As the morning rays of Helios began to brighten the valley below her, Kosarch Carolyn Grey yawned deeply and rested her chin in her hand, cursing yet again whomever had made it so easy for dirt to get into her uniform.
She was sitting in an "observation post," or at least that was what the Humanist Force Protection Force veterans had called it. To her it was just a hole dug into the side of a hill with a camouflage net draped over it, but the name wasn't that important. This was just another stakeout to her.
She and the rest of her team of Mounted Police Rangers, Public Order Protectors and HAPF personnel had been waiting for a large Southern Republican Army convoy to pass through the valley for two days now. Whenever the convoy decided to show up, their job was to contact another guerilla unit and relay the convoy's strength and an estimated time of arrival at Gardena. They then had to move a few hundred kilometers north and observe a Republican staging area on the Alpha maglev. The trip would be a long one, but it was the kind of work that Grey's Longlegs were best at.
She grimaced again at the nickname her team had chosen for themselves. Farry Kyvinlis, the communications technician who had suggested it, swore up and down that it was only in reference to their task as a long range reconnaissance unit, that it would only last until somebody thought of a better name and that it had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with her physical attributes. The name had stuck, though, and ever since Carolyn had caught protectors taking second and even third looks.
The one person from whom Carolyn didn't mind getting glances at her legs climbed under the net and into the post. Holding field ration packs in his hands, Penarch Xavier Rimoto offered one to her and announced, "I bring breakfast."
"Thanks, Xavi," she said as she took the ration pack, then frowned as she looked at the label. "Didn't we get three cases of the ones with springer and rice?"
"We did, and we ate them all," Xavier replied. "Barnaby patty's all we have left."
As she opened the pack, Carolyn said, "When we get to our next job on the maglev, remind me to swipe some different food. I'd kill for a bowl of Valley Flakes right now."
Xavier chuckled, and they ate together quietly. He cleared his throat after a while and asked, "Did you get much sleep?"
Carolyn sighed deeply. "No. Did you?"
Xavier just shook her head. As a Mounted Police Ranger, he didn't normally go into the cities, but he had been in Thebes for a regional conference when the Blight began. Carolyn was just one of many Public Order Protectors who had tried to help as best they could as the populace began to get sick and die. Only when there was nothing more to do did they leave the city, he because he was ordered to and she because there was no one to tell her to stay. Not long afterwards, the command structure of the Border and Isolated Facility Security service had collapsed, and they had worked on their own ever since.
A few of the protectors in her team had decided to work for her because they needed to work for somebody; the planned and directed nature of Alliance life had left a great many people unable to cope when that life collapsed in the face of the Blight and the war with the Southern Republic. A part of Carolyn, however, was actually enjoying the experience. Since they started working together, she often saw Xavier's eyes light up at the beginning of a long journey, as he wondered what new sights and experiences lay before him. Their newfound freedom of movement and action was unlike anything she had experienced before, and she reveled in it.
Something moved in the valley below, and Carolyn raised a set of binoculars to her face. "Finally," she said with a smile as she activated her communicator. While Xavier looked through his own binoculars, she called Farry. "Voice, this is Longlegs, the game's on, over."
"Roger that, Longlegs," Farry replied. "Who's playing?"
"Stand by one," Carolyn said as she started to count the units in the valley. She let out a low whistle as she saw one cluster of vehicles. "Are those Visigoths?"
"Yeah," Xavier replied. "And that many of them means this is a whole armored regiment."
"Swell," Carolyn sighed as she spoke into her communicator again. "Voice, this is Longlegs. The visiting team is bringing a first string of heavy hitters, I say again a first string of heavy hitters. The way they're moving, game time should be the day after tomorrow. Tell our friends in Babylon, then move out to the locker room."
"Roger, will send. We're leaving now to beat the traffic. Voice out."
"Let's go," Carolyn said as she and Xavier gathered their gear. She started to take the camouflage net down, but Xavier said, "No, leave it. They'll notice if the terrain changes suddenly."
They slipped out from under the net and crawled to the other side of the hill where their Elan was waiting. It still bore BIFS markings, and between it and their uniforms it was hoped that any Southern troops they might encounter would dismiss them as two protectors out on patrol. Enough protectors were still at their posts to make this a plausible story, and they had orders from a nearby BIFS post to back it up. They had never laid eyes on the post in question, but the Southies wouldn't know that.
They climbed into the Elan once their gear was stowed. As the vehicle started to move, Carolyn looked at Xavier's face. Even though they were in a risky situation just then, he still had that excited look in his eyes as he anticipated the journey ahead.
Though she didn't realize it, she had the same look in her eyes too.
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