The government had sent troops to the Colonies in order to protect it’s citizens. Only problem was that the Colonials, or Colos as they called themselves, didn’t want the government troops there to protect them. Mostly it was evil glares, walking on the other side of the street, that sort of innocent yet open hostility. However, and this did happen on occasion, there were instances of more violent forms of hostility.

No one really knew which was the first, but most can agree that the murder of Private Alfred C. Gianelli on Alpha Centauri was the catalyst. Now the government, mainly due to the misunderstanding between the politicians and the commanders in the field, was cracking down more harshly on those the troops were meant to protect. Thus the troops on Marnis Centauri, a small moonlet colony in the Alpha Centauri System, were in a hard situation.

On the one hand they had their duty to defend the Colonials against the European Union’s forces that threatened them, then on the other they had their orders to enforce curfews upon those same Colonials. Many of them would turn a blind eye towards the Colonial’s violations of the curfew, but a few, mostly the newer troops fresh in to the Colonies, would react harshly to any violation.

 A group of United Alliance Marines were trying to relax in a saloon, their uniforms sticking out in the crowd of civilian clothing. One of the Colonials, a woman in her midtwenties, was watching the Marines as they tried to enjoy their time between patrols. She saw how on edge the replacements were, their nervousness, thankfully, had yet to bleed into their trigger fingers.

 She sipped her drink and leaned against the bar. Marie Barneaux had grown up in the Colonies, her parents had been second generation Colos, she could still remember the days when the Alliance military had first established Camp Murphy. At first they had accepted, and even been glad the Marines were there. Then the European Union had st up Fort Alderie, and things had changed. The mood had become more tense, patrols increased, little incidents threatened to become an all out war.

Now, after years of escelation from both sides of the Dividing Line, it appeared as if a war were inevitable. She was sad for the fact that it seemed as the nightmare when she was a child. Running towards the cliff with no way of stopping, no turning, no way to avoid the total oblivion of what lay beyond the edge. She laughed aloud, here she was, in a saloon, trying to relax, and all she could think of was how the whole human race was going to Hell. “Hey, Frank! Frank!” A Marine sergeant shouted, waving to a newcomer. She looked at him and saw he was around her age, but his appearance said he wasn’t as young in his heart or mind as he was physically.

She sipped her drink again, noticing the stripes on his sleeve as he walked towards the table where the sergeant sat. He was a corporal, his stride that of a man who’s been through Hell, his steps even. He was handsome, a little taller than her, his dark hair contrasting with his blue battle dress that he wore. She decided she liked him instantly. He shook hands with the sergeant and sat down at the table.

The sergeant leaned in close to him and said something, Frank rolled his eyes and laughed. He pointed at the sergeant’s drink and said something, then waved to a waitress. Marie decided to go and talk to him. A Marine private turned around from a game of pool and saw Frank. “Corp! You made it back from patrol, how’d it go?” He shouted, the only way to be heard from that distance in this saloon. Frank smiled, which made him look almost happy. “Would’ve been better if we hadn’t had to help fix a damn well.” Frank replied. The private laughed, if helping a Colonial out with their well was the worst they had to worry about on a patrol than that was good.

Too many lately had led to “incidents” and “skirmishes” between the opposing forces. She walked around a table where a group of Colonial farmhands played poker, as she passed, one reached out and tried to wrap his arm around her hip. “Come here, darlin’. Maybe I can show you a good time, with that body you gotta be good.” He said, very loudly, his voice reaking of alchohol as he tried to pull her to him. “Let me go.” She said, her tone even, not threatening, just telling him to let her go. He began speaking incoherently for a moment, then tugged at her even harder.

 She resisted this time. “Let her go, mate.” A voice said from behind the man. She looked up and saw that it was Frank, his eyes firmly locked onto the farmhand. “Why don’t you go to Hell, Blue Belly.” The man said, his tone showing that he thought anyone in a uniform was the lowest form of human life. “Let her go, while you still can, Colo.” Frank said, the use of that nickname from a Marine surprizing all within ear shot. The man let go of her and began to stand, his friends did as well. “Maybe you can’t count none too good there Jarhead, but we got you outnumbered.” One of them said, balling up his fist. “Maybe you don’t get something yourself there, Colo, I’m here to protect you from the Euros, nothing says anything about protecting you from me.” Frank said. Meeting every man’s eye as he reached out slowly to her, taking her by the wrist and gently pulling her towards him.

“Get behind me, miss, don’t want you getting hurt.” He said, she moved to a position behind him where she wasn’t in the way, but she could see. The man who’d grabbed her lashed out with his right leg. Frank dropped down to his knees, bringing his fist up into the man’s groin. The man doubled over as the air exploded from his body with the blow. He collapsed in a heap on the floor, clutching at his groin in agony. The second man threw a punch towards Frank’s face. The blow didn’t connect, Frank instead leaning his upper body backward and grabbing the man’s arm. The man’s eyes grew wide as Frank placed a foot in his side and actually lifted himself into the air. Then Frank brought his knee into the side of the man’s head with such a blow that the man’s brain simply said: “ok, dumb idea, we’re going to sleep this off, when we wake up, we’ll talk.” She gasped as Frank landed on the floor and took a different fighting stance facing the last two men from the table. “Would you like to try, or would you like to pick up your friends and get the Hell out of here?” He said, his breathing controlled, his eyes taking in every detail of their body language and that of those around him. They hesitated, an obvious sign of their lack of commitment to being neutered or turned into Sleeping Beauty’s ugly cousin on the floor as their friends were.

“We t’ain’t got no quarrel with you, mister.” One said, raising his hands, his fellow following suit. “The name isn’t mister, it’s Corporal Frank Rudd, hand to hand combat specialist.” He said, which explained his ability to fight so well. The two men slowly picked up their companions and hurried out of the saloon. Frank stood normally and looked around. He turned to her after a moment and examined her a little more closely. “You alright, miss?” He asked, concern filling his voice. She felt her heart flutter, but then remembered what he’d called those men. “You go throwing Colo around too casually and you’re liable to end up in a bad way.” She warned, realizing after she said it that her voice was filled with hostility. “Well, I suppose some may take exception to it. But I never had a problem being called Colo when I lived in the Colonies.” He said, his voice not hostile, just passing on information.

She stopped for a second, so he wasn’t an Earther, he was one of them. He stopped for a second and seemed to really look at her. He gulped, and this Marine, this hand to hand combat specialist who’d just taken on and won against two men, he actually blushed like a teenage boy. “I beg your pardon, miss. I shan’t be troubling you anymore.” He said, turning quickly to walk away. Years later she would never forget how his arm felt when she’d grabbed it to stop him from leaving.

He tensed up for just a second, then relaxed and met her eye again. The look there so uncertain, so unsure of what to do or say next. She knew he was uncertain, could feel a slight trimmer in his arm as she held it. She gently and slowly moved in closer to him and brought her hand up to his face. She cupped his face in the palm of her hand and was amazed to see him close his eyes, and felt a shudder of emotion that seemed to echo her own body’s surge of feeling. “My name is Marie, Corporal.” She said, her voice tender, inviting, soothing. His nervousness came back as he looked into her eyes again. “You can call me Frank.” He said, she smiled, gently stroking his face with her hand. “Well, how about we go sit at a table, order something to drink and eat, and we can get to know each other better.” Marie suggested, lowering her hand from his face and releasing her grip on his arm.

He hesitated for just a moment, it wasn’t that he didn’t want to, she knew that, just he wasn’t sure if he could trust his voice to work. Finally he nodded, she began to walk towards a booth off by itself. Her heart jumped to her throat when he hooked his arm through hers and walked with her, the feeling so natural. By Colonial custom a man who was courting a woman hooked his arm with hers in order to show unity and protection. She realized at that moment that she might have known him forever, but instead only for a few minutes. “Well, just to let you know, I do have the Dawn Patrol in the morning, but I could walk you home after the curfew if you like.” He said, nervousness keeping his eyes straight ahead as they walked.

She gently moved her hand down and intertwined her fingers with his, his hand shook and was sweaty. She smiled, she wondered what her parents would think of him if they should meet him. Then realized as they sat down acroos from each other at the booth that what he’d said had been a subtle hint: I may not be back after the patrol. She felt a wave of sadness and wanted to hold him at that moment, but knew she couldn’t. He wasn’t afraid, not for himself, anyway. He seemed so resigned to the fact that he may die tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, that it seemed wrong to try and comfort him when he didn’t need, nor want to be. Instead she fixed every detail of his appearance to her memory. She’d heard of love at first sight, but never much believed it. Now she did, because she’d found it with him.

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