“I don’t think you understand the parameters under which these soldiers are being judged.”
He was pacing. He always paced when he was anxious. A few long strides took him to the nearest window—nothing but a blanket of white for miles. The speed at which the aircraft was moving was indeterminable as the clouds travelled in the same direction they were flying. The two men were in his office. This was where he felt most at home—among the clouds.
“What I’m not sure you understand was that the last time the Solovot standing army was needed was before you even tied your first boot.” Speakman replied to the young brash breaker. “Every last one of these kids focused completely upon their own survival—except Glass—and you’re telling me that you think he needs to be shipped off?”
Breaker Hopeless finally sat, picking up his drink and twirling the liquor it held, listening to the ice clank against the side of the glass. His eyes were deep violet, sunken behind a perpetually furrowed brow. He ran the fingers on his free hand through his sandy blonde hair, grabbing hold of his neck and massaging. He let out a sigh which told Speakman exactly what he was thinking without words.
“I know you’re fond of him but if you would listen to reason.” Hopeless stood up and walked to the back of his chair. “You hired me to oversee this squad, correct?” Speakman nodded in response. “I know that I answer to you, but—with all due respect—you are watching a couple of hundred soldiers and my complete attention is focused on twelve.”
“I’m well aware—”
“I’ve watched every move they’ve made since Election Day.”
“And I’ve watched every soldier who has entered this regiment since before you were born.” Speakman said, sitting down at his desk as they barreled through the air toward camp.
“If you’re going to keep using my age as some kind of weapon against my ability to properly determine which soldiers are qualified to serve in Utopia and which ones belong on drills than I better just turn in my uniform and go back to service at the docks.” Hopeless took his liquor in one last gulp and tossed the empty glass on the couch against the wall as he made for the door.
“You are not dismissed Major Breaker Kend’all Yerling.”
Hearing Lieutenant General Cloud Leader Speakman use his full name and title reminded the young man of his place, but didn’t cool his temper in the least.
“Take a seat,” continued Speakman as he poured two more glasses, pushing one forward. “You are right, Kend’all. I remember the day I hired you. I nearly begged to have you in my company. There was only one other soldier that I even considered for your position, but he was only a backup. My datapad had one name typed into it—yours. No one scored higher in litmus or field testing. It was your complete disregard for authority—same thing you are holding against Private Glass—that drove me to sign you on. I knew that would make you stubborn, but I also knew that it would make you honest. I didn’t want a yes man.”
Speakman paused and took a sip of his drink, then fixed his eyes on his subordinate.
“Don’t make the reasons I wanted you to become the reasons I can’t work with you.”
Breaker Hopeless took a deep breath, forcing himself to get his temper in check before responding.
“I’m going to do the job that you hired me to do,” Breaker Hopeless said. “I don’t think Tristaine Glass has what it takes to handle Utopian politics. His insolence is apparent in every drill. He only does things his way. Never listens to instructions.”
“In boot,” started Speakman, “he was applauded for his creativity when it came to lockpicking.”
“He broke down the door out of sheer frustration!”
“He improvised under duress. The drill—if you recall—was to rescue hostages. Private Glass was running out of time and needed to make a decision. I’d rather our soldiers be able to think on their feet than to let innocent people die.”
“I’d rather our soldiers admit that they have an area of weakness and spend some time focusing on that area than to ignore a direct order.”
“His direct order was to save the hostages. He saved the hostages. And killed every last alien threat inside of those walls—at record speed if you recall. What was it, six shots, six kills in six seconds? That’s the kind of soldier we want defending the High Father—not guarding some drill out in the middle of nowhere.”
Speakman leaned forward as he continued speaking.
“His creativity in problem solving is divinely inspired. It is said that creative thinking comes when the breath of god fills the lungs of man and his heart and mind is awakened to the truth of his surroundings. It’s as if god leaned down from his place on high to breathe the very breath of his lungs into this man. ”
Breaker Hopeless couldn’t hold his tongue any longer.
“Are you even aware that he has been caught asleep during the last four divine services?” Hopeless was standing again. “You think the High Father is going to want a godless, arrogant and insolent soldier like Tristaine Glass in his High Guard? Doubtful. His disregard for direction is just the beginning.”
Speakman looked at the ceiling and scratched as the five o’clock shadow growing on his neck. He knew that this wasn’t good news. It didn’t matter how skilled a soldier Tristaine Glass was. If he rejected the god of Solovot then nothing else mattered. He’d be lucky to get drill service at that point.
The speaker above buzzed to life.
“We are approaching Camp Qolea IV. Time until landing—six minutes.”
The two men continued for the next six minutes in absolute silence. Speakman with his head resting on folded arms on his desk and Kend’all “Hopeless” Yerling reclining in his chair with his legs crossed. They were both thinking long and hard about the coming hours. Decisions were in process even now. The A.R.C. training would be the final stage in the soldiers’ evaluation period.
The aircraft landed and Speakman and Hopeless prepared to disembark. The full squadron stood at attention just outside, greeting the two officers with the Solovot salute—their right fists clenched at their hearts. Rain was pouring down from the Qolean skies. When it rained on Qolea, it was almost always heavy storming. There could be no doubt that the soldiers had been standing out there awaiting the ship’s arrival for some time, but still they all stood drenched to the bone.
As Speakman’s boots hit the mud he cried out, “Squad, shun!”
The soldiers stood at higher attention than they previously were, sure that shoulders were back and their necks straight. The rain was driving sideways now, blasting each of them in their faces. Speakman’s gaze fell on them all individually. They all squinted, faces scrunched up—likely unable to see a foot in front of them—all but Tristaine. Private Tristaine Glass stood at attention with his eyes open wide, face bone dry as the rain dripped down the front of his A.R.C. visor.
“Private Glass,” Speakman shouted. “Explain yourself.”
“Twenty-three years of age. Brown hair both on my top and face. Never got on with girls well, but I like them the same. My mother was a—”
His squad suppressed a giggle.
Breaker Hopeless grabbed Tristaine by his soaked uniform, placed his leg behind the soldier and shoved him backward. Tristaine landed hard on his back. Mud splattered his visor.
“Pick him up,” commanded Speakman.
Hopeless helped the soldier to his feet. Speakman stepped forward and used his sleeve to wipe the mud off of Tristaine’s visor.
“Soldier, you’d better answer my question forthright!”
“I’d prefer to be able to see when I’m attacked than be fighting the rain on my face, sir! And since lately it seems attack comes at any time, I thought it best to be prepared.”
Speakman gave Kend’all “Hopeless” Yerling a look that said divinely breathed problem solving.
“Squad, did no one else think to take such precaution?”
“No, sir!” they all chanted in unison.
“This is your last evaluation period. You will be tried and tested at all times. If you’re breathing, you’re being graded by how well you breathe. Is that understood?”
“You have just a short time to show us that you deserve to serve in Utopia. Trust me, soldiers, you want to serve in Utopia. Utopia is thusly named for a reason. You’ve lived there since birth. Although you may feel like you want to experience the worlds, you do not! Drill service—your alternative—is not fun. It is not relaxing. It is not a vacation. It’s hard, lonely work in a dry, hot desert. The longer the drills pump into the planet, the quicker the landscape becomes arid and miserable.”
Speakman was walking back and forth making eye contact with each soldier. He noted that they only one whose eyes he could actually see were Tristaine’s.
“You are all here because you’ve passed every test thrown at you with flying colors. If you continue to impress us, you may just find yourself in the High Guard. You’re gonna go through Eternal Exile over the coming weeks. The testing you’ve experienced so far may well have been a joke.”
He motioned toward the intimidating form of Breaker Hopeless.
“Get ready soldiers. Breaker Hopeless is about to show you why he earned his name. While we are at Camp Qolea IV, he is your god, and I am your mommy. If you need your mommy you’re free to ask, but I somehow doubt god will be in a permissive sort of mood. Is that understood?”
“Squad!” shouted Breaker Hopeless. “Since Private Glass’ inventiveness has shed light upon the fact that the rest of you dung-for-brain scabs can’t even think enough to ensure clear vision—tomorrow’s rest time will be spent cleaning the mud off of every surface at Camp Qolea IV. If you finish with time to spare, you will run laps.”
“Tristaine,” Hopeless continued, “you will be exempt. I hope you enjoy your rest tomorrow.”
The officer knew full-well that he had just secured a good beating for Tristaine. He tossed a knowing wink in his direction and turned back toward the open hatch of the aircraft. The rain had started to die down and night was coming soon.
“Dismissed,” said Speakman.
Thank you for reading chapter two of Tristaine Glass: The Elect. Stay tuned for following chapters coming very soon. To be notified immediately when a new chapter becomes available, sign up for our mailing list. We don’t email a lot so don’t worry about spam! If you have comments, please feel free to share them below. We want to know what you think. After all, we are writing for you!