“Lieutenant Voss! Good afternoon, Sir!” one of the women gasped, startling Eden back to reality. They moved closer together, blocking his path. Vaguely, he recognized them both as some of the fresh-faced new recruits from the academy. Likely assigned to Dirk or Artem’s squad. He couldn’t remember their names.
He forced the lieutenant mask over his face, fighting the flush rushing to his cheeks. Pulling himself tall, he smirked down at them. “Good morning, Cadets. Shouldn’t you be on the training fields with the other recruits?”
They blushed at his assessment. “Ahh, yes! We…we were just—”
“We wanted to tell you, congratulations, Sir, on your promotion!” the taller of the two, a dark-eyed brunette, cut over her comrade’s nervous stammering. “You deserve it! After the last raid in the underground…those bandits you caught almost single-handedly. Members of the Resistance to be sure!”
“Yes, indeed,” Eden replied, though his stomach churned at the memory.
The smaller blonde seemed to have regained some of her confidence, smiling as she once again chimed in. “And the banquet this evening! President Tovar already sent word to the heads of each regiment! Lieutenant Dirk told us himself! I can’t believe we’ve been invited to attend a banquet at the president’s home!”
So, it had begun. Eden shook himself. “I appreciate the words of congratulations. But you should see to your training now.” Eden did his best to squeeze by them without making contact. He heard them giggle to each other as he skirted past.
“Yes, Sir! Of course, Sir!” Their footsteps raced toward the training field and out of earshot. Eden sighed in relief, allowing the lieutenant mask to fall away again.
So, Tovar planned on making this banquet a military affair. It was so like the president to take any opportunity to show his own magnanimity. A deep-seated revulsion settled in Eden’s mind at the thought of going back there, back to the place he had once thought of as his home. But there also existed some hopefulness. Hopefulness that even after all this time, perhaps his mother still remembered him. Perhaps she would even be pleased to see him. Perhaps now that Eden was accomplished and successful in the beginnings of his military career, perhaps now his mother could finally be proud of him.
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