Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The view goes negative, then my tummy does the thing where it tries to chuck everything out whichever end is the nearest.
It’s an hour before I can pick up the coffee left by an orderly barely older than my little sister. She doesn’t say a word. Literally runs off as soon as she’s put the cup down.
I need to clean myself up. Then someone needs a crash course in datamancer etiquette.
Stalking down the corridor in clean fatigues, I can see people moving away. I’m sensitive enough to read data as it passes by, and able to adjust it by act of will. It’s not hard to detect the clumps of electrical impulses bundled up in lifeforms.
“Specialist Leeson. What are you doing away from your post?” Sergeant-Major Ipswich sounds annoyed.
“I’m not at my post because it became irrelevant. I’m looking for the shitstick who gave permission for someone to let off an EMP within a half-kilometre of me without warning. Honestly, SM, I’m trying to help, but all your side seem to be able to muster is piss-taking and casual negligence.”
He grabs my arm. Mistake. He lets go and hastens away, convinced there’s a knife fight going on outside the Officer’s Mess.
Slamming through the doors to the command centre, I lean on the console next to the orderly who delivered my coffee.
“Could you get the idiot behind that EMP to come up here, please?”
She stammers. I delve into the console’s data lines and divert the tactical feed from Zone Six to a vending machine in the canteen. Unhappy shouting starts.
I raise my voice: “Which twit ordered the nearfield EMP?”
Shouting continues. I shut off the main display.
“Hey, people. Who ordered the EMP?”
A voice from behind me: “Release the data or I will shoot.”
I turn, slowly. A balding man in an overtight officer’s uniform. He’s got a lot of stripes on his chest and upper arms. He also has a revolver pointed at me.
“If you shoot me, the system crashes.”
“We’ll reboot it.”
I glance at the orderly and smile: “How long for a reboot, Trooper Barrett?”
She sits up: “About thirty minutes, Specialist Leeson.”
I look at him: “How much war can you lose in half an hour?”
He goes a little pale: “Technowitch bullshit. The interference will drop when you do.”
This man is a senior officer in the army that found, honed, and trained me. He hasn’t got a clue.
“I’m an ‘electrosensitive’ with ‘chronic hypermanipulation’. Street slang for me is ‘datamancer’.”
“Boojuns to scare the natives. You’ve just got supercomputers up your fanny.”
His eyes close and he drops like a sack of spuds. Behind him stands a dangerous-looking gent in baggy fatigues and warpaint: bright eyes, big grin. He cracks his knuckles.
“Excuse me, Lieutenant-General Renvers. I’m Sergeant Malc Green, one of your ‘point removal specialists’. This young lady has been kind enough to save my sorry arse twice in the last month, and is about to crawl through three kilometres of mud to fondle a cable so I can slip past enemy detectors, kill someone, and get out of occupied territory once again. Therefore, mind your fucking manners.”
You could hear a pin drop.
Malc takes a deep breath, then winks at me: “Ready to get dirty, witch?”
“Only for my favourite Uruk.”
I smile at him and restore the feeds.
As we head out, Malcolm pauses by Trooper Barrett and whispers: “Dunno ‘bout you, but I’d take the cartridges out of that revolver before he wakes up.”