Aggie picked a tin cup from the tray and filled it with iced tea. The lady behind the steel canteen counter gave her a curt nod. “Lieutenant,” she greeted. Aggie raised her cup in response. At this moment, a shout echoed through the room. She followed a group of lounging soldiers to the landing.
A scrawny cadet was surrounded by his batch-mates. Aggie leaned on the railing and watched the commotion in the cadet’s locker room below. “The good ol’ days, hm?” she commented to the man next to her. When he did not respond, she peered at the rank on his epaulets. “Private?”
He stared at her in surprise. She was used to that look of surprise. After all she was so much younger than most soldiers. He saluted her. “Lieutenant. Aye, the good ol’ days.”
A snarl came from the commotion below. A large burly cadet stalked into the middle of the circle to face the scrawny one. “You think you know how best to lead us, do you, Tory?” he spat, grabbing him by the collar.
“I-I-I didn’t mean any harm, Winfred, it was j-just a suggestion!” Tory protested. From where she stood, she could see the young man shaking in his boots. Winfred was a large man. The torn shoulder of his uniform only helped to emphasise the bulging muscles beneath the dark blue attire. He lifted Tory up like a sack of apples.
“A suggestion, huh?” He raised a fist. “I’ll give you a suggestion.” The young man flinched and struggled from his grip. He kicked his attacker in the groin. Winfred yelped and dropped him.
“I’m sorry!” Tory said. The cadets closed in on him. The murmuring grew loud and angry. “He attacked Winfred.” “Does he think he’s our leader now?” “Sure has guts for such a loser.”
Someone kicked him. Winfred lunged at him and punched him in the jaw. Aggie took another sip of her tea. The private next to her shifted nervously. “Should we do something about it?”
She turned to him and asked, “Why?”
The private shrugged. “I don’t know. What would Sergeant Major Osmod think of this racket?”
Aggie glanced down as two cadets held up the bleeding Tory. Winfred wiped the blood from his mouth. It looked like the scrawny cadet managed a punch after all. The burly man curled a fist and began to step towards his target. “He would lockdown the place and I’ll miss my night off.”
She handed her cup to the private and jumped over the railing in one smooth motion, landing in front of Winfred in time to intercept his punch. The locker room descended into a hushed silence as her hand curled around his large fist and with a sweep turned his arm behind his back so that his blood-curling scream was the last sound of the commotion.
The cadets stared at her. Some blinked in bewilderment. The two men holding up Tory dropped him. “Disperse,” she commanded and released the burly man from her grip.
With some mutters and a groan from Winfred, they began to turn back to their lockers. One cadet had the misfortune of whispering too loudly, “Tory had to be saved by a little girl.”
Aggie kicked up a nearby broom and swept that cadet’s feet out from under him. He landed with a yelp. “The name is Agatha Netherbury.” She jabbed the end of the broom at the throat of the man that he was speaking too. “Lieutenant.”
Tory opened one bruised eye. “You’re the famous Lieutenant Aggie!” He pointed a shaky finger at her. “The daughter of Commander Augustus Netherbury.”
She threw the broom at him. He caught it with a hand. “Clean up the locker room.” She crouched low and jumped, grabbing the ceiling edge and swinging herself back on top of the railing.
“But, ma’am Lieutenant, I’m the victim here,” Tory muttered.
She took her cup back from the surprised private and chugged down the remains of her tea. “Yeah. You wouldn’t be if you listen more than you talk.” She threw her cup down at him. “Please clean that up too.” He stumbled to catch the cup.