“Argh!” Gwynivara summoned all of her frustration and disappointment and let that energy flow to her arms. It guided her arm and clenched fist like a current in the ocean, which made her punch almost effortless. Each time she struck the bumpy rubber, a piece of her stress chipped off, so it gave her a small sense of pleasure to bash it over and over again. She didn’t think any amount of this could fully release all of the pent up emotions, but it gave her a little satisfaction, something she desperately needed right now.
Emorick walked into the training auditorium, and when he walked up to her, she didn’t give him any indication that she recognized his presence. After a moment of watching her scrap with the punching bag, Emorick inquired, “How you doing, kid?” She gave him a quick glance that suggested she couldn’t believe he just asked her that question, and without speaking to him, she went right back to punching the bag. “I guess that was a dumb question.” Gwynivara didn’t acknowledge that statement. After a moment, Emorick then probed, “So, how long are you gonna keep punishing yourself?”
She stopped in mid-action. Those words echoed deep inside of her. She hadn’t left the training room since they got back except to change out of that uniform, casting off the reminder of the fiasco from earlier that day. The thrill of surviving washed away as the facts started to flood in. That mission was her idea. Everything that went wrong fell on her. She thought she had everything figured out! In a matter of minutes everything had fallen apart. She didn’t want to face the other rebels, especially not the officers! She knew that there would be questions, and she didn’t want to relive that day. She could feel tears start to well up, and she refused to let herself get upset enough for her Venenatus Sanguis to kick in, so she started punching the bag again, though her jabs were less forceful than before.
Emorick pulled the bag out of her reach, which forced her to stop. He addressed her, “Let’s get one thing straight-missions almost never go exactly as we plan. Sometimes you do your best to anticipate all of the possible outcomes and unforeseen circumstances still blitz you out of nowhere. That’s life! When plans go wrong, the most important thing to focus on is getting your men out alive, which you did. You did well! Perfection is impossible! Mistakes happen, failures happen, but one loss doesn’t mean you don’t have the skills to make it happen next time! Right now, your job is to show your team that when you get knocked down, you get back up! Learn from the experience and move on! You’ll gain more respect by how you recover from a setback, but you’ll never get there if you let this thing defeat you! Shutting yourself out from the world isn’t gonna fix anything! Don’t worry what others may judge about your actions-you still did better than those who didn’t even try! Take some pride in that! “
“How?” Gwynivara desperately asked. His words were empowering, but she didn’t know by what means she could forget everything. A future victory could say people’s opinions on her leadership skills, but what was she supposed to do until then?
Emorick answered simply, “By walking out that goddamn door with your head held high! Don’t you dare give a shit what people think! Life moves on, and so must we!” Gwynivara realized that he was right and nodded in agreement. Emorick concluded by directing her, “You’re going to take over door guard duty tonight. Head over there now, and I’ll send someone over shortly to train you on it.”
“Thank you!” Gwynivara said appreciatively.
“Don’t thank me!” Emorick advised. “I’m just doing my job.” Gwynivara smiled in gratitude, and before she headed out the door, he mentioned, “I meant it; you did a good job today!” Gwynivara stopped to absorb it for a moment. She didn’t believe it, but she appreciated the gesture. She half smiled, but it quickly vanished. She took a deep breath, held her head high, and walked out the door.
Gwynivara didn’t realize how long she had been at that punching bag until now. The hallways were virtually empty, and the few people in the halls walked around in a half sleepy daze. She thought she saw those people give her a peculiar glance. She kept her head held up high as Emorick suggested, but she did question the people’s reasons for those looks. They could’ve been judging her for the things that went wrong in the mission as she feared, but maybe it was all in her head. After seeing a clock in one of the shops, she noted that the hour was late enough to naturally wonder why someone would be awake at this time. Everyone she passed definitely seemed tired. Actually, now that her adrenaline wore off, she felt exhausted herself!
Behind the red curtains, the person she was relieving had been resting on the cushioned bench by the stairs. He heard Gwynivara enter, and in a zombie-like trance, he left without saying a word. Gwynivara didn’t care though. After everything she went through, she knew she needed the rest. Her eyes felt heavy as she laid down. She fought sleep at first, but then she remembered that someone would be by shortly to train her, so he or she could wake her up…
On top of the stormy mountain, the sultry, green-skinned woman sat on her rocky throne. Two men came up the mountain. After walking past the chained and snarling beasts, they stood before the woman and kneeled. “Shouldn’t you be destroying evidence?” She regarded them in a stony voice and stared hard as if she knew they had come to deliver news of a grave mistake on their part.
“We will,” one man spoke. “But commander, you should know our operation has been compromised!”
“Compromised how?” Her eyes flushed as her inner ire got close to a boil. She clearly waited to unleash based on the severity of their response.
The other man revealed, “Some spies infiltrated our mark. Morfran is dead, and the infiltrators escaped.”
“What?” the lady roared. “You let them get away? Who were they?”
“We don’t know,” the first man replied. “We think they’re part of a rogue agency.”
“Find them!” she bellowed.
The second man assured her, “We won’t fail!”
Someone put a hand on Gwynivara’s shoulder, which made her gasp and bolt up in a defensive stance. She saw Kierram standing before her looking bewildered, and she snapped back into reality. “Sorry! I had a nightmare.”
With a dark sense of humor, Kierram replied, “Don’t talk to me about nightmares!”
“Oh yeah…” Gwynivara remembered. This triggered more memories, like their argument and their close call at the Public Health Center. As she slumped back down onto the bench, she avoided eye contact with him, hoping that he wouldn’t bring any of those topics up. “So, you must be really good at guarding the door since they keep assigning it to you!”
Kierram scoffed, “Only ‘cause he knows I don’t sleep much. Well, you saw what happens when I do. And no, I haven’t forgotten about that night.”
Gwynivara really didn’t want to have this conversation, so she changed the subject, “So, when you’re a door guard, you can’t fall asleep?”
“Not if you’re a deep sleeper,” Kierram answered her. “Niqun is a super light sleeper and will wake up if she hears any noise. You’ll need to keep your eyes open.”
Gwynivara shifted awkwardly. He obviously still felt mad, and if they were going to work together, they needed to make amends. She felt compelled to gush, “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t plan out the mission better! I really screwed up! I took a mission that should’ve lasted weeks or months and made it last a day! One stupid day! And worse, my misguided judgment almost got you killed! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I won’t plan out any more mi-!”
“Woah, woah, woah!” he interrupted her. “What are you talking about? You didn’t screw up!” Gwynivara opened her mouth to object, but she couldn’t get the words out. She got so shocked by what he said that she couldn’t comprehend it. So he asked her, “You heard everyone calling the mission suicidal, right?” She nodded. “None of us had the guts, or the brains for that matter, to take on that mission, not until you came along anyway. We learned something new, and we came out alive. I’d call that a success!”
Gwynivara hadn’t considered this viewpoint and felt very flattered, but she didn’t totally believe it. “We learned the origin of the disease, big deal! We found out it came from another planet, so all I did was take us from searching the world for the cure to searching the universe! How does that help?”
Kierram laughed heartily at this. “We don’t have to search the universe! My dad centered the Rebellion headquarters here because the origin happened here, and obviously they stuck around if their henchmen are attacking us!”
“That’s true!” She hadn’t considered that before. She started to let herself feel a little better.
“You did well on the mission!” Kierram told her. “And I don’t like saying that ‘cause I’m still mad at you. But I can’t deny it-you’re a good leader!” Gwynivara actually felt herself smiling even though she didn’t totally believe what he was saying. “At first, I only went back to training because you acted like I couldn’t do it, and I wanted to prove you wrong. I hated going there! The other officers are jerks, and it didn’t feel like we were going anywhere with this training. I volunteered for your mission ‘cause it got me out of training without making me look like I’m a coward or like I’m giving up, but now I’m excited that we’re actually going somewhere with this Rebellion! I don’t wanna go back to the way things were! Please, don’t give up planning missions!”
Gwynivara’s smile broadened at this. She felt so redeemed by this point of view! Before, she got so worried that people looked down on her for the things that went wrong that she hadn’t considered someone may actually admire what she did! She very appreciatively commented to him, “Thanks, Kierram!”
Half joking, he responded, “Shut up!” He pretended to pout. “‘Cause I’m still mad…”
“Right!” Gwynivara giggled. He laughed unwillingly, and Gwynivara couldn’t believe she went from sort of hating him to actually feeling a friendship! She didn’t know if he would ever forgive her for the beast incident, but it was nice to have someone show her loyalty despite his ill feelings. She thought about what he said, how the origin was close by to their location. She knew that she should cook up a plan to find the origin, but she didn’t have a clue how to find it…unless…”You up for another dangerous mission?”
“The more dangerous the better!” he exclaimed. “Lead the way!”