- "Do you even have the first fuckin’ idea what you’re doing?"
Independent Freighter Captain - 993 ATA - Yokosuka, Geonova, Sol Deuterion System, Assembly Space
“Well, ain’t you a sorry-looking soldier?”
Jennifer Bronwen didn’t look up at the greeting, focusing instead on the contents of her beer glass as she lifted it. “Not anymore,” she replied before taking a long pull on the cold, crisp lager. “Sorry looking? Maybe. But soldier?” She set her dog tags on the bar with deliberate care as she took a second swallow from her drink. “Not me, Sarge, sorry.”
“Well, shit.” Sergeant Thaddeus “Thud” Jones settled his muscle-bound bulk on the stool beside her, where a second condensation-frosted glass of beer was settling gently in anticipation of his arrival. “They gave you the heave-ho?”
“Fuck, they wrote you a discharge over a little fraternization?”
“Wasn’t a little fraternization, not in their view,” Jennifer corrected patiently. “It was the last straw.” She adopted a gruff mimic of their division commander. “This has been coming for a long time, Bronwen. I wish I could say I was surprised, or even that I was disappointed, but no, this is exactly what I expected of you.”
“Jesus, what a perfectly puckered asshole that guy is.”
“Ain’t he?” Jen chuckled sardonically. “And then, of course, according to the LT, I started it, I led her astray, I was a bad influence, the devil made her do it…”
Jones snorted. “Didn’t look one-sided from where I was standing.”
“Didn’t know you were watching,” Jen parried. “Fuckin’ pervert.”
“Oh, you know it,” Thud chuckled. “Love me some of that girl-on-girl action.”
“Christ, could you be any more Neanderthal?”
“I’m just gettin’ warmed up.” Thud flashed her a grin, then took a long pull from his beer. “So the LT left you twisting in the wind, huh? Kissed ass with the brass to save her own skin?”
“Ah, you know how it is. It costs a fortune to train an officer, they’re a long-term investment. Grunts are easy-come, easy-go. Dime a dozen.”
“Don’t give me that shit, Bronwen. You’re not exactly cannon-fodder. You’re a combat-qualified pilot.” Thud gestured with his glass. “That training ain’t cheap either.”
Jennifer shrugged. “Still less than it costs for all that psychotherapy and mental conditioning crap they put new officers through once they graduate OTS. And the LT’s a pilot too, let’s not forget.”
“There’s gotta be a joke about cockpits in there somewhere,” Thud sassed, and Jennifer sniggered.
“Probably. But anyway, do you really see me sitting here crying into my beer?”
Thud looked at her carefully, his simian brows drawing down into a quizzical frown. “Now that you mention it, I don’t.” He pursed his lips. “Matter of fact, you seem rather philosophical about the entire thing. Shouldn’t you be pissed at your lady love for throwing you to the wolves?”
“If she’d ever really been my lady love, maybe I would be.” Jennifer sighed reflectively. “She did what was best for her, what she had to do to avoid screwing up her career on account of a couple of quickies in the armoury locker. Can’t blame her for that. And she’s all kinds of pissed at me.” She threw her friend a sidelong glance. “Can’t blame for that either.” Given that I deliberately got us caught, it’d be hypocritical. “C’mon, Thud, you didn’t really think I was in love, did you?” Even though I think I might have gotten there, given time.
“I am a simple man,” Thud declared airily.
“Yes,” Jen agreed. “Yes, you are.”
“Yes I am. I find if I take everything at face value, it doesn’t hurt my brain so much. And I remember more than one in-depth discussion of the merits of a certain booty.”
“And I stand by my opinion,” Jen chuckled, “but let’s not confuse having a good time with having feelings. That was the LT’s mistake.” She sobered slightly as she picked up her drink, her humour tempered by a sudden sharp pang of regret. When she’d come up with the plan, she hadn’t imagined the fallout would hurt as much as it had. Another screwed-up opportunity to add to the list. Knocking back the remains of her pint, she set the glass on the bar and slapped Thud companionably on the shoulder. “Same again?”
“Sure.” Jones drained his glass in two deep swallows. “On your dime, I’m assuming?”
“Naturally.” Jen signalled the bartender and held up two fingers, and upon receiving a confirming nod, turned back to her friend.
“So, rotated out to the Civ Div, huh?” Jones reflected. “What are you going do to with your copious free time?”
“First, I think I’ll catch up on two years of short sleep,” Jen answered. “Then I’ll see about getting myself some honest work. There’s got to be a market for a pilot with an attitude problem somewhere out there.” She smiled a thank you to the bartender as he set their fresh beers down.
“Yeah, I’d reckon, providing you remember that the correct balance for keeping employment is more piloting, less attitude.”
Jennifer shrugged. “Well, I can’t guarantee that.”
“I didn’t think so.” Thud clapped her on the back. “Do you even have the first fuckin’ idea what you’re doing?”
“Not really, but ‘most anything has to be better than another three years of this shit.” As Jones stiffened in offence, Jen patted his cheek. “Don’t take it personally. It’s not about you, or even about the Corps, really. I made a mistake—I was so desperate to get away from my so-called home that I jumped at the first opportunity to get offworld. But enough’s enough—I’ve learned everything I want to, and I don’t propose to spend the rest of my life making sure I folded the sheets on my bed right. I want my own ship, control of my own destiny. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do.”
“You never did respond well to authority,” Jones observed dryly. “Hell, I was amazed you didn’t wash out of boot camp. I know Staff Spekeman tried his hardest to run you out, but all he did was make you more determined.”
“Well, I’m a little stupid that way,” Jen admitted. “Only thing that riles me more than being told what to do is being told I can’t do something.”
“Now that’s a combo that’s gonna get you killed.”
“Probably.” Jen lifted her glass. “But not tonight. Cheers, Thud. Here’s to freedom.”
“To freedom. Cheers, Jenny.”
“Don’t call me Jenny.”
Where to find it?
|Board games||Burning Suns|
|Books||Conflagration (Book One) • Conflagration (Book Two) • Conflagration (Book Three) • The Art of Burning Suns|
|Series||Conflagration - Issue 1 • Conflagration - Issue 2 • Conflagration - Issue 3 • Conflagration - Issue 4 • Conflagration - Issue 5 • Conflagration - Issue 6 • Conflagration - Issue 7 • Conflagration - Issue 8 • Conflagration - Issue 9 • Conflagration - Issue 10 •|
|Snapshots||A Hellfire Drop • Jennifer Bronwen • Keera Naraymis • Kiith Kohath • Pitch Dark • Shan'Chael • The Sweet Science|