Sergeant Blaine Joseph Armstrong snaked his way through the mix of field medics, nurses, and doctors that had dragged the wounded from the assault in to be treated as he spotted one Private Camilla Enos half-stripped out of her armour and with bandaging around her ribs sitting alone and presumably already tended.
The Sergeant winced as he reflexively tried to move his right arm as he walked nearer to his fellow Foothold local but was thankfully held immobile by the tightened sling a medic had slung over his neck. Sliding in next to the female marine with just a nod in greeting instead Armstrong sighed heavily as he crouched down next to the bed Camilla was sitting on.
"Me and mine had your right earlier in the fight if you don't remember." Blaine's voice was soft as he spoke and his eyes glanced around the room as the slight moans of the wounded would catch his attention. "It was a shit piece they shodded you and the rest of your squad with when you had to climb all over that metal wreck of an emplacement, but you all pulled out a sight of work on downing that Hammerbeast."
Blaine let out a short barked laugh and then shook his head. "Nothing too permanent got stomped into your hide when you took that hit I suppose?"
Camilla eyed Sergeant Armstrong warily while he approached. She could tell he was intent on speaking with her, in that way people just know when someone else is vying for their attention. Naturally, her instinctive cynical response was to expect scorn for her failure to remain conscious and useful during the most recent battle. She was vaguely surprised, then, to hear him broach the silence with small talk.
Private Enos reassured the Sergeant, "Takes more than that to put me down." But she couldn't believe that small talk was all the Sergeant intended. He was, after all, a Sergeant. "Is there something I can help you with, Sergeant?"
"Just here to help get a handle on our whole situation after that mess of a battle." Fumbling to pull out a pack of cigarettes with only one hand Armstrong set the box down next to Camilla after maneuvering one into his mouth before patting blindly about his webbing for a lighter.
"How about you just think on this as humouring an old NCO then Enos?" Blaine's words skimmed together at points as he talked around the unlit smoke he had in his mouth. Finally pulling out his lighter the Sergeant lit up and took one long drag before continueing. "So, how are you doing Private - those bandages just keeping things under control or did yah break something?"
Camilla seemed to accept this, albeit begrudgingly. Don't NCOs have something better to do than sit around chatting with some grunt? When asked how she was, Private Enos stiffened slightly. Averting her gaze and pretending to seem interested in a patch of dirt several meters away, she answered, "Cracked a rib. Nothing serious." Though from the tone of her voice, she seemed irritated or disappointed, as if her body should be invulnerable to the forces of the Universe, immune to the powers of physics. Weakness was something she didn't tolerate, least of all in herself.
Armstrong took another long pull on his cigarette and took the time to watch the end slowly burn away before looked the Private in front of him up and down once and then staring her in the eyes.
"You aren't feeding me any crap would yah be Enos? If you're telling me you are steady as a tunnel's beams I'm gonna be taking your word for it - don't know as I should hearing how stubborn you are, but I'm willing to give you the respect anyone with the will to fight deserves." Armstrong kept his voice bland and even as he spoke but had obviously not been satisfied with Camilla's earlier answer.
Camilla wasn't sure whether that was a veiled compliment or swipe at her reputation, but was willing to let it go with a bite of her lip seeing as he was her superior. Private Enos jumped to her feet, eager to have an objective. "I'm always ready, Sergeant. Just give me a heading." Silently she hoped he hadn't noticed the slight twitch of her mouth when the pain shot through her side. Minor inconvenience, she reminded herself. As long as I don't have to do one hundred sit-ups for the next mission, I'll be in perfect form. In all fairness, she probably wouldn't make it to fifty sit-ups if asked to.
Sergeant Armstrong calmly leaned back, still in his crouch, as Private Enos stood up to his provacation and showed him a bit of the will power that had kept Foothold standing as a rock against a Drathonian tide for the last few years.
His smile almost slipped as he caught her wincing at the spontaneous action, but brushing his hands up and standing Blaine found there to be no waivering in her stance except for that single pull.
"Just what I was sent to hear then Private - Squad 22 is being mobilized again. Looks like you'll be in the Tunnels this time and I would hate to hear that the rest of that motley bunch of foreigners and your Sergeant got lost and end up letting the lizards know about all our hard work." Blaine gave Camilla the once over one more time and then nodded to himself.
"The rest of your squad should be gathering down by the C-6 sub-level entrances. Suit back up and grab some gear from the Armoury -" Remembering the wince of pain from earlier the Sergeant stopped and frowned and gave Enos another hard looking over. "Just grab one of the standard carbines and its ammo. Anything heavier would just keep you from moving about the tunnels properly."
Camilla frowned. She was beginning to feel his eyes were that of man inspecting breeding stock and didn't take too kindly to the idea. However, she said nothing of the matter. At his order to take only a carbine, Private Enos glowered. She was irritated that this man could speak so few words and steal the pride from her work just like that; ever moreso, she was upset that the Sergeant had seen through her facade. "Yes Sergeant." The words were hollow.
She turned her back to him, grateful that she could hide the pain from him while she geared up. It also gave her a few seconds to think about a way to request permissions for heavy arms other than, Fuck you, I'm taking a big gun. Camilla never particularly liked the rules, but she'd been raised- and learned through experience- that the rules existed for a reason, your opinion be damned. So she made one final plea for permission to exercise her Heavy Ordnance certification to the fullest. "Sergeant, a Papa might not be the best for those tight quarters, but a plasma thrower like the Hokaze would be an excellent weapon. And I'm the only one qualified to carry it. I ask you to reconsider."
Armstrong had turned his back already on Private Enos and cleanly pivoted about as she spoke for leniency. Blaine sighed and shook his head as Camilla finished her request.
"Private Enos!" Cold disapproval laced the Sergeant's voice as he let any emotion sound out in his words as he spoke. "The Hokaze would be entirely inapproriate for the nature of your current mission. You will carry a carbine and if I hear of you weedling any weapon other than a carbine out from the armoury with the leverage of your certification I will see that that privilege is stricken from your records. Am I clear?"
Private Enos had every desire to beat Sergeant Armstrong into the dirt like a fence post. She could too, injury be damned, and would love every second of it. But those damned rules... "Perfectly, Sergeant!" Camilla answered with a foul taste in her mouth. "Is there anything else, Sergeant?"
"Just that you keep the safety of the homeland foremost in your mind, Private." Armstrong's voice had returned to the bland, lulling tone he had used all throughout the earlier conversation as the Sergeant was already turning around again. "You are dismissed to your Squad."
She nodded and made an about-face. Camilla was smoldering, her face grim. Pissed off didn't begin to describe her feelings. Who the hell is he to take away my Papa!? Asshole thinks I can't do it, and... AAAUGH! It was infuriating to know someone thought she was too weak to handle her own job. What's worse, she only had herself to blame. If she could have just been a little tougher, Sergeant Steaming Shit wouldn't have threatened to take away her Heavy Ordnance.
She stormed into the nearest armory, and stared at the wall of little weapons for a minute, pondering which one to take. Camilla settled on two Standard Gauss Carbines, as if by taking more than one she was somehow able to passively defy the order. She loaded them up, acquired the standard ammo load, and signed it all out before storming off to her rendezvous.