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Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by SpaceCowboyEin, Aug 9, 2016.
"Every blade of grass gets burned in fire of the Cutters."
The trip to Ceres was slow, boring and nerve wracking all at the same time for Anira. She was never the most patriotic individual, and she had jumped at the chance to be away from her family for once in her life. But that was when she thought she'd be some Home Defense pilot circling Venus for hours on end. Instead, she was brought up from the coziness of the Luna Academy and sent to the asteroid belt, or 'no man's land' as it was referred to now. She'd heard the horror stories about fighting in the belt well before she was inducted into the EAF. If the outies didn't kill her first, then smashing into a giant rock certainly would. She used to think that it was pretty edgy to consider your own death in the world. But what was once cool was now terrifying and simply would not stop plaguing her mind. The thoughts of what was to come kept her from sleeping much at all during the trip. It was rest she desperately needed because she knew there'd be no respite at Ceres. It also didn't help that her former cadets traveling with her were not coping much better than she was. Some were talking to themselves, others on their comm devices talking with friends and loved ones while they could. Save for certain allotted times the belt was a dead zone, and no unofficial communiques were allowed in or out. Anira didn't think to contact her parents, she'd felt she had said her peace when she broke the news of her deployment to them. They frantically wanted to find a way out for her but it was too late. She wanted to be angry, like so many others on the transport ship, but could only muster silent resignation while leaning against the glass window beside her seat. Outside she could see the subtle glimmers of the sun's distant light against the chassis of the numerous Cutters escorting the new cadets out to Ceres. While most of the fighting happened in the belt, infiltration teams often broke through and conducted attacks on the other side, usually targeting supply lines and new recruits. Just another trial by fire. Eventually the sound of the ships reactor's and engines humming below them would lull her to an uneasy slumber as someone cried out in despair in the distance.
Her arrival at Ceres was fast and brutal. The ship had gone on high alert the moment they had entered the belt. Everyone was ordered to strap in and keep their helmets on at all times. A quick glance out of the windows showed that the Cutters were gone, and in the distance bright flashes of light erupted from in between the countless pieces of rock floating about. A battle was happening some ways away from them, but it didn't fascinate her comrades any less. Even she couldn't help but look in awe until something screamed against the bulkhead above them and sent the ship klaxons blaring. Anira was much less interested in the fight now and began checking her helmets for a secure lock. She was alert and her heart was pounding as they made final approach for Ceres. The klaxons had since died down but the Cutters never returned to their sides. She wondered if they had one, or if the fight was a bloody loss or draw. She winced and said a small prayer for the pilots on the off chance that they were religious at all. When the ship docked with Ceres, the recruits were quickly ushered off of the ship and into the busy first deck of the military section of Ceres' spaceport. There was activity everywhere and numerous deck crew were often pushing through the crowd of 'greenies' as they called them, alongside a few choice expletives. It was loud and bright and a farcry from anything that Anira was used to. The suddenness of being prodded through it all made her nauseous, and when she glanced back to see the extent of the damage to their transport ship she nearly threw up. A hole had been blasted clean through the several foot-thick armor and bored a tunnel straight through to the other side. A little lower and that stray shot likely would have ended Anira's journey before it even started. The recruit beside her noticed as well and was not as centered as she and threw up his lunch all over her boots. Anira did her best to keep from starting a chain reaction and just kept going, focusing instead on different ways to carry her sack of what little was still hers to their muster station. When they arrived, a surprisingly clean-shaved if not exhausted lieutenant welcomed them to Ceres HQ. It would be their new home away from home and if they played their cards right, it might stay that way for some time. Anira didn't share the sentiment but she was sure it would be better than floating in space asphyxiating. Eventually they were given rooming assignments that doubled as one being placed with their wingman. She furrowed her brow at the name of who would be sharing a room with her. "A clone?" She muttered. She'd known about clones and how they were used to fight other's battle for them. Could they be trusted in such a situation. In her mind it was all too easy for them to possibly defect to the other side. It wouldn't have been the first defection from either side. When Anira arrived at her little dorm-like room, she brought with her the stench of bile that had since dried and stuck to her boots. Her first order of business was to take the boots off and clean them, she didn't want to think of what their commanding officer would do if they simply walked in and saw the dire state that they were in. As much as she liked the idea of rebelling against the authority of her parents, she loathed even looking at her Academy instructor the wrong way. Once she had finished, Anira got a good luck of the room. It was small, in the cozy kind of ways. Both beds were elevated above what she assumed were their digital workdesks and wardrobes. There was limited space for their 'common area' which was essentially a half couch situated in front of what could have been a glorified coffee table and across from a flat screen tv that probably didn't get many channels. Off to the side was a kitchenette and a door that led to a full bathroom. It was all grey and bland, but she hoped that her clone wingman would have good taste in interior design and could help liven the place up some. With a sigh she dumped her sack onto the right bed and plopped down on the couch. Dinner was to be in an hour or so, and it was now that Anira was beginning to realize that she probably hadn't eaten anything that wasn't nutrient paste in the last day or so. Her stomach rumbled in protest of it's lack of good treatment and Anira dismissed it by turning on the tv and watched what she guessed was a movie channel playing some old flick from the 21st century about cowboys and aliens to pass the time.
She never figured she'd want Dramamine in friggin' space. WT-231, or Whiskey to the odd friend that she made, mashed her palm harder against her mouth, desperate to keep the sparse military paste lunch down. It had been quite the ride, being surrounded by asteroids, enemy fire, and old gods knew what else, and he Clone was had been desperate for it to end. Odd, she remembered thinking at the time, that a would be pilot was getting motion sickness. But it was different: when one was at the controls, when one had first hand observation/decision/response to whatever situation she found herself in, it was easy enough to brace oneself against the twist and roll of the ship. Or in her case, hopefully, a Daisy Cutter. What a weird name for a mech class. Whiskey filed along with the other prematurely former recruits, pushing along narrow hallways as they were led into a larger hall. There some stuff-shirt was handing out...room assignments? And assigning partners at the same time? That...yeah, okay, that made sense. Get to know your teammate, be best friends, grow comfy enough with each other to pick each others' noses. Or something like that. Her ears pricked as her na- no, her number was called. She felt a heat build up inside her. Gorram Suit couldn't even be bothered to hand her over to the military without changing her designation to her nickname. Figured. But who the fume would be her partner? Anira Litimco? As in, Litimco Medical Litimco? Whiskey whistled softly. Guess even some of the upper echelons weren't immune to the draft. Standing up on her toes, the Clone tried to peer around, looking for her new roomie. But even tiptoe, she wasn't quite tall enough to get a good look. And besides, everyone was filing back out, heading for their bunks, looking to relax before dinner and formation. Guess I ought to do the same. As Whiskey neared her bunk, her nose wrinkled. Some poor soul didn't have the fortitude that she'd managed and had tossed their lunch. Her own stomach began making complaints. Frowning, she found her door and shoved it open. A large video screen was playing some old time movie or other, and laying on the couch was a girl. She was maybe a few years younger than Whiskey was herself (biologically speaking), and she lounged a bit like she owned the place. Grinning, Whiskey strode over to the couch and collapsed on it, dropping her pack on the ground beside her. Raising an eyebrow, she took a closer look at the video. "I always thought Daniel Craig was wasted on this movie," she quipped offhandedly.
Anira was beginning to fall asleep when the door to her room slid open with a hushed swish. It barely registered enough in her dozing mind to cause her to get up, that was until she heard footsteps coming her way. Anira was very aware of how much of mess she probably looked like, lazed out on the couch with her hair all over the place, and made an attempt to sit up and fix herself. But still her new partner was simply too fast. She'd just gotten set when a blue-haired girl plopped down onto the cushion beside her. "Wha?" Anira blinked back some confusion at her roommates words and did a spit take to the tv then back to her. "Oh!" This girl, this clone, WT-231 knew about these old time movies and even the actors. It was surprising, most clones sometimes lacked proper personalities outside of what would have been acceptable for their line of work and yet, there was this. "Uhm...well yes. Compared to his Bond features this comes up...weak. That doesn't mean it's without its uses though." She put out in a nervous fit of trying to find a comfortable position. She felt so far beyond awkward. She tended to ramble when things go like this, and her cheeks reddened a bit as she hoped the woman didn't catch on to that last sentence. She seemed so full of life and more entertained by the current situation than Anira was. She looked older but it was likely that her growth was accelerated as was the case with most clones. She sighed and figured now would be as good a time as any to make decent first impressions. "I'm Anira Litimco. Yes, that Litimco." She was eager to get that little bit out of the way first. She was sure to hear in many times over. Hell, the first aid kit situated on the wall of their kitchen had the family logo on it. "And you're...well...I know your designation but do you have a nickname?" Was she prying? Was she digging a social hole for herself already? Did it really matter since one of them were likely to be dead soon.
Hm. She'd woken the girl up. Oops. "You're awfully curious for a Suit. Figured you'd-" The Clone's smile dipped momentarily before she laughed. "But yeah, I've got a nickname! Can't really go around referring to myself as a number. I'm Whiskey! Sergeant gave it to me when I got to the Academy. Thought having to say my designation was too much, I guess! Hah! "But yeah, definitely recognized your name when they gave out assignments." Whiskey shrugged. Her eyes wandered the room, lazily checking it out. Every so often her left eye, which was itself a red that contrasted the brown of her right, would wink inexplicably. "Your family isn't famous, per se, but your family's stuff definitely gets around. Cripes, I've Run Litimco Medical's buildings enough to recognize the name anywhere." Pushing herself up, Whiskey yanked her bag off the floor. She stood staring at the two beds briefly before pointing at the one Anira had already dropped her belongs on. "So this one's yours, huh? Neat." For all the horror that was surely in store for her, the Clone couldn't help but feel a small feeling of elation. She'd never had this much freedom of movement, this much space to herself. She only had to share a room with one other! Fuming hell! This was fantastic! Strolling over to the bed on the left, she began pulling things out and putting them in open shelves: a few data discs, clothing, toiletries, and a hard bound book. It looked ancient, and Whiskey handled it with the utmost care as she secured it with a few other odds and ends. Running her fingers through the artificial blue of her hair, Whiskey turned back to Anira. "Well unpacking was fast. It's not hard when you don't have much to bring." She smiled, distracted, her mind elsewhere, and threw off the black leather travel jacket she'd worn on their shuttle ride to Ceres. It hit the bed with a muffled thump. "So. The Asteroid Belt. Wonder what kind of things we'll be doing."
Anira watched Whiskey in bewilderment as she went on from one subject to another. She seemed to be much more hyper than she was and the young pilot had to wonder if it was how her original had been or if she had developed the personality on her own. At the very least, it was interesting to hear someone else take control of a conversation. It made them somewhat easy to make first impressions about, you could get their stances on issues well before anyone could get Anira to spit out her own. Still, she wasn't surprised on how she saw the Litimco logo and name everywhere she went. If they were involved in the military-grade medical supplies, then they certainly would have been in almost any other level. It wasn't her person that mattered, it was her name. And that's what eventually got her on this one way ticket to hell.
"Huh?" She muttered, looking up from her twiddling fingers and working to unfurrow her brow. She really needed to stop spacing out like that. And she couldn't afford to let her wingman think she was already losing it this early on in their deployment together. Although...maybe being sent home due to mental issues wouldn't be so bad after all. But it would be just another negative news story to smear her family name. She could see it now, Litimco Heiress shirks duty on front line, claims mental illness. Oh, she would never be allowed to live that one down.
"Uhmm. More than likely patrols. You would think it's too early to start combat missions. But then we were supposed to exit academy to the back lines." She tried not to sound nervous, but it was probably all for naught. It really didn't matter what you felt behind closed doors so long as you did your duty in the end. At least that's what her father had told her as a young girl. And it seemed to get her through life well enough. With a sigh she let her hands sink beneath her thighs and looked onto the old movie. How had it become a cult classic after two whole centuries of being hidden away? "Mostly we should be trying to not die....how high did you score on the combat flying exams?"
Snorting, Whiskey lifted herself up onto her bed. She shrugged. It was quite obvious what she thought about the exams in question, and indeed how she had done on them.
"I think people have this perception, ya know?" The corner of her mouth pulled up in a small grimace. "That Clones can't think creatively on their own or something. That we're incapable of, uh- of intuition. Which is fuming annoying."
Whiskey reached for her bag. It showed some age to it, frayed threads showing on edges. It wasn't uncared for; far from it. But it was no new thing. It reflected, of fact, the general condition of her personal equipment: worn but well repaired. Flipping open the top flap, she dug through the bag's contents until she found what she was searching for.
"Here. Imagine you'll wanna see." The Clone held out a short stack of papers, perhaps eight of them, to her roommate. "I didn't do great, honestly. None of my instructors thought well of my...Feet First approach, ya know?"
The papers detailed a series of test results, each communicating various degrees of success. Whiskey's best score was by far her adaptability; at the 85th percentile, she'd out scored most of her fellow trainees by a fair margin. However, with the exception of an acceptable rating in following orders and an above average rating in H2H Mecha Combat, all her scores were rated at best "Needs Improvement". Tactics in particular was absolutely abysmal, her scores dropping her to the very bottom of her class. It was consistently noted that in trial combat only her remarkable skill at adaptability brought her any margin of success, though several instructors had made note that they attributed that particular skill to her specialized genetic design as a Clone. It was in all likelihood a significant reason Anira had been saddled with Whiskey as a teammate: to provide a guiding hand. For her part, Whiskey smiled wryly.
"I can kick ass in a brawl of any size, and I can take a beating. That's about all that can be same for me, apparently."
Anira looked on blankly as Whiskey displayed her disdain for how the officers at the Academy had treated her. She could understand how she felt, somewhat. A number of their instructors were particularly hard on Anira simply because of who her parents were. They had expected her to be a soft, pampered little girl who would crack in the first week. Boy were they ever wrong. "I can imagine..." She replied. "It's definitely not easy when everyone thinks that there's wet tissue paper more resilient than you are." She shuffled her hands from under herself and pushed up onto her feet as the clone reached into her bag. By the time she'd retrieved her test scores, Anira was only a step away to receive them.
She studied over the papers as Whiskey's voice provided apt background noise to cancel out. Her eyes flitted through the multitudes of hard numbers and comments on performance. What she saw certainly wasn't reassuring, but it wasn't damning either. For sure, Whiskey was not a well-rounded pilot at all. She was certainly an in-your-face type of fighter and was going to get into the middle of a fur ball if she could have things her way. That was how most pilots ended up dead, or so she was told. And that's why her tactics were so terribly low. But, she did see a silver lining, and she was starting to understand why the two were paired up. Suddenly the officers who didn't work for a living weren't looking so stupid after all.
"I see..." When Anira looked up she was on the other side of the couch staring at Whiskey. "Oh..sorry...I tend to wander if I'm up and reading something." She rounded the couch and handed the papers back to the clone. "Your scores aren't the best, but neither were mine. But our styles differ, it would seem.." Anira trotted back to her bed and retrieved a similar set of papers to hand off to her partner.
"I scored top of class in tactics and accuracy, above average in most everything else except for adaptability. I can't do well when the situation changes rapidly around me and I must act. I've done better with a front line to take the beating for me while I usually formulate a plan of attack. I did not do well in solo battling but my record was near perfect for team battles." She tried not to sound entirely too proud of that last bit, but it was something she truly enjoyed. "Many of those same instructors said that I took too long and would be killed in battle trying to plan my next move if I were under pressure and separated from my group. Which is likely why they stuck me with you. In a weird way, or fighting styles are meant to keep each other out of trouble while playing to each other's strengths...sort of like.."
"...like a bad sub sandwich? Like, how the cheese balances out the nasty onio- no? Eh, metaphor was never my strong point."
Taking back her records, she shoved them back into her bag. Her eyebrows raised slightly in surprise when Anira proffered her own, but Whiskey accepted them without remark, allowing the other to pontificate as she browsed the papers. It was certainly impressive; everything Anira said was verified. The Litimco Heiress seemed to be a prodigy in almost all aspects, save the few she'd mentioned. It was a little...unnerving. But at least here, in war, all were equals. Whiskey handed back the papers, nodding appreciably.
"Neat. I guess you'll rise fast in the ranks then." She jumped down off the bed, a fair bit of her hair falling into her eyes as she did. Pushing the cerulean curtain back behind her ears, she threw her jacket on and glanced at the digital clock readout above the door. "But hey, we got places to be. Gotta report for chow, I guess. Hopefully the food's better than that protein paste they fed us at the Academy."
The Clone strolled to the door, glancing over her shoulder with a smile as it opened.
"Ya coming, Doc?"
Anira blinked at Whiskey's odd response and nodded. "Yeah....something like that." She had meant finishing sentences but at least she did finish it in the end. They'd have some time to work on their team dynamic, or so she hoped. "You got the right idea, I think." She took her papers back from Whiskey and dumped them onto her desk. It was looking a little bland and anyone who wandered past her door, were it ever to be open, would see that had been doing some work. "In any case, I could do without ranks so long as it means I survive until the end of our tour." Whenever that was.
With a quick glance around their dorm, Anira headed for the door. Her stomach was reminding her once again of just how hungry it was. "Ah...yes, I'm starving for something that is better than paste. The doomed eat well, or so I've been told." She donned her boots quickly and led the way out into the hall. It seemed that a few other pilots were already on their way to eat as well. Most were in small groups while others nervously roamed down the halls on their own. "I remember hearing that life on Ceres was mostly like late primary education. Pilots were the top of the food chain, but even the pilots had cliques. We should watch ourselves and try not to let whatever they say get the better of us." Anira looked down either way and sighed. Already she was lost. "I was too busy cleaning off the bile of a fellow recruit to get a map of the station...you know where the mess hall is?"
Whiskey was just as lost as Anira. In the throng of new pilots and other crew members exiting the shuttle and then meandering off to their rooms, she'd not paid much attention to the layout of the Ceresan base. Her head spun left, right, and back again, seeking anything even estimating a clue as to where they should go. But no matter the direction she turned, everything was the same: blank, slate gray halls of military barracks whose motonoty was only broken by the occasional door or illumination panel. If she were back home at the Venusian colony, or even on Earth...
But she wasn't about to lose face in front of Anira. Grabbing her hand, Whiskey turned right and strode determinatively down the hallway, praying that it was the correct direction.
"Pretty sure it was this way." The Clone gave he crewmate her characteristic, carefree smile, trying desperately to display a confidence she didn't feel. "C'mon, we'll see if we can find some other piece of meat that might know for sure."
Anira was unsure if Whiskey knew where she was going as she gave pause to the inquiry. But any doubt was erased as she was forcibly dragged away from the front of their room. She had stumbled and nearly fallen over from the sudden movement and just about caused a scene with a surprised yelp that echoed down the metal halls. It hadn't taken more than twenty minutes for the pair to make a scene together, and it was hard to hide the redness in her cheeks as they flew by new recruits and grizzled veterans alike. "Uh...why don't we? Hey." But Whiskey would take the words from her and and insert her own, assuring confidence when Anira was fairly confident that they had passed the same weapons locker at least twice.
"Whiskey wait!" Anira finally resisted and pulled against Whiskey's hand to bring them to a halt. She took a moment to breath and realized that this was the first display of her wingman's nature in accordance to her testing papers. It's a long road indeed. "Maybe we should stop and ask a pilot that's been here longer than us for directions?" She offered, slightly annoyed but otherwise ready to do whatever it took to get her stomach from ruling her mind.
"Well they're about as rare as a horse on mars. But you lucked out on just narrowly knocking over the morning coffee of one such pilot." Behind the pair of recruits was a woman dressed in what was either very old military fatigues or civilian wear with a blue cup of some kind of steaming liquid in one hand and a datapad in the other. She was taller than both of them and wore her brown hair up into a tight bun. Two brown eyes met with Anira's as her own drifted down to the double silver bars pinned to her sleeve and the tag on her chest that read Waltz. In an instant Anira straightened up and gave the Captain a salute. "Ma'am!" Anira hoped to whatever deity that would listen that Whiskey caught on just as quickly. She was not ready to be chewed out on her first day. "Apologies ma'am, we were just tryi-"
"Trying to find the mess hall? You and every other new fish here. You take a right two intersections down heading that way." She said in a tone that was very unimpressed. With a swing of her mug she pointed them back in the direction they had come barreling in from. "Watch where you're going, you never know when your eagerness is going to get you killed, or worse, punished by your superiors. This is your only warning Privates....Litimco and..." The Captain looked the clone over and let out a small sigh of indifference. "Whiskey was it? Do not expect leniency from me a second time." With that she strode off in the direction they were initially heading, earning quick salutes from those who passed her.
Once she had cleared their vision, Anira let out a breath of relief which was quickly followed by an panicked inhale. Her eyes went wide and she turned to Whiskey. "That was Captain Illiana Waltz, pilot of the Gladius. She's a freakin ace!" For once Anira's subtle profile was replaced with the excitement and anxiety of a fangirl. "And we pissed her off." Again she was slightly somber. "I think she might be our wing leader...."
Whiskey dropped her salute as the Captain walked off and muttered under her breath.
"Just like a Suit, too. Musta come fr-" But she cut herself short, relaxing her mouth from the angry line it'd held as she glanced Anira's way. Instead she shrugged and spoke up. "Doesn't really matter who it is, yeah? Regardless of who actually shouts the orders, we still gotta follow 'em."
She'd remained still and attentive during their chastisement, taking it as well as any Clone programmed to follow orders did. When Anira had attempted an answer, Whiskey had felt distinctly uncomfortable; in her short life, she'd never even considered talking back. It was....well, it was damned odd, that's what it was. Her partner had spoken so readily, so quickly. Was this a sign of who the young woman actually was? Whiskey eyed her, her left eye winking as it had done in meeting their captain. The Clone was taking a picture, digitally filing away a memory with a small mental description attached to it, to be accessed later. It was the enhancement that made her the successful messenger she'd been back on Venus; she quite literally had a photographic memory.
But her stomach was demanding to be filled, as surely was that of her partner. Nodding her head down the hall, Whiskey touched Anira's arm.
"But who cares? I'm still hungry, and getting more ravenous as we speak. Let's go."
It'd taken a little doing, but once it was sussed out, the general flow of traffic was easy enough to follow. The hall mostly stayed full but uncrowded, though where it did Whiskey shoved out an opening for them. Soon enough they were walking through the chow hall doors.
It was as one might have expected of a military mess: packed and quiet. It was filled exclusively with their fellows from the academy, and it was plainly obvious that no one felt at ease yet. At incremental points along the rows of long tables were smaller ones, and at them sat the brass. They were plainly more at ease, speaking at normal times and even occasionally laughing. There was, interestingly, not a single sergeant stripe among the bunch. It had been explained to them that, as mech pilots, they would achieve the rank after proving themselves in the field, though true to form, Whiskey hadn't been listening at the time.
Along the left side of the hall was the food line, and privates waited at ease for their turn. Pursing her lips, Whiskey chuckled wryly.
"Well," she muttered to Anira. "Quite the spirited bunch, wouldn't ya say?"
Anira sighed as the real world came flooding back to her. Whiskey had a point. It didn't matter how skilled your leader was. They were in a league of their own, and the two of them were simply lambs to be slaughtered. Tactics never considered the mass loss of life until it actually meant the possibility of defeat was on the horizon. It was likely why recruitment had been slackened to let more women into the field after so many young men had met a dark and inky fate. Now it was their turn, maybe. If anything, she prayed for a ceasefi-
Anira's stomach grumbled almost audibly and dashed away any thoughts of the war or contemplation on peace. She was hungry and needed food. Now. And as if a divine hand had reached out and grabbed her, she was dragged away once more down the hall by Whiskey. "Agreed." She said, doing her best to keep up.
The closer they got to the mess hall, the more it seemed that privates as lost as they were finally starting pouring in. Anira took cover behind Whiskey as she barreled through unsuspecting privates until they found themselves in the next drab metal box of a room. The only feature that made it the best one aside from her dorm was the smell of what she could only determine as being cooked meat. Her stomach roared, urging her on to seek it out. Her brain forced her to at least take in her surroundings and to be wary of any passing officers. It was always handy to be in a position to salute at any given moment. Sometimes she swore officers walked around with stealth devices to specifically spook their subordinates. It would explain how they both managed to miss one of the most decorated pilots in this sector of the Belt.
"Indeed. I wouldn't be happy after arriving here either." Anira responded, this time being the one to take the lead towards the back of the food line. "Most of our fellow soldiers might not think they'll last a month here, speaking generously of course. Maybe once that feeling wears off...things might get a little more...lively." Anira couldn't blame her fellow recruits. Being on Ceres was scary, but being on their first few missions would be terrifying.
Nobody wanted to get too attached to anyone other than their wingman, and already pick out that most of the privates were separated into groups of two, four at most. It was like watching a bunch of frightened rodents huddling about each other in the middle of a storm. Except their storm wasn't likely going to end until they died. "Whiskey.."
"So you're the Litimco girl, huh? I expected someone a bit more meek." A prodding female voice came from behind Anira and caught her off guard. For a moment she froze, frowned and turned back to face a trio of privates standing out of line and almost in a v-like formation. The offending speaker was around the same height as Anira but looked much more intimidating. Her features were tight and were sporting stress lines despite the fact that this female, her tag read C. Androlov, couldn't have been much older than Anira. The young woman's platinum hair was familiar, but she couldn't quite put a meaningful name to the face. "Excuse me?" She questioned. "You are?"
"Catharine Androlov, as in Androlov Pharmaceuticals." She responded proudly. "Proud daughter of the CEO, one who wasn't afraid to send their firstborn into battle." Oh. Anira felt her throat go dry as she remembered the bold, red, AP logo around from time to time. They were considered by many to be the next up and coming medical company, one to uproot Litimco and its subsidiaries. They were based off of Phobos and carried a number of the stereoptypes people had of natives from the Martian moon, boastful by nature and violent by choice. The two other privates that flanked Catharine, one an equally pale male and the other a darker female, stood at attention and looked down their noses at the Litimco girl. The male's tag read M. Klein while the female's was T. L'Kundi.
Anira's face went from stunned to some form of mild disapproval. "This is not the time nor place for a conversation like this." She made a nod towards the dozens of eyes still turning on their little exchange, some of which were officers keen on seeing what kind of mess the new fish could get themselves into. "Let's not insult the names of either of our families by getting dishonorably discharged on our first day here." Her threat wasn't physical, but she could see it worked at Androlov seemed to come down from whatever righteous high she was on and let out an annoyed huff. "Have it your way. I guess you Litimco's truly are cowards. It's right that they'd match you up with a test tube baby. Two things I simply can't stand in one package." Catharine gave Anira a short glare before turning and heading off towards the back of the line. Her two goons gave an equally nasty look to the pair before heading off after her. As they did, Anira breathed a sigh of relief despite the shaking in her hands. A fight was not how she wanted to go out on day one.
However, the conversation had unfortunately not made reference exclusively to her. On Anira's right, Whiskey's face grew red and her hands clenched.
"'Test tube baby'?!" she managed at the offending party as it pranced away. It was a tight but barely controlled whisper, the Clone's wary gaze that shifted occasionally to the officers' tables clearly showing that she knew the penalty she'd face if she started something now. All the same, the insult was hard to bear; no Clone was proud that their heritage is little more than a jumble of plastic and metal parts moving bits of organic matter into complex patterns, and to make reference to it was an ugly, low thing to do.
But she held her peace for now, her mind instead machinating on the various ways she could get even and eyeing her potential opponents. The Androlov heiress would almost hardly be worth the whipping Whiskey could give her; she was arrogant because of her money. The other female, the dark skin, was similarly likely not much of a threat, though perhaps she would be in conjunction with the male. No, L'Kundi carried herself with the slightly hesitant poise of a monied athlete whose father had likely bribed the coach's to let her play. Your average joe might find her intimidating, certainly, but she was likely all bark.
The young man, though. He could be trouble. His eyes were constantly on the move, wary of thre- no, not just wary: actively seeking trouble. Klein, if that was his name, would be the first one to get his ass kicked.
But food first. Turning back to the food line, Whiskey gave Anira a small shove to the shoulder: friendly but insistent.
"Rust, roomie! I can't live on fuming bitterness and family disputes. Let's get going, yeah?"
It was work enough keeping Anira's anger in check that she didn't even consider how Whiskey had taken the verbal assault. Her file would have suggested that she'd give Cat a clean right hook in response, but she stayed her hand. Surprising. All she could muster was a seething whisper at the trio's backs as they continued out and into the halls once more. No doubt they'd arrived for chow early to beat the lines of 'peasants' as Anira was sure that was what Cat would refer to most recruits as. But, that would be food for thought for after she'd eaten. She didn't want to get caught out being disruptive by the officers, but she also didn't want to be put into confinement for lord knew how long on an empty stomach. And she wasn't ready to go back to paste anytime soon.
A shove to her shoulder made Anira flinch, only to find that the offending party was Whiskey. She seemed to have recovered from the episode already and was driving them on. In the midst of their little spat, the line had moved a considerable distance ahead of them, and the people behind them were getting antsy. "....Right, right let's go eat." Her stomach grumbled in agreement as she started back towards the line. Thankfully most of the room had gone back to their conversations, but she could still feel eyes on her. Whispers were travelling just beyond earshot, but she could have sworn she heard her name used at least once in conjunction with Cat's. Fantastic, and all I wanted to do was keep a low profile until leave.
While not the best collection of edibles she'd ever devoured, Anira was beyond glad that the food at Ceres was indeed so much better than the paste at the academy. But even as she worked at silently sating her appetite, her mind kept going back to her confrontation with Catharine. The more she thought about what she said, the angrier she got. Eventually she couldn't take it anymore and slammed balled up fist into the metal table, causing her tray and the recruits on either side of her to jump up slightly. "Fuck!" She managed to turn a few heads with her outburst but otherwise didn't put much of a dent in the now more conversational atmosphere. She looked across the table to glare into Whiskey's eyes. "Officers be damned, noone gets away with saying shit like that." She pointed her fork at the blue-haired girl. "We're going out on the town tonight, and one way or another someone's going to have fallen down a flight of aggressive stairs."
"A prissy little shit like Cat probably doesn't even know how to fight, that's why she's got tweedle dee and tweedle dumb guarding her like a pair of dogs. I Swear...." Anira was free with her words, because most of the officers were either far from earshot or already gone from the mess hall entirely. None of her fellow recruits seemed keen on talking her out of it and were more than likely interested in the day one drama of their time on Ceres. Just another distraction from dying. The rumors would spread, just like she wanted. Catharine would hear of it eventually and she probably couldn't back down from such a direct challenge anyway. And she certainly couldn't report a fight she also went looking for, lest all five of them get sent home dishonorably. The Litimco's would recover, the Androlov's....not so much. She would have continued her tirade but her stomach called for more food. "Mark my words Whiskey..you with me?" She asked before taking another spoonful of her beef-vegetable soup.
But Whiskey wasn't paying much attention. She had wolfed down her own stew, oblivious to the angry rants of her partner, and was drinking in the last of the broth, bowl tipped high into the air as if in salute to the cook. With a deep Aaaaaaah, she placed the dish back on the table and took a big gulp from her water cup. Her spoon, napkin, and cup, all disposable in the interest of saving water, crumpled beneath her fingers. She threw them into the empty bowl, stood up, and picked up her trash. At the questioning look from Anira, Whiskey shrugged.
"I'm done, I'm full, I got business elsewhere that's on something of a time crunch."
Business. Yeah. That Suit chick would pay for her "test tube baby" remark. The Clone hadn't received her highest marks in martial arts for no reason, and she'd be lying to herself if she said she wasn't going to enjoy punching the smug out of the Androlov's face. Typical Suit.
At least not all Suits were like that. Anira seemed to be just as angry at the woman as she herself was. Perhaps it was a put on, a manipulation, or a calculated move on her part. Whiskey had no real concept of subtlety, so any kind of backbiting the rich and powerful might do was beyond her. All the same, Anira at least seemed genuine. But if her academic report was any indication, the Litimco girl was no martial artist. And Whiskey felt the compulsion, whether through her own desire or her genetic programming she wasn't sure, to keep her partner safe. And right now, ignorance was probably the best way to do that.
"And it's personal business, Litimco," she stated, "so I'll meet you back at the bunk, m'k?"
With a smile and a wave, Whiskey turned on her heel. She tossed the trash in the recycler and pushed her way out of the door.
Fifteen minutes later
"I know, right?"
L'Kundi's alto cut through air of the steel halls, and she laughed along with Androlov and some asinine joke one of them had made. Klein shook his head minutely. They had been like that ever since he'd met them, though why the Tia L'Kundi stuck around with that Catherine woman, he'd never know. But Tia was enough reason for him to deal with the her, so he followed along behind them, hands in his pockets and a vaguely bored expression on his face. This was not how he thought being on Ceres would be like, their approach to the base notwithstanding. There was nothing, nothing going on, and dammit, if trouble didn't come, he might make some himself.
The girls passed through an adjacent hallway ahead. From behind the wall, from his point of view, a gloved fist shot out, catching Tia squarely in her jaw. The dark skinned woman dropped like a stone, and Cat screamed as a leather jacketed woman with blue hair grabbed the heiress by the lapels, picked her up, and slammed her against the far wall.
As if Anira wasn't irked enough, Whiskey's seeming disregard for her fuming left the Litimco heiress on edge. It felt weird for her partner of all people to just write her off like that. And what kind of business did she have on Ceres already? They'd hardly been there for half a day! Maybe she knew someone there but then again how big of a friend base did a clone usually gain during their time of service? Anira shook the bigoted thought from her head and went to dispose of her trays shortly after Whiskey left. Her mind was set on Whiskey and her business and she couldn't help but wonder if her partner was just going after Cat and her hooligans alone. It would not be a smart move, but going into a brawl one against three would be right up her alley. And she expected Anira to just sit back in their room and wait? A snowball on Venus would have a better chance of surviving.
Ten minutes had passed since Anira exited the mess hall in search of both Whisket and the Terrible Trio. She knew Whiskey would not tread lightly in her passing through the hall, so all she had to do was ask any passersby about whether they'd seen her or not. Soon enough she was pointed down towards a hall where not a moment later a shriek rose up from around the corner. While the recruit beside her looked on in bewilderment, Anira was already off at a sprint. She wasn't about to let her wingman get the shit beat out of her.
She rounded the corner and found Tia at her feet moving slowly, or maybe she was just seeing things. But Whiskey had Cat up against the wall and Klein was preparing a hook for the side of the clone's head. Desperate to stop the hit from connecting, Anira sprung with what little momentum she had left and smashed into Klein's side. The two tumbled to the floor and Anira found herself straddling the young man long enough to deliver a halfhearted punch to his chin that hurt more than it did him. Ground and pound was not her style. With a wild, satisfied smile Klein reared back and bucked Anira off of him, causing her to land on her side a few inches from him. She rolled to the side and onto her feet as Klein made a more acrobatic show of flipping back onto his feet.
He was bigger than her, certainly stronger, but she was trained to survive in this kind of fight. It was no different from fending off kidnappers looking to use her for ransom against her parents.She watched his eyes watch her body and she couldn't tell if he was sizing her up or checking her out. It didn't matter though, his feet shifted and a punch was thrown. At least he could be predictable.
Anira ducked forward, into his swing, and came up by his side. She forced her left leg behind his own, and had an arm around his neck. By the time Klein tried to pull back to maintain his balance, she was already sending him back-first into the ground. He hit the ground with a thud and Anira could've sworn she'd heard a few whoops from somewhere down the hall. Had they accumulated a crowd? A hard boot to her cut sent her reeling and the idea of people watching them paled in comparison to her sudden need for hair. Her eyes fluttered open momentarily to find that L'Kundi was up again despite sporting a nasty purple spot on the side of her face. At the very least, Klein wasn't moving. She cried out in pain as another kick connected with her gut and finally she curled into a ball to protect herself, she'd done her work she just hoped that Whiskey was still conscious to finish the job.
"You damn fuming suit-wearing rich-bitch egghead greasy gear-brained monochromatic rust-skinned moon-crazy illness-mongering-"
Whiskey's creativity flowed in a way she'd have never thought possible as she gave the Androlov girl as good as she got, and better. Her prey was held up against the wall, struggling and beating her fists against the Clone's arms furiously but lacking the strength of body to fight against her oppressor from her position. Whiskey cocked back her arm, fist closing as she readied a blow to Catherine's head.
"I'll show you test tube baby, you fuming Sui-"
There was the muffled sound of an impact behind her, and she turned to look. Sunnova- Anira hadn't listened, and now she was rolling around on the floor with that Klein boy. Damn, and Whiskey had thought he wasn't there, having not seen him in her initial attack. But Catherine didn't want to be around this violence any more than she already had. Throwing a knee into the Clone's gut as soon as Whiskey had turned to look away, the woman shoved her backwards and took off.
"The Captain will hear about this!"
Suddenly out of breath, Whiskey gasped for her wayward air and cradled her stomach tightly. Rage filled her brain, and she almost took off after her. But there was another muffled thud behind her, followed swiftly by cries of pain. She spun, finding Anira on the floor beside a very dazed Klein. L'Kundi was practicing her football kick, planted her toes squarely and repeatedly into the Litimco girl's curled form. Managing to get a temporary handle on her breath, Whiskey lashed out with a roundhouse kick. Her foot caught Tia in her back, sending her tumbling to the floor herself. Whiskey ran forward, bending down to lift Anira from off the floor.
"The hell were you doing?" The Clone's voice was cold with anger. "I told you that I'd join you later."
Around them, though far enough away to give them space, the tiny crowd began to whisper. Some were speaking excitedly about the fight, but others murmured about the unfair advantage the Clone had in that fight, being created biomechanically rather than born. But over all those murmurs a voice cut in. It was, unfortunately, recently familiar. It was stern and detached, as if its speaker had purposefully separated their self from their emotions. But the volume with which that voice spoke was anything but detached.
"Private WT-231! Private Litimco!" Captain Waltz's tone echoed through the now hushed hallways. She was standing perhaps twenty feet off, and Androlov stood two steps behind her, a smug look on her face. "My office! Now!"
Anira didn't mind to count the kicks, but instinctively cringed when she expected the next strike to be delivered. Instead nothing came, and she only heard the sound of a body hitting the ground hard. Moments later a pair of sure hands were picking her off the floor. With a breath she opened her eyes and found Whiskey talking to her like she was a child still. Beside her, L'Kundi lay in pain. Meanwhile, Cat was nowhere to be seen. Using her wingman as support, Anira righted herself and gazed at the small crowd of pilots around them. Her first attempt to speak was interrupted by a series of coughs and a searing pain in her chest. She knew she was made of some sturdy stuff, but there was no way she didn't suffer some kind of internal injury during the scuffle.
"You were a moment away from getting your bell rung by Klein." Another set of coughs interrupted her retort, but she was determined to follow through."Eugh. If you weren't so obvious with your intentions I'd be the one seeing you in the infirmary." Annoyed by the lack of any gratitude, Anira pushed off from Whiskey and decided to use the wall for support until she could fully catch her breath. Unfortunately for her, Ceres would offer no respite. Harsh words from down the hall called out to the two, Captain Waltz's voice was too unique not to remember. She turned her head to gaze upon the brunette and the little blonde beside her and sighed. The weakest ones always sought help from the superior force.
------ Twenty Minutes Later ------
The only good, it seemed, that would come of their little telling off by the captain, was that Catharine got to go first. Even while waiting outside in the hall with an ice pack against her ribc age, she could find solace in the harsh words offered to the Androlov heiress. As it turned out, Waltz was in the mess hall when Cat and friends came to antagonize the two girls. She lit into Cat about instigating fights and building camaraderie rather than continuing something as petty as a family squabble. There was no place for past grudges on Ceres and the only thing it would get her is killed.
It took a lot for Anira to hide a smile as her rival exited the room, finally looking like a shunned little dog. But she would not gloat, Waltz's imposing figured followed immediately behind her and with the wordless point of a finger, directed them inside. Once in, she locked the door behind them and began.
"I didn't think I would be seeing you two troublemakers in my office so soon after my warning. But it seems you truly are hard of hearing, or you simply don't respect my word as your commanding officer. You'd do well to get your ears checked." She strutted back towards her desk and took a seat at its front edge. Cold eyes scanned the two of them. "I told you that you would not be spared the next time we met under unsavory conditions. Like I told Private Androlov, sending you home would be disadvantageous to keeping up strength her. We've had too many people stir up trouble in a bid to get sent away from the frontlines, yet I don't take either of you as the cowardly type." The Captain sighed and shook her head, for a moment her emotionless gaze dropped into a fit of disappointment before coming back to stone. "You punishment will be befitting of your actions. If you wish to start fights then I'll give you a better reason than a few mean words. The pilots that you both injured will be out of action for some time. As it were, they were our best candidates to send out on an early combat patrol to gauge the combat worthiness of your class. Now that they are out of commission, the responsibility now falls on you two."
The words rung in Anira's head and suddenly she felt a pang of shame and anger. Shame that she would be goaded to easily into violence and anger that Whiskey's carelessness in starting a fight got them here. And now, she was going to die a lot sooner than she'd anticipated. And, as if she was reading her mind, Waltz stood and walked over to both of them. "You schoolgirls let something like a few words get under your skin then you won't survive your first sortie. You are the number two seeded team in your class, so you'd best start damn well acting like it. By 0900 tomorrow you'll be flying out into the belt for a strike on an enemy listening post. This is the action you seem to crave so badly, so I hope you're ready." She looked towards Whiskey and furrowed her brow slightly. "If you have anything to say now, you are at ease to do so. Otherwise you can get the hell out of my office and I'll see you in the morning."