A duffle bag sat on her bed, battered and worn with extensive use and abuse--having been tossed from space craft to military base to shitty little dust-ridden outposts on Nomrom. Mal had taken that bag everywhere, slugging her equipment back and forth. And now she was supposed to be packing for Earth, where she would start her training for her next mission. Hitch a ride on Atlas
. Protect the crew. Rescue Prometheus
. Dispose of any undesirables. She'd read her mission report enough times that she practically had the damn thing memorized by heart.
It would take her longer to get to the training center than everyone else since she was already stationed off-Earth, out on May Outpost. Mal knew first impressions were everything and hated to make a sore one, but her Commanding Officer had assured her that it wouldn't effect her training--after all, by the pure fact that she was military wear, she'd received most of her training already. This would be a refreshers course for her. She could afford to lose a couple days in transit.
Of course, first things were first. She had to pack her damn duffle bag. A task that was proving much harder than it should be. Mal worked her pocketknife through her fingers, flicking it open, shut, open, shut. A mechanical, therapeutic motion. So far, she'd managed to pack a couple changes of clothes--simple tank-tops, pants. Something she could sweat in. Her military-assigned firearm. And nothing else. The rest of her bag was empty, a useless, limp space. But that was the problem when you had no personal effects. Nothing to hold you down.
What had sentimental value to her? Her girlfriend, but she couldn't very well stuff Missy in there. Her girlfriend who treated her much better than she deserved, who she'd given a good parting fuck to last night, even though Dahlia hadn't been able to get off. Her mind too wrapped up in her mission, in the thought of leaving, in the fact that she hadn't (and wouldn't) tell her girlfriend that she'd been unfaithful before she left. With the man who had interrupted her brief and painful stillness. But all that was going to be behind her now. Personal effects. Did a bottle of whiskey and a pipe count?
"Dahl! Your ride's here!" Missy's voice called out from the other room. The transport had arrived to take Mal away. Finally. Before the walls closed in and suffocated her. Before she was tempted to take a hit from her pipe just to make it on the ride to earth.
She heard Missy's footsteps approach and she quickly pocketed her pocketknife and got to her feet, zipping her duffle bag shut so Missy wouldn't be able to see how empty it was. Somehow ashamed by it. Mal tossed her bag over her shoulder and tried to tame the spike of adrenaline that suddenly coursed through her: Goodbye, quiet fucking barracks. Already, she was starting to feel a little less like something dead.