Aphelion Issue 217, Volume 21
May 2017
 
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Fear



By Jonathan Snyder




  Feet churned the scorched ground kicking up dead leaves and burnt grass. His heart beat so hard that it felt as if it would burst from his armored chest and panicked breath fogged up his anti-fogging helmet. The rush of blood rang in his ears drowning out the screams of the dying and the crunching of his soles on the dirt path.

The ground rumbled, threatening to pitch him over as close support star fighters roared overhead. Somewhere up ahead a bright green ball of energy erupted into a massive fireball tossing trees like toothpicks.

“Harry! Get to cover!”

That was his name, Harry. Someone was screaming it over his earpiece. Had more survived the botched drop? Mentally kicking his suit in to IFF scan, two green silhouettes appeared overlaid on his helmet’s visor. Though there were blasted tree trunks and smoke between them and his visor, Harry’s computer in his suit made sure he could see them. Changing his panicked course, Harry crashed through the brush and bushes to fall and slide to a stop by them.

“Where have you been?” Chu demanded, his voice raspy from fear and exhaustion. “, they’ve sounded retreat.”

Already? Harry glanced to his holographic status display in the corner of his visor. The antenna symbol was flashing a blood red.

“My sat-com is shot.”

“Dude, the Skrell just kicked our asses.” Boomer echoed from the corner of the overturned tree trunk where he was crouched down. The soldier gripped his repeating laser rifle to his scorched, armored chest.

“We’ve got to move and we’ve got to move quick,” Chu continued. Though only a private, he had more combat drops than Harry and Boomer together. “I’m not getting any other signals from our squad. Closest painted evac is three clicks from here. Echo squad was heading there only fifteen minutes ago. “

“We should have followed them.” Boomer wailed clutching his weapon closer.

“We don’t leave anyone behind, moron. Grow a pair and get ready to move,” Chu growled, throwing a clump of dirt at him. “Unless you want to stay on this damn rock.”

Harry continued to gulp down air his suit’s filtration system, the nagging thought that there were twenty four in his squad kept bothering him. Were these two the only survivors of his squad?

“Come on. Let’s go before the shuttles leave us behind. Skrell don’t take prisoners.”

Oh, how Harry had heard that many times. Tales of the strange humanoid like aliens with pale green skin and their advanced energy weapons filtered through the ranks. Gideon, the planet they were on, was supposed to be the first strike for Terra to take back and that had failed miserably. Why would you call retreat after only two hours on the ground unless you were completely routed?

“Harry! Wake up!” Chu said slamming his fist against the stunned man’s face plate. The gel layer around Harry’s nose and eyebrows easily absorbed the blow.

“I’m...I’m here!”

“We’re moving on the count of three.”

Boomer and Chu were both crouched down ready to run down the woody path Harry had come running up panicking.

“Now!”

The trio charged forward in a desperate bid for safety. Harry’s agonized gasps echoed through his lungs burned from the exertion. The nano-filament muscles of his suit assisted his run, but his own muscles were beginning to fade even with the adrenalin pumping through his system.

“I’ve got a ping!” Chu screamed in the helmet comm.

Harry’s heart beat harder. A lander’s artificial intelligence had just located them and alerted its ground crew of their impending arrival. That meant Terran forces were still on the ground. The trio broke into a lush green clearing and his eyes focused on the sleek dark colored shuttle sitting there with its hatch open. A heavy mech trooper stood on guard, its massive 50 caliber machine gun arms swaying back and forth, sending bursts of tungsten steel towards targets the shuttle pinpointed. Three soldiers waved towards Harry and his friends.

‘Feet don’t fail me now!’

They were only half way across the field when a bright light filled his visor. He felt himself being lifted into the air and hurled forward. The jarring impact sent a shuddering pain through his skeleton. Water ran from his eyes as Harry tried to get an idea where he was. His face was planted into the ground and he painfully turned it towards a new crater that had appeared near him. The remains of the charred armor and burnt remains of his two comrades clearly visible. Hands grabbed him and drug him towards the waiting shuttle bay door of the welcoming shuttle. Harry could not take his eyes off of the crater as the hatch began to lower shut and the vessel lifted off the ground and climbed towards the star carrier waiting above.

“What the hell happened?” he blurted out as the medical technician ripped the helmet from his head and began to activate the emergency disconnect of his armor’s joints.

“Easy, soldier.” a major said from Harry’s as he studied a holographic map projector.

“The hell I will!” Harry said trying to wrench himself off the shuttle floor, but the pain and broken spine kept him from moving. “We just got our asses handed to us.”

The major did not even bother to look his way, but handed a small computer to a nearby sergeant. “The diversionary tactic worked. We’ve drawn off their forces from the capital.”

So, it was a feint. His friends had died for a fake attack to distract the enemy.

Harry did not know if it was stress or a gut reflex action that made him do it, but the thought that he just witnessed the death of his friends and fellow comrades to simply cause the enemy to look away made him snapped. Harry reached for his laser pistol strapped to his hip and drew it.

‘To hell with this war.’

THE END




2015 Jonathan Snyder

Bio: Jonathan Snyder has been writing stories since his mother handed him a college type writer at the age of twelve. With a love for stories and the written word, he has continued to share his work with anyone willing to hold still long enough to be caught

E-mail: Jonathan Snyder

 

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