A shade lay upon Sparek’s face, keeping the system’s sun away from his eyes. One of his arms were bent behind his head and the colonel’s tricorn lay crooked over his eyes.
His right arm was lying across his chest in a sling. His nose twitched as something spindly hovered around it. It roused him into moving his free arm to bat it away. That was no good – a creaking ache jolted through his shoulder and down his biceps. He snarled more at the wound than he did at the insect and resorted to batting the creature away with his hat.
The cause of his wounds were still fresh in his mind. Small flashes of the courthouse in Penan presented themselves almost instantly. Where his ballistic linothorax pauldron was irreparably damaged, his joint was still bruised despite the underarmour. The same arm was pulled out of its socket when Ezral had caught him from falling from the side of the building, and all that’s not to mention where the sniper’s laser cauterised a trench in his other arm’s flesh.
He didn’t remember half of the pains from back then but he remembered having the shrapnel being taken from his shoulder – how it was painstakingly extracted from beneath the bruise. Of course he’d been lucky, as were the rest of them back there, but he swatted away that cliche notion like the insect from moments ago.
The local sun was hanging low in the sky, and whilst the sky itself was coloured the soft yellow of a bruised fruit it threatened Demeter with inevitable darkness. There was no mistake that Demeter is a wounded world, cancerous with the civil war between Earth Union and the Mandate separationists.
Pulling his tricorn back onto his head by the fore corner, Sparek picked himself up, stretched, and sat up against the sectioned metal wall. It’ll rain soon, he thought.
Sparek had managed to settle himself earlier this afternoon in a little crook made by the large, olive drab industrial containers that the Earth Union military pack and unpack their bases and equipment in so many times, stacked upon each other for space and storage. Sparek had found a very practical spot amongst them that hid him away and provided a seating away from hassle. These particular ones were stacked toward the edge of their current base of operations, south of the capital of Highgate, and Sparek’s spot looked out over an expanse of synthetic woodlands that covered floodplains. The valley stretched out before him, heading south, the horizon arcing up into hills. Beyond that was the estuary, and near that was Penan.
He clenched his hands finger by finger, making his fingers click audibly. He instinctively reached out to where he’d remembered placing a small pack somewhere to his left, with his eyes catching up to it when he’d decided that he had had enough of the view. The pack was black, like his current fatigues, and was made of a hard wearing leather. The flap’s magnetic buckle had fallen off long since he’d acquired it, and he rummaged around inside.
A dulled tin with its corrugated exterior sprayed over in a worn stencilled text was pulled from the satchel. Sparek spun it around in his hand, finding the ring pull on top and the text’s heading. It read… something… something. He suddenly wish he’d grabbed something more legible in his escape from his desk.
This was a resting period for him and the rest of the marines who went out on the Elanor operation but he was still hassled by the paperwork wonders of the Union forces that chased him from nook to cranny when he had even the slightest of moments to himself. He had no time for sleep and little time to eat, which he ended up doing over the red tape whenever he had the chance – which often resulted in all manner of crumbs between keys – all the while going through medical checkups and the regular inoculations that became mandatory for interplanetary travel.
This was the second day after the events of Operation Elanor. Sparek had removed himself from the facilities of the medical installations and away from the eyes of those who’d give him more paperwork. The work had grown during his time in the field – other 9th Marines had their operations in Southern Thule, which resulted in reports and other items – both mundane and important – being sent directly to him. Not only were they to be acknowledged, in most cases he had to reply and forward some documents on to a higher command.
This workload demanded to be split with his XO, Clara, who is qualified to at least sign through the less important items.
He should probably check in with the captain. By some miracle she may not have broken some poor sap’s arm whilst he’d taken his abrupt, if elongated break.
First though will be his first uninterrupted meal since he’d gotten back from the operation. He pulled the ringtab on its top to activate the single-use heater at the canister’s base. He spoiled himself with another look at the view whilst he waited for the steam to vent away from the heat crystals in the base. He shook the tin, causing chaos with the steam.
Sparek cautioned a look at the contents. “noodles,” he said, to nobody, with no emotion. He shrugged before smiling; “it’s not horseradish.” It was not exactly the best meal to come out of the Union army.
He hummed, realising his mistake. “No fork.”
+ + +
It wasn’t long until Demeter had spun enough to give the illusion that the local sun had gone down, and a brittle shadow had fallen over the continent. Sparek had watched the sun crawl beneath the horizon from where he’d sat. Off there, in the distance, he knew that there would be someone had been fighting at some point in the last two days. Sparek estimated that the liberation had been successful in the time at least.
Coming in low over the treeline was a black dot. Sparek pulled a monocular from his pack and licked the remains of the meal from a molar cap.
Two Spectres, one in tail to the other, and something was wrong.
One was trailing smoke.
+ + +
– by Kier Sparey
© Kier Sparey 2015