I wake up and ask, “Time? 10-36?”
My alarm clock says, “It’s zero four-thirty.”
I throw my pillow at the alarm clock. I say a few curse words.
My alarm clock says, “Incoming bogie.”
“Fuck off.” I’m going to get a few more minutes’ sleep. The lights come on. My alarm clock has decided to declare war on me. My alarm clock is going to die. I’m a mech driver. If I had a sidearm. I don’t have one. I have to improvise if I’m going to get more rack time. I have already spent the only pillow I have. My door opens. It’s my sergeant. It’s the alarm clock’s lucky morning.
“On your feet, pilot,” says Master Sergeant Hulka. He walks over to my bunk.
I get up and look over at Snowman. He’s still sleeping. Lucky. We had cleared The Big D. We still had a few days before we pushed south, to ‘The Battle of the Alamo.’ That’s not what the brass are calling it. They call it: ‘Operation Texas Freedom.’ Okay, us truckers we’re calling it, ‘Operation Santa Anna.’ How did that one go for Davy Crockett?
Hulka isn’t so bad, but when the Master Sergeant wants something done. He wants it done, yesterday. “I told the Captain we would have three functional mechs in our platoon when it’s time for the push, and three functional mechs we are going to have.”
It means I’m going back to work. “We only have one,” I say. “In the last fight, we only had two mechs. Snowman and me. Snowman’s mech is toast. Mine is fried. And we have been one trucker short for two months.”
Hulka says, “One problem at a time. Here’s your new pilot. Say hello to Frog.” Out from behind Hulka steps Frog with all of her gear. She isn’t big. She doesn’t look strong. But she has a look in her eyes. She’s a trucker.
“Now get up, and I want your mech operational by the end of the day.”
“10-4, Sergeant.” I put my feet on the floor. “I’m going to need some help.”
“Well, it’s a good thing you’ll have Frog and Snowman.”
Hulka smiles and turns to leave. I point to the empty bunk and Frog knows where to put her gear. So much for sleep.
Before he leaves. I ask, “We still need two more mechs. Where are you going to get ‘em?”
Hulka says as he shuts the door, “One problem at a time. A sergeant in this man’s army can only be expected to solve one problem at a time.”
I need to get moving. I say, “Snowman…Snowman gets your ass up. I’m going to need your help.”
Snowman has covered his head with his pillow and he says, “You suck, Bandit. You’re a real asshole sometimes. It’s your mech. It’s your problem. Go play grease monkey without me.”
Snowman will help me if I can get him out of his bunk. Maybe, he’ll help, but I’ll have to put some food in him first. Time to find a roach coach.