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 Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion

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Gideon Shaw
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Posts : 1041
Join date : 2009-12-30
Age : 47
Location : Magee House

Character sheet
Concept: The Kicker of Asses
Race/Origin: Hybrid (Fae/Dragon)

PostSubject: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:05 pm

WIP 001

“Is this seat taken?”

Colton Payne looked up from his book in surprise. First, because somebody had spoken to him, shocking him back to the real world. Second, because the somebody speaking to him had a distinctive English accent, but was also the darkest skinned black man that Colton believed he’d ever seen in person.

“Oi, mate, is this seat taken?” the black Englishman repeated.

“No, you’re welcome to it. Sorry. Just kinda...” Colton stammered.

“Must be some good book if you’re that engrossed in it,” the other man said as he settled himself into the chair gingerly.

The normally routine task was complicated by the fact that the Englishman’s legs were kind of bent off true, and he was using crutches to get around. Now that Colton thought about it, the Englishman’s voice was slightly slurred, like he’d been drinking, but Colton’s fairly sensitive nose hadn’t detected the scent of alcohol.

“Uh, yeah, it’s pretty good. Even though I’ve read it, at least, a hundred times,” Colton replied. He set an old receipt into place as a book mark and closed the book so that he could show the cover to his new companion. “A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.”

“I’d think War of the Worlds might be more apropos, mate,” the Englishman chuckled.

Colton nodded in agreement as he scanned the crowded waiting area. The recruiting center for North America was located in Denver, Colorado, near the airport. The building was recent construction, assembled in a matter of hours by a small horde of alien robots. Alien robots. Colton shook his head at the thought, still amused and amazed by the reality that Earth was now home to three new sentient species, in addition to the native Human population, and had been for a couple of years now, ever since the alien refugee fleet had arrived in orbit one December day.

The builders had done a pretty good job of assembling a soulless waiting area, too. The chairs were the molded plastic kind that locked together to form benches. Each bench was twenty seats long, and the benches were formed into blocks of five rows. The waiting room could easily seat up to four hundred people. Most of the current crowd, which Colton estimated at around two or three hundred, was packed into the first two blocks. He was in the block closest to the entrance, which was the least populated.

“I’m Amadi, by the way,” the Englishman said, offering his right hand to Colton. “Amadi Johnson-Chibueze.”

“Colton Payne. You ain’t from around here, are ya?”

“What gave it away?” Amadi asked with a grin.

“Just a wild guess,” Colton snorted. “What brings an exotic fella such as yourself to these foreign shores?”

“A jumbo jet aeroplane,” Amadi replied. “No, seriously, I came to America looking for work designing crypto algorithms for corporate security software, maybe get my foot in the door with a game design firm and start making my own first person shooter games.”

“How’s that working out for you?” Colton asked.

“I work alternate nights in a Game Stop in Greenwich Village in New York,” Amadi sighed. “Nobody was hiring. Never mind that I’m a registered genius with advanced degrees in Mathematics and Information Technologies from bloody Oxford University or that by hiring me they fill not one but two different minority slots. No! It’s all ‘we’re so sorry, but we’re actually laying people off.’ If I didn’t know a guy from online that I play Halo with, I’d never have gotten the position at Game Stop!”

Colton was chuckling and shaking his head.

“What?” Amadi demanded.

“I was just thinking that times are tough all over, but it’s a small world, too. There’s a Game Stop in the shopping center with the book store where I work now,” Colton said, “and the only reason I have the job there is my Mama’s sister owns the place. At least she made me her assistant manager. Nepotism is only a bad thing when you ain’t the relative getting the job.”

“It isn’t what you know, but who you know,” Amadi nodded.

“And what you know about them,” Colton added with a wink. “Uh, if you don’t mind me asking...?”

Amadi laughed and slapped his legs. “Cerebral palsy.” He paused for a moment as his entire body spasmed for a few seconds. “Spastic cerebral palsy, to be precise. Not as bad as some blokes, but it’s bad enough. I’m pretty well rested right now, but as I tire, the spasms get worse, my speech gets worse, and I’m not as coordinated as I am right now. That’s why I asked to sit here. I’ve walked about as far as I can without a nice, long sit down.”

“And you thought you’d make friends with the old fat guy reading the book?” Colton chuckled.

“I’m a people person, mate,” Amadi grinned back. “So, what’s your damage?”

“Uh, I’m fat,” Colton snorted running a hand over his ample gut.

Amadi laughed. “I hadn’t noticed.”

Colton pointed to his neck. “When I was a kid, my thyroid started to act up. Nobody really knows why or what’s wrong with it, but it’s been a constant pain in my neck, pun fully intended. If the hormones ain’t making me fat, the meds to control it are, but that ain’t the real bad part. See, I got thrown from my horse when I was eleven, broke both ankles and messed up my knees something fierce, and while I was down healing, that’s when the thyroid got to acting out, and I got fat. Getting fat ain’t so bad except that it puts undue pressure on joints and ligaments, which leads to arthritis, flat feet, and lower back pain, and makes you more susceptible to developing diabetes. So, in short, I’m a hormonally imbalanced, obese, flat-footed diabetic old man with bad knees, thick glasses, and a severe lack of compassion for stupidity stemming from twenty years of working in retail sales.”

Amadi stared for a moment. “Bloody hell, mate. I feel better about myself already.”

Colton chuckled and ran a hand through his grizzly, salt-and-pepper hair. “Yeah, that’s what I was going for.”

“It could be worse,” said a young woman who was sitting in front of them. She turned around to face them and continued, “You could be stuck with bored and angst-ridden teenagers for six to eight hours a day.”

She was on the chubbier side of what Colton’s mother liked to call “pleasantly plump,” and she wore glasses that were thicker than the ones perched on his own nose. The eyes behind those thick lenses, though, were the most beautiful shade of green that Colton had ever seen.

“Well, ma’am, that does sound awful, but I have spent six to eight hours trapped with bored, angst-ridden teenagers, trying to get the entitled little sons of... Well, let’s just say that I’m sympathetic,” Colton finished. “You wouldn’t happen to be a teacher, would you?”

“Why, yes! How’d you guess?” she laughed.

“Instinct,” Colton said. “I’m Colton, by the way, and this is my new best friend, Amadi. Would you like to be our other new best friend, Miss...?”

“I’m Athena. Athena Martinez.”

Enchante,” Amadi declared offering a hand and attempting to kiss Athena’s hand. He couldn’t get his hand to do what he wanted and had to let go as a tremor passed through the limb. “Bloody hell.”

“It’s okay,” Athena smiled. “I’m epileptic. If I have a seizure, just make sure I don’t swallow my tongue or bite it off or both, and we’ll get along fine.”

Colton found himself shaking his head and chuckling. “Ain’t we just a fine mess of broken toys?”

“Yeah, but that’s why we’re all here, isn’t it?” Amadi said. “The aliens promise to fix us if we’ll fight for ‘em. Don’t know about you, mate, but I’ve got some unexpressed rage that needs expressing.”

“I teach science to overly entitled teenagers at a performing arts high school in Los Angeles. I can empathize,” Athena snorted. “What about you, Colton? Retail got you angry enough to take up arms?”

Colton shrugged. “I got my fair share of frustration, but that ain’t why I’m here. I mean, I want to get cured of the diabetes and such, but even if I was whole, I’d still be here. My dream, when I was a kid, was to be a Marine, like my Grandpa, but events conspired against my dream. This here is a second chance for me to have my dream. Besides, I think Robert Heinlein had the right of it. War is abhorrent, but if it needs to be fought, it should be fought on the other guy’s property.”

A three note tone broadcast on the waiting room’s PA system preceded a warm, feminine, entirely synthesized voice saying, “Attention, attention! Candidate 4490, report to Interview Room B5. Candidate 4490, report to Interview Room B5.”

“That’s me,” Colton sighed as he stood up and gathered his belongings into a messenger bag that had been under his chair. “Amadi, Athena, it was truly a pleasure meeting you both, and I hope to see you both on the other side.”

“Good luck, mate,” Amadi said.

“Hope it’s fun,” Athena added.

“We will see,” Colton said with a shrug as he shouldered his bag and made his way out of the seating block.

On three sides of the waiting room were fifteen doors, five per side, and each door was painted with a large letter, “A”, “B”, or “C”, combined with a numeral, one through five, from left to right. Ever since he had arrived, Colton had noticed people going into each room as their assigned number was called. He hadn’t seen anybody exit from those rooms yet. Colton concluded that the rooms must have an exit that went deeper into the building from the waiting area, or, possibly, to an alternative exit route. That way, traffic flowed into and out of the building, following a single path, creating ease of movement. As he approached the door with the big “B5" painted on it, the door swung open at his approach. Colton took a deep breath and entered the room beyond.

Interview Room B5 was nearly a perfect cube as far as Colton could tell, maybe a little longer than it was wide and tall. The room was white, the illumination apparently coming from the floor, walls, and ceiling. The door that he’d entered through was dead center of the wall in which it was set. A second door was set into the far wall, but it was off-center so that neither door had a clear line of sight to the other one. The furniture in the room was all neutral gray, except for a desk and office chair close to the far wall.

To Colton’s right as he entered was a coat rack, a plastic chair like the ones in the waiting room, and a plastic storage bin. The coat rack had a garment hanging from one hook that looked like a hospital gown. The storage bin resembled an end table with two drawers, one shallow on top with a deeper drawer beneath. In the left hand corner was a contraption that looked like the kind of toilet/sink combo that were used in jail cells. No kind of curtain or screen had been provided for modesty’s sake.

At the center of the room was a large, padded chair that resembled the kind of examination chairs found in dentists’ offices, but without the various arms bearing the dentist’s tools of the trade. The examination chair faced the desk and office chair, which were entirely black. In fact, the desktop resembled the unlit screen of a smart phone, which made Colton wonder if the desk were actually some kind of computer interface like the ones on The Next Generation’s Starship Enterprise.

The three note tone sounded again. “Candidate 4490, please disrobe and dress in the garment provided. You may store your belongings in the bin provided.”

Colton sighed. Then, he laughed at himself for sighing so much. He placed his messenger bag in the bigger drawer of the storage bin. The bag contained his old and much beloved laptop computer, an iPod Classic that contained every song and album he’d managed to collect in his lifetime, a Nook e-reader, his aging yet well-cared-for copies of A Princess of Mars, Tarzan of the Apes, Starship Troopers, and I, Robot, and in a concealed carry compartment a Ruger SP-101 .357 revolver.

The concealed carry permit, which he’d made sure was good in Colorado, too, was nestled inside his wallet, which went into the upper drawer of the storage bin. With the wallet went his keys, spare change, pocket knife, smart phone, a speed loader with five .357 rounds, and red bandana that he used as a pocket handkerchief. Then, he took off his belt, which had a big buckle that identified him as the 1981 All Around Boys Junior Rodeo Champion of the East Texas Youth Rodeo Association and placed it in the drawer along with the Leatherman multi-tool that he usually carried at his side. The multi-tool was a life saver in retail when it came to opening boxes, fixing merchandise displays, repairing equipment that should have been replaced at the turn of the century, and numerous other little tasks.

He undressed next, hanging his pants, shirt, and jacket on the coat rack. His boots went under the chair. When he started to slip on the hospital gown, the synthetic female voice informed him that he needed to remove all undergarments as well. His briefs and undershirt were neatly fold and placed on top of the storage bin before donning the hospital gown. Surprisingly, the gown fit, and sealed up all the way by itself, which kind of freaked Colton out for a few seconds. Then, the synthesized voice told him to sit in the examination chair. Colton reopened the lower drawer of the bin, retrieved his copy of A Princess of Mars, and sat down in the indicated chair. For a few seconds the chair squirmed under him. Then, it settled into a shape that fit him as perfectly as the old La-Z-Boy recliner in his room. The chair reclined him automatically while the back extended up into a head rest. He was a little concerned when wings extended from the sides of the chair and closed over his legs, but after a moment, when nothing happened, he relaxed.

Colton opened his book and started reading. Several chapters later, as John Carter of Virginia and his steadfast friend and ally, the mighty Tars Tarkas, were dealing with the vile fiend Sab Than, the off-center door swung open. An attractive young woman dressed in a lab coat walked in, went to the desk, and sat down. She was tall and slender with long blond hair, blue eyes, and alabaster skin. Colton was of the opinion that she was almost ridiculously cute and sexy. She graced Colton with a sweet smile that made him distinctly uncomfortable to be wearing no more than a hospital gown while his feet were pointed at her. The wings had only enclosed his lower legs.

“Is it a good book?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Colton replied. “One of my favorites. Should I put it up?”

“No, don’t worry about it. My name is Casper, and we’re just going to talk. So, you can hold on to your book,” she said.

Colton frowned. “I thought I was supposed to get a full medical examination to assess what all was wrong with me?”

“And you’ve been getting one since you walked into the room,” Casper replied with a smile.

“Medical sensors in the walls?” Colton mused.

“Actually, they’re in the chair and the garment. Nano machines have been taking skin and blood samples, recording your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, neural electric activity. We’re kind of glad that you brought a book. We were able to get a good steady reading on you while you relaxed,” Casper said.

“Well. How ‘bout that?” Colton chuckled. “Just like Star Trek.”

“Shall we get started?” Casper suggested.

“I’m on your time,” Colton said with a nod.

“Very well. Let’s start with the formalities,” she said as she swiped a hand across the surface of the desk, which lit up like a tablet, much as Colton had expected it to.

Casper slid and flicked her fingers across the desktop screen for a moment. Then, she chose a box on the screen and enlarged it. “Okay, for the record, please state your full, legal name.”

“Colton John Payne, Junior.”

“And your date of birth?”

“March 19, 1970.”

“Place of birth?”

“I was born at Saint Francis Medical Center in Tyler, Texas. In the United States of America. On Earth. Just to be clear.”

Casper smiled. “Thanks for the clarification. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which of you candidates are from Earth, Mars, or Venus.”

“Oh, that’s easy. The Martians are transparent ‘cause they don’t exist, and the Venusians can breath sulfur dioxide. Also ‘cause they don’t exist,” Colton said. “Just to be clear.”

The questions continued with recitations of Colton’s Social Security Number, legal address, current place of business, contact information for next of kin, and confirmations of his legal status as an American citizen, an adult as recognized by the law of the host country, the United States of America, and that he would not knowingly lie to the interviewer. Then, Casper asked Colton a question he wasn’t expecting.

“Why did you feel the need to bring a weapon into the interview room with you?”

Colton squinted for a moment behind his glasses as he considered his answer. “Why wasn’t I disarmed by some kind of security before I ever made it into the waiting room? And you’re gonna have to define what you mean by ‘weapon’, too, because by my count I entered this room with four.”

Casper tilted her head to one side like a dog and frowned at Colton. “The security sensors indicate a chemical firearm located in your bag, not any other weapons...”

“Well, there’s my pocket knife. It’s what they call a ‘tactical folder’, which means it was designed with combat in mind, and, then, there’s my Leatherman, which has a knife blade, but it’s also heavy enough that I could reinforce a punch like it was a roll of pennies,” Colton said.

“That’s still only three weapons,” Casper said.

Colton tapped his head. “My brain. I could improvise weapons out of just about anything in this room. The coat rack and the chair could be used as bludgeons. My bag makes for a pretty effective flail. I could roll up this book, make a pretty effective thrusting bludgeon. I’m almost six foot tall, and I weigh over three hundred pounds, Miss Casper. If I wanted to harm you, I could do it with my bare hands. Of course, you could be a trained martial artist or have a gun or something else of your own for defense that I don’t know about, but if I was a crazy killer, I don’t think that would stop me, do you?”

“Do you think about that alot, Mr. Payne? How to improvise weapons?”

Colton shrugged. “Not as much as I think about sex or food, but I do think about it. I also think about figuring out where all the exits are in any room I enter with a plan on how to get to the exit nearest where I am. I’m trying to figure out who’s a danger and who ain’t, but nowadays that’s mostly directed at figuring out who’s trying to steal from my store and who’s an actual customer.”

“And how long does that usually take you?” Casper asked, leaning forward across the desk.

“Not too long ‘cause then I start trying to figure out things about ‘em, like who they are, where they’re from. Mostly, I just make up stories to amuse myself until they open their mouths and prove to me that my worst case scenario is their reality,” Colton said. He blushed. “Sorry. Twenty years of retail sales can make a person just a touch bitter about people.”

“How do you deal with the stress? Have you fantasized about using your weapons on them?” Casper asked.

“Sure. Who hasn’t? That don’t mean I’d act on my base instincts,” Colton said.

“Because you’d go to jail,” Casper said.

“No, ma’am, because it would be wrong, and it’d make my Mama disappointed in me. Not to mention the little thing about sinning and going to hell and all that stuff. I’m the son of a preacher man. Daddy made sure we kids all understood that Hell was real,” Colton said. “Just as real as Heaven.”

“You’re religious, then.”

“Yes, ma’am, you could say that. I believe. I have faith in Jesus Christ, to be clear, yes, ma’am. Is that a problem for your people?” Colton said.

“Oh, no, certainly not,” Casper said. She sat back in her chair after clearing away the current box on her screen. “In answer to your earlier challenge, the one about security, we knew you were armed as soon as you entered the building, and you were closely monitored. There are non lethal systems built into the waiting area to prevent those waiting there from being harmed by a lone assassin or even a group of assassins. Had you gone for your weapon, you would have been subdued and turned over to the local authorities, and business here would have continued as though you’d never caused a problem.”

“Nice. I like that, but why not a lethal response?” Colton asked.

“The, uh, ‘Mechs’ as you call them, well, they’re pacifists, and since they constructed this facility, they felt that installing weapons went against their personal code of conduct. We almost wrapped you in an isolation field when you went back to retrieve your book, thinking that maybe you were going for your weapon,” Casper chuckled. “That was before you explained that you could improvise a weapon out of it.”

“I’d rather not. This book is special to me. My grandpa gave it to me when I was a kid, after my horse throwed me,” Colton said. “John Carter and Tarzan got me through a rough time when I was a kid. Grandpa was a rabid Edgar Rice Burroughs fan. That’s why Daddy and me got ‘John’ for a middle name.”

“After the John Carter character?” Casper guessed.

“Yes, ma’am, and for John Clayton, Tarzan’s human name,” Colton said.

Casper frowned. “Human name?”

“Yeah, ‘cause he was raised by apes, and they named him ‘Tarzan’, but he was really an Englishman, the Lord of Greystoke,” Colton said with a little frown of his own.

“Oh. Well, I’ve never read those books,” Casper said. Then, she maximized another box on her desktop screen. “Let’s talk about your medical conditions.”

“I’m a misfit toy, and I’m desperate for a home,” Colton said with a small smile.

Casper looked up in confusion.

“Don’t tell me you’ve never seen Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!” Colton exclaimed.

“Oh! Yes, very humorous,” Casper said after a half second pause. Then, she paused for another half second. “The Island of Misfit Toys.”

Colton rolled his eyes but chose not to say anything else on the matter. For the next several minutes Casper catalogued the various damaged parts that made up his body, as well as his chronic illnesses and allergies.

“So, I’m not so much a Misfit Toy as a broken one,” Colton finally declared.

“Yes, I would say that’s an accurate metaphor,” Casper agreed. “However, everything that is ‘broken’ is well within our means to fix. The basic procedure that we’re offering to our recruits essentially rebuilds your body, starting with a full genetic cleansing and refining. By the time the procedure is done, you’ll not only have the body of a twenty-year-old version of yourself, it wil be a perfectly healthy, ideal version of yourself.”

“That sounds kinda wonderful, actually,” Colton said, running a hand through his salt and pepper hair before pushing his glasses up higher on his nose. “So, are we guinea pigs or walking billboards?”

Casper grinned brightly at him. “Very astute, Mr. Payne. No, you’re not a guinea pig, but you will be an advertisement, not only of the rejuvenation procedure, which we’re calling ‘Reset’, by the way, but for recruiting more soldiers for use in future campaigns or colonists to resettle reclaimed worlds.”

“And what better way to advertise how effective Reset is than by Resetting a bunch of broken people?” Colton mused. “That’s downright evil, it’s so clever.”

“No, not at all,” Casper exclaimed with a shocked expression. “No, Mr. Payne, everyone who showed up to volunteer will receive the Reset treatment, whether they sign up for military service or not. A healthy Human population is of strategic importance to the survival of the Allies, and by Resetting all these people, even the numerous ones unfit for military service, we’re improving your gene pool. Call it motivated self interest, but it’s certainly not evil.”

“I meant that as a compliment, but I take your point, ma’am,” Colton said.

Casper tilted her head again and stared at Colton for a moment. He was beginning to recognized the gesture as what she did whenever he said something that confused her. It was really kind of adorable, in a dorky sort of way.

“Oh,” she said at last. “Then, I’ll take it as the compliment it was intended, I suppose.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” Colton said with a grave nod.

“Now, we’re offering a standard contract of ten years. As I just stated, the Reset procedure is a bonus, which is given regardless of whether or not you sign the contract. Should you choose to sign on, you will receive an additional procedure during the Reset in the form of a suite of neural implants. These basic implants will facilitate communication with Allied species in the form of a translation matrix, as well as offering person to person and group networked telecommunications over distances, and will allow rudimentary interfacing with computer systems, including virtual reality training simulators,” Casper said with the cadence of someone reading a prepared statement.

“Your duties will be assigned by our central Bureau of Sentient Resources Management, and you will receive training appropriate to that assignment. BSRM will take your preferences into consideration, but the needs of the service will receive priority in making task assignments. If you are a conscientious objector, that will also be taken into consideration, and you will be channeled toward a non-combat role, but your are not guaranteed that you won’t be caught in a combat zone. Very likely you will, to be perfectly honest.

“In exchange for giving us ten years of your services, you will receive a salary of fifty thousand dollars per annum in U.S. currency. Raises and bonuses are on a published scale and schedule that you will receive as part of your employment packet upon signature of the contract. Food, clothing, and housing are all provided for you, as well, at no additional cost, if you wish to have your pay deposited in a savings account, and speaking of savings accounts, your pay goes to a Swiss bank account that will be set up in your name by us, and since you’re technically working for a company from a foreign nation, your pay is tax free.”

“So, in ten years, I could retire from active duty with a half million dollars, tax free, and I’d be, like, what, about thirty years old physically?” Colton said.

“Yes, assuming that you never advance past basic entry level assignment and never see combat,” Casper agreed. “Frankly, if you survive ten years, you’ll retire a millionaire, easily.”

“Now, you advertise that, and you’ll have more recruits volunteering than you know what to do with,” Colton chuckled, “but then again, getting paid is why somebody signs on to be a mercenary, isn’t it?”

“Private military contractor has a more pleasant ring to it,” Casper said with a little wink. “Okay, that’s the basic contract in a nutshell. Would you like to hear about the ‘special’ contract option?”

“Uh, sure,” Colton said.

“On a strictly volunteer basis, if you opt for the special contract, we will... ‘upgrade’ you, genetic modifications to your muscular and skeletal structure for enhanced strength, speed, and endurance, a more extensive suite of neural implants to include enhancements to your physical senses, information retrieval and storage, and reflex enhancement, a colony of medical nanobots that will enhance your body’s ability to repair itself, and a suite of miniaturized artificial gravity devices that can enhance your movement abilities, to maintain grip and traction, so you can run faster, climb better, hold onto your gear...”

“Downside?” Colton prompted.

“Well, you’d be absolutely guaranteed that you would see combat,” Casper replied.

“I figured as much when you started describing Captain America,” Colton snorted.

“Who?” Casper frowned, tilting her head. “Oh! Like the movie! Yes, a ‘super soldier’ is exactly what we’re striving to create, and before you comment, yes, it is a ploy to show our allies what we’re capable of doing, and we intend to sell the process to them for a hefty fee, which will allow us to subsidize our own military and pay our contractors, like yourself. Speaking of which, the pay schedule for the special contract starts at two hundred thousand dollars per annum plus combat and hazard pay bonuses, which are... substantial.”

Colton chuckled. “You know, Miss Casper, you’re gonna have to become a better actress if you want to pass for Human.”

Casper frowned, again, and tilted her head, again. “What do you mean, Mr. Payne?”

“I mean, your tells are giving you away, Miss Casper. You, ma’am, are not of this Earth. I haven’t quite figured out if you’re actually human, or if you’re a Cat that’s been surgically modified to look human, or possibly a Mech-constructed android,” Colton said. “I figure you’re not a Squid, though, unless you’re a Mech-constructed drone being remotely operated by a Squid. All that don’t make no never mind, though, ‘cause you ain’t from around here, as my Grandpa used to say.”

Casper smiled. “Tells?”

“Well, at first it was your little gaffes with pop culture references. I mean, there’s a lot of pop culture, especially in America, but you’ve got an American accent, so I’d assume you were American, but what kid growing up in America’s never seen Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? Then, there’s your little frown and tilt thing, and you’ll... pause, like that, for half a second, and then you’re all ‘oh, yeah!’ like you’ve suddenly remembered something, but the real tell, to me, at least, is ‘we’,” Colton said.

“I don’t understand,” Casper replied.

“Every Earthborn human I’ve met or seen on TV that works for the aliens refers to them as something like ‘our clients’ or ‘our allies’ or ‘the aliens’. Even the ones that work directly for the aliens like the nice folks in the recruiting center in Houston didn’t include themselves with the aliens as easily and naturally as you have. Even the Cats that’ve been on doing the talk show rounds haven’t been as comfortable with the ‘we’ as you are. You speak with the conviction of a true believer,” Colton explained.

“If your suggestion is true, does that bother you?” Casper asked.

“Only if you continue to lie to me,” Colton said. “You asked me not to lie to you, and I’d kindly like the same respect in turn. Only fair, don’t you think?”

“Absolutely,” Casper agreed. “You’re right, I am not ‘of this Earth’ as you put it, but I’m not an Ergrahthah in disguise, nor am I a Kraken-operated surrogate. To be honest, I’m what you’d call a Mech. This body is an... Well, I was going to say ‘avatar’, but our avatars are mechanical constructs. This body would more accurately be called a ‘biological avatar’.”

“So, it’s a Human body, and you’re possessing it?” Colton said sitting forward.

Casper laughed softly. “Not precisely. It is a Human body, but it was constructed to purpose from biological materials. The parts of the brain where higher functioning reside, where your personality and memories exist, have been replaced with a matrix that is compatible with our actual form.”

“A sentient artificial intelligence,” Colton said.

“In the spirit of honesty, our sentient intelligence isn’t artificial. Once, a very, very long time ago, we were biological beings like yourself, and we uploaded our minds into artificial bodies as a means of life prolongation,” Casper said.

“That is kinda cool, actually,” Colton said.

“We’ll have time to talk about it later. We’ve almost used up our allotted time in this room. Would you like time to read the contracts before signing, or will you decline to be recruited?” Casper asked.

“Lemme read the fine print, but I have a feeling that I’ll be signing on for your super soldier program,” Colton said.

_________________
Ragnar Lothbrok wrote:
Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.


Character Sheet


Last edited by Gideon Shaw on Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:32 am; edited 1 time in total
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Gideon Shaw
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Posts : 1041
Join date : 2009-12-30
Age : 47
Location : Magee House

Character sheet
Concept: The Kicker of Asses
Race/Origin: Hybrid (Fae/Dragon)

PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:53 pm

WIP 002

The dormitory was located in a different part of Denver. A shuttle bus was provided for the transition from the recruiting center, but Colton had driven up from Tyler in his Ford F-250 pickup. The beat-up old truck was a relic of his first career path out of college working for a company that sold alarm systems. Colton had made pretty good money selling and installing the systems, but the owner of the company hadn’t been as good at his job of running things. The company had to file for bankruptcy. Colton had lost his job and his insurance. The only job he’d been able to secure quickly afterward was with Circuit City selling home electronics. Then, that company had gone bankrupt, not that Colton saw himself as the cause of either bankruptcy, but he’d felt let down. He supposed that was owed to the fact that he’d chosen to major in History and American Literature with a minor in Agriculture. He’d wanted to run his Grandpa’s ranch and write novels in his spare time, but that hadn’t worked out.

Colton parked his truck as close to the dormitory as he could get. From the looks of the parking lot, he wasn’t the only one who’d lived within driving distance of the North American Recruit Induction Center. Most of the cars were beat-up and old like his, but he was mildly impressed to see a few imported sports cars. Colton gathered up his luggage, the few belongings that he’d decided he couldn’t do without: his guitar, a rolling suitcase filled with his favorite clothes, and a black tactical bag that contained the other two handguns that he owned. He supposed, in hindsight, that bringing so many clothes was probably stupid. None of it would fit in a few days after he’d gone through Reset and upgrading. He slung his messenger bag over one shoulder, the tactical bag over the other, grabbed the guitar case in one hand, and the handle of the rolling suitcase with the other.

Inside the building he was greeted by a Mech construct. The device was an obvious machine, a robot, but it was built to resemble a classic cartoon concept of a friendly robot. His new Mech friend, Casper, had explained to him that her species built lots and lots of machines and devices, especially robots, but they didn’t inhabit and pilot them all directly. Instead, they created semi-autonomous artificial intelligences that could operate the constructs for them. She’d likened it to Humans domesticating and training highly intelligent animals, like sheep dogs. The greeter bot had a printer in its chest, which whirred for a second and spit out a piece of paper with Colton’s room assignment. He thanked the bot, just in case a Mech was riding inside. Besides, Mama always said it never hurt anybody to be polite.

He took the elevator up to the third floor. The dormitory was a former hotel that had been refurbished, by Human contractors hired by the aliens. One thing about it, the influx of projects contracted out by the aliens had kicked America’s economy in the butt, and what Colton found hilarious about it was that the aliens had completely bypassed the American government and gone with private companies, big and small. From what was being said on the news and talk shows, the aliens had a strong bias for free enterprise and private sector economies. The Chinese were outright howling in outrage because the aliens had refused to do business with them directly, and the United Nations kept passing pointless resolutions denouncing the manner in which the aliens had chosen to do business.

Colton had a feeling that pretty soon, when the first of the Reset patients started showing up, that those governments would start to change their tunes. The politicians and the military big wigs would be falling all over themselves to get in line with the alien agenda, if for no other reason than survival. The aliens apparently wanted to have good relations with the national governments of Earth, but they also didn’t want to be taken advantage of by those governments. The idea of leaders dealing honestly with one another was a truly alien concept these days.

The elevator deposited him on his floor. He found the door to his assigned room halfway down the hall. A thumb print scanner took the place of a key or even one of the magnetic cards that was the rage nowadays. The lock clicked open once he’d pressed his thumb to it, and the door swung open. Colton pushed his bulk through the door, awkwardly handling the guitar case and the rolling suitcase in either hand.

“Need a hand?”

Colton huffed as he got through the door and looked up to greet his roommate. He paused for a moment before answering. The other man was tall, rather athletic, and not a bad looking fella. The only thing that was obviously wrong with him was that his left arm, from the elbow down, was missing, replaced with a plastic prosthetic that ended in a hook.

“Not sure how to answer that one, partner,” Colton replied. “Looks like you done already give all the hands you had to spare.”

The one armed man raised his hook and looked at it. “Yeah, lost it in a car accident about ten years ago, and the irony of it all is that I’m left handed, but the new one here is good enough.”

“Well, sir, the offer of help is appreciated, but not really needed, thank you,” Colton said. “I’m Colton Payne.”

“Erik Fraser,” the other man said, offering his flesh and blood hand, which Colton shook readily. “I took the top bunk if you don’t mind.”

“Now, I don’t really look like the top bunk kinda guy, do I?” Colton chuckled as he laid his guitar case down on the lower bunk.

The room was a rectangle. To the left as one entered the door were the bunks, one above the other, each bed roughly full-sized. At the foot of the bunks was a double standing locker, and at the far end of the room were a pair of desks facing the windows looking out. The right hand side of the room was given over to closet space and dressers, all built into the wall. Between the lockers and the desks, on the left hand wall, was another door that, according to the schematic on the printout the greeter bot had given him, went to the en suite bathroom that they shared with the room next door.

“Hey, what’s that?” Erik asked, pointing towards Colton’s luggage that was also being piled on the bed.

“It’s a guitar case full of guns,” Colton joked.

“Funny, you don’t look like a mariachi,” Erik said. “Although, if I squint, just right, you kinda resemble Antonio Banderas.”

Colton barked a laugh. “Point to you for getting the movie reference.”

Erik shrugged. “It had a topless Salma Hayek in it. I might have watched it once or twice.”

The bunk was already made up. The sheets were industrial white; the blanket was military green wool; the comforter was quilted and the same shade of green as the blanket, and the pillows were surprisingly large, thick, and soft. So, Colton started unpacking his clothes, putting them away in the closet and dresser closest to the door. Erik had already set himself up on the other side. Colton noted that the desk closest to the bathroom was already in use. All left-hand choices.

“So, where are you from, Erik?” Colton asked.

“New Glasgow, Nova Scotia,” Erik replied. “That’s in Canada.”

“Actually, I knew that,” Colton said as he started hanging shirts and jeans in the closet. “I’m from Tyler, Texas, myself. Here in the U. S. of A.”

“Actually, I knew that Texas was here in America,” Erik chuckled. “Where in Texas is Tyler, though?”

“Near Houston,” Colton replied as he flipped open the lid on his guitar case. “Dang it! This guitar case is full of guitar, not guns. Oh, well,” he shrugged as he pulled the instrument out to check that it hadn’t been damaged during the trip.

“You play?” Erik asked.

“Well, I bought it in the hopes that I would get so many dates from girls who thought that I played, that I wouldn’t really have to learn how to play because I wouldn’t have the time,” Colton said.

“And how did that work out for you?” Erik asked with a chuckle.

“Oh, I can play it pretty good,” Colton laughed. “Seems like the girls don’t believe you can play, unless you do play, and so you have to play, and well, or they won’t give you any attention, and then I learned the hard lesson, which is no matter how good you can play a guitar, if you don’t look like Keith Urban or John Mayer, they won’t date you.”

“God, I hate John Mayer,” Erik sighed.

“Who doesn’t?” Colton agreed as he put the guitar away in its case and then stowed the case in his closet. With his clothes and his guitar safely put away, Colton grabbed his messenger bag and stepped over to the remaining desk. “Uh, Erik, I see that you have a left hand preference, but wouldn’t you rather have the desk closest to your closet?”

Erik blinked for a second. “Huh. Hadn’t even realized I was doing that. I even claimed the left-hand locker.” He held up his hook. “This thing is down deep in my subconscious.”

“Well, that is your right, you know,” Colton said.

“Don’t start punning me, mister,” Erik snorted. “I will pun back in the most sinister way I know.”

“Oh! A Latin reference out of left field,” Colton laughed as he set the bag down on the right hand desk. “Seriously, though, do you wanna swap?”

“Uh, no, I don’t think so. I’ve already got it set up the way I like, and if you can stand me brushing past you to get to my closet, we should be alright,” Erik said.

“Fair enough,” Colton nodded. He pulled his laptop out of the bag and set it up on the desk.

“You brought entertainment!” Erik exclaimed. “I didn’t realize that the accommodation would be sans television or radio.”

“You didn’t read the briefing with the contract very well, did you?” Colton sighed. He held out a hand. “Gimme your roll-up tablet.”

Erik frowned slightly as he retrieved the devise from his back pocket and handed it over. “I read it. Skimmed it. I mean, it’s really the least boring legal document I’ve ever seen, but...”

“But beyond the pay scale and the nifty tech they’re sticking into our bodies, you didn’t pay that much attention,” Colton said as he unrolled the tablet with a snap of his wrist. “You should have paid attention to the ‘issued gear’ section. These tablets are the first piece of gear we’re issued.” As he spoke, Colton ran a finger along one of the broad ends of the tablet. The device flattened and swelled slightly, forming a flat base. Then, he ran his finger along the back, which activated a kick stand to swing out from the tablet. He set the tablet on Erik’s desk and tapped the screen.

“The roll-up tablets are more than just readers. They’re basically laptop computers with full internet access and multi-media capabilities. They can even tap into the cable system set up here in the dorms so that you can watch TV on them. Here you go,” Colton said as the tablet projected a keyboard onto the top of the desk. “Once we have our neural implants, we can actually interact with the tablet mentally.”

Erik stared at Colton for a moment.

“I used to sell home electronics to folks,” Colton shrugged as he turned back to finish unpacking his messenger bag. “That roll-up tablet pretty much makes my old MacBook here obsolete, but I’ve got stuff saved on this old girl, which is of great sentimental value to me.”

“Watching TV on this little screen is gonna take some getting used to,” Erik sighed. He picked the tablet up with his hook, ran his fingers around the surface in the reverse of what Colton had done, and returned the device to its original form. “Cool! It works like this, too!”

“So, you can watch TV in your bunk,” Colton laughed. He unpacked his four paperback books and placed them on the desk, turned so that the covers were displayed. “These books hold great sentimental value to me, Erik. Don’t touch ‘em. If you wanna read ‘em, you can borrow my iPad. Got my whole reading library loaded on it between four different apps.”

“You like to read, huh?” Erik said. “Holy cow! Is that an original I, Robot?”

“Sort of. It’s the 1956 mass market paperback cover, but it’s a reprint from some time in the Seventies,” Colton replied. “My Grandpa gave it to me. They’re all reprints, and they’re all gifts from Grandpa.”

Starship Troopers! God, that movie was bad, but the book is so cool,” Erik exclaimed. “May... may I just...”

“With care, please,” Colton said, nodding his permission to the other man to examine the books. “I think that this might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

“I prefer The Maltese Falcon to Casablanca,” Erik said as he looked over the copy of I, Robot.

“Dude, the more you talk, the more I feel like we were separated at birth,” Colton chuckled.

Erik smiled. “Well, you’d kind of expect certain personality types to gravitate toward this offer, you know.”

“Not to mention they probably made the roommate assignments according to our personality surveys,” Colton agreed as he placed his iPad and iPod in desk drawers for easy retrieval. Then, he went back over to the bed and grabbed his tactical bag.

“Now, that’s the thing that caught my eye earlier,” Erik said.

“What, this? Oh, this is just a bag full of guitars,” Colton grinned as he sat down on the bed and unzipped the bag. “Aw, dang! This bag is full of guns!”

“You brought your own guns?” Erik gaped.

“Uh, yeah. Didn’t I mention that I’m from Texas, where we believe the Second Amendment isn’t a right, but a strongly worded suggestion, possibly even the Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Have a Gun,” Colton chuckled as he took the SP-101 out of the messenger bag.

“You had a gun with you? In the interview?” Erik’s eyes managed to get bigger as his jaw dropped again.

“Shoot, I almost forgot that I’d packed it,” Colton admitted. “I’m the one that takes the night deposits for Booktopia, the book store that I work... used to work for. So, having a gun is pretty much what Aunt Helen calls ‘A Good Idea’, all in caps, of course.”

He quickly unloaded the revolver before flipping it around and offering the butt to Erik. “First rule of handling a gun is that you never, ever point it at anything you don’t intend to kill. Second rule is that you keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to point it at the target you intend to kill. Third rule is that you always, always assume a gun is loaded, even when you know it’s not. This is a tool, but it’s a tool that makes it really ridiculously easy to make nasty holes in things, like people.”

Erik gingerly accepted the pistol. “Uh, thanks.”

“Get comfortable with it. We’re likely gonna be toting around things like it for the next twenty years, possibly things that are even more dangerous,” Colton said with a shrug.

“I’ve shot a rifle, gone hunting, you know. It’s a thing you do when you live out in the rural parts of the country, but you don’t have a handgun unless you’re a cop or a soldier,” Erik said.

“That’s Canada for you,” Colton chuckled, “and most of the States in the Northeast. Now, here, in Colorado, they are almost as rabidly in favor of the Second Amendment as we Texans are. Honestly, I’d say it’s too close to call, really.”

While he spoke, Colton unpacked his shooting gear, eye protection, ear plugs and headset, shooting gloves, and a cleaning kit. Then, he pulled out three heavy plastic boxes, each secured with a padlock. He unlocked a gray one with the Sturm, Ruger, & Co. logo on the lid. Then, he took back the revolver from Erik, reloaded it, and placed it and the speed loader into the case before closing it and securing the lock.

“Are those pistols, too?” Erik asked.

Colton nodded. “Yep.” He patted another gray box with the Ruger logo on it, this one much larger than the other. “This is The Beast, a Ruger Redhawk in .44 Magnum.” He undid the lock and flipped open the lid.

“Whoa! Dirty Harry!” Erik exclaimed.

“No, that was a Smith & Wesson Model 29, but the two guns do look a lot alike,” Colton admitted.

“What do you do with a gun this big?” Erik asked.

“I cause the melon population of East Texas to tremble in terror when I come to shop at the local farmer’s market,” Colton said.

“What’s that last one?” Erik asked.

Colton smiled fondly as he patted the third pistol case. “This is a sentimental favorite. When Grandpa passed, he left me this in his will.” He unlocked and opened the case. Nestled inside was a Government Model 1911A1 .45 Colt. “He carried this gun in Vietnam, and he rarely went anywhere without it, except church. He never went to church armed, but pretty much anywhere else, Grandpa had this old girl on his side.”

Somebody knocked on their bathroom door before swinging it open. “Hello? New neighbors?”

“Athena?” Colton said standing up.

“Why, hello, Colton!” the green-eyed teacher grinned. “Small world, huh?”

“Yes, ma’am. So it would seem,” Colton replied with a grin of his own.

“I just thought I’d introduce myself to my suite mates,” Athena replied. “Looks like these dorms are co-ed.”

“That should prove interesting,” Colton agreed.

“You’re blocking the door,” said another female voice.

“Oh! Sorry, Kat,” Athena apologized as she stepped farther into the room to allow her roommate to enter.

The other woman was seated in a wheelchair, the kind that wheelchair athletes seemed to prefer. Athena’s roommate had impressively muscled arms and shoulders, which stood to reason since the wheelchair was manual, not powered. She was also a strikingly attractive blond with long hair pulled back in a pony tail, big, brown eyes, and a ready grin.

“What’s up, fellas? I’m Kat.”

“Colton Payne. This here’s Erik Fraser.”

“Ooh, you brought guns, too!” Kat exclaimed. “Can I see?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Colton replied. “You’re a shooter?”

“Yep. I compete in a wheelchair tactical shooting league,” Kat replied as she examined the Redhawk. “Are we compensating, perhaps, Colton?”

“Perhaps,” Colton chuckled. “What do you use?”

“A Springfield long slide 1911, chambered in nine mil, with a red dot holographic sight, beaver tail grip safety, and the crispest trigger break you’ll ever see,” Kat said.

“You two certainly seem to be the right people for this job,” Athena chuckled.

“And not you?” Colton asked.

Athena shrugged. “I have a black belt.”

“So do I. Holds my pants up right nice like,” Colton said.

“Jiu jitsu, smart aleck,” Athena corrected. “My mom is a cousin of the Gracie family, and we were all expected to show up at the gym when I was growing up.”

“I’m starting to feel inadequate,” Erik sighed. “I mean, I’ve gone hunting, and I haven’t come home hungry, but you people have me beat.”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Colton said. “I’m sure you’ll discover your niche, your ‘special’ skill.”

“Hey, how ‘bout we shelve this topic for now and go check out the mess hall,” Kat suggested. “It’s been a long day, and I need food to fuel the machine.”

“Good idea,” Colton said.

“A good chance for us to become better acquainted with one another,” Athena echoed. “Amadi is in the suite across the hall.”

Colton grinned. “Good to hear. You’ll like Amadi, Erik. He’s a geek like us.”

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Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.


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Gideon Shaw
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PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Thu Aug 23, 2012 10:31 am

WIP 003

The mess hall was less of a traditional cafeteria and more like a family-style buffet restaurant similar to Golden Corral or Ryan’s Steakhouse. The diners entered through a single line where they were issued a tray, flatware, and a beverage cup by bored-looking employees. At the end of the line was a cashier who scanned the ID’s of recruits before waving them through to the dining area. Non-recruits, potential candidates and visitors alike, were charged a modest fee in keeping with the mess hall’s buffet restaurant-like style.

Beyond the entry line were the various serving stations: an extensive salad bar, an equally extensive soup bar, two buffet stations serving vegetable dishes, one of which was exclusively serving vegan options, another two buffet stations with a variety of meat dishes, sandwiches, and wraps, a grill station where a man in chef gear was preparing fish and steak to order, and a carving station where another man, also in chef gear, was cutting slices off a large roast, an immense ham, and a bird that had to be a turkey. At the very end of the cornucopia of food options was a desert bar and beverage station. The desert bar was burdened down with cakes, pies, and pastries. A soft serve ice cream machine sat side-by-side with a shocking variety of toppings ranging from gummy bears to chocolate chips. The beverage service had soft drink nozzles that served both Pepsi and Coca-Cola products, a cooler filled with single servings of a variety of fruit juices and bottle waters, and a pair of giant iced tea dispensers labeled “Sweet” and “Unsweet”.

“The fat man doth declare this to be Valhalla, as designed by a fat man,” Colton said, affecting his best Shakespearean oratory accent.

“Too right,” agreed Amadi. “C’mon, mate, let’s find a table, and then plan our assault of the buffet.”

Colton was carrying his and Amadi’s trays. The Englishman had trouble hanging onto the tray and managing his crutches. So, Colton had volunteered to assist him before Amadi had even asked. Their group included Athena and her roommate, Kat, Colton’s roommate, Erik, Amadi’s roommate, a tall, older gentleman with a distinctive Cajun accent who’d introduced himself as Val Lemercier, and their suite mates, Ram Grosse and Fausto Machado. Ram looked like he’d already been through Reset. He was tall, well muscled, and handsome, but he was also blind and badly scarred on his face, shoulders, and upper chest. Fausto was a small Mexican man who appeared to be perfectly normal, which meant that whatever was wrong with him was hidden from easy notice.

The tables in the dining area were circular instead of the long, rectangular tables usually found in a cafeteria, easily capable of seating twelve people. A few were even larger, capable of seating up to twenty people, but none were smaller than the twelve-person tables. The tables were gathered into groups of four arranged inside a cubicle-like area. Each cubicle was separated by a low wall upon which were planters sprouting ferns and colorful flowers. Amadi led the way to a corner cubicle. The table he picked already had a couple of women already seated there, one Asian, the other black.

“Hello, ladies,” Amadi said cheerfully. “Mind making some new friends?”

“Uh, sure,” the Asian woman said.

“Brilliant!” Amadi exclaimed. “Let’s settle here, Colton.”

“Alright, if you ladies are sure y’all don’t mind. Amadi here is all about being a ‘people person’ as he puts it,” Colton said.

“No, really, it’s okay,” the Asian woman said with a smile. “I’m Nuan Lee. This is my roommate, Beverly Johnson.”

“Johnson! Maybe we’re cousins. I’m Amadi Johnson-Chibueze.”

Beverly shrugged and shook her head. She made a series of motions with her hands.

“She’s deaf, Amadi, but she reads lips, and she’s pretty sure she hasn’t seen you at any of her family reunions,” Kat said as she rolled up to the table. “My sister and my Dad are both deaf.” She signed her name quickly to Beverly, who grinned and returned the greeting.

“I’m glad there’s somebody besides me here who can sign,” Nuan said. “I studied ASL in college, but I’m not very good at it.

Beverly tapped Nuan’s shoulder and signed that she felt Nuan had been doing an excellent job so far.

“Well, Kat, why don’t you handle the introductions? Since you’re fluent and all,” Colton suggested. “My blood sugar is getting low, and is demanding that I see a man about a steak.”

The mess hall had a large wait staff for what amounted to a self-service buffet, but their presence became obvious when a young man in an apron offered to help Amadi get his meal. Other servers were assisting other special needs diners throughout the mess hall. Colton went straight for the grill station and ordered a medium well sirloin steak. Then, he proceeded to get himself a salad and a baked potato. He was mindful to use Italian dressing instead of the ranch he preferred, and he made sure that he had low calorie margarine and sour cream for his potato. Finally, he returned to the grill station to collect his steak. Athena was getting a steak of her own, hers closer to medium than to well.

“A red meat eater,” Colton observed.

“Yep,” Athena agreed with a nod. “What about you?”

“Still watching my diet until they fix the diabetes, but my blood sugar was okay when I checked it earlier. So, I’m gonna enjoy my steak and tater,” Colton said.

They walked back to the table together with a brief stop to get drinks, bottled waters for both of them.

“I try to avoid caffeine when I can. If I don’t get enough restful sleep, it can trigger a seizure,” Athena explained.

“I’m avoiding complex sugars that my body can’t properly metabolize,” Colton replied. “Also, sleeping better is as good an excuse as any.”

Colton closed his eyes briefly and whispered a blessing over his meal. When he glanced up, he noticed Athena looking at him. “What?”

“Habit or do you really believe?” she asked.

Colton shrugged. “Little of both I guess. My daddy’s a preacher. Grandpa was a deacon. Mama teaches Sunday School and plays the piano for the choir. Me and my sisters all sang in the choir growing up. Part of it’s definitely cultural, but I really believe, too. What about you?”

“I was raised Catholic, but I guess it didn’t really ‘take’ with me. I’ve gone through my spiritual exploration phase. Wound up joining a ‘community’ church. You know, one of those ‘non-denominational’ churches that try not to offend anyone, but I wound up feeling unfulfilled, and I tried one of those mega churches next,” Athena said. “Got the kind of preaching and teaching that I was craving, but I never really felt like I connected.”

“Pretty common these days,” Colton nodded. “I came at it from the other direction. Tiny church, maybe fifty members. I did anything, good or bad, and everybody knew about it. I wound up joining a big church just so I could be anonymous.”

“How did that work out for you?” Athena asked.

“Still working on it. I’m back in a small church again, but it’s a hole-in-the-wall house church kinda set up. Contemporary service. The pastor wears shorts and hiking sandals and preaches from a tall stool at the front of the audience.” Colton chuckled. “He’s half my age, and I’m learning things from him that I hadn’t ever thought about all them years under my dad.”

“That sounds like a nice place to worship,” Athena said.

“It is. I get my spiritual needs met, and I’m still kinda anonymous, but mostly ‘cause I’m not the preacher’s kid,” Colton chuckled.

“And is your dad okay with you attending a different church?” Athena asked.

Colton nodded. “He actually mentored Stanley, that’s my preacher. So, they’re pretty simpatico on doctrine. They just disagree on style of service. Dad’s a touch more of the traditionalist, and Stanley’s so casual he should be preaching on a beach from a surf board. What about you? How do your parents feel about you going your own way?”

Athena shrugged. “They barely noticed, to be honest. Catholicism is more cultural than an actual system of beliefs for them. You go to Midnight Mass for Christmas and Sunrise Mass for Easter. You wear the medal of a particular saint for good luck, but not that you really believe in it.”

“Tell me about your family,” Colton prompted.

“Ah, okay... Well, my dad is Spanish, like ‘from Spain’ Spanish. His family are hidalgos, Spanish nobility. My great-grandfather moved the family to America to avoid the Spanish Civil War, and they settled in California. My mom is from Brazil, one of those beautiful mutts that Brazil seems to churn out. She’s part Greek, part Indio, part African, and part Portugese. I think my grandmother’s mother might’ve been German, maybe even a refugee from Nazi Germany, but nobody in the family wants to talk about it,” Athena said.

“That is one convoluted family tree, alright,” Colton agreed.

“What about you, Mr. Payne?” Athena asked.

“Ah, well, on Daddy’s side we’re Scots-Irish, Welsh, and a little English. Mama’s people are Scandinavian, German, and maybe a little French. In short, I’m an amalgam of the whitest white people Europe produced,” Colton chuckled. “There might be one little skunk in the wood pile, though. Rumor has it that one of Mama’s grandparents might’ve been a Cherokee, but the blood quantum is so thin that we’d never be able to join the tribe and get any of that casino money.”

“That’s still pretty diverse,” Athena laughed. “You mentioned sisters?”

Colton nodded. “One older and two younger. They’re all married with families of their own. What about you?”

“I’m the oldest. I have a younger sister and brother,” Athena said. She sighed and smiled. “It’s kind of hard to tell that I’m related to them, though. See, my parents? They look like they both stepped out of a telenovela, straight from central casting. Dad’s this handsome, middle aged guy with the body of a man half his age, and Mom’s like... Well, she’s like a Latina version of Stifler’s Mom.”

Colton laughed. “I’m sorry, but that’s funny.”

Athena grinned. “Yeah, I kinda love those movies. Anyway, it gets worse. My sister, Marisol, is a swimsuit model, and my brother, Apollo, is an up-and-comer in the UFC, and both of them look like they were issued to the family by central casting. Then, there’s me, big sis Athena, the ugly duckling, the smart one.” She rolled her eyes. “It’s... just irritating sometimes.”

“How come your sister doesn’t have a Greek name? I mean, you’re ‘Athena’, and your brother is Apollo,” Colton said.

“She goes by her middle name. I’m Athena Marie. She’s Aphrodite Marisol, and he’s Apollo Miguel. Mom thought it was clever to give us all the same initials, too,” Athena sighed.

“Actually, it kinda is clever. I’m Colton John, Junior. My dad goes by ‘C.J.’ My sisters are Elizabeth, Deborah, and Naomi, all Biblical, of course. That’s it. Nothing fancy. No deeper meaning beyond the fact that Mom really liked those names,” Colton said. “The only reason I got an interesting name is because I got named after my dad, who was actually named for two fictional characters.”

“Oh, a literary name? Really?” Athena said with a gleam in her eye. “What two characters?”

“Have a look at the books on my desk some time and maybe you’ll figure it out,” Colton teased. He sobered slightly. “You shouldn’t sell yourself short, Athena. You’re not an ‘ugly duckling’. I think you’re a beautiful woman in your own right.”

Athena blushed. “Thanks, Colton. And you’re a handsome man.”

“Thank you, but I’d prefer tips to compliments,” Colton said with a wink.

_________________
Ragnar Lothbrok wrote:
Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.


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Gideon Shaw
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PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Tue Aug 28, 2012 1:17 pm

WIP 004

Colton was ready to go stir crazy. He and his fellow recruits had been restricted to the dormitory for three days already, and he was pretty sure that it was some kind of psychological test, one designed to torture the subjects with sheer boredom. None of the histories he’d ever read talked about the boredom of becoming a soldier. He’d known to expect it from talking to his grandfather. The old Marine had been sure to emphasize both the boredom and the terror when he’d been telling his grandson of his adventures in the Corps.

Then, Casper had arrived, calling everyone out into the hallway for a meeting. Their hall had six suites, a “lounge” with a large screen TV, and a vending machine area. The lounge was barely large enough for a quarter of the people on the hall to squeeze into it, but it was still a focal point for folks to congregate. The suites in the hall had quickly filled up over the past three days. Colton recognized everyone by now, but he hadn’t befriended any more people than the first eight or ten people he’d met. He wasn’t actively unfriendly. He’d just gotten the impression that some of his hall mates were too nervous to want to get friendly beyond their room or suit mate assignments.

“Hello, everyone. My name is Casper. I’ve been assigned as your liaison training guide. If you don’t already know, I’m not actually Human, but what you would call a ‘Mech’. We call ourselves ‘Makers’, but we’re comfortable with the term Mech as well.”

Several people started asking questions at once.

“Stow it!” Colton roared. His patience was worn thin at this point, but he controlled his anger. “Let the woman talk, and I’m sure she’ll answer your questions.”

“Thank you, Colton,” Casper said with a nod. “What I wanted to let you all know is that your Reset treatment has been scheduled. Everyone in this block will be boarding a shuttle tomorrow for transit to our orbital station. A schedule is being transmitted to your roll-up tablets now. The only item that you’ll be required to bring is the roll-up. Please leave your personal belongings in your rooms. This includes phones, computers, jewelry, watches, wallets, weapons, Colton, books. Pretty much just get dressed in the garments that will be delivered this afternoon and bring your issued tablet device. Now, please, if you have any questions for me, whether personal or professional, just line up, and I’ll take care of you one at a time.”

* * * * *

The garments that Casper had promised were like medical scrubs, but of a heavier fabric, like sweats. The packet had even included a pair of boxer-briefs for the men, and a matching set of boxer-briefs and sports bra for the women. A pair of thick soled slippers had been provided for footwear. The whole ensemble had been color coordinated, too. Of the twenty-four people on their hall, eight wore light green, six wore red, and ten were in black.

“Wonder what’s up with the colors?” Erik asked as he plucked at the sleeve of his black tunic with his hook.

“Look at who all is dressed in black,” Colton suggested.

Erik did a quick head count. Besides himself and Colton, he noted that Athena and Kat were in black. So were Amadi and Val, Ram and Fausto, and Nuan and Bev.

“Our original ten,” Erik said.

“And besides being a bunch of broken toys, what do we all have in common?” Colton prompted.

“We all volunteered for the super soldier upgrade,” Erik said.

“Bingo,” Colton chuckled.

“Man, I’m feeling fuzzy today. I should have figured that out sooner,” Erik sighed.

Colton shrugged. “Some days are good and some days are bad,” he said philosophically. Soon after moving in with Erik, he’d found out that Erik had to take medication every day. The meds controlled Erik’s true problem, which was the fact that he was a paranoid schizophrenic. On a good day, Erik was perfectly normal. On a bad day, with his meds, he had trouble focusing, heard sounds that didn’t exist, and tended to zone out. He’d admitted that without his meds he had full blown hallucinations, both audible and visual.

“Well, on the good side, I’m not seeing any of my imaginary friends today, although Festus keeps talking to me about his mule,” Erik said, shaking his head like he was trying to dislodge an irritating insect. “Why did my parents have to love Gunsmoke so much?”

Colton clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Hey, in a couple of days, you’ll never have to hear Festus’ voice in your head every again. Or see Miss Kitty do a strip tease.”

“Oh, please don’t put that image in my head, man!” Erik groaned.

“So, have you decided what you want them to do about your arm?” Colton asked.

Erik contemplated his prosthetic. The only personal belongings they’d been allowed to bring with them were those necessary to get around. Amadi had his crutches. Kat had her wheelchair. Erik clicked the hook’s two halves open and closed, a nervous habit that he rarely noticed.

“I’ve really gotten used to this thing, you know. It’s as much a part of me as my original hand was,” Erik said.

“Well, Casper laid out a nice set of options for you, you know,” Colton said.

The Human-form Maker had taken time to personally meet with each of her charges, go over the list of changes that Reset would entail, the nature of the implants that each recruit would be receiving, and with those who had volunteered for the super soldier program their enhancements and other “optional extras.”

“Okay, let’s go over them one more time,” Erik suggested. “Just to help me get them straight.”

“Alrighty then. Option number one: regrow the original limb. It’ll be like you never lost your left hand,” Colton said.

“Option number two: they cap the nub with a modular socket, give you what amounts to a basic, lifelike hand, but you would have the option to swap it out for other prosthetics pretty much at will.

“Option number three: they build a prosthetic limb based on the structure of the natural limb, and then encourage your skin to grow over it, which sounds kinda like the Terminator’s endo-skeleton when I think about it.”

“So, with one, I just get a hand. With two, I get a bunch of different hands. With three, I get a hybrid of one and two,” Erik said. “What do you think I should do?”

“What’s your first instinct?” Colton asked.

“Two,” Erik said without hesitation. “I don’t know, but the modularity appeals to me for some reason.”

“Then, that’s what you should choose,” Colton said. “From what Casper was saying, your basic hand will look and feel just like a real hand, and if you’re wearing a long sleeve shirt, nobody will know that you’ve got a Mech socket for a nub.”

“Or, I could get a chromed hand, you know, like cyberpunk bling,” Erik laughed.

“You fashion trendsetter, you,” Colton laughed. “You could be Nuada Silverhand.”

“Is your reference to Irish mythology a subtle way of calling me a fairy?” Erik asked.

“No homo, but I love you, man,” Colton laughed.

“What are you two giggling about like a couple of girls?” Athena asked.

They were all seated in the passenger cabin of Kraken aerospace shuttle that had been refitted to accommodate Ergrahthah passengers. Since Humans and Ergrahthah were basically the same proportions, the shuttle had been assigned to lift Human recruits up to the space station that the Makers had built in geosynchronous orbit above North America. The shuttle was sitting on the tarmac at Peterson Air Force Base, waiting for Space Command to give them clearance to lift off.

Colton shifted in his seat to see Athena behind him. “Oh, Erik is planning what to do first when he gets his new left hand.”

“Ew,” Nuan groaned from her seat beside Athena.

“Hey, don’t let your dirty mind run away with you, girl,” Colton laughed.

“I’m only thinking that way because I’ve gotten to know you two,” Nuan huffed.

“Don’t lump me in with the perverted cowboy,” Erik declared. “I’m taking the proper medication for my psychological problems. He has no excuse.”

“Be securing for flight operations!”

The command came from the alien-accented voice of the Ergrahthah crew chief in charge of the cargo. He was a male of the species, slightly shorter than human average, but broad shouldered and heavily muscled. His body was covered in short, velvety fur with a reddish hue and black stripes. The fur on his chest and face, though was light, almost a cream color. The alien’s face was readily recognizable as humanoid. He had two eyes, two ears, a nose, and a mouth, all in the “right” places, but his eyes bright blue eyes had vertical slit pupils, and his ears were triangular, cat-like, even capable of moving independently of one another. His nose and mouth formed a short almost-muzzle that only enhanced the cat-like appearance of the alien.

Naturally, someone on the internet had commented on how much the Ergrahthah looked like the Thundercats from the 80s cartoon of the same name, and the nickname “Cats” had become an almost instant meme around the world. The crew chief growled orders at his team in their own language, and the other Cats began to move through the cabin to ensure that the “Ner” or “apes”, as they’d come to refer to Humans, were secured into their seats for launch.

Colton noted that the Cats were not uniform in coloration. About half the crew were red with tiger stripes like the chief, but some had orange or brown for the base color, and spots were as likely as stripes. The crewman who came to make sure that he and Erik were properly strapped in was obviously female, and Colton had to admit that he found her attractive.

“Is secure, Friend Ner?” she asked. Like all the other Cats, she was dressed in a coverall flight suit that probably could double as a space suit in an emergency. The coverall zipped up the middle, and this female Cat had left hers unzipped halfway down her chest, exposing a rather distracting amount of fur-covered bosom.

“Uh, yes. Yes, ma’am,” Colton replied after an uncomfortable second.

Her ears twitched, and she made a facial expression that looked suspiciously like a smile. Then, she moved on down the aisle.

“I think she was flirting,” Erik said.

“I think she was teasing,” Colton said. “Even if they find us as aesthetically pleasing as we find them, how can we be sure, but I’m pretty sure she was just giving us a thrill for her own amusement.”

“Well, I, for one, am a satisfied customer, in that case,” Erik said.

The crew chief came by followed by another male, double-checking his crew’s work. He spat words at his companion, who made notes on a tablet. Unlike the chief, the other male was thinner, more lightly built, almost effete. He graced everyone that the chief glared at with a small nod and one of those ear-twitching half-smiles.

“The gay one seems like a nice fella,” Erik observed.

“Not gay,” Colton guessed. “I think that might have been an omale.”

“Okay, I really need to start reading the briefing materials,” Erik said.

“You were busy playing World of Warcraft on your tablet,” Colton teased. “The Cats have three genders: male, female, and omale, the ovipositor male. The females don’t have ovaries. Instead, there’s a third gender that carries the eggs. Externally, he’s male. Internally, he’s female, but to be polite, we use male pronouns when addressing them or talking about them.”

“How do you tell them apart, though? I mean the males and the omales?” Erik asked.

“I don’t know,” Colton admitted. “The briefing didn’t go into the anatomical differences, and it didn’t have diagrams. Just a picture of a typical triad, and that little fella kinda looked like the omale in the group shot.”

“This is information we need to find out,” Erik said.

“Why?” Colton asked.

Erik frowned. “Because I’m curious. I mean, if some dude comes up and starts flirting with me, I’d like to know if he’s gay or just a third gender option.”

“I hear that the Squids have four genders,” Colton snorted.

“Okay, that could be confusing,” Erik admitted. “And I thought our two genders was bad enough.”

The PA blasted a warning that sounded like a strangled trumpet note, followed by, “Secure for lift. Lifting, now!”

The Kraken were a century or two ahead of both Humanity and the Ergrahthah in the technologies of space travel. They hadn’t quite perfected artificial gravity creation, but they’d managed to do a pretty good job of counteracting real gravity and inertia. The shuttle began to float upward like a hot-air balloon, it’s mass rendered effectively lighter than air. Maneuvering thrusters were engaged, and the shuttle began to accelerate like a jet airplane, rising faster through the atmosphere.

“I’d joke about seeing my house from here, but I can actually see both coasts from here,” Erik said, gazing out the porthole.

Once clear of the atmosphere, ion pulse thrusters engaged. The alien space station was over twenty thousand miles above Earth, in a geostationary orbit that allowed it to remain in constant contact with United States Space Command in Colorado Springs, but the same station was within sight of both North and South America. Other stations had been built by the Makers to service Europe, Africa, and Asia. The aliens rented out space on these stations to the space agencies of various countries, as well as to private sector corporations that were working on developing Earth’s space technologies.

The latest buzz in the news was the formation of a multi-national corporation in partnership with the alien refugee fleet that was planning on colonizing the various Lagrange points in the Earth-Moon and Sun-Earth positions. Massive stations would be built at these points to serve as way stations, research posts, even energy collection in the case of the L1 station between Earth and the sun. The idea was that these stations would form the infrastructure necessary to begin the development of the of the Solar System. Part of the proposed plan was the terraforming of Venus as a new homeworld for the Ergrahthah, and the joint colonization of Mars by Humans and Kraken.

The station that the Makers had built was far larger than anything launched by the Humans of Earth. The aliens had towed in a small asteroid, hollowed it out, shaped it into a cylinder, and set the thing spinning to create artificial gravity. They could have generated an artificial gravity field, but they had explained that the spin was easier to do. The interior of the hollowed out asteroid had been filled with an atmosphere and the surface had been sculpted into parks and gardens, which recycled the atmosphere and kept it clean.

The strangled trumpet sounded again followed by, “Be welcome to Space Station Zero One. Passengers, be secure for docking maneuvers!”

The shuttle entered Station Zero One through one of the airlocks located at either end of the spinning tube. The Makers had constructed what amounted to a tunnel in the middle of the tube. Spokes radiated from this central tunnel down to the surface of the station. Shuttles docked in the tunnel tube, and the passengers were shuttled down from their ships by elevators in the spokes.

“Weird, I feel like I’m getting heavier, but I don’t feel that heavy,” Athena said.

“The stations maintain only about three-quarters of an Earth gravity,” Casper said. “This is well within the comfort zones of all our allied species.”

The Maker liaison officer had joined the ten black-clad recruits when they’d exited the shuttle. The rest of their party had been separated by the color of their outfits. Other Human-form Makers had taken charge of those groups.

“Hey, Casper, what’s with the color coordination?” Amadi asked.

“Well, as you might have gathered, special contractors, like yourselves, are in black. Those in green are regular recruits, and those in red opted out of the contract, but we did promise to Reset them regardless of whether they signed the contract or not,” Casper replied. “The non-contractors will be treated and returned to Earth in a day or two. The basic contractors will also receive basic implants while undergoing Reset, which will take them about three days, and you guys will be under for much longer as we rebuild and upgrade your bodies.”

“Under?” Colton said.

“Reset involves immersion in an oxygenated liquid medium. I understand that the initial sensation of drowning is somewhat traumatic. So, you will be sedated prior to immersion,” Casper explained. “The medical nanobots will enter your bodies through the liquid medium and begin reconstruction. You’ll be oxygenated and nourished in the same manner.”

“So, we’re being dipped in a vat?” Colton said. “Sounds very cyberpunk.”

“More like the bacta tanks from Star Wars,” Casper replied.

“Check out you, making the geeky pop culture references!” Colton laughed.

“Amadi was kind enough to recommend the series to me,” Casper explained. “And you’re right, Amadi, the first three are superior storytelling, but the three ‘prequels’ are superior in their special effects. You Humans are a clever bunch.”

Casper took their group deep into the “hull” of the space station, where they boarded an electric tram like the kind used to give movie studio tours. The area that they entered was exclusively the territory of the aliens. The only humans they saw were either recruits like themselves or Human-form Makers acting as guides and liaisons. Mech-form Makers were, by far, the most common alien life form roaming the decks and passageways, insectile, spider-like bots scurrying about various errands or multi-limbed, floating bots that were engaged in intense tasks with various machines. Cat-like Ergrahthah assisted some of the Mechs at their tasks, listening as attentively as students at a popular lecture.

For the first time, the recruits saw Kraken. The squid-like aliens were physically smaller than what most people expected, roughly the same mass as an average Human man, but stood only five to five-and-a-half feet tall. The Kraken body was dome shaped, covered in a hard shell, from beneath which extended the ten tentacles that gave them their cephalopod-like appearance. Four of the tentacles were heavier and thicker than the others, ending in spade-like pads, that the Kraken used to move around. The aliens galloped about on their four leg tentacles at a gait which was half-bouncy, half-skippy. The leg-tentacles were evenly spaced around the alien’s body, which allowed them to quickly spin about in new directions as they gamboled about.

On each side of the body, located between the leg-tentacles, were four tentacles that were nearly as long as the leg-tentacles but half the thickness. Instead of the spade-like pads, these four tentacles ended in “hands” that looked like a starfish. Each “finger” was fully opposable to one another. The Kraken used these tentacles for tasks that required strength as opposed to finesse or delicate manipulation. For finer motor tasks, the remaining two tentacles were used. Shorter and thinner than the big arm-tentacles, these two tentacles were located at the front of the body and had the same “starfish-hands” as the bigger arm-tentacles.

Just above the fine motor arm-tentacles was the Kraken’s “face”. They had a large pair of eyes, also very much like a squid’s, and a beak-like mouth that constantly opened and closed, exposing a soft, fleshy pink interior and a second “mouth” filled with numerous teeth and a thin, spear-like tongue. Above the beak was an organ that looked like an exposed speaker dish, and to either side of the beak was a bowl-like organ. Halfway along each side of the Kraken’s body, just above the arm-tentacles was another of the bowl-like organs. At the back of the body was another pair of the bowl-like organs. Between those organs was another speaker-like organ above a puckered orifice. As far as anyone could tell, the Kraken didn’t wear clothing beyond sock-like “shoes” on their feet and a net-like harness draped over their shells that held pouches for carrying their personal belongings.

“Is it just me or does anybody else have a craving for sushi right about now?” Erik chuckled.

“It’s just you,” Colton sighed.

“I prefer my sushi batter-dipped and deep fried,” Athena added.

“That’s what I’m talking ‘bout,” Colton chuckled.

“So, Casper, how do you tell the boy Squids from the girl Squids?” Amadi asked.

“Well, the Kraken actually have four genders and three sexes,” Casper replied.

“I’m confused. What’s the difference?” Amadi asked.

“Sex refers to the actual, um, plumbing, and gender refers to one’s identity based upon one’s sex. We Humans have two sexes and two primary genders, although some folk lump all kinds of personality traits under gender,” Colton said.

“Yes, the Kraken reproduce sexually with a male and a female, but they also have a neuter form that has two gender identities. So, they are male, female, proto-male, and proto-female,” Casper said. “These are all male and proto-males. The females and proto-females remain aboard the main Kraken Ark. Males have the patterned shells. The proto-males are plain.”

Colton looked around and did a quick count. He spotted a dozen male Kraken as they passed by, each male surrounded by five to ten of the smooth-shelled proto-males. “Is that normal? The ratio of males to proto-males, I mean.”

“Yes, the proto-males are workers, somewhat similar in nature to drones, and they bond in packs to a male who leads and directs their efforts,” Casper said. “A similar dynamic exists between the females and proto-females, but in reverse. The female is dependant upon her coven of proto-females to care for her.”

“What?” Amadi and Colton both said in unison.

Casper frowned slightly. “Okay, let me break it down this way: the female Kraken is the rarest of the genders. Each family unit within Kraken society is built around a single female and her coven of proto-female caretakers and harem of male breeding partners. Each male is pair-bonded with a single proto-female that cares for the offspring that he produces with the female, and each male is served by a pack of proto-males that assist him in providing for the needs of his proto-female bond-mate, female breeding partner, and their offspring.”

“You’re talking about an immediate family unit of over two hundred individuals!” Amadi exclaimed.

“Yes, not including the offspring, which are numerous. The female Kraken pretty much stays pregnant for her entire life, but I’m told they don’t mind,” Casper said.

“They don’t mind?” Kat scoffed. “Really?”

Their group had arrived at Station Zero One’s medical wing. A male Kraken accompanied by nine proto-males was waiting for them. He extended his fine-manipulator tentacles toward Casper as she stepped out of the tram. Casper opened her arms and accepted a hug from the Kraken. The hug consisted of the cephalopod-like alien wrapping his forward pair of heavy arm-tentacles gently around Casper’s body while touching her face delicately with his fine manipulator hands. The Kraken made a throbbing-humming sound as he hugged the Maker, which was echoed by the proto-males in his pack.

“Greetings, Human recruits!” the Kraken declared when he released Casper. The rich, baritone voice emanated from the speaker-like organ above his beak.

“Everybody, this is Doctor Orange George Four-Five Prime,” Casper said.

“Not my actual name, of course,” the Kraken said with another throbbing hum. “No, that sounds more like...” The Kraken produced a complex series of musical notes that sounded like a combination of flute, trombone, and bass drum. The proto-males repeated the sequence, as well. “However, you can’t reproduce my name with your more limited voice box apparatus. So, I have taken the designator Orange George Four-Five for ease of communication. You may call me ‘George’ for short.”

The Kraken turned and waved a heavy arm-tentacle at the proto-males surrounding him. “These lovely fellows are my pack. I am Prime. This is Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth.”

“Dr. George is one of the first Kraken to study Human medicine, and he’ll be assisting in prepping you for Reset,” Casper explained.

George clapped four of his tentacle hands together above his shell. “Excellent! Are we ready to get started? Very good. Second, take charge of the dark male with the crutches. Your name, good sir?”

“Amadi.”

“Amadi,” the proto-male called Second repeated with a lilting croon. “Come, new friend! Come with Second! This way, this way!”

“Alright, mate, alright,” Amadi laughed. “I can’t move that fast.”

“Second will carry friend Amadi, if friend Amadi wishes it?” the Kraken offered.

“Eager sort, isn’t he?” Amadi said.

Dr. George made the throbbing humming noise again, which everyone was coming to realize was the Kraken version of a laugh. He quickly made the rest of his assignments. Bev was given into the care of Third, and Casper went with them to translate into sign language for Bev. Kat and Athena were taken into the care of Fourth and Fifth respectively. Sixth fairly danced with glee when taking Ram by the hand to lead him off to his assigned Reset berth. Seventh was more subdued as he respectfully bowed to Nuan before leading her away. Eighth and Ninth took charge of Fausto and Val, and Tenth took charge of Erik.

“Fat kid gets picked last again,” Colton sighed.

“Actually, Casper suggested that I would enjoy your company, friend Colton,” Dr. George replied. “Please follow.”

Colton fell into step with the Kraken as they walked into the Reset facility. The room was divided into cubicles. Each cubicle contained a tube-like apparatus that was reclined at a forty-five degree angle. These devices were big enough for a Human to fit inside comfortably. In fact, as Colton passed by one of the cubicles, Second was gently lifting Amadi into the tube, which had a hinged door.

“See you on the other side, mate,” Amadi called.

“We’ll feast on unhealthy foods and too much alcohol, like Vikings,” Colton said with a laugh.

“Too right, mate!” Amadi laughed back.

“Here we are,” George declared as they entered the last cubicle. “Now, Colton, please disrobe. You may discard the garments in that chute there.” One of George’s big hands pointed at a hatch in the wall labeled “REFUSE”.

“Seems a shame to trash perfectly good clothes, especially ones that I just got today,” Colton sighed.

“Indeed, but the garments will find their way to the recycling plant, where Maker nanotech will reduce them to their component parts, recombine them, and reissue them as something else,” George assured him. “Nothing goes to waste in a space-bound community.”

Colton tossed his clothes down the chute behind the hatch as he took each piece off. “George, is it true that your females actually don’t mind being pregnant all the time?”

“Quite true,” George replied. The Kraken rubbed a delicate fine manipulator hand across one of his eyes. “You see, fertile females are... Well, for lack of a more polite term, they are mentally retarded.”

“Really?” Colton said as he tossed his underwear in the chute.

“Yes. Well, by Human mental standards, that is. How to explain this...? Ah, you are knowledgeable of the Intelligence Quotient?” George said.

“Fairly so. The higher the number, the smarter you’re supposed to be,” Colton said.

“Close enough for our purposes. Uh, please, step into the capsule,” George directed as he flipped open the lid of the tube with his two left heavy arms.

Colton stepped into the Reset Capsule and settled back on the couch inside. Unlike he expected, it was warm and surprisingly comfortable. Like the exam chair, it wriggled until it fit him perfectly.

“Now, as to IQ among my people, we males have the highest. We’d be in your superior to genius ranges, say over 110. We’re what you might call the ‘brains of the operation’. The function of our gender is to plan and to lead. My proto-male pack mates are closer to what you might think of as Mild to Dull Normal, around 70 to 90 on a typical intelligence scale. They’re not stupid, but they aren’t thinkers on their own. They are good workers, though, and can be very creative individuals and will learn new skills very quickly. I am the doctor, and they are my nurses, if you will,” George said as he ran a scanner device across Colton’s body.

“You’re the bull, the boss squid,” Colton said.

“An apt analogy. I shall pass it along,” George said. “Ah, genetic scan indicates that you are who you say you are. Not that there was any doubt, of course, but regulations are regulations.

“Now, our females bottom out, shall we say, in the IQ department, in the 50 to 60 point range. They have one task in our society: to bear young, but they perform that task magnificently. We find it entirely... alien, if you will, that your females will, on occasion, abandon or abort their young, but you are all intelligent creatures capable of making decisions based on your perceived needs, yes? Not so the female Kraken. The only thought in her head is her babies,” George said.

“On the other hand, the proto-females are nearly as smart as males, say in the 90 to 100 range with exceptional proto-females reaching genius-level IQs, but they have to be smart because their function in our society is to be the caretakers of the females and the offspring, and nature has equipped her quite well for the job, I might add,” George continued as he tapped notes into a roll-up tablet, which he plugged into a slot on the capsule.

“I’ve never seen a female Squid before,” Colton said. “I’m sorry. It’s kinda taking some practice for me to say ‘Kraken’ instead of ‘Squid’.”

“No offense is taken, my friend. None whatsoever. Personally, I think we look more like octopuses than squids, but it’s the feet, you know,” George said with his humming laugh.

“The beak kinds helps the squid image, too,” Colton admitted.

“Ah, yes, I can see where it might,” George added, “and you would know a female version of a Kraken because she is much larger than either of the male genders, about six feet tall or taller, broad of shell, too. Proto-females have spikes and sharp fins on their shells, and their labor hands end in retractable claws. They are fierce creatures, my friend. Magnificent and fierce, but that is their role in our nature. They protect the females and the young from close attack. You see, females do not have a hard shell. It is soft and studded with what you might call ‘natal sacks’, sort of like the pouches of marsupial mammals.”

“That is just fascinating,” Colton said in earnest. “I bet family time is something like chaos incarnate, what with mama squid being attended by all her nanny squids, and you and the other bulls with your packs of workers, and the young ‘uns! Lord, what a mess that must be.”

George laughed. “Indeed, I suppose from your perspective it must be, but from mine, it is... normal.” George lifted a black, gun-like device up in one of his fine manipulator hands. “Now, I need to sedate you, but, first, you need to remove your eyeglasses.”

“Oh! I’d forgotten I was wearing them,” Colton admitted as he took his glasses off. Everything went blurry and fuzzy.

“You won’t need them after today,” George assured him. “However, if you’d like, I will save them for you, as a memento of your previous life?”

“Thank you, George,” Colton said as the Kraken applied the hypodermic gun to Colton’s biceps. The sedative was very fast acting. “I think you gonna make a great people doctor, George,” Colton managed to slur out. “I’ll be your first reg’lar customer...”

George reached out with his free fine manipulator hand and caressed Colton’s face. “Sleep well, my new friend.” Then, the Kraken closed the lid on the Reset Capsule and activated the device.

_________________
Ragnar Lothbrok wrote:
Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.


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Gideon Shaw
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Posts : 1041
Join date : 2009-12-30
Age : 47
Location : Magee House

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Concept: The Kicker of Asses
Race/Origin: Hybrid (Fae/Dragon)

PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Tue Aug 28, 2012 5:59 pm

WIP 005

Colton woke up in a room that reminded him of the interview room back in Denver. The room was all white, walls, floor, and ceiling, and he was seated in a chair like the exam chair, but otherwise the room was empty. He tried to sit up but found that he couldn’t. He could lift his head and look down at his body, nothing more. Colton frowned at the sight of his body. He was still fat, and somebody had dressed him in a black body stocking. Then, he realized that he didn’t have glasses on, yet he could see perfectly.

“It’s VR,” Colton said. “I’m inside some kind of virtual simulation.”

Laughter filled the room.

“I wondered how long it would take you to figure that out,” Casper said, her voice coming out of the air surrounding him.

“Why can’t I move?” Colton asked.

“We’re still connecting your neural implants. The installation will be accomplished shortly, and you’ll be able to fully interact with this virtual environment that we’ve created for you,” Casper replied.

“Okay, here’s a more important question, at least to me, why am I fat?” Colton grumbled.

“Bad diet, thyroid malfunction, but you already knew that,” Casper giggled.

“That’s my last nerve you’re standing on, Cassie,” Colton growled.

“Cassie?” the Maker repeated.

“Yeah. Short for ‘Casper’. It’s a nickname,” Colton said.

“You’ve given me a nickname? That’s very nice of you!” Casper giggled happily.

“You are a strange, strange alien person, Cassie,” Colton sighed. “Now, back to my question: why am I still fat? Especially if this is an avatar!”

“Ah, that goes to why you’re awake, in a manner of speaking, right now. One of your neural implants is a Quantum Parallel Co-Processor, a type of computer, as powerful as your organic brain, just much, much faster. Once it goes online, you will be able to ‘think’ in computational cycles as opposed to your normal, organic processing speed,” Casper explained. “Now, this QPCP implant is operated by a heuristic artificial sentience...”

“Hold on!” Colton interrupted. “You’re sticking a smart AI in my head?”

“Yes,” Casper confirmed.

“So, what? I’m gonna have an imaginary friend, now? An actual voice in my head, not an imaginary one like Erik’s. Kinda wish I’d known about this before signing onboard,” Colton growled.

“Calm down, Colton. The heuristic AS will not be a new voice in your head. It will be your voice. In fact, it will be you,” Casper said.

“Explain. Please,” Colton said.

“Gladly. While you are awake in the virtual simulation, the QPCP will be mapping your brain and recording your personality. In effect, it will clone your mind and personality. Then, you and the QPCP will form a gestalt. It will feel gradual, and it will feel natural, and you will not lose your free will,” Casper said.

“Okay, so why do I need one, then?” Colton asked.

“Simply put, your enhanced body will be able to move and act at a speed that your organic processing cannot keep up with. Part of the QPCP’s brain mapping will be ‘connecting’ your nerve cells together in what we’ve taken to calling a ‘neural nano-web’ so that your thought impulses can be transmitted that much quicker. However, that will only make you react faster, not give you the time necessary to decide how to act. Under normal, everyday activity, you’ll be moving at ‘normal’ speeds, but in a critical situation, you can ‘increase’ your ‘clock rate’ and think faster. That will be the QPCP acting with your personality, your values, your will.”

Colton groaned. “Aw, now, that just sounds cool as hell,” he sighed. “I’m with ya.”

“Good. Another interesting feature of the QPCP is that it operates normally as a part of your subconscious. You think commands at it, it acts for you, and you don’t really have to know or understand what it is doing or how, but here’s the neater function: you can hack your own mind with it. Say you have a nasty habit, one of those ‘tells’ that you look for. You can program the QPCP to halt you from doing them, but you can always consciously override your own subconscious conditioning,” Casper said.

“Again, of the nifty,” Colton chuckled. “You still haven’t explained why I’m fat.”

“Ah, yes, I was getting to that, but we keep getting sidetracked. Simply put, for the QPCP to make an accurate copy of your personality, it needs to experience you as you experience your life. So, we decided that the first phase of your training would be to attend fat camp,” Casper said.

“Fat camp? Really?” Colton snorted.

“Yes, really. Everyone is experiencing a similar simulation. Amadi and Kat are learning to walk. Ram is getting used to being sighted again, and Bev is dealing with being able to hear after a lifetime of being deaf. Val seems to be delighting in being young and able to breath normally. However, that is just an initial program. To your perspective it will last a couple of weeks, but will actually only take a few processing cycles,” Casper said. “Then, you’ll have your basic training.”

“Basic training?” Colton repeated.

“Yes, you’re in the army now, not behind a plow,” Casper chuckled.

“Better get, better get up, I’m in the army now,” Colton sang. “Let me guess: since we’ve got this virtual environment capacity, you’re gonna go ahead and use it to give us basic soldiering skills, rather than waste up to twelve weeks for basic training in real time, we’ll do it in, what, a few minutes, couple of hours?”

“Yes,” Casper agreed. “And you’ll get a special ‘advanced’ school that will familiarize you with your implants. That way, when we pop the lid on the Reset Capsule, you won’t tear it off its hinges or accidentally injure one of the attendants with a careless gesture.”

“Okay, I get it now, and I think that it’s a brilliant way to save time, but, uh, why do I look like I’m wearing a body stocking?” Colton asked.

“Oh, that’s a generic avatar, slightly tailored to you for your fat camp experience. I want you all to be genuinely surprised when you see the new you,” Casper said. “Think of it as the reward for all the hard work you’re about to experience.”

“That makes sense, too, I suppose,” Colton agreed. He sat up. “Hey! I’ve been wanting to sit up.”

“That means that the last connection has been made and the neural implants are fully integrated with your cerebral cortex,” Casper replied.

A bright spot appeared in the wall facing Colton, split into a vertical seam, and parted like an eye opening, becoming a doorway that looked out into what appeared to be a gym.

“Ready to start your first adventure, Colton?” Casper asked.

“Yes. Are you gonna be where I can talk to you, Cassie?” Colton asked.

“Yes, I am integrated into the virtual simulation control system. I am currently carrying on ten simultaneous conversations with recruits like yourself and overseeing the activities of about a hundred of you in the capsules right now,” Casper replied. “I’m smart like that.”

“Yeah, I bet you are,” Colton said as he stood up, feeling a full G of gravity under his feet.

“Oh, and Colton?”

“Yes, Cassie?”

“Welcome to Project Achilles.”

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PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:32 am

WIP 006

“Fat camp” had been designed by somebody who had watched too many episodes of the Biggest Loser. They’d even patterned the coaches after the celebrity trainers from the show. Colton had been surprised by how much had sweated during the workouts. The black body suit of his avatar actually showed stains from his sweat, and he felt every slimy second of it. He wasn’t the only fat camper going through this particular training evolution, either. Several other blank avatars like himself were in attendance. The faces of the avatars had been crafted to resemble their own, actual faces but were somewhat more artificial, like half decent CGI rendering.

To Colton’s surprise, Athena was among the other participants. Since they already knew one another, and had the same trainer, they usually worked out together. Colton joked that they were a clique of two. Over the subjective two weeks that they were under the constant tutelage and instruction of the trainers, Colton noticed that his avatar’s image shrank, as if he was actually losing weight through exercise. Athena, too, lost her original plumpness, but she was still a fairly full-figured woman.

“Are you taller?” Colton asked one day as they were doing pull-ups.

Athena frowned. “You know, I think I am, which is weird, isn’t it? Exercise won’t make you taller, will it?”

Casper’s human form image appeared in front of them. “Under normal circumstances, no, it won’t,” the Maker said. “However, your avatars are adjusting to a new paradigm, one closer to how your enhanced bodies will look and perform.”

“You mean we’re gonna be taller when this is done?” Colton asked.

“You two specifically, yes, and some of the others, too. Not everyone, though. What we’re doing is adjusting you within the parameters already established by your genetics,” Casper replied. “In a perfect world, Athena, you would have been five-eight to five-ten, like your younger sister, and you, Colton, would have topped over six feet, like your father and grandfather. The larger build will help facilitate many of the physical enhancements that are being installed.”

“We’re not your guinea pigs, Cassie,” Colton said as he let go of the pull-up bar. “No, wait, yes, we are. Will we still be recognizable as human beings when you’re done with us?”

“Oh, absolutely! I think you’ll like the new you very much,” Casper said with a big grin. “It’s time to go to basic training, now.”

“Now?” Colton asked.

He felt a spinning sensation and a slight sense of nausea. Then, he was standing on a tarmac with a duffle bag at his feet, his avatar body perfectly clean, feeling surprisingly rested. On either side of him, other avatars were populating the grid painted on the tarmac, just popping into existence the same way he had. He looked to his right and saw Athena, also with a disoriented expression on her CGI face.

“I guess now it is,” Athena said with a wan grin.

Colton nodded his agreement and looked around, taking everything in. They were no longer appearing as generic avatars with poorly generated versions of their own faces. Instead, the level of CGI had been kicked up to a level that was near-realistic, but still obviously artificial, like a high quality video game. They were no longer dressed in the one piece black body stockings. Instead, they were wearing actual clothing, a uniform of camouflaged fatigues. Colton remembered that the current popular term for it was “combat utilities” nowadays.

The utilities consisted of a blouse and trousers both done in a digital camouflage pattern that consisted of black and shades of gray, a pair of black combat boots, a dark gray undershirt, and black ball cap. The ball cap bore a patch that depicted a stylized Earth globe surmounted by a phoenix-like bird with extended flaming wings and outstretched talons. The phoenix clutched lightning bolts in one talon and what looked like a 50s-era rocket ship in the other, the rocket ship bearing a nuclear warning emblem. The blouse was buttoned, the sleeves rolled up to above his elbows, and belted about his waist with a web belt. Colton did a quick check and found the trousers were also belted. The web belt had pouches and a pistol holster already attached, but nothing was contained in any of them.

The tarmac that they were standing on was divided into a grid of five-foot squares with a pair of yellow footprints in each square. They were surrounded on four sides by buildings, three of which looked like they might be barracks. The fourth appeared to be some kind of administrative facility. At each corner of the tarmac, between the buildings, were paths that led off to different parts of the training camp. In the very center of the tarmac, one grid was set aside for a flag pole. The gray flag that flew there was a reproduction of the emblem on their hats, but with more detail on the globe, the phoenix, and the atomic rocket ship/bomb. Above the emblem was the title: “THE TERRAN LEGION,” and below it was a motto: “Pro Terra Pugnamus.”

“Hey, guys!” Erik said from where he’d just appeared on Colton’s left. “How was your individual training experience?”

“We went to fat camp,” Colton said.

“Ah,” Erik said. “I was in physical therapy and ‘occupational retraining’ while I learned about how to use my left hand again.” He wiggled the fingers of his now human-looking left hand at them.

“Atten-HUT!” boomed a very loud voice.

Colton snapped to attention, almost saluting, but thinking better of it at the last second. Athena and Erik emulated his stance. Others, however, did not, and that appeared to displease the loud man who’d called them to attention.

“When you hear the command to come to attention, you WILL stop whatever you are doing, and you WILL assume the position of attention! Do you understand me?” a big white man in utilities with a slightly different camouflage pattern than theirs screamed at the recruits closest to him.

“Yes, sir?” one tried to say, but the big, loud man was in the recruit’s face in an instant.

“The FIRST and LAST words out of your mouth when addressing a superior will be ‘SIR’! Regardless of gender or sexual indications! Do you understand me?”

“Sir, yes, sir!” Colton shouted.

“I cannot hear you!”

“SIR, YES, SIR!” echoed across the grid.

“My name is Master Sergeant Miles Monroe, and as of this moment, I own you, body and soul! My word is LAW! You will address me as ‘Master Sergeant’ or ‘Master Sergeant Monroe’ or ‘ Senior Drill Instructor’ or ‘Senior Drill Instructor Monroe’. Any other form of address will elicit my wrath. Are we clear?”

“Sir, yes, sir!”

“I am old and hard of hearing. I said, ‘Are. We. CLEAR?’”

“SIR, YES, SIR!”

“I will be assisted by my cadre of Drill Instructors. They carry the rank of ‘Sergeant’. You may address them as ‘Sergeant’ or ‘Drill Instructor’ and their name as it appears on their uniform blouse. Any other form of address will also earn you my wrath, which I have delegated unto my assistants. Are we clear?”

“SIR, YES, SIR!”

“Excellent. Now, drop and give me twenty! For you idiots who think you’re funny, that’s push-ups. Now!”

“SIR, YES, SIR!”

* * * * *

Master Sergeant Monroe’s approach to educating new recruits involved volume, mild profanity, and repetitive use of the 20-pushup evolution. For everybody. If one recruit failed to measure up to Monroe’s exacting standards, all of the recruits suffered the consequences. The other drill instructors weren’t any better. Each sergeant seemed to have a specific group of ten recruits that were his personal area of responsibility. That responsibility included belittling and demeaning commentary on the lack of suitability of the recruits under their direct supervision. However, they also gave precise, clear instructions on how to accomplish the tasks that Master Sergeant Monroe was handing out, and they were willing to continue instructing their recruits until the task was done correctly. Of course, that instruction carried more verbal abuse.

The tasks that Master Sergeant Monroe worked on involved how to stand, both at attention and at ease, how to salute properly and when and to whom, and the correct usage of terminology. The grid-marked tarmac between the barracks was “the grinder”. Their uniform was called the Terran Legion Armored Combat Utility Uniform or “ACU” or “utilities” for short. Their hats were “covers”. When they were issued body armor it would be called “lorica”. They wouldn’t be given “guns”. They would be issued “weapons” with names like Pilum, Gladius, and Pugio.

At long last the recruits were released from the grinder. Each ten-man squad was turned over to their sergeant for further indoctrination. Colton’s squad was the ten people he’d left Denver with, and their sergeant, a young man who’s name tape read “DAVID”, ordered them to grab their duffles and follow him. Sergeant David had given them all an evolution of pushups because his name was pronounced “dah-VEED”, not “DAY-vid”. He could have been Latino, but his accent was more Middle Eastern. Colton figured he was Israeli.

Sgt. David marched them into one of the barracks units. Each barracks had a central common area, a corridor down the middle of the building with sitting areas, vending machines, a reception desk-like counter and a pair of staircases leading to the second floor. To either side of the central common area was a platoon bay. The platoon bay was an open area divided into four squad areas. Each squad area consisted of five double bunk beds, five two-drawer cabinets, and a row of lockers. Half of the locker were set up back to back with half the neighboring squad’s lockers to mark the border between squad areas. At the far end of the platoon bay from the entrance was the head, which had sufficient toilet and shower facilities for about half the platoon to engage in personal hygiene at any one time.

“You are now Second Squad of First Platoon of Training Company Able,” Sgt. David informed them. “You’ll find your name already stenciled on your assigned locker. However, your one chance at freedom of choice is which bunk you claim. Personal hygiene items are kept in your drawer of the cabinet by your bunk. Your cabinet is the one numbered the same as your bunk. Beneath the bottom bunk are two slide-out foot lockers. Top bunk gets the left hand locker. Bottom the right. Your bedding materials are located in the foot lockers along with instructions on how to properly make your bed. You will inventory the contents of the foot locker. Then, you will make up your bunk.

“Once you have made your bunk, you will open your duffels, and using the instructions found in the top of the bag, you will inventory the clothing and gear included. You are already wearing part of your issue. Stow your clothing in your assigned locker as directed in the instruction manual. You have one hour to finish this evolution. At the end of that time, I will return and perform an inspection on each and every one of you. Get it right, boys and girls, because you will continue to repeat this evolution until you have it down perfectly. Clear?”

“SIR, YES, SIR!”

“Maybe we should bunk according to how we were assigned roommates,” Amadi suggested. “I mean, I’m already used to sleeping with Val farting in me face all night.”

Val muttered something in French that sounded like a curse, but he slapped Amadi on the back, and said, “Yeah, I agree with Amadi. We used to how we already arranged.”

“Does anybody else have any problems with that?” Colton asked the others.

“I’d like the bunk closest to the restrooms,” Bev said softly.

“Why, Missy Johnson, but don’t you have a lovely speaking voice!” Colton exclaimed. “And it is so good to hear you, too!”

Bev grinned and blushed. “I’m still getting used to it,” she said.

“If I’d known how ugly you people are, I’d have asked to stay blind,” the handsome Ram chuckled. “You are all a sore for sighted eyes.”

“Says the impossibly handsome blond dude,” Amadi said with a roll of his eyes.

“Okay, Bev and Nuan, you guys take the far bunk. Kat, Athena?” Colton said.

“We’re kinda used to rooming with you and Erik,” Athena said.

“My locker’s over here,” Erik pointed out.

“Okay, Erik and I’ll take the near bunk. Kat and Athena, why don’t you guys take the bunk next to ours,” Colton suggested.

“Me and Val can squat down by me cousins,” Amadi suggested.

“We’ve told you before, we’re not your cousins,” Nuan sighed.

“Too late. I’ve adopted you,” Amadi declared. He adopted a Nigerian accent. “It is an ancient African tradition!”

“You are such a dork,” Nuan laughed.

“And that’s why you love me, darling,” Amadi said.

“I guess Ram and I will be in the middle,” Fausto said. “Surrounded by crazy gringos on every side.”

“Technically, I’m Latina,” Athena pointed out.

Si, but you, too, are surrounded by the crazy gringos,” Fausto sighed. Then, he smiled brightly. “But if that is the way it is to be, better surrounded by crazy gringos who like you than otherwise.”

“Okay, gang, less talky-talky, more worky-worky,” Colton said.

He suited words to action by dropping his duffel at the foot of his bunk, and sliding out his assigned footlocker. Inside he found a laminated booklet that started with an inventory of his linens: four (4) fitted cotton sheets, white; four (4) cotton sheets, white; four (4) cotton pillow cases, white; two (2) woolen blankets, green; one (1) quilted cotton bedspread, black; one (1) memory foam pillow, white; two (2) wash cloths, white; one (1) hand towel, white; two (2) bath towels, large, white. Colton checked off each item as he removed it from the locker. On the back of the laminated card was directions on how to make the bed. He smiled because he’d been making his bed that way for decades, the way that Grandpa Sam had taught him, the Marine way.

Colton repacked the three extra sheet sets and one of the blankets in the locker, along with the towels and wash cloths. Then, he quickly made the bed, finishing in less than two minutes. He took a second to marvel at how fast he’d managed the feat. Normally, he spent five to ten minutes huffing and puffing to get his queen-size bed at home made. He spent the next few minutes helping, first, Erik, then the other members of his squad get their bunks squared away. Finally, he sat down on his bunk with his duffle, which he opened and began unloading onto the made-up bunk.

The inventory listed: one (1) pair Infantry Combat Boots, Black; one (1) pair Athletic Cross-trainers, Black; one (1) Utility Cover (Type 1: Ball Cap), Black; one (1) Utility Cover (Type 2: Beret), Black; one (1) Field Cover (Type 3: Patrol Cap), Legion Digicam; three (3) Combat Utility Blouses, Legion Digicam; three (3) pairs Combat Utility Trousers, Legion Digicam; four (4) sets of Name Tapes; one (1) Sweat Shirt, Gray; one (1) pair Sweat Pants, Gray; six (6) pairs Cushion Sole Socks; six (6) Undershirts, three (3) Gray, three (3) black; six (6) pairs Underpants (Boxer-briefs), Gray; one (1) Belt Buckle, Black; two (2) Trouser Belts, one (1) Black, one (1) Gray; one (1) Web Utility Belt with Attached Sidearm Holster, one (1), Attached Sidearm Double-Magazine Pouch, one (1), Attached Combat Knife Sheath, one (1); one (1) pair Athletic Shorts, Gray; one (1) Sweater (Type 1: Wooly Pully), Gray.

Colton whistled at the array of items spread out on the bed. The inventory sheet listed further items that he would be issued later during indoctrination. In the meantime, he had to stow his kit away. The various articles of underwear, athletic clothing and shoes, the extra belt, and the two extra sets of Combat Utilities were all neatly folded and placed in the footlocker alongside the extra bedding and linens. The now-empty duffel and the two extra covers were stored inside the tall locker that had his name stenciled on the door.

After checking the number assigned to his bunk, Colton checked the bedside cabinet drawer with the same number and found his personal hygiene kit, which was extensive. Comb and hairbrush. Toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss. Soap and shampoo/conditioner and antiperspirant/deodorant roll-on. Scissors and sewing kit. Instead of a razor and shaving cream, the hygiene kit included a depilatory cream, which the instructions guaranteed would leave him smooth faced (and/or legged) for at least a week at a time (depending on speed of hair growth). The drawer also held a basic first aid kit that contained bandages, pain killers, and topical disinfectants, but it also had anti-diarrheals, antacids, and tampons and pads. The hygiene kit was fairly universal with useful items for both male and female recruits.

“They thought of everything,” Athena said from the next bunk over.

“Yeah?” Colton asked.

“Bras, six, athletic supporter, gray. They match the boxer-briefs,” Athena snorted.

“You have those, too?” Erik exclaimed. “I’d have thought you ladies would get, you know, feminine undergarments.”

“Personally, I prefer boxers,” Kat said. “These, though, are kinda tight.”

“They’re a hybrid of boxers and briefs. Best of both, I suppose,” Colton said. “These hygiene kits all have tampons in them, too.”

“But we’re guys,” Erik said.

“Whoever packed these cabinets didn’t know if a man or woman would choose the attached bunk,” Colton pointed out. “I’d be willing to bet dollars to donuts that the actual recruit training center they built in Wyoming is an identical set up to this virtual one. They’re testing the program on us in simulation. By the time we come out of the Reset Capsules, the first class of regular Legion recruits will be bused in through the gates of the camp down on Earth.”

“Yep, and they’ll know how well their program works, too,” Val said coming over to join the conversation. “Cousin of mine was a gyrene. This here feel a lot like what he described. You grandaddy was a gyrene, oui?”

Colton nodded. “Yeah, and I agree, this feels very ‘Marine’ to me. Okay, we ready for inspection? Does anybody need some help stowing their gear or making their bunk? Let’s get our racks straightened one last time before Sgt. David shows up. If we’re good, lets see if any of the other squads need help. Like the musketeers, gang, all for one, one for all.”

“Yeah, otherwise, everybody does bloody pushups,” Amadi added.

“A good incentive,” Colton agreed.

Sgt. David showed up on the hour, along with his fellow drill instructors, Sergeants Smithers, Krupin, and Fernandez. The four sergeants each inspected his or her (in Fernandez’s case) squad first. Then, as a group, they conducted a detailed inspection of each squad bay by the numbers, First Squad through Fourth Squad. The recruits had to stand at attention in the aisle down the middle of the platoon bay. As faults were found, the offending recruit was called upon to correct it, usually with helpful, even constructive, suggestions from the drill instructors. Naturally the correction included the usual verbal abuse. In the end, though, the drill instructors praised First Platoon as a unit for their good inspection before dropping the other shoe that Inspection wasn’t over until Master Sergeant Monroe gave his stamp of approval to it. The recruits had to wait, at ease thankfully, until the Master Sergeant arrived. Then, they went to attention.

The Senior Drill Instructor’s inspection was somewhat more cursory than that of his subordinates, but he did pause at one of the bunks in Second Squad’s bay. “Who’s bunk is this?” Monroe demanded in what must have been his favorite tone of voice, loud.

Sgt. David came to attention and stepped forward. “Sir, Recruit Payne has taken possession of that bunk.”

“Recruit Payne! Front and center!” Monroe barked.

Colton winced inwardly, but turned sharply on his heel, quick stepped over to the Senior Drill Instructor, came to attention again, and saluted crisply. “Sir! Recruit Payne reporting as ordered, sir!”

Monroe nodded. “This is a damn fine bunk, Mr. Payne. Do you have prior military experience?”

“Sir, thank you for the compliment, sir, but this is this recruit’s first true military experience, sir!” Colton announced as correctly as he could. He hoped.

Monroe nodded and lowered his voice. “Don’t get too excited, but you wouldn’t happen to be related to a Samuel Payne of Tyler, Texas, would you?”

“Sir, this recruit has the honor of being Gunnery Sergeant Payne’s grandson, sir,” Colton replied in a more subdued tone of voice.

“I thought so. Ole Sam got you squared away, didn’t he?” Monroe said with a small chuckle.

“Sir, yes, sir,” Colton agreed.

“Return to formation, Recruit Payne,” Monroe ordered. Then, he stepped out into the aisle to address the platoon. “First Platoon, congratulations on a successful first inspection! Well done, ladies and gentlemen. You may stand at ease.”

Everyone shifted to the only slightly less uncomfortable stance.

“First, let me welcome you to the Terran Legion, the ‘Army’ and ‘Marine Corps’ of the Ad Astra Private Military Contractors, Incorporated. Second, let me welcome you more specifically to Project Achilles. This training camp and everything in it is a simulation, but it is a very realistic simulation. If you get injured in training, it will hurt. This is accomplished by letting up on the pain blocking currently being performed by the implants in your brain. You’ll feel the real, actual pain of the Reset and enhancement operations currently going on in real life. Trust me, boys and girls, it hurts.

“That brings me to my second point: boys and girls. This military is going to be fully integrated co-ed, even in training. That means you’ll work together, eat together, shit and shower together, and sleep together. Just. Not. In. The same beds. Sexual intercourse is strictly forbidden during training, even if it’s consensual. If you fuck around, you’re out. I understand that the Makers can just as easily remove your implants as they put them in. If you commit the offense of rape, not only will I have your implants removed, I’ll have them start with the pain blocker, and then, when you get out of the capsule, I’ll shoot you in the face. My personal promise to kill your ass dead. Are. We. CLEAR?”

“SIR! YES, SIR!”

“Third point of business: one recruit in each squad will be assigned as Senior Recruit. You don’t get paid more, but you are allowed to bully your squad mates into being better Legionnaires,” Monroe said with a chuckle. “First Squad! Recruit Ishmael Chase is your Senior Recruit. Second Squad! Recruit Colton Payne is your Senior Recruit. Third Squad! Recruit Ida Burke is your Senior Recruit, and, Fourth Squad! Your Senior Recruit is Etsuko Sato.”

Monroe turned to the sergeants. “Gentlemen and lady, take charge of your squads. First Platoon has earned their chow.”

“Hoorah, Master Sergeant!” the sergeants exclaimed in unison, coming to attention and snapping perfect salutes.

“Pro Terra, Legionnaires!” Monroe responded with the same high level of enthusiasm.

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PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Sun Sep 02, 2012 5:44 pm

WIP 007

Chow at the D-Fac was surprisingly good. The dining facility had cafeteria style serving, and their trays were piled high with food, which they were expected to eat all of it. Colton didn’t think there would be a problem with that. Between an early morning of drill and exercise and a mid-morning of squaring away their barracks, everybody had an appetite. Second Squad barely had enough time to eat, much less talk, but everyone wanted to know what Monroe had talked to Colton about.

“Seems he knew my Grandpa,” Colton replied. “Don’t know nothing more than that.”

After chow First Platoon was marched to the Admin Building, which contained classrooms, Master Sergeant Monroe’s offices and apartment, and the armory, which was in the basement of the building. A tall, lean black man was waiting for them when they arrived.

“I am Staff Sergeant Trystan Vann. I have been given the dubious honor of being First Platoon, Able Company’s platoon sergeant for the duration of your training. While your squad sergeants are more than capable of turning you into proper parade ground Legionnaires, my responsibility is to see to it that you become proper battlefield Legionnaires. To that end, I will begin your training by issuing to you your designated sidearm and primary weapon system. You will NOT receive munitions for these weapons until you have proven, to MY satisfaction, that you have achieved a proficient level of basic firearms handling knowledge and a basic level of maintenance knowledge for these specific weapons! Are we clear?”

“SIR, YES, SIR!”

“Outstanding, Recruits! Outstanding,” Staff Sgt. Vann said with a nod. “By squads, fall in!”

The recruits formed a line. At the head of the line stood Vann in front of an armored door. Behind him were a pair of avatars that looked like Mech service bots. The bots were bipedal, roughly humanoid in size and shape, designed to perform menial, manual labor tasks. They were only smart if inhabited by a Maker consciousness. Otherwise, they operated by a sophisticated, if somewhat dim, artificial intelligence. The task of these two bots was to fetch boxes as Vann gave them orders. The boxes in question were handed to each recruit in line as they reached Vann at the door to the armory. Vann had them press their thumb to a roll-up tablet before allowing the bots to hand out their boxes.

“You’ll have to do this again in real life,” Vann explained, “when your actual weapon is issued to you. Good news, though, the weapon that you get out there will be the actual version of your simulated weapon. Now, take your carrying cases, go line up in the hallway by the stairwell, and DO NOT open the cases until you are ordered to do so. Am I clear, Recruit?”

“Sir, yes, sir!” Colton replied when he accepted his two boxes.

Both boxes were molded plastic with a built-in carrying handle. One was the right size to hold a handgun. The other was significantly larger, big enough to maybe hold a submachine gun or a carbine-style rifle. First Squad was marched off as soon as their last person reached the end of the line at the door. Colton was first in line for Second Squad. Once his squad had all received their carrying cases, Sgt. David led them upstairs to one of the classrooms. First Squad was already seated at a pair of long tables facing the front of the room. Second Squad took the next two tables behind them.

First Squad’s sergeant, Smithers, was having them press their thumbs against a roll-up tablet. Sgt. David snapped open his tablet and had Second Squad do the same thing. As they did, he reached into a bag that he had been carrying slung over his shoulder and presented each of them with a small, rectangular box that was about a foot long and about an inch or so in the other dimensions.

“Alright, boys and girls, before the Staff Sergeant arrives, you may open the small box, the one I just issued you,” Sgt. David said.

Colton lifted open the lid. Nestled inside was a black combat knife with a tanto-style blade. The knife was almost a foot long, seven inches of that being the blade, which was matte black. The hilt was coated in a synthetic, rubber-like substance, and the pommel had a hole through it so that a lanyard could be secured to the hilt.

“That goes in the empty sheath on your web belt. They are sharp. So, be careful handling them. Knife fighting will be a part of your basic combat training, and you will have to care for that knife like your life depends upon it, which it may just one day,” David explained. “You’ll find the care and keeping materials in the box. I suggest you go ahead and study them while we wait for Staff Sergeant Vann.”

Underneath the molded foam that had held the tanto in place was a maintenance kit and instruction manual. Colton sheathed the tanto on his web belt, where it rested on his strong side, behind his back. While he read the instructions on the proper care and sharpening of his new knife, the other two squads in their platoon marched into the classroom. Their sergeants issued them their combat knives, with the same instructions that their sergeant had given them. Then, they’d been left to familiarize themselves with their new toy. When Colton thought about it, that had been a really clever way to distract them from their natural curiosity about what was contained in the carrying cases on the tables in front of them.

At the front of the classroom was a long counter that ended with a built-in podium stand. Behind the counter was a large video monitor flanked by dry-erase white boards, all built into the wall. The monitor was currently displaying the Terran Legion emblem with motto.

“What does it mean?” Erik mused from his seat next to Colton.

“My Latin’s kinda rusty, but I think ‘pro terra’ mean ‘For the Land’ or maybe ‘For Earth’ and I pretty sure ‘pugnamus’ is either ‘we fight’ or ‘we strike’. It the same word for fighting, striking, punching, and stabbing,” Val supplied. He paused when they stared at him. “Uh, I went to Catholic school. Kinda had to learn Latin.”

“It is ‘For Earth, We Fight’,” Fausto supplied. “I’m Catholic, too. I actually studied for the priesthood, and my Latin is less rusty.”

“My, but aren’t we a learned bunch,” Colton chuckled.

“Attention on deck!”

The recruits all jumped up from their seats and took the at attention stance. Staff Sergeant Vann walked into the room followed by the two bots that had assisted him in the armory. The first bot was carrying a sidearm box, a combat knife box, and another case, this one made of polished wood with brass fittings. The second bot carried two weapon cases the size of the rifle case. Staff Sgt. Vann was actually carrying a spear in one hand. It was over six and a half feet long, with the upper two feet being the metal shaft ending in a pyramid-shaped head at the tip.

Staff Sgt. Vann directed his bots to place their burdens on the counter at the front of the classroom while he leaned the spear against one of the white boards. Then, he ordered them to return to the armory until called for again. He lifted the lid on the wooden box and drew out a sheathed short sword and a dagger, which were placed on the counter before he closed the lid on the box and placed the box beneath the counter.

“At ease, ladies and gentlemen. You may be seated,” Staff Sgt. Vann declared. “This is classroom time. This is how we will spend our afternoons together. Either I or a specialist will conduct these classroom sessions. The essence of learning is to ask questions. However, military decorum must continue to be observed and enforced. To that end, if you have a question, raise your hand, and keep it raised until you are called upon, by name. Not before. Should your question be asked by another and answered to your satisfaction, you may lower your hand, but not because you are getting tired of holding your hand up. You’ll never get your question answered if you give up before you have it.

“When you are called upon and your question is asked and answered, the instructor will ask if you have been satisfied with his instruction. The correct response is, ‘Hoorah, Staff Sergeant’ or ‘Hoorah, Instructor’. In other words, the same form of address we’ve been pounding into your heads all morning. If you had the same question as the recruit called upon, and you agreed that the answer was satisfactory, you may give a ‘hoorah’ of your own. If not, raise your hand again and wait to be called upon. Now, you may also submit written questions at the end of classroom, and a written response will be returned to you in good time. Similarly, if it’s a really good question, the instructor may devote classroom time to answering it to the entire platoon.

“As instructors, we will not be doing our job properly if you are left with questions that have not been answered,” Vann concluded. “If that’s understood, you may reply with a ‘hoorah’.”

“Hoorah, Staff Sergeant!”

“Excellent! Moving on!” Vann said clapping his hands together. “You may have noticed that we’ve adopted an organizational motif reminiscent of the Roman Legions with shades of the United States Marine Corps thrown in for good measure. This has been done deliberately. Many of our mission profiles involve us acting as shipboard troops or as beachhead landing forces, similarly to the Marine’s primary mission profile, yet we are also an army in the traditional sense of being battlefield troops, primarily infantry. The best infantry army in the world was invented by the Romans, and every successful army in the world since then has been successful by emulating the best virtues of the Romans: discipline, teamwork, and ruthless efficiency.”

Vann picked up one of the antiquated weapons that he’d set out, a beautiful iron dagger with a leaf-shaped blade and a golden, possibly polished brass, hilt. “This, ladies and gentlemen, is a pugio. That’s Latin for ‘dagger.’ Well, it’s Latin for fist, punch, a strike, a stab, but in this context, it’s a dagger. Every Roman Legionnaire carried one of these on his left hip. It’s primary function is a fighting knife. As you can see the design lends itself well to stabbing or cutting, and it can function as a serviceable general utility and camp knife. Similarly, you are now equipped with a Cold Steel Combat Tanto, which we have designated the Legion Combat Knife Mark Zero.”

The pugio was replaced in its sheath and placed almost reverently on the counter. Staff Sgt. Vann then drew his Legion Combat Knife Mk. 0 from it’s sheath behind his back. “Now, before any hands go up, some, maybe even most, of you are wondering why everybody has been issued a knife. The simple answer is that everybody should have at least one good knife. Personally, I have three on me right now if you count the multi-tool on my web belt, and you can. Just a little aside, tomorrow I’ll be issuing the multi-tools and explaining how they work. These aren’t Leatherman multi-tools or Gerber multi-pliers.

“Now, back to the knife. The knife, ladies and gentlemen, is reliability based in simplicity of form. It can cut...” Staff Sgt. Vann picked up a piece of paper off the podium and sliced cleanly through it in one smooth motion. “It can punch holes...” Vann flipped the knife over so that the blade extended from the bottom of his fist. Then, he drove the tip through the top of the podium up to the hilt of the blade and withdrew it. “I guess if this weren’t virtual, Facilities would be chewing me out right about now,” Vann laughed. “Knives do not need batteries or bullets for them to function. When all else fails, you still have your knife, and your knife can save your life.”

The Mk. 0 was resheathed, and Vann picked up the short sword next. “Continuing with our history lesson, this lovely pig sticker is called the gladius. This brutal little killer is one of the tools that allowed those Roman Legionnaires to conquer their known world. This was their close combat weapon system of choice. Brutal. Simple. Efficient.” Vann resheathed the gladius, and retrieved his spear.

“The other weapon system that the Romans utilized to devastating effect was the pilum. I’m sure you’ve all seen the movie 300, Gerard Butler and his fellow Spartans with spear and shield holding Thermopylae Pass. Good stuff. The Greek doru and the later Macedonian sarissa were thrusting spears, generally used at close range to ‘stick it’ to the enemy. They even had a butt cap on the other end of the spear, a sauroter or ‘lizard killer’, that acted as a secondary thrusting point. They would stab down with the butt as they walked over the bodies of their fallen foes, putting the poor bastards out of their misery.

“That is how a spear is properly used. Unless, that is, you’re a Roman Legionnaire armed with pilum and verutum. Both are javelins, throwing spears. The verutum is a classic, lightweight, throwing spear. The pilum here, however, is a heavy javelin. See this long head here? The Romans would throw these at their foes as they approached. The long head is designed to pierce heavy wooden shields, and because the iron is soft, the shaft bends, and the enemy soldier can’t get it out. His shield is heavy, he can’t hold it up. So, when the Legion closes to close combat range with their short little gladius stabbers, the foes can’t raise their shields to protect themselves, and they’re meat for the grinder.”

Vann paused for a moment, seeming to savor the mental image. Then, he smiled. “Now, boys and girls, you’re wondering why your new favorite Staff Sergeant is waxing poetic about weapons that have not been used in two thousand years? In short, we’ve resurrected these weapons, in modern forms, as the weapons of the Terran Legion. We will begin with the Terran Legion standard issue sidearm, code named Pugio.”

Vann opened the first box, the small one sized to fit a handgun. From the carrying case he withdrew a semiautomatic pistol. The receiver and frame were both matte black. Atop the receiver, just forward of the rear sights was a simple-looking ghost-ring style sight. Below the barrel, mounted to the frame in front of the trigger guard was a box that looked like a tactical flashlight/laser sight combo. The barrel extended from the slide a short distance and was threaded to accept barrel accessories.

“The Pugio began life as an FN-Herstal USA FNX-45 Tactical pistol. We have modified the design utilizing alien-provided materials and components. At it’s heart, this weapon is just a further evolution of the Hi-Power and 1911 designs created by John Moses Browning. The weapon is chambered for an 11.7mm pistol round. That’s a .45 ACP in American. It accepts, as standard, a fifteen-round box magazine, which is inserted into the butt. It has manual, ambidextrous safety, decocker, and magazine release. This, my pupils, is a big gun with a lot of big bullets.”

Vann indicated the unit mounted beneath the barrel. “This tiny little marvel is a wonder of Maker tech and engineering. At the center of the aperture is a pinhole camera, not unlike the one on your telephones these days, and like the camera on your smart phones, this one can take single shot digital captures or even shoot a little movie. Surrounding the pinhole camera are three ‘light emitting diodes’. Only, they aren’t what we would expect LEDs to be. Their default function is to emit bright white light in our visual spectrum. However, they can be adjusted up and down the spectrum to also emit infrared and ultraviolet light as well.

“Intermixed with the LEDs are three laser emitters. Typically, one is set to emit a visible green light, one to emit infrared, and one to emit ultraviolet, but like the LEDs, all three can be tuned to the same ‘frequency’. Make someone think you’re aiming a Predator plasma cannon at them!” Van laughed. “And last, but by no means least, below the cluster of camera and light emitters is a tiny little aperture for a device the Makers tell us is called a ‘Quantum Resonance Imager’. QRI is analogous to MRI, but it works in an entirely different manner, which sounds like a mixture of radar and sonar, which is why us instructor types have taken to calling it ‘Q-dar’.

“Now, this whole package is referred to as a ‘multi-sensor unit’. The lasers are tied together as a lidar detector for the purpose of range finding, and the Q-dar is intended to be used for target acquisition and identification. In other words it serves the added function of telling sheep from goats and friends from foes. All this information is fed to you via a transmitter. You will have implants that can utilize that information, but the average Legionnaire will not.

“Instead, your average peers will make use of the multi-function HUD scope mounted up top here or to the HUD shooting glasses, which will be a standard feature of your armor issue. That is for later, however. The HUD scope has an easy to use red or green dot targeting sight with IR and UV filters. It can even project a free-floating hologram in the air in front of you. The projector has a narrow enough focus that only you will see it when you’re looking straight down the barrel.

“Questions?”

Two hands snapped up, one belonging to a recruit in Fourth Squad, the other belonging to Amadi.

“Ms. White,” Vann said to the Fourth Squad recruit.

“Sir, this recruit has a two part question, sir. First, why are we being issued handguns, and, second, why that particular model and/or caliber, sir?” the petite young woman said. She spoke loudly and clearly for everyone to hear. Colton wondered if she’d been coached.

“An excellent question,” Vann declared. “For the first part, experience in modern warfare has taught us that there is no such thing as a front line anymore. If you are serving aboard a warship, that warship could be boarded, from any number of vectors, and you, acting in the Legion’s capacity as a Marine shipboard security force, may be all that stands between your crew and impending death, which leads me to this model and caliber. Frankly put, the .45 ACP is a one-shot stopper, but so is a .22 when placed in a vital spot. A .45, on the other hand, can ruin someone’s day even if you don’t hit them directly in a vulnerable spot, and those vulnerable spots are much bigger targets to a bullet this size.

“The Government Model 1911A1 that I was issued in Uncle Sam’s Army only carried seven rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. The Pugio, with one in the chamber, has twice as many rounds. More bullets, more shots before you have to reload. The original FNX used the latest in Human materials technology. The Pugio was constructed using materials technology provided to FN-Herstal by the Makers and the Kraken. This gun will fire in a hard vacuum, reliably, in both extreme cold and extreme heat. Have I answered your question to your satisfaction, Ms. White?”

“Hoorah, Staff Sergeant!”

“Mr. Johnson-Chibueze, do you have a different question?”

“Sir, yes, sir! This recruit is left wondering, if we have access to advanced alien technologies, why are we not being issued a phaser pistol, sir?”

Colton almost laughed. Nobody could have prompted Amadi to ask that question.

“Ah, our aspiring game designer wants to know why there isn’t a Spartan Laser or Plasma Rifles in our line-up!” Vann laughed. “To be honest, Mr. Johnson-Chibueze, I asked much the same question myself. I’ll break it down for you the way that it was broken down for me.

“First, the Makers, who are the most highly advanced of our alien allies come employers, won’t, that is WILL NOT, make weapons. Goes against their self-imposed Prime Directive to revere all life. The closest we can get them to come is to build components that we or our other allies can assemble later into weapons systems. The next closest is yourselves. The Achilles troops are as close to a weapon system as the Makers will build, but even then your enhancements are considered ‘defensive’ as opposed to ‘offensive’ in their minds. I would encourage you, during your Advanced Training phase, to experiment with your implanted systems to see if there’s some way that your shield can be used as a sword, but that’s just one old war dog’s philosophy, not an official order.

“Second, the Kraken are a couple of centuries ahead of us, and they have developed what one might think of as ‘phaser-like’ weapons: masers, particle beam weapons, grasers, but the smallest of those are crew-served weapons. For their infantry, they use projectile weapons, mainly electromagnetic slug throwers like coil and rail guns. Now, I’m sure all of you have seen a Kraken by now. They’re squids. They don’t shoulder a weapon the way that we do. So, ergonomically speaking, we really can’t use Kraken weapons. They weren’t built for our hands and arms.

“Third, let’s talk about the Ergrahthah. Ergonomically speaking, they’re built like us. Technologically speaking, they are not any more or less advanced than we are. They’ve been space travelers for longer than we have, but their current crop of ships are ones that they inherited from the Kraken, patched up and refitted by the Makers for them. They use chemical-based firearms same as us. However, their technology in that department is actually behind us, about the equivalent of World War 2-era tech. In other words, they’re still carrying Thompsons and M1 Garands. They want to buy guns from us.

“Fourth, and this is the really important one, aside from the Makers, the Kraken and the Ergrahthah have little if any industrial capacity. They don’t have the ability to mass produce advanced weapons for us to use. They’re lucky to have enough capacity to repair what they’ve already got in stock. For the foreseeable future, the Kraken and the Ergrahthah will be reliant on Human manufacturers to meet their logistical needs, and the poor Cats have really had to focus their limited industrial infrastructure on food production because everything we hate to eat because it’s nutritious is practically poisonous to them. So far, tea, chocolate, and sugar cane are the only things that we grow that won’t kill them, and none of those things hold any real nutritional value for them.

“In summary, then, we don’t have phasers because our allies don’t have phasers or the ability to build phasers. At least, not yet. In the future, the Legion hopes to be able to outfit our troops with coil guns and some kind of directed energy weapon, but for now we’ll make do with the mechanical reliability of a good ole chemical-based slug thrower. That satisfy you, Mr. Johnson-Chibueze?”

“Hoorah, Staff Sergeant!”

“Then, we’ll move on. You were all issued a big case like this one,” Vann said, laying his hand on one of the cases on the counter. He flipped it open and produced a weapon that looked like it had come right out of a science fiction movie. “We call this the Pilum Modular Assault Weapon System Mark One. The starting point for this weapon also comes from our Belgian friends at FN-Herstal, specifically the FN-2000 assault rifle. You’ve seen this one in the movies, especially when they need a gun that looks like Scotty beamed it down from the Enterprise, and several NATO countries field the FN-2000 as their primary assault rifle.

“However, the Pilum is not an FN-2000. The FN-2000 is chambered for the five-fifty-six by forty-five millimeter NATO round, also known as the .223 Remington. The Pilum is chambered for a six-point-five by thirty-nine millimeter round called the Grendel. The Grendel was chosen because it has better terminal ballistics characteristics at greater ranges from shorter barrels than the 5.56. We also have a small munitions firm that using Kraken technology is producing a very special round just for the Legion. This round is a four millimeter discarding sabot flechette, which has much greater range and penetration capabilities than regular ball ammunition. As part of your standard load outs you’ll get both regular and needle rounds.”

Vann ejected the clip from its well behind the rifle’s pistol grip. “Standard magazine is a thirty-round clip. Bit longer than the STANAG 5.56 magazine, but we’ll also have available a twenty-round clip that’s closer in size to the STANAG mag, which helps keep the Pilum a bit handier to use in close quarters.” He reached over to the other big case, which turned out to be shaped like a hard-shell backpack. Van detached a flexible, belt-like hose from the pack. The end of the hose looked like a clip for the Pilum, and suiting form to function, Vann inserted the magazine end of the hose into the well of the Pilum.

“This ammo pack can hold a thousand rounds. The Pilum’s standard barrel can be replaced with a slightly heavier, ceramic coated one that sheds waste heat like nobody’s business. Together, your assault rifle will now function as a light machine gun. The Pilum has a short barrel that will let you turn it into a carbine, and a long barrel that will allow it to effectively function as a light sniper rifle, especially with needle rounds.”

Vann then pointed to the device mounted under the main barrel, which looked like a skinny grenade launcher. “This is a Metal Storm Multi-shot Under-barrel Launcher or MAUL. It’s a five-shot 12-gauge shotgun.” Van held up a long tube. “This is five 12-gauge shells, stacked together.” He inserted the tube into the mouth of the MAUL. “The MAUL is now loaded with five shells. It will now fire them as fast as I can squeeze its trigger. The technology developed by Metal Storm, a Human company out of Australia, can electrically ignite sequential rounds in the stack. The casing is self consuming, and what bits aren’t are ejected with the payload when it’s launched.” Vann hit another control on the MAUL, and the tube ejected. “You can also safely unload any unused rounds from a stack or top off fresh rounds individually.

“The reason we have a shotgun mounted under the assault rifle is to give you flexibility. They are doing amazing things with shotgun shells these days. You’ve got your traditional shot and slug options. You’ve also got some less than lethal choices, too, like rubber rounds, bean bags, and taser darts. Then, you’ve got some exotic local choices like beehive flechette rounds or the Frag-12 grenade round, and we in the Legion will have access to something even more exotic: seeker drones. They can be used for something as simple as surveillance, or you can designate a target with your Q-dar, fire the drone, and it will track the target for a predetermined time period, at the end of which it will detonate its payload, taking the target out. You can even preprogram all the drones in a stack with a set of targets, fire them all off, load a second stack, and repeat the process. Theoretically, you could take out an entire enemy unit simultaneously doing that.”

Vann patted the scope on the top of the weapon. “This is what makes that possible. This is a combination of the HUD scope and the multi-sensor unit with the additional function of acting as a 4x to 200x magnification telescope. This scope can make any one of you into the ultimate one-man sniper team. If this scope were a woman, I’d marry her and have good looking babies with her.”

The staff sergeant laughed at his own joke. “Okay, moving on, the Pilum is ‘modular’ because you can swap out the MAUL for it’s bigger brother, the 40mm 3GL grenade launcher. It operates in the same way as the MAUL, but it only packs three rounds. Of course, those are three 40mm grenades in a package the size of a single-shot 40mm launcher. Once again, we have access to frag, high explosive, smoke, all the usual things, but we also get fancy alien tech like bigger versions of the drones, and... just to make Mr. Johnson-Chibueze’s day... plasma grenades.

“Hoorah, Staff Sergeant!” Amadi exclaimed.

“Yes, my sentiments, too, and no punishment for speaking out of turn. Next time, though, and it’ll be drop-and-recover time,” Vann said.

Amadi had the good grace and foresight to look embarrassed and not say anything.

“In the future, the Legion has plans for other devices that you can mount under the barrel, coil guns, directed energy weapons like lasers, masers, and grasers, maybe even hypervelocity kinetic kill missiles. Who know? We Humans are an imaginative, creative bunch, especially when it comes to killing,” Vann said. “Now, let’s everyone open your Pugio carrying case. We will begin with familiarizing ourselves with the various bits and pieces. Then, we’re gonna disassemble them and clean them. After that, we do the same thing with the Pilum.”

_________________
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Gideon Shaw
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Concept: The Kicker of Asses
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PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:22 am

WIP 008

Classroom lasted until about 1730 when the recruits were dismissed to return to their barracks and stow their newly issued weapons. The Pilum, in its carrying case, was stored in the locker. The Pugio, when not in its holster on the recruit’s web belt, would be stored in its carrying case, also in the recruit’s locker. At 1800, the recruits were called to evening chow. Chow officially ended at 1900, but recruits were allowed to return to their barracks as soon as they finished eating. However, they had to be in their platoon bays by 1900 for Squaring Away. During the Squaring Away hour, recruits were expected to conduct personal hygiene, clean their personal areas, and prepare themselves for the following day’s training. After 2000 hours they were allowed a small window of personal time, about half an hour. At 2030 hours Sergeant David checked in on Second Squad. His counterparts were doing the same with the other squads. He updated them on their schedule for the following day, the type of cover they were expected to wear, the uniform of the day, and so forth. He answered questions as best he could. Then, at 2100 hours lights out was called, and everyone was expected to be in their bunks. The only recruits left awake were those scheduled for “fire watch,” two from each squad for a two hour shift. The duty rotated between squad members every night, according to Sgt. David.

At 2300 hours Ishmael Chase woke Colton and Erik for their turn at fire watch. Colton thanked the other Senior Recruit and accepted a flashlight from him, the only sign of fire watch’s authority. Then, to keep awake, Colton and Erik quietly cleaned the platoon bay, which had already been cleaned once by Chase and his fire watch partner. At 0100 hours, Colton sent Erik back to bed and went to wake Third Squad’s Senior Recruit, Ida Burke. The woman looked so peaceful that Colton hated waking her, but he hated not sleeping more so he gently shook her until she came around.

“Time for your watch, Senior Recruit Burke,” Colton said softly, so as not to wake any of the other recruits in Third Squad.

Burke nodded, rubbing sleep from her eyes. Colton marveled at the details that this simulation achieved to make it seem more real than reality.

“Chase and I both cleaned this place up pretty good during our shifts. If you can find something to clean that we missed, good on ya,” Colton chuckled.

“Did you clean the head?” Burke asked.

“No, ma’am,” Colton said.

“Men,” Burke sighed. “It’ll be something to do, at least. Thank you, Senior Recruit Payne. I relieve you, sir.”

“Yes, sir, Senior Recruit Burke. I stand relieved,” Colton responded as they’d been taught.

Then, he went back to his bunk.

* * * * *

The next morning, basic training went into its regular schedule with a vengeance. At 0430, the sergeants arrived in the platoon bay to wake their squads, and they weren’t gentle about it. The recruits had thirty minutes to dress for morning Physical Training and to make their bunks. Then, at 0500, everyone was on the grinder, where the staff sergeants and Master Sergeant Monroe led the recruits through a rigorous routine of calisthenics that lasted for thirty minutes. Then, the staff sergeants took each of their platoons on a thirty minute run. The run ended at 0600 outside the D-Fac, where breakfast was served for thirty short minutes.

At 0630 the recruits were expected to hit their platoon bays for “shit-shower-shave” and to change into the day’s utilities for morning training. By 0700 the recruits had to be back on the grinder, at attention, waiting for their first training session. They were turned over to their staff sergeants who assigned training tasks, usually by squad. For the first week, everybody studied close order drill together for morning training, with their Pilums in hand. The hour between 1200 and 1300 was for midday chow and preparation for afternoon training, which was classroom for the first week. Evening chow marked the end of classroom. After evening chow was Squaring Away and Sergeant Time and lights out. Then, the whole thing would start all over again.

The only day that was different was Sunday. Sunday was Squared Away Day. The recruits were allowed to attend worship services of their choice in the morning, but otherwise they were expected to do laundry, clean their weapons, clean their barracks, and rest up from the previous week. Some Sunday afternoons, the staff sergeant would take the platoon on a long run, but otherwise no training was done on Sunday.

After the first week of close order drill, the platoons began separating for different evolutions during morning training. The platoons would rotate evolutions each day. One day they would run the obstacle course. The next they would study the Legion’s version of combatives, military martial arts. Pugil sticks and knife fighting techniques were taught on other days. Eventually combatives, stick, and knife techniques were all combined into one fairly comprehensive fighting system.

Classroom progressed to actual time spent firing their weapons. They weren’t issued ammo until they were on the range, and then they weren’t allowed to load until ordered to by the range masters. At the end of the second week, after the staff sergeant and the firing range masters concurred that the recruits were ready, ammunition was issued to each recruit to keep with his or her weapons. From then on, they were expected to carry their Pugios loaded with two extra magazines in the pouches on their web belts. The Pilums were only to be loaded when going to the firing range, but if needed, they could load their main weapons with real bullets and buckshot.

Colton had decided that he loved his Pugio. He really like the Pilum, too, but he was a pistol shooter, and the Pugio made him very happy. Kat, also a pistol shooter, heartily agreed, but firing the Pilum had been like a revelation to the former-paraplegic. She’d taken to the “sniper” mode like a duck to water. The others on the squad had varying degrees of affection for their assigned weapons. Bev was an enthusiastic shooter, but a barely proficient marksman. Much of her accuracy was owed to the multi-sensor and HUD scope. Without such aids, she generally hit what she aimed at. Fausto and Amadi were in much the same category. Everyone agreed that Colton and Kat were their best shooters, and the rest of the squad fell into a spectrum between them and Bev.

On the other hand, Athena, Bev, and Nuan excelled at martial arts training. Athena had a strong background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and Nuan, much to her embarrassment, admitted that she had learned wu shu from her parents and grandparents. Bev just enjoyed brawling. Only Colton and Ram, because they were the biggest, strongest men on the squad, could go toe-to-toe with her at the pugil sticks. Bev won more than she lost in those bouts, though.

Eventually, classroom began to be like a real class. They studied military history, tactics and strategy, and the ethics of being professional soldiers. The instructors pushed ethics and honor... hard. Military law came into play. The recruits were given a fairly in-depth summary of the Universal Code of Military Justice. The were expected to adhere to the UCMJ, especially when dealing with allied military organizations. The Terran Legion was, legally and technically speaking, a mercenary organization, but they didn’t have to act like it.

“Just because you’re getting paid to fight, and paid well, doesn’t mean you can’t also be men and women of honor, too,” Master Sergeant Monroe lectured one afternoon during a classroom assembly that took place outside on the grinder.

Satisfied that the recruits could walk like soldiers, talk like soldiers, dress like soldiers, and fight like soldiers, the recruits began to get field exercises that disrupted the routine. They learned how to survive in the wilderness, to make fires without matches, to build shelter from the local flora, and how to move without being seen or heard. The handy thing about being in a simulated environment was that it could be tailored to the needs of training. Rain, snow, hail, and sleet all fell on the recruits. The sun burned, and the wind froze. One day they were in a desert, the next a jungle. The regular recruits would have to travel to those environments as part of their training.

A subjective month had passed for the Legion recruits. Second Platoon was once again lined up in the hall outside the armory. This time they received a carry case slightly smaller than the Pilum’s carrying case and a big duffle that had their name stenciled on it already. They carried their newest equipment up to their usual classroom where Staff Sergeant Vann was waiting for them.

“Good afternoon, pupils!” Vann said with his usual cheerful demeanor. He was always cheerful in classroom. On the grinder or in the field he was actually louder and more profane than Master Sergeant Monroe, and everyone knew it wasn’t an act, but Colton had the distinct impression “Instructor” Vann was closer to the Staff Sergeant’s true personality.

“Hoorah, Staff Sergeant!”

“Well, kids, how are we feeling about field ops? Comfortable with being uncomfortable?” Vann asked.

“Hoorah, Staff Sergeant!”

Vann chuckled. “Yeah, wait until we throw you out there on your own with a knife and the clothes on your back. Then, you can come back and tell me how much you liked it. Okay, starting today, we’ll begin studying urban warfare and shipboard tactics, which are gonna be very similar.”

Vann picked up his gladius. “Remember this little beauty? The Roman Legionnaires’ close combat best friend? Today, my apprentices, you get to familiarize yourself with the Terran Legion’s version, the Gladius Personal Defense Weapon, or as I like to call it: the submachine gun that I’d marry if it was a woman.”

From a carry case on the counter, like the ones the students had on their tables before them, Vann produced a weapon that looked surprisingly like the phaser rifle that Amadi had wanted. “Some of you, the ones who were stupid enough to go see it in the theaters because you hoped for better or because you had crush on Colin Farrell, that Irish prick, may recognize this weapon from the remake of Total Recall. It started life as a Kriss Vector submachine gun, but like all things Legion, we’ve modified it for our purposes and renamed it the Gladius.

“Like your Pugio, the Gladius is a .45 ACP firearm. Having your sidearms and your PDWs in the same caliber makes buying ammunition for them easier, and your handgun can use your submachine gun or carbine’s ammo and vice versa. The original Vector utilized the magazine of the Glock G21 .45 caliber handgun. So, it only held ten or thirteen rounds, but there was a 33-round mag that Glock produced that the folks at Kriss would resell to qualified buyers. Well, one of the modifications we got Kriss to make when they were retooling the Vector into the Gladius was to get it to accept the same pistol magazine as the Pugio. Mr. Payne! What does that mean?”

Colton stood to attention. “Staff Sergeant, that means that not only does the Gladius and the Pugio share ammo, they share magazines and we can swap ammo between those weapons more quickly and more easily, sir!”

“That is correct, Mr. Payne!” Vann said with a hearty clap. “Sit. Now, we also liked the idea of that 33-round clip, so we had our ammo supplier produce one to fit the Gladius, and if the 33-round clips fits the Gladius, what else do you think it fits, Miss Martinez!”

Athena stood to attention. “Staff Sergeant, the extended clip will also fit the Pugio, allowing further sharing of ammunition in the other direction, thereby increasing the flexibility of the Pugio platform as well, sir!”

“Hoorah, Miss Martinez! Sit.” He held up the Gladius in his hand. “This is the Mk. 1 version. Note: the folding stock. Note: the threaded barrel. Note: the way in which the grip is positioned in relation to the barrel and the stock. Mr. Chase, does this configuration remind you of anything?”

“Staff Sergeant, this recruit can only think of the Bajoran phaser rifle from Deep Space 9, sir!” Chase responded.

“Not what I was going for, Mr. Chase, but as a fellow Trek nerd, I feel where you’re coming from, and I expect you to sign my petition that when we finally do produce our own phaser weapons, this is what they’ll look like. Sit. Who knows my mind? Who wants to guess?”

Kat’s hand shot up.

“Miss Green, you may attempt to know my mind,” Vann said.

“Staff Sergeant, the shape of the weapon reminds this recruit of the first target pistol she learned to shoot on. Felt recoil is much reduced by the position of the barrel in line with the shooter’s wrist, sir!”

“You know my mind, Miss Green. Sit. She is correct. With or without the stock in play, recoil for a weapon of the caliber is practically negligible, even on full auto, which has a rocking cyclic rate of one thousand rounds per minute! Can I get a ‘hoorah’?”

“Hoorah, Staff Sergeant!”

“The fire selector gives you the option of semi-automatic operation, two-round operation, and full automatic fire. I expect you to exercise fire control when using this weapon, though, my children, because you can burn through a stick of ammo in a single trigger pull in less time than it took you to load the weapon! A sound suppressor can be screwed onto the barrel, which is good because a .45 on full auto is a loud beast. You can see that the Gladius has Picatinny rails top and bottom. We’ve already mounted a HUD scope topside, and in the space above the barrel is your ever faithful friend, the multi-sensor, but the lower Picatinny is left up for your own personalization. Kriss offers a forward handgrip that has a built-in bipod, which I’m personally fond of,” Vann chuckled.

He laid the Gladius on the counter. “Now, the Mk. 1 is for... the rabble. Your unwashed yet still noble brethren. We of the Achilles Project get the Mk. 2 Special Operations model!” Vann reached under the counter and produced a second Gladius, this one shiny black and obviously more heavily modified. “Let’s start at the front, shall we?” Vann pointed at the barrel, which was a thick cylinder. “Integral sound suppression. The Mk. 1 uses a six and a half inch barrel. The Mk. 2 barrel is closer to eighteen, which increases accuracy, and the suppressor reduces the sound signature to just a few decibels. You can shoot this gun inside, without hearing protection. All you hear is a pop, like somebody busting bubble wrap. Miss Sato, what is this unit mounted under the suppressed barrel?”

“Staff Sergeant, that appears to be a MAUL shotgun, sir!”

“Correct! Sit. The .45 ACP is a subsonic round, which lends itself well to sound suppression. However, sometimes you need to bring the noise! Or just a breeching round. Or something big enough to take down a target that a .45 can’t. Simple as that. Another small modification is on the fire selector. Note: semi-auto, three-round burst, full auto, and shotgun! Yes, kids, we’ve got the MAUL using the same trigger as the submachine gun! Let’s face it, using the trigger on the MAUL would be kinda awkward with the shape of this weapon. Now, you will note something interesting about the stock: it has a spare magazine carrier clip. You can load it with a couple of Pugio clips or even with the 33-round extended clip, which is standard for the Gladius. Makes the weapon a little heavier, but it also makes reloads faster in those critical times.”

Vann put the Mk. 2 Gladius back under the counter. Then, he placed the Mk. 1 back in its case and swept it off the counter and into the storage space beneath. When he came back up, he was holding a duffel like the one they’d received from the armory. Vann just left the bag on the counter and moved over into the corner where an object sat covered by a draped tarp. The staff sergeant dragged the item up next to the podium where he whipped the tarp off. Underneath was a mannequin dressed in the arms and armor of a Roman Legionnaire.

“So far we’ve talked about weapons, the arms, but we haven’t talked about the armor. You’ve actually been wearing armor the whole time you’ve been here. Well, simulated armor in a virtual reality, but it’s an accurate reflection of the real thing,” Vann said. “ACUs: Armored Combat Utilities.” Vann plucked at the fabric of his blouse collar. “This stuff is a miracle cloth produced by the Makers. Like I said, they won’t make us weapons, but they’ll armor us up real good. Your daily utility uniform actually leaves you better armored than a United States Marine or Army trooper in full battle kit. This fabric will keep anything short of a .308 NATO round from puncturing your body. And here you were all thinking that it was just stylish!”

Vann turned to the Roman Legionnaire mannequin. He slapped a hand on the armored shoulder of the ancient soldier. “This guy understood the beauty of good body armor. His armor, and the armor of his team, let him stand there hurling his javelins at the enemy. Then, it let him march, under fire, to get close to the enemy, where he got out his brutal little sword, and carved them into dog meat. The armor gave him an advantage, along with his choice of weapons, that allowed these little bastards to conquer the known world and enforce the peace.”

The staff sergeant tapped the Legionnaire’s helmet. “Galea.” He tapped the shield. “Scutum.” He next kicked the mannequin in the shin. “Ocrea.” He tapped the armor on the Legionnaire’s arm. “Manica.” He laid his hand on the shoulder armor one more time. “And finally, the lorica. This chap wears the lorica segmentata, but there was also hamata, aka chain mail, and squamata, aka scale mail. Personally, I’m a fan of the segmentata myself. This is heavy armor, full plate, but it’s designed to be flexible and collapsible for ease of storage and carry.

“Underneath all this body armor, the Roman soldier wore a simple tunic, a neckerchief or scarf to protect his neck from armor chafing, a cloak to keep warm. He would have given his left nut for a set of utilities like yours,” Vann declared as he stepped over to the duffel bag and unzipped it. He began unpacking pieces of equipment from the bag, laying the items out one by one on the counter.

“Helmet, glasses, greaves, forearm shields, gloves, cup, and tactical load-bearing vest. The Legion calls this the Lorica Armor System. The Lorica fits over your ACUs, and leaves you well protected, practically invulnerable, over most of your body. The vest and the helmet will actually stop light cannon fire. You won’t feel like fighting after getting hit, but you’ll live to tell the tale, my pupils, but, uh, don’t go trying to catch missiles or plasma weapons. That stuff will kill you dead.

“Now, I know you’re all eager to play with your new Gladius, but we’re gonna learn how to don the Lorica first. We’ll start with the greaves and the forearm shields because once you get the vest on, bending won’t be nearly as much fun...”

_________________
Ragnar Lothbrok wrote:
Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.


Character Sheet


Last edited by Gideon Shaw on Sat Sep 08, 2012 11:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Concept: The Kicker of Asses
Race/Origin: Hybrid (Fae/Dragon)

PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Fri Sep 07, 2012 7:06 pm

WIP 009

“I love my Gladius,” Athena declared as she and Colton cleared the shoot house.

Colton had to agree that the PDW was an outstanding weapon, and Athena had clicked with the Gladius more so than she had with the Pugio or the Pilum. Not that she was exactly bad with either the sidearm or the rifle. She’d improved significantly during training. Everybody had, really, but Colton had to admit, secretly to himself, that he was most proud of the former teacher.

“And it loves you,” he agreed as he adjusted the neck of his Lorica vest.

The recruits had been required to wear their Lorica Armor System on all training evolutions. They’d even been strapping the armor on for morning PT, and wearing it during classroom time. Except for when the vest rode up, they’d stopped noticing the Lorica. Colton rolled his neck and exhaled. He was tired. This was the fifth time today they’d run through the shoot house. Over the past week the exercise had evolved from shooting vaguely humanoid IPSC targets to targets that were pictures of people, some bad guys, some bystanders, to mannequins, and finally to simulated moving and shooting bad guys.

Colton had been “killed” twice already this week. He’d actually felt the impact of the bullet when it hit him in the throat, right above his Lorica vest’s neckline. The second time he’d been blown up by an RPG. He’d stayed “dead” until the exercise was concluded, unable to move, unable to see anything wasn’t in his direct field of view, which had been the ceiling the first time and the floor the second time. Poor little Fausto had been a bullet magnet. He hadn’t “died”, but he’d been shot and hit every single time they’d gone through the shoot house. Colton had to admit that the little guy certainly was fearless when it came to kicking in doors and entering the room where the bad guy was likely waiting in ambush.

“Fausto! You alive?” Colton called out.

Si!

“You get shot?”

“What do you think?”

“You gonna live?”

Si!

“Hoorah, Fausto! Hoorah!”

“I got shot in me bum. Again,” Amadi whined.

“Sorry,” Erik sighed.

“You’d better be kidding, mate,” Amadi growled.

“Of course, I’m kidding. The FOF activates the safety as soon as my barrel passes close to your ass,” Erik snorted. “I actually couldn’t shoot you if I wanted to.”

“Quit your bitching,” Colton ordered. “Val and Ram are about to take the rest of the squad through the shoot house.”

The squads had been broken into five-man fire teams for this exercise. They were to “stack up” at the door to the structure, one behind the other in a line. Practice grenades had been added to this evolution. They’d received basic instruction that morning, which amounted to: “pull the pin, throw away from you, duck.” Val slammed a foot into the door, and Ram tossed in the sim grenade. Then, Val stormed through the door, Bev, Nuan, and Kat on his heels. Ram brought up the rear. Each recruit had a designated vector (no pun intended) that was theirs to cover. Any “bad guy” in that vector got a bullet someplace vital. The bad guys were shooting back, too, and since this was virtual reality, they weren’t using paint balls.

Kat caught a stray round in the hip where her vest rode up. The ACUs underneath kept the shot from being terminal, but it did dislocate the hip. She went down with a scream of primal frustration, the wound being too much of a reminder of her former disability. Kat continued firing. Ram reached down, grabbed the carry handle on the back of her vest, and dragged his teammate behind him, letting her watch their rear.

“Oh, Kat’s pissed,” Amadi sighed.

“Like you wouldn’t be if you suddenly couldn’t walk again,” Colton pointed out.

“Hey, mate, that’s fair, but let’s face it: I don’t have Kat’s general anger issues,” Amadi replied.

“True,” Colton chuckled.

“But she’s still fighting,” Athena pointed out.

“Ram’s a beast, carrying her and still shooting,” Erik said.

“You’d never guess that he used to write code for NASA, would you?” Colton pointed out.

“Beautiful code, too,” Amadi said.

“Ram, he don’t speak of it often, but he wanted to be a pilot like his father,” Fausto said in his soft, gentle voice. “It is sad what happened.”

“What?” Athena prompted when Fausto fell silent.

“They were in the Pentagon on 9/11,” Fausto said. “Ram’s mother had brought him to visit his father as a special treat. Both of his parents died, and Ram was blinded.”

“Yikes. That is bad,” Athena sighed.

“Yes, but the Lord worked it all out for him. For each of us, too,” Fausto declared. “This that we do? This is God’s work. We are God’s soldiers, and this is our holy crusade.”

“Amen, little buddy,” Colton said.

“So, is that an Old Testament God or what, Mr. Machado?”

“Attention!” Colton snapped immediately when he saw that the speaker was Staff Sergeant Vann. His arm automatically came up to salute position. The others followed suit very quickly.

“At ease,” Vann chuckled. “So, Mr. Machado?”

“Staff Sergeant, God is God, Old and New Testament. Same God, sir,” Fausto replied.

Vann nodded. “Good enough, Mr. Machado.” The staff sergeant turned to watch the conclusion of the exercise.

Val had successfully led his fire team through the shoot house, taking out all opposition forces, and only one casualty in the form of one very angry, limping Kat. They joined the rest of their squad, presenting the staff sergeant with a salute, which was returned.

“Good work, people. Good work. How’s the, uh, leg, Miss Green?” Vann asked.

“Sir, it hurts. Sir,” Kat replied.

“Well, now that the simulation is over, you should reset to normal parameters any second now,” Vann said.

Kat’s face relaxed. “Sir, yes, sir,” she sighed.

“So, what do you think you’ve learned from this exercise?” Vann asked. “Feel free to speak up. We’ll keep this relatively informal for the moment.”

“Getting shot sucks. Getting dead sucks worse,” Erik volunteered. He’d died four times this week.

“Armor is a good thing, but I think I need more,” Fausto laughed.

“Especially in the buttocks region, sir,” Amadi added rubbing his backside.

“I think we’ve learned that you have to depend on your team, and that armor isn’t perfect,” Colton mused. “Even armor as good and thorough as this.”

“Don’t tell Sgt. David, but he was right when he told us that slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” Athena said.

Vann laughed. “Your secret is safe with me, Miss Martinez. Alright, Second Squad, rejoin your platoon.”

The next hour was spent dissecting the training exercise. Vann went over each fire team’s time and what they could have done better. Praise was given for successful completion of the exercise, often in a left-handed manner, but each of the recruits felt a swelling of pride that they’d done their sergeants and the staff sergeant proud.

“Alright, before I dismiss you for evening chow, I have an announcement,” Staff Sergeant Vann said. “A special reward for the squad with the best score in the shoot house for the week. Tomorrow, your regular Sunday Squared Away Day, the winning squad gets a special Sergeants Hour with Master Sergeant Monroe. It’s an informal get-together for you and the Master Sergeant, a chance for you to forge a bond with a man who can do a lot of good for your career in the Legion. I know that sounds kind of cynical, but it is what it is. So, who’s our winning squad? Eat your hearts out if you’re not Second Squad!”

* * * * *

“Come in, come in!” Master Sergeant Monroe boomed cheerfully.

Second Squad, First Platoon filed into the Master Sergeant’s apartment. They’d passed Third Squad, Second Platoon, which had gotten the first hour of the afternoon with the Master Sergeant. According to the schedule that had been posted, Fourth Squad, First Platoon, Company Baker would follow them. The only reason that Third Squad, Second Platoon had gone before them was because their combined score in the shoot house had been better by half a point.

“Master Sergeant, Second Squad, First Platoon reporting as ordered, sir!” Colton announced coming to attention and saluting. His squad mates followed form.

Monroe snapped a perfect salute, and said, “At ease. Relax even. This is an informal gathering.” The Master Sergeant nodded to himself. “Good to see you taking to the discipline, though. It’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks, but the Makers have told me that Reset makes out brains young again, too, and the VR makes it easier for us to learn new skills. More quickly, too! We’re nearly to the end of the initial basic training schedule, and you’ve only been in your Reset Caps for three days now.”

Colton felt a thrill of surprised pleasure. The past two months had been the longest and hardest weeks of his life. Knowing, intellectually, that it had only been three days was intriguing and surreal.

“Feel free to have a look around,” Monroe invited. “This is an exact replica of the quarters that I keep at our training camp near Sturgis.”

“Why Sturgis, sir? I mean, why Wyoming at all?” Athena asked.

“Well, Miss Martinez, we chose Wyoming because it is the least populous of these United States, lots of wide open, undeveloped land where we can conduct all manner of exercises without disturbing too many locals. Sturgis in particular was chosen because the Legate General and I are both motorcycle enthusiasts, and they host one of the largest motorcycle rallies in North America at Sturgis,” Monroe replied.

Colton smiled to himself as he examined a wall of photographs, what Grandpa had called an “ego aggrandizement display.” Grandpa’s had been one entire wall of his den, covered with pictures, commendations, displays of his medals, and mementos of his time in the Corps and his career as a civilian rancher. Colton stopped and stared at one of the pictures.

“Holy cow! You’re Peg Leg Pirate Man!” he exclaimed. Then, he blushed furiously. “Uh, I mean... Holy cow, you’re Peg Leg Pirate Man, sir.”

Monroe burst out laughing and came over to look at the photo Colton was pointing out. In it Colton and his grandfather and another man, this one with an actual peg leg, were standing in front of Grandpa’s horse barn, a couple of motorcycles parked in the background. Colton was a child, barely more than five, dressed in his rodeo gear of jeans, chaps, white cowboy shirt, and a straw cowboy hat. Grandpa had on a similar outfit, but the peg-legged man was dressed in typical biker gear: leather vest, dew rag, blue jeans.

“Yeah, I was riding through on my way to Sturgis, actually,” Monroe said.

“I thought you were a pirate, sir,” Colton chuckled.

“Well, I did cut a rather piratical figure, didn’t I, with that peg leg,” Monroe said. He slapped his thigh. “Got a brand new one. Regrown natural limb. Although, had it been an arm like Mr. Fraser’s, I would have gotten a modular bionic limb, too. That’s just handy, I’m sure.”

“Are you an Achilles, too, sir?” Erik asked.

“I’m Patient Zero for the Achilles Project,” Monroe answered. Then, he shrugged. “I should say that I’m it for the modern version. The Makers have visited our world before. That’s how they’re so familiar with us and our genetics and biological structure. They’ve tinkered with their own Human-form avatars over the millennia, and Achilles will get the benefit of all that experience.”

“That’s kind of... frightening,” Amadi said. “I mean, think about it: we’ve had a higher life form living among us for longer than recorded history. All our myths and legends about gods and angels could be just the Makers fiddling about with our destinies.”

Monroe barked a laugh. “Yeah, you sound like that guy with the bad hair on History Channel who thinks everything in mythology is God’s own truth about aliens. No, the Makers were strictly ‘observe only’ with us.” Monroe sighed. “Look, so far they haven’t given us a reason to distrust them yet, and even though they’re ‘poor refugees’ the influx of their tech has been just the boost the world’s economy has needed. Kraken tech has been pretty easy for us to bend out brains around, and the Makers are popular lecturers at MIT and Cal Tech. I count among my personal friends both a Kraken super family and many Ergrahthah, but it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your allies. Just in case they’re you’re enemy in disguise.”

The recruits were quiet for a moment while each pondered the Master Sergeant’s advice.

Then, Kat broke the silence. “Sir, I have a question that’s been burning me up ever since Staff Sergeant Vann introduced us to the Gladius.”

“Do tell?” Monroe chuckled.

“Well, sir, it seems to me that the Legion has a pretty good relationship with Fabrique Nationale. The Pugio is based on their FNP pistol line, and the Pilum is really an FN2000. So, why is the Gladius a Kriss Vector and not a modified P90?” Kat said.

Monroe nodded. “That has a lot to do with choosing the .45 ACP as our standard handgun caliber. Do you know how the .45 differs significantly from the 5.7mm round of the P90 and the Five-seven pistol?”

“Yes, sir,” Kat replied. “The five-seven round is designed like a necked down rifle round. Uh, tiny slug, big powder charge,” she clarified for her less gun-savvy friends.

“Indeed, and the good ole .45 is big, fat, and, relatively speaking, slow,” Monroe said. “Now, how does that tiny little slug manage to impart its kinetic energy in a manner that is deadly, not irritating? Speed. It moves really fast. Faster than sound. The bullet makes a sonic boom of its own as it passes through the air. Now, when we suppress that sound signature, what are we actually doing? Mr. Payne?”

“The first thing we do is suppress the sound of the escaping gases from the barrel, but we’re also slowing the slug down to a subsonic velocity, and since the .45 is already subsonic, we’re not changing its terminal ballistics significantly,” Colton replied. “Big and slow is also quiet and deadly.”

“Correct. If the Legion had adopted the 5.7mm round as our standard sidearm and PDW caliber, we would also have adopted the Five-Seven pistol and the P90 as the Pugio and Gladius platforms,” Monroe said. “That doesn’t mean that our parent company, Allied Private Military Contractors, Inc., hasn’t purchased those platforms in those calibers. Just not for the Legion. The Security forces assigned to the Fleet will utilize those weapons as their standard issue weapons.”

“That makes a certain amount of sense,” Colton said. “I mean think about it: if one of their security patrol guys carries the same number of magazines as we do, he’ll have, uh, fifteen more rounds than we would. That is assuming, of course, that they have the twenty-round mag as opposed to the ten-round mag, which would be just silly.”

“And the P90 has a fifty-round clip. If he was carrying two or three spares, that security guy could put down a serious lead storm downrange,” Kat agreed.

“I thought Legion troops would be acting as shipboard Marines?” Erik said.

“Your primary job is making war. You’re the offensive team. Security will be responsible for securing the ship. They’re defense. They’re also Fleet. So, separate service entirely,” Monroe said. “Who knows? One day Fleet Security might get jealous of our success and start up their own elite special operations unit, the spiritual descendants of the SEALs, perhaps?”

“Sir, a question, please?” Fausto asked raising a hand.

“Of course, Mr. Machado! That’s the point of this meeting,” Monroe declared.

Gracias, jefe,” Fausto said with a nod. “Why are there no officers?”

“Ah, so somebody did notice!” Monroe clapped. “Good question, Mr. Machado! Just simply put, I was born and raised a Marine noncommissioned officer. I tend to think like a sergeant. So, when I was tasked with designing this simulation for Achilles basic training, I populated it with sergeants. I don’t remember much from boot camp on Parris Island, but I do remember my Drill Instructor, Sergeant Benson Williams, and his lackey, Corporal Dickerson. It’s the sergeants who shape the boys into men,” Monroe said. “So, our sim is an all noncom commanding force, but they’ve taught you proper respect for your officers, haven’t they?”

“Hoorah, Master Sergeant.”

Monroe laughed again. “Yes, well, actually, my real rank is Tribune, but my proper title should be Camp Prefect.”

The Legion’s commissioned officer ranks were a mash-up of classical Roman and modern military ranks. The idea had been to distinguish easily between Fleet and Legion officers with no confusion due to similar titles, and to give the Legion its own special “flavor.” A Tribune was equivalent to a Brigadier, or one-star, General, and the title, Camp Prefect, was a holdover from the Roman Legion and indicated the officer in charge of an encampment. In the Terran Legion’s use, though, it was the commandant of a base facility.

“Don’t go sharing that too broadly for the moment, alright?” Monroe said with a little self deprecating snort. “I was really enjoying being a sergeant again.”

Near the end of a rather pleasant hour of Master Sergeant Time, Val raised his hand and asked, “There any special advice you wanna give us, sir?”

Monroe pursed his lips in thought for a moment. Then, he said, “If you find yourself in a situation where you have to shoot a Kraken, aim for the eyes, and if you need to put down an Ergrahthah, the heart and brain are in more or less the same location as on a Human, but since they have four lungs, a chest wound isn’t as serious for them as it is for us.”

The squad stared at the Master Sergeant for a moment, except for Colton who was chuckling. Then, they were all glaring at Colton.

“What? It’s good practical advise,” Colton said. “Oh. Y’all don’t get it, do you? Sure, they’re our allies, but that don’t mean all of them are our friends.”

“True, and, frankly, they’ve got a great deal of reason to mistrust us, which is a lesson for Advanced Training,” Monroe said, standing up. “Well, Second Squad, this was lovely, but I’ve got four more squads to reward with Master Sergeant Time.”

Second Squad stood to attention and saluted. “Hoorah, Master Sergeant!”

_________________
Ragnar Lothbrok wrote:
Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.


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Gideon Shaw
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Character sheet
Concept: The Kicker of Asses
Race/Origin: Hybrid (Fae/Dragon)

PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Sat Sep 08, 2012 1:23 pm

WIP 010

The Final Exercise of basic training was a week long orgy of organized terror and torture. The recruits, the whole training battalion, marched out into the wilderness beyond the camp. Each company was drawn from different geographical regions. First Platoon, Able Company was from North America. Second Platoon was from South America. Baker Company’s First Platoon was drawn from Europe, and their Second Platoon was predominantly Asian. First Platoon, Charlie Company was drawn from all over Africa and the Middle East, and Second Platoon came from Australia and Southeast Asia.

Colton asked Sgt. David why everybody spoke such good English and was informed that he was only hearing them in English because of the translation circuit built into the virtual training program. “You’ll have a translator as part of your neural implant suite that will allow you speak any Human language and understand a number of alien ones,” David had said with a wicked grin. “You don’t realize it, but I’ve been swearing at you in Hebrew all this time.”

Each platoon of each company was assigned a sector to secure and patrol. Then, the entire battalion was attacked. The Opposing Force was a mix of mainly humanoid shaped creatures in full body armor and smaller numbers of red, six-limbed monsters that looked like a combination of dachshund and crocodile. The hell hounds, as the recruits took to calling the six-legged monsters, were the worst. The humanoid enemies would withdraw after taking too many casualties, but the hell hounds would attack and attack until all of them were dead. The humanoid enemies used guns and grenades when they attacked. The hell hounds had guns, big, nasty auto-shotguns, but they seemed to prefer their claws, teeth, and a really nasty metal club that looked like a Japanese tetsubo, but with sharpened spikes instead of knotty bulbs. The hell hounds weren’t terribly big, not much bigger than human, but they were frighteningly fast and wickedly strong.

The recruits’ defensive posture changed to an offensive. They had to locate the enemy’s stronghold. Then, the entire battalion had to assault it. The “enemy compound” was one gigantic shoot house. The goals of the exercise were to capture the enemy commander in his central tower, to take and hold an enemy ship that had landed near the compound, and seize and destroy the enemy’s munitions dump. Each company was responsible for one of the mission goals, and each squad of each platoon had an individual mission to accomplish in order to meet the mission goal.

Able Company was assigned to capture the grounded enemy ship. First Platoon would take the ship directly while Second Platoon secured the area. Once the area was secured, First Platoon would break into squads to secure the ship. One squad would take the command deck, another engineering, and a third would round up the crew. The fourth squad would be a floating reserve if any of the others needed help.

Colton checked his Gladius for the hundredth time. Since Second Squad would be part of the platoon entering the ship, they’d been detailed to use their PDWs instead of their Pilums. One person in each squad was carrying a Pilum with an ammo pack to act as their light machinegunner. Colton had assigned that job to Kat. She was simply their best Pilum shooter. Kat had replaced the MAUL module on her Pilum with a 3GL in case they needed really heavy firepower. The goal, though, was to take their target as intact as possible.

Colton checked his Gladius for the hundred and first time. He had a thirty-three-round mag in the well, and a round in the chamber. The carrier mounted on his stock had two of the extended mags as well, and he had six more in pouches on the left chest of his Lorica vest. In the right chest pouches were six tubes of 12-gauge ammo for the MAUL module mounted under the barrel of his weapon. He was carrying a mix of slugs and buckshot. The hell hounds had proven to be incredibly sturdy, and deer slugs and buckshot seemed to be about the most effective way to put them down.

On his belt, he had his Pugio, Combat Knife, multi-tool, and four extra magazines in addition to the two he usually carried, for a total of six pistol magazines. The recruits had been issued three flash-bang and two fragmentation grenades. Colton had the flash-bangs arranged on his belt. The frags were on his vest. He hadn’t wanted to get the two types mixed up. He’d made sure the others had found a way of carrying their grenades in a similar manner that was comfortable for them.

“Second Platoon has secured the perimeter,” Vann’s voice spoke to them through the earpiece in their helmets. “First Platoon, move out.”

“First Platoon copies,” Ishmael Chase responded. As Senior Recruit of First Squad, he’d been named Platoon Leader for the exercise.

Chase circled his hand in the air and pointed toward the air field. The recruits of First Platoon moved out at a trot. In the distance they could hear the sounds of battle as the other companies engaged their assigned objectives. They passed through Second Platoon’s line. Every one of them were armed with Pilums, and they had mixed between standard layout, light machinegun layout, and sniper mode layout. Fully half of them were sporting grenade launchers instead of shotguns. Second Platoon had come loaded for bear. The fight to secure the landing field hadn’t been a tough one. What they were expecting was a massive counter-assault to retake the ship.

The ship was a long box with stubby wings and a slightly rounded nose. It rested on the ground on landing gear with tires taller than Colton. The rear of the ship had a huge cargo hatch with a ramp that lowered to the ground. The hatch was nestled between two clusters of thruster exhausts. Near the middle of the ship was another hatch and ramp, this one sized for personnel.

“Second Squad, Fourth Squad, rear ramp. First Squad, Third Squad, on me. We’ll take the flight deck, and then begin the sweep for crew back from there. Fourth Squad, secure engineering. Second Squad, floating reserve and perimeter defense,” Chase ordered.

Second and Fourth Squads broke off and ran to the rear of the ship. Colton signaled to the other squad’s Senior Recruit, Etsuko Sato. “Suki, let us take point. This is like the shoot house. We’ll clear the way. You follow us. From the looks of these units, I have a feeling engineering may be a split deal.”

“Or worse, it could have three control areas,” Sato nodded. “Look, I’m good with you doing the shooting if that’s what you want, you guys being kings of the shoot house and all that.” She grinned broadly.

“Yeah, next time you can be the bullet shield,” Colton snorted. “Alright, team, stack up!”

Colton’s first step onto the ramp of the alien ship was kind of a thrill. He felt a slight vibration through the soles of his boots. Rapidly, he ascended the ramp to the open hatch, Gladius leading the way. An armored guard stepped out of the shadows, rifle raised at Colton. No hesitation, Colton squeezed the trigger sending three .45 slugs into the guard’s faceplate. The enemy’s armor was no where near as good as the Legion’s. It was sturdy. It could stop a pistol round in the torso, but the legs, arms, and head were still vulnerable.

A snarl got Colton’s attention. He flipped the selector switch up to shotgun and flicked on the tactical light with his off hand. The hell hounds crouched in the cargo hold hadn’t expected that. Between the Q-dar in the Gladius and the IR and UV filters in the visor of his helmet, the cargo hold was as bright as day to Colton. He calmly pumped a slug into the first hell hound’s head. Then, he broke right. Behind him Athena was firing her own shotgun into the face of the next hell hound while Colton began securing their right flank. Then, she broke left to secure the left flank, and Bev followed her, putting down the third and last hell hound.

Erik followed Bev, breaking right to cover Colton. Kat was next in the stack, breaking left to cover Athena. Nuan followed in Bev’s shadow. Then, Fausto and Ram came up behind them. Amadi and Val brought up the rear, checking overhead for threats. Less than a minute later, Fourth Squad followed them into the cargo hold.

The cargo bay ended at a bulkhead with a wide hatch in the middle. The hatch was dogged shut from the other side. Colton examined the mechanism for a moment. Then, he signaled for Ram to join him. The former NASA employee actually had a degree in mechanical engineering as well as computer programming. Ram figured out the locking mechanism in a few minutes. Then, the hatch split in half, swinging inward.

“This whole rear cargo bay must be used as one giant airlock,” Ram said.

Beyond was another cargo area, with pallets of shrink-wrapped equipment neatly laid out on either side of a center aisle.

“I thought this ship was... wider,” Amadi observed.

“It is,” Ram replied. “We’ve got engines and likely fuel on either side of us.”

They found another hatch forward, which let out into a vestibule-like area. Straight ahead was another set of hatches. To the right and the left were each a single hatch.

“Kat, set up right here, and cover those forward hatches,” Colton ordered. “Athena, Fausto, flank her. Ram, Val, and Bev, secure the port hatch. Amadi, Erik, and I will secure the starboard hatch. Nuan, you have rear security until Fourth Squad relieves you. Then, stick with Kat’s team.”

“We breeching?” Ram asked.

“Negative. Let’s wait for Fourth Squad,” Colton said.

Second Squad split to their assigned tasks. A moment later, Nuan relieved Colton so that he could confer with Sato.

“You think this is engineering?” she asked.

“It would make sense, but we either need for you to secure both of these, or for me to take one and you to take one, but I’d still like to detail a pair of yours to back up Kat and Athena holding this section while we do that,” Colton said.

Sato nodded. “Burns, Luther. I want one of you to hold this hatch, got it? The other one sets up with Recruit Green and watches those other hatches for bad guys. Clear?”

“Sir, yes, sir!” the two men echoed. Both had Pilums in LMG configuration.

“Okay, send my people from the port hatch back to me on the starboard hatch. You assault port, I’ll assault starboard,” Colton said.

“Wilco,” Sato said with a grin and a thumbs-up.

Once Colton had the bulk of his squad back, he had Ram open the hatch. Then, he threw in one of his flash-bangs. Then, he was through the door, Gladius in one hand, another flash-bang in the other. His team followed him in. They quickly swept the area, finding an odd array of creatures in the engineering space. The engineers had been guarded by two of the armored soldiers that the Legion recruits had been fighting all week. Three of the engineers looked for the world like giant grasshopper men, and the remaining two engineers looked human.

The grasshopper men were all dead. Apparently, the concussion from the flash-bangs had been too much for their bodies to handle. Both guards were dead because the recruits had shot them. They were left with two prisoners. The men were tied up with wire from a rack on the wall, left lying in the floor.

“They’re human,” Amadi grunted.

“I noticed,” Colton replied as he studied one of them. “Well, they look human, but they ain’t capital ‘H’ Human. They got some seriously big heads, and look at that forehead and them jaws. You know what they kindly remind me of? Neanderthals.”

“Space cave men? If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’d been drinking,” Erik snorted.

“Ram, Nuan, stand watch on the prisoners until Fourth Squad relieves you,” Colton ordered.

He went across to the other engineering space to confer with Sato. She had no prisoners. Three grasshopper men had been working in engineering under the watch of two guards. Colton stepped over to a guard who’d been shot in the throat. His faceplate hadn’t been damaged. Colton lifted the helmet off and took a good look at the face underneath.

“Somebody doesn’t like the Geico cave man very much,” Sato snorted.

“I got two live ones over in the starboard engineering space, and they were dressed like the grasshoppers,” Colton said.

“Suki, I found a ship’s schematic,” one of the Fourth Squad recruits reported from a computer station.

“It in English?” she asked.

“No, but I can still read it for some reason,” the recruit replied.

“Translator implant,” Colton explained. “Been online the whole time and they never told us. Probably to test if we’d notice.”

“Cool,” the recruit said. “Okay, according to this, there’s a command engineering space one deck above for the reactor and the FTL. I think they look more like crickets than grasshoppers.”

“We’ll figure out what to call the bugs when the time comes,” Colton said. “Right now, Suki, we need to get your squad into main engineering.”

“And for that, I’m gonna need to call on Second Squad for some reserves,” Sato replied.

Colton nodded. “I think you planned better for holding than I did. I planned for assaulting.”

“Then, I’ll detail half my squad to hold this area from the central vestibule there. Neither of these engineering sections can be entered except through there. We’ll use their equipment to weld this door shut for now, and hunker down with the prisoners in the other space,” Sato said. “Once you’ve taken main engineering, we’ll hold it so you can be free to continue your mission.”

“Good plan,” Colton nodded. “Just what I was thinking.”

Back in the vestibule, they quickly determined that the hatches on either side facing rear were lifts. The central hatch led to another cargo storage area. Before heading up, Colton’s squad cleared that hold. At the far end was another big hatch that lowered down from the belly of the ship. Using the welding equipment that Sato’s squad had pilfered, they secured the hatch. Then, they booby trapped it with a couple of frag grenades.

“Area denial munitions,” Amadi said. “Got to add that to the list of things we need the next time we go on a mission like this in the real world.”

“And breaching charges, det cord, and just all kinds of demo, too,” Colton agreed. “Suki, the forward cargo hold is secure, and booby trapped. While we’re topside, weld this hatch shut, too.”

“Roger that,” Sato replied.

“Erik, Athena, Kat, and Amadi with me. Val take Bev, Nuan, Fausto, and Ram. We’ll take this elevator; y’all take that one,” Colton directed. “Suki, we’ll radio when we’re done, and you come relieve us.”

The lifts had double doors, and both opened on the upper deck. Colton stuffed an empty magazine into the open door to keep it open. On the other side Val had done the same with his multi-tool. One blocked door was enough to keep all the doors open on the lifts.

“Kat, Fausto, watch forward,” Colton ordered.

The remaining squad turned aft toward the main engineering section. The hatch swung open, revealing a small troop of armored guards carrying the pieces to what looked like a heavy machinegun. Second Squad opened fire immediately. Ram rushed forward and jumped into the breach to hold the hatch open. A stray round found the open neck of his ACUs and Lorica.

“Get in there!” Colton roared.

The Legionnaires rushed forward, jumping over the fallen bodies of the enemy and their brave comrade, their consolation being that he was only “dead” for purposes of the exercise. In the heat of the moment, though, the fight was all too real. Behind them, they heard the sound of Kat’s Pilum LMG and Fausto’s shotgun opening up.

“We need backup!” Kat shouted.

“We can’t get the lifts to come down!” Sato shouted back.

“On it,” Fausto reported. “Port lift coming dow...!”

“Fausto’s down!” Kat shouted.

“I’m coming,” Athena replied.

“Take Bev and Nuan,” Colton said.

“The Wonder Women,” Amadi said.

Colton, Amadi, Erik, and Val continued forward. They started lobbing frag grenades ahead of themselves. Taking prisoners was no longer an option for them. They didn’t see any more of the bug people, but the engineering section had several human-looking personnel dressed in coveralls and thin space suits. Once, they had the main engineering area swept, Colton turned back toward the sound of the ongoing battle.

Fourth Squad had shown up just as Athena’s fire team had arrived. When Colton showed up, he saw the lead element of Third Squad arriving behind the enemy soldiers that had assaulted aft to secure engineering.

“Check fire! Check fire!” Colton shouted over the general comm net. “Blue on blue!”

The enemy soldiers, seeing themselves surrounded, laid their weapons on the deck, doffed their helmets, holding them in the air above their heads.

“We’ve got ‘em covered, if you wanna secure them, Ida,” Colton shouted.

Third Squad’s Senior Recruit nodded, sending her people forward to secure the prisoners.

“Main Engineering spaces secured,” Sato reported over the comm net.

“Flight Deck secured,” Chase reported next.

“Surviving crew captured and secured,” Ida Byrne added.

“All cargo areas secured,” Colton said. “But be careful. We’ve booby trapped some of them to secure them.”

Vann’s voice came on over their net. “First Platoon, well done. Second Platoon repelled a counter assault as well. Casualties, First Squad?”

“I lost one, three wounded, sir,” Chase replied.

“Second Squad?”

“Two down. No wounded,” Colton said.

“Third Squad?”

“No dead, five wounded.”

“Fourth Squad?”

“No dead, no wounded, sir, and I’d like to say that’s because Second Squad did a fine job of protecting us,” Sato said.

“Aw, Suki, you say the sweetest things,” Colton whispered.

Monroe’s voice replaced Vann’s. “Well done, recruits. Exercise is concluded!”

The recruits found themselves suddenly, but with less sensation of nausea than before, on the grinder, in their squad formations, everyone neat, clean, rested, and alive. Colton glanced around at his squad. Ram and Fausto were both unconsciously rubbing their necks, where stray rounds had found the chink in their armor.

A couple of other recruits in other squads were also checking where they had just been wounded in the hyper-realistic exercise. Some of them had encountered high energy weapons and heavy machineguns. The Lorica was tough, but it wasn’t invulnerable. Pretty much anything powerful enough to penetrate the armor was a death wound.

Monroe let the recruits have a moment to assure themselves that they were okay. Then, he spoke, his voice booming over all other conversations, “Attention!”

The recruits snapped to attention, all eyes on the Master Sergeant.

“With the successful completion of this exercise, I congratulate you all and award you the title ‘Legionnaire’. You are no longer just recruits, but soldiers. Congratulations, one and all! Hoorah, Legionnaires!”

“Hoorah, Master Sergeant!”

“Your time in the Reset Capsules is almost completed. Before you’ll be allowed out of the caps, you’ll have to familiarize yourselves with the capabilities of your new implants. That is Phase One of Advanced Training. Phase Two will occur in the real world at Camp Sturgis where you’ll be issued your actual gear and begin training on your advanced equipment, which will likely replace your standard kit for most of your missions.

“Now, you may have noticed the composition of the Op Force included a significant number of humans. Well, that is the enemy we will be facing. Not some bug eyed monster, but cousins of the Human race. You will learn more about the enemy and what he has access to in Advanced Training, and speaking of Advanced Training, brace yourselves, kids, it starts now!”

_________________
Ragnar Lothbrok wrote:
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Gideon Shaw
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PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:12 am

WIP 011

“Aw, man! The black body stocking again?” Colton groaned as he looked down at himself. He looked up and around. The white room was back, and he was alone in it.

“Hello, Colton.”

“Hi, Cassie,” Colton replied turning around to find Casper grinning up at him. He tilted his head to one side. “I know I’m taller than you, but not this much.”

“That’s your new height,” Casper replied. “You’re not the one who has changed the most, but you’re in the top percentile.”

“I suppose reaching the top shelves will be easier,” Colton sighed.

“Yes, but once you get back Earth side, you’ll have to go shopping for new clothes. I’ll have an outfit waiting for you outside the Reset Capsule, but you’ll want more than just uniforms, I think,” Casper said.

“Yeah, you might be right about that,” Colton sighed again.

“Oh, don’t worry! You’ll have your enlistment bonus on a brand new Visa card that’ll work anywhere in the world,” Casper said.

“Ain’t the money that bugs me. It’s the shopping,” Colton snorted.

“Ah. Is this an example of a general Human thing, a male Human thing, or is this a purely ‘Colton Payne’ thing?” Casper teased.

“You are developing a mean sense of humor, girl,” Colton chuckled. “It’s a general guy thing, but also a specific ‘me’ thing. So, where is everybody? I thought this was supposed to be ‘Phase One Advanced Training’?”

“It is,” Casper said. “Only, it’s not a group activity, and we’re not going to run a simulated experience. Your QPCP and neural nano-web are fully online now. So, we can just ‘download’ information and even skill sets directly into your organic memory, even what you call ‘muscle memory’. Like this.”

Colton felt a sensation of pressure followed by what felt like an explosion in his mind. The sensation wasn’t unpleasant. In fact, it was kind of a rush. Suddenly, he knew things that he had never known before, and he knew them just as surely as he knew how to walk and run and ride a horse, as he knew that he was right-handed, that the sun came up in the east, and that God was real, Jesus was His Son, and the Holy Spirit was in his heart, knowledge with the certainty of absolute faith. He understood the nature of the construct his consciousness was currently residing in, this virtual room, knew that he could interface with it, control it. He opened his eyes, and he and Casper were on the grinder in the virtual Camp Sturgis.

“Clever ape,” Casper laughed.

“Says the biomechanical life form that wants to look like a clever ape,” Colton snorted back at her.

“Ah, touche, Mr. Payne,” Casper said with a nod of acceptance.

“Mr. Payne, what are you doing here?”

Colton spun, came to attention, and saluted. “Staff Sergeant Vann, playing with my new toys, sir!”

Vann laughed. “Tribune! Look who came home for a visit.”

Monroe appeared on the grinder, only now he was dressed in an officer’s uniform with Tribune markings on his collar. “Ha! Told you it would be him who figured it out first.”

“Actually, Chibueze-Johnson and Grosse figured out how to hack the VR net first, but Payne is the first one to find his way back into this protected node,” Vann said.

“Doesn’t mean I lost the bet, Sergeant Major,” Monroe protested.

“Didn’t exactly win it either, sir,” Vann snorted.

Colton was still standing at attention when Athena appeared next to him. She took a look around and snapped to attention as well.

“Oh, at ease, you two,” Monroe barked. Then, he turned back to Vann. “Now, see here, you tin-plated Army moron, I said that I bet Payne would be the first one to find his way here. Either him or Martinez, and look who’s standing next to him!”

Vann rubbed his chin. “Can’t really argue with the logic of a commissioned officer, sir,” Vann replied. “No matter how wrong it is.”

“What’s going on?” Athena asked.

Colton started. Athena hadn’t spoken aloud. Her voice had appeared in his head. Then, he knew. He had an internal suite of communications devices, the same as Athena, and she’d established a private channel between them via a direct connection between their personal comms.

“I think the Master Sergeant and the Staff Sergeant are old friends from different services, and we’re just the subject of an old argument,” Colton replied. “Also, the Master Sergeant is now a Tribune, and the Staff Sergeant is now a Sergeant Major.”

“Why are the two of you still here?” Monroe snapped at them.

“You haven’t dismissed us, sir,” Colton offered.

Monroe rolled his eyes. “Dismissed, Legionnaires. Dismissed! Go! Have some fun. The medical types will start waking you all up in a bit. Try to remember not to tear up the medical wing too bad when you come crawling out of your caps.”

“Sir, yes, sir!”

* * * * *

A cold blast of air woke Colton. He sat up, immediately lost his balance and fell onto his hands and knees on the cold, metallic deck sole of Space Station Zero One. He vomited a foul-smelling, noxious pink goo for what felt like hours, but the internal clock in his implants told him was just a few seconds.

“Take your time,” Doctor George cooed. “Waking up from it is far less unpleasant than undergoing it without anaesthetics.”

Colton felt himself lifted by a pair of Kraken tentacles. He glanced to the side and saw that it was one of George’s workers, Second. A complex string of numerals and musical symbols appeared in his mind for a flash, and he knew that was Second’s real name in the Kraken native language, how it would sound, even what it meant.

“Most Beloved, First of the Pack, Gentle and Helpful,” Colton said.

“But ‘Second’ is easier for Humans to say and to remember, Friend Colton,” Second replied, reaching out and stroking Colton’s face with one of his fine manipulator hands.

Colton understood that the gesture was one of friendly affection, as for a dear friend or member of the family. He was touched. With the Kraken worker’s help, Colton regained his feet. He quickly regained his equilibrium as well. Then, he felt... “right as rain” came to mind. He understood how his body could now move and react, but he also knew that he had to be careful until he had a chance to work out at full strength, or he might hurt somebody.

“Is everybody up?” he asked.

“No,” George replied, coming around and waving a device at Colton’s body. “We roused you first. Technically, you are still Senior Recruit of your training squad. I believe the adage is, ‘Rank hath its privileges’.”

“Okay. You gonna go ahead and wake them up or what?” Colton said.

“Just as soon as I’m assured you are fit, Colton,” George chided.

Colton grinned. “You’re a good doctor, Doc, but I’m sure Second here will wanna see to his new buddy, Amadi.”

“Indeed, the dear has watched over your companion this entire week,” George said with one of the Kraken’s thrumming-humming laughs.

“It was boring, but I did not mind,” Second said. “I am very good at boring tasks. I find boring to be very relaxing.”

“Me, too, Gentle and Helpful,” Colton said. “I’m really feeling alright, Doc. Seriously. I think I feel better than I’ve felt my entire life.”

“The medical nanobots in your body concur, as does my scanner,” George said. “I will begin reviving the next of your squad. If you want to see yourself, you have a full length mirror right over there.” The Kraken doctor pointed with one of his tentacles as he waddle-galloped out of Colton’s cubicle.

Colton turned and stepped in front of the mirror. He was still naked from the Reset Capsule, but for the first time in his life, he wasn’t ashamed of seeing his naked self in the reflection. He wondered how tall he’d become, and then he knew that he was six-feet-two-inches tall. His drivers license listed his height as five-eleven. He’d actually grown three whole inches taller! And he wasn’t fat anymore! He pinched the flesh on his side, where he’d had “love handles”, and he couldn’t pinch an inch of fat.

He was broad across the shoulders, narrow at the waist. Muscles rippled on his chest and abdomen. Colton marveled at the fact that he had a six-pack of abs, where before he’d had an entire keg covering it. His legs were like something off an Olympic athlete. He wasn’t as overbuilt as a weightlifter, but his body now exuded the promise of physical power and speed. Looking at himself, he decided that if soldiering didn’t work out for him, he could have a career as an Abercrombie and Fitch model.

Looking up, Colton took in his own face for the first time. He still looked like himself, but without the extra chins or the slight bulging of the eyes that were an indication of his thyroid condition. Colton ran a hand across his jaw. He didn’t even need a shave after a week. When he began to wonder why, the QPCP supplied the answer again, and he knew that the medical nanobots in the Reset fluid had consumed the hair for protein for some of his other mods. He ran a hand through the hair on his head. It wasn’t mostly gray anymore. It was black now, as dark as it had been when he was a child, and his eyes were clear and blue, a shade darker than they had been.

Something sparked in his memory as he thought about blue eyes. “I look like Grandpa!” he exclaimed. Then, he was laughing at himself. He shouldn’t have been surprised. Both his father and grandfather had been tall men, over six feet, dark haired, and blue eyed. Colton’s height and eye color had been closer to his mother’s side of the family. Something else sparked in his memory, and he began to laugh again, this time from a much deeper place in his psyche.

“What’s so funny?”

Colton turned and found Casper, back in her real Human-form body, looking at him, head tilted. “Oh, I just realized why my Grandpa may have been so fond of John Carter of Mars and Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle,” he replied with a wave at himself. “Over six feet tall, well muscled, black hair, blue eyes...? I look like my Grandpa, and Grandpa looked like John Carter or Tarzan. At least the way Burroughs described them in his books.”

“Ah. I see. You’re hysterical. I mean that clinically, of course,” Casper said.

“You got a mean sense of humor, little girl,” Colton chuckled. “Uh, I think I might need some clothes.”

“Scrubs on the counter,” Casper said. “We’ll have a full set of utilities waiting for you in your room when you get back to the dorm.”

Colton had just slipped on the pants part of the scrubs when he heard somebody in the next cubicle hacking and coughing up Reset fluids. He left the tunic top on the counter and rushed next door. He found Athena in the same position he’d started out in.

“I’ve got this,” he said to the Kraken worker, Fourth, who was attempting to assist her. “Thank you, Graceful Dancer and Singer.”

“What is that taste in my mouth?” Athena demanded. Then, she blinked and said, “Oh.”

“That QPCP is a handy implant, ain’t it?” Colton chuckled as he helped her to her feet. In a way he was impressed that he hadn’t over compensated and accidentally hurt her. Not that their reinforced bodies were all that easily damaged.

“Colton?” Athena said, frowning slightly. Then, she grinned. “It is you!”

“Yep, and you’re you,” Colton said. Then, he was suddenly blushing. “Oh! Umm... I, uh, mean... Uh...”

“Yes, I’m naked,” Athena confirmed, looking down at herself. “Holy cow!”

“There’s, uh, a, um... you know, that thing you look at yourself in?” Colton stammered. “There’s a mirror over there. I’m just gonna stand here and feel stupid for a minute,” he finished with a sigh.

Athena grinned at him and ran a hand across his chest. “You clean up pretty good, cowboy.”

Colton blushed even deeper. Athena was not dumpy or frumpy anymore. She was tall and muscular and... disturbingly voluptuous, in Colton’s opinion, and he was really glad that he had on some kind of clothes because his body was betraying him. Athena, his fat camp buddy and trusted boot camp comrade, was now one of the most attractive women in the world. He’d always found her attractive, but now... Colton shook himself as Athena admired herself in the mirror. She was grinning and giggling.

The sound of another of his squad mates retching caught his attention. This time, though, Colton let the professionals do their job. George had decided to crack two capsules this time. Kat and Erik were simultaneously on their knees, but Kat stood up first. Then, she laughed and did a cartwheel, ending up halfway across the medical bay, jumping up and down and laughing in a very distracting manner. Erik stumbled out of his cubicle, but quickly regained his balance. He stood watching Kat’s antics for a moment.

“God, that’s a beautiful sight,” he said.

“Kat! Put some clothes on!” Colton ordered. “Erik! Eyes back in your head, and where’s your new arm?”

“Here,” George said, coming over with the prosthetic held reverently before him. The Kraken executed a curtsying bow as he presented the artificial arm to Erik.

“Thanks,” Erik said as he took hold of the arm, stuck it against the nub just below his elbow. Mechanical-looking tentacles seemed to extrude from both the nub and the arm, intertwining, and finally pulling together. The only way to tell that the new arm was fake was the armband-like ring just below Erik’s elbow. Erik lifted his left hand up and looked at it, wiggled his fingers, and laughed.

“Erik?”

“Yeah?”

“Uh, I’m happy for you and all, but, uh, put some pants on. I’m tired at looking at your... Well, I know that you’re happy,” Colton said.

“Oh! Right.” Erik blushed. “Be right back.”

“No, bro, seriously! Take. Your. Time,” Colton said.

“You should put your shirt on,” Athena said.

Colton turned and found her clothed in scrubs and still looking incredible. She tossed him the tunic he’d left behind in his cubicle.

“Oh. Uh, thanks,” Colton said as he slipped the tunic over his head.

“As soon as you’re dressed, come on out and join me in the passageway,” Casper instructed.

Colton and Athena were the first out in the hall with Casper. They didn’t have to wait long for the rest of their squad to join them. Further along the corridor, coming out of other Reset Capsule rooms, were the members of the rest of their training platoon. Once all the Achilles-modified Legionnaires were gathered, their Maker guides conducted them to the station’s central hub docking bays. The newly enhanced Legionnaires all marveled at the implants in their hands and feet that allowed them to stick to the deck so easily. They boarded their shuttle, once again an Ergrahthah crewed vessel, and returned to Earth.

_________________
Ragnar Lothbrok wrote:
Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.


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PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:46 am

WIP 012

Colton held up a pair of his underwear. “Dear God, I could fit in this thing twice now!” He wadded the garment up and tossed it into a garbage bag he’d taken from a housekeeping cart. The bag was already bulging with his shirts and pants.

“Aw, poor little used-to-be-fat guy,” Erik snorted with no sympathy whatsoever.

His physical dimensions had changed so little that he could still wear the same clothes. He was more muscular than before, and his clothes actually fit him better. For half a heart beat, Colton hated his roommate. Then, he sighed and continued to stuff too big clothing into his garbage bag.

“Knock, knock,” Athena called out from the door to the suite’s bathroom. “What are you guys up to?”

“I am being as lazy as I can possibly get away with,” Erik replied from his top bunk where he was watching a movie on his roll-up tablet.

Colton, dressed in his Legion sweats, held up a pair of his underwear before stuffing it into the garbage bag. “I’m cleaning out my wardrobe.”

“Me, too,” Athena replied, waving a hand at her own sweats. “My pants are all too short in the leg and too big in the waist. I was thinking about going shopping. You wanna come?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Colton replied. “I’ll even drive.”

“You have a car?” Erik said sitting up in his bunk.

“I have a pickup truck,” Colton corrected. “Wanna ride in the back like my old hound dog?”

“Uh, no,” Erik said, turning back to his movie.

Colton hefted his bag of clothes. “Ready when you are.”

“Got mine in a box. Let’s find a dumpster,” Athena suggested.

“Good Will,” Colton countered. “Do some good with our old gear.”

“I like that,” Athena said as she turned back to return to her room and get her box of old clothes.

While she was gone, Colton thumbed the lock on his locker and got out his tactical bag with his pistols in it. He slung the bag over his shoulder.

“Planning on shooting somebody?” Erik asked.

“Always,” Colton chuckled.

“Hoorah, Legionnaire,” Erik snorted. “But seriously?”

“No. I’ve got an idea, and I think I’ll take care of it while we’re out and about,” Colton said.

“Well, just behave yourself,” Erik said with a grin.

“Dude, if I don’t, she can twist me into a pretzel,” Colton chuckled.

“You’ve got one of those trucks that can sit four, don’t you?” Erik said, glancing up over the top of his tablet.

Colton shrugged. “Maybe.”

“Enjoy you’re alone time with your girlfriend, then,” Erik teased.

“I plan to,” Colton replied as he headed for the door to their room. “Don’t watch too much porn.”

“No promises,” Erik replied.

Colton met Athena out in the hall, and the two of them walked down to the parking lot. Now that they were back on Earth, the Achilles Legionnaires had all been moved together on one hall in the dormitory. They had been given forty-eight hours to rest and recuperate before they shipped out to Camp Sturgis up in Wyoming. Many of them were taking advantage of the moment to restock their closets. Very few of the recent Reset recipients still fit their original clothing.

Along with a duffel bag filled with a full load-out of ACUs and personal gear, the recruits had each been given a Visa debit card that drew on Credit Suisse accounts that had been set up for each of them. The account already had an initial deposit of five thousand dollars for their enlistment bonus. A further twenty thousand had been deposited upon completion of their Achilles upgrades. For Colton, that was more money than he’d made in two years of working for his aunt’s bookstore.

“Where to first?” Athena asked as Colton held open the passenger door of his old, white pickup.

“Good Will, I think,” Colton said.

“Do you know where to go?” she asked.

Colton tapped his head. “Accessed the internet, found the nearest drop off point, and I’ve got GPS sat navigation online.”

“Amazing, isn’t it? I can even make a cell phone call if I wanted to,” Athena said.

“Yeah, all my neat electronics are just so much unnecessary junk now, but there’s still something... comforting about using them,” Colton agreed as he got in and cranked the old truck up.

A few minutes later, they tossed their old clothes into a Good Will drop off bin that happened to be in the parking lot of a shopping center. Athena insisted that this would be a good place to go shopping for clothes. Colton was leery of overspending, but he decided to humor her. A few hours later, he had replaced all of his lost clothing, for less than he’d expected and at a higher quality than he was used to.

“You’re like a shopping Jedi,” Colton said as he packed his shopping bags away in the back seat of the truck’s king cab.

Athena laughed. “Stick with me, grasshopper, and I’ll teach you the ways of the discount shopper.”

“Well, I’ve got an opportunity for you to exercise some of that discount hunting mojo,” Colton said. “I want to make one more stop before we head back.”

“Aw, already?” Athena pouted. “I was kind of hoping we could grab something to eat, maybe catch a movie...”

“Really?” Colton said.

“Yeah, I really expected you to be a better date, cowboy,” Athena teased.

“Is this a date?” Colton said.

“Play your cards right, and we could count it that way,” Athena said with a wink.

“Aw, now, you’re just teasing me,” he groaned.

“So, where is this mysterious errand of yours taking us?” she asked.

“You’ll see.”

* * * * *

“A gun shop?” Athena laughed. “Really?”

“Aside from Texans, Coloradans are probably the most gun-loving bunch of Americans, and they only beat out the folks from Wyoming ‘cause they ain’t that many folks in Wyoming,” Colton said with a chuckle as he climbed out of the truck.

Along the way in their shopping adventure, he’d traded his sweatpants for a pair of blue jeans. He had also purchased a decent pair of cowboy boots to replace the pair that were now too small for him, an irony that both amused and saddened him. He still had on his Legion sweatshirt, but he’d purchased a leather jacket to wear over it. None of the items that he was wearing, except the sweatshirt, was something he would have picked out for himself. Athena had pointed out the things that would look best on him, and he’d been bright enough to take her advice.

Athena had also traded her sweats for new clothes, jeans, a nice sweater, a new leather jacket, and matching high heel boots. All of her outfit choices were close fitting, showing off her curves. At one point in their shopping Athena had broken down and started crying, which had confused Colton to the point of apprehension. Athena had grinned suddenly and explained how happy she was because she could wear beautiful clothes and didn’t look out of place doing so. Colton’s heart had nearly broken. He was used to his own self doubt, but he hated seeing it in his friends, especially when they were as wonderful as Athena.

“I had me a thought,” Colton said as he slung the strap of his tactical bag over his shoulder.

“That’s dangerous,” Athena teased.

“As I was saying,” he continued, “I had me a thought while we was plugging hell hounds. That hide of theirs is pretty darn tough, and whatever drugs the Ro-chaq hop ‘em up on make them impervious-like to pain. You can’t wound ‘em and expect ‘em to stop coming at ya. Ya gotta kill ‘em and kill ‘em quick.”

“I was there,” she replied.

“Yes, ma’am, and you know what I mean. So, my thought the whole time was ‘I could really use a magnum right about now’.”

“I thought you already owned a .44 Magnum?” she said.

He patted his bag. “I do. Lovely Ruger Redhawk, but I’m thinking ‘upgrade’.”

“Ah, hence the trip to the gun store,” Athena said with a nod. “Why this one?”

“They got their own TV show,” Colton replied.

“They have their own TV show,” she repeated.

Colton nodded. “Yep.”

“And that’s why you chose them?”

“Pretty much. Look, I know that sounds shallow, but I’ve seen the work these folks can do, and I’ve researched them on the internet. Heck, I even checked Angie’s List. Kinda reminded me of my report card, if you don’t mind me bragging on myself,” he said with a chuckle as he held the door to the shop open for her.

Athena laughed as she stepped inside. For less than a second, she tensed up. So did Colton. One of the numerous implants they’d been given was an onboard Q-dar, which was constantly running in “passive” mode. On a subconscious level the QPCP kept track of everything around them, and if anything “dangerous” entered into the gestalt mind’s field of awareness, the Q-dar went “active” and all that situational awareness became conscious.

Within his field of vision, brackets began to appear around every person in the show room. If he focused his attention on any one of them, he knew how tall they were, their body mass, and range. The QPCP also catalogued every weapon in sight, as well as inventorying everything within reach that Colton could improvise into a weapon. He activated his internal comms, connected to Athena, and said, “Calm.”

She glanced back at him. “I am calm,” she transmitted back to him.

Colton nodded. Then, he headed toward one of the sales counters. Behind the counter was a tall man, mid-forties but still athletic and healthy, and a tall woman, about the same age, trim and large-breasted, emphasized by the tight tank top she was wearing.

“Welcome to Rifleman!” the man said.

“Thank you, sir,” Colton replied.

“I’m Rick. This is my wife, Reba. How can we help you today?”

“Well, sir, my name is Colton. This is my friend, Athena, and I’m in the market for a new handgun, something with a lot of power, but in a package that ain’t too unwieldy. Something like a Super Redhawk Alaskan,” Colton replied.

“That is a big gun,” Rick agreed.

“And I’ll want some customization done, too,” Colton said.

“That’s certainly within the realm of possibility,” Rick said with a friendly smile. “What did you have in mind?”

“I’ll need a good trigger job done, something light and crisp, a quick break, crown the barrel, chamfer the cylinder, and I want the whole thing re-finished in matte black, and I want it in .454 Casull,” Colton replied. “How much will that run me?”

“Well, the gun itself is a little over a grand... All those mods you want... I can do the whole job for about twenty-five hundred. More if you want a rush job,” Rick replied.

Colton rubbed his jaw in thought. “Well, sir, I don’t need it fast. In fact, I’m gonna be out of town for a few weeks starting tomorrow. So, twenty-five hundred sounds reasonable-like, I suppose. I hear tell y’all like to trade?”

“That’s what it says on the sign,” Reba piped up. “What’ve you got to trade?”

Colton placed his tactical bag on the counter. “Well, ma’am, I got my usual carry piece, a Ruger SP-101. Gently used, never fired in anger. I also have his big brother, a .44 Redhawk. Not as gently used, but well cared for. I propose a two for one swap.”

Rick sighed and rubbed his own jaw, calculating numbers. “Yeah, if they were brand new, from the factory, it would be a good swap for an unmodified Super Redhawk, but since they’re both used, that devalues them. I’ll give you... five hundred for the both of them.”

“That’s hardly fair,” Colton replied with a little shrug. “A thousand.”

“Seven hundred.”

“Nine.”

“Eight.”

“Eight-fifty.”

“Eight-twenty-five.”

“Done,” Colton said, offering his hand.

Rick laughed and shook. “That still leaves you on the hook for sixteen-fifty, Colton.”

“Actually, I think that leaves me on the hook for forty-one-fifty ‘cause I want two of them,” Colton said.

Rick’s grin got bigger. “That can be arranged. Do you mind if I ask what you’re gonna be shooting with these Alaskan Redhawks?”

“Most likely? Aliens,” Colton replied.

_________________
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Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.


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PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Sun Sep 16, 2012 2:15 pm

WIP 013

“A bus!” Amadi exclaimed.

“At least it ain’t old yella school bus, mon ami,” Val pointed out in his Cajun drawl. Val had gone through at least as great a change as Colton. He’d been pushing sixty-five when he’d stepped into that Reset Capsule. His body was worn-out, broken down, and Val had really only had at most a few years of life left due to a failing kidney. Now, he was young, handsome, muscular, and full of energy.

“First, no phasers. Now, we’re schlepping to Camp Sturgis in a bloody motor coach. Except for the aliens and the shuttle ride to a space station, this is bloody disappointing for the me as one of the first interstellar mercenaries,” Amadi grumbled.

“I’d hardly call rolling in this thing ‘schlepping’,” Athena snorted. “Dude, this is the kind of bus that rock stars roll in when they go on tour.”

The bus in question was sleek, an MCI J4500 Motor Coach, painted a smoky steel gray with darkly tinted windows. The interior seats wouldn’t have been out of place in a first class airline flight. With fifty-six seats, the forty Legionnaires had plenty of room for themselves and their gear. The bus driver whistled shrilly to gain their attention.

“We got a six hour drive ahead of us. I’ll stop at noon for a lunch break. That’ll be the only break you get. The bus has a lavatory, but I still recommend if you haven’t already taken care of business, you do so before you board. My name is Mitch. I am your driver. I am not your friend, your tour guide, or your personal entertainment. Leave me alone to drive the bus, and we’ll both be happier with the experience. I done took one load of you guys up to Camp Sturgis last week. It was not pleasant for me.”

“Mitch seems like a pleasant chap,” Amadi snickered.

“Lay off, Amadi,” Colton ordered. He raised his voice. “Okay, Legionnaires! You heard Mr. Mitch. If you haven’t done your business, do it now.”

“Mitch, open the cargo compartment,” Ishmael Chase ordered. “First Squad, we’re loading the gear.”

“Everybody else, stack your duffels where First Squad can handle their task,” Colton added. “If you’ve already done your business, get your asses on the bus. Now, Legionnaires!”

“Hoorah!”

“Pro Terra!”

Everyone was already kitted out in issue ACUs. The headgear of the day was the Legion Beret. They quickly and efficiently formed queues, squared away their gear and boarded the bus. Mitch watched with something bordering on shock. His last trip had involved raw recruits who’d been vocally bullied into behaving by several sergeants and a lieutenant. On that trip Mitch had been driving but one of a dozen buses, and his passengers had all been from Central and South America. This time his was one of two buses, and he was getting the “North American” contingent.

The other bus was carrying the newly arrived Second Platoon who had flown in from their recruitment center in Sao Paolo, Brazil. While not the geographic center of South America, it was the most politically and socially stable major city near the middle line of the continent. Since it was a coastal city, the aliens had built a floating spaceport to service South America near Praia Grande, a suburb of Sao Paolo. When Second Platoon had returned from Station Zero One, they’d had a day to put their affairs in order. Then, they’d boarded a shuttle, which had delivered them to Peterson AFB. At Peterson, a Legion motor coach had picked them all up and taken them to join First Platoon at the Denver recruiting center dormitory.

The two buses departed Denver, Colorado, and drove north, through much of eastern Wyoming to Camp Sturgis, which straddled the Wyoming/South Dakota state lines. The camp’s main entrance was on the Wyoming side of the border, but the eastern gate let out onto a major road that went to the camp’s namesake town, Sturgis, South Dakota. The aliens had purchased as much private land as they could, leasing the rest from the national government, which owned a lot of land in Wyoming. Most of Camp Sturgis was unmolested wilderness. The center of the camp, though, was nearly identical to the virtual Sturgis the Achilles Legionnaires had experienced.

The grinder was like they remembered, but instead of being a square, it was a hexagon with barracks facilities on five sides, and the admin building filling the final side. Beyond The Hex, as the new recruits had already labeled the area immediately surrounding the grinder, was a much larger D-Fac, a block of academic buildings for classroom, a gymnasium, an infirmary, a recreational facility, or Rec-Fac, and the Post Exchange or PX. Further out were firing ranges, the obstacle course, and a whole neighborhood of shoot houses.

“Once again, I feel oddly slighted,” Amadi sighed as the bus passed by the various facilities that their virtual boot camp had lacked.

“You are a selfish bastard,” Colton pointed out.

“Too right,” Amadi replied with a grin.

Ishmael Chase pointed out a platoon on a run in full kit. “Sucks to be them.”

Colton noted that the trainee recruits were wearing ACUs that had a different pattern and color. His and his comrades’ uniforms were predominantly black and gray, the camouflage pattern reminiscent of the old tiger stripe camo that his grandfather had worn in Vietnam. The other Legionnaire recruits wore a uniform that was predominantly gray with hints of scarlet and gold in the pattern.

“Our uniforms are different.” Athena had noticed, too.

“Well, we are, or at least will be, Special Forces,” Chase said. “That might be why.”

“That makes sense,” Colton agreed. “A psychological boost for us. Point out that we’re the Legion’s bad asses.”

“True, but I have a feeling that it might go deeper with Tribune Monroe,” Athena said. “That old man is working some kind of... I don’t know... some kind of mythic connection into the identities of our units. Think about it. We’re mercenaries, but our organization’s identity is patterned after the Roman Legions, and we’re part of Project Achilles, which is from Greek mythology.”

“Girl, you are seriously deep,” Chase grinned.

“No, Chase, I won’t shake my money maker for you, nor will I ‘drop it like it’s hot’,” Athena said.

Chase held up his hands in surrender. He’d worked at crafting a persona for himself that was “street”, but most everybody knew that he’d grown up being called “Urkel” after the nerdy character from the sitcom because of his high intelligence and nerdy hobbies. Chase had tried to rehabilitate his image in high school and college by becoming a proficient basketball player, but his first love had been micro-biology. He’d been a good enough ball player that the NBA had scouted him. Chase had even entered the NBA Draft, but too much partying with team mates had ended in an automobile accident that had killed two of his friends and left Chase horribly injured.

The accident had ruined his professional sports career, but Chase hadn’t cared. He’d been emotionally traumatized by the deaths of his friends. A job in a big pharma research lab had followed, but he’d lost all drive, all ambition. He’d taken to drinking heavily until his family had intervened. Then, therapy for the next several years had helped him rebuild his psyche. Like Athena, he had volunteered for the Legion as a chance to conduct scientific research that other human being had ever done before. The discipline of the Legion had clicked with him, too, reawakening his drive and ambition again. Now, though, Chase leavened his drive with a healthy sense of humor.

“Hey, Chase, I’ll pop-n-lock for you, if you wanna,” Erik offered waving his arms in a sinuous motion.

“I don’t know which cracker is crazier, Colt or you,” Chase laughed.

“Definitely him,” Colton offered.

“Oh, definitely me,” Erik agreed. “I was actually diagnosed as chemically imbalanced. Voices in my head, possibly extra personalities... No, wait, that’s now.”

“Yeah, but it’s kind of boring because our extra personas are all the same as us,” Colton pointed out.

“Crazy white people can’t even get being crazy right,” Chase sighed and rolled his eyes.

The bus stopped and Mitch opened the door. “We’re here. Get off.”

“Mitch, you are a fine example of a Human, and the very reason why we volunteered to fight for our species,” Colton said as he stood up and turned to face the platoon. “Everybody, be sure to thank Mitch for the wonderful ride as you’re leaving.”

“Hoorah!”

Their two buses had been joined a short time before reaching the camp by four more buses, each with a platoon from the other two training companies. For the first time, all 240 Project Achilles recruits were in one actual place at the same time. A lieutenant dressed in the gray ACUs of a regular Legionnaire approached their group accompanied by a squad of NCOs wearing French Foreign Legion-style kepis. Each NCO had a truncheon on his web belt in addition to a Pugio and Combat Knife.

“Officer on the deck!” Colton bellowed. “Attention!”

The assembled Achilles Legionnaires dropped what they were doing, formed ranks, and snapped to attention with proper parade ground salutes. The lieutenant and his NCOs all blinked in surprise. Colton quickly accessed the protocol database that had been included in their Phase One Advance Training download. He silently signaled the other Senior Recruits to do the same. A silent, high speed conference decided that Colton should represent Able Company. Baker and Charlie Companies also selected one each of their own recruits to represent their groups. Colton and his two chosen comrades stepped forward, still holding salute, and announced, “Training Company Able, Project Achilles, reporting as ordered!”

“Training Company Baker, Project Achilles, reporting as ordered,” repeated a short, North African woman named Dua Tawfeek.

“Training Company Charlie, Project Achilles, reporting as ordered,” echoed Yoon Moon, his company’s chosen representative.

The lieutenant returned the salutes and said, “Uh, at ease?”

The assembled 240 Project Achilles Legionnaires assumed parade rest in perfect unison.

“I, uh, I don’t think you’re, uh... You’re not who I was expecting,” the lieutenant continued. “We’re supposed to be getting a late batch of trainees.”

“This would be them, Lieutenant Voros,” Trystan Vann announced as he approached the waiting group.

The lieutenant snapped to attention, but caught himself before saluting Vann, whom he technically outranked. The other NCOs, though, did come to attention and salute. Vann returned their salutes with a little wave of a return salute.

“Oh, Sergeant Major! Uh, I...” Voros seemed to deflate slightly. “I really don’t know what’s going on here.”

“Lt. Voros, meet the Myrmidons of Project Achilles,” Vann announced.

Voros’ eyes grew large. “Oh!”

“Yes, sir. If you will permit me, sir, I’ll take charge of this lot and see them squared away,” Vann offered in a friendly manner that still carried the gravitas of a command from the Voice of God Himself.

“Of course, Smaj! Do you need assistants?” Voros offered with a wave toward the NCO drill instructors he’d brought with him.

“Not for these Legionnaires. They’re already housebroken, sir,” Vann chuckled.

“Well, very good, then, Smaj. Uh, carry on. Men, you are dismissed,” Voros said, regaining his composure quickly.

The other NCOs saluted, turned on their heels and returned to wherever Voros had picked them up. Voros nodded to Vann and quickly marched himself toward the admin building.

Vann watched them go with a smile before turning back to the Project Achilles Legionnaires. “In case you didn’t catch that, members of Project Achilles are referred to by the moniker ‘Myrmidon’. That is the name of your unit. The most senior Myrmidon present can use the title ‘Achilles’ with the understanding that Tribune Miles Monroe is the Achilles of our unit. Hoorah?”

“Hoorah, Sergeant Major!”

“For those who don’t know me, I am Sergeant Major Trystan Vann. In virtual Camp Sturgis, I played the role of Able Company, Second Platoon’s staff sergeant, and I was firearms and military history instructor for many of you. In the Myrmidons, I am your Battalion Sergeant Major, and I hold the honor of currently being Primus Pilum of the Terran Legion.”

“Hoorah, Sergeant Major!” shouted the members of his former training platoon.

Vann just chuckled and shook his head. “Alright, from this point on, you are now First Company Myrmidons, you’ll all be housed in the same barracks building. We’re reorganizing your squads and platoons, mixing the former companies together. This is your first opportunity to learn to work together in groups that include personnel from widely different cultures.”

Suddenly, the Myrmidons all received a high priority message in their internal comms, a berthing and squad assignment. Then, they each received a copy of their personal training schedules.

“You’ll see that your training schedules include a lot of the same things you’ve already learned through VR Basic, but now you’re gonna have to learn to do all that fun stuff with your new implants. You’ll also note that several of your evolutions are annotated as ‘free form’. These type sessions are for you to explore the limits of what your implants can and cannot allow you to do. They’re play times. Each and everyone of you was chosen for the program because you’re imaginative, intelligent, and creative. Simply put, you’re all geeks. Geek out. Go crazy during the free form training sessions. Find out what you can get your implants to do, and then share with your comrades.

“That’s just the start. We’ll also be outfitting you with and training you on a new addition to your Lorica armor system called Thick Skin. Now, follow the directions in your personal HUD, get squared away, and report to the Armory at 1500. Dismissed!”

* * * * *

Athena and Kat jogged up to the obstacle course. The regular recruits were in classroom this time of day. So, the Myrmidons had access to the course for one of their daily “free form” training periods. The two women paused to catch their breath, not that either of them had really exerted herself too much. Between the muscle and bone enhancements and the medical nanobots coursing through their bodies, they didn’t fatigue nearly as quickly as they might have after a two mile run. In fact, they could have sprinted for two miles with only minimal fatigue.

They saw Erik standing off to one side, arms crossed, watching Colton who was sitting on the ground, cross-legged, chin propped up on his left fist, staring at his right hand. They cast a glance at one another and joined Erik.

“What is he doing?” Athena asked.

“Did he find hair on his palm? Is he getting near-sighted again?” Kat teased.

“No, he’s, and I quote, ‘figgering’,” Erik replied. “He’s been sitting there, staring at the palm of his hand for the last fifteen minutes. Kind of oblivious, actually.”

“Really?” Athena said with some concern as she watched Colton.

“Amadi and I have both teased him, mercilessly, I might add, and not gotten a single smart ass response out of him. In all the time we’ve known him, when has Colton not risen to the challenge of being a smart ass?” Erik said.

“Snarky is kind of his default setting,” Kat agreed. “Hey, Athena, maybe we should flash him. That might wake him up.”

Athena rolled her eyes.

“I doubt it would work. Amadi threatened to tea bag him,” Erik said.

“That’s kind of gross,” Kat said.

“Yeah, even Amadi was shocked at himself. Then, he went off with Ram, Fausto, and Val to run the course. I’ve been keeping an eye on Colton. I think he’s figured out a way to sleep while looking like he’s awake,” Erik said.

“Not precisely, but that’s what I’ll figger on next,” Colton said, blinking suddenly.

“It lives!” Erik declared, throwing in a maniacal mad scientist laugh for good effect.

“Oh, hello, Athena. Kat,” Colton said as he stood up and brushed dirt from the seat of his pants. “How y’all doing?”

“Well, we’re a little concerned with your catatonic routine,” Athena admitted.

Colton made a shooing motion with his hand. “Aw, don’t need to worry ‘bout that. I was just kinda, ya know, ‘communing’ with my QPCP, using my med nannies to get a better look at the Maggie.”

The “Maggie” was the Miniaturized Artificial Graviton Field Generator and Inertial Dampener System, a group of implants found throughout their bodies. Each device in the system was size and shape of a dime, one implanted in each hand and foot, one on either hip, two astride the spine at the lower back, two mid-back, and one on either shoulder. The Maggie devices lining the body were intended to counteract the mass of the body itself, which was significantly increased due to the muscle and bone enhancements. Colton, for example, looked like he should have weighed in right around two hundred pounds, but his actual weight was still a little over three hundred. With the Maggie activated, Colton’s apparent weight dropped dramatically to about a hundred pounds. Some of the recruits found that they could pump more power to the Maggie and lower their apparent weight down to mere ounces, which allowed them to make amazing leaps or climb obstacles like a spider monkey.

The Maggie units in their hands and feet generated localized “tractor” fields, which allowed them to “grip” perfectly smooth surfaces for climbing or to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground. The tractor field didn’t have much range, though, but with some experimentation, some of the recruits had figured out how to extend the field’s range by narrowing the focus into a beam. Then, they used the “tractor beam” to pick up items from a few feet away. Jokes about Jedi and lightsabers abounded after that.

“I think I mighta figgered out how to weaponize the hand Maggies,” Colton announced.

“I’m sorry, what?” Athena exclaimed.

“Well, think about it: if the Maggies can pull, why can’t they push, too?” Colton said. He tapped his palm. “What we’ve got in our hands and feet is effectively a teeny-tiny version of the drive units that the Makers build for missiles. They just don’t have the software to push. I mean, we’ve figgered out how to modify the existing pull program to do the Jedi Force Pull trick, but I think I got mine reprogrammed and uploaded to do the Jedi Force Push trick.”

That’s what you’ve been doing for the last fifteen minutes?” Erik exclaimed.

“Actually, I spent ten minutes accessing a Maker tech database, and having my gestalt translate it into something I could understand. Then, I spent five minutes downloading the program that was already in the database and modifying it for the Maggie,” Colton said. “I think I might be impressed with myself, but I don’t wanna appear immodest ‘cause it was the gestalt that did the heavy lifting.”

Colton looked around for a suitable test target. The obstacle course was surrounded by a perimeter of logs that weary recruits were allowed to sit on while their instructors regaled them with precisely what they’d done wrong in running the course. Colton walked over, grabbed hold of one of the logs, easily three times as big around as a telephone pole and twenty feet long, and pulled it up off the ground. Then, he flipped it vertical and slammed it back down into the earth. Satisfied that it would stay upright, Colton walked away about fifteen feet. He turned back, raised his right hand, palm out, and pointed it at the upright log.

“Test firing!” he shouted.

The repulsor beam was invisible. The log barely shivered. Colton looked mildly perturbed. He stepped five feet closer to the log, braced himself again, and called out again that he was firing. This time the repulsor beam appeared as a barely perceptible distortion in the air that slammed against the log and shook it, but didn’t move it. Now, Colton was getting visibly irritated. He stepped another five feet closer, hollered that he was test firing, and blasted the log. The repulsor beam was a clearly defined distortion in the air this time. A divot appeared in the middle of the log where Colton had pointed, and the whole thing tipped over, tearing up the ground where he’d stuck it, and fell to the ground with a thump.

“Okay, so it’s only effective at a range of five frakking feet,” Colton sighed heavily.

“Wait a sec,” Athena said. “Are you just using the repulsor field to push the log?”

“Yeah, that’s kinda the idea. Like Iron Man’s repulsor ray,” Colton replied.

“That’s bad comic book science,” Athena said, rolling her eyes. “You’re actually moving the air. The repulsor is moving air molecules.” She looked around. Then, she picked up a rock off the ground and tossed it to him. “Here. Let’s try something else.”

Athena reset the log up as a target, moving the heavy piece of wood as easily as Colton had. She joined him. “Okay, use your repulsor to launch the rock.”

“Alright, I gotcha,” Colton laughed.

He held the rock in the palm of his hand. When he turned his hand back facing the log, the rock clung to his palm like it was glued to it. Then, the rock hurtled toward the log. On impact, the rock burst apart, and the log cracked in half.

“Mr. Payne! Is there some reason you are destroying the infrastructure of my obstacle course?” bellowed the Staff Sergeant in charge the obstacle course. He was a regular Legionnaire, a “transfer” from the Marine Corps, meaning he had been given an expedited honorable discharge from the USMC so that he could enlist with the Legion. Most of the regular Legion officer and NCO cadre were similar transfers from around the world.

“Staff Sergeant, I am following the Camp Prefect’s standing order to advance our knowledge of the capabilities of Maker Tech implants. I decided that using an already dead log would be a better test subject than a living Legionnaire, sir!” Colton replied.

The obstacle course staff sergeant really couldn’t argue with that. Tribune Monroe had pretty much preached the gospel of the Myrmidons standing outside the regular Legion’s normal chain of command to every single one of his officers and NCOs. They were an experimental weapon system that had to work out all of its kinks before it could be fielded. Therefore, any Myrmidon, during a free form training period, could do whatever he or she pleased as long as it involved experimenting with their implants. Colton’s use of the Maggie as an improvised firearm was just a bit more pyrotechnic than any of the regular troops had been expecting.

“Just... put my shit back the way you found it,” the staff sergeant sighed.

“Sir, yes, sir!” Colton replied with a precise parade ground salute.

An open topped Humvee pulled up just as Athena and Colton were putting the broken log back into place, turned so that the divot was facing into the dirt. Sergeant Major Vann hopped out and eyed the log.

“What happened here?” he asked.

“Colton figured out how to turn the Maggie tractors into repulsors, and I figured out how to use it to chuck a rock at a log hard enough to break it, sir,” Athena reported.

“Not bad,” Vann nodded with approval. “Share the data with the rest of the Myrmidons, Payne.”

“Already sent an email, sir, along with a recording of my test fires,” Colton said. “I got another idea how to use the repulsor effect coupled with the inertia compensator, but I think we’re severely limited in what we can do with the Maggie system due to upper power limits.”

Vann got a thoughtful look. “What do you have in mind?”

“Well, sir, I figger if you reduce your effective mass to a few ounces, you can use the repulsor effect to... Well, I guess you’d say, you could use it to do a powered jump, almost fly, sorta, but the capacitors in the Maggie system will only hold that charge for, maybe, twenty seconds. More than enough time to leap a high wall in a single bound, and maybe land safely on the other side, and that’s assuming you ain’t got any other load you’re carrying. Throw in our standard kit, and I’d cut that time estimate down to ten seconds,” Colton replied. “And since the Maggie generates an artificial graviton field, it could, theoretically be used to generate a gravitational singularity.”

“A black hole?” Athena exclaimed.

“For about a femtosecond,” Colton confirmed. “At least according to the Maker Tech database.”

“What would happen?” Vann asked.

“All sorts of bad things. Anything within the field would be crushed to a speck. Anything near the field would be ripped to shreds, light, electricity, force fields, rocks, bodies... And that does include the idiot who activated the singularity burst. Your hand, maybe up to the shoulder, gone. The rest of you? Gooey red pudding,” Colton said. “Gravity weapons can be a bitch, sir. A nasty, vindictive bitch who empties your bank account, sleeps with your best friend, and then shoots you in the ass, sir.”

“Sounds like my ex-wife,” Vann chuckled.

“Yes, sir. If you say so, sir,” Colton agreed.

“Did you include Achilles in your mass email?”

“Yes, sir,” Colton confirmed.

“He’ll like that when he reads it. Very well, then, carry on, but save the, uh, ‘weapons testing’ for the firing range and the bomb range, okay? I’d kind of like to keep the equipment in decent shape for succeeding classes of new recruits,” Vann said.

“As you wish, Sergeant Major,” Colton said.

“Don’t start quoting The Princess Bride at me, boy,” Vann snorted as he got back into his vehicle. Then, he grinned, almost malevolently, before saying, “You know, I’m kinda looking forward to Panoply training with you now, Payne. I really want to see what kind of mayhem you can wreak.”

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PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Fri Sep 21, 2012 1:38 pm

WIP 014

“Now, you may be wondering why the uniform of the day today specifically required you to ‘go commando’ as my generation put it,” Vann announced as he wandered among the assembled Myrmidons.

Each was dressed in a t-shirt and athletic shorts, and only a t-shirt and athletic shorts. They were barefoot. They wore no covers, not even the ubiquitous ball cap that most of them preferred. Most importantly, no one wore undergarments. Sgt. Major Vann was likewise clad only in t-shirt and shorts.

The small group of Myrmidons was composed of twenty-four Legionnaires, gathered into fire teams of four. They were assembled in a domed structure in the woods beyond the armory and ammo dump. This dome was one of five such structures, and each dome had an instructor like the Primus Pilum in each, supposedly all giving the same lecture. The Myrmidons currently in the dome were the second class through of the day. The second half of the Myrmidons would receive this initial training later in the afternoon.

“Simply put,” Vann continued, “it’s so it will be easier for you to get naked. Now, you’re all wondering ‘why is Sergeant Major Vann gonna make us get nekkid? The Smaj is so manly, I’m a-little scared.’ Well, don’t be! I’m not about to order to grab your heels and take one for the Legion.”

A nervous chuckle murmured through the assembled Myrmidons.

Vann stopped in the center of the dome, where a pile of cubical boxes were stacked. One had Vann’s name stenciled on it. He laid his hand on it, giving it a caress. “This crate, ladies and gentlemen, contains Thick Skin.” With a flourish, Vann popped open the lid of the crate, reached in and lifted out a gelatinous, blue-black mass, which wiggled and squirmed like a living thing.

“I know. Disgusting looking, right?” Vann said with a nod as he paraded the blob around, showing it to each Myrmidon. “Go head, touch it, give it a sniff, satisfy your curiosity.”

“It’s warm!” Suki Sato exclaimed.

“Kinda satiny, too,” Ida Burke added. “Like a... Well, it kinda reminds me of these, uh, silk sheets...” Ida blushed deeply at the various whistles and cat calls.

“Is it alive?” Ishmael Chase asked.

“Not in the traditional sense,” Vann replied, “but it does behave like a living organism. Now, I’m gonna show you what it does.”

Vann placed the blob on the floor. Then, he shucked his shorts and t-shirt. The sergeant major was ripped, even by Myrmidon standards. Without a hint of hesitation, Vann stepped into the blob. The blob wiggled its entire mass and swarmed up Vann’s legs, quickly covering his nakedness, slithered across his chest, down his arms, and flowed over his head. The blob even covered his face. Then, it was still for a full second before receding away from his face. The blob seemed to quiver where it had settled upon his body. As the quivering settled, the blob went from blue-black to reflective silver back to black and settled on a shade approximating Vann’s natural skin tone. The sergeant major struck a pose.

“Thick Skin,” he announced with a flourish at what now appeared to be a garment similar to a diver’s wet suit. “It’s not alive, but it is a Maker-constructed bio-mechanical organism designed to operate as a symbiotic organism. It is also under the full control of your neural implants.”

The Thick Skin receded away from Vann’s head and hands, becoming a sleeveless body suit. Then, it peeled away from his feet, up his legs, stopping just short of his crotch. “As you can see, you can adjust the coverage of the Thick Skin on your body, but this is as far as it will recede. At the moment, it is extremely dense around my torso. It does get thinner as it covers the entire body. Thick Skin is extremely flexible. You won’t find any direction of natural movement impeded by its presence.”

Vann bent to touch his toes. Then, he rolled up onto his hands, did a couple of pushups with his legs pointed straight up in the air. He finished by rolling his legs over the top and flipping upright like a gymnast. Then, he performed a split that would have impressed Jean Claude Van Damme. He impressed his students enough that they burst into spontaneous applause.

The sergeant major regained his feet and took a bow. “Thank you. Thank you. Be sure to tip your clowns and waiters.” He motioned for the Myrmidons to settle down. “Alright. Now that you’ve seen why Mrs. Vann keeps me around, you’re probably wondering why we need such a marvelous piece of technological clothing.”

“It’s a space suit,” Colton said.

Vann touched his nose and pointed at Colton with the other hand. “You are correct, young Legionnaire! Thick Skin will protect you against hard vacuum, even against hard radiation for a short period of time. Worn under your ACUs and Lorica, with the addition of an air supply, the Thick Skin will allow you to survive sudden decompression or running across the surface of the Moon in full daylight.

“It is not for extended use in vacuum, though. Thick Skin has a finite capacity to deflect harmful radiation. If you’re aboard a spacecraft, and you need to expose yourself to hard vacuum and harder radiation, you’re good to go for half an hour. After that, your medical nannies will have to go to work to keep the radiation from killing you. You’ll also have to decontaminate your Thick Skin. If you plan on being out in the black for any extended period of time, say a boarding action, you’ll do so in an actual armored space suit, but that is a training evolution for another time.

“Thick Skin has other wonderful properties. First, its ability to absorb and dissipate radiation gives you another layer of armor against directed energy weapons. It will even absorb a certain percentage of kinetic energy, pretty much a significant chunk of whatever bleeds through your ACUs and Lorica, which will reduce a lot of the bruising and impact fractures, which, in turn, reduces the load on your medical nannies.

“Second, as Suki pointed out, Thick Skin is warm, but it will also cool. In other words, if you’re in the middle of a blizzard, the Thick Skin will keep you warm. If you’re in the middle of an equatorial jungle or desert, Thick Skin will keep you cool. Show of hands, who all has read or seen one of the Dune movies?”

Most everyone raised their hands.

“The Fremen wore a garment next to the skin called a ‘still suit’. It recycled their sweat and urine, converted it back into potable water. Thick Skin does the same thing. It will also consume your solid waste, dead skin cells, trim your hair for you, and it uses those raw materials to replenish itself. It can even increase its mass through this process, which leads us to the fourth and final point of wearing a Thick Skin under your regular clothes.

“Thick Skin is, essentially, a Maker multi-tool writ large.” Vann extended his right arm, and the Thick Skin swarmed down it, covered his hand like a mitten, and the mitten hardened into a spade-like shape. “This is just one of my favorite shapes, but you can make it do wrenches, hammers, saws, machetes, pretty much whatever simple tool you can imagine.”

“I though Makers wouldn’t make weapons,” a Legionnaire named Krusen from Netherlands said.

“It’s technically not a weapon,” Vann said tapping the side of his nose. “It’s a tool. Of course, guns are tools for making holes at a distance, and the same cork screw you use to pop open a fresh bottle of wine can be used to rip out a man’s trachea. Shocking confession, folks: I read a book once, a fantasy novel, can’t remember the name, but I do remember one thing from it. The dwarfs of this fantasy world had a saying, ‘look to the left side of your tools.’ By that they meant that the same hammers and axes that they used to build their world, they used to defend their world. Why else have we been having you do all that ‘free form’ training?”

“So that Colton can turn a Maggie into a black hole suicide weapon,” Athena laughed.

“That’s just theoretical, and I highly recommend against doing it because it’s suicidal,” Colton sighed. “Sergeant Major, permission to receive my personal issue of Thick Skin?”

Vann laughed. “Granted, Legionnaire Payne. I’m looking forward to seeing if you can figure out a new and inventive way to cause mayhem with the Thick Skin.”

_________________
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PostSubject: Re: Scenes from Tales of the Terran Legion   Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:04 pm

WIP 015

The Myrmidons were tasked with the role of Opposing Force when the first class of regular Legionnaires were given their Final Exercise of Basic Training. The training platoons were sent out into the wilderness, much the same as the Myrmidons had been in virtual reality, where they expected to go through several days of “simulated” field exercises. They weren’t expecting to be attacked by a strong enemy force. The Myrmidons were fully kitted up for the exercise: ACUs, Thick Skin, and Lorica. For the exercise, though, they were issued a version of the uniform that looked like the Ro-chaq kit. Tribune Monroe had assigned temporary officer rankings within the Myrmidon squads.

A troop of Kraken infantry squids had volunteered to play the role of hell hounds, and a battalion of Ergrahthah Aerospace Infantry augmented their numbers. The Kraken weren’t as large as the real hell hounds, but they had enough limbs to operate an animatronic puppet suit that gave them the build and general appearance of a hell hound. The Ergrahthah troops, known as Drop Kickers, were outfitted much the same as the Myrmidon troops in a uniform that made them resemble the Ro-chaq. All were armed with guns that fired non-lethal marker rounds.

Colton found himself as a “lieutenant” in charge of a mixed group of Myrmidons, Drop Kickers, and Kraken “hounds.” The Myrmidons, due to their internal comms, were acting as officer cadre for the group. Colton had the Dutch Myrmidon Krusen, a Korean woman named Yun Jin Chan, Amadi and Fausto. Each of them was in nominal command of a platoon of Drop Kickers. The senior Drop Kicker was a male Ergrahthah named Rax Binuri, whose rank translated as “Captain” but meant “Leader of a Company of Rifle-armed Fighters.” Captain was shorter and easier to use. Colton’s “hounds” were led by a Kraken called Mustard Hector Seven-Seven. Hector had simply numbered his workers as One through Five.

“Mayhem Six, Mayhem Six, do you copy?”

Colton activated his comms with a thought and replied, “Mayhem Six Actual. Copy.”

“Ready to play your part, kid?” Tribune Monroe asked over the link.

“If you mean am I ready to Kobayashi Maru Lt. Voros’ company, yes. Yes, I am,” Colton replied with a mean grin. “Sir.”

Lt. Voros, the young regular Legion officer who’d first met them upon their arrival at Camp Sturgis, had been assigned the job of leading his company in the assault on the enemy transport ship. The “ship” in question was a Frankenstein’s Monster of shipping containers, airplane fuselages, and the keel of an actual sea-going freighter, all fused together and decorated until it looked like it might have been an actual ship that had landed in the wilderness. The ship’s crew and defenders were all robotic dummies and automated weapons. Voros’ company would have to deal with a mine field, automated sentry guns, and an electric fence before they could reach the landing field. Then, aboard the ship they’d have to deal with more sentry weapons, locked hatches, and robotic mannequins that would run away from them. A few of the mannequins had been sculpted to resemble the cricket-like Zrin.

“Good. Let him get in good and deep, let him think he’s won, before you spring on him and start wreaking havoc with his rear,” Monroe said.

“He’s starting his movements now, sir,” Colton reported.

“Then, I’ll leave you to your mission, Colt. Good luck,” Monroe said.

“Thank you, sir,” Colton replied.

He and Hector and Rax were hidden in a copse of pine trees on a slight rise on the far side of the landing field from where Voros’ company was making their insertion. While he was nominally in charge, Colton knew that Rax or Hector could take operational command away from him at any time. This exercise was as much a test for him as it was for Lt. Voros and his Legionnaires.

“Voros is being cautious,” Hector observed, his Kraken eyes being strong enough that he didn’t need vision enhancement at this range.

For the operation, they were all speaking Ryenallah, the Drop Kicker’s native language. Most of them had a barely functional grasp of English, and the Myrmidon’s translator implants allowed them to easily speak the alien tongue.

Colton was fascinated by the language. Structurally, it worked just like English, but all the words were completely different. He wondered what the world’s linguists were saying about the structural similarities of the two languages. Grammar and syntax were easy to acquire. The difficulty was in remembering all the new words, which sounded nothing like anything in English. He was glad that he had a translator built in.

“He has it much easier than my company did in the same exercise,” Colton observed. “We had two platoons, just eighty troops. His platoons are individually bigger, and he’s got three of them.”

That was true. The regular Legion infantry was composed of twelve-man squads, four squads to a Rifle Platoon, three for a Weapons Platoon. Voros’ Weapons Platoon was built around a trio of systems that the Myrmidons had just started learning to use: the Spatha, the Onager, and the Verutum.

Based on the FN MAG, the Spatha was a general purpose, belt fed medium machinegun chambered in a 10x55mm round unique to the Legion. The Spatha was technically “crew-served”, even though a single trooper could carry and fire the weapon. Under normal operation, one man served to aim and fire the Spatha, while his assistant schlepped and then loaded the weapon’s ammunition. A Weapons Platoon would field two Spathas per squad. A Spatha fire team consisted of a gunner, an assistant gunner/loader, and two troopers armed with Pilums to cover the Spatha’s flanks.

The other fire team in each Weapons Platoon squad was built around the Onager, a 120mm mortar. Unlike a traditional mortar that used a gunpowder charge in the tail of the round to launch its payload, the Onager was based on a Kraken coil gun design. A series of magnetic accelerator coils provided the impetus for the projectile it launched, and the coils could be adjusted to provide a variety of velocities for the projectile. Those projectiles came with a number of different possible payloads. Like the Spatha fire teams, the Onager fire teams consisted of a gunner, a loader, and two troopers to provide flank security.

In both types of fire teams, one of the flank security troopers also carried a Verutum, another Kraken-designed weapon being manufactured by a Human company for use by humans. The Verutum was a reusable rocket launcher, similar in style and function to a Soviet RPG. The troopers assigned to carry the Verutum carried the launcher tube and two rounds for it. The rocket round used by the Verutum was capable of maneuvering and seeking whatever target the gunner locked it onto. The rockets, though, were relatively heavy and cumbersome, which was why the trooper assigned to carry the launcher only had two rounds.

“Envious of his numbers and equipment?” Rax teased.

Colton shrugged. “Not really. I know that the job can be done with eighty people using SMGs and assault rifles. Against targets that shoot back. If Voros can’t manage the job, I’ll be surprised.”

“That sounds like arrogance, my Ner friend,” Rax said in English, which was pretty good. He relished opportunities to practice.

Colton easily switched to his native tongue. “If it does, I’ve earned it. At least, I feel like I’ve earned it, whether it was an actual experience or a virtual one,” Colton added with a slight blush.

“Confidence is good. Especially in front of those you lead,” Hector opined. “However, young Human, do not let confidence be blind. As your own holy writings say, ‘Pride goes before the fall.’”

Colton smiled fondly at the Kraken bull squid. In their short acquaintance, he’d become very fond of the old warrior, and the Kraken was old, almost a hundred fifty by Earth time reckoning. His workers, more accurately ‘soldier’ squids, were also nearly as ancient, many of them the survivors of devastated packs that Hector had rescued from terminal separation syndrome, a deadly malaise that affected worker squids who lost their bull. A bull that lost his pack was subject to the same depression unless he bonded with another worker squid.

“Except for the fact that you’re a Squid, and that you speak better English, you sound a lot like my old Grandpa, Hector,” Colton chuckled.

“Stupid warriors do not become old warriors, young Human,” Hector said.

“My fighting master said the same thing,” Rax said.

“Okay, random segue here, but I got a mighty itch in my curiosity about something, Rax,” Colton said.

Rax blinked his large, green, cat-like eyes. “Wow. You may have to repeat that sentence in Ryenallah for me to understand it. Do you have a question that you wish answered?”

“Yes,” Colton nodded. “How come you Aerospace Infantry guys call yourselves ‘Drop Kickers’?”

Rax grinned, a facial expression exactly like the human one, but much toothier in comparison. “It is based on an old idiom, my friend. You see, we are not like your naval infantry, but more like the... what do you call them, ah, ‘paras’?”

“That’s the British, but I know what you mean, paratroopers. Airborne. Strap on a parachute and a light assault weapon and jump out of a perfectly good airplane screaming ‘Geronimo’!” Colton said.

“I do not know why anyone would say, uh, ‘geronimo’, but, yes, that is what the Aerospace Infantry does. We jump out of perfectly good air- and spacecraft, but once on the ground?” Rax made an elaborate motion with his arms and shoulders that equated to a shrug. “We walk. We march. On need, we run. The ‘drop’ part is easy to see, yes? We ‘drop’ from our carrier craft. The ‘kicker’ part, though, is a colloquialism as old as my grandfather’s grandfather and his grandfather’s ancestors. It refers to a kind of way of marching. You call it a, uh, ‘duck-step’?”

“Goose stepping,” Colton corrected.

“Yes, that is it. So, a ‘kicker’ is a fighter who marches to battle. In more recent times, it has also come to refer to a fighter who practices martial arts that utilize foot and knee strikes. A kicker fighter has the... aura of being more versatile and more capable in an unarmed fight than a traditional hand fighter or grappler,” Rax explained.

“That is... actually very interesting,” Colton said. “To us, Americans in particular, a drop kick is when you drop a ball over your foot in order to get more velocity when you kick it. It’s also a maneuver in a fight where you jump up in the air, kick out with both feet at your opponent, and drop to the ground, hoping the other guy does, too.”

“That is a maneuver of some schools of kick fighting,” Rax said. “Only the kick fighter hits the ground with his hands in order to somersault back to his feet.”

“Sounds like a capoeira,” Colton chuckled.

“Young warriors, bring your attention back to the battle unfolding before us,” Hector said.

Voros had decided on a brute force approach, but in a way that was actually quite clever. The mortar section of the Weapons Platoon had set up behind another hill, facing the main gate of the landing field. He’d placed all six of his Spatha machineguns on the hill. Mixed in among the Spatha teams on the hill were marksmen with MAUL shotguns attached to their Pilums. At close enough range, the Q-dar in their multi-sensors could penetrate the dirt of the field far enough to give a good approximation of where all the land mines had been planted.

The Onager mortars opened the engagement, dropping a line of smoke rounds across the front face of the landing field fence. Then, the Spatha machineguns opened up, targeting the sentry guns. Both the Spathas and the sentry guns were loaded with paint-pellet marker rounds. The Field Judges observing the exercise would declare whether or not a weapon was disabled or destroyed.

Similarly, the shotguns carried by the Legionnaires had paint pellet rounds, too, and the shotgunners began blasting the field, splattering paint across the grass and dirt, marking the locations of the simulated mines. The Field Judges command detonated the mines, which were simply compressed air charges filled with confetti. The mine field was cleared in a matter of a minute or two. Then, one of Voros’ Rifle Platoons charged the gate. Meanwhile, one of the Spatha crews focused their fire on a transformer just beyond the fence, covering it in paint pellets.

“They’re taking out the power to the fence,” Rax observed. “Probably a good idea.”

Colton nodded. Half of the first squad to reach the fence took up defensive positions covering the other half of their squad who were using multi-tools to cut the chain links of the fence. The second squad did the same thing at the gate, and the third squad cut a hole on the other side of the gate from the first squad.

The second Rifle Platoon was charging forward at that point, while the Weapons Platoon was pulling up their weapons to make their own forward movement. The second platoon bypassed the first and entered the field, half sweeping to the left of the grounded ship, the rest to the right. Second Platoon formed a perimeter around the ship, looking for more sentry guns mounted on the ship or points of ingress.

The Weapons Platoon replaced First Platoon as the guards on the fence. At the gate and each of the holes the first platoon had made in the fence, the Weapons Platoon set up an Onager and a Spatha. Some of the troops tore apart the sandbag redoubts behind which the sentry guns had been emplaced and began using those materials to fortify the positions of the mortars and machineguns.

The other three Spatha machinegun teams joined Lt. Voros at the ship. The young lieutenant then dispatched them to the three other sides of the field to stand watch. The “ship” had three points of entry built into the design: a large cargo hatch in the belly of the ship with a ramp facing the rear, and port and starboard personnel airlocks. Colton knew that the simulated ship also had four “emergency & maintenance airlocks” located on the dorsal hull behind the “bridge”, on the aft between the “main engines”, on the belly between the “forward landing struts”, and another between the “aft landing struts”.

Voros split First Platoon, sending half to the port airlock, half to the starboard. Then, he three squads of Second Platoon up the ramp to the cargo hatch. The final squad, he kept with himself, to function as a reserve for the assault. Voros very clearly counted down before ordering his men to assault.

“Myrmidons, turn your platoons over to their lieutenant and converge on my position,” Colton ordered.

The other four Myrmidons acknowledged.

“Hector, it’s time for you to play berserker. Remember, we get to cheat in this little game. So, unless a Field Judge declares that you got hit in the belly brain, you keep charging. Get in close and whack those fellas with your pugil sticks,” Colton said, pointing at the two squads guarding the entrance to the landing field.

“My pack will be slaughtered, even with that proviso,” Hector said.

“And if this were real, I wouldn’t use you like that, but I’m playing Ro-chaq, and Hrix berserkers are expendable assets,” Colton said.

“Just so, young warrior, just so,” Hector replied bobbing the hell hound head of his costume. “My six against their twelve. How unfair. For them.”

“That’s the spirit, but you won’t be alone. Rax, take Mayhem Six-One with you, play the part of hell hound handler, and use them to cover your own assault,” Colton ordered.

“Very well, but what will you be doing?” Rax asked.

“Getting creative,” Colton replied just as the other four Myrmidons arrived. He pointed to Krusen and Chan. “You two, I need a silent kill on that Spatha fire team.” His finger swung to Amadi and Fausto. “I need that other team taken out quiet. I’ll deal with the third team on the far side. Once we’ve got these two points open, and Rax and Hector have the full attention of the guards, Mayhem Six-Two will take them from the rear, while Six-Three and Six-For counter-assault the transport.

“Remember: we’re bad guys. We don’t take prisoners. If any of ‘our’ people are taken prisoner, we kill them to get at the good guys. If the engines have been damaged, we blow that whole ship to deny an asset to our enemies. Okay, that’s just our character roles. Our real mission? Let’s ruin Lt. Voros’ day.”

_________________
Ragnar Lothbrok wrote:
Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.


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