Recruit is a story set in the Tyme universe
Artwork by Samuel Pray, created using Daz3d, Photoshop and Filter Forge
“You’re cheating!” Yvonne snarled, her jaw tight as she rolled back to her feet. Sand crunched, shifted and settled as she moved back onto the balls of her feet, her hands gripped around the slender metal banded wooden staff. A gentle breeze carried the heat across the sands, the distant sounds of voices mingling with stray grains of red sand, the clash steel, wood, and bodies from others practicing their craft. She knew this place as well as she knew her home and considering that her home was no longer a place of welcome, that wasn’t that surprising. “Fight fair!”
“You know I’m not cheating.” The response a calm one as her opponent watched, waiting until Yvonne was ready once more. A pair of ice blue eyes narrowed, small furrows appearing across his brow. “Focus on the fight, on the moves and stop wasting your time and breath on insults.”
His words, she knew they made sense, but her anger, the need to beat him, slashed through common sense. She let out a sharp breath. Sweat beaded across her skin, her muscles tight beneath the slight padding of the practice gear. Not that the padding saved her from carrying bruises by the end of the day. Bruises, cuts, swellings, she didn’t care about those, only getting through the training, making it into the final number, really mattered to her. “I’m just tired.” An excuse and she knew it. A warrior had to learn to push past fear, past emotions, past anything that might stop them from completing their task. She’d had that one drummed into her for as long as she could remember.
“You’re letting your anger get the better of you again. Never wise in a fight, little sister. You know that well enough by now. Let go of your emotions and remember the moves, let your body answer and not your mouth.” His voice never changed, remaining calm - as if they were sitting at the breakfast table and not dancing as warriors. “Give yourself to the training, your muscles know what to do.” He moved again, striking once, twice, three times in quick succession, sending Yvonne tumbling back over the sand, her head ringing from a blow that had caught her across temple. A glancing blow, thankfully, or she’d wouldn’t have had a chance to recover. “Fight back, little sister.”
Yvonne twirled the staff slowly, her gaze never leaving Yacuab. Anger flared back into life, giving life to words she new better than to utter. “You cheated and you’re cheating now. It’s the only way you could have pulled that move on me.” Yvonne spat the words at her brother, knowing them to be a lie. Back down, don’t give into anger, into pride, or into fear. It’s not going to help. She shifted her grip on the staff, took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Fight. She had to focus on the fight. All of her training, all those years fighting with her brothers and then the formal training with instructors had taught her that, yet he could still push those buttons within her. “Damn it! Sorry. I’m sorry, okay. I know you’re too honorable to cheat.” The code of the warrior. If the testers had been present, she’ have failed for calling her brother a cheater when he’d done nothing wrong. “Sorry. I’m sorry. Shouldn’t have said that.”
“No, you shouldn’t have done so, but I expected it.”
How did he expect it? Yvonne bit down on her bottom lip. Her brother had seen battle off world. He wasn’t just a trainer, but a warrior with first hand experience. He knows that there’s no such thing as cheating in a real fight. Once you’re outside of the circle, when you’re fighting for your home, there’s only the winners and the dead. Her father would take the belt to her if he ever heard her utter such a thing. It went against everything she’d ever been taught. Honor, the code, the path of a warrior, they were all a part of the life she wanted, the life she needed to claim as her own.
“Have you calmed down, little one?”
“Stop calling me that!” A child, yes by law she was still a child, but it didn’t mean that she had to like being reminded of the fact. “I’m not some silly little kid stumbling onto the sands for the first time.” And if she wanted them to believe that, she had to get her temper under control once and for all. “For Mars’ sake will you stop pushing me.”
“It’s in his name that I push.” Her brother, twenty years her senior and a long time instructor, arched a red touched eyebrow. “You have to learn how to shut out the verbal assaults during a fight, Yvonne. If you lose your temper in the middle of a fight, you will have lost the fight and perhaps your life.” He set the end of his staff against the sands. “And if you would complete your training then you need to learn to keep your temper under control.” He leaned against the staff, his gaze fixed on Yvonne. “You know this and yet you continue to struggle with the concept.”
“Then perhaps it’s time to rethink your decision.”
She turned and tried to stalk away to the far side of the training sands.
The blow caught her without warning, striking a path down from her left shoulder to her right hip. She grunted, turned, bringing up her staff. Wood and metal clashed, she swore, spat, turned, defended and attacked. Sweat stung her eyes and she howled as a blow caught the fingers of her left hand. Yvonne darted away, shaking her hand out before her hands tightened on the staff, anger bubbling, rolling through her body until it knotted her stomach and back alike. This wasn’t what she wanted. The testing for camp fast approached and as it stood she’d never make it through the entrance requirements and then what? The sun beat down, drying the sweat that had formed when she’d been caught up in the fight. Her limbs shook, not with fear but threatened exhaustion. They’d been at this since before dawn and still her brother showed barely a hint of the wear that pulled at her muscles. With a snarl she turned and marched to the edge of the sands. “I have to be do this. I can’t fail. Why can’t he understand that?”
“What makes you think I don’t understand, Yvonne?” His voice came from directly behind Yvonne.
She flinched, straightened and pushed a stray lock of her unruly auburn hair back from her face. “You have to stop doing that.”
“And which ‘that’ do you mean this time?”
She frowned. Had there been a sigh behind his words? A hint of understanding. She shook her head. How could he be so calm? They’d just spent two hours on and off training and he didn’t even sound out of breath. Was it the training, his experience, or just the fact that he was so much older? She licked her bottom lip, buying a moment before answering. “You’ve got to stop this creeping up on me, especially now. I need some damned space, Yacuab!”
“You won’t be granted any space or time to yourself if you enter the training program,” Yacuab explained even as he reached out and placed one strong hand on her left shoulder. “It’s time you began to understand and accept that. If you make it, then you will share space with at least twenty others in the dorm, you’ll shower together, eat together, sleep in the same room, sometimes two to a bed and you will train together. The only time you will get on your own is if you’re sent to solitary for breaking the rules. This is a part of the process and you will adapt or you will fail and be kicked out of the program.”
Yvonne growled, muscles tightening under her brother’s grip. It didn’t help that she knew he was right, or that he was taking time out of his own work in order to help her train. “I don’t understand why they do that. I need my space every now and then.” Why am I saying this? I don’t exactly get space at the house - and that was a part of the problem. “Look, it’s not that I don’t appreciate what you’re doing for me.” She did. More than she could express. The testing was hard, everyone knew that and most of the men and woman who took the tests, then failed them. Ninety percent of those who made it into the program, then washed out and once you were out of the program you couldn’t worm your way back in. Your only option was one of the hill people training camps. Training that wasn’t regulated in the same way and washing out of their training was done on your back, your body shipped home to your family with a broken wooden sword on your chest - and that’s if you were one of the lucky ones.
No, she had to make it into the formal program and then stay in.
“Warriors of Mars have to find their peace within, not without. You need to be able to reach it at any point, not just when you’re alone, and in the silence of a lonely, empty room, or locked in meditation.” He paused, tipping his head slightly. “What it does is teach you to focus only on the skills you have, the training and to also rely upon the warrior at your side. Your comrades in arms who will continue to fight with you, at your side and sometimes against you in the pits, until their last breath. This is the path you want and yet the girl I see before me isn’t ready for the tests.”
Maybe I’m not cut out for this? “Yeah, yeah, I get that but - but I don’t… shit, I don’t know how to explain this.” Not ready. She had to be ready, there was no way around it, she couldn’t face another year, or two, or more living with her step-mother.
“That’s because you’re still a child, little one.”
Little one. Of all the things he called her, that irked the most. Sure it fit. She was younger than him and shorter by almost two feet but that would change. She hadn’t finished growing yet - at least that’s what she told herself every time she realize just how short she was compared to the rest of her family. It didn’t help that she was the only daughter in a household of seven brothers, her father, a step-mother, and two uncles. Surrounded by warriors, training with male warriors since the day she’d been old enough to stand, and still she struggled with the simple things of controlling her temper, shutting out the words thrown at her during a fight and focusing only on the task at hand. “I should be better than this. With everything I’ve been exposed to I know I should be able to handle all of this.”
The grip on her shoulder tightened, turning her around with a sharp tug.
“Hurts. It’s supposed to,” his voice cold, gaze focused. “You’re still a child, Yvonne and you’re not ready to take the challenge. Not when you only get the one chance and you’re doing this for the wrong reason.”
“I’m old enough to do it!”
“Only according to tradition.” He shook her hard and fast before he let go. “So physically yes, you’re ready. Emotionally - that is another matter entirely.”
Yvonne gasped, half lifted from her feet. “But I…”
“Yes, I know - I was fifteen and passed the test, completed the training but looking back I was too young. I scraped through many of the classes, and it wasn’t until one of the instructors took me to one side and beat the crap out of me, that I finally realized what I needed to do. Five weeks in the infirmary - five weeks to get myself under control, but I pulled through.” He rubbed his left hand over a thin scar that ran along the left hand side of his jaw, barely there now but she’d seen him rub it when he was trying to find the words he needed in order to get his point across. “What I’m saying is this. Thirteen is too young, the average age for the test is seventeen.Most don’t even apply until their nineteen and with good reason.” He leaned in close, his breath hot against her face. “You have no control over your temper, over your emotions in general, and there hasn’t been a child of your age enter the training in over fifteen centuries and for good reason. It takes focus to control emotions and not be controlled by them. Something that rarely occurs in one of your scant years.”
“Then I’ll be the first!” She could do this. She had to do this. One more year in that house, the baby of the family, always being told she was too young, too small, too much of a child, a failure, less than the rest, was more than she could take, let along another four years. “I’m better than everyone else in my class. You know that, you’ve seen that!” He’d succeeded and so would she. So, he’d been two years older and maybe he’d had to spend that time healing up in the middle of the course but…What if he’s right?
Yacuab sighed and released her, stepping back onto the sands. “Yes, you are but that doesn’t mean that you’d survive the training there.”
Survive. What a joke. No one died in the formal training program. Not in generations. They were civilized now. If she wanted to face that type of risk, she’d go to the hill tribes and ask to be named and numbered among them. “I’d manage.”
“Is it really that bad at home?” He rolled out his shoulders, his body strong, lithe muscle that spoke of the long years of training, of work as a warrior and so much more. Yacuab raised one hand to his temple, the hand marred by a dozen thin silvery scars that he’d never taken care of - though they would be simple enough things to have removed. “Do you really feel as if the training program is the only option for you?”
“His wife wants me gone. I look too much like our mother.” Red hair, the beginnings of curves, dark eyes, one hundred percent Marian blood line, unlike the step-mother with her traces of off world, out of system blood line. “She keeps trying to get him to agree to send me off world, to some stupid academy.” Academy. A lie. She wanted Yvonne gone. It wouldn’t be so bad if Serena had suggested a place on Valhalla, but no it was some out of system, not tied to Mars in any form, academy where she’d learn discipline.
“There are other options,” her brother moved away, stepping off the outer ring of the sands, where under normal circumstances there might have been watchers. Beyond the final ring of heartwood to the polished stone and wood benches. “Come, little sister. We need to talk.”
Talk? What good would that do her? She cast a glance up at the skies, watching the rolling clouds, the color of the sky and the darting, diving, swooping flight of raptors. They were free, able to follow their hearts and their instincts. They kicked out their young from the nest at an early age, encouraging them to fly, to seek a home of their own, whilst she remained, trapped by a father who had no time for her, and a step-mother who saw only the features of a long dead rival. “Talk - all you want to do is talk.” She scowled, folding her arms beneath her breasts and glared at him.
“No, not all - but with you sometimes talking is the best thing and this time I hope, truly hope, you will listen to all I have to say.” He patted the bench next to him. “It will go easier if you sit for a time. Your body has had enough exercise and a little rest with some water and conversation would be a welcome thing. Even if you’re not ready to believe that right now.”
She couldn’t deny the need to rest and at the mention of water she swallowed. Her mouth and throat were dry, fighting and exercising under the sun, with the wind carrying sand to beat in her face and eyes, filling her mouth at times - well, water would be a welcome thing indeed. Yvonne nodded once, bit back her pride and walked over to join her brother. “Fine, I’ll listen.”
He waited until she was settled before speaking again. “She fears you will be exactly like your mother.”
“Of course she does.” One man, two wives - it had been an odd situation at the best of times but only because of the tension between her mother and her step-mother. Poly relationships weren’t unheard of, and there certainly wasn’t any social stigma or legal issues associated with it, but in their case there had been a constant tension between the two wives. Originally, before Yvonne had been born, there’d been a second husband in the mix, but according to stories he’d died off world in a fight against the Ontourian Raiders twenty-five years ago. Without that extra husband, the struggle over her father had begun. “I look too much like her, so every time she looks at me she sees my mother. That’s not going to change anytime soon.” In fact it would become worse. The older Yvonne became the more she looked like her mother. Even her hair sat the same way, with identical highlights and the flecks of color in her eyes had grown to match the images she still had of her mother in her bedroom.
“It’s more than that, little one. You match her in attitude and though our father would never view you in a sexual manner, she fears that your appearance will encourage him to look for another wife.”
“And that’s my fault?” Her hands curled into fists. “I didn’t ask to look like her.” It didn’t stop the tension. They couldn’t even speak in a civil manner anymore. “She hates me and I have to get out of there. The training - it’s the only chance I have.” Yvonne pushed back her hair, trying to tuck it back into the braid and headband combination that was supposed to keep it out of her eyes.
Yacuab shook his head. “No, there’s another way. You could enter a program off world and…”
“No, that’s what she wants. She wants me far away from here, off world, out of system. I can’t do that!” Yvonne snapped.
“Listen.” A sharp word. Something she rarely heard from him.
Her jaw set. “Fine.”
“The one she suggests wouldn’t work, but there’s an option that would work and would keep you within the system - and put you at the forefront of a new program.”
That caught her attention. She frowned, watching his eyes, searching for some sign that this was a trick. “What are you talking about?”
“Kayala of Chronos offered me a post to train cadets. With that comes the chance to place three students from Mars, three students I’ve worked with, all under fifteen, who would be willing to serve as a part of the new Elite System One Defense force if they successfully complete their training.” Yacuab touched one finger beneath her chin, lifting her gaze. “You wouldn’t be treated the same as everyone else in the program. I’d have to be twice as hard on you as anyone else because of the blood tie. There would be no days off, no weakness, and I’d cease to be your brother there. I’d be your instructor, your commanding officer, and I will push you harder than you can ever imagine.”
Her heart skipped a bead as a cold shiver ran down the length of her spine. “Elite Defense Force?”
“Kayala wants a combined force, representing all five worlds, so we will never be vulnerable to the Raiders again. This training program, it’s only the beginning - it won’t be easy.”
No, it wouldn’t be easy. She swallowed hard. Leave Mars, leave her family and turn her back on the training program here. She nibbled her bottom lip and stood up, turning slowly as she looked around the sands. Chronos - another world entirely - training with others from the five worlds. Working to serve Kayala of Chronos to defend their system. A chance to learn so much more than was offered here, but she’d be turning her back on tradition at the same time in order to carve a new path. “I couldn’t be among the name and numbered warriors of Mars.”
“No,” Yacuab admitted.
“Have you chosen the others?”
“When do you leave?” She forced herself to look at her brother.
Yvonne, daughter of Mariana and Byron, child of Mars, lifted her gaze to watch the soaring raptors, their bright blue wings catching the sun. For as long as she could remember, she’d watched the birds claim the air but if she left with Yacuab how long would it be before she could stand on the sands and watch them again? This was her home but what if something more, something better waited for her on Chronos? Something she was meant to do…
“What time do we leave?”