Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Dumfries & Galloway
Re: All The Things I've Done
The link dissolved in a wash of static and the flickering command channel icon blinked out. I just sat there for a moment, unable to work out what had just happened. Dax was looking at me hard, as he’d heard my side of the conversation and knew, just as I knew, that no one could have survived the crash.
I shook my head and looked to the front, filing the ghost of Lieutenant Morris away with the spectre of my ex-wife. The day had gone from bad to weird, and I don’t like weird.
We rattled along, closed on some local cops busting up a street fight while a two-man support team watched from across the street. All the police firearms and special tactics officers had been disarmed and stood down under martial law, replaced by an off-world private security outfit. Vern Security were pretty much hated and despised by all concerned, but they were preferable to the heavy-handed response you would get from the Marines in similar circumstances.
As we neared the armoured car their handcuffs corporate icon appeared in my peripheral vision, giving me an idea. They had a support tender in close orbit and we were patched into their emergency channel in case their ground teams ran into serious opposition. I was sure they’d be able to forward a message back to base, or even act as an ad hoc comms relay.
“Wayward Sun, Wayward Sun, this is Marine detachment Lazy Gun Two, please respond.”
Straight back at me, a woman’s voice.
“Lazy Gun Two, this is the Vern Security frigate Wayward Sun. I’m sorry marine, but this isn’t protocol. To advise us of an incident or request assistance please go through the local civilian police or contact our liaison officer back at Camp Peacemaker.”
“Yeah, well, as you may have noticed we’ve just lost our support platform. So I was wondering if-“
“Be assured that data transfer has been normalised. There was a minor backlog due to higher than anticipated information flow, but operational parameters have been adjusted to ensure this will not occur again.”
She’d pre-empted a question, only it wasn’t the one I wanted to ask and her answer left me floundering.
“Ah, that’s great. Could you maybe inform Marine command-“
“All appropriate authorities have been kept appraised of developments. At no point did we drop below contractual minimums…Was there anything else, marine?”
“Ah, no, no. Lazy Gun Two, out.”
I had no bloody idea what she’d been going on about, except maybe Vern acted as some kind of radio backup for the airship, in case of atmospheric interference. It was just something else to be ignored for now. My head hurt.
“Hey, boss, I’m receiving GPS routing info. Looks like we’re not on our lonesome no more.”
I automatically scanned the horizon for a comms drone but anything up there was lost in the haze.
“Henderson? I’m not getting a command channel link. You sure it’s legit?”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s coming through the MSN discriminator, proper prefix and everything.”
The Marine sat nav satellite system couldn’t support voice traffic, so I relaxed a bit.
“OK, so it’s giving us a best route to the crash site?”
“Negative. It’s taking us to that big park, just over a klick north-east. The one where Kuntz threw up in the fountain. You want me to play ball?”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s sweet. At least we’ll be out in the open, good fields of fire. Get us there pronto.”
The APC lurched as Henderson tried for top gear, even though the tracks would start chewing up the road surface. I didn’t really care as the locals studiously ignored any considerate gestures, but were quick to shout the odds over minor infractions. Balthazar Park was looking pretty brown these days, since we’d commandeered the water supply which normally kept it irrigated. Command figured that showers for Marines were more important than greenery for the locals, and it had to rain here sometime.
We parked up near the statue of Balthazar himself, although I was a bit vague as to who he was in the planets history. Almost immediately another Marine icon popped up, making me smile.
“This is Lazy Gun Two calling Big Dog One. Mackenzie, that you?”
“Cooper? I heard some panty-wearing Marine outfit needed bailed out, but I never thought I’d have to slum it with the likes of you.”
“Well, don’t worry, we’re here to hold your hand and help with the big words, anytime. Whereabouts are you?”
“Closing on your position from the east. Less than two klicks out.”
I looked in that direction and spotted a dust plume.
“Roger that. Mind those flowerbeds though.”
“Screw them. They bitch if we drive on the pathways, they bitch if we drive on the grass” I heard him spit, “What’s your condition?”
“Two APCs, eight effectives, two prisoners. Lost one man to a booby-trap. You?”
“Started off with four vehicles, now I’m down to two. Road side bomb screwed one and I had to leave another behind on guard, awaiting recovery. That’s seven down, leaving me eleven and three guests of the Marine Corp.”
“And it’s not even midday…Any idea what we’re doing here?”
“You don’t know? Well, I got a side-band flash not long after the platform went down. We were on Long Avenue and had line of sight right down to the relay tower on the big church. We’ve to link up, send our prisoners back to camp in a two-vehicle convoy, then wait for reinforcements.”
“Reinforcements? What the hell we got on standby these days? I don’t fancy sitting out here like-“ Movement caught my eye and I looked up, ”Jeez, it’s a goddamn dropship. I didn’t know we had anything in orbit. Last I heard Persephone is dark side, fire support for the three-one.”
“Don’t knock it, man, if it is apes then we’re…”
Rising engine noise drowned him out as the orbital personnel carrier started to brake, having glided down from the upper atmosphere. It semi-stalled, hovered, then started to settle onto the grass, kicking up a blizzard of dust, twigs, small stones and general debris. I had to turn away for a moment, deaf and blind. The engine note didn’t start to cycle down, indicating this was a dust-off, but the down blast soon ran out of crap to throw our way and I was able to take a look without scouring my visor.
The slide door went back and a squad of Marines spilled out, all shiny in fresh fatigues and polished boots. Newbies? Well, better than nothing, but instead of doubling over they formed a defensive perimeter around the dropship. I upped the magnification on my gunsight, trying to identify which unit they belonged to, but they carried no insignia of any kind. Stranger still, there was no unit icon on my comms array, meaning I couldn’t even ask them the time of day.
Two men stepped out of the ship and started walking towards us, the marines adjusting their positions to form a moving defensive pocket. Two men, wearing civilian clothes cut in a military style, but not uniforms. Both of average height, average build, short brown hair, wearing sunglasses.
Just what I needed, some kind of intelligence dudes.
“Dax, Andrews, front and centre. Get that tailgate down, pronto.” I sighed, “And best behaviour, looks like we’ve got guests.”