Almost Epic

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of military science fiction and indeed own dozens of such books. Sometimes though, I find myself thinking maybe they’ve gone a bit too far or perhaps forgot something. Suffice it to say, some people forget the world is three-dimensional.
Steve Dean's Short Story Almost Epic

This science-fiction story is a bit of a spoof on certain military science fiction settings. I’m not picking on anyone in particular, as there are lots to choose from. Those of you who regularly read such novels might be able to spot some of those who inspired me here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of military science fiction and indeed own dozens of such books. Sometimes though, I find myself thinking maybe they’ve gone a bit too far or perhaps forgot something. One of these publishers in particular regularly pushes my buttons by forgetting something crucial, which you’ll see when you read the story. Suffice it to say, some people forget the world is three-dimensional.

*                 *                 *

At the end of a training session, Cragulous liked to gather the trainees together and talk through the day’s activities. Without fail, one of them would ask about a certain event and the debrief would turn into a story hour. This day was no exception. They all gathered at one end of the training hall, away from the blood and broken equipment, and sit on the floor with Cragulous on a simple stool.

“Tell us about Hellscape Deathbane,” one of them said in an obviously rehearsed manner.

Cragulous looked down at Rockalon, the tallest of the recruits at almost three metres tall. He still had some growing to do to reach Cragulous’ three and a half metres, but he was getting there. By the time he was twelve years old, he’d match his tutor for height, although not for width or experience.

“Ahh, someone has been to the library I see.” He smiled, causing the scar across his face to crinkle. “Yes, I was there. Although it was many years ago.”

“Did you see the Warlord!” Steelus asked. She was still bleeding from a wide cut to her scalp. It would soon seal over and be nothing but a memory this time tomorrow.

“Now, you’re getting ahead of the story. Let’s start from the beginning.

“As it seems, you already know, Hellscape Deathbane is a planet in the outer Bloodsky region. It’s rich in Machonium, which, as you also know, is required by the Manufactorionum to make void ammunition. The great enemy had landed a large force and taken over one of the manufactories and began making their own ammo. This couldn’t be allowed of course, and so we, the 69th legion were sent in.

“We landed on a wide plain crisscrossed by jagged cracks filled with lava and moved off in our armoured land sharktigers, the anti-personnel variant with the twin laser pulse guns. We approached from the south with the rest of the troops. Shortly after, the Warlord sent his forces against us, instead of sitting tight and digging in. I presume he thought we’d destroy the manufactory rather than let him keep it. And he was right, of course.

“So, out they came in those strange vehicles they use, all heretical angles and blasphemous colour schemes. Thousands of them there were against a few hundred of us Spaceship Commandos. We immediately jumped out of our armoured vehicle and began to run towards the enemy. There was fire all around. Kinetic rounds bouncing off our armoured suits, laser shots leaving scorch marks and those strange spinning disk things they use shattering all around us.

“We were soon in close combat. My first kill was a quick shot with my 66x6ns nail gun. I fired a single shot into a grotesque mask and saw the enemy creature’s brain blast out of the back. I did the same several more times, each shot entered through the eye slit and splattered brains out the back. We were soon too close even for pistols, so I drew my buzz sword and began to hack off those same heads. Those around me were doing the same; there was blood and brains and loose heads rolling around, it got quite slippery. Once we’d hacked those living creatures to pieces we moved on and were met by a new force of heavily armoured soldiers with thick shields. We wasted several shots with our nail guns on those shields and decided to just run towards them shouting.

“As I reached the line I led with my shoulder and rammed straight into the shield and the enemy standing there. It felt like I’d run into an adamansteelcrete wall. I think I broke some bones then, but I didn’t have time to deal with that, so I carried on. Instead of pushing against the shield, I pulled it with one hand and rammed my buzz sword into the enemy’s face. It didn’t go down, so I kept the pressure on until blood and gobbets of flesh began to spray everywhere. We were still taking fire at this point, so I took the thing’s shield and threw it at the next enemy in line, knocking it sideways and creating a wider gap. I followed through by putting a few shots into its armour, one of which hit something explosive and bits of it were blasted everywhere.

“We pushed on again, our losses small. Up ahead we saw some strange creatures like eight-legged rhinos with riders on their backs. They and some other forces had formed a horseshoe-shaped defensive ring. It was obviously a trap, so we charged in. The rhino creatures ran straight towards us, each as large as a small armoured car. They were also wearing armour, with a huge sharpened ceramotitanisteel spike on the chest piece. Meanwhile, the troops to either side were moving in to cut off our escape.

“We ran towards the charge individually. I picked one out and starting blasting away with my nail gun. The shots impacted against the armour and spanged off with no apparent effect, so I kept firing until my gun was empty, then threw it at the rider. Then I dodged to one side as it tried to ram into me, grabbing the saddle and digging my feet into the ground. I ripped the rider from its mount and swung it around to bash it against the ground. Its body wept limp as its bones broke with loud cracking noises. Once it had stopped screaming and was too battered to use as a weapon, I looked for another target. I saw many of my fellow warriors were down and we were surrounded. Things didn’t look good, and we hadn’t even had a glimpse of the Warlord.

“Then I heard over the radio, ‘the buzzards are coming’. Our commander had called in an air strike. The craft arrived only seconds after, strafing the enemy soldiers until nothing was left but pools of liquid with internal organs floating in it. Then a precision orbital strike came in and, we heard later, fried the Warlord in his own juices without damaging the manufactory too much, and we were done.”

“Is that all?” Rockalon asked. “We were expecting an epic battle.”

“Imagine if we hadn’t had air support or orbital strikes. Then yeah, that would have been epic!”


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