Part 73: Interview 36 BonusBarracks 36 - The Sky's The Limit
When Edgar walks into the air hangar early on Saturday morning, he doesn’t expect anyone else to be around - least of all Petra, Conrad and Henry, standing next to his plane and watching him carefully, as if they’ve been waiting for him. Behind them is another woman.
“Petra. I take it these are your friends?” he remarks.
Petra nods. “Absolutely! This is Conrad…”
“It’s plane to see why Petra looks up to you!”
Edgar allows himself a brief chuckle at Henry’s pun.
“And, uh… hello, I don’t know who this is or how long she's been here.” Petra says, glancing at the woman stood with her friends. The woman waves at her.
“The name’s Quincy. I was in the last battle, I’m just here to meet Petra and her friends. If that’s OK, Pet?”
“Uh, sure?” Petra says. “I do prefer Petra, though.”
“Oh, I’m sure you do.”
“Well, pleased to meet you. It’s always a pleasure to talk with new recruits. I can see the kernels of excellent soldiers within you all.”
Conrad raises an eyebrow at this, but doesn’t comment.
“You think I have what it takes?!” Petra says excitedly, her voice rising up until it is almost a squeal.
“I think I’ve trained you well enough, yes. Your performance in the last battle was admirable.” Edgar replies. “What are you all doing out here this morning, anyway?”
“Well,” Petra says. “The boys here didn’t believe that I was one of your best students, and they weren’t in the last battle, so they wanted to meet you-”
“I wanted to stay in bed.”
“OK, Conrad wanted to stay in bed, but Henry wanted to meet you and find out for sure!”
Edgar looks at the fresh-faced recruits before him, and grins.
“Hmm. Yes, Petra is one of my finest students. The last time a student showed as much promise as she did… that was a long time ago.”
“Who was it?” Henry asks.
“He joined the air force because his father had been a pilot, though he was killed many years ago.” Edgar says. “He flew through the ranks, mastering the art of flying and using impressive and quick strategies to take on any and all opponents. Soon he became an ACO, and soon after… he became the CO of Green Earth’s air force. You know him as Eagle.”
Conrad chuckles. “You think Petra’s got the same talent that Eagle himself showed?”
Petra, who moments ago was hanging on to Edgar’s every word, is now looking hurt. She gulps, but says nothing. Quincy gives Conrad a vicious stare and flips him off, but she’s stood behind him, so he doesn’t notice.
“I do. Is that such a stretch?” asks Edgar.
“She’s still a kid. We’re all kids.” Conrad replies. “That’s why I’m not putting effort in. We barely know what we’re doing - barely out of high school, the lot of us, and we’re expected to fight and die for our country. We’re grunt soldiers. We’ll get killed whilst the COs stay safely out of harm’s way, giving all the orders.”
“Conrad!” Henry says, shocked.
“Ooh, that’s a bold statement to make to one of Green Earth’s Old Guard.” Quincy says, giggling.
“It’s true.” replies Conrad. “If you give Petra false hope that one day she might become a CO too, what happens when it never happens? When she gets shot out the sky? What’s the point in me putting effort in when there’s no hope of promotion and every day could be my last?”
Edgar remains silent for a few moments, musing on Conrad’s words. Eventually, however, he speaks.
“Is that what you believe, Conrad? Wholeheartedly?”
“Yeah.” Conrad replies, giving Edgar a surly look.
“You’re entirely correct.”
Conrad’s eyes widen; he wasn’t expecting that answer.
“If that’s what you believe, then that’s your truth.” Edgar says. “The military’s job is to fight for their beliefs, or the beliefs of their country. As such, your beliefs become a part of who you are. They determine your trajectory through life. If you only ever think of yourself as a grunt soldier with no opportunities, then you will die as a grunt soldier with no opportunities.”
Edgar faces Henry, Quincy and Petra now, eyeing them intently, and giving them no option but to stare back in quiet awe.
“However, if you see a better life for yourself, that becomes your beliefs - that becomes what you fight for. Henry, Quincy, Petra… your truth is different to Conrad’s. You see the path upwards - to become higher-ranking soldiers, and truly devote yourselves to your country. Continue following that path, for it is the easiest way to avoid your untimely end one day in the future.”
Petra nods furiously, trying not to yell out in excitement, and controls herself just enough to give Edgar a thumbs-up. Henry smiles gaily at the older soldier, evidently appreciative of the advice. Quincy is playing with a die, rolling it along her palm, not listening.
“Conrad, think on what I’ve told you. I meant what I said earlier - all three of you have the makings of an excellent soldier. That includes you.”
Conrad stares balefully at Edgar, trying to make sense of the advice. Eventually, he nods meekly and slinks off.
My beliefs, a part of who I am? ...Maybe I am the one determining my trajectory through life...