Crater by Tranquil Rage

The drop ship was slow, sluggish, and big. It manuvered like a pig, even with the best pilot in command, as was the case now. With a top speed of just under mach 1 in atmospheric conditions, the pilot was doing exceedingly well in keeping the ship above mach 1 for most of the trip.

Titan had a similar gravity to Earth, but not atmosphere. Here, it was much thinner, less air, less nitrogen, less everything. This had minimal effect on the ship’s speed, but the massive hills and cavernous valleys did. By employing immense skill, the pilot was ducking and diving into every drop he could find. Doing so, with the engines at full output, upped the speed beyond it’s test limits. It also threatened to rip the hull apart. It was an insanely tough flight, for an equally tough mission.

The drop ship was running with a skeleton crew; just a pilot and his cargo. In this case, his "cargo" was two squads of elite commandoes. His mission was to get them to the farmland established in an ancient impact crater, far from any Titan Militia strongholds. Back at base a report had come in to the repair yard, being the closest base to the action, that a large force of enemy mechanized troops was moving towards them at high speed. The base commander was ordered to put all possible assets on that farm and defend it. Sadly, whoever issued the orders hadn’t been informed that the repair yard was a repair yard. All they had available was one drop ship that barely flew, and two squads of the most elite commandoes in the Militia, which had just come back from a mission on some asteroid out past Pluto.

One of them came forward to the cockpit and sat into the vacant co-pilot seat. “Hey Tranq, haven’t seen you in a while.” Rhys ‘Tranquil Rage’ Carter turned quickly to face the familiar voice.

“Oh my god! Omni!” Nicola “Omni” Present had the perfect call sign. They had worked together formerly, Tranq being the most accomplished pilot in the Titan Militia, and formerly the Collective Military. He had been the pilot for the elite commando squad 'Ascension'.

“So you’re working at that repair base now?” a nod was the response she got. “Why? You’re the Militia’s best pilot! You could have your choice of placement. Why not fly one of our new super-cruisers out to have fun around the Belt? Why not fly a sleek F-80 in Eagle Squadron off the T.M.S. Freedom?”

Tranq shook his head. “You know why…” Silence followed. “So where has Ascension been now then? I’ve not seen the lads in a while, but they looked pretty scared getting onto this boat earlier.”

“Hah! You know I can’t talk about that, just know that it was the scariest experience of my life, and we’ve been through some pretty scary things.” She grinned. “Anyway, how much longer till we touch down?”

“About ten minutes, better go get them prepped.”

Ten minutes later, the ship dropped into a massive crater, easily ten miles in diameter. Tranq turned his vectored thrusters to point down, allowing VTOL. He picked a field near the housing and touched down. He hit a button above his head, and behind him, twenty heavily armed commandoes started to exit the ship.

As the rear cargo ramp dropped, two hover gun-ships sped to opposite ends of the crater, followed by the rest of the troops bar five. Omni was one of those five, another Blissid911, the commander of the second squad. One was v1, an old friend of Tranq’s, who ran up to the cockpit to see him. The two others were with Bliss’s squad, he didn’t know them.

Tranq unbuckled himself from his seat and got out of his flight clothes. He started to don a fighting suit when v1 rushed in. “Hey man, forget that, we got your stuff with us!” He couldn’t believe it. v1 disappeared for a second and rushed back in with a large metal case. Tranq put it on the co-pilot’s seat and opened it. On top, his fighting suit, complete with pilot stars, his call-sign, and several scratches and scars. His jaw dropped.

“I…I can’t believe you guys kept this stuff.” v1 grinned.

“We were posted at Bravo Base before our last mission, it was the last place you’d been with your fighting suit, so I pulled a few strings, found a few people, and got your stuff back, at a sore price.” Tranq rolled his eyes.

“How much?”

“Just that bottle of 1999 vintage wine I was saving…”

“You must be joking, your grandfather gave you that!”

“Hell yes, I’m joking. I have it back there, he got a copied label and…” Tranq’s laughing cut him off.

“I hope you gave him something that will taste pretty good!”

“Oh sure, it was a decent bottle. Now get dressed, you can deploy with us.”

Tranq hadn’t deployed with Ascension for a long time. The last time, things had gone poorly. His old combat suit and helmet still fit perfectly. He wore heavy greaves and gauntlets, custom built with titanium plating inside. His combat suit was also custom built, based on the standard drop armour meant for jump troopers. Technically, he was a jump trooper. He had the qualifications and training to do anything, but he was a pilot, so some wise guy high up in the military hierarchy had decided he was a jump trooper.

He had a particle accelerator magnetically locked onto his back. This was his most valued weapon. With it, he could eliminate enemies from miles away. It had been modified to no end, having an enhanced, but rather large, scope on it, and carrying taunt-balls in an extra clip. Basically, when the rifle fired off its ball of pink energy at tremendous speeds, a ball would shoot into the barrel and get carried with it. When it hit something, it would project a holographic “$$” in the air.

Strapped onto his left calf, he carried a large combat knife, perfect for close range combat. On his right calf, an ancient combat axe. His father had given it to him when he became 16. After he’d died, Tranq used a large part of his inheritance restoring it, adding diamond to the titanium blade. He always carried it on a mission, but it had been left in Bravo Base for five years, just gathering dust. His main weapon was his favoured weapon, but the least valuable. It was a standard, though old, gauss rifle. This was the Kuchler GR790 model, now ‘obsolete'. Both the Titan Militia, and the Collective Military had favoured the newer Maklov model, for its faster fire rate. The Maklov fired two shots in quick succession, with a large re-load delay. The Kuchler could maintain a near-constant rate of fire, with a good user.

Tranq was a ground pounder, a pilot. As such, he didn’t require combat training of any kind, but he had always prided himself on being able to equal, or even outshoot, anyone in Ascension. Ascension was the best squad in the Militia, and he could equal them. He was proud of that.

“Come on,” v1 said. “Let’s go meet up with Omni and Bliss.”

“That guy Bliss, what’s he like?” Tranq asked, as they walked down the ramp.

“Bliss? He’s a good guy, a little headstrong, but he gets the job done. The squad we’re working with call themselves ‘S.W.A.T.’ after some ancient police force thing. He’s good, and his squad too.”

“Fair enough, like to know who’s on my side.”

Two minutes later, they entered the farmhouse and found Omni, her two guards, and Blissid911 talking with the gathered farm-owners in a main room. Tranq re-acquainted himself with them. Sector 7, one of the best standard infantry he’d ever met, a great all-rounder. Mos, a perfect sniper, and equally as good with close range weaponry, though he rarely needed it.

He heard Omni telling the farmers to get out of the crater, to make their way north to the repair yard. They started to shuffle out and she turned to him. “Tranq, you’re the best-“

“Hey!” Mos shouted.

“Second best sniper we have,” she corrected herself and grinned. “S.W.A.T. lost their sniper on our last mission, so you’re the replacement. Smacko and Squalie are out scouting the rim, they’ll be back shortly to let you know the best sniping positions.”

“Roger that.”

“Be careful Tranq, we need you to get us out of here.” He nodded and went outside with Mos to wait for Smacko and Squalie. He saw the dust trail before he saw them. The small blue craft took a few scant minutes to reach them.

“Hey Tranq!” they both said.

“Hey guys, I’m the sniper today, got me a spot set up?”

“Hell yes,” Smacko said. “The troops are coming in from the south, looks like they’re going to come in right through the gap in the lip. I counted a Leviathon, two Tridents, at least two Hornets that’ll be buzzing us in a few minutes, and at least ten gun ships. Fifty troops, plus change.”

“Yep, this one’s not going to be our easiest deployment, but it’ll be damn easier than that last one we were on.” Squalie announced.

Tranq saw the words appear in his head, and asked without thinking. “What was your last deployment?”

Silence. Squalie looked awkward. Smacko shuffled his feet. Mos said, “Did you ask the captain?”

“Aye, she didn’t tell me anything, so I gathered covert.”

“Tranq man, I’ve never held info from you, get in, I’ll tell you on the way.”

Smacko spent the first five minutes of the trip explaining the spots they’d picketed. The first for each of them was either side of the gap in the lip of the crater to the south, the main entrance. Smacko and Squalie had set up teleport beacons at the secondary points. Mos’ was to the left, a small cave at the very top. Probably home to a wild bear, Tranq joked. Tranq’s was much better. The initial point was the top of a large spike that stuck out of the lip of the crater. From there, he’d be able to snipe the troops as they entered the crater. Once they were in, he could move down the spike and use it as cover as he sniped in.

“So,” Tranq started, eager to know where his squad had been. “Where were you guys deployed?”

Smacko just spoke like it was part of the previous conversation. “Our mission was to infiltrate a secret lab on an asteroid past Pluto where it was reported some collective scientist were working on a secret new weapon. It turned out to be a laser, and effective one. A hand held laser with massive range, and intense damage. We got there, killed the guard, tied up the scientists, and started to leave. v1 here happened to leave his sidearm with the tied up scientists, he went back to get it, and found them all slaughtered. He said he saw a huge crab there, and that it ran into the vents. We didn’t believe him.

“So we set up motion detectors in the vents and looked around the place. Nothing. We stayed a few hours, gave up and started to leave. We opened the airlock to find our shuttle ripped to shreds. Pieces were floating around just outside. We were being sucked out; we all grabbed something and hoped for the best. Thankfully, w0w grabbed the airlock handle and pulled the lever to close the doors. He saved us all, but got caught in the airlock and was crushed to death.”

“At least, we hope he was crushed to death…” Squalie added.

“Yeah, well, as we were deciding what to do, something collided with the airlock door. The airlock was made of re-enforced titanium, nothing short of a bazooka round would dent it like that. Four more such hits got us worried, the door was about to break. On the spot, Omni and Blissid911 decided to get us the hell out of there. Blissid911’s engineer, Frondz I think, he was pretty decent, took control of engineering and found us a shuttle docked at the underside of the asteroid. He died shortly after. We heard him scream at us to get out through the radio.

“Omni led us down, down through the bowels of the Collective’s most advanced research lab. Every step of the way these bugs attacked us. The smaller ones were the size of a pig, massive crabs that shit flesh-eating goo. The bigger ones were terrifying, rampagers we called them. They just charged at us! There was a blue type, and a red type. The blue type had some kind of spit that drained our suit energy, and tore through our armour. The red type had some sort of acidic breath; it burned right through several of Blissid911’s squad. We finally made it to the shuttle, only to find it inhabited by a red rampager. Omni was nearest the door after opening it. She hit the controls and leapt back, too late, the thing stabbed her through the shoulder and pulled her in.

“Here’s where I got truly scared. These aliens were telepathic or something. Scant seconds after Omni was pulled into the shuttle, aliens poured at us, through the vents, through the walls, through the halls. We were pinned down fighting them, and we had to leave Omni. She did fine though. Her shoulder wound was small, and she had a combat axe with her, yours I think.” He grinned then continued. “We filled the corridor with fire, and backed right up to the door. Sattan and his counterpart in Blissid911’s squad laid down suppressive fire with their machine guns, and we were in front, shooting everything we had. I lost my damn axe then. A rampager was charging down the hall, and the MGers were busy, so I pulled out my axe and threw it, as hard as I could. It lodged itself into the thing’s head, and it turned back, and ran, carrying my axe in its forehead. The attack grew even stronger, and we were running low on ammo.”

“That’s when we made our escape; Omni had managed to kill the rampager with her axe. Limbs were all over the place, and the alien had a distinct slash down its head. We got aboard, flew out a few clicks. Surprise number two: They leapt out after us. They were able to live in vacuum. We put twenty torpedoes into that rock, totally decimating it. We set a course for home and got some rest. None of us slept.”

Tranq was stunned. Could this really happen? Alien life! Not only alien, INTELLIGENT alien life! Could this be a new threat? Aliens that fought like animals, fearless, overly strong, that could communicate… The perfect enemy.

Squalie ended the silence. “So, Tranq, when are you going to get over what happened out in the Belt and re-join us?” Smacko nudged him and gave him a stern look. He went on, “Come on man, this could be a new threat, a new enemy, we need you. We’re down on men, and you’re the best damn pilot, sniper, JT, hell, you’re just the best ANYTHING. We need you. You’ve got to forget about the guys we were to rescue. It wasn’t your fault! You couldn’t have done anything.”

“Shut the hell up. How could it not be my fault? I set the rescue ship to auto-pilot, right into their prison, at over light-velocity. They had a good fucking chance, until I blew it.”

Silence. Tranq thought quickly and intensely. Ascension did need him, now more than ever. Was he just being a spoiled child over this? It wasn’t his fault really that the orbit had decayed more rapidly than he’d thought. It wasn’t his fault that the asteroid in question spun a bit faster than usual that day. It wasn’t his fault that twenty good men had died thanks to him. Shit! It was his fault.

The guys he’d murdered were commandoes, just like Ascension and S.W.A.T. They were defending bravely against a brigade of Collective armour alone, and did a hell of a job. They didn’t give up until all their ammo was spent, until they could resist no more. And he’d killed them. The Collective was advancing even now across Titan. The rebellion was still young, it could go either way, but the Collective still held a small area of Titan. The fury within him boiled up.

He remembered his father, who at the age of seventy was growing old. Old for a Titan. The medical services out on Titan were much poorer than on Earth, and the voters simply didn’t care what happened out there. Even if they did, would any government, no matter how utopian, throw away millions and millions of credits in doing so? His father died at eighty, old, frail, and could have lived, had he been an Earthling, or had the voters cared.

The gun ship stopped suddenly and Tranq leapt out to his perch, without saying a word. The gunship circled, and pointed to the other side of the gap. Rather than jumping straight over, in plain view of the oncoming troops, it went slightly down the crater wall, and jumped the one hundred feet with a nitrous oxide burst. Mos got into position, donning a ghillie suit, and keeping his cloaking device near. The Collective had snipers too. One good with a scope could end him instantly. He slung his particle accelerator off his back, and enabled the anti-gravity field under the barrel. It gave him perfect steadiness, and made moving perches easy. He swung the massive rifle around to Tranq, one of the best snipers he knew. Tranq was probably the best sniper in the Militia, though he’d never admit it to him. He was a ship jock, not a soldier, but he had nerves of steel, he could do anything. Through his scope, he saw Tranq don his ghillie suit and put one over the nearby teleport beacon, after setting up his overly large, custom-built particle accelerator.

Mos had forgotten to put his spare ghillie suit over the beacon, so he got up, and slung it over. He donned his light headset and tuned in to the snipers’ private channel.

“Tranq, plenty of hostiles down there, but you have th-“ he was cut off by a pink ball of energy that tore through his skull. Tranq saw where the blast had come from, and saw the sniper turning his aim directly towards him. Tranq lined up, making sure the rifle was steady on its dual anti-gravity fields, loaded a holo-round, and fired. The shot bore a hole through the victim’s neck, causing the head to loll to the side as the body fell. The opposition was alerted, and Tranq sought the other sniper. He found him, roaming a few hundred metres ahead of the main group, wearing a similar ghillie suit to his own. Tranq took careful aim, didn’t load a holo-round, and fired. The pink blast ripped through his head, causing a cloud of blood and brain-matter to linger in the air for a few seconds after the body fell. His second shot had barely left the barrel before the green $$ had left his first victim’s head.

“This is Rifle-Two, we have trouble!” Tranq announced on his squad channel.

“What happened Tranq? We saw three shots!” Omni replied.

“Rifle-One is down, repeat, Rifle-One is down. Definite kill, PA shot to the head. I took out our opposition’s sniping capabilities, but they’ve upped their pace. They know we’re here. Better hurry up with those fortifications, boys and girls.”

Omni was silent for a second. “Copy that. Good work Tranq, you have two AT rounds there, right?”


“Well, we’re coming up with a plan. Those Hornets are coming in now, we can take them out with guided LAWs. The Leviathon and Tridents are going to be a bitch though, any chance you can cause them some harm?”

“Roger. I’ll report back in a few minutes.”

Tranq swivelled his rifle so it was aimed towards Mos. He ripped the barrel out of position, and pulled out his holo-balls. He delicately removed an AT round, one of two that were strapped to his right thigh, and slid it down the barrel until it appeared in the holo-magazine chamber. He pushed the barrel back into place, and took careful aim.

The Leviathon, he saw, was an older model. It didn’t have a Multiple Rocket Launcher System like the new ones that would have made life a lot easier. He could have fired a normal shot into them, and destroy it, and some troops. He carefully examined it for weaknesses and found only one, the cannon. The Leviathon had a mining cannon at its nose. The cannon could fire straight forward only, and an extremely well aimed shot could destroy the entire tank if fired directly down it. Tranq ruled that out for now, and took aim on the first Trident. The AT round was unique. It was fed information from his rifle’s scope, the most important piece being the range to target. At just over a metre distance, the round would open, revealing liquid copper. The copper could rip through almost any armour. The round was created carefully so that it would freeze again after entering the vehicle, creating a brittle missile moving the speed of a bullet. The fragments would rip anyone, anything, inside to shreds. The perfect weapon for this mission. Too bad he only had two.

He took careful aim at the tank and aimed at the driver compartment of the tank, to the front, and just below the turret. He held his breath, steadied the rifle, and fired. The recoil was immense, sending his rifle to point upwards, but the shot was on target. The weapon worked perfectly, sending it’s liquid payload directly through the tank’s armour like a snake’s venom through skin. It shattered on colliding with the opposite side of the tank, creating a shower of sharp, solid, fragments. From Tranq’s perspective, the tank stopped almost instantly, dipped to the floor, and the hull was ripped apart from the shreds like a jet-bike after being sprayed with machine gun fire.

He took careful aim at the second, and fired, the round was again perfectly aimed, and the tank was destroyed. He’d given away his position though, so he ran to the beacon, holding his particle accelerator, tapped a button on it, and fell asleep.

He awoke what seemed like weeks later, though only a few seconds had passed. The sensation of having every molecule in his body spread, moved, and re-made always disoriented him. He ducked behind the second beacon, attached his holo-ball magazine, though didn’t chamber one, and fired at the first beacon. He didn’t want to give the enemy an easy way to get to him. He threw the second beacon behind a small rock, so it’s flashing light would not give away his position.

“Command, Rifle-Two, I have successfully destroyed two T-class tanks, plus one or two spare troops. The L-class is still out there, and I have no more AT capability. The enemy will be through that gap in a matter of minutes, I hope you guys are ready.”

“Rifle-Two, Command, All fortifications are in place, I suggest you snipe everything you see come through that gap, and watch the show. By the way, both Hornets are down, one by the farmhouses, and one in the middle of a field to the south.”

“Roger that, Rifle-Two out.”

It took 12 agonizingly slow minutes for the attack to begin. The ground shook as the gigantic Leviathan crested over the hill and entered the crater. It moved slowly down the hill, as ten or more troops ran along side. Tranq decided he’d wait for the squad to start the action. He picked his first target and zoomed in. His helmet read “Lune” with “REKANIZE” written beneath it. He’d heard of this guy, famed for being a total dick. He’d read that one time in a bar some guy got four teeth knocked out by him, though. He was not to be messed with, at least, not without a long range, high velocity particle accelerator.

The rifle was steady, being held a few scant inches above the ground by the two anti gravity fields. His crosshairs were aimed directly at Lune’s forehead. Tranq tapped a button on the side of the rifle that sent a quick laser-range finder beam out to the enemy’s head. The report came back: four miles. An easy shot. He tapped another button and the rifle automatically calibrated for the range, showing an electronic green crosshair in his scope that showed where the shot would hit due to drop and wind conditions. He aimed the rifle and Lune’s helmet, the scope telling him the shot would hit just above the nose.

The fighting erupted instantly. Two anti-tank mines were triggered below the tracked vehicle, ripping the tracks off. The driver couldn’t move, the cannon couldn’t aim. It could only fire forwards. Two gun ships passed it, firing machine gun rounds in all directions. Tranq pulled on the two pound trigger, sending an intense pink ‘blob’ right into Lune’s left eye. He dropped to his knees, then onto his face. Tranq chambered a holo-cartridge and fired another shot at ‘Beaver’, the soldier next to him. Another good hit, ripping the upper torso into shreds.

The troops below him scattered, outwards towards the trees at the base of the crater-lip; to safety. The Ascension and S.W.A.T. troops stayed hidden in the long crop fields, firing carefully aimed shots. By the time the first of the troops reached the trees, seventeen had died, with no friendly casualties. Suddenly, Tranq heard a deafening gunshot. That was no assault rifle, he told himself. He scanned the tree-line where he thought it had come from and spotted a gun barrel beside a tree. The shooter was out of view, behind the huge tree.

“v1 is down, repeat, v1 is down!” a voice screamed over the radio.

“Tranq, get that guy!” Omni commanded.

“I don’t have a clear shot, if I miss then that guys going after me!” Tranq said. “So back me up, Damnit!”

He aimed at the barrel, getting a range-shot on it. He moved the rifle gently so the target was on the tree. Tranq drew a picture of a shooter behind the tree, positioned like he would be. He made sure the electronic pipper was on target and fired. The blast ripped through the wide tree-trunk, causing it to splinter and snap.

“Confirmed kill! Nice shot, Tranq, straight through the neck.” Came Omni’s voice over the radio.

The fighting continued until the enemy troops numbered only ten. It had taken over an hour. Tranq had been patient, scanning the tree-line for any minute sign of an enemy. Just a few minutes earlier, he’d seen a twig that looked out of place. He stayed fixed on it for a few minutes and it took shape before him, a soldier under a ghillie suit. That was his eighth kill of the day. Ten more left.

Tranq thought carefully about where they could be. The gun-ships were performing laps on the inside of the tree-line, keeping a close lookout for the enemy, but finding few.

“Damnit people, find those enemies!” Omni ordered.

Tranq’s mind was racing when an arrow bounced of a rock, mere inches from his face, sending fragments deep into his cheek. He looked down the hill and saw the ten troops ascending towards him. A fine plan of action, their only obstruction was him. The gun-ships were at the opposite side of the crater, the nearest troop was near him, doing slow laps; it was Omni.

“Rifle-Two under attack from ascending troops, I count ten, repeat ten, and need urgent assistance!” he yelled a little too loudly into his radio. Another arrow from the crossbow-wielding soldier below him missed him barely.

“Roger that! All troops, attack that hill!” Omni commanded. He saw her hoist her rocket launcher and fire a round into the crater-lip. It hit a few metres up from the enemies, leaving a long trail of smoke pointing right at her. Three soldiers fell, seven turned and returned fire.

Tranq took careful aim, and fired. Aimed again, and fired. Aimed again, and fired. Three men fell to his particle accelerator before it overheated. Tranq un-strapped his gauss rifle, but was unable to get into a decent firing position without getting shot at. There was a guy with a heavy machine gun down there, keeping up constant fire on him. He used a mirror to get a fix on him, lifted his head slightly, and threw the knife at the machine-gunner. BioPlague, the helmet said. He knew that name, though he couldn’t remember where from. He ducked into cover as the soldier fell, a knife protruding from her neck. Suddenly he heard a deafening, and prolonged blast. That was no gun. He again lifted his head to see that Smacko and Squalie were now dead, amongst the burning wreckage of their gun ship, just ahead of the Leviathan.

“Rifle-Two sees men inside the L-class tank, someone get it!” He used his mirror to watch two of Blissid911’s troops throw claymore mines and grenades into the massive tank, and then run. The tank blew up in a fireball that sent shrapnel all the way to the tree-line.

Now Tranq leapt up, counting two men in front of him, where was the third? He fired his gauss rifle, sending a rifle round through the head of one of his enemies at a huge velocity, thanks to the magnetic barrel it was sent from. He turned slightly to fire at the second, but he was too late. The man brought up his rifle, and began to fire. Three shots hit Tranq in the chest. He fell, thanking God he had his old armour. His armour had diamond and titanium protection, he was lucky. By now, Omni had got into position to send another rocket into the soldier, blowing him apart.

She ran up to Tranq. “You ok?”

“Yeah great,” he replied. “Thanks for the concern.

“Shut up, there’s another troop around here somewhere, Emperor, I think.”

“How’d you know that?” he asked.

“Damnit Tranq, you’ve been out of the loop too long. Emperor, Black Dragon Society leader. Fierce bastard.”

“Oh shit.” The name chilled his blood, they had just killed the Black Dragon Society, the best squad in the Collective Military!

Suddenly, a large red fist hit Omni in the face, sending her rolling down the hill, unconscious. The large man looked at Tranq, and pulled out a combat knife.

“Tranquil Rage?” he asked.

“Yeah, and Emperor, I take it?”

“You know your foes. We meet again, though on different grounds. Now it is I who have lost friends, and not you.”

“You were there…”

“Yeah, on Zeta station, in the Belt. We did a great job hacking the remote signal on that shuttle, saved us plenty of bullets.”

“You… You killed them, not me!” Tranq replied.

“Yes… Oh, please don’t tell me you thought it was you all these years!” He laughed. “Well, their deaths were quick, yours shall not be. A knife wound to the stomach is the slowest and most painful way to die, especially in such a thin atmosphere.”

Emperor raised his knife, threw it in the air, spun it vertically, then slashed downwards. Too late, Tranq had rolled backwards, and unsheathed the axe from his calf.

“Nice antique,” his enemy taunted. “Be sure that thing doesn’t fall to dust in your hand.”

Tranq twisted the axe, holding it so the blade was at his elbow, and ran at his foe. A quick punch to the head, and an elbow would do it. He got the punch in, but his elbow was deflected by the large combat knife. He saw his enemy raise his hand again, and slashed at him. Tranq spun, hitting the knife-hand with his bare hand, and attempting another elbow blow at his foe.

Aboard the T.M.S Quizzical, the co-pilot, An Esoteric Hysteric, looked out his window. He could see two soldiers fighting with knives. No, one had an axe. He saw the axe-wielder twist, and attempt to elbow his enemy, but the guy deflected it with his knife, then punched the axe-man in the back.

“Now there’s something you don’t see every day…” he commented to the pilot, DKMA.

“Oh shit,” was the reply. “That’s Tranquil Rage with the axe, and Emperor with the knife.”

“Emperor? Oh God, Tranq’s in trouble.”

“Hah, no. Tranq is a better hand to hand fighter than anyone I know, and one hell of a pilot. Let me tell you about Tranq. When he graduated from the Collective Academy, he was being shuttled out to Titan, with a bunch of other Titan natives. On the way they heard about the rebellion and joined. Too bad for them a Collective ship full of loyal graduates met up with them. Emperor was on one ship, Tranq on another. Their squads fought for three solid weeks aboard those ships, stranded just past the belt. Tranq’s entire squad was captured and sent to a prison in the Belt. Tranq only survived because he killed four guards with just his axe, probably the one he’s using now, to get to the cargo hold and safety.”

“Wow!” was the astonished reply from An Esoteric Hysteric.

Tranq punched Emperor in the head again, and kicked his side before attempting yet another elbow. His arm was grabbed, twisted, and the knife appeared in front of him, half way through a stabbing thrust toward his chest. With all his might he twisted again, and punched the arm at the elbow, stopping the blow and saving his life. He threw the axe up, grabbed it on the way down in the traditional manner.

He attacked with three quick slashes, one from the left to the upper right, one opposite, and one from the left to the right. Emperor fell to the floor, with a nasty laceration in his left shoulder, and several scratches on his armour.

“You’re still good,” Emperor said. “Even after all these years.”

Before Tranq could reply, the knife stabbed upwards, hitting Tranq in the thigh. He screamed, hoisted his axe, and brought it down with all his might on the helmet before him. The solid titanium helmet cracked in two, sending brain matter and blood all around him.

Tranq removed the knife from his thigh and wrapped a small length of rope around his upper thigh. He sat looking out upon the farm. His allies were just climbing the lip toward him, and the crops blew outwards in a dazzling circle as the T.M.S. Quizzical touched down. Re-enforcements poured out of the drop ship as the weak sun set behind it.

Omni awoke, saw the body before her and asked Tranq, “Are you ok?”

He took several minutes to answer. Staring at the beautiful landscape before him, he realised exactly what he’d fought for today. He’d saved the Militia in a sense. Without the few small miles of farmland before him, the Titan Militia would be doomed. The food here was imperative for the hundreds of thousands of troops in the Militia that fought for freedom. Now, with the lives of so many, and the fate of a moon, at risk, he had barely managed to defend against the small group. It made him realise how little Titan was to Earth. The massive numbers of soldiers, ships and tanks between him and victory didn’t matter. The thousands of miles between him and Earth didn’t matter. That they were ultimately doomed didn’t matter. His was a small, and bright cause, he would never give up.

“Yeah, it’s over.”