To Batu, the battle was a chaotic. His combat display was confused, alternately flickering between ‘aboriginal animals’ and ‘Ghar Outcast’ tags, from ‘neutral’ to ‘foe’ identifiers and back. Worse, his plasma pistol was useless at the ranges his bodyguard were engaging the oncoming waves of Ghar. Is there no end to these Ghar?
He backed away from the parapet behind which his bodyguards focused their fire on the oncoming battle troopers. ‘Sergeant, I’m going down to fetch Amalay’s carbine. This pistol is useless.’
A disruptor explosion momentarily scrambled their comms and the sergeant’s reply was a crackle of static. Batu jumped down the suspensor well into the interior of the shelter. In here, the sounds of the battle were muted and he felt safer, less exposed. Another explosion shook the walls and dust flaked from the ceiling. Be brave, he thought.
Amalay was still lying over to the side, his head grotesquely deformed as the planet’s bionanospores multiplied and spread across his skull. His face was pale, eyes closed. Batu picked up the plasma carbine and spares, knelt by the wounded guard, braced himself to look directly into Amalay’s eyes. ‘We’re working on stuff, trooper.’ He patted Amalay’s arm in a manner he hoped was reassuring. ‘We’ve just got to sort these Ghar out, don’t you worry.’
Amalay’s eyes flickered open; Batu jumped. Amalay’s gaze was unfocused, stared right past Batu. He muttered something, croaked. Batu reached for a water bottle, placed it to Amalay’s lips. The guard sipped, coughed, sipped again. ‘Existential threat,’ he said. His eyes remained unfocused.
Batu stared. ‘Just Ghar and disruptor weapons.’
‘N-dimensional spatial and temporal distortions predicted to affect planetary stability at probability approaching one.’
‘Amalay?’ Batu placed a hand on the guard’s shoulder. Another series of explosions and the interior lights flickered.
Amalay’s gaze focused for a moment, settled on Batu’s face. Panic appeared in his eyes. ‘Help me,’ he said. ‘They’re reintegrating. I’m being…’ His gaze unfocused. ‘Psycho-social details required on aggression factors display by hostiles.’ As Batu watched the dust-coloured growth visibly spread another centimetre across the guard’s face.
Batu jerked back his hand, stepped away and raised the carbine. ‘They’re Ghar. You know that. They just fight.’ He was distracted by reports flashed onto his headset.
‘Storm coming.’ It was Ceahray on a general broadcast. ‘D-6 Withdrawal pattern under cover when it hits. Reinforcements won’t arrive in time.’
What’s a D-6 Withdrawal? The Algoryn combat instruction meant nothing to Batu.
‘Reinforcements requested,’ said the thing that had been Amalay. ‘Emulation in progress. Models pulled from biological host and nanosphere interface.’ His eyes closed and dust swirled inside the darkened shelter: there was no breeze.
Batu’s headset was suddenly filled with tracks of arriving reinforcements, both Algoryn and Concord. ‘Where did they come from?’ His shard interface displayed ship tracks from low orbit: an Algoryn assault frigate and a C3 cruiser. He stared at Amalay, flinched as another series of explosions sounded overhead, too close.
Then a whistling roar of a heavy disruptor implosion. Batu winced, then the roof disintegrated, collapsing onto them both.
* * *
* * *
Tim Bancroft – has sent in a number of pieces. ‘Abominable Tech’ is the 7th and latest Chapter of Tim’s stories that we’ve shared – his previous pieces can be found here:
Tim Bancroft has been longlisted for the James White SF Award 2015 and won the Orwell Dystopian Fiction Award 2014. Follow Tim on his Blog at: timbancroft.me.uk.
Since the launch of the Beyond the Gates of Antares Rulebook, we’ve been contacted by several community members who wanted to share their own writings – and we’ve been hugely impressed with some of the fantastic work that has been sent in – it’s great to see the community making their own mark upon the canvas that is the Antarean universe!
and now it’s your turn
Winged Hussar Publishing are now accepting short story submissions based upon our sci-fi game – ‘Beyond the Gates of Antares’ until June 1 2016. Submissions can be between six and ten thousand words.
They should not feature any characters already named in the Antares Universe and should focus on the conflict between the main named civilizations used in the Antares rulebook. Authors may submit more than one story.
Authors whose stories are chosen will be given a contract and published in a forthcoming anthology.
All submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org