Shut up. Not yet.
"Hoskins, wake up you lazy ****. It's your shift."
No. Let me sleep. Let go of me.
"Hoskins, gear up and get going. You're already late."
Am not. **** you Berg.
I rub my eyes and find myself sitting in the OP. My vision is still blurred, the after-images of my dreams still fresh in my mind. My self control waning, I decide to afford myself the luxury of another chocolate bar. Try to convince myself that it'll help me stay awake.
The cheap replicated flavor washes away the sour taste from my mouth, and staying up for another 2 hours in this forsaken hell-hole is suddenly almost tolerable. I let my gaze sweep the vast, barren wastes surrounding our Fort. Neither of the planet's two moons is visible, and I can barely make out the massive structure opposite our tiny starport. Our tiny Fort against the dark, brooding form of the Hulk.
There's no one out here but us. There never is these days. There hasn't been in months. I toss away the wrapping, frustrated. I'd check the readings of the Hulk, but we haven't really had any power since Colonel Gaulle left us here. There's no telling the sensors inside the colony even work anymore, and we don't care enough to check them out.
I'm tempted to sleep, but instead rub my eyes again. If it weren't for that ****, Coburn, I'd happily curl up for some R&R. We all know Mass used to sleep through all shifts. Before last week, it was no big deal, before he disappeared from the OP. Nobody knows what happened to him. I care to think no one just wants to admit anything. Especially Coburn. Corporal Coburn. The two didn't get along well, and now Mass is gone, no chance of him being alive anymore, and I've got still one more reason not to trust Coburn. And one reason, the first, not fall asleep in the OP.
I stand up, flexing my muscles, and take a look at the bridge connecting our two worlds. Us and them. We have the starport, they have what remains of the colony. Or had, anyway. There hasn't been a sighting in months. The bridge hasn't changed. The strong, arid winds have worn down the corpses and equipment to almost nothing. I can still see our former supply officer, second lieutenant Forrester, and the outcome of his heroic, but futile last stand. He's lying on top of Molly, our old support tank, and his reinforced platoon is scattered around him. The other bodies are all gone, snatched during the first nights after the battle. And now we're all that's left of the Colonial Militia.
There's a rustle behind me. With a jolt, I spin around, my rifle ready. Then I hear the familiar taps. Three-two-one. I relax and sit back down. It's one of our guys.
"Private Hoskins. How's the night looking?"
"Oh, it's you Sarge."
I don't even have to turn around to recognize him, our platoon sergeant Henricks. For as long as I can remember, we've just called him Sarge. Ever since we were sent into combat anyway. Felt proper at the time. Even after all we've been through, it still does because we have all heard what Sarge once was.
His face is as determined as ever, with the usual hint of sadness. I offer him my bottle of water and he takes it, not saying a word. We're not in a hurry. Our doomed troop has nothing but time.
"Molly's still out there, you know," I try to sound like I'm thinking out loud.
"Hoskins, she's gone from us. Forrester made damn sure we won't get her back. This time she's gone for good."
"I know, I know... Just saying, that's all. I mean, shouldn't we at least try and do something for her. And for the lieutenant's men?"
"No. The men outside, on that bridge, they're a good reminder to us all. Things are quiet, which means that we mustn't let our guard down. You remember Forrester's charge, don't you, Hoskins? It lasted, what, ten minutes, if even that long? Keep your eyes, the buggers are quick."
"Yeah, you're right, Sarge."
And we're silent again. There's only the steady, deep hum of the Fort's back up generators. I let my mind wander, sipping the bottle every once in a while. We still have plenty of provisions here, the water pumps are still on, and the doors are welded shut tighter than TSA quarantine. But what are we still doing here? The vanguard for Colonel Gaulle's reinforcements? The last line of defense against impossible odds, while nobody really knows if there's anything left to fight.
Sarge stands up and heads for the door. He never seems to sleep.
"Hey, Sarge? Will they come back for us?"
"Hoskins... The Colonel will. Be patient. Them..." he points to the bulky and looming colony structures, "of them I'm not sure."