Work has started on the third installment of the adventures of Captain Brett Savage and mathematical savant / drunk Zora Matthews. Readers who were wondering what happened after the end of the second book will be pleased to know that the answer to that question is something. Definitely something.
Those not familiar with the series might first want to check out the first chapters of Military Discipline Book One, and Military Discipline Book Two at the links embedded in the text. Those who want to see what probably happens at the beginning of Military Discipline Book Three are invited to read a bit of this draft. Please note, it is a draft, so don’t hate my face if I’ve spliced commas or accidentally left a recipe for brownies in it or something like that.
Also, on a side note, it tickles me immensely that if you go to Amazon.com and type ‘Military Discipline’ into the search bar, Savage’s Recruit is the first result – right above actual non-fiction novels written by serious military types about actual military discipline. But I digress.
Oh, but just before we start, it occurs to me that the title of this post could be construed to mean that the title of the next Military Discipline Book will be Military Discipline Book Three: Sneak Preview. I would love to title it that, but I’d never get away with it.
The sneak preview begins… now!
Freedom means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To Zora Matthews, freedom meant ‘not currently incarcerated’. It was a low bar to set, but her life had always been full of low bars. She was in many respects the limbo queen of expectations. Some people would have been depressed by that, but failure had never depressed Zora either. Failure was to be expected. Success, now that was something worth worrying about.
Sitting on a saggy, lumpy, generally dilapidated mattress, Zora was about as happy as she’d been in a long time. She and Savage had their own apartment. It was clean and very tidy, but dingy. Scrubbing pads and cleaning products could only get surface dirt off. Much of it had sunk into the paint over the years in smears of grease and dirt that gave the place an ambiance of slow decay.
Zora itched her back where the scratchy green woolen blanket pulled drum tight across the mattress had touched her exposed skin. Savage made the bed that way every morning with the same precision. In much the same way the dishes were done after every single meal: washed, dried and put away in the cupboard missing half a door. Thanks to Savage, there was order in the ghetto.
Their subsistence lifestyle didn’t allow for many treats, but that evening she’d managed to sneak away a little something to reward herself with, something that was stuffed into the back of her waistband, something she planned on getting into when she had a moment to herself.
Just as she finished adjusting her little prize, Brett Savage, Savage as she still called him in her mind, exited the bathroom after his shower. The towel wrapped around his midsection left his upper body pleasingly bare so she was treated to the sight of his hard abdominal plane moving in rhythm with his steps. You could have used him to teach an anatomy lesson, he was that well defined. His hard jaw was clean shaven and his dark hair was cut in a close crop. Even half naked, he still looked like a military man. It couldn’t have been more obvious if the word MILITARY had been stamped across his forehead.
“What are you looking guilty about, Matthews?” He inquired in a low rumble as he pulled his underwear on, following that with a pair of jeans. Clothing designed to not be noteworthy in any way, shape or form.
She grinned. “I’m not looking guilty. I’m happy to see you.”
A thick dark brow rose at her. He always knew when she was lying. He seemed to have a second sense where she was concerned. Of course, he had a second sense where almost everybody was concerned. Savage’s instincts were second to none. Zora wouldn’t have been surprised to discover that he could out-sniff a sniffer dog if he had to.
He glanced at the hand that she’d left behind her back, the one checking to make sure her hip flask was well secured. Savage had been the one to declare their freedom, but that hadn’t stopped him from imposing limitations on her behavior. The one he was strictest on was the ingestion of alcohol.
Zora liked a drink. She liked several drinks. She was perhaps a slight alcoholic, but she figured everyone had flaws. At least she was a functioning one.
None of those rationalizations flew with Savage. He insisted she go dry and she sort of did most of the time. There had certainly been a complete dearth of binges in recent months. The most she’d managed was a few sips at a time, just enough to whet her palate.
She knew she was caught before he actually came over and demanded to know what she was hiding. He held out his large hand, snapping his fingers back towards his palm in an impatient gesture.
“Hand it over, Mathews.”
“Hand what over?”
He didn’t reply, not verbally anyway. The crease between his eyebrows deepened just a fraction. That was enough.
She reached around and pulled out the flask, showing him the gleaming silver. “Isn’t it pretty?”
“Zora!” Savage exclaimed, surprise and disappointment both tinging his tone. “Where did you get that?”
“I liberated it,” she explained. “With freedom.”
He snapped his fingers again. “Unliberate it. Immediately.”
Zora’s lips formed a pout. “You’re being snappy. I don’t like it when you’re snappy.”
“I don’t like it when you break the liquor ban,” he said, reaching for the bottle.
Zora snatched it away and bared her teeth at him.
“Savage!” She mimicked his outrage. It was not a wise move, but she was beyond wise moves. Trouble wasn’t on the horizon, it was thundering overhead.
“Young lady, you are headed for trouble.”
“I am not, I am teaching you about freedom,” she said. “You don’t know how to be free, that’s your problem.”
He made another attempt to recover the bottle, but she took evasive maneuvers, rolling off the bed and onto her knees and forehead, curling around the vessel like a prickleless hedgehog.
“Freedom means being able to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it!” She shouted her message at the carpet.
“That is not what freedom means,” Savage disagreed, applying a hard slap to her bottom.
She yelped and tried to squirm away, but she was unable to locomote very far owing to her forehead making a very poor transit surface.
“You hate me for my freedom!”
He snorted. “Zora, fair warning. Hand it over or face the consequences.”
“That wasn’t a warning,” she said, quite correctly. “That was a vague threat.”
His hand connected with her bottom at speed, the power of his muscled arm transferring through her cotton covered flesh with ease.
“Was that too vague?” He asked the question, but she didn’t have to answer it, on account of it was rhetorical and she was too busy yelping anyway.
His hand came down on the back of her neck, holding her in place as she began to break position, her bottom arching up as she tried to escape. He slapped her cheeks again, catching her across the middle of her backside. The slap echoed around the room, quickly followed by a cry of distress.
“You may take my drink,” she shouted as she abandoned the bottle in favor of scurrying away as fast as her hands and knees would take her. “But you’ll never take my FreeeddddDOOOMM!”
Unfortunately for Zora, Savage was no longer interested in the bottle. He was interested in tanning her disobedient hide. Before she got a few feet she was arrested by his arm looping around her waist. A moment later, his hand began to fall like hard rain against her bottom, leaving her a squirming, squealing mess.
She should have known better really. Savage had never been a man to give quarter, and he certainly gave none as he spanked her into not quite submission.
“Okay!” She wailed when she’d had enough. “I’m sorry!”
“You are not sorry,” he said, reaching down to push her hair out of her eyes. “Your bottom is sorry, that’s about it.”
“My ass speaks for me on this one,” Zora replied, breathing heavily. The altercation had taken it out of her, as it always did. Struggling against Brett Savage was always futile. He always got what he wanted. Always.
Fortunately for her, he seemed to be in a forgiving mood. He allowed her to turn over onto her back, protecting her bottom for a moment. His hand rested on her stomach as he gazed down at her, shaking his head.
“When are you going to learn?”
“A quarter past never.”
Sighing, he stood up, helping her do the same.
“So,” she said, watching as he bent and swept the bottle up from the floor. “You going to get ready for work?”
His response almost less pleased than it had been when he caught her drinking. His brow furrowed, his eyes fell into a glower and a certain tension filled his frame. Savage was not a man built for minimum wage. Oh he could do dirty, tough, tedious work for little reward, but the daily monotony of ordinary life was too much for him. He was a man born for action, as suited to the fray as a tank was to a battlefield. Sending Savage out to deliver pizzas was akin to taking a Panzer to the grocery store. It was a matter of being extremely overpowered for the task at hand.
‘We’re free,’ he’d said. And they were free – in the way scuttling rats are free. They were free to run, free to hide, free to do their best to keep their noses clean and avoid coming to the attention of any authorities.
“You hate it, don’t you,” she said sympathetically. “This isn’t a life, not for you.”
“It’s fine,” he said, clamping his jaw hard as he shed the towel and began to get dressed. It was quarter to ten at night and he was about to go out and do the graveyard delivery shift. It was the only job that had been going spare – a job nobody wanted because it was just as dangerous as a military incursion, but without the hazard pay.
“I thought I was supposed to be the one who said things were fine when they’re not?”
“Drop it, Zora.”
She stopped talking, largely because it was pointless to say any more.
He was already shrugging on his hi-vis delivery vest, complete with pizza logo on the back. It was an incredulous look that she would have laughed at if he wasn’t so miserable, and if she wasn’t so certain that it was all her fault. If they’d never met he’d still be a decorated officer, he’d still be protecting his country. If not for her, the world would probably have been a much better place.
She sat back down on the bed, resting her elbows on her knees and her chin in her palms. The most depressing thing wasn’t their shitty apartment, or the dubious neighborhood, it was her. Just her.
“Be back at the usual time,” he said. “Keep the door locked.”
“Sure,” she agreed.
“Hey,” he said, getting her attention.
She looked up at him and he reached down, cupped her chin in his hand and pressed a kiss to her lips. “Cheer up, Matthews,” he winked.
She tried for a smile as he left. It fell off her face as soon as the door shut behind him.