Hawk in a Chicken Coop
Chapter 1: A Trip to Town

Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac

September 18, 1986

Amandi, Mandy, and Ekkakaur stood beside the eight-passenger van parked along the curb in front of the dorms. The three cadets were members of the first class and had only recently entered their tenth year of training. As ordered, the three cadets were nervously waiting for Teacher Singh to arrive. He wasn’t late; they were early.

Today was an important day for all three of them. It was a recognized fact that having the students cloistered inside the compound wasn’t providing them with the necessary skills to interact with outsiders. The students had no way of judging their abilities against others. It had been decided that students were, in rotation, to go into one of the local towns for an afternoon of observing people going about their daily business.

Although it shouldn’t have, the whole idea of leaving the compound frightened the cadets. Their memories of life before entering the Academy were not pleasant. They remembered being abused by people older than themselves, they remembered hunger and they remembered being alone.

There was a slight feeling of inferiority that pervaded the cadets’ remembrances of how they measured up to everyone else. The staff feared that those feelings of inferiority would hold back development of the cadets becoming warriors. They didn’t want to produce a bunch of mice, they wanted lions and tigers and bears!

The cadets looked intimidating since they were wearing the newest armor designed by Teacher Min-jun. It gave each of them the appearance of an ancient Kor warlord, but with the armor in a light tan color rather than the stark black bordered with bright red that had been common among the Kor. The light tan color, like the fur of a cougar, blended in with almost all terrains including urban terrain. It also reflected the light without standing out like a beacon.

More importantly from the perspective of the cadets, it was fully functional armor made from Kevlar and would stop a bullet. It didn’t prevent getting hit by a bullet from hurting, as all three knew from practical experience. That had been a pretty agonizing and painful lesson, but one that ended up giving them greater confidence towards facing a future in armed combat.

The armor covered the entire body, providing protection for the chest, hips, arms, and legs. Each one was tailored individually to the person who wore it. It hung on the body snugly, yet allowed full freedom of motion. It did have a tendency to creak until it was broken in, though. The weight wasn’t bad, since the load was distributed across the whole body, and Kevlar was much lighter than any metal.

There was a helmet that covered the top, back, and sides of the head. It did not have the fanciful styling of the old Kor helmets which often incorporated horns, antlers, wings, or arches. Nor did it have a face protector which could interfere with the wearer’s vision. Instead, they were plain-looking built for the express function of protecting the head.

They were each fully armed. A sword — more of a machete than a sword — hung from the left hip encased in a tan sheath. A pistol in a holster was placed on the right leg in the position used by quick-draw gunfighters of old. Each cadet carried a knife, with a wicked ten-inch blade, sheathed near the small of their back. A rifle hung off a shoulder on a basic rifle-carrying sling.

The fact that they were armed had nothing to do with the reason they were standing beside the van waiting for Teacher Singh. All cadets after their sixth year went fully armed at all times. They were warriors and were expected to be armed like warriors.

It might seem crazy to entrust an eleven year old with a pistol and a rifle. However, for the first two years, the weapons were loaded with blanks. Accidental discharges were punished by having the person or persons involved run the gauntlet. By the end of the first year, there were no accidental discharges.

The gauntlet had the cadets form two lines spaced six feet apart. Each cadet was given a thin flexible cane. The perpetrator of a crime walked between the lines of cadets getting whipped by each cadet. It was a harsh and brutal punishment. However, it was reserved only for crimes that affected everyone, so it was fitting that everyone was involved in the punishment.

Mandy, a young blue-eyed blond-haired woman, said, “I don’t like this. Why do we have to go into town? I remember what it was like, before...”

Amandi, a young black skinned male of average height, replied, “Don’t worry about that, Mandy. I’ve been outside. The people aren’t like you remember.”

He was working towards a master rating in flying, and was currently in the helicopter flight school. He had already received a pilot’s license, with ratings in several kinds of airplanes. When he wasn’t in the air, he was learning aircraft maintenance.

One consequence of his specialization was that he had frequently traveled out of the compound, and had dealt with the locals. He’d purchased fuel for his plane, filed flight plans, and had actually eaten at an airport restaurant. He wasn’t so much nervous, as irritated. This was going to keep him from getting in a little more time in the helicopter.

Ekkakaur, a short young woman with dark skin and piercing black pupils, said, “Maybe they’re not like the people from where you come from, but—”

“I’m telling you. You don’t have to worry.”

She replied, “I was supposed to be practicing demolition today.”

Ekkakaur was working towards a master rating in perimeter defense. She already had the requisite expert qualifications in combat engineering, but was working on getting qualified in demolition. She wanted to become a Shield so badly that it was almost frightening. Her ratings were off the charts in all of the key areas, particularly in martial arts. They were actually good enough to qualify as Sword, but she just wasn’t interested.

Mandy said, “The building will still be there tomorrow. It isn’t going to fall down over night.”

She was working towards a master rating as a base engineer. This was a program designed around setting up a fixed base or forward operating base function. It was a particularly difficult area dealing with setting up fixed and temporary structures to provide support for the members of the Jade Force in a secure environment. It required expert qualifications in combat engineering, structural engineering, base operations, and maintenance. She was striving to become Hearth, the cadre associated with base operations.

“You built it?”

“Yes, I did.”

“I was looking it over yesterday. It’s not going to be easy to bring it down.”

Mandy said, “I built it that way.”

They all straightened up at exactly the same moment. The front door of one of the dorms had just started to open.

Needlessly, Amandi said, “Teacher Singh is coming.”

The three cadets retained the total awareness of their surroundings that had been instilled as orphans living on the street. The slightest movement would attract their instantaneous attention. That made the camouflage training classes very interesting since even an odd coloration in an area would draw their gaze.

Although he was one of the oldest people in the compound, Teacher Singh taught the equestrian arts. He had been trained in the old cavalry manner, having learned to ride and charge with saber drawn. The cadets really enjoyed his classes. In particular, they enjoyed charging upon the melons stuck on pikes at full speed on horseback. There was just something fun about lopping off the top half of a melon. Some things, like learning how to pack a horse or a mule, weren’t so much fun.

“Hello, Teacher Singh,” the three cadets said together.

“Hello,” Teacher Singh said. He paused to look at them and then said, “We have a problem.”


“You can’t take your pistols or rifles with you into town.”

“What?” Mandy screamed.

“No way!” shouted Ekkakaur.

Looking at Amandi, Teacher Singh asked, “Didn’t you warn them about that?”

“About what?”

“The fact that you can’t take your pistols or rifles into town.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“You don’t take your pistol or rifle when you fly off base.”

Amandi said, “I know. Teacher Yeagers said that there is a security regulation at airports banning weapons. He even makes me leave my sword and knife behind when I have to get out of the airplane.”

“Well, you can’t take weapons into town.”

Ekkakaur said, “Standard procedure is to take our weapons, ammunition, armor, water, food, radios, and med kit whenever we leave the security of a fortified position.”

“That’s in a war zone,” Teacher Singh added.

“The point being?”

Teacher Singh said, “We aren’t in a war zone. You are going into town.”

“Are they Jade?”



“Then nothing. You aren’t allowed to take a pistol or a rifle into town.”

“If I can’t take my weapons, I don’t want to go,” Ekkakaur said flatly.

Teacher Singh said, “It’s not your choice. You have to go.”

Ekkakaur was not happy. Mandy was just as unhappy. Amandi wasn’t all that thrilled either.

“What about our swords and knives?” Amandi asked.

“You can take those,” Teacher Singh said.

“Thank the war gods for that,” Ekkakaur said.

“Get to your dorm and store your pistol and rifle in your locker. I expect you all back here in five minutes.”

The three cadets took off at a trot to the dorm building. They were all back in less than three minutes to find Teacher Singh standing beside an open door gesturing to the row of seats. The three climbed into the van.

Teacher Singh got into the driver’s seat and started the van. Driving at fifteen miles per hour he maneuvered the van down the street towards the gate. There was no posted speed limit, but that was only because anyone behind the wheel of a vehicle there knew better than to drive in a manner that put anyone at risk.

Upon reaching the gate, they had to wait while the drawbridge-style door was lowered. The inner doors were already open. The sound of the heavy chain rattling was loud enough to be heard inside the van. The three cadets watched the view of the outside world slowly reveal itself as the door finally reached the ground.

Teacher Singh drove through the gate. After the van had passed through the gate, the three cadets turned around in their seats to watch the door being raised.

“I’m going to drop you off at the town square. There’s a tree with a bench under it. You should sit down there and just watch what is going on around you. If there are any problems, let Amandi do the talking.”

Mandy asked, “Why him?”

“Do you know Inran?”

“Well, no.”

“How about you, Ekkakaur?”


“I’d say that since Amandi is the only one who speaks Inran, he should do all of the talking,” Teacher Singh said.

“They don’t speak Elfin?”

“No. You aren’t to speak Elfin in town unless no one can overhear you. Do you understand that?”

“Why?” Mandy asked.

“That’s a private language. It is for us to know, no one else.”

Ekkakaur added, “It’s a security measure. If no one knows our language, then they can’t know what we’re planning even if they hear us.”


There was a moment of silence now that all of the essentials had been discussed.

“Why are we doing this?” Ekkakaur asked.

Teacher Singh didn’t answer her question directly, but said, “Amandi, you’ve had dealings with Inrans at the airport. What is your general impression of them?”

“I think they are kind of stupid. They don’t seem very alert to what is happening around them. They’re easily distracted from what they’re doing. It seems to me that they’re pretty clumsy or awkward. You don’t see them moving very gracefully.”

“Ekkakaur, what do you expect to see?”

“I don’t know. I guess I expect to see people like us,” she answered.

“Amandi, do you think they are like us?”

“Not really,” he answered.


“It’s hard to put into words. I guess the best way I can say it is that they seem weaker than us.”

Teacher Singh said, “Ekkakaur, you are going into town for one reason and that is so that you’ll understand what Amandi is trying to say.”

The van entered the outskirts of the town. It wasn’t a big town compared to others in Inra, but it was much larger in terms of population than their compound. People were everywhere. The streets were packed with cars, bicycles, motorcycles and small motorized carts. The traffic was pure chaos. The streets were without lanes and no rules were apparent. Singh maneuvered the van through the traffic without much difficulty.

Amandi watched him drive, taking note of how he dealt with the ever changing flow of traffic. The large vehicle was clearly outmatched by the smaller more maneuverable vehicles which cut in front of it without warning. He couldn’t help but wonder how they would react to a deuce and a half. Would they be so willing to cut in front of it when it could just drive right over them? He didn’t think so.

Inra was a caste society. It was easy to see the differences among castes. The lowest caste people were thin and gangly, with gaunt angular faces. There was a kind of deadness in their expressions. Sure there were smiles and frowns, but they never reached the eyes. The higher castes were better dressed, and had livelier expressions.

Ekkakaur and Mandy were staring out the windows at the people. The sidewalks were full of people walking and standing around. The lower caste people brushed up against each other almost without notice of the collisions. For the higher caste people, it seemed as if there was a slight buffer around them that prevented others from touching them.

In a surprisingly short time, the van reached the town center. Singh pulled the van to the side of the street and parked it. He turned in his seat to face the three cadets.

Pointing to a tree with a bench beneath it, he ordered, “You will stay over there until I come to pick you up. Is that understood?”

“Where will you be?” Mandy asked apprehensively.

“I’ll be in a shop near here having a cup of tea. They make it there like it is made in my home country,” Singh answered.

Worried, Ekkakaur asked, “What if we get into trouble?”

“I expect you to take care of it. No one should bother you, but there are a few street gangs that are in this area. They might object to your presence and try to get money from you or force you to leave.”

“What should we do if that happens?” Ekkakaur asked.

“You are to stay at the tree until I come to pick you up. If you are attacked, then you may defend yourself. There is only one thing to remember. Don’t kill anyone, unless your life is undeniably at risk. If you do, then you’ll hang.”

“Hang?” all three asked at once.

“Yes. You are not under contract, so you do not have authorization to engage them with deadly force. Do you understand?”

The code under which they operated distinguished between contractual battle and an assault. In a contractual battle, deadly force was automatically allowed anywhere within the war zone. An assault was always initiated by another and deadly force was not allowed except when their lives were in obvious danger. Under no circumstances were they ever authorized to initiate an assault outside of a contract.

“I think so,” Amandi answered.

“No,” Mandy answered.

“What don’t you understand?”

“I thought we were allowed to kill in responding to an assault, if our lives were in danger.”

Teacher Singh smiled and answered, “That’s true. Your lives won’t be in danger if you are attacked by these street toughs, though. They aren’t skilled enough to present a real threat even if they outnumber you.”

“I don’t accept that,” Mandy said. “I remember how it was from before.”

“Your memories are those of a five-year-old child, who had no training in the martial arts. You were easy pickings for anyone a little bigger. Now you are older and you are highly trained. The street toughs do not stand a chance against you.”

“I don’t like this,” Ekkakaur said.

“It doesn’t matter if you like it or not, you must do it. Stay under the tree until I come to pick you up. If assaulted, then you may defend yourselves. But do not kill!”

“Yes, Teacher Singh.”

The three cadets left the safety of the van, and went over to the bench where they were to wait for Teacher Singh. They moved slowly, observing everyone around them. They noticed that people gave them a wide berth but didn’t understand why it was that people avoided coming anywhere near them. It was more than just the fact that their attire made them oddities. Mandy and Ekkakaur’s obvious displeasure was expressed by the frowns on their faces. Those frowns and their basic appearance made them appear exceptionally threatening from the perspective of the locals.

The three cadets reached the bench. Amandi sat in the middle of the bench facing away from the tree. Mandy and Ekkakaur sat at the ends of the bench with their backs to Amandi. This gave the trio the ability to observe their surroundings in every direction.

They sat on the bench without talking for more than two hours, alertly watching their surroundings. There were a lot of people engaged in all different kinds of activities. There were people hurriedly going from one place to another. There were store owners trying to sell their merchandise while trying to protect it from anyone who might steal it. There were shoppers moving slowly from store to store checking the merchandise, and occasionally stopping to exchange words with the store owners. There were people in little clusters talking about matters great and small. The noise and chaotic movement of traffic in the streets was nonstop.

For each of the cadets, their past experiences and present observations were being compared and contrasted. They watched malnourished and filthy orphans move skittishly around the area avoiding anyone bigger than them while searching for food. They saw that people ignored the children for the most part; treating them with no more interest than one might give a bird perched on a tree branch. When the children managed to capture the attention of someone, the threats and gestures seemed to them to lack energy and seriousness unlike what their memories told them.

The youngest orphans obviously had it the roughest. Physically small, they were dwarfed by the adults around them. They were weak. Even a casual collision with an adult pedestrian left the child on the ground. Their knowledge of the broader scope of the world was nonexistent giving them a limited interpretation of what was happening around them.

It was getting late when a situation began unfolding that represented any kind of threat to the three cadets. They were aware of the threat long before it even came close to them. It came to their attention when they observed eight young men walking down the sidewalk. People moved out of their way while avoiding looking at them directly. Occasionally, one or another of the young men would grab a fruit from a display, take a few bites out of it, casually toss it away and move onwards without paying. The storekeeper said nothing.

Clearly, these were the street toughs that Teacher Singh had mentioned. Mandy watched them somewhat dismayed by what she was seeing. The young men appeared willing to use force to impose their will, but it was weak. The push might have been intended to hurt, but the energy behind it was diffused and unfocused. They didn’t have the physical presence that even a fourth-year cadet possessed.

Without saying a word to each other, the three cadets rose from the bench and moved closer together. Their movements were controlled. They were prepared for conflict long before it had a chance to approach them. Their attention was focused on the approaching threat. It was that attention that attracted the notice of the street toughs. The street toughs changed directions to approach them.

“What have we got here?” one of the young men commented.

“I don’t know, but they sure are funny looking,” said another.

“Aren’t they fierce-looking in those outfits?”

“I think they look like jokes.”

Mandy and Ekkakaur did not speak Inran so they did not know what the young men were saying. However, they did understand the mocking tone that was intended to intimidate. It was obvious that the young men viewed them as some kind of threat to their domination of the local area. The taunting was more of an attempt to establish superiority without having to risk physical confrontation. In effect, they were trying to say we are superior to you so we mock you, but in reality what they were saying was, we mock you in the hope we will be superior to you.

“Look at them. They are so afraid they’ve forgotten how to talk.”

“We are not silent out of fear of you, but because of our contempt for you,” Amandi said.

This direct attack on their superiority couldn’t be ignored. The eight young men spread out in a semicircle trying to surround them, but their efforts were hampered by the bench and the tree.

“Oh ... the little man speaks.”

“I think he needs to be taught a lesson.”

“I don’t think you have anything to teach me.”

The attack, when it came, was uncoordinated and poorly executed. The response on the other hand, was sharp, focused, and direct. It was no contest. Legs, arms, jaws, and noses were broken. Ribs were cracked. Most importantly, no one was killed or permanently maimed.

Years of bullying old men, frightened women, and terrified kids had given the eight young men delusions of invincibility. A little pushing and a few punches had always been sufficient to cow even the bravest victim. Their invincibility was like that of a sugar cube that had never encountered water. It dissolved upon first contact with real skill.

Mandy, looking down at the eight young men sprawled out on the ground, said, “That was surprisingly easy.”

“I’m shocked. I thought ... I don’t know what I thought,” Ekkakaur said.

She had reacted to the attack without conscious thought. Her actions had been driven by muscle memory rather than planning. The ease with which she had moved among the attackers blocking blows and delivering her own had amazed her.

Amandi said, “They acted so tough.”

The encounter had drawn a crowd. The people stood well back from the cadets staring at them in shock. They would stare at the cadets and then glance down at the bullies on the ground. The moans and groans of the defeated were chilling. The limbs bent or twisted in unnatural ways told the story. For the locals, it was unimaginable that these three people could take on eight men who had terrorized them for the past few years and win so handily.

The local constabulary arrived. They were taken aback upon approaching the scene of the fight. They were very familiar with the eight young men, having arrested them on many occasions. Then they saw the three cadets standing there, their stance relaxed yet poised ready to take on all challengers. It wasn’t their outfits that were intimidating, it was the overwhelming confidence that they projected that was terrifying.

After the local constabulary had sized up the situation, they called for ambulances to take care of the wounded. In the manner of police everywhere, they attempted to separate the people involved to question individually. They had no luck in achieving their goal. The three cadets stood, facing three directions so that all approaches to them were being watched.

“What happened here?” asked the constable in charge.

Amandi answered, “They attacked us.”

“I need more details than that.”

“We defended ourselves.”

Getting a little frustrated, the constable asked, “Why did they attack you?”

“I think it was because we were not afraid of them.”

“How did you manage to damage them so much?”

“They were not very good fighters,” Amandi answered glancing over at one of the young men who was attempting to crawl away.

Taking in the swords and knives carried by the cadets, the constable said, “You seem to be well armed.”

“Not really. We left our pistols and rifles back at the Academy.”

The casual reference to the Academy sent chills down the spine of the constable. There were rumors about what went on there. No one knew anything for certain. The large wall around the compound prevented curious eyes from getting answers to their questions. The pilots of the only police helicopter in the area reported that they had witnessed a thousand people being trained in advanced fighting techniques.

“I was talking about your swords and knives.”

“We do have swords and knives, but I wouldn’t consider that being well armed.”

If they didn’t consider themselves well armed with the knife and sword, he had to wonder what they did consider to be well armed. It didn’t matter, but he knew people who would be very interested in this.

“Why didn’t you use them?”

“We are under orders not to kill when assaulted unless our lives are clearly at risk.”

“You didn’t think your lives were a risk?”

Amandi gestured to the young men writhing on the ground and asked, “What do you think?”

“I guess not.”

While Amandi was being interviewed, the ambulances arrived. The men went about the business of stabilizing broken bones. There were a lot of broken bones. It became obvious very quickly that they were going to need more ambulances.

“I need to interview your two companions.”

“I don’t think that is very likely.”

“Why not?”

“They don’t speak Inran.”

“What language do they speak? I know Amran.”

“They both know Amran.”

It wasn’t until the constable turned to Mandy that he realized she was a female. Well, he had noticed that she was female, but until that moment hadn’t considered it important. He stepped back in surprise. She was just as armed as the young man and appeared just as confident.

“Do you know how to use that sword?” he asked her in Amran.

Mandy looked over her shoulder at the tree behind her. Her hand moved to rest lightly on the handle of the sword. In one fluid motion, she drew the sword, lopped off the limb and sheathed the sword.

“Yes, I do.”

He stared at her. She had cut through a limb that was an inch and a half thick with the ease of someone cutting the stalk of a dandelion with a scythe. Her wrists and forearms were thick from long hours of practice with the sword. It dawned on him that she could have taken off his head before he even had a chance to react.

He asked, “What happened here?”

“We were attacked,” she answered.

“Why didn’t you use your sword?”

“We are not allowed to kill in response to an assault, unless our lives are clearly at risk.”

Curious, he asked, “What would happen if you killed one of these men?”

“I would be facing execution by hanging.”

“We don’t have a death penalty,” he said.

“The Academy does.”

There was that casual reference to the Academy again. If there were another thousand like her ... like these three ... his friends would be very interested. He was going to have to arrange for his friend to have a chance to interview these three.

“How many people are at the Academy?”

“That is a question that I can’t answer,” she replied.

“You three are going to have to come to the station with me,” he said.

Amandi said, “That’s not going to happen.”

“What makes you think that?” he asked surprised at the flat certainty in the young man’s voice.

“We were ordered to stay here.”

“We can force you.”

Ekkakaur said, “The moment you use force, we will defend ourselves.”

By this time the eight young men had been loaded onto stretchers and carried away. The constable looked at the four constables with him. Considering what the cadets had done to the eight gang members, he decided the four constables weren’t going to be enough backup to haul the three to the station. He stepped away and turned his back to the cadets. He pulled out his radio and made a call for back up.

In Elfin, Amandi said, “He’s calling for more people. He’s telling them to bring guns.”

The three looked into the crowd searching for the face they knew had been there from the beginning. Teacher Singh gave them a couple of hand signals. They smiled and relaxed upon seeing the signal.

The constable looked up when the crowd that had been watching began to run away. He turned to find that he was facing three cadets with knives and swords drawn. He looked into their eyes and saw death and destruction there. He nearly lost control of his bladder.

Teacher Singh stepped forward and said, “You are over-stepping your authority, Constable. They were attacked and defended themselves. That is no crime.”

“I’m the law.”

“That’s odd. I thought laws were lines of text in a book. I didn’t know that a law could walk and talk.”

“My job is to enforce the law.”

“No laws were broken by these three cadets,” Teacher Singh stated. “You know that. You aren’t enforcing the law; you are making up laws.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m the one who told them to stay here until I returned for them.”

“Then you can tell them to come to the constabulary now.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that. You see, I’m the one who just authorized the use of deadly force the moment a constable shows up with a gun.”

Two cars showed up with sirens blaring. Four men boiled out of each car. Each man carried an assault rifle. They lined up with the original four, and they all raised their rifles in the direction of the cadets.

“Speak of the devil. Here are the guns. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to get out of the line of fire.”

Teacher Singh stepped back a few paces. Suddenly, the constable found himself all alone and standing between twelve constables with rifles and three cadets with swords drawn. If things got out of control, there was one person who was pretty well guaranteed not to get out of it alive and that was himself.

Teacher Singh said, “I wouldn’t move if I were you.”

The constable shouted, “Everyone calm down.”

There was a heavy rumbling noise behind the line of rifle-wielding constables. Then there was a loud screech of brakes being applied followed by two sets of excited shouts. The first set of shouts was from ten cadets leaping from the back of the truck and landing behind the line of constables. The second set of shouts was from the constables upon discovering that they each now had a gun pressed to the sides of their heads. Most of the cadets had a rifle in one hand and a pistol in the other. Six cadets were covering the 12 constables with each of their weapons pressed against the head of a constable. The other four were facing away watching the surroundings with their rifles at the ready.

The constable watched his backups slowly reposition their weapons so that they were holding them only by the barrel with the barrel of the rifle pointing up. Apparently someone had given them instructions that he hadn’t heard. The new arrivals were all wearing the same outfits as the cadets he had been interviewing.

Teacher Singh said, “Did I mention that I called for reinforcements about the time you were talking on radio?”

“No, you didn’t.”

“I meant to,” Teacher Singh said.

A cadet by the name of Tomas stepped around and started collecting the weapons of the constables. He just walked down the line grabbing the guns. The constables released their weapons without putting up any kind of fight. He would collect two and then lay them on the ground.

Speaking Inran, Tomas said, “I can’t believe how slow these guys were to react to a truck driving up right behind them. You’d think that at least one of them would have turned around.”

Amandi said, “They were pretty slow. Only three of them even had their safeties off. I figured we would have won even if you hadn’t shown up in time.”

Tomas inspected the rifle he was holding. He looked over at the row of rifles while shaking his head. “You’re right. Only three of them have the safeties off.”

He carried the last two rifles over to where he had laid out the weapons. Then he went through the rifles removing the ammunition from them and clearing the chamber. Four of the rifles didn’t even have a round in the chamber.

“Who taught you to use a rifle?” Tomas asked.

None of the constables answered.

Now that all of the rifles had been cleared, Tomas spoke in Elfin, “Release the prisoners from surrender-or-die position. Gather them at a spot well away from the guns and watch them.”

He walked over to where Teacher Singh was standing. “The site is secure,” he said in Inran.

Teacher Singh said, “Very well done, Cadet Tomas. I can see that you’ve truly earned your rating in hostage release.”

“Thank you,” Tomas said. “It was easier than most of our exercises.”

Teacher Singh turned to the constable and said, “We are going to withdraw. If you want to talk more about the events surrounding the attack on our cadets, then come out to the Academy.”

“What about the attack on my men?”

“What attack? If an attack had been made, there would be dead bodies. A threat was delivered with sufficient supporting evidence that we could carry it out. As a result, a tense situation was defused. No one was hurt.”

“I don’t see it that way,” the constable said.

“We can discuss that when you come out to the Academy.”

The constable considered it. He was being given the chance to go inside the Academy. He’d be able to tell his friend what kinds of things were going on inside it. What he’d seen of the cadets had been impressive, even though he’d been on the receiving side of it and wasn’t too happy about the performance of the other constables.

“I’ll be out.”

“There’s a building complex right down the road from the main compound. You can go there and let someone know the nature of your visit. All of the appropriate people will show up,” Teacher Singh said.

“What’s wrong with meeting in your main compound?”

“No one, except staff and cadets, is allowed in the Academy compound.”

“I’m the chief constable of this area. You can’t keep me out.”

“General Wynn is the chief constable for the Academy grounds. He was awarded that position by the Prime Minister, personally.”

Frustrated, the constable said, “I’ll meet you at the business complex.”

“It’s more of a building complex. We have a barracks, officers quarters available for visitors, and an administration building. You can’t miss the main office.”

The constable watched the withdrawal. First, Teacher Singh and the three cadets left while the remaining cadets provided cover for them. Then the cadets returned to the truck on which they had arrived. They did it in stages so that at all times four cadets were on guard watching the four cardinal directions.

Once it was quiet, he stormed off thinking about the call he was going to put in to his friend.

Edited by Morgan

Edited By TeNderLoin

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