Authors: Madelaine Montague
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal
Of Unknown Origins:
© Copyright by Madelaine Montague, Aug 2009
Cover art by Alex DeShanks, Aug 2009
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author’s imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
Cole surveyed the jungle below them through his night-vision glasses, searching the terrain for any sign that they might have company. He wasn’t completely satisfied when he saw nothing. His gut was telling him that it had been way too easy and that was always a bad sign.
Particularly when he knew from their first fly over that there was an encampment of guerrillas less than ten clicks from the site where the spy sat had gone down. It had to have sounded like a 747 coming down considering the amount of jungle the damned thing had cleared. It bothered the shit out of him that they hadn’t seen any sign that the racket had stirred up the guerrillas.
Shaking his uneasiness, he patted the pilot on the back and signaled for him to drop the stealth chopper lower. They had a hell of a job ahead of them. The quicker they could clean up and hump it to the coast with the debris, the better.
Signaling his best men—Maurice ‘Beau’ Beauregard, Remy Cavanaugh, and Gabriel ‘Hawk’ Hawkins to take point—he killed the light and checked his harness one last time as they bailed from the chopper and repelled to the ground. The minute they passed the halfway mark, the next wave bailed from the chopper.
Sergeant Cole MacIntyre, Mac to his men, surveyed the perimeter one last time before he hooked up and leapt from the chopper, noting that the other chopper had already dropped its load on the other side of the clearing and begun to peel away.
“See ya when ya get back to base,” the co-pilot said.
Nodding, Mac gave him a thumbs-up and leapt out.
As many times as he’d repelled from a chopper, it still gave him a rush. He welcomed it, scanning the jungle with his heightened senses as he dropped. The men had already begun laying out a grid when he hit the ground. Issuing a low, warbling whistle, he signaled to the men designated to keep watch to take their positions and then moved to the other men, urging them to form small groups and begin scouring the broken brush for pieces.
It wasn’t his job to question his orders, but he sure as shit couldn’t figure out why the hell it made any difference if they left a little debris as long as they made sure they got everything important. That was the order, though, and he had the men search each grid in pairs for the tiniest scraps of what was left of the spy satellite that had mysteriously dropped from orbit and crashed in the jungle. They started at all four sides of the grid, worked their way to the center and then crossed, working outward again.
Mac checked his watch when they reached the halfway point, cursed under his breath, and surveyed the jungle around them, listening intently.
He doubted there was a fucking piece of the son-of-a-bitch more than an inch square. It had still been smoldering when it hit the ground and churned up the jungle floor.
Catching a glint in the forest out of the corner of his eye, Mac whipped his head in that direction. Through his night-vision goggles, he spotted a pack of wolves just in
the edge of the jungle, watching them intently. Uneasiness slithered through him, but it was a small pack. Despite their intense focus on the men in the clearing, he doubted they would attempt an attack. It almost made him more uneasy, though, when he glanced around the second time and discovered the wolves had vanished as silently as they had approached.
Twenty minutes passed. The men finally reached the outer edge across from where they’d begun. He strode to check their discoveries. Garbage! Shit! He couldn’t tell from looking at it whether it looked like it might’ve once been an entire satellite or not. Just to be on the safe side, he had men fan out and walk a line on either side of the grid that had been laid out.
A half dozen of the men returned carrying bits of the satellite that had been thrown from the main impact site into the jungle. It didn’t make him feel any better, but they’d already spent nearly an hour searching. If the guerrillas weren’t dead, or stone deaf and blind besides, they could be breathing down their necks any minute.
He uttered another warble, the signal to recall the men, and checked his map and compass heading as they formed up. Disgust settled in his gut when he saw the awkward bundles that had been gathered up.
Trust command to overlook the fact that they were going to be slogging through heavy jungle! He hesitated, but they were going to have problems lugging such awkward bundles at best. At worst, they were going to be sitting ducks if they got into a firefight.
Striding to the two squads that had formed up, he told the men to remove anything non-essential from their packs and divide the debris between them. The men gaped at him, no surprise since they hadn’t actually brought anything non-essential with them, but they fell to emptying their packs when he set his own down, tossed out his emergency supplies—everything but his weapons and ammunition—and began stuffing as much of the debris as he could into his pack.
His pack was heavy as a son-of-a-bitch when he slung it on his back again, but he still felt better for having divided the load. He signaled for the men to move out, designating Rider, Mullins, and Mercer to take point and ordering Beau, Hawk, and Cavanaugh to guard their rear.
They hadn’t been humping it to the coast more than ten or fifteen minutes where their pickup awaited them, he hoped, when the men guarding the rear passed the word up that they had company moving in from the east. He didn’t have to encourage the men to move faster. Nobody wanted to tangle with guerrillas in such an indefensible position.
Waiting until most of the two squads had passed, he tapped the last three on the shoulder. They dropped back, joining him, Beau, Hawk, and Cavanaugh.
“Want me to get around them and get a head count, Sarg?” Hawk volunteered.
Mac considered it and dismissed it. “The orders are to get this shit out of here—
no matter what—and that means every scrap of it. We stick together. No shooting unless they get too close. We’re still a good ten clicks from the pickup.”
Nodding, the men paced themselves, trailing the rest of the two squads.
Sweat, from the humidity, the rough terrain, and nerves began to trickle between Mac’s shoulder blades, from his brow and into his eyes, and down his belly and into his crotch, adding to the misery of biting insects. The itch and sting was maddening. He felt as if fire ants were crawling over him, but he was so tense with expectation of a barrage of bullets that it wasn’t nearly as hard keeping his focus, despite the irritants, as it would
have been otherwise. By his reckoning, they were still five clicks from the pickup when a shot cracked through the jungle like thunder.
He hit the dirt and scrambled on his belly across the ground and over a fallen tree.
The other men with him rolled over it in a tide, searching the jungle around them.
“Anybody catch the direction that came from?”
Beau pointed. “I caught a flash just to the left of that palm.”
There was another flash and bark splintered from the tree beside the group. They raised their rifles, peppering the site and directly to either side of it. A cry pinpointed at least one hit even as a barrage of bullets zinged back in their direction. It was no part of Mac’s plan to get surrounded or pinned down and left.
They traded gunfire with the guerrillas for a few more minutes and then he signaled half the men to fall back and take a new position. They rotated. When the first group found positions and began returning fire, he and the remaining men fell back, passing the first group and finding positions to their rear.
Mac lost track of the time and that worried him. Their pickup could wait just so long without endangering the entire mission. As valuable as what they were carrying was, they were still liable to arrive at the beach and discover their ride was gone and they were trapped.
They began moving a little faster, picking off as many of the enemy as they could before dropping back each time but, with the best will in the world, Mac couldn’t convince himself that the numbers were dwindling as fast as reinforcements were coming from the rear.
He finally ordered a full retreat when he thought they must be within a click of their pickup point. He could hear the crash of the surf on the shoreline. Reloading, they switched from sporadic fire to fully automatic, cutting a swath through the jungle growth and then ducking and running at a half crouch before the guerrillas had a chance to return fire.
They burst from the jungle and onto the beach, whipped a quick look around for the boat and charged toward it. Bullets kicked up sand all over them before they’d covered half the distance and he, Beau, Hawk, and Cavanaugh hit the beach while the others made a run for it, laying down a heavy fire to hold the guerrillas back.
Mac felt as if he’d taken cover in an ant bed. Something was sure as fuck crawling all over him and stinging the shit out of him! The moment he heard friendly fire behind him, he rolled and began crawling frantically for the boat, which had already been shoved from the beach.
The gunfire from both directions was nearly deafening when he and the other men scrambled into the water to swim for it and the night air was filled with unholy screams of pain and fear—and roars of fury that had lost any semblance of humanity. Rage surged through him. The weariness that had been dragging at him vanished. He had to fight the urge to turn and attack.
Struggling against it, he plowed through the water toward the boat, almost surprised when he actually managed to catch up with it and grab a handhold on the side.
Instead of the helping hand he’d expected, a hand clamped onto his arm, nearly wrenching it out of the socket as he was jerked from the water like a ragdoll. The breath was punched from him as he hit the deck. Before he could recover, something slammed into him bodily.
The rage that had gripped him before exploded. He heaved the man off of him, tearing at him with teeth and nails. In some distant corner of his mind, he was aware of horror at his own actions, but he had no control. It was as if someone else, or some
, had invaded his body and taken control.
The pickup craft had become a seething mass of heaving, struggling bodies.
Animalistic growls, grunts, and roars filled the air in a cacophony of deafening sound that made his blood surge in his veins.
“Mayday! Mayday! We’re under attack! The men! Oh my god! Things!
The voice of the man screaming for help over the radio cut off abruptly. Mac flared his nostrils as the smell of fresh blood filled his lungs. Sucking in a deep breath, he launched a final blow at his opponent and looked around for another.
His ears pricked at the sound of a chopper overhead, swooping low, and he tipped his head back, uttering a bellowed challenge at the men he could smell on it, the fear he could smell.
Crouching low, maddened by the smells, he sprang upward, launching himself into the air. He managed to catch a hold on a runner and lifted his head to glare at the white-faced man staring down at him. Even as he heaved his body up to launch himself inside, however, the man shook his paralysis and fired. He grunted as the slugs slammed into his chest and shoulder, trying to ignore the fire running through him and grasp the runner with his other hand.
The man fired again. The bullet slamming into him broke Mac’s hold and he felt himself falling. He blacked out when he hit the water below him.