Friday, November 6, 2015

Passing Time (22 AUG 2016)

The barracks were nearly empty. Most of the troopers were down in the common room, or the gym, but here and there someone laid on their bunk reading a book, or with a laptop propped up, casting pale light onto their faces. While there weren't many people, that didn't mean the barracks were quiet. Laughter and conversation rang out from the back corner, where the overhead lights were still on, illuminating four women. On one bunk, SSG Monica de Matos sat, leaning back against the wall with another woman's head in her lap. The reclining woman, Lieselotte Faber, was writing a letter and not taking part in the conversation, though she smiled occasionally at the banter that was going on.

Another woman sat backward in a chair that had been pulled up to the bunk, her legs straddling the seat, and her forearms crossed on the back. Recently promoted SFC Leigh Fahey was a boisterous, loud woman who had a joke and a smile for nearly everyone. On a nearby table, SFC Jade Colman had a cloth spread out, with several rocks and tools laid out on top. At the moment she was examining a promising specimen, looking for the best place to strike to break it open with her rock hammer.

"Heard your last mission was an interesting one," Jade said, never taking her eyes off the stone in her hand, turning it left and right slowly.

"Oh man," Leigh said with an exaggerated eye-roll. "this Van Doorn character." de Matos chuckled as well, absently stroking Liesel's hair.

"Get down here!" she said, affecting a deeper voice, which sounded oddly charming with her Brazilian accent. "Can't let me have all the fun!" Colman glanced at her and laughed.

"Rumor says he's going to be joining us, along with his attache," she said.

"Yeah," Fahey replied. "I checked the roster this morning, after hearing about that. Must be weird for 'The General' to not be in a command position, but they are giving him a field 'promotion' to Staff Sergeant." Her wry expression and air-quotes made it clear how she felt about that decision.

"It was a strange mission overall," Monica added. "The Council intel made it sound like we'd be stepping into an absolute warzone, and the devastation on the bridge was pretty bad, but the resistance wasn't anything, really." She patted her hip, where she normally carried her medpak. "I never even had to open my kit."

"Seriously," Leigh agreed. "We had to chase that last Thin Mint clear to the end of the bridge. It was like they weren't even trying to put up a fight. Why bother blowing the bridge if they weren't going to commit?"

"Who knows why the X-Rays do anything?" Jade asked rhetorically. "Still, I wish we could have been there with you girls." Liesel looked up from her letter briefly, nodding in agreement. "But I get with the Captain just getting his RTD Orders from medical, Command was eager to get him back in the field." Monica nodded; She'd served with him for half of her missions, and she held a great deal of respect for CPT Lindemann. Leigh shrugged; She'd rather have had Jade along, but it was Command's call, not hers.

The conversation lapsed for a few minutes, the quiet broken only by the nearly silent scratching of Faber's pen on the notepad, until Colman took up her hammer, and struck the stone firmly, resulting in a sharp crack as the stone broke cleanly in half. Leigh half-rose to get a look.

"Whatcha get?" she asked, leaning to catch a glimpse around the other woman's shoulder. Jade turned around, presenting her prize with a satisfied grin.

"Amethyst geode," she declared. "A good find." When Fahey held out her hand, Colman passed the stone over, smiling as the American woman held it up to the light, the crystals casting back tiny sparkles that played across the other woman's dark skin.

"Nice," Leigh agreed, reaching out to pass it back. "Amethyst is my birth stone."

"Keep it, then," Jade offered. "I've still got the other half."

"Really?" Fahey's brows lifted in surprise.

"Absolutely," the British woman smiled, suppressing a pang as she remembered the last time she'd given away one of her stones. She wasn't going to let sad memories stop her from sharing her love of stones, though. Leigh's eyes widened further as she saw the play of emotion across Jade's face. Her friend seemed oblivious to her scrutiny, so she said nothing, merely folding her hands around the stone.

"Thank you," she added after a moment, which earned a smile from Colman.

Monica, who had been there when CPL Huismann died, knew a little of what Jade was feeling. She looked down at Liesel who was so focused on her letter that she was actually biting the tip of her tongue absently. She didn't know what she'd do if anything were to happen to Liesel. She looked up then, at Leigh, Colman, and to where she saw someone across the barracks, faintly illuminated by a laptop screen, she thought it might have been SGT Parsons.

"Where would you be," she began, then paused to formulate her thoughts. "Where would we all be if not for this war?" Colman and Fahey looked at her, but didn't say anything, realizing that she wasn't quite done speaking, despite the question. "I would probably be in Manaus, doing some training Op for some cadets or something." She looked at each of them again in turn, meeting their eyes. "I wouldn't know any of you."

"You saying this war was a good thing?" Leigh asked, a certain mischief sparkling in her dark eyes.

"Not at all," Monica answered seriously, not catching the joking nature of the question. "But good ha come of it, I think. Look at the technological advancements we're making, that one day we'll be able to share with the world. Look at us, close friends from different countries, different parts of the world." Liesel looked up at her with a soft smile that was mostly in the eyes, and Monica stopped talking, meeting her gaze.

"I agree," Jade added. "I think that the human race will come out of this stronger and more unified than we ever were."

"I certainly hope so," Leigh said with a sigh. "We've got a lot to make up for. I certainly hope that this is a start." After several moments of silence, she shook herself. "Aren't we a bunch of Serious Susans? Hey, Liesel, you almost done with that letter? Let's go hit the common room and play some pool, first round of near-beer is on me."

The others quickly agreed. The gravity of the moment was seemingly forgotten as the four women made their way out of the barracks, chatting and laughing once more.