Scene 11: Wascally
Black beasts that didn't die from gunfire and could paralyze you, Sergeant Rose said. Camille wasn't sure what to make of that right now; almost sounded like a witch, but wrong. If things like that were around, she had to make certain that everyone was safe. Her eyes shifted over the camp; everyone was asleep right now, everyone but her.
She stood up straight, holding betwixt her strong fingers a single strand of Bobbin's black hair; the boy slept peacefully beside her feet. If he was going to be part of the unit, she needed to be able to keep an eye on him same as any other. Using her other hand, she swiftly pulled her rapier out by the hilt, the metal glinting under rose-colored moonlight, and carefully flicked the tip against the wrist that was holding the hair. She didn't flinch. She'd done it too many times to be bothered at this point.
As the blood ran down her arm, it did the same along the blade, which was the important part. She wrapped the strand of Bobbin's hair around the scarlet-coated tip and then uttered an unearthly syllable that shook her to her bones. In response, the rapier seemed to drink the blood, gleaming in the moonlight.
"Blood of my blood," she murmured. The boy shifted in response, restless in his dreams. She wondered how much he suspected what he was; she'd heard some knew all their lives. Though she'd left all that behind, she hoped she'd be able to keep him safe in the days to come. He should not have come, but what was done was done.
With that done, Camille slid the sword back in its sheath, and gripped her wrist where it'd bled. She held it tightly for several minutes in silence, watching the moon travel, slowly and lazily, towards its inevitable destination beneath the horizon. It'd probably sink in another hour; that was time enough. She allowed herself the luxury of yawning and rubbing her eyes. No one else was up, after all. It'd been a long few hours keeping watch, but it was finally time for her to get some shut-eye.
Satisfied enough time had passed, Camille let go of her wrist; only a small dark scab indicated she'd suffered any bleeding there. Then she turned her attention to the woman on the other side of the campfire's ashes: Farthingale. Unlike most the others, Polly slept facedown. Almost, anyway. Her head was turned to the side, which Camille suspected was not the healthiest when she was laying on a bed of moss, but people were allowed to make bad decisions like that. Her rifle lay askew but in arm's reach.
A few long, slow strides of her long legs, and Camille was adjacent to the younger woman, where she bent down to pick up the bandit's weapon — Camille only had a split-second to touch it and notice its surprising lightness before a small, dark hand clamped down over her larger one in reflexive protectiveness.
Polly had learned one lesson early and well: her weapon was her life. Camille couldn't help but look at that with some measure of sadness, however briefly.
"Rise an' shine, Farthingale," Camille whispered.
The younger woman pulled herself up to her knees and rubbed her face. "My turn for watch?" She asked with a yawn.
Camille nodded. "'member what I said: be sure yer weapon's ready, pace the edge e'ery fifteen minutes. We dunno what Sergeant Rose saw yet, so be extra sharp. Make sure'm up by the time the moon's half disappeared 'neath the horizon."
"Yeah, yeah," Polly said, waving it off. "I used to do this stuff with my old crew all the time."
Camille rolled her good eye but didn't say anything else; instead she stood up straight and gave Polly a little smile. "Time fer forty winks, 'en." She moved to take a position towards the slope upwards, stretching shortly before she sat down.
The smaller woman was like a time-accelerated mirror of the larger's movement, stretching and flexing like a cat before scratching between her legs and then standing up lazily. She rolled her eyes and smirked. Keep pace every fifteen minutes or so, do a long walk around, blah-blah-blah. As if Polly had never kept watch before. She'd wake her when the moon sank low enough, and as long as she did that, that was all that really needed to happen.
She glared at the violet-haired woman out of the corner of her eyes, half-trembling with indignant rage. It was impossible to get a read on the witch. Escaping was not an option until she knew how to evade her for sure. Killing her? Well, even if the witch was genuinely sleeping now, everyone was so spread out that with reloads, Polly would get... at best two sure kills and she needed four. Taking out the flyboy would still mean she'd have to deal with Mara and the stuttering weirdo. That would be messy, with a good chance of being badly wounded even if she 'won'.
And besides, she reminded herself as her eyes fell on the tall, somewhat round woman in the distance; she liked Mara. She was easy on the eyes and not one of those headcase true believers that you dealt with every so often in this army. That counted for a little. Not a lot, but a little.
So it seemed that, for now at least, Polly was stuck on this weird, probably suicidal ride. The lithe woman took a seat cross-legged with her back to the rest of a quiet camp, her rifle's muzzle propped up across her front by her shoulder. The tradeoff of early sleep was that you got last watch — the long few hours before it was time for everyone to rise.
Polly turned her head back towards the cliff edge, looking out to the northwest. They were going to have to make it through the jungle on foot almost to the dark blue wedge of ocean that she could just barely see from this vantage point. In two days. That was going to be rough. Not to mention how sweaty and humid the jungle would be, nothing like the dry heat she favored out in the crater plains.
It was good for Polly that she had entirely different plans. Her family lived not far from here; this was a good opportunity to slide out from under conscription, get a little payback for old times, and go conveniently missing in action. She just needed an opportunity to slip away from the witch's eyes.
A tiny yawn broke the silence of her thoughts, and Polly looked down to her side to find Knickers' annoying rabbit.
She rolled her eyes, grabbed the bunny by the face, and pushed him backwards across the moss. He chirruped in surprise and bounced away.
"Stupid thing," she muttered. Some people had soft spots for animals; not her. She resumed looking out across the horizon, only to be surprised a minute later by an aggressive ball of soft smashing into the back of her neck.
"...The fuck?" Polly looked over her shoulder to see the rabbit flopping past it and into her lap, where he started to headbutt her stomach aggressively while... honking?
Yes, that was definitely honking. Polly picked the fluffball up by the scruff of his neck, limbs dangling in the air. She whirled him around to come face to face with her. "Okay, I'm pretty sure that's not a noise rabbits are supposed to make. Are you a goose? Do you think you're a goose? Because you're as fucking mixed-up as he is."
In response, the rabbit kicked her in the nose and started peeing.
"Son of a bitch!" She flung Paddywhack back over her shoulder to get the sudden waterfall of urine away, some of it getting in her ear somehow? Ugh. She shook her head from side to side with disgust and leapt to her feet before reaching for her rifle. Fuck it. Rabbit stew for breakfast. Unfortunately for her, by the time she looked back up, he was nowhere to be found. She cursed. In the dark, a little brown rabbit would be impossible to find.
Polly took a second to wipe the urine off better with her sleeve, straightened out her clothes for comfort, and stalked forward. Slow, careful steps over the moss, looking for motion. After all, a rabbit was just an easily scared critter. If she just walked around slow enough, it was bound to be scared sufficiently by her size, make some annoying squeaking sound, and then BAM. She just imagined how that conversation would go.
Polly: Sorry, I saw movement and I fired. / Knickers: No! Not my rabbit! How dare you! I am a sad slut! / Camille: Well darlin' ye shouldn't've brought it if ye didn't've wanted'st it dead. Get o'er it. Had 'nuffa yer dumb buffoonery. / Mara: Besides, now we have breakfast. Delicious. / Whatever That Guy's Name Was: [Useless Stuttering]
Just the thought brought glee to her dark little heart and she grinned. She grinned even wider when she heard a frightened little chitter-squeak down below her feet. In a single smooth motion, Polly took aim and pulled the trigger and—
The rabbit bounced away harmlessly. Fuck. Had she forgotten to load the gun when she woke up? She did. She totally did. She fumbled around for a moment to rifle her bag for a few bullets before slamming them into the undercarriage of the weapon. By the time she had, Paddywhack was nowhere in sight.
Well, it was a rabbit. It wasn't that smart. It had to be somewhere around here. She'd just keep looking.
Fifteen Minutes Later: Rabbit running up her leg and under her top. Had to drop and roll to get it out. Disappeared.
Thirty Minutes Later: Jabbing into a shrub with the butt end of the rifle only for the rabbit to jump out the other side. Gun immediately jammed of course. By the time it was cleared, the rabbit was gone. Again. Of course.
Forty-five Minutes Later: Rabbit found. Jumps on top of boy and disappears under coat. Polly stares in conflicted rage. She could potentially get rid of both at the same time... but...
Sixty Minutes Later: No sign of rabbit. Sit down. Rabbit squeals. Almost sat on rabbit. It's gone now. Sounded like someone else maybe woke up but no — no, no movement elsewhere.
Seventy Minutes Later: Rabbit sighted. It's seated atop a boulder, perfectly silhouetted by the moon in its last moments before it sinks beneath the horizon. The critter has its back to her, unawares as she drops to one knee and lines up the sights.
"Knew you weren't that smart, you little-"
"I'm impressed, Trooper," came the rumbly voice of the witch. "Didn't expect ye'd be this diligent about sitting guard." Polly gave a start and almost dropped the rifle. Shit! It was moonset and Camille was sitting up and yawning behind her.
"Oh. Uh." She certainly looked like she had been working hard; her brow was dripping was sweat and her gloves, elbows, and knees were stained with moss. But was the Sergeant pretending or did she know? That was the platinum question. "Just doing my part," she mumbled. "You woke up early."
"It's a good habit t' have." The witch's voice was as inscrutable as ever. "I ask people t'wake me up as a failsafe. Surprised ye don't do the same."
Polly grimaced and put away the rifle. Whether or not she was being played, it wasn't worth it to keep losing her shit about this. "Time we get started, then?"
Camille slapped a few chambers into her carbine. "Time we got started, then."
Knickers was the third person up; he almost immediately broke into calisthenics, doing handsprings and cartwheels and sidesplits to get his day started. Before long, Polly found herself doing the same just to show him he wasn't the most flexible person in the camp by virtue of being unable to keep it in his pants.
No one was exactly sure where Gerry woke; it was after Knickers and before Mara, but he'd stayed at horizontal rest for a bit longer than he'd needed to. When Camille went to wake him, he'd pulled himself up to his feet slowly and started in on yesterday night's leftovers.
Mara was a grouch waking up; when Knick went to do it, he was rewarded with loud grumbling from a drowsy-faced woman who wanted nothing better in life than to punch things until they either shut up or gave her coffee. She took a seat beside Gerry for food.
Bobbin was the last to his feet; he woke up reluctantly and with some bargaining (Bobbin: Five minutes please. / Knickers: You said that last time. / Bobbin: Promise!) and looked dead on his feet once he was moving, but Knickers was confident that'd fade after an hour mobile.
Paddywhack, on the other hand, stayed asleep in Knickers' coat the whole time except when the boy would occasionally move. But if someone had asked Polly to speak without reservation or consequence, she'd have sworn the rabbit threw her quite smug looks from time to time, not that she could ever prove it.