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10.01.2012 , 08:32 PM |
Bad Timing: Breakthro-wait a minute never mind
, Trooper Vierce again, spoiler-free. 1300 words.
Evening, and I was on edge. I'd just as soon not go over what memories were playing in my head. I needed to sleep, so I headed to the medbay to get that process started. Picked up a little sleepy shot, a drop of anti-anxiety stuff, brought out a little whisky – a combination that is strictly prohibited, but a guy my size doesn't necessarily notice any one factor by itself, so the combo helps – and then I headed back to my quarters, loaded up, and just had to sit around waiting for it to kick in.
Sergeant Dorne wandered by not long after and stopped in the doorway. Her eyes immediately went to the syringe on the nightstand. "Leftenant, our supplies appear to be down by – sir?"
"I was just prepping for sleep. Every now and then the shots help."
"Shots," she said, emphasizing the plural. "…And is that a flask?"
"Yes, Sergeant, it is. Minor cocktail, I've found it works." My lazy warm veins agreed with me.
"Sir, if you actually mixed alcohol with the deprovanatol and the grillamine, that's incredibly dangerous."
"Too late to stop it, doctor. Though for what it's worth, it hasn't killed me yet."
She gave me an exasperated look. And was almost certainly trying to work out how to yell at me without pissing me off.
"I'll be fine," I said. "Nights like this I don't wake up shouting, and that lets us all sleep. So anyway. Did you need something?"
"Yes." She brought up a datapad. Of course she had a datapad. And gave it to me. "Squad status and activity report, classification level secret. If you could confirm what I've entered and finish the summary for the last four week's activities, then sign, I'll get this submitted."
I frowned at the datapad. "I understand this when we're not producing concrete results, but didn't they notice what we've brought in lately? What else matters?"
"It's purely a formality, sir," she said nervously.
"I know, I know. It's just obnoxious. In my last outfit our status reports consisted of, A, getting the job done, and then B, calling up the guys next door and letting 'em know we're still alive."
"Your…last outfit, sir? Prior to the Republic Army?"
I got a slightly unpleasant feeling in my stomach, but I still felt pretty relaxed. "Yeah, I was in the resistance against the Empire on a planet called Kegled II."
"Ah. Your record did mention your home planet. I'm sorry, sir."
"Sorry? What, had you actually heard of the place?"
"Unfortunately yes." She looked genuinely disgusted. "Rumors, that's all, but that was enough."
"I see." Well, that was way past time to steer away from the subject. "So as I was saying, I never had to fill out – what is this? – Form RAR-002 for the resistance. We had a much simpler system."
"You had many fewer people to keep track of," she pointed out.
"I guess." I frowned at the datapad and scribbled an uninformative sentence so as to take up space in that wide empty status field. "Did you have to fill this stuff out at your last job?"
"Oh, yes, sir. Due punctually every two weeks. It was rather longer than this one. Several more detailed questions."
I scrolled down the entire awful questionnaire and back up. "…You're joking. Right?"
Of course not. Dorne didn't joke. "How the hell did your people find time to do"…no use getting into that, so…"all the other stuff…if they were filling out some juiced-up version of this every two weeks?"
"Mostly by not taking time off to sleep, sir." Cool voice, straight face. I suddenly wondered whether I'd been wrong about her making jokes.
"So that's why you defected," I said, nodding sagely. "To slack off."
She blinked. "That wasn't my primary reason."
I started to suspect that the whisky was doing the talking for me. "Of course not. The rations must've been up there on the list, too."
She raised her eyebrows.
"For years," I explained, "half my meals were rations we stole from the local Imps. And let me tell you, the day I got off planet and found that they have real food in the Republic – even the Republic ration bars – that's the day I threw in my lot with the Republic Army and never looked back."
"It…certainly was a benefit, sir."
I had this sudden strong desire to trip that shy play of expression around her mouth and eyes into a real laugh. But I didn't have any idea how to do that. So I kept rambling instead. "So the food and the sleep schedule are big pluses, but – at least for me – the jump to the Republic Army involved a hell of a lot more paperwork than I was used to." I waved the datapad.
"We have a very good system here, but it can be quite convoluted."
"I didn't think that bothered you."
"Just because I can navigate it doesn't mean it came easily."
"And I guess you had to cram it in next to all the Imp rulebooks you already knew."
"I think," she said carefully, "the previous practice in memorization helped."
"It's useful having both tactical manuals, at least. I've noticed that sometimes, rarely, when we're out there and things go off plan I'll slide into an Imp maneuver, one of the things I learned from fighting and copying the best my people saw in the field years ago. And you pick up right away. Jorgan's studied those tactics, but you
'em. That helps."
"They do seem to come readily to you."
My anger at that claim was distant and fuzzy. "Studying and copying Imps was how I got most of my training. Robbing Imps was how I got my supplies and gear. All to point right back at them. In some ways the Empire made me the soldier I was when I signed on for Republic basic training four years ago. Not a day goes by I don't curse them for doing it, but…that's how it ended up." I frowned. "Sorry. I'm not directing this at you. It's just, that's how I came across the Imperial tricks I know."
She nodded solemnly. "I've been asked on more than one occasion," she said slowly, "to give a superior a full briefing on the tactics, the hand signals and other tells that Imperial squad leaders give. And a thousand other things. Sometimes it seems I'm expected to teach the whole field manual. It's been something of a relief not to have to be that kind of resource here."
"No. I already know more than enough." My head was starting to gently spin; I lay down and looked back over at Dorne. "Whatever I learned, things are better here."
"They are," she agreed warmly.
"You're all right, Dorne. You're not like any of them I ever met." For one thing, she didn't shoot at me, even when I probably deserved it; for another, she appeared to have a conscience. "And Jorgan and Forex keep up with the Imp-Pub two-step pretty well."
"Forex I expect; he's programmed for anything. I've been very impressed with Sergeant Jorgan's performance given our occasionally unorthodox or at least non-Republic-approved tactics. May I ask how long you worked with him prior to my arrival?"
"Six weeks, give or take."
She raised her eyebrows again. "You seem to coordinate very closely for such a short acquaintance."
"Eh, I'm used to having mouthy brothers. My professional brother-in-arms. We get along." And then I delivered the absolute finest nonsensical overreach my brain has ever handed to me while under the influence of anything. "I've never had a sister, though. I wonder how that works?"
She looked surprised, incredulous, possibly halfway alarmed, but after a moment this shy sweet smile started warming away the edges of her doubt. It was something…something genuine, that's all.
And that's when I fell asleep.
This comes…early. Too early? I don't know when on Tatooine it is set. Anyway, he's mad stoned.
Completely made-up drug names. I know a guy who very nearly is Body Type 3 IRL, and his metabolism is just horrifying. The substance abuse dosages he partakes in to get the average person's baseline over-the-counter drug effect is…kind of ridiculous.
I'm still shamelessly misspelling "lieutenant" because that pronunciation is so damn distinctive.
I have a feeling Dorne knows exactly how much weight to assign to "commander is stoned off his proverbial *** from the horrible drug cocktail he mixed for himself." Still, this is his first admission that they have things in common, and that's kind of nifty.
I suspect that they will immediately backpedal by about a zillion miles, but she will return this confidence by finding him an anti-anxiety sedative thingy that won't kill him for the next time he decides to self-medicate.
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