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Never Been Kissed


“Skipper, got a question,” Hocieniec said as they were stripping down their M4s for cleaning.

The Harper’s Ferry-class Landing Ship Dock Oak Hill was returning to Mayport from successfully clearing the CVN-72 Abraham Lincoln, which had been spotted aground off the coast of Guyana. It had been a hairy bitch finding the two hundred survivors in the bowels of the listed Nimitz-class supercarrier. They were due for some downtime but First Lieutenant Faith Marie Smith had already gotten the word there was a priority clearance in Baltimore. And since they didn’t have Trixie along that meant another fucking air assault like LRI. Joy. At least they’d already Subedeyed Baltimore so the infected levels should be down.

She was about to go off on Colonel Ramos. Her guys needed some shore leave and she wasn’t going to have one of them go off the reservation like she had from battle fatigue.

“Go,” Faith said, flicking out her bolt and giving it a dubious eyeball. She’d found that bolts only tended to last her a few months at the rate she put rounds downrange.

“Back at Parris,” Hooch said. “Before, you know, the incident.”

“Yep,” Faith said. She was past that, in her opinion.

“I get naming the gator who nearly ate you,” Hocieniec said. “I even sort of get letting it live.”

“All it was doing was following the natural order,” Faith said, shrugging as she set the bolt aside. “No reason to kill it. And gators keep the infected population in check.”

“Why ‘Reginald’?” Hocieniec asked. “I hate to ask but…boyfriend?”

“Not hardly,” Faith said with a snort, starting to swab the M4’s barrel with a rod and cloth.

“I know it’s not…good to talk about old times,” Hocieniec said, shrugging. “If you don’t want to…”

“He was a bully,” Faith said after a pause. “When I was in fourth grade, Reginald Abrams was in fifth. He was always sort of odd. Didn’t really fit in real well. Was already starting to go through puberty and had some…issues with it. It’s pretty weird for a kid in fifth grade to be growing a beard and he was always trying to kiss girls and do…inappropriate things with them. Cop a feel, things like that. Kids were scared of him in general, not just girls. When I was in fourth grade we were out at recess and he was bullying some of the first graders. Hit one kid and pushed him to the ground. Calling him names. I just got tired of it and walked over and kicked him in the fork.”

“Ouch,” Januscheitis said with a chuckle.

“He started to get up and got another kick for his troubles,” Faith said, shrugging again. “He eventually decided to stay down. I was always sort of the more violent of the Smith Sisters.”

“Really?” Hocieniec said, raising one eyebrow. “That comes as a complete surprise, ma’am.”

“Sarcasm is the last refuge of the incompetent, Hooch,” Faith said, dimpling. “Yeah. Call it a short fuse for injustice. Anyway, he really took to me after that. Kept following me around with puppy dog eyes and trying to kiss me. Which I didn’t take to; he ended up pretty bruised. Nor did other girls. Not a popular guy. When we went to middle school he was at a different school, which was fine by me.”

“School bully,” Hocieniec said, nodding. “Curiosity satisfied. Thank you, ma’am.”

“I sort of wish I had kissed him,” Faith said. Cleaning complete, she was reassembling the M4 swiftly and unconsciously, her eyes distant.

“Ma’am?” Januscheitis said, frowning. “Why? Sounds like a clear case for future sexual predator.”

“Oh, agree there,” Faith said. “But… Girls were scared of him, like I said. He was just creepy. Even wherever he turned up, I’m pretty sure it was the same. And now?”

She gestured out with her chin outwards towards the distant shore.

“He’s either dead or infected,” she said, shrugging again. “Ninety-nine nines on that. And as a young adolescent infected, probably dead. Those first graders I protected? Dead. Even if they turned, what’s the survival rate on infected kids? Fucking near zero. See many my age or younger left around, period?”

She finished assembling the weapon and cycled the bolt several times, eyes still distant in memory, in distance, in time.

“There’s nobody I grew up with who’s probably alive,” she said. “All the kids I went to school with are scattered bones. Friends, enemies, bullies and victims, it’s all one with the snows.

“I just hate to think of all the kids in the world who died. Even Reginald.

“And they’d never been kissed.”

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