IHM JOINT OPERATIONS BASE – CHOW HALL
“I’m tellin’ ya, the new girl’s gotta be able ta bench a frikkin’ truck with that build.”
“Dude, it’s a question of leverage, she’s not going to be able to get her full leverage with a body like that.”
“Mark, Steve, what’re you two nerds doing here?”
“Oh, it’s you. How’s it going, Rach?”
“Don’t you ‘Oh it’s you’ me Steve, we’ve been together since basic. Is that any way to greet your hell-buddy?”
“We’ve switched MOS since then, you’re in a DC squad now. Still can’t figure put how you got tapped for Raider training…”
“Yeah Rach, ain’t you s’posed ta be all stealthy-like?”
“I’ll have you know, I can be plenty stealthy when the moment’s right. Mark’ll tell you.”
“Yeah, nothing quite like sensing some evil presence filter into your awareness, just before-“
“Yes yes, we can go on about my superior combat prowess later. Now give, what’s the latest on the noobs?”
“New girl’s an ushi’. Me’n Steve’r bettin’ on whether she’s strong enough ta hang with tha others.”
“Who, Rin? Yeah, she’ll fit right in. Between Bertha and Mary, she’ll be on about the same level. Even Hugh’ll get used to her eventually.”
“Hugh is one of the gentlest guys we know. Despite all the genmods. I’m a little worried the rest’ll walk all over him.”
“Not bloody likely. Hugh’s a beast when it comes ta throwin’ down. He’ll be ok.”
“And on that grim note, chow’s over in 10, and we’ve gotta get to the range 5 after that.”
“You’re training with us today, Rach?”
“Well, I got permission. You’re testing out the new H.ARM Exo-units today, and since my unit and yours will probably be in the field together, I’d like to get a feel for what new toys they’re giving you.”
“You just wanna shoot some of the new gear, doncha?”
“I’m a devil dog Mark, ‘course I wanna shoot the new gear.”
Before the trio could wax poetic about things that go ‘boom’, a new voice broke into the conversation.
“Hey you guys, what’s up?”
“Oh dear God in heaven, it’s the birdbrain…”
“Ey, Suzie-Q, how’s it hangin’?”
“Silly Markie, I don’t hang upside-down, that’s Tanda’s job! Get it, ‘cuz she’s a bat? Oh, and then there’s Koko, but she’s got that tail… Oh, whatever, you’re going to the range later, right?”
“Yeeess…” The hellhound said warily.
“Cool! Then you’ll get to see me and the others!”
“And, why would we be looking forward to this?”
“Cuz the new grenades came out! I get to be a stealth bomber now!” the harpy enthused, wiggling her fingers in what she thought was a spooky way. “Oh I’m gonna get soo many points when we get to sim this stuff!”
“Ugh,” Racel facepalmed, “Can you tone it down maybe just a tad? It’s too early to be this excited.”
“No it isn’t, it’s after noon!”
“Anyway,” Mark continued, anybody else we know gonna be there?”
“Well… Mary’s gonna be there, she got some new ammo for her minigun, and Minta as well, for safety.”
“Well shoot, Sticky’s gonna be there? I though she got poached by the EoD guys?”
“She’s gonna be there to handle UXO, and try out some new stuff the eggheads want to test for breaking walls.”
“I still can’t believe it, good ol’ Sticky. She still got that thing she does whenever someone startles her?”
“I don’t think so… At least, I haven’t seen her do it whenever she’s on the range.”
As their time wound down, the four former trainee squadmates caught up on their lives since assignment to their current units, and Mark took a moment to reflect on where he’d been before joining up.
Life hadn’t been easy, but he’d always been a scrapper, even after making friends with Steve way back in middle school. They’d had each other’s backs all though high school, and after the Arrival, they’d watched out for each other in the strange new world that had arisen.
The Arrival hadn’t been a massive worldwide apocalypse. No, it had started with small groups of nonhumans appearing across the world. Then there were whole villages, even cities that just appeared in isolated parts of the planet.
Some of the new arrivals were benign, even friendly. Sometimes a bit too friendly, but they meant no harm. Others though… Well, if it is in man’s nature to be warlike, some of the new arrivals seemed to feel they were inherently superior to those who’s world they’d entered. In a twist many later claimed to have seen coming, the incoming belligerents were just as domineering and violent towards their own kind as they were towards humanity.
Fortunately, however, it was obvious from the start that those tendencies weren’t species-specific, forestalling any development of widespread specism. Still, there were those on the fringes of society who opposed any foreign presence in their lands. Not that the arrivals could go anywhere else. After some time, it became fairly common knowledge that wherever they had come from, they couldn’t go home again.
And so Earth found itself playing host to not one, but well over a hundred sentient species besides its own native humanity. Tensions ran high for years, with isolated incidents smoldering and flaring into limited engagements. When under pressure, humans can be incredibly inventive. With the aid of some of the arrivals, that inventiveness was amplified tenfold, and weapons, armor, and even tech for the civilian market began to develop at an accelerated rate. Items though to only exist in the realm of science fiction were now commonplace.
“That dude in tha orientation talk was right alla long” he thought, “It really is th’ dawn of a Strange New World.”