Okay, you asked for it… So I’ve started it… Tentative title- Green Hills…
The scout team had been landed on X423W two days earlier to perform a second-in scout of the T-2.C class planet to see if it was as habitable as the first-in scans indicated, and to conduct an inventory and survey of the world. As a team, they’d been together for twenty-five years, and settled into their roles like an old comfortable polygamous marriage.
Sergeant Ethan Fargo, Earth native and team lead, empath and intel, had doled out the missions they’d pre-planned at the GalScout base before they ever climbed into the scout ship. Pop, resembling nothing less than a five foot tall bipedal weasel, from Kepler 62E was the scout and primary security. Hardt, Earth stock from Waldron-Antaries 4, was the science lead and primary pilot for the small drop shuttle they had been using. DenAfr, the huge Taurasian symbiote pair, was the sifter and primary medic, checking the air, water and soil for composition. In addition, it was the back up security with Pop. Diez, also Earth native, was the comms, linguist, backup medic, and a level five Psi. Diez also maintained their armored suits and comms software and hardware they used in the field.
What they hadn’t expected was to encounter Traders or a Dragoon…
Countless briefings flashed through Fargo’s mind- Dragoons– Patriarchal society. Air breathers. Six to seven feet tall. Two to three hundred pounds. Bipedal, opposable thumbs, three fingered clawed forelegs, three toed clawed feet. Vestigial tails, vestigial wings. Prominent fangs. Carnivorous, eat prisoners and dead, including their own. Warriors ruling class. Expansionist slave culture. Males start training as warriors at three years or age. Can live to a four hundred years of age. Females mainly breeders, administrators.
Partnered with or subsumed human traitors and Consolidated Unions in the outlying star clusters in the Hundred Years war. Gained access to then current human space technology and weapons. DMZ established after Galactic Patrol cease fire in twenty-four-oh-six, after humans and coalition stalemated the ‘Goons’. Still using unions as ‘Traders’ when humans are captured in raids, and as raiders/pirates to steal new tech. Dragoons continue expansion into the DMZ and other galaxies to this day.
Pop was the first one down, just after he yelled the warning and fired the first rounds from the top of the karst ridge. Hardt had recovered Pop’s can after he’d fallen down the ridge. Hardt was hit just as he made it to cover, dying before anyone could get to him. Fargo had finally managed to get to Hardt, confirmed the red tattle tale, and keyed the destruct code.
Fargo picked up Hardt’s can, then Pop’s can as Diez came over common saying the Traders were targeting them remotely. Gotta remember to report that, I wonder if that targeting works on battle armor too, Fargo thought.
Diez said dump armor, and cued a location a half mile away. Fargo, Diez and DenAfr made a run for it and jumped into a ravine a hundred or so feet deep on anti-grav, giving them momentary cover. They’d climbed from their suits, with DenAfr, having a few problems extracting itself from the armor, but that wasn’t unusual for them.
Diez had run a code, repowered the armor, and commanded autonomous recovery mode. The code sent the armor climbing toward the upper end of the ravine enroute to the drop shuttle. The three of them, now in skinsuits and masks headed in the opposite direction going down the ravine as it shallowed out. Fargo remembered looking up at the twin red suns, and being thankful the temps were manageable by the skinsuit, and the air was marginally breathable as they moved quickly to put distance between themselves and their armor.
Fargo missed the armament including the heavy pulse rifle, but his implicit trust in Diez and his intel expertise overrode that desire. At least he had his 6mm bead pistol and 13mm bead rifle that he’d recovered from the suit’s locker, as did Diez. DenAfr, due to its size was able to detach the 20mm pulse rifle from its armor and carried the one hundred pound rifle with ease in the pseudopods it had extruded. The other thing Fargo carried, was a 40mm bandoleer, with the two recovery cans from Pop and Hardt.
They’d made it about 10 klicks down the ravine when DenAfr rounded a blind corner and ran head on into four Traders. He’d shot two, bludgeoned one, but wasn’t fast enough to get the fourth one. Neither Fargo nor Diez had a shot until they’d cleared DenAfr’s bulk, but by then it was too late.
That they had killed the last of the four Traders wasn’t much comfort, as the loss of DenAfr meant they were really in the hurt locker. Without DenAfr, they would have no cueing if the Traders decided to throw a Biowep at them. Fargo remembered checking the telltale on their skinsuit, confirming it was red, then keying the suit and turning away as it burned down into a can. Surprising Fargo, it was exactly the same size as the cans for Pop and Hardt. He added it to the 40mm bandoleer he’d grabbed out of his armor. He ran his thumb over the tabs on the ends of the can and watched as each lit with the GalScout personnel code for the individual’s remains.
He and Diez had made it another seven, maybe eight klicks circling back toward their camp and drop shuttle before they’d been caught in the open by another group of Traders in light armor coming over a ridge line. Fargo and Diez taken cover into some kind of wallow. Thankfully it was empty and deep enough to protect them from direct fire, but it was also hard to target the Traders without their armor. Instead they had to physically climb up to the top of the wallow, shoot and slide back down before the incoming fire took their heads off.
Diez had psi-linked with Fargo and confirmed he’d triggered the emergency beacon before they evacuated the camp and he’d also sent out a blind broadcast while they were on the run, hoping there was some friendly ship that might hear it.
Fargo had thought, Well, that’ll be a fat chance in hell, the scout ship isn’t due back for another ten day, and we’re so damn far out in the boonies I doubt there is anybody else in this star system.
Fargo knew he was at the end of his rope physically, but noted that even though Diez was a tired as he was, there wasn’t any indication of that in the telepathic link, which earned a chuckle from Diez, “See, as long as I’m breathing, telepathy works. I stop breathing, it doesn’t work. File that one away Fargo.”
Fargo thought back, “Yeah, breathing is good. Getting out of here is going to be a problem.”
Diez crept up to the lip of the wallow, fired and slid back down to the bottom projecting, “Well, I think we’ve cut them down a few. I see three out there and I think I got a hit on one of them. The most you sensed was nine, right?”
Fargo thought back, “I screwed up, I wasn’t open enough. I was trying to sense if there were any animals, and I was blocking higher order in our band. But yeah, nine. And something else, probably a Dragoon. At least that’s all I could sense on the higher levels when I opened up.”
Fargo climbed up to the lip, stuck his head up slowly, and surveyed the plain to the east of their camp and the drop shuttle. Looking slowly and opening his mind to any empathetic sources again, he was jarred to feel someone behind him with a sense of gloating. As he started to turn, Diez had both projected and screamed, “Opposite lip! Drop!”
Cursing himself, Fargo was half way through turning loose and sliding, but couldn’t disengage his feet in time. He felt a blow to his leg as he dropped back to the bottom of the wallow, firing on the way down. Diez had fired on full auto at the one weak point they knew on the Trader’s light armor, the connection plate between the body and helmet. From an upward angle it was actually fairly easy to kill them if you put enough beads on the seam. Diez was in the process of reloading when two more heads popped over the edge of the wallow. Fargo yelled at Diez as he fired at the one he thought was aiming into the wallow and took him out, but the second shot down into Diez before Fargo could shift his aim.
Diez reared up, screamed both verbally and telepathically as he was hit across the chest and hips, but he fired on auto again and chewed up the side of the wallow, then the lip, and finally the second Trader as Fargo also fired. Fargo felt a blow on his left arm, and lost his rifle. He watched in horror as the arm and rifle cartwheeled away from him, then the pain hit.
Fargo looked down and realized most of his left arm was gone, just as the med-pack hit him with another dose of pain killers. Fargo’s mind was a little fuzzy, but he realized he’d already had one dose, and wondered why. He started to get up to go to Diez, but fell over. Rolling over, he looked down and saw that his right leg ended at the knee. Oh, that’s where the other dose came from, damn good thing these skins have smart tech built in, he though.
Diez slumped to his knees, and his pain came hammering through the link hitting Fargo, until his med-pack dumped pain killers into him. Crawling over, Fargo managed to get to Diez, and propped himself against the side of the wallow as he pulled him across his lap. Panting, Diez thought, “Damn, this shit is not good! Well, hate to say this Fargo, but I think they stuck a fork in us.”
Fargo thought back, “Stuck a fork in us?”
Diez coughed and pulled his breathing mask to the side, spit a mouthful of bright red blood, then left his mask hanging. “Old Earth term. We’re done Fargo. Well done. It’s been a good twenty-five years. Had more fun than the law allowed. Got to see more shit than I ever thought I would. Proud to serve with you. Couldn’t ask for…”
Fargo thought, “Diez you gotta hang on man. You can’t leave me now. Your med-pack is as good as mine and mine’s keeping my ass alive. Diez. Diez!” Fargo leaned over and looked Diez in the eyes, then saw more blood dribble from his mouth.
Diez seemed to focus on Fargo, a half smile forming on his lips and one last thought came across the link. “Fargo, you’ll never believe what you missed.” Diez shook his head, almost in sadness and continued, “You’ll never believe…”
Fargo screamed as he felt Diez die, and thought his head was going to explode. He blacked out, then slowly came back around. Something was wrong with his head, it was like he had double vision, except that it was in his mind. He slowly reached down and checked Diez telltale. It was blood red.
Sliding Diez off his lap, he keyed the destruct code and rolled away as Diez was consumed inside the suit and it shrunk into another can. He picked it up and placed it in the bandoleer with the other four, running his thumb across the tops of each can and getting the ID codes for the remains encased in the can. Pulling his bead pistol, Fargo leaned back against the side of the wallow awaiting the inevitable on World X423W as he dictated an updated status to his skin suit’s memory.
After a couple of minutes, Fargo decided to climb to the lip of the wallow and get it over with, rather than sitting in the bottom of a hole waiting to die. He was a former Terran Marine dammit, and Marines go out on their feet, not on their asses. Holstering his pistol, he started slowly scrabbling up the side of the wallow, every bump of his leg or arm sending shooting pain throughout his body. Rather than give in to the pain, that pissed him off even more, and he redoubled his efforts. After what seemed like an eternity, he made it all the way to the lip of the wallow, and rolled slowly over.
As he lay there, he wondered if anyone would ever find them, or even care. He wasn’t much of a praying man, but he said a prayer for his team members, and hoped there was an afterlife so he’d seen Amy and Ike one more time. Levering himself up on the body of the Trader he’d shot, he looked across the flat, sensing and then seeing two more Traders and one Dragoon coming out of the forest in armor.
His thoughts turned to the last stanza of Fiddler’s Green he’d learned in The Basic School on Earth.
And so when man and horse go down
Beneath a saber keen,
Or in a roaring charge of fierce melee
You stop a bullet clean,
And the hostiles come to get your scalp,
Just empty your canteen,
And put your pistol to your head
And go to Fiddlers’ Green..
He checked his pistol, settled down behind the Trader’s armored body and waited for them to get in range. Then the world turned black.