Something Different – Departures
First off – I will come up with a title. At some point. I plan on running this for three or four months if I can keep it interesting. Please make suggestions in the comments!
I woke up to the smell of fried eggs and potatoes. Grandad made it for us every day we were out there. Everything smelled great and tasted better. I rolled out of bed and bounded down the stairs pulling on my robe. Grandad grunted his greeting without even turning from the stove. A small box was on the table, one I’d seen before in his workshop out back, but had never really looked in.
I poured coffee for both of us, pouring in the cream and sugar liberally. I sat in the big chair next to grandad’s, pulling my knees up under my chin. Grandad turned and scooped a generous helping of eggs and potatoes onto my plate, giving himself another large portion.
“Eat hearty, could be a long day and ships rations aren’t likely to taste this good”
“You’re assuming I’m even going”
He looked at me “It’s a little early for Bullshit. But not for hard truth. Let’s stick to that.” He pushed the box over to me with his mug. I looked in. It looked like the normal detritus one finds in a parts shop. An old belt with a bulky buckle, like a flip off seat belt almost. A sealed envelope. With an old fashioned wax seal, the inevitable piece of string, a rolled up bag strapped closed. I poked around, and found a data stick underneath the letter. I looked at grandad who had eaten most of his food and stared at the rest with eyes focused miles away.
“Eat your food. I’ll explain most of it.” He grabbed the rolled up bag and untied the knot. It unrolled revealing a bizarre collection of small tools, some from a dentists kit, some electronics cleaning tools, as well as a couple of small bottles. “Keep your weapon and ammunition clean at all times. Get inside it and clean it. Check it every time you pick it up. If your ammo has been sitting in the mags for a couple days, pull it out and clean it. A misfeed can be ammo as much as the action.” He grabbed the belt. Poking and twisting it popped the cover off the buckle.
“If you ever surrender, and you will, surrender to mercs. Indigs will probably kill you out of hand and will damn sure be slow to honor your bond and get you back to your unit. You need to be doubly careful being a woman.” He looked at me fore a second. I knew what he was implying, and he knew it but he couldn’t send me off not telling me. He pulled out a glistening, metallic coil. It glittered subtly in the well lit kitchen; “This little beauty is a diamond saw. Will go right through cuffs and works as a brutal little garrote. It’s been used and I’d rather it be used again if you find yourself where I was. The data stick has some information regarding planets I’ve been on and people I know. Some of them are friendly enough. Helpful like even. Some of them are to be avoided if you can. The letter is for Virgil. Give it to him when you report to the unit. It’s got some things he should know about you and some of the other folks we used to know. Now finish your eggs, it’s a long drive to town”
I looked down to find most of my food gone. The rest I shoveled down. Grandad already had a duffle bag packed for me. The ubiquitous green bag mercs and soldiers carried since time before time it seemed. The top sat open and I put the re-rolled bag in, ran upstairs to grab the sturdy outfit I had picked out, buckled on my new belt and my comfortable boots. I came back down and grandad tossed me a battered old hat. “It’s called a Ushanka. Warm as hell ad pretty comfortable. Last I heard Virgil’s was on Uusi Helsinki, and damned if the Finns didn’t find a colder place to live than they started.”
The truck rolled easily over the graveled roads around grandad’s house, although the racket precluded any conversation. Further from his house the road gave way to tracks, just a path, or barely a suggestion of a path between grandad’s power farm and the colony. Mostly a pair or tracks worn down beneath the transmission lines. The hour long drive gave me time to think. Very likely I was leaving today and who knew if and when I’d come back. Rocks rattled off the bottom of the truck and thoughts rattled through my head. Finally we turned onto the hardball road on the edge of Spaceport.
“I think the only thing louder than the rocks was the gears grinding in that thick skull of yours.”
“There’s a bit to think about grandad.”
“Aye, there is. But do your thinking now. Once you’re in the field it’s time to do.”
We passed the gate into Mr. Neuheisel’s establishment. A nice enough front with a decent house and a dilapidated barracks building adjacent to it. A large spherical container ship sat behind the compound, exhaling steam onto the poured tarmac. Grandad parked the truck out front and grabbed the duffle, helping me sling it over my shoulder. “I’ll have a word with Neuheisel, but you’re being watched from here on out. If people don’t think you need help, they won’t try to make you need it, if you take my meaning.”
I nodded, brain whirring but not fully processing anything. This was it. We walked into Neuheisel’s. A nondescript office, with plain but comfortable chairs, several terminals, and badges from half the mercenary outfits in the sector. “Neuheisel!” Grandad bellowed. “Get out here, unless peace has broken out for good!”
“Not likely Mr. Dunnett, not likely ‘tall” he said, coming out of the back room. “And Miss Dunnett as well I see. Good to see you, our newest Vedette, eh? Well let’s get the paperwork out of the way”
He flopped into a chair and pulled out an electronic pad, a few strokes and he neatly reversed it. I slid into the chair “Yes sir” I said, my voice firm, but slow. I read carefully, while Grandad asked for news of the wars. Things had been quiet for a while but everyone expected it to change, and soon. All the companies were hiring, but no one knew where the flame of war would catch on.
“Like a forest fire after a dry season, it’s always worse when it’s dry and there hasn’t been a good burn for a while.” Neuheisel intoned. “And how’s the miss doing with her paperwork?”
I thumbed the last few signatures in. “Done sir!” I said turning the pad back with a flourish that nearly spilled it onto the ground. Neuheisel managed an awkward catch. He paged through to check everything. “Good, good, Mr. Dunnett are you fronting the bond?”
“Well then, send it around whenever. I don’t imagine your granddaughter will need it, will you Recruit Dunnett?” And with that I was a Vedette and ready for my ship.