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The Last Ranger Ch. 1: One Reason to join the Rangers
Posted By: QuantumSheep<jasnash@optusnet.com.au>
Date: 19 June 2008, 10:37 pm

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Sol Relative Time: September 12th, 2550

Jeras Kallonmee was twenty-two at the time and living in an apartment on the twentieth floor of a standard apartment block in the Sangheili quarter of the massive city that took up most of the planetoid known as High Charity. It was your standard fare, with a bedroom, a bathroom and a small living area which went together with a kitchen.
There were few windows, with about two in the bedroom. Jeras supposed they were there so you could fall asleep watching the ever changing skyline of the city of towering, monolithic structures but he failed to see the point. He was a light sleeper, although last night had been different considering he had returned home late after spending some time with Kenas and the others, fuelled on liquor and acting in a far more stupider fashion than usual.

He had slept well, for the short time it had been, since it seemed only a very short time ago his head his hit the pillow and now there was this infernal beeping noise coming from the monitor by the bed. It had been his idea after all to set the alarm on the monitor so it went off early in the morning so he could get up and start working out, but right now he wasn't in the mood to hear it.

Shifting over in the bed, he groaned as he gained consciousness and reached towards the monitor, trying to find the appropriate switch which would turn off the alarm. Instead of finding it he knocked the small computer off of the table by the bed and onto the floor which was followed with a subdued thud.

He grunted, able to feel a dull, throbbing pain in his head. He wasn't feeling all that good and stuck his head over the side of the bed, throwing up all over the floor.

Too many times his friends had showed concern for his drinking habits but to be truthful, he really didn't care. His life was a mess, he had been rejected from the regular infantry and most of his friends were jerks, except for Kenas. He was alright.

It had been a month since he had tried to get into the regular infantry, just as a simple Minor. Joining the military had been the most prominent reason why he had decided to come to High Charity, since on High Charity you had more chance of getting into what branch of military you wanted to become involved in. He had told his mother that he would return to Sanghelios as a highly decorated officer of the regular infantry, possibly even gets into Special Operations.

Those dreams had been crushed when the officer in charge of the unit he was attempting to join had taken a dislike to him, especially after reading about his family background and the many failures he had had in the war college. The officer had rejected Jeras quite happily, saying that Jeras was probably better off being a carpenter or something. Something which didn't involve fighting.

Yeah, right. Jeras didn't want to become some sort of second rate citizen who went around fixing people's floors and other aspects of their homes. He wanted to make something for himself, he wanted to prove to the elders back on Sanghelios that he was capable of amounting to something.

Usually with a war on one would have an easier time of joining the military. That didn't seem to be the case for Jeras and he mostly blamed the humans since they were losing so pathetically against the 'might' of the Covenant. Maybe if the Covenant had been losing he
would be in the infantry by now.

He certainly didn't plan on becoming a naval officer, one of those uptight types who worked on ships. They weren't too well respected, it was always the infantry, the group that got the brunt of the fighting, that gained respect.

Being a pilot wasn't an option either. He probably couldn't fly a Seraph to save his own life. In this war, fighter pilots weren't needed too much, the humans seemed to be at a considerable disadvantage in a dogfight.
Jeras, taking a look down at his spew, noticed mainly that it consisted of whatever he had eaten last night, albeit in much smaller pieces.

The beeping was still on in the background, so reaching down to the fallen computer monitor he picked it up (it was only about six inches across) and found the appropriate button on it, shutting off the beeping and making the inside of the bedroom utterly silent. He placed the monitor back on the bedside table and lay back down, staring towards the purple-blue ceiling.

It was quite dark inside the room, especially with the window shutters closed and all the lights switched off. He wasn't in the mood of getting out of bed and lay where he was for a while, still feeling sick and with no idea of what he should do in the day ahead of him.

He wasn't expecting the beeping to start again, this time it was down an octave to signal an incoming message. He grabbed the computer and the beeping stopped abruptly. He peered at the screen and used the holographic keys to highlight the saved message.

He didn't know who would be trying to reach him at this time and he was only slightly surprised to see that the message was from Kenas. Kenas was the type who would be up and about at an early time which would explain why he was trying to reach Jeras now.


Jeras didn't know what to think. If Kenas had found the ideal opportunity for them to join up, then maybe Jeras might end up fighting in the war as well. Kenas hadn't given any details and probably would arrive at the apartment in his usual humorous mood with news about some rather uninteresting job opportunity concerning the military. It had happened a few times before so Jeras wasn't about to get his hopes up.

Jeras realized that he hadn't checked his messages for the past few days. Taking a look at the list of several stored messages, he saw that many of them were from his mother who was living back home on Sanghelios. They were the standard messages of love and recent events back home and that things were going well between her and the Sangheili Commander she had recently become involved with. She was beginning to inquire about his status in finding work, whether it be civilian or military, and whether or not he had made any friends.

His mother had certainly had changed ever since she had become involved with this Sangheili Commander. She had met him a short time before Jeras had left. He was a veteran of battle although he did have a good personality, quite unlike the kind that many of the other, hardened veterans had.

Jeras had the feeling that maybe he should reply and tell his mother just how he was going but he thought better of it. If he told her that all he was doing on High Charity was drink excessive amounts of liquor and muck around in the streets he would probably have to answer a multitude of worrisome questions from his mother.

Jeras, on a few occasions, had gotten locked up in the Sangheili quarter holding cells for his antics during the night. The City Patrol Sangheili were usually ageing war veterans who seemed to enjoy ruining whatever fun someone under the age of thirty was having, always cracking down on the slightest bit of crime in the strictest of ways.
They might not have been so dangerous if it wasn't for the stun batons they carried around with them which could give someone like Jeras a nasty electric shock and a severe headache, as well as make him puke.
On a couple of these occasions he had been on the receiving end of one and had thrown up all over the attacking officer, which just made him get hit even more with the baton until the shocks rendered him unconscious. Jeras had woken up in a holding cell the next morning with a severe headache, worse than the throbbing one he had now.

Deleting the majority of the messages after reading them, he found a select few from Ariana. She was probably the only other thing he had to look forward to on High Charity other than waking up feeling like crap and drinking far too much liquor.

Thinking about her, he realized it had been more than just a few days since he had last seen her. She was twenty and a novice nurse. She had a bit of a wild side to her personality, especially in the way she acted sometimes and her sense of humour.

She was also one of the most striking females Jeras had met. She had an almost perfect appearance with a lighter blue tone of skin than other females, blue eyes which always got Jeras' attention and excellent legs.
Jeras doubted he wasn't the only one trying to win her affection, although Jeras knew he was the one who was clearly winning. She seemed almost infatuated with him, the previous month she had averaged on sending him two messages a day. That had gradually decreased because of the ever increasing pressures of her nurse training although the less amounts of messages she sent, the more these select few were in detail, usually long and well written, usually ending with something about how she loved Jeras. Jeras felt mostly the same, thankful that she had been the first one to say their true feelings for the other and so Jeras had replied in much the same way.

He had met her the day he had arrived on High Charity, having caught a ride on a freighter with Kenas. The trip had been dreadfully dull so when he had walked into the bar at the spaceport and saw her there, alone and having just come off of a shuttle, he had sat on a seat close to her.

She had seen him, coming over and offering to buy him a drink. Jeras had obliged considering his taste for alcoholic beverages and it had gone on from there.

Jeras took a moment to think about what he should actually do today. A work out was what he would end up having to do if he wanted to keep in shape. He wasn't as muscular as some of the Sangheili his age who were in the infantry but he did have muscles and was working on making them, well, bigger.

Climbing out of bed, he slipped on a pair of beige shorts and made his way out to the kitchen. He made himself a simple breakfast and then went into the bathroom, still feeling kind of hung-over but now only slightly better.

He stood at the sink and looked at himself in the mirror. He had light orange eyes, much the same colour as his mother's but he did have his father's mandibles, that was for certain. He noticed a leftover bottle of Sangheilian whiskey on the sink and picked it up, shaking it around and seeing that it was two thirds full. Pleased with his luck, he took of the lid and began downing the contents.

Finishing off a gulp, he put the bottle down on the side of the sink and wasn't expecting it to fall off the side, smashing loudly on the floor and splashing whiskey all over his hooves. He cursed loudly and took a look down at the shattered glass and split liquor. He wasn't in the mood for cleaning, that was for sure.

Using one hoof to push away the glass, he quickly cleaned his teeth and went out into the living area, beginning his daily routine of lifting weights, push-ups, sit-ups and other exercises for about an hour and a half.

Once he was satisfied with getting a decent workout, he proceeded to try and contact Ariana on the video messenger, but for some reason she was unavailable. He guessed it was simply because of her job as a nurse and so decided he would wait for Kenas to arrive, finding a rubber ball and lying on the bed, throwing the ball up to the ceiling and catching it while he thought things through.

His apartment certainly need a clean, which included all rooms. His bedroom was a mess with most of his belongings and clothing left lying around on the floor, for "easy access" as he so often put it, both to Ariana and Kenas whenever they came over, for whatever reason.
About twenty minutes of ball tossing passed and soon after he lost interest, getting the video phone out again and this time successfully contacting Ariana.

He was pleased to see her face after a few days of more or less boredom. Like all females, her mandibles were more narrow and she was of lighter build than your typical male. She looked to be in her nurse's robes and seemed pleased to see him.

"Jeras, I noticed that you tried to call earlier…" She said, "I had the phone off, if you're wondering why you couldn't get through."

"It's good to see you, Ariana," Jeras said, "I'm sorry if I haven't tried to get in touch in a while…I've just been, uh…busy."

Busy, yeah, sure. Busy getting in trouble with City Patrol and busy drinking. He felt bad for lying, but he didn't know what else to do.

"Busy doing what, handsome?" She asked, giving the equivalent of a smile with her mandibles, "cleaning up your apartment?"

Jeras looked around at his bedroom and just shrugged.

"Not really…"

"Then what?"

"Trying to get into the infantry," Jeras said, lying again. It had been a good month since he had attempted to get into the regular infantry.

"Any luck?"

Jeras shook his head.

"I was expecting someone like you would have no trouble," Ariana said. She just shrugged. "I guess I was wrong."

"Many of the officer don't approve of Sangheili coming from broken homes, like me," Jeras said, "they think I'm going to abandon my comrades in combat, like my father abandoned my mother for someone else five years ago…"

"You've told me enough about your father and what happened," Ariana said, "you really should just forget about it."

"It's not like it matters to me much anymore," Jeras said, "it certainly didn't at the time…It's just that many of these officers have stern, often prejudiced, beliefs. I can't do much about it…"

Ariana gave a typical "what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it?" expression which was one she seemed to use a lot.

"Well, changing the subject, I'm close to completing my training," Ariana said, "I'll be a nurse working at a hospital here on High Charity soon enough. I don't think I'm cut out for the kind of frontline and battlefield work just yet."

Jeras suddenly felt happy for her.

"Really? That's great," he said, lightening up for what was probably the first time in a while.

"Not that this war needs a lot of nurses," Ariana said, "from what I've been hearing, Sangheili seem to be the group that receives the least amount of casualties in battle against the humans. I'm trained to work on Kig-Yar, though…"

Jeras just laughed.

"Kig-Yar? Can't stand the creatures," he said. He paused. It had been a while since he had truly spent some quality time with Ariana, so a thought came into his mind which he suddenly found himself saying, despite his uncertainties.

"You should come down to my apartment tonight," Jeras said, "we can go out somewhere, unless, of course, you're busy being a nurse…"

Ariana just smiled.

"I'll come," she said, "what have you got in mind?"

"No idea," Jeras replied, "but I'll figure something out."

Ariana paused briefly before responding, as if she was thinking about her reply.

"Sounds good," she said with a slight hint of sarcasm, "I'll see you there."

"See you there," Jeras said as Ariana ended the connection.

Kenas Krakonim was about an inch shorter than Jeras, slightly less muscular but far more the athletic type. He was quick at practically everything he did, whether it be running or just throwing a ball. His reflexes were almost unmatched. However, Kenas had been rejected from the infantry since he never took anything seriously, always joking around and just being plain silly.

When Jeras saw that it was Kenas standing behind the door into his apartment, he unlocked the door and let him in. Kenas was in some regular casual clothes and looked a little more ragged than usual. Jeras had put on a dark vest which did help somewhat to show off his muscular physique.

"Kenas, you said you had something to tell me?" Jeras asked as his friend came in, smiling as usual.

"Yeah, I'll get to that," Kenas said. The door closed behind him and he stopped, taking a look around at the messy interior of the apartment. He took a step forward and knocked a discarded bottle of liquor with his hoof. He took a look down at it and bent over, picking it up.

"You really have to clean this place up," Kenas said.

Jeras just shook his head.

"You've told me before," Jeras said, "and I always say the same thing…"

"You'll 'find some time'?"

Jeras paused. If it really was that easy for Kenas to figure him out then Jeras guessed either Kenas knew him really well or Jeras lacked imagination and was a bad liar. He was a bad liar, he always had been although Ariana was yet to find that out…

Kenas peered at the label on the bottle, shaking his head.

"This is the cheap stuff," he said, "I can't stand the cheap stuff…" He looked up. "How can you?"

It was the cheap stuff because that was all Jeras could actually afford. He wasn't about to tell anyone about his lack of money and so just shrugged.

"I guess I've taken a liking to it," Jeras said, "so what?"

Kenas put the empty bottle on a nearby table. "You've always had a liking for cheap liquor, which is why you're hardly ever fully sober. I can't tell if you are now…"

"I am," Jeras replied bluntly.

"Your breath certainly doesn't smell sober," Kenas said, sniffing the air in front of Jeras. He paused. "You really have a serious problem…"

Jeras didn't feel like hearing about his many obvious problems, but he couldn't think of a way of changing the subject. Thus he let Kenas continue speaking about them, much to Jeras' own annoyance.

"Take a look at yourself, Jeras," Kenas said, "you smell like cheap liquor, you're gaining weight…"

"I am?"

Kenas prodded his stomach.

"I can tell," he said.

"But I'm working out…"

"Not enough, fatso," Kenas replied, grinning. He stopped prodding Jeras' stomach when he saw the angry expression his friend was making and so lost the grin as well.

"This is because you were rejected, weren't you?" Kenas asked, "it's obvious…"

"What do you want me to do?" Jeras asked, "if they won't have me in the infantry, where should I go?"

Kenas just smiled. He sat himself down on the sofa close to him and looked up towards Jeras.

"That's why I'm here," Kenas said, pausing for a moment. He took a glance around the apartment again before looking back at Jeras.

"Before I go on, how's things going on between you and that nurse, what was her name again, I've forgotten…?"

"Ariana," Jeras said. He frowned. "Why do you want to know?"

"What does she think of her boyfriend's drinking habits?" Kenas asked, grinning, "and of his apartment? Or does all that stuff make you seem more attractive…?"

Jeras kept his cool and simply stared back at Kenas, giving him an annoyed expression.

"Everything's fine between her and myself," Jeras said, "why?"

"I would think she wouldn't approve of your…habits," Kenas said with a slight pause before the last word. There was a long pause while both Kenas and Jeras figured out what to say next.

"So, have you gotten her in bed yet?" Kenas asked suddenly.


"Have you gotten her in bed yet, you know…?" He trailed off. Jeras realized what he was implying and just shook his head.

"No, no, of course not," Jeras replied hurriedly, "why is that any of your business?"

"You haven't?" Kenas asked with a hint of surprise, "I thought someone like you would have already…"

"Kenas, just shut up," Jeras said, beginning to get very annoyed at what his friend was saying, attempting to pry into his personal life, "why don't you just get on with telling me what you came here to tell me?"

"About what?"

Jeras rolled his eyes.

"About whatever it was you mentioned in that message…"

"Oh, yeah, that," Kenas said, "like I said, I may have just found us the ideal opportunity to get out of this dull, High Charity life."

Jeras gave the equivalent of a raised eyebrow and looked towards Kenas, waiting for his friend to continue.

"What is it?"

Kenas stood up and reached into a pocket on his tight fitting shirt, taking out a datapad and handing it to Jeras. Jeras took it and began flicking through the information stored away on the device, something about some new branch of the military recently introduced to the Covenant military…

"All Sangheili, all volunteer," Kenas said, "brand new to the Covenant military. It has been around for a while, but it's only just recently that it was set up as an entirely new branch of military."

Jeras peered towards him from the datapad.

"What exactly is it?" He asked.

"They call them the 'Rangers'," Kenas said, "soldiers trained to fight in the most inhospitable environments, with the right equipment of course."

"Inhospitable environments…?" Jeras trailed off. He didn't like the sound of this already.

"More or less the vacuum of space," Kenas said, smiling, "although there will be in-atmosphere operations…I think it all sounds kind of cool…"

"Are you serious?" Jeras asked, "space? We're going to be fighting in space itself?"

"Usually the Rangers are the ones sent to an enemy vessel, most likely human, to secure the exterior and find a safe way inside if necessary. Our job is to sabotage their escape pods and engines."

"We're not in it yet," Jeras said, "and I don't think I want to be…"
Kenas just shook his head.

"Are you serious, Jeras?" Kenas asked, sounding frustrated, "do you want to spend your life here, drinking and living in this filth?"

"It's my own filth, though," Jeras said. He paused. He didn't like the idea of fighting in space itself, all sorts of accidents could happen. The environment suits, he was guessing, were armoured, but even so they could still puncture, he could still watch in horror as atmosphere vented from his suit and he suffocated. If he was hit his blood would freeze instantly and his wounds would probably be twice as painful as they would be in a planet's atmosphere. Trust Kenas to find a line of work like this. The guy was reckless.

"They accept anybody, Jeras," Kenas asked, "Sangheili like me, even. You would have no trouble getting in the Rangers. I wouldn't either."

"Why do you think they accept anyone young and male?" Jeras asked.

"Because they don't particularly care?"

"Because no one in their right mind wants to join up," Jeras said, "the whole idea is stupid…suicidal. I would prefer to stay here and drink."
Kenas shook his head. He certainly looked frustrated.

"Did I mention that every regular Ranger gets a bonus pay cut?" Kenas asked.

Jeras looked towards him. He was short on money and any little bit would help, although he would probably end up spending it all on cheap liquor anyway.

"The yearly pay for a regular infantryman is twenty thousand credits a year," Kenas asked, "a regular Ranger gets that and an extra ten thousand."

Yeah, a line of work like this would need extra pay, Jeras thought. To sucker young Sangheili like him into joining.

"So, what do you say?" Kenas asked.

Jeras thought about it for a moment. He had nothing here on High Charity except for Ariana, and she would be fine if he was away for a while. They would keep in touch, at least, that's what he hoped. No matter how sceptical he was about the Rangers, how worried he was about the obvious risks, he still would join Kenas into getting recruited. Extra pay, was after all, extra pay.

"I think…well…" Jeras paused. He was still too uncertain.

"Look, I'm joining up regardless of what you want to do," Kenas said, "so I'm not waiting any longer…"

"I'll come," Jeras said.

Kenas smiled and patted Jeras on the shoulder.

"Great," he said, "the office for the Rangers isn't far from here."

Jeras gave an uncertain expression.

"What? We're going now?"

"Of course we are," Kenas said, starting for the door. It slid open as he approached and Jeras followed him out to the corridor. Kenas seemed pleased with himself, as if he was genuinely looking forward to what they were about to do. He seemed to know where he was going as they entered one of the gravity lift tubes that ran down the length of the apartment complex. It was a quick way to head down to the ground floor and they also had a decent view of the city, namely the Sangheili quarter which consisted of tall, monolithic structures tinged purple and blue. Civilian vehicles were gridlocked on the roads they could see from up here, although anything that could fly was having no trouble getting through traffic.

They came to the ground floor where the lobby was. The lobby itself was mainly empty save for an elderly looking Sangheili who was standing in a quarter, supervising the cleaning drones as they went about the floor, collecting any rubbish and cleaning the floor.

"It's a short walk from here," Kenas said as they went through the front door and into the cool city air. There were plenty of pedestrians around, going about their own business. Jeras began following Kenas to the left of the building and along the road, passing shopfronts and more apartment buildings.

Jeras was bumped into a disgruntled looking Sangheili male who simply rushed past without saying even the slightest sorry. He forgot about it when he saw that Kenas had turned into what looked to be a shopfront, although as Jeras approached he could see it was more of an office.

Holographic images of what were obviously Rangers were projected onto the windows in an effort to sucker in Sangheili into joining. It certainly didn't look to be working since the office was empty save for Kenas and the bored looking officer sitting behind a desk inside.

Jeras stepped into the office, the officer at the desk looking at him as he entered.

"Is this your friend?" The officer asked Kenas.


The officer shook his head.

"You must be in the wrong office," the officer said, "you see, this is for the Rangers…"

"We're here to join the Rangers," Kenas replied confidently. Jeras stood waiting near the doorway, letting his friend do all the talking.

The officer took a look at both Kenas and Jeras before laughing. He kept laughing and struggled to get words in between his laughter.

"Are you serious?" The officer asked, his head almost hitting the desk because of his fit of laughter, "you're both joking, right?"


The officer stopped laughing and fixed his eyes on Kenas, frowning.



The officer shook his head.

"Why not join the infantry?" The officer asked, "at least it's not as dangerous…"

"No, we're here to join the Rangers," Kenas said, getting annoyed, "are you going to sign us up or what?"

The officer shrugged and didn't actually activate his computer terminal or do anything else that made him look like he was preparing to sign them up.

"Then you'll have to speak to Grashlan," the officer said, "he's in the club across the street. He's the one who organizes it all. I'm just here to fill in the forms and file datapads."

Kenas nodded. He turned around and stepped towards Jeras.

"That guy's a real jerk, don't you think?" He asked quietly. Jeras nodded in agreement, although he didn't particularly have any opinion on the officer. He followed Kenas back out into the street. The pair crossed the road over to what looked to be some sort of dingy dancer's club, the kind of place Jeras hadn't been to for quite a while. The guard out the front just grinned as they walked past, he's probably seen a lot of young male Sangheili come into the club before and must have found it funny.

Inside, the interior was lit with coloured lights with some exotic music playing from some unseen source. Females in slightly revealing dancer's clothes stood on stages in the centre of mainly young, staring males. Jeras found himself looking at one of the nearby females, thinking he knew her from somewhere.

Kenas pointed towards the oldest looking Sangheili in the room, dressed in the crimson armour of a Major and busy watching the female in front of him.

"I bet you that's him right there," Kenas said.

Jeras' attention to the female was broken as he turned to Kenas.

"Really?" Jeras asked with some sarcasm, "he's the oldest guy here. It's got to be him."

Kenas just shook his head and started towards the Major. Jeras followed him and watched as Kenas tapped the Major on the shoulder in an effort to get his attention. The Major seemed completely oblivious to it so Kenas tried again.

Major Grashlan turned around, looking annoyed. The female in front of him seemed a tad disappointed but kept dancing. It was her job, anyway.

"What is it?" The Major asked, looking at the two of them. He paused.
"Who are you? You come here to enjoy what this place has to offer?"

"Not exactly," Kenas said, "we were just at the recruiting office…"

The Major laughed, interrupting Kenas.

"You two, huh?" He took a long, quiet look at the both of them. "You two want to join up, huh?"

Kenas nodded. Jeras looked around, noticing that in a nearby corner a male, about his age, was busy kissing with what looked like one of the female dancers. The pair then proceeded to disappear into one of the rooms behind the main stage. Jeras just grinned.

"You do realize the risks that are involved?" The Major asked, "although, you probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the risks. Crazy young Sangheili like you two are what a line of work like the Rangers is looking for."

"Really? We're in?" Kenas asked, sounding surprised.

"Just give me your names and I'll set it up," the Major said, "you'll probably get a call tomorrow sometime once everything's been fixed up, just to clarify. I can tell you you're in, though."

Jeras didn't know what to think. Kenas looked happy, but he wasn't sure what he had just gotten himself into.

"It'll probably be late next week when you'll have to get shipped off to start your training," the Major said, "the training course is far more difficult than the one for the regular infantry, so I wouldn't be looking forward to it too much."

Kenas gladly gave his name to the Major although when Jeras did, he did it with far more uncertainty. He didn't know where joining the Rangers would get him but there was no backing out of it now, he knew that.

"Jeras, you did what?"

Jeras looked up from his bowl of animal meat with a side of vegetables and looked across the circular table towards Ariana. She was wearing light blue robes, typical of a Sangheili female. There were few others in the small street-side restaurant, and most of the others were Sangheili infantry obviously on leave from their units.

"I joined the Rangers," Jeras replied.

Ariana gave a worried look.

"But…why?" She asked, leaning towards him. She gently put her hand against his left hand and clasped it. "I've only heard about them…I thought you would stay on High Charity…"

Jeras shook his head.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, Ariana," Jeras said, "but there was no way I would be able to stay on High Charity. I have hardly any money left…and there was no hope of me of getting into the infantry…"

"I have plenty of credits," Ariana said, "I could have given you some…"

"No," Jeras said sternly, "I'm not going to take your money. I don't like burrowing money, it makes me feel selfish…" He paused. "I was told that I would be away for months on end…If I'm accepted I'll most likely be shipped off of High Charity later next week."

Ariana looked solemn. Jeras knew her concern, but there was no other way. He wanted to make something of himself and Ariana would have to learn to live with it.

"I'm going to be fine," Jeras said, reassuringly rubbing his hands on hers, "I'll keep in touch. I'll visit whenever I can. I just don't want you thinking that you'll never see me again."

Ariana looked up. She did look worried but thankfully she wasn't too upset, Jeras could tell. Last thing he needed was for her crying.

"Why the Rangers?" she asked, "only the most mentally unstable join the Rangers…"

"I can tell you I'm not mentally unstable," Jeras said, "which will guarantee that I will be fine. How about you just finish your dinner and we can get out of here?"

Ariana pushed her plate of half finished meat away from her. She picked up the bottle of Sangheilian whiskey Jeras had ordered and downed half of it, shaking her head. She didn't usually go for alcohol but Jeras guessed she wasn't feeling too well.

"How can you drink that stuff?" She asked, coughing and giving a sour expression, "it's disgusting…"

Jeras laughed.

"I just drink it, no problems," Jeras said, "it's an acquired taste…"

Ariana frowned but then quickly smiled. Jeras got up and insisted on paying for the meal with what little amount of money he had left. As they were leaving, Ariana stopped him. She was about an inch shorter than him and of much lighter build so Jeras found himself looking down into her light blue eyes.

"I don't know if I've told you this directly," she said, putting an arm around him. Jeras placed a hand on her abdomen and brought her closer.

"What is it?"

"I truly love you, Jeras," she said, "do you feel the same way about me?"

There was no hesitation when Jeras replied.

"Of course I do," he said. There was a brief silence before he leaned forward and put his mandibles with hers, running his hands down her back and her sides. After about half a minute of this they stopped and Ariana giggled. She pulled him through the doorway and they hurried back to Jeras' apartment which was nearby, laughing and almost bouncing around in excitement like children. Jeras unlocked the door with his passcard and going inside, Ariana followed.

Ariana took a look at the mess in his apartment but just laughed.

"You really do have to clean this place up…" She said.

Jeras clicked his lower mandibles which was more or less a shrug.

"One day I will," he replied. He put an arm around her and turned her so she was facing him. She put a hand into his vest and gently felt along his chest, feeling his iron hard muscles. She let go of him and disappeared through a nearby doorway, Jeras following, his hearts beating rapidly.

She was already down on the bed when Jeras got to her. He stepped towards her and proceeded to take off his vest, followed by what little else he had on. Moving down towards her, he reached into her robes and slowly pulled them off, untying the knots that were holding them on and sliding them off of her. He went to work on her undergarments and once she lay naked before him he went forwards, putting his mandibles with hers. He then went down and kissed her neck, putting one hand on her back and another at her side.

She put her hands around him and Jeras went down and began kissing her chest, able to smell her perfume: it was sweet, with a musty trace underneath.

Jeras began to thrust himself forwards, hearing Ariana moan quietly. He kissed her on the neck some more, pushing himself into her as his heart-rate ran wild. He grunted and he could hear Ariana telling him she wanted more, egging him on.

Jeras started again, fighting off exhaustion, feeling her twitch beneath him. Once he was finished, he ran his mandibles down her body, attempting to kiss every part of her.

He lay onto his side in the bed just next to her, running his hands down her slender frame and kissing the side of her face. She laughed and moved over so that she was facing him. They kissed some more and Ariana moved on top of him, this time controlling the pace as she sat herself astride his legs.

Soon enough he was done and Ariana leaned toward him, Jeras embracing her, able to feel her hearts beat against his as they kissed, feeling her smooth skin.

She moved off of him and once again lay in the bed next to him. Jeras put an arm around her, bringing her close and kissing the back of her neck. Ariana fell asleep first and Jeras, with nothing else left to do, closed his eyes and fell asleep.