A couple of days following Too Spooky
Music played close in Cormac’s ear, the beat roughly matching the rhythm of his punches. Once again he found himself in the training facility of the UGR base that housed the Magi-Tek department. He’d been in the facility for the past couple hours whiling away time with mindless exercise; or at least he wanted a couple hours of mindless exercise. Instead he had been sulking for the better part of the last few days. Pretty much as soon as the doctors had given him the green light after his concussion he had been back at training, all the while fuming about his loss.
Cormac acknowledged Kinalla was much more skilled than he was, that wasn’t the issue. It was the fight to begin with. His unit had been sat in front of a Spec Ops unit like ABC blocks in front of a toddler. The most he would have accomplished was making Kinalla throw a tantrum, but at the end of the day it was still his squad getting thrown around a room. It was a stacked deck he wasn’t intended to have any chance against. Gritting his teeth, the Ireshirite threw a furious jab.
Increasing the tempo of his punches, Cormac recognized he was getting into a bad headspace. In a cyclical pattern he was focusing on anger points without venting any of the frustration that was brewing. Punches kept flying as Cormac sank further into the mire of negativity.
”I know I’m still new in the program. I know I was up against a veteran. I know I’m just a dumb jock playing at being one of the nerds. I know I should’ve stuck with being a ground pounder. I know I’ll never be like the Flynns from stories. I KNOW real magic doesn’t exist!” Cormac’s face was contorted, and the last few punches he threw at the bag had no form; they were simply frustration Cormac had trouble bottling.
Planting both of his wrapped fists flat against the punching bag, Cormac leaned forward, panting heavily as sweat dripped off of his nose. He hated losing. Whether it be arguments and debates, fist fights and grapples, or a contention of will and might. It…
“Are you alright, Flynn?” came a female voice from behind him. Practically jumping, Cormac immediately pivoted and moved to lean against the punching bag as he pulled his headphones out.
“Hey there,” Cormac said in a canned suave tone, undercut by the sweat dripping down his forehead and fatigue that was prevalent in his features. The punching bag, suspended loosely by a chain, didn’t appreciate this and shifted immediately, causing Cormac to stumble. Righting himself quickly, Cormac ran his fingers through his messy hair and cleared his throat. “What’s up, Kari?”
In front of him stood a tall, slender Seflaurind. She was a member of another squad that he had seen many times before, and sparred with a number of times as well. Given her species, she seemed to specialize in more Earth based magical applications, but always seemed more interested in its civil uses rather than martial utility. Possessing an almost willowy grace she was hard not to notice, but he had never actually spoken with her beyond platitudes around training.
“It’s Kayro,” the Seflaurind corrected, laughing a gentle laugh directed at his display; Cormac visibly winced against the mistake. “Specialist Kayro Borala meeting Specialist Cormac Flynn.”
“Sorry about that,” Cormac apologized.
“It’s to be expected between separate species,” she held up her hands in a calming gesture. “But still, my original question?”
“Huh?” Cormac sounded reflexively before recalling what was said. “Oh! Yeah, I’m…”
Pausing, Cormac was ready to dismiss the matter, and play things tough and cool; but honestly, someone asking if he was alright touched a spot deep inside him. He cleared his throat again.
“Uh… yeah… I’m actually a little rough right now,” he said, a true statement in multiple aspects; between how he was feeling, and the deep bruise on the side of his face from where Kinalla had landed a mighty kick.
“I have time to talk, if that would be of any use,” Kayro offered, clasping her hands behind her back. Again, Cormac felt the knee jerk reaction to say he would be fine.
“I wouldn’t want to trouble you,” he instead replied.
“No trouble at all,” she said, nodding her head towards the wall as she moved to sit down. Cormac joined her.
“I’d sound like I’m complaining,” Cormac started as he took a seat against the wall next to Kayro.
“So? Well, I guess I’m just not sure what I could say here that would be constructive.”
“I’m not sure what to make of you, Cormac Flynn,” Kayro said, a bit confused Cormac turned to look at her; she was looking intently at him, or rather through him.
“How do you mean?”
“You are always making jokes, or trying to make people laugh; even when a situation seems like poor timing for such things,” she started.
“Sorry?” Cormac apologized, unsure as to whether that was a jab or not.
“No sorrys needed. It is something I appreciate, actually. A joke in a rough situation can do a lot to lift the spirits.”
“Ah, a fan of gallows humor, huh?”
“Sorry?” Kayro said, seeking clarification.
“Human term,” Cormac lifted a placating hand.
“I see. To that end, something seemed off when I saw you. The look on your face was far more… intense… than I’ve seen you in the past. Even when your squad has been in a tough spot you seemed to always be grinning. What’s the matter?”
Cormac sat and considered how he should respond to the question for a time. “I just lost a fight.”
“But you’ve lost fights before and did not look so intense.”
“It’s… how and why I lost,” Cormac’s tone shifted to more introspective. “Like I said, I’m going to sound like I’m whining…”
“You said I’d sound like I’m complaining, not whining.”
Hanging his head, Cormac chuckled.
“You’re right. You’re right. Anyway, like I was saying, it’s how I lost. The squad and I were put into a scenario where we were effectively fodder for the Spooks to chew on. No matter how well we performed, the chances of us winning were slim to none. And that kind of fight… well, it just lights my fuse.”
“Why?” Kayro asked, to which Cormac gave her an inquisitive look.
“You a psychologist?”
“Do I need to be?”
“Well… no, I guess… uh, I suppose it just always makes me think of the negativity from when I was younger. My family wanting me to focus on more important matters. Wanting me to apply myself to different things. Even when I was training to be a marine my family was critiquing me, and oh boy when I declared my interest in the MTek program. Better believe I heard plenty of my family saying I was wasting time on childish dreams. But I still worked my ass off. Through training. Through college. Through tryouts. The more a deck is stacked against me, the more I want to beat it to prove it wrong.”
“And the humor?”
“Hmm… I suppose… cause even if I’m losing, I refuse to let my opponent know they are getting to me.”
Over the wall speakers a chime sounded.
“Time for chow already, huh?” Cormac chimed along before turning to Kayro. “Grab some caf in the caf with me?”
“No thanks,” Kayro replied quickly as she stood up and straightened her clothes, causing Cormac to sink a bit. “My squad has duty, so I need to be going. I appreciate you talking to me, however. It was... informative. And… oh, are you feeling any better?”
Chuckling, Cormac stood and gave Kayro a quick wave. They hadn’t actually talked all that much, but it had given him an opportunity to vent for however briefly. “Yeah, at least a little bit, I suppose. Thanks.”
A story of humanity coming back from the brink of extinction at the hands of a reptilians race of purifiers, and becoming the dominant force in the galaxy. Now, decades later, forces behind the scenes plunge the hard-won peace into civil war.
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