“She was just doing her job,” you mumble through the wet drizzle of the lukewarm shower. “I kinda… I mean… she warned me.”
Terra cocks her head to the side, silent for a long moment. You can tell that you’ve surprised her. “That’s very mature of you, Cadet,” she says. “Come and see me when you’re done showering.”
She leaves you to twist and squirm under the water long enough to get clean. It’s not the most relaxing shower you’ve ever had, but at least you’re feeling less sticky and achy by the time you get out and get changed into some pajamas. At some point during the day, your bed has been filled with new clothing to wear. Some of it’s black and tactical, shiny and cool. Other stuff is less exciting, but equally needed. You’re not sure where your original gear has gone. It’s probably back at the base you and Sarah ran away from.
You pad into the kitchen, already dressed for bed.
Terra nods toward a fold down table which has been let out from the wall. “We can sit to eat,” she says. “Assuming you can sit.”
You gingerly lower yourself into a fold out chair. It’s all very rustic and simple in the cabin. It almost doesn’t even feel particularly militaristic. Terra is wearing close to civilian clothing, black leggings and a long blouse. Her hair is still up, but a few dark tendrils have fallen down since she’s been cooking. They frame her face and make her look almost domestic. It’s a new way to see Terra and you find yourself enchanted by it.
“What are we eating?”
“Spaghetti,” Terra says, pulling a pot off the stove. “Hope you like it.”
“Yes ma’am,” you say gratefully. It’s been a while since you had hot real food. Your stomach is growling as she puts the pot down and invites you to serve yourself.
Terra joins you and the two of you eat. The meal proceeds largely in silence as you scoff down the food your body desperately needs after a hard day of exercise.
“You make good spaghetti, ma’am,” you say between bites.
“I’m glad you think so, Cadet,” Terra smiles. She seems pleased by the compliment.
When the meal is done, you feel full and tired. You clear the spaghetti pot and bowls away and wash up. It seems only fair seeing as Terra made dinner for you.
“Come sit down on the couch,” Terra says. “It’s softer and I want to talk to you.”
Uh oh. This is where you get in trouble, you think to yourself as you obey. Terra sits down near the center of the couch, leaving you to slide in next to her, easing yourself in sideways, one leg bent up next to your body, the other relaxed onto the floor.
“So you had a really tough day,” she says, looking over at you.
“Yes ma’am,” you agree.
“Tougher than I had planned for you,” she says. A silence follows her statement. She still looks sort of mad, but not quite as angry as she did at first.
“I’m quite protective of you, Cadet,” Terra muses. “I don’t like what Instructor Gray did to you, but you say you deserved it, so I’ll tell you this.” Her eyes take on an intensity which makes you gulp. “Don’t deserve it again.”
“No ma’am, I won’t,” you promise quickly.
She nods briskly. “I’m aware just how much I’ve advanced you through training. There’s a reason why cadets aren’t all trained the same way, why they’re streamed in certain directions…”
You get the sense she’s trying to tell you something, but you’re not sure entirely what.
“You mean… I wouldn’t be getting the sort of training Instructor Gray is giving me,” you say. “So I wouldn’t be getting combat training. So… you don’t think I’m combat capable?”
“Ideal combat cadets are two things: aggressive and submissive,” Terra says. “I wouldn’t say you have either of those traits in large quantities. You’re more likely to choose indirect means to achieve a goal than direct aggression, as proved by your resilience to the testing process – and you’re certainly not submissive. Not yet, anyway.”
You let yourself smile a little. She’s right.
“Which is why Gray ended up whipping you,” she says. “It’s not a good fit.”
“That’s what I said!” You gasp as she pretty much echoes your words precisely.
“And what did she say?”
“She said that I didn’t have a choice.”
“True enough,” Terra nods. “I do want your input though, Cadet. Gray is the best, by a very long way. There’s no doubt in my mind that she’s the woman for the job. But I can’t have you coming back beaten every day. Do you want to train under Instructor Gray? Are you going to be able to stay out of trouble with her? Or am I going to have to find someone probably less capable, but also less likely to whip you senseless?”