Batu came to. There was weight across his legs, beating pain, an insistent voice. ‘Sire, sire?’ He kept his eyes closed, groaned.
‘He’s coming round. Hold on, sire.’ There was a cool wash on his legs and the pain lessened. ‘Analgesic, sire. We’re just going to lift the roof from your legs. Lucky escape there.’
He groaned again, realised such a reaction might be seen as inappropriate. ‘Amalay?’ His voice came out a croak, dust settled into his throat and he coughed.
‘Hold on.’ His head was lifted, water held to his lips. ‘Sip.’ He drank, was lowered back to the ground. ‘The roof crushed Amalay’—an audible shudder—‘and by the looks of him, that was a relief, poor guy.’
‘Who are you?’
‘This is Corporal Baray, sir. I was blown clear. Trooper Vesten survived, but is injured. The rest of the squad, well…’
‘I’m sorry.’ Batu opened his eyes to find a female vardinarii looking down at him. Loyalty. ‘I guess you’re squad leader, now, Sergeant.’
‘Wish I wasn’t sir, sir, but thanks.’
Batu looked around. He was lying in piles of rubble, a slab of roof lying across his thighs. A few Ma’req AI stumbled around. The air was full of a swirling haze of dust, not a full storm. To one side the dust and ruins seemed to shift in and out of focus, sparks of crackling lightning shooting across a vaguely globular area that swarmed like an amoeba.
Baray saw his gaze. ‘That’s what heavy disruptors leave us with. Gross pollution.’ The disgust in her voice was plain to hear.
‘Okay,’ said Batu. ‘Where are the C3? The Algoryn reinforcements?’
‘There aren’t any, sir.’
‘How? None? But I saw… What about?’ He shut up. Even to himself he sounded stupid.
‘Ceahray thinks it was a sensor and visual illusion caused by the dust storm and the local bionanospores. Something we or Ghar did activated the local nanosphere.’
Events slotted into place. ‘Amalay.’
Baray’s eyes flickered to a point in the rubble. ‘Gone, sir.’
‘No, I mean it was Amalay. He was talking strange, worried about the disruptors. His brain was absorbed, must have created the illusions.’
Baray’s eyebrows lifted in surprise. ‘Ceahray will need to know.’
‘Sure. What about the Ma’req reinforcements?’
‘Gone, sir. The shuttles and landers were destroyed by disruptor missiles from a Ghar troopship. It’s a horrible mess up there.’
‘No idea. We’ve no contact with them. We’ve got to evacuate before the Ghar return.’
‘Where are we going?’
‘Down into the ruins, underground.’ She glanced up. ‘Hold on, sir.’
Uneven footsteps announced a pair of Ma’req techs working their way across the uneven rubble. They stepped into view. Both had their helmets off, carried digging tools and were dusty and dirty.
‘You’re next,’ said one. He looked down at Batu and the slab of bonded stone across his legs, winced. ‘Aah,’ he said, glanced at his co-worker.
‘Don’t you have a debonder?’ asked Baray.
The Algoryn shook its head. ‘Most equipment is gone, miss. Everything’s manual from here on in.’ He looked at Batu and it seemed that even in the Algoryn’s warbitten features was sympathy. ‘Delhren, sir, we’ve got to lift the roof off you. This may hurt. Sorry, will hurt.’ The trooper nodded to Baray.
‘It’s alright,’ began Batu. He glimpsed an injector stick in Baray’s hand as she held it over his arm. ‘I’m…’ There was another wave of coolness and he slipped back into unconsciousness.
* * *
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