"Rico, you're wanted back at HQ," Jelly barks. The Captain's voice cuts through the chaos of the backwater dive in that special way known only to former drill sergeants.
It's something big is if he's chasing me down on my R&R. An officer, even a popular one with a field commission simply doesn't intrude on the sacred downtime of the MI noncom, which involves a chance to sleep late, chase girls, scratch himself, and maybe Waltz Matilda with a few Navy apes in order to educate them with meaty fists on what real service looks like.
"Captain?" I ask, mucking my hand and slipping into my Mobile Infantry field jacket. I only had two pair anyway. To my left, Bunny, one of my Lances, is holding treys or better, judging by how he's gnawing on his swizzle. The kid's tells are so obvious it's painful, but he makes up for it with uncanny luck.
I knock back half of Bunny's beer and pat him on the head. He flips me a salute that's not quite textbook.
I follow the Captain outside and we walk out of there in silence. Old soldiers don't have to chatter to keep our mouths busy and our brains idle. We instinctively fall into step—again, old habits. The civilians we pass nod respectfully. One's a gorgeous girl with curves that should be illegal. I smile to her, as pleasantly as a professional killer can, and she smiles back. Almost. I get points for trying, anyway.
Things are good on Sanctuary, about as homey a place you can find in the 'Verse, now that Earth's been turned into a radioactive wasteland and Mars has ceased to be.
You almost can forget the war going on outside. You know, the one we're losing.
We pass the old OCS campus and I smell honeysuckle. Harridan memories return like pregnant ex-girlfriends. I'd forgotten how much I'd hated this stuck-up hellhole.
Now that's a story, me in OCS. The last time I'd looked through the antiqued fences at the manicured lawns and white-washed buildings was just after I'd chucked my third lieutenant's bars on the Commandant's desk. They were borrowed, of course—nobody buys those microscopic pips—in my case, the eighth consecutive failure on that particular set. I'd foolishly taken them on as a personal favor for the man. They were his, apparently, back when dinosaurs roamed and the Bugs didn't automatically kick our asses every time we met. I think the old man was secretly hoping I'd buy the farm, so at least I'd break his streak by being buried with a commission.
What I got for the headaches and the half dozen drops I made as the most supernumerary officer in the whole expurgated battalion were a couple commendations for heroics and a service medal I can't wear with noncom dress maroons. Oh, and a note in my file from Acting-Captain-salute-the-asshole Oliver Rosa, stating that I was a "loose cannon with no business leading grade school kids across the street, much less a platoon into battle." Whatever. Punching the idiot's lights out was righteous and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It was his cockup, after all, that led to the Captain's paying retail back on Cassiopeia Nine.
It was the second time I'd gotten the lash for insubordination. Hey, not many still in the Service can make that claim.
Why'd I do it, sign up to click my heels as a right Proper Gentleman? That's a long story, but the gist of it is that when you're new to the MI, you step up with an eager "Sir, yes sir!" and take a swing when they ask you to—and on the bounce too, you dirty apes! I was young then, dumb and full of cum, bucking for officer before I'd even worn Sergeant chevrons a week. Hell, Jelly knew I'd do it once I declared as a career man. He even had the paperwork signed. God, I was so naïve.
We pass through the first layers of security and make our way toward the command compound, a dozen temp-buildings ringing an ugly, sprawling brick structure.
Jelly pulls me aside just before we enter. "Watch yourself, Rico. This place has been thick with Intel personnel and the only thing I've been told is the Colonel wants you here to brief you on a special mission."
"Golly, how thoughtful," I deadpan, nodding to my Captain that I'd gotten the message. Old Jelly's instincts are good and my noncom senses are tingling too. No full bird would involve himself in something like this if it were routine. I like routine. Routine doesn't have me staying up late helping the Cap'n wire "We regret to inform you…" letters to a squad who bought the farm because of a cock-up we didn't see coming.
Jelly continues in a gruff voice. "Out of every MI in the 'Verse, you were recommended for this job, special orders coming down from the Sky Marshal. I also got word from your teacher friend back home. He pulled strings to get you in on this, Johnnie. It's big. My gut says maybe 'survival of the human race' big."
Jelly was rarely excessively dramatic. If he said it was serious stuff, it was.
"Great," I say with false bravado. "They want me. Tell me this isn't a sign that we're winning this war?"
He sighs. "Not even close. I could quote troop numbers, but Alpha Nine, or what's left of it, should clue you in on how bad things are. Whatever that Oort anomaly was, it turned the tide of this war."
"Above my pay grade to worry about such things, Cap'n."
"Well, perhaps you should."
We arrive at the Colonel's door. Jelly knocks and the XO opens it. I'm sent in with a pat on the back that feels much more like a push.
I stand at attention before my commander as the Colonel ignores me, instead leafing through the folder on his desk. After some pleasantries that are anything but, we're been left alone and the heat is stifling. It's going to be a chew-out session then, make me sweat a little, put me off my guard, whatever. I've had worse.
"Johnnie Rico, Career Sergeant. Parents deceased. Enlisted at 17. Mediocre placement scores. Selected for Mobile Infantry. Basic at Camp Currie. Wildcats, Roughnecks, OCS, Third Lieutenant for fourteen weeks, but failed to receive a commission after a Court Martial. Busted to Private. Purported to be a ruthless warrior. Training includes battle suit mechanics, field medic, demolition, every weapon system from pea shooter to a tactical nuke… bartending?"
"It's a calling, sir."
"I see. A long list of commendations. An even longer list of civilian and military arrests and a penchant for bucking authority. That about cover it?"
"Yes sir!" I chirp. I don't like reliving my past and I'd learned long ago that excessive obedience is more annoying in a dress-down than combativeness.
He reads some more and clears his throat dramatically.
"Am I to understand that you have in your possession a Blackbird suit."
Oh, fuck-game's up.
Through a bizarre turn of events involving trading in about a million favors, several through Father's military-industrial connections, I'd managed to get my hands on the hottest and sweetest piece of tech in existence. Hell, it was an orgasm distilled into nano and top-shelf AI. A mech. suit to end all suits, one of only a dozen ever made and the only one I know of still in service. Whispered about with reverence on essentially every ship in the Service, the Blackbird is special.
I'd disguised mine as a retro Command suit, similar to the ones deployed a decade ago to Flag officers in the field. I was known in the ranks as a bit of an eccentric with a bit of money behind my name, so my fielding a Flag Commander's suit wouldn't raise too many eyebrows. It let me to hide my treasure in plain sight.
"That's a mighty unlikely thing to suggest, Colonel," I say unconvincingly.
"Is it now," he says, his eyes narrowing.
Shit. Just the schematics on guidance are considered Top Secret, Special Compartmentalized Information. The thing cost more than a Centaur-class Starship. Made with the most advanced tech, she was so instinctual as to seem alive—more so than most of my soldiers, even. Worse, we couldn't even produce the stuff anymore—not after the cryo labs on Pluto, where my childhood friend Carl was stationed, were wiped out early in the Bug War.
Yeah, the suit's a she. I named her Pele, after the Hawaiian goddess of fire and she's probably the only girl I ever truly loved. Keeping her secrets is the reason I've always managed to wheedle myself into the spot as resident suit mechanic on any ship I serve.
The Colonel lowers his voice to barely above a whisper and I realize know why we're alone. "Hypothetically speaking, Sergeant Rico, if you were to have had in your possession such a suit—ownership of which is a capital crime, I remind you—how long might you have worked with it?"
I take in his look. Despite the ominous words, he doesn't have the appearance of a commander about to order a firing squad.
I cough into my hand. "Since we're still speaking hypothetically, Sir, I maybe had the suit for, oh, eleven years? Twelve? It's hard to tell, spending so much time on ships. At least a hundred drops."
He pushes back from his desk and stares at me intently. "I see. Again hypothetically, might extended use of such a suit have led it to enhance and adapt itself to your style of fighting, perhaps developing a sort of… initiative?"
"Funny you should mention that. Again, speaking purely of conjecture, such a suit may have even become self-aware, capable of functioning autonomously after its operator has been knocked unconscious. A suit like that would be a special thing, a real asset to your ranks."
"Remarkable." He returns to a speaking voice, one that's laced with authority—a trick I never quite learned when I tried playing officer. "Okay, let's get down to it. We're building an elite force, Rico, to hit the Bugs in the testicles, if they had them. It's risky, but if we pull it off, we end this goddamned war. It's crazy, almost guaranteed to fail, but something tells me that you may be just the kind of crazy we're looking for."
"This a voluntary thing, Sir?"
"I'd like it that way. You're going to be put under hypnotic triggers to avoid sharing info either way."
I consider the blackmail he's got on me. Hell, I don't have a choice.
"Aye, sir. I'll do it."
A side door opens and a man walks in. His hair is shock white, cropped short in a military cut. He's shorter than me, slight of build, and looks like he's about seventy. The man has brilliant green eyes and more than a few scars, including a nasty one on his forehead. He's dressed in a military uniform, but without rank.
"Mister Potter here will explain the details."
The plot bunny of a Starship Troopers/Harry Potter crossover. I own neither Harry Potter (owned by J. K. Rowling) nor Starship Troopers (owned by the estate of the late Robert Heinlein). Written for pleasure, not profit, I make no money from this. (In other words, my Porsche was paid for by my day job).
Some thoughts on direction for this:
Voldemort's final horcrux was the song Johnny B. Goode, sent on a golden phonograph record on one of the Voyager missions. (Fuck you very much, LessWrong-I've had "make something on Voyager into a horcrux" in my file of plot bunny ideas for more than two years now).
Dark times fall post-Voldemort and desperate measures are taken. Eventually, an adult Harry Potter is imprisoned unfairly in solitary confinement in Azkaban, the sole prisoner there. It's the only prison capable of holding him.
Through a somewhat surprising turn of events, Hermione, his lover, crafts a horcrux, leaving a portion of her soul in Dumbledore's pensieve, which Harry is permitted to bring with him into prison. It's charmed to allow him to use it for an hour a day. (Allowing him to keep his sanity is deemed a more cruel punishment than not; also, the Ministry doesn't know the true nature of the device). Harry can visit Hermione every night. While in the pensieve, sees through the eyes of her physical self and watches history unfold.
In the meantime, the Starship Troopers military takeover of the world happens. It's bloodless for the most part, save for the near elimination of the magical worlds. All that remains are a few, pressed into service and permitted to practice only the mind arts-seers and mind-readers. The latter are the ones who practice the ESP in Starship Troopers.
Hermione, as a leader of the resistance, is tortured, then publicly executed by firing squad, all of which Harry witnesses. He has no love for the Federation.
Because of his ties to Voldemort, Harry finds he cannot die of natural causes. Four hundred years pass, his only company his nightly visits to the fragment of Hermione's soul in the pensieve.
In time, the enchantments fall on Azkaban and Terran soldiers take the island, seizing him and the pensieve in the process.
Unfortunately, it's learned in the aftermath that one of the honorary titles Harry holds is Mage Protector of the Realm. The opportunistic Terran military leaders use this loophole/grandfather clause to press him into service in their Bug Wars, which have taken a turn for the really crappy in the past few years. Harry Potter is the only conscript in the entire Terran force.
Voldemort's horcrux had managed to be picked up in the Oort cloud by the bugs. He infests them, wreaking a terrible revenge upon humanity. Their hive-mind is ripe for take-over.
Harry and a highly disenchanted Rico are to become the core of a small group who take the fight to Voldemort/Bug Central. It's military science fiction with a touch of magic. Cynicism and ruthlessness. Inglorious Basterds, indeed.