Friday, July 10, 2015

Short Story: Far-Flung Outpost

31 Stories in 31 Days in July, this is #11 for July 11th.

Far-Flung Outpost

Monthan Outpost on the farthest corner of the Empire

Two soldiers sat a table playing cards.

“You still owe me five credits from last time” The blond-haired man with a toothy grin told the dour-faced guy who had a thick head of black hair in a bowl cut.

“Fine, then we'll call this even and play again” the man answered gathering up the cards on the table and shuffling them.

“Sergeant, are you sure the communicator is still working” the younger, blond man asked.

The other man sighed “Yes, I check it every day, Private”

The younger man shook his head. “It's like there isn't even a war going on”

The superior officer shook his head “It's not for us. For us, we are to hold down the fort here and guard the back yard of the empire. Or the back gate anyway”

The younger man looked across the vast hangar at the hover-tank. It was quite a formidable machine and yet it was useless in the battles on the other side of the empire. It was just sitting there day after day, nothing ever happens here. The twin plasma cannons and quantum missile launcher on the turret and the ground-effect action-pulse engine in the main section hadn't even taken out for a test-drive in six months, the private just dusted it once a week.

It seemed like a waste of a powerful weapon of war.

“Okay, remember this is a draw three game. You can only draw three...” the older man dealt the cards but they flew everywhere when the sirens erupted. He put a hand on his chest to catch his breath and the younger man hit the button on the computer terminal.

“Air raid imminent!” the computer shrieked “Inbound enemy spacecraft”

The sergeant stood up, “Get in the tank!”

They both ran to the massive vehicle and climbed in. The superior officer climbed into the turret and a bubble enclosed over him. He hit a switch and the large doors began to open to the outside. It was a sandy world and just getting dark. Before they even left the hangar they could hear the fwoosh! Of the anti-aerial missiles being launched by the base computers.

The tank glided out of the base and almost as soon black shapes flew over them at extreme speeds and were gone before the base was rocked with explosions. The bombers weren't even slowing down more than absolutely needed to drop their bombs and then they increased power again and achieved orbital speeds.

They would be back around within a quarter of an hour, if they kept up the speed and came around the planet for another pass.

The Sergeant prepared the plasma lasers and missiles to launch seconds before the enemy craft even came into range. They were moving so fast that the anti-aerial kinetic missiles needed to be launched before the enemy was in range the closing speed alone would kill them if they hit.

The private could hear the humming of the plasma cannons as they charged up the necessary power in their coils from the atomic engine. Then the tank fired four missiles in quick succession just before the plasma laser bursts were shot off, raising the hairs on the back of the privates neck.

He could see dark shapes coming from the distance but they were moving very quickly, then one of them broke into two pieces and both of the halves plummeted to the ground on this dead world. The other black shape flew low overhead and the tank shuddered like a dinghy in the wake of a super carrier.

The private closed his eyes tightly and covered his ears. There was a tremendous explosion that threw the tank a good fifty meters but it landed on the gravity cushion under the tank. They had been rocked pretty good, both of the crew had to shake off what happened. Knowing that a concussion was not a good thing, but that things could be worse.

The plasma laser turrets charged up again. This always seemed a bit creepy to the private but he figured he had better things to worry about. He decided the tank should also be moving as fast as possible, his superior yelled “Go, go, go”

The last four missiles were launched automatically and a moment later the plasma lasers discharged their immense energy. The enemy craft nosed down and slammed into the ground just before them, the impact jarred the hover tank, pieces of rock and dirt flew everywhere and the sergeant had been thrown
clear out of the turret and right through the bubble canopy.

The Private donned a special emergency plastic bubble over his head with a small oxygen bottle hanging from it, then he climbed out and ran toward his superior. He unfurled another emergency air supply and put it over the head of his superior officer and inflated it with the oxygen tank. He didn't know if the officer would live but that he had to try to get back to base and see if a safe room still existed there.

Then he looked back and spotted something on the ground, it looked like a big hairless dog and it was still alive, albeit it injured. The creature struggled to sit up and then try and get back on its feet. It looked up at the private and bared fangs several inches long. It had trouble with its hind legs but it was scooting toward the private.

“Sergeant, you have to wake up!” he said but then he checked a life support monitor. The sergeant was already dead. The private would have to save himself. He remembered the sergeant carried a sidearm and he reached down and yanked it from the holster, he pulled back the action and aimed it at the alien creatures face.

It stopped. It laid down on all fours and seemed really tired. The creature checked a wound to its foreleg and then looked straight at the private. “Well, I guess I'm finished. All I had to do was distract you from looking on that side” it said.

The private swung around and there were two more creatures, looking unhurt running towards him at a good clip. He had nine rounds in the magazine and three targets.

That should be more than enough.


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