Sal rolled over, his hands seeking his companion, but they found only a cool mattress. Dell wasn't there.
He forced his eyes to open and look at the clock. Hell. It wasn't even oh five hundred. Reveille wasn't for another forty five minutes. Beyond the red glow of the numbers, Sal could just make out Dell studying the battlefield in the pre-dawn gloom. His goggles were perched on his forehead; something must have needed repair during the night.
The latest round of battle had been particularly brutal. Those donkey-born BLU maggots were painting the walls with the blood of his men, and they had struggled to maintain their positions. It was a good thirty six hours before the defenses were solid enough to allow the RED men a chance to rest. The break couldn't have come soon enough. Cheerleading was not part of Sal's job description, and his men's spirits were pretty low.
But for Dell, Sal might make an exception. He didn't need to look to remember the bodies of fallen comrades were strewn across the battlefield like ragdolls, a testament to the team's failings. Bone and muscle became judge and jury, and though the fault lay with no one individual, Dell would take their silent accusations personally. No sooner would he get a sentry in place when some fucking maggot pus-filled spy would come along and sap it. The man didn't even have the balls to show himself, Sal thought derisively.
"What are you doing up so early, Sparky?"
The engineer glanced over his shoulder. "Fixin' things," came the reply. "And thinkin'…" After a pause, Dell continued, "ours is not to reason why…just to do, and to die."
Hell, he didn't know what the Texan was saying half the time, but poetry? At five in the goddamn morning? Dell returned his gaze back to the battlefield. Even in the dim light, his eyes were the color of corn fields. Green and sunshine.
"If I rotate the number two sentry by another twelve degrees, then we'll have better coverage over the route to the cap," the engineer said, thinking out loud. "But then the secondary route is open. I wonder if I have enough parts around here to build..."
Dell trailed off, lost in his thoughts. Sal rolled over and sighed. Metal clinked as Dell started looking through his spare parts, hastily piled in a corner of the room. A washer rolled across the room and under the bed, noisy on the concrete floor. Fuck, he was tired. "Come back to bed, Sparky, or you'll be useless by noon."
After a moment, the rummaging stopped. "I don't have the part anyway." The mattress dipped as Dell sat. Sal caught the familiar smells: oil, tobacco, steel, and on top of that a layer of the pungent citrus of his hand cleaner.
"Stop thinking for a few minutes. And that's an order."
"Yessir," came the mock reply.
All too quickly, gentle snores took over the room.