By Carol Sandford


Chapter 31


Will deliberately looked away, pretending that he was searching the far off hills as his friend coughed as though he was trying to get a boulder out from his throat. The same hills that Will initially started heading for, and then changed his mind figuring that any enemy following him would think the same thing; head for the hills, head for safety. So Will didn‘t. He and his men turned tail, making sure they left enough evidence to indicate they were going towards the hills, but not enough to indicate their true path. The found refuge in a small, rocky outcrop, smack bang in the middle of nowhere.

Lieutenant Tang coughed again, the painful wheeze making Will grimace with compassion and fear. The old man was dying. Will knew it, and he was certain that Tang was more than aware of it too.

When the painful gasps subsided briefly and he heard Tang spit out the accumulation of dust and gunge that had worked its way into his system as he‘d sucked in breaths, Will allowed him a second of privacy as he struggled to pretend that he wasn‘t as bad he feared.

"You okay, old friend. Need a drink?" Will was already reaching for the small pouch that held barely a quarter of a litre of precious water, his hand stilling at Tang‘s gruff, weary voice.

"No, no, save it. Don‘t go wasting it on me, Son."

Will ignored him, detaching it from his waistband and releasing the cap, wishing more than anything that he could raise it to his own lips and drain it dry, but he couldn‘t. He was okay, he could survive without water long enough to get rescued. His friend wouldn‘t.

The extensive burns he had meant that his skin couldn‘t hold any moisture apart from the massive blisters that caked his body, and Will hoped and prayed that none of them burst or got infected. God only knew what the dust and dirt on this ball of rock held.

Tang‘s eyes met Will‘s as he turned to him and lifted his head and shoulders from the ground, holding the pouch‘s lip-edge to his own charred mouth. Weary gratitude shone in his exhausted, pain-filled eyes and despite his own rule about leaving the dead and dying behind, Tang was glad he was being given a chance to live.

He caught the slight smile that touched Will‘s mouth as he gratefully sipped the temperate water, determined to take as little as he could until, at last he felt the liquid slide down his burning throat. He purposely closed his lips to stop Will from wasting any more. He‘d had enough, and if they were going to have to see out the night. *If* he saw out the night, he emended, he was surely going to need more in the morning. At least now in the inkyness of night, the searing heat wasn‘t an issue. But come morning...well, that was a different story and he wasn‘t looking forward to it, one bit.

Will heard the men urgently whispering in the background and carefully laying Tang‘s head back down, he moved over to find out what they were talking about. Scuffling the few feet towards them, he stopped dead when he saw Bobby Tiller raise his palm to him, indicating that he should be silent. Will stopped dead, his ears searching out anything audible, his eyes reaching out into the darkness, looking for something, or someone.

Silence. Total silence. Will turned questioning eyes to his comrades who were still listening intently. Tiller‘s hand turned and indicated that Will should proceed, and as quietly as he could, Will moved closer.

"What is it?" he whispered quietly.

"I thought I heard something, but it‘s gone now." he whispered back, the white of his eyes, almost luminous as they caught the moonlight. "Wait!! there it is again!"

Instinctively, the three men quietly lay flat upon the hard, cold ground, trying to make themselves blend into shadows, their ears desperately trying to pick up any indication as to whether their enemy was as close as they feared. Worriedly, Will glanced over to his friend, checking that he was sufficiently out of sight from enemy eyes, whilst his heartbeat began to pound, echoing in his ears.

But he couldn‘t hear a thing. Nothing. Zilch, and that worried Will even more so. Did that mean the enemy could hear them and were taking similar precautions. Or was their minds playing tricks on them? Celestial spirits sent to torment their minds. God, he hated sitting like a possum, waiting. Praying. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place and whoever was on the other side of the rise knew it too.

And then they heard the distinct sound of a phaser being loaded, the tell-tale whine of the button being pushed along, elevating the beams intensity from stun to kill, and as Will prepared to be confronted, more than aware that they were likely to be out-numbered and definitely with more fire power than they possessed, his eyes squeezed shut as one vision filled his senses and two words slipped despairingly from his trembling lips, Goodbye, Imzadi.

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