I’d dragged myself out of bed this morning, regretting having had a late night when I knew I needed to be up by 5am. The only consolation; Seb and Ethan are in the same boat.
We had a 30km run with full pack, it was just the three of us, with Chris’ comeback unknown, they hadn’t given us a replacement yet. I was grateful for that, not ready to give up hope on Chris having some miraculous recovery, though I’m not naive enough to believe that’s possible.
Still, it would be hard seeing a new bloke come in. It makes me realise how the team must have felt when I replaced Drake.
After our run, we hit the base gym, Seb pushing us to up our weights. He’s always pushing us, trying to keep us at our best, Seb’s one of those people that are born to lead.
I move from the chin up bar over to the bench press as Seb moves to spot me.
“So, you and Jane looked cosy last night.” He states with a smirk. I roll my eyes, I’d been waiting for their comments on my relationship with Jane all morning.
“We’re friends, nothing more, I don’t see her like that.” I reply as I push the bar up, a slight layer of sweat covering my forehead.
Seb just nods as Ethan comes into view above my head and beside Seb.
“You sure about that?” Ethan grins. I grunt in annoyance as I continue with my set.
“Jane doesn’t even know her real name. She’s going through a lot right now and she needs a friend. That’s what I am, that’s all I am. I see her the same way I see Lucy, or Kate.”
They both simply nod and didn’t continue, not wanting to even consider me having any type of romantic feelings for their wife and sister. I shudder at the thought myself. Don’t get me wrong, Lucy and Kate are great and I love them both, in a completely plutonic way. The same with Jane.
They’re my family.
We finish at the gym without any more jibing about me and Jane, much to my relief.
After a quick shower, I return to the locker room to grab my stuff, just wanting to get home to take a nap.
Seb and Ethan are already there, gathering their things from the lockers and shoving them into their bags. I follow suit, my body aching slightly from the workout, but nothing too bad, the slight ache will be gone soon enough.
Just as I sling my bag over my shoulder, the door to the locker room opens and Chris walks in.
He doesn’t look too bad today, although he still has bags under his eyes and a slight shake to his hands, he’s better than he has been in the weeks prior.
“Heard I’d find you here.” He states as he walks over to the benches and takes a seat.
I drop my bag on the floor and take a seat opposite him, Ethan and Seb gathering around as well.
“I’m not coming back to the team.” He tells us, getting straight to the point. While it’s not surprising, it’s like a stab to the gut. “They’re talking either taking a non combat role, or getting a medical discharge.” Chris continues. I look down at my hands, unable to meet his eye. The only thought running through my head, I could have prevented this.
His career is pretty much over, because of me. Even if he takes a non combat role, it won’t be the same. To a commando, that’s not really an option. We’re born for action, born to be in the thick of it. I have all the respect in the world for those who do that job, we rely on them, we need them and trust them with our lives. But I couldn’t imagine ever being happy in a role like that myself.
“I’ve just met with the commander, but I wanted to tell you all myself. You should meet your fourth tomorrow.” Chris states, his voice showing no emotion, but I know this must be eating him up inside.
“Whatever we can do to help, mate.” Seb says as he pays Chris’s shoulder. “No matter what, you will always be a part of this team.”
Chris just nods and stands up.
“I better get going.” He says stoically. I stand up and shake his hand, pulling him into a bro hug. Ethan and Seb do the same before following him out of the locker room. Once alone, I sink back onto the bench and bury my head in my hands.
There’s nothing I can do to fix this. If only I could go back in time.
The next morning, Seb calls Ethan and I back to base. We both know it’s to meet our new teammate. The trip to base is silent, I don’t know what’s going through Ethan’s head, but I can’t imagine this is easy for him.
He went to hell and back with Chris, literally, and to have his replacement coming in would be hard. It’s hard for me and I wasn’t with them when they were captured. I came in after the fact.
The atmosphere in the locker room is stifling, none of us talk, each lost in our own thoughts. I wonder if it was like that before I came to meet the team. Were they dreading meeting me? Unable to take the silence I speak up.
“So what do we know about this guy?” I ask Seb, noticing Ethan relax slightly at the break in silence.
“His name is Kyle Sampson. Just passed selection. His army record is exemplary, was a shoe in for the commandos.” Seb says, though I see the doubt in his voice.
“Cocky?” Ethan asks. Seb simply shrugs his shoulders.
“Selection should have beaten that out of him.”
Ethan and I both nod. Selection for the SAS is brutal, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. They tear you down to shreds and build you back up again. Not many people make it. Physical fitness is only a part of it. Anyone can get to the fitness level required if they work hard enough, not everyone is cut out to do what we do.
When I passed selection, I was one of seven that made it, out of over 90 candidates.
The door swings open and a bloke walks in, younger than me, in his early 20s, with blonde hair and tanned skin. He’s not quite the build that Seb and I are, more in between us and Ethan. No doubt he’s strong and fit though. Going by the swagger in his step and cocky grin on his face, I’m automatically on guard. This is someone I have to trust with my life, and on first impression, it’s doubtful. Still, I will give him a chance.
“Kyle?” Seb asks, walking towards him and stretching out his hand. Kyle nods and shakes it. “I’m Seb, this is Ethan and Jordan.” He nods in our direction respectively and Kyle comes over to shake our hands.
His grip is firm, but not bone crunching, meaning he’s not about to start a pissing contest with us. A good thing.
“15k hike today, with full pack.” Seb states as he picks up his gear. I grab mine as Kyle hurries to pack his gear. He doesn’t question the order, moving at lightning speed to get ready.
As he packs, both Seb and I look up Ethan. He’s always had an uncanny ability to read people, to know straight away if the person can be trusted.
Ethan just shrugs. An uncommon occurrence for him. It’s usually a nod, all good, or a shake of his head, meaning he can’t be trusted. A shrug, well, we all need to keep an eye on him for the moment.
Ethan’s never been wrong, and knowing he can’t read Kyle makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Kyle pulls his pack over his shoulders and we all file out of the locker room.
As we start up the hills behind the base, I remember my first hike with the team. Seb had set up an ambush just over the ridge. I wonder if he’s done the same for Kyle.
As we walk, Seb fires questions at Kyle. Finding out he’s single, has an older brother and divorced parents, no family in the defense force, but it was always his dream.
From the outside, he seems like a stand up guy, answering everything with ease. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that something is off about him.
We finish the hike with no set up for him, though no doubt it will come soon enough. We all want to see his reactions, whether he’s a team player or if he has a hero complex. It’s rare to get through selection with that type of attitude, but it happens.
All in all, the guy ticked every box to be a commando from what we saw today.
Still, only time will tell.