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Alien Warrior's Challenge (Brion Brides 8)

By:Vi Voxley

1

Paula

A missile flew over Paula's head, signaling the new charge of the enemy.

What a mission.

No, scratch that. Mission's fine. What a hellhole of a planet.

The planet Jumel was an unworthy piece of rock, in her opinion. In the grander scheme of things, it hadn't warranted any account for most of its history, which suited the locals well. The Hoolas were an annoyingly stubborn humanoid species, short and fast and apparently very territorial. They didn't look like great warriors with their inhumanly large eyes and scaly obsidian bodies, but they sure could shoot.

Paula looked up with the kind of annoyance one might expect from a person who doesn't fancy being blown into little pieces in the immediate future. Glaring at the bomb, not putting nearly enough distance between herself and it as she would have liked, was the only distraction she permitted herself.

Down on the rocky, gray ground, her patient was bleeding. That in itself wasn't surprising in the slightest. There were very few people on the battlefield who weren't. Even Paula herself had gotten hit with a few unlucky shards of shrapnel.

Which was even less baffling, considering it seemed to rain them.

She turned to the young man with one and a half legs. The missing half of the poor boy’s leg was discarded carelessly somewhere behind Paula. She'd done the gruesome deed of hacking the useless piece of appendage off herself, with everybody else around her too busy shooting at the enemy to bother to help.

This is a butcher's job, not a surgeon's, she thought bitterly. I brought bandages and scalpels, but I should have brought a damn plasma machete.

"Do you remember there used to be shields in front of us?" she asked with a slightly maniacal grin on her face. "Those were the days. It's like they used to say, grass is always greener two days ago. Or make that two weeks, back when there was actual grass here. I can't believe I signed up for this. Can you?"

The young soldier laughed, but it was cut short by coughing that didn't sound good at all to Paula's trained ears. The fact that he saw any humor in this at all showed how potent the painkillers she’d pumped into him really were. She pushed the dark brown uniform of the Terran army aside, pressing her ear against the man's pale, heaving chest.

He gave another gurgled attempt at laughter.

"Damn, Dr. Allen," the man said, his voice rough and wheezing. "I don't think this is the best time or place to get to know each other better. But I'll buy you a drink in the first bar built on this miserable planet."

Paula listened, as much as that was possible in the chaos around them. There was definitely something wrong with the guy's lungs, which was why he sounded like a ninety-year-old man coming off of a ventilator.

She scowled. The supplies she'd brought to the field made up nothing more than a glorified first aid kit, not exactly suitable to conduct complicated surgery.

"Flattered," she replied, making sure to keep smiling as she rose to her knees again, checking to see if the clamps on the leg held. "I might have considered it, Ned, if I believed this war would end anytime soon. You've been here for, what, two months now? I've been here two weeks and I already hate this place."

"You know my name," the soldier shot back, big eyes wide open in surprise, one pupil more dilated than the other.

Another bad sign.

Paula bent forward to check the man's eyes. All the while she did that, two things went on with complete unflappability.

One was the war, naturally. It continued to rain flesh and dirt and hot, sharp metal down on Paula and Ned. The fires and dust rose so high Paula couldn't remember the last time she'd seen daylight. Sometimes she imagined it seeped through the dark clouds and mist around them, casting single rays of light as a signal of hope that the galaxy hadn't abandoned them yet.

That, of course, was not actually happening.

The second was her smile, painted on her lips and held up with the strings of her self-control. In the brutality of the war to claim control over Jumel, there wasn't much Paula could do. Some wounds brought the soldiers a bit too close to the gods of their choosing and too far from the grasps of modern medicine, regardless of her efforts.

It was bitterly, horribly ironic that the war was held to save lives. Countless lives. Paula reminded herself of that as she kept working on Ned.

"Your name's written on your uniform," she explained, barely dodging the wing of a fighter plane in the next second as it whooshed past her head on its way into the ground, severed from the fighter it had been attached to before.#p#分页标题#e#

The sight of a heavy wing bouncing around on the ground like a children's toy was entirely unnerving. Or it would have been, had it been the first instance Paula had seen. The past two weeks had shown her plenty of insane things, projectile fighter wings being among that list.

"Oh," Ned said, resting his head against the muddy soil. "Do you imagine the Brions will be here soon?"

Up until that point, she'd managed to not think about the warriors. Hearing Ned name them brought it all back. Both the resentment she bore towards them as well as the humiliating desire to have the galaxy's mightiest warriors join the battle at last.

They're our allies, curse them. It means they have to turn up, doesn't it?

"They better be," Paula grunted, pulling the clamps on tighter and sending a distress beacon to whoever was still listening far, far back in the med fleet. "This is quickly getting out of hand."

"Major Burton said we're doing very well," Ned protested proudly.

Considering that this was coming from a guy who had just lost half his leg, Paula thought herself remarkably restrained in her response.

"Major Butthurt wouldn't admit defeat if he was buried to the neck in sand, staring down a billion turrets ready to fire. Not until he had his commands."

This time, Ned laughed so hard his face twisted in exertion to keep himself still. Paula gave him a chiding look, but humor was good. There wasn't much of it to go around on Jumel, so the little there was had to be as dark and biting as the planet itself.

"It's time for me to go now. Hang on, Ned," Paula said, slipping a little transmitter into the man's palm. "This is a receiver. The others are coming to get you and I made sure you're first priority for the pick-up crew. You're getting away from this hellhole, so hold on to that."

“Sure thing, Doc,” Ned responded with a crooked grin.

She got up carefully, staying in a crouched position behind the large boulder where they'd taken shelter so far. It looked sturdy, but Paula knew as well as Ned that one blast from a plasma cannon and it was stardust.

"Doc," the soldier said, a hint of a plea in his voice. "Thank you. Could you do just one more thing for me?"

Paula frowned, staying still for a moment longer.

"If I can."

"Tell me it's all worth it," Ned whispered, looking awfully innocent for a moment.

That answer deserved proper attention.

Paula squatted down for a second, looking the man straight in the eyes and spoke solemnly: "It is worth it, I promise you that. This isn't some stupid dick-measuring contest or a battle for a piece of land no one really cares about. The Eden seeds will save worlds and more people than you and I could ever imagine."

That seemed to satisfy Ned, as he nodded, a peaceful smile on his lips. Paula squeezed his hand and dashed out to where the flag of the major swung in a light breeze.

On the horizon, the enemy approached with all the calm in the world.





2





Kerven





Kerven's spear hit the target, as it always did.

The battle hormones were already racing in his blood, beating a thunderous rhythm. He had thought a little exercise would do him – and the warriors watching – some good. The upcoming fight was no excuse to ease up on his training schedule, not that he needed one to tell him he was ready for whatever the miserable planet had in store for him.

Kerven watched as the arachnoid mech went down, only to be replaced by two more of its kind. The grin on the captain's face widened as he watched the creatures come towards him, moving slowly on their many feet, approaching him carefully.

They were gigantic. Standing at about ten feet tall, they were almost twice as wide and every leg was perfectly capable of stomping him to death. If given the chance, they would have done exactly that. It was a Brion ship, after all. They didn’t exactly build their mechs as ‘safe’.

There were fangs in the mouths of the arachnoids, some electrified, but Kerven never knew for sure. The training program was free to choose and it liked to keep the warriors on their toes, to surprise them.

Around the arena in the bowels of his brand new warship, Firebird, the men and women under his command stood and watched. They were anxious to see what the captain would do with his first solo mission, but Kerven wasn't worried in the slightest.

If he had been, General Braen would never have granted him the duty.#p#分页标题#e#

It was the Brion way to only promote and award the strong and the brave.

From the moment the Firebird left the general's flagship Benevolent, all eyes had been on him and Kerven had made sure his every practice was public. It was how Brion officers ran their ships, homes to the fiercest fighters in the galaxy.

It was also the only way they could run the ships that were also with big egos, razor-sharp blades and quick tempers, every last one of Kerven's current subordinates dreaming of replacing him one day. One day soon.

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