Recent Statuses

3 days ago
Current I shouldn't be angry, and I certainly shouldn't be drunk, but here we are
6 days ago
My boss gave me a huge raise today without actually doing my review. Fortunately I speak fluent dollars.
13 days ago
Full disclosure: I read Dune and found it dull and unremarkable.
14 days ago
I have clearly reached the John Ringo portion of this novel.
15 days ago
A crow trained in special ops. A crowmando if you will


Early 30's. I know just enough about everything to be dangerous.

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Menander - Cataphract
Leto - Cataphract
Elektra sat with her back against the berm looking up at the pale white sky of Babylon 0412. Different scattering patterns meant that the sky wasn't blue the way it was on Samothrace and most of the other worlds she had visited. It was rather pretty. The Cataphract decarch was in armor, but it was open, the panels spread like the petals of polished steel flower. Though the sophisticated armor was air conditioned, it had to be to operate in hostile environments and in vacuum, most troopers preferred to breathe natural air when they could, even now, when she was technically on guard. Two of her ten man squad were buttoned up in their own armor, taking care of that chore by observing the Carisad host via emissionless optic fiber lenses that extended from their suits like tentacles. It didn't seem likely to her that Artaxerxes and his troops would try an attack, they were negotiating after all, but if they did Elektra could have her suit buttoned up in a second and be ready to fight the second after that. The Carisadan forces encamped on the other side of the shallow valley had learned the hard way what attacking a force of armored Hellens was like two days ago when the armies had clashed in shattering destruction. Artaxerexs II had been routed and his troops had fled in panic, but Cyrus had been killed at the pivotal moment and so the battle would go down as a tactical victory and a strategic defeat. Most of Cyrus' Carisadan troops had already gone over to Artaxeres or fled into the hills. That was fine for them, this was their corner of the universe afterall, but the Hellnes, mercenaries without an employer were hundreds of light years from the Agean and Hellace sectors, hundreds of very hostile lightyears if the negotiations didn't go well.

Politics in the vast and ancient Carisad Empire was a turbuletn affair, particularly when the Emperor died. There was, supposedly, a line of succession, but the reality was that, unless the Emperor was unusually strong, it was usually ignored in favor of a more direct method of choosing a successor. Cyrus had been in contact with the Hellenes during his time as overloard of the Agean Satrapies, as the systems bordering Hellenic space were known when his father, the aged Emperor Darius, had died unexpectedly. With the long war between the Delions and the Spartans finally coming to an end, he had quite understandably hired himself the finest heavy infantry force in the world to make himself Emperor. The problem was of course, that you couldn't be Emperor if you were dead. And god damn all glory hounds who think they are invincible just because they have a set of armor.

"Arty will hire us on right?" Menander asked sounding a little anxious. All of them felt that way of course, their armor was expensive to maintain and operate and a mercenary needed to say employed or risk losing it.

"Well he hasn't started shooting yet so its a fair bet," Leto responded in her thick Scythian accent.

"He's lucky we dont just start up where we left off the other day," Leto opined hopefully. She was always looking for some action. That was good in a cataphract who served as both the scouts and the close assault element of the force, but her grasp of tactics beyond her own specialty were lamentably weak. Elektra snorted in derision.

"You got something to say boss?" Leto asked acidly. Recruits from the so called barbarian worlds, like Leto and, for that matter, Elektra were difficult to keep under discipline.

"Sure maybe we could cut our way through them, mabye," she retorted added emphasis to the qualifier by wiggling her hand back and forth.

"But then what do we do, with Cyrus dead ever Carisad on the planet will be shooting at us, even if just so whoever ends up on the throne dosen't show them the hot end of a fusion torch for not defending the Empire right?" she explained.

"We can't go back, because Arty has all that artillery he can drop on us as we try to retreat, and we cant go forward because wed have to fight every inch of the way. We can't even go north unless we fancy fighting our way through the jungles with all the creatures and the natives and Athena only knows what."

Babylon 0412 was home to a race of natives who were intelligent but had never progressed beyond gunpowder technology before the world had been settled by the Camisads. There had been some attempts to civilize them but these had been violently resisted. When the Camisads responded with violence of their own the natives had bought guns from the Terrans and promptly taught the invaders the same lesson occupying armies had been learning for centuries. There was always someone who wanted it more than you.

"The peltasts could cover us from the artillery," Menander put it, guesturing to where one of the specialist troopers stood. His armor was lighter than the cataphracts and the line troopers, and mounted three light calibre plasma chain guns on seperate mounts, one on each shoulder and one from the small of his back. The configuration could put out a fearsome amount of fire but the calibre was two small to be really effective against shields and armor. Its design was to provide harassing fire against light troops and, more importantly, to shoot down incoming artillery fire with the aid of their sophisticated computer targeting systems.

"Fine lets say they could protect us," ELektra conceeded and then pointed to the pass at the southern end of the valley, large peaks capped with snow rose up all around the route.

"Nothing stopping him from dropping the mountains on us, and the peltasts would burn out their guns eventually, Carisad troops might be for shit but their artillery is no joke."

"Fine," Leto huffed crossing the arms of her gleaming suit, "what do you suggest?"

"I think," ELecktra replied calmly, "that we all better just shut our mouths and wait our betters to sort this mess out right?"
The Music swirled over Fabled Tindar. Fabled Tindar that had been lost in the midst of time and legend but that lived in the songs and nursery rhymes and in the fever dreams of poets and madmen. Masked dancers swirled across the marble floored great hall in odd intricate dances, the couples intersected to form complicated patterns of swirling silk and flashing teeth carried on by the music in their ecstatic reverie. The great hall was immense, a hundred meters wide with columns of marble decorated with intricate friezes depicting dancers seeming to swirl up them like smoke till the detail was lost in the source-less gloom above. The weird light that illuminated the room did not seem to come from any one place, but almost to congeal from the air like a luminescent miasma. In the distance the gentle crash of waves could be heard in the rare lulls of the music, though the air carried no scent of salt or sea. Rather it seemed redolent with spices and strange night time lotus flowers that one sometimes catches a hint of on tropical breezes driven of equatorial jungles.

At one end of the great hall the musicians stood or sat at their instruments. There were a dozen of them, each a master of his or her art and dressed in a variety of styles and customs that would have baffled a scholar. Their hands moved as one with clockwork precision as they produced the same haunting melody in a deliberate discordance which seemed to make the music shimmer and hum as though alive. Julliete stood playing her gold chased lute with the same eerie perfection, her fingers moved, but her arms, body and even her eyes were locked in place, unable to move so much as a twitch. That didn't stop her fingers from hurting. Despite the callouses that resulted from years of practice they were already raw and tender. In that regard she was better than the strangely garbed viol player whose fingertips bled as he plucked his own instrument. She didn't quite recall how she had come to this place. She had a vague impression of playing a song for some villagers at one of their rude rural celebrations. As some times happened when she played she had lost herself in the music, improvising and improving the tune as she went until she reached something so complex and sublime that it approached perfection. Then she remembered a darkly clad man approaching her... and now she was here. Here in fabled Tindar.

At the other end of the hall sat a trio of thrones. Each of the thrones was made of stone, elaborately engraved with gold and other precious metals. Each was high backed to a height of sever or eight feet with fanning protrusion that drifted into arabesques of eerie and unsymmetrical form that made the view feel queasy to behold. Upon each of the thrones sat an androgynous figure, tall and slender and garbed in layers of silk that appeared ragged, yet had been layered to a perfection that could only have been deliberate. Every inch of the figures was swathed in the silk, save for the featureless white masks which covered their faces and the long wispy veils which concealed their eyes. Somehow Juliette knew that she didn't want to see the faces they concealed beneath those mask and beneath those veils, but she could no more look away than she could cease playing. The dancers swirled on in their endless procession. Juliette focused her mind, worked as hard as she could to make herself blink, to miss a note, anything at all to disrupt her utter inability to exercise any control. Her music continued, perfect and unchanging.
@Jarl Coolgruuf
Your up bud!

Bullets lifted sprays of dirt and dust along the edge of the irrigation canal as Sayeeda ducked into the shelter of the earthen trench. There were enough gunmen firing and shouting in confusion, and enough of them, certainly those who had still been with the vehicles, were far enough from the stun grenade to have a reasonable chance of hitting her. Fortunately the trench was as effective for her now as it had been for the soldiers of ancient Terra in the distant past as she ducked into its protecton. The woman, Rodrigo’s mother, tried to stand but Sayeeda kicked her down ruthlessly.

“Stay down!” she yelled over the roar of gunfire, the last thing she needed was for the woman to get her head blown off because she was too stupid or paniced to stay in cover. That probably wasn’t fair, she had taken the brunt of the flashbang without protection at a distance of less than a foot, she was probably lucky to be in good enough shape to panic.

The water only half way up her shins in the shallow channel so Junebug took off in a crouching run for a few meters before popping up and putting a round into Miguel’s head. The gang leader hadn’t moved more than a few feet, had dropped his weapon, and was clutching at his eyes when he met his death, but he had been the only gunman whose position she could reliably predict. Everyone was firing now, bullets struck puffs of dust from the dry soil and punched holes in the corrugated iron of the shed, but there were still a few moments of confusion to be exploited. Sayeeda swung her rifle towards the jeep that mounted the recoilless rifle. One of the thugs on the back, smarter than his friends, was trying to swing the big weapon to bear on Neil and Sayeeda’s jeep, but the two meter long metal tube was heavy and even a strong man couldn’t swing it the one hundred and twenty or so degrees it needed to cover to bear on a vehicle which no one had thought of as a threat in the few seconds he had. Junebug fired, not with the rifle but with the underslung grenade launcher. The weapon was rocket driven so there was no recoil, though backblast from the small charge warmed her fingers. The grenade didn’t have time to even drop the few millimeters of a ballistic curve before the secondary detonation went off, firing the spear of molten copper into the unarmored jeep. Though in recent times Sayeeda had done most of her fighting on foot, the instincts of a tanker were ingrained and she had noted the location of the fuel reservoirs before she climbed aboard her own vehicle. The penetrator smashed through the fuel tank like a rifle round hitting a melon, a moment later the blast wave hit and aerosolized the synthetic diesel fuel a heart beat before the explosion set the whole mix off. As fuel air explosions went it was fairly low order, but it flipped the truck like a tiddlywink, tossing the remains of the vehicle three meters into the air in an end over end tumble that ended with the chassis smashing into the corrugated iron shed like a wrecking ball. Bodies flew out in ballistic arcs in three different directions. One of them hit the side of a trench, bounced and then vanished into the sluice with splash. Something hit Sayeeda in the chest, shrapnel or a lucky round, and slammed her into the side of the irrigation ditch with enough force to drive her armored chest plate down onto her thighs, but the ceramic armor spread the impact wide enough that there was no penetration. The impact of the blast raised a vast donut of dust and the overpressure was literally stunning. Taya had gotten behind the gunshield of their own vehicle, a good instinct under the circumstances, though without a driver to provide mobility it wouldn’t have been Sayeeda’s choice. Nonetheless it was Taya, protected from the blast to an extent by the steel gunshield, who reacted first. Her fingers clamped the trigger of the pintle mount and the weapon roared at full automatic, star shaped muzzle flashes standing out like fireworks in the dust choked air. The gun plowed a row in the dirt before the girl managed to correct and hose the fire up onto the second gun jeep. Sparks flew and metal screamed and bodies flew apart as the long burst filled the vehicle with ricocheting death. Junebug slapped her helmet to switch her view to millimetric radar and her view changed from the muted layers of dust to a greyscale representation of the battle. She saw Neil moving and firing at the run, cutting down the knot of survivors who had gathered around Miguel with a pistol in each hand. She ducked back into the trench for a moment to avoid the blast of a grenade hurled by one of the panicking gangsters, then popped back up and sighted on the final jeep. A gunner, a bearded man with a bandolier of grenades slung from shoulder to hip shoved, another thug who had frozen in terror out of the way. He was probably screaming but there was no room in the world for any more noise. He slewed the weapon towards Taya, firing before he even bore. Junebug squeezed her trigger and punched a round into his chest. The grenades on his bandolier gang fired sending a plume of fire bright enough to be seen even through the visual dampening of her visor shooting into the sky. The overpressure thrust the jeep down into the ground on squealing shock absorbers. The vehicle survived the detonation but the gun’s ammunition cooked off in a cavalcade of smaller detonations which shredded the gun mount and the cab. To Junebug’s amazement she saw Rodrigo pop up out of the back of the truck and take a shot at something, although she couldn’t see what it was. Still moving at a run along the axis of the ditch, she fired at the carrots her AI threw up for her, indistinct man shaped blurs through the opaque clouds of dust, the whang! whang! whang! of the disruptor like a lethal metronome as she panned it across the battle space. The surviving gangsters, and by now they were few, seemed to be trying to run, or cower in place, but she didn’t let that slow her down. When you were outnumbered ten to one, the only move was to hit and keep hitting until there was no one left.

Abruptly all the carrots were down. That didn’t mean they were all dead, but the AI marked them as no threat, which meant, at Sayeeda programmed and very conservative threat estimates, probably dead. Gunfire still roared from the jeep as Taya continued to fire into the splintered remains of the enemy jeep. Her weapon didn’t have the hitting power to set of an explosion like Junebugs had, but the fuel tank had been shredded and the vehicle was already burning. Certainly there was no one alive in the wreck now.

“Cease fire, cease fire,” Junebug called over the comm circuit but it was another two seconds before the badly overheated weapon jammed, its barrel glowing cherry red from the continuous fire. A distant and analytical part of her mind made a note to give Taya some instruction on crew served weapons when she had the time. Still, the jam seemed to give the girl a moment to absorb Junebug’s order and she pulled her hand away from the guns grips.

“I’m coming out,” Junebug cautioned before clambering out of the trench, dripping muck from her lower trousers and boots. Her chest and legs began to throb as the adrenaline started to fade and she changed her magazine reflexively. According to the shot counter in her helmet she had only fired 19 of her thirty rounds, but replacing a mag was as automatic as breathing was. Reaching down she brushed at the discoloration just below her left breast where a slug had smeared her armor with molten metal, she was lucky it had only been a pistol round, but the thug had probably been lucky to hit her at all. Briefly he had been lucky at any rate.

Dust eddied in the air for a moment before the desert wind seemed to draw it back like a curtain. Junebug switched her helmet back to optical and surveyed the damage. The shed had been partially demolished, leaning drunkenly even as pale flames, presumably from the ethanol matrix, licked from underneath it. The jeep Taya had shot up burned also sending up a thick pall of black smoke shot through with ugly red flames. The air stank of cordite and burning flesh mixed with the subtle stink of feces voided by dying men. Rodrigo had found his mother and was clinging to her, his eyes wide with shock and horror. He had planned to bring the battle to the gangsters, but he couldn’t have had any idea what that actually meant.

“Man,” Neil said. ‘That was some attack by the spiders. Better go tell Stinger eh?”

Junebug snorted, pulling her canteen from her belt and taking a long drink to dislodge the dust from her throat. She swilled the chilled fluid around her mouth and spat it onto the dirt. Something exploded within the ruins of the shed, though it wasn’t energetic enough to get excited about. Taya stepped from the jeep flexing her fingers to work out cramps. She looked around clearly working hard to appear nonchalant in face of the carnage.

“No kidding,” Junebug agreed, tucking her half expended magazine into a pouch for later refilling.

“We were lucky to survive,” she added, though that was closer to the truth than Neil’s statement. Villagers were appearing from their houses now that the firing had stopped, peering at them in shock and disbelief.

“I can’t believe we killed the people we were working for,” Taya said after a moment. Junebug shook her head.

“Hey Miguel said the job was done, we didn’t have a contract after that,” Junebug explained. Taya stared at her, evidently having trouble recalling the moments before the sudden and bloody firefight had erupted.

“Junebug,” Taya said in amazement, “that is the most spurious technicality I have ever heard.”

Junebug nodded and took another drink of water, half draining the canteen in a single long draught before taking a seat on an empty barrel.

“Maybe, but never let it be said that I broke a contract,” she replied. Neil snickered at that.

“Sorry I couldn’t give you any more warning,” she told them, gesturing to Rodrigo’s mother who was now openly weeping as she clutched her son.

“But speaking of contracts… I think we might make a stop before we report these events to Stinger…”

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