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"Extraction Request" by Rich Larson

"Extraction Request" by Rich Larson 

This story comes from the anthology "The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Vol. 2" edited by Neil Clarke. 

This is a story about a squad leader, named Elliot, and his squad.  Elliot is the squad leader of the team that was flying through the air of the planet.  He is also the squad leader addicted to pain killers.  Although he tries to hide this fact from his squad many of them notice the changes in him.  He's not fooling anyone. 

The squad was flying through the air of a planet when they hit a smart mine and went down.  The planet was covered in large swathes of fungi.  Fields of it for miles.  Small amounts of flora, but pretty much just the fungi all around them. 

They went down pretty hard, but with only one casualty.  Beasley was pretty much sheared in half, but still coherent.  He sent out a ripple to the squad.  Each squad member saw the flash of light on their optic visor that allowed them an up or down vote on whether Beasley could terminate himself by allowing the nanobomb implanted at the base of his neck to explode.  With pity in their eyes, they all upvoted and watched Beasley slump over dead. 

Elliot had the crew start trying to do what repairs they could.  Elliot had someone send up a drone to see what they could see from the sky, but kept it low to not hit anymore smart mines.  He also had someone setup a perimeter security module called Cyclops. 

There didn't appear to be any danger or threats nearby.  No signs of life where anywhere on the radar.  They did find neat piles of bones, but no context for what they were or why they were there.  It could mean nothing, or it could mean that something they couldn't see was out there. Last Elliot knew is that the message was sent to headquarters and that the extraction request should be fulfilled at some point in the near future.  All they had to do was wait it out. 

That night is when all hell broke loose.  Cyclops went off and the squad jumped into action.  Just in time to see the fungi coming to life and pulling away one of the crew members.  Firing bullets didn't do anything to the creature and went right through it.  They ended up losing the crew member that night.  Now they knew who the enemy was, and what the piles of bones found where.  The fungi was alive.  it was deadly.  And they were stuck there to wait for extraction.  If they made it that long. 

This story started off with a bang and just kept going.  It never let you stop and take a breather.  During the few parts where there wasn't action, the anticipation of what was coming next grabbed a hold of you.  You never knew what was around the next corner. 

The writing was superb.  The writing flowed easily and had a good pace to the story.  I'm usually not a huge fan a military science fiction, but this story was great.  I couldn't wait to see how this story ended.  I had to know. 

Overall, one hell of a story.  Rich Larsen did a great job with everything about this story.  From the writing, to the style, to the story, to the description, to everything.  You felt as if you were transported to another world and whatever was out there was going to get you.  Great Job.


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