This general ethos is still kicking around in my head - sorry! One Dax kicked the door in and I fired a concussion round into the room beyond. We both stepped smartly out of the way, standing either side of the doorway, backs to the wall. There was a flash, a bang, and the ground floor windows blew out. Dax and McCabe went in the front, Andrews would be coming in from the rear. McCabe and Andrews were FNGs straight out of Boot, so I’d wanted to keep them close. However this was their third straight arrest of the day and they seemed to be picking things up just fine. It was a two storey building, same as the rest of the street, with the living room taking up the whole front of the house. Dax went right, McCabe left, Andrews had the kitchen. I stood in the doorway, watching the dusty street, switching from pistol-shotgun to snub-nosed assault rifle. They’d sent us in light - just vest and helmet – as part of a new ‘zero impact policing’ initiative and I wasn’t happy. It wouldn’t matter if we’d dressed as Coco the Clown and handing out candy, the locals all hated us being there. You could feel the sullen resentment, just as sure as the high summer heat. Kicking in doors to arrest those on our list of agitators didn’t help matters much. “Clear!” Dax sounded tired, more than that, weary. “Kitchen is clear!” “Clear…No, wait! I got something.” McCabe was fired up, eager to please, starting to irritate me. I turned my head so he could hear me. “Speak to me, Marine. Always give a description so that if you get wasted your buddies have some idea of what happened.” “Ah, sorry, Sergeant Cooper. Ah, woman and child, probably mother and daughter. Curled up together in the armchair. Not moving. I’m going closer.” I was aware of him easing through the room, gun up. “Careful now. Watch-“ “Lazy Gun Two this is Lazy Gun Actual, please respond.” I swore under my breath. It was Lieutenant Morris aboard the support platform, and he’d been riding my ass all day. “Dax, cover McCabe, I gotta’ take this.” “No problemo, boss. Like the Sarge said, McCabe, nice and easy. Watch for a concealed weapon.” I stepped out into the street, spitting to try and clear some of the pervasive dust from my mouth. Leander was a hot planet but not the best place to catch a tan. Widespread strip mining had given it an atmosphere you could chew on and every surface seemed covered in fine grey dust. Including us. I left the Alpha Team channel open but down low so as to keep a handle on things. “Lazy Gun Actual, this is Lazy Gun Two. Receiving you.” “Cooper, this is Morris. Look, the brass are all over me about lack of progress picking up these damn suspects. Give me some good news.” “Well, sir, we’re currently searching the third address and I’ve nothing new to report since the last time you asked for an update about fifteen minutes ago.“ “Lose the attitude, Sergeant, I’ve got-“ I mentally tuned him out as McCabe was speaking. “No pulse on the woman. The kid is almost buried beneath a big teddy bear... Let me take Teddy for a minute, sweetheart, and I promise to hand him right back.” There was real tenderness in McCabe’s voice, like he was used to dealing with a little sister or something. Everything in me just screamed wrong. My head whipped round. “McCabe, No!” “McCabe, don’t touch the-“ An explosion, a big explosion, has silence at its heart. There was a moment of utter calm, dead time, and then reality caught up in a rush. Dax turned towards the doorway, lifting his right arm to shield his face. I turned and crouched, bringing up my rifle in case this was the trigger for an ambush. The roar swept over me, instantly muffled by my twin earpieces. The blast hit the open door and the open door hit Dax, sending him three, four metres through the air. That maybe doesn’t sound much but just try it sometime. He came down in a sprawl with the door on top. The ground floor walls bulged, slid, and the whole front of the house collapsed into the street. Dust and debris and general crap swirled round me, reducing visibility to zero. My visor kicked in, but infrared was next to useless. I could pick up the nearest of two tracked APC’s we’d obtained from local forces but that was about it. The small bright blob was Harrison’s head sticking out of the driver’s position, the big blob had to Grozy on the gun. I heard shouts, curses, someone calling my name. We were blind and both APC’s were sitting with their tailgates down, vulnerable. I took a lungful of flying dirt masquerading as air and went wide band. “Squad! Go visor, go IR, go IFF. Weapons free, weapons free. Take down anyone trying to get close that doesn’t show as friendly.” I coughed. “Jameson, you there?” Corporal Jameson and two of his buds were transfers in from the disbanded Two-Seven. I had them on prisoner detail aboard the second APC while guys I knew took point. So sue me. “Jameson here, Sarge. Can’t see squat. Our two guests are shouting their heads off but I’m not picking up anyone coming to their rescue. If we get overrun do I off them?” “Not there yet, Corp.” I coughed again, “Everyone mount up and get those damn tailgates closed.” “Lazy Gun Two, I’m picking up an explosion at your location. Cooper? Dammit, Cooper?” “Lieutenant. Booby-trap, one casualty. Wait one.” I stood and turned towards the fallen door, silencing the command channel. “Dax, Andrews, I just told the man we have only one casualty. Don’t make me a liar.” “Andrews here, Sarge. Load of kitchen crap came down on me but I’m OK. The rear of the building is still standing and I’m heading out the back window. Couldn’t get to the front room, it’s just rubble.” “Front and centre, Marine. Get round here and remount the APC, pronto.” “Roger that.” The door moved, sliding to the side as Dax got to his hands and knees. “I’m telling ya Sarge, there has got to be an easier way to earn a living.” “Get your sorry ass in gear, Dax, you can die on your own time.” I smiled and turned back towards the nearest APC. A woman stood there, right in front of me, her auburn hair streaked with dust. It didn’t matter she was clearly unarmed. It didn’t matter she was bleeding from a split lip. It didn’t matter she was my wife. My rifle came up and I fired a three round burst into her chest. Helen blinked, surprise plain on her face, her shirt bloody. She collapsed at my feet, hidden by a heavy swirl of dust. I knelt down and put my hand out. There was nothing there, nothing but memories and dust.