Friday, May 24, 2013

Falling Immortal

My name is Seraph. It is not the name that I was born with. I doubt it is a name that I would have given myself.


It is a name that was given to me.


I was named my first day. As the doors opened on the drop ship and I found myself standing on the edge with the wind a vicious shrieking swirl around me. I was told that I looked up to the sky and spread my arms as I leap into the air and shot towards the ground like the hand of vengeance with the after effects of an orbital strike echoing my passage.


It sounds poetic, doesn't it? It did to me when my squad leader named me. It does each time I look up for one instance before I look down. Down to the battle and fight below. This time above the sky is a dark sheet. There are no stars out. A thick cloud cover mutes the light. Yet, I know, beyond it are the stars. Across the liquid depths ships streak through the night. They are more Seraphim than I.


With that thought I launch into the air. Graceful. Powerful. Flight is mine. My leap is powered by my armor. My body tucks and rolls. Was there a time I could not fly? A point in my life where the freedom of freefall was unfamiliar to me? I streak through the air, the wind hot against my outer armor and the shriek would deafen me without my helmet. Below is the ground. Explosions rip across the buildings as they expand by the second. What was a small point becomes larger, and larger until it consumes my view between the plumes of smoke and clouds of debris. The ground rushes towards me and I should be afraid. I should taste death at this time. I should know of it.


But I do not. And I never will.


Even as my servos kick in and slow my descent I've already twisted into a crouch. My rifle slides into  my hand, The motion is smooth.  do not notice it. It is an extension of me. It is a part of my hand as much as my hand is a part of my arm. I do not think. I move.


The flare of energy as my descent slows surrounds me. It explodes out as I land and jump, cover fire already laid as I sprint across the field. Behind me, the rest of my squad lands. My overview ticks them off as their icons flare into existence. I notice, but I notice it somewhere in the back of my mind because I am too busy surviving.


Even as the grenade lands beside me I’ve twisted aside. Up is an option and it is one I take. Over is my path, across the armored vehicle as I jam my rifle against the crease of armor behind the gunners head. He falls forward, his hands spastic against the trigger for a moment. Plasma splashes across the ground leaving hissing holes behind.  I’m already gone, red icons splashed out across my screen as my targets are acquired.


I know they are there.


They know I am here.


Let the dance begin.


The heavy units have landed. The ground shudders with the thuds of armor and the roar of the HAVs are deafening. I fall back and swing wide to the edge of our formation. There are more of them but sometimes numbers are not such an advantage. I went up again and then down as I slide past a surprised rear guard. His surprise was short lived as steel sabot shatters  his armor and pulverizes flesh. Even as his squad noticed he was down I was among them. My death dealing deliberate atop the red sunsoaked roof.


Going in loud has its advantages. These precious instants of surprise were mine. My gun spits and bodies fall. I withdraw even as they react. Agility. Skill. Knowledge. It is all that holds things together sometimes. But even they can be overcome by eagerness. And eagerness meets me in a shower of brilliant plasma that spatters against my armor, shattering it and melting my body. I’d scream. But why? It won’t help. It never has. I fall back, a leg compromised. But experience is mine. I twist as I fall and drag myself over the ledge. For a moment, one moment, I am free as shots pass over me.


But an uncontrolled fall is not flight.


I slam into the catwalk even as my last grenades went off on the roof above me. Inside my suit my soft body cannot compensate like the metal and synthetic exoskeleton that I wear. I try to suck in breath and instead choke on my own collapsed lung. That moment sucks. The one where you need to breath and cannot. It never gets easier to experience. You just know that it’s not the end. The panic is still there with its soft edges and fuzzy colors. But you can ignore it. It isn’t useful to anyone and will only make things harder later.


Thankfully, there are nanobots. The pain goes unnoticed through the red tinted haze that is my awareness. They slip into my body and begin their repairs even as I crawl to my feet and slide into the shelter of an overhang. I can hear the rhythmic thuds of the heavy weapons as they work past my location. This is one ambush that will not be sprung. The whooshing roar of an exploded vehicle echoes against the walls around me. The air is tinted red with flames. They cause the dirt to look almost black and suck the color from the scant foliage that has survived this long.


“Seraph?” Collosus sounds calm. They know I am still in play. I flare my locator. I can’t speak yet. It’s still too soon. Footsteps shake the catwalk. I prepare to aim when Collosus’s identifier flashes across my screen. He is fast and efficient, that medic. In moments my body hums with nanobots as it knots at speeds that would disturb me if I had not become so used to them.


I pull myself to my feet and take a deep, pain filled breath. Collosus is already on the move. He is like a ghost as he slips through the gunfire and tends the fallen. Most rise but a few are out of play for now. Those he passes. His job is to keep as many people going as he can. We have a limited supply of bodies. Pain and patches is the name of the game this time.


Like me. Back on my feet I’m down the catwalk and sprinting across a road. I ignore the soreness. My body is almost repaired. The pain is a ghost of a memory from biological status systems I no longer need. In moments, I’m behind the cover fire that erupts from the forge guns. I apply a burst of speed to catch the transport as its about to land. I roll onto the floor and hands pull me into a seat.


“We’re out numbered,” says Green Alert to those of us who can pay attention. I don’t tell him that I had noticed. He is not really asking. He’s calm. But he is always calm. “That doesn’t mean shit. We just have to move fast. They are not the only ones with friends. We have a series of objectives and we are going to hit them loud and proud. There isn’t time for guesswork or cleanup. They are dropping new bodies faster than we can. Our transports are delayed in space and our reserves running out.” Even as he spoke an explosion landed in the middle of our heavy armor. Bodies went flying as suppressive fire burned down a trio of light assault vehicles.

Their signals flickered out. I frowned. Besides me, Run Runner shifted a bit. His armor was almost black from soot.


That happens sometimes. Those delays. The battles above our heads are as ferocious as the ones we throw ourselves into. Only, in many ways, they are worse. Neutral parties prey on the space lanes. They don’t care for our objectives or our goals.Most have been so long from a planet they could not remember what a breeze felt like . They have never sucked in the burning fumes of a exploded cargo transport or felt the burn of shrapnel shred their body. They are encased in a protective shell strong enough to beat back the cold death of space.


“I want armor to clear to the objective. The installation needs to be secure. It is the only reason we're here. The weather isn't that nice. They are clustered around it. A strike is available if we can get the beacon on their position.” I hold out my hand. Green Alert only nods as he gives me the beacon codes. My specialty is getting into tight situations. Sometimes I get out.


The drop ship leaps into the sky. We adjust with it. We are used to it. It roars forward its guns pouring fire down across the battlefield.  Behind it, the heavy armor and vehicles reinforce the cleared path. It is only moments before the landing pads spread out and with a nod to Green Alert, I launch myself into the sky.


This is not flight. This is the dive of a predator. I slam to the ground and spring forward with the momentum. My gun in my hand. No ammunition conservation. It is push. Push. Push. I dart and I dive. Bodies fall and more replace them. I slip around a shed and slip my knife from its sheath. For a moment, it is stealth. I watch the sniper. I am so close I can see down the long scope of his gun at the heavy armor he is about to take down.


Except that he dies first. I rip my knife free and move past his body. There is no time to gloat. There never is. There are things to do. The replay is for later. The here and now matter. I need to get to the target. We’re fully committed. I duck back behind the support and use the line as my cover.


The installation is tucked back against a cliff. I slip between a gap in the reinforced wall and make my way behind them. They are distracted by the incoming fire. Temptation is hard. I could kill so many now. But there are more. More than I can kill. My satisfaction would bring failure here, in the shadow of my objective. One deep breath. Then two. I bring myself under control and slip towards the objective.


The attack is pressing them back and keeping their attention. Most have are here to protect the installation. I round a corner and am surprised enough that I fire my pistol into the face of someone. I don’t know who. I step over his body to find my goal. "Seraph, you in?"

"Yes." The battle was behind me, now. The whump of explosions and the rattle of rifles a dim echo from my alcove.


The orbital bombardment code glows before my eyes. I send it out. A light flares across my visor and that of everyone else's as the code is accepted by our support above. A timer starts as they target. I don’t care. They are falling back and the installation is here. I can gain access now, allowing the next push clear entry.


“Seraph, are you clear?” Green Alert did not earn his name idly. He sees all and knows all. I smile.


Clear is such a lovely word. A clear sky is lovely. A clear conscious is comforting. A clear shot can change the entire game. Clarity is often sought but rarely gained. “I won’t be clear today. We won’t be able to push them back without the bombardment.” Like echoes my scans show that they are closing in. The heavy armor is fanning out as it withdraws. My visor shows it as beautiful shapes as the blue and red icons swirling around each other.


He was quiet for a moment. I could feel his sorrow at what I had asked him to do. It warmed me more then anything else would. We did not voluntarily leave anyone behind but sometimes it was not a voluntary choice. “I understand. Peace and Honor, Sister.”


“Peace and Honor, Brother.”


Can an angel sing? Of course they can. My song was the beacon that slashed through the atmosphere. My chorus was the fleet above me, hidden by the atmosphere. I was the conductor of this song. My wand was the console. My fingers rippled across the interface even as my implants churned codes to and through me. A whump sounded nearby and then I staggered under the shock wave as our transport erupted into a ball of molten metal


The timer ends.


Now it begins.


The skies illuminate above me. The lights sears a harsh outline on the keys even as my fingers flicker across them. Time has run out for me.


I can hear the scream of the atmosphere as it is violated by raw energy. As the last access code shatters into the computer’s core my reality becomes a brilliant, searing image. My own form is shadowed around me as great wings of energy obliterate everything in their path.


Myself included.


But I am an angel. They call me Seraph for a reason. For I will fall again from the heavens. My guns are my sword. My servos are my wings. And the fury of heaven will be called at my command again.


Because I am immortal.

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