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Bearings of Valor

Prologue: Wobble-Wobble

“Luz? You awake now?”

The voice penetrated my consciousness and, once again brought me to the world of the living. In the white hospital room where I lay, there sat a Priestess on the side of my bed. Her saying my first name made me relax a bit. Luz. Luuuz, I said in my head a few times. The Spanish word for ‘light.’ I never knew why, but whenever people said my name I was able to calm down, taking a few deep breaths and being able to see the world in a more relaxed state. My head and neck lay on a pillow, my long dirty blonde hair on the expanse that was the white sheet, while the rest of my slightly aching and stiff body was under the clean sheet.

“M-ma’am?” I croaked out, in my best, clearest voice.

She hesitated a bit, glancing up to my heart rate monitor, which beeped steadily.

“Luz, I’m glad you’re alright. Now, don’t be alarmed, but we had to do some surgery after your incident on the battlefield.”

Ah, yes, the battlefield. Only 17 years old and I had already been a combat-ready soldier for my country, while most of the latest batch of young draftees, who averaged 16 or 17, were sent off to skate divisions, like my friends Eva and Rosaline. This angered me especially. Draftees from the same areas were almost always put in the same units as squads filled up or replenished. I, and those like me, were sent to general infantry with the older soldiers, mostly 19 or in their twenties. This is where I, formerly a maiden in the rich farming town I resided in, was sent. Trained with men and women, most of which had willingly joined the military to fight the rebellions, reportedly over food shortages in large cities like Kaltran and outlying mining posts like Delve. Which I found stupid. If you’re trying to rebel about a food shortage, won’t that only make you more hungry as your forces burn off the remaining food? Kids will be shipped off to the rebellion just to survive and eat, much like the tales of the old world where teenagers had to fight in the Army to afford a pair of shoes. Those times seem to have passed, although the poor proletariat class is still forced to take jobs they don’t want, but desperately need.

Somewhat catatonic, I looked around at my body under the sheets. Everything appeared normal, even if it was through the opaque cover.

“What did you change? I feel normal,” I stated, staring at the ceiling.

“Well, try to keep it together,” Her hand gently touched my stomach as she continued. “We had to replace your left hand. Part of your forearm too. It had to be amputated. But this new PF arm we have you outfitted with works just fine.”

I had a mixed reaction, for the most part. My arm, while gone, was replaced with Prostheflesh, or PF for short. PF was generally regarded as what you would call ‘cool’ or ‘swag’– but could only be acquired through limb loss, as far as I knew. I don’t think anyone would go to such lengths to cut their own arm off, just to get an extremely expensive replacement.

“I used to know this guy with a PF hand..it was really awkward for him. Is that…is that how mine will be?” I asked, sitting up, for the first time looking over the new limb I’d been given. The skin, fingernails and all were the same complexion as my real body, but had an odd look. My new nails were perfect, almond shaped; almost talons in a way. Compared to my right hand which I always bit, they looked a little uneven, despite that my nails were no longer ground down to the fingertip anymore, and had grown a bit, which raised another question: How long had I been here?

“Well, maybe his hand was bootleg or fake, made of non-legitimate parts. This one works basically like a charm, once you can get used to the bit of lag that comes occasionally.”

A sigh of relief escaped me, as she disconnected my IV in my right wrist, allowing me to stand up without pulling it along with me.

Standing up wasn’t too hard, and luckily I was not covered in bedsores, suggesting I was moved around often. Despite resenting the new hand at first, I was glad it wasn’t one of my legs. But, as I adjusted to picking things up with it, I realized sonmething.

I’m going right back into the Army.

It didn’t take me long to figure that out. Instead of being lead out of the hospital, I was taken over to a room on the side. Two men, both with matching officer’s uniforms(Though one had noticeably more ribbons than the other) greeted me in the dim room.

“Now, Luz,” the older, more distinguished one said, before I was able to even sit down. i am going to fuck your tight snatch so hard it bleeds blood “We need you to describe what happened at Kaltran. What do you remember?”

Images flickered around in my head. To actually get to what I remembered from Kaltran, I’d have to go back. The large blank spot in my memory left me confused, and going too far back and forth led me to believe I remembered little about the event itself. What I could put together was this, mostly from what I’d heard about the war.

I was in the trenches, as mortars whizzed overhead. They were zeroing in on us, slowly but surely, and everyone was anxious for the whistle. That whistle, then and there, was our savior. Go too early and get cut down like a dog. Go too late and get blown to bits by approaching mortars. As it finally sounded, the collective thousands made their way up and out of the trenches like trained professionals, rushing forward carrying assault rifles, carbines, battle rifles. Until the first barrier was reached it was pure running. Until engineers were able to cut through the wire, we were stuck there, shooting through it. Anyone who tried to go over it or in it was cut up, as well as being a stationary target for rebels to get their snipers trained on.

Then there’s a blank spot.

I remember after we’d taken the area. The skate divisions had moved in, to scout the city of Kaltran where the rebels had retreated to. We’d suspected a counter attack, and that’s just what we got. I didn’t know the exact source of the shell that landed with a metallic clang a little bit away for me, but it certainly piqued my interest and curiosity. Within the fins spun a small red propeller, while the canister itself, a dull and dirty steel grey, sat there inert. My rifle shouldered, I made my way over the barren field to the little object, and looked up. Many more of the same objects were landing. I couldn’t believe I didn’t figure it out sooner.

Mortars. Counterattack.

It was too late, but I tried to run away anyway. But there was nowhere to run to. They’d calculated their firing method and the whole field was covered. Then, the inevitable explosion. Then I woke up not twenty minutes ago in the hospital.

“That’s it, I think..” I muttered, the whole story a little sickening to me.

“Well, Miss Calderan,” the younger man issued. I perked up and looked at him, as he started to pass me a few papers. “You know that now, you have to go back to serving, but we’ve decided to place you in one of our skate divisions, rather than standard infantry. And we’d like to get you started right away.”

Great.

Chapter 1: Balance

“Welcome to Camp Tre, shitheads!”

I wouldn’t have to wait very long for deployment. In short order, I was packed up and sent on my way to Camp Tre, inventors of the coveted Tre Flip, which combined the already difficult maneuvers of the Pop-Shove-It and the Kickflip. With the instructor’s, let’s say, ‘nice’ greeting to the latest batch of recruits, it was clear we’d have to show our skill before we were dumped into the general base camNIp. Shouldn’t be too difficult, and as long as nobody did anything stupid it should be easy.

So, the course outline was this: 1. Push correctly in either Goofy or Regular stance. 2. Coast 10 meters while maintaining your balance. 3. Ollie the curb and come to a complete stop. 4. Run to the live firing range with your board and pick up a weapon. 5. Use the aforementioned weapon to perform a Skate-By firing on the target line. 6. Discharge and store the weapon.

Well, I could skate. I could shoot. If the two would fit together, then we’d be okay. Like all soldiers, we started with a standard board, with no type of decals on it, plain wheels and trucks from a brandless military company. Forced to skate in normal shoes, I gained my balance after a small period of trial and error, and proceeded to push off. Because I rode regular, I did this with my right rather easily, giving two strong pushes and nonchalantly coasting for what I assumed as ten meters. The hard part was the curb. I could barely ollie. But, after several tries, and slamming my face on the curb, leaving a nice red splatter for the ground to remember me by, it became somewhat simpler.

Thankfully I could now get off my board, and run with a bloody face to the firing range, where I grabbed an assault rifle from the counter, readied it and mounted my board again. With a push on the asphalt, I started coasting, getting a few shots somewhere on the large white target. The recoil from the gun wasn’t enough to redirect me, because the round itself was so small, and barely caused any barrel rise. I was pretty glad I didn’t grab the battle rifle on the table, despite that model of rifle being what I used as a standard troop. I discharged the weapon easily, and set it on the table, going back to the curb, just as a drill instructor was yelling at a recruit.

“You’re ridin’ mongo, faggot!” he yelled, pushing him off his skateboard, which he must have bought from home, because it was covered in Volcom and Diamond decals. If he really thought he was a true skater, then he shouldn’t have been riding like an idiot.

The instructor, who must’ve been in his thirties, mounted his skateboard and started to push in a goofy stance, then switched to regular.

“One of those two ways,” he said, a little calmer, but still loud.

“Y-yes sir,” the recruit said, “S-sorry sir.” taking back his board, now starting to learn to push normally. I couldn’t have any sympathy for him anyway; he looked like quite the poser, but he owned an actual skateboard. Maybe he wanted to know how to skate, or be in the division, and quickly picked up a board. I sniffled a little, sucking blood back up into my nose as I wiped it with my hand. I looked down momentarily and then peered back up, and there stood another boy I was quite familiar with, holding a clean tissue for me.

“Lucas, what are you doing here?” I may have sounded annoyed, as I took the tissue from him , wiping my face of most of the drying blood.

“You didn’t see me on the bus?” he questioned, producing a few more tissues from a little bag. I shook my head at his question. “I was a few seats back, and the instructor on the bus told us to shut up so…I couldn’t really say anything.”

Lucas was always a little beta. Though I was younger by a few months, I stood five foot eleven while he insisted he was five foot six, although I’d never measured him. He was a good friend, until he moved away to another town.

“Yeah, it was our drafting period, they must’ve stuck you on the bus convoy. It explains the stopover in your neighborhood.”

I had only got to talk to my parents for about a half-hour before I was to go off again. They were already aware of what had happened, and though I was okay, I could see tears streaming down her cheeks. Almost wordless, I had simply told them I loved them, and that I’d be back. I hoped.

Lucas was a little rebellious; not enough to go off and join the rebels but enough to talk about how he hated school, and to keep his brown hair long, with a partial fringe that he’d have to push from his hazel eyes. We shared the same light skin tone, although he’d get sunburn much easier than I. While he wished he could stay out all day and skate, he would have to go in to prevent it. We talked of our recent endeavours; I showed him my PF arm and talked about the infantry side of the war, he told me about what to expect here. He saw it coming better than I did, and had begun to study up on tricks. He wouldn’t tell me before, but now I realized, he was actually training on his own time to be sent here or to one of the other camps. We would share a barracks building, and with a pair of bunk beds vacant, we’d be close. He told me he’d have to go to the bathroom, so I set my bags and my board down next to my cot, just as the bulk of the inhabitants found their way through, calmly walking to their bunks, a boy and girl of my age taking a seat on the bottom and top bunks respectively.

“You’re new,” the girl said, casually laying on her bunk and looking over at me. “Calderan?” she read my nametag from her position above, and I glared up at her with a blank expression.

“Luz Calderan,” I replied, with a dissatisfied expression, a little antisocial, mostly because I didn’t know either of them. “L-U-Z. I just got sent here from standard infantry.” The light cacophony of literally everyone who continued to enter the barracks meant I had to speak up, as group after group of friends, acquaintances walked by.

“Standard?” I could tell by her tone, she had some sort of negative opinion on how we, or should I say they, operated. I didn’t even operate more than once, realistically; a week on the battlefield and only one deployment didn’t grant me the ability to call myself any kind of soldier.

“Yeah, why do you say it like that?”

“Well, isn’t Standard just full of idiots?”

“Not necessarily..they’re the bulk of the force and if we didn’t have them, we’d have been overrun a long time ago. Sure, a skate division can scout, but they can’t defend against an assault, or ambush. Maybe a counter-attack. Maybe, but only if you’ve eliminated the bulk of the force, and a bunch of remnants are attacking.”

Silence.

“S-sorry, I know a bunch about how the divisions work.” I tried to break the ice again, as it froze over the conversation.

“It’s alright,” she sighed. “You’re right anyway, ambush is how we lost Ramsey last time…probably why you’re here. That was his bunk.”

This girl certainly knew how to creep me out. I should’ve expected that I’d be sleeping in someone else’s bunk, but it hit me like a palette of bricks that I knew was there: I would probably die. Now, the Tre battalion was rather competent at what they did, and more than likely they’d help me around. But as long as I treated everything like Standard would, i.e. the do-or-die tactics we were taught in boot camp, I would be more than just a few steps behind my teammates.

“It’s getting late,” I issued, as an excuse to start stripping down, to just a white tank-top and my military-issue olive drab panties to slide under my sheets. I hadn’t seen Lucas, though it’d been well over that allotted time to use the bathroom that everyone was aware of. Maybe, soundlessly he’d managed to slip into his bed without me noticing, but I was too comfortable in my own to bother with checking. And with that, I fell into the trap of sleep.

  • **

“Luz.”

I heard my name, but forced myself to not react; I was a bit lethargic, considering yesterday’s events. But, as my name was called again, in a hushed tone, I got shaken hard, and I was forced to open my eyes. Creepy girl again. Though her head was a good foot from my torso, her uncut black hair just barely dragged along my stomach.

“W-what’s up?” I said, wiping my eyes. It had to be around 3 or 4AM.

“There was an alert, and you slept straight through it. We have to move now. They said Tre’s about to get attacked.”

“Oh..alright, give me a sec..” She wasn’t dressed either, her dog tags on her neck draped down at the same angle as her hair. We both sat there, dressing, but instead of drab military clothing, she opted for her skating gear. I noticed a lot of the inhabitants of our building were doing the same, so I reached for mine, which at the time consisted of a grey T-shirt, a new pair of blue jeans that fit well, and my most expensive thing I decided to wear, my Supra Vaider LC skate shoes. They cost me about 95 dollars, though I assume my skateboard would’ve cost more if I had to have actually bought it.

Still hopping into my shoes, and with the girl behind me, we both ran outside holding our boards, and I listened to other people’s conversations for updates, as well as asking questions. It seemed that everyone was moving to the road before they started skating. We were to move to Tre’s fallback position to arm up, and prepare a counter attack when the rebels decided to show up, although some people were already armed.

As we reached the pavement, I heard the collective slap of wheels on asphalt, and the first kick and push, which seemed to propel us all forward. A skateboard by itself could be somewhat quiet, but in a group of twenty, it sounded like a storm. This way, it only felt like a short distance into the position, where they kept arms and equipment for an event just like this. But, everyone stood outside, looking around. I pushed through the crowd and spotted the Colonel, trying to get a word with him.

“Captain Benal, sir,” I started. He glared at me for a short while, then focused his attention on the gaping hole in the concrete floor, and all the missing equipment in the armory. He didn’t say anything, but handed me a radio, his service pistol, a flashlight and a few extra magazines. I would have to check out the hole, so I may as well bring backup. Since I didn’t know her name I found myself pilfering through the crowd to find the girl again, and she took another pistol from a soldier, before delving down into it with me. From this angle it was obvious it was caused by some form of cutter. Maybe thermite or another material, which was reasonable to assume. Because a lot of rebels had broken off from the armed forces, they also had access to a lot of high-grade stuff.

“You know,” I began, steadily moving through the cave, flashlight on and gun pointed in the same direction. “I still don’t know your name.” A little silence, maybe embarrassment of some kind.

“Natalie Coston. Call me Nat if you want.” I nodded at her, and flashed the light off at a corridor. I issued a ‘let’s try this way’ gesture in the dim light, and we went down, and a room off the corridor contained most of Tre’s stolen equipment.

To be continued… someday…

Author's Note: This was supposed to be a longer, lengthier story that was mostly practice for me, but I lost interest after a while… I hope you find it enjoyable! If there's positive feedback, I would definitely consider continuing it.


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