Under the fold is an excerpt from the novel Methuselah’s Daughter: Warrior. Calling it an ‘excerpt’ is a little pretentious because while we have the plot lines and characters all figured out the actual writing action has been minimal to say the least. Dean and I are both pretty pumped about this sequel, but neither of us are really in a position to spend lots of time writing it, so instead we have some bits and pieces and some good outlines and ideas. So to hell with it. Whenever there’s something we like, it’s going up here.
For those few of you who were fans of the original blog and may have even read the first novel (bless you), the story has been moved more than a thousand years into the future and our girl is a Gunnery Sergeant in His Majesty’s Imperial Marine Corps, an organization she has belonged to for a very, very long time…
The Talis Incident
INS Borneo was a small vessel, built in the shipyards of New Australia but outfitted by the Imperial Garrison‘s arsenal to give it the shielding and punch demanded by the Imperial Navy. With a crew of sixty-one the Marine contingent numbered only twenty, with many holding dual assignment as ship’s officers and crew. As a small corvette she was fast, maneuverable and surprisingly feisty given the mundane task to which she was assigned: patrol the delineated commerce lanes in and out of the New Australia system to ensure the on-going civil war did not disrupt inter-colony trade. She also had an FTL drive, an uncommon fixture in what amounted to a simple in-system patrol craft.
I was bunked out, my shift rotation allowing me six glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep. As Gunny to the ship’s Marine garrison I received nearly as much deference as (honestly, perhaps more than) our new Lieutenant, Atagi. He was fresh out of the Academy on Regis IV, but he seemed intelligent and driven. He listened to me even though he made his own decisions, so breaking him in looked to be an easy process; we might work together well if he could keep his cool under fire. Unfortunately it was my opinion this assignment was not likely to offer an opportunity to test him at that level.
Bear in mind, I have been known to be wrong.
About an hour before I was scheduled to be up I awoke to a gentle shaking, as if someone was rocking my bed. As I gathered my wits, a tooth-clattering jolt threw me from my bed as a loud metallic clang! rang in my ears. Another jolt and clang, then another rattled through the ship and bounced my face against the deck. I cursed, spitting blood from my lower lip as I steadied myself. The ship shook again and again, and the faint sound of rattling against the outside hull could be heard.
Within seconds I heard the faint “whoosh” of the Borneo’s guns returning fire, and the alarm klaxon sounded:
“Stand To! Stand To! All hands to action stations, condition 2! Stand To! Stand To! All hands to action stations, condition 2!”
My feet found their battle legs and I stood as the ship rocked again. My detachment of Marines had no assigned duty under Condition 2 except to be ready for possible boarding action—incoming or outgoing. Doubtless my fellow grunts did not need me to alert them, so I calmly dressed for battle: first my under-armored jumpsuit, and as it sealed I stepped into my boots, feeling them close snug around my calves. Leggings, girdle and flak jacket were next, followed by my Bowie knife sliding into its boot sheathe. The ancient M1911A, so often mistaken by my cohorts as decorative, slipped over my shoulder in its holster, the four spare magazines cinching tight across my chest as it automatically adjusted. Then I took up the MK49, slapped home a clip, checked and reset the safety and slung it over my other shoulder along with five extra magazines. Vacuum armor came next, just a belt that would extrude an electro-plastic shield and provide up to one hour of oxygen, and then finally my helmet and tactical oculus.
The echoes of the call to stations still rang in the passageway as I stepped out of my tiny cabin, pleased to see Lt. Atagi, wide-eyed and tense but calm, already in the passageway. All my Marines who were in quarters were already emerging.
“What the hell is going on, Gunny?” one of my Marines demanded.
I snapped back, “We’re just getting shot at, Poonawalla. Don’t get your panties in a bunch.”
I logged onto the tactical net through my helmet- to my surprise, it told me Borneo was engaging a local merchant vessel named the Talis. We had taken heavy damage from a ship with no business being armed at all. Signals demanding they cease fire, turn to and be boarded were ignored and emergency requests for assistance to Porpoise Spit Imperial Navy Base were already being transmitted. In addition to standard electronic signals, Borneo’s skipper, Commander Leanne Schuler, was repeating the demand to stand to and surrender on audio channels while static filled the net and the corvette rocked hard to starboard.
The Commander was obviously ignoring her Marines for now.
As a warning light flashed in my goggles I shouted “Take hold!” almost in tandem with Lt. Atagi. Half a second later the acceleration alarm sounded, then the passageway rapidly shifted aspect, becoming a vertical cylinder. I felt the hull shake as Commander Schuler, having obviously wearied of restraint, deactivated the sanders and disruptors and opened fire with Borneo’s mini-hellbore, usually reserved for only the direst of situations. Hellbores have been known to practically vaporize cities, and consumed so much of the ship’s power that they required special authorization just to unleash. They tended to damage the ship’s power generators if used injudiciously. The low deadly roar of the hellbore filled the air around us. Then a deathly quiet came.
“So what…” Poonawalla started again, but before I could speak Atagi snapped, “Quiet, all. Watch your readouts and wait.”
We watched and listened as the Commander patiently signaled the local vessel a few more times and received nothing but silence in response. Finally, her voice came over our private channel:
“Atagi! Have you assessed the situation?”
“Yes Commander, waiting orders” he said, his voice giving only the faintest quiver. He might make a good battle officer yet.
“Get your men to Airlock 2! Prepare for boarding action! Get me survivors if you can but I want that ship now.”
“Acknowledged, Commander,” he said, and nodded to me.
“All right ladies, you heard her, let’s move!” I bellowed.
“Of course it’s airlock 2,” a familiar voice grumbled across the unit comm channel, “that one’s UP.”
“Quiet, Martinez,” I admonished quietly, “and start climbing because I’m already tired of staring at your ugly butt.”
“Aye, Gunny,” he said with a laugh as other voices chimed in with similar commentary.
As we made for the airlock, Atagi looked at me and said, “Standard teams unless you got a better idea, Gunny.”
I nodded. I counted twelve including Atagi and me. The other four were at duty stations awaiting relief by Navy personnel. I keyed in those four plus the lieutenant.
“You four leave your Navy stations ASAP! Armor up and report to airlock 2 as you are relieved. You’ll be designated fire team Zulu and I want you to bring the heavies in behind us- frags, bulkheaders and a flamethrower. If it gets sticky you’ll be the ones to break their backs.” I keyed in the rest of the team, listening to them breathe as we climbed towards the port bow airlock. “We’ll be using four man teams, people. Alpha is on me with Chin, Martinez and Obanya. Bravo with the LT- Gomez, Nikitina and Walsh. Charlie is Corporal Poonawalla; you have Han, Lakshwan and Richter.”
Everyone acknowledged as Martinez above me reached the airlock. As we poured in Lt. Atagi took over.
“Alpha takes point with Charlie in reserve. Bravo, we’ll take the opposite angle. Alpha enters first, then us, then Charlie. I want this by the book people; enter two by two at two second intervals from Gunny’s go-ahead. Zulu, keep an ear open and report in as soon as you are at the airlock.”
Acceleration eased off and we floated near the door, our belts clipped to the hand-holds as both acceleration and induced gravity fell away. The ship bumped a few times but all remained quiet- the merchant ship hadn’t had a chance and they should have known it no matter how cocky or crazy rebels tend to be. The tactical network reported the ship dead in space and giving no signs of life, but the hull looked to be largely intact. Repeat calls demanding a response were still being ignored, but sensors indicated parts of the ship still held life.
There was a loud ‘clang!’ as the assault door latched onto the other ship’s hull, followed by the hiss and pop of the automatic cutters slicing an entry into the now-crippled ship. The airlock indicators all went green.
Three things can happen when making a forced boarding. First, and best, the commander or senior officers are there to greet you and surrender the ship. Second and only slightly worse, all armed crew members are at the entry point and open fire as soon as you pop the door. The firefight is usually vicious and short, and the resisting crew rarely comes out of it well. Third and worst is you pop the hatch and there’s nothing: the crew intends to resist and they are likely spread out at defensive points throughout a vessel they know inside and out.
“Martinez, pop it,” I ordered. He swung around and anchored himself out of the line of fire, then sent the command to the hatch. It slid open with just a slight hiss… and there was nothing.
“Shit,” Obanya muttered, her soft little girl voice over shadowed by the grim certainty of her reaction. “I hate fuckin’ crazy people.”
“Shh!” said Atagi impatiently, then keyed his external voice amplifier:
“Attention! You are being boarded by His Majesty’s Imperial Marines! You are ordered to drop any weapons and surrender. If you have any injured personnel, bring them forward immediately for medical attention!”
“Die Sydney bastards!” a hysterical man’s voice screamed, and an energy grenade bounced into the airlock.
Poonawalla, on point, moved faster than anyone, sweeping his weapon by the barrel, using the stock to fling the grenade back through the airlock. We all ducked as it bounced away and exploded, letting our armor do its job.
“Nice job Poonawalla” I growled.
Atagi snarled something incoherent, visibly calmed himself, and looked at me momentarily, apparently at a loss. I stared him in the eyes calmly, raised an eyebrow and motioned my head toward the passageway. He got the gist and nodded.
“Take ‘em out, Gunny.”
“Got it. Heat ‘em up, people!”
Almost as one we un-slung our weapons and triggered the battery in the butt. The MK 49 is a standard-issue military assault rifle utilizing one-millimeter round slugs accelerated through an electromagnetic barrel to a muzzle velocity of roughly 10,000 meters per second. It fires bursts of ten rounds with a single touch of the trigger, or a continuous stream of projectiles if you hold it down. The sound is very similar to the tearing of linen and rather loud, but hardly something to instill fear in an enemy. I have always thought that a mistake.
The MK 49 also allowed you to sling a secondary weapon underneath the main barrel. Most opted for a grenade launcher or some sort of stun weapon. I preferred a simple semi-automatic scatter gun, essentially a twelve gauge shotgun loaded with double-ought buckshot, but utilizing the same electromagnetic firing system, though with a muzzle velocity of only 1000 meters per second to allow the pellets to spread. I understood why they used the gauss-gun system, it was simple, utterly reliable and nearly recoilless as any recoil was absorbed by the weapon and shunted back to the battery. It was just too damned quiet.
“Alpha, with me, on two; Bravo, follow in two seconds. One… two.”
We slipped around the edge of the opening and dropped almost a meter to the deck as the induced gravity field snatched us to the floor. Obanya cursed, landing in the midst of a puddle of smoking goo with burnt bone fragments protruding here and there: our grenade thrower hadn’t gotten away in time. The tactical system updated the others to avoid bad falls while Obanya and I sprinted to the left- we were in an outer maintenance corridor and there was an entrance to the main corridor ten meters away. The rest of the squad entered two seconds later while Atagi took his people to a similar hatch to the right.
“Looks clear, Gunny,” Chin reported after scanning for weapons signatures. I keyed the straggler team: “Zulu, you bringing up the rear or what?”
“Armored up and there in 60 seconds, Gunny!” came the reply.
“Enter the airlock and then stand tight.” I keyed the whole team. “OK, heavy team’s here in a minute, but no time for chit-chat. Let’s keep moving.
Obanya took position across from me with Martinez behind her. Chin towered over me at my back as I triggered the hatch and it slid open rapidly, making a loud click I heard repeated behind me as Atagi’s team opened their hatch at the same time. We poured into the corridor, Obanya and I rolling to the floor, weapons trained in opposite directions while Martinez and Chin did the same.
Atagi spoke on the command channel. “Charlie team, secure this corridor and wait for Zulu. Alpha, make for Life Support and Main Engineering. Bravo, we’re headed for the bridge.”
“Sir?” I interjected.
“Do we have any idea how many people are aboard? These assholes fired on an Imperial warship- I’d like to suggest we let them know one more time they’ve been boarded and if they don’t turn sane we bug out and nuke the ship.”
“I like that idea,” Cpl Poonawalla added.
“Me, too,” Atagi agreed, “but this isn’t a democracy and my orders are to take prisoners if possible. Move out.”
“Aye, sir. Chin, Martinez we’ll do this ten meters at a time, Obanya, with me. Chin, get me a path to main Engineering.”
We advanced in turns, Obanya and I moving up ten meters, followed by Chin and Martinez who then moved ten meters ahead of us.
“Bulkhead and ladder ahead, Gunny,” Martinez reported as we joined him just shy of the opening, “We go down, then double back about fifty meters, then down again and the entrance to Main engineering will be about 5 meters to our right.”
Obanya and I advanced to the bulkhead in the floor while Chin and Martinez took covering positions up and down the corridor. If there was a place to set a trap, this would be ideal. I broke out my scanner and detected no obvious booby traps, but there were numerous energy signatures, probably weapons. I built a mental image of what might be waiting down this ladder. I keyed the tactical net to link into the captured vessel’s audio system.
“Commander and crew of the vessel Talis! You have been boarded by Imperial Marines! In the name of His Majesty you are ordered to power down your weapons and lie face down on the floor with your legs spread and your hands linked over the back of your head! Failure to comply is mutiny and you will be shot! This is your only warning! You may otherwise bring your injured forward and we will tend to them! Just make your hands clear and hold no weapons!”
I gave it a few seconds then spun the wheel to unlock the hatch. Obanya and I made sure we were clear of any potential fire then heaved. Immediately there was vibration against the hatch and the sound of tearing cloth followed by a shout: “Eat this, Sydney!” The hatch dropped with a heavy thud and Obanya and I looked at each other and shrugged. I think she was grinning, but it was hard to tell under her visor.
I toggled the squad comm, “Martinez! Pull this hatch for us.”
We each took stun grenades from our belts and I also set aside a frag, just in case. Stun grenades are what they have been for a thousand years: bright flash, loud bang and a cloud of chemical irritant just because we can. Obanya and I pulled the pins, Martinez heaved and the two grenades sailed down the hole as Martinez dropped the hatch. Two seconds later there was a pair of sharp thumps felt through the deck. I motioned and Martinez pulled open the hatch.
I jumped down and dove left as Obanya did the same and dove right. Suddenly the corridor was full of white-hot projectiles tearing at us, ricocheting off the bulkheads- this was a bad place to be. The corridor was full of smoke, but our visors cut through it like it wasn’t there. Fortunately our adversaries weren’t quite so well equipped.
Obanya yelped in surprise then shouted “Grenade out!”- Her right arm arced up and over as she made her toss. The oval grenade sailed past the makeshift barricade and there was a moment of stillness as the rebels realized what had happened, then the corridor rocked as the High Explosive device detonated sending people and pieces of the barricade flying in all directions. Martinez and Chin took that moment to join us and we advanced along the corridor approaching the rebel barricade. All I could hear from the rebels was moaning and screaming.
“Contact report, LT,” I sent to Atagi, “Encountered light resistance, several enemy wounded, looks like two possible enemy KIA. No casualties for Alpha team.”
“Acknowledged, Gunny. We have encountered sporadic resistance. Zulu is at the airlock and headed your way, Charlie is with me and Navy folks are securing the boarding hatch. Proceed on mission, Borneo will dispatch medics.”
“Aye aye.” I switched to the squad comm, “Obanya, Chin, police these weapons, Martinez advance ten meters and secure the corridor. Make it snappy Marines, Borneo has medics on the way and Zulu team is following up.”
I turned to make my way down the corridor when a hand grabbed my boot. I looked down into the bloody ruin of a face.
“Oh my God!” It burbled, “You are Imperials!”
I shook free, but encapsulated that moment of video and forwarded both to Atagi and the Borneo. Atagi responded immediately.
“I’m getting a lot of that as well, Gunny. Let’s just do our job and try to keep the killing to a minimum.”
“Aye, sir. Obanya! Nice toss. Next time you do it without me telling you to I’ll shoot you, understand?”
“Aye, Gunny. It was a reflex: they shot me in the ass!” she replied contritely, but in good spirits as she and Chin joined me.
“Oh, well,” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm, “That makes it alright. Let’s move people.”
“I’m lookin’ at your ass Obanya and I don’t see anything out of place,” Chin commented.
“Actually looks perfect to me,” Martinez added.
“Cut the chatter,” I ordered, trying not to laugh, “Let’s get steady and stay focused.” I tapped Obanya’s private comm, “Your ass looks fine to me,” I said.
She reached over and lightly punched my shoulder, “You should know, Gunny.”
There were compartments along the corridor and we stopped to clear each one before advancing further so it took some time to get to the next ladder. By then Zulu had caught up to us and I had the flamethrower set up to hose down the hatch if anybody started shooting. Despite the Lieutenant’s admonition I had no intention of letting any of my people get killed coddling a bunch of mutinous idiots.
“They’re waiting, Gunny,” Chin informed me, “I make it fifteen and I’m getting hot spikes on the scan- they’re armed for grizzlies.”
I let Zulu take the lead, Lance Corporal Hendrix had always been whining about how boring things were so it seemed only fitting to let him have a crack at it.
“No fucking around, Hendrix- hit ‘em with flash-bangs then go in and if they start shooting, burn ‘em.”
“Aye, Gunny!” His voice was a little high-pitched and I could see the nervousness in him, but he deployed his squad like he’d done it a thousand times and Alpha set up in support positions with Chin and Martinez ready to follow first.
Hendrix took the left and another Marine, Private Hernandez took the right. Private Hellene with the flamethrower primed her weapon as she knelt next to the corporal and Private Karkanian un-dogged the hatch. Hendrix nodded and he pulled hard, opening it just enough to allow the grenades to be dropped, four of them this time, before he dropped the hatch. The deck shook from the concussions and Hendrix raised his right hand with three fingers up, dropping them one by one.
Karkanian grunted as he hauled the hatch up fully. Hendrix leapt down and Hernandez followed immediately while Hellene sighted her weapon and my men moved up.
“Drop your weapons!” Hendrix ordered, showing no sign of the nerves he’d been experiencing a moment before, “Hellene, down the hatch!” he ordered and she slipped the flamethrower over her shoulder while gripping the rungs of the ladder, then slid down.
“Drop your weapons or we burn you out!” Hendrix ordered again.
I toggled the command circuit. “Don’t fuck around with them Hendrix…”
“We’re good Gunny, they see the flamethrower and…”
Noise and fire erupted from the hatch, filling the passageway with intense heat and smoke as screaming erupted on the squad comm. Karkanian dove past the hatch and down the corridor about five meters, un-slinging the Bulkheader he’d been carrying and planting the business end on the deck in front of him. Meanwhile I could hear weapons fire, then the deadly, billowing hiss of the flamethrower.
“Karkanian, in three! Chin, Martinez, down the hole, Obanya with me. Move!”
My tactical oculus revealed the grim reality beneath us even as Karkanian stepped back and cut loose with the Bulkheader, blasting a meter wide hole through the deck over the enemy position. Hendrix was down, Hernandez dead and Hellene was in bad shape, but pouring fire on the enemy position.
“Grenades,” I said, pulling out two frags as Obanya and Karkanian did the same, pulling pins and raining them down the hole in the deck. “Grenades out! Get small down there!”
“Shit! “ Chin shouted, then grunted, anything else he might have said was drowned out by the staccato blasts of the grenades detonating. I saw his icon go yellow in my oculus and I cursed under my breath, then leapt down the hole, knowing Obanya and Karkanian would follow.
Hellene was leveling her weapon, but pulled up on seeing us drop into the scene. Something moved to my right and I poured fire on it until it stopped, then surveyed the mess.
“Gunny!” Atagi called on the command channel, “Report!” He could see the results in his oculus just as I could, but he was asking anyway.
“We ran into heavy resistance outside main engineering, one KIA, Private Hernandez, three badly wounded. Enemy casualties are 100% KIA.” I tapped into Hendrix’s tactical oculus and replayed the video while looking over the wreckage. “Sir, they had an artillery piece concealed behind a barricade. Cpl. Hendrix ordered them to surrender and it appeared they were going to do so, but somebody cut loose with the cannon. It’s a miracle any of them survived.”
“Medics are on the way, Gunny,” Martinez chimed in, “Chin caught a fragment in the helmet when he covered Hendrix, Hellene is pretty chewed up from whatever the hell it was they used.”
“A Howitzer, looks like a 105,” I told him, then switched back to Atagi. “Sir, what’s your status? If we have to force our way into main engineering a lot of people are gonna die and none of them will be ours.”
“The bridge is secure, commander in custody. We have full computer access… the commander informs me his XO has about 10 crew members in Main Engineering including the ship’s ‘Political Officer’, whatever the hell that means.”
I grinned ruefully. “It means bad news, sir, if history is any guide. Can the commander talk his people out of there?”
Atagi hesitated, as if he wanted to ask me what I meant. Then he obviously thought better and responded: “Negative, they cut off communications as soon as we took the bridge. I’ll be escorting him to your position once we verify all crew are accounted for. Set up, but don’t make any moves until we get there.”
“Aye aye, sir.” I flipped to the squad comm and signaled Karkanian, “Get a reload ready for the Bulkheader. Obanya check the entrance to main engineering and report. Martinez, stay with the wounded until the medics get here and watch out for strays.” I slung my weapon and had Hellene hand over the flamethrower.
“I’m okay, Gunny,” she protested, “just banged up.”
“Stay with Martinez and cover our backs. When the medics get here you evac, understood?”
“Aye, Gunny,” she grumbled, then tried to get up on one knee, but her leg wouldn’t hold her and she cursed quietly as she took a prone position and leveled her MK49 down the passageway.
I took count of the dead rebels scattered about and relayed the information to the LT, then joined Karkanian and Obanya.
“Hatch is welded shut from inside, Gunny,” Obanya reported, “We might be able to get in through the maintenance passages, but it’d be a crawl.”
“Orders are to hold. Karkanian, set up the Bulkheader to blow that door then man the flamethrower, Obanya, keep an eye on the energy signatures in there, we don’t want any surprises.”
I set the flamethrower and the heavy fuel tank on the deck, then checked down the remaining ten meters of the corridor, finding it clear.
“All crew accounted for, Gunny,” the LT signaled, “We’ll be there in five minutes.”
We set up and waited. A few minutes later Lt. Atagi and Pvt. Gomez arrived along with a harried looking older man wearing a Talis jumpsuit with a commander’s insignia on his left breast and a name, Thurman, on the right. Martinez arrived a moment later and informed us the medics were taking off the wounded.
“Commander Thurman,” Atagi said, gesturing to the intercom next to the door. The commander nodded, throwing a nervous look at the Bulkhead-blowing device strapped to the hatch as he stepped up and hit the intercom switch.
“Wallis, this is Thurman.”
A deep voice crackled over the speaker, “Mr. Wallis isn’t in command here, Commander, I am.”
“Moore? Dammit, put my officer on the comm now!”
“Mr. Willis was relieved when he told me he planned to surrender… and since you’re out there with the Sydney’s I assume you’ve done the same. That makes me commander of this vessel and I won’t surrender it under any circumstances.”
“Listen, Moore, these aren’t Sydney’s they are Imperial Marines. That ship is an Imperial Warship. Don’t make this any worse than it already is.”
“Sorry, Commander, but we’ve fallen for that trick too many times… and I’m surprised you broke so easily. What did they promise you for your treachery?”
I glanced at Lt. Atagi and he gave me a confirming nod. The rebels had seriously believed we were a Sydney patrol ship masquerading as an Imperial. This was going to be very ugly for New Australia no matter how it turned out. The commander was still arguing with Moore, the Political Officer, when Atagi interrupted them.
“Mr. Moore, this is Lt. Atagi commanding His Imperial Majesty’s Marines aboard INS Borneo. The ship has been taken and we are not interested in any further bloodshed. If your accusations regarding Sydney vessels flying false Imperial colors are true this would mean Imperial intervention in Melbourne’s favor. There is no need to fight this out.”
“Mr. Atagi, how can I be certain you are who you say you are?” Even as Moore asked the question I could hear the insincerity dripping from his voice. He didn’t care if we were Imperials or not.
“The aft maintenance passage hasn’t been sealed- perhaps it would be easier if this were discussed face to face.”
“One person, unarmed.”
Atagi stripped off his rifle and I stepped in front of him.
“Sir, under no circumstances can you be permitted to enter that space.”
“Lt. Atagi, this is Commander Schuler. I concur with your sergeant; you are not to enter that space.”
Atagi’s shoulders drooped slightly, but he acknowledged Commander Schuler. “Gunny, that leaves you.”
“Aye, sir,” I replied, already unbuckling my grenade belt and handing it over, followed by my rifle and the knife in my boot. Nobody even thought to ask about the pistol.
The maintenance passage was cramped even for me, and I am quite a bit less than two meters tall, so it took several minutes to work my way through. The hatch to Main Engineering was open and a crewman had a weapon trained on it as I emerged. Another held a scanner.
“She’s clean,” he announced.
I spotted Moore instantly, identifying him simply from the way the others seemed to avoid standing too close. He was a large man, more than two meters tall and had to mass 170 kilos or more, but he was not muscular. Quite frankly he looked like some jovial fat man that might play Father Christmas on the Emperor’s Birthday, except that his eyes gleamed with the ferocious intensity of a fanatic and they were fixed on me as he laughed.
“I knew your Lieutenant wouldn’t have the courage to come himself.”
I shrugged and slowly reached up to unseal my helmet, then drew it off. The reaction was quite satisfying. The human race had been interbreeding so thoroughly that pretty much everyone tended towards olive skin, dark hair and dark eyes while I remained pale, red haired and my eyes very, very green, and sometimes this shocks people when we first meet.
“Lt. Atagi was ordered not to go. The Empire does not allow officers to make themselves hostages. I am Gunnery Sergeant McAllister. You must be Mr. Moore.”
He hesitated only a moment, and then pointed at me. “You see what we are fighting against here? Look at her! She’s a product of a diseased society, a soldier programmed to obey her superiors! She walks in here without a thought or care because her betters commanded her to! Look at her! She thinks she has the right to command us because she wears the Emperor’s uniform…” he pointed at my side arm, “and she carries around that pathetic ornament like a talisman, like somehow we are supposed to see it and bow down to her!”
“You need not bow down to me, Mr. Moore. None of you need bow down to a mere Gunnery Sergeant of the Imperial Marines. But I do insist you lay down your weapons and surrender.”
“NEVER!” Moore hissed, stepping towards me, “We will never surrender to Sydney, we will never surrender to the Empire! We have the unstoppable force of History behind us you pathetic bitch, and you and yours will be swept aside like the gnats you are! Give me that toy,” he sneered, “so I can throw it in the refuse where it belongs.”
I looked him in the eyes for a moment, calmly assessing him just long enough so he started to squirm a bit. I shrugged and unbuttoned the holster of my pistol and drawing it free. Moore came a step closer, stretching out his hand in triumph.
I thumbed off the safety, drew back the hammer and fired three times, point-blank, into his ample belly. The weapon roared, bucking in my hand as the hollow point lead slugs tore into his body, throwing him back as he shrieked in pain and surprise and collapsed on the deck, gasping a few times as his entrails spilled from his torn flesh.
Nobody moved as I slowly turned and trained the pistol on the nearest group of men.
“This is over, gentlemen,” I said in a firm, quiet tone. “Drop your weapons and get on the floor.” Two seconds later the hatch at the far end of the Engineering space shattered as the Bulkheader tore through it and Lt. Atagi lead Alpha and Bravo teams inside while the rebels all tossed away their weapons and fell to the deck…