TWO DAYS LATER [ELANOR PLUS SEVEN]
The area was quiet. Floodlights bathed the complex with synthetic light as sentries roamed back and forth on their patrols.
Colonel Sparek was nowhere to be seen but he was there, away from the enemy picquet’s sight. Behind a concrete wall he narrowly peered around the corner, anxious to not be seen but to take in what he was about to do. There was no way that he could just sneak by them all. At first glance he counted three but there were more inside the shell of a building, the only obstacle in the only path to his exit.
In the next moment, Sparek was gone.
He almost dove to the next piece of terrain. Just over it, a guard walked past. He waited until the telltale noise of the rebel was above him.
Sparek jumped up, punched his dagger into his throat and dragged him into cover. One down, he thought. Two more between here and the structure. The second was just as simple, tearing through him and loosing his pistol at the third with fluid, pre-thought motions.
Not enough time, rush it.
He took a chance with the doorway, just one instant of a view before he kicked it in.
One, two shots into a guard’s back. Three, four into the bastard at the table.
He sprinted up the only exit, the stairs, two at a time. A guard leapt at him and Sparek instinctively mashed its face with the point of his blade from the base of his fist. Five, six shots, seven, he threw his dagger at the furthest and placed his eighth shot into the last guard’s chest. He rushed to the rusting door before him and swung it open, taking a split-second’s care to pull his dagger free from the dead before placing a single foot over the hazard tape threshold.
A single klaxon sounded. “Time!” Sparek turned to look at the latest mess of cardboard cut-outs he’d just massacred.
“31.98! Captain Thompson of the 9th still holds the record!” bellowed Saethwyr, who’d taken up the timing after being jostled into it thanks to his deep voice. His announcement was met by a chorus of groans and some accusatory claims of botchery. Sparek could feel Clara’s gaze from where he stood. He tried to look up at her beyond the glare of the floodlights and into the peering black of the crowded viewing stands beyond it. There was a mass of murmuring around him – cheers and booing from those who bet for and against him.
The ranges at the medical site were built into the ground, purposefully so for the observation of recovering patients under rehabilitation.
Voldojo had ordered the present 9th onto the range before his appointed treatments and in doing so had caused Sparek and Clara treat it as sport. After seeing Sparek going through the range, Clara with a timepiece in hand, some infantrymen of the 32nd sparked competition. Now everybody was using it for sport. Some for profit through gambling.
A leaderboard had been raised from the whiteboard of a nearby ward. Someone, one Lt. Szandor of the 502nd, was a real contender with her consecutive tries battling others back and forth. Another, Drowun, a corporal of the same regiment, pushed down the positions two of the 32nd on his first try. Major Poole, an incredibly tall man with hair that came a few inches short of Sparek’s, was the main representative of the 32nd and a serious contender for the top three positions, once taking Sparek off of his second place. Utterson, one of the 9th, placed fourth in his third run before being called off to aid with the broken Spectre again. He was then knocked from his place by Saethwyr, who once again had taken to clubbing cardboard enemies with his rifle.
As far as the leaderboard went there was no end to the games – it wasn’t a certain amount of turns and see who wins. It was clear to everyone involved that it went on for as long as the entrants could run the course, and people made bets on who would make the run faster than those above them on the board.
So far none had beaten Clara’s time but for Sparek. Immediately afterwards her turn had come around and she’d beaten his time with seconds spare and now, after all the bets, the applauses and the outcry of some aggressive members of the airborne, she still went on unbeaten. Another round of contest and the captain’s time was being seen to be undefeated. The crowd was beginning to become bored with losing their credits and slowly they dripped away to their holdings.
Voldojo made his way through the crowd, pushing away those who stood in his way. He wasn’t objected to. Nobody there who had suffered his practice of medicine would dare to cross his path. Of those who hadn’t, they’d heard stories of him that downright scared some of them.
The sergeant-medic stood at the bottom of the stairs of where Clara and Sparek was departing the observation unit.
The conversation was brief. Voldojo wanted Sparek to attend his daily medical appointment. Sparek’s humour remained but he complied, deciding that the fun of the day had gone on for long enough. Voldojo took the reply with no emotion and turned for the medical unit in which he and Sparek held the examinations since their arrival from the Elanor operation.
Clara didn’t like the attention that she was receiving. A few other troops were trying to applaud her. One of them, with a cut jaw, shaven brow, pushed others aside.
“Cheater! Cheating bitch!” His face was red and his fatigues green. This one was in the 32nd. Clara didn’t know his name. She turned on him quickly.
“You think I swindled two dozen people?”
“You can’t be that good! You and that other 9th fucker! The one with the beard! Cheating, hustling bastards!” After his claim, some of the 32nd came forward through the small crowd. Medical staff stood watching. “You cheated, bitch!”
“Pathetic,” she said, and continued walking.
The 32nd member caught up to her quickly. “Don’t fucking turn your back on me after I lost so many credits! Cheeky bitches like you need to be taught a lesson!” He lurched out to grab her arm but the captain turned square to him.
By now all the present 32nd members but Major Poole had surrounded the moment. Nobody noticed that those of the 9th had surrounded them in turn, sensing the moment’s potential danger.
“Are you really a soldier or just a drunk that’s managed to stumble in? What are you? A cook? A skivvy?”
He riled. “Cooking is for the women! Do you cheat when you cook too? No wonder the rations here taste like ratmeat! You fucking whore!”
“Like I said: pathetic.” Clara waved her hand to dismiss him. “If you wanted a fight, then we should’ve met at the actual fucking course. Less paperwork for me to fill in after I break your fucking balls.”
“We’re gonna fuck you up, y’arrogant cunt!” He shouted. The seven men who stood around them took a few steps forward. “You won’t lose us money again!”
He stopped when his friends weren’t forthcoming. He looked around at them and it soon became clear why they’d stopped.
Behind each of them was another figure, dominating the cut jawed one’s comrades. The 9th Marines had their ways of holding them in place, although just knowing that they were marines held the 32nd in check for the most part – that’s not to say that some of them weren’t having a dagger held to the small of their backs.
The cut jawed officer took a moment to himself before replacing his view to Clara. His friends took a few steps back to give them space. Their faces were aghast and wide with surprise. The one without his camera’s face was red and raised a heavy paw to backhand Clara.
Clara was swift, bringing her own hand straight up into his throat before it came down. He immediately stopped. His hand instead turned to his throat and his face turned purple. The captain merely stood there, watching her action take its toll on his breathing. She looked around, scanning the faces of his comrades who were too busy being astonished by how quickly he was put down and bent over for coughing.
Now she could leave without issue. When she turned to do so she met eyes with Major Poole standing some metres off. He, like the lingering crowd, saw the entire thing.
“Word will get around. They won’t like you for that,” he mentioned on their departure from the range.
“I’m not here to be liked,” she hissed, still frustrated at the private’s lack of respect.
+ + +
– by Kier Sparey
© Kier Sparey 2015