© 2020 Ryan Kriger
When a giant, psychotic native advances on you with a crowbar, it is best to be carrying an enormous gun.
They don't teach you things like that in boot camp or even as part of the intensive Dark Matter Special Forces training. Though still new to the Legions, Lieutenant Steele already had use for this advice dozens of times.
“Citizen! Drop your weapon and lie down on the ground!” Steele delivered the command with a perfectly modulated tone – confident and threatening, not cocky or patronizing. She had scored a 98 in “Advanced Intimidation and the Psychology of Subjugation.”
The citizen was over 2 meters tall. His torn and ragged suit, once well-tailored. Hair disheveled. Slate-blue eyes unfocused. He snarled from the far side of the abandoned pastry shop, “I don’t take orders from a soulless, conniving clone.”
Ugh. This again.
“I am Second Lieutenant Loretta Steele, Imperial Legions, Pangalactic Pacification Patrol, and I am ordering you to drop your weapon.”
Eyes narrowed. “Yeah, I figured, that’s exactly what a clone would say. You aren’t gonna clone me. Clone.”
The PPP was dispatched to quell the clone riots. Two hundred thousand frenzied citizens attacking everyone suspected of being a clone. A thriving settlement torn apart and set aflame.
“I will not warn you again.”
“Ha! And what are you gonna do, clone?”
This guy’s more divorced from realty than everyone else on this planet.
There were no clones. It was either mass hysteria or some sort of virus-induced hallucination. There was no game plan. No one had explained to Steele how she was supposed to pacify these lunatics.
“Have you not noticed the huge-ass gun I have pointed at your head?”
When in doubt, mention the huge-ass gun.
For the first time, the blue eyes focused. He saw the 1.5 meter long Spartan Mark V blast cannon cradled in Lieutenant Steele's arms. The weapon was as long as Steele was tall. It was not, technically, a gun. Technically, it was an anti-aircraft system that Steele modified for personal use. Technically, if her index finger applied an iota more pressure to the trigger, the native would be reduced to his component molecules, as would whatever was in the room behind him.
The native stared at the business end of the gun. He looked up at Steele, saw the determination in her dark eyes. Saw the way her features set rigidly and sternly, her back straight, breath steady, her slim, well-muscled form, deep brown skin against a bright-red uniform, projecting nothing but determination. For a moment, he appeared to understand the weight of the situation.
He said, “The gun’s probably a clone too.”
“But, that doesn’t even… what does that even… what?”
The giant charged toward Steele, crowbar held high, and issued a cry, something like, “Gyarrgrrgha!”
Steel had zero point four seconds to make a decision (give or take a nanosecond). For Steele, this was a comfortable amount of time. She pondered.
First question: Am I in danger? Answer, yes.
(The answer was always yes.)
Follow-up: Serious danger? Answer, eh… no not really.
Option one: pull the trigger.
She could hit her target with her eyes closed (literally) and suspended upside-down and semiconscious, if it came to that. So, the actual mechanics of that plan didn’t really require lots of brain power.
Result: native neutralized.
Secondary result: Filing of form SG-212 with narrative codicil documenting death of a native to commanding officer, and separate, confidential, HG-1016 describing the Imperial inquiry into the death of a native, encrypted and left at the dead drop for Dark Matter commander, and RR-100 form (required whenever the discharge of a high-energy weapon takes place in a civilian area) to central command.
Steele was sure they made up that last form just for her.
The whole point of Suzy, her blast-cannon, was so that idiot men who weren’t intimidated by female officers wouldn’t attack her, so she wouldn’t have to use violence on them, and she could avoid the paperwork.
Her window of contemplation closed, and Steele decided.
She tossed the blast cannon aside and let the native close the distance. He was two heads taller than her, strong, and induced with a psychotic rage that had him pumping adrenaline overtime. He swung the crowbar.
Steele ducked, swung her body around with the grace of a deadly gymnast, and cracked the base of her open hand down on a point just above his clavicle which temporarily paralyzed his arm. He turned, dazed, and she swung back her elbow across his jaw with just enough force to knock him unconscious.
She checked his pulse. Still alive. No paperwork required.
Steele sighed, straightened up, placed her hands on the small of her back and stretched. She lifted Suzy back into her arms. Nothing left to do but check the rest of the building and move on.
None of this makes any sense.
This was the definition of a suicide mission. But... so was her last mission, and the one before that. She shrugged. They kept sending her on these missions, and she kept coming back for more.
Steele shoved open the door on the other side of the counter, and in the flour-speckled storage room, four identical pairs of blue eyes stared back at her. Four identical men stood up to towering height and started to jostling toward her.
“Well son of a...”
Steele carefully leaned Suzy up against the wall and charged into the room.