The Horsemen now found themselves in a jungle; among scattered ruins as they closed in on the signal.
“Keep your eyes on your scanners,” Peyton said, as he tread lightly, “The enemy can be anywhere.” By scanners, he was referring to the ones in the helmet displayed on the HUD. He led the way with Samantha right behind him, then Jenny. Anthony covered the rear.
“So, have you ever been on a mission like this, sir?” Samantha asked.
Peyton replied as he went forward, “You mean one that was supposed to be simple and once dropped off turned into a cluster…shh, everyone get down.” he said, seeing a blip on his radar.
They all huddled near one of the ruins a little closer to the signal. The closer they got, the more blips on their radars.
“There’s the temple,” Samantha said, “I also see an entry point.”
The temple was enormous and triangular, like the Great Pyramid, but this one had decoration to it. There where pathways lined with statues and multiple entrances with glyphs around them.
“There’s a little field next to it.” Anthony said. “Why couldn’t we beam there?”
“Too small and trees,” Peyton said,” We’ll have to do some clearing for the shuttle. That’s our extraction point. Mark it. Sam, how many guards?”
Samantha checked again to be sure, “I see two guards and a few patrols.”
“That’s our best bet,” Peyton said, taking a look, “They probably already know what we did at that camp, so they’ll be on the lookout.”
“Then we’re going to blast our way in?” Anthony asked.
Peyton shook his head, “No way. It’s still dark. Let’s do this quietly. Jenny, you come with me. Sam, take Anthony. We’ll each take the sides, working our way up to the nearest entrance. Whoever gets there first, don’t hesitate to waste the guards. Move out.”
“Hold on,” Anthony said, “I think…yup, I see a sniper. Sniper spotted.”
“Damn,” Peyton said, “This changes things. Anymore?”
“Checking,” Anthony answered. With the visor, he went through several modes of vision. One, called acutance, colored everything in its natural color brightly with very little light, so it didn’t matter if it was dark - it was just as good, maybe better than seeing in the daylight. Anthony marked the sniper and moved on. Marking something was like tagging and saving its location for later, like a waypoint. He didn’t find any more after looking in several spots, “Just the one in the trees near the entrance.”
“Can you take him out?” Peyton asked.
“Yes, sir,” Anthony replied, “My gun is quite enough, but I’m sure they’re checking in every so often. I don’t think we’ve been spotted.”
“We’ll need to make this quick then,” Peyton said, “Same plan as before, but this time we go the second Anthony takes out that sniper.”
Samantha and Jenny responded with a, “Yes, sir.”
“Oh, and the short answer to your question is ‘No’”, Peyton said looking at Samantha, as Anthony phased out his sniper rifle and lined up a shot. Instead of a scope, the visor could be used. It had a better zoom and was accurate.
“What?” Samantha curiously asked as Anthony took out the sniper.
Peyton signaled everyone to go and said, “You asked me if I’d ever been on a mission like this.”
Even though they whispered, the patrols couldn’t hear them through the helmets. The last thing they heard was a star lance piercing their armor.
Samantha was in disbelief, “Sir, I don’t think…” she was saying as she took a guard down.
Peyton interrupted, “This ‘sir’ thing can go. When I’m in cover or giving an order,” he took another guard down, “You can call me ‘Your Highness’ for all I care. On the field, it’s just ‘Peyton’. All of you.”
Samantha snuck up on another guard and took him down, “Yes, si…I mean Peyton.”
“Sam,” Peyton said, creeping along a building, “You’ve got the entrance. We’ve got a little command center here with three guys sitting, I can see them with my HUD. Jenny and I are going to take it out.”
Anthony studied the building for a few seconds, “It’s just a ruin,” he said, “I can place a charge and take them all out.”
Peyton shook his head, “No,” he said, “‘Quietly’ remember? Plus, you’re too far, we don’t know how old this place is, the significance, or if it’ll even work. We’ll go around to the entrance and rush them.”
Samantha and Anthony snuck up on the entrance. Peyton and Jenny went around to an opening.
“Ready,” Peyton said, “Go.”
Both ran inside. Jenny followed Peyton. Peyton easily took out the first soldier he came across while Jenny went after the second. The last soldier barely got to his feet before Peyton got to him.
“Ready,” Samantha asked Anthony, “I’ll go for the far one; you get the one right here.”
“Got it.” Anthony said.
“Ok, go.” Samantha said, running past the first, surprising both guards.
Anthony emerged and did his bit. Samantha took down the second guard with a little wrestling.
“Samantha to Peyton, entrance is secure.” she said, moving inside the temple with Anthony.
“Copy that. Jenny, watch the entrance,” Peyton replied. The dead soldier at his feet had been writing something. Peyton picked it up and had his HUD translate it. After he read it, he dropped the paper and moved out, “Jenny, let’s join Sam and Anthony.”
Both ran inside the temple. There were lights already set up by the excavation, even if there wasn’t; the Horsemen still had their visors to see in pitch black.
“Any idea why the AFU would want to kill us,” Peyton asked, “That dead soldier had standing orders to exterminate any human on sight.”
“We did destroy that camp.” Jenny said.
“Territory,” Samantha suggested, “or a disease we carry they can’t cure. They refuse any of our attempts to join their council. As far as I know, they’ve never given us a clear reason.”
“Maybe we’re just awesome.” Anthony said.
Peyton shook his head, “No, it can’t be because of that camp. We already saw troop transports by the time we got here, and it doesn’t really jive with being a human sympathizer. If it was territory, why not negotiate. It would be a lot easier than going to war with us. There’s been too much contact between humans and aliens for it to be a disease; we would have heard something by now. Anthony, shut up.”
Samantha thought for a moment, “I can’t really think of a good reason.”
“Maybe the Dr. knows.” Jenny said.
“Agreed,” Peyton said, “As much as I hate to do this, we need to seal this entrance, make it hard for them to follow. We’re not going back through here anyway. Everyone, phase out your rifles. Concentrate just above the doorway.
The Horsemen phased out their rifles and open fired on the doorway. It seemed slow going at first, but temple wall couldn’t hold up to the sustained fire and came crashing down in a heap of rubble that blocked the doorway.
“Good,” Peyton said “Cease fire. Anthony, put a few charges around the entrance for a booby-trap.”
“On it, sir.” Anthony said.
“So Sam,” Peyton called, “Why were you asking?”
“I didn’t say anything.” Samantha said.
“Yes you did,” Peyton snapped back, “You asked if I’d ever been on a mission like this. Why do you ask?”
Samantha was dumbfounded, “Si…Peyton, that was…I was asking because of my background. You know I’ve previously been on extraction missions. You didn’t mention it, and it doesn’t show on your file. I figured it might have been classified so I was just asking because I was curious. No big deal, just making small talk.”
Samantha didn’t get it. Peyton didn’t care about the question; in fact, he couldn’t care less. He was just trying to put everyone’s mind at ease and not worry about the situation. It seemed to work as Samantha wondered about Peyton’s curiosity and Jenny and Anthony looked at one another and shrugged.
“Sam,” Peyton called, “Take point. Anthony, cover the rear.”
The Horsemen cautiously made their way through a passageway. The whole mission reminded Samantha of a previous one.