Time to share a little snippet of what I've been working on. "Earth Remembers" (working title) is set in an alternate mid-20th Century in which all the planets of the solar system are home to different alien races. The Earth (or what remains of it after the Martian Mutiny), governed by the League of Nations, has launched an offensive to pacify its aggressive alien neighbours after a disastrous interstellar war that has left much of our homeworld in ruins.
We follow (among others) Harry Velterson, a captain in the League of Nations' expeditionary force to Venus. Here is a segment of the latest draft:
‘Into them!’ Velterson roared over him, keen to keep up the momentum while everyone’s blood and adrenaline was up. He knew, with a sickening twist in his guts, that he was going to have to lead the charge if anyone was going to follow him, and all the adrenaline and fury in the world wasn’t going to overcome his innate desire to live. But to his own amazement, he found himself running at the door with his pistol and his knife drawn, as if being mechanically propelled. Then he was through it and on to the firing step beyond, back out into the burning acid rain.
He would discover later that he had been the only man to run out until Ainsley and Martin had forced the others to follow, thus guaranteeing his immortality in the regimental annals. In fact there were not that many slugs on the firing step at all. He couldn’t have known that most had in fact looped round to try and flank them in the control room, and were now delaying out of a mistaken fear that Velterson’s assault force was about four times bigger than it was.
Before he had even taken stock of his surroundings, he found himself engaging a slug which was about to fire a rocket down into the League tanks below still mired on the alluvial plains. The rocket launcher itself looked like a big hollow spine five feet in length, and was locked into place on the Venusian’s back while another slug loaded it. Velterson had burst on to the scene in the split second before the rocketeer had pulled the trigger, and in a brief spasm of shock, it accidentally lowered the launcher and fired it point-blank into the parapet.
It was like watching someone dynamite a beached whale. The front half of the alien detonated in a gory fireball. A five-pound chunk of flesh struck Velterson in the cuirass with such force it put him plum on his buttocks. The resulting shockwave killed the loader slug outright, though rather than explode it simply turned off, like someone had flicked a light switch. It was a macabre and strange effect of overpressure injuries, and it seemed that the Venusians were no more immune to it than humans.
Velterson was propelled to his feet by eager men. His armour and fatigues were soaked with Venusian blood. Wiping viscera off his eyes and face, he gripped his pistol and moved on, trying to put the horror of the scene from his mind.
‘Slicker on, sir,’ Ainsley said. The men had re-donned their rain slickers, and took on the appearance of children using bed sheets to dress up as ghosts. Fortunately the rain had lightened off enough that most would suffer only minor burns to the cheeks—the only part of the body that wasn’t covered by at least one of fatigues, armour, a helmet, gloves or goggles.
Velterson pulled his on as the squad surged forward. The firing step curved around to the north west, but behind it was the roof of exchange building itself, which formed the floor of the whole makeshift fortification. Velterson could see a few examples of the peculiar Venusian brand of AA gun, as well as some surface-to-air rocket launchers and an assortment of other semiorganic weaponry. On the far side of the roof, he could make out movement where the slugs were clustering, preparing for an assault on the now empty control room.
‘Stop!’ he shouted to the men as a thought occurred to him. ‘Stop! Get back! Mr Ainsley, get them back!’
The men slowly bled momentum. They stood to. Velterson bade them all take a knee.
‘Sal, get here,’ he snapped, motioning violently. The signals officer approached at a cautious run.
‘Can you reach the company? Now we’re outside?’
Sal unhooked the receiver of his field phone and started talking in that quickfire nonsense code that seemed to come second nature to signals officers.
There was a moment’s pause, and then Sal gave him the thumbs up. ‘I’ve got Graves. He made it back to the company.’
Velterson opened and then closed his mouth. What the hell was Graves doing back there?
‘Is he with the platoon? Have they come in after us?’ he asked Sal. Then, just as Sal was about to speak, he snatched the receiver from his hand. ‘Graves, it’s Captain Velterson,’ he growled.
‘Captain?’ Graves all but stammered. The greasy little weasel sounded even oiler than usual. Velterson wanted to ask him where his support was and where the hell Graves was, but his most pressing concern was shelling the shit out of those slugs.
‘Graves, I need mortar fire, ASAP, on the south side of the curtain wall. Do you see it?’
‘Just fucking do it, do you understand? Right now!’
The line went dead.
‘Everyone down!’ Velterson shouted to the men. They ducked even lower, with most pressing themselves into the slightly springy ground of the firing step. Velterson gritted his teeth, waiting for the screech of shells and the inevitable concussion.