Obsidian Command

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Debbie Wins

Posted on 03 Apr 2021 @ 9:25pm by Staff Sergeant Kyle Zebrov & Corporal Eric Minton
Edited on on 03 Apr 2021 @ 10:01pm

Mission: M2 - Sanctuary
Location: OC, Recovery Ward, Rm 09
Timeline: MD 02 2030
1606 words - 3.2 OF Standard Post Measure

Kyle Zebrov— that big guy was unapologetically ugly on a good day. Eric Minton had always been one to pride himself on his own lotto draw in the looks department, particularly notable while shaving and spiking his hair coming out of the showers after drills, planning a night out. But his fire team lead, Zebrov, never bothered styling or primping anything, just kept his hair shaved close and let the grizzle go.

“Why not grow it out? Get the beard trimmed.” Eric remembered asking him once.

“Can’t improve on this face,” Zebrov said simply.

Eric had snorted at the sandwich of pride and self deprecation. Zebrov was Trill but could have passed for a Tellerite with over-ripe spots. How he’d landed his beauty of a wife with that face Eric felt was some sort of secret Zeb was keeping from the universe.

“You behave yourself, dumbass,” Zebrov had said on his way out of the locker room that night, “for Holly’s sake.”

And now here Eric was, standing in the hall, watching from a respectful distance. In that moment, Mrs. Ebrianna Zebrov was a perfect picture of a serviceman’s wife. Trim, pressed, hair done, made up. She was classy. But that perfect, unbroken make-up? Eric couldn’t help but think she wore it like a mask as she nodded to the doctor’s words. Eric couldn’t hear them but he already had the scuttlebutt from one of the marine medics he knew. He watched Ebrianna’s face as she learned what he’d found out earlier: that Kyle Zebrov’s surgeries were complete. That it was entirely out of their hands at this point. There was just monitoring and waiting to see if Zebrov’s body would accept or reject the plethora of replacement organs and tissues. Was he gonna make it? It was anybody’s guess was all they could say.

The scene he was watching in the recovery room was all crisp, clean, and light. But all Eric could remember seeing was still painted in blood.

Eric thought back to those last moments— The last time he had seen Zebrov on his feet. It all played in his head over again and again. Zebrov, Minton, Pax, and Syimmi were letting out the lead, full sprint. They’d only had enough time to radio back before realizing that the regrouping enemy forces were on the move and that their fire team would narrowly miss their own opportunity to return to the redoubt point with their squad. Syimmi led the way through the side halls to cut through and come out ahead of the advancing invasion force. It was only dumb luck that the team wasn’t caught in a stitching of cross fire, Eric remembered thinking to himself. The enemy’s forward motion was made possible by energy shielding, and taking it down to shoot at Zebrov and his team would have opened themselves up to repelling fire from the Marines.

A smoke grenade from their side unnerved Eric. He remembered screaming incoherently, fearing he’d be torn apart by friendly fire. And then they couldn’t see anything for the smoke, just diving behind the relative safety of the make-shift barricade. He didn’t even have the air in his lungs enough to shout “what the hell, man?” as he caught the report from the gunner, Nathans. The shielding was physical as well as energy repelling. They were about to be completely overwhelmed. Hearing his own breathing inside of the EVA helmet like a fishbowl, Eric counted his breaths, trying to get a hold of himself as he drew his rifle and set up behind one side of the barricade with others from his squadron.

“Dammit, Minton,” Zebrov’s beefy arm grabbed him by the back of his EVA collar and shook him with force, which was sufficient to jerk Eric’s neck like a doll. “I said take up the position behind Nathans!” He pointed and shoved the kid in the right direction. Eric realized he must have missed the first direction while heaving for breath. “Cover the gunner.”

Eric didn’t especially appreciate the given position as the gunner was going to be a hot target from the moment the march came down on top of them. But he took comfort as he got his bearings and found Pax posted with him, re-supplying herself with pressure grenades and rifle charges and Syimmi on the wall beside them, checking the charges on three pistols simultaneously. He resettled his rifle grip and squared his shoulders. They were a team, they were tight. There were pints and laughs on the other side of this shitstorm, he promised himself.

And then Cap Finn had come around behind him, tapping Syimmi on one of her crabs legs and saying “You’re with me.” Just like that Eric watched him take his team mate, the coldest and most efficient killer he knew. He’d been feeling pretty good with her overhead.

“What the hell!” He protested once the Captain was out of earshot. “He broke up the team!”

“Shut the hell up Minton! Shut up and dig in!” It was the last thing he remembered Zebrov ever saying to him.

The shields came down and Nathans let loose into the hallway indiscriminately. But the invaders were already in close range and overwhelmed the line...

There was a tug on Eric’s fingers, bringing him back to the hall outside of the recovery room. The smoke cleared from the memory of his vision and a little Trill girl with soft springy pigtails was standing there repeating, “Play with me Unca Eric, Play with me!” he let the child lead him over to the game table and Eric mechanically assumed a chair. The little girl scaled the opposite chair like a little mountain climber, using her upper body to haul the rest of her over and then turning around to pop up above the table. Eric was relieved for her sake that the kid had her mother’s face. Still, a little bit of an upturned pug nose made it clear whose princess she was. She clapped her pudgy hands on the table. “Play.” She commanded, not unlike her father bossing Eric around. The kid had no idea her daddy was halfway in the grave. She was just bored. Eric reached into his breast pocket and came up with a beloved deck of cards from his birth father’s few possessions that had been left behind— there had been just what they’d found in his footlocker after he was KIA. Over the years Eric had worn the cards down and they were faded and bent. No one wanted to play with the ‘marked’ deck any more so he only ever brought it out for solitaire. “This game,” he told her, “is called Debbie wins.”

The girl practically glowed. “I’m Debbie!” She squealed.

“Well how about that.” He shuffled the cards with a little bit of showmanship. Debbie was jumping up and down in the chair. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched the twin preschoolers busy with their snacks on the blanket their mother had spread on the floor for them. Each of the twin girls ate out of the other one’s snack cup, perfectly content with their mutual stealing scenario. “This is a game my dad taught me when I was about your age,” he said as he dealt the cards out half and half. Only back then, he thought to himself, it had been called Eric Wins. “I play a card.” He put down a card. “Now you play one of yours.”

Debbie held the stack right-side up, revealing her cards, but Eric didn’t mention it. It didn’t matter. The game was Debbie Wins, after all. Debbie put a card on the table, face down and then her baby angel eyes looked back to Eric.

“Well, fishsticks. Debbie wins that round. Go ahead. Put 'em in your hand.”

She giggled.

“Let’s try that again.” Eric put down a card. “Your turn.”

Debbie looked at him with her little dimples and picked a random card out of her half of the deck, like she was being sneaky picking from the middle, and then slapping it down with attitude.

“What? Debbie wins again!” Eric said with an act of surprise. “Alright Debbie. Round three.” He held up three fingers and then shuffled on the table like he meant business. “You’re too good at this game. This time we’re gonna make it a little harder. I’m gonna play a card, then you’re gonna play one then I’m gonna play one. When we get to five turns, let’s see if you’ve still got what it takes to win, kid. Debbie Wins isn’t for just anybody.”

They each slapped down cards like a shoot out. Some of Debbie’s were even face up this time. “Last one kid. This is where it counts.” Debbie dealt the tenth card with her full weight into the table like a deathblow and Eric burst out, “Debbie wins *again!*”

Like a greedy little gambler on her winning streak, Debbie opened her arms up to gather all the cards on the table, then looked up from her winnings at her opponent. “Unca Eric?"

"Yeah Debs?"

" Are you crying?”

“No, kid.” Eric looked away a second, thinking about playing cards with his old man when he was knee high and sniffed, rubbing a thumb under his eye. “Marines don’t cry. We just leak a little.”


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