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Chapter Twenty

“Tango, you can’t just expect us to be okay staying here permanently. The soldiers hate us and these walls are starting to drive us crazy. We want to have things that they have, to be able to leave,” Victor argued as Tango watched us carefully, arms crossed behind his desk.

“What do you want?” He finally asked. “You have your own dorm, instructors and menus in the mess hall. Your life here is far easier than that of an average soldier.”

“We aren’t soldiers, we’re kids!” Rooi stated, stepping forward. “Our lives are not easy here. We are scrutinized for something we had no choice in. We can no longer live normally like everyone else here. We don’t even get to be treated like children anymore or have the things we had before so don’t go saying that our lives here are easier than that of the people around us!”

“We want music,” I stated, taking a step forward as well. “We want books too. Clothing that isn’t military garb but civvies. We want to leave the base on Relief Days like everyone else, have our own getaway if we can. And lastly, be treated like humans and not powered toys for the military.”

“To add, we would like a TV monitor placed in our dorm so we can keep tabs on the news. The other guys won’t allow us in the breakroom when we have time off.” Echo came to stand behind me as he spoke, arms crossed over his chest as an intimidating aura came off him. “Bring Alpha team if you feel like something will go down.”

“And where do you want to go?” Tango asked skeptical, leaning forward so his arms could rest on his desk. “There are only a handful of places close enough to be secured for your presence.”

“There is a small abandoned mansion about two hours away if Kingston’s phone was right. The place still has its walls fully intact and the outer brick walls are nice and high. If you bring a big enough generator, the entire electrical system will be up, including the electrical security wiring,” I explained. Tango took it all in with one nod before standing up.

“Be ready in an hour and we will go with Alpha team. I presume you will need to pack in your blow-up mattresses and sleeping bags. Pack for five days and keep in mind, only today will be your off day. Tomorrow, you will be training in unfamiliar terrain.”

We were halfway to the mansion when there was a distinct change in the environment. The terrain around the base had been mainly wild forest with hills surrounded by dirt roads and farmland. The change was slow in the beginning. The hills flattened, wild forest becoming constant and denser. The curious side of me wondered if Tango was looking at the trees for ideas on what to drill us on if he could see us running through the thick foliage to a target or being chased...

“Hey Alpha, how did you know about this place anyway?” Rooi asked, leaning forward in her seat so her head was poking over the back of mine.

“My memory is slowly coming back,” I said, rubbing the back of my neck as everyone looked at me. “The other day I remembered it then forgot until Echo brought up leaving the base for a break. It was a place we used to dare our friends to stay the night in since it had been abandoned due to the owner committing suicide, but it soon became unpopular since no one experienced any supernatural behaviour happen to them. It hasn’t been touched besides the rare ghost-hunting teen.”

“Must have been a private school thing,” Victor snorted. “We just dared each other to break into our school at night and mess up the teachers' classrooms, but some of the guys got a little carried away. Echo here was one of those who ended up spray-painting the lockers with elaborate designs. Remember that?”

“I guess,” Echo mumbled, leaning his head against mine as he picked up my hand and started playing with my fingers. “The principal gave up after the tenth time, allowing me to take on the redesign of our gym too once she found out it was me. I wonder how she’s doing now? Her kid was in that age bracket where epileptic fits and comas was an everyday thing.”

“I don’t know.” Victor tapped his knuckles against his window, leaning his head against the glass. In the rear-view mirror, Tango’s eyes danced between the road and us, keeping silent.

When we pulled up to the intricately made gate, everyone was on the verge of sleep or blatantly sleeping such as Rooi and Fox.

“Victor, Echo go open the gate. Alpha, I want you to give the electric fencing a boost before we hook up the generator Alpha team is bringing up,” Tango ordered. With a nod, we got out of the black van.

Victor and Echo managed to manhandle the gate open while I focused on the electric wiring topping the brick wall. There was a hint of life still running through the copper but barely enough to coax it back to its former beat. Concentrating, the electrical pulse within me slowly began stretching out, the glow of the sparks reaching out towards the wiring almost with a hungry want. My muscles began to twitch with the tension forming in them, becoming taut as the line connected with the wiring and a light buzz began to resonate around us. When I pulled away, the hum of electricity continued but the strength in my legs did not. If Echo and Victor weren’t there, I would have fallen flat on my back.

Tango drove the van past us, hooting so we would follow. Without saying anything, Echo bent down, gesturing that I climb onto his back.

“You overworked yourself, didn’t you?” He smiled over his shoulder. “Hop on.”

Returning his smile, I climbed onto his back, his hands coming to cup my thighs as my arms went around his neck, cheek resting against his slightly stubbled one.

“You two are going to make me vomit,” Victor joked, rolling his eyes as Echo fell in step with him.

“You’re just jealous,” Echo retorted with a smirk and amusement dancing in his voice as he squeezed my thighs. Snorting, I rolled my eyes, choosing to keep quiet and just take in the world around us.

The grass, as expected of an untouched property, had grown wild, pushing through the gravelled road we strolled on. Once pruned shrubs were now unruly, the general round shapes lost in tangles of branches and bird nests. Fruit trees were burdened with their fruit, some barely hanging on their branches and others rotting on the floor with flies buzzing around them. Under an oak, closer to the house, was a broken wooden bench, only its metal frame staying strong to the elements.

Coming closer to the mansion, you could almost see the original structure with its shining rails wrapped in vines, windows cracked but holding against the light wind, front door fancily done in curls of rusting metal showing off cobwebs in the afternoon sun. The wall’s chipping paint was hidden behind the untamed bushes.

The entryway opened up to a large space, a winding staircase leading to the second level. The inside, from what we could see, was smaller than what Damian’s mansion was, even bare it was comfortable.

“Hey sleepyhead, you up for some exploring?” Echo asked, leaning his head slightly against mine.

“Mmm, we should set up where we are sleeping before we tire ourselves out with securing this place,” I mumbled as he gently lowered me down so my feet touched the smartly tiled floor.

“We should choose wisely since I’m sure Tango will only power so many rooms and bathrooms,” Victor stated, hands on his hips as he looked around. “Maybe we should take over the family room?”

“Sounds good,” Tango said, startling us. “But I would like you to secure the building before settling. We don’t know if any deranged homeless are here too.”

“Yes, sir,” Victor said as a groggy Rooi and Fox came into the entry, rubbing their eyes. Shortly after, we had secured the mansion, making sure doors were able to lock, no evidence of previous human activity was shown and bathrooms were still linked to the water system. All rooms were left bare, any furniture taken away from the owner’s family.

The elements had chosen to stay outside for the meantime, leaving the inside warm and dry, a preserved image of an empty house. The top floor only had three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The study, kitchen, family area and dining room were all on the lower floor.

“Come look here.” Echo’s voice came from my right before I felt his hand on mine and I was dragged into a room where my back was pressed against a wall and Echo’s face was only inches from mine.

“What are you doing?” Staring into his eyes, I felt his hands moving down my arms, grasping my hips as he leaned his body against mine.

“Want to have some fun?” His voice was low, eyes taking on a dark gleam that made me shiver. Gulping, I nodded my head slowly before closing my eyes as his hands slid under my shirt, lips coaxing mine open as he kissed me. My arms found themselves wrapped comfortably around his neck, pulling him closer so our bodies were flush, no gaps separating us.

“You’re so beautiful,” Echo whispered as he pressed his lips to mine again before moving down to my neck. “I might just drown...”

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