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Sunrise over Sirius

AragmarJul 21, 2018, 10:55:51 PM

Morison's cargo ship was destroyed today.

His loyal crew burned down together with it. They fought to the last, refusing to surrender, shredded by frigate cannons in Sirius's Prime lower orbit. He was now stranded here; a weapons trader without the means to procure merchandise and with a pocket full of credits that he couldn't use. Those damned pirate clans! The bastards, he suspected were getting plenty of help from the Taz'aran Empire and now, after the destruction of his starship, Morison was sure of it! The holes-for-ears were selling supplies to the clanners in bulk. Moreover, they deployed their own troops on the planet and had secured large parts of it for themselves. Their "Imperial army" not only guarded the backs of the Clanners, but they also fought side by side with them!

This whole invasion was made possible thanks to their supply chain and starship patrols, who turned the job of people like him into a living nightmare. Punching through a blockade like that wasn't something he was unaccustomed to, yet each time it became harder, till this day, when his boys and girls were lost. As a Terran, Morison cared much for his friends and family, as sometimes the border between those was non-existent. And again as a human, he had the duty to make sure all of his race's uplifted clients were safe and free from oppression. He was a merchant of Life; Morison's job was to provide quality merchandise for a low price - as low as he could manage after his "traveling" expenses. He was a trader specializing in all types of small arms, armored vehicles, light or medium tanks, APC's, and even mobile railgun artillery units. His entire shipment lost, destroyed together with his starship and crew. With a sad sigh, Morison walked away from the improvised, marked with flares landing zone and back to his colonist friends, to whom he gave their money back. After all, without delivering them the promised merchandise, he couldn't demand payment. He was not some filthy alien scumbag, who'd prey upon the unfortunate, pilfering their hard earned credits.

"I am sorry Morison... we... we didn't know the taz'arans had deployed another patrol frigate in the sector. If we did..."

"Do not bash yourself, nobody could anticipate things like that. Now, tell me what do you want me to do for you gran Klarissa?"

The frail-looking old woman was actually one of the colonists chosen to oversee supplies and deal with people like him. She got all of the money that each had donated to the cause and haggled with traders for better deals on vital supplies and equipment needed for the war effort. Smiling, she poked his gut and then asked:

"Well sonny, if ya' can, do something about this one." - She pointed at the nearby earthworks garage, where, heavily damaged, stuck out the silhouette of a strange looking tank. Eyes squinting, Morison noticed that there were a couple of confused kids wandering around it, desperately trying to fix the war machine. From the looks of it, none of them was older than thirteen or fourteen. From this distance the youth's desperation was apparent - perhaps they indeed had mastered many survival skills, although vehicle repair was not one of them. Morison shook Klarissa's hand and rolled up his sleeves - the vehicle specialist walked quickly over and inspected the wreck from up close. Soon he was scratching his neck, looking around - where was the tank's crew?

The kids stepped aside when Morison walked near; the looks in their tired, baggy eyes, told him they were at a loss of what to do. Moreover, he saw blood - a broken human limb stuck out of a hole ripped directly into the tank's side armored hull. Morison carefully climbed the vehicle and through its opened hatch looked inside, inspecting the carnage. The mangled bodies of three women were splattered all over the vehicle's cabin and he reluctantly reached down - that was a grizzly job but someone had to do it. Being an arms dealer, he'd seen plenty of death throughout the years, while traveling from one battlefield to another. The merchants of Life had to be always on the front of it, otherwise, how could the invaded defend themselves against the invader if they lacked the capabilities to craft heavy equipment of their own?

Hours later Morison and the young boys had somehow managed to fix all internal damage and even patched the tank's armorplating. A couple of scans later and he realized that this machine was not a superbly crafted vehicle of war. He was, of course, told of the story - the engineer who was sick and managed to build it by himself before finally dying. Everyone knew full well what the tank's faults were and they compensated for them in battle. Morison entered the vehicle for the last time this day and when he activated its mainframe, he heard the voice of that dead engineer. The tank's VI was programmed with his vocal patterns:

"All systems on, I am ready to fight!"

The boys loaded it with whatever meager supplies they had on hand and an hour later, Morison called grandma Klarissa to report that his job was done. Turning around but for a minute he heard the booming rumble of the tank's Tesla engine and screaming, ran after it. The three boys, after manning the vehicle were now rushing toward the front lines...

No matter how much he shouted, they didn't stop and the tank's silhouette soon disappeared beyond the reach of his vision. Angry and exhausted, Morison grabbed a blanket and after chugging down a bowl of plain vegetable soup, lay down to get some sleep.

Sirius rose on the horizon and Morison was awoken by a loud, screeching sound - metal was clanking with metal. Next to the garage he'd slept in, a large eight-wheeler truck, equipped with a heavy crane was dragging the very same tank that he'd spent his entire previous day fixing. It was hit again, this time in the turret, and the thing was somehow miraculously not blown to bits. One glance inside and Morison saw the kids corpses - the crew of that vehicle was not that fortunate as the vehicle itself. Grandma Klarissa gave him a somber look and again nodded in the direction of that tank. Morison climbed in and slowly, his hands twitching, removed the bodies from the tank's cabin. He carried them over to the grave detail waiting outside his improvised garage. Comprised of even younger kids, the biggest of whom was no more than eight years old, the somber group dragged one bloodied bag. Evidently, the colonists lacked even spare bodybags and had to re-use what was left again and again. Soon the clank of shovels and heavy, tired breathing, echoed from behind the earthworks garage. Little kids lacked the strength to dig deep, so they shoveled dirt on top of the lying on the bottom of their now useless trenches, bodies. Grizzly, but they had no other choice...

Before hosing the insides of the wrecked machine, Morison saw a bloodied number 6, painted on the side of the tank's holo-sight. Hours later, after fixing the tank's VI he understood - its crew had noted kills when their mainframe stopped working, hit by a missile. The memory of their machine had remained intact though. With awe Morison noted that the crew's tank kills were 14, making its total for that day and night 20! Before going to sleep again and after fixing the hole in the tank's turret, he checked if the VI was completely operational. Pushing the power on switch, it chimed in, again with the cheerful voice of that engineer:

"All systems on, I am ready to fight!"

Morison's heavy feet dragged him to the closest soup tent, where a one-handed bunny fed the wounded and tired militia with one bowl of soup and a loaf of rye bread each. The man sat on a burned log and hands shaking, tried holding on to the bowl but he was so tired that he dropped his spoon, spilling some of the precious soup. The bunny, a dutiful client, came and picked up the spoon. Pulling another, clean spoon from her pocket, she quietly sat next to him.

"Patron, what is your name? I am called Glory."

"Morison, my name is Morison." - He offered his shaking hand and held the bunny's only, bandaged paw. The client looked at him with her sad smiling gray eyes and filled her spoon with soup. 

"Come on! You worked off your hands to the bone to fix 'Defiance'. The least I can do is feed you, Patron."

"But, your hand... doesn't it hurt?"

The bunny smiled and filled another spoonful of soup. Morison relaxed his aching arms and let himself be spoonfed by the one-handed bunny.

Sirius's sun rose on the horizon and Morison woke up hunched on that very log, body wrapped with some hole-ridden thermal blanket. In the distance, he heard the same, dreadful metallic screeching - evidently, during the night somebody had crewed the tank again. Looking around Morison couldn't locate that eight-year-old boy and teeth gritting, the weapons merchant climbed the tank again. It was as he had suspected - that kids of the funeral detail were there, their eyes open, looking directly at him. Morison, mobilizing all of his sanity and strength to continue doing what became his constant duty. The day slowly dragged on. With the help of one other human, who had some minimal repair skill and the bunny Glory, Morison again patched up the tank. Despite the loss of her limb, the bunny nevertheless helped a lot with her very fast and precise footwork. Carrying odd pieces of salvage for Morison to try and fashion replacement parts for the tank and soon the vehicle was operational again. The day passed, and Morison again pushed the mainframe switch on:

"All systems on, I am ready to fight!"

He basically collapsed next to the tank due to extreme exhaustion. Woke up next morning greeted by Sirius's sunrise. In the distance, he saw the eight wheeler crane dragging behind it 'Defiance'. Out from the blown turret hatch stuck a bandaged, burned bunny's paw and Morison shuddered. Stumbling he walked over, climbed up and looked inside...

Evening came painfully slow and as he turned the mainframe's switch, Morison was again greeted by the VI's cheerful voice:

"All systems on, I am ready to fight!"

The Sirius's sunrise woke Morison and next to him he saw the hull of 'Defiance'. Its engine compartment was smoldering and the merchant slowly stood up, shaky, blistered hand leaning on the vehicle's hull. The distant sound of battle was growing closer and closer. He could see the towering silhouette of alien mecha dancing on the horizon, firing at something with its beam cannons. The tank was absolutely fried, armor melted, and even the gun mantle was bent. Yet, the defiant machine managed to somehow return back and on its own power nonetheless. He took one painful look - three female bodies, cooked alive. Eye twitching, Morison jumped inside and began cleaning the vehicle. Much later, somebody's hands picked the collapsed Morison and carried him to the nearby triage station. This time he wasn't around to hear the VI's voice - grandma Klarissa did. When she turned the vehicle's mainframe switch on, its creator happily reported:

"All systems on, I am ready to fight!"

Sirius sun rose again and shone upon the ravaged battlefield. In its southernmost end, a single vehicle was moving and shooting. Surrounded on all sides by towering mecha, its main gun molten and inoperable, only the coaxial railgun allowed the crew to return fire. The nearest mecha was hit and its legs exploded - the tank was moving on a borrowed time. That meant nothing for the colonists who crewed it. Close, behind that battle line, a battered battalion of Militia was able to retreat successfully thanks to the sacrifice of its crew. While they alone were fighting against one full mecha squad, their family and friends pulled back behind the tertiary defense line. Comprised of old, towed railguns which the colonists had dismounted from a transport barge and simple trenches, that line was to be their last stand. Just as the last militiaman leaped over the trench one of the enemy mecha got lucky. A direct hit made the tank's turret fly off, shrapnel instantly killing everyone inside.

This time the sunrise didn't wake Morison up. He was comatose and slept like a corpse for two full days. In his tortured mind he saw people begging him to repair the tank again, crying with bloody tears, yet, the merchant couldn't move a single muscle. On the third morning, he was awoken by a kick in the gut. Gasping for air, with a taz'aran boot on his throat and particle beam rifle pointing at his head, Morison nevertheless reached for his sidearm. It wasn't there. What he saw on the corpse-ridden ground was somebody's dagger and he grabbed it. He no longer cared if the invader would shoot him dead, for in his mind Morison had died many times over. The merchant slashed with his dagger. The surprised enemy screamed. His stinky blood splashed all over him. Morison then pulled himself up using the taz'aran trooper's falling body. With his numb and bloodied fingers, he somehow managed to grab the enemy's rifle before throwing one look around. Morison was surrounded by at least a squad strong enemy force. All were lightly armored green-skinned taz'aran soldiers, and all were laughing at him - Morison closed his eyes. He pulled as much air as he could in his lungs, aimed the rifle at the nearest invader and screaming, pressed the trigger.

He was ready to fall like a Terran...

If you liked that short story, check my books which explore the same universe in more detail: 

Starshatter Book 1 

Twin Suns Of Carrola Book 2  

Treads Of Vengeance Book 3

Von Braun's Gambit Book 4

Secrets Of Lothoria Book 5

Final Liberation Book 6

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