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It was still dark when the tiny clock in the wall beside Ig’s face bleeped. He wished he could ignore it, but he knew from bitter experience that he had five minutes maximum to be out of bed and dressed or face the consequences.
“Lights on fifty percent.”
Light filled his cell making him blink owlishly. If that was fifty percent, he was a sewer rat, but at least the fragging lights had come on.
He rolled out of bed and turned on the tap in his chipped wash basin. Good. There was water, and it was even warm. Ig briskly sluiced his hands and face before scrambling into his clothes.
He was just adjusting the braces on his coverall when the door banged open with so much force that it bounced off the wall. One of the new intake of sergeants stood in the doorway eyeing him suspiciously. The man’s hard little eyes roamed the cell looking for violations. Ig stood wooden-faced and quiet, looking at a point somewhere between the sergeant’s red face and the twin belts of rank that held up a big, jutting belly. The non-com stalked away, allowing Ig to join the queue for the latrines.
Our hero’s day went downhill from there. The breakfast oatmeal was garnished with burnt bits, and then he found himself under the command of a new intake corporal. It wasn’t good. Corporal Legolas had about as much idea of guard detail as Ig had of the world above ground. First of all they had almost left without the gas rats in their cage, and then the man had attempted to stroke one of the Wardens. Okay, Wardens looked like dogs, he’d give the corporal that much, but not knowing the difference had cost more than one man a hand or arm. Finally he wanted his men to march into the fragging tunnels. Ig got the distinct impression that the explanation of harmonics and echoes had passed over the man’s head, but once the Guard Captain made it a direct order they were okay. Or as okay as a detail under the command of a complete greenhorn was ever going to be.
The attack came as they were almost at the tunnel exit. Twenty or so humanoids rose from their place of concealment among a jumbled pile of rocks. Ig and his companions drew their battle sticks and began the methodical process of beating their assailants about the heads and shoulders to force them back from whence they came. Then Legolas panicked and started shooting – he had a sidearm in either hand and he just let rip. The men in his detail cursed pungently and threw themselves to the ground.
A while later, guard detail AlphaZero exited the tunnel dragging the body of their corporal behind them. He was so full of holes as to resemble one of cookie’s colanders. Ig poked the body with one booted foot.
“Ricochet,” he grunted.
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