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Practice Fighting, by Elizabeth Hollows

1,730 words. Female/Female. Science Fiction Romance


The sounds of laserfire, shouts and fighting were deafening. Gina was crouched behind a wall, catching her breath and holding her laserrifle to her breast. The weapon was large and cumbersome and she was used to handlasers. She also preferred to be far away from a conflict rather than in the middle of it.

“Isn’t this fun?” Hattie said, dropping down beside her.

Gina had raised her weapon automatically but lowered it with relief at recognising the flushed and smiling face of her friend.

“For you, maybe,” Gina muttered. “I’d rather be studying.”

Hattie rolled her eyes and shoved her shoulder lightly. “Live a little, Gina. We’re not in the academy to sit on the sidelines.”

You might be chasing a command position,” Gina rebutted. “I am training as a scientist.”

Gina's passion was for languages and alien culture. She didn’t want to fight other species, she wanted to learn from them. But one of the only ways to travel to foreign planets was with the military. Civilian contractors didn’t get half the opportunities that military officers did.

It meant she was surrounded by hundreds of men and women who wanted to captain a ship and fight their enemies. Hattie was no different, but unlike their other classmates, Hattie was the only one who could convince her to take part in a battle simulation.

“Scientist or not,” Hattie said. “You’ve got to know how to handle a conflict. Can’t hide in your lab if the ship falls under attack.”

Gina sighed loudly. She knew Hattie was right. If she wanted to graduate the academy, she had to pass both the physical and weapon requirements. Hattie was always shoving her into mock-battle simulations and throwing her a different gun and environment every time. At least she wasn’t dying in the first ten minutes anymore.

“How many of the enemy are left?” Gina asked tiredly.

“Good thirty,” Hattie answered, glancing around the wall and down the street. They were in a city today. “But we’ve only got half our team.”

Gina readjusted her hold on the rifle.

“What’s the plan?” she asked.

“We need a better vantage point,” Hattie said. She pointed at a half-destroyed building on the opposite side of the street. “We’ll get clear views there and have a defensible stronghold.”

“I thought the goal was to stop them not withdraw to a fortress? If the timer runs out before the enemy is dead, we still lose.”

Hattie flashed her a smile. “You’re getting better at this.”

“I may not like fighting, but I’ve read the handbooks. I know what I need to do to pass.”

“There isn’t a grade attached to this.”

“But it’s practice for when there is,” Gina replied, fighting down her dread.

She had top marks in every class but her simulations, hand-to-hand combat and weapons.

Hattie by comparison was a natural soldier and aced them all. She even held a spot in the top five for her academic classes. Her secondary field was astrophysics with a speciality in space anomalies.

“Come on,” Hattie said, touching her shoulder. “We’ve got a clear run.”

Gina barely had a moment to register the words before Hattie was moving. Gina hurried to follow after her. Gina’s heart pounded as she rushed through the ruined city. Her hands were slick on the weapon and she expected laserfire at any moment.

She knew if she got hit that she wouldn’t die, but it was cold comfort with fear and adrenaline coursing through her body. No matter how many times she did this, it always felt real.

They reached the building and Gina pressed herself flat against the wall. Hattie glanced around and tried the door. Locked. She stepped back and kicked it in. Gina winced at the noise, but Hattie slipped inside, her weapon raised and scanning the building. Gina slipped in behind her. The room was clear.

“Leave the door open,” Hattie told her, heading towards the stairs. “We want them coming in this way.”

Gina followed behind, sweeping her rifle around the room and staying out of the path of windows. When they reached the second floor, Hattie fired her gun several times in quick succession and Gina flinched. She whirled her own weapon into the room but the three enemy soldiers were dead with their chests flashing red.

They had a small cache of weapons and medical supplies.

“They had the same idea,” Hattie said. “This is the start of an outpost.” She moved to the next door. “Stay here, I’m going to sweep the area.”

Gina opened her mouth, but Hattie was already disappearing. It left her alone with three dead simulation soldiers and the paranoia that more would be flooding the room at any time. Sweat beaded on her brow. She always felt safer when Hattie was present. She knew the woman would never let anything happen to her.

They’d first met on the campus when Gina had refused to participate in light-hearted sparring. She was terrible at it and her classmates knew. They’d wanted an easy target. Hattie had stepped between her and the others. She’d boldly taken them all on in Gina’s place.

Hattie had beaten everyone soundly and when she finished, she’d dropped down beside Gina, covered in sweat and with cheeks flushed with exertion and success.

She’d smiled and said, “Remind me to teach you how to beat them in a spar.”

Gina had thought Hattie was joking. She hadn’t expected the woman to find her the next day in the cafeteria and drop down beside her to discuss fighting techniques. Gina had been too startled to ask her why she was there. Gina still didn’t know why Hattie remained with her, but she wasn’t about to send the woman away.

They’d been friends for over a year and Hattie was still protecting and helping her. Gina might complain, but she didn’t know what she would do without Hattie.

It was something she didn’t want to think about, because sooner or later, they would be separated. Hattie would get a prestigious commission on a top military ship and Gina would get a commission on a smaller, scientific vessel.

They still had two more years at the academy. Gina hoped Hattie would be by her side throughout them.

For now, Gina settled in to wait. She set up an awkward position in the corner of the room. It gave her the best line of sight between the two doors and the small window. She couldn’t see any soldiers out on the street, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. Gina tried to relax the hand on her gun, she couldn’t afford it stiffening if an enemy approached. She didn’t want to disappoint Hattie by getting shot.

The minutes ticked by and Gina waited with tension and fear. She flinched at the smallest sound and by the time Hattie returned, Gina was ready to leave the simulation unfinished.

“Weren’t anymore soldiers,” Hattie said, her gun relaxed at her side. “I’ve contacted some of our team to come secure the location.”

Gina’s heart fell. She could already tell what Hattie had planned by the gleam in her eyes.This won’t be ending anytime soon.

“And what about us?” Gina asked with resignation.

“We’re going after the other team’s leader.”

That’s what I thought you’d say.

“We’ll have to wait for the others to arrive,” Gina said, hoping to buy some time.

Hattie saw right through her. She laughed. “Don’t sound so depressed, Gina. Think of your grades if it makes you feel better.”

“I think of my failing grades and I feel worse.”

Hattie shook her head. She came closer, resting her back against the wall beside Gina. Their bodies were pressed together, Hattie’s arm a line of warmth at her side.

“You’re getting a lot better,” Hattie told her softly. “Give it a few more months and you won’t need my help anymore.”

Gina snorted and looked down at the rifle. It still rested awkward and heavy in her hands. She was also too slow to shoot. It was the main reason she got killed. She always hesitated. More than once, Hattie had swooped in to save her.

“I think I’ll always need your help,” she finally replied, her words echoing her earlier thoughts.

She expected Hattie to give her a positive and uplifting speech. Maybe even punch her arm and tell her to stop being so ‘damn pessimistic’. Instead, she felt warm fingers on her chin before she was tugged to look at her friend. Hattie was a few inches taller than her. She was a red-haired beauty who had half their year chasing after her. There was a smudge of dirt on her cheek and her bright hair was hidden under a hat.

“My help isn’t going anywhere,” Hattie said softly. “And neither am I.”

Gina’s breath caught and before she could react, Hattie darted in and pressed their lips together. Gina’s lips parted in shock and she brought her hand to curl in Hattie’s shirt, keeping the woman close. Gina’s stomach fluttered and her heart pounded. Hattie tasted like strawberry lip balm.

When Hattie jerked back, Gina let out a noise of protest, but it was drowned out by the sound of laserfire. Hattie shot the soldier that had been climbing up the stairs. He was alone and hadn’t been careful. He must have been part of the group Hattie had shot earlier.

“Well,” Hattie said, her voice far brighter than usual. “That changes the plan.”

She pulled Gina’s hand from her shirt but linked their fingers. She dragged Gina deeper into the building.

“We go for the leader now,” Hattie continued.

“Because of one soldier?” Gina asked, stumbling to keep up.

Normally, it took more than a lone enemy to make Hattie re-evaluate her strategy.

“Because I’d rather get out of here quickly then wait around.” She looked over her shoulder and grinned. “I know a simulation isn’t your idea of a nice date.”

Gina’s mouth fell open, but after a few shocked moments, she closed it again and smiled back. A blush was already starting to stain her cheeks and she felt nervous and excited.

For once she didn’t worry about the upcoming battle or what her actions would mean for her test results. All she could think about was Hattie and where her friend would take her next.


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©2020 by Elizabeth Hollows. All Rights Reserved. This story is a work of fiction and is the author’s original work. Any resemblance to real people or locations is entirely coincidental. No part of this work may be used or reproduced without written consent from the author.

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