So for the time being I am sticking a pin in Yet Another Day in the Block as I move onto another short story.
Worry not, we are returning to catch up with Tannus soon, but for now we will leave him mid jump as he follows his target.
Instead I wanted to show things from a slightly different angle. This time it's a regular Joe UEF soldier who's caught up in something he didn't expect.
I introduce you to Honour & Glory - A First Law: Override short story
It was November Fifth Earth date as Corey Silverman known by his squad mates as 'Pockets' crouched low behind a series of reinforced plasteel crates piled three to four high. He had been given the nickname just days after signing up for UEF service thanks to a particularly lucky game of Pool, but at this point and time, taking cover behind the crates before him as a series of bio-seeking missiles roared overhead he felt like every ounce of luck had long since evacuated his body.
The battle Pockets was currently engaged in had been going on for only seven minutes. His face-plate infused heads up display or HUD told him as much, but these seven minutes had been the longest of his life. Pockets remembered the briefing in perfect detail, how his sergeant had outlined their basic operation, to infiltrate an Anchorage-Falls factory and liberate it from the Red Claw terror group who currently occupied it. His Sergeant had been confident, this woman had seen plenty of combat going all the way back to the AI war on Earth, Pockets had no reason not to trust her, she was as tough as nails and knew her shit. So when she had told her squad that they would be deployed south of the facility, that their rockets would apply cover and a small fire team comprised of some of their most adept soldiers would sneak in and take out the Kratel terrorists, Pockets had no reason to doubt her.
What events had actually transpired were drastically different. Yes the squad had deployed at the south of the facility, and yes their rockets had opened up, laying down covering fire against the terrorists, but Pockets was not part of a team of adept soldiers. Instead they were a small team of four soldiers and a Comms-Tech, each of them just as green as he was. The facility was in lockdown and their only hope of getting to the enemy was providing support for the Comms-Tech as she hacked the facility's security allowing their own soldiers inside. The terrorists had expected this the moment the rockets had opened fire and had deployed their own troopers in Heavy Carapace armour to lay down their own suppressive fire with Heavy Machine Guns. Pockets knew that at their current range those HMGs couldn't break through their UEF issued armour, but Pockets also knew that they were not fully armoured. All it would take is for a single stray bullet from one of those HMGs to hit him in the wrong place and he would be down and out, bleeding like a stuck pig as he waited for air support to pull him out and hopefully patch him up without too much damage. Then it wouldn't matter how expensive your armour was, how accurate your issue-rifles were or what your commander was barking into your ear-piece, your life was a game of chance and if you rolled badly you would be dead.
Pockets had been trained for this, he knew the actions, he knew the steps and moves. He recited them in his head.
"Clear, grip, aim, lead, fire"
The rifle was tight against his shoulder as he stood to full height, the barrel of the gun just inches above the top of the plasteel crate that largely protected him from enemy fire. He recited the final stages one more time.
"Aim, lead, fire".
A short burst of fire erupted from the end of Pocket's rifle. It was in the rough direction of a large muscled Kratel warrior who had left the facility. Pockets didn't know if this Kratel was either brave or foolish, and until this point the Kratel had not been aware of Pockets, instead it had stood in a defensive position against two UEF soldiers who were advancing on the warrior's position providing protection for the closing Comms-Tech. As Pockets' shots ricocheted against the reinforced door behind the Kratel, it turned to face him. For a brief moment the two's eyes met and Pockets was filled with a terrible dread.
The Kratel warrior was now racing towards Pockets at great speed, it wore what appeared to be traditional armour that protected only it's lower half allowing it's rippling torso to almost shine and glint in the dark as weapon fire illuminated it from it's rear and flank. The warrior was easily a good six inches to a foot taller than Pockets and in it's bear-sized hands it carried a massive axe with a blade made of a metal Pockets had never seen before. It appeared almost onyx-black but with a sheen and tint of intense red that seemed to visibly hum as it was carried by the warrior. Pockets allowed himself a moment to gather his nerves and closes his eyes tightly. Aim. Lead. Fire. Pockets opened his eyes and readied his rifle.
The line of fire between where the Kratel had been and where Pockets stood was empty. Pockets panned from left to right, but the Kratel was nowhere to be seen, it was as if the brute of a creature had simply vanished into the night sky, but such a thing was not possible. Pockets continued to pan his vision from side to side, his panic growing as he removed his view from his scope. It was in that moment that Pockets saw his assailant. The same Kratel warrior who had been barrel charging his position was now a matter of feet away from him only coming at him from an angle. In a flash of panic Pockets saw the route the Kratel had taken, the rows of barrels and crates that had provided the Warrior with an elevated position away from Pocket's scoped and narrowed field of view.
At such close proximity Pockets could make out the true extent of the warrior's armour, it was not just a series of tribal cloth tied and tattered from years of combat. It was interlaced with a series of skulls, bones and symbols, all of which appearing to act almost like the tribal fetishes Pockets had read about as a child in school when they had studied the history of the many ancestors who's heritage had been almost abandoned in the exodus from Earth. Pockets saw with his own eyes the red-tinted axe blade that was raised high above the warrior's head and with those same terrified eyes he watched on motionless as that axe blade swung down striking him at full force square in his chest. The pain was immeasurable to begin with, it felt like a white hot pain being thrust right into his chest and with a tight rasp Pockets tried to breath.
The first breath was ragged, it came in a gasp, but it was forced and painful. The second came harder and Pockets knew what was happening to him. The axe had cracked his ribs right open and cut deep into his lungs, at that very moment while he thought of this he knew that he was both suffocating and drowning in his own blood. Pockets looked up at the warrior who pulled the axe from the soldiers chest, and gestured towards him with a finger. Pockets didn't know what the gesture meant, but for that instant he wished it was a symbol of respect, one warrior against another, that this Kratel would remember him and would forever honour this kill.
The Kratel left Pockets in his own blood that pooled on the hard asphalt, and Pockets looked down at his chest. For a moment he was surprised at the realisation that he was no longer in pain. Instead a warm calm had washed over his body and he began to relax. Pockets had read about this as well. Apparently the Red Claw coated their weapons in an extracted venom from a creature native to their home world. The venom had an effect on the prey's nervous system that overrode any flight or fight mechanism and encouraged them to lay still and allow the corrosive element of the venom to eat and burn away at the victim's inside. Pockets knew this all too well, but that did not concern him. He knew that his present calm was those exact tranquillising effects the venom had on it's prey, but all Pockets could think about was how for the first time in days he might be able to actually sleep.
For a moment Pockets glanced skywards, it was still night and his squad was still bombarding the Red Claw's location with bio-seeking explosives. Pockets noticed how the explosions illuminated the sky in such a way. He thought about all the traditions he had read about from Earth, but had been lost, forgotten or abandoned when humanity had arrived on Honos. One of those was that of fireworks on November fifth, but here he was, laying on his back in the middle of an unfamiliar city, fighting an alien race that he knew nothing about, but somehow he still had his own private fireworks display. With a warm smile, Pockets closed his eyes.
"One! Two! Three!"
The voice was gravelly, the type of voice a man would get after smoking cigars every day for over twenty years of his life.
There was an intense pain in Pocket's chest as a huge armoured fist thundered down over his left breast plate. The force was incredible as it fractured what was left of his ribs and the pain intensified in ways that Pockets had never thought possible. He opened his eyes and glanced down at his chest where the Red Claw axe had ripped him open. There was so much blood, he couldn't even see where the wound was anymore and as hard as he tried he could not breath. For a moment he thought that he must have been dead.
From inside his chest the remains of his heart began to glow a vibrant combination of red and greens. Pockets knew all to well from his studies about what was happening, about the Accord technology that was implanted into the very heart of every citizen in the Outer Fringe collection of planets. He had received his own implant before he could remember at the same time as his dermal implant audio translator. This one was in the form of a self replicating nanite technology. It was injected when you were young and it lay dormant until it reached your heart. Once there the nanite would latch onto the organ tissue and begin it's replication process. It was a slow process that would not be complete until your sixteenth birthday, but once complete this device would remain inside your heart until either you died or it was forcibly removed. It's function was simple, it was activated via a strong forcible hit in exactly the right location and when activated it would release a single batch of much smaller nanite technology that would poor through and across your body repairing and replacing vital organs and stitching you back from the point of death. Rarely would it return you to perfect condition, but it would be enough to take you back into the fight. Within mere moments his breath had returned and with it the severe pain often referred to by other soldiers as After-Death. For the first time in his life, Pockets understood exactly why they called it that.
Above Pockets stood an impossibly tall man, clad from head to toe in heavy armour, the man's chest insignia denoted him as Lieutenant rank and his reinforced visor was retracted revealing a face that looked more a kin to a bouncer at one of the Block's many seedy night clubs. Between his teeth he chewed a large cigar and in his hands he held both tightly and lovingly a heavily customised HMG. When the Lieutenant spoke there was a drawl to his voice, but his accent was almost impossible to place.
"Get up kid! You're not dying here tonight!" The Lieutenant turned his gun in the direction of the Red Claw facility and opened fire on fully automatic setting, a strangely sadistic grin had spread across his face.
"Not when we got Grunters to kill!"
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley