War Stories: 1

I remember my first real sortie with Django as her apprentice.

She was really something else to watch in combat. It was like a lot of the other candidates had told me. I didn’t see myself coming close to good enough to be in her employ, and all of the exams I had passed and physicals I got suddenly felt pretty much like a big waste of time.

We were in the drop ship together and she was quiet. We’d been together for about nine months in active combat scenarios, and through the whole thing, she was pretty talkative. Almost nice. Not someone who one really expected to flip around in the air, stabbing people in open gunfire the way she did. I noticed that she turned a small thing around in her hand, over and over again, neither paying direct attention to it or getting lost in whatever it was meant to do. I figured it was her totem, something she trained me explicitly to carry for my own safety (but I never read anything about it in her datastores.) But all of those scenarios, I was shadowing her, in my own Plate but only authorized to self-defend. It was called “Battle Scribing” and you had to do it for so many hours, studying combat in real time. We’d been at war for a long time with the Mainland Ring, and there were plenty of exercises to sideline before it was my time to shine. This was my first real drop as lead, and despite my record, I was clearly being made to go through the same arduous rhetoric as the other EGuards.

The ship rocked and creaked in that old way they did when the government was paying for things. The standee rings swung enticingly from poles in the ceiling, saying “stand up, grab me, get a concussion on the drop trying to look cool.” I shot a look at Django and she just turned her toy around in her hand. I could only see the rope that spilled out of her claw and I asked myself where she kept it, ‘cause I never saw it around her neck.

Things were explosive out there. They always were in the hot zones though. No amount of divining or science was capable of totally blocking out the pressure of plasma flak going off around our Lifter.

The doors opened. It was bright. There were screams now, and chirping from their lasers. It looked like one of their dance clubs. I grabbed my rifle.

“Are you ready, Merit?” In the time I looked over the razed up city square, writhing like it were covered with spiders. Humans. A rainbow of laserfire flared the dropship’s diffusing magic and a smoky haze filled the space between us. When I looked back at her, I pulled the safety from my seat, pulling myself up by the ceiling. Django stood and laid her tail, long and spiked like mine, dark green and striped with purple scales. Her locket of magic in her hand was gone and replaced with her spear.

“Of course,” I said, clicking at her and gnashing up a smile that brought one to her long dark face as well. I shifted while the explosions seemed to get louder and the smoke coming out of our ship wasn’t going to do anything more but asphyxiate us. Over the pouting lip of the dropship I saw we were both good enough to drop from here.

“What are you waiting for?”

I hadn’t ever really thought about it until now.

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