Giacomo in the rain, part 1

I’m amazed at how naturally this came out, given how much horrible headdesking I’d ran into trying to write something else today. This is set between the first few missions of the upcoming AW hack. Not sure if I’m going to polish these pieces up a bit and actually use them to spruik the thing or if I’m better off just treating them as character studies and writing practice.

“The raiders retreated almost as soon as they saw our camp; they were clearly expecting to hit a refugee camp with no real defences. I doubt they’ll hit us again, but we’re following standard security protocol anyway. With your permission, I’d like to move back behind the border inside a week. We don’t want the Boscans getting suspicious at this point.” Giacomo speed-read the report he’d just dictated before sending it off, knowing that his request would be refused. He still saw no reason to edit it out; he’d learned long ago that he was better off voicing dissent to his commander’s face than allowing it to brew behind her back. If he kept on complaining then she’d either reassign him or fill him in properly on this suspicious assignment, and either situation was a win to him.

He moved to pick up the hardcopy report from the local liaison and frowned as his arm refused to stretch all the way. He’d taken a stray bullet when the raiders had made their abortive attack on the camp, and the breach in the watertight cladding had allowed the rain and mud to creep in and foul up the actuators. It was the second time in an hour the arm had seized up on him, and if past experience was anything to go by then the whole thing would probably be inoperable below the elbow within another day. He considered calling up the prosthetic surgeon to get an explanation for the shoddy patch job he’d received, but thought better of it. The man doubtless had his hands full attending to the company’s augmented infantry, and Giacomo’s own prosthetics were a secondary concern: as the commander of this expedition he was here for his brains, not his body. Odds were that the job hadn’t even been that bad – he suspected it would have held for a week if it hadn’t been for the blasted rain.

He and his company had been stuck babysitting a bunch of refugees from Ferres for the last three days. The camp itself was in a political no-man’s-land: officially part of Ferres, but outside the territories claimed by the attacking Boscans, and apparently not worth enough to the smaller nation’s government to bother defending from the wave of opportunistic bandits and mercenaries scavenging for food and equipment in the wake of the government’s collapse. It had been raining incessantly since the evening of the first day, and the roads in and around the tent city had been turned into miserably thick mud. Giacomo and his unit had come here at Carla’s insistence – officially to gather intelligence about occupied Ferres, but more likely thanks to his commander’s humanitarian bent. The ragged mix of civilians and ill-equipped deserters certainly wouldn’t have stood a chance against half of the raiding groups wandering around without the ADF unit sitting on the edge of their camp, and while Giacomo certainly didn’t bear any grudge against them, he couldn’t help but feel that his talents would be put to better use striking against the Boscan army. Let the volunteer army take this assignment – they probably joined up with this kind of nursemaid duty in mind anyway.

Still, orders were orders. Even if Carla didn’t have some unspoken bigger plan for Giacomo and his men, she was the ADF commander. If it really was a big mistake, then he was sure she’d realise soon enough; for all that she was too soft a touch, she was a much sharper player than anyone he’d worked with in the past.

Giacomo just hoped the weather would clear up. The terrain they’d trekked through to get here in the first place had been rugged enough when dry – right now he was fairly sure that half the company was effectively immobilised by the mud. If they needed to push forward to back up the advance force – or even worse, retreat back to the regular army’s lines while under fire – then he’d be faced with the dilemma of waiting for the weather to improve or leaving the better part of the company’s wheeled vehicles behind. His arm stiffened up again, and he growled to himself. Odds were good that the water was going to wreck the wretched thing permanently, and he didn’t look forward to getting it replaced.

He stalked out of his tent, figuring the rain had already done its worst. The cold didn’t bother him much – he didn’t have many nerves left in his limbs anyway – and it was important for him to be seen in tough times. Soldiers wouldn’t follow a commander who’d tell them to patrol in the wet while staying back in an air-conditioned prefab, that much was for sure. He checked up on the sentries at the north perimeter before joining a mixed group of infantry and mechanics warming themselves by a tank’s diesel exhaust.

A section of smart polymer had been set up above to stop the rain, but it wasn’t big enough to offer proper shelter, and only succeeded at channeling the water into thick streams around its edges. None of them bothered to salute as he approached; the mechanics were busy with maintenance of some sort, and the grunts had all been with him long enough to know how little he cared for ceremony.

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