Caterpillar Without A Callsign

Caterpillar Without A Callsign by Isaac Hooke Read Free Book Online

Book: Caterpillar Without A Callsign by Isaac Hooke Read Free Book Online
Authors: Isaac Hooke
Caterpillar Without A Callsign
    The ATLAS mech glanced skyward as the thermobaric warheads dropped.
    " Mason, we gotta get out of here, now!" the mech pilot transmitted over the comm.
    Never open a story with a battle scene, the editors used to tell me. You have to give time for the reader to get invested in the characters, time to care about them.
    All right .
    I'll give you some background first, then.
    My name's Mason.
    I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. Got my Bachelors of Science in Engineering from the University of Tennessee. I'm a mechie. That's mechanical engineer. Got my girlfriend from the same University. She's one of them artsy types, but I love her to a fault. Well, when I'm actually in town that is.
    Yeah.
    I used to build remote-controlled model mechs when I was a kid. Ah, the flighty days of youth. I squandered more than one summer locked away inside a shed building those mechs. Once I was done, I'd send them out exploring. Empty culverts, tight crevices, underwater passageways—if it was some hard-to-reach place, sooner or later I'd be sending my mechs in, just for the challenge of it, the feeling of exploring some place no one else could. I even installed miniature jumpjets on the things, which helped me get to some even harder-to-reach areas, plus it was great for spooking the neighbor's dog.
    Fun times.
    I kept building those mechs throughout my youth, and they kept getting bigger and bigger, so that by the time I graduated high school I had put together a mech that was almost as tall as me, coming in at 134 cm (that's 4'5" for you metrically challenged—yeah I'm short). That mech got me a full University scholarship by the way.
    One of my best friends through high school and University was Lui. (Well, Lui was his callsign. He's still on active duty so for obvious reasons I can't give you his real name. Sorry about that.) He took Mechanical Engineering with me. I met him in Grade Eight. I don't know, I guess we kind of had the same interests. He built model mechs too, and we had some great fights with them. We could've played in the virtual worlds like so many others our age did of course. But honestly, there was just something about having a real live mech, even if it was miniature, fighting in the flesh for you and only you. Hearing those servomotors whirring, hearing the satisfying sound as you bashed your opponent's metallic head in, you just couldn't replicate that in the virtual world. Course, repairing them was a bitch afterwards.
    That's why you always wanted to win.
    After graduating from University, Lui and I decided we wanted more out of life. We wanted to explore the galaxy. Inside mechs, of course. Oh, you know, we could have lived the comfortable life of an ordinary citizen, a life where all our needs were provided for. Robots did most of the blue-collar work. The government provided room and board. Work was entirely optional. Great, right? Problem was, if you didn't work, you were stuck where you were. You had to rely on public transportation for everything, and that never took you further than the city you lived in. If you wanted to see the world, or the colonies beyond it, you had to get a paying job—and those were hard to come by, let me tell you. As I said, the robots had a lockdown on the blue-collar industries, and there was no way I was going to become an accountant or something silly like that just so I could save up for a trans-solar flight.
    So Lui and I joined the military. Navy branch. Special Warfare Operator rating. Free ticket to the world and beyond.
    Nice, huh?
    We went to BSD/M together. That's Basic Space Demolition / MOTH training for all you laymen out there. We graduated, one thing led to another, and we ended up assigned to MOTH Team Seven together. MOTH stands for MObile Tactical Human by the way. We're jacks-of-all-trades—snipers, astronauts, commandos, corpsmen, et cetera—with a heavy emphasis on the commando side of things.
    Oh, and we pilot mechs.
    So

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