“Both of you sit down! I will not allow you to disgrace my leadership. Neither will I allow your incompetence too!” Mrs Velt’s voice boomed silencing both Adrian and Isaiah, their eyes snapped from each other to her and then back to me. “Sit down, or get out!” The command was just, stern and left no room for argument, reluctantly they did what they were required too. Mrs Velt had ultimate authority and despite their new distaste for each other, they still respected her order and ranking. Isaiah took the next available seat to me, flashing me a look of regret. “Good, we can now begin-”
Taking a long deep breath, I interjected in aching to release my thoughts that I had cramped inside. “Adrian, Isaiah your friendship shouldn’t be ruined because of me and Zee,” Despite everyone being seated, she stood upright shooting daggers to Isaiah and back again to Mrs Velt. “Please, sit down.” I pleaded with her, her chocolate orbs flickered to me, before she took a moment to collect herself and calm, she sat down. “Isaiah, he shouldn’t hold any of the blame. I was the stubborn one and it was my choice to do this, despite him repeated trying to convince me against and still is-”
“You’re still doing it!” Her eyes widened more, to the point I could see the dark spots in the whites of her eyes. “You need to stop, Alexis or you’ll die-”
I stopped her, attempting to do the best of my capability of holding up a hand. “Zee. Please.” Again, it was visible she was trying to bite down her disdain, nevertheless she gave a curd nod, urging me to continue. ” What I’m trying to say is that, without Isaiah I don’t think I would even make it through one week of my trials. He’s been there, always. He’s been the strength I needed, my anchor.” Slowly, I draped a hand on top of Isaiah’s firm one, the contrast between our skin tones clashed, but it was just as beautiful, like it was meant to be. This act, made his head face me, his eyes glowing. “I wouldn’t have been here without him. And, yes, it may have been wrong not to reveal to you and Adrian my whereabouts, but if he decided against what he’d been ordered to, they’d forbid him to see me. I knew he didn’t even want to risk that. He would never intentionally harm me and if you’re looking for someone to blame for that I know the perfect candidate. But Zee, Adrian everything else was me. It was what I needed to do and I did it.”
Zee’s hard exterior softened into understanding, knowing perfectly who was to take blame in her not being aware of my state. But Adrian, Adrian still had that glint of anger radiating off him, it sizzled down but was still there.
At this point, everyone was watching all of this unfolding, some looked surprised, some amused and some not even caring what was going on, clearly agitated to finish the meeting and move onto what they did best. Fighting. Missions. And ranks.
“And I just wanted to express-”
“Well said, Miss Reign. Now, can we stop this play fighting and attend to the matter at hand.” Her coy smile covered what was mal intent, for some reason known to her alone, she didn’t want my speaking any longer.
I looked to Isaiah, he returned the stare. “With all due respect Mrs Velt, Alexis wasn’t yet finished.”
Her calm demeanour cracked and I could tell she wasn’t happy when anyone, let alone her agents undermined her authority, she’d cut it clear with Zee and I suspect she wasn’t bound to take it from him. And I didn’t want him to get in any trouble, once again, because of me. Reassuringly, I tightened my grasp to a small squeeze with as much energy as I could extract. “It’s okay, Isaiah. There are more important matters to deal with, matters that involves all of us, including all our departed friends.” With a nod, I signalled to her it was all right to start again, quickly she seemed to get the message, yet Isaiah wore a very prominent scowl. I could tell he wasn’t happy, but if not vocalising my opinions kept the peace. That’s the price I was willing to pay, all hell couldn’t break loose more than it already has because of me. I hated myself how I threw a rift in Adrian and Isaiah relationship, it may not have been visible to everyone else but it was clear to me.
“Very well, then. As you were saying Mrs Reign. We all lost brave agents, friends, comrades in battle.” Tearing her gaze front me, she began addressing the whole room, her voice commanding attention, instantly everyone was transfixed on her, the way she held the room with little effort only remainder me of someone else that flawlessly did that. Jordon. “We all knew the risks of what we did, but we all took an oath to serve and protect those who can not protect themselves. To help the human race from any dangers to befall us. That is what our founders instilled in us and those three agents did their best to abide by that, paying with their lives. They will be rewarded and their bravery will be left un-forgotten. They’ll receive a memorial and when their bodies are recovered they’ll receive a proper Nation’s burial.”
It was painful to think that your name lived on the lips of these people, that were so cold to the touch and void of any emotions or capability of sympathy, these that were so quick to forget who died beside them in the battlefield. Although grief was hard and different people handle it in very different ways, it still left me unsure that if it was me, I didn’t want my remembrance to rest on their shoulders. There’s only a handful of people I could.
“But, that’s it. We carry on and don’t forget.” And just like that the little slither of emotion I witnessed her having, dissipated. “We all have a common enemy, the OA. For decades, they’ve been fighting not with us but against, contradicting everything we stand for and we believe in. Wanting to avoid conflict, we ignored them operating in the shadows. They don’t tread on our feet, neither do we. Recently, that silent agreement has been changed. Now, if they want war they can have it, as you know they’ve been after Miss Reign. So, please if you may, describe the death of the agents and exactly what happened. I already know, I just believe that the rest of us has the privilege to know how barbaric these people really are.” If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was talking about Nation. But in reality, apart from the whole lying, nothing they did to me was in the slightest uncalled for. I choose to run the trials and keep on running them, so that part was on me.
I guess, I just wasn’t ready to open up yet about their deaths, especially Elijah. I’ve been trying to fake being okay for so long, that it was exhausting and it was beginning to catch up to me in the night in more ways than one.
“I don’t think Alexis, I don’t think she ready for this.” His gaze fixed on me, reading my expression and seeming to go deeper then that, until he fully comprehend what I was feeling before looking back to Mrs Velt. “She isn’t ready.” This time, no pauses, no stops, nothing. He was determined for me not go through it again.
But the idea wasn’t completely unbearable, their story had to be told. How Veronica and Elijah sacrificed their life, willingly for mine, despite my many faults. And how Jordon was a normal human being like the rest of us, not just a machine you could work out and replace with a new one. He was a person. He lived. He loved. “No, I want to do it Isaiah, let me do it.” All he managed was a nod.” So as you must know, Mrs Velt-”
“I know all that happened, Miss Reign. Speak to them,” She gestured to the rest of the congregation, sitting listening with now open ears. That once disinterested looks, dissolved. “Tell them what you recount. Let them feel you pain.”
Heaving a deep sigh, I forced myself to press onwards. “Well, I met Isaiah near my home, that was our first encounter. That’s when he saved me. And again and another time. We knew that it would be dangerous being so exposed, so we’d thought it would be best to crash with his unit.” Intentionally, I repeated the word we to at least hint to them, that none of this was his fault. And no one could put the blame on him. “The same unit consisting of Elijah, Veronica and Jordon in it, along with Zee and Isaiah. The next few days were rough, I missed my brother, the training was brutal. “Glancing at Isaiah, a faint well-natured smile painted his lips. “But it was all good. Then I was attacked, three scratches along my forearm.” I looked down and those deep marks were still there, fading, slowly healing the best it could. However, still visible. ” They all sorted out what to do, in my personal opinion I knew there weren’t equipped to handle this, but they did it to their capability. And for once in my life after a long time, I felt safe. Really safe. A couple of days that we, me and Isaiah, were scheduled to leave we were ambushed. Jordon died from a chest wound. Veronica died trying to save my life, receiving a bullet that was meant for me.”
The rawness of the memories began to uncontrollably flood back and despite having to face it again, every single night. I would be lying if I said it got easier. It didn’t. Seeing Elijah face smiling down at me, compassion I wanted but didn’t deserve, it only served purpose by intensifying the guilt and emphasised me leaving him there to ultimately die. His death was undoubtedly on me.
I was caught up in my thoughts too long, considering Isaiah other hand enclosed mine, cocooning it, covered it with his warmth. The kind gesture I definitely needed. “Take your time.”
“We escaped. Then Adrian came into the picture, providing us with the aid we knew would be hard to get, despite knowing the risks we thought it would be best to bring him too. My stupidity almost costs us, everything. Deciding it would be best to complete the task alone, taking it upon myself I snuck out and subsequently landed myself in trouble, if I didn’t have any intervention would have died. Elijah and Isaiah saved me. And Elijah saved me once again, giving us ample time to escape the military, who would have ended our lives, if they got the chance. His life, for ours.” I couldn’t take it any longer. The pain and the memories subdued me. Until I felt my cheeks wet with moisture. Knowing better than to let anyone see my break, quickly I steeled myself, preventing my emotions from getting the better of me and choosing to ignore the worried look Isaiah was constantly giving me. “That’s it. That’s all there is to the story.”
“Thank you for your honest testimony, Miss Reign. It will not go un-rewarded.”
“I don’t want your reward, I just want to find whoever leaked out my information, that lend to important people in my life dead.”
“I assure you we’re pending an investigating. Whoever is behind this will be greatly dealt with. Everyone is this room, based on my experience on the field and not are people I can solely trust, you needn’t worry. But I have a plan, something to get OA off the grid for good.” Despite being surrounded with her trusted members, she was looking at me, seeking my advice.
“The only possible way is war. War on both terms And both sides.”
Isaiah and I shared the same confused look. With everything that was happening in our world, she wanted a war? Was power the only thing that occupied her mind and undoubtedly her common sense? War is catastrophic on both sides. War meant losses, deaths, mourning on both sides. How did she even remotely think that that was our only way out, that it was the only alternative?” You’re an organisation, why would you need to go to war?” By this stage, all my energy was quickly draining and it was a struggle keeping my eyes open and my head above water.
“They threaten everything we stand for. The human race will be better off without them and if we have to sacrifice some losses on our path, so shall it be done. For the greater good.” For the greater good, I don’t know how many times I heard that sentence before going into my trial and after and I can’t recall how many occasions I tried to convince myself the exact same thing. It seemed ‘the greater good’ was only an excuse for war, mayhem, suffering. If it was backed with that statement, suddenly it made everything seem okay, despite it being the complete opposite.
“You want this war, even if there’s another way, you’re set in your methods you wouldn’t be willing to be open minded to it. You want the spoils of war and the power. You couldn’t care less about us, or the people you affected. Zee was absolutely right, it’s all about you.” My accusatory tone, sharp and for a fraction of a second her face faltered, as if she’d been caught only putting more evidence my way. It was an outlandish thing to say and even if it wasn’t completely true, some aspects of it undeniably was and we both knew that. I just didn’t know what she craved more; money or power.
“What an appalling accusation, after everything I’ve granted you-”
“Granted me? Granted me, what? After all I’m going through and instead of thinking of a way to help progress this experiment further, you’re thinking about war? Something that could help our world and you’re completely abandoning that idea of what can be achieved, for your selfish impulses.” I was trying to keep a level head but my anger only seemed to rise more as I tried to suppress and resist it, so I channelled it, maybe the best way for people to fully see their mistakes is if you point it out to them and open their eyes fully.
“Miss Reign, you’re under my vicinity and I will not tolerate you speaking to me like I’m beneath you-”
“You don’t need to tolerate anything. I’ll do my piece and better this world. You can do whatever you like.”
“Do you not understand I’m doing this for you, for the Nations.”
“I never asked for war!”
“So genuinely, you think that after you complete the trials and we find what we’re looking for, the OA is going to just leave you alone. Alexis, you’re a smart girl, piece it together. They won’t stop until you’re dead or held captive under their laws.”
“Instead of imitating war, maybe question why they’re doing this. No, really dig deeper and find the truth. But don’t start a war in honour of my name, I don’t want - I don’t need anymore blood on my hands.” Never once did I raise my tone, but I guess it held enough venom in them to halt her in her tracks. Her lips parted, as if she was proceeding to say something but closed almost immediately.
My eyes hovered over everyone until I reached Zee’s. What I saw, wasn’t the Zee I was used too, she remained emotionless merging quickly into one of them. Unmoving, I could tell she was deep in thought, maybe too deep as I didn’t have the ability to read any of her emotions. None. That was a rarity in itself and I knew that it wasn’t a good sign.
Quite abruptly she shot up, turning to fully face Mrs Velt. I had a eating feeling that the next words to come out of her mouth, wouldn’t be good ones. “Mrs Velt. I’ve been here for all my life. Trained along side the best that didn’t make it and ones that are still here.” Purposely, her eyes linked with Isaiah’s. “You forbade us to fall in love, get too deep in friendships unless you got something more valuable out of it. To always live a manipulative and obscured life. Yet, after everything I’ve seen this understandably draws the line. After aiding Alexis with her mission, I’ll like to fully pull out of Nations. I think it’s time, I start thinking for myself and stop mindlessly following orders.”
No one spoke, no one even moved for a good minute. All eyes were fixed on Mrs Velt, awaiting her verdict. It was up to her the fate left to Zee. If merciful, she’d be allowed to make her decisions if not, I couldn’t even stomach the thought of what could happen.
Mrs Velt, stirred for a moment, before sighing and shaking her head, yet it was more so of disappointment than anything else. ” Miss Alexander, I remember you from birth. You were one of the unlucky ones, that got here so young. You’re all grown up and it would be foul on my part not to fully let you go and explore the greater world, yourself. I give you that gift. But you understand that there isn’t any possibility of you returning back.”
She nodded. “I know.”
“Well, with all the power entrusted in me and my right hand council. I grant you, your departure.”
Zee’s shoulder sagged, as if an exponential amount of weight was lifted off her. Despite not wanting her to go, to actually secure her future. I knew it would be a less selfish thought knowing that she was happy, far away from all the action and everything that followed her job description. I sought her eyes out until ours made contact, she gave me a lazy smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “My only regret is that I can’t avenge my lover’s death, is that I can’t avenge Jordon. But I knew he wouldn’t have wanted that for me, he cared for my happiness. And this is it.” Giving another satisfied nod and releasing the pent-up breath she was holding in, she fell back into her seat.
“Well, Zee despite our strict policies about relationships. I respect your decision-”
Before Mrs Velt could go any further, the meeting room door swung open. Another agent of a lower rank sauntered in, his expression stoic and unreadable. He made a straight beeline to Mrs Velt ignoring all our glares. He proceeded to bend closer, whispering something in her ear that was only met solely for her, yet her eyes kept glancing towards me and I swear her face turned pure white. What was going on?
Giving the message he was required to, the agent took his leaving, slamming the door shut. The very action made my body run cold as I knew whatever his message was. It had something do to with me.
Mrs Velt cleared her throat, her attention never leaving mine. “It has come to light, that Micah Richards an agent previously stationed at a home has been brutally slaughtered by the OA. There’s almost nothing that remains of him.”
That message held deeper connotations to it and I knew there was more to be said.
Isaiah grip slipped for mine, quickly I searched his face trying to suss out anything else, his complexion turned even whiter.
“Miss Reign. Micah Richards was stationed at your home.”
It took my a long minute to process everything she had said. If Micah was dead, then what remained of my family? What remained of Evan?
“He was found inside your home.” That wasn’t supposed to happen, I vividly remember Isaiah tell me that he was meant to keep his distance and I trusted what he said. So, that only meant one thing, they killed him leaving him inside my house to leave a bitter message loud and clear for the Nations. Whatever war was brewing between them, I want no part in it.
“What of my family? Did you recover them?” Energy seemed to only seep out further as I knew what the reality would be. Miracles, they don’t happen.
She shook her head. “Sadly, no. They weren’t seen anywhere in the premises-”
“So that means they’ve taken them. That means they’ve taken my family. I have a little brother! He hasn’t even turned ten yet. He hasn’t lived half his life.” Everything in me was to praying to whatever holy deity to spare Evan, even if it was just him. Spare Evan.
“I know how tough it can be. But we’ll do anything in our power to bring him back, you have my word.”
After seeing how these people act in certain regards to things, I didn’t care so much for her word as much as I cared bringing them out of captivity. Trying to gain their freedom with all arms laced with arsenal, will be seen as a sign of war the OA wouldn’t be afraid to initiate it. I didn’t need that on me, she wasn’t going to use my as her pawn. “No, I’ll go after them, myself. If you go, it’s a declaration of war.”
“Alone?” She mused, bearing the ludicrous statement. “You know I can’t authorize that-”
“I don’t need you authorization for anything. I’m going.”
“And, what let them kill you on the spot?”
“Isaiah will come with me.” I didn’t have to gauge his emotions to know that he was already planning what to do, how to get in and how to get out. Wherever this OA was situated at.
“Let one of my best agents walk into a death trap. I think not.”
“That’s his decision, not yours-”
“It’s my decision and that’s final. You will not be permitted of any sorts to do something as dangerous as that. And that is non-negotiable.”
It was cold, precise and sharp. She meant was she said.