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Battlesuit Bastards

Wardogs Incorporated #1

G.D. Stark

Castalia House


Chapter 1: Easy Money


That’s what I heard. You might have heard the sound of an I-128 ceramic frag grenade going off, followed by two newly dead bodies falling to the deck, but the violence sounded like money to me.

“Dammit, Tommy—you’re on top again!” Park’s voice crackled through my earpiece. He’d seen the kill stats increment in my favor.

I didn’t have the chance to reply, as a bolt of fire shot past me—too close. My suit armor could probably handle it, but I wasn’t about to take any stupid chances. Instead, I hit the deck and rolled behind a support column. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing. But the cargo bay was supposed to be empty. I keyed my transceiver. “Sergeant, we have contact in cargo.”

“Hang on, Falkland. We’re on the way,” Sergeant Hanley replied. Then Ace’s voice came back from our ship, low and clear. “We have nothing living on scan, Falkland. Probably shielded. Use caution.”

“Roger, sir,” I said. “Falkland out–”

A laser bolt burned into the deck six inches from my face, cutting me off. My visor darkened for a second to compensate, then a second bolt hit me in the back. Damage was minimal but my lower back was a mess of electric tingling. That shot—from above?

I looked up and saw a hostile perched on the girders, crouched above the bay like a monkey with a beamer and quickly snapped off a pair of shots. One missed, but he took the other full in the chest, knocking him off his perch and down to the deck with a nasty crunch. No armor on that one, just like the rest. Our armor gave us an unfair advantage over the near-helpless crew; even when they hit us, they couldn't hurt us.

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Another bolt blazed past me, this time from my level. “Sergeant, you guys planning on showing up anytime soon?” I hissed into my transceiver. He and Park were clearing the crew quarters while I was supposed to lock down this supposedly empty cargo bay. We didn’t usually split up while clearing a ship, but this was just a civilian freighter that wasn’t prepared for pirates, let alone professional mercs.

“Sergeant?” I said again. “They’ve got at least two more here, could use some backup.” No reply for a minute, then I heard Jock. “Sit tight, Tommy. We’re coming.”

Sitting tight was easier said than done. I was too exposed and there were no telling how many more crewmen were in the bay. Barrels, crates, forklifts—it was a confusing mess of potential hiding spots. The three I’d already killed since busting in obviously had more friends. They must have decided to take refuge here in the hopes of ambushing our boarding party.

I saw a head pop up behind a water tote and winged off a bolt. Miss. Then two more bolts flew past me from the left. I turned to shoot—then CRACK—something blew my elbow off from the right. Not my actual elbow, of course, but my exo’s. It felt like fire. Foam filled the crack and a jolt of some fancy painkiller numbed the area. Space! That wasn’t an energy weapon—that was a projectile! No time to think on it—back it up, Tommy —back through the door—now! I scrabbled backward, ducking low—then a plasma bolt nailed me in the chest, knocking me on my tail. I was still outnumbered 3-1 even after wasting the first three marks. Dammit, where are Jock and Park?

I crawled rapidly back towards the open door, red warning light glowing around me from the breached seal indicator from when I’d force-popped the door with my wrist chip.

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I jumped up and ran through as more plasma spattered against the walls.

The main lights were out and the corridor was filled with smoke. My optics compensated just in time for me to see another team member. Onboard ID told me it was Jock. The other guy behind him didn’t register. Park, offline. The other five in the boarding party must still be on the bridge. I backed away from the door and kept it covered as we met up.

“Status, Tommy?” Jock said.

“Bay has multiple hostiles, sergeant. Three down. I’d guess at least three left.”

Jock frowned. “Surprise, surprise. Intel had it wrong again.”

“Not the first time,” I grimaced, looking at the mess of foam surrounding my elbow. My wounded arm was locked in place now. Fortunately, it was my right.

Jock whistled. “What did that?”

“Not plasma,” I said. “Projectile.” Projectile weapons were not standard space issue because they tended to punch holes through things, yet some idiot in the crew had been carrying one anyhow.

“Red Team has the bridge locked down. Want to call them in or spin the wheel for cash and prizes?”

I looked back at the cargo bay door, now silent. The surviving crew members were in there. Probably edging up towards the corridor right now, scared as hell, but determined to take us with them.

“If we had a few ceramics left I’d feel more enthusiastic,” I said.

I could see Jock’s grin through his visor as he pulled a pair of I-128s from the back of his belt.

“Two enough?”

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Wardogs Inc. series cover
Easy Money episode cover
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Wardogs Inc.

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