Before I decided to start at the beginning of Nate’s and Adelie’s relationship, before I took everything to the peaceful and sweet town of Meadow Junction, the main setting was a space station. The United Space Force was in constant conflict with their enemy, the Corporation. And Nate and Adelie weren’t fresh-faced, innocent cadets, but seasoned fighters with a generous amount of PTSD. I might have abandoned this story for now, but as you can see, some things carried over to Meadow Junction: Classic diners and assholes who don’t take women seriously. Read how Adelie puts Private Hensley in his place below.
Johnny’s diner was a favourite among the little USF squadron of Emerald One. It was a little malt shop in one of the side galleries of the Galactic Crossing, Emerald One’s recreational zone. Even though the sun would never shine in the space station, friendly red and white striped awning hung in front of the large windows, with a few tables below. Inside there were red leather benches behind silver aluminium tables on chessboard tiled floors. Behind a big red counter, Johnny himself welcomed visitors. He was an older gentleman with a white beard, friendly blue eyes and a respectable pot belly. His pancakes were the reason why the pilots flocked to the place every morning, at the end of the night shift. As Adelie had excused herself to the bathroom, Nate took to the counter, to order two of Johnny’s famous breakfasts. A group of recent arrivals stood there too, fresh-faced privates, who hadn’t encountered the cruel reality of outpost duty yet.
He didn’t pay attention to them, as hunger and worry were fighting for a premium spot in his stomach.
“Morning Johnny, two of your special breakfasts please. One with extra blueberry pancakes. You know her tastes.” He winked.
“Coming right up, Lieutenant. Coffee?”
“You are a mind reader.”
“You look like you need one.”
Stirring the sugar in his coffee, he let his mind wander to what would probably lie in their near future.
“Hey, aren’t you the guy with the girl commander?” A brash voice interrupted his thoughts. Looking up, he saw a young man, brimming with confidence, clearly looking for trouble.
“If you are speaking of Commander Klaiber, then yes.” Nate tried to keep his voice as flat as possible, but could see the bystanders already flock around them. Bored soldiers loved a good brawl.
“Dude, how humiliating it must be to take orders from a woman.”
“I can assure you that it isn’t different from taking orders from a male officer. Listen kid, I’m not in the mood. If you are wise, you leave me alone.”
But the young private wasn’t wise.
“I’ll bet she has slept her way up to get that rank, no girl can be that good to become commander.”
Some of the bystanders who knew Adelie and Nate, inhaled sharply. Someone muttered: “Boy, Hensley, you just signed your testament.”
Nate placed his coffee cup carefully on the counter, and turned around to face the young man. The look in his eyes made some of the bystanders take a step back.
“What did you just say?”
His voice was hard as steel, the muscles in his jaw taut.
Hensley stood his ground: “I’ll said she must be a slut, no girl can be that good to become commander.”
Before Nate could introduce his clenched fist to the jaw of the insolent private, a voice, clear as a church bell and sharp as a knife, cut through the breathless silence in the diner.
“You have interesting theories about me, Private.”
Nate stepped back to observe one of his favourite spectacles: Adelie reprimanding people underestimating her. She sailed through the crowd like a Dreadnought with all cannons out, people respectfully making way before her.
“I heard you are interested in knowing how it is to take orders from a woman. You are in for a first hand experience. Attention!”
Her voice cracked like a whip, and not only Hensley snapped automatically to attention, but all of his comrades too. Nate chuckled into his coffee.
“Thomas Hensley, si– ma’am.”
“So, Hensley. You assume that I slept with my superior officers to get better evaluations?” She stared at him with amber eyes glowing mercilessly. Hensley swallowed, tiny pearls of sweat growing on his forehead.
“I’m listening, Hensley. Is that what you think?”
“And why do you think that?”
“Because a woman can never be as good as a man in this job.”
“I see. Do you want to know what really got me this rank, Hensley? It was not my ability to navigate a spaceship. Or my endurance in physical tests. Can you guess what it was?”
Nate had found it always fascinating that a charming, warm hearted, generous woman like Adelie had a glare that unnerved even seasoned fighters who had experienced their fair share of hell. It was no wonder that Private Hensley was close to peeing his pants.
“N-n-n-o, I can’t, ma’am.”
She stepped back and walked slowly around him. “Thought so. Because you young ones have absolutely no idea what it means to be a soldier.” Turning back to face him, she sized him up, which made him visibly uncomfortable. He obviously had realised that he was about to experience the whole nine yards from somebody who went through hell and lived to tell the story.
“You think it’s just a game, and who ever reaches the high score first wins. This, Hensley, this here is not a game. Before you know it, you will be wading through ankle deep blood, seeing your friends die left, right and center. You will not sleep for days. A confrontation with the Corporation means that you have to forget that there are any rules, because the enemy gives a damn about rules. You’ll have to accept that you did things during fighting you will never be able to tell your mother, because she would turn away in horror. At night you’ll dream about the shrieks of your friends and see them die slowly in a blaze of gunfire. You will learn to shut up that voice in you, that persistently tells you that you are a murderer. I got that rank Hensley, because I’m good at killing. Killing other human beings so that they don’t kill my comrades or me. I don’t have to prove myself to a little shit like you. Now get out of here before I report you to your superior officer.”
Nate watched with barely hidden amusement how Hensley and his friends scrambled out of the diner as fast as they could. Adelie climbed on one of the bar stools next to him, poured herself a cup of coffee and mumbled under her breath: “Stupid kids.”