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The Razor’s Edge

The Razor’s Edge

by Brandon Black

 

I was not born on Samirah.

I was not raised here.

But if I am not careful, very careful, I will die here, and I will not die alone.

I cannot allow that to happen.

I must survive.

I must kill other men, spill their blood upon the ground, end their lives.

I cannot allow myself to die.

It is the will of Allah.

My brother called his ship and his crew the Hunters of the Sky. He is dead. His crew is dead. And I and mine are now the hunted.

The Pan-Africans call us pirates but we are not. We are Mujahideen; we are the soldiers of Allah. They do not, cannot, understand. The Sultan of New Madinah is an evil man, a corrupt man. He surrounds himself with painted whores and merchant sycophants. In his court, women shamelessly parade around in colored silks with their faces and midriffs bare. The so-called music of the infidels echoes in his palace halls. He and his family eat the finest delicacies off old world china while the faithful go hungry. But his worst fault is that he plays at being a pious man. He is no pious man. His true god is Mammon, for he serves only his greed. He is a corrupt man and we will destroy him and restore sharia to the people. It is the will of Allah.

But to do this, we must have many things, weapons, ships, technology, resources, things we do not have. And being righteous men called to jihad, what we do not have, we must take. So we raid the ships of the Sultan, and often too, the Pan-Africans. We hit their freighters and their liners. We take their weapons and their cargoes; ransom their women and their children. We do what we must to prepare an army to face the Sultan’s regiments and restore true Islam to the people. And for that, the Sultanate calls us traitors. The Pan-Africans call us pirates. For that, they hunt us.

The wind changes. The grass moves differently and Tariq, at the front of the column, gestures for us to halt. We crouch down and wait, listening intently. Tariq is our best scout. Without him, I doubt we would still be alive. He points to his left and I nod. We follow his lead.

Sifting through the high grass, brushing the pale brown cords of alien foliage out of the way, we see them. Young men and women carrying gauss weapons and pulse rifles, in camouflage battle dress and HUD helmets. Pan-African Pathfinders. They have developed whole new methods of fighting just to counter us. They comb every little borderlands planet and frontier moon, every asteroid and comet in No Man’s Land it seems with long range reconnaissance patrols. Behind this advance team is a support team, out there, hiding somewhere in the bush. They have multiple grenade launchers and short-range missiles. To either side of the support team will be soldiers guarding their flanks, looking for our patrols. But it is these men, the small squad in the lead that is the real threat, the razor which cuts men’s throats. They crawl through the grass, silent as death and when they find one of our bases, anyone who sees them, anyone who might see them will be cut down by sniper fire. Lasers will paint our tents and prefabricated domes and our ships. Comm signals will transmit our coordinates to their ships in orbit and fire will come out of the sky. Grenades will fall and missiles will slam into our ships and the faithful will die.

As my brother did.

But we will not.

Without a word, I direct my men to the left and to the right. We form a semi-circle before the advancing Pan-African troopers. I look to Tariq, the question rising in my bowels: are we laying the trap or are they? But Tariq gives me no sign that we have been spotted. I let the men set up the gauss squad automatic weapon in front of me and when they are ready, I give the signal to open fire.

The false peace of this little backwoods moon is shattered by the staccato of gunfire. Grenades are thrown and burst into blazing glory around our enemies. They die. It is as simple as that. They manage a few shots in our direction but we cut them down easily. The razor is in my hands now and I use it without hesitation to cut down the enemies of the faithful. But time now is of the essence, for now the Pan-Africans know that we have discovered them.

I look to the azure sky, striped with thin wisps of clouds. There is no sign of hostile action above, yet. But it will be coming.

We tear down the gauss SAW and fade back into the grass, scattering small grenade-sized anti-personnel mines and thermal decoys in our wake. We race back to our ship, starting and stopping, moving in twos and threes, some move while the others keep watch. We reach the camp. Already our little makeshift base is abuzz with activity. Men activate jammers and decoys launch riding high into the sky on twisting curls of flame. Booted feet kick up the dust as we race aboard our raider and begin the launch sequence. Outside, men strip off the ship’s camouflage netting and small canisters of anti-laser aerosols lift free of the ship’s hull and burst open in the air above the camp. Hopefully we have missed no other Pan-African soldiers. If we are being targeted, we will all die. But I have faith.

Every man makes it aboard and we lift off, rising towards the night sky. We look to the ground, for the rising plumes of flame that mean short-range missiles have locked on to us, but they do not come. The ground thunders away from us and we hurtle on into the upper atmosphere. What ships the Pan-Africans have in orbit, I cannot say. But we will make it past them, past their blockade and reach the open stars.

It is the will of Allah.

END

***

A new voice in the field of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy fiction, New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His most recent story, “The Night Mississippi Declared War on the Moon,” was published in Dark Oak Press’ Capes and Clockwork II, edited by Alan Lewis. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon lives with his guardian and protector, Battle-cat Princess Kaleidoscope, in his home town of New Orleans, Louisiana. Find out more about Brandon’s work at http://www.brandonblackonline.com.
All original text copyright Brandon Black 2018.
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