|This article, The Onyx Chronicles/A Rainy Day, was written by Actene. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
Thunder rumbled off in the distance as rain poured down in sheets over Camp Curahee. The compound, usually a throbbing hub of children receiving field training from barking drill sergeants, was still beneath the downpour. Not even Chief Petty Officer Franklin Mendez, the camp’s head instructor and the scourge of the trainees’ existence, had the stomach for exercises in weather like this. The children were in their barracks, talking quietly amongst themselves, playing card games, or busying themselves with their latest homework assignments. The drill instructors kept to the camp’s administrative buildings, grateful for time off from keeping the trainees of Gamma Company in line. The camp’s equipment and vehicles had all been secured under heavy tarps to keep the water out. Everything and everyone was out of the rain.
All but two.
Side by side in front of the main administrative complex, two trainees were splayed out beneath the torrent, soaked to the bone from nearly two hours of unrelenting exposure to the merciless elements. Their fingers and boots sank into the mud as they lay in the position of front leaning rest, keeping their bodies suspended precariously over the ground with trembling arms. Occasionally one would glance at the other or shoot an indignant glare up at the main building, but for the most part their heads hung low, centimeters from the sea of mud below.
The first of the unfortunate duo let out a hissing grunt that was barely audible over the sound of the torrential rain. He spat into the mud and shook his head to clear his soaked blonde bangs out of his eyes. “This blows.”
Beside him, the second trainee was struggling to keep himself up. He kept shifting his weight, letting out soft, panting moans as he forced himself to stay in position. The rain beat down on his recently-shaved scalp, coursing down amidst the stubble of black hair. “Tell me about it.”
The first trainee shot the second a dirty look. “This is all your fault. If you hadn’t been caught—“
“Hey,” the first protested. “I didn’t get caught, those babies from Team Halberd ratted us out. Besides, it was your idea in the first—shit!”
His arms buckled and he crashed face-first into the mud. The first trainee watched with exhausted amusement as the sputtering boy pushed himself back up and made a valiant effort to clean himself off by wriggling his body like a dog. A few globs of wet dirt dropped forlornly back to the ground, revealing the numbers stenciled onto the front of his sopping jumpsuit: 294.
“Bunch of wimps,” the first agreed eager to get his mind off his aching arms. “I should have known they couldn’t take a little joke without running off to the DIs. Not that you’re any better. You couldn’t have pissed yourself faster when Mendez called us up.”
The trainee designated as 294 shot the first a dirty look. “You’re an asshole, Ralph.”
Ralph raised his voice as high as he could, which wasn’t far after two hours in front leaning rest. “I’m sorry Chief Petty Officer, it won’t happen again Chief Petty Officer, please don’t hurt me Chief Petty Officer…”
“I thought he was going to kill me,” 294 protested. “When he asked me where I got the parts…”
Ralph tried to conjure up a laugh, which staggered out as a hoarse cough instead. “I thought Terrence would shit himself. He thought you were going to sell him out.”
“Well, I didn’t,” said 294, but any anger in his voice couldn’t make it past the fresh coating of mud over his ashen face. “Didn’t squeal on you, either.”
“Yeah, well, here I am,” Ralph muttered. The rain beat down on his back like a drum. “Guess I shouldn’t have been so loud about getting even with Halberd after that last exercise.”
“And I shouldn’t have let me talk you into it.” The other boy groaned, fighting to keep his arms extended. “This sucks.”
“I didn’t think you’d go for it,” Ralph replied. “I didn’t even know you could build bombs like that. Didn’t you flunk demolitions?”
“Haha, yeah, real funny, Ralph. Jackass. I built the damn thing and planted it for you and this is the thanks I get.”
Ralph considered things a bit longer as his hands sank deeper into the mud. He was almost up to his forearms. “Guess we’re lucky we didn’t kill anyone, huh, Simon?”
The trainee known as Simon-G294 made a face through his mud mask. “Now you think about that.”
“Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.” Ralph smiled. “We’ll have to do a lot of thinking to top this one.”
“Oh, so it’s we now? If you want more punishments, fine by me. I’m behind on my assignments as it is.”
“Of course it’s we, you jerk,” Ralph said, working his hands and inching up away from the mud. “We’re a team. You and Terrence are the only ones who helped me this time, but Mary was killing herself trying not to laugh. And Jake, well, he’ll come around. Eventually.”
“You think so?”
“Hey, if a loser like you can help me pull off stunts like that one, imagine what we can do when everyone pitches in.”
“Is that supposed to be a compliment?”
“You’re such an asshole.”
“Oh, like you didn’t enjoy every minute of it.”
Simon was quiet for several minutes. The rain pounded down on the hapless trainees, the dark sky showing no signs of relenting. They foundered together in the muck in silence until the smaller boy spoke up again.
“I’ve never set up a remote charge like that before,” he admitting, smiling in spite of their predicament. “And measuring the right amount from those scraps Terrence grabbed, that worked out a lot better than I was expecting.”
He looked over and gave Ralph a sly grin. “I’m thinking next time we go for multiple charges linked to the same trigger. Really give the DIs a headache. And then we plant the evidence on someone else. Halberd, maybe, or Stiletto.”
Ralph laughed. “Now you’re talking. You're scary sometimes, you know that, runt?”
“Call me that again and the next charge goes under your bunk.”
“I’m a bit more worried about Halberd than I am about you. No offense.”
Simon considered this. “Yeah, they were a little pissed.”
“Did you see them after the bomb went off?” Ralph laughed again, his mud-soaked body quivering with mirth. “Covered in shit. I don’t even want to know how you snuck it in the waste collector like that.”
“I’ve got ways.” Simon was still fighting the urge to drop and just simply drown in mud, but he couldn’t help but share in the laughter. “And the look on their faces…”
“Hell yeah. Totally worth it.”
Ralph’s laughter faded away. The rain kept thundering down as they struggled to stay above the rising mud. Up ahead, the lights from the barracks and administrative buildings winked mockingly amidst the deluge. Ralph glanced at his partner in crime once more. “This blows.”