Doll (Gives a Kiss)
“Whoever thought up a joke like that has a sick and unusual sense of humor,” hissed Commissar Dolina Rathrak. She wrenched her sleeve free from the thorn bush on which it had snagged.
“That?” asked Adjunct Ridlie, beside her, “or...all of that? Having been assigned here at all?”
“What do you think?” she asked, fixing the collar of her greatcoat as they strode through the darkness toward the edge of the camp. “Both, of course. They'll never let me forget yesterday and the snake, though. Blasted Baby Ogryns. They have the brains to match.”
They drew to a halt as they reached the barricades. The rest of Ridlie's patrol was already assembled, armed and camo-painted. Ridlie was by no means a small man, but he was dwarfed by the massive, heavily-muscled members of the Catachan XX “Swamp Shadows”.
“Don't sweat for me, commissar,” Ridlie said glancing at the patrol squad. “I'll watch my back. Besides, it's only two days from now that I'll be back. Not like one of the two or three week sweeps. Hardly a chance to run into any bugs.”
She nodded, and he turned to join the waiting Catachans. They slipped away into the jungle like wraiths, vanishing without a trace, and Ridlie crashed away into the undergrowth after them.
She turned, shrugged, and made her way off through the camp. The regiment was about as disciplined as a herd of feral grox, but the fame and the physical bulkiness of the Swamp Shadows were both impressive. If only they didn't have such a bad reputation with commissars—which was well-earned, she had come to learn. If anything, they acted even more slovenly and indolent in her presence than outside of it.
It didn't help that she, being only 162 centimeters tall, was nearly a half meter shorter than virtually all of her charges.
“Sir, I wish to lodge a complaint!”
Colonel Rasso lifted his eyebrows. “Well?” he replied, looking at her over his makeshift desk and his booted feet. “Shoot.”
“Your Throne-damned Catachans killed him!”
Rasso's jaws clamped down on his unlit cigar, leisurely grinding off the end and chewing. “Did they, now?” he said noncommittally. “Who would 'he' be, then?”
“You know damn well that I'm talking about my adjunct! He was the veteran of a dozen warfronts. He wouldn't just trip and fall off of a cliff that he had miraculously not seen!”
“So you think my boys did him in?” drawled Rasso, continuing to chew. “Come, now. That's a mighty hefty accusation to be swinging about. The jungle's a fair treacherous place. Can't hardly see your hand a dozen centimeters from your face at times, Doll. Or a snake.”
Dolina bristled and banged her knuckles down on either side of his boots. “Doll?” she hissed. “You will refer to me by my given title, Colonel, and nothing else.”
“Sure thing,” he replied impassively, spitting out a wad of mangled cigar.
“Sure thing, commissar,” she snapped. “That is what you say.”
He nodded and bit another length from his cigar. She wheeled and stormed off, not caring that by showing her temper so, he won.
The platoon filled the briefing tent with the stench of stale sweat.
Dolina lectured on the importance of the new fleet-side bulletins. It meant that more than mere seeder organisms were going to make it planetside; those few Hive Ships that had made it into orbit were landing their vile spawn, and it was up to the Shadows to deny them an easy meal.
Whether or not the Shadows would to survive until the reinforcement fleet arrived...well, that was up in the air. But they could make a whole lot of noise before being eaten, and that they would do.
It had been going well enough, actually, until a comment had been muttered about a doll. This sparked Dolina's fury, again. She placed the culprit by his voice right away.
“Is that so, Trooper Sim?” she asked.
“Miss?” replied Sim, feigning surprise.
"Get over here," she hissed. He picked his way forward to loom over her. “You don't seem to be all that concerned with the encroaching Tyranids.”
“We've gotten our share of lictors and 'stealers, miss. I'm just eager to get to grips with the rest of the squigglies.”
“Give me two hundred push-ups, now. You will receive one lash for each that you don't complete.” He snorted contemptuously and dropped, beginning to rapidly pump out the allotted amount.
She sat on his back and he grunted, his arms buckling. “What's the problem, trooper?” she asked. “I didn't give you leave to slow down. A simple doll shouldn't weigh you down one Throne-damned bit, should it? I'm counting.”
The patrols had been recalled, and the last of them were trickling back into the camp. The Shadows were readying themselves for battle, fixing emplacements and shoring up barricades. Contingencies had been lain for a scattering retreat and guerrilla warfare, but Dolina didn't think that would be necessary. They'd all be surrounded—and, shortly after, dead—before that became an option.
She strode the length of the camp, bitterly satisfied over the wariness with which she was now treated. She had assigned a few more strenuous punishments after Sim, to others who had been disrespectful, and it had felt good indeed to vent her spleen over the whipping post.
Raucous laughter drew her attention. She strode in the direction of its origin, hearing Colonel Rasso speaking to one of the newly returned patrols:
“...snake. You had to be there. We hear a shriek, see, and she comes running out of the bathhouse stark naked, dripping wet, only to find all her clothes missing. She had to run all the way across the—hey! Motte! What was—a-ha.”
Rasso met Dolina's gaze and cleared his throat. In his eyes, at least, derision still ruled supreme. “Hello, Doll. I hear tell something about sixty-three lashes for my boy Sim, and more for others. You're a right little terror, aren't you?”
She grabbed him by his shirt and dragged his face down to her level. He stared back at her, their faces almost touching.
“I told you not to call me that,” she hissed, and gave him a Catachan Kiss.
The headbutt broke his nose with a satisfying crunch and he staggered back. She turned and stalked away, a smile twitching at her lips and wolf whistles and compliments following her.
What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator! Imperator!
Last edited by Mossy Toes; 03-27-11 at 03:52 AM.