Accolade – Chapter Five

Maverick Gracian

Paradise, Galatia

“Another hike down,” Maverick sputters after choking on some water. He leads the way as his team exits the sim complex. Maverick’s shirt clings to him because of how damp it is, and streams of sweat pour down his forehead conveniently into his eyes. He finds a nearby wall and slides himself down it into a sitting position as he catches his breath.

“Well, that weather was new,” Anne Fletcher moans as she sets herself down in the grassy area between Maverick and the building which houses the sims. Twenty-seven Stalwarts all collapse between Maverick and the sim, littering the ground. Countless small puddles of sweat form around each kid as they pant, desperate for more air. Sylvia lightly lowers herself near Maverick on the wall. Offering him a slight smile, she joins him in watching the others writhe on the ground.

“I always imagined the view would be so much nicer,” Sylvia starts, Maverick can tell she wants to talk about something other than the weather by the tone of her voice, and the fact that she had been frazzled all day.

“Me too. It’s too bad they made it rain on us like they did today though,” Maverick replies, deciding to let her lead the conversation where she wanted it to go. He knew that she would bring up whatever it was that was bothering her when she was good and ready. If you tried to force her into revealing anything, she was more apt to shut you out entirely.

“I’m tired,” Sylvia adds, scooting close enough that her shoulder brushes up against Maverick’s. Maverick stiffens for a moment, caught off-guard, but he quickly regains his composure. After a beat, Sylvia adds, “That rainstorm really put a hitch in things.”

“Yeah, almost lost Meghan in that mudslide,” Maverick points out as he lowers himself enough that Sylvia can rest her head on his shoulder comfortably. We finished several hours early, He reasons to himself, Might as well let everyone rest. Even if it’s just for a few minutes.

“That was scary, for sure,” Sylvia agrees with a nod. Seeing that Maverick had repositioned for her, she then rests her head on his shoulder. Maverick was the only person she had ever felt comfortable enough around to get this close to.

“Yeah,” Maverick lets out a comfortable sigh, happy the sim was over, and happy to have Sylvia by his side. This feels right, He catches himself thinking as he realizes he was pretty worn out as well. Now, if we weren’t slated to be thrown to the wolves, it would be even nicer.

“So…” Sylvia pauses, evidently unsure how to continue. Maverick waits and feels her temple and jaw flex on his shoulder as she thought. Sylvia’s thinking face is definitely one you couldn’t forget. Her lips would pucker as her eyes would just slightly squint and eyebrows furrow. After several seconds, she cautiously continues, “What do you think you’ll do when we are outside the walls?”

“Minus stay alive?” Maverick starts, chuckling at his remark. He pauses a moment, and when Sylvia doesn’t laugh, he continues in a more serious tone, “Well, I was thinking that since we wouldn’t have the Warden, out there, we might have some more freedoms, so I’d do some things I’d wish I could do in here.”

“Like what?” Sylvia asks with a yawn.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe find a home, love, something corny like that. What about you?” Maverick hopes Sylvia didn’t catch his throwing ‘love’ into the list, since she would undoubtedly ask who he liked. Some days Maverick felt certain that Sylvia had feelings for him, like he did for her, but others he really couldn’t tell. Well, then again, being direct could be a solid way to tell her. Definitely more effective than skirting around it every day, Maverick thinks. He takes a steady breath and speaks up, “I was thinking I might, if you were up to it, I might—well… we might, you know… be a couple?”

Maverick waits several moments for a response, and then realizes Sylvia must have fallen asleep while he was talking. Awe, great, there goes that attempt, Maverick thinks discouraged, he continues to himself on a brighter note, At least she missed it. That was rough. Maverick scans the wall between the compound and the outside world for several moments, taking in its razor wire, various armaments, and cracking concrete structure.

This particular compound had been around since before the Inundation, it had been some type of maximum-security prison back then. Most of the prison buildings still stood, serving as who knew what. Maverick and the rest of the Stalwarts were never allowed into the old buildings, just their barracks, the mess hall, and sim building. Maverick had watched several additions get hastily thrown up on the old buildings in his short time here. The additions were truly beautiful, and they shine bright against the near noon sunlight. Their polished black exterior stands in stark contrast to the weathered and mossy concrete around it.

Maverick often caught himself staring at what he could only reason was a hangar, it looks like a hangar, the only issue was its massive scale. The mouth of the hangar is easily wide enough to accommodate twenty of the Coalition’s large gunships. Maverick didn’t understand why they made such a large facility when there were only a couple small transports that came in and out every week. That being said, he wasn’t about to ask the Warden any questions.

Suddenly, a hovercraft shoots over the compound wall, far too fast, and too close to the wall to be any routine flight. Maverick stiffens up as he takes in its smoking port side engine, which appears to be ready to burst into flames. Small debris falls to the ground from the gunship’s port fan and engine. Somehow the craft’s pilots manage to keep the gunship’s flight fairly silent. This is a feat since even under normal operating conditions, they are quite loud. Maverick tries not to turn his head too much, as to not disturb Sylvia. He watches the gunship streak into the hangar, and sees the hangar’s doors silently slide shut behind it. Concerned, Maverick whispers to himself as he looks back to his group of sound sleepers, “Something has to be up,”

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