The first thing Victoria did was tear through the sniper's pockets, patting down his chest and legs for any hidden trinkets or valuables. Some sort of souvenir she could add to the growing pile of trophies she was beginning to amass. What was she going to do with all of them? Sell them? Not likely. Not many people would be willing to pay enough for bits of tin, tattered flags and racy photos of some dead man’s wife to make it worth seeking them out. Give them to her daughter? Liz was two. The only thing she’d use a medal for would be a teething ring. All these items she was stealing out of the pockets and clenched fists of dead soldiers and civilians would just end up strewn about a small apartment or stuffed in a drawer. But she kept picking them up, compelled to pry apart fingers and riffle through wallets for meaningless knick-knacks.
It seemed like she was going to have to go home empty handed. The medals that the Fox had undoubtedly earned weren’t carried on him, his pistol and rifle somewhere out of sight and likely under rubble. The Oceanic considered taking one of his spare clips, but there was nothing to differentiate them from the hundreds and thousands more scattered around Amone. His boots were another option but presented the same problem. He wore no jewelry, had no fancy cigarette case or gold filling she could prise out of his mouth with her knife. Vicky spat on the mutilated corpse and kept searching, determined to take something from the cunt who had taken Thomas from her.
Her perverse perseverance paid off, fingers scratching at papers concealed in the lining of his coat. With a quick tug she pulled them out, eyes widening as she read the addresses on the envelopes. Letters addressed to various family members and friends, a wife, a couple daughters, a father. Vicky slit open the one intended for Mrs. Von Harkvold and skimmed it. It was surprisingly short, just informing her that if she was reading this then he was already dead and that he loved her and was sorry he wouldn't see her again. In fact it was quite similar to the note she had written to Liz, the one sitting in her trunk back in the camp. It was probably safe to assume that the others would be like that one as well.
”Let’s trade then you smug fucking bastard. You stole Thomas, and I stole you. But I’m taking something else while I’m here.”
The only message the Green Fox would send would be the one carved into his face and jutting out through torn skin, the bloody gaps where his ears and nose had been sliced off and his bones splintered. The message that war was hell and you could only kill so many demons before they got to you. She and Luke had denied him the dignity of an open casket at his funeral and now she was going to take away his final words. The last thing anyone would see of him would be a butchered corpse, the clever Fox finally outsmarted.
The gesture was useless of course, and Victoria knew that. Making his family suffer when they saw him wouldn’t bring Thomas back. And Thomas was definitely gone. They had no medic, no medical supplies. By the time she would get back he would have already bled to death. But that was exactly why she had to do this. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that Oceania, a country of dust and struggle ruled by distant masters who cared little for them, lost one of the few things they had to be proud of while the Imperials got to boast about their war machine and the thousands of bodies they had powering it. If Oceania had to lose a hero, it was only right that the Imps lost one of theirs. The gangs back home were fond of making examples of those who crossed them, she’d take a page out of their book.
The Fox was stripped of his bootlaces and dragged over to one of the pews that was still standing, Victoria lifting and dropping him into a seated position. A small book of hymns, coated with soot and dust from the carnage, was scooped from the floor and tied to the dead man’s hands with the laces. With his glass eyed gaze staring out eternally at nothing and his brutalized face lolling back awkwardly he was a perfectly grotesque parody of worshippers attending a sacred Mass. A nice little tableau for the Imperials to find.
Her final petty act was to steal the hard brimmed officers cap from his head, tucking it away in her fatigues. Now she had to make the walk back, silently tailing Luke to the remainder of their comrades. She didn’t need to see the look on Jean or Ines’s faces, didn’t need to look at Thomas to confirm what she had already known. All she did was shrug at the claim that it was all of their faults and spat on the ground at Luke’s prayer. ”We just bombed a church and slaughtered the man hiding inside. If there’s a god, the cunt ain’t listening to us.” There was nothing else to say, Victoria picking up her fellow Oceanic in a grim mockery of a bridal carry. She walked back in silence, thinking about everything she needed to take care of.
The very first task was to get rid of this corpse, put it somewhere far away so those hollow eyes couldn’t reach her. The medics would know what to do with him. Vicky set out for the field hospital, skirting around the outskirts of the camp to avoid her squad. She wasn’t completely successful, her cold gaze meeting one of her sisters in arms. It was the pretty sapper, the Vinlander. Her name was Reyna. That was all Victoria really knew about her. Too close to just back away unseen she continued on her way, one of Thomas’s hands just barely brushing Hall’s arm. ”Final chance to pay your respects. He’s headed home.”
She wondered if the sapper recognized that the hat on her head, the one with the feather in it’s brim, belonged to the body she was carrying. Maybe when he switched with her Thomas had doomed himself, given up a good luck charm he needed. She would never know, didn’t want to know. All she wanted was to set him down somewhere and drop to her knees in the mud. Still she pushed on to the medical tent, gently lowering him in front of an orderly. ”Corporal Thomas Carter. He’s dead, don’t bother trying. Just make sure he’s buried.”
”I’m sorry Marathon.”
Sorry that she hadn’t spotted Fox sooner. Sorry that it had been him and not here getting carried back. Sorry that she had never been really a friend, just another star-struck idiot with a crush.
She allowed herself a moment to mourn before moving on, straightening her uniform and pulling her hair out of her face. The higher-ups were a real pain in the ass about that sort of thing. The command tent was in the center of camp, the brass not wanting themselves at the front in case of an attack. Vicky became Private White, a proper young soldier stepping inside the tent to present her superiors with vital information. When an impatient looking shrew of a lieutenant with
a tight bun and sallow complexion beckoned for her to step forward she did so, taking out the plans she had found in the outpost. ”Ma’m, I found these on patrol. They seem important.”
Waxy yellow fingers reached out and snatched the folder, curling around it like the talons of a falcon. Private White let go and waited for the woman to pass judgement. The only sound was the scuffing of boots on the floor and the rustle of papers being turned. “Well fuck me, looks like we have to change some plans. What’s your name again Private?
”White, ma’am. Victoria White. Grating low class Edinburgh accent and profanity aside, Vicky didn’t want to risk falling into some sort of verbal trap. Better to play it safe.
”White eh? I’ll keep you in mind. Dismissed”
Just what she was being kept in mind for was a question VIctoria could answer later. All that mattered was getting to her tent. Her boots dragged through the mud as she stumbled into her shelter, tossing her cape and bandolier to the floor before collapsing onto the bare bones cot serving as a bed. White hot rage simmered just below the surface as tears welled up in her eyes. Cry, or head back out into No Man’s Land and slit the throat of every Imperial she saw. A hard decision indeed.
She ended up picking a third option, the one she almost always choose. One hand formed a fist so tight her knuckles turned white and the other reached for the flask. She was going to need more than one refill pretty soon.