Discovery: Chapter 1, Scene 1

Just Another Day

The Gabrielle Dolly

They thought she was dead. For certain given values of they, thought, and dead. Others of them — to wit, Aphrodite — had chosen to hide her and merely pretend she was dead. Where they — to wit, Aphrodite — chose to hide her was at Camp Meander, the Troll Guard training facility in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, deep in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Six months before her Genesis ever even happened. Gods could do that. They could travel back in time — upriver into the past, against time’s current. But then they had to travel downstream at the same rate as the rest of us: sixty seconds to the minute.

And, since the dolly had a metric fuck-ton of catching up to do, and since it occurred to them (including, but not limited to Aphrodite) that they might as well kill two birds with one stone, they decided to put her through training in the Troll Guard with the aim of making her an Agent Specialist in the Troll Action Teams. Which they would instantiate sometime in the future.

Problem being: she was a Man, not a Troll.

Not that, as Pete (the Troll Guard second lieutenant who would, in the future, get her out of Dodge on that night), told her, they could keep her if she didn’t want to stay. Which she didn’t. The only thing that was keeping her there was a combination of her own pride and mulish stubbornness. They two kept her from running far away and never stopping, but they didn’t — couldn’t — prevent her from weeping in secret into her pillow at night when she thought nobody would take notice. And, for the most part, they didn’t. Take notice, that is. Whether they accepted notice, taken or given regardless, or not was whole other story altogether.

It was just another day. It was always just another day, she assumed, not knowing any different. She sat nearly alone in the loud and crowded mess hall and reluctantly spooned bite after bite of viscous oatmeal and too damned few raisins into her mouth, chewing too long, and choking it down between sips of lukewarm blackish coffee. All around her, her platoon mates and the Pasa from the rest of the training battalion chattered away in their own tongue in all their varied accents — this pair from Jirhum Ra, that foursome from somewhere in Siberia, that whole squad from the Canadian Rockies. She alone understood not a word — not syllable or phoneme, one, of it.

She told herself it was only going on her seventh month, that it would get better. In time. Down the road. Real Soon Now. It had to get better. She only had to be patient, right? But right now, nothing but her stony pride kept her from breaking down and crying right out here in front of the Gods and everybody. It was hard to chew even oatmeal-and-raisins with choked throat and clenched jaw, but she managed it.

Before she really realized something was up, a current of commentary ran through the crowded hall. She noticed first a change in the general note of conversation, then the volume and tempo of it. She lifted her head and looked around. Across the table, Li’h Loah, the billilaalu lance corporal who was the assistant training NCO of the dolly’s unit, was half-standing at her seat, a fork still in her hand balancing a lump of scrambled eggs that, as the dolly watched, fell off to land on the table.

Little Low, as the dolly corrupted the other’s name, was looking back over her shoulder toward the mess hall’s main door. Someone — several someones — stood there. While nearly everyone in the mess hall was dressed in some kind of work casual uniform — CADPAT BDUs, coveralls, running togs — this handful of people, frekun ang to a Troll — were clad in a fashion more suited for… well, the dolly didn’t know. She could tell there was a difference, though, from the details — the carry harnesses loaded with ammo and other hanging bits, the helmets with dusty goggles slipped up off faces covered with grime except where the goggles had rested the moment before, the breathless tension in stances, the ready rifles slung casually from shoulders accustomed to weight of arms. The Troll captain in command of this unit was waiting for the approach of someone from within the mess hall.

One of the differences between the Troll Guard and nearly every other military in the world — the dolly had been here less than twelve hours and had already heard this repeated a dozen times or more with almost overweening pride — the officers and enlisted personnel all ate together — from the Colonel in charge of the regiment to — in the dolly’s case — the newest, lowliest, most unwilling recruit. It was, in fact, the Colonel in command of Regiment Arcadia, in camp for his mandatory annual training rotation, who was summoned now from his breakfast.

A frekun ang in perfect shape, absolutely properly turned out, nearly seven feet tall and perfectly proportioned, the Colonel rose from his seat at a long table at the front of the hall, with all his command presence, to meet the newcomers. The dolly recognized the leader of the newcomers. It was the dashing young captain into whose hands she had been entrusted that night six months before — from her perspective — the night of her Genesis. His name was Robert O and he was called Bobbo. He was nearly as tall as the Colonel and quite handsome for a Troll. The conversation between the captain and colonel was short and — it seemed to the dolly — urgent, as the Colonel quickly left with the visitors.

The tone of conversation in the mess hall shifted instantly, like a flock of birds or a school of fish reacting in concert to the approach of a predator. Across the table, Little Low sat back down, only then noticing the dollop of egg on the table. She used her fork to — absently, as though not really seeing or meaning what she was doing — pick the egg up and dump it on her plate. Then she set the fork down on her plate with an overloud clatter and looked across and up the table at the three-striper she assisted.

“What, Sarge?” she asked.

“They’ll tell us when they want us to know, Lance,” that worthy replied.

“You think it’s…?” She made a vague, but pointed, gesture across the table at the dolly, who bridled at that.

“She can hear you, you know,” the dolly growled.

“She should be seen and not heard,” the sergeant reminded her. “Eat your breakfast. Whatever happens, you’ll need it.”

“Yes, Sergeant,” the dolly muttered.

“What’s that? Is there a baby Troll squeaking?”

“YES, SERGEANT!” the dolly answered, her voice rebounding from the rafters of the place.

“That’s better,” the sergeant said quietly.

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One thought on “Discovery: Chapter 1, Scene 1

  1. Good start. I am anxiously awaiting the sequel to your first book, which was highly enjoyable.