Shevchenko sat in a cozy wing chair beside the library’s roaring fire place to study the night before the Morphology exam. The entire chamber bustled with dozens of cadets amid study sessions. She anxiously flipped through her flashcards, disgruntled by the noise and the fact that she had been waiting for Savoi to join her for well over an hour. To drown out the chatter, she closed her eyes and whispered recited words to herself.
“Morphology. The study of the form of words.”
“That would be linguistics. Morphology is the study of the form of things,” a familiar voice whispered in her ear.
Shevchenko peered through one eye to see Savoi standing next to her. She pulled away and said with a grimace,
“I know that.”
Savoi frowned at her.
Shevchenko stiffened in her seat.
“That’s what I meant,” she said.
Savoi hurriedly sat in an empty chair and sifted through her satchel. Shevchenko sighed incredulously.
“Nice of you to grace me with your presence, oh gifted one.”
Savoi held her tongue and continued to rummage through her bag. She plucked out a binder at least three volumes thick with some highlighter markers. This infuriated Shevchenko, so she pressed further.
“Punctuality is of the utmost importance. How do you expect to effectively support your team in the field if you’re late in their hour of need?”
Savoi pretended to ignore her comment and quietly marked through the pages in her binder. After several minutes of silence, she stood up and shoved the binder in Shevchenko’s lap.
“Here are my notes for the exam. Be sure to focus on the areas that are highlighted. The last four pages are specifically for Haru,” she said.
Shevchenko raised her brow.
“Why does he need specific notes?” she asked.
Savoi stuffed her markers into her bag. Before she marched away, she said,
“He asked for a private study session. I didn’t have time to meet with him, because of my work at the lab. I don’t want him to feel like I brushed him off.”
Shevchenko grabbed her by the arm with a pleading look in her eyes.
“Why would Haru ask you for a private study session when I’m the linguistics specialists in our squad?” she asked.
Savoi slung her satchel onto her left shoulder. Her patience disappeared as she eyed Shevchenko.
“He nearly failed the Semantics exam under your watch. Punctuality is important, but practicality is pertinent as well,” she replied and stormed off.
Ten minutes later, the rest of the squad joined Shevchenko in the library. She presented the binder, but did not divulge that it came from Savoi. She did not have time to hide the notes meant for Yoshida. He found them in the back of the book and was elated.
“So, Thomasa didn’t blow me off after all,” he beamed.
Shevchenko snatched the binder from him.
“Let me see that,” she said.
There were four very detailed notes with color-coded annotations. A small sticky note was attached on the bottom of the first page. Farouk read the note aloud.
“Haru, please don’t be sore with me. Everything you need to know is listed in alpha-numeric order. I know you will fare well on this exam.”
“Looks like your girl came through for you after all,” Roudan chuckled.
Yoshida held the documents as if they were sacred and grinned.
“Your girl?” Shevchenko scoffed. “She only helped in the eleventh hour. We could have used these notes twelve days ago.”
Farouk frowned at Shevchenko, while the others glared in silence. She knew they would not allow her to berate Savoi without biting back. Reluctantly, she settled down. Time was of the essence, and the binder would be their saving grace. Everyone agreed to table any sidebar conversations so they could dedicatedly study. The team did not want to squander any of Savoi’s efforts in vain, and their work paid off with high marks on the exam.
Climate changes from the effects of chemical warfare caused the snow to abruptly melt, and a heatwave took its place. General Benavides announced a battalion run would be performed for the tactical pretest. The 1st, 2nd, and remaining 3rd year cadets from every squad, (Alpha thru Delta), would take part in a 5K run. Late in the evening, just before midnight, all of Calvary academy stood together in formation on the beachside of campus.
News of the ill-fated fleets of 3rd year cadets deployed to Nerou spread quickly. The senior staff gave several renditions of motivational speeches to raise morale. Roudan ran beside the Alpha squad and called out a cadence as they took off. The unit moved in unison during a third of the run. Eventually, the slower runners broke rank. They were guided to the rear of the formation.
Savoi shut her eyes and sighed. Her stomach cramped and throat tightened. She paced herself as best as she could, though she found she could not keep up. Roudan fell back to run alongside her.
“Cadet Savoi, do you want to fail?” he snarled sharply.
During her time on the vast Malta estate, Savoi never had been much of a fast runner. In fact, General Malta encouraged her to pursue other athletic goals. Which is why she did not respond to him. Through teary eyes, she looked ahead to see the far distant formation disappear as she trailed behind. Roudan realized harsh words would not suffice. His affection for Savoi would take a nasty turn if he continued to dig. Silently, he took off to reassemble back with his squad.
Savoi was last at the finish line. Her heart sank, and for the first time, she walked with her eyes glued to the ground. Thick beads of sweat dripped and labored breathing overwhelmed her entire body. The humiliation of being the weakest link stung her pride like an angry wasp. The battalion remain at attention, as General Benavides gave another speech. Every head restrained from turning to gawk in astonishment. Shevchenko stood in formation, completely satisfied that she had finally bested Savoi in a task, and refused to conceal the smugness of her victory from anyone.
After the formation was officially dismissed, Roudan walked alone and contemplated how to strengthen his squad. “As long as we don’t give up, we can find our footing.” He thought. “We shouldn’t waste valuable time undermining each other’s skills. We were put together as the Alpha squad because our strengths complement each other, and our weaknesses are will be sharpened like a hot blade.”
Savoi was sent to the infirmary, as her breathing pattern had not returned to normal. She requested Farouk to escort her. Roudan felt a tinge of guilt for his actions during the run.
“Maaz, please take care of Thomasa,” he said.
Farouk nodded and departed
“I was hard on her when she fell back to the rear,” Roudan said, as he kicked a mound of sand.
Yoshida placed his arm on Roudan’s shoulder.
“Thomasa is tough. She will be alright. Perhaps she’s fatigued from being overworked at the lab,” he said.
“Do you hear yourselves right now? Thomasa isn’t the goddess you all think she is. Just because she became Lt. Co. Adame’s lab rat doesn’t mean that she should fall behind in the standards of being a soldier.”
Roudan furiously shrugged and walked away.
“I can’t get into this with you right now, Lily. I’m going to see if I can get an update on her condition,” he said.
Shevchenko blinked, astounded by the manner of his tone.
“Why is everyone so pissed at me? We knew from the entrance exam that Thomasa sucked at running. This just goes to show; she isn’t great at everything,” she stammered.
Yoshida lowered his voice so that he would not be heard scolding his squad mate.
“Your visible animosity towards Thomasa in inexcusable, and is surely the cause of discord among the team,” he growled.
Shevchenko stood, shocked at his accusation.
“in order for there to be discord, there would need to be an active dispute between us. Thomasa regularly disregards most of my opinions,” she replied.
“That’s because she’s rather introspective and cautious about speaking carelessly when it concerns others,” he said.
“Are you trying to say she’s been sparing my feelings?” Shevchenko gasped.
“Very much so,” he answered.
“How can you be for certain? Are you a mind reader?” she asked and watched him unreservedly muse over the idea of knowing Savoi’s thoughts.
“There it is, again,” she said.
Yoshida grinned. “What?”
“The look you get whenever you think of her.”
“What look? This is just my regular face,” he said.
Shevchenko sighed grievously.
“No, it isn’t. You don’t look that way for anyone but her. Just now, it was as if you’re dying to be privy to the conversations that go on in her head.”
Yoshida leaned in to whisper in her ear.
“Actually, I live for it. Thomasa is a genius. She just might be the salvation of this kingdom if she can figure out a way to end the war. I don’t want to miss any of it, and will do everything possible to help achieve that goal.”
Shevchenko pursed her lips.
Yoshida swiftly patted her on the back and said, “Don’t be so uptight. It might do you some good to channel that version of yourself who stood frozen on the ballroom steps waiting for your life to change in a positive direction.”
His words struck her to the core. She never imagined that he paid any attention to the inner details of her memory sequence. It was true that she felt stuck in a hopeless situation that was not of her own doing, and would have given anything to change the tide.
With a stiff jaw, Shevchenko reluctantly agreed to participate in helping Savoi become a faster runner.
~The Waring Robins~