"A malicious pill for a malicious thrill, eh?"
"I hate it when you talk like that." I really do. There's something about tech-djinn that irritates me. It's either the ridiculous tattoos they sport or the alarming amount of cybernetic implants that stick out of their bodies. But I take the pill anyway.
I really want to smack that grin off its face.
The pill works quickly and I can feel the djinn plugging me into the golem, barely. It's been a while since I've gone for a ride and I guess I forgot about the numbness. But, desperate measures for desperate times, right?
Forgive me. You probably have no idea what's going on. Earth is a desert wasteland in my time and there aren't very many people left. A few dozen-million, if that. Yeah, the polar icecaps melted - well, one of them - but not for reasons you're thinking. Some assholes started a nuclear shootout. With all the interceptor defense systems, most of those bad boys got knocked down over the North Pole, it being under the flight path of those damned things. It's amazing what fallout can do to ice.
Long-story short: the Arctic disappeared, water went everywhere, and everything heated up. Literally and figuratively. Oh, the Antarctic is still around, but it's mostly exposed rock now. Who knew?
"Golem 2-7, up." My voice sounds funny when it's mechanized. I burst through the sand trap and check the heat shields. Five by five. Weapons-check follows. I'm good there, too. Most golem-drivers check their guns first, but I've seen what a fucked up heat shield can do, and I'm not into that.
"2-7, 2-6. TRP alpha. Your discretion."
2-6 is my squad leader. I've never actually met her in person - Hell, I don't even know what dune she lives under - but her robot voice sure does turn me on. Then again, being given a "your discretion" order always turns me on.
Sorry, again. You probably still don't have a clue what's happening. Screwing up Mama Earth didn't unite humanity in a Utopian movement to save her. Instead, it just made land more valuable, as arid and useless as it is. Valuable land tends to start wars. Ah, humanity. How blessed are we?
The golem is a third-generation mech-suit and currently the pinnacle of battlefield technology. And I fucking love 'em. First-gen golems were garbage. Conventional tanks and aircraft typically made being a golem-driver the most dangerous job a soldier could have. Second-gen golems were better, but only marginally. They were more mobile, sure, but much harder to learn how to drive. Golem-drivers were their own worst enemies in 2G systems. Then some yahoo figured out how to transfer human consciousness into machines. Even with the 3G interface system in tanks and aircraft, the golems became the kings of war. And everyone wanted to drive one. They afford one of the few available methods of actually walking on the surface of the planet. Still, if we die in one, our bodies go brain-dead. There's a catch to everything, no?
I see the target and I light it up with incendiaries. Some weapons cache or something. At least, that's what I was told. I'll never know, of course, me being a dumb grunt and all. I've been offered promotions to operations, but what sane person would give up driving one of these things? And besides, I happen to like seeing the sun.
"2-7, this is Djinn. Your FLUV is picking up something strange."
I need to quit soliloquizing. I didn't even notice it. But, yep, it's strange. It's a group of signatures, packed closely together to look like a larger signature. And it looks...
"This is Djinn. Are those animals?"
What the fuck? No, they're not animals. I switch from incendiaries to guns, more from reflex than any desire to kill. I think I'm seeing something I shouldn't be seeing, and because I think I'm seeing it... I can't pull the fucking trigger.
"Djinn, this is 2-7. Not animals." Fuck me. "They're people."
One points a large tube my direction. I'm still in shock, though every sinew of tissue in my fingers is screaming to open fire. There's a flash. I'm currently staring at them through visual specs, and I mistake the flash for a reflective glint of the sun. There's no mistaking that impact, though. I don't feel the golem falling because I'm passing out. This feels strangely like I've taken another pill.
*To be continued... maybe... in The Scheherazadi, Part II