The inside of the APC was cramped, stunk of metal polish and most importantly to Amanda, silent. The headache borne from a late night out with friends had yet to subside and were it not for the official summons, she’d be sleeping it off back in her apartment on the edge of Ikebukuro. She’d been here a year and had scored a deal with the rent payments thanks to her job – one that until today only required she keep herself in shape and show up every six months.
The EDF – Earth Defence Force – had been the easiest job in the world, after she had slogged her way through basic. Whilst seven years ago they had battled alien invaders and their giant insects, there hadn’t been any sightings in recent memory so the bulk of the EDF’s forces were old veterans too paranoid to retire and people like her – just looking for an easy paycheck to coast along in their lives. She wasn’t ashamed to admit to herself that she was effectively a parasite.
“Rookie. Hey, Rookie.” A light voice – female, a bit grating if Amanda had to be specific – cut through the silence. At first, Amanda didn’t respond. She couldn’t be talking to her, could she? There was, what; maybe two or three people in the APC who had been with the EDF for less time than her, if her hearing hadn’t betrayed her as they were boarding the vehicle. “Rookie, with the green eyes and breath that smells like the back alley of a bar.”
Okay, now that was too specific to be anyone but her. With a sigh, Amanda lifted her head to look at the speaker, taking note of their uniform as her eyes drifted upwards. Modest chest, Ranger Specialization Badge – rare despite most recruits ending up assigned to the Ranger battalions, as the specialization course was notably brutal – a NCO badge denoting her as the second in command of the unit, and a badge depicting a closed fist wrapped around an ant’s neck… that marked her as one of the rarer types of people in service – civilians who, during the invasion seven years ago, took up arms and fought alongside the EDF and went on to join officially.
“Yes, I have a chest, no you can’t touch.” The speaker stated, her tone somewhat amused. Amanda quickly brought her eyes up to the face, fighting the blush that threatened to show on her face, and quickly wished that she hadn’t reacted at all and pretended she was asleep. The woman had a smile that seemed to light up the entire room with how… pure wasn’t a word she used often, but that was the best way to describe it. This was someone who tended to make others happy to be alive. “I know you had a long night – you practically scream hangover, but I need you to be focused. What’s your name?”
Amanda sighed again. The caring types were always the most annoying, always trying to get into her business and help her. She didn’t need the help goddammit. She liked her life. She liked not having to deal with people at work more than necessary. And they always seemed to home in on her drinking, treating it like she was trying to cope with something. She considered not answering and just lowering her head, but that tended to just provoke them to try harder, so she may as well give in. “Collins. Private Amanda Collins. And I’m fine, just let me rest in peace before we get to where we’re going.”
“Sergeant Rose” the woman introduced herself, “and sure, just be ready to go as soon as that door opens, okay?” There was genuine concern in her voice – not that Amanda wouldn’t be ready, but that she might need help. Amanda couldn’t help but ‘tch’ quietly and lower her head again, praying that the ride would be silent un-
“We’re here boys and girls, don’t forget your lunches and I’ll be back to pick you up once classes end” a voice came over the intercom, by the sounds of it the driver’s. Great, they had one with a sense of humour and they were already there. Today seemed to be like a day that was just gonna kick Amanda around.
“Alright everyone, come back alive” Sergeant Rose shouted as she rose to exit. It almost made Amanda chuckle. Right, like there was anything that this day besides her hangover that would kill her.
She regretted thinking that by day’s end.