Chapter Eighteen: Glen
“I’ve been sent to collect you, sir,” the young man said.
Glen glanced back at him in the mirror. His hands twisted the thin material strips of his uniform. He’d been concerned about not being able to remember the complicated twists and turns, but muscle memory helped him achieve the desired form without thinking about it.
“I’ll be ready in a minute.”
“I’ll wait outside—”
“No, let me ask you something.”
The young man remained where he was, head tilted in question.
“What has been the status of forbidden marriages between Namai and Siren? Are they increasing or decreasing?”
“They’re definitely increasing, sir. Each and every day more are reported.”
“Why do you think that is?”
“Well... I don’t know. The government is cracking down on them much more than before, so you would think they would bow down to the pressure, but it only seems to increase their numbers.”
“Thank you,” he said. “You can go, I’ll be along shortly.”
The young man left as though he was eager to do so.
He nodded to himself as he finished dressing. He’d been told as much, but in much different words, by his former S.O, but there was a reason he’d asked the young man. It seemed like he was being coddled by his own soldiers. He’d remained in their little “quarantine cell” for over a week, until they were convinced he’d been properly “cured” of the control Saige had apparently had over him.
His sessions had included hours of control remission where he’d sat in a chair while a Siren chanted things to him in Melari—their language—that was supposed to break any other holds on his mind. All it had done, however, was made him dizzy and lightheaded, as there were no holds on his mind whatsoever. What had it stripped out instead?
Uniform complete, he reluctantly started on his hair. He’d so enjoyed earth. There, he didn’t have to worry about his uniform, or his dress. The intricate braiding of his hair was never needed and never an issue. His own hair refused to remain woven without being incredibly tight and uncomfortable on his scalp. He’d have a headache by nightfall.
It took him an additional five minutes—unthinkable—to check every element of his uniform one last time, and brace himself for the act he was about to put on. Then he left the cell, not even bothering to slow down so the young man who was to accompany him could catch up.
“Sir,” the boy said, chasing behind, “do you know where we’re going?”
“No, it’s your job to tell me though, isn’t it,” he asked lightly.
“Yes sir. Um, you’re to report to the briefing room first, and then to the activity room.”
He slowed, taking pity on the boy. “Why am I needed in the activity room? I don’t plan to begin training again right now.”
“No sir, of course not. It’s just that the soldiers are excited for your return. Lieutenant Luther thought—”
“Will he be in the briefing room as well?”
“I’m... not sure, sir—”
“Then I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?”
They finished the walk in silence, the boy timidly telling him where to turn. At the briefing room door, he stopped and faced the boy for the first time since he’d met him at his cell.
“You’re an intern, correct?”
“Yes sir. I just started.”
“And they immediately gave you the job of collecting me?”
The boy sighed, looking regretful. “Yes sir. They said it would be good for me to see what was expected of me once I officially signed up to be a soldier. And how I would be treated.”
“That’s not true. You’ll be treated much worse than how I’ve treated you. This is how you’re treated after a few decades. But tell me, was it your choice to join the military?”
“It’s a family tradition—”
“So no. Okay, I’m going to give you some advice you wouldn’t expect. Don’t. Go do what you want to do, don’t do this because of a stupid tradition. You’re going to regret it.”
The young man frowned, looking intently up at him. “Do you?”
He wanted to answer honestly. But that would bring problems down the road. Instead, he held out a hand for the young man to shake.
“Choose wisely, kid. This is a nasty career to get into. It’ll break you if you’re not careful.”
With that, he entered the briefing room. He’d expected a room full of people, but only three sat around the long, thirty-seat table. Two men and a girl. He didn’t know any of them.
The first, a giant of a man, stood and held out a hand. “General Mykel. It’s a pleasure to finally meet the man behind the legend.”
Glen shook his hand. “Hardly a legend. Who are you?”
“My name is Harvey Jamison.”
He waited for more of an explanation, but received nothing more. But before he could question further, the next man stood. They shook hands.
“My name is Stephen Ark.”
Then the girl stood. She was an unusual height, barely reaching his chest. Not Siren height, but not Namai height either. His hand dwarfed hers upon contact. She smiled softly up at him.
“My name is Eavan. It is truly amazing to meet you, General Mykel. I’ve heard so many good things over so many decades. I’ve looked forward to meeting you for a long time.”
“You’re Siren,” he asked.
“I am. I was hired to act as mediator between our races when necessary. One of the many Siren hired by the Namai government for such purposes.”
So she was much older than she looked. That explained a lot. He continued to smile even as his mind spun.
“Why are you here then?”
“Eavan is here to observe. To listen. The facts we need can also benefit her when it comes to mediating. She won’t be involved. Have a seat, please.”
He took a seat at the head of the table, the others following suit.
“We’d like to know everything about your experience with the girl. How you met, how things escalated. Anything and everything you can remember.”
“That’s a big task.”
The biggest man—he didn’t bother to remember his name—glanced at the other man. They had some sort of conversation through facial expression alone. Then they turned back to him.
“Any information will help. Start from the beginning.”
“She moved next-door to me,” he began. The secret to lying, of course, was to keep everything as close to the truth as possible. “I saw she was alone and began to bring her food. It was innocent. I would have done it for anyone. Then,” Then she’d been attacked and he’d given up his life for her. He’d brought Robert to give his life for her as well. Was he completely insane? Maybe he was. “she started talking to me. I don’t remember what she said, but I couldn’t leave her after that. I couldn’t stop taking care of her and felt like I had to protect her. She was controlling me, I know now. She’d made me feel that way.”
Both men had been taking notes as he’d spoken, and the smaller waved his writing hand.
“You said you don’t remember anything she told you? Nothing at all?”
“No. I just remember the way it made me feel. Like I had to help. I have to save her. From what, I don’t know.”
“Okay, go on.”
“You won’t like this, but the rest is a blur. I don’t know any more than you do. I remember each and every confrontation where I had to protect her. The emotions were so powerful, they’re burned into my brain. But as far as everything in between, I truly couldn’t tell you. I only remember her talking to me in those same voices. Me and Robert both. She might have deliberately wiped them from my mind. I don’t know.”
There was silence all around, before he realized no one was going to speak. They were waiting for him. Waiting for something he couldn’t figure out.
“Is she still here? The girl?”
The three looked at one another. He pressed on.
“Maybe if I saw her again, and heard her voice, it would bring some of the conversations back to mind.” He clenched his jaw, letting some anger seep into his expression. “If I got to hurt her a little, it would help just as much.”
“She’s still being quarantined—”
“What does that even mean? We weren’t dipped in toxic waste. Neither of us needed to be quarantined.”
No, that was too nice. Like he was worried about her.
"I didn’t need to be quarantined,” he clarified. “Look, I’m tired of this building. I understand there are things you want to know, but right now I’d like to get out of here and get out for a bit. I’ll come back later and we can discuss this further.”
“We need you back by the end of the day,” Eavan said. “There are many, many important matters to attend to. You have press conferences, television appearances, and public outings to go on. Don’t go anywhere public without a disguise for today. This is a serious situation you’re now involved in.”
“I understand. I’ll be back by nightfall.”
He left, barely concealing his relief that they’d let him go. Just like that. If he didn’t return, there was no doubt they’d put two and two together, but he wouldn’t vanish. That wouldn’t do Saige any good. Everything he did had to be toward her release. He was still putting her life above and before his. He was still crazy. Maybe he would end up dead just like Robert.
Before the thoughts could take over, he turned the corner and made his way out of the building. He needed to get back to Aaron and tell him what had happened. And he needed to make sure Xenia never said another word to anyone about anything concerning Saige. All before nightfall, without raising suspicion.
“Good luck to me,” he muttered.