It’s the middle of August, and someone needs to die.
It’s a city, small, with a few skyscrapers, rapidly fabricated. The city’s grown too fast for any reckoning,
colonists’ bad blood mixing with cheap beer to become… touchy, quickly. Gunfights, ambushes, and
where a home-made bazooka corkscrewing into the local police department isn’t uncommon. So the
Marines step in. It’s always daytime in Palthias, after all. LV-130 doesn’t like sleeping.
“Ocelot Four ready.” The young marine watched carefully.
A hostage, the latest encounter. A middle aged woman had taken her family’s pump action and
walked into a diner, taken three hostages, and barricaded herself into the top floor. But her story
didn’t make much sense, and then the sniffer dogs started barking.
‘You had a pretty solid life, if what I heard was right…’
So here he was, lying on a table, staring through the sight of an XM88A, finger on the trigger.
‘…why’d you do it, even?’
It was lightly raining; this planet was wet for months and then rather dry for the same. Water
had pooled on the concrete floor, blowing in through the open window. This skyscraper hadn’t
been finished, only up to the fifteenth floor. He was perched on the thirty-second.
‘I don’t want more people like you.’
A movement. The marine frowned minutely, light of the electronic scope turning his light blue
face tattoo violet. What did he just see? It didn’t show up well on infrared… He reached for his
radio stud. Then paused, and zoomed in a little further. The view was terrible; it was a touch
over five hundred thirty two meters and the rain wasn’t making life easier. But if he squinted, it…
“…almost looks like a faulty… multispec…?”
It was a shape just barely visible through the window, with occasionally bright spots of
heat; a malfunctioning stealth tarp with a broken cooling element here and there, maybe.
‘The fuck is that doing-’
And then the bombs went off. Not just the building, oh no. The city block seemed to rise as
dozens of charges went off, radio coming alive with shouting and screaming-
“Fuck-!” Quickly, he whipped to look at the hostages, saw them untying themselves, saw the
woman opening a crate, handing out rifles-
“Oh no you fucking don’t.” The predicted point of impact indicator went over her spine, and he
pulled the trigger.
Thunder. Lightning. A bullet sped on its way.
It took less than a second. One of the ‘hostages’ might’ve seen the flash, but there was no
mistaking the impact. She fell, torn nearly in two by the massive caliber armor piercing high
explosive round. A little cloud of gore. They closed the blinds after that.
Cursing, Quentin moved, slinging his rifle and getting behind cover, tapping his radio stud to
active. ‘This is Ocelot Four, the hostages were bullshit, they’re in league or something!
There was a wakeup call. He drew and aimed his sidearm in one smooth motion, standing, switching to
his helmet’s thermals as he walked around to flank the door that lead up into his position. No Marine left
home without a few perimeter sensors, and if someone tripped two sets…
He heard them first of all. Big heavy footfalls, echoing in the stairwell. The door they tried twice
and then shot open. Someone came through, and they died in that moment. The Marine’s pistol
bucked in his hands.
Flash. Thunder, echoing and loud in the concrete confines of the building.
A flash, heat. Four impacts, four sudden pufts of blood as the explosive payloads blew.
The man jerked and fell, rifle slapping into the ground with a sharp clack! and one gurgling
He pied the corner. Another man was coming, rifle already up, but the marine was faster-
Two bursts, chewing up the unknown’s chest like shredding meat. He toppled, falling over
the railing with a cry-
“Jesus christ-!” A shout from below. It sounded like two of them had at least one friend.
‘Who the fuck ARE these people?! Liberation Front cells aren’t this big! Or this capable!
Sun and stars, did we get into a shooting war with the Union?!’ The marine backed off,
slowly, then at a run, reloading as he went, slamming a new eighteen round clip home-
“I HATE being kept in the dark…! Fucking mushroom protocols…!”
Heavy footfalls. He found another stairwell, shoved the door open, and… Forced himself to
breathe, for a second. Then, started descending… slower. Quieter. ‘I killed that guy
because he was stupid. Learn from that.’
Quentin heard a door slam open, and the boots of someone running maybe a touch too fast,
but… fading away. Going down, instead of up. The whole building rocked as another round
of explosions touched off, but all so faint through the concrete. Instead, the stairwell
rumbled and reverbrated, like distant thunder.
He descended the stairs in silence, for a while.
And then came more steps. A lot more, in fact. It sounded like more than one person-
He saw them, as he glanced over the side. So he took the opportunity. People didn’t like
looking up, after all, especially when the rain would be falling in their eyes.
Another burst from above lit the darkened staircase, muzzle flash throwing crazed
shadows that danced and capered-
He ducked back, as the return panic fire shredded the railing and took showers of gray dust
into the air despite the wet, long bursts of full auto snap-cracking by as their bullets climbed to
maybe somewhere in the stratosphere.
‘That’s right, that’s right. Now just keep being real predictable.’ He checked the counter. 15
rounds left. It’d do; he had plenty of magazines in reserve frankly. But…
An incoherent shout and the thudding of feet on stone. He aimed at the staircase’s next
landing down, and waited for the first man-
-saw him come up, maybe making contact with the corner of the enemy’s eye, pulling the
trigger for a quick staccato-
The burst struck him twice in the chest, once in the throat, and the last sank into the target’s
nose. The marine smelled iron instantly despite the balaclava, and he flinched despite himself-
Just a moment of distraction. Just long enough for a second-
Two flashes, but the man’s burst went wide and Larson’s aim held true, two bursts drilled-
A graze along his arm, and the hiss-crack of a bullet passing close enough for a shave-
The other woman fell too, finally crumpling, clutching her chest as the rifle fell from lifeless hands.
The Marine toggled for single fire.
A final marcato.
Her head disappeared into a cloud. He held his aim there for just a moment, and then ducked into the nearby
floor, shoving over a cabinet against the door after closing it.