Jethro Goes to War (Wandering Engineer Jethro's tale) (5 page)

He turned to her in
surprise. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

They washed out quite a few people so they are throwing us together,”
Hurranna answered.

Oh joy,”
Jethro sighed. “There goes the neighborhood.”

Hey, it's no
picnic from where I'm sitting either pretty boy,” the bald lynx
female snarled.

Weren't you

Go on say
it,” the female said, her claws coming out. Her eyes dilated to
slits as her ears flattened. She wasn't much more then a meter tall
but she was still intimidating. What was it with him and females?

Um, dancer at
a club? The Devil's Duce?” Jethro asked lamely. He vaguely
remembered her scent as a kit years ago. She'd gone off with her
family, or so he had thought.

You could say
that.” She studied a claw and then turned a narrow eyed look on
him. “You want to make something of it?” she hiss spat.
Her scut of a tail flicked back and forth.

No he
doesn't,” an ursine rumbled. “Get over it Hurranna.”
The grizzly platoon leader growled as he entered the barracks.
“You’re Jethro?” he asked.

Yes sir.”

Fire watch?”

Yes sir.
Though why...” He shrugged.

Discipline as well,” the ursine replied and then shrugged.
“You'll get the idea soon enough.” He turned to the lynx
female. “Don't you have something to do or should I find
something for you to do? Like check your assigned chore?” he
growled. “Cleaning the head wasn't it?”

Ah no...”
She turned, backing away. “Damn it, I just did that. I'll just
go check my gear,” she growled. She dropped to all fours and
bounced off fast. The grizzly snorted a huff then turned back to the

We ah,
actually knew each other. I grew up with her for a while when we were
kittens. I don't think she remembers though,” Jethro said.

not.” The bear yawned a gaping mouth yawn. Jethro flinched at
the show of teeth.

Oh sorry,”
the bear said with a shrug. “All this sleep deprivation. It

Jethro wasn't so
sure, but he wasn't going to argue about it. “Not enough hours
in the day.” Jethro nodded.

Nah, it's to
keep us off balance so we'll break old habits and pick up the new
ones faster. And to teach us to work when we feel like we're half
dead,” the bear rumbled.

Jethro agreed, remembering something from his reading. He'd tried to
read some of the family archive again before pre-processing but he'd
only gotten through a few bits. Searching through the journals was a
pain. It was even harder since most of the pride's copies had been
hidden or lost after the eviction he thought with familiar pain. He
ran his hand through his buzz cut again.

It'll grow
back. Quit running your hand through it and you'll eventually forget
about it,” the grizzly said. Unconsciously he ran his hand paw
over his own bald head. “Damn stupid custom. I can see the need
but it's a damn nuisance.” He shook his head. “Least it's
just fur. I'd hate to have feathers or other things.”

You studied
marines?” Jethro asked surprised and curious.

The bear nodded. “Like I said, it'll grow back, at least some
of it. You'll have a marine buzz cut though.”

I saw that
sir. My ancestors were marine recon.”

The grizzly sat back amused. “Think you can hang?”

I... think I
can. When I'm ready.”

You've got a
lot to learn sonny. But knowing that is half the battle.” The
grizzly sniffed. “DI Dobie is afoot. Best look busy,” he
turned. “Attention on deck!” he called out, warning the

Voices growled in
protest but the mixed platoon leapt to its feet/paws as they were
trained. The Naga slithered out of the bath and tossed a towel over
its shoulder to the pile. Its tail tip caught the towel and stuffed
it into the basket. From the look of the antlers the Naga must be a
male. Then again the DI's had given the Naga a trim as well so he
couldn't tell for sure. He cut his eyes to the door as he smelled the
human approaching it.

Attention on
deck!” A DI growled as the hatch door slammed open. He looked
around with a stony face as he noted the group. “Ready for your
surprise inspection I see?” he asked, one eyebrow raised in

The recruits groaned
softly at this. GI parties were hell they'd learned. The DI's eyes
twinkled. “All right you maggots let’s get moving. Fall
out!” He watched as they double timed it out of the barracks
module and into the corridor.

The barracks were
inflatable habitats the navy had made. Right now they were attached
in groups to universal ports which were docked to the station. It
didn't pay to think about what would happen if one of them lost
pressure or if say someone hit the wrong button and the entire group
were tossed off the station. What he feared the most was one popping
off like a rubber balloon, shooting out it's contents as it tore away
from the station.

Jethro looked down
the row to see other platoons out of their barracks. Occasionally
clothing, bedding, and even mattress material was being tossed out
into the corridor as foul mouth DI's listed complaints. He winced.

Eyes front!”
The platoon leader growled softly.

He sighed as he
watched the DI go to work. “We're in for it,” he

matter. Don't let them see you flinch. Don't give them the
satisfaction sonny,” the ursine growled softly out the side of
his mouth.

You call this
head clean! I'll have you lick this damn thing clean if that's what
it takes! There are smears on the glass! And what's this? A corner
untucked!” Jethro winced. It was going to be a


Gunnery Sergeant
Schultz watched the marine recruits stumble through the simulated
rain course and shook his head. “Rain, on a freaking space
station of all things,” he said. “You call that rain?”
he growled looking around. They'd rigged the sprinkler system to drop
the water. It came in a steady dribble.

It's the best
we can do gunny.” DI Brenet replied behind him. He crossed his
arms. The gunny turned, water dripping off his hat brim.

Oh I know.
But training for it...” The DI assistant, Corporal Jefferson
growled. “Stupid if you ask me.”

Luckily no
one did. A little rain is good. Builds character,” Schultz
growled. He twitched his nose. “Besides, someday they are going
to drop on a planet. They need the experience.”

Are we going
to do snow storms next?” Jefferson asked looking sarcastic.

Don't tempt
me. You'll be right there with them if I do,” Schultz growled.

Rain and mud
are worse than snow actually,” A voice behind them said. They
turned and then went to attention at the sight of the Major. Major
Forth was in rain gear, but didn't seem at all bothered by all this
wet stuff.

Jefferson went to
salute but the Major growled. Schultz turned to him. “Sorry
sir,” the gunny said.

Yeah. Sorry,
ah, sir,” Jefferson said looking sheepish. He dropped his hand.
“I'm still getting used to all the protocol.” Getting
used to when and where to salute was still an issue the new marines
were learning. For instance, they weren't supposed to salute while in
the field. It was considered a bad thing. Something about snipers.

You and them
both,” Major Forth said. The major nodded to the recruits
stumbling along. Most were completely splattered with the thick mud
one of the DI's had added to the course. A chimp fell on her ass in
the mud. She got up swearing and throwing her arms to fling mud away.

That's it I'm
out of here!” she screamed, shrieking at the ceiling. She
looked up to the ceiling. Schultz growled but Brenet was already
moving out to the female.

How are the
losses going?” Major Forth asked.

Running about
twenty nine to thirty percent. About what I expected,” Schultz
answered. “Adding that last two hundred last minute recruits
you tossed at us screwed us up though. We've had to go back to basics
a few times to integrate them into fire teams properly.”

Funny, I
thought it'd be lower. Doc give them the augmentation yet?” The
Major asked. The gunny was right, they should have waited on that
last installment of recruits. The problem though was that he wasn't
sure how long they would have the facilities here on Anvil. It could
be a year or more before they had something similar set up elsewhere.
He hadn't had a choice.

No sir. We've
held off for now with Delta and F platoons. We've consolidated the
groups as the weak drop out. Since most of them are genies or aliens
I'd rather they go through this without a boost than have them get
help they don't deserve.”

I saw that.
Still, thirty percent in two and a half weeks is high,” the
major said shaking his head. They watched the chimp walk stiffly off
the course. She threw her simulated rifle down and kept going. Brenet
came over shaking his head.

Then again,
if they can't hack it they can't hack it,” the gunny said
grimly. “Better to find out now than down the road when things
get dicey,” he nodded to another group as they splashed past.

I think it's
not fair we didn't get this experience though,” the major

Someone has
to be in charge. Besides, I heard you had this back in the day sir,”
Schultz said, watching the group. The DI's in charge kept them
moving, rifles raised above their heads, mouths chanting marching

That's true,”
the major smiled. “But you didn't. Or any of you for that
matter,” he said. He turned to Brenet and Jefferson.

Lucky us
sir,” Brenet said. Jefferson tried not to step on the idiot's
foot as the major's eyes narrowed.

We'll ah,
just go check on the squads sir,” he said, turning.

Get on it.
And make sure you both personally run them around the course. The
entire time.”

Sir yes sir,”
Jefferson growled. He glared at a now sheepish Brenet. “We're
on it,” he exhaled. He moved off with Brenet behind him.

Stuck their
feet right into their mouths,” Schultz chuckled. He took his
brimmed hat off to adjust his eye patch.

When are you
up for regen?” the major asked.

Doc is trying
to clone me new parts now but I'm not a priority so I keep getting
bumped,” he shrugged and raised the prosthetic that served as
an arm. “I'll get by sir. I'll go under the knife when they do.
That way the recovery time will synch up.”

The Major eyed the
clawed arm and then nodded. He turned to see F platoon troop by.
Jethro spat near their feet. “How's that one doing?” he

Too early to
tell sir. He's got a chip, thinks he knows everything. Or did. We've
knocked that off I think.” Schultz growled.

The Major nodded. He knew the best way to get a kid to survive was to
knock down the attitude and get them to listen to the old sweats.
After all, that's how you became one.

the gunny asked quietly after the panther had passed.

Maybe. Like
you said, it's too early to tell. I for one am not going to let him
go to the rangers when we get them up and running.”

We're still
going to do that?” the Lieutenant asked behind them. They
turned to look at him. “Seems a waste of time to train ground

Someone has
to roll in the dirt. Someone's got to hold the planets while we run
around in space. Eventually. In about ten or twenty years.” The
Major smiled. “Until then it's our show. Make the bmost of it.”

Yes sir,”
The gunny nodded. The Major hawked and spat and then walked off. The
Lieutenant followed. “Training, good training,” the
Doberman said, looking up to the simulated sky and then down to the

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