Smooth hands slid over the rough contours of his legs. Nimble fingertips, prodded, caressed and lingered. Teasing, tickling, the hands moved higher. Travelling upwards, the fingertips traversed the ridges of muscle that covered his stomach.
Mrintz looked up into the doll like face. Piercing green eyes looked back. The naked and exceptionally lithe body that belonged to those green eyes, slipped over his supine form, the soft caress of bare skin against bare skin creating a sibilant hiss in the cool night air.
Lips the colour of arterial spray and just as wet, slowly descended towards his. Mrintz parted his lips in expectation of those coming closer and the moistness they contained within.
She was so close that he could smell her sweet perfume. Lifting his head, he tried to speed up their union.
Sharp pain lanced into his side, causing him too cry out in pain. His vision wavered.
“Back with us Mrintz? About time.”
The blue sky and meadow was replaced with the white canvas and harsh phosphorous light. Birdsong faded into cries of pain.
Mrintz turned his head slightly, the only part of his body he could move.
The medic put something back on a tray with a clink. Lifting another hypodermic up to the light, the medic tapped the glass tube with an index finger, squeezing the plunger slightly as he did so. Satisfied, he lowered it to Mrintzs side and out of the prone Mrintzs vision.
There was another sharp lancing pain in his side. The doctor wrote on a clipboard, which he hung back on the end of Mrintzs bed before moving on.
Relaxing the muscles in his neck, Mrintz tried to recapture his dream. The green-eyed girl eluded him, chased away by the screams and whimpers emanating from the other residents of the ward.
Several weeks later...
Slipping his few personal belongings -which consisted mainly of toiletries- in a bag, Mrintz looked back at the bed that had been his prison for the last three months. Further down, someone was screaming, someone was being sick, another was crying.
Trying, and failing, to repress a shudder, Mrintz picked up his crutch and limped painfully towards the wards exit. The tented hospital complex was large and it took him a considerable amount of time and several rest stops before he reached the main entrance.
After signing out, Mrintz headed for the busy entranceway. Several bench seats were situated either side of the doors and he gratefully lowered himself into a vacant spot.
The air was full of dust and vehicle fumes. Mrintz was glad to breathe something other than the cloyingly stale antiseptic miasma of pain, suffering and death.
The sun was warm and he basked in its cleansing rays until his transport showed up.
Several days later...
The transport slowed to a grinding juddering halt. The sound of shelling could be heard in the distance.
Collecting his small bag and crutch, Mrintz cautiously made his way off the transport. The long overland journey was unpleasant at the best of times, even less for those recuperating from serious injury.
Mrintz started to make his way towards his billet for a long desired and needed wash, a change into fresh clothing and if he was still capable of standing, something to eat.
Halfway to his billet, his gaze was caught and his body changed direction. Strong emotion roiled within, as he got closer. So they had managed to recover her.
To the uninitiated, it would have been just a large pile of scrap metal. To Mrintz it was more, much more. It was a reminder to the memories of times good, of times bad, of experiences shared, of laughter, fear, uncertainty and ultimately death.
He had been the only one pulled from the wreckage alive, a feat that many had deemed impossible. Looking at the wreckage, Mrintz had to agree with them.
Even Mrintz found it hard too imagine the pile of twisted battle steel in front as the Shadowsword of memory.
Impossible to stem, memories of the Shadowswords better days replayed across his eyes.
Mrintz, with a little difficulty, turned around. A young boy, most likely a runner, looked up at him.
“Yes.” His simple reply conveyed across a world of anguish and loss.
“The O.C. wants to see you straight away. Before you get comfy.” The runner added.
Shaking his head in remorse, Mrintz gave the wrecked Shadowsword a final look before heading for the HQ building.
The O.Cs adjutant whispered quietly into a comlink on Mrintzs arrival, then waved him straight through.
Mrintz had planned a smart approach, followed by an even smarter salute.
In reality, he only managed an awkward hobble and the O.C stopped him before the salute, which Mrintz was thankful for, as he realised he could not raise his arm high enough up. He shrugged instead.
“I’ll let you off this time Mrintz. Just don’t make a habit of it.”
“The not saluting, or the getting injured Sir?”
There was a moment of mutual uncomfortable laughter, followed by a moment of uncomfortable silence.
“I take it you have seen her?”
Mrintz just nodded, grief momentarily overriding his ability to speak.
“A real shame. An Emperor dammed shame. There was a lot of history behind her.”
Mrintz got the impression that the O.C was blaming him for the loss of the Shadowsword.
“But we are not here to talk about her,” carried on the O.C “were here to talk about you. As you know, we’ve suffered a lot of casualties on this campaign, though none as severe or irreparable as yours.” Mrintz felt a knife slide silently into his back “So we already have several crews waiting around until repairs are completed. Which leaves us with an excess of manpower.” Mrintz felt another knife join the first.
The O.C looked around his desk before retrieving a slip of paper. Mrintz thought the paper shuffle was for show, rather than need.
“The 341st on the other hand, has a surplus of machines but a dearth of crews.” Mrintz felt another knife join the set. “Rather than have you mope around here, I’ve arranged for your immediate transfer off planet and transfer to the 341sts location.” Mrintz just stared at him stunned, as the knives in his back were twisted. “I know you are overjoyed and it will take a moment to sink in. You depart as soon as you collect your kit and sign out of the regiment. I know you have a lot to get on with, so I’ll not keep you any longer.
Mrintz struggled to contain his rage. Knowing he was dismissed, he started to salute.
“It’s all right Mrintz, don’t push your injuries.”
Mrintz carried on anyway, making sure it was the sloppiest salute he could manage.
Having been saluted, the O.C was forced to return the salute.
Leaving the HQ without a backwards glance, Mrintz headed to and cleaned out his bunk. Pausing to say a fond, tearful, farewell to the burned out hulk that was his past life, he left the regiment feeling like a pariah.
Several months later...
The motor pool vehicle dropped him off outside a partly destroyed building, which was the 341sts current HQ. Mrintz stepped up to the reception desk and handed over his papers. The clerk checked them off against something just out of Mrintz’s view. The clerk made a brief call, listened expressionlessly to the reply, then waved a servitor over.
“The brigadier will see you now. Follow the servitor. It is your guide and security. Do not deviate from the servitors route.”