With every step, Docs anticipation grew. He couldnt get the grin off his face when he knocked on the door.
Come in, was the soft reply.
Doc felt relieved to see that the occupant in the bed was as normal as ever. The blond hair had darkened a little, and the tan had softened, but the kid was pretty much the same.
Calco looked up and his blue eyes widened in delight.
The two shook hands a second before Doc embraced the kid. There was an incredible rush to see him alive. The one other trooper from his squad. Doc felt indestructible now.
Gosh, its so good to see you, Doc handed over a small wrapped package. I brought this for you.
Calco frowned. What is it?
Doc smiled deviously. Open it and find out.
Calco was careful to remove the lightly taped wrapping paper, and he stared at the dessert inside the box. Doc had remembered.
Apple crisp with vanilla ice cream.
Yeah, well, the ice creams not fresh. But the apple crisp is. I wrapped it out in the waiting room, so I hope you dont mind
No! Calco was amazed at Docs kindness. Its all right.
Doc handed him a spoon. Then I suggest you begin eating before it melts all over the place.
Lieutenant Hook was satisfied that Chiquita had finished her watch, and was now standing Smokes watch. It was two minutes past midnight when there was a soft knock on Hooks door.
Hook was just leaning over to turn off the desk lamp, but looked over at the door.
Come in, he said.
It was the medic, Jackson.
Doc, what can I do for you? Hook leaned back in his chair, puzzled.
Jackson hesitantly entered the room, quietly closing the door behind him.
Sir, I was wondering I mean Sir, I know that-
Spill it, Doc.
The honest concern in Hooks eyes gave Doc cause to relax.
Its Calco. He and I were in the same squad before the accident. I saw him at the hospital this afternoon. Hell be discharged out tomorrow, and I was wondering since we have room for one more trooper
If he could be a member of this squad? Hook shook his head sadly. That assignment is being filled by someone else. Shell be here in the morning.
Hooks stomach tightened when he saw the light in Docs eyes fade.
But I do know a guy whos been one man short for the past several months. Great officer. Couldnt ask for a nicer guy. Ill see if hell take your friend.
The smile that Doc had worn all day, returned.
Sir, thank you. Hes a good kid. Your friend wont be disappointed.
Doc backed out of the room.
Nanoforges vision slowly returned in the dark, and he saw Doc almost leap into his bunk.
Tying up loose ends, Doc?
Doc laced his fingers behind his head as he grinned up at the ceiling.
I sure am.
Inside Hooks office, the lieutenant finished writing a memo before once again reaching over to turn off the desk lamp. A light flashed on his computer, indicating a SICON official message. Curious as to why a message was sent this late at night, Hook opened the message to read it.
A second later, he cursed and swiped everything off his desk. Including the antique lamp.
The crashing objects and pop of the light bulb startled the rest of Hooks squad, and as one, they all sat up. Chiquita rushed in from standing duty outside. They all wore the same confused expression.
There was no sound in Hooks office.
Looking over at Chiquita, Cyber nodded his head towards the office. Cautiously, she approached. Under her feet, the floor creaked.
Not another step! Came the hoarse order.
Kai reached across the space that separated her bunk from Cybers.
You got me.
Hook clenched his fingers around the windowsill, struggling to control his rage. The tension and despair from the past few weeks returned in a flood. Hadnt he suffered enough? Lately, fate was enjoying this little game of hit-and-run. How much more did he have to take?
He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck.
In the morning, when his squad would finally be complete, he would take them to honor a fallen comrade. Take them to honor a squad who had just lost their sense of direction.
Hook knew those emotions very well the emotions that the Roughnecks certainly felt now.
Their lieutenant - Jean Razak - was killed.
It was Razak who gave Hook back his sense of direction.
Hook would pass that torch on to the new lieutenant; and whomever had the luck to fill in Razaks shoes had better be worth it.