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Author Topic: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II  (Read 1573 times)

Chace of Spades

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The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« on: 11 May 2020, 15:36:30 »
     I finished posting part one of the Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit a while ago. The series was originally planned to be split into four parts all roughly equal to to the one already posted. Because of the upcoming publication of my original sci-fi work "The Descendant", I have not finished these other parts. I plan to combine what I already have for parts two, three and four. To stuff them together to make a second collection roughly equal to the one I just finished. It's not over yet so worry not. I will add more notes before each post to indicated the  intended differences and explain why they stopped where they did. Let me edit them and I'll post them as I get through them, like I did before. These were written several years ago when I was actively playing the table top. There are also a couple of the originals that are incomplete. I'll try and finish them to help flesh this all out. I'm curious to see if a difference in my writing will be discernible.

       Here is the into I wrote for part two. Which I stopped after only one complete short story for multiple reasons. Mostly because, Spaceman and Rabbit get "upgraded" to power armor, and i felt that for a couple of second line troops turned into unconventional warriors I feel like that is a resource House Davion would have applied to better effect else where, especially during the trying times of the Fed-Com civil war, on top of that they would have had to have special training on how to use the complex equipment. I shelved the idea as 'too far fetched'. Non the less, here is the intro, the complete story is to follow as I get it edited. Thanks for all the kind words and enthusiasm with the previous stories, I hope these next ones find you just as well, Y'all are the best.




                                                                                                           



                                                                                                                    Upgrades
       After some time in the service, and in light of the exemplary record and excellent results despite their unorthodox methods, Spaceman and Rabbit are issued a set of rare scout power armor suits in pristine condition. As reward for their unique and exemplary talents. The pair use these new suits to get into and cause more trouble. Digging deeper into the enemies’ territory and backsides. Using extra power cells and stockpiles equipment to keep the suits running and fighting even in the deepest of wilderness take on a morale reducing harassment role, deep behind enemy lines. The pair is even more isolated and spend lots of time alone, away from the chain of command and their handlers. Allowing them freedom and opportunities for everything from deep philosophical discussions to cavorting and horseplay.
-Chace A. Randolph

ThePW

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #1 on: 11 May 2020, 17:28:38 »
O.P.O.

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #2 on: 12 May 2020, 15:07:17 »
I'm sorry it lacks action, but I think it helps illustrate some of the characters depth and motivation during the conflict.



                                                                                                Damsel in distress
       Spaceman and Rabbit had returned to base. Long awaited leave was coming their way, finally. They had been in the field for weeks, planning, stalking, hitting, attacking, chasing, leaving erroneous shadows and leading the bad guys on wild goose chases. They returned to stock up, clean the guns, load the magazines, charge the batteries, to stretch, to rest, to get out of their armor which rank horribly of man and sweat. The suits needed not just a deep cleaning but at least a repainting too. Who knows what else could be wrong with the armor after such an extended period of hard use in the field, and they wouldn’t even know it. 

       The nearest facilities had a city that had rose up around it. While Spaceman and Rabbit had been all over the planet, still this city was home to them, this base was their base of operations that all their activities started, or ended at. They worked there before the war started, their lives were in this base, in this city, it was their home turf. The city was full of services for the troops, for the men and women of the base, overpriced laundry matts to take advantage of the soldiers who were always in or out of the city. Restaurant’s, cheap used car dealership a mall, many more facilities then are needed for the population of the city, but they served the men and women who served them too. It was the first time they had witnessed civilized society in weeks. The pair had three weeks of stocked up down time, that started as soon their feet hit the ground, fresh off the ramp from the fixed wing transport.

       Rabbit immediately took the opportunity to visit his girlfriend. She didn’t know what he was. She knew he was in the military, but not that he was the “Rabbit”. She still believed he worked on airplanes like he did before the war had started. They hadn’t had much time together, even by the military standards of dating. She had left a borderline obscene number of messages while he had been gone on this most recent deployment. The distance, separation and relative darkness he had to keep her in was putting a strain on their relationship.

       He wandered into the book store where she worked twenty minutes before closing. He however didn’t go find her, he wandered back into the stacks, passed the used movies and comic books passed the hard backs and paper backs into the reference section. He loitered in the dictionaries; the dark leather-bound books were dusty.  No one came here, no one looked at these adolescent torture devices, except for Rabbit. The girls in the book stores had started gently chasing the lingering customers out of the store. Finally, they noticed him back there, gently nudging knowledge from the heavy and underused books. He watched the curly hair, and the little poof it made on the top of her because of the bun she tried to contain it in head bounce towards him down the row, she rounded the corner, her mind still in work mode, he turned as she turned and walked down the aisle to put his book away. She used her polite but firm service ‘customer service voice ‘.

       “Sir were closing in ten minutes, I have to ask you to decide on what you want if anything and check out, please” He shelved his book and turned to face her, with a shit eating grin on his face. “But what I want can’t leave yet…”  He stood there grinning stupidly at her while she took a step back, shocked to see him. It had been a while, he took the time to roll his eyes up and down her. The little black flats, the tight black jeans, her green apron and polo shirt, her glasses framed her deep chocolate eyes. The curly, poofy hair that just got everywhere no matter how hard you tried to contain it. He inhaled to speak and his phone rang before he could speak. He paused, not finishing his breath, she stood there, silent, her hands folded against her tummy. He whispered. “I miss you baby, I’m sorry” He stepped back and answered his phone. It was Spaceman.

       He was breathing fast… and yelling, trying to be heard over background noise, helicopters. “Git your hairless ass back here we have to suit up.”

       “What, why?”

       “Just git back on post, now. I’ll explain while your suiting up, no time.” 

       Rabbit looked at this tasty little woman in front of him. Their relationship had lasted for more than six years. They had been through thick and thin, back before the war had started. Before he went through basic training. He hurt, down in his belly. His soul, he loved this woman, he hadn’t seen her in almost three months, and he only had three weeks to be with her, maybe he would propose to her finally. While they were both still alive, while the war would let him. But Spaceman was not one to be pulling his leg. This had to be serious. Maybe a time sensitive target of opportunity had opened up, and they had to go back into the field and would be back again in another week or two. He looked to her, his brows furrowed with turmoil. She looked up at him, worried, and expectant.
Rabbit locked eyes with her, his watered slightly “I’m so sorry baby, but duty calls” She actually whimpered as he walked past her, he put a hand on her shoulder to apologize and left, walking briskly until he got to his bike outside. He jumped on, and pedaled hard across the parking lot, changing gears fast, the derailleurs clicking almost as fast as his neglected and unoiled cassette. Leaning back in the seat and pulling up on the handle bars hopping the curb, stretching that front forks shocks as he hopped into the street, then he popped into the next gear up front and really took off. Slamming those pedals down, breaking a sweat fast in the humid late afternoon air. But the main gate was only a mile and a half off. The faster he got there, the faster he could fix the problem and get back to his cute life squeezed into ashen jeans.

       He was picked up by a jeep at the gate, the jeep rushed him to the hangar where their gear was being prepped. Spaceman was half loaded up back into the suit, cleaned but not repainted. Spaceman stood, arms outstretched as three techs serviced him. Tightening down fasteners, checking myomeres, battery packs, loading, charging and mounting weapons. Three more came to Rabbit and were soon slapping armor onto him. He and Spaceman stood twenty feet apart face to face. Spaceman shouted to Rabbit over the noise of the half dozen technicians and their tools while they were scurrying around both the rodents with equipment and power tools, Spaceman briefed Rabbit.

       “We’ve got incoming. The base is going to be assaulted in three hours or less. The two of us, along with some other equipment are being shuffled out of here before they hit. Apparently, this is going to be a big one and the bean counters upstairs are expecting collateral damage, and command isn’t sure if they can pull a win out of their hats on this one. So they are moving the sensitive assets out of the area. We may be soldiers but we are too valuable to be used as shock troopers. We are getting a custom ride in a VTOL the hell out of here and they’re dumping us some place in the woods. They haven’t decided where yet. Sorry we’re losing our down time, but were going right back into the fray, or rather the fray is coming to us.”

        Rabbit was stunned. The techs kept slapping armor and parts onto him. He had been planning what to do with his girlfriend for a month. Soon he had guns on his back, and his hip. Ammo bandoliers on his chest and a tear on his cheek. He was a good head taller now then he had been he was squeezed back into the armor that still faintly smelled like him. It was a stretch for the tech to reach and plop the helmet on top of his head. The pair was pushed outside where their lift was waiting. As the heavy metal boots they wore thumped on the ramp, up the back of the VTOL into the cargo bay. When the anger finally sunk in. The rotors had come up to speed and the bird taxied down the runway. Rabbit was sweating, his fists clenched as the magnets in the suit locked him to the floor and against the wall. Soon he was yelling. Cursing at their foes, shouting at Spaceman and anyone and everything as his mind raced through all the reasons why this was wrong. Why he should get his more than earned down time. Why the girl that he loved should get the next two or three weeks of his life not some stretch of mountains and woods. He loved her, and the universe wasn’t letting him do it as much as he wanted to. As they lifted off and Rabbit’s furious rant continued. He was sweating and yelling and it wasn’t until the pilots shouted back at him, he realized he was on open channels, or that the coms were even on. They crew cursed at him, told him to shut up, like they didn’t care. Rabbit rebuffed, shouted back at them.

       “You stick jockeys have families and lives too. If you know as much as we know then you’re aware, there could be some probably significant collateral damage. They’re will probably be mechs, maybe even aerospace fighters. How many of these buildings will get wrecked? What if we lose that little noodle shop across the street from the east gate? Our friends, our families could lose their homes, or they could be killed by stray lasers. We have to get our people out of here, were leaving, aren’t we? going to safety, let’s take them with us, we have an entire chopper we could fill. Do you know where we are going yet? Spaceman and I don’t.”

       He was answered with silence. “Just drop me off in the parking lot and let me talk to her. Give me one minute. I’ll take care of it.”

       More silence

       “Please guys… we all have people to love.”

       “Forty seconds.”

       Rabbit felt the relief sweep through his brain, down his neck and across his shoulders. Easing the tension in his soul. He was going to take her with him, and save her.

       He felt his guts lurch as the aircraft sank lower. Dropping them in over the parking lot. The ramp came down and the air and the noise thundered in, buffeting the pair around even inside their kilos and kilos and armor. As the bird came to a rest in the air, the rotors beating the air into submission, not flying but resting on a cushion of oppressed air. Rabbit took three long steps and leapt from the ramp. His jets flared and his feet slapped the ground hard. Setting off the alarm of the car next to him. The sun was getting lower now, the twilight setting in. the lights were flipping off in the shop while they came on in the streets. His girl was just coming through the door. She had paused, her apron over her shoulder as she stood with a hand raised shielding her face from the buffeting air of the rotor wash. He jogged forward to her. Switched the external speakers on and shouted to her.
 “Love it’s me, you may not understand but I’m here, and I need you to come with me. Their’s danger coming and I’m here to take you to safety. She stood there the rotor wash blasting her hair about.” 

       He came closer, lifting his big armored hand, and pulling his helmet off. “Baby, trust me. I’m here to save you, we have to get out of here. Let me take you out of this place.”

       She stood, her eyes big. And she was silent. He stepped closer and reached to put the other big armored hand on her shoulder. She took a step back and looked up at him, her eyes were watery now. He looked down into her eyes. He wanted to hug her, to envelop her with his big armored body and protect her. She took another step back and slowly shook her head. She spoke, inaudible over the roar of the rotors. But he could read her lips. “No.” No? She shook her head and took another step back. The first tear dropping down her cheek now. He shouted at her again. “Baby the base is going to be attacked. You could get hurt, you have to come with me now. We are all in danger.” She took another step back, now pressed up against the glass door. She told him, still inaudibly that she had to work tomorrow, that she didn’t know who or what this was, and didn’t know if she could trust him anymore. That she couldn’t handle this. He donned his helmet again and was immediately greeted by the pilots yelling in his ears. “We are leaving, the ****** back on the ****** helicopter you love sick ******.”  He turned and ran, his metal boots thumping across the pavement. Lifting his arms above his head, letting their jerking momentum help lift him upwards as he touched his jets and floated into the back of the hovering bird. He stood on the ramp and looked back to her. Shouting over the external speakers as the Karnov drifted away “I love you” his magnetic boots kicked back in and held him to the floor as the ramp closed and they rushed upwards and away. They kept thundering forward for the better part of an hour, far to the northeast. Way out of the line of fire.

        Rabbit feared he would never see the love of his life again. His heart broke as they flew. The pieces sinking deeper into his despair as they flew farther and farther away. He was going to marry her, he already had the ring. It was in his breast pocket right now. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t his fault. He had done nothing wrong. Why wouldn’t she come with him?  They didn’t have enough supplies to feed her, and she didn’t have armor to house her like they did. It was silly of him to ask her anyway. It still wasn’t fair though it wasn’t right, it was all this wars fault. He glared at the wall across the hold form him. Letting the hatred ooze from him, seeping out of his body and through the joints of his armor like the stench of rotting food. The heavy hatred formed a layer of fog just above the floor, slowly seeping out the cracks around the un-pressurized doors, leaving a fine misty trail of hatred and sorrow in the turbulent wake of the helicopter.  It wasn’t his fault, it was this war, and the fools who fought this war. His enemy, who started this war. He glared harder at the opposite wall, the last rays of light faded from the small circular window opposite him, the night grew dark as did Rabbits feelings. It wasn’t his fault. It was his enemies. He would fight that much harder, and kill that much more. Because this was wrong, and now it was personal. He hated the world a little more and trusted it a little less, he vowed to never love again, he would always keep that little diamond with him, but he would never love again, not like that, not deeply, not with heart.
 The flight drew on, and his mood worsened, no one bothered him, they couldn’t see his face, but his end of the cargo bay, near the loading ramp, smelled of sorrow and itched of hatred, it was infectious and everyone, even Spaceman avoided it.

       When he finally got to set his boots back down on the ground, the soft and dark dirt gave way gently beneath him, not just from his weight, but the weight of his new burden. His sides ached and his eyes burned from weeping. He had run out of tears Rabbit was tired, his love had run out, now his soul hurt, and he was going to take it out on someone else…
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #3 on: 03 June 2020, 13:12:30 »
     As I mentioned I would be combining the limited remains of parts two three and four from what I had originally planned to write into one collection here for multiplicities sake, here is the Intro for part three which will be the next few short stories that get posted.

       The Fed Com civil war still drags on, grinding forth with no end in sight. Many profited from it, as mercenaries were brought in by both sides. Spaceman had grown to resent them, feeling slighted as the mercenaries came in collected their pay, earned their fame or died trying. Spaceman and Rabbit received no fame, sure their enemy knew of them, even feared them at times. But their activities were classified, they couldn’t brag about what they had done, they couldn't use their long list of accomplishments as successful raids to leverage higher pay, they were grunts, poor bastard infantry, and they were treated and paid like PBI too.

       When the time came to reenlist, Spaceman didn’t. He had met a girl while on leave, and now she bore his child. He didn’t renew his pledge to military service, he went someplace else, away from the front, away from the fighting, leaving Rabbit, who had already filed his paperwork alone.

       Rabbit managed to avoid being forced back into the ranks of a standard unit through a combination of speed, leverage from his notoriety and even occasionally “loosing” his paperwork. He continued the fight, he continued the war, but now he did it alone, without Spaceman at his side.

       There were many targets he had to pass up, still others he had to take bigger risks. He planned harder, waited longer. Rabbit wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep doing this, how much longer he would survive on his own. He felt he was running on fumes and felt his luck would dry up soon. His exploits took longer, made less noise, were less effective. Still, he hoped to make a difference.

       Rabbit did on odd occasions get ahold of Spaceman. Who seemed content to live his civilian life with his civilian wife. He would drop hints about Spaceman coming back to work. But he never would. Often not even acknowledging the hints or requests. Sometimes Rabbit asked him as a friend. Asking for help, for back up, for cover. Or just because He was a better shot then Rabbit. But even to help ensure the safety of his old friend Spaceman would not come to Rabbits aid. His directive had changed and soon Rabbit felt like they weren’t the same comrades anymore. Rabbit became the lone aggressor.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #4 on: 03 June 2020, 15:00:55 »
                                                                                                            Illuminating fabric

       Rabbit was in the shit, as usual. He had gone into a city, riding in the back of some unarmored trucks with a company of regular grunts, and things had gone real sideways real fast. They had been in a column following a lance of medium and heavy mechs. Then enemy artillery came in, with no warning, raining down suddenly and accurately. Taking out two of the mechs and one of the trucks in the opening salvo. The second salvo collapsed a building, dropping seven stories of concrete and twisted steel into the road, burying a second truck and an Enfield Battlemech. The two remaining trucks and the War hammer went into reverse. The third salvo struck the Warhammer full in the chest.  The mech stumbled backwards, lost its balance and fell. Crushing the third truck. Be for the mech could regain its feet the fourth barrage struck it and it moved no more.

       Rabbit immediately leapt over the metal tail gate, out from under the canvas roof of the fourth and final truck. He pounded the road with his booted feet. Crossing the street to a five-story office building with its windows blown out. More artillery shells rained down. Taking out the truck just as the tailgate dropped down. It exploded before any of the other men inside could even set foot on the pavement. More of the big rounds fell and blew the pilot who had crawled from the cockpit of his broken Warhammer out onto the mech's chest into a fine red mist. leaving all the machinery and hundreds of tons of road block amidst the rubble and craters in the shelled street.

       The shelling stopped as soon as it had started. As the dust and powdered concrete started to settle back down to earth the Enfield tried to move, its arms lifting up out of the rubble, the torso swinging about shuffling the mountain of concrete around. It rose forward, out of its sitting position and up onto its knees. Rabbit heard talking. Shouting on the floor above him. Multiple voices. Then the artillery came down again. The huge rounds clobbered the trapped mech. punching massive holes through its chest. The pilot punched out. His small rocket-propelled seat blowing into the air. Soon all was silent again. The Enfield stayed on its knees, its right arm missing. A hole big enough for a man to crawl through showed daylight through its chest and its empty smoke drifted lazily from the empty cockpit. Rabbit was completely alone in the silence. Until he herd foot steps on the floor above him.
 
       He shuffled to cover behind the reception desk in the dim, lobby of the building, everything coated with a film of dust. Then he shuffled past the empty elevators to the staircase. Slowly and quietly he started climbing. Moving carefully, one foot slowly, in front of the other. He held an assault rifle at the shoulder, set to full auto. His un-gloved hands tightly squeezed its angled fore grip. The tactical flashlight remained off. He kept both eyes open as he turned the corners, slowly up the stairs. He could hear movement.  He came to the doorway leading from the staircase back into the building, tightened his grip and slowly pulled back the bolt on his rifle. Seeing the shiny brass casing, he knew his gun was ready to go. Suddenly the door flew open and the hood over his front sight post was filled with a uniformed silhouette.

       Rabbit rolled his trigger finger back and let off a good burst pumping several rounds into the obstruction. The echoing thunder rolling down the stairway was deafening. The uniformed soldier rolled into a ball and slumped back into the room. Three more men with big binoculars and a massive backpack-sized long-range radio unit were inside. Rabbit sighted down on the others as they leapt from their folding chairs, dropped their binoculars and went for the various weapons they had about. One drew a pistol, another dove, sliding on his belly for a shotgun leaning against a folding table. The third scooped up some contraption from off the table next to where their radio. Rabbit wasn’t sure whether it was a small sub machine gun or a glorified machine pistol.

       Rabbit started at the right and moved to his left. Rolling the trigger back, locking the elbow of his support hand and feeding rounds to his targets. These damn observers had taken out his men, and a whole lance of mechs. The first with the pistol took three across the chest and a fourth in the bicep. The second with the big machine pistol took one to the neck and another to the head, due to Rabbit’s muzzle climb. He let off the trigger and reacquired on the third who was now on a knee cycling the pump on his shotgun. Rabbit squeezed again. And after one more loud bang, his gun went click on an empty chamber. The single-round hit his opponent in his support arm’s bicep. He dropped his shotgun. As he leaned out from where he was kneeling to pick it back up with his remain good arm Rabbit’s rifle was already pulling its three-point sling tight as his steel side arm cleared the leather holster.

       The first two rounds hit him square in the chest, rocking the man back. He fell from his knees onto his butt, he was wearing body armor, on the whole, he was still unharmed. Until he got two more to the neck. The massive hollow points nearly decapitated him. Rabbit stepped past the still bleeding bodies to the table. Rabbit took a map, some papers and a set of frequencies from the table and carefully folded the papers before putting them into the little leather-bound black book he kept in his pocket. He holstered his pistol and reloaded his rifle before returning to the ground floor and ducking out the back door into an alley behind the building. He at least had some Intel, so it wasn’t all a loss. Provided he could get back to safety. A good dozen city blocks away, outside the red zone.

       Rabbit started running carefully down the alley. Jogging slowly, with a graceful bounce in his stride like a cat on the prowl. The brim of his helmet shielded his eyes as the sun climbed higher. After several city blocks, he stopped to catch his breath leaning against a large dumpster that used to be blue, but was now coated with dust and grease and grim and rust. After a moment he had caught his breath and resolved to get moving again. Going slower now, his shoulders sagging, his head down as he half shuffled half jogged through the alleys and the garbage. He hadn’t made it another hundred yards when he heard a woman’s screaming. He stopped, rifle at the low ready, his thumb flipped the safety off. His eyes darted back and forth checking the corner and doorways ahead of him even the windows over him.

       Suddenly a nice looking blond girl came running around the corner at full steam. Her sundress flaring in the air as her sandaled feet churned about. One hand keeping her big floppy hat on her head. She saw Rabbit and came to a screeching halt. Unlike most, this alley was empty, now there were no dumpsters or trash bags to provide cover or concealment. After they made eye contact, and she identified the color of the patches on his shoulders she rushed forward and clung to his arm.
“They’re after me!” she was panting heavily but sounded surprisingly calm about it. Her statement was very matter of fact.

       “Who’s after you?” his voice sounded hoarse and dry from so much jogging and dust.

       Before she could answer three soldiers in Kathrine's colors rounded the corner, all with nefarious gins on their faces. They stopped as they rounded the corner, stepping into Rabbits long shadow cast down the alley. They stood and looked at him dumbly, no one saying anything. His safety already off, Rabbit mowed them down. One long burst cutting through the three sinister soldiers. Their rifles had been slung over their backs. Their hands never even had the chance to touch their weapons, they all went down in his hail of lead.

       Breathlessly the bright blond in the white sundress said to him. “There’s more, those men weren’t alone” as she withdrew her fingers from plugging her ears.
Rabbit stepped forward, past the fallen bodies to the corner of the building and peeked out into the street, another half dozen men, now alerted by the gunfire were proceeding down that alley in double file weapons at the low ready. Rabbit swore and pulled back behind the corner. He heard the bolt on a rifle cycling to chamber around. His head snapped around to see the blond, with one of the dead man’s rifles in hand, crouching low, leaning against the wall behind him. She had stacked up on him nicely. Her grim demeanor and confident looking hands as she unshakingly gripped the rifle told Rabbit that she knew what she was doing. Rabbit swapped his grip around on his rifle, and firing with his left hand leaned out around the corner and blasted the rest of his magazine in one long burst at the assailants still fifty yards away on the open sidewalk.

       Two fell, after stumbling sideways and then slumped against the wall of the building and didn’t move, the other dropped to his knees clutching his fiercely bleeding neck. The muzzle climb on his rifle forced the last of Rabbit’s shots to miss high, over the soldier's heads. He pulled back around the corner as quickly as he could. He heard the safeties flip off just before the wall across the ally from them exploded in concrete chips and dust as the street filled with thunder. It echoed again and again even after the shooting stopped because of the tall buildings surrounding them.

       The girl in the sundress pumped several rounds from her short-barreled rifle into the doorway across the alley from them. Smashing the locking mechanism and the handle of the door. She rummaged around in the pouches of the dead soldiers in the alley and pulled two fresh magazines from the man’s kit. She swapped one for the partial magazine in her gun and stuffed the other down the front of her dress. Tucking it in so the shiny brass stuck up just under her chin. It was a little ridiculous but she seemed to pay it no heed she leapt up and at a full-speed run crossed the alley and slammed the door with her shoulder, knocking it open. Rabbit followed just as three of the four still standing enemies rounded the corner. The bullets chased his heels through the doorway.

       Inside it was dark. A concrete stairway was in front of Rabbit going up to the multiple floors above. A red emergency exit sign provided the only light. Rabbit could see the outline of the prone sundress girl on the first landing. Rabbit hopped up the stairs two at a time and onto the next flight up. He leaned out through the gap between the set of stairs, over the railing, he was standing on and the next flight up over her head. He held his rifle with his left hand still, shifting his head over, to use his dominant right eye. Sundress girl scooted her support hand a little farther forward on the rifles fore end in anticipation, propping herself up on her elbows. Then a soda can-sized object bounced off the door frame and into the stairwell.

       The girl and and Rabbit simultaneously yelled “SHIT!” Rabbit dropped down below the railing, concealing his body within the concrete staircase and squeezed his eyes shut, clapping his hands down hard over his hears. His rifle swinging down on its sling and clattering on the stairs. Sundress girl brought her left arm over her rifle and covered her eyes with her forearm and her right ear with her hand. The Flash band grenade did just that. Bursting with millions of candle watts worth of illuminating light. So much so that the veins inside of Rabbits squished shut eyelids stood out to his pupils. And the boom was painfully loud, especially inside the stairwell that even with his gloved hands clapped over his ears they were ringing like he had just come home from a concert. As soon as the light faded he was moving again. Returning to his ready position on the stairs. Sundress girl was already shooting by the time he leveled his rifle. The first man was already through the door and was catching hell from her commandeered weapon. The small diameter high-velocity carbine rounds slipped right through his body armor plates and into his chest, repeatedly. The second man rolled around the corner and was silhouetted in the doorway, his shoulder still on the door frame. Rabbit had this one. He squeezed the trigger and his rifle went bang. But only once. The round slammed into his opponent’s rifle. Shattering its polymer receiver. Small levers and springs sprayed forth from the weapon. Rabbit realized in the ruckus his gun must have got switched to the semi-automatic setting. The enemy was already reaching for his sidearm with his strong hand as his support hand gripped he muzzle of the dysfunctional rifle and pulled it about on its sling down to his left hip out of the way. Sundress girl hammered him too. The spray of tiny high-velocity rounds holed the would-be soldier like Swiss cheese. A round through his forearm as he was leveling the pistol. Through the ceramic plate in his ballistic vest. His thigh, in his left bicep. But he had enough momentum in him that he kept coming forward. Though his shattered arm never fired his pistol. He fell the floor on top of his point man who was still feebly trying to apply pressure to his many wounds in his torso. The third man came through the door, as Rabbit was moving his fire selector, he acquired the target he fired in burst mode. Three lead bullets with copper jackets slammed the third target straight in the chin because of Rabbit’s higher elevation. The rounds came out the base of his neck. Blasting out the back of skull. Destroying his larynx, esophagus and two vertebrae. The man staggered and stood in astonishment and he started to drown in his own blood. Rabbit gritted his teeth and hit the fool with a second burst. Three more rounds in a nice tight group. Cut the man’s spinal cord and blew little chunks of meat and chips of bone out of the hamburger looking back of his neck. His head flopped backwards. So that it rested between his shoulder blades, then the body slowly leaned back and fell through the doorway. The helmet striking the door frame was almost as loud as the gunfire had been. The weight of the collapsing body was too much for the strained flesh, and the head rolled out from under the body into the empty alley.

       Sundress girl pulled the second magazine from her busom and used it to activate the released lever. Flipping the empty one from her rifle. She rocked the fresh one home, hard into the receiver, activating the weapons auto bolt release. The bolt slapped forward, cambering a round and seating firmly up against the face of the chamber.
Rabbit removed the partial magazine from his rifle and dropped it into his dump pouch before he too replaced it with a fresh magazine. The two of them, rifles at the ready slowly creeping from the stairs towards the door. Rabbit leaned forward and peaked his head out, looking one way and then the other. It was all clear, but there should have been one more of the troopers somewhere.

       They stepped into the alley, and then back to the corner. where they found the mysterious fourth man, the last soldier, he was applying medical aid to the wounded in the street. He was also talking on a radio. Babbling about gunfights in the streets, and helicopters and medical evac for the wounded. Rabbit unsure of how to handle the situation soon found out that he didn’t have too. The girl in the sundress stepped out past him, leveled her rifle and pumped the guy with several semiautomatic shots. He crumpled and fell upon the still gurgling body of his fallen comrade. Rabbit shot her a sour glance, before they started jogging. Across the street into another alley. Rabbits booted feet and her sandals both gently scrapping on the pavement. Rabbits gear rhythmically clinked and rattled with his stride while the breeze down in the canyons between the buildings ruffled the woman's sundress.

       They covered a few more city blocks, before they were beset by more noise. The sudden deep thump, thump thunder of helicopters. Several of them. The two pressed themselves up against the wall of the alley as the helicopters blasted overhead. Their shapes skirting over their alley, the down wash from the rotors blowing around the garbage at their feet. Rabbit waited for the noise to recede, for the helicopters to get farther away. But they didn’t. it became a constant roar.

       The girl looked to Rabbit and shouting over the steady thunder of the rotors she said to him. “They're hovering, they’re probably deploying more troops, we have to get out of here.”

       Rabbit leaned closer to her to reply. But was taken aback, he mused for a moment, because she smelled damn good. He wondered what kind of perfume it was. He shook his head and clear the thought. Then told her “we’re not far from the demilitarized zone. If they follow us there they risk bringing the whole army down on their heads." The conflict was just starting to slow down. If they go there all the negotiations will have been for naught. "All we have to do is make it another half mile down these alleys.” Then he started running. Leading the way. But soon the girl in her lightweight sandals and sundress, unloaded from body armor and gear caught up to him. They trudged down the alley. Soon they could hear shouting behind them. The helicopters were leaving. The noise fading. And as their noise faded they could hear the boots of running soldiers. And soon gunshots. The bullets bounced off the walls and soon the alley was filled with ricochets. Rabbit took a ricochet to the arm. The bicep of his support hand. He cursed and kept running. Using the pain to fuel his legs, he pushed faster, keeping pace with the girl in the sundress.

       They crossed the street and turned the corner, putting the building between them and the pursuers. The shooting stopped. And the thundering footsteps of the soldiers behind them stopped. Rabbit winced as the blood trickled down his arm, and dripped on his boots. Without a word, the girl in the sundress hooked the sling of her commandeered rifle over Rabbit’s head, and plopped the extra magazine from her bosom into his dump pouch on his hip. Then, still wordlessly turned and walked away. That was the last he ever saw of her as she slipped away down the sidewalk of the empty streets in this war-torn city.

   He hadn’t had time to think before, but now he wondered, what on earth she was doing here, civilians were supposed to be evacuated, and why not only was she still here, but was she dressed like the was off for a Saturday lunch at a café?
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #5 on: 06 June 2020, 13:54:57 »
                                                                                                       Between shifts
       Rabbit was driving, a small car with a small engine. He had been cruising down a very long and straight highway. He was crossing the continent because he had been in a half dozen or so serious combat zones elsewhere and his handler wanted him to change his A.O. before the enemy tracked him down or weeded him out. There was nothing but flat scrub planes and distant craggy mountains in his windows to entertain him.

       The war had destroyed much of the world’s infrastructure. He was left flipping through public radio channels out of boredom. Though he had searched in vain for hours. There were few radio stations left. The winter sun pounded in through the large sloped windshield. It was just past the middle of winter, the days were just starting to lengthen again. But he was in the arid part of the world now, the dry desert part. When it was winter here, you just put on the ugly sweater you’re great aunt gave you and called it good. Snow was a miracle that occurred once or twice a year and rarely stuck through the night. He contemplated turning on the little cars air conditioner. But shook his head against the idea in frustration. It was winter, he didn’t need an air conditioner, damn it. he was getting great fuel mileage with this tiny non-descript car and he didn’t want to hurt it. It was winter, he shouldn’t have to activate the air conditioner no matter how mild the weather. He looked to the fuel gauge and mentally measures how far it would be to the next gas station.

       He eventually decided he couldn’t take the heat any longer, he was wearing all black and the late afternoon sun had an unobstructed path through his windshield. He cracked a window open and let the blast of whistling air fill the cabin. He continued trolling through the radio channels. He thought he had heard something and went back. Smashing the button several times to return to whatever station he had finally found. There was an actual public broadcast station still working. He was genuinely surprised. This meant he was close to a town or a city. A town or a city that was rather untouched from the conflict. This was good, because he was hungry. As the cluster of dusty buildings began to loom in the distance he was already planning out the feast he would eat. Fantasizing about all kinds of food. Meats, cheeses, burgers, sandwiches even ice-cream. He cruised on, with talk radio cranked way up over the whistling of his open window as his arm hung out it, trailing in the breeze.

       By the time he had finally reached the city, he had turned the radio off and put the window back up, he would rather deal with the silence and heat then the paranoid ramblings of talk radio and the whistling wind. Rabbit continued to cruise along, dangerously fast, but unafraid of local law enforcement. They would either be busy with something more important or could be bribed with his government funded bottomless bank account.

       He rolled up to the first food vendor he could find in the small town, and parked immediately in front. It was a sandwich bar inside of a gas station he didn’t need to stop at. Rabbit squeezed through the door of his tiny car, out from under the low roof. He stretched and groaned and popped and walked stiffly as he entered the building, yawning while he passed through the dirty glass double doors.  Shifting the pistol around he had hidden in the front of his pants. He took off his hat out of habit and respect and shuffled to the side where the counter was, weaving between a couple small tables with wobbly chairs. An old lady was the sole customer. Her aged and wrinkled skin sagged from her face and exaggerated her motion as she chewed slowly, glaring at Rabbit over the top of her sesame seed bun. He came to the counter, with a single register. But no employees. He could see past the drink machine and through the grill that there were several people behind the counter.

       He was just starting to look for a bell to ding ferociously to get the staff’s attention when a woman about his age came around from behind the grill and greeted him. Not with a forced smile, or a cheesy slogan. Just a “Hey. Wadda ya want?” He liked that, it was human, not offensive, and not forced or fake, but real and human and genuine.

        She took the visor from her head, tossed it to the floor and kicked it under the counter. He grinned inwardly at that too. He liked this girl. He already knew what he wanted but scanned the menu above her head any way. Rabbit ordered a large shake and three sandwiches. She pushed some buttons and the register beeped. She read off a total and Rabbit dug out his wallet and carefully counted and unfolded his bills. Handing her nearly exact change, thought he had left his coins in the center console of his little non-assuming car. Who’s trunk was full of guns and gear. She returned him his change and turned to the shake machine behind the counter.

       Rabbit stood, for a moment watching her work before he turned, leaning backwards onto the counter and looked to his little car out the front windows, paranoid of someone discovering the small secret arsenal in the trunk, he watched, trying to act as casual as possible while he waited for the sandwiches, He decided he would top off his fuel tank anyway just to be sure.

       The girls voice returned. “Sorry dude, shake machine is broken” Rabbit leaned forward off the counter and turned back to face her. Being silly he returned ‘bummer man”. He was still enjoying her almost dismissive casual attitude. Then she got serious business mode, she changed, sounding brainwashed. “I’m so sorry sir we can’t do that for you today. What would you like to do. Do you want a soda instead?”   He didn’t like that, all apologetic and what not, he wanted his casual girl back. He almost felt guilty, like it was his fault the machine was broken. He replied “no, no, no. its not a problem. I’ll go without I don’t need it any way” he patted his stomach and continued “sorry its broke, really don’t worry about it. Will you be able to get it fixed?”

       Casual chick was back. “No it won’t be fixed, we’re closing the day after tomorrow. Not all of them. Just this one location. It’s not our fault, but because of the conflict we haven’t been able to get a lot of the stuff we need, so we can’t keep running. It won’t get fixed.” He hardly heard her as she explained. Absentmindedly he replied, “Oh. I’m sorry to hear that, ill just stick with the three sandwiches then.” She counted him some more change back to make up for the lost shake. He watched as she left again, back behind the grill where the other employees were. His phone rang.

       Still thinking of something else he casually dug his outdated phone from his left front pocket  where any sensible left handed person would keep their phone. It was his handler’s number. This didn’t register at first. Rabbit’s mind was still on a pair of black jeans behind the counter. It wasn’t until the yelling started on the other end of the line that he snapped back to the  business at hand. He was needed. Somewhere important and quiet to do something dangerous and violent. This was time sensitive and a valuable target of opportunity. Duty called and Rabbit left in a hurry. He went from bored to impatient real quick. He broke a sweat with nervousness and impatience he waited  for the people behind the counter to finish building his sandwiches. They handed him the paper sack and he checked it quickly to make sure it had three foil wrapped sandwiches before he nodded curtly and departed with haste.

       It wasn’t until he was already back on the highway cruising recklessly fast, that Rabbit started eating his food.  He was famished and ate with gusto packing away all three roast beef sandwiches. His mind wandered back to the restaurant, missing that chocolate shake. He wished he could help the girl who had taken his order, the restaurant closing was sad, he became frustrated over all the small things this war had cost everyone. He became disgusted by how inhuman humanity was becoming. His thoughts kept wandering as he cruised South. At least he wasn’t hungry anymore. He checked the time on his wrist watch, and cursed. His time line was closing before he had to be inhuman again. He pushed the pedal harder, squeezing ever bit of power he could from the car’s small overworked engine. No rest for the wicked.
-Chace A. Randolph

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #6 on: 06 June 2020, 14:59:05 »
Congratulations on the book deal.
“ My Clan honor is bigger than your Dragon honor, and comes in 18 clan flavors.”

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #7 on: 10 June 2020, 14:15:21 »
                                                                                                                              The 189th

        Rabbit had been assigned to a regular unit. A real unit, a whole battalion. Not as a stand-in for a missing man. He had been put back into the circulation with the grunts. He was a PBI grunt now. A member of the 189th light infantry battalion. ‘Light infantry’, by the hair or Rabbit’s ass. They were called light infantry because they weren’t mechanized. They didn’t have trucks or tanks or helicopters or A.P.C.s to carry them everywhere. So they had to carry all their gear. Their packs were huge, with three days’ worth or sealed rations, water, ammunition armor, radios, med-kits weapons, flashlights goggles, gloves, helmets shovels, toiletries. The group of men were a faithful bunch though, they would say grace before meals and hold payer groups before live-fire exercises. Which was unusual, at least to Rabbit it was. More then that, because it was the entire battalion, what was it that made them all so faithful? It was unheard of. Rabbit didn’t understand much of it, but he paid it little head and went through the motions with the men to keep up appearances.

       Most of the guys had heard of Spaceman and Rabbit’s shenanigans. The state had been using them as part of their propaganda machine. Many of the men had considered it nothing more than that, a hoax, propaganda. But Rabbit had a small collection of souvenirs and details to the stories. After a couple weeks of training with him and the rest of the battalion saw his bush craft and the steadiness of his aim. They had been on training exercises for some time. Preparing for something specific, but no one knew exactly what, it was all being kept under wraps. After close to two months with these guys, sleeping in their barracks and eating with them. Marching, shooting, drills exercises, field craft. Learning all their names an orders suddenly came down. And within the space of an hour, the barracks was cleaned out and they were dressed in full battle rattle sitting in the back of flatbed trucks headed East.

       The unit was dropped off on a muddy road. The skies were gray, the clouds were low and heavy. Winter was approaching. The breeze brought a chill with it rolling down the valley, whispering through the leaves of the cold and snow and ice to descend upon the valley in the coming weeks. The nights were already getting uncomfortably bitter.
The valley lay before them. To their backs were the rocky foothills of a mountain range. To the front were miles and miles of conifer trees. Then beyond those, was another mountain chain. A bigger steeper rockier mountain range. Mountains that didn’t have foothills, that gave no warning. That just erupted from the ground and rushed hundreds of feet into the air, almost vertically. It was near four in the afternoon, and the mountains leered high and steep over the valley that they were already casting long shadows, and soon the sun would slip behind their peaks.

       The men collected along the road which was hardly that. It was muddy and rutted from the gentle rains that had persisted almost the entire previous week. The battalion assembled by platoons, standing in rough circles, rifles at the hip, their eyes scanned around keenly. No one kneeled or sat. The mud was thick and sticky, only half solidified. Like old slightly runny peanut butter.  After about ten minutes of whispering to each other out the side of their mouths about not knowing why they were there yet. Keeping a hushed quiet about themselves their growing apprehension was finally broken as a thin pale man stepped from the ranks that had amassed alongside the road. Rabbit didn’t recognize him.

       He stood hands on his hips looking down on the men with an air of inflated head type superiority. He also glanced down, disgust flashing on his face as he lifted first one muddy boot from the sloppy road and then the other. Finally with both feet planted in the much, hands still on his hips he straightened his shoulders and puffed out his chest. He shouted, he sounded self-important and unsure of himself at the same time. Like a freshman sitting down at the juniors table trying to talk the talk and fit in, and doing it poorly. He spoke, with haste and anger, but his voice was thin and wispy. Like the last tendrils of smoke drifting off of a large but nearly dead fire.
“Gentlemen, we are here with a purpose… Were going to end this silly war once and for all.” He spoke as if this civil war was just a child’s game Like he was the big man, the tactical genius that would out-think all the enemies at once. Rabbit looked at his freshly pressed shirt and starched uniform and decided he had never seen anything more action then the sand table in the HQ. He continued.

       “Your mighty battalion is going to use this forest.” He paused and swept his arms in front of him, as if this forest was his creation, that he had willed all these millions of trees and pine cones into being just so they could use it for his grand scheme. “To flank our stubborn foes. Even as we speak a massive battle is being fought at the mouth of the valley. While the mechs and the tanks are busy there, we are here, were going to slip in the side door and twist the knife into the soft kidney of your foes.”
The men near Rabbit glanced at each other. They spoke no words, but they had worked together long enough that entire conversations could be had with nothing more than a few simple expressions. This time the faces said, “is this guy serious?”

       The man in the road continued. “ Now we have the weapon to do it too. Our dear Rabbit!” All eyes turned to Rabbit, the troopers looked to him, the gentle rattle of equipment filled the air as they shifted their gaze. Rabbit looked to the man in the road who had called him out. The patch on his scrawny shoulder identified him as a Major. The second in command to the whole battalion. Though in the month's Rabbit had been with these men he had never seen him before and had no idea what his name was. His squad leader was a Sargent old enough to be this Majors Father.

       Rabbit straightened, and stepped forward, he looked the man dead in the eyes and stared him down. Rabbit never said a word. Just gave him that look. That meaningful look, the “I’ve killed more men than bullets you have ever fired. I have seen more then you have dreamed. You may speak the speak, but I talk the talk. You don’t know me.” It poured from Rabbits deep eyes, eyes that couldn’t decide if they were green or brown like a contemptuous slime oozing from an overturned beaker onto the table and into the major’s soul. Even from this one hundred foot distance, the major shifted his weight uncomfortably when faced with the tired, resolute thousand-yard stare.
“Rabbit here is going to be our point man. To lead us through this forest into the enemies flank. Hopefully, the foul weather has shifted the terrain. It will certainly reduce the number of enemy patrols and they certainly won't expect us now, not after this heavy rain we’ve had.” The major called all the platoon leaders forward and they huddled to discuss deployments.

        Rabbit’s squad huddled together and spoke softly to each other. “Won't be expected after this rain because no one in their right mind would be out here. Were going to sink into this mud and get stuck. Then well all get killed.” Another leaned in “ Rabbit, you know about this?”
 Rabbit shook his head in reply. Still not speaking a word. The Squad leader put a hand on Rabbit’s shoulder “ You can't be the point man for the whole battalion, we’re greater than three hundred men strong, you won’t be able to sweep that much ground. You'd die of exhaustion.” Rabbit nodded back knowingly as the squad leader let the weight of his arm drag his hand off Rabbit’s shoulder.

       The huddle of the platoon leaders broke and they returned to their respective units. Orders were given and hands were waved about.
Rabbit was sent ahead, alone into the trees. He was the point man, singular. For the entire battalion. Rabbit in no way doubted his skills or himself. But was being asked of him was simply impossible. There were three hundred twenty-seven men in the battalion. He was only one of them, there was no way he would be able to sweep enough terrain to clear the path for all of them. It just couldn’t be done. It would take days for one man to scour that much muddy forest. But his orders were orders, this Major obviously had no idea what he was doing. Everyone knew it too. Rabbit’s platoon leader shared his thoughts to the whole platoon. “What the major wants is sound… in theory. How he is trying to make us do it is NUTS. Rabbit, is one man, no matter how much action he has seen he cant do this. So, everyone is point man. Spread out into fire teams, move slowly and carefully. Be sure of your footing, and the flooring, of the guy in front of you. Look closely, sweep the leaf litter. Watch for any movement listen for noise. You guys have done the training, you know what to do, so do it. ‘ell for all I know this is just another training exercise. That would explain this Major…”

       Rabbit stood silent and stoic He looked back to the men. Hundreds of them, If something went wrong, As Rabbit was sure it would, this would all get blamed on him, because he was point man.  He turned and brought his rifle to the low ready. He took a step forward from the muddy gouge in the earth next to the road and onto the rug of pine needles that was thrown across the forest floor ahead of him. It had begun, his eyes were already sweeping left right up down. He looked for anything and everything, disturbed patches of needles, broken branches on the trees, tripwires, antennas in the leaf litter, movement, sound. His blood pressure already going up, this wasn’t helping his life expectancy.

       He kept going slowly, letting his boots pad softly through the needles. He was a good hundred meters in before the rest of the battalion stepped off the road behind him. He whispered to himself. Hoping the goofy major that had dropped this weight on his already overloaded shoulders was the one who stepped on the first land mine when they found them. There was no doubt in Rabbit's mind that someone would, or something like that. There was no way this SNAFU was going to work out nicely.  The time ticked by, the sun sunk behind the mountains. It got dark and cold fast. Rabbit’s policy of 1 meter per minute was gruelingly slow. He didn’t even know how far they were going. All the way through? To the other mountain range? That was miles away, his three days of food and water wouldn’t last that long.

       Minutes turned to hours, meters into kilo meters. It was dark now, too dark to see anything, and cold. So cold, the wind had picked up ad was now whistling through the scraggly branches overhead as they had only half dropped their needles. This was bad for Rabbit. He was cold, his hands were starting to numb through his light gloves. And worse than that he couldn’t hear. The quiet sound of the night, of the forest. He trusted himself to be silent, he didn’t want the white noise to cover him, because it covered his enemy too. His eyes had adjusted as far as they would. The moon was only a quarter full and mostly obscured by the tree tops. He was effectively deaf and blind. He had a hard time making out the branches and trunks ahead of him to not walk into them, much less land mines or tripwires. He stopped and came to a knee.

       His hours of crouched creeping had left his feet and lower back sore and his pack wasn’t getting any lighter. The soppy layer of pine needles almost instantly soaked the knee of his fatigues. Rabbit stood back up and cursed. Now he was cold and wet. He rummaged through his pack, reaching over his shoulder, not taking it off. He got out his knee pads, and his elbow pads and donned them with a sigh. This was going to be a bad night. A lot of someones were going to die. His gut was unhappy. He didn’t want to eat his night time ration, his stomach was too knotted with dread.

       He tapped the transmit button on his radio, not breaking radio silence, but signaling that he needed to talk. He sidestepped to the nearest tree, weaving in among its branches, dug his heels in and leaned against its trunk. Then he waited for his boys to catch up. He leaned against the tree long enough for the wind chill to catch up to him. Must have been close to 20 minutes before he heard the gentle snap rustle pop of someone moving in the darkened woods. He inhaled to speak to his squad mates. But he stopped before he finished sucking air in. He froze. His blood ran cold and his whole body was doused in a cold sweat.

       Those footfalls, those crushed twigs, that gentle grunt under the heavy backpack, the muffled rattle of magazines and knives and dog tags, that noise of war, was coming from the wrong direction. Was coming from the South, towards him, not from the North behind him. A shape loomed through a thin sliver of light that slipped in between the trees. Then disappeared again as the night sucked it back up. For that brief moment, that flash of man in the moonlight, told him all he needed to know.
Rabbit knew it wasn’t friendly. The helmet he was wearing was wrong. The brim was wider and higher, up by the brow not down near the temples. Rabbit didn’t move, he was only ten meters away and getting closer. One step, two steps closer. Rabbit could hear him breathing as the breeze sagged for a moment. The footsteps were heavy and deliberate. The man was carrying something heavy. Heavier than a rifle or a combat pack. Three steps, four steps closer. There was a faint rattle and clink every time the man stepped forward. Belted ammunition. He had a belt-fed weapon. That guy was carrying a machine gun. Rabbit inhaled slowly, so his nostrils didn’t whistle, and he only half-filled his lungs so the straps of his pack didn’t creak. Five steps, six steps closer. Rabbit could smell him now. His weapon was freshly cleaned, the solvent filled the air. The Man passed, heavy, slow, deliberate, menacing. Rabbit dared not turn his head to look as he passed. He didn’t want the movement to attract attention. His eyes strained to rotate far enough as the dark green shape oozed back into the darkness. Finally, he closed his eyes for fear he might detach his retinas.

       He kept waiting, his lungs burning, needing to exhale, but he didn’t. couldn’t risk being heard. The enemy had passed not more then 2 meters away from him, only the naked branches of his tree separated the two of them. Rabbit let him keep going those heavy steps labored under the weight of his big gun and all that ammo. After more seconds oozed by it felt like Rabbit’s heart finally beat again. He exhaled slowly. And rapidly hit the transmit button on his radio. He still dared not speak. But the fast tapping in his earpiece told him the others would hear too. He didn’t count how many times he hit it he just kept doing it. Maybe a dozen, maybe twenty. He waited for another moment.

             ...Continued...
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #8 on: 10 June 2020, 14:17:27 »
       ...Continued...
       Slowly he dropped down below the branches, resting on the balls of his feet, turning on them and bringing his rifle to his shoulder. Leveling it into the darkness. Now he had to break radio silence. They might get heard and found. But if he didn’t warn the others thy would be found. That guy with his belt fed machine gun couldn’t have traveled far with that weapon. He didn’t have a big pack like Rabbit or anyone else in the 189th. He wasn’t light infantry like them. He had to be mechanized. Plus a trooper like that shouldn’t be alone. Belt fed weapons were supposed to be crew operated. There had to be more, if the guy had come out here by himself, maybe to use the bathroom or something, he wouldn’t have brought that huge gun or at least that much ammunition with him. Shit was about to get real hairy. Rabbit called his squad leader over the radio. “Sarge I’ve got some bad news. Real bad and belt-fed, and it's headed your way. I need you to stop. I need everyone to stop right now.”

       There was a pause. Rabbit knew the squad leader, it was because he was spreading the word, not because of the radio silence order. They had come to trust each other well. Rabbit's firm aim and field honed skills had earned his unit's respect. The Sarges level head and firm reasoning had earned Rabbi’s respect.
Rabbit sat unsure of what to do. When he decided not to shoot because his boys were in that general direction, more appeared. More soldiers drifted in from the deep darkness. Again Rabbit froze, there were lots of them now.

       Rabbit couldn’t tell how many there was. He could only see two or three shapes loom past him as he sat in the gloom. He could hear others, footsteps, heavy breathing the clink and rattle of equipment the snap and crackle of twigs and leaf litter. Rabbit waited longer so that they were out of earshot before trying his radio again, he inhaled to speak, and then a flare was fired. Then another and another. Five in total bright white phosphorous parachute flares, fired from mortars or vehicles behind him snacked up into the sky and then hung there. Drifting on their parachutes, casting a white ghostly light over the forest, the shadows danced like demons with an odd liquid light that filtered down through the trees dripped from the branches to pool on the forest floor, but not bright enough to fill all the crevices.

       Rabbit never spoke on his radio. He kept sitting there hunched on the balls of his feet. He and his battalion had been had. This wasn’t the enemy's flank. These troopers were heavily equipped and carried none of their own equipment. The had to be mechanized at least. A few more seconds later and Rabbit could here the mortars firing In order to pop those big parachute flares those would have to be big mortars. Not something that was easily moved. This unit was to heavy to be a flank, not mobile enough. The had just stumbled into the heart of the enemies’ formation. Then he heard the whistling as those big shells passed overhead. About seventy-five meters to his front, Rabbit heard gunfire erupt. Muzzle flashes came from the trees in the half-light. Shadows were cast in multiple directions form the multiple light sources, adding to the confusion. Every man and tree had three or four shadows.

       As far as Rabbit could see in either direction through the woods, guns were blasting away. The sudden onslaught of noise nocked Rabbit off the balls of his feet and he sat down on his ass. He flipped the safety off his rifle and did a chamber check, he was ready, he swept his head around looking for more of these looming enemy soldiers before getting back up and in a low crouch duck walking towards his men, towards the shooting, afraid of friendly fire.

       The mortar shells landed, with heavy thumps and echoing explosions that Rabbit could feel in his feet through the ground. It seemed as if the trees themselves were shooting at each other. A long burst of automatic fire would be answered by two or three short ones from different directions. Somewhere to his right, someone fired a laser weapon and its bright green spear of heat and energy lit up the tortured night. Rabbit took another dozen paces closer, stopped dropping to a knee. He couldn’t tell who was who, the distinction between friend and foe was too hard to make in the half-dark, too many shadows, too many bodies. More mortar shells landed only fifty meters to Rabbit's front. The crack and thunder from their shrapnel laden explosions was painfully loud, even through Rabbits noise-canceling ear protection, which was all confused. Cycling on and off erratically from the multiple weapons firring. Another long burst of automatic weapons fire chattered out in the night. Now Rabbit could see who it was from, only twenty meters from him was that first trooper he had seen with the big belted gun.

       Rabbit’s cold hands fumbled to switch his weapon to semi-automatic, but he finally made the change and leveled his rifle again. He aimed down on the crouched shape, with the wide-brimmed helmet. He slowly squeezed not sure of his half numb hands. The man was prone with his big gun on its bi-pod. Rabbit finally popped off around as he started another burst. Rabbit slapped his right index finger on the trigger three more times. Two of his shots hit the soldier, cutting his burst short. The rounds punched through the left side of the soldiers' combat vest.  He rolled over onto his back, hands clawing at his flank, screaming. Rabbit rushed the dozen paces forward to where the enemy lay, his kicking feet clearing a patch among the pine needles. Rabbit looked down on him and put two more in him so that he stopped moving. More mortar shells whistled overhead and exploded, Rabbit could smell the wet earth now, split open like a big scabbing wound where the craters were, devoid of pine needles. A couple of rounds were fired semi-automatically and snapped through the air near Rabbit. They were coming from the wrong direction, those were his own men shooting at him. He leapt to the ground sheltering himself behind his felled foe.

       He stayed there for what seemed like hours. The explosions and the shooting filled the half-lit night with thunder. The wet in the plant litter on the ground soaked into Rabbits’ bones, he was soon chilled, he picked his head up and started crawling, slithering on his belly back towards his men. Cutting his chin on a sharp stick in the dark. He angrily tossed it aside. The gunfire was farther away now, he was moving closer, but the gunfire was continually getting farther and farther away. The 189th was retreating. More explosions dropped from the sky, they were getting farther away. Rabbit was going to get left behind if he wasn’t careful.
 
       Rabbit stood again, and ran now, towards the gunfight, the explosions and the death. He reopened his radio to warn the men not to shoot him. There was a din of shouting on the channel though. He couldn’t be heard there was already three or four voices fighting to be heard over each other. Rabbit switched frequencies and tried again with the same result. He was busy trying to change channels again when he ran into someone. It wasn’t solid he knew it wasn’t a tree, but it was almost as immobile. He stumbled and fell back on his ass again. He leveled his rifle from his hip, propping himself up on his elbow. He looked up to fire, but then he recognized the man he had run into.

       He dropped his rifle and lifted his hands. “It’s me! It’s me don’t shoot!”  The big man turned slowly and looked down at him. Standing tall even as more mortars landed just behind him. Close enough to shower them both with pine needles. His huge hands came out of the gloom and grabbed Rabbit by the collard and lifted him up to his feet.
Setting him down the soldier took a step back, looked him up and down and said “Silly Rabbit what are you doing down there?”
This was one of the biggest men in the battalion. He was almost Six foot eight, with hands the size of dinner plates. He carried the platoons grenade launcher. A big pump-action weapon like an oversize shotgun. He even had a bandoleer of grenades across his chest. Under normal circumstances, it was rather comical but the gentle giant was welcome now.

       A long sweeping burst of automatic fire sprayed tracers through the trees just over their heads. More parachute flares popped up in the sky above. The Grenade toting trooper through a massive arm around Rabbits shoulders and shouted to him over the din of battle. “Let’s get you someplace safer buddy” His name was Gavin McMaster.
 With their heads down they ran together back towards their lines. They passed several fallen men, weapons still in hand, slumped against trees, or just sprawled face down in the muck. Rabbit silently reached out to them with his heart. His brothers were dying. He whispered to them to sleep well, as he half-ran was half drug past them. The rushing wind tearing the words from his lips. The pair of them dropped down into a crater from a mortar shell as another volley whistled down. Landing close enough to spray dirt over them. Rabbit was left in the cold and the dark sitting on his butt, hands over his ears. Unable to concentrate. The ringing in his ears was so bad, his vision couldn’t focus. But on a knee right next to him was PFC McMaster, his grenade launcher at his shoulder. He laughed a deep booming laugh, that could be heard over the din of battle. He launched a grenade, with a hollow thump that somehow sounded like a pop at the same time. He had cycled the pump and fired a second shot before the first detonated downrange. Tracers streaked over their heads. More bullets went past unseen. They passed as snaps and pops and sprays of dirt.

       After a moment McMaster reached down, and half lifted half drug Rabbit by the back of his combat vest and they fell back another twenty meters to a different mortar crater, with a tree fallen over it. There was another trooper from the 189th in there already. He looked up in terrified awe as Rabbit half vaulted half fell over the log, still attached to the stump by a strip of bark. Rabbit wiggled down into the crater next to him. He fired his rifle, still on semi-auto, but with rapid squeezes, he dumped the rest of the magazine back the way he had come. He did a quick swap and McMaster fired two more grenades, that whistled off into the darkness. Before exploding in the dark, like the sharp exclamation point at the end of a string of insults. McMaster still managed to do it kindly though, with a smile. The trooper already in the crater just looked at Rabbit, his face slack and his mouth open. They were back in their own lines now, but still, no one could see well they were just firing blindly into the half-lit forest. Rabbit shouted to the trooper through the din of hundreds of guns. “What’s wrong with you?” The riflemen shook his head and shut his mouth. He turned on a camera on his helmet and asked Rabbit for orders.

       Since no one of any significant rank seemed to be around Rabbit was about to answer when McMaster leaned over, his broad shoulders filling the space between the other two men. His voice was deep and loud, but happy and friendly. “Kill them all” he Pulled four of the grenades from his bandoleer and thumbed them into his launcher’s magazine. Several bullets slapped into the log over their heads, dust and splinters rained down onto the two troopers in the bottom of the impact crater.  Rabbit shook his head as the bits of wood rattled off of his metal helmet. He hunkered down now, wiggling his shoulders to get deeper down into the hole, and steadied his rifle, intensely scanning the gloom as more tracers passed overhead. He waited and after a moment another burst was let off. He followed their trail back to their origin and squeezed off five rounds in that direction. He looked up to McMaster, who was still on a knee almost his entire torso up over the top of the log. “You see where I’m shooting? Where those tracers are coming from? Put a grenade over there!” The big man looked down and smiled at Rabbit, never said a word. He was too happy for words. He pumped two more grenades through the trees, as Rabbit popped off another half dozen rounds that way too. The other riflemen who was already in the hole leaned forward and shouted to be heard as more gunfire rattled off, seemingly from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. “I’m going to go find the lieutenant.” With that, he stood. Rabbit dumped the rest of his Magazine to cover him. He scrambled away into the darkness disappearing into the gloom as the second set of flares was burning themselves out.

       Rabbit and McMaster sat for another ten minutes as the darkness descended upon them again, uninterrupted. It was silent, scarily so, one moment the whole world seemed to be exploding and now nothing moved or made noise except for the gentle rattle of equipment as Rabbit’s and McMaster’s chests heaved, panting from strains of battle. Rabbit’s eyes were becoming used to the dark again.  Slowly he could make out shapes moving in the dark. Then in the distance a rumble.  A rhythmic thumping punctuated by the snapping of lumber. Not just the breaking of twigs and branches. But the thick and sickeningly crunchy sound as entire trunks were broken off, uprooted. Someone, out of sight to Rabbits left shouted. “It’s a Commando”

       ...Continued...
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #9 on: 10 June 2020, 14:20:33 »
       ...Continued...

       Rabbit was puzzled for a moment. Any of the soldiers in this whole battalion could be considered commandos because of their level of training. Then the green blast of a big laser beam cut through the trees overhead. The head was intense. Even if it was ten feet above Rabbit’s hunkered head, he could feel the heat, smell the ozone and the blast of energy burned all the humidity out of the air. The trees it touched exploded. The heavy rains had left the trees soaked and saturated. The water in the wood was being flash boiled inside the proud plants. Rabbit looked over the log into the night, to the point of origin and was going to curse because of what he saw. But then a half dozen blasts of flames and trails of smoke lit up the night. As SRM’s leapt out into the woods. When they impacted the trees and the ground among Rabbits and his unit they didn’t explode through. They popped and oozed napalm. Or spraying it out like a faucet left on. The wet ground prevented the fire from spreading but even so, the trees and the earth coated with the gel burned crackled popped, and smoked heavily. Now Rabbit understood there was a Battle mech, and it was a Commando model loaded with inferno SRM’s. McMaster lobbed two more Grenades in the direction of the mech. Rabbit went to squeeze off a few rounds at it, but his gun just went “click”.
He had never reloaded after providing cover fire, his shell-shocked mind was getting weary on him. He dropped his empty magazine and slapped a fresh one home. Puzzled to himself he had fired so many rounds and slapped and swapped so many magazines, that kind of this was second nature to him. More missiles danced into the forest like a half dozen writhing snakes of flame.

       Suddenly the shooting returned. In earnest. Men everywhere came up from the undergrowth. Rifles at the shoulder, and machine guns and McMaster’s grenade launcher. The Green heat beam cut through the trees again. Sweeping from right to left, knocking down a tree or two, and popping several more. Men screamed in the dark. More missiles, more screaming.
 
       The mech advanced, and the soldiers scattered before it like insects running from the sunlight. Rabbit switched his rifle to Full auto and hosed away at the shape looming in the darkness. He held the trigger down and let the bolt cycle through the entire magazine before swapping in another. He had McMaster stood and leapt over the fallen tree before pounding out fifty yards of pine needles and ferns with their boots and heavy packs. They dropped into a soppy wet depression, using a cluster of mossy tire sized rocks for cover. McMaster rolled a couple of the rocks over the top of each other to try and improve their cover. Then he reloaded his grenade launcher again.
Rabbit slowly peeked over the top. There was fire, smoldering in the wet pine needles and saturated lumber. Thick Smokey fire. Rabbit could see shapes moving in and out through it. Could hear the mech moving about, knocking over trees, firing more missiles. Leaving a swath of destruction behind. Rabbit and McMaster sunk down into their rocky pit.

       They sat for a moment. The fire and the noise and the death and explosions not preventing the mud and the cold from seeping in through their fatigues. An enemy soldier passed, Rabbit leapt to his feet and gunned the man down. There were others though. They turned and fired back. Rabbit got a second, But the third got Rabbit, in both legs. Rabbit fell backward into the pit, onto the rocks screaming and bleeding. McMaster pulled his sidearm from its leather holster and plugged the third enemy repeatedly with slow large-caliber slugs, ones that did the job well. 

       But Rabbit was still down. One hole in his right thigh, and two in his left calf. He screamed and bled, and probably broke a  rib when he fell on the rocks. McMaster dug a tourniquet out of his med-pack and put if over one of Rabbits' legs. Then he took a second from Rabbits med kit and put it over Rabbit's Other leg. Then he reloaded his pistol holstered it, reloaded Rabbits rifle, gave it to Rabbit, picked up his grenade launcher and said to Rabbit “The others will need help too, Maybe I can hurt that mech with my ‘nades. I’m going to go save the others. You should be able to crawl that way.” He gestured with the fat muzzle of his launcher. “By now we should have a battle line established. Hopefully, no more of these bastards have gotten in behind us.” With that, he took Rabbits med kit, hit Rabbit with a morphine auto-injector and took the rest of the kit with his as he vaulted over the boulders. His massive shoulders were soon sucked up by the smoke and dancing shadows. More Missiles exploded somewhere in the woods.

       He was gone, and for a moment the night was very quiet. Rabbit was cold, sweaty and tired. The rocks were stabbing his sides, and he didn’t care, he was too tired to care. His eyes got heavy and he started to drift. But then The pain killers kicked in. The cold suddenly got worse. Like numbing ice. It woke him up. He suddenly had focus, like an ice cube down the back of the shirt. He rolled over and crawled out of the slimy mud hole, into the pine needles. He clenched his fists in pain and anger, and with tears and drool running down his face, he crawled on his elbows. Rifle cradled in his forearms. Gunfire and mortars and missiles continued in the tortured darkness behind him. The forest was full of shouts, machine guns and battlemech. 
Rabbit didn’t stop, he didn’t look back, he just stared forward at the dim silhouettes of the trees in the light of the burning napalm. Kept his mind focused on one fist, and one elbow in front of the other. His body numb now as the drugs kept him alive, and out of shock. He finally got far enough away that he couldn’t see the fire through the trees anymore. The guns and the mortars were just thumps in the distance. His eyes adjusted to the near-total blackness again. He continued on his crawl, slower, but still going. He wanted out of this forest. He didn’t care what he found their friend or foe, but he was going all the way back to that muddy track of a road. He crawled on.
After what seemed an eternity he stopped to breathed. He worried the drugs were wearing off, he was starting to feel the pain again. He convinced himself it was all in his mind, and if he stopped thinking about it, he wouldn’t notice. But then he did notice movement off to his right. He heard it before he saw it, twigs popping. hardly audible over the distant battle but still there. Rabbit rolled onto his left side and shoulder his rifle. Again, it was him the darkness and someone else in his darkness. He waited, and then heard it again. Then it stopped. There was a single man, knelt down fifteen meters away. He crouched on the balls of his feet, head hunched forward, peering into the dark. He cradled a rifle. A short fat ugly rifle. A bullpup rifle. No one in Rabbit’s Battalion had a bullpup rifle. They were never issued by Rabbits house. But the enemy had been known to use them. Rabbits' eyes narrowed. He could pick off this one straggler, even if he was crippled and dying. He sucked in a breath and slowly exhaled as he squeezed. His sight picture was sideways, and it was strange. Before Rabbit’s shot went off a second form dropped out of the shadows and knelt next to the first.

       Then a third, a fourth. Soon there were a half dozen soldiers knelt in a semi-circle, heads together. One of them had a holographic map, they talked and whispered and pointed. Rabbit’s went to key his radio and warm the 189th, but his headset was gone, his radio was gone from his belt. He must have lost them in the crawl. He had no way to warn anyone they were being flanked. He had no way to call for help. He sighed to himself.

        “I’m dying anyway. I might as well finish dying and help my boys out along the way” Rabbit though as he took aim again at the cluster of hunched shapes, shoulders gently etched out in liquid light from the stars. Rabbit’s shot broke, then the one after that and the one after that. He had forgotten his rifle was still in fully automatic. His short burst hit the nearest figure. All the others dove. Their semi-circle broke as they all flopped onto their bellies. Rabbit adjust his aim and thumbed his rifle into burst mode. Fired a burst at one lump, adjusted his aim, fired a burst at a second lump. Then the lumps return fire started. Muzzle flashes in the dark. Bullets whizzed and popped overhead. For a moment, he was glad he was already prone. He ceased fire and crawled to the nearest tree. The return fire continued bullets and muzzle flashes filled the air. Those two lumps he had shot at never moved. He had taken out three of the six targets. But he counted no less than eleven different muzzle flashes. There had been more in the shadows that he hadn’t seen. It wasn’t just a fire team, it was two entire squads. He was really screwed now.

       He fired two more bursts at the nearest muzzle flash and then crawled five yards to the next tree. Bullets hailed around him. He did this again, picked a muzzle flash and fired at it, and crawled on. He reached a tree, fired from it and had to reload. He counted ten muzzle flashes now. He kept crawling, and they kept shooting. He passed two trees and came to stop at a third.

       He aimed at the darkness. The shooting stopped. It was silent again. The night pushed in on all the senses. His ears and his eyes strained in the darkness. The hurt in his legs started to creep up from his knees towards his waist. He groaned through his teeth and fired off another burst. The air thundered and the night lit up as nine muzzle flashes responded. Thundering away. Hammering the tree over his head. Branches and plant matter rained down over him. He cuddled his rifle back into the crooks of his elbows and scooted backwards. Slipping farther back into the night. His eyes open wide trying to memorize the locations of the different muzzle flashes. He came alongside another tree and rolled over to get behind it.  That was a mistake. His injured rib flared up again too. The pain punching its way through the drug’s effects. His legs began hurting more too. He set his rifle to semi-automatic and waited for the pain to ebb. The shooting kept going. Rabbit gritted his teeth and leveled his rifle again.

       He looked to where he had left the muzzle flashes and fired a single round at where he felt one of the soldiers should be. The shooting continued. Rabbit fired a second shot slightly to the left of where he had sent the first. How many bullets did these guys have? They blasted away in Rabbit's general direction with seemingly without aiming.  Rabbit held his fire. Watching the nine sets of muzzle flashes as they stuttered, and went out. One he saw the reflection of the muzzle flash on the helmet of its owner. Rabbit smiled through the pain, and drew down on it. The shooting stopped and blackness fell. Switching back to burst fire, Rabbit let off one burst and then a second. Silence fell over the soggy forest again. But it was only momentary. There was screaming now. Rabbits rounds had left their mark. The shooting resumed. Five muzzle flashes clustered to Rabbits right. He scooted backwards deeper into the forest. Several rounds hit the ground inches in front of him. He flinched as the pine needles struck his face. The continued scuttling backward. He picked another tree to his left and hunkered in behind it.

       He saw a red-light flare go up, three men crouched over the one he had shot the reflection of. They were trying to patch him up had his armor stripped off and were applying salve to his chest. Rabbit went to full auto and emptied the magazine on the four of them. He reloaded and turned. Cradling his rifle with his last magazine and crawled as fast as he could further to his left. He was really hurting now, drugs shouldn’t be wearing off that fast. He must be in worse shape than he thought. How much blood had he lost?

       He needed to get away from this. He needed help. He kept backing up. Away from the enemy. The shooting stopped, it made Rabbit nervous. If they weren’t shooting he didn’t know where they were. He found another tree now seventy-five meters from where he started shooting. He sat up, leaned against it. Got his face out of the dirt for the first time in an hour. He was breathing hard. The pain was getting really bad now. He heard movement and become still before he turned his head slowly so as to not attract attention. 

        But he couldn’t see anything. His night vision was ruined by the flames of his weapon’s muzzle flashes. Fortunately, theirs was shot too. He heard footsteps move past him. He strained his eyes so hard in the total dark he could almost see white shapes moving and dancing like some kind of manic fog.

       Rabbit leaned his head back against the tree. The pain was getting worse. The Burning had seeped up through his pelvis into his guts. He sat there as the drugs seemed to stop all at once. The pain lurched upwards and everything hurt. His legs, his ribs, his chin, his head, his hands, his shoulders, his elbows. Rabbit closed his eyes, and exhaled, accepting his fate. He had started to welcome the night, the end to it. It all seemed pointless to him anyway.

       But then someone kicked his foot. The pain exploded up the length of the leg. Burning into his soul like a brand. Then there was a weight that fell across his legs. A heavy soft weight. That dropped down from above and landed sprawled across both his thighs, thrashing. Smearing the blood that soaked his trousers. Blasting all of his nerves with more pain. More pain then he had ever felt before. He wanted nothing but the pain to stop. He was angry now.

       There was a man in his lap. Even in the darkness, he could tell the uniform was the wrong color. Rabbit squeezed the trigger on his rifle, which was pinned under the man who had tripped over his legs in the dark. A single muffled round went off. The bolt got bound in the mans clothing. The one round Rabbit did get off punched through the man’s guts, bored through his pelvis and came out his left butt cheek. Now they were both screaming in pain. Rabbit with one arm still trapped under this man drew his combat knife from his hip with the other and plunged it down. Driving the thick heavy blade through the man's flack jacked into his back, five, six seven times until he stopped moving. But Rabbit was still writhing in agony. The weight on his legs was unbearable, but he hadn’t the strength to move the body.  There was shouting. Footsteps came towards him. Three more shapes loomed from the darkness into Rabbits slowly returning night vision. Rather then sheath his knife he left it in the back of the man across his legs as someone else’s blood started to ooze onto his crotch. He freed his right hand from under the body and drew his pistol from his favorite leather tank holster. With both his shaky hands, he aimed at the shapes as the got closer, and gently squeezed one-off. It was slow, he took his time with it. After he fired the world seemed to stop, he gently let his hands fall back down, recovering from the recoil, the three approaching figures had all stopped, and one fell. The other two suddenly opened fire, and the world seemed to move faster to make up for the moment of lost time.

       Both of the enemies fired, the ground around Rabbit seemed to explode, their bullets kicked up dirt and pine needles. He was hit again through the left bicep. Rabbit was already in so much agony he hardly noticed. Until he tried to fire again. His arm fell away no longer responding to his commands as he tried to extend them to fire again. Still, with his strong hand he leveled his handgun he fired at the nearest of the enemies. He squeezed off a half dozen rounds before his first target stopped. He swung around to bear down on the second. A bullet slapped against the combat vest of the dead man in Rabbit’s lap. Rabbit emptied the second half of his pistol’s magazine towards the muzzle flashes. They stopped. Rabbit dropped the empty mag, put the gun down on top of the dead soldier in his lap, painfully reached al the way over to his left hip, drew a fresh pistol mag from his belt, and slapped it into his upside-down handgun. Then using the webbing loops on the dead soldier's vest he hooked one over the rear sights and racked the slide with it, leveling his pistol again into the night.

       There was a pause, before the muzzle flashes returned. The last two of the assailants were together, one dragging the second. The second held his sub machine gun with shaky and bloody hands. He sprayed more bullets on full automatic. The pistol caliber rounds thudded into the tree trunk over Rabbit’s head. Then his combat vest caught one. The impact knocked the wind out of him, the pain and bruising on top of his already broken rib was extreme. His vision blurred and went out. A second-round glanced off the side of his helmet. His ears were ringing and the energy slapped his head onto the opposite shoulder. He shouted, but couldn’t hear himself in his small pain-filled world. He fired his pistol again and again. Squeezing out all twelve of the big slow rounds without being able to see through the pain.

       He hit slide lock and his muscle memory carried him through the motions, dropping the empty, his bloody and torn left arm was working again and he pulled his last spare magazine from its pouch despite the pain. His slow and unwieldy injured arm slapped the magazine into his wrist. Knocking the pistol from his good hand and magazine from his bad one. The pistol fell onto the back of the dead man in his lap, bounced off the hilt of his knife and fell between his feet on the other side of the body, too far for him to reach. The last magazine he had plopped into the mud next to him. The white burning pain started to recede. He felt as if he had no blood left to bleed. He must be going into shock because the pain went away and the cold was coming back again. The seeping tired cold, that came from within, oozed out of his own bones like fog rolling off a placid lake in the deep winter.

       He heard screaming, shouting. Shouting that wasn’t his. The last of his foes came thundering at him out of the blinding dark. His heavy boots stirring the pine needles as he skidded to a halt and stood over Rabbit. He looked down with such rage and hatred, he didn’t look like a man. But rather some feral animal, from a time before man had words and factions and relied on brute strength alone. The man lunged on to Rabbit and wrapped his thick gloved hands around Rabbit’s neck. Rabbit was chocking, coughing. His vision popped and bounced with colors, he pushed against the mad man's chest with his one good arm. His hand slipped off, snagged in his gear and empty mag pouches and fell between his enemies knees as he knelt on the body of his fallen comrade. Then Rabbit found the knife, still buried in the dead man's back. He drug it free of its meaty sheath. His vision was going out, the black night became true black. He drove the knife back down with the last flailing motion he could make. The blade connected with the mad stranglers' lower thigh. The man screamed and leapt back, his grip leaving Rabbits neck. Rabbit still clung to the knife, as his final weapon. Its eighteen centimetre tanto blade had a serrated spine and a broad shallow blood groove, which was now filled. As the attacker drew away, pulling against Rabbit and his blade, the tip drug along the bone in his leg, cutting through the muscle and tendon of his thigh. Rabbits arm still driving the blade down the point slipped in between the knuckle of the bone and the man's knee cap. The violent jerking action of the man leaping away tore his knee cap free. The blade slipped out leaving a twelve-centimetre gash down the length of his leg and had rent his knee cap the sinew that held it in place. The man fell down screaming and writhing now.

       There was only a meter or two separating the men, both mortally wounded, one screaming, the other sucking for air through his pained and raspy windpipe. Rabbit again drove the blade down into its meat sheath in his lap and stretched with his good arm under the body, reaching, struggling and finally dragging his rifle back out from under the body of the man on his legs. Still coughing and choking rabbit locked the wire frame folding butt stock into his armpit and held the trigger down, emptying the last of his rifles bullets into the last of his enemies. The man slumped back and stopped screaming and Rabbits kept shooting. By the time the bolt locked open on empty and the rifle fell to the ground on top of his dropped pistol magazine Rabbit was unconscious. He was out of blood to bleed.
       
       ...Continued...
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #10 on: 10 June 2020, 14:21:44 »
       ...Continued...
       Then it was too hot. Rabbit’s return to was slow, groggy and unwilling. He was too hot, there was a gentle heat radiating into his face, and a gentle nudge against the back of his head. Briefly, his eyes opened But then slammed shut again. The light was bright, white, and pure. Not a natural light but the stunning sterile lights of long humming glass tubes. His eyes were so dry that when he tried to open them again it felt like the top layer of them was being peeled off, still attached to the inside of his eyelids. Then there was a shadow that fell across his face. He opened his stinging eyes again. His eyes cringed, whimpered watered against the bright light.

       It took him a moment to process what he was looking at, it was deep and soft pleasing color, an off white, like the creamer the Sarge put in his coffee. It was warm and smelled heavenly. As if the angels themselves had come down and filled his nostrils with the wonderful scents of heaven. A faint glimpse to an olfactory world no man had ever known. Then he noticed Goose bumps as he exhaled. Goosebumps? Rabbit was staring down the deepest sweetest most epic cleavage he had ever seen.
Then his head dropped. Falling away from the canyon carved in heaven back onto a bleached white feather pillow, with a jolt of pain down his side. “He winced, shutting his eyes hard from the pain and the return of the bright lights. “ooohhhh…. ******.” Was all Rabbit could gasp out through his tortured vice box.

       The nurse who had been adjusting his pillow straightened sharply. She clapped her hands over her mouth and didn’t say a word for a long moment. Long enough for Rabbits tired eyes to get a look. He started at the top, She had curly hair, lots of it. It was poofy and full of bounce. It rolled down her shoulders in a broad waterfall. With rust-colored waters that were to light to be brunet and still far too dark to be blond. Not quite but almost red. Rabbit, being a soldier not an artist had no name for this color, but he liked it. She had a small rectangular scar on her forehead, just above the eyebrow. She wore glasses, thin wire-framed rectangular lenses and a soft fact, with gentle cheeks, Her chin wasn’t large or jutting but it was a firm, self-assured and unapologetic chin. Her shoulders were perhaps a little broader than most, but she was well equipped. Massively chested, even if she just wearing a normal nurses smock, and she smelled so good. Rabbit was in love. He tried to speak, but his voice gave out and he just croaked instead. She turned and left the room, he watched her wide hips as she left. He slowly lowered his head back to the pillow, defeated by her retreat. With nothing to feast his eyes on anymore, he closed them again.with out the nurse to distract him the pain returned in earnest. Everything seemed to hurt again.

       He didn’t know it but the doctor came back in and checked on him, but he was out again. Rabbit slept another thirteen hours before he awoke again. It was dark now. Only one set of lights was on above the doorway. He rolled his head around slowly, soaking in the room. It was a military hospital. No chairs or tables no accommodations for visitors, just three beds along one wall, and three beds along the opposite wall. Rabbit was against the wall farthest from the door, but in the bed closest to the door, the curtains on the other beds were al pulled back, they were all empty except for the one directly across from him. They were drawn, not completely closed, but the gap in them was only a few centimetres wide. Rabbits eyes couldn’t focus well enough to see through it, he flopped his head back down on his pillow and winced with immediate regret as his left side burned with pain, his rib still broken from the rocks.

       Rabbit tried to speak but couldn’t. His throat was so dry it hurt to try. No way to ask if there was anyone behind that curtain. He looked about and seeing controls in the railing around the bed slowly reached with his right arm, the left being bandaged and feeling fairly immobile. He hit the red rocker switch and slowly raised the bed, into a half-sitting position. The blankets covered his legs, but the bulges under them were huge and lacked definition, they had little shape. His legs must be heavily bandaged too. 
A needle fed into his left wrist, held in with tape as two bags of liquids dripped into him. He hoped they were packed with drugs, he had had enough pain for a lifetime or two. He reached over the rail to the table next to the bed and picked up the glass of water there. It felt heavier then he expected. His hand shook as he lifted it to his lips. But he drank it without spilling. It was room temperature but it was wet. He downed the glass without coming up for air. He set it down, it clacked loudly against the wooden table. The noise was sudden and violent in the quiet room. There was a jerking movement and a snort from behind the curtain.

       After a moment and the sound of bare feet on the tile floor the curtain opened. With a crutch under his left arm, his platoon’s medic hobbled out from behind the aqua-colored sheet. He stood there for a moment as they looked each other up and down. His left foot was wrapped up all the way up to the knee, and he held the leg very high and gingerly, certain not to hit it on anything. 

       The medic hobbled closer leaning onto the foot of Rabbits bed with his right arm, the left still holding the crutch. “Hoooleeeee chit, you are alive after all. You’ve been out for…. Going on four days now. You were in bad shape when they found you man. Surgeons had you under the knife for a long time. Your vitals had been kinda low, we didn’t know if you were ever going to wake up. They had you on a machine the first night. I convinced the Major to move me to this room with you so I could keep an eye on you. Some wanted to pull the plug that first night. But you were stronger in the morning and they said it was safe to pull you off life support anyway.” He had a slight drawl when he spoke, dragging the As out a little longer then they should of, made Rabbit think of wheat fields.

       Rabbit tried to speak again but still couldn’t his voice broke and the noise he made sounded like a frog strangling itself with its own tongue. The medic swayed for a second and then was steady again. “I’ve never seen anyone so banged up and live, that head injury alone should have killed you, much less the gunshots and broken ribs. We lost a lot of boys out there, I’m glad you weren’t one of them, I'm sure the others will be glad to hear your awake. But maybe that should wait until morning.”

       His head hung a little as he continued. Everyone that’s left is getting folded into 1st company. There weren’t enough men left to have 2nd or 3rd companies. Were going to get a whole bunch of new recruits. Neither of us will get to go with them again.” He paused and with a deep breath continued. “I’m being medically discharged. Mortar got the two smallest toes in my left foot and filled my leg with shrapnel. They had a bitch of a time getting it all out. They say I should walk fine, but with a limp, I won’t be able to run ever again. Who knows what they’ll do with you. Discharge you, slap a medal on you and make you give speeches, promote you. Who knows? He hobbled around the side of the bed to the table and picked up a piece of gray metal from behind the water pitcher. It was triangular and about the size of a coin. “This was inside your head. Life not just stuck in it, but all the way in there, in your brains and they pulled it out without killing you. Amazing what they can do these days. Shame the government wont pay to get  me a couple prosthetic toes though.”

        He turned the shrapnel, looking it over carefully in the dim light. He put It down on the table again and leaned on it instead of the bed now. Rabbit slowly reached up and felt the thick bandages and padding that wrapped around his head, over his ears just above the brow.

       Rabbit was finally able to speak, slowly and painfully “I wasn’t aware I had a head injury. I was wearing my helmet” The medic nodded and said, that’s probably what saved you. That thing went all the way through. Be glad the helmet slowed it down enough, otherwise the energy probably would have liquefied your brains. I bet it was hot two, there has to be some serious trauma in there. They're going to make you answer all kinds of questions. Tests galore too I bet.” He looked at Rabbit for a moment and then apologized “ I don’t mean to scare you, I'm sorry I was just saying. Glad to see you alive. I'll leave you alone to enjoy the irony of the medic getting medically discharged. We’ll have time to talk later.” He hobbled back to his bed and closed the curtain again. It creaked as his weight settle back onto the mattress.

       Rabbit slumped back against the pillow again and was silent. Now he was wondering, head injury? How bad was it? What the hell happened, when did he get shrapnel all the way through his helmet into his skull? Why didn’t he notice, did it happen after he passed out? A shadow fell over the window in the doorway. The night nurse. He still wanted to be alone with his thoughts, and closed his eyes again, he didn’t move. The light trickled in from the hall. The medic didn’t speak either and after a moment the door closed again. Which was good, Rabbit was starting a small grin, having fooled the nurse with his sleeping act, had she stayed too much longer he was sure she would have noticed. Moments later it wasn’t an act anymore as the drugs and the injuries pulled him back to sleep again.

       It was light when he woke. The medic was sitting on his bed across the room, reading a cheap paperback. Rabbit yawned audibly, enough to make the medic look up from his book. Before he could say anything the door opened and a doctor came in followed by the well-chested nurse.

       “Ah you’re awake. He told me you had woken up.” He gestured to the medic who grinned broadly and then picked u his crutch and hobbled out from the room. “I’ll give you some privacy.” Trailed back through the door as he left.

       The doctor lectured Rabbit on medical this and medical that and don’t do this and don’t strain and don’t move and don’t think. Don’t do anything because you were already on the brink of death. You think too hard and you could still die. Have you in here for weeks. Be observation for months, no strenuous activities. He droned on and on. Rabbit ended up looking past him to the nurse, and the curves her smock couldn’t hide. He was secretly thinking to himself, “damn I bet she has curves in places that some women don’t even have places.” 

       Eventually, Rabbit grunted a couple of times in response to his doctor’s orders. The doctor left and Rabbit was at peace again, the nurse lingered for a moment, looked as if she wanted to say something but never did and soon she left too.   

       A couple more minutes and the medic returned with his crutch. He hobbled back to his bed and sat on its edge. Rabbit spoke gently to him, his voice still pained. “Doc was all up in arms about stuff and not doing it. What happened? Was it all that bad? Where is McMaster?”

       The medic looked deflated. He didn’t answer for a long moment. “McMaster didn’t make it.” Rabbit’s eyes got really big. Before Rabbit could say anything, the medic continued. “We’re not sure what happened, Was crazy, we lost lots of men that night. That blasted battlemech killed, whipped out third company, every last man. Second company got the brunt of those mortars too. What was left of second company was pushed into third company to replace their casualties which were relatively light compared to the others. A few men lost to small arms. McMaster was part of the second company. But so where you, I’m sure you knew that. He was one of the first lost. You don’t remember that? He was hit by a mortar, lost both legs, bled out in the field You found him, you used his grenade launcher, you drug his body around. Or at least that’s the story someone told when you crawled into a shell crater with them over some rocks. How bad has that head wound affected your memmory?”

       Rabbit lay there motionless for a moment. “your lying.” The medic looked back, baffled. “I’m lying? How am I lying? It was captured on video. Couple of guys in every platoon were given helmet cameras. You should know that too. Two guys have it on video, you dragging him through the woods.”

       “He wasn’t dead. He saved me, I ran into him and he helped me up. He shot a man with his pistol when I got hit. He put the tourniquets on me. He hit me with the syringe. Then He left, said he was going to go help the others.”

       “Must be your head wound talking. You took his weapons, you shot his pistol, you used his grenade launcher. He was dead when you found him son.”

       The two of them sat in silence for a long moment. Rabbit finally broke the silence. “I still don’t believe you”. The Medic sighed and got up. Hobbled out of the room on his crutch. Rabbit Fell asleep again.

       He awoke, and the medic had returned, now with a small display. He sat solemnly next to Rabbit and played a recording. It was dark. The flares cast ghostly lights through the trees. Rabbit could see himself. Rifle over his shoulder, a big grenade launcher in one hand, dragging McMasters's body by the collar behind himself with the other. He came through the plant litter towards the cameraman. As he got closer he could see the blood running down his face, he was mumbling under his breath. Staggered past the camera and out of sight. The medic paused the recording The two sat there in silence for several moments and then without a word the medic got up and left again. Rabbit stayed put and did his best to sleep, and eye bang the nurse whenever she came around. He was trapped in that hospital bed with himself for a lot longer then he was comfortable with.
-Chace A. Randolph

ThePW

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #11 on: 10 June 2020, 23:34:10 »
This.... is different. WAY TF different. Continue!

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #12 on: 12 June 2020, 15:09:56 »
                                                                                                 Bring the pain
       This city was under siege. The enemy had closed in and the fighting was in the streets. The infantry, the tanks, the mechs, the helicopters and the jets. They fought for every street, for every building, for every floor, for every room. But the battle had come swiftly and with no warning. An unintentional clash as the Kathrine's and the loyalist forces tried to out maneuver each other. The city was still full of civilians, they had no warning, no call to evacuate. Many managed to escape. Many did not. The casualties on both sides were massive, the casualties’ military or not, were mounting alarmingly fast.

      The enemy controlled the air, not from superiority in the air, but overwhelming firepower on the ground. Batteries of LRM’s and Arrow IV missiles were keeping all friendly aircraft away. The forces on the ground had fought each other to a standstill. They were almost evenly matched, and both sides wanted to minimize damage to the city. Reinforcements were on their way, but not in significant numbers, and both sides were getting them. The tables had to be turned, and they had to be turned soon. Before the grinding treads and stomping feet of both sides war machines ground the pavement and concrete back into the dust it was forged from. This was the largest settlement for many miles in many directions. It was a significant cross roads that both Steiner and Davion's forces wanted to control.

       Rabbit was the secret weapon to turn the tide. Without Spaceman he was but one lonely man, but he was one of many and never without comrades. He was getting inserted with the gentle trickle or informants. The 3rd Heavy Cavalry battalion had just discovered their second riflemen of the second squad of the seventh platoon was epileptic and he was medically discharged. Rabbit was to be his replacement as that particular platoon rolled into the city. He was a replacement only until a real replacement was found. His expertise was to be the spearhead for their mission.

       Some bean counter buried in a bunker who hadn’t seen the light of the sun in days, who was Rabbit’s “handler” had concocted this plan. To cut the head off the snake. To destroy the enemy's communications and eyes in the field. So that the air power could be brought in and turn the tide. Hoping that without the communications and spotters the anti-aircraft weapons and such wouldn’t be able to rear their ugly head anymore. So Rabbit and this platoon of troopers were going to rush in, riding in the guts of some hover A.P.C. jump out, run down a couple of side streets scale a building that was nearly as tall as the building that the enemies lookout post sat on top of. Then between Rabbit’s sniper rifle and the small mortars the men were going to pack in with them. They would eliminate the enemy, radios, R.A.D.A.R, maps, binoculars, scanners, jammers, tables, umbrellas, ashtrays and lawn chairs on the roof of the target building.

      The hard part was getting close enough fast enough to set up, fire and do damage before they themselves were killed. They didn’t even have an ex-filtration plan. The battle was so fierce that the value of every vehicle had been weighted. So after they were dropped off their A.P.C. would be leaving just as fast.
 
       Speed being of the essence Rabbit had to pack light. He didn’t know any of the men either though, he didn’t know any of their names, he could identify them only by their rank insignia and which squad the stood in line with, he doubted they would try too hard to keep him alive. He was just a replacement and only a temporary one at that. Rabbit wore a lightweight helmet, almost like a sports helmet, it was not ballistically resistant. He did wear his vest and plate carrier and favorite boots, and the pants he had added the pockets too. He wore a slim backpack with a large water bladder and a small med kit. He had his Sniper rifle and several magazines in pouches on his gut. His rifle of choice was not a huge rifle, nor a small one, but of intermediate weight and caliber with moderate optics. He had his knife and his sidearm. Also with several magazines of ammunition. He had gotten his hands on a rare select-fire version of the standard sidearm too. He had several large “stick” magazines to feed it with. But that was all he carried, no food, no grenades, no explosives, tripwires, garrotes, or any other devices of mischief like he normally had.

       So there he stood, packed in the fighting bay of this A.P.C. as it flew along close to 90 miles per hour and riding on a two-foot cushion of air. Packing in with twenty-seven other troopers and the three crewmen of the A.P.C. They looked at him with silent sideways glances. He stared straight to the door ahead of them. A big loading ramp out the front of the vehicle, forcing the A.P.C.s entire weapon compliment a machine gun, a medium laser and S.R.M. 6 pack into the turret over their heads. It was dark, and despite their speed, stuffy. The ride was fairly smooth, but the stench. The Stench of men, of war. Of sweat, of urine, of the bloodstains on the grated floor. Of hot metal and spent gun powder. The smell of pain. He wished he had eaten a larger lunch. He was already hungry and the fight had not yet begun. They were inbound. A digital clock on the bulkhead above the loading ramp had a counter. Counting down, 4 minutes 32 seconds until offload.

       He stood with his left fist over his head, clenching the canvas grab handle. His right holding the sling of his rifle under tension as it stuck straight up over his right shoulder. His special sidearm in a tank holster on his chest. With a standard-sized flush-fitting mag loaded and the chamber filled, set on full auto. The stick mags were still sheathed in pouches on his thighs, too cumbersome to have loaded inside these cramped compartments. The air was so still and warm, and the smell so strong he almost felt like he would choke as he drew each breath. The men continued to stand and stare in relative silence. Some muttered to themselves, some held books of religion, or clung to pictures of mothers, brothers, wives, or even man’s best friend. The clock was down to twenty seconds. The vehicle stopped, the earbuds he wore for his radio began to emit a gentle crackle and hum, it wasn’t a problem, yet. But it was constant, and his instincts told him it would become one.

       All at once the front half of the skirt deflated, the ramp dropped and the compartment was flooded with light and dusty air. He was blinded, but the crush of bodies drug him forward. In thirty seconds almost as many bodies were vomited from the front of the vehicle. The crew was definitely in a hurry. The last man out had to jump three feet to the ground as the loading ramp was already closing and the skirt reinflating. Rabbit un-slung his rifle and followed half the platoon (first and second squads, or first “stick”) to the left side of the street where the huddled in the shadows of the buildings around them. It was a steel and concrete forest. All the buildings were ten to thirty stories tall. The third and fourth squads ( second “stick” ) were on the opposite side of the street.

       The men were still silent, they spoke with hand signals, the silence in the street was almost deafening. The only noises were distant gunfire and rumbling. The sun was near noon, and was starting to creep onto the streets from their left, so while Rabbit and first stick were in the shadows of the buildings, second stick, sixty feet away were in the sunlight as they crouched on the sidewalk and readied their weapons. Hunkering down as close to the ground as they could get without actually lying upon the sidewalks. The streets were devoid of life.

       One overturned station wagon was further down the street but other than that, hardly a trash can occupied this artificial valley. The squad leaders waved fists and hands and fingers to each other as they communicated. After a long minute of worrisome and exposed silence. Second and fourth squads rose up and ran full tilt fifty yards down the street and took cover where they could. Behind a fire hydrant, on the step of a bakeries’ doorway or in Rabbits case, behind a blue mailbox, on his side, so he could see down the street beneath it. First and third squads swept both directions down the street and along the rooftops and windows with their weapons. Bounding. As the first pair of squads settled into their positions, Rabbit was secretly relieved to not be sitting on the balls of his feet. The straps of his knee pads would cut off the circulation to his feet when he did, and feet full of pins and needles were not good for running on. The streets were still silent. The other half of the platoon stood and was now running down the street to catch up. The breeze was funneled between the buildings down onto Rabbit’s face and cooled him, he was comfy. For a moment he relaxed. Closed his eyes as he lay on the ground behind a mailbox in a city full of men who wanted to kill him as he traveled with more men who he didn’t know the name of. His breathing slowed, his mind eased. He felt it would be okay. The footsteps of the other men came up to him, past him and moved on down the street. He could feel their footsteps through the concrete. The sound stopped as the men took cover at the next position further down the street.  But the gentle sensations he was getting through the ground didn’t stop. At first, he didn’t notice, and then when he did it didn’t mean anything to him. But then, as his squad mates stood up to bound further down the street it suddenly did mean something to him.

       He stood up too, quickly. In hindsight, he wasn’t even sure how he did it was so fast. But as he came to his feet his voice, cracking with fear shattered the silence in the streets. The men turned to look at him in anger as he broke the unspoken vigil, but their anger turned to fear as the two words he shouted sunk in. “BATTLE MECH!”
There was a gently terrifying moment of reverent silence as the men contemplated their fate and their options. This silence was broke and the platoon leader from the squad fifty yards ahead of him confirmed his fearful suspicion. He too was shouting now. “GET TO COVER!”

       Rabbit leapt across the sidewalk into the doorway of the bakery they were next to. Body slamming the man in the doorway into the door. The force of the colliding man and metal knocked the deadbolt from the door frame and the latch sprung open. The trooper, who had a submachine gun and five shells for their stick’s field mortar in his pack fell into the room. All of Rabbit’s kinetic energy transferred to him. This left Rabbit standing in the doorway as a shadow swallowed the intersection at the end of the street.

       A stork legged Locust appeared. It turned and trampled the overturned station wagon as it came down their street. It spotted the second stick as they were in the sunlight. The stubby arms on either side of its wedge-shaped torso swung over and burped fire and thunder as its dual machine guns rained death on the poor souls on the right side of the street. Rabbit re-slung his rifle and reached out with both hands grabbing the shoulder straps on the vests of the two nearest men.

       He leaned back through the doorway dragging the two men with him. Intentionally falling, using his weight to drag them in. Four men inside the bakery now.
The pulsing and overlapping thunder of the massive mech’s rapid-fire guns drove Rabbit to his knees, hands over his ears, the glass in the windows in front of him jumped and vibrated as the shock waves of sound rolled down the street, channeled by the buildings. More Men came through the open door way. The stinger turret under the locust’s chin swung ‘round as it targeted the other half of the platoon in the shadow side of the street. Six men inside the bakery.

       Rabbit could see across the street, second stick had ceased to be. The men were all dead or dying, mortally wounded, gutted, dismembered and evaporated as the high-velocity shells made good religious folks out of the entirety of second stick, and the sidewalk and the buildings next to them. The last man of second squad came through the door. Seven men inside.

       The locust medium laser went off. The whole street flashed green for a second as the high powered beam weapon cooked off. It carved a scar into the face of Rabbit’s building. The metal of the door frame glowed red hot as it was cut in two. The wood door shattered and blasted burning embers into the room and the street as the glues and saps holding it together flash boiled. The beam swept through the room. The Glass windows in the front shattered from temperature shock. As the pure heat passed through them The last man who had just passed thought the door was hit. His head and shoulders disappeared as the heat vaporized them. He never screamed, he never felt it. He just toppled to the floor. His forearms no longer attached flopped beneath the abdomen and legs of the body as they still clutched his rifle that clattered to the floor. The brilliant green light dazzled Rabbit's eyes. He could see stars, his vision was swimming. The heat and dryness in the room were intense, it made it hard to breathe, like sucking in the air from an open oven door. What was worse than the heat was the smell. There was no blood, but there were smells. The sweet smell of the charred human flesh as the body had been melted apart and cauterized. The burnt hair, and the uniform. The Ozone from the evaporated air. The room seemed to suck air in form outside through the freshly opened windows to replace the heat vacuum inside. Rabbit’s hair was singed. All the hairs burned off his arms. Had he not knelt to cover his ears from the noise of the huge machine guns, he too would be dead. But the guns kept blasting. Six men inside.

       Rabbit stifled his gag reflex as he rolled the body onto its back. He grabbed the barrel of the assault rifle and shook the still clinging arms from it. Then he pulled the six magazines from the victim's remains of a combat vest and stuffed them into the pockets of his cargo pants. Then guns keep firing as they sweep across the street. The big rounds punching through the pavement. As they walked across the 5 lanes. Then they met Rabbit’s bakery. The heavy lead slugs punched through the bricks and mortar and drywall, and presumably the last of the platoon still outside. There was a brief moment when the silence had again sunk down over the streets. Just long enough for the gunfire to stop echoing.

       But then the heavy 20 ton footsteps started again. Rabbit with his new rifle and ammunition turned and fled up the stairs to the second floor. He shouted and the other survivors followed after him. They kept making their way up the building. Their winded footsteps echoed loudly on the stairs. And then the laser returned. A bright green bolt stabbed its way through the building, in one side and clear out the other. Cutting the handrail of the stairs on the second floor below them. Rabbit and the men paused and looked at the trenched burned through the metal and brick. And silently as one, they redoubled their efforts to climb the stairs. The passed through the third and fourth floors and came to a sweating panting halt on the fifth floor. Their gear felt exceedingly heavy. But now they were above the mech. It couldn’t tilt its stinger turret up this high. No laser would chase them. They sat, sweating and panting. One of the soldiers trained his rifle down the stairway they had just climbed. Rabbit and the trooper with the mortar shells crawled on their hands and knees to the window on the landing and peeked their noses over the window seal. The Locust was still there in the street, standing. Gently swinging from side to side, surveying the wreckage. Presumably checking the mangled remains of men for possible survivors. Rabbit’s sweat was suddenly very cold as he watched the colossal gray machine stand there. He gently motioned with his hands that they kept climbing. Now with his new rifle shouldered he and the mortar shell laden trooper led the slow deliberate march up the stairs. Followed by the others who were two more riflemen, the squad machine gun and his loader.

       In all the six of them had three assault rifles, two sub-machine guns and a light machine gun. They went all the way to the roof, and crept through the air-conditioning units and clotheslines to the edge. Where they sat fifteen stories off the ground, only the tops of their heads above the ledge as they scanned the adjacent rooftops. After a moment when they decided it was clear Rabbit and one of the other riflemen stood and looked over the edge. The Locust was still down there. It had turned around and moved a dozen paces or so further up the street back the way it had come. It stood un-moving though. As if contemplating the fate of the overturned and now trampled station wagon near the intersection. The torso turned slowly to the left. Rabbit and the others dropped down again behind the ledge. In terror. Their sweat became ice as they waited in silence for bullets, lasers and death to fly. But it never did, after a brief moment the mech’s footsteps could be heard. The troopers slowly stood to watch the terrible death machine disappear around the corner, back the way it had come.

       The silence returned, descending over the city like a blanket of pain. For a moment the men sighed in relief and their shoulders drooped. But then what had happened sunk in. percolating through the mind into the soul. Rabbit was on a knee, assault rifle slung and sniper rifle at his shoulder, his optic on the lowest magnification setting as he looked across the rooftops down the street. They were blocks away from where they were supposed to be. He could see the building they were supposed to be in, and adjacent to it, across the intersection from it, he could see the target too. Several large dish and mast antennas were up there. He increased the magnification and could see the shapes of a dozen men in chairs or strolling about on the roof. The building was a story or two taller than theirs though, he might get one or two of them, but he didn’t have a good shot. His figuring was interrupted as the other troopers behind him started whimpering.

       “We’re dead, we are so dead. That thing just killed everyone. The whole platoon is wiped out. We are way the hell out here. We have no ride out, we can’t get to our target. We’re stranded, we’re all going to die.”

       Rabbit turned on them. His face angry, which was rare for him. “We are not dead. We just ran up a whole bunch of stairs, faced down a battle mech and lived. I can feel my pulse in my neck!” he said jabbing his left index finger into the side of his neck. He duck walked over to them, where the men sat on their asses like defeated little kids. “ We never had a plan to get out anyway. We are going to go back down there, pick up those mortar tubes and drag them back up here, and shell the hell out of that rooftop.” He pointed back behind him, over his shoulder without turning his head to look, in the general direction of the target. “For now we have the element of surprise. They think we’re all dead, and the laundry is still on the line. It will hide us from their eyes long enough for us to set up and get the first shots off. You guys know how to use those things don’t you?” the man with the backpack full of 50mm shells nodded his head slowly. “ Then we’re going to take this opportunity to finish the mission. Because we are not dead. They are, but we are not. Let’s not have their loss be in vain. How many will we save if we can take out this observation post? Cut the head off this snake?” he looked at each man in the face, stared them down. Dared them to disagree, to challenge him. He worked alone too often now, he was tired of sitting in the bushes looking at things he couldn’t kill or destroy because he was just one man. Now there were six of them, by golly they were going to get something done. Without another word he stood and walked to the stairs, head up shoulders square. His mind made up. He was going to walk down there and come back with a mortar even if these troopers folded up like lawn chairs and didn’t help him. Too much was at stake here for him not to try. The footsteps echoed behind him in the stairwell as they headed back down to the street and the carnage. All six pairs of them.

       They returned to street level but stayed inside. Looking both ways up and down the street, listening to the silence as nothing more than littler stirred by the wind occupied the streets. The only noise was the gentle constant hum of the enemy’s white noise radio waves being blasted in to air through Rabbit's earbuds. He removed them, letting them dangle from the collar of his shirt onto his combat vest. It was really quiet, and that still bothered Rabbit, but they needed those mortars. He and the riflemen moved out, the belt-fed machine gun and its handler set up in the shop windows. They went 50 yards up the street to the remains of first squad since they were closest and least mangled. Even so, the bodies were so disfigured that the mess of shattered limbs and scattered gear made it impossible to tell what equipment or appendage belonged to which trooper. The riflemen with Rabbit were gagging and crying. Covering their mouths as they approached the horror. They did recover the mortar tube and base plate after much disgust, revolt and remorse. They went back inside with their prize. They had to take a moment to collect their bearings. One of the men vomited behind the counter of the bakery. Rabbit's vision was swimming and he felt hot. You never got used to those kinds of gruesome sights. The blood had run so thick it had leaked from the shattered sidewalk into the storm drain and filled the gutters. The smell of the blood was overpowering. The air near the mess was warm from so much shattered flesh exposed to the elements, from those seven men who had been packed together so closely.

       After ten minutes leaning on the wall and breathing heavy Rabbits gut began to feel normal again. His mouth was dry and swallowing was painful, but he looked up to the other men in the room and said. “We’re half done. We at least need to go get the other shells from fourth squad, and the second tube from third squad wouldn’t hurt either. If we don’t do it now, we never will. And then our mission will fail. Their deaths will have been in vain. Let’s go get those weapons, and rain revenge on these dick maggots.”

       The trooper who had vomited shook his head, he wasn’t going, but fortunately, he was in the back of the room, and the other two riflemen didn’t see him disagree, their eyes hardened a little and they stepped forward. Rabbit took the que and again passed through the bakery's shattered doorway. Two sets of boots followed him onto the sidewalk and across the pavement. When they reached the smeared paste that was the remains of the other half of the platoon the two riflemen broke. One stood on the curb, his shadow stretching over the puddles of flesh, his clenched fists shaking with rage. The other had dropped to his knees a couple paces out into the street and sat there, his helmeted head in his hands. Crying like a baby the saliva and snot ran together stringing from his face onto his uniform and combat vest.

       Rabbit figured he wasn’t going to get any more help from them and choked down his gag reflex as he scanned the shattered and pulverized bodies, buildings and sidewalk. This concrete would never be its natural color again, the parts that hadn’t been cracked and split by the many rounds would be a dark blackish-red color. They would stand as a reminder that these men had been here, that they had died here. Rabbit just hoped he could make sure those deaths hadn’t been in vain. Ten feet to his left he saw the stained mouth of a mortar tube protruding from a mound of red flesh garnished with olive drab rags. He went to it, stooped, pulled it free and shook it off. Then gingerly holding it with one hand took it to the man who stood shaking in rage.

        His eyes didn’t move, he didn’t speak, he didn’t even know Rabbit was standing in front of him. Until Rabbit spoke. “What greater irony would there be then to avenge these men by killing their enemies with weapons still coated with the souls of the fallen?” A single tear fell from the man’s cheek as he reached and clasped the warm and slimy mortar tube, firmly, with both hands. His eyes lifted and met Rabbits. “It would be an honor to be the avenger.”

       Rabbit returned to the mound of flesh and metal. Again he stood looking with barely contained revulsion and horror at the mess, trying to decide what was man and what was machine. He found another olive drab backpack with mortar shells in it, just like one of his fellow survivor was carrying, he lifted it by a single strap and held it at arm’s length as it dripped, he stood cringing at it for a moment before a sudden blasting of dust came whirling down the road, and the silence was broken with an awful screeching whirring racket that appeared without warning. The noise subsided, it didn’t stop, but it lessened and the dust settled. There at the end of the road, was a Saxon A.P.C. with nothing between Rabbit and it but the crushed and overturned station wagon. Its loading ramp clanged loudly against the pavement as the troopers and their boots within it began pouring out the back.

       Rabbit stood for another moment, watching, the only thought in his head was “that’s bad”. A fly already buzzing around the paste on the shattered sidewalk landed on his arm and snapped him back to the moment and he realized he was still in the street. He took off back to the shelter of the bakery at a full run. His heart pounding and lungs burning from the sudden demand for oxygen. The blood-soaked shell laden pack trailing behind him as he pumped the air with his free arm and let both the rifles he carried flop over his shoulders on their respective slings.

       He passed through the threshold of the bakery as the Saxons gunner spotted him. A short burst from the machine gun slapped through the walls of the building and shattered glassware and the cash register inside. Rabbit shouted at the men, “BACK UP THE STAIRS!”

...Continued...
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #13 on: 12 June 2020, 15:13:53 »
                                                ...Continued...

       If that Saxon had seen them, then the platoon of men it had just crapped onto the pavement knew about Rabbit and the other survivors too. Carrying to much weight with two rifles, lots of ammo and a half dozen 50mm mortar round Rabbits legs strained and his lungs burned as he pumped up fifteen flights of stairs along with the other men. His vision got gray and began to shrink in on him. His sweat felt burning hot on his skin, but the air moving over him felt arctic cold. His legs shook and ached. He panted and wheezed, gasped, and spat out his saliva rather than waste a chance to breath and swallow it.

       Rabbit was Last to make it to the top, he flopped over the lip of the stairs onto the roof, letting the bag of shells slide across the roof tiles in front of him. The light machine gun and the two-man crew set up their weapon in the doorway. Rabbit lay there Gasping, his ears were ringing terribly as the world closed in around him, shrinking into blackness and silence. His heaving ribs worked to make room for his expanding lungs as they worked to re oxygenate his blood, after a moment he sat up, still panting but his vision and hearing were returning. He felt as if he had made that journey on adrenaline alone. He gestured to the base plate and bloody mortar tube, then to the man who carried the first pack full of mortar shells, and the second messy pack he retrieved. Then in-between gasps spoke with a now broken and raspy voice as so much air passing through his mouth had sucked the moisture from his voice, his tongue felt thick and heavy as he tried to speak, on the third try he was able to gasp out “fire. That. thing.”

       The trooper with his SMG in hand nodded sagely. The irony of  using the bloody mortar tube and shells to kill the enemy who had shed the blood was not lost on him as he set about deploying the weapon. After a moment Rabbit stood and came to his aid, pulling a laminated paper map from inside his shirt and showing the man on the grid where he wanted those rounds placed. Then he retrieved the messy pack of rounds and gently laid them out in a row next to the erected tube. The blood and gore had soaked through the canvas bag, and now even the mortar rounds were red and slippery. They had ten shots and two tubes, but only one base plate. The other four men crowded around the Light machine gun and the open door to the stairs they had come up.

       They were trapped on the roof now. A whole platoon of enemy soldiers armed with who knows what had occupied an unknown number of the lower floors in the building. All they could do were fire those shells and hope to take out their target.  Their radios were being jammed to, no help could come if they couldn’t call for it. Rabbit went to the ledge, and flipped down the bi-pod for his rifle, steadying it on the cold metal and concrete. Advancing the zoom on his optic to the maximum setting. He shouted over his shoulder back to the man on the mortar. “Send when ready” Rabbit focused back down his scope and held a couple of mill dots high over the small dot of a man standing on a balcony of the target building, a cup of coffee in one hand, binoculars casually held to his face with the other.  Rabbit exhaled slowly. Emptying his lungs entirely. His body and his heart rate really didn’t like that. He would be surprised if he made this shot at all, he could feel his pulse in his fingertip as the trigger pressed into the pad of it. There was an iconic thump as the first round was dropped into the tube and then left if post haste. The noise surprised him and he jerked, but Rabbit was able to require his target and fire. His round did make a hit. Shattering the cup of coffee in the man’s left had showered him in the hot brew, then unfazed continued to blow apart his hand and travel down the length of his forearm and exit his elbow, leaving the victim's left arm in bony tatters. The timing could have not been more perfect. The spilled coffee hadn’t hit the floor of the balcony around the man's feet yet when the first mortar shell whistled down and exploded on the roof of the target building.

       The explosion knocked a man out of his chair, destroyed a table full of radio equipment, and broke the cable holding down the large antenna they had set up. The other two cables now pulled the antenna the other way and it crashed down to the roof. Rabbits head lifted from his optic, and he turned back to the man on the mortar. “Fire at will” The trooper stood clutching a 50mm round in each hand, and the deepest most deranged and evil grin spread across his face as the sound of the explosion reached their ears over the still echoing rifle shot Rabbit had released. The trooper only nodded as he manically grinned with all his yellow tobacco-stained teeth.  Rabbit slightly unnerved turned back to his rifle and cycled the bolt, ejecting a single brass casing that bounced on the railing before dropping off the other side ad plummeting to the street filled with death and broken glass and blood and split concrete below.

       The mortar thumped again and again. Rabbit fired a second shot, striking the man on the balcony in the gut as he sat on his knees screaming at his bloody stump. He slumped backwards onto his back and gently writhed in agony. Rabbit grimly wished all the suffering he could upon the fellow for all the lives he had just helped take. He cycled his bolt, the second and third mortar shells exploded on the roof. Blasting an umbrella-shaded table laden with refreshments and two low ranking note-taking radio operators that were making for the doorway back inside. Rabbit adjusted his aim higher and struck the shoulder of an officer who was valiantly standing atop a folding table and shouting, waving his arms about.

       He spun violently and slipped off the table. Rabbit cycled his bolt. Two officers with wide-brimmed campaign hats came to his aid as the fourth shell struck the roof and evaporated all three of the men, and the table and blasted the stacks of papers on the surrounding tables into confetti with the shock wave. The Light machine gun in the stairway behind Rabbit and the mad mortar firing trooper let our a long burst. Rabbit turned back to look. The other troopers were also firing now, their weapons on semi-automatic as the let out short hammering double taps. Rabbit gently consoled himself that at least these men had good fire discipline. He told the other man to keep firing the mortar and left his sniper rifle on the roof’s ledge where it was.

       He joined the other four in the doorway, his rifle also set to semi-automatic. The sharp pressure waves pushed his eyes back into his head and sucked all the sound out of the world as each round went off. Echoing down the stairway. There were bodies on the landing. Three had fallen prey to the opening burst, but there was at least twenty more behind them. Still, they were outnumbered four to one. The other five mortar shells rained down on the roof blasting the remaining equipment and two more men to a useless pulp, the last round punched through the weekend roof and detonated inside the building. Blowing out the windows of a room in one of the building's corners. The shattered glass drifted down to the street below and caught the light, flashing like the glitter of war as it went. Their target was eliminated. Rabbit waved the trooper over, who took his place leaning against the door frame.

       Rabbit went back to his sniper rifle and surveyed the damaged through his scope, noting the blown-out windows on the top floor, the roof being devoid of life, and the ruined equipment everywhere. He considered that a target destroyed. It would be some time before they could replace that radio equipment. Hours at least. This was their chance. He pulled his rifle down with him off the railing and sat with his back against it. He changed channels on his radio and began spouting call signs and jargon asking for clearance to send traffic. He checked the chambers of both rifles while he waited for a response. It didn’t come. At least now his signal could get through though,the gentle hum of the white noise jamming was gone.

       He repeated his previous statement. This time someone answered. This time he was answered by a high and whiny voice. Someone who probably had a bowl hair cut in grade school wore glasses and lived in their mother’s basement before they were drafted. “You don’t have clearance to be on this channel, you need to change frequencies. This is for restricted military radio traffic of high priority only”

       He paused for a moment, taken aback. More shooting echoed from the stairway. His blood boiled, rushing up the back of his neck into his ears as his temper flared. He shouted back to this lowly boy hidden safely somewhere in a dark room, who probably hasn’t held a rifle since basic. “ I am the Rabbit, men have died here. I need to talk to my handler now. Or else more men, myself included will die and a tactical opportunity will be lost.” He continued with some passphrase he had been told one. And then held the transmit key as the light machine gun fired another long burst in the background.  The operator at the other end stammered and stumbled over his words as he asked Rabbit, In a much more polite tone to wait. Rabbit was partially pleased, because “that’s more like it” but also infuriated, he didn’t have time to wait, the enemy was on their stairs, at least it was an improvement of some kind.

       There was a long two minutes. With more gunfire from the stairwell. A hand grenade bounced off the railing to them. One of the men booted it back down the stairs like a hacky-sack and they all flopped on their bellies with their hands over their ears. Rabbit clasped the flats of his palms over his ears too. He felt the thump and the shock wave. Like the roof of the building below him was jumping. There was shouting below. Rabbit jumped to his feet, mic in one hand, bolt action in the other, stock tucked into his armpit he leapt forward to his men. His assault rifle flopped in its sling as he ran. Dust and smoke were coming out of the doorway, and so was the enemy. From this short distance, of three or four yards, Rabbit discharged his sniper rifle from the hip. The round clanged off the assailant's helmet. The noise, shock and impact staggered the man. He took a step back and sat down hard. Bumping into the man behind him on the stairs.

       He took his hand from the grip of his rifle and as it fell caught it by the bolt and let the weight of the falling rifle, open the bolt and eject the spent case. (yes Rabbit practiced this) now his hand continued down with the rifle and drove the bolt back forward, he kicked his right leg out into an odd half-crouch and caught the rifle with it and locked the bolt shut again. Then slid his hand up from the rifle along his leg to the sidearm in its tank holster. He used his now coiled left leg to push off, and pivoted on his lock kneed right leg, making an extremely awkward hop to his right as both his rifles clattered, his left held still held his hand mic and his right hand leveled his sidearm, he flipped the selector from full to semi-auto as he drew and proceeded to manually empty the magazine. Pumping all 21 of the high-velocity 8x21mm rounds into the open doorway.

       This killed both the men in the lead position, occupying the doorway's threshold. The one who took the ricochet to the helmet caught three rounds with his vest, one with his left shoulder, one with his neck and a fifth with his left testicle. The round in his neck shattered his vertebra and filled his spinal column with bone fragments. He was paralyzed from the neck down, drowning in his own blood and in lots of pain. The Second man was not so lucky. He got a round in the right knee, left thigh four in the vest, one shattered the receiver of his carbine one in each bicep and one through his ear. The last six rounds missed entirely and ricocheted around in the stairwell without doing further harm. The one through his left thigh broke the artery, the man fell back into the stairwell with all four limbs immobilized bleeding readily and with a free ear piercing.
By now his comrades were starting to stir, recovering from the shock and hearing loss of the hand grenade. Rabbit dropped the empty magazine from his pistol and re holstered it. Then he lifted the sniper rifle back up and locked the stock into his armpit. His muscle memory forgetting that he had an assault rifle. The two troopers with rifles now had their weapons on full auto and charged through the gap, shouldering into each other in the doorway, emptying their magazines onto the crowded cement staircase below. They felled another six foes. With eleven enemies down the remaining two-thirds of the enemy, platoon retreated back down the stairs to the previous landing. The loader for the LMG stood, dizzy and stumbled, fell to his knee and began shouting at everyone. He was bleeding from both ears. The concussion wave had ruptured his eardrums because he was closest to the doorway when it went off. Rabbit shouldered his rifle properly and reloaded his pistol with one of the big stick magazines now. The machine gunner consoled his loaded, the trooper who had fired the mortar swept the stairway with his sub-machine gun and the two riflemen reloaded their guns.

       Rabbit noticed the crackling on his handset as the ringing in his ears subsided. It was is “handler” his shoulders relaxed, he finally was making some headway. He fed the man the low down. “We were ambushed on our way to the strike zone by a locust mech, three-quarters of the platoon was killed before we could return a shot. The survivors and I made it into a building and recovered the mortars. We have shelled and destroyed the target, Repeat target destroyed. We are besieged on the rooftop of that building and are facing an opposing infantry force who outnumbers us approximately three to one. While the enemy observation post is down and they are still ins shock and disarray we need air support. Repeat we need air support now Send me ground pounders with iron bombs I have a mech and a Saxon A.P.C. that need killing and a helicopter to get us off this rooftop while there are still men to be extracted before we end up as red paste-like the rest of the platoon. Repeat sir, bring the pain!” 

       His reply was all he wanted to hear. “That’s a solid positive we have a half dozen helicopters and a squadron of fast movers ready to launch. Just tell me where to send them, and they will rain the pain. I’ll have to see if I can find you a transport chopper and get you and those men off that roof. The command is being sent, the jets will be air born there in less than ten minutes, choppers in fifteen. You'll have to mark your location with flares so we can identify you. I'll make sure you have radio clearance to talk to them and you can call targets as you see them.”

        “I just hope we live that long sir.”

       “Me too son, me too” The line went dead, and Rabbit looked to his men. 
The machine gun was set back up and the riflemen had helped the unbalanced loader to shelter behind an A/C unit. The mortar operator came to Rabbit and asked for the “down and dirty low down”

       “Well…  We’ve done our job, the target is destroyed and the call has been made. Air power is inbound. Fast movers and attack helicopters. But no transports, we don’t have a ride out of here. We’re one our own still.”

     ...Continued...
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #14 on: 12 June 2020, 15:15:20 »
         ...Continued...


       The trooper cursed and shook his fists. The men huddled in silence around the doorway, contemplating their fate. Looking for a way out. They didn’t have rappelling equipment, or zip lines or parachutes or anything. The only way out was down, back the way they had come, through the enemy. They were conferring, tossing ideas around debating on the safest way to get down the staircase.

       Then the roof exploded behind them. The deaf trooper was closest to the blast. There wasn’t much left of him, only the meat and flesh inside his combat vest remained. The metal sheeting of the roof heaved upwards and outwards as the steel girders and beams pushed upwards through it, dust and insulation and sheet rock followed, making a great white cloud of debris in the air, from a distance it looked like the frosted top of a muffin sitting on the roof of the building before the gentle breeze cleared it away. One of the roofing tiles was thrown like a square discuss and decapitated one of the riflemen next to Rabbit. The rest of them were thrown to the deck by the shock wave. Except for Rabbit who fell backwards into the stairwell, down the stairs and onto the bodies of their fallen foes. His plastic and foam sports helmet saved him as his head smashed against the railing. Splitting the side of the plastic shell, deforming the helmet. Ringing the bells in his head pretty good.

        He stood, shook his head, dazed and he wrestled with the chin strap before dislodging and tossing the shattered helmet down the stairwell. Then he heard shouting and thundering foot steps. There was a half dozen of the enemy troopers on the landing below him, rushing up the stairs, trying to take advantage of the explosion, which also must have been their doing. Rabbit leveled his sniper rifle over the railing, this time with both hands and fired into the top of a man’s helmet not ten feet below him. The muzzle blast and shock wave pushed down the stairwell. Was a tangible blast to the approaching soldiers below. This more perpendicular angle let the round punch through the helmet, the man wasn’t saved by it this time. Went straight down through his skull, and neck, vaporizing his brain, blowing out his tongue and cutting his larynx before passing through the chest cavity, left lung, stomach, and guts before coming to a stop against the inside of the man’s pelvis. His game was over, he went stiff as a board and then leaned to his left, falling over the railing, and tumbling through the empty stairwell 14 stories down. The enemy shocked by this preemptive attack all looked up. Rabbit had already drawn his machine pistol, and this time, he held the trigger down and emptied all 36 rounds of the high-velocity 8x21 down the stairs at his foes. The enemies wounds were numerous as they were still tightly packed on the stairs, as the slide lock activated and caught the little cycling chunk of blued steel, Rabbit dropped the empty mag over the side of the railing, slapped in a second and did it again, hammering the bodies, with another salvo for good measure.

       As he reloaded again glaring at the bodies, now motionless he heard shooting outside. Now he holstered his pistol, cycled the bolt on his sniper rifle and returned up the stairs. His three surviving comrades were covered in small shrapnel wounds but stood weapons at their shoulders firing into the open hole of the roof. Muzzle flashes fired back through the settling dust and debris. He came and stood next to them and fired off his big rifle at the muzzle flashes. The through the din he shouted to the men. “Fall back, down the stars. Down and out. Now.”

       They stood for a moment, looking at him. He cycled his bolt and fired again. The trooper who had fired the mortar turned and went down the stairs. Rabbit fired at the muzzle flashes again. The machine gunner and the riflemen turned and went down the stairs too. Rabbit dropped the empty box mag from his sniper rifle and followed them over the fifteen bodies on the stairs and down to the tenth floor, finishing his reload along the way.

        They kept going, all the way down to the ground floor. All of them were tired, thirsty, bleeding and had seen enough death for one day. Rabbit looked through the open window. Just leaning his head out far enough to peek out into the street with one eye. A second Saxon A.P.C. had arrived and was offloading more troops, and behind it, stood the locust. Its long-angled stork legs jutting down from its little pod-like body balancing it atop the pavement. Its small four-toed feet pushing down through the pavement, leaving footprints everywhere.

       Rabbit stood for a moment, he had no idea what to do. If they stayed there, men from above would shoot them. If they went back up men from below would shoot them. If they went into the street the mech would turn them into paste-like had already happened to the rest of the platoon.

       But then lights danced in Rabbits yes, painfully bright even as the sun was near full noon and left no shadows in the street. Brilliant streaks of blue light, a light so hot they burned the hair off of all the troops un-shielded in the street. For a brief moment, the whole street glowed blue with a brilliant light. So brilliant Rabbit’s vision was full of sparkles and shapes and swimming dots. Then the heat hit, seeming to suck the moisture from Rabbit’s eyes, and the air from his lungs.

       Then one of the strangest sensations washed over Rabbit and his compatriots. The air was collapsing into the street, filling the vacuum from the burnt oxygen and the ozone smell. But then the air was immediately pushed back out as the aerospace fighter that had fired the two large lasers blasted down the street. Its supper sonic velocity pushing out all the air ahead of it, creating a vacuum behind it as all the air crashed back in to fill the void. Then, the noise. For a brief moment, there was a powerful humming noise from the lasers, it danced with electricity and tickled and hummed with destruction and power. Then the thunder. The blasting wave of hot noise as the shock wave base from the aerospace fighters fusion reactor dumping raw exhaust into the air. One of the single most powerful and hottest things known to man. The shock wave of sound seemed to push the eyes back into Rabbit’s skull. The single continues thundering roar, that came with no warning, no whimper or growl beforehand, just all-out primal roaring of machines and engines and death, that slowly faded away as the craft arced upwards disappearing into the clouds and stratosphere, gone as fast as it had come. Rabbit was blind and deaf along with everyone else in the street. The shock wave broke every window in the building. The glass began to fall. It was hailing glass from the surrounding building, all at least ten floors high.

       Rabbit ripped the machine gun from the shaking hands of its operator and jumped to the precipice of the bakery again. He fired into the platoon of troops out in the street, who were busy pressing themselves up against walls and covering their helmeted heads with their arms as the glass continued to fall. With a pistol on his chest, two rifles on his shoulders and a machine gun in his hands he fired from the hip, sweeping from side to side, mowing them down. When the gun ran empty he went to his sidearm, still on full auto, and emptied that too. The glass was still falling. A bouncing shard got inside his boot through his bloused pants.

       For a moment Rabbit stood in awe. One hot moment ago this street was filled with thirty men who grinned with malice and evil intent, who had the upper hand and were going to kill Rabbit. Now they were bleeding, and screaming and cowering and running and dying as he shot them, as glass rained on them, as they couldn’t see, or breathe from the plethora of war’s sensations. There at the end of the street, the biggest terror Rabbit had ever seen, stood straddling an overturned station wagon. Its arms were gone, the two deadly machine guns lay on the street to its sides. The glowing stumps of its shoulders dripped and sagged as the molten metal lost its shape. As gravity pulled it down, it oozed like snot from a toddler's nose. There was another blasting noise as the pilot still strapped in his seat and neuro helmet rocketed up out of the locust’s head into the air over the rooftops. The locust's armor dripping from its ruined arms and pooling on the pavement around its feet, cooling, hardening, and losing its cherry color like the wax of an extinguished candle. It stood there empty now, a wif of smokey exhaust rising from the hole in its head. It stayed upright on its feet, a statue, an abandoned husk to what was once a terrible machine, a testament to its own defeat.

       The locust was not alone, both of the Saxon A.P.C.’s had been hit by the continuous beams of the lasers. One suddenly stopped hovering and flopped down onto the ground. The glowing molten bubbling metal of its armor was sucked into the sloped air intakes by the high-speed fans beneath. And it cooled and hardened and jammed and melted other metals and wires and sensors all at the same time. The A.P.C. was very suddenly, immobile. The other had taken a glancing blow. Its right side was holt and runny, but the heavy steel plate had done its job and nothing more than the paint job was damaged. The worst of it was the loading door being stuck open as the upper part of the frame had warped and sagged from the heat.

       Rabbit stepped back and the riflemen took his place in the doorway, this time firing from the shoulder, in semi-auto, still made with the double taps. From one bleeding cowering dying enemy to another. Two to the chest, two to the chest. The high-velocity 6mm rounds punched through the Kevlar and ceramic plate and did their job, they worked as advertised.

      The crew of the Saxon must have been terrified, their vehicle spun around in its own length and raced off down the road. It tried to squeeze past the locust, and instead rammed it shin, and forced its way through the gap, leaving a big trail of slag on the wall of the building at the intersection, then disappeared around the corner, the blasting exhaust from the giant hover fans blowing more glass into the air as it went. The Locust rocked on its feet for a moment. Then it took a step forward. Rabbits gut lept in fear. Was it still alive even without a pilot? Was it going to laser them all?

      No, but its reactor and gyro were still running, that step forward was actually a stumble as it tried to balance itself. It fell forward onto its face, Smashing into the corner or Rabbits bakery. Suddenly the world seemed to explode again. One of the enemy soldiers in the street was still alive, in fact, six of them were as the stood, and leaned out of the doorways they had hidden from the glass in. One hit the riflemen square in the chest with a shotgun slug and cored the man like an apple. His face was surprised as he slumped back against the door frame. His knees buckled and he slid down to the floor. Rabbit cursed and the three remaining survivors dove for the flood as the room was hailed with lead again. The fight wasn’t over yet. The gunner took his LMG back from Rabbit and glared at him fiercely as he produced the last belt of ammunition and loaded the gun. Rabbit reloaded his sidearm with his final stick magazine and then set it to semi-auto before holstering it and shouldering his sniper rifle. 

      Suddenly the room was full of people. Running, shouting screaming, shoving, cursing and stumbling Not soldiers, but civilians. Panicked and terrified. And the building was a whirling mess of confusion. Rabbit and the other two men pressed themselves up against the wall as the bakery filled with civilians, men in jeans trailing suitcases. One man in a three-piece suit, cigar still in his mouth. A twelve-year-old girl clutching the hem of her mother’s dress as she carried an infant. They ran and shouted and screamed past Rabbit and out into the street and the glass and the bullets and the mayhem. Nothing intelligible was said. Standing next to each other shouting, Rabbit and the others could hear each other over the din of panic. Their building was being shot and shattered and the cowering in fear had suddenly in mass converted to panic. These people were getting out. The realization that the city was still full populated finally sunk into Rabbit. Then as the people kept coming, the smoke started to trail after them. The building was on fire. The glowing hot shoulders of the toppled locust had lit the buildings torch. The smoke was filling the room, the only thing that had spread fast then the fire was the rumor of the fire and the need to evacuate. The fire was down here at street level, on the first floor. The escaping civilians quickly got worse for the wear. Now the stream slowed, instead of running they were staggering and coughing and spluttering and leaning on the walls for support.

       Rabbit didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t stay there the building was on fire. He couldn’t let the crowd carry him outside, he didn’t want to be accused of using them as human shields and convicted of war crimes, but obviously, he couldn’t go deeper into the building, the fire had broken through doorways into the halls. The flames starting on the floor licking up the walls. The smoke was billowing thick and black and coating the ceiling. Making Rabbit's eyes burn. But then he realized the shooting outside was still going steady, even as the civilians poured out of the doors and windows, and the screaming hadn’t lessened.

       Now he was angry, and now he could follow the civilians out, he wasn’t using them as shields, he was protecting them. He climbed through the shattered store window and stood crouched in it atop the plastic models of pastries. He shouldered his rifle and looked over the heads of the fleeing and giving crowd. He realized there were more than six men in the street now, maybe as many as fifteen. He surmised the other survivors from the roof must have used a different exit in the building once the fire had started and rejoined their comrades in the street.

       He found a helmet over the heads of the crowd as many of the men and women and children crumpled to the ground. Only some of them kept moving. He fired. The round punched through the thick Kevlar helmet but didn’t come back out the other side, the owners head rocked back and he folded up like the contents from an overturned hamper. Rabbit cycled his bolt and kept scanning. The other two troopers with him took the cue and pushed through the doors over the fleeing and screaming civilians. Hopping over dozens of bodies, alive or not. They went all the way across the street to shelter in the precipices on the other side. The crowd was turning and heading down the street away from the fight and both kinds of fire.

       The L.M.G. burped and the sub-machine gun sputtered. In short controlled bursts as they used what ammo they had left to establish a base of the fire. Knocking down three enemies. Rabbit cycled his bolt and fired again, and again. Dropping his enemies. His magazine was empty and he reloaded. He continued firing, dropping two more of the foes before him. He had to reload his sniper rifle a third time and dropped down from the window ledge to do it this time. The enemies shooting was getting more focused and less in their general direction. He sat on his butt, the stock of his rifle between his thighs as he pulled the empty magazine from the gut of his rifle and fished a fresh mag out from a pouch. Now the horrors were catching up to him.

       The stream of fleeing civilians was now reduced to a trickle, an elderly gentleman coughing terribly crawled on his hands and knees under the smoke, his tiny grand son under him doing the same. A girder fell in the hallway behind them. The flames had climbed all the way up the walls and were spreading along the ceiling now, wafting out horizontally. Another man in his late thirties came running down the hall full speed, his clothes already on fire. He flopped down into the now smoke-filled bakery in front of Rabbit. The man was rolling on the floor. Rabbit leapt to help him, using his gloved hands to pat out the flames on the writhing man’s shoulders and feet.

       The man extinguished a deep rhythmic thumping noise caught Rabbit’s attention. Helicopters. He returned to his window and fired two more shots. Then turned his eyes to the skies. He couldn’t see them. But he could hear them. The rumbling power and the helicopter rotors didn’t fly through the air, but rather sat atop the air as they beat the air beneath them into submission. They fired rockets and machine guns. One passed close enough that the column of smoke rising from their building into the street was blown around, wafting and swirling in all kinds of crazy directions. The top cover didn’t help this time though, no helicopters came screaming down the street guns blazing to smite their foes, or pick up him or any of the civilians. They were busy blasting hard targets all over the cities rooftops.

       The smoke was growing black and thick and heavy obscuring his view down the street. Burning his nose and his eyes. He fired again, hammering an exposed shoulder as its owner leaned in a doorway to reload his rifle.  A girl in her mid-teens, tall and thin wearing a green dress. She was on fire, another victim of the war. The nylons on her legs melted into her skin. It wasn’t just her clothes, she was on fire. Screaming like a banshee, she was beyond help. The stench of burning flesh and the reeking of burning hair followed her as she ran barefoot past Rabbit, leaving a trail of ashes and bits of fabric, she herself was dropping embers. Rabbit closed his eyes, leaning against the wall and tried desperately to think of something else. To keep the vision from being seared into his memory. He had seen enough things to know it wouldn’t work, but he tired anyway. Kittens and puppies and new shoes and holiday flowers and popcorn. As the thought tumbled over each other in his head, anything but that screaming girl.
Another bit of the roof caved in, and he could hear people trapped behind it, screaming as the burning roofing tiles sagged and fell to the floor. He couldn’t stay here any longer. He had to make a break for it. He fired another shot down the street at nothing in particular and cycled the bolt of his rifle as he ran across the five-lane street. The light machine gun finished his belt of ammunition as Rabbit was crossing the street. He leaned his belt-fed monster gun against the door frame and drew his sidearm, transferred it to his left hand, and fired it with the one hand around the corner of the doorway he was hiding in. As he fired a round caught him in the armpit, where the vest wasn’t covering. And sunk into the left side of his rib cage, puncturing his lung. The man flopped back against the opposite side of the door frame and slid to the ground. Rabbit fired another round from the hip as he reached the toppled soldier. He was clutching his left side with his right hand, blood bubbling and foaming from the corners of his mouth as he tried to speak. But he couldn’t there wasn’t enough breath left in him. The look on his face said more than his words could anyway. It was surprise and fear and anger and regret and a pleading hatred all at the same time.

       Rabbit couldn’t bear to watch another death. He shouted to the man over the din of rifle fire and screaming people. “I’m here, I’ve got you. I won’t let go, brother. Were going to get you out of here.” He turned on the balls of his feet as he crouched, dropped one knee to the side walk and fired his rifle again and again. Before he had to change magazines again. The Sub-machine gunner fired a long mournful burst up the street before joining Rabbit in the doorway, straddling the now still body of the L.M.G. operator. He too leaned his gun against the door frame and drew his sidearm, nodding grimly to Rabbit.

       Rabbit shouted to him too “We can’t and keep doing this, you’re out and I’m low, we’ve got smoke in the streets” with that Rabbit turned and fell back down the street, ducking into the next alcove. A moment later the trooper who had fired the mortars ran past him, arms pumping. Rabbit sighted down his rifle and felled another foe. He cycled his bolt and after a moment turned out into the street and ran, past the trooper in the next-door way and dove into the one after that. After two blocks of bounding like this, the two men used the intersection to skip to the next street east and then continued down that one. The smoke was washed down the streets by the breeze. And concealed them as they went all the way down, a gentle trot over several sweaty miles as they exited the city. It wasn’t until they reached the outskirts, surrounded by the dilapidated apartment buildings as a dozen tanks in their colors rolled towards them through the brush and the scrub where the city ended and the world began again. This Was the longest day he’d had in a long time and it would take him longer to forget.

       His boot was filling with blood from where the glass had gotten in it. But he didn’t care, he was alive, he had gotten out and least importantly he had gotten his job done.  He and the other trooper was safe, relatively speaking. Leaning on the wall of an abandoned apartment building with its doors kicked in and its windows smashed. In a moment, the tanks had rolled past them up the street and the squeaking tracks pulled out of earshot. Rabbit took a couple more steps on his sore legs and stood where the pavement ended. His heels in the city and his toes in the dirt. He was out. He breathed deeply and exhaled gently. The two of them had dealt with enough, they would wait here and someone with a vehicle would come to get them. He had done his part and earned a ride instead of another march. The silence closed in, pushing his ears in. as the white noise of shell shock closed in, drowning out all other sounds. Overpowering it pushed his thoughts away, the emptiness of the world seemed to close in, squeezing into his head. He cried.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #15 on: 15 June 2020, 14:04:17 »
Thank you for the kind words, support and comments. This is next post is the last short story from the incomplete part three and the first one that I had to finish writing presently and not just edit my old content. I am open to any comments or suggestions. or at least just curious if you can tell the difference between the new and the old. There is more to come after this as Part four also still has to be posted too.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #16 on: 15 June 2020, 14:12:59 »
                                                                                                               Alone

       Rabbit sat alone at a hexagonal-shaped table, his plastic rolling chair was uncomfortable, the air conditioning was turned up too high, and the cold of it hurt the knuckles of his hands. He breathed a sigh of relief when the system shut off. He wore a black unmarked skull cap and an old, reliable pair of combat pants. Across the room using a public computer terminal was a brunet haired girl with a ponytail and a white leather jacket with silly looking aluminum chains dangling from one shoulder and a fake master Sergeant’s patch on the other shoulder.

       Rabbit wasn’t complaining though, she wore really tight pants, he could see she was wearing a neon green thong through the back of the plastic chair. Rabbit had been very busy the past few months and was glad to have such an attractive distraction. Though he noticed she was wearing some woven leather sandals. How she could wear open-toed shoes in this cold weather near the end of the year baffled him, especially when she had the appropriate jacket to match the temperature. Rabbit noted that her toenails were painted the same color glaring green color as her thong. He sat for a few minutes with his portable computer. Entertaining himself with music videos. Glad to have a few minutes to think of anything that wasn’t work. The woman in the white jacket stubbornly refused to make eye contact. He was working up the courage to move and sit next to her when his target arrived.

       Rabbit had gone back to school. Finishing the third degree that was only half complete to go with the other two he had earned by converting his military training into ‘credits’ with the local colleges. There was even talk of further education beyond that, searching for higher degrees. Rabbit didn’t want that. He was tired of the school and couldn’t wait to get back to real action. The Fall semester was ending. It was his last class, and possibly the most important one. The instructor for the course, which was just an exercise in basic governmental writings and understanding them, was retired military. He had connections, military and civilian, official and unofficial, legal and illegal. The entire semester's worth of classes had been leading up to this moment. The instructor’s call sign was ‘iron man’ He was in his late fifties. He had a full head of hair though it was mostly salt and pepper. One could still tell it used to be brown. He wore square rimmed spectacles and had a slightly larger than average nose that was both bulbous and hooked. He had a slight accent due to his extended service on other planets.

       Iron man had been helping Rabbit collect information and build a case with his local superiors on an intelligence officer who worked at a local military base only thirty-five minutes drive south down the highway from where Rabbit was ‘attending’ college. Rabbit had finally gotten clearance for the hit because the man was as bad a chicken who had crossed the road, rolled in the dirt and then returned to the original side of the road. Iron man was now just acting as the middle man, handing the paperwork with permissions and signatures saying Rabbit had leapt through the appropriate hoops from the higher-ups.

       Rabbit stood from his seat, unplugged his portable computer, slipped it and its charger into his bag, collected his jacket and moved into the classroom where Iron man was waiting. He arrived almost forty minutes before class so that they could discuss things. None of the other students had arrived yet. Rabbit perched in his usual spot, back to the wall facing the door and the exchange was made. They said not a word beyond the typical “Hello… Hey” greeting they always exchanged.

       Rabbit was ready, he had a plan and now he had permission too. He had a date planned with the nerdy girl who sat next to him in class. She was a little short but she would be fun, at least for the one night where their date was just pretense. They were going bowling, at some lanes that were on the base. The same base where the target in question was deployed. However, because it was on base and would be in broad daylight he could not carry any weapons. Not even a concealed pistol for he might get caught. Instead, he had a loop of wire to use as a garrote. After they were done with the bowling they would go to a house of the nerdy girl’s coworkers house which was also on the base and there they would stuff their faces with pizza to celebrate the end of the semester. Then the nerdy girl would return Rabbit to the college where he would be debriefed by Iron Man so he could return to the nasty muddy sneaky hole from whence he came. All that was scheduled to happen the day after next. This break had been nice for the first week, but now that he had been out of action for months, he hadn’t slept under the stars or gotten dirt under his nails. He hardly felt alive anymore. He was becoming restless and jumpy.

        Until their ‘date’ Rabbit had to deal with the nerdy girl. She was turning out to be a bit of a head case and had managed through persistent insistence to worm her way over to Rabbit’s residence for the night in preparation for the date. He would be hard-pressed to hide all of his gear and intelligence data from her.
Rabbit shredded some of his papers and burned some more. Others that he needed to keep, he locked in a small lock-box along with a pistol and ammo. His rifle and magazines for it along with the tactical vest he buried in the back of his closet under his multitude of coats, hoodies, vests and plastic crates full of miscellaneous items. His shotgun and the bandoliers of shells he stashed inside his couch. He flipped it over, cut the bottom open and stuffed the gun inside and sowed it back shut before returning the couch to its original position. Then he stuffed his revolver in his pants and put on a cheesy spoof movie. He sat himself down on the couch and poured a glass of juice as he waited.

       She showed up, babbled a lot about nothing and made Rabbit restart the movie, and eventually fell asleep on his couch after yammering her head off for the better part of an hour. Rabbit Squirmed out from under her, threw a blanket over her and returned to his bed, stricken with confusion and uncomfortable dread now that he was dealing with a civilian, in the civilian's world pretending to do civilian things.

       The next morning, on the road to the bowling alley she continued her babble. Soon Rabbit’s reactions were reduced to grunts of affirmation as she continued on endlessly about some animated show. It was cold and the sky was very gray. They arrived at the parking lot of the store where they had all agreed to meet. They were a little early, but that might just have been because Rabbit drove fast hoping to get out of the car with her faster. Three of the others they were to meet arrived too. Some short redhead and her finance and her man friend tag along. They delivered the news that the Bowling alley didn’t open until two hours after the time they believed it was going to open. Rabbit grimaced and slapped his open palm to his face. His disappointment and frustration with the civilians was so deep it turned everyone’s mood black.
They agreed on eating to consume the time until the lanes opened. They returned to their vehicles and rolled up the street to a diner with some renowned pancakes. Once there they informed the others in the group of the change in plans. One who was on the way agreed to meet them at the diner, the others said they would meet up at the bowling alley. Rabbit was introduced and hands were shaking. He didn’t care, never even bothered committing their names to memory. They ate. He chewed slowly, silently, with purpose as he lived most of his life. He was here for one thing, and these civilians were just his pretense, his cover story for being here. It was so painfully mundane he could, Rabbit just couldn’t. He needed to be in the field. Sleeping in the grass crawling between the trees killing things.

       Afterwards they drove deeper into the base. The base was more like a city inside of the city, it just had barbed wire fence and armed guards. Rabbits Fake ID survived the scanner and was not detected by the scrutiny of the round-faced mid-twenties guard at the gate. They wove through the side streets until they arrived at the bowling alley. They rented their shoes and paid for their games. Rabbit refrained from playing. He said he was not feeling good after their heavy breakfast. They delayed the game yet longer until the others arrived. Exasperated he pondered why they didn’t just play without them until the others arrived. “Civilians”.A short, loud and boisterous girl a lanky man and a tall woman with jaw-length hair.

       Rabbit sat on the bench in the back, leaning at an odd angle and straining his face, using his upset stomach cover story as an excuse no to play. Which was partially true, just not form the food they had eaten, but from his nerves. From these people, he was with, and the act he was about to commit. He was a shooter, he liked to kill his targets through optics. He wasn’t used to this up close personal stuff with the wire, still, it had to be better than hanging out unarmed, with the civilians. He felt so exposed, so mundane. He waited until the nerdy girl was up to bowl then decided to split and make his move, she was doing poorly. He mentioned to another of the group he was going to step out for fresh air.

       He slipped out the side door down the hall past the arcade and bathrooms. It was cold outside, as he slipped through the threshold back into the gray overcast sky the wind-blasted him too. He was soon chilled.  Now he had a job to do and just had to find his target.

       He knew the traitor’s duty schedule. Where he should be, now he just had to traverse nearly half the breadth of the military base to get to the runway’s control tower, on foot without getting caught. He pulled the collar on his jacket higher, trying to shield his neck from the biting breeze. He shoved his fists down in his pockets and walked around the back of the building to head up the street so no one noticed him pass out the front windows. The braided wire wrapped inside his sweaty hand down deep in the pocket of his worn pants.

        It was quite on base, especially for a weekend. The cold, the wind, and the gray skies kept everyone inside. It was miserable for him, but it did help Rabbit, he kept his hat on and his head down. Trudging along the wind trying to blow him off the sidewalk into the empty streets. He didn’t hear or see a soul on the streets.  The bad weather sucked but it kept the other’s inside and worked to his advantage. Just like it always did. Just like he liked it. It wasn’t until he reached the airfield that he had problems.
Now there was a fence and aircraft, and guards and mechanics and eyes everywhere, and he had to get into the control tower, or at least close to it.

       He shuffled along the chain link fence hunkered in the cold. His heels drug along the sidewalk. The cold lowered his heels as he fought the chill.   He shuffled along further, and then the wind died down, and pair of jets blasting full afterburners, a screaming thunder of fire and power as the gray war birds climbed steeply into the gray sky. He took the noise opportunity and leapt to the fence, hooking his fingers through the links of the fence and allowed his momentum to carry him up further. He swung his feet down hard, and hooked the toes of his boots into the fence too, for a moment he clung there, then with a heave, he got his knees straight. He was able to lift his hands and get another heave higher up. Rabbit huffed his way up to the top and swung a leg over, then with his hands on the top bar of the fence. He couldn’t get his boots to hook back into the fence and the jets were gone, he no longer had noise cover. He felt slow, he had scaled many fences. These months of civilian life were making him slow, weak and set him very on edge.

       Gritting his teeth he pushed off from the fence and fell back. He misjudged the distance and didn’t get his feet under him. His heels struck the concrete. He tried to put his hands out behind him but couldn’t extend them fast enough. He landed on his elbows heavily.

       This jarred his shoulder around in its socket, and it hurt terribly. It didn’t hurt more or less, to move it or hold it in one location, or even above his head, but it was a constant hurt, and it was fairly serious. The cold was doing nothing to help numb his shoulder. But he had little choice. He was on the bad, shoot on sight side of the fence now. He swung his head about, making sure there was no one, an no nothing insight, and then walked briskly to the nearest cover.
 
       There was shed of corrugated Sheet metal. Rabbit slipped in behind it and pressed his face up against the metal, that was almost warm from the faint sun percolating down through the clouds and the cold haze. He waited for a moment, listening. He had no idea if there were motion sensors or laser beams or some other method of detection on the fence, but he highly doubted it just because of how far from the front this installation was, beyond the economic effects this part of the world hadn’t seen much fighting yet. Still, Rabbit waited not knowing if anyone was coming to investigate. His stomach growled, his shoulder ached and the cold breeze and dingy sky weren’t helping. He waited three minutes, he could take the cold no longer, he needed to move, keep his joints warm. The cool in the air wasn’t enough to make his hands numb, just enough to make his knuckles ache.

       He planned his next move, looking to the control tower, there was little between him and it. The parking lot was early empty, only a handful of vehicles were parked there, and all were close to the base of the building. There were other low buildings nearby, but they were all adjacent to the tower, none between him and it. He looked around again and still seeing no one about it. He stepped out from behind the shed. And marched towards the base of the control tower. He moved, head up, shoulders square, and at a strong pace, not fast, but purposeful. Trying to make himself look like he belonged.

       Rabbit crossed to the base of the control tower, it was tan, with a brown stripe around it about halfway up. Why it was painted so dully he didn’t know, and Rabbit stood at its base for a moment, his hand on his chin, pondering this. Then he shook his head and returned to the task at hand. He spotted the door to his left, hidden in the building’s shadow, also painted brown. He approached, still with purpose and meaning. Without hesitation, he reached and yanked the doorknob.  He almost leapt back as pain shot through his shoulder, he jerked the doorknob, and it didn’t move. It had twisted his shoulder and now hurt even more so. He reached and tried with the other hand. The door didn’t budge. it was locked from the inside.

       Infuriated he hadn’t been permitted to carry more equipment Rabbit dropped to a knee and used the end of his Garrot wire to finesse the lock, and it didn’t work and he kept trying. He pushed up against the door frame, trying to hide from the wind as it picked back up inside the door's shadow. The wind was painfully cold and nibbled at any exposed flesh. He kept trying and it kept not working, Rabbit succeeded only in distorting the end of his wire.

       As he continued to fiddle he heard footsteps. He froze, and then released they were coming from inside the building. The hollow clang clang of someone trudging on a metal staircase. He stepped back from the door and glanced about quickly, unsure of what to do. The footsteps drew closer. For lack of anything better Rabbit stepped to the side and used the curvature of the control tower to shield himself from view.  The door squeaked open and a slight blond woman in uniform stepped out, the wind held the door open for her as she stood in the entrance, shielding the cigarette stuffed between her thin lips while she tried to light it. With a puff she got it fired up and left.

       Rabbit strained his neck, to watch from around the curve of the building without exposing his body. He had taken a fifty to fifty chance when slithering around the side of the building. He had no idea which direction the person exiting would travel. Fortunately, the female service member was headed to the smokers' lounge on the other side of the building. Rabbit’s luck continued to hold. The wind delayed the door’s closing. The hydraulic arm mounted at the top of the door struggled to pull it shut against the chilling breeze. Rabbit held his breath, watching the smoker’s back recede and the door swing. He lunged, making two huge strides sneaking his hand into the shrinking gap, just barely managing to catch the door and slip inside.

        He pulled the door shut behind him and he exhaled with relief. His luck was holding and now he was out of the cold wind. It was dark inside. A narrow lonely set of stairs lit only with rope lights spiraled upwards. Rabbit cautiously set one boot atop the textured sheet metal. He worked slowly to ascend quietly, but he didn’t want to wait too long. He assumed he only had as much time as it took the blonde to smoke her cigarette to get all the way up the staircase, kill a man with his bare hands, and get all the way back down and out again before she returned to catch him in the act.

       Still stiff from the cold, Rabbit tried to move quickly. His feet dancing lightly up the stairs, trying not to let his weight settle on them. The tower was tall and had no elevator. His breath started to run short quickly. He was forced to change tactics. Slowing his stride to a snail's pace, letting the weight of each footfall settle slowly onto the treads of the stairs so they could absorb his weight without undue noise. At the same time, he struggled for breath, trying to catch it without breathing loudly. Trying to recover his stamina.

       He started to worry about his available time, the duration of the woman's smoke break. Finding it unlikely that she would stay out to puff through a second cigarette on account of the howling breezes sapping cold. Rabbit picked up his pace again. His feet dancing lightly over the treads of the stairs. He managed to pull his garrot wire from his coat pocket and string it between both hands. Rabbit knew the work schedule and planned shift changes for the airfield's control tower. He knew the traitorous man should be alone at the top of the tower now that the woman had stepped out for her cigarette, this made his job much easier.

        As he continued upward on the spiral staircase he cursed the height of the airfield’s control tower. There was dim light above him as he neared the top of the staircase. The light filtered in through the heavily tinted windows of the control tower, dimmed significantly. The opening at the top of the staircase as little more than a hole in the floor. Rabbit emerged without slowing. The room was filled with monitors and displays, the bindy blue carpet had noticeable wear marks from where the watchtowers occupants tread around the circumference of the room with regularity.

    The man spoke as Rabbit closed. “You forget your lighter again?” but he did not turn his head to look until he recognized the aggressive strides of Rabbit’s charge as something other than the small blond returning for a forgotten lighter. The man rotated in his chair to face Rabbit just as he closed upon him. Hands outstretched, wire strung between them.

   Rabbit jumped letting his body weight become his weapon. The man brought up his hands but was too slow. Managing only to brace them against Rabbit’s hips as he landed upon his victim. He landed with his knees in the man’s chest. Pushing the air out of him. The wheels of the chair didn’t move on the carpet well and it tipped over backwards, spilling them both onto the floor of the control tower.

   The man winded lay coughing and spluttering as Rabbit braced with his hands, rolling on them he somersaulted and landed on his feet, crouched as if playing leapfrog. He rotated on the balls of his feet and wire outstretched jumped back towards his victim, still stuck and struggling in the confines of his chair. Already struggling to breathe after taking a flying knee to the chest. Rabbit fell upon him and applied the wire to the man’s neck.

   The man was a traitor and an aircraft controller, nota a veteran of hand to hand combat. He didn’t know what to do as Rabbit set upon him. His hands came up and he swung at Rabbit. Who continued to apply pressure, wrapping the wire fully round the man's neck and twisting it around itself like a tourniquet. A fist came up and struck Rabbit on the side of the head. He saw it coming in his peripheral vision and turned his head to protect his face. Letting his ears get boxed instead. The man swung again but without proper blood flow was already losing his faculties. He struck Rabbit again, this time with an open hand, a gentle slap, like that of a woman who was hesitant in her rejection of a man’s advances. The man’s arm moved a third time, but meekly now, not swinging high enough to reach Rabbit’s face before it flopped down meekly onto the dingy blue carpet. Rabbit gritting his teeth counted five seconds more. Then he removed the wire and stuffed it back into his pocket. Still, on his knees, he reached down and pulled the man by the shoulders up into his lap and coiled his arms around the man’s head. 

       Rabbit twisted it sharply. Nearly rotating the man's head all the way around on his neck, making sure it was good and broke, then hefting the weight of the body. He looked back over his shoulder and drug the traitor across the room. Rabbit remembered to breathe finally and found himself gasping for air. He straightened to pant and casually scanned the surrounding airfield through the tower’s windows. No vehicles moving, no armed guards running. For now, all seemed to be as it should be. Pushing with his foot he rolled the traitor through the hole in the floor and into the spiral staircase. He listened and winced as the body thumped and rolled and clattered and crunched down the staircase. Rabbit looked at the fallen chair as noise from below continued.

       Thinking quickly to try and stage the scene better, and increase confusion later when the body was undoubtedly found he drug the chair over from the console and left it, still topped over closer to the hole in the floor. Close enough that if the chair had tipped while occupied it was conceivable the fallen may have spilled straight into the stairwell.

       A woman’s scream came up the stairwell. Followed by unintelligible yelling. The blond had finished her cigarette already. Rabbit gritted his teeth. The body had been found already. He sat on a knee in the middle of the room next to the spilled chair debating on what course of action to take.

       He wasn’t sure if she would go for help, or if she would come to the top of the tower and radio for help. In case she chose the latter he moved to sit behind the opening in the floor that the staircase emerged from. So he would be behind her as she came up the stairs. Then he crouched and turned his back to the stairs. The best way to not be seen was to not look like a human. From the angle, she would be arriving at his silhouette would be below that of the computer consoles, hidden in the shadow beneath the edge of the window. He closed his eyes and waited. For that was all he could do at the moment. Steady his breathing, slow his heart rate, calm his nerves so that he would be harder to feel, harder to smell if the woman came to the top of the tower to use a radio.

       Which she did. It wasn’t long and he could hear her panicked footsteps on the treads of the stairs below. He mat have stiffened and grown tense again, but he remained still. This woman was no traitor, she was not leaking information. He was no threat to her, though she was a threat to him. He waited as the pounding feet drew closer, sobbing and sniffles became audible and the blond erupted from the staircase.

Or so Rabbit felt rather than saw. He kept motionless in the shadow beneath the console and instead felt t       he woman’s stride through the floor. She started to speak. Yelling quickly through her sobs. A voice on a radio quickly replied. telling her to slow down because she was unintelligible.

       Rabbit surreptitiously opened one eye, confirmed the blonde woman had her back to him. Still crouched he stepped back towards the opening over the stairs and slid into it. Lowering himself onto the spiral staircase from above. Skipping the top of the staircase. Now he was below the floor. He waited until the woman began another nearly incoherent bout of shouting before he let go. Letting her speech cover his noise as he fell the nearly two-meter gap to the metal stairs below. He slipped and sat backwards. Banging his head hard, but preferring that to taking a tumble down the stairs himself.

       His vision swam and he saw stars, but he had to keep moving, he had to get down and out before the woman could catch him, or the help for the traitor could arrive. Rabbit stood and stumbled down the stairs. His vision blurry, his bells still ringing from his fall.

       He managed to make it out, passed the body over the fence and far enough down the street that he felt safe walking and regaining his breath before the emergency vehicles started roared passed him on the road. By the time he had gotten back to the bowling alley and rejoined his ‘date’ an order had come around for all civilians to evacuate.

       He managed to control his adrenaline and satisfaction in the passenger seat of the car as they left. Two days later Rabbit was again waiting in the lounge at the local campus, waiting for iron man. The weather had not improved, the sky was still gray the air was still cold and the wind was still howling. The student with the white leather coat had returned. Rabbit tried to hide his interest as he watched her enter the lounge. He sat at the same table as before, still with his portable computer. She sat in the same place she had been sitting before too. Rabbit feigned a yawn and stretched in his chair to get a better look at the woman. This time he noted through her sandals that her toenails weren’t painted at all this time. Rabbit was just beginning to ponder the possible implications of this when his handler arrived for the debrief.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #17 on: 19 June 2020, 17:42:17 »
Now that all I have written for Part three has been posted. I'll explain the next bit, before I post the reaming installments of part four .

Part four of the adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit, which by this point is really just, 'The Misfortune of Rabbit' takes place after the end of the Fed Com civil war. Rabbit has been discharged from the armed forces and desperate for money, has take n up a job with mercenaries. Like the previous parts, each short story is unrelated to the other and can be read in any order. I will simply post them in the order they were written.

The original intro  I wrote for part four is as follows...

       After some time of working solo without Spaceman, and as the fed com civil war winds down. Rabbit enlists his talents in the cervices of a mercenary command known as “Boots and Blood” His natural talent and experience lends him an edge, but is still not up to par with the other commandos. Boots and Blood or the “B and B” as its cohorts lovingly refer to it, they are almost entirely a core of well trained and equipped infantry. They do have an assortment of VTOL, and light to medium ground vehicles both hover and tracked for various troops transport, cargo hauling and scouting or light combat carried about by a single aging union class drop ship. Their skilled and experienced infantry some with anti mech train (which rabbit receives) are a high speed low drag group of rough and tumble bearded bad asses who have to reteach Rabbit the ways of the warrior, as he has developed some bad habits from working solo so long. He must relearn to work as and with a team. To trust, to defend, to communicate and to follow.

More short stories about the infantry of battle tech to follow...
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #18 on: 19 June 2020, 17:51:50 »
                                                                                                                  Rabbit in the Grass
       Rabbit lay in the grass on the steep slope of hillside. The rest of the platoon moved daintily through the trees down into the valley. Their progress was painfully slow as Rabbit watched over the two dozen other men, mercenaries paid to kill.

       Rabbit reflected with lament. He was special forces irregular. He had been a distinguished member of House Davion’s military. His name used to strike fear in the hearts of the state’s enemies. Whispered like propaganda with hushed voices in darkened rooms. Spaceman and Rabbit together used to be deployed like a super weapon. Sent somewhere to destabilize the entire region. Leave their calling cards and dropping the morale of entire battalions. Making life difficult and disrupting supply lines on entire continents, because he might have been there.

       Then the war ended and his services were no longer needed. He had been discharged like worn-out equipment. The civil war had left the state so weak and shaky there was no place for men like him left in the civilian world. “Like discarded equipment.” He thought as he shifted his weight in the grass. The equipment he was wearing now should have been discarded.

       Desperate and homeless Rabbit managed to secure “gainful employment” with a mercenary command. A typical mech centric mercenary group, who like so many others left their infantry in a terribly neglected state. Mechs may win battles, but infantry won wars.

       After the Steiner-Davion civil war Rabbit had little proof of his combat experience. Most of his adventures “Never happened” and no record of them existed as proof. He was a sniper, an assassin, an artist with explosives. A highly trained and motivated individual. Yet all that meant nothing. He had barely gotten the job he found himself in now. Frustrated and pulling security for the rest of the platoon. Alone on the grassy rolling, moderately wooded hills of a different planet. NO one believed he was who he said he was. “Rabbit huh? No way you could be that Rabbit, he’s a myth.” Was the typical answer.

       For all that he was, or had been he was once again a low-ranking grunt. He had been issued some extremely used equipment. An old flak jacket still stained with someone else blood that reeked of sweat. Rabbit wasn’t even surprised to find half a carton of cigarettes and a worn, torn out centerfold pin-up in the pockets. The leather of the boots was very worn. Rabbit half expected the soles to fall off, the laces weren’t even the same length. The helmet he was issued could not have been more basic. He might as well of riveted a leather chin strap onto a cooking pot. One of the gloves had a finger cut off, the zipper on the pants with the patched knee wouldn’t stay up either.
His weapons were not in much better condition. An old belt-fed medium machine gun. In Rabbit’s hands, it was like asking a doctor to perform heart surgery with a machete instead of a scalpel. The finish was patchy at best and the teeth on the feed mechanism were worn smooth from use. He wondered if they would even cycle correctly. At least they gave him plenty of ammo to feed it with should he have to use the crude old slug thrower. He had discarded his backpack next to himself in the grass. It contained four stamped steel cans each filled with a one hundred round belt of brass washed steel cased disintegrating link ammunition loaded in the patter of FMJ, FMJ, FMJ, Incendiary, FMJ, Tracer. The fifth box with yet another belt hung from beneath his cumbersome heavy charge of a weapon. How could he possibly ever need all five hundred rounds they had issued him?

   He had been issued an ancient slug throwing pistol too. An all-metal frame with a single stack eight-round magazine held in by a heel clip release packed into a smallish double/ single-action pistol who’s safety also acted as a de-cocker. They had provided him four magazines of fat slow little brass case FMJ ball ammo for the archaic pistol for its weak old caliber that most self-respecting civilians wouldn’t let themselves be caught dead with. He had a combat knife, with a broken tip and two red fares to round out his arsenal.

   Rabbit stopped Lamenting over his plight. At least it was a job, something to do, income not enough, but still income. It had been twenty minutes since the rest of his platoon on foot patrol had checked in over the radio. They had melded into the woods, disappeared as they made their way to the bottom of the valley. He wasn’t even sure what they were supposed to be doing here, or who was even paying them to do it for that matter.

   Rabbit sat on his elbows scanning the trees and valley over the barrel shroud of his machine gun long enough that the ambiance had returned to his hilltop. Birds chirped, lizards crawled and insects buzzed as he lay prone in the calf-length grass. Even with his notoriously poor sense of smell, the stench of soft fertile wet earth was nearly overpowering.

   A chattering noise in the distance made Rabbit’s head perk up. It wasn’t an animal chatter. It was the distant rattle of automatic weapons fire. A stream of tracers squirted over the hilltop to his left. Rabbit shuffled in the grass, flipped out the wobbly bi-pod of his belt-fed weapon. There was a second burst. Then three, then four overlapping bursts from different weapons. The cackle of gunfire in the distance woke something glorious in Rabbit. Something that had been dormant too long.
   His earpiece from the weak old radio with questionable battery life nearly blew out his eardrum. The platoon commander was shouting. Cursing Rabbit who was supposed to be their over watch for not calling out the enemy position on the adjacent hilltop.

   Rabbit never got the chance to reply. There was another burst of gunfire followed by the pop of a distant hand grenade detonating. How was he even supposed to see another infantryman through the trees on the other hilltop without optics? This machine gun had simple iron sights. No fluorescent tubes, no batteries just metal. Hell, even some old-fashioned glass lenses for binoculars would have been beneficial at this point.

   Rabbit brought the gun’s stock to his shoulder and waited. A few seconds later the distant gunfire resumed. Rabbit’s eyes danced back and forth as the caught glimpses of distant tracers through the trees. He winced as more shouting and calls for fire support filled his ear, beating his eardrum like a frantic moth. Still, Rabbit didn’t fire. The volume of distant gunfire was increasing but he couldn’t identify his targets. He didn’t know which set of tracers originated from his fellow mercenaries, and which did not.

   More radio chatter, more orders. Yet Rabbit remained motionless in the grass. As he listened to the din of battle through his earpiece. He was able to discern from the radio traffic his comrades were downhill. Their feet wet from the stream that trickled there. Glad to be able to do something now that he had identified friend from foe, he squeezed the trigger gently but stopped before it broke. He was already hesitant to just lob bullets in a general direction. It was woefully imprecise and felt wasteful. He looked to the distant hilltop and estimated the range. He adjusted his sights according and let a burst fly.

   The half dozen rounds disappeared into the void between the hilltops. Rabbit had no idea where they landed, he fired a second burst. This time his eyes caught hold of a tracer and tracked its streak across the valley. His rounds were falling far short. He added several hundred meters to the sliding ramp on his adjustable sights and squeezed off another burst. The thunder of his gun echoed across the valley over the din of the other gunfight.

   This burst was a little longer than the others. Rabbit was able to track multiple tracers across the valley. They found the hilltop he had intended. He grinned and held the trigger down until it went empty. The long burst let Rabbit work out the rhythm of the gun. Holding the stock down pulling the grip back into his shoulder. Letting him keep the weapon pinned between his body and the bi-pod on the front end as it chugged through the remaining sixty rounds in the belt.

        It went empty and silent. Rabbit had managed to spend quite some time with this massive unwieldy gun, even if he hadn’t fired it as much as he would have liked. Instead, he had worked on his manipulation and muscle memory. His long burst was still echoing through the hills and he already had the dust cover open, the empty belt can stripped out and was reaching for the backpack to retrieved another belt laden can. The thunder of guns still continued in the distance.

       The platoon leader's voice was still audible over the radio. His stream of curses and orders still perfectly clear. The man had done this a few times, while he and Rabbit didn’t see eye to eye the commander’s firsthand knowledge and experience commanded respect.

       None of the orders were directed at Rabbit. He settled into his standing duties of over watch. With a new can slung under the gun and the belt pilled into the feed palls he slapped the dust cover back down over the action and cycled the charging handle.

       Rabbit required the hilltop through the trio of pegs that made up his iron sights and squeezed out another burst. He flexed his bicep to push the barrel over a tiny bit to focus on a different tree and squeezed out another burst. Then he picked another tree that looked, suspect. Then another and another until the second belt was spent. He reloaded and was three trees into the third belt when a fresh wave of curses, insults and orders spewed into Rabbit’s left ear. The pop and zing of gunfire struggled to be heard over the words.

       The platoon commander’s words were still easily discern-able  and they made Rabbit’s blood run cold, things were bad. Multiple men were dead or dying. The enemy had the high ground in multiple directions and was pushing in with a numerically superior force. The foot patrol had sprung the trap. Now the platoon commander was calling for fire support. Tanks, Helicopters anything and everything he could get. He called out locations on multiple hillsides as the enemy drew closer. Rabbit focused even harder. Willing his eyes to see farther. To be able to pick out the assailants at this distance. He blasted a long burst across the hillside from left to right and back again.

       Surprised his weapon hadn’t run dry he noticed an odd spot on the opposing slope. He focused on it for a moment as he let his gun cool. he hadn’t been provided a second barrel even though the barrels were interchangeable on this general-purpose machine gun. He didn’t want to overheat the one barrel he did have.
After a few seconds of squinting at the unnaturally uniform shape on the hillside, he realized those were roofing tiles. That was a rooftop of a building way out there. He trained the gun on it. A squeeze of the trigger only let 4 rounds loose before the gun went silent.

       Rabbit took his time loading his fourth belt. Letting his gun cool and his eyes squirm their way through the trees in search of secrets hidden therein. It wasn’t long before the requested fire support arrived.

       A scorpion light tank crested the horizon. Its treads grinding across the loamy soil. They squeaked and rattled until coming to a rest a mere fifty meters from where Rabbit lay in the grass. The turret slowly swung around to reveal worn paint that declared “Shit Box” in cracked letters across the turret’s mantle. The bore of the scorpion’s A/C 5 twitched as the gunner made minute adjustments to his aim. Rabbit realized they had optics in the tank and better radios. The crew of the tank were more educated on the enemy's whereabouts. Rabbit could fix his frustrating lack of intelligence. He rolled his head back around so he could see where the tank’s shots landed.

       Unfortunately, he forgot to cover his ears. The rattle of his aging belt-fed gun was one thing, but the rapid-fire high explosive rounds from the scorpion’s auto cannon were something else entirely. The deep thump, thump and overlapping pressure waves from each shot was a tremendous bone-rattling level of thunderous.

   Rabbit’s rattled brain and eardrums struggled to function as the tank blasted off a dozen rounds from its low rate of fire gun. The salvo ended and Rabbit stood, hesitantly uncovering his ears. He shook his head in a futile attempt to clear the serious ringing in his ears. Using the carry handle he hefted the belt-fed gun on one hand and the aluminum frame backpack with his remaining ammunition in the other. He jogged down the length of the ridge and dropped into the grass again, now with another hundred meters between himself and the scorpion.

   The scorpion resumed firing after a pause for the loader to feed the auto cannon. Rabbit watched as the high explosive rounds detonated in the woods not far from the cabin he had shot at just before. He waited until the salvo was complete and now, with a more accurate fix on the enemy’s location Rabbit felt much more confident in his firing solution, rather than casually shooting at shadows.

   Rabbit let fly burning through the entire belt before the scorpion finished reloading. He wanted to try and keep sustained firepower on the enemy as much as possible. He flipped open the flap on the bag to retrieve the last canned belt of ammunition. He loaded it somberly as the scorpion resumed firing. This was all he had left, he had to make it count. He wouldn’t be able to provide sustained fire support for long. He listened with a heavy heart as the friendly radio chatter was dwindling.

   Only half a dozen men from the platoon’s original number were left alive among the trees on the valley floor. Scrabbling between the vegetation and the boulders, dodging bullets and cheating death. The gunfire rang through the hills so fiercely Rabbit was amazed anyone still remained.

   Rabbit forgot to use his eyes. They were still open but his brain had stopped processing what they saw because he was listening so intently. The men on the radio were dwindling in number and so were their un-fired bullets as they played a game of cat and mouse that Rabbit was all too familiar with.

   From this distance, there was little he could do to help. It was too late in the battle for him to cover that much distance a well. His heart ached for the dead and the dying. He hardly had had time to learn all their names yet, but they were all just like him. Men trying to make a buck. Dying to make a living. Maybe the platoon leader had been right. No matter what experience or accomplishments Rabbit had, he was no better or more valuable than any of the other grunts. Worthless. For eventually he too would likely suffer the same fate they all had. Dead, sprawled in the leaf litter as friend and foe alike scurried around your body. Treated as little more than a broken object to be discarded and abandoned.

   An explosion on the opposing hilltop created enough motion to catch Rabbit’s distant eye’s attention. A rocket had detonated and felled a small tree in the depths of the forest. His eyes followed the snaking exhaust trail back to its origin, again from near the gray roofed cabin. The explosion had hardly sounded like more than a pop at this distance. A little pop that hurt Rabbit’s soul. He could feel the light of the life claimed in that puff of fire and shrapnel go out.

   He hunkered down behind his gun again and in three long bursts emptied his last belt into the cabin adding his flying hot lead to that of the Scorpions. Still prone behind his gun he reached out to retrieve the now-empty backpack. His hand froze in midair, half outstretched.

   His eyes had found someone in the grass. Crawling past him, a mere ten meters of loam separated them, yet the other man hadn’t spotted Rabbit in the grass. His rifle was slung across his back on a two-point sling. He clutched the long skinny tube of a onetime use anti-tank weapon in the crooks of his elbows. The crawling soldier had eyes only for the posterior of the Scorpion tank as it now futilely pounded away at the distant hills with its auto cannon.

   Rabbit had already lost comrades to one rocket today. He wasn’t having any more or that nasty business claim more of his fellow mercenaries. Unwilling to lose the tank too and be left alone in these infested woods.

       Rabbit swung his left leg forward and pushed himself up with his still outstretched left hand and left leg. He came upright, resting on his right knee with his left leg thrown way out to brace himself against the slope of the hill.

       In the same motion, Rabbit undid the clasp on his holster and drew his pistol with his right hand as he came upright. The man crawling in the grass finally saw him.
The other soldier snapped his elbows so the tube of the launcher popped into the air and plopped into the grass just in front of the knuckles of his still clasped hands. As Rabbit’s thumb pushed the safety off and he leveled the pistol’s mediocre sights. The other soldier seemed to explode up from the ground as Rabbit experienced time dilation.

       The other man produced a knife as he rose to his knees. Rabbit started the long slow double-action trigger squeeze. The other man made it to his feet as his squeeze started to retract the hammer. The other soldiers' left foot left the ground as he started to charge forward. The shot broke and the hammer fell. The heavy double-action pull threw off Rabbit’s aim. The fat slow little bullet poked a neat little hole into the soil. The charging enemy completed a stride as Rabbit’s pistol cycled, ejected, stripped and chambered. Rabbit swung his left hand up and got both hands on the gun as it returned from its snappy blow back recoil and his eyes required the front sight post.
The soldier with the knife was in a full sprint now. Pumping his arms quickly. But now Rabbit had a single action trigger that he could manage. He squeezed out a second round shattered the would be man's collar bone and he dropped his knife. The attacker kept charging anyway as Rabbit recovered from the recoil for a third shot. A shot that went low and struck his target in the thigh.

       The enemies still serviceable right arm swung wide and punched Rabbit’s forearm. Breaking his grip and knocking his gun hand aside, sending his fourth-round off into the woods behind them. The man fell on Rabbit his right fist landing a solid blow through his flack jacket into a kidney.

       Rabbit took the punches as the other man flailed at him. He bent his right arm at the elbow and jammed the pistol’s muzzle into the assailant’s armpit where the combat vest didn’t protect him. Rabbit squeezed two more rounds into his attacker’s chest cavity. The bullets traversed across the man’s torso cavity.
Perforating both of the man’s lungs. He went stiff and spluttered incoherently. Rabbit was able to shove him off and recover his footing. Blood dribbled from the other man’s mouth as Rabbit put another round into the back of the man’s neck, shattering a vertebra severing the spinal cord and leaving the victim unable to move as he suffocated on his own blood.

       During the scuffle, another man had appeared from among the trees. He slipped out of the brush running full tilt towards the launcher discarded in the grass. Rabbit dropped to a knee again, to help his aim. He fired twice, missing the moving target both times. The archaic metal pistol locked open on its now empty magazine.
Rabbit struggled with his left hand to work the magazine catch. The spring tension from the follower popped the magazine out. Pinching the protruding base plate he stripped out the empty, whipping his arm and letting his grip loosen so the empty magazine slipped from his fingers and tumbled off into the grass. The slight soldier dropped to both knees and slid on his knee pads the last meter through the grass like a rock star as he came to rest near the abandoned rocket launcher. Rabbit was running out of time. He pushed off the ground with his right leg and charged towards the tank’s assailant. He fished a fresh magazine from a belt pouch as he closed the gap.
Rabbit had two goals in mind as his footfalls shrank the gap. Slapping the soil with his tired boots. He ran the fresh magazine home into the pistol’s grip. He was trying to close the gap and make his shot easier at a shorter range. Also, to get close to the other soldier in case there was anyone else in the woods, to deter them from firing at Rabbit for fear of hitting their compatriot of such small stature.

       Rabbit reacquired his two-hand grip on the pistol as the other soldier hefted the long tube onto his shoulder. Rabbit slapped the slide stop with his right thumb, dropping the medium-sized pistol back into battery. Rabbit’s index finger was already working the bang switch. His time dilated senses watched as the hammer appeared to almost ride the slide forward.

        It struck, pushing pin to primer as soon as it was in battery. The blow back action snapped the muzzle upwards with its flippy recoil as the slide came out of battery and reciprocated against the stout recoil spring.

        The phat projectile passed through the small man’s hand and penetrated the vacuum-sealed tube containing the five kilogram rocket. The broken seal activated a safety mechanism in the launcher and prevented it from firing. Neither Rabbit or the other soldier knew this though. The small soldier slammed his uninjured hand down onto the red paddle on top of the tube that served as the firing mechanism.

       Both men flinched, and nothing happened. Slowly Rabbit opened his eyes again. The Scorpion now behind him resumed firing as the crew inside was oblivious to the mortal exchange just outside their tanks hull. The deep thump, thump, thump of the auto cannon smacked Rabbit across the back of the head with its pressure wave, knocking him back into action. The little soldier slammed the red lever a second time as Rabbit reacquired his front sight. He squeezed the unfamiliar trigger several times as his feet came to a stop. The reset was long but Rabbit managed to ride it.

       He wasn’t sure if or where he was making hits, but his target slumped over. A burst of automatic weapons fire rattled from out of the woods. A couple of rifle sized bullets dinked and whizzed off the tank’s armor as they snapped past Rabbit. Now, he hoped, the crew of the scorpion knew someone else was there.
Rabbit let his knees give way and he flopped down in the grass trying to make himself the smallest target possible, pushing his face down onto the dirt. Every centimetre further down could be the difference between life and death.

       He worked blindly over his head to unload the pistol. A second burst of automatic weapons fire snapped and popped as it passed over his head. He slapped the third magazine into the gun as the scorpion rotated its turret and fired the coaxial machine gun into the trees over Rabbit.
He rolled over onto his back as the burst ended and he sucked in a fresh breath of air now that he wasn’t trying to bury his head into the soil. The Scorpion fired another long burst and he sat up, banking his life on that the enemy all had their heads down to avoid the Scorpion's high caliber machine gunfire. Rabbit rolled forward back onto his feet and ran towards the light tank as fast as he could, not even stopping to pick up his empty medium machine gun. He let his momentum carry him forward as he jumped up. Slamming onto the side of the tank which now had its turret rotated backwards. He scrambled for traction before finding a handhold and pulling himself up onto the tank. He crouched on the front, trying to stay low and shelter himself behind the broad round turret.

       The tank fired another burst into the trees with its coaxial. Rabbit reached over and rapped the driver’s hatch with the butt of his pistol solidly, twice. Giving the universal signal that passengers were aboard and ready for the vehicle to move. The Scorpion didn’t move. The moment drew out and the tank was motionless still. More small arms fire rang out and clattered off the tank's exterior. Rabbit half expected another rocket to appear and send both him and the tank sky high.
There was a rumble and a clatter as the tank’s diesel engine rumbled back into life. Still, they didn’t move. Desperate Rabbit haphazardly fired his pistol into the trees, squeezing out all eight bullets before it locked open again. He dumped the empty magazine between his feet onto the top of the tank and pushed the last magazine home into his gun. The last eight bullets in it, the last of his ammo, all he had left to defend himself with, was in his hand.
With a half dozen pops and lots of hissing the tank deployed a set of smoke grenades and fired a parting burst through the smoke from the machine gun before lurching forward. Rabbit winched and cowered behind the turret as something exploded inside the cloud of smoke behind them.

   But away they went turning to the right the small tank slipped between the coniferous trees on its squeaky old treads. Pulling its silhouette down off the ridge line. After a hundred meters of weaving through the pine forest, they came to a narrow crumbling long-neglected road that twisted back and forth across the mountain face like a serpent.

   The little tank bounced and rocked as they turned onto the road and picked up speed going uphill. Rabbit’s tread bare boots squeaked as he struggled to stay on the smooth sloped metal of the tanks face. He holstered his pistol and clung on with both hands.
The little tank managed fifty-five kilometres per hour on the uphill and soon carried Rabbit over another ridge and out of the ambush valley to safety, or at least relative safety anyway.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #19 on: 27 June 2020, 16:37:55 »
                                                    D.M.R.
       Rabbit and his spotter sat on top of milk crates on the roof of a twenty-seven story apartment building. The cold morning air and chilled them, and the dew on every surface that seeped through the clothing made sure that chill reached the bone. Rabbit had a massive can of a silencer screwed onto his bolt action rifle, which was loaded with some nasty armor-piercing rounds. The roof of the building was cluttered. To one side was a large wooded water tank, which blocked the weak morning sun as it struggled to penetrate the foggy air of the bay-side city. Clotheslines with last night’s wash that had been forgotten out surrounded them. Flapping gently, in the breeze, which thankfully was mostly blocked by the larger buildings. This was one of the oldest buildings still in use in this ancient and overcrowded city. Some crime lords and their mafia followers were running rampant within this city. It was turning into a blight on the state. A heaven for the sick and twisted, the deranged and the maniacal, or anyone with a gun who wanted easy money. That’s why the Mercenaries had been called there. They had guns and wanted easy money. The state was paying them to stir up trouble for those outside the law. They owned the town now, they had become too much or the local police force to handle. Besides most of the local police force was part of that problem.

       Rabbit and his spotter were just a distraction. Their little sniper act was going to stir the hornets’ nest, kick the hive and draw all the trouble makers out. The various gangs were constantly warring with each other. So their leaders, overweight and under-protected were always easy to spot if you knew what to look for and where to look for it. In this case, they were looking for a dark green sedan with blacked-out bulletproof windows and neon green sixty spoke rims. That guy controlled the southeastern corner of the city. He usually made his rounds in the mid-morning and should be coming around the corner several blocks down in an hour or two. Rabbit was already sighted in, his bi-pod set up on a large wooden spool. Because he wasn’t hunting for targets, he was waiting for the target to come to him, his spotter with a semi-auto rifle was watching the door onto the rooftop and other surrounding rooftops. If Rabbit could hit the target, the boss in this neighborhood would be out of the way. And that would probably ignite some fires. The other gangs would either be blamed and targeted by this one, or would try and capitalize on their enemy’s weakness and move in on their turf. Once the fires were really started and the enemies had drawn their lines Rabbit and the mercenaries would come in swinging and while the two sides were busy with each and try to get it all over and done in one fell swoop. Hundreds of freshly commissioned police officers had been readied by the state. Once the sweep and clear had been performed by the mercenaries the new police force would move in and start with a fresh, blank slate.

       If the operation went sideways they had multiple ways off the roof. Threats from other buildings would force them down the stairs the way they had come. Neither of them liked that, but they also had large air cannons to fire zip lines and even parachutes.  For now, the two were alone. No radio traffic, no reinforcements, and only a slim chance of a hot extraction. They had to make the shot and get away clean, or fight their own way out of the hornet’s nest. They had multiple dummy vehicles stationed around the neighborhood so they could use and one as a getaway car and they had backups in different locations to give them multiple options, especially since some of the unattended vehicles were bound to come up missing.

       Rabbit gently sighed out of boredom and cold. A car came around the corner he was watching, and the safety immediacy clicked off on his rifle, his spotter turned at the noise. But Rabbit realized it was the wrong car, and flipped the safety back on before adjusting his position on the crate he lay across. The black car without green wire rims rolled around the bend slowly and gently cruised below. Definitely gangsters the way it was calmly roaming around without purpose. His spotter gently settled back into his watchful resting position. Rifle in his lap, elbows on his knees, his head gently swinging to slowly and methodically scan the rooftops. Their position was somewhat hidden, the laundry, the stacks of crates, Rabbit’s wooden spool, and even a pigeon coop, that stood empty and long unused help shield them from prying eyes of the other taller buildings around. They couldn’t have set up in the taller buildings even if they wanted to because then they would not have been able to get a proper sight-line to the target intersection.

       They sat and waited on the rooftop. In the cold and the wet, chilled. Rabbit’s spotter was shivering. Rabbit was constantly shifting gently, and clenching and unclenching various muscles so that he wouldn’t get the shakes too. Because that would throw off his aim, and while it was not a particularly far shot, he was also not using a particularly long-ranged rifle and had to shoot through a car. But the target was late. The time came and went and still, no car had shown up. Rabbit was getting jumpy. The crime lords were always better organized than that. They shouldn’t be late.

       Finally, after being almost ten minutes late the car rounded the corner. Rabbit tensed up and flipped the safety back off on his rifle. His spotter snapped his head around again and stood up partially, immediately no longer shaking with the chills. Rabbit made his cheek weld and drew in a deep breath. His sighted his target through the scope as it came to a complete stop at the corner, his eyes flicked down and checked the tiny red pin that protruded from the side of his rifles bolt, indicating that his weapon was chambered. His eyes came back to his optic as the vehicle started to roll again, its front tires cranking around to make the turn. It was a long car. With a long straight hood, and a big gap in between the front and rear doors. Space enough it could have had middle doors. Rabbit knew from the Intel that the windows were armored, but only the windows, so as the vehicle completed its turn and started coming towards him, the angles changed while it approached and with a slow gentle squeeze, matching the slow controlled exhale from Rabbit’s lungs, he fired his shot, through the roof of the car.

       The slowly rolling car screeched to a halt. Rabbit broke his grip and reached over the top with his support hand to cycle the bolt, keeping his cheek weld and strong hand in place on the rifles grip. As Rabbit sucked in another breath the car sped up again, quickly, its tires chirping as the big engine struggled to drag the big car away. Rabbit fired a second shot also through the roof but targeting the passenger side of the rear seat, rather than the seat directly behind the driver.

       It was time to get the hell out of there now. Rabbit cycled the bolt on his rifle, dumping a second shiny brass case on to the roof. He stooped and picked them up. As he bent over a short burst of automatic weapons fire snapped over him. If he had stayed standing, he would have gotten hit. Rabbit instead of just bending at the waist to pick up his spent casings, he now flipped his arms under his rifle, so that it sat on the inside of his elbows, and then dropped to his knees before sliding farther forward, grating his plastic elbow pads on the rough roofing paper. But now he was prone and concealed behind the pigeon coop. He didn’t stop moving, using his knees and elbows to drag himself, he turned and then moved parallel along the edge of the roof. Trying to keep the empty pigeon coop between him and the thirty-story building across the street. Rabbits spotter was concealed amongst the gently flapping laundry, but he was seeking better cover. He made a mad dash toward the small structure that housed the staircase and doorway that they used to get onto the roof.  Rabbit came to the end of the pigeon coop. a second short burst of weapons fire beat the air into submission over their heads. Rabbit took a moment to reduce the zoom on his rifle scope, all the way down to the lowest setting.

       Peering around the corner with a small mirror on a telescoping stick, Rabbit’s spotter was able to identify two open windows on the twenty-ninth floor of the building across the street. He stowed his mirror and readied his rifle too. Keeping his shoulder pressed up against the wall he rolled around the corner and leveled his rifle firing three shots from his heavy semi-auto at the left window before rolling back around the corner to safety. 

       The Spotter used their shortwave radios and told Rabbit of the two windows. Now armed with information Rabbit crept forward ever so slowly until his rifle was just around the corner of the pigeon coop. and sighting down on the same window his spotter had just shot through. He could see the muzzles of two rifles, one protruding from each side of the window seal as the shooters inside leaned up against the wall to the left and right of the window. Still, with his armor-piercing ammo Rabbit fired, cycled, shifted and fired again. One round through the wall on each side of the window. The two rifles disappeared from the window, and Rabbit scooted back behind the pigeon coop as another burst of automatic weapons fire sprayed the roof, not really targeting any specific spot. Crawling backwards Rabbit moved to the middle of the birdcage, and thankful it had been empty for so long, he crawled under it, so he could sight in on the other window. As he remade his cheek weld and looked through his scope he saw a great blast of light and flame as a rocket left the tube of a shoulder-mounted launcher. It rushed across the street. Rabbit could see the shooter still in the window silhouetted by the light of the rocket's exhaust. Rabbit shot him while the rocket was still in the air. The rocket past over the prone Rabbit and slammed into the roof near the access door and its staircase. The force from the explosion was enough to lift Rabbit up off the roof before slamming him back down, knocking the wind out of him. He laid still as little bits of the wooden door and the roof rained back down. After a pause, the agonized shouts of his spotter drifted over the air and squirmed their way through the ringing in Rabbit’s ears.

       Rabbit aimed through his scope back to the window again and without breaking his visual opened the bolt and started reloading his rifle, one at a time feeding the cartridges in under the scope mount. As he was stuffing in the last round and closing the bolt another target appeared in his window and stooped down to pick up the launcher operator in a fireman’s carry. Rabbit shot them both with one bullet. He sat listening to his wailing spotter for twenty seconds, and when no more targets filled the window, he scooted back out from under the pigeon coop and duck walked past the hole in the roof to the shattered roof access hut. Amongst the debris and burning bits of wood and torn roofing paper, lay rabbits spotter. His entire right side was mangled. His ear was missing, his hair burned off, his right eye destroyed and bits of wood and concrete and metal perforated the right side of his head, neck and shoulder. He wasn’t screaming anymore. He no longer felt the pain, and he never would again. Rabbit gritted his teeth, there was nothing he could have done for the man, even if he hadn’t waited twenty seconds to scan the windows for more targets.

       Rabbit shuffled through the inside pockets of the light coat he was wearing and retrieved some papers, his will, a letter to family, a picture. The personal stuff. As Rabbit was securing the papers in a pouch on his belt another burst of automatic weapons fire hit the roof. These rounds were close to Rabbit. He didn’t have cover or time to deal with a second threat, which he believed was coming from a different building. Without time to recover the body of his fallen comrade because of threats on his own life, he stood and ran. His booted feet thumping hard on the roof of the building as he pounded towards the edge. With one hand he made sure the fasteners were secure on the pouch with the papers, with the other he worked to sling his rifle. Once the fasteners were secure, he held the rifle to his chest with one hand as he used the other to tighten the sling as tight as it would go around his chest. with his rifle secure he pumped his arms the last three strides and more bullets chased his heels. Then he leapt from the building, throwing his arms up over his head, their momentum helping pull him out, farther away from the building. He waited for half a heartbeat as he started to sink lower into the air, then pulled the cord for his parachute. His glove snagged on the clasp and tore off as he yanked the cord out. For that awful moment, as the drogue shoot struggled to pull the main canopy free of its pack, he free-fell and watched his torn black leather glove drift pass him in the air. He had already fallen two or three stories, and the ground was coming fast.

       Once the drogue shoot finished hesitating, the main snapped open quickly and violently. Jerking Rabbit back, throwing his feet out in front of him. He yanked hard on the controls, rolling to the left, going down the street away from the shooting. Narrowly avoiding hitting, the right side of his para-sail on the buildings across the street from the one he leapt off of. He kept his left turn going, so that he landed on the left side of the street, just across the intersection. He didn’t stop to collect the parachute there was no time for that. Instead, he unbuckled it from his harness, dropped it on the sidewalk, and set it aflame with his lighter. Once the chute was burning, and could not be reused by his foes in the future, he was running. His feet pounding the sidewalk as he made for the nearest getaway car. Two blocks down the street straight ahead of him. He loosened and un-slung his rifle as he ran.

       He had only covered half the distance when the shooting started. Bullets chased him down the street. Hitting the sidewalk and pavement around him, scarring the concrete, shattering windows. He didn’t stop and return fire, he didn’t even turn to look. He just kept running, adding a little zig-zag to his step. As he neared the car, rifle in one hand, his other hand dug around in his pockets for the keys. He came up with the key-ring, and seven shiny metals keys jangled in front of him. He was only twenty yards from the car now. A mundane looking banana yellow four-door sedan. He brought the keys up in front of his face as he ran so he could read the labels on them. He was able to identify the key just as he had to slam on his brakes. Rabbit skidded into the car. His hip slammed into the driver side door, leaving a large dent in the old sheet metal. A bullet shattered the back window next to him. Leaning on the car he leveled his rifle and fired it from the hip as his left hand fumbled the key into the hole. He spun around, facing the car again, turned the key, and opened the door. He dove inside and slammed the door behind himself. He lay down across the old and worn bench seat, and cycled the bolt on his rifle, he turned to the ignition and realized he had left the key in the door. Two more bullets slammed into his car as more passed over it. Destroying his left mirror and shattering the driver’s window too. Showering him in tiny pieces of safety glass. He reached through the now open window and pulled the key from the door, jammed it into the ignition and cranked the car over. Nothing happened. Hunched over the steering wheel, in confusion he tried again. Nothing, no noise, no crank, not even a click. Someone had sabotaged his car.

       He pulled the keys back out, re-pocketed them and opened the passenger door and slid out the other side of the car. Leaving the door open he went around it and crouched behind the front of the car, keeping the front axle and engine block between him and the enemy. By now a dozen men were running down the street towards him. Some wearing baggy shorts and sleeveless shirts waving machine pistols to others with suits and ties and sub-machine guns or assault rifles. Rabbit leveled his rifle over the hood of the car and fired a single shot. His heavy breathing threw his aim off and he missed. The enemy was closing and he had to keep moving. He cycled the bolt and ran. Bending at the waist keeping his head low as his feet pounded the sidewalk, and then the pavement as he crossed the road diagonally. Putting the corner of the building between him and his assailants. He covered the whole block before the gangsters rounded the corner and started shooting more. A round struck the building near him and as it shattered a piece of shrapnel buried itself in his left bicep. He cursed and changed directions veering across the road and making a right at the intersection. Getting the building between him and the gangsters again. He could see another of the getaway cars, this one a super cab shorted truck another block and a half down the road. Rabbit could see from here though that both back tires were flat though, slashed now doubt. He kept running. By now he was out of breath and starting to feel the burn in his thighs. As his feet fell heavily on the ground weighted down with his gear.

       He continued closing on the truck. He was still fifteen yards away when his enemies rounded the corner and began firing. Bullets past him, snapping loudly. The back window shattered, and the manufacture emblem was blown off the tailgate. He went in front of the vehicle and panted heavily. The windshield took a hit, punching a thumb-sized hole through the glass. Leaning over the hood and flipping out the bi-pod on his rifle he sighted down the street towards the growing crowd of gun-toting men. Beyond him, the streets were still ghostly empty. Rabbit got a clean head-shot on a suited mobster. As he cycled the bolt he could hear sirens off in the distance. He fired another shot, splitting the sternum of a shirtless and pistol-wielding gangster. He cycled again. Then keeping low, he turned and kept running down the sidewalk, trying to keep the truck between him and his pursuers.

       For a while, it worked. But the crowd was firing madly. Causing all kinds of collateral damage. Rabbit hung a right and got hit in the foot as he rounded the corner. The sudden pain surprised him, and as he came down on that foot the immediate pain response made him stumble and fall. He shuffled around on his belly back to the corner. Flipped down his bi-pod and thinned the crowd. Dropping four more of his pursuers with as many shots. His pain and anger drove him now, he cycled the bolt of his rifle violently, flinging the empty brass out into the middle of the street.

       Soon his rifle was empty again, and there were several gun-toting thugs down the street haphazardly spraying bullets at him. Rabbit rolled on his hips as he sat up and disappeared into the doorway of one of the buildings. The action still hung open on his rifle shoving bullets from his belt pouch into the weapons internal magazine. He was wounded and had the enemy right on his heels. He didn’t have time to make it to another of the getaway vehicles that were in the surrounding area. He had to find another way out of this mess.

       He leaned over and peeked around the door frame, looking over his shoulder back up the street. His pursuers were getting awfully close now. He drew his pistol from the holster rigged to his chest and with one hand emptied the magazine. Managing to hit two men in baggy shorts with machine pistols as they tried to run up on him down the sidewalk. There were more, there were others, some crossing to the other side of the street. They were going to get a flank on him. Rabbit glanced around quickly as the noose was closing on him fast. Wincing as the heel of his boot continued to fill with blood.

       He was alone and knew no one was coming to back him up. He had to do something to get himself out of this mess. His eyes kept scanning the street as he dumped the empty magazine from his pistol and shoved a fresh one into it and dropped the slide back into battery with a loud snick. A burst of gunfire pepped the building around him and he flinched, sinking deeper into the doorway. He opened his eyes, staring blankly at nothing, as the shock from his injustices was starting to creep in on his senses. He shook his head, holstered his pistol and brought his rifle back to his shoulder. He didn’t have time for that right now. He willed the pain away and brought his eye4s back into focus.

       He was looking at the large circular metal plate in the middle of the street that covered the entrance into the city’s sewer system. He blinked again. That was how he could get out… He didn’t like it, it was going to stink, but it was better than being dead. He patted himself down, half to make sure he wasn’t hit anywhere else as another burst of bullets elicited a flinch from him, and also to find a grenade. He pulled a fragmentation grenade from his kit and with his strong hand still holding his rifle, he held it with his left hand and pulled the pin with his teeth. Then backhanded flipped the grenade down the sidewalk behind him. As he waited for it to go off he fished out more. Pulling his two smoke grenades from his kit.

       Rabbit leaned sideways and layed the grenades down under his thigh. Holding them in place with his leg he pulled both pins free from the smoke grenades. A white one and a red one. The frag grenade exploded. The deep thump was punctuated by the zip and whizz of shrapnel. The two smoke grenades were already starting to spew their contents and grow warm under his leg. He grabbed first the white one with his gloved hand and pitched it as hard as he could. Landing on the far side of the street and the round canister rolling to a stop against the curb twenty-five yards away. Then he rolled the red smoke grenade into the street too. As Rabbit waited for the billowing clouds to build he rolled on his hips again, dropping back out of the doorway onto his belly again. Firing his rifle at anything he saw. He hit one of his foes in the ankle beneath the car he crouched behind. He fired three more rounds that connected with nothing.

       Now as the smoke thickened Rabbit pushed up onto his knees and on one leg hopped out into the open street, with only the smoke hiding him. He came to the metal cover plate in the street. Now he had to open it…

       He dropped down to a knee over the hatch and a shape started to take form inside the billowing smoke around him. His foe was still coming after him. He shot the dark silhouette inside the white cloud with the last round from in his rifle and watched as it fell backward disappearing through the smoke again. He didn’t have time to reload it in the open.

       But the idea struck him, he could still make use of the rifle. He set the but on the pavement as a few hesitant bullets zipped around him through the obscuring clouds. Holding the rifle with his right hand he unscrewed the suppressor with his left hand and then jammed the muzzle of the weapon into the gap around the cover plate over the sewer access hole. Using his rifle as a lever to pry it open. He sat on the rifle, holding it down to keep the cover plate raised up, then using his good foot, kicked the nearly two centimetres thick metal plate, it was heavy and slow to move. A round glanced off of it as he heaved it with his foot. But he got it to roll up out of the lip it rested in and into the street. Without taking his rifle with him, Rabbit scooted forward into the opening, with his back to the rusty rungs of the ladder he started to descend into the wafting stench that rose from the hole.

        His head and shoulder still above ground level, Rabbit pulled his second fragmentation grenade from his belt pouch and rolled it into the smoke. Leaving behind his last grenade as he disappeared inside the stinking hole.
 
       Rabbit pivoted on his good foot, so he faced the ladder and winced as the grenade overhead popped. He could feel the vibration through the groud as the force of the explosion sent more shrapnel dancing about in the streets above.

       His wound was near the heel of his foot, so with his teeth gritted, and using the ball of his foot, Rabbit was able to descend the ladder dropping ten meters below ground. Now in complete darkness, he stood on a small concrete ledge in the overpowering stench. He could taste it. He gagged and pulled his shirt up from under his combat vest and over his nose. Rabbit pulled the flashlight he carried from his vest and clicked it on. A rat scurried away into the darkness when struck with the sweeping beam of the flashlight. Rabbit looked both up and down the tunnel, disappearing into the distance as far as the light could reach. There was a narrow ledge, less than a meter wide, keeping his feet up out of the much in the bottom of the three-meter diameter tunnel. Rabbit lifted his injured foot, making sure to keep it away from the sludge in the tunnel, then with a flashlight in one hand, and his pistol in the other, he hopped on one foot down the tunnel. His subterranean heading taking him back the way he had come. He struggled to breathe through the stench and his shirt. He covered only twenty meters before he had to stop and pant for another foul breath. He clicked off his flashlight as he stood one-legged, a hand out to steady himself on the curved wall.

       He wondered how long it would take the outlaws to figure out where he had gone. He turned his light back on and started hopping again, wondering, would they follow him down here? Rabbit had hopped his way through another fifty meters, his good leg starting to ache from the exertion. He Struggled to keep his mind on anything but the pain. He fought away the shock as best he could. He hopped down another thirty meters of the tunnel’s length. By the time he had managed that he thought he heard something. Rabbit switched off his light and crouched down. His uninjured leg protesting from having to do all the work. The shaft of light shooting down into the tunnel from the cover Rabbit had left open, showing him two men, standing at the ladder's base. Their mouths covered against the stench, scanning both directions up and down the tunnel.

       The thugs stepped from the shaft of light, one headed in each direction and were instantly swallowed by the shadows. Rabbit cursed under his breath, “Persistent ******”. Without turning his light back on, he tried to shuffle along by feel, creeping on his tiptoes. Keeping his wounded foot out of the much, he couldn’t put weight on the injury anyway. But that made for slow going and made him wince with every other step, sucking the heavy stagnant air, reeking of excrement through his teeth. He came to an intersection and made a left turn slowly, feeling along the edge of the walkway with his toes. His legs ached and his foot screamed in pain still. Rabbit leaned back against the curved slimy wall, no longer caring about the filth. He was to busy fighting the pain. Going back in his mind, scanning through all his old memories, giving himself something, anything else to think about. Struggling to keep the shock from creeping in. He gritted his teeth and was preparing to move out again when a light erupted from the tunnel he had just left. His eyes were overwhelmed after trying to adjust to total darkness. He cursed under his breath again, he was hurt to bad and moving too slow to get away down here. He had become the cornered rat, he would have to fight if they found him. He turned up the gain on his electronic hearing protection and drew his pistol from its holster rigged to his chest.

       He scooted backwards, moving slowly and gingerly through the pain. Keeping his eyes and his pistol trained on the tunnel’s intersection. The light was bouncing with the stride of the man who carried it. Rabbit blinked hard as he backed into something. The tunnel was blocked off by a floor to ceiling grate of metal bars each as thick as his thumb and covered in slime from the years of being down in the filth. Now he really was cornered. He cursed under his breath again. His wounded leg ached and cried out louder. He winced and nearly lost his balance. He reached out with his one gloved hand and caught onto the great. He leaned away from it, pulling his arm taught, and standing on his one good leg. He stretched out his other arm and leveled the pistol down the tunnel the way he had come as the light at the end continued to bobble up and down.

       Rabbit rotated his elbow outwards and upwards, as far as it would go without his hand or his shoulder moving. Using the muscle in his arm to pit his wrist and shoulder joins against his elbow. Locking his arm in place as stiff as a board, pushing against himself so hard his joints began to ache. But this weird articulation would make it all the easier to keep his pistol on target when only fighting with one hand. He waited, his weight pulling on his gloved hand against the grate while he waited. The bobbing light stopped, its beam narrowed, the source was just around the corner of the tunnel. Rabbit’s eyes narrowed and mind focused as he prepared for more violence. His pain was forgotten for the moment. Then the man stepped into the intersection and made his last mistake. He looked to the right first. Silhouetting himself behind the flashlight's beam. Rabbit took the second to line up the three glowing dots of his pistols combat signs on the back of the thug’s head and then he shot him.

       The single-round from his pistol rang and reverberated like thunder inside the confines of the tunnel. The muzzle flash was blinding in the near-total darkness too. It took Rabbit a heartbeat to recover from the thunder, the flash and let his hand settle back to where it had been after the recoil. The flashlight fell from the man's hand and spun madly, casting its beam of light every which way in the darkness, and splashed into the trickle of fluids at the bottom of the tunnel. Everything was completely black again, after another moment there was a second heavy and final sounding splash. Rabbit prayed it was the man tilting forward, falling face first, dead into the sewer. Rabbit bent at the knee, stretching his injured leg out in front of him and coming to a crouched rest on the ball of his good foot, still leaning against the grating for balance, still holding his pistol out into the absolute darkness in front of him. He waited, he didn’t know how long he waited, but there was no more noise, no more light. Long enough Rabbit decided his pursuers had given up, and the pain crept back in from his wounds. Now, he just had to figure out how to get out…
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #20 on: 01 July 2020, 15:07:46 »
                                                                             Guard duty
       The mercenary command Rabbit had signed on with had been granted a small-time contract to help the local government of a periphery state to secure its border from a neighboring government. Two fledgling nations trying to use the same planet for their capital. Their border being a continental shelf, rather than different solar systems, it was a rare and delicately archaic situation. Their primary goal was just to provide surveillance support and provide direction to the local's existing forces. They were authorized to use lethal force, but due to the political situation, the general populace was not to aloud to know of their activities.

       The military base that was staging the general operations for the campaign, but didn’t have the facilities to house the mercenaries or their equipment covertly. There was a civilian facility farther north on the other side of the city, with large hangar facilities. Legally it was an airport. But it had no terminals and no massive parking lots. In practice, it was a heavy maintenance facility for commercial aircraft. There was also a small military facility their too, they shared the runway, but it was not an active station. It was a training facility, mainly for new VTOL pilots and associated maintenance personnel.
The facility housed a half dozen hangars along with close to three dozen other support buildings. The buildings were old, and run down, and poorly maintained. One of the hangars, that wasn’t housing the wide-body commercial aircraft, or the narrow-body commercial craft or even the military's helicopters lay derelict, and on the whole empty. Old and worn-out equipment had been warehoused in it. Now the mercenaries just had to secure legal permission to “store” some of their equipment there.

       Rabbit, because he used to be an actual avionics tech, was to go along with the mercenary's liaison to throw in some tech speak and make them sound more legit. So he had to dig out some old clothes from a long-sealed and very dusty container so that he would look the part again too. He found some old jeans that were in good shape with some grease stains on the thighs and a slightly sun-faded polo shirt. Then he stuffed some pens and an E.S.D. strap in his chest pocket. He hung his back up knife from a lanyard around his neck under his shirt. Leaving the blue polo untucked. This untucked shirt also served to cover the sidearm and two extra magazines of ammunition in leather holsters inside his waistband. He had tread bare and greasy combat boots that completed his undercover look. He stepped from his room to the hall and marched out to where their ride was waiting, he met George Crabtree at the door.

       George was a relative newcomer, had only been with command a little longer then Rabbit. He was let in because he was related to some company shareholders or something or other of that nature. He was granted in at the same rank even though he was younger and less experienced then Rabbit. But he had really stepped up and impressed most of the crew. He earned his rank after it was issued, he didn’t slide by on his family relations, he pulled his weight and seemed a decent fellow. He was serving as the liaison for this mission because of his family ties though he knew more about the company’s workings and assets and could read the fine print better than most, and not just because of his relations.

       They nodded and grunted to each other as Rabbit walked out, they had both been briefed, and nothing further needed to be said. Rabbit climbed into the driver seat and started the truck as George fought with his seat belt. Stomping on the clutch Rabbit shuffled it into first gear and slowly rolled them out onto the gravel strip leading to the pavement and to their destination. He shifted through second and third rapidly as they got up to speed. Neither of them spoke, they were both ready and wanted no distractions from the task at hand.

       The early morning sun was weak and felt gray like stale hot-dog buns as Rabbit and George drove past the farm fields that surrounded the airfield. A long straight road, that was poorly kept, their company truck bounced lots, and didn’t handle the bumps well. The original pavement’s surface area was less than the surface area of its patches. Some of the patches had patches. But they rattled on, the passenger door of their truck jiggling under George’s elbow. Their road smoothed out eventually, they reached a stop sign and made a left turn into the main gate of the facility. The gate was wide open, and the guardhouse was empty, some of the windows were broken and covered with caution tape. Rabbit and George exchanged glances. They continued, and stayed left at the fork in the road, passing the restricted area, and workplace safety signs. The road curved gently and ran parallel to the runway, which was oriented perfectly North and South. The rolled through the second stop sign on the facility to the gravel parking lot where they slowly and semi-professionally climbed out of the old truck and walked up the human resources building across the cracked sidewalk through the barren courtyard.

       When Rabbit and George reached the door, Rabbit turned the knob and it didn’t open, they assumed the deadbolt was locked and returned to their vehicle. They were almost half an hour early. They shrugged to each other and Rabbit silently figured that they weren’t open yet as they sat next to each other in the truck. After five more minutes of silence, a man in a red shirt walked past their truck, up the sidewalk, and went right inside. They looked to each other again, and with raise eyebrows exited the truck. They again walked up the sidewalk to the door and this time when Rabbit reached for it opened, with only a tug. It was sticky along the bottom of the doorjamb. Rabbit shrugged and they went inside, the old carpet was green and worn thin, offering no cushion to your step at all. They passed the women’s bathroom as they went down a short hallway to a T junction. The pair of them stood at the junction for a moment, looking first one way and then the other. Then they stood there another moment longer. Eventually, for fear of missing their meeting they chose to go right, and past an empty office on the left, and then an empty break-room on the right. The next room was however not empty. They identified themselves to the short frog faced older woman who was behind the desk, with stacks of paperwork literally taller than she was. Fortunately, she at least knew of their impending arrival and was able to direct them to the appropriate office.

       There was a bald man with glasses who stood and shook their hands, his were sweaty from working his keyboard so fiercely. He spoke loudly and happily. He took them down the hall to the last room on the left and instructed to wait there. After the ten minutes until the allotted time for their meeting they expected someone to arrive, but they didn’t, not for another ten minutes after that. Long enough for Rabbit to pace the room several times. He noticed all the outdated books and the thick layers of dust on the magazines along the length of the table at the back of the room. With dates from several years back, not several months. He returned to his seat just before the man they were meeting arrived. He sat down, and apologized for being late, and said they were very busy. No sooner had he finished explaining his lateness then he received a call on his cell phone. He was rather curt with whoever called him, and soon told them he was in a meeting.

       Finally, they had his attention. After he hung up the phone, George layed out the general terms of the plan and handed over his detailed contract from within his leather-bound folder.

       There was some nodding and chin-scratching. Then the rep, named simply John, asked a couple of questions, George deferred them to Rabbit, and Rabbit explained in some good tech terms about the general weight and type of aircraft they wanted to bring in for storage and light maintenance. Rabbit and George were told that they would think it over and that they would get back to them later. The shook hands and left, returning to their truck and leaving from the same gate whence they came.

       They drove back to the dingy motel where they were staying, the sun had finally chased the clouds away and was comfortably warm coming through the windshield as the old truck with the rattling door carted them back.

       It was another three days in the cramped hotel room with a bad air conditioner before Rabbit and George received a callback. The civilians were accepting the offer. After a little more business speak they were off the phone, and then right back on again to contact their superiors. The plan was a go.

       Soon the planes were in the air. Rabbit and George got back in the truck and bounced on over to the maintenance and storage facility again. They arrived, passed through security, which was minimal and unarmed and drove to the hangar they were soon to occupy. The pair stood in the doorway, hands on their hips and surveyed the building more carefully. The dust lay thick upon everything. An abandoned toolbox lay covered with a plastic tarp. An electric cart with three bad tires and no batteries sat in a corner. The roof had a leak, that hadn’t been repaired for some time. The wooden tops of the tables sagged with age.  But the floor was good, no cracks, looked to have been waxed almost even.

         There were other things there two, old aircraft tires. A shovel with a broken handle, just junk in general. They had nearly six hours before the planes would arrive. George and Rabbit all by themselves had to clear this stuff out, so when the planes arrived after dark their cargo could be unloaded and put straight into the hangar, away from prying eyes.

       The pair of them worked up a good sweat doing it too. They got all the junk pilled outside. They leaned against the wall, sitting on the cool cement floor as the sun set. With two more hours to spare before the planes arrived. So they napped because their work hadn’t even begun yet.

       They were awoken by the sound of jet engines. The cargo planes had landed and were taxiing to the hangar. It was dark, very dark., they couldn’t see their hands in front of their faces. And had to stumble around to find light switches, took them nearly ten minutes and a couple of tumbles. But they finally got the lights on, even if only two-thirds of them worked.

       It took nearly another half hour for the cargo planes to get pushed into position, one at each end of the hangar so they could unload through both hangar doors at the same time. Rabbit stood at one door, George at the other. So when the ramps came down, and the men inside poured out and spread out. And stretched their legs. Rabbit and George were able to direct them around and they were soon unloading the crates of gear and supplies. Rolling out the hardware. After nearly three hours, the planes were empty and they rolled them back out onto the ramp waiting. They got their engines restarted and soon were making their respective takeoff rolls. The planes ascended into the darkness again, the pilots shut off their running lights as soon as the landing gear were retracted. There was nothing to note their existence besides the distant and receding rumble of turbines.

       The thirty men set up cots and stacked the crates to build a wall. Sheltering themselves from the draft and they slept there in the hangar, locking the doors from the inside and sleeping in shifts so there were always at least five men awake, watching the two pedestrian doors, since the main doors were chained shut from the inside, and they slept horribly. The next day Rabbit stood from his cot, stretched, fought the horribly painful crick in his neck. Stretched, some more and woke the rest of the crew. They too were in similar uncomfortable states. Collectively they stretched dug out their freeze-dried rations and ate their breakfast.

       The cargo planes were going to come back, hauling the second load of equipment that evening. Rabbit and Goerge had to marshal all the supplies and get it stowed and organized so that they could receive the second incoming shipment. The work was slow and hard, compounded by the poor sleep it took cognitive effort from Rabbit to keep his eyes open as they toiled.

       At nightfall, the cargo freighters landed again. With aid from some borrowed Tug trucks, they towed the planes to the hangar and then pushed them in backwards, leaving the front half of the transports protruding, and shutting the hangar doors over the wings to block the view from prying eyes.
Rabbit’s disappointment as palpable as the first thing off the ramp of the cargo transports were pilots. Not the pilots of the transports, but the pilots of the cargo. A pair of light strike fighters were partially dissembled and stowed inside the cavernous hull of the transport craft. They were immediately issuing commands to Rabbit and the ground crew personnel that had been there nearly thirty-six hours already. They had to reassemble the light strike fighters, make them combat-ready and maintain security and secrecy while they did it. Their activities here officially didn’t exist and the periphery government needed to maintain an air of deniability. If they were ‘caught’ they would be treated by their employers as war criminals.

       These ‘big shot pilots’ were making royal pains of themselves as Rabbit and the other personnel grudgingly and silently got to work at the pilots' somewhat misguided urgings. This time, Rabbit wasn’t a grunt in the mud and the blood, he was back to his old tricks, as an Avionics technician. As soon as the cargo planes were unloaded, and towed away, the ground crew, Rabbit included got to work on the two strike fighters. It wasn’t long before they started running into problems. They were prepared with enough coffee and donuts to work all night, but in an effort to get all the equipment and parts on sight some other equipment had been deliberately left behind. Some specialty tools that Rabbit needed had not been sent in either shipment.

       Rabbit was incredulous, he had no way to splice and crimp or solder wiring because the tool kit hadn’t been sent along. He hardened his resolve and mentally prepared a cover story as he walked down a quarter-mile of runway to the other hangar, his mindset on borrowing an electricians tool-set from the civilians.
The late hour of the night and cool air sweeping up from off the miles of concrete and pavement forced Rabbit to turn up the collar of his worn polo shirt. He wandered into the civilian’s larger hangar, the late hour of the night left only a skeleton crew on-site working on a massive almost modern aerospace transport craft, almost a dropship. The tired looking, humorless civilian mechanics shot foul glances in Rabbit’s direction as he strode across the large hangar floor. Panels and parts removed from the massive transport craft strewn about the building. He slowly wove his way past the array of parts and the silent mechanics to the far side of the hangar where a small window sat in the wall. But it did not look outside, but rather into a room locked from the inside.

       This room was the holy grail of the average mechanics dreams. The tool room. Where any and every specialized tool that could be imagined was stored. Such a broad selection of odds and ends and purpose-built devices that most mechanics couldn’t identify half of the room’s contents, and if given time to inspect them would still be unable to devise the purpose of most of the equipment and instruments. Waiting, bored and disappointed looking was a petite blond woman. She was roughly the same age, maybe even slightly younger than Rabbit and was looking incredibly disinterested in the whole world. Rabbit stood in the window, his figure darkening its frame, his shadow leaning across it, pushed in that direction by the florescent lights dangling from the hangar's ceiling twenty-five meters above would be enough to get her attention. She didn’t notice him. He stood patiently, he stood by long enough that he glanced around in nervous boredom. His eyes flitting over the dozen or so grizzled and dirty looking mechanics, most nearly twice his age as they made slow, diligent dull and steady progress on whatever it was they were assigned to do. He looked to the aerospace freighter. It was an older model, but in surprisingly good condition for its age.

       Rabbit’s eyes wandered back forward to where the pale little platinum blond sat in the tool room window still intently bored as she scribbled with dull and disinterested detachment on the yellow paper of a scratchpad. Her pen making rabid broad strokes across the breadth of the page. Rabbit was oddly mesmerized, but perhaps that was just because it had been months since he had seen a woman who was not scarred, battle-hardened and leathery from the experience.

       His mind started to wander as did his eyes, but it was mere seconds before he reeled himself in, embarrassed, he didn’t want to be caught if her attention managed to wander from her paper to him. Instead, Rabbit decided he would engage on his own terms. He breathed in deeply, reset is face and swatted the aging dirty glass of the single pane window with the roll of paperwork he carried. He exhaled his breath heavily as she sat down her pad of paper and slid the window open, the sand grinding in its tracks. She spoke, her voice high and squeaky, so much so it was nearly painful. Her words came with surprising enthusiasm and curiosity. Undoubtedly glad to have something to do in the dead of night and interested to see a face she did not recognize. Perhaps just glad to be spared the leers and comments of the shabby old men she was acquainted with on the overnight maintenance shift.
 
“What do you need?”

       Rabbit plopped his stack of paperwork down on to the windowsill, upside down, so that it would be facing the correct direction for the blond. His finger hesitantly sliding down the margin as he looked for the line he wanted while trying to read it upside down. He found the line of text he was looking for and halted his finger as he spoke, his voice dry with awkwardness.

“I need a Daniels kit.”

       He started to explain more, about to divulge his cover story. But he saw the way the girl’s eyes scanned the page, quickly and haphazardly. Either she didn’t understand or didn’t care what was being shown to her, she was too disinterested to care. Instead, he held his tongue, not wanting to divulge more information then he had to. His mission was not just one of aircraft servicing but also of guarding secrets. Instead, he forced a small smile through his three-day stubble.

       She rotated the stool she sat on, and slipped from it, getting shorter as she stood up. She was a very petite person indeed. Rabbit watched her hips with casual interest as she walked away, speaking over her shoulder back at him as she slipped into the rows of shelves sagging with the weight of obscure, old and expensive tools.

“What do you guys even do with these things?”

       Rabbit paused, his mouth half-open. This had to be a ploy right? What did she mean what did one do with a Daniels tool kit? He decided to go with the generic sass answer that was technically true but withheld anything potentially incriminating. His voice still husky with his contained confusion and a hint of mirth. “uh... fix airplanes?”

       She came back with a silvery blue and worn metal box, about the size of a shoe-box and plopped it with a clank onto the counter inside the window.
“We have four of these kit’s and you guys managed to check one out almost every day, yet I never know what you do with them, what they are for?  Heck, I don’t even know what is in it.”

       Rabbit judged her voice and expression against the longer sentence she had spoken. She was serious, she was really that uninitiated. She used a scanner and first scanned the bar code on Rabbit’s paperwork, and then the inventory bar-code on the metal case of the tool-set as Rabbit’s mind processed this. How could you work in the tool room of the largest aircraft maintenance facility in the hemisphere, and not know what a Daniels kit was? It was the bread and butter of any electrician. You almost couldn’t touch a wire without it. 

       After she scanned it, she opened the little metal box, her eyes scanning the contents that rattled inside with uncomprehending boredom and very idle curiosity. Rabbit took the opportunity to inspect it too. Reaching through the window and using the lid of the box to rotate it ninety degrees. Looking down at the worn set of hand tools inside. Some small pliers, wire cutters and another tool that looked like a cross between a set of pliers and mechanical rivet gun. It had an open hole in the head of the tool and there was a set of a half dozen round tumblers in the box that latch into the open socket of the larger tool. His eyes scanned the inside of the box, making sure the basics were there. Her eyes lifted from the metal box and met his, the curiosity more serious and evident in them. Rabbit was flustered by her lack of understanding of even the most basic tools when it was actually her job to distribute said tools. He was slow to formulate words and the moment hung between them while he did so deepening the awkwardness.

       ...Continued...
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #21 on: 01 July 2020, 15:08:13 »
       ...Continued


       “The Daniels kit is used for basic wire and electronics servicing.” He pulled out some pliers that looked like soft jawed channel locks. “These are cannon plug pliers for disconnecting difficult plugs from the back of avionics boxes.” He replaced them and pulled out the crimpers. “These are for attaching pins and sockets onto wires and so we can build new plugs, these are for all the different sizes of wire and styles of pins” he indicated the half dozen rotary heads that could fit into the crimpers. “Other tools in here are simply for cutting wires, a wire spoon for threading new wires into a bundle, insertion tools to push the new pins into the connectors,” he thought about it for a moment as she looked up to him, awed but still not comprehending. “Now that I’m thinking about it, can I get a heat gun too? I’m probably going to have to redo the heat shrink on ever back-shell I open up.” She left the counter again. Rabbit shook his head in disbelief as he stuffed the tools back into the cramped metal box and hefted it into the crook of one arm like one would carry a rugby ball. She scanned his paperwork and the other tool and passed the heat gun through the window too. He smiled, retrieved his paperwork, she smiled and he departed. She sent him off with an enthusiastic and chipper wave only a platinum blond could pull off and still be taken seriously.

       He returned through the darkness to the hangar the mercenaries were renting. Along the way, he found a leather jacket. An old, worn foul-smelling leather jacket that bore the name of the civilian repair station across the chest and had a large rent through the hide just below the armpit. It was draped over a concrete post behind the dumpster outside of the hangar. Rabbit looked about, saw no one in any direction and picked up the jacket. Shook it, and slung it over a shoulder. That rent he could fix. He had always wanted a leather jacket but had never been willing to spend the money to get one. With a small smile, he continued his walk back to the rented hangar, for now, he had one.

       Rabbit exchanged nods with the sentry, passing through the rented hangar’s people-sized side door and back into the quiet and hurried shuffle on the inside of the building as two dozen men swarmed over the two single-seat jet fighters inside. The longer it took them to get the planes airworthy, the longer they would be here, the longer they would be spending money without hitting targets, the longer they would go without money coming in. His shoulders sagged, double shifts until the job was done. He and the others scurried back and forth working as hard and as fast as they safely could without making more noise then they must. In some cases using hand tools rather than power tools, it was slower, but it was also quieter to install rivets by hand, rather than hammer them in with air-powered tools. Because not only was speed important but so was subtlety.

       Rabbit worked through the night. Trapped inside the building he didn’t know when the sun came up, he just kept working. Eventually, his watched beeped, telling him he had the next eight hours to himself before he had to start working again. He leaned on the wall and looked tiredly at the partially assembled aircraft. The rest of the crew would not get the project done before he came back on duty. He pulled heavily on his water canteen. The hangar was stuffy and they were all sweating hard. The Place smelled rank with thirty sweaty tired, working unkempt men with tools guns and fighter jets crammed inside of it. Rabbit ate his food that was almost warm, and despite his tiredness, he struggled to sleep. His employer didn’t care about his past, but it still haunted him, the death, the blood, the injuries the missing friends all the times he should have died. Where was Spaceman he wondered? Eventually, sleep did come, only five hours of it, but it was deep and heavy when he did manage to catch it.

       Rabbit, George and the crew continued, their labor. Slowly knitting all the pieces of the disassembled jets back together, by hand. Slowly carefully, quietly. As efficiently as the cramped space and tired bodies would let them. It took another three days before it was done and the pilots were satisfied. Finally, Rabbit and the other techs were granted respite for a few hours as they waited for night to fall. So they could launch the jets against targets on the southern half of the continent. Rabbit wasn’t even sure what, or why. He no longer cared. He was getting paid still, and War was all he knew how to do. There had been too much blood, hurt and lost friends for there to be room for anything else but warfare and bush-craft left in his soul.
Rabbit was starting to feel nocturnal. With the aircraft readied they were given the rest of the day to sleep finally. This time, Rabbit and the other exhausted mechanics had no trouble passing out almost instantly.

       They were awoken later, long enough after sunset that there was no light left tickling the horizon. Now they had orders to get the aircraft outfitted for their first sorties and launch them, again in the cover of darkness. They were fueled from a truck, Some of the men loaded traditional iron bombs, hanging them from the hard-points under their wings. Rabbit and another tech spent the time loading the plane’s magazine with SRM’s by hand. They may have only weighted nine kilo’s per missile, but the two men had to load two hundred of them from the shipping crate offloaded from the transport craft into the feed mechanism on the strike fighter, two other men loaded two hundred more of the little SRM’s into the other fighter. 

       Still, with their borrowed tug, they drug the two heavily laden strike fighters out of the old dirty hangar and onto the flight line. They only had one electric start cart, so they towed one of the two planes and parked it some distance in front of the other, and hooked the start cart up to it. Rabbit sat in the cockpit of the second craft as the other was towed into place in front of it. He did the last of the pre-flight checks. Turning on a select few switches, closing the relays on the batteries and letting the electricity flood he wiring, the computers winked on all at once and soon the cockpit was filled with the dull hum of many high RPM fans buried behind the instruments.

       The pilots emerged, suited up with their pressurized flight suits and helmets. Rabbit ran through the last couple of checks as they crossed the open tarmac from the hangar. He ran his hand over the panel of circuit breakers beneath his left knee to make sure none had tripped and climbed out quickly. Half descending half jumping down the ladder to get out of the pilot's way. He knew there would be a shit storm if he wasn’t out of the snobs way fast enough. Without breaking stride, making eye contact, or acknowledging Rabbit’s existence the pilot ascended the ladder, and Rabbit went up after him. The pilot fastened his harness holding him in the seat and plopped his helmet on, Rabbit reached over his knees and set the right radio frequencies and transponder codes on the dials and then started plugging the lines into the pilot’s helmet. Jacking in the audio in and audio out cords, the oxygen line and both primary and secondary cables to feed the pilots H.U.D. He patted the pilot’s helmet, the man, now immobile inside the airplane’s skull he gave a thumbs up and Rabbit receded as the small hydraulic pistons lowered the canopy down over the pilot. With a hiss the canopy sealed and pressurized. Thru the dim glow of the instruments, back-lighting Rabbit could see the pilot rap his knuckles against the inside of the canopy. Rabbit tapped back and descended the latter before disconnecting it and hauling it away, its tired wheels squeaking and dragging across the uneven cement.

        With a cough, a choke and a splutter the start cart’s’ diesel engine kicked over and let loose a swirl of black oily smoke that twisted strangely in the wash of the single light cast on them from the hangar’s direction. The whine of an electric motor sounded. Powered by the high output diesel generator. There was a screech, a pop, then a second pop, and a third, but the third noise, that started as a pop turned into a boom. A noise that almost sounded like the thump one gets when lighting an acetylene torch. But this wasn’t a torch, it screamed and roared like a torch, but the singular exhaust nozzle was nearly a meter in diameter. The thunder of the jet exhaust bounced off the walls of the old buildings like that flail of a beasts tongue inside its maw during a roar before it stabilized. The hot exhaust burned the last hint of humidity from the sleepy night air. Like a blow torch a meter in diameter, the exhaust plume focused into a cone of blue hot exhaust that made the men on the ground wince and wither away with the sheer cacophony of its rumble. A rumble that Rabbit could feel in the concrete through the sounds of his boots.  The blast of hot flame, and washed over the front of the second craft parked behind it. The angry air stirred the blades of the second craft’s’ turbine. Slowly the lead craft poured on the throttle and with a cough, splutter and fiery belch the second aircraft came to life too. If the running electronics had been the blood flowing in the plane’s wire veins, and the pilot belted into the cockpit was the brain inside the skull, now with the engine belching flames and sucked fuel the monster of the fighter jet had opened its eyes and its soul came to life. Rabbit grinned. This is why he liked machines more than people. Why he buried himself in work with feats of engineering and surrounded himself with things made of metal rather than other people, or facing down the problems years of war had saddled his mind with.

       Rabbit leaned back against the hangar, its metal walls shook with the power and the exhaust. His grin of love and satisfaction twisted with the shadows from the dancing light of jet exhaust. His new best friend screamed with happiness and released its breaks. His eyes caressed the strike fighter, following the flowing curves and tracing the hard lines as it rolled forward and turned away onto the taxi lane. Disappearing into the night, the jet exhaust a glowing disc of light in the distance. That noise of raw power and freedom warbled as the planes taxied and faced away from him, disappearing into the darkness. Their low shapes on the far end of the runway barely distinguishable in the dim moonlight like the crouch of prowling cats.

       The two jets sat at the end of the runway, they sat there long enough for Rabbit to wonder what was going on. But without warning the noise changed sharply, the dull roar and thunder sharpened to a whistle as the exhaust nozzles tightened and focused the heated and compressed air. Then the afterburners ignited and extra fuel was dumped into the aircraft’s exhaust. Rabbit smiled wider as the whistle lost focus and became a raw primal scream of mechanical hatred. In seconds the two strike fighters had shot down the runway like racehorses turned loose from the gate. They ascended steeply, pulling away from the ground and slipping into the stary sky. Rabbit watched their lithe shapes and spread wings laden with the baubles of war as they slipped into the night sky. Their dark intent evident and filled with malice like gargoyles of war.

       Rabbit stood for a minute even after the distant sound of jet engines had faded into the darkness. That was love, those machines, were greater than the sum of their parts. They had souls, he dared think, more soul than many humans.he remembered the blond form the tool room. Maybe more personality too. Rabbit went back to sleep, his dreams pleasant with the shapley curves of aircraft.

       He was stirred from his nap just over two hours later. The fighter's return was imminent. He would have more work to do. They landed, and without the pilots leaving the confines of their cockpits or shutting the engines down they were refueled and rearmed. Only to disappear off into the darkness for a couple more hours. Each time they would return, Rabbit and the other men would shove a few more SRM’s into the magazine, splash more fuel in the tanks and rig more bombs to the hard-points.

       The pilots and, at least to Rabbit, more importantly, their jets returned after their fourth sortie over the southern border just as the rising sun started to tickle the horizon. They shut the engines down and gingerly towed the hot aircraft inside the hangar. The stagnant air inside the whole building was quickly heated by the now dormant turbines.

       There were some minor issues with one of the craft and with the help of another tech Rabbit was able to track down a bad solder joint on a ground wire and rectify the problem within the hour. The whole team, pilots, mechanics, technicians and defacto armed security guards of the hangar spooled down and packed up for the day.

       The Next four days progressed much the same. The entire crew worked all night, launching the strike fighters on as many sorties as they could squeeze in under the cover of darkness. Hiding their activities. That was until the jig was up…

       The petite and painfully blond girl from the tool room wandered into the hangar early one morning. Not long after sunrise. Rabbit and the others were still fighting with a hydraulic line on one of the strike fighters that refused to stop leaking. No one was sure how she slipped passed the patrolling armed guards. Suddenly she was just standing in the middle of the hangar floor, gaping open-mouthed at the munitions, tools and other stuff laying about. Stuff that officially wasn’t there. Stuff that wasn’t supposed to exist because the periphery government wouldn’t allow it. Even if they were simultaneously paying for it to be there. Someone shouted, and the entire hangar floor grew still, a collective inhale as they held their breath waiting for all the bad to happen at once.
Before anyone did anything rash, Rabbit broke the stillness, descending his ladder and approaching the small woman. She looked about confused until she recognized Rabbit, despite his stubble being more than a week-long now.

       “What’s going on here?” her voice was still light, detached and moderately uninterested. Much the way one would ask a cat what it was doing as it walked passed the open doorway of your room.

       Rabbit, forgetting about his un-bathed stench and the layer of grime you can only get from being inside the guts of an aircraft, he put an arm over her shoulder and gently steered her towards the man-sized door. An armed man, sub-machine-gun at the low ready approached them, his stride fast and purposeful. Rabbit shot him a look and surreptitiously waved a hand at him. He kept his distance, but the armed mechanic stayed close. With his hands on her shoulders, Rabbit turned so they faced each other. He hissed to her quietly. “You can’t be here. What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”

       Without confusion or surprise or anything else that should have registered with her at finding thirty-something armed men and two illegal fighter jets at her place of work she simply said “You never brought back the Daniels kit.” She didn’t even seem to react to Rabbits hissing almost angry tone.

       Rabbit winced, he hadn’t because he still had need of it, not immediately, but when dealing with combat aircraft one would never know when a wire would come loose or something. He looked from her to the rest of the men and equipment in the hangar, all motionless, all eyes were on him and the blond.
       Depending on how she handled the next few minutes determined lots of things. Rabbit led her by the elbow to one of the folding tables along the wall, picked up the tool kit again and lead her out of the hangar. They walked back to the civilians' big hangar. The mercenaries watched the two of them leave, their eyes full of fear or murderous intent. Rabbit paused in the doorway and looked back to the other men as he lead the blond away. He gave them a nod and left with the girl and the tool kit.

       As they walked he questioned her. “ You sure you can let me keep the tools longer? I may still have need of them.”

       She didn’t look at him but kept her eyes on her feet as she walked with the killer in the weak morning sunlight. “Technically you’re supposed to return the tools after twenty-four hours, at the most.” Her voice was small and soft like a lion cub. Innocent, but full of potential danger depending on what she spoke. She continued, “ I let you keep it all week because you seemed to know what you were doing with it and that it would be really important to you. But I couldn't stall the office manager any longer, I had to come to get it.”

       Rabbit nodded knowingly. “I’ll happily give it back too.” He stopped her with a hand on her shoulder and turned her to face him again. “But first tell me, what did you see in that hangar?”

       She looked genuinely confused at him. “ What do you mean?  Just a bunch of men working on a couple of airplanes.”

       Rabbit nodded, a small smile slipping past his mental barricade splashing onto his face. “Yes, that’s what we were doing.” He walked all the way back to the tool room with her as she scanned the tool kit back in. She asked if he needed to check it right back out. He shook his head, telling her he decided he wouldn’t need to use it after all. As soon as he was out of the hangar, out of her eyesight, he ran. He ran fast and hard in the days weak but growing heat. His worn boots slapping the flight line’s sun-bleached cement.

       He returned breathless to the rented hangar. The men inside were a flurry of motion that bordered on panic. The man with the sub-machine-gun met him at the door. His voice was gruff and full of nervous anger. “Did you take care of the girl.”

        Rabbit glanced over his shoulder back to the hangar a quarter of a mile down the runway before answering. “Yea, she won’t be a problem.”

       He nodded, “Good, we’ll have enough other problems soon I’m sure. Let’s pack the ****** up and get out of town before our employer learns of our existence here.”

       Rabbit looked to the jets and the scrambling men, the equipment, glad to have spent his time in the company of airplanes. To have helped the airplanes, for some much work with them the past few nights. But now they had to get gone before their employer caught them and persecuted them for doing the job they had been paid to do. Rabbit smiled as he got back to work in the shadows of the strike fighters. Breaking down equipment, loading up tools. In a couple hours the cargo aircraft returned, and all the tools and remaining munitions were loaded into them, the two strike fighters now loaded with pods of LRM’s instead of bombs on their hard-points were wheeled out. And the four craft took off. They quickly got in formation and disappeared over the mountain tops only a few kilometres to the east. The rented hangar was empty and silent again. Except for a large oil stain and some new scrapes in the concrete, there was nothing to mark the events that had occurred under that roof every night that week. Rabbit and George Crabtree returned to the dingy old work truck still in the gravel parking lot, and they too left the scene of the crime.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #22 on: 15 July 2020, 14:42:13 »
                                                                                 Advanced work

       The Mercenaries Rabbit worked with were contracted to launch a counter-assault on a small railway town, this town was at the base of some rolling foothills, at the edge of a large lake, so large it’s almost an inland sea, but it was all freshwater, no salt. This village was to be their first target and was going to serve as a staging post for the rest of their campaign, against a small but very organized rebel organization, that was pushing the planet side government to the brink of civil war.

       Rabbit, was part of a seven-man squad, that had been covertly inserted several miles inland behind enemy lines by a small helicopter. Based upon his previous experience as part of the marauding duo, he was serving as the squad’s designated marksmen. He was loaded with a twenty-inch barrel semi-auto rifle with a variable power optic. He was also loaded with a set of advanced binoculars, that had a range finder, and a laser designation on top of their infrared magnification. He also carried a set of three explosive charges, along with his other standard-issue gear, a sidearm, knife, knee pads, helmet gloves and such.
After their hike, they had ditched their heavy survival packs in a stand of trees and carried only their weapons and ammunition for combat. With only their weapons they crept through the scrub, covering another half kilometre closer to the village. Lying prone on the far side of a ridge. So only the tops of their helmets and eyes protruded over the hilltop. Rabbit dug his binoculars out and looked out over the village. The village was built around a warehouse and a railway stop. The railway ran the circumference of the lake, but the warehouses were part of a small dock, where local shipping could redistribute cargo around via the water, not just the railway. The warehouse was the largest structure in the village. But there were many other buildings, houses, sheds, a small school and several two-story buildings that served as a market for the locals. The village was surprisingly archaic. Surrounded by rolling grasslands and farm fields still tilled by hand. They had running water and electricity but little more than that, their buildings were simple, and only some of the roads were paved. The people were gone, they had fled when the rebels rolled in, Using the railway, and a modified train car with machine guns to help spread their subjugation across the valley.

       The Mercenaries plan was to use their tilt-rotor transports to land a significant portion of their infantry forces in a single wave. Then in a second wave their support equipment, artillery and heavier weapons. The squad Rabbit was with was scouting out the village where they were landing to clear the way for the first wave, to reduce casualties. The first thing that Rabbit spotted with his special binoculars was a pair of large tanks one on either side of the warehouses.  There was a small ridge, just on the other side of the road, there were several infantrymen positioned there with shoulder-mounted weapons and light machine guns. The next closer object was a small shed at the base of a massive a frame power pole, that supported the massive aerial electric lines that ran the length of the valley. There was another ridge as the terrain continually climbed uphill towards Rabbit's position. There was a large truck with a battery of unguided rocket artillery. Judging by the length of the rockets, they could drop those rockets just about anywhere they wanted to. Three buildings were surrounding the rocket truck that was parked in a courtyard with large eight-foot-high concrete walls. Making a c shape, with a gate at each end. There was more infantry there too, tough armed with lighter weapons, just rifles or sub-machine guns.
 
       The road leading uphill stopped at a four-way intersection. The dirt road full of little mounds of sand Rabbit could see with is binoculars even at this distance, he assumed they were some sort of land mines. Further uphill, right in front of Rabbit and his squad, only three hundred yards away, was the densest concentration of buildings. Many of them, most were multiple stories. Here, there was a T-intersection in the paved part of the road. And another rocky ridge that had a staircase carved into it, leading to the three biggest and most lavish houses in the village. Here there were only two men, with folding chairs on the roof of one of the taller houses. From this distance, Rabbit could clearly see their rifles, one a high caliber bolt action the other fancy laser unit, with massive scopes and bi-pods. There was also a set of heavier anti-tank mines at the junction for the t intersection, they haven’t even bothered to try and conceal them. Rabbit was gently muttering under his breath. His words were barely enough to stir the fine powdery dust they were lying in. The squad leader next to him was the only one who could hear. He carried a powerful radio, that could contact the rest of the Mercenary command forces still in orbit. Though he carried a standard rifle and magazines. Rabbit was part of the squad’s fire team. The other two members of the fire team bore the squad’s light machine gun and the support gunner with a standard rifle, but he carried extra ammo belts for the light machine gun. The other three members of the squad served as the assault team. One had another generic assault rifle. The second a tactical shotgun and breaching equipment.  The last a sub-machine gun and a small collapsible rocket launcher. He also carrier some general-purpose explosives.

       Rabbit finally finished whispering all the targets he saw. The squad leader scooted back down behind the hill and rested his chin in his hands. Rabbit grunted, a small, almost animal sound. But it was enough to get the squad leader’s attention again. He scooted back up to the ridge, but Rabbit didn’t need to speak anymore. There was an attack helicopter slowly crawling through the air towards their target village the noise of its rotors beating the air into submission drifted to them, sounding almost gentle at this distance, but it was their just the same. The helicopter slowly dipped lower, until it was only twenty meters or so off the ground and drifting forward at hardly a snail’s pace, and then flared gently before setting down in the dirt lot, blasting dust everywhere. They all slid back down behind the hill and cursed their luck. They had two tanks and an attack helicopter, all with rockets and missiles and machine guns.

       The squad leader dug out his laminated paper map and a red wax pencil. Then marked the known enemy positions. And sat looking at it. No one was sure what to do. But the squad leader, not wanting the men to doubt him, or his orders, quickly whipped up a scheme. Making sure the rest of the team watched him draw arrows, circle and Xs with the wax pencil.

       “Since that helicopter is on the ground, we have a chance to take it out. That’s the single biggest threat at the moment. So first we need to get closer. Our assault team will take point and lead us downhill, for now, we need to stay slow and stealthy. If we’re seen now, we probably won't escape, much less help our inbound comrades.”

       With that they silently set out, trooping slowly, through the grass and scrub, trying to hug the terrain. Fortunately, most of their enemy’s assets were turned towards the water. They were worried about a naval threat for some reason. When they came to the first buildings, highest up the slope they stacked up at the corner of the wall, the squad leader covering around one corner, the LMG at the other. Rabbit using his magnification to scan where they had just come from. The Assault team entered the building, the loudest thing was the soft rustle and rattle of their gear.

       The assault team pronounced the building clear and the rest moved in. the support gunner watched the stairs while the man toting the Belt fed weapon, Rabbit and the squad leader all lay on the balcony, eyes downhill to their foes. The three-man assault team continued to room by room sweeping the surrounding buildings. They returned after the three buildings on the highest tier of the village were verified empty. Many of the belongings left untouched. The citizens had left in a hurry and the rebels had been nice enough to leave most of the belongings un pillaged. It was eerie, seeing so many empty and fully furnished houses, the power on and everything. But no people, not even stray dogs were about in the streets. Now the squad leader had had some time to think, and his plan was developing further.

       The LMG and the support gunner were to stay where they were and keep an eye out with their high vantage point. Rabbit and the squad leader would go with the assault team to the next lower tier of the village, where the markets were. Their goal was to firstly, eliminate the snipers without causing alarm, then disarm the mines in the road.

       With the snipers eliminated, there would be no one else on the high ground scanning the grasslands around the village. The other infantry appeared to be very relaxed. Milling about. Not always taking their weapons with them, napping in chairs with their feet up. So they could go further downhill to the small cluster of buildings that surrounded the courtyard, there they would put the explosives under the rocket truck and disarm the of the mines in the road. Finally, Rabbit got the hairiest job of all. He had to sneak all the way down to the water’s edge and plant his explosives on the helicopter before it took off again. After these objectives were done, they would rendezvous back at the top of the hill where the rest of the fire team would be waiting, and then ex-fill further uphill to where their packs were hidden and hideout for another twelve hours until the rest of the troops were due to land, near midnight.

       The assault team and squad leader set off down the stairs cut into the rock outcropping that separated the highest and middle tier of the village. Rabbit, went way out to their left. Through the buildings and paralleled a footpath. He crawled on his belly through the grass and the dust and the bugs until he came to a rock outcropping. He crawled over the gray stones and wedged himself into the crack between two of the car-sized boulders and dug out his binoculars again. Using the range finder to where the two snipers still sat, in their folding chairs, scanning the grasslands. Two hundred and sixteen. He put his binoculars back into their case and flipped the bi-pod out on his rifle. Steadying it on the rocks and dialed his scope into his two hundred meter preset. The snipers had their backs to him and were lit clearly by the late morning sun. he flipped the safety off and double-checked to make sure he had a round chambered. Then gripping his rifle tightly sighted in on the farther of the two targets. Lining his cross-hairs with the top of his head and controlling his breathing, slowing his heart rate. Now he waited until the assault team was in position. Since they were typically working at shorter ranges, or indoors they had silenced weapons excluding their breaching shotgun. Even with silencers, they were not inaudible. And on this quiet and lazy morning, even at this range, Rabbit was willing to bet he would hear the shots. That’s why they weren’t going to do any shooting. All four of the figures that made up the assault team slowly crept up from the stairs of the second floor, onto the roof behind the lazing snipers. Casting almost no shadows as the sun neared its zenith. Rabbit could see the serrations on the edges of their combat knives as the approached their quarry. The men stood blades raised, poised for a moment. Rabbit was muttering to himself, again hardly stirring the dust beneath his chin.

       “do it, do it, do it.”

       Partially because he didn’t want the snipers to feel the threat behind them, and partially so rabbit could get off the hot rocks and back into the grass, where he would be slightly shaded and on the move. This early spring sun was starting to warm his camouflaged shoulders more then he liked.

       With that, the six shapes on the roof suddenly merged into two. There was little noise. One of the chairs got tipped over. But there was no shouting. The snipers were surprised as they were beset by two men each, who with their weight, their hands and their knives, ended the encounter before it got loud. Their cold sharp blades plunging and twisting into necks and bellies and hands were clasped over mouths and still spasming bodies drug back from the roof's edge. The same bloodied knives were then used to pry the carefully dialed in scopes from their mounts off the rifles, so no one else could use those powerful rifles. Then the four men disappeared back down the stairs into the shadows. Rabbit leapt up from his rock and dashed across the dirt road, not ten meters beyond and went another three or four slides, before slowing and stopping. Dropping back into the grass, not stirring any more of the fine silty dust from the ancient basin and into the air then he had to.

       He crawled through the grass another twenty meters before he came to a field, it had been let go to nature. There were no crops, the wild grasses had taken back over, the perfect rows were still there though, the tiny hills and trenches carved into the ground, Rabbit hunkered down into one of these and crawled, without using his hands or feet, but rather like an inchworm. Stretching and contracting through the dirt. He crossed the field and came to a knee-high rock wall. He slowly and cautiously lifted his head up, his rifle cradled in the crooks of his elbows, he supported himself with. Just barely peeking over the rocks. He produced his binoculars again and ranged the helicopter, which now sat empty, lifeless but still gleaming and predatory in the steady sun. eight hundred twenty-eight meters.

       Rabbit stowed his specs and sighed, a round trip of more than a kilometre and a half, crawling on his belly in the dirt. His pockets were already filling with the fine silty sand. He popped his head up once more, glancing about and then, in one motion rolled over the low wall and with a surprisingly hard thud, landing on the bank beyond the wall. He squirmed another five meters down, into another field, also fallow. Again, using the tilled land to keep him low, he scooted on his belly, covering forty meters before coming to a wooden fence. The lower horizontal beam was too low to fit under, and the gap between the boards were too narrow for him and his gear to fit through. He would have to mantle over it. Exposing himself again. There was another dirt road on the other side, and twenty meters into the grassland beyond it a large bolder with a deformed tree sprouting from under it. The tree had grown large and strong though, and cast its leafy shadow over the whole rock.

       Rabbit stood and with one hand on the fence hopped over. And as his boots hit the dirt road on the other side he saw two of the rebel soldiers. Both with rifles casually thrown over their shoulders, walking and talking with thickly accented voices. Here Rabbit was, standing against a fence, on a road, with nothing separating him and these two soldiers but forty meters of gnat filled air. With little else to do, he ran. Bending at the waist, pumping his legs towards the rock and its shade tree. As he approached the rock he slid his feet out in front of himself, sliding through the soft sand like a baseball player. He rotated his hips as he slid, so by the time he came to a stop, he was on his belly. The bi-pod for his rifle came back out and the safety back off. He sighted in on where the men had been and found them only a few paces from where he had left them. They hadn’t seen him or heard him, they kept walking, and when they reached a small wooden shed, they entered and shut the door behind them. To do who knows what.

       Rabbit hadn’t seen them from his low vantage point down in the grass. He took this heart-pounding moment to scan the area a little more thoroughly with his magnifying scope. Nothing more, his heart rate slowly descended to a lower rate, as close as you could get to normal in a combat zone. However, the shed that those two soldiers had entered was at the intersection with the second set of land mines that the assault team was going to disarm. Rabbit had to warn them somehow. He didn’t want to break radio silence. He sat and puzzled the situation for a full moment or two, until he came to the conclusion there was no other safe, or time-efficient way to warn them, without using the radio.

       So, he keyed his radio twice, letting the static break over the radio. So that the squad leader could hear it, almost as a question, asking for permission to speak. A gentle whisper came back a long heartbeat later, and gentle whisper, “This is bird dog…”

       Rabbit, then spoke, “Bird dog, this is Rabbit, I’ve got two hot ones hidden in the little wood not far from your next touch zone, so deal with them at your discretion.”

       Rabbit sat there for a moment, waiting for a reply. He was soon answered with two more taps to the static. The squad leader giving his ascent. Rabbit, accepted that they would deal with it appropriately and moved on. There was a gentle slope to the terrain behind his rock and tree. Rabbit used this to shelter himself from the enemy’s eyes, and instead of crawling he jogged, and covered ground very fast. Soon he was out of sheltering terrain. He was back on his belly, crawling in the dust. He hated the dust it was the super fine silty stuff. It got under his nails and irritated him to no end. Soon he even had it in his boots, causing chaffing where ever his sweaty man-flesh rubbed against itself.

       He Crawled another one hundred and fifty meters in this fashion, filling every nook and crevice on himself and his gear with the fine powered sand from the overworked and fallow farm fields. He came to another rock outcropping on the slope, and hiding in its shadow took the opportunity to stand and dust himself off. But no matter how much he patted himself, the dust kept coming out of his gear. He feared it would never stop no matter how much he washed it. He checked with his laser range finders, less than two hundred meters to the helicopter, the problem was, he had to cross an open road and into a nearly empty parking lot where the helicopter was landed without getting seen.

       Rabbit law in the overgrown grass of a public park gone wild, he was surprised it was doing so well in the heat. He scanned slowly, carefully. Looking for anyone and anything that moved. Measuring the open ground, the slope of the hillside, scanning the windows, the doors, looking for anyone, anything that could hide or contain a person. He could see nothing, no one. He grew tired of lying still in the hot air, the breeze had died down and he felt like he was sitting in a toaster. He rose from the grass and rested on a knee. Giving one last scan with his swiveling head.

       He sucked in air quickly, a couple of fast shallow breaths, trying to squeeze as much oxygen as he could into his blood. He launched from his crouch and ran as fast as he could across the open ground. Manually drawing deep hard breaths even though he had only covered a handful of strides, in an attempt to try and keep his internal oxygen levels up. He looked to one side, and then the other, even back over his shoulder through the grass field, scanning as he ran. Soon his feet left the grass and he winced internally as the rubber soles of his boots thumped and slapped across the concrete slab that the chopper sat on. It was the first significant noise he had made in hours. He feared it would draw attention and he wanted to shorten his window of detection. He pressed on and ran harder. Twenty-three seconds later He slowed slightly and thumped into the side of the VTOL still at a half run. He sunk to a knee again, slipping as deep into the VTOL’s shadows as the sunlight would let him. He stayed there to suck a couple more deep heavy breaths, scanning, swinging his head looking for someone who may have spotted him. Willing the sound of blood pounding in his ears to lessen so he could hear shouts or calls of alarm.

       Nothing, no movement, and continued silence. Rabbit wasn’t pleased. This was going to well. Things weren’t supposed to work out so nicely. I feared Mr.Murphy was waiting to rear his ugly head until the worse possible moment. He rummaged and produced the fist-sized explosive charged from his many pockets. Rifle slung over his back, with a bomb in each hand he swiveled to look at the VTOL. Where could he plant the charges that would be least likely to be noticed by a cursory visual inspection? He squeezed the two charges he held, the plastic explosives were malleable, almost like clay, each the size of an orange and wrapped in a condom to protect them from outside elements. He flopped down on his stomach, the concrete cool against his sweaty body as he lay in the shadow of the flying machine. He inched forward under it and slithered under its belly. He looked up into the open-wheel wells and then to the extended landing gear, then back into the shadowy depths they would retract into. After a moment of comparison, he decided which corner of the gear bay to stuff his explosives so that they wouldn't be squished, possibly destroying the detonator’s receiver, if the landing gear were retracted before the charges were detonated. Pushing hard forming the semi tacky plastic explosives to fill every nook and cranny he could so they wouldn’t fall out.

       He lay there, looking at his mental picture of the vehicle, debating on where to put the third and final device. He smiled evilly as his creativity gave him an idea. He lay in the shadow of the machine, his head slowly swiveling as he looked for threats while he produced the third latex wrapped bomb. He unrolled it from its sheath and plucked the radio receiver from the little sphere. Then he rolled the ball between his hands until it made a rope as thick as his thumb and nearly as long as his forearm. Suspending it between both hands he slithered out of the shadows and moved to the back end of the aircraft. He stretched and dropped the rope onto the top of the horizontal stabilizer sticking out from the tail boom, opposite the small tail rotor. Then carefully but with a mischievous smirk, pushed the radio receiver and the prongs for its electric detonator back into the rolled, malleable explosives. On top of the horizontal tail surfaces, it was above the height a man could see, out of sight out of mind he though. He jogged casually as he un-slung his rifle, moving back towards the grass. He didn’t stop went he returned to the field but crossed it halfway before slowing and oozing back down into the grass like a predatory seal slipping from the ice back into the water.

       He looked back uphill to the building where his squad mates had taken down the enemy snipers. The Squad was set to rendezvous there, after completing their various goals. He lay in the grass a moment to again let his breathing and heart rate return to normal before he started his slow meticulously controlled crawl, his movements filled with strength and tension like the slither of an angry snake. No energy wasted on any superfluous motion as he crawled, simultaneously the predator and the persecuted.

       Rabbit had trekked two-thirds of the way back to the ‘safe house’ when the pop and rattle of distant automatic gunfire reached his ears. Followed but a burst of “fwit fwit fwit” as someone fired a flechette gun. He knew none of his squad carried such a weapon. They had been spotted and engaged the game was up. He rose from his fallow farm field, emerging from the tall weeds like the long skinny neck of a sea serpent rearing to glare with a large dead eye at the poor souls in a dingy about to be its next victim. He leaned on the top rail of the wooden fence and braced his rifle against it. He tapped the transmit button on his radio twice, the two chirps of static his request for information. The radio didn’t talk, but another burst of distant weapons fire told him the situation was still developing. Rabbit looked about quickly, not another soul in sight. He huffed deeply and vaulted over the fence and sprinted across the field on the other side. Another burst of weapons fire was punctuated by the thump of a small distant explosion, probably a hand grenade.

        ...Continued...
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #23 on: 15 July 2020, 14:43:05 »
        ....Continued


       Rabbit altered course and turned to go towards the gunfire. Arcing towards the compound where the truck full of unguided artillery rockets sat. He came to an intersection in the dusty road he jogged on and noticed a half dozen men with a mix of odd weapons a hundred meters on down the road, also running towards the pop and rattle of the distant gunfight.

       Rabbit’s head snapped back and forth as he looked for cover, finding none, he chose concealment instead and dove into the pokey branches of a wilting hedge. He lay on his left side and steadied his rifle. He fiddled with the optic, adjusting the zoom on the bouncing backs of the receding rebels. His thumbed flipped the safety off, and he murmured “Rebel scum” as he exhaled to depress the trigger.

       His shot was a single sharp crack as his medium caliber rifle jumped in his hands, slapping against his shoulder like a panicked animal trying to scramble over a wall. His grip poor because of the awkward position he lay in. The brass ejected from the side of his rifle and disappeared into the depths of the hedge. His Shot rang true. Striking his target in the back between the shoulder blades, just above the ceramic plate of his body armor. Shattering his vertebra, passing through the esophagus, splitting his sternum and flattening like a white-hot pill against the inside of the armor plate on his chest. The man fell if an “oof” paralyzed below the neck. His limbs a twisted and unnatural tangle, wrapped around his weapon.

       The other men, shocked, stopped in the street and looked around in astonishment. Rabbit snugged the weapon against his shoulder more tightly and fired again. Head-shot, his target already dead and missing the back half of his skull under his obsolete helmet toppled over on top of the body of the first victim. Now the four still standing scattered. Rabbit fired again. Catching one in the hip. His right leg stopped working and he tumbled to the ground at the edge of the street, flailing and screaming as his arteries pumped his life onto the sidewalk and his shattered femur cut the meat of his thigh from the inside like so many shards of glass. The other three of the rebels made it to momentary safety as they disappeared into the yards of the small houses and sheds on the dusty street. The assault team emerged from the compound at the end of the street, firing their weapons into the courtyard, back the way they had come. The rattle of their weapons fire no longer trapped behind the walls began a pop, pop, pop, pop. As bullets snapped and whizzed through the air.

       One of the men Rabbit had engaged popped up over a distant hedge like a prairie dog to look at the noise. Like the vermin Rabbit exterminated him. The round hit him in the neck, just beneath the jaw. Even at this distance Rabbit could see the shock and confusion on the man’s face as he bled like his throat had been cut. Falling back into the yard he had risen from. The team from Rabbit’s squad made a turn at the other end of the street and made their way uphill towards the ‘safe house’.

       The radio silence was finally broken by the panting voice of the squad leader. “Fall back to the RZ. Situation has gone hot. Its time to bunker down and disappear. The whole town’s going to be looking for us.”

       Rabbit rolled his eyes. “amateurs” he thought. He rolled over into the street, from his left shoulder to his back, over on to his right shoulder and then onto his stomach where he got his knees under him, weapon still trained down range and he rose to his feet. He crossed the street and slid against one of the small houses. Peering around the corner. No idea where the other two rebels were. He had the opportunity to disengage now, and he took it. He turned again and ran. Making a quick but sustainable pace uphill towards their stash of auxiliary gear deeper in the mountains.

       Along the way he managed to catch up with the other men, getting the whole squad back together minus the light machine gun and its crew. Together they made a steady jog through the empty city streets as they ran for the hills, ran for their lives. The Light machine gun crew from their vantage point were observing and radioing to them enemy movements. Troops were coming out of the woodwork everywhere. The two battered old tanks came alive and started moving.

       The Sweat ran down Rabbit’s face. The dry air burned and tore at his throat, each breath felt like he was trying to deep-throat a wire brush. They rounded a corner and with thighs burning they struggled uphill still.

       The crew on the light machine gun opened fire as the rebels drew nearer to the top of the hill. Rabbit could hear the distant rattle as long bursts would knock down enemies like a scythe. The belt-fed gun was able to keep the pursuers at bay. Hitting targets as they crossed intersections from far up the hill, word spread threw the rebels' ranks, their pace slowed, the moved cautiously, almost hesitantly.

       A distant thump thump reached Rabbit’s ears. Not the rattle of gunfire, but the heavy sound of a VTOL’s rotor blades as they beat the air into submission. A noise that commanded their attention grabbed Rabbit by the air and swung his head around, eyes on the horizon. The massive dark VTOL shot skyward a dark crow that loomed so that it made the world look smaller. His feet absent-mindedly carried him on still, but his eyes weren’t watching where he was going, he looked at the shape bristling with LRM’s as the hull rotated to face them, and then tilted forward as it accelerated towards the hand full of hardened soldiers who suddenly felt small, soft and vulnerable.

       Rabbits wits returned as the temp of the rotors increased. “Blow them charges, that bird up there is pregnant and ready to pop.”
He slid on his knees like a baseball player into the shelter of a twiggy bush just below the foothill’s ridge. He turned and leveled his rifle as the other men panted and sweated their way over the ridge line. He radioed again. “DMR has eyes downhill, LMG, go ahead and displace.”
The reply came fast, calm and serious. “Changing belts, but we copy.”

       Rabbit increased the zoom on his optic and scanned the streets, the rebel forces moved from cover to cover now, from empty house to empty house, to the cars and trucks left scattered in the streets and the alleyways. The entire hillside seemed to writhe with the squirming soldiers like a hill of ants. Rabbit shook his head, they had several hours before help was arriving. They had to go to the ground and make themselves scares. He fired a shot, his round punching through the windows of a parked car, and into the ear canal of the man crouching behind it. He inhaled to speak on his radio again, calling for the explosives to be detonated again. When he felt a thump through the ground. And a tower of rising smoke and dust drew his attention away. Then the sound reached him from downhill. The truck with the rocket artillery had ceased to exist. He looked back to the dark form of the VTOL as it churned towards them in the hot still air. A flash and puff preceded a small pop noise. For a moment the dark bristling VTOL held its course, but slowly with the tail rotor inoperable, it began to rotate counterclockwise. Rabbit smiled mean spiritedly as he watched the bird begin to tumble. The doors for the landing gear must have caused interference with the receivers on the charges for they did not detonate.

       Rabbit’s eyes sunk back to the ground as he noticed several men crossing the street in a tight cluster. He fired several semi-automatic shots. He hit four of the six men, and two of them fell in the street, motionless where they lay. There was another pop noise and his eyes went back up to the still spinning VTOL. The closed gear doors had interfered with the detonate signal, but they only delayed it not stopped it. The two charges in the aft gear bays evaporated the aft half of the aircraft. The engines destroyed the rotor hub flew off into the distant sky like a fifteen-meter wide throwing star. The fuselage was blasted into dust and tumbled earthward like a cloud of so much glitter. The crew and cockpit protected from the blast by a bulkhead and internal armor plate was launched free of the stricken hull, spinning madly on all three axis’s the crew would only live as long as it took them to reach the ground. Rabbit smiled and he too slipped over the ridge-line. Finally putting earth between the and the village full of rebels.

       Within minutes they squad had recovered their gear, and split into two or three-man teams and dispersed amongst the mountains. Disappearing, hiding, waiting until the drop-ships arrived that night. From hilltop kilometres, distant Rabbit watched as the massive exhaust plumes of two union class drop-ships seemed to light up the whole valley as they descended on the town. He smiled as another paycheck loomed in the darkness, he felt like he could almost reach out and touch it.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #24 on: 05 August 2020, 02:54:53 »
I am assuming it is against forum policy for me to post links to other websites here. So instead I will tell you what is going on. The first in a four part series of flash fiction, teasers for my book The Descendant. It is an original work and has nothing to do with BattleTech. but if you like my writing with Spaceman and Rabbit, maybe you'll like The Descendant too. These four vignettes are free to read, available for your viewing pleasure on my publishers website. One was released today, and there will be more, one every two weeks from now until the book release in the end of September. if you are interested, feel free to DM me and I will reply with a link, or look it up yourself. A simple google search for "Immerser Publisher" should point you in the right direction, if you find the Red dragon, you're in the right spot (I am proud of that commissioned art). If neither of those options work for you, my full name is Chace Randolph, and you can use that to find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, tumbler and so on. There will be links there also leading back to the Publishers website, or even through the websites I made for the book, "The Descendant Saga" or Chace Randolph" dot-com. If you don't care because its not battle tech and doesn't have mechs in it (yet) that's okay too. Thank for reading my story, and the feed back and letting me read your stories. May your dice be in a good mood.
-Chace A. Randolph

Chace of Spades

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #25 on: 27 October 2020, 12:29:40 »
I know it has been some time and I apologize. The other three parts of the promotional flash fiction were released throughout August and September and my book The Descendant was released on September 29th. It's available on Amazon, check my profile if you want to find it. There aren't any big robots/mechs in it, yet. but there's more books coming. My publisher already has the manuscript for the second book. I'm getting married in less then a week and have been busy with that since the book release, sorry I haven't posted any new content for you in a while. I'll see you on the other side.
-Chace A. Randolph

snakespinner

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Re: The Adventures of Spaceman and Rabbit part II
« Reply #26 on: 27 October 2020, 19:26:48 »
Fiction is not as important as a wedding or published works.
Congratulations on the wedding and the book. :beer:
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.
Watching TrueToaster create evil genius, priceless...everything else is just sub-par.

 

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