3nanashi: (Young.)
[personal profile] 3nanashi
"I dunno..." Jimmy Pitts trails off, with a grimace and a shrug and a gulped bite of bread. Jimmy's skinny no matter what rations they're on, and he moves in fidgety jerks and twitches when he's not in the cockpit of his mobile suit. "It's just weird. Fuck, I used to go out drinking with some of 'em, you know?" Hino Takashi rolls his eyes tolerantly. Everybody knows. "And yeah," Jimmy carries on, "yeah, I know the Wolves're on Alliance payrolls now. But you're telling me you don't think twice about who you're shooting at?"

Takashi snorts, and Jimmy looks stung. "Nah," says Takashi. "The way I figure it, if they're gonna shoot at me, that decides it. Other side, target. Simple as that."

"You don't even thi--"

"Nobody's paying you to think, Jimmy," breaks in Bob Harris, which gets the obligatory laugh from the other soldiers working their way through dinner.

No laughter from Takashi, but he does look amused. "They're paying us to shoot the other guy, Jimmy. The Wolves turned themselves into the other guy. That's how it goes. Same for them."

Takashi keeps a picture in his toolkit of a young man, maybe a teenager. It looks like a school portrait. It's covered with a thick plastic square and taped to the inside lid; every so often, the plastic gets gouged or stained, and Takashi replaces it.

His brother, he told no-name once. Hino Kaoru. Dead, seven years ago.

Takashi's been a mercenary, always on the rebel side, for six years.

The boy comes back to the bunk-truck to find Takashi kneeling on the narrow strip of bare floor, staring at his open toolkit. "You'd've liked him, kid," Takashi says without looking up, and the boy pauses. "I ever tell you about Kaoru?"

The boy shakes his head. Takashi's still staring at the picture, so he says "No," too.

"He was so smart. High in his class, y'know? He was studying for the exams, and he'd have gotten into a good college. Mom and Dad were so proud. And then they catch the stupid kid on an Alliance restricted base."

The boy wonders what Kaoru was doing there. It's hard to get into restricted bases. You have to sneak, or have an inside ally, or be very very good at breaking into the self-contained computer systems. A civilian kid on a dare might try to sneak in, but not many of them would succeed. Maybe Kaoru was working for one of the rebel factions, stealing or transporting Alliance information. But no-name doesn't say so. He looks at Takashi, and the picture of the smiling teenager, and the tiny splinter of incense Takashi's stuck into the hinge of his kit.

"They said he was resisting detention, and they had no choice but shooting. Hell if I know. But he was a stupid kid, just seventeen -- I'm thinking they didn't work too hard to find other options, y'know what I mean?"

"Yeah," says the boy. He knows that Takashi is bitter, and that there's a sour twist to his mouth, and that he hasn't looked away from his brother's picture yet.

"Anyway." Takashi looks up, and gives the boy a crooked smile. They're just about on the same level when Takashi's kneeling. "You'd've liked him. All brain, just like you."

"I guess so," says the boy, even though he's not really sure if he would, and Takashi laughs and ruffles his hair.

It makes sense, the boy reflects later. Takashi has never been anything but kind to him; he goes out of his way sometimes to be nice. When he goes into town, sometimes he brings back sweets or a book or a couple of music files, for no good reason. They're pointless luxuries a soldier doesn't need, and half the time no-name doesn't even like the candy (although he eats it anyway, and doesn't say a word), but he gives them to the boy anyway. It makes plenty of sense that he's missing his dead little brother.

It makes a lot more sense than treating a nameless soldier like a little civilian brother. No-name turns the theory over in his head, looking at all the angles, and is satisfied. Takashi misses Kaoru, but there are no other boys around, now that they're not spending much time at a stretch near any one town, so it makes him feel better to treat no-name like one sometimes.

He ignores the funny twist of hurt in his stomach at the thought. There's no reason for it. He doesn't have to tell Takashi to stop, and he doesn't want to, but now he has a reasonable hypothesis for Takashi's behavior.

South-central Europe is having a heat wave. It's miserably hot, and humid enough that nothing seems to improve the situation much. To make matters worse, the fighting seems to be in a lull. Everybody's biding their time. The Alliance position is too heavily fortified for direct attack to be a realistic possibility; it's not just that they're lazy with the heat, so Captain Singh's troops can't take advantage of that.

The problem with living as mercenaries do is that they have no climate-controlled buildings. The bunk-truck has a weak and cranky air conditioner, but only when the engine's running. The mobile suits' cockpits have temperature control, of course -- they wouldn't be much good if they didn't -- but running the internal temperature cycle runs down the fuel reserves. It's not worth it unless the suits are being piloted to a purpose. Captain Singh forbids unnecessary power-ups utterly, with a harsh one-eyed glower and dire words. The soldiers grumble and squabble and bet their cigarettes and alcohol and cash back and forth in increasingly stupid, dissatisfied games, but nobody defies the order. Mobile suit fuel is expensive, and it's gotten worse recently with the fighting in the east disrupting trade.

The trucks have air conditioning too, but Captain Singh has sternly forbidden all unnecessary trips. All the same, it's astonishing the number of soldiers who seem to be needed for routine errands and perimeter checks in the air-conditioned trucks, and the number of vehicles needed for each errand.

Right now there's a coldpack being passed around a circle of sweaty, grumbling men hunkered in the shadow of two side-by-side Leos. The boy puts down the coil of insulated wire he's just finished checking for damage -- it's all intact, so he can use it to repair some of the singed connections in his Leo's elbow from where he took a glancing hit from a beam cannon last week -- and heads over. He pauses in between Jimmy Pitts and Kyoichi Shoko, waiting his turn. The pack's more cool than cold by now, but he rests it against wrists and forehead, passes it on to Jimmy, and heads off to where the captain's sitting on a box defiantly perched in the sun.

"No-name." The captain grunts a welcome, and tips his brown scarred face to the sky. "Anything to report, kid?"

The boy shakes his head.

"Hmm. Sit down if you want." The captain doesn't seem to care overmuch. The boy considers, and decides he does want. He drops to the ground, cross-legged, in the scant shade of the box. He remembers hotter places, when he was younger and the mercenaries were in another front further south. He wishes they had more air conditioning anyway, but he won't complain.

"Where's Hino?" the captain asks after a while.

"He went to town," the boy says. "Grocery shopping."

"Mm." More meditative silence. "How about Nakagawa and Poncet?"

"Same, sir."

Captain Singh slants a look down at the boy from his good eye. It always looks fierce, the boy has heard other people say, and sometimes he likes to think about how the captain must look to them, but he's not bothered. It's just the captain. He spends more time thinking about how the world must look through only one eye, everything flattened out.

The captain's looking somewhere between skeptical and amused right now. "We don't need that much. You think they're just after the trip?"

The boy knows they are, but he doesn't want to say so. He's silent.

Captain Singh snorts, and the boy knows he's taken the silence for confirmation. "Tell you a secret, no-name. You have to let people cut loose some, or they'll do it in some damn fool way you didn't plan for. We can spare some truck fuel. Let 'em cool their brains down and think they're getting away with something."

The boy mulls that over. He says, "You're managing them."

"Damn right. Wouldn't be any kind of captain if I didn't. What's your best resource, kid?"

The boy's heard that one a hundred times. "Your soldiers." That's why you have to eat even if you don't like the food, sleep even if you're not tired; your body is your best weapon, and your comrades depend on you to maintain it.

The captain's heavy hand ruffles his hair. It's hot, but the boy doesn't mind. "You got it."
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
Account name:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
HTML doesn't work in the subject.


Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.


3nanashi: (Default)
Trowa Barton

December 2012

2324 2526272829

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 09:26 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios