Double dealing chapter 2


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Double dealing chapter 2

  1. 1. Chapter 2 Second chances Heroes! Sgt Garrick used to call us heroes as a motivational prop on a regular basis and it worked. The unit used to go out to every mission with a feeling of invincibility. Why not after all, what was the worst that could happen? Another trip to the Clone Booth? Yes the pain endured from combat wounds is terrible. In fact a bad wound is a lot worse than a fatal one. Months to recover from, instead of minutes in the Booth. Most moderate people would agree that we are heroes based on the pain we are prepared to endure to protect the community. Am I a hero? When I think about heroes, I think about the heroes of ancient Earth texts like The Iliad by Homer. Hector and Achilles, considered heroes of their age because they fought in and survived many battles. On top of that they would find the best warriors in the opposing army and defeat them to prevent the loss of many lesser warriors. I can honestly say I have ticked all the boxes so far. Hector and Achilles were both killed in their late 30s during their most famous battle for Troy. So now I have bettered that as I am in my 60s and still going strong. Am I a hero? The difference between ourselves and the ancient heroes is, they could die. They entered every battle knowing it might be their last. One mistake could end their lives PERMENANTLY. They had true courage. Would we be so brave if we didn’t have the security of the Booth? Sorry I digress. Back to the st……. “Puj you’re not going to write about every little mission and skirmish you have taken part inare you?”Aroura mocks. “Well I had thought to include mos..” Aroura interrupts “You will bore anyone who might read this to death” She pauses while considering a fate worse than death. “Or into a coma.” “AS IF!”I reply. My pride hurt. “So without your journals, how many of your missions can you remember?” She asks with a knowing smile.
  2. 2. “Erm…………..” “My point exactly.” She laughed.“If they are so banal that you can’t remember them, who else is going to be interested?” “As always Aroura, you are right” I concede. “So what do you suggest should be the next instalment?” “Well, just think of the next significant event you can,actually remember and start there.” She suggests. “hmmm………..” ------------------- “Cpl Rydecker, front and centre” Commandes Sgt Garrick. An eerie silence falls over the parade Square. I can feel everyone’s eyes on me and their puzzled expressions say it all. As I make my way to the front the silence is replaced with quizzical mumbling. “Corporal?”I question the Sgt. He shrugs wearing a stern expression. “Well lads.” Started the Sgt. “It appears,Rydecker’s unorthodox heroics have not gone unnoticed. So with trepidation I ask you to join me in congratulating him onhis promotion to Corporal.” Clapping, cheering and wooting fill the parade square and I relax, relieved that the disbelieving silence had evaporated. I start back to re-join the unit, a heavy hand grabs my shoulder and turns me back. “Congratulation son” Sgt Garrick said grimly. “Now listen to me carefully. You are not just responsible for yourself now. You are responsible for everyone under your command. Just keep that in mind when you are about to do something risky or stupid.” He slapped me hard on the back. “Now go join the others and celebrate. “ “Unit dismissed.” The Sarge barked. “Take the afternoon off but don’t celebrate too late. You will all need to report in at 0600 tomorrow.”
  3. 3. A few murmurs of “0600 Sarge.” Follow but are soon replaced with raucous cheering and singing. “For he’s a jolly good Mnemo, for he’s a jolly good Mnemo.” Steadson started the cheers. “Three cheers for Cpl Rydecker. Hip hip.” “HORAY!” The unit enthuses. “hiphip.” “Horay.” “Hip hip.” “Horay.” “May you lead us to many glorious trips to the Booth.” Steadson shouts out gleefully. Suddenly the responsibility…..No the possible legacy of my new position hits me. Steadsons’s comment really has struck a nerve. Yes I have a reputation for leaping before I look, acting before I think and generally making decisions that could weaken the unit’s position due to my clone sacrificing tactics. That said so does Steadson. Do I want to be remembered for being reckless? Perhaps a better legacy would be to teach the unit to win without suicide techniques. Hmmmm. “PJ! The drinks are on you”Tyson announces as he trips in the bar door. “OK OK let’s spend the extra credits I will earn from this.” I concede. It’s a bright busy bar with neon all over the walls. Electric with chatter, gossip,singers, dancers and musicians.There are soldiers looking to psyche up before a tough mission, scientists looking to switch off their minds or open them up for inspiration and laypeople just looking for company or enjoying the performances. It’s a good bar and I hope the patrons tip well because the performers here are excellent and deserve every credit they earn. “So why do you think the unit needs another officer?” asks Steadson. “hmm I don’t honestly know. I guess it’s probably because they intend to increase the numbers in the unit. I can’t see any other reason to do it. Have you seen how busy the Inks have been recently?”
  4. 4. “The whats?” enquires a beautiful woman. She is tall about 5’10” athletic build, blond wavy hair, blue eyes and lightly tanned skin. “The Incs… You know the Incubators…. I. I mean The Mnemosyne Facility.” I Stutter. For some reason I can’t think straight. Is it the girl or alcohol? “OhTheIncubs. I didn’t realise you grunts call them Incs.” She said it with a rye smile and I know she wants a reaction but I can’t help myself. “Grunts! We spend most of days in pain defending civilians like you and your…..” She interrupts me by placing a finger against my lips. “Shush Corporal. I’m just kidding I know how important your job is. Keeping us civilians safe.” “Corporal? I’m still wearing my Privates uniform. How did you….” “I’m a good listener.” She says. “I’ve heard something big is happening. That’s why the Incubs are so busy. There are a lot of Cubs…sorry, newMnemos.” She said it sticking her tongue through her teeth mockingly as if I wouldn’t recognise the slang. “They are nearly all being layered as soldiers at the moment.” “How do you know all this?” I ask. “Like I said I’m a good listener.” She winks at me. I turn to the bar as I ask her. “Would you like a drink?” “SHOTS!”Steadson insists. I turn back to see Steadson. I strain my neck looking over the crowd for her. I can’t see her anywhere. “Shots…. Sir?”Steadson repeats with the addition of a sarcastic sir. “Shots it is.” I agree, still scanning the bar for the beautiful blond. 5.30am rolls round and we are all a bit worse for wear. Everyone makes it to morning parade but just about all of us missed breakfast for an extra half hour in bed. “Glad to see everybody could make it.” Says Sgt Garrick with a hint of surprise.“I am handing over the training off this unit to Corporal Rydecker. There is a big push in Plymouth to increase the size of our military and I will be training a new pride of cubs specifically layered for military service.” The silence in the parade square is broken by busy murmuring.
  5. 5. “Why the sudden need for an increased military?” AskesSteadson. Sgt Garrick pauses before giving a considered answer. “Suffice to say there are raised tensions with both the FPRand Sept Falls and our own population has increased considerably requiring increased policing. Now, I have no doubt that you will continue to improve under Rydecker’s guidance but I will be keeping an eye on the helmet cam footage, just to make sure you aren’t becoming a suicide squad.” “Did the sarge’s mouth turn up in the corner?” whisperes Tyson. “Roberts, have you something to add?”Demands the sarge. “Sir no sir.” Tyson replies over zealously. “Right then.Rydecker, lead them out.” Orders the sarge. “You herd the man, let’s move out.” I issue my first order. As I plan our next training session I wonder if we would be better soldiers if we thought death was final. Would we train harder, would we hone our skills more, would we spend more time perfecting tactics? I think I’ll try and get the lads to think and train less like expendable cannon fodder and more as if our lives depended on it. Worst case scenario we die less. -------- It’s been nearly a month since my promotion party, a very busy month. I have been able to implement some of my ideas. The lads are split on whether the extra practice and harder training are necessary, however I think it is imperative if we are to improve as soldiers. Arrrrooogggga……….Arrroooogggga “Everyone up.”Orders Sgt Garrick. “This is not a drill. I need everyone on the parade square in 20 mins.” “Sarge?” The unit queries in chorus. I look at the clock. It’s 4am. “What the hell. What’s going on? It’s not even 5.30.” I grunt.
  6. 6. “Rydecker, get your men ready for briefing. 19 mins People.”Sarge barks. Sgt Garrick turns and makes his way to the barracks door slamming it on the way out. “Do you know what this is all about PJ?“Asks Tyson. As he stumble round the barracks trying to put on his socks. “I have no Idea. Nobody tells me anything.” I reply. --------- “Puj, how’s it going? No wait I spend most my time listening to what you have been doing all your life. It’s my turn.” Aroura teases. “Go on then, tell me all your exciting news.” I force a fake yawn. “Aroura gives me a suspicious glance and continues. “Well the new cubs are an extremely eclectic bunch. I think we are going to have some very interesting individuals in this pride.” “We are all individuals Aroura.” I say with a sigh. “Yes but this lot don’t even seem to have leanings towards a career path.” “Really? Hmmm maybe at last we will have a populous with total free will. I can’t believe though that they have finally accepted that Cubs would ultimately be happy to do a cross section of jobs if given total freedom to choose, with no subconscious suggestions in the layering pushing them towards what the community needs.” “Well early indications make me think just that. I could be wrong but I’m very excited about this group.” She says happily. “So how’s the storey going?” “It’s not a storey, it’s a factual account of…….” “Yesyes I know.” Interrupts Aroura.“Your life. Well looks like you’ve a missed a bit.” “What? Stop reading over my shoulder.” While speed reading the last page I ask puzzled. “So what have I missed?” “The training montage of course.” She says tongue through her teeth. “Where’s the, then I taught the lads to not throw away their lives so recklessly, bit? Not to mention the Ancient GreekPhalanx lesson, teaching the importance of staying together as a group, strength in numbers and all that.”
  7. 7. “Hmmm, well I could try and squeeze that in a bit later. Good catch, I don’t know how I forgot that. Now I better get on.” “Me too, I better get back to my Cubs. I have a feeling this is going to be the most challenging Pride yet.” “Have fun Aroura.” Now where was I, ah yes. ----- “Right men It’s not good news I’m afraid.” Starts the sarge. “For political reasons OWON forces are moving against Sept Falls. Now we aren’t heading to the front line, we have been ordered to head to Plymouth and protect against any sneak attack against the city while the main army is assaulting Sept Falls.” “Political reasons?Can you be a bit more specific Sarge.” I ask. “At this point Rydecker, all we know is there has been some kind of revolt in Sept Falls and we are responding. All right, let’s get ready to move.” Plymouth is a gleaming beacon of civilisation on Rhyldan. Towering buildings, clean streets, shop filled promenades and a state of the art medical centre. This is what we have been sent to defend. It’s a vast improvement on Timbertoc. As the first day of the attack goes on hundreds and I mean hundreds of soldiers are cloned and heading back to the fight. It can’t be going well. “How’s it going?” I call out to what looks like a full unit of freshly cloned soldiers. “It’s a bloodbath out there. Possibly the worst planned assault ever conceived.” Replied a private ruefully. “Your ill-informed opinions are of no concern private.” Reprimands the unit’s Sargent. “The initial assault was perhaps a bit hastily organised, however we have regrouped and initiated a siege. They will eventually have to surrender… Or starve. No point in cloning if you have nothing to feed yourselves with. Now stop asking so many questions and do your job, keep the city and Clone Booth safe, it shouldn’t be as busy now.” “Yes sir!” I respond.
  8. 8. Two days have passed and the last unit’s Sarge was right, there has been little to no more cloning. “PJ, look.” Shouts Steadson. The Clone Booth is busy again. “What’s going on lads?” I shout down from the wall. “Why the sudden influx?” This time the look on the soldiers faces are far more dejected. “FPR has joined Sept Falls against us.” A private replied solemnly. There has been a steady flow of clones for hours and now it has suddenly stopped. “Do you think It’s over PJ?” Asks Tyson. “Could be.” I reply hopefully. “Maybe a truce has been called.” I venture. “Unit fall in.” commands Sgt Garrick. “We have been reassigned. Grab your gear we are moving out” “Out… Where?” I enquire. “Timbertoc perhaps?” “Sept Falls.” He replies grimly. “Move out.” “Why would we be needed at Sept Falls if the battle is over?” Tyson asks me. “Minja, I really can’t tell you. Ask the Sarge.” “But the Sarge hasn’t been in a very sharing mood recently. Not to mention I don’t think he likes me.” Tyson replies sadly. “Well then perhaps we are just going to help with the clean-up operation or maybe to escort prisoners.” I suggest wearily. As we climb the hill to the crest of the last hill before Sept Falls I realise how wrong I am. The sound of weapons fire fills the air. The sky is lit with the many different colours of the various energy weapons fire. Smoke plumes above the apex of the hill as we climb the final few feet. We reach the summit of the hill and look down on the true horror of the battle. Sept Falls lies in a basin surrounded by hills and mountains. The city and its walls are surrounded by fires causing an orange backdrop against which the city is silhouetted. Our forces ring one side of the city and are mirrored by FPR troops on the other side. There are literally
  9. 9. hundreds possibly thousands of bodies strewn about the battlefield, of course clones can die over and over again and keep returning to the battle letting their previous body pile up. I never expected to see it on this scale though. I look back towards the unit. All except the Sarge are wearing looks of horror on their face bathed in the orange glow of the battle. We have been in battles before but nothing like this. “Sarge, what’s the plan?” I enquire, not really wanting to hear the answer. “Rydecker, you have been drilling and training this unit recently, let’s see what they have learned. You call it.” He replies. “I want to see this new cautious tactic you have been teaching, in action.” “Steadson you take the point. I want three men either side forming an arrow head formation. I want another row behind them. Front row, as we progress down the hill I want no heroics,as your shields run low the front line is to step back allowing the second row to step up and take the fire while your shields recharge. Rinse and repeat. The Sarge and I will call targets from the back row. If anyone has any shield regen problems let me know…Ill step in till it’s sorted. Any questions?” “Sounds good to me.”Agrees the Sarge. “Oh and don’t forget I’m back here if anyone needs an extra rotation on the shield regen. “Ok now advance slowly down the hill. Keep it tight.” I order. As we get closer to the action I whisper to the Sarge “Why were there no clones to reinforce us?” “You don’t want to know.” He replied. “Now concentrate on the situation in hand.” “They aren’t working are they. The Clone Booths I mean?” I continue. The Sarge shakes his head. “Keep your mind on the job Rydecker.” We reach the bottom of the hill. “We are now in harm’s way.” I call out. “Tyson you are drifting out keep formation.” As we step over body after body the blaster fire intensifies on our front lines shields. “shield at 25%.” calls out Steadson “Front line step back, front line take the heat.” I order. “ok drop the snipers first.” We edge forward I can hardly see through the blaze of blaster fire impacting on our shields. The enemy snipers drop one by one. “Ok now take out any heavy weapons users.” I shout. “Shield lines rotate.” I add. Tyson calls out in a panic “My shield is not recharging.”
  10. 10. “Step back again, I’ll take your place while you fix it.” I reply I step forward but a heavy hand pulls me back “I’ve got this.” Insists Sgt Garrick as he steps in to replace Tyson. “You keep calling it.” He continued. OWON and FPR soldiers are dropping like flies around us and we are edging ever nearer the front line. “Minja, how’s that shield repair coming?” I ask. “It’s not.” Tyson replies. “Rotate lines.” I call out again. The Sarge is in the front line now. “Ok we are nearly in melee range front line swap to melee weapons. Second line target the incendiary weapons.” As we reach melee range I remind. “Our shields are useless against melee weapons. Remember they will be looking for a quick win, parry and dodge, wait for an opening and don’t risk your life I don’t want any casualties.” Tyson screams in agony beside me and reals backwards clutching his neck. “Minja NOOO!” I call out. “Don’t worry I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He says weakly. “I’m sorry I couldn’t keep yournocasualties order.” He continued his voice now a faint whisper. I try to hide my dismay until he draws his last breath. I fail to fight back a tear as I turn back to the battle. A huge dagger slashes at my face. I recoil and get my forearm up to block. With one smooth motion I unsheathe my knife and plunge it in to the exposed underarm area. He screams out and drops to the floor. I look back to the front line. There is a gap opening up in the middle and somebody is trying to set up some kind of device. An Axe swings by my head. I duck and slash my knife into my attacker’s leg. He screams and his leg buckles. He tries to lift his axe for a second assault but he is slow now and I finish the job with a swift stab to the neck. Two more of the unit drop in the melee. I start to feel sick. I have never watched anyone die knowing they would not be cloned. Nor have I killed someone knowing it will be permanent. “Arrrrgghh!” The Sarge yells out in pain. I rush to his aid but I am too late his attacker has an axe in his shoulder and a knife in his ribs. The Sarge slumps to his knees a sword through his chest. He looks up at me and grabs my arm. “Fall back.” He instructs me. “Get the men out. Not many of us will get a second chance after this battle.” As I watch the life drain from his face he forces his last words out. “Don’t waste your second chance…….”
  11. 11. I look back towards the where the device is being constructed. It looks to be operating but doing what? The architect of the machine and his bodyguard are drooped. I can’t make out who they are but I hope their effort was worth their lives. “Fall back.” I order. 16 of us entered the battle and 9 of us start retreating. “Same tactic.” I shout. “Two rows of four and rotate your shields.” As we retreat I can see other squads on both sides doing the same. The rest of us escape the battle. 9 of 16 is probably the best survival rate of any skirmish I have been in. That said The Sarge and the hapless Tyson not to mention 5 others are gone permanently. That’s something I will have to tell the lads. They won’t take it well. The question that will really plague me is would those men have died if I had told them of my suspicions that there was a problem with the Clone Booths. Or would they have been more scared and less effective. It’s a question that will go unanswered with me to my grave. Did OWON know they were sending us to our deaths, permanently? I am beginning to wonder if we are on the right side.