I sat in the feast hall next to Lieutenant Corpa in the midst of several other privates and sergeants as we all ate the usual "feast" of slop and dried meat for dinner.

"Looks like you were having a rough time with the new Captain this afternoon Bold" Corpa said and gave me a light nudge. The group around us laughed collectively.

"That is like the understatement of the year Corpa. Did you see the way she grabbed me? Like who does that?! Then she was all like 'I'm in charge, you do as I say'. I mean is she crazy or what? Who does she think she is?" I blurted. I quickly looked over my shoulder to make sure she was nowhere around to hear me.

" I heard from some of the other forts that they call her 'Hopper the Chopper' because she chops her underlings' heads off"

The laughter stopped as we all considered how likely it was that she actually chopped heads off and became terrified.

" . . . metaphorically speaking of course," someone behind us added all too late.

"I'm just saying you should probably get a neck guard. Too many more encounters like that and you're not going to make it to become a captain, Bold." Corpa chuckled as she jokingly gripped my neck. I brushed her off and tried to swallow the tight lump of fear in my throat. I wasn't going to get anything down to my stomach like that, so it was probably a good thing that I had lost my appetite.

"I'll look into that Corpa, meanwhile I better hit the hay and get some rest." I stood, and excused myself

"Sleep tight, don't let the Choppers bite!" Someone in the group yelled behind me.

Great, now I was going to have nightmares about multiple cannibal Hoppers.

I walked back to the soldier quarters, a huge building near the wall of the fort where all of the lower ranking soldiers were packed together to sleep. I entered my assigned "room" with my sleeping bunk of hay was and almost ran into Ariel who was on her way out.

"Oh hey Rei, bunk's all yours, sorry about today, won't be late tomorrow, I promise, gotta go, bye, have a good night." She rambled seemingly without taking a breath.

I backed up and blocked the doorway out.

"Hold your horses. Have a seat. I need to talk to you."

She exaggerated a sigh and plopped onto her bunk beneath mine. Ariel was three years younger than me, three years more irresponsible than me, and three years more annoying than me. Her dark hair fanned out across her bunk and she lay sprawled there with her brown eyes closed as if she had been put to rest.

"Why were you late today?" I asked.

" I already said I was sorry about that! It won't happen again. Can I go now?" She rushed, eyes still closed.

"No" I snapped in spite of my plan to remain calm. "Why were you late? You got me into a lot of trouble today!"

"I was . . . practicing" Her pause too long to be followed by the truth.

"Don't lie to me!"

"You are not my mother!" She screamed bursting to her feet.

"You're right I'm not. But if Mom were here she would tell you to be on time! For my sake be on time!"

"I don't have to listen to you!" She snapped.

"Actually as your commanding officer, yea, you do have to listen to me!"

"Whatever, I am out of here." She muttered as she attempted to push past me.

" . . . or would you rather I transfer you to someone else's command?" I threatened, hoping to scare her to obedience.

"Do whatever you like. You always have." She squirmed under my arm and was out of the quarters before I could call her back.

I crawled onto my bunk and buried my head in my hands. You would think ten years after her death I would be able to speak about Mom without crying . . . but I couldn't. If she were here my life would be a lot easier, but she wasn't so I was going to get decapitated and my sister couldn't care less. How had Ariel and I come to this? What happened to our relationship? We were inseparable after Mom died. All through our life at the orphanage we stuck together and helped each other cope. Unfortunately we hadn't been like that since I left the orphanage at age sixteen to join the Amazonian Army. Maybe my leaving had something to do with her attitude shift towards me, but I would never know because Ariel would never tell me. How do you work with someone like that?

River water, Graysin had suggested. I had a bad hunch that such means weren't going to get the desired results.

Transfer. While I had just been bluffing when I mentioned it before, the idea seemed to be the best option I had at the moment. Soldiers got transferred all the time. I'm sure Ariel would be better off taking orders from someone else. Besides, I can't have her tardiness getting me busted all the time. Hopper was harsh about it, but no officer would tolerate a consistently short platoon. Then I remembered why I hadn't transferred her: that required doing paperwork with my commanding officer. And now that Hopper was my commanding officer, I was officially caught between a rock and a bitchy commanding officer.

Despite my fears I didn't have much of an option. I re-laced my boots, wiped my tears, and headed to the Commander's Offices, where I was sure to find Hopper.