PART three: buns
Chapter 20: The Forest
“Why do they call you BUNS?” the rookie asked, as they walked through the forest. It had been a year since BUNS had left the confines of the mine. Her unit had traveled across multiple continents to get to this forest. They patrolled it daily, in an attempt to weed out insurgents, and thereby curb the number of attacks their employer faced on a weekly basis. BUNS had the highest kill count of her unit so far. The insurgents were fierce, but they were no match for the superiority of her weapons.
“How daft are you? Open those buttons you call eyes and look at my head, you fakuchin buffoon,” she replied, pointing to the large, over-sized bun of curly hair that was the standout feature of her look.
“Oh! Yeah! Wait… What is that sticking out of them? And are those bullet casings?” the rookie whispered.
Ever since her near death experience in the mines, BUNS had begun storing four knives in her hair, each of which had a long string attached to it. Whenever possible, BUNS gathered the casings of the bullets that took out her enemies, colored them, and attached them to a string of her choosing. Each casing had a unique color, and three of the four strings had bullets tied to them at regular intervals over their entire length. The fourth string had room for three more casings before it too would be full. BUNS, in an effort to use the last three spaces for truly memorable kills, had begun decorating the horns of her furry confidant with any casings she picked up.
“Enough with the questions,” she whispered angrily, as she pulled out one of the knives in her hair and held it at the rookie’s throat before he could even blink. They continued patrolling their usual route in silence, stopping every time they heard a suspicious snap or rustle.
“Do you ever question why we are here? Whether what we are doing is right?” the rookie asked finally, breaking the silence.
He was a chatty one. He didn’t look the part, and that had fooled BUNS into agreeing to go on patrol with him as her partner. Never again, she decided silently. No more patrols with rookies in tow. The stupid kuncha was not only chatty, but also in the midst of the usual ethical rookie dilemma as well. Every new imbecile who joined their ranks asked these same questions. BUNS couldn’t remember what had made her think that this idiot wouldn’t.
The rookie waited for BUNS to reply, but was met with silence.
“It’s their forest, isn’t it? They have grown up in and around it. Their tribes have sworn to protect its natural resources, the very same resources that the corporation that has employed us is here to plunder. Isn’t that wrong? Shouldn’t that bother me? Doesn’t it bother you and the others?” the rookie said finally, when he couldn’t wait any more.
“Don’t think so much, kid. Just concentrate on the job,” BUNS whispered. She continued to walk, enjoying the silence, thinking that she had gotten through to the idiot that crept through the forest behind her, until she suddenly realized that she was alone.
Before BUNS could call for backup, multiple arrows zipped past her, a few narrowly missing her head, others piercing her left shoulder and thigh. BUNS crawled and took cover behind the nearest tree. She fired blindly in the direction of the arrows as she yelled into her communicator, asking for immediate assistance. She realized that the insurgents had changed tactics. They knew that they couldn’t win the head on battles. They had realized that their only advantage was that they knew the forest like the back of their hands. And they had begun to press that advantage. They had modified their strategy to involve guerrilla attacks.
She screamed for them to come out into the open. To fight her head on and not attack her like cowards. None did. They instead changed positions and continued firing at her from the cover the forest provided. She knew that they had the higher ground, and that she was outnumbered. It didn’t stop her from fighting to the bitter end. She fired every last bullet she had, and filled each shot with every ounce of rage she could muster.
Her bullets eventually ran out, and a few of the arrows hit their intended target. BUNS pulled out the ones she could, but some were in too deep, and had pierced parts of her body that could never be made whole again. She pulled out her knives, and waited for the insurgents to close in. But they didn’t. She realized that they were content with waiting until her last breath before they approached. She listened to her comms. Help was a few minutes away, time she did not have. She wondered how the insurgents had gotten the upper hand. It wasn’t easy to get the jump on somebody with her combat experience.
She wondered if it had just been dumb luck on their part. Her partner had been making more noise than they should have. Perhaps they had just wandered into their kill zone by mistake. The dizzying feeling in her head pushed the questions away. It made her realize that she was almost at the end, that it was time to not think about such trivial things. She only had a few minutes, if not seconds, left, and they were not to be wasted. She used whatever energy she had left, and pulled out the picture of her brother that she always carried with her. She smiled at it one last time.
Her last thought was of her lucky charm. A single tear came out of her eye, and slowly ran down her cheek, going past a melancholic smile, as the last slivers of life drained out of her. She realized that she had forgotten to perform her daily ritual. She had left for her patrol in a hurry, and had forgotten to rub her SKIMMA for luck like she always did.