Deuces Wild

As explosions and crackling erupted in every direction of the underground habitation, the com patch near Deuce’s left ear rarely fell silent.  Reports from all fronts kept streaming in, and if he wasn’t so busy evading IMP2 while trying to help with the evacuation, he could have appreciated pride in his troops.

The men he’d trained were already battle-hardened veterans; Deuce only polished some skills and introduced others, and the new weapons also proved effective.  The original ranks he’d led from the city had managed to regroup, keeping the invading cyborg armies from swarming the area and hold them to a manageable standoff.

But his success at keeping ahead of IMP2 caused concern.

Standing orders had always been to kill a deserter like him on sight.  And it wasn’t luck that allowed him to consistently escape or terminate troops that tried to close in on him.  The enemy was trying to capture him, which made their job harder….

“We’ve got one group left!” A distraught voice rang from the com patch.  “But a hatch near the western exit is inoperative and they’re caught behind it!”

Deuce was close enough to that location – and just finished mowing down a platoon of cyborgs with his improved breaker-blaster – to limp that direction to provide assistance.  The charred wound on his right calf afflicted gait but not speed, and within a minute he reached the dozen soldiers leaning against a round, studded metal door that rotated from below.

With a bark of orders to allow him access, Deuce positioned himself at the crux point on the opposite end of the barrier.  Bracing his good leg against the terminal wall, he pushed downward with the other men to force the door open enough so the remaining evacuees could escape.

Strength was one of his genetic enhancements, but the door was designed to resist such effort.  When it budged, he heard cheers from behind it, and realized the evacuees were also pushing from their side, and the door hadn’t been designed against that.

Surely he didn’t recognize one of those voices…?

He pushed even harder, and as the barrier slowly rotated into the floor, the top of the portal cleared first.  From the corner of his eye he noticed upswept auburn hair on the other side.

It never occurred to him Ita would stay behind to help evacuate, and she was pushing on the door, opposite from him.

The impulse to chastise her for taking this risk was easy to suppress – Deuce needed to focus his energy on pushing the door, and he knew better than to challenge her on anything.  But the project he had been assisting her with was the last chance of survival for her people, and her role was too important to gamble her life like this.

She also realized who was opposite of her.  As the gaze of the woman who knew he’d killed her father locked on his face, her eyes flickered like emeralds reflecting firelight.

Her attention shifted to the top of his head as she reached down.  When Deuce realized she snatched the blaster that became a permanent fixture on her hip when he began working with her, he had to suppress the impulse to duck.

He knew she despised him for what he’d done, but he’d also been impressed by how much restraint she always showed.  Surely Ita wouldn’t choose now as an opportunity to claim revenge–

The zap from the blaster rang in the same ear that felt the heat of the charge hurtle past.

Immediate commotion thirty meters to the other side of him provoked Deuce to glance that direction.  In the midst of a cyborg platoon that had been advancing toward them, IMP2 tumbled backward as sparks flew from his head.

Ita’s shot had struck the technological augmentation that covered half his face.  But she had only a standard blaster, not an exotic model like Deuce’s, so he knew the commander was only wounded.

Soldiers not as crucial for door-duty fired a volley into the cyborg troops that swept around IMP2 to cover him.  Some of the charges fired back struck the door and a couple of men, but purposefully missed Deuce.  He leaned against the barrier even harder, and it spiraled down enough for people of all ages to scramble over and gallop to the pod that would jettison them to safety.

Ita was the last one out, and Deuce suppressed yet another impulse.  Instead of remaining to fight with his men, he decided it would be wiser to join the evacuees.  What was left of the cyborg ranks might withdraw if he vacated the premises, especially with IMP2 temporarily out of commission.  And he would also be on hand to defend the last pod should it come under attack.

He stayed near Ita – while keeping respectful distance – and guarded the rear of their group, getting off a few more shots of his own to thin the diminishing cyborg ranks.  The group bustled into the escape pod, which then bolted into the network of tunnels.

He sat across from Ita, who kept her focus on the rest of the evacuees.  Admiration intertwined with trepidation as he contemplated how great her shooting had been.

“Thank you.”  He knew it was best to keep his interaction with her brief.

“You be quiet!” she snapped, and then grumbled, “I’m still not convinced I shot the right IMP.”

He gazed out the back of the pod, but could only discern ripples on black as it plunged away from their enemy.  Why had they tried to capture him?  Had they gotten wind of the project?  Did they suspect he was involved?

And if they did capture him, he wouldn’t be able to hide what he knew from their central data core.  They would learn about the project.  They would then destroy it, and ultimately, destroy all these people.

Deuce stared into the darkness behind them and also began to question if Ita shot the right IMP….

###

So here is my contribution this month for #BlogBattle and the prompt word this time was Exotic. Although I consider the whole location and premise of this story arc to be exotic, I decided the new weapons best fit the definition: “strikingly or excitingly different or unusual.” Be sure to check out the other stories because they’re bound to be exotic, too!

If you’re new to this little novella in progress and want to catch up, go to my Blog Battle Short Stories page. Stay happy and healthy!

19 thoughts on “Deuces Wild

  1. Funny how even after a month reading quickly drags back to mind where you left off last time Abe. I do like the continued distrust of Ita and that IMP2 is after a capture not kill. Kind of links to my original thought on infiltration and recovery. You touched on that with Deuce realising they could harvest his data core. Gives him a dilemma of conscious if capture is imminent too. Does he surrender or detonate something that would destroy said core?

    I also have a perverse feeling him and Ita are going to wind up firm friends through adversity ha ha.

    Another good piece for the book prequel 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good instincts on how Deuce’s getting involved with the project could lead to complications … it was only a matter of how, exactly! And your choice of the word ‘detonate’ is a bit foreshadowing as well … but again, exactly how? 😉 And as far as Deuce and Ita, I cracked up at your choice of the word ‘perverse.’ Don’t worry, I’m keeping this on the PG13 level!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I find Deuce intriguing Abe. How much is free will and how much core programming. Has he ever had that debate? Who or what am I kind of thing. Maybe I should use detonate as a promot ha, ha.

        Lol, yes. Allude to any strange exotica from a great distance! I can almost see a firm friendship down the line though!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, once again, if this were a full-blown novel I’d be able to dabble in Deuce’s debating. The change of culture definitely has influenced him, which I’ve tried to show a little in these installments.

        Darn, I was hoping ‘detonate’ would be next month’s prompt word! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • That much is clear already Abe. The internal thought tracks already suggest Deuce is second guessing. Knowing they want him alive definitely must make him think part of his core might be why he defected and the blighters want him back. As for full blown novels… I rather think we’ve both ended up serialising “short” stories and come out with word builds that are rapidly becoming cosmos lol

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Do you like debating? Do you like to prove your point? I’m asking because of your prompt explanation. I have to admit that I forgot about the prompt as I read through this “episode.” I chuckled when I read the explanation. Well done. Well done.

    Unlikely allies coming together for the greater good.

    I like how the ending leaves us with so many questions. It’s as if we were Deuce ourselves…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not at all surprised that Ita stayed behind to protect others — she’s fiery and (perhaps understandably) grumpy, but I’ve never doubted her loyalty or bravery. Seeing her stick her own neck out like this really drives home the point that she’s not all talk. I love how your characters are so well fleshed out — fully three-dimensional personalities, so much more than black-and-white ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’ (not saying that either Deuce or Ita verges on the label of evil, but you know what I mean!). Excellently done! For a second, I was sure she was going to try to take Deuce out, and then the realisation she was saving him (and herself and the evacuees) struck.

    I now wonder whether it’ll be a good idea for The Rabble to use Deuce and then eliminate him, in order to ensure the knowledge doesn’t fall into enemy hands… It certainly appears as though Deuce is having the same thoughts.

    Very well written, as I’ve come to expect! I particularly liked the line “…her eyes flickered like emeralds reflecting firelight.” Beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! While the ‘is she really going to do that?’ scenario might be a bit overplayed, I couldn’t resist using it here. As for what’s to be done about Deuce’s discovery, never fear, it’s coming….

      Like

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