More CARGO 3120.
If you’re not up to speed on this fine s-f novella and the series it’s designed to introduce, please start from the beginning HERE
by Aaron Walker Sr.
Just before descending a steep hill leading away from Outpost Alpha, Skye turned upon hearing the shot. She witnessed Marcus stumbling to the ground. “Marcus,” she screamed, while starting to run toward her fallen comrade. But Daren, grabbed her by the arm.
“There’s nothin’ we can do,” he shouted. “He wanted us to…”
But before Daren could finish his statement, Skye wrenched her arm free of his grasp and nailed him with a left hook that nearly knocked his head off. He didn’t respond. All Daren could do was look away while wiping blood from the corner of his mouth.
“I hope it was worth it.” Skye snarled at Daren.
Skye took one last look toward Marcus, then moved to the rest of the team who were all staring in shock at what happened to their friend and leader. Max put her arm around Skye as they both wept for Marcus. Even Tony who seldom showed any emotion was saddened for his fellow warrior. He put his hand on Skye’s shoulder.
“We have to keep moving,” Tony said. “For Marcus…”
They silently agreed, and pressed forward with the crates toward rendezvous point bravo, where Jason was no doubt awaiting their arrival. But Daren stayed behind for a short time, watching as Saber Team descended on Marcus like feral predators, swarming a rotting carcass. It was all his fault, and he dreaded facing the crew back at the ship. He watched his brother in the distance for a few moments then he closed his eyes and turned away. I messed up, were the words that kept echoing in his mind as he ran to catch up with the team.
At rendezvous point bravo, on a distant rocky hill, The Indicator quietly sat awaiting its approaching passengers. Jason was hard at work repairing the damage from the recent skirmish. He wasn’t quite the skilled mechanic as Tony, but he could handle most minor repairs well enough. Sparks continued to fly as he stood beneath The Indicator’s underbelly with protective mask on, welding a marred section of the ship’s hull. A short time later the team arrived carting a train of beat-up crates. Jason turned to see his teammates looking as worn as the cargo they were lugging. He halted his work and ran to meet them.
“Now that was crazy,” Jason said, as if still struggling to come down from his adrenaline rush. “It wasn’t the motherlode we were expectin’, but at least we have…” Jason trailed off as he noticed the dark vibe coming from the team.
Max, with tears still in her eyes, assisted Tony with loading the crates onto The Indicator’s aft cargo ramp. Jason noticed Skye marching toward him with Daren moving slowly behind.
“Okay… Am I missin’ something here?” Jason asked, completely clueless as to what had just transpired. He looked down the muddy path upon which his friends had just traversed, when he noticed the problem. “And where’s Marcus?” He demanded. But there was no response. Skye stormed past Jason toward the ship’s ramp without saying a word. He knew that look in his sister’s face, so he turned to Daren for answers.
“What’s goin’ on, man?” Jason asked, but was met with more icy silence. “What happened to Marcus?” He shouted, but one look in Daren’s eyes and Jason knew Marcus wasn’t coming. But Daren interrupted before the hard inquiry began.
“Start her up, Jay,” Daren said in a somber tone. “We need to move.”
The breath was taken out of Jason, and all he could do was silently comply with the orders of Raven Squad’s new leader. After loading their ill-gotten cargo, Jason launched The Indicator from the surface of Titan, punching through the uninviting clouds above. As the ship rocketed toward space, there was no laughing… no tales of heroics being shared among the crew, as was so often the case following such a mission. All that could be heard was the soft hum of The Indicator’s engines. Everyone, except Jason who remained on the bridge, had retreated to their individual living quarters.
Inside his room, Daren sat on the edge of his bunk agonizing over the fate of Marcus. Was he dead? Was he locked away in the bowels of some ship being tortured? He did the best he could to dismiss the thoughts racing through his mind. With shaking hands, he frantically reached within the makeshift compartment near his bunk, where he grabbed a small canister of zeth he kept hidden from prying eyes. It was a cylindrical device filled with an inhalant, delivered through a thin tube connected to a small nose mask. With the press of a button, he breathed deeply, allowing the narcotic’s vapors to travel through the mask into his nose, and straight to his brain. He then activated his small rectangular shaped holo-player, causing it to float in the air, projecting a holographic playlist above its smooth surface. He selected a track, leaned back on his bunk, and closed his eyes. As the soft tunes emanated from his holographic music player, he quickly realized that nothing… not even his precious zeth, could dampen the anguish within.
They completed a mission, but failed a friend. And as they began the long, bitterly silent ride home, all Daren and his team could do was hope against all odds that Marcus had somehow survived, and that one day, they would be reunited with Raven Squad’s true leader.