Stories, The Scions

The Scions – 7a

“Book learning” saw Carol in a small classroom with her military entourage. Lambert was up front, using the projector in an attempt to teach her how to read maps, while Hartmann leaned against a desk close behind her. He noted that Holmes was in the back corner furtively glancing at his phone, and simultaneously felt annoyed at the lack of discipline with the younger soldiers, yet relieved at finding a weakness he could exploit.

After an hour, the captain gave in to the despair in Carol’s eyes, and rubbed the bridge of his nose as he grumbled for Hartmann to take over, then left the classroom. Unlike Lambert, Hartmann wasn’t under any pressure to turn Carol into a soldier, so he found her ineptitude comforting – the woman had such a hard time grasping basic geography, it made sense that she only traveled by bus; if it was up to her to navigate, she’d never make it anywhere. By the end of the week, he was certain, Lambert would report that Carol was impossible to work with, and Hartmann would be back in the Suit for the mission.

“Let’s switch over to something easy,” he said, not moving from his spot. “The NATO phonetic alphabet.”

“What is that?” Carol asked, turning around to look at him.

“It’s for over the radio, to reduce potential confusion.” He grabbed a sheet of paper and a pen, and began scrawling down a series of words. “You memorize it, then use it instead of the ABCs.” A minute later, he handed the paper over to Carol, and she stared at it.

“Your handwriting it terrible,” she blurted, then turned red with embarrassment.

Hartmann grinned. “I’m a military guy, remember? It’s a miracle I even know how to write, given that my career revolves around point and kill.”

She smiled in return. “Maps and running too, apparently.”

“Words just get in the way. Why, if I picked up a book and started reading, I might get ideas in my head.” He sat down in a chair next to her and leaned towards her.

“Like what?” Carol asked, her eyes seeming huge as she looked at him.

“Like that I’m actually a person, and not a killing machine.” He jabbed his finger down onto the paper. “Alpha, bravo, charlie,” he said. “C’mon and repeat it.”

Carol repeated it, over and over, until it sounded like a sing-song. Then he moved her onto another group of letters to recite. After reaching “tango,” she randomly commented instead, “Sometimes I wonder if I’m actually a person, too.”

Hartmann paused, an uncomfortable lump forming in his throat. “Why do you say that?” he asked, his voice rasping a little.

“You said that we have more in common that you realized at first,” Carol answered. He hated the sincerity in her words, and the way that she looked at him earnestly. “It occurred to me that was something that we shared.”

Hartmann unconsciously clenched his hand into a fist, but forced a smile as he replied, “You’ve been thinking about what I said?”

Carol blushed deeply and turned away to stare intently at the paper, muttering, “Sorry.”

He glanced back at Holmes, ensuring that the ever present corporal was distracted with his phone, and reached over to lightly touch her fingers. “Most people don’t see through me. I didn’t expect that you’d connect the joke with what I confessed earlier.”

“I didn’t mean to, I …” Carol stuttered, then bit her lip.

“Be careful, Carol,” he said quietly. “If you keep this up, I might not be able to keep myself from liking you.”

She was red clear to her ears, and pulled her hand away as she recited, “T-tango, uniform, victor. Tango, uniform, victor.”

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