First Draft excerpt from WIP: The End of Childhood

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The first warning they had was the general alarm.

WARNING, JACKPOT IS UNDER ASSAULT. DEMONIC FORCES AT LEAST FORTY FIFTHS IN NUMBERS HAVE GATED ONTO THE PLANETARY SURFACE. MOST SEEM TO HAVE ARRIVED IN AREAS NEARBY BUT OUTSIDE MAJOR CITIES. SPACEBORNE UNITS ARE ENGAGED, PLANETARY SURFACE UNITS ARE RESPONDING TO INCURSIONS BUT ARE SIGNIFICANTLY OUTNUMBERED. EXPECT TO BE ON YOUR OWN FOR AT LEAST FOUR HOURS. ARM YOURSELVES AND SHARE INFORMATION. STAY ALIVE!

Tashor and Crazan looked at each other and wordlessly agreed that band practice was cancelled, but it was still a good idea for everyone to meet. "Just bring weapons instead of instruments!" Tashor sent to the other members of their group. "Where are you going?" he asked Crazan, who headed into their spare room.

"If we aren't going to use the suits we bought when we left Planetary Surface now, then when?"

"Point. They were officially replaced with the Prime zero two model almost twenty years ago. When we rejoin, they'll issue us the new model."

"Be a dear and pop the storage pods - Thank you!" Crazan walked the suits out of their storage, and told them to open up. "Was that a proposal to change our plans?"

"Wasn't intended that way, but I'm not opposed. It's not like the band has a huge following yet."

"At least it came now, before we've really begun. But it wouldn't be right to just abandon the others."

"Not like two out of practice section leaders are going to determine the course of the war." Tashor's suit was fully open. He stepped into the open cavity, and told the suit to seal itself.

Crazan was a moment behind him. Soon as the suits were sealed, diagnostics were run. Both suits were well-maintained; neither returned any faults. "Ready for full power?"

"Yes. But this may be our only chance for real combat experience. Even the nonhumans in Second Galaxy would be absurdly outnumbered if it ever came to war."

"Get real. You can bet your sweet backside some of them will try to take advantage of the Empire being distracted."

"You're right, dear. It's just we agreed we wanted to try music for our next careers."

"We can still do that. We can do ten years standing on our heads, even if the Empire doesn't offer early discharge. Full power achieved. Ammunition bay full?"

"Of course, silly. Siphon at full, capacitor full. Turns out Ashan and Yalta also bought their suits when they mustered out. So it's going to be four suits and five others. Tilton doesn't have anything."

"What a useless twunt! Don't give him a weapon - don't want him hurting anybody."

"As if I would. Let's have him be guarded by sweet little Yalta. Won't that be ironic!"

Tashor snorted, "Serves him right. Masca nit and he doesn't know how to pull a trigger!"

"No, but he knows how to sing and how to haul the little girlies in to spend their allowances."

"I want him alive, too. I just won't mind seeing him taken down a few bits."

"He is a source of drama. But it's not like there's nobody else who can do it. It would be harder to replace you."

"Not planning on dying. That's why we're in our suits. Mind the door frame."

"Yeah, wouldn't want to damage the door. The agency would make us pay to repair it." Both carefully negotiated the opening to the corridor.

"Portal?" Tashor took a step in that direction.

"Unless you want to walk most of an ithird. We're too out of practice not to bounce off the walls. The parking airlocks are on the next level down."

"We could just portal down to the greenbelt."

"The portals between arcologies are all offline. There has already been fighting."

"Right. The airlocks it is." Crazan led Tashor through the transmission portal, to another a level down. The walls were less finished, and the parking area had a ceiling almost twice the height of the residential corridors. Personal Starbirds were parked all around them. The airlock to outside was only a few steps away; necessary at a height of nearly five ithirds. "Think we can ping a few demons at this altitude?"

"Probably. But the others are going to be waiting. Pile in." Tashor cycled the airlock, and the outer door opened. They emerged onto a landing ledge fifteen ififths high, plenty to land in even the worst crossdraft. "Heat them up."

"Nobody said we had to be stationary to do it. Good hunting. You ever heard of a flyer caste?"

"No. Their nobles move them by teleportation, same as Guardians. Why would they need a flyer caste?"

"The delve is saying they've got Starbird fighters or something like them."

"But not very many, and our space units are cleaning them up."

"It only takes one." They both knew how Starbird versus suit played out.

"Don't be a snowflake. Here we go." Their suit impellers lifted them off the ledge, then after clearing it, they dropped in altitude.

"Looks like a concentration over there, near the west entry."

"Then let's take a minute to clean them up. Don't want to come back to a trashed apartment." Both suits' multibarrel laser cannons strobed. Several sixties of manesi died on the plaza in front of their arcology.

"Think I can get the nephraim?" Crazan asked, then exclaimed "BULLSEYE!"

"Showoff. Djhanta could have hit you with one of their mindbolts."

"You know the nephraim hardly ever know how to do what our operants do."

"It only takes one who isn't so lazy, dear. It's not like the nephraim would have kept attacking on his own."

"You're such a snowflake."

"This snowflake doesn't want to deal with your posthumous affairs."

"Will you let that go already? 'Taya was the only woman I've slept with in two years. The contract says we're allowed."

"Doesn't mean I'm happy with it."

"Then find yourself your own side piece."

"I love you."

"What's that got to do with it? Not like anybody's going to get pregnant."

"I know, and if we actually catch something we can go to a healer. But it's not the same as it is with you."

"Land in front of Blue Shores, on the land side."

"I read the group message, same as you. Looks like another group of invaders."

"Shields to maximum dear. Wouldn't want one of them to get lucky."

"Eeeeww! I'll never be that randy."

"Glad there are some limits. Looks like there's another half dozen in suits at the entry. Let's go help them."

"Just don't try to take charge."

"I know the formula." Both suits' multibarrels strobed again. Manesi died in rows as they landed on the landward side of Blue Shores Arcology, where they were meeting the other band members. "We're only 'cooperating for mutual benefit'. How do the demons figure they're going to come out ahead, throwing troops away against us?"

"Not our problem, sweetie. Just be glad they do. Might get ugly if they used their troops efficiently."

"Probably can't believe we're allowed to be armed. At least, they just forget when they're making a plan. You know how they treat their lower castes."

"Yeah, I remember. Glad our leaders are smarter than that."

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 6, 2020 6:16 AM.

First Draft Excerpt of Work in progress was the previous entry in this blog.

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