Broken Soldier by Orin Drake
A Novel In Progress.

        Chapter 4

        There were the filing cabinets that Rean had been given full control of, and then there was that one on the end that was always locked. It was just for personal files, like he was sure every officer had. For weeks, Rean hadn't the least bit of interest in those files... which was why he absolutely could not explain the sudden, consuming urge to go through whatever was in there.
        Well, there was an explanation; but that in itself actually explained nothing. He mumbled a number of excuses under his breath as he stood facing the filing cabinet, trying out each one just in case he got caught. It was important. It was urgent. It was absolutely necessary.
        He wanted to know whether or not she had a car. Which was a stupid little thought that had slipped into his head hours earlier, while he'd been thinking about nothing in particular. It wasn't like there were many places to go around the Tower, and the weather outside was usually more harsh than anything else... and yet that stupid little idea had gained momentum enough to become an all-out bother that was likely not to let him sleep until he had it answered. (He could already hear the general's voice in his head, "Am I to assume that you want to go joyriding, Mr. Coi?" He didn't have an answer. Just like it would be if Rakashi actually asked the question, he was sure.)
        He could have asked. He knew that he could have asked and faced that question, or that long look that was just a bit more uncomfortable than he liked... but Rean was there in the office, and the general was not. He didn't know where she was, but the whole "not being there" part was his focus. "I was checking up on your security." He announced to himself, carefully unbending a paper clip to attempt to pick the lock. Apparently it wasn't as easy as he'd hoped, attempting to catch the tumbler and missing repeatedly. "Just seeing how safe your files really were. Above and beyond the call of duty." Oh yeah, she'd go for that, alright--right before she knocked him unconscious. If he was lucky, anyway.
        "That's a very good excuse, I have to admit." The female voice that was distinctly not Rakashi's still managed to give him a jolt, paper clip dropping from his hand as he darted backward.
        Rean really didn't expect to see a very... lovely blond woman smiling at him. Okay, so "lovely" was an enormous understatement--she was drop-dead gorgeous even if there was something distinctly "mature" about her professional appearance, dressed in a skirt and a military jacket that flattered her figure. She licked her tongue at his continued stare, laughing as she knelt to pick up the paper clip. "The general would have kittens if she knew you were even entertaining the thought."
        General. Kittens. Got it. He shook his head suddenly as if to clear it. "I, ah... well, I mean I wasn't really--I'm sorry, can I help you?" Yes, perfect. If he pretended that everything was alright then certainly it would be.
        The blond smirked. "I'm here to see General Vrunai. I suspect she's around?"
        I suspect she's around, too.
Rean didn't want to think, let alone say. I suspect she will probably be even less friendly toward me now, as well. "I'm... not quite sure where she is. She should be back soon, though."
        The woman nodded and decided to invite herself to take a seat--at Rakashi's desk. In the general's chair.
        He blinked. Twice. "Should I try to find her for you, miss?"
        "'Miss?' Oh my." She replied with a soft little grin, something instantly friendly and attractive about her. "No need. She's bound to be back soon."
        It was just when he'd opened his mouth to offer something, anything, coffee, that the devil most certainly did appear at the door. "I'm prefer the office door closed, Mr. Coi..." Rakashi's voice trailed off as she saw who was at her desk.
        Rean watched in a bit of fascination as the general neither ordered the woman out, nor otherwise seemed in any way... well, herself. There was definitely recognition in Rakashi's eyes, and it seemed to make the blond woman smile that much more.
        "Mr. Coi, I'm certain you wouldn't mind an early lunch break."
        There was an awful lot of blinking going on that afternoon. It took a moment for Rean to see the words as they were: a somewhat more polite way to be told to get lost for a while. Okay, then. "Of course, sir." With a nod to the blond woman, he pulled the door closed behind him--then heard it lock immediate after. Well... damn.


        After the footsteps had faded down the hall, the general let out a slow breath. "Been a while."
        "I'll say." The blond responded. "And who was that?"
        It seemed that the woman found it easy to draw rare expressions from Rakashi; namely, a wry smile. "My assistant."
        Those fine eyebrows shot up. "Assistant? You?"
        Giving another rare treasure without thinking, the general laughed quietly. "Don't ask me how it happened. I still don't know."
        "Well, I mean... I know they tried to push a few on you before, but... how long as he been here?" the blond grinned suddenly, sitting forward in the chair.
        Giving no care to the papers on her desk, Rakashi sat in one of corners that was far from bare. "Weeks, actually... and don't give me that look, Sarah."
        "Weeks." The woman repeated, in very real awe. "Did you find some sort of mind control device?"
        The general snorted. "He just... hasn't done anything stupid. Yet."
        Sarah pondered doing the boy an enormous favor by keeping her mouth shut. Then thought there were better favors. Holding up an unbent paper clip, she smirked. "I'm afraid, dear Rakashi, that he reminds me of someone who likes to get into trouble."
        Oh, that certainly changed her expression. "What was he doing?"
        The blond laughed quite pleasantly, tossing the paper clip in the waste bin. "What no one in their right mind would do, General. Give into curiosity about you."
        "Hm." Was the response. Something very dangerous for being so simple.
        Sarah, however, made a dismissive gesture. "Let him off for now. He's been here for weeks, so obviously he actually does his job."
        "True enough." Rakashi sighed, trying not to be paranoid. "Like I said... it's been a long time." She reached to take the woman's hand, a soft smile winding up on her lips. "How've you been?"
        Squeezing that hand, the blond's words remained light. "They still call me a 'field secretary', though I believe I should be paid for being a psychologist and nurse as well."
        "Ah, same as always then."
        "Same as always." Sarah laughed. "I'm sure you're eager to get back to the front rather than wasting away here."
        "You have no idea." Rakashi assured. "Actually, you probably have a pretty decent idea. I'm sure General Tyris is ready for me to steal his thunder."
        Making a dismissive gesture with her free hand, the blond states simply, "He's always been a dick. But he belongs behind a desk more than you do. I mean look at this, they have you doing busy work. Again." Piking up one of those pages, a grin spread slowly across her lips. "Well. Now you've given them a taste of your artistic merit, as well."
        "It might get me out of the military." The general joked.
        Laughing, Sarah couldn't help but agree, "It might. I don't see you as having the patience to put up with other artists, though."

        "I don't have the patience to put up with other military personnel." Rakashi admitted, shrugging. "I carry on."
        There was the slightest bit of sadness in the woman's smile, tilting her head and giving that hand another squeeze. "That you do, Rakashi. This is only a stop-by, you know, I can't stay..."
        "I know." She admitted quietly. "I do know. But I should be back with you on the field in a month, so..."
        "So its okay." Sarah finished. "Just stay out of the Control Room."
        That got something like an amused sneer on the general's face. "Bunch a fuckin' loonies, ken?"
        The blond tisked with a laugh. "Are w'pickin' up th'tongue from s'far 'way?"
        Strange how hearing a lower valleys accent was pleasantly familiar. It had been months since Rakashi had heard it, but Sarah was no doubt heard it every day and spoke it well. "Not even close, I'm afraid. It's a lucky thing that I don't need to pick up accents."
        "True enough." With a soft sigh and another squeeze to that hand, Sarah made it clear that she really didn't want to say what came next. "I'm afraid I should be picking up what I came for and returning..."
        General Vrunia nodded, standing first and then gently pulling the blond up after. "It was nice of you to spare some time."

        "It was nice of the commander to
give me time. Though I doubt he anticipated why." Chuckling, the blond gave Rakashi a once-over with her eyes. "Take care of yourself, now. You need sleep and food just like the rest of us."

        "I have an assistant who brings me sandwiches." The grin was just the slightest bit vicious.

my." Sarah laughed, though she didn't dare tease. Not yet, anyway.


        He'd come back from lunch to find the blond woman gone and Rakashi back at her desk, going through papers as always. That seemed like a good sign, at least. Going back to the file cabinets, he took out the pile of folders he'd been working on and continued.
        After about fifteen minutes, the general interrupted him out of the blue. "Mr. Coi."
        Uh-oh. "Yes, sir?"
        A very measured pause passed before she continued in a voice that was utterly, perfectly calm. "What were you looking for earlier with the aid of a paper clip?"
        Ooooooh shit. Staring at the file cabinets, what went through his mind was whether or not he'd be able to make a run for it. The answer was obvious long before he had the chance, though. In a fit of either ice cold fear or absolute stupidity, he answered honestly. "I was curious as to whether or not you had a car, sir."
        That was incredibly unexpected. She could have mentioned that all he'd needed to do was ask, but somehow that didn't seem to be the point. There was a long, motionless silence before she finally answered, "I don't. But I know someone who does."
        At that point it almost seemed like a game of back and forth surprises. Rean's mouth was moving long before his voice worked, but when the two finally came together... "Could I ask a question in return, sir?"
        It was Rakashi's turn once again to be silently surprised. That implied an awful lot, to say the least. The fact that someone who didn't even have a rank had just suggested that they were equal was a somewhat stunning blow to the back of the head. "You can ask." She finally decided on.
        He absolutely did not expect to all of a sudden be nearly overcome by laughter. It was an answer that he should have expected, he supposed. Rean didn't turn to look at the general, and he suspected that she wasn't going to look up from her papers regardless. "Who was that woman from earlier?"
        Contrary to his belief, she did look up, and right at him. "My field secretary." She simplified.
        Well... he could accept that, he supposed. It might not explain absolutely everything...
        "And ask before you start picking locks, Mr. Coi."
        He stiffened, throat dry. When Rean finally managed to swallow, he croaked out a quiet, "Yes, sir."
        Seeing that he wasn't going to turn around, Rakashi allowed herself the shadow of a satisfied grin.

Content copyright Orin Drake 2011.
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