"Darkside Control to Beaver Flight, return to base. Repeat, return to base."
"I'm hit! I'm hit!"
"I can help her if you won't."
"Grieg, do you ever listen to anyone?"
Chapter 5 - Working Out
May 18, 2128
Victoria finished scrubbing herself off after her sonic shower. She couldn't get the sight of the Australian pilot out of her mind. While her power suit managed to seal off the breach into hard vacuum, part of the Australian's arm was exposed to space. The medtechs did what they could to save the arm, but . . . Victoria shook her head, trying to chase the vision away. She sighed. And for Kincaid to tell her to not help? Victoria was still steamed from that. Though some of the Lieutenant's words sank in. But I have to also look out for you, Renée, and Dom and make sure that I don't have to tell your family that you loved them because you never went back home from here.
The brunette physicist slipped into her clothes and thought unkind thoughts about the coveralls issued.. Victoria lingered a bit in the bathroom. She hadn't seen any of her roommates since she left the side of Peri, the wounded Australian, at the orders of the Darkside One's doctors. Although curious about what they could be up to, Victoria couldn't be bothered to find either Dominique or, especially, Renée. As far as Victoria was concerned, Renée could disappear for the rest of the day and even forever. But, as Kincaid kept pointing out in training, they were a team, even if no one got along.
Victoria stepped out of the bathroom and left the barracks. She wandered through the halls, greeting anyone she passed in her exploring. She passed the gym and heard hard thumps followed by heavy grunting. Having nothing else to do and nowhere else to be, Victoria poked her head into the gym. In the corner, Darcy pounded on a heavy punching bag. She stopped and looked up. Victoria waved and stepped back.
Victoria stopped. She heard Darcy bounding across the gym floor. Without turning around, Victoria said, "Yes?"
"Do you have a moment?"
"You gave me an hour break."
"I've been thinking. I came down on you harder than I should have back there."
Victoria turned around. "You think?"
Darcy took a step back at the venom in Victoria's tone. "Tori, I know what was going through your mind. Command isn't easy."
"Neither is letting someone die."
"How is she?"
"Peri," Victoria emphasized the name, "will live. The doctors aren't sure about her arm, though."
"You made a difference."
"Yeah . . . At least Peri's alive to be known as 'Lefty'. Still sucks." Victoria turned her gaze to the ceiling. "That's what we're in for here. Boredom punctuated by absolute terror."
Darcy flashed a grim smile. "We're here so that others won't suffer similar fates. It's a sacrifice. Only you will know if it's worth it."
"I suppose." Victoria sighed. "It'd be easier here if you weren't so stiff."
"What?" Darcy's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"
"You barely use our proper names, Kincaid." Victoria put her hands on her hips. "We're human, too. We should be treated like that, not like, like . . . "
"Soldiers?" Darcy supplied.
"Yeah, oh. Still, we're not on duty all the time. You could use our first names then, at least in our bedroom. And you could be nicer, too."
"Really. And how do the others feel about this?"
Victoria blinked. "The others?"
"Renée and Dom. The other two in Beaver Flight? I'm sure you remember them."
"Now you show a sense of humour." Victoria stuck out her tongue. "Darcy, it's easier for the four of us to share a small room if we can at least talk to each other without having to use ranks and titles and stuff."
"Tori, this is a military base." Darcy pointed at Victoria's coveralls. "Everyone here wears a uniform of some sort. The command staff are career military, as are the lead pilots for each flight. Ranks are going to come up, often. I thought the accelerated basic mentioned this."
Victoria folded her arms across her chest. "So, during your last assignment or whatever you call it, you called everyone by rank and last name?"
"No buts. So, what did you call your crew?"
"I called the flight engineer 'Sergeant'." Darcy smirked.
"And your fellow pilots? I mean, you had others in your squadron, right? Or were you the only person to fly?"
"We called each other nicknames unless it was a more formal situation." Darcy sighed. "You got me there. Okay, before lights out, we'll talk with the Renée and Dom and get things worked out."
"Good." Victoria turned to leave.
"Oh, and Tori?" Darcy waited for Victoria to look back. "We'll also be talking about not annoying each other, too."
Victoria watched Darcy return to the gym.
Dominique sat in the lounge, a datatab in hand. She absently twisted and turned the pad as Pac-Man: Ghost Hunter appeared holographically a few centimetres above the datatab's display. Her foot tapped in time with the video game's music, picking up in pace as ghosts passed close to Pac-Man. A warning klaxon sounded from the game. Dominique spun the datatab but was too slow; a ghost ambushed Pac-Man, losing her the last life she had. With a sigh, she set the datatab down on a crate pressed into service as a table.
Renée walked into the lounge, the door hissing open for her. Dominique looked up and waved to her teammate. "How was lunch?" the tall blonde asked.
"I've had better," Renée answered. "It was okay, but we need spices and sauces to make it palatable." The redhead sat down on the room's couch. "At least I don't have any soy allergies."
"There's soy sauce we can add?"
"No need. That's what lunch was made of. I really hope we get a garden up here."
"Oh, yum." Dominique stuck out her tongue in disgust. "Makes sense, though. It's easier to just print the food from soy stock instead of flying up meat. Saves in mass."
"Easier doesn't mean tastier."
"Well, yeah, there's a trade off." Dominique shrugged. "I've been checking out what there is to do up here. The game selection isn't great and the film library could use an update."
Renée grimaced. "We'll bore ourselves to death, then?"
"There's a gym." Dominique shrugged. Her foot started tapping. "Other than that, you could go bug Tori. I'm sure she brought up something to stay busy."
"There are other ways besides dealing with her. Or would be if Doctor Aoi wasn't the only man on the moon. This is going to be a long mission."
"Don't remind me of that, okay?" Dominique sighed. "Do you have anyone back home? Boyfriend, fiance? Or girlfriend, for that matter?"
"No one right now." Renée smiled at memories returning. "No one serious, at least. A few 'friends with benefits', good for taking the edge off when I need it. What about you, Dom? Anyone?"
"I'm in between right now. My last boyfriend broke it off when he had to move to Alberta."
"So that leaves us both alone and in need of proper loving." Renée smirked. "So, any idea where the toys are?"
"Toys?" Dominique's eyes widened as she made the connection. "No, no idea. Would the base even get anything like that?"
"Please, a moon with just women and no sexual outlet?" Renée humphed. "That's just asking for trouble."
"But the original base had just men."
"Men don't need anything besides a sock and a picture of a naked woman. They can provide everything else. Me, I need something good and hard."
Dominique felt her cheeks getting warm. "Um, okay. Just remember to put something up when you're getting yourself off so I don't walk in on you."
Renée laughed. "Don't worry. I'm discreet. You don't have to worry about it. But if I do find the good stuff, I'll let you know."
"Thanks." Dominique shifted in her seat. "So, what did you think of our first time out?"
"Changing the subject?" Renée laughed again. "It was okay, except for the problems with my suit. And the attack. Thanks for helping me back."
"Anytime. My suit wasn't exactly working right, either."
"I can't believe we're going out in something not tested completely. It's insane."
Dominique shrugged. "It's not that insane. I've skimmed through the specs. Most of it is already used in standard space suits. It's just been augmented so that it can go into a fight and survive a hit or two."
"A hit or two? What about the Australian today?"
"I haven't seen her suit. I'm sure the engineers and the Japanese doctors are going to figure out what happened. That's standard procedure in these cases."
Renée narrowed her eyes. "How do you know this?"
"This is my degree field. I have a copy of my thesis if you want to read it. It's a bit math heavy in some places but the summary should be enough."
"Hmph." Renée blew a stray red bang out of her eyes. "Okay, let's say you're right."
"Seriously, please? If you're right, then whatever happened will be fixed, right?"
Dominique nodded. "Usually. It depends whether it's a small problem that needs a patch or a major design flaw that will require rebuilding from scratch. But, if it's the latter, then we're stuck with what we have until the new model gets shipped up. It's not like a recall can be issued with a new suit handed over at the dealership."
"That doesn't explain my steering or your gear problem."
"These are custom-made, Renée. The gear is minor; they just have to give me more space for my legs somehow. There's room, though. And your steering is probably a gyroscope issue. Easily fixed."
"If you say so."
Dominique gave Renée a comforting smile. "I say so. Ever take a peek at your car's engine?"
"That's why I have brothers, to do that for me."
"Handy. How many do you have?"
"Two, one younger, one older. Robert's working in Ville de Quebec. Thierry is trying to get signed by the Habs when he gets out of high school."
"Is he good at hockey?"
Renée shrugged. "Looks like it, but I don't follow the sport. I prefer skiing. What about you? I know you play basketball. Even I have heard of the great Dominatrix from Carleton."
Dominique blushed. "I could kill the person who gave me that name. It's not like he couldn't have just used my last name in the school paper."
"I don't know. It makes you more fearsome. The name tells opponents that you will enjoy toying with them." Renée giggled.
"It doesn't work so well with volleyball. I've done hockey, but mainly house leagues. The smaller girls have an edge over me in speed. And a roller derby team tried to recruit me."
"Roller derby? Is that still around?"
Dominique nodded. "It's cyclical."
"I can see you being great on roller skates."
"Once I learn how to use them, sure."
"Come on, how difficult can it be? I learned how to roller skate when I was twelve."
Dominique stretched out her leg and wiggled her foot. "I'd have to get mine custom-made. I don't have standard sized feet. Or legs. Or torso."
"Gotcha. I never thought about it."
"Well, you're a normal height. Stores expect people like you. Not giants like me."
"Yes, but you don't need help getting anything from the top shelf at the grocery store. I'll bet you can use all your cabinets and closet space."
"You don't have to crouch to get the bottom shelf."
Renée stretched. "Changing light bulbs is easy for you. You don't have to ask your taller brothers or boyfriends to do it or climb on a chair."
"Try finding a guy who doesn't mind being shorter than you. Because, there's not many guys taller than me."
"I guess that makes some positions awkward, too."
"For sex." Renée leered. "Forget anything that requires standing."
"Oh. Well, um, I haven't tried anything fancy. Mainly because, well, height. It's difficult enough that most guys stare at my boobs without looking down. In bed, well, you can figure it out."
Renée took in Dominique from head to toe. She nodded. "I can see advantages and drawbacks, depending on what you want from sex. I mean, if you just wanted a quickie, then I don't see a problem."
"I'm not into quickies, thanks."
"Not everyone is." Renée sighed. "Any chance that they'll bring up men once a month or two?"
Dominique smiled. "Ask the Lieutenant. She'll know better."
Darcy wiped off the sweat from her forehead. She unwrapped the tape from her hands and flexed her fingers. The aches from her arms, legs, and hands felt good to her, a good workout, even with Victoria stopping by. Seeing a couple of women coming from the change room dressed in tights, Darcy waved. One waved back and said, "Would you like to join us for our yoga workout?"
Darcy started walking towards the change room. "Thanks, but I just finished with the punching bag." She stopped near the newcomers and offered her hand. "Hi, I'm Darcy Kincaid, Beaver Flight."
The first woman, athletically built with her brunette hair cut into a pageboy, shook Darcy's hand. "Laura Lipinski, Eagle Flight."
The other woman, shorter than Laura, added, "Nevaeh Jones, also Eagle Flight."
"I heard what Beaver Flight did today," Laura said. "Probably saved the pilot's arm from amputation from what I've heard."
"Yeah." Darcy gave herself a short count of five before continuing. "Just wondering what else there is to do here. From what I've read, Eagle Flight's been here since the mission started, so I figured who would know best but you."
Laura smiled. "It doesn't seem like there's much here, huh? Downtime, though, is a great time to get into new hobbies. I've been learning how to crochet from Nevaeh here, and Pranaya of Tiger Flight is getting a garden going if you want to help out there."
"There's also the lounge, with a few games," Nevaeh said. "The library is decent enough if you like romances or literature, but is thin on mysteries and genre. The video collection's the same, though we do take up a collection each month to order a few TV series in. Then there's the unofficial collection. We've got several months worth of soaps, web series, dramas, whatever you like. At least there, we've got a better selection."
Darcy nodded. "I guess anything like sports is out of the question."
"Nah, just a few months behind," Laura said. "We get news, but it's prioritized. Major news is usually a day late. Hometown news is usually a few weeks behind. If it doesn't make headlines nationally, you won't hear about right away."
"But major events we can get usually within a week. We got the Superbowl a few days after it happened."
"Who can I ask to get the NHL playoffs?"
"Major di Carlo," Laura answered. "She's the go-to person around here. She handles our needs so that the COs can deal with the invaders."
"Thanks." Darcy hooked her thumb at the change room. "I should get changed before I start to reek."
As the day slowly ended, the women of Beaver Flight returned to their quarters. Renée arrived first and took the opportunity to change into a set of light green pyjamas before the others arrived. When she emerged from the bathroom, Dominique sat on her lower bunk. Renée plopped down beside the taller woman. "Get your workout in?"
"Sort of." Dominique shrugged. "It'd be better if gravity wasn't helping. I have to watch how much I lift. It's too easy to put on too many weights."
"I never thought of that. And, no," Renée held up a hand to stop Dominique, "I don't need the math. There's a reason I didn't take it in university. Math doesn't like me at all."
"Maybe if you cuddled it for a bit?"
Renée picked up her teammate's pillow and smacked her with it. "Cuddle that."
The door opened, letting Darcy enter. "As you were," she said. She sat down across from Renée and Dominique on her own bed. "Have either of you seen Tori?"
Dominique shook her head. "Not since the hangar, ma'am."
"Same here, ma'am" Renée added.
Darcy reached for the remote to the room's holodisplay. She checked her email for new messages. "Nothing."
"Ma'am, Tori isn't exactly one for checking in," Dominique said.
"Or listening to people. Or doing anything that makes sense." Renée adjusted her legs to pick them up off the floor. "For all we know, she's off annoying whoever's in charge. She's good at that."
Darcy's expression became stern. "Okay, enough of that. We're going to be here for a while. You're going to have to learn to get along with Tori. And I've told Tori the same thing. The next time I hear either of you slagging the other or the two of you bickering, I'm taking you both to the gym. Did you know that there's a ring there for martial arts?"
Renée's eyes widened in shock. "You're going to make us fight?"
"That's up to you, really. You're already fighting. At least this way there'll be a winner."
Dominique laughed to break the tension. "I'm sure it won't come down to that, ma'am."
The door opened to let Victoria in. She looked over at her teammates who stared back at her. "Okay, what's going on?" She walked further into the room, keeping her distance from the others.
"Nothing," Darcy said. "Sit."
Gingerly, the brunette took a seat beside Darcy. "What's up?"
"We were just wondering where you were," Dominique said.
"Oh." Victoria relaxed. "I was visiting Peri. The doctors said that she doesn't have to lose her arm."
Renée turned a quizzical look at Victoria. "Peri?"
"Was she the one in the power suit you went after this afternoon?" Dominique asked.
Victoria nodded. "That's her. She needed some company and didn't mind me sitting there." The physicist shrugged. "Mind, they had her so doped up on pain killers that she thought she was back home."
Darcy stood up and entered the middle of the room. "There's a few things I think I need to say after everything that happened today. About the chain of command, when and where it applies, and how to disobey orders."
Renée scowled at Victoria. "Thanks."
Dominique put a hand on the redhead's shoulder. "Hang on a moment before you condemn her."
"What happened today shouldn't have happened," Darcy began. "Normally, we wouldn't have been outside unless it was our turn in the roster. That's still being set up. In the future, we will be properly armed in working power suits. Today was a fluke. With Tori's actions, the life, or at least the arm, of a fellow pilot was saved. Even if she did disobey a direct order," the lieutenant stared at Victoria, "she had presence of mind to not get in danger. However, next time, we will be working as a team. No unnecessary heroics. Does everyone understand?"
Darcy looked at each woman, getting acknowledgements. "Good. Next, it was brought up to me that I've been treating you like raw recruits without trying to understand you."
Victoria held up her hand. "That's not what I said."
"Shush." Darcy winked at the woman. "And, this person has a point. There is also a need to try to stay disciplined, too, though. So, we need a balance. On duty, we either use ranks or callsigns. In the suits, callsigns only. Off duty, we cut the formality. In here especially. At some point, we're going to synchronize with each other. We better be on first name basis then. So, off duty, you can call me Darcy or McGee or whatever."
"Are you sure about that, Whatever?" Victoria giggled.
"And, whatever happens in here stays in here," Darcy continued. "So, if that means someone gets hit by a flying pillow--"
Renée scooped Dominique's pillow and hurled it Victoria, hitting her target in the chest. "You mean like that, Darcy?"
"Like that, yes. It means that I don't want to hear about it." Darcy grabbed the pillow from Victoria and threw it at Dominique, smacking the tall woman in the head.
Dominique held on to her pillow. "Something we might want to think about is – get your own pillow, Renée – is privacy. It hasn't come up yet, but it's still early. In res at university, we used socks and ribbons to warn roommates."
"What?" Victoria asked.
Renée rolled her eyes. "Figures Miss Geek doesn't have a clue about sex."
"I've had sex."
"By yourself doesn't count."
"I have a boyfriend."
"Ladies!" Darcy turned to face Renée. "Do you really want to go into the ring?"
Renée shook her head. "No, ma'am." After Darcy's cough, she amended, "No, Darcy."
"Thank you." Darcy spun towards Victoria. "No fighting in here. And no 'buts', either." She sat down on the bunk beside Victoria. "Okay, for privacy like that or anything, hang something up outside. And use your own bunk. Is that fine, Dom?"
Dominique nodded. "Thanks. And it's not to say that the privacy is only for, um, self-gratification. Sometimes, we may just want to be away from everyone else until we find other places to hang out in."
Darcy smiled. "Good point. And, if there's anything you want to see in the library, book or video, let me know. I found out who the person to talk to for that sort of thing. Email me the list so I can send everyone's request at once. Are we good?" The other women murmured assent. "Good. I'm going to turn in. I suggest everyone else gets some sleep, too. It'll be another long day tomorrow."
"If it helps, focus your scanning ahead and above the plane."
"Do you think about what's outside of your suit?"
"There's a few things not allowed, but not officially banned."
"Darcy, I figured out what you were talking about."