Fields Aflame - Chapter One, part Two by J.S. Holland

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Tarin leaned back against the wall. Waiting was the worst part. He been told that countless times in the Academy in Saleen, on the planet Marik, and experienced afterwards when he joined the Kilix Marines. Combat was hour after hour of sheer boredom, punctuated by moments of pure terror. Most people thought it was how you handled yourself during those moments that proved true courage, but Tarin wondered if it wasn't really how you got through the hours before. Knowing you were going into a fight, and letting your imagination play havoc with that knowledge, was often worse than the battle itself.

The comm clicked. "Tarin, they've pulled alongside. We still don't have any guns."

"What's our trajectory?"

"Straight on with the planet, but we won't hit it at this speed for another hour at least. Long enough for them to dock, loot, and leave."

The ships would have to be connected by an access tube, an extendable arm that came from the boarding ship and attached to the door of the other. If the ships hit atmosphere--Brantial VI's atmosphere--before the pirates pulled that tube back, it would burn up and kill anyone inside. But with an hour, that wouldn't be a factor. "Loot and leave? You're forgetting the part where they kill us, Dune."

"Kill us? I doubt that."

"Is that guts or brains

"I have plenty of both."

Tarin snorted. "Doubtful. Look, they're going to take our load for one, but then they're going to try and take Cira as well. She can't beat up the whole crew--no offense, Cira, but there's got to be two dozen of them--and so they'll have their prize. Now, what is the first rule of the Marines?"

"I was never a Marine."

"Doesn't matter."

Dune let a burst of air hiss between his teeth.

"Never leave a man behind."

"Exactly. They think they can have their fun, but we're going to teach them that they've picked the wrong target. They're have to kill us to take her."

Cira spoke up, her voice soft and yet sharp. "How heartwarming, Captain. Glad to know you're on my side."

Tarin grinned. "Of course, my dear."

"Call me that again and I might let Hall take me."

"Forget it. You're too good of a sniper for me to let you go." Tarin picked the bomb up. "Look, comm silent from here on out. Get off the gun deck; it's the first place they'll look. Hide out, and take them down if you see them. If this works out how I'm planning, though, you won't have that problem."

"And if it doesn't?" Cira asked.

"Then I'm dead, and it's all on you." Tarin flipped his comm off and dropped it into his pocket. _But I've stayed alive against enemies far more dangerous than Jessan Hall, and I'd be a shame to let him wreck that streak._

For a moment, the silence was deafening. Then there was a loud clang of metal on metal as the access tube slammed home against the Pride's hull. Tarin tensed, leaning forward with a hand out to steady himself on the nearest crate. He let his finger drift closer to the arming mechanism, but made sure not to touch the button. He heard the whine of a lasersaw as it worked its way around the outside of the door, cutting the seal.

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