Gender: Male Age: 53 Location: Las Vegas, Nv
I had celebrated my eighteenth birthday in a mud pit they call Sweet Water. That was the providence of the Rangers and their training company. After the first night they never underestimated me again.
A Ranger instructor had attempted to attack me in my bed and had frozen as my Swift touched his temple. I swam the weightless tube from the shuttle into the small Corvette. The senior sergeant grinned as she took my kit bag, “My cousin said you were good looking.”
I looked at her and smiled, “Corporal Golden?”
She nodded, “Junior Sergeant now.”
I followed her to the tiny cabin that would be home until we reached our target world. There were four narrow bunks, three with thin mattresses rolled out and one with the mattress rolled up. She tossed my kit bag on the empty bunk and I set my EQ bag and weapons kit beside it. She held out her hand, “Patricia Golden.”
I took her firm hand, “Author England.”
She grinned, “Or Pendragon as the gossip goes.”
She led the way out and down to another cramped room where six more men and women were. She introduced them and looked at me, “Our newbie just graduated at the top of his class and beat several records.”
A large muscular man smiled, “Class isn’t the real thing.”
Golden nodded, “True, but anyone that gets pinned with four of the top five and is still alive can get the job done.”
I shook my head as they laughed and she began a briefing. A tiny bright red haired woman shut the lights off. The holograph of our target world appeared in the center of the room. That was the first of many briefings, because of limited space our rehearsals were all computer generated. The mission was to land on the alien world of Trohas and rescue one hundred diplomats.
To do a silent movement through a thick jungle was not going to be easy. The Tro were known to be hostile and had captured an entire diplomatic mission and were demanding the Empire give them an entire carrier group. We were going in to kill the guards and secure the diplomats before a Marauder company dropped in to make a drop zone for evacuation. The Marauders and the pick up ship were following a half day behind us.
We approached behind the nearest planet and the Corvette went silent as it went ballistic. We passed Trohas in a low orbit and our composite capsules were kicked free. This time our descent was faster and we impacted a couple of miles out in an ocean. Our swim to the shore was marred when we lost Sergeant Ericson to an underwater creature that pulled him under and ripped him apart.
Once we reached the shore we used ragged rocks to cover our approach to the jungle where we put our equipment on. Junior Sergeant Golith took point and I moved to the starboard flank. Sergeant Samantha Morgan was the other flank and the only other person to carry a silenced Swift, she was barely five feet tall and hard as battle steel.
This time I had loaded my Swift with expanders since the Tro never wore armor. They were three meters tall with six arms and six legs, the top was straight above the bottom. They also had six eyes, four in the front and two in the back. The huge mouth almost split the head in half with rows of teeth like an earth shark.
We moved through the dense jungle carefully and froze ten kilometers after we started. Golith was choking and I couldn’t see him but heard a silenced round from an assault rifle. Golden appeared a few moments later to whisper, “Golith is dead, one of those big spider lizards.”
I nodded as she drifted away and a minute later we were moving again. Our recon drone had shown us a large cave a kilometer from where the diplomats were being held. That was where we were going first, to secure it before bringing the diplomats. We had started with six men and two women and were down to a total of six.
Barely five minutes later I spun at the hint of sound and shot the two slime snakes dropping from above. Two kilometers from the cave Junior Sergeant Auto crashed around behind us as a slime snake struck him and began liquefying him as it ate. When we reached the cave I moved forward.
Caves on Trohas were known to be home to very large floating bats. They weren’t bats, more like balloons with wings that sucked in air and released it in a type of compressed jet of air. Morgan joined me and we carefully switched positions. The bright light Morgan flashed ahead of me, illuminating a large concentration of bats and I fired rapidly as she slowly turned the light.
I changed the magazine and she whispered, “Watch the hole to the right.”
I nodded as we moved deeper and finally we slowly backed out. Golden glanced at us and turned to toss a large tracker into the cave before setting her pack down. Sergeant Ellis took point after tossing his pack to the cave mouth with mine and Morgan’s. We began to slowly move apart as we headed for the clearing a kilometer away.
The huge Tro turned in front of me and I shot it through the head. As the edge of cleared space appeared I stopped and took a knee. Sergeant Ellis and Junior Sergeant Phillps moved apart to circle around the clearing. It was their job to kill any Tro inside the jungle. It seemed to take forever before I heard the human scream.
Orders were clear, I rose and rushed forward to kneel at the edge of the clearing and began shooting Tro. All the diplomats were in the center of the depression with dozens of Tro around them carrying crude large bore rifles. I wasn’t the only one firing, Golden and Morgan were five meters apart doing the same thing. Ellis appeared and fired into the last few before Golden stood, “Ambassador Delint?”
A thin starved looking man stood, “Thank god.”
Golden gestured, “All of you follow me.”
They quickly began to scramble out as Morgan headed back into the jungle to take point. Golden led the men and women into the jungle single file and Ellis fell in on the flank. I waited for all of them to pass me before backing into the jungle. The crashing across the clearing had me lifting my rifle and then I was firing at the large unit of attacking Tro.
I moved back and behind the large trunk of a tree as they returned fire. The large rail projectiles began shredding the tree and I rolled out and began killing Tro again. I rolled away from the tree and came to my feet before starting to walk backwards as even more Tro emerged from the jungle on the other side of the clearing.
A projectile ripped through my right thigh and saved my life. As I fell and the jungle was shredded by a spiral bee hive of projectiles. I rolled and came to my feet, ignoring the screaming pain coming from my leg. I fired into the Tro as I moved backwards. I spun as the jungle completely blocked me from their sight.
I limped quickly towards the cave as I changed magazines. When I came out in front of the cave Golden lowered her rifle and growled, “About time.”
I turned and stepped to the side of a tree as I brought up my rifle. The group of Tro that rushed out of the jungle were firing wildly. Golden doubled over as she went down and I took the Tro out. I backed to the cave and knelt to pull her back with me. Ellis moved forward and knelt beside a rock outcropping. Morgan passed me and went to the other side of the cave mouth.
I found Golden’s pack and ignored the civilians screaming and whimpering on the floor of the cave. I started an IV and popped her with a pain killer. I glanced at the cave mouth as projectiles started smashing against the walls. Morgan jerked as her leg was knocked out from under her. I headed towards her and saw Ellis’s head explode from another round.
I growled as I brought my rifle up and began shooting. I kept limping as I shot one Tro after another and passed Morgan. When I reached the thick jungle I kept going and lowered my rifle before drawing my Swift. I turned to the left and kept going. Every time a Tro appeared I shot it. When I reached the steep ridge, I turned and started back.
I could still hear Morgan firing as I ghosted through the jungle killing Tro. The shill scream in my ear told me the Marauders were on the way down. I headed for the cave as fast as I could. I fired almost blindly as I ran and then I dove past Morgan. She sprayed the jungle before turning and diving to the ground beside me. An area ten kilometers around us exploded as the Marauders sent jungle cutters down ahead of their shuttles.
As the shaking world settled down I came to my knees and turned. I brought my rifle up but no Tro appeared. I reached out and stood bringing Morgan with me. I moved to the other side of the cave mouth as a shuttle screamed overhead and settled down on the shattered jungle. A dozen Marauders trotted out and I turned, “Ambassador?”
A second and third shuttle screamed down to land beside the first. The men and women moved past us as the Marauders started helping them aboard the shuttles. I headed to Golden and took a knee to lift her. Morgan grabbed the packs and started dragging them towards the cave mouth as four Marauders came in.
The shuttle ride up was bumpy as the transport rained capsules of plasma bombs down behind us. Golden went straight into sickbay as the medics began treating the diplomats for a variety of things, mostly dehydration and exposure. Morgan and I helped each other to sickbay and leaned against each other.
The task group flashed out of jump and began accelerating towards the planet. The small company area set aside for Rangers was deserted as they escorted officers and high ranking Imperial diplomats to and from the surrendering Tro. I slid out of bed as Samantha caressed my shoulder, “How can they recruit you for the Swords? You haven’t even been in two years.”
I glanced back at her red hair, “You asked to be sent back to a regular line unit.”
She laughed, “That’s because I want to live to retire.”
I dressed carefully as she slipped out to straighten my ribbons, including the new Wounded Lion we had both been awarded. She went to her toes to kiss me, “Try to not get shot anymore Author. I might want to use your services again one day.”
I grinned and turned to grab my kit bag, “If you see Golden before I do…”
Morgan laughed, “I’ll give her a kiss.”
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