Man writing a book

Short Story by Robert Woods


"Right. 30 D's out."

"Yes. On the scope. Big one but he"s moving away and tucked in behind those trees."


"Shot out...hit...wait...still moving...lost it."

"No kill."

"See. This is what I was talking about..."

"No kill..."

"No, I mean it. This is exactly what I was talking about. They pay us per kill but rent us these second hand blasters and these third gen scopes. So getting paid just gets harder. I"d take updated weapons systems and make less per kill. Go for volume. That"s what I"d do."

"Hit the shots."

"...hit MY shots? Maybe you should call out targets earlier so I can get shots off before they get into the bush."

"Two left...smaller."

"You should have spotted those further out...this equipment is for shit."


"Shots out...hits...both down."


"I AM updating the tally. You worry about spotting targets and moving the pod. This thing"ll get bogged down if you don"t pay attention to what you"re doing. Its a piece of junk just like these weapons. That was three right?"


"OK. Shift positions and try to find some that aren"t so spooked."


"I"m telling you. The money they spend on us slogging around down here. They could spend half as much or double the squads and get this done faster if they"d rent better equipment."

"Three front..."

"Targeting...shots out...two kills. Dammit that third one spooked and ran down into that ravine."


"Tallied. How many cycles into this are we now? Seven, Eight?"


"Four...feels like eight. Sleeping in this pod with no heat and eating these rations that I wouldn"t feed to a freight hauler. Its no wonder I"m pulling my shots."

"Mmmmm hmmm."

"And the rain and mud. AND the cold. Its ridiculous. These dry weather pods with no shelter...who planned this thing anyway?"

"Who knows."

"I"ll tell you who. Someone that doesn't have to be here. Someone that did a bunch of planning without setting foot down here or sending in a surveyor droid to get a better idea of what was happening."


"I see it...close enough the spotting isn't helping...targeting...shot out. Kill.


"Tallied. The thing is, until this gets wrapped up we"re stuck here making shit per kill. But if we pull out of the contract early, the penalties kill us. Basically working for free if we leave early."

"Mmmm hmmmm"

"Which got me to thinking."


"...maybe we should think about borrowing from the guild and outfit ourselves."

"How's that"

"I don"t know. I mean if we borrowed some credits and updated weapons, We"d have to pay it back, but with updated gear, we could crank up our kill rate, make the same amount per kill using our own stuff, and then pay them back easy as can be. Five, maybe ten contracts and we'd be 100% upside."


"Maybe? This is what, our 30th, 31st contract? I figure based on what we keep seeing we're probably good for another 30 at least, maybe 40. That kind of job security, with bigger money per kill...we"re losing money if we don"t do it."

"Targets right"

"Targets right, targets right...I'm saying, if we went semi private, like some of the other squads do, we'd be ahead of the game. More money same work."

"Targets right"

"I can't see them... move the pod up closer to that ravine so I can get a view down the length of it."


"So the tricky bit would be to get the loan from the guild. While we're stuck down here on this contract, we'd have to go ask one of the squads with off-world comms to give us some bandwidth."

"Costs money"

"Yeah, we'd have to pay them for the bandwidth and time, but even at that, if we're smart about what we use, we could keep that price down. Find someone and do the comms link while we're on downtime so we don't lose any tally."

"Targets right"

"I see them. I can't get a shot...hold up and let me clean these optics again."


"So the way I see it, we reach out to the squads within radio contact and see who's got an off world comm link. See what they want for a little bandwidth to reach off world. Between the two of us we've got enough credits we can get enough time I recon. Then we get the guild to forward credits to a broker and then we get the broker to run our gear in on a drop."

"Mmmmm Hmmmm"

"We'd have to take another 10 contracts or so while they worked their way here with the gear. Maybe 20. But then we'd be set".


"Well, the guild would have to get the licenses squared away and then find a broker near enough, with the right price. Then they'd have to transport it. And then bring it down. OK, let's move."


"Move up to the end of the ravine, there on the left."


"So if I think about it, then we'd only have the weapons for maybe 10 more contracts once they get here. But it'd still be enough to cover the costs by the time the contracts dry up."


"No maybe. The math works out...I think. Besides, even if we're light on credits getting off planet, then we'd just carry that forward to the next one."

"Carry forward"

"Yeah. The guild won't bust our balls if we take a couple more on world contracts wherever to get the credits to pay them back. They'll get interest and what we borrowed back quick enough."


"Well, the guild would charge some kind of interest, but as members its a pretty good deal I think.


"We've seen other crews do this! It can't be that tough, I mean, the maths got to work out otherwise they wouldn't have been able to do it either".

"Targets right"

"Not seeing them on my scope"

"Down ravine"

"OK, I see two down around that bend. Lets shift the pod down the slope a bit...I"m not goin to be able to see the kills if they work around that bend".


"So lets talk about it during downtime some more and figure out the math. Reach out to the squads in range and plan for maybe a comms link off world next cycle."


"I figure if we like how it sounds we could have the equipment in 20 cycles and still have plenty of contracts left"


"Yeah, 20 cycles, one contract per cycle, we'd be set for the remainder down here and then whatever comes next. Owning beats renting".


"Move downhill some more...ravines plenty wide for the pod...those two are jumping back and forth around that corner down there on the right".


"Take a little break after this set of contracts, enjoy some time on the reception ship, then head back in and start getting paid"

"Targets right"

"...maybe we can even have the broker meet us on the reception ship and save the cost of on planet transport...that final leg will cost."

"Reception ship"

"It would mean we don't have the equipment for the rest of these contracts, but maybe that"s just fine...finish these out making less, then get onto the reception ship for a break, then head back in with everything we the guild back on the next set off world."

"Mmm hmmm..."

"Anyway, lets wrap up this last set of targets, tally up and then head back for downtime and see who has off world comms."

"Contact right"

"Yeah...I see them...move up down the ravine some more...I"ll take the shot as we clear visuals on this corner up here on the right...targets keep poking their heads out around that corner."


"Anyways, lets talk about it some more in downt..."

"Targets right"

"Now I got 'em...clearing the corner...I see 'em...targeting..."

"Targets left"


"Targets left, targets rear"

"Uh...lets get the pod moving...shots out right...kill...kill..."

"Moving. Tally."


"Targets front, targets rear, targets left, targets right high"

"Uh...lets get the pod moving toward those up ahead...I"ll clear them out...shots out...get me a count...kill...kill...hit...reloading"


"Tally later...shots out"

"Targets front, targets rear, targets left, targets right high..."

"...shots out...keep moving forward...move the pod away from this right side...they"re above us...move left..."

"Big ones..."

"Move the pod left and forward!"


"BIG ones...shots out...kill...kill...kill...kill...FUCK"

"Targets front, rear, left, right high"

"...they"re above us on the right...the big ones...firing...kill...kill...kill...kill..."


"Keep the pod moving, don"t stop, watch out for that..."

"Pods stuck"

"...try shifting the drivetrain...get us away from this side!"

"No good"

"ABOVE US...firing...kill...kill...kill...kill...kill...loading!"





"Beacon on"


"Weapon up"




"On me..."






"That beacons got them all spooked in this sector..."

"Yeah...lets just start the tally and get back for downtime."

"...been firing off for awhile now...guess nobody"s going to check."

"Squad control is supposed to take care of those..."

"HA! I haven't seen squad control in two cycles..."

"Mmmm...OK then, let's wrap up this tally and head that way then".

"OK...who's over there anyway?"

"I think its that chatty guy and his buddy."

"Oh....maybe we should take the long way back to the downtime sector and let someone else take a look..."

"Works for me...that guy drives me crazy."

"Which one?"

Space Marines on patrol

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