Rhivera

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~Chapter 5A- Miro~

~Chapter Five~

~Juaquin~

Sotra, the southern region of Rhivera, has miles of jungle spanning across its southern coast, and was teeming with wildlife. There are strict laws on hunting within the jungle. At the government’s discretion certain months permit hunting. While the rest of Sotra has cities and towns, the jungles are largely untouched. Business owners in Sotra have tried to have part of the jungle torn down to expand their companies, but the government was steadfast in maintaining it. It makes sense why Weaktowns would be formed there. People can live off the bounty of the jungle, albeit illegally.

Sergeant Gutierrez forms up the squads under his command. We take military vehicles and depart eastward for Sotra towards the jungle as different squads have been directed to enter the jungle from different points. Our squad was ordered to enter the jungle nearest to the coast.

We leave our vehicle and march into the jungle. The humidity here is only made worse by all the gear we’re carrying on us. All the while I’m thinking over what I’ll do once we find the Weaktown. Everyone else has made peace with the mission and is ready to carry it out, but I still don’t feel comfortable executing those living in the Weaktown-- even if they’re breaking the law.

We spread out to cover as much ground as possible. As we travel deeper in I hear rustling behind us. It feels like we’re being watched. But I spot monkeys moving through the trees away from us. What appears to be a panther in the brush pounces away as we approach. That must be it. All manner of wildlife scurries away as we continue.

After an hour, nothing had been sighted. Over the radio we find that the other squads hadn’t found anything either. Honestly, I hope it stays that way. I’d rather not find the Weaktown.

“Halt.” Ilyana suddenly says in a hushed tone. Everyone snaps to high alert and takes cover amidst the trees. In the distance I see makeshift tents and canopies. Ilyana speaks into her radio. “Possible Weaktown in sight; Moving in. Over.”

We carefully approach the small settlement, keeping an eye out for lookouts. But we enter the town without resistance and find no one. I’m honestly relieved. Whoever was here had gotten away. I come upon a circle of rocks in the center of the Weaktown meant for a campfire, the ashes were still hot, only recently snuffed. If the residents of the Weaktown had only recently left, maybe they could get away ...

No.

With our numbers and Sotra’s forces we’d surround them in no time. Chances are there’s no escape for them.

“Signs indicate the Weaktown was abandoned recently. They must be close.” Ilyana says, “Keep looking.”

“Are you alright Juaquin?” Rico asks like a concerned older brother.

“I’m fine.” I say quickly. I’d rather not show my worry.

A loud noise comes from the north of us. A series of gunshots echoes through the jungle, and the squad readies themselves.

A bullet whizzes by us and strikes a nearby tree, and we all rush for whatever cover we can find. I can’t say for sure, but it looks like the bullet came from the west, the way we entered the jungle from. We look around us, but see no one. Whoever it is, it must be a sniper. Gunfire continues to boom from the north. There must be a fight going on there.

Ilyana grasps her radio, “What’s your situation?”

There’s a delay before someone finally responds over radio, “We’re surrounded! Get over-”

Another bullet fires past Ilyana, piercing the radio she holds in her hand and destroying it. Our only one. Our heads spin as we try to find the origin of the bullet. I make myself scarce amidst the trees.

Ilyana stands, pivots her back foot, and fires her gun at a tree several meters away from us. A body wearing a black uniform falls from the tree. Not the RLA’s signature green uniforms. Another sniper bullets strikes near us from another direction, but doesn’t strike a target. Ilyana stoops down to cover again.

A member of the squad tries to step away from their cover, but a bullet hits near their feet. Who knows how many snipers surround us now. They must have a clear shot at us. Why haven’t they gone for a kill?

“Stay low squad!” Ilyana orders.

I look around frantically for any sign of the snipers and find a single figure standing in the open from the way we came. A black cloaked figure in an ebony helmet only a few meters away from us. The Helmet’s visor is pitch black, concealing the person within. Have they been following us?

An unnaturally deep voice comes from the figure, calm, but stong, “Lay down your weapons if you want to live.”

Ilyana draws her sidearm, pivots her back foot and without hesitation fires at the figure. There is a metallic thud, but the figure remains motionless. The bullet did nothing.

“Do not do that again.” The figure warns, sounding agitated, “Lay down your weapons now.”

“You’ll have to take it from us!” Ilyana counters, eager to show her resolve to fight.

The figure shakes its head. It draws its hand out of its cloak and raises into the air, creating a fist. At this signal, a series of sniper bullets pepper the area around us. An overwhelming amount that seems to come from every angle... almost every angle. Nothing comes from the south.

The gunfire stops. None of the bullets struck any of us; it seems like the hail of gunfire was only meant to scare us.

“I won’t ask again.” The figure says coldly, “Lay down your weapons.” It waits patiently to see what we’ll do. The figure’s vision lingers on me for a moment. Are they staring at me?

The gunfire to the north of us ceases. Whatever fight was going on there ended. In moments I see people in black uniforms, dirtied by the grit of the jungle, come in to view. All of them armed and appearing to outnumber us. Our fellow squads to the north must’ve lost.

Rico looks around and goes to unarm himself but Ilyana stops him, “The moment we disarm ourselves they’ll kill us!” She says. “Everyone prepare yourselves.”

She’s going to order us to fight. They outnumber us and those snipers could kill us whenever they want. The cloaked figure didn’t react at all to being shot, so whatever it’s wearing is protecting them. We don’t stand a chance.

“Ilyana. We don’t have to fight.” I say, knowing if we do, we’ll be killed.

“They’ve blocked our escape Juaquin. There’s no way they’ll let us live either.” Ilyana says.

But they didn’t block our path to the south.

“None of the sniper bullets came from the south and the coast shouldn’t be that far from us. Running gives us better odds than fighting here.”

Ilyana thinks for a moment and grits her teeth, “Retreat southward!” She yells, and we promptly sprint away. They begin shooting at us.

“Hold your fire!” I hear the figure’s deep voice exclaim to the black-clad soldiers. They hold their fire but continue to give chase.

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