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The city barracks of Aequitas provide shelter for the city guards as well as the combat teams. While Aequitas currently only sports two League combat teams, their total defense force counts 150 individuals, of whom approx. 100 serve with the purpose of combat.
The legislative as well as jurisdictional areas of Aequitas are also present in the barracks, although a division between the military and civil part of the barracks is present.
Blood flowed from the cut as her blades moved through the body of the humanoid spawn, her body feeling the vibrations as the blade cut through the spine. Phyllis shook her head a bit as to make the images and feelings disappear. Yesterday had been the last day of normal guard duty, her education finished and her service as a grunt in the Aequitas Defense Guard being fulfilled. Tonight was to be the final night duty before transferring into the newly formed league teams. Tonight was supposed to have been a formal farewell to the soldiers she had fought side by side with for what seemed like an eternity. A quick glance across the reinforced plates of the reflection’s armor made Phyllis’ mind return to the start of her shift: The normal calmness of the forsaken wasteland that the M3 dome was traversing had been replaced with a sudden spawn attack, forcing her and the other guards to move outside the dome to defend the citizens. The small guard army had faced several hundred monsters, most of the spawn resembling humanoid beings, most likely apes. Phyllis’ facial expression twisted in horror as she thought of the monsters: They could have been humans mutated by the nuclear wasteland.
The war cry of her fellow soldiers as the charged into the spawn brought her back to the field of battle. Her commanding officer Swaeson had been leading the charge that Phyllis participated in. As their charge came to a halt, Swaeson and several other offense based guards had tried to flank the spawn, encircling the monsters and trapping them between the blades of the warriors and the rifles of the soldiers. The eyes of the reflection began to tear up as Phyllis remembered the sudden cry of surprise from Swaeson as he was overpowered by a spawn, his body being crushed beneath the spawn as they fell to the ground. With the spawn finally on the run, Phyllis had rushed to him but too late: Swaeson had passed away, a spawn bite having penetrated his thigh armor. The radioactive level of the spawn saliva was like poison in the human veins. Albeit with great casualties, the spawn had once again taken a good soldier from the Aequitas Defense Guard. Phyllis closed her eyes, her brain trying to cope with her situation as the minutes passed by.
But this was not the time to mourn. Her presence was needed at the briefing room. Grapping a towel and wiping her face dry of water, Phyllis turned around and walked into the hallways of the guard dormitory that had become her home over the last couple of years. A quick peak into the small room that had until recently been hers confirmed her transfer to the newly created league dormitory: Her personal belongings would already be at her new accommodation. The bare, white walls of her old room seemed so sterile. Phyllis began to think back of her first time in military school, her eyes moving along the hallway. The metallic sound of her armor hitting the frame of the door brought her back to reality. “Better hurry”, she thought to herself as she checked for her swords on her back and began to walk through the hallway.
The Aequitas Barracks, the formal name of this cluster of buildings outside the city, consisted of a main building, the ‘Headquarters’, where all the military leaders, coordinators and strategists as well as some jurisdictional and legislative staff worked and lived, as well as a guard dormitory for the Defense Guard and a newly created league team dormitory housing those were supposed ‘to bring glory and riches to the city of Aequitas’. As fancy as it sounded, the league dormitory was no different from the guard dormitory: Small rooms for one or two inhabitants, with shared mess and bathroom facilities amongst all soldiers. The three buildings of the barracks had been places in what could best be described as an angular U, the futuristic style of Aequitas dictating this rather science fictional placement.
As Phyllis reached the entrance to the dormitory and walked out into the drill square in the middle of the “U”-shape, her attention was caught by the mail building: Two large flags, showing off the logos of the two league teams, were placed on the sides of the main entrance to the white HQ building. Phyllis could not help but think of the relic paintings she had been shown since her childhood: Noble warriors and knights in front of Renaissance European fencing schools. Surely the leaders of Aequitas had had these old paintings and traditions in mind when designing the Aequitas Barracks.
Phyllis walked straight through the drill square, her armored boots creating soft metallic sounds as they hit the stones. The black plates of her armor shone in the sun, although they were hardly clean: Blood and sand was smeared across her arms and chest, and although she had tried to wash it away shortly after the battle, the last dirt and blood would remain until her armor was cleaned properly and disassembled. “Might as well do that in the new dormitory”, she had told herself earlier. Besides, the dirty armor would send a signal to the guards as well as the members of the league teams, hopefully manifesting her position as an executive officer. Rumors were that a lot of fresh meat had been recruited specifically for these league teams, and Phyllis would need to keep her authority if she were to assume the role of an XO.
The heavy, wooden doors of the main entrance creaked as Phyllis pushed them open, her movements through the entrance showing determination. The emotions that had previously shown on her face were now gone and only determination could be seen in her eyes. The civil staff members of the jurisdictional and legislative areas were staring at her as she strode by in her armor, the red markings around her chest piece glowing softly in the dimmed light. “Guess they rarely see battle clad warriors around here”, she thought to herself. The door to the briefing room came closer and closer, and Phyllis prepared herself mentally for the confrontation with General Jonathan Verturum, the leader of the Aequitas Defense Guard and League Teams. “I am here to see the General”, Phyllis proclaimed as the two guards’ inquiring eyes hit her, her right hand raised to her head in a salute. “The General is currently preoccupied with the events of the night”, one of the soldiers explained. “You will have to wait here until the league teams have been gathered”. Phyllis recalled the soldier as belonging to one of the city’s defense forces, although she had never served with him directly. She nodded quickly as an affirmation of his words, then looked around and located the nearest bench. Walking over to it, she could hear the murmurs coming from the civil staff as the sound of her armor plates echoed through the halls. “I guess this would be the time to get some rest”, she almost whispered to herself as she sat down on the bench, the events of the night having left her with no sleep until now. She placed her helmet in her lap together with the armored gloves of her armor, the metallic clang from her swords hitting the wall assuring her that she could lean back. Her eyes closed softly as the sounds of the people slowly faded away.
The dimly lit and smoky room matched Aaron Blake’s personality. There was an empty cigar box thrown into a corner, and the table on which rested Aaron’s dirty boots was dusty and stained, but not more stained than the filthy floor. There was a painting hanging on the wall, a relic from before the war. When Blake purchased it, the dealer said it was an imitation of a very famous painting. It probably wasn’t famous enough, since Aaron didn’t knew it, but this was not the reason why Blake bought the art piece. It was because of its name. The painting was called Mona Lisa.
Lisa. Liz. Elizabeth.
Blake liked the picture. He stared at it, leaning back in his chair with his feet up, staring at the woman's mysterious smile. She was very beautiful and very similar to Betty, which was part of the reason why there was a Renaissance painting contrasting with the rest of the room. It was a piece of shit, of course, but a classy piece of shit. Blake picked up his lighter from the table, and stood up. He walked to the painting, looked at it one last time with a long sigh, and then the flames from the lighter set fire to the cheap imitation. He watched as the canvas melted and fell in the ground with a hiss, and soon there was nothing left but ashes and a terrible smell mixed with tobacco.
Aaron Blake smiled. Burning something always made him more excited. He crossed the tiny room that served as his house and lifted the box where Betty, the flamethrower, was. It was a huge black briefcase, in which there were the different propane capsules (lethal and non-lethal), the rest of the flamethrower, various explosives (including pulse grenades) and Aaron’s fireproof armor. Blake tied the bag in his back, put the lighter in his pocket and left the room, hoping never to return.
The future League member crossed the city to the barracks. He certainly did not seem like a combatant. He was dressed in a heavy trouser with lots of pockets in it and a white shirt, surprisingly clean. He shifted the cigar from one spot of his mouth to the another while walking, enjoying the smoke.
The situation was irritating. The letter from General Verturum was surprising, but not that much. Aaron knew his reputation preceded him, and he felt it was almost Verturum’s obligation to ask Blake to join the team. The irritating part was starting from the beginning all over again. Blake had already fought in previous tournaments, but things went wrong… He had to disappear. But anyone well-related could find him, and apparently General Verturum was well-related. Blake didn’t see any problem in joining the tournament again, but starting from scratch… He would have to report to the commander officer of the Black Wolves, pretending that he would obey and serve until death, and only then Aaron would be allowed to go to his room and rest until they could fight. In fact, all that mattered was the fight. The heat of the battle was the reason why Blake got up every morning. The only thing there was to care about was the tournament. What happens before it passes through like a dream, just a bunch of people talking and a monotony eat-sleep cycle. And training. Training hard in order to survive the next fight, and then fight again ...
Aaron looked at the white building, and recognizing the Black Wolves’ flag, he moved on. He walked in, approached the guards and unceremoniously asked: "Who is my superior around here?"
The guard pointed silently to a bench where a woman was sitting. Blake turned to the guard, a sarcastic smile on his face, but when he realized he was serious, his smile disappeared. A woman? Aaron Blake would be forced to obey... A woman?
Aaron crossed the hallway several times, attracting a lot of suspicious looks. Finally he decided to confront the commander herself. He approached the woman, and woke her up with a light punch on her shoulder.
Obviously, 'light' to Aaron Blake meant 'do not cripple or kill', and nothing less. When the woman awoke, Blake mumbled, with a tone of contempt in his voice: "Looks like I'll obey you from now on, so let's cut the bullshit. I'm Blake. Aaron Blake. Now you tell me your name, I pretend I care and you stay out of my way the rest of the time. Got it? Good. Now when does our Commanding Officer arrives?"
When he had first received the slip, he thought for sure it was going to be further orders to just wait for further orders, but his spirits rose when it informed him to report in with full gear, and that his belongings would be transfered to the Team dormitory. He had spent most of the previous day out on the dome with friends, spending the majority of his money on what little entertainment the Dome had to offer. His willingness to indulge in personal fantasies while battles were being fought beyond the borders of the Dome had irritated many, but Maen had always been an upbeat individual, and refused to let anything spoil his mood. "They accepted this way of life when they volunteered." he thought to himself.
As he stood before the heavy wooden doors leading into the HQ building, he realized just what it was that he volunteered for.
Pushing the doors open, he was relieved to find no one in his face reminding him to remove his headgear, as was typical with military facilities. "Looks like the League regulations are a bit more lax than the standard rank-and-file." Of this he was glad, one of the main reasons he had been so reluctant to join the Guard was due to everyone having a stick up their rear. He kept his trademark helmet on as he stepped forward into the room, he was approached by a squat old man who appeared to be civilian. "League?" he asked curtly. "So they tell me. I'm supposed to report to General Verturum." The man pointed across the hall to a door flanked by two soldiers. "Thanks." returned Raboc, but the man had already wandered off. Approaching the door with his usual confident demeanor, he turned to one of the soldiers. "Am I late?" he asked. The man looked at him, "The briefing hasn't started yet. Stand by." Maen smiled under his helmet, "Oh joy." he thought as he walked away "Stand by in military terms means shut up and wait for a few hours." Without bothering to look around, Maen quickly found a place to sit in a far off corner and took it. Setting 'Gravy' by his side, he crossed his legs and leaned back in a relaxed position. This could take a while.
Eve looked at the clock on the laptop screen, it’s about time to leave. She closed the laptop and put on her white trench coat together with her white leather gloves that matched the coat. Both the coat and the gloves had the family crest printed into the leather. The reports of last night’s events has to wait for now. With a tired look on her face she opened the door and left the neutral white room.
While walking on the cobblestone in the streets she couldn’t help but think about last night. Maybe it was because of the crying civilians desperately trying to find their family members, maybe because of the soldiers walking around like brain-dead zombies thinking about the people they never would see again. Eve couldn’t tell nor would she try to, showing your feelings in the middle of the street like that was a sign of weakness. Though deep inside, she couldn’t help but feel remorse by thinking that way. Damn I hate this split personality of mine.
Different from most of the people in the city Eve had actually had a good night of sleep, surely because of the painkillers combined with the sleeping pills. She had to be in top shape every time she was inside the city barracks, if she should be able to achieve what she wanted.
As Eve finally arrived at her destination she could see that most of the team had already gathered there, except for one. A quick observation gave her the feeling of different conflicts occurring, everybody had had a hard time the last night, but letting it out on other soldiers was the wrong move. Eve walked up towards Aaron and Phyllis “Is something wrong?” She said with a somewhat happy voice and a forced smile on her lips. She had already read a bit about the members of the Black Wolves, the man’s name was Aaron Blake, a man that was hard to control, but still a good card to be able to play if necessary. “I would rather want you to talk to me than waking Phyllis right now. She has had a rough night on the field and seems like she is in need of some sleep.” She put out her hand in order to shake his, hopefully he would accept that.
The woman looked at him with a goofy grin plastered on her face and an outstretched hand. Even though Aaron was still angry he would have to do the ceremony all over again, he could not ignore a gesture like that. He shook hands with the woman, trying hard not to break any bone, and answered, making another effort not to sound rude.
"Yes, there is a problem, ma’am. I just arrived here and I found out that my team's Executive Officer is a woman! No offense, ma’am, but women cannot lead! It is a scientific fact. I was hoping to meet with the Commanding Officer of the Black Wolves and maybe he could explain to me what's going on. Anyway, I'm also here to see the General Verturum, like everyone else. So I don’t want any problems, at least not for now. "
And not without Betty, Blake thought. If he had the flamethrower equipped, this conversation would be a lot different.
Trying to sound friendly was a very complex communication exercise for Blake. Damn, he used to talk that much in one week! That didn’t mean Aaron wasn’t smart. Blake had a lethal intelligence, but a slight... Issue with words and social relations in general. Blake only liked two kinds of people: Those who respected him ... And those who burned.
The ex-communication wasn't entirely her fellow students and new teammates fault though. Lan brought a lot of it on herself. She stayed quiet and kept her head down most of the time, and only talked when spoken to. She would rather be seen as weak and then strike out when the situation called for her too. She also enjoyed the privacy because in her eyes, company meant more people around to discover her secret. She was sure nothing would happen to her, but maybe they would call her ex-guardians or kick her out of the Defense Force and League team altogether. That would ruin everything she had planned out in her narrow little mind.
Finally, she set down her axe and stood up to look at herself in the mirror. She saw all her slender curves and soft feminine features and wondered how in the world she hadn't been found out already. Her eyes were big and round reflecting the stormy gray of her heart and her short auburn hair was laying randomly a tangled mop. It was always messy. Used to, she would be annoyed and try to fight with it, but she had realized it gave her an extra boyish look so she usually kept it the way it was.
Suddenly, she heard a voice yelling out and a heavy knock on her door. "Spawn attack! Ready your weapons, Lan, you're needed on the front line!"
She threw on her breastplate and roughly grabbed her axe and helmet. Then she threw open the door to reveal a frantic young trainee, Jered, she thought his name was. "Where?" she asked him sternly.
"Just to the west of the northern front. They haven't made it to the city yet, but there's loads of them. Commander Jax told me that he needed you to lead a small front line to attack head on, while he leads a larger group around their right to flank them," he spoke quickly and in a grave tone.
"Thanks, soldier," Lan said as she quickly ran through the hallways, footsteps pounding in sync with her heartbeat. Spawn attacks always exhilarated her, sent burning adrenaline rushing through her veins. She loved the feeling of her axe burying deep into the heads or chest of whatever monster she faced; each time she destroyed a creature she felt that she was one step closer to avenging her beloved family. Besides, this was her last mission as a regular Defense Force soldier. Tomorrow she would officially be part of the Red Lances. She just had to live that long.
The next morning, Lan woke, exhausted from the bloody battle of the previous night. She lay in bed for a while, replaying the brutal scenes of death and torment in her mind before she got up and got dressed, her usual outfit of tightly fitting black cloth pants and a lose sweater with the sleeves rolled up. Luckily, her legs were fit for a boy but she had to hide her chest with lose clothing. "Damn, this is a pain." She thought as she adjusted her shaggy hair a little and shoved her dagger in its sheath around her waist before walking out of her room through the halls to where the new squads were meeting.
When she got there, she examined her new teammates. She noticed a large man with un-swaying confidence whom she assumed to be the Commander of the Red Lancers. She also noticed two young looking men to be about in their twenties, one laying cockily on the couch, the other looking like he was about to cut the first one. The second man looked calm and official, and also carried what appeared to be a medical bag. She predicted him to be second in command. She usually had a pretty good sense for things like that.
She took one last look at the rag-tag group before walking slowly forward, quietly with an air of something between confidence and intimidation.
"Private Lan Haringer reporting sir," she saluted to the large commander. This was going to be interesting
Apart from the CO, there was a man who looked to be about as laid back as himself, as well as another who didn't look too pleased about it. The apparent Commanding Officer was talking with a young man at the moment, so Maen decided it best to just wait until they were through. Walking up to them, he put his weight on one foot with his hands resting on his hips. More than a few people had told him that this stance looked rather feminine, but he was comfortable, so he stuck with it.
"I have been assigned under your command as a Red Lancer, sir. I was pulled as a late addition to be granted completion of my first year of combat school and training," she explained to him with as manly a voice as she could muster from her tiny diaphragm. She wanted to give a good first appearance, especially since he seemed so annoyed with the men in front of him. The medical boy seemed to be fine, but the other one...not so much.
"I'm pleased to meet you and look forward to further my training under your guidance."
Just enough to butter myself up, she thought.
“So this is The Red Lancers? Remember this day well boys, because this is the day you stop being individual soldiers. Instead you are now part of a vital team. Vital because our success could very well mean the difference between this dome’s survival and utter destruction," Lock said proudly and surely. Lan looked around her once more at the group that she would be spending so much time with.
It truly was a melting pot. With metalhead walking up, Mr. Cool on the couch and the uptight doctor on top of Lock the giant and little Lana, they seemed to have nothing in common.
How will such a dysfunctional group be able to save Aequitas? she wondered.
"When will we begin our training?" she asked the Commander, eager to learn from someone as seemingly experienced as him.
Cursing her actions under her breath, she was about to turn to the offensive soldier, her mind already planning a very formal yet aggressive response, when suddenly Eve Heart of all people was to be found in the hallway saving Phyllis the trouble of responding. “Oh the irony”, Phyllis thought. While she did like Eve Heart for helping her through the tough times, Phyllis did not want to be indebted to Eve, much less defended by her. Phyllis wanted to be responsible for her own actions.
“Anyway, I'm also here to see the General Verturum, like everyone else. So I don’t want any problems, at least not for now.” The words of the soldier next to her, Blake she recalled, forced her to return to reality once again. Standing up, she faced Blake again, her face returning to that of an emotionless officer, although her prepared speech in her head was completely ruined. The only words leaving her mouth was the essence of what she had wanted to say: “I’m Officer Zethera.” Her voice was almost trembling as the words came out, her brain cursing itself for its stupidity.
A quick glance around the perimeter informed her that ten soldiers, herself included, had gathered here. Besides Eve she was not familiar with any of them. No wonder, since Phyllis tended to keep herself in the ranks of the charging melee soldiers, medics and ranged soldiers not peaking her interest at all. It seemed to Phyllis as if the Red Lancer CO had made his entrance and gathered his team around him while she had been occupied with Blake. That would mean that the three leftover soldiers, Blake included, were her new team mates.
Phyllis began to walk towards Eve, her eyes and facial expression saying ‘Thank You’. Just as she passed by Eve, however, the door by the guards opened and out came a tall, grey haired man with a cold expression on his face. His age was clearly shown in his face, the amounts of battles he had partaken in marked by the scars running across his cheeks and forehead. Phyllis quickly snapped both heels together and saluted Commander Verturum, her eyes awaiting an order from him.
“Stand down, soldiers. We will commence the briefing now”, he said. Phyllis could not help but notice the lack of excitement in his voice. Surely the savior teams gathered to enable Aequitas a conquest in the League should be a bit more interesting than organizing the grunt training? Her thoughts, however, quickly ended up dwelling at the events of the night. The loss of yet another soldier out of an army size of 90-something soldiers was quite a burden to bear. As Verturum motioned them to join him in the briefing room, she quickly moved along. With her helmet under her left arm she entered the briefing room, the only room of its kind in the whole barracks. Maps over the desolated Earth were projected onto the white walls, while a holographic map in the middle showed the current position of Aequitas in a much more detailed view. Phyllis quickly found herself a spot at the right side of the room, trying to create eye contact with those of her fellow team members who were entering through the door, hoping that the soldiers would separate themselves into teams.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era for Aequitas! We finally have an army suitable for participating in the League, and while we have fought in the League several times before this day, we haven’t emerged victorious yet.” Phyllis could not help but notice the change in the room atmosphere as Verturum began to brief them, his voice captivating both officers and soldiers alike. “Following the League rules, Aequitas cannot be attacked as we do not control any harvest towns. However, the city of Aequitas craves, no demands, new farmland in order to expand. With our current crop production here in the dome we will not be able to feed the next generation. Therefore, the M3 dome is as we speak heading towards the city of Triticum of the K2 dome, our first opponent.”
Phyllis exhaled after holding her breath throughout Verturum’s speech. She looked closely at Verturum, his face beginning to show the early signs of a smile. Her eyes then glanced at the holographic map on the table, the view of Aequitas suddenly showing the K2 dome in the distance. The excitement was unbearable! Phyllis tried to gain eye contact with Eve for a short moment, her eyes reflecting the feeling of happiness and yet nervousness that was stirring in her head, before returning her focus to Verturum.
“The city of Triticum is not much bigger than us, only boasting a 12-man League team. However, they have managed to hold onto the harvest town of Avena, a small farming community. We, the citizens of Aequitas, will need to gain hold of the harvest town stockpiles if we are to replenish our almost depleted food stockpiles.” Phyllis’ eyes followed Verturum as he finished speaking, his posture not changing very much even though this was fantastic news. Phyllis guessed he had been through so many briefings before that his body did not reflect the content of the information.
“The E.T.A. for Aequitas will be approx. 36 hours. We will commence our attack as soon as we can, and as the M3 dome is one of the fastest domes in its class we should have no problem intercepting them. We will be fighting the battle across the two domes, the battle itself being a ‘Capture the Flag’-styled battle. Since we will be going up against 12 soldiers, and since we do not have anything to loose except your lives, I have personally decided upon an all offensive strategy: We will be lowering two bridges between the domes. The Black Wolves will be assaulting on the right flank while the Red Lancers will be on the left flank. Remember: All we need is their flag to win. If we are strong and fast enough, they will not be able to defeat us!”
Phyllis did not hear the last words, her mind already picturing herself fighting the enemies across the bridge. She had yet to experience real dome warfare, but with her experience from spawn fights she felt confident. Her right hand tightened into a fist as she remembered the cause she was fighting for: This harvest town would be just another in the path towards reunion with her father. With her mind preoccupied she did not hear Verturum say “Any questions?”
Eve was out of the room quite fast in order to catch up with the CO of the Red Lancers. Alexander P. Locke, a name she had heard a bit of through her time in the military academy. “I hope you don’t mind me walking with you Locke.” She said to him as she finally caught up with him, walking through a long corridor going from the head quarter to the league residence “We have to discuss how we start out the encounter, we have the time with us but they will surely be waiting for us when we finally get aboard the K2 dome. If I recall correctly the dome environment is basically plain fields with some few forest areas.” While talking to him she was thinking with all her might different plans to commence the attack “I will use some time to see if I can get some information on the dome and maybe their league soldiers. After all know thy enemy is a great term.” She turned silent for a few seconds “But of cause knowing your friend will also be required of this. What can you tell me about your team Alex-… Erm Locke?” Making a mistake at the last sentence wasn’t good; if she had just been able to do it at the start it wouldn’t have been as easily seen.
Eve was ready to face the fact that she would hear a lot from all of the members in her squad, she would have thought the same if a young person was about to command a team she was a part of, but luckily it wasn’t like that. Even though she didn’t look like it, she was indeed one of the top tacticians in the city as well as a good leader. But she was merciless on the battlefield; she had ease sacrificing people if she could save more by doing it. Her strategies could go from logical to insane from one point to another, but somehow they always seemed to end up well.
He followed the flow of people, not caring whether any of them run into the suitcase tied behind him. When he entered the small room packed with maps, his eyes met those of Zethera, and Aaron could feel the arrogance emanating from the woman. Who did she think she was, commanding him with a look? Aaron returned the stare with hostility and then settled down as best he could, without taking out the huge suitcase behind him.
Verturum then began boring a motivational speech, and Blake decided to use his time to analyze each of the fighters in the room.
There was his commander, Zethera, and she eliminated any type of consideration, and Zethera’s friend, a woman who seemed familiar with that procedure as well as Blake. Aaron wondered what place she occupied in the team.
There was a skinny teenager so pale that Blake thought he was sick. He had slightly pointed ears, and Aaron thought that maybe he was really sick. But he seemed to be agile, very agile, the kind that could evade Betty’s flames. He deserved to be taken into account. There was a man wearing a helmet and a sniper rifle slung over his shoulder, and Aaron ignored him instantly. There was no honor in killing at distance, and men without honor deserved not respect for Blake. There was another pale teen, this one with a horse-tail. The teenager was passive, cold as ice. Blake knew that the most dangerous men are those without emotion, and that young man did not seem to have any. Still, he was young and too weak to be respected.
There was a man who appeared to have the same age as Aaron. The man looked like a rat in appearance, with his gray hair and his skin pale, and seemed to have no idea where he was, with a behavior way to happy for the occasion. Way to happy for Blake’s taste. There was another young man, with very peculiar eyes, probably a mutation, smoking a cigarette. He was too young to smoke, but Aaron started smoking at the age of fifteen, who was he to judge? He had an arrogant expression on his face, as if he knew something nobody else knew and bragged that. This pleased Aaron, and he wished that the smoker was in his team. It was always better to be friends with arrogant men, for they were the ones who died for you trying to prove something on the battlefield ... There was another woman, much smaller and weaker than the other two, and if it weren’t for her diminutive size and stance Aaron would’ve thought she was a man. She wore a dagger at the waist, and that alone won Blake’s favor.
Finally, there was a huge man, much older than Aaron, and maybe this man deserved his respect. Obviously he was a born fighter, and certainly a melee one. He seemed to be almost as old as Verturum, and if someone else deserved Blake’s respect in that room, was that man. Blake hoped that this was the Black Wolves CO, and felt happy to serve under his command.
When Verturum finished his speech, Blake came back to conscience, soon enough to hear the General say: "Any Questions?" Blake would not have cared if any of the recruits asked a useless question, but it was the respectable man who did, and Blake heard him. He smiled. Perhaps the others needed training, but not Aaron. Aaron was always ready to fight ...
Then Verturum asked the Commanding Officers to introduce themselves, and Blake nearly collapsed when the woman took a step forward ... And his fears were confirmed. Eve Heart. Commanding Officer of the Black Wolves. The General left, and Blake followed Eve like a rocket, interrupting her conversation with the respectable man.
"Listen very carefully... commander" Blake spat the word with contempt. “Feel free to give orders to the other submissive assholes, but do not expect me to obey! I'll do my best in order to bring glory to Aequitas, and I’ll also try not to get my team exterminated, but that's all. I already told your friend and I will also tell you: Point the enemy and stay out of my way!"
Regardless of her commanders "suggestions," she decided she needed more practice. She had heard a little about the dome they would face, but not enough to feel comfortable blindly rushing in and trying to win. No, she would definitely do some self training. So she went to her room, grabbed her axe and helmet, and went down to the practice field. There were a couple regular Defense soldiers training, but she kept her distance and practiced some dagger throws and maneuvers and tossed her axe around some. She loved the feeling of swinging it around and into her targets, expecially when she used her dagger along with it. Block the first attack wtih her axe. Move quick. Distract with dagger. Finish with axe. She had several variations of this for all different weapons, but this was the most basic. She smiled to herself and whispered, "Those bastards don't stand a chance."
He admired his spear for a couple seconds. The way both ends had blades made fighting with them look like a dance, with the sun shining off each end. It wasn't as heavy as it looked, but took time to master how to wield it. The black fibers that ran along the shaft made him smile, remembering his days at the Offensive Melee Section of the School. And because he wanted to make sure he still had it, he walked out the door and out into the training field. He didn't notice his 2 team mates out there, because he went straight towards a section of dummies that hadn't been violently abused yet. When he got there, he took his bag off his shoulder, and readied his stance, just like his dad taught him to so many years ago. His feet spread apart wider than most stances, his right hand behind his back holding the spear in the middle and his left hand in front of him. He then flew forward.
He cut through them with the brutality of any other soldier, but with the grace of a dancer. The spear twirled, stabbed, lunged, smacked and destroyed the dummies, all 12 of them. He stood there, satisfied with his work
Before Eve was able to answer Alexander, a third person had joined up, Aaron Blake. A move Eve had seen coming from a person like him, but she had had her hopes that he would have waited until he got a chance to yell at her in private. Instead his entire “wrath” struck her in the middle of a conversation with her co-commander and if that wasn’t enough he even defended her. Eve didn’t like when people tried to protect her in any way. Of cause she knew they did it with the intention of helping, but she felt it as if it would show other people that she was weak and needed others to look after her. She kept this inside her mind as the commander talked to Aaron, That man truly need someone to show him his place… Or maybe someone to understand him even? Eve’s eyes turned to the black case Aaron held on his back. What was his weapon again? Oh yeah a flame thrower. Eve suddenly smiled, she had just gotten a plan of how to commence the attack.
Eve turned towards Alexander, who stood in front of the door to their room “Thank you Alexander I will take it from here. I’m going to contact you as soon as I have some more information. Rest well.” And with those words spoken Eve turned around to meet the sight of Aaron once again. She walked up beside him “Your surely seem hungry, why don’t we discuss this matter in the cafeteria? I’ll buy you a well burned steak if you’d like it.” Eve began walking towards the cafeteria, while hoping that Aaron would follow her.
On the way she found her phone in one of the pockets in her trench coat. She dialed a number and put the phone to her ear “Good day it is Heart, I will need some information on the city Triticum as well as the K2 dome. I would appreciate a map and some info on their league teams and setup… Yeah I want all the information you can gather in 12 hours, and remember to keep this unofficial as always… Thank you. Just send the info to my mail as you find it.” She hung up and put the phone back into her pocket. Sometimes it is good to be a part of the Heart Corporation. She smiled once again.
Eve Heart muttered something to the respectable man, and then turned to Aaron, who was still shocked. Surprisingly, she was nice. Aaron expected resistance, because they all feel slightly superior, but instead his commander invited him to a friendly dinner. Blake wondered what she wanted from him... Suddenly she began to walk, and Blake had no choice but to follow her. He needed no further punishment, and the woman was his superior, after all ...
They reached the cafeteria, a dirty little place with nothing special. Blake sat down heavily in a fragile chair, which cracked and almost broke under Aaron and his equipment’s weight. He shouted to the kitchen, asking for a steak and water, and then began a complex ritual. Blake took the case from his back and carefully placed it on the floor. He opened it as if opening an ancient manuscript and started removing Betty piece by piece and putting her up on the dusty table. He began to inspect the flamethrower, lingering on each check, carefully polishing each part. He signaled Eve to begin the talk, implying that he would not interrupt the ritual, even though paying attention to what she would say. The commander would have to deal with that.
"Hello, Executive Logan," she called to him, saluting. He seemed to be admiring his excellent work in cutting up his dummies, and she immediately regretted interrupting him. Oh well, it's too late now. She didn't really know what to say to him, so she began to ask him questions and shower him with compliments. "You really butchered those dummies. I like the way you work. How do you feel about our team? And by the way, do you know who we're supposed to be rooming with? I never got the official room chart." Her sentences weren't connected at all, but she didn't care. She just tried to act casual about everything and kept smiling her slight smile.
The words of the general seemed only to encourage Phyllis. She needed no knowledge of the chance of winning, nor of the consequences that would come if she was to fail the task given her. Each battle in the League would be one step closer to finding her father again, and she would be sure to keep that objective prioritized. Phyllis did not share any deep connections with Aequitas. Sure, the dome had originated from somewhat the same area of the Earth as her ancestors had, but for all she cared it was just another mobile city, another piece of a puzzle displaying the human legacy.
Eve’s strict expression drew Phyllis back to the reality. Phyllis’ face became a mixture of emotions: Eve’s expression made her worry, but her feelings were at the same time too confused from the inputs the General had given them. With Phyllis’ brain unable to cope with her feelings, Eve luckily announced her plans to retire to her room and then walked away, Phyllis spotting Blake in sharp pursuit. She decided to once again glance down at the holographic map, her thoughts moving elsewhere. “Triticum, huh?” she thought to herself in an inner monologue. “Being a crops-oriented dome they’re probably not heavy on psychokinetic users. Should be easy to charge their ranks”.
A soft noise towards the room’s exit made Phyllis aware that all of her fellow soldiers had left the room. “Better find a room and get this armor cleaned”, she thought to herself, her eyes slowly closing as a response to the once again growing sleepiness. A yawn came across her face as she moved down the hallway of the main building, her helmet striking against the side of her armor with every step. A slight annoyance with the helmet could be seen across Phyllis’ face, her normal style of fighting not including the use of said protection. Phyllis noticed that the amount of civilian staff visible had decreased over the course of the briefing. “The mess is probably overrun with people”, she noted to herself, her stomach responding with a quiet growl.
The league dormitory’s entrance came closer with every soft clank from her armored boots. As Phyllis walked through the entrance, a copy of the main building’s entrance albeit smaller, she noticed the dormitory assignments on the wall mounted screen. Skimming quickly through the list, she found herself assigned to room two. Not caring about the rest of the soldiers’ assigned rooms, she quickly paced her movement towards the supply room of the dormitory. Walking into the room filled with everything a soldier could want in maintenance supplies, she quickly decided upon a standard cleaning set needed to conduct maintenance on her medium armor.
Entering her assigned dormitory room, Phyllis noticed that she had been assigned to a two-bed room. “Surely they do not expect me to live with others?” she said softly to herself, her words structuring her sentences much easier when alone. Phyllis began to detach her armor from her body, the cleaning kit thrown down upon the white sheets of her chosen bed. As her hands became free of the armored shell, Phyllis noticed a small but noticeable tremor throughout her fingers, the prospects of finally going into real combat making her body flow with adrenaline.
With most of her armor off and cleaned, only the chest piece and legs remaining on her body, the lack of sleep was finally wearing Phyllis down. She quickly undid the two lasts pieces, pushed all the armor to the end of the bed and slipped into the sheets, her shock-absorbing suit still on. “Nobody’s going to care after what I did this night”, she assured herself, the empty void of sleep closing in on her fast.
Eve didn’t speak for some time; instead she looked around the canteen. She saw a group of young soldiers look at her then talk a bit then look at her again, seeing a woman with her age and beauty in the barracks wasn’t something you would see every day. Eve smiled towards them and waved. “We all have masks Blake.” The girl that had been there with the steak to Aaron came back and placed a can of Swiftness in front of Eve, then she returned to the canteen. “We develop masks the older we get and the more people we meet, for example I am using my cute mask towards those soldiers over there.” She turned her head towards Aaron. “I have more masks than the most people in my age, and you will see that I use them to benefit my needs, and my needs alone.” She smiled but with a rather creepy smile. “That’s how I am; manipulating.” She opened the can in front of her and took a sip of it. “Why would I tell someone like you this?... Well it seems like people think you a quite insane.” She giggled “Another feature I like about you indeed. You aren’t like everyone else, and through that they call you a maniac. Am I right?” She took another sip of the can. If people knew my real intentions they would surely think the same about me though.
The mobile in her pocket vibrated, she picked it up and looked at the display. Her face expression had turned rather feeless while she was tapping on the phone. “Perfect” Eve leaned towards Aaron in order to whisper into his ears “Tell me; have you ever heard the sound of burning crops?” The creepy smile was back on her lips.
Eve looked at the waitress as she came out of the kitchen with another plate walking towards the young soldiers not far from their own table. They were sending evil glares towards Aaron. “We are outnumbered, so we will go for their flag, but only a small team will go for it, the rest of us will stand close to our own dome and keep an eye on the enemy. If we are so unlucky that the small team can’t get in without getting spotted, we’ll have to create a chance for them. That is where you come in. If the enemy sees one of their fields on fire they will surely concentrate all their forces in that direction. I will be with you all the time, so there won’t be any problem at that point.” Eve looked directly into the eyes of Aaron “For now that is the information I will give you. Don’t tell anyone about this plan, not even the general.” With those words said she rose from her seat “Eat your steak while it’s still warm. I’ll be in my room and go through some strategies if you’ll need me.” Eve walked out of the cafeteria with the can of Swiftness in her hand. Who would have known that they only were a week away from harvesting? It makes it all perfect.
Eve walked to her room; she shared room with her co-commander. The room itself looked as if it originally was thought to be two rooms, but they didn’t make a wall between them and only put one door instead. It was a rather long room with her stuff in the right side and Alexander’s in the left. Someone had taken Eve’s laptop from the old room and placed it in the new one together with all of her furniture. Before she would go to her desk however she looked at the bed in the left side of the room. Alexander was fast asleep and his face looked rather calm instead of the commander-face he was using before. Aww, doesn’t he look adorable Eve though while smiling Anyway, back to work. Eve walked to her desk and placed the can of swiftness beside the laptop. She sat down, opened the laptop and began to work.
After a little bit of time she decided to listen to some music while she was thinking through the strategies and getting mails from an unofficial contact. She placed two small earplugs in her ears and turned on the music. She couldn’t help but think that the first song from centuries ago had a pretty good text when thinking about how the future turned out to be.
After some few hours of work, Eve fell asleep in front of the computer in a very awkward position. Her right foot on the desk chair and the leg leaning on the desk. Her head had fallen down on the right shoulder and both hands were lying on the armrest. Despite the awkward position she looked rather cute sleeping like that.
Blake reached his bedroom, and apparently they expected him to sleep in the same room as someone else. Aaron laughed. He was so tired he did not even bother to complain. He just quietly reached for his lighter and decided to burn the bed of the unfortunate soldier who had made the mistake of sharing a room with Aaron Blake.
Entering the room, chaos was palpable. There were pieces of armor around the floor and the lower bunk was occupied. Aaron reached his lighter, playing with the flames as he approached the bed, when he stopped. The person in the bed was none other than Phyllis Zethera, his superior officer! Blake hesitated. His desire to lit everything on fire only increased, but his common sense, the small amount of common sense still left in Aaron’s mind forced him to turn off the lighter. If he couldn’t burn a person, he would burn something else. Blake put his black suitcase on the floor and gently moved it to the corner. Then, he inspected the roof looking for sprinklers that could spoil the fun. He found only one in the center of the ceiling and quickly took care of it, punching the sprinkler until it was unusable and until his hands were bleeding. Blake then threw the sheets on the floor, piled them in the center of the room, lit his lighter and threw it on the stack of sheets, watching while the tissue burned. Nothing like a show before going to bed. The fire danced. It sang for Aaron. The flames rose high, but did not spread neither triggered any alarm due to Aaron’s careful preparation. He stood beside the fire for half an hour, so hooked on the show that never even realized if Zethera had woke up or not. He stood beside the fire until there was nothing left of the cheap sheets, and without looking at Phyllis he climbed the bunk, with the metal creaking under his weight. Aaron laid down on the bed too small for his body and slept a dreamless sleep.
Getting up from her bed, she suddenly noticed the excessive amount of equipment spread throughout the room. The thought that somebody was sleeping above her suddenly dawned on her mind, and adrenaline almost spontaneously filled up her veins. Peeking into the upper bed, Phyllis was faced by the face of Aaron Blake. A small gasp escaped her lips as she quickly hid. She quickly gathered up her armor pieces and her weapons and then moved stealthily, as if hiding her presence from Blake, out of the room.
As soon as the ventilated air outside the room hit her, she noticed the smoky odor from her room that had caused her eyes to tear up. “That… idiot… probably burned something off in there”, she said out loud to herself, nobody in plain sight. Hurrying quickly towards the bathroom, she tried to forget everything, her mind needing to prepare itself for the upcoming battle; however, the surprise of the wake up still scared her: How had she missed him entering her room? And why was he even in the same room as her!?
Putting on her armor was done quite easily and fast, and Phyllis even managed to clean some of the missed spots from the previous night’s cleaning. She had found one of her other shock absorbing suits and were now ready to fight, although it was only 5.20 AM. Over 17 hours left until the real purpose of her being here started. Phyllis quickly paced herself for Blake’s and her room, her thoughts returning to Blake and his role in the outcome of this League mess. Reaching the room, she quickly threw her helmet back on the bed as she would not need it anymore: Real warriors needed to see their enemies!
The mess was quite peaceful at this time of the morning, most of the civilian staff not in yet and the guards either still asleep or still on night duty. Phyllis enjoyed her energy diet in silence, although the sound of the kitchen was quite annoying. The energy diet was essentially everything needed for the body, although it had a horrible taste that reminded Phyllis of a mixture between licorice and oatmeal; not exactly the thing Phyllis craved when having just awoken.
The morning was spent on the training field. Phyllis was making sure her armor did not hinder her usual style of movement. With both swords wielded, she stroke against one invisible enemy after another, the blades dancing around in spirals. The Sun was quite warm that day, and the dome above her head did nothing to conceal the terrain from the warmth of the rays. For the sake of mobility as well as required by her low weight threshold, Phyllis’ armor did not have any ventilation; this ultimately forced her to end the training session around noon.
Pacing herself towards the mess in order to eat, Phyllis suddenly locked eyes with Aaron Blake. Her mind, which had been quite rested after the training session, was now once again filled with resentment. Phyllis continued her path, trying to ignore Blake’s presence, but out of the corner of her eyes she could see him moving towards her.
“Did you sleep well, sweetheart? I hope the smell didn’t bother you…”
Blake’s word did nothing but fuel Phyllis’ anger, but she had to show constraint if she did not want to lose her position. Having turned her heard towards Blake, Phyllis kept staring at him until her brain had come up with a comeback to his insolence. “You don’t smell that bad, really” she finally uttered after a small, awkward pause. “I really need to calm down”, she thought to herself, her hands clenched together into fists, but her face losing some of its angry expression. As Blake began speaking again, probably to say another offensive line, Phyllis turned towards the mess and walked away, the handles of her sword reflecting the Sun.
The afternoon passed by without any noticeable events occurring. Phyllis spent most of her time in the city, the defense force being treated quite well by the citizens. After all, she had just helped defend their lives. Around 9 PM she decided to head back to the briefing room, the team needing their final orders from the team leaders and the General. Phyllis had made sure her armor as well as her body were ready for combat: The dinner had been the same as both her breakfast and her lunch. Standing outside the briefing room, Phyllis felt quite full of energy and fighting spirit: Tonight would be a major turning point for better or for worse… and for all she cared it had better be a victory.