Author: Jaryd Porter

“What’s the damage?” I asked.
Snafu used a couple of car jacks to keep the tank suspended, while she removed the treads. She’d removed her combat armor and left it lying in the loose grit around us.
“Most of everything’s fine, honestly,” she said. Her enormous biceps flexed and glistened in the desert sun. She chewed on a rawhide like a cheap cigar. Of the five of us, only Snafu qualified as a combat mechanic. Only she could fix our light tank and mend the plating after small arms fire. That made her our most essential crew member–the tank doctor.
“What was the grinding sound, then? The actuator? Serpentine?” I guessed. The others played cards in the dirt and drank warm beer, disinterested in the repair job.
Snafu pulled the right tread off of the tank like I pulled off a shirt–the tread had to be half of a ton alone.
“White, it’s just a freakin’ bolt that’s warped. I can work a little magic and have us up and rolling in minutes,” Snafu said. “Just keep your pants on about it.” She smiled, her teeth all thick canine teeth and her eyes serpentine and golden.
“You know, Snafu, the penalty for desertion is death?” I said. “Out here in the Wasteland, I don’t know if we’d even go to a tribunal or court. He might really just shoot us dead. Five mutants recruited from the middle of nowhere.”
“I’d rather get shot by Captain Jerrund than sit through court, anyway. Bite the bullet, if you will,” she said. “If he just shoots us, my parents won’t see this headline: ‘Deserting Mutants Executed on Sight, a Pillar Officer Keeps His Word.’ Then there’s just a picture of my body mangled and riddled full of lead.”
“Morbid, isn’t it?” I said.
“People don’t value human life on this planet. There’s too many of us, we’ve got clones, mutants, and aliens. Plus, consumption is in fashion and some of the geezers in the big city live forever. So…maybe we do value human life. Monetarily. If you don’t have the sum to cover your cost, you get eaten alive,” Snafu said.
She squatted low and pulled her giant monkey wrench out of the loose dirt. The powdery red grains soared into the air, uncovering her wrench’s polished silver. The wrench was longer than she was tall and probably more than my body weight. Snafu slung it over her shoulder with ease and began to adjust her spanner. Robot mechanics or a military grade automatic wrench was typically required to make the sorts of repairs that Snafu did, but she liked to show off too much.
She cranked the wrench patiently. The bolt, about the size of my chest cavity, dropped into the dust with a resounding thud. It looked like any old bolt, but almost a full foot in circumference. It was more of a boulder than a bolt, to me.
“It’s…warped?” I scoffed.
She grabbed a blowtorch and heated the massive bolt until it burned red hot. She beat it with her wrench repeatedly. I couldn’t see any visible difference between when the banging started and when it ended, but she smiled at the bolt and left it to cool off.
“Good as new?” I asked.
“With all those millimeter machining defects, White Flag, ‘fixed’ is always better than ‘new’,” she said. “Broken things need a little love and care, you know. Better than new.”
I couldn’t help but think she meant us mutants, not the bolt for the treads.