25 July, Wednesday 11.35
I was relieved when we got out of that damn jungle at last. So many of our guys had left their bones there during our recent clash with the Confederation that I sincerely hope we’ll be allowed a small breather. Once I believed that no price was too high to pay for supporting our cause. Now…now I’m not so sure about that anymore. Unfortunately, we were allowed to keep only some of the vehicles – the rest of the cavalry was left behind at the river. We’re to meet with a part of our forces and journey onward. The next station will probably be somewhere in Peru. Our mission? Well, we’ll see about that. I don’t pretend to know everything. Most of the time armchair generals do the thinking, far from enemy lines. The ordinary soldiers, the cannon fodder of the revolution, they do the dying.
25 July, Wednesday 23:25
The day just got way better. I had a short briefing with Cortes a few moments ago. He told me that soon I can expect “significant reinforcements”. Have to admit that my heart jumped a bit at the thought. New men, vehicles, resources – now that would boost our morale, not to mention our fighting power. With all that at my command, we would finally be a force to be reckoned with. I went to my bunk excited, determined that even this cursed heat won’t spoil my mood.
27 July, Friday 5:35
My men woke me at dawn. Apparently, we have a newcomer in our camp, eager to see me. Something about the reinforcements, they said. I dressed hurriedly and opened the tent flap, unable to contain my excitement. To my surprise, it was a girl, in a worn uniform of a field operative, and with a mean looking customized sniper rifle carelessly slung over her shoulder. Before I could say anything she introduced herself as Elena Leonidovna. “I’m the reinforcements”, she grinned with an almost unbearable swag. Are they kidding me? After more than thirty years in the military, I flatter myself that I saw just about anything that war – or peace, for that matter – had to offer. And that I’ve never lost my cool. But now I completely went out of my mind and started shouting at her, demanding explanations. I expected Coyotes, Armadillos, Porcupines, and all I got is this…girl?!? What she said, and how she said it, I’ll never forget in my life. “Look, old man”, she whispered, her pleasant attitude suddenly vanishing completely, a harsh and dangerous note of irritation in her voice. Then, as if she suddenly remembered my rank, she continued, composing herself: “General, I don’t like it any more than you do. But, I have my orders, and…well, I suppose that even generals have theirs.” Hate to admit it, but she was right. Damn it! Been awhile since anyone had the nerve to talk to me like this.
27 July, Friday 12:45
Took me a while to calm myself. When I finally did it, I tried to reach the HQ, to confirm her identity. No luck there. On her part, she had all the right credentials and knew all our latest passwords. She checked out, through and through. The girl was sent by Cortes – or so she claimed – so I had to play along for the time being. She asked me about our mission – I obviously couldn’t help her much there. But, since I had to give her something, I’ve told her about the rendezvous with the rest of the crew. Then I’ve ordered my men to move. The less time we spend here, the better.
28 July, Saturday 8:30
We were nearing rendezvous point. According to the coordinates provided by HQ, the location should be somewhere in this grassy plain, surrounded by the clumps of Ceiba trees. I was riding atop one of our Coyotes, with my binoculars, trying to find it. The camp should be in sight by now. Why aren’t we there yet? We haven’t realized that we found it until we practically hit it, or what remained of it, anyway. No need to spend words, you know how it looks – mangled vehicles, swarms of hungry flies, dead bodies, all stone cold. I ordered troops to check the perimeter. Judging by the looks, it must’ve been a while since this happened, maybe even a few days. It’s not often that I don’t know what to do, but I was completely confused. I’ve gathered my officers, trying to make some sense of it. All present, except one. Where the hell is Elena?
28 July, Saturday 23:00
I tried to contact HQ again and again. And then some more. Nothing. As if this whole valley is some dead zone, eating all radio signals. Nevermind, I have more pressing concerns right now. First of all, it’s obviously not safe here, so we have to move tomorrow at first light. And then, who did this massacre? Confederation troops, most likely. I’ll make them pay, whoever they are. As for Elena… She’ll be in a world of pain if I ever lay my hands on her.
29 July, Sunday 13:20
Just as we were preparing to leave, my sentries reported that a military force about our size, maybe larger, was approaching. We’ll be hard-pressed in this clearing if we don’t do something fast. I’ve ordered our vehicles to take a defensive formation and sent our Riflemen and Grenadiers to take cover in the bushes and try to flank them. But then, the dust settled and we saw…Those were our troops, lead by none other than my old friend Colonel Rodriguez. Finally, someone I can rely on completely! He was also scheduled to meet us here, but was late because he had to deal with Confederation forces on the way. He confirmed my suspicions: Elena was a Confederation spy, a rat sent to infiltrate our ranks, dig up any information she could, and kill me. She was the one who revealed the location of our unfortunate comrades. She. He also told me that he heard reports that Confederation has some sort of secret facility in the area that’s been jamming our signals – that’s why we can’t contact our HQ. We have to destroy it if we’re to have a fighting chance here. The problem is that our safety is completely compromised. So we have to do it quietly. Just he and I, and a few of our most loyal men. Great. It will be just like in the good old times.
29 July, Sunday 23:00
Rodriguez told me to bring only my most trustworthy men. Trustworthy? Most of them are rotting in the jungles of Argentina right now. And those few that I have left need to remain here at the camp to cover my tracks and keep things under control once I’m gone. So I went alone. I’ll be safe enough with Rodriguez and his troopers.
30 July, Monday 00:15
We took one of the Coyotes, hidden in the vicinity of the camp, and went north. After about an hour or so, we stopped in the middle of nowhere. Are we there yet? Rodriguez quietly signaled his men to go out – there were four of them – and then told me to follow him. We were apparently nearing the location. I don’t know why, but I had a bad feeling about this. The man was one of my oldest friends, so I knew that I can trust him with my life. Still, for some reason, I quietly loosened the gun in my holster. After that, everything happened as in a haze. One of his men – a big brute with a scar across his face – pointed his rifle at me, the other tried to grab me from behind. What’s the meaning of this? I responded in kind, shot the big Rifleman, and turned to another attacker. Then all went dark.
30 July, Monday 00:45
The next thing I remember is that I’m on my knees, a cold gun barrel at my forehead. Above me was my old “friend”, smiling. Of course, he had to give me a little parting speech. After all, dead men don’t speak, so there was no risk in telling me all about how he was a Confederation agent. The pay is much better, he said. He was tasked with protecting their new top-secret project. Something called “The Shroud”. And apparently, I was a threat. I resisted the urge to close my eyes. Never been a coward in my life, so I don’t intend to start now. “Au revoir”, he said at last. Then I heard a shot. Three more followed. Rodriguez and his men fell dead. Elena appeared from the bushes, sniper rifle in hand. She blew on the barrel to cool it off:” Thought you’d have more sense in you, general. Good thing Cortez sent me to watch your back.” She went to Rodriguez, rummaged through his pockets and took a small data disk. “C’mon, general, there’s not much time” she nodded towards the Coyote. “Get in. We have to prepare for the arrival of the Iron Brigade”.