Today they were unlucky though. Every month or two there was a regular visitor, a commissariat officer called Marri. No-one was too sure what his name was short for, but it was all he called himself, and that was almost all he said to anyone - including the two requisition officers.
Rumour had it, before he arrived in Australia, Marri had worked as a tax collector for some Angolan warlord. Maybe, but people said some ridiculous shit. His entire job consisted of making sure the books matched, that there was no corruption going on that might undermine the war effort. He was strict.
The two requisition officers, William and April, offered nothing to Sam and she stepped inside. Jess had been waiting, but went ahead of her. Together, they stepped into the room, at the foot of the long tables.
April, the younger officer, who never spoke - a real deep thinker - had been convinced not long after taking the job, that Jess was violently jealous and would beat them bloody if another woman touched Sam. April didn’t even look her in the eye as she scurried over to Jess.
Sam: “How’s the wife going Will?”
Will on the other hand was a deep talker.
Will: “She’s going good, thanks for asking.”
Will: “Just the other day I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. It’s coming up you see-”
Sam started to lay down her items on the table. Rifle first, then her knife.
Will: “and she’s always wanted to see Paris. But well, I had to tell her that it wouldn’t be possible this year. What with all the problems going on over there, and what not. I’ve told you about her problems haven’t I?”
Will’s wife had dementia.
Sam: “Yeah, you’ve told me.”
She emptied her pockets, all of them. Will started to sort them between the rationed and the personal belongings. Marri watched like a hawk.
Sam: “What’d she say she wanted for her birthday?”
Will: “Oh, she wanted to have lunch down at that nice restaurant downtown with our daughter.”
Sam stripped off her coat so he could look through it.
Sam: “I didn’t know you had kids, Will.”
Will: “Oh uh, no, we don’t. But something’s got it in her daft head that Ashley’s our daughter.”
Sam laughed, the thought of that would horrify most of the parents Sam had the displeasure of talking to.
Sam: “I’ll give Ashley a talking to and see if she can pop by. Next monday, yeah?”
Will nearly bowed thanking her: “Oh thank you, that’d be wonderful.”
Sam: “Don’t worry about it, I’m sure Ash would be happy to help.”
Will finished up searching her, patted her down gently and then checked everything against his books before sliding a few things on the table around.
Marri: “You used ninety of the one hundred and twenty rounds of ammunition you were given.”
Jess: “Impressive, I could have sworn you killed ninety-one biters.”
Sam: “I did.”
Marri examined them both intensely, looking for deception. Then he found none and turned his gaze to Will to double check their math. It was all on the up and up. Then he let Will gather her rations for the week she was out, and the week coming.
This was the best part of coming back.
The rations came packaged in a box and were just standard issue for everyone across the Free Colonies. Inside was a collection of resealable cans or plastic containers of various sizes. A half cup of “coffee” grounds, a cup of sugar, a cup of herbal tea, two tablespoons of salt, a few servings dried fruit, about five “chocolate” bars or a box of biscuits, a pack of five condoms, a box of twenty-five herbal cigarettes, three fresh handkerchiefs, a relatively large bottle of regulation alcohol - depended on the season - and a single new set of cutlery just in case you had to use it to murder an undead last week.
Sometimes they’d throw in something special if they got their hands on it and felt like everyone could use a cheering up. They brought out two boxes for her and she put her coat back on and picked up all her personal possessions. Including her small black journal, that always felt so awkward down on that table. Full of pictures of old friends, the fading memories of her life before. Things that she had wanted to tell Jess long before they were a couple.
Jess actually got patted down. As much as April was nervous about Jess, she didn’t seem too concerned in actually doing her job. Then, April brought Jess her two boxes and they were allowed to leave.
Sam: “Keep it real you two, and good talking with you April.”
April scowled, and they stepped outside. Sam didn’t realise until he had stopped them, Marri had followed.
Marri: “One of these days, those two will catch onto your little tricks girl.”
Sam looked him in the eye, he smiled. Marri had the most adorable fucking grin.
Marri: “You two keep out of trouble, yeah?”
Sam: “No promises.”
Marri was cool. He took his job seriously, but he also wasn’t meant to fraternise with the “locals”. Didn’t mean he didn’t, or that he knew she wasn’t smuggling shit that the war effort really needed.
The rest of the patrol was still waiting for them, sitting in the mess ready to get their lunch. Traditionally after a week out, you had half a week off to get settled back in. Some Pathfinders used this to get out of doing duty on base, but most of them were just restless and sitting around got to them. Only one Pathfinder squad on base ever properly stayed on base for more than a week at a time. Civilians were also getting their grub, the cooks had already received the orders for them according to Jade - one of her soldiers.
Jade was the only soldier under-age in the entire base. She had learned how to murder young and was extremely skilled with a gun. Whenever someone asked, they lied about their age, but Sam’s crew all knew the truth. Fourteen and already a red-shield.
Jade: “Look who decided to show up.”
They were all here. Sam, Jess, Ash, Jade, Ai, Dana, Flor and Elizabeth - the new girl. Elizabeth hadn’t actually participated in this yet. Sam sat down, all the boxes on the table. Jess presided as per usual.
Jess: “Good food, good friends, fuck gods, the end.”
Everyone but Elizabeth started opening their boxes, the stiff cardboard and packing tape was no challenge to their bare hands. It was all there, everything usual, plus an extra ‘chocolate’ bar.
Jess: “Alright Jade, you know the drill.”
Jade went to swear, then opened their mouth to complain. But gave up halfway and separate the cigarettes, condoms and the two bottles of rum from their rations. Jess pulled them into the middle of the table.
Jess: “Eli’s knew, so we’ll let you get first bet. Nothing untoward, she’s just a kid.”
Elizabeth: “Uh, what am I doing?”
Jess: “Trade her something if you want something. Otherwise, same old deal.”
Elizabeth looked around at the others. Most of them didn’t seem to give a shit.
Elizabeth: “I’m good, thanks.”
Jess: “Suit yourself. Usual three per pack, kid?”
Jess took six of the chocolate bars from her rations and threw them across the table to Jade who grabbed them up greedily. One of them didn’t even have the chance to hit the table before they snatched it from the air and ripped it open to devour it. Jess grabbed the smokes.
Usual deal then, Ash threw in her cans of sugar for the condoms and Dana threw in all her chocolate for the rum. Ash ended up with Sam and Jess’ condoms as well before she went to get up.
Sam: “Oh hey, before you go, do whatever. Commander wanted to speak with you.”
Ash smirked: “Right.”
Ash flashed a smile, grabbed her food as it was brought to the table and disappeared, likely for the next three days.
Jess: “I wonder how long those’ll last her.”
Dana: “Depends how many of her ‘boyfriends’ are in town.”
Jess: “So, an hour?”
Sam shifted in her seat, Jess placed a hand on her shoulder.
Jess: “Fucking good on her.”
Ai: “I’ll drink to that.”
The food hit the table, painstakingly portioned food so that everyone got their share. Meat must be short, everyone got the vegetarian meal. A large potato cake, floured and battered with various vegetables mixed in, and a bread roll with a serve of butter. At least they got a serving of coffee to wash it down.
Mostly they drank the rum though. That stuff was lethal, they diluted it down to maybe eighty-proof and it still ran you through. It was rough, but after a week out battling the undead you needed something to take off the edge.
Sam downed a half a bottle and stumbled her way through the shower blocks. Dour, warm, probably a little too drunk. She giggled as she washed off, redressed in clean clothes and headed to the patrol’s barracks. A small shed of a room with some courtesy screens and boxes as bedside tables but not much else between the beds.
Sam and Jess were the only two with a proper mattress, as they didn’t make camp beds for two. Sam fell against the bed, closed her eyes and imagined the world not spinning. The bed shook as Jess fell down beside her, and she rolled onto her back and looked up at the ceiling. Black plastic tarps lined the roof, insulation and waterproofing. Light filtered in through slats in the wooden walls.
Sam turned her head to look at them, light just faintly fell over their face.
Sam: “You’re so beautiful.”
Jess smiled, their hand reaching for her own. She met them, and they took her, kissed her hand and rested their head against her shoulder.
Jess: “Look who’s talking.”
Jess hugged her, she wrapped her arm around them and they pulled each other close.
It began with a cough. It still worried her that they were even friends. The pretty girl with the long black hair and sparkling green eyes. Friends with nearly everyone. Athletic, outgoing, adventurous. She was the opposite... life was better in books.
“I’m sorry,” they apologised.
She offered her handkerchief, “Are you alright?”
They smiled, waved away her handkerchief, “I’m fine.”
Sitting in the library, they could have been with anyone else, but for some reason she spent lunch with her. They cleared their throat, they seemed to be clammy.
“You look sick, maybe you should go to the office.”
“No, I’m fine, I just...” they sighed, “I want to ask you something.”
They looked away, down at their books. They always made the excuse they needed to study, but never seemed to actually do any.
“I was wondering if... have you ever been around someone and, you want to be, uh... more around them?”
She raised an eyebrow, “I don’t know what you mean.”
“I... have you ever been friends with someone and, but you want to be more than their friend?”
She looked them in the eyes, “No.”
She smiled, “But, I’m never really sure if I have friends.”
They were blushing, for some inane reason, “You have me.”
“Would you like to do something sometime, outside school?”
They were beaming, “I’d love to.”
It had been the easiest conversation of her life, during the easiest time of her life. Things that should have seemed impossible were just so easy back then. Nothing about their relationship had ever been hard. Even their fights, even the times they had beaten each other bloody and torn their own hair out. She had ended up so sick after their first date, but it had been so worth it.