Dahlia cracked the hatch on her mech, barely even hearing the noises and chaos in the hangar bay. She wanted to kill him, to rip his helmet off and ring his cocky neck. She wanted to arm her weapons and hunt his ass down right there in the station. She ripped her own helmet off instead and dumped it on the deck of the mech cockpit with a loud thunk. Lifting herself out with both arms, she crab-walked onto the ladder of her bay and jumped to the floor halfway, in a hurry to find Jackson and beat some sense into him.
She’d never seen anything like this from Jackson before, at least not this dangerous, and she’d damned well better never see it again.
His job in a battle was suppressive fire and recon scans. That’s it. He drove the ATgyro and it wasn’t a mech in the sense hers was. It was a mechanized, weaponized artillery vehicle designed for short bursts of speed and to carry the heavy scan equipment that gave their mercenary unit the edge. His scans could take in the entire battlefield, sighting the enemy for miles and miles. It was made with that function in mind, able to fly over any terrain and blow big holes in everything from far away. That’s it.
The AT was always the last thing loaded on the Redemption and the first thing off, so she’d bet he was already in the gear up preparing to wash off the battle sweat.
She headed that way, her furious gait telling everyone to steer clear. As it was early morning hours station time, the offices were deserted. She rushed past the reception area to the back where the showers were located.
Men’s showers were on the right. She pushed the door with one hand and busted through it, marching straight up to Jackson who was out of his jumpsuit and standing there at a locker in nothing but his skivvies. She was so angry she didn’t even look at his ass in the tight briefs.
“What in the hell did you think you were doing?” She demanded. He tensed, and then turned around slowly. She noticed he had some sense of self-preservation and didn’t smirk at her at least. “I had it!”
“You’re welcome.” He answered quietly.
She stood toe to toe with him by this time. She could hear a few of the other pilots shuffling either to the showers or to the door. No one wanted to be here for this one, apparently.
“When I need you to play hero, I’ll let you know. That wasn’t even remotely intelligent. Suppressive fire. Do you know the concept? Not drive your AT off a cliff or straight at a 100 ton heavy mech with an incendiary cannon. Suppressive fire. There was no reason whatsoever to risk the Gyro.”
“D,” he said even softer than before.
“Every damn time you go out now, I’m thinking this will be the last time. One of these days, you’re bound to kill yourself. That’s the law of averages. No one can behave so consistently like an ass and keep walking away.”
“You were pinned. I attempted to be the distraction that’s all. I’ve done it a hundred times.”
“I was pinned in terrain your AT couldn’t handle. Clearly! Have you seen your mech?”
“Don’t tell me my job. I know tactics, and I know a hopeless situation when I see one.” Okay, now, he was mad. Suited her just fine, because she wanted to strangle him. “That was a heavy mech. You were outgunned.”
“That’s why I learned evasive maneuvers. It’s what they’re for.”
“D, stop acting like a child.”
“Acting like a child? Acting like a child? Are you trying to die? Seriously. Because after this afternoon’s stunt and right here, right now, I’m thinking you must have death wish.”
He leaned down into her face and turned on his trademark mocking charm. “Baby, tell me you care. Say it once with a straight face.”
She snapped. Something inside just popped. She slapped his face. He always knew her button, knew just how to provoke a reaction by insinuating something about their past relationship. All he had to do was drop a baby in her ear to really hurt her.
“I’m taking this to Hopper. You’re out of control.”
He rubbed his now blooming red cheek. “I’m out of control?”
“Yeah, you are, and I’m gone.”
“What’s that mean?”, he asked, suddenly paying more attention.
“I’m gonna ask to roll back. We were wrong. This,” she waved between them. “This won’t work. I can’t work with you.”
“You’re gonna take a hit on your contract? Why? Why would you?”
She got back in his face. “Why would you take an AT after a Rolins 75 heavy mech?” He swallowed hard. She watched his Adam’s apple bob.
“I couldn’t stand there and watch you die”, he whispered.
“Well, then. Maybe you just answered your own question.” With one last look at his dumbfounded expression, she turned on a heel and left the same way she came, marching straight across the hall and into the opposite gear up room. There weren’t many women who chose this job, but the ones who did were usually pretty no frills kind of women, therefore, this room was exactly the same as the other. Tiled community showers, lockers on most of the walls and a big bank of sinks and mirrors were the utilitarian fixtures in the room.