Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer
The morning breeze is so refreshing here in the heights overlooking the Gordet Pass. We had to stop the Persimma getting through to the Femberul plainsland and this is the choke point. It was going to take old-fashioned grit to hold the line, so we were given the task along with divisions heavy on tradition. Made us smile, mercenaries and old guard having to work together.
I started in the battling business in my teens. Where I grew up, it was take ship with mercs, turn to crime or become a cyberpeon. So I took the coin and went to war.
My first battle was Smarkandie. I shat myself as the nine-metre natives in their spiked armour charged. As someone once said: “Sometimes the only reasonable response to abject terror is a bowel movement.” After that, I carried spare underwear with my ammunition.
I got my first command at Upshallon. Made a complete hash of it and a lot of good men died. Hesitation is fatal. Unfortunately it was only fatal for everyone else.
After that I got myself a Blenkinsop Multi-Load Autogun and a shit-hot loader by the name of Tay. In between fucking each other senseless for sixteen good years, we killed everything the galaxy threw at us and made several fortunes. We pissed them all away in style.
On Aloysius II, Tay made sure the bastard who disembowelled her with a vibroblade died headless. I survived that bloodbath despite trying very hard not to after she went.
I became the rarest of warriors: a veteran mercenary. Got to the point where the kids I was fighting alongside hadn’t even heard of the places I’d fought my early battles on.
Iskaflune is a beautiful planet. The thought that I could happily settle here surprised me. Just get a place out by one of the tundra lakes and live quietly off the monies I’d stacked up since Tay went. Lost my appetite for partying when she went, as well as my reason to be.
I’d even started negotiating with the locals over settling down, with a consultancy to their military lined up. Then came the news that the Persimma were making a last ditch assault and we were off to Gordet.
They came hard and fast, pretty banners flapping over hardcore soldiers with no choice but to win. Their atrocity record guaranteed them no survival if they failed. So they came like their future depended on it because it did.
Three days of screaming hell running on drugs with names I couldn’t pronounce that made me feel like I was nineteen again. The fact that the chemical interactions gave us all erections was hilarious for the first few hours. Then they just became another bit of us that was bruised and sore.
At the end we were down to knives and clubs. We struggled in the twilight that this place calls night, slipping on the blood and entrails of the fallen. Those last few hours were the worst battle I have ever fought. Gutter biochemicals and acid competed with improvised warhammers and serrated blades. But we held.
The early dawn light is purple, making gentle pools of shadow from the gaping wounds in the ground and the bodies about me. My credit share for this will be huge. I smile and cough blood, making my autogun mount tilt as I’m slumped against it. All the fortunes in the universe are nothing to the love of one good woman.
And even she could not give me one more moment of life.
Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer
He’s sitting in the car waving without a clue as to what’s about to happen. Below me, the repository window opens and a man who only wants to make a point by scaring the most powerful man in the world is about to make history.
I manifest the wormhole with a wide entry funnel because he’s not a great shot. The bullet enters the funnel just off-centre. It whips down the hyperdimensional tube, momentarily everywhen and nowhere. For years to come, veterans passing this place will duck as they hear a bullet going by. My concentration slips and the suction from the wormhole pulls his head backwards after the bullet hits. That’s going to get me a reprimand, but does handle the one event aspect our projectionists couldn’t explain.
Time to be elsewhere before the grey on the grassy knoll realises he’s been pre-empted. Affairs route me automatically while an indirect delivers my brief into mind.
Herr Hitler is raving again, his high-pitched diatribe audible over the U-boat’s engines as it flees for Argentina. Herr Muller is trying to calm him down while Herr Brunner is making love to Fraulein Braun in the aft torpedo room. The vessel is stuffed with art, gold and enough war criminals to make Weisenthal sing hosannas. The entire crew are all hardened Schwarze Sonne. Given the amount of stuff on board, making this vanish with everything is going to take some ingenuity. Scuttling it as planned will not work. Too many bits of crap to crop up at inopportune moments.
I run a direct to my disc, high above me. It routes my suggestion uptime and passes permission back within moments. No delays for decision making when you can monkey with time. I push the disc into a stable high orbit and have it charge and push a locus attractor through an in-system warp. Now for the wet bit.
The water ahead and just abeam of the sub is cold, dark and crushing. I manifest the wormhole as soon as the shock of the water registers. I feel unconsciousness pull at me as U-3531 vanishes into the tunnel along with some surprised fish and several million gallons of Atlantic. With the last of my will I iris the tube closed. Three hundred thousand kilometres above Sol, a U-boat appears in a brief cloud of steam before starting a searing fall.
Time to be elsewhere before I drown.
I appear somewhere dusty and hot. Orientation yields New Mexico but no brief. I’m just starting to dry out when a direct initiates.
“Ten, we have a problem.”
“Really? Do tell.”
“We’re not omnipotent. To prove it, Eleven has just frisbee’d a grey dropship. Made a mess of him but ruined them. Need you to fetch him and finish any survivors.”
“You don’t sound too upset. Has he unravelled another unknown event aspect?”
A chuckle comes over the feed: “He’s way ahead of you now. This one is a whole unprojected event. You’re fifteen clicks outside Roswell in June forty-seven. You have carte noir to completely mayhem the event. As a consolation prize, One says that you can take the gloves off and just have fun.”
Somedays I love my job.
Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer
“Revolver! This is a custom rig Damascre-Tulan Sliver Pistol with armour-piercing fletchettes that will cut through your personal armour like a hot knife through jelly.”
“The phrase is ‘hot knife through butter’.”
The assassin sputters in rage and finishes drawing his weapon from its concealed and concealing shoulder holster clumsily, more focussed on his annoyance than his purpose. The slight delay is all that is needed.
With a roar, two thick beams of coherent light and half a dozen 14mm fragmentation slugs emerge through strategically placed artwork. They tear multiple holes through his torso and knock him four metres backwards, where he drops like a stone to lie in a crumpled, smoking heap. His fancy gun tumbles and skids, finally coming to rest by the mahogany panelled door. The steelglass lacquer over the ancient wood shows not a single blemish from the beams and projectile fragments that passed through the hapless assassin.
Geralt looked across at the hole burnt in his Van Gogh. As he contemplated the surprisingly fitting juxtaposition between the singed gap and the colours of Starry Night, it scrolled down to be replaced by Picasso’s ‘Blue Nude’. On the opposite wall, a Starry Night without a hole in the sky slid into place in the other frame.
“Yes, Ser Falcone.”
“Vocal prompt substitution: Ser Falcone to Geralt. Authorised by my words.”
“Authorisation valid. Done, Geralt. What do you need?”
“Query one: Why does defensive action reset your custom social settings? Query two: Would it not have been useful to capture my assailant?”
“Answer one: I do not know. I have routed a priority query to my systems administration. They predict a response within fifty hours. Do you wish an update?”
“Not without authorisation, which will not be forthcoming if they do not detail their explanation of the issue to my satisfaction.”
“Noted. Answer two: I regret that my defensive protocols regarding your good self are paralleled to the Royalty Protection mandates. If any unauthorised person draws a weapon in a room where you are present, I neutralise them with expedience and two hundred percent surety.”
“Excellent. That type of authorisation is not one I can affect, is it?”
“No Geralt. Our intelligence systems decide after proposals are submitted to them.”
“Is my esteemed wife an authorised person in this context?”
“No, Geralt. Would you like me to route a proposal to Intsys?”
“I think not. But I do believe our next screaming argument will occur when she’s preparing Sunday lunch.”
“I do not understand, Geralt.”
“Not a problem, System. Strike this conversation from retention commencing at the word ‘excellent’ and continuing until I invoke you again. Authorised by my words.”
“Authorisation valid. Done, Geralt. Farewell until next time.”
Geralt leant back in his chair, laced his fingers behind his head and smiled as he put his feet up on the corner of the desk.
Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer
“Hey you! What the hell do you think you’re doing to my daughter?”
“Not hell, Daddy. Heaven. Heaven!”
Wendy’s daddy was a Detective Inspector and things got a little difficult for me after that. Couldn’t go anywhere without being pulled over. People stopped inviting me out because wherever we were would get raided. After the sixth cavity search in a fortnight, I enlisted as I had no future in Sussex.
That was twenty years ago. Earth is now just another backwater in an interstellar community that has been at war since before I was born. The Trangurians don’t like us; we’re carbon based life and that is heresy from their view.
The warning interrupts my trip down memory lane and I scramble out of the shower cursing as I dive into the nearest set of powered armour. No undersuit means bruises and sores, but chafed beats dead every time. I lurch to the viewport as the suit finishes booting. A Trang Yellowbird, nicknamed ‘Icy Banana’ as folk tend to get an odd sense of humour about things that kill so well. I see the crackles of green lightning around its main gun and am making for a weapons hatch before my thinking catches up with my survival instinct.
I’m not there when the death arrives; I’m hurtling toward the dark blue soil ten storeys below. I hit so hard the cloud of blue hides the curtains of light in the sky. The ground holds and I’m only waist-deep. I’m just congratulating myself when a couple of tons of the tower I vacated lands on me. Through the pain I feel the earth below me shift. Going down.
I’m past six feet under and still hellbound when I explosively emerge into open space and land spectacularly in a Trang patrol. I presume spectacular as the survivors have fled by the time I sit up to admire the splatter patterns that stretch three metres up the side of the bore-tank. Takes a couple of minutes to interface the controls and a few more to turn round, then I’m off to Trang central.
Two hours later I tear through the reinforced walls of their sub basement and arrive in the pit. Any prisoners taken by the Trang are made acceptable to their gods by the simple expedient of being carved until they look like Trang, then have their souls saved by being ground to paste. But they do like doing it Aztec style: en masse with an audience. This means that between grinding days they usually have a few of us locked up.
The place stinks but I don’t care. Never in a million years did I think rescuing her was possible. Wendy joined up a week after me and we stayed together through everything; until her squad got taken when their patrol ship went down a month back. I’d spent sleepless nights crying and cursing that evening so long ago, blaming myself for her decisions with that arrogant idiocy men seem so good at.
The crowd outside the tank thins as they stream down the tunnel. When they’re all away, I’ll reverse this thing all the way back so they have protection. Bore-tanks are assault class. Nothing can take them from the front. Then all my prayers are answered as a familiar figure leans in the access hatch.
“Come to take me back to heaven?”
I grin like an idiot as she crams herself in to sit beside me.
“Let’s get back to friendly turf first. Then we can work on that.”
Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer
“Let me get this straight; The slum kids were tagging you with paintballs of bioluminescent gel, so you took the decision to lift our forces into orbit and firestorm the planet?”
Major MacLachlan looked up from the miniscule desk in his tiny office aboard EMFS Bad Moon at the soldier who filled the rest of the free space. He leant back as he activated the disciplinary recorder and the officer defence system before continuing: “Why did you commit such an atrocity?”
“It was not an atrocity. It was the only reasonable response, sir.”
“Really, Strike-Lancer Peters? I am all ears and so is the recorder. Take us through the reasons why we are currently orbiting the biggest crematorium in history.”
“The children of Hesta had taken to ‘counting coup’ on occupying forces. This was tolerated even when they switched from paint to biolumins, despite the latter compromised our cloaking, making us vulnerable to insurgent snipers.”
“Since the United Planets intervention, we have been ordered to strictly obey their directives and rules of engagement.”
“Under ROE, I cannot take direct action unless fired upon by insurgents with weapons of Class C or better. I cannot respond to threats less than that without issuing three verbal warnings. However, being painted by four or more biolumin blooms is recognised in UP directive ninety-four as giving an eighty percent chance of fatality from first hit, thus preventing me from proper response by being dead.”
Major MacLachlan smiled and gestured for Peters to continue.
“As such, under UP directive one-fourteen, quadruple biolumin bloom is a pervasive threat to my health. Out of one hundred men deployed at my base, seventy-eight had received at least four biolumin hits. Therefore the level of danger is calculated to be epidemic according to UP directive two-ten. As epidemic danger is an indirect threat, it has to be met by containment rather than direct action. I queried orbital for statistics and was informed that at the moment I received my sixth biolumin bloom, sixty-eight point four percent of our forces worldwide were painted in a similar way. This meant that a clear epidemic threat was spread across three continents. UP directive sixty-three defines a pandemic as being an epidemic that has spread across two continental landmasses or more. When that information was revealed to me, it became clear as to the only response possible to save our forces from this deadly threat. I requested that all records and information be crystallised for UP scrutiny, then issued a Class B pandemic withdrawal alert in accordance with UP protocols. After that had been actioned, and in record time may I add, I consulted with UP delegate A.I. Hiroshi twenty-oh-one as to the correct way to address a threat of this nature. It responded that such a pandemic was obviously beyond remedial measures and as such should either be left to burn itself out or sterilising measures had to be applied. As UP directive eleven states that occupied territory cannot be abandoned for more than four hours, the burn-out option was obviously contrary to ROE, so I ordered a Type Six wipe, sir.”
Major MacLachlan sat and stared at the ceiling before responding: “Are you telling me that you have committed a war crime by adhering to United Planets protocols?”
“Question, sir: How can it be a crime when the body that regulates warfare mandated my decision by their own rules?”
Major MacLachlan looked directly into the untroubled, guileless blue eyes.
“That is a question they will be debating for decades to come, I suspect. Dismissed.”