Horror and Thriller Science Fiction posted February 7, 2018

This work has reached the exceptional level
Two men on a mission deep into enemy territory

The Snow Kingdom Chapter 9 pt 5

by rtobaygo

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

SNOW KINGDOM SYNOPSIS:  It is the year 2359.  Two soldiers from the United Northern Alliance, Colonel Castille Tasca and Master Sergeant Rambika Maseru, have undertaken a clandestine mission deep into Snow Kingdom territory to test a new agent designed to kill coca plants the source of the Snow Kingdom’s cocaine, the very foundation of its power and wealth. 
Wariith: Over one-meter long, up to twenty-five kilograms, semi-sentient BGC carnivore.  Nocturnal, opportunistic, apex carnivore with a two-meter wingspan.  Uses night vision, echo location and infra-red to help locate its prey.  Known to hunt in packs of up to twenty, the average pack consists of between twelve to fourteen individuals.  Fearless, will attack any creatures including zanchets.  Can be found from the Andes’s foothills into Scavenger territories bordering the Atacama Desert.
Zanchet: Four to six-legged BGC, semi-sentient carnivore, length to three meters including tail, height approximately one-point five meters at the shoulder, weight up to two hundred and seventy-five kilos.  Opportunistic, nocturnal hunter/scavenger, with the ability to detect scents out to ten k’s.  Once locked onto a scent trail, are relentless in finding the source.  Basically, a solitary hunter, but has been known to hunt in small packs of two to three individuals.  Developed to keep scavenger clans bordering the Atacama region under control.  Program discontinued in 2339 due to the Snow Kingdom’s inability to modify the zanchets’ cerebral implants. Wild zanchet populations are found from the Andes foothills into the southern, western and northern fringes of the Atacama Desert.
ASAP: Acronym for as soon as possible.
STIM: short for stimulation shot used to negate fatigue and provide relief from minor pain over a twenty-four-hour period.
“So far, so good, Colonel.  Have some more bumps and bruises, but aside from that, I’m all right.” 
“Same here.”  He looked at the time.  “It’s zero two thirty.  If we move out now we could put fifteen to sixteen k’s between us and this damned rock before sunrise.”
“We could, Colonel, but I respectfully request we rest for another hour then push on.  Leaving the outcropping now might not be the best tactical move. Staying here gives us an ideal vantage point to see if we’ve attracted more attention.  If we have, I’d prefer making a stand here rather than being caught in the open, sir.”
Tasca sucked in his lips, and with a contemplative look, stared out over the desert.  “I can’t fault your logic, Sergeant.”  He turned to face Maseru.  “With the luck we’ve had, it’s the better move.  All right, we’ll wait another hour before moving out.  Get some sleep if you can.  I’ll handle the watch.  If I see anything, I’ll wake you.”
“Sorry, sir.  Too wired to sleep.  Considering our current situation, permission to use a stim, Colonel?”
He didn’t want use the them until they had reached the mouth of the Latal Gorge.  Tasca bit his lower lip and looked at the moon.  It’s a good a time as any, Castille.  We’ve got a long trek ahead of us and who knows what we’ll run into before we reach the gorge.  “All right, we’ll use it, but only one per twenty-four-hours.  When you’re finished, place the empty stim in your sleeve pocket.  I don’t want the Kingdom to know we’re using them.  Let’s do this, Sergeant.”
“Yes sir.”  Maseru took the stim and pushed the tip of it into his thigh then watched Tasca do the same.  “You’ve made the right decision, Colonel.  We’ll need to be at full strength ASAP.  There’s no telling what we’ll encounter in the next few hours.” 
“You’re right, we do.”  Tasca turned and studied the dead wariiths littered about the outcropping.  “Sergeant, we need to drag these winged son of-a-bitches at least eighty meters from the outcropping.  If there’s more predators living in this hell, I want them to find the wariith and not us.”
By the solemn expression on Tasca’s face he’d seen many times before, Maseru knew the Colonel desperately wanted to avoid another fight.  “Makes sense, sir.  Just how many did we kill?”
“By my count, thirteen, which means we need to haul ass.  You ready?”
“Yes, sir, ready.”
“All right, let’s get this done.”  As Tasca’s words faded into the foreboding darkness, they slowly, painfully forced themselves to stand, and, as they had numerous times before, waited for the stims’ effects to kick in. 
Maseru stretched his arms and smiled.  He found his dulled thoughts replaced with pristine, mental clarity, his fatigued muscles surge with strength and his pain dissipate.  He looked at Tasca and by the expression on the Colonel’s face, knew his stim had taken effect.
Without a word between them, and with considerable effort, they began the arduous task of dragging each wariith from their position to the area designated by the Colonel.
***************     ***************************   ***************
Leaning against the outcropping, Tasca stared at the pile of wariiths in the distance.  “The damn things weighed more than they looked.  Thank Christ, we’re done.  Even with the stim I don’t think I could’ve dragged another one.”
“I hear you, sir.  If you look at the size of their claws and teeth and how ugly they are, you can see why the Scavs fear them so much.”
“Yes, a definite nightmare, Ser --.”
A series of rapid pings alerted the men the scanners had detected movement towards their position.  Maseru looked at Tasca with disbelief.  “Goddamn it!  We forgot about the scanners!”
Without another word between them, they scrambled up the outcropping, Maseru the first to check the readouts.  I’ve three unknowns, distance three-point-two k’s, bearing six zero niner, true.  Speed about eight k’s.”
“Search the area with your teledars while I determine their course.”  There was a controlled anger in Tasca’s voice.  If the unknowns were headed towards the outcropping, he wanted them drawn to the dead wariiths and not their position.
“Yes, sir.”  Maseru studied the area stretching out towards the dark, ominous outline of the distant spines.  “So far I don’t see anything.  Let me make a final adj . . .  Sweet mother of God, I’ve got three large creatures approaching our position.  I’ve never seen animals like this before.”  Maseru lowered his teledars and turned to face Tasca, the light from the full moon bathing the Colonel’s face with an eerie bluish-white glow.  “Whatever they are, they’re over a meter tall at the shoulder.”
Tasca focused his teledars on the creatures.  “I don’t believe it . . . damn, they’re zanchets, all right, one male followed by two females.  They must smell the wariiths’ blood.”
            “This far out, sir?”
            “Yes.  The Scavs say they can detect a scent from ten k’s.  They must have locked on the blood from the first wariiths we killed, which explains why they’re headed this way.”
“That doesn’t sound very promising, sir.”  For a brief, specious moment, Maseru let his imagination create the hell they’d soon face only to have it reined in by the sound of Tasca’s voice.
            “If memory serves me, Sergeant, males have six legs, the females four with both sexes having three eyes.  The females aren’t as large as the males, but they’re just as dangerous if not more so.”
            “I’d prefer not to meet either, Colonel.”  Maseru continued to watch the zanchets close the distance between them. “Call it what you want, sir, but two predators in one night, both heading in our direction, is just insane.”
            “Yes, it is, isn’t it, but it doesn’t matter.  The zanchets know the wariiths are in this area.”  Tasca trained his teledars on the large fast-moving animals.  “If three zanchets can roam this far into the desert, what’s to stop more of them from doing the same?  Thank God, they didn’t detect our scent.  Fighting them would make our encounter with the wariiths seem like a spring shower compared to a thunderstorm.  I remember hearing stories from the Scavs on how a large male zanchet killed a pod of four stalkers.” 
“That I’d pay to see.  I take it’s a nocturnal hunter like the wariiths?”
            “Yes, but I’ll be damned why they left the spines.”  Frustrated, Tasca turned his head to one side and spat.  This was a development he hadn’t anticipated and didn’t want.  He had prepared himself for a possible encounter with the wariiths, but the zanchets were another matter entirely, one that could have dire consequences should they fail to realize the level of danger they presented.
            “Maybe they left the spines to hunt.”
“A good a reason as any until they smelled the wariiths’ blood.  The Scavs told me once a zanchet locks onto a scent trail, they’re relentless, that the only way to stop one is to kill it.”  On his first mission into Worlar territory, Tasca witnessed the carnage two zanchets unleashed on thirteen Scavs.  The visceral images he thought he’d buried deep within his subconscious, of the scavengers literally being torn apart limb by limb, surfaced with a brutal starkness.  He looked at the dead wariiths then in the direction of the closing zanchets, his mind creating scenario after scenario until he felt Maseru’s hand on his shoulder.
            “You okay, sir.  You seemed to drift off a bit.”
            “I’m fine, Sergeant.  Honest.  Just thinking.  Do you have an update?”

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