Once the shopping was over, Fletcher and I had pasta for lunch at one of the cafes. He introduced me to a grape flavoured NST, which tasted like red wine – very nice and now officially my favourite. By the time I’d arrived back at my apartment there was no time for me to unpack all my shopping bags so I put my new batch of NSTs in the fridge and darted down to my office in the Command Centre.
Where the recruits’ personal files on my desk as I’d expected them to be? No.
I knew it was rude, but I searched Jared’s desk seen as he was intent on playing games. It would seem that he’d anticipated that I might do this as all his drawers were locked and nothing of interest was on the surface of the bureau. Plonker. Well he really didn’t know me at all if he thought that this would be enough to rock my resolve. I’d just have to learn about the recruits on meeting them.
Were they in the training arena waiting for me? No. Not even one of them. Were they all plonkers as well?
I ventured around the squads’ grounds, but there was no sign of any of them. Nor were they in the gymnasium or training with the other squads in the rainforests or even lounging lazily at the beach. After twenty minutes of wandering aimlessly, I tried the canteen. There they were having a freaking food fight. Yes, they really were plonkers as well.
“Oi!” I hollered. “There better be a very good reason why you’re all in here instead of in the training arena.”
Some of them sighed, some of them whined, some of them snorted, and the others whistled as they suddenly found the decor to be fascinating.
“Well?” I demanded.
“Easy there, Commander,” said Max the Slap-head. “It’s nothing personal, okay, we just don’t think we need tutoring on our powers. Commander Michaels told us that usually when squads are assembled the recruits’ gifts are raw so they need a lot of training. We were selected for having such good control of our gifts already seen as Antonio needs us ready soon. So Commander Michaels said it’s up to us whether we go to training with you or not.”
“I’ll bet he did,” I said through gritted teeth. I so wanted to put Jared on his backside again.
Max flashed me a flirtatious smile. “Why don’t you come and join us, me and you could -”
“Don’t even finish that sentence, Slap-head.”
“Hey, I told you, call me Max.”
“While you’re being a wanker, you’re Slap-head.” I glanced around the ten blokes. “So that’s how you all feel?” Again I was talking through my teeth.
There were nods and ‘yes’s.
“It’s lucky for you lot that right now I’m fuming more with Commander Michaels than I am with all you, but I’m warning you now – and don’t take this lightly – if you’re not at the training arena tomorrow I swear to God I’ll put every one of you on your lazy arses.”
I could have kicked their backsides right this minute, but all I could think about was snapping Jared in half. It was one thing to mislay the files or other menial crap like that, but it was another thing altogether to undermine my authority to the recruits. Besides, kicking their backsides wouldn’t make them think of me as an authority figure while they were in this mentality.
Lucky for me but terribly unfortunate for him, Jared was in the office fumbling through papers when I entered. Enraged to the point of feeling homicidal, I hadn’t even bothered bidding Fletcher hi. “What do you think you’re playing at?” I growled loudly at Jared as I barged in.
Even though he had his face down in the papers, I could see his mouth twitching as he strained to contain a giggle. Oh he knew what this was about, and he’d been looking forward to this dispute. “Training session not go well?”
“You think you’re being clever? You think it’s funny?”
“Sorry, Sam, but I’ve no idea what you’re -”
Sucking the energy around me into my palms I sent a gust of wind at him, blowing the papers from his hands. “You look at me while I’m talking to you.”
He looked up. “I wouldn’t call this talking.”
“You told them they didn’t have to come to training!”
“That’s not what I said. I told the guys that I thought they had good control of their gifts and that if they didn’t think they needed extra training then that was up to them, they’re mature enough to decide for themselves.”
“Mature? Know where they were? The canteen, having a food fight! You gonna try to tell me they’re models of maturity?”
His mouth curved into a smile; he didn’t even try to hide it.
“You know, I expected you to make things difficult but I really didn’t think you’d go as far as to undermine my authority like that. Now is not the time for fun and games, The Hollow’s walls are going to be attacked! Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“I already told you that I didn’t think I needed your help, you already knew that.”
“Is this still about your pride? After what you did today you shouldn’t have any.”
“Look, Sam, here’s how you’ve got to look at it: if the guys had respected your authority then it wouldn’t have mattered what I said to undermine it, they’d have been in that arena waiting for you. If you can’t control them enough to even get them to show up then you’ve got no chance of managing them in a training arena.”
I took a long breath. “You’re right. They don’t respect my authority. They respect you more than they respect me.”
“Then that leaves me only one option.”
“I’ll just have to whip you silly so they see exactly who they should respect.” Instantly I absorbed the energy around me and moulded it into my energy whip.
Jared raised his arms, palms out. “Now, Sam, hang on a minute.”
“Fletcher!” I called out.
Looking like a bag of nerves, he peeked through the door. “Yes?”
“Shut that door and lock it.”
“Right, luv,” he said nervously.
As soon as I heard the telling click I began to run my whip through my fingers, enjoying the feel of the energy buzzing against my skin.
“Sam, don’t do this.”
“Why Commander Michaels? You f**ked me over. You don’t want equality in this business relationship. I’m giving you what you want – just not the way around that you were hoping for.” I cracked the whip at him, catching his bottom lip.