From the Ashes: CATU Book 6 Ch. 00byJoeBarnosky©
Three Weeks Ago
WARRANT OFFICE KATIE MATTHEWS SITS PERCHED high in a durian tree overlooking the hidden installation. Below, the remainder of her team slithers through the jungle floor's undergrowth.
The installation itself is covered almost completely, looking like the jungle is attempting to retake the land from those that built the facility. Matthews peers through her scope at the building, ignoring the drops of sweat that continue to pour down her face. The facility appears to be empty despite what Intelligence claimed.
"Matthews?" her commander's voice comes over her earpiece.
"Go ahead Nash," she answers in a near whisper.
"Approaching just underneath you."
"Copy that," she says not dropping her eye from scope. "So far you are in the clear. I'm not picking up any movement or sentries."
"Hang tight and watch our backs."
Matthews draws back to scan the line Nash and the others plan to take into the facility. When she is certain it's still clear she whips back up the line to the facility and scans left to right for the sixth time and still wondering why there is lack of any activity.
PETTY OFFICER JARED BRIDGES SLIDES UP next to his commander as he lays at the edge of the tree line. "What's up with this?" he whispers to Nash.
"I don't know, but Intel said it was overflowing with soldiers," Nash says shaking his head. "It could be they know we're here and they plan to ambush us."
"You really think that's it?" Bridges asks as he looks over his shoulder at the last member of the team, Jasper Mason.
"No, not really," Nash answers.
"You and Mason cut to the south three hundred yards then east to come up over there," he says pointing to the base of a large tree across the clearing.
"Roger," Bridges says with a nod. He turns and signals for Mason to follow.
As the two members snake through the overgrowth Nash switches frequencies over to Matthews. "Keep an eye out for an ambush," he says then pauses for a moment giving Matthews an opportunity to respond.
"Do you think it's an ambush?"
"No, but I do believe in being prepared," he answers sternly. "And Matthews?"
"If it gets too crazy here, you get out."
"Excuse me sir?"
"You heard me," he says sounding a little irritated."You get out of here."
"You know I'm not leaving the team behind," she protests.
Anger rises in Nash's voice. "You will get the fuck out and that's an order." Without another word he switches back over to their regular frequency. "Bridges, Mason, let me know when you've reached your goal. We'll strike together. Matthews be ready."
Each member gave their confirmation. He knows if Matthews wished to argue the matter she'd wait until after the mission was over. Nash was fairly certain the mission would go without a hitch, but there is something nagging at the back of his mind and it is enough to slither in and cast just a little doubt.
He pushes aside the thoughts and crawls out on his belly into the open grass toward a large fallen tree. The tree itself looks like something large had slammed into it and forced it over until the tree ripped leaving a torn stump in the ground. He sits up, pressing his back against the stump and looks around ensuring that there isn't any movement. Once he is satisfied that there isn't, he runs a check on his weapons and equipment.
After two minutes go by Bridges and Mason report in followed a moment later by Matthews confirming her readiness. Nash can hear the concern and frustration behind her voice, but he ignores it. He would deal with her lecture later.
"Alright," he says into his mic. "Use what cover you can. Advance in quickly and make sure you don't get pinned down. Leave yourselves a way out. If we have to retreat we'll meet at Rendezvous Point Alpha and wait for two hours then break to Point Beta. After that boys and girls you'll be on your own on getting out of here." Confirmation came over Nash's com. He gives a nod in Matthews' direction and says, "Lock and load."
As Nash steps out from behind the stump Mason and Bridges appear from the tree line. And nothing happens. Nash waves the other two men forward. "Do you see anything Matthews?" he asks into the mic.
"Nothing," she answers.
The three men shuffle from cover to cover over the expanse of grass until they reach the front doors. Matthews continues to scan not only the facility but the tree line but doesn't detect any movement other than the wind.
"Keep on guard," Nash orders everyone.
The jungle is filled with the noises of animals and wind; the same noises the team has listened to for the last two days. Nash hold up his hand in a fist then opens it up. Bridges and Mason separate running in opposite directions. After a five meter sprint both men drop to one knee and bring their carbines to bear on the single door.
Nash takes one more look around. "Keep those eyes open Matthews. I'm going for the door."
A click over the earpiece confirms Matthews is ready. He steps forward cautiously waiting for an ambush to happen. When he reaches the door unhindered, he lets out a small sigh. So far, so good.
Nash sticks his hand out for the handle slowly. Sweat pours down his face threatening to sting his eyes. His hand shakes just a little so he takes a deep breath to steady his nerves. By the time his hand collapses onto the handle the shaking is almost gone.
Before he can turn the handle, the door begins to vibrate causing Nash to quickly release it and stutter back. The door blows off its hinges and slams into Nash. He flies out with the door with a grunt through the air, landing hard on the ground with the door rolling off and away.
He struggles to get up and bring his carbine around when he notices he is missing almost his entire left arm. "Lieutenant!" Mason screams as Bridges opens up on the over seven foot tall man creature standing in the doorway.
Creature is the only thing either man can describe it as. It looks like a half man half creature with golden skin and no hair. Its arms end in a pair of hideous claws. For all the looks of being human ends with the rippling muscles and skin as it sits on a pair of powerful legs. The creature opens its mouth to let out a horrific scream the forces the men to drop their carbines and reach up to cover their ears.
Matthews, high up in the durian tree swallows hard at the sight. She aims for the creature's heart and fires. The bullet doesn't reach its intended mark and is instead deflected by the creature's massive clawed hand. She is quick to reload and switches her target to its head, but just before she fires the creature intensifies it shriek. The sound blasts her eardrums and she fires off target, nearly dropping the Sako TRG-42 sniper rifle.
When the creature stops the wail Bridges is the first to drop and pickup his carbine. He unleashes a torrent of rounds until the clip runs dry. The bullets pound the scales and bounce harmlessly off while the ones that rip into its flesh are easily absorbed and the wounds healed.
Mason follows suit and opens up on the creature while Bridges reloads. The creature just stands at the entrance to the facility looking out over at the two men uselessly attacking.
"Go!" Bridges yells as Mason's carbine dies out. "Get Nash the fuck out of here!"
Mason nods, not bothering to argue and runs over to Nash's side. The creature follows his movement and shifts its weight as if to attack. The movement doesn't go unnoticed and Bridges takes off running at the creature. "Come get me mother fucker!" he yells while unleashing on it.
The creature, Kazubeil, spins and leaps just barely missing a .338 Lapua Magnum round aimed for it head. The bullet strikes the wall behind it punching a sleek hole into the wall. Kazubeil lands in front of Bridges, startling him enough so that he falls backward onto the ground. The action helps him avoid running full force into the creature.
He is quick to overcome the unexpected maneuver as he raises his carbine up. Kazubeil swipes the gun aside gripping the soldier at the wrist. Bridges struggles to fight against the enormity of the creature, but is forced to the ground by a heavy foot on his chest.
The air is instantly knocked from his lungs and darkness almost overtakes him. The weight is taken off his chest, warding off the darkness and allowing him to take in a breath. The cause is a round from Matthews' rifle as it tears into the creature's head. The bullet explodes out the opposite side of it head, but instead of the creature dropping to the ground it wavers slightly then straightens up.
The weight of it foot settles back down on Bridges holding him steady. The man, not being able to move against such force only stares straight up as the wound slowly repairs itself.
"What the fuck are you?" he questions.
Kazubeil glares down at him showing no expression. Its toothy mouth opens up to let out another screech but it is interrupted when the bottom half of it jaw is blown off by Matthews. Then Kazubeil rears back in anger and pain.
Bridges decides to take the opportunity to try and escape, but the creature is all too aware of his agenda. Quickly the Kazubeil steps back down pinning the small man to the ground. Its hand clamps together, pinching off Bridges' hand.
Bridges' cries are muffled by the creature as it drives its foot through the small man's chest and through his back. His bones snap loudly and crunch. His rib cage bows inward past its breaking point and his spine offers no resistance.
Mason turns at the tree line to see the last moment of Bridges life being snuffed out. He drops Nash to the ground and tries to whip around with the carbine, but Nash quickly pulls the arm down with him.
"No," Nash tells the man. Mason looks at him confused. "Give it to me and you get yours and Matthews' asses the fuck out of here."
"I ain't leaving you Commander," Mason says defiantly.
"The hell you ain't. That's a fucking order." Nash grabs the carbine and yanks. Mason refuses to give over the weapon, but Nash shoots him a pleading look and he lets go. "No you two get the fuck out of here and report back."
"It's an honor sir," Mason says. He turns and runs before Nash can have the chance to reply.
Nash gets up and leans against a tree. Kazubeil hasn't moved from its spot as it seems to have enjoyed watching the life fade from Bridges' body. Now that it didn't have a moving, struggling person under its feet it was turning its attention elsewhere. Toward Nash.
"That's right asshole. Come to daddy, bitch."
Nash opens up on Kazubeil until the carbine is spent. He throws it aside and draws out his knife just as the creature reaches him. Its clawed hand grabs him by the neck and lifts him high into the air. Nash claws at the hands with his only hand, fruitlessly.
Blood drips steadily from the creature's broken mouth as low raspy breaths emit from deep within its throat. Nash's ragged breaths almost match Kazubeil's as he struggles to breathe against the tight stain on his throat. The creature just looks at the man like a bird would, bobbing its head back and forth.
Then it stops bobbing its head and looks straight into Nash's eyes and without moving an inch the creature's clawed hand squeezes, severing Nash's head from his body.