The humid heat of Vihera hit Jeanne like an asteroid smashing into a planet’s surface, as the transport’s ramp lowered. Her uniform clung to her as sweat poured from her brow and trickled down her nose. Her chestnut bangs were plastered to her forehead. She pulled her duffle and armor crate down the ramp onto the tarmac. She was momentarily blinded by the double suns, high in the reddish sky. Heat waves made the surrounding drab buildings look shiny and distorted. She and her fellow troopers were immediately beset upon by a dog faced sergeant who barked at them to maneuver of the tarmac and to the staging area. They double timed it and filed into a neat line. The dog-faced sergeant called for an equally gruff-looking clerk with a datapad. A pair of Interceptor bikes sped past kicking up an orangish cloud in their wake, which flew into the trooper’s faces. Jeanne resisted the urge to wipe her eyes. The sergeant stood in front of the rank and glared at them.
“Listen up! Welcome to Fort Kyllan! Contrary to what you’ve heard, this deployment is not going to be an ice cream social! Unfortunately this post isn’t on the frontline, but we are still at war! There will be no fucking about!” he shouted over the roar of the transport lifting off, kicking up more debris.
“Junior Sergeant Rispoli will give you your squad assignments and you will report to your Strike Leader! Rispoli if you would please!” The clerk stepped forward and began to call out names and assignments.
Jeanne was assigned to Barracks No. 53 and Kilo Squad. She struggled to pull her crate across the dirt paths and streets that made up the installation. Her fatigues were soaked, and covered in dust, by the time she found her barracks. Pausing to take a breather, she wiped her brow with her sleeve; leaving a rusty streak across her forehead. She hit the door control and with a swoosh the entrance slid open. She tugged her crates inside, and let her eyes adjust to the artificial light.
There were four troopers sitting around a table that looked up as she entered. She blinked and took in her surroundings. The barracks were nothing like what they had at her previous post. They were plain and mostly unadorned, save for the few pictures the troopers had pined up. The bunks were basically glorified cots. She became aware of the looks that were boring into her.
“A greenie?” asked one of the troopers. The one who had spoke was barrel-chested and had a bandanna tied around his mellon.
“I guess,” shrugged a thin man with hair that matched the dust that had coated Jeanne’s uniform. A blonde woman sporting a buzzcut got up from the table and stepped up to her.
“I’m Strike Leader Aesgir,” she introduced herself, “You must be the replacement for Lakan?”
“Uh… I-I-I guess, ser,” she stammered. A rumble of laughter erupted from the three still seated. Aesgir cracked a smile.
“I’m not a Ser,” she stated. What’s your name?”
“Jeanne Lankford,” Jeanne had to force herself to not add Ser at the end.
“Your bunk is over there.” She pointed. “Unpack and get your armor stowed.” Jeanne nodded and dragged her kit to her assigned bunk. As she unpacked she overheard the others muttering to each other.
“She’s a cutie isn’t she?” asked the one with a square jaw and tousled hair.
“If you say so Amkell,” grunted the one sporting the bandana, “I just see another sack of meat we are going to have to take care of in the bush.”
“Will you bet please?” cried the Strike Leader. Jeanne heard the shuffle of cards and the clack of plastic being tossed onto the table. The redhead cursed and folded. Jeanne filled her footlocker with her effects and then moved to the armor rack and began to place her suit inside. There was an uproar as something happened at the table.
“How the fuck do you always win top?” shrieked Amkell.
“Because I’m amazing,” chuckled Aesgir.
“But you’ve won five hands in a row!” complained the man with the bandana.
“It’s not my fault that you have an obvious tell Damari,” grinned the SL.
“She’s gotta be cheating. Counting cards or something,” suggested the redhead.
“Nah, You see Zephor, she’s got a marked deck,” said Damari.
“Well if you want to play with your deck I’ll still kick your ass,” shot Aesgir.
“I’m broke!” complained Damari, “You got all my cash!”
“Alright! We finished then?” grinned the SL. There was a scraping of chairs against the floor and the bustle of movement. Jeanne sat on her bed and sighed. She felt so out of place. She pulled a image of her family from her breast pocket. It was of the last time they had all been together, before her mother was deployed. Her brother left the day after that, then she was given her orders to report to training. She looked at her father’s broad grin. He had lost his arm during a accident, and it was replaced with a bionic one. Jaeson, her brother took after their father, sharing the same nose and broad grin. She smiled, remember the terrible jokes that they would share. They usually made her and her mother groan. She took after her mum. Most people thought they were sisters at first. They had the same chestnut hair and purple eyes.
“Hey, you got any smokes?” came a voice. Jeanne ignored it, assuming they weren’t talking to her.
“Hey cherry!” She jumped as someone kicked the bunk.
“Hey!” she turned to see who kicked her bunk. Damari stood at the end of her bed.
“Are you deaf or something?” he growled.
“Then why didn’t you answer?”
“I, uh… thought you weren’t talking to me.”
“Sure. Do you got any smokes?”
“No. I don’t smoke.”
“Oi! Damari! Leave her alone!” called Amkell, “I got a new carton over here. Jeez!” Damari stepped away, leaving her be. She heard him mutter something, but she couldn’t make it out.