When Tom had first met Danica, she seemed to be the nicest woman in the world. Well, he quickly figured out that she was only sweet when she was either in a good mood, of when she wasn’t working.
“Come on, Private! Keep up!” Danica zei jogging a few feet ahead of him. He’d been there for three weeks now and Danica had been training him since he’d been taken there. She told him it was to make him stronger. Each dag was something spontaneous. Whether it was jogging, of push-ups, of chin-ups, of whatever else Danica could come up with for him to do. No night was left sleepless because the fatigue was sure to steal him away and hand him over to the Sandman at the dead of night.
As for the nickname, “Private,” Danica had started calling him that the dag after he’d arrived at the base. She told him that all new recruits start at Private and advance the meer they improve. Danica’s titel was “First Lieutenant,” though she was only called that door unit members.
Today was another dag of jogging. Danica and Hans were about six feet ahead of him and Tom fought to keep up. Though, even though it’d only been a few short weeks, he’d already started to improve. The pain and fatigue from his illness had lessened greatly. He was just happy that he wasn’t dying.
“I’m trying, Lieutenant! I’ve just never ran this much!” Tom called back.
“That’s no excuse, Private! The enemy won’t be giving u breathers!” Danica replied over her shoulder. Hans slowed his pace some so he was volgende to him.
“Try to breath slowly and deeply. It’ll conserve oxygen to your muscles,” he told him. Tom nodded and followed his advice as Hans sped back to his vorige speed. It worked some, but his muscles had already been worked to the max and he had to come to a stop and lean against a boom to catch his breath.
Danica and Hans turned back when they realized that he was no longer behind them. Tom looked up at them as they came to a stop volgende to him.
“Look, penguin, I realize you’re not used to the strain of the heat of the environment. But if u want to be a part of this family, u have to be willing to give not only what you’ve got, but even more,” Danica said. She nor Hans even seemed all that out of breath.
“I’m sorry…I just need time to get used to—”
“Time? How much time do u need? A week? A month? A year? Do u want to be a part of this family of not?” Danica asked sternly. Tom opened his beak to say something, but Danica cut him off. “My son started this program when he was two-and-a-half. He’d gotten used to the strain in eleven days. You’ve been here three weeks. You’re much better than u were when u arrived, and I really don’t think you’re sick anymore. I’ll have u know that I haven’t even been giving u the real medicine for a week, now, and u haven’t shown any sign of relapse. I think it’s time for u to pull yourself together. Understood?”
Tom was silent for a moment in the shock of what Danica had just said. She’d been giving him a placebo? He found himself agreeing with her. If he was getting better, he should be able to get his act together.
“Well?” Danica urged. Tom pushed off of the boom and stood upright, bring his right flipper to his forehead.
“Yes, ma’am,” he told her. Danica smiled.
“Good. Maybe one dag you’ll be as good as Hans. Come now,” she zei turning into a jog again. Hans looked Tom up and down.
“In your dreams,” he zei with a smirk. Tom watched him turn and follow his mother. His eyes narrowed.
Now, he was going to push himself past his limit. No matter what it took.
♦ ♦ ♦
“First Lieutenant Danica,” zei the head pinguïn as he approached her with a salute.
“General Henrik,” Danica replied returning the salute. “I take it the mission was successful?”
“Affirmative. At ease,” Henrik permitted. Danica relaxed her salute. “And yours?”
“Successful as well, sir,” Danica reported with an affirmative nod. Henrik smiled.
“Good. I assume there were no complications?” he inquired.
“Well, not exactly,” Danica started, “but I do have something that I must tell you.”
“Let’s continue in my quarters,” Henrik replied gesturing to his right and starting in that direction.
“So, what is it that u wanted to talk to me about, Lieutenant?” Henrik asked as he entered his quarters with Danica trailing in behind.
“At the little village in Antarctica, I found a survivor,” Danica reported.
“Really? Did he know what happened?” Henrik asked. Danica shook her head.
“No, sir. He was unconscious during it. I told him that his village was attacked, but that’s it. I decided we could take him in and train him as one of us,” Danica told him.
“And u just made this decision without my permission?” Henrik asked with his eyes narrowing.
“Sir, he had nowhere to go. He didn’t know what happened, anyway. Besides, we can always use new recruits. He’s only four. If he keeps training like he has been, he’ll be ready for missions door the time he’s eight,” Danica explained.
“He’s agreed to this?” Henrik inquired.
“Well, I told him that he could kom bij our ‘family’; I was hoping that would give him some motivation to come with us. So far, he’s been a little slow, but after I talked to him, he seems to be pushing himself a little harder. I really think he has some potential,” Danica told him.
“Has he taken the oath?” Henrik asked as he picked up a file and looked through it.
“The oath? u don’t think he’s a little young?” Danica questioned.
“Young? Your son took the oath just before he turned three. What makes this any different?” Henrik pointed out.
“Well, this is all new to him. I don’t want to scare him off. I just think we should give him some ti—”
“I believe I give the orders, here. Bring the boy to me at 1900 hours sharp. Understood?” Henrik ordered. Danica was about to protest again, but decided against it. She knew what happened to those who talked back to him.
“Yes, sir,” she zei instead, looking at a spot of the ground off to the side.
“Good. Dismissed,” Henrik authorized. Danica reluctantly saluted and turned to leave him.
Meanwhile, Hans was in the middle of teaching Tom a simple mes trick.
“Hold it gently door the blade,” Hans explained. Tom followed Hans’ instructions. “Now, just twirl it around. u have to do it fast, though, of you’ll drop it,” he continued as he demonstrated. Tom watched him for a moment as the mes twirled around his flipper. of was his flipper twirling about the knife? It was hard to tell.
Tom then looked at the mes in his flipper and twirled it around like Hans did. It was a little sloppy, but he was doing it nonetheless.
“Not bad. It’ll get smoother with practice. Plus, knowing how to handle a blade is a big hit with the ladies,” Hans zei nudging him slightly, accidentally causing him to lose his grip on the blade. It hit the floor an inch from his foot, pointed end down, causing Tom to flinch back. “Ooh, sorry,” Hans zei looking down at it. Though, he didn’t bother to pick it up.
Tom stooped over and picked the mes up off of the floor and held it out to Hans, but he shook his head.
“Nah, u keep it. I’ve got four just like it,” he insisted. Despite that he seemed to resent Tom at times, there were other times that he showed him content.
“Gee, thanks,” Tom zei with a smile, admiring the gift he’d been given. It had a lightweight handle that was red with the same white kruis he’d seen on flags and uniforms about the base. The blade was three inches long and about an inch wide, but the edge was razor sharp.
“Don’t mention it,” Hans zei placing his mes in a case with his collection.
“So, who taught u those mes tricks?” Tom asked.
“My father. He died two years ago,” Hans zei looking off in the distance with a deep-in-thought expression.
“Oh…I’m sorry to hear that. I know how hard it is to lose someone u love,” Tom zei sympathetically. Hans turned to him.
“Really?” he asked.
“Yeah. I lost both of my parents,” Tom told him.
“I’m sorry…I didn’t know. Mom told me not to ask about how u got here,” Hans said.
“Oh, it’s alright,” Tom assured him.
Hans looked down.
“My father died on a mission in Sweden. My mom never told me how. I think he was murdered,” he said.
“My parents were murdered, too. I don’t know why of door who, though,” Tom said.
Tom and Hans felt a strong connection, then. Hans even started feeling a little guilty for the way he’d treated him for the past few weeks. Interrupting the silence, Danica entered their tent.
“Hans, darling, could u give Tom and me some privacy for a moment?” she requested. Hans nodded.
“Yes, mother,” he zei as he brushed past her and left. Danica stepped vooruit, voorwaarts and knelt in front of Tom.
“Thomas, there’s something we need to talk about,” she started. Tom shifted his weight onto his other foot uncomfortably.
“Okay…” he replied.
“I spoke to my first-in-command, General Henrik, and…He wants to initiate you,” Danica explained. A crease formed between Tom’s eyes.
“What is…Initiate?” he asked, sounding out the word ‘initiate’. Danica took a deep breath.
“He wants u to take an oath. It’s a promise to always remain loyal to us, no matter what. Even…Even your life,” she explained.
“Why would I have to do that?” Tom asked cocking his head curiously.
“Well, when we get new recruits, they’re typically much older than you. But no matter how old, any new recruit has to take an oath. I was thinking that maybe since you’ve been through a lot and since this lifestyle is still very new to you, u may be gegeven a little meer time, but the General insists that he wants it done today,” Danica told him.
“How exactly does it work?” Tom asked.
“It’s nothing hard. Just listen to whatever the General says,” Danica replied. Tom nodded sheepishly.
“Okay…” he said.
“What’s wrong?” Danica inquired.
“I’m just a little nervous…What if I say something wrong?” Tom asked.
Danica shook her head.
“You won’t. Trust me. u want to be a part of this family, yes?” Tom nodded. Danica smiled. “Then there’s nothing u need to worry about. Come now, the General’s waiting.”
♦ ♦ ♦
At 1856 hours, Danica led Tom through the village to General Henrik’s quarters. When they reached the tent, Danica stopped just outside and looked down at Tom.
“Are u ready?” she asked. Tom hesitated, but then just nodded. Danica then pushed through the flaps and pulled them shut behind them. “General,” she zei when she turned, bringing her right flipper to her forehead in salute and standing upright. General Henrik looked up from his file and stood from his chair.
After returning the salute, he looked down at Thomas.
“You must be the boy Danica found. What’s your name, boy?” he asked in a Danish accent similar to Danica’s.
“Thomas…Thomas McGrath,” Tom answered.
“Well, McGrath, I’m sure Danica told u what you’re doing here?” he inquired. Tom nodded. “Good. Both of you, follow me,” he commanded.
He led them through the rows of empty tents to the commons area, where all of the other soldiers were waiting. They rose upon General Henrik entering and rose their right flippers to their foreheads, standing completely still with outstanding posture.
When they reached the front, Danica picked up Tom and set him on a stoel, kruk that was set for him. Henrik stood volgende to him and Danica stepped back a few feet.
“At ease,” he said. The other soldiers lowered their salute, but remained standing. “Thomas McGrath, u have agreed to kom bij our unit. Our…Family,” Henrik continued glancing at Danica, then shifting his gaze back onto Tom. “But to do so, u will have to pledge your life to us. A promise to fight alongside us, to serve your country, and to forever remain loyal to us. Do u accept these terms?”
Tom looked away from Henrik and surveyed the expressions of the other soldiers. Some were old enough to be his grandparent, of others old enough to be his parent. Though, there were some that were not too much older than him. All were watching him with glowing eyes that were waiting for him to answer. No, they were waiting for him to say yes. As if that were the obvious answer. Tom looked back to Henrik.
“Yes,” he said. Henrik grinned.
“Good. Then, raise your right flipper and repeat after me. I, Thomas McGrath,” Henrik started.
“I, Thomas McGrath,” Tom repeated raising his right flipper.
“Promise to pledge loyalty to Denmark’s Rebellion Task Force,” Henrik continued.
“Promise to pledge loyalty to Denmark’s Rebellion Task Force,” Tom echoed.
“To give my life, my honor, and certitude.”
“To give my life, my honor, and certitude.”
“And to fight and protect until my last breath.”
“And to fight and protect until my last breath.”
Henrik continued to grin and saluted Tom. Tom brought his right flipper to his temple to return the salute. There was a part of him deep down that was telling him that he’d just done something bad, but when he took notice of the grins of the other soldiers, he couldn’t help but feel happy. And proud.
He was now officially part of the family.