“We have a game coming up against Argus High School,” Coach Stormrage was saying before practice after school. “They’ve upped their game and so I can say, without a doubt, that you are not prepared.”
“Oh, God,” Thassarian mumbled behind Koltira’s head, “Rot-see Nazis.”
Those around the tight end turned their heads to watch the JROTC unit in full dress uniform march onto the field, led by a stern-faced black haired girl.
“And there’s Hitler,” Koltira said, chuckling.
Mograine, the quarterback, pushed a shoulder into Koltira to make him pay attention to the coach. “She’s outta your league, Deathweaver.”
“Thank God for that. I hear she’s a total bitch.”
“Deathweaver,” Coach Stormrage boomed, “why don’t you start the play I was just explaining, since you seem to know it so well?”
Koltira swallowed. “Sorry, coach. I’ll pay attention.”
“Anymore talking and you’re doing laps. Understood?”
Practice was soon in full swing, the team split into groups to work on specific things. Grimory and Koltira had been moved aside to work on their throws. After Grimory threw a hard pass into Koltira’s gut, the latter told the first to go long. When he threw the ball, it flew higher than he’d expected, soaring over the track ring and straight at the JROTC cadets. He watched in horrified excitement, unsure if he should feel terrible or laugh as it looked to be zooming toward the drill cadet.
“Oh, shit, Hitler,” Grimory said, laughing.
Without a falter in her steps, or even a hint at noticing the ball, the cadet reached up and caught the ball as it slid neatly into her palms. She continued pacing in front of the others and barking orders, the ball tucked under her arm as though it hadn’t just happened.
Green eyes wide, Grimory approached her. “Excuse me—”
“Left face. About face,” she shouted over him.
“Hey, can I have my ball?”
“Front face. Salute. Douchebag salute.”
A few cadets giggled and they all enthusiastically gave the salute their lead drill cadet never gave, though it had been created by the whole troupe. Their fingers by the corners of their eyebrows dropped down, all but one—their middle fingers. Grimory scowled, unamused, at the cadets flipping him off. He glared down at the drill cadet, glancing at the shining name plaque pinned to her dark green jacket, just over her left breast.
“Look, Redblade, it was an accident. Can I have the ball back?”
She said nothing, her blank expression causing him minor unease.
“Earn it back,” she said.
“Drop and give me twenty.”
“What?” Grimory demanded.
“What the fuck does double-time mean?”
She turned to face the troupe. “Company, drop and give me twenty, double time!” She turned her cool gaze on him.
The cadets dropped and counted out their pushups. “One, two, three, ONE! One, two, three, TWO!”
Grimory sneered. “Fuck your double-time.”
“Fuck your ball.”
Grimory grumbled and dropped down, trying to keep up with the quick pace of the cadets.
“AttenTION!” A man barked, stomping out onto the field.
The cadets, including Redblade, snapped upright and stared straight ahead; Grimory stood, panting like he’d run a mile.
The man walked right up to Alisbeth and leaned into her face. “I know you’re not teasing the football team, Redblade.”
“No, First Sergeant!”
“You don’t need more strikes, do you, cadet?”
“No, First Sergeant!”
“Return the ball.”
“Right away, First Sergeant Fordring!” She held out the ball, her face stony and the rest of her body motionless.
“Fucking robot-Hitler,” Grimory grumbled.
First Sergeant Fordring stepped up to Grimory and looked down on him. “What did you just call my drill cadet?”
Fordring glowered at him. “Nothing, First Sergeant.”
“Um, nothing, First Sergeant.”
“Detention for lying.”
“What the fuck!”
“Another for swearing.”
First Sergeant leaned forward to get in Grimory’s face. “I’ll see you after school tomorrow and the next day. Hop to, soldier.”
“Fucking freaks,” he mumbled as he turned and trotted away.
“That’s three days!” Fordring shouted after him.
Grimory dropped his head back in aggravation, then went to the field to pass the ball back to Koltira. The cadets giggled after him, all but Alisbeth.
“You giggle-fits want to join meathead in detention?” First Sergeant barked.
The cadets immediately sobered back into attention.
“Naz’grim, continue drills. Redblade, my office.”
A stalky boy with dark brown hair took Alisbeth’s place as she marched behind First Sergeant Fordring.
“What was that about?” Koltira laughed as they met up for water.
“Hitler. She’s a robot, dude. And now I have detention for the next three days.”
“Does she look as good up close?”
“Dude, so hot. Probably something amazing under that uniform. But seriously, duct tape her mouth before bending her over.”
Koltira cringed. “You’re disgusting.”