Ec and Mid treaded softly, testing the forest floor at every footfall. The flanking squad of soldiers they sought were nowhere near as careful, and could be heard before they were seen. The pair found a clearing of storm felled trees. They skirted the edge and planted themselves behind larger trunks. Between them they could cover the open area with crossing arcs of fire and cut down anyone in the clearing.
The squad grew closer. Ec held up a hand, splaying the fingers. He closed the hand and opened it again, thumb and one finger folded into his palm. Mid nodded. He nestled back against the tree trunk, checked the magazine on his autogun and waited.
They came through two abreast. Ec and Mid allowed the squad most of the way across the clearing, to check their initial estimate of eight was right, then stood and opened fire.
Four soldiers dropped immediately. Two dived for cover, Ec aimed for them. Mid turned toward the remaining two, standing to fire from the shoulder. He pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. He braced the autogun against his thigh and pulled the cocking handle to eject the misfiring round. It was too late, the nearest of his two targets had his gun up and was firing from the hip.
Mid was hit three times. He slumped back against the tree trunk. Ec turned and empted the last of his magazine at the two soldiers. He ducked back down, changing magazines and cocking the autogun in quick fluid movements. When he stood again the clearing was silent. There was movement, one of the squad trying to pull himself under cover. Ec fired a three shot burst and the movement stopped. He checked back in the direction the squad had come from. There was no movement or sound.
Mid was dead. Ec made the sign of the cross over him, collected up his ammunition and headed back across the clearing, moving from body to body. One of the squad had a satchel of trip grenades. Ec jammed the spikes of a couple between the tree roots by the most obvious exits and stretched the wires across the gaps. He glanced across the clearing once more, then headed for the ravine.
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