“There’s something I need to tell you,” Terra says, blithely unaware of, or uninterested in Grisham’s expression. “Sit down.”
She guides you into the arm chair with a serious look on her face. There’s a heaviness in the air you’re suddenly aware of and really don’t like. You start to feel worried.
“Boris and I were looking for Sarah,” she says, plunging straight into it. “There was an ambush and, well, Boris has been wounded. He is in surgery now and his chances are good, but I don’t believe he’s going to be able to resume active service for some time.”
Your jaw drops in surprise. You almost can’t imagine Boris being hurt. He’s always seemed so strong, so resistant to harm, like a big, dumb block of… dumb, big stupid… You find your eyes filling unexpectedly with tears.
“So the med evac was for him,” you say, trying desperately not to cry. Grisham already thinks your’re not worthy of being a soldier. If you start sniveling because Boris is hurt…
“It was,” Terra says. “I’m really sorry, cadet.”
You look at her, and everybody’s words come flooding back. Sarah warned you about this more than once, Terra’s propensity for getting her units into trouble.
“It’s okay to be upset.” It’s Grisham who speaks, her voice strong and warm and comforting.
You nod, biting your lower lip as sadness and anger war within you.
“Is it really bad?”
“It’s bad enough,” Terra says. “He sustained a wound to his leg which is going to require significant surgery to repair. Once he’s stable here, he will be transferred to a hospital for further surgeries.”
You nod, the tears threatening to blind you now as you still refuse to cry them.
“Did you at least get Sarah?”
“Sarah saved his life,” Terra says. “She dispatched the ambushers and managed to keep enough pressure on his wound to keep him alive. It wasn’t her fault, cadet, it was unrelated aggression.”
“I know it wasn’t her fault,” you say, your words tinged with bitterness.
Terra winces slightly. “It was mine. Yes, to all intents and purposes, it was my fault. You’re right. The safety of my unit is my responsibility. But what we do is dangerous and there’s always an element of risk. Boris knew that. Do you?”
You look at her and you don’t know what to do with yourself. Your emotions are so confused and jumbled and you want to hug her, but there’s also some part of you that just wants to scream at her for not looking after Boris.
“That’s no excuse.” Grisham grinds the words out.
“Excuse me?” Terra straightens and looks Grisham in the eye. “Do you have something to add to this, Guard Grisham?” She uses Grisham’s rank almost like a slur.
“I said it’s no excuse,” Grisham says, her gaze and voice steady. “That boy was green as hell, he had no business near a hot zone, and you know it. That’s why you left this one here with me.”
It suddenly hits you that it could have been you injured, or worse, if you’d been with Terra. Was Terra trying to protect you by leaving you behind?
“I believe you’re out of order, Guard Grisham,” Terra repeats, her eyes steely and cold.
“I believe I don’t give a damn, ma’an,” Grisham replies. “I’ve spent the last…” she catches herself on the verge of what you’re sure is going to be a tirade and a half and looks down at you as you sit there, your eyes welling with tears and your body full of a heavy grief. “Now isn’t the time for this discussion,” she says. “I’ll deal with you when I know this one is going to be alright.”
“Oh you’ll deal with me, will you?” Terra’s brows practically hit her hairline. “Well, I look forward to that.”
Grisham shoots Terra a look you’d never want to receive from somebody her size, then turns her attention back to you.
“Are you okay?”
“I don’t know,” you mumble. Everything is so confusing right now. Terra’s sort of right. You knew the risks, but you never knew that they’d be this immediate, or this devastating. The realization that this isn’t some cutesy weekend training exercise is hitting you hard. Lives are at stake here, and you might actually lose yours if you can’t take care of yourself.
“I think, I need… I want training,” you say. “I mean, proper training.”
“The training you should have had before you ever left the academy,” Grisham agrees pointedly.
“You clearly have a problem with me, Guard Grisham,” Terra replies coldly. “But we can discuss that later. For the moment, I have my cadet to attend to.” She looks down at you, denying Grisham an opportunity to respond. “Come on, cadet,” she says. “I have my own rooms on the floor above. You can put your uniform pants on and we can talk there.”