This story segment contains graphic language and fleeting mild violence.
45th of the Aster’s Gloom, 2030 D.C.E
Dbagbo Dominance — Village of Silb, 8th PzD Rallying Area
When the rainfall resurfaced it hardly registered in anyone’s minds anymore. Outside the workshop what began as a few droplets brewed into a storm within the minute. Lightning flashed in the distance; they scarcely heard the sound. Dbagbo’s pouring was just there.
“Are you too busy raging at the world to greet your star pupil? Why, I had just come to give you thanks, and look at the cold reception I get. Woe! Such sadness is life!”
Schicksal cocked her eyebrows, watching silently as if a one-man stage drama was unfolding before her. There was certainly quite a flourish to his every little movement.
Reiniger’s eyes wandered away from the tank in the workshop and finally settled on the flighty black-uniformed visitor newly arrived at the workshop. He stared at him, at first as if he had seen something nondescript and foul. Slowly his brows rose and his teeth grit.
“When the hell did you make Hauptmann?” He shouted. He sounded almost offended. Schicksal was quite curious about the growing petulance evident in his voice.
Flashing white, an ear-to-ear grin suddenly dominated the newcomer’s fetching face. He shrugged his shoulders and held up his hands in feigned witlessness.
“Oh, this? Dunno! Guess it just naturally happens when you get good.”
Reiniger stared directly at his pins as if he still couldn’t believe it at all. He was so fixated on them that the Hauptmann‘s snark found safe passage through both his ears.
Schicksal didn’t quite care about the newcomer’s pins. She was more interested in the medal worn casually on his breast, on the left-hand side, between a few common tank-killing honors and a purple heart. It was a sunburst held aloft by eagle’s wings — the Patriot’s Crown. The start of a four-stage honor for the elite among the elite in the military.
He abruptly broke from Reiniger’ gaze, and his grin softened to a pretty smile. He gave Schicksal a v-sign with his fingers. “Hey, I don’t think we’ve met before, ma’am. My name is Noel Skonieczny. Captain.” Judging by his surname, he must have been Lachy. He had a pleasant voice. “I just got transferred, so I thought I’d drop in on my old instructor!”
Noel reached out the hand that was not signing a big V. Schicksal shook it. He had a delicate shake. He seemed overall delicately-made. Soft cheeks, a slim nose and smooth brow, round shoulders, a slender build. His skin was impeccable, his eyes vibrant and his shoulder-length hair was long and wavy, full of volume and bounce, curling slightly at the ends. Its gold sheen was absolutely brilliant: Schicksal thought it looked far better kept than her own hair. He had a very comely appearance in general. She almost wanted to ask for tips.
It was only when he made that shark-like grin that he appeared less than rosy.
“Pleasure to meet you, I’m Karla Schicksal, Chief Signals.” She replied.
Apparently noticing her lingering gaze, he winked whimsically her way.
“Pleasure’s all mine! It’s nice to see at least one friendly face.” Noel said. He pouted pathetically and hovered a meter or two from Reiniger, arms crossed, head bowed. “After I came all this way. I feel so ignored and mistreated right now, to be honest.”
“Good!” Reiniger said. “Hope you feel that way to death, you shit roach!”
“Shit roach? Well, at least you’re refraining from outright slurs.”
“You ain’t worthy of ’em, but if you want ’em so much you–”
Schicksal sighed. “So, you know Reiniger from before, Captain Skon–?”
Noel turned suddenly from Reiniger and raised his hands to his own chest.
“Oh no, Captain Skonieczny is a dad’s name. Call me Noel, please.”
Schicksal blinked and tipped her head a little in confusion.
“Noel; you are acting pretty familiar for someone who just–”
He interrupted cheerfully again. “Of course I know him!”
“Barely.” Reiniger interjected, turning his back again on the two.
“God, he’s so grumpy!” Noel giggled. “Mister tough guy here trained me, just about a month ago even! But it appears that now the student surpassed the master!”
Reiniger threw his hands up in the air, already fed up with Noel.
“Shut the fuck up. I barely taught you how to handle the sticks you dumbass. It was part of a fucking Panzer 101 camp. Go gloat about your stupid pins to someone else!”
Noel raised his hand to shield his eyes from a nonexistent sun, pretending to look around the room for someone. He then beamed as if taken by surprise.
“I found someone to gloat to~!” He waved at Schicksal and smiled.
Schicksal smiled awkwardly and waved back, twitching her fingers. Clearly Noel was just here to bully Reiniger, and she did not know the exact reason. Perhaps their relationship was more sour than Noel let on; but she thought at the moment Reiniger quite deserved to be put in his place, and Noel was just being silly. There was no harm done, so she played along.
“So, gloat-buddy, did you hear that I made Captain, huh?” Noel said.
He made as if to hook his arm around Schicksal’s shoulder in a friendly gesture. But he kept a considerable distance, such that he had his arm several centimeters off her in the air.
Schicksal chuckled. Noel started to egg her on to give an answer, going ‘huh? huh?’
Then a clicking pair of boots and the sound of long rivulets soaking the driveway announced a new presence. Schicksal and Noel turned their heads and found General Dreschner outside the workshop garage door. He ambled inside, just a few steps out of the rain, his uniform sopping wet, water dribbling from his cap, from his shoulders. He had his greatcoat on, and it had soaked up most of the water, hopefully protecting the dress uniform beneath.
Schicksal sought his eyes in the shade of his cap — and found a vacant look to them.
Reiniger didn’t even turn around to meet his superior. He seemed oblivious to the danger.
“Gonna lecture me too, boss?” He said absentmindedly. Schicksal cringed.
Dreschner seized him by the collar, turned him partway around and socked him.
Noel averted his eyes and covered his mouth, shaking his head.
The General’s fist connected with Reiniger’s nose with an audible crack and knocked him to the floor. Reiniger covered his face with his hands and writhed on the ground, shaken into the fetal position, kicking his legs and rocking his body while groaning in pain.
“Words fail against you, Jorg!” Dreschner shouted. “So I’ll speak in a language a complete brute like you can understand. Let this be a lesson to you. Without respect and moderation a man is less than an animal. Remember this next time you throw one of your furies in front of me and your fellows — all of whom deserve better, alive or dead.”
Dreschner stormed back out of the workshop and into the rain, as if he had come and gone with the flashes of lightning. Schicksal watched the scene play out with her hands over her mouth in shock. Over her shoulder she followed the general’s fading silhouette.
Noel took a few steps forward and offered his hand, but Reiniger slapped it away. He helped himself up by the side of the tank, and slunk away inside it, entering through the driver’s forward hatch. There he would remain for the night, locked in.