What everyone loved most about Commander Ramos was how she was always out there with them, shedding blood and sweat, getting scarred by shrapnel, exposing herself to toxic fumes, running headlong into battles, showing them that she would risk her own life for them and the dream of their future. It created motivational respect. They would die for someone who would die for them too.
She didn't fear the demonic machines, no matter how menacing each upgraded model evolved into being.
We have to keep moving. We have to keep going. They are nothing. We will win. We made them. We can kill them.
It was always we, and they loved it. Everything was possible with Commander Dani Ramos.
However, in the past few years, some fighters felt the ranks of the Resistance were losing their spotlight in the Commander's eyes. They were no longer her only prized possession.
All great militaries throughout the history of time have always had their heroes to be celebrated, those who sat at a general or king's table, so it made sense if Commander Ramos would reward a soldier or two with promotions and a seat at the war table, but Grace… she had not earned her place. At least, that's what many had whispered amongst themselves in envy.
Many knew the history: Grace was there when Commander Ramos was just Dani Ramos, but the fact that they had a pre-existing acquaintance did not justify, in their hearts, how the two women were.
It started off as jealous rumors, resorting to a toxic method to heal the sting in their morale, saying Private Grace Madison was working on her knees for her promotions and special assignments. They also said her performance in battle was exaggerated, saying she was nothing more than a below average soldier, averaging one terminator kill per every three battles. She was only good for wasting magazines.
Obviously this wasn't true: Grace carried her weight in battle, contributing heartily to the war effort. Her marksmanship precision and kill count was enough to rightfully owe her promotions. All that being said, it still didn't excuse the fact that Commander Ramos's eyes lingered longer on her than anyone else during military functions. Or how they traveled up her body.
Grace didn't care what they said about her, but she did rile that people had the audacity to speak ill of Dani. She got into a few brawls to defend Dani's honor. She had been punished for starting fights over this, and Grace would foam even more at her opponents, shouting how absurd it was for them to believe she was a recipient of nepotism when she received more administrative action.
But of course no one bothered to acknowledge that. It didn't fit their narrative. Especially not when the Commander started having Grace in her office for long periods of time with the door locked. Especially not when Grace would finally exit, closing the door firmly behind her, clear signs of breathless happiness on her face. The evidence of someone clearly satisfied.
Not when Dani forgot where they were for a moment while out in the field for a month-long mission, and kissed Grace just once, long after sunset.
Not when Grace started going on every mission the Commander went on.
They deployed together, ate together, and if caught at the right time, soldiers were sure they were sleeping together.
Those were some of the words soldiers used to describe Grace. They all knew Dani was human, so it would have been ridiculous for them to not expect the Commander to fall in love… but why couldn't it be with another officer? Why did it have to be the stereotype of low level enlisted with high ranking officer? Why did Grace think it was okay to use their Commander for her own selfish benefit?!
But the games and rumors stopped when it became real.
It wasn't funny or entertaining anymore when Grace shouted those words: "I volunteer!"
Bloodied and ashed, she repeated them frantically as she was brought back to consciousness, while the Commander still lay sleeping, quiet on a stretcher, her body doing what it could to keep her alive.
No one had volunteered. No one really wanted to, if you wanted to get the deep down human answer. It was too much to ask. A one-way trip to the past for a 50/50 chance of saving their Commander when she was just an average person, unable to assist them in battle… to leave everything they loved behind? Shamefully, everyone realized they didn't love Commander Ramos that much. But Grace did. They could see it now. It all hadn't been just a strategy to elevate her station or give her more security than the infantry grunts. It was because she did love her. The horrific procedures done to her body testified to that.
And the universe bore witness to every soldiers' shame the day Grace prepared to leave. The Commander had made a great recovery, but was still not fit for the field, so she did what she could from her office. Grace stepped inside and locked the door behind her, like usual.
Before, soldiers used to press their ears to the door, in an immature desire to eavesdrop for moans and declarations of love, only to further fuel their rumors, but now, everyone pulled away in sorrow.
All they could hear was crying.
Their Commander was weeping and Grace could be heard trying to shush her gently. Cooing words of comfort.
There was no way anyone was going to shake this memory from their mind.
Not after hearing their Commander sob quietly, muted every now and then by what all suspected were desperate kisses:
Come back to me. Find a way back to me. Please. Grace, please. Promise me you'll find a way! Please, don't go! Grace, Grace, no. Please, Grace, I can't! I love you! Please come back to me!
Grace paid a sacrifice no one believed she was capable of, they had spent so much time believing what they wanted her to be that they couldn't she what she actually was. Grace had earned her place at the war table, and now she sit at it.
After Grace had departed, the Commander seemed motivated, unphased- any sliver of her weeping completely dissolved. But everyone knew better. They saw the hollowness behind her eyes, reflecting her broken heart. But the Commander was holding onto something too… something to hold her off.
It was hope. Hope that Grace would show up again any minute now. If it was possible, that is. But with Commander Dani Ramos, everything seemed possible.