Serialized Science Fiction.

Blast from the Past
Tom Haynes

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Nothing was going as planned -- Ralpye and Wombat were already dead. The Kid was probably going to join them very soon. He was clutching his side, where the flechettes had torn away the kevlar. They shouldn't have been able to penetrate it; but then again, it was one of those nights. We hadn't been able to get the bleeding stopped. Besides being the point man, Ralpye had been the medic. Even though it wasn't my specialty, I could whip up a healing spell. That is if I wasn't drained from turning away the fire elemental that got Wombat. I had some energy left, but I needed the mana to get us past the hellhounds we knew were covering the escape route. The Kid would look at me pleadingly, then wrench his eyes away when I tried to establish contact. He knew his chances were slim without my help, but he also knew he was kibbles if I did help him.

We were the last of the Red Raiders and we had been together for 7 years. Gorgie, Ralpye and I had even gone through basic together at Quantico. The others, Wombat, The Kid, Bit Brain, Tenney, and The Sarge had drifted in and out of our platoon over the years. Of course, that was back when we were at full company strength, what, about 3 years ago, when we were betrayed at Cooleye Junction. Since then, the Raiders had been whittled away one by one. We had been forced to live in the shadows. At first, our classical education had stood us in good stead, as we were able to pluck all of the juicy contracts. Of late, we took whatever jobs we were lucky to scrape up.

In retrospect, the Mr. Johnson seemed way too smooth, the money seemed way too much, and I should have known better that to come back into Tir Tairngire. I couldn't look at The Kid and tell him all I had to do was call out and things would be okay for him. The Paladins would gladly heal him and drop the rest of them off in Seattle. I didn't have a reward or anything on my head, but my father still wanted to marry me off to some prince in the Seelie Court of Tir na nOg. All I had to do was stop being Garbo of the Red Raiders, revert back to my father's daughter, and my word would be enough to get the others back to civilization.

Unfortunately for the rest of the squad, I would rather die than obey my father once again. The Red Raiders were much like the old French Foreign Legion: all of us had some hidden past that we were running from. I knew the others would respect my decision, if I could muster up enough courage to tell them that is.

The mission was a total bust. We never even made it into the building. Chances were high that the Johnson had sold us out. I had little fear that I was the root of the betrayal. If my father had even suspected I was with the Raiders, he would have led the Paladins in himself and damned the consequences. I think he believes me dead, but as old and cunning that he his, he may be letting me sow my oats.

At full strength, or even fully rested, we were more than a match for the Paladins. But, three years of living on the edges, being nicked to death, had taken their toll. If we had better information or perhaps even been dealt with honestly, then we would have had a fighting chance. As it is, I don't think we will live to see the dawn, much less the hell hounds. Either way, we all knew I had to hoard my energy, I could not waste it on The Kid.

Bit Brain still has a 'bot in the air. It is the last from the ones we took away from Cooleye Junction. If the brass had known that we moved up field testing on the Mark VIIs, they might have held off on blowing our cover and pulling off the copters from the LZ. They had spent a fortune on the Mark VIIs and we took all the prototypes with us that night. The head engineer, McKinnley, was in the field with us that night, and the Photon Wiz had put some mondo black ice on the data store. We lost McKinnley when we commandeered the sub to get off of the island. After the brass lost 4 deckers trying to

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