Gabriel could hear the thin Mars atmosphere whipping past his combat helmet’s visor. Visibility from a thousand yards altitude was excellent, enhanced by his helmet’s optics, but no matter how hard he stared, there was simply nothing to see. Even the approaching dust storm barely visible in the distance held no interest for him.
Ordinarily, a typical first-time visitor to Mars would gawk at the wide open plain and the terraced steppes of the northern rim of Valles Marineris, or marvel at the flashes of dirty gray water ice in the shade of some of the peaks, or point excitedly at the ancient dust-covered Russian and Japanese landers. But today, like yesterday, his mind was elsewhere.
The last time he had set foot on Mars was over a week ago, kissing Renay goodbye in the skyhook terminal. There was a young boy who had been hesitant to approach him, and he had won him over with a tiny gift of a patch. The image of Renay’s smile at that small action flashed across his mind, and he closed his eyes to the outside world.
The ache in his chest returned, a similar type of ache he had felt many years ago when he learned of his father’s death during the Dark Days. But there was something else there, something different from that feeling of despair he had borne for years. He knew Renay wasn’t dead. And he was going to find her.
The secure call he had just received from Major Andon had surprised him, but not completely. Now that he had specific information in hand, information he hoped he would have prior to arriving at Eos Chasma, he was feeling more confident in the plan he was formulating.
He gritted his teeth as for the first time, he regretted bringing his team. He opened his eyes and looked around at the battlesuited soldiers arranged around the perimeter of the hopper’s platform. They stared back, though he knew they weren’t seeing him, that it was just an illusion brought on by his regret. He was sure they were looking at their HUDs, or going through their individual battle preps, or in the case of Brevik, maybe napping. They put their full trust in him, as they had for months now, and they followed him unquestioningly. Even now, with an unspoken plan of attack many outsiders would consider seat-of-the-pants, they were here.
He pushed down the regret. He brought up the schematic Andon had sent him, and he felt his lips tighten into a grim smile. Now we have a target.
The engines’ scream changed pitch as Ky delicately balanced the hopper on four tongues of flame and began their descent. Gabriel closed his eyes again, thinking back to some of Tomas Katoa’s final words on Eden. “Joining my friends in the SAR,” he had said. “They’ve got larger plans.” He clenched his armored fist hard enough that it crumpled the hopper’s safety railing he leaned against. They were behind all of this, he thought.
“Commander I’ve got… I don’t really know what I’ve got.”
Takahashi’s voice over the team net snapped Gabriel’s eyes open. He immediately linked into Takahashi’s sensors and put the image on his helmet’s HUD. The marker showing the research outpost was circled in blue, and a tiny red icon had just popped up adjacent to it. His neuretics instantly tagged it as a threat and his linked Otero systems spun up to full readiness.
“Hang on, we’ve got…” His voice was cut off in a roar of high explosive.
GABRIEL’S REVENGE is Book 3 of the top-rated science fiction/adventure Gabriel trilogy. Enjoy the scene, like the genre? All three are available for all major ebook platforms, and now paperback: http://steveumstead.com/my-books/