Dogs of War

Chapter 1-The Journey of a Million Miles Begins With a Single Bus

8 Miles to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

January 12, 2040

8:09 A.M. Pacific Time

As the yellow bus rolls along the dusty road to the training center, the air in the vehicle is thick with tension as the young men and women ponder over their destination and the life that is ahead of them. All of them had been acquainted with the Uniform Code of Military Justice that had been given to them from the drill instructor upon their boarding the bus. All of them are high-strung with anticipation and a touch of fear. All of them are nervous and tense, save for a couple of weirdoes:

Wow! This señorita's a real looker. Time to pull out the old Rodríguez charm.

"Hey there, señorita! What's a beautiful gal like you doing on this one-way trip to hell?" I ask her.

"…"

Nada. "Well, I'm in to serve my country, beat up some bad guys, and maybe find a little love. How 'bout you?" I ask her again.

"…"

Still nothing. Am I talking to a brunette statue here?

"You know, if your fingers go any faster, they're going run away on you." Her fingers stop suddenly and… I think she blushed? "Dude, your foot's tapping too. You know, you should relax, man. If you're this nervous, you're gonna get wrinkles and stuff and, dude, is that a gray hair I see?"

"Go to hell!" shouts the brunette.

"Quiet down back there, recruit!" The drill dude yells.

The brunette's definitely blushing now. She mutters something that sounds like "Yes, sir." and she turns to glare at me. The blond girl next to her looks like she's gonna crack up.

"Aww. Calm down, Aly. He was only hitting on you. With your boobs, I'd hit on you too. (^v^)" says the blonde.

Dude, I think she's blushing even more now. "Shut up, Erica! And you!" She yells.

She's looking at me, now; and she doesn't look too friendly. I'm getting this weird feeling that I'm being glared at by a wild dog or something.

"One more word out of you, and I'll rip your balls out and shove 'em down your throat. Got that?"

And with that, she turns around and folds her arms. Wow. That's gotta be the second or third most violent threat I've ever heard from such a pretty señorita. That's when I hear this weird thumping sound coming from nearby. I look at the blond girl and she's totally cracking up, banging on the seat in front of you
and looking like she's trying to smother her laughing. After she's done, she turns to look at me.

"Sorry about that. Aly loses her temper easily when she's nervous, liiiike right now."

"Hey, no worries, man. I've been turned down worse before. At least she didn't have a big brother chase me out with a shotgun screaming "Get out of my house and don't come near my sister again", you know?"

"Heh, heh. Ja, I know the feeling."

"Eh?"

"Ahh, never mind. My name's Erika Eisengard. The angry one's Alicia Brown."

"I heard that. And stop giving out my name to people I don't like." says Alicia.

"Huh. German?" I ask Erika.

"Gee, did the 'ja' give it away?"

"Yeah, that was a stupid question. The name's Ricardo Fernández Rodriguez, by the way. But you can call me Rick."

Erika seems like a nice girl. Her ear-length golden blonde hair with touches of brown in it; it really goes well with her bright blue eyes. And from what I can see of her figure from her black T-shirt and jeans, it ain't too bad. She's also carrying a large duffel bag, too. Wonder what's in it? On the other hand, there's her friend, Alicia. She's got chestnut brown hair that reaches down to her shoulders; it also matches her eyes. Plus, she really, really, reeeeally fills out that jacket.

"What are you staring at?" Alicia glares at me.

"Nuthin'." Man, she can sure hold a grudge.

"He's just admiring your boobs, Aly." Erika says, grinning.

"They look nice."

"I know!" she squeals. "Don't you want to just touch them and fondle them and-"

"Sh-shut up, already!" That Alicia girl's got a blush going on again.

"I thought I told you to be quiet, Brown!" The drill dude shouts.

She quickly shuts up and sits up straight.

"And you two, Rodriguez and Eisengard! Clam up, or I'll run you two so ragged, you won't even have time to breathe, let alone chat!"

Yeesh. Fine, fine. I'll sit in my seat like a good niño now. I guess I'll just look around for something interesting to do. Let's see, there's a big Latino dude sitting ahead, then there's a black dude over there. Ooh, there's a Chinese-looking girl sitting by herself doing something on an iPad-looking thing. She has wavy black hair too. Wonder what's the story with that? I'll talk to her later. Across from her there's a black dude smoking a cigar. Man, that cigar stinks. I can smell it from back here. Open a window, man! Sitting next to him, there's another white dude who's trying to show the other guy something. Behind me, there's an Asian dude just sitting there; doing nothing. Sitting next to him is a black-haired, short, white girl who's reading something and giggling to herself. She looks nice, but the way she's giggling is actually kinda creepy. Maybe I'll just leave her alone.

Then I notice this pale, thin-looking white guy a few seats back. He's reading something on another iPad type thing. The dude's got this huge, metal box with 6 wheels; the box's got to be about 10 feet long, next to him. There are 3 other dudes with him; one next to him on the seat next to the window and two behind him. The white dude's wearing a black duster, with a black vest covered with pockets over a black shirt and black cargo pants, with black combats boots to boot. Weird. Is this guy going to a funeral? The other 3 dudes are wearing some kind of…armor, maybe? Other than that, they don't seem to have any clothes on. There are these weird symbols on each of their chests. One looks like a weird-looking 'a', another looks like a weird-looking 'b', the last dude has a weird-looking 'y'. All of them have these huge duffel bags. I plop down on the seat across from him and I try to get a look at what he's reading.

(Now what does the weird stranger think of this intrusion…)

Why is this person attempting to read my electronic book, while simultaneously obstructing my own view? This person appears to be a late adolescent Hispanic man, approximately 18-19 years old, with a brown skin colour. Regardless, it is still quite annoying.

"What're you reading, dude?" he asks.

"Saga of the Warring Planets, by Elizabeth Hollins-MacAlister." I respond.

"Oh. Never heard of it."

Silence follows that comment.

Then, "So what's with the box, man? Did you bring your fridge or something?" He asks.

"Absurd. Why in the world would I bring my refrigerator to a military facility? This is my Powered Armour Repair and Maintenance Unit Mark 1. This "box" is designed to maintain the powered exoskeleton within, as well as being able to repair all but the most extensive damage to the armor. This unit operates by-"

"Great! It's an awesome fridge. Dude, what's with your buddies? They robots or something?" Why is the Hispanic man not listening to the explanation he himself requested? He is truly a strange individual.

(Going back to Rick…)

Whoa. Now that I can get a closer look at this dude's buddies, they reallydon't look normal. Their heads look human...ish, but their faces have 1 big eye in the middle and 6 smaller ones around it. When they turn their heads, I can also see 4 more small eyes on the back. They also got weird legs and feet, like dinosaur legs and feet with those extra-jointed legs and 3 toed feet. Those dude's feet also have this weird-looking back toe that looks like it can fold into their legs when they're not using it. Actually, they kinda look like high heels from the side. And their hands have only 3 fingers and a thumb on them! They also got black skin with…I think metal plates on 'em. They look awesome. Like something from Star Wars.

"In response to your question, yes. They are Hoplite-class autonomous infantry droids I have developed. I have named them Alpha, Beta, and Gamma." Says the weirdo.

"Wait. Is that what the 'a', 'b', and 'y' mean?" I ask.

"Correct, though they are not 'a', 'b', and 'y'. They are the first three letters of the Greek alphabet." The weirdo answers.

"Cool, man. You built them? Nice. Hey, can they talk or something?" I ask.

"Affirmative." says Alpha.

"…" says(?) Beta.

"Yup." says Gamma.

"Yup?" I ask.

"Yup."

"Yup?"

"Yup."

"Yup…"

"Yup."

"…What are you two doing?" The weirdo asks.

"Eh, nothing. But seriously, what's with the 'yup'?" I ask the weirdo.

"Ah, yes. Gamma appears to have developed its personality faster than Alpha and Beta. However, its personality is neither what I expected nor what I intended."

"Too bad. I am here to stay." Gamma the robot says smugly.

"By the way, what in the world are you basing your personality on, Gamma?" The weirdo asks.

"…Stanley Laurel. But with more sarcasm and less clumsiness."

"… I am unaware to whom you may be referring to." Says the weirdo.

"Wait, I know this guy! Umm…Laurel and Hardy, right?"

"Correct. You get a cookie."

"Wooo!"…"Hey, where's my cookie?"

"…I still have not a clue as to who or what you two are referring too."

Wait, something's off here. "Why are there robots on the way to a Marine training camp? They didn't enlist or something, did they? Nah, what am I thinking? That's stupid."

"Actually, they did, in a sense." The weirdo says bluntly.

"What?!"

"I enlisted them in the United States Marine Corps online."

"Wait a minute! How can robots join the Marines? Don't you have to be human and 18 to join?" "According to current United States law, any US citizen at or above the age of 18 years old may enlist in the military. Alpha, Beta, and Gamma were all created in the United States, so they were technically "born" in the US; therefore, they are technically US citizens."

"…Well, yeah. But-" This is just getting weirder and weirder.

"However, you are correct in one regard. They are currently only 3 months old. I have had to register them as 18 years old on their registration forms."

"So you lied!?"

"Correct."

"What's all this noise!?" Holy shit! It's the drill dude!

"Ehhh, nothing! We're just, you know, chatting. Nothin' serious."

"Just keep it quiet, recruits!"

"Yessir, drill dude."

"What was that!?"

"I mean, yes sir."

…Whew! He's gone.

"So, dude, why the hell are you going to all this trouble just to get these guys into the Marines?" I ask the weirdo.

"Alpha, Beta, and Gamma are essentially robotic infantry designed for sustained combat operations with and without human presence. In order for them to achieve optimal performance, I need them to function like regular human infantry and to operate with said infantry. That is why I am having them go through basic training, in order to familiarize them with operating as a team with humans. After graduating from training, they will proceed to live combat situations and that will provide the best data to enhance their performance."

"Huh, I see." I think. "Wait, then why're you joining?"

"I have to accompany them. They will respond only to my commands. In addition, I wish to experience the life of a soldier as well."

"You? But, dude, look at yourself. You're totally pale and you're so thin, you could probably go through a spaghetti strainer. You probably stay home all day, right?"

"Yes, but-"

"No buts, man. There's no way you're gonna get through even the basic stuff. Look, I'll help you get through the training so you can look after your robots."

"But I do not require assis-"

"I said: "No buts" dude. Okay, we'll start with introductions. The name's Ricardo. Ricardo Rodríguez. But you can call me Rick for short."

"My name is Mikhail Aleksandrovich Alister Voroshilov. As I said though-"

"Ay! What a mouthful, man. Tell you what. I'll just call you Mike from now on, 'kay?"

"Please do not change my name as you please; and if you will just listen-"

"I do not believe Mr. Rick is listening. Perhaps his hearing is impaired?" says Alpha.

"…" Says Beta…or not.

"Somehow, I don't think so." SaysGamma.

"Mr. Rodríguez, listen to me. I am more than prepared-"

"Oh. We're here." I say as I see the…what was this place called again?