Authors: Andy Remic
Tags: #Science Fiction
This novel is dedicated to Jake “Sgt” Simmo – cycling adventurer, cliffhanger, a man with the look of eagles, purveyor of toxic fish and the most unpopular man at the party.
For all the good times; for Pernod Night and afternoons in The Sangar, Glyder Fach and Crib Goch, the joy of the Mezcal worm and Ein Prosit... and for cooking B&S on The Viking Route. Never have I seen a spuke fight so hard for a sausage!
“How many men have been where we’ve been? And seen what we’ve seen?”
No matter what happens, we’re not little men.
First published 2007 by Solaris Books, an imprint of Rebellion Publishing Ltd, Riverside House, Osney Mead, Oxford, OX1 0ES, UK
ISBN (.mobi): 978-1-84997-316-8
ISBN (.epub): 978-1-84997-315-1
Copyright © Andy Remic 2007
Cover image by Marek Okon
The right of the author to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owners.
A Combat K Novel
She hated scissors: their gleam; their simple function. She laughed, and it was a bitter laugh like a tumbling fall of worlds. There within the maelstrom of her mind—a cold constant, like the elliptical spinning hub of the galaxy—was fury. She lifted the scissors to her face; studied her reflected image. Her eyes filled with tears. Her pale fish-flesh face was streaked with crimson shards; her mouth a bloodless slit.
Contrition bubbled, grew, engulfed her.
She sat on the stairs, one hand on the carpet, weeping.
And knew she would never be the same again.
Machine guns shrieked. Bullets punched the corrugated rust-streaked wall, forcing Keenan to the ground. He grunted, crawling, MPK sub-machine gun sweeping out towards the sun-dappled tree line of the steaming jungle beyond.
The explosion of noise stopped, leaving a metallic song in the air. Keenan stared out from the skewed doorway, face locked, sweat rolling down his blackened skin; his eyes searched for the enemy.
“I can’t believe they spotted us,” whispered Pippa, crawling up beside him on her elbows, commando-style. Her mouth was a grim line, grey eyes suggesting something unholy: a single concept.
They must have been waiting.” Keenan’s voice was a deep smoker’s drawl, smooth, calculating, his words clipped and economic. He blinked lazily in the warm damp atmosphere, like a lizard. “Their presence is damned convenient. This shit only happens when the fuckers are expecting you.”
The corrugated bunker lay semi-submerged in folds of foliage; huge Splay Ferns drifted around the half-buried flanks in the wake of a tree-fractured breeze. Dangling vines from towering hardwoods dragged rhythmically against the bunker’s domed roof. A green half-light illuminated the scene.
Combat K: proficient in infiltration, assassination and demolition were pinned like butterflies to an entomologist’s specimen board. Trapped, the observation post from which they were plotting a meticulous course to the Terminus5 K Series Shield Reactor offered only modest protection. Disabling the reactor would allow a flood of the Quad-Gal’s Peace Unification Army to enter the breach and lock down rogue AI weapons, monstrous Proto Vehicles and covert enemy SandSlags.
Combat K’s mission was pivotal, crucial and now—ultimately—compromised. By accident? Keenan shook his head at an internal diatribe. He doubted it.
“I see them.” Franco had silent-drilled a hole in the metal compound wall using his PAD laser, and eased free the micro-barrel of his Bausch & Harris Sniper Rifle with SSGK digital sights. The weapon sported a rapid single action fire linked to a hairline trigger: a devastating gun in the right hands. “There are four of the bastards.” He spat on the earth floor, glancing right towards Keenan and Pippa—lying vulnerable and coiled by the warped doorway where fingers of sunlight raped by swirling dust pointed arrows of accusation through the pepper-pot interior.
“Shall I take them?”
More gunshots exploded, shattering the ambient jungle chatter and rattling off the roof, from the left this time, and behind. It was joined by the original source—a crossfire—which cut more holes through the wall above the trio in a crazy, spitting zigzag. Hot shavings of curled metal sprayed across the group, scorching exposed flesh unprotected by WarSuits.
Above the cacophony Keenan licked salt lips, annoyed now, and lit a cigarette. “Take them, Franco.” He eased his bulk around the doorway, smoke stinging his eyes, locked his MPK to the tree line and sent a savage sweeping volley of thundering firepower. Bullets scythed the dense jungle smash eating everything in their path. Howls reverberated through deep green. Tracers spat like fireflies.
There came a solitary
as Franco’s Bausch & Harris rifle discharged; it was a leaden noise, chilling and final, and it penetrated the din of automatic gunfire. That sound meant death.
A digitally camouflaged figure detached from its chameleon-blended surroundings, head exploding outwards in a snapping mushroom of brain and skull-shards as limbs and torso folded up and over into the air as if in slow motion, then slammed in sudden acceleration to merge with the jungle floor. Keenan’s sub-machine gun swung right, targeted by the kill, his bullets cutting showers of sharp chippings from trunks and worming into soft flesh as the hidden soldiers were revealed like a patterned puzzle arranging itself to the human eye.
Keenan crawled to his knees, then gained his feet, and Pippa joined him as they moved across the doorway, weapons juddering, fire blossoming from hot barrels, bullets decimating vegetation with chopping sounds and cutting down the aggressive enemy attack squad in a shower of smashed crimson and pulped bones.
A soldier stumbled forward, gun loose in blood-slick hands, camouflage armour askew and flickering with green sparks of malfunction; he started to raise hands in surrender as Franco’s rifle gave another
The soldier dropped. Lay still.
Silence flooded the clearing. Smoke rose from stagnant gun barrels. Keenan glanced left, nose twitching on cordite, and Franco signalled military instructions with his left hand.
Clear 12. Five 7.
“If you live by the sword, then you die by the sword,” said Keenan, and placed his boot against the compact dirt threshold of the bunker’s doorway, looking up, over and back in an attempt to locate the second firing group. His gun came up, stocky, black, deathly serious, held in strong hands that had no right to be that steady in the midst of a fire-fight.
“We’ve got to get to the reactor. We’re fast running out of time!” soothed Pippa, words tickling his ear she was so close. Keenan could feel the tension of her steel-coiled body pressing against his, could sense the pent-up violence of her controlled compression. For a fleeting moment it reminded him of better times, happier times, prettier times, and he glanced at the sweat beading on the flawless skin of Pippa’s beautifulface and licked his lips and remembered,and she was beneath him her writhing athletic body bathed in sweat and the smell of her sex in his nostrils the taste of her sweat on his tongue and she groaned a deep needful animal sound...
No! don’t go there!
Keenan snapped back to reality; breathed deeply.
My friend, you can never go there again.
Has Franco got the Scatter Bombs?” He forced himself to keep the tremor from his voice.
“Yeah.” Pippa passed Keenan a curved bubble of plastic containing fist-sized grenade charges strung along its supporting arc. She was frowning, eyes fixed to his face. She licked salt lips. Keenan, without realising it, watched the pink neatness of her tongue; imagined it on his skin. “This was supposed to be a fucking covert infiltration,” she snapped.
Keenan nodded. “Our stealth op has been flushed down the toilet.” He glanced back at Franco. “Ready? It’s a good half klick. Standard 4 formation. I want rearward three-round volleys. OK?” He pulled the pin on the Scatter Bomb cluster and tensed, ready for acceleration.
“Aye, Keenan. And Keenan?”
Franco grinned, strapping his Bausch & Harris to his back and hoisting quad-barrel Kekra machine pistols, one in each powerful hand. “You be damn careful with those Scatter Bombs. You could hurt somebody.”
“That’s the idea,” said Keenan through a haze of drifting cigarette smoke.
A parade square, symmetrical, functional, home to eight thousand soldiers holding stocky MPKs against matt black armoured WarSuits. A bugle sounded, forlorn, wavering, and sixteen thousand boots stamped in perfect unison as the battalion wheeled—a well-oiled machine—and every greased cog saluted officers standing stern but proud on a high fluid compress alloy podium. This was the climax of four years hardcore training. These men and women were not the elite; they were The Chosen.
There were no cheering families, no waving loved ones, no laughter, no joy, no open celebration; and yet, bright at the core of every man and woman assembled for this clandestine Combat K Class Passing-out Parade burned pride, and strength, and an incredible determination: a commitment to the accelerating Quad-Gal Peace Process, an obligation to end the
of the Helix War.
Explosions rocked the dense jungle, eight concussive blasts in quick succession sending palls of oily smoke rolling into the humid air. Machine gun fire rattled from olive darkness; short bursts, tracer flashing through the trees and cutting the scene with scissors. It was a savage, hurried exchange. Combat K appeared and sprinted through the jungle, boots thudding, Keenan in the lead with his focused machine gun, Pippa second, her PAD set to
for navigation and warning of attack; and Franco to the rear, turning every few seconds to send deterrent bursts down their back trail.