This is a rough (first-draft) bit from the upcoming sequel to “Endgame.” Our sniper captain June Vereeth and friend Prubius survived Preciless 75. Now they’re the sharpshooter support for a ship-recovery mission 3,000 feet up on natural pillars deemed The Lost. The rock’s composition generates a powerful electromagnetic field. Without electronics, “real” digital sniper scopes or radio, they are practically blind.
Atop a pillar and surrounded by thick fog, only meaningless gray showed in my rifle’s glass scope. I didn’t like that. We truly were in The Lost.
Beside me, Captain Hulk slurped more water. “Didn’t you have fun on P-Seven-Five?”
“Not really,” I returned. “Issues with the local wildlife.”
“Yeah. I read your reports. Bizarre. Who would do that? Whales.”
“Our ticket out.” While I wasn’t waking in night-sweats from the affair, I didn’t find it hard to imagine the five of us still stuck there in the wintry waste. “Not the best of times,” I added with a smile. “So where were you two months ago?”
“At that time? Uh, probably on Helops. Two days slogging up a river of sewage, looking for a phase generator.”
“Yes. Thank the goddesses for masks and rubber suits. That place is a wreck.” He sighed. “What the Army deems important.”
“Well, they can’t send everyone to the front.”
“Ha. I didn’t say I want to be there, either.” He looked around. “Guess I’m working on a short career of looking for busted things. Why are we here again?”
He looked around the swirls of fog. “A ship. Grand. Searching for a downed ship in The Lost. That’s damned poetic.”
“And what’s on this ship again? It’s important enough to send the thirty of us after it, it must be spectacular.”
Colonel Westerveldt clomped up behind my climbing partner. He paused before his next bite of apple. “Sarcasm, Hulk?”
“No, sir. I said nothing of the sort.”
“Right, right. On your feet,” he said, biting the fruit. “Coffee break’s over.”
“Over the wall, sir.”
This earned a sideways look from the colonel. He adjusted some clinking piece of climbing gear and headed for the pillar’s edge.
I watched him walk off—a confident, capable man. I was honestly glad he was in charge of this mission. It meant I didn’t have to be.
“You know, in the old days, they might’ve actually thrown you over a wall for attitude.”
“Bah,” Hulk laughed. “That’s why I’m wearing this parachute. Up we go, Captain.”
He hopped up and hauled me to my feet.
“Next pillar,” I said, watching our lead Heller adjust her compression-fired piton gun.
Through the swirls of gray, the column she was aiming for was barely visible.
What the Army deems important.