Tambwe Dominance — Rangda City, 8th Division Garrison
Around nine o’ clock the shiny black Bijali strolled through the gate to the 8th Division garrison and wound its way around the barracks and toward the flag park at a speed of fifteen kilometers per hour. A group of soldiers on a morning run waved at the officers as they passed the car along the dusty base roads. Minardo smiled and waved back.
Parinita nodded off against Madiha’s shoulder. Once they arrived at their destination, a honk of the horn startled her awake, and a cheeky Minardo put on the parking brake. They stopped between a pair of yellow lines hastily painted beside the headquarters.
Outside of their new building, a small pile of items had been left on the grass with a note that read “IOU.” Madiha had no idea what that could refer to. She surveyed the items: three desks, a few tables, several chairs, and piled atop the furniture were sundries like paper, ink fountains, pens, handkerchiefs, curtains, cleaning products, all in a big stack.
Kali climbed on top of the nearest desk and curled itself up into a ball.
“Guess we’re not starting work today either, huh.” Parinita said, rubbing her forehead.
Minardo groaned. “Not even a measly typewriter. What the hell is going on around here?”
“When did you put in the orders for our equipment?” Madiha asked.
“A day before you arrived. I’m very sorry about this, Colonel.” Minardo said.
“It’s not your fault.” Madiha said.
“Unless they’re completely out of equipment, two days should have been enough to get us equipment.” Parinita said. “Even had they run out of everything we need, it doesn’t take that long to put together local product from state goods or co-op stocks if needed.”
As she searched around Madiha took note of one important item sorely missing: a radio. And not just any radio. They needed a high power military radio — the one in the car could only pick up local music. Even one measly piece of military-grade communications equipment with some level of range would allow them to set things properly into motion, to procure supplies accurately and directly, to contact other units, to tune into army frequencies or contact army staffers and discover what was happening along the front lines.
Radio was the nerve endings that brought the sensation of war to their brains.
Without radio or a telephone a headquarters was a mere formality. Just people sitting around counting imaginary beans without having a single growing plant in their garden.
That did not mean the items they did get were useless. They still had work to do.
Sighing internally, Madiha picked up a chair in each hand and started walking into the headquarters building. She set the furniture down on the landing, unlocked the door, and pushed the chairs into a corner of the room. Doubling back outside, she found her subordinates staring at her. She stared back, wondering what they were waiting for.
“The sooner we get this furniture in, the sooner we can go look for a radio.” Madiha said.
Parinita blinked, and picked up a chair herself, and held it in the air as though awaiting explicit orders to bring it inside. Madiha nodded to her, and she started toward the building.
“Minardo, you take it easy.” Madiha said, watching the pregnant woman moving to work.
“No! It is fine, I can handle this–”
Minardo bent slightly forward, but then quickly shifted from trying to pick up a chair to picking up the basket of cleaning products. Bottles of soap, towels, disinfectants, and perfuming products weighed much less than the furniture, and Minardo carried them happily into the headquarters, periodically rubbing her back and belly as she went.
Once the chairs and tables had been ferried inside, the trio stared at the wooden desks as if hoping they would grow legs and walk into the building by themselves. They were fairly big desks, of a common, thick, boxy design with drawers. They would be difficult to move. Madiha, being the strongest, lifted her side with some ease. Minardo stepped quickly aside; nobody entertained the notion of making the pregnant woman lift anything.
Parinita glared unhappily at the desk, and positioned herself across from Madiha.
“On my count, we lift.” Madiha said. Her secretary nodded her head obediently.
She counted, and made an effort to lift the heavy desk with her hands. Madiha got it off the ground; Parinita’s arms and legs buckled instantly and she fell over the desktop.
“I can’t do it!” She cried out, wiggling helplessly with her arms wrapped around the desk.
“Just get it a little off the ground and let Madiha take it in strides.” Minardo suggested.
“I can try to drag it in by myself.” Madiha said, breathing a little harshly from the attempt.
Parinita looked up at her with sudden determination. “No! I’ll– I’ll help! I’m here for you!”
Her tone of voice had gotten so intense that Minardo got a strange look in her eyes.
Madiha nodded her head. “We’ll try again. On my count, lift it up as much as you can.”
Again Madiha counted down, and again she lifted the desk. She watched her partner.
Gritting her teeth, her whole body shaking from the effort, Parinita managed to lift the desk a centimeter off the earth and hold it in the air, arms and legs shaking wildly.
Madiha started to move. While they struggled to get the desk off the grass and dust, Minardo waved her arms like a conductor, gesturing this way and that until Parinita started yelling at her. Madiha made haste after that, and soon half-dragging and half-lifting, the pair managed to maneuver the first desk through the door and out of the way.
It became quickly clear, however, that there were two more of them to move. Rubbing on her arms, breathing heavily, sweat dribbling down the bridge of her nose and her cheeks, Parinita stared at the objects like they were hungry beasts, and gave them some distance. Madiha was starting to feel a little wear on her own arms — though she thought herself pretty fit, it had been a long time since she had to do any manual labor.
“Good job!” Minardo cheered, giving both of them a big thumbs up and a winking eye.
Parinita shot her a glare and gritted teeth in return, and she turned away from them.
For a moment they stood around the remaining desks. Kali started to prance around on top of one, as if all of this attention was meant for it, but the headquarters crew looked past the little dragon and continued to stare at the wooden desks. Trepidation quickly became infectious. Even Madiha was contemplating leaving the desks outside for now.
As the Colonel’s staff started to sink into despair, a pair of rejuvenating voices called.
“Commander! Good morning, good morning!”
Crossing the flag green, two young women in uniform dashed toward the headquarters, one waving and jumping with cheer, the other falling quickly behind and giving a very inexpressive response. Heading the charge was Corporal Gulab Kajari, a somewhat short young woman with honey brown skin and a gentle face, her long braided tail trailing behind her as she ran. Though she had seemed skinny when Madiha first saw her, the fighting seemed to have toughened her up a little. She looked leaner, better toned.
Trailing behind Corporal Kajari was Sergeant Charvi Chadgura, a slightly taller and bigger woman whose most eye-catching feature was her silver-white head of hair. It formed an interesting contrast with her dark skin. Stone-faced, she jogged inanimately several steps behind the veritable blur that Corporal Kajari had become in relation to her. This odd pair crossed the park, passed through the empty lots, reached the officers and stopped for a quick breath, nearly doubling over. They then composed themselves and saluted.
“Ma’am, we were getting acquainted with the base, when we saw you starting to move things in! We thought you could use some strong hands to help out!” Kajari said.
“We are at your disposal.” Chadgura added, her tone of voice low and flat.
Before Madiha could accept or decline the offer from the two officers, Parinita looked from the desks on the grass and back to the arrivals, and a gargantuan smile stretched cheek to cheek across her face. Eyes twinkling, Parinita sweetly glided over to the two, and threw her arms around them, spontaneously jumping and dancing with them. She rubbed her face between their shoulders, and almost seemed like she would weep.
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” She started to screech.
Chadgura stood stone still, slowly raising slightly shaking hands and clapping with them.
Kajari patted Parinita and Chadgura both in the back and averted her eyes.
Madiha and Minardo eventually pulled the aggressively thankful secretary away and stood aside to watch their younger, perhaps fitter subordinates tackle the dreaded desks. Kajari and Chadgura approached the desks, sizing up their opponents. Kajari cracked her knuckles and stretched her fingers, grinning as if she was about to enter a boxing ring as a confident champion. Chadgura stood with her arms limp and a dead stare.
Kajari eyed her partner with confusion. “Are you nervous? Something wrong?”
“I don’t know if I can even lift.” Chadgura replied, still staring at the desks.
After a brief moment of silence, they stood on opposite ends of a desk and got to work.