Chapter 2: A Name

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 244

 

“Sorry, Sarge!” apologized the one No-Name figured was Rathens.  “Thought he was enemy.”

“Don’t shoot what you can’t identify, numby,” the deep voice warned.

The armored driver-side door opened, and an old limey Sergeant stepped onto the side-rails to lean across the door frame’s nook, taking a long look at the soldier set above him.

“Well?” the Sergeant decided.  “Where did your big badass come from, mate?”  He nodded towards the decapitated beetle lying in its own puss.  “Can’t say I’ve ever seen someone rip one of those thing’s heads off so easily.”

No-Name looked back the way he suspected the enemy had came, seeing smaller shadows moving amongst larger, static shadows cast by buildings as the pre-rain darkness turned the afternoon to dusk.  He could hear them, too, clattering around, and suspected the Sergeant could not.

The Sergeant looked in the same direction as No-Name.  “Yeah?”  he said.  “That was just the probe, you’re thinking?”

No-Name reached up and spun the vehicle’s minigun around, checking its function.  “Gonna need that real soon,” he told the Sergeant.

“Use the other door for cover,” the Sergeant said.  He pulled his rifle out from his seat, set it on the nook of the door, then called inside: “Rath!  Man that gun again.  We ain’t done yet.”  The Sergeant looked across the roof of the vehicle, but saw No-Name was already behind the passenger door.  “Well, all right.”  

The Sergeant, No-Name, and Rathens on the turret took aim, and the enemy came.

It took two minutes for their insect enemies to mass their follow-up force, and about as many minutes to die.

Two of the beetle soldiers had rode herd on a platoon of the clones.  No-Name took one of the beetle’s head off with a precision shot well outside of the human soldier’s range, then snapped another shot off that killed the second beetle before it realized it was running into a death trap.

The clones swarmed, leaderless, but never reached the vehicle’s brush guard.

After it was all over, the Enemy lay dead in its own pus, Rathens looked over his gun; the barrels glowing and the muzzles smoking.  “Wow, holy shit,” the young man said.  

It was the first chance No-Name had to see the young man’s soot-stained face.  

Kid’s sixteen, if that, No-Name thought.  Scraping the cradle for this one.

The Sergeant on the driver side placed his smoking weapon back inside.  “Man,” he said, whistling his appreciation for the carnage, “You don’t know how good that one felt, mate.”  He extended a hand across the roof to No-Name, introducing himself, “Sergeant York, 332nd Grenadiers.  Formerly.”  He flicked his eyes to the turret gunner.  “That’s Private Rathens.  Some kid that hasn’t shot his nuts off yet.”

“Hey,” Rathens complained.

No-Name examined his gauntleted hands for a moment, then extended one across the roof to give the gentlest shake he thought he could manage.

“Formerly?” No-Name asked.

York shrugged, shaking out his hand.  “Wiped out,” he said.  “To the last, I’m afraid.”  He put on a crooked grin.  “Gave them hell, though.”

No-Name nodded to Rathens, but asked to York, “Who would ‘them’ be?”

York and Rathens exchanged confused looks.  “Really, mate?” the Sergeant asked.  “What cave you been living in?”

“I don’t honestly know, Sergeant.”

York and Rathens exchanged the same look again.  “Serious, mate?”  York asked.  “Buggers been kicking our ass all over Earth and the solar colonies for something like three years now, and you just now heard?”

No-Name tilted his head in submission.  “I don’t honestly know,” he repeated.  “I just kinda...woke up not too long ago, near some drop pod not far from here.”

Rathens asked his Sergeant, “Is he serious?” The Private turned the question to No-Name. “You shitting us?”

No-Name tried on York’s shrug.  “If I knew, I’d tell you.  I can’t explain it.  Amnesia or something, I guess.”  He brought his rifle up to show.  “Woke up with this and a few other things, then the killing started.”

York drummed his fingers on the hood a moment.  “Okay,” he decided.  “Maybe better you talk to someone else.  Someone with more rank.”  He pointed at the stranger’s gear.  “Can’t say I ever seen that kit before.  If you’re spec-ops or something, maybe you’re lying for whatever reason you Secret Squirrel types have to do, for whatever it is you do.”

“I wish that were true,” No-Name told York.”  He looked into the cab.  It seemed like a tight fit.  “May I join you two, Sergeant?”

“Hey,” York replied, “after that, you could fuck Rathens’s sister for all I care.”  The Sergeant cut off the inevitable complaint.  “Just taking the piss with you, Rath.”  He smiled.  “Man the turret.  We’re heading home.”

“C’mon, Sarge,” Rathens complained.  “Really?”

“I don’t mind,” No-Name said.

“Privates do Privatey things, mate,” York told No-Name, and ducked into the driver’s seat to start the armored vehicle with a diesel roar, slamming his door close.

When No-Name was in, York gave his passenger another look.  “Holy sheit,” York remarked.  “Didn’t realize just how big you were until you sat in the same kind of seat as me.”

No-Name looked down at himself, figuring up his dimensions compared to the cab, and then compared those figures to that of the man in the driver’s seat.  No-Name was scrunched in, but York had plenty of leg and elbow room.

“I’m six-two, Imperial measure,” York told No-Name.  “You got to be, what, eight?”  He took another appreciative look at his passenger, then whistled again.  “Jesus’s stick, what have they been feeding you?”

“I have no idea,” No-Name replied.

York shrugged and turned the vehicle around.  “Heading back to base,” he explained.  “We were supposed to do some scouting, but they saw us first.”  He patted the vehicles’ console.  “Makes too much noise, she does.”

They drove past block after block of broken buildings while Rathens spun around in his turret above, watching over them.  No-Name couldn’t find a single untouched structure anywhere in sight. More than a few were just piles of rubble, tossed to the ground like building blocks in a daycare for malevolent children.

“So,” York said.  “What’s your name, mate?”

“Don’t know,” No-Name replied, still looking outside, his rifle rest between his knees.  “I’m sorta confused.”

“Yeah, I bet,” York said.  “You seriously don’t know what’s going on right now?”  He saw No-Name’s nod.  “Wow,” York said.  “In a way, you’re lucky.”

York went on to explain: “I already told you we call them ‘buggers’.  From a sci-fi novel, the brass said.  Kinda similar situation to how they described it to me: buggers popped out of a wormhole with a huge-ass fleet, insects, aliens, and blasted the colonies--Mars, the asteroids and other places--before coming here.  Wiped us out pretty quick.”

No-Name turned to face York.

York answered, “Lost my unit and many good friends of many years, first few weeks.  Lost a lot more after that.”

“You’ve survived,” No-Name noted.

“Lucky,” York chuckled darkly.  “And good.  Not my first ride before the buggers showed.  Fought a coupla campaigns with the Solar Legions: Mars Rebellion, Titan, few other fights.”

“Guy’s badass,” Rathens boasted.

York smacked the Private’s shin, warning, “You best be keeping watch up there!”

No-Name nodded.  “Impressive,” he remarked.

York took another shrug; one of many.  “Thought back there was the end, though,” he admitted.  “Until you came along, whatever your name is.  Saved our asses.

No-Name made a humble sound from somewhere he couldn’t place.  “I guess it’s what I do.”

“Killing ever-loving fuck out of buggers is noble work, mate,” York said.  He reached over and rapped a knuckle on No-Name’s shoulder in respect.  The resulting sound was thick, prompting the Sergeant to eye his hand.  “That’s some armor,” he noted.

“Haven’t had a chance to test it,” No-Name said.

“Yeah?” York said.  “Try to avoid it.”  He glanced at the larger dark soldier.  “Can’t let you go without a name, though.  Don’t know what you showed up here for--though I can guess--but a soldier’s got to have a name.”

No-Name shrugged.

“Rambo!” Rathens suggested.  “He did a Rambo back there.  I love those movies!”

“You would, Rath,” York called back up.  “But I’m not letting our good mate here go with such a cliche name.”  He looked to the vehicle’s roof.  “Well, let’s see…”  He mused, “This is a Prowler armored fighting vehicle, an AFV...”

“Nah,” Rathens said.  “That’s a pussy name.”

“Oh, right,” York laughed.  “Like you know what pussy is, Rath.”

“I’ve had some!”

“Goats don’t count.”

No-Name felt like smiling, listening to the two.  While they went back and forth, he looked out the windows again, noticing how dark it had become, figuring the rest of the rain would soon be following his first drop’s vanguard.

While he was contemplating, No-Name realized there was a clock in his head.  Not in his helmet’s visor, but in his head, showing up in his mind’s eye.  And the other voices were present, too, talking back and forth, in the background, like he was the public face of an organization of invisible people.

There were other things he noticed: data streams and schematics that highlighted when he noticed them, expanding to give him more information on a large swath of virtual objects he knew was going to take a while to explore.  

A human-shaped diagram outlined in green was in his lower-left vision, now that he had time to notice it.  When he focused on it, it expanded into multi-layered schematics of a cybernetic body full of death-dealing and destructive capabilities, labeled: Chimera-0000001.

“Holy shit,” No-Name whispered.  “That’s me.”

“Say what, mate?” York asked.

“Nothing,” No-Name replied.  “This armor has more to it than I thought.”

“Yeah?”  York scanned the dark soldier’s armor again.  “Powered armor,” he said.  “Exoskeletons and shit.  Heard about them over the years.  Concept stuff.  Supposedly made a man able to carry a lot of load easier for longer periods of time.  Never worked out, though.  Always in R&D.  Brass talked it up a bit, but never thought I’d see it fielded.”  He looked out the vehicle’s windshield.  “Must be desperate as hell to pull out the concept sheit.”

No-Name shrugged.  He was warming up to the gesture.

“Still don’t have a name for you, though,” York cut Rathens off, “Not ‘Rambo’.”  He thought.  “Not ‘Prowler’, either.”  He smacked Rathens on the shin again.  “Hey, numby!”

“Yeah, Sarge?”

“You’re raised on a farm,” York pointed out.  “If your manners and the way you don’t shut a door says anything about you.”  He asked, “What’s something you had lying around all earthy and sheit?”

“Plows?”

A silent moment passed.  

“Get your cunt head out of the gutter, Rath,” York finally said.

Rathens laughed.  “Uh, let’s see…”  The young man was still spinning around in his turret in slow revolutions, keeping the watch.  “Tractors, collies, mousers, pitchforks, barns…”

“No and no and so on,” York said.

No-Name noticed another armored vehicle cross the road ahead of them.  It was in York’s field of vision, but the Sergeant didn’t seem alarmed, so No-Name wasn’t alarmed either.  York was slowing the vehicle, though.

Nearsomewhere we don’t want to cause undue alarm, No-Name realized.

Rathens was still calling out items found on his farm: “Lorries, hay, combines, windmills, cocks..”

“Queer, no, too long, hah,” York replied.  “What the everfuck, Rath.  Gutter: bad.”  The Sergeant leaned forward, getting a closer look ahead of them.  “We’re almost home.  So name me something good in a hurry.”

“Can’t we just call him, I dunno, ‘Chuck’ or something?”

“Fuckin’ no,” York argued.  “He’s prolly got a full name he doesn’t know yet or something, but everyone’s got to have a nick.”

“Ah, let’s see,” Rathens thought aloud.  “He kinda cut those drones down like, I dunno…”

“Snatched that beetle’s head off,” York reminded the young man, not seeming to care that No-Name was listening and waiting.  “Clean, too.”  He smacked Rathens’s shin again.  “Hey, what cuts good on a farm?”

“Butcher blades,” Rathens said.  “Knives, of course.  Tractor blades.  Axes.”  The young man paused a moment.  “We didn’t grow wheat, but scythes are always pretty cool.  Death and shit.”

York snapped his fingers.  “Got it.”  He pointed at No-Name.  “‘Scythe’?”

No-Name tilted his head.  “Like a teenager’s alter-ego,” he said.

York glanced up at the cab roof.  “Yeah, guess you’re right.”  

York drummed one hand’s fingers on the steering wheel as he turned them around a corner, down a concrete ramp, taking them through a temporary patch of darkness that gave way to a subterranean parking garage.  The garage was lit up by small patches of half-spherical green light cast by lightsticks here and there.  Inside each light island were other vehicles.  Some were being worked on, and some sat lonely.  No-Name’s eyes adjusted so he could see the entire darkened room as if it were exposed to daylight.

Not surprised, he thought.  Advanced optics, too.

As York pulled the vehicle into an open light-space, No-Name looked around, seeing dozens of humans in various dress, some wrapped in casts and bandages, moving back and forth, going in and out of stairwells and to and from doorways he suspected were tunneled connections to nearby structures.

Improvised bunker, he knew.  Good a place as any to hide a resistance cell.

York killed the engine, then turned to No-Name.  “‘Scy’?” he asked.

“Eh,” No-Name responded.  “Okay.  I can live with that, Sergeant.”


Submitted: January 25, 2016

© Copyright 2022 Jack Motley. All rights reserved.

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