The final member of their team, their “monkey” has just shown up. It doesn’t seem like anyone is particularly glad to see him, except Penny. Corporal Emory, like the others, seems to have trouble with authority. Wil’s willing to work with that. However, there is also an aura of suspicion surrounding Emory–something he’s not unmindful of.
“You were called three days ago, what took you so long?” Wil asked as pleasantly as he could.
“I had some unfinished business I had to take care of, sir.” He made the term of respect as disrespectful as possible. Wil draped a long arm around Emory’s shoulders from which the little man couldn’t squirm.
“Anyone ever explain to you how the military works, Emory?”
“I’m not sure I get your meaning.”
“Well, it’s like this. I outrank you, as do the most of the people in this room. I don’t expect much, only for you to do your job right and show me the respect I’ve earned for more years than you’ve even been alive.” His grip on Emory’s shoulder tightened until the little man winced. “I’m glad we understand one another, Corporal Emory, I’d hate to demote you.”
Emory said nothing. The other men in the room glared at him, making him sink in on himself even more. The tension in the room was broken by the entrance of the two women. Penny and Ishanti were exchanging pleasantries when they walked into the room full of angry males. Stopping suddenly just inside the door, Penny looked at each in turn, staring openly at the small man who seemed to be the center of the problem.
“Who’s this?” Her eyes fixed on Wil, saw the muscle working in his jaw and knew he was furious about something.
“Corporal Emory.” He snapped a salute. “Reporting for duty.”
Penny looked at him and said nothing. Ishanti returned his salute automatically and muttered “At ease,” from habit.
“I’m happy to see you, at least,” Penny tried to smile and ground the charged atmosphere. “Now I don’t have to climb!” Her laugh seemed to pull Wil out of himself and he chuckled weakly next to her.
“That’s good anyway,” Ishanti added quietly.
“I need a shower, sir, and a meal. Please,” Emory added as an afterthought.
Again Penny jumped in to save Wil from the urge to tell Emory where he could put his meal and shower.
“I’ll show him, Colonel,” Penny remarked in passing as she steered the nasty tempered man past Wil and Ben. “Bennett’s cooking tonight,” she said casually as she walked past.
Behind Emory’s back, the other men grinned and crowded through the narrow doorway to follow them down to where Bennett was fixing the evening meal. In less than 30 seconds, the yelling started, followed by broken dishes and what sounded like knives slicing the air. A few moments later, Penny came up to Wil looking satisfied with herself.
“Emory and Bennett took a strong dislike to one another, Colonel. I’ve had them both thrown in the brig.”
“Just overnight. We’ll be making our maze run tomorrow and I have to brief them first.”
“As you wish, Colonel.” The sway in her hips taunted him.
“We have our whole team now, Colonel.” Ray said with a twinkle in his eye.
“Not much of a team, is it? If Aurialonus doesn’t kill us, our own team members might!” Wallace interjected.
Adam Krall came in, scratching absently and yawning having awakened from his afternoon nap. “What’d I miss?”