Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Lovers War




EXCERPT

My visor telescoped, bringing a rangers face so close that I could see her blue eyes flaring reflected cannon fire, the defiant snarl of her lips as she pulled the trigger. I locked onto her left eye and, with a thought, sent a burst of dazzling laser energy ripping up the tower wall to cut both her and the crabgun into pieces of flaming debris. All along the curve of the tower Talons were returning fire, their nose turrets spraying bright death up the wall to shred our enemies and their war machines; blood and charred bits of combat suits sizzled against our d-screens as we plowed through the grisly fallout. I turned three more rangers into splashes of red against the yellow Martian sky, their crabguns continuing to fire on auto before my Talons lasers turned them into flying slag.

We were three seconds from cresting and I was checking the sat-map for more targets along the rim when the falling support leg of a destroyed crabgun bounced off Tybalt's d-screen, its 3-tons of force crashing the shield of energy for microseconds; in that single twitch of time a ranger spotted the shot and took it. Tybalt and his Talon were blasted apart as a hail of armor piercing shells ripped through them both. Seeing her lover die from her position behind him, Second Lieutenant Atai opened up with everything her Talon could throw at his killer and kept firing even after the ranger and crabgun were destroyed.

Scanning sat-maps of the roof and colony, our Talons told us that all the crabguns had either been destroyed or abandoned. Ten seconds, thirty-six rangers dead, one Hound KIA; Mars Command would consider this an acceptable loss, I considered it the end of my career.


DETAILS

  • An estranged husband and wife fight each other in a war of bitterness and revenge. 
  • I set the story on Mars because of its mythological association with war and strife. I also enjoyed the image of the Talon LAV's blasting across a barren, Martian desert while orbiting frigates pound their target with ordnance. 
  • You may notice that everyone has a name that's either African or Asian. There's a good reason. In this particular imagined future, Africa and China have become the new World Powers and their cultures have influenced the entire planet. Afro-Sino words, phrases, art, music, clothing, food, and architecture are widespread and wildly popular. 
  • Shango, Abassi, and Sekhmet are all part of a polyamorous triad, a relationship configuration that has become just as popular and common as the Afro-Sino fusion renaissance. 

WARRIOR WOMEN


Probably like most male geeks, I'm fascinated and attracted to warrior women. It's an ancient archetype that has been portrayed and discussed in literature, pop culture, history, film studies, folklore, mythology, and gender studies. We love Wonder Woman, Xena, Angelina Jolie, and Private First Class Jenette Vasquez (pictured above) because they're sexy and badass. Most of us have heard about Amazons (the spear-carrying jungle warriors, not the popular web-based business) and Joan of Arc, but the warrior woman archetype exists in many cultures and throughout history. In 692 A.D. a warrior queen named K'Abel ruled the Mayan people, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi were Vietnamese sisters who raised an army of 80,000 warriors and drove the Chinese out of there country in 40 A.D., Queen Zenobia of Syria defied the Romans and rode into battle against them, Queen Boudicca of the Great Britain burned three major Roman towns before her revolt was finally put down, and the West African kingdom of Dahomey had one of Africa's most infamous cadres of all female warriors called the Mino.

I really had a thing for Private First Class Jenette Vasquez.

I wanted to write a story about a warrior woman and at first it played out pretty typical: Sekhmet and Shango shot and sliced their way through the first few pages of typing with relative ease. But it didn't feel right. Suddenly I realized that the characters wanted me to write their last story, and I needed to understand why. I'm pleased with what I wrote, and the ending always makes my throat tighten with emotion, but I want to spend more time with Shango and Sekhmet. I want to tell the story of their first meeting, and how they fell in love, of their first mission together and the times when they saved each other from certain, bitter death on the battlefield. I want to explore the romance between the two lovers and their Triad partner, Abassi (who appears as a crack pilot in a related story that has not yet been published).

I want to tell these other stories but I can't.

Right now the story that you're getting about these two lovers is all that I have; its all they showed me, and it has to be enough until they pop up again in the future and want to share their history with me. I do hope that we will see them again, soon. I would hate for this to be the first and last time I ride with the Hellhounds. 


HELLHOUNDS

A thunderous cheer exploded across the flight deck and Rooster looked up just in time to watch five full squadrons of ASP-22's, over a hundred fighters, ignite their blinding engines a heartbeat before suddenly vanishing in a halo of ghostly blue energy. "First squadrons clear!" came the announcement over the flight deck public address system and another raucous cheer went up in response. A second steppe of fighters was moving into transporter position as Rooster returned his attention to working on the engine.

"Do you know who this troopship belongs to?"

"The Marines?" Rooster said, joining her as she worked.

"You read the work order, Rooster?" she stared at him, her mechanical eyes adjusting with an audible hiss as they focused. "Did you read the fucking work order?"

"Uh, no? I mean, yes! Hydrogen leak, between the---"

"Hellhounds," she spit the word at him, her mood suddenly darkening. "We're going to unleash an army of psychotics down there and this is what the fucking UE calls reunification."

"The UE wants to end the war," he said. "We've been fighting too long. The Hellhounds are...well...at least they'll make it quick down there."

"By killing everything that moves!" she snapped angrily. Rooster could see the young engineer struggling to control herself, face flushed, jaw clenched. She took a deep breath and suddenly her anger was gone like it had never even been there, replaced by a playful wink and a lopsided grin. "Don't get me wrong, Rooster: I'm just as loyal to the cause as everyone else on the Emperor. Guess I'm just tired of all the killing. I mean, I know we don't do any of it, not directly, but every time I refuel a fighter, or reload a k-gun, it just feels..."

Rooster blinked, looked back at the v-PAD so he didn't have to see the tears in her eyes, nodded. "Let’s get this thing ready to fly," he said, his voice suddenly strained. Ming nodded, wiped her eyes and went back to work.Hellhounds.

She was right: the Colonials were all going to die.


I've always had a fascination for the military and warfare. Hell, what boy didn't, growing up in the 80's? We had G.I. Joe, Mask, Transformers, Rambo, Chuck Norris, and the A-Team to keep our imaginations fired with the idea that war looked and sounded really fucking awesome. To this day, even as an adult who understands the horror and destruction of military conflict, I still get excited when I hear the whining shriek of a minigun or see YouTube videos of tracer fire buzzing like angry fireflies in the dark of night.

The Hellhounds are my version of a crack mercenary army outfitted in powerful bionic armor, the elite of the elite, and a fighting force that's so violent, dangerous, and effective that they are considered a WMD by most planetary governments. They are the prototype of the super soldier, outfitted with the newest and most lethal weapons systems that the United Earth Government could develop, and are so heavily modified through genetic engineering, advanced cybernetics, and military training that many don't even consider them human anymore. Hellhounds are only ever given one mission parameter: kill everything. I wanted to create a fighting force that was unrestrained by morality, ethics, or laws - a real terror on the battlefield. These men and women live, breathe, shit, and bleed war. They're authorized to use everything from hand nukes to tactical nerve gas. Their dropship is a 5,000 ton, 170 meter long thermobaric missile that can wipe an entire colony installation off the scorched face of an enemy world.

Hardcore.

I want to do something more with the Hellhounds. Right now they're just another group of power suited super warriors with really big guns. The trope has been around for a long time. I want to do something different with them, make them something special, and have even considered making them an actual pack of giant cybernetic hounds built around a human consciousness. What I had to settle for was trying to focus on the human relationships more than the technology and weapons wit regards to the Hellhounds. I've been working on some stories that explore their origins, early missions, and historical battles but nothing has become coherent enough to publish, yet.

WRITERS MISCELLANY

  • I imagine the Talon LAV's (Lighter than Air Vehicle) to resemble a streamlined combination of the Spawn Nitroriders and the Robotech Veritech Cyclone VR-041. They're heavily armed and armored hover cycles with AI operating systems that can function completely independent from their drivers. I thought about having them also transform into robot vehicles that the Hellhounds could pilot into battle but that seemed to "mechy" for me so I stuck with the LAV design. 
  • A song from the game Too Human inspired me to write this entire story. Most of my story ideas rise out of life experiences but are fired and molded by songs. Check out the song, Uprising, and read the first scene of the story while its playing; maybe you'll get the same emotional charge that I did. I mean, you probably won't since I listened to it while actually writing but...its worth a listen, anyways. 
  • In some version Sekhmet is named Ne-Ith. Both are goddesses or war, and both are Egyptian. 





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