2nd Year, P. 7

Later that afternoon, Shevchenko waited at the barracks in her room alone. It startled her when Savoi hurriedly entered their living quarters without speaking. Tension immediately set in, as Shevchenko watched her roommate sift through the wardrobe drawer for a change of clothes. Right away, Shevchenko noticed her face was flushed with dried tear streams and a few of her braids had come undone. Shevchenko wondered what had brought Savoi to such an altered state, but also took offense at being ignored.

“Where the hell have you been?” Shevchenko asked.

Savoi continued to gather her shower toiletries in silence.

Shevchenko had been sitting on the lounge chair, but stood to hoover over Savoi.

“Oh, you will not speak? That’s just fine Thomasa. I think I know what’s going on here, and why you’re not talking. I guess it’s true,” Shevchenko pressed further.

Savoi looked up in surprise, with eyes wide as saucers, anticipating Shevchenko’s next sentence.

Shevchenko clicked her tongue indignantly, then said,

“Word on the street is that you were off getting busy with Haru last night.”

Savoi sighed in relief, then rolled her eyes. Shevchenko had already annoyed her with the ridiculous inquiry, but she spoke in a high-pitched tone that sounded like nails on a chalkboard. Savoi continued to gather her things without a word.

Shevchenko knew Savoi’s silence and body language were not a denial of guilt, nor a plea of innocence. Her voice cracked, as if she would cry, which made her angrier.

“So, it is true! Is that where you been all this time? Were you off screwing him all day?”

Savoi slammed her gear on the coffee table, then reached in her satchel to pull out a long manila envelope. She shoved it in Shevchenko’s hands. The envelope had CONFIDENTIAL stamped in red ink on top. Shevchenko opened the envelope and pulled out a file.

Savoi sighed, as if to be in deep thought.

“I had a fight with Molvik in the lab. It was the oddest thing, because I assumed he was gay,” she finally replied, then collected her belongs and headed for the door. Before she departed, she paused and turned to Shevchenko.

“Word of advice, Lilya Shevchenko; It might benefit the entire kingdom during this God forsaken war if you could loosen up… maybe find someone of your own to get busy with,” she said, then slammed the door behind her.

Savio’s nasty exchange was a hard pill for Shevchenko to swallow. Especially since she called her by her whole name. She slumped on her cot in tears at the thought of Savoi and Yoshida being intimate together. In her mind, she knew they had always gravitated toward each other like moths to flames. In her heart, she wished Yoshida fancied her instead. It was clear the latter would never come to fruition. With nothing left to consider, she laid on her back to read Savoi’s file.

An hour later, Shevchenko roamed aimlessly around campus. Farouk was in the library to study for his aviation exam. Savoi was more than likely back at the lab, and Yoshida was nowhere to be found. She bumped into Roudan coming out of the Shoppette. His hands were full of tools, and he had a slight grin when he nodded at her. She followed him to the other side of the store, where he was fixing a motorbike. Roudan was happy for her company, but surprised that she came with him.

“Taking a breather from Thomasa, I see,” he said as a conversation starter.

Shevchenko wasted no time in venting.

“It’s already bad enough I’ve covered her guard duty shifts every time she’s needed at the lab, but this latest incident is a doozy.” 

 Roudan laid down on his side to tinker with the bike.

“What happened now?” he laughed.

Shevchenko squatted down to quiet her voice.

“Apparently, she was working alone in the lab with cadet Molvik.”

“Oh yeah? What’s so special about that?”

“Word got out about Thomasa and Haru’s tryst.” She glared at him to see if he was familiar with the situation. When he did not reply, she continued.

“Molvik told everyone she threw herself at Haru.”

Roudan scoffed.

“I never liked that guy. He’s a meathead, just like his Delta dog brother.”

Shevchenko looked around to see if anyone was near enough to hear them, then leaned in closer to his ear.

“Things escalated when he tried to put the moves on her,” she whispered.

Roudan leaped up in wrath.

“Are you serious? Haru’s going to murder him, if I don’t get to him first!”

Shevchenko hushed him with a finger over his mouth. A few cadets passed by before she continued.

“There’s no need. Thomasa respectfully declined his advances, then proceeded to hand him his ass and nearly his head. They both were sent to the Brass. The Tribunal Council conducted a swift investigation. Molvik was expelled and dishonorably discharged from service. He won’t be able to enlist in any branch of the kingdom’s armed forces,” she replied.

Roudan knelt beside the bike and tinkered harder.

“And what of Thomasa?” he asked.

Shevchenko scoffed.

“Oh, she’s fine. Lt. Co. Adame wouldn’t allow anything to happen to his precious gifted child.”

Roudan signaled for her to sit next to him on the ground. The cold, hard concrete was uncomfortable, but no more than their conversation.

“Aw, come on now. We both know her skill set as a chemical technician has far superseded any of her peers. It’s a shame the citizens of Intagua Island had not been tapped sooner to enroll here. I get it, though. The islanders are minimalists, with no desire to conform to the standards of nobility. Thomasa was fortunate to have been adopted by General Malta and given her proxy to attend training with us,” he said.

Shevchenko sighed with the realization that Roudan would always be on Savoi’s side.

“She was also fortunate that General Malta created a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment before she retired from her post. Ultimately, I consider all this nothing more than a natural consequence. Thomasa’s erratic behavior has gone unchecked for quite some time now. If she threw herself at Haru, what did she expect would happen?”

“She didn’t throw herself at him,” he cackled.

“Were you there?” she asked indignantly.

Roudan put his arms up in surrender.

“No, but I know that she and Haru have had built-up sexual tension since the day of the entrance exam. They were bound to come to blows at some point,” he answered.

Shevchenko nudged him to press further.

“Are they a couple?”

Roudan studied her eyes. She clearly had a thing for Yoshida and needed to know if she still had a chance to be with him.

“It’s hard to say,” he answered dryly, then continued to work on the bike.

Shevchenko was unaware of Roudan’s disinterest in continuing the conversation.

“Haru hasn’t mentioned anything to you about his feelings for her?” she asked.

Roudan let out a faux gasp, then said,

“Despite what you might think, Lily, Haru and I are men of distinguished culture who don’t kiss and tell. Whatever his feelings are, they’re none of my business or concern.” He witnessed the pain in her eyes from their exchange and decided to lighten up the mood.

“Has Thomasa said anything to you?” he asked, knowing full well no such conversation would ever take place.

Shevchenko groaned, remembering how awful Savoi was to her earlier in the barracks.

“I can barely get three sentences out of her these days. It’s just surprising to me she wouldn’t wait for him to make the first moves. What kind of girl is she?”

Roudan smirked at Shevchenko’s disdain for Savoi.

“She’s an intelligent woman under a lot of pressure who knows that playing it safe never solved a single problem. Her boldness is an attractive superpower,” he replied.

Shevchenko shrugged her shoulders defiantly, then asked,

“Don’t tell me you’ve been enchanted by her as well?”

Roudan patted her on the top of her head to calm her down. When that clearly annoyed her more, he said,

“It’s not like that. Thomasa looks up to me as her big brother, and I see her as the little sister I never had. We share a bond in that we were both forced to enlist at the academy because of extenuating circumstances from our respective families.”

Shevchenko realized that Yoshida also was forced to enroll at Calvary to keep his crime family members safe from being tried for war crimes. Inevitably, the three of them were connected in ways she and Farouk were not. The thought made her feel lonely and out of their loop.

Roudan saw Shevchenko needed to calm herself, and the more they talked about Savoi or Yoshida, that would not be the case.

“Let’s try to take our minds off the gnarly stuff going on right now,” he said, then mounted his bike. He nodded for her to join him. She remembered how Savoi taunted her about needing to loosen up, then reluctantly agreed.

~The Waring Robins~

A Battle Within

With all the grains of salt I’ve collected through the years, I’ll need more than a shot of tequila to take this one down.

The benefit of experience;
Having the right perspective is far better than any fantasy realm. That way you know what is real and what is fiction.

I exposed far much more of my soul to him than I intended, without realizing he had not intended to be the recipient.

Damn. I stand here with a smile before you, but really he has wounded me to the core. If I were to walk away there would be a trail of blood to follow behind me.

~The Waring Robins~

1st Year, P. 8 (fin)

Twenty-five years ago, Dosea became on the brink of economic ruin after the dueling Houses began the war. Through shared seaports with Intagua Island, our entire state had succumbed to impoverishment in a matter of months. During those early years, aristocratic families segregated from the rest of society. We migrated to a mere seventy acres of land, which was enclosed inside a giant bubble encased with a chemical repellent to toxins. It is no secret that funding for this encampment was largely donated by the Great House counsel.  

Your babusya reared me in the old ways, but soon those days died out. When I met your mother, she helped us become accustomed to the new ways. We became immersed in lavishly eccentric cultures. Together, the three of us established the soiree seasons in which matrimonial pairs were matched to ensure wealth would remain within the establishment. Over time, the Tribunal Counsel sanctioned our state for refusal to contribute well-abled men and women to serve in the armed forces to end the war. Lilya, you owe us a debt of gratitude for the easy and comfortable life we gave to you,” he said.

Shevchenko took another gulp, then curtsied.

“Forgive me, bat’ko, if you believe my actions to lack in character,” she replied.

“It is your lack thereof which keeps us concerned,” her grandmother snapped.

“What would you have me do? Mama, your cousin’s sister’s brother, is more than twice my age. We have nothing in common. When I told him, he refused to come to the cotillion. I am at a loss for how to please you. I beg you, have mercy,” Shevchenko pleaded.

The family congregated in a circle, leaving Shevchenko to the side. When they finished their discussion, her mother brought her into the center of the circle.

“Dochka, I have the perfect solution. Last week, I visited my cousin’s family. The nanny recently came to learn that she will inherit some of the late Baron Chernichenko’s fortune. I could send for her to have tea with us to get things in motion,” her mother mused out loud.

Shevchenko gasped. “Mama, that woman is seventy years old.”

“Seventy-nine, to be exact,” her grandmother interjected.

Shevchenko pushed past her sisters to break free from the circle. She made her way towards the top of the ballroom stairs.

“I have an idea of my own, which I will now share with you all. These unattractive marriage proposals are not the route I want to take for myself. I want something different, freedom. Freedom from the stifling lifestyle and this goddamn useless bubble, which is actually killing us all while we wallow in wealth.” She paused for a moment to catch her breath. “Yesterday, I enrolled myself in Calvary Academy!” Her family gasped in shock, but she continued. “There is an amazing linguistics program, which will benefit me. I could be of significant use in helping to end the war. That way, we don’t have to keep up this deadly ruse.”

Her father marched to the bottom of the stairs and raised his fist at her.

“Fool! Do you realize what you have done? If word got back to the associates of the Greater House that a Shevchenko would dare to go against them to stand with Calvary Academy, we would all be beheaded,” he barked.

Her sisters were so aggravated that they took off their shoes to throw at her.

“What an evil bitch you are Lilya,” they screamed.

Her grandmother and mother rushed up the stairs, prepared to lay hands on the girl. Shevchenko wept as she waited for her punishment, but her father called out to them.

“Enough! There is no need to waste precious energy on this one. She is of no use to us, at any rate.” He looked at his daughter with abhorrence. “Go to the Academy. I hope you make use of yourself over there. We no longer have any ties. Never return here, unless you can bring better fortune,” he said.

The memory went black, which left the Alpha squad in the dark to talk amongst each other.

“So, that was it? Her reasoning for enrollment was to avoid marriage to an old geezer and schoolmarm?” Yoshida cackled.

Savoi went to pinch him, but thought better since they had just witness Shevchenko’s grandmother use such brute.

“Her family is awful. I can’t imagine growing up surrounded by enemies. No wonder Lily is so rigid with the rest of us,” she replied.

Roudan chimed in. “This is a true testament of her character, indeed. When we are born, there are two paths. One can land you in the hands of a caring adult and others who choose to breathe positivity into your life. The other path is the opposite. The real kicker is regardless of if you are dealt the harshness of negativity or neglected altogether, the lack of positivity automatically equates to negative.”

Light came into the space they were in, and as the Alpha squad was being transported to another memory, Savoi said, “My goodness, Emmett. That was incredibly insightful of you.”

~The Waring Robins~

1st Year Part 8 (con)

Savoi smiled knowingly at Farouk.

“Maaz is right. Lily has endured nearly all our memories. She witnessed the bad and the ugly. We owe it to her, as fellow squad mates, to regard hers.”

Yoshida took in a deep sigh, then finally turned his attention towards Shevchenko. It occurred to him that whilst he was amid pleading his case to Savoi, Shevchenko’s memory was still in motion… yet she was not.

“How long has she been standing there in the same spot?” he asked.

“For at least nine different dance songs,” Farouk answered.

Yoshida stepped closer to Shevchenko to examine her disposition. With a tilt of his head, he said, “Tulle certainly seems to be her go-to ballroom attire. Didn’t she wear something similar at the induction ball?”

Savoi rashly interjected.

“There’s nothing wrong with tulle. My mum said it was all the rage for debutantes.”

“Yeah, if you were born thirty years ago,” Yoshida cynically replied.

Savoi instantly jabbed him in the side.

“Hush, now. Her dress is perfectly fine and looks nothing like the one she wore at the induction ball. I think the color was maroon,” she said.

“Burgundy,” Roudan cavalierly interrupted.

The rest of the team noticed he appeared smitten, as he stood next to Shevchenko. They were not unfamiliar with that notion, but this time Roudan did not bother to hide his feelings. He had often morphed into a love-struck kitten in her presence, but her cold shoulder snapped him back into the fearless leader he truly was. His gaze was interrupted by a few uncontrollable giggles from Yoshida. Savoi darted a chilling glance that caused both men to regain composure.

Farouk had no choice but to diffuse the tension among them.

“I feel sorry for Lily. Did she really attend these events just to stand in one place all evening?”

Yoshida walked around the room to escape Savoi’s intense glare.

“Certainly not. These preposterous coming-out parties were invented as marriage proposal ceremonies. Vapid men and women attend to be swooped off their feet, or in no uncertain terms, to form valuable financial alliances among each other. The biggest problem is that it may seem like there are a lot of attendees, but the circle is extremely small. Most of everyone here is not-so-distant blood relatives. The practices of the elites are frowned upon throughout the kingdom,” he answered.

Moments later, the conductor of the orchestra turned to address the address. He was a short, bald man, who appeared to have excess skin drooping through his ill-fitting tuxedo. The microphone stand was far taller than him, and it took several orchestra members to put down their instruments and help pull the stand to his mouth level. After several minutes of awful sound feed through the mic, he could speak.

“Honored guest; the Shevchenko family warmly thanks you for attending the season’s final cotillion. We hope this evening was profitable for many of you. Thank you, once again, and good night.”

As the attendees cleared the room, all the chandelier and candelabra lights were switched off to a natural light. The guest appeared to have a sickly, pale-green complexion. Apparently, the former lights were infused with an altering ultraviolet beam to conceal the effects of a population who had blocked off the sunlight for over twenty years.

Once the room had emptied, all that remained were cadet Shevchenko and five others who resembled her enough to conclude that they were her family. The male was attractive and could have been in his late fifties, but his complexion and slumped posture made him seem older. The woman who stood beside him wore enough to make-up to doctor her otherwise sickly appearance. She donned a blonde wig, which had shifted to reveal patchy grey strands of hair. Two other blonde women in matching topaz gowns stood beside them, and they both appeared to keep somewhat of a youthful glow. The elder woman appeared ancient. Though she wore a majestic magenta ballgown with jewels fit for a queen, she did not bother to play along with the hiding her condition. She had patches of silver hair beneath a golden tiara.

“Come hither, Lilya,” her father called sternly to her.

With a loud gulp, Shevchenko finally relieved her position, which is the same spot she stood in for the duration of the ball.

“I take it this evening did not manifest the results we’d all hoped for?” her father asked.

Shevchenko did not respond, but teared up when the other girls giggled loudly. Her father sighed without an ounce of empathy towards her.

“Speak up, daughter!” her mother demanded.

“No need to shout, mother. It’s obvious that our tragically inclined sister did not meet her match,” one of the young women interjected as she fidgeted with a large diamond wedding ring.

“She didn’t even dance all night,” the other blurted with a smirk.

“This is unacceptable! I am Viscount Leopold Shevchenko. My family has been a part of the elite for centuries. We are members of the high-aristocrat society, mainly through our abilities to gain successful marital alliances with other nobles. Your mother, Titania, and I worked tirelessly to ensure your older sisters followed traditions down to the letter. Their marriages have kept a steady stream of revenue for our fortune. It’s time that you followed suit,” her father said.

The elder woman hobbled over to Shevchenko and pinched her on the arm.

“A candle which burns slow causes everything to linger. You mustn’t sit idly while your family clings on for dear life to our livelihood,” she said sharply before she fell into a brief coughing fit.

Shevchenko squealed but withheld her tears.

Her father wasted no time in continuing his tirade.

~The Waring Robins~

1st Year, P. 4

The man dismounted from the wagon. His smooth charcoal-dark complexion and medium build gave an attractive appearance. He slightly doubled over by the horses, but regained his balance just in time to catch the child as she sprung into his arms. The of them laughed wholeheartedly until he placed her back to the ground to rub his forehead.
“What’s the matter Papa?” the girl asked, in a thick island tongue.
The man twisted his grimace into a smile. He picked her up and gently embraced her.
“Nothing to worry you, Masa. Papa is just a little worn out from working in the cane fields all morning long,” he answered.
The girl braced her forehead against his and frowned.
“Papa, your head is hot just like the sun,” she said.
The man chuckled. His accent muffled some of his response. The team watched as he hoisted the girl onto his shoulders and walked away.
“These must be Thomasa’s memories,” Roudan said in awe. “She was such a charming child.”
“Almost angelic,” Farouk chimed in.
Yoshida wasted no time in following the shadowy pair. “We need to keep up with them if we are going to learn more,” he shouted to the team.
They walked to a modest three-room hut. Aside from the simple wooden furniture, the shelves were decorated with an elaborate array of wildflowers, herbs, and spices. There was an overwhelmingly delicious aroma from a pot of stew roasting in the fireplace.
Shevchenko scoffed. “If these meager living conditions are where she was reared, then it is a blessing General Malta had the graciousness to take her in.”
“Quite the contrary to your beliefs, islanders are astute minimalists. They do not feel it necessary to hoard fineries or have lavish houses. This humble abode is the perfect setting for an easy and well-managed lifestyle,” Farouk countered.
 “Besides, this tiny hut is filled with a richness of warmth and love. Plenty more than any aristocratic haunted castle bubbled inside Dorsea,” Yoshida interjected.
Shevchenko flinched at his words. It had not occurred to her that Savoi was better off than most of them, since she came not from nobility.
“I didn’t mean any harm,” she stammered.
Roudan signaled for her silence, as a tall brown-skinned woman dressed in a blue nursing gown entered the hut. Young Savoi practically leapt off her father’s shoulders to get to the woman.
“Mummy!” the girl screamed with excitement. “How many babies did you deliver today?”
The woman embraced her daughter and patiently waited for her to settle down.
“Only one baby this morning. Mother and son are doing very well. Both are strong at heart, like we were when you were born,” the woman replied. Then she spoke to her family in their native language. It appeared to the team that the woman had instructed Savoi to set the table. Shortly after dinner was underway, a massive regally structured golden carriage led by four white horses arrived in the front yard. General Malta, who then was still a Major, exited the carriage along with her wife. The team had never seen General Malta in person, as she left the academy long before their studies began.
Malta’s wife, Renata, came from a family of gentry who owned most of the land on the island. She was an olive-skinned brunette with a shorter stature, but majestically beautiful. Malta instructed the driver to wait for them, then entered the hut. Alpha squad stood in awe of the beautiful blonde, whose demeanor was everything they could imagine from a founding General of Calvary academy.
Though it was expected for commoners to address military officers and noble dignitaries, the Savoi household was rather informal as they greeted their visitors.
“Galayna, Oliver, no need to get up from your dinner. I apologize in advance for our unexpected arrival,” Malta said in a pleasantly calm tone.
Renata rushed around the table as she said. “Yes, we apologize. I was restless in anticipation of the new ball gown being created for me.” She kissed the young Savoi on the cheek, which made the child giggle.
“Mummy, may I get my book out? I want to show Miss Renata what I learned since she loaned it to me,” the girl blurted through her giggles.
Savoi’s mother nodded her head, and she sprinted from the table to one of the other rooms. Malta and Renata sat at the table at Oliver’s insistence.
Galayna clasped her hands together on top of the table. She sighed, then spoke. “The fabric for the gown was hard to work with. Fine silks I can manage, but to incorporate satin with lace seemed excessive.”
Renata made a child-like frown with her bottom lip poked out. Galayna got up from the table to retrieve the gown. When she returned, Renata squealed giddily and clapped her hands.
“Oh, Galayna! You are truly a miracle worker. There are no other seamstresses like you in the entire kingdom of Celeste,” she praised. “Have you given anymore thought to our offer for you to move to the Malta estate permanently?”
Oliver gruffly cleared his throat in protest at the question, which caused both Malta and Renata to tense up. Malta leaned into her wife’s ear and whispered, “My darling, I told you to let me handle this. We cannot just impose ourselves on this family.”
Suddenly, young Savoi emerged from the room with a gigantic silver trimmed leather book. The book was half her size, but that did not deter her from carrying it proudly to the wool rug in front of the fireplace. She signaled for Renata to join her.
As the girl read, everyone from Malta to the Alpha squad was taken aback.
Farouk snorted loudly, “Unbelievable! Savoi was barely a toddler and could read such an incredible body of literature.”
Yoshida nudged him on the shoulder. “What is that book?” he asked.
“She reads from the written work of the great philosopher Equidos. Only scientists and lawyers read this material at the university,” Farouk explained.
 
 ~The Waring Robins~

Between the Witching Hours P. 3

A group of female cadets flocked to Yoshida, insistent that he should give them a dance. Savoi graciously bowed and walked to the bar for a drink. Shevchenko aimlessly followed Farouk around as he chased the server with grilled bovine marinated in yellow curry on a platter. Shevchenko waved the server to hand the platter to Farouk. After a few minutes of silently watching him stuff his face, she sighed.
“I don’t know what to do with Savoi. Everyone thinks she is so special just because she’s from the Islands and she looks exotic. I think she’s rather plain,” she said.
Farouk remained expressionless. Instead of any kind of response, he shoved a piece of meat into his mouth.
Shevchenko was unbothered and continued to vent.
 “Isn’t it odd how Yoshida does not give me the time of day, yet he appears to lap up everything Savoi utters from her rude mouth? I can’t believe she had the audacity to call his full name without permission.”
Farouk gulped down the meat and said, “Aha, that is the root of your problem.”
Shevchenko waited for him to proceed, but he quickly stuffed his mouth again. She became impatient and stammered, “What the hell do you mean?”
Farouk paused from taking another piece of meat. He knew she would not allow him to eat in peace. He placed the platter on a nearby table and smiled.
 “Instead of spiraling into your emotions, let’s look at the facts that have been presented to us. Cadet Savoi is not just some exotic beauty from the Islands. She was handpicked by one of Calvary Academy’s founding Generals. That alone definitely makes her special. When we throw Yoshida into the mix, he too was also selected by a founding General. That places them both in a unique category, which separates them from the likes of the rest of us. Now, we’ve seen firsthand Savoi and Yoshida have some kind of gravitation hold on each other. Who knows what might transpire from that. Perhaps you should steer your attention towards Roudan, since he seems to fancy you. That’s just my humble opinion and suggestion,” he said.
Shevchenko glared at him with contempt. “I didn’t ask for your opinion or suggestions,” she snarled.
A quarter to midnight, names were drawn to select an honored male/female cadet. Roudan and Savoi were chosen, respectively. Savoi gushed as she went on stage to collect her sash and bouquet. The crowd enthusiastically cheered for her.
Shevchenko snatched a glass of wine from a server. Farouk looked at her empathetically.
“Oh, don’t give me those eyes. I knew she would win. I just can’t believe Yoshida wasn’t chosen. Roudan isn’t even here. He skipped the damn dance in favor of playing a game with those silly other boys,” she protested.
Farouk smiled and waved for a server to bring her another drink.
“I think it can be noted Yoshida was probably not chosen because of his affiliation with the Yakuza,” he replied.
Shevchenko scoffed. “He isn’t with the Yakuza. He was with the Gokudō.”
Farouk clinked his glass against hers and said, “Noted.”
Savoi encouraged Yoshida to accept the sash on behalf of Roudan. They sat together on pillowing his/her thrones. The dance concluded with a last song, then the cadets were prompted to return to their respective barracks. Yoshida shimmied past the female cadets and bumped into Farouk.
 “Hey mousey, we should head out to look for Roudan,” he said.
Savoi walked behind them with four shot glasses in her hand.
“Drink up, boys. I have a feeling we’re in for an adventure,” she said.
 Shevchenko did not want to be excluded, but did not want to be subject to expulsion.
“Curfew just hit. There’s no need to go off gallivanting into the night when Roudan can take care of himself,” she protested.
Yoshida rolled his eyes and frowned. “No one asked you to join this search party.”
  Farouk passed a shot glass to Shevchenko to silence her from causing more friction.
Savoi held her glass in the air and prompted everyone to follow suit.
“We’re Alpha squad. That means no man is left behind. We will find him and make sure he’s okay. The sooner, the better for us all.”
Yoshida clinked his glass to hers with a sigh. “Cheers!”
The entourage headed down to the lower rooms. There were at least twenty different rooms to check. When they reached a dimly lit basement, they found Roudan sitting at a table playing a card game with members of the Delta squad. Calvary Academy based the top four squads on cadets who showed the most promise for battle. Everyone that did not make one of the top teams were sent to receive corrective training. For all intents and purposes, Delta squad was considered the bottom of the barrel.
“Roudan, what happened to the Bravos?” Yoshida asked, with a hint of concern in his tone.
Roudan remained focused on the game. “They slithered away once they realized I couldn’t be beaten,” he answered as he slammed his second to last card on the table.
A member of Delta squad, named Molvik, secretly tucked two cards inside his sleeve, then pretended to slam his final card on the table. Roudan raised an eyebrow suspiciously, then chuckled.
Molvik glared at him smugly. “What the hell is so funny?”
Roudan cackled. “It’s hilarious how you skipped two turns, yet only have one card left to play.”
Molvik stood up and banged his fist on the table.
“Just what the hell are you getting at, wise guy?” he asked.
Roudan continued to laugh. “Either you’re some kind of amazing magician, or simply a lousy cheat. Either way, my final card levels above anyone else’s. So, your foolery was in vain, as I have won even this round,” he said.
Before Molvik could say another word, Roudan grabbed his left arm and retrieved the two hidden cards. Molvik clenched his teeth and withdrew his arm. He slumped back in his chair with a smirk.
“You think you’re so great because you’ve been assigned leader of the Alphas. I wouldn’t choke on that merit coin while gloating. Everyone here knows your family is a disgrace to Calvary Academy. We’ll all see you stumble soon enough,” he said.
Yoshida stepped towards Molvik, gripped a handful of his hair, and yanked his head back.
“That’s where you’re wrong, you silly Delta dog. Acts of valor aren’t hereditary, unlike that unsightly receding hairline you’ve got going. I may as well do you a favor and snatch it all out now, or you’ll be bald by graduation,” he said.
 Molvik pulled his head from Yoshida’s grip, but not without a plug of hair pulled. He leapt across the table and took a pocket knife out from his trousers. Roudan reacted quick with a swift punch to his throat. Another member from Delta named Dende pulled out a baton.
“That kind of contraband will get you expelled from here,” Yoshida teased.
“You won’t be able to tell if you’re dead,” Dende replied as he swung.
Yoshida dodged the attack, then kneed Dende in the stomach.
Shevchenko looked at Farouk, who shivered in a corner. She grabbed Savoi by the arm.
“Let’s go. Nothing but more trouble will come from all this ruckus,” she said.
Savoi snatched away.
“No, we have to do something. We can’t just leave our team,” she replied. Without hesitation, she stood in front of a burly Delta to stop him from interfering. She looked into his eyes to reason with him.
“Call your dogs off. Let’s settle this with a new card game,” she pleaded.
Cadet Feliz shrugged his shoulders, then pushed Savoi to the side with brute force.
“Who are you calling a dog, you little bitch? Nobody wants to play another damn card game. Besides, this is no place for girls. Leave before you get your pretty dress dirty,” he said as he walked away to join the fighting.
A fit of rage crept inside Savoi. She picked up one of the metal folding chairs and struck him upside the head. Shevchenko and Farouk were reluctant to take part in the melee, but did not want Savoi to get hurt. The brawl ended after forty minutes. The entire Delta squad had been bested, and understood that they could not contend with their opponents.
Alpha squad departed into the night. They needed to cool off before returning to their rooms. Roudan invited everyone to sit with him. So, they made their way to the bleachers on top of the male barracks. From there was a view of the entire campus. The starry night sky above and the sound of the ocean waves brought serenity to their heart.

~The Waring Robins~

Recruiting Station

The military entrance processing station (M.E.P.S.) for Calvary Academy was in the 9th ward on the coast of Cielle. General Benavides and his colleagues thoroughly reviewed each cadet’s application to determine eligibility, as well as occupational specialties. The cadets endured vigorous medical examinations and had to score high marks on a vocational aptitude battery test to be successfully recruited. Every single measure was meticulously considered before a cadet could set foot on campus, regardless of socio-economic status.
After the required assessments were administered, the male and female cadets were housed in their appropriate barracks for the night. Cadets Roudan, Yoshida, and Farouk shared a 3-tiered bunk in the same room. The men stood in the center of the spaced beige room with their duffle bags in tow. They drew straws to decide their sleeping arrangement. Since none of them wanted to sleep on the very top bunk, Roudan and Yoshida quickly worked together to separate the beds. There was still more than enough space between them to dwell comfortably.
Once everyone put their belongings away, there was an awkward silence. The men stood aloof side by side, gazing out of the bay window, but soon Roudan broke the ice.
“Sheesh, the past seventeen hours have been the most grueling forms of torture that I’ve experienced in my entire life.” He paused a beat, hoping someone else would chime in. When no one volunteered to engage in the conversation, he continued. “I heard the chow hall serves a mean brew with the best hops in the region,” he said, as he nudged Farouk on the left shoulder.
Roudan unintentionally nudged the smaller and younger male hard enough to cause him to lose balance. Farouk frightfully looked up at Roudan’s cheerful eyes and realized he was being playful.
“We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow with the induction ceremony. Perhaps it’s better to refrain from intoxication,” Farouk sighed.
Roudan blew out a raspberry and turned to Yoshida, and said,” A couple of drinks will hardly matter at this point. Besides, some of the most traumatic events in my life occurred while I was sober.” He plopped himself on the wool couch next to them. “Yes sir, I was a happy-go-lucky good kid until I learned my older brother and uncle fled their respective platoons and were killed in the line of action.”
Yoshida’s interest was piqued by his confession.
“You come from a line of deserters, yet you stand boldly before us ready to be inducted in the academy?” he asked.
Roudan’s jovial spirit diminished into a serious tone.
“I am not my brother or uncle’s keeper. Their sins have no bearing on my dedication to service. My father died during the lottery process, so naturally I was selected to take his place. I plan to serve the academy and kingdom with honor to restore our name,” he replied.
Yoshida thoughtfully considered Roudan’s disposition. He was impressed that Roudan’s commitment to the cause did not waver because of the ill-timed circumstances of his family’s demise. As a child, Yoshida was taught to respect men of such noble character. The very fact that Roudan did not hide from the call to duty or need to be coaxed into service was commendable.

~The Waring Robins~


 

Theatrics of a Wiser Fool

I fell in love with a beautiful lie
The premise seemed promising
The attention and affection seemed perfectly timed
I decided to intentionally dismiss the discrepancies in favor of hope
The truth was always there
My heart and passion hurried through the blurred lines
Now I know for certain that a figment of my imagination was fed with sweetness
But
What is easily given is even easier to take away
The coldness from withdrawal left me inconsolable
How funny is it that I’ve been beating on a stone wall that had nothing behind it all along
My openness and raw emotions were preyed upon
Now I feel like a wiser fool
That is what happens when one sits too close to the stage
The magic no longer has a stronghold because all the flaws are fully displayed
I got caught off guard, caught up in my feelings, and played
What a dreadful experience indeed

Catch Me in Love

Catch me in love

Don’t think I fell
I was pushed

Shut my eyes tight
Afraid of view

You spoke past my flesh
Right through to my spirit

Asked me right out did I believe I’d fall again
I cried to you the wounds of a former pain

Never dreamed about a place where I wouldn’t have to beg
Faintly remembering all the good things in life I deserve

No matter how short the time
You’ve awakened my nature

I feel fortunate and blessed for the ride
No longer scared to fly