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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

Tractors for Sale 7

Lannetay said, “Surprise for some of us and the Wantis.” She drew two Rant 23s from their slots, handing them to Carnifor and L-T. She took one for herself and joined the others inside the lock.

“Cycle us through, Bill.” Lannetay hefted her rifle and waited for the outer hatch to slide open.

Olthan is drawing a bead on the lead scout, Lannetay, Bill sent. I’ll direct him to take that one and the ones left of there if you want to take the pair to the right.

Lannetay didn’t reply, but crept down the ramp and to the right, taking cover behind the spire there. She motioned Carnifor to take the left side of that granite tower, then pointed L-T in the direction of a hillock in front of the ship.

L-T threw himself on his belly and muttered about the sharp rocks.

You’ll heal, Lannetay sent.

Goofball is turning, Bill sent. He’ll be making a pass at the main platoon in a few seconds.

Lannetay peered into the desolation, looking for movement. Bill used his sensors to paint two Wantis in her in-eye display – a very handy overlay to have. Carnifor, take the left one, L-T the right. Wait for Bill’s command. That includes you, Olthan.

Olthan repositioned himself as the closest scout crept closer.

Now!

Olthan fired before Bill’s “shout” died. He shifted aim and thought-clicked the trigger again.

Carnifor sighted in on his target, then a gout of dust and rock flew into the near-vacuum around the approaching platoon as Goofball strafed on the far side of the ridge. The man in Carnifor’s sights froze as the commander depressed the physical trigger on his rifle. A clean miss. He fired again as the Wanti dove.

L-T didn’t bother trying for a clean shot. He slowly swept a steady beam of disruption across his target, tearing the man’s space suit open across the chest. Circuitry shredded along with the armor, spewing air and particles into the rocks around him.

Lannetay saw Carnifor’s miss and L-T’s hit. She tried to line up a shot on Carnifor’s target, but the man had taken cover. Carnifor, L-T, cover me. She advanced.

***

Goofball worked his controls to drift his aim back and forth across the formation of men and women setting up and guarding a squad-manned blaster. Three people could work the gun, but usually a half-platoon guarded the position.

Goofball raked the soldiers below, but Tabby’s disrupters missed the weapon. Those standing in the area were not that lucky. He executed his low-speed pass and a few blaster bolts followed him as he extended to line up for a second pass.

After sweeping around, Goofball took a bead on the heavy weapon nearly ready to fire on him and the William Placard. Only a dozen Wantis had survived his first pass, and he wanted to clean up on the second. Anticipating the fighter’s return, they’d spread out to make sure a single run wouldn’t get them all.

Four Wantis struggled with the gun while eight fired volley after volley of rifle fire at Tabby. Built to shrug off attacks by enemy fighters, the Tromant could easily withstand blaster rifles.

Goofball swept his disrupters across the area, taking down three soldiers and the squad gun. He throttled up as he passed, dipping as low as he dared. There might be enough air to knock some of the remainder from their feet.

***

Olthan, wearing the medium combat armor which had been a secret, fired a fifth time at the only remaining Wanti on his side of the ship. He wondered if his rifle had been damaged somehow, but he’d never been a marksman. The soldier popped up in Olthan’s sight picture again and dove for another bit of cover. A trio of blaster bolts reached for Olthan. One was absorbed by endurasteel plating on his thigh, the other two sang as they flew past his helmet.

The Marine, anticipating the Wanti, set his disrupter rifle to continuous firing mode and aimed over the tiny hillock. He fired, holding down the trigger.

A dozen meters behind the Wanti dirt and stones flew up. The Wanti jumped up into the beam, which tore the suit open from helmet to mid-chest.

Lannetay charged forward along with L-T and Carnifor. The last remaining Wanti scout, snuggled in a small depression, let loose with a barrage of yellow blaster fire. One bolt took L-T in the left arm as he dove to the side.

“L-T!” Lannetay ground to a halt and turned as the lieutenant slowly fell in the weak gravity of Rubineker.

Carnifor returned fire, carving chunks out of the Wanti’s cover. A moment later a blaster rifle flew out of the hole and two hands reached for the pale yellow sky.

Lannetay knelt by L-T, who laughed as if insane. She asked, “Are you okay?”

The pained expression on L-T’s face contrasted with his mirth. “I’ll be okay. Go to Carnifor.”

Lannetay glanced at L-T’s wound. A large piece of the shoulder had been vaporized. Bone protruded from charred flesh. Lannetay reached for L-T’s good arm to help him back to the ship, but he waved off the offered assistance. The support belt’s force field helped hold the arm’s position. There might not be enough connective tissue to support the weight of the arm without the field’s assist, especially in the full gravity of William Placard.

“Check on Carnifor.” L-T fought his way upright.

Lannetay turned back around to find Carnifor following a suited Wanti toward the ship. With a blaster rifle over his left shoulder, Carnifor prodded the prisoner with his Rant-23 disrupter.

“How’s L-T?” Carnifor asked.

Lannetay stood silent for a moment, swallowing past a lump in her throat. “He’ll be okay.” Belatedly she brought her own rifle to bear on the Wanti and yanked the Wanti’s blaster pistol from the hip holster. “You’ll have to be more careful, Carny.”

As they reached the top of the boarding ramp, Lannetay braced herself against the airlock’s frame when a shock wave hit the William Placard. “Goofball?” she asked Bill. The outer airlock hatch hadn’t quite closed as dust rose from the planet’s surface. L-T still chuckled to himself.

Bill said, “Yes, and he’s left with a seven-ten split.”

Pressure built and the inner hatch opened as support belts switched themselves off. L-T’s arm flopped at an awkward angle and the man’s laughing turned to screams. Lannetay cringed. “Let’s get him to the infirmary.”

The aft bulkhead of the common room held a lot of options – a compact medical bay among them. As the four approached, the Wanti shed space suit parts. Lannetay did a double-take when she realized their prisoner was female.

The woman pointed to LT. “He’s losing a lot of blood.”

“Not for long.” Lannetay pressed a contact point on the bulkhead and an examining table folded out. They lowered L-T to the platform and an array of diagnostic equipment emerged.

Bill said, “Blood loss. Parts of bones missing. Muscle and tissue vaporized. Hit by a Wanti blaster, Loch-Fen Corporation. Probably a type nine or ten.”

Carnifor returned to where he’d dropped the weapon just inside the inner hatch, but the Wanti soldier answered Bill. “Loch-Fen 9c. Specially modified to accept an improved power cell.”

Carnifor picked it up and looked for the updated power cell, then nodded.

Marc stepped in from the aft corridor. “What’s going on?”

The airlock on the opposite side of the ship opened to admit Olthan. “Wanti!” He drew a bead on the enemy soldier, but Marc inadvertently stepped between them. Olthan shouted, “Marc, down.”

Marc froze in his tracks, eyes widening.


If you're wondering more about these characters, their origins are detailed in Ebony Sea: Origins. If you appreciate this story, please share on social media, and consider supporting the author's ability to continue writing by purchasing the Origins story and leaving a review at the link above.



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