The Swarm Cycle Universe
Copyright © 2007 The Thinking Horndog
"Hello, Cliff. Your usual tonight?"
"Lets see. You want a medium-rare flatiron steak, with either the baked potato or the veggies. We're having broccoli tonight. A salad bar. Put a hold on the hot food until you tell the server and you'll want a mix of iced tea and Sierra Mist."
"You got it. I'll take the broccoli. I guess one night a week for a few years and you have me memorized, except for when I have the ribs instead."
"It does get easier when you get the same things most of the time."
"You look pretty busy tonight."
"Yeah. We have a big office birthday party in the back and a church league basketball team and lots of extra people besides that.
"Don't worry. I'll leave something at the salad bar for them."
Cliff handed over his credit card and when she asked him for his ID, he smiled and thanked her for asking as he presented it. It was a little ritual here, where they knew him so well, but ever since he lost a checkbook and had ten bad checks cashed in one day on that account, he never gave the checker a bad time for being cautious.
"Enjoy your meal."
"How is everything tonight, Cliff?" The waitress placed a couple of extra napkins on the table as she replaced his drink with a full one.
"Every thing's fine. Why don't you go ahead and have them start the steak, Nikki." Cliff was seriously overweight. Well, to be honest, he was really obese. He needed to lose over half of his current weight. He tried to keep from eating too much proteins, carbs, fats, etc by eating huge amounts of salad, first. Unfortunately that just kept him eating excessively large portions of almost everything. Combined with a sedentary security job, no exercise, hypothyroidism, and eating a few large meals instead of more, but smaller meals, over the course of the day...
He had just finished a huge salad. Unfortunately, with the dressing, the olives, a few slices of pepperoni, and the pasta salad mix, it was far too large a meal all by itself. He knew that he was just shortening his lifespan. He already had two coronary stents. Oh, who cared? The Swarm would be here in a few years. He had a semiautomatic rifle, a .45 automatic, several hundred rounds of ammo, and if he couldn't get a 'Willie Pete' grenade from the military, he would make himself a molotov cocktail to leave as his final present for the Swarm. His 4.9 CAP score sure wasn't getting him out and neither was his physique.
"Here you go. Watch out now! That skillet is hot." Nikki placed the special wood holder with the metal skillet in front of him, distracting Cliff from his book. He was reading the newest Honor Harrington universe novel tonight. Nikki was his favorite waitress here. Maybe it was because she was a bit heavy also. She was under one eighty, but still very obviously overweight. However, the real reason he liked her as a waitress was that she didn't place things out of reach. Some of the skinnier servers always placed the fresh drinks and other items on the far side of the table. That's where most of the open space usually was, but he had to squeeze up to the table and stretch to reach things. Short arms and way too much belly. Nikki was taking his empty salad plate and glass, while turning to go, when the light suddenly changed. The lights outside, from the other restaurants nearby, were dimmed.
"Sorry to interrupt, folks, but this is a pickup." The Marine came in from the side door where someone had just let him in. There seemed to be about six of them in sight, spreading around the restaurant near the exits.
Cliff was hoping that they wouldn't make him move. That steak looked really juicy tonight.
Before the Marine even finished his spiel, there were several loud pops. The Marine went down. Gunfire! It was multiple calibers and weapons from the sound of it. Cliff started to reach out to pull Nikki down out of the way, but he saw her take a hit to the chest and go down hard as a new gunshot exploded from slightly behind him, to the left. The shooter stepped past him, maybe not even seeing him in the high-backed booth. There were explosions from the far side of the room.
Cliff was barely even aware of them, as he had grabbed the metal steak skillet and the heavy steak knife, until he was out of the booth and moving. His left thumb was burning from the heat but he was already moving on the shooter, who took that moment to eject a magazine and reload. Cliff had not even noticed that the shooter had continued firing as he moved past him. He was only aware of Nikki on the ground, the facts that he was moving and that he had about two hundred pounds on the shooter. He was spotted as he got to within three feet and the gun hand started to swing around to the shooter's right. The steak and the hot metal plate went into the shooter's face as Cliff smashed into him. The shooter's gun arm went up as the sizzling steak hit him in the face. Cliff's steak knife went deep into the shooter's armpit.
As Cliff and the shooter went down, Cliff was hit in the left shoulder by what had to be a sledgehammer. He spun as he fell and saw another shooter shooting at him. He was hit again and again, and maybe a few more times. His side, his hip, his belly. Dang! Looked like he wasn't going to get any Swarm, after all. He could see the new shooter as he came forward. The gun came up. The muzzle was right in front of his face, less than three feet away. It was another automatic pistol. He could see the rifling inside the barrel. Then the gunman dropped it and collapsed. A Marine in a crouch slipped up, pressed his weapon to the shooter's temple and zapped the gunman again. He looked at Cliff and Nikki, grimaced, and moved on. Cliff heard a quick, "Sorry, guy," as he went by.
Cliff tried to move but his belly and his entire left side were on fire. He could feel the strength running out of him. He turned his head and saw past the body of the first shooter to where another Earth First punk was using a modified Tec 9 or some such machine pistol in full auto mode. His eyes suddenly focused on the first shooter's pistol, laying just a few feet from his head. Hell, he was dying anyway. He might as well try for another one. He stretched his right arm out to the gun and nearly passed out. Not yet, please, not yet. He got the pistol under his hand, gripped it, but he could not raise it. He tipped it up, resting the butt on the ground. The bolt was still locked back from the reloading. He slipped his thumb into place and let the slide go forwards. He got a good grip and aimed as best as he could from his position on his back, with the gun butt still on the ground. Maybe he could get an ankle. When he pulled the trigger, the recoil lifted the gun and his arm up into the air a few inches. He was loosing those few inches almost as fast as he could recover his aim back onto the target. He shot again, and again, just putting all of the bullets into the general area of the gunman. He couldn't see him anymore anyway. The slide locked back and all he heard was silence. It was dark too.
"Ok, Mr. Buckley. Time to wake up." The voice was way too cheery. It was too early in the morn ... Wait. That's not right.
"What? Where am I?" Cliff was disoriented, but he knew that he wasn't home. He opened his eyes and he was seeing institutional walls and various pieces of technical equipment.
"You're on the pod ship 'Blue Moon' and this is Medical section four. You're all done here, though." The speaker was a briskly efficient, curvy young lady with hooters from hell. She was wearing a completely see through version of a nurse's uniform from maybe forty years ago, complete with the cap. She had underwear on, but it was clear as well, except for a white garter belt and stockings.
"What happened? I seem to remember that there was a gunfight. I thought I was dead."
"There was. You were. You got better." The nurse had a hint of a smile.
"Obviously. Ok, what all got better, or maybe I should ask, how bad was it?" He started the process of swinging a leg off of the table, or whatever he was on, so that he could use the leverage to swing himself up. Effortless sit-ups were a thing of the long, long ago past. Surprisingly though, when the nurse gently lifted on his arm, he popped right up. He knew right away. They had fixed something, maybe a lot of somethings.
"Well, you got shot six times. Your left shoulder was smashed. So was the hip. You had two smashed ribs and your entire left side was a mess. Your left tibia was shot through, with a lot of muscle damage as well. Your right thigh had a through and through, which took out about two pounds of flesh along with it, and while you were lying on the ground, you took one round in the groin that ended up in your intestines. Uhh, it's completely fixed now, but your penis was shot completely off. You lost a LOT of blood. Don't worry, we fixed everything."
"Ok, thanks. What now? Oh, damn! Nikki's dead." Cliff wasn't sure how recovered he was from the recent medical procedures, but for some reason, his eyes were watering.
"Oh. The waitress? Is she a friend of yours? She's fine. She only got shot once and we got her in a tube right away. We had to replace her right lung, fix her shoulder, rebuild her shoulder blade and do some other work, but she's back on Earth already. She didn't want to come as a concubine, and we lost enough Volunteers down there anyway that we didn't really need her."
"She's alive? Great! No, she's not really a friend. I just know her from the restaurant. But, you know, she's someone I know. Ok, What's next? And where are my glasses?"
.... There is more of this story ...