31 August 2010

CUSTOM: Part Five-Time on the Line

“Listen up, fresh meat!” The line commander barked. “This is it! The line!” He gestured towards the treeless expanse in front of the trenches. “Your time on the line is critical keeping Wireless Ridge free of those goddamn things!” The 12 Ophiuchi sun was just rising, and Jamie yawned, while cursing the base servers that robbed her of sleep.


She popped open an energy drink, and waited for the barking to be over.

“There are artillery and mortars on the top of the ridge, microwave projectors and Metal-Storm™ automated turrets out there and you…”Ibanez gave a shitty grin to the mass of Customs. “Are here”. Jamie turned to see the no-man’s land out there, covered in mines and automated cannons.

He un-slung a massive weapon, causing Jamie to refocus on the commander. “This little one, is the thing that will save all your asses!” He held out a rifle sized weapon with a massive drum magazine. Jamie wondered if she could handle the weapon.

“This is an Atchisson 12 gauge fully-automatic shotgun, with a 32 shell drum magazine. Each of one will be issued one of these. Load with whatever shells you like, and when the Nix are close, this will kill those fuckers dead.” Everyone drove into the stack of Atchissons, and Jamie hefted the weight of the massive gun.

“I think the recoil is going to rip my shoulder off!” Beth joked, trying to relieve some of the gloom.

“Naw, I read Atchission developed it to unloaded all at once!”Tom gazed at the shotgun like it was a porn model.

“Quit talkin’! Start loadin’!”Ibanez commanded. The heavy green boxes of ammo popped open, and they began the task of clicking in one shell at a time. At the tree line was the thumping of artillery, and a distant shriek of Nix dying.

“Shit…there they come.” Beth sighed while shaking her head. Jamie threw an arm around her, as they took to the top of the trench. Prayers were uttered and crosses kissed.

“Wait for ‘em to get close! Don’t burn darts and shells on ‘em ‘til you can smell them!” Shouted Ibanez from the bottom of the trench.

There was a slow even pulsating rhythm of outgoing fire. Each minute it grew stronger and they drew closer.

The praying got faster and louder. Jamie checked her gun for the hundredth time. The heavy pounding of the artillery stopped, and only mortar rounds lobbed into the rushing Nix phalanx. Every soldier on the line wanted the great blooms of smoke and concussions; each foolishly hoped that this would stop them.

Then the mortars cut off. They were closing in. Even the heavy shit wasn’t stopping them.

“There’s too many…”Jamie said out loud. Beth nodded, but was too white to say another word.

In front of them, the popping of Reaper rifles started, replaced the volleys of gunfire from the robotic defenses. But, when the automated turrets went dry, and each of the mines preformed their grim destiny, the line was fully exposed. What shocked Jamie was that the Nix ran straight for the trenches, no fancy tactics, just sheer numbers.

Jamie’s finger hammered down on the trigger, at the Nix running towards her. It was crushed under the fully automatic shotgun shells at close range. It withered under the pounding, and collapsed. Jamie trained the tool of death onto the next Nix, and she cracked its exoskeleton with a few shells. Another one dashed at her, weaving in and out, Jamie wasted her last few shells missing it.

It hurled a javelin-like weapon at blinding speed and Jamie was thrown backwards down into the mud of the trench with four feet of alien projectile lodged in her left side. The pain was overwhelming. Blood was pooling in her armor from the blow, and her world slowed down

It leaped at her, excited by the smell of fresh blood over the top, screaming in its primal alien tongue, swinging claws and flicking teeth like a nightmare from hell.

Painfully, she raised her shatter handgun and flipped off the safety, just as a claw stabled into her foot.

Jamie howled.

She pulled the trigger and the claw tore out of her foot, trying to cover itself from the hail of .410 double ought Buckshot.

Her gun clicked dry and the world faded to darkness.

-Part Six "Triage" in seven days-
William

25 August 2010

Custom-Part 4: REM

Jamie wasn’t sleeping well; she struggled and tossed about on the cot. The last good sleep she had gotten was on the retrofitted cryo-sleeper ship that hauled them to the 12 Ophiuchi system. That was the scene of the crime. Where she went from soldier to Custom. Converted was the term they used.


Her Custom body was constantly being upgraded and the upgrades fucked with her sleep. They started when she reached R.E.M sleep. There, her dreams became tech-manuals, updated intel on new Nix species, status of the war, and new bio-ware upgrades to her brain implants.

But while she was on LRRP duty, Jamie’s implants had been out of range of the base servers. Now that was back in the wire, it could finally update her, and it seemed to be worse than usual. Her dreams twisted during all of this, to horror. Scenes from her time in the thick, fighting, being wounded combined with nightmarish blurry visions of the Nix ripping people apart. Then her mind flashed to the deep cold of the cryo-pod, and the evil that stalked her in the jungle.

Suddenly bolting out of the cot, Jamie’s feet slapped the cold metal of the barracks floor. Everything evened out, her heartbeat calmed and the sweating stopped.

She was wide awake.

“Damn! I’m getting a shower.” She said out loud, but the only answer was snorting.

Being 0530 local Honiara time, there was no one in the showers or in the chow hall when she made it there.

“Jamie,” Beth Interrupted her thoughts. “Want some company?”

“Of course.” Jamie kicked out a cheap metal chair for her. When Beth set down her tray, Jamie snatched a biscuit.

“Hey!”

“Seating toll, soldier.” Beth flipped her off, and Jamie tried to smiled with an mouth fill of biscuit.

“Couldn’t sleep, huh?” Beth asked.

“Fucking uploads! Why don’t they do that later, I needed that sleep!” Jamie moaned.

“Yeah, we were out in the bad bush too long, I swear, I’m still not totally sync’ed in.”

“Being a Custom sucks.” Jamie tossed her last piece of toast into the remains of the soy eggs.

“Hell yeah, sister!” Beth agreed

“What have you heard from your friend in Operators?”

Beth smiled shyly, and hid behind her coffee cup. “Hmm…we’re it and the Bashar has moved into low orbit.

“Orbital bombardment or nuclear assault?” Nicky was standing over them with a shit-eating grin.

They all jumped. “Damn it Nicky! Beth yelled “The Nix are bad enough!” He sat down, and all eyes turned back to Beth.

“No, my contact-”

“Bed-buddy, Beth.” Jamie needled.

“Yes, yes, alright.” She was red in the cheeks.

“The Bashar?” Nicky prompted.

“Oh…yeah…it’s moved for pickup.” Beth finished.

“Pickup? You mean like the Terrans are bugging out?!” Nicky raised his voice, and it echoed around the chow-hall. Eyes fell onto their table.

“Damn it, Nicky!” Shushed Beth. “Yeah, they’re prepping for a launch.” Silence washed over them.

“We’re finally here.” From behind came Mariam and Tom wandered up being the group.

“You two took long enough!” Beth greeted the reminder of their LRRP team.

“Hard to get outta bed when it’s warm.” Tom deflected.

“Answer the question.” Jamie forced out over the chatting, tryiong to refocus the conversation.

Beth looked down at her half-eaten pancakes. “The last perimeter bases were wiped out. We are the last base on this damn moon.” Before a response could be spoken, flashing text appeared in their enhanced eyes.

REPORT TO LT. IBANEZ @THE WESTERN FRONT

They stuffed down the last of breakfast, and swore while pushing back their chairs. Tom saw Jamie still in the chair. He extended a hand to her.

“C’mon, Jamie,” He hit my shoulder, “time to get back in the shit!”

19 August 2010

CUSTOM-Part 3: F.O.B

Rest was impossible in the Weanoc’s jarring flight pattern, but not for Jamie. It had been weeks of two-hour naps, hugging her rifle like a lover in the Jeep, that had pushed her to complete and utter exhaustion. It didn’t matter where she was, she was going to sleep.


Jamie shot awake at the vibrations of the landing gear striking down on the hard surface of the heliport. Her hand bolted for the .410 handgun.

“Easy down, Custom!” The crew-chief shouted, causing Jamie to reestablish with reality, and she released. “Damn, you’ve been in the jungle too long!” Jamie was too embarrassed to respond.

When the ramp slammed down a hand-painted signed said it all: Welcome to Wireless Ridge Forward Operating Base. The Last of the Line.

“Chief, is that right?!”

“Yeah, FOB is it, the last military base.” The remains of Jamie’s long-range patrol unit gathered their gear and stepped into a very different base than the one they left two months ago.

Where once there had been thick blanket of trees below the heliport was now a deep trench network filled with sounds of flechette machine guns.

“Damn, the war’s bad here too.” Beth sighed.

“Stop looking,” nudged Nicky, “it’s bad karma.” He motioned the group to check in, and there standing on two metal legs behind the desk, was a bitter reminder of the true cost of this war.

“Corporal Jaren,” she tapped on a PDA computer, “this is all that remains of your LRRP unit? The five of you?” She pointed to the dirty soldiers. “What about your CO?”

Jamie made a face, “KIA.” The clerk continued to update her tablet.

“Your orders are as follows: 48 hours of R&R, then you’re absorbed into the FOB defense detail.” Jamie, Beth, Nicky, Tom, and Mariam all looked at one another with confusion.

“We were told that the situation here was desperate-”

The clerk waved her hand, cutting Jamie off. “You owe another LRRP team for the R&R. We were getting our asses kicked until they napalmed an underground breeding chamber.” The clerk shrugged her shoulders.

“Wish we could have watched them bastards burn slow.” Tom said as he walked away with a rubbing of dry gears.

“Chow?” Asked Jamie to the rest of the team.

“Chow.” They answered, and with tired feet, they walked through the chaos of the base in a haze of weariness. Jamie watched people rushing with boxes of flechettes to the trenches, and coming the other way from earthworks were bloodied and broken bodies.

Waves of guilt suddenly shot through her. Seeing the clerk with the metal legs, those wounded soldiers, and a few others with artificial limbs. Jamie was whole, no missing arm or leg sliced off by Nix claw. No, all of her scars were internal.

When they descended into dining hall, it was packed; but they were allowed to cut in line as a sign of respect. Jamie heard the chatter as they hunted for an open table. Wireless Ridge and the city of Vickers were close to defeat. The talk told her that the spirit of defiance was broken here; all of these soldiers were just waiting for the end.

The depressing conditions of the base made eating hard, Jamie was a Custom. This moon was her only home, and she couldn’t retreat, there was no were to go. She had been altered on the way here, to fight like those things did. The Nix breeders bio-engineered their warriors for each world, and with the staggering Terran colonial losses, the military started the Li-Tieguai program. It was the government’s attempt to follow the Nix’s example and custom-design soldiers for their environments. Jamie stared at her back of her hand, she had never got used to her camouflaged skin.

While the others talked and shoveled hot food into her mouths, Jamie was becoming more depressed. The jungle, she couldn’t dwell on it, but now she was scared. As she witnessed the desperate situation here, she wondered what would happen to her if the moon was lost to the Nix?

She took a bite of her cake and suddenly dropped her fork as a long buried memory screamed back. It was the same kind of cake Jamie’s mother made for her 18th birthday. The draft collectors came for her before she gotten a second piece and while she watched the others eat theirs, it occurred to Jamie that she would never see her mother again. It was like, in her mind, that every cake was now a lie. Earth was now an alien world. It was them or us, a war of pure survival. It was that fucking simple.

Jamie pushed her plate away in disgust. “I’m going back to the barracks.”

“Jamie! What the hell?!” Mariam protested. “C’mon don’t leave!”

“Can I have your food?” Tom called out as she walked away.

She found her old barracks, stripped off the dirty hardsuit, took a real shower, and then flopped down on some soft sheets. Just before sleep overtook her, she prayed that she wouldn’t dream about war.

16 August 2010

Delay


My apologies to all those logged on to FWS and found  no fresh CUSTOM flash Fiction.

There as been a delay. I was forced to rewrite part three: "FOB" after my editor (the wife) took her red pen to it.

She told me, that the idea was good, but bad execution.

Ugh.

So, I finished the re-write at 2am...and it should be up on the blog tonight. Once again, sorry about the delay.

I wanted everyone to know that the entire 11 parts have been fully written, but my editor only has time for one-at-a-time, and at the moment, I am re-editing CUSTOM to ensure that I do not have completely rewrite another portion.

Well, back to the old keyboard.

-Stay Frosty,
William

12 August 2010

FWS Book Review: OLD MAN'S WAR


(This is the Japanese cover for Old Man's War, posted here:
http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/004912.html)

Old Man's War is one of the new classics of Military Science Fiction by Mr. John Scalzi, published in 2006 by TOR Books.
This book was recommended to me by a friend at work, however it was not until after reading the preview on Google Books that I ran down to Barnes & Noble to buy it.
I  know that I coming to the Old Man's War party late, all the dip and good beer is gone...but I deeply impressed by this book. Like all the book reviews on FWS, this is meant to simple and to the point, on what works, and what does not.

Old Man's War tells the story of a 75 year old John Perry who signs up for the Colonial Defense Force, Earth's off-world colonial armed forces, and meets new and interesting alien species and kills them.
THE GOOD

Not enough could be said about the Old Man's War central plot and concept. Both are original and in the hands of a lesser writer would simply not have worked.
For example, the way that the Colonial Union and Earth interact is original, believable, and mysterious. This works in concert with the overall concept of a galaxy where humans and alien species battle over habitual real state is clever, and is something both Nigel and I have discussed many times. 
Most authors cannot write realistic aliens. Mostly they are too rooted in the tried Star Trek  tradition of being too human and/or being on some pointless quest for their inner humanity. The alien races in the Old Man's War crowded galaxy are truly foreign and view humans as walking Steak-ums. 
Mr. Scalzi sets himself further apart from the pack of military sc-fi writers (myself included) by developing Nanotechnology for the  primary weapon of the Colonial Defense Force, the MP-35 which on page 133 of the book, uses "high-density nano-robotic ammunition".
This is one of the rare examples of Nano-based weaponry in sci-fi, I praise Mr.Scalzi for that and the MP-35 being an Omini-Weapon,similar in concept to the Fifth Element's ZF-1.
Mr. Scalzi proves himself to be a first rater writer, by skillfully adding hard military action, clever dialog that sparks with humor, and heart.



THE BAD

The book starts off slow, taking too much time to get the main character, John Perry, into the Colonial Defense Force, coupled with some odd information-dumps that slow down the beginning pages.
In addition, somethings the dialog is self-serving, and makes them cardboard, like when the Henry Hudson is described. This slows down the flow between the characters, thus ruining a chance for the character to tell me about the ship from their point-of-view, not the author's.
Another area of disappointment was in the names that Mr. Scalzi assigns to colonial worlds, ships, and towns.
He is a brilliant writer, there is no doubt of that, and his overall imagination is first rate. However there is nothing remarkable or interesting about these names.
Another small point was during the 2nd Battle for Coral, one of the main characters suffers a head wound from rocky debris from a rocket strike (page 299).
Now, the soldiers in Old Man's War are re-engineered masterpieces of technology, that use nano-based technology to kill and protect.
But the soldiers don't wear helmets?
Added to this is the overall CDF military, which appears to have nothing in the way of armored vehicles, close air support, and/or heavy weapons for the infantry. It seems that the CDF have not bothered to developed that technology that 21st century armies possess currently.


THE UGLY

Without a doubt, Old Man's War is one of those rare novels that possess few flaws, one of these is the CDF's primary infantry weapon, the Multi-Purpose-35. 
However, the MP-35 used for a real world gun, the 3rd Reich Maschinenpistole 35  (or Machine Pistol 1935), a 9mm SMG, that looks like a rifle-version of the British Sten.
My question is why would Mr.Scalzi use the name of a real-world Nazi gun for a 23rd century weapon?
Another small point is the cover art of the paperback done by John Harris. This is a fuzzy mess that remains me more of a sci-fi cover art fronm several decades ago.
To make matters worse, he also did the rest of Mr. Scalzi's books. The first edition art by Donato Giancola was much better, and the cover art for the Japanese version (see above) is the best.


RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

At present, there is no plans for a Old Man's War  movie, comic, Anime,  and/or Manga. Of course, there are three other books in the Old Man's War series.

SHOULD YOU BUY IT?

I cannot say enough great things about this book. It has heart, soul, humor, and brutal combat scenes that were downright grim. E
verything you could want.
Not since the Forever War has there been a military science fiction book this good.

09 August 2010

Custom: Part Two-"On Your Feet!"

Jamie’s vision was blasted white by the muzzle flashes of the rifle. She pounded hypervelocity darts at the rushing Nix. She screamed, it screamed.


There was nothing left to do but fire in a desperate attempt to kill them, and escape. Her mind raced has she loaded another magazine of metal darts. The Jeep was totaled, they were far from Vickers, and the Mix were many.

Everything was a blur of movement. Jamie was sure her life was over.

“EVAC! WE NEED EVAC!” Yelled her CO over his boom-mike. He and Jamie locked eyes, and he saw her ass in the mud.

“JAMIE! GET ON YOUR FEET NOW!” He pulled the Custom up one-handed; bewildered, Jamie looked around to get her bearings. The Jeep was their only cover. Several torn bodies were scattered around, and everyone else was firing in every direction, trying to make it back to the vehicle.

She could smell the jungle tainted with fresh blood, and that odor that the Nix gave off.

“Jamie, in the Jeep, get the ammo boxes, flares, and trauma kits!” She rushed to the vehicle, and scoured the wreck of twisted metal. The reports of the Reaper rifles got closer, as she launched her armored body into the twisted frame.

“Ammo first!”She tossed out the metal boxes of flechettes and grenades. They were immediately broken open by her comrades

The radio finally cracked to life. “Echo 4-19, this is Wireless, what’s your status?” There CO huddled down by the Jeep, and screamed into his mike. “We need gunships! NOW! Command! NOW!”

“Roger that, Echo 4-19, Weanoc gunships en-route. Eleven minutes until they’re on-site.” The CO lifted himself out of the mud, and fired into the intense night jungle.

“Gunships in eleven, people! Hold the line!” Jamie jammed another mag into her nearly over-heated rifle. Every surviving soldier asked themselves if they could make it.

The CO was the first to go down. The Nix had gotten wise; they outflanked the Customs, and then hit them where they were not firing. It was an old trick that still worked. He was busy barking orders, loading, and throwing grenades, when one of them rushed him from behind. He was screaming before anyone noticed the claw through his center mass. Jamie was the closest; she unloaded her rifle, then her pistol into the black crab-like creature. The CO howled as his bright blood trail disappeared into the dense tree line.

The few Customs left pulled back to the flipped over Jeep, throwing shrapnel grenades, and touching the trees with Greek-fire flame throwers. The shadows in the jungle screamed out from the flames were signaling clearly to the Weanoc tilt-rotors their location.

Jamie watched another die in front of her, Brewer, who had been the first in camp to welcome her off the shuttle when she arrived, was cut into three chunks by a suicidal Nix warrior. Jamie blew it to pieces, before it could haul off its protein prize.

“Fuck this!” She wiped Brewer’s blood off her helmet, and dug out the screamer mines.

The screamer’s ultra-sonic pitch was the only thing that drove those goddamned crab-things back into the bush.

The screamers held them off.

But they didn’t last long, the batteries drained quickly when covering a wide area.

Jamie didn’t care. It did the trick.

The whoop-whoop sound of the four tilt-rotor blades finally became clear over the gunfire, and Jamie’s eyes became wet with relief when it hovered near the Jeep.

The survivors piled into the rotor, with machine-gun fire raking the grass. White phosphorus grenades lobbied into the jungle, as the heavy vehicle lifted toward Vickers. Jamie collapsed into a seat, and took an energy drink from the door gunner; exhausted beyond belief

She hated the Nix, Honiara, and this goddamn alien bush that covered everything. Before the can was drained, Jamie was asleep.

Part three "F.O.B"  in one week

-Stay Frosty
William

05 August 2010

The FWS Book Review of ARMOR

I just finished Armor by John Steakley, and I wanted to give a review over elements not discussing on Amazon.com, and to break the review up by what is good, and what is not.Armor was published in 1984 by DAW Books, and Mr. Steakley, in interviews, said that he wrote to address certain things that he felt were missing from Starship Troopers, namely action. Armor could be considered a semi-re-imagined Starship Troopers. Both are now concerned to be founding classics of Military Science Fiction.

THE GOOD
Most science fiction books start off slow, easing the reader into the author-created world, that is not so with Armor. You are hooked from the first few pages.
Mr. Steakley is able to give a reader an a great deal of information about something with out the infamous 'information dumps' that haunt most Sci-Fi. For example, the main armament of the warriors and scouts is a "blazer". Some how, that one word was prefect, and it didn't need anything more.
That is his best skill, gave the reader a lot for a little.
More over, his combat scenes are direct, simple, and dead-on great. This is what makes the first nearly 100 pages of Armor better than most Military Science Fiction.
The overall concept of the ants, the antwar, and the hints at the Terran society, is all very good. 

THE BAD

My only real complaint with the novel is listed in the ugly section, however there was a style point I wanted to raise here.
The book tends to lose its reader with strange labels for landmark features on Banshee. For example, the "knuckle", and this caused me to re-read several parts a couple of times just to get the point. Some reviews stated that Mr. Steakley did this to achieve the confusion of combat, it worked, I was confused.

Another point, was the lack of a drop scene.
In the book, Mr. Steakley did not write anything about the drop from the warship to Banshee. Instead you get Felix fighting off ants in a very confusing break. This works to give the reader the overwhelming nature of the Ants and conditions on-planet. But, a drop sequence could have given some more character and/or plot development. 

THE UGLY

If you have read the book or any review of the novel, then you know what I am going to say here.
It's about Jack Crow, the space pirate.
The first 100 pages of the novel are all about Felix's first drop on Banshee, and written in 3rd Person POV.
Then suddenly, the plot changes to Jack Crow, and it's in 1st Person POV. As someone that writes books, and been rejected, I can only wonder how Armor made it through the publishing process with the sudden change. I don't think that it would have survived in the same way today.
The issue is that the Jack Crow section goes on and on, the story, characters are not terribly interesting.  Most of the time, I kept flipping pages to see how much longer before I could get back to Felix and the Antwar.
Jack Crow is no Captain Harlock!
It is only much later (more than 100 pages!), that we rejoin Felix , and see how the two storylines tie in.
My advice, read (and enjoy) the Felix sections, skim the Jack Crow sections


RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

Armor has not received the amount of attention as Starship Troopers, Old Man's War, and The Forever War. There is not upcoming movie, anime, or graphic novel. Armor has been left in book form, which does not help it's least developed portions. A good movie, or graphic novel could clean up some of these shortcoming, much like the Forever War Graphic Novel did for the novel.
The long rumored  Armor 2 had an excerpt posted on the official/unofficial John Steakley website in November of 2004.
here is the link:
http://johnsteakley.com/Armor2.html

Mr. Steakley has been plagued by health issues over the last few years. He looked okay when I met him in 2002, but at the time, I had not read Armor. The bad thing about the excerpt is that it has Jack Crow in it.

SHOULD YOU BUY IT?

Yes! The Felix sections are what Starship Troopers book, movie, and CGI series should have been. My advice, again, read the Felix sections, skim the Jack Crow sections.  















03 August 2010

CUSTOM: the flash fiction serial


CUSTOM
PART ONE

She ran. Tried to reload, cursing the darkness, the dense alien jungle. A claw snapped in front of her, sending her face first into the soft ground, throwing the magazine out of her reinforced hands.


Monstrous claws slammed into her armored abdomen, hoping for nice soft flesh, retracting to strike again. This time it would rip into her Mark VII suit like an energy drink can. She rolled with natural and artificial endorphins pumped into her body, with one motion; she whipped out her Shatter high-power pistol, and unloaded all 10 shells of .410 into the Nix. It screamed, and her helmet audio sensors picked up its exoskeleton cracking.

It was dead.

“JAMIE!” Barked her commander.

“DIDI MAO NOW!”

Her HUD displayed the evac Jeep, but the glowing of 12.7mm tracers were easily seen in the inky darkness of this moon. More screams of dying aliens, and streaming harsh language from her fellow Custom soldiers echoed through this valley. She scooped up her Reaper assault rifle, loaded it, and beat it to the vehicle.

“ON YOUR SIX!”

Without hesitation, she swung her rifle to the charging Nix, its rows of teeth and claws popped open. She hammered down on the trigger. Recoiled at the hail of flechettes, the Nix dove into the steaming jungle. Jamie jumped into the crowned Jeep, smacking the rear-gunner on the armored leg.

“Thanks, Brewer.”

“Hey, Jamie, I gotta cover ya, you still owe me a hundred that game!” With a lurch, the Jeep sped away from the battlefield, and Jamie finally felt safe…safer anyway.

“The Brass will revoke our bodies if we lose Honiara, and we’re nothin’ troops!” Her commander spat as the Jeep crashed through the thick terrain. Jamie was left cold by that thought. She and everyone in the vehicle was Custom, their body, mind, and armor were all designed to fight on this one place, it was like they was part of Honiara Moon. No need for fancy breathing suits, she could fight the Nix in the nude if she wanted, but teeth and claws kind of stopped her.

“What’s next, LT?” Jamie yelled out over the roar of the straight-six engine.

“Vickers is getting pounded by them, the brass has called us up from seek-and-destroy in the jungle to trench duty on Wireless Ridge on the outskirts of the city.” Jamie knew that Vickers was the last hardened spaceport, without it, the dropships and supplies would stop, and they’d all be Nix food! She was grateful for the ride out of the jungle, a change to rest her feet, and reload. In the eyes of her fellow Custom soldiers, was the grime and worry of their losing war against the nightmarish species.

“Mendoza, pass me some more-” Jamie was launched airborne, and she crashed into the wet mud hard, she tasted blood. Her helmet was torn off, and her ears rang with cries and gunfire. The Jeep rolled violently into the jungle, were four waiting Nix tearing into it, hoping from some protein.

She witness a few of Customs firing their flechette shells into rushing hordes of aliens, pieces of their exoskeleton peeling off, their claws eviscerated Mendoza with one swipe, coloring the plants with his bright blood.

Anger burned in Jamie, she rammed in a fresh magazine, flipped the selector to full-auto, and ran into the battle, blazing out shells of razor-sharp darts.

She was a Custom, this was her her ground, her battle, and not theirs…this was all she had left.

PART TWO: On Your Feet IN ONE WEEK