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  1. Finding your faith

    February 22nd, 2011. 2200hrs. ”Aren’t I supposed to be the dumb, reckless one?” a masculine, amused voice teased while drawing out each syllable a little longer than needed. There was only an irritated grunt in response, as Gavin continued to replace bandages to the burn wounds sustained by his superior officer. He had already bandaged her legs, and had moved on to her torso and arms at this point which were also pretty wrecked from her act of heroism earlier in the day. Rebekah was a hardass, to be sure, but the longer he had stayed here in this unit… in this war, the more humanity started to slip out. More willingness to go against orders as stated for the purpose of saving more people and reducing the loss of life for not just the military, but for the civilian population as well. How could it not? This was not a conflict of humanity against humanity, but instead a conflict between humanity and a new species that was intent on seeing humanity burn. Sometimes they got there fast enough to stop widespread destruction, but more often the monsters were only repelled or killed after the damage was already done. After so much death was already dealt that their presence made no real effect. They were both trained for one type of war, and were both conditioned for it pretty well. The reality was an entirely different beast, both literally and figuratively. Earlier today was slightly different, because the advance of the monsters had some forewarning and there happened to be some heavy weaponry stationed nearby. A lucky hit with a rocket propelled grenade stunned and disoriented a dragon well enough to get it close to the ground, and once it was near that point it was much easier pickings for follow up shots, shadow blades, and elimination. The beast had managed to set fire only to a neighborhood, and while the rest of the team worked to stop the fire from spreading, their fearless team leader went into the flames to save who she could. Rebekah—Sergeant Lynch managed to get out and save eight people from burning to death in that small neighborhood. She suffered pretty significant burn wounds in the process over a good chunk of her body, and was still just disappointed that she couldn’t save everybody. Not that she was the only one running into the fire, willingly jumping into a needlessly life-threatening situation – mind you, the exact thing that Gavin himself got yelled at for more than once. No, not that. That she was not able to somehow become even more superhuman and save literally everyone by herself. The American, for his part, was generally pretty happy to just be alive at the end of every day at this point. He was never part of a combat role before, and sure he got the same basic training that every other soldier got… but he had never seriously expected to be using it very often. Combat in his old line of work generally meant that something had gone pretty terribly wrong, which wasn’t exactly untrue in his current line of work either. Being on the open field made for weird situations like this one, a random non-medic trained private patching up a Sergeant in the medical tent. Their medic had been killed in an engagement about two weeks ago, and the new one who was supposed to arrive yesterday had not quite come yet. So here he was at Rebekah’s request, trying to apply his minimal training medical assistance to someone who could spasm and break his neck at any moment by accident. Distinct lines between superior and subordinate were still there, but became more and more blurred the longer they were out here. They became much closer than any of them had ever expected, turning into friends and maybe something—no, just friends. Which is why she had requested Gavin to come and bandage her up in particular, because she for whatever reason trusted him to do a good job with it. Lynch started squirming a bit, likely in pain from the fresh burns being messed with. She healed faster than anybody else, but she was not spared the agony of the fresh wounds themselves. Her form was muscular, but still lithe. At roughly five feet, six inches nobody would really expect her to be the powerhouse of not only the team but basically the entire Special Forces wing. Red hair clipped exactly to uniform length shifted slightly with each movement, and Gavin laid a gentle hand on the Irishwoman’s bare shoulder for a moment for what he hoped to be comfort. ”Jus’ a lil’ longer.” the American breathed out as calmly and reassuringly as he could manage. The squirming stopped almost immediately, which was something considering that the pain of having a human being only a few brain cells away from being an actual monkey fiddle with numerous fresh second and third degree burns must have not been the most pleasant experience. “Yuh never did tell me, DeLuc.” Her voice all but mumbled, much lower than the American was used to. He knew what she was getting at, and he had told her. She was bugging him from the first day about it, on and off. Why an American would abandon their home, their chance to reunite with family, and their way of life to go volunteer to join the Irish military in the biggest active warzone of the planet. A country which he had never been to and had absolutely no ties to whatsoever. ”I told you, I just thought it was the right thing to do,” he started, but was interrupted quickly. “Don’ gimme tat shit, Gavin. Nobody’s gonna over’ear yuh in ‘ere. Ah don’ give a shit if yuh tell me, jus’ don’t fuckin’ lie to me. Ah’d tink we’d be past tat by now.” Rebekah’s tone was not accusatory or even irritated, just matter of fact. Silence hung over the room for what seemed like eternity, with Gavin continuing to replace the bandages all over his superior’s body and Rebekah closing her green eyes in some form of meditation. Eventually, however, Gavin spoke up once again. ”I’m not gonna die where I was born.” he started, and then trailed off. He was not interrupted or questioned while he gathered his thoughts to talk more, which he eventually started doing. ”I did manage t’ make it back, close t’ where home was. Lots of… ex-military, ex-police, would have fit right in if… If I wasn’t effected in the… event.” He trailed off again, and he noticed a slight nod from Rebekah but no verbal response. There was another long silence in the room before he continued once more. ”There was a new group that took control of the area, the ‘Humanity Vanguard’ or something. Pure human supremacists, basically. Only made it through them because me’n’my only surviving coworker killed some lycanthropes for them. He got acceptance in their ranks, and I got put on a shitty cargo ship here. If I had stayed, I would have probably died in some alley and there was no way I was turning back towards Colorado. Not after making it so far.” That was the most he had said about his recent past since coming here, and he knew damned well that Lynch would memorize every word of that to ask questions about later in quiet moments. She was exceptionally good at putting those questions to words at a time where her subject was most likely to respond positively to them, a trait which Gavin wished he had. It wasn’t that he was trying to hide anything, moreso that he thought his own recent past was nothing in comparison to what every soldier on the British Isles and Ireland have fought through in recent times. A few lycanthropes and zombies and anarchy spreading throughout the country pale in comparison to a full scale monster invasion and a fight for the right to exist in the new and changing landscape of the world. “Lycanthropes, are those…?” Rebekah trailed off, most likely intentionally, knowing that Gavin had gotten the essence of the question. ”Apparently. We killed ‘em before seeing them transform, but good God were they tougher than normal even still. If we survive the dragons, I’ll see if I can’t introduce you to some. You might finally get a decent sparring partner.” he said, noting that some humor had finally returned to his previously toneless voice. “When we survive the dragons, you mean.” Rebekah corrected, with some forcefulness. Almost as if she was trying to convince herself as much as Gavin. The American did not reply, and instead finished cleaning the wounds and swapping the bandages. He might not have been practiced, but he was careful and while it did take longer for the task to be completed it also meant that no major mistakes were made and the chances for infection were next to none unless they were crawling through mud or other mildly to moderately disgusting semisolids tomorrow. Which unfortunately was a distinct possibility. He just hoped it wasn’t sand this time, because by God Gavin had learned that he absolutely despised sand during his time here. It got literally everywhere on your body and was impossible to get completely out of clothes. ”All done, Sergeant. Anything else?” Gavin asked, as Rebekah was already pulling over a shirt and her uniform jacket over her torso once more. “Jus’ a few more tings ah’d like t’ make yuh aware of.” Lynch responded, standing up with her jacket over her shoulders and already starting to head outside. “If it’s all t’ same to yah, ah’d like to talk’n’walk.” The American needed no other motivation to bolt up and follow after his superior, because even with extensive burn injuries she was still much faster than Gavin was and he did not want to be left in the metaphorical dust, again. Thankfully, once outside it was not hard to miss the indominatable redhead walking across the camp like absolutely nothing on the planet could stop her forward march. It took a little jogging, but in short order the American fell in step beside Rebekah’s admittedly brisk pace and awaited further instruction. One of the pleasant things about his new… abilities was the ability to see in the nighttime as clear as day time. Gavin was taller than Rebekah, but not significantly so. He was put down at a charitable five feet, ten inches… which was true, if you rounded the number. And things were so hectic that nobody really bothered to check an inch or two here or there, which was just dandy for the American who had always been a little self-conscious about his height. Rebekah’s green eyes met Gavin’s steel gray for a moment before she stopped walking and started talking, gauging his response no doubt to what she would say next. They were a decent ways away from the camp, far enough that there was no chance of being overheard by anyone. “Firs’ tings firs’,” she started, her tone betraying absolutely nothing. “Ah’ve signed papers to field promote yuh to Ceannaire, or Corporal. I’ll tell te rest of te team tomorrow, but you’ll be acting as my second for te rest of tis deployment.” Her tone was completely neutral, with only a bit of smugness leaking through that quite frankly confused Gavin more than he was already confused. Why him? There were more qualified people to take that spot in the squad, especially because it wasn’t that long ago that this same group of individuals didn’t trust the American interloper as far as they could throw him – which in at least one case was pretty damned far, admittedly. He must have done a pretty terrible job hiding that confusion, because a smile spread across the woman’s features at the response, and just that simple gesture made Lynch’s face light up and Gavin’s flush. It was a good thing the darkness over their camp did a great job at hiding the latter, for both of their sakes. “And tat’s why. Most soldiers would be hootin’ an’ hollerin’ by now.” Rebekah said with a low laugh. When she continued, though, her tone was much more serious. “We’re both not human anymore, at least not completely. And tese effects are too new fer me t’ know much about ‘em – ahm doing this partially because ah tink your winning personality and cautious style clashes with mine in a way tat will help us become more successful… an’ partially because nobody else knows what your limits are but you. DeLuc, much as I hate to admit it, you seem to be at least somewhat competent at simple tasks such as putting on your pants on one leg at a time or cutting up wing membrane, and I want to empower you to do more of that when you think you can. If we’re gonna save this place, we’re going to need everyone to be contributing at max potential and to be frank I’ve realized I have no idea how to use a shadowcaster.” This was the first time Gavin had ever seen this happen: Sergeant Rebekah Lynch admitting that she did not know what to do. It made sense, because this was not the type of war either of them had ever trained for. She was trained to engage in close quarters combat with enemy human soldiers and destroy them. He was trained to interrogate humans and get information from them. Neither of those things were particularly helpful when your enemy happened to be swarms of giant, fire breathing lizards in the sky who were heavily resistant at worst to small arms fire and people who were not quite human were starting to crop up more and more. Who would know how to use a shadowcaster, for example? Gavin sure as hell didn’t, and he was the shadowcaster! Umbrakinesis wasn’t exactly a new and emerging field in military strategy or tactics a few months ago, so there wasn’t exactly a wide base to draw from when generating ideas. Noting the silence that had fallen, Sergeant Lynch spoke up again. “I also told you early in case you wanted to refuse. I didn’t want to force you into a position that you think you would do poorly in.” Her words came in slow, enunciating every word clearly and her tone was soft and reassuring. It was clear that she believed in him, and the only question that remained was if Gavin believed in himself. Which was a good question, to be fair. One that the American was not sure he could answer at the moment, but as was normal in the military… decisions had to be made very quickly, and he figured it was worth a try. ”I trust your judgment, Sergeant. I accept.” “Ah tink yah misunderstand.” Rebekah said after a pause, her tone neutral. “Ah wan’ your judgment. Do you trust that?” ”If the other option is O’Quinn getting the spot,” the American responded with a laugh, ”Then I trust in my judgment a heck of a lot.” With that, Gavin threw up a salute that was quickly returned. The Sergeant tried to make her face neutral, but a smirk escaped her features anyway. It was obvious she was pleased with that answer. “That’ll be all, Corporal. You’re dismissed. It’ll be a long day tomorrow, rest up for it.”