselves into.”

    Maia didn’t release the tight hold she had on Renita Cortez’s thigh until the quiet jungle slowly started to return to life.

    “You alright?” Cortez asked her ward, getting a nod and a half smile in return.

     Mike Brackett pressed the mic to his throat. “Mister Miles.”

     “Yes, Sergeant,” replied Gordon Miles. “It’s good to hear from you.”

     “We’ve found a place that will accommodate the transport ship. We should be able to set up here for a couple of days until we can get her cargo bay unloaded. We’ll scout a perimeter and get back to you.”

     “Very well, Sergeant, we’ll get things together up here and wait for you to give us the go ahead.”

    Brackett turned to the group standing around him. “Alright, people, let’s give ‘em somewhere to land.”

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 7...Part 2


     When daylight trickled through the jungle canopy, Charlie moved around the dieing campfire waking his comrades. It wasn’t long before they were digging through their rucks for MREs.

     “Wanna go see what our friends look like?” asked Brackett, walking up beside Charlie Two Sons.

     “Mind if I tag along?” asked Doc Hunnicutt.

     “Come ahead,” replied Brackett.

     They walked three abreast into the grassy clearing between the village and the fence. Halfway to the fence they came across the first bushy haired body.

     “Sure ain’t pretty to look at, are they?” commented Doc, looking down at the loin clothed corpse of the Mukmow.

     Brackett put the barrel of his pulse rifle on the chin of the Mukmow and opened his mouth to reveal a set of large pointed teeth.

     “Could we move on now?” asked Doc, swallowing hard. Brackett chuckled at Doc Hunnicutt as they walked away from the body.

     They moved around the clearing stopping at each of the corpses, some of them looking more vicious than the one before, but each of them equally intimidating.

     “I don’t think I’ll sleep again until we get out of this jungle,” said Doc when they finally returned to the campsite.

     After finishing their breakfasts, the Freelancers put out the fire and readied themselves to resume their mission.

     “We’re movin’ out, Mister Miles,” said Brackett, pressing the mic to his throat.

     “How was your night, Sergeant?” replied Gordon.

     “Interesting to say the least. We got to meet some of the locals.” He proceeded to tell Gordon Miles about their experience of the night before.

     “Well, good luck today, Sergeant,” said Gordon.

     “Alright, people, we’re burnin’ daylight,” said Brackett.  With Charlie Two Sons again at point and Maia between Renita Cortez and Doc Hunnicutt, the Freelancers moved out across the clearing and left the village behind.

                                                            * * * *

     Gordon Miles switched off the commlink and sat back in his chair and stared at the slow swirling colors of Planet C1789. Max looked over at the leader of the expedition.

     “Having second thoughts about coming, Mister Miles?” asked the android. Gordon Miles looked back at his pilot and smiled.

     “On the contrary, Max, I envy Sergeant Brackett and wish I could be down there with him. Being the first human to set foot on another planet’s surface, finding new and wondrous things. It’s all so exciting, Max,” said Miles, his excitement evident in his eyes.

     “I hope you still feel that way once we get down there, sir,” replied the android.

     “I have to, Max, we have no where else to go.”

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 7...Part 1


     Charlie Two Sons squatted away from the fire, the butt of his rifle rested on the ground in front of him, the barrel leaning against his shoulder. The soft breeze worked its way through the jungle and gently caressed the loose strands of his hair. He scanned the darkness beyond the flickering firelight, searching for the slightest movement.

     He heard them brush the fence an instant before he saw their small shadows scurry along the edge of the firelight. Suddenly he wished he’d let Billy set up the perimeter fence. He picked up his rifle and crept to the fire where Mike Brackett slept and lightly shook his shoulder. He covered the sergeant’s mouth with his big hand when Brackett awoke with a startle.

     “We got company,” whispered Charlie and removed his hand from the sergeant’s mouth.

     “Where?” Brackett whispered back.

     “Coming through the hole in the fence.”

     The sergeant sat up slowly, dragged his rifle into his lap and looked up at Charlie kneeling on one knee next to him. “On the count of three,” Brackett whispered.

     He checked the power gauge on his pulse rifle and nodded at Charlie.

     “One…”

     “Two…”

     “Three…”

     Both men lit up the clearing with rifle fire. The rest of the squad, awakened by the sudden violence, joined in the fray, firing blind into the night. The chaos ended as quickly as it had began.

     “Nothing like lettin’ us know when we got trouble,” scolded Billy.

     “Didn’t have time to give you a personal invitation,” replied Brackett.

     Charlie studied the darkness around them. “I don’t think we’ll have any more trouble with them tonight.”

     Moving away from the fire, the big Indian resumed his vigil.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 6...Part 2


     “I’m called Cortez.”

     A loud voice calling Renita’s name caused Maia to move closer to her and hug her arm.

    “In here, Sarge,” shouted Cortez. “It’s okay, they’re friends,” she assured Maia.

     Mike Brackett appeared in the door of the hut and Maia shrank in closer to Cortez. She wrapped her arm around Maia and patted the young girl’s shoulder.

     “Well, what have we here?” asked Brackett.

     “Sarge, this is Maia,” said Cortez. “ Maia, this is Sergeant Mike.”

     “Hi, Sergeant Mike,” said Maia, peeking around Cortez.

     “Where’d you find her?” asked Brackett.

     Cortez pointed to the open trap door. “They were hiding her from something.”

     Brackett slung his rifle on his shoulder rifle barrel down and squatted next to Cortez. “What happened to the rest of your village, Maia?”

     She looked up at Cortez and then at Brackett. “Mukmows,” she said.

     “What the hell is a Mukmow?” said Billy Gilroy, huddled in the doorway between Doc Hunnicutt and Charlie Two Sons.

     “They’re little,” said Maia, stretching her hand out, palm down, about 3 feet off the floor.

     “Do they have bushy hair?” asked Doc, holding his hands out around his head.

     Maia nodded. “And very mean,” she added, trying to make a mean looking face.

     “I knew it,” said Doc, “that’s what I saw out there and you all thought I was heat struck.”

     Billy looked at Doc and growled, showing his teeth. “You’re stupid,” said Doc and shoved Billy into Charlie.

     “I’m going to tie you both together and give you up as a peace offering,” said Charlie Two Sons.

     Doc Hunnicutt frowned at the big Indian. “Don’t even joke about that, Charlie.”
Billy growled at Doc again and got jostled in return.

     “They came at night,” continued Maia. “My mother put me in the hole, just before they took her. I was scared to come out until you found me.”

     Cortez gave Maia a squeeze. “You’re safe now.”

     Brackett rose from his squat and unslung the rifle from his shoulder. “Well, you found her, she’s your responsibility now.”

     He turned to the three men in the doorway. “Billy, before it gets dark, you and Doc build a fire away from the village. We’ll huddle up there for the night. We’re not going to run the risk of getting caught separated in the huts. Charlie, you’re with me.”

     He turned to Cortez. “You got nanny duty.” Renita Cortez looked down at Maia and gave her another hug.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 6...Part 1


     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.

     “Name?”

     “What do they call you?”

     “Maia,” replied the girl and took a bigger bite from the chocolate bar.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 5...Part 2


     By the time the first ray of light filtered through the jungle canopy, the team was up and ready to move out. They made a last sweep of the shuttle and the camp and assembled around Mike Brackett. 

     “Two Sons you got point. Billy, make sure nobody or nothing comes up on our six,” ordered Brackett.

     Charlie pulled the machete from the scabbard attached to his ruck and started off across the clearing followed by Mike Brackett, Doc Hunnicutt, Renita Cortez and, after taking a last look around the camp site, Billy Gilroy.

     Two Sons found a trail into the jungle, but soon was wielding the machete to keep the trail open. Doc Hunnicutt slapped at the insect using his neck for a feeding ground.

     “Damn bugs,” cursed Doc.

     “Stop complaining, Doc,” said Renita Cortez, “I thought you signed up for adventure.”

     “My idea of adventure doesn’t include getting eaten alive by insects in a jungle,” replied Doc, slapping his neck again.

     The trail widened, the jungle thinned out and Brackett halted the team. “Take five.”

     Doc Hunnicutt dropped heavily to the ground and leaned back against his ruck. Slight movement in the jungle across the trail caught his attention. A bushy head popped up in the low cover, then disappeared just as quickly. He rubbed his eyes and looked back into the jungle. The head popped up and disappeared again. Doc sat up and nudged Cortez sitting next to him.

     “Hey, Cortez, did you see that?” he whispered.

     “See what, Doc?” replied Cortez, never lifting her chin from her chest or opening her eyes.

     “Those little bushy heads.”

     Cortez opened her eyes and looked at Doc Hunnicutt. “What?!”

     Doc turned to Brackett hunkered down next to him. “You seen ‘em, didn’t you, Sarge?”

     “Seen what, Doc?” replied Brackett, watching the big black ants file across the trail.

     This time two heads popped up and disappeared. “We’re being watched.”

     Cortez and Brackett both looked at Hunnicutt. “By who, Doc?” asked Brackett.

     “The little guys with the bushy hair.”

     Cortez looked over at Brackett. “I think the heat’s got him, Sarge.”

     “Have a drink of water, Doc, cool you off a little,” said Brackett. He patted Doc Hunnicutt on the shoulder and stood up. “We’re burning daylight, people.”

     The team got to their feet and adjusted their rucks. They continued on down the trail and before long the jungle closed around them again and Charlie Two Sons was back wielding the machete. An hour later, Charlie broke through the dense jungle into a clearing. “Sarge,” Charlie called to Brackett behind him.

     Mike Brackett walked up beside Charlie standing at the edge of the jungle. Huddled in the middle of the clearing was a small, fenced village.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 5...Part 1



     Billy Gilroy pushed the last of the long stakes into the ground completing the circle around the shuttle. “You sure these things are gonna work?” asked Doc Hunnicutt, walking up behind him.

     “Guaranteed,” replied Billy, taking a small black box from his rucksack.

     “Guaranteed by who?”

     “Never mind, by who. They’re gonna work.”

     “How you gonna collect on the guarantee if they don’t?”

     “Doc, just watch, oh you of little faith,” said Billy and pressed the red button on top of the black box.

     The top third of the stake in front of them hummed and started to glow. As the glow intensified, the top of the stake to the right of it started to glow and the process continued all around the shuttle. When the last stake lit up to complete the circle, the hum subsided.

     “That’s it?” asked Doc.

     “Ain’t nothin’ gonna get through that perimeter now,” boasted Billy.

     “You’re sure?”

     “Test it.”

     Doc looked down at the ground around them and picked up a large pod that had fallen from one of the trees. He looked at Billy again.

     “Go ahead,” challenged Billy and waved a finger toward the stakes.

     Doc tossed the pod between two of the stakes in front of them. It disappeared in a bright flash of light.

     Billy leaned up close to Doc. “Like I said, nothin’ gets through. You’ll sleep like a baby tonight.”


     Doc Hunnicutt watched the mini light show as the perimeter fence zapped the night flying insects that ventured too close. His trance was broken as Charlie walked through his line of sight. The Indian would periodically stop and look intently into the dark jungle,then continue pacing the perimeter.

     “I never seen Charlie so spooked,” said Doc to Mike Brackett, sitting next to him at the fire. “He ain’t ever been scared of nothin’.”

     Brackett’s eyes followed the Indian along the fence line. “Charlie’s always known who he was fighting and always felt in control. He don’t feel that way now.”

     A crackling bright flash lit up the night and Charlie raced behind the shuttle firing his pulse rifle as he ran. He was replacing the power cell when the rest of the team came around the corner.

     “Whatever it was, it ain’t no more,” said Billy.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 4...Part 2


    “Let’s go, people, you need an invitation? Saddle up,” said Brackett, as he walked past his seated scout party still viewing the scenery.

     “Fifty years in the making,” said Doc Hunnicutt. He unbuckled his harness and rose from his seat.

     Brackett unlocked the arms locker and swung the doors open. One by one, the Freelancers armed themselves, then made way for the one behind them.

     Billy Gilroy, standing next to Renita Cortez, jumped up and down twice checking for loose equipment. He poked Cortez and nodded toward the arms locker where Charlie Two Sons was applying camouflage to his face.

     They watched him dip his finger into a small tin of the face paint and make a broad stripe from his hairline, down his forehead to the tip of his nose. Then, he dipped two fingers into the tin, spread his fingers into a vee and made two broad stripes from his nose, across his cheek to his ear. He repeated the process on his other cheek.

     “He’s putting on war paint,” whispered Cortez.

     Gilroy slowly turned his head away from Two Sons and looked at Cortez. “I ain’t ever seen him do that before. I hope he don’t start dancin’ around.”

     Two Sons loosened the tie binding his hair, let it fall to his shoulders, then tied a camouflage bandana around his forehead. Finally, he took a broad blade hunting knife from the locker, slipped it in the scabbard on his belt and closed the locker doors.
    
    “You think he’s plannin’on takin’scalps?” asked Gilroy.

    Cortez rolled her eyes at Billy and gave him a push toward the shuttle hatch where Sergeant Brackett waited patiently watching his locked and loaded scout party assemble in front of him.

    “All right, people, let’s do this. We don’t know what to expect out there, so stay alert,” he said and punched the panel on the wall beside the hatch.

     The hot, humid jungle air rushed around the lowering ramp and into the faces of the scout party. Brackett was the first one down the ramp and surveyed the clearing until his troops assembled around him. He pressed the mic to his throat.

     “We have boots on the ground, Mister Miles,” said Brackett.

      “Very well, Sergeant,” Gordon Miles crackled back, “Keep us posted on your progress.”

     “Copy that,” replied Brackett.

     He looked over at Charlie Two Sons when the big Indian walked by him and out to the edge of the clearing. Charlie looked up into the trees, tilting his head as if to hone in on the sounds of the jungle.

     “Charlie is really startin’ to creep me out,” said Billy Gilroy, standing behind Brackett.

     “Set up a perimeter,” said Brackett, ignoring Billy’s comment. When Billy returned to the shuttle, Brackett walked toward Charlie.

     “What’s wrong, Charlie?” he asked when he walked up beside the Indian.

     Charlie Two Son’s eyes never stop scanning the treetops. He looked down to try to catch what scurried through the dense jungle ahead of him. A loud, bellowing roar suddenly echoed through the jungle flushing hundreds of birds from their hidden perches. The Indian watched until the birds settled back into the trees.

     “You've not seen the likes of the dangers that stalk this planet.” Charlie looked at Brackett. “You may wish you’d taken your chances back on earth.”

     Charlie returned his gaze back to the jungle and focused on the slight movement in the jungle ahead of him.
    “I see you,” he whispered as a small shadow moved deeper into cover.

    Charlie turned and looked at Brackett as he walked back toward the shuttle where Billy Gilroy, Renita Cortez and Doc Hunnicutt were busy setting up their camp.

    Brackett looked up at the birds flitting around in the trees, then down at the spot where Charlie saw the small shadow. A flicker of movement caught his eye. He looked up again at the trees, then turned and followed Charlie back to the shuttle.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Genesis Project...Chapter 4...Part 1


                                                    

     “I guess it’s time, Sarge,” said Private Billy Gilroy when he saw Gordon Miles exit the lift onto the shuttle deck. Sergeant Mike Brackett turned and waited for the captain of the Genesis I to reach them.

     “I just came down to tell you we’ve achieved orbit and you can leave whenever you get ready,” said Gordon, when he reached the group. “You going with them?” he added, seeing Brackett dressed in his combat gear.

     “Yes sir, I am.”

     “You thing that’s wise, Sergeant? You’ve already lost Major Grayson.”

     Brackett looked at his men, then back at Miles. “We adapt, Mister Gordon, and besides, I wouldn’t send my men anywhere I wouldn’t go myself. Corporal Hodges is perfectly capable of taking care of anything that might arise while I’m gone.” Hodges touched his finger to his forehead and smiled.

     “We’ll leave within the hour,” said Brackett.
                                                    
                                                            
   Planet C1789 slowly revealed itself as the outside door to the shuttle deck lifted. Sergeant Brackett pushed the throttle forward and propelled the shuttle into the vacuum surrounding Genesis I.

     Private Billy Gilroy occupied the seat beside Brackett. Seated behind them were Doc Hunnicutt, Private Renita Cortez and Private Charlie Two Sons. They all watched with anticipation as the shuttle neared its destination.

     The shuttle cleared the cloud cover and hugged the top of the dense jungle canopy as Mike Brackett searched for a suitable place to land.

     “There,” said Billy Gilroy and pointed to a break in the canopy that suddenly appeared below them.

     Brackett turned the shuttle and throttled down as they closed in on the canopy break. Hovering the shuttle, he took a quick look at the clearing below.  “Looks as good a place as any.”

    He throttled down the engine and began a slow descent through the canopy. The shuttle dropped through the light starved treetops and settled on the jungle floor below. Brackett shut down and secured the engines and they all sat for a moment listening to the sounds of the jungle.

     “Welcome to your new home, people,” said Brackett and unbuckled his seat belt, breaking the silence in the shuttle.

     “You got to be kiddin’ me,” said Billy Gilroy, straining to see as far into the jungle as he could.