The training ground was quiet under the midday heat. In a few hours students would stream forth to pit themselves against the obstacle courses, the track, and the Sergeant’s endless drills. For now it was abandoned save for a single figure staked out in the middle of the yard. He had been stripped down to his underwear and strapped spread eagle to a narrow wooden x. Kirt closed his eyes against the glare and the ache of the light careful not to adjust his back too much against the wooden support. He could feel the buildup of salt on his forehead as sweat beaded and dried. He open his eyes as the sound of feet crossing the gravel path reached him.
“You could have waited until dark fell,” it felt as if his mouth was coated in sand. “He probably won’t actually kill me until after dinner.”
“This is barbaric.” The hard sharp words, or maybe it was the rage in them, felt like rain drops against Kirt’s face.
“No, you played a prank last week and this week you questioned the First Captain’s authority by asking sensible questions. It doesn’t make sense to send in our infantry unless they want a slaughter, which they might if you take the famine into account. They are going to kill you for that, Kirt. It’s insane.” Kirt didn’t even try to lift his head as he listened to his best friend’s tight tirade.
“To be fair that prank was dying the Sergeant bright blue,” Kirt coughed, the heat stinging his throat. Edan growled and stepped up close to the X. A water bottle was held to Kirt’s mouth and he took small quick sips careful not to spill the precious water.
“You’ll have permanent damage from this even if the First Captain decides to be lenient and take a hand instead-you’ll never be able to serve. This ends you. I’m not standing for it.” Kirt could see Edan’s eyes burn and felt a chill sweep over him.
“They won’t let you get away with defying the First Captain. Not now. Your father hasn’t acknowledged you. Edan, there won’t be any turning back from this.” It was easier to speak with the water in his throat, but his head was also working better. It still took him a long moment to understand why his friend had stepped close. Kirt’s body sagged off the X as the restraints holding his left arm went limp.
“Good, I don’t intend to.” Edan’s voice was harder than Kirt had ever heard it. Instead of rising panic, a laugh bubbled out of his throat.
I’ve been robbed, maybe-probably-definitely, read Machete Diplomacy’s work Momo and Bek’s Good, Bad Plan The legal thieves had to use the line “He probably won’t actually kill me until after dinner.” somewhere in their story.