The First of Many

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Chapter 7

Hannah was by nature not a patient person, and the weeks of waiting that had been required to enlist into the army had worn down on her nerves: between the questions and 'counseling' by day and the running and hiding from 'brothers' by night, she hadn't slept a decent night in nearly a week.

Although she'd always been a natural at vanishing, she knew that to hide from those who had taught her would be almost impossible. She had to leave the country, fast. Enlisting was her only option: she couldn't afford to vanish on any other terms. She could only hope that by hiding amongst the thousands of people there, Nine could never find her.

Still, she forced herself awake as she was driven to the hotel where she would spend the night before her MEPS examinations, where they would ensure she was healthy and strong enough to enlist into the Army.

The day began with an ASVAB test, a particularly long test designed to make sure she was intelligent enough to enlist. In Hannah's opinion, the test was trivial: what taste an acid might have, or what the function of a leap year was. Other questions were more difficult: harder physics problems and logic questions that she had to stop and think about. Still, the test held no particular difficulty. She noticed some of her fellow testers having trouble, but she shrugged and pushed on. This, she knew, would be the least of her problems. Intelligence wouldn't disqualify her, at least.

They collected her test in short order. She didn't receive her score immediately, but several impressed glances were shot her way. She tried not to grin. One down, three to go.

She was subjected to a long series of exercises that would have been much more ridiculous had she been doing them alone, which took most of the day. She passed, apparently, because she was led into an office to begin job selection.

“Solomon,” the man said, “I must say we're all very impressed by your performance. You passed every test we gave you with stunning results. We haven't had anybody do this well here in at least a year.”

Hannah smiled, ducking her head without a word.

“Your dedication is impressive,” he added. “What are your reasons for enlisting, if I might ask?”

“I'm sick of Chicago,” she said. “It's not safe, and I want out.”

The man raised an eyebrow. “Not safe?”

“Mixed with the wrong crowd,” she said nonchalantly. “It'd be best to get out before something dangerous happens.”

The man nodded. “Certainly,” he said. “Now, considering your results, we'd usually just let you slide on through, but there was some concern expressed by the doctors.” He put down the file and stared at her over the frame of his glasses. “Solomon, are you aware that you're missing a rib?”

Hannah raised an eyebrow. “I think I've noticed, yes,” she said.

“Why?” he demanded.

Hannah looked away. “I don't want to talk about it,” she muttered.

“I didn't ask if you wanted to,” he said.

“It's personal,” she argued.

“In that case,” the man shrugged. “I'm afraid that due to your missing rib and the resulting bulge in your lung, I can't let you through.”

“Knock it off,” she growled. “Some sadist of my acquaintance thought it would be a great idea to tie me to a wall and beat me with a metal pipe for sixteen hours. My rib was shattered too badly, so we couldn't save it without bringing me to a hospital. That was out of the question, so we just took it out. I'll have you know it doesn't have any effect on my physical capabilities.”

The man's jaw dropped. “Beat you with a metal pipe?” he repeated dumbly.

Hannah nodded. “Wrong crowd, I told you. Can we move on, please?”

Why?”

“Because he enjoyed it,” she snapped, “And I found myself in a position where I was unable to fight back.”

“Of course,” he said, schooling his features into a businesslike expression. “Now, I understand you're considering joining the Rangers.”

Hannah nodded. “Yes,” she said.

He frowned. “Are you sure about that?” he asked. “The training is... very grueling, and you'll be expected to perform at the same standards as the men.”

Hannah narrowed her eyes. “Are you implying something, sir?”

“Just that someone of your... particular persuasion might not find herself welcome. You may find the training to be much more than you bargained for.”

“My persuasion?” she asked, her voice deadly calm. “Are you implying that my gender might prevent me from performing at the same standards as the men?”

“On paper, no,” he said. “In real life... I don't make the rules. I can't stop you, but I can tell you that you might want to reconsider.”

“I've considered enough. Sign the damn paper.”

The man sighed. “I see,” he said. “What's your alternative choice?”

“Infantry. Are we done here?”

“We are, Solomon,” he said. “Good luck; you'll need it.”


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