—— Earth-F67X: North Capital City: Lakehurst Airforce Base
Light shines sharp through bamboo slats barricading a window, thin glass admitting a chill breeze. Nothing warming this room. Certainly not its chief occupant. Slouching behind a large metal desk, beige with chips exposing dull aluminum flecks, a government-issue therapist's heavyset mass reclines in an straining swivel chair; an old Pollock executive with abundant wear and tear evident in its leather creases. A civilian contractor, the man strains a tan t-shirt and olive slacks, neither of which are stain free. There might be a belt in there somewhere, but his gut isn't telling. Unconscionably, he sports a beard, a ratty ginger affair.
On entering this sanctuary of despair, Dom stands at attention, shaved, short, and sturdy, the operational camouflage of his ACUs ineffectual against the white backdrop of the office walls. Sleeves tight, rolled up, and buttoned, his left shoulder bears the single silver bar of his rank; on his right, the colorful stitching of the Grim Zims, insignia of his remote vehicle operation squad. Taking in the mess of his therapist, Dom masks his contempt with, he hopes, disinterest. Civs psychoanalyzing fighting personnel and dictating their fitness. Bullshit. Fit for that task as any fool confident in their placement on the Dunning-Kruger spectrum.
Dom's oppugnant opens his lax sore-rife mouth and opines,"Second Lieutenant Dominic Ruiz-Malavé, is it? Born Dominique. Now you go by Dom. You think you're a man, huh? Taking testosterone, pissing through a funnel, begging someone to staple a cock to your clit. Why should the airforce finance your body-modification? Not merely cosmetic, but fully-functional.""Sir,"
Dom coolly readies his prepared speech, tensing his muscles and wordlessly highlighting his more masculine physique, "me and my fellow soldiers are willing to give everything for Earth. Our lives. Many of us have, including my father. He died honorably as a result of his service during the First Contact War. All we ask for in return is for Earth to stand behind us. If it can, make us whole.""Whole, huh?"
the therapist muses, "Sounds like a load of horse semen. This is no recital, you know."
Dom's jaw tightens. He'd clench his fists were they not flat against his thighs. At the moment, he doesn't have the luxury of vomiting out whatever angry nonsense parades through his skull. He needs this charlatan's signature on the approval form for the bottom surgery he's been waiting a year for."Sit down,"
his therapist gestures toward a far less executive vinyl and aluminum stacker, yellow foam escaping through fissures in its cushion. "For me, Sir, this is no casual affair,"
Dom answers, and continues to stand. "I know who I am. I know what I am. I've known ever since I was old enough to know there were differences. I know without this, I won't achieve my potential."
The shrink snorts, drums his fingers against the disarray atop his desk, retorting, "Are you not achieving your potential now, as a military officer?"
Dom pauses, collects his thoughts, and answers: "Sir, I mean my potential in life. I am male not because of what I imagine being a man is. I am male because I must be for my life to have meaning. One day, I will meet a girl and fall in love. I'll work up the courage to ask her out. She might say yes, but even if she doesn't, I'll keep asking until she does. I'll insist on paying for everything, even though it is sexist and old fashioned. One day we'll kiss, make out, find somewhere private, and make love. I'll feel myself inside her. Really feel it. Really know I'm getting her off. Eventually, we'll get married and have a kid. I'll be a father. I really want to be a father, Sir. Of my own child. Only then, with a woman and kid my blood boils with the desire to protect, will I achieve my full potential in the defense of Earth against xeno scum."
Opposite, the man pretends to look at a file, and says, "Quite the speech. Seems to me you already have enough reasons to hate this so-called xeno scum. Not the least of which is your father's eventually fatal condition, no treatment at the time, shame. Besides, that was decades ago, and Allure, well, that was just a big acci—""With all due respect, Sir,"
Dom interrupts, "your assessment is … wrong. Making excuses for the xenos? Trivializing millions of dead men and women, deaths for which xenos are to blame? The more reasons I can give myself for hunting them down and exterminating them, the better."
… Ϟ—— Earth-F67X: North Capital City: Central Park
Hours later, I'm not sure what I'm planning, thinking. I'm on auto-pilot. Just casually waiting for him to leave the office. Gray sweats, now, great for a winter jog. Casual, anonymous. Uniform hanging back in my locker.
I follow the bastard to Central Park. Maybe I was planning on killing him. Scaring him, at least, that fat fucking fraud. I wasn't expecting a distraction, but that's where it happens. I see her, the damp dank depressing atmosphere striating the scene in my mind's eye like an antebellum photograph. She sits in lonely anguish on a bench, eyes downcast, dove gray cheek against jet black glove, mysterious yet sensuous under a charcoal corduroy duster. Beautiful, sublime; like a grieving angel atop a grave. My heart skips a beat, and not just because of what I am about to do. I focus on what I am there for and play it forward in my imagination.
He is cutting through the park, taking a shortcut, probably eager to get home to his penthouse in the canopy where a tepid bath, shot of butterscotch whiskey, and blowjob from his mistress await. She's paid, she has to be. That ugly slob. I'll get to him first, just as the path cuts through a dim copse of gloomy swamp oaks and withered magnolias. Zap him right in the back of the neck with the prongs of my Belkrait. No. That might get me caught. There is a record for everything. I'll pick up a rock instead, there are so many of them nearby. Scenic litter. Pretty. Zen. It'll make for a fine memento once steeped in his blood. Then I'll drag him to the subway tunnel that leads to New Venice, except we won't be going to New Venice. We'll be going to a utility closet full of useful tools like push brooms, crowbars, x-acto knives, and prybar scrapers.
When he comes to, he won't have his tongue, or fingers, or vocal cords. I haven't done this before, so it will be messy. A hatchet job. Still, I know enough field medicine to ensure he survives long enough to see me and know. Know. Know what?
I glance back at the girl. Is he worth it? Worth possibly losing my life over? Worth definitely losing my soul over? No, he isn't. My pride isn't.
She's my savior.
I abdicate my prey to his karma. I man up. Damn, this is harder than killing a man. Deep breath. Finally, I walk over to the bench and sit down on the other side; next to her, but not so close as to be creepy. I feel creepy anyway, like some stalker or pervert. There are other benches, empty ones; I could easily sit on one of them. It is so awkward. So damn awkward.
I need to say something to break the ice.
Nothing good comes to mind. I don't know what to say. I panic, clench my fists in my pockets, and feel a handkerchief. Heh, fancy. It is really just a paper tissue, fortunately not yet soiled. I don't need to say anything. I offer it to her without a word."Thank you."
Her voice isn't shrill, or sharp, or pitched. It is like cool velvet, like jazz, like falling asleep happy and sad at the same time. Melancholic. Yes, that's the word. Somehow it calms me and I find my own voice. False start, I remember it isn't deep on its own yet. The hormones are still doing their work. Gruff, baritone, intentional, I mumble, "You're welcome, ma'am."
It feels good. Warm, almost. My cheeks are suddenly livid, not from anger, and my stomach growls, not from hunger. Not wanting it to end, I push myself to continue the conversation. A side-long glance. She seems so cold, her flesh almost in a pallor. "It is chilly out here, isn't it? There is a café in the Boathouse if you'd like some tea or coffee."
Somehow she accepts.
… Ϟ—— Earth-F67X: North Capital City: New Venice
Our date is over, I'm already calling that. I'm elated. Terrified. Her name is Vesca and she lives in Kips Bay. She's into military guys, I think. She doesn't know I'm not all the way there, yet. I dread I won't be ready in time. Killing that guy would've just delayed it, anyway. Even so, her and I have parted ways for the moment. I'm on my way to an important meeting at a quick pace, but not so quick as to be conspicuous. My shadow splits five ways as I navigate the tunnels of New Venice, for one long stretch traveling via gondola. Eventually I stand in front of oil-slick bronze double doors, a veritable gate of yore, opulent in contrast to the dilapidation of the rest of this subterranean sprawl.
I push inward, and pass under a red banner hanging on the door of the gate. It depicts knights from the good old days where the only thing a man needed to prove himself was the courage to bash in the skull of anyone who dared to challenge him. It is my first time here, but I've heard good things. I'm excited. For two reasons, now. A nice swing away from the piss-poor start of the day.
Inside the local headquarters for the Honorable Knights of Terra, it smells of cigar smoke and thick coffee. Already, some blonde bimbo is asking for work. What kind of establishment does she think this is? We're here to assassinate the worst in this world. We're here to plan, coordinate, and execute the extermination of xenos.