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Redhead slave is the prize in sexy game of chess.
This is not the only war we are fighting.
Back at the commandeered hanger her flight was using, Whitaker pulled Cora aside.
"What's wrong?" she asked Cora.
"I ... I think I fucked up by coming here. I don't think I'm worthy," Cora said as she handed the black silk clothes. Whitaker took them and nodded.
"I'll put them on your flight suit myself," she said.
"Did you know them?"
"Christian Norman ... yeah, I knew her. She's the woman you've replaced. She was a friend."
"Were you very ...close?" Cora had heard stories about the 167th but hadn't given them much credence until she looked into Whitaker's eyes. The woman was near to tears.
Cora found herself putting arm around her chief engineer.
"It will be okay," Whitaker sighed. "No one joins the Sacred Band for the retirement benefits." We all know what we are getting into. Now change and I'll fix your flight suit. You don't' want to be improperly dressed."
Willow slumped into her cot. She knew she stunk to high heavens. She'd flown five missions today in this tropical hell. All she wanted was a few hours of sleep. She removed her combat boots, peeled out of her flight suit and sat down in her semi-regulation underwear. Only then did she realize her second suit was lying on the bunk. She gingerly reached out and picked it up. On the cuffs were the two black bands.
She felt like a fraud staring down at those two pilots that had gone before her. They had earned their right to be counted as one of the elite. She looked up and saw Whitaker standing in the flap of the tent. Cora was suddenly very aware that her tent mate wasn't in attendance.
"Do you like the suit?" Whitaker asked.
"Yes, it's very well done. Thank you very much."
"I ... I'd like to say you've had very nice work done," Debra Whitaker muttered. It took Cora a second to realize what the Chief was talking about.
"Have a seat with me," Cora said. She scooted down the cot and patted on the locations she wanted Whitaker to sit in.
"Why did you come here, to the 167th?" Debra asked as she looked down at her hands.
"I'm a fighter and this unit fights," Cora answered lamely.
"I was David. Who were you?" Debra persisted still looking down.
"I don't like talking about that," Cora responded.
"You don't need to lie to me. You are a woman -- I mean you were born a woman," Debra sighed. Cora didn't know where to look.
"Are you going to turn me in?" was what she finally managed to say.
"No," Debra replied softly.
"Why?" Cora wondered aloud.
"I know what it is like, to hide. We all do. This unit is all about doing something the world doesn't think we can do. Why should we feel differently about you?"
"Thank you," Cora whispered.
"I also had two reasons. You are one hell of a leader. You work very hard to make your flight the best. You bring out the best in all of us. If you didn't, I would have busted you by now."
"What was the other reason?" Cora asked after several seconds of silence.
"I think I love you," Debra groaned. "I don't want to. I nearly fell apart when my first lover died."
What was she like?" Cora inquired quietly, "Or was your lover a he?"
"She was like me," Debra smiled weakly, making contact with Cora for the first time, "Shelia had been Steve and she was very beautiful and strong and fearless; a little like you."
"You aren't her though. You are not her replacement. She was loud and boisterous and very much in your face. You are much quieter and controlled, almost stoic. You also haven't tried to seduce me."
"I've never been with a woman before," Cora confessed. Debra reached out and put a hand on Cora's. Cora didn't pull away.
"If you want me to go, I'll go. Your secret is safe with me," Debra promised. Cora squeezed her hand back.
"I know." No one said anything for a minute.
"I had better get going," Debra said as she stood up to go. Cora didn't let go of her hand.
"I don't want you to go," Cora admitted with whispered words.