Location: POW Camp 3, Isle of Sheppey
“Evening Raxicarifallatorus, just a quick one. It’s been a few weeks since we last talked, hasn’t it?” That was true, Raxicarifallatorus had been doing too much to attend his regular meetings with Joe. But Joe had been fine with that, he’d understood, and just politely requested that he make sure to pop around at some point.
“You need to stretch after the f, like you’re saying rifffall.” In return for Joe’s work counselling him, he’d begun teaching how to pronounce various Halxian words, including his name.
“Do I? Damn, thought I’d gotten it perfect that time. Ah well. How’s it been? You’re at… 6 months in the camp, correct?”
“Yes, passed that two days ago.”
“Interesting. Do you know what’s important about this month?”
“It’s 1 year, 3 months, since the invasion started. By our estimates, the reinforcements would have arrived roughly around now, had we not won. Now, we just have to look out for the second attempt at invading.”
“Forgive me for asking, but why have you brought this up?”
“No problem. We’re looking at getting a lot of people out of here very soon, you included. Technically, I wasn’t supposed to mention that, but I don’t see much of a problem with it. You’ve behaved perfectly, you’ve taken well to the stuff we’ve discussed here, and you’ve made excellent progress with the history stuff we’ve given you. I’ve even heard words that you’re coaching another prisoner to read, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I have been doing that.” Raxicarifallatorus enjoyed his chats with Joe, but the man was terrible at getting to the point.
“Excellent. So yes, we’re probably going to let you go. But before we do that, we need to talk about what you’ll do next. What do you reckon you’ll do when we let you out of here?”
“Find work I assume. I’ve tried my hand at cooking, and I’d like to work in something like that. Plus travel the planet, as soon as that becomes an option obviously.”
“Not a bad answer. Lotta Hekatians I’ve talked to don’t have the slightest clue. Good news is that they finally got around to making sure you’re all covered by welfare, so you’ll be secure enough.” Raxicarifallatorus had heard a lot about what the government had been up to over the past few months. He was surprised at the amount of laws they’d put out that specifically included his people, but then, considering what he’d heard all those months ago from Joe, perhaps he shouldn’t be.
“Aren’t they going to run elections soon?”
“Ah yes. They’re making some changes to how it all works though, to account for population changes, bringing in new systems, etcetera. Did you know they’re talking about creating a couple of special MPs, without a constituency, just to represent the Hekatian community? There’s more of you than there are people in most cities here, so you gotta have representation, especially since your issues are quite a bit different from ours. Maybe you should have a look at running, that’d be nice.”
“Wait, I could run?”
“You meet every condition. Didn’t commit any war crimes, perfect record in prison, etc. The government is salivating at the thought of getting to show their commitment to reconciliation. And you’d do a decent job of it. Of course, you’d have to pick a party, run for it, and then actually win, but you probably could. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. The reason I got on this tangent, was that I want to talk to you about what happens when the Empire comes back.” Ah, there we go, the big issue. The Humans didn’t talk in “if’s” regarding a second invasion, they talked solely in “when”.
“Took you long enough.”
“You know me too well. The thing is, by our best guesses, we here won’t be the main target of a second attempt. It’ll be somewhere else, god only knows where. We’re tooling the army up as best we can to make it an expeditionary force, and when the time comes, we’ll send everything we can to go and assist whoever is hit. It’s only fair given what they did for us. Part of that involves us getting guns together, but we also need bodies
. People who’re willing to fight. You’ve heard of the Hekatian Free Army, right?”
“Of course, ex-soldiers who’ve pledged to fight alongside you.” The HFA represented about a battalion’s worth of strength currently, and were adamant that they were under no nation. Their soldiers may be citizens of whichever country would take them in, but the HFA itself was independent, at least as independent as you could be with UNCO calling strategic shots.
“Yes, well, we’re intending on forming a British-Hekatian force. It’d be under British control, then subordinated to UNCO, and we’d manage everything like it was a regular unit, just filled with Hekatians. Don’t worry, before you ask, we’re not demanding you join. What we are suggesting
, is that if you are interested, you either sign up as a reservist, who we call to action and train up when war happens, or you do monthly training to keep you fresh and acclimatised to our tactics as we refine them. If you’re really
gung ho, then you can join full time, but you don’t seem the type who wants that. What are you thinking?”
“How many have you got to pledge already?”
“2 regiments reservists, a battalion’s worth of active full timers.”
“Fuck it, I’m in. Give me that monthly one.”
“Ah, we’re getting to you already. You swore in English there.” Location: Salisbury Plain Training Area, Wiltshire
“Hey, Raxicarifallatorus! Over here!” The voice shouting his name was familiar, Raxicarifallatorus thought. Focusing his long distance eyes across the crowd of Hekatians on the field, he could see why.
“Alknurtyb, I didn’t know you were alive!” Alknurtyb was an old friend from basic training, one that Raxicarifallatorus certainly didn’t expect to see here. He’d gone into medical training after basic, which was probably responsible for the big red cross the Humans had painted on his armour.
“Of course I am! No matter what they throw at me, I’ll never be put in the ground.”
“You also going to tell me you’re a day away from retirement? Or that you’re about to get married to the love of your life?”
“Aha, that’s more like it. You another weekend warrior then?”
“That’s what the Humans call us monthly reservists. I don’t have a clue where they got it from, but they like saying it.”
“Ah, yes, that’s what I’m up to now. I’m full time at a new restaurant they’re opening up, you see.”
“Are you? Never figured you for a cook. I’ve been working for the military directly you see. They flew me to some other country, Russia I think it was, got me to do a few tests for physical capacity, sit in a few devices of theirs, and they’ve been asking for my guidance on treating Hekatians. Plus I showed them how some of my gear works.” Raxicarifallatorus was about to ask more questions, when he heard the sound of a Human clearing their throat. Turning around, he found a woman standing on top of an APC.
“Uh, hello everyone! I’m Major Bone, and I’ve been assigned to try and develop cooperation between regular Human infantry units and our Hekatian units. We’ll be running regular exercises, to try and hammer out a joint doctrine. We’ll be showing you how to work with some of our stuff, you’ll show us how to work with some of yours, and so on, hopefully by the end of it we’ll be able to work together properly. Are there any questions?”
“Aren’t you a little young for a Major?” Someone shouted towards her.
“I’ve got plenty of combat experience from running rings around you lot, so shut it! Any questions from people who aren’t arseholes?”
“How are we doing this? Like, what equipment are we using?” Alknurtyb asked.
“Excellent question! We’re using a laser based system. We haven’t yet figured out how to make your guns fire blank ammunition, so unfortunately you’ll have to make do with no visual effects, but we’ve made some replicas that share their proportions and weight, and they will play sound effects. When fired, they produce a laser, which is detected by this sensor equipment we'll attach to your armour. If the laser produces a hit, it will simulate an injury, which requires medical attention. Very complicated, I know, but it should work!”
“I admire her optimism.” Raxicarifallatorus whispered to Alknurtyb, who laughed.
Location: Copehill Down, Salisbury Plain Training Area
“Ready? Grenade in, now!” Lieutenant Assaf shouted, and Raxicarifallatorus complied. He knocked the door in, Private Jolly throwing a flashbang inside. He looked away, just to be sure, before waiting for the characteristic detonation. Then he moved in.
Through the door, rifle raised. Soldier on the right, he’s too dazed to do anything, ignore for now. Another soldier, sheltering behind a sofa, raising their gun to fire at the attackers. Raxicarifallatorus pulled the trigger twice in quick succession, “killing” the target, but they still squeezed a single shot off after their equipment detected the hit, their brain clearly not processing their “death”. Raxicarifallatorus’s left arm sensor flashed once in response to the shot, but clearly decided it would have been stopped by the armour, allowing him to proceed. Behind him, Jolly edged into the room and killed the other target.
They’d gotten a nice pattern down. Hekatians entered rooms first, their superior armour letting them take a hit. Humans would act as the follow-up, their agility enabling them to quickly support their teammates. Initially they’d tried separate units, but that was simply not viable. So instead, they’d split the Hekatians up among Human units, one Hekatian in every fireteam, and brought in a few more units to join their games.
Outside, Raxicarifallatorus heard a tank rumbling down the road. The Humans might not be able to match the hyperrealistic sims used by Hekatian troops in their training, but they compensated for that, by just doing regular reality, and sticking enough safeguards in to keep it from getting all gory. Though he had heard more than a few rumours of careless tank drivers crushing soldiers during training, which he chose to not believe.
Jolly nodded to him, snapping him out of his daydream. He’d positioned himself against the door to the next room, and was almost bouncing on his boots, hyped up on adrenaline. Quick nod back, kick the door in, flashbang goes in. Gunfire greets the grenade, but no hits. Wait in cover, firing around the corner, before it goes off.
Raxicarifallatorus pushed through, his sensors flashing in response to the hostile fire. He spotted several of the soldiers firing their rifles over the back of their cover, allowing them to set up a hail of fire without having risked their sight. He blasted one‘s helmet with a few shots, before throwing himself to the floor.
Jolly charged in, his gun’s muzzle flashing as cartridge after cartridge was ejected from the side. The enemies were starting to raise their heads, confident they could get a better shot with the threat of flashbangs out of the way. Jolly responded by snatching his last grenade, and tossing it behind their position. It turned out this would be his last action, as his equipment began to flash, a signal that he’d been “injured” too much to proceed. He dropped to the floor near Raxicarifallatorus, in the kind of movement you did when you were invested in playing along, but didn’t want to have a rifle butt smack into your face as you dropped.
That left Raxicarifallatorus alone, and outnumbered. He kept laying rounds down, hoping to force the enemy soldier’s heads down for as long as possible. The ploy worked, the grenade going off, as another ally appeared at the doorway to give supporting fire. Within seconds, the final hostile had collapsed, their sensors flashing.
The friendly human advanced to the next door, gesturing towards Jolly, as if to say “you handle him”. Raxicarifallatorus complied, crawling over towards him. Jolly was fine, of course, he wasn’t actually injured or anything. But the system required medical care of some sort after a simulated injury, so Raxicarifallatorus pulled several bandages from his medical kit, and began applying them to Jolly at random. Back home, the simulations would provide proper representations of bullet holes, with blood that felt real, and visible wounds. That wasn’t possible with Human tech yet, so they opted to have the responder pick injury points around where the sensors flashed.
Raxicarifallatorus applied the bandages as fast as he could, Jolly grinning the whole way through. When he’d applied a separate dressing for every flashing sensor, Jolly got up, and reset his system, ending the flashes.
“Come on, that’s us done for the hour I reckon. Let’s get out of here.”
“I didn’t expect it to be this warm. Thought I’d have frozen to death.” Raxicarifallatorus whispered to Jolly as they lay in their sleeping bags, watching the training area through the darkness. It was the end of the day’s exercises, so they were safe from the threat of a night attack. Those was anticipated to come tomorrow, when the exercises would last a full 24 hours.
To be able to sleep, they’d been told to build a “basha”, a Human invention. When completed, it was a simple thing, forming a right-angled triangle shape. The hypotenuse was a camouflaged sheet, with holes in each corner, secured through a mixture of tent pegs and ropes attached to nearby trees.
Raxicarifallatorus had never seen anything like it in his life. In his Hekatian Army career, he’d slept either in nice proper barracks, or inside a heated portable tent, that could provide all the basic amenities. They were both wonderful things, of course, but they did have the slight flaw of being fiddly to set up. And being heavy. The basha was light, easy to set up, and small enough to be carried by anyone.
“Everyone expects that their first time, don’t worry.” Raxicarifallatorus’s worry had been caused by the fact it had no sides, or floor. When safely ensconced in their sleeping bags and “bivvy bag” combo, on top of a “roll mat”, this became more of an asset though. They had a close to perfect line of sight outwards, and with the knowledge that their fellow soldiers were watching their backs, it actually worked rather well.
“Suppose you had to have known it would work though.”
“Oh of course. We used these to run rings around you lot. I marched from Liverpool to Hereford, sleeping only in one of these. See, they’re perfect for infiltration, I can tell you. When you have to set up somewhere to sleep, in pitch black, they’re perfect.”
“Feels like it would be good for an observation post. You can see all the way out, and you’re so low to the ground, it’s super hard to spot when done right.” Raxicarifallatorus had the rather morbid thought that those qualities he was praising, had likely been partially responsible for many of his fellow soldier’s deaths.
“Definitely, definitely. You have anything similar?”
“We pitch our tents in woodlands, yeah, but nothing quite like this. They’re so much more advanced than what you have, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you… but then these are extremely good at what they do.”
“Classic paradox isn’t it. More advanced isn’t always better. Oh, by the way, you don’t snore in the night, do you?”
“What’s sno-ring?” Raxicarifallatorus had to pronounce that one in english, he’d never heard the word before now, and his translator didn’t catch it.
“I’ll take that as a no then, thank god. Night Raxic.”
Location: “Soho Scran”, Soho
“Nice work Raxic, you’ve been great all week. Here’s your packet.” Steve, manager of the takeaway Raxicarifallatorus worked at, gave him his pay for the month’s work. “Little bonus for being the only hand on deck that Tuesday.”
“No problem.” Raxicarifallatorus had come in one morning to find the rest of his coworkers crippled by food poisoning, after a full team visit to an upmarket restaurant. It seemed the virus had no effect on his biology, so he’d been left to handle the place by himself. By all accounts, he’d acquitted himself more than admirably in the process. “Back on Monday then?”
“Nah, take the Monday off as well. You’ve more than earned it.” Raxicarifallatorus nodded, and walked out the door, heading for the nearest tube station. Going down the street, he passed several new pieces of graffiti. Mostly they were the regular tags, but a few seemed to be targeted insults, usually at certain enemies of whoever wrote it. Raxicarifallatorus saw a man working at cleaning some of it off, specifically a message in red paint where the visible part read “ENOS OUT!”. Raxicarifallatorus had the feeling the full message was not particularly friendly.
He kept going, passing quite a lot of Humans as he went. Most paid no mind to him, a few nodding or smiling, while a couple actively averted their eyes. Notably, a small gang of men seemed to take notice of him, quickening their pace as he passed. Raxicarifallatorus sped up, passing a series of glass fronted restaurants while trying to get to the station before they could catch him. Then, he swore, realising that no matter what, they’d still be able to outrun him. He was sprinting down the pavement now, the men still in a jog.
They were toying with him, he was certain of it. Looking back, he saw them break into a run, quickly closing the distance. Raxicarifallatorus decided to stop, reasoning that running might only make the situation worse. One of the men grabbed him, pulling him towards a nearby alleyway, while another pulled a knife out.
“What’s the matter, you slow four-eyed bastard? Never seen a knife like this before?”
“What the fuck have I ever done to you? Do you think they’d let me out into the country if I’d done something criminal?”
“Not my fault the government goes too easy on you scum, they should have lined y-”
“Oi, hands in the air! Hands in the air! British Army, you’re under arrest!” The man stopped, his knife hanging in his grasp as he turned. Briefly, Raxicarifallatorus spotted a group of Humans bearing guns at the gang which had cornered him. “Trevor, disarm that man!”
“Put it down lad. On the ground, slowly. That’s right, perfect. Now, hands back in the air. Step away.” A man wearing a green t-shirt and camouflaged trousers and carrying a carbine approached the knife-wielder, as he slowly dropped the weapon.
Another uniformed woman then moved him up against the wall, her gun trained on him throughout. She gestured to the other men, and they joined him, a look of resignation upon their faces.
“You alright there mate? They didn’t do anything to you?” ‘Trevor’ asked once all were against the wall.
“No, I… how did you get here so fast?”
“Our section decided to stop after a patrol for a meal, saw you pass by the window of the restaurant at speed, and them lot following. Thought it might be something suspicious, turns out we were right.” The man who had originally shouted the halt order walked towards Raxicarifallatorus, talking as he did so. “Corporal Allen, glad you’re ok. Want a lift home once police are done with you?”
“Certainly fancy my chances more that way.”
“So, you an ex-soldier then? Or were you a contractor?” Corporal Allen asked as he turned the wheel of their JLTV. Raxicarifallatorus sat “shotgun” as the Humans called it, while the woman who had taken the men up against the wall sat in the back. That was apparently a safety measure, to prevent lone drivers from getting up to no good.
“Soldier unfortunately. Captured at Swindon, went the Class D route, ended up cooking for a takeaway.”
“Swindon? My brother fought there.” Raxicarifallatorus noted the past tense. There was an awkward silence, as all occupants thought about the implication that their families may have crossed paths violently.
“How did he…” Raxicarifallatorus decided to break the silence before it got too uncomfortable.
“Die? It was an accident, they were making a bomb, must have gone off in their faces. It would have been instant.”
“That’s terrible. I’m sorry for your loss.” A bus pulled into it’s stop, allowing them to speed past. The streets of London were apparently much quieter than they used to be, as the only vehicles on the road were military, buses, or vans dropping off products for stores to sell.
“Nah, it’s not your fault. Well, not your fault specifically. Probably. You have any family?”
“My parents passed away the year before I set out on the invasion. For surviving members, I have a cousin who was deployed somewhere up near Glasgow. Still not heard anything from him though.”
“That might just be bureaucracy. Gotta consider, your cousin could be dead, on the run, a Class A getting a guided tour of every lab in New York, Class B or D, or he could be C and currently on trial. Or even out in the world again. Lord knows how any of you keep track of each other under those circumstances.”
“Well, let’s hope he’s the last option. Oh, left here.”
“Thanks. You a religious guy, by any chance?”
“I’m a believer in Aligimito.”
“Is that the one where all religions are true at once?” The Humans had a hard time wrapping their heads around some of the belief systems of Hekatians. Then again, Raxicarifallatorus has struggled to understand the Human political systems, so the confusion was mutual.
“Yes, although I’m on and off in practising.”
“Does it have an afterlife, or a Heaven, or anything like that?”
“Sort of, well it’s complicated. You can choose which religion’s afterlife you adopt, upon death, and switch it up after adopting it.” Raxicarifallatorus saw they were coming up to his house.
“Well, let’s hope your parents, and my Charlie are in a good one then. Take care mate.”
“You too Corporal.”
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