The Trench Rats: Part 3
THE INK MAY have washed from stampers easily, but not from hands.
Turquoise stopped stamping the letters with the official-looking stamper to try to wipe the black substance from his fingers, to no avail. He sighed. Why was it he was getting more of the ink on his hands than on the letters? He quit rubbing and stared at his hands, trying to figure out the problem.
Turquoise's hands were shaking.
He sighed again, and started cleaning up the mess he'd managed to make. He hadn't eaten since that morning, but he didn't feel hungry. And since it looked like it would take a while to get rid of this ink, he decided he'd skip Mess Hall that night.
At the moment he was in one of the many little offices in the West Wing, not too far from the hospital ward; he wasn't even certain what he was doing, just that Black needed some official-looking papers stamped, and then delivered, and to Turquoise had fallen the momentous duty of stamping them. He didn't much care how it worked, he just wanted to get it done. He didn't like these stuffy little offices...they were too close to the North Wing. A few of them had even sustained damage that had been patched up only temporarily. Well...that was what had been intended. The proper repair work simply hadn't been done yet. So when he looked up, he saw a large bare section of ceiling with a few bent pipes hanging above.
The sight made him want to swallow and he looked down again. He picked up the papers and shuffled them into order, standing up and leaving the desk. He made certain to push the chair in, though it hardly mattered.
The door opened before he could even reach it, causing him to stop in his tracks. Copper peered in at him.
"Busy?" he asked.
Turquoise let out his breath. "Does it look like it?"
"What are you up to?"
"I have to get these papers all straightened out and then get them to Silver. He's supposed to take them somewhere. Where, I don't know. They don't always let me in on these kind of things, you know."
"I can take them to him. He's getting ready to leave anyway. I was hoping you could take over for me."
Copper pushed the door open further and Turquoise caught sight of a young woman standing behind him, a scowl plastered on her face. He blinked.
"This is Mirela," Copper explained. "We just got her while some Nazis were trying to finish her off. I was going to take her down to Burgundy but Black asked to stop in with you first."
"Well..." He stepped forward and half-closed the door behind him, putting a hand to his mouth to shield it from her ears. "She's not being very cooperative. He thinks maybe you can calm her down and get her to talk, or at least make sure she doesn't cause any trouble."
"Why me?" Turquoise scowled. "Do I look like a people person? Have I recently said or done anything to give you the false impression I am?"
"I'm not sure why you, he just said to bring her here. If you give me the papers I can get them to Silver. He has to get going soon, they're waiting for him in the trenches after he gets back. His company's out there without a leader right now."
"Do I look as if this interests me?" Turquoise threw up his hands with a flustered sigh. "Fine, then. You take these, I take her. Don't know why. You'd think people would take the hint after a while, if you keep to yourself long enough you don't exactly want to bother with others..."
"Thanks," Copper said, as Turquoise shoved the papers into his hands and stalked past him, waving one hand at the woman in an irritated manner. Turquoise had to grate his teeth to keep from snapping back; Copper could be so frustratingly mellow sometimes that it drove him nuts. "I'll make sure he gets them, no worry on your end."
"Yeah, fine, I was going to lose so much sleep over it tonight."
"Make sure you get her to see Burgundy first off, just to make sure she's not hurt in any way, then Maho--"
"I know, I know, how long have I been in this battalion now? And how long have you? Are you now teaching me how to do things around here? Could you point me out to the hospital ward, Sir?"
"Just at the end of the hall. And thanks again."
He was gone before Turquoise could think of any retort, which was just as well, as he was getting tired of conversing. The woman still stood where she'd stopped, giving him a strange look as if to say, "You're the one they wanted me to open up to?" He didn't blame her. He waved his hand at her again and started down the hallway. "Come on, this way. Before anybody else decides to start up a nice conversation."
She didn't say anything, but she followed. He was grateful she wasn't the chatty type. He knew Copper had asked him to get her to start talking, but he saw nothing wrong with silence. It often meant a lot more than yapping your head off incessantly!
It also gave him more time to think, though often his thoughts simply wandered, so that he would end up walking around doing chores without even knowing he was doing them...he wouldn't know he'd been doing something until he snapped out of it and realized the task had been completed. He'd had to snap himself out of it several times while stamping the papers, for example. An annoying habit, and he just knew it would get him in trouble someday...
And so, already, his mind started wandering, and while they walked it seemed to drift elsewhere and finally his thoughts left current matters entirely...
The sound of his footsteps echoing drifted away into the distant sound of gunshots firing...
He blinked his eyes slowly. The sharp, dark edges of the hallway melted into the rougher, less-distinct edges of one of the trenches. The gunfire grew louder as he approached. He could feel the soil beneath his feet, the occasional splash of water from a recent rain; the earth had a wet smell. He also caught the acrid scent of the guns firing and fought the urge to wrinkle his nose. For a brief moment it grew silent and he was almost tempted to stop walking entirely, when a blast came from just above and in front of him and part of the trench wall caved in, earth pouring down and blocking his way. Something else pouring down with the earth--running distinctly red, dampening the soil.
Turquoise came to a stop, staring ahead.
Mirela nearly ran into him, he stopped so abruptly and without warning. She bit off an angry word, noticing the blank look on his face. He stared down the hallway. She followed his gaze, but saw nothing but the distant lights in the hospital ward, and the Mess Hall off to the left. From somewhere inside came the clanking of silverware on dishes. She searched his face again to see if he'd gotten over whatever had come over him.
Turquoise continued staring at the fallen section of the trench wall. He couldn't take his eyes from the red that ran along through the earth, forming a little rivulet; his eyes started to slowly wander up the collapsed slope, to see where its source lay...
"What is it?"
He blinked. An unfamiliar voice broke through the vision, and the scene before him gradually misted away to reveal the hallway stretching before him. He blinked several more times, trying to figure out where he was, what was going on.
"Are you all right?"
He turned to his side. The Gypsy woman--Mirela--stared at him with a curious look. He touched one hand to his forehead.
"...Yeah, I'm fine," he murmured, rubbing his eyes. "Just tired. Hospital ward. This way."
He dropped his hand and started walking again. Mirela frowned for a moment before following.