The Ghosts of War

Dominikiia always dreamt her first official combat deployment on Hades would be a major action. She had accepted, grudgingly, that it would not necessarily be as grand or dramatic as she imagined it would be, but she had never thought she’d find herself deployed on one of Hades 9’s many yards, staring down a dry dock strike.

 

The War Academy on Polis, long gone now, had beat into her the intricacies of her trade; from maximising her Thrakon suit’s potential right down to enhancing interrogations through the application of fear. She was a weapon, no different than a torpedo, to be pointed at an enemy and let loose.

 

They had never taught her how she should deal with people who weren’t being hostile.

 

Screams. A sea of red. That charnel smell.

 

She’d thought she’d finally buried that memory, but seeing the Tanner’s kids turned to so much paste had brought them back with a vengeance.

 

Now, she was seated at Saman’s Hell, just one of any number of Rim dives where a citizen could get a Tsipouro that was not so much 40% proof as 40% objective fact. It had a kick like a mule and set her throat on fire, but it helped chase away the judging faces of the dead that filled her dreams and lurked at the edge of her vision.

 

The dreams had two new, young faces added to them. She may not have pulled the trigger as she had during the strike, but their faces still haunted her. Two more people on the wrong end of a scattercannon. 

 

Her shot glass clinked as she slammed it down, tipping over the three she had stacked up neatly. “Damnit.” She hissed as they rolled away from her hands, defying her attempts to rally them.

 

Hands, she thought, that were shaking. And one of them was bionic too.

Just the drink. It wasn’t her weakness. She wasn’t weak.

She caught her reflection in the bottle as it rolled away from her, the word dishevelled came to mind, the product of her father’s love of literature. That was before. Before Hades 9. Before the Extinction.

 

She laughed, ignoring the startled look the barkeep gave her. She could remember him telling her there was no future for a Navy trooper.

Yet, he was dead, one more corpse on the pyre of mankind’s untold losses during the Extinction, abandoned as Lyssa’s Fury had fled outsystem.

 

“Now who’s got no future?” She asked nobody in particular before she waved at the barkeep, “Another.”

 

He shook his head, “I think you’ve had enough.”

 

“The hell I have, give me a another!”

 

That was when she caught the flicker of light, the same light a drawn pistol’s silhouette would make. She sprang into action, grabbing the Tsipouro bottle and smashing it on the countertop before spinning and gutting the man behind her. All around her were the dead, judging her as they stared. Her vision was blurry and she stumbled.

And then she bared her teeth and lunged at the ghosts.

 

 

Dominikiia awoke, face down in a puddle of her own caked vomit. Bruises announced themselves across her body as she moved slowly, surreptitiously exploring her situation. Her wrists ached, she was bound then. The suspicion was confirmed when she cracked her eyes open, she had been trussed up. Between the ropes that bound her and the cuffs, there was little good to be had in her predicament, but at least she was alive.

 

“You’re awake.”

 

“Where am I?” she said.

 

“Metropolitan Police Station, District 7. There’s food and a washcloth in the corner.”

 

Dominikiia blinked then laughed, lifting her bound hands in supplication as she rolled to look at the Metropolitan officer, “That’s nice and all, but how exactly do you expect me to do that while you’ve got me tied up?”

 

“I don’t think so, we made the mistake of trusting you last night and you sent Ren to the hospital. You can add that charge of assault onto the six murders.”

 

She felt her eyes widen, she had no memory of the night before, but the splitting pain in her head and the confused whirl of images, the lingering memories of faces… she had succumbed to her weakness. She knew it had a name. They’d bring it up in the Metropolitan courts and claim she was mad. They’d pity her. They didn’t understand, couldn’t see the ghosts that lurked near her, couldn’t feel the terror of that actinic light or that heavy, metal ever-constant reminder of her loss. She shuddered, feeling her eyes water and blinked hard. She had to stay away from those thoughts.

 

Post traumatic stress disorder. The word ‘disorder’ didn’t do justice to the flights of rage that sent her into a killing frenzy, the fearful stabbing anxiety that could leave her sobbing like a child, or the shaking, the twitching that always lingered. It would never explain the crushing shame she felt when she succumbed to it, especially when her own troopers had never once shared similar concerns with her.

 

Her maudlin thoughts were interrupted by a commotion outside, quickly followed by the sounds of the cell door opening. A pair of boots intruded into her field of view, but she felt only relief. Navy dress boots had a certain timeless quality to them that made them stand out. The cuffs and bindings came off and hands helped her up.

 

“Lieutenant Volkova, we’re here to escort you back to Lyssa’s Fury.”

 

“What about the charges?”

 

“Don’t worry, we’ll handle it, the Navy looks after its own.”

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Categories Short Stories

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