Chapter 1Mature

A lone infantry unit gets stranded hundred of miles inside hostile territory after his platoon is wiped. Now it's all about his survival, and how many lives he must take to make that happen.

It isn’t a really pleasant feeling, the terror. But then again, it probably meant that the enemy was doing a good job. I was here, idling through a wasteland in my biosuit, and I had no idea where the rest of my platoon was. Probably dead, considering it’d been almost two days. That left me in the middle of hostile territory. We had been ambushed, taken out like flies. The Conservatives had this area mapped out very well, apparently. They had struck at 2.06 a.m. and had wiped out almost the entire platoon. Whoever remained, scattered, and were probably pursued and killed, like I was going to be.

Miles of stony wasteland stretched in all directions, which meant I couldn’t get cover even if I wanted to. This was a law of battles as old as battles themselves: infantry loves cover. I was infantry; a mere footsoldier. It didn’t matter that I was wearing the most mass-produced biosuit, I was still a faceless warrior carrying out the orders of my superiors, even if they made as much sense to me as did this war; none at all.

Trudging along, I noticed what I thought would be a small hamlet of buildings right ahead, perhaps a quarter of a mile at most. By the looks of it, it was deserted. No lights, no ruckus, no signs of movement or life; yes, it was definitely deserted. Well, that’s what it seemed to be, from this far away. I’d have loved to rush in, but I loved my life more than that.

I idled towards the little hamlet, which after half an hour had become clearer in detail. Small, single storeyed concrete buildings, arranged like a bunch of huge packing boxes, a thin worn-out track leading from one end to another, straight through the dozen or so buildings that stood there. The silence was eerie. This wasn’t the type of silence that prevails in an abandoned settlement. If it was abandoned, I’d see crumbling, flaking walls, rodents, perhaps even snakes crawling under nooks and corners and most definitely there wouldn’t be footprints. Footprints were bad. This far in, it was almost exclusively enemy forces patrolling the area. I had stumbled upon what seemed to be an enemy checkpoint. If there was someone manning it, I was as good as dead. If there wasn’t, it was probably just another ambush just waiting to strike.

I had my visor on, which meant that I’d be able to see thermal radiation if they weren’t behind walls. As much as I’d have liked these visors to have X-ray cameras, I wasn’t going to get superman vision anytime soon. Looking around, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. It was almost ridiculous, if it wasn’t for the part where I knew someone, somewhere nearby, was waiting to shred me to ribbons with copper bullets.

And just then, I saw what I’d been hoping I wouldn’t see. Through one of the tiny holes in the concrete, perhaps an excuse for windows, I made out a red glow. Just for a second or so, but it was definitely there, even if for that one moment. I had to make a decision, and I was never too good at that. If I switched on my suit, the orange power indicators would give my location away. This thing wasn’t designed for stealth. Switching it on meant orange lights up the arms and the battery of the suit, which was an external ‘tail’ attached to the suit near the neck. If someone was indeed looking out, there was no way those lights could stay out of sight.

So, despite the tonnes of training I had received about staying in hiding and not letting the enemy know you exist, I switched on the suit. It didn’t make any noise, except the click of the switch as I flicked my wrist. The only feeling which told me that it had powered up was the action of the suit itself. My limbs got lighter. Almost to the point where I felt I was half, perhaps even a third of my weight. I could feel my hearing and my vision get sharper, my reflexes, faster. This was what it did. It enhanced physical and nervous abilities. I was still about as stupid as I was ten seconds ago, but at least I could run faster.

And it started.

I had expected shots. Like a hunter’s rifle, one, two, three …

But of course I had automatics raging at me. This was one of those moments where you feel like a vegetable even with high-tech gear on.

I dug the ball of my right foot into the gravel. And there I was, flung forward like a ball. There was no way anyone could ever get used to this suit. It simply wasn’t possible. It amplified all physical prowess five times. My little jump was five times as powerful as a normal jump, and five times as fast. This was like a kid’s joyride, without the joy. My visor had numbers floating all over it. On the far top right, was a 97% in small print.


20 minutes.

I had twenty minutes to get out as far as I could from here. Plenty of time, considering what every second meant.

The roar of the wind was deafening. I could still here the rattle of the bullets and the sharp puffs of sand and dust they kicked up as they hit the ground. The damn suit still had its lights on. I was like a huge firefly hopping around, just waiting to be shot at, and killed.

After what seemed like an eternity, I felt my left foot hit the ground. The world was travelling like it did in sports shows: at a tenth of the normal speed. I waited for my body to fall further forward, and thrust my foot into the ground.

I could almost feel my brain pressing against the back of my skull. On the bright side, I could hear the bursts of dust farther away now. Hitting a moving target with a gun is much harder than it looks. Two steps and I had lost track of how much distance I’d traversed. Could have been thirty metres or more for all I could see. I could feel the ripples of artificial strength throughout my body. That felt good. It felt comforting. And the blurred edges of my vision were, at the very least, thrilling.

A second had passed.

More shadows up ahead.

More humanoid red blots on my thermal visor.

If I was going to die with my armour powered up, I was going to do it in style. This armour did that to you. It made you reckless. It turned you into a soldier, by simply infusing the image power into you.

A third step.

I aimed my body at one of the figures.

Half a second later, I could feel bone cracking in front of my knuckles. 100 milliseconds passed on my visor’s timer.

The bone had given way to flesh, and my fist had passed clean through it.

That was it.

Six tenths of a second and I had destroyed a skull like a cannonball.

The End

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