What About Bob?
“What about Bob?” asked Hemsworth.
“What about him?” replied Otto.
“Well, he seems to be the only one of these Nulls around. He was up all night, now he's out there helping with the clean-up. And the squad might go out tonight. How's Bob keeping up? It's not like he's a spring chicken.”
These were all interesting questions. Otto was too new to have pieced all this together, but clearly others in the squad had been puzzling this out. Back in his home state of Kentucky they indicated there were other Nulls in training. Given this was the front line, it would make sense there more Nulls here and a high risk to the operation if there was only one Null.
Debrief with Capt. Pheron after the assault on the base, Otto took advantage of both being new to Little Kentucky and his southern drawl. For some reason people think southerners are not all that bright. Southerners just do not let their mouth run faster than their thoughts. The Captain’s answers about Bob were as straight as a dog’s hind leg. The only thing Otto got out of him was that Bob was the only Null in these here parts.
That night the Smiling Jacks went into the miasma – now that was an experience. Whatever they showed trainees back in Kentucky, it didn't come close to what was really in The Zone. The air just stuck to ya – like a poor cousin on payday. Everything was twisted, distorted. Recognizable but not. Definitely not a cigar environment.
Otto and Bob were a team now – team Palindrome. Bob kept the electronic gear working, Otto kept Bob alive. Otto was on Bob like a tick on a dog. He was also in charge of the heavy weapons. Lugging all this gear had Otto wondering whether pack animals would work in here – miasma mules. Something for the eggheads to figure out.
The mission was a snatch and grab. The scouts out in front, team palindrome in the middle, providing cover if things went cattywampus. On an escarpment overlooking an enemy village Otto got his first close-up of weird barbarians on strange flying lions and others patrolling with elephant-sized beettles around the valley below. Something right out of them Suzerain books people used to play as games. And all was quiet until the next move was made - that night the platoon would go into the valley from their perch and scout the terrain, looking for an easy barbarian to snatch and bring back to base for interrogation.