“Wait...Stroud?” asked Dom across the small circular table the trio were sat at. “As in, Helena Stroud?”
“The very same.” Smiled Anya taking a sip of her wine.
“Holy hell! Hey Marcus, we’re sitting having a drink with the boss’s daughter.” Joked Dom shoving him in the side with his elbow. Major Helena Stroud was the commanding officer of the twenty-sixth Royal Tyran Infantry, she commanded five squads including Alpha-Five, Echo and C Company. Or Commando Company, Us.
“How’s she doing?” asked Marcus.
“She’s good thanks, kicking ass on the front lines as always.”
“God Marcus, can you remember basic training with her! Jesus! Anya I’m not kidding she’d run us until we bled! She once chewed my ass off for dropping my rifle when I tried to scale a car.” Laughed Dom.
“Oh yeh! She nearly shoved it up your ass!” Marcus laughed loudly remembering the memory fondly. Then something clicked...Dom wouldn’t know about Annabelle, they’d been together for a while before they enlisted. “Dom...”
“You know what got me about your mother, her voice. It was so prim and proper,” Dom carried on smiling putting on a convincing impersonation of her accent. “But the words she’d come out with! My god! I’ve never heard a woman use that sort of language since my mother burned the holiday roast.” Anya laughed and nodded agreements. I’ll tell him some other time.
“Give her our regards next time you see her,” Marcus smiled. Nodding again a strange look crossed Anya’s face; her deep green eyes looked like they were scanning him.
“That gear said your name was Fenix...you’re not any relation to...” Dom suddenly stiffened and looked at Marcus apprehensively.
“Unfortunately yes.” He answered harshly taking a swift gulp of his whisky. Anya recognised the end of that conversation and awkwardly sipped from her wine.
“Whose Maria?” she asked quickly recovering the conversation.
“What?” asked Marcus, Anya quickly pointed to Dom’s arm where a new tattoo sat on his shoulder. “Shit man! I mean I love her as much as you do but you’ve been married for only three years and you’ve already got her name tattooed on you?” Dom smiled and looked down lovingly at his new body art. It was of an angel appearing from the top of a heart with her wings encasing it; a large banner surrounded the heart with the word ‘Maria’ written within its black ink borders.
“Well I thought I’m going to be in a hell hole war zone for god knows how many months at a time I’ll need a way to remember her. Just wait, I’ll get another for Benedicto when I can afford to.”
“What you doing here anyway man? I thought you were serving on the fronts with Echo.”
“I was but Major Hoffman called me back here for something, not sure what. Probably another fucking squad change.” He said spitefully. “I hate that guy,”
“Hoffman?” said their newest friend. “Oh I dunno, he’s alright.”
“Hoffman? Big guy? Never smiles? Got a six foot pole up his ass?” asked Dom with a confused expression. Anya laughed nearly coughing back up her mouthful of wine.
“Yes him...he’s a nice guy. Deep down.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” whispered Dom. “So Anya tell us about yourself.”
“Not much to tell really, only child. Raised by my mother, never knew my father, went to the academy before joining the COG. My mother wanted me to serve on the fronts but...” she looked suddenly ashamed.
“It’s not for everyone.” Said Marcus trying to sound reassuring, Anya smiled at him gloriously.
“Thanks...So instead of serving on the fronts I decided to become an Operator. The most use I could be for the gears on the front lines. What about you Dom?”
“Well youngest of two brothers...three brothers if you count this big idiot,” he said pushing him on the shoulder. “One son, been with the COG since I was eighteen so...nearly ten years now and loved every minute of it, served it mostly with Marcus here until he was chosen.” Dom said with a laugh.
“Hey I put your name forward for recommendation,”
“For what?” asked Anya looking slightly bewildered.
“You’re with C Company!” she shouted loudly. Dom and Marcus laughed as she blushed horribly as several people turned around to look at her.
“Well the chosen ones are.” Proclaimed Dom with a smile. Marcus shook his head and downed his drink.
“I heard about the mission you pulled at the Anvil Gate, is it true it was just five of you that blew up that patrol?”
“Oh here were go...” moaned Dom.
“Yeh,” said Marcus feeling embarrassed.
“Wow...” she said smiling.
“Hey Marcus!” shouted a deep voice over the music. Marcus turned and saw Victor leaning over the bar looking at the two unconscious gears on his bar floor, “What the fuck happened?”
“Sorry about that Victor, we had to clean up the trash.” Shouted Dom with a smile.
“Did they deserve it?” asked Victor.
“They were trying to hit on Anya.” Shouted back Marcus.
“Oh hey Annie! Didn’t see you there. You OK?”
“Yeh Vic I’m fine, thanks to these two.”
“Good to know. I’ll call the bouncer to take out the trash.”
“Thanks Vic.” Said Anya raising her glass.
“So Anya, got anyone special back home?” asked Dom so calmly it was almost insulting. Marcus kicked him under the desk as hard as he could; Dom simply smiled and kicked him back nearly knocking over the table.
“Erm...no not lucky enough for that. Haven’t found my Knight in shining COG armour.” She joked. Marcus laughed awkwardly and downed his whisky, Dom smiled at her and then to Marcus giving him a look that he knew all too well.
“That’s a shame.” He said still looking at Marcus.
“What about you Marcus?” she asked.
“Marcus hasn’t had a steady girlfriend since junior high.” Dom smiled. “What happened with her again?”
“I can’t remember.” Said Marcus awkwardly.
“She cheated on you...with the star Thrashball player.”
“Yeh...” said Marcus again slamming back his fourth drink. Anya looked sympathetically at him but that only made the feeling worse, Dom stopped and the trio sat awkwardly at the table for several tense silent minutes.
“Oh bingo!” Shouted Anya suddenly vaulting upright nearly tipping over the table.
“You sure can pick em Marcus.” Said Dom looking back at where she disappeared into the crowd.
“Fuck off.” Fighting the urge to punch his lights out Marcus looked around the bar for Anya, the bouncer had dragged out Gram and his friend and now several rooks were taking pictures of the fight scene.
“Hey boys!” Anya’s voice shouted through the music. “Who’s up for an ass whoopin’ in spine darts?”
“Oh hell no!” whispered Dom. “She did not just challenge us. She just challenged us! To hell with this!” he said jumping to his feet running towards the dart board. Marcus laughed and followed him, cracking his knuckles. Poor woman doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into.