Smash Team #1

My short fiction and poetry

Smash Team #1

Soft, fat drops pelted Ian as he struggled through the overcast, pitch-black night to keep up with the team. The four dark figures dodged and darted through the ruins and rubble of destroyed buildings until they came to what was left of a three-story motel. It was Ian’s first day with them. They were called Splatter Boys for a good reason, he knew. But Ian wasn’t sure he wanted to find out why. For better or worse, this was his ride. The team wasn’t boys and they definitely weren’t all men. Their leader was Zella and she was a woman if Ian had ever seen one—all woman with the fierceness of a badger on steroids that needed to get laid.

“Don’t get behind,” snarled the grizzled man in front of him. Through the darkness, Ian could only see his back. He remembered thinking Guthrie might have only been a few years older. But the man managed to look like hell and garbage pushed into a pile of human excrement. “Anything slows me down, I cut it loose,” he rasped not even bothering to glance back in Ian’s direction.

But Ian knew what he meant. He remembered the words of John Connor when he had received this mission. You’ve got earn your way onto this team. They don’t trust easy. But they’re smart enough to realize a good man when they see one. Just as I did. Ian had pledged to do his best and John had reassured him. Everything will work out … or you’ll be dead. In which case, everything will have worked out. The joke wasn’t much comfort at the time.

Now, Ian could sense the disdain evident in Guthrie’s voice or maybe it was just the rations they had eaten earlier. Field rations had a tendency to be a little rough on the guts. He watched as the man crouched in a half-run and followed closely behind the two other figures.

Ian tried to move faster, to get his thin, mostly scar-free body to negotiate the jagged piles of concrete and standing pools of water that had formed on the upper level of the partially demolished motel. They passed torrents of water that drained through holes that ran the entire way from the roof to the ground floor.

The other members of the team knew that John had personally picked Ian as a replacement for Conrad—one of theirs who had bought it a couple weeks back. It had been down and dirty confrontation with an entire squad of terminators. They were lucky that any of them had survived. These were the kind of robots that Skynet hadn’t bothered to camouflage with human flesh—battle models used for all-out warfare. They were ruthless and deadly with the firepower to level whole city blocks.

What the team didn’t know was why Ian had been picked. He wasn’t a combat vet. And as far as they knew, he had never been tested in combat, even once. What they needed was fighters and Ian hadn’t volunteered any further information to assuage their concerns.

“Freeze.” The half-whispered warning came from the front of the four-man team. “We’ve got metal.” It was a woman’s voice, but cold and harsh. It didn’t match the frazzled but comely features of the woman uttering the words. She had one hand up in a fist—the hand signal to stop moving and, if possible, breathing. It was this they had responded to instinctively, not the words. “Down.” Zella waved her hand to side and downward. “It hasn't spotted us yet. So at least we have a three percent chance of living today. Better than usual.” She motioned to the rear of the formation. “Send the newb up.” The command was directed at Ian. “Time to prove your worth. You’re on the trigger, new guy.”

“It’s Ian.” He knew he shouldn’t have bothered. But he felt he needed to. If they were going to die at least they should know his name.

“Sure it is.” Zella smiled. It was a dangerous warning that he knew he should respect.

The second man, Taylor, passed the plasma cannon to him and unslung his assault rifle. The launcher was shoulder-fired and similar to a traditional bazooka, but it fired a particle beam instead of a shaped-charge projectile. The energy would not only do kinetic damage to anything it impacted, but it would also disrupt the neural nets of even the most shielded terminator models. It was a good weapon but anything less than a direct hit would have little effect. Additionally, the gun took ten seconds to recharge. Strong nerves and a rapid escape plan were a necessity. If you were stupid enough to try a second shot you’d probably be hoping to live to regret it. Otherwise, you’d just be dead.

Ian slid forward on his belly with his hand on the grip and the launcher resting over his right arm. Zella was crouched next to the window opening peering with one eye around the window frame. “Target is coming from right to left, moving along the street. Make sure the weapon is on and the safety is disengaged before you expose yourself. We’ll do our best to cover you.” The others took there places at the other window and Ian did his best to remember how to cycle the launcher through power up. “I’ll tell you when. You’ve got about ten seconds. Is the weapon primed?”

“Getting there.”

“Do it newb.” Her voice softened. “Ian.” Maybe she realized that these could be their last moments.

“Done,” Ian said, folding the viewer into operational position. “I’m ready.”

“Come to a kneeling position and acquire the target as quickly as you can. Don’t hesitate to fire,” she said. Her hand was on his shoulder. “When I signal you, the Metal will be at your twelve o’clock. Fire and go back down. Don’t pause. Expect to receive incoming.”

“I’m ready,” Ian repeated, too nervous to say anything else.

To Be Continued

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