Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Dumfries & Galloway
Re: All The Things I've Done
There were voices around me but I ignored them.
“We've got firing inside the perimeter!”
“I got nothing, just friendlies.”
The APC engines roared into life, sending up plumes of blue-grey smoke and adding to the general bedlam.
It was all just background.
I felt the road surface in case there was a hidden trap-door or something. Impossible, I know, but no more impossible than a vanishing body. It had been my ex-wife, looking exactly as I remembered her eleven years ago, even down to the split lip.
Memory fought with reality for my attention and the here and now won out. I grabbed one, two stims from my vest and jammed them against my neck. They called this brand ‘Cold Fire’ and the initial hit is like battlefield aesthetic, a rushing numbness spreading out from the injection site. Then I got the tingle, and the supercharged burst of perfect clarity that fused body and soul into one vision, one purpose. I stood.
“This is Cooper. Accidental discharge, I repeat, accidental discharge. Look to your front.”
I looked round to see Anderson, J. helping Dax, I. to his feet, as the IFF overlay identified them. Against a high-tech opponent an active transponder would be suicide, but nothing I’d seen on this planet suggested the locals had anything like the required capability.
“You two, mount up!”
Anderson looked back at the ruined building.
“What about McCabe, Sarge?”
I shook my head.
“Nothing we can do, Marine. I seen this kind of thing before and that close to the explosion, well, at least it was quick.”
As we moved towards the APC I opened the command channel.
“Lazy Gun Actual this is Lazy-“
“Cooper? Don’t you dare cut me off like that again of I’ll have your stripes! Understand?”
“Reading you clear, sir.”
“Good, now report.”
“One casualty confirmed. McCabe, H. A newbie. Nothing for us to evac so I’m requesting the site be tagged for a Burials detail. Maybe they can sift through the debris and find enough to put in a box, but you’re talking body parts at best.”
“Noted. No sign of the target?”
“Negative. There were two booby-trapped bodies in the building, maybe his wife and child. Hardly matters but it means they knew we were coming and had time to rig up a big hello. You want us to move on to the next address or call it a day?”
The dust swilled away and I had a clear view of the support platform – a heavily armed airship on permanent station above the city. It served to provide us with fire support and remind the locals we were watching their every move. As I watched a helo lifted off from the topside pad and flickered away towards Camp Peacemaker.
When Lieutenant Morris came back on I could hear the hesitation in his voice.
“The One-Seven reported an ambush, but just your traditional road-side bomb. I’m not seeing any definite pattern to suggest the mission has been compromised, so press on for now and-“
The airship imploded. And I mean imploded, like some giant invisible hand crushed it, then let go. The crumpled airframe fell, trailing smoke from ruptured systems.
“Lazy Gun Actual, do you read?”
There was just static, and to be honest I was glad Morris was in no condition to reply during his fall to earth. I ran towards the APC, the last man to board.
“Squad! Actual is down, I repeat, Actual is down. The platform is a goner so I want every rifle topside and safeties off. The mission is officially a bust and until we hear from Command we’re heading towards the crash site. The chance of finding survivors is about nil but I want to stop the locals picking over the wreckage.”
I jumped and Grozy grabbed my arm so that I walked up the metal side, twisting at the top to sit by the HMG gun shield, my legs dangling.
“Move out, move out! Harrison, main thoroughfares if you can, anything to keep us out in the open.”
“Roger that, Sarge.”
The APC jerked as the tracks dug in, making me sway, but there were welded handholds to grab hold of. Sitting out like that, fully exposed, was just stim-fuelled bravado, but I needed to show anyone watching that we weren’t intimidated. I also need to show I was back in charge, as an accidental discharge was something expected from a newbie. At least Dax kept his mouth shut and just grinned.
We rattled down the street and turned into a small square, ignoring any right of way. Civilian traffic jammed itself against the pavements to give us room, but there wasn’t much in the way of protests and cursing. Not that I could hear, anyway. With the support platform down we were effectively incommunicado until the camp realised what had happened and launched a comms drone, but that was the least of my worries.
A wave of static erupted from the command channel, and words.
I felt my chest go tight. No one could have survived that crash, it just wasn’t possible. It had to be a trick, but I answered anyway.
“Lazy Gun Actual, this is Lazy Gun Two. Say again?”
“Cooper here, sir. Glad to hear your voice. How many survivors?”
“Sir, you got shot down. The support platform crash landed.”
“Crashed? No, no…”
The static was like surf on the beach, rising and falling.
“Sir?...Lieutenant Morris?...Lazy Gun Actual, do you read?”
“We’re still falling!”