The Second Misadventure of Fragger Sparks [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Steven Fisher
eBook Category: Science Fiction
eBook Description: An elite U.S. Army Ranger thrust 600 years into the future, Fragger Sparks is back in action! Trapped on the jungle planet of Jivaro, he's formed a ragtag bunch of soldiers and headhunters into the Jivaron Rangers to battle combined enemy space and ground forces more determined than ever to find the secret of his unique combat abilities or destroy him to prevent the secret from falling into the hands of rival powers. But an overwhelmingly superior enemy is the least of his worries! Dissension within the ranks ... a rogue scientist with a genetically-modified army at his command ... treacherous envoys ... Fragger has no shortage of lethal problems. But it's his own moral dilemma that threatens to destroy him. He's performed an unforgivable act upon a prisoner and betrayed the Ranger creed. Now, he not only needs to find a way off Jivaro; he needs to find a way back to honor!
eBook Publisher: SynergEbooks, Published: SynergEbooks, 2007
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2007
63 Reader Ratings:
"How many men have we lost in the month since we captured this ship, Iso?"
Fragger Sparks asked his question of his second-in-command from the healing table of the dropship's sick bay. Around him in the cool darkness, a quietly whirring machine worked at repairing the injury to his ruined face. The Ranger didn't like to admit it, but he'd enjoyed the rest. The air conditioning was a relief from the heat of the steaming Jivaron jungle and the nasty swarmbugs hatched in its hell. He didn't miss the smell, either. Fragger sighed. Of all the planets in the universe, he'd managed to land on one that had a giant fart for an atmosphere.
The Ranger glanced at the surgical repair device, willing it to repair his damaged face but not holding out a great deal of hope for the treatment. To the energy weapons of the future in which he'd found himself, flesh had little more resistance than the thinnest sheet of paper. His left eye had never stood a chance against the power blade of Lord Lesto's officer in the battle for the ship. It was gone for good.
He turned his head to try to get a better look at Isoruku Watanabe. The movement sent a ripple of pain up the side of his head.
"Damn it, Iso, haven't you learned by now to stand on my good side? Come around here where I can see you with my remaining eye! It's damned maddening to keep talking to people I can"t see. All I can hear is that heavy breathing of yours. Why don't you ask Dr. Lesto if she can give you a new nose?"
The sergeant"s underslung jaw jutted itself into the Ranger's view. Underneath the rocky cleft Iso Watanabe called a brow, two brown eyes fixed an amused gaze on Fragger as a finger rubbed unconsciously at the pug nose that seemed perpetually plugged. It was a joke among the men that when Sergeant Watanabe snored, planets moved out of their orbits.
"What"s so damned funny?" Fragger demanded.
"You want to deliver me into the hands of Lord Lesto's daughter? She's been trying to kill you ever since you took this ship and drove her father into the jungle. Since she hasn't succeeded yet, she'll settle for me just to get at you. Before that Aiforian woman would fix my nose, she"d cut it off and shove it up my rear end. And that's only if she couldn"t get at my balls first. I have no idea of why you've kept that woman alive."
"Killing unarmed women isn't part of my job description."
"It's not part of mine, either," Iso said. "But when even a woman is trying to kill you, you get rid of her. Especially one as deadly as Lord Lesto's daughter. It's simple preservation."
Unwilling to admit that Iso might be right, Fragger countered, "She's fixing me, isn't she?"
Iso snorted. "She's not fixing a damned thing. The machine's doing all the work, and it's repairing everything but your attitude. You didn't find my breathing that irritating before you lost the eye."
A flare of pain in his cheek made Fragger snap out his words. "That's true. It was all the rest of you I found annoying. Now, I asked you a question. Give me an answer without your attitude. How many men have we lost since I've been cooped up in here?"
"I'll remind you, colonel, that you're the one with the attitude."
"And how have we lost them?"
"As far as I can tell, we've lost most of them to Tyco Radmuller's creatures, particularly the slipsnakes. The damned things are fast and deadly because they're so damned hard to see. The hellhounds are nasty but easier to avoid."
"You said 'most', Iso."
"Yes. Others were likely killed by Lord Lesto and his troopers. Lesto's not happy that we took his ship and his daughter. We thwarted his plans to make use of your hyperspace ability and humiliated him, all at the same time. And we certainly underestimated his ability to survive in the Jivaron jungle. The situation is aggravating."
"And dangerous," Fragger added. "Do you think Radmuller and Lesto have formed some sort of alliance so they can overcome our defenses?"
"It's possible, colonel, but I don't think so. Radmuller's megalomania prevents him from taking on partners, even ones who might benefit him. If Lesto forms an alliance with anyone, it will be with the Corpse and Ricer forces blockading Jivaro as part of the Great Powers fleet. My guess is that, at the moment, he's simply piggybacking on top of Radmuller's attacks so as to make the most of the opportunity to get his daughter and his ship back."
"You're probably right," Fragger admitted. "Shit! What are you doing to counter Lesto's and Radmuller's tactics?"
"I've sent Bucaram out with his headhunters to disrupt their attacks. The Shuar know the jungle better than anyone."
"And what are the results?"
Watanabe shrugged. "The usual tit-for-tat in jungle warfare. They kill a few of us. We kill a few of them. Radmuller is the one with the advantage in this situation. Apparently, he has an unlimited supply of his genetically modified abominations."
Fragger raised a brow at Watanabe"s tone of indignation, wincing at the pain the movement caused. "Abominations?" I've never heard you use a term like that before. I didn't know these creatures bothered you that much."
"They didn't before," Iso said, "but that lunatic Radmuller has added something new to his mix of slipsnakes and hellhounds."
Fragger cursed at this news. "Jesus, now what?"
"Baboons and gorillas. Silverbacks. We're now facing pissed-off 400-pound beasts with the intelligence to plan attacks and the dogged persistence of Salinsky."
Fragger managed a grin at the mention of Corporal Salinsky. "I don't think Red would appreciate the association with apes, even if Radmuller has given them homicidal tendencies."
Watanabe returned the grin. "It's a promotion for Red to be compared to Jivaron primates."
"What duties have you assigned him?" Fragger asked
"The organization and maintenance of position defense."
"And he's doing it well, I'll bet."
Watanabe offered a nod of admiration for Salinsky's efforts. "Red was born for defensive warfare. It suits his plodding personality. Most of our losses have been on patrols. We've had a few incursions into the perimeter, but nothing bad."
Fragger asked, "Who got inside the perimeter?"
"Not who, colonel, what. Three of Radmuller's genmod baboons broke through and made it inside the ship. They got their teeth into a couple of troopers before we took them out."
"How'd they break through?"
"Sheer numbers," Iso answered. "And speed. Those little bastards can move fast."
"Attrition, That's Radmuller"s strategy then?"
"That's as good a description I can think of," Iso answered. "And it's working too damned well. We"ve about exhausted the supplies from Lesto's dropship. He and his men weren't planning to stay on Jivaro long, so they didn't provision heavily. We get provisions from Shuar villages and supplement it with game from the jungle. But that means we lose people in the process."
"Well," Fragger said, thinking out loud, "in our attack, we killed the pilot for this ship, and we don't have one handy, so escape from Jivaro is impossible at the moment. And even if we could, our odds are not great at breaking through the planetary blockade. But we can't sit here and wait for Lesto and Radmuller to wear us down, either. So, the only solution is to go on the offensive."
"How?" Iso asked.
"Find Radmuller first and eliminate him. He's the greater threat with all those damned beasts of his. We have Lesto's daughter, so he'll eventually have to come to us."
"Eliminating Radmuller is easier said than done," Watanabe cautioned. "Bucaram has gotten close to him on a couple of occasions, but he sends those berserker gorillas and baboons swarming out of the jungle to launch assaults that allow him to escape."
"Well, there"s a good way to counter that tactic, Iso."
"Get me up and off this table and back into action. Radmuller and his creatures have never seen anyone with my abilities. I'll get that sonuvabitch, and I'll feed him to one of those damned snakes of his."
Fragger attempted to sit up and ran up against Iso's hand on his shoulder. He strained against the pressure, got nowhere, and collapsed back onto the table.
"I don't think so, colonel," Iso said. "You're in no condition to take on that lunatic and his army of beasts, even with your MASER abilities. You don't have the strength to tackle the jungle. You'd be exhausted before you even got close to them. The problem of Radmuller can wait until you fully recover. You"re the one person we can't afford to lose."
"Damnit, I'm sick of being cooped up in here, Iso! At least get me outside so I can get some fresh air!"
Iso grinned down at him. "This is Jivaro, colonel. There is no fresh air. With all the rotting vegetation, the whole place smells like Salinsky and that damned gark leaf he chews."
"Very funny, Iso. Get me outside, anyway."
"I don't think you're ready yet," Iso said. "Not without a stim or pain pill, anyway. The troops need to see you in good health. It'll boost their morale."
"Then get me a damned pill!"
"I don't have access to them, you know that. We need to get the Martian in here. He and Dr. Lesto are the only ones who have access to the pharmacy."
Fragger sat up, ignoring the flash of pain in his head, and looked about the sickbay. "Where are they?"
"They're both tending to the men on sick call."
"Dr. Lesto's not trying to kill them as hard as she's trying to kill me, is she?"
Iso laughed. "No, as long as you're not a Rerun, you're in good hands with her."
"How are the men overall?"
"Tired of this planet, but otherwise fine. Except for Private Smedner."
"Smedner? Who's he?"
"A good jungle fighter, but insubordinate," Iso answered. "I've had to discipline him several times."
"What's his problem?"