You head to the gym with a feeling of foreboding. You’re academy fit, which means you can run two miles in eighteen minutes and do twenty push ups. Academy fit doesn’t really mean much, and judging by the way the two young soldiers you just saw looked, they’re probably fitter than you are. That didn’t seem to help them much.
As you walk through the gym door, a screech rends the air. Before you can even turn to look, you’re knocked off your feet. You land flat on the floor, the air knocked out from you, a woman crouched on top. You have no idea where she came from, but a pair of hazel green and gold eyes are narrowed at you in triumph.
“Congratulations, you’re dead,” she says. “You need to pay more attention to your surroundings, Cadet.”
“Not if I’m dead, I don’t,” you manage to quip through pained breaths.
Her lips twist in a smirk. “No desire to fight for your life, Cadet?”
“Not right now.” Your body is aching and you’re still trying to get your breath back through shallow little gasps.
“I’m surprised Grisham picked a coward,” Instructor Gray says, standing up.
She’s a tall woman with black hair shaved at the sides and longer on the top so it flops around a bit when she moves her head. She has a hard face, strong cheekbones and jaw, thin lips and more than one scar visible on her face, hands and exposed arms. She’s not nearly as built as Grisham, but she has a wiry agility you’re already wary of. You guess she’s probably around Grisham’s age, so maybe they know each other. There’s something in the way she just mentioned Grisham that suggests familiarity.
“Grisham didn’t pick me. Nina Terra did,” you say. You start to try to sit up, but before you can, her boot is planted firmly on your chest, keeping you down.
“I don’t tolerate back chat,” Gray says, her words crisp and stern. “You keep your mouth shut and you follow my orders and maybe you’ll get out of here without a serious injury.”
Her threat chills you, but you’ve got a couple of cards the other soldiers don’t. Terra and Grisham.
“If you hurt me, it won’t be me you have to deal with,” you tell her, trying to get up again. You manage to get about an inch off the ground before she pushes you back with the sole of her boot.
“Your CO’s know my methods,” Gray says.
“Bullshit,” you say, confidently. “Terra would have your head if you hurt me. Now get your damn foot off me.”
“Feisty little thing,” Gray smirks. “Maybe you’re not a totally lost cause.” She lifts her foot from your chest and nods down at you. “Roll over and give me fifty push ups.”
“Lady, you’d be lucky if I could give you five right now,” you sigh as you roll up to sit on the floor. “I don’t think we’re going to be a good instructor student match.”
“You don’t have any choice,” Gray grinds out. “Goddamn, Cadet. You’re spoiled as hell.”