Warlands of Song

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Chapter Twenty-Six: Glen

“I’ll be with you in a moment.”

“That’s fine, I’m patient.”

Glen took a seat on the bench opposite his former student, watching as she nearly dropped the weight she was bench-pressing on her skull. It missed her head by an inch. She sat up and stared at him.

“Glen. You really are back.”

His lips twisted. “Since when are you allowed to call me by my first name, Jensen?”

She shifted, hands combing through her hair and adjusting her clothes. His mouth flattened again. Nothing had changed in his absence.

“I’m sorry, I just thought... I mean, you let her call you that—”

“I don’t understand what that has to do with you.”

She looked him over and smiled.

“I’m sorry. You look—”

“What did you do to my student while I was gone?”

Her smile fell. “I... What?”

“What did you do,” he said slowly, “to my student... while I was gone? I heard she was injured very badly on your watch.”

“Yes. It couldn’t be helped.”

“As soon as we’re finished here, I’m heading straight to the surveillance room to watch exactly what happened. So I suggest you be very upfront with me about what happened.”

She stood now, and walked to the window. Then she flinched and turned back around to face him, almost at attention. He appreciated her remembering proper etiquette. Unlike the grunts. You didn’t turn your back on your superior. Ever.

“She was being disrespectful. I did what was necessary to put her back in her place.”

“Is that really what I’ll see on the tape?”

She looked so hesitant, he knew her answer without her speaking.

“Last chance,” he said.

“It isn’t fair! Why does it seem like she knows you so well? And why should you care what I did to her? She deserves it for what she did to you! And I did nothing to your student. She was my student.”

She shrunk back into the window when he stood.

“I’ve tried to be patient with you,” he said, walking to her. “I’ve tried reasoning with you, diverting your attentions—I left so that you could get over this childish infatuation with me. Since none of that has worked, I have no choice but to come out and tell you the truth.”

He stopped directly before her and leaned down to her level.

“I am not, have never been, and will never be attracted to you. You were one of my brightest and most hardworking students, but your infatuation has driven you to a low I’m disappointed in. I’d hoped my absence would bring you to peace with the situation and force you to work on yourself more, but it’s only made things worse. So I’m telling you now to let it go. This will never happen. And it has nothing to do with my new student.”

“But why are you training her? After what she did to you and Robert—”

“Because that is my job,” he snapped, raising his voice. “No matter my personal feelings, I am expected to do my job. And right now, they want me to train her. You can feel however you want about me as long as you keep in mind that I don’t feel the same, and that your fantasies will never go any further than that.”

Her eyes dipped to the ground and came back up, and then she was moving in fast to press her lips to his. It only lasted a second, too fast for him to properly react and push her away. She spoke quickly.

“I know and understand how you feel, but I want you to know that I’m not giving up on you. I’m going to get better, and then you’ll want me.”

“If you ever touch me again, I will have you transferred to another base far, far away. And if I hear of you harassing my student, you will be discharged. This is not primary school, this is where the best soldiers are trained for war. Keep your feelings to yourself.”

With that, he left the room. He wasn’t thinking much about where he was going, but he ended up in front of the same gymnasium he’d trained Saige in the day before. She was there now, with Carter. They were sparring. He stood outside the door and watched.

Carter threw punches and kicks, and she dodged them all without much effort. Being smaller had that advantage. But she would never win if she didn’t at least try to—

After a sharp dart to Carter’s left, Saige kicked out a foot and landed it firmly in his ribs. He staggered back, and she converged with feet and fists, and then at the last moment, flipped in the air and brought her dominant foot down on the man’s head.

Carter hit the floor like a sack of bricks. Glen was tempted to run in and help his friend. But before he could, Saige was on the ground, helping the man back to his feet. She was tiny compared to him, but she still managed to sling his arm around her shoulders and heft him up. He staggered, and she was dragged with him until she planted herself and heaved, her face turning into a pained grimace with her effort. When Carter was back on his feet, Glen watched Saige reach up and run her hands through his hair. He bristled until he saw the shiny substance running through the strands as she removed her fingers. She was healing the damage she’d done.

Within minutes, Carter regained his balance and shook his head as though shaking off sand. She stumbled under his harsh hand when he clapped her on the back, exaggerating their size difference even more. Carter grinned, congratulating her. Glen felt like clapping for her. The look on her face, though, is what held him in place.

Saige wore a grin so large, he couldn’t help but smile along. From the moment he’d met her on earth she’d worn nothing but a blank stare and a frown. Her grin was brilliant. It made her look younger, more innocent, as though she hadn’t knocked a man twice her size and weight, and of a dominant race almost unconscious in a duel. If she ever became an official soldier, and was sent undercover, their enemies wouldn’t know what hit them.

“Commander?”

He stiffened and turned.

“Eavan.”

The woman’s smile was stiff.

“What are you doing?”

“Watching my student’s session. She’s making good progress. Did you need something?”

“I also came to observe the girl’s progress. How is she, physically?”

“Very strong. Much better than when she started. Her body is taking to the planet’s gravity better than expected.”

“How about mentally? Emotionally?”

He shrugged. “That isn’t my job.”

“Isn’t it? You’re her S.O.”

“I’ve designated Carter as her non-primary S.O.”

She looked into the gymnasium. “Is that him?”

“It is.”

She went straight in, leaving him behind. He had no choice now but to follow her in.

“Mr. Hale,” she called on her way in, “I need to speak with you.”

Saige was already watching their approach, but Carter didn’t notice them until they were close.

“We have visitors,” he said, eyeing Glen. “Come to see how she’s doing?”

“Our intentions are separate,” Eavan said, examining Saige from every angle. “How are you?”

Her question was aimed directly at Saige, who nodded.

“I’m fine.”

Eavan made a small sound in the back of her throat, as though she didn’t believe her. Then she turned to Carter.

“I need to speak with you, alone. You too, Mr. Mykel.”

Carter nodded, and turned to Saige. “I’d say you deserve the day off after that. Go have some fun. We’ll pick up where we left off tomorrow.”

Saige dipped her head in respect.

“Yes sir.”

Her eyes flicked to his. He forced himself to look impassive and hostile. As she passed him, she slowed, the movement almost too slight for him to notice. But she continued out of the gym and down the hall without too much of a pause.

“Mr. Hale,” Eavan said as soon as Saige was out of earshot, “I am concerned about the girl’s mental health. It cannot be healthy for her to be locked up in this hostile fortress day in and out. Has she exhibited any adverse side effects to training, mentally or emotionally?”

Glen raised his brows and Carter scratched his head.

“I haven’t noticed anything weird. If anything, she’s getting better every day. Just a second ago, she took me down and I was trying my hardest. When I started training her, she could barely run a mile. She’s come leaps and bounds, and...” the man frowned, and Glen followed suit.

“Well, she hasn’t been talking. I don’t think I’ve heard her say more than a couple sentences that didn’t have to do with training. She doesn’t interact with any of the other initiates. They don’t interact with her. I can imagine that would affect her negatively.”

Eavan nodded as though she’d expected this observation.

“She needs to be included in the activities. If she has no friends, her progress will cease, and she’ll go back to how she was before. A person can only go so long without associates.”

“But she had no friends on earth either,” Glen now interjected. “She was in hiding. And she lasted two centuries there.”

“She must’ve had a supplement. Do you know what she did there for a job?”

“I... don’t. No.”

“Find out. And in the meantime, find her some friends.”

He bristled. “It’s not my job to find her associates. It’s my job to—”

“To make sure she’s the best she can be. To train her, nourish her, and make sure she is otherwise taken care of. By denying to find her proper associates, you’re failing as an S.O. Handle it.”

With that, the woman left as quickly and abruptly as she’d arrived. He looked at Carter, who looked back with equal bafflement.

“She has a point.”

Glen glared at him. Carter shrugged.

“She comes here every single day to train with me. Sometimes we go to the equipment room, and she runs simulations, but she doesn’t want to do that lately. Not sure what that’s about. But we need to get her integrated into the base’s routine.”

Yes, they did. He had to find a way to introduce her to some of the strange grunts of the program. They would probably get along great.

“Figure something out,” he said, walking away.

“You do realize you’re her S.O, right?”

He turned, still walking toward the door. “Only by title. You’ve done all the work to get her where she is now. You know what’s best for her.”

“For someone who doesn’t hate her, you sure have a way of showing it. Just because I don’t hate her doesn’t mean—”

“Stop,” Carter said. He shoved Glen back a couple of steps and pointed at the door.

“If you don’t care one bit about her, you’re going to walk out that door and go straight to the Chief’s office to tell him you won’t be her S.O anymore. Because she’s doing an amazing job without you, and I won’t have you jeopardizing her future here because of a grudge. I don’t even know what your problem is. Care to enlighten me, or are you going to the Chief?”

When Glen just glared at him, Carter crossed his arms.

“Or will I be telling him?”

He didn’t know whether to threaten him, hit him, or completely ignore him. The urge to harm was intense, but he took a few deep breaths to relax himself. After all, it wasn’t as though Carter was wrong. He hadn’t been wrong about anything yet.

Except for one part: he had no grudge against Saige. She’d done nothing wrong. She was completely innocent, and caring, and she’d saved his skin more times than he’d saved hers. Where he acted on instinct and without rationality, she reminded him of the cold hard facts and tried to stop him from ruining his life further. To the point of giving herself up and lying about why he’d helped her. And he’d had the nerve to hate her for it.

But he didn’t hate her at all. In truth, he was all too grateful. But he shouldn’t have been. She was supposed to be grateful to him for saving her life. Grateful to Robert. Willing to run far away if he helped her. But no, she’d chosen to insert herself amongst the very people who had tried to kill her multiple times and would do so more times in the future. It was stupid and reckless and... brave. Bold. Awe-inspiring. But he didn’t want to be in awe of her.

“Have you made up your mind?”

Glen sighed, rubbing the back of his neck.

“I’ll help you come up with something,” he mumbled.

“Well, there actually is something coming up that we could invite her to. I don’t know how willing she’ll be though. She’s probably never experienced it before.”

Upon hearing Carter’s idea, Glen was filled with dread. There was no way she would agree. He should have let them kill him from the start. This was much harder than he’d expected.

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