No sooner than Shevchenko settled herself on the backseat of the motorbike, Roudan sped off. He did not want to chance that she would change her mind. This was probably the most brazen move she had made since the night she announced her enrollment at the academy to her family. With so much going on with the war, Savoi, and Yoshida, there was no better time to drown all thoughts out with a high-speed trek through campus.
Calvary academy’s maximum speed limit of 35 MPH was dismissed in preference of the motorbike’s max of 75 MPH. The fierce rainstorm from the prior evening had long ceased and left the gift of a warm sunlit evening. Shevchenko was delighted to take in the fresh air and scenery as they drove through rainbow-reflected puddles. Not even the slightest hint of a chill came about. Only waves of pleasure and freedom washed over them. It was a defining moment, a treasure for both Shevchenko and Roudan. She allowed her long blonde hair to flail in the wind and carelessly tightened her arms around his waist. This was the closet physical contact between them since the entrance exam.
He mused over how her attitude towards him had gone from cold to lukewarm, and in that moment, as warm as the sun. The combination of his confidence, swagger, and leadership abilities earned him her favor. During the year and a half of their enrollment at the academy, Roudan had mastered the art of balancing all their strengths against their weaknesses. The Alpha squad was considered a finely tuned machine. There were, of course, a few hiccups.
In the distance, on the backside of the library, a small figure clung to light a post. Roudan and Shevchenko zipped past the person until they realized it was Farouk. Roudan turned around to meet him. The boy giggled up a storm and sobbed all at once. He sang loudly in his native tongue and sounded like an injured cat. Roudan parked his bike and helped Shevchenko dismount.
“Maaz, what the hell is the matter with you?” she shouted as she slapped his cheeks.
“Oh, hello Lily. What are you doing out here?” he smirked.
“I asked you first,” she snapped.
Farouk plopped onto the ground, even as he still clung to the light post.
“Oh, it’s simple. I’m at the library. We just finished the study session for the flight exam,” he answered.
Shevchenko knelt beside him.
“Your study session ended hours ago. Why are you still here?” she asked.
Farouk giggled again, but when he saw Shevchenko’s scowl, he shushed himself and the light post.
“Oh, it’s simple,” he giggled. “I was stressed about the cram session, so I went to see Thomasa at the lab for one of her magical pep talks. She said she was busy and handed me a chocolate truffle. Her great advice was for me to take a small bite before and after my appointment.”
Roudan sighed heavily, which caused Shevchenko to look at them crossly.
“Maaz, did you eat the whole thing?” Roudan gently asked with concern.
Farouk nodded his head repeatedly and eventually bumped into the light post. He continued to giggle as Shevchenko helped him to his feet.
“Thomasa knows I love chocolate. I thought she was just sharing a snack with me. I imagined nothing would happen,” he said.
Shevchenko shook Farouk to stop his giggles.
“What in the world is the problem with a chocolate truffle?” she asked.
Roudan leaned to whisper in her ear.
“Thomasa is a master chemist with amazing abilities to create potions, serums, and, best of all, drugs,” he said.
Shevchenko looked at Roudan in disgust.
“She drugged him?”
Roudan smirked and replied, “More than likely the truffle was laced with something to calm his nerves, but he mistakenly didn’t follow her instructions on how to use it.”
Farouk began his dreadful song all over again with more tears. He stopped crying when Roudan hoisted him onto his back.
“Ooh, a piggyback ride!” he chimed with glee.
Roudan nodded for Shevchenko to collect the books off the ground.
“I’m sorry our road trip got sidelined,” she said.
“It’s alright. Our excursion will continue later if you’d like. Right now, we must sober him up,” he said.
“Can’t we just take him back to the barracks?” she asked.
Roudan shook his head.
“Although drugs and alcohol aren’t specifically prohibited, extreme inebriation is frowned upon. I’m afraid our dear fellow is lit like a Christmas tree, which could reflect poorly on his evaluation. We can’t afford to let anyone see him in this state.”
Farouk finally stopped singing and buried his face in the back of Roudan’s head. Shevchenko was alarmed at his abrupt silence, and asked, “Maaz, are you alright?”
Farouk hesitated to respond, then lifted his head with a cackle.
“Oh, it’s simple. I’m fine!” He cut off his laugh and frowned. “Feels like I’m falling, but in the opposite direction.”
~The Waring Robins~