“If this boat hits one more swell, I swear I’ll hurl that slop they called breakfast back up on the deck.”
Venus AKA Captain Eyepatch’s gravelly complaint dragged Terra back to the here and now.
“This,” Venus waggled her pinky, shaking ash loose from the tip of her cigar. “Dun’ it make you sick to the stomach? Never-ending rocking side to side. Shit. Makes me wanna kill something.”
Terra hated the acrid smell of that red-eyed thing. She knew her fearless leader damned well knew it, just didn’t care. Terra shrugged. Motion sickness was the least of her problems right now anyway. Three dozen sweaty soldiers crowded the deck of a boat trundling through a channel where the water had gone milky and sour. It stank of rotting flesh and metal.
She could feel a weird heaviness in the air. Even though this was her first tour, she didn’t need to be told what it meant. They were nearing their destination. There was only grimness ahead. She heard the plaintive cry of a lost bird battling its way through the fog. She smirked a little, thinking it well and truly deserved the misfortune that was waiting.
That’s what it got for venturing so far out. Nothing living could survive out here, not for long. The irony of that uncharitable thought wasn’t lost on her.
She went back to her silent fuming. Insignificant snippets of the events that had landed her in this hellish predicament kept re-playing in her head, again and again. If she had to pick, it was probably the newspaper headlines that had pissed her off most.
The gem among gems had been: Blonde Bordello Babe Falls From Grace.
Some cocky reporter was probably still patting himself on the back for cleverly ramming that turgid alliteration into his headline. Had to have been a guy. How else would such infantile need for phallic posturing make sense?
Bless their hearts for trying to squeeze the sleaze into every little thing, though. With nothing but War! War! War! on the tubes, people welcomed the distraction, however mind-numbing.
Frankly, she figured the story of what made her stick her stiletto into some random customer’s gut would’ve have made a juicier story. Still, there was no denying that felony sentencing made for better news these days. Something like that was probably even a sliver of hope for population gripped by fear of the Almighty Draft. After all, one more criminal getting shipped off to “die for her country” meant one less law-abiding citizen drafted into compulsory service.
Who knew? An alien invasion had turned out to be the key to a crime-free society. There’s a massive plus for you. People tend to think twice about bad behavior when the consequence could easily be a grisly death in a human vs. hulk-sized monster crapshoot. She’d known where she’d end up the second she made a conscious choice to kill. Hell, that was probably her number one reason for getting stabby. At least, maybe the first cut… or the first dozen. It had taken twenty to take that beastly jerk down.
No surprise there. They say people didn’t die as easily as they used to. Everyone starts popping body enhancers as soon as they hit puberty. The first thing you figure when stagger out of that introductory “Engaging the Enemy 101” class in the sixth grade is that you never know when you might be conscripted. May as well be prepared.
Opportunistic “explorers” had drilled a hole into the belly of Texas, all the way through to the heart of the Indian Ocean. They probably figured humans were to stupid to catch them in the act or complain. They weren’t too far off the mark, Terra had to admit. For the first century or so afterward, scientists spent lifetimes and billions of dollars trying to ascertain why all the water in the seas didn’t simply drain out into space–what with there being a gaping peep-hole in the planet and all. Seriously. By the time they realized that it was a freaking intergalactic super highway, the statute of limitations had run out and Earth’s claim to rights of ownership was sold off to the Tourog AKA The Enemy.
The intercom crackled to life. A jaded feminine voice flooded the air.
“Convergence in five hundred and fifty-two seconds. You know the drill people. Miss your cue, you die.” there was a hollow laugh. After a few awkward seconds, the intercom crackled and went silent.
A dark shape protruded out of the wet, dead ahead. As they ship neared land, Terra fingered the slippy trigger on her hand-me-down rifle. What was it, second hand? Third hand? A hundred and thirteenth… hell. Who even gave a damn?
Frothy breakers pounded against the distant cliff making discord and tripping up the rhythm of her heart.
She was not afraid of those wild, cresting waves. Or what lay beyond. Or the destiny of the dumb bird.
“Again,” She muttered, quietly. “I’d do it all again.”
They say that there used to be a time when the world wasn’t such a small-feeling place. The continents were divided into individual nations. An incredible, distant dream. The war had begun over eight decades earlier. Humans were still petty and cruel to each other. Stupid. They never got smarter or kinder. Just more scared.
That old rage welled up inside Terra all over again. You just get tired, you know? You get so sick of it all. Why had she killed that guy again? She couldn’t even remember. God. What was his name? Her mind wheeled back to the moment of judgement.
“Let her serve her country. It’s the only use left for a rotten soul.”
Of course, Terra had gone and proved the prosecution’s point, thereby sealing her own fate when she leapt across the table and strangled the self-righteous bitch half to death. A full body tattoo of bruises plus a week in the infirmary and she could finally take a piss unassisted again. A week later the one-eyed, Captain Red-Head here had been the one to welcome Terra to the Human Armed Forces. Banshee Brigade. That last bit tickled the crap out of her.
Someone nearby was humming off-key. “Na-na-naa-nah na-na-naa-nah he-ey goodbye.”
“Dollface!” Venus growled. “I swear, if you don’t shut your trap–”
A dark-bodied amazon Terra had never met before, turned to face them. “What Captain? You’ll shut it for me?”
Her voice was coming from a box strapped to her scarred throat. She had no lips, just flesh torn the right way to give her a horrific, permanent grin. Half her mouth had been blown away by god-knows-what. Splintered bone and ragged flesh had been haphazardly patched with something resembling that industrial plastic the old toy-makers loved so much. Her eyes were a dreamy hazel–long lashes too. She must have been pretty once.
“Oh, god.” Terra grimaced. “I totally get the Dollface thing now.”
“That’s Lieutenant Dollface to you, rookie.” The wrecked beauty glared down at the now infamous, Bordello Babe.
A boom shook the ship, had them all whirling landward. A giant cloud of flame and black smoke mushroomed up from the ground, reaching for the sky like a living, angry thing. Distant screams and weapons fire could be heard beneath the din.
“Oh swell,” Dollface drawled. “It’s the welcoming committee!”
Captain Eyepatch tossed her cigar before pushing her way through the crush of bodies to the gangway. She faced the crowd. The attentive silence that ensued was knee-jerk. The swift mental gear-shift boded well for this batch’s odds of surviving what would come next.
“Grab your gear people!” She bellowed. “Banshee Brigade assault number one-nine-two begins in seventy-five seconds.”
Terra took a deep breath. She shoved her intrusive thoughts aside and focused on steadying the rhythm of her hammering heart.
“This is it,” she murmured. “Hell on Earth, here I come.”