The Power of Three(9)

By: Kate Pearce

Esca held up his hand. “Jong, which team member is he referring to?”

“Private Lang. Their telepath.”

“As I said, natural wastage.” Wassain turned to Esca. “Can we get on with the debriefing? My team fucked up and I’d like to know why. It was probably something to do with that scum we left behind.”

“By scum you mean your telepath?” Esca pointed behind him. “You do realize that every single member of my team who just saved your ass is a telepath?”

Wassain’s face turned as red as his regimental facings. “I am aware of that, sir.”

“And yet you don’t consider your own team member to be worth saving?”

Staring steadily ahead, Wassain didn’t answer. Esca motioned to Jong. “Take the team through what happened and send me a full report.”

“Yes, Major.” Captain Jong saluted and headed toward the door.

Wassain went to follow her and Esca blocked his path. “Not you. You’re going to tell me exactly where you left Private Lang.”

* * *

“I don’t like this.” Trenx glowered at Esca. “Ash will have my head.”

“Ash can go frek himself.” Esca continued to dress and arm himself. “It’s quite simple. I’ll take Wassain and find Private Lang. If she’s still alive, we’ll rendezvous with you at the original pickup site, and you can blast the facility to kingdom come from space. You have the capability.”

“You’re too valuable.”

“I’m a soldier, not a senator’s pet.”

Trenx swung around in his chair. “I should inform Ash.”

“Why? You know he doesn’t interfere with my job.” Esca shoved another grenade in his belt. “By the time you’ve gone bleating to him, I’ll be safely onboard again, and you’ll look like an idiot.”

Trenx raised his hands. “Fine. You’re higher ranked than me. Do what the frek you like.”

“Thank you.” Esca checked the time. “Ask Jong to send me that report. I’ll listen to it as we approach the surface and make sure I don’t repeat the same mistakes.”

* * *

Esca landed the shuttle and reset the controls to automatically pilot the vehicle back to the ship after they’d disembarked. Captain Wassain watched him, his expression deeply unhappy.

“This isn’t necessary, Major. My superiors are not going to like it.”

Esca stared him down. “I don’t give a damn what your superiors think. This is my team and Private Lang is a member of it. No one gets left behind on my watch.”

“I’ve given you her last coordinates, sir. Can’t we just extract her from there?”

“You don’t think we’ve tried that remotely? She’s obviously been moved into the facility. No, Captain, you’re not sitting safely on this shuttle when one of your soldiers is in danger. You’re coming with me, and that’s an order.”

“And what if I refuse?” Wassain was sweating now, his gaze anywhere but on Esca’s.

“Then I’ll have you court-marshaled.”

“My superiors would never uphold such a conviction.”

“Then I’ll kill you myself.” Esca unbuckled his harness and pointed at the door. “Get out of your seat, exit this shuttle and proceed with me to the coordinates.” He opened the exterior hatch and turned to flick on the command sequence for relaunch. “Now, Captain.”

He waited another moment and then followed Wassain out of the shuttle. The outside temperature was warm and humid, and the air tasted slightly metallic. He checked his weapons, aware of the voice of the autopilot counting down the seconds behind him. Wassain suddenly stopped and swung around to face him.

“This is stupid. Private Lang isn’t worth our lives.”

“She’s certainly worth yours.” Esca aimed his weapon at the coward’s heart. “Get moving.”

Wassain lowered his head and charged for the rapidly closing door of the shuttle. Esca stepped forward and body checked him, bringing them both to the ground. His injured leg crumpled beneath him and he ended up underneath Wassain. Within a second, Wassain brought his weapon down on Esca’s unprotected head, stars exploded, and he knew no more.

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