Another Day in the Pits
By Franklin Perry
“Another day, another 50 zergling hides to haul off to the Pits,” thinks Barney Rhodes as he initializes the morning startup sequence for his SCV. The “Pits” are what Barney Rhodes and the rest of the Terran Dominion’s SCV Corps call the facilities where slaughtered zerg are brought for disposal. True to their name, the Pits are more or fewer craters made from Battlecruiser or Siege Tank bombardment, and once filled with zerg can be incinerated by a demo team. Earlier that week, an aggressive Terran push into the creep-soaked canyons of the Thralian Moon left over 3,000 charred, nuked and utterly mutilated zerg carcasses for Barney’s outfit to clean up. Barney will be making his 32nd trip to the Pits this week and can only look forward to more as his outfit penetrates deeper into zerg territory. Barney’s job was to make the Pits full the only way possible: pick up, carry, dump, return, repeat. The monotony of the job paired with the indescribably disgusting, rancid and vile decaying of zerg bodies sent 3 of his fellow SCV pilots assigned to the Pits straight to the infirmary from trauma-induced vomiting and nervous breakdowns.
Barney Rhodes, Class-B certified SCV pilot, has been in the employ of the Terran Dominion military since he was pulled off of his Bhrexian family’s civilian prospector business during the so-called Brood War. Just out of high school, Barney and the rest of his peers in his native Planera would be sent far from home with no idea when or if he would return. Initially assigned to crystal harvesting, then construction, and after that vehicle repair and chop-shop duty, Barney eventually became a permanent addition to the 101st Marauder Battalion, Fido Company’s designated Pits Duty SCV jockey. He was a garbage man for a battalion whose resume includes tours on 10 zerg-infested systems, and 35 glow zones and only required Battlecruiser support twice. The battalion was also known for intentionally endangering the lives of its SCV pilots and Barney brushed with death more times than he would like to have a chance to.
In spite of the undesirable aspects of Pits Duty, or PD, for Barney Rhodes, it actually has made his life with the 101st relatively relaxing as it is probably the safest job of any SCV jockey in this part of space. After a position has been cleared and secured, the PDs clear the way for new structures and material to be brought up to supply the advance of the frontline forces – in a sense, his work is key to the logistical health of the battalion – and for this, he was proud of, at least as proud as he could be cleaning up someone else’s mess.
As the Thralian sunrise bathed the Pits in red light, Barney’s SCV’s cockpit com speaker sizzled to life, “Testin’! Testin’! One, two, four! PD Alpha-One to PD Alpha-Two, read me if you see me! This sure beats the helloutta crystal pickin’ under fire don’t it?!” “PD Alpha-Two, reads you Five-by-Five! And right you are, Gums!” returned Barney in acknowledgment. Gums Manson was the only other SCV jockey that understood the importance and pride of being assigned to PD, and survived just as long as Barney despite the battalion’s antics. Also, because like Barney Gums wasn’t one of the 3 recruits to be taken off active duty due to “PD Syndrome” and also because both Barney’s and Gums’ parents were prospectors, they had a lot in common and they quickly became friends.
It was the seventh and final PD haul of the day that changed all that forever.
“…(crack)…(shhh)…(zap)…wirrrr…” Barney’s com receiver whined. “Gums! We got any newbies joinin’ us today?” Gums replied, “Not on the roster — why ya askin’?”
“Seems we got someone out here b’sides us! An’ they got no clue how’s to work the com!” replied Barney. “I’m gon’ git to higher ground t’see if someone’s wandering where they ain’t suppose to. Will you be a’right here by yer’ lonesome?”
Gums’ reply, littered with static cracked out “Ro(shh)ger that!…(crackle)…don’t take too long now, ya hear? We still gotta slice up that Ultralisk’er ‘fore we head back!” “Alpha-2 copies! Be back ‘fore you can say Mengsk’s momma wears army boots! O’er n’ out!” reassured Barney. Gums’ chuckle echoed on the speaker as Barney punched in the coordinates of a summit 1.5 klicks just outside of the canyons.
Halfway to his destination, Barney’s cockpit was again filled with static sizzling over the com. “There definitely be somethin’ out ‘ere b’sides us,” thought Barney as his proximity-destination HUD approached 1.2 km.
Five minutes later Barney Rhodes, pilot of PD SCV Alpha-two reached the summit. Clouds of Tharlian moondust, charred earth and zerging scales blew all around him in great gusts as the summit ended in a steep drop-off overlooking the PD zone installation. The blasts from the 101st Marauder Battalion’s tactical nukes signalling new pushes into the local zerg hive cluster can be seen in the distance, with mushrooming clouds still thick as Cirian plankton plumes in its biannual summer. Barney flipped every switch he could recognize and soon every piece of surveillance equipment his SCV had – acoustic detectors, CT analyzers and a few others he had no clue as to what they were meant for – all sprang to life with startling activity. There were so many instruments flickering with screen after screen of frequencies and dynamic real-time graphs that the inside of his SCV was not unlike a Tarsonian Night Club on the Emperor’s birthday.
The beauty of the SCV was its cheap cost but extreme versatility. It was designed to withstand the worst terrain known to humanity and needn’t anything more than a Vulture license to operate, which led to its appeal among private prospectors, mass-miner guilds and even the most powerful of Terran military factions throughout the Koprulu sector. In Barney’s SCV he included a state-of-the-art suite of finely tuned instruments that would get him the most work done in the least amount of discomfort. Each instrument’s display showed data about the immediate five kilometer area of the SCV, which included substance identification, topical elevation mapping, radar and subterranean footprints, air density and radiation samplers. From what Barney could tell, everything was peachy – no anomalies detected and definitely no one else out there.
Barney caught himself in thought at that instance. “No one else?”
“Alpha-Two to Alpha-One, I’ve reached my coordinates. I’ve completed my prelim’nary contact scan and soon about to be goin’ blind.” Expecting to hear Gums’ chuckle over the com, there was only silence. Barney went to full strength active search-and-receive. Nothing.
“Gums! You copy?!” Barney repeated. Still nothing. Not so much as a squeak on the com, and nothing new was detected upon reaching the summit.
“Dammit, now I’ve lost contact with Gums,” thought Barney, but he continued following standard SCV scouting protocol and speaking to no one in particular, “Alpha-Two here. I think my instruments ‘r broke! Switchin’ to visual confirmation!” Barney nervously waited for some acknowledgment from Gums, but when none came, he proceeded to power down his SCV’s surveillance suite. The HUDs and viewers blinked off one by one and once again Barney came to recognize the scorched terrain of the once peach colored soil of the Thralian Moon.
The summit where Barney’s SCV now stood upon overlooked a ten kilometers-wide ravine which was designated the perfect venue for Pits Duty. Barney started to pivot his SCV 180-degrees in order to get an eyeful of the ravine where he and Gums were working, as well as position him on a return vector.
Barney’s SCV was about-faced and was met by a whirlwind of local moondust, blanketing his canopy and blinding him for a half-second. Another half-second later, Barney’s SCV was about-faced again, but this time a blood-curdling scream echoed from the cockpit and tumbled into the ravine below. The last thoughts to race through Barney’s head before disappearing into the depths of the Thralian Moon were of his family back on Bhrexia and how they might never discover what happened to their son.
Rolling slowly and stopping at the summit’s lethal edge, Gums Manson’s SCV moaned and idled. Its canopy drenching with condensation and steam sprung open and the atmosphere of the Thralian Moon flowed in.
“The Queen commanded it,” gurgled from Gums’ slashed and irrelevant jugular, past his newly split and agape mandible with a sound that would make any grown Terran man vomit. A pair of spindly limbs freshly burst from his inflated and hollowed rib cage assisted his exit from the SCV cockpit onto the moon’s surface.
Now standing where his “partner” once did, Gums gazes beyond the ravine towards what used to be the front lines of the 101st Maruaders, now in full and futile retreat from their sporadic advance into the heart of zerg territory just hours prior. Once billowing clouds of the detonated Terran nuclear munitions seemed to dissipate and dissolve into millions of airborne zerg of all types and strains. Gums thought, grinning as only an infested Terran zerg could possibly grin having no longer any lips, “From the Swarm, there will be no escape by land or by the sky, lest one finds salvation in the half-filled Pits of my own handiwork.”
So ended the Terran advance on the Thralian Moon and so ended another day in the life of the infested-Terran Gums Manson as he disposed of a disposer-of-zerg. The one thread of human curiosity left inside him ponders what the next day will bring. Perhaps the Queen will assign him a new task in the game of slaughter and genocide against the Terran menace.