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Michael’s hands ball into fists. The anger flashes hard and quick across his beautiful face, like lightning streaking across the sky. Blink and you might’ve missed it. The General said that for one reason, and one reason only. To see my reaction. Both he and Sonja look at me after his little announcement, but I give no reaction. Good girl. My inner annoyance beams. Sometimes she’s good to me. It isn’t easy, but I try really hard to hide the shock on my face. Sonja and the General continue to watch me from the corner of their eye. I think they’re finally satisfied with my non-reaction as the weight of their stare lifts. The General continues to talk; unfortunately, all I can hear is: after having sex with Brianna, playing over and over in my head. So many emotions play across my mind. I think even my inner annoyance is confused on how to feel. I go from shock to betrayal to anger. Finally, I settle on jealousy. I have no right to be jealous. Michael no more belongs to me than I belong to him, yet there it is, showing its beady little green eyes. No pun intended. Griffin pops into my head. I really want things to work out with him. If that’s going to work the first thing that has to happen is not concerning myself with what Michael does. Next thing I know, the General’s done talking and everyone is getting up. All the inner dialogue I was doing with myself I missed the fucking briefing. Shit.

I follow suit, trailing Michael to Comm to get my phone. As if what happened in the briefing isn’t enough, I have to walk up and see Brianna standing there with Michael. Her arms are wrapped around his waist, although this time Michael isn’t being flirtatious like the last time I saw them together. His arms are relaxed at his side, not returning her affection. Two guardians walk up to Comm, causing Brianna to let go. She steps back immediately. Guardians scare the shit out of everyone. It takes a special kind of fucked-upness to become one of them. The only ones not afraid of them are Michael, the General, and Sonja. The guardians are the in-house enforcers of the Collective. Their job is to contain, transport, and dispose of company operatives that are caught doing anything the Collective deems treasonous. Kind of like Internal Affairs for the police, except on a whole other level. Internal Affairs don’t torture, maim, and kill you for coloring outside the lines. If you see them coming around the corner, it means your time on this earth is over. I don’t come any closer. I do not want to be anywhere near them.

Standing next to Godfrey, I ask, “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know, brown sugar. I guess we watch and find out,” he replies.

And that’s exactly what we do. Watch as the whole thing unfolds. Brianna looks at Michael with such betrayal and hurt on her face.

“Michael, what have you done?” She asks as the guardians get closer to her.

Michael says nothing as we all watch the look on her face turn from betrayal to fear. I will never understand how he walls off the parts of himself that allow any normal human to feel compassion for another human being pleading for their life. You have to be one cold son of a bitch. I refuse to believe he was born this way. I’m constantly asking myself what happened to him in his life to make him so cold. He spent the night with this woman. She confided in him her deepest darkest secrets and desires and still he looks at her as if she were no one. As if she’s. . . nothing. Honestly, it hurt to hear he slept with Brianna, but I could get over that part. That’s the job. I get that, but the way he ignores her pleas for life strikes me at my core.

The guardians grab her forcefully. She struggles as any prey would trying to escape a predator with its teeth buried deep within its flesh. She’s fighting for her very life. The beefier of the two guardians, the one standing closest to Michael, pulls his gun, aiming it squarely at her temple. He brings his finger to his lips, making the shushing motion. It’s creepy. Brianna immediately stills, focusing on Michael again.

“You promised me, Michael,” she says, narrowing her eyes at him. “You said I could trust you.”

Whatever promises Michael may or may not have made to her were null and void as soon as he knew she was a traitor. I understand that about him. That’s all he cares about. Nothing she says now will save her. The guardians begin to drag her away. Still, Michael doesn’t react. He doesn’t turn to watch them cart her off. Not even when she screams his name one last time.

“Por favor, Michael, não quero morrer. Não quero morrer, por favor,” is the last thing I hear her say from down the corridor. She’s saying she doesn’t want to die.

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