After a few minutes, a sergeant in a bluish uniform appeared. He was a bulky, short man with a bald head and a clean, shaved wrinkled face. As he came out of the hotel entrance, he checked out the situation and went straight on to them. Spotting the officers' distinction, he started saluting; then, he stopped and offered a handshake instead.
Seeing casualness like this, both cadets were taken aback. Even the lieutenant glared unpleasantly at him. She either kept her superior in high esteem or didn’t approve of familiarity coming from lower ranks.
However, Gromov did not mind.
“Andrey Jerzinski,” he said heartily and shook the hand. “It’s been a while. Now I can understand why it is so messed up. You are in charge.”
“The hell I am. Address all your complaints to Colonel Steiner, your best fan. Not a day passed without him complaining about your performance. I don’t get why he bothered to invite you. As for me, I was lucky to avoid you for five long years. I should’ve realized you caused the commotion here. Never satisfied with anything, are you, Captain?”
Then, Gromov turned toward his astonished companion. “Akane, meet my old friend, Sergeant Andrey Jerzinski. He’d served on our base before you came. Andrey, this is Lieutenant Anbi Akane, the worst pilot I had the honor to serve with.”
The sergeant shook the female hand with a wry smile: “Don’t mind him. He is no ace, either.”
Confused, Akane accepted the greetings: “You should not speak of him so lightly.”
“Oh, I should. I have to. Just listening to that devil may undermine all your self-respect. I guess he hasn’t brought you here for no reason.”
“She is a pretty face,” snorted Gromov. “The craziest imbecile under my command.”
“Your attitude has gotten even worse," frowned Andrey. "You can't treat a beautiful lady like this.”
Akane blushed and pointed at the red number under the left shoulder.
“He can’t forgive me that I died in action. We got into a rough ordeal in which I didn’t follow his orders. Not that I remember anything. ”
“Killed in action, huh?”
The sergeant showed the red digit on his uniform. “All my three under Sava as a wing commander. I don’t blame him, though. The idiot Steiner had done this to us. That glory-seeking moron thinks the more we die, the better soldiers we are. After the third one, I could not take it anymore. Sava helped me to transfer here, to Academy. A safe place, if you ask me. “
“Was it bad?” asked Akane.
“Absolutely. With each death, it has become worse. Not remembering names, friends, had a problem with proper reasoning. I couldn’t even recognize my old mother. They needed to introduce me to her, for God’s sake.”
“I am so sorry.”
“Oh, spare us, Andrey,” interjected Gromov. “You left home when you were thirteen if I recall correctly. No wonder you didn’t recognize her. ”
“Hey, I’m trying to win some sympathy here. Never mind. I was never the brightest.”
The sergeant said his line with a cheerful expression, and Gromov shook his head pitifully. He did not enjoy the way he was speaking to an old friend. Three backups in a row took a significant toll on Andrey; the recovering technology was said to damage about ten percent of the original personality, but Gromov believed the result affected more than just a memory.
After the series of revivals, Andrey gradually turned into a far cry of the man he used to be.
Born in the Czech Republic, Pavel Morava is not a native English speaker. Having been twenty-two years old, he published his first book, which did not become an international bestseller. After a few other attempts, Pavel Morava abandoned the literary career for over twenty years, during which period he has been focusing on processing of plastics, programming, and raising of children.
Recently, with more time at his disposal, he returned to the forgotten ambition, fighting a futile battle with English language, procrastination, and the tendency to give up too early.
Being vivid reader of not Anglo-Saxon origin, Pavel Morava was fortunate enough to experience books from different countries, including Czech, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Swedish, Dutch, Japanese, French, German, and English. Such a vast literary variety heavily influenced his own work, which typically relies on an one-point-of-view narrative, consecutive storytelling, and elimination of unnecessary details.
Web novels and online publishing made him reevaluate his approach to style and building blocks of the text; the result should be, hopefully, lighter, shorter, and more intelligible for reading on electronic devices.