Crest and Shield Book 2: an O R D E R miniDorsey Jackson, Jr / Science Fiction
Crest and Shield
Copyright 2016 Dorsey Jackson Jr.
Edited by Kate Woods www.kbeditingservices.com
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“It isn’t that I don’t trust you behind a stick of a Pouncer. It’s a question of whether you trust yourself behind a stick of a Pouncer,” Daniel argued as he faced Minerva inside of her Pouncer’s cargo bay. Everything about her body language was defensive.
“Daniel, what are you talking about? I slipped up a little. I struggled to pick up speed in a damn near impossible attack approach. We all knew that attack path was going to be short and difficult.”
“What I’m talking about is that I had to save your ass and I don’t like that.”
“What, that you had to save my ass? Humph. Have I lost that much value to you?” Minerva said with angered hurt in her eyes.
“You know what I meant. I don’t like that I almost lost… another good pilot. I’ve… we’ve lost a lot of people, fast. You, above anyone else, should know how heavy I carry that burden, even though I may not ever show it.”
“Well, Wing Commander, you don’t have to burden yourself with my ass. As you said, I am a damn good pilot.”
"Nobody's questioning that Minerva."
"That's what it sounds like."
"That's what you are hearing."
They stared at each other in silence for a few uncomfortable moments. With a heaving sigh, Minerva closed her eyes and bowed her head.
“And I will get my shit together,” she said as she lifted her head and stared Daniel in the eyes.
“I know you will, Minerva. Just do it sooner than later?” Daniel smiled at her.
She crossed her arms and smiled back. “Yes sir, Commander.”
This time the word Commander fell on a softer tone.
“Fly with me, Mini. Fly with me.” He held her gaze for a moment more then turned and left her alone in her cargo bay.
As he reached the bottom of the ramp, the sounds of an active strike team base camp filled his ears. All of his pilots were settling in just fine. They didn’t appear too bothered by the realism of the circumstances that surrounded them. They did just as they said they would; they were making due. The only thing that was bothering Shield at the moment was that large sections of the camp were hard to navigate. Soft sand shifted easily under foot and made it hard to balance at times. He guessed that was a small thing to have to worry about, considering.
“Hey, Wing Commander,” Rikki’s voice shot out at him.
“What’s up, beer hustler?” He asked as he swayed and stumbled through the sand.
“Notice you just left Minerva’s Pouncer. She doing ok?” Rikki asked as she joined him in his walk. She, however, was not having as hard a time with the sand.
“Minerva’s hard-edged. She’ll be ok. I just hope that cargo bay doesn’t become too much her place of solitude.”
“Cargo bay? Not a spacious enough place to get away from your thoughts. Why do we have to call it cargo bay?”
“We’re its only cargo now. It’s our bedroom, living room, etc. etc… Why don’t we call it one of those, or something else?”
“I don’t know. Pilot’s bay, or bottom room. Shit, let’s make up something. Anything other than cargo bay. We gotta do things to personalize as much as we can to make ourselves feel at home the best we can, you know,” Rikki explained enthusiastically.
“Well, I’ll leave that to you. Right now I’m having a hard enough time navigating this sand.”
“Yeah, I figured out it’s easier if you take off your boots,” she informed. He looked down and, sure enough, she was barefoot. Only Rikki. “Thanks, you just gave me an idea,” she said snapping her fingers.
“You’re welcome, I think. Rikki, that's not very safe. You know all of this used to be a city. No telling what remnants of debris is under all this sand." He waived his arms referencing the landscape of sand. "Aren't you afraid you're going to step on something dangerous?"
"Catch tetanus, get sick, and possibly die?" Rikki cut him off. "Daniel, I am a Pouncer pilot. Correction; thee Pouncer pilot, who volunteered for a one way mission to nothing, attacking a heavily armed military compound every day. I think risk of injury and death is already covered for all of us."
"Enough said. If you want to take the hippie route around here that's cool with me."
“Good. Anyway, back to my brilliant idea. Don't interrupt my thought process.
"Go ahead, go ahead. I'm sorry."
"Thank you. I’m going to use this sand to create some form of recreation around here. Now that sounds like a great idea.”
“Really? Ok sand jockey. You let me know what you come up with.”
“Will do, on both suggestions. Where ya headed?”
“Going to talk to Lamp.”
“Make sure you tell 2nd place I’m coming up with another way to take his money.” She made sure to input before walking off.
“What money?” Daniel called out to her, laughing as he again lost his footing.
“You know, or whatever we come up with to barter around here. Outside of pushing Pouncers and bombing compounds, a girl’s gotta find some way to make a living,” she called back as she strolled off.
Daniel finally made his way through the soft sand to more solid patches. By the time he made it to Lamp’s Pouncer, he was breathing slightly heavier than normal. Lamp watched him walk up and Daniel sat under the edge of a shaded wing of his Pouncer.
“I’m damn near winded just walking over here to you.”
“The damn sections of soft patches of sand - too many of them for me. I’m going to have to ask Rydel what the hell they were thinking when they chose this place.”
“Uh oh. Sounds like some P.T. might be required around here. How would you like that, Wing Commander?” Lamp joked.
“Not at all, and if you tell anybody I’ll tie you to your Pouncer and shoot you.”
“Yeah, old fashioned military corporal punishment style.” He giggled.
Lamp laughed out loud. “Let’s hope it never comes to that. Luckily I haven't run into any of those patches you're speaking of. Where you coming from?”
“I just got through having a conversation with Minerva,” Daniel said as he reached down to untie a boot.
“How’d that go? Wing Commander and Squadron leader style, or Daniel and Mini style?”
“A little bit of both, as usual.” Daniel grunted out as he struggled to get a boot off.
“Usual? Usual is you two not talking much.”
“Well as usual as when we do talk,” he replied, throwing the boot at his friend. “Asshole.”
“Ah, you trying to kill me with the stinky feet. Now that’s corporal punishment.” The friends laughed. “So overall, what you think?”
“About what?” Daniel asked as he got the other boot off.
“Minerva’s condition to fly. She’s a damn good pilot but…”
“I know. The thought did cross my mind,” Daniel admitted as he looked down at his feet and grabbed the sand with his toes.
“After what you told me about her condition the day Hideo and Akira died, I think we should consider it an option.”
Daniel continued to scrunch his toes back and forth in the coolness of the shaded sand. “It’s not an option.”
“I mean, I’ve known Minerva for ten years and she’s never cried about anything,” Lamp said. “Should we ground her for at least the next run, give her a chance to recover?”
Daniel looked up at Lamp. “If we were back home, in normal conditions, I would. She would refuse, and would be flying on the next run anyway. Here, I don’t have the pilots or the resources to even suggest such a liberty and give her the option to refuse. We are operating on shoestrings here, Lamp. She's undeniably one of the best pilots. She’s going to have to fly anyways.”
“Understood,” Lamp conceded. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” Daniel said. “Even if I wasn’t, I would have to be.”