Broken Soldier by Orin Drake
A Novel In Progress.

        Chapter 6

        "I have nothing for you to do today." She admitted.
        Rean blinked. "Nothing, sir? At all?"
        Looking up from yet another set of papers to take her sweet time filling out and drawing on, Rakashi shrugged. "Normally I would have grand adventures to send you on, Mr. Coi." She assured flatly. "Today is mysteriously slower than even the usual drudgery. But as I understand it, you can't be paid unless you've been here for a certain amount of time, so... I do hope you'll find something to amuse yourself with for a few minutes at least."
        He was getting her, he thought. Rough, very rough, but there was that almost invisible sense of humor... and that other thing. He didn't dare think of it as acceptance or anything like it--but she was tolerating him. Not that he had proof of this theory. Not yet. "Do you have any pencils that I might borrow, sir?" He hoped very much that Demi would give a good eulogy.
        Raising her eyebrow slightly, the general opened her top desk drawer and searched for a few sharpened pencils. She simply watched as Rean turned the rickety folding chair at the side of her desk toward her, sitting with a series of metal creaks. Seeing as he was amusing himself with just balancing the pencils, she supposed he would have to learn just how exceptionally boring this place was sometime.
        It was only when Rakashi heard a very distinct thunk-ping above her that she stopped her "work" to gaze upward. There, over her head, embedded in the ceiling tile, was a pencil. A very even gaze was leveled at her assistant.
        He barely noticed. Instead, he was in the process of aiming another sharpened pencil, throwing and managing to land it a little over an inch away from the first. Luck, sure, but no one needed to know that.
        It was when the third pencil found its mark that she finally decided to ask icily, "What are you doing, Mr. Coi?"
        Yes, he was going to die. And he was going to deserve it. "Amusing myself." He answered simply. The fourth throw had a bit too much power, landing in the tile and then quickly falling--happening to miss Rakashi's head by inches. There really was no way he could avoid shrinking back just a little from that look. "But now I'm out of pencils."
        He wouldn't have been surprised if she'd lept over her desk then and there and throttled him. Maybe knocked him out and beaten him to death with that crowbar. At that point, she could have kept a chainsaw under her desk for the purpose and he wouldn't have felt anything close to shock. What she actually did managed to stun him into unmoving silence, however.
        Making a quiet sound of agreement, General Vrunai simply stood up, walked to the far side of the room and began to dig through the undersized closet. Taking out a container about the size of a shoe box, she dropped it in front of Rean. With another dig through her desk drawer, she found the manual pencil sharpener and set it on top of the container, then went back to her papers. After a moment of noticing that her assistant hadn't so much as moved, she spoke up. "Well? They aren't going to sharpen themselves."

        He must have looked, not to mention behaved, as though half of his brain were missing. That was how he
felt, wondering if there was a line of drool hanging from his bottom lip. It took him patient seconds to grasp the idea that the container was full of pencils, finally reaching for its lid to confirm as much. Rean knew then that he absolutely had to take advantage of this situation. Particularly before Rakashi ceased to be amused and slaughtered him.
        There wasn't really a better place to pile those sharpened pencils than the side of the general's desk. It went from a small stack to a surprisingly big one alarmingly fast, the pencil sharpener proving to do its job just as well as its operator. When a sufficient pile was achieved (and Rakashi was sick of doodling on official documents), she actually reached for one of the sharpened pencils and threw it straight up without looking.
        Rean had missed the action, but not the sound. Blinking, his eyes went quickly from the pencil in the ceiling to the general. She... still appeared to be working. Odd. Looking away to get another pencil resulted in the exact same thing, the pencil tips mere centimeters from one another. "You've done this before." He almost accused. Come to think of it, the ceiling did look a little more full of holes than it should...
        "I don't know what you're talking about, Mr. Coi." She met the reaction with blandness.
        He grinned. Suicidally, he grinned. Then lightly placed a pencil in front of her. "Of course not, sir."

        "You are walking on extremely dangerous ground." She warned quite seriously--even as she took the pencil. Rakashi
looked that time, flinging it straight up like a dart... and landing the tip in the eraser of the first pencil.
        Rean was slightly open-mouthed as he looked up. "So... you've been doing this..."
        "Long before the run of assistants, yes." She finished for him. Taking another pencil without looking, she managed to catch the eraser of the nested pencil just a second before all three toppled to the desk. "How old are you, Mr. Coi?"
        He was absolutely puzzled about being asked so out of the blue like that. Not that he saw any reason not to answer. With another glance to his watch (and a silent curse to himself for forgetting a clock for the office), he responded just a little too precisely, "I'll be twenty-three in eight hours and twelve minutes. Give or take some seconds."
        Another raised eyebrow responded. Twenty-three and trapped here... that was unfair. "Ah, well then. Happy Birthday, Mr. Coi. Consider yourself off early."
        The general was certainly full of surprises. This one was particularly wonderful. "Thank you, sir."


        Really, a bar was not his ideal spot to have a birthday celebration, but Demi had made him promise. The bastard.
        It seemed that Captain Dulce was already well on his way to celebration in his usual spot at the back table. Upon seeing his friend, he grinned. "She let you off the leash early, then?"
        "Ha ha, funny." Rean responded dryly, taking a seat. There was an entirely different reason that he'd come to the bar early, and while Demi unfortunately didn't seem drunk yet, he was pretty sure he could get away with this. "I've got a favor to ask of you. Captain."
        "Oh, shit. It must be big to mention that." The raven-haired man chuckled. "How about some conversation and a drink first?"
        Rean sighed deeply, though he could hardly refuse. "Fine. Beer. And how's work?" he prodded, the both of them well aware that the captain spent most of his time in the galley, as far away from work as possible.
        "Slow." Demi responded, putting his hands behind his head and leaning back. "And how's your work?"
        Well, since he'd asked... there was something remarkable that Rean had encountered. "I never would have believed that General Vrunai is... human." He admitted.
        His eyes widened just a split second before he leaned in closer. Like a predator. Oh yes, this was the stuff of many weeks worth of teasing. "Do tell."
        The brunet knew he'd made a mistake already. Even so, it seemed important to report his findings. "She laughs." He started out with the most startling revelation he'd had about her. "She has a really evil sense of humor. She gets bored."
        "And you notice." Demi pointed out, that grin only increasing in size.
        --What? "What's that supposed to mean?"
        "Rean. Come on." And so began the teasing. Really, the boy should know better. "I've got 'the sense.' And you've got it bad."
        Rolling his eyes, he pointed out, "You've got no sense at all." When a waitress came by with two alarmingly oversized steins of beer and no reminder that they'd have to pay before they were allowed to leave, he could only guess that Demi had made a big deal about "the birthday boy" earlier. "It's just... fascinating to see her as... human." He continued quietly, wondering how anyone was capable of drinking that much. "Not at all what the rumors made her out to be."
        "Uh-huh." His friend responded, grinning even through his first several gulps of amber-colored alcohol.
        "Oh shut up." Rean returned, annoyed.
        "Ah-ah, I outrank you." Demi continued to tease.
        "I don't have a rank." The brunet argued back. "So you can't. Ha."
        Time for the far-too-dirty-to-be-legal secret weapon, then. "At least I know better than to have a crush on Rakash--"
        Okay, too far. "Look, Captain I Was Once Convinced That Bacon Was Made Out of Sheep..."
        "Whoah!" Demi laughed, hands up in surrender. "Okay, really! I'm sorry! Now that we've fought, onto the favor!"
        At least that much was over... hopefully. Rean allowed it to drop--for the moment. He knew that his friend was never purposely malicious... it just happened sometimes. Even so, he knew that the captain was his best bet for something like this. Leaning in, he lowered his voice, grateful for the noise of the gathering crowd at the other end of the bar. "Can you get into files? Deep ones, I mean... the ones the public don't have access to."
        It was quite clear that the man hadn't expected a question like that. It was... worrisome. "Well, I can't get into personal files... but the history files are open to me."
        "That's perfect." The brunet assured, thinking it over one more time. He'd already thought through every possible consequence for his request, had weighed the pros and cons--but this was important. "I want to know everything about the Rush."
erased the constant smile from Demi's face. "Why would you want a file on that? Millions of people died--"
        "I know." Rean assured quietly. He was set, though, sure of what he wanted; and what he was asking. "I need to know more, alright?"
        A long silence passed between them. Captain Dulce seemed to be half staring him down, and half trying to figure out if Rean really wanted what he was asking for. He knew that look, though, knew the kid well enough... and this wasn't a subject that could just be distracted away no matter the warnings. "I'll see what I can get tomorrow." He promised softly, feeling like something a lot stronger than beer.
        The brunet nodded, satisfied. "I'll make it up."
        Despite how tight Demi's chest felt, how his abdomen clenched... he wasn't going to let that request ruin his night. Nor his perfectly valid excuse for getting drunk. "You damn well better!" It was all too easy to return to the teasing, particularly with another swig of beer. "You're gonna scare her away, you know."
        Rean looked around for something to throw. Finding no objects, it seemed that a deadly glare was the only option he had.
        The captain chuckled. "I know, I know." He couldn't help but push as hard as he could, even on his friend's birthday. "But if you did 'like her'--"
        "Which I don't."
        Demi continued as if there hadn't been a rude interruption. "Then I'd suggest you not bother getting into her business. And you sure as hell shouldn't try to protect her. From anything."
        Blinking, Rean had absolutely no clue what the idiot was talking about. "What do y--"
        Waving the question off before it could be asked, the raven-haired man went straight back to teasing. "I've seen it all before, kid. Lovestruck teenager, ya."
        His eyes narrowed. He could try to argue with his friend, sure, but it was a lost cause. Particularly when Demi started chugging that beer like a thirsty man in the desert. Before the asshole went and got himself drunk, there was one thing that Rean needed to be certain of. "You won't forget tomorrow. You won't just sit around feeling sorry for your hungover self."
        Placing the stein down with a soft snort, despite his knowing better, he swore, "I won't forget."
        The brunet nodded. If anyone was capable of getting those files, it was an unassuming idiot. "Okay. Then... drink."
        "Absolutely, birthday boy."

Content copyright Orin Drake 2011.
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