The Sixth Chapter
I’ve never seen somebody so determined to burn a bridge they happened to be standing on. - Brigadier General Cari Rein.
Fawn’s world was silent when she removed her antler communication device. She washed her face, cleaned her neck and around the smooth metal discs where her ears would have been, had she not had them removed some years earlier. These discs were mounting brackets for the antler devices, equipment which soldiers were required to wear at all times. This specific brand was grueling to wear on the ears, even with the most comfortable gel inserts. All unmodified devices were prone to falling off even in a slight skirmish. The decision had been completely rational to Fawn; the outer ear was totally aesthetic to her culture, she had never met a human who did not wear antlers, at least one that she was not pointing a rifle at.
She replaced her set and both sides snapped into place, it gave her a minute buzz when it had finished booting and linked with the network. Fawn watched as Lechwe shuffled behind her in the mirror. She grumbled a greeting as she entered one of the stalls and Fawn mumbled back. Growing up in a militarized society had done nothing to change Fawn’s perception of the eternally wicked beast known as morning. She had wanted to tell the women of the horrors which see had seen last night, but Fawn was the fireteam leader, what purpose would it serve to rattle their confidence in her? As always, she would have to be reticent of divulging any concerns involving of her mental ‘illness’, that is, if she wanted to avoid being locked away again. Even now she winced when she recalled the dark, blue halls of the Naval Institute of Mental Health. It was there that she had begun to open the doors to this other world, one that lay between dimensions perfectly like her own. In this massive dark partition were where the words came from, spoken in long whispers before they had ever become intense screeches. Then the shadows had come, then the fractals, beings that were there, but not, their bodies lacking presence as they went about their unseen work.
Fawn returned to her room to find Flechette awake and fully dressed. She was listening to the news as she looked over her rifle, the firing pin sat next to her. The woman briefly looked up to nod at Fawn then returned to her work. The newscast was blaring numbers to skew perceptions about the war and keep moral up, but anyone who had actually set boots on the ground knew exactly what the score was. Fawn glanced around the room and saw that Chital was still a blanketed lump in her rack. She reached over with her foot and used her leg like a javelin.
“What?” she said, mumbling from beneath the covers.
“Up,” Fawn said, feeling an annoyance that only comes when one must be up while others still slept.
“Ugh.” Chital said; emerging from the nest of gray Army blankets she had made. She snatched her toiletry bag and walked out the room like a zombie. Fawn returned to her things, and looked down at the single sea bag that was her life, full of equipment and uniforms the military had issued to her; items they could easily take away. She sat on her bed and twirled her pink hair that was in a single thick braid. Other than a couple of styles Fawn could not remember keeping it any other way. Lechwe had tied purple ribbons at the ends of all of the women’s hair, a little reminder from her that it was still acceptable to enjoy cute things. Lechwe was the only one of them that seemed to be desperately holding on to the fact that they were still women. Fawn liked the thought, but knew that it was not true for her. In her own mind, Fawn was not a woman at all, but a terrible wolf maiden; only allowed to roam because of the desperate circumstances her nation had been thrust into. The State had no love for her, and even with her aunt’s influence would lock her away until they needed the killer in her once more.
Fawn snapped out of her trance and saw Lechwe and Chital shoving their double-socked feet into boots, she put on her urban fatigued top and began to roll up her sleeves. It was an old shirt and the fold creases were already well worn into the sleeves. The women finished putting on their gear and headed down stairs. They humped across the quarterdeck and out the side door to the mess hall. Inside were scores of bleary eyed female recruits, sauntering around with trays full of overcooked, diced omelets that the cooks called scrambled eggs, cold sausage links and fossil-like potato slices. The women grabbed trays and shoveled the breakfast into the same spaces they had every morning since they were children. Fawn cut the line for eggs and thrust her tray toward a Culinary Specialist, who then dumped whatever egg dish she was making onto the largest section of her tray, teaching the girls who were just skipped a valuable lesson. Eggs are eggs, and the non-picky always eat first. The women sat down at a table that was not infested by little girls and began to shovel food into their mouths, adding ketchup, hot sauce, salt and pepper to everything they knew would not be edible on its own.
There they were; sipping bad coffee waiting for time to pass, when the table was approached by girls with yellow ribbons, one of them was the girl on watch Fawn had spoken to the day before. The girls tied yellow ribbons just above of the purple ones Lechwe had added yesterday; then gave each of the women a hug.
“Aww, thank you,” Lechwe said, covering her mouth.
“I guess the little fuckers ain’t all bad,” Fawn said, as the girls moved to other tables with veterans shipping out. Flechette was unmoved by the gesture; the coal haired woman had her tiny arms folded tightly and her chin on her chest.
Chital scooted away from Flechette. “Mighty chilly over here,” Chital said.
“If we were actually ending this, then fine. But we’re not. Those girls are going to grow up to be us, dodging the same bullets, from the same guns that we are,” Flechette said. No one dared to speak after such a biting rant. Fawn knew she was right, they all had seen a couple of campaigns together, but Fawn and Flechette were a few years older than their comrades. They both had been child soldiers under Margrave Würgegriff von Brachland, a blood thirsty noble that had always demanded victory at all costs. And it had cost him his life, along with countless others and the innocence of his nation’s children. His widow seemed just as determined and bloody thirsty in her own campaign. For their losses, those fighting had received a chest gripping dose of survivor guilt and restless nights until they met their ends.
Fawn checked her watch, then hopped up and had another swallow of coffee, before hefting her sea bag and heading to the armory. There she checked out the product of her parents’ life’s work, a Protean Instrument, called the Toy Box. Like a Swiss Army Knife, this weapon held a multitude of functions, such as a machine gun, laser saw, battering ram, and a semi-personal shield. Though this weapon thrived in urban combat, a terrain the women of the Widow’s Retort constantly found themselves, the weapon had not been massed produced. Hirsch and Doe, Fawn’s parents, had designed dozens of other weapons and armor for the military before their passing, even the E.P. Rifle used by Flechette and all army snipers, but the heavy brass felt the Toy Box was an expensive, convoluted, mess. Fawn was even required special permissions to be able to use it as her primary weapon. Many could easily see why opinions of the weapon were so negative; it seemed to be solely designed to complement Fawn and her impressive physique. It was uncomfortable and awkward to hold in just about every formation to a person that was not her exact dimensions, as well as being excruciatingly heavy without the hovering actuators online. Even when they were, the Protean Formation system was activated by physical movements and gestures to save power, seen by the unenlightened as wild swinging, jerking and slamming the instrument against the walls or deck.
Fawn lifted her weapon and stepped to the side to sign it away. She was handed a medley of ammo, she loaded the weapon with machine gun rounds, grenades of all types, including white phosphorous, nitrogen and gasoline for the flamethrower, and fuel cells for the laser saw and the hovering actuators. Flechette had once mused out loud on how little the Army thought of them to let Fawn run about with a bomb on her shoulders. Fawn turned on the actuators and the weapon began to hover at the height she had designated, always liking to keep it just above her waist. They all walked back to the quarterdeck, saluting the flag once more before piling into a transport vehicle filled with shouting and singing women, hyping themselves up for the hell that was to come.
The truck lurched forward along the empty roads releasing them from the confines of the base, and into the desolate streets lightly sprinkled with gray slush, that matched the sky above. The women’s singing was terrible; but it was nice to have a group of lively sisters for once, instead of the usual funeral processions. It could mean that these women were veterans who no longer flinched, even on the first artillery shell of an attack or booters who had never felt a hot round pierce their comfort bubble and graze their cheek, either way Fawn preferred their mood. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder and hip-to-hip, the women swayed against one another as the truck swerved in and out of the lane. Any schmuck was allowed to drive now, as the only traffic ever on the road was a couple of buses that ran into the city a few times a day and the transport trucks moving personnel between the bases.
After some time everyone had stopped singing and a few of the older women who knew better closed their eyes and tried to squeeze out a few more moments of sleep. Fawn wanted to, but sleeping during the day always brought her back to thoughts of her brother, Alpha; or worse, the hyper reality she had witnessed on and off her entire life. She was also unsure if she would be visited once again, no one could tell her what she had saw the night before was a dream. She refused to sleep after it happened; she waited until daybreak and watched as her roommates crawled out of their racks slowly, zombie-like, but none of them were corpses. She looked over to Flechette; her dark eyes were listless as she hugged her rifle like a teddy bear. Then Fawn noticed that she was doing the same to the Toy Box, it was just as much a friend to her as the women she had spent so much of her life with.
The truck finally stopped inside the gates of Fort Lariat, the women quickly hopped out and headed into the hanger for the in-brief. As Fawn made her way up the hill, she walked past a group of women who were rotating out of the field. Their faces were slacked and grimy, with uniforms so filthy you could not read their name tapes, and their boots looked like someone had worked them over with a weed whacker. Fawn nodded to them, knowing exactly how they felt, it would be more than a few hot showers and quiet nights before they were right again. Some never would be. She grabbed a bottle of water from the Corpsman station and saw her Aunt Cari heading toward her. Fawn gritted her teeth, then popped the cap on the bottle and chugged it down to hide her uneasiness. The Brigadier General had her once hot pink hair tied back into a now tea rose bun. She motioned for Fawn to follow her into her office. Inside Fawn deactivated the Toy Box’s actuators and the weapon lowered slowly to the floor. She tossed her sea bag in a corner and dropped down into a chair, only to hop back up when she saw the steam coming out of the coffee maker. Fawn closed her eyes as she tasted the first sip, then threw in a single Irish Cream and returned to her seat.
“So, how’ve you been?” Cari said, rocking slowly in her chair.
Fawn nearly snarled. “I’m going to the front. How am I supposed to be?” Fawn said, taking a swig of coffee.
“I meant your little temper problem. Are you taking your pills?” Cari said. But they both knew it had nothing to do with her temper. She just wanted those things away from her.
“I’m fine. Those pills don’t do anything, except make me appreciate the verticalness of the walls,” Fawn said.
“Are you getting better though?” Cari said.
“I’m fine. Any word on Alpha?” Fawn said.
“You know you’d be the first person I told,” Cari said.
“I know. It’s just…,” Fawn said. Then she sighed when she saw a picture of her family on her aunt’s desk.
“You’re supposed to miss the ones you love. Wherever he is I’m sure he’s missing us. He’s strong, just like his big sister; he’ll find a way to survive,” Cari said.
“Yeah,” Fawn said, putting down the empty cup.
The Brigadier General leaned back in her chair. “I wanted to ask you something,” she said.
“What?” Fawn said.
“Your PRD is coming up. I can make this your last tour; won’t have to be out there in the shit anymore.” Cari said.
“Sounds nice, but I’m not good at anything else,” Fawn said.
“Bullshit. You’re good at everything. You just let these pinheads piss you off too easy,” Cari said. Fawn looked down to the floor, placing her elbows on her knees.
“I’m not saying you have to put up with everyone’s shit, but this is the military Fawna, it wouldn’t work if we just beat up every private and JO we had a problem with. Hell, you think I don’t want knock a few skulls around?” Cari said, leaning in a bit closer, speaking a bit softer. “You think I haven’t knocked a few skulls around?”
Fawn chuckled. “Maybe that’s where I get it from,” she said.
The old woman sighed. “Maybe…maybe. You know your mother was always the nice one,” Cari said.
“Oh yeah?” Fawn said.
“Yeeaahh. That’s the only reason your parents got together. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings,” Cari said. Both of them laughed.
“Well. Come on. We got to be at this damned brief,” Cari said, getting up.
“It’s not like it’s gonna start without you,” Fawn said.
“One of the hardest parts of being the boss my darling; is pretending you give a shit,” Cari said.
Fawn bumped and nudged her way to the purple hill she knew to be Lechwe, Flechette turned and shot Fawn a quizzing glance. Fawn shrugged and leaned against the back wall.
“Attention on deck,” someone cried, snapping everyone to attention.
“Easy everyone,” Cari said, causing everyone to relax. “Let’s make this a quick one, eh. I’m sure our ladies in the 209th want to wash out the war that’s being waged on their scalps,” she said; the quip got a few chuckles. A hard jawed woman began the presentation, a digital map glowed behind her, on it, the city of Lull. It was the 203rd’s mission, along with their allies the 17th Armored Division, to clear out their designated sector of the city as well as beat back any enemies they came across. Margravine Crocotta was set in her ways, refusing to give any territory gained no matter how much it cost them to defend it.
Fawn looked over to the tank division across the room, thinking of how nice it would be to ride in style for once, instead of humping across that blazing cracked highway that separated them from the front. Many of the women on the tank crews were a crass and surly bunch, but Fawn was sure she could charm one of them. The rest of the brief droned on about proper procedures for clearing buildings and engaging the enemy. Fawn understood why the Army had to tell them this every time, but most of the materials were things you learned on the bus ride to Infantry School. She knew she could clear a room with her eyes closed, because she had. It was an embarrassing event that involved an ill-equipped enemy and his bastard tabasco sauce she had been trying to forget for years.
When the brief let out, Fawn hugged her aunt goodbye and quickly made her way to the transport ship. The cargo bay was noisy, crowded and already hot. A burly woman tapped Fawn on the shoulder and she handed her gear off to be laced securely with the rest of the equipment. Fortunately, the tanks were already loaded and she did not have to wait long before they took off. During their ride over sleep was impossible. Even when Fawn turned her antlers off she still was helpless against the jarring rattle of the ship. The ship landed on an airstrip apart of a makeshift base, the massive transport rumbled against the dirt airfield until it came to a stop. Everyone hurried out and watched the tanks pull out soon after. In the distance Fawn could see that the rest of the Armored Division was about to move out, she could see the waves of heat rising off of each unit. It would be a hot one, the light reflected from the bleached sand was blinding.
Fawn’s fire team posted on her and checked the gear they had brought, their sea bags in lockers back at Fort Lariat.
“So are we walking or what?” Chital said; her face already red from the heat.
“Fuck that,” Lechwe said, fanning herself, then Chital. “Fawn what’s up?”
“Hold up,” Fawn said, rushing over to a tank crew, a rare smile was forcing its way to the front of her face.
“Oh shit,” a red headed woman said, her nametape said Gazelle. She was a very animated woman; she had a cigarette in her hand which never quite made it to her mouth, even after she had managed to light it.
“What’s up?” Fawn said, shaking hands with the woman.
“Livin’ the dream. I ain’t seen you in a minute Dearborne,” Gazelle said.
“Yeah,” Fawn said, rubbing the back of her neck.
“What they got you doin’ now?” Gazelle said.
“Heavy Infantry,” Fawn said.
“God damn Dearborne, you’re a party crasher? You must like getting’ shot at, huh?” Gazelle said.
“Can we ride with your girls?” Fawn said.
“Hell yeah. Umm, that lil’ creepy one over there one of yours?” Gazelle said.
“Flech? She’s cool, known her since I was a kid,” Fawn said.
“Ooh. She look like her Baby Daddy paid child support in coupons,” Gazelle said.
“That’s as much as she’s gonna smile though,” Fawn said, waving over her fire team.
Gazelle finally had almost put the cigarette to her lips. “She’s smiling?” Gazelle said, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah, she’s a good shooter though,” Fawn said. They tossed their packs up and climbed onboard, Fawn and Lechwe sat on the front tread guards which shielded the locomotion and Chital and Flech took the back two. The two women on the tank crew disappeared inside and Gazelle’s head poked out behind the machine gun turret. The woman opened a separate channel on their antlers so they could speak to each other without screaming. Then they rumbled forward, joining the caravan of tanks heading across the blasted highway. Fawn adjusted her helmet once more and securely fastened it to her antlers, then brought down her visor and signaled for everyone else to do so. These acted as polarized sunglasses, Night Vision, Thermal and a simple HUD, which told them where hidden friendlies were, exact ranges of targets, and alternate routes to waypoints. Flechette’s HUD was a bit more complex, it was linked to her rifle, the Penny Black and it showed projected points where a target would end up if moving, automatically adjusting itself if the target changed speed or direction. This feature had been left out of a standard soldiers’ load out, because without an extremely accurate weapon and exemplary marksmanship the extra information was worthless.
“Hey Fawn, remember that girl that tried to kill herself with a spork in boot camp?” Gazelle said.
“Yeah, yeah. Dumb fuck. What was her name? Hare?” Fawn said.
Gazelle rotated the machine gun turret in a complete circle. “Yep. Yep. Yep,” Gazelle said. “You know she’s still in, right?” Fawn turned back to look at the woman.
“You’re shitting me?” Fawn said.
“Nope. She works in supply. Her NCO’s can’t stand her,” Gazelle said.
“Are we really hurting that bad now?” Lechwe said.
“We been hurting that bad. It’s probably worse now. They’ll take anybody, even crazies and junkies,” Gazelle said. Fawn nodded, knowing only Flechette knew anything about the time she had spent under psychiatric care. It was where they had met, as girls, though Flechette had her own problems she had taken time to help Fawn acclimate to the horrible conditions of the facility. When Fawn had asked if Flechette had seen the fractals, heard their propositions, a younger Flechette had replied: I don’t understand how anyone can not see them, not hear them.
The city of Lull was directly before them, waves of heat ascended from the sand swept roads, distorting the image of the steel and concrete erections jutting from the golden desert in the distance. By the time the women had pushed more than a few miles into the ravaged metropolis, the gritty claws of this sandy void would have scraped every inch of them; all of it was inevitable, necks and feet rubbed raw by parched collars and mummified socks; those who had been here could not forget this grainy, chomping cleft that bled moisture from every guarded breath. The thought instantly made Fawn thirsty, she curled her lips toward the grimy straw jutting from her helmet and took a small sip, swirling the tepid, stale fluid around her mouth before swallowing.
The caravan slowed as they came to the surrounding suburbs of the city, scorched and crumpled cars still in the driveways, roofs of houses collapsed, front doors still open, if not torn from the hinges, many only had time to flee with what they could on their way out. A weathered high heel of a woman’s shoe allowed the viewer to see just how sudden the incident had been. The attacks had more than likely happened when many were arriving home, most had never gotten even a few moments to shake off the stress procured earlier that day, apologize to the wife and pick up the kids.
Homes left intact were done up in styles grossly out of date, vehicle models that had been retired decades ago, even to their grandparents this war was old. The tanks moved along easily, a few small craters in the road still left room to maneuver around them. Fawn’s purple eyes narrowed as they passed the first set of skyscrapers, pockmarked and torn open from airstrikes and artillery called away long ago, those that had sent down the order, dead, most likely never having witnessed the carnage of their legacies. Fawn gazed up into the lurid recess of an office building, knowing that death was glaring back at her. She turned to Flechette, knowing the steel-eyed woman had seen the same thing.
As Fawn gazed back to the shadowed hole above, she thought she saw the figure that had visited her the night before, Long Arms. She zoomed in on the area with her visor; surely he was there performing maintenance on his great guns. Her visor told her there had been nothing there and yet it had detected movement. She turned slightly to Flechette and began to open her mouth, but then thought better. To start a patrol off by claiming to be seeing vanishing people, let alone men, would not be good for her command or her career, even though she had nowhere else to fall.
They rolled through a long empty intersection, lights extinguished and street signs twisted and gnarled like the roots of some ancient tree. Concrete dust and splintered glass lay on the street like freshly fallen snow, shadows inside of windowless storefronts hid abominations that could only be perceived by their noses. Fawn and the other women brought up their scarves to cover their faces, behind her own Fawn rubbed her tongue over her teeth. How could there still be fresh death here, had the front been pushed back this far?
Fawn’s body jerked as the tank trudged along the battered road, she could see by the markers ahead that they were almost to the sector they were supposed to be clearing, known as cleaning to her Aunt Cari, but Fawn never minced words when it came to her work. They were here to murder anyone with a gold uniform, surrender or not, men or not, the courtesies lent to enemy soldiers in the past had been spit on by the Golden Fossas’ list of war crimes. Even after the war Fawn could never share a beer with a Fossa even if they picked up the tab.
“Alright girls here we are, time to knock on some doors,” Gazelle said. All of the tank gunners began to pan their barrels at the darkened windows of the gutted buildings.
Fawn hopped off the tank and activated the actuators on the Toy Box. Her fire team followed as did everyone in her squad; their faces were emotionless stone masks. Already the other squad leaders were rushing into buildings further back. Fawn jerked her head back and her squad posted on her. She gave them their orders, which they nodded back in agreement; they had already gotten over Fawn’s incessant need to take point. The woman seemed to enjoy gambling with her life, taking point into every building. Her bravado had gained her notoriety for being slightly crazy and insanely lucky. The odds of being shot down or blown up by being the first to breech were high, yet Fawn lived on, scratched and bruised, but alive.
With an expert movement Fawn jerked the Toy Box upward and then rotated it, so that it would hit the ground vertically on its left side, indicated by a black square tip. The machine broke apart and then snapped itself together again into the form of a battering ram. She then set it to transform into a close quarters battle rifle immediately after impact.
The women stacked against the walls of the building on either side of the entrance, with Fawn’s fireteam closest to it. Fawn nodded once and the other team leaders nodded back. Fawn’s focus became amazingly sharp, she had pushed out all thoughts of what could be on the other side of the door, only that it was already dead and she had killed it. She allowed a heavy, stale breath to escape from her parched lips, and then swung the instrument full force into the barricaded door. The door and the furniture behind it splintered to prickly dust as the pressurized air escaped from the device with a monstrous hiss. Just as it was designed to do, the Toy Box immediately converted to a battle rifle and Fawn charged in from the momentum still carrying her, her visor set to Thermal. They swept the room quickly, finding nothing, but someone had been there, used cooking utensils were scattered about, the windows had been covered and a few wrinkled porno magazines were sitting in the corner.
Slowly they crept towards the stairs; then Fawn gave the signal to halt. She sucked in a few quick breaths of sour air to get her blood up and pinched her nostrils quickly. She knew that someone up there wanted to taste her blood and the thought enraged her, but was she alone in her anger? What lesser would have the gall to strike out against her? And how could she, or rather, they, respect any lesser that submitted to the boot? Surrender garnered nothing but contempt.
A bitter taste filled her mouth as her saliva glands worked and her gums began to swell, the grip she had on her weapon was made of steel. Then she nodded and charged up the stairs, with her eyes barely level with the floor, her mind began to plan out her next steps. They were at the end of a long dark gallery. With her left hand, she held up two fingers, then three and pointed to the deck behind. Immediately Lechwe and Chital got into position behind her, their barrels aimed down the hall.
She then held four fingers and Flechette posted with the Penny Black aimed just inward of the wall. The other soldiers looked puzzled, then understood as they saw Fawn stand before the back entrance of the office. When her signal came Flechette fired the E.P. Rifle, tearing through every room and out of the building, and then Fawn charged the office. Finding two men split in half on the other side, Fawn strafed behind a dusty boardroom table. Then she heard Lechwe and Chital firing, the others who had been missed by the shot had run into the hallway. She crept closer to an open door on the other side of the room, and then fired a stitch through the wall before entering, a man with an axe collapsed behind the entrance.
From behind a desk, a knife wielding woman dove toward Fawn, pressing her against the wall. She was in a tattered Fossa uniform, her face covered in grime and war paint. She brought the knife down next to Fawn’s head just missing her antlers. Fawn pushed her away, she grabbed the close-quarters handle of the Toy Box and the weapon dropped like a stone, leaving her with the smaller unit. The stock folded into place and Fawn sprayed the woman, leaving hot brass twisting on the floor. Machinegun fire sent Fawn sprawling against the deck. She stuck the handheld back into the Toy Box, instantly reloading it. Another volley of machinegun fire thumped against the walls, leaving rotted wood chips and plaster sprinkled about the room. She could hear voices on the other side of the wall, but could not make out their plans. She glanced around the room, and then whispered into the antler microphone after the shooting had stopped.
“Move up,” Fawn said. Soon as she had said it, the bookcase fell over onto the desk she was hiding behind, just missing her head. Two women came from behind it and before Fawn could raise her weapon a woman fired her sidearm directly at her. Fawn could see the hammer pulling back and the slide move across the barrel, even heard the spring being squeezed inside the weapon, taking all the time in the world. She waited an eternity for that spinning bullet to come out of that rifled barrel, but it was tardy. Then the two women collapsed and she turned around to see Lechwe, holding her rifle confidently, the bore of the gun seemed bigger than her head. She looked back to the women who were dead behind the desk, both nearly ripped in half from Lechwe’s machine gun. Then Fawn looked at the dead woman’s gun and where it had been fired. The bullet had fallen to the floor, its nose flattened and warped; there had nothing to shield her from it, no time to activate the shield on the Toy Box. The barrel of the dead woman’s gun was still smoking.
“What’s up?” Flechette said, hefting the rifle that was larger than her.
“I don’t know,” Fawn said, looking at the hole in the ground. She was unsure how she had not been struck down; the aim of the gun that fired was true. She picked up the bullet and rolled it between her fingers, condensation moistened her fingertips.
“All clear here, Sarge. They’re checking the Penthouse now,” a woman said.
“Yeah,” Fawn said.
Fawn headed up to the Penthouse, it was perceived to be clear until a blanket hung against the windows shifted. Fawn sniffed and fired a stitch into it. The brown service blanket of the Fossas poured blood out from underneath it. Lechwe tore the blanket away to find a disheveled, dying Fossa behind it; he was twitching and trembling as if he was fighting the freezing cold. He collapsed from the window frame onto the deck; then Lechwe grabbed her sidearm and fired a single round into his skull, emptying it onto the weathered hardwood floor. Then the rest of the women turned away without any more thought to it, as if someone had crushed a roach underfoot a little too loudly. They crept towards the boarded and blanketed windows, wary of snipers. Fawn turned back towards Flechette, her pale skin, made her look ghostly amongst the brown skinned and tanned women.
“This good for you?” Fawn said. It was her squad’s turn to provide a sniper for over watch. Flechette looked around the room and nodded. Fawn then addressed the rest of her squad and they followed her to the entrance.
As Fawn approached the door she shouted. “We’re comin’ out. We got eyes on the position I’m sending to you,” Fawn said. She took out a small touch screen keypad and punched in the coordinates of the building, then routed the data to every soldier in the 203rd, all their allies in the area, as well as their Command. Fawn headed out into the street as other soldiers scurried by. She found Gazelle and the rest of her crew gawking at the porno magazines found inside. Fawn reached in her pocket and pulled out a stick of gum, flicking the wrapper away and joining the tank crew.
“Any good?” Fawn said, leaning against the tank.
“These two suck. Bunch of male-ego shit. The all-female’s, alright. I don’t know if that’s your thing, yet,” Gazelle said.
“Yet?” Fawn said, elbows hiked by her shoulders against the tank.
“Ain’t no sense in wantin’ somethin’ that ain’t there, Dearborne. At least out here anyway. Prince Charming’s got the keys to the ride now. And he drives like shit, because he can,” Gazelle said.
Fawn sighed. “Yeah. I just can’t help what I like, you know. I’m not knocking you,” Fawn said.
“I know, I know. I hope you find your Prince,” Gazelle said.