Starship Troopers
breathing hard as we finished. He never led the exercises after that morning (we never saw him again before breakfast; rank hath its privileges), but he did that morning, and when it was over and we were all bushed, he led us at a trot to the mess tent, shouting at us the whole way to “Step it up! On the bounce! You’re dragging your tails!”
    We always trotted everywhere at Camp Arthur Currie. I never did find out who Currie was, but he must have been a trackman.
    Breckinridge was already in the mess tent, with a cast on his wrist but thumb and fingers showing. I heard him say, “Naw, just a greenstick fractchuh—ah’ve played a whole quahtuh with wuss. But you wait -- ah’ll fix him.”
    I had my doubts. Shujumi, maybe—but not that big ape. He simply didn’t know when he was outclassed. I disliked Zim from the first moment I laid eyes on him. But he had style.
    Breakfast was all right—all the meals were all right; there was none of that nonsense some boarding schools have of making your life miserable at the table. If you wanted to slump down and shovel it in with both hands, nobody bothered you -- which was good, as meals were practically the only time somebody wasn’t riding you. The menu for breakfast wasn’t anything like what I had been used to at home and the civilians that waited on us slapped the food around in a fashion that would have made Mother grow pale and leave for her room—but it was hot and it was plentiful and the cooking was okay if plain. I ate about four times what I normally do and washed it down with mug after mug of coffee with cream and lots of sugar—I would have eaten a shark without stopping to skin him.
    Jenkins showed up with Corporal Bronski behind him as I was starting on seconds. They stopped for a moment at a table where Zim was eating alone, then Jenkins slumped onto a vacant stool by mine. He looked mighty seedy-pale, exhausted, and his breath rasping. I said, “Here, let me pour you some coffee.”
    He shook his head.
    “You better eat,” I insisted. “Some scrambled eggs -- they’ll go down easily.”
    “Can’t eat. Oh, that dirty, dirty so-and-so.” He began cussing out Zim in a low, almost expressionless monotone. “All I asked him was to let me go lie down and skip breakfast. Bronski wouldn’t let me—said I had to see the company commander. So I did and I told him I was sick, I told him. He just felt my cheek and counted my pulse and told me sick call was nine o’clock. Wouldn’t let me go back to my tent. Oh, that rat! I’ll catch him on a dark night, I will.”
    I spooned out some eggs for him anyway and poured coffee. Presently he began to eat. Sergeant Zim got up to leave while most of us were still eating, and stopped by our table. “Jenkins.”
    “Uh? Yes, sir.”
    “At oh-nine-hundred muster for sick call and see the doctor.”
    Jenkins’ jaw muscles twitched. He answered slowly, “I don’t need any pills—sir. I’ll get by.”
    “Oh-nine-hundred. That’s an order.” He left.
    Jenkins started his monotonous chant again. Finally he slowed down, took a bite of eggs and said somewhat more loudly, “I can’t help wondering what kind of a mother produced that. I’d just like to have a look at her, that’s all. Did he ever have a mother?”
    It was a rhetorical question but it got answered. At the head of our table, several stools away, was one of the instructor-corporals. He had finished eating and was smoking and picking his teeth, simultaneously; he had evidently been listening. “Jenkins—“
    “Don’t you know about sergeants?”
    “Well . . . I’m learning.”
    “They don’t have mothers. Just ask any trained private.” He blew smoke toward us. “They reproduce by fission . . . like all bacteria.”

    And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many . . . Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return . .

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