Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I'm on course this week, so I'll be particularly sullen. I keep meaning to work on this a bit more, but never get around to it. It's supposed to be a serial.

I lay in the ruin for hours. Days maybe. It was hard to tell. It certainly seemed like it was raining for about a year. The grey of the sky, and the rain, and the fog, and the concrete all seemed to blend after a while.

I knew Four and Two were close by. Four would be covering my left flank, watching to the south. Two was probably asleep again. One was a level up, watching to the rear. I blinked hard trying to clear moisture from my right eye. The rain slowed. I ran over the Combine position, in my head, a checklist. Upper sensor tower. Check. Lower sensor tower. Check. Power generator. Check. Satlink dish. Check. Storage. Check. I glanced down to confirm that my rifle had an AP round loaded, just in case. I could hear the whine-rumble of a Combine lifter in the distance, the angles of the concrete walls around me deflecting the sound, making it difficult to tell what direction it was in, what direction it was headed. I put my eye back to the scope.

"Contact right...". To her credit, Two didn't even sound sleepy.

It took about a minute for the tech to creep into view. His (Her? No way for me to know...) shape was greatly muddied by equipment and camouflage. Its the movement that gives them away. It took about 3 minutes for the vaguely human figure to reach the storage cube. He then began unloading equipment, part of a ritual I had witnessed at least a dozen times before. This was all routine. I suppose it was the routine that lulled me into a lapse of concentration. One moment the technician was alone. The next, two figures had joined him.

"Contact front." I sub-vocalized.

I dialed up the zoom of my scope, trying to get more detail. Each of the new figures was dressed in standard Combine battle gear. Cloak, assault weapon, breathers and goggles making them look more like aliens than humans. The technician handed a small object to one of the others. He dropped it. As he bent to retrieve the item, Murphy struck. I'll never know if it was just the way he bent, a small gust of wind or some other factor, but his cloak shifted revealing the larger than standard communication rig on his armor.

"Officer sighted. ID thirty-two seventeen." I thumbed the safety aside, lining my shot up, watching for the moment. I zoomed the scope right out, and started searching. There, high in the rubble beyond the Combine. One, two, three soldiers. Well positioned, covering the area. I repositioned slightly to take the high shot. The spot chosen by the fellow covering in my direction was high. The cover was good, but he was partially silhouetted against the grey sky.

One's voice whispered in my ear, "Target identity confirmed. Line officer, rank Major. Shot authorized. Withdraw to E.R.P. two." Even as he said the words I took up the slack on the trigger. The rifle coughed, the sound and flash almost fully suppressed. I didn't wait to see if I had hit the covering soldier. No time for that. I had to assume my shots were hits. A small movement of the rifle and I targeted the officer. Cough. The far side of his helmet burst outward, covering the storage. I waited.

No comments: