Jethro Goes to War (Wandering Engineer Jethro's tale) (9 page)

Neo's and
aliens all have unique abilities the human’s lack. At least
baseline normals. Heavy worlders are here now as well.” He
indicated the squat humans standing at attention nearby.

That's bs
man,” Sergei mutters softly.

How much can
you lift?” the DI asked. He didn't acknowledge that Sergei had
talked out of turn.

Sergei stiffened to
attention. “Sir, this recruit can lift and carry five hundred
and sixty kilos sir!”

All right,
well the baseline human can't lift that. The pussy...” Schultz
looked over to the cats. “No offense. The humans can barely
handle one fifty on a good day,” he snorted then spat.

So, you'd be
bored. We can't have that. Which is why we lob you all together. That
way you’re more of a challenge,” he said as he smiled. It
wasn’t a particularly

I was in the
Dogs of War,” he said as they digested that last.

Yes sir. We
know sir.”

I figured you
would,” Schultz nodded. “Saw my sight picture once or

Ah, no sir.”

Better not
have,” the dog growled softly. He rubbed at a scar on his left
forearm with his right prosthetic. The claw clenched and then

Sir are you
going to get a prosthetic like the Admiral?” Jethro asked. He
felt like kicking himself for sticking his neck out and opening his
big mouth.

The gunny turned to
him then snorted. “I wish,” he sighed, clenching the
artificial hand.

I'll get a
new one later. It's a bitch to clone my sonotype. Doc’s working
on it but she's so backlogged...” He shook his head. “Remember
that. It's easier to fix a human than one of you. Keep your eyes and
your mind on the task at hand at all times or you’re going to
end up like this,” he growled. He held up the prosthetic then
used it to point to his eye patch.

Unlike you
I've got implants though,” he said. He looked around. “You’re
going to start to get them next week.” He turned back to them.
“But that's then. You've still got a hell of a lot to prove to
get there first. You reading me recruits?”

Jethro felt elated.

Once we get
this cluster fisk under control we're going to do something
different. Some VR training,” he looked a little annoyed at the

It's not my
idea. The best way to train is in the field. In real life. But since
we don't have a planet to play on right now...” he growled.
“This will have to do. Expect to do a refresher course on a
planet down the road,” he said shaking his head. He paced

Your first
sim is a drop. Combat drop. Get ready,” he started to move off.
The platoon looked at each other.

Ah sir. Can
ah, we get some background?” Valenko asked.

A briefing?
Or information in general?” The gunny turned eying them.

Yes sir.
Knowing is half the battle. Intelligence can be key.”

You thought of that all on your lonesome?” the DI asked.

Sir no sir.
I've studied what I could.”

It seems you
all have,” Schultz's single eye cut to Jethro then back to the
platoon. “Very well. You’re doing a simulated orbital
drop. Planet is a hostile M class. Standard oxy atmo mix. Jungle
terrain. You’re dropping near or on top of a battle. Turbulent
atmo. We'll see how it goes from there.”

Jethro tried not to
swear softly. Orbital drops were hell he had heard. Pulling this on
raw recruits not even through their first form of basic though? That
was asking for trouble.

Something on
your mind recruit?” the DI snarled to Jethro.

Sir no sir.”

Out with it,”
The gunny snarled.

Sir, it's
just, orbital drops are usually secondary training objectives. Hell
jumping isn't for greenhorns.”

Curiouser and
curiouser. I wonder where you get these odd notions of yours

Sir. Family
journal sir,” Jethro admitted.

the gunny nodded. “Got it handy?”

No sir. It's
ah, with the clan.”

Too bad,”
the gunny snorted. “But for you I guess it's a good thing. Had
you had it I would have pissed all over it and then made you eat it.
Raw,” he snarled. “You don't know shit recruit! Get it
through your head and stow the attitude! This is a different time and

Sir yes sir!”
Jethro said standing stock still. His fur rose and then went flat.

All right,”
Schultz turned to see the Major nearby. “Jefferson, get them
set up and squared away asap,” he called and then walked off
toward the Major.


running them pretty hard,” The Major said nodding.

That's the
idea sir.”

That cat is
right. I know this drop sim wasn't in the syllabus.”

No sir. Last
minute addition to test their confidence.”

Or break it.
Your job is to shepherd them through boot. Make marines out of them
gradually Schultz, not break them.”

To mold them
you have to break them sir. Only then will the cream rise to the

Tell me, how many times have you done a drop sim?”


Answer the
question gunny.”

Ah... None

Well, you get
to demonstrate some leadership right here gunny. You and your DI's,”
The Major eyed the gunny. “You get to jack in and run the

Ah sir, I was
ah, going to grade their performance,” Schultz felt a sinking

I've got
nothing better to do for the next couple of hours. I'll take care of
that little chore,” the Major smiled. “Unless you don't
think either one of us can hack it.”

The gunny knew the
only path to the right answer. The Major was right, don't ask your
troops to do something you aren't willing and able to do yourself. He
cleared his throat. “No sir. Just trying not to get egg on my
face in front of the recruits sir.”

Too late for
that gunny. Next time don't put your trainees through something you
yourself haven't experienced. I seem to recall you pointed that out a
time or two remember? So you are going to put your credits where your
mouth is. Got me?” the Major growled. The gunny came to
attention and saluted.

Aye aye sir.”

Good. Move
out,” the Major growled gruffly as he returned the salute and
then watched with cold eyes as the gunny moved off stiffly.

That was
cruel,” Firefly said over his wireless link. He looked up to
the ceiling.

What? Sending
shave tail recruits through hell jumper 101 with a ten second brief
or making the gunny go along with them?”

Both. But you
are right, making him go through it with them should make things
interesting. Lead from the front as it is usually called. I think
he'll think twice about these little brain farts after this.”

Good. I
couldn't undermine his authority by canceling it once he'd announced
it. That wouldn't work.”

Of course
not. But now you're stuck with the situation.”

And I'll try
to make the best of it,” the Major said shaking his head. “He
is right, we do need to see where the stress points are.”

That is if we
don't lose him and some of the others permanently to those stress
points Major.”

We'll see,”
the Major shook his head. “He's tough. Now he's got to perform
under pressure.”

Just like the



The Major walked
through the sickbay, cover under one arm a duty shift later. He
stopped at a bed to nod and speak softly with a recruit, then moved
on. The gunny stood near the door.

So maybe this
wasn't such a smart idea,” he said as the Major returned to

You think?”
the Major sighed shaking his head. He went out into the hallway
hopefully out of earshot of the recruits or anyone nearby. “We've
lost about nine of F troop. Most of the Veraxin went catatonic when
the sim hit the half way point. Damn lucky med techs were on hand or
we would have lost them.”

The sim had been a
disaster. Even though all the recruits knew it was just a virtual
fantasy the direct feeds into the brains, not to mention the force
emitters in the pods subjecting them to gravitational forces and
playing merry games with their inner ears had messed them all up.

The DI's had had it
worse, their implants made it incredibly realistic. Agoraphobia had
kicked in, something none had planned on. When the DI's had broken
down the command chain had fallen apart and chaos had reigned. Less
than five percent of the platoon had been functional when the sim had
been cut off before they'd even hit virtual dirt.

The gunny looked
over to Jefferson, who was still looking pale. “Not just them
sir,” he said grimacing and trying to get the sour smell of
vomit out of his nostrils. He was wearing his last meal on his front
still. He'd done his best to wash it out, but the smell was still
clinging to the fabric. “If you want my resignation you can
have it.”

There is no
stress card in war son. You of all people should realize that by now.
And hell, war means casualties. In training as well. But you damn
well better learn something from this. Don't expect professionalism
from rookies,” the Major huffed out. He shook his head as he
blew his cheeks in and out a few times. “That goes double for
me. What was I thinking allowing this?” he sighed. “I
grew up on a ranch. I know damn well you don't try to ride a horse
just after it's been foaled,” he said shaking his head. He
slapped his thigh angrily.

My fault

Yes it is.
You damaged a lot of good marines. Their faith in your leadership has
been broken. Rebuilding that is going to take time,” he shook
his head. “Damn.”

interesting thing is that most of F platoons leaders got through it
sir. Some better than others,” Brenet said behind them. He
stank of sweat and urine but at least he was on his feet. He'd had
practice using his implants to hold his lunch down.

talking about Valenko, Jethro, Hurranna, Sergei, and the other four?
Lance corporal?” the Major asked turning to him.

Yes sir,”
he said glancing at a med team who was sucking bile and vomit out of
a recruit's lungs.

They did
outstanding. For recruits. Which technically is what you are. We all
are. But Valenko kept it together and even talked Corporal Jefferson
down when he went into hysterics.”

Both noncoms winced
at that. They had been too busy handling the chaos and collapsing
Veraxin to do much about it. “Yes sir,” they both
mumbled. Jefferson nodded rubbing his temples.

Think he's
officer material?”

Yes sir. Or
noncom at least. Squad leader. He's doing well in that slot right

Does he show
any preferences for specialty?”

No sir. Bears
and large cats usually take heavy weapons slots though by tradition.
A few of the russian ones like he is make it to general and are deep
thinkers. He's as much a thinker as he is a brawler sir.”

Good to
know,” the Major nodded. “Give him a commendation for
working under pressure. Ease up on the schedule for a few days. Then
buckle down to keep their minds off the surgery. Work on the
agoraphobia problem. Build up to it slow though. We don't want a
repeat of this mess.”

Aye sir.”

I am this
close to swapping you with another team. Unfortunately I don't have
one to spare. Don't screw this up again,” the Major said
turning to them. He locked his eyes with each of them. “We've
got a quota. I need three hundred and fifty marines minimum at the
end of this. Screw them up any more and my taking a rolled up
newspaper to you both will be the least of your problems. You get

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