As she lectures, she realizes their concentration waning. Eyes glued to something behind her.
An officer, stepping toward her group. Ah, a high ranking one, and of course, with Sergeant Padilla. Colonel Blackhand? The one in charge of all Southwest Regional troops? Lots of brass.
She can’t stop watching the sergeant’s intent conversation with her superior officer, even as she hears her voice, instructing, “Insert your thumb into the ring.” Henrietta recites what she’s read up on this one, She’d never surrendered. Until after the peace treaty.
Half of her works her troops, half runs this past her own lay of the land here in Silver City. It was the Librarian, Way, who’d made the colonel’s appointment. In charge of the Regionals now, an act of defiance against the Vashon. Eleanora told Henrietta that Kalapati Blackhand, with a small band of fighters, had denied Vashon forces a victory in the Sonoran Desert.
“Line up a distant object with the sight wire. Do it, people. I’m not talking for my health. The center of the sighting groove’s in the lens bracket,” she continues, Like herself, all the trainees point their lenses at the colonel. Padilla waves at Henrietta.
“Rodriguez. Take over.” Padilla waves for Henrietta to step to the observers. I’m a damned condemned prisoner. She stiffens to attention. Padilla goes through the introductions, “Colonel Blackhand. Corporal Moreno.” The colonel waves her to relax.
“Sergeant Padilla and I are old campaigners together.”
“Yes. In the Sonoran Desert together. In another life.”
Shaking her head, the colonel changes topic. “I have a problem, Moreno.” The smile leaves her face. “My superiors transferred my entire staff. And no Vashon seem available for some reason or another.” A wink to Padilla. “Bottom line. I need new aides.”
The Sergeant cuts Henrietta off. “I’ve explained you know your way around the base.” Henrietta gulps, thinking why she knows the base so well. Be a good poker player.
Blackhand speaks over Henrietta’s shoulder, eyes on Juan and the trainees before glancing back and continues, “I also need staff who won’t be easily intimidated by our masters. Padilla believes you’re likely to fit that bill.” Her eyes are now focused on Henrietta’s.
What do they suspect?
“Yes, sir.” She doesn’t like it. Eleanora may not either. But what can I do?
“Report to Colonel Blackhand’s office first thing in the morning, Corporal.”
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