Chapters to be published every saturday as far as possible

In the distant future, a single brutal corporation has plunged the world into a dystopian era of corporate fascism; there are, however, many people willing to fight for their freedom. Over several decades as the corporation has grown in power, a doctrine of zero-tolerance for 'extremism' - which has come to mean any deviation from the established dogma - has forced dissent underground; seemingly out of the blue, as the struggle escalates into armed conflict, a Martian invasion force has approached almost unnoticed by the preoccupied corporate government. Driven by fanaticism and a thirst for conquest, these invaders have exploded violently onto the streets of Earth in a shower of blood, and neither the corporation nor the rebels can afford to ignore them any longer.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Chapter 7

Sam blinked himself awake. The basic instinct of self-preservation made him resist screaming out in pain. Instead, he opened his eyes, just a crack, to see what his situation was; the room was empty. Then he heard the distinctive footsteps of metal-booted Martian warriors outside.
Well that's just great, he thought darkly. Bloody Martians... they left me for the fucking Martians! He crawled his way over to his blastgun, gripped it with his good hand - "Good" hand?, he thought, looking at the cauterised stump that had replaced the other one. Only hand! - and used it as a support to get upright again, before pushing the charging lever back to around 40% with his left stump. He would have to learn to write - and more importantly, shoot - with his right hand. Shaking his head, he looked down at the stump. "Seriously... why the hell does that not hurt like it should?" he mused aloud, knowing full well how good Martian hearing was.
"For that matter, why am I not paralysed? That shot at my back should have burnt through my spine."
Shrugging - and loving the fact that he could still do so - he lifted the blastgun to his hip and pointed it at the door, where Martian footsteps could be heard, not really bothering to aim. Letting the pleasing soft whine of the charging gun reach his ears, he put on his favourite manic grin as three Martians appeared in the doorway.
"Hey bastards," he greeted them cheerfully, "knock knock!"
He thumbed the trigger and let fly a volley of superheated plasma, roasting them all alive inside their armour before it vapourised along with them.
Good practice for when he caught up with the army piece of shit who took his hand.

In the gutter of the sewer, Jeanne felt herself lurch forward, dragged down by Jimmy, and they both hit the sewer floor hard, kicking up dust of fossilised Human waste. The stink was not only all but tangible, as if you could cut it with a knife should you have the inclination, it stank less of shit than of... well, death. Decay. Well, Jeanne supposed, it must have been thirty years ago at least that the sewer had been drained. As she hit the disgusting, dusty stinking floor sling-first, she felt agony rip through her shoulder, almost as if her wound had re-opened. She let out a cry of pain, and then bit her tongue, cursing her own lack of restraint as her exclamation echoed through the tunnel. If the Martians hadn't known where the refugees had gone yet, they did now.

The voices above were getting louder. Lenny didn't understand a word of the Martian language, nor could he decifer Martian tone, but nevertheless he knew in that place at the pit of his stomach that nobody likes to hear from that they were disappointed and indignant about the lack of prey, and determined to find the survivors of the earlier battle.

In the corner of her eye, Jeanne saw a grimy pair of boots settle on the ground; she looked up and saw that the man who had been the soldiers' commander had offered a hand to help her up. She wondered with a hint of indignation why he offered no assistance to Jimmy, who she could see struggling back to his feet nursing a bloody forehead, but regardless, she greatfully took the hand with her good arm and pulled herself up, muttering a word of thanks, and wondered somewhat apprehensively whether she might have an admirer. She mulled over the implications of the possibility that a newcomer to the resistance, fresh from mutiny against the Corporation, might have a crush on her; at the same time, she found herself unable to make sense of her own thoughts on the subject, that difficulty made all the worse by the pain in her shoulder.
She broke the uncomfortable silence which she was in all likelihood the only one aware of by clumsily blurting in French, "Je suis désole," then, realising that meant nothing to those around her, elaborated in English, "I'm sorry."
"For what, lass?" Jimmy inquired from beside her where he was leant against the side of the gutter applying an anti-septic dressing to his forehead.
"I am slowing you down," Jeanne replied, her eyes trained on the floor. "You will be a lot quicker if you leave me."
"Ma'am, the 15th Infantry leave no man behind!" the former officer exclaimed, apparently forgetting he had burnt his bridges with the military - although, of course, the same principle generally applied to the LSF.
"That would be very callous of us, wouldn't it now?" Jimmy chimed in, while he shouldered some of her weight again and they resumed their march, now further back in the crowd. "Besides, 'twas my fault we fell." He was right of course, but she was too polite to confirm it and respected him too much to humour him.
"Are you implying that I am a man?" Jeanne facetiously asked her potential admirer, amused and showing it in her voice.
"No ma'am," he answered in his stiff military manner. "Just that you won't be left behind on my watch."
"Take no notice," Jimmy advised her, "he's just nae used to working with women, 'tis all. There ain't no women in the army, ye see. Downright sexist, if ye ask me."
"So," she inquired of the officer, who was supporting her on the other side to Jimmy, but whose name she still didn't know, "why're you 'elping us?"
"There's no honour in the military anymore," he clarified. "Did you know they wanted us to execute you on worldwide television?"
Jeanne hadn't known, but nor did it come as much of a surprise.
What happened next was more of a bombshell, although in the context of her earlier scream it was less so than it might have been. A bloodcurdling yell to "RUN!" echoed towards them down the tunnel, and Jeanne blamed herself as she felt her heart sink, silently admonishing herself.

Lenny started to hear heavy footfalls in the passage behind them, on the raised sections to either side as well as in the gutter. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw the large, armoured silhouettes of Martian troops.
"RUN!" he screamed, turning towards the Martians and bringing his rifle up. He shot out the support struts on either side of the passage behind the crowd of refugees, and bowled a grenade back along the raised part of the sewer in an attempt to collapse the tunnel behind them. Earth and concrete came tumbling down from the walls and ceiling, blocking the tunnel, but he knew it wouldn't hold them for long.
He dropped a proximity mine and ran from the fearsome enemy.

"We'd better dash," Jimmy remarked, scooping Jeanne from the ground into his arms and ignoring his throbbing skull as he ran as fast as he could while weighted down by her - as petite as she was, she was still a Human being, and Humans were heavy. He felt the tension leave her muscles, and noticed her eyes drift closed.
Nearby, his former commander Jack Morgan was also struggling to keep up, his pulse burn injuries - which would have been exacerbated by helping Jeanne - holding him back. "That was very stupid of you," Jimmy heard (no longer) Sergeant Johnson berate Morgan as he grabbed him by the arm and dragged him along away from their pursuers. "Exerting yourself, in your state."
The sound of pulse rifle fire rang out, followed a few seconds later by the blast of a grenade and the rumble of crumbling rock. Jimmy found new energy and ran faster, stumbling slightly but this time managing to stay on his feet and not drop his charge. He saw her open her eyes slightly, squinting from the pain, and look around. "Where're we going?" She asked, sounding slightly delirious. "And where is your... camarade?"
"Who, Jack? Dave's got him... I can't carry both of you!" Jimmy responded, laughing. "I dunno where we're going, actually. Where exactly do these tunnels lead?"
"Ooh ees Dave?" Jeanne asked, her accent much more pronounced.
"His XO from our platoon. He's a good man, even if he is a soldier."
"Zat's good," she replied, letting her eyelids droop once more.
He heard Lenny cry out in warning from back down the tunnel again, "THEY'RE BREAKING THROUGH!"

Jeanne heard the man's exclamation and her eyes snapped open. She felt adrenalin pump around her body. She winced when she jarred her wound again by reaching for the revolver tucked into her belt with her left hand - unfortunately her right arm was trapped against Jimmy's torso - and braced it on Jimmy's shoulder so she could return fire on the Martians if they got close enough.
"Jeanne!" he panted. "There's been enough violence..."
"But... ze Martians..." she replied, tightening her grip on the gun, "zey're... not your Jacques... their only code is to kill!"
"But what's the point in lowering ourselves to their level!? That won't solve anything!"
"It will keep us alive!" she snapped back.
"And how'll it do that?" he asked, conceding a hint of condescension into his voice. "There's too many of them! We'll outrun them and it won't matter how many we've killed, or we'll get caught and it still won't matter!"

As the first plasma fire splashed against the walls around him, instantly vapourising chunks of the concrete walls, Lenny heard his mine detonate. Running harder, he sprayed fire blind over his shoulder. Then he tripped on a rut left by a shot, and flew face-first to the ground. Unable to grit his teeth but nontheless withstanding the pain of a broken nose and jaw, with no run left in him but plenty of fight, he decided now was the time to atone for all the grief he had brought as a soldier. He rolled onto his back, and shouldering his rifle and bracing himself against the wall, Leonard L Church prepared to drag the slimies into hell along with him.

"Do you think zat zey will be okay?" Jeanne asked.
"Us?" Jimmy responded. "Yeah, we'll all be fine. I wouldn't worry." Privately, he was convinced his time was up.
"I- I..." Jeanne said, avoiding his gaze, "I feel useless 'ere. I cannot 'elp... anyone."
"Jeanne?" he asked, suddenly worried. "What?" It sounded as if she was developing an inferiority complex...
"I can't 'elp anyone," she mumbled, not looking at him, "I am useless."
"No!" he yelled. "Don't ever say that. You're not useless. Nobody's 'useless'."
Jeanne flinched and said, "But all I 'ave done is get captured and shot..."
"You did so while trying to protect countless other people. You knew you were likely to get captured or killed, yet you volunteered for the rear guard. An act of selflessness, even in vain, is never 'useless'."
"I..." she said, glancing up at him, "merci."

Lenny drove attacker after attacker to the ground with bursts of deadly light, yet they kept coming. As the pursuing horde grew nearer, Lenny gripped his remaining grenade, that explosive ball of death, in his hand, still afraid to use it, preparing himself for the moment.
"Today, I declared my freedom," he proclaimed. "Today, I experienced freedom, if only of the mind. Today, I fought for freedom." With that, he pulled the pin. "TODAY, I DIED FREE, SO THAT THEY MAY LIVE FREE!"
And in a ball of fire, the sacrifice of one man decimated and scattered the forces of aggression. In death, he defended the lives and freedom of dozens of others. His death would not be in vain.

Hearing the explosion and knowing intuitively what had happened, Morgan muttered, "He died with honour. He was a warrior. May he find his peace in Valhalla."

Jimmy looked back, hearing the explosion, a teardrop forming in his eye. "Lenny..." he breathed, shocked. "Lenny's dead?" He stood there for a moment, gripping Jeanne to him, refugees rushing past them. Then, vowing not to let his friend's sacrifice be in vain, he turned forward again, shaking the tears from his face, still carrying Jeanne, he ran. And he ran. And he ran. "You were a good friend, Len," he muttered, "rest in peace."

"Désolé," Jeanne said, wanting to comfort Jimmy but knowing that, as when Tom had died only that evening, nothing she could say would be good enough. "I am sorry for the loss of your friend. Peut il se reposer dans le morceau."

The sewer tunnel was blocked by fallen concrete ahead of them, but there was an access shaft ahead of the blockage. The refugees continued through the access shaft, into another tunnel, wider, and... strange concrete floor laced with iron rails and wooden planks.
"Okay, where are we?" Morgan asked their ageing guide, Adriana.
"Where does it look like? We're in an old railway tunnel. Piccadilly station is about a minute's walk in that direction." Morgan's heart sank as she pointed down the tunnel. Piccadilly station, the ancient transport nexus, had
been bought by Dermis Capital centuries ago as part of its takeover of Manchester's rail network early in Dermis's rise to power, since which it had become the centre of the new worldwide teleportation network.
"PICCADILLY!?" Johnson gave voice to his Morgan's misgivings. "Are you fucking INSANE!? If I was the Martians, that right there would be the most heavily defended building on the PLANET!"

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Chapter 6

"Sir, I'm afraid I have to relieve you of command," Griff stated, gruffly. "I'm arresting you on the charge of treason,” the cauterized stump of his neck continued as a blue flash removed its former adornment.

“No, Mike,” Private Lenny Church replied, his pulse rifle levelled, its vent still slightly illuminated. “You’re not.”

“Thank you Church,” said a relieved Morgan, gratefully. He directed his query to the building’s former residents: “I don’t suppose you’ve installed any underground access routes since you took over? We want to avoid being tracked by a Martian ship or military satellite, if at all possible.”

An old woman in the corner responded, “Yes – the one we were planning to evacuate through. I’ll lead the way out.”

“I need you to grit yer teeth,” the soldiers’ medic, a vaguely attractive Scotsman with a few days’ bristle on his cheek, told Jeanne as he held the large circular metallic plate of a gun-shaped device to her wound, “because I won’t humour you – this will hurt a lot, and you need to be alert so I can’t give you any strong painkillers.”

Jeanne braced herself, and felt what could best be described as being ‘un-shot’ – the bullet, blunt end first, stormed angrily out of her shoulder, widening the wound in the process. “Have…” she gasped through her set jaw, wincing sharply, as he withdrew the instrument and let the bullet fall to the ground, “have you done zis before?”

“Well…not on a real person,” came the answer she had half-expected as he stitched the wound up.

She strained a laugh, “Hah, I’m so privileged.”

“I’m glad ya feel that way, lassie,” the medic replied with a smirk.

“So doc,” Jeanne inquired while she was waiting for him to finish stitching, “you got un name?”

“Jimmy,” he responded. “Jimmy James…”

“That’s… an interesting name,” she remarked, with a hint of irony.

“Yeah well…me parents have an interesting sense o’ humour,” he snorted.

"Mon name est Jeanne."

"A nice name, that is lass," Jimmy commented. "Like Jeanne d'Arc?"

"Oui," she answered. "Mon mére, she gave me the name."

"Mére? Mother? An interesting perspective. I suppose you could say Aneurin Bevan was like that to me, although I've never really thought of it that way."

“What made you join ze army?”

“I didn’t,” Jimmy replied, finishing the last stitch and tying the thread. “I joined the Medical Department, and was transferred to the Military Department a few weeks after I qualified. Probably some sick, sadistic bastard’s idea of a joke,” he speculated, with obvious contempt, “because he knew I was a pacifist.”

“Zat is stupid,” Jeanne commented as he produced a dressing. “Why didn’t you just quit and go back to the Medical Département?”

Jimmy raised an eyebrow. “Cos I can’t. I dunno if you’ve ever experienced life outside the LSF, but what happens to you in Corporate society if you get fired, or if you quit your job… it isn’t pleasant. You get kicked out of your home, and you don’t get any money so you can’t even get the most basic necessities, like food or clothes. And there’s no ‘ope at all of going back. Actually,” he supposed, “probably the only option would be pretty much what I’m doing now. ‘Sides which, I’ve defected now ain’t I? In the resistance, I can be just a doctor… right?”

“Oui. I suppose so,” she replied. “How long have you been un doctor?”

“Only about three months actually… Plus five years of university, of course.”

She looked at his belt. “How good are you with un fusil?” she asked, then added when she saw his puzzled expression, “Que l’on l’appelle? Ah… a gun. How good are you with a gun?”

“Good enough to pull the trigger,” he replied, reservedly, “but I hope I never have to…”

Jeanne saw the man she assumed from the various hand and power tools on his belt was the troops’ engineer lift the man who had come in with the blastgun onto his shoulder in a fireman’s lift. “Uhh, O’Malley?” she heard the troops’ commander say. “Not him, please. He’s staying here. Our gift to the Martians.”

She turned to Jimmy again, while he was bandaging her shoulder. “Do you like him? The man over there,” she pointed to the commander. “He has some very,” she paused while she thought of the word. “Strange morals.”

“Like him!? Hell no! And I don’t exactly agree with him either. Warrior’s honour my arse, you can’t moralise about killing! But I respect him, because he has beliefs, and he sticks to them when it would be more benefit to him pay lip service.”

She grabbed the hand he offered and pulled herself to her feet, leaning on the wall. “Really? It looks like he keeps changing them…”

“How so?”

“He’s with the army, but he’s helping us now,” she gave Jimmy a confused look. “Je ne le comprends pas…”

“Yeah, but his views haven’t changed – at least I don’t think so, anyway. He abandoned the military because he was ordered to execute you, which violates his sense of soldier’s honour. I think to him, that confirmed an impression he’d had for a while, that the army had become dishonourable.” He added, “most of us were just about ready to jump ship too ta be honest with you, for our own reasons.”

“Ah… sorry.” She was still confused about why he had left the man with the blastgun for the Martians to kill, but she had a sense that it had to do with the code of honour Jimmy was talking about, and thinking it would make her seem dense, her deep-seated pride would not allow her to ask.

When Morgan saw that Private James had finished treating the most badly wounded of the rebels, he asked the old lady – Adriana, he had found out her name was – to show them the escape route she had mentioned. She led them out of the fire door, which he noted was under an overhanging part of the building, which would shield people using this route from visual detection by surveillance satellites. The access route, they discovered, was part of the old sewage network – now dry since being replaced by a more hygienic sanitation system, and in some parts in disrepair – and the entrance was a simple manhole, hollowed out to make it easier to get in and out.

At the rear of the refugee column, Lenny Church’s heart began to pound as he heard a terrible scream from the warehouse, which was now directly overhead. A few minutes later, he heard heavy, metal-booted footsteps on the iron stairs and concrete floor above. The Martians had arrived, and obviously they had found the manhole.

If they chose to give chase, he might be the first to die.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Chapter 5

The shot pierced the air and the tension like a full stop marking a sharp end to the exchange of sarcasm and unimaginative threats.

Jeanne felt her eyes go wide at the thought that she may have pushed her harasser three steps too far.

She felt her heartbeat stop at the horrible thought that she might have just ended her own life by a simple impulse.

She felt the tears welling in her eyes as her life flashed before her eyes: the first time she saw her parents’ faces, and she was comforted by the thought that she might be reunited with them soon; her first day of school, the pride she felt writing her name on the front of an exercise book for the first time, and she felt nostalgic realising how quickly the novelty had faded; the friends who had made her childhood so much more...Pierre, Louane, Camille...Tom...she would be seeing him soon, too; the horror she had felt when she heard that her parents had been killed after taking part in the human blockade of a Parisian munitions factory – and of course she hadn’t fully understood their sacrifice at the time - and her apprehension at her papa’s friend Francois’ suggestion that she could come to live in a ‘safe place’ in Lyons; but of course Tom had run away from home to go with her, and she was immensely grateful for his help in getting through the difficult time after her parents’ death and in settling into her new environment; her teenage years living among the rebels, learning to carve wood; the time she had demanded to be allowed to strike back at the corporation which had killed her parents – whose deaths she had just discovered had not been accidental after all - and the guilt she felt in the aftermath of the first mission she had been allowed to participate , having killed another person for the first time; her first kiss shared with Tom, which she could never have forgotten even though they had agreed that it could never be repeated; the friends she made over the years, and those she had lost to disease, accidents and the enemy; her grief a few years earlier on an mission into Paris shortly before she came to Manchester when she had picked up a newspaper and seen Louane’s name in the obituary – she had apparently fallen victim to cancer; the loss of her left foot in a recent raid on a Corporate prison after she ran back into the unstable building to rescue the last prisoner they had discovered was still trapped inside, strapped to a bed in the ‘medical’ wing, and a wall had collapsed on her foot – she had had to sever it herself in order to get her and her charge out before the rest of the building came down on them; her dismay and disbelief at seeing Tom’s writhing body shredded by the explosion of an enemy grenade.

Strangely enough, the one thing Jeanne did not feel was a bullet rupturing her innards. She almost cried with relief when she realised that this was because the shot had not been aimed at her.

Hearing the single, solitary gunshot which rang out across the warehouse and the stunned silence that followed, Sam shuffled towards the closed door of the war room, intrigued. He swung his blastgun around to his waist in his right hand, still strapped to his shoulder, placed his right hand on the cold metal door handle, and pushed the door open slowly.

Jeanne’s relief, she quickly realised, was premature. The case was not that the army pig had declined to shoot her. He had just not shot her yet.

“Time to die, bitch,” he declared as he staggered back to his feet, blood from the mess that had been his nose dripping on the filthy, badly maintained pistol he shoved in her face.

She caught a glimpse of someone vaguely familiar appearing in the doorway as adrenaline once again launched her prosthetic foot from the ground, catching the soldier’s gun hand not quite fast enough. The bullet caught her in the left shoulder and drew a small grunt of pain; the follow-up shot tore a hole from the wall half an inch from Jeanne’s ear as her attacker also screamed, his face twisted in agony and surprise, and fell to his knees with a thud, barely audible over the beating of Jeanne’s own heart.

Morgan, hearing gunfire, turned towards the source as he let Director Adams’ body drop limply to the floor, and saw one of his men – one of his trusted men! – shoot an unarmed woman with bound hands. He heard her cry out as blood spread from the wound on her shoulder. Still seething from Adams’ order and certainly not calmed by this sight, his arm moved on its own, and his trigger finger needed no instruction when it sent a bullet impacting into Private Donut’s back. Donut screamed and fell forward, his second shot going wide.

“Aww,” a new voice groaned from the direction of the door from the warehouse floor, “I wanted him to meet my baby.”

Morgan spun around, mimicked by most of his troops, bringing his gun to bear on the newcomer with the large Martian-looking weapon. “Now if you’d be so kind as to let me get the hell out of here,” the newcomer continued, hastily reconsidering his situation in light of the large number of gun barrels pointed unambiguously in his direction, “I won’t fry you all.”

Biting her lip to suppress the pain of the bullet wound, and for the time being, putting aside the implications of what had just happened, Jeanne saw that the dead trooper’s gun was very close to her. Seeing that his friends’ attention was now unanimously glued to the newcomer, she edged towards it, doing her best to ignore the chunk of led lodged in her shoulder and the corpse draped heavily across her lap which if the smell was anything to go by, must already have been starting to rot.

She immediately forgot about the gun, however, when she heard a click and whirring sound from the door and saw the end of the gun tucked under the newcomer’s arm begin to glow bright pink. “Let me ask you something,” he said. “Have you ever seen what happens when plasma from a fully-charged blastgun, travelling at several times the speed of sound, rips through a room full of people?”

A wave of panicked murmuring spread through the room, and even the hardened warriors shifted uneasily. “Oi,” Jeanne for her part snapped at the newcomer, her French accent becoming more noticeable because of the stress, anger and fatigue also clearly present in her voice, “dat eez stooped! Don’t do somezing dat stooped!”

The soldiers’ commander took a step towards Sam. “You see all your comrades behind me? None of them are armed. They are all bound at the hands. Do you really want to stoop that low?”

“Mate, I’ve been that low,” he replied. “I wouldn’t really call them comrades either – more like a means to an end.” He ignored the shocked, indignant looks on the faces of some of the more naive of the noobs sat on the floor that actually knew him (or at least, thought they did). A low hum continued to emanate from the blastgun as the charging coils gathered plasma.

“You really are scum,” the soldier grumbled through gritted teeth. “I’ve never met scum like you, and I’ve been up close to Martians.”

“Scum. Special forces. Take your pick.” That drew a raised eyebrow , Sam noted smugly. “Now, d’ya want to get out of my way, or do I turn you into molten slag?”

“You just want to move through? Okay men...” Morgan conceded, lowering his pistol and turning to what remained of his platoon, his martial pride mortally wounded, “I think we’d better let him go.”

“See, you army regulars do have some common sense,” the man smiled slightly, pushing what must have been his weapon’s charging lever down as far as it would go, and the hum and glow of the blastgun subsided. He walked towards the fire escape, smirking at each of the soldiers as he passed.

Then one of them, a tall cleanshaven man who had lost his helmet in the battle, shot the stranger in the back as he reached the outer door.

“FUCK!” the blastgunner yelled as the pulse burst struck him in the back. “Note to self,” Morgan heard him mutter as he spun around and fell backwards, wincing, “never, ever, trust an army guy.” As he said that, he yanked the charging lever from its 0 setting to beyond where it had been before.

Morgan shot off the blastgunner’s trigger hand before he could fire the blastgun, and turned his attention to his shooter. “Private, we do not shoot people in the back. Is that clear?”

When he received no response, Morgan fired, narrowly missing the offender’s junk. “Is that CLEAR, Private Simmons?”

“P-p-painfully so, sir.”

The blastgunner was more accurate, introducing Morgan’s own groin to the effect of his pulse pistol, which he had produced along with a torrent of curses. “Teach you, cock-bite,” he said, smiling sadistically at the smell of Morgan’s burnt flesh before passing out from his own pain.

Sergeant Johnson caught Morgan as he crumpled, clutching his crotch in agony.

Private Griff, who had been keeping a lookout via what was left of the equipment in the room, came running over to the middle of the room where Johnson and Morgan were - "Sir! The Martians have broken through the line, and there's a column headed straight here! They must have detected the weapons fire!"

"Alright", Morgan croaked. "Men, cut these people free, and help the wounded walk. We're getting out of here."

"Uh, sir?" Johnson asked, part puzzled and part hopeful "Does this mean we're switching sides?"

"Yes Lieutenant, yes it does.”

Behind him, Morgan heard a gun whir, he turned to see Griff's pulse rifle in his face.

"Sir, I'm afraid I have to relieve you of command," Griff stated, gruffly. "I'm arresting you on the charge of treason.”

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Chapter 4

Picking his way through the now eerily quiet warehouse towards the nearest armoury, pulse rifle gripped at the waist ready to fire at the first sign of movement – loyalist or rebel – Sam realised the LSF must have evacuated the base. He was somewhat dismayed at this thought, realising that, considering his shaky-at-best relationship with the rebels, there was no guarantee they would ever let him into the replacement base. They might even think he was the one who sold them out.
Reaching the armoury, Sam unclipped the current charge pack from his blastgun and let it fall from the floor, leaking a glowing green liquid from a small crack on the side, and replaced it with a new pack from the shelf. He also took a few spares for his bandolier, along with half a dozen batteries for his rifle – all the 32MW packs that were available – and a handful of grenades.
From where she was sat on the cold floor of the war room, Jeanne’s eyes shot daggers at the enemy commander, irritated that she had been caught so easily. The evacuation had been thwarted, and all the surviving rebels had been gathered in the war room with their hands bound behind their backs, presumably awaiting transportation to detention facilities.
"Major!" Johnson called, "We have a camera crew coming over from Media Department, and they want you to put together a firing squad. They want you to make the executions as bloody as possible,” he continued, showing evident disdain, “entertaining. 'We have to be seen to be tough on the terrorists', they said. 'Hearts and minds', and all that crap...With all due respect sir, you won't get me in a firing squad. You'll have to court martial me for insubordination first."
Morgan knew most of his men were as disgusted with the commercialisation, brutality and lack of honour in the modern corporate military as he was, but it was encouraging to see that Johnson was determined enough to risk facing court martial over it. “No, Johnson, don’t worry,” he replied, “I agree. Surely you can’t believe I’d be happy about that either. I’m not gonna be presiding over cold-blooded murder!” he declared indignantly. “But the question is what we can do about it…”
“Well sir, I’ve got your back whatever you decide,” Johnson told him. “So long as you don’t put me in the firing squad of course, that is sir,” he hastened to add.
Sighing wearily, thoroughly demoralised, Jeanne rested her head against the cold metallic wall behind her. As die-hard determined as she was to defy corporate rule for as long as she breathed, in her current sleep-deprived state, combined with the shell shock of seeing her lifelong friend Tom killed like a dog by corporate troops, she was about ready to give up the fight. Ready to let despair take her; ready to die. She had, of course, been ready to die for as long as she had been working with the LSF, if her death was beneficial in some way to the fight against oppression. But this was different. She simply did not seem to have the strength to carry on. She almost willed death to come to her.
That was, until she saw one of the soldiers, complete with egotistic strut, aura of chauvinism and the repulsive stench of machismo, step towards her. All of a sudden, the fire of rage, resentment and hatred lit inside her a furnace of defiant energy. Apparently, there was some fight left in her after all!
“Up ya get, sweetness,” the pig spoke, grinning at her.
“Bite me,” Jeanne retorted, plastering a condescending smile all over her face and drawing her left knee up to her chest.
As the somewhat stunted man came closer to her, she forced her other knee hard into his groin, and let out a small laugh at his grunt of pain. “Bitch,” he wheezed, doubling over and falling to his knees, his voice a few octaves higher, “that just earnt you a front row seat.”
Jeanne just looked at him, still smiling sweetly and feeling slightly amused, and catapulted her booted left foot into his face, shattering his nose.
A short, heavy man with whiskers and a spotlessly smooth tuxedo which was a little tight around the chest area swaggered in the door of the war room where the prisoners were being held from a neighbouring common room. “I’m Mr Adams, I’m the director of the broadcast. My camera crew are almost finished setting up, so whenever you’ve picked your firing squad feel free to send the first group of prisoners through.”
Morgan, seeing red, turned and took a step towards the newcomer, so that they were standing nose to nose, Adams looking suddenly uncomfortable. "You seem remarkably cavalier about cold-blooded killing, Director," Morgan remarked, lifting him slightly by the Adam’s apple and drawing his pistol, “but only over my dead body will you get me involved.” He shoved the pistol threateningly under Adams’ chin.
They stood there – well, Morgan stood and Adams hovered there – for several minutes, Adams sweating profusely.
“If you think it’s so interesting, Director, then surely you would like some… experience?”
“But-b-but” Adams sputtered. “But… I work for Dermis! I’m not a terr-“
At hearing a dispassionate, cold-blooded killer have the nerve to refer to people who risked their lives every day for what they believed in and to defend the people they cared about as ‘terrorists’, the pale red transposed over everything Morgan saw turned bright crimson and he saw nothing else.
“Lights out, scumbag,” he said, pulling the trigger. “Curtains closed.”
The shot echoed through the room.
Allowing the body to fall to the floor, breathing heavily, Morgan turned to see all eyes on him.