“Is it odd to be up here?” Christine Booker’s heels on the catwalk announced her presence before she spoke. Grant turned to her with an easy parade rest. “Ma’am.”
“At ease. I hear you won’t be saluting me much anymore. Congratulations on the promotion.” She’d ignored the formalities Grant often insisted on. “So is it odd?”
“Somewhat. But I expected the change; even before I joined.” Grant looked down. The gym was an expansive setup with a track, specialized courses and combat rings. Up above those, balconies and catwalks interlaced in a perfectly engineered spider web. The suspended walkways allowed the higher ups, trainers and handlers to watch their charges.
He’d run it so many times Grant would place money on his ability to do it eyes closed. The floor was almost empty, a few agents in the corner talked and stretched while another stored away equipment. It was the small figure, currently balancing between horizontal bars that kept his attention. Just off the mats three men watched the child, two in suits making notes and the other shouting commands. She was being tested.
Christine followed his gaze. “They’re starting them young now. You know the age?”
“Nine. Been in training for two years now, if she passes the Eval I’ll get the rest of her file. But any little girl can pass a gymnastics test.” He frowned ever so slightly at the distant test. The girl arched from the bar coming down in a tight shoulder roll. Ice blonde hair slipped from her ponytail as she came up into ready stance.
“You’d be surprised what two years of round the clock training can do. Not every agent started as a soldier who didn’t play nice. ” Christine said. She didn’t need to punctuate the comment with a look. She’d read his file a long time ago. Instead she watched the test move to the next task.
Grant reminded himself that he was no longer working for her and thus didn’t have to hide his reaction to some of her more pointed comments. “They are giving her older brother to someone more experienced.” He flicked a look at her.
“My Agent went and got himself promoted, I needed a new one.” Christine smiled, the expression crinkling the lines at the corners of her nose and mouth. “It’s a good thing; you’ll make a decent handler.”
Grant’s jaw tightened. He’d never liked the term handler; it made him feel like a horse to be gentled. “I would have preferred a soldier, not a child.” He said bluntly. The thought of dealing with tears and then teenage dramatics made his frown deepen.
The test facilitators brought the girl and her trainer closer to the combat rings until they were nearly under Christine and Grant. With only a nod from the suited men the trainer darted forward, attempting to grab the girl. Without a sound the girl danced under his grab, slipping below his arm and behind him. She waited then, still and ready on the balls of her feet. Her trainer spun, this time striking out with a wide swipe. That she dodged too, face blank.
“Children here don’t stay children very long. You’ll get your soldier.” Christine said. Grant couldn’t place her tone, but she sighed and stepped away from the railing before he could muse over it. “Congratulations Grant. I’m glad you got out.” She finished.
He nodded. “Thank you.”
Christine smiled and left. Grant went back to watching his future charge.