“So I’m allowed to hit you? Terra would…” you shake your head. You don’t even know what Terra would do, but you’re sure it wouldn’t be pretty.
“I don’t recommend you try it on anyone else,” Gray smirks. “I don’t even recommend doing it to me again. That was your first and last free shot, Cadet. You take another swing at me that isn’t part of a drill and I’ll make whatever Terra would do to you look like a resort holiday. You understand?”
Yeah. You understand. You nod quickly.
“You forget how to talk, Cadet?”
Her eyes narrow at you. “Did you forget how to address a superior officer?”
“Yes ma’am, I understand, ma’am,” you stammer. You’re already so tired, physically and mentally. It’s hard to keep up with all the ways you’re displeasing her.
What follows are two hours of drills. Instructor Gray is a harsh, unrelenting taskmaster. Even when you begin to show obvious signs of exhaustion, she doesn’t let you rest for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Long enough to get a few swigs of water and not much else.
“It’s best to train tired. When you face a real enemy, they’re not going to wait for you to have a nap, are they, Cadet?”
“No ma’am,” you admit, your gloved fists pummeling a boxing bag.
By the time you leave, you’re so tired that the walk back to the cabin feels like a marathon. Every step is taken with dragged feet in a meandering gait borne of the fact you can barely put one foot in front of the other.
“You’re late,” Terra notes as you walk in the door. She doesn’t seem to have moved from her place on the couch, working through her tablets.
“Sorry,” you mumble.
Any annoyance that might have been in her tone fades as she looks up and sees the state you’re in.
“You’re exhausted,” she notes. “Take a shower, then we’ll eat.”
You notice the “we” in that sentence. Nobody else is around, so the evening meal will be taken with her alone. That raises your spirits a little, but it doesn’t make getting to the shower any easier.
When you get there you turn the hot water on, eager to rest your exhausted muscles… unlike this morning, it actually runs hot. Thank god. You strip the sweaty clothes from your body and prepare to feel a little better…
You screech in pain as you step into the steamy shower and the hot water pelts the welts on your bottom and legs.
Terra is there in what feels like an instant. She pushes into the room and finds you standing there naked, clutching your butt and drawing hissed breaths between your teeth.
You see her eyes widen, then narrow as she takes in the marks. Some of them are angry red and some of them are bruising. Her next question comes in a seriously icy tone.
“Gray did this to you?”
“I called her… names.”
“Ah.” Terra sucks her lower lip into her mouth for a moment and shakes her head. “Those are nasty, Cadet. It looks like the skin’s broken in a few places. Come to me after you’re showered and I’ll treat them. I don’t want to risk an infection.”
You glance toward the water with trepidation. The pain from the first barrage of heat hitting the welts was enough to make you not even care that you’re standing naked and damp in front of Terra. You really don’t want to get back under that water.
“Turn the heat down,” Terra suggests. “Make it a little above room temperature. It won’t hurt for long that way.”
“How do you know?”
“Let’s just say I have some experience,” she says, reaching past you and into the shower to adjust the temperature. She lets the water run over her hand for a few seconds to be sure. “Okay,” she says. “Be brave, Cadet.”
You take a deep breath and step into the flow of the water. It draws another yelp from you, but it doesn’t hurt quite as bad as it did that first time. This time you’re ready for it. You do your best to angle your butt and thighs away from the stream.
Terra is still there, looking, well, pissed. She’s watching you, but she doesn’t seem to really be watching you specifically. Her gaze is a thousand miles away, her jaw tightening.
“What are you going to do to Instructor Gray?”
Her eyes slide to yours. “What do you think I should do, Cadet?”