Christmas and New Year’s came went without much interruption in day-to-day life, and Larkins gradually managed to silence her fears about her own mental competence as the days went on. Then about a week into January, Larkins and Evison were getting ready for one of their classes when she realized that Falsson wasn’t with the flight. When she asked Evison where he was, the other corporal’s face tightened. “I meant to tell you but got caught up in other things. He, ah, he got a call from his mother last night. His father was killed in an accident recently. I told him to take the day off and not worry about training.”
“Fuck…” Larkins said softly, hardly able to imagine what Falsson must be feeling like. She didn’t know what to say, so she immediately changed the subject to the upcoming class.
But she couldn’t take her mind off Falsson all day. She felt terrible for him and knew she should say something, but what? It occurred to her that it probably felt a lot like when she lost her family, or rather when they disowned her and kicked her out. She had lost them the same as if they were dead.
At the end of the day, Larkins went to talk to Falsson but found herself hesitating in front of his door. She couldn’t do this. She didn’t know how to comfort someone who was grieving. She didn’t even know how to handle her own pain, so how was she supposed to help Falsson? Her comparison between his father’s death and losing her own family suddenly seemed completely inadequate. Her family wasn’t dead. She might never be able to see them again but at least she knew they were still living their lives and hopefully doing alright. Falsson didn’t even have that reassurance. She had no right to compare their experiences. They were too different, and so Larkins gave up and went back to her room without talking to Falsson at all.
Her guilt over her inability to even try helping Falsson stayed with her for several weeks and she continued to feel like she should do or say something to help him, because this was a loss completely unrelated to his training experience. It shouldn’t affect his ability to pass. And even if someone had argued it should, Falsson still continued to do his job. He didn’t let his grief take over, although Larkins could see how hard it was for him at times.
But after a few weeks something much more serious happened that took Larkins’ mind off Falsson completely. She had been surprised but impressed by how well Private Ferro had pulled herself together over the past month or two, but she and her partner Sydell didn’t get along well at all. Larkins had watched them closely for a while and had noticed that they hadn’t bonded the way partners should have. They didn’t look out for each other or watch each other’s backs except when they absolutely had to. She also noticed that when she berated Ferro for a mistake, Sydell never stood up for her or tried to encourage or support her afterward. Worse, Sydell seemed to have developed a tendency to throw Ferro in the way of Larkins’ anger at the first sign of trouble. That was uncomfortably familiar for Larkins, and she began to get more and more angry and impatient with Sydell.
Then near the end of January, the two trainees had finished a simulator test and hadn’t done well. Larkins was busy helping Tucker and Herschel get set up in their simulator when Ferro and Sydell exited theirs and so she missed the initial exchange between the two women, but her attention was immediately drawn when the shouting started. “I don’t give a fuck what you say anymore!” Ferro screamed. “You’re always trying to tell me what to do and you never take responsibility when things go wrong! I break my back trying to carry both of us and you never support me!”
“You carry us?!” Sydell demanded hotly. “Bitch, which one of us has held together on every single fucking training mission we’ve ever been on?! Which one of us-”
“I’m the one taking the blame for every single failure because you’re too busy kissing Larkins’ ass because you’re so fucking afraid of her! I have to step up and take the fall for you every time because you don’t have the slightest clue how to give a fuck about anyone else! I can’t count on you, I can’t trust you, and I don’t want to fucking fly with you anymore!”
“Don’t worry,” Sydell said mockingly, “After this little outburst you’ll be lucky to fly at all again!”
“You fucking bitch!” Ferro grabbed Sydell and spun her around, dragging the taller woman off her feet and dropping her to the ground as Larkins ran up.
“Break it up!” the corporal roared. “Ferro, are you trying to get a fast ticket out of this fucking place?!”
“Fuck you!” Ferro screamed, a wild look in her eyes as if she had been holding back an incredible anger for months and had finally lost control of it. “If it’s not Sydell fucking me over, it’s you! Every single fucking time! All because you’ve got to be a miserable bitch and you hate everyone!”
“Oh, you’ve done it now,” Sydell said from the ground as Larkins stared speechlessly at Ferro, hardly able to believe what she had just heard.
“Go to hell!” Ferro snapped at Sydell. “You know what?! I hope you pass this course just so your ass can get shot out of the sky someday! I hope you fucking burn!”
“That’s enough!” Larkins shouted, shoving Ferro away from Sydell. She pushed so hard that Ferro toppled over, landing hard on her ass. The fall seemed to knock some sense into her, and she sat silently as Larkins clenched her fists, trying to control the urge to take out her rage on both trainees. When she felt like she wasn’t about to lose it on them, she grabbed Ferro by her collar and dragged her to her feet. “You’re going to spend the rest of the evening in the brig, Private. And you,” she glared back over her shoulder at Sydell, who was getting up again, “Go back to your room and don’t come out until someone comes to get you for dinner.”
The argument left Larkins with something to think about for the rest of the day. Although Ferro had crossed the line by being insubordinate to her and by screaming at Sydell, Larkins couldn’t help feeling impressed that the kid had finally stood up for herself. It seemed like she was starting to grow up. But Sydell was a cause for concern. Larkins was starting to get a much better understanding of her personality and she didn’t like what she saw. The young woman was selfish, bad-tempered, and would cave in and throw her partner in harm’s way to protect herself. It reminded her far too much of the people in her old unit, especially Collins.
“So what are we going to do about Ferro and Sydell?” Evison asked her as the end of the day’s training approached.
“Keep them apart,” Larkins shrugged. “They fucked up but this is the most bullshit reason I can imagine to fail them. Swap their partners around. Neither of them deserves to fail solely because of how the other behaves. Put them with good people and see what happens. Maybe one or both of them will pull themselves together. Maybe they’ll both fail anyway. We’ll see.”
“I’ll put Ferro with Spunkmeyer because they get along well, but I’m not sure it’s a good idea to put Falsson and Sydell together,” Evison pointed out.
“Fuck no,” Larkins agreed. “We’ll figure it out eventually. For now I don’t want Ferro and Sydell flying together or even looking at each other.”
“Fine,” Evison said, turning away.
“I’m not letting her turn out like Collins,” Larkins muttered to herself that evening when she was back in her room. That would be the ultimate failure. She had to stop it and change Sydell’s attitude before she got someone else hurt.
Larkins couldn’t help reaching up and touching her face, remembering the pain of the punches and kicks she had received on one of her last days on LV-327 when she had been cornered in the dark by several members of her team and beaten as revenge for her attack on Mathis. She couldn’t prove who was involved, but she was positive Collins had been behind it. The look the blonde corporal had given her right before she left the planet was all she needed to convince her of that.
If Sydell really was starting to turn out like Collins, she was dangerous. Larkins had a responsibility to step in while she still could. And it wasn’t going to be pretty or nice, so she had to find a way to do it without Evison interfering. She paced her room for a long time before coming up with a plan.
She waited until after lights out, when she was sure everyone else was asleep. Then she quietly got up, left her room, and went down the hall to Sydell’s room. The locks could be overridden with keycards that she and Evison had, and she swiped hers through the reader and waited for the soft click of the door unlocking. Pushing it open, she entered the room and closed the door behind her. Sydell was sleeping sprawled out on her bed, illuminated by the moonlight shining in through her window. Larkins crossed over to her and clamped her hand over the trainee’s mouth, shaking her and hissing, “Wake up, Private!”
Sydell jerked awake and swung her arm upward to punch at Larkins, but the corporal was faster and blocked the blow with her free hand. “Quiet!”
“Ma’am?” Sydell asked softly when Larkins took her hand away from the younger woman’s mouth. “What’s going on?”
“Get up,” Larkins ordered. “Quietly. Put your pants on. No socks, shoes, or jacket.”
“Don’t question me!” Larkins snapped. “Just do as you’re told.”
Sydell hopped out of bed and opened her locker, taking out a pair of pants and putting them on before sliding her belt through the loops and adjusting the buckle to tighten it.
“Let’s go,” Larkins said quietly, motioning for Sydell to follow her. She led her out into the hallway and down to the door that led into the common area that the other wings of the building all connected to. The lights were still on, as usual, and Larkins blinked uncomfortably until her eyes adjusted. The door on her left led to the outside, the one straight ahead led to the opposite barracks hall, and the door to her right led to several classrooms and one of the base gymnasiums. Larkins pushed that door open and strode quickly down the dark hallway, hearing the padding of Sydell’s bare feet as the trainee hurried to keep pace with her.
Larkins entered the gym and waited for Sydell to come in after her before closing the door and turning the lights on at their dimmest setting. The only windows in the room were high above, at second-floor level, and she hoped that none of the base guards patrolling outside would notice the lights.
“Come over here, Sydell,” she ordered, striding over to a pull-up bar.
The young woman followed and stood where Larkins pointed, hugging herself and shaking slightly.
“You’re trembling,” Larkins observed coolly.
“The floor is cold, ma’am,” Sydell explained.
Larkins looked down at Sydell’s feet and the slick floor underneath. She could see how it would be extremely cold for someone in bare feet, but she didn’t drag Sydell out of bed half-dressed for her to be happy. She wanted the trainee uncomfortable so she’d pay attention and listen.
“Do you know why you’re here?” Larkins asked.
Sydell shook her head. “No, ma’am.”
“Have you thought about your argument with Private Ferro today?”
“It wasn’t my fault, ma’am,” Sydell tried to defend herself. “She started it.”
“And that’s exactly why you’re here,” Larkins growled, leaning in close to her. “What you just said right there. Throwing your partner under the tank without any attempt to protect her or take any kind of responsibility for your own actions. That’s unacceptable in a Marine, Private. Tonight we’re going to have a lesson in how to respect and watch out for your fellow Marines. And if I think it’s necessary, there will be more lessons, so I suggest you listen carefully and learn quickly if you don’t want this to start happening more frequently.”
She reached over and tapped one of the uprights of the pull-up bar. “Get to work. You’re being punished for today.”
“Does Corporal Evison know you’re doing this, ma’am?” Sydell asked hesitantly. “This doesn’t seem normal.”
“No, he doesn’t know,” Larkins admitted before warning, “And you’re not going to tell him. You’re not going to breathe a word about this to anyone, or your ass will be out the gate so fast the rest of you will have to run to catch up. Get moving.” She pointed to the bar again.
“How many, ma’am?” Sydell asked, reaching up to grasp the bar firmly and begin lifting herself up.
“Until you can’t lift yourself anymore,” Larkins said, beginning to pace in circles around the pull-up bar as Sydell began her repetitions. “We have expectations for Marines, Private. The number one rule when you’re in combat is that you do not matter at all. Everything else comes before you. The mission, the objective, and most importantly, the Marines with you. You do not think of yourself and there is no “I” on the battlefield. The only thought you give to yourself is to stay alive to make sure the people counting on you also stay alive.”
She paused, continuing to pace as Sydell strained harder and harder to lift herself into each pull-up until she let out a gasp of pain and released the bar to drop to the ground.
“Now crunches,” Larkins directed before going back to her lecture. “I’m disgusted by the attitude I’ve seen from you over the last few months, Private. You’re selfish and you can’t think of anyone’s safety beyond your own. One thing you don’t seem to understand is that it takes more than good grades to become a RIFT member. You have to have the right mentality, and you don’t. I could fail you just for that, but I’m not going to. I think it’s far better to teach you proper discipline so you’ll have a better attitude regardless of whether you pass or fail. You have twenty seconds to rest,” she interrupted herself as Sydell collapsed weakly back to the floor, touching her stomach painfully and looking as if she was about to vomit.
After Sydell’s rest, Larkins made her do push-ups until her arms gave out, and then made her move to an exercise bike and ride for a while before making her spend almost half an hour on a weight bench lifting and pressing. She continued to lecture Sydell periodically until the end, and finally ordered, “Now stand up and tell me what you have to say for yourself.”
Sydell looked exhausted and Larkins could see she was in pain, but the young woman said weakly, “I have nothing to say to you, ma’am. You’re in no position to judge me. You don’t know a damn thing about what my life was like before I joined the Marines or what choices I made to get me where I am today. And you want to talk about selfish and watching out for fellow Marines, but you’re the one who struts around acting all high-and-mighty thinking you’re the perfect Marine when all you really do is put down everyone around you, from the trainees like me to Evison. I don’t care if you punish me for saying this, ma’am, but you dragged me down here because you wanted to make me talk, and now I am. You’re a bitch. A complete, total, irredeemable bitch. You don’t deserve to be here. You should be rotting in some alleyway somewhere trying to keep warm under a newspaper when you’re not scrounging through dumpsters for your next meal. You think I disgust you, but maybe you should try considering what all of us think about you.”
Larkins could barely hold back her flinch at the suppressed rage in Sydell’s tone as the young woman verbally tore her apart. The accusations struck too closely to reality for comfort and she couldn’t stop the guilt that rose up. Maybe she had made a mistake. Maybe she had no right to drag Sydell down here in the middle of the night for a forced workout and lecture. It certainly wasn’t allowed by regulations.
“You broke the rules and need to be punished,” something whispered inside her. “You’re abusing her for your own satisfaction.”
“Does it make you angry to think about me, Private?” she challenged quietly. “Does it make you not care that I’m the one who has authority over you and you have to listen to every word I say and every command I give? Does it make you want to punch me right in the fucking face?”
“M-ma’am?” Sydell hesitated, her anger replaced by obvious surprise. She clearly hadn’t expected Larkins to change directions like that.
“Let’s see how tough you really are, Private,” Larkins dared her. “You want to prove you have what it takes to be a Marine? Hit me.”
“What?” Sydell’s jaw dropped open and she stared at Larkins, clearly shocked.
Larkins took a step closer to her. “You heard me, Private. Hit me. Punch me. Do something. Prove you’ve got guts.”
Sydell stepped backwards. “I don’t understand what you’re doing, ma’am. Please, can’t I just go back to my room now?”
“I said hit me, damn it!” Larkins snarled, grabbing at Sydell’s wrist. “Or are you a coward? Is that it, Private? Are you a pathetic, weak, cowardly lit-”
She was stopped in the middle of the word as Sydell brought her free hand up and forward in a powerful jab, punching Larkins over her eye. There was a loud thump as her fist hit Larkins’ face and the corporal dropped where she stood, landing heavily and putting her hands up to cover her face. It hurt terribly and she found herself regretting inviting the blow in the first place. She looked up at Sydell, still covering her right eye with her hands.
“You might just be trainable after all,” she said grudgingly. “If you can pull yourself together and fix that attitude.”
Sydell looked as if she was terrified that she had been tricked into doing something that would get her kicked out of the Marines or worse, court-martialed and put into prison. Larkins decided she had pushed the young woman far enough for the night and declared, “We’re done for the night. Go back to your room, and not a sound from you on the way. And remember, if one word, even a single breath of this gets out to anyone, you’ll be gone so fast they’ll never know which way you went. Go on. You’re dismissed.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Sydell muttered, still looking shocked at what she had just done.
Larkins waited until the young woman had left before turning off the gym lights and following her. She had a feeling this wasn’t going to be the only night she had to drag Sydell down here for a lesson. It was going to take time, but Larkins was hopeful that she could turn her around and make her a decent Marine, RIFT member or not. Until she could be sure, she’d have to keep a closer watch on Sydell to look for any signs that she needed to be removed for her own safety or for anyone else’s safety.
When she got back to her room, Larkins went into her bathroom and looked in the mirror, seeing that a dark bruise was already forming around her eye. That was another reason to regret provoking Sydell, but at least she could hide the bruise behind her sunglasses until it faded. She just wished she could hide the scars inside herself as easily.
Sydell became Larkins’ primary target following the night in the gym, and she spent most of her time watching the young woman closely for any signs of self-centered behavior. The more she watched, the more relieved she was that she stepped in when she did. Sydell increasingly reminded her of Collins, but she was also becoming uncomfortably aware that the trainee’s misanthropic attitude was rather similar to her own. Sydell seemed to hold the other trainees and even other people in general in a kind of aloof disdain like she had no time for any of them. Larkins knew the feeling but in Sydell’s case it came across as pure arrogance, and she found herself wondering if her own behavior came across that way to anyone when they saw it.
She and Evison had decided to split up Tucker and Herschel, so now Sydell was paired with Tucker and Herschel was with Falsson. After a week or two of watching Sydell treat Tucker the exact same way she had always treated Ferro, Larkins woke her up in the middle of the night and dragged her down to the gym again for another forced exercise session. She also began restricting Sydell’s behavior during the daytime by threatening more night workouts if she saw the trainee doing something she didn’t like. She was slightly worried that Sydell would call her bluff and report what was going on to someone else, or that the young woman had detected the faint smell of alcohol on her breath that second night, but nothing happened.
As the months passed, she began to feel like Sydell was making progress. She still didn’t look like she enjoyed interacting with other people, and Larkins couldn’t blame her for that, but she began occasionally talking with Tucker about more than whatever task they were in the middle of and she watched out for him more than she ever had for Ferro. Larkins was becoming more and more hopeful that she would successfully prevent her from turning into a repeat of Collins.
She was also starting to worry less and less about Ferro becoming another Mathis. She grew exponentially in the months after she was partnered with Spunkmeyer, and Larkins had to admit that regardless of how unusually close their friendship was, it seemed to be beneficial for both of them. She was willing to let it go as long as she didn’t catch them making out in a storage closet somewhere, although she did worry that if they were separated after training the emotional fallout would cripple their combat capabilities. But she was starting to feel less and less like it was in her power to do anything. Despite her earlier hopes, Evison still held on to his friendly, mild-mannered ways most of the time. He wasn’t coming closer to understanding her point of view and it was getting frustrating. But she still had a job to do so she grabbed every emotion that slipped into her heart and strangled it as best she could before locking it up in that same dark, aching pit in her stomach that she always had.
The regret she felt over not talking with Falsson after his father’s death became even stronger as she watched him begin to struggle in training. He grew increasingly distracted and frustrated and although she found it in herself to be just a little nicer to him, she couldn’t give him the support he really needed. She had to maintain a professional distance and even outside of that she knew there was no way she would be capable of helping him. Two months after the news came, he went to Evison and announced that he wanted to quit the training program.
Falsson wasn’t the only loss during the first few months of the year. With all the anger and reprimands Larkins directed at Sydell, it was inevitable that Tucker became collateral damage more often than not. By the time mid-April came around, he too announced that he was ready to quit, and the final glare he gave Larkins when he was transferred to the separations barracks confirmed everything she already suspected about his motives for leaving. She felt sorry for him but her pity was cancelled out by a feeling of satisfaction that she had done her job well. If Tucker hadn’t been able to handle her, he never would have been able to handle being assigned under a sergeant or officer like Sloan. She had spared him from being exposed to even the risk of that.
But the minor successes didn’t take away the loneliness and increasing desire for companionship. She found herself observing personal interactions between other Marines, both members of her own training flight and other base personnel, with increasing jealousy. She was confused why she was starting to want to be around other people so badly when they annoyed her so much. More than once she found herself listening in on a conversation hoping there would be a point where she could actually join in, but the discussions were all so juvenile and meaningless that each time just left her more frustrated than ever before.
Her feelings turned from confusion to alarm when she realized that she was beginning to wish that she could confide in Sydell, of all people. The younger woman seemed to have a similar outlook on the world and she would probably understand why Larkins felt and thought the way she did. But that was a dangerous idea. Her subordinates were the last people she could ever dare to talk to in a personal way. They couldn’t be allowed to see her weaknesses. They needed to see her as powerful and commanding. They had to be afraid of her or they would never listen properly. If she let any of them, even Sydell, see beyond the cold, professional, uncaring façade, she’d lose control of all of them and then she would never be able to train them properly.
She had to remind herself that her trainees meant nothing to her. She couldn’t afford to see them as people and she couldn’t let them see her own human side. And the easiest way to avoid doing that was to start treating them more harshly and pushing them farther and farther. She was already pushing Sydell hard, so it was easy for Larkins to start taking more of her anger out on the unfortunate trainee. But she also started treating the other members of the flight worse as well, and the lonelier she got and the more she wished for someone to talk to, the more she pushed her trainees away. It was getting to a point where Evison barely talked to her because of how frustrated she was, and she was starting to fear that she had made a mistake and started an irreversible chain reaction that was going to destroy everything she had worked for over the past nine months, but she didn’t know how to pull herself out of it.
Then one evening in late April, Larkins was three shots deep into the last alcohol in her stash, a bottle of Black Frost vodka that had already been half-empty when the evening began, and just starting to contemplate when she was going to get more, when there was a knock on her door. She was sitting on her bed slouched back against her pillows when the knock came, and it startled her so badly that she jerked upwards, almost dropping the bottle. No one ever came looking for her in the evenings. Evison knew better than to bother her during that time of the day, and the trainees were all far too afraid of her to willingly come and talk to her.
Quickly hiding the bottle and glass in the cabinet, Larkins got up and walked over to the door. The vodka hadn’t properly gotten into her system yet, so she was hopeful that she’d be able to hide it until whoever was at the door said what they needed to and left. She pulled the door open and was surprised to see Sydell standing there, her expression unreadable.
“What the fuck do you want, Private?” Larkins demanded, glaring at her.
“I’d like to speak with you, ma’am,” Sydell requested.
“It’s personal, ma’am. Can we talk in private?”
Larkins jerked her head slightly, gesturing for Sydell to enter. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what kind of personal matter Sydell could think was a good idea to bring to her. She shut the door behind the trainee before walking back to drop into the chair at her desk. “So what can I do for you, Private?”
Sydell took a deep breath and stepped forward, and Larkins saw she was repeatedly flexing her hands into fists and then relaxing again. “You can tell me why you hate me so fucking much, ma’am.”
“Excuse me?” Larkins demanded in disbelief.
“You heard me, ma’am,” Sydell growled. “I don’t care if you are my senior, I want a fucking explanation. You’ve been treating me like shit ever since I got split up with Ferro and I’ve noticed lately that the angrier you seem to get at me, the worse you treat everyone else in the flight. What the hell did I ever do to make you so fucking angry at me that you can’t even take it all out on me and you have to abuse everyone else just to make yourself feel better?”
“Watch your mouth, Private,” snarled Larkins, sitting up straight in her chair. “I don’t owe you a damn thing. I don’t have to be nice to you, I don’t have to be nice to anyone else, and I sure as fuck don’t have to explain myself to anyone. You least of all. Besides, why the fuck do you care? It’s obvious you don’t give a damn about anyone else but yourself. Why are you trying to stand up for people you don’t care a thing about?”
“Just because I don’t want to be around them doesn’t mean I hate them,” Sydell said bravely, clearly not about to back down. “It doesn’t mean that I want to see them getting hurt and treated badly just because you hate me so much you can’t even take all of it out on me. If this is going to keep happening as long as I’m here, I’m just going to walk the fuck away.”
“What, to protect those other worthless pieces of shit out there?” Larkins gestured towards the hallway with an incredulous laugh. “If you care so much about them passing then why the fuck was it so hard to get you to even work with them properly?”
“I don’t care if they make themselves pass or not. As far as I’m concerned, if they fail because they weren’t good enough, then oh well. Too bad, so sad, and they can go home bawling to Mommy and Daddy for all I care. But I didn’t join the Marines to sabotage helpless people. If someone gets between me and what I want, fuck ‘em. But those kids out there are only trying to survive, just like I am. Tucker’s already gone because of what he had to put up with every time you decided you had a problem with me. I’m not going to stick around if all I’m doing here is making things worse for them.”
“So what? You’re just going to throw it all away? You still have a lot to learn about working with other people, but you’re probably the smartest and most capable member of this flight,” Larkins pointed out, struggling to understand Sydell’s viewpoint. “You have the best chance of passing out of all of them, and you just want to say ‘fuck it’? Just because of a few whiny little bitches you’ll probably never see again whether they pass or not? You’d be fucking yourself over more than anyone else, and the Corps would be down a damn good pilot.”
“I don’t believe for a second that you actually care about me or anyone else here, ma’am,” Sydell said. “But let’s pretend for just a second that you actually do. Here’s the deal. You want me to stay in and try to pass then you back the fuck off of all of them. You want to keep pushing me and abusing me, fucking fine. I can handle you. But if you keep turning your anger at me on them, I’m going to tell Evison I’m out.”
Larkins clenched her fists angrily, realizing she had been outmaneuvered and backed into a corner by one of her own trainees. She didn’t want to back off of any of them but she didn’t want Sydell to quit either. She had too much potential for that. Larkins took a breath, trying to accept that she had already lost this round. Sydell won no matter which choice she made. “Deal,” she growled finally. “But don’t think for a second you just bought any mercy for yourself, or that I’m going to leave the others alone completely. I’m still going to push them exactly as hard as I feel is necessary to make or break them. And you…”
She got up and stepped into Sydell’s space, glaring into the younger woman’s eyes as she finished, “You just made things a lot harder on yourself. I suggest you get your ass in bed and fast asleep. You’re going to need your rest for tomorrow night, because it’s not going to be fun.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Sydell spat, saluting curtly and leaving the room without waiting to be dismissed. She slammed the door on the way out and Larkins was only able to hold her anger in for a second before she turned and punched the wall as hard as she could. The bang echoed around the room as her fist hit the metal, and she gasped in pain, immediately regretting it. The pain shot through her hand and up her arm to her shoulder, almost making her arm go numb. Groaning weakly, Larkins flexed her elbow, wrist, and fingers in turn to make sure she hadn’t broken anything. It didn’t seem like she had, but her hand was probably going to hurt for a while and there would definitely be a massive bruise there by the morning.
“You’re losing your touch, Skye,” she muttered sulkily to herself as she sat down on the edge of the bed. “Let a kid get the better of you. Way to go, dumbfuck.”
The exchange was a cold reminder of exactly why she could never try to be friends with Sydell. The trainee was too defiant and volatile. She’d revolt at the slightest sign of weakness from Larkins. Besides, even if that wasn’t the case, what would be the point in trying to make friends with someone who would be gone in a few more months anyway? That would just cause more pain and she’d have to start over. With a heavy sigh, Larkins reached back into the cabinet to take the bottle of vodka out again, whispering to herself as she unscrewed the cap, “It would be better for me to just stay alone at this point. I don’t deserve friends and I wouldn’t be able to make and keep them even if I did.”