[STORY]The First Turn On A Long, Hard Road

Post Reply
User avatar
Reservoir
Posts: 52
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 7:31 pm
Location: North Carolina
Contact:

[STORY]The First Turn On A Long, Hard Road

Post by Reservoir » Tue Nov 25, 2008 5:48 pm

Brigadier General Conner grabbed the handle to his office. Moments later, the heat of the print-scanners embedded in the handle abated, and the door unlocked. He gently pushed the handle down, and then craftily opened the wooden door, shutting it gently behind him.

His office was spartan: two seats opposite his desk, which were simple steel shelves and tabletop, mounted on an even simpler steel frame. His chair was black and leathery, but was most certainly not leather. Still, it was marginally more comfortable than the rest of the chairs in the base. Like all the office and terminal chairs, his had gel-based keys on the armrest, providing both minimal comfort and maximum functionality.

Since Conner's' office lie in the interior, the wall behind his desk was modified to project the images captured by the defensive cameras outside. In a literal sense, he could have a window office on every side of the base, though he usually chose the west side during sun-up, when he wanted to see the sunrise, and the east side for sun-down.

Sunrise was still three hours away, though - during Solcrum's winter, the twenty-hour days were mostly nights, with the sun only popping up for five or seven hours. As such, when the wall realized that he was there, it popped to life showing nothing but near-solid black. He gently sighed, and relieved his weight from his feet, chair creaking lightly as such. Immediately, the holo-projector lit up, turning a inert disk of nanites, innocent-looking inside its alcove, into a 2 meter wide by 1 meter tall "holo" screen. The nanites facing the door blackened - security being what it is.

Leaning back lightly, he began keying the arms of his chair, accessing data and duty logs for that morning. Most important to Conner, though, was the logs of ships inbound and outbound from the base. Few ships left full; most came with new soldiers and supplies. Being so close to known pirate locals, and the ever-infamous Al-Husam al Din Empire, the base was a favorite landing point for new personnel assigned to work the "Thick".

He scanned the manifests of the three helicopters that were scheduled to arrive: two were the massive TC-400 Atlas choppers, bringing in supplies and machines to the base. Those choppers had two twin-rotor engines, each capable of lifting and moving the TC-400 by itself. It was no surprise that TC's had become the mainstay of most transport chopper fleets, even those outside the AIG's CSM Forces.

However, the third chopper was a smaller one, meant to provide intermediate, short-range support for troops, as well as reliable troop transport: a Trident T-230. The T-230's had been used by CSM Ground Aviation and Militiamen for several decades now, succeeding the T-200 Thunderhead. General Conner checked its arrival time: 10 minutes before the TC-400's showed up; enough time, as it were, to unload and leave before the TC's took up all the airspace.

Conner queued up the personnel transfer list. Only four people were coming in: two were natives to Solcrum, coming here to train before joining the CSN Marine forces in orbit. One was a technician, and the other---

Conner scanned the file again. Command was always fast about sending new people into Gina's squad, but this WAS fast. Too bad for the chum; he was in for a hard landing. What Conner didn't know was just how hard.

*************

The T-230 lanced over the ground, just a few kilometers above it. Her rugged beauty belied her technical prowess: she contained some advanced tac systems, from poly-nanite armour coating to a .50-caliber turreted machine gun at the fore, which used fin-stabilized rounds. On top of that, the main cargo door had a minigun emplacement to it's left, providing serious support fire for soldiers loading or unloading.

She was just about 10 kilometers from the base, PFC John Karmach figured. He'd just been assigned to the base - more specifically, to a "Wolf Fang" squad, led by a Master Sergeant Cornellis. Since Karmach wasn't near the base yet, nor authorized to do so, he couldn't use his internally(brain-wise)-integrated Soldier's Aid Program to search up his/her profile.

Minutes passed lightly - Karmach was tired. The journey through hyperspace had been boring, and the maneuvers the Essex made in order to entire orbit had been draining - not to mention the whole atmospheric entry part of his journey. He was ready to land, get some rest, and get everything together tomorrow.

He felt the chopper lift up slightly as it cleared the edge of the massive caldera that the base was sitting in. Supposedly, a massive chunk of Solcrum's failed attempt at a moon crashed here, creating a shock wave equatable to the asteroid that hit Earth during the dinosaur period. In fact, it had hit so hard and straightforward, that on the other side of Solcrum lied a straight-up, 30-meter high "mountain", which had erupted from the seismic disturbance caused by the impact.

Looking out the side-guns window, he saw that pretty much in the center, the outside of the base was drab and small-looking, belying it's true size underground. The only large thing about it was a 3-kilometer long, 2-kilometer wide airstrip, with matching large hangers behind it. On the other side of those hangers were spaces big enough to land three TC-400's. As he figured, the chopper he was in was heading right on towards those spaces.

They didn't have long, though - he had heard the pilot talk about having to bug out before two TC-400's were supposed to come in behind them. Karmack hoped they weren't already on their tail.

A few more minutes passed as the pilots negotiated landing procedures and eventually touched down on the helipad. One of the other occupants of the cabin, a man who said he was a Private specializing in Technical Repairs, reached over and, with permission from the pilot hovering outside the door, yanked the door wide open. The pilot motioned for the occupants to quickly get out, and they all did so - ducking to avoid the chopper blades that were still moving pretty quickly.

As soon as they were all out, the pilot quickly yanked the door shut and hopped back in, and the chopper began lifting off before anyone could comment. In the distance, two massive lumps - the TC-400's - were only inbound by a few minutes more.

All of them turned towards the main surface building, and found General Conner and two Master Sergeants standing a few meters ahead of them. Karmach scanned the name-plates of the two Master Sergeants, and quickly found out that Master Sergeant Cornellis was indeed a woman - although she looked like she could cut a door down with her tongue. Karmach didn't want to get on her bad side. He quickly saluted, the rest following suit.

General Conner saluted, and then stepped up to address them formally. He quickly told the Private where he needed to report to, and then handed the two native Solcrum's over to the other Master Sergeant. He then stepped over to Karmach, motioning Master Sergeant Cornellis to join them.

"Welcome to Base Mango-Mango-Bravo 112, PFC." Conner placed his hand on Karmach's right shoulder, pulling him towards the base. After they walked inside and stepped into a large personnel elevator, Conner continued. "Now, I know you're fresh from Danderlon, and I'm sure you would like to rest, but unfortunately..."

"...we have a bit of a situation, Private." finished Cornellis as they exited the elevator, finding themselves at the primary entrance level. "An hour ago we received an emergency distress transmission - Code Zero", to which Karmach blinked. Code Zero was serious business!

After silently making their way through security, Karmach was lead into the briefing room. There, several Master Sergeants and higher-ranks were there - pretty much all the squad leaders and platoon commands. This WAS serious.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," said Conner, taking a seat at the far end of the table. All those present, including Karmach, took their own seats. Karmach was surprised to even get one.

"This is the transmission received as of 0813 MST," Conner stated simply. He touched a button on his armrest, and the holoscreen behind him came to life, showing an image of a harried young woman in clear distress.

"This is Matriarch Marlena Avon, of the United Royal Nation of Avon, sending a distress call to the Marshall Delegate of Solcrum. Within the past twelve hours, militant Chinese forces, supplied by the Shujinko Dynasty, have landed on our soil and captured three large industrial cities, as well as several small agricultural areas nearby. They have superior number and firepower compared to our troops. Casualty figures are coming in, and our defensive lines are being strained."

"What I am asking is for a Code Zero emergency assembly of all available CSM and CSN forces to aid us in defending Avon from this invasion. We cannot sop them ourselves, and all attempts against the taken cities would be futile. We need help---" an explosion happened off-screen, shaking the entire building. "Damnit," she said after a moment of silence. "Looks like they landed another bomb---" Another explosion occurred, and the screen went dead.

Silence engulfed the entire briefing room. It was stunning, to say the least. What kind of balls did the Shujinko people think they have!?

"Ladies, gentlemen..." said Conner, capturing everyone's attention. "We have been authorized to, and are going to, answer the call. You've got two hours to get everything together. Admiral Stanton has been generous enough to answer the call as well, and we'll have both CSN Dropships and combat vessels backing us up on this one. Good luck, and good hunting. All squad commanders will receive their squad orders in the next few minutes via SAP. The same goes for all platoon and mechanized platoon leaders. Dismissed!"
Last edited by Reservoir on Fri Mar 06, 2009 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"You may never fire a single shot in your entire term as a Common Star Militia servicemember. Some would naively consider that a milestone, representing all that the CSM and CSN are made to be. But, it doesn't mean you will ever forget the things you will hear, see, or do during that time. Cloak and daggers has become child's play, Privates and PFCs: welcome to the Thick...may God watch over you all."
-CSM Chief Master Sergeant Andrew Ford, to CSM PFC John Karmach and the other recruits of the Common Star Militia, Outer Colonies Branch, Section 13, 319 Division, Class of 4133

User avatar
Ford Prefect
Posts: 957
Joined: Tue May 20, 2008 11:12 am

Re: The First Turn On A Long, Hard Road

Post by Ford Prefect » Tue Nov 25, 2008 11:55 pm

I'm glad to see you going into the Dynasty/Avon stuff, but I have to ask why Karmach was privy to such a high level briefing, or indeed why the general came to visit him. Though given the stuff in the general's office, I imagine it's rather important to the plot. :D
FEEL THESE GUNS ARCHWIND THESE ARE THE GUNS OF THE FLESHY MESSIAH THE TOOLS OF CREATION AND DESTRUCTION THAT WILL ENACT THE LAW OF MAN ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

User avatar
Reservoir
Posts: 52
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 7:31 pm
Location: North Carolina
Contact:

Re: The First Turn On A Long, Hard Road

Post by Reservoir » Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:48 pm

Karmach ran out of the briefing room, trying to tag along with Master Sergeant Cornellis. He barely managed to so, seeing as how there were several others trying to work their way to their own squads. All of them were Squad Commanders, and there were several Platoon Commanders, too.

Finally catching up with her, he started: "Why--""

She gave him a quick, stern shot, and from her face and then sub-vocalized into his SAP unit. If you want me to answer your questions, then you're going to have to ask me like this. We don't need to discuss this with outside observation.

He frowned, trying to keep up with her pace. She had a rugged beauty - her short, sandy hair worked with her angular, rounded-edged face. Were she not scolding and angry-faced all the time, he could have developed a thing for her. Of course, he couldn't for technical reasons, but still. Why was I included in the briefing? Seems like I was the only non-commander out there.

She returned his frown. You don't think me and the General have read your profile? We know things that only the Brass and IAB are supposed to know. She round the corner, apparently sub-vocalizing with the rest of their squad. Besides, we needed you to start soaking in the information as soon as. Unlike you, the rest of the base has seen their share of affairs - they know the drill. The quicker you absorb the info, the better off you are. She opened he door into their squad room. We'll talk more about this later.

They both stepped inside, and Karmach found himself in a very large locker room - not like any trinary school gym locker, though. The walls were covered in weapons lockers - everything from pistols to guided explosives - save for four, mid-size personnel lockers.

Karmach noticed there were two people in the room besides him and Cornellis. The farthest one was a quiet, tall Russian-ethnic man, with buzz-cut black hair, and brown eyes. Arms crossed and leaning against one of the weapon lockers, he seemed tired, wary, or both. Probably just wary of Karmach - who knew he was most likely replacing a long-time buddy. His mostly-covered rank indicated he was a Specialist.

The other man was a somewhat-short blond man, whose hair was also buzz-cut, with a seasoned, North American look. His eyes were a sharp blue, full of some sort of sadistic malignancy. This guy had to be the hard-ass, bad-ass, or generally kick-ass member of the team. He proudly wore the rank of Corporal on his arm. He was standing just a few meters in front of other man, and had turned to face the door. A smug smirk crossed his face, although it could have passed as a happy sneer from a wolf who just got handed lamb-chops.

The Corporal walked over, and smartly saluted Cornellis. After she returned the salute, she motioned towards Karmach, adding "This is PFC Karmach, our green boy. Play nice, Burke. The kid just got here." She walked off to privately chat with the other teammate.

Burke - Corporal Burke Lancaster - stepped within Karmachs' personal space real quickly. Corporal Lancaster was half a head shorter than Karmach, but projected ten times the testosterone and general predatory chemicals of any normal person. After a few tense moments, Lancaster said his first word to Karmach: "Meat."

Karmach blinked a few times, confused. "What, sir?"

Lancaster's smile widened. "Meat, green-ass. That's all you are: Meat. Specialist Franks was a man, and Brass sends meat to replace him." Lancaster chuckled, looking away. After a moment, he looked back, a bittersweet look of nearly-genuine sympathy. "It figures, doesn't it? I bet when we get into the Thick, you'll shit, piss, and generally do things to disgust me. In fact," Lancaster said, stepping in closer(a feat Karmach had been sure was impossible), "I doubt you'll ever be anything but meat. Because you're going to get down there, and those Dynasty grunts are going to chew you up like the meat you are." Lancaster stepped back. "So go ahead and do us a favor: get reassigned. We don't want your green meat here, or up there." His face had turned into a disgusted half-frown, half-sneer. He turned around and walked towards his locker, muttering to himself.

Karmach allowed himself to swallow - it was the first time he had since he'd come in. It sounded dry and loud.

Cornellis and the Specialist came up to him. "Shook up, kid?" inquired Cornellis. "Don't mind Burke. You do us good, and you'll get in his graces. Fuck up..." she shrugged. "He'll be in jail, and you'll be the proud owner of several meter-wide plots of six-feet-under dirt." She dropped the dark attitude and nodded towards the Specialist. "This is Specialist Antonovich."

The tall man simply bowed his head slightly. Karmach only replied with a simple hello.

"Alright, everyone. Now that...formalities have been removed from the equation, we all know what comes next." Cornellis checked her wristwatch. "According to the General, we have about seven more minutes before the first trio of TC-400's come in. The Platoon that's NOT helping get the equipment and gear ready for the Op is to be at the helipads, ready to load said equipment and gear. Guess which platoon fall under that category?"

Antonovich rolled his eyes. Burke growled for a second(probably muttering obscenities under his breath), and then strode towards the door. As they all filed out, Burke fell in behind Karmach. When Cornellis and Antonovish weren't looking, he reached up and yanked on Karmach's shoulder, pulling him too close for him to turn around. Karmach's heart suddenly felt like an athlete on his last legs.

Burke's mouth pulled up behind Karmach's ear. "Let me see you work hard now, meat," he whispered in his ear, "or I'll make sure the trip to Avon is unpleasant." With that, he shoved Karmach forward, almost causing him to head-butt Antonovich in the back.

Neither spoke for the rest of the brisk walk. Neither had to.

*************

Good God damn, Karmach thought three hours later. How much shit is out here?

Wolf Fang squad, along with the other squads of it's Platoon, had been filling TC-400's like they were part of an assembly line. Hell, they might as well have been. Every five minutes, three more TC-400's came over the horizon. After three minutes on the ground, those TC's had to be loaded and ready to leave, so as to give the three incoming two minutes to land...and the platoon two minutes of rest.

So far, they had loaded thirty-six choppers, and twelve more were coming in. It was nearly mid-day here on Solcrum, and the heat was making everyone crispy. But Karmach wasn't thinking too much about it. He hadn't been able to think since they'd started, and he doubted he'd be able to think once they got done. The only think he knew is that once the last cargo transport had been loaded, about 3 more TC's were supposed to come in to transport the two combat-ready Platoons - his squad's being one of them - to the shuttle station for liftoff into space. He also knew that, because they'd been relegated to loading duty, they'd be the first ones to stow their gear and things into the choppers.

He looked up, the dirty-brown color of the atmosphere blighted by the bright, orange disk above. Between the sky and the earth lie three more choppers, whose wings beat almost impatiently as the ATC Tower finally gave them clearance. They started descending towards the helipad. Karmach's muscles ached and groaned - much like the rest of the platoon. He finished drinking the salty, warm nutrient water...break was over.

*************

Even through the earmuffs, the TC's engines were dulled no big amount, even inside the damn thing.

All Karmach wanted to do is sleep, or just rest, or something! But it was too loud, to hot, and far to jumpy for anyone to do anything. Unless, of course, you meant sitting there like a punching bag attached to a bouncing floor.

The chopper ride had lasted forty-five minutes already, far too long for Karmach. He had sub-vocalized with Cornellis only briefly since they stowed away on the TC. He'd spoken to Specialist Antonovich during the loading process, though brief as it had been. It seemed Specialist Antonovich was a brief, to the point man anyway. Then again, there hadn't been much time to talk, so that could have been the reason.

The only man Karmach had seen who hadn't been tired or brief to talk was the platoon commander. He had been the first at the helipads, the last to leave, and yet the first to get his stuff in the Platoon's TC. Karmach shot a glance at the blond man, who sat near the front of the chopper. Even though he was sweating like a pig in a fire, the Platoon Commander's eyes darted back and forth, full of energy and life. What holds this man together!?, Karmach thought bewilderedly.

The PC's eyes stopped darting, and for a while he seemed placid. He then stood up, and did something Karmach thought never possible:

PLATOON! ATTENTION!!! the PC positively screamed, though how he did so via sub-vocalization Karmach didn't know. Nevertheless, he sat up straighter, as did everyone else. The message had been received, whether or not they wanted to hear it.

Alright, now that I've got your attention, I'm informing you that we've got five minutes to get our gear ready; the pilots are about to set us down. So GET TO IT!

Five minutes passed. After four and a half minutes, the TC shook lightly as it landed on the plastic and rubber helipad. After five, the TC's ramp opened up, throwing mid-day light right into our faces. Lucky us, Karmach thought.

They'd been ready for two minutes by then.
"You may never fire a single shot in your entire term as a Common Star Militia servicemember. Some would naively consider that a milestone, representing all that the CSM and CSN are made to be. But, it doesn't mean you will ever forget the things you will hear, see, or do during that time. Cloak and daggers has become child's play, Privates and PFCs: welcome to the Thick...may God watch over you all."
-CSM Chief Master Sergeant Andrew Ford, to CSM PFC John Karmach and the other recruits of the Common Star Militia, Outer Colonies Branch, Section 13, 319 Division, Class of 4133

User avatar
Ford Prefect
Posts: 957
Joined: Tue May 20, 2008 11:12 am

Re: The First Turn On A Long, Hard Road

Post by Ford Prefect » Wed Dec 10, 2008 8:03 am

Well, you've still manged to keep me hooked ont he mystery of Karmach.
FEEL THESE GUNS ARCHWIND THESE ARE THE GUNS OF THE FLESHY MESSIAH THE TOOLS OF CREATION AND DESTRUCTION THAT WILL ENACT THE LAW OF MAN ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

User avatar
Reservoir
Posts: 52
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 7:31 pm
Location: North Carolina
Contact:

Re: The First Turn On A Long, Hard Road

Post by Reservoir » Wed Dec 10, 2008 3:39 pm

Once I figure it out myself, I'll let you guys know :) I'm letting some ideas simmer, but I can't settle on them...most are too generic or...overused. But I think I've got something that would be different...
"You may never fire a single shot in your entire term as a Common Star Militia servicemember. Some would naively consider that a milestone, representing all that the CSM and CSN are made to be. But, it doesn't mean you will ever forget the things you will hear, see, or do during that time. Cloak and daggers has become child's play, Privates and PFCs: welcome to the Thick...may God watch over you all."
-CSM Chief Master Sergeant Andrew Ford, to CSM PFC John Karmach and the other recruits of the Common Star Militia, Outer Colonies Branch, Section 13, 319 Division, Class of 4133

User avatar
Reservoir
Posts: 52
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 7:31 pm
Location: North Carolina
Contact:

Re: The First Turn On A Long, Hard Road

Post by Reservoir » Fri Feb 27, 2009 5:32 pm

Images of the preparation slurred by Karmach's field of vision; the hustle of transferring their gear fromt he choppers to the dropship, the hustle of getting everyone prepped on the dropship, and then the sudden jolt as she leapt into the sky...the images began to slur even faster as the gee forces increased, pushing Karmach to the breaking point. Just when he thought he was going to die---

---Karmach felt a hand strike him in the face, slinging him to the left. "Wake up, greenmeat - we're on board." Lancaster's ugly face sneered at him for just a moment, and then the Lancaster, Cornellis, and Antonovich staggered their way off of the dropship.

Karmach shook his head slightly, feeling his pulses thunderous echo in his head. Fumbling with the harness locking mechanism, he realized that he must have passed out when his Company had been under the strain of the Dropships exit vector and speed. In order to escape planetary atmosphere and gravity, Dropships had to accelerate hard and fast - something that, despite advances in portable and cheap antigrav technologies, was still a people-straining endeavor. As his mind started churning buttery thoughts, he spotted three others who were clumsily exiting their harnesses as well. At least I'm not the only one, he thought thankfully.

He busted out of the dropship a about a minute later, helmet under one arm, gear bag in the other, and a hangover attached to his temples. A hanger techie, wearing a grease-and-fluid coated, faded orange, one-piece jumpsuit waved at him with a large PDA. "I'll show ya your temp quarters and locker room." The techie began consulting the PDA. "You John Karmach?"

Karmach nodded.

"Okay...you'll only be on board for a couple of hours, but if you want to attend to any last, erm, private matters before you land...this will be your semi-private quarters." The PDA beeped as the techie chuckled under his breath at his own joke. "Here ya go. Shell B, Deck Eight, Section Twelve." He waved towards the door. "Oh, tell your buddies in the Big Bird over there to hurry up, I've got three whole compartments of missiles to check before we get to the drop-off."

Karmach turned towards the Dropship, noting the odd term the techie had used when referring to it. He began trotting towards it when he saw the remaining three slowly stumbling out of it. He turned back to the techie. "Looks like they're coming on their own."

The techie raised an eyebrow in a mocking gesture. "Is that what it looks like, really?" He then snorted for good measure. Turning towards the men, he shouted, "Hey! Does anyone want to give me their name before you all get up here at once!?" Karmach shook his head, and walked over to the exit door. It was sealed with a simple, spinning latch. Setting his stuff down, he took a moment to spin the wheel, and then nudged the door open with his weight.

"Hey!" the techie yelled at him, forcing him to step back into the hanger. "I almost forgot to tell ya - you need to sync your brain-program to the ships computer. That way you know where to go."

"Right," muttered Karmach. He'd forgotten to do that at the base - hell, he'd almost forgot he had a SAP. He nudged the door shut behind him, not spinning the latch shut out of respect for his fellow Dropmates. Quietly he spoke to himself, so as not to attract unwanted criticism or attention from nearby crewmates. "SAP: sync with local database type: starship: troop transport: current location."

A few moments later, a chime rang in his head. SAP system synchronized with Troop Transport Saint Georgia.

"Great. Give me: audio-visual map: to destination--Shell B: Deck Eight: Section Twelve."

Another chime rang through his skull, and what appeared to be a neon-green line appeared on the right wall. Please follow the marker line to destination--Shell B: Deck Eight: Section Twelve.

Karmach sighed gently, hoping he didn't have to walk very far; his bag was already straining his arm, and he was sure to be mocked by Lancaster for taking his sweet time.

*************

Nearly ten minutes later, Karmachs lead arm was finally given reprieve as the neon-green line ended as a dot on a single, spinning-latch locked door. He nodded silently to himself, which apparently dismissed the SAP's green indicator. Now, without the green highlighting, the door was non-nondescript and useless, it's only markings were a faded pair of numbers which made out "28" over the center of the door. Karmach was only glad he wouldn't be here long - the journey to Avon would only last a few hours, maybe half a day at best.

Setting the bag down, he gently grazed his knuckles on the door three times, and waited several seconds. When no response returned, he spun the latch and, picking up his bag, stepped through the swinging door into the small, 10x10, twin-bunk quarters. He quickly threw his things to the floor and, after shutting the door and closing the latch, inspected his temporary room.

The walls were standard, smooth metal, and the floors had a sort of shaved-short carpeting; it wasn't absorbent, but it was softer than the walls. The bunks were framed into the wall, with enough space on the bottom bunk to lean up just a few degrees. Thankfully, he was going to get the top bunk, being that he was the only one here. The ceiling had only one concave light fixture, which actually did very well in generally lighting up the entire room. On the opposing side of the room, a mirror/vid screen was placed, for reasons Karmach was unsure of, and a metal folding chair sat in the nearby corner. All he knew or cared about was that he would stay only very briefly; something he would attempt to enjoy.

He leaped up on the top bunk after setting his things on the bottom one, and sat there for a good few minutes. Drowsiness was beginning to overcome him when a light rasping echoed into his room, coming straight from the door. Groaning lightly, Karmach lightly slid off of the bunk and gently spun the latch, lightly swinging the door open to Cornellis herself, alone. She wasn't wearing any of her gear, just the standard uniform. She appraised him for a moment, and then beaconed to the room. "May I come in, Private?"

He nodded gently, and made way for her entrance. She took no time in using the top bunk as a high-up seat as Karmach shut the door behind him, forcing him to take the lone folding chair as his seat. The two set there, in silence, for several minutes. Karmach almost knew what she was going to ask, but was afraid to answer. It wasn't something most people knew...or understood. Hell, he didn't either.

Finally, her voice, softened to a gentle angel's kiss, yet still strong and demanding, pierced the silence, asking the question Karmach feared to answer. "Karmach...how many times have you died?"
"You may never fire a single shot in your entire term as a Common Star Militia servicemember. Some would naively consider that a milestone, representing all that the CSM and CSN are made to be. But, it doesn't mean you will ever forget the things you will hear, see, or do during that time. Cloak and daggers has become child's play, Privates and PFCs: welcome to the Thick...may God watch over you all."
-CSM Chief Master Sergeant Andrew Ford, to CSM PFC John Karmach and the other recruits of the Common Star Militia, Outer Colonies Branch, Section 13, 319 Division, Class of 4133

User avatar
Reservoir
Posts: 52
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 7:31 pm
Location: North Carolina
Contact:

Re: [STORY]The First Turn On A Long, Hard Road

Post by Reservoir » Thu Apr 16, 2009 6:21 pm

*************

Karmach found himself sitting in the well-lit, gray mess hall. Several other Marines were together in groups, but a few like himself sat alone. After the unexpected conversation with Cornellis, all he could feel now was the need to be alone.

He stared blankly at the simple , black mug, filled with a caramel-colored liquid. Something nutritious, the cook said. It was good, creamy with a hint of a buttery taste. There were other tastes, but they had no labels in his mind. So he sat there, drinking alone; thinking alone; being alone. Oddly enough, he was surprised, considering he hadn't seen Androvich or Lancaster since they arrived on the Saint Georgia a half-hour ago. The fleet was almost ready - the CO of the Saint Georgia had announced the 5-minute warning two minutes ago - but it would take two hours to reach Avon by hyperspace. Karmach figured most of the other soldiers would be sleeping, or eating, or maybe even having a "good time" but he didn't really care anymore about the personal lives of his 'mates, only that they stayed out of his.

'That's a riot', he told himself, sipping more of the caramel brew. 'Cornellis sure didn't stay out of mine...then again, it was, in a way, her business too.' He stood up, heading back to the food-prep area. They were serving some sort of gray meat patty; some sort of white meat was apparently ground up before cooking, which resulted in a gray patty when cooked. It smelled good, anyway, something like seafood or chicken. The only thing Karmach was worried about was that he had just placed "seafood" and "chicken" in the same thought as the meat patty.

Taking the patty on his plate with a bit of chestnut-brown gravy, adding a biscuit just before turning away, Karmach returned to his solitary table and his steamy cup of caramel brew. As he cut up and began to chew the moderately-palatable meat, his mind wandered...

************* Hours Earlier

Karmach sighed. He knew she'd found him out, and that he'd be shipped back to the base for immediate medical study. "Five," he said blankly. "I've died five times."

Instead of the jaw-dropped reaction he expected, Cornellis simply nodded in understanding. "Well, that's about normal", she said casually, causing Karmach to wear the face he expected from her.

Several seconds went by as he attempted to grasp her response. Finally, he was left with one choice: "What do you mean, normal!? You can't be telling me that everyone crawls out of their graves after every time they die!?"

Cornellis chuckled. "And that reaction is normal, too. You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?" But before he could answer, she shook her head. "Of course not, Karmach. They don't tell you these things, because it takes several lifetimes to find you - us - out."

She sighed deeply for a moment, collecting herself. "I was a plumber seventy-three years ago. One-hundred and sixty years ago, I was a small business owner." She leaned forward, emphasizing her point. "Lancaster was a smuggler in his last life, and Androvich was a farmer." She leaned back, hoping her words worked. "What were you?"

Karmach was dumbfounded, unable to understand what she was saying...or, at least, unable to admit that she was saying it. "I was...I was..." He shook his head, clearing his mind and sorting out the kinks. "I was a cargo runner. Part-time smuggler, but mostly I did legit work."

Cornellis nodded. "Karmach, you are part of a small group of individuals. We have an extra pair of genes that are known, scientifically speaking, as self-rejuvenatory genes." She looked down again, knowing full well she'd done this speech several times. It didn't make her feel better, though. "Our bodies have a safety mechanism built-in. When one of us dies from something, regardless of age or cause of death," - mostly, she thought to herself, "our bodies enact an emergency protocol. Special cells that exist in our bones and kidney emerge just before death. These cells begin cannibalizing our body in order to repair any tissue damage that was incurred, as well as rejuvenate or grow newer cells."

She stood up, walking to calm herself. "Essentially, when you die, those cells begin working the process of life-creation. When it's all over with, a sizable portion of your body has been cannibalized, bringing you back to an infancy state. From that point, your body begins working again, and the cells go into recession." She sighed. "You never get used to it, Karmach - one day, you're a regular teenager, and then you gradually begin to feel the years returning to your mind; you start remembering the things you've done." She chuckled sadly. "I remember how many people I screwed over when I owned that business. After I 'died', the whole thing tanked within months. I suppose I was an excellent manager...but I was a poor people-person."

Cornellis turned back around, facing Karmach, his eyes almost watering at the information overload. "That's why you're here now, Karmach. They - the government - found you. They carefully planned for you to join in the Militia, simply because it's the best way to keep tabs on you." She sat back down, hoping she wasn't overloading him with too much information. "They had suspicions when you were doing your little smuggling runs. After they--"

Karmach raised his hand. "That's not a particular experience I want to remember."

She stopped, and then skipped the part. "Well, at either rate, those suspicions were confirmed when they found your "dead" body was shrinking. A few weeks later, they had a living baby in the infirmary - matching genotypes and everything else."

Karmach shook his head after a few moments of silence. "So, what now? What about Lancaster and Androvich?"

Cornellis laughed lightly, sprinkling the dour air with some welcome comfort. "They're the same as us, Karmach. See, our bodies developed the rejuvenatory genes for a purpose: we have innate physical or psychological differences that make us a bit better than the average human. I, for example, have a much larger Corpus Callosum - which is the part that connects the two halves of the brain - than even most women do. Therefore, any information I get from either side is extremely well coordinated and communicated, making me a valuable commander."

She leaned forward. "On the other hand, Lancaster's rejuvenatory genes are partially active all the time, meaning that he can take physical damage better than any normal person. As for Androvich, he's got two iris', spaced out one in a one-behind-the-other fashion. Not only that, but there's a filmy material that acts as lenses in each, turning his eyes into natural binoculars."

Karmach laughed for the first time in a while. "No wonder he's the sniper, huh?" Cornellis returned his laughter with a positive reply.

They sat there for a few minutes, silence enveloping them like a cold blanket. Cornellis, feeling the time to talk was over, stood up. "I suppose I should leave you to...think about things?"

Raising his head, he looked her in the eyes. "I suppose, ma'am. But, one thing..."

She cocked her head slightly. "Yes, Private?"

His head dropped back down. "What's different about me? What special things do I have?"

There was a long pause before Cornellis finally sighed. "Private, we wont find out until you enter the battlefield. There's...something about combat that intoxicates us Lone Wolves. We suddenly find that mechanism, whatever it is, turned on...and we want to use it." She paused, choosing her words. "You will know when it happens, trust me." And with that, she spun the door latch, and exited the room. Karmach remained where he was, brooding on the revelations.

*************

"Attention, attention! Hyperspace pre-jump sequence is engaged! Thirty seconds until event-horizon breach! All personnel brace for acceleration - repeat, brace for acceleration!"

Karmach could feel the hum in the deck plating as the Saint Georgia's engines roared to life, beginning to push hundreds of carefully-allocated, ionized tons of fuel into the empty space behind. The gravitic-stabilizers worked to keep everyone on-board safe from gee forces, but the everything still became quite heavy nonetheless.

"Twenty seconds until EHB!"

Karmach clenched his jaw. He'd never been in something this big, especially something that big going fast enough to enter a hyperspace event-horizon. The gees were becoming uncomfortable already, and they still had--

Ten seconds to EHB!"

Karmach began counting, the gee forces quickening his breath. Five...four...

"Three...two...one...zero!

For the briefest moment, the room seemed to exist in a hazy, distilled cloud of air, everything seemingly distorted. And then, even as Karmach thought that permanent deafness seemed so near, the room returned to normal.

"EHB completed. T-minus one hour, fifty-nine minutes to destination."

Karmach grunted. Two hours, and they'll be entering the battlefield. The main battle group - cruisers, frigates, and other assault craft - had entered hyperspace just thirty seconds earlier. This way, the battle group could set up offensive and defensive positions, and when the supply group and the dropships emerged, they would be well-covered from possible offensives directed to them.

Now, all that was left was the wait. And the preparation for the big show. Karmach took another sip of his caramel brew. Part of him wondered what he could do in two hours; the other part knew what he wanted to do in two hours. And so he stood, made up his mind, and left the mess hall.
"You may never fire a single shot in your entire term as a Common Star Militia servicemember. Some would naively consider that a milestone, representing all that the CSM and CSN are made to be. But, it doesn't mean you will ever forget the things you will hear, see, or do during that time. Cloak and daggers has become child's play, Privates and PFCs: welcome to the Thick...may God watch over you all."
-CSM Chief Master Sergeant Andrew Ford, to CSM PFC John Karmach and the other recruits of the Common Star Militia, Outer Colonies Branch, Section 13, 319 Division, Class of 4133

Post Reply