Categories > Original > Sci-Fi > Bug Run.0 Reviews
“Make up the numbers?” Zoe repeated, there were only six women (including herself) in her squad and they were supposed to ‘make up the numbers’?
By Dave Turner.
Disclaimer: I actually thought up everything! However, I did take some ideas from other people’s work, so if you recognise something as belonging to someone else I’m not claiming ownership of it. I write these stories for fun not profit.
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: Written in glorious English-English which is different to American-English.
Timeline: Some time in the future.
Words: Eight Chapters of 3000+ words.
Warnings: Look out for them bugs!
Summary: When she’d joined the army, Zoe had imagined desperate battles against the inhabitants of strange new worlds; okay she’d got the ‘strange new worlds’ (she supposed that Yanlor counted as ‘strange’). But, desperate battles? Not so much and as for ‘inhabitants’; so far the only really big life forms she’d seen were the odd insect-like ‘Bugs’.
Patrol Base Tedium, Northern Continent, BL-518-4 (Yanlor).
“That should do it,” the young woman scanned the engine compartment of the truck she’d been working on before making sure she’d not left any tools lying around, “okay, crank her up!” she called to her companion who was sitting in the driver’s cab.
Wiping her hands on a piece of rag, Lance Corporal Zoe Smith listened to the engine as it burst into life. Nodding her head slowly she congratulated herself on a job well done; the engine on Two-three-seven had been running ‘rough’ and not supplying sufficient power to the generator that ran the electric motors in the wheel hubs. It’d taken her a couple of hours to track down the fault but now it sounded like she’d got it fixed.
“Try putting it on load,” Zoe called to her friend Judy, who was sitting behind the steering wheel.
Listening to the tone of the engine change as it was connected up to the generator, Zoe nodded her head once again and smiled. Throwing the rag to one side, she closed the hood and then jumped down from the fender where she’d been standing as she’d worked on the engine. Walking around to the cab she looked up at Judy through the open cab door.
“Try taking her for a spin around camp,” Zoe called over the sound of the motor.
Nodding her head Private Judy Luke pulled her door closed, put the truck into drive and drove off across the soft sand of the patrol base. After watching for a minute or two as the truck picked up speed, Zoe turned and collected her tools together and put them neatly back in her tool box, she gave a little sad sigh as she did so. Being little more than a glorified mechanic wasn’t what she’d imagined when she’d joined the army just before her eighteenth birthday. Then she’d imagined desperate battles against the inhabitants of strange new worlds; okay she’d got the ‘strange new worlds’ (she supposed that Yanlor counted as ‘strange’). But, desperate battles? Not so much and as for ‘inhabitants’; so far the only really big life forms she’d seen were the odd insect-like ‘Bugs’ that roamed the planet’s wide grasslands in small herds.
Watching as the dust rose from the wheels of Judy’s truck, Zoe pushed her disappointment at the monotony of her military career to one side. However boring Yanlor was it was better than Riverview, the town she’s grown up in on Home and being a driver-mechanic was a hundred times better than being an ‘exotic dancer’ in a night club. Smiling a little as she watched Judy throw the truck about on the low ripples of sandy grass covered soil that passed for ridgelines in these parts, Zoe turned away to go back to the maintenance bay, dump her tools and head for the showers. It was nearly the end of the working day anyway so she thought she might as well take an early finish. Turning she saw her platoon sergeant, Emma Grimshaw heading towards her with a knowing smirk on her lips.
“Damn-it-all,” Zoe sighed, “what the freck does she want?”
“Zoe!” Grimshaw called as she got closer, “Gotta job for you.”
“What now, Sarge?” Zoe complained, her hopes for an early shower, dinner and a few beers in ‘The Club’ started to recede.
“No tomorrow,” Grimshaw came to a halt in front of Zoe and looked down at her; Grimshaw was nearly six-foot tall as apposed to Zoe’s five-foot-five.
“Oh,” Zoe breathed a sigh of relief, “so, what’s up Sarge?”
“We’ve lost contact with Howardtown,” Grimshaw explained as the two women walked slowly towards the maintenance bay, “comms is probably down…sun-spots or something, I don’t know,” Grimshaw shrugged, “Anyway The Captain’s sending out a platoon to check it out.”
“Cool,” Zoe grinned at the thought of getting away from Tedium for a couple of days and maybe even seeing some new faces, “so you want my guys to drive the trucks?”
“Nah,” Grimshaw shook her head, “you’ll be going by chopper, they’re sending one over from HQ special, you an’ your squad’ll be going along to make up the numbers.”
“Make up the numbers?” Zoe repeated, there were only six women (including herself) in her squad and they were supposed to ‘make up the numbers’?
Zoe knew what this was all about; when Tedium (or Patrol Base 25 as it was officially known) had been set up it had been built to accommodate a company sized combat team. Now all that was left were two understrength infantry platoons and her own equally understrength motor transport platoon plus a few service personnel to help keep things running smoothly.
“Hey, I thought you’d be pleased at the prospect of getting outta here for a couple of days,” Grimshaw laughed, “of course if you don’t wanna…?”
“Yeah, okay,” Zoe replied quickly not wanting to miss out on a chance of getting away from Tedium for a while.
“Good,” Grimshaw nodded her head firmly, “have your people ready by oh-seven-thirty tomorrow, full fighting load, okay?”
“You expecting us to run into trouble?” Zoe asked almost hopefully; all she wanted was one battle to tell tall tales about then she’d happily settle down, get a life-partner and have loads of kids.
“Nah,” Grimshaw gave a little shake of her head, “The Captain thinks people are getting slack,” the two women exchanged looks and tried not to laugh too loudly, “he’s using it as an excuse for everyone to act like soldiers again.”
“Yeah right,” Zoe said quietly, like that was going to happen.
“Whatever,” Grimshaw continued, “just get y’self an’ your people to the landing pad by zero-seven-thirty tomorrow and I’ll be happy, okay?”
“Okay,” Zoe agreed as she watched her platoon sergeant heading off for her tent, or more likely the tent of Sergeant Connor, one of the infantry platoon sergeants, who she more or less lived with nowadays. While Zoe wasn’t too worried about going out on an operation she wasn’t too sure about the rest of the women in her squad, they probably weren’t going to be so happy about the news.
When Interplanetary Expeditionary Force Five had landed on Yanlor just over a year ago it had been a fully equipped and highly trained Infantry Brigade, consisting of four battalions of infantry, an artillery regiment, a helicopter battalion and all the other service units that were deployed to help the fighting soldier fight. However there was nothing on Yanlor to fight, not even the Bugs had paid them very much attention.
But this was how the Department for Colonisation and the War Department liked to work things. Before the first colonists even left Home you landed a military task force just to check the place out. Zoe remembered those first few weeks on planet with something approaching affection. Her unit (the 54th Motor Transport Battalion) seemed to be on constant call to shift the infantry battalions around as they conducted sweeps of Yanlor’s grassy plains. Then as each day passed and nothing rose up to challenge humanities arrival on Yanlor, the tempo of operations started to slow down until they finally stopped and the company patrol bases had been built.
As the first colonists arrived and set up their settlements the military forces started to shrink. First it was the combat veterans who were still young enough to warrant transferring to off planet units. Next people weren’t replaced if they were injured or their enlistments ran out and they either went home or became colonists. This was how, at the age of twenty, Zoe had become a lance corporal, normally she wouldn’t have been considered for promotion until she was at least twenty-one.
First her squad corporal had broken her leg, she’d been sent to the base hospital and then been reassigned. That left Lance Corporal Helen Jackson in charge of the squad. Obviously she either couldn’t stand the responsibilities or command, or the boredom of Tedium. Whatever the reason, she dug the Contraceptive Chip out of her arm with a combat knife, washed the drug out of her system by drinking gallons of water. Next she screwed around until she got pregnant and lastly she collected her ‘medical discharge’ and left the army. That was how Zoe found herself in charge of five other women in a platoon that hadn’t got an officer and was about a third understrength.
She knew how it was all supposed to end, she’d read about it on the Interweb. This was why she was so desperate for any chance she might have of getting into some sort of combat before the unit disintegrated. First the DoW withdrew any soldiers that it could still find a use for, next they stopped sending replacements. Eventually the force numbers would wither down to a point were the numbers of female soldiers reached parity with the male soldiers. Then as time passed the male and female soldiers would pair off and start families as the effectiveness of the contraceptive chips faded to nothing and ‘hey presto’, you had a military colony.
It wasn’t that Zoe minded the idea of being stuck on Yanlor for the rest of her life and the idea of a life-partnership and kids didn’t exactly fill her with terror either. It was way better than the life of a dancer and hooker that she’d been heading for before she’d enlisted. But, to Zoe’s mind you weren’t really a proper soldier until someone had shot at you or at least tried to bite your leg off.
All these thoughts had been going through her mind as she’d dumped her toolbox at the maintenance bay and headed back to the converted cargo container she called home. Walking into the twilight world of the container, Zoe paused to let her eyes adapt. The only other member of her squad who was immediately visable was Private Samantha (Sam) Rispoli who was sitting on her bunk sewing up the seam of her camouflaged trousers.
“Where’s everyone Sam?” Zoe asked as she walked over to her own bunk, opened her locker and took out her soap and towel.
“Brandi and Kandi are over at the cookhouse,” Sam looked up from her sewing, “and Lea’s working.”
“Working?” Zoe gave Sam a questioning frown only to have it returned with a knowing look, “Oh!” Zoe gasped, “You mean ‘working’.”
“Yeah, like, duh,” Sam went back to her sewing.
“Okay,” Zoe moved towards the door, towel and soap in hand, “if you see anyone tell ‘em to make sure to see me before they go to the club tonight.”
“Why?” Sam tied off the thread she’d been using and cut the loose end with her teeth.
“We’re out on operations tomorrow,” Zoe explained, “an’ I don’t want anyone having a hangover, okay?”
“Operations?” Sam frowned, “Y’mean driving right?”
“Nope,” Zoe smiled, “we’re gonna be playing soldiers for real.”
“Oh shit,” Sam sighed as her shoulders slumped, “if I break a nail or something….”
“Hey look,” Zoe tried to injected some ‘pep’ into her voice, “look at it this way, we’re going to Howardtown, you might meet some wealthy rancher who’ll make you his life-partner and take you away from all this,” Zoe gestured to the interior of the container.
“Yeah,” Sam scoffed, “like that’s gonna happen.”
Sam had been a society girl who’d joined the army as a way of getting back at her parents over some long forgotten argument. When her parents hadn’t immediately arranged for her discharge (as she’d planned for them to do) Sam found herself doing a six year hitch at a truck driver, she’d not been best pleased at the prospect.
“Okay, remember what I said,” Zoe called as she headed out the door and turned her feet towards the women’s ablutions container.
After a good, long, hot shower, Zoe put her dirty uniform in the recycling machine and got a new one out of the clothes dispenser. As she got into her freshly made fatigues, she wondered how long the dispenser would keep working and when they’d have to start washing everything at the base laundry. Rubbing her hair with her towel; Zoe kept her dark brown hair short, it was easier to deal with than having it long like Sam’s, she headed over to where Lea Gunn had set up her ‘business’.
Private Lea Gunn had been a prostitute in civilian life; that is until she got caught. The judge at her trial had given her the option; enforced transportation for life to a colony or a six year term in the army. The judge had promised that if Lea came out of the army after six years with at least an honourable discharge her criminal record would be expunged. Lea had been doing well, almost a model soldier, until she realised that she was in all probability going to spend the rest of her life on Yanlor. At this point she’d reverted to her former profession and opened her own little ‘business’. It didn’t help that she’d found a container completely full of condoms; there must have been millions of them.
Why the DoW thought that the Yanlor garrison would need millions of condoms, Zoe could never work out. After all everyone had a contraceptive chip that lasted five years implanted on the first day of Basic Training. Perhaps they were worried about disease, maybe the powers that be thought they were all going to start screwing the bugs. Who knew the reasoning behind the bureaucratic mind? Whatever, the condoms were here and Lea had found them; she saw a market (male soldiers’ outnumbered female ones by at least four to one) and she filled it. The condoms just ensured she and her customers wouldn’t come down with any ‘social diseases’.
Coming around the corner of a container, Zoe saw one of Lea’s customers furtively leaving her ‘shop’. Walking over to the container before anyone else had a chance to slip in, Zoe knocked on the metal door and walked in to find Lea cleaning herself up after her last customer.
“Sorry,” Zoe turned away to give Lea time to put on a robe or something.
“Hey Corporal,” Lea called happily on seeing her squad leader, “what you doin’ here? I don’t normally do girl on girl action but….”
“Business not pleasure,” Zoe turned to find Lea standing next to her bed dressed in a robe that covered her from neck to ankle.
“What’s up?” Lea sat down on her bed and reached for a pack of cigarettes, she offered one to Zoe, “Want one?” when Zoe refused, Lea put a cigarette in her mouth and lit it with an ancient petrol lighter, “So what’s so all fired important that you have to come in and cut into my working day?”
“We’re going out on operations tomorrow,” Zoe explained, “milk-run up to Howardtown, nothing to worry about, but they want us to play soldiers.”
“Shoot,” Lea sighed disappointedly; Lea was Zoe’s most experienced soldier she’d even been shot at once, “oh well it’ll make a change from bein’ on my back all day, when? Where?”
“Tomorrow, Zero-seven-thirty, at the helipad,” Zoe explained.
“No problem,” Lea got up, “no need to worry, Corporal, I’ll be there bright eyed and ready for anything.”
“Thanks,” Zoe smiled, she knew she could rely on Lea, if she said she’d do something you could take it to the bank, Zoe turned to go, “see you later?”
“Maybe,” Lea called as she started to look for her military gear for the morrow, “I’m thinking of having an early night, y’know?”
“Sure,” Zoe grinned and headed on out into the daylight.
Pausing outside Lea’s container, Zoe looked up at the sun (it gave off a slightly bluer light than the sun of Home) before checking her watch, it was nearly seventeen o’clock. So far she’d found, Lea and Sam, she could talk to Judy when she got back to the container and she knew roughly where Brandi and Kandi would be at this time of day. The two half cousins (or whatever they were, Hillpeople relationships were convoluted to say the least) had been helping out in the cookhouse ever since the food replicators had broken down and the Quarter Master Sergeant hadn’t been able to get any spares. Now everyone’s food was cooked by hand the quality had improved dramatically.
The thought of the two Hill girls being taken out of the cookhouse for a couple of days made Zoe frown. Good food was important to moral, it said so in her NCO’s handbook (so why was the food out of the army issue replicators so crap?). Would Tedium’s moral survive the two girl’s absence from the cookhouse? Zoe shrugged, it would have to and their fan club would have to live without them for forty-eight hours, (both girls were short, extremely pretty, blonde, busty and they could cook; they’d have no trouble finding life-partners when the time came). If everyone else was going to have to put up with pounding through the dusty grass of Yanlor, Brandi and Kandi could do the same.
Finding herself back at her container, Zoe stepped inside to find Sam and Judy squabbling over who owned which bits of military kit. Obviously everything was doing fine here and needed no input from her. Checking her watch again, she saw it was time to get over to the cookhouse, have her dinner and tell Brandi and Kandi the good news.