Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Two guns: one an Earther automatic, the other a Lenkormian beamer.
“Holy Marduk, that’s a Grifone!”
And we have an enthusiast. I grin at the young trooper.
“Only by looks. It’s a custom Perez .557 automatic. I spent some time at his compound when I was stationed in Lima.”
He points to the white steel death on my other hip.
“Lenk or Kor?”
I do like a being who knows their xenohistory.
“Lenk body, Kor chassis. Genuine Lenkormian cell.”
He goes whiter than the weapon we’re discussing.
“A Forever Gun?”
I nod. Any second now…
He starts to bring his rifle up. The Forever Gun flits from its holster to be in my hand by the time I need to think ‘fire’. The beam goes through his right eye and exits through the left parietal.
“Stand down! Your fancy beamers won’t cut cerasteel.”
I turn to face the armoured warrior with Lieutenant’s stripes on the left chest. A man with that many service bars should be better than enthusiasts like the one I just killed. I level the Perez at him and put an armour-piercing round containing depleted uranium pellets floating in liquid Teflon through his stripes. Either load would be sufficient, but the excessive blend seems to really upset the people we need to annoy.
He hits the floor, blood already seeping around the torso plates. I hope they open him in a container. It’ll take ages to clean the smaller bits off a floor.
“I recognise that cannon blast. Have you started, Red?”
My overwatch. As the cliché goes: if you think I’m nasty, just hope I don’t need her to intervene.
“Ran into a gun collector at the gate. He recognised the combo.”
“Didn’t the cannonball go straight through?”
“That was mincing his Lieutenant.”
“Didn’t think you’d waste a shot. Okay: target is in the central compound.”
“That’s three gates and a couple of towers away?”
“Yes. While I would never doubt your abilities, it might be an idea to flush game.”
I’m dangerous, but without my war machine about me, the second fire tower will turn me into prime cuts and carbon. Jogging towards the next gate, I use the Forever Gun’s ridiculous range to drop all three troopers before I get there. Sadly, I have to shoot their Lieutenant in the back as he’s too busy running. Never put a soft officer on critical duty.
“General Ranno! Remember the Twenty-First Keshichan Lancers? I’m Khevtuul Chloe Bastia, and I’m here to end your days!”
Four years ago he led us into an ambush. He used that betrayal to get himself a promotion into enemy ranks, going from Cherbi to General at the cost of the people who trusted him.
“Nicely over-the-top, Red. He’s moving.”
“Away from me?”
“You need confirmation?”
“As a Khevtuul, I reported directly to him. If he’s not running, that’s a body double. Politics and cowardice were his only competencies.”
“He’s exited the central compound, heading away, but slowly.”
“Do I need to crack another gate?”
“Use something splashy.”
I point the Perez at the distant gate house and thumb the integral laser designator. In the car park across the road, an assault drone ruins its camper van disguise by sending something fast with a thermobaric warhead to do my destroying.
As flaming bits of gate and soldiers rain down, I hear a chuckle.
“Konnichi wa, General-kun.”
The sky lights up as Saeko-chan fires the anti-ship beamer she affectionately calls ‘Torchy’.
“He’s done. Spread like smoking geography. Let’s go home.”
“Anytime. I love killing things with you.”
That’s my girl.