Mega 4: Behemoth Island (6 page)

BOOK: Mega 4: Behemoth Island
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“Good,” Thorne replied. “Anyone want to guess what those were?”

“Velociraptors?” Shane asked.

“Same family, but not quite,” Darren said. “I think. I don’t know much about prehistoric reptiles, just enough to play Jeopardy. I’m more the ocean mammals guy.”

“We all have our kinks,” Shane said.

“Hey!” Max barked into the com. “You guys good?”

“Yes,” Thorne reported. “How is the beach?”

“Secure,” Max said. “Maybe you’d like to head back this way? I think the sun is going to set soon. You’ve been out there for a couple hours now. It’ll take you about an hour to get back. Darby is making s’mores.”

“I am not,” Darby responded over the com. “We are out of marshmallows.”

“My bad,” Shane said. “It was a moment of weakness. A six bag, no stopping until gorged, moment of weakness.”

“It’s why stoners make shitty survivalists,” Darren said. “They’d eat all the provisions the first night.”

“I resemble that remark,” Shane said.

“Daddy? The call?” Kinsey asked.

She handed him his M4 then walked over and retrieved her own. She slapped in a fresh magazine and looked over, expectantly. The whole Team did.

“Back to base,” Thorne said. “We regroup and try again at dawn. We know more than we did when we first came in here.”

Team Grendel nodded then moved into formation, the same as before yet pointed in the opposite direction. They made it about twenty yards before the world exploded into a chaotic blur of giant, leathery flesh and mangled foliage.

 

***

 

Standing on the beach, their weapons aimed at the jungle, Max and Darby could do nothing about the sounds they heard in their coms. The yelling, the shooting, the roars. The panic.

“Darby,” Max hissed.

“We hold the beach,” Darby said. “We stay at base and wait.”

The shots stopped. So did the roars.


Darb
y
,” Max hissed louder. “We can’t leave them in there.”

“We are not leaving them,” Darby said. “We are following orders and maintaining our position.”

Max started to take a step and Darby slammed a fist into his shoulder.

“Fuck!” he shouted, his arm going numb. His rifle dipped and he glared over at her. “What the hell?”

“You have to wait at least twenty minutes before you have full use of that arm,” Darby said. “You go in that jungle and you are dead.”

“So, I wait twenty minutes and go in then,” Max snapped.

“I’ll only punch you again,” Darby said. “And if that doesn’t stop you then I’ll dislocate your shoulder.”

“What good will that do?” Max shouted. “I’ll be useless and defenseless.”

“I’ll defend us both,” Darby said. “Here. At the base. On the beach.”

“Darby!” Max yelled.

“NO!” Darby roared. “You stay with me, goddammit! You will not die in that jungle! I won’t let it happen!”

Max took a couple of steps back and looked at her. She refused to turn his way, keeping her M4 pointed at the jungle. But he saw the tear that welled in her eye. He saw how her jaw quivered.

“Hey, hey, it’s cool,” Max said softly. “I’m staying right here.”

“Yes, you fucking are,” Darby snapped, her voice choked with emotion. “You are staying right here.”

“Right here,” Max said, nodding. “We’ll wait for them.”

“Right here,” Darby said.

Max rolled his shoulder a couple times until it didn’t hurt too much then took his stance again, rifle up and aimed at the jungle.

The two of them held their position for nearly an hour, occasionally calling over the com for the others, but the steady hiss of static told them that they weren’t getting any answers soon. The sun began to dip over the jungle and the glare made it nearly impossible to keep up their guard.

“We should eat,” Max said finally. “We’ll keep watch, but we need to eat. And drink water. We’ve been standing here forever.”

“You eat,” Darby said. “I’m good.”

“Fuck that,” Max said. “You’re eating with me. We’ll face the jungle while we munch on some lovely dehydrated shit, followed by a dessert of dehydrated crap. I prefer the crap and would leave the shit untouched, but you can’t have your pudding unless you eat your meat.”

He slung his rifle and jogged back to the camp they had set up. After rummaging for a minute, he jogged back with two pouches and two forks in hand. He smacked the pouches hard and watched as they swelled up, puffing into Mylar balloons. Max ripped open one, stuffed a fork into the steaming contents, and handed it to Darby.

She took it after hesitating a few seconds, sniffing at the food without attempting to hide her disgust.

“Smells like shit,” she said and jammed a forkful into her mouth. “Tastes like shit.”

“Yep,” Max said. “Never gets better.”

Before he tore his own pouch open, he dragged over two folding stools and set them into the soft sand. He took a seat, slapped the second stool for Darby to take a load off, then opened his meal. He swallowed hard, said a prayer under his breath, and ate as fast as he could.

Darby watched him with disgust as he finished his pouch in seconds, belched loudly, then tossed the empty container onto the sand.

“I’m going to pick it up,” Max said before Darby could get on him. “Ready for dessert? It’s total crap. Yummy.”

Darby shook her head as she choked down her main course. Unlike Max, she carefully chewed and swallowed each bite.

“You’re only making it worse,” Max said.

“I’m maximizing nutritional intake by chewing properly,” she said. “I’ll get more energy from the meal and need to eat less. Which means taste less in the future.”

“Oh,” Max said, looking at his empty container in the sand. “I should have chewed more.”

“Yes, you should have,” Darby agreed.

She finished her food and stood up, retrieving Max’s pouch for him without saying a word. He watched her dispose of the pouches then fetch them both two bottles of water. Seated once again, she handed him his water and then continued staring at the jungle.

Max stared with her then looked back at the beached Zodiacs.

“Should one of us go back and get Mike?” Max said. “We could use the numbers.”

“Ballantine will send him, if he feels it’s necessary,” Darby said. “I am sure he heard the whole thing.”

“Yet he hasn’t said a word,” Max said.

“Thorne specifically told him to stay out of operations,” Darby said, shrugging. “I think he listened for once.”

“They had to have heard the gunshots and roars,” Max said.

“They expected to hear gunshots and roars,” Darby said. “We didn’t come here to pick flowers.”

“So, we wait?” Max asked.

“We wait,” Darby said. “And we watch.”

Max sighed then settled in, his rifle resting in the crook of his arm, ready to snap to attention at the first sign of trouble.

 

***

 

The sky darkened and the sun set, creating a multitude of pinks, purples, reds, and oranges above the island. When the last of the light finally faded, Max stood, stretched and walked back to the main tent. He grabbed what he needed from a folding table and rejoined Darby.

“Here,” he said, handing over a set of NVGs. “Just in case.”

“I’m keeping my eyes natural,” Darby responded, but took the NVGs anyway. She clipped them to her belt, started to speak then shook her head and stayed quiet.

“What?” Max asked. “What do you want to say?”

He hadn’t donned his night vision goggles either, but he kept them resting on his leg, ready for action if he needed them.

“Sorry,” Darby said quietly.

“What the fuck for?” Max asked.

“For breaking earlier,” Darby said. “It was unprofessional.”

“Okay, okay, first, have you met me and my brother? We’re as far from professional as it gets,” Max replied. “Second, you call that breaking? Sugar tits, I have seen breaking and that was not it.”

Darby nodded, her head a silhouette in the brightening moonlight that reflected off the bay behind them. Max waited, but she didn’t continue.

“Care to tell me what got you so emotional, my little beast of deliciousness?” Max asked.

Darby laughed softly and reached out, patting his leg.

“Not right now,” she said. “But thank you.”

Max took her hand and kissed it. He started kissing her wrist then working up her arm until she gently pulled back.

“Don’t start,” she said, not unkindly. “We can’t get distracted.”

“Baby, I’m always distracted when you’re around,” Max replied. “But don’t tell Uncle Vinny that. He’d never let us go on an op together again.”

“I should tell him anyway,” Darby said. “A distracted shooter is a useless shooter.”

“Woman, I got skills enough to handle distraction and still get the job done,” Max laughed.

“Don’t call me woman,” Darby said. “Sugar tits is okay, though.”

Max laughed again. “I wish the rest of the Team could see you like this. They have no idea the Darby I know. Does Ballantine?”

Darby turned and looked directly at Max, but he couldn’t see the look on her face in the shadowed moonlight.

“Ballantine has seen me a lot of ways, but not like this,” Darby said. “This is for you. This is for me.”

“Got it,” Max said.

A spot in his chest warmed at her words. He knew he was really, really into Darby, but he hadn’t dared admit the “L word” to himself. That moment changed a few things. He was about to say as much when Darby started talking again.

“I watched them drag the girls into the jungle and there was nothing I could do,” Darby said. “They were fifteen, maybe, at the oldest. I wasn’t pinned down, but I had to hold my position and provide cover for the rest of the Team. The bastards kept coming at us and there was no stopping.”

Her whole body shuddered.

“By the time it was over, every one of them was dead,” Darby said.

Max waited. It took a minute, but Darby continued.

“The objective was to protect the mine,” Darby said. “It was small, not a huge producer, but worth enough that the company I worked for, not the “company” company, but a different outfit all together, had been hired as security until the latest load could be safely extracted and shipped out.”

“Where do the girls figure into it?” Max asked.

“They don’t,” Darby said. “Or they shouldn’t have. We were set up in a close village. Half of our Team was on site while the other half was in the village. We rotated out so there was twenty-four hour coverage. Nothing left to chance. Except we all know that’s bullshit, right?”

“No shit,” Max said.

“They came at us, some local gang,” Darby said. “They came at us in the village. I honestly don’t know if they were there to take us on or there for the girls. Doesn’t matter now. The firefight was brutal and we lost two of ours before we wiped them out. A few escaped, abandoning their junker trucks and SUVs in order to get lost in the jungle. I followed.”

She swallowed hard, picked up her water bottle, drained it, belched, then sat there, her head held straight, her hands worrying the grip of her carbine.

“Six of them,” Darby said. “They’d nabbed six of them. Dragged them into the jungle and destroyed them. Completely destroyed them. Even during a firefight like that the animals found time to whip out their dicks and have their fun. Then they went to work with machetes.”

“Fuck me,” Max whispered. He’d seen some nasty shit in Afghanistan, but not that nasty. “Where was this? Africa?”

“No,” Darby said. “Indonesia. A small island. Like this.”

“Oh,” Max said. It all clicked. Too many similarities jammed together. It could overwhelm anyone.

“One was left alive,” Darby said. “I had to make a choice. Let her live, with no hands or feet, her body so broken that it was doubtful there was a doctor within a thousand square miles that could put her back together. Or end her suffering right there in the jungle.”

Max let the silence settle. He didn’t ask her what choice she made. He was pretty sure he knew. The seconds, minutes ticked off in his head before he decided he should reach out to her. His hand was almost to her when he heard the rustling.

“Darby?” he whispered.

“I heard it,” she whispered back.

Max put on his NVGs and turned them on. The night vision goggles turned his vision into a monochromatic scene of green and black shadows. He scanned the area, but saw nothing. The rustling had stopped. Darby stood and put her carbine up to her shoulder, her face naked, no NVGs in place. Max didn’t worry. He knew she was part cat and could almost see perfectly in the dark.

There was a quick flash and then a sizzle and the NVGs on Max’s face began to spark and smoke.

“Fuck,” he exclaimed as he yanked them from his head and tossed them onto the beach, burying them in sand with his foot to stop the sparking and smoking. “These are no good.”

BOOK: Mega 4: Behemoth Island
9.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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