Part 37: Interview 18 BonusBarracks 18 - A Family Found
The celebrations in the Blue Moon barracks are loud and raucous that night, and absolutely nobody is begrudging them for it. The music is loud and jazzy, the drinks coming thick and fast, and the buffet can barely be seen through the crowds of people fighting for a plate of food.
At a table with the majority of the newly-formed Dimitri’s Mercenaries, Dimitri and Zlata are soaking in the atmosphere.
“I’m so glad it’s over.” Zlata says, sighing contentedly as she leans on Dimitri.
“In some ways it is, yeah.” Dimitri replies. “But other countries are in danger. We may have to roll out sooner than we expect to help ‘em out.”
Zlata nods. “That’s true, but for now… we can rest.”
However, Zlata hasn’t rested for long when suddenly she leaps up.
“Ooh!” she squeals. “I was gonna take a look at the Neotanks! I think I can improve the design so they don’t get quite as thoroughly damaged in battle.”
“Tonight?” asks Dimitri. “I thought we were gonna spend some time with the ol’ mercenary crew. Or at the very least, some time with me.”
“Now, now, Dimitri…” Zlata says, winking at him. “You’re great and I’m so happy we’re together… but Neotanks always come first. Don’t forget that!”
As she saunters off, Dimitri and the rest of the mercenaries chuckle before turning back to their drinks and discussing their victory in detail. At another table, Valeria is almost ready to slam her head into the nearest wall as she tries to help out Alina.
“Oh my god.” Valeria sighs. “You can. Just walk over there, say you like her, and see what happens.”
Alina looks up at the figure of Eva, walking towards a table where some of the soldiers are playing cards.
“Hurry, or she’s gonna start playing!” yelps Valeria, and jabs Alina in the back, forcing her to her feet. Alina unsteadily stumbles forward, but manages to stand up straight just in time to greet Eva before she reaches the table.
“Oh, Alina! You coming to join us for cards?”
“Uh, not exactly…” murmurs Alina. “Say, Eva, I just wanted… uh, wow, this is going well. Look. I… I like you. A lot. Like, in a romantic way. Do you, uh, swing that way, by any chance..?”
Eva’s eyes widen, then glint. She’s impressed at Alina’s frankness, and reaches up around her neck to tug at her necklace. The coin on the necklace comes off, and she holds it out.
“As it happens, I swing both ways. But I can’t just pick anyone to be with, you know? So let’s see what fate has to say. Fair?”
Alina nods. “Gambling for it… I can do that. Just a coin flip?”
“Indeed.” Eva says, preparing to flick the coin upwards. “Alright… heads, you win, and tails, I lose.”
She lets the coin go, and Alina watches it desperately, squeezing her fists tight and praying. Come on… come on… come on!
Eva catches it and places her palm over it. With a showman’s flair, she reveals it to Alina - heads.
“Heads, so… I win?”
“You do. Seems like we’re official now. Wanna get a drink?”
With those words, Alina feels a huge bubble of joy bursting up from inside her, and she places her palm on the white rose on her uniform. She nods, and reaches out to take Eva’s hand, feeling the warmth of the girl’s palm juxtaposed by the cold metal coin that rests between their hands.
“Let’s do it.” she says, smiling.
Eva smiles back, and decides in that moment that joining the army was entirely worth it.
Outside, in the corridors connecting the soldier’s rooms, Ludmilla looks up from her position of standing in quiet, contemplative silence, and sighs inwardly as she recognises the form of Mark walking towards her.
“Mark, whatever it is, I don’t have time for-”
“You do.” Mark says. He stands a respectful distance away, and then begins. “I, uh, have been thinking a lot. About what you said. And you’re right.”
“I am?” Ludmilla replies, her eyebrows rising with suspicion.
“Girls aren’t things. I know that’s not a really insightful conclusion to come to for most people, but I really did think that growing up. But having been in the army for so long, and seeing you all contribute… I guess I realised that I was wrong.”
Ludmilla continues listening in silence, but she’s impressed at his train of thought.
“I thought all the other guys were attractive, and that’s why they got girls. But it was never that. It was my attitude. Being bitter at guys and girls alike… it’s not good for you. Or for anyone.”
“Correct.” Ludmilla replies.
“So… yeah. I think I’ve realised that I need to work on myself before I, you know, fornicate with women. And I really need to stop using the word ‘fornicate’.”
“Also true. But that’s a start, Mark.”
“Yeah. I’m a massive dickhead. Sorry about before.”
Ludmilla chuckles. “No worries, Mark. The first step to not being a dickhead is to recognise that you’re being a dickhead.”
“Yeah.” Mark says, nodding slowly. “Yeah, you’re right. And please don’t mistake what I’m doing here; I’m not just saying all this to get in your pants. I know what I did was wrong, and I want to wait for the right girl to come along.”
“If you clean up your act, and dial down the bitterness, the right girl will find you before long, I’m sure.” Ludmilla says. She gives Mark a genuine smile. “I’d better get back to the party for now, but well done, Mark. I’m glad I got through to you.”
“You and Anton really drummed it into me.” Mark says, nodding. “Right then. Bye, Ludmilla.”
Ludmilla strolls away, leaving Mark to stand in the gloomy corridors, the distant hum of the music causing the floor beneath him to vibrate slightly. He thinks back to the person he was just a few months earlier, and nods.
Everyone else has grown up during this campaign. I’m going to do the same.