Chapter 1

No one who works in waste management, at least at the bottom of the enterprise, ever expected to see any of the technology that has been making its appearance since the space aliens contacted Earth and started recruiting folks to fight for them. In a way, it's good for them (the aliens) that Earth just happens to be in the center of the advance of the creatures they call the Sa'arm 'cause otherwise we'd have told them to shove off and fight their own damn fights.

But we're pretty much in the gun-sights as it were for the Sa'arm and so we've been steadily supplying soldiers and women to make sure that there are some belligerents left (besides the Sa'arm) in the universe. After all, humanity has no intention of being Sa'arm kibble under any circumstances (though to be honest all us pukes who haul garbage will probably end up that way when the Sa'arm get here) if they can help it.

Me, ol' Joe Giovanni, I been drivin' a trash truck longer'n I like to think about it an' I know I got zero chance of bein' picked up. I mean an ol' broken down garbage trucker ain't gonna be able to compete with some college or even high school hardbody if some gal were lookin' for someone to take along as a stud. 'Sides in most cases I have the attitude of 'wimin an' children first', an' the only reason I see for sendin' so'diers out is 'cause we'd best learn to fight them Sa'arm critters 'fore they gets to Earth. So I just kept on mindin' my own damn business an' picked up a couple o' pistols an' some other stuff that will go boom if'n I buy the farm. I ain't carryin' that o' course, at least not until I get sent out to the front lines (like everyone will be) when them critters gets close to where they live.

Anyway, just as I thought, nothing much changed for the first year or so after the Average Joe TV show an' the President's speech about them Sa'arm things. I mean the President said they would take ten years to get here, but that we were sending off so'diers to see if we couldn't slow 'em down a bit. So that meant that until they landed there would be garbage to be hauled an' me, haulin' garbage was my job.

There's nothing exciting about hauling trash. Hell no one is ever gonna try to mug a garbage man! I mean really! It ain't 'cause we're so special. Oh no! We're the untouchables in any society. We always have been an' I suppose we always will be. At least that's what I thought up until the end o' the third year after the President's speech. I never imagined that there could be anything in garbage that anyone would want. Then one day a semi rolled in with what looked like a sea-land shipping container on it. I was just getting off work when it stopped near the area where the pit really starts to spread out so that there was plenty of room.

That's when I found out that that weren't no shipping container. No sirree Bob! About the time that a couple o' the big wigs got that thing where they wanted it, it put out legs at each corner and lifted itself offa that truck! Then that semi drove off an' that box lowered itself down on the ground an' started to unfold.

My shift super, Johnny Samson, caught me as I was watching that whatever do its thing an' he said, "We'll be dumpin' there Joe," an' he pointed to what looked like a sorta flattish bin that had unfolded from one side o' that contraption.

"Th' loader an' dozer operators ain't gonna like that boss," I opined.

"They still have their jobs. I expect if this replicator does what we've been told it will do then everyone will get a raise. Not that that is gonna be meaningful for much longer."

I knew that the other guys wouldn't like being out of a job even if they got to sit around and watch porn. The only way the guys would like that was if they thought that watching porno amounted to stealing. I didn't know how to express that in any way other than what I'd told Johnny. I don't understand why they feel that way but they do an' I suspect that's why most o' 'em ain't got a CAP score much better'n my dog Sheba. If'n ya judge by loyalty then my dog would have a fair CAP score an' that ain't all. Sheba is about th' brightest dog I ever did see.

Anyway I thought about all that an' then said, "Boss it ain't gonna matter. Them boys (I call all men as are twenty years younger'n me boys an' I guess I included the women as pushed a couple o' our dozers in that designation too) is gonna see it as the end o' their job."

"It really ain't though; the fact is that we'll probably be pickin' up overtime an' even another shift if'n that replicator does what the birdies, them's the friendly space aliens what tol' us as we was gonna have them swarmmy things knockin' down our door, told us is true. 'Sides they ain't been tol' yet but we're all gonna be starting up doin' drills with rifles an' that sort of thing so's we can help out with bein' ready to fight with them swarmmy things when they get here. An' accordin' to the new law the congress passed, they ain't got no choice 'bout that."

"I ain't heard nothin' like that, boss," I said, wondering just what sort of stupid shit that the gummemup had come up with this time.

"It just come down this mornin' in th' meetin' that they called me up to with the mucky-mucks from the head office," Johnny said, "I don't think anyone even knew that they was gonna do some shit like declare that everyone has to train to fight now."

"There's gonna be a riot over that somewhere, boss," I said. Shit the government (or as I often thought of them The gum-em-up) would be lucky if there wasn't a lot more'n a riot over shit like that. I knew that no matter how good that idea was, folks just wouldn't accept that we was gonna end up a military state something like Sparta in the ancient world if we was gonna have any chance of beating the swarm.

O' course I expect there's gonna be a bunch o' people who find out the hard way that there won't be any messing 'round with fools who don't get with th' program. An' like as not what got passed yesterday wouldn't get really implemented 'til the swarmmies was so firmly entrenched that we'd be lucky to get rid of them with a planet busting bomb ... I was about through thinking that when Johnny said, "Maybe they'll riot this time, but it's gonna be up to guys like you 'n' me to keep the body count down."

"Me?" I asked.

"Don't you be bullshittin' me, Joe Giovanni," Johnny said, "I know your cousin Vito. An' if Vito says someone's done seen the elephant I believe him."

That set me back some, 'cause Vito was a made man with the local mob so far as I knew. An' I didn't know that Johnny was anything more'n a bit player like me. I'd taken up driving garbage trucks as th' mob (some o' 'em as was my cousins both far an' near) ran th' local union. So when I'd done my couple o' years in the army to get outta th' 'hood, then I'd come back ta town an' asked my uncle Giancarlo if there might be something that wouldn't get me in the joint. He pointed me at driving a garbage truck an' I never looked back.

"I did six in the army myself," Johnny reminded me, "an' I can read a personnel file with the best of clerks. You did most of three on a two year tour an' got out as a sergeant with more black time in your file than I've seen in some as had done twenty," he said flatly. "So you can handle yourself in a pinch, an' you know which end o' a gun is th' business end. What I'm wonderin' is this: Can you lead men or was that stripe 'cause you was damn nearly as good as Vito thinks he is at eliminatin' problems?"

Now Vito's a careful man, an' he's a fixer o' problems that require a corpse, as I'd learned from what my uncle Giancarlo an' my dad told me. My dad was a lot like me though, rather than like Vito or Giancarlo. That is, he didn't want to be in the thick o' things so far as the mob is concerned. So he got a mostly legit job in some mob controlled union an' up an' married my mom who was the daughter o' a fellow who had a fair-sized farm at the edge of town. My parents settled down on about twenty acres o' that farm an' took up the hobby o' raising me an' my fifteen sibs. I didn't know how Johnny had gotten a peek at my 201 file from the army, but he was right. I had a dead eye with a rifle of any sort (I suppose 'cause my granddad, my mother's father drilled me with a rifle from th' time I could hold both ends of a rifle offa th' ground) an' I had a knack for making myself mighty invisible as well. Anyway, that added up to me goin' to sniper school in th' army an' then I got to go places an' make problems disappear for Uncle Sugar for a while. Now that ain't a habit that Uncle Sugar has too much of an' it was definitely something I had no taste for. Anyway, what I was thinking was that if Vito told Johnny that I was a warrior rather than just an' old broken down garbage man then he might do more'n put the arm on me to make people sit still an' listen to reason about drilling with rifles an' what not to learn to shoot for when them swarmmy things arrived on Earth.

Very carefully I asked Johnny, "What exactly, do you want me to do? I ain't no spring chicken ya know."

"The crew respects you, Joe. Probably more'n they respect the shop steward or me in some ways. You're steady, an' you been here almost long enough to be the granddaddy to some o' the young pups on the crew. An' they know that th' capos an' enforcers leave you alone, which says you got respect in th' 'hood even if you don't live there. Just tell 'em that their jobs are stayin' an' that the best thing they can do is to work hard at trainin' with the weapons an' in th' tactics we're gonna be learnin'."

I could do that, though I was certain it would fall flatter'n cow flop. Still I said, "I'll do that Johnny. But I doubt it will keep the hot heads from makin' a stink."

"What they don't know is that we've been bought out by the Confederacy. An' the governor won't even blink if they go missin'," Johnny said.

"An' the feds?" I asked.

"Will count them as transported by the Confederacy."


"Everyone's bein' tol' to be here twenty minutes early for a meetin' tomorrow," Johnny said, "I want you to come heeled an' ready to help pour oil on the water if we can keep a fire from starting."

"Shit!" I exclaimed again. A pistol or even two probably wouldn't keep th' apes who worked here offa me if'n they were intent on causin' me harm.

"We ain't gonna tell the rank an' file that the company's been bought by the Confederacy. Just that we're not gonna be buryin' trash 'cause we're running it through that there replicator to save space here."

"An' they'll be sure that that means their jobs is gone," I said.

"Well they are when them swarmmy things gets here."

"Shit! Don't say that where them boys can hear you," I said. "They want to hide their heads in the sand 'til they have to admit that there's danger 'round."

"You know what they say about someone with their head in the sand don't you?" Johnny asked.

I nodded my head and watched as a foreign kingpin dump truck full of what looked like used tires started to back in to drop its load into the bin that had unfolded from the alien machine that Johnny was calling a replicator. Johnny said, "If someone's got their head in the sand it just puts their asses up for easier fucking."

I laughed a bit at that lame joke and watched as those tires hit the bottom of that bin. Evidently there was a conveyer of some sort there as they started to move toward an opening in the side of the replicator. That kingpin dump wouldn't even have to move I realized as another one full of what looked like a demolished building or the like backed in next to it and began to drop its load too.

Johnny's next conversational topic seemed to be from the left field when he asked, "Joe, your place is pretty isolated isn't it?"

I nodded though Johnny's question seemed mostly rhetorical.

"I'm wonderin' if you'd like t' go t' the stars?" Johnny asked.

"That ain't likely to happen," I said.

"Look Joe," Johnny said, "nobody knows this an' I don't want 'em t' know it. The thin' is I've got six slots t' fill. Now them birdies might be able t' make me into superman for all I know, but it seems t' me that takin' six women t' be my concubines is gonna have me so busy layin' pipe that nothin' else will get accomplished. Part o' the deal that was struck t' get this bit o' Confederacy tech," he waved at the replicator, "was that eventually everyone in the company who is qualified t' go upstairs will, not maybe mind, but will go. I don't have a time line on that, but I thought that if I offered t' take you as a backstop an' stashed my girls at your place, it might be possible that I'd get snuck out in the middle o' the night 'cause your place is so out o' sight."

I've got a kink that I really didn't want Johnny, or especially women to know about. But the lure of going to the stars after most of the sci-fi authors had given it up was enough for me to say, "Johnny, I don't want to tell you no, but before I say yes maybe you ought to stop by an' we'll have a private talk."

"Most anything goes with me so long as you ain't wanting a piece o' my pipe, or if you're into guys' assholes, an even that can be accommodated, just not by me," Johnny said, "Th' only other thing that might cause a problem is if you got short eyes. But I think the family would have called a mechanic over that, even if you don't deal at the level I do."

I doubted that my kink would be overlooked by the Confederacy an' said, "Still, I'd rather you come alone an' talk to me. Maybe Saturday?"

"Sooner is better," Johnny said, "I'll come by about an hour after work tomorrow."

I could see that Johnny wasn't takin' no for an answer on that an' said, "Gimme two hours, or two an' a half?"

Johnny looked at his watch an' said, "What? About 7ish?"

I considered an' said, "No earlier than that, an' alone OK?"

While we'd been talking, another kingpin dump had arrived and started dropping what looked to be appliances. That replicator machine just swallowed them like it had the other two truckloads an' I just had to say something about it. "Johnny," I said, pointing to the appliances that were moving toward the maw of the replicator, "ain't that shit no one wants?"

"That's th' beauty o' a replicator," Johnny said, "it can take most anythin' an' turn it back t' raw material."

"Shit! That's wild," I exclaimed.

"Yeah? What do you think the guys will say when we tell them that they can have up t' ten gallons of gas or diesel a week free if they stay quiet?"

"Shit! That just might buy most of them off!"

Johnny grinned like a shark an' said, "That ain't hard and fast, there could be more available under special circumstances."

"Gold 'n' silver'd be better on the pay end, I think if'n the bigwigs won't have a cow," I said.

"Well we could stand here an' talk all night about what this is gonna mean to us," Johnny said, "but you obviously have something you want to take care of before I show up at your place, an' I need to get on home too. So unless I see you before seven tomorrow I'll see you then."

For the rest of this story, you need to Log In or Register