The military base was lifeless at night, eerily silent and spooky. The Humvee engines broke that stillness as the wheels skidded to a stop in the gravelled assembly point, the only lights coming from the spotlights shining down on us from the roof and our vehicle’s front lights. Being here, even for a short while, I knew that there were soldiers walking the perimeter.
“Go clean up and try to get some sleep. If it helps, think about a blank, black space to help clear your mind,” Murphy mumbled as he and Neo got out. Kingston glanced at us with a small smile, telling us the same thing. Echo nodded before teleporting us to the dorm.
“You want to go for a shower first?” He asked as he grabbed my towel. Sighing, I took it and pecked his cheek. His arms came around me, holding me close.
“I don’t want to be alone right now with my thoughts. Shower together?” He chuckled lightly, kissing my forehead.
“I don’t think I can be alone either.”
Showering felt good, the grime being scrubbed away with the invisible blood coating my fingers. The hot water warmed up our trembling bodies as we huddled under the steaming stream of water. Slowly, I was getting used to facing Echo, no longer worrying about the scars on my body or the way it was smaller and less defined than his. When our eyes made contact, that went away when his hand came to rest on my cheek before he kissed me. He was soft and gentle, holding me close as the water rushed over our heads and shoulders. It was a moment meant to last.
Once our shower was done, we changed into our pyjamas and dried our hair as we walked side by side to our area only for us to stop in our tracks. Kylie was sitting on the edge of my bed. She too had recently gotten out the showers, her ginger curls lying flat and sticking to her cheeks. Her eyes lifted, their colour no longer a light blue but bland, metallic grey, pupil ringed by silver.
“Hunter, is it really you?” Her voice was hoarse, most likely from the screaming and crying from the whole ordeal she went through. Narrowing my eyes, I nodded, tightening my grip around my towel. Echo stepped forward, his calm, happy face turning into a scowl.
“If you’re thinking about causing trouble, you might as well leave.” He growled, leaning ever so slightly forward, cold drifting off him in sheets.
“I-I’m not. Hunter, I thought you were dead! After they got you-”
“You what?” I snarled, calmly stepping forward, touching Echo’s arm so he would back down, but even though he was behind me, he still gave off his cold aura. “Whatever you are about to say will not change the level of hate I have for you. That night they came for us, you were the one to push me into them to save your own ass. Don’t play nice when even in school you were a two-faced bitch.”
As if a switch had been lifted or a coin dropped, the pitiful expression changed to a sly smile. Kylie sat up straighter, her shaking hands coming to rest in her lap as raw confidence and cunning began exuding from her. Matching her smile, I crossed my arms over my chest, tilting my chin up as electrical currents waited for orders over my skin.
“Nothing could get passed you. You were just one of those who never could be made a pawn in someone else’s game, right Hunter? Or should I be saying Alpha?” She clicked her tongue, standing up and walking up close to me. “Life must be better here than back home for you not to come back. Maybe that’s a sign I should just stay and take that precious name of yours away, hmm? That seems like the best solution to put you in place.”
“You won’t be able to. By the colour of your eyes, you are a low classed elemental and won’t be able to handle life here or even take on that name,” Echo stated, his eyes flashing as he grinned. “Why don’t you go find somewhere else to sleep since you are clearly not wanted here?”
Kylie growled, stomping her foot as she glared at me before storming passed, shoulder bumping hard into mine and an electrical current being sent to her. She pulled away with a yelp, fastening her step to get away from us.
“I don’t even feel like going to sleep anymore...” Sighing, I fell back on my bed. Echo chuckled lowly, taking our towels and hanging them up on the hooks before coming to sit by my head, his back against the wall.
“Tonight, itself is a reason I don’t want to sleep,” Echo mumbled as I turned on my side and rested my head on his thigh, his hand coming to delve into my hair. “Rooi, she’s lucky. Her attention was on one man and she ended him quick, no blood. You and me, we... The word doesn’t even want to come out, it’s a bad taste in my mouth with just the thought.”
“Maybe we should think of it differently? We can’t doubt ourselves or linger on it, it will mess with us mentally, eating up our thoughts like acid. Alpha team and Tango, they have done this so many times and yet they smile and laugh with us, how do they do it? I think they leave the unknown as unknown so they don’t question their judgement and lose the hold on their mental states. Tonight’s Op with its unknowns needs to stay that way.”
“They are soldiers, Hunter. We are kids.” Echo seemed to deflate at that, his posture no longer being straight as his hand slipped down to rest on my neck. He sank slowly until his face was buried in my chest and my arms were wrapped around him as his were around me. In that silence, I studied my hands. They were clean, spotless but for some reason that was not good enough. They needed to be scrubbed until my skin was red, only then would they be clean of the blood spilt tonight.
Soldiers. They were people who willingly enlisted for this type of stuff nowadays. Their instructors would break them down and piece them back together with the needed traits to suit their new found job. Drilled into their fragile minds that if you ever go into battle, there are only two ways out - To kill or be killed.
We were just kids thrust into a position of safety and power that no one could imagine or describe. Here, we breathed clean air without the threat of being kidnapped. We trained like the men and women here but we were not like them, we did not get to call ourselves soldiers in the free, light tone new privates did. We could only say we were fighters and if the guy running this base did not have a fighter of his own blood, I would still be stuck with Damian in that forsaken mansion.
Looking back, in the silence of the dark dorm, how would have things panned out if the Pulse had not come through our town? Would I still have been at home or shot up by a druggie in a parking lot? Would I have met Echo by chance again? No. All of those answers were no because this was my present, not a possible future. Tonight’s actions would not disappear with the constant what-ifs flooding my mind. It would be hypocrisy to think like this when I told Echo not to.
There was only now and now I was holding someone I cherished, someone who was also hurting and disgusted with his actions. I could sense the heavy cloud hanging over us all. Everyone, even though they didn’t kill, was feeling it. What if we hadn’t done it that way? Maybe we went too far? Was it worth the life of the ungrateful Gifted sharing our quarters?
“Hunter.” Echo’s mumble barely could be heard. His hands were scrunching the back of my shirt into his fists. “Are we soldiers now or are we murders?”
“I don’t know yet...”