There was little time for celebratory merits from the land navigation exam. Rigorous core training continued seamlessly. One of the training exercises comprised service on the Arms Guard in the artillery room. General Benavides took it upon himself to approach Roudan during his service. The cadets had been on duty for nearly 24 hours. Roudan was exhausted, and his uniform was disheveled. He perked up and stood at attention once he saw the senior officer come down the corridor.
Benavides smirked at the gesture. Without hesitation, he commanded, “At ease, soldier.” He pulled out a cigar. Roudan once again declined his offer to take one. The General quickly lit the cigar and took a long drag. After he exhaled, he continued to speak. “As you are aware, the kingdom remains in turmoil at this very hour. The war is far from over. Over half the 3rd year cadets have been deployed to stop the damage. Even with our best intelligence unit at the fold, there is little grasp of what the future holds as far as the war is concerned.”
Roudan’s eye twitched with discontent as he tucked the back of his dress shirt further inside his trousers. He was unsure how to respond, so he remained silent. Benavides nodded through a spaced-out gaze. “I haven’t forgotten how skilled you are at tactical reasoning. You will serve the academy and kingdom well when you whip your squad into shape. Everyone is counting on your success,” he said.
Roudan dimly smiled. He wondered if the same pressure had been placed on his uncle and brother during their enrollment at Calvary academy. He also wondered if General Benavides had forgiven their trespasses, since he had not mentioned it at all. One thing he knew for certain; all eyes would be watching his every maneuver as Skull Leader and captain of the coveted Alpha squad. It was imperative that he help them shine to become the best defense against the dueling houses.
An hour later, the night watch completed their shift. Roudan returned to the barracks just before sunrise. Farouk was still asleep, while Yoshida slumped in the lounge chair.
“What’s got you beat?” Roudan asked as he unbuttoned his dress shirt.
Yoshida let out a long sign, which turned into a yawn.
“Thomasa stood me up,” he answered.
Roudan sifted through his laundry bag to find a fresh pair of shorts, but turned intuitively and chuckled.
“I didn’t know you guys had a date. Is she finally ready to give you some play?”
Yoshida promptly flung a pillow back at him, which woke Farouk.
“Thomasa isn’t that kind of girl,” Farouk whined.
Yoshida leapt up and belted, “It wasn’t an actual date, you dolts!”
Roudan held his arms out in surrender.
“I was just kidding. We know she is a good girl. Which is why I wondered what she would be doing with the likes of you?” he said.
Yoshida walked over to his clothes hamper and found a clean pair of shorts, which he loaned to Roudan.
“Morphology. I figured since Thomasa aced the Land Navigation exam so easily, she’d give me a few pointers,” he said.
Roudan and Farouk looked crossly at each other.
“Why didn’t you just ask Lily?” Roudan asked.
Farouk crawled out of bed and pulled some clean socks from his dresser draw for Roudan.
“Yeah, linguistics is her field specialty,” he interjected.
Yoshida paused for a moment, then scoffed.
“True, but Lily is often monotonous with her delivery. The last time she took point on our study sessions, I nearly failed the Semantics exam because she bored me to sleep.”
Roudan shook his head to keep from cracking up.
“She’s not that dry.”
The trio briefly looked at each other in silence, then burst into an eruption of laughter.
Roudan collected the articles of borrowed clothing and paced about the room to look for his shower shoes.
“Well, where was Thomasa? Why didn’t she meet you to study?” he asked.
Farouk reached inside the lounge chair cushion and pulled out one of Roudan’s shoes.
“I saw her head to the lab with that Molvik fellow,” he said.
Yoshida lifted a pillow from Roudan’s cot to retrieve the other shoe.
“That knucklehead Molvik demands her time often. It’s like she’s at his beckoning call or something.”
“Molvik. Molvik. Why does that name ring a bell?” Roudan asked.
Yoshida handed him a clean towel and replied, “That’s because you beat up his younger brother the night of the Entrance ball.”
Roudan gathered his belongings and headed for the door.
“Oh yeah, that Delta dog! He sure was an ugly mutt. I wonder whatever became of him and his flea-bitten crew?”
“Most of the Delta squad bottomed out and were recycled. His older brother is a 3rd year in the Bravo squad,” Farouk answered as he handed Roudan a bar of soap. With his hands already full, there was no place for the soap to go.
Yoshida mindlessly stuffed the soap in Roudan’s pants pocket.
“Well, the older brother can’t be all that great. Especially since he wasn’t selected to deploy with his class of 3rd year cadets. I can’t imagine what Thomasa sees in him,” he scowled.
Roudan departed for the shower rack. The topic of Molvik, the 3rd year Bravo who hadn’t deployed with his class, weighed on him heavily. He was reminded of General Benavides’s demand that the Alpha squad rise above their current standing. This would be no easy feat.
~The Waring Robins~