I remember the first pair of hands that ever held me. Rough and perfunctory. Treated me only like a tool, checking I was up to snuff. When judged healthy, I was approved for use.
Then, like all of my sisters, off I was shipped to where required. I know it’s silly to have dreams in times such as these, but from the first time I was held, I dreamed so desperately to be loved.
Anyhow, I was given to a young buck. Nothing more than some common soldier. I must say I took it as a bit of an affront. My sisters and I hail from a well-to-do Hive and I thought we would be seen as a bit of a commodity, but there you are.
A saving grace was that I was his first, too. You have to see that as a gift because so often it isn’t the case. You’re just one in a long list for some men. No, when it came to it, it was the first time for me and lanky little Private Viddma. He was quite awkward, and I’m certain he was scared to death, though he tried desperately not to show it. He fumbled an awful lot, but in the end, got it done. I must say I was thoroughly impressed.
Then just as we were getting used to each other, he up and died. Nothing even heroic, an accident during a regimental transport. He’s looking the wrong way and a bulk lander… Sort of thing happens all the time.
So in my grief what happens to me? I’m shipped off to someone new. Shipped! Shipped! Like so much freight. Like beans, or socks! Don’t they know how valuable I actually am! Without me and my sisters, their Imperium would be nothing. I mean we create it, don’t we?
After Viddma, I went through so many hands, and have so little to tell of interest about any of them. One little memorable excursion was when I ended up with a Navy Ensign onboard a ship. He hated me though, said I took up too much room. So much for being loved, I thought.
Some of my owners I’ve entirely forgotten. I mean, can you blame me? I’ve had such a long life. Oh, with my Beloved though, I remember every single time. The first time, we were in some dingy hab. She had just lay down on this scratchy little mattress cradling me in one arm. Then from nowhere these two brutes appear with meathooks in their eyes. My Beloved, she shows no fear at all! She grips me close, pulls back the sheets, puts me against her shoulder, kills them both. Not since Viddma was I so impressed.
And that was the first of a hundred times. Throne, we made such a team!
There was one time she lured a gang of these scarlet cowled wretches into the first floor of a dinky little cottage. As they came up the stairs, she was waiting in the perfect blind spot! She’d totally foxed them! She was so smart! Throne, I love her!
She held me tight as they came. I could feel her hot breath on my metallic skin. Then the excitement: she holds her breath and squeezes me. I screamed with joy! White hot bolts of death! Skulls pierced! Hearts burst! Spines broken! Three of them dead before they even know what’s happening. I spit and spatter against the thick bronze armour of the fourth. It batters me away until finally I find a place to nestle high up and vaporise a lung. I sizzle through a cloud of aspirated blood and the fifth goes down. I am beyond ecstatic! But my Beloved knows it’s time to go. See, she’s level-headed when I get too excited. We balance each other like that.
She is entirely amazing! A snap shot on a runner from two hundred metres. A hit through a tank’s half-open vision slit. A whole stub gun team swept clean in the blink of an eye.
Then, of course, there was the day with the medal. We were defending a town, Beloved and I, on the second floor of this parsonage when – knock me down – a platoon of Kaldera Nightmares starts coming out of the scrapwood forest to the east. I’ve never seen my Beloved scared before, but she’s scared now. She screams something into the radio. Something’s terribly wrong.
So here we are, just Beloved and I, a full platoon of Nightmares coming for us. She takes me to the window. From us to them, it’s a very long shot, even for my Beloved. But in that moment, I finally know why I was born a little more spirited than my sisters. She holds me, and I nuzzle close into her collarbone, directing her aim. She pulls at my trigger, but I refuse. I know it’s not right yet. Nervously she pulls again. Not yet, I want to shout! She pulls again and this time I know I am true. I released my death, and it is utterly delicious as I lance through the eye of a Nightmare. And this is how it goes: she holds me, I guide her, and only when we both feel it is right do I kill. The Nightmares never come close. Twenty-five dead, for twenty-five shots.
In the citation they call me common. The flaming cheek of it! ‘Trooper Dara Wren held off and destroyed a full platoon of crack enemy troops armed only with a common lasrifle.’ It is my sisters and I, stamp-pressed and spot-welded, that have built their Imperium. Yet they call us common! My Beloved knows the truth though. All her kind know the truth. To them, each one of my sisters and I are a thing of exquisite beauty, and they love us, dearly.
About the Author
Andrew Ottley is a Sydney based filmmaker. As a freelance video editor and producer he has written for television, stage productions and online publications. He was recently selected as an aspiring author by Writing NSW.