Author: David Barber

Officer Chen woke just as they fell from the sky.

The woman sitting opposite cried out and braced herself for the crash. The engines screamed as the ground leapt upwards, then the dropship bounced and was still. They’d landed inside square kilometres of smart wire and autoguns.

“Was that really necessary?” The air was humid, with more oxygen. She swayed in the heat.

“Legion assumes all landings are hostile and trains for it,” shrugged Chen.

She was wearing Legion camo and a white helmet. And she, or some joker in orbit, had fastened her thorax armour on backwards.

There was a whirr of wings above them.

“Where’s Platt?” Chen called out.

The Legionary was already tracking the metre-long dragonfly with the barrel of a pump-action. The shot shredded its wings and it fluttered to the ground to be stomped on.

“Some like to lay eggs in you,” explained Platt.

Chen showed the reporter round Command. She loitered beneath the icy aircon, but there was no story in Legion techs hunched over screens.

“There were six rival Queendoms when we landed,” Chen explained. “Bugs had got as far as industrialised conflict. You should see their steamer tanks.”

She panned her camera round. “So we backed one Queen in return for exploiting… pardon, exporting uranium?”

Chen shrugged. “I was told you wanted to go a mission. Something more visual.”

She stared at him intently. It meant nothing, her camera was linked to her gaze.

They hurtled over feathertrees at Mach 1 with utter faith in terrain-hugging radar.

“Not really necessary,” Chen shouted over the engine noise. “Bugs have no air defences, but it’s what the pilots do.”

“What’s with all these devils painted on your men’s gear?”

“What the bugs call us. I turn a blind eye.”

He explained a local nest was to be seeded with a cocktail of pheromones. A covert attempt to weaken the grip of the Red Queen.

“Wait. I thought the Red Queen was our ally.”

“She seems to have forgotten that.”

Nests were underground. There wasn’t much to see, just tall smoking chimneys and roads that radiated away through jungle. The dropships settled after the same stomach-wrenching plummet.

Legionaries were outside before she could unbuckle herself.

“Stay with me, yes?”

She followed him into a dark mouth in the earth, legionaries fanning out ahead. Suddenly there was gunfire, deafening in the tunnels. She shone her camera light on bugs chewed up by bullets. They were more like centipedes the size of large dogs.

“What’s happening? Aren’t these on our side?”

Chen shaded his eyes as she pointed her camera at him. “My report will show this was an unprovoked attack.”

Legionaries came running back, pausing to fire long growling bursts.

“Here they come, sir.”

She turned to look and Chen shoved her. She stumbled, arms outstretched, into the frenzied bugs and they tore into her.

After a while Chen ordered his men to fire.

“Collect the body, sergeant. And the camera.”

Officer Chen reported to his superiors on a secure channel.

It went to plan?

“Yes sir. As a bonus her camera caught the bugs attacking her.”

An unarmed reporter. It would justify nuking the Red Queen alright.

Any problems to report?

“No sir.”

You obeyed orders, which is what you demand of your men. But you murdered a civilian and turned on allies, without any qualms. There is a place for men like you, but not in the Legion.

“Wait, what?”

This sim is ending now.