Memoir: Rabbit Three (part one)

“Rabbit three this is Kilo two-five…” The fuzzy voice called over the wireless into Ciro’s earpiece. “…we’re pinned down at grid EE-2. We’re receiving fire from the southwest and in need of assistance. Repeat, taking fire from EE-2 southwest and in need of assistance, over.”

This was Sergeant Ciro Sondray’s fifth call for sniper support from the Colonial Marine Corps’ ground units that day. Each time they’d disrupted a heavily entrenched squad of the Southern Sagittaron Liberation Front’s lesser-trained guerillas, and although the SSLF’s troops didn’t have the superior training, they definitely had numbers and better positioning on their side. The enemy were pocketed into a bee-hive of foxholes, sandbagged nests, trenches, and sniper positions that made their works as marines best described as gardeners, pulling the combatants out of their positions like weeds. The garden work, however, was becoming very costly that day, with calls for medical evacuation sounding off over the wireless nearly every hour. The dead were starting to pile up on both sides

Ciro reached to a small, black cord wrapped around his neck and pinched the receiver pressed to his throat like a choker. His words were a whisper. “Kilo two-five, Rabbit three. We are enroute to your position. Five minutes, over.”

Turning his head, he found the familiar form of his longtime friend and spotter, Sergeant Troyle Dixon, ready to move. Like Ciro, Dixon was clad in the tanned, desert warfare camouflage, and every last ounce of dust, dirt, and debris had found its way onto his face and hair. They were on their sixth day without a shower, haunting the bombed out remains of a series of connected office buildings that had been reduced to rubble in some parts, and now they were going to have to venture away from their position to one that took them even further from their forward operating base, warm food, and hot showers that they were starting to wish for with increasing intensity.

Ciro flashed a series of hand signals to Dixon, and the spotter pulled his marksman-outfitted assault rifle tight against his body. The two began to slowly creep their way through the hallways of the former office building while the sounds of gunfire and explosions sounded all around them. The disorganized piles of half burnt papers and broken computer monitors that cluttered their path were a constant reminder of just how chaotic this once peaceful city had become.

The world around them was sand and fire, and every minute that passed brought the possibility of their lives being stolen from them. However, every second that passed the soldiers of Kilo two-five risked the same…

The fog of his sleep was interrupted by the sensation of a hand brushing softly over his chest. His eyes peeled open to reveal the blurry form of a spinning ceiling fan above him. It wasn’t his bed, and the hand on his chest wasn’t his. A second passed and he realized that he’d slept the night in an unfamiliar room, and that there was no need for alarm. It was the hotel room that he and Vanessa had chosen to spend the weekend. The cabin was a self-contained suite of white walls and sand colored wood. The designers were even kind enough to run soft, white fabric near the windows so that when the breeze came in, the silks would sway. It was the sort of detail that made it worth the hit to his bank account.

The room was silent save for the light metallic spinning of the fan overhead and the faint sounds of the ocean coming in through the cracked window. The hand on his chest belonged to a raven-haired girl with her leg draped over his body, and all they wore was a sweaty white sheet that left his chest and most of her side exposed. The heavy blanket had been kicked to the floor with a pile of clothing that never had a chance of being folded and placed in near piles. They'd come back to the room much earlier than they'd anticipated with the taste of ambrosia on their lips. The bar was a disappointment, being a draw for vacationers much older than them, but the food was worth the slow service. When she told him she wanted to head back to the room, he was more than happy to oblige.

He lay there in silence and counted the light throb of his pulse before slowly turning to face her. The sheet strained against his hip until she raised her leg to allow him in closer and lowered her face to press her forehead to the hollow of his neck. Her body was lithe, athletic, and was quite comfortable with his presence. They'd fallen asleep beside eachother many times, and their shifting beside eachother in sleep had long become instinctual.

“I didn’t mean to wake you, C.” She whispered, planting a soft kiss to his chest in an attempt to coax him back to sleep. She’d called Ciro by the first letter of his name since their third date. Though it was two years ago, he remembered the day as if had only been a week. “It’s late, baby.”

His vision blurred once more, having found her suggestion a welcome one. He closed his eyes and breathed in the scent of her hair and the crush of her body against his chest. For that one moment, settling in against her was like slowly biting into a hot meal after a long fasting, and the tension at his joints was the sinking of his teeth into her presence, savoring every moment. Something kept him from falling over the edge of his consciousness and into the fog of sleep, and the words flow from his mouth before he even began to understand what brought him to utter them.

“Talk to me.”

Another soft kiss pressed to his collarbone, a sign that she wasn’t going back to sleep either. She stirred against his skin, lifting her head to rest her jaw against his neck.

“This isn’t going to be the last time I ever see you.” Her words were quiet and well prepared, forcing Ciro to wonder just how long Vanessa had been awake or if she’d even slept at all. “You’ve been on deployment before, but this is war. This is different.”

“I’ve been ready for this conversation since the moment I got the orders.”

“Maybe it’s just bugging me worse because I’m in the corps, too. I’m not some girlfriend back home behind some sort of macho veil of best training, best guys. I know just as well as you do that sometimes it’s just luck…” Her words trailed off and she slid a hand over his chest to cup the side of his face blindly. “…I’m not done with you yet.”

“We’re not done.” His head dipped low, placing a return kiss to the crown of her head. He opened his eyes to stare down her shoulder and the swell of her hip, and focused on a chair in the corner of the hotel room as his body began to fully wake. “Even if I get assigned to a recon team we’ll be doing forward observer work, and if we go off by ourselves we’ll be sneaking like we always do. I know you’re worried, ‘Ness, but maybe it’ll make you feel better if you realized that I’m not scared?”

“You wouldn’t admit to being scared if you were covered in fuel and were having fireworks shot at you.” She smirked, shaking her head from side to side. “Ciro Sondray you’re a liar if you don’t admit that you’re scared. This is your first war.”

“But not my first time out alone and I’ve been alone behind the lines before with no one to bail me out but Dixon. At its worst, this is going to be no different.”

Vanessa’s hands slid away from him, and her reassuring weight on his chest lifted with the rest of her body. On her hands and knees, she lifted her gaze to his, stealing away his view of the lightly-stained chair. All he saw were her pale eyes, staring into his in the ambient darkness of the room.

“As long as you can keep fighting, you don’t give up. You understand me, Ciro? I don’t care if you have to swim back from that planet. I want your word.” Her voice was serious this time, wanting a reassurance that she knew he couldn’t fully give.

“I swear, Vanessa, I love you and I’m going to make it back just as healthy as you’re going to leave me after this weekend.”

Her eyes held his vision, watching closely for signs of wavering. Seeing none, she slowly began to slide closer and tilted her head to press her warm, moist lips to his.

The Liberation Front’s soldier’s head rocked backwards, causing a smear of bright, red blood to paint the dusty brick wall behind him. Shot through the thick bone of his brow above the right eye, his body fell back and his finger left the trigger of his heavy machine gun on its bipod. Three other soldiers dressed in the colors of the rebel army dove for cover behind the sandbags, knocking the smoking, heavy weapon onto its side in the commotion. The sudden act of having one of their own stolen away into the afterlife from a shooter unseen was more than demoralizing, it was terrifying.

“Kill confirmed.” Dixon whispered over the voice-box with pair of field glasses in front of his eyes. He was laying down beneath a half burnt executive's desk, keeping deathly still. It was the spotter’s duty to be the sniper’s eyes and ears, as well as provide a manner of security by carrying a weapon that would be more useful should they have to fight their way to safety. Ciro trusted Dixon with his life, as the two were trained together and had been watching eachother's backs for years.

Both of them were cradled in the destroyed remains of Peter Moria's office in the east wing of Helios Well-Tools, a once attractive building with reflective glass windows lining the entire building. Now that glass was shattered in a wreath around the blasted structure, allowing the sniper team to take a position ten feet from the drop-off point without being able to be seen, and Peter's office had been reduced to a large collection of formerly expensive furniture, broken pictures of his sports car, and framed motivational pictures. The tan and black of their uniforms shaded easily with the interior of the building, providing the routed squad of the Liberation Front very little to shoot at. In response to the death of their machine gunner, two of the soldiers sprayed a blind field of fire three floors down and five offices to the right. It was a good sign.

“Kilo two-five, Rabbit three. Heavy machine gunner neutralized, you’re clear to approach from the south, over.” Ciro whispered, pinching the device over his throat.

“Roger that Rabbit three, we’re moving on. Over.” The fire-team Sergeant’s voice fizzed over the wireless. The Liberation Front’s fire on their building suddenly stopped and turned their attention once more to the approaching marines. Only this time the Colonial Marines were able to creep into grenade range. The rebels scatter as a pair of loud, dusty explosions sent their sandbags flying, followed quickly by a salvo of automatic weapons fire.

The two breathed slowly and began a practice all snipers followed called “relocation”. Only one shot would be fired from the previous position, and now that the position had been spent they would need to find a new, safe place to fire from. Relocation would save them the risk of an enemy soldier leading a team directly to their location if they had been seen. They would have to exit the room and find a new position without being seen, and after minutes of close observation, Dixon signalled that they were clear to move.

Foot over foot, the two snipers made each step count, walking in a practiced crouch out of the office and into the building’s hallway. Their footing was practiced, and every step was placed to cause as little noise and unintended movement possible. Black boot met plush green carpeting as they found the floor’s lobby, careful to avoid the millions of shards of broken white and golden tile that had been shaken from the walls. Rounding the receptionist’s desk, Dixon uses his rifle to clear their path back to the stairwell, playing a version of leapfrog as they covered each other from intersection to intersection. Each and every firing lane was inspected carefully, leaving nothing to chance.

Dixon’s arm suddenly shot up at the elbow in a closed fist, a sign for Ciro to come to a halt. Later, he would admit to Dixon that he heard it to, but the moment of caution seizes the sniper as he pushed his senses to learn the nature of the danger. It came in the form of a loud, quickly approaching whistle. The sudden chill of fear crept up Ciro’s sweaty spine.

The Liberation Front was firing artillery at their building.

Helios Well-Tools shuddered and groaned with the impact as if being shook by Zeus from above. Smoke, dust, and shards of tile erupted around the two men, choking and blinding them as part of the building began to break free. The artillery shell impacted with the building two floors above, and the resulting shockwave threw both Ciro Sondray and Troyle Dixon to the floor. Unable to breathe, the two began to scatter in the direction of the stairwell, fleeing for their lives.

Oxygen was the only thing on Ciro’s mind as he rushed toward the surface of the water. Breaking free, his eyes shot open and his mouth gaped wide, sucking in as much of the precious air as his lungs would allow. The stinging salt water in his eyes and his ears took away his senses, and the distinct sound of someone yelling overhead muffled against his eardrums. He shook his head violently, trying to come back to the world of surface-dwelling creatures.

“…almost hit your frakkin’ head on the way down! Frak are you okay?” A familiar female voice called out in protest. Vanessa was thirty feet above him, leaning over the orange-colored rock as far as she dared. Clad in her frayed jean shorts and a small gray tee-shirt that displayed her muscular abdomen, she was dressed for a day on the coast and in the Cancerian sun. The heat coming off of the rocks was enough to bring a small layer of sweat to the center of her back, and the sun above them wasn’t any less punishing. Still, the cool breeze whipped her ponytail in the direction of the large span of coastline to their side and took some of the edge off of the summer heat.

“What?” Ciro yelled up to her, swimming to the side to get the sun out of his eyes.

“I said you almost hit your head on that rock!” She replied, pointing to an outcropping that hung over the small cove to his right.

“I did that on purpose, babes.” He wiped his hand over his face to keep the salty water from dripping from his eyebrows.

“You tried to almost hit the rock on purpose?” She returned, giving him a comical look. Her smirks that told him that he was being stupid were always the best.


“You wanna run that by me again, jarhead?”

He paused and bit his lip sheepishly, lowering his brows in a pose of near defiance. “I…might have not noticed it when I jumped but noticed it on the way down.”

“Much better, you’re frakkin’ lucky I’m trained to patch up dumb boy head wounds.” She grinned down at him. She glanced to her watch and turned to scan the horizon. “I’m going to start making you bring your helmet with you so that you don’t bang your head on corners, Ciro. You’re no use to me retarded.”

“Speaking of retarded, what are you still doing up there? The water’s warm and you know as well as I do there isn’t anyone around for miles.” His arms swayed in a back and forth motion beneath the waves, and his legs kicked back and forth to keep his head above the water. He glanced toward the mouth of the cove, watching closely in curiosity. Sharks weren’t known to come so close, but a small enough one could be deadly.

“Hey, you’ve got to do the last check before risking your packs getting jacked, right? Remember that camping story I told you about Dinatra Aos?” Reaching to the back of her hair, she tries to get her whipping ponytail under control as she turns and opens one of the packs. She pulls out two cans of beer and waves them in Ciro’s direction. “Trunks. Off.”

“Wait, what?” Ciro called back, suddenly falling in love with her again.

“I’m not giving you this beer until you give me a little show. You had me worried there for a second.” Setting one of the beer cans down, she cracked the other open and took a sip from it. Gazing down at him from under her dark bangs, she slid her hand to the belt that cinched the frayed shorts to her hips, pulling it free. The shorts sagged from her hips and fell to the rock, revealing the rest of the bikini she chose to wear that day. Quickly, the belly-baring shirt was removed as well, revealing the rest of the black bikini as she turned to stuff her clothing into a pocket of her backpack.

He swam to the edge of the cove, finding a shallow enough rock to climb onto. He wobbled back and forth, testing his weight and balance on it before he tugged at the drawstring of his swimming trunks. Dreading the chill of the wind on his wet skin, he twisted his head in an almost bashful display and let his only article of clothing fall to the ground.

“Now salute me.” She called down to him, reaching for the drawstring to her bikini top, tugging at it suggestively.

“Are you doing this again because I outrank you?” Ciro laughed, folding his arms across his chest. “You keep doing that up there and I’m going to be sal—“

“—No, I want you to actually salute me, and yes, this is because you outrank me still.” She grinned broadly, bringing the beer can to her lips after interrupting him. “Come on, soldier! Snap one off like you want this!” She growled out in her best marine war-face.

Without another word, the tall, powerful marine brought his feet together and his hand to his brow in a crisp salute. Holding his posture in place, the cool ocean breeze whipped over his naked skin as the woman above flashed him an arrogant smirk. She idly scratched over the tattoo on her upper arm as she appraised him. This was another one of their games, and Ciro didn’t mind the girl taking out her feral energy on treating him like a piece of meat. She didn’t always demand the nudity, and most of the time it was her version of asking for the magic word known as please. Today, apparently, it was her prelude to something much more carnal.

Her eyes scanned over his muscular abdomen and his obliques, the part of his body she liked the most. She bit down on her lip and made a quiet ticking sound. “Damn, baby, I picked a good one. You’re like a machine.” She pulled the drawstring of her top, giving him only a second to feast his eyes before she tossed the beer down to him. Her toss was inaccurate on purpose, forcing him to dive back into the water to catch it.


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