༺ First Burn ༻


“Holding anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned" - Buddha

The exoskeleton headup flicked on. The target’s profile rotated. Floppy brown hair, big jaw. Trying to start a union, ugly. Majors voice talked over the images. “This Mn04 guy gotta be sliced. They want more time plugged into Meejamother and less mining. That means less production, less bombs. Less bombs, less launches and the less missiles we chuck at ’em, the more they’ll be able to chuck at us.”

The distant rumble of massive explosions mixed with the higher pitch of their own war effort. Always the blast and air pressure shifts from the mines far below. The crashing of immensities of metal, not far off, the hive of missile factories. The intense flare of sound from their own missiles launching, shaking the tunnels. But always, mostly below the range of human hearing, felt more than heard, the deluge, the apocalypse of ordnance blasting its way down to the underground city.

As a military machine and suicide bomber, Hr09 was magnificent. He’d won his augmentations after a deep penetration blast had killed his family. Women and children were not exempt from the most dangerous jobs - vaporised along with the whole crew, repairing a launch station obliterated by an enemy bomb.

The Power had offered him the fastest way to revenge. They had been quick to see his potential. His resolve, determination, commitment to the kill and most importantly, his desire to die. Tests had shown him to be able to cope with the inevitable guilt after gory incidents. There had been lots of those. No bother. “Fuckem!” Above all, they knew him to be ready to blow himself up. His revenge would only be sated by glorious suicide. He was the latest and best of the Hr09s, the assassin/suicide tribe. His DNA would be replicated, they had started already.

This was the first political kill they had given him. It wasn’t training anymore. No more slicing petty crims - they didn’t even have IDs or effective defence. The last one, he’d only needed to blast a door and the crim inside was too stoned to react before his number 2 laser sliced him in half. And there had been hints that if he sliced this miner guy and got back to Major with the info on his mydox, he’d be given something real big.

Footsteps in the corridor below. Flick off the rerun of Major’s briefing. The glare from the target alert light fizzed on his retina as the headup flipped itself into combat mode. The exoskeleton fixed him firm against three points in the broken vent-shaft above Mn04’s door. A top of the range combat exo like this had such a comfy biointerface he rarely took it off. His free arm held a tiny recon remote - maybe he could get an early view of what he was up against.

One, two, three guys in front. No aurgmentations, no exos, but good weapons. Solid, laser loaded, 21s. Standard armour. Right, there’s Mn04, there’s the floppy hair. Talking to his babe. Another three bodyguards at the rear. “O shit, one’s got a detect running, switch off headup before he picks it up”.


Dropping into the corridor, the first shot a nerve stun on Mn04 - he needed him alive - leave the babe. Three delay rounds into the front guards from his left hand blaster, they would detonate when his main laser started. The concrete cracked as he landed. Aiming with the right hand laser at the nearest rear guard, the round sliced him through the forehead. Blinking at the spray of blood, the next guard by now had his weapon on its way up. He buckled as his ribcage collapsed. A purple flash from the three delays. Screams from behind. Last guard fired wildly. Pupils narrowing against the flashes, he steadied and moved. Fast! Mn04’s last defence fell. In slow-motion he toppled to the floor, it just couldn’t be hap…

Hr09 punched. Babe flew backwards. At least she would wake up but the body guards, well, they were just bodies now.

Mn04’s eyes goggled helplessly. The nerve agent paralysed his limbs. Yanking his mydox off its necklace, Hr09 used it to spring the door and dragged the twitching miner inside. The mydox by itself was no good to Major, they needed the cryptokey as well and for that they needed Mn04 to be conscious. Dumping him onto the Meejamother biointerface, he ran a detect and record. Meejamother ran its welcome jingle and scanned Mn04’s nervous system. Once it ID’d him, it would ask for the mydox key and compare it with the one it had stored. All he had to do was grab that key in transmission and was good to go.

Meejamother’s cocoon enclosed Mn04 and output its guess at priority - porn!

The usual sequence was sleep, vitals, drugs and then porn, but the nerve agent had fooled it. Meejamother thought he wanted to fuck! Man his weapons were the best! Not that it mattered, as Mn04’s nervous system was about to go ‘offline’ any minute.

Meejamother kept the whole damn machine going. There was only so much work people would do before overt force was necessary. The Power had found it cheaper in the long run to supply all basic needs and allow instinctual drives to be expressed. After a worker’s shift, they were taken into alpha wave sleep, dosed with REM at intervals and the brought out and fed. There was a range of possibles then. If Meejamother guessed from its nervous system monitoring that the herd member wanted kinship, then a virtual soap opera was squirted through the interface. Power, domination and hatred needs altered the matrix of input towards action scenes much like Hr09 had just had in real life. For all he knew, his exo had uploaded a recording of the last minute’s excitement to Meejamother already.

The headup flashed green as it captured the cryptokey. He watched the porn for a moment. Stims had started their pulsating jobs. He winked at the paralysed miner’s bulging eyes and jabbed the needle in. A microgram of ‘silent exit’ pumped into the carotid. Hr09 left, stepping over the corpses outside. He heard Meejamother’s medical alarm start shreaking. Poor Meejamother, it must’ve thought that the stims had done Mn04 to death.