Anya timidly peeked into the office of Colonel Hoffman. Hoffman was still in deep discussion with the COG doctor who had gone in over an hour earlier, a Doctor Harris. Harris looked like doctors should. A kindly face wearing a constant expression of confused tiredness. She gave a slight cough before announcing...
"Sir. A Private Clarity Blaze is here to see you."
Hoffman turned round to face Anya, "Fine Lt. send her in."
"Colonel, should I go?" Asked Dr. Harris.
"No, it's okay doc, this shouldn't take long." Harris nodded and took a seat at the far wall just as Pvt. Blaze entered the room, his eyes immediately went to her and he started fumbling with his glasses, adjusting them. She was around six two, with long blond hair and striking blue eyes. She was dressed in the standard gray blouse and pencil skirt worn by women in the COG military, but she wore it well. Harris noted that although she walked with a confidence, there was a certain underlying resentment deep in her eyes. It made her seem vulnerable in a way, and somehow, more appealing.
Hoffman took a blue form off his desk and held it up, "You know what these are private?"
"Yes sir.", Blaze answered with a slight nod of her head, "Discharge papers."
Hoffman reached back and grabbed a bunch of smaller, yellow forms. "How about these private, look familiar to you?"
Blaze let out a small sigh. "Yes sir. They're misdemeanor report forms." Hoffman turned round and replaced the forms on his desk. He leaned on the desk with both hands, taking a moment to compose himself. Doctor Harris noted that as he did his shoulders slumped slightly, his face looked gray and fatigued. Hoffman, on seeing the doctors interest in him stood up and straightened his uniform, adjusted his posture to something more refined. He then turned back to Pvt. Blaze, regarding her with puzzled eyes.
"Goddammit Clarity!" He said finally in exasperation. "What the hell am I supposed to do with you?"
Clarity's expression didn't change. "Allow me to do my job sir, allow me to be a soldier of the Coalition." Her tone was even, unperturbed.
"Clarity, I can't ignore these complaints any longer. You're guilty of multiple dress code violations, and insubordination because you point blank refused ranking officers requests to tie your hair up and wear regulation uniform. They cite you as a distraction and provocation to the men..."
Clarity cut him off, "Provocation sir?...
" There was a hint of anger in her voice. "Like how I provoked Delta Six two years ago?..."
"Damn it Clarity... " Hoffman shook his head sadly. "You know I was mad as hell about the Judge Advocates decision. The whole situation was completely FUBAR. Revok, that smarmy son of b*tch, he's got friends in high places, not to mention an outstanding service record, kid is damn near untouchable. But how it all went down? Made me sick to my stomach. Hell, I even brought it up with Chairman Prescott, for all the good that did. But Clarity, you damn well know I had your back on that one, and I wish things could've turned out different." Clarity's face softened a little, she seemed somewhat regretful.
"I understand sir, and I apologize. I know you had my best interests in mind back then."
"Look, let's at least try to stay on track here. And I gotta ask private, why can't you just tie up your damn hair and wear the regulation uniform?"
"The regulation armor is heavy and cumbersome, sir. As a scout for Echo One I move around a lot more than the other troops, which means I tire faster in the armor. Plus I need a lot more mobility if I'm to do my job correctly. The armor just doesn't suit my role in the squad. We've all lost so much sir, I lost my dad and sister in the orbital bombardment of Ephyra four years ago, and being able to express myself in how I look? It's pretty much all I have left, all that keeps me hanging on."
Hoffman gave a sad smile. "Hell, I knew your daddy Clarity, damn good man. All he ever talked about was his girls. About how he'd bring you and your sister down to the firing range whenever he got the chance. He knew the world was a dangerous place. He wanted you both to be able to take care of yourselves."
"Thank you sir. He was a good man, and he made sure Grace and I knew how to look after ourselves."
"That he did, Clarity, that he did." Hoffman folded his arms and leaned back against his desk. "Where the hell did you get that makeup anyway?"
"The black market sir, in Gallow Halls." Clarity laughed. "Cost me two ration cards and a pack of cigarettes."
"Gallow Halls? So that's where it is now." Hoffman mused rubbing at his chin thoughtfully.
"A raid sir?" Clarity asked, sounding worried.
Hoffman gave a deep throated laugh. "Hell no! The people are bat sh*t crazy as it is without taking away their little vices. No, the black market is here to stay, it's the nature of the game. People will always have needs, and there'll always be someone there to fill those needs." He gave a deep sigh and leaning back took the discharge papers off his desk again. He stared at them. "Sh*t Clarity, what do I do about this? Losing you would be a damn shame."
Doctor Harris stood and held up his hand, looking much like a nervous schoolboy on his first day in class. "Colonel? Sorry, Colonel? I think I might have an idea. I could get one of my colleagues in the psych department to write up an excusory note, to be added to the privates permanent service record. It would exempt her from following the dress code for reasons of mental health. Sure, it'd be pure BS but perfectly legal all the same."
A grin slowly spread across Hoffmans face, he looked to Clarity, "What do you say Clarity? Sound like an idea?"
"Why yes sir, thank you doctor, that would be great." Clarity responded, slightly flushed.
"Then it's a done deal. Good thinking doc."
Doctor Harris smiled sheepishly, "My pleasure, I'll get it done this afternoon. You know... I've had an encounter with Lt. Revok too. The S.O.B. broke my damn nose." Clarity laughed at this, and tried to cover her mouth with her hand.
"I'm sorry Doctor, I don't know why I found that funny, but I did. I apologize."
Harris scratched at the back of his head, looking a little embarrassed, "No, it's perfectly alright private. Guess it is kinda funny." He responded with a grin.
"Okay private, that's enough. I guess we sorted this out so, you're dismissed." Hoffman said. Clarity started to head for the door when Hoffman interrupted her, "Ohh and private?
"Glad you're sticking around, we can really use good soldiers like you in this fight."
"Yes Sir. Thank you sir. You can count on me."
Hoffman watched her leave and his thoughts grew dark.
And how many good soldiers are we gonna lose in this fight?...