Jethro Goes to War (Wandering Engineer Jethro's tale) (7 page)

Come on, move
it, I don't have all day,” gunny Schultz snarled at the lock.
Jethro stepped it up. He had to slow down to let the smaller Hurranna
go first or he would have run her down.

His eyes
automatically adjusted to the darkened module and he groaned softly.
Many of his comrades did as well.

The park was
changed. Gone was the oval jogging track and center playing field. In
its place was an obstacle course from hell. He shook his head as his
troop fell into place.

Schultz walked up
and down the lines, eying the troop. After so many weeks of day in
and day out drill they were used to the chickenshit. Now it was time
to work on other things. He stepped back so they could all see him

All right,
listen up! By platoon fire teams you will enter the course. By teams
you will run the course, handle every obstacle and ring the bell. The
team with the best score gets the night off.”

There were a lot of
hurrays to that. He smiled. The troops quieted. They knew when the
gunny smiled someone was in deep shit. “Then again, the three
teams with the slowest times get to run the course again. And again
and again until only one is left.” He looked around to the

Jethro studied the
course carefully. He adjusted his stance, readying himself to go.
They were running two troop bays at a time through the course. He
looked back to Valenko.

Don't worry
about me. Just worry about your own tail kitty,” Valenko
growled. Jethro shrugged. He could get through the course fast. He
looked over to a cheetah. Maybe not as fast as one of them though. He
shook his head.

Di's were stationed
at various obstacles, chewing the teams out. He watched as some of
the troop muttered to each other. “God this is going to be a
bitch,” Hurranna growled.

Pity you,”
The Gahsg coughed turning to her. He indicated the ten meter high

You mean pity
you,” she indicated the barb wire section, men and women were
crawling through as rounds went over them. “I'm small enough to
get through that no problem,” she snarled.

Yeah, with
your height you can walk under it no prob,” Jethro said. She
glared at him. “I wonder what inspired gunny?” he asked.

recruiting movies. Or old war movies in general. I heard Corporal
Jefferson muttering about them the other day,” Hurranna said.

Jethro growled. Somehow though, he wasn't at all surprised. It wasn't
like they had a lot to go off of. It was one thing to read about it
in a manual, quite another to see, touch, and experience something
hands on. He'd learned that already.

platoon, F platoon you’re up!” the gunny said. “On
your marks...”

Wait what
happened to E?” Hurranna asked to the side.

into others. Focus,” Jethro snarled.

You focus

The gunny said hitting a gong. The troop sprang into action, running
the rings and then turning a corner to the wall.

Go go!”
DI's screamed. Jethro shouldered his weapon and then grabbed the rope
just before Hurranna. In a flash he was up it.

Up and over,
go go!” the DI at the bottom screamed as he hesitated at the
top. Vertigo played with his senses briefly before he got it under
control. He cat walked along the balance beam instead of dropping
down the other side and then went hand over hand on the monkey bars
to the zip line.

Shake your
tail!” Hurranna growled behind him. He snarled but tried to
pour on speed.

Other troop members
were taking the easier route, dropping down the wall and then moving
through the muck. He got to the end of the zip line and grabbed the
rope to swing across.

A DI said, hand out. Jethro waited as a trooper ahead of him got out
of the muck. “Go.”

Hurranna swung just
before he did. He let out a Tarzan yell and landed on the slippery
slope on the other side right after her. He let go of the rope and
wind milled as he tried not to overbalance. The ruck and rifle were
throwing his usually perfect sense of balance off significantly.

He made it to the
next obstacle just as sound FX of explosions and screaming bombs
began to play. Holograms of fireballs lit the area around them. “Go
go!” a DI screamed, slamming them down onto their bellies.
Hurranna leopard crawled through the muck and then took the side
passage through a second level.

Jethro tried not to
look up as tracer rounds peppered the air above his head. He made it
to the second stage then a DI kicked him to flip him onto his back.
He felt like a turtle trying to move. He wanted to sit up but the
DI's foot on his stomach prevented it.

He shucked the ruck
and then pushed it ahead of him. The DI let him go as the next troop
made it to his position. “Go go! Move it you maggots! My
grandmother could move faster than you! And she's in a wheel chair!

Jethro made it
through the crawling portion and paused at the next section. It was a
forest of poles. Occasionally he could hear a scream or explosion. He
looked around and then got an idea.

Carefully he put the
ruck back on and then grabbed the nearest pole. “What the hell
are you doing Marine?” a DI snarled. He didn't acknowledge the
question, just climbed for all he was worth.

At the top of the
pole he balanced and looked down. The forest of poles was a simulated
death trap, a jungle of hidden traps, snipers, and pitfalls. He
balanced on the top of the pole and then jumped to the next.

He kept an eye to
the prize. After this was a sandy clearing then the bell. He jumped
the last three poles and then shimmied down the last one. He looked
around, no one else was there. He started to jog the sandy stretch
and then his eyes narrowed. Something was wrong. It was too easy.

He dodged, and then
dropped just as a round tore through the air where he had been. He
crawled for all he was worth to the sandy berm off to one side. He
pulled a pocket mirror and glanced around.

he growled. He was pinned. He couldn't move until someone else came.
He waited. Sure enough Hurranna came out just in time to get shot.
She crumpled over her stomach, retching in the sand. Three more
troopers came out.

With the sniper's
attention on the others Jethro crawled to the next cover spot,
checked for another, and then did the same. He looked back to see
bodies writhing in the sand behind him. A few had taken cover in the
poles; others had made it to the berms.

He felt a round hit
his ruck but he shrugged it off. He made it to the last berm then
took a deep breath. He looked back to see a trooper try to rush the
course. The sniper turned to fire on the stupid kid and Jethro
rolled, up and over across the platform and then lashed a leg out to
kick the bell.

It let out a sour
bong. He kept rolling, getting back to cover.

The kids
good, I'll give him that,” the Major said, watching the feed
through his implants.

coordination. No leadership,” Firefly responded. “He
didn't even care that his squad mates were under fire or in trouble.”

Sometimes you
have to be a cold bastard to get the job done. The mission comes
first remember?”

Yes but this
is a team building exercise.”

Which we're
going to point out to them. And the first exercise always goes
poorly. You and I both know that one. You learn from your mistakes,
classic training method. But now I see why they said he's recon
material. Even I had trouble keeping track of him.”

The ruck
didn't help him.”

No, that's
something to consider down the line. He was instinctively cloaking,
but it stood out like a sore thumb.”

Which I
suspect he'll get pointed out to him. Soon enough,” Firefly

Let's see how
the gunny plays it.”

Jethro lapped at the
water dish and then eyed the troop. As he had suspected, the bear
Valenko had been held up by the wall. The three hundred kilo bear
hadn't even gotten over it, even with seven other troopers trying to
help. He was the only one of his team to have rung the bell. In fact
from the looks of things he was the only one in the entire class of
four or five hundred to do so. He felt a surge of pride at that.

Well, looks
like everyone's going back through the meat grinder again huh?”
the gunny said, swaggering through the lines. Everyone groaned at
that. Jethro opened his mouth to object.

Something to
say recruit?”


Spit it out!”

Sir, I, that
is my squad completed the course sir,” Jethro said, standing at
attention and looking two centimeters above the DI's head as he'd
been trained.

You mean you
did. Your squad didn't,” the gunny looked around. A few rubbed
bruises. Most were standing at attention. He turned back to Jethro.
“The objective was a team exercise pussy. Emphasis on
Something you didn't get. There is no
in team. If your
team mates fail you fail.”

Jethro sighed. He'd
been set up. He should have remembered that. He'd seen enough old
movies to have anticipated this. Another instance of experience being
the best teacher.

Sir yes sir,”
he said going still.

But since I'm
in a forgiving mood your squad can go last this round,” he said
nodding to them. Jethro felt a faint prickle at that. They would have
the longest time to recover and be ready. Perhaps they could plan
something? He'd have to check with the bear.

Schultz turned to
the troop. “A and B squads form up. Five minutes to run. Get
with it people! No one sleeps, no one eats, hell no one shits till
this is done to my satisfaction! You reading me?”

the troops ground out.

Chapter 3


The next day they
groaned as they rolled out of their racks. “Goddess I am so
sore,” Hurranna complained. It was a familiar complaint, they
were all used to it by now. Hurranna looked around blearily. She
yawned, covering her mouth briefly. Her fur was matted. She tried to
lick herself clean but shook as the bay lights came on. “Oh
four fucking thirty,” she snarled one arm covering her eyes as
they adjusted.

And you need
all the beauty sleep you can get,” a voice said. She turned.
Jethro did as well, that voice... that scent was familiar.

He caught sight of
the white Liger male as he fell from the top rack six racks down his
row. He dropped to land on his toes in front of the rack. “What
the hell are you doing here?” he said eyes wide. They'd been
dog tired when they had stumbled in to the darkened bay a couple of
hours ago. He hadn't even picked up on the scent.

Couldn't let
you hog all the glory,” the Liger chuckled, reaching up and
quickly making his bed.

Sergei, are
you nuts?” Hurranna asked. “Him I get, but you?”
she indicated the Liger's four meter long frame.

Ligers were one of
the few cross breed neo's that had been recognized before the fall as
a legitimate subspecies of Neo. Like their ancestors before them they
had found that breeding a lion male to a tiger female produced an
awesome beast. In this case a giant cat no one in his right mind
wanted to mess with.

Sergei was quite
extraordinary, his father had been a white lion named Zhukov and his
dame had been a white tigress named She-Ra. The combination had
birthed three kits, of which he was the sole survivor.

His fur was white,
with faded stripes. Back in the day someone had made white fur a
dominant trait over a recessive. He had a mane like his father, but
it was subdued, not the full mane of an African lion. Or had been
before he had been shaved, now all he had was the usual stubble. He
stretched again, swishing his tail back and forth. Muscles rippled
just under the fur. Four hundred kilos of bone and muscle. Neo's were
like that, most were pure muscle, little if any fat.

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