It's after the revelation of the Battle Saints that I enter picture in a concrete way.
My neighborhood of the war was jokingly referred to as the 'Diocese of St. Katherine'. We were certain that there was a Saint in the vicinity, intel suggested a high probability that it was a female, but she'd never openly taken the field against us. My people were there because of our special operations and counterinsurgency experience- we had no intel of any other female Battle Saints.
The theories of what to expect from 'Katherine' ran the gammut from timid to some PMS-powered psychotic savage. She proved most of them dead wrong.
She may not have taken the field openly, but, oh, how we sparred, Katherine and I. From the information I was privvy to- and that was quite a bit- the other Saints; or, perhaps more appropriately, the other Saints' handlers; were fairly straight-forward in their approach to the war. Not incompetent, by any means, but not much better commanders than their.. purely mortal.. counterparts in our ranks.
Katherine, though... Katherine was brilliant- subtle, patient and viciously cunning. Command had begun to doubt the presence of a Saint in my AO, and frankly, I was close to concurring when she showed her hand the first time. In one night, I lost three long range patrols, seven manned observation posts and nineteen passive-sensors-only cybernetic OPs- more than I had lost since being posted to the area.
She wasn't infallible, though. My counter, four nights later, cost her far more lives but much less hard currency. And so we danced- back and forth for nearly six months. I must admit, I was getting frazzled- desperate, maybe a little reckless. During eight terrifying, frenetic hours of fighting, I led an armor raid over Protectorate lines by skulking in under cover of a sandstorm. To be honest, I had only the vaguest idea that we were over enemy lines until one of my flank elements actually rammed into an enemy vehicle. What the troops refer to as 'Blind Man's Brawl' took all of my attention for the rest of the day. As the storm blew itself out, and the sun finally dipped below the horizon, I finally dragged my surviving units out of engagement range, and the Fox's batteries discouraged any pursuit.
Unfortunately, things only got worse from there. The intensity of the war in other areas and attrition on both sides left me more or less commanding Battlegroup Rommel, and Katherine and I were both reduced to the equivalent of brawling gangs. With winter closing in fast on the nothern deserts and mountains that were simultaneously home and hell for her forces and mine, some small respite was certain soon. But not soon enough, I suppose.
Certainly not soon enough, so far as the dream, and it's impact on me, is concerned...
Sweet Vishnu, how to tell the story without.. the truth?
How to tell the story of that last, desperate attempt to break her before winter?
That last battle, that first time we truly engaged one and other instead of dancing, instead of jabbing and flitting away.. Each of us throwing punches in the form of tank platoons, trying to sweep the other's feet with a crack team of heavy infantry sneaking on an apparently blind flank... Handfuls of sand flung out to blind, shredding the electromagnetic spectrum, spitting, biting, and then.. then it was down to she and I. The whole world closed down. My tank had finally foundered, and as my crew unassed it- there she was, in all her radiant psychic glory. Well, her handlers and bodyguard were there, but they were simply obstacles to be bypassed. The blazing firefight on foot, then sidearms and hand to hand... my crew dead, firing my last round through the head of her surviving bodyguard... turning to face Katherine, truly seeing her face for the first time- meeting her eyes, and.. and falling in love. ...Or something. I recognized her- I knew her. If I didn't love her then, well, that would come soon enough, anyway.
I know- trite and contrived, right? Yeah. Yeah, that's what my head says, too. But.. why do I have butterflies in my stomach? Why do I feel like my heart's been torn out when I think about this nonsense? Why do I remember that frigging dream and feel like I've lost everything that made life worthwhile? Why do I not fear forgetting the dream before I have time to write it all out? That one I can answer- because I know I'll never forget it. I'll never forget her.
A day and a troubled night later, and it still hurts. I still feel hollow. This is frigging ridiculous. Is this what comes of education? Self-inflicted madness? Is this some shade of the madness I was born with- the curse of being an empath with no control over the oscillations of his emotions and imagination? Suceptible to phantom emotion, victimized by my own dreams?