by Derrick Boden
Bret woke with a piercing pain in his side, the roar of the battlefield still raging in his ears. The ceiling and walls were white. A white curtain hung at his left. A bag pumped liquid into his vein. His ragged breaths burned. The exoskeleton must've pushed through his lung. Could they fix that? God, he hoped so.
Bret's fingers sought out his pocket. He withdrew a photo, damp with sweat and blood. The most beautiful woman in the world looked back, eyes just for him, soft lips curved into a perfect smile.
"Susan," Bret said softly. If it weren't for Susan, he wouldn't have had the guts to jump out of that plane, alone in the dark.
A cough behind the curtain gave Bret a start, and the pain lanced up his neck.
"Private Bret McGuire," he said. "Who's there?"
"Private Toby Jackson," a man said in a rasping whisper, his voice strangely familiar. "Just arrived?"
"Shouldn't be here long. My girl Susan, she'll be right along to pick me up."
Toby let out a rattling sigh. "You did just get here. Poor sap."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Your girl Susan going to Belmont?"
Bret shot a suspicious glance at the curtains. "Yeah. Graduating this spring, with a degree in--"
"Political science." That voice. Could've been his own brother, it was so damned familiar.