A veteran on parade day. For the writers Cramp, 996 words.
he com-link buzzed then said, "Incoming!"
My suit automatically threw more power to the shields and dropped me flat on the wet pavement. A moment later the ground shook and the air filled with high speed, flying debris. Once it all settled I rose to one knee and scanned the area.
"Squad check." Corporal Nguyen-Hill said over the com-link.
"G 6, check," I said.
"G 4, check."
"G 2, check."
"G 3, check. Minor damage, repairing now."
"G 5? Who is closest to Gran?"
"G 6 here, I am."
"Roger," I reply.
I pass the commands to the suit and it drops shields and brings up stealth. Gran had been scouting ahead to the East, the direction the missile struck.
I moved in 3 meter leaps. The area was a large square, 150 meters on a side, paved with asphalt. There was a meter high wall around it. Broken buildings surround it. The squad was deployed on the Westside.
Looks like it used to be a parking lot for ground-based vehicles. Now it's just craters and debris. Lots of debris. Should be good cover.
I jump on what is left of a vehicle and scan for Gran. I find him 30 meters to the North-East, taking shelter by the perimeter concrete wall. I launch myself in that direction. 8 leaps later I focus a tight-beam com-link on his receptor. I see that his stealth is flickering on and off and coolant is leaking.
"Hey buddy, you look like you were struck by a Panzer-8 hover-tank." I send.
"Is that what that was? My power unit is damaged and ... well, a whole lot of other crap is not working either."
"Found G 5, damaged. Needs evac."
"Roger. Evac-team notified. Tell him he owes me a ten-spot. Resume forwar ..." The Corporal was cut off by another incoming alert.
I scan and see a blip coming in from my right. I leap the last 6 meters to Gran, yelling instructions to my suit to merge shields with his. The shield flares a ...
"Poppy! Poppy! Wake up, Daddy says it's time to go to the pr'ade!" a high pitched voice cut through the dream and wakes me.
"YA!" a second one pitches in.
I saw two little people standing by my chair. Lena (I-am-almost-8!), with a serious look on her face and 3 year-old Francis, danced from foot to foot.
"We gon get cot'n canny and pockcorn!" Francis said with obvious relish.
"OK, you two, let's go," I rose, my prosthetic knee making an almost imperceptible whine as it took my weight.
I pick up Francis and hold him across my chest. He squeals, fake struggles and then takes an interest in the scar on my forearm. It runs from my wrist halfway to my elbow.
"What this for?" He asked, as he ran his little fingers along it.
"Lead on, Corporal Lena. I got that a long time ago, when I was your Dad's age. I was in a fight with some bad people."
"Yes sir, follow me," Lena does what she thinks is a march towards the front door.
I follow Lena out of the living room into the front yard and over to the family hover-car.
"Why?" Francis asks.
"Let's just say some bad people wanted to take some things we had and we didn't want to give them up. Here we are, your highness," I set him on the back seat. After he oriented himself, the seat auto-adjusted the safety harness to hold him.
"I not hi-ness. I'm Francis," he frowned at me.
"Of course you are, sweetheart. Of course, you are," I kissed him on the forehead and shut the door.
"See you after the parade in the park," I said to my son and his wife through the driver's door window.
"OK. I love you dad, and I am really proud of you."
"Ah, thanks son, I love you too."
They drive off and I head back inside to change.
t took me a good half hour to change into my black dress Captain's uniform. Once done I only had to wait a few minutes for the hover-bus to show up. The door opened and a large woman in a dark green uniform asked, "Captain Francis Hardy?"
"Yes, Sergeant Shelly, that's still me," I replied getting on the bus.
"Find a place, we got two more brass to pick up," Shelly said, setting the bus in motion.
I smiled and slid on to the open seat next to Staff Sergeant Clare Nguyen-Hill.
"Hiya, Cap. How's the knee?"
"It works well enough, glitches only once in while. How is the hand?"
"Got new skin, matches my regular skin better. The little finger won't uncurl sometimes, other than that it works."
"You two are weird, I don't know you don't just grow new ones. My left is as good as my right, maybe better," Corporal Yulen in the seat behind us said over the seat back.
"Well, Duke, the war ain't over and they don't recall vets with prosthetic limbs," Clare replied.
"Bah. It's over but the clean up."
We stop and picked up Colonel Ned Harbuckle and Major Dexter Thion. The Colonel had a prosthetic arm and the Major had two prosthetic legs.
"Two more weirdos," Duke mumbles.
The bus slides to a stop in the lot next to the staging grounds for the War Memorial Parade. There are about 70 or so men and women in uniform. Most are infantry-black but scattered here and there are pilot-blues and Navy-whites. We check in, form up and start the march to the park.
t is both embarrassing and gratifying to see the crowd cheer as we go along the route. Usually, we are silent as we march but this year we decided to do this a little differently and started the infantry marching chant when we started, switched to one for the pilots than the Navy and back to the infantry.
Not a dry eye along the route, spectators or marchers.