The class ended by midday, around the time that all remaining training sessions came to a halt and recruits poured into the mess hall for their brief moment of rest before gun practice, night patrol, and inspection. Arkadios had missed his third combat practice of the week, but he suspected that the drill sergeant coughed up some excuse for his teammates so he wouldn't have drawn too much suspicion. He wasn't the only recruit missing certain sessions now, but their class time varied each day and his friends had given him strange looks.
After what happened in the engine room of the Indomitable, most of the ruckus around the facility tempered a bit, the shock having passed. Yet when Arkadios walked through the corridors and to the mess hall, it seemed that something else had stirred the usual status quo into a gut wrenching, eery silence around the students.
He looked from face to face. He didn't know many names, but he knew faces better than some would think, and each one was the picture of confusion and discontent. The mood in the mess hall – still crowded as usual – mirrored this.
Arkadios felt especially unnerved by the mood, particularly when Remus walked up to him and gripped his arm.
“Arkadios,” the turian breathed out, as though he was gasping for air, “Where have you been? Sula and I have been looking for you.”
Dodge questions, Arkadios, he remembered and said, “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I practically ran around the mess hall looking for your barefaced useless self!” Remus' grip tightened.
He ignores the pain surging in his forearm. “I'm sorry, Remus, just – what happened? You like you want to hurt something.”
“No,” he said grimly, “But Sula might.” He pulled Arkadios from the mess hall and all but dragged his teammate to the medical station located at the other side of the facility, near the combat grounds. There was a small crowd composing of Red Team members camped at the entrance of the medical ward. Usually, after the first half of training segments of the day were completed, the medical ward was open to the recruits in case any accidents occurred, but now, as Arkadios noticed upon arriving, it was locked off.
Sula was the first to catch sight of her brother and her missing team mate. “Where have you been? I practically searched the entire facility for you!” she screamed.
Arkadios understood Sula far better than her own brother did, and knew better than to inflame her anger as it turned impractical and hysterical. Sula's temper was a rare thing that came to light. And when Arkadios looked down at her, a sense of panic ran up the line of his spine.
“Spirits, Sula...” Remus breathed, seeming far more calm than Arkadios ever expected him to be.
Sula eye's narrowed. “You really don't know? That thing attacked Pax and now he's in the medical ward. They won't let me see him, Arkadios!”
The cluelessness that was best fit on Arkadios' face returned and he stood silent. He glanced between the two siblings, praying for one of them to begin making sense, though that proved to be pointless as Remus remained focused on his sister's madness and Sula only continued to spew profanity with every word her brother said.
Sula mouth flew shut when Arakdios reached out and grasped her firmly, looking less anxious than she was. “Sula. Tell me what happened to Pax,” he pleaded.
“He – she, that witch!” Arkadios shook her, unintentionally, and her mouth fell shut again. She took a moment to breath and continued. “We had combat practice today – but you know this – and Remus and I were paired with Flex and Ashria whilst, typically, Yellow Team's leader went up against ours. She went against Pax, Arkadios.”
“Her name's Solona Vyrnnus. You know, that one.” Remus adds and Arkadios ignores him.
“Yes, yes, but what happened to Pax, Sula?”
“I don't know,” she screamed. “But I'm going to slit her throat, I swear it. One moment she and Pax were sparring, Pax got the upper hand and she stumbled back, but still struck him. Then he...he just fell to the ground! He was so lifeless, Arkadios.”
She's panicking, Arkadios thinks, being a little too obvious despite himself. It's then when he realizes why the drill sergeant appointed him leader for that combat session. Undoubtedly, Pax was the sort who was capable of swaying hundreds of men under his banner and into war with just his voice and promises, and along with the charisma he was born with, he would've proven to be uncommon amongst the traditionalist military generals of the past, but still a good one. Pax was loyal too, perhaps so loyal that he might have acted the same way Sula was if there was another in his place. On the other hand, Sula would be a poor leader. She was curious and out worldly in ways that Arkadios couldn't grasp, but her passion played well into her emotions and whatever happened to Pax was the first showing of it. Even Remus would prove to be a better leader than Sula ever could, given time and the chance.
With his teammates in a state of confusion and anger, Arkadios felt empathy for Solona. He wonders if she has no idea as to what she's done – or perhaps didn't do – and if Sula caught sight of her...He preferred not to picture it.
After no news for nearly an hour after mess hall was over, Red Team remained there until a doctor came through the doors. Arkadios was the only one to notice the blue blood against her gray cheekbone. It stood out like a black dot on a white wall.
The doctor looked startled, but she wasn't entirely unnerved by the team. “I'm assuming you are all a part of Red Team? You should be at your bunkers; there'll be a late night inspection.” she said, seemingly calm.
Her words fell deaf on Sula's ears. “Where's Pax? What's happened to him?” she pleaded. Remus had a hand around her forearm to keep her in place.
The doctor's eyes skimmed at each of their faces. She hesitated. “I...." Arkadios knew that hesitation, but he didn't speak. Sula didn't need to hear it, not from him.
“Pax Tyrion is dead.” voiced an armed soldier. The turian appeared from behind closed doors, also leaving the medical ward.
“What?!” Sula screeched. This time, it was Arkadios who held her back, his arm looping around her waist and another on a hand trying to reach out and hurt something.
“Your team leader...” the solider said, briefly glancing at Arkadios before continuing, unaffected by Sula's anger, “Is dead. He was in critical condition and he wasn't saved.”
Arkadios nearly let go of Sula as the girl surged forward again, trying to snap out of her friend's hold on her. If he had, he knew that Sula's talons would have been ripping at the soldier's eyes in a wave of fury and disbelief. "Let me go, let me go, Arkadios!" she begged and screamed.
Sula continued to try and break free until her arms fell limp at her sides and her body felt dead in Arkadios' grip. She stopped screaming, he realizes. Slowly, he let go of her and she pathetically stumbles into her brother's comforting hold.
“What happened?” Remus demanded, but he doesn't look up from his sister.
The soldier doesn't flinch. “He died.”
“That's not what he's asking.” said Arkadios. The turian took a step forward towards the soldier. Neither look away from each other.
The elder, battle scarred turian stood unafraid amongst the recruits. Fledglings, Arkadios thinks, he sees us as fledglings.
When the turian speaks again, he's still looking at Arkadios. “The cause of your squad-mate's death is...undisclosed, at this moment.” Before he turns to the doctor and whispers into her ear, he scans Arkadios one last time, and disappears behind closed doors once again.
The doctor pities them in her shy and polite gaze, but doesn't voice her empathy. “Return to your quarters for the day. You will be excused from all remaining classes.” She pauses, and spares a maternal glance at Sula, whose silence leaves a numb feeling. “You will be...debriefed tonight by the drill sergeant. His family has been notified, and please, do as I said.”
The word 'debriefed' is something Akradios suspects the soldier used, but her last words were the doctor's own. She says nothing more, and only nods her head, unsure, and returns to whatever occurred behind the closed doors of the medical ward. Remus doesn't carry his sister back, but she leads them slowly back to their rooms. And what's left of the coming evening is spent in silence as Arkadios remains slouched against Sula on her bed, and Remus does nothing.
Pax is dead, he thinks.