Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Colony 13: An Oral History of the Endless War. First Encounters

81st Mobile Infantry MIFHU, location withheld
[Corporal Tommy Robins lies abed in the 81st Mobile Infantry's field hospital unit (MIFHU).  A member of the recon platoon, he was assigned to the SAR (Search and Rescue) operation where we were first violently informed that we were not alone on this planet.  He draws on a cancer stick while recounting his story.  His fingers shake only slightly but it's obvious that even this minor movement hurts. The bandages wrapped tightly around his ribcage are spotted with blood where the HEL (High Energy Laser) punched through his torso.  It's been 6 weeks since his injury but with the lack of regeneration tech the healing process is slow.]

It hurts like hell.  Get it?  It was a HEL that got me.  Sorry, a little infantry humor.  In the MI, you ain't going home until you're missing major body parts -- and even then that's just to get you fitted out for the prosthetics before they send you out again.

This here's a golden wound -- nothing major hit.  Collapsed the lung so it's serious enough to keep me on light duty while I recover and not serious enough to slow me down -- much.  It's downright relaxin'.  The nice thing about HEL's, the reason we don't use 'em, is that they cauterize as they go through you.  You may lose a limb from tourniquet effect, but you ain't generally going to bleed out.  Course if it hits something vital, you're dead -- but that's true even for a slingshot. 
[He stares at the far wall, lost in his thoughts]
I used to bulls-eye the little Pyk-Paks back home in Beggar's Canyon.  Good eatin'.  About the best eatin' you could get if you were a poor moisture farmer on an even poorer planet.

But you wanted to hear my story.  How about that?  The story of Tommy Robins!  The folks back home will get a kick from that.  Guess I better watch my language or Mom will be after me.

Anyway, I was minding my own business, doing what every trooper does best -- catching a 42 [MI view sleep as the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything -- thus a "42"] -- when the call came down.  Sarge was already talking with the LT so I got my kit together and did the other thing that troopers do best:  I waited. 

Sarge briefed us in the dropship -- something had come down from orbit.  And that something was broadcasting a warning about Bugs as it came down.  Bugs is our specialty [he grins].  So we were goin' in to look for survivors.  And we were going in on the bounce, 'cause we weren't sure that there wasn't Bugs already chomping on any survivors.  It might end up being just another bug hunt.

We got set down just outside of this village in the desert.  You could see it used to be a pretty nice place, but the Endless War had done its normal remodeling.  Rubble in the streets, half-destroyed houses.  And nobody in sight.

We hadn't gone a dozen meters when Sarge brought his rifle up and fired a quick burst into the second floor of the building right next to us.  Something fell to the street -- it looked like a child.  We were all shocked at first -- had Sarge finally lost it?

And of course the LT was all over his [censored trying to find out what was going on and who had discharged his weapon without orders.  Sarge ignored him and strode forward to the body.  When he kicked it over, there was a HEL trapped underneath the body.  That's what Sarge had seen.  The LT shut up when he finally paid attention to the cam feed.

This was the first encounter with the Jawa Fedayeen?

Yep.   Little lizard like buggers you wouldn't be scared of, except for those eyes. Those [censored] eyes, man.  They get one look at you and it's game over, man, game over.  They glow -- they fracking glow -- staring out of those little brown hoods they all wear.  I'd rather face a bug -- they don't look you in the face when they kill you.

Of course at that point we knew the clock was ticking.  We didn't know what the lizards were, but we were betting there were more of them.  We started moving and soon saw the escape pod -- intact, but it looked like it had a rough landing 'cause it had dug a nice crater into the street.  

Things get a little fuzzy here for me.  We saw 1st squad get into a terrific firefight -- this building we called the Hilton just seemed to open up with laser blasts.  1st squad was driven back into cover, but they seemed to be handling it ok.  

Sarge decided we were going to go for the objective and we double-timed it, exchanging fire with little groups of Jawa as we went.  They were annoying, but didn't have enough firepower to do much harm -- I saw the body armor of the guy next to me flare briefly as it absorbed a hit, but he didn't even flinch. 

Of course, they did distract us and things got a bit chaotic.  1st squad was still laying down heavy firepower, LT was yelling for a situation report, and we were making a dash for the civilians.  Naturally, that was when I got hit.

I came to lyin' on the floor of the dropship.  It was hard to breathe but the medic was with me.  He'd saved our [censored] so many times that I relaxed a little when I saw him.  He wasn't looking at me -- he was more worried about the civilians -- which meant I was going to live.

That was Ripley?
Ripley and a little girl.  Never found out her name. 

She's a minor; they won't release her name.

[Nodding] Well, she's a right tough little mother.  She was looking at me -- this look of intense concentration, like she was taking my measure.  Was I tough enough to live through what she had lived through? 

She didn't seem to like the answer.  I passed out again.

[~ 13 ~]

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