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Shit! Crap! Bugger and all the curses under the sun both spoken and implied! This sort of thing just didn't happen, it had never happened. People died. They didn't. They had never been in danger of dying. OK they had but they'd never actually gone the whole hog and passed on. Shit!

All this and more ran through Tarlos mind in the split second it took him to realise what had happened. It was a further two minutes before the reality that this wasn't just some training scenario set in.

His brain unwilling to believe the input from his own eyes Tarlo had erratically looked from Hec's lifeless corpse, to the particle revolvers smoking snout and finally coming to rest on the dazzling green eyes of a girl in her late teens. Then the cycle started again.

Finally it dawned on him that he had ears. Not that he had forgotten exactly, more that they had become secondary in importance to the visual feed he was receiving that showed the impossible. Hec dead. Again he almost reeled into catatonic shut down and denial.

But suddenly his ears would be denied no more and managed to intrude upon his stuppor. Now, in many movies, television series' and books you have read, this aural reawakening would be accompanied perhaps by a large explosion that served only to deafen the protagonist again. Then again perhaps you are a purveyor of media whereby there is a voice of a friend or lover perhaps slowly pulling the auditory sense back into reality.

Neither of those scenarios ever actually occur. Surprisingly enough Tarlos hearing returned during a brief interlude in the firing from both sides. No doubt attempting to reload and other activities they could manage to get away with not peering out of cover (which as all the world knows is a sure fire way to be 'Dead Soldier No. 3' in the credits).

During the few minutes for which their glorious leader had been 'unreliable' the team had disarmed the girl and taken up basic defensive positions along the windows lining one wall (knowing enough to have the girl crouch in cover directly in front of Ajax on the off chance the teen who killed their friend was working for the enemy).

Showing, quite inhuman recovery ability in the face of grief Tarlo quickly retook command from Sandy (if leading a two man team can be called command). "Oh ho!" His thick texan accent rang out, "So the 'Fearless Leader' cowboys on? Well this is a fine turn of events. Now git over here man, we can't take out every one o' them ourselves."

To stop himself having time to think about what had happened and going back into shock Tarlo flung himself sideways into the same wall shadow that Ajax and 'the Girl' were using for cover, intending to take immediate control and keep himself active until his friends were safely away. The thought almost brought him up short as he realised there would be no 'safely away' for Hec.

Forcing the black hole of despair in his chest closed he grit his teeth and fired bolt after bolt straight out the opening. Intending to murder every one of the people responsible for his friends death. To this day he doesn't know why he thought that would help. Perhaps he subconsciously believed he could trade Death all their lives for Hecs. Admittedly they were each worth less than a tenth of Hec each but maybe if he could get enough.

A rythm was formed in Tarlos mind, pounding to the erratic and hasty beat of his heart, shoot, duck, aim, fire, grenade, move, aim, fire. A million different variations of that theme payed themselves out in an epic frenzy that some more sadistic poets
 may have written verse about if they'd been there. For the Ajaz and Sandy the onlookers to such a spectacle. There was too much blood. Not the flowing red kind, but the sticky dark kind that oozes out of someones, brother, husband, son or nephew. They hastily moved to cover any that Tarlo missed or simply left because they didn't present enough of a challenge. They could tell he was in a rage now. Though appearing calm and collected he was silent as the grave and actively searching for more soldiers to massacre. Two qualities wholly unlike their normal friend.

Inside Tarlo was a mass of seething anger and rage directed at the universe, everything an nothing at the same time. How could Hec be dead and his killer so close yet so far, he wanted to reach out and strangle her with his own bare hands but a sense of self preservation kept him from reaching out. Hec had dead so that they could get to her, this was not how the mission should have gone, clearly she was important. He needed time, he needed closure, but mostly right now he needed to be active, to keep going, keep plodding on until it was all he knew. And so he continued shooting, and dodging, and killing. Like a demon he hounded the enemy one-by-one.

The End

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