Monday, 18 March 2013

I hate having the cold :(

Unfortunately I have had the cold this past week on and off so haven't had a chance to write a proper blog update.

However, progress is being made on the 2nd Novel, 2nd draft.  I reached the halfway point on the 16th March and am continuing to write well.  In between sneezing of course.  I've also been reading the Writers and Artists Yearbook and its making a lot of sense.  Starting to get a strategy for publishing together but its slow going.

As a little treat, the short story I present to you this week is my Paradiso Fan Fiction competition entry from a couple of months back.  I hope you all like, especially the Infinity the Game players.  

Hope you all manage to avoid the cold.  I can advise against the experience!

* * * * *

Friendly Fire

By Vedal Slayer

Marie-Ann, 1er Regiment de Para-Commandos, stood up, reaching for the computer tablet secured on the transport planes low ceiling.  Long blond hair, tied in twinned braided ponytails, cascaded down her back.  Her sharp feline features frowned ever so slightly as she unlocked the two security tabs that held the tablet in place.  She paused for a moment, green eyes blinking.  She let out an exasperated sigh.

“They're called hips Jean-Paul, and you can stop staring at them.”

She glanced over her shoulder, as the young Jean-Paul rather lamely found the ceiling of the MX-47 assault transport suddenly very interesting.  The new paratrooper was a youthful eighteen years old and evidently straight out of boot camp.  For a paratrooper he seemed very wet behind the ears and despite excellent scores in parachuting and heavy weapons use, Marie-Ann had her doubts as to whether he was the right kind of soldier for the Ariadnian Expeditionary Force.

But needs must.

Moi-du.” muttered Claude, seated opposite the young man and shaking his head, doing nothing to mask his amusement.  Claude was the most veteran of the three of them, two years on Marie-Ann's four year service.  He was a big man, perhaps too big to be a paratrooper.  He had wide shoulders, thick powerful muscles and a wicked sense of humour.  He was the groups support gunner, cradling his light machine-gun as they awaited the drop point.

Rolling her eyes, Marie-Ann retrieved the tablet regardless and twisted to sit down again.  As she activated the battered computer and waited for the digital display to boot up, she glanced over again at Jean-Paul.  He was still managing to look embarrassed behind his jump goggles.

“Were there no beautiful jeunes filles at the training academy?” She asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes madam, but...ah”

“But what?”

There was a long, awkward pause.  Mercifully for Jean-Paul, Claude broke the silence with typical directness. 

“But none of them had as perfectly formed an arse as yours, Madam Sergeant.”

Jean-Paul seemed to go bright red, while Marie-Ann glared across at her partner.

“You know the rule.  You get one per jump, that's it.”

Claude shrugged his huge shoulders with an accompanying boyish grin, seemingly unaffected by Marie-Ann's demeanour.  “That's why I made it a good one.”

“I'm surrounded by man-idiots.” muttered Marie-Ann as the tablet came alive at last, the aged and scratched interface screen lighting up.   Immediately it displayed the mission area overlaid by a 3D satellite geo-image.

“The coordinates command passed to us mean we should be able to rendezvous with the patrol party relatively quickly.  That's assuming we've been provided with accurate maps this time.” 

“Hmpt.  Lots of trees.”Claude said sagely, leaning over to look at the tablet display.   “Did our honoured hosts remember we don't use the fancy jet pack toys?”

“The exact words used were 'be assured the clearing will be large enough to allow for parachute drop'.”  She cast both of them a sideways look.  “The O-12 people use the word 'assured' far too often for my liking.  At least we're not jumping into a fire fight this time, just a meet up with a standard combat sweep.”

“Assume the LZ will be tight” Marie-Ann said next, reaching above her to stow the tablet.  “Keep good control of your chutes and a close eye on your oxygen.  Don't get dispersed, we want to all land in one piece.  Understood?”

“Yes ma'am” replied the boys in unison.

“And Jean-Paul.” Marie-Ann eyed the new recruit as she spoke, flicking her twinned ponytails back behind her head and securing them with a hair clip.
“If I catch you staring at my ass on the way down...”
She locked him with her brokers-no-argument stare and paused to allow him time to go red.
“I will eat your spleen.”

Claude leaned in, his expression one of mock seriousness.
“She will too.” he stated truthfully.

* * * * *

“Not bad,” commented Marie-Ann as she kept her rifle up, covering Jean-Paul who was busy pulling his pack and chute into the safety of the clearings edge.  “you jump well.”
“Thank you ma'am.”

They had jumped successfully onto the O-12 cleared area.  Their hosts had at least got the location information right.  Around them the forest was awash with trees and creepers, the atmosphere thick with moisture and unnaturally silent.

“I could almost forgive you for leering at me on the way down.  I do hope you enjoyed the view.”
Marie-Ann was rewarded with another deeply embarrassed expression from the young man, an expression that was all too quickly becoming his trademark.
“Now, hand me your spleen.”

“Comms appear awfully silent madam.”reported Claude, interrupting the two of them as he moved up to crouch beside them.  The cheekiness was gone, replaced with the veteran soldier that Claude truly was.
“We should at least be getting background chatter from other units.” Marie-Ann frowned.  “I don't like it.”
“Could be the forest?” Claude hazarded, casting his eye round the seemingly endless greenly that encompassed them.  “This planet is strange, even more so than home.”

Marie-Ann had to agree.  Paradiso was alien, much more alien than Dawn and that was saying something.  The clearing they had jumped into had only been cleared a few hours ago, some of the trees still showing signs of chemical destruction.  Yet it had still been hazardous.  The lush forests here were voracious, regaining the land they had lost with vigour.  The native species were openly hostile; Marie-Ann had already crushed the head of a snake that had snapped at her as she was clearing her chute .

The planet doesn't like us.

“Claude, take point, we'll proceed on mission.  I'll take the comms.  Jean-Paul you'll take six.”
She was business-like as she gave her orders. 

“During which,” she added, “You will keep your eyes everywhere except my backside.”
She glared at the young recruit and he had the good sense to cower before her.

Satisfied, the three of them headed cautiously into the deep jungle.

* * * * *

“What the hell is going on?” Marie-Ann hissed to no one in particular, leaning up against the nearest tree for cover and sighting down her rifle.
“I do not know madam,” said Claude next to her, training his weapon likewise.  “but it sounds very much like our patrol is in contact and raising Merovingia brand havoc.”

They had been moving through the jungle for only ten minutes when the sounds of fighting had drifted through the dense foliage; the whip crack of automatic weapons mixed with the tell-tale rumble of explosions.  It was not a good sign.

“But with who?  That doesn't sound like alien weaponry.”

“No.” agreed Claude.  He cast Marie-Ann a rare serious look,  “Sounds more familiar.”

Marie-Ann put her hand to her ear, activating her short range comms link.

“Delta four, this is Maverick six, we're moving in on your six o'clock, requesting sitrep.”

“Maverick six...Delta four.” replied the radio almost instantly, the connection heavy with interference, a strong French accent responding. 
“Heavy co...multiple tan...pan ocea...”

Jean-Paul looked round from a few feet behind the two veterans. “Did he just say...?”
“Watch your six!” snapped Marie-Ann almost automatically, causing the youngster to flinch and resume his watch.
“Delta four, Maverick six.” Marie-Ann again spoke into her microphone,  “Repeat please, did you just say Pan Oceania?”

“Maver...confirmed...heavy con...oceania!”

Damn it.

“What do we do?” asked Claude. 

Marie-Ann's expression hardened.  “Our job.”

“Claude, weapons free, you know the drill.  Jean-Paul with me.  We'll flank them.  Wait for my signal.”
Oui madam” said Claude.  Immediately he rose from his position and was bounding quickly through the thick jungle, making his way through the creepers and trees toward the fighting.  Marie-Ann beckoned Jean-Paul to follow her, her posture hunched as the two of them took the route at an angle to the source of the shooting.

“Time to go hunting.” she stated bluntly, rechecking her rifle and flicking the fire selector to automatic.  “And time for you to live up to your grenade launcher scores Jean-Paul.”
“I will Madam.” stated the boy.  Marie-Ann looked over to find the newbie rechecking his weapon, winding the clockwork mechanism of his grenade launchers circular magazine in preparation.  His reply had been very businesslike; she decided that was a good sign.
“Lets go.” she ordered.

* * * * *

“In position” Claude radioed 5 minutes later.  Perfect timing thought Marie-Ann as she and Jean-Paul made it to their own starting position.  What they saw brought back painful memories of the corporate battles that had ravaged their own planet.

They had come out on a low ridge, over looking a battle in progress below them. 

The area was obviously a drop ship landing site, though by the looks of it not one that had been recently used.  The whole area was encompassed by thick tree's and creepers, the buildings obvious only by their outlines amongst the greenery.  A battle was in full swing.  Tracer fire criss-crossed what seemed to be an evenly matched fight between Ariadna troops and a Pan Oceania squad.  Even through the tree's and bushes Marie-Ann could see the dark blue uniforms of several Metro's exchanging fire with Fusiliers taking shelter in a bombed out and overgrown bunker.  Nearby the bulky form of an Orc trooper, braced by a tree trunk, was blazing away with his MULTI-rifle at a heavy machine-gun Moblot position.  Individual or group duals were taking place all across the site but mostly around the smoking remains of a dropship visible at the far end of the relatively clear landing strip.

Here and there, bodies lay where they had fallen, evidence of a battle that had been taking place for some time.

Marie-Ann took it all in, grim faced.  Determination gripped her. 

So much for friendly fire.

She pushed her comm-link.
“Cover us Claude, I'm going for the left flank.”
Seconds later the familiar angry rattle of a Ariadnian manufactured machine-gun echoed through the forest.  With a hand signal Marie-Ann bid Jean-Paul to follow her.  They ran quickly, dodging through the low hanging vines and tree trunks as Claude blazed a path in front of them.

An Orc trooper emerged from the tree line to their left, MULTI-rifle up and scanning for the source of the machine-gun fire. 

Marie-Ann fired a three round burst into the giant armour suited figure, causing him to stagger back into the foliage, his own return fire flying wide.  She dived for cover behind a thick tree trunk as Jean-Paul came up beside her.  Sensibly, the boy had switched to his rifle, his grenade launcher slung over his back.  She patted him on the shoulder, and signed to him their attack plan.

Three, two, one.

They both ducked round the tree and fired at the same time from kneeling positions.  The Orc trooper, not expecting two attacks from different angles was caught unawares.  Both paratroopers emptied a clip into him, bullets ricochetting off his armour plate.  He staggered back before one of the bullets hit a weak spot in his neck armour and tore out his throat.  He collapsed back, gasping for breath with sickening wet gurgles.

Marie-Ann wasted no time, bounding toward the fallen enemy.  She dropped her empty magazine as she ran and had rammed home a fresh one by the time she covered the distance to the fallen warrior.  She kicked the MULTI-rifle from the mans grasp as he brought it up in a last futile gesture, before stamping on his already wounded neck.  She heard the distinctive crack of bone and the trooper lay still.  Jean-Paul joined her, having switched back to his grenade launcher.  The boy's adrenaline was up now.

She patted him on the shoulder again, pointing off to the left.  The boy nodded, moving up from his position and...
The bullet impacted through his shoulder, spinning him round and rolling him onto the ground.  Marie-Ann's weapon was aimed and firing half a clip in the direction of the crack of the sniper shoot.  Up a tree her bullets shredded the timber to dust and caused something to flinch, its form translucent like water.


Wasting no time she was up from her crouch and grabbing Jean-Paul by his backpack.  The boy was in pain, cursing through clinched teeth and trying to bring his grenade launcher round to fire.  Marie-Ann fired another long burst one-handed in the direction of the Croc.  She must have succeeded in keeping the snipers head down for no more deadly rounds came chasing her.  She was able to drag Jean-Paul round behind the tree they had previous used to ambush the Orc.

The boys breath was coming in short rasps of obvious pain.
“Lie still.” she ordered, dropping her guns empty magazine and reloading a third time, now more concerned as she cast around for more enemies.  Her hand went to her comm-link again.
“Delta four this is Maverick six, I have one man down, requesting medic.”
“Confirmed Maverick six, this is Delta three.” came a surprising clear reply.  “I'm inbound.”
“Watch your route, we're under sniper fire.”

“I know.” said the Emergency 112 medic as he leapt down beside Marie-Ann.  He was fortunate not to get a face full of rifle-butt.  She didn't bother to ask were the hell he had come from and just let the man do his job.
“Watch yourself.  He's up in the trees.”

“Not for long.” said the medic, nodding to his right before he bent to the task of checking Jean-Paul.  Marie-Ann frowned before looking to were the medic had indicated.  From the undergrowth nearby rose the formidable form of a Moblot, carrying a primed panzerfaust.
Their was a flash and hiss, then a thump as the rocket hit the tree were the Croc trooper had been.  A body fell with the shower of leaves.

Good shooting.

“Delta six to all Delta call signs.  Enemy is falling back to a dropship.  Let them go.  We'll deal with them later.”
“He's just letting the bastards get away?” cursed Marie-Ann, looking to the medic for an explanation.
“Yes I am.” Said the Moblot coming up on the three of them, dropping his panzerfaust as he approached.  He evidently didn't fear any additional sniper fire for his pose was relaxed.  “They didn't come here to fight us.  We just happened to interrupt their little party.”
He pointed across the clearing.

From the direction of the destroyed dropship, Marie-Ann could see a Metro and a Chasseur hoisting a wounded man in muddy work fatigues, his leg a bloody bandaged mess.  He looked Asian, his uniform dark orange and yellow.
“Yu Jing.” stated the Moblot bluntly.  “Engineer by the looks of him.  He should be able to tell us why this mess happened.”

“Bastards.” muttered Marie-Ann, her attention now returning to Jean-Paul.
The doctor had removed the boys jump goggles and his face was contorted in pain.  He was very pale.
“How is he?”
“In pain, but stable.” Stated the medic.  “He's lucky, the bullet went straight through him.  For once we should be thankful they use armour piercing rounds.”
Marie-Ann nodded.  Losing a rookie on his first combat jump was the height of bad luck.

At this point Claude appeared, coming upon on them as the Ariadna forces regrouped.  In the distance, the sound of weapons fire had been replaced with that of chopper engines; the extraction craft were inbound.
“Hell of a first day for the boy.” commented Claude as he looked over the rookies wounded body.
“Doc says he's stable.” said Marie-Ann.  She looked up at the big man and gave him a rare smile.  “But your right.”

“At least...I'll have a war wound.” breathed Jean-Paul.  Marie-Ann looked to him in surprise, finding the boy looking up through his pained expression, trying to smile through the discomfort and the effects of the medics meds. 

Despite the situation both she and Claude laughed.

“That you will boy.” chuckled Claude.  “For the jeunes filles!

* * * * *

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