Notes: A bit longer than usual today, and we’re digging in a little deeper. More Kyle this time around, because he’s interesting, damn itJ Enjoy!
Title: The Academy
Part Twenty-One: A Series of Unfortunate Events
He was alive. That was the important thing, the only thing Cody could remember to check. Marcys was alive, Cody could feel his pulse in his neck, irregular but there.
Hermes was projecting something, but it took Cody a moment to tune back in. “—response team headed to your location. My visuals don’t indicate any immediate danger, but you should remain on your guard.”
“I’ll stay,” Cody said immediately. He pulled back the camouflage covering Marcys’ head and winced when he saw the fine pattern of burns all over his face. It was like someone had thrown a net over his head, then set it on fire. Which was stupid, but… “What happened?”
“I am still ascertaining that.”
“But you saw it, right?”
“I am still ascertaining that.”
Something was wrong. Hermes didn’t prevaricate, he was programmed to be helpful, not obtuse. Maybe he wasn’t allowed to fill Cody in, or maybe…maybe he hadn’t seen anything. The thought made Cody shiver.
Cody half-turned in the grass and looked over his shoulder at the newcomer. “Kyle!” His whole body flooded with relief. Kyle was a senior cadet, he was smart, he was calm. He could help. “I just found him like this, Hermes is sending a medical team, he’s still alive, but I don’t know what to do for him right now, I don’t even know if I should be touching him—”
“It’s okay,” Kyle said, coming over and kneeling down next to Cody. He checked Marcy’s pulse too, then frowned. “Why can I only see his head?”
“It’s a type of camouflage he’s working on, it makes him really hard for most people to see, the pattern…there’s something about it evolving and reasons it doesn’t work on—” Almost too late, Cody realized Kyle didn’t know that he was a natural. “I saw him when I came in earlier,” Cody continued, shifting topics awkwardly. Kyle didn’t seem to notice, staring hard at Marcys’ face. “When I came back out he was gone, but I saw scuff marks in the grass that led me over here. I found him like this.”
“All right.” Kyle looked over at Cody, and his eyes were so intense that Cody actually jumped a little as the weight of that stare settled in on him. “But you’re okay? Nothing strange happened to you?”
“Not apart from finding him like this,” Cody replied.
“Good.” Kyle’s lips parted, like he was considering saying something else, but then the medical team arrived, and Cody and Kyle were pushed out of the way so that they could do their work. More people wandered over to gape, and one of them was Phil, who ran to Cody’s side and tried to get closer, her eyes wide with fear.
“What happened?” she demanded. “You never came to meet me, I’ve been trying to contact you for five minutes but Hermes wouldn’t let my messages through, something about you being “indisposed” and still nothing from Marcys…is that Marcys? What happened to him?”
“I don’t know,” Cody replied honestly. “He’s alive, though.”
Phil blanched. “There was a chance he could be dead?” She started to force herself through to his side, and Cody knew he should do something, hold her back or say something that would get her to calm down, but he couldn’t. His head felt swimmy, like it did sometimes after a really exciting ride on his hover bike, but instead of lifting him up the sensation seemed to drag him down instead, a weight inside his chest that pulled him forward.
“Sit down,” Kyle said, maneuvering Cody over to the bench. “Head between your knees. Take deep, slow breaths with me, okay? One.” He inhaled noisily, and Cody just barely managed to copy him. “And out. Again.” He took one of Cody’s hands and pressed it to his chest, inhaling, and that made it easier. The front of Kyle’s uniform was comfortingly familiar, the press of buttons warmed by body heat smooth against Cody’s palm. He took deep breaths, and gradually the sick, disconcerting feeling drained away.
Cody sighed and sat up, but Kyle didn’t immediately release his hand, just looked at him again. His eyes were a strange blend of pale and dark, light central irises expanding into a thick black band surrounding the color. Cody vaguely wondered if they were modified for anything. “Thanks,” he said quietly.
“It’s no problem,” Kyle replied. “Adrenaline hits everyone differently.”
“It’s never made me feel like this before.” Weak. Cody shrugged uncomfortably and looked down at his lap. “I’m fine now, I was just…worried, I guess.”
Kyle finally let go of his hand and set next to him on the bench, close enough that their shoulders touched. “You had good reason to be. Finding someone like that would scare anyone.” Cody shrugged again, embarrassed after the fact. “When my dad’s ship was attacked when I was nine, I didn’t remember anything from the time the alarm started blaring to when our escape pod was recovered, I was so out of it.”
That got Cody’s attention. Kyle had never shared anything really personal before, although to be honest his past was an open book thanks to his brother’s position as President. Cody knew he’d lost his father at a young age, but…
“I know, from looking at security footage of the attack, that my dad put me into the pod himself,” Kyle continued. “He hugged me and he kissed me goodbye, but I don’t actually remember any of it. It’s all one big blank. For a long time I hated the fact that I’d forgotten it, but eventually I came around to accepting that it’s just a physiological response. There was nothing I could have done at that age to change my reaction, and there’s nothing you could have done differently here to make your response any better. You got help, you made sure he was still alive…that’s more presence of mind than a lot of people would have under the circumstances.” Kyle looked away. “It’ll be easier to deal with next time. The rush, I mean. Even terror can be something you become conditioned to handle.”
“I don’t think I want that,” Cody confessed.
“No one does,” Kyle said. “But you’re joining the Federation military, and depending on your specialty you could be sent anywhere, expected to do almost anything. There’s a lot of stuff out there that we still don’t understand, and even when we do understand it, it can still be brutal. Exploration, territory defense, mining expeditions...nothing we do is completely safe.”
Like my dads and Liberty. The most advanced planet in the Federation, and yet one of the most dangerous places as well. Cody shivered unintentionally and Kyle frowned. “Are you still feeling okay?”
“I’m fine,” Cody assured him. “I feel fine.”
“Cadet Helms?” He and Kyle looked up at one of the Academy security officers, standing in front of them with a grimace on his face. “You need to accompany us to the administration building.”
“Can’t you take his statement here?” Kyle rejoined, and Cody was suddenly, breathlessly glad to have someone on his side. Not that he had done anything wrong, he knew that, but still, it was nice to have the support.
“Admiral Liang himself has asked for Cadet Helms to come to his office.”
“You should have started with that,” Kyle said, but he stood up and offered Cody a hand. Cody took it, even though he was pretty sure he could get up on his own at this point. They followed the officer to Admin, and he left them at the door to Admiral Liang’s antechamber. The Master Sergeant was waiting for them there. He frowned when he saw Kyle.
“What have you got to do with this mess, Senior Cadet?”
“Nothing, Chief,” Kyle replied. “Just helping out a friend.”
“Since when have you been friends with random plebes?”
It wasn’t said maliciously, but Cody still felt the sting of Chief Jessup’s words. It was kind of true; he wasn’t in Kyle’s specialty or a Legacy. It was amazing they had ever met at all.
“Since he beat me on the racing track,” Kyle said. Jessup’s double take was gratifying, and Cody stood a little straighter.
“Well, you can leave him now. The Admiral will see you in a few minutes,” he said to Cody.
“I’d rather stay, Chief,” Kyle interjected as the Master Sergeant began to turn away.
Jessup turned back with raised eyebrows. “And I believe I just gave you a directive, Senior Cadet. Your friend will be fine by himself. Go about your business.”
Kyle’s mouth tightened a fraction, but his pleasant voice didn’t change at all. “Yes, sir. Cody, I’ll see you tomorrow at club.”
At club…right, Grennson had changed it to tomorrow from today when it became apparent that none of them were going to be completely sober in time. “Okay,” Cody said. “Thank you.” For helping me, for talking to me, for telling me about yourself.
Kyle smiled brightly. “It was my pleasure. Chief.” He snapped off a salute, then left.
“Come and sit down, Cadet,” Master Sergeant Jessup said, pointing to a bench. “It won’t be long.”
“Yes, sir.” Cody sat. The master sergeant sat across from him, but kept working on his holotab.
Cody was vaguely aware of the hum of Hermes in his head. He could feel the activity centered around his implant: someone, or more likely several someones, were trying to contact him. Hermes was blocking the messages from getting through, though. He put his hand on the wall and shut his eyes.
“No chatter, son.”
Cody looked over at Jessup, startled. “What?”
“No chatter, no outside communication of any kind right now. This room has been secured against it, and Hermes wouldn’t have answered you anyway right now, but you might as well know.”
“My quad mates might be worried.”
Jessup snorted. “Knowing that lot, they probably are. You can talk to them when you’re done here, about what the Admiral allows you to say. Until then they’ve been informed that you’re unharmed, so they won’t worry too much.”
“Thank you, sir.” Cody sat up straight, not liking the feedback he got when his back touched the wall. His spine still quivered every few seconds, a tiny tremor, but enough to remind him that just a few minutes ago he’d been having what felt like a panic attack. He was tired, and he hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and he missed his dads…Cody clenched his jaw firmly. He wasn’t about to embarrass himself in front of the master sergeant.
The admiral’s door opened. “Go on in,” Jessup said.
“Yes, sir.” He went.
Admiral Liang’s office was festooned with layer upon layer of holo feed. They looked like different security vantages from around the Academy grounds, and they shimmered lightly as Cody stepped through them toward the desk. “Cadet Helms.” Admiral Liang swept a hand, and the footage faded away to reveal his very normal office. “Thank you for waiting.”
“Sir.” Cody immediately breathed easier. He knew people like Admiral Liang, hell, he was related to people like this man. Where the master sergeant seemed dismissive, Admiral Liang just felt…competent. It was like being with Robbie, or Miles.
“Sit, please.” Cody sat. “Cadet, I’d like you to recount what happened outside of Hephaestus today. Not just finding Marcys, but everything before and after that, anything of note that stood out to you.”
“Yes, sir.” Cody went through his morning, from getting Phil’s message and heading out to looking for Marcys outside, and what led to finding him against the wall. He didn’t hide his naturalism from the admiral; undoubtedly the man already knew about it.
“Intriguing project,” Admiral Liang said a bit absently once Cody was done. “And you did just the right thing, contacting Hermes immediately. Up against the wall…dragged…and there were no other witnesses there, no people standing around you?”
“None close,” Cody said, then, daring, asked, “Don’t the holo feeds verify all of this?”
Admiral Liang smiled thinly. “There was a disruption in the system that Hermes couldn’t account for fast enough. We lost some of our data. Please keep that to yourself, Cody.”
Oh. Shit. “Yes sir,” Cody said, a little numbly. Then, “Is Marcys going to be okay?”
Admiral Liang steepled his fingers. “Regen will set him physically to rights in fairly short order, but the particular technique that was used to knock him out did severe damage to his brain. Our doctors will do their best for him, of course.”
“He could be brain damaged?”
“His brain will come back to full functionality,” Admiral Liang clarified. “But if it was damaged with enough severity, he might have lost a great deal of his memory and motor control. Marcys will wake up, but there’s no telling what, if anything, he will remember about his life or his education.” He sighed. “I’m telling you this, Cody, because I want you to take precautions. I’m sure your fathers already spoke to you about this, but this is a time of great political fluctuation within the Federation. I will continue to do my utmost to make this campus secure for all cadets, but no one can guard against everything.”
“Why Marcys?” Cody asked quietly. “If someone was after me?”
“We don’t know that anyone was,” Admiral Liang cautioned. “Don’t jump to unwarranted conclusions. It entirely possible that Marcys was the target, or that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, thanks to his camouflage. The point in, for right now we simply don’t know. So be careful.”
“Try not to be out alone. Keep one of your quad mates with you whenever you can,” the admiral continued. “You trust them, don’t you?”
“Absolutely.” Cody wasn’t sure about anyone else at this point, but he trusted his quad.
Admiral Liang smiled gently. “Good. I’m glad the four of you have worked things out. Now, Cadet St. Florian is waiting to escort you back to your rooms, and if we let hir and the chief spend any more time together alone, the walls might spontaneously combust.” He stood up and reached out his hand. Cody shook, and the firm, warm grip was reassuring. “I’m always here if you need me, Cadet,” Admiral Liang said. “Don’t feel like you have to bear any of the weight I know you’re feeling on your own.”
“Thank you,” Cody said. “I appreciate it, sir.”
“Good. Now, go rescue my master sergeant.”
Cody managed a little smile. “Yes, sir.” He headed out into the antechamber where, true to expectation, Ten was arguing with Jessup.
“—acting as though this is some sort of official investigation, which is ludicrous on so many levels, because Cody is—”
“Right here,” Cody interrupted. “We can go now.”
Ten eyed him doubtfully. “No extra tracking device? No interrogation? You weren’t tortured in any way?”
“Oh, for the love of God,” Jessup growled. “This isn’t the damn Fringe. Now get out of here.”
Ten rounded on him again. “I just have to make sure, considering the Academy is a completely biased feeder of talent and resources into the military-industrial complex of the Federation, which, if you recall, is currently fighting with itself!”
“Ten.” Cody set a hand on hir shoulder. “I’m fine. I’d like to go home, though.”
Ten blinked, derailed for a moment. “Then…we’ll do that.” Ze scowled at Jessup, then proprietarily looped hir fingers around Cody’s wrist and pulled him out of the office.
“Are you okay?” ze asked quietly as they left Admin and headed for Hebe. “All we heard was that someone got hurt and you were there, and they wouldn’t let us contact you and we were starting to get really worried. Well, Grennson and Darrell were, at least.”
“Right,” Cody agreed. “No, I’m fine. Someone did get hurt, but…” He sighed. “I’ll tell you about it in the room, not out here.”
“Too many eyes?”
“Something like that,” Cody said. “That and I’m tired and really want out of this uniform.”
Ten frowned. “I thought you weren’t hurt. You’re acting very strangely, though.”
“I just got a little upset after the fact. Kyle was there, and he helped a lot.”
Ten stopped abruptly. “Kyle? Alexander? Kyle Alexander was there?”
Cody shrugged. “I don’t know. Meeting someone in Hephaestus Tower, probably.”
“At the exact time you needed ‘help’?”
“Ten, what are you getting at?”
Ten stood stock still for a moment, then grabbed Cody and hustled him along faster than ever. “Maybe nothing. I’ve got to check something out in our room, and you need to, I don’t know, hydrate, probably. Grennson’s been cooking, so there’s that. You’ll be fine.”
“I will,” Cody agreed. “I am.”