The next morning, routine squad-level PT was replaced with a battalion run to celebrate and kick off the start of the third-year cadets heading towards graduation. Alpha squad was finally complete with the return of Savoi. There was no time to talk, as General Benavides gave a riveting speech to rally his troops with excitement. The mood and morale were a mixture of eagerness, anxiety, and a few drowsy cadets. The battalion ran six miles, with the Alpha squad at the helm. This time Savoi did not fall back. Instead, she held her own and even called cadence at the insistence of Lt. Co. Adame.
Everything from her appearance to her demeanor had changed. She transitioned her braids into dreadlocks and shaved her sides into a fade. Every cadet donned new gold and black PT uniforms, which distinguished them as third-year cadets. Savoi’s body was far more svelte than before, though the thickness of her muscular thighs and backside were further defined. Savoi’s strong, emboldened voice belted loudly, laced with the richness of her island accent. It was as if she cast an enchantment spell over them in her native tongue. The Alpha squad could not help but to feel reinvigorated by the spirited command of such a fierce presence.
It was apparent Savoi had not spent the duration of her laboratory confinement cuffed to a worktable extracting chemical compounds. Whatever took place was a trigger which eliminated the whimsical, child-like version of herself. She embodied a true soldier prepared for the battlefield. Each of her squad mates was flabbergasted and in awe of her transformation. For Shevchenko, it was a slap in the face compared to the girl who danced nearly naked in their barracks room just hours before.
After the battalion run, Roudan had his team take part in weapons training. He enlisted Yoshida to take point, as this was his specialty. They met inside the armory and waited for further instructions. This was Savoi’s first time inside the armory. Her eyes grew wide as saucers at the exotic weapons on display. She took a specific interest in a giant crossbow. It was heavier than she expected. Yoshida braced her into place as she stumbled backwards. A brief but intense gaze held them together. For the moment, Yoshida swam in her allure. Savoi broke the tension with a beautiful grin that expose the creases of her dimples.
Shevchenko watched them from the other side of the room, heated with envy. Farouk interrupted her train of thought with a gentle nudge, and she felt the coldness of Roudan’s wounded glare behind her. For Roudan’s part, he had a comfortable understanding that he could only quell a small portion of the flames of passion which Shevchenko held for Yoshida. After all, the heart wants whoever it wants. Savoi’s reentrance into their squad made it clear to him that both he and Shevchenko played second fiddle to the undeniable intimate connection Yoshida shared with her.
Roudan snapped out of his lovesick mourning and called the squad to attention. He graciously relinquished authority to Yoshida so they could conduct their weapons training in a timely manner. The Alpha squad geared up with protective armored suits. They headed to the lower interior of the armory where there was an M16 rifle and 9MM hand gun range. Yoshida patiently instructed his team on how to hold, secure, and clean each weapon.
“The best way to become a sharp-shooter is to be fed bullets,” he said.
Farouk was struck with confusion.
“You mean we have to eat the rounds?” he asked.
Yoshida chuckled in delight.
“No. I mean, you must shoot your weapon as many times as possible to get better,” he replied.
The pop-up targets surrounded them, and the squad fired their weapons until each clip was empty.
After target practice was completed, they shifted to a training station behind the armory.
The grenade range provided simulations of a full-on, warlike scenario on the battlefield. Just as he did during the entrance exam, Farouk froze in place and became disoriented by the surrounding commotion. The radioactive grenades had a detonation timer set for thirty seconds after the pin was pulled. Farouk was the only member to hesitate when commanded to throw the grenade. At that point, Yoshida swiftly tackled him to retrieve the grenade and throw it as far as he could.
Yoshida stopped the simulation and ripped into Farouk with all of hell’s fury. Savoi did not intervene. She stood afar in stoic silence. The deadness in her eyes was noticed by all. Farouk shook off Yoshida’s harsh rebuke and licked his lips with determination not to foul up again. Shortly after, Roudan declared it was best to take a break. The team went back inside the armory to eat the MRE meal packages sent from the chow hall.
Savoi ate very little and did not mingle with her squad. She took it upon herself to continue studying the different weapons on display. Yoshida quietly followed behind her. He pondered her unreadable disposition. Roudan made a point of telling everyone to refrain from any desires to probe the exact nature of Savoi’s punishment. There had been brief moments throughout the day when they could see flickers of the old jovial Savoi. He missed that part of her. It was almost as if everything that occurred during their second year knocked the wind out of Savoi.
“Déjà vu,” he thought to himself, referring to the memory sequence of the happy little girl whose world was turn upside down.
Savoi caught his attention when she picked up a folding knife. She struggled with the trigger to release the blade, so he took it from her.
As he released the blade, he said,
“This is a very special tool.” He folded the blade and clasped his right hand over the weapon. “These types of knives serve as a surprise to your opponent, never to flash right away.” Yoshida walked behind Savoi and slid his left arm around her waist. Before she could protest, he swiftly extracted the knife with his right hand and held it to her throat.
Savoi countered his move by slipping her hand inside the small opened space of his right forearm. She gripped his wrist and forcefully pulled the knife away from her throat. Then glided her left hand over his and dug her nails deep to draw blood. This maneuver took Yoshida off guard, so he did not notice when she moved her right leg back and in between his stance. Finally, Savoi bowed, pushed her body into his, and swiftly body slammed him over her shoulder.
Yoshida was beyond stunned and embarrassed. Not because he had been bested by Savoi, but because his actions might have triggered her into such a strong response.
Shevchenko stood with her mouth wide open, while Roudan and Farouk clapped in awe of her technique.
“Great going, Thomasa,” Farouk yelled after a cheerful whistle. “I bet you learned that move after your ordeal with Molvik,” he continued.
Savoi gasped at his remark. She knew everyone walked on eggshells around the subject, yet she was not ready to expound on everything that had transpired. Roudan jabbed Farouk harshly and Yoshida’s eyes rebuked him, which only made her feel more uncomfortable. Farouk winced in disgrace from yet another foul. Shevchenko rolled her eyes at her male counterparts. For the past several weeks, she had the luxury of not watching them fawn over Savoi.
“Who would imagine that between Emmett and Haru, it would be Thomasa to end up on the firing line with the Tribunal Council?” Shevchenko interjected, and did so with a loud cackle that required no permission or participation.
“Lily, that was unnecessary!” Roudan barked.
Savoi took no offense to Shevchenko’s dig. In fact, she laughed hysterically at the truthfulness of her statement.
Savoi cut off her laughter in an instant.
“Lily has a good point. I suppose the damning thing about me is I will never stand by idly and watch my teammates be torn down,” she said with the intensity and her island accent.
Roudan and Yoshida froze, as they knew Savoi was referring to both incidents where she put herself on the line to spare them from being expelled from the academy. Neither of them had returned the favor, and it ate away at them. This made Yoshida suddenly feel off kilter, which made him unsure of how to proceed.
~The Waring Robins~