Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lashing Out (06 MAY 2016)

"Ox, you're too exposed out there," Glynn called over the squad net. Oksenov didn't answer, but took a shot at one of the Sectoids exposed on the side of the train. Glynn cursed when he reported the miss, and scanned for anything that might take a shot at his comrade. "Ox, damnit, get out of there."

"He's right," SPC Faber said. "I'm taking the shot." There was a moment's silence, then the loud crack of her rifle was followed by the meld canister exploding, and the Sectoid behind it splattering across the rails. She cursed loudly enough, in German, to be heard without the squadnet.

PFC Glynn stood staring at the memorial wall, which now showed three portraits. It had been less than a week ago that CPL Huisman had died in Tennessee, and now Oksenov had joined him. That asshole had always been too confident, too sure of himself. Now he'd never brag about his combat prowess again.

The Sectoids were moving, and Glynn furiously scanned, his cheek pressed to the stock of his weapon, looking for anything to take a shot at, but nothing came into view.

"They-!" Ox yelled, staggering hard against the bench he was hiding behind. "There's something... something in my head!" Glynn lowered the weapon to look at him, saw him shake his head and raise his weapon, then reach up to key the squadnet. "There was a voice, flashes of images," he said. "I think-"

What he thought was never revealed as Glynn heard the slight hum that always preceded the firing of one of their plasma weapons, and a bolt of green light flashed out from the train and took him right above the chest plate of his tactical vest. He fell back, making choking noises.

Oksenov had been arrogant, but Glynn had liked him. He was reminded of his time back in the 82nd, the trash talk, the machismo and the fighting. It never came to anything, anymore than his rivalry with Ox would have. It was just a way to kill the time between missions, which had gotten slower and slower as the Coalition Forces role in Afghanistan had reduced. Damned if that crazy Russian hadn't managed to beat him on kills anyway, even though...

"No!" Glynn had shouted, then stood rooted, staring at Oksenov, now lying still, praying for him to move. He heard shouting and gunshots, as his comrades charged out and killed the Sectoids. He watched as Lehmann approached Oksenov's still body and leaned over it.

"He is dead," came Lehmann's voice over the squadnet, oddly emotionless, though he was still breathing hard from his charge on the Sectoid. Glynn shook his head, slowly at first, and then harder, trying to shake the cobwebs.

"Acknowledged," replied SPC Faber, her accent thick, but otherwise cool as ice. "We need to keep moving."

Glynn heard soft steps approaching, then felt a presence beside him. He looked over to see SPC Faber, staring up at the wall. He didn't need to follow her gaze to know that she too was looking at Ox's picture. He turned away from her, looking back at the memorial.

"Three casualties," she said, no inflection in her voice. "It has been over two months. By numbers, we are doing well." Glynn said nothing, only nodded woodenly. "This has been the most one-sided conflict I have ever read about," she continued. We've killed dozens and dozens of them." Glynn didn't know what she was getting at, and just wished she'd go away. After several moments of silence, he finally replied, hoping it'd be enough that she'd leave.

"Yes," was all he said. She glanced at him, then turned away, dropping her head.

"It does not feel like victory," she said, her voice muffled. Glynn turned then, and saw that her shoulders were trembling. She hadn't been his friend, but she had been in charge. Glynn hadn't really considered what that must feel like. The fact that she'd not been promoted along with the rest of the squad probably felt like indictment by the command, too.

"You didn't do anything wrong," he said, stepping awkwardly up behind her. She whipped around and glared at him. Her eyes were red, but they were dry.

"A man died!" she snarled, "he died under my command. I should have made sure he wasn't so exposed." Glynn backed up, whatever reassuring instinct he'd had withering under her glare.

"Of course, Specialist," he replied, coldly. "Maybe next time, you'll do better." He turned around smartly, though not before he saw the shock on her face, and strode away, every muscle tensed for her reply, but none came.

Relief and anger warred in him as he moved quickly, his footsteps coming down with unnecessary force, echoing down the corridors. Maybe it wasn't her fault, but it felt good to blame someone, to lash out. He almost wanted her to come after him, so he'd have some excuse to yell, but she didn't, and he was left fuming in solitude. Others he barely saw stepped out of his way, until he found himself in the gym.

With a growl, he went to the nearest treadmill, and setting it to a punishing pace, he began to run. Try as he might though, he could not seem to leave behind that frozen instant of seeing Ox fall to the ground.