Dom X - The Complete Box Set - M.S. Parker
March in San Antonio wasn't as hot as July, but it was hot enough in the damn sun that I'd soaked clean through my t-shirt before we were half-way through. I was used to it though. Even Texas heat couldn't compare to some of the sandboxes I'd been sent to. As for the exercises, today's weren't any more strenuous than anything else I'd done in my nine-year military career.
Hell, they weren't really that much crazier than the shit I'd grown up with, and these were a lot safer. The places the army sent me were sometimes safer than where I'd grown up.
I pushed the thoughts aside, raking my hand through my short, dark blond hair. I'd never kept it very long to begin with, but the day I'd enlisted, it'd been buzzed short and I'd kept it that way ever since. It was clean and efficient. I liked that.
In fact, that was why I liked the military, and why, after the chaos of my childhood, I'd thrived. I supposed, in some subconscious way, I'd craved the sort of order this life demanded. The stability that came even in chaotic circumstances.
Speaking of which...
I rolled across the short open space and stopped behind a large rock. I glanced over at the pair of young soldiers I'd left a few feet away. Both were watching me with wide, intelligent eyes. I gestured with my left hand, letting them know what I wanted them to do next.
This particular training exercise wasn’t particularly strenuous in the physical department, but it was definitely more mentally demanding. Our goal was up ahead and, so far, my team had been doing exceptionally well. Just a few more minutes and we should be gold.
Then I saw it. Movement out of the corner of my eye.
I flipped onto my back, raising my rifle as I went. I took the shot even as I yelled at the other two to go. Sacrificing myself was the best tactical move here, and I had no problem doing it.
Except my shot was accurate...and the other guy's wasn't.
As he went down, I rolled again and scrambled to my feet. Up ahead, another firefight was breaking out, and I headed straight into the thick of it without a second thought.
Less than two minutes later, it was all over, and we'd done what we'd set out to do. There were shouts and congratulations, but I didn't join in other than to tell my people they'd done well. I wasn't exactly a quiet person, but boisterous wasn't really a word I usually used to describe myself.
“So, Sergeant, is it true?” The youngest of the soldiers came toward me, his outstretched hand holding a bottle of water.
“Woodley, right?” I asked, taking the bottle.
The kid nodded, and I noticed that his skin was red and peeling underneath the sand and grime. He’d need to remember sunscreen or he’d get cooked if he was sent to the Middle East.
Or any place with more than five minutes of sun.
“Is what true?” I drained half of the water in two gulps and let it cool me as I swallowed.
“That you're from Philly?”
I nodded, not saying anything, but rather waited for him to continue. I learned that at a young age. It was always better to remain quiet; keep anyone from noticing me. It'd served me well before I'd enlisted and then almost as much after. Despite my background, I hadn't been the sort who smarted off, so I'd rarely gotten myself in trouble. And I'd also learned a lot more than I probably should have because I listened more than I talked. More than once, it'd given me knowledge I'd found useful.
“I'm from Philly too,” he said. He had one of those baby faces that made him look like he was barely fifteen. “Chestnut Hill. Where are you from?”
I finished my water. “West.”
A shout came from behind me and I turned. A tall, lean soldier with bronze hair and crystal blue eyes trotted toward me. He was all smiles, but that didn't tell me anything. Zed Ray was always smiling. I'd watched the fool grinning like an idiot while we were taking fire, his face streaked with sweat and dirt, those damn teeth gleaming. More than once I thought he'd end up getting himself shot because of those teeth.
“Seventy-two-hour leave, Philly.” Zed slapped me on the shoulder, then made a face at the sweat on his hand. “Damn, X. You seriously need to take a shower or we're never gonna get you laid.”