The day was over. The night had begun.Classes might’ve finished – but the real work was here.
Joseph stood on top of the accommodationblock. One foot was up on the massive fence that rimmed it. For that to occur,it meant he was floating.
He had a mask on, though – and it acted asmore than a veil over his features. It was a cloak, too. Unless he was beingdirectly scanned by sophisticated tech no cadet would possess, he’d slipthrough the academy unseen.
His sharp gaze narrowed as he stared overthe Academy grounds.
He might’ve kept his eyes out all day, buthe hadn’t seen any indication of the god out there. So it was time to do whatJoseph did best. Snoop around in the dark.
He suddenly transported. He appeared in thecommand building.
He was in one of the corridors. It wasdark. Most people had gone home for the day. He heard footsteps, though. Therewas a wall beside him. He slipped right through it. He was fully aware of thefact nobody was within.
It was a simple enough office, though whoeverhad it wasn’t clean. Data pads and devices were strewn everywhere. Joseph stoodon one, though he didn’t put his weight down on it and crush the metal casewith his boot.
He hovered there in the air, his headtilted toward the door as he listened to those footsteps.
“There’s no damn point,” someone said in adefeated tone. “We can do everything we can, but—”
“Look, it’s okay. Come back to my roomlater. Spend the night, okay? Just pretend nothing else exists, right?”
“But your wife—”
“Is away on the Rim. Just one night, okay?”
Joseph arched an eyebrow. While this wassalacious, it certainly wasn’t the god he was after.
He tilted his head. He stared through thewindows behind that messy desk. He transported again.
This time, he appeared just underneath themedical bay.
There was a storeroom he often liked toport to. It was quiet, nobody accessed it, and there was a vent leading to therest of the building. He soon floated up to it, slipped through, thenmaneuvered until he was above one of the operating theaters.
“I still see that day, you know,” a nursesaid as she prepped a room for a patient. “See it right here.” She tapped themiddle of her forehead. “I see it every damn night.”
“Then you need to go to that counselor.What’s her name again?”
“Ranna?” the nurse tried.
“Anna,” Joseph mouthed without making asingle sound.
“I’ve heard she’s really good,” the secondnurse said. “She can help you process your trauma.”
“Why would I want to? I mean… at anymoment, the gods could be back. We could—”
“Just stay strong. And go see thecounselor. We all have to get through this together.”
A touching conversation, but it wasn’t whathe was after. So he transported again. This time he appeared out on the runningtrack.
There was another running track beyond, anda few cadets were training.
They looked like E Club. It was a group ofthe best of the best. They trained to make every single member rise above thechaff with the hope that when they graduated, they’d instantly become officers.
They’d approached Joseph a couple of times.Not because he had a particularly stellar academic career – just because he hada personality they were after. They liked winners.
If only they knew the truth.
Joseph transported once more.
Joseph didn’t bother to ensure his feettouched the ground. Even if any member of the E Club was lucky enough to stareover at the right moment and glance him, they wouldn’t be able to see throughhis cloak.
He watched them all for a few more moments.They barely talked. When they did, it was about reaching the top.
He went to port away.
“She should have been kicked out. Rightthere, right at that very moment,” someone hissed. Joseph recognized theminstantly. It was Jerry.
He tilted his head closer toward Jerry. Themove was unnecessary. When Joseph surveilled someone, he could be a block away,and he’d still hear every word they said.
This was not part of Joseph’s mission, andit was a waste of time to remain here. But….
“Nobody wants to serve with her. Nobodywants to gamble with putting their life in her hands. Why the hell should sheget top marks in the exam?”
“She didn’t,” a quiet voice of reason saidbeside Jerry. Jerry clearly didn’t want to hear it.
“Not the combined top mark, but the topmark in the exam. People still look at that,” he rallied.
“You should push Carlisle to rerun theentire exam again,” someone suggested.
“He’d do it if we all asked. You’re right,Jerry. It’s not fair. We’re all relying on those marks.”
Joseph agreed. Except he also didn’t agree.The cadet part of him thought Sally should be kicked out right now. Hislieutenant side – and specifically the spacer – knew there was no point inrerunning an exam. The whole reason had been to test these students’preparedness for unexpected battles. They’d lost.
Rerun it, and they’d know what to expect.That wasn’t the point of being a good combat soldier.
Joseph hung around for way too long as theystarted discussing Sally disparagingly. Or at least continued to.
If they were anyone else and she wereanyone else, maybe Joseph would care. A few times, he even nodded as he agreedwith their points.
Then his mission caught up with him. Hethought he heard something on the opposite side of the Academy grounds. Heported.
He had no idea where the god might be, butcanvassing and re-canvassing the Academy was a start.
The god would make a mistake. It was just amatter of time.
But so too would Joseph, and his firstmistake was already well and truly made.