The First of Many

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Chapter 12

After the barbed wire incident, Hannah's classmates developed what appeared to be at least a grudging respect for her: there were no more disparaging remarks or rude stares when they thought she wasn't watching. On the other hand, it couldn't have been more obvious that she wasn't one of them: they put up with her, but refused to have anything more to do with her.

Hannah didn't care; She hadn't joined the Rangers for family, she'd joined for safety. Let them think what they would.

The Powell twins, Silas 'call me Shadow' and Blaise 'it's Blade' were always at her side, warding off potential attackers with particularly impressive glares. Quickly added to their group was Theodore Kincaid, a soft-spoken man in his early thirties. He was a giant of a man, broad and built, with a square-jawed, mean face and wide, scarred hands.

No, Hannah didn't particularly care whether or not her classmates liked her. On the other hand, she did care about their ridiculous modesty complex.

At first, she'd thought it was hilarious: the men would wrap a towel about themselves for the short trip from bed to shower, would screen their language in front of her to keep from cursing, would even make sure that she had the shower room all to herself for fifteen minutes every morning. It wasn't long, however, before it lost its amusement and started just making her angry.

She took out all her frustrations at the shooting range; her aim was flawless from years of knife-throwing, and, true to her favorite threat, she never missed a shot.

It didn't take long, however, for her to grow tired of being the outsider. She was unused to it, having been the protector of her house in Chicago. She tried again and again to prove herself, but the results were always the same: they treated her as though she were a minuscule ice sculpture. Like she hadn't joined Ranger School on her own merit.

Fine, she decided. If they want a guy on their team, then so be it.

From that point on, Hannah's sense of modesty effectively ceased to exist. She showered at the same times as the men did, regardless of their surprised glances, and Kincaid's comical blush. When she walked from the shower to her locker, it was with a towel wrapped around her waist.

The first time she'd done it, the reaction from her classmates had been hilarious. Eyes wide as saucers, they had all stood stock-still in their various occupations, gaping like fish out of water.

"Take a picture, it'll last longer, assholes," she said shortly.

There was a pause as they all reeled back, and she rolled her eyes. “You'll catch flies,” she told one, smacking the bottom of his chin as she passed. “I'm pretty sure this isn't the first time you've seen a woman topless.”

"First time we've seen one in the mens' shower," one of them said.

“It's not the mens' shower,” she said, “seeing as there's no womens' shower. It's just the shower.”

The men just stood there, and then decided to just accept it and move on. They certainly weren't complaining, especially when they learned that she honestly couldn't care less if they stared at her whilst she was changing. Hannah's plan had the desired effect; she was easily integrated into the group, although several still insisted on holding doors open for her.

The training routine was grueling, and food was scarce. Hannah was used to lack of food and harsh exercise, but hadn't had to handle it in a while.

Ruck marches, in Hannah's opinion, were the worst. Running five miles wasn't a problem, walking twenty was even easier, but it was far easier to run five miles with a gun-wielding brother running after her than it was to run five miles with fifty pounds of gear on her back. One particular incident, for example, included an instructor throwing a dummy grenade among the class as they ran. Everybody dove for cover, except for Hannah, who had been grappling with a loose strap on her pack at the time.

Nobody could really tell what had happened. The most anybody knew was that one minute, the grenade was headed for Hannah, and the second, it lay in Shadow's hands, and suddenly, it landed at the Instructor's feet. The whole interaction had taken all of three seconds.

Hannah grinned at Shadow, but said nothing. He smirked back.

The instructor stared. “How did you two do that?” he asked.

“No idea, sir,” they chorused, still grinning.

“I decided it would be a bad idea to jump on it,” Hannah said, shrugging, “So I just threw it. Nobody was there at the time.” She mock-glared at Shadow. “Why'd you have to move, anyway, Shadow?”

He shrugged back. “Used to play baseball,” he said. “Reflex, I guess.”

As the sun began to set that very evening, their instructor spoke to the remaining dozen in their class. “Congratulations,” he said. “You've passed the first phase. Tomorrow morning, you will be split into groups and taken for the mountain phase. Good luck; you'll need it.”


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