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Soldier Girl Part 12: Improbabilities
Posted By: Adam Stark<Xvash2@gmail.com>
Date: 25 December 2009, 7:53 am

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Part 12: Improbabilities

      Scrubbed air now occupied the compartment of the D-77TC Pelican designated Golf Four-Two. Inside a marine was on his knees, hastily trying to scrub the blood stains off of the deck. That dark red, almost maroon grit that could not be brushed away plagued a majority of the plates, remnants of the crimson fluid still present in a few of the corners. The marine gave up, the cleaning solvent clearly incapable of wiping away the grime and residue of the human body. He grabbed a short broom and finished sweeping out the spent casings, the brass cartridges clacking on the floor below as they dropped off the back. He set the broom aside and grabbed the lone ammo drum occupying a seat to his left. He disengaged the empty drum from the M247 mounted on the roof of the compartment and tossed it aside, locking in the fresh one underneath the weapon. Collecting the items, he exited the rear of the vehicle, stashing away the cleaning materials in the maintenance closet and depositing the empty drum into a bin for discarded magazines and ammo containers. He looked back at the bird for a moment, noting the pockmarks scattering the bird. Each one simply equated to more words on a damage report.

      There was a surgery bay on the ship, only recently sterilized. The flash-cloning system was still cooling down, the floors scrubbed clean of blood, any and all drops mopped up in haste. Utensils were still disorganized, freshly cleaned, while some stands and chairs had been knocked over by previous occupants of the room. A hazardous waste bin was filled, cloth soaked with blood, empty transfusion packs that had been drained of every last ounce.

      In the Recovery Ward, few beds were occupied. Hers had a curtain drawn around it, as several machines kept her alive for the time being. A row of medals lined her pillow. Purple Heart, Navy Cross, United Nations Defense Service Medal, all speaking to her actions that day. The two bullets had pierced her armor and chest, one lodging in her sternum, the other puncturing her lung on one side before getting stuck in the organ. The surgeon was still unsure of how things would turn out. She had been comatose since she went into emergency surgery, and he could not tell for the life of himself if she would wake up anytime soon. She had lost about half of her blood, had one lung replaced and her sternum repaired. It would be awhile.

      The UNSC frigate FFG-802 Bavarian King maintained high orbit over Cairn, a fringe colony world. Colonized long ago, it was a relatively silent planet. Nothing important, just another place for people. Cairn was on the border of the Inner Colonies, and so a single frigate was posted in orbit, not for defense so much as for evacuation, for what little people that could be saved in the event of an attack. It had arrived on station not one month ago, a two-year rotation with several other frigates. The ship had made a brief stopover at Inigo, taking on a new captain, and a platoon of marines. The marines went planet-side, and the ship would find a new home above the land, next to the stars that decorated the night sky of the planet.

      It had been almost seven months since she had come to Cairn. Since her surgery she had begun intense physical therapy. The UNSC couldn't afford to lose any more soldiers, and she refused to give up. Her VO2 max was still shit, she could hardly keep pace while jogging, and her chest hurt nearly every day. Her home on Cairn was not on base, but near the rehabilitation facility in the city. Every day was jogging, more tests, more endurance of pain. She had cheated death really, and had multiple scars remind her throughout the weeks. She would often lie in bed at night, her fingertips feeling the scar tissue, an anomaly upon a surface of smooth skin. And other times she wondered if she was born for service, for dying, that it was her duty to be at the front. It was months of slipspace travel to the nearest colony world, and for all they knew, Earth was long gone. The human race could be all but over and she might not even hear about it for another year, if they heard about it at all.

      Therapy lasted over a year, but by the time her physical fitness had reached minimum marine standards, command on the planet would not activate her for duty with the marines stationed at the UNSC outpost. So in a hotel she would find herself, counting the days going by until she could either get off that rock or find her way back into combat.

      A shot rung out, she sprung up from her sleep. Unmistakable, the report of a shotgun, she knew it was definitely that. She leapt from the covers, over to the window of the hotel, peering outside. A military 'hog was parked outside of a bar across the street, marines surrounding the building. Her first thought was to reach for her rifle and join the fight, but she restrained herself. First things first. She threw on her fatigues, forgetting the armor. Not enough time. Time to go.

      The elevator descended at its own leisurely rate, obviously unaware of the urgency of Sanderson's situation. She resisted prying the doors open as it finally arrived at the bottom floor, instead opting to sprint across the hotel lobby and out the front door, catching the attention of the concierge, who stood there with little more than a puzzled face, wanting to know why a half battle-dressed marine was running through his hotel.

      She took up position by one of the granite columns that dotted the perimeter of the front entrance, peering around the corner to get a view of the fellow marines. She tried to signal them with her hand first, but none noticed, and so she broadcasted on all frequencies.

      "Heads up, marines." Not enough to signal her position to any hostiles around, but enough to get the other troopers looking. They spotted her, giving her the hand signal to turn her radio to channel four. She reached down and clicked it three notches, now listening to their chatter.

      "Marine, identify yourself," commanded the deep voice on the opposite end of the radio.

      "Private First Class Sanderson, on station." She peered around the corner, checking for any movement outside the establishment.

      "Alright private, we lost a man at the end of the road on the corner. Can you see him?"

      Sanderson peered around the column. Vehicles lined the roadside, obstructing any clear view of the fallen marine. "That's a negative, cars are in the way."
"Alright, make your way across the street and take cover behind those cars. We'll cover you."

      Sanderson looked out around the pillar once more. A good distance from here to the bar, but she needed to move fast. She slung her battle rifle on her back and drew her M/7, taking one last peek. "What are you waiting for private? Move it!" Sanderson took off across the street, expecting rounds to be landing around her feet left and right, expecting to catch a bullet in the leg any second now. Sanderson sighed as she pressed herself against the car parked next to the sidewalk. She bent down and looked underneath it to see the downed soldier. Only a sliver was visible, but she could make out a stream of blood running down the path and into the street. Its path winded down the side of the road and continued its way towards the storm drain. Radio chatter sparked up from the other marines as they moved into position around the building, slowly advancing towards the door, other covering the entrances to the alleys on the sides of the buildings, with one remaining by the Warthog they had used to get there.

      "Alright private, head around the side and cover the back, we're going to breach the front." Faceless orders came in to Sanderson, something she wasn't used to. Normally she knew who was telling her to put herself in harm's way, and to her, that was a sort of relief, especially if you trusted that person. But orders were orders, and she hopped over the hood and made her way to the corner of the building, where the soldier's body lied on the walk.

      She knelt down briefly, looking into the open and glazed-over eyes of the soldier. He was a private, no older than twenty, his blue eyes staring down the road into oblivion as blood continued to seep from the gaping wound in the middle of his chest. Most likely the result of a point-blank shotgun blast. Not even the armor of a marine could stop that. Easy kill for the gunman. Some greenhorn rookie skipping down the street, turning the corner and BAM! a hole in the torso big enough to pass your hand through. Her hand reached out to his eyes to close them, it was the least she could do the unknown marine.

      Memorial time is over, she thought. Time to go. She peeked around the edge of the building. Nobody there at first glance. Once more, this time longer, with her weapon poking its muzzle around the corner. All clear. She moved around the corner and found herself alongside a windowless wall, with no tangos in sight. Submachine gun shouldered now, she moved down adjacent to the wall, looking for the back entrance. She came to another corner now, this one for the alley at the rear of the building. Same maneuver as before, no baddies. She found the rear door just around the corner, and stood close, weapon pointed right at the head of the next person to walk out there. On the other side of the building, she heard two quick and successive bangs, before lots of screaming, but no shooting. Just then, a lone man burst out the back door, stumbling on his way down, avoiding the reactionary fire of Sanderson, who's M/7 peppered the wall down the alley.

      The man held his hands up, claiming innocence, and potentially feigning it. He didn't carry the look of an innocent bystander however. Ruffled light brown hair atop his head, crimson eyes staring back at her, no doubt an altercation and certainly not his natural eye color. He wore a jet black suit with a crimson insignia crested upon the lapel, but she could not in the brief moment discern its meaning. Her grip on the weapon tightened as she heard noises from the bar, and couldn't waste any more time staring him down.

      "You stay here," she commanded him as he lay on his back in the alley before she barged into the bar from the rear. Her eyes swept the room with haste, it was the store room for the place. Kegs of beer stacked along the walls, a swinging door led to the rest of the establishment. Looking to the door, she pushed it open slightly, creeping into the main area of the place. In the center of it, the marines stood, rifles raised, barrels pointed straight to her head. Realizing it was one of their own, they relaxed themselves, corralling the three detainees on the floor, hands zip-tied behind their backs.

      "Private, you see any go out the back?" inquired the man who appeared to be in charge, a master sergeant from the looks of the markings on his armor. He carried an M90 shotgun in his hands, the word RIGGS painted on the stock.

      "One in a suit. He wasn't armed though, I told him to stay put," was her somewhat succinct and informative reply.

      "Crimson lapel?"

      "Yeah, why?" The marines quickly ran out the back, blitzing past Sanderson and through the swinging door. Muted expletives arose from outside. Slowly the marines walked back in, a broken fire team of four. The master sergeant carried between his fingers a small paper business card, which he brought to his eyes to study it, as if it were a Shakespearean sonnet, every line begging to be analyzed, a deeper meaning hidden in every crevice.

      "Good job private, you just let the guy we came here for get away." That was the only initial statement from that sergeant. He sat upon a barstool in the room, staring at the card. His next statement was not of words. He raised his shotgun and put a round into the nearest detainee, detaching much of the man's left arm. While the man who had been shot squealed like a pig as he bled out on the floor, the other two screamed for their lives, causing quite a querulous racket. "We didn't need him anyways. Corporal Earindal, go see if the medic finally came in from base. Privates, load up the detainees into the vehicle. We're done here." With that, he walked out, into the overcast Cairn daylight. In leaving, he flicked away the card he had carried, letting it flutter to the floor of the bar. Sanderson walked over to pick it up. The man in the black suit had no doubt left the only trace of him. Engraved on the card was a single word, "Cocaine."

      She followed the sergeant outside, who sat in the driver's seat of the vehicle, relaxing with his canteen in one hand and a chocolate bar in the other, wrapper ripped apart, bites taken out of it. Sanderson walked up to him, with an inquisitive look about her.

      "Who are you, anyways?" asked the sergeant, still chewing the slowly melting chocolate in his mouth, most likely savoring the cocoa flavor. Melissa hesitated in her answer as her eyes scanned the man. His armor was standard-issue armor, but something didn't seem right about it. It didn't seem to fit the man. Not in the sense that he was too fat for the fit, but in the sense that he acted as if he was out of place in it.

      "Private First Class Sande-"

      "Yeah I know, but why are you here?"

      "I've been on IR for awhile now, came in with the marines off of Inigo. Took two to the chest, and I've been holed up in the hotel waiting for word from command since rehab." For a man she didn't know, that was more than she wanted to share, and she suddenly felt tense, second-guessing herself. Did she talk too much? And in that same moment, an even more hazardous question dwelled in the back of her mind, whatever happened to the person that killed that marine? Just then, a vehicle roared past her on the roadway, brandishing red crosses, signaling the corpsmen had arrived.

      "Then mount up private, seems I've got boots that need to be filled."