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Title: Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye
Author: keerawa
Challenge: Written for spn_cinema. Inspired by all the things the movie 'Starship Troopers' never showed us.
Genre: Gen sci-fi AU
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 1,800
Notes: No knowledge of 'Starship Troopers' is needed to appreciate this fic. Title from the traditional Irish anti-war, anti-recruiting song. You might enjoy the punk version performed by the Dropkick Murphies. Thanks to my beta, Stevie, for pointing out the gaping holes in my first draft.
Dedication: Given that it's Mother's Day, I'd like to dedicate this piece to mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and every human being who does their best for their family.
Summary: One brother did everything his father asked. The other walked away. Today is the day they realize none of that matters anymore.

Dean jerked awake out of a sound sleep, feeling like someone had just called his name. He rolled out of bed, knife in hand, ready for anything.

The barracks was still in the grey pre-dawn light. Dad’s latest batch of recruits were sleeping like the dead. They’d collapsed into their racks just two hours ago after last night’s clusterfuck of an infiltration course.

Dean stashed the blade back under his pillow and scrubbed at his face. He normally felt a little ridiculous playing drill instructor, but these idiots really were the most pathetic bunch of apes he’d ever had the misfortune of training. He decided to give them another three hours to sleep, and then wake them up with an air horn.

Dean pulled on his jeans, boots, and a flannel before heading outside for a smoke. He was down to his last pack. If Dad didn’t get back in the next few days he’d need to head into the nearest town to stock up. Fog drifted along the ground, heavy with the scent of pine.

Dean nodded to the recruit standing fire watch. Jimenez was tall, skinny, and clutching his rifle like he thought Dean might snatch the weapon and club him over the head with it.

“Go on, catch some Z’s,” Dean told the kid. Yeah, he was the one who’d actually fallen in the lake, but it took an entire squad to screw the pooch that bad on an op. Jimenez scurried away without a word.

Something about the way he moved reminded Dean – before he woke up, he’d been dreaming about the night Sam left.

“So, Sam, you’re eighteen tomorrow,” Dean said over dinner, trying to break a week’s tense silence between Sam and Dad. “Got any special plans?”

Sam looked up from the plate where he’d been toying with limp greens and grade-D protein. “Yeah,” he said, baring his teeth in something that was no smile. “Thought I’d go down to the recruitment center in the morning and sign up for my term of service.”

Dean laughed nervously, trying to make it a joke. They both ignored him.

“No, you won’t,” Dad said dismissively. “You’ve got too much sense to join up with those jack-booted thugs.” Dad straightened his shoulders and launched into a speech. “When the revolution comes -”

“The revolution?” Sam interrupted. His chair scraped backwards across the cracked linoleum as he stood up. “I’ve been listening to your anti-government speeches for years, Dad. Hell, I’ve been writing them for you since I was twelve. And you’re right! The government is autocratic. The media’s pure propaganda. The childbirth restrictions are unfair, healthcare sucks for anyone who’s not a veteran, the planet’s wealth is being poured into subduing the colonies, and basic education is designed to funnel poor kids into the Mobile Infantry.”

Dad tried to speak.

Sam just kept going. “But you know what? You’ve been doing this for fifteen years. Making speeches, training ‘revolutionaries’ who’ll be back working minimum wage jobs in six months. Your militia isn’t a threat to the government. It’s not even a nuisance. It’s a safety valve! If I serve for two years, I’ll be a citizen. I can vote, go to college, maybe even go into politics. That’s the way to actually change things, not this, this…” Sam gestured at their barely edible dinner, the gun locker of ancient M-16s in the corner, the second-hand hardware they used to hack the data network.

Dad leaned across the table and snarled, “You think being a citizen will make a difference? We were citizens. Career Mobile Infantry. And your mother died choking on her own blood when those bastards opened the dome during the Martian food riots without even a 60 second evac warning.”

“Yeah,” Sam answered with equal heat. “I know the story. I’ve been playing the poor little orphan boy in it my whole life. I never even got to know Mary Winchester, and I am sick of her ruining my life!”

Dean winced. Sam and Dad had been arguing for years, but that was below the belt. Career path in the military didn’t leave much time for family, so he and Sam had been mostly raised by Uncle Bobby. Mom’s four-month leave, when she came home to give birth to Sam, was Dean’s happiest childhood memory. He remembered her golden hair, the fierce red and black of her tattoo, the way she’d swing him through the air and sing him to sleep at night, curled up against her big belly. Sam was too young to remember the couple of weeks leave that Mom and Dad had spent with them when he was a baby. So Sam never did know Mom. Not really. That just made his words hit harder.

Dad was speechless, brick-red with rage. Sam took the opportunity to walk into the bedroom. He emerged a few seconds later with his day pack. Sam was trying to keep it together, but Dean could tell that his brother was freaking out.

Dad stood up and took a single, threatening step towards him. Sam skittered towards the door.

“You walk out that door,” Dad said in a hoarse voice, “don’t you even think about coming back.”

Sam froze, biting his lip, poised between tears and anger. Dean could see the moment anger won. “Fine,” Sam said. “I won’t.” He turned, walked through the door, and was gone.

Dean stood up to go after Sam, to bring him back.

Dad jerked his head and barked a command, “Don’t.”

Dean sat down. Dad went back to eating, his fork clattering on the plate as he stabbed at his food. Dad finished his meal, hit the head and showered, and went to bed without saying a word. Dean stayed at the table, staring down at his plate as the gravy slowly congealed, waiting for the door to creak open and Sam to sneak back in with his tail between his legs.

Dean never saw his brother again.

That was how it really happened.

But this morning, in Dean’s dream, after Sam walked out Dad looked tired and sad. Worn out, like he’d gotten this past year. “I didn’t mean it,” Dad said. And it was some crazy dream, because there were tears in Dad’s eyes. John Winchester never cried. Never. “I just wanted to keep him safe. Go after him, Dean. Watch your brother’s back. He’s gonna need you.”

In the dream, it didn’t sound like an order from Dean’s Commanding Officer. It reminded him of how Dad sounded in the video letter he’d sent Mom when he was headed into a combat mission, asking Mom to give Dean a hug for him. Dean kept that recording saved on his phone. He hadn’t watched it in years, but he liked knowing it was there.

Dean lit a cigarette and settled down on a rock to watch the most intense sunrise he’d ever seen; electric orange and scarlet reaching up into a blue sky dotted with pink clouds. Something about it struck him as wrong, unnatural.

Dean’s phone rang. “Yeah,” he answered it gruffly.

“Dean?” They hadn’t spoken in almost two years, but Dean still recognized his brother’s voice. And it was almost two years, the required term of service, so Dean had to ask.

“Sam! Are you done? You coming home?”

“Home? No. No, I can’t.” Sam sounded tense, kind of choked-up.

“Look, if it’s about Dad, don’t worry about it. He won’t mind.”

That was maybe stretching the truth. Dad acted like Sam had defected to the enemy. He wouldn’t even use Sam’s name after he left – just called him, ‘that brother of yours.’ He’d moved the training base to Camp Chitaqua, changed their procedures and codes, even their phone numbers. Dean had told Uncle Bobby to give Sam his new number, if he asked.

Still, Dean was sure he could talk Dad around, especially given the dream he’d woken up from. Dean tested high on the psy scale. Nowhere near as high as Sam, but high. This morning’s dream meant something, he was sure of it.

There was a weird, awkward silence. Dean could feel the pressure of all the things Sam wasn’t saying.

“What do you know about the Arachnids?” Sam asked abruptly.

That was out of nowhere. “Uh, that bug species on the other side of the galaxy? I heard they slaughtered a group of Mormons that tried to set-up a colony in their territory a few months ago.”

“Yeah,” Sam said grimly. “They attacked Earth, Dean. Hurled an asteroid right at us. And I ... I had a vision of it hitting D.C., two hours before it happened. My rating’s off the charts and that’s all I got. Two fucking hours warning. They only removed ‘high-value’ military and government targets from the blast-zone. They said there was no point in even trying to evacuate the population.”

Dean took a deep breath. “Sam, Dad’s recruiting in Baltimore this week.”

“I know,” Sam said, so quiet Dean could hardly hear him.

“You gotta warn him!”

“I tried!” Sam said. “I swear, I tried. He wouldn’t answer his phone. I sent a squad to his location, and he dodged them. They barely made it out in time. I even tried to get my partner, Carl, to implant a suggestion, but the stubborn bastard has a head like a rock!”

“Fuck. Okay,” Dean said, running for his flier. Screw the pre-flight; he could be in the air in 90 seconds. “How long’ve I got?” No answer. “Sam? How long?”

“I knew you’d try to go in, as soon as I told you. Even if it was too late. I couldn’t … so I didn’t tell you.”

Dean stopped, hand out-stretched to open his flier’s hatch. Rested his forehead against her, instead.

“Impact was twenty minutes ago,” Sam said.

Twenty minutes ago Dean woke from a dream, feeling like someone was calling his name. Twenty minutes ago, Dad died.

Sam was still talking. “- at war, Dean. Humanity’s at war. They’re already planning a strike against the Arachnids. Look, we don’t have a lot of time. All the crap in the upper atmosphere will be affecting communications soon. Please, just say you’ll do it.”

“Do what?” asked Dean numbly.

“Report to Palo Alto.”

“The training center? You want me to go to boot camp?”

“Dude, I think you completed boot when you were ten. No, you need some specialized training. My intelligence unit will be going in with the first wave. And I want you on my team when we do. I’ve got this feeling that I’m going to need you there, watching my back.”

‘Go after him, Dean’, Dad had said in the dream. ‘Watch your brother’s back. He’s gonna need you.’

“Yeah, okay Sammy. I’ll be there tomorrow.” The connection disappeared in a hiss of static.

The Winchesters were going to war.


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 8th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
This was really tight, controlled and immediate. Very, very nice!
May. 8th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you, zagzagael! I worked to pull that off, so I'm pleased to hear it!
May. 8th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
I'm ashamed to say that I haven't seen Starship Troopers. However, this was so very well written, I didn't need any background. Different setting, but the boys were spot on character-wise. I also felt like I was right in the camp with Dean.

In a word: Awesome!

I'm going to have to friend you if you don't mind. I can't miss anymore of your stuff. I love it.

Thanks for sharing!
May. 8th, 2011 10:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks, dante_s_hell!

I'm really pleased that you felt you were in camp with Dean - I wrote almost nothing in the way of physical description, but I decided to keep it that way to keep the pace fast. So it's good to hear!

And, FYI, this fic is very, VERY different from the movie 'Starship Troopers'. It's set in the same world, and shares a few plot points.

Feel free to friend and defriend at a whim, it's all good! Ooh, and that means I get to read your porn, AWESOME!

Edited at 2011-05-08 10:21 pm (UTC)
May. 8th, 2011 10:57 pm (UTC)
:-) I hope the porn is to your liking. Lol!

Btw, I had download the song by the Dropkick Murphies. I love it!

*off to friend!*
May. 8th, 2011 11:23 pm (UTC)
Very nicely done!
May. 9th, 2011 12:52 am (UTC)
Thank you kindly!
May. 9th, 2011 02:31 am (UTC)
This was awesome!! It can definitely stand alone but it makes me wish for a sequel where perhaps John is not dead - just wounded/in a coma and still reached out a message to Dean. And seeing Dean and Sam reunited fighting the good fight side by side.

Have watched Starship Troopers and read the book and this was an excellent way to integrate the Winchesters in that verse. :-)
May. 9th, 2011 04:17 am (UTC)
Thank you, gypsy_atavari!

When I first thought about how I might write a cross-over, I realized that John was a veteran and would have been in the Mobile Infantry. But I couldn't picture him on the inside of society, and Mary's death pushed him even further outside than in canon.
May. 9th, 2011 08:00 pm (UTC)
God I hope you'll have more of this? I like the movie and your take on it is interesting.

So if you don't mind, I'll friend you to keep tabs!!
May. 10th, 2011 01:14 pm (UTC)
Hi angelhorny! Feel free to friend and de-friend at will, but I probably won't write a sequel. I enjoy reading military sci-fi, but I doubt that I'd write the Winchester's Arachnid Campaign.

If you haven't seen it, you might enjoy the anime series based on Starship Troopers, Roughnecks.
May. 10th, 2011 01:20 pm (UTC)

Oh well! but I'll still keep tabs on you.

But thanks for the link, I never knew they made an animated serie about the movie. I'm gonna watch it for sure.

May. 9th, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
This is exactly the kind of fic I was hoping to see from this challenge. You fit the Winchesters perfectly into the Starship Trooper verse, and I thought your characterizations of Dean and John made a lot of sense.
May. 10th, 2011 01:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much, inalasahl! It's an interesting paradox, in SPN, that Dean, the Good Son, follows his father into rebellion against normal society. I wanted to look at how that would play out in the Starship Troopers world.
May. 10th, 2011 12:17 am (UTC)
This was a great read! This world is sketched out very vividly in so few words. I could have read many chapters of this, it's all very thrilling and intriguing!
May. 10th, 2011 01:24 pm (UTC)
Brevity - it's how I roll. Thank you, sagetan, I'm glad you enjoyed it!
May. 10th, 2011 09:36 pm (UTC)
Awesome! Densely packed to cover the basics, emotions high without a big wordcount.
I kinda hated "Starship Troopers", but this here felt right, better than the original movie ever could. I fear for the Winchesters now, though.

Oh, and I love how Sam didn't tell Dean about their dad, even though it's not something to actually 'love'. It's a good point to describe his character without even doing it. *shakes hand*
May. 11th, 2011 06:18 am (UTC)
I'm fond of the movie, but I wrote this specifically to address some of those gaping holes in it! The Winchesters are walking into a nasty situation, and their own superiors are almost as dangerous as the Bugs.

Sam would totally do that. Thanks for calling it out, marlowe78!
May. 11th, 2011 12:40 am (UTC)
Oh wow, keerawa. Wow. Talk about a one-two punch. A wonderful blending of the two universe, and very true to both. Compact, not a word to spare, and I think that zagzagael's description of immediate fits the bill. Dean's knee-jerk reaction to join his brother made my breath catch. Thank you so much for this.
May. 11th, 2011 06:21 am (UTC)
*bounces excitedly* Thank you, riyku! I worked hard on the pacing.
May. 12th, 2011 03:06 am (UTC)
Oh wow, this is awesome! I don't know the movie at all, but I love this version of the Winchesters and their history and drama and angst.
May. 12th, 2011 04:35 am (UTC)
Thank you! The canonical way that Dean, in following his father, rebels against main-stream society while Sam does the opposite, fascinates me, and I wanted to look at it in this context. What a perfect icon you've chosen for the occasion!
May. 15th, 2011 12:34 am (UTC)
I keep looking for the link to the next post, just 'cause I really want to read more.

Really nicely done, atmospheric and tense.

Honestly, I like this a lot better than the movie :)
May. 17th, 2011 02:29 am (UTC)
Thank you, cordelia_gray! I love hard sci-fi, but emotional dramas are more to my taste an author, so that's how I bent the source material. If YOU should feel inspired to write the Winchester's Arachnid Campaign, where their own superiors are as much a threat as the Bugs, feel free!
May. 16th, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC)
I never watched the movie, but it's crazy how visceral and awesome this was. It made me want it to be the beginning of an epic story about what happens next... &hearts
May. 17th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
Thank you, debbie66! This is very, very different from teh movie. I'm glad it hit you that way - I worked hard on the pacing. I'm not ambitious to write the full story. I just like to tempt people to think about what could happen!
May. 16th, 2011 09:22 pm (UTC)
This is really, really fantastic! It's compact, but super effective and it's a beautiful fusion of the two verses. I can see a whole 'verse spiraling out from 1800 words - awesome job!
May. 17th, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
Brevity. It's how I roll.

The two canons have a very different energy - 'Starship Troopers' shiny, true-blue heroes don't fit well with all the dark roads Sam and Dean have walked while trying to do the right thing. But that just makes me want to drag the movie down into the angst and dirty it up some. Because, really, shouldn't every war epic be about the incredible and terrible things humans get up to when deep in the blood and the mud?

Thank you, cantarina1!
May. 17th, 2011 04:01 am (UTC)
I've loved a lot of your SPN fic (and hopefully left comments accordingly), regardless of length :)

'Starship Troopers' shiny, true-blue heroes don't fit well with all the dark roads Sam and Dean have walked while trying to do the right thing.
The book actually manages a grittier, more middle road really well. It's actually pretty unrelated to the movie; very, very different products. I've read the book more recently than I've seen the movie though, so it's what comes to mind first and I don't really think that the story does it any disservice either.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )