Friday, April 10, 2015

Geodes (28 APR 2016)

PFC Jade Colman sat on her bed, towel spread out carefully below her as she worked. She picked up the knobby round rock, looking at it carefully, trying to find the right spot. After several moments of inspection, she nodded absently to herself, and picked up her rock hammer, keeping her eyes on the spot she'd selected. A couple long, slow breaths, and she brought the hammer down sharply, hearing the satisfying crack as the stone split, exactly where she'd wanted it to. She brushed the chips off of her lap, and picked up the stone to look at the freshly revealed inner surfaces.

Just as she'd expected, it was a geode, with traces of amethyst inside. She held it up, letting the overhead light catch on the tiny crystalline points inside, sparkling brightly. As she turned it back and forth, she heard a polite cough behind her. She set the stone down and turned her head to find one of the other troopers standing a respectful distance away.

"Can I help you, Corporal?" she asked.

"I did not wish to interrupt," he said somewhat diffidently, with a small smile. "I've noticed your small collection, and wanted to see how you do them."

"Oh, quite alright," she replied, smiling. "It's always nice to share my hobby." She flipped back the towel, and gestured toward the foot of the bed. "Have a sit, and you can look at this beauty I just opened up." The Corporal sat down, and she caught a glance at his nametape. Huisman. She'd seen him around, and he'd just come back with de Matos on the mission before hers. She'd heard he'd been quite the gung-ho on that mission, but in person he seemed kind of shy. She handed him the half-geode she'd just been examining, and he took it carefully, raising it to the light as she'd done.

"How do you know what will be in it?" he asked as he looked at the crystals. "The outside looks like any other stone."

"Well you never really know for sure, until you break it open," she said. "But you can usually tell a good candidate." She reached out, touching the backside of the stone he held in his hand. "Do you see here, how it's knobbed and bumpy? That, and its mostly round shape are good indicators that it's a geode."

"It is very pretty inside," he said quietly. "You wouldn't expect it with the boring exterior."

"Oh, rocks and minerals aren't boring," Jade said, excitedly. "There's just so much that most people don't realize." He turned his eyes toward her, lifting a brow and smiling slightly. Jade blushed a little. She'd often had this problem, most people weren't quite so enthusiastic about rocks. Still, he didn't seem like he was mocking her, so she continued in a more calm tone. "The processes to create various stones and such are interesting to me. For instance, you know how a diamond is formed?"

"I have read in school that they come from coal," he said.

"That's not actually true. Coal forms when carbon, from some sort of living thing, like a plant, is buried before it can decay, and then compressed over a long time into coal, which is why it burns so well. Diamond, on the other hand, is usually formed much deeper than you'll find coal, and are usually much older than the history of plant material." Huisman's gaze did not waver, but Jade started to feel a little self-conscious, and smiled and waved it off. "It's not interesting to everyone, but it's been a hobby of mine since I was a child."

"I did not know about that," Huisman said. "I am usually interested in pretty objects, so your collection of stones and crystals caught my eye. My mother used to collect such things when I was a child, back in Rotterdam."

"Oh, I got the love of stones from my father," Colman replied. "He was a geologist, always assumed I'd follow in his footsteps."

"But you became a soldier, instead?"

"Surprised everyone," she confirmed. "Even myself, a little bit."

"Why is that?" he asked, setting the rock down on the towel to listen.

"Well, I was in college, studying geology. I had a fiancé, had even moved into his flat. The future seemed pretty clear."

"So why did you enlist?"

"It was few years ago," she said, her eyes going unfocused. "I was on Easter holiday in southern France, when Merah shot and killed several people in Montauban and Toulouse. I had actually been in the shopping center the day before the attack in Montauban. It made it seem quite personal, you understand."

Huisman nodded. "So, you enlisted after that?"

"Yes," she said, her eyes coming back to the present. "I will tell you, my father and my fiancé did not take it well."

"Did you end up marrying him anyway?"

"No," she said, shaking her head and smiling wryly. "As it turned out, a girl in the Army was a little too much for his sensibilities. Last I heard, he married a first-year, who's already given him a daughter."

"Not your dream, I take it."

"Not even a little," Jade laughed. "Even if I hadn't joined up, I still would have wanted to travel, and continue my studies."

"I hear that there are a few troopers alive because of you, from that drop in Toulouse." Huisman said. Jade blushed again, but didn't bother to hide the pride in her eyes.

"Oh my, that was certainly different than my last visit, yes. A couple of the squiddies had grabbed Yusuf and Donohue. I took care of them." There was a certain malicious satisfaction as she spoke, and it made Huisman smile, and Jade smiled back.

"I'm glad you didn't settle down to be a geologist."

"Me too!"