Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Crane somersaults over my head with a gleeful shout. He lands behind me in the crater as a spray of purple fire lashes by above us.
“Why are you so bleedin’ happy?”
“I love it when a war doesn’t fuck about.”
He waves his hand to encompass the battlefield about us, a place we used to call Guildford.
“My grandad did four tours where he spent more time oiling the guns than using ‘em. Said war was dull, you needed a full-tilt apocalypse to keep it interesting.”
“You had a fucked-up family, brother.”
He grins: “Didn’t realise that until I got out into the real world.”
Something that looks like a tiger crossed with a lobster lunges over the rim of our dent in the dirt. We gun it down. Takes four full clips before it stops trying to slaughter us.
He points, shaking his head: “That’s new. Big, too.”
“Buggeration. Time to offski.”
Encountering a lone fourth-wave hordeling is lucky for us. Hordes attack in four waves, with random bombardments thrown in to make things interesting. The waves start small, get bigger, and the first three are survivable. The fourth needs heavy weapons to stop it.
Crane wags a flat hand across his throat: “Definitely time to live to fight another day.”
I get on the radio: “Top Hat, this is Charlie Nine. We’re leaving the stage. Call for artillery.”
“Got that, Charlie Nine. Saw your guncams. Be aware the stage door is eight clicks north-north-west of you. CO says stopping for afternoon tea is a bad idea.”
“Roger that. Charlie Nine, at the double, and out.”
Crane grins: “Flat out across eight kilometres of rough ground while fending off monsters from the stars. Grandad would have loved this.”
As we go over the top and charge, I shout across to him.
“Only if he was watching it. Think he’d hate it if he were in it.”
Crane laughs as he fires grenades toward the pursuing horde.
“Reckon you’re right.”
With that, the time for banter is over. We run.
Crossing a short bridge, something huge shambles from underneath, then loses the advantage of surprise by stopping to roar. I drop a grenade into its gob and we sprint away, getting showered in stinky bits as we go.
“What was that?”
“Not fast enough.”
Crane grins and we jog on.
Seven clicks later, we’re down to running on stimulants and stubborn when a chopper swings in from the north and hovers over the top of the only hill we can see.
“On a fucking hill? Come on.” Crane’s not impressed.
“Charlie Nine, just following protocol, over.”
I’m with the lunatic on my left.
“He’s right. That protocol also allows line retrieval of threatened resources.”
I turn and start to pick off the hordelings that have been dogging our tail. Crane joins in.
The chopper pilot’s actually laughing as he tilts it our way: “Like you two?”
Crane snaps: “No way we can make it up that hill without being caught.”
The chopper’s rotary cannon snorts and the ground in front of us erupts. Bits of hordeling fly about.
“Would sirs like a ladder or will a rope do?”
As one, we give the chopper pilot the finger.
He’s still laughing: “One of each it is.”
After being winched up, Crane slumps into the seat next to me before waving his hand regally toward the cockpit: “Home, James.”
The pilot doesn’t even miss a beat: “As you wish, milady.”
I grin at Crane: “Never a dull day.”
He grimaces, then laughs: “Oh, fuck off.”