Zugzwang

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Chapter 4

Alexander watched the Lords puzzle over the bored as the players woke from their slumber. He couldn’t take his eyes of the gaming board no matter how much it made his stomach churn. He watched as Victor picked up one of his players that he had been ignoring. The player was a skinny boy with long brown hair that barely stayed out of his wide eyes. It was one of the Lord’s most curious picks. Alexander forced his features to stay indifferent. It was just a game; it had to be just a game.

Victor inspected the player while Anya watched with a small knowing smile on her lips, “Don’t study so hard, my love,” she purred, “it is a very…unattractive feature on you.”

Alexander felt his face flush, eyes widen. Victor smiled, he put the player down on the active section of the board, “I would hate to appear unattractive in your eyes, my dear, but as the times request so I will provide.”

Anya laughed.

Lexie stood with the other students at the front door of the school. Once a month for the past year she had stood in that same spot as the other students murmured excitedly and waited for the door to the world to open. At first she had been as excited as anyone else, now she leaned against the wall of the front hallway regretting the day of training she was going to lose. Ari laughed next to her, “Come on, Lexie,” she squeaked, “This’ll be fun.”

“That’s what you said last month.”

“And…that wasn’t fun?”

Lexie rolled her eyes, “We went to the pictures, as is required, we walked, we sat, and we did nothing.”

“Touchy much?”

Lexie turned her attention to the rest of the students. She could practically smell the excitement on them; practically taste the anticipation they had as they talked amongst themselves. Yet there was always a level of separation between the students, even in their excitement it was like a conditioned response that none of them was aware of. Ari sighed, “Well, when the hell are we going to get those damned ear pieces?”

“The longer we stay in the better for them,” Lexie murmured her attention still on the students in front of her.
“Then why the fuck would they let us out at all?”

Lexie shrugged, “Cabin fever.”

Ari scoffed, “You were born in the wrong time.”

“That’s what I keep trying to tell people.”

Ari studied Lexie for a moment. Her mouth parted ever so much as if she wanted to say more but she quickly changed her mind, sighing instead. It was in that moment that the drones decided to appear, slowly walking towards the group of students. There were two of them, one was a drone from the emergency wing and it was holding a scanner, the other was a golden drone that did not stray from the others side.

A sudden hush fell over the students.“Form a line,” came the monotone voice from one of the machines. The students hurriedly obeyed.

The first student approached the drones. The drone from the hospital wing grabbed him and scanned his forearm, “Daniel Heart,” the drone said releasing him.

The golden drone held out its hand. In it was a simple ear piece the snapped around the ear and hung down to the middle of the cheek enabling the student to respond to whatever was said. The process is repeated for every student. Scan. Name. Ear piece. It is a standard routine but ever since Lexie spoke with the master of history’s she is beginning to think that nothing was just ‘standard routine’. She said nothing, only waited in the line.

Ari sighed from behind her, “These bloody drones are so slow!”

“I believe we already touched on this,” Lexie murmured not taking her eyes off of the drones.

“I’m just trying to make conversation, it’s boring just waiting all the time.”

“Boring? Since when do you wait ‘all the time’?”

“We wait to get our food, to go to the bathroom, it’s a never ending cycle that I believe it to be inhumane. It’s gotta stop. Thoughts?”

“I think you should be put in a special place only for you.”

“O! No waiting for anything?”

Lexie couldn’t help but smile, “That wasn’t the point.”

Ari laughed. They were near the front, just one more student to go. “So where do you want to go first?”

Lexie shrugged, “We should get the pictures out of the way.”

“Maybe this time we won’t be required to see them, I mean they are the same every single month…I think I can quote it by now.”

“Have you ever known that to happen?”

Ari paused for a moment, “Well…no. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.”

The student in front of Lexie stepped away, still attaching their ear piece. Lexie stepped forward and held out her right arm. The drone took it and scanned. Lexie felt a slight tingling sensation right before the drone announced, “Lexington Gladmare.”

The golden drone held out its hand to Lexie, she didn’t even glance at the piece as she swiped it up and started to button it on. She stepped to the side so Ari could come forward. Once Lexie got the ear piece on a voice spoke, “Hello Lexington,” the beautiful voice said, “Don’t forget to go to the pictures. We have a wonderful day planned.”

“I’ll go,” Lexie murmured as she turned to see where Ari was, she had just been handed her ear piece.

“Look to your left,” the voice from the head piece cooed softly, Lexie hesitated. The ear pieces were usually there for show.

Lexie felt herself obey the voice, anticipation and uneasiness crawling up her spine. There staring at her was Dmitri. His large eyes were traveling up and down her body but she noticed something else, his head was cocked to the side. As if he was listening to someone talk. “What about him?”

The voice chuckled; it was a beautiful sound, “take him with you.”

“Where?”

“Well, to the pictures, of course,” the voice sounded delighted, “He is such a lonely boy and all of his friends are going to find themselves quiet preoccupied perhaps you can…help with that.”

Lexie ignored Ari as she came to stand at her side, trying to follow her gaze. “What if I don’t?”

The voice tisked, “that golden drone isn’t just for handing out ear pieces,” the voice hardened, not longer beautiful, “Turn around and see what it could do to your little friend.”

Lexie didn’t want to, she could probably imagine what the right kind of drone could do, but she found herself obeying the voice. The drone, that had looked so dormant before, now had its arm pointed at Ari, instead of a hand at the end of its arm there was a laser. Lexie paled, Ari still looked at her quizzically. “Fine,” Lexie murmured before she smiled at Ari, “Someone is going to join us.”

Ari cocked an eye brow, “Who?”

Lexie turned on her heel and marched quickly up to Dmitri, “Come on then,” she snapped at the boy, he finally nodded, motioning for her to lead the way.

“Da fuck you on, Lex,” Ari muttered under her breath as they approached the front doors, “That guy is either the scariest guy or the stupidest guy in this school--and that is saying something.”

Lexie let out a long sigh but didn’t respond. She just focused on Dmitri’s clicking heels as he followed them out of the school and into the bright spring sun.

Lexie and Ari walked down the cemented walk. Their uniformed heels clicked against the pavement, wearing down Lexie’s nerves. They quickly came into view of the main square; the buildings towered over them making Lexie wonder, not for the first time. Who had built these large towers of cement? They were always just there, but now Lexie couldn’t stop thinking about who must’ve put them there.

Was it the Vampires? Or did someone else decide that it was a good idea to block out the sun? Lexie suddenly wished she had a lazer gun on her hip, then at least she could shoot something. Yeah that would be real productive, she thought to herself¸ shoot the cement, that’ll show the world. She sighed. She hated what being outsideof the school turned her into. Out here there were too many reminders, too many faces that looked like him. She could walk pasta ny man that smelled, walked, or vaguely looked like her father and it would send her fingers twitching.

“Come on,” Ari murmured hastily grabbing Lexie’s hand to draw her attention away from her loathings, “Let’s get these fuckin’ pictures over with.”

Lexie allowed herself to be dragged towards the center of the square. The soft shuffling for fabric was the only subtle reminder that Dmitri followed them close behind. “Let him see weakness,” said the voice in the ear piece suddenly, Lexie bit the inside of her cheek and forced herself to stay calm, “Let him see a Lexington that isn’t dangerous.”

Lexie tried not to hear the voice. She tried to block its commands out of her mind- but the more she tried to ignore the more she felt herself obeying. She felt smaller then she could ever remember herself feeling. The cold, metal buildings that outlined the street became mountainous beings glaring down at her. Everyone they passed on the street seemed to turn and glare with the knowledge of what she was. A killer, she was a killer. But who had made her that way? She squeezed Ari’s hand as they pressed forward. Dmitri stayed silent behind them.

The square was crowded, shops stood open for customers, citizens carried bags filled with various objects as they hurried about, oblivious to the students that began to trickle into the crowd. Citizens shuffled from shop to shop in their sliming dresses or fitting pants with button down shirts different styles and fashions decorated the people of the city. A sharp contrast to the black uniforms the students of the school were forced to wear, but every one of them had one thing in common. Each Citizen was always issued an ear piece, not that anything much was ever said through them. At least, Lexie considered, until now. Lexie glanced beyond the buildings to her right, beyond the buildings, beyond the city where a hill stood that didn’t have the greatness to be called a mountain. It was covered with trees, grass, and flowers that could delight anyone’s eye. At the top of the hill sat a large manor of marble that sparkled in the sun. The building served as a daunting reminder who ruled them. Lexie’s eyes slid into a glare as she was rushed forward by another pull from Ari. Dmitri shuffled after them.

“Could you walk any louder,” Lexie snapped before she could stop herself. So much for not being dangerous.

The shuffling paused for only a moment; Lexie glanced behind to see Dmitri regard her skeptically before continuing to follow. “Easy,” said the voice in her ear, “Don’t be a threat and you might just live through this.”

Lexie’s heart froze. She felt the blood drain from her face as she forced one foot in front of the other. Ari squeezed her hand, “Calm your tits, Lex, it’ll all be over soon,” Ari smiled up at Lexie, “then we can go back to the school and really… relax.”

Lexie forced a chuckle but she was sure that the smile didn’t reach her eyes. She took a deep breath, clearing her head. Follow orders. That was what she had to do to make it through the day, just follow orders and she might not die. Not today, at least.

Alexander stared at the Lords, eyes wide and mouth slightly ajar. He couldn’t convince himself to move, he hardly even bare breathing, he didn’t understand what was happening.

Anya had started it. She had been fixated on the board, staring at it intently without moving until Alexander grew uncomfortable at the perfection of her stillness. Then, painfully slowly she gently grabbed something beside the game board that he hadn’t noticed before. It was a slender black rectangle, that was all he was able to make out before she placed it on her ear.

Only then did he see Victor staring at the board in the very same manner. Everything, that up till this moment had been happening very fast, suddenly deadened to a painfully slow pace. Victor reached for a similar rectangle on his side of the game board. That was when Alexander realized they were ear pieces.

Alexander fought back the reaction to shiver when he saw the slow mischievous smile grow across Anya’s face. She double tapped the image of the blonde girl in the black uniform, “Hello Lexington,” she purred as the girl lit up on the game board just loud enough to reach Alexander’s ears, “don’t forget to go to the pictures. We have a wonderful day planned.”

Alexander bit his tongue. Victor was busy murmuring into his own ear piece to one of his individuals that were lit up. Suddenly the game became real. Alexander understood why Ole Sally had stared at Ella wide eyed all those hours ago. He dragged his gaze back to the gaming board and waited.


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