Cadet was brooding.
She sat in the corner of the cabin, watching Terra and Gray and Grisham run over the plan for the mission that they were apparently going to undertake sometime soon. They were incredibly focused on it and did not seem to notice her mood.
Reminding herself that being in a military unit was not about her and her feelings, she tried to pay attention to what Terra was saying, but there was so much boring background about terrain and elevation and other things that were probably relevant to the mission, but not at all relevant to a lovesick cadet.
Grisham and Gray were sitting next to one another, pouring over a tablet, making comments which went over Cadet’s head. She found herself wondering how Boris was doing. She hadn’t even been able to see him in all the chaos. If he’d been there, he would have been teasing her and she would have been telling him less than polite things to go and do to himself. At least she would have had someone on her level to talk to.
“We need to get her set up for armor.” Grisham jerked her head toward her shoulder, indicating Cadet.
Now she was a ‘her’. The days where Grisham tucked her up in bed and bought her hot drinks and looked after her were obviously gone. She had become a tool to be wielded, nothing more. She found herself wondering if any of them would even care if something happened to her like it had happened to Boris.
“Heavy stuff,” Gray said. “Full face cover. Penetration proof plating.”
“She won’t be able to move in that.”
“She doesn’t have to move much,” Gray said. “We can move her if we need to. I want her covered as much as possible. There’s likely to be live fire.”
“Which she won’t be able to evade if she’s weighed down.”
“Errr…” Cadet broke in. “Are we talking about me getting shot at?”
“It’s not necessarily going to happen,” Terra said, looking in her direction for the first time in about an hour. “We’re preparing for all eventualities. The artifact is of some value and is being kept somewhere inside a rebel stronghold.”
“And we’re going to assault a stronghold? Just the five of us?”
“No, we’re going to enter by means of stealth, find what we need and leave. Sarah and Grisham will provide a distraction if we need it. You and Gray and I will retrieve the artifact.”
“Uh… huh,” Cadet replied. The plan sounded highly dangerous.
“No plate armor,” Terra continued, talking to Gray. “We all need to be mobile. And the entry team need to look as much like civilians as possible. If we go in looking like military and get spotted, that’s it for us. If we look like civilians who took a wrong turn, maybe they let us go. We’ll wear anaternian vests and shorts under our clothes.”
“Those are barely effective against a soft breeze.”
“It’s what we’re wearing,” Terra said, ending the conversation.
Cadet watched Gray’s lips clamp shut. So that’s what discipline looked like, being told you were going to be in more danger than you really wanted to be and not saying anything about it.
“It’s fine,” Cadet piped up, her tone dripping with pure sarcasm. “It’s not as if anyone has been seriously injured so far… and it’s not as if anyone knows what Nina Terra looks like. You’re only one of the most famous females in this sector.”
Terra shot a sharp look at Cadet. “Boris was wearing heavy armor. It didn’t help him. You are right that I am quite high profile though. There is some risk of being recognized.”
“Maybe Cadet and I should just go in together,” Gray suggested.
“You don’t exactly look like a civilian either,” Cadet pointed out. “If anyone is going to look clueless and lost it would be me and Sarah.”
Grisham, Gray and Terra looked at one another for a silent moment.
“She’s right,” Grisham said.
“But it would be Sarah and Cadet,” Terra said with a meaningful look at her companions. “Alone. In a rebel stronghold.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Cadet interjected. “Either we’re ready for this or we’re not.”
“You need experienced back up.”
“So be experienced back up,” Cadet shrugged. “Sarah can deal with any hostility, and when she’s not scowling she looks halfway human. If we get caught, I bet they don’t even think of the possibility of us being some invasion force.”
“That’s true,” Gray agreed. “They would look the part.”
“And we don’t even need to sneak in,” Cadet pointed out. “We could just go in there and tell them we want to join, then steal whatever it is we need to steal and you know, whatever.”
Another one of those stunned silences followed Cadet’s suggestion.
“That’s the best plan I’ve ever heard that ended with “you know, whatever,” Gray said dryly.
“It is a good plan,” Terra agreed. “Good thinking, Cadet.”
“You should probably get Sarah out of the cells though. Give her a chance to wind down and stop hating you all quite so much before we do this. Or she’ll probably try to join the rebels.”
There was a snorting ripple of amusement.
“Grisham, could you retrieve Sarah, please,” Terra said. “She’s been down there long enough.”
Cadet could hardly believe that she was actually being listened to. It was enough to put a smile on her face. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
Gray shifted on the couch, her arm along the back of it as she looked over her shoulder at Cadet. “You know you’ve just talked yourself into about a hundred times more danger.”
Cadet shrugged. “It’s fine,” she lied. “I’m all about the danger.”
“I hope not,” Gray said. “You’re going to be surrounded by a hundred rebel soldiers happy to put a bullet in you. Are you truly ready for that kind of pressure?”
“Yeah. No worries,” Cadet said with a smile she didn’t feel. Like hell she was going to let Gray see her sweat. The events of the previous evening were still fresh in her mind, and their effects still very present on her ass. She had a lot to prove, to Gray, to Grisham, to Terra, and maybe most of all, to herself.