The girl loved her best friend. He always brought fun wherever he went. It didn't matter if people thought she was strange talking to the thin air. Even the kids thought she was weird...but with Jack Frost at her side, he always brought fun...and they forgot about teasing her.
What the girl remembered was his magic. The magic that created fun. He'd throw a blue snowball or blow sparkling blue snowflakes in her face. Then it would sort of tickle...then she would burst into peals of laughter, quelling her anger or sadness. Then they would play...having lots of snow fun. Winter was her favorite season of all. She liked the snow days. That meant no school...and that meant she could play with her best friend.
The morning reveille played on her cell phone at 4:00 AM. Colleen blinked out of her sleep and got up with a spring in her step. She could imagine the other cadets would be sluggish, getting out of their bunks.
Today's the day! she cheered silently.
Colleen did her ritual of what she did when she woke up: folding her night clothes neatly, placing them in the dresser, made her bed in the hospital corner folds as neatly as possible. Then she pulled on her uniform and grabbed her gear that she had packed up the night before. She left her house to the building where she and her platoon were to meet, always on time (which meant being fifteen minutes early; if one was ACTUALLY on time, that meant one was late).
She arrived at the building where she was supposed to meet with the commander along with her platoon with all her gear she needed for SERE training. She made sure everyone was there, making sure the cadets stood at attention. She would glare at any fidgeting cadets; one icy glance from the Ice Queen's green eyes and they would immediately stop. When the commander gave the at-ease, everyone obeyed.
After the morning meeting, Colleen and her platoon were to begin SERE training. When her commander asked if everyone was present and accounted for, she confirmed with a clear response. When dismissed, she and her platoon went to grab their required gear, heading to a classroom.
First, they had to sit through a lecture about the training; how to survive in different environments in all extreme temperatures, what to use, what plants or wildlife one can or cannot consume, etc. Though the lecture part was boring, she willed herself to listen and learn everything she needed to know. Colleen took notes since it was important to know everything being the platoon sergeant so she could teach the cadets on the SERE exercise.
After the lecture part, she and her platoon got into a helicopter and were dropped in the middle of the forest. The commander gave Colleen instructions of their mission in the woods: survive. Evade enemies. Resist and escape if captured. This would be their test.
Jack Frost was perched on a tree branch in the forest, his toes curled around it as he squatted to observe the group: they consisted mostly young men and a few women, all dressed in the same uniform. They looked like clones. His blue eyes darted amongst them until he recognized a name. Jack got closer to get a better look...yes! It was her: his former playmate, all grown up. His Snow Angel.
Hanging upside-down with his feet pressed against the bough like he did so long ago, he looked at his former playmate. He watched as she was ordering the young soldiers around...like Toothiana, except harshly. He frowned a bit when he saw the girl he once knew. He hated seeing her so strict. No one should be that strict. Not even North was this uptight. Still, he could see that lonely little Army brat who desired fun.
Jack was surprised, yet proud she had chosen to become a soldier. He recalled the little Army brat telling him this since her Daddy was a soldier and she wanted to be one.
It was early springtime and some of the snow was starting to melt, but it was still cold and it was raining. Everyone in Colleen's platoon was wet, cold, muddy and miserable in the survival part of the training. Colleen was hardly bothered by the cold. She recalled her first three months at Basic Training: how miserable and uncomfortable she was. How the drill sergeants yelled, spraying her face with spit and saying degrading things just to get her to do more calisthenics or to run faster in a long-mile run...in every weather and temperature as possible. Yet she didn't give up.
She was an American soldier...a guardian of freedom. And a soldier NEVER accepted defeat. NEVER quit.
Colleen instructed her platoon to look for food and clean water, set up a shelter. They had to survive. The cadets struggled to get a tent up as quickly as possible, slipping and sliding in the mud.
With a smirk, Jack decided to have a little fun with his former playmate. She was standing near the tree where he was as if she were looking right at him. In childish impudence, Jack stuck his tongue out at her, mocking her serious expression. She didn't react. She couldn't see him. Jack blew the freezing wind towards Colleen's face to see how she would react.
Colleen felt the icy breeze, shutting her eyes and shivered slightly. With a furrowed brow, she looked towards where the breeze came from. She heard a faint impish giggle from somewhere that sounded like a fairy. She seemed to remember hearing that same laugh a few times in her life.
"Weird!" she muttered, shaking her head.
Jack tried something new. He leaped up to one of the higher branches of the tree above her and tipped it, letting all the snow on the pine needles fall right on top of her head. Jack laughed, floating down to stand next to her against a tree. He wished she could see him.
He watched a rather annoyed Colleen look up and shiver as she felt snow run down her back. Squinting, she looked around. She swore she heard the familiar laugh again...a few childhood memories flashed. She shrugged it off and shook off the snow.
"Fucking snow!" she cursed quietly. Then she resumed ordering the cadets around, moving away from the tree.
Jack saw two cadets a few feet away, whispering amonst themselves. He listened in on their conversation.
"Can you believe Frostine the Ice Bitch?" one cadet whispered. "I wish someone would pelt her with a snowball. That would make my day."
"I dunno," said another cadet. "Wouldn't that piss her off even more? She'll think it was us. Besides, I don't want to be on KP duty."
"Man, I would gladly shake hands with the one who has guts to throw one at the Ice Queen. She's so cold that I bet she wouldn't even feel it."
Upon hearing the cadets complaining, the frost spirit grinned from ear to ear at the ideas. He scooped up a handful of melting snow with his cold, skinny fingers before gently blowing on it. Content it was perfect, he waited for the right opportunity and then threw it at Colleen, managing to hit her right on the forehead. He laughed and fell back a bit, simply watching to see if she would give the cadets a hard time for it.
Colleen felt the sting of something cold and hard smack her in the face. Blinking her eyes, her face flushed with rage. She was really pissed off. Someone in her platoon decided to be funny and pull a prank.
The two complaining cadets saw what had happened...their mouths dropped open in shock. One covered his mouth with a hand to suppress a laugh. Jack laughed, seeing how mortified the cadets looked.
Colleen shouted harshly for her platoon to fall in. Jack watched as the cadets got into line, standing stiffly at attention. The Ice Queen glared at her platoon with burning green eyes.
"Who the FUCK threw this?!" she yelled at them, showing them the remains of a snowball.
"Dude, was that...?" whispered the cadet wide-eyed.
The other shook his head, also surprised. "No, Evans. Wasn't me."
Her platoon stared in complete silence; although it was amusing to see the hardened sergeant get pelted by a snowball, they knew it was best to stay quiet. They willed themselves to not laugh at the Ice Queen.
"Let's have a little fun," said Jack Frost. "Shall we?"
He blew some snowflakes along with his magic of fun towards the soldiers' faces. The cadets felt something tickle...they tried to resist, but they couldn't help it. Suppressed smiles appeared and then stifled giggles spilled out. Colleen glared at the idiots who dared to laugh.
"You think this is funny?" she hissed. "You think being here in the middle of enemy territory is funny?!"
The cadets tried to suppress their laughter and smiles, but they just couldn't help it. Colleen was pissed off that they were treating this like a big joke. Damn young recruits!
"This is the GODDAMN Army!" she shouted. The cadets stopped laughing immediately, flinching at the harsh tone of their leader. "Nothing about being a soldier is funny! There are papas out there, waiting to ambush us...and you think this shit is funny?"
"Wow, Snow Angel!" Jack Frost laughed, amused by Colleen's anger. "You turned into a real hard-ass."
"Now I'm gonna ask you all again," she said, calming herself down. "And if any of you don't have the balls to be honest, I will make sure you all are on KP duty for a month, scrubbing garbage cans. Is that clear?!"
"Yes, Sarge," the platoon answered.
"Now, who threw the snowball?" she said, eying each young face of her group.
Though nobody in her squad wanted to be stuck doing Kitchen Patrol, they honestly didn't know who did it. The cadets were shaking a bit and looked at each other in confusion.
"Well?!" she demanded sharply, her evergreen eyes narrowed.
"Seriously, Sarge," said Private First Class Evans bravely. "It wasn't any of us. We were all doing what you told us to do."
She stared at Evans who apparently had the balls to speak up.
"Can you confirm that?" she hissed at him, making him shake in his boots.
Everyone confirmed their orders from her. Colleen was a little convinced, yet there was always a smart-ass among them that thought it would be funny to provoke her wrath. After all, nobody really liked her. Not that she cared if they did or not. In the Army, it didn't matter who liked you or not. Duty for country and its citizens came first.
"Alright then," she said. "As for your childish laughing, we're going on a five mile run."
The cadets groaned and frowned.
"You shouldn't be so harsh on them," Jack murmured to her, even though he knew she couldn't hear.
He then leaned back against a tree and sighed, staring at the woman before him. He missed talking to her. He wished she could see him again. Deciding he had done enough to the poor cadets, he began to float off, having business else where anyways.
"Now, let's finish up and..." Colleen continued, ignoring their whines.
Before she could finish her sentence, her platoon was captured by instructors playing enemy bound them, placed burlap sacks on their heads and dragged them through the woods, shouting at them.
In midair, Jack had heard the commotion and whipped his head around, quickly moving in to see what was going on. That's when he saw Colleen and her team being transported. Were they prisoners? By their own people? Was Colleen in danger? Jack floated above, watching with wide eyes. He followed, his eyebrows furrowed as he thought to himself how cruel they were for something so simple. He was horrified when he saw they were locked inside what looked like a makeshift cage with barbed wire, shoved together like cattle.
He didn't understand what was going on. Everything seemed scary where Colleen was. Serious. They held weapons that exploded loudly; they killed or hurt people. There was no fun where Colleen supposedly was. Nor was it allowed. He wondered why this so called Army didn't allow fun. He didn't understand this whole military thing.
"Whatever happens," Colleen said to the cadets. "Say NOTHING! Don't tell them anything!"
Colleen was dragged out first by three men: one was holding a rifle, pressing it into the small of her back while the other two frog-marched her towards a small tent with her hands tied behind her back with some kind of plastic restraint. Jack floated towards the window and watched as they shoved her roughly in a chair, watching the scene with terrified eyes.
Colleen listened as the instructors asked her questions. She knew this was part of the exercise. The cable tie bit into her wrists harshly. She evaded her 'captors' interrogation with some smart remarks or evasive answers. Sometimes, she just sat there silently, stubbornly refusing to answer. Nope. She knew that if this should ever happen in real life, it was a betrayal to her country. Only answer with name, rank and serial number. Nothing else.
They laid a piece of paper in front of her, which she refused to sign. Then, she was backhanded in the face hard, making the chair and herself fall to the ground. Her cheek throbbed with pain and she tasted blood in her mouth, spitting a little...tears sprang from her eyes, but she blinked them back.
Have to be strong. I'm Army strong, she told herself.
She just kept telling herself that this was all part of the training. The enemy would not restrain themselves just because she was a woman. She knew what to expect: rape, torture, beatings...anything to drive fear into her to get her to talk. She knew she had to protect her platoon and herself, her country...she would rather die than give the enemy what they wanted. No matter what the enemy offered, always refuse and resist. Even if it meant by pain of death. That was what soldiers did.
Jack was horrified when he witnessed this brutal scene inside the hut. The men were hurting Colleen. Why were they doing that? It didn't make sense. Colleen just seemed to shake it off, unaffected and unafraid.
He watched as the men dragged her outside towards a huge tub of water, which they proceeded to duck her head under. It was frigid. She blew air out of her nose in hopes of surviving.
Don't struggle. It only makes it worse. Colleen told herself.
She was pulled up from the freezing water, spluttering, her clothes were soaking wet and shivering. The instructors demanded her to talk, but she continued to resist. They shoved her head under the water a few more times...the frigid water began to numb her face and body. Jack and the rest of the platoon watched as Colleen was tortured. He saw how scared they were...they looked like children. Some were on the verge of crying.
"Why don't any one of you help her?!" Jack shouted angrily, yet knowing none of them could hear him. "She'll freeze to death, you fools!"
He quickly made a move, tossing snowballs at all the men holding her back and knocking them over with ice under their feet. The instructors stopped, looking around, confused. The one who was ducking Colleen slipped...her head hit something hard. She stopped moving...the instructor who was ducking her pulled her out of the tub.
"Uh...Sarge?" said one of the instructors, shaking her. "You alright?"
When she didn't respond, they were shocked with realization...
"Shit! Oh shit!" the instructor gasped. "Get the AED, call MEDEVAC."
Soldiers scattered, using the radio to call for help. They cut her restraints, ripped open her jacket and shirt, hurriedly drying her off, compressing her chest...Jack watched in pure horror,
"What kind of place is this!? You kill your own men and women for training?!" he shouted, wanting to whack the people with his staff, but it only sent a chill through them.
Jack watched as she lay there, unresponsive. He knelt down to Colleen, looking worried as frozen tears pricked at the corner of his eyes. Her face was deathly pale and her lips were grey blue. Her hair was soaking wet, sticking to her face. Hurriedly drying her off, one of the instructors compressed her chest...
"Cmon, come back to me...I can't lose you. Please," he murmured, wanting to touch her, but he knew what good that would do.
"Snow angel," he whispered.
AN: papas is a military code for 'possible enemies'.