Jethro Goes to War (Wandering Engineer Jethro's tale) (10 page)


Aye aye sir,”
they said in unison. They came to attention. The Major did as well.
The two noncoms saluted. He returned the salute.


Dismissed.”

...*...*...*...*...


Damn what a
rush,” Sergei said, shaking his head.


The fall or
the sudden stop at the end?” Hurranna asked amused.


Both.”


It wasn't
realistic though. I'm surprised we had problems with the others,”
Valenko said softly.


What do you
mean?” Sergei asked, looking over to him. Deja, the selkie down
the way looked up over to them. The selkie was one of the few who had
actually enjoyed the ride. Probably because of his nature, the big
Liger thought with a flicker of annoyance. “Are you kidding?
That's as real as it gets. That was probably a hack from the
archives.”


No he's
right,” Jethro said sitting up on his rack. “I mean it,”
he said as the others eyes him. “Think it over. In a drop we'd
be confined in pods. Claustrophobia. Tight coffin. Going straight
down. This was a freaking video game and people lost it. Knowing that
it was all fake they
still
lost it.”


Damn,”
the selkie shook his head. “You would remind me of that.
Digging our own grave,” he shook his head and ran a flipper
hand over his brow. “Did we really do that?” he asked.


No we played
a VR game. That's my point. No drop pod, no gravity, no heat, no fire
from below, no atmo, remember that folks. All a game. Just a sim. Put
it in perspective. It was a gut check.”


A fun run you
mean,” Valenko replied with a nod.


Fun run?”
Hurranna asked. She wrinkled her nose. Her whiskers twitched. “Dare
I ask?”


Gut check. A
run. Hard run. Just to see who will stay in the game. Who's too
stupid or stubborn to quit. Who hasn't an ounce of quit in them. We
did one before on our first day.”


Ah,”
she winced. “I don't remember doing so hot then.”


Yeah well,
just be glad you were sober and not too full at the time,”
Jethro said smiling.


Um...”
Valenko scratched an itch.


Old trick my
ancestor made sure to point out,” Jethro looked around as the
rest of the squads out of sickbay came over to hear. “See they,
the noncoms or the officers do a fun run or something nasty right
after a party or leave. From what I heard running forty clicks hung
over with a full ruck in the mud isn't something you want to do.”

Hurranna winced.
“That's fracked. Totally screwed up.”


That's the
way things run. You have to pay for your pleasures,” Valenko
sighed. “I remember something about that too. But I think the
gunny is paying for his now.”


What do you
mean?” Jethro asked.


You and I
both know he did that because we dropped the ball and clued the
platoon in on what is up. Unfortunately I think it backfired. We lost
a few good people because of that,” he shook his head. Eight of
their people were out for good. Most of them were Veraxin. The last
one was still in sickbay. She would be released later today
hopefully.


Which is my
fault. Not yours.” They jumped to their feet as the gunny came
into the bay. Valenko glared at the watch.


Deal with it
later,” the gunny said, slightly amused as he passed. He walked
the bay then came back. “I pushed before you were ready. My
mistake,” he growled. He looked around.


Sir
no
sir. We needed the
gut check. Better to find out now than when it counted sir!”
Jethro said instinctively.

The gunny eyed him.
“Sucking up?” he asked and then shook himself. He knew
better. The kid wasn't a suck up. “You may be right,” he
admitted. The kid was honest and didn't pull punches. “I don't
know. Personally I think we did need to know. Then again, not
everyone is cut out to be a hell jumper. I for one am not.” He
shook his head ruefully at that admission.

That revelation
startled a few in the room. They looked at the gunny. He chuckled.


What you
think you had it bad? All you had were VR neural feed goggles in a
zero g tank. I had full implant hell. So did the other DI's who were
in the drop,” he said with a grim smile. He shook his head.
“No, the Major is right; we need to learn to walk before we can
run. I needed a kick in the pants too; we the noncoms are learning
our jobs just as you are. You get the benefit of learning from our
mistakes,” he shook his head. “Damn if I let there be
another one though,” he growled softly.


Sir yes sir,”
the troops in the bay answered.


All right,
break down by squads. I want a hot wash on the exercise this
afternoon. Valenko, Jethro, as our resident experts I want a report
on the exercise on my desk by, oh let’s say, twenty two
hundred.”


Yes sir.”


I want to
know what happened, what went wrong, and possible methods to fix
them. And any ideas you can come up with to make this smoother. Don't
kiss ass, and don't pull punches. Give me the straight dope,”
he said dryly. He looked around the bay. “Inspection tomorrow,
say around oh eight hundred. Full kit. Since your squad mates are off
duty you should consider this a gift. Use it wisely.” He turned
and left without a backwards glance.


Ah hell.”


What?”
Jethro asked giving the bear a look.


You have any
idea how much of a bitch it is to write with these paws?” the
bear complained. He held up his giant paws. Unlike a cat, his claws
didn't retract. Jethro snorted.


I'll help,”
Hurranna said. “Just don't expect me to play secretary every
damn time,” she growled.


Wouldn't
dream of it. Let’s get cracking. It's already nineteen thirty.”

Chapter 4

 

The classes filed
into the park and then fell in at the ready line. Schultz finished
examining the sniper rifle in his arms and then rested the butt on
one hip as he examined the class.


All right,
we're going off program for today since there was a bit of a
scheduling conflict and we want you all to move as a platoon. Since
we don't want you getting bored, I decided to give you a peek at some
of the weapons in the advanced courses,” he turned, checking
the group. None seemed stupid enough to object.


In my arms is
a SR-2204 sniper rifle. SR stands for Sniper Rifle. Usually the first
two letters of a weapons name are the initials of it. AR means
Assault rifle, PR means plasma rifle and so on. Figure it out,”
he growled.


In this case
I've got a sniper rifle with an Oracle scope. It rates at five clicks
in good weather and good terrain. Like all slug firing weapons it's a
mag fed rail gun.” He jacked the chamber and a round came out.
Corporal Jefferson caught it on cue and then held it up. “Pass
it around,” the gunny ordered. The corporal handed it to the
nearest recruit.


This round is
a bit different than the ones the army had at the beginning of the
war. Some would think its backward, or the typical BS crap the corps
gets, the old worn droppings and left over’s. I happen to know
differently. Do any of you?” he stared at the group.

After a full minute
he frowned. “All right, lets' try one of our two experts.
Valenko how about you?”

The grizzly hid a
grimace but stepped forward. “Sir the army used antimatter
powered weapons at the beginning of the war.”


And why was
this found to be a bad thing?” the gunny asked.


Sir,
logistics. Antimatter is expensive and hard to make. It is made in
space on dedicated platforms and has other uses so there is high
demand. Also storage is an issue so no unit had more than a few
thousand rounds each.”


Which means
they got royally screwed in the early days of the war,” Schultz
said nodding. The Grizzly stood at attention where he was until the
gunny motioned for him to rejoin the ranks.


The navy has
first call on antimatter. If you can't hold the high ground it's no
use for a bunch of grunts to have antimatter toys. They'll just get
flattened when someone in orbit drops a rock,” the gunny
grinned. The platoon shared looks among themselves. The bear nodded.


Which is
pretty much what the corps generals had in mind when they declined
antimatter weapons in favor of the old tried and true. Old doesn't
necessarily mean bad. Let that be a lesson. The simplest things are
sometimes the best.”

He turned and
grimaced as he juggled the weapon. He got it up and then fired it.
The round tore down range tearing apart a paper target. “Snipers
are the staple of any long range unit. They will lay cover fire for
units as they move or counter sniper fire when needed,” he
said. He had a feeling the panther, wolf, and the leopard would fall
in love with it. He turned and handed the weapon to Jefferson.

The Corporal broke
the weapon down and then replaced the scope and barrel with a new
one. “As you can see the weapon system is modular, meaning we
can break it down into different configurations. That means you can
take one weapon into combat, use it as an assault weapon and then
swap parts for sniper missions on the fly.” He nodded to
Jefferson as the Corporal finished and held the weapon up.


All of you
have achieved marksman with the basic assault rifle and tactical shot
gun. Both have their uses. Here is something else.” The gunny
pulled a cloth off a bunch of shapes on the table behind him so they
could see. He picked up the first.


Here is a
basic needler, an NR-501. It fires tiny needles of depleted uranium
sheathed in a ferrite jacket down range at a target using the rail
gun. It can fire them rapid fire. Needlers are great against flesh,
the kinetic energy and hypersonic shock wave in atmo will tear a body
apart. They are dick all against armor or hard solids like stone or
brick.” He turned and fired down range. A melon exploded. He
fired a second time and they could just make out silvery needle
shapes bouncing off the temporary metal wall behind the melon.


Needlers get
their stopping power by their velocity, and by having some sort of
high density material in the center of a ferrite jacketed needle. The
longer the barrel the greater the speed and accuracy but the heavier
it is and harder it is to use,” he said and then grimaced. “But
take note, the longer the barrel the harder it is to maneuver in
close quarters. Needlers are spray and pray weapons. We try to avoid
them.”


The other
problem with this and any weapon that uses rail guns is that they use
one hell of a lot of superconductor magnets.” He turned so they
could see his prosthetic arm was magnetized to the gun. A few
recruits started to snicker but a single lifted lip from the gunny
and they quieted fast.

Corporal Jefferson
came over and helped to remove the arm. He slid it across the
magnetized surface until it came off. “A cheap unshielded rail
gun on automatic fire will magnetize anything it is near. It will
also screw up your electronics, which include your communications,
sensors, and your implants so keep on single shot,” he looked
around letting them digest that.


We don't like
to use needlers, they don't have the punch and the automatic fire
problem is a liability we just don't need in combat. Not only does it
mess you up, the flare tells the other side exactly where you are,”
he grimaced a little. “Exit speed depends on a lot of factors.
Barrel length, emitter coil strength, the type of round you are
firing, and the atmo you are firing in. All the math is done in the
computer, you just have to point and shoot,” he said, amused as
the growing concern on some of their faces was slowly wiped away.


There are
different rounds for different applications. There is your basic
slug, then the incendiary slug, and a tracer slug. From what I
understand there was also a sensor slug but we don't have any to play
with. They are a pain to make and use.” He turned, flicked a
selector switch and fired first tracer rounds, then incendiary rounds
down range. Both looked like a laser weapon with short gaps between
rounds. In the daylight conditions of the park bay it didn't stand
out as well as he had hoped.


Note the play
for the slug in the barrel. There isn't any if your manufacturer is
smart and does his job right. That is because if you have any, the
slug can strike the inside of the barrel, either gouging out a part
of the material or leaving a smear of it's jacket behind. Either one
is bad in combat.”

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