Chapter 15:

Welcome to Squad42. Now Get to Work!

A Moribund Hero

"Brother is peaceful in the morning." Rabbit eagerly greeted Leon, who woke up from feeling something heavy on him.Bookmark here

She was dressed and ready to face the world for the day. Her white cloak was like a blanket over his legs.Bookmark here

"Oh, good day, Rabbit." He cordially smiled and gently patted her head, which was resting against his chest.Bookmark here

"Air still moves in your blood." She noted his oxygen levels when she pressed her ear near his heart.Bookmark here

He nodded, but to be sure, checked the time on his watch. There were a few hours until he would need a top-up.Bookmark here

Wolf let out a growl for a yawn. He scratched his hairy armpits and slapped his muscly chest as he shuffled off his bed to get ready for another day. He was about to swap his pajama bottoms for his army pants when he sniffed a sweet aroma foreign to the room.Bookmark here

"Damn, Rabbit. Get back to yah hole!" He grumbled when he saw her cuddling up to Leon, who didn't seem to think anything was wrong.Bookmark here

"Brother lies here. I wanted to check his minerals and..." Her explanation was finished outside when Wolf had succeeded in carrying her out and parking her on the step.Bookmark here

He slammed the door behind him and stormed up to Leon.Bookmark here

"Listen up, lad. This cabin here's a man cave! Even if yah a pretty boy attracting the lasses. This here is a sanctuary for manhood. No lasses allowed."Bookmark here

Leon's eyes widen, perplexed, but could see it meant a lot to Wolf. "Oh, okay. I'll be mindful of this."Bookmark here

Wolf heartily patted his back and kicked him into gear to get ready for action.Bookmark here

An hour later, everyone was assembled in the chapel's main hall. Leon and Rabbit wore the People Army waistcoats over their usual attire. They sat at a pew next to Wolf and Lucy.Bookmark here

It was the first time Leon noticed on the waistcoat's left side a small black circle. He glanced at Wolf and Lucy, and theirs was the same.Bookmark here

"What are these symbols?" he cordially asked Lucy as he pointed to his.Bookmark here

"Our ranks. I call them moonies." She chuckled at some inner joke in her head. Then coughed to clear her throat and explained further.Bookmark here

Newbies defaulted to the 'new moon' rank. When a new moon soldier completed the first-level quota of successful missions, they were qualified for a promotion. Further promotion was possible upon successfully completing the next-level quota sets. The promotion chain was as follows: Waxing Crescent (private second class), First Quarter (specialist), Waxing Gibbous (corporal), Full Moon (sergeant), Waning Gibbous (sergeant first class), Last Quarter (master sergeant), and Waning Crescent (commander).Bookmark here

"So, you still need to complete the first level quotas for promotion?" Leon asked.Bookmark here

"Well, er, not quite." Lucy awkwardly scratched her head. "Anyway. Don't fret. We're just as badass to the baddies."Bookmark here

"Alright, people, front and center." Avril drew everyone's attention.Bookmark here

They moved to stand before the cleared side of the hall. Leon nodded when he saw a small white circle of her rank to emphasize her title.Bookmark here

The hall's cleared side became a flurry of activity with free-floating semi-transparent display screens, and a light-touch keyboard at the screen's center.Bookmark here

Avril was standing before the digital keyboard. She activated a few commands. The keyboard faded out, and she went to stand next to them. The whole display became a three-dimension map of the terrain they were going to travel for an upcoming mission. It was a precise replica that it even simulated the gusts and rolling tumbleweeds.Bookmark here

"The clerics received an alert from a Scavenge Crew scout party near the border. A massive swell of magic is disrupting the area near the West Exit Village." She moved her hands in the swiping motion to move the display around.Bookmark here

Everyone's eyes bulged at the swelling blue-green hazy light encompassing a set of slot canyons and vast open plains. It was a huge mass that covered a square mile.Bookmark here

"That's a lot of magic discharge," Leon noted. "What is in that area?"Bookmark here

"A couple of mines for iron and copper that the Eleutherian Order manage. It's the main source of income for the village." Avril sighed. "We don't know what is causing that magic, but we've been tasked to back up Squad43 and some local guards in stopping it."Bookmark here

She raised her eyebrows when she saw Leon rapidly blinking at the scene. His face was expressionless. She figured he might be mulling over something.Bookmark here

"Questions?" She asked him.Bookmark here

"Am I." He glanced at Rabbit. "Are we to do this as part of the squad?"Bookmark here

Her eyes glinted with a hard glare like headlights in the dark, which made Leon blink and gulp. "You've got a problem being in my squad, Golden Boy?!"Bookmark here

"No, no, I didn't think biodefects were permitted for such professions," he hastily explained.Bookmark here

She slapped his back with her reassurance that it was all okay. "I only needed to grovel to three first clerics, pay a hefty fine that will come out of everyone's pay for three months, and upgrade your pet registration to premium pooch level of a guard dog. But, at least they won't incinerate you on sight. Anyway, it's their fault for purposely delaying my resource requests. If they want to disband us, let them try!"Bookmark here

He gulped again when she got up close to his face to sink in her word of caution. "It'll be easier to convince the army to keep you if you succeed. Don't screw this up and give me a reason to shoot you in forty places."Bookmark here

Leon and Rabbit nodded.Bookmark here

Avril gave the rendezvous point and dismissed everyone.Bookmark here

Lucy grinned as she checked her guns and daggers. She slapped Leon's back. "Let's go, Goldie."Bookmark here

All the pet names were sparking his semantic storage, but he was able to adjust his levels to avoid overheating. He refocused his analysis on the mission.Bookmark here

From his analysis, the swelling magic's pinpoint was near one of the mines. He suspected a reaction to an ionized tool or weapon, which triggered the discharge. If it was because of enchantments gone wrong, it would be akin to a pending napalm explosion.Bookmark here

"We have to remove and contain quickly." He confirmed.Bookmark here

The chapel door's opened and Butcher entered, carrying a physician bag.Bookmark here

Hungry Sheep
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