Alright so this is where my perseverance is tested. This is the last chapter I have written right now. Which means if I want to keep going with the daily updates, I am going to have write a new chapter sometime between now and tomorrow afternoon. Wish me luck!
Click here for Chapter One. I will always link to Chapter One from now on because I trust you to be able to navigate to the chapters you may have missed on your own.
Paxton hit the wall of the training room and felt a lightning bolt of pain shoot through his skull.
Icthi began yelling at him in her native tongue, even though he’d told her many times over the past few weeks that he didn’t understand a word of it.
Training with her was certainly helping to build up his tolerance for pain. The first time they’d sparred, she had knocked the wind out of him and pinned him within thirty seconds.
After weeks of practice, he’d managed to survive almost three minutes in a match with her. He counted this as an improvement.
Icthi yelled something else at him.
“For the sake of the Overseer! I do not speak Samakese!”
“Then you will learn!” she spat, baring her pointed teeth.
Icthi was the first Samaki he’d encountered who could survive for so long out of water. Her gills would occasionally flap angrily, as if they were trying to find some, but other than that she gave no indication that she was suffering.
“I thought I was supposed to learn to fight. How is learning a foreign language going to help with that?”
“Because, trink, you are only going to get instructions in Samakese. So you’d better learn fast, or you will never get better.”
“Or you could give me the instructions in a language I understand, and then we’d actually get somewhere.”
“This is not just about fighting! Enforcers must be ready for anything! This includes hearing a foreign tongue. You also need to learn how to deal with frustration better. Keep your head clear. Now…kurakeh!”
She jabbed her insanely long bayonet at his feet and Paxton jumped out of the way.
“See? You can learn. Again! Kurakeh!”
This went on for two more hours.
By the end of it, Paxton had a brand new set of bruises to call his own. And he’d learned three Samakese words.
Rix met him outside the sparring room.
“Mind if I walk with you?”
“As long as you don’t mind me limping,” Paxton groaned.
Rix laughed. “Yeah, that’s our Icthi. She’s a tough trainer, but if you ever beat her in a sparring match then you automatically know you’re ready to start fieldwork.”
“Does she train everybody?”
“She’s been the trainer for at least five years. She trained me, and I’m a better fighter for it.”
“Did she…has she always used her native tongue?”
“But I thought…isn’t it…not allowed? Aren’t we required by law to speak Burgian?”
“We sure are. But Icthi decided she was above that law a long time ago. Funnily enough, no one’s ever called her on it. I can’t imagine why.”
Paxton laughed. “So did you have something you needed to talk to me about? Or are you just here to keep me company?”
“I’m here to tell you that you’ve been assigned a partner.”
“Oh yeah? Who?”
“You’re looking at him.”
“You’re kidding. I thought you already had a partner.”
Rix coughed uncomfortably as they left HQ and headed for the Enforcers’ private apartment block.
“My old partner…he was a double agent. A rebel who was trying to infiltrate us from the inside. What they did to him when they found out…it wasn’t pretty.”
“Shit. Remind me never to join the rebellion.”
“I hear you.”
They had reached Paxton’s apartment.
“Want to come in for a drink?” he offered.
“Nah,” Rix said. “I’m on solo duty tonight. But I’ll catch you later. I’m going to start showing you the ropes tomorrow. Gonna teach you all the stuff you need to know that isn’t about fighting.”
“Sounds like fun. I’ll see you then.”
“Bright and early,” Rix said, reaching out to shake Paxton’s hand.
They shook, and in that moment Paxton felt a folded piece of paper touch his palm. When Rix dropped his arm, Paxton curled his fingers around the note. Rix was looking him right in the eye. Paxton nodded at him ever so slightly. Rix smiled and nodded back. Then he turned and left.
Paxton waited until he was inside with the door locked to read the note.
Be careful what you say. There are recording devices in your armor that are never turned off.
Paxton felt himself go cold. Rix’s first partner must not have known about that. No wonder they caught him.
Paxton went to his room and very quickly shed his armor. He put it away in his closet and pulled on some street clothes.
“How was training?” his mother asked when he entered the kitchen.
It was still so shocking to him, the presence of a kitchen in his house. He and his mother had separate rooms, too. And a separate bathroom with a door that could be closed for privacy. It was all so unreal.
“Painful,” Paxton replied. “But I think I’m getting the hang of it.”
“I’m so glad, sweet.”
The tears in her eyes said otherwise.
Paxton wanted to hug her, to talk to her about Da. But if there were recording devices in his armor, well…he had no doubt that others could be found throughout the apartment building. It had been built for and by the Enforcers, after all. Korse probably spent every waking minute listening in on everything Paxton said. The head Enforcer hadn’t warmed up to him at all in these past weeks. It was…unsettling. He kept thinking he was going to turn a corner one day and see Korse standing there with an MWt-1000 aimed at his face.
That image would not leave his head. It haunted his dreams. He’d often wake up in a cold sweat after dreaming about a long, dark hallway and the business end of his boss’ most powerful laser.
Rix noticed Paxton’s reaction the next day when he started introducing him to the other standard-issue weapons, one of which was a laser.
“You okay? You look like you’re about to hurl.”
“I’m fine,” Paxton said quickly.
“If you say so.” Rix handed him the laser. It was made of a lightweight, white material. “All Enforcers need one of these. It’s state-of-the-art. MWt-500. It packs more of a punch than you’d think. There are two settings. Spurt and Continuous. The former will make the laser come out in small bursts, just like bullets. Use that setting if you want to take down a target without killing them. The wound cauterizes itself, so all you have to do is shoot out a leg and the target goes down with very little mess.
“Continuous is the one you’re used to hearing about. It’s a concentrated beam. It slices and dices. Can cut a Goliath in half from a distance of over half a mile. Use that setting when you get a kill order. Got all that?”
“I think so.”
“Good. There’s a holster right below your right hip.”
Paxton holstered his new laser.
“Bayonets for close combat and intimidation. Laser for long-distance incapacitation or termination. Clear enough?”
“Right. That’s pretty much all the rookies are given for protection. If you manage to live through your first couple years, you might get a couple flash-bangs and grenades. You need special clearance to use ‘em though, because if you aren’t careful you could end up hurting yourself and your fellow Enforcers instead of the intended target.”
“Um…I wasn’t aware Korse or anybody else cared if one of us fell in the line of duty.”
“You’d think,” Rix said. “But there’s this one grenade that spits paralyzing gas in all directions. One trink a couple years back took out himself and a dozen of his own with one of those things. Let an entire rebel group get away, laughing the whole while. Even had their own weapons looted right out of their armor. So…uh…yeah. Special clearance needed.”
“Right,” Paxton agreed. “Note to self: Be very careful with projectiles.”
“Absolutely.” Rix pointed to Paxton’s leg. “Time for first aid training. Press down on that little square button by your left calf.”
Paxton looked down and found the button. There was a rectangular protrusion on his left boot. It ran parallel to his calf. When he pressed down on the top of it, a long box ejected from the little slot right into his hand.
“Easy access to all the most important medicines and salves,” Rix explained. “We keep ‘em on the opposite side from our lasers to reduce confusion. You want to be able to go for your weapon with your dominant hand and your medical supplies with the other. Tulawea?”
“Sorry. Icthi’s got me saying it. Understand?”
“Oh. Yeah. Tulawea.”
“Tulaweoh for ‘I understand.’”
“Good. Remember that one. It’ll impress Icthi. Might even make her tolerate your presence a bit more. Okay, so open the box.”
Paxton opened the little rectangular box to find several small compartments.
“It’s color-coded so even the simplest of trinks can understand,” Rix explained. “Pink is your burn salve. You know…because burns turn pink on most skin. Rub that stuff on a burn and it’ll heal up within minutes. Tulawea?”
Rix smiled. “Good. Next…”
Paxton listened while Rix explained what each and every pill and balm were used for. Then Rix made him repeat it back several times over. Pink salve for burns. Black pills to heal headaches and some other minor head wounds. The red cream was for any wounds that were bleeding. It caused them to scab over immediately, and it accelerated the healing process. There were also green pills to take in case of poison ingestion. And swallowing just one of the white pills could cause broken bones to begin to knit, but it was important to set the break first. Otherwise the bone would heal incorrectly.
“Have you ever seen Yuli’s left arm?” Rix asked. “Yeah, he didn’t listen to instructions very well. Had to have his armor entirely remade because his arm bends in a different direction now.”
“Set the bone first,” Paxton said.
“You’d do well to remember that.”
“It’s remembered. I remember it. I have committed it to memory.”
“Good man. You can put the first aid back. We’ve got target practice now.”
Paxton closed his little medicine box and slipped it back into the compartment on the side of his boot. Once it had clicked into place, he straightened up and followed Rix down two floors to the shooting range.
It just so happened that Yuli was there, firing off a few rounds with his gun set on Spurt. Rix had not been exaggerating. Yuli’s left arm was bent at about a forty-five degree angle away from his body.
Set bone then take white pill. Got it, Paxton thought.
The next hour was spent firing at all sorts of targets, near and far. Paxton wasn’t too good at it at first, but by the end he was hitting bull’s-eyes.
With the gun in his hand, he felt powerful, like nothing could stop him.
Like he was ready for anything.
If you’re still reading, I want to make a quick point of my use of words like “feet” and “miles.” In the future I may change those words, but I think it might be unnecessary. I know the setting for this book is an entirely different planet that probably has its own measurement system, but since you are reading it in English, doesn’t it make sense that you’d get the English translation for their measurements? I don’t know. I’m not big on making up random new words for things. Sometimes it’s necessary, but I’d like to avoid an excess of new vocabulary. Tulawea? Kidding. Sorry. Hopefully that makes sense though.
Chapter Six tomorrow!