3-3: The Female Bio-Soldier
July 12, two days after the unreasonable fight between Red and his 1000 bio-soldiers.
7am, breakfast time. Red was in the cafeteria. He had just found an empty table and had barely sat down when he was greeted by a woman in her late 20’s.
“Yo, Mr. General,” she said, placing her tray of food right across Red’s and placing one hand on the table while bending over to get closer look at him. “Yesterday was such a fun feast, so why are you still acting like such a loner at this point?”
The young general was stunned at the sight of her. Back when he had fought her as one of the 1000 bio-soldiers, she looked like just any other woman in a fighting outfit. But right now was different; he was looking at a gorgeous woman with long, wavy brown hair and a physique that made him instinctively gulp. From how her body was bent forward as her hand slammed on the table, he knew he could get a glimpse of her chest, and he instinctively bowed his head.
“I just…” he began replying. “It still doesn’t change the fact that I acted all high and mighty and challenged you all to a fight.”
“That was super reckless, and I’m sure you know that, right?” the woman said, her eyes giving Red a piercing stare that startled the young general. “Why’d you do it?”
“I told you,” Red replied. “I did it to make sure all of you would respect me and follow any order I give.”
The woman shook her head. “No, that’s not it. I can tell.”
Red tried looking away. “Fine,” he said. “As much as possible, I don’t want to get you guys involved in this war. But in order to do that, I had to make sure that I was stronger than my army. That way, I could protect all of you.”
The woman laughed. “Hah, you idiot!” she repeatedly slammed the table with her fist, but controlled it such that it was not too audible. Once she had settled down, she sat down and faced Red with a smile. “My name’s Vanessa. As you can see, I’m the only female bio-soldier in the Crimson Army. Nice to meet you, kiddo.”
Red rolled his eyes momentarily, then shrugged his shoulder. “Eh, at this point my name’s pretty much ‘kiddo’ anyways; I should just stop caring.”
“So anyway, I didn’t get to hear your whole life story yesterday. Would you mind telling it to me now while we eat? I’ll tell you my story in exchange.”
“Fair enough. I’ll power through my past, then you tell me about yourself.”
Vanessa was a woman who was infamously known for putting men to shame her whole life. She was smarter, more athletic, more popular, and more charismatic than anyone. This led her to having a lot of fans, but she stayed true to her strong, independent nature, responding to none of the many love confessions she received. And with a life of great influence set for her, she pressed on.
There was, however, a man who stayed by her side the entire time. His presence as silent as much as it was reassuring, he became Vanessa’s personal cheerleader and the only person she would allow herself to be vulnerable around. This was Arthur, a childhood friend of hers. However, it was not so much that Arthur volitionally followed her all over, but it was Vanessa who dragged him around, with him following without saying a word of complaint.
All this ended 11 years ago, at the age of 17, when she was attacked by kidnappers and Arthur died protecting her.
“He was shot multiple times after pushing me away,” Vanessa recalled. “It gave me the opportunity to go in and knock all the attackers out, but if it wasn’t for him...”
“Both of you would’ve died for sure,” Red said, finishing the sentence. “He knew this, and made the logical decision of at least letting you live. It’s not something that just anyone could do, jumping into the line of fire on the fly, ready to give your life for something you firmly believe in.”
“Didn’t you do that yourself?”
Red laughed and shook his head. “Hell no. I didn’t notice the gunshot towards me until it was too late. Anyway, what happened to you after that?”
After taking a bite of beef, Vanessa put her fork on her lips in a thinking gesture. “Well, my path didn’t change too much. I still graduated at the top of my class, got into the military, and was considered superior enough to become a bio-soldier only to get beaten up by a battered kid.”
“You’re never gonna let go of that, are you?”
Vanessa let out a laugh. “Lighten up, kid! I’m just not used to someone one-upping me, and so convincingly at that.” She leaned forward and glared at Red. “Say, one hour after we eat, let’s go to the gym.”
“I’ve never been there,” Red said. “I really don’t think I need to-”
“There’s no harm in exploring more of this place, right? Meet me there at 8:30.”
Red squinted his eyes in annoyance. Man, she’s pretty pushy. She doesn’t even see me as her superior, does she?
8:30am, Crimson Base gym.
“I...don’t feel at home here as much as when I’m in the fighting grounds.” Being one with the general serum, Red had assumed that he was past the point where lifting weights would be helpful. Furthermore, he had been avoiding his soldiers as much as possible prior to their big fight a couple of days ago. Hence, this was his first time inside the gym.
Because the army needed more combat experience than muscle-building, the gym was relatively small. At the moment, there were 42 people inside, himself and Vanessa included, and most of them were busy with their workouts.
“Oh, kiddo!” came a familiar voice. It was Victor, the man who stood out as the one that was against Red being a general the most. “I thought you were already too strong for something like a gym. Or did you come here to make fun of how you defeated 1000 of us all on your own?” There was no malicious intent on the man’s voice, and his carefree smile made it clear.
Red shrugged his shoulders. “I thought so too, but Ms. Vanessa here kind of dragged me here.”
In response, Vanessa hit Red square at the back of the head, causing the young general to flinch and say “Ow!” before holding the injured part. “Don’t go around addressing me like some old lady, kid!”
Red pouted. “But you call me a kid...”
Vanessa heaved a sigh. That hit would have sent a normal person flying, but this kid took it like it was nothing. “Fine. I’ll call you Red, you call me Vanessa. Capiche?” Red nodded repeatedly like a child being ordered by his mother. “Good. Now, there’s a free bench press spot over there. Why don’t you go grab a bar?”
Not having much reason or drive to argue with Vanessa, Red decided to follow and proceeded to go near the wall where the bars rested.
As he was doing this, Victor approached Vanessa while holding both ends of the hand towel that hung over his shoulders.
“Seriously, Nessa? You’re actually trying to get close to Red? I mean sure, he does look exactly like the guy you showed me in that picture of yours, but he’s...” He paused, and then he shook his head. “Red’s not Arthur. If you try to revive your dead boyfriend’s memory, you’ll just get hurt.”
“I’m not substituting Red for Arthur,” Vanessa retorted, elbowing Victor at his side. “And Arthur’s not my boyfriend!”
“If you say so,” Victor said. “Just don’t get too attached to him.”
Vanessa nodded. As she did, she looked at Red with longing eyes. His hair, his build, his voice, the way he acts submissively to my whims...everything is the exact same. It’s all the same except for those eyes.
In the meantime, Red was standing in front of the barbell bars. Noticing that there was a variety of sizes, Red took hold of the biggest one in the bunch.
“I’m a general who took down 1000 of my soldiers,” he told himself. “I might as well take the heaviest stuff, right?”
Using his right hand, Red picked up the bar, and soon as he felt its weight, his eyes widened, followed by a grin of childlike wonder.
What followed after came as a complete surprise to everyone in the gym. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared dumbfounded at their teenage general, who was spinning the bar around like a Bo Staff, handling it so deftly like it weighed nearly nothing. He began making tricks like tossing the bar and catching it behind his back, as well as dropping the bar to kick one end which he would then catch with his hand. After about 30 seconds of playing around, he held the bar with a big smile on his face as he turned to Vanessa.
“This is the weight I want for my weapon!”
Victor grinned, nudging Vanessa. “Heh, guess he really doesn’t need to go to the gym, huh?”
In response, Vanessa slapped her face. “Dammit, that thing’s like 50 pounds and he throws it around like it’s a toy.”
Red thought the same thing, for he immediately returned the bar back where he got it. This is too light, he thought to himself. I’m probably better off practicing combat.
“Change of plans, Red!” came Vanessa’s voice. “Let’s practice in the firing simulation.” Before Red could even react, she had already walked up to him and grabbed his arm, forcibly pulling him out of the gym.
Red caught a glimpse of Victor, and he used his head to point at Vanessa before giving a puzzled expression. The older soldier answered with a grin, leaving Red disappointed as he eventually left the place.
The firing simulator was a spacious place where, as the name implies, people can practice their skills with firearms in a controlled environment. Participants are made to wear helmets with visors built on them as they ran around firing fake guns at targets invisible to outside spectators. The only real limitation of this technology was that it was as of yet unable to create targets that threaten. Instead, there were the round targets, some of which moved around, and then there were laser turrets that fired at you relentlessly which you could not destroy. The goal, of course, is to destroy all targets without getting hit a set number of times; Red and Vanessa set theirs to just one hit each.
As if the whole barbell incident was not enough, Vanessa was rendered speechless once again at how out of her league Red was. While she was staying cautious and hiding behind structures most of the time, only to shoot with her pistol when she was certain that she could safely attack, Red was all over the place; with one gun on each hand, he was evading turret shots like they were nothing and shooting at targets with deadly accuracy, putting the older female soldier to complete shame.
“Red!” she called out. “Don’t be too reckless!”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” the young general retorted. “The longer you take in real battle, the more of our troops will die. You have to be assertive if you wanna protect your comrades.”
The female soldier heaved a sigh and came upon a realization. That’s right, he did say that his goal was to be able to protect all of us. I didn’t think he’d be that serious about it, though. I mean, he’s just a teenage brat.
Vanessa had barely shot 15 targets when Red finished the entire simulation by taking down the other 85.
As Red removed his helmet, he noticed that his companion refused to do the same.
“...is there a problem, madam?”
In response, Vanessa walked violently toward Red and grabbed him by the collar.
“Best of 7, you brat.”
“...really? You do realize that I’d just stomp all over you, right?”
“Best. Of. Seven.”
“No handicaps or anything? How about you win if you get like 20?”
“Make it 30.”
With Vanessa’s grip on Red still firm, the red-eyed boy put his helmet back on.
This is not gonna be pretty.
1:30pm, at the cafeteria.
Red the Crimson General and Vanessa the female bio-soldier were eating lunch across each other, with the latter gobbling her food whilst an enraged expression colored her face. This made Red feel uneasy, causing him to lose his appetite.
“I’m really sorry, okay?” Red said. “You really are a sore loser, aren’t you?”
A sudden glare. Red gave a start, and Vanessa proceeded to growl. “Who’s a sore loser?!” she responded.
“Please.” Seeing Vanessa’s reaction, Red was starting to calm down. I think I got this. “Your whole life you have been ‘Ms. Perfect,’ the princess who could do no wrong. Yet at the core, you’re as much of a human being as the next guy. But you couldn’t bring yourself to admit that, so you’ve tried pulling away from everyone. Even now, when there’s a perfectly sound reason for me having beaten you 10 times in a row in the shooting simulation - despite you initially making the contest a best of 7, by the way - you still think you could have done something. How else could you explain how you got shot 3 times during that whole thing? You were clearly agitated by your competitiveness and desire to be better than me.”
Vanessa’s eyebrows met. “I don’t like how you’re talking down on me.”
“If you’d been a little more adult about things, then I wouldn’t have had the need to,” Red replied. “You’re being really immature about things. If you were, for example, a teenager, that gap in personalities would’ve been really cute to some people, but a grown woman like you bickering over pointless contests...it’s like you’ve reverted back into a past version of yourself or something.”
The female bio-soldier was rendered speechless. She bowed her head.
“Let me level with you, Vanessa,” Red continued. “We’re in a war, right? We’re fighting for the civilians we care about and for the future of the world as a whole. Those people we’re trying to protect...they are humans. You and the other 999 serving under me are superhumans. And I’m...” He gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. “...I’m a monster. A monster beyond your comprehension. You can’t beat me. Not now, not ever. So just...stop trying.”
The rest of the meal was spent in complete silence.
Vanessa, who was in the middle of taking a shower, slammed her right fist onto the tiled wall. She eventually rested her entire forearm there, and then placed her head on it as the water from the shower continuously flowed downwards on her body
“That...idiot...” she repeated. As she bit her lower lip, she could hear the voice of a teenage boy inside her head.
“How does it feel being at the top of the class again, Miss Vanessa? Ouch! Hey, what the hell?! You’re the high and mighty princess of the school; of course I’ll have to address you formally from here on out. Fine, fine, if it’s just the two of us, I’ll call you normally. Happy now, Nessie?”
“What’s the problem now, Nessie? See, that’s why I told you it was a bad idea to juggle two competitions at the same time on top of student council duties and the compulsory school life. Don’t be so hard on yourself; runner up is still pretty good considering the circumstances behind it. Tell you what, lemme treat you to something for a job well done. Let’s see…how about that amusement park you’ve been raving about around me even though you’re too ashamed to talk about it to anyone else? Let’s go there during Christmas break.”
“Aw, come on! You really are a sore loser, aren’t you? That’s just really immature. Can’t you even spare me one field where I’m better than you? Do you really have to be the best at everything? Come on Nessie, I’ve been with you since we were babies, and I of all people know that you’re as human as anyone else. Stop trying to be so perfect.”
“...I don’t give a rat’s ass if you’re the most perfect girl in the world or if you’re a pathetic social reject. I’d still stick around you no matter what. Even if you lose your fanbase, or you find someone better than you at what you do best, I’d still be your number one fan for sure.”
“...because...I love you.”
Tears began mixing with the water that was flowing on Vanessa’s face. “I thought...” She paused and slammed her left fist on the wall. “I thought I had completely gotten over it...”
“Damn, she’s late. What does she want from me, anyway? Calling me out at this hour…”
9pm, right outside the Crimson Base. Red was standing, his back leaning against the outer walls. He had his right arm partially stretched out with his palm facing upward, above which rested a tiny ball of flame. He began moving his fingers and the flame responded by moving a certain direction per finger twitch. Red’s eyebrows crossed.
One week after I became the Crimson General, and I still don’t get how to control this thing. This is gonna take a while...
Irritated, Red clenched his fist, and as if on cue, the ball of flame disappeared. His eyes shifted to the left as he heard footsteps.
It was Vanessa.
From how her long, wavy hair was still wet, Red could tell that she had just finished taking a bath. His crimson-dyed eyes then noticed something was off. She was standing several meters away from him, but he could see that her expression was that of longing – a blank face with her mouth partly open and her body slightly leaning forward – and it was further evidenced when she slowly extended her arm towards him.
The young general tilted his head in confusion.
In response, Vanessa clenched her fist and started running at full speed towards Red. When she reached him, she took him in her arms in a collision that seemed like a tackle. Red, wide-eyed, received her embrace without much of a choice.
What the hell is going on?!
Unable to figure out what to say, Red simply let himself be embraced by Vanessa as his eyes pranced about the surroundings. There was no one around. He tried putting one hand on her back, and he could feel her soft hair, then he began smelling the shampoo she used.
This is the part where I get smitten by the charms of a beautiful, older woman, he thought with a grin. However, this expression immediately turned into one of annoyance as his train of thought continued…if only she didn’t use the same brand of shampoo as Catherine.
Soon, he noticed Vanessa’s body shaking, followed by sobs. Her hold on him tightened as she finally spoke.
“I’m so sorry, Arthur...”
“Wow. If I didn’t know any better, I’d ask who that girl beside me in this picture is.”
Red and Vanessa were standing side-by-side, leaning on the outer walls of the Crimson Base. The young general was holding a picture of Arthur and Vanessa from 11 years ago, and he could not believe the resemblance between him and the man in the picture.
“So you’re telling me that aside from having the same face and body size, we also have the same voice and personality?”
Vanessa nodded. “From the way you forced yourself to call me ‘Ms. Vanessa,’ how you scolded me for trying to be so perfect...you even said sentences the exact same way he did back when he was alive. And I just...”
“Were you two going out when the tragedy happened?”
“No,” the female bio-solder replied with a shake of her head. “He confessed to me, and I guess my pride was just too much for me to subject myself into a relationship. He probably understood this - he always understood me to the core - and continued being my best friend.” She bit her lip. “It was when he was gone, when I started realizing how much I depended on him, that I finally became honest enough with myself to admit my feelings. I love Arthur. With him, I could be myself. With him, I could do anything. My fondest memories in life always had him by my side. I’m such an idiot, huh? Eleven years have passed, and I have yet to find another man...”
“And then you suddenly found yourself working for a guy who looked exactly like him, huh?”
Vanessa stretched her arm and put it around Red, pulling him towards her until his head was resting on her shoulder. “The way you work really hard, that carefree smile you make despite the fact that you’ve been forced into a dangerous situation, that immense potential that you were willing to throw away in order to save a girl…” She suddenly turned and threw her arms around him, causing the young boy to freeze in place.
The two of them fell to the ground, with Red sitting down and Vanessa on her knees as she continued her embrace. “I just can’t help but think that fate has given me a second chance to tell him what I couldn’t when he was still alive!”
“I’m…sorry I accidentally reminded you of your lost loved one.” At that moment, realizing what it is he had to do, Red answered Vanessa’s embrace by also putting his arms around her.
The female bio-soldier’s eyes widened in surprise at this gesture. She momentarily stopped crying and rested her head in the teenage general’s chest.
Red rolled his eyes. Oh boy…
“Say…” came Vanessa’s voice after a while. “…can I…kiss you?”
Red’s eyes widened and his mind became a blur. She’s completely taken over by her past, he thought. But…
Clenching his fists that were resting on Vanessa’s back, Red replied.