EXT – Day – Cab of a heavy military truck
Two soldiers are driving down a road on the outskirts of Adelaide, not far from the port. The morning sun casts sharp shadows, but the dust arising from the truck ahead of them in the small convoy makes things a bit hazy. They are in tan camo uniforms, with no armor other then helmets. Semi-auto rifles are in a gun rack in the back window. Their uniforms are dirty and unkempt, both have not shaved in a few days, one has his shirt buttons misaligned. They look a bit rough – not evil, just lazy and sloppy and poorly disciplined.
Pvt Schumer: This war sucks.
Pvt Levin: ALL wars suck.
Pvt Schumer: This one REALLY sucks.
Pvt Levin: Dun’no. I think not getting blown up or shot at is kind’a nice.
Pvt Schumer: I mean, we are at the absolute ASS-END of this thing.
Pvt Levin: Get’n paid. Get’n fed. Get’n sleep. Seen worse.
Pvt Schumer: Yeah, but we ain’t got ANY action for six months. Can’t even get action in town!
Pvt Levin: You never get any action anywhere ‘cause you’re UGLY. AND still barely a private after six years.
Pvt Schumer: I mean, we been reduced to getting used as a safe supply point for people picking up ammo and shit to use where things are really HAPPENING.
Pvt Levin: (grunts assent, pauses) I heard we were getting a visit from some high-price Plataean ass-kickers, so SOMETHING must be up.
Pvt Schumer: Christ on a left-handed rubber crutch. Really?
Pvt Levin: That’s the rumor. Supposedly the same platoon that took out that Air Defense Battalion that was giving the 41st fits.
Pvt Schumer: PLATOON?! Naw, must’a been a company at least! A platoon is even less likely than the one I heard about a babe shoving some local muscle around.
Pvt Levin: Flint said it was a small platoon that leveled em’, an’ the locals DO seem a little jumpy. He’s pretty well connected, so…
Pvt Schumer: We are SO ass-end we not only gotta use civilian transport, but we get our asses bailed out by female mercs when we aren’t even fighting!
Pvt Levin: Yeah. That’s pretty low. I’m sure you’ll find a way to sink, though.
Pvt Schumer: Gee, THANKS.
Pvt Levin: I mean, the tech limits on weapons make for mostly pretty slow movement. Can’t use the old grav tanks, or newer fun stuff, in Sourkrauts battalion unless the Kiv break the rules in a big way. Manual aiming and simple ballistics and all is a pain. A lot more ways to get stupid and killed than get brilliant and win.
Pvt Schumer: Well, maybe so, but… I guess this must be the ship.
The convoy of three vehicles pulls up to a stop to one side of Tajemnica, in the late morning shadows. Their radio squawks.
Private3: (OC, on radio) Hey Asshole, hop out and see who’s home.
Pvt Levin: That’d be YOU.
Pvt Schumer: (to radio speaker) Shit-head. (then, to Pvt Levin) Damn civvies will likely run in terror at the first sign of trouble. Rather deal with uniforms.
They both grab their rifles and hop out of the cab. They sling them casually over their shoulders, and saunter up to the cargo ramp. They look up inside, see no-one, then continue around the end and get a look on the sunny side. They get a view down the side, and stop in their tracks. Neither of them look at the other while they talk in low tones.
Pvt Schumer: On th’other hand, ain’t never seen uniforms like THAT.
Pvt Levin: Make love, not war, daddy always said. How’s my uniform look?
Pvt Schumer: Like shit.
Pvt Levin: Yours, too.
Pvt Schumer: Screw it.
Camera view slews around to show what they see. About half way down the side, by the side-entry, there are seven folding / reclining chairs laying out in the sun. On them are Allonia, Kaminski, Quiritis, Helton, Bipasha, Kaushik, and Harbin. They are in bathing suits and bandages (smaller than original, but still numerous on the three Plataeans, and Allonia’s temple still has a slight red scar), basking in the sun, looking very mellow, eyes closed and/or wearing sunglasses. There are a couple of pitchers of iced beverages, and glasses for each. Apparently un-noticed by the skin-entranced pair, there are ALSO rifles or pistols hanging or leaning by each chair.
The two privates straighten out their uniforms a bit as they walk toward the seven, reflexively feeling their stubble and brushing their hair back.
Pvt Schumer: How would you ladies like to meet a pair of gen-u-wine war heroes?
Quiritis: (politely sarcastic) Why – know any?
Pvt Levin: (ignoring her sarcasm) We were told there was a ship here to haul our classified equipment out to Raptus Regaliter.
Pvt Schumer: If you FINE young ladies could direct us to the person in charge of this bucket, we’d be HAPPY to regale you with the tales of our adventures!
None of the crew move for a moment. The privates glance at each other – they are used to a lot of things, but NOT being ignored.
Pvt Schumer: Ain’t GOT all day! Got important things to do!
Then Kaminski, who is sort of sitting upright, glass in hand, takes a sip.
Kaminski: (kind of a slow drawl) Doctors orders. R&R. Sunshine. Take it easy, let things heal.
Pvt Schumer: Sorry to see you lost your bar fight, pal, but I was talking to the ladies.
Harbin: (serious drill sergeant voice, not moving from his somewhat reclined position otherwise) SCHUMER! You still a private?
Pvt Schumer’s jaw drops for a second, as he recognizes THAT voice- he’ll NEVER forget his first basic training instructor’s voice. He snaps to attention. His partner recognizes the tone, and sees Pvt Schumer’s reaction, and does the same, knowing they just stepped in it.
Pvt Schumer: YES, FIRST SERGEANT!
Harbin: Made second class yet?
Pvt Schumer: Three times, First Sergeant!
Kaushik: (droll) Wonder why?
Kaminski: Classified beans ‘n bullets, eh?
Helton: (politely, calmly) This “bucket” is very sensitive. It’s the best ship on the planet. Please talk nicely about her. You ARE talking to the owner, pilot, war goddess and heroes recovering from combat injuries. Unlike yourselves. And the first sergeant’s niece… Care to start again?
Pvt Schumer: Uh, we, uh-
Harbin: Guru save us. PROPERLY, private Schumer. I KNOW you were taught.
Pvt Schumer: Private Schumer, Foxtrot 23rd combined arms support base Raptus Regaliter, reporting in with a convoy of three truck for transport by the ship Tajmagica. Or something like that. This one. I think. Sir. I mean, First Sergeant. Or, uh…
Helton: Yup, you found us. I’m the captain. Only three?
Pvt Levin: The other six are supposed to be along in a little while. Sir.
Helton: Well then, I suggest you and the other drivers hit the showers and get yourself cleaned up before the Colonel shows up, and the First Sergeant gets back into uniform and takes any sort of official notice of your condition. IF you pass inspection, I expect you might get lunch aboard before we lift. (then, into com unit) John, got a few passengers that need to clean up. Can you show them the facilities, please? (then, to the two privates, still at attention) He’ll meet you at the top of the ramp. Go get your partners in crime, get ‘em squared away. You’ve got some time – make the most of it. Dismissed.
The two privates about-face and walk away, FAST.
The two privates round the corner of the ship, and talk quietly out of the corner of their mouths as they head over to get the other drivers.
Pvt Schumer: Holy SHIT! Sergeant Reel! AND a COLONEL. We are SO screwed!
Pvt Levin: But if HE’S here and INJURED – and the Captain said recovering from combat injuries – then THEY must have been the ones that took out the ADB!
Pvt Schumer: Floggers! Even his NIECE is a bad-ass!
Pvt Levin: Well, NICE ass, anyway!
Pvt Schumer: Not GOING there! Better ways to commit suicide.
Pvt Levin: But if THEY took it out, maybe Flint WAS right, and it WAS only a light platoon, one with WOMEN in it!
Pvt Schumer: I’d always figured those stories about how tough Plataeans were were stories, and Reel was just a hard-ass, but-
Pvt Levin: If THEY’RE heading out, then SOMETHING big MUST be up.
Pvt Schumer: Ah, shit. This war SUCKS!
The R&R crew and soldiers.
Bipasha takes a sip from her glass. Kaminski flexes, gently, a bandaged leg. The sun inches up higher. Well-earned R&R, being lethargically enjoyed to its fullest, while it lasts.
Fade to black