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Brutal Beginnings

 
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armoredman
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 8:29 pm    Post subject: Brutal Beginnings Reply with quote

Brutal Beginnings

I knocked heavily on the solid plastic door, having been warned by the attendant that the residents were a bit hard of hearing. A lifetime of explosions and heavy engines in your ears can cause hearing damage the best docbot can’t fix, I guess. I am no doctor, or med tech, just a reporter sub writer, looking desperately for something to make my rent with this month. A dusty old reference to a planet far outside normal channels, and some strange goings on there from many years ago that had affected all of known space caught my eye. It had peaked my considerable interest, and imagine my total shock when I had discovered two of the main players had retired right here on sunny Summervale. How could I not go to visit?
The door slid back smoothly, and a man who had been immense in his time peered at me, eyes set deep in his homely face, blurred with the dim look of degenerative optic nerves.
“What’ll ye be wantin?” he asked in a gravely heavily accented voice.
I cleared my throat, suddenly bashful at who I thought I was facing, “Um, I am looking for a man by the name of Oscar Laird?”
“Ye’ve found him, what d’ye be wantin’ with me?”
“Sir, may I have a moment of your time? My name is Rischard, Rischard Daily, I write for the Summervale Bugle. May I come in?”
The old man muttered, and grumpily gave way into a small retirement apartment cluttered with mementos, actual pen and ink writings, real paper books, and odds and ends of a long lifetime.
A whir announced the equally famous spouse, I hoped, and a powered wheelchair rolled around the corner, with a stern white haired old woman driving, regal as queen on her throne.
“What did you let in now, you old skunk?” she demanded, and with a start, I realized she was totally blind.
“Eh? Dinna fash, Harriet me love, just a boy with some questions for an old Scot!”
She laughed unexpectedly, a sound like tinkling bells all at odds with her cold visage, “Last time that happened, we ended up on the cover of Sexy Seniors Weekly! Watch what you say!”
Oscar growled, a toothless tiger, and she spun in her machine, still laughing as she disappeared in the back room.
“Och, me manners, have a seat, boyo, have a seat.”
A wave of an arm, and I sat gingerly on the edge of a rickety metal and alloy chair that had to be at least three times my age. Dimmed sight or not, he caught my hesitation, and smiled, “Laddie, that chair is hammered out of the leg armor of an Ares meka, it’ll not be likely to fail with the skinny likes of you on it!”
“Th, thank you!” I stammered, feeling like a young boy caught in something bad.
“Ah, what’ll ye hear then, laddie, what old war stories would ye like me to be telling ye? Not many come by to see me or Harriet me love much anymore. What’ll it be, the attack on Tianwarz, the battle of Sandria, the time we took down Mauler, the year long war with Sanctuary, what did ye want to hear?”
The old giant was obviously in a good and expansive mood, glad for the company and the chance to tell old war stories, but would he want to tell this one? I hesitated, and then plunged ahead.
“Sir, I saw a reference to a death, a death nobody noted outside of Tianwarz, but a name that came up more than once right before the Second Treaty, when Manning Station was added to Tianwarz. The whole galaxy knows that story, but one name kept popping up, a person who was deceased. I was told you knew him, and I thought maybe you could tell me about when you met him?”
His eyes narrowed suspiciously, and I felt a tremor, this tiger may be old and toothless, but he has claws yet, “And what name would that be?”
“Alvin Manning.”
Both eyes closed tightly, and I was shocked to see what looked like a tear leak from one eyelid, “You’d be raisin’ a ghost left alone, laddie, a ghost I dealt with many these years ago.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but I have readers who noticed the same thing, and want to know.”
The lie was small, as I had no regular readers I knew of, and certainly none of them deigned to ever contact me, as a matter of fact my only regular correspondence came from bill collectors with their depressing lack of humor.
“No, laddie, not of the end, I wilna speak of that ever. But I suppose,” he said, opening his eyes again, “I suppose there would be being any harm in telling you aboot tha’ man when we met, and when I went ta work fer him.”
He leaned forward, face eager, muscles taut once again under his skin, “Let me tell you aboot something that was special, laddie, let me tell ye aboot the Guard!”

The enormous garage deck reeked of ozone and lubricant, mixed in with a sickly sweet smell he couldn’t place, and then suddenly did – death. Sudden violent death was no stranger to a child of Glasgow, Earth, gripped in the throes of upheaval as the First Federation spasmed in death, changing at sword point into the Empire of Man. A breakdown in civil authority always brought chaos, fear, and death, and the scars on the knuckles on his long arms were a mute testimony to his staying power. Other scars did not show as well, some hidden, some inside, and he shrugged. Where he came from was dangerous, and this new place no more so, but with one large incentive – no First Federation or Empire of Man cops could locate him here, a distinct advantage to a man with the nickname of the Brutal Baboon earned inside the medieval Glasgow lockup.
Se stood, waiting, in his cheap shipsuit of gray and blue, with a slip of real paper clutched in one scarred hand, when a skeletally thin man walked up next to him.
“Earth?” he asked in a strange voice.
“Aye, and to you th’a would be….”
“Snuffers. I am with you on this draft.”
Oscar Laird looked offended, but was secretly pleased, as the old ruffian inside was always happy to see an ally too weak to become an enemy, “With me on what bleedin’ draft?”
The thin man looked bored, “We are fresh meat for the factions, so they draft teams from incoming like us, and throw them together. We train together, fight together, die together. You didn’t watch the screens during transport?”
Oscar scratched the back of his neck sheepishly, “Well, I had a wee thing gain’ on in the hold…” An illegal still and a card game, to be certain, but now that it was safely broken down and disposed of, why mention it?
Snuffers shook his head, and mutely pointed to the slip of paper on Oscar’s hand, shoved there by a disembarkment porter, a slip he had barely glanced at. He growled at the thin man, and then looked.
“WLF? What be that standin’ for?” he wondered out loud, and Snuffers shrugged.
“Half the names make no sense. I am from Sandria, never seen any of this.”
“Glasgow, Earth. I guess we be stook together, might as well ge’ to know each other!”
The two men solemnly shook hands amid the clatter and banging around them as baggage moved from deep within the Drop Ships bowels to the garage deck, and incomprehensible commands were shouted around them. A roar of machinery startled them both, and Oscar gaped as a massive man shaped machine walked out of a titanic barn door. Gigantic shoulder plates like ancient football player pads gave the machine a hulking appearance, and twin heavy cannons jutted from its waist. A sloped canopy over two headlights gave the appearance of beetled brows, and the humanoid arms nestled inside thick external armor plates. The meka, for that what it must be, stood four stories tall, and walked with a rolling gait, the metal shod feet striking sparks from the decking.
Snuffers laughed, “Looks just like ya, Laird!”
Oscar just stared as it approached, instantly in love with the massive brutish machine, until a jostling from behind cause him to whirl, fists raised to scrap. A black and gold uniformed man caught both fists with ease, and held him gently as he realized he could not break the grip.
“You want to fight, we can go to the simulators soon, but for now, get the frak out of the way, or that Bee Ayy two is gonna squash you! Shame to waste that trip all the way to Tianwarz just to end up as foot grease!”
Oscar stepped back, and frankly appraised the man. Short hair, going to gray, beginnings of a beard, medals on his jacket, and a double oval insignia on one shoulder, but the eyes caught his attention, deep and piercing.
“Who might ye be?”
One eyebrow raised, and Oscar swallowed, “Who might ye be, sir?”
“Better. I am Captain Manning, and you two are assigned to me. Here’s your berthing assignments, training schedule, and how to get where you need to go. Step back.”
They did, as the massive meka rumbled by.
“Good. You will learn to take orders, follow orders, and run some of the most complicated and complex machines in known space. You can get out four ways. Die, get kicked, retire, or quit. Get kicked, you go back in the pool. Nobody wants you, you go back on the next freighter to wherever you came from, minus every valuable you might have to pay for your trip. No exceptions. Retire, well, haven’t seen it yet, but we will. Stick around, do jobs right, and you can quit a rich man, as we get richer on mining Ore. Your contracts can also be traded or sold, and you fight for who holds them. Sounds barbaric, but that’s the way it is here. Any questions?”
The two men, stunned by the tirade of words, mutely shook their heads.
“For your information, that meka is called a Battle Axe Two, and is a heavy assault meka. You won’t see one very much, but if you see a bunch of them, and they get tagged as red in your screen, you will learn to run."
Oscar made a quiet vow; he was going to get one of those machines.
Manning nodded, satisfied, “Good. Your assignment is on that accessor you got on board ship. Look at it now.”
They did, and Oscar felt the cold shiver of deja vu.
-Assigned Crew – Brutal Baboons.-
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armoredman
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The classroom looked like classrooms across known space, cold, sterile, with diagrams and maps tacked on the walls, student desks too small for his oversized frame, a large battered viewscreen dominating one wall behind a lectern that had to predate space flight. Some fifty or so new recruits stood around talking nervously, all in brand new station suits of black striped with gold, and a single crimson stripe on the left arm sleeve. He gingerly settled into one creaking chair, laying his long arms across the desk top, as Snuffers easily slid in to the desk next to him.
“What di’ ye think this will all be aboot?”
Snuffers shrugged his skinny shoulders – he was proving to be a man of few words. Oscar couldn’t make up his mind if that was a blessing or a curse.
A distinguished older man in a black and gold combat jacket, with a gold rope on one shoulder, strode in as the group quickly found seats. He moved behind the lectern, and nodded, satisfied.
“I am Commander Deylon, call sign DEY123. You will learn all your assigned commanders’ call signs, and all other command staffs call signs. Clear?”
A grunt and nod from the group, witty conversationalists all.
“Good. Welcome to Faction WLF, Tianwarz. Training will begin tomorrow morning at zero five hundred, station time. Your accessors are tuned to station time, and Doris, the shipmind, will make sure you awaken on time.”
A few shuddered slightly, wondering what sick and twisted alarm clocks they would discover in the morning.
“Alarm will consist of a horn blast, followed by cold air jets in the bed, for those who are curious.”
The squirmers fell silent.
Deylon looked around at the motley group, “You came to Tianwarz for a new life, a new beginning, an escape from the past, and here you will earn all three. None of you have psychotic profiles, or you would not be here. None of you have truly dangerous criminal records, so don’t try to impress each other with them.”
A casual stare of one laser eye skewered Oscar directly, and he felt like protesting his innocence.
“All of you have experience in military or police backgrounds. This will come in handy on Tianwarz.”
Oscar sat up straight, shocked. He’d buried his London Militia Guards records carefully, or so he’d thought.
“Don’t look shocked, our sources cover known space. We cannot afford to let psychos and nut balls into some of the most powerful machines ever built, and put our lives in your hands. One hard and fast rule, other than do what you told, when you’re told. That’s each person’s background is their own, don’t pry. Prying will get you kicked. Understood?”
Deylon turned to the open doorway, “Master Sergeant?”
“SIR!” came a bellow of truly titanic proportions, and Oscar fancied he could see Commander Deylons’ silvering hair rustle in the breeze. A man stamped into the room, a man who stretched his black and gold uniform in three dimensions of solid muscle, beetled brows and snorting nostrils, gold stripes covering both arms with rank and service marks, and leathery skin darkened by the suns of countless worlds.
“COMMANDER, PERMISSION TO RELIEVE YOU SIR!” this bellow was even louder inside the room, but Commander Deylon took it in stride.
“Take charge of this intake, Master Sergeant Bunnek”
“SIR!” and rows of medals jingled as the monster stamped to attention and saluted. Commander Deylon saluted back, and swept out of the room.
The creature turned to the stunned room, “MY NAME IS BUNNY, ANYONE THINK THAT’S FUNNY?”
A pen fell from one nerveless hand, and crashed to the quiet floor in an earth shattering thud.
The Master Sergeant surveyed the room under his granite brows, and grudgingly lowered his voice to merely the volume of a runaway avalanche, “I will be you training instructor. It will be my determination if you pass or fail. If you pass, you will get regular uniforms, rank, position, and start earning bounty on mined Ore. Fail, and you go to a rival faction, I can only hope, because it means you are worthless to US! I want them to have the deadwood, NOT US! IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?!?”
The roar was precise, as if practiced, “YES, MASTER SERGEANT!”
A mild tremor in the granite face, almost as if a smile dared to lurk in the vicinity, and was immediately targeted and destroyed, “GOOD! Now grab your kits and bunk down, training starts in the morning, paired first with your crewmate, then teams. You will learn every meka currently in use and some nobody uses, just to keep you on your toes! You will learn how they run, and how to do combat repairs. You will learn team work, how to operate the Suz 110, and how to think under pressure. You will learn this station top to bottom, and how to fix it or fight it. All of you have been through a basic training or academy before, so no stupid running in circles or shining boots, just me kicking your worthless butts if you slow down!! ANY QUESTIONS?”
“NO, MASTER SERGEANT.”
Oscar looked at the man mountain, privately measured his own considerable strength, added two and two and came up with eighteen. Nope, not gonna mess with that one.
“GET OUT OF MY CLASSROOM!”
Oscar later swore he could feel the breeze, and scrambled out with the others, to stand in the corridor, uncertain.
Snuffers looked at him, “Now what?”
“Honestly, Snuffy me lad, after that little show, I could stand a wee dram of something potent, and if I remember me map right, the Enlisted Club is right doon tha’ way.”
Snuffers looked worried, “I think we are on no booze patrol while we’re in this class.”
Oscar slapped one meaty paw on the thin man’s shoulder, “Did ye hear him say that?”
“Noooo….”
“Trust me laddie, if he’d said it, we’d a’ heard it! Noo, who’s buyin’?
And the two strolled down the corridor, in search of a bar.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zero five hundred. A time that no sane man would ever leave the comfort of a warm bed, even if his only companion was a large and oddly green colored pillow. Oscar snorted, contented, half awake, when the ear splitting sounds of several out of control ground cars crashing, mingled with the dying screams of a hundred tortured souls, ripped him from the semi doze he had been so comfortably enjoying, out onto the freezing cold tile in his bare feet.
“GAH!!!!”
Most of the sleeping newbies in the echoing tiled bay sprang from their beds in total disarray, while a hardy few, or more likely stone deaf, slumbered on. Those few erupted from their sheets screaming, soaking wet in freezing water delivered under high pressure straight up through their mattresses.
“AHHHGGG!
The shivering, hair standing on end, wide away group looked at each other when a now familiar gravel truck roared through the far end of the bay.
“GOOD MORNING YOU WORTHLESS PILES OF DOG PUKE, SLEEP WELL?”
Oscar, not wishing to be singled out, bellowed immediately, “Good morning Master Sergeant!”
Only when the echo faded did he realize his was the only voice. Oh, garbage.
Eyes still blinking clear focused on a man mountain in front of him, with an evil smile of the craggy weather beaten face.
“Good morning, pretty face,” the monster cooed, “Are you all ready for a little breakfast in bed and a foot massage?”
“Master Sergeant, no Master Sergeant!” Oscar said at parade ground volume, thanking the Maker he had remembered everything he could from Militia guards training from so long ago.
“Oh, that’s so sweet of you, ESPECIALLY SINCE YOU VISITED THE ENLISTED CLUB WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION LAST NIGHT!”
Oscar’s hair blew back in the foul breeze, and he blinked; he could swear the man’s breath was a solid thing.
Master Sergeant Bunnek surveyed the group, now standing at ragged attention in front of their bunks, and he said in an almost conversational tone, “That’s right, my cast off children, you’re back in the service now. That means no booze until you’ve earned the right. That means doing what I tell you, when I tell you, how I tell you, AT ALL TIMES! AM I CLEAR?!?!?”
This time the chorus was solid, “Yes Master Sergeant!”
“Good,” and the creature turned beady eyes on Oscar, “We’re going to get some num nums in our little tummies, and then have a light workout in the simulator room, if that’s okay with you, cuteness?”
“Master Sergeant, request permission to ask a question!” Oscar hollered.
The gorilla folded his arms and cocked one protruding eyebrow, “My, my, Laird, I think I am going to like you. By all means, man, SPIT IT OUT!”
“Commander Deylon was sayin’ a wee horn would be wakin’ us oop, and then some wee air blast for the laggards. Seems to be a wee bit on the optimistic side that was. Do all WLF have the same sense of humor, beggin’ your pardon, Master Sergeant?”
The gorilla swelled up like a huge muscular balloon of anger, “I LIED, I HATE YOU LAIRD, GET YOU THROUGH THAT DOOR IN TEN SECONDS OR LEARN TO BEATHE VACCUM! ALL OF YOU, MOVE, MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!”
The half dressed group broke and ran through the far squad bay doors, Oscar in distant first place lead, with a sly smile on his homely face.
Master Sergeant Bunnek watched them crowd through the door, and then after the last one scrambled through to the fall tube, he collapsed against the wall, howling in silent laughter.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 5:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Need moar. Rawr. You should make a book about this. lol.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oscar stood, holding the shiny thing is disbelief, “You’ll be wantin’ me to do what?”
The slightly built WLF technician smiled, and said again, “Put the nervesuit on. It will be tight, nobody gets a custom nervesuit until they pass training. So everyone uses the same ones.”
“Man, are ye daft, I canna fit in this wee thing?”
“It stretches, trainee, now get to stuffin’.”
Oscar walked away from the tech while he handed other used suits out to equally disbelieving trainees. Snuffers stood watching casually, already resplendent in his suit.
“It’ll fit, Oscar, it’ll fit.”
“Ya, like haggis!”
“I don’t even want to know what that is.”

Fifteen squirming minutes later the group of trainees stood in an enormous silver faceted room, holding helmets in their gloved hands, arranged in pairs by teammates, when a freight train came crashing through the main door.
“WHAT IS THIS, A BUNCH OF SILVER SAUSAGES, AND ME WITHOUT A STICK FOR A WEENIE ROAST!”
One trainee made the fatal error of snickering. Bunnek flew through the air like ten tons of elephantine acrobat to land in front of the offender with a crash, “DOWN, DOWN!”
The unfortunate man dropped to a front leaning rest position while Bunnek bellowed into his ear, “IT HAS BEEN DETERMINED THIS STATIONS’ ORBIT IS ONE TWENTIETH OF A DEGREE OFF. YOU WILL DO PUSHUPS UNTIL THAT IS FIXED, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!?”
The man groaned, and began snapping out pushups. Bunnek watched in silence for a moment, then moved to the front of the group.
“ANY OTHER COMEDIANS?”
The group roared back, “NO SIR!”
Bunneks face swelled to an shade of purple Oscar privately felt would normally call for a trip to the emergency room, “I AM A MASTER SERGEANT, NOT A WORTHLESS OFFICER TYPE, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN!”
He turned to the first victim, “TRAINEE, I CANNOT FEEL THIS STATIONS’ ORBIT SHIFTING, YOU ARE NOT DOING IT CORRECTLY! START OVER!”
Oscar assumed a position long forgotten, and began groaning through pushups as Snuffers sweated beside him.
“Ye gods,I canna imagine I was leavin’ Earth for this.”
Snuffers began to respond, and snapped his mouth shut as an incredible weight settled on Oscars broad shoulders.
“Laird, DO PUSHUPS!” Bunnek screamed from his position standing on Oscar’s back.
Sweat began to roll, and Oscar started thinking about how much they would really want to cash him out for that ride back.

The sweating, groaning group trooped back into the room after three hours of what Master Sergeant Bunnek called ‘light calisthenics’. Three recruits had already quit, chancing their luck back in the labor pool on the asteroid Armageddon.
Oscar stood easy next to Snuffers, and whispered carefully, “Noo what?”
Bunnek stood facing them, still perfect in crisp fatigues, behind a computer control panel. A twist of two controls, and large long tailed twin legged machines shimmered out of the air besides the startled trainees.
The giant spoke in a surprisingly normal voice, “These are our training mekas, Wolfhounds. All ass and gas, no armor or weapons to speak of. They are light, fast, maneuverable, fun to drive, and a great way to die on a real battlefield. These constructs can only be made in these simulator rooms. They are not holograms, but temporarily aligned air molecules. They will hold your weight in this room, GET IN!”
The wondering group clambered into the constructs, to find cramped chairs in claustrophobic cockpits. Oscar swore as his head hit a poorly placed overhead brace, trying to squeeze his considerable bulk inside, “I canna fit in this wee tin can!”
“LAIRD I HEARD THAT, START SQUEEZING OR I WILL GET SOME GREASE FROM THE GALLEY!”
Oscar got to squeezing. Puffing and groaning, he strapped in, remembering at the last second how to put his helmet on and snap in the leads to both the nervesuit and the vehicle computer.
Bunneks immense voice penetrated the constructs as if the trainees were sitting in open air, which of course, they were, “THIS IS THE FIRST TRAINING MEKA YOU WILL LEARN. YOU WILL LEARN THIS MACHINE INSIDE AND OUT BEFORE YOU GRADUATE TO AN INTERMEDIATE SIZED MEKA. WATCH YOUR SCREENS.”
The screen suddenly blanked to a sea of tan sand dunes, and a huge bipedal blue meka thrusting its way over the frozen waves, titanic revolving cannon barrels in place of arms, and Oscar realized in a cold sweat they were aimed at him.
“WELCOME TO WULF. THIS IS A GATLINGER. IT IS GOING TO KILL YOU.”
Training had begun.


Last edited by armoredman on Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:18 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The days ran together in a blur of whirlwind instruction, learning the ins and outs of meka combat, the rank structure of WLF, the various commands that could be coaxed out of the SUZ computers, all the way to just how clean Master Sergeant Bunnek considered a garbage can should be with a sweating trainee deep inside of it. More trainees dropped out, and were escorted to the Garage Deck, grim faced and silent.
The simulator rooms were filled with the raw smell of sweat and fear. One day Oscar and Snuffers had just suffered a humiliating defeat of their simulated Asp hovertank at the “hands” of an Ares assault meka, and they stretched out on the floor of the faceted room, cranking out pushups as penance. Oscar tossed his head to throw off a sweat droplet, and caught a young man in a black and gold shipsuit stepping into a small simulator room accompanied by Captain Manning. He paused for a second to get a better view, and winced as an out of control freighter crashed into his left ear.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE LOOKING AT, LAIRD? THAT IS AN OFFICER CANIDATE, AND HE WILL COMMAND YOUR WORTHLESS HIDE IN BATTLE, IF YOU LIVE THAT LONG!”
“Aye, sir, thankee, sir.”
The man mountain swelled in rage, whether real or feigned, “LAIRD, I WANT TO SEE DENTS IN THAT STEEL WHEN YOU ARE DONE, START PUSHING!”
Oscar started pushing. Again.

The trainees arrayed themselves in ranks on the Garage Deck, in their silver loaner nervesuits and battered body armor, helmets in hand. Master Sergeant Bunnek stood at their head, wearing a black and gold nervsuit with well worn body armor, and a pistol in a shoulder holster.
He looked up and down the silent ranks, all wearing their headphone hearing protection from the crashing and banging from the Repair Area.
“You are going to go on your first combat drop as of today. I doubt half of you will leave the surface of Aldus alive, but Commander Deylon can’t wait the fifty odd years it would take to get your worthless heads out of your equally worthless rear ends, so you go down now. We have a surplus of old Howitzer Two mekas you will be piloting. Your teams will be required to score at least one bandit kill to be considered for continued training. Fail, and its back to Armageddon. AM I CLEAR?”
“Yes, Master Sergeant!”
“TRAINEES, A TEN, HUT!”
A young man in a formal WLF black and gold battle jacket stepped to the front of the group, now rigidly at attention. A lantern square jaw and laser bright eyes surveyed them critically.
“I am Major Warfe, call sign Warfhammer. You are going up on your first battle test. Do not fail. Master Sergeant Bunnek stated we have a surplus of machines, but I would prefer they come back aboard. You are optional. Pass training, and WLF will be a good home. Fail, and we will try to get your remains to your listed next of kin. Any questions? Carry on.”
The intense young man returned Master Sergeant Bunneks steel rigid salute, and left.
Bunnek looked at them and bellowed, “MEKAS ARE TO YOUR REAR, YOU ARE ASSIGNED BY TEAMS, WHY ARE YOU WASTING TIME ON MY GARAGE DECK, MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!”
Oscar and Snuffers ran across the metal decking to the waiting ranks of weather stained and rusting Howitzer Two mekas, large humanoid looking bipedal machines with two heavy cannon where a man would have arms. Without waiting, they threw themselves up the rope ladder to the canopy on the nearly chest mounted cockpit, the lump of a sensor pod imitating a head atop the dirty red vehicle. The open cockpit door became very crowded as Oscar and Snuffers hit it simultaneously, with a loud OOF from the smaller Snuffers. They quickly squeezed through, and began strapping in the old meka.
“Snuffer, me lad, wouldna it be grand i’ the gie us a Bee Ayy two?”
“I’d settle for a translator when you talk.”
“Och, tha’ hurts, lad.”
Snuffers paused, and looked seriously up into the larger mans face, “We’ve been kicking tail in the simulators, let’s kick some tail down there. Brutal Baboons.”
Oscar stuck out his paw, and they solemnly shook on it, then Snuffers fired up the massive engine, rattling the meka with a roar.
“Great Scott, I hope thi’ isn’t what i’ always sound like!”
“Nah, I’m told the bigger they are, the louder they are on startup,” Snuffers yelled as the deep coughing settled out to a smooth roar.
The radio crackled, and a familiar wall of sound slammed into them from the scratchy speakers “TRAINEES, RIGHT FACE!”
The line of Howitzer Twos turned to the right, long hours of simulator practice paying off. A slender meka adorned with twin arm mounted heavy cannons and tall sensor wings over its bubble canopy stepped to the front. Oscar couldn’t help but feel slightly jealous of the gleaming paint and added weaponry on the Master Sergeants Sentry meka, and then bit his lip hard when he saw the name stenciled on the front, underneath a cartoon drawing of a floppy eared bunny in a blue jacket – ‘Peter Cottontail’.
Snuffers did let a snicker out, and the two men looked at each other.
“MEKAS, FORWARD MARCH TO THE DOCKING TUBE, LINE UP INTO THE DROP SHIP, THEN PLUG IN!”
A chorus of yessirs sounded, and the line began creeping forward towards the Docking Tube hatch.
“Snuffers me lad, what kind of name would ye be wantin’ for our meka?”
The skeletal man stretched, watching the Howitzer Two ahead of them, and commented, “Should be something related to our crew name?”
“Baboon?”
“That’s already our name, try something else, something monkey related.”
“Chimpanzee?”
“Blech.”
"Banana?"
"You off your meds? No."
“Howler, like tha’ howler monks?”
Snuffers smiled slowly, “Howler it is. Our turn,” and the meka lurched forward.
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Fifth
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awe.
Some.
Ness.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 6:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Inside the Drop Ship, Oscar and Snuffers felt the intense claustrophobia when the Drop Ship blanked their vision at other faction landing zones, and the cursing helplessness all ground troops feel when strapped helplessly in a big moving tin can.
“Snuffers, me lad, remind me ta bring a book next time.”
“Assuming there is one, you mean.”
“Cheerful sort, aren’t ye?”
The Drop Ship grounded, and a wall of sound battered their ears, “ALL WLF TRAINING MEKAS STAND BY TO DEPLOY. I SEE YOU, WITHERSPPON, GET YOUR REAR IN GEAR NOW!!! LAIRD, SNUFFERS, ARE YOU WAITING FOR A GOLD PLATED INVITATION? MOVE, MOVE, MOVE! PETER COTTONTAIL HAS THE LEAD, FOLLOW MY LITTLE COTTON TAIL OR KISS YOURS GOODBYE!!!”
Snuffers shifted smoothly from Drop Ship cradle power to the Howie IIs engine, and slipped out of the cradle as if he’d been doing it for years. The rusted machine turned and slid into the line waiting at the dropped ramp.
Oscar peered past the other mekas in the darkened cargo hold out to the bright sunlight beyond, shimmering off the sands.
“I thought this wee planet was always cloud covered?”
Snuffers, concentrating on his driving, said offhandedly, “It was in the notes, thin metallic clouds made of ore dust, blocks readings and interferes with almost all sensors any farther than a few meters off the deck. Doesn’t make breathing any more fun either, you helmet seals working?”
“Aye.”
“Good. It doesn’t block sunlight, oddly enough. We don’t have to fight in the dark.”
“Well tha’s a wee bit o good news, last time I fought in the dark, I got me arse handed to me.”
Snuffers just snickered.
“WLF, MOVE FORWARD ONTO THE SANDS, THIS DROP SHIP COSTS MONEY JUST SITTING HERE, MOVE, MOVE, MOVE, I WILL TAKE IT OUT OF YOUR WORTHLESS HIDES!!!”
They moved.
The last Howitzer II shuffled into a line on the tan dunes of Aldus, and the Drop Ship blasted into orbit again, whipping sand around the abandoned machines, far from help on a desolate world designed to kill them.
Snuffers looked over at Oscar with an expression of awe and shock, “That was poetic.”
“Didna realize I was thinkin’ oot loud.”
“WLF, YOU WILL TEAM IN THREES, STARTING WITH THE MACHINE ON THE FAR RIGHT, COUNT OFF LIKE YOU HAVE A PAIR!”
When the count reached them, Snuffers and Oscar bellowed, “Three!” with all their might.”
“ACCEPTABLE, BARELY. COMPASS HEADINGS ARE DOWNLOADED, MOVE OUT, FIND BANDITS KILL THEM RETURN WHEN DONE. IF YOU NEED HELP, YOU ARE SCREWED. GET OFF MY LZ, NOW, NOW, NOW!!!”
Snuffers guided the old war machine in a loose V formation with the other two equally battered Howitzer twos, and moved off on the compass heading glowing above the cracked instrument panel.
“Snuffers me lad, ya be thinkin’ he meant that?”
“Dunno, watch for bandits.”
“Soom day I’ll be wantin’a real conversation, ye know.”
“Funny guy.”


Far above, Major Warfe watched the deployment of Training Cadre 2125 with interest from the WLF Communications Center at the top of the battle station. He keyed a microphone, “Master Sergeant, all set?”
The recruits would have been stunned if they could hear the normal tones from their feared training god, but naturally this was a private channel, “Yes, sir, Peter Cottontail is ready for backup if needed. Captain Manning is in Fast Times, and just over the far ridge at three forty two as backup. We’ll get them all home safe.”
“Excellent, you have done good work again.”
“Sir, thank you sir.”
Major Warfe broke the circuit, a sly smile on his face, and a memory rose unbidden, of being just as scared to death of the fearsome man in that Sentry cockpit as a brand new inductee, even though he was station born and raised. He laughed silently, some things never changed.

“Contact, bearing two five one relative, computer calling bandits,” Snuffers sang out.
“Aye, type and size?”
Snuffers checked the readouts on the screen, “We have one Wolverine, one Akimo, and possible two Strikers.”
Oscar grinner, “Let’s bag twa 'o them.”
Snuffers looked at him, “Let’s make sure we get one before we look for two. Remember, we bag one or we stay here.”
“Spoilsport.”
The other trainees Howitzer Twos arrayed in a loose line, and waited for the computer driven enemies to arrive. Typically for the nearly mindless enemy AIs, they came in a rush, no formation and no cohesion.
The blue and orange painted Wolverine ran on two double kneed bird legs at their Howitzer two, side mounted energy cannon slinging bolts that seared past their meka to fuse sand in dirty orange explosions behind them.
“The buggers cannae’ shoot. Back at ye, bucko!”
The Howitzer Twos trademark arm mounted cannon tracked smoothly as the bandit machine rushed in closer and closer.
“Optimum range, fire when ready.”
“Aye, tha’ I will. Firing!”
Concussions shook the old machine as the heavy guns let go, and the Wolverine suddenly sprouted a wreath of fire and smoke.
“Direct hits, shields are waay down, hit him again!”
The heavy cannons groaned through reloading, and smoking spent casings dropped to the sands behind them.
Oscar grinned, this was better than the simulations.
“Firing!”
The Wolverine was running for all it was worth when the twin shells caught it in mid stride. Its battered shields let go, and its rear hull plates caved in under the High Explosive Squash Head rounds, detonating the engine, which blew out the front of the doomed machine in a hail of fire and sparks.
“Oscar bellowed while Snuffers cheered, “Yeah, Baboons!”
Suddenly the Howitzer Two was rocked by a blast that pounded their eardrums, and warning lights and sirens sounded.
“Wha?”
“Striker, right behind us! We forgot about that little fragger!”
Oscar let loose a torrent of Gaelic inventive as the massive machine turned ponderously. Another hit, and the old machine shuddered as they rotated.
“Shields, down fifty percent, nail this fragger!”
“Back up a bit, will ye lad? Let’s mess his aim oop.”
The next shot from the bandit machine missed by a wide margin, and Oscar spared a glance towards his recruit classmates. Twin pyres showed a dead Akimo and destroyed Striker, and he realized with a start the two other Howitzer IIs were simply standing and watching their duel.
“On target?”
He laid the big guns cross hairs on the wildly moving bandit machine, four wheel drive balloon tires spitting rooster tails of sand high into the poisonous atmosphere.
“I hae’ ye noo, lad.”
Twin shells spat from the mekas cannons, intersecting perfectly at the shielding over the enemy machines engine covers. The smoke and dust from the explosion covered the little vehicle, until Oscar saw the small turret pin wheeling from the smoke, flung far out into the waste trailing smoke and flame. But of where the enemy vehicle had been, only scattered scraps and a guttering fire of grease and fuel remained as mute witness.
A click in their ears warned them of a private channel being opened to their machine.
“Well done, warriors. Watch your back better, even though that Striker couldn’t do much damage, next time it might be something serious. NOW GET YOUR BUTTS BACK ON MY DROP SHIP, MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!!!”
Oscar smiled, while Snuffers let out a long suffering sigh even as the three successful machines formed up to troop back to the Drop Zone.
“Oh well, at least we passed that one.”
“Aye, laddie, but what wee trick are ya thinkin’ he may spring on us next?”
“One disaster at a time, Laird, one disaster at a time.”
Their laughter rang out over the sands, as they left smoking ruins behind them.


Last edited by armoredman on Sat Feb 13, 2010 7:45 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Fifth
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice.
I approve of your increased output, sir.
Smile
(moar plz)
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WarfHammer
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WOOT UPDATE!!

I definatly liked this one armored. Keep it up!!
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armoredman
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Joined: 18 May 2008
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Location: AZ, USA

PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2010 2:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The last Howitzer Two shuddered to a stop inside the Garage Deck, and shut down with a tortured wheeze. Oscar and Snuffers sat uncertainly in their cockpit, waiting for instructions as Peter Cottontail moved smoothly to face the group.
“GET OUT OF THOSE MACHINES NOW!”
That was familiar, at least. The two quickly exited their meka as it pinged and popped with the sounds of cooling metal. Oscar suddenly realized that he could hear those sounds – the Garage Deck was quiet. As they scrambled down the rope ladder, he spared a look around, and saw WLF uniformed personnel standing in ranks silently, watching the trainees fall into a laser straight line.
“ATTENTION ON DECK TO ORDERS!”
The tired and dirty trainees snapped to in their borrowed uniforms and body armor, as a somehow immaculate Bunnek stepped off across the metal decking towards them, flanked by Captain Manning and Major Warfe, Manning in a spotless nervesuit and body armor, Warfe in a crisp ships uniform and battle jacket emblazoned with medals and awards. The three came to a halt in front of the line.
Major Warfe stepped forward, “Men and women of Cadre 2125, you have passed the biggest hurdle of all. All of you faced our enemy, and for the first time in many years, every single crew took their kill. Well done. As is our custom, based on performance in both simulator and actual battle, the first crew merit is awarded here, on this deck, at this time, for the faction to see.”
The ramrod straight young man turned to Master Sergeant Bunnek, “Master Sergeant, if you will?”
“SIR!”
The three turned to the far end of the line of trainees, a junior Lieutenant hovering behind with a box in his hands. The Master Sergeants booming voice filled the Garage Deck.
“ICE WEASELS! FOR SKILL IN PILOTING, STEADY HAND MERIT!”
Captain Manning stepped up to a stunning young woman with an ice fall of platinum hair, and handed her and her thin male partner their ribbons.
“SWIMMING SCORPIONS, FOR EXCEPTIONAL SKILL IN COMBAT DODGE, THE QUICK REFLEXES MERIT!”
“TERRIFYING ANTEATERS, FOR SKILL IN CONSERVING AMMUNITION IN COMBAT, THE PACKRAT MERIT”
On the line went, and the WLF crew standing at attention clapped politely at each award. Oscar felt something strange, and puzzled over it, until he realized with a start what it was. He was proud of his teammates. The solitary Brutal Baboon of Glasgow had finally found a place. The thought stunned him.
“BRUTAL BABOONS!”
Oscar and Snuffers snapped even tighter to attention as the three WLF senior staff stopped in front of them.
“FOR EXCEPTIONAL MARKSMANSHIP IN COMBAT, THE EAGLE EYE MERIT!”
Captain Manning pressed a ribbon into his hand, and he spared a quick glance downward at it, the gleaming gold dot in the pale green cloth looking small in his hand. He whipped his eyes up again, waiting for them to move off, and felt a sudden chill when the command team paused.
Major Warfe stepped back to survey the entire line, “It is unusual for a crew to earn two merits in a single engagement, but I have been told that in simulations, and now actual combat, that this crew has earned this merit handily. Master Sergeant?”
“BRUTAL BABOONS! FOR EXCEPTIONAL DESTRUCTIVENESS DELIVERED TO THE ENEMY, THE BERZERKER MERIT!”
The ribbon looked odd, single dark blue stripe over light blue, but Oscar felt a rush of pride at the littwo ribbons in his meaty paw. When his eye popped back up, Captain Manning was looking at him. The Captains lips moved silently, forming the words, “Good job.”
The trio moved on down the line, handing out merits and awards to the trainees, while the assembled faction members applauded, until they had finished. Major Warfe spun on his gleaming heels, and marched to the center of the line to address them all.
“Well done, 2025. You have but a few more tasks to complete before you reach your assigned commanders. I have no doubt you will do well. Master Sergeant? This cadre is yours.”
‘THANK YOU SIR!”
Oscar’s ear tingled at a strange sound behind him, as if multiple containers of liquid were being moved behind him.
“NOW YOU ALL HAVE SOME PLAY PRETTIES, YOU PROBABLY ARE WONDERING WHY YOU ARE STILL STANDING HERE? GUESS WHAT, HEROES - TURN AROUND!”
The trainees snapped off a crisp about face, and groaned as one. Next to each Howitzer Two was a grinning maintenance tech with two brushes, buckets of cleanser, and armloads of cloths.
“I SEE DIRT! I SEE GRIME! I SEE DIRTY GUNS, AND I DON’T SEE YOU MOVING YET! MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!!!”
They broke into a sprint to grab their cleaning supplies, and Oscar grinned. Some things military never changed.

“Major?”
“Captain Manning?”
The two stood easy while the grimy trainees swarmed over the old battered mekas, watching with ill concealed grins as they remembered their own trainee days.
“That Laird character, I want him in something a bit bigger than a Howie Two. I think he and his partner have the touch for assault armor.”
Warfe turned slightly to the older man, and raised an eyebrow, “You want to hand out one of your precious Bee Aay Twos to them? You only have the seven of them.”
“I know sir, but I’m short of good crews for what I do have. I just have a feeling about that pair.”
Warfe shrugged, “Your machines, your crews, I have no objections. Personally I think the Ice Weasels will make a fantastic Ares crew when the merit out of training. But that’s just my opinion; it depends on what they earn.”
Manning grinned, “Exactly, sir.”
Warfe grinned, “Then go for it. Wait until Laird meets that Corporal Sims of your! She’ll eat him alive! Either that or marry him.”
Manning, watching the cleaning, shook his head slightly, suddenly thoughtful, “Maybe, Major, maybe, stranger things have happened. And nothing in this universe is stranger than this place.”
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armoredman
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oscar slept deeply but not restfully that night, tossing as dreams of flames in Glasgow mixed with roaring fires in a strange meka cockpit, voices he couldn't identify, screaming orders he couldn't follow, strapped into his command chair in bands of black iron, and he fought them with every muscle straining, until he sat upright in the bunk with a gasp.

Snuffers levered himself up on one elbow next to him, "You all right, Oscar?"

He said haltingly, "Aye, aye, that I am, lad, I'm thinking. Just some wee dreams, tha's all"

"Okay, you say so, then lay down and zip that honker, you could wake the dead with that thing."

Oscar lay back almost unwillingly, something had stuck in his dream memory, a voice calling, calling for help amid the flames and torn metal, calling him to help. Chills raced up his spine as he tried to sleep, as he realized the meka cockpit he had been in was a Bee Ayy Two...

The morning brought nothing new in the routine, nothing but the added excitement of bandit hunting drops to help all the cadets earn their merits to graduate. Three were required, but very strict standards were applied, and several crews simply could not measure up. This time, though, they went with wry smiles, as even partially merited crews were sought for, and they walked from one contract to another, not a rusted space scow back to whatever dungheap they had fled.

Oscar and Snuffers trained harder, simulator and Aldus, against bandits and in sim, against constructs and WLF officers. It was smooth sailing mostly. Mostly.

Oscar looked around the silver faceted room as they walked in the door, and felt the tension in the air. Snuffers jerked his head around, trying to pinpoint the feeling, when the far door jerked open, and six nervesuited figures walked.

Snuffers paled, and Oscar swore an ancient Gealic oath involving sheep and obscene sex acts as Captain Manning, Major Warfe and Master Sergeant Bunnek walked in with their drivers beside them. Mannings driver was a grey haired woman with absolutely no expression, the Majors' driver a slender man with a Asian features and a big grin, and the Master Sergeant..

Oscar blinked. It didn't change. He blinked again. Same result. He tried, oh, he tried, but he couldn't keep it in.

"A bloody cripple?"

The young and slender man stepped off from behind the Master Sergeant as if he was on two good legs, not one and a pogo stick. Snuffers involuntarily ducked, expecting a verbal lava blast, and twitched when not one of the WLF officers said a word. The man, blond hair flowing, used his crutch as a second leg smoothly and efficiently, though Oscar couldn't help glancing still at the one leg of his nervsuit that ended at the hip. He stopped in front of the scarred hulking Glasgow survivor.

In a clear tenor voice, he asked, "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"Och, laddie, I'm sorry, I nae shoulda insulted a cripple like ye,"

Abruptly he was flying through the air, and landed heavily against the far wall. He shook his head - stars are very hard to see through, and felt a familiar red rage building up inside. He slowly stood back up to face the man who was still standing there nonchalantly on one good leg.

"Laddie, I'll gie ye one good sucker puch, but nae more will ye be takin' frae, WHOOF!"

Oscar flew back as the man executed a pole vault from a motionless standing position, ending with the one foot buried in Oscars considerable midriff, slamming him back into the now familiar wall. Oscar made a feeble grab for the foot, only to find it long gone. He shook his head, and saw the same young man standing back where he had been, motionless and with a look of polite attention on his face.

The mountain of muscle that was the Brutal Baboon stood up, sinews knotting, hands locking into sledgehammers of bone and flesh, and brows beetled over eyes that smoldered with a deep flame.

"And tha's the LAST time ye lay a hand on ME, ya little, WHOOF!"

That bulkhead was becoming as familiar and friendly as an ex lover, Oscar thought dimly as he slid down the battle steel, trying to remember how he got there.

A even more familiar nuclear blast exploded in his ears, "LAIRD, GET OFF MY DECK, YOU LOOK STUPID LAYING THERE WITH YOUR PANTS AROUND YOUR ANKLES, GET UP!"

Oscar struggle to his feet woozily. The young man stiffened, until one meaty paw went up in surrender, "Nae, lad, I'll nae insult ye again, ye've made yer point well."

Bunnek moved between them, and simply smiled. It was the single most terrifying expression Oscar had ever seen.

"I am glad of it, Laird, I knew you could learn," the Master Sergeant said in an unbelievably quite tone, " or my son there might have had to kill you to prove the point. NOW MAN YOUR MACHINE AND PREPARE TO GET YOUR PATHETIC REAR END SHOT OFF IN TINY MEATY CLUMPS, MOVE, MOVE MOVE!"

Oscar hobbled over to the meka shimmering into focus in the simulator room, half in shock, when that tenor voice sang out again, and he turned.

"Laird, my name is Silviu, call sign lulwave. Someday we shall fight again, but on the same side. That will be a better day."

Oscar couldn't raise a single objection to that thought, and a smile crept across his face as he strapped in.
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