19 October 2011
FWS Flash Fiction Serial: Empty Places- Part Four: "Meatgrinder"
“On your feet, recruits! Welcome to Foward Operating Base Shin!” Someone barked at us from inside the warehouse.
“Relax your speech, Nguyen.” From the landing pads, was high, nearly girlish voice, but hanging from her lips was fat yellow cigarette.
“We can’t be soft on them!” He snapped back, I watched the unimpressed look form across her angelic face.
“If you’d been through what they have, you’d want a day or so.” He stormed off, hitting a few cargo containers on the way out.
“Thanks…” I said to her.
She took a long drag, shaking her head. “Oh, you won’t thank me come tomorrow, he’s going to ride you twice as hard; just enjoy it now. The only easy day was yesterday, you know?”
“Not really…ah, miss?”
“Hawksworth, Captain, Hawskworth, your Hopper air group commander.” I was taken aback by how stunning she was, even with the patches of black grease and torn cover-alls.
“Should I salute, ma’am?” I asked genuinely, but I’m sure it came out shitty. The word ‘Hopper’ got my attention despite the brain-fog. In my previous life, the word ‘Hopper’ had no meaning, but here on Abaddon, in my new life, the anti-gravity armed transport aircraft or ‘Hopper’ was regarded as the finest creation of 10,000 years of human civilization. For some reason my newly loaded brain kept repeating the phase: “Dr. Tischenko love-child” over and over.
“No…not now, but, you’re buying me beers when I pull your ass out.”
“Out of what?” She just pointed to beyond the tarmac littered with VTOL pads and armed insect-like craft…to a vast lush forest of oddly colored alien tree-like growth that seemed to overtake the entire horizon. I gazed on the truly alien vista, obscuring the not-quite-right blue sky. My mind that caught up to the sensory input, informing me they were called ‘rope-trees’.
The native Abaddon flora, grew hundreds of meters tall, all of FOB Shin was constructed on top of them, the strength of these ‘rope-trees’ came from their intertwined roots that clumped and twisted around, spiraling up to the light blazing off Sigma Draconis, and topped off by a tuff of blackish leaf-like material. They looked more a magnification of bread mold then trees. However, for the first time since I first heard the Off-Worlder speech at Market, I felt the gravity of my decision.
“Oye, get up, fresh meat!” A boot-kick smacked me over, cutting of my scientific study of the alien flora. “You’ve all got orientation!” We all were dazzled by the veracity of his voice. “MOVE!” Seemly in unison; we leaped up, running down the stairs, into the building beneath the landing pads, and packed into tight corridors. Where an icy-looking tall man and two guards intercepted us in the grey corridor.
“I’m your instructor, and you’re all mine for right now.” He spoke coolly. “You’re lucky; the last group we got in was deployed immediately to the field.” We followed him down a labyrinth of narrow metal hallways, dotted with offices, and bunks, familiar smells of coffee, old food, and glue reached my nose. All of this bewildered me, I was completely disordered here on Abaddon, I had no usually indicators of time, space, or even location.
Several people dressed like soldiers, passed us in the hall, all had limbs of various sizes, it was so odd that the line stopped to gawk. The instructor wasn’t pleased. “Tell me what you’re seeing! Quickly!” We jumped, and only one managed to speak.
“Nano-regeneration.” The soldier had a thick accent that made him difficult to understand.
“Very good, nice to know that Scotland still exists.” He commented.
“Always, non oblitus, sir!”
The room we entered into was cold, octagon shaped, colored in grays, accented with blue LED lights along with walls and baseboards. “Take a seat, this ani’t school, so, no sittin’ in the very back.” The seats were arranged around the center stage in a stadium style. I took a seat near the front, and the girl I got to know while waiting on the shuttle joined me.
“I love that these people keep things cold!” She remarked.
“Yeah, being in the desert most of my life, I always waited on night.”
She motioned with a finger that bounced between us, “Australian accent? Are you from Perth?”
“Naw, far from the big towns, near Tanami Desert.”
“Always heard stories of how dangerous the open country was…”
“I heard the same about the cities,” I countered. The lights dimmed and the instructor took to center of the room, a holographic star field was projected around him, like he was god himself.
He pointed to a star; the computer zoomed in on a ten planet star system. “Your newly upgrade brains are hardwired with a database and complete training for your role in this war. I’m not going to spoon feed what already know.” He moment the star system materialized, I knew that I was sitting on the fourth planet from the star, which was Sigma Draconis. The planet’s name I had known since before leaving Earth…Abaddon.
“By now, your brains will unlock the files on our enemy, the Wyrd,” he was right, my head seemed to click on information of the Wyrd, complete with the entire encyclopedia entry on the origin Anglo-Saxon mythological term. This was shocking to me, since I never learned how to read or write properly! The instructor opened a hologram of the alien Wyrd warrior, the Synchronized. Seemingly suspended in the filtered air of the octagon-shaped grey-hued room was a bulky, bulbous, multi-colored colossus, fitted with thick stringy armor and dotted with unfamiliar weaponry.
“This, as your brains are telling you, is the Synchronized, or Sync,” he nodded and the holographic imagine was fully animated and topped off with sound. “The Wyrd themselves are rarely seen, but their pacified minions of previous conquests inform our Scholars that the Wyrd must control a vast empire of other alien races, including our own subjugated colonies.” He paused, and allowed the information to sink in.
“Excuse me, sir?” The instructor looked and the female recruit next to me, and then was silently informed that the she could ask her question. “Do you mean that what you and my brain are telling me is that these aliens use captured humans as soldiers?”
“Yes, pray for a clean kill” He answered simply. The image of the running Sync soldier was stripped layer by layer. “At the base of the bio-armored warrior is a control host, in this case, a meek little human farm-worker girl” The little girl, who looked about thirteen, had an innocent smile. With a snap of his fingers, the instructor re-skinned the Sync under its biologic-armor, and it sprayed the room with incoming holographic fire. All of us leaped to a hard-point, only to hear laughter.
“Anyone piss themselves?” No one made a single sound. “Good, you’re first dose of Courage is starting to work.” Courage? I wondered. Gone was the 3-D assault image of the Sync. “Recruit Samantha Porter is correct, the Wyrd have perfected organic-based technology that allows a host bio-matrix to subdued and inflect any subject. Then they are used to pilot the basic combat element, the Sync warrior you just witnessed.” I could tell from his tone, that our instructor had been on the frontline lines of Abaddon for too long, his flat even delivery with regards to an alien species that possessed the technology to use our population against us in a sickening fashion displayed his immunity.
“Abaddon is the frontline, and FOB Shin was setup as spear-tip of the Colonial response to haul them here on region of the planet, and you’re sorry asses are the muscle behind that spear.” With a flicker, the holo-imagine hanging in the center of the octagon room was a suit of armor, and it obscured any hint at we were members of the human race. This”, the instructor hit the chest plate of the armored warrior, “is your life from now on. Your enemy will be wearing something similar to this. When you shit, it’ll take care of it, when you piss, it’ll recycle it, when the enemy bombards you with chemical or biological baddies, it’ll scrub’em out.”
“And when we’re shot?” Asked a smartass from above me.
“Hope it’s not too big of a bullet.” That drew whispers and cuss words, but I instinctively, touched the shoulder scar of my first GSW. I personally thankful for the full-body armor, despite the how inhuman it made us look, I had enough scars. The instructor had the armored soldier hand over his long rifle with a lens for a muzzle, and the rifle was attached to the armor via cable. “Now, onto the good news, you’re new toys. This is the standard issue weapon, the Steyr-Phoenix MILSPEC PLC-3 5Kj laser carbine,"He tapped on the lens "and for Christ’s-sakes don’t point it at one another!” Like everything before, a stream of data was unleashed about my new best friend, the PLC-3 HEL DEW carbine. I took my turn picking up the inert lightweight weapon, and marveled at how gun-like the blaster was, with a barrel and 1.5x optical sight. Near the pistol grip was a selector switch, besides the safety and semi to full automatic settings, there seemed to be power-output settings.
“Sir?” I asked the instructor, and he shot me a cold eye. “What’s with these two settings?”
“The small looking sun is the 5 kilojoules, good for antipersonnel, and this” He clicked the larger sun, “is the 40 Kj anti-armor shot.” He pointed to the stock. “Dr. Phoenix’s amazing -density super-conducting coil batteries made these possible and give us the upper hand, but don’t get cute recruits, and blast every single Sync with a 40!” He roared. “It drain ya, and you’ll be fucking around with your pistol when a Sync will come knocking. Remember, only shoot at what you can hit!” He threw the weapon back to my arms, I quickly turned over the PLC-3 to one of the Scotsmen.
“Laser guns,” mocked the Scottish recruit with a Mohawk and the thick accent, as examined the lens at the business end. He tapped another soldier on the shoulder, “should’ve kept my AK, it doesn’t need batteries or have fancy gyros to stead me hands.” They shared in a hardy laugh.
“Your AK wouldn’t even dent their biological armor,” The instructor snapped. “So don’t be a wiseass, or you’ll be picked up and be dumped into their ranks” Our instructor leveled a finger at the recruit, “and I’ll burn ass if I see you “He took up the Styr-Phoenix toys, and we returned our seats.
“And now, it’s time to talk about the bad news…” The hologram switched from the armor to a complex chemical formula. “Before you made the Singularity Jump to Sigma Draconis, you were processed at Deimos, and there, you were given medical treatment, the implanted training, and this drug.The drug is called Courage, and it was designed to give you just that on the conditions you will find yourself on this planet. The drug is automatically injected into your bloodstream by the armor, and-” The room erupted in viscous angry, the guards got nervous swinging their PDWs around the crowd. Questions were hurried like grenades.
“What the hell is this shit?!”
“I ani’t no fucking junkie!”
“Courage…It’s like a booster, you know.” Added another voice to the chaotic chorus.
Samantha looked at me and then back down to her veins, “it makes suicide painless, I guess…”I had seen that look before, in the faces of people that sold themselves for drugs on the streets of the market, or were shot for robbery…all their sins were in the name of keep the junk flowing into their bodies. That mostly was by choice though, what the colonials just did was nothing short of a violation.
The guard fired a burst into the ceiling; we ducked, but again, there was no fear. The instructor used this to regain order. “Listen to me, you dirty Terrans! When you make to Elysium, we’ll nano-detox you! It’ll be like it never happened! But until then, you’re going to need this drug to get through the shit out there, trust me! The Courage will be your best friend out in the bush, and you don’t feel hunger, fear, or you miss your mommy! Your unit designation will be Meatgrinder. Good fucking luck.” He stormed out of our education room, while we all looked at one another woth stunned expressions. That was until 1st Sergeant Nguyen showed up to put the rod up our collective asses.
“On your feet! Form up and march down the hall to armor processing, then the armory, then you get to eat! MOVE!” Just as we cleared the door, I saw Nguyen take aside the two Scotsmen. “Not you…we have something special for your skill-set.” We ran out and down the hall, that’s when I shook my head, and said to Samantha, “I’m going to need a drink.”