Authors: Odette C. Bell
Tags: #space opera, #sci fi action adventure, #space opera romance, #sci fi action adventure romance, #science fiction action romance, #science fiction romance adventure
Her exact choice of words shook through him.
It took a lot of effort not to visibly shudder.
He stiffened his neck and nodded. “What
next, then, admiral?”
“Next, I continue discussions with the
traders. I want you to begin work on devising a training program
that can put Sora through her paces. You may have to work into the
night. I want this in place for tomorrow.”
He began to nod, but hesitated.
She picked up on it. “What is it,
“... Never mind.” For a moment – for a
single moment – he'd been about to ask the admiral for an hour's
reprieve to go and check on Sarah Sinclair.
Which was mad.
He'd done what he was obliged to do – pull
her aside and have a serious conversation with her. The rest was up
He shook his head as he pushed away his last
questioning thought. “I won't stop until I complete the training
“I'm glad I have someone to rely on.
Alright, lieutenant, dismissed.” She snapped a salute, turned on
her heel, and marched out the doors.
As soon as she left, Karax found his gaze
tugging instinctively back to the view beyond the plate glass
It didn't take him long to spy Sarah's
As soon as he realized what he was doing, he
cursed under his breath and headed for the doors.
Cadet Sarah Sinclair
She felt like someone was walking over her
She was walking, half in a daze, through the
halls of the main training building.
She knew she had to get to class.
Nothing could distract her from the unholy
sensation climbing her back as if spiders had somehow slipped
underneath her skin.
She kept shivering, and had now wrapped her
arms around her middle so tightly she could barely breathe.
Though she was clearly in a state, almost
everyone ignored her.
Even Nora ignored her, glancing at her once,
dropping her gaze, and walking away with another group of
Cadets darted around her, rushing to class,
staff marched back and forth, dutifully and quickly heading to
whatever tasks they had to do.
And in the middle stood Sarah.
She felt completely alone. She was in a
crowd of people, and yet her mind was telling her she was back in
the abandoned ice shaft.
Her symptoms weren't usually as bad as this.
Most of the time she could discern reality from her dreamlike
But today... today it felt like someone was
walking over her grave.
Reason told her to stop heading to class,
and rather turn around and seek out medical attention.
Reason would be wrong.
If she went to the med bay again, not only
would they bark at her that she was wasting their time, but it
would be yet another demerit point against her rapidly falling
So the smartest thing to do would be to turn
around and head back to her room. To wait this out, whatever it
was, to fall asleep until her dreams gave way to nothingness and
her mind finally rested.
She'd been taking a few noncommittal steps
forward towards her class. But she stopped.
She let her gaze slip forward.
She considered the open doors to the
classroom once more.
Then she turned from them.
She began walking resolutely in the other
With every step, it felt more and more
Until she turned around a corner and slammed
right into someone.
Strangely, she almost knocked him off
balance, and he had to teeter back a few steps to regain his
Their gazes met.
You wouldn't need to be a genius to realize
Sarah was shirking class. Karax knew her classmates – he would know
she should be walking with them into the open classroom, not away
Though she was sprung, and knew she should
mutter a quick sorry, turn, and duck into class, she didn't.
She held Karax's gaze for a few more
seconds, dropped it, and shifted around him.
He made a noncommittal move to get in her
way, but appeared to think better of it, turned, and shifted past
She inclined her neck to stare at him as
they walked past each other.
... He shot her a look. Not a judgmental
one. Not even a disappointed one.
Sarah walked smack bang into Lieutenant
Lieutenant Morq was taking her next class.
And she knocked him flat on his ass.
Morq went down like a ton of bricks.
He spluttered with surprise, but snapped up
to his feet.
His race prided themselves on their
strength, and he'd just been knocked flat by a cadet.
Morq looked mortified.
“Sorry, sir,” Sarah said immediately.
“What were you doing stalking through the
corridors, cadet?” Morq snapped.
“I apologize, sir, but I wasn't stalking
through the corridors. Unfortunately, I wasn't looking where I was
“What exactly were you doing walking away
from my class, anyway?” Morq challenged.
All eyes were on Sarah.
It would be relatively easy for her to come
up with an excuse, apologize again, and walk back to class.
Karax's stomach sank.
Sure, he didn't know her that well, but he
sure as hell knew what she was going to do next.
She'd been pushed too far today.
Before he could clear his throat, distract
her, or pull Morq away, Sarah did it—
“I was heading back to my room, sir,” she
said with a straight face. Though if you looked, you'd appreciate
her expression wasn't exactly blank – there was a hollowed out,
dead look playing in her gaze.
Morq spluttered. “You don't have permission
to drop class today—” He drew up his WD to double check.
He needn't have bothered.
“No, I don't,” Sarah said.
Morq's surprise quickly gave way to anger.
“What exactly are you saying, cadet?”
“I'm saying that I'm planning on cutting
Karax sucked a breath through his teeth.
“Ah, maybe we should just—”
They both ignored him.
“Get to class, cadet,” Morq warned.
Sarah didn't move a muscle.
Lieutenant Morq locked his stony gaze on
Sarah. “I'll give you one more chance to turn around and head to
Sarah didn't move. Sarah stood there. Slowly
tilting her head back until she tore her gaze off the floor and
stared at the lieutenant.
“Move now, cadet,” he said through stiff
They were starting to draw a crowd.
A whole class full of cadets had emptied out
onto the corridor. One cadet who he recognized as Sarah's friend
wouldn't even look at Sarah. She shifted to the back of the
It was one thing to be reprimanded on your
own, another to be punished in front of your classmates.
With that half dead expression dragging down
her cheeks Sarah didn't move a muscle. “I don't feel like class
today,” she said directly.
She didn't mollify her tone, and once her
insubordinate words were out, she made no attempt to retract
This morning she'd stumbled over herself in
her attempt to retract a potentially insubordinate statement.
Now she stared back at Lieutenant Morq,
expression completely free from guilt.
She looked as if she just didn't care
This was where a smart lieutenant would back
down, pull the cadet to the side, and try to ascertain what the
hell was going on.
Morq was stuck, though.
There was a class full of witnesses. Of
Sarah's contemporaries, no less. Morq would have to make an example
of her. He couldn't let the other cadets perceive that he was
letting Sarah go without reprimand.
“Cadet, you are way out of line. Retract
that statement. As a recruit in the Galactic Coalition, you have a
duty to our cause and your classmates.”
If Morq's snapped words were intended to
have an effect on Sarah, they didn't.
She stared back at him impassively. “And
what duty, sir, do you have towards me?”
Morq was clearly thrown. You could see he
was thrown – a blue blush sparked up his cheeks, a telling and
impossible-to-ignore sign for his race. “Cadet, you are way out of
Sarah abruptly turned and began walking away
from Morq and the class.
Morq spluttered. “What are you doing?”
This was escalating.
It was time to step in.
Karax stepped in front of her and stared her
She drew to a halt, and slowly ticked her
head back until she stared at him.
“Cadet, get to my office, now,” he said.
Though it was an order, it wasn't snapped. He deliberately tried to
keep his tone even, neutral.
To be honest, he wasn't giving Sarah a
reprimand – that would come later, when she'd had a chance to calm
The only thing he wanted to do was get her
away from here, away from the prying, judgmental gazes of her
It didn't work.
As he looked down into Sarah's gaze, he saw
something crack. Any chance of ending this quietly cracked with
“Cadet, just head to my office,” he said,
and there was a pleading note to his voice.
“Why, so you can kick me out of the Academy
“Nobody is talking about kicking you out of
the Academy,” he dropped his tone in warning.
“Really? You're thinking it though, aren't
He ground his teeth together. He'd thought
he could jump in and de-escalate the situation, but he'd made it
She didn't drop her gaze as she stared at
him. It became so intense, it was almost like she was another
person. That fragile side to Sarah Sinclair dropped away and that
hardened edge returned – the one he'd seen when she'd woken up from
her dream. Staring at that Sarah Sinclair was like trying to walk
through a supernova. “Cadet, lower your tone.”
“Why? Worried about making a scene? We are
already making one. If you cared about keeping this quiet, you
should have let me go before.”
He couldn't unclench his jaw. “Cadet—”
“Just admit it, you've all been looking for
a reason to kick me out. You think I don't deserve to be here, do
you?” She looked right into his eyes.
There was no denying that the question was
meant for him.
“You don't think I have what it takes to
survive,” her voice croaked, “To save other people. Do you?”
He couldn't back down. He couldn't lie,
either. “No, I don't.”
Maybe he should have mollified his words,
begged her once more to head quietly to his office.
Because despite his growing compassion for
Sarah Sinclair, she was right – deep down, he didn't think she
She nodded stiffly. “I guess that makes our
decision for us, doesn't it? Goodbye.” She shifted past him.
He reached out a hand to stop her, but she
darted away from him.
He shifted hard on his foot. “What the hell
are you doing?”
“Quitting the Academy,” she said without a
hint of regret.
“Cadet—” he tried.
It was too late, she was already out of
She... she didn't feel anything as she
strode away from him, as she strode away from her fellow students,
from Nora, from her career.
No regret, no shame, just a sense that she
had to get free, that she had to get away from this place. That if
only she put some distance between her and the Academy grounds,
she'd stop feeling as if someone was walking over her grave.
She began to cool down as soon as she exited
the building and reached the grounds.
It didn't change her resolve. She'd quit the
Academy, and nothing was going to change that decision.
She didn't hesitate. She marched straight to
her room, cleaned it out, neatly folded her uniforms, and packed up
her other standard issue gear.
She left them arranged on the table in the
She paused as she stared at her WD and her
gaze sliced towards the collar of her uniform.
The tiniest flicker of regret crossed
through her, but she pushed it away.
She gathered together her bags and walked
out the door.
Rather than walk towards the primary lift
bank at the far end of the corridor, she deliberately headed for
A good decision. As she neared them, she
twisted her head and saw two security officers exit the lifts and
march towards her room.
They didn't notice her as she turned and
walked down the stairs.
She doubted they were here to get her in
trouble. Sure, she'd sassed a few lieutenants, but she hadn't
committed any crimes.
Maybe they were here to give her a second
She didn't want one.
She was done with the Academy.
So she walked down the stairs and walked
By that night, there was only one thing he
could think of. And no, it wasn't the training session he'd been
charged with designing.
It was Cadet Sinclair.
He hadn't had the chance to go after her
following the incident. He'd been called away.
He'd reasoned he'd be the last person she'd
want to see, anyway.
But now... now he couldn't get her out of
He was heading to her apartment.
He didn't know what he was doing. Shouldn't
be here. Every scrap of reason he had left told him to turn around,
but it wasn't enough.
He strode through the corridors of the
secondary accommodation block.
Even made it all the way up to her apartment
Christ, he really shouldn't be here. He was
the reason she'd left, and yet....