(Written by Brian Webb; posted August 31, 2008)
Interplanetary space on route to Mars, Wednesday December 11 2013
It's funny what you'll think about to distract yourself at times like this. I finish my last equipment check, my fifth since we launched from the Warsie 'blockade runner'. And, after making sure my spare magazines are secure, think back to the argument between the Lieutenant and the quartermaster when our kit arrived. That was when the Lieutenant found out that certain liberties had been taken when filling out our unit's equipment orders.
Apparently the QM felt that 9mm parabellum was a little anemic and shifted a few letters around on some of the forms. The end result is a logistics headache for our unit and the H&K MP5/10s most of us are currently carrying. The Lieutenant's still acting a little frosty towards the QM, not that he deigns to notice. One supposes an AI can install some decent filters when he wants to.
The argument and the decedents it spawned among the military and gun otaku over caliber and chambering really drove home to me just how damn geeky we Fen are. As aggravating as it can be, I think I like it that way. But then again, I'm just as weird as the rest of us.
The sudden deceleration of the waved ambulance turn LAC we're riding in jolts me against the restraints and back to the present. In the cockpit Auger flips the door lights to amber, meaning we're almost to our targets. A pair of converted busses hanging in space a million klicks from nowhere.
One of them is a waved tour bus some gondolier had been using to run 'Dane tourists out to Mars. They'd managed to get a mayday off before they were jammed. The other was a school bus at one point, and is now the reason for the mayday. The Black Hats had jumped the tour bus and were in the process of looting her of everything valuable, which was probably her passengers and crew based on the rumours we'd heard.
We slam to a stop, the magnetic grapples on our underside latching onto the Black Hat's bus. The door light switches to green and we pile out of the doors. Time is against us now. The Black Hats have known we were here since our escorts hit their pickets, but now they know where we're going to be coming from. Their refusal to respond to any of our hails is worrying too, either they aren't worried, or they've done something they figure will make us disinclined to take prisoners.
While Grey and Fosters pack the breaching charge around one of the bus's windows Hammer and I grab the collapsable airlock on the back of the LAC and haul it down to the hull. I brace myself as Hammer signals that the lock is secured and Grey punches the detonator.
The window blows inwards, and then the pressure equalization sends the shards back into our faces. They bounce off of our armour as we lunge through. Hammer spins towards the rear of the bus, and I tumble through the shift in AG plains after him; turning towards the front. There are two Black Hats there, un-helmeted and bent over a computer system.
My momentum spoils my aim somewhat and my first burst mostly shreds electronics. A couple of rounds from my second catch one of them, the 10mm/Auto punching through his flight-suit easily. He falls back, blood bubbling from his mouth as his friend turns to face me.
I spot the large pistol in his hand as it comes up and let my momentum carry me across the aisle and into the dubious cover of the seats. A couple of shots blow large holes in the seat-back in front of me and then Fosters hits the deck. He settles things with his 12 gauge, the FRAG-12 round makes a mess out of the front of the bus, and the remaining Black Hat.
I lever myself out of the seats, narrowly avoiding getting tangled in the manacles. The Lieutenant and Anders are rushing the door with me hot on their heels. We storm through the hatch and run straight into the first prepared Black Hats we've met so far. Thankfully there aren't that many of them. Most of the school bus's space was for prisoners, not troops.
Ten minutes later it's all over. Grey, Hammer and the sole surviving gondolier are in the LAC being rushed to the 'blockade runner' and her surgical bay. Meanwhile the Lieutenant and I are trying to calm the terrified 'Danes and trying to figure out what happened. From what we can understand the gondola had had an AI, and he'd managed to get into the Black Hat's systems after he got the mayday off. Probably why they didn't know we were there 'til we knocked. There wasn't much left of him if the state of the bus's hardware was anything to go by. The Black Hats hadn't taken his success calmly.
I place my armoured gauntlet on what's left of his housing for a long moment. Then I move to help the Lieutenant coax a young woman out from under her seat. I unlatch my faceplate and try to smile reassuringly.
"Ma'am, it's over, you're going to be alright," I say.
She looks up, terrified, shrinking back into herself.
This war can't end fast enough.