“Show time, ya miserable chunks of coprolite!” barked a rumbling voice. “Hands off yer rocks, feet in yer socks!”
The harsh crackle and buzz of the lights snapped on, flooding the barracks in flickering phosphorescents. Grudek groaned in unison with his squadmates, swinging his feet to the humming metal floor and running a hand over his jutting chin. Stubbly. He’d need to sand himself soon.
He blinked at the woman in the doorway. “What, no breakfast, sarge?”
“Cut the schist, corporal!” Sergeant Straga surveyed the room full of groggy enlisted sentients, rousing themselves to action. “Awright, rockworms! Sit rep: advanced settlement squads down on that big blue mudball Nexus have run into a little infestation problem.”
Another groan rose up, louder. “Another bughunt, sarge?” asked Private Feldspar from the bunk next to Grudek’s.
“Mebbe more o’ dem little chompy things?” chimed in someone from across the room.
“Nope, I brought you the good stuff this time, little pebbles. Strap on your big boulder pants and take a look at this.” Straga punched the holodisplay by the door, and it coughed to life, belching out a flickering blue projection of an aerial view pockmarked with troop placements. The squad peered at the map while strapping on gear.
“Kneebenders!” crowed Straga, and the squad cheered. “Crumblin’ Dommies tried sneakin’ up on solid honest Exile folks, earned themselves one good old-fashioned slaggin’.”
Grudek slapped the clasps on his armor closed, grinning as the pneumatics hissed into place, and hefted his rifle. “We droppin’ in hot, sarge?”
“You know any other way, chalkbrain?” Straga stalked over to Grudek, grinning, and jabbed a finger into his chest. “It’s a granok’s life in FCON!”
“Uh…” a piping voice drifted over from beside one of the smaller bunks. “We ain’t all gran--”
“Shut yer food hole, skintube!” roared Straga, whirling around. “Ya got Stonebreaker’s face stitched onto yer shoulder, yer a granok to me! You got me, Private?”
The aurin private straightened up, ears back, and saluted sharply. “Ma’am! Yes ma’am!”
“Good! We’re already late for the dance, you sodden bits of detritus!” Straga turned and chopped her hands towards the exterior hallway, where klaxons began shrieking and lights pulsed. “Get yer fundaments in those droppods, double-time! I’ll kick the last one there down into re-entry myself! Go go go!”
With a full-throated cheer, the squad took off out of the barracks towards the pod bay, boots smashing down on the plate flooring in a thunderous avalanche. As they ran, Grudek grabbed a can of beer from the bandoleer at his waist with his free hand, popping the tab with a rough edge of his thumb.
He slugged back half the can in one gulp as he ran. He hadn’t been up five minutes, and he was rushing fullspeed towards an orbital drop into an active combat zone, rifle in one hand, lukewarm breakfast beer in the other.
He grinned. Some days, the mornings were just perfect.