more anticlimactic attempts at writing

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!
Maybe Colo-’

Ring-a-ding-beep! Ring-a-ding-beep!

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
scream. ‘Action.’

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-

Another burst.

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.





‘It doesn’t hurt that bad.’. The marine tossed another anxious glance at the door,
wrapping a bandage around the cleaned and dressed wound. The graze wasn’t much,
it’d streaked along his forearm, but just because infections had stopped becoming
the main source of casualties centuries ago, wouldn’t stop them from killing him in 2182.

‘Okay, now, what the fuck is up with commo? We have comms bouncing off the Almayer
in orbit, so the stars know how I’m not getting fucking reception-’
Quentin muttered
something insulting about the makers of USCMC issue comtacs and tapped his headset
again. He’d lost reception sometime between going down the stairs and ducking into the

Nothing but static answered him.

‘Even sitting by the window didn’t get me signal. So then that means jamming…?’

The marine rolled his sleeves back down, put his gloves back on, and grabbed his sidearm
to give it a quick press check.

All ready. The little reflex sight would be good for another few decades given how he used it.

‘Of all the days to not have my radiopack… Fuck.’ Getting up, he jogged over to the other
stairwell. He’d barricaded this one too, and it felt like a better option since he knew they
weren’t waiting for him or something. On the other hand… They might’ve had the same idea.

His hand hesitated, then he shoved the chair aside with a grunt. ‘Oh fucking shit. Don’t
psych yourself out!’

Clearing the stairwell and moving down the stairs, the marine sighed, mind wandering just a
moment. Despite the stereotype, marines weren’t stupid. But… This wasn’t exactly within
his experience.

The power died, just as he took a step, and instantly one hand went up to toggle
light-amplification. The world lit up in an unnatural shade, IR laser from his pistol cutting
through the amber colored gloom. He continued the descent.

“…ppened to find the one fucking marine sniper who slots four of our men in ten minutes?
Bullshit, I tell you.” Quentin slowed. Someone was talking. They sounded close, but the echoes
in this place could do anything.

“Did we even get the bastard? None of the first team came back, and we found bodies in the

“They’re amateurs, Zhua. [You really think that four morons with rifles is going to kill a trained
soldier who KNOWS they’re coming for him?]” The marine stopped cold. That was Chinese.

‘Union? Colonials?’ Creeping forward again, masking himself in the now drumming rains,
the marine got closer and closer to the loudening chatter.

“[So he’s still out there?]”

“[Hiding. He’s not that stupid. What’s he going to do? He knows he’s outnumbered and

“[Trapped rats will bite you.]”

“[Only if they can see the trap coming.]”

He came down a landing, checked the next door down, and saw legs, a coat swirling around
them. A single trigger pull.

The knee blew apart, and the man fell down. He got a glimpse of his face before he fired again
and took him at the neck. A dark amber sprayed across the lower landing, as others shouted.
Not just one other, though.

‘…oh shit.’ Back to burst fire he went. Another man came through, and he shot him too.

The pistol flashed and bucked, the man reeled, but this time he only staggered backwards,
rifle going wide and spraying into the ceiling, the distinct sound of pulse rifle fire screaming-

Another burst, aimed low this time, blowing apart his stomach and pelvic bowl.

“[FUUUUCK! YOU BITCH! OH GOD IT HURTS!]” The man fell on useless legs, crumpling.
Someone else was halfway out but he didn’t let the next target even step both feet out before
placing a fourburst into their sternum.

This one fell forwards, gun skittering across the concrete. Quentin dropped the partial
and slammed a new clip in, pushing down the stairs and into the room-

Two inside, one he saw first, shot, and then as a bullet cracked by, he turned to shoot the
other. A moment had passed and two very dead soldiers…? lay on the floor.

In exchange, another graze, and maybe something more substantial. He shook it
off, and paused, seeing the man lying down, grasping at his waist-

“Drop it! [Drop it you fuckup!]” The dialect might’ve been different, but hopefully he got the

The one lying down raised his hands, twisting to look at the marine holding him at gunpoint.
“[Wha-turncoat BITCH! Fine! Fuck! Don’t shoot, I-]”

“[-don’t care,]” the marine cut in. “[What the actual FUCK is happening?! I just saw most of
the block explode and there’s gunfire outside the building, and armed killsquads coming after
me! Talk damn you!]”

“[…]” He stared at Quentin, saying nothing, face impassive.

“[You think this is a joke?! I just waxed five guys back there and I’ll add you to it if you-]” He
didn’t know why he did it. Maybe it was a sound, maybe just instinct. But he spun, just in time
to shoot the man half aiming a rifle through the doorway-

Two flashes.

It was the one he’d shot earlier. His coveralls soaked again in blood as this time he fell for

A gunshot from behind, the marine’s head snapped forward as something plowed into the
back of his head, and he spun, just as the pistol flashed again-

No time to aim, he fired with the laser-

“Guk-” The last enemy jerked on the couch with the burst and went limp, pistol clattering out
of his hand. “[…]”

“Gah… [Of course you had to go and do it.]” Grimacing, the young man backed away, searching
for a good spot to hide for a moment-


‘Fuck, everything.’ Larson grimaced, looking at his handiwork. One of the
bullets had caught him in the left outer thigh, and once adrenaline passed
through his system…

‘If this is what being on fire feels like, I’m never getting inside fifty
meters of a 240 canister ever again. I’ll save the painkillers for later.’

Bracing himself against the slightly broken desk, he stood, bracing himself
for the little jolt of pain, hissing through his teeth as it passed…

‘Can’t run. Went through… what, my quads I think? Not deep enough to cut
them but if I overdo it they’ll probably get worse. Need higher care… Which
I don’t have. And which in any case is beyond like…’
The marine blinked,
thinking. Shooting a glance through the wall at the stairs, he did a little
memory backtracking and came up with an answer of…

“…at least six flights of stairs.”

The marksman’s lips compressed into a thin line.

Instead, he decided to review his equipment a second time. Perhaps
unsafe, but given the radio and all the guns, he was willing to chance
this being the last group in the building for now.

His helmet had a new crater in it. The outer environmental layer had
been easily pierced by the bullet and there was a little bulge in the back,
shallow and wide. Another bullet had skimmed the top of it, gouging
in the outer cover but doing little else. He slapped some tape over
the hole, and put it back on.

‘Wait, is my datalink on…? No, okay, good. At least I’m not giving that
out for free…’

Larson grimaced, patting himself down. His chestplate had picked
up some new craters, the front struck three times. Additionally, his
shoulder plate had deflected a shot at some point, with a long trench dug
into it.

‘Need to replace this soon. Can’t count on too many more lucky saves…
On the other hand, those rifles look promising.’

Sighing, he limped over to the little outpost that these… unmarked hostiles,
had set up. The radio was slightly broken, having been struck by a bullet
glancingly. Something was busted in there now though.


Larson thought for a while, unconsciously running a hand over the healing
graze under his uniform’s sleeve. He might be able to repair this. He was safe, and
secure. His Sergeant poked him about being alone like a moron, but.
‘Fucking damnit, I don’t want to go down those stairs on this leg…’


“[…account helmets five, berets ten, suits four. Standby for detlog.]”

The marine sighed. It’d been like this for the entire time. He’d fixed the
radio after maybe ten minutes of fiddling and silently cursing to himself
abouthis shit luck, only to discover they talked in a secondary encryption
half the time. At least he could understand the local language. It wasn’t
too dissimilar to his colonial dialect, actually.


Except for that.

He sighed, turning the rifle in his hands over. “…can’t break that anyways,
though. Fuck everything, I guess.”

The gun… Something old. Cased ammo. Irons, bulky old EM-proofed
collimator sight… 'Let’s see here. 8,1mm, JHP. Selector switch, semi,
auto, safe. I swear I’ve seen this before… ’

Clip was full. He took a few others, checked if they were too, shoved
them into a pair of empty pouches on his side, and tossed another
three into the buttpack because he had space. ‘That should be… C’mon
Quentin, mental math, it ain’t that hard… Okay, hundred fifty rounds,
thirty in the rifle.’

Setting the gun down for the moment, he went over the other satchels
in the room, set down nearby. Most of it was more ammo, but one of
them had a battered looking venlar vest or something. Standard utility gray
armor that most vaguely reputable security companies would outfit their
goons with. Another had an old surplus CANC armor vest, partially assembled.

‘This looks like smuggling covers and gel. I guess that’s how they got it
past the port.’

Grenades, high explosives, and more, all in sealed containers. ‘Someone
smart and competent was helping or behind these people.’

“…as if the bombings didn’t tip me off to that.”


“Just another… C’mon,” Larson whispered to himself. The worst part wasn’t
the limping and dull spike of pain that jabbed at his leg every other step.

The worst part was knowing he was facing his back to the stairwell, with a
probably-but-not-definitely-zero number of hostiles out there. Pistol in hand,
railing in the other, he forced a steady breath and took another step.
Slow, slow going. Quiet too; paranoia wasn’t making this whole affair any
better in the slightest.

And, another problem. Ouside of the building, he was uncomfortably easy a
target. So, that was why he was walking two floors further, both trips
very full of pain, down to the sub-basement. Just as soon as he got to the
first floor.

‘Probably for the best that colonial infrastructure is built to last.
Hopefully the tunnels down there are still okay, otherwise this is gonna
be a shitty way to-’

There are windows in the stairwell, incidentally. Thankfully, all of them are
polarized to prevent peeping. They are also storm rated, a legacy of colonial
construction. A pair of bullets punch through them and crack by-
“FUCK-!” Larson flinched back, his leg gave out-



‘Well, look at it this way. Didn’t bruise your tailbone. It just feels like
a really shit night out. Gah…’
Limping slightly more after sliding down a
flight of stairs, the marine cleared a room, went in, and sat down on an old,
rather battered looking folding chair. He was in the basement now, on one
hand. Safe from the still barely audible thump of mortars bursting, and from
any stray bursts of small arms.

On the other hand… Well, the locals were probably in the tunnels too. And,
for that matter… ‘Pretty fucking obvious that there’s someone pulling the
strings, but who the fuck…? They’re… not as professional as I would’ve
thought. Unless I just got lucky… I didn’t get a good luck at that guy back
there! Shit!’

Whatever the case, he’d probably have company.

The marine grimaced, and slowly stood, hefting the assault rifle. It was a
bulky rifle, moreso than the M41A. He took some time to familiarize, loading
and unloading, figuring out what felt right and what didn’t. Then he did it
a few more times for familiarization’s sake.

The real problem was numbers. He was one, slightly injured, marine. They
were however many, with armor, plenty of firepower, and apparently the reach
to plant all those bombs right under the noses of the CMB and USCMC. So,
either the CMB was paid off, reasonable, someone in the Almayer had been paid
off, concerning, or neither had been, and whoever the fuck was behind this
was fucking horrifying.

“…pan, fire.” The marine snapped off the safety, and slowly walked into the tunnel.

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