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(CAUTION: LIGHTLY EDITED)
The Fleet: Part 5
I'd been at my new battalion for less than a day and already someone knew who my dad was. What were the odds? Probably pretty good considering the time my dad had spent in the Corps. Lot of years and lots of Marines. Dad was one of those guys you never forgot. Just like Gunny said, a true leader.
I still missed him. Not an hour went by that I didn't think of him and mom. The message they'd left from their doomed 9/11 flight still sat on my answering machine. Their last words. The knife in my heart.
Hustling across the battalion quad, I made it to the barracks after asking a passing Marine for directions. Luckily I wasn't a PFC or Private or we probably would've told me to fuck off. Every damn building looked the same. I walked through the breezeway of my barracks passing the duty shack, a corporal polishing his shiny black leather combat boots. He didn't even look up.
There was a Staff Sergeant on the other side of the barracks pointing and shouting at Marines on the second and third decks. "No, not that room, you fucking moron, the one next to it. Can't you fucking read?! Hey, fuckhead. Move stop laughing or I'll send you down to Supply to count piss cups."
I waited until he'd finished yelling at PFC Iman, another guy from my SOI class. He sensed me at his back and turned. "What the fuck do you want?"
"Staff Sergeant, Gunny Salvador just sent me over to get my room assignment."
He judged me up and down, deeming whether I was a shitbag or not, finally glancing at my name tape. "Stokes," he said, looking down at the roster on his clipboard. "Room 209."
"Thank you, Staff Sergeant."
He didn't respond, instead turning back to his task of yelling at Marines.
I found my room easily, wondering whether my gear would be strewn all over the floor thanks to my new roommate. Opening the door I peered in. No Gallagher. Maybe he was out being an asshole to someone else for a while.
I stepped in and went to close the door behind me, luckily catching the shadow screaming for my head. On instinct, I fell the left, taking a glancing blow instead of the jackhammer sucker punch Gallagher had intended. I slammed into the cinder block wall, barely dazed, but still on the ground. Gallagher didn't waste his chance.
Kicks came at my ribs as I braced for the blows. One. Two. The third kick I caught. The fourth never came as I wrapped myself around his leg like an anaconda and muscled him down. I could see by the look in his eyes that he hadn't expected that, thinking I'd be down for the count. No fucking way.
I followed his momentum, bending his leg over, making him roll onto his back, my body now on top. Not one to wait, I started pounding, methodically aiming blows into Gallagher's ribs with my elbows. Most people went with the fists, but the slam of a hard elbow could do more damage.
I'd knocked the wind out of him, could see him gasping for breath as he kept trying to block the hits, unsuccessful at least half of the time. It was time to end it. Grabbing his neck with my left hand, I cocked my right, a loaded weapon ready to strike. The fight was out of him, along with maybe a couple broken ribs and growing welt on his chin where he'd deflected one of my elbows.
"Stop! Stop!" he yelled.
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