Leaving the brat in the cells, Gray walked across the base to the cabin where Terra was stationed and knocked on the door. The woman who answered was too good looking to be in a backwoods military base. Captain Nina Terra. Her legend preceded her whenever she went and even Gray felt a little tingle at finding herself in the woman’s presence. She just looked the part. Tall, composed, excellent bone structure, raven dark hair framing a face of uncommon beauty. She carried herself with the air of an aristocrat.
“Gray,” Terra said, crimson lips parting in a smile, her voice husky with a natural tone that was inherently seductive.
Gray straightened and stiffened. She wasn’t sure about Terra, not at all. In her experience, Nobody this good looking could be a good person.
“Evening, ma’am,” she said with a salute. “I’m calling on you to let you know I’ve got your girl in the cells. Jodie dumped a drugs charge on her. It’s not going to stick, but Cadet is in cuffs and she’ll have to appear before the base commander at some point to explain herself.”
Terra cocked her head to the side, blue eyes enchanting even as they were narrowed with alert confusion. “Cadet’s in the cells? She’s being held on a drug charge? I told her to go find Jodie…”
“You told her to go stick her head in a one girl snake pit. No real harm done. She’s in one piece and with any luck she’ll learn something from this…” Gray hesitated a moment, then plunged into the next topic on her mind. “Listen, ma’am, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about. The other day, I went in on her pretty hard with the cane.”
“I’m aware,” Terra said, her lips thinning.
“She deserved it, but I didn’t mean to mark her up like that. She’s a lot softer than I thought and I guess those non-regulation pants she was wearing don’t offer as much protection as fatigues do.”
Terra said nothing, but Gray could feel her anger.
“Anyway, I wanted to let you know that was my mistake.”
“I would have pulled her from you after that,” Terra said, her tone cool. “But Cadet was impressed by you and she wanted to keep learning from you. And I know you’re the best combat instructor this base has, so I let it slide. If there’s another incident like it, I won’t.”
“Understood ma’am,” Gray nodded. “Well, I’m sure Cadet will be glad to see you about now. She’s been asking for you. Begging, really.”
“I’m coming,” Terra nodded, stepping out of the door. “Walk with me, Gray.”
Gray obeyed, staying in step with Terra as they crossed the base again. She stayed silent, waiting to see what Terra wanted to talk to her about.
“Tell me what you think of Cadet,” Terra said. “How ready is she?”
“She’s not ready at all ma’am,” Gray answered honestly. “She belongs in basic.”
“And does she have any talent for combat whatsoever?”
“She’s got good instincts,” Gray said. “But her weapons training is going to be far more important than anything I can teach her. If I were you, trying to get someone field ready in a short period of time, I’d focus on that. A gun doesn’t care if you can do a round kick or whether you get out of breath after a short sprint.”
“I want her to feel physically capable,” Terra said. “She needs confidence.”
“Ma’am, if you’re looking for someone competent, I can give you the names of a good dozen soldiers. All of them proven and experienced.”
“No, thank you.”
Gray shot a look sidelong at Terra. Something was off here. Some tender skinned, green as hell cadet being put through accelerated training for no apparent reason, under the command of a woman who was as admired as she was loathed in some circles. It wasn’t Gray’s business to ask why, and she wasn’t going to.
Gray looked over at Terra. “Ma’am?”
“You’re not going to tell me that it’s irresponsible to take someone like Cadet into the field?”
“Why would I do that ma’am? You’ll have your reasons. It’s not my place to question them.”
A smile spread across Terra’s lips. “It’s a breath of fresh air to be around someone who knows her place.”
Gray nodded curtly.
“Thank you, Gray,” she said as they reached the cells. “I appreciate the work you’ve done with Cadet.”
“Just doing my job, ma’am.”
“Oh I think you’re doing more than just your job,” Terra said with a searching, knowing look. “I think that’s what makes you so good. I want you to keep up the pressure on Cadet. She’s responding to it well. She needs someone like you.”
“Someone like me?”
“Someone focused entirely on her training and discipline.”
Gray bit the inside of her mouth to stop herself from asking Terra if that wasn’t supposed to be her job.
“I’ll do my best, ma’am.”
“TERRA!” A high pitched squeal came from inside the cell block. “TERRA! IS THAT YOU!? THEY’VE GOT ME LOCKED UP!”
“QUIET DOWN THERE!” Gray thundered back down the hall.
Silence followed immediately.
“Impressive,” Terra murmured. “Thank you, Gray. You can go now. I’ll take her home and deal with her.”
“I’ll be dealing with her in a few days,” Gray added. “Once those bruises have healed up.”
“And I’ll be dealing with her tonight,” Terra said. “I promised her, if she got in trouble with you, she’d be in trouble with me. I’d say getting locked up counts as trouble, wouldn’t you?”
Grey drew in a breath and nodded sharply. “Yes ma’am, I would.”