Secure in Quarters by William Dusty

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SUMMARY: This is a short take from a story that is part of the Stellar Conflict series.

FROM: "Predator In Our Midst"
SRB SYNOPSIS: While on a scouting run on the surface of a remote planet, Bretchvelle is assaulted by another soldier, with only the intervention of another squad member saving her. Later, back on board the Ranger, she remains in her quarters, still dressed in full combat gear long after everyone else has cleaned up and gone off to eat. Platoon Sergeant Gobel learns of this and decides to go check on her.

EXCERPT NOTE: Usually averse to getting to know the youngsters under him, this encounter marks the first time the gruff old Sergeant has a personal conversation with Bretchvelle.

Bretchvelle - BRECH-vell

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Gobel stood outside Bretchvelle's quarters and tapped on the door panel buzzer. "Bretchvelle," he said a-loud, "It's me, Sergeant Gobel. Open up."

He waited for just a moment before hearing her voice on the other side.

"Door open," she said.

The heavy metal door clanked and slid open. Gobel stepped inside.

He saw that Bretchvelle was laying down on the bottom bunk, still fully dressed in her combat gear with her helmet on her head, her chin strap securely in place. She held her arms crossed on top of her.

"Hi, Sarge," she said to him.

"Bretchvelle," he answered as he stepped up to her bunk. He glanced about the tiny quarters. "Not much room in here, is there?"

"It'll be worse when I gotta share it," she said.

"That's true," said Gobel.

He waved a hand for her to scoot over, "How about letting an old guy sit down?"

Bretchvelle lifted her legs and spun them off the bunk as she sat up. She kept her knees close together and rested her elbows on them.

Gobel sat down next to her, guarding his head from hitting the top bunk as he sat.

"So..." he said to her, "things got a little fucked up down there for ya."

Bretchvelle just nodded.

"Well, look," Gobel said, searching for his words, "I'm not gonna say I know how you feel - I guess that would be pretty stupid. But, uhh, well, it was fucked up what happened to ya."

"I'm sorry, Sarge," said Bretchvelle. "I didn't mean to screw things up."

Gobel looked to her curiously. "You screwed things up?"

"I yelled out. I could'a fucked us up bad. If there were Greks down there, things could'a been real bad for us."

Gobel gave a nod. "Oh, yeah. I guess so."

The old sergeant shifted in his seat. "Well, under the circumstances, no harm done."

Bretchvelle took in a breath. "It's happened to me before," she said. "What he was tryin' to do."

Gobel snapped his eyes to her. "It has?"

Bretchvelle nodded. "Yeah. Worse before, though. They got me real good. I'm glad Evans came along when he did this time."

Gobel lowered his head. "Well, I'm sorry for that, Bretchvelle. I really am."

"Sometimes," Bretchvelle said, "I wish I was a big tall guy, like Kusniak. Nobody would fuck with me then. You know?"

"Yeah," Gobel said.

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