Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

“Son of a bitch. I’m getting too old for this,” Sergeant First Class Ron Walker groaned as he hit the ground after a fast rope out of the hovering SSL. Fortunately he was the last to drop from the lifter. As he looked up to wave the craft off, he saw a thin trail of white smoke zeroing in on the boat.

“Aw, just fucking great.” He scrambled for cover as a SAM impacted and the remains of the Ship to Shore Lifter rained down where he had stood only moments before.

He beat feet to the edge of the forest where his men, mostly FNG’s (fucking new guys), waited in urine soaked battle armour. “Allright ladies, as you may have noticed, we have lost our ride and as usual the intel is shit. The area is HOT. Lock and load. There are no friendlies around. If it moves, shoot it. If it keeps moving, frag it. Most of the critters are naturally armoured, and the natives, well, they have developed a taste for long pig. MOVE OUT!”

The 24 men of 2nd Plt. Charlie Co, unslung their plasma rifles and pushed through the all pervasive Venusian jungle. There were no large bodies of water anywhere on the planet, just the monotony of the dense jungle broken only by the occasional marsh or sluggish stream.

They advanced in a ranger file. Ten meters between, five side to side. They moved at a slow but steady clip with Walker bringing up the rear. A scream broke out from the front, quickly followed by the crackle of plasma fire from the linear acceleration rifles.

Everything went silent.

A flurry of chatter exploded on the platoon comm freq.

“Who was it?”

“Zalar, a giant fucking snake pulled him under.”

“A HUGE fuckin’ snake,” someone added.

The comm went silent again. Then just as quickly burst back to life.

“Holy fucking shit, they’re every where.”

From his position in the rear, SFC Walker couldn’t see what was happening through the foliage. His only link to his men was the comm, transmitting the bursts of their plasma rifles and their screams as they died.

He pushed forward as hard as he could to emerge into a small marshy clearing. From his position, he could see a group of huge writhing green snakes. He levelled his rifle and burned them down, but they reappeared just as fast.

All at once he noticed that they originated from the same central point that his men were being drawn to. As his rifle spat green tongues of death, he saw Danvers disappear into what looked like…, “A mouth. It’s eating them alive. Concentrate fire on the bush in the centre of… of the snakes.”

Where there were previously 25 plasma flames, only five were left as the men were pulled into the leafy maw. The plasma had minimal effect on the water gorged carnivorous plant.

One by one, the remaining men were entangled by sentient vines, and pulled toward their death.

Sergeant First Class Walker, late of Ore City Texas, held down the trigger of his rifle and continued to shear off the squirming tendrils. He watched as the charge meter reached 0.

As the creepers wrapped around his ankles, he pulled out his bowie and hacked in vain at the muscular green ropes.

As he was pulled into the ravenous plants mouth, he remarked to himself, “Smells like Momma’s okra.”

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