RRTS was a unit of Special Operations within the Marine Corps. Only the elite and highly skilled joined. Their missions were those that require more than a simple military team could manage. Adrenaline flowed through their blood. Hell, adrenaline was their blood source. Their life source. It was the reason Vera Dimitrov joined the Marines at eighteen. To be more than what the world thought she was. To help people to needed it. The corps became her family. She worked her ass off to be an equal to the men, even recruited into the RRTS Special Ops unit. She showed her lethal combat skills, earning her valuable place on the squad.

Then it ended. One moment, she was Staff Sargent Vera Dimitrov of RRTS Six Special Ops, and with the pull of a trigger...it was gone.

Vera took a deep breath and slammed her fist into the black punching bag that hung from the barracks ceiling. Her fist slammed into the bag, only shifting the weight slightly. She retraced her hand and lashed out with her left fist, though less forceful than with her right. She moved around the bag, throwing punch after punch into the bag. It was the only thing physical activity she could do without causing any further discomfort to her recovering body- and keep her doctor off her ass about it. Behind her, the other members of her Unit were lounging about the barracks, waiting for leave transport like her. Only they were coming back in a few days.

Vera scoffed to herself as she threw another punch at the bag. Lucky sons of bitches.

Unit 6 consisted of nine soldiers total, including herself. She was the only female on the team, and one of five in all RRTS units. And that suited her just fine. Vera got along with most of her teammates, save for two, but it wasn't to the point that it hindered field performance. When push came to shove, the unit pulled together and got the job done. That was what made them so deadly.

The RRTS barracks was close quarters. Everyone slept in the same room, even Vera. Their beds were steel frames cots accompanied by a crap mattress and thin ass sheets. The cots were spread along the opposite walls of the room, providing a walkway line between the rows. Steel lockers were placed in between each cot, labeled for each soldier, and separating the cots along the walls. On Vera's end of the barracks was a set of worktables for equipment or weapons checks.

Sargent Roark Gannon, 'Destroyer', stood across the barracks from Vera. He was a large, muscular African American. Destroyer was a great soldier and a better comrade. Vera thought of him as an older brother figure, a protector. Destroyer stood at six four, towering over Vera by six inches. Enough to make Vera look like a little person. But despite his hard exterior, Destroyer had a soft side that Vera had come to know and respect. She had had the fortunate opportunity to stay with Destroyer and his wonderful wife on leave. He wore RRTS issue tank and sweats as he stood nearby. He held an aluminum bat in his hands, waiting for a pitch.

His pitcher, Private First Class Katsuhiko Kumanosuke Takahashi, stood several feet in front of Vera. Mac was a great guy, unit tech support geek, and a hidden prankster. He stood at five nine, Asian American origins. Mac always had a quit side to him, but if one ever got him to open up, he was a different person. Mac stood across the barracks from Destroyer, just a few feet in front of Vera. In his left hand was a catcher's mitt. Destroyers partner in crime...for the moment. He picked up an orange from his arsenal to his right, and gloved it. He pitched the orange to Destroyer, who swung with incredible force. The bat launched to orange across the room and exploded against the wall. Vera knew it wasn't a smart choice to be in the line of Destroyer's fire, but at the moment, she didn't care. Maybe she could get in a game of dodge ball before leaving? Besides, Destroyer knew better than to hit Vera, or even try.

Sargent Gregory Schofeild, Duke, was sitting on his cot playing a handheld video game at Vera's left. The orange shot by Duke, catching his attention briefly. Duke was large, but not as large as Destroyer. His skin was dark, but a lighter shade of brown. On his head, Duke wore a pair of shades atop his black beanie. In her years of RRTS, Vera couldn't name a mission where Duke was without his beanie. She smiled. Duke couldn't really be bothered with much unless it concerned a girl or a video game. What made it even better, was Vera was in the gamer category of Duke's life. She wasn't much of a gamer, but when she tried, she could give Duke a run for his money. They'd compete with high scores constantly and race each other on new game releases.

Across from Duke was the Unit trash mouth, Corporal Dean Portman. Portman was the sleaze of the group. The only thought that seemed to occupy his mind was sex. When Vera had joined the unit, she'd had to deal with hourly smut comments from Portman. Even after nearly trying to kill him with her bare hands, Portman hadn't taken the hint. Portman was tall and lanky. His hair was thinning on his head and greased back. He wore an ugly bright blue Hawaiian print shirt and matching ugly white suede shoes. He paced about his cot staring at his watch. After Vera's pointed dismissals, leave was the only way Portman could get any female action. He grumbled irritably to himself.

Beside Portman sat Eric Phantom, codename 'Goat'. Goat was the senior member of the unit. He stood at six foot one. His brown hair somehow managed to stand on its own. Goat was a strong man, baring scars that Vera had only heard of. He was strong, physically and religiously as well. Vera hadn't met a man so dedicated to his faith before, she couldn't even compare herself to Goat's amount of dedication. Goat hung up his dog tags and retrieved his cross from the corner of his locker. He sat down on his cot and took up his tattered bible. In the past few weeks, Goat had been her closest friend, trying to make the situation easier on her. Despite Vera's short temper.

Vera herself was the smallest on the team, only standing several inches shorter than the new Kid. Comparing her height to Destroyer, when he towered over a foot and a half above her, made her seem a hundred times smaller. Her size alone had given the men reason to believe she was weak, but Vera had long since shown them what kind of Marine she was. There wasn't a doubt in their minds how capable she was during her first initiation. It's not every day when a new recruit hurls themselves off their cot trying to kill Portman. Adding to her never ending list of attributes as a Russian native, she had immigrated to find a better life in the US, and found the Marines. However, unlike most Russian's, Vera had survived the second nuclear disaster that had become the most disastrous nuclear catastrophe, even more deadly than Chernobyl. And unlike most survivors, Vera took on traits of the albino sorts. Her hair was as white as a Russian snow storm, completely lacking any pigment; however, her eyes fared better than any recorded albino, perfect sight, and sectorial Heterochromia, in which she had a section of a different color in each eye. As if her violet eyes were not enough, she had a brown section in both eyes. Though, unlike other albino's her pale skin was more than capable of taking on numerous tones when exposed to the sun. Vera stopped punching the bag and leaned against the wall. It had taken enough of a beating from her for now, as had her chest.

Portman slammed his watch against the frame of his cot, irritated. "I don't believe this shit. Six months without a weekend and the damn transporter's five minutes late. And that's five minutes R&R I ain't never gonna get back."

"Hey relax baby. We're on vacation." Duke called, winking to him.

Portman seemed pleased enough with Duke's statement and smirked.

Duke whooped loudly as his game buzzed with the completion of the level. "Ya'll, this games layered."

Vera smiled, shook her head, and rolled her eyes in one motion. A combination that she'd crated and saved for Duke alone. Since he was the only one who constantly earned it on a daily basis. She folded her arms in front of her chest and pulled the ball of her foot against the wall as she leaned against it.

Mac pitched another orange to Destroyer. Destroyer swung his back, sending the orange in Duke's direction. The orange slammed into Dukes locker, just barely missing Duke's head by centimeters. Duke glanced to Destroyer and shook his head, never stopping his game.

Destroyer turned to Portman, trying to pretend he was interested. "Where're you going Portman?"

Vera caught the lecherous smile spread over Portman's sleazy face. "I'm going down to El Honto. I'm gonna lock myself in a motel room, with bottle of tequila and three she-boys." Portman laughed sickly.

The high pitched cry sent a chill up Vera's spine. She said a silent prayer for the poor women he cornered tonight. Vera shook her head in disgust. "There's a place in hell for you, Portman."

Duke looked up from his game. "You sick man."

Mac pitched the last orange to Destroyer. He sent it flying in Goat's direction. Goat easily caught the fruit in his hand. He set his bible on his knee and looked up at Portman. "I'm sick of your filth Portman." He said. Goat bit into the orange and ripped a chunk from the rind off.

"He speaks." Portman muttered, but paid the man no mind.

Vera pushed herself off the back wall and walked toward her bunk. She slipped around Mac and down the aisle as Destroyer packed his bat into his bat. Vera walked past Duke's bunk and turned to her locker that separated her bunk from Duke's. Her bag was already on her bunk, packed with most of her things.

"Where you going kid?" Duke asked.

The Kid was the newest, and youngest, recruit to RRTS 6. He had been transferred to the unit as a replacement on the team. Not Vera's replacement, but Jumper's. K.I.A. three years ago before Vera's transfer, just prior to Somalia as well. The details of his death were sketchy and hit everyone on the team. Vera hadn't asked, but Goat revealed the information just weeks ago. Mark Dantalian, that was his real name. The boys just called him 'Kid', cause well...he really was one. He was a good shooter and eager to show them all what he was made of. He may have been trying too hard, but just trying put him on good terms with Vera. Even if their initial meeting hadn't been good timing. Anyone willing to prove themselves was worth a shot. Kid's dark hair was short, though it was long enough to show a bit of curling.

Kid looked up from moping around his cot, not sure whether to answer or not. "Well...I'm...I'm staying here."

"Oh that's right." Portman said, completely unsympathetically. "Poor boy hasn't been on rotation so he gets to stay behind."

Everyone in the unit knew that the Kid wasn't going on leave. Rules stated that once he'd been put on rotation, he was granted leave. But until then he was on base training. Still, it was tradition to give any new recruit some crap, so pulling his leg was still a good jolt of fun in their opinions.

"Careful boys." Vera warned as she pulled of her boxing tape from her hands. "You might come back and find yourselves getting your asses handed to you by a nineteen year old kid. Course, that's step up from a ninety pound girl." She smirked to herself and opened her locker.

"Oh yeah?" Portman asked. His brow arched over one of his eyes. He tilt his head in a cocky manner. His voice adjusted to show just how he appeared. "And uh, where is it, you're going Vera?"

The barrack fell silent. From the corner of her eye, Vera watched Duke shift on his cot, preparing to intervene if need be. Leave it to Portman to make one last attempt to piss her off before she left. Hell, it was his fault she was leaving, partially at least. The bastard had broken her rib and caused her lungs to spasm, preventing her from breathing. Weeks later the bastard had a cocky air about him, proud he'd taken down the Russian who had continuously taken him down since she'd arrived.

"Back off, Portman." Destroyer warned.

Vera shrugged. "It's fine." she said. Vera turned around and looked at Portman. She slowly walked toward the pig, letting her hips swing with a hidden seduction. "I get to spend six months off base." she said smiling. "Six...long...beautiful months to do what I want. I'll spend my time on a nice tropical beach, tanning this gorgeous body," she lifted up her tank, revealing her slim, toned abs. Portman's eyes dropped to her body. He never could keep his eyes off her. "And get laid more in those six months than you could ever hope for in your whole perverted life." She smiled. "And I'll still send your ass to hell the moment I come back." She dropped her shirt and spun on her heels, whipping Portman in the face with her braid.

Duke laughed. "Damn girl. Feisty as hell and the luckiest one here."

Vera walked from Portman back to her locker. Lucky? Yeah right. What was lucky about medical leave? Six months doing nothing related to the military for recovery, while these guys remained behind and did their job. How the hell was she lucky? Out of the corner of her eye, she caught the last man in the barracks glancing in her direction. She ignored him completely and reached into her locker, internally snorting.

"What about you, John?" Duke asked, breaking her thoughts. "Where are you going?"

The barracks suddenly went silent again, as if waiting for a bomb to detonate. Even without looking, Vera could tell everyone had turned to John. She gave in and glanced to her left, looking across the barrack to the back corner where the work desk was settled. John occupied the chair with his dismantled weapon scattered across the desks surface.

John Grimm, Reaper, was the second reason of Vera's discharge. As unit medic, he had to personally evaluate the condition of his teammates after a serious injury. However, in the years following Vera's transfer to 6, he'd practically become Vera's personal doctor. At least on base. After sustaining a lethal hit in Russia, Vera had tried to recover on her own. But when Portman broke her rib in training, resulting her hypoxia on base, John had signed off on her evaluation papers before even telling her. Three days later, Vera's orders came in, shifting the teams stability with it. Neither one had spoken to each other and neither had any notion to break that streak before Vera left.

John seemed unfazed by his unit staring at his back. He hardly ever seemed to talk lately. He was tall, several inches shorter than Destroyer. His dark hair added to his outside intimidating appearance. His jaw was set firmly, deep in concentration as he assembled his gun. At one time, he and Vera had been partners, taking on numerous dangerous missions together.

"Hey John!" Duke called.

John turned, finally zoning back into the conversation. His eyes met Vera's for a second. A momentary flicker of emotions flashed through her eyes before Vera broke the contact. John let his eyes shift back to Duke. "What?"

"You goin' on an armed conflict someplace quiet?" Duke asked.

Vera shook her head as she reached into her locker for one of her books. She wasn't fond of sticking up for John at the moment, but they should know better than pressing the issue the way they did. This wasn't going to end well for someone. It never did.

"Or a little jungle warfare?" Portman jibbed.

"Or you gonna stick around here and do some push-ups?" Duke finished with a chuckled.

John sighed. "Well you know, Duke, I thought maybe I'd drop by your mom's house, wait in line."

Vera and team laughed, except Duke. Vera shook her head and set her book in her duffle. She reached the top shelf of her locker, the one shelf she couldn't fully see up into. Her hand searched the shelf, searching for anything she may have missed. Her fingers ran over the cold metal surface until it bumped something. It was about three inches wide and three inches long. And it was fuzzy. Vera frowned. She grabbed the fuzzy case and pulled it out of her lock. It was a small black velvet jewelry box. A momentary flash of annoyance crossed her face, fearing it was from John. A parting gift or a peace offering. If it was, then it would suffer the same fate as his last 'gift'. She opened the box and gasped.

Inside the velvet box was silver pendant on a long chain. The pendant itself was a cross with a gold plate ribbon wrapping around the body of the cross. The chain was also silver, but instead of a traditional thin chain for women, the chain was thicker, stronger. Something that would survive life in the corps and outside. In the roof of the box was a torn piece of paper. She pulled out the paper and opened it. She recognized Goats hasty penmanship immediately, ruling out her original assumption.

"For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you." 2 Corinthians 13:4

Vera smiled sadly. It would be Goat to bring her on the verge of tears. He took her orders harder than the others, the one that mattered anyways. Every day that passed, Goat had spent it with her, like a father spending what time he can with his child leaving out into the world. In reality, that was exactly how Vera felt. Stepping into the world as a civilian for the next six months was going to be difficult and no one was going to be out there to help her. Even Goat, who'd stuck by her side during the darker times, wasn't going to be much help on base. Out of them all, Goat would be the one Vera missed the most. And he would be the first one she greeted when she returned. She looked over her shoulder in Goat's direction. He was looking back at her over his bible.

"Spasiba." She said.

Goat nodded. "PazhAlusta."

Vera laughed lightly. Goat had picked up on Russian quickly since her arrival. The extra language had come in handy on missions and barrack talk. She pulled out the cross and latched it behind her neck. Her fingers ran over the metal of the cross for a second. She sighed and leaned against her locker. She grabbed her dog tags and pulled them over her head. She thumbed the warm metal that had identified herself as a member for her entire marine career. After today, she wouldn't wear them for another six months.

"You know, there's still time to change your mind about leave, V. You can come with me and Destroyer for the night and head out tomorrow." Duke offered.

Vera turned to Duke and smirked. "You going soft soldier?"

Duke faked innocent. "Soft? Me? Fuck no."

Vera and a few others chuckled. "That's a tempting offer, Duke. But I might as well take the free transport all the way tonight."

Duke nodded.

Suddenly Sarge appeared at the bottom of the stairs. He was dressed in a black wife beater and dark gray pants. Gunnery Sargent Asher Mahonin had been under the command of RRTS 6 for years. He took his height between Destroyer and John. His skin was tanned and his muscles were extremely toned. Sarge was one Vera would rather fight with, not against. Vera watched him look around the barracks.

"Listen up men." He called.

All conversations ceased at Sarge's order. Everyone shifted their gaze to their CO.

"Leave is cancelled." Sarge announced.

The air changed. Leave it to up top to screw over their soldiers at the last minute. Goat turned to his locker and retrieved his tags. Portman looked pissed. Duke snorted bitter and rose from his cot. He grabbed his tags, cussing loudly.

"You got a problem with that Duke?" Sarge asked, cocking an eyebrow.

"Me, Sarge? Hell no, I love my job." Duke replied.

"What's up Sarge?" Mac asked.

Sarge smirked. "We got us a game."

Suddenly the betrayal of a revoked leave had diminished. Destroyers face somehow managed to show hints of excitement without showing emotion at all. Vera did her best to contain her disappointment. She knew they would have the next six months of missions without her. Apparently they started now.

Sarge turned to the kid. "Kid. Son you are now in the Rapid Response Tactical Squad. The double R-T-S. And what do we do in the RRTS?"

"Pray for war!" everyone replied.

Sarge smiled. "Fall in!"

Everyone moved past Sarge and jogged up the stairs towards the locker room. Only Vera, Sarge, and John remained in the barracks. Vera grabbed her civvie shirt and pulled it over her training top. Whether or not their leave had been revoked, Vera was still on medical orders to leave the base. She picked up her bag and easily swung it over her shoulder. For the number of years she spent on base, the bag was light.

"Vera." Sarge called, cutting off her movement.

Vera met her CO's eyes. "Sir?"

"Under certain circumstances, our top has temporarily seized your orders for medical leave." Sarge informed.

Vera frowned, heavily confused. "Why would they seize my orders, sir? I was under the impression 'leave' meant, 'get your ass off the base'."

"I need every available man on my team, for this op." Sarge explained. "You're temporarily recalled under limited combat restrictions, and reporting injuries. No hardass bullshit you usually pull. Understood Dimitrov?"

One last mission. That was what Sarge had confirmed. One last mission before leave, provided limited combat. Vera could live without major combat if it delayed her leave for another day. She dropped her bag back onto her cot and straightened her back. She brought her arm to her forehead, saluting her CO. "Yes sir."

"Fall in." Sarge ordered.

Vera nodded and jogged after her teammates.

John rose from his desk still carrying his weapon. "Sarge, letting her go on this mission is asking for trouble."

"I can't go in missing two men, John." Sarge said.

John frowned. "Two?"

"We're taking this one without you John."

"You're bullshitting me." John said. Never had Sarge requested him off a mission. Sure, there had been some tension between himself and Vera for the past few weeks, but it wouldn't effect their performance on a mission. Unless Sarge was withholding information.

Sarge shook his head. "No, I'm not bullshitting. We're going to Olduvai."

John nearly froze. A paralyzing cold chill crept up his spine at the word. The cause of much of his past problems. "Olduvai?"

Sarge nodded slowly. "Take the leave."

"Is that an order?" John asked.

"It's a recommendation." Sarge answered. "I'll see you when I get back."

Sarge turned and jogged up the stairs to the locker rooms, leaving John alone in the barracks to think.

wahoo! edited chapter 1! only 23 more to go! liking the edit so far?


Spasiba. thank you

PazhAlusta. you're welcome