The train pulled into the station that serviced the Academy with twenty minutes left before curfew. “Finally,” breathed Parthi.
“Well, you two obviously aren’t joining me for a quick hot chocolate and dessert before you report in,” added Merrick. “A pity. There’s this really nice little place just outside the university gates. It’s on your way and everything.”
“Maybe another time,” Danovan said easily. They were off the train now and it was pulling out. “I suspect all the taxis will be gone by the time we clear the station but it’s only a brisk walk to where we’re going.”
All the taxis were indeed gone when they walked out of the confines of railway station. The three of them ignored the gaggle of university students waiting for taxis to return and set off at a brisk pace in the direction of their destinations. Ten minutes down the road, Merrick parted company with them at the university’s gates.
“It’s been good to see you both again,” the smile under the purple lensed glasses was cheerful. “Now I’ll go get some sleep so I can psych out the jocks in the gym tomorrow morning. Don’t shilly-shally you two.” Then he was gone into the night with a cheerful wave.
Five more minutes up the road and they were at the Academy’s entrance gate with two minutes to spare. There was, however, line up to get in with a cluster of cadets off to one side being processed for something by two of the Marine guards. Danovan surveyed the scene and swore under his breath. “I’ll have to leave you here,” he told Parthi. “Time for me to go to work and sort out this game of silly buggers.”
He strode to the head of the line, ignoring the protests of the cadets and Marines he passed and went to the group off to one side. Parthi couldn’t hear what he said but she could see the two processing Marines stiffen to attention and then shepherd their charges in through the gate. Danovan then went to the guards on the gate, showed his pass, got another stiffening to attention from both of them that lasted while he said something that looked sharp and to the point to them, and suddenly the queue through the gate began to flow much faster.
Parthi had been joined at the end of the queue by an officer in civilian clothes whom she didn’t quite recognise but who seemed pleased with the events unfolding at the head of the queue. His voice when he’d answered her polite acknowledgement of, “Sir,” with, “Cadet,” had been familiar too but not enough for her to place the voice. When they passed through the gate, just as the hour was striking, the officer commented to Danovan who was standing there, apparently supervising a shaken looking Marine sergeant, “Well handled, Master Gunnery Sergeant.”
“Thank you, Commandant.”
Parthi cocked an eyebrow at her friend, “Congratulations on the promotion. You might have mentioned it.”
“And spoil a good evening out by making things uncomfortable?” Danovan shrugged. “It didn’t seem worth it. Stay out of trouble, Cadet Gens.”
“Oh, I will, Master Gunnery Sergeant Danovan. I have no wish to be in your punishment book.”
“Very proper,” observed the Commandant. “Cadet Gens, how long have you known our new Master Gunnery Sergeant?”
Parthi turned to him, “Since I was fourteen, sir.”
“Ah, an old friend of the family then?”
“That flavour of relationship, yes sir.”
“Indeed, Cadet?” The commandant spared a glance for Danovan then added, “Carry on, Cadet Gens.”
“Yes, sir!” With that Parthi escaped towards her quarters.