|Film/Image credit to 'Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow'|
Dixon chuckled and took her hand, pulling her to her feet.
"Just lucky, Staff Sergeant."
"How modest." She said, wiping off her uniform. "But before you let your ego inflate however, care to explain why the fuck you were away from your fireteam?"
"I wanted to make sure my target was eliminated." he responded calmly.
Coughlin's eyes narrowed.
"In exchange for their lives? You understand all three were taken out before you 'eliminated your target' right?"
Dixon shrugged but she could see a tightening in his expression that suggested she was getting to him. No sane soldier wished his squad dead even if they considered them to be extra baggage.
His lips curled back into a smirk as he tried to rebuild his armor.
"It's not a real op. And I think you're just mad I got you this time."
She grabbed him by the front of the armor and pulled him so close she could smell the S.O.S on his breath from mess.
"Get this through your thick fucking head, soldier. You are part of a fireteam. You are not team lead. You are part of my squad. You are not squad leader. You're a damn good marksman but if keep up with this horseshit the only thing you'll be in the brig for insubordination."
"This isn't boot camp, you little shit." she continued, yanking him hard again. "I'm not going to threaten to make you clean the latrine with your tongue or some outlandish crap like that. If your cowboy bullshit gets one of my soldiers killed, I will bust you down myself and you won't see anything but the inside of a hard-work camp til hell freezes over. Get me?"
His expression hardened and his smirk faded.
"Sir." he responded sharply.
"Good. Now I'm going to say it again. Do you get me?"
"Sir. Yes, sir."
She smiled at the man's submission and backed off. Looking around, she realized the entire squad was standing nearby, watching the interaction. All eleven other soldiers remained silent but attentive to the ass chewing.
Sensing the tension, she decided to use it.
"The same goes for the rest of you." she said loud enough for everyone to hear plainly.
Several of the men and women grimaced.
"You're the best goddamn unit the Corps has ever seen. A group of one hundred percent human badasses made with one purpose. To Kick. Ass. But if you're as sloppy as you were today, I'm going to be mailing flags back to your mamas with notes saying 'Dumbass couldn't figure out who her fireteam leader was', Xi or 'Decided to be a cowboy with another deadman', Ludwig."
The group gave each other a few terse glances and Coughlin could tell be the flush red dominating Xi's cheeks that the comment had hit home.
"Still...dumbasses that you all are, you're the best. And, as much as I might want to kick Dixon's ass for it..." she said, allowing herself a smile and smacking Dixon's armor playfully. "You did beat me."
The group chuckled softly and let out a few small whoops.
"That means you're buying the beer, right?" Kuroba yelled playfully.
"Man, it's her birthday!" shouted Bullock. "Y'all should be buying her a beer."
Coughlin laughed again as the group converged together, no longer a competing set of teams but as a single unit. A single body of brothers and sisters acting together in perfect unison.
Well, almost perfect.
"Tell you what Kuroba: I'll buy you all a beer but you get to buy my beers."
"Don't do it Sarge!" Dixon shouted at his fireteam leader. "Don't forget what happened on Christmas."
"I'm pretty sure that's above your paygrade." Quinn agreed.
The squad all laughed together and started to make their way through the dingy, abandoned alleyways they had used for training and back towards the APC.
"How about this:" Kuroba offered. "Can I waive the alcohol-fee in exchange for a cake?"
"Depends." Coughlin commented. "Where'd you get a cake?"
"Don't ask. Don't tell." Cooper said with a smirk and a wink.
The group burst into laughter again as they exited the alley and found themselves in the large open field outside of the training facility. The large, boxy APC was parked right where they left it, encased by a shroud of heavy fog that drifted through the darkness.
But there was something else.
Two, heavy duty spotlights shone down from a dropship as it tore across the open field towards the training facility. It was moving at a steady click low to the ground. The beams sliced through the darkness as it sped towards them.
"The hell is that?" Dixon asked with a suspicious tone.
"Ain't no other teams out tonight, are there?" Bullock asked.
Seemingly in response, Coughlin's mic buzzed in her ear. She tapped it and the gravely voice of Lieutenant Freeport growled in her ear.
"Staff Sergeant Coughlin?"
"Sir." she confirmed.
"I know your squad just got done with a training op, but I'm sending a dropship your way to pick you all up. There's an op I need you for on the east coast of the small continent."
Quinn grimaced, listening in on the conversation, but said nothing.
"Sir, is there a reason one of the other squads is unavailable?"
"All squads are in deployment and we needs yours too. We've had a number of lifeboats crash land on the planet and we need immediate response to save as many lives as we can."
Coughlin let out a long, controlled sigh but quickly said, "I understand, Sir."
"SitRep will be on the dropship. Over and out."
Short and sweet. she thought to herself.
The squad looked at her expectantly, but they all knew what was coming. They didn't know where they were going or why they were going, but they knew based on what they had heard that they weren't getting back to base right away.
"So, you think dragging us on an Op is going to get you out of your beer duties, Staff Sergeant?" Kuroba asked playfully, trying to lighten the quickly tensing mood.
"Yea, probably. But you still owe me cake when we get back."