"Lieutenant Travis Brennan." Hearing my name called, I make my way to the front of the small auditorium. Taking three steps up onto the stage, I walk directly over to my Captain. We salute, and he extends his hand for me to shake.
"Congratulations Lieutenant Brennan. We're proud to have you on our team."
"Thank you Captain Thompson," my only reply as he hands me a certificate which states that I have successfully completed specialized training and have been inducted into the Militia Hunter Special Operations Unit.
I step forward, salute, then shake hands with Major Jones. He is the man in charge of all Hunter Special Ops Units or HSOU.
"Thank you Sir."
He steps forward and pins a HSOU badge to my chest and continues, "I've heard great things about you Lieutenant, graduating first in your class in all areas of training. Talent like yours is hard to find. We'll definitely be keeping a special eye on you Soldier."
"Not for long," is my first thought, but I respond with, "Yes Sir. Thank you Sir," instead.
I make my way across the rest of the stage and return to my seat, but not before seeing my mother and sister's smiling faces in the back of the room.
The Colonel makes some more comments and brings things to a close by congratulating our unit as a whole and dismissing us to go spend the rest of the day with family and friends who came to cheer us on. I shake hands with my fellow graduates. Joining any Special Ops Unit entails a grueling training regimen which involves pushing one's mind and body beyond what most would consider reasonable limits. Many don't make it. In fact, our class started with fifteen soldiers, yet only six of us completed the program. Those that didn't make the cut are sent back down to general duty and placed according to skill level in a job that best suits their skills.
I feel a strong pat on my back, then a hand grip my bicep as Jay Sanders, a fellow graduate, pulls me into a congratulatory hug. "We did it Bro. We fucking did it! Can you believe this shit?"
As I return the hug I reply, "You're welcome Sanders. We both know you couldn't have done it without me."
"Yeah right," he responds, chuckling as he pushes me back. "Just because you're a freak of nature with your above average hand to hand combat skills, doesn't mean I can't take you Brennan...in your sleep!"
Sanders is a good guy and the only one I would consider a friend. I've purposely distanced myself from everyone else since our motives for being here are obviously very different. Sanders and I met our first week on base and bonded over our twisted sense of humor. He's definitely the jokester of our unit, but he's also the most real of the bunch. I don't see him as the kind of guy who gets his rocks off chasing after innocent girls who've gone on the run to escape a life of breeding, like these other clowns, and that's why I have my suspicions about why he's here. At this point, I trust him with my life, just not with my secret. That's for me to know and me alone.
I look up from him and see my baby sister Grace and my mom coming towards me. Grace has a huge smile on her face, "Congratulations Shithead!"
As I pull her into a bear hug I say, "Uh, that'll be Lieutenant Shithead to you Squirt!" I kiss the top of her head and look to my mom who joins in the hug.
"Congratulations Travis!" She pulls back and looks me in the eyes, "Graduating top of your class. I'm so proud of you." I might believe she actually means it, if I didn't notice how her smile fails to reach her eyes.
Six months ago when I told her I was joining the Militia, her initial response was, "No Travis. Why?" So I gave her some bullshit story about how I wanted to make something more of myself and be able to better provide for her and Grace. I also played on the fact that in High School, testing showed I had a strong aptitude for thriving in a highly structured environment. She didn't buy it then and even less so when I called after boot camp to tell her she wouldn't be hearing from me for the following ninety days or so since I would be training for a Special Ops Unit.
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