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Passing Time

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The pool tournament had been a rousing success. No one was really surprised when it came down to Uriah and Marlene in the finals. Their showdown had been scheduled for this weekend, but that was before us newly initiated Dauntless were sent to the wall just before a storm rolled through. It was early in the season for snow, but such was our luck that we were then trapped waiting on it to pass before we’d be allowed to transport back in to the compound.

Marlene was taking it worse than Uriah; she had a bet with Christina riding on the outcome that apparently she hadn’t wanted to be delayed. Other than her sour expression and sharp remarks making watch duty… prickly to say the least, the rest of the squad was in general in good humor.

It was just boring watching the snow and wind whip about from the tiny watch tower the four of us were crammed into. The radio hardly ever sounded despite us being linked into the main dispatch. Every few hours or so someone from Command would check that we hadn’t frozen to death or fallen asleep entirely.

“This is stupid,” Uriah hissed under his breath. It was his turn to sit by the window. The thick woolen muffler around his neck ate most of his complaints as well as the chill. Christina dozed on her cot that she’d dragged right next to the wood stove, stirring slightly when Uriah spoke.

I shrugged one shoulder noncommittally. “Someone’s gotta be here,” I replied.

“And we’re new and easy to shove on the crap duty, sure,” Marlene grumbled.

“We can try to do something ,” I suggested for what was definitely the eightieth time in the past two days.

Christina’s voice rose up from her cot. “I’m not going for another walk. My bones are still frozen from earlier.”

I rolled my eyes and silently repeated her words back with a sour smirk. Okay, Marlene wasn’t the only one in a piss-poor mood by now. I still stand by the fact that she started the shift with a bad attitude. “There’s cards,” Uriah said, “but no tokens for betting.”

“Poker’s dumb,” Marlene retorted. Christina’s raised thumbs up agreed.

I kicked at the storage crate underneath Christina’s cot. “I think there are actual games in here,” I offered.

“Poker is an actual game. Just because you’re bad at it doesn’t mean it’s not a game.” Uriah moved from the window to pull the chest out even as he continued to grumble. “But I’ll try whatever. What’ve we got?”

The previous watch guards had left a little cache of vital supplies here: hand warmer packets, canned and dried food, a stray nudie artbook that certainly seen too many hands over its creased pages, and two wooden game boxes. I tried to ignore Marlene’s none-too-sneaky motion to take the artbook into her jacket pocket. To each their own, but I didn’t want to know she was looking at artsy porn while we were on watch.

Clearing my throat, I pointed to the bottom game box. “If you guys want to have a good time, we should play Black Card, White Card. If you want to lose terribly and cry a lot, then we should play Conquest,” I said with a grin. Conquest had been my game back in Top Levels. Caleb gave me a good run every once in a while, but strategy gaming came to me more naturally than him. We’d had to stop counting wins and losses because it just pissed him off.

Christina sat up and edged ever closer to the wood stove. “‘Lose terribly and cry?’ Those are fighting words, Tris,” she said with a chuckle. “I feel like if we don’t play now we’ll never hear the end of it.”

Uriah pulled out both boxes, weighing the options. “Rise to the challenge or actually have fun. Hmm.” After a moment he chucked the Black Card, White Card game back into the crate. “I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?” he said.

I only grinned in response. This was going to be fun.