(Editor’s Note: Welcome to Short Story Sunday! This week we’re continuing The Mindwars’ saga with Episode 3 of ‘Battleframe,’ a new science fiction novel by Michael Gilmour. If you need to catch up, you can still read Episodes 1 and 2. Make sure to return next week for Episode 4! )
Episode 3: Freehold
Squad leader Whizzbang raised his arms for the microscopic nano-robots to generate his battleframe armour perfectly around his trim body. The familiar tingling sensation on his skin indicated that billions of nanites were feverishly converting the energy from tellurite crystals into his battleframe exoskeleton.
Whizzbang looked around the small rectangular ready room and nodded a greeting to his friend Happy sitting on the plasteel bench across from him. “I’ll never get tired of this,” Whizzbang said in wonder.
With several loud metallic clunks, Happy slapped the grey walls with his armoured gauntlet. It was a habit that he had developed over the years to reassure himself that everything was just fine with his equipment. “What you talking about Whizz?” he replied in his deep resonating voice.
Whizzbang flexed the soft gloves of his Raven battleframe. “Each day we put on the most sophisticated infantry combat technology that the Concord has ever developed and we treat it like were putting on a change of clothes.”
As the legs of his frame materialised around him Happy stood up and stretched his dark skinned six foot five muscular body. “Frap Whizz, I leave that sort of thinking to the tech guys. You and I are battleframe pilots, designed and bred for ushering the enemies of the Concord into the afterlife.”
“That’s our job now Hap but what are you going to do when it’s all over?”
“Seriously? The war against the Scourge has been going on for more years than I care to remember. Well before you got those streaks of grey in your hair,” Happy chuckled at his own joke. “I don’t imagine that either of us will be unemployed anytime soon. By the way, where’s Bosk? You guys are always together.”
Whizzbang stood to his feet and picked up his sniper Charged beam rifle. “I was busy last night but I think he headed down south to do some Digging.”
Happy nodded and chuckled. “Your friend Bosk is one of a kind. How long you two known each other?”
“Since our parents were killed in a Scourge assault.”
“Frap, we’ve all lost someone we love.”
Whizzbang nodded in agreement while he checked his wrist computer or wrist-comp to ensure that all of his systems were nominal. “Do you think that we’ll ever get off this planet and return to Kaladon?”
“Get off Alpha Three?” Happy ran his fingers through his long black dreadlocks before replying. “Frap Whizz, it almost seems like a dream. What I do know is that we need to secure the tellurite crystals for the war effort. Alpha Three’s loaded with the richest veins of crystals in this sector. Without pilots defending the mining Diggers, the war would be over in a few weeks. I’m just glad the Scourge haven’t figured that out yet.”
Tellurite crystal is the raw material for almost all Concord technology. Molecular sized robots convert the tellurite into energy and then reconstitute the energy back into almost any substance. The crystals power everything from battleframes to household appliances. It was the most malleable source of energy ever discovered and if it is to win the war, the Concord of planets had an insatiable appetite for more of it.
Whizzbang pressed the button to login to his wrist-comp and mumbled to himself, “I’ve been here so long I can barely remember what the home world is like.” Looking up at his friend, Whizzbang saw Happy encased in a Rook support battleframe and armed with a shoulder mounted Lightning gun. Happy energized his frame, flexed his servo-assisted legs a number of times and gave a brief noisy burst of his boot-mounted jump jets. With a rush, the smell of burning tellurite crystals from the pre-ignition systems instantly permeated throughout the ready room.
Satisfied that everything was in working order Happy loudly stomped his metal shrouded feet a couple of times on the plasteel floor grating. “Whizz, when are you going to get rid of that pea shooter and get some serious firepower like my friend Lightning here?” Happy affectionately tapped the gun mounted on his battleframe’s shoulder. He looked back at his friend and the barrel of the Lightning gun immediately tracked to point at Whizzbang.
“You mean this little thing?” Whizzbang hefted his long barrelled Charge rifle in his soft-gloved hands. “Happy, if I could only zoom in close enough with my scope I could boil your brains at a few thousand meters. The problem is the target’s just so small,” he laughed.
Happy tapped the side of his head. “If I recall this little pea brain has managed to rescue your ass a number of times.”
“I’ll give you that one.”
Whizzbang completed his post-frame energizing checks. As was his habit Whizzbang raised his rifle above his head and stretched his arms and back. Lowering his gun, he swung his arms from side to side to ensure that the soft Raven battleframe armour did not restrict any movement. As expected, it fitted perfectly. He loved the Raven, as it was ideal for deep enemy reconnaissance. It allowed him to be as silent as death while the Charge rifle delivered a killing blow at a long range. Each time Whizzbang piloted the Raven he was reminded of his chief instructor’s mantra, “A dead enemy can’t hurt you.”
A battleframe was like a second skin that augmented a pilots speed and strength so that they could move quickly around the battlefield. Depending upon the battleframe, jump jets were mounted either within the boots or on the back plating to allowed short duration flight. As well as their unique weaponry, each battleframe came equipped with a number of specialist capabilities. A built-in medical unit could release a slew of nanites to repair battleframe damage or nanomeds to assist a wounded pilot. Once used, the nanites would automatically replicate themselves from tellurite crystals and within a few minutes, they could once again be available to the pilot.
The Concord had developed over twenty different battleframes, each for a specialised purpose. Some, such as the Anvil, were heavily armoured and fitted like a suit of medieval plate armour. Others, such as the Eagle Claw and Raven, were lightweight and designed for ease of movement and stealth.
Whizzbang slung his Charge rifle over his back into its harness and a sudden feeling of vertigo gripped him. He leaned against the ready room wall to steady himself. He had experienced the feeling before but it seemed to be happening more frequently over recent weeks. Just like the other times the vertigo vanished as fast as it came. What was happening? Was something wrong with him? Again, just like the previous episodes, there was no lasting, negative side effects. He would have to find the underlying cause of the problem but for now, that would have to wait.
“Haps, you Good To Go?”
Happy looked with concern at his friend. “You OK Whizz?”
“I’m fine Haps, just a bit dizzy for a second. I’m G2G – are you?”
“Maybe you should see the base doc?”
“What are you? My mother?” Whizzbang said a little irritably.
Happy raised his hands in mock surrender while at the same time his face split into a mischievous grin. “OK, OK, I’m G2G. Let’s do this Whizz.”
About the Author:
Since his early childhood Michael Gilmour embraced the excitement and infinite possibilities of science fiction. ‘Battleframe’ is his debut novel in ‘The Mindwars’ and is the culmination of a lifetime of adventures. He resides in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and three children.
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