This is the 52nd a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
The Bleeding Heart, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 22nd January 2012
Word count: 831
Theme: lost cause, grief, road less travelled, determination, love, serendipity
“We go in by the numbers, we don’t know what hostiles we’ll face. Keep it clean, come back alive,” the lieutenant said to the gathered troops.
“Yes, sir,” the troop replied in unison.
Thus began the long wait for private first class Rory Simmons, it was his first combat misson, after basic he’d served two years as part of guard unit protecting stores Gamma Sigma, an area too far inside of the Commonwealth’s territory to be under much threat, and in two years there had been no action, except drills.
The private had gained acceptance into an active combat unit on his lieutenant’s recommendation, and his training certificates in seventy one distinct weapons. It was rare for a soldier to be trained in more than the weapons they would be assigned. Even then, it had been an uphill struggle, he’d had a black mark in training, (he’d panicked in a training op), but lieutenant Gabriel Gibson, or The Horse as he was nicknamed, took a chance. Note all Simmons had to do was payback that chance.
Ironically he was armed with a standard Commonwealth assault rifle, the IBM series nine ray gun. He carried an IBM gamma ray gun as his side arm. Nothing exotic, they didn’t yet trust him with the non-standard weapons he was trained in.
The room they were gathered in shook violently, Simmons held in best he could, the more experienced troops set their stances balanced their weight and rode it out.
“By the numbers,” the lieutenant shouted, and dutifully number one squad, a four man unit passed through the airlock as it opened. Numbers two through five went through, Simmons was in six, their job was to get to engineering and shut down the engines. Simmons worried he’d hesitate, but the lieutenant was watching him, and he set off without a hitch.
As he passed through the airlock, he was immediately assaulted by the sounds of ray guns, and projectile weapons, the heat and smell from partially melted metals, and beneath that the stench of burned flesh and blood. He couldn’t see anything, the lights were or, he flicked to infrared on his combat helmet. Saw his unit picking it’s way through the already spent battlefield. The fighting had been fast and fierce at the airlock, now it was spreading through the ship.
“Get lost?” Jackson the unit leader asked.
“Smelt pirate steak, was hungry,” Simmons answered smoothly.
“Come on Cannibal,” Jackson said, “Rumour has it there’s an ambush problem on the deck below. Are you trained in this?” he had pulled out an Orion Manufacturing Group molecule masher, a peculiar ray gun that worked best in high volumes of metal.
“Yes Sir,” Simmons replied.
It was far to the junction a deck above where unit three was pinned.
“To the port side, five paces or so,” Jackson ordered.
Simmons went where directed, hefted the heavy gun, he’d already primed the capacitors, so he pointed it, estimated the size of the area he wanted to affect, and the depth of the deck plating, and eased the trigger button back, gradually increasing the energy fired at the floor. Ripples bending the light as powerful waves pummeled the floor.
“Finished,” Simmons called releasing the trigger button. One of the other members of the unit ran up, without even pausing to check the waves were fully dissipated, he was a soldier and he trusted his fellow soldiers to know their job. He pulled a grenade, hit the curious button combination that activated it, and dropped it on to the floor. The deck was like a skin of putty, the grenade fell right through.
Everyone dropped to the floor away from where the grenade went through. A moment later an explosion ripped through the deck below, the putty like deck ballooned and then burst in a brief flare of flame.
“Clear,” Simmons shouted, his voice automatically carrying through the headsets when the system detected the potential for sound interference.
The unit four was on just yards from the main engineering doors, and expecting a hard fight to get through when the lieutenant came over the radio’s, “All the units, stand down. The captain of the ship has surrendered, his units are being ordered to turn themselves in. If anyone continues to resist, cause damage, steal, or escape, you have standing orders to shoot them. Everyone else get them to the ships primary cargo bay.”
“Sorry boys,” Jackson holding up a closed fist, “No fun tonight, you heard the lieutenant new orders.”
Simmons felt quietly relieved, he knew he’d done well enough, there’d be other days to prove himself in battle, and he knew he would be ready to walk through that door, and perform whatever duty he needed to, and that his unit trusted him.
“Well done,” Jackson said, “You did good. Now don’t let it go to your head, you’re going into engineer first, weapon ready soldier.”
“Sir, yes sir!” Simmons said readying his weapon and approached the doors.