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Catching onix, p.6
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       Catching Onix, p.6

           Renee Conoulty
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My first day at work was called “marching in”. I didn’t actually have to march everywhere like I had at recruits, though. Real life in the RAAF was a little less strict. Rachael described where to go before she went to medical, so I found the Air Movements Section easily.

  I was a grown adult, but I felt like the new kid at school. My hand twitched as I scanned uniforms, counting stripes to make sure I saluted the right people. Correct etiquette had been drummed into me at recruits, and I didn’t want to make a fool of myself on my first day. Or on any day for that matter.

   I introduced myself to the nearest person. My sister’s voice echoed through my mind as I scanned his uniform. He’s built like a brick shithouse. Thank goodness he only had one stripe. That was only one rank above mine. I was an Aircraftwoman—or ACW—and hadn’t earned a stripe yet. He must be a Leading Aircraftman—or LAC—though I don’t know why they distinguish men and women at the lowest two ranks and not higher up. I didn’t need to salute him, so I blurted out what I needed.

  “Good morning LAC. I’m ACW Macie Harman, and I’ve just posted in today. Do you know where I can find Ma’am?” Heat flushed up my neck as his gaze strayed from my face.

  “Mornin’, Macie, I’m Jeremy. Come on. I’ll introduce you.” With a cocky nod in the direction of the office, he turned on his heel and strode off, assuming I would follow. So I did.

  He went up the steps and into the office. There were several desks, most of them occupied. A couple of people stood next to a large whiteboard, writing things on magnetic strips and moving them around the board. We walked over to one of the men sitting behind a computer.

  “Mornin’, Sarge, this is Macie,” Jeremy said.

  “Morning, Macie. Welcome to Darwin.” The sergeant smiled at me, then turned to Jeremy. “Can you take her up to Ma’am’s office.” It was a directive, not a question.

  “Sure.” Jeremy turned to me, “C’mon.” I followed him through the doorway and up a flight of stairs. He knocked firmly.

  “Come in.”

  Jeremy opened the door and nodded at me to go in first. “Mornin’ Ma’am. This is ACW Macie Harman.”

  “Thank you, Jeremy.” The officer dismissed him with a nod.

  I walked into the room, stood fast in front of the desk, and saluted. “Good morning, Ma’am.”

  “Good morning, Macie. Please take a seat.”

  My stomach fluttered. It was like being in the principal’s office at school, and I’d done that more than once. I sat.

  “Welcome to Darwin. How are you settling in so far?”

  “Well, I only got in yesterday, but my room is okay, and the food at the mess is better than at recruits.” I fidgeted with the lowest button on my shirt.

  “That’s great. This week you’ll be on admin shift. We’ll run you through orientation, plenty of paperwork, and sign you off on the basic competencies. Next week you’ll join Team B. You’ve just met Jeremy, who will be on your team. I believe you already know one of your other teammates, Rachael. I’ll get Jeremy to introduce you to the rest of the team today.”

  I silently groaned. Not on Rachael’s team. My fingers tensed as I twisted the button again, and it came off in my fingers. Shit. I hoped Ma’am didn’t notice.

  Ma’am picked up the phone. “Send Jeremy back up.”

  I tucked the white button into my fist and waited until I was dismissed.

  “Jeremy, you can show Macie around today, and introduce her to the rest of your team.”

  I stood. “Thanks, Ma’am. Nice to meet you.”

  “Nice to meet you too, Macie. And Macie.” Ma’am pointed towards my stomach. “Get that button fixed.”

  The button slipped from my clammy grasp, and I watched it roll across the floor and disappear under her desk. “Yes, Ma’am.”

  “Ma’am has a thing about uniform,” Jeremy whispered as he led me back downstairs. “I didn’t notice your button was missing, or I would have told you to fix it before I took you inside.”

  “It wasn’t missing then. It broke off while I was in there.”

  “Don’t worry. I’ve got a sewing kit in my locker.”

  “But I dropped the button up there.”

  Jeremy chuckled. “We’ll find you a button somewhere.” We reached the main hangar. “I’ll introduce you to the team. I haven’t seen Rachael yet today, but the rest are here.”

  “I know Rachael already. We went through training together.”

  “She’s full of beans, hey.”

  “She certainly is. I don’t think I’ve seen her sit still. I feel exhausted just watching her. I must be getting old.”

  “You don’t look old,” Jeremy said.

  I scoffed. “I felt old at Wagga with all those new recruits.”

  “Where is Rachael anyway?” Jeremy asked.

  “At medical. She tripped over during training and tore a muscle in her shoulder. She told me if the doc’s happy that it’s healed, she can go back on full duty.”

  “Well, I hope she’s okay.”

  Jeremy introduced me to the rest of our team. Unfortunately, most names went in one ear and out the other. I’m not great with names, and it always takes ages to remember them all. Especially since so many people had nicknames. I tried to cheat by checking name patches, but they only had surname and rank, and most nicknames defied logic. I wondered what I would get saddled with. Hopefully, I could ditch that ridiculous one I’d picked up at recruits. As the oldest woman in our group, all the girls had called me “Nanna”.

  Rachael breezed in and joined the group, her hair now styled closely to mine. “Hi, guys. Doc said my shoulder is good to go.” She glanced over to me. “Hi, Nanna. Did Ma’am put you on our team?”

  Want more? You can purchase Don’t Mean a Thing at your favourite ebook store

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