Red Mist (3)

Today, I’ve concluded the short I’ve been working on. As usual, it’s rough, there are misspelled words and it needs a little more work. Enjoy–!


“I found out he died later,” Lucius said in a low, toneless whisper.

Dean almost didn’t know what to make of that. He said, “I’m sorry to hear that. You’ve brought him back to us today.”

“So I have,” Lucius agreed. “Good guy. Burned in all the worst places and still co-ordinating the initial defenses. They told me he kept at it for the better part of two hours before one of the Iota Series winged him. Quick, painless.”

Dean nudged the subject again. “What about your group? What were you doing?”

“Oh, that? We marched, quick as we could, right up to Anderson Square—sorry. It’s Anderson Square today. At the time, it was the center of the commercial district, the Anderson Building. It was offices and the like then. The building’s still there, but it’s all part of the SDF now.”

“Corporal, what’s the situation?”

Lucius saluted clumsily. “General, the Sergeants are engaged in combat back the way we came. Looked like fifty or sixty—”

The General turned away. Putting a finger to her ear, “Roland, we need to spread out more. They’re coming in from the west too.”

“General,” Lucius tried to cut in.

“Hold that,” she said into her mobile. “Corporal?”

“The Sergeant said we were needed back here. What can we do?”

“Hit up HQ,” she said, pointing at the Anderson Building. It would have been an impressive sight except for the smoke billowing out of the fortieth floor. “Don’t worry. It’s not under attack. Took a hit when we shot down one of the enemy ships. It should hold, we have Faction Six and Nine up there on evac and FRs”

“HQ, mum?”

“That’s right. First floor and the sub-basement. Get going.”

“Inside headquarters, we were referred right to the top.” Colonel Lucius laughed mirthfully. “We were Specialists and Corporals and they said “Go talk to the boss.” What humor! I almost told the Major to stop toying with us, but I held it. I don’t need to go in to any detail about the Commander. What a powerhouse. He’d been running around and had already decapitated a man that day before we got to him. He was covered in drying alien blood.”

“Hey kid. Long time,” he said. “You have time?”

Lucius was hesitant to answer. “Erm… yeah, Commander.”

“Good. Get up stairs. We need you on the roof.”

“The roof,” Lucius exclaimed.

“Yeah. Need you on repair up there.”

“Sir,” Lucius said as evenly as he could manage. “The building is on fire.”

“I know that. Have Daniel and John get you up there. The fire cut power to the defense system on the roof. Take this,” the Commander said placing a small box in Lucius’ hand. “That’s enough power to get the system running for about ten minutes. That should be enough.”

“Before I could answer,” Lucius told Dean and the audience, “the Commander told me, “Kid, you’re it. I have no one else who can manage this in as little time as you can. Got me?” And you know what I said?”

“Commander, you’re out of your God damn mind.”

“So I hear. Get on the fuckin’ roof and give ‘em what-for.”

 

 

“We got on the fuckin’ roof,” the Colonel said slowly. It was strange to hear that language from a man of his age, but Dean stopped his surprise from showing. The young host had some experience, but couldn’t top Lucius’.

“Hey, Luke,” one of the Corporals said. “Need an eight by ten over here. Transformer’s blown from seven to fifteen, but I think I can patch it.”

“We’re out. Here,” Lucius said rushing over, “let me take a crack at it.”

He tinkered with the board for a minute before slamming it against the concrete floor.

“What the hell,” the Corporal exclaimed.

“Need the wiring from inside the thing. Switch to wireless and shove this,” he held up the snapped board, “in number nine. It should hold for as long as the batteries do.”

“That’s gonna’ blow the moment the system hits cap.”

“The defenses won’t hit cap. The Commander only sent us with one power supply. Normally, I’d agree with you.” Lucius pointed out at the sky to punctuate his point. One of the alien ships was bombarding the coast. “We don’t have time to worry about what works. Make a path. Run power.”

“I’d grabbed the poor guy’s face and pushed him into the board to send my meaning home.” Lucius took a long breath. “He got back to work while I beat at my boards. Between the four of us up there, fifteen minutes was all it took.”

“Just got a call from HQ,” a Specialist said. “They want the defenses firing five minutes ago.”

Lucius was finishing up the wiring. It was an ugly rig. Cables stretched through the air and a sneaking suspicion that the sparking wasn’t from the fuel cell the Commander’d send them up with.

“We’ll be lucky this doesn’t kill us,” Lucius remarked.

“That’s for the ringing endorsement, boss.”

“You three get out of here.”

That got the three staring at Lucius.

“Brad,” one ventured.

“Someone needs to get the couplers firing. If the system flares, I don’t want everyone up here.” Lucius turned away, almost glaring at the couplers he mentioned. “Leave.”

One of the Specialists reached out, pulled his hand back, held it out again in a fist. “Give ‘em a Red Special, boss.”

Lucius tapped his own fist against the man’s. “See you in Hell.”

They turned, hesitantly and reverently. Lucius didn’t watch them go.

“They left you,” Dean Daily said almost painfully.

“Of course. There wasn’t one chance in a hundred this would work. We practically pasted components together with food and string and staples.”

“You didn’t want them there if something went wrong?”

“I didn’t want them there when the power surged. Would have killed us all.”

Lucius looked over his men’s work one more time. He nodded to himself, pleased that everything seemed to be in order. There was a single switch a meter or so from the couplers. Couldn’t get any farther than that – no extra cables. He took one last breath and threw the switch.

And the whole world exploded.

“Next thing I knew, I was on my back and the Commander was there. An unfamiliar canvas ceiling hung above me in the temporary hospital the Countess arranged.” Colonel Lucius laughed softly. “He said, “Brad, you stupid son of a bitch. You did it.” I didn’t know what be meant until I saw the other Generals around the room.”

Lucius was surrounded by dozens of people in the makeshift hospital. All was silent despite the fighting.

“Brad,” the Commander said as Lucius tried to get out of bed. “Stay still. Don’t want the docs getting angry with me.”

“Commander,” Lucius said, his throat dry and voice crackling. “Worked?”

“Course,” the Commander said. “Old Smith here can tell you first-hand how well it worked.”

“Fried my sphincters, kid. Takes a special kind of ass-kickery to put me out that long,” Smith said.

Lucius blinked at that, not knowing what he meant.

The Commander cut in. “Plan went off like a hitch.”

“He told me the enemy had turned to red mist, like what they called the day. That was that. The whole story.”

“And you were promoted?”

“Something like that. People called me Colonel from then out. Nothing official. Command tossed me a new button and said to wear it and take the lead when none of them were in the room, so that’s what I did. Still kept this,” he tugged at the jumpsuit, “but added a jacket so people could pick me out in the field.”

“Thank you for joining us today, Colonel. Ladies and gentlemen,” Dean said, “that just about concludes our hour with Colonel Lucius. Can we send him off right,” Dean said, eliciting a thunder of applause.

Red Mist Day Retrospective

So as part of the back story to my book, I’ve been jotting a lot of ideas down. One of them is a major turning point for the war that was effectively “First Contact” for humanity. Red Mist refers to what happened to the enemies of mankind when fighting the guardsmen. The following is an excerpt from a work in progress and, while it’s feeling and sense of style probably aren’t going to change, the exact wording will. It should be taken with a grain of salt in terms of progress.


“And today, we have one of our best and brightest, Colonel Bradley Lucius, hero of the Red Mist! Please help me in welcoming him!”

The host waited for applause to die away while Lucius walked, slowly and with the assistance of his cane, across the stage to his seat. He’d been offered automated help, but declined.

Lucius sat gracefully in the oversized recliner, but refrained from pushing back into a more comfortable position. He sat up, showing off the untarnished uniform of his prized rank: a repairman jumpsuit, one he’d received days before Red Mist Day, a bomber jacket with a few medals sprinkled about and two sets of rank pins: Corporal and Colonel, denoting his ascension from one rank to the other without intervening ranks.

He himself was a dignified, aging man. Wrinkles coated his angular face, but his body moved where he wanted it, albeit slowly. He stared out into the crowd, smiling slightly and waving softly.

“Colonel, welcome to the Daily. How are you today?”

Lucius was somewhat slow to answer. Taking his time, “Well today. Yourself?”

“Pleased as pudding to have you with us. As you know, today marks the sixtieth year since the turning point in the Omega Conflict.”

“Of course. It was when I earned this.” He pointed at his Colonel’s stripes.

“Yes. I was wondering, along with all our guests, if you’d tell us a little about your involvement.”

“Well… Nothing you wouldn’t see in this history books, but I suppose it’s more interesting if I give you the nitty-gritty, eh?”

“Of course! Anyone can read about it, but you can bring it to life for us.”

“I won’t go that far,” Lucius said. “How about this. I’ll tell you how we got the defensed back on. It’s boring thought. Fair warning.”

“How about it,” Dean looked out on the audience. “Do we want to hear it?”

The reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

“You heard the people.”

“Indeed I did,” Lucius said, picking at his left ear. “Started early December 2119. I’d just joined the Method—the Defense Force—that November and they’d put me to work as a general specialist at the lowest rank. I was already pretty good with electrics, so I was repairing energy weapons and running power all over the city before I knew what I’d signed on for.”

“Brad,” one of the other low-ranked specialists called. “You have a minute? Spec-ops grabbed some laser gun or something this morning and they want us to pick it apart for use.”

Bradley Lucius, barely out of his teens, looked up from his work recharging an early human attempt at a directed energy weapon in astonishment. “We get to pick at something like that? I thought they leave the cool shit to the Generals.”

“Generals are busy. We’re the highest rank that isn’t doing anything useful.”

“Useful my ass. I’ve been fixing these things all day.”

The weapons Lucius had been repairing and charging fired, at best, five shot before melting the barrels and depleting the batteries. There weren’t strong enough metals or powerful enough batteries to make them worthwhile in anything less than mass quantity.

“Well drop it and come over here. We might get something nice out of it.”

Of examination of the captured weapon, it was quickly evident that this so-called laser gun was nothing of the sort. It fired super-compressed bursts of plasma from a fuel cell that attached like a rifle’s magazine. While inoperable, they could pick apart how it worked by comparison only.

It fired projectiles out of a barrel, used something resembling a trigger assembly and seemed to have a stock made for a slightly differently shaped shoulder than a human shoulder. All that aside, it was as alien at the creatures carrying them though the streets.

“What do you make of it,” the younger specialist asked.

“I have no idea,” Lucius said. “It looks like a gun. If the videos are anything to go by, it fires like a gun.”

“But?”

“But it doesn’t make sense! What the hell is this,” he exclaimed holding up the fuel cell. “What makes it go?”

“Micro-fusion?”

“Not this again.”

“Why not?”

“Because your best reference for that idea is a video game that is was antiquated when its principle event came and went twenty years early.”

“World War Five wasn’t nuclear.”

“I was talking about Three and Four.”

“Bite me. Got a better reason?”

“It’s like arguing with a brick wall.”

“As God is my witness,” the younger tech said, “I am red and held by concrete.”

Lucius turned back to the weapon. “Lets tape it up and see if we can get it firing on our batteries.”

Some hours of tinkering and trying everything from duct tape to cybernetic enhancements, they settled on a relatively basic adaptor to get a current to flow from their batteries to the weapon through it’s fuel cell compartment. The result was a single shot per battery. It wasn’t much, but it made the weapon work using Terran tech to power it.

Lucius took in a deep breath before continuing. His face stretched upwards when he told Dean, “You know what happened next, don’t you? That was a major boon to the tech division’s morale. We figured out alien guns! How strange. You-know-who came down to the catacombs next and all hell broke loose around us. The Supreme Commander said, “Kids, you just made Corporal. You’re in charge of Tech now.” And we were.”