Adam Murton – alias Vardos Cadix – has written for us before. Here, he provides us with part 2 of an exciting new piece of fiction that deals with the potential traumas Isorians may suffer when using their phase-shift technology. Part I can be found here.
Blood Through Her Hands, II
Previously:Squad Leader Syn had just been recalled from active duty from a remote planet, Ayal V. Before her troopship arrived, there was yet another ‘all hands’ call to deal with the pirates and smugglers who have been plaguing the system and causing a continual stream of carnage. Instead of leaving, she volunteered for one last mission…
As soon as the squad settled into the transport, it was transmatted to a remote platform. Syn checked her helmet display: they were somewhere in the mountains, 60 kiloyan away. The vehicle accelerated, pressing them all back into their seats as it raced across the plateau. Two more Tograh transports appeared behind them and made an arrowhead formation. The close confines, the smell and press of the bodies was almost too much for Syn and she could feel the dangerous pressure of memories from Qurum, the closeness of the transmat cellar, the blood soaking her gloves…She swallowed hard, glad she already had her visor down, and started the briefing. “Helmets on everyone. After all, no one wants their face sucked inside out.”
“I don’t know, you should have seen Devlek and that girl on Rolle.” Jascir was the squad’s joker and a ripple of chuckles spread around the transport’s interior.
“Enough,” snapped Syn. “Mission heads on everyone. Let’s save the banter for afterwards.”
Visor displays lit up, feeding the latest information around the combat shard. A Freeborn pirate force had attacked a Boromite ore convoy on its way to the transmat platform. Two light spacecraft had strafed the convoy and deployed four transports.
The data on Syn’s visor display was replaced by a long-range view of the conflict. There were three Boromite haulers visible, but one was now little more than a smoking wreckage. A second had been hit badly: one suspensor had failed and a rear corner was dragging along the ground, raising a plume of purple dust. It was limping along on half power and the third was trying to keep pace with it, which made it easy pickings. The pirates’ transports pressed in closer, a mix of Algoryn and Concord designs, T7 and Defiant classes. Sparks flew as twin mag-light supports raked the undamaged hauler. A display in the top right of her visor ticked down the time to contact.
“Plasma carbines in scatter-shot mode,” barked Syn. “Hostiles are likely to be lightly armoured. Devlek,” she turned to the team’s support weapon specialist, the butt of Jascir’s joke. “Standard cross-unit firing protocols. Split the enemy attention as much as we can. Keep them on the wrong foot.” She could feel the Tograh slowing down to combat speed even as she finished the briefing. “Anti-infantry is our priority. We let our skimmers fight their skimmers.”
On her display, her words came true as the arrowhead of Tograhs engaged the pirate vehicles. A single raider bore the brunt of the attack as fire from three plasma light supports tore through it and it spilled across the surface, flickering in its own flame. Then the hatch opened beside Syn and she led her squad out, weapons raised and ready.
Six raiders poured from the wrecked skimmer and, a few yan away, a second pirate skimmer also disgorged half a dozen crew. “Forward, combat pace. Fire on my mark,” she ordered. The IMTel highlighted a preferred target in her visor, the left most of the two disembarked squads. “Mark.” At her command, eight bolts streaked towards the closest six pirates. Jascir whooped as three of them fell. To Syn’s right, a raider from the other squad was torn in half by Devlek’s lance stream. One of the other squads charged from their skimmer and rapidly formed a disciplined line alongside Syn’s. They targeted the right-most raiders, but their shots were a little more ragged: only a single raider fell.
Syn pushed her squad on towards the shelter of the ruined hauler. Incoming mag-rounds whipped towards them: as one the squad flickered into phase-space, their armour causing the lethal rounds to pass through their intangible forms. Jascir chuckled jubilantly but the transition out of phase triggered the sights and sounds of Qurum, and Syn felt herself lost in memory. She saw the basement transmat room, felt the Concord artillery pound their position; blood pooled on the ceiling above them and long slow drops stretched and fell, passed through the intangible forms of herself and Aphrian. She was aware of each drop falling, a slow motion from ceiling to floor.
That’s when Syn knew she would never be clean again, not truly.
A trooper yelped, bringing her back to Ayal V’s dusty, purple plains. They were back behind the ruined hauler and the three pirates were closing in on them. One of their shots had downed a trooper before he phased. Blood seeped from his chest vent but he was still upright and his biometrics were in the amber zone. It would have to do.
At Syn’s whispered command, they all dropped back into reality. Syn blinked hard, whispered “Mark” and the command was translated into a fire order by the Isorian IMTel. Eight shots ripped through the three remaining pirates and she allowed herself a shallow smile. IMTel flashed warnings across her visor: more pirates were pouring from their skimmers. A second raider vehicle had been destroyed but the last Tograh was listing badly and making slow progress to Syn’s location. They would just have to make do without the reinforcements it would bring.
Three pirate gangs rounded on the other squad, still in the relative open. That squad phased out again, but it was far from a perfect defence: two troopers were literally torn apart by the concentrated hail of mag rounds.
Syn’s entire squad were already moving, dashing from cover. They charged the closest gang in the flank. On Syn’s mark, her unit fired at point blank. This time, even Devlek’s powerful plasma stream joined in. Two pirates fell, and then they slammed into contact. The raiders spun and tried to bring their mag-guns to bear, but it was too late. Jascir was first in, all serious now as he drove the butt of his carbine into a bearded head. Devlek drove a pirate with electric blue skin to the floor. Syn singled out the lead-raider, an Algoryn with metallic bronze skin carrying a pistol. She blocked the pistol wide with the side of her carbine and then stepped inside his reach. She hammered her armoured right elbow into the side of his head, stunning him and leaving him open to a left-handed chop to his wind pipe. She crushed it hard driving the back of his head into his head gear. While he fought for breath, she raised the carbine and clubbed him down with it.
IMTel flooded Syn’s feed with her squad’s status. Devlek was straddling and strangling Electric Blue; Beardy had shrugged off Jascir’s blow and was circling him; the others still struggled, some still fighting, others down on the floor. “Dev, help Jasc,” she shouted as she leapt into another combat. She slid in low to take out another Algoryn’s legs. She twisted left as he fell and drove her right fist into his scaly solar plexus, then whirled round for an opportunity shot with her carbine.
Syn took stock. her squad were injured and winded, but the others were in a bad way, phased out and cowering amongst the corpses of their comrades. “Squad with me,” she ordered, and advanced on the closest raiders. They slew the nearest pair while Devlek’s lance fired across at those furthest away. Both groups of raiders turned towards Syn’s unit, raised their mag guns, then the sky above them glowed bright. Plasma fire raged above them and the closest raiders were ripped apart– the reinforcements had arrived! Four Tsan Ra were firing over their heads, their heavy plasma weapons tearing the pirates to shreds. Supported by the Tsan Ra, Syn led her squad against the last remaining pirates. Two turned to run, weapons in hand, but the combined plasma fire of both squads focussed against them.
The Mavvolians didn’t make it very far.