All contact with the Advance Colonial Reconnaissance contingent on Frelaka Prime had been lost three standard days earlier. Commander Elias Threlk, Republic Space Marines, had seen fit to make a bigger deal of it than protocol dictated. His son was somewhere down there.
“Anything yet, Lieutenant?” he snapped at the sensor officer.
“Yeah, I got ‘em, sir. I mean…sort of. I’m getting nothing but an auto-beacon set on loop. Uhh, sir? The feed is coded Epsilon Black.”
Threlk swore. Epsilon Black was the ACR equivalent of the Marine acronym SCUBA (Situation Considered Untenable By All). “Patch it to my command terminal in five.” In his quarters, he sat for a moment in silence before keying in his access.
Mathias appeared onscreen. The boy looked like hell, with one eye swollen shut and his face bloody.
“…Xenobiology Officer, transmitting Epsilon Black emergency. All personnel other than me believed dead. Fauna exhibits both extreme aggression and rapid adaptation. Capable of compromising armor of all but command module. Simulations indicate fauna will breach within hour. Switching to vid feed for documentation.”
Threlk watched, in stunned horror, as the camera panned. Monstrous thorned vines climbed over and through the wrecks of vehicles considered impenetrable to concentrated artillery fire. As he watched, the wreckage was slowly being pulled deeper into the writhing undergrowth.
With a trembling hand, he terminated the link. Fighting back tears, he signaled the bridge.
“Plot course for nearest Republic base. Notify me when set for jump. Nothing more to see here.”