As it turned out Sergeant Perry, Buffy's new Section Sergeant and Corporal Parsons, her new squad leader, were less than delighted to find out that one of their replacements was; 'A' a female and 'B' wanted to bunk down in the squad bay and live with the other guys in the squad. At this juncture O'Connor pointed out that this was the 'new' Mobile Infantry and that they're be more female replacements coming along soon enough and they'd better learn to live with it.
“Okay, Boot,” Corporal Parsons sighed as he looked down at Buffy; they were standing in the corridor outside the platoon sergeant's cabin-office, “what do I do with you?”
“First,” Buffy took a deep breath, “I'm not a 'Boot', Klendathu, remember?” Buffy gestured to the ribbon on her blouse, “Second the name's Summers or Buffy or Buffster or Buff or any play on the name Buffy that anyone can come up with, but its never 'Half-pint' or 'Shorty' or 'Short-ass' or...”
“Hey you've got some attitude there Private,” Corporal Parsons interrupted Buffy's minor rant.
“Attitude?” Buffy asked with a short bark of laughter, “You try being a five-foot-two blonde woman in the MI, you'll totally need plenty of attitude.”
“Okay, I get it,” Parsons chuckled, he was already starting to like this newbie, “'Don't step on me', right?”
“Right,” Buffy agreed, unaware that she'd just acquired her new nickname.
“Right,” Parsons gave another low chuckle, “you better come with me and I'll take you to the squad bay and introduce you to the guys.”
Buffy picked up her kit bag and followed her squad leader through the ship towards her new home. In the MI part of the ship the only navy personnel you saw were ones doing maintenance. The MI and the Navy tried to keep to their respective parts of the ship as much as possible. It wasn't that there was any 'bad feeling' between the two services, it just caused less friction if the two groups kept themselves to themselves. The Navy tended to look on the MI as a sort of 'land torpedo' to be launched at specific targets that couldn't be destroyed by other means. One the other hand the MI looked on the Navy as a glorified transport company who's only job was to get them to where they wanted to go. The MI were also convinced that the navy slept in there uniforms while the Navy was equally convinced that the MI didn't know what a shower was for.
“I'm assigning you as squad scout,” Parsons informed Buffy as they came to a halt outside fifth squad's quarters, “we'll fit you to your suit tomorrow after you've met with the Lieutenant, in the mean time we'll get you squared away.”
Ducking slightly to get through a hatch, Parsons led Buffy into the squad bay. The area occupied by fifth squad was about the size of a cargo container. When you came through the hatch there was a small seating area before you turned ninety degrees to get to the sleeping area. The sleeping area consisted of two groups of four bunks separated by eight small lockers, four on either side of the bay. Right at the far end of bay was a small compartment containing a couple of 'freshers' so you didn't have to make your way to the main washroom if you needed to pee in the middle of the night.
“OKAY LISTEN UP!” Corporal Parsons' voice cut through the muted chatter in the bay like a hot knife through butter, “This is our other replacement,” Parsons gestured to where Buffy stood a little behind him and to his right, “Private Buffy Summers, also known as Snake...”
“Snake?” Buffy muttered unsure where this nickname had come from.
“Snake?” Chorused her new squad mates equally surprised by her nomenclature.
“Okay Summers,” Parsons pointed to a spare rack in the first group of bunks just down from the seating area, it was a bottom bunk signifying her lowly position in the squad's pecking order, “that's your rack.” Parsons looked up at the rest of the squad, “okay you wasters, if you need me I'll be in the suit maintenance bay.”
With these last words, Parsons turned on his heel and headed out of the hatch leaving Buffy to face her new 'roomies'. With a heavy sigh she walked over to her bunk and heaved her kit bag onto the mattress, turning back to face the room she saw four unfriendly sets of eyes staring down at her. However, over on the bunk diagonally opposite hers she saw Gunter, he actually looked pleased to see her, she smiled at him before drawing herself up to her full five-foot-two and confronting the other guys in the room.
“What?” Buffy demanded petulantly of the faces turned in her direction, “You swinging dicks never seen a female MI before?”
“Not one so short an' ugly as you,” replied a voice from a trooper who's shoulders seemed to fill the gap between the bunks on either side of the bay and who's head almost brushed the ceiling.
“There's always one,” Buffy sighed tiredly, “Okay big boy,” Buffy took a couple of steps towards the massive trooper and stared up his nose, “what's your name? I'll like need it so I can put it on the 'Get Well Soon' card I'll be sending you when you're recovering in sick bay.”
“You what?” the big guy looked down at Buffy as steam began to come out of his ears and his face rapidly turned red.
“Okay!” another guy pushed his way to the front of the crowd and positioned himself between Buffy and her prospective sparing partner; he too looked down at Buffy, “I'm Lance Corporal Steiner, I'm your team leader and I'm also the guy that's gonna make sure there's no blood spilt in the squad bay,” Steiner gave Buffy and the big guy a warning look before turning to look at Buffy again, “You wanna fight this big asshole?” he asked, “I mean you could just shake hands and forget it.”
“No,” Buffy shook her head slowly, “sorry Corporal, but he called me short and ugly I can't let that go.”
“Okay,” Steiner was doing his best to head off any violence, “I understand that,” he turned to look at the big guy, “Hey, Cox...”
“Cox!?” Buffy sniggered.
“...look you've got to admit, she might be short but she ain't ugly.”
“Will be by the time I've finished with her,” Cox growled back.
“Okay,” Steiner shook his head in despair, “if you two insist on knocking you're heads together, we'll do it all official in the gym after dinner tonight...” Steiner gave both Buffy and Cox a warning look, “...until then you two steer clear of each other, okay?”
“Okay,” Buffy smiled insolently up at Cox.
“Okay,” Cox rumbled before turning his back on Buffy and climbing back up onto his rack.
“Great!” Buffy smiled to herself as she too went back to her bunk, “Haven't been on the ship a day yet and I'm already in a fight, this is so
totally like high school!”
Emptying out her kit bag, Buffy started to stow her kit away, not only did she have one of the lockers there were also drawers under her bunk so there was in fact quite a lot of room to stow her gear in. The description of 'Bunks' didn't really do the beds credit. True they were stacked up on top of each other but it wasn't like you were looking up at the springs of the bunk above you when you were lying in your 'rack'. As has been noted each bunk had drawers under it. There was also a computer screen that dropped down so that when you were lying in your rack you could read or dictate letters home, watch entertainment videos or study.
Along with a light each bunk had a small safe, where a trooper could keep his or her most private and personal things, plus and from Buffy's point of view, best of all, there was a privacy shield. With a click of a switch, whoever was in the bunk could shut out the outside universe. The shield was opaque and completely blocked out sound and any light from the outside world. A trooper could lie in her bunk fast asleep while her buddies were outside having the most raucous party in the galaxy and she'd never notice.
“Hi I'm Steve Windrush, call me Windy,” Steve held out his hand to Buffy and was surprised at how firm her handshake was, “are you really planning on fighting Cox?”
“Uh-huh,” Buffy nodded as she folded her clothes away into a drawer.
“You did notice how big he is, right?”
“Totally,” again Buffy nodded as she took off her blouse and hung it up in her locker.
“Look,” Windrush explained, “Cox is just an asshole, he's also big enough to beat you into a paste, no one's going to think any less of you because you backed down.”
“Ever think it might be him that needs to back down?” Buffy asked as she sat on her bed and removed her boots and trousers.
“Frankly no,” Windrush replied as he did a double take when he found he was now talking to a pretty girl dressed in only her army issue, bra and panties, he stood with his mouth open unsure of what to do or say.
“Washroom?” Buffy asked the stunned trooper.
“Aft and one deck down,” Windrush pointed aft, “its sign posted...”
“Thanks,” Buffy picked up her towel and soap and headed on out of the bay.
Once out in the corridor, Buffy took a deep breath and leant against the corridor bulkhead, she'd never done that since boot camp. Undressing in front of a load of guys was not something she'd planned on doing, but, she knew it had to be done. The sooner people got used to seeing a girl in her underwear, or less, the better because once they were used to it they wouldn't find it in anyway special or unusual. It was like that thing about working in a chocolate factory, eventually you got sick of chocolate. Pushing herself away from the wall, Buffy walked along the corridor until she saw a sign for the washroom pointing down a flight of steep metal steps. Of course the stripping down to her underwear while she'd been talking to Windrush had been easy compared to what she'd planned on doing next.
Arriving at the washroom, Buffy found it was the normal navy style open plan washroom. On one side of the compartment was a row of zero-gee/one gee toilets or 'heads'. MI training was designed to make a trooper comfortable with other peoples and his own bodily functions going on in public. Across the compartment from the heads were a line of wash basins. At the other end of this compartment was an opening leading into the shower room. Buffy could hear water running and men's voices, no weird sonic showers here, these showers used real re-cycled water.
“Okay,” once again Buffy breathed deeply as she walked over to the showers, “you can totally do this...maybe.”
Plucking up her courage, Buffy hung up her towel on one of the hooks provided next to the entrance to the shower, next she took off her bra and panties. Picking up her soap, she stepped through the entrance and walked quietly over to an unused shower head. There were about half a dozen guys in the shower with her all talking loudly and animatedly about some game they'd been playing in the gym. At first they didn't notice Buffy's arrival, but as each trooper noticed her the conversation died out as they all turned to look at her.
“They're called breasts,” Buffy announced when she was sure she'd got everyone's attention, “and that other thing you're all looking at is my vagina,” Buffy looked into the eyes of each of her shower time companions and did her best to look fierce; it must have worked because the troopers looked suitably cowed, “Learn to live with them...I mean do you realise how stupid the male body looks to me?” Buffy gave a half smile, “Look, I won't laugh at yours if you don't laugh at mine, okay?”0=0=0=0Later that day.
By the time Buffy arrived in the gym for her 'fight' with Cox, various versions of the incident in the washroom had gone around the ship like wildfire. There was quite a crowd when she walked in followed by Windrush and Gunter who'd volunteered to be her seconds. Not only where most of the MI contingent there, but there were a fair few navy files, mostly female, who where there to watch the fun as well.
Something that looked like a hexagonal boxing ring had been set up in the middle of the gym, by the time Buffy and her supporters had arrived, Cox and his seconds were already there as was the Navy CPO who'd volunteered to be the neutral referee. There was a smattering of polite applause as Buffy climbed up into the ring and took off her track suit, everyone was convinced that she'd be spending the next two or three weeks in the sickbay before she was transferred out. Dressed in a t-shirt and short, shorts, Buffy walked up to the referee on bare feet, the ref looked down at her and gave her a pitying look.
“You sure you wanna go through with this?” he asked quietly.
“Yeah,” Buffy nodded, “he called me short and ugly.”
“Okay,” sighed the referee as he glanced over to where the two sickbay attendants waited at the side of the ring; “no biting, gouging out eyes, breaking bones or doing anything that would prevent you from making your next combat drop, okay?”
“Okay,” Buffy agreed.
“Sure thing,” Cox sniggered believing that he was going to win...big time.
“Right, lets have a good clean fight and may the best ma...” the referee stopped himself and glanced towards Buffy, “...let the best person win!”
With that a bell rang and Cox lunged for Buffy to catch her in a bear hug and end the so-called fight in about five seconds flat. Of course by the time Cox had got to where Buffy had been standing she wasn't there anymore; Cox roared with anger as he turned to face her again. Buffy knew she could defeat this guy in about ten seconds, after all he was only human. However, that wouldn't work, Cox would only claim afterwards that she'd been lucky and sucker punched him, nothing would be settled. Buffy also knew she couldn't just beat Cox into the ground, that would cause far too many questions to be asked and maybe some bad feeling directed at her. After all Cox couldn't be that
bad, he'd got through his training and no one had seemed particularly scared of him. He was just a guy who liked to throw his weight around, Buffy was betting that once she'd stood up to him he'd back off.
No, Buffy was going to have to make this look good, she was even going to have to let Cox hit her a few times. Yep, she told herself as she moved to where Cox could hit her, this was going to be slow and messy. Feeling herself being picked up and thrown across the ring, Buffy relaxed so that when she landed she wouldn't get hurt. Hitting the floor of the ring with a loud 'thud', she rolled and bounced to her feet, before taking a couple of steps toward Cox. Jumping up she punched him in the face...hard! Any normal person would have broken every bone in their hand, but Buffy wasn't 'normal' she was the slayer so apart from some momentary numbness she was completely unharmed. The sound of her blow made the audience gasp and Cox staggered back until he hit the ropes and bounced off them...right into another punch, this time directed to his stomach.
The fight went on for three, three minute rounds, by the beginning of the third round it was obvious to all but the most hard-line Cox supporters that Buffy had won. Yes she did have a split lip and in the morning she'd have an interesting set of multi-coloured bruises, but the only thing that was keeping Cox on his feet was his stubbornness. The ref tried to stop the fight but Cox wouldn't hear of it. Buffy wasn't a sadist and she really didn't enjoy inflicting pain; okay there'd been a few demons back in the day that she'd enjoyed pummelling into the ground, but Cox wasn't a demon. He was just a guy who didn't know when to give up...he was MI.
Standing back, Buffy waited for Cox to stagger towards her, pulling back her arm she punched him with all the force of a sickly butterfly in the chest. For a moment Cox just stood there swaying slightly in the breeze from the air-con. Slowly he started to fall like a redwood in the forest as he eventually went down and bounced a couple of times as he hit the surface of the ring. For a second or two there was complete silence as everyone tried to come to terms with what they had just seen. The silence was eventually broken when Gunter and Windrush started to clap and cheer and everyone slowly joined in.0=0=0=0
The following morning, when Buffy went to have her interview with Mr Metcalfe her platoon leader, the officer pretended not to notice the bruises on Buffy face and her skinned knuckles. He welcomed her to the platoon and suggested that in future she might take a little more care when she was practising unarmed combat.0=0=0=0
Okay that's it for this week, Chapter seven will be posted on Monday evening.